The young Sultan, who had torn his imperial war robe while practicing sword play against some stable boys, was adorned that day, on the momentous occasion of the invasion of Samarkand, in plaid pantaloons, a tartan waistcoat and a white turban. When the trumpets and war drums had exhausted their creativity, he mounted his Turanian horse, kicked its belly with his burgundy sandals and took flight.
Dangling from his hips was a silver scimitar, as yet unsullied by use, glistening in the sun. It bounced up and down as the horse picked up pace, and reflected light into the eyes of the Sultan’s generals, who tarried behind his highness, their hands over their brows, their respective battalions further in tow.
The Sultan rode with his chin in the air and escaped certain death on more than one occasion only because his horse had the better sense to watch where it was going, negotiating on its own the deep trenches and numerous ravines.
The landscape slowly changed from barren, earthen plains to a lush, living, dense overgrowth. Having traversed a little into the forest, the Sultan, his aide and his favourite minstrel came upon a fork in the path which had been the subject of much discussion the previous day. The route to the north led straight to Samarkand and the Sultan’s newly declared enemies; the road south lead to Qarshi and the Sultan’s about to be declared allies, whom he wished to rally for support.
It had been decided over a nine course meal and a jug of Rakia the previous day, that the aide, rather eponymously, ought to diverge here from the rest of the war party to try and enlist Qarshian assistance. It had been forgotten however, because of the nine course meal and that jug of Rakia, to divulge this information to the troops.
So when the aide’s horse galloped southwards, leaving a funnel of dust in its wake, the pursuing legions, headed by generals partially blinded on account of the scimitar’s flare, likewise turned their course. The Sultan and his favourite minstrel continued on a path less dusty, and now considerably less populated too.
Soon they came upon rival territory and as was to be expected, were greeted by the inquisitional wail of a sentry, leaning at them from atop a wooden guard tower. The Sultan was about to loosen a war cry as an answer when his favourite minstrel happened to glance behind them and note the sudden tragedy of their situation.
He, therefore, did what any self-respecting minstrel would have done in his place. He kicked the Sultan in the shins and started singing.
Now, the young Sultan was anything but good humoured, and foregoing all custom of place and propriety, dismounted his steed in a huff of passion to attack his unfaithful servant.
The minstrel was more skilled than the stable boys however and in the tussle that followed, the Sultan lost his turban and most of his dignity. His royal buttocks met the dew bathed fields of Samarkand numerous times. The minstrel, however, at least managed to explain some of their situation to him between a head lock and some carefully chosen insults.
The sentry was much amused at their shenanigans and thought them a pair of travelling performers. He said that providence had looked kindly upon them, as word had just come in, that the upstart new Sultan of the neighbouring region of Bukhara, had declared war upon Samarkand. The gates to the city would have been closed in another hour and the two artists would have met certain death on their journey back.
Fearing recognition and reprisal should they turn tail now, the Sultan and his, up until a few minutes ago, favourite minstrel rode on to the city of Samarkand, through the spiraling streets, up to the royal estate and beyond the golden arches that constituted the palace entrance; introducing themselves as jesters to anyone who bothered to ask.
The Sultan’s disheveled hair, tattered waistcoat and grass smeared pantaloons, juxtaposed with the haughtiness he carried on his finely groomed features, so regaled the court room guards, that they wasted no time in announcing the afternoon’s entertainment to the teetering crowd inside, already tipsy from their luncheon feast.
Much merriment was had when, after the two had prostrated themselves before the royal audience, the worse dressed of them stood up, drew his scimitar, and exclaimed, “I am the Sultan of Bukhara!”
In fact the rival king was still laughing when the Sultan, screaming with indignation, sunk his curved blade into the rotund belly of his opponent.
The audience’s laughter morphed into gasps, although one particularly inebriated nobleman continued pounding the armrest on his chair as he heaved from spasms of delight. The Sultan, meanwhile, made a downward cut in an attempt to free his weapon and deposited steaming guts all over the marbled floor.
Now, there was a curious law in Samarkand in those days, unbeknown to the Sultan or his minstrel, by which any act of regicide committed by a foreign emperor was to be seen as annexation in the spirit of imperial competition. This law had been decreed by the (till the last paragraph) incumbent emperor of Samarkand, who, himself a distant cousin of the previous king’s, was only an infrequent visitor to these lands up until a few years ago, when he decided to kill his relative and take reigns of his kingdom.
So it came to be, that the trembling court passed on their astonishment to the likewise trembling intruders, who now stared like a pair of abandoned mules at the bowing nobility before them.
Emboldened by this audacious victory, and taken to conceit at the sight of his (disconcerted) army being welcomed into Samarkand with petals and cheers, the Sultan had already decided upon the invasion of Tashkent, further up north.
The minstrel though, was having none of it. A new companion was arranged for the bubbling Sultan, barely able to contain his excitement over the impending raid. He was meticulous about his appearance this time, careful to add some finer details, like a bronze earring and henna on his beard.
They followed the same routine. Effortlessly riding into the royal palace and getting an audience before the king. Only this time, when the Sultan gutted his rival and casually turned around waiting for surrender, he witnessed the deceased regent’s son unsheathe a sword, decapitate the replacement minstrel and point the bloodied tip at his own soft neck, demanding to know, through gritted teeth, what exactly was the meaning of this madness.
The Sultan explained and was slapped a number of times during the conclusion of his tale.
His sanguine face was redder than ever as he was chained and dragged down to the dungeons. There, he was sodomized by the burliest and smelliest men in all of Tashkent, then hung upside down over a rats nest for four years and finally castrated.