Prince Alcorez and the Magician

Clark Ashton Smith

The following is translated from an old manuscript of the time of Limour the Lame. The author's identity is unknown.

Takoob Khan, the Sultan of Balkh, had but one son named Alcorez. This son, of a fierce disposition by nature, was not improved by the luxury and power surrounding him. He became cruel, licentious, and overbearing, and made himself universally unpopular. In this he was exactly the opposite of his father, who was a wise and just Sultan, and who had endeared himself to the people. In contrast with him, the faults of his sons were doubly accentuated.

Prince Alcorez spent his days in sports and pleasure and his nights in reprehensible dissipation. He soon became noted for his love of wine, and for the number of his concubines. His father's remonstrances were of no avail. In spite of all that was said he continued in his course.

At this time there came to Balkh from Hindustan a noted magician, Amaro by name. He was skilled in the art of foretelling the future, and his fame throughout the land soon became great. To this dark-skinned man of an alien race and religion came all afflicted with trouble, or who sought to tear aside the veil of coming events. His patrons were of all ranks and station in life, for trouble is the lot of all, and curiosity a universal attribute.

Prince Alcorez, actuated by the common impulse, entered the presence of the magician. Amaro, a small man with gleaming eyes, and clad in flowing robes, arose from the cushions whereon he had sat wrapt in meditation, and saluted his royal visitor.

"O Prince," he said, "Comest thou to thy humble servant that he may read for thee the hidden and inscrutable decrees of fate?"

"Aye," said Alcorez.

"In so far as lies my ability I will serve thee," replied the Hindoo. He motioned his visitor to be seated, and then proceeded with his preparations.

As if at a word of command the room became darkened. Amaro took various perfumed woods and cast them into a brazier of heated coals. A thick black smoke arose, and standing in this, his figure seemingly grown taller and more impressive, and half-veiled in the curling vapor, the magician recited incantations in some strange and unknown tongue.

Alcorez sat spell bound, and saw the smoke form itself into various fantastic shapes. The room seemed to widen out indefinitely, and with it

the black vapor. Soon the fantastic shapes became the semblance of human forms in which Alcorez beheld himself and many whom he knew.

They were in the throne room of the royal palace. Alcorez, seated on the throne of Sultans, was crowned ruler of Balkh, and his courtiers did him homage. For many minutes the scene was maintained, and then the shapes seemed to dissolve once more into black smoke.

The magician stood at Alcorez's side. "Thou hast beheld," said he, "the shadow of a coming event. That which thou hast seen shall in time come to pass. And now thou shalt look upon another scene."

Again the magician stood in the whirling smoke and chanted incantations in a strange and unknown tongue. And again the room seemed to widen out, and the vapor to form itself into a familiar scene and human shapes.

Alcorez beheld the Hall of Audience, in which the Sultans of Balkh dispensed justice to their subjects. And he, himself, sat on the throne. Before him came many stating grievances and demanding justice. And Alcorez gave his decisions.

Then Amaro, the Hindoo magician, entered. Straight he came to the royal throne, and presented his petition. The Sultan was about to make some reply, when the Hindoo drew a knife from his bosom, and stabbed him.

At the same moment, he who sat watching this spell-bound, gave a cry of horror and fell dead, stabbed to the heart by Amaro.

Editor's Note:
Alcorez is a name used elsewhere in Clark's work. This little gem shows a very early attempt at the sudden and unexpected denouement. I think it works rather well, though one is not quite sure of the motivation of Amaro. Perhaps it was just good old Texas justice where "he needed killin'" is a valid defense in court.

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