By Soroka
Illustrator – Alexandra Renuar

Translated by Anna Altuhova, Olga Volkova
The Flying Carpet
In the midst of an endless sun-scorched desert there was an oasis. In that oasis, there was a small palace where the royal Councillor lived with his wives and children. In the Councillor's palace, there was an inner yard with a garden, a pond and fountains, where goldfish lived and birds chirped in cages which hung on fruit trees.

The Councillor's daughters were only allowed to have walks in that garden.

Fadilah was the fourth daughter of the Councillor's first wife. She seldom got to see her father, but when he did come nearby, she and her sisters got very quiet and did not dare to raise their heads to look at him, or to speak a single word if not spoken to. This was the way they had to behave around their father. Then again, the Councillor never spoke to his daughters: when he did speak to his children, he only spoke to his two sons.

As if Fadilah and her sisters mattered much less to him.

Fadilah's mother, Noora, wanted her girls to get educated. The Councillor turned a deaf ear to her arguments, but she was persistent, and when a foreign teacher arrived at the oasis with a caravan, he let her stay in the palace and teach the girls arithmetic, reading and writing. Since that time Fadilah fell in love with poetry.

The Councillor's family was very rich: dinner tables were groaning with food, the palace was full of servants; the Councillor, his wives and children each slept in their private quarters, on pillows embroidered in gold, wore luxurious clothes, but everything in their house depended on their father's will. He decided when to wake up, fall asleep, have dinner, leave or come back. All wives and servants did their best to please the father, but he was irritable and domineering and was never pleased.

Fadilah was glad no one prevented her from reading. She hid in the garden, in the shadow of jasmine bushes, and read books from her father's library: poems, books on astronomy and mathematics, chronicles and fairy tales. And the more she read, the more she wanted to see the world on the other side of the palace walls: the northern seas and islands, the cities overseas, the mountains. And every day her heart yearned more and more to leave the palace and to see the faraway lands.

But even if Fadilah managed to secretly make her way out of the palace, avoiding the guards, how would she survive on her own even for a single day? After all, the rich Councillor's daughter never did anything herself. Servants dressed her and cooked for her, a court physician took care of her health, and all—even the tiniest—decisions were made by her father. She wanted to run away but she knew she wouldn't survive alone in the desert.

Time passed, the sisters grew up, and the father decided it was time to marry off Fadilah's older sister, Adilya. The father chose a rich merchant to be her husband. The merchant was an old man, and Adilya was to be his fourth wife. Nura tried to talk her husband out of it, but he was adamant in his decision. Soon guests arrived at the palace. The Councillor ordered the family and servants to stay out of sight, but Fadilah had been in the garden reading and did not hear the order. In the window of her father's room she saw several men discussing something over coffee. Fadilah hid under the window and started listening.

Her father and the men discussed her own wedding. He wanted to marry her off to a prince. The prince, just like Adilya's future husband, was a very old man, and Fadilah had heard from her mother that he was also uneducated and cruel. Her father said that he would marry Fadilah off to him in exchange for a certain precious item—the men did not say exactly which one but promised to hand it over to him not long before the wedding.

Fadilah became very upset. She started crying about her unhappy fate and decided that she would rather drown herself than live her whole life in a golden cage with a cruel husband. So the Councillor's daughter went to the pond, but when she looked into it, she saw the sky reflection in it. "Well, if I have read so much and dreamed so much about the outside world, I might as well run away," she decided then.


There was a month left until the wedding. The servants were sewing a wedding gown for Fadilah and preparing the dowry. Noora observed her daughter with sadness.

One evening, Fadilah noticed the servants carrying a big, old iron-bound chest into the house. Her father made sure the chest was left in his room, locked the door, and hid the keys in a jar on the shelf.

In the night, she tiptoed to her father's room, took the keys from the jar and unlocked the chest. But the only thing she found was an old dusty carpet. Fadilah was about to close the chest, but the carpet suddenly moved.

"Why would Father need an old carpet?" she thought and instantly remembered reading about flying carpets in one of the fairytales.

"It cannot be!" Fadilah thought.

And then she heard her father's footsteps: he was very close.

She grabbed the flying carpet, tiptoed to the window, spread the carpet in front of her, jumped onto in and pleaded:

"O Carpet, please take me away from the palace!"

And the carpet took off. She barely saw a glimpse of her father's face in the window.

The flying carpet was flying over the desert. For the first time in her life did Fadilah see the desert at such close range—she had never been allowed to leave the palace. The altitude made her head spin. Fadilah felt lightness, joy and piercing fear at the same time.

In order not to fall down, she sank her fingers into the edge of the carpet. Then she asked the carpet:

"O Carpet, please slow down!"

The carpet slowed down. She turned onto her back and started watching the stars and the Moon shining down on her. And soon the Councillor's daughter fell asleep.

Sunlight woke her up. "Here I am, alone in the desert. What am I to do? Where do I go?" Fadilah thought.

"Please, Carpet, take me to an uninhabited oasis," she asked.

The oasis had date palms. She flew up to them, gathered dates and wrapped them into her shawl. Now she had breakfast. After that, she went to the lake and bathed like it was for the first time in her life. There was a world around her, a world she had never seen before, and there was nothing that could stop her.

Having bathed herself long enough, she asked the carpet:

"Please, Carpet, take me to the sea!"

And to the sea they flew.

Fadilah had always thought that the sea was like an endless blue desert, like in the pictures she saw in her books. But soon she realized that there was a salty breeze there, and the sea had a smell and made sounds, just like a living creature.

Fadilah spent the whole day at the seashore. She let her hair flow freely and exposed her face to the wind. She looked at the waves, at the blueness, she ate the gathered dates and drank water from a brook. Then evening came, and the moon appeared. Fadilah remembered her mother. She thought about how her mother tried to educate her, how she tried to persuade her father to agree to it. How she was taught to read, and how she was able to read books about the sea. She imagined how her mother must have felt. How her mother wanted to give her daughters a little bit of freedom, or at least tell them about the freedom she had never seen herself.

Fadilah decided to rescue her mother from the palace. But it was dangerous to go back there, and she had not yet decided where and how she herself was going to live. She could' of course, spend some time in the oasis. But she needed safe shelter.

And Fadilah asked the carpet: "Please carpet, take me to safety!"

The flying carpet got off the ground and flew over the sea. It flew and flew until a small island appeared in the distance. The carpet made it to the island—there were ruins of an old temple there. The island was surrounded by the sea and completely uninhabited: no people and no animals, only palms here and there, and seagulls' nests on the rocks.

Fadilah found an intact room in the ruins, lied down on the carpet and fell asleep.

She woke up and realized that she had to prepare her new abode for her mother. But she had nothing, not even a blanket. And she could not get the necessary things from anywhere. But then, her belongings were where she was soon supposed to be—the prince, her prospective husband, had them.

She asked the flying carpet: "Dear carpet, take me to the prince's house!"

The carpet took off and flew all day. When the sun started to go down, she saw a rich palace in the midst of the desert. It was guarded.

"How do I get inside?" Fadilah thought.

She decided to wait for a moonless night and then ask the flying carpet to take her to the highest tower. And she did exactly that: she came back in nine nights, when the night was dark and moonless, and quietly flew to the window in the tower. There were no guards there—nobody expected flying burglars.

She flew down the spiral stairs. Soon she reached splendid living quarters. There was not a soul there, and she realized these were supposed to be hers. She took everything she could: mattresses, pillows, tableware, and jewelry—and was about to quietly make her way out. But someone entered the room, and Fadilah was petrified.

It was a girl, and she was about to call for help.

Fadilah flew up to her, grabbed her hand, covered her mouth with her hand and started whispering:

"Please, sweetheart, don't call for anyone. Don't scream. I won't hurt you. I am the prince's bride-to-be. I ran away. These things were supposed to be mine, anyways. I won't take anything that is yours."

She whispered and whispered and the girl started to calm down.

Fadilah took her hand off the girl's mouth. The girl looked at her, wide-eyed and amazed, and then she whispered:

"You must fly away at once. But I beg of you, you have to come back and take me with you!"

Fadilah wanted to take off, but after a moment of consideration she said:

"Tomorrow they will notice that the things are not here. They will double the guards. Today is the only day you can leave. Are you ready to fly away with me right now?"

The girl hesitated, but a moment later said: "All right."

She stepped on the carpet, and they took off.

It was a starless night, and they left unnoticed. The girl was scared and clinged to Fadila for dear life.

As they landed on the island, Fadilah said: "Well, this is where I live for now. I am Fadila. What is your name?"

"Fatima," the girl said. "How did you escape?"

"I stole my father's flying carpet." Fadilah explained. "I decided I would never marry the prince."

"He is a cruel and unrighteous man," Fatima agreed. "Being his wife is very hard. Why did you come there?"

"I needed houseware. There is nothing but bare walls here, and I want to bring my mother here."

"The prince gave his magic carpet to you. There is nothing like it. He really wanted to marry you."

"We have never met before."

"He had a prophecy that there is a great power in you."

"What nonsense. I have never noticed anything like this."

"Say, have you only eaten fruit all this time?"

"I have. There is nothing else here."

"My mother taught me how to cook. If we find seagulls' nests, we'' have eggs. We could also have fish, but I have no idea how to catch it."

"I have read about it in the books. We can make a hook out of a pin, or we can make a net."

Now they had everything that they needed in the ruins. They could start thinking about bringing Noora there. But Fadilah didn't know if her mother would agree to come with her.

She decided she needed to deliver her a letter at least. But her father was looking for her, her father knew she had a flying carpet, and the thought of getting close to her home made her shiver.

One day Fatima suggested, "We need weapons. Let's rob one of the prince's caravans".

"All right", Fadilah agreed, "but how? There're only two of us".

"We have a flying carpet", Fatima answered. "We can fly over near it at night".

"But we can't do anything with it. There's a lot of them, and only two of us".

"When I was little, my mother told me about the enchanted flute. Whoever plays it can charm anyone who hears it. It is said, that the flute was made a long time ago by the sorceress who had two daughters. The older one was kidnapped by the prince from the south, and the younger one was taken by the prince from the west. The sorceress conjured for five years unceasingly, terrified of being late, she was afraid she couldn't do it, but she managed to bring her daughters back. As for the princes, she kidnapped them and kept in the tower. But it's an old tale, and I don't know if it's true or false".

"But how can we get it, if it's true?"

"This flute lies at the bottom of the sea, in an ancient sunken temple. The sea will give it away only to someone who won't harm anyone with it".

"But how will we ask it from the sea?"

"That I don't know", Fatima said.

Then Fadilah decided to ask the carpet: "Dear Carpet, bring me to the place where the enchanted flute lies!"

And the carpet started flying, and it flew for three days and three nights, and then it stopped above the sea.

Fadilah looked at the sea and started talking. She told the sea how happy she was to see it for the first time in her life; she told the sea about her mother who can't see it; she told the sea that she wanted to free her; she told the sea about Fatima; she told the sea about her older sister; she told the sea that she didn't know how to fight. She talked to the sea half of the night and fell asleep without knowing. And when the sun woke her up, there was an old flute in her hand.

When Fadilah returned to Fatima they decided to rob prince's caravan after three days. They waited until nighttime, and the caravan encamped beside the pond. And then they flew over to the caravan, and Fatima took the flute and played it, and everyone: the guards, the merchants, the drivers, the camels – froze. Fatima was playing, and Fadilah took the weapons: yataghans, daggers and swords. Then she got onto the carpet, and they started flying, and Fatima stopped playing.


Time passed, but Fadilah didn't know how to deliver a letter to her mother.

One day she said to Fatima: "It's strange that we're here, far away, and before we used to be inside all the time. And father was always free, and I was always afraid of him".

"That's right", Fatima answered, "If he would be inside all the time, he probably wouldn't be so terrifying from the outside".

"If we locked him up inside or transported him here, that would probably be better?"

"Yes, that's right. But then other people could've come to the house".

"And yet, maybe we should try?"

"It's scary".

And yet Fadilah decided to try.

On a moonless night they flew over to the Fadilah's father's palace, and Fatima started to play the flute. The guards froze. The girls crawled up to the advisor's chambers. When Fadilah saw her father, she started to shiver. She always quailed before him. She could never raise her gaze up to him. But they were in a hurry – Fatima couldn't play for too long. Fadilah wrapped her father into the blanket, tied the blanket up with the silk scarf and placed her father onto the carpet. Fatima kept playing.

"Carpet, take us to the place where my father can peacefully live by himself," Fadilah asked the carpet.

And they started to fly. They flew almost all night long, until they reached a small island. All night long Fadilah couldn't believe that her father who was in charge of her destiny, her father she was so afraid of, lies beside her in the blanket motionless. There was an abandoned palace on the island and lots of fruit trees. Fadilah left her father on the abandoned terrace after freeing him and putting him onto the blanket. Then she got onto the carpet. And they started to fly. When they got far enough Fatima stopped playing. Fadilah realized she's still shivering. Then she lied on the carpet and started sobbing.

"What's wrong?" asked Fatima while holding her hand.

"I was so afraid of him… so afraid. I thought he was going to kill me. He was wrapped up in the blanket and motionless, but I still feared he would kill me", Fadilah kept saying, still shivering.

When they returned to their island, Fatima hugged her and they fell asleep, snuggled against each other.

In the morning, when Fadilah woke up, she was very happy. She came to the shore and repeated to the sea, the sun, the wind and Fatima: "We managed. We hid him on the island. He will never harm us! Never! We can fly, and swim, and be wherever we want, and he can't, and we will never see him again! Never!"

And she laughed, and prayed, and bathed.

And then she realized it was time to get her mother. They went to the palace and enchanted the guards with the flute. Fadilah went to her mother's chambers. Noora was asleep, she seemed tired. Fadilah started to wake her up gently. When her mother woke up, she got scared. She took Fadilah by her hands and whispered that she's going to perish, that it was dangerous for her to be here; and she cried, and kissed her on the cheeks. Fadilah could barely talk her into getting onto the carpet. They met with Fatima by the palace's gate and flew away.

Noora held onto her daughter's hand and clang to the edge of the carpet; she looked at the desert, and the stars, and the dark sky. She was scared, and happy, her eyes seemed huge. Fadilah talked, and talked, and talked. She said: "Oh, mother, I will show you the sea. It's blue, it's alive, it splashes. Oh, mother, we will eat dates, and fish, we won't perish. I'll show you our home, there're not so much things there, but there's sea and no one around. Oh, mother, it's Fatima, together we figured out how to bring you here. She was prince's wife, but I helped her escape. We will figure out how to bring Adilya to us, and we will live together, and we will be happy. We will see an oasis and the desert at daytime. Mother! The Father is far away, he will live alone, and he won't disturb us.

And her mother told Fadilah: "What are you thinking? It's dangerous! Can it be they really won't find us? How did you dare to do this, daughter-dear? If only you knew how worried I was when you escaped! Your father was so furious! I was constantly thinking about you, if you're even alive. Look at this sky! Feel this wind! Is it true? Are we going to the sea? Does it really look like plain blue desert?"

And Fatima listened to them and felt a beginning of a completely different life, a completely different world that she didn't know of before, stretched out before them.

The sky above their heads was velvety, the moon was huge; and it was good and peaceful.

At dawn they reached their island. Noora walked along the shore, and looked at the sea, and listened to it. She looked at it and listened to it all morning and all day.

In the evening she asked Fadilah: "Do you know what kind of carpet this is and why your father wanted to get it?"

"No, I only knew that it was a valuable thing".

"This carpet belonged to your great-grandmother. You great-grandmother was a well-educated woman, and she was a sorceress too. She was afraid that one day when she will be gone, some of her daughters and granddaughters will be in danger, so she weaved that carpet and enchanted it".

"How do you know this?"

"My mother told me about this carpet. It was passed from mother to daughter. But there were several sisters, so the carpet ended up at the prince's father. The prince's mother is related to us".

"Fatima told me the prince wanted to marry me, because I was destined to something important".

"It is true".

"But I have never felt anything like that and still don't feel it".

"You wanted to escape and you managed to do it. I also wanted to escape once, but I didn't dare. I could only persuade my husband to let my daughters get education".

"We will get Adilya to live with us, and everyone we can find, and we'll go travelling! There's so much to do! From now on we will decide ourselves what to do and how to live".

"And what do you want most?"

"To set free everyone who is locked up in gilded cages, and rob caravans. To rob everyone who locks others in the gardens, and free everyone who is locked up in the gardens and `castles".

"Then so be it".

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