At the Bazaar
Princess Fatima was practicing loop-the-loops on her flying carpet when she spotted three carriages. They were climbing up the long, tree-lined drive to her parents' palace. Giving a whoop, she dove toward the ground, pulling up at the last second to land neatly beside the front gardens. No sooner had she landed than the carriages clattered to a stop. Fatima's friends—the princesses Lysandra, Tansy, and Elena—flung open the doors and leaped out.
"Welcome!" said Fatima, hugging them each in turn. "I'm so glad you could come."
Tansy stared at the black marble palace in front of her. "Wow!" she exclaimed. "This place is huge."
Fatima smiled. The castle Tansy and her six brothers lived in was small, but it had seemed cozy to Fatima.
In a few minutes, servants arrived to carry the princesses' bags into the palace. "I know you just got here," said Fatima, "but I wonder if you'd like to fly into town and shop at the bazaar. It closes in a couple of hours. If you want to see it, we should go there first thing."
Lysandra brushed back her blond waves. "I'd love to see it. There's something I'd like to look for."
"Sounds good to me," said Tansy.
"Me, too," Elena agreed.
Fatima grinned. "Then let's go!"
The princesses settled onto the flying carpet. Fatima pulled up on the front edge, and the carpet rose into the air.
"Whee!" said Lysandra. "I just love flying."
The girls followed the tree-lined drive until they came to a river that flowed past small, flat-roofed houses. In the distance the striped tents of the bazaar billowed up like sheets flapping on a clothesline.
"Wow!" said Tansy. "I can't wait to see what's under those tents."
Fatima landed the carpet just outside the bazaar. The princesses scrambled off, and Fatima rolled up the carpet and strapped it onto her back. "This way," she said, leading them under the tents.
The girls joined the throng of people winding their way past displays of beautiful copper trays, leather bags, woven tablecloths, and decorated pots. The shouts of merchants hawking their wares blended with bawling camels and chattering monkeys atop their master's shoulders.
The princesses stopped to look at some necklaces. A silver-and-turquoise one caught Fatima's eye. She tried it on. "Pretty," she said, admiring herself in a mirror. "What do you think, Lysandra?"
But Lysandra didn't reply.
Fatima looked around but couldn't see her anywhere. Panicking, she called to Tansy and Elena, who were also trying on necklaces. "Quick! Lysandra must have wandered away. We've got to find her before she gets lost!"
The three princesses ran through the bazaar calling Lysandra's name over and over again. They finally found her at a table piled high with woven rugs.
"You shouldn't wander off like that!" Fatima scolded. "I was worried about you!"
"We all were," said Tansy.
"We were afraid you'd gotten lost!" Elena said.
"Sorry," Lysandra apologized. "I saw these rugs and I . . . well, I've always wanted a carpet like yours, Fatima." She ran a hand over the rug. It was brightly colored, with red and yellow flowers on an emerald background. "Isn't it beautiful? And it's only twenty gold coins. Can you believe it?"
Tansy held up the carpet. "It's gorgeous!"
The rug merchant nodded. "A very nice carpet. Top quality and a good price."
"I'm going to buy it." Lysandra pulled her magic purse from around her neck, shook out a handful of coins, and began to count them.
"Twenty gold coins is a good price," Fatima said, "for a carpet you can walk on."
Lysandra frowned. "You mean these carpets can't fly?"
The merchant's eyebrows shot up. "A flying carpet?" he said. "My dear, I am so sorry. Flying carpets are very rare and very expensive."
"And unlikely to be found in a bazaar," added Fatima.
Rubbing the back of his neck, the merchant said, "This is true." He looked at Lysandra. "I'm sorry, but I cannot help you."
As they left the merchant's stall, Fatima said, "Forget about finding a flying carpet, Lysandra. There just aren't that many around."
Lysandra frowned. "If I didn't know better, Fatima, I'd think you didn't want me to have one."
"Nonsense," said Fatima. But a tiny part of her wondered if Lysandra was right. As the princesses continued through the bazaar, Fatima shrugged the thought away.
In a far corner they came upon a pot-bellied old man selling colored glass bottles with stoppered tops.
"Aren't they pretty?" said Elena.
Fatima nodded. She picked up a ruby bottle that she thought would look nice on her dresser. "How much is this one?" she asked the merchant.
He grinned. "You have a good eye," he said. "That one is the most precious. It holds a gigantic, genuine genie."
Fatima rolled her eyes. "A genie, indeed! How much?" she asked again.
"Ten gold coins."
"Bats and bullfrogs!" Fatima exclaimed. "Even if there really were a genie inside, I still wouldn't pay that much." But she liked the bottle, which was shaped like a gourd with a long, thin neck. "I'll pay three coins."
"Seven," said the old man. "You think I'd let this genie go for such a cheap price?"
"Four," said Fatima. "If there really were a genie inside, you'd keep the bottle yourself."
"Six," said the old man. "What do I need with a genie? I'm too old for wishes."
"Five," said Fatima. "But only because I like the bottle."
"Sold!" cried the old man.
Fatima paid him the five coins. He wound a soft cloth around the bottle, carefully placed the bottle in a bag, and handed it to Fatima.
"May the genie do you much good!" he called after her as the princesses walked away.
"Yeah, right," Fatima muttered under her breath. What a crazy old man!