Trigger warning: talk of racism
Night eight opens with everything going very wrong for the young king of the Black Islands. He has failed to behead his wife’s lover, instead only gashing his throat – and he doesn’t even wake up. Nor does the queen, sleeping beside him. The young king decides his rival will die of the injury and leaves without finishing the job.
The next morning, his wife comes to him with her hair shorn off in mourning. Her excuse is ridiculously over the top – according to her, every member of her family has just died, with causes ranging from ‘fighting the infidels’ to a fatal sting. She wants to swim around in her grief, and the young king makes no opposition to her building a tomb beside the palace and calling it the House of Sorrows. Her lover is not dead yet, but can no longer speak or eat anything other than broth. The queen spends most of her time in the tomb tending him.
For three years she laments in the most totally non-subtle of ways. One day, whilst she hangs around outside the tomb reciting tragic love poetry, her husband comes upon her and loses his temper. He sends up her poetry with a sarcastic extra verse, uses some horribly sexist and racist insults, and draws his sword to cut off her head. Realising it was he who ruined her lover’s life, the queen gives a villainous laugh and transforms the king into his current state: human from the waist up, stone from the waist down.
That’s not nearly enough vengeance to satisfy her, however. The four Black Islands are transformed into mountains, the king’s city becomes a pool, and she even colour co-ordinates the different religions and ethnic groups as fish. Having set up her husband in this chamber, she visits him every day to deliver a hundred whiplashes. Over the top of the raw wounds, she lays a hair shirt, and over that his splendid robe, as a mockery of what he once was.
Upon hearing this story, the older king is outraged. The next morning at dawn, he strips naked and sneaks into the House of Sorrows. Killing the slave with one sword blow, he dresses in his clothes and throws the corpse down a well. Murderous and terrifyingly unsanitary, what multi-tasking! Lying in the tomb with a sword at his side, he waits for the queen. She’s busy being a domestic abuser at first, but once done with the morning flogging she carries wine and broth into the tomb. The king fakes ‘the accent of the blacks’ (Sharazad WHY) to pretend her lover has miraculously recovered. Presumably she can’t see him very well, because she’s fooled. He also acts like he hates her, but then her lover did that too, so it’s hardly a giveaway. At his admonishments she repeals her spell on her husband, kicks him out of the palace and goes back to her ‘lover’.
Who is no happier to see her. The misery of everyone else she’s cursed is apparently what made him sick, not the sword blow to his vocal cords at all! Delighted at her chance to make things right, the queen rushes to remove her spell.
We now move into night nine, in which the people of the Black Isles are restored to humanity, except presumably the ones who got fried. That’s a rubbish covenant, incidentally. The queen hurries back to the tomb and the king draws his sword, running her through then cutting her in half. As he emerges from the House of Sorrows, his hand is seized and kissed by the young king, who wants to know what he’ll do next. The breaking of the curse changed physical boundaries; king no.1’s palace is now a whole year’s travel away. The young king does not want to be without his new friend, so the king spontaneously adopts him. Leaving the people of the city to take care of themselves – which they can probably do much better now the infighting of the royal family is over – the two kings set out on the long journey.
The vizier has been taking care of things in the first king’s lands. Being a really great second in command, he has not settled in too comfortably and is genuinely happy to see his boss back. After getting an update on how his kingdom’s doing, the older king gets his priorities straight: handing out presents, then sending for the fisherman. He asks whether he has any kids; on learning the fisherman has two daughters, the king marries one and has his royal bestie marry the other. The fisherman also has a son, who is made treasurer. The vizier, being so formidably competent, is sent off to manage the Black Islands.
The night is not yet over! Having concluded the tale of the fisherman, Sharazad continues with the story of the porter. It begins next Tuesday, when a shopping trip turns kinky and everyone gets drunk.