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“How many books have you collected–specifically, relating to antique races and departed rulers?” asks the King. “Do you know the works of the poets by heart? Have you studied philosophy and the sciences? Are you polite, or at least witty; are you well-read?”

They’re alone in the starlit garden. “I’m only just sixteen,” says Cehrazad shakily.

“I’m only just sixteen, Your Majesty.

“Yes,” she says.

“Old enough,” he purrs, “to tell me a story tonight,” and touches her arm.

Cehrazad is running, scrambling, wild over fantastic hedges. She stumbles down a vast stairway; the unnamed mask shatters on stone.