Reaching the edge of the city, the Calif and his Vizier strolled through the parks and orchards beyond. At last they stopped to rest by a quiet lake.
“I wonder if my new box holds any snuff,” said the Calif.
He opened the tiny box and found it filled with the pungent powder. “But what is this?” he said, pulling a piece of parchment from the underside of the lid.
The Vizier craned his neck to see. “What does it say, Glorious Lord?”
The Calif read,
A sniff of snuff, for wings to soar.
Casalavair for hands once more.
“Why, I believe the snuff is magic!” said the Calif. He looked longingly at the sky. “I have always wanted to see my city from the air.”
“Perhaps we should be cautious,” said the Vizier. “What if the charm fails to change us back?”
“If the snuff works, then surely the magic word will too,” said the Calif. “Come, let us try our luck!”
He held out the box, and each took a pinch of snuff. Then together they inhaled the powder.
A flurry of wings, beaks, and feathers—and there in place of the Calif and his Vizier stood two storks.
“Wonderful!” the Calif said, snapping and clattering his beak—for that is how storks talk. A human would have heard only Calap! Calap! But since both the Calif and his Vizier were now birds, Ali ben Manzar understood perfectly.
Calap! Calap! “Quite amazing!” replied the Vizier.
Calap! Calap! “Let us test our wings!” said the Calif.
The two storks rose into the air, circling higher and higher. Spread below were meadows, ornamental gardens, orchards, and fields of crops. The great river Tigris flowed slowly across the plain, sprouting canals along its length. And basking on the banks of the river was Bagdad, capital of all Islam, City of Peace.
“Breathtaking, is it not?” called the Calif. “Come, let us fly over the city.”
Soon they soared above the streets, canals, bridges, and clay-brick buildings of Bagdad. In courtyard and bazaar, people bought and sold, worked and rested, fought and prayed, stole and chased, kissed and parted, laughed and wept.
“Truly,” said the Calif, “a stork knows more of this city than the Calif himself.”
As evening drew near, the Vizier called, “Glorious Lord, we had best return to the palace.”
Back they flew to the lake, and landed by the snuffbox. The Calif once more read the parchment, then cried, “Casalavair!”
And there stood—two storks.
“Casalavair!” called the Calif again. “Casalavair! Casalavair!”
But storks they remained.
“Ali ben Manzar, you try it!” said the terrified Calif.
“Casalavair! Casalavair!” cried the no-less-terrified Vizier.
But no matter how they called and hopped and flapped their wings, nothing changed.