For the wife of a Caliph, Salome was certainly unusual. She was very beautiful, but that wasn’t odd – the wives of a Caliph were, without exception, heartbreakingly lovely. She had regal bearing and a penchant for issuing orders, but that would be expected to come with the territory as well. No, it was much more a matter of the Queen’s hobbies, which ran to the, shall we say, exotic and her insistence on absolute equality with the Caliph, a man with the welfare of all of Chalcedony at his command.
The favorite daughter of a distant and powerful sultan, Salome had insisted on an ironclad contract that the Caliph take no other wives in her lifetime before she had agreed to marry him. The Caliph, completely smitten, had eagerly agreed and, in his utter devotion, proceeded to cater to his lovely young wife’s every desire. Did she want jewels? No, she did not. She wanted armor, the finest that could be forged in the land. Did she wish to lounge about the opulent palace, nibbling Turkish Delight and being gently fanned by servants? Heavens no! She bidded the kingdom’s most learned scholars come to the palace and provide tutorials on every subject under the sun to her and whomever else in the kingdom wanted to learn. Would she like a massage? A new wardrobe? A pedicure? No, but she would love some rousing competitions of athletic physical prowess to keep her in top physical condition. Amusements, perhaps? Entertainment? A jester, a bard, some dancers? Utterly tiresome. No, Salome wanted a workshop stocked with all manner of tools and materials and skilled tradespeople to instruct her in their use. How about a companion animal? A graceful Persian cat, perhaps, or some devoted hounds? No, thank you, but she had always wanted her own rhinoceros. This last one almost knocked the Caliph off his throne, but he took a deep breath and sent off for a rhino that Salome named Wilhelm.
The Caliph, Salome and the kingdom passed many happy years together until war broke out, as it does, and the caliphate was besieged with threatening hordes under the command of a jealous neighboring sultan. While the Caliph was handsome and learned and just, he was a gentle man, which was among the reasons that Salome loved him, and he had no talent for war. The conflict raged on, bloodier by the day, and threatened the very perimeter of the kingdom. Salome had had enough. On a night when the crescent moon rocked low in the sky like the grin of a purring cat, Salome summoned her most formidable and bravest competitors. She bid them follow her to her workshop and they issued a collective gasp at what they found there. She stripped naked and asked that they do the same. “Really?” squeaked one particularly modest young lady. “Trust me,” replied Salome. As dawn broke, she hopped aboard Wilhelm, who, with the aid of a steam engine and wheeled hooves had been transformed into one hell of an armored vehicle, and led her troops forth to the battlefield. At the sight of an enormous advancing battalion of naked warrior women thundering forth astride mechanical beasts, the majority of the sultan’s army dropped their weapons and ran screaming like little boys in the direction of the rising sun. Those who dared stand their ground against the fearsome “sorceresses”, as they came to be known, where dispatched quickly and without much fuss. The peace of the kingdom fully restored, no one dared to challenge it again in Salome’s lifetime.