The youngest brother saw that his brethren were more dead than alive from fear, so he gave them the keys of the two wells, in one of which was the vast heap of treasure, and in the other the forty damsels. Let them take everything home, he said; as for himself he must first slay the dragon and then he would follow after them. The thirty-nine brothers lost no time in mounting their horses and galloping off. They drew the treasure out of one well and the forty damsels out of the other, and so returned home to their father. But now we will see what happened to the youngest brother.
He fought the dragon and the dragon fought him, but neither could get the better of the other. The dragon perceived that it was vain to try and vanquish the youth, so he said to him: "If thou wilt go to the Empire of Chin-i-Machin1 and fetch me thence the Padishah's daughter, I will not worry the life out of thee." To this the prince readily agreed, for he could not have sustained the conflict much longer.
Then Champalak, for that was the dragon's name, gave the prince a bridle and said to him: "A good steed comes hither to feed every day, seize him, put this bridle in his mouth, and bid him take thee to the Empire of Chin-i-Machin!" So the youth took the bridle and waited for the good charger. Presently a golden-maned charger came flying through the air, and the moment the prince had put the bridle in its mouth, the charger said: "What dost thou command, little Sultan? " and before you could wink your eyes, the Empire of Chin-i-Machin stood before him. Then he dismounted from his horse, took off the bridle, and went into the town. There he entered into an old woman's hut and asked her whether she received guests. "Willingly," answered the old woman. Then she made ready a place for him, and while he was sipping his coffee he asked her all about the talk of the town. "Well," said the old woman, "a seven-headed dragon is very much in love with our Sultan's daughter. A war has been raging between them on that account these many years, and the monster presses us so hardly that not even a bird can fly into our realm."
1 Turkish for the Chinese Empire.
"Then where is the Sultan's daughter?" asked the youth. - "In a little palace in the Padishah's garden," replied the old woman, "and the poor thing dare not put her foot outside it."
The next day the youth went to the Padishah's garden, and asked the gardener to take him as a servant, and he begged and prayed till the gardener had not the heart to refuse him. "Very well, I will take thee," said he, "and thou wilt have nought to do but water the flowers of the garden."
Now the Sultan's daughter saw the youth, called him to her window, and asked him how he had managed to reach that realm. Then the youth told her that his father was a Padishah, that he had fought with the dragon Champalak on his travels, and had promised to bring him the Sultan's daughter. "Yet fear thou nothing," added the youth, "my love is stronger than the love of the serpent, and if thou wilt only have the courage to come with me, trust me to find a way of disposing of him."
The damsel was so much in love with the prince, and so eager to escape from her captivity, that she consented to trust herself to him, and one night they escaped from her palace and went straight towards the desert where dwelt the dragon Champalak. They agreed on the way that the girl should find out what the dragon's talisman was, that they might destroy him that way if they could do it no other.
Imagine the joy of Champalak when he perceived the princess! "What joy, what rapture, that thou hast come!" cried Champalak; but fondle her and caress her as he might, the damsel did nothing but weep. Days passed by, weeks passed by, and yet the tears never left the damsel's eyes. "Tell me at least what thy talisman is," said the damsel to him one day, "if thou wouldst see me happy and not wretched with thee all thy days."
"Alas, my soul!" said the dragon, "my talisman is guarded in a place whither it is impossible ever to come. It is in a large palace in a neighbouring realm, and though one may venture thither for it, no one has ever been able to get back again."
The prince needed no more, that was quite good enough for him. He took his bridle, went with it to the sea-shore, and summoned his golden-maned steed. "What dost thou command me, little Sultan?" said the steed. "I desire thee to convey me to the neighbouring realm, to the palace of the talisman of the dragon Champalak," cried the youth - and in no more time than it takes to wink an eye, the palace stood before him.
Then the steed said to the youth: "When we reach the palace thou wilt tie the bridle to two iron gates, and when I neigh once and strike my iron hoofs together, a door will open. In this open door thou wilt see a lion's throat, and if thou canst not kill that lion at one stroke, escape, or thou art a dead man." With that they went up to the palace, he tied the horse to the two iron gates by his bridle, and when he neighed the door flew open. The youth struck with all his might at the gaping throat of the lion in the doorway and split it right in two. Then he cut open the lion's belly, and drew out of it a little gold cage with three doves in it, so beautiful that the like of them is not to be found in the wide world. He took one of them and began softly stroking and caressing it, when all at once - pr-r-r-r! - away it flew out of his hand. The steed galloped swiftly after it, and if he had not caught it and wrung its neck it would have gone hard with the good youth.
Then he mounted his steed again, and in the twinkling of an eye he stood once more before Cham-palak's palace. In the gateway of the palace he killed the second dove, so that when the youth entered the dragon's room, there the monster lay quite helpless, and there was no more spirit in him at all. When he saw the dove in the youth's hand he implored him to let him stroke it for the last time before he died. The youth's heart felt for him, and he was just about to hand the bird to him when the princess rushed out, snatched the dove from his hand, and killed it, whereupon the dragon expired before their very eyes. "'Twas well for thee," said the steed, "that thou didst not give him the dove, for if he had got it, fresh life would have flowed into him." And with that the steed disappeared, bridle and all.
Then they got together the dragon's treasures, and went with them to the Empire of Chin-i-Machin. The Padishah was sick for grief at the loss of the damsel, and after searching for her in all parts of the kingdom in vain, was persuaded that she had fallen into the hands of the dragon. And lo! there she stood before him now, hand in hand with the King's son. Then there was such a marriage-feast in that city that it seemed as if there was no end to it. After the marriage they set out on their journey again, and travelled with a great escort of soldiers to the prince's father. There they had long held the King's son to be dead, and would not believe that it was he even now till he had told them the tale of the three seven-headed dragons and the forty damsels.
The fortieth damsel was waiting patiently for him there, and the prince said to his wife: "Behold now my second bride!" - "Thou didst save my life from the dragon," replied the Princess of Chin-i-Machin, "I therefore give her to thee, do as thou wilt with her!" So they made a marriage-feast for the second bride also, and they spent half their days in the Empire of the prince's father, and the other half in the Empire of Chin-i-Machin, and their lives flowed away in happiness.