Once upon a time there was a king who lived in a big palace with his beautiful queen and three sons. When the boys grew up their father, the king, called them to him and said,

"You are grown up now, and you must go out into the worldto try your luck. You must do some thing great and wonderful so that your mother and I can be proud of you."

So the three princes, Ahmad, Salman and Ali saddled their horses and set off. Prince Ahmad on a white horse, Prince Salman on a black one and Prince Ali on a brown horse.

They travelled for a month and a day, but did not find anything great and wonderful to do. One day as they were passing by a town they saw that everyone there was old and sad. Ali went to buy some food and asked the old man who was in the shop,

"Where are all the young men of this town? and why does every one look so sad?'

The old man started to cry. Wiping his tears he said,

"Oh, my son. You are new to this town, you do not know of our troubles! You can only see old people in this town because we are the only ones left here. Every one is sad because all the young people have left, one by one, and have never returned!"

The old man started to cry again. Ali felt very sorry for him, and after paying for the food, he went back to where his brothers were waiting for him. He told his brothers what the old man had said. Salman asked,

"Where did all the young people go to?"

"I don't know,I felt too sorry for the old man to ask him; he couldn't stop crying." said Ali.

Ahmad stopped an old woman who was passing by and asked her,

"Could you please tell me where all the young people of your town have gone to? If it makes everyone so sad why don't you ask them to return?"

The old woman looked at Ahmad with tears in her eyes,

"I wish we knew where they are. I haven't seen my son for two years, and I am afraid I will be dead when he returns, if he returns." she sobbed.

"Please tell us more, we may be able to help you," said Salman.

"God bless you my sons, but you cannot help us. Two years ago our king annoyed the Wicked Wizard of Koh-e-Kaf Mountain. He punished the king by stealing his daughter, the Princess Dilruba. The king promised to reward any one who freed the princess from the wicked magician. He even promised that the young man who freed the Princess Dilruba could marry her, if she agreed."

"Where is the Koh-e-Kaf Mountain?' asked Ali.

"Nobody knows," said the old woman. "All we know is that it is very, very far away."

The three princes looked at each other. This was the chance they were waiting for. This was what they had to do.

They rode all day, late in the evening they came across a small stream where they decided to spend the night. They were just going to eat their dinner when an old man came up to them and said,

"I am very hungry, please give me something to eat."

"Ofcourse," said the three princes. "Come and join us."

They made a place for the old man, who started eating hungrily. The princes were afraid the food would not be enough for them all and ate slowly so that the old man could eat his fill as he seemed to be very hungry.

"Why aren't you eating?" said the old man looking up.

"There is more than enough for all of us here," he said passing his hand over the dishes.

The princes were surprised to see that the more the old man ate the more food there was in the dishes! They were quite puzzled, but as there seemed to be enough food, they started to eat as they were very hungry, too.

After the old man had eaten he asked them where they were going.

"We are going to the Koh-e-Kaf Mountain to free the Princess Dilruba from the Wicked Wizard," said Ahmad.

"We will also free all the young people who went looking for the princess and never returned," added Ali.

"Do you know how to get to the Koh-e-Kaf Mountain?" asked Salman.

"Well, I have seen many people pass this way, but they were very greedy and never shared their food with me. You are the only ones that were good to me, so I will help you," said the old man. "You will have to follow the setting sun in the west, until you come to a field full of rocks. Here you will hear voices calling out to you. You must remember not to look back. This is a trick of the wicked Wizard to keep people from reaching his palace. Any one who looks back turns to stone. The rocks are really the people who looked back! I know all this because I am also a Wizard, but not a wicked one!

Next, you will come to the River Abbasin. After crossing the river you will find the Koh-e-Kaf Mountain before you.

"Don't forget to bring back some water from the River Abbasin. If you sprinkle it on the rocks it will free the people who are stuck inside them."

"Thank you for helping us," said Salman, "and we will surely bring back some water from the River Abbasin to help the poor people who have turned to rock."

The old man had shook hands with the three brothers and disappeared. The three princes looked all around but the old man was nowhere to be found.

The next morning the three princes set off to the west. After travelling for three days they came to the field covered with rocks. Soon they began to hear many voices.

"Ahmad! Ahmad! Come quickly!" Ahmad heard his mother calling him, and just as he was about to turn Salman caught hold of him, and said,

"Don't you remember what the Good Wizard had said about turning back?"

"Oh! Thank-you Salman! I really thought that Amma was calling me!" said Ahmad.

They went on, careful not to step on any of the rocks.

"Ali, look what I have got for you!" they heard their fathers' voice.

"Ali, careful! don't turn around. It is only the Wicked Wizard's trick!" said Ahmad and Salman when they saw that Ali was about to look back.

"Hey! I was sure that was Baba calling me. Thank-you for warning me just in time! Before I knew it I would have been one of these rocks!" said Ali touching a rock near him. Then they heard a loud scream,

"Salman! Salman, Please help me!" They stopped, it was their grandmother's voice. Just as Salman was about to turn, Ahmad and Ali caught hold of him, and said,

"It is only the Wicked Wizard's trick once again!"

They went on, and heard many more voices calling for help, but they did not turn back. Finally they crossed the rocky field safely, and the voices stopped.

After many days journey the reached the banks of the River Abbassin.

"Well boys," said Ahmad, "It seems we will have to swim."

After unsaddling their horses the three princes took off their shoes and walked towards the river. A little, old woman was sitting on a rock, looking very sad. When she saw the three young men preparing to cross the river, she came towards them and said,

"Please Sirs, will you help me cross the river?"

"Yes, ofcourse," said Salman. "Hop onto my back and I will carry you across."

The little, old woman was very light and Salman started to swim across the river. Soon he began to feel that the old woman was beginning to get heavier and heavier. She became so heavy that Salman almost drowned!

"Ahmad! Ali! please help me," Salman called out. "I don't think I can carry the old lady any farther!"

Ahmad swam up towards Salman and asked the old woman to climb onto his back. Ahmad had swum only a short distance when he began to feel that the old lady was getting heavier and heavier. Soon she was too heavy for him and he called out to his brothers,

"Salman! Ali! Help! I can't swim any farther with the old lady on my back."

Ali quickly swam up to Ahmad and asked the old woman to get onto his back. Soon Ali also felt the old woman getting heavier and heavier. He was beginning to drown, but luckily his feet touched the shore. The old woman thanked the three young men for their help and asked if she could help them in return.

"I don't think you can help us," said Ahmad. "You see, the Wicked Wizard has kidnapped the princess, and we are going to save her."

"Oh, then I can help you," said the old woman.

"How," said Ahmad, Salman and Ali.

"Here, take my chaddar. When you come near the Wicked Wizard's house many wild animals will attack you. All you have to do is cover yourselves with the chaddar and you will become invisible."

"Oh, thank you," said Ali.

"This is very kind of you," said Salman.

"Now we will surely save the princess," said Ahmad, and the three brothers went on, on their dangerous journey

They went on and on in the direction of the setting sun, and at last saw the Koh-e-Kaf Mountain in the distance. As they neared the mountains they heard a loud roar, and saw lions, tigers, wolves, jackals and hyenas running towards them.

"Quick brothers," said Ahmad, "cover yourselves with the chaddar."

The three brothers covered themselves with the old woman's chaddar. Although they could see the wild animals, they had become invisible; and the lions, tigers, wolves, jackals and hyenas ran past them.

"Look," said Ali.

Ahmad and Salman looked where was pointing and saw a girl sitting in the veranda of a large palace. She had long black hair and was the most beautiful girl they had ever seen.

"That must be the Princess Dilruba," said Salman to his brothers, and going up to her he asked,

"Are you Princess Dilruba?"

"Yes. But who are you? and how did you get here?" she said, staring at the handsome young men standing before her.

"Come with us. We have come to save you," said Salman.

"Let's go then! Before the Wicked Wizard returns." said the princess jumping up happily.

Princess Dilruba and the three young men ran back down the mountain. All the wild animals were waiting for them, but Salman quickly covered everyone with the chaddar and the tigers, leopards,

jackals and hyenas ran past them.

When Ahmad, Salman, Ali and Princess Dilruba reached the River Abbasin the little, old woman was waiting for them. They thanked her again, and returned the chaddar to her. She covered herself with it and disappeared. Ahmad, Salman and Ali raced with Princess Dilruba, but she was a very good swimmer and swam across the river faster than any one of them. Then each of them filled a bottle with water from the river, so that they could free the poor people stuck inside the rocks.

Their horses were waiting for them and Ali asked Princess Dilruba if she would like to ride with him. She jumped up behind him and they all galloped towards the valley of the rocks.

They sprinkled each rock with a few drops of water and each rock broke apart and young men, boys, old men and some women and girls jumped out. The people who had been freed from the rocks laughed and jumped with joy, they kissed the hands of the three brothers and thanked them with tears in their eyes.

"Zindabad, Ahmad, Salman and Ali; Zindabad, Zindabad," they shouted. Then they lifted the boys and the princess on their shoulders. Laughing and singing they all returned to the King's palace. The king heard the laughing and singing and was very angry,

"Who is laughing and singing in my kingdom? Have I not forbidden laughter until my daughter is found?" he shouted, and red with anger he came out of his palace to punish the people.

When he saw the huge crowd carrying the three brothers and the Princess, his mouth dropped. There he stood on the palace doorstep with his mouth open, not being able to say a word.

"Its my daughter, its Dilruba!" he shouted running towards them. He hugged and kissed his daughter. He was so happy that he danced in the streets, and the people were so happy to see their king laugh that they danced with him.

"How can I ever thank you, you brave young men!" said the king. "I had promised that whoever saves the princess will be allowed to marry her if she agrees. The only problem is that there are three of you, so which one wants to marry the Princess?"

The princess laughed and said "Father, I have already chosen Ali. He is the one I want to marry."

"I have two other daughters. If every agrees you can marry them," said the king.

"We will first have to take our parents permission," said Ahmad, Salman and Ali.

The king was very happy to have such fine young men marry his daughters, and sent a special messenger to the parents of the three young men. The boys' parents were very proud of their sons' great and wonderful deeds and agreed to the marriage. The marriage parties lasted for a month and a day, the old woman and the Good Wizard also attended the wedding and made sure the Wicked Wizard did not do anything to harm the three princes and the three princess. After it was all over the three princes and the three princess built three beautiful palaces where they lived happily ever after.

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