This was started as a Ficlet very recently, and it should be fairly obvious how I will be folding this into Anso's story.
I fleshed it out a little bit from its abbreviated ficlet form.
It so happened that the Caliph Haroun al Rashid and his trusted companion and Vizier Ja’far al Barmaki were out carousing one evening.
They had before them a kingly assortment of fruits, nuts, sweet melons, honeyed pastries and great decanters of wine which they drank with enthusiasm, though the prophet had spoken against partaking.
“It is known to me,” said the Caliph. “that you are desirous of a certain slave-girl by the name of Aliyah that I have recently acquired. She is of exceeding beauty, with the eyes of a gazelle, neck like a pillar of alabaster and hair of silk.
“This is true,” replied the Vizier. “I have watched the girl, admiring her many qualities; her fine singing ability, her cleverness and her familiarity with the poets. She can speak on many subjects, being learned in the ways of the Book and is wise in the ways of language, speaking the tongue of God as well as the speech of the uttermost East. And as you say, she is fair to look on.”
“She is all of these and more,” said the Caliph, “and I am prepared to give this girl to you,” he paused here to imbibe deeply from his cup. “If you will perform a small task for me.”
“O Commander of the Faithful, you are too generous to bestow such a gift upon an undeserving one such as I,” came the Vizier’s reply. “Any task would be a small thing in exchange for so great a gift. What must I do?”
The Caliph looked grave for a moment, considering the weight of the task he was about to present to his faithful companion.
“It is said that among the Greeks there is one who has the art to bring statues of men to life. He abides on the isle of Rhodes, and it is said that the streets are lined with his inventions, sculptures of all of their heathen gods that move as if alive. Some, it is even said, can speak with voices of wind and fire. I wish to bring this man here to my court.”
Ja’far smiled. “This is no great task, O Commander of the Faithful. I will have this man here within a fortnight.”
“Do not think lightly on this,” said the Caliph. “For this man is said to be under a curse. A foul Ifrit haunts his every step, bringing misery to his house and all who come near to him.”
“I thank you for you compassion, O generous one. But I am Ja’far al Barmaki, and will not be deterred by ghost stories.”
And so Ja’far prepared for his journey.