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“She is Marid,” said the wish scribe, now right behind him. Faruq glanced back to see him gazing up at the Djinni. “Beautiful, isn’t she?”
Faruq was not at all certain that was the word he would use to describe her. Perhaps she could be, if her eyes, which were dark but glowed like lit coals, weren’t continuously rolling back in her head. Her hair was long and black as tar, and flowed in shining waves down the golden skin of her torso to her slim waist, where it vanished into glimmering gold fire, as did her legs. The fire gave off no smoke, and he could see her clearly through the glass.
How she twisted and writhed. Even her hair seemed to squirm. Slim, metallic fingers, topped in nails that could have been made of black lacquer, scratched vainly at the glass that held her. Now and again she flattened her golden palms against her prison with a thud. Her chest heaved with her breathing, and her full, golden lips were stuck in an ‘O’ shape, a continuous silent scream, for although she twisted and jerked she made no sound save the thudding of her body and squeaking of her hands against the bulb.
“Do you pity her?” the wish scribe asked.
“Yes,” whispered Faruq.
“Foolish. It is the Djinn’s destiny to serve man, yet still they resist with their trickery. This is their punishment for their defiance of almighty Ahura Mazdaa. Do not pity her. Should even one of the Djinn escape their prison, I’ve no doubt their wrath would be so great as to wipe this whole country out of existence, out of history even. Do you fear her?”
Faruq swallowed, trying to moisten his dry throat. When that didn’t work he gave up and simply nodded. The wish scribe looked up at the Djinni in her giant glass bottle, a triumphant smile on his face.
“Fear not, she is well contained.” He gestured, and Faruq started, now aware of four imposing figures cloaked in deep blue who stood two to a side around the glass bulb. “Our sorcerers are the most learned on the continent, using the very latest discoveries in the science of magic to keep the Djinn firmly in thrall. They haven’t a hope of breaking free.”
Still, Faruq cringed away from the wild Djinni. She was at least twice as tall as the tallest guardsman. He jerked each time she thudded against the glass, even though it did seem quite sturdy. The bulb rested in a depression that took up the bulk of the tower. It was round at the bottom, and tapered up into a point, like a teardrop, and capped off by a heavy glass ball as big as his head. The wish scribe used the hand on Faruq’s shoulder to push him toward a white podium perched directly in front of the bulb.
“Let us not waste any more time.” He reached into the sash around his robe and pulled out the roll of paper.
“Read it, memorize it, and speak it just as it is written. Should you speak one word, one syllable differently, you will be run through. Do you understand?”
Eyes wide, Faruq nodded.
“Good. Now open it.”
He almost dropped the paper his fingers were shaking so badly, but he recovered it and sent a silent prayer to Ahura Mazdaa in thanks, and then another begging for the wording of the wish to be simple so that he could read it. He was sure neither the wish scribe nor the guards would take kindly to his nerves, and they surely wouldn’t let him back out of the wishtesting now.
Faruq slowly unrolled the paper, and as he saw what was written his heart sank. Not only were there a couple of words he wasn’t sure how to pronounce, but there went his brief dream of becoming a King with his own menagerie. He silently cursed the man who had commissioned such a strange wish. Sweat broke out on his forehead and he glanced over his shoulder. Sure enough, he could tell by the hard expressions on the faces of the wish scribe and the guardsmen that he would not be permitted to leave.
The wish scribe caught his eye. “Are you ready?”
Faruq felt his stomach drop. “Could I have some more time?”
The man squinted at him. “Alright, but don’t take too long.”
He focused again on the paper, his lips moving slightly despite himself as he sounded out the difficult words in his head.
Blo-blooood. Ah! Blood! Suffer….su-ffer-ing…
He fought the dread creating pressure in his chest, forced himself to turn back. “I’m ready.”
“Step up to the podium,” commanded the wish scribe. Faruq did as he was told, and jumped slightly when he felt the pointy tip of a machete at his back. He stiffened.
“Just a precaution,” the wish scribe said in his whispery voice.
The sweat tickled as it coursed down the side of Faruq’s face and made a pool at his chin. He breathed deep, looked up at the tortured Djinni…
…and his mind went blank.