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The Lorelei Signal


Adiha and the Three Djinn

Written by Ali Abbas / Artwork by Marge Simon


Adiha knew exactly what she was doing. As the muezzin’s call to evening prayer echoed out across Basra, she left the bathhouse carrying a bent silver mirror and a bale of cloth. She draped the cloth over the gates to her father's home, covering the inscribed metal plates hammered into the wood. Then she stood under the tree in the corner of the courtyard, her damp hair spread across her shoulders. She angled the mirror to catch the last of the sunlight.


The surface distorted the image it reflected. She had thrown the precious mirror at a wall the day her mother died. The tarnished silver showed her face as a blur of peeled almond, dark smudges for her eyes, and the frame of her black hair.


Leaves rustling announced her first visitor. A grey cloud twisted, a charmed snake of smoke, coalescing into the form of a lean older gentleman, richly attired with a peacock’s feather pinned to his red turban. A djinn.


"It is ill luck to look into a broken mirror. I am here to be your doom." His voice was unthreatening, merely reminding Adiha of the way of the world.


“You have travelled here from a great distance, mighty djinn.” She poured a tall cup of cool water. “Slake your thirst before you put yourself to any further exertion.”


It is said that beauty is a silent bribe. Perhaps that is why the djinn called by the mirror took the cup. He watched Adiha over the rim, hungry eyes darting up and down. As he drank, a second form materialised. The air shimmered, revealing a stout young man with a pointed beard.


“You should know better, young lady, than to stand underneath a tree as day and night collide.” Mischief danced in his eyes. “All know this attracts the attention of the djinn.”


“Indeed, great spirit,” Adiha replied. She dipped her head to hide a smile. “But the night is warm, here is water to cool you. Perhaps you too have travelled far.” She offered the djinn a second cup.


“Not so far,” the djinn murmured, drinking in five slow gulps.


“I was here first,” the mirror djinn pronounced. “She is mine.” He put down the cup, bristling and flexing his shoulders.


The djinn of the tree inclined his head. “That may be, but I see another coming to make a claim.” A sudden squally rain hammered on the stones outside the circle of the tree. In its midst, a third form solidified.


“Who dares to sit out in the night with wet hair?” the djinn boomed. He towered over his fellows.


“Oh lord of the djinn, I hoped to dry my hair by the last of the day’s heat.” She offered a third cup of water. “Two others are here. Before you determine who has precedence, I offer you refreshment.”


The djinn of the night’s nostrils flared and his breathing grew rough as he stared at Adiha. He sneered at his peers, throwing back the water in one swallow. He slammed the cup down, flattening it into a disc.


“There is no question of precedence here,” he declared. “I am the stronger. Begone, both of you, the fate of this beauty lies in my hands.”


“I was first, there is no decision to be made,” the djinn of the mirror said. “It will take an age for me to tire of these flashing eyes. You two may squabble over her when that time comes.”


The djinn of the tree gave a soft laugh. “I fear you have both misread the situation.” He picked up the flattened brass disc, making it dance through his fingers. “We have all come to this woman’s home and accepted her hospitality. Should one of us offer her harm, the others are honour bound to intervene.” He flipped the disc. It stuck into the flagstones, glinting between the other two djinn. “None of us is stronger than the other two combined.”


“What is this trickery?” The djinn of the night snarled. “Speak, girl, before I prove my strength against these two and take you as my slave.”


“And spend your days cursed, great spirit?” Adiha took the cups from the other djinn and placed them on the tray. She had played an audacious hand thus far, and she knew enough of negotiation not to give away her fear. With a nonchalance she did not feel, she sat down on the stone bench beneath the tree and shook out her hair. “I have summoned you to offer you a bargain.” She combed her fingers through her tresses, knowing they watched. “Whichever of you offers me the best price for what I ask, I shall deal with. The others must leave as honoured guests.”


The djinn of the mirror narrowed his eyes and ran his thumb across the line of his jaw.


“What is it that you ask?”


“My father has arranged my marriage to an old spice trader from Tikrit. I know nothing of him.” She fixed her gaze on each one of the djinn in turn. “I have no wish to be packaged off to an ancient I have never met.”


“Then I shall kill your father,” the djinn of the night said. He turned to storm into the living quarters.


“Wait.” Adiha’s sharp command stopped him. “My father nor my family, myself included, may be harmed in this endeavour.”


“Then I shall kill your decrepit suitor,” the djinn of the mirror said. A sword appeared at his hip. He drew it halfway and slammed it back into the scabbard.


“A worthy strategy,” the djinn of the tree said, “but one lacking in subtlety. If the spice merchant dies while the marriage is being negotiated, it will cast a shadow over our hostess. The superstitious people of Basra will think her cursed.”


“What do you suggest?” Adiha asked him.


“I shall convince the spice merchant to turn down your father’s offer.”


“How is that better, you imbecile?” The djinn of night placed his hulking form between Adiha and the djinn of the tree. “She will be a laughing stock. I shall convince the spice merchant, but I shall also bring a worthy suitor to her father’s door.”


“What kind of suitor would a lummox like you bring?” The djinn of the mirror conjured a plush divan. He arranged himself on it. “I shall bring the son of the caliph himself.”


“That is a fine offer,” Adiha said. She clapped her hands in delight. “A prince would be a worthy husband, though I need to meet him first. I will not marry a stranger.”


“Then the youngest son of the caliph is a good choice,” the djinn of the tree offered. “He is loved by the people, free-handed in giving alms, and courageous in battle.”


“Very well.” Adiha numbered the terms on her fingers. “First, the spice merchant must reject my father’s offer." She waited for them to nod their agreement. "Second, I am to meet the youngest son of the caliph. I will judge if he is worthy to ask for my hand.” She stopped and made a fist. “But my father is only a merchant, he cannot amass a dowry worthy of marrying his daughter to a prince.” She held up a hand to stall their next offers. “He is a proud man; he will not accept unearned wealth.”


“That is nothing,” the djinn of the night said. “For the next year I shall make him successful in trade. He will be lucky with bargains, none of his cargoes will spoil, nor will bandits molest his caravans.”


“This I too can do,” said the djinn of the mirror. “More, I shall make his camels swift, and fill every oasis on his path.”


“Then it is settled, a husband of my choosing and a dowry to match, earned by my father. Now tell me what you want in return? Who will offer me the best terms?”


“You, for a year as my concubine.” The djinn of the night stretched out a hand to take her away immediately. The fire of lust in his eyes sparked off the brass cups. The djinn of the mirror leapt off the divan, whipped out his sword, and placed it before his adversary.


“Not so fast.” They glowered at each other before the djinn of the night stepped away. The djinn of the mirror made his own offer. “I want to have you for one night. This night, to seal our agreement.”


“I am flattered by your regard.” A gentle breeze tugged at Adiha’s drying hair. “But to offer myself to you breaks faith with the husband you have promised me. You must moderate your requirements.”


“I would watch you bathe,” the djinn of the tree said. “Once I have met all your requirements, I want to sit in the corner of the bathhouse as you wash.”


“But what of my father and my brothers?” Adiha asked. “If they find you in the bathhouse, honour will demand they fight you. You are all such mighty djinn, they have no hope, and the safety of my family is one of my conditions.”


The djinn of the night stomped over to the bathhouse, every step setting the leaves shivering. “There is a gap between the roof and the wall. I shall watch from here, one day each week of our arrangement.”


“I shall do the same,” the djinn of the mirror countered, “but one night only, the night before your wedding. That way you may be sure I have completed my side of the bargain.”


“Done.” There was a note of finality in Adiha’s voice.


“I have some conditions of my own,” the djinn of the mirror said. He stroked his beard and cast a suspicious glance at the djinn of the tree. “It must be you, no substitutes, and no enchantments.”


Adiha nodded. “Agreed. Thank you all, great djinn. Now I bid you all return to your abodes.”


~ * ~


The next day, as the sun reached its zenith, someone rattled the gates of Adiha’s family compound. It was an unusual sound. The house and its outbuildings stood in their high walled enclosure outside Basra. Passers-by had little reason to stop.


“Who could it be?” Saira asked. She was the wife of Adiha’s elder brother, a kind woman who was at turns exasperated and enamoured by her headstrong young sister-in-law. “Your father and my husband are away, there are no menfolk to greet this stranger.”


“You forget my younger brother Shadab.”


Saira put a restraining hand on Adiha’s arm. “Sister, I mean your brother no insult, but he is a simple soul. Who knows what manner of visitor is at our gates?”


Adiha sighed. Her elder brother was a clever trader and charming conversationalist. Shadab was different. He had the build of a labourer and loved to play at soldiers. At almost twenty years old he had few words and no guile.


“We have a visitor and we must observe the rules of hospitality.” She pursed her lips in thought. “Tell Shadab to call to the gate that someone comes. I shall put on my veils and join him.”


Shadab looked much like his sister if one had the wit to see. Beneath his heavy brows he had the same dark eyes and the same straight nose that threatened to hook. They shared soot-black hair, thin and fine, although his was messy and chopped short. He hid the similarities beneath his strong body and sun-browned skin.


"Ask who it is," Adiha instructed.


"A traveller," came the reply. "I have ridden far and seek shade and water."


"What is your business in Basra?" Shadab enjoyed the repeating game.


"I am to meet a trader from Isfahan on behalf of my father."


Adiha wanted to ask more, but it was cruel to keep the visitor waiting. She pushed Shadab forward and stood in the shade of the tree with a pitcher of water and cup in hand.


Her brother opened the many bolts and locks on the large metal-bound gates, inscribed with verses from the Quran. Shadab pulled one aside. The traveller entered leading a horse, its head drooping in the heat.


It was a young man, almost as tall as Shadab. Road dust covered him, but Adiha had a merchant’s eye for detail. His soft boots were of tooled leather, and the edges of his turban hinted at rich embroidery. His horse, of a fine breed, stood deep in the chest and graceful through its legs. In contrast, neither his scabbard nor the hilt of his sword boasted adornment.


She schooled her features to calmness, even though her veil hid her smile. Filling the cup with water she placed it on the edge of the bench for him to take.


He bowed low and gestured to his horse. "Please, my lady. We have travelled far; the day grows hot."


She nodded. "Shadab, a pail of water from the well." Her brother scampered off to the far corner of the courtyard. The young man stood at ease while they waited, surveying the house and smaller buildings arranged around the courtyard.


"May I ask whose home this is?"


"Naseer Abbas, a merchant of Basra. I am his daughter."


"Then the fine fellow who opened the gate must be his younger son." A broad smile cut crease lines in the traveller’s dusty face as Adiha’s eyes widened in surprise. "Your father is known to me. He came through Baghdad recently with his elder son on his way north."


"You are involved in trade as well then?"


"Trade is the lifeblood of our nation. We are all involved in trade one way or another," he offered in an obvious evasion. Adiha had to bite down on a smile of her own; the traveller had an engaging manner and she guessed his path had been redirected here.


"Your name, sir?"


"Forgive me," he said as he bowed low, "Hathem bin Abdallah, of Baghdad."


It was an uninformative, common name, but further questions were stopped by Shadab's return. Hathem took the pail with warm thanks and hefted it for his horse to drink. Only when the animal turned its head away did he hoist the pail to empty the rest of it over his own head.


Adiha echoed Shadab's laughter. Hathem turned to face her with a wide grin, finally stepping into the shade of the tree and picking up the cup of water.


They talked through the slow oven heat of the afternoon, mostly of trade. Hathem exhibited a shrewd understanding of which goods might bring the greatest profit and those that had fallen out of fashion. Adiha's handmaid brought fruit, but he ate little. All the while Shadab sat patiently with them, occasionally repeating their phrases. Each time Hathem smiled at him, and when necessary helped with some of the more difficult words.


Eventually, her brother fell into a doze. Pitching his voice low, Hathem asked, “Tell me of your brother.”


This was the test Adiha had hoped for, to gain the measure of this man. “He is kind and loyal, diligent and strong, honest and guileless.”


“What I would give for one like him,” Hathem whispered.


“I beg your pardon?” Adiha had heard him but wished to hear it again.


“An idle thought, lady. Please go on.”


She nodded, holding his words close to her heart. “His mind is not suited to trade, nor is his temperament. He sees only that which is before him.”


“Sometimes in trade one must take a loss to enable a future profit.”


“Or take a loss to forestall greater loss,” Adiha added.


“Indeed. Someone who sees things only as they are, not as they might be, may not fare well in trade.” Hathem sighed. “Still, it must be a joy to live in the moment.”


“He is happy, although my mother feared for his future. My father and brother spend months at a time away, and one day I won’t be here to look after him.”


“How so?”


“I cannot stay in my father’s home forever; I must marry and become one with my husband’s home.”


Hathem dropped his gaze, not quickly enough to hide his stricken look. “Of course. I hope the husband fate decrees for you understands your bond to your brother and can see his worth.”


“That was my mother’s fervent wish, but she died before she could secure that future for him.”


The muezzin's call for prayer interrupted them. Shadab leapt to his feet. He went with Hathem to the mosque, happily leading the horse while Adiha lingered by the tree. The djinn of the tree appeared at her side.


"Do you approve?" the djinn asked.


"I do."


"Then it seems the djinn of the mirror has kept part of his promise: a worthy husband." The djinn of the tree faded. "This is a perilous path you have chosen. Beware the djinn of the night, lady. My kind live long and never forget."


“Then you should be wary too. If you stand alone the djinn of the night will overpower you and take you as his slave.”


“I have nothing to fear while the wards your mother left on the gate remain intact.” With that he shimmered out of sight.


~ * ~


A month later the fruits of Hathem’s visit were harvested. Adiha’s father and her elder brother trudged wearily into the compound. Shadab rushed out to drag the two camels laden with personal possessions through the gate. Adiha watched, suppressing her anxiety by binding her fingers behind her back.


Her father’s weary features told her he would say nothing until he had bathed and eaten.


The evening passed in an odd anguish. While her father kept his counsel there was a possibility the djinn of the mirror had failed to keep his promise. Once he spoke, she would know if the risk she had taken had paid off.


“You seem ill at ease, daughter.” Her father rolled a cup between his palms. “My return used to make you giddy and overexcited.”


“I still am, Father. But I am soon to be married, and must learn to conduct myself so, rather than as a little girl.” She dropped her eyes. “I had hoped you would be proud of my newfound restraint.”


Perhaps he remained weary from the road. She had expected to read some exuberance in his own manner, a restlessness to share good news. A cold well of trepidation sank through her belly. Had the handsome visitor not been the son of the caliph? Had he made no offer for her hand? Or worse, had her father already finalized matters with the Tikrit spice merchant? She pressed her hands into the carpet to stop them trembling.


“I have always been proud of you, my daughter. You are much like your mother. You know she was always better at business than I, and we have not fared well since Allah recalled her.” He sighed, then shook his head as if to clear these maudlin thoughts. “Enough, delay serves neither of us.”


“Delay, Father?”


“I have news for you. Ubaid, the spice merchant turned you down. He is marrying a recently widowed woman with a good fortune in his own town. I’ll be frank, I am glad of it. He had only wealth to recommend him.”


Adiha bit her tongue. No one had asked her opinion on the match, although she had given it many times and in increasing volume.


“On my return through Baghdad the caliph’s vizier summoned me. It seems the caliph’s youngest son has taken an interest in you and has asked for your hand in marriage.”


“Did you give him an answer?”


“I had to accept, but it will be the ruin of us.” He leaned back against the cushions and rubbed his eyes.


“How so?”


“I will have to sell everything to buy a suitable wedding gift and borrow to make up your dowry. The wedding alone will strip this town of grain and cattle.”


Adiha chewed on her lip. Telling her father of her own plans jeopardized them all; he would demand to know the price.


“Do you trust me, Father?”


He gave her a startled look. “Of course.”


“Then do as I ask. You must take a caravan to Damascus. On your way, stop in Baghdad and ask for the wedding date to be set for a year from now. In Damascus, seek out the Ifriquiye traders who have barrels of golden nut oil. Buy all you can. You must also buy a sword of simple design but good steel. On your return journey go to Kufa, close by you will find the tomb of the Commander of the Faithful. You must stay there for three nights. Each night touch the sword to the four sides of the tomb. A sword so blessed is worth more than a jewelled hilt and tooled scabbard.”


“Those are very specific requests.”


She gave him an impish grin. “I have learned from a reliable source a trade caravan is expected from China. They prize this oil as the base of their cosmetics.”


Her father narrowed his eyes. “What are you up to, Adiha?”


“Don’t you know, Father, I have a djinn at my command.” The lie flowed not from the words but the smile that pulled at her lips. Her father laughed, shedding at last the weariness of the road. “Trust me on this, Father. All will be well.” Her smile faltered as tears glinted in his eyes. “Whatever is the matter?”


“I have missed your mother’s guidance on business matters. It is as though all the enchantment in my life went with her. The house has been quiet; business has been flat. Your advice reminds me of the insights she gave me. In a year I will lose that, too.”


~ * ~


The trade goods her father took from Basra did well, and his camels made excellent time. He brought back a caravan laden with barrels of oil, and the sword. All but one barrel he sold at great profit to the caravan that arrived from China. The last barrel and the sword Adiha kept to herself.


From that day, every evening Adiha’s handmaiden dipped her hands in the oil and ran her fingers through her mistress’s black locks. Adiha’s hair, already at her waist, grew longer and thicker.


One afternoon, while her father away again, a hammering at the gates rang through the compound. Shadab followed Adiha to the gate, and at her instruction asked who sought entry.


“Have you forgotten me so quickly, my young beauty?” The voice of the djinn of the mirror replied. “We have a deal, and I have come to collect.”


“I remember you well, and I remember the terms. The due date on my payment was the night before my wedding. There are some months before that happy event.”


“Nonetheless I demand a token that you will honour our agreement. Thus far I have done all you asked. Give me a sign you will keep faith.”


Adiha pondered his demand. Dealing with djinn carried dangers. The carved calligraphy on the gates deterred all manner of magical creatures, but their strength had never been tested. If she provoked the djinn too far, he might decide to try and force his way in. If she gave him some fraction of what he sought he may forget himself in lust. Whatever she chose was a gamble.


“What do you propose?”


“I want to look upon your beauty as you sleep, without your veil or any chaperone.”


The words froze her heart. The djinn would not restrain himself if she let him come inside. “This is too much, mighty djinn. What you ask forces my father and my brother to seek you out and fight you.”


“Then show me your face, and give me a lock of your hair, that I may console myself with your image and your fragrance.”


“I have promised to let you watch me bathe, is that not enough?”


“Show me your foot then, and a lock of your hair.”


“Very well.” She bade Shadab lean down, and with a little fruit knife cut a few strands of his hair. Her brother opened the gate a handspan wide and at her instruction braced his shoulder against it. Adiha hid behind the gate and passed the hair out. The djinn held her hand until she yanked it back. Then she kicked off a sandal and balancing on one leg held her foot through the door. The djinn growled seeing the golden skin and perfect crescent of toes. His hand whipped through the gate; thick fingers wrapped around her ankle. She fell, pulling the djinn’s wrist into the courtyard. The back of her head hit the ground. Stars danced through her vision.


The djinn’s mighty arm dragged her out, ripping her shirt on stone. Shadab yelled. The gate shuddered as he threw his weight against it. Sparks flew against the thick, muscled forearm of the djinn. The fingers loosened. The gate shuddered again, before a roar from outside threw dust into the air. The gate slammed shut.


The carvings on the gate swam before her eyes. She thought they glowed for a moment, but it could have been her spinning head and the slanting sunlight. Beside the gate a disembodied hand clutched feebly at nothing before disappearing in a cloud of smoke. She slumped, sucking in deep breaths and grabbing her brother to stop herself shaking. Fear and anger flooded through her receding panic.


“Begone until the night of our reckoning!” Adiha had come within inches of being dragged into the djinn’s clutches. The grasp had not come from the elegant, beringed hand of the djinn of the mirror. It had been the massive paw of the djinn of the night. Thick bands of bruises were rising on her foot. She had been naive to expect him to accept defeat.


~ * ~


The remaining months passed without incident. Adiha knew better than to become complacent. The gate had hurt the djinn of the night, but as the djinn of the tree reminded her, "the djinn live long, and never forget.” She grew restless and sleepless as the night on which her plans would succeed or fail grew closer.


Hathem arrived at the head of a long caravan on the day before the wedding. In the midst of the bustle, the two betrothed found only a few minutes to talk. They met in the shade of the tree as they had done before.


Hathem seemed uncomfortable. He paced back and forth, in and out of the shade. At times he raised a hand, or started to speak, then fell back into silent pacing. A new worry gnawed at the edge of Adiha’s trepidation.


A sudden wind whipped up, dislodging her veil. She clutched at it, but the gust took it up into the branches of the tree, where it danced out of reach. She jumped. The pins holding the heavy mass of her hair fell out. Months of treatment with the oil had accelerated its growth. Now it reached the ground, glossy and dense, sucking at the sunlight.


Hathem gasped, he had only seen her eyes and guessed at the shape of her face under the gauzy fabric. Now he saw her for the first time. His eyes went wide, his body completely still. He laughed. It came up from his belly and rocked him backward.


Adiha’s uncertainties brought her crashing to the ground with his guffaws. This prince had viewed the greatest beauties of court, the daughters of viziers and ambassadors, paraded for him to choose. Seeing her unveiled, he laughed at her. Her future, Shadaab’s future, lay in ashes. Colour rising from her hammering heart through her face, she turned to run into the house.


“Wait, please,” Hathem gasped. He put his fingertips on her arm. Had he grabbed her she would have wrenched her arm away. Had he ordered her to stay, she would have fled. The entreaty and the gentle touch took her by surprise. He steadied himself and bowed. “I have been a fool; I laughed to mock myself.”


He thought himself a fool for choosing to marry her? It was hardly an improvement. She took a step back, wishing only to be away from the site of her humiliation. Her foot caught on the trailing edge of her hair and she tripped, landing on the stone bench with a squeal.


He choked back another laugh and dropped to one knee before her. “A man came to me some months ago. He said you had another suitor, one you had given a token of your affection.” He brought out a little brass case; inside were the strands of hair she had cut from Shadab. He held them up, then flicked them away. “Now I have seen your hair, it is much darker and thicker than what he brought me. It was an evil trick for some nefarious purpose.”


Hathem rose and jumped to catch her veil. He handed it to her. “I have been in agony since that miscreant came to me. My laughter was from my relief.” He bowed his head. “I was ready to release you to follow your heart.”


Adiha’s own heart leapt. He proved again to be the good, honourable man she had hoped for. Then her heart fell. This night formed the riskiest part of her plan. Everything would be won or lost in the next few hours.


~ * ~


She waited until the men had all gone for evening prayers before heading to the bathhouse. Her instructions to Shadab included leaving the gate ajar. She shifted the wicker screen that covered the gap between the wall and roof, and steadied herself with a short prayer.


Before she removed her clothes she undid all the pins and clasps that held her hair up. It fell around her like a dress. With tiny motions, she stepped out of her clothes, smoothed the creases and folded them away. A single lamp burned in the corner of the bathhouse. Over the hiss of the oil, she heard the deep breathing of someone outside. She dipped a jug into the barrel of cool water her handmaiden had drawn. She splashed it on the ground by her feet. It glittered in the lamplight, running away through the little gutter.


A roar outside shook the building, lamplight leaping in terror across the walls. It was not the djinn of the mirror, but the djinn of the night.


The ground shuddered with another roar. Dust drifted from the roof. Adiha snatched up her veil and darted outside before the building collapsed on her.


The djinn of the night had swollen to immense proportions. He towered over the compound.


“Cheated! I can see nothing. Everything is hidden.” He brought a foot crashing down, smashing the bench beneath the tree.


Adiha scampered into the shadows beside the house and stifled a cry. There was Shadab. Brave, loyal, obedient Shadab. He had returned early as promised. He carried the sword and advanced on the djinn with slow, determined steps. She had expected the elderly djinn of the mirror, not this vast monster.


“Over here, spirit.” Hathem stood at the gate, his own sword drawn and ready. The djinn brought his one enormous hand sweeping down, looking to hurl both young men into the night. They leapt out of the way. Hathem's foot caught on the rubble from the bench, tripping him. The djinn snarled and threw his fist at the prince. Shadab darted between them. The good steel, blessed at the tomb of the Commander of the Faithful, parted the djinn's arm at the elbow like silk. The djinn howled in agony. Shadab twisted and plunged the sword into the spirit.


The djinn of night stood motionless for a moment then dissipated in a cloud of smoke, to be carried away by the night breeze. Something small and metallic clattered on the flagstones.


Adiha sprinted, veil fluttering behind her and hauled her brother into a tight embrace. The second set of clothes she had worn were damp with sweat, but her ruse had worked.


Hathem hurried up to them. “What was that one-armed creature, and why was he at your bathhouse?”


“I cannot say. As you can see, I have come from the house.” It was an evasion, but also the truth. Her mother had managed her father that way for all the years Adiha could remember.


She took the sword her brother held, and handed it to her future husband. “The sword is simple, but it can defeat the djinn. That makes it worthy of a prince.”


The moonlight lit up his smile. He took the sword and admired the silver light reflecting off the blade. “What makes it worthy of a prince makes it perfect for the bodyguard of a princess.” He handed it back to Shadab. The giving of gifts between husband and wife was complete.


~ * ~


The next evening, before she left for the wedding feast, Adiha waited under the tree. She could command his appearance, but it was more equitable and polite to wait. It did not take long for the djinn of the tree to appear.


“Is my service done?” he asked.


“It is. My future and my brother’s future are secured. My mother’s final wishes are complete. Your debt to my mother is repaid.”


The djinn shook, as though removing an invisible chain. “Your mother set terms my meagre powers would struggle to fulfil, I count it a kindness that you found a way to release me. I shall not forget this. But be wary, my replacement will not forget either.”


“I will be.” She tossed up and caught a little brass box. The indignant shout from inside came from the djinn of the mirror. The djinn of night had overpowered his rival and trapped him. “I'll take my time preparing the contract before I release him.”


The djinn of the tree bowed low. “Then you are indeed your mother’s daughter.”

Originally Published in Witches, Warriors and Wyverns - TANSTAAFL Press - Jan 2020

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Ali-Abbas Ali.jpg

Ali Abbas is the author of two novellas: Silent Running is a hard sci-fi thriller published by Lost Colony Magazine, and Like Clockwork is a steampunk mystery published by Transmundane Press.


A full list of published works and free to read stories is available on his author site at . Ali maintains a blog at  

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