My friend Kat French has a Steampunk novella coming out Real Soon Now from Echelon Press, in an anthology called ONCE UPON A CLOCKWORK TALE. Maybe that’s what inspired this, along with prompts from the website of a new internet friend.
Dawn M. Hamsher has a page on her blog, The Write Soil, of story prompts. Using a secret method of my own (today’s date), I chose one prompt from each column for today’s story.
Dealing With Djinns
by Marian Allen
Prince Massoud, son of the caliph, rubbed the lamp for the third time.
For the third time, the djinn appeared before him, this time with a sharp-toothed grin and with sparks in its deep, black eyes.
“Your final wish, O Master!”
The prince waved a hand toward the towering wall of glass beside them. “Roxana, bride of my heart, is imprisoned behind this unbreachable barrier. With your help, I have slain the sorcerer. Again with your help, I have restored my father to health and sense. Yet my soul is still dead within me while Roxana’s enchanted prison keeps us apart.”
“And your wish?”
“To rescue her.” Having dealt with the djinn’s wish fulfillments before, the prince added, “Part of the wish is that she and I both survive, whole and well.”
“And live happily ever after?” The djinn’s grin was truly terrible.
Prince Massoud nodded.
The djinn waved a hand, and a basket appeared. It was of woven wicker, large enough to hold two people. Above it rose a canvas bulb of scarlet and gold, filled with hot air from the fire pan just beneath the opening in the bulb’s bottom.
“This is my dream come to life!” Prince Massoud, eager as he was to see his bride once more, could not resist a quick inspection of the airship, which he had only seen in his imagination before this. “It does work!”
“Does it? Do you dare make the attempt? Shall I summon a commoner to test it for you as part of your wish?”
By way of answer, the prince vaulted into the basket.
The djinn laid hands on the basket’s rim, its long, pointed nails jutting toward the prince’s vitals. “My freedom?”
“My wish has not yet been granted. This airship is only the possibility of success, not the reality.”
The djinn released the basket. The airship, under the prince’s direction, rose through the crisp, clear air of the mountaintop fastness. The wall of glass slipped past as the prince rose.
At last, the wall ended! The prince pulled ropes, pulled levers, opened airlocks, and – Yes! – the steering mechanism worked as he had designed it on paper in the secrecy of his chambers! The ship turned and flew over the wall, toward the doorless glass tower where Roxana languished.
Even as the ship approached the tower, the princess appeared in the tower’s window. She jerked back out of sight, and was replaced by a ghastly white demon, a servant of the now-dead sorcerer, leaning out and aiming a crossbow at Massoud’s heart.
Massoud’s leather-and-steel armor might have stopped the worst of an ordinary arrow’s force, but a crossbow was another matter. He knew better than to expect the djinn to protect him.
In the split second it took him to calculate his best course of action, the demon shrieked and went head-first out the window.
Roxana appeared again, still holding one of the demon’s boots, she having grasped the thing’s ankles and overbalanced it.
In a moment, Roxana was beside Massoud in the basket, their arms about one another in a quick embrace.
Then she was, as before, as always, working with him as if the two were of one mind and one heart. She alone knew of his dream of flying through the air with the power of controlled fire. She had seen the plans, listened to his explanations, traced his diagrams with her slender fingers, asked questions that had strengthened his design.
Together, they swung the airship around, heading back over the wall. Below them, more of the sorcerer’s demons shot impossibly powerful crossbows, some of the arrows piercing the bottom of the basket. The princess cried out, as one of them sliced the edge of her bare foot.
Then they were over the wall.
The djinn appeared, so large it was standing on the ground but as tall as the wall of glass. Its face filled the sky.
“My freedom,” it said, voice booming, breath blowing the princess’ hair in streamers behind her. It flexed his fingers and raised one hand, razor-sharp nail pricking a tiny hole in the canvas airbag.
“When my wish is fully granted,” the prince shouted.
Roxana stepped forward and stood, arms crossed, and gave the djinn a Look. There was no magic in it. There was no pleading in it. There was no seduction in it. It was implacable, unyielding, irresistible.
The djinn withdrew its hands.
When the airship landed, the djinn waited, once more only a little larger than life, next to it.
“You have granted my three wishes,” said the prince.
One eye on Roxana, the djinn said, “You are still far from home, without provisions or attendants.”
“All I asked for was Roxana. You are free.”
“I will not take pity on you and send you safely home.”
“You are free.”
“I will not come to your aid, should you find yourself in danger between here and your palace.”
“And I say for the third time, ‘You are free.'”
The djinn vanished.
Roxana and Massoud indulged in a lingering embrace, gathered some wood for the airship’s fire, and went their way.
And, eventually, they lived happily ever after.
~ * ~
MY PROMPTS FOR TODAY: hot air, fingernails, glass, the clean crisp air