Genie of the Lamp

by MugaSofer

I’ve failed.

I’ve bent the Sultan’s ear to my words with my petty hedge-magics; and the corrupt palace guards who support him listen to me, if they know what’s good for them. But I’ll never be able to throw the fat sultan from a throne he barely knows the meaning of; never be able to restore justice to Agrabah without the power to overthrow the kingdom! Without the Djinn, the Shining One of gold and frankincense, we are all lost.

I’ve failed my country and my God, and in a thousand years, Agrabah will sink beneath the sands and be forgotten.

***

I had thought myself so clever.

I pored over books and scrolls and legends, sifting the rules and the histories for a key to power. The Fae were bound, long ago; and the places where they walk the earth are wilderness, space and time tortured by their alien favour.

A child turns away a hag’s offer of a gift, knocking at his door, and she rises terrible and gleaming to turn his retinue to clockwork and polished wood. A Good Neighbour, uninvited to a christening, spins green-glowing fire to strike the child with poisoned needles. A dead child, beautiful in her sunlit tomb, kindles love for her in men’s hearts until they burn their queen alive for daring to strike her down.

No. I will find no useful power there.

But in Arabia, our fiends were bound to serve us long ago, with seals and craftiness and magic. They can still grant boons to men, but limited ones, and they cannot curse us for offending them.

The markets here hold things capable of wonders, if you know where to look, and how to ask them.

And so I sought tales of Zion.

***

I wish I could say I was betrayed, misled by prophecy. But I can’t. This is my own doing, in the end.

I had found the Cave, and questioned the cave-guardian. I, a sorcerer, if a mean one, could not enter in search of power and live. Even my usual allies could not approach; consumed before my eyes by a sentry-beast of light and molten rock.

The whole structure was a test. The strong had no need of it’s gifts; and the weak would misuse them. Only someone with inner strength, yet outward weakness, could enter the final trial.

To keep things short – I found a boy. Of poor birth, illiterate, but talented. He was rotting in jail – not for stealing just to eat, but for humiliating the guards while he did it, making them look like fools. A good lad, bright. My auguries confirmed it.

Too good a fit, perhaps. Too poor a boy, one with too much potential. The cave must have tempted him with wealth, and power, a chance to change his station in life, and he took it.

And the cave took him, and sealed, and it took Zion with it. The lamp and it’s boons are beyond my grasp, and Agrabah an everyone in it will wear to dust before another chance such as this come close to the grasp of men.

***

He lives! Oh, praise God! The boy succeeded after all!

The idiot used one of the creature’s gifts to save himself from the cave’s wrath, and take some of it’s treasures with it. Worthless trinkets compared to the lamp, but he can have them.

He’s wasted another to give himself illusory riches, and a way in at the royal court. Not a bad wish, as these things go; he could do some good with the modicum of power it provided, and you can’t wish to increase your number of wishes.

But you can wish for more power yourself. That’s what he missed, what they all missed, even Solomon himself; a spirit can’t do things beyond it’s power, and it won’t give you more than it is bound to do – but it can give you some modicum of power yourself.

Let the boy keep his fairy gold, if he uses it well. I shall be the most powerful sorcerer-king the world has ever known; infinite cosmic power in the hands of a mortal man.

Agrabah will stand forever, shining, perfect and unforgettable.

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