The Battered Lamp
Prologue: The Lamp’s Journey
© Copyright 2014
Story Codes: No Sex
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Note: Thanks to b0b for being my beta reader.
Six Shall be one, the Marid defeated.
In the lands of the West shall be born our salvation,
The Blood of Sultans and Warriors flows through his veins,
Four wives and countless lovers shall he possess; the appetite of sultans.
If you wish freedom for the Djinn, send a daughter of Jann, slumbering in a brass lamp, to wife,
She shall guide him to his champions and gird them for battle.
Six shall be one, the Marid defeated.
The Warrior of the Earthen Sword, whose youthful inexperience conceals the strength of a Sultan;
The Consort of the Brass Lamp, whose meek obedience obfuscates the will of a Sultana;
The Consort of the Fiery Spear, whose playful petulance hides the desires of depravity;
The Consort of the Arcane Grimoire, whose innocent beauty obscures the powers of darkness;
The Consort of the Airy Bow, whose calm demeanor cloaks the fury of storms;
The Companion of the Watery Dagger, whose deep intellect masks the hunger of predators.
Six shall be one, the Marid defeated
In the Lands of the West shall our salvation arise,
Their trials will be many, their conflicts fierce,
Their enemies will beset them on all sides, hidden behind masks of authority,
The darkness grows, hungering for power; guard well the daughter of Jann, freed from a brass lamp,
Through blood and tears shall they be forged.
Six shall be one, the Marid defeated.
In the lands of the West shall be born our salvation.
— The Kalsomid Prophecy
Khoshilat Maqandeli – 1156 AD
“Great Sheikh,” Kalsom binti Abdullah bowed like an ancient oak beneath a raging wind. “I have read the frankincense vapors, and found the husband for your daughter.”
Sheikh Umar ibn al-Jann, Ruler of the Jann Tribe of the Hidden People—whom the mortals called the Djinn—sat on his throne of tourmaline. Finally, after three hundred years of questing, the mortal instrument of prophecy had been divined—the champion who would wrest the Sultanate from the cruel hands Rashid bin Al-Marid. For millennia, the Five Tribes of the Hidden People had shared the rule, passing the Sultanate every one hundred years from the Jann, to the Si’lat, the Ghul, the Ifrit, the Marid, and finally passing back to the Jann, starting the cycle anew.
But Rashid, with the duplicitous Ifrit’s aid, held on to the Sultanate, refusing to pass its rule to Sheikh Umar a thousand years ago, and ruthlessly subjugated the Jann when they had objected. Now the Sheikh’s tribe was too weak to challenge the Marid. And they had no allies; the Ifrit had made their deal, the Si’lat were too involved in their appetites, and the Ghul were too easily appeased with gifts and tributes.
But a mortal not bound by the Hidden Peoples’ laws—
“Who?” Sheikh Umar asked.
“He is known as Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb,” Kalsom answered, her voice reedy with age. She was the oldest of the Jann, among the first that formed out of dust and vapor. “One day men will call him Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb when he rules the mortal Caliphate.”
The Sheikh nodded. A powerful man indeed. “Summon my daughter.”
A moment later his daughter entered; she must have been lurking in the antechamber, once again spying on matters that didn’t concern a woman. She strode the length of his court, the various nobles and warriors in attendance bowed as she passed. His daughter was dressed in her yellow silk pantaloons and vest, her caramel skin darkening the sheer fabric where it pressed against her lithe flesh. Every man in the court lusted after her perfection. Her round face was hidden by the flimsiest of yellow veils, and her dark eyes stared at him with curiosity. She was the loveliest flower of his garden, and it pained him imagining a mortal plucking her. When she reached the base of his throne, she fell to her knees in supplication, and kissed the tasseled slipper of his right foot.
“I am ever your obedient daughter,” she murmured. “What need do you have of me, Father?”
“A husband has been found for you, daughter,” he boomed. “A mortal.”
“I know what is expected of me, father,” she answered calm and respectful. She had been training for this day for two hundred years, patiently waiting, studying the arts of home and harem.
“Then sleep, my flower,” the Sheikh whispered sadly. “You shall awaken in the house of your beloved husband and cleave to him as the first of his wives, the mistress of his harem.”
“My dreams shall be full of my bridegroom’s handsome countenance,” Aaliyah purred, not a hint of fear at her impending imprisonment. Nothing frightened the Hidden People more than being bound to an artifact, at the mercy of a mortal’s tyranny. And she went willingly with the strength and dignity of a Sultana. He held back his tears of pride, they were for the privacy of his harem and his wives ministrations, not for his entire court, and the Marid’s spies, to see.
“Obey him in all things, my beloved daughter, but your powers shall be limited to matters of hearth and harem while you dwell apart from the Unseen Realm.” As he spoke, his words fell like chains about her, limiting the great gift she possessed. She was a Noble Jann, and the power of creation swirled inside her. Too much power to be given to any mortal, even the one who would rescue his people from the Marid’s bondage.
“I understand, Father.”
Kalsom began her chant, setting the plain, brass lamp at Aaliyah’s slippered feet. His daughter glanced at the simple lamp, unafraid. No. Anticipation filled her face; she had awaited this day for two hundred years, keeping her innocents intact for a bridegroom that hadn’t even been born yet. She would guide this Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb, and free the Hidden People from Rashid’s tyranny.
The chant grew louder, and power filled the room like the searing wind of the desert. Aaliyah’s form wavered, dancing like a mirage on the desert sands. The distortion grew and she fuzzed, her body breaking apart into billowing, yellow dust, the essence of a Jann. The cloud of dust that was his daughter whirled and howled, spinning into a cyclone above the lamp. Faster and faster she spun about, stirring a breeze in the court. Kalsom finished her chant, and the spout of the lamp began to draw his daughter’s dust, sucking her into the plain, brass vessel. He forced himself to watch, even as his heart broke in his chest. The last of the dust vanished; the wind died down.
“Sleep, my daughter,” the Sheikh whispered. He picked up the brass lamp and handed it to Kalsom.
Sahabah – 1156 AD
The Sultan of the Unseen Realm, Rashid bin Al-Marid, absorbed the spies words as he sat upon his sapphire throne. He was silent for many heartbeats, then turned to the beautiful Ifrit kneeling before his throne. He considered her for more heartbeats, his ancient face twitching as he thought, his hands stroking his long, white beard. He had expected this news for three hundred years, ever since that twisted crone had pronounced her prophecy. If he could, he would have every last member of the Jann put to death for their insolence. Alas, laws stronger than death bound his race, and he could not shed their blood without…consequences.
“Zaritha, see that the Jann whore does not reach this mortal,” he rumbled like the sea pounding a rocky cliff; power filled his voice.
A smile appeared on the Ifrit’s lips, her eyes glowing red with her inner fire.
Baghdad – 1156 AD
“I will take ten men and travel night and day to reach Mosul,” promised Wafi as the Jann crone placed the brass lamp into his hands. “Allah willing, I will not fail.”
Wafi and his ten men rode hard across the lands, traveling northwest from Baghdad, the mother of cities. On their third day, the Crusaders found them. Wafi cursed his bad luck—the Crusaders never traveled this far from the Levant—and drew his scimitar, spurring his horse at the damned infidels. A knight led them, heavily armored, and his scimitar scraped off the metal plates of the knight’s armor.
The knight’s sword opened a cut in his side. Waif toppled to the sand. He tried to command his limbs to move; they ignored him. The knight dismount, armor clanging, and approached him. He couldn’t see the knight’s face past his visor. The knight bent down, opening the satchel at his waist. Wafi tried to protest, but his life was bleeding out, and his body was rebelling against his commands.
I failed her, Wafi thought as the knight picked up the brass lamp, then the darkness took him.
Acre – 1160 AD
Alphonse of Toulouse fingered the brass lamp as his boat slipped anchor, heading out into the Mediterranean to take the knight home. The lamp vexed him. He could sense there was something important about it; that some Moorish spell had been placed upon it. He was certain of it; the column of fire had led him to those Moslems for a reason.
For this lamp.
The voyage was long, boring, and puzzling over the lamp occupied his time.
As they sailed past Sicily, a storm rose up, howling with all the rage of hell. Alphonse almost imagined a woman’s voice in the wind, laughing in malicious delight. The ship’s keel broke, and the knight sank beneath the waves, clutching the lamp. His dying thoughts were full of frustration—he had never found the lamp’s secret.
Sicily – 1902 AD
The day before Nicoletta Bello left for America, she wanted to have one last walk on the beach of her beautiful, impoverished home. She savored the smell of the Mediterranean, knowing she would never see the sea again. The waves washed over her, and the sand squelched as she walked and skipped and laughed and cried.
On her walk back home, she noticed something shining in the surf. A battered lamp was half-buried in the sand, tarnished by age. Excitement trembled through her; the lamp tingled in her hand—it was special.
As the Citta di Milano sailed across the Atlantic, Nicoletta pondered over the old, brass lamp. But she failed to penetrate its secrets by the time her ship docked at Ellis Island. Within an hour of clearing immigration, her luggage had been stolen. To the day she died, she couldn’t stop thinking about the lamp, and often wondered what the thief had done with it.
New York City – 1902 AD
“It’s a right deal,” Sean Murphy proclaimed as August Harper examined the brass lamp. “Give it to you for a dollar.”
August carefully examined the brass lamp he held in his ebony hands. “It be dented and tarnished. I’ll give you a half dollar.”
“Hey! What you tryin’ to pull!” the Irish street urchin complained.
“Half-dollar,” August repeated. He didn’t make that much as a sailor, but there was something special about this lamp. It had some hoodoo about it. “It’s rubbish. I’m doin’ you a favor.”
“Half-dollar and a quarter,” Sean shot back. “Ain’t taken a penny less!”
“How ’bout a half-dollar and a dime.”
“Fine,” Sean sighed. “You rippin’ me off, negro.”
August never could figure out what sort of hoodoo the lamp possessed. Three months later, when he returned home to South Carolina, he gave it to his pretty daughter Marjorie, smiling as her eyes lit up when she saw the lamp.
That made it worth every penny.
Seattle – 1918 AD
Marjorie smiled when she unpacked the lamp.
The last gift her pa had ever given her. A week later he had taken a job on a merchantman and a storm had sunk his ship. She stroked the brass lamp, feeling the energy tingling through her fingers. The lamp possessed some hoodoo, and holding it always made her aches disappear, and she had more than a few these days. She waddled awkwardly across her living room to the mantle of the red-bricked fireplace, setting the lamp upon it. She sighed, and turned back to the boxes, wishing Nathaniel, her husband, was here to help her unpack their tiny apartment.
But he had found work on a fisher boat—the reason they packed up and moved across the whole country—and was on his way up to the Bearing Sea. She gave a quick prayer that he would return safe to see their son or daughter. She rubbed her belly; their first child should be born any day now.
Puyallup – 2001 AD
Dafon walked into Curious Treasures, one of the many antique stores in downtown Puyallup, with a box of his Great-Grandmother’s possessions. It still surprised him that she had died; she had seemed immortal sitting on her porch evening after evening, ready to snuggle one of her many great-grandchildren’s children. But Marjorie Collins had lived a good 103 years on this Earth, blessed with a large family.
Who left all the work of taking care of her estate to me, he groused in his mind as he set the box on the counter.
The owner was a fussy Asian man, half-bent, with only a few wisps of his gray hair still sprouting from his liver-spotted head. He sorted through Dafon’s box, clucking his tongue. “Most of this is worthless I’m afraid,” he wheezed, his voice dry sandpaper rubbing together. “I’ll give you twenty for the brass lamp and another thirty for this stuff here.”
Puyallup – 2014 AD
Aaliyah dreamed for nearly a thousand years, undisturbed by the journey her lamp had taken. Unaware of how much time had passed. She dreamed of her bridegroom, a faceless, handsome man and dashing warrior, who would treasure her and love her like all those romantic tales her father’s wives and concubines had filled her head with as they idled away in the harem.
A jolt stirred her. My bridegroom, at last, she thought, sleep still pressing on her. But she was waking up, shaking off the eons slumber.
Sahabah – 2014 AD
Sultan Rashid bin Al-Marid woke from his sleep, a terrible foreboding filling his soul. Something stirred in the world. “Summon Zaritha,” he commanded to his servant.
The Ifrit entered and knelt, curiosity playing in the fires of her eyes.
“The lamp has been discovered,” Rashid growled, tugging at his long, white beard. “How?”
Zaritha shifted. “I caused the boat it was on to sink nearly a thousand years ago. It should never have been found.”
“Rectify your mistake.”
She flinched at his words. “At once, Great Sultan of the Hidden People!”
To be continued…
Click here for Chapter Oneby