The full moon was high in the sky. The heat of the day had fully drained away becoming an impossible memory in the sharp chill of the night. The airship was silent, everyone had closed a door on the day and fallen into a slumber.
Everyone except Princess Parizade. She, alone, stood at the helm steering the airship ever-West. The flaming elemental had burned strong throughout the evening and into the night but even it needed to be rested – lest the elemental be consumed and the airship left without power.
“Skakrum, Be at ease, Flame of the Ship.” Parizade said, and the fire elemental burned low, dwindling to barely visible tongues of fire, licking through the arcane harness that bound it to the airship. As the elemental burned low, the airship lost power and slowed to a halt. The genie performed a complex arcane ritual aboard the helm, anchoring the airship a mere ten feet or so from the crest of a star-shaped dune, itself the size of a mountain. The deep desert of Farid never ceased to amaze the genie.
The blue-skinned woman sped through the open window on the wings of the wind, scattering dust in her wake. In a flurry of dust and a heartbeat, she reappeared sitting, delicately upon the rigging just below the Raven’s Nest and just across from a large condor.
“Maybe the stables would be more comfortable to you, Prophet Alias?” Parizade smiled and removed her veil. “They are built to house several giants eagles, you know. I came up here to speak with you, if I may Prophet.” The genie smiled, sadly.
“Yes I will talk with you, Jinn,” the Prophet said, after flying near to her and returning to human form.
“I know that you think little of my husband’s fate, or of my broken heart.” She began.
“You have free-will as a mortal does, despite your nature. I can hold in my heart some sentiment for your loss of love." Alias replied.
“But your own goals are much purer, much holier, and I understand.”
“Yeah,” Alias said. “It is true I am on a higher path and calling, but the restive heart of love and happiness is pleasing to the sight of Shoshanna. The Great Mother does not wish to see her creation suffer or feel loneliness and despair. Injustice can be corrected and your complaint seems true.”
“It does seem that our paths have converged.” The genie raised her downcast eyes to meet Alias’ burning gaze. “We both seek to gain entrance to the Sand King’s tower, for our own reasons, but the goal is the same.”
“I am frightened by Alriak’s dream. Does it inform our actions? Do we fly directly to Ishtaduk and the Dark Tower? Or do we first seek the blessings of Anwen?”
“It is of mutual advantage that we seek the same being regardless of our reasons. But a journey of revenge is not what the Daughter Goddess will bless.” Alias was perched lotus style on the beam beside the beautiful genie. "Yeah, to you, Jinn, I say this: we will surely all be destroyed if we approach the Sand King in personal wrath, and especially if we fail to honor the Daughter Goddess Anwen first.”
Parizade nodded, accepting the Prophet’s answer. “I do not seek revenge. If I am able to free my husband, he and I would depart this world and the Sand King could have it all.”
“You are not so different, Jinn.” Alias in a calm voice. “You are part of creation as are all beings and things. I am not so far removed from my nature that I cannot admire your grace and beauty, but I will not be thwarted on my vision nor my mission. The others bow before you as if you were kissed by a higher spirit. You are blessed differently in your way and being, but your love and your heart is of no more or less importance than the hopes and dreams of the others."
“Quinn and the others have gladly jumped to your aid. They feel sympathy for you. I, too, feel the pull of excitement to befriend a creature such as yourself. I am, but, a man, despite my calling. I am not immune to your distinctiveness and allure. But this is a weakness in our companions. They would perhaps drive with you to the ends of the world to serve your heart and quest. It is a high calling for dirt dwellers and sibeccai to stand in unity with you, be careful you do not abuse it.”
“I have not compelled anyone to join me on this quest, Prophet.” The genies normally doe-like eyes blazed with a dark fire. Her blue skin was as black as the night sky. “I am able to practice my own free will only through the grace of Quinvera the Tall.”
“Use your reason. Is it wise for servant maids to chase after the sand wizard? Is the blood of another living creature worthy of your happiness? I, too, ask myself the same question. Is my journey, my holy truth, a task that others should bear, even by happenstance? I think it is not. And I think such truth lies in your hope as well. Tell me your thoughts on this Jinn. Tell me your hopes. Tell me your dreams.”
“For once I understand what you are saying, Prophet.” Tears spilled from the genie’s eyes. “I was prepared to smash this airship into splinters on the side of the King’s Dark Tower, if he would not release my husband. And, he will not release him. Why should he, when all he cares about is his Royal Ship? And how can I bring the others to their deaths? But, how can I not try to free my love?”
“And what, then, of yourself? Is your mission worth it? Will you leave us and march up to the King’s front gate until he spares time to grant an audience to a foreign blasphemer? Or will you simply be arrested by his Templars the first time you speak your mind? Arrested and executed, you wouldn’t be the first, nor the last. Nor likely, even noticed!”
“But Alriak’s dreams say, that we can defeat the Sand King with Anwen’s blessing?” The genie grabbed Alias by the shoulders, despite their delicate perch. “If that is true, we should pay a visit to a Queen before we plan on visiting the King.”
“I see you still have hope, despite your childish weeping,” he said harshly, before his frown softened on his grizzled face. His expression changed swiftly as if remembering a very funny story. “Can you catch the wind, spirit?” He challenged her, but in earnest now. “You appear to be made of wind depending upon how the light hits you. Yes, yes, seek your Queen but make haste. Prepare yourself and the others. I can brook delay for your sake, but only because I see you are starting to see truth and not the twisted vision. The fabric of your illusions have been dissolved!”
He jumped up upon the railing, balancing precariously. “I am not of the air, but I have no fear. You see? Time runs in both directions Jinn. What the Great Mother knows she always knew, and so it is now, in OUR time that Alriak is blessed with visions. Found upon your very ship! These are not dreams to fear, but portents of great tidings. With the blessing of the daughter Anwen even one from the nether realms such as you can hold fast in this temporal moment. There is nothing to fear great Parizade, we are now, do you understand? We have no need to hold back a wind if we are the wind! Let the storms of Heaven and Earth be our testament. The walls of the Sand King’s Tower may not fall, but his lies will be replaced with truth eternal. Even if death is our prize with the blessing we cannot fail! Do you understand? Do you see? Just as a pyramid is built stone by stone, brick by brick so will time weather it away. It will fall, the pyramid can be unbuilt stone by stone and brick by brick!”
A meteor streaked across the sky above them, ploughing it’s way out of the heaven’s. But neither of them, even noticed, caught as they were in the passion of the Prophet’s sermon.
“A lie has no foundation,” Alias raved. “It is untrue. The slightest stir can drop a castle if the foundation is weak, can it not? Every little grain removed will topple this false god. I am not a blasphemer or a heretic. I am a seer. I am a blessed Oracle of Truth! I have come to bring down the wickedness of pretenders who hold themselves high, building stone edifices upon a foundation of clay and mud. Do you see? The smallest scratch, the tiniest pin-prick, once the void of the lie begins to bleed it shall be fatal.”
Alias’ ranting finally got the better of him and he slipped, plummeting toward the deck below. At the last moment, he managed to tangle himself in the rigging and halt his free fall, but not his sermon, “I will not be noticed? All the better, until the time is ripe! If this corrupt force cannot be corrected, if balance cannot be restored, I shall not be noticed by the Grace of Shoshanna. In ten thousand years, Jinn and mortal alike will celebrate free-will and know truth. I am Alias. My name will not exist. I will not exist, but the Glory of Shoshanna will fill this world and all others.”
The genie soon returned to the helm, leaving the Prophet alone in the raven’s nest. It was some time before Alias was able to sleep, and when he did his dreams were troubled. In his dreams, he attacked the beautiful genie with the full fury of his words. Mocking her, scolding her and provoking her; he mimicked her voice and veil and leered at her until she flew away from their perch screaming in grief and sorrow.
Her screams continued to echo throughout his dreams, leaving him with a fitful night of poor rest. He was not altogether surprised when the screams of his dream became the cries of the creatures jolting him rudely awake…
by Ian Hewitt
Game Master (Ian Hewitt)