thulcandran: (Default)
This is cheating, sort of. After that entry three or four days ago, where I explained the lack of drive and attempting to overcome it, I sat down and wrote this, and it felt good, and fresh, and things came together. I think part of it is that I'm hammering on the doors of Jack's world, and I've hit a wall; it's not coming. I am going to leave that story alone for a while, and do other things... like Huan and the djinn. With any luck, I'll have something more for you tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy!

Huan strolled through the village market carelessly, stroking the chain at his side. He was quite happy with it - solid gold, and made especially for the baron of the territory he walked through, it was more or less his passage through. He'd taken precautions to avoid being waylaid by bandits again - that was an experience he certainly did not intend to repeat - and this gave him access to some of the more extraordinary sights he'd seen, at least within civilization. He wished, on occasion, that he could discuss them with someone - that he had a girl with him, to point out that glass vase, so masterfully blown and dyed, or the beautiful ivory dragon on the other side of the stall; the alien furs that were shown on the other alley, or the strange and vibrant fruits being hawked here. But all for naught - save his djinni, he had no companion, and would take none; there was no one he could trust with his secret, and he knew better than to try to hide his servant from a traveling companion. His mother's advice had not fallen on entirely deaf ears, he mused wryly.

Back in the safety of the inn, he retrieved his lamp, and called forth the spirit of flame within. After a moment, the djinni stood before him in his usual guise, with the disconcerting eyes he'd grown so used to. "You called?"

He surveyed the spirit's form with a critical eye for a moment. "Aye, I did, djinni. Is there - I know this may be beyond your powers - would you be capable of giving me a companion, or, I mean, showing me someone who would be trustworthy, who I could travel with, commune with, and not risk betrayal?"

The eyes watched him for a moment in kind, across an infinite chasm, it seemed. He did not shiver, even for the long moment of silence before the djinni shook its head. "That is a thing that is... not entirely beyond my power, master," it told him. "But it is a task of tremendous foresight; to ensure that you will not be betrayed, I must scry forward, into the paths of each of your companions; it would take a fortnight for each person you wished me to attend my powers upon, and I suspect you do not have the time for such an endeavor."

Huan sighed, and turned back to the window. "You are correct, spirit, more's the pity. This is - I did not expect this to be a lonely journey, but since-- well, since that girl, I find I have no stomach for companions, and none certainly to travel with me from place to place." He realized he was speaking more to hear a voice than to tell - surely the djinni of the lamp did not need to hear his troubles. He waved a hand, shrugging. "I suppose I called you forth for nothing, then. Conjure me some salt, and you may return to the lamp. I do not wish to pay with my eyeteeth for a savory meal - half a pound should be sufficient, I will trade the remainder to the innkeep, as she seems to be sadly lacking in the stuff."

The spirit bowed, and waved a hand. A small sack appeared next to him. Huan thought he saw the man - the djinni hesitate for a moment before dissolving once more into smoke, and dissipating. With a frustrated snarl, he pounded the bed, nearly upsetting the salt - he had to dive to catch the stuff. He could call the djinni back to fix the problem, but the thought gave him a moment's pause, and that ...bothered him, for reasons he found hard to fully verbalize, even in his own mind. It was a tool, a thing of magic and energy, and if freed, a monster. So why did he still have to make himself bite back greetings, or apologies?
thulcandran: (Default)
For the record, and I am sorry for the confusion, Huan is the name of the character formerly known as Xi. Xi was, in honesty, the first two random characters I pressed in a hurry (Write or Die will do that to you), so I'd kind of been keeping an eye out for a better name for him. Huan seemed to fit the bill, and so I'll be going back and changing the former stories in this line when I get a chance. (And thanks to Dann for catching 'divulge' instead of 'diverge.')

Huan smiled winningly at the girl, and proffered his quill. She took it, smiling back at him, and signed her name beneath his. The candles were burning low, by then, and most of the patrons of the inn had retired to their rooms; the serving girl was too well-trained to be giving them dirty looks from her rounds, but the woman behind the counter had no such qualms. With a few quiet words, the girl stood, took her pack, and walked arm in arm with him up the stairs to his own room. The lamp, as always, never strayed from his side.

"It is a shame that our paths must diverge," he told her, his voice formal, his manner subdued. This was, of course, the tricky part.

She smiled back at him, and shook her head. "It would be a shame indeed," she said, "If either of us had held intentions beyond the one night. But I am no fool, and neither are you, and I wish you well on your own path."

He didn't say a word, not until he was half a day's journey, at least, from the inn, and his temper had subdued just a bit. His scar was not paining him - it did not, really, at all, he'd found. Whatever method the spirit had used to heal the wound had been all but miraculous. The mark was left - that was a trial of the metal and blade - but his limbs were sound, and his life uncompromised, and every so often, a girl would comment on the fine and brave warriors and their intriguing scars, only fully visible from... certain angles.

She had not commented, only traced it briefly with her hands. And he thought he had been a better judge of women than that, to fall into bed with, with...

He grabbed the lamp around his neck, viciously, and immediately there was a manlike form walking beside him, looking for all the world like a fellow traveler, a companion, though something about the eyes always threw him. He did not look at the eyes now.

"Spirit, I know that you cannot do magics with human emotions or feelings, and you cannot grant true love - but tell me, can you tell me when it is present?"

The avatar's head turned to regard him for a moment before answering, carefully, "I cannot. I can tell you when infatuation is present, but love is a thing entirely beyond my powers, in most measurable ways - for it is an immeasurable way of itself."

Huan nodded, still glowering at the horizon before them. He gritted his teeth, spat at one point, into the dirt beside the path, and finally shook his head, as if to clear away the webs. "Spirit," he said finally, "Why did the girl not wish to travel with me?" He had to fight to keep his voice from sounding plaintive, or too young. It didn't matter, of course; the djinni was not human, would not mock him for his manhood.

Still, he imagined he caught a glance from the form beside him that had a certain flash to it that he rather disliked, a flash, he thought, of amusement.

"The girl did not wish to travel with you for the same reasons you did not wish to remain with her," it said, and when Huan looked over, he realized it had not been his imagination; there was something akin to a smile around the eyes of the djinni's face.

He bit back his irritation. "Go on."

"Aside from your desire to keep the lamp secret, you value your privacy," it told him. "The girl's manner said much the same; she spoke little and smiled much, as you have done with-- with others you have met. Your demeanor was not your true face, but a winsome mask for enticing - hers was a mirror of the same. You had no wish for lasting companionship, or an obligation, and neither did she. If she had thought you the sort to cleave, she would have ignored your advances, but your behavior, as I said, mirrored her own. She was expecting your parting words."

Huan looked back at the form, realizing for the first time that this avatar, the djinni's most favored, was half a head taller than him; on a human, he would have thought the face and manner full of mischief. He glowered for a moment longer, then smiled. The spirit's face softened, smiling back at him. Shaking his head, the traveler shoved his hands through his belt and continued on the road, pondering the odd turn his fortunes seemed to have taken.

Love

Jan. 31st, 2012 06:44 pm
thulcandran: (Default)
It's short, but it's honest.

I walked in the djinni's cave, and saw all that he wanted me to see, and more: trees spun of glass, colored brighter, it seemed, than reality - the joy in making a work so detailed it takes on a life of its own; fountains of water lit from beneath, sparkling like a fairy story come to life - eyes that saw what the light shines through, above the light itself; a forest lit with smokeless flame, songbirds filling the clear air with their bright chimes - and the delight of one who took a life and made of it an art to fill eternities with joy.

His eyes watched mine, all the while, I saw; he never seemed to so much as glance at the intricate details, nor the grand expanses around him. There was life in the cave, pouring out - an eternal fountain of something that could not quite be expressed in words; in his eyes, there was a devouring hunger, gentler and more fierce than I'd expected, and infinitely unsated by the craft of his own hand.
thulcandran: (Default)
(This is the second of two; here is Part One)

Xi whistled a tune as he walked along the shaded path; he'd heard it at an inn two weeks or so back, and picked it up. The djinni had helped, he would have to admit; he'd played it on the lute whenever asked. But he was getting better at whistling it without needing the spirit's memory, and so he delighted in doing so as he walked.

The sun was going down, though, and the air had a chill to it that wasn't helped, now, by the shade. Xi was far from home, walking in a great forest that he'd discovered in his travels. It was possible to make it through, they said, but not easy - one would have to go prepared, for provisions were all but impossible to find in the thick of the trees, and those who left the path seldom or never returned to speak of it.

Xi smiled. He was well prepared. Seeing a fair-looking spot for camp, he set his pack down at the base of a tall fir tree, and retrieved the lamp from beneath his coat (after a scare with a pickpocket, he never left it in his pack anymore). He ran one finger along the brass handle, and after a moment, the smoke that poured out of the lamp resolved itself first into a column, and then into the shape of a man.

"You called?"

Nodding, Xi gestured the area. "I did. The day grows short, and I would sup before nightfall. Fetch me food, spirit."

As always, the man dissipated, and was gone for a few short blinks. When he returned, the ground was spread with a decent supper, mostly bread and some beans - Xi had long ago learned that it was a bad idea to eat heavily while walking, and instructed the djinni of the lamp accordingly.

The moon rose in the sky, but he only caught glimpses between the thick treetops. All the trees were thick in this part of the world, thick, and never dying - they were green all the time, and bore a spicy sort of scent that he particularly loved, in the cold. It was a journey Xi was glad he had made, and he was even glad of the darkness as the night closed in around him, starless on the forest floor.

Whatever awakening he might have chosen, this would not have been it.

He blinked at the axe. It seemed to shiver before him, and shake just a bit. They had crept up on him very quietly - stealth he would not have reckoned possible, with so many trees all around. The needles, he supposed, muffled sound...

They were speaking to him, but he could not make out the words; they were all sharp, shouted, strangely accented, and obviously in another language. Their clothes were rough, their gestures moreso - obviously bandits. If Xi had been more awake, he might have cursed his luck, but as it was, he resigned himself to blinking at them.

"I cannot speak your language," he finally told them, when it occurred to him. Maybe one of them spoke his?

The man holding the axe barked another shout, and, he could not help noticing, held the blade rather closer to his throat.

A cold wind blew through the small space, bringing with it a clear scent - Xi felt his mind unfog, just a bit. It was enough; he awoke fully, and began to think. He had slept, as always, with his lamp under his head - where would it... ah. Kicked aside, it now lay about two arms' lengths from his current position, while the men focused on his pack. More fool them, as it held absolutely nothing of value.

Xi assessed his situation. Undoubtedly, as soon as he moved, the man would put the axe through his chest, or attempt to. But if he reached the lamp before it took his life...

He said something again to the man, the first words that came to mind - oddly, his mother's warning. "I am not invincible!" he shouted, turning sharply towards the other side of the clearing. The attacker's attention wavered, for just a moment, and Xi dove for the lamp.

The axe came down, hard, on his side, but he curled around his treasure and shouted for his djinni - again, the first words that came to mind.

"Help me!"
thulcandran: (Default)
She gave him the lamp one morning, wrapped in canvas, very carefully. "It was your father's," she told him. "I promised him that I would give it to his son when he grew old enough. Your brother, of course, will receive the ring when he comes of age."

He nodded. "They were all of it, weren't they? His riches, the palace, all of his luck and you, and the elephants... the lamp and the ring."

"All of it. They brought danger, too-- never forget that, my son. There is nothing without a price, especially nothing as great as this lamp, or your brother's ring."

Nodding again, Xi touched the canvas softly, reverently. "His uncle, wasn't it? Who tried to kill him for the lamp. And then the Grand Vizier, your father's advisor..."

His mother, normally so calm and gentle, pressed her lips together. "Both of them, yes. But it could not all have been, without his own spirit. I loved your father, I always loved him, but remember that his arrogance and carelessness were as often close to bringing doom-- and mine, I will admit-- as the jealous enemies he made. There was a ploy, I was told to ask him for the Egg of the Roc. There was no reason for it, really. It was sheer jealousy, arrogance, foolish pride, that led us there. Had he not been led thus by his uncle, that would have been the end of both of us. But the spirit knew, and told us the truth about the Roc..."

She trailed off.

"Mother?"

"You are not invincible, my son. The lamp is a powerful tool, and the spirit within it can protect you from most dangers - but only if you ask. Do not mistake power for greatness; do not mistake impossibilities for miracles; do not, above all, be a fool."

Xi nodded. He had heard this often, before, but he never grudged his mother her speeches. They were all of them based in things that had happened to his father, once upon a time. All of them could happen to him.

He took the lamp, bowed deeply to his mother, and left the house, for the last time as its prince, to make his way in the world.

The road was empty, open, inviting, as he walked down-- his steps bouncing, his spirits light. He whistled a tune as he went, something he'd made up on the spot. He had his own magic lamp under one arm, given him by his father; it was all the inheritance he needed.

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