"It is very difficult to undo a djinnification," said Merlyn. He did not have a voice like that
one would associate with a mage. It was not a strange and hoary voice that most of those
mages who served in the Great Kingdom as part of the White Hand did, even the young
ones, but a deep voice that was pure and forceful as sunlight and sounded almost human.
It went well with the outfit he wore, which resembled that of a forester rather than a man
whose life was in books. "I'm afraid that the best that I can do is make Astra into a free
djinn. She will no longer have a master or be died to a lamp, nor will she be able to grant
wishes. But she will still be a djinn."
"A free djinn?" said Lord Fred. "What would a free djinn be like? The only djinn I have ever heard of are those who live in lamps and grant wishes."
"You have no concept of what a djinn is, do you?" said Merlyn. A note of contempt entered his voice, enhanced by his sharp goatee. "I'm surprised you know the correct term. Most people in your kingdom refer to them as 'genies.' Then again, you are a Dragonslayer." The contempt in Merlyn's voice briefly turned to hatred.
"I am a Dragonslayer," said Fred, angry and proud. "What of it?"
"You presumably have some knowledge of arcane things like this. You have been trained all your life to kill monsters," said Merlyn. "I doubt you would be pleased if your friend became a monster."
"Why would you think that all magickal beings or anomalies are monsters? Even I do not think that?" said Fred. He was insenced because he had been uneasy about letting Astra remain a djinn, and he did fear that she would be a monster. But he knew even from having known her only such a short time that she had a brave, kind and noble nature that would keep her from losing her humanity. "And Astra is certainly no monster," he finished.
"You are right, she was no monster. But what she is now is another matter."
"What?" said Frederigo. He wished he could cleave this stupid mage through with his sword for insulting the honor of his comrade in arms.
"I suppose I forgot to explain what a djinn is. I have spent some time among the peoples of the Arabi Desert, and so have some knowledge of them. The djinn are heard of only in legends in Havnheim, and in your land you know only the legend of Ala-ed-Din and the enchanted lamp. But among the peoples of the Arabi, the Djinn are known and feared by all. They can take the forms of men, but are made not of earth but of smokeless flame. They are proud and powerful and their thoughts are dark and alien. Many are evil beings, and even those who are not are seldom well-disposed toward man. They are under no constraint to take orders from us beings of earth, and are certainly seldom disposed to do so, save when imprisoned by those very few to whom it has been given the power to command them. This artifact was originally made by the great holy man Zolar to command djinn. Legend says that after his death the djinn he imprisoned managed to trick a human sorceror into freeing him and managed to turn the lamp into something that would transform humans into djinn and take away their free will."
"You seem to have a low opinion of Astra's character," snarled Fred. "And yet you enchanted Velus so that he would no longer fear her. Why is that?"
"As I said, her current state is not her fault. She doubtless feels her slavery on some level, even if the lamp supresses all conscious free will. Animals can see the true nature of djinn who wear human form more clearly than humans can. I did not want her to feel the further agony that would come from others fearing her, not unless there was good reason. I concede that she seems a good person, yet I would be as cautious about any human. She has been more deeply transformed than you realize. She will have much power, and her way of thinking will subtly change. And from what I've heard, even as a human, she had something of a tendency towards pride." Fred was violently angry--what right did this arrogant mage have to belittle Astra on the grounds of pride--when he remembered how she had lied to him about having a curse rather than accept charity from him. What if Merlyn was right?
"Perhaps you are right," said Fred hesitantly, "but what else could I do? I could hardly let her remain a slave to the lamp for all her life."
11/21/2004 9:24:10 AM
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