A brown Persian Greyhound walked out of a cluster of trees and nosed Nesrin’s leg.
Isabelle squealed and rushed to pet her. “She’s so cute! You didn’t tell me your mom had a doggy.”
Nesrin rolled her eyes. “She doesn’t.”
Isabelle leapt back with a yelp as the dog erupted into flames and morphed into Samira.
“Well done, Nesrin, very well done.”
“Thank you. How was your trip?”
“Inconclusive. I found evidence that our people have been active in the area, but I couldn’t trace whoever it was. I will continue to monitor the situation, and I will, of course, expect you to notify me if you see anything peculiar.”
“We will also need to talk more about Lady Bedeea, but for now you are free to return home once you say goodbye to your sister.”
Nesrin wasted no time in acting on that freedom.
It was early morning when the three roommates made it home. Nesrin mixed them all drinks and they sat out on the balcony to relax. She figured she owed them some explanations, so she started telling stories.
“The one Mother went looking for is called Mithal. The Great Capturing began when he was imprisoned in a bottle by King Solomon. At that time our people were ruled by a council of seven kings. The drunken fools tried to respond to his capture with force, but only succeeded in getting themselves trapped in bottles and triggering a siege against our people. The Seven Kings’ predecessor, King Harun, returned to lead the resistance. He attempted negotiation, but talks quickly deteriorated, and he too was imprisoned. Our people were left without a leader; panicked, disorganized, powerless. When Mother saw this she took it upon herself to lead them, with my siblings and I as her generals. She ordered me to infiltrate Solomon’s palace and bring her the bottles containing the Seven Kings, King Harun, and Mithal so they couldn’t return to power and restore chaos when the battle was over. See, everyone else’s prisons had been disposed of at random, but these nine had been marked and kept in a vault. I was discovered and sentenced to a lamp, but I was able to send Mother the bottles first, all except one.”
Isabelle asked “Why didn’t your people just retreat to the hidden realm?”
“We are a proud people who do not run until we have to. With that said, though, I think Mother would have called for retreat much sooner if she had been who she is now. You have to remember this was her first act as an inexperienced queen. As for the realm, it’s not quite a complete world. It’s the collective name for niches we have carved out for ourselves in the fabric of the universe, mostly in places where your scientists suspect there are pockets of dark matter. When the losses became too great Mother finally did lead a retreat to her storehouse, then she built the Great Hall inside the cave you call Majlis al Jinn. Originally it was an evacuation fortress, then it became her capital for a time, now it serves as a peace palace for our society.”
Jason pushed the ice around in his drink. “Be honest, how often are we gonna get pulled into crazy proceedings on mystical planes?”
“Probably not often. Mother will cycle through a few other siblings before she involves me in anything again.”
The sun started to rise and Jason and Isabelle went to get some sleep. Nesrin let the door close before she added “I hope.”