Chapter 1: Unlikely Meeting.
With an audible oof, Mary Darcy collided must unceremoniously with the beige sand below. She'd seen it coming when she'd fallen out of the rabbit hole, and had wondered for a few moments during her fall if it would be soft and why the rabbit couldn't just be normal and make a hole in the ground.
Why did his holes sometimes have to open up in the sky, thereby making the traveller run the risk of serious injury or death?
Granted, her rabbit friend, Noah, was still learning. It seemed the life span of rabbits in Wonderland was quite different than those in England. She rather figured that, considering Noah walked like she did, and wore a waistcoat and trousers. And that infernal pocket watch she hated the sight of.
He was still learning from his papa, Percy, so she could forgive him a few mistakes. But right then she didn't care as she sat up and brushed the sand out of her long dark blonde hair. She'd asked to go to Wonderland, to get away from all the monotony that was home.
Mary refused to be what society wanted. It was the bane of her older brother's existence. She'd never understood why, and even then as she stood and gave her skirt a shake she still couldn't fathom why he cared. Andrew was twenty one years old to her seventeen, he lived in London where he was working towards becoming a lawyer and was courting some fancy girl or other that she couldn't care less about. Why he worried himself about silly Mary was beyond her.
Truthfully, Andrew should concern himself far more with their mother. Ever since the death of their father, William, five years ago, she'd never been quite the same. Of course Andrew wasn't around as much the last few years, so he didn't see it. He didn't watch their mother wandering aimlessly through the gardens, looking for something she couldn't seem to find. He didn't watch as she sat and stared listlessly at whatever happened to be in her line of vision, not seeming to see anything but whatever memory was playing in her mind. And he certainly didn't hear her some nights crying out his name.
No, Andrew didn't hear any of it. That was all for Mary, and she was sick of it. She didn't want to listen to it anymore, and right then she wouldn't. She took a sweep of the land around her, her hazel eyes taking in just a whole lot of sand and a few rocks and trees here and there. “Wonderful, the least the bloody rabbit could have done was dropped me near civilization,” she muttered, walking towards a small cluster of trees. This wasn't Wonderland, much to her annoyance. She never knew those portals to be fickle and send a traveller to the wrong realm.
The sun was unforgivably hot, and she was still in her Victorian dress. If she were near a town she'd stick out like a sore thumb, but out in the desert that really didn't matter. She shrugged off the jacket she was wearing, hoping it would help a little. Mary was frustrated as she had no idea when the rabbit would return, she didn't know where she was and it was miserably hot. One look at the trees when she was almost near them told her quickly they'd be little shade against the sun.
Right then Mary was positive she was going to die in some weird world. Maybe she should have listened all those years ago when her father told her that her curiosity was going to get her into trouble one day. The words had just flown over her, it wasn't like she'd ever get far from England.
That was what she'd thought, until she'd fallen down a rabbit hole just as her mother had all those years ago. Long before she'd become the proper lady and married an upstanding young man that her family had found for her. This only happened after many disappearances of her own, a year in an asylum and then vanishing again after for a short time, seeking a lost love.
Mary sat down under a pathetic excuse for a tree, at least in the eyes of someone from rural England, using her jacket as a blanket to keep the sand from her skirt. She could remember her grandfather telling tales of when her mother had returned the last time from some mythical land called Wonderland. She smiled wryly, Mary knew Wonderland was real, but right then it was neither here nor there as she thought back on the tales.
Their mother, the bright, adventurous young woman their grandfather had known and had tried to change, was completely different. She was subdued, morose and hadn't been long agreeing to a marriage to their father, William Darcy. Their grandfather had always wondered about her after that, she'd appeared happy. Mary and Andrew even thought she'd been happy, maybe not ecstatically so, but she was comfortable.
And then William had died.
A simple cough had turned into influenza and he'd not been able to overcome it. The one day it had seemed he was rallying and coming around, the next day he was gone. That day their mother had died as well.
Mary kicked at the sand with the heel of her boot, muttering softly a few incoherent words. It was one of her weird habits, none of it made sense or went together, she just liked nonsense. There was comfort in it, and more since her brother had left for London, their grandfather had passed away and her mother had retreated into memories. For the most part she could deal with it, but every now and then she couldn't stand those far away looks. She was seeing something no one else could, and whatever it was, the memories brought her joy.
She wished she could find out what it was, and bring it back into her mother's life.
It had been a few years ago she'd started spending more time travelling to Wonderland, anything was better than being around her mother. And what made it worse was she knew this wasn't brought on by the death of her husband. Mary and Andrew both knew their father adored their mother, loved her with every single beat of his heart but everyone knew it wasn't the same for their mother. She was fond of him, but didn't love him the same way.
Whoever was on her mind was a lost love, and as much as Mary wanted to know she knew better than to ask. All she had was a muffled name, a name she could hardly decipher but would hear often through the night.
Whoever it was, her mother, Alice, had never gotten over him.
She gave the sand another good kick, and yelped slightly when the toe of her boot connected with something solid. “That shall teach me for not using the heel anymore,” she grumbled as she leaned over to inspect what she'd hit.
Mary had assumed it was a rock, but the sun streaming through the sparse foliage on the trees around her glinted off a bit of brass. That was rather curious, giving her more than enough reason to continue her investigation. She brushed away more of the sand to reveal a bottle. Picking it up she admired the gleaming brass and the intricate red design on it.
“Maybe I'll take this home to mother, she likes oddities. That's if the bloody rabbit ever comes back for me,” she mused, dusting it off a bit more, and then pulling the cork out before turning it upside down to see if there was anything of interest inside.
A most undignified shriek escaped her lips as orange mist began to pour out of the neck of the bottle, this was possibly the most curious thing Mary had ever seen. And this was not discounting the hookah smoking caterpillar, family of realm travelling rabbits and the White Queen of Wonderland who had, as Mary called it, one and a quarter Tweedles in her service. She'd never figured out how the one Tweedle survived as just a head, and never dared to ask.
No, this was taking the cake for strangest thing she'd ever seen. Much to her surprise, it continued on with the strangeness. As the orange mist dissipated a young man was standing before her. Mary's eyes widened as she looked at him, dressed in black pants and tall boots, his off white shirt accented by a deep brown vest. And both his shirt and vest seemed to sparkle a bit in the sunlight. His head was bowed, what she could see of his face was framed by dark curls, but this was not what struck her as strange. Not even the rings he wore, as no man where she lived wore rings. Not even when married, but still that wasn't what had caught her attention. It was the ornate cuffs on his wrists. The first thing that caught her eye was how they glittered in the light as well as they looked rather large to be bracelets. But then she noticed, as he moved to clasp his hands together before him, there was nothing showing where they met. However he'd gotten those...things, they were never meant to be removed.
Just the idea made her upset.
It wasn't a thought that went through her mind long, as he began to speak in a soft voice. For a moment she'd thought she had misheard him, but as he spoke what she had thought were bracelets began to make a bit of sense.
“Mistress mine, my will is thine. Tell me your wishes three,” he said, raising his dark eyes to look at her. Gesturing his left hand, she felt something appear in her hand.
Looking down, Mary saw the red rubies in her hand. They seemed to shine in the sunlight and she couldn't help but admire them. The way they sparkled reminded her of the ring her mother had, and refused to wear. Father had given it to her for Christmas a few years ago, positive she would delight in it.
How wrong he'd been. Alice's eyes had glazed over with tears she refused to shed and although she'd thanked him gracefully for the gift, she had never worn it. The memory seemed an odd one to come to her mind right then, as she tore her eyes away from the jewels to look at the young man.
Mary caught the slightly exasperated look that flitted across his face before he realized she was looking at him. In a mere second he became more stoic than any of her professors had ever been back home. She tilted her head while regarding him curiously. That level of exasperation he had just shown was one she was more accustom to seeing from people much older than he appeared to be. Then again, she was getting a feeling he wasn't really that young.
Standing, she walked over to stand before him, holding out her hand with the jewels. “What exactly are these and how did you procure them?” she demanded more than inquired, which was not the sort of tone she'd meant to take.
He looked at her oddly, a bit of an annoyed glint in his dark eyes. “They're physical representations of the three wishes you now possess. As you are my mistress, I am obliged to grant you three wishes for releasing me, and my will is yours to command to whatever you may please,” he explained, a slightly tired tone to his voice.
Mary looked at him again, this time with more care. He was old, far older than she could likely comprehend. It was evident by the weary expression in his eyes, and even the tone of his voice gave it away. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to come across rude,” she apologized, smiling a bit.
“There is no need to apologize, mistress, it is your prerogative to speak to me as you so desire,” he told her.
Mary looked at him incredulously for a moment, letting his words sink in. He thought he was below her? “Whatever are you talking about? Wouldn't you rather I speak to you with some sort of respect, or as an equal at the very least? The way you act is like what I've read in books of slavery, why ever would you think I'm your mistress?” Curious indeed, just when she thought Wonderland was upside down and never right side up, she comes across this young man.
“You released me from my bottle, making you my mistress and the one who commands me to your will,” he explained, a hint of disbelief in his voice. “The wishes, they are yours to use at your pleasure as well, there is not time limit on when they must be used. You may use them quickly, or take your entire life span, but I shall warn you now to guard them and let no one know what you have for your own safety.”
“What I have?!” Mary was beyond lost now. She moved away from him, beginning to pace with frustration. “Not sure what I'm going to tell people that I have other than some chap who thinks he's my slave and some pretty jewels he says are wishes...hold on a minute...you're playing some strange trick on me. I've seen magic before, well, not a lot as her majesty the White Queen normally won't show me it often, but you're playing a trick aren't you? You're a sorcerer and you want to trick me into something stupid.”
He looked vaguely amused, and highly insulted then. “I am your genie, which is why you should keep secret what you have. It is not a well known fact, but there are some in this realm who know well the lore that surrounds genies and how to acquire one. Other than chancing upon a genie's bottle or lamp, the killing of their master or mistress shall free a genie's will for someone else. It would not matter if you had used your wishes or not.”
That stopped Mary's pacing. Whirling around she looked at him with wide eyes, this was one thing she'd never thought would happen to her, finding a genie. “You mean I can wish for whatever I like? No limits?” The things she could do...she could reach into the past and find this lost love of her mother's and bring him to her. Although, she supposed, the ramifications of that would be her and her brother may never be born, but her mother would be happy. Besides, if she'd never been born she would know nothing different, would she?
Her genie smiled, a bit sadly. “There are rules that my magic must abide by. A genie can do great and amazing things with their magic, but we cannot do everything,” he began to explain. “I cannot kill anyone, make anyone fall in love, change the past or bring back those who have passed. Beyond those laws, I can grant any wish you desire but I warn you now that all wishes granted have a price. It may be one that you will see come to pass not long after the wish is granted, or it could be further into the future. As well, always think wisely on your wording, my magic has twisted the words of a wish to give a most undesirable outcome in the past, mistress.”
Mary wrinkled her nose, nothing ever came without some cost. She already knew magic was like that, although the White Queen had told her only three rules, she'd never mentioned a fourth. “Don't call me that, I don't like it. And why do you have a fourth rule, the one in which you cannot kill anyone? The White Queen has only ever spoken of three.”
The genie chuckled, shaking his head. Mary smiled at the way the curls framing his face bounced slightly with the movement. “You would be amazed how often I have heard someone wish for another's death, not always in earnest but in a moment of anger. As to referring to you as mistress, is there a name you would prefer? It is rare anyone wants a genie to call them by name.”
That cause her to frown, why would anyone want to be referred to as master or mistress? She supposed it could have to do with this realm, and the desire to own a genie. One story she recalled reading years ago involved a boy finding a genie in a lamp, as well as a ring, and referring to them as slave. “Well then, I'm not like those people. You may call me Mary as that is my given name,” she told him, standing up proudly. She was brought up to see everyone as equals and even if he thought himself below all who found him, she wasn't going to treat him in such a fashion so long as she had his bottle and the three wishes. “What do I call you? And don't you dare say genie, if you don't want people to know I have you then it wouldn't be wise to go around just saying genie, where are you, can you do this for me genie? No, not wise at all.” The smile that had begun to form dropped instantly as another thought came to her. “You have a name, do you not? Or should I give you one? I'm brilliant with names, I used to have little pet rabbits that lived at the end of our yard that I named all the time. Silly creatures, they seem to like babies and I was afraid of running out of names...I'm sorry, you do have a name?” She really needed to learn not to rattle on at times.
At least her rambling didn't seem to be bothering him, which was a little obvious by the amused expression coming over his features. That was a far sight better than when he looked exasperated with her. “My name is Cyrus.”
“There, that's a lovely name. Thank you for sharing it with me, as I would much prefer to call you Cyrus than genie. A sight better than such a title you wanted me to call you by. Now then, Cyrus, is there any town nearby or maybe I should just wait for that blasted rabbit here. Decisions, decisions...do you have any experience with realm travelling rabbits? Probably not, eh? Exasperating creatures, they come and go as they please...oh sorry, I'm rambling again. Must learn to stop that.” She blushed a little, he likely thought her absolutely mad.
Cyrus, on the other hand, didn't think her mad at all. It was rather endearing the way she would go off topic, or possibly it wasn't off topic but just another aspect of whatever she was talking about. It reminded him of someone else he'd once loved...but she was lost to him now.
Despite his growing cynicism with the human race, he was glad that Alice was still alive out there, somewhere. He'd been in complete earnest that he would have gladly spent eternity in his bottle so long as she lived. The wish the Knave had made though, that had worried him greatly. Wording it as he had, if his magic had so chosen she could have simply died. He knew he couldn't kill anyone with magic, but there were ways. He'd seen it happen before, but although he was no longer by her side he was fully aware that Alice still lived.
Their hearts were entwined after all. The genie could feel her still, although he was unsure if she could feel him or knew he was still somewhere in the many realms that seemed to exist.
When the wish had been granted, and he'd returned to his bottle he'd hoped that Alice would find him again. It was what had kept him from falling into despair after their parting, even though he knew she could not release him again she could always hand his bottle to one of her friends, that being the Red Queen or the Knave.
Cyrus sighed with that thought, if only they'd all realized the fake overtures of friendship at the time. He'd always been good at reading people, but maybe the extended time in the company of Alice had changed that. With her, he had no need to worry what each new person would be like as he was assured he would spend one mortal lifespan free of his normal life. And that was more than enough for him, as he knew freedom was not meant to be his ever again, he had all the freedom he could dream of with her.
Yet it appeared, those few passing moments had not been long enough for him to truly judge the character of the one who would betray them all.
With a slight shake of his head, Cyrus pushed those memories from his mind. It would do no good to remember who he saw standing beside Jafar when the sorcerer had summoned him from his bottle. The self satisfied smirk plastered upon the face of the person he thought was an ally...he had made a futile attempt to beg for information on Alice, to know that no harm had come to her but was silenced quickly and returned to his bottle not long after.
Thankfully though, the spell to break the laws of magic had not lasted long. Jafar was greedy, and although he had somehow accomplished the spell on his own it had not been enough. Nothing was enough for the man, which they'd used to their advantage.
That being his brothers, having the same clever streak. Cyrus never did figure out why Jafar had released all three of them to cast the spell, but had been overjoyed to see his brothers once more. It had been short lived, but the memory was one he held close.
The feel of part of his very essence being pulled from his body was a strange one, and completely unwelcome. Cyrus had not realized that magic had become such a part of him over the centuries; one glance to his brothers told him they were feeling the same odd sensation he was.
How long had it been since he'd seen either of them? He wanted to study their faces, memorize everything on the chance Jafar would put them back in their bottles or lamp once the spell was complete, damning them to never experience the light of day again. More than anything he wanted to apologize for the fact he had ruined their lives, destroying any chance they had at happiness back in their mortal years.
Why did he find love? What right did he have to it when it was more than obvious to him neither Taj or Rafi had been as fortunate as he in that respect. That realization only caused his guilt to intensify as he looked away from Rafi standing at his right, fixing his gaze on the polished floor of the Red Queen's throne room. One hand reached up towards the pendant that no longer hung around his neck, shortly after moving towards the one ring he still wore from his mortal years. Twisting it absently he waited for Jafar to be finished with his spell. To have everything he could ever want and turn on his accomplice, as the genie knew he would.
A hand on his shoulder pulled him from his thoughts, and Cyrus snapped his attention to his left to see Taj looking at him with a reassuring smile upon his face. “It will be alright brother,” he softly said just before a sarcastic chuckle reached their ears.
“Ain't this a sweet little scene,” a thickly accented voice drawled. “Never woulda thought the genies needed were actually related. Always figured you lot just, you know, were born genies.”
Rafi was the one who looked at the person sitting across from where they stood, arms crossed over their chest. “What exactly is in this for you?” the youngest of the brothers asked, his dark eyes narrowing a bit.
Even Cyrus had wondered on that; what was in it for the Knave? The man had no magical ability that he could discern and no real desire other than returning to this Storybrooke that was mentioned a few times since Jafar had summoned he and his brothers. What could be his goal?
Will Scarlet shrugged nonchalantly as he examined his fingernails. He owed them no explanation. If anything, a certain genie owed him for all he'd dealt with since that bloody White Rabbit had blown a hole in the floor at Granny's. Something else to add to the list he supposed, a bit of a grin pulling on his lips as Jafar finished his incantation.
If the grin on the Knave's face wasn't just a bit unsettling; the one that spread across the sorcerer's was unnerving by every definition of the word. The madman lifted his staff as he looked at the three brothers when he began to speak. “I had wondered why she was so set on a certain three genies, when there are more than just you three in all the realms,” he rambled, circling the three magical beings as he lightly tapped the head of the serpent that made up his staff. “It was strange, to travel all that way to find the first two. Yet it seemed fortune smiled on me when the third” At that he nodded towards Cyrus “turned up in Agrabah. All it took was putting dear Amara in a place she could not escape and I would have the power of two sorcerers that the spell required, and all that magic for myself.”
That proclamation had the Knave of Hearts scrambling to his feet and strutting over to the sorcerer. “Oye, you promised me some of that there power ya now 'ave at yer disposal!” he shouted, walking right up to Jafar as if he was nothing more than an annoyance on a playground. Cyrus arched a brow as he watched, unsure which one was the madder of the two. There was no love loss for the Knave now, not after this betrayal, but he felt maybe he should warn the man this show of bravado was going to end with him dead.
Not that he was given the chance to say anything as Jafar whirled to glare at his accomplice then, demanding of him what exactly he thought he was going to get out of this deal. Will huffed, crossing his arms across his chest. “Well first, I want the Red Queen to be madly in love with me, to the point she'd never dare look to another,” he began, before Cyrus did interject.
“She already does, she loves you and wants to correct her mistake from the past,” he said, it beginning to dawn on him why exactly the Red Queen had teamed up with Jafar to break the laws of magic. To change the past...to undo whatever had severed her relationship from Will. Eyes growing wide with realization, he looked at the Knave. “All of this was for you. Any suffering she inflicted upon my brothers and Alice, it was for you.”
“Silence genie, I did not give you leave to speak,” Jafar snapped, motioning with his hand towards Cyrus. The familiar sensation of choking washed over him, and try as he might he could not keep the panic out of his dark eyes. Surely he wouldn't kill him now? Could a genie be killed in such a fashion, and would it not alter the spell that evidently required all three of them?
Jafar turned his attention back to Will, grinning in a way that was anything but friendly. “You want power over her? Is that all?”
“Of course not, I want to take her back to Storybrooke and I want to be able to have magic at my disposal. In case you didn't know, there are some not so friendly people there who have some magic of their own.” Self preservation was the game here, if he could show up at least Regina he'd be far more at ease. Rumpelstiltskin...well, even he wasn't foolish enough to think he could possess enough power to bring that imp to his knees. “That and the first, that's what I want.”
Jafar sneered, releasing his invisible hold on Cyrus' throat. The genie in question collapsed to the floor, breathing in heavily as his older brother knelt beside him to be assured he was alright. “How touching,” the sorcerer drawled, turning his attention back to the Knave. “I can tell you feel nothing for that brat with a crown, and yet you long for her undying devotion. I must say, that is quite puzzling.”
A cocky grin toyed at Will's lips, why this made any difference to the madman with the snake stick was beyond him. “Can't feel much without a heart, then you should know something of that, shouldn't ya?”
“There is a difference between being heartless and having a heart as black as night.” Tapping the head of the serpent staff with his free hand, Jafar regarded his accomplice. The most unlikely choice, or so it seemed by the look that came over Cyrus when he'd seen the Knave. In retrospect, it had worked out well. Playing the Red Queen into luring Alice back to Wonderland and tricking the girl into using a wish to save her friend. They'd all played so nicely into his hand, giving him exactly what he'd wanted.
The pathetic little queen's betrayal had come a little later than he'd expected mind, but other than that all of it had been perfect. He was even a bit impressed the Knave had managed to fool Alice as well, but then sometimes it was those we thought were a friend were the ones that could not be trusted. Nor those you allign yourself with, as he would think the man would know after that sudden decision to turn him into a stone statute. “A deal is a deal, I do recall upon entering into it I promised you would be returned to this Storybrooke as you desired. That was what you expressed upon our verbal agreement when first we met, was it not?” he stated.
“Yeah, it was. I said I'd bring Alice back to Wonderland to find her bloody genie and help you get her wishes used up, if you'd send me back to Storybrooke once you broke them there laws of magic.” Looking at the sorcerer with exasperation in his eyes, Will began to wonder if the man had a poor memory. Somehow he'd managed to remember what the bottles and lamp looked like of the three genies required, but he forgot that small detail?
“Well then, that settles it does it not?” Jafar strode over to where the Knave stood, the other three occupants of the room watching with a bit of interest. Cyrus knew where this was going. “You want to be returned to your precious Storybrooke and returned to it you shall be.”
“And the rest of our deal? I want the rest of what I'm owed, you promised me if I helped Alice in thinking she'd get back her genie...” Will began to argue just as Jafar slammed a fist down upon a nearby table.
“I promised you nothing of the sort, you incompetent fool! Do you truly think I had any faith in your ability, Knave? An untrustworthy man, that is what your title decrees to all who come into your presence and I cannot say I believed you would deliver. But as you have, be glad I shall allow you to keep your wretched excuse for a life, such as it is, and return you to that place the White Rabbit located you.” Jafar glared at the man, his eyes flashing with a fire even Cyrus had never seen before. And he'd made a habit of annoying the sorcerer often to keep his attentions away from Alice. “Now, do you have any other pointless argument or would you rather have your end of the bargain? We only agreed upon your safe return to Storybrooke, no mention of magical abilities or that useless queen.”
Will slowly nodded, realizing fast that arguing with a madman who now had lifted any limits upon his magic was far from a wise idea. The only wish he'd been promised by Alice had been, in a way, wasted. It wasn't that he regretted saving Alice's life, he may have no heart but he wasn't that heartless, yet he still would have preferred to have used it for his own gain. Besides, would that magical bolt of lightening really have killed someone without a heart?
Jafar grinned, motioning his hand towards a wall. A second later a door appeared, and he nodded towards Will. “I would say it has been a pleasure, but I'm not one given to pleasantries and less when they're not close to the truth. I would suggest you take your leave now before I change my mind.”
“We need to do something,” Rafi softly said, crouching down beside his two brothers as Jafar and Will spoke. “There must be a way to stop this.”
Cyrus shook his head, what was done was done. “We cannot change fate brother, this is my fault.” Yet another wrong to be laid against him.
“Stop speaking in such a foolish way Cyrus, and when have you been one to kneel down to fate?” Rafi admonished, giving the other a slight shake. “Nyx may speak of fate and that our every action and word is predestined, but I know you do not believe that for a moment. Nor do I. Every action has a reaction, and we should not have stolen but so far as I am concerned there were far worse ways we could have ended our days.” One being that of watching Cyrus die from the guilt he had caused their mother's death.
“She still died alone,” Cyrus weakly argued, not looking at either of his brothers and keeping his gaze trained to the polished floor.
“But she may have found happiness again, do not blame yourself for ruining our lives. If we had not wanted to save her, we would have put the water back. Perhaps at the time it seemed to be cheating fate but I am with Rafi, spending lifetimes with one's life dictated for you is a horrible way to spend a life. That may be how we shall continue to spend our days, but those with free will can chose their own destines. Perhaps some of the wishes we've granted aided them as well,” Taj argued, noticing that they were now alone again with just Jafar.
Cyrus slowly nodded, thanking them both for their kind words. He still felt a great deal of guilt but in the end he would not concede there was such a thing as fate. No one should feel their every moment, word and action was predestined to happen and they had no say in it.
Glancing to Jafar, he knew there had to have been something that created the monster he now was. No one was born evil, it was the world around them that made them so.
Standing, Rafi looked at Jafar. That day was the first time he'd laid eyes on the man, and although he was glad to be reunited with his brothers he knew it would not be for long. Something had to be done to put the laws of magic right, and if the stories he'd heard over the lifetimes he'd lived so far were correct he might be able to do something about it. And unlike his older brothers, he had taken note of one thing the sorcerer had said to the Knave. How they had missed it was a complete mystery to his mind but still, if he could put the laws back in some way there was a chance their lives could go back to as close to normal as possible for a genie. “Now you have everything you could desire, and yet you still cannot stop the inevitable.”
Jafar whirled around, dark eyes taking in the two kneeling on the floor and the one who stood looking at him with defiance. “Like your brother I see, only I would have expected Cyrus to be using his silver tongue to convince me of some folly or other before I imprisoned the three of you again. I have everything genie, in case you missed what has just occurred. It is you three who have nothing as now your magic belongs to me, the same as the magic of my dear partner,” he sneered, walking up to Rafi and glaring at him.
Rafi grinned, he was not backing down. “And death will come for you as it does all mortal beings. There is only one magic that can defy that fate, and it is not within the laws you broke. You may be able to bring back the dead now but it will be impossible if it is you who are deceased,” he argued, eyes darting to the staff for a moment. Hopefully at least one of his brothers would clue in...they were clever, they had to.
Taj watched the youngest of his brothers, wondering for a moment what he was babbling on about. Of course Jafar would eventually die, with the laws broken he may be able to extend his life span in small ways but he would never defeat death. Not without a partner to revive him magically.
A partner...the man had said he'd had a partner he'd imprisoned within his staff in order to control her magic. Eyes growing wide, it finally dawned on him exactly where Rafi was headed with this argument. Standing again, knowing full well Cyrus would be of no help and not because he wasn't quick enough to fool the sorcerer. Of the three of them he likely could convince the man of anything, but he was too torn up with his guilt and that was likely best. Jafar would expect it from Cyrus, not from the other two brothers.
“Rafi is correct, there is only one magic that will grant you immortality. The Well of Wonders contains water that can grant you such a gift,” he explained, putting it all together now. Jafar was not immortal, but their mother had trained him in magic at some point. The waters they stole had not only saved her life but had given her immortality due to Nyx saying it was her time to die.
There were two ways to put the laws right, the first being the logical: returning the waters to break their own curse, thereby freeing them of their bonds but their mother would die. All of this, it would be for nothing in a small way. A lesson learned yes, but still he had no desire to watch their mother die again.
But if Jafar stole those water; no one took from Nyx without her knowledge. He would be cursed, and that would right the laws. Or it was a good enough theory. “Take of those waters and you shall have immortality. All the realms will tremble at your name as nothing will be able to stop you from taking whatever you desire.”
Cyrus looked at his brothers with confusion dancing in his dark eyes, wondering what exactly they thought they were going to accomplish with this. To give Jafar immortality, what were they thinking? Surely they were not, this was utter madness and his brothers had not been in Wonderland that long.
Upon glancing up he realized quickly that Jafar was taking to their idea, and quite well. Of course he would, the idea of being all powerful and immortal would be impossible to resist. Before he could even get a word in the sorcerer was ordering them back to their prisons.
Just as the orange mist began to swirl around him, Cyrus saw Alice, Anastasia and one of her Tweedles come dashing into the room; Alice with her sword drawn and Anastasia evidently at the ready to use her magic. But it was too late.
“Hello? You are still with me are you not? I mean, physically I see you as you've not vanished into some orange mist or anything, but it seems you've clocked out quite well mentally on me. Cyrus?”
The sound of Mary's confused voice pulled him back out of his memories, and he smiled as she waved her hands in front of his face in a bid to catch his attention once more. “Yes, I am sorry. My mind wandered back into some memories that is all.”
Mary whistled a bit, placing a hand on her hip as the other still clutched his bottle. “That would be a long stroll then, you must be old. Not to be insulting or anything of the likes, but you are a genie. You're likely older than time itself!”
Looking at her oddly or a moment, Cyrus could not help the outburst of laughter at her observation. He was far from being as old as she was thinking, but then wherever she came from likely had this belief that all genies just came about as one. Nothing of being cursed, the fact they may have at one point in time been mortal. And in all truth it was far easier to just leave it that way. A mischievous glint lit up his brown eyes as he looked at her, one corner of his mouth curving up into a lopsided grin. “It would take a day or two, at least. As to your original query, there is a village or town not far from here or at least there was at one time. It should not take long walking, unless you would prefer to use a wish to speed your travels.”
“Oh no!” Mary exclaimed, amused inwardly at how he startled at her protest. Pointing a finger at him, she shook it playfully towards him. “You said wishes have a cost, if I was to do that I might end up in some strange and curious place. More so than anywhere I've seen before and we'll have none of that. Walking will suit just fine, I am sure you could use a bit of a stretching of your legs. Cooped up in a bottle all this time, must be dull and boring...and there I go again.”
Cyrus chuckled, walking over to her as he had once long ago with another young woman who sometimes would say the first thing to come to her mind. “I enjoy the conversation, no matter how one sided or mutual it may happen to be. The town is closer, as I believe there is a village in the distance too but in a larger place one can become lost in a crowd far easier.”
Smiling brightly, Mary met him part way and put her arm around his without him even getting a chance to offer. Maybe it was forward, but spending more time in Wonderland than anywhere had given her cause to forget some of the prim and proper ways of a Victorian lady. A couple people she knew in the White Court may tsk if they saw her right then, not the White Queen though. She'd simply roll her eyes and give a weary smile. “Well then, lead the way my good sir,” she laughed, instantly realizing why he chose somewhere with a larger population.
People would be a little less likely to stop and look at him, giving them a desire to take a look with a far more critical eye. To her he looked like any other young man but to the people in this realm there may be more than his binds that gave away he was a genie.
“How many times must I tell you, the roses should be white?” Anastasia breathed out a frustrated sigh, gazing at the red roses sat before her on the table. Glancing up from the offending flowers, she looked at her Tweedle with an air of annoyance. “Really, must we go through how much of an imbecile you are once more?”
She was teasing, of course. This Tweedle, who she never did figure out which was which and simply decided he was Tweedle Dee, was her good and loyal servant. And he had to be given that name, as the other being foolish enough to align himself with Jafar obviously had to be Tweedle Dum.
Leaning her head to the left, she looked at him with a playful pout. “You could always paint them white, if it would teach you to remember that red is no longer the colour of this kingdom darling.”
“No no, that's quite alright your majesty,” he quickly replied, picking up the red roses in his arms and scurrying from the room. “I'll return with the proper flower, in the right colour your majesty!”
Anastasia chuckled a bit as her Tweedle made his way from the room. He was a good man, and had stayed true to her throughout it all even when he could have found it profitable to turn on her like so many others. Now the commands and orders were more just a bit of teasing between them, for old time's sake she supposed.
Walking towards the balcony, she noticed one red rose had fallen to the marble floor forgotten. Obviously dropped in the all too hasty retreat. Kneeling down she retrieved it, and absently turned it the proper shade as she walked towards the balcony that overlooked the grounds of her palace.
A sigh escaped her now softly coloured pink lips, that red hue she once painted them long forgotten. Most of the red in her wardrobe and make up was long banished, except for a few pieces she was fond of. She had taken the crown out of a desire to be more, to be what her mother always wanted of her...but also to protect the man she loved from the retribution the Red King would have dealt out for their thievery.
Perhaps she had been flattered by his compliments and pretty words, what young girl would not? With Will she had love; with a king she would have power. And with the aid of Cora she had even more power than she could have ever dreamed of owning. Her relationship with the king one merely of a marriage for convenience, they talked as one would with a friend and ruled together in a semi agreeable way. He knew far more of ruling a kingdom than she, and so far as she was concerned it could stay that way.
And then he'd died. Suddenly.
Many believed it was by her hand, some thought it was illness that had claimed his life. Anastasia was certain her mentor had a part in the Red King's death, but one did not confront the Queen of Hearts with such accusations. Not if you had a fondness for your head remaining attached to your body.
The king passed away, the young girl she had once been forgotten in the red jewels and dresses. Drunk on guilt and revealing in power, for if she could not be happy why should anyone else? Who cared if her subjects starved, she had all she needed. All but the love she wanted so desperately to win back.
And could, so a certain sorcerer from Agrabah had promised. Twirling the white rose slowly between her fingers as she leaned her elbows on the railing of the balcony, she pushed those thoughts from her mind. Alice's sobs as she watched her love fall to his supposed death, and his cries of pain as Jafar pressed him against the silver bars of his prison haunted her sleeping mind enough; she did not need to be visited by it during her waking hours.
It was easy then to pretend she really hadn't played such a large part in the misery of the young woman who would later become a friend. One she would lose contact with, but a friend nonetheless. The genie though...the one person to believe in her after only a short conversation. He had no reason to, and even now she could not understand why Cyrus had been the one to trust her.
A feather light touch on her shoulder pulled her from her thoughts suddenly, turning her gaze from the white rose she looked into the dark eyes of her husband. “I fear I have sent my Tweedle off on a pointless task,” she commented, smiling.
“One he enjoys, I do believe if you did not give him so many inane tasks he would die of boredom,” the White King answered, placing one hand under her chin to tilt her face up just to the right angle to press his lips lightly against hers.
Dropping the rose, she reached up with both hands to place one on his broad shoulder, the other threading fingers through his dark hair. The one thing Anastasia was convinced she did not deserve to have in her life again, after all the pain and misery she had caused in a futile quest to have back that first love was this. She did not deserve to be loved so unconditionally, not by a man who knew of her sins and who she would have hurt just as badly as everyone else should she have succeeded with her plot.
This was not meant for her, she had tried to deny his words of confirmation she did deserve to be loved until finally she believed him to be sincere and not just saying it to make her feel better.
A shaky breath passed over her lips as he pulled away from the kiss, and she opened her eyes once more to gaze lovingly into his.
“I love you, my darling Taj.”
Who would have believed Wonderland would one day be ruled by a peasant girl and a genie?
Chapter 2: Plotting and Planning
Mary makes a new acquaintance thanks to her genie, one who helps her to fit in a little better in the realm she is currently in (clothing wise at least), while the White King has a plan that he's put in motion. One he's hoping that will reunite his family once more so they can live together in Wonderland.
Standard disclaimer applies: I own nothing, this is all for a bit of fun.
For the sake of it, I did look up particular parts of an outfit and sadly headband is the best I could find when it comes to what Mary is asking for at one point in the chapter. Researching online is hit and miss, at least for me when I don't have the exact word I want...so I went with headband unfortunately. Forgive the error if that isn't the proper term.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Silently she walked around the small home, taking in the rich colours used in the various articles of bedding and wall coverings. All of it so familiar, so welcoming and a comfort to see in such a strange and curious realm like Wonderland. Despite having spent the majority of the last twenty-one years in the White Court, she could not feel fully at home in the whimsical land.
Her oldest was happily married now, and had been for the past fifteen years. The day of the wedding had been one of a great deal of joy, not just for the couple in question but for the people of Wonderland as well. Many had no faith in their queen having the ability to rule on her own, and not for lack of competence in all truth but her record of how she had handled the kingdom after the death of the Red King spoke volumes. No matter how she tried to convince them she had changed, they would not see reason unless there was a king on the throne next to her's.
A sneer marred her eternally youthful visage as her slender fingers dug into one of the many pillows on the daybed against one wall. Women were not weak and it disgusted her that no matter how long she lived, that was a misconception that would never change. Anastasia had made grave mistakes in her practices with the kingdom, some unforgivable she was certain but that should not make her unfit to rule. She was trying, after all, to make up for her mistakes. Yet the only thing that had truly made any strides with her people was taking a husband.
One they had no idea was actually a genie. It mattered little to her though, if any spoke against her son she'd reduce them to ash before they could utter a word of apology. No one would harm her sons again, be it through words or otherwise.
A cheerful call of mama reached her ears, and she turned towards where the door of the small home stood, smiling when her youngest son entered. Rafi was forever off exploring now that he was free of his lamp, or as free as he ever could be. Much like Cyrus all those years ago, he too had been discovered by a young woman who had a habit of throwing caution to the wind and they'd formed a friendship that was slowly becoming a bit more.
Moving towards him, she wrapped her arms around her youngest as she pulled him into a hug. “What trouble have you gotten yourself into this time my son?” she asked, leaning back as she smiled warmly at him.
Rafi rolled his eyes, the same question every time. “Nothing mama, you know I try to keep a low profile, unlike Taj that is. Far safer.” Yet he knew there was no worries for Taj in all truth, not many would touch a king and even if they tried there were guards and soldiers ready to lay down their lives for their monarch.
And their biggest threat had been cursed into a bottle of his own over twenty years ago. No, they were as safe as they could be in Wonderland for no one truly cared who or what you were, so long as you weren't causing too much trouble.
A moment later a brunette pushed aside the drapery that made up the door, her smile a bit nervous when her hazel eyes fell on Amara. Something about the woman always made her uneasy despite having no reason to be that way, as Amara was nothing but welcoming and kind to her. If anything, she seemed to be attempting to be a mother towards her if the truth were to be known...and she liked it.
Which likely accounted for how ill at ease she became; everyone left her. Her friend and mentor had taken off again after the mess with Jafar and the Red Queen, what was to say sooner or later Rafi would as well? Sure he was bound to her due to the fact she had released him from his lamp but that meant nothing. Perhaps they'd all long to return to Agrabah someday, it was the only realm they had not traveled to in recent years in search of their missing brother after all.
“Elizabeth, I do hope one day you will stop looking at me as though I am a serpent coiled and prepared to strike,” Amara gently commented, releasing her son to walk over to the young woman. Placing a hand lightly on her shoulder, she looked down for a moment as she softly laughed. “You are so much like the daughter I would have wanted; into just as much trouble as my boys.”
To that Elizabeth, although better known in Wonderland as Lizard, laughed. “I've heard the tales, and as much as that sounds like quite the compliment I don't think I could ever cause as much trouble as those three in their heyday.”
Rafi snorted, crossing his arms over his chest as he stood in the middle of the room. “We had quite the leader, although in hindsight we could have made better choices and left him to his own devices as well.”
Amara glanced over her shoulder, long dark hair spilling down her back at the movement. “I do believe you were a happy accomplice in all of Cyrus' plots while it was Taj trying to keep you both out of trouble. Or as much as he could manage.”
“That's true,” Rafi agreed, walking over and sitting himself down on the edge of the bed. He never failed to marvel at the place his brother had created for Alice, nor wonder what exactly he'd had to trade to get such magic. A hint of a smile formed as he noted, yet again, the fact there were two beds in the room. The one did double as seating, but he knew a daybed when he saw it.
Cyrus must've worshiped the very ground Alice walked on, if that was any indication. They'd been brought up by a mother that would've made them sorry if they'd ever done anything disrespectful towards a woman, but the very fact Cyrus more than likely slept on that while Alice would have the larger bed to herself spoke volumes of how much he had loved and respected her.
Elizabeth nodded slightly, the stories she'd heard of their missing brother were almost something unbelievable. How he'd lived long enough to even get cursed into a bottle was beyond her. “I do hope to meet him one day,” she remarked. “I mean, he has to be somewhere.”
Amara's smile turned sorrowful at those words, knowing full well the younger woman meant nothing by it. Of course Cyrus was somewhere, it was a matter of finding him again. The worst being it would be far easier if he had a master, his magic would be simpler to track over if he was hidden away in his bottle. For it was what was inside that held the magic, not so much the container. It protected the genie, and that was all. The real power was with the magical being locked within until someone summoned it.
“And you will, that I am certain of,” Rafi assured her, his smile brightening. “Luckily this land has a great advantage for immortals: time is something that can be manipulated. Little wonder people have never question how Anastasia had never aged yet Alice was a few years older each time she returned to Wonderland.”
“I've never thought of that, seeing as the Red Queen at the time was really of no concern to me. I guess its good she's not against teaching some of us magic, gotta admit Rafi that I like this magic stuff and being able to just decide to stay this age as long as I want.” It was a bonus, seeing as she was falling in love with a genie just the same as Alice had, and the now White Queen.
When she'd first found the lamp she'd had suspicions there could be a genie inside, knowing about what Jafar had been up to and of course she'd been told a few things about Cyrus when she was helping Alice that one time. Even when she'd rubbed the lamp and suddenly found herself looking at a genie, Lizard had still been in quite a bit of shock. What were the odds she'd find one?
And of course, all magic had rules and laws...all the fun stuff that held up her one wish. For Will to feel something for her, to love her like she did him. That was one she did not voice, the second Rafi told her the laws his magic had to abide by she pushed it from her mind. Besides, no one really knew if the Knave would ever return to Wonderland.
That was leaving off the stories she'd heard of his hand in what had happened. Everyone had thought the Red Queen was the villain, along with Jafar. It was logical, an easy conclusion and who would suspect the man helping Alice? The parts had been played so well, right down to Jafar threatening the Knave's life and turning him into a stone statue in the queen's garden.
What a shock it had been when the smoke cleared, only to discover the man who had taken her in and taught her all she knew to survive in life was not who she thought. There were still lingering feelings of affection for him, or who she had assumed he was, but slowly it was all being pushed back into those fond memories of her past, while a genie with a rather mischievous grin was winning her over and slowly beginning to become the man she wanted to spend eternity with.
And considering the whole time manipulation that was possible in Wonderland, that was meant to be quite literal.
A hand on her upper arm stopped her dead in her tracks. The town was so close, she could just about taste it...if one could taste a town. Although truthfully, she could smell the exotic spices that were used for cooking by people who lived within the homes she could see in the not very distant town. Mary wanted to explore, why was her genie stopping her?
Quickly whipping around, her long blonde hair swinging about in the movement like spun gold, she slanted her eyes as she looked at her new found travel companion. “You said we were going to a town, it is right there. Might I remind you it is hot out here in this bloody sun?” she blurted out, huffing a bit in annoyance. “I'm not exactly dressed for your land.”
Cyrus managed to hold off rolling his eyes, nudging her towards a small house close at hand. He could hear Mary muttering something about goats and the rest, and while he'd admit they weren't exactly his favourite animal either he wasn't sure what the few in a gated area of the yard had to do with anything. “That is exactly why I stopped you from dashing right into town. You are not properly dressed for this realm,” he explained as they walked towards the small farmhouse. “You need clothing to blend in, and possibly a scarf to cover your hair.”
“There is nothing wrong with my hair! Do you have a problem with it?” Mary snapped, digging her heels into the sandy ground until her genie was forced to stop and look at her. “I could complain yours is too curly, maybe you should wear a hat.”
This time, Cyrus did roll his eyes as he softly laughed. “Your hair is beautiful, and glistens like gold in the sunlight but that is not the issue I have with it. Have you seen much of the people here as of yet?” he asked, to which she shook her head. Reaching out with his free hand, he took a few strands of her hair between his fingers. It reminded him so much of Alice's hair, only a lighter blonde. “I do know this realm far better than you, and I assure you there are no women with blonde hair. If we wish to keep attention from us, we need to fit in. My dress may come across a bit antique compared to the men of the town but it can be brushed off as I may come from a small village, but if you walk into the market as you are currently dressed you shall turn heads. And not solely for your beauty.”
Mary looked down for a moment, her hair spilling forth to thankfully cover the blush that was rising on her cheeks. “I'm not beautiful, my mother is,” she mumbled, glancing up at Cyrus shyly. “But I see what you mean, still don't know why we're stopping as that does not look like a dress shop and I have no money. Pretty sure you don't either.”
Just as Cyrus opened his mouth to answer her, someone called out his name. Smiling, he turned to look over his shoulder at the older woman who was walking down towards the gate of her small house. “Esta,” he returned, walking quickly towards the woman with Mary following along with a slightly dazed and confused look coming over her features.
“I had hoped to see you again before meeting the end of my days,” the woman, Esta, cried out as she pulled the genie into a hug. “You are well?”
“As well as I can be, but I have come to you with hope you will favour my mistress with some assistance for she is not of this land.” Gesturing to Mary, he looked to the older woman (although by no way old compared to himself), his eyes betraying his trepidation she may not. The woman had been good to him when he had been her genie, but it did not mean she had to continue to extend any kindness to him and certainly not his new mistress.
Esta looked Mary over, noting the odd clothing and then swatting Cyrus' arm. “Did you believe I would not give you assistance? Should she show herself in a village or city she would be a great curiosity. Which could put you both in some form of danger. Come inside, I'll find you something that will suit you better for this place.”
Mary felt her jaw starting to go slack but managed to keep some control. He was a genie...how did he have a friend? It didn't make any sense to her, and less as she followed him with Esta, wondering what difference it made to the woman if her former genie was safe from harm. Could a genie even be harmed? Perhaps she should have read more books back home, surely they would have told her something. Her father had travelled to so many different countries for his work, some of the books he'd brought back may have said something of genies.
Then again, what were the odds of her ever finding a genie? Her mother may have wandered off to Wonderland time and again, but there were no genies there. Just the White Queen who could use magic and her King. Who, now that she thought about it, looked like he belonged in this land. As well as that other young man who was around the court once and awhile, with that girl who called herself Lizard.
They weren't genies though. Not a chance, she mused as she caught sight of Cyrus' binds when the sunlight caught on the jewels inset among the gold. Neither of the men in Wonderland she'd met had those encompassing their wrists (although they were always dressed in shirts that covered to their wrists) and each time she saw those horrid binds she felt a mixture of anger and sorrow. How terrible to spend one's life a prisoner and slave to others.
Her line of thought was interrupted when they entered the small house, which she took in with her hazel eyes with slight wonder. Of course she was used to her home in England, decorated like any other Victorian home with its little dust collectors and all the portraits on people either related to the family or just there because someone liked it and bought it.
Then of course came the White Queen's palace. It was a thing of splendour to the point she was terrified to touch anything. Varying shades of pink and ivory white, even the roses were only white or pink and not a hint of red anywhere. On one afternoon of exploration she had found a red dress or two tucked away in a room that was fairly abandoned. Quite the curiosity that, she had asked the White King about it, only to be told it was a time the Queen would rather not remember and even he had a glint of sadness flit through his dark eyes with those words.
Mary never asked again.
Esta's home was plain by comparison, in truth there was nothing of note to it but Mary still found it to be very inviting. Although the chairs were all wood she had what the young girl thought to be blankets draped over most of them, all in rich colours to match the small pillows. On a small table sat a few candles and in the corner she could see into a small kitchen. The other two doors were slightly ajar, and she could see two bedrooms. She wondered to whom the second may belong to but did not ask, it was really none of her business. No matter how nosey she could be.
“I believe I have a lovely dress that will suit you well. Just follow me,” Esta said, motioning for Mary to follow her only to stop and turn around, a look smile on her face as she looked to Cyrus. “I believe it best if you take refuge in the other room, on the chance that neighbour of mine decides to pop in. I can be well assured you do remember Simin?”
Just the way Cyrus wrinkled his nose in distaste it was quite obvious he had vivid memories of the person in question. He simply walked to the door on the other side of the room and closed it, after giving Esta a wry smile. “My neighbour leaves a lasting impression you see, and Cyrus had no love of the woman,” she explained, heading to the room opposite the one the genie just entered.
Mary looked to the closed door just before proceeding to follow the older woman. The reaction out of her genie was a little odd but then she knew there were people who would always leave a bad taste no matter how many years you went without seeing them. Should you be fortunate enough to get years instead of just days. Her own grandmother, Mrs. Darcy was a prime example. Ever since the death of her father, the woman's son, she made a nuisance of herself at every turn.
With a soft giggle she entered what was Esta's bedroom, recalling every time her grandmother would come calling and how her mother would animatedly tell them both to head to the back of the house and they were all to stay as silent as death until the woman gave up and took her leave. Even Sarah could not bring about that reaction from Alice, only her own mother in law could manage to put her into a tizzy.
Although, was she still her mother in law if the husband had died? Mary pursed her lips together as she looked down at the carpet on the floor, contemplating the swirling design of it while Esta took a flowing dress or two out of rather makeshift looking closet. Shrugging, she just concluded once a mother in law, always a mother in law. One would always want to make sure the woman their son married was good and kind, wouldn't they?
Like a father would for their little girl...or so she assumed. It wasn't as though Mary would ever find out first hand, without a father of her own now and she had concluded long ago this lost love of her mother's was also dead. If she didn't know better, she'd think the name sounded oddly like her genie that her mum cried out for some nights. But then, there were a few men in London with that name she could recall her brother having associated with from time to time in his line of work. So really, even if this lost love was from Wonderland, it wouldn't be her genie.
Genies were not found in Wonderland after all. That just would not be logical no matter how illogical that realm was.
“I believe this one will suit you far better, blue seems to be a colour to bring out your beauty.” Esta's voice pulled Mary out of her musings, and she turned her hazel eyed gaze to the beautiful dress the older woman was holding out to her. There wasn't anything grand about it like back in England; just an airy looking silk dress with some embroidery along the hem of the skirt and the flowing sleeves. A soft blue shade, one she was quite in love with on first sight.
Reaching out, she took it in her hands to inspect it further. The feel of the silk under her fingertips causing her to feel a bit overwhelmed, even her mother would not buy her a blouse made of silk, let alone a whole dress. “This is too much,” she breathed, eyes roving over the dress appreciatively.
Esta made a dismissive sound as she waved the statement off, going towards a box of jewelry and pulling a white silk scarf out of a drawer. “I will hear nothing of it, my late daughter would have rather someone wore the dress than it to collect dust in a corner. You will look stunning in it, and you may well be a rare beauty on the arm of your genie as you travel. I do have a few more of her dresses you may take with you, unless you both intend to stay here for a few days. The company would be a welcome change but I warn you, it wise to keep Cyrus in his bottle at night.”
Mary tore he gaze from the dress, momentarily taken with the jewelry next. Oh this was a happy mistake of a side trip; she could not deny her inner girlish desire to look beautiful at every turn. The way the gold sparkled in the light coming through the window was a delight to her eyes, and it was obvious the scarf was of silk as well by the way it danced in the slight breeze wafting through the room. “Why?” she finally asked, looking again at Esta.
“Nightmares. He is plagued with them some nights if he is not returned to his bottle,” she explained as she set the scarf and jewelry down on the bed. Nodding, she was content with what she'd chosen for the girl. “Someone hurt him a long time ago, terribly. It is one mystery I never did learn of him, well, among many as I can tell there is far more to that genie then what he allows his master or mistress to see.”
Mary tilted her head to the side as she took those words in. Genies just...were? Isn't that how it worked? Like realm hopping rabbits and that weird talking Tweedle head, they just happened to be and required no explanation. Although, truth be told, she'd love to know how the Tweedle head continued to survive. That was a little odd, maybe she make some inquires about it when she made her way back to Wonderland.
“I'll leave you to change while I prepare us tea to have a chance to get one another over. I have my doubts that Cyrus will have much to tell but I am interested in learning about you Mary,” Etsa told her before leaving the room.
This reminded him of early mornings in Wonderland, sometimes evenings, but as he weaved the blonde tresses in the crisscross pattern to form the braid in Mary's hair his mind wandered back to his days with Alice. Forever and always in his mind, such small things could bring her smiling face back to his mind's eye.
Immortality was a blessing and a curse all at once, while he truly had no fear of death like the mortals around him, there was the unfortunate fact he would remember them. Each and every one. The names may fade as the years wore on, but their faces would always be there, either contorted in anger over a wish gone wrong or smiling at him with nothing but love in their every word.
His movements slowly slightly as he breathed out a shaky breath. The memory of Alice was normally one he welcomed but in that moment he wanted nothing more than to forget her. All their adventures, every soft caress, all the words spoken with such love and assurance...words they'd both uttered in a way to let the other know they'd never leave. That they'd always be there for one another.
No one could see the future, and although he knew he was going to end up back in his bottle at some point it came far sooner than he had been expecting. Yet he wouldn't go back and change what had happened; he wouldn't stay silent and allow her to die. It would have made no difference whether Alice would have lived or died in that moment, he was going to end up back in his bottle if she breathed her last or not.
“Where did you learn to braid hair? Seems a rather odd skill for a genie to have you know, very odd indeed,” Mary prattled, dragging Cyrus back to reality. He smiled, although she wouldn't see it with her back to him, and continued with the familiar process of braiding.
“One learns many things when they travel as much as I have. How to braid a woman's hair is only one among the many,” he told her, hoping she wouldn't ask too many more questions. It was a simple enough task he thought almost anyone would know, maybe he was wrong.
Esta glanced over to the pair from the kitchen, a grin lighting up her face. It was good to see her former genie with a mistress who was looking more for a friend than someone to order around and grant her wishes. It had been her final wish, that his next master or mistress would possess a good heart. The worry over how it could backfire did not strike her until after he was gone, and that had been a good ten years ago, if not more.
How he'd remembered where to find her was a bit of a shock, but then most would commit to memory those who were good to them. Maybe not quite as they would those who had done them wrong, but she supposed with his life there were exceptions to be made to that rule.
“Still strange, but do you like my dress? Isn't it simply lovely? And so nice and cool for this bloody hot weather you have here, dreadful hot. To believe I used to complain about all that rain back home,” she carried on, moving her arms about a bit in an animated way. The silken sleeves rustled about with her movement, causing Cyrus' smile to grow only a little more as he finished the braid. Holding the end with one hand, and reaching over to pick up a piece of ribbon with the other to secure it, he laughed a bit.
Mary's head snapped around, glaring at him out of the corner of her eye. “Oh that's right, laugh about it. You did not have to endure weeks on end of cold, horrid rain. The sky would be positively slate grey the entire time. Dreadful I tell you, simply dreadful!”
“I believe you, as I have been to places where it rained quite frequently. While it serves a purpose, as all changes in weather does, it can become monotonous if it lasts far too long,” he agreed, picking up the white scarf to arrange in a way to cover her blonde hair. It wasn't really to his liking, as the colour was quite pretty, but there was a need for her to not stick out too much.
Mary on the other hand was far too engrossed in all that was happening. Perhaps it was childish, but she was wearing a silk dress. Silk – of all materials! And the scarf was silk as well, and this woman she'd just met was lending her pretty jewelry, it was just amazing. In Wonderland she had friends simply because of her mother, there was doubts in her mind the White Queen would have taken to her otherwise. Maybe the one full Tweedle would have, he seemed to like most everyone.
But here, no one knew her and she was being given things to wear. Part of her figured it had a bit to do with protecting Cyrus just as much as herself, for if she stuck out they'd want to know more about him. Reaching up to make sure her hair was completely hidden, she mused it wasn't such a bad thing trying to fit in once in awhile. Back home she was always trying to do something to be a little different from the other girls her age, but she could understand a need to blend in with the crowd.
And she was dressed in silk after all.
“Oh! Can I wear one of those pretty tiara like things?” she asked, her voice a little higher pitched with excitement.
Esta looked at her oddly, as did Cyrus. Obviously neither had an inkling as to what she was talking about. Looking at both with exasperation in her hazel eyes, she began to explain what she was talking about until one of them clued in, that being Esta.
“You want a headband?” The older woman wasn't exactly sure where the comparison to a tiara came from but just shrugged it off as having something to do with her home realm. The excited nod from Mary made her laugh, setting aside the kettle after pouring the steaming water into a teapot, she headed back into her room to find one that would go well with the dress.
Mary quickly stood up, twirling around to show off her dress. She stopped her twirl so as to be facing Cyrus, placing her hands on her hips she smiled down at him where he sat, asking what he thought. In her own seventeen year old mind, she felt like a princess.
To Cyrus, there was something about her that made him think of Alice. Maybe it was the joyful grin that lit up her face, or just the way she stood so proud of herself. Alice had been that way when she'd mastered sword play...that and when she'd managed to disarm him the first time. There were other things about Mary that just gave him reason to think of his lost love, and he'd only know her a few hours. Even simple nuances in her speech had a similar sound to Alice.
It truly was maddening.
He smiled in response to her question, a small smile and it did not reach his eyes. Those did not mirror anything but the memories he'd just found himself lost in. “The dress was meant for you Mary, you give off the appearance of one who could easily move within the courts of the Sultan.”
One dark blonde eyebrow arched upwards at his words, a hint of confusion in her eyes. “I'm starting to think you are required to compliment me. I will not put you back in your bottle if you tell me I look utterly hideous in this dress Cyrus, you can be completely honest with me,” she returned, making sure to use his name. Mary had noticed the funny little reaction he had when he heard it spoken, it was slight, but something in his eyes brightened just hearing his own name spoken.
“Cyrus only speaks the truth, and you do look lovely in that dress. If I had not known it was one of my daughter's I too would think it was meant for you alone,” Esta said as she walked back into the room, carrying the piece of jewelry that the young girl had requested.
Before she could hand it to her guest, Cyrus stood and took it from her hands. Turning back to his mistress, he arranged it on her head over the scarf. He was well aware this was a bit of vanity on the girl's part, then everyone liked to look their best. Even he had been just slightly pleased upon waking up in his bottle the first time to discover himself clothed in such a rich looking outfit, even if he expended more energy than required in his futile attempts to escape.
Yet as he moved his hands away once the headband was the way he thought it should be, he also realized there was some practicality to it. At least with it securely over the scarf, should a wind come along, it would help keep it in place.
When Mary looked at him with the same question shining clearly in her eyes, he took her hands in his as he repeated what was already said. She looked lovely, and once again something about her reminded him of Alice.
And he would do anything to keep her safe while in this realm.
Another day was drawing to a close, not that time meant much to an immortal, one filled with the dealings that came with a kingdom to rule. From all he'd listened to that day it would almost bring him to the conclusion nothing was ever enough for the subjects of Wonderland. One problem solved and they'd suddenly beg an audience with the king and queen to complain of two new issues.
A wry grin tugged at Taj's lips at the thought, there was not much of a change from granting wishes in all truth. People were never happy, no matter what you did for them.
At least in the case of a kingdom the fault did not always fall on his shoulders like the mistaken accusations that came with a failed wish. Or a wish gone wrong. It was never his fault the magic he possessed would at times find a very undesirable way to grant a wish, nor did the warning of all magic came with a cost mean much to the one holding the wishes.
What did it matter about the one granting the wishes? A genie was just an object to be tossed aside and forgotten, or cursed when the wish took an unfortunate turn. But that life was behind him now, all the loneliness, degradation and feelings of worthlessness to be pushed aside and forgotten. Except on a sleepless night when memories haunted him.
He and Rafi were happy now, both free of their status as a genie. Leading lives they never would have dreamed of when they had been mortal, so perhaps in a way there was some good fortune in the their curse. He knew well they could all be freed from their bonds, he mused as he stood before one of the large windows to watch the sunset, although the cost was more than he or his youngest brother were willing to pay. And they both instinctively knew Cyrus would feel the same.
Taj bowed his head for a moment, closing his eyes to block out the amber and pink hues the setting sun painted the Wonderland sky with, a sad sigh falling from his lips. Cyrus...the one no one had managed to locate in the last twenty-one years. And not for lack of trying either.
Their mother had made it her mission to find him, as well as Jafar's bottle before the sorcerer could wreck havoc with the wishes he would be forced to give the finder of his bottle. No one dared risk him being found by another, with his silver tongue he'd do everything he could to cause distruction. It took time, but Amara had found her former partner. What she had done was a mystery to them all, only that she had put him somewhere he may not be found for centuries.
Yet Cyrus alluded her still. The pain in the depths of her eyes the night she told him that she could not longer search the realms for her missing child was more than he could bear to remember.
If it were not for his duties to the kingdom, he'd travel all the realms himself until he found the brass bottle he knew his brother was locked away in. Amara's request for he and Rafi not to run off on such a fool's errand be damned. Her request was understandable; she did not want to lose them but surely she would be happier if all her children were in the same realm.
The soft sound of footfall brought him back to reality, opening his eyes the White King turned to the direction of the sound to see Percy coming towards him. The White Rabbit had aged, although not by much. Taj was never sure if that was to do with the magic in Wonderland or the life span of animals was simply different in the realm. Smiling warmly, he greeted the realm hopping rabbit.
“It is good to see you as well your majesty,” Percy replied, nodding his head in way of showing respect. “I've come to let you know my son has returned, and was just curious how long before I send him back?”
Leaning against the wall, Taj considered the rabbit's question while lightly drumming his fingers against the window frame. “Time is far from a constant no matter what realm we find ourselves in, as I have learned through my travels. But a day at most, by sunset tomorrow you should send Noah back to retrieve Mary as I am sure in that time she will have located what I so desire.”
Percy nodded slowly, still not completely certain what the king was after. There couldn't be much in Agrabah he could not have his wife conjure up for him. Be it furnishing, clothing or even food, almost any of it could be procured in Wonderland easily enough.
“If I may, your majesty, what exactly is it you sent Alice's daughter to find? Seeing as I do not recall you ever talking to Mary about any quest to locate some item or other I'm not sure the need for her to be in your home land.” That was leaving off what little Percy knew of the place, from a few stories he'd heard over the years he didn't think it overly friendly. And this coming from someone who had lived under the reign of the Queen of Hearts and Red Queen.
Taj grinned, evidently the rabbit hadn't pieced all of the puzzle together. He was the only one privy to what the genie had been up to in the last month; his travels to Victorian England and talks with a certain curious blonde. With one arched eyebrow, he crossed his arms over his chest as he regarded his friend. “Do you recall the trip to visit Alice not that long ago?” he asked, to which Percy nodded. “That was a failed attempt, as I knew it would be, to convince her to give aid in the search for Cyrus. She refused, stating it pained her too much to even think of how he is lost to all who care for him. That may be true, but she still wears his pendant, which would glow faintly when she spoke his name. Their hearts are still entwined and while I know she is the one who could find him with ease, I began to theorize it possible Mary could have the same stroke of good fortune of finding curious objects.”
Realization dawned on Percy's face, pink eyes widening behind his glasses. “You sent Mary off to Agrabah to find Cyrus' bottle.”
Taj nodded. “It may be a misguided hope on my part, but she is half her mother's daughter, while my mother could not find him with her spells there is always a chance Mary could stumble upon his bottle on her own.”
Such logic was faulty at best, and one look at the rabbit was enough to tell the king he wasn't buying it. In all truth, the way his whiskers twitched was enough to tell him that Percy was trying his best to keep his temper in check. Trying being the operative word as it was a battle he lost within a minute or two.
“You sent Alice's daughter on some errand she knows nothing about, to a land that even you have said the people are unforgiving and cruel,” he shouted, glaring at the king while he waved a finger towards him as if scolding a naughty child. “You even show no regard to my son in having him travel to Agrabah. For all I know someone could think he'd make a fine dinner!”
While the White Rabbit was irate, and justly so, Taj wasn't about to be spoken back to. Perhaps a bit of his rise in station had a hand in it, going from one forced into slavery to suddenly a king, or his own one minded desire to have his family whole again was to blame. “Might I remind you that you are speaking to a king, and while I do understand your worries for both Mary and your son, I will not be spoken to in such a fashion. Your son was not left to wander Agrabah now was he? My distinct request was for him to take Mary to my land of birth and leave. And before you bring up the cruelty of that, she is Alice's daughter; she is resourceful,” the genie snapped, his eyes narrowing as he glared at Percy.
But his long eared friend would not back down. “That still does not excuse the fact you sent two children off on a fool's errand! Even your own mother cannot find that bottle, but you're willing to risk the lives of people you claim to care about for your own selfish desire.”
“Enough!” Taj hissed, resisting the urge to shout at the top of his lungs to silence the rabbit. Kneeling down, he looked directly in the other's eyes, anger flashing in his own. “I will hear no more of this argument as it will earn you nothing more than my ire. I believe you misjudge both your son and Mary; both are resourceful and can take care of themselves no matter the situation. Call it my own selfish desire, but until you spend centuries separated from your family, believing one dead and the others lost to you, I shall hear none of your judgemental words.”
With that said, Taj pushed away from the wall, all the while not taking his eyes off Percy. As the rabbit opened his mouth to protest, the genie turned king silenced him with a simple gesture of his hand. “My wife had your wife and children for what is merely the blink of an eye in comparison to the time apart from my family. You may call me selfish and whatever else you feel suits, but I will have my brother back and my family together once more. Doubt the children if you like, but do not be surprised when they exceed even your expectations in survival.”
Percy was about to argue, but after so long dealing with Anastasia when she ruled Wonderland as the Red Queen, the rabbit knew well when a conversation was over. Whether he agreed or not.
Staring out of the window at the starry sky, Mary felt like a little girl on Christmas Eve. Biting on her bottom lip she was trying to will morning to come sooner, will it, not wish it. That was a word she now had to omit and forget, then again she had her mother's stubborn streak so it shouldn't prove to be much of a challenge.
She didn't want to send Cyrus on his way anytime soon. In all actuality, she wanted to take him back home to England to meet her mother, surely Alice would find a genie most curious and quite an interesting person to talk to. Far better than anything else she could bring back from this place.
First though, she wanted to take him on an adventure or two in Wonderland. Surely he would enjoy such a realm after centuries serving others.
That wasn't to say there was no excitement coursing through her over the fact Cyrus was taking her into town in the morning. Mary loved seeing the sights of every place she ended up, and meeting the people. All the amazing things she could see and who she could talk to was enough to keep her awake. Nothing was ever like home and she liked it that way; people here could be as sad as they wanted with their lives but it wasn't her mother longing for some love lost years before her own birth.
Shifting in the bed, her eyes landed on the bottle on a nearby table. As she'd been told, and much to her own dislike, she'd told Cyrus to return to his bottle before she and Esta retired for the night. It was fortunate the woman seemed more than willing to put them both up, having extra room for Mary and well, a genie didn't take up much space.
It still felt wrong, locking him away in that little space just because the older woman said he had nightmares. Wouldn't that make it worse? He could just as easily wake up in his bottle disoriented by what his sleeping mind had plagued him with, alone and with no one to try to talk him through his terror.
Tossing back the blankets, she stood and walked over to pick up the bottle. She wondered what it looked like inside, if it was just an empty bottle or if he had some comforts within to make his life somewhat bearable when between masters. Or when he was just told to go back inside. Perhaps in Wonderland she could steal some of the Caterpillar’s mushroom to shrink herself enough to get inside. Wouldn't that be an adventure? She was sure no one before had ever been inside a genie's bottle that wasn't supposed to be there.
Pressing her ear to the mouth of the bottle she tried to listen for any sounds of her genie. Nothing. If he was asleep then she supposed she might not hear a peep out of him, but then again at the size maybe she wouldn't be able to detect any sound regardless.
Shrugging, she moved to set the bottle back down but stopped in mid motion. It was her job to keep him safe wasn't? Tilting her head, she studied the brass bottle while tracing the red design with a feather light touch so as to not actually rub it and summon him. Leaving the bottle out of reach would not do, what if someone crawled through the window with the intent to rob Esta? Granted the chances might be slim but it was still there. The horrid person, or persons, could steal her genie and then where would he be?
With nasty people who did not deserve him, she concluded. A look of determination washed over her visage, for no reason other than she was seventeen and prone to acting a little dramatic by times, she spun on her heels and marched back to bed still clutching the bottle.
Once settled in her bed for the night, she laid the bottle down next to her. No one was stealing it from her, not without taking her on first. With a smile, she nestled under the blanket and leaned closer to the bottle.
“Good night Cyrus, I'll see you in the morning and make sure no one steals you before then.”
I still have no idea of an update schedule but it has been far too long since I updated this. Maybe once a month? There isn't a lot of time for much of anything when you have little kids around, sadly. But I hope to at least update once a month, if not more. Hopefully there is interest still and this was worth the insanely long wait.
Chapter 3: Familiar Faces and Brotherly Confrontations
A trip to the market results in a most surprising meeting, while in Wonderland Rafi begins to unravel what his oldest brother is up to.
In England, Alice finally talks with her son of the man she had loved before his father.
Standard disclaimer: I own nothing this is all for fun.
And whatever I said about an update schedule is completely out the window, obviously.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The soft clink of the china teacup coming to rest once more upon the saucer was the only sound that continuously repeated during the course of the afternoon tea. Hardly any words were spoken, if not for that and the birds chirping in the trees outside the open window, Andrew would swear he'd gone deaf.
His mother, over time, had become a woman of few words. He could never decide exactly why that was, if it was the death of their father that had caused this change or if it was just a natural progression of time. When both he and his sister had been children they'd delighted in the vivid tales she would weave of some strange land called Wonderland. The colourful creatures and ruthless queens had occupied their imaginations for years on end, even to this day Andrew would think on those stories when he found his studies too arduous.
Looking across the table, he took in the sight of his mother who was seemingly engrossed in her cup of tea. It was strange; she looked hardly a few years older than in the wedding portrait that hung in the hall, something his grandmother was always making some snide comment about.
Alice would always shrug it off, smiling while attributing it to good genes or some other similar reasoning. Which, in all truth, could be a fact and not an excuse. She had no idea what her mother looked like, or if she would have aged as well as her daughter apparently had.
Then again, he mused as he reached over for another sandwich, maybe it had something to do with Wonderland. Unlike his father's side of the family, Andrew would not discredit the existence of the realm even if he had never been there. Not simply due to his mother's tales as they were growing up but Mary had been there many times as well.
If Andrew were being completely honest with himself, which he normally was, he was starting to wonder if the male persuasion just was not allowed to find their way to Wonderland. It was something he contemplated often, as he was now when he took a bite of his sandwich, as to the whys of Mary's frequent trips to such a strange place while he was stuck in England.
“You have something on your mind.” Alice's soft voice dragged her son out of his musings, or self pity, however one desired to define it. He looked up at her with a bit of a bashful gleam in his blue eyes. “Do not try to lie to me and say it is nothing, unlike what most people are want to believe I am not mad.”
Her smile told him she was making a bit of a joke at her own expense, thankfully. The last thing he wanted was for his mother to fall into the same depressed state she'd been in after his father's passing. Although he doubted she had truly found her way out of it, more she was coping somehow, and Andrew knew the loss of her husband had only brought back the pain of the first love lost tenfold.
Setting down his sandwich on the small plate in front of him, he half shrugged. “I was merely thinking is all mother,” he answered.
Alice laughed softly, shaking her head. “I had already gathered that, the question was more on what you had on your mind. Not so much you had something on it.” She flashed him a bright and amused grin, reaching up to push a few stray locks of dark blonde hair back over her shoulder.
Unlike the other women of her age, Alice refused to wear her hair up in whatever was the fashionable style of the time. It seemed to change ever so slightly every few months and she could not be bothered with trying to conform with society anymore. While William had been alive, she had put effort into it for his sake. His trading business may not have been one of glamour but she understood well enough it looked good to have a wife who actually cared about what was popular in London. Now that he was gone...
She sighed, the smile fading a bit. Even she could admit to herself she did enjoy the pretty dresses, and how William had beamed with joy when she was dressed up for an evening out, but deep down she'd longed for those carefree days where it was just Cyrus and herself. Her genie had never cared if she was fashionable or not; he thought her beautiful no matter if she just had her hair tied back with a ribbon and wearing the white dress with flowers she had when they met, or had just crawled out of a mishap in the Mallow Marsh.
Both had loved her with all their heart, in their own ways, and both were lost to her. One through death and the other...Alice knew Cyrus still lived, but she could not go and seek him out. Not simply due to her marriage and children, he had told her days after they met once she used her wishes and he returned to his bottle that his will could never be bound to her again.
The very idea was terrible, but she saw the reasoning to it. If one could just keep summoning the genie then they'd simply horde the bottle or lamp one lived in for their entire life span.
Across the table, Andrew watched his mother intently. The change of expression was more than telling enough for him to guess she was thinking of the man she'd loved before their father. Her first and true love, as he knew the love she had for her husband was never quite the same as whoever this other man was.
“Who was he?” he softly asked, taking up the teapot in the centre of the table to warm what remained in his cup.
Alice's attention snapped back to reality quickly with that inquiry. “Pardon?”
“The man before our father; Mary and I know there was someone.” Mary knew more than he did, she was the one who heard the name, be it muffled and hard to distinguish, on those nights Alice could not sleep. Or when nightmares haunted her sleeping mind.
That was a question she'd always hoped to never answer, and not because she felt it was a secret her children had no need to know. William had known of Cyrus, it was only right to explain to him upon agreeing to his proposal of marriage that it may never be what he expected. She would always love Cyrus, and pine for her first love. What had been surprising was how easily William accepted that, stating he only wanted to take care of her whether she should ever grow to love him as he did her.
With a sigh, she looked over at her son with a hint of sadness in her eyes. “His name is Cyrus,” she replied as she ran a finger along the rim of her teacup absently.
Andrew furrowed his brow; she spoke as though he still lived. That was curious, to say the least. “Why do you speak of him in the present tense? Pardon the assumption mother, but I would have thought this Cyrus had died,” he commented, to receive only a light bit of laughter in response for a passing moment.
Glancing out the window towards the sunny spring day, Alice smiled wistfully. “It would take a lot to kill Cyrus, I can assure you of that. He was born mortal, although he never was able to tell me what his actual age was upon our meeting, but was cursed to the life of a genie.”
“What do you mean?” Andrew didn't even bat an eye when his mother explained what Cyrus was. After her stories about mushrooms that could cause you to shrink, drinks to make you grow and many other strange things to be found in Wonderland, learning this lost love was a genie was truthfully nothing.
Alice tore her gaze from a couple birds out on the lawn, bouncing about in the sun, moving her attention back to her son. “Unfortunately I never did discover exactly why he was cursed. Perhaps he angered a sorcerer or was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cyrus was not what you would call the most forthcoming when it came to speaking of himself, or his past. I thought for the longest time he had just come into existence as a genie.” A frown marred her face as she considered everything from their time together, and the one puzzling piece she had never figured out, not for all her cleverness. “He was one of three genies required for a spell to break the laws of magic, I've wondered before if whoever cursed him did so due to he possessed something that would be needed in such a spell.”
If Andrew was confused before, he was more than that now. Picking up his teacup to take a very long drink of it, he thought over what to ask next. The thought of someone being treated as, to put it bluntly, an ingredient for anything was sickening. Setting the now empty teacup back down, he began to speak. “What could he have that no one else would have? That would warrant being cursed into a lamp or bottle for eternity?”
“The strongest belief in love I have ever seen in anyone before in all my life, and ever will. One of the laws of magic is the inability to make someone fall in love, and while Cyrus had no idea why Jafar required the third genie be him, I did ponder that as being the reason once or twice.” Alice shrugged, it was really the only reason she could come up with. Since returning to England for good there had been a few books she'd read with tales of genies. Most amused her, having known one, but it seemed there were more than just three as obviously stories always came from some truth.
All there was left to do was simply nod. Andrew could find little else to say on the matter; he knew nothing of magic or genies for that matter. It did strike him as strange his mother had not gone looking for Cyrus again after the death of her husband, but then Mary had still required a mother and Alice knew what it was like to grow up without.
The sun beating down on the marketplace was unforgiving and hot, but Mary wasn't overly concerned with that. There were far too many sights and smells to take in as she wandered through the people out to purchase their daily needs, her genie close to her side the entire time.
The smell of cinnamon and cumin was one she breathed in deeply as she walked by a little stand with an older man selling spices. It was absolutely heavenly, she wanted to bottle it all up so she could have it with her to remember this particular day. Giving Cyrus' hand a squeeze, she glanced at him over her shoulder with a bright smile. What a glorious day it was turning into.
Cyrus smiled back, his keen eyes checking over her scarf to be certain it had not moved enough to show the blonde hair hidden beneath. They did not need any attention drawn to them, or more than they already had being identified as strangers in town. It may be a larger community than a village, but they still knew their neighbours and other people to be seen on the streets or otherwise. He and Mary were not among those people, but still they were not being bothered by much other than a curious look here and there.
“Oh, look,” Mary breathed out in excitement, dragging her poor genie over to someone selling silk scarves. He chuckled a bit; she certainly was taken with them for some reason or other. That or she simply wanted a few in different shades to change things up during her stay in this realm.
Something Cyrus had wondered about through the night. He'd been woken when his bottle had suddenly been moved, a slight bit of worry at first someone was stealing it and an ill fate had befallen both Mary and Esta. The fear was calmed when realization hit by the way the bottle was laid and the muffled sound of Mary's voice: she had actually decided to keep his bottle with her while she slept.
He had to give her credit, that was a very clever idea.
Still, it had taken him some time to settle again. All the while thinking over what was going to happen when her rabbit friend returned for her. Would she use her three wishes in quick succession, hand them over to someone else or take him with her to whatever land she would travel to next? As much as he hoped to go with her, Cyrus had learned quite awhile ago that hope was not really meant for a genie.
Cyrus could always speak words of encouragement and hope for others, yet for himself the only hope he had was that each master would at least be good to him. Be it they just left him in his bottle and rarely bothered with him or treated him like anyone else, it didn't matter so long as they were not talking to him as though he was nothing. That or yelling at him over a wish gone wrong.
Those years with Alice had changed his outlook quite a bit, making it hard to go back to a life of constantly changing hands and being nothing more than a possession. There were days he wanted to shout back at an irate master but he knew it was not his place. This was his life...he'd made a horrible mistake and while he didn't agree with the punishment, it was his to endure for eternity.
Still...her talk of a realm hopping rabbit was familiar, the genie mused whilst Mary dug through all the silk scarves to find one that suited her. She'd also mentioned a White Queen, which was a complete unknown to him. The Queen of Hearts he'd heard of, she was a thing of legend amongst the inhabitants of Wonderland and there were whispers of her even when he'd been there. One of such power simply vanishing was always cause for a stir and fodder for gossip.
The stories of her temper and habit of beheading those who had caused even the slightest of offence was enough for him to be glad her rule in Wonderland had somehow come to an end shortly after Alice had released him. Perhaps her reign had carried on a little longer; he was too preoccupied with adjusting to the way his new mistress was treating him to bother with politics of the ruling families.
The Red Kingdom he knew, of course. What had become of Anastasia after he and his brothers had been, essentially, imprisoned again was a complete mystery. Had Jafar killed her, along with her faithful Tweedle? Alice still lived, so it seemed likely they both survived as well. If Cyrus knew Jafar at all, which wasn't exactly well, he would have been far more concerned with procuring immortality through the Well of Wonders than a few people who thought of as nothing more than troublesome insects. With a simple flick of his wrist he would have them unconscious.
The sorcerer was a bit predictable when it came to power. Immortality along with the laws of magic broken would be something he'd covet.
Whatever punishment Nyx gave out to Jafar had set the laws right, as Cyrus had felt his own magic returning to its full strength just before being tossed about in his bottle once again. Be it a case of his will being severed from Jafar or part of Nyx's desire to keep them all punished he was unsure, but at least the madman had been stopped.
Even if it pained him to be torn away from his brothers again...and his mother. Trapped within Jafar's staff, but she was alive and he had hoped to see her again. That obviously was never meant to be, what he'd done had damned his family for eternity. To always be alone...it should have been him, and only him. Taj may have insisted they'd willingly taken the waters as well but it had been his idea, why should they all pay for his foolishness?
“And there you go again Cyrus, off in your own little world of deep thoughts,” Mary sighed, a hint of exasperation under her laughing tone. Placing a hand on her hip, she looked at him with a bit of a playful pout. “Really, are you going to spend our entire afternoon daydreaming?”
Snapping his attention over to Mary, a shy smile tugged at his lips just before he ducked his head. “I apologize, my mind wandered.”
A roll of hazel eyes met his words, as he glanced towards her through a few stray curls from the position his head was. “Really, I know this is probably quite dull for you but do try to stay with me. I would hate to lose you in the crowd, that would not do, not at all,” she admonished, wagging a finger at him as she tried to suppress a grin. “Men always bore of shopping, but you should try to stay on point my dear.”
Cyrus tried not to laugh at the look crossing the face of the older man selling the scarves. He looked positively enthralled with what he thought may be a couple, the young woman dragging a reluctant suitor on her usual trip to the market. How wrong that misconception was, but then it was logical.
“So, now that I do have your undivided attention, for however long that shall last; what do you think of this scarf?” Mary inquired, holding one up for him to see. The soft breeze made the silk scarf flutter in the wind, the sun dancing a bit on the red fabric trimmed with a gold coloured thread. It brought to mind a little red crown framed with gold...before he would have ever thought of the woman who wore it as a friend.
Pushing that down with the hope his sudden panic did not show in his eyes, he slowly nodded. “It is lovely, if it is one you fancy you should purchase it.” Cyrus had his doubts she needed any encouragement; Esta had given them both money to purchase some necessities but also so Mary could buy herself a few pretty things should she so desire.
The girl certainly had a love of silk, Cyrus was noticing as she paid for her scarf and moved on to other things to look at. When they'd met she was dressed in heavy cotton clothing, or at least it was what it appeared to be to his eye, so he figured this shouldn't be such a surprise as he walked beside her. To her it was likely an amazing luxury, and he had to admit the fact Esta had a few dresses made solely of the material amazed him at times.
The woman had not been rich when she'd come upon his bottle, it was through wishes that she'd acquired some wealth. And she'd been smart about it; wishing for the means to make herself money as opposed to the usual way of coming into wealth. Whatever the string attached to said wishes were the genie had no idea, but obviously they were not too adverse as she was still happily living in her little home with a few more comforts than she'd had when Cyrus had been her genie.
“Really, you're wandering again. That is something you simply must work on as it is far worse than my habit of rambling on and on,” Mary commented, dragging Cyrus out of his thoughts yet again. “Come now, you deserve something just for putting up with me before we go about purchasing what we were sent for.”
Cyrus felt like arguing they should have bought what Esta had wanted first, but this was his mistress and arguing with her really wasn't something he was keen to do. With Alice...well, this wasn't Alice. No matter how many times she would do or say something that would put him in mind of the woman he had loved all that time ago.
Closing his eyes for a moment, as Mary stopped to look at some baubles or other another vendor in the market had, he tried to push those thoughts from his mind. He swore he'd spend an eternity in his bottle for her, so long as she lived. And she had; Alice was alive somewhere in one of the many realms. He hoped beyond all hope she was happy, that she had not mourned the loss of him too long.
And that she did not think about her genie as much as he did the mistress he'd fallen in love with.
His thoughts were broken when Mary began babbling again. Opening his eyes, he noticed she was looking at some trinkets or other that were suited more for a lady than a man, thankfully. Cyrus wanted for nothing, all he desired was for her to be happy as was normal due to what he was. That did not mean he was not genuine in that desire either, unlike some genies may so happen to be. Walking closer, he glanced at the pretty items the middle aged man had out on display, hoping to catch the eye of any women wandering through the marketplace.
Which obviously had worked, as Mary was quite taken with the small pieces of jewelry and tiny trinket boxes, of which Cyrus had never really figured out the uses for in all his years. He could remember purchasing them from time to time to give his mother, but never knew what she did with them.
“Do you think she'd like this? It is quite a pretty little thing, and I do believe it would suit well but you know her far better than I,” Mary said, holding out a small brooch to him. One that glittered in the sunlight as she moved to place it in his hand.
Before it even touched his skin, Cyrus jerked his hand away and murmured something rather incoherent as he looked towards the ground. Hoping no one had noticed his reaction, he raised his gaze ever so slightly to note the rather baffled look washing over Mary's face. “I almost dropped it on the ground Cyrus, that wouldn't do now would it?” she asked, her voice taking on a softly teasing lilt. “You surely are not opposed to the cost, even you told me we should find her something pretty.”
“No, that was far from the issue,” he answered, watching the vendor out of the corner of his eye. The man was keeping an eye on them, which worried the genie. Mary may not realize the problem but others in the market may. Reaching over, he placed a hand reassuringly on the young girl's arm as he smiled. “I believe she'll be pleased with what you have chosen for her.” And it wasn't as though money was a problem, even he'd argued with Esta she'd given them far too much for a simple trip into town.
Mary beamed, enjoying whatever praise she could get. Her mother was always so wrapped up in her own little world she could go days without noticing her daughter as more than just someone that was there, as opposed to someone to interact with. While it hurt, more than she truly cared to ever admit to anyone, at the same time it gave her the leeway to wander at will in the world. Or worlds rather, as her mother may not notice her missing and even if she did there was hardly ever any alarm.
Turning to pay the man for the brooch, unease set in when she saw a rather strange gleam in his brown eyes. And it wasn't for the coins she was handing him either; Mary did not fail to notice how the older man looked past her towards Cyrus.
Looking to her genie, a bit of a nervous smile toyed on her lips. Hazel eyes glanced down to be certain he had his sword, a soft sigh escaping her when she saw it. Turning her attentions back to the vendor, she decided to address him. “I believe this is the right amount of money for the brooch, I see nothing to tell me otherwise and neither have you said so either.”
The man smiled, not a friendly one either. Standing, he nodded towards Cyrus. “Perhaps you have something far more valuable than money, little girl. It would have been wise to leave such a priceless item at home and out of sight,” he drawled, walking around the table that displayed the baubles and trinkets he sold.
“Now hold on here, I have money to pay you and as to whatever else you may be implying I can assure you that money is all I have. And I advise you to take it or I shall take my business elsewhere!” Mary exclaimed, trying her best to keep her tone low enough it did not attract undue attention.
“I assure you, child, you have something many search their lives for,” the man snapped, reaching out and grabbing Cyrus by the forearm before the other could react. “Hand it over and all I have is yours for the taking, surely a young girl such as yourself would much prefer whatever sparkles then dealing with a trickster such as this.”
Mary stomped her foot in anger, more at the man for how he was speaking towards her genie and not so much the fact Cyrus was not struggling or fighting back. He had made an attempt to wrench his arm from the others hold but had given up quickly. “You leave him alone, he's my friend!”
An incredulous look washed over the aged visage of the vendor. “Your friend?” he laughed, tightening his grip more on Cyrus. “This is not what you call a friend, child, this is a slave. It is his only purpose, to serve whoever owns him. Do not give him false beliefs as it will do him no favours.”
If Mary was irate before the vendor began talking, the sadness that suddenly sparked in Cyrus' eyes, even for a split second, was enough to set her into a fury. Marching up to the man, she stopped mere inches before him with her hands on her hips and her hazel eyes flashing with fire. “Now you listen here, that man is my friend and I will not hear anyone speak otherwise of him. You will unhand him, as I am sure he's been mistreated enough from others of the same mindset. All you see is something to own and control, well I see a person with feelings and needs, and right now he needs to be unhanded!”
For a moment it looked as though Cyrus was going to speak; he opened his mouth but one pointed look from the man who had a tight grip on him silenced his words. Mary was beside herself at this point, how could someone be that beaten down? She could tell Cyrus was not what he was pretending to be right then – this was an act. No matter how he tried to hide it, she could feel the defiance radiating off of him.
Before putting any real thought into her next action, she stepped towards Cyrus and pulled the long dagger out of the scabbard on his belt and the proceeded to point it at the vendor. “I told you to unhand Cyrus, and I expect you to follow suit.”
Cyrus looked to Mary with a gleam of admiration in his eyes, this was not what he'd expected her to do. He hated playing the act of a helpless genie but he also knew his place in his own realm. To this man, and anyone else in the market if they were to discover he was a genie, he was nothing more than something to be controlled. So long as they could not locate his bottle then he was safe from them, still it meant little for Mary's safety. The man could say what he pleased, or even threaten him but if he so much as laid one finger on his mistress then the submissive genie act would be dropped and fast.
A harsh laugh sounded, as the vendor wrenched Cyrus' arm into a rather uncomfortable position, to which the genie's face contorted into an expression of pain. “Little girl, this creature is not worth risking your life over. Tell me where his vessel is and you may have all you desire of my wares.”
Mary opened her mouth to protest when something completely unexpected occurred; for all three. Before one more insult or protest could fly past her lips, a sword was suddenly level with the vendor's throat. Both she and Cyrus looked towards the one holding it, neither able to hide the shock when they realized it was the man selling scarves. “I will give you one chance Majeed, unhand the genie and allow him and his mistress to go about their business in the market. Else you feel my blade caressing your throat in a way you would prefer it not,” he man threatened, a murderous look gracing his features.
Slowly, Cyrus felt the grip on his forearm loosen until he could pull away from the man. His right hand instantly moved to grip the hilt of his sword, prepared to draw the weapon should the need arise.
The vendor, Majeed, turned his head ever so slightly to look at the one holding a sword to his throat, annoyance gleaming in his eyes. “Remove your blade Saeed, as you can tell with your own two eyes I've released my grip on the genie,” he snarled, making it obvious he was unimpressed with this turn of events.
“Only if you swear to let him and the girl go on their way, and not hinder them,” Saeed insisted, only removing the sword when Majeed began to back away, returning to his table on which his baubles and trinkets were displayed.
Saeed motioned to both Mary and Cyrus to follow him, which they both did. It did not take them long to recognize him as the man Mary had purchased a scarf from, but the genie was certain he was familiar for another reason that he simply could not place.
He led them through the ever thickening crowds of people out to buy what they required or just to see what there was to be seen, soon taking them into a home that Cyrus knew from a not so faded memory. Once inside, he looked to the man who had aided them with a curious expression. “I know you, we have not met but your face is familiar to me as it bares strong resemblance to a master I had in the past.”
Saeed smiled warmly, motioning for them to take a seat. As Mary and Cyrus did as bidden, he made sure that no one had bothered to follow him. Although a man who had just threatened another in the market was rarely one to trail after, regardless of curiosity.
Turning back to them, he sat down across from where they had seated themselves. “It should be a face you may know, as my late brother Farzeen Shahmed was your master when the man you warned him about came close to acquiring your bottle.”
As Cyrus' face fell, Mary looked on quite confused. “What man? Should I be worried there is some insane person looking for you? Well, other than the unhinged bloke we just met that is. Beastly sort he is, be surprised if he even has a wife.”
“He does, although I believe she'd have thanked me if I had used my blade to end his life,” Saeed said, before turning his attention back to the genie. The smile faded, realizing then that stories he grew up with about genies were not completely true. Most had said they were trickster, hideous to behold and without feeling other than to please the one who owned their will.
Yet looking at the one sitting before him proved all of that wrong. The trickster part Saeed could not say a word for or against and it was obvious the genie wanted nothing more than to please his mistress, but the second and third were wrong. Leaning forward, he smiled warmly as he placed a hand reassuringly on Cyrus' knee to get his attention. As the other looked at him, he spoke. “It was not your fault my brother met his end by that insane sorcerer, so please do not blame yourself.”
Cyrus opened his mouth to argue, but before one word could be uttered someone entered the room. All eyes turned to see a girl who looked to be about the same age as Mary, dressed in a similar dress but lacking the scarf to cover her long, black hair. She glanced at each person, a bit of confusion written on her face before she looked to Saeed.
“I helped these two with some trouble they were experiencing with Majeed, all of it unwanted and quite undeserved,” he explained, as the girl rolled her eyes. He chuckled at her reaction, moving his attention back to his guests. “This is my daughter Vashti.”
Mary grinned brightly at the other girl, happy there was someone of the female persuasion around. “Hello Vashit, my name is Mary and this is my friend Cyrus,” she said in way of introduction.
“It is a pleasure to meet you both, and I am sorry to hear you had trouble with Majeed. Although it is far from surprising as he enjoys making enemies.” A mischievous glint sparked in her brown eyes, telling Mary she was going to like this girl.
Saeed looked from his daughter to Mary, understanding quickly the way girls had of knowing there was a possibility of friendship between them. As well he'd overheard Mary talking with her genie, Cyrus, about needed to purchase food and spices. It would be far better for her go see to such an errand without her genie, and Vashti would be the perfect companion. “My girl,” he said, standing to place a hand on his daughter's shoulder. “I overheard Mary speak of needing to make some purchases yet, and as you enjoy looking around in the market perhaps you could go with her? Cyrus was the one who had the altercation with Majeed, it would be best for him to stay here.”
It didn't take much for Vashti to figure out there was far more to the story than her father was telling, and one look at the young man confirmed to her something was being kept. She looked him over, noticing the way his shirt sleeves clung tighter around his wrists than anywhere else. One would have to be senseless not to realize why he was safer away from the crowds, not only for his sake but Mary's as well. With a smile lighting up her heart shaped face, she held out a slender hand as she asked her father for something in way of an allowance.
A girl simply could not go shopping without a little spending money, now could she?
Saeed chuckled, giving her a few coins. “You shall bleed me dry my girl,” he teased, taking her face in both his hands just before lightly pressing a fatherly kiss to her forehead. “You both have fun, but do not be gone for too long.”
Vashti thanked her father, all the while with Mary watching with a forlorn look in her hazel eyes. She could remember days her own father would show such affection, the soft words of fatherly love and his never ending praise no matter foolish thing she managed to do each and every day.
In an instant it passed, and she stood to accompany her new companion out and about, intent on having some fun and learning about the realm she was in while Saeed stayed with Cyrus.
A bolt of tawny hair out of the corner of her eye caught Lizard's attention while sitting at the base of a rather large tree. Odd, Percy usually kept his children a little closer to home after all that had transpired with the former Red Queen over twenty years prior. Quickly pushing up and moving into a crouching position, she waited for the rabbit, or she assumed it was one, made his way around the side of the tree she was seated against.
She wasn't waiting long, the muttering about being late reached her ears a few seconds before the owner of the voice was close enough to grab. And grab she did, her hand darting out and taking hold of long, tawny coloured ears.
“Pardon me, but you could unhand me at any time, if you please!”
Lizard smirked. “I could, but where's the fun in that? You lot are a shifty bunch if you ask me, mind telling me what you're late for?” If one of Percy's kids was babbling about being late then something was up.
Which was a suspicion only aided by a recent visit to the palace. Perhaps Amara was a little blind to some her son's antics, which the former thief chalked up to the tendency mothers had to not see the faults of their children, but she had suspected something was going on. Taj was acting shifty, and Lizard knew shifty when she saw it. She had learned all she knew from the Knave and even he could be as untrustworthy as the moniker implied...or so he had proven in the end.
Noah squirmed ever so slightly; he wasn't supposed to be telling people what he'd been asked to do. Ever his own father had no idea all this playing around with portals wasn't just going from one part of Wonderland to another. That was all he was allowed to do after being caught going to England not that long ago, even if it wasn't the first trip. Or the last. What the problem was with Mary following him back was just a mystery, hadn't her mother been one for adventures in Wonderland when she had the chance? Not to mention it was his own father that brought her to the realm.
“Can't tell, put me down,” he flatly said, glaring at the dark haired girl with annoyance in his black eyes.
Lizard tried not to laugh as Noah crossed his little arms across his chest. This was far too comical. “Nice try, tell me what is going on and I'll put you down. Something is up, and the White King is in on it.”
“Or orchestrating it,” the rabbit mumbled, eyes widening when he realized he'd not kept that to his inner thoughts and spoken it aloud. Snapping his gaze to Lizard, he knew instantly he had to explain himself. Deflating somewhat, he continued. “The king asked me to travel to England and find Mary. Only instead of bringing her for one of her normal trips to Wonderland I was to take a little detour and leave her for a day or two.”
“That does not sound like my brother, to be so careless,” Rafi commented as he walked towards the pair. Lizard looked to him, surprised to see him as she'd thought he was off with his mother in one of the nearby towns. “Do not look so shocked, mama really does not need her son tagging along on every foray into town. We do have eternity.”
Lizard felt the corners of her mouth tug up into a smile; that they did. They all did, so long as they desired for some. “I'm sure your mother scares some of the people of Wonderland if you want the truth, she has a way about her.”
A shrug answered her observation, as Rafi looked again at Noah. He dark eyes were showing no amusement at the accusation laid against his brother by the rabbit. “Why would you say such things about my brother, who is also the White King of this realm? I imagine it is treason here the same as in most every other realm to speak such infamy of royalty.”
“That may be,” Noah argued, feeling as though he was truly caught between a rock and a hard place. “But your brother, the king, did instruct me to leave Mary in Agrabah for a few days. I was actually to go retrieve her today, a couple hours ago actually.”
Rafi was stunned for a moment; why would Taj send a young girl to their home realm? One who could more than likely get herself into quite a bit of trouble no less. She had a talent for finding mischief in Wonderland alone, and by her stories she wasn't what most in polite society in England would call a proper lady either. Unless...there was no chance Taj would be so foolish. “He did not send her to retrieve something, did he?”
Noah nodded, a defeated look on his small face. “Don't tell my father?”
That went unheard by both, neither really cared if Percy knew his son was realm hopping. Getting involved with another family's affairs was never wise. Instead she turned her gaze to the man she was realizing she loved, all the questions bubbling over. “Agrabah? What could be in Agrabah that is so important?”
Rafi sighed, bowing his head as he rubbed the back of his neck with his right hand. “Cyrus.”
With wide brown eyes Vashti listened to Mary weave her tales of realm hopping and some mythical place called Wonderland. The very idea of a rabbit that could create a portal that could take a traveller to a different land was almost insane, and if it were not for the fact the tales of the uncle whom she'd never met had earned his wealth through wishes she would think Mary quite mad indeed.
“It sounds to be an amazing land; one I would like to visit some day if it were possible,” she wistfully said as Mary paid for the last of her purchases. It was fortunate that she'd been told to accompany the realm travelling girl; she'd had no idea what she was out to buy. For all her worldly ways, the girl didn't know cardamon from saffron.
Mary grinned, glad the boring part of the shopping was over with. Maybe this would have been better to have seen to first when she'd had Cyrus with her, as they might have avoided a certain surly vendor. It still shocked her how the man had just assumed she would hand over a person for a few trinkets.
But not as much as the fact Cyrus didn't fight back. She could see in his eyes he wanted to, yet he'd just allowed the man to treat him like a piece of property.
“Maybe your father would let you travel one day? I don't know if you have realm hopping snails or such around here but I could likely talk Noah into another side trip some day if you really wanted to see Wonderland. It is amazing, and the White Queen is lovely! She won't teach me magic though, says I'm too young,” Mary babbled, pouting just a little. It was childish, but then she was still young and pouting wasn't that uncommon. “The White King is nice, a little serious but he seems to be a good person. And his brother! Rafi is always up to something, I love going off on adventures with him and Lizard!”
Vashti wrinkled her nose a bit at that; he spent his time with a lizard? How revolting. “I do hope that is some strange name common to Wonderland and not quite as literal as I am taking it to mean.”
“Oh no!” Mary laughed, shaking her had as she smiled. “Her name is Elizabeth, yet for some reason she goes by the name Lizard. Funny really, I don't mean the story more that it is such a funny name to use. She's never explained either. So many lovely people there really.”
Out of the corner of her eye Vashti noticed her favourite tea room. They both had a bit of money and it would give them time to get to know one another better. She held no illusions she'd ever be able to travel to Wonderland, or even see Mary again, but if she could get a few more stories out of her before they had to part ways she would be content to live with those in her memory for the rest of her days.
Nudging the other girl towards the desired destination, she suggested they have tea and tell stories, completely unaware that Mary was unable to turn down a cup of tea.
She was British, and Alice's daughter, after all.
“Farzeen was a good man, yet a fool all the same,” Saeed explained to the rather confused genie. He stoked the fire in the stove once more in a bid to bring the water to boil for tea. Glancing over at the other man, he chuckled at the genie's bewildered expression. “He did not talk to you much?”
Cyrus shook his head. “No, most do not. He kept me within the confines of my bottle for most of my time in his service. At the most, I believe the longest conversation was concerning Jafar as I felt it wise to warn him the man was searching for me.” It had been the least he could do, and still his master at the time had died.
Standing upright again, Saeed shrugged. “Perhaps he should have taken that to heart, if he had taken your warning with more gravity then he could be alive now,” he muttered, walking to the cupboard to find the tea leaves and a few spices so Cyrus would not see the rather irate look that flashed in his brown eyes.
The last thing he wanted was for the genie to assume he was angry at him over his brother's death; it was not the case. Farzeen had made his own choices upon finding a genie bottle, which had led to his untimely end. Anyone who comes upon sudden wealth when their livelihood would not support such an extravagant lifestyle is bound to attract attention. More in a land where there are myths of beings who live within bottles and oil lamps, whose only purpose and desire is to grant wishes and be certain of the happiness of who released them.
Pulling out the tea leaves, he measured out the proper amount of tea leaves and put it in the kettle of water, along with a couple cinnamon sticks and a bit of cardamon before placing it over the fire on the stove to boil. Soon he knew the fragrant scent of the tea would fill the room, something he always enjoyed.
Once the kettle was set to boil, he turned back to his guest and gestured for him to take a seat at the kitchen table. He grinned with the genie did as instructed without much question. “I thought it was only Mary who could command you.”
A wry grin formed on the genie's lips at those words. “That is true, but I saw no reason to argue.” A fairly pointless argument to make as well, what difference did it make and it was more an invitation to take a seat over a command. Then again, most did believe a genie had no free will...which wasn't completely wrong he supposed.
Saeed laughed as he walked over to sit across from Cyrus. “I've yet to meet someone who would argue such an invitation. Stories of genies, as you are more than likely are aware, are quite plentiful in the land. Most untrue, it would appear just by looking at you.” The older man, in appearance and not years, looked the mythical being over once more. No, nothing about him was frightening or terrifying to behold. The genie was hardly any taller than he was, meaning that part of a story he'd heard about such creatures being as tall as a mountain was quite the exaggeration.
Truthfully, Cyrus looked more like any number of the young men that Vashti may have calling in hopes of courting her on any given day. The only thing that gave away he was centuries old was his eyes; there was wisdom and a world weariness shining in them that one did not find in someone of only twenty score years.
Moments before the kettle began to whistle, something struck him. Saeed looked at the genie again, a curious gleam in his eyes. “Farzeen described you once, as he'd been amazed that a genie looked the same as we do, yet there is something missing.”
Cyrus wasn't sure what to make of that, other than hiding his amusement over his former master's need to tell his brother what a genie really looked like despite never allowing anyone to ever see him. There were days he could recall hearing voices outside of his bottle, knowing his master had family or friends over and they were enjoying what all had come with his wished for wealth. And how he'd secretly longed to be let out of his bottle just for a little while, to be treated like anyone else but knew that was not going to happen.
It had once, when his master had asked for his name and had wanted to be called by his own. In this case, all he was was genie and it remained that way until the last wish.
“Where is your pendent?” Saeed questioned just as the kettle whistled. Standing, he continued speaking as he prepared the tea. “My brother, rest his soul, did mention you had a very striking pendent that he thought was the source of your power. The binds he'd described as well, finding them quite beautiful to behold.” He had his own opinion, beautiful they may be but cruel at the same time. Keeping Cyrus a prisoner for all time. “It is not what he thought, is it? As you do not wear it, then your magic comes from within.”
The question was rather unexpected, even he had forgotten he no longer wore it. The purpose of the pendent had always been one of curiosity to him, as it had been given to him by a master who felt he owed his genie a great debt for granting him the means to climb the social ladder and wed a princess. All he'd been told by that master was one day that pendent would show him the same gift his wishes had bestowed upon his master.
A curious concept, as Cyrus could only assume that to mean love...and genies were not really meant to be loved in that way. At least he did not believe it possible until Alice.
“The man I warned your brother of, Jafar, I believe he took it shortly after he captured me. It was him or the Red Queen; the last time I recall seeing it was when the woman I had loved made an attempt to rescue myself from the madman. I am certain I saw it around her neck before I was sent back to my bottle.” It was a rather distinct piece of jewelry, there was no chance he'd seen it wrong.
Grinning, Saeed turned his head slightly to eye the genie. “Love you say? Now you realize I want to hear this tale over our tea. When my brother wished you away the cost was his life, but did it bring you something more than another master or mistress to blindly serve?” he asked, knowing the answer just by the way Cyrus ducked his head, not missing the self conscious smile before it was hidden from sight.
As unfortunate, and sad, as his brother's untimely death had been, it was uplifting to hear that someone had benefited from that wish. If only for a little while.
Night was falling upon Wonderland; the sky was awash with shades of pink and purple but the beauty of how rich the colours were in this particular realm were lost on the youngest of the three genies right then. He was on a mission, so to speak, and nothing was going to stop him. Not even the idea of watching the sunset with the young woman...or his mistress rather...that he had fallen for.
So like his other two brothers, oddly enough.
Marching into the throne room of the palace, he found his oldest brother reading over some parchments alone, Anastasia off tending her garden as she was want to do after dealing with an audience with the people. Seeing to their needs was a duty she took seriously, but like all things she required a way to unwind when her subjects were a little more demanding than usual.
Rafi made no attempt to lighten his footfall in a bid to surprise his brother; he didn't care if Taj had warning he was coming or not. He was irate and quite frankly the desire to shout the second he entered the room was one he'd been fighting since the Tweedle had let him in.
He'd held that impulse at bay, but his approach had been heard. That was obvious by the way Taj set the parchments down and gazed towards him with a friendly smile. Evidently the fading light of day had masked the anger that flickered in the younger's dark eyes.
“It has been a few weeks since last we met Rafi, what brings you here this fine evening?” Taj inquired, standing to greet his youngest brother with a customary hug. Before they'd been cursed it wasn't exactly common for the brothers to hug each other, now they made a habit of it after so long separated.
Except this time, which was apparent by the way Rafi moved to avoid such contact. The White King studied his brother's visage, noting the flash of fire in his eyes and the tightness of his lips as they formed a frown. He could not recall the last time he'd seen his youngest brother this angry; not because of how long they'd been apart either. Rafi was never one quick to anger, this was a first. “What troubles you?”
Rafi opened his mouth to answer, snapping it back shut after a second. All the years of knowing what to say, how to convince whatever master or mistress a wish was foolhardy and would come with great consequences and now he was at a loss. He wanted to rage at Taj for this, to make him see how dangerous this plan of his was and the peril he may well have put Mary in.
Agrabah wasn't exactly the safest place in all the many realms, mind neither was Wonderland. The difference being the young girl had grown accustom to Wonderland and had people here who would look out for her if she should find herself in trouble; in their home realm she was alone. There was no guarantee she'd come across a certain bottle, in which she would find a particular genie who would do whatever he could to keep her safe.
It was a fool's errand, as much as the youngest of the three was loathed to admit it...and that was when he found his voice again.
Turning a furious glare at his oldest brother, he jabbed him forcefully in the chest. “How could you be foolish enough to send Mary on such a task? Mama gave up years ago, and you know as well as I that finding a genie is no easy feat for a mortal. How many decades did you spend alone in your bottle? Likely the same amount I spent in my lamp – you are as aware as I that a genie's vessel may remain hidden until it wants to be found. Why would you send Alice's daughter on such a task, one she knows nothing about?” Rafi demanded, each poke at his oldest brother becoming a touch more forceful as his tone raised in volume.
In turn, Taj allowed him his anger. Despite the desire to grab Rafi's wrist and grip it tightly to make him stop – knowing he wouldn't really feel much due to the binds they all still wore – he did nothing. Until it began to hurt that is. “You may cease that, now,” he growled out, swatting his youngest brother's hand away.
“And you may answer my question as well, as I do long to hear you justify such actions.” Taking a step or two back, the younger genie crossed his arms across his chest and waited. The expression that washed over his face was more than enough to give strong indication that he would not take any lies either.
In return Taj looked at Rafi with nothing more than slight amusement by the outburst. “Mary is a clever girl, much like her mother from all the stories I've been told by Ana. She will do fine in Agrabah, as well Noah should be retrieving her soon enough. If not today as he was instructed.”
“You answer as a king; why not as a brother? I do not need you empty words of assurance I need you to explain why,” Rafi implored, the anger lessening some to be replaced with frustration. Of all three of them he'd always thought Cyrus would make the better ruler, if that very unlikely chance were ever to occur. He could make one believe a lie without effort, to a point the other would believe everything his brother said was truth and what they had said themselves to be a lie.
Taj was taking this to a different degree, and it infuriated him.
“You want to find Cyrus as much as I do, do you not?” Taj inquired, to which Rafi nodded slowly. Of course he did, what sort of question was that? “Mama has put aside that hope for now, and you can see it is making her miserable to think one of her children is still out there, being seen as nothing more than a magical slave. Here in Wonderland he would be safe regardless of who owned him, as Ana has decreed anyone treating another as a slave shall be punished by beheading.” A bit extreme, but the memory of the Queen of Hearts as well as her own time as the Red Queen did get that point across quite well. It was why Rafi could wander at will without fear of someone demanding to know of his master or mistress, or where his lamp was hidden. He did not realize that, but it was the reason. Along with most who met their mother felt it best to never cross her. “I cannot go, nor can you, to our own realm. One look at our binds and we're both to find ourselves in danger. Our vessels may be well hidden in Wonderland, but silver and iron are quite obtainable in Agrabah.”
Rafi felt his anger fade, and his frustration slip away. He knew all of this was to find the brother who had vanished from Wonderland after Jafar had been defeated. No matter how many sleepless nights he'd attempted to figure out why only that bottle had disappeared from the realm, he always came up with nothing. Unless it was Nyx's way of teaching them yet another lesson. It had been his idea to trick the sorcerer into stealing the waters, one Taj had happily assisted in. Obviously Jafar had done just that; and was defeated by his own blind quest for ultimate power.
“But why Mary?” he finally asked, his voice softer than before as he looked from his brother out one of the tall windows of the throne room. The sky was darkening into night, soon Anastasia would return from the gardens and there would be evening tea and possibly a game of chess as well. A pursuit he rather enjoyed when he visited; neither he or Taj cared for card games anymore. An assumption he felt safe to believe true of Cyrus as well.
“She's the daughter of our brother's one true love; deny it all you like but I believe there will be some connection that will somehow guide her to his bottle. He has to be inside it, mama tried on and off for years to locate him and each time she could sense his magic he had a master, someone she would no longer toy with.” Which was a bit of a surprise to both brothers, considering what lengths she'd gone to with her former partner to locate all three of them. Taj knew she'd killed his last master, once his own will had been released from the man.
Reaching over, he placed a hand on his brother's shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “It will all work out in the end, I know Mary will find our brother.”
The click of heels was heard coming down the hall, announcing that Anastasia was making her way towards where she knew she'd locate her husband. Before she could enter the room, Rafi tilted his head and looked at his brother. “That may be so, but you have forgotten one detail.”
Arching an eyebrow up, Taj couldn't stop from asking what exactly that could be.
Rafi sighed, shaking his head. “Noah is not as skilled in portal jumping as his father; he may return to Agrabah for Mary but there is no way of being certain how many realms he'll end up in before back in Wonderland. Hopefully with Mary, as well as Cyrus.”
I have probably another chapter and a half written in this, I do intend to finish it as I hate to leave anything hanging. Just not sure when I'll get back to writing like I used to. I hope this chapter was worthwhile at any rate.