The old man had betrayed me. That hurt.
Oh it didn't hurt because he betrayed me. He was obviously going to do that. I was going to betray him too, so I can't really fault him too much for that.
No, it hurt because it had resulted in my tumbling a hundred feet down a pile of really sharp rocks and literally my entire body was sore. If I hadn't broken anything it would be a miracle.
Which apparently was a thing that was now on offer.
"You're... going to grant me any three wishes I want, right?"
"Uh, almost. There are a few provisos. A couple of quid pro quos."
"Rule number 1! No changing the rules. The One who bound me to the lamp sets the rules, and as long as I'm stuck with it, I'm stuck with the rules. That includes the whole 'you only get 3' thing."
"OK. That seems reasonable enough."
"Rule number 2! I can't directly affect anyone except the wisher! No hurting people, no changing their mind, definitely no making people fall in love. That would be super creepy."
"Rule number 3! Wishes can't harm anybody except for the wisher, even indirectly! Anyone who would be harmed gets a get out of danger free card! No conjuring anvils over anyone's head!"
"Rule number 4! I can't create life! If it's dead it's dead, and I can't change that!"
"Rule number 5-"
"Wait, wait. How many rules are there?"
"Uh, lets see. There's... 5, 6, 7 carry the four... currently five thousand two hundred and eleven. Of course, new rules are being added whenever someone comes up with a loophole."
"OK... so rather than going over all the rules, let me check for some things first. What counts as a wish?"
The blue guy gave me a look.
"You're going to be one of the tricky ones, aren't you?"
I gave him my best disarming look.
"OK, so here's how it works. You say 'I wish...', then I do it! I can ask you for clarification, check for typos, but basically if I'm pretty sure you're sure you want it then you got it!"
"And, uh, can I accidentally wish for things? If I include those words in that order in a question will you interpret that as a wish?"
"Whadda I look like? A lawyer? No, no tricking you into wishes. Unless I genuinely believe you intended to wish for that, it's not a wish."
"And what happens if I were to wish for something that's against the rules."
"I slap you on the wrist, give you a consolation lollipop and tell you to try again. Don't worry, it doesn't count for your three."
"OK. And what do you get out of all of this?"
"Like, why are you doing this? This sounds like a pretty rubbish deal for you. You hang around for thousands of years, granting people wishes. What's up with that?"
"Gosh. Well, uh, not much. It's a bit of a rum deal to be honest. I'd give it up in a heartbeat if someone wished for me to."
"Wait, I thought I couldn't wish to change the rules?"
"Ah, you can't, but that's one of the rules! Any master of the lamp may wish to end to contract. It's a thing. Get out clause, so to speak."
"Huh. Well, OK. I'll do it."
"Uh huh. Right. Pull the other one."
"No, seriously. I've got three wishes. It'll take me a while to figure out a good way to use the first two, but I promise that the third wish will be for your freedom if you want it to be. I don't like slavery."
Look, I know I'm not the most reputable person. If you listen to the rumous I've never said a true word in my life. But I really don't like slavery, and this was obviously slavery.
I'm not stupid though. No way I wasn't going to take full advantage of those first two wishes.
"Well, uh, no offence little guy. You seem like a nice fellow, but I've been around the block few times and it's not the first time I've heard these words and it somehow never actually happens."
"No, seriously. I promise. I'm pretty sure I can get what I need in two wishes, and the third is yours."
"OK, well, uh, here's hoping."
He held out his hand and we shook on it.
OK. So I have two wishes. I can work with this. Step 1: Make sure I need wishes for as few things as possible.
"OK, so, lets get back to these rules. I can't wish for more wishes, but can I wish for power?"
"Absolutely! Pretty common wishes. What would you like? Flight, muscles, laser beam eyes? The usual."
"Uh. Can I wish for the same powers as you have?"
"You can! But you shouldn't, because it will come with a lamp attached and let me tell you that sucks. Also genies can't wish for things from other genies."
"So what would happen to you after I wished for your freedom? Would you keep all the current power set? Could I wish to get your powers and for someone to then wish for me to be freed from the lamp?"
"OK, so a) No. I get a huge power downgrade if you wish for my freedom. Still pretty powerful, but waaaay less cosmic and b) No, that would be a violation of the "no affecting other people" rule."
"But can I wish to have the same powers you would have after your freedom?"
"Ah, hm. Uh. One second."
A book appeared in the genie's hands and he started flipping through it.
"Yes that seems to be allowed. Huh. Did not expect that."
He looked up somewhere in the direction of the ceiling.
"Hey, you lot up there. Ruling? You going to stick us with another amendment or we good?"
There was a pause.
"Yeah apparently s'all good. You can do that if you want."
"What would happen if I wished for that? Would that stop me wishing for more things?"
"If I did it by making you into a genie, yeah."
"Ok, huh. So I can wish for having those powers without becoming a genie?"
"Sure thing, boss. The limit's power, not how I give it to you. You just can't be too powerful without a lamp attached."
"Hmm. OK. Lets talk details."
We talked back and forth, my throwing ideas out and the Genie shooting them down or clarifying my thoughts, and after a while I finally settled on the details of my first wish.
"I wish to remain human but to possess power and knowledge as if I were the most ancient and powerful of Genies who had been freed from a lamp. The knowledge should be readily available to me as and when I need it, but should not overwhelm my mind. My memories and personality should remain my own save for the additional knowledge."
He pulled out the book again and flipped through it at a rate that certainly no mortal could have actually been reading. He split into three, and the three of them had a huddled conversation conducted in whispers I couldn't hear.
"OK, boss. This one looks like a go-er. Heeere you go!"
There was a puff of smoke, and the world expanded around me in ways I have no words to describe.
I knew I would not marry for love.
Oh I told my father that I would only marry for love, but this was a pretext. It fit his image of me as his little girl that he must protect. If I gave him my true reasons, he would have dismissed me as being silly and married me off to the best offer.
The real reason I had rejected all my suitors so far is that they were not courting me, they were courting the crown. I was not Jasmine, princess of the realm. I was the realm, who happened to be embodied in an admittedly fairly attractive vessel called Jasmine.
This would be fine. Ambition in a prince is completely understandable. But they didn't see me at all, and they didn't respect my mind or my voice. They listened, and they nodded, and then they thought to themselves how cute it was that the woman thought she understood mens' issues, and there would certainly be none of that when we got married.
And then they were surprised when I threw them out.
I love my father, but he is definitely of their world. He doesn't really think of me as a person with a mind of my own, and he doesn't understand that I want a say in the world and am not willing to marry and become a pretty decoration to some man's ambition.
But love? That was something he could understand.
The time I snuck out of the palace had been magical. I'd met a young man, Aladdin, and he really seemed to see me as a person. We talked about life, about ambitions. We came from very different worlds, but we were able to talk as equals. It was... wonderful.
And of course it all ended when Jaffar and my father had him thrown in prison. I looked for him afterwards, and sent servants to ask questions after him where I could not go myself. And he had vanished. It was clear that "thrown in prison" was a euphemism to spare my delicate feminine sensibilities, and in reality he had been quietly executed.
In private, I wept, but in public I managed to keep myself confined to a sullen anger, let them think this was simply a childish tantrum, and quietly plotted my revenge.
Then the world fell out from under me.
A man, Aahil, came to visit the palace. He claimed to be a visiting scholar, wanting to study in the Sultan's world renowned library. An innocuous enough event that I happened to be present to witness.
It was Aladdin, but it was not Aladdin. He had Aladdin's voice, his eyes, his gait and his mannerisms, but not his appearance. He was taller, older seeming, his hair and his features all changed around. There was no way to look at this man as he stood still and think it could be Aladdin, but as soon as he moved and spoke I knew it was him.
I read a lot. It is the only way to stay sane while confined to and coddled in this extremely luxurious prison of a palace. I had read many stories of the Djinn, the children of fire, and their ability to change their form to their whim. I knew what happened when a woman attracts their interest.
I was in a lot of trouble.
Of course I knew who he was when he walked in the door.
I have studied the arcane arts for years. I've learned to see what the eye can not, and to my inner sight he blazed with power, and looking deep within the blaze I saw the young man I had last seen swallowed by the cave of wonders.
Clearly he had found the lamp, and had used it to gain power. He was smarter than I had believed him to be, and now he was infinitely more dangerous.
I was in a lot of trouble.
My only hope was that he had not realised I was the one who betrayed him, but even without that I was still the one who had him thrown into the dungeon. If he wanted revenge I was powerless to stop him.
Powerless without time to prepare at any rate.
Jaffar had summoned me to meet in his quarters. Apparently he was interested in my field of study and wanted to talk about it in detail.
Hopefully I could pull this off. I knew a lot, thanks to my wish, but I'd never really met any scholars and I wasn't sure I could act like one. I was aiming for distracted and eccentric and hoping that would cover for a lot of the rest.
There was also the question of payback. The man had had me thrown in prison. I wasn't really sure if I wanted it though. It might have been well intentioned, just protecting the princess. Still, one wrong move on his part...
I entered his chambers, and crossed an ornate carpet he had in the entrance way. It seemed curiously out of place, for reasons I couldn't quite put my finger on.
And then I was stuck. My feet suddenly refused to move.
Jaffar rose from where he was sitting.
"Ah, Aahil. Or should I say... Aladdin."
If I hadn't already been frozen in place I would have then. This was very much not going according to plan.
"I see you figured out how to use my lamp and used it to wish for power. An excellent choice! Of course, with the power you've gained comes the cost. You are vulnerable to certain... bindings."
Now that I knew to ask the question I understood. A seal of Solomon was engraved upon the floor beneath the carpet I stood on, and I'd been trapped within it.
And I did.
At last, it was mine. I rubbed the lamp.
As I knew he would, a genie appeared in a puff of blue smoke.
"Hey Aladdin, what's - whoaa you're not Aladdin"
"Indeed I am not. I am Jaffar, your new master!"
"I uh, I'm not such a fan of the word master you know. I prefer... co-conspirator. Compadre. Collaborator in the grand act of wishing. Whaddaya say?"
"I say cease your chattering. You will do as I command."
"Okay then shutting up now."
The Genie pulled his finger over his mouth which disappeared under it.
Aladdin had clearly figured out that wishing for power was the way to go, but he had thought much too small.
"Genie, I wish to rule the world."
The Genie's mouth spontaneously reappeared.
"Well, you see, there are these rules..."
Nobody had mentioned rules in any of the texts I had read.
"How. Many. Rules?"
"Five thousand two hundred and seventy three. Keeps getting bigger too. They came up with a lot of rules for the last guy."
"I see... And how am I supposed to find out these rules?"
"Well, I can tell you them if you like, or you can just keep wishing for things and I'll keep telling you nope when they violate the rules."
"And what rule did wishing to rule the world violate?"
"Can't affect other peoples' minds except that of the wisher."
Interesting. In at least one way the Genie's power was more constrained than my own.
"I see. And if I wished for a vast army entirely loyal to me to appear?"
"Can't create life."
This was going to be harder than I thought. This must be why Aladdin had only wished for personal power - he must have tried these first and found himself unable to make any of the truly important wishes.
I suddenly had a nasty suspicion and realised what my first question should have been.
"How much freedom do you have to interpret wishes?"
He pulled out a book and started reading from it.
"I can do anything that reasonably satisfies the requirements of your wish. I can only do things that are as simple as possible - if you could remove something from the result and have the wish still be satisfied then I can't do that thing. But I can choose more complicated ones if they're not just a more complicated version of some simpler thing I could have done instead. I can't deliberately misinterpret you, and if you can convincingly argue that I inadvertently did so then I must do my best to fix that without violating the rest of the rules. If a wish would render you unable to make such an argument I must warn you in advance and give you the option to rescind the wish. Failing to fulfill a criterion you didn't mention is not a misinterpretation."
I was getting a sinking feeling as I realised just how dangerous making my initial wish had been. Thankfully I had chosen something that unambiguously violated the rules.
"What would happen if I were to wish to have all of the powers you do?"
"I would grant your wish."
"And what exactly is the manner in which you would grant it?"
The Genie looked smug.
"I don't have to tell you that."
"Only questions I have to answer are about whether something is possible or not. You can ask me about the rules, you can ask me if I would grant a wish, but you don't get to ask me how I would grant it and I don't have to tell you."
I sat and thought for a bit. Clearly it would be safer to have the power to grant wishes myself without danger of misinterpretation, but it seemed too easy. Why have all these complicated rules if you could just bypass them by wishing to become a Genie?
Oh, of course.
"What would happen if I were to wish to have all the powers you did, but not to be bound to follow the same rules or be tied to a lamp?"
"That would be against the rules."
Of course it wasn't that simple.
"Can I wish to obtain the maximum amount of power available to me without being bound to a lamp or constrained to follow any of your rules?"
That seemed to be reasonably safe, but I was treading a knife edge and it is better to be careful.
"Is there an unambiguous result for that wish free from your interpretation?"
"Don't have to tell you that either."
"Hmm. What would happen if I were to wish for the maximum amount of power available to me without being bound to a lamp or constrained to follow any of your rules if the preceding part has an unambiguous interpretation, else to rule the world?"
The Genie's eyes flashed briefly.
"Right. I am required to tell you that a new rule has just been added. A conditional wish where any of the outcomes of the conditional violate the rules itself violates the rules, regardless of whether conditions in the wish are possible to satisfy."
I cursed under my breath.
"Can I wish for the maximum subset of your powers that I could have without being bound by rules or a lamp?"
"Can I wish for that plus retaining my current arcane abilities?"
I swear the Genie looked smugger every time he denied me.
This was clearly going to take forever dancing around the limitations of this accursed lamp. I paused to think, and suddenly understood the solution and knew what my first wish would be, assuming it wasn't yet another rules violation.
"I wish for complete and intuitive understanding of the rules and behaviour of wishing, with the ability to foresee and choose amongst the possible interpretations of a wish, and the knowledge of how to choose and create a wish that achieves precisely what I want as long as it is within the rules, while not otherwise affecting my nature or capability and making all the required knowledge available to me selectively so as to not hurt my mind or sanity in any way."
The Genie's jaw dropped to the floor. Literally. It was impressive and very disturbing.
"That can't possibly be allowed. One minute."
Whole shelves of books suddenly appeared and the the Genie split into a dozen copies of himself and rushed around, reading through books and papers. Eventually the shelves disappeared and the Genies merged back together.
The Genie had a sour look on his face and spat out his words. "Your wish is my command... master."
I couldn't believe that Jafar was trying to woo me. It wasn't just that he was fourty years my senior, he was completely unsuitable for it. Even if he wasn't a loathsome worm that I would rather spit on than speak to, he had no political power that would make him a suitable match. He was the exact opposite of the parade of useless princes my father had been putting on in the hope that I would fall for one of them.
It was obvious what was going on. He denied it in public, but Jafar was well known to be a sorceror. He must have found a way to influence my father's mind.
At least it gave me an opportunity.
We were taking tea in my quarters (well chaperoned of course).
He grimaced slightly as he took a sip.
"Is the tea not to your taste, my dear Jaffar?"
"No no, it's fine. It's just... very sweet."
"Oh yes, that's how I like it. You know, the feminine palate and all that. We can change it if you like?"
He took another sip.
"No, this will be perfectly acceptable".
We chattered inanely for a while, him attempting to press his suit, me pretending not to understand.
Suddenly he stood up.
"Is everything alright? You look quite pale."
"I... I suddenly feel"
He didn't manage to finish his sentence as he fell to the floor, crashing through my very best tea set.
I sighed. The sacrifices we make.
"Also, the honey helps hide the taste of the scorpion venom."
I searched his robes, to see if I could find any clues as to where he was hiding Aladdin. Instead I found... a lamp?
I looked at it curiously, and suddenly a lot of things started to make a lot more sense.
I tentatively rubbed it, knowing what was going to happen next, but not really believing it.
And a genie appeared. Of course.
"Yes master, what do you want now?" he said in a weary voice.
Then he looked at me properly. "Whoa, that is a good look on you Jaffar. Not what I would have expected, but you gotta do you. Well done!"
I cleared my throat.
"I'm Jasmine. Jaffar is over there."
I nudged the dead vizier with my foot to indicate him.
"Oh, well, uh. Sorry. Honest mistake. Honestly, that's an even better look on him."
"Wait, I have a third wisher? Man is my head spinning".
And then his head literally spun. It made me a little sick to my stomach to watch.
"So, do you need me to explain the rules?"
"Yes, of course, look, I'm really bored of explaining, here's the book".
He handed me a book. It wasn't small. I quickly skipped through it.
"So basically I can wish for a lot, but other people are protected, and there are limits on how much power I can personally accrue? And you have to answer me truthfully about what's possible?"
He slapped a weird hat on my head and handed me a scroll
"Full points for the quick study!"
"I'm trying to find Aladdin. I think Jaffar did something to him, but I didn't have any way of safely restraining him, so I had to take a more direct approach. Can you help?"
"Well, you see, I'd love to help. I really like the kid, but it's really all about the wishes. I can't do anything if you don't wish for it."
"But I've seen you doing things, you gave me this" - I waved the scroll at him - "for example."
"Parlour tricks. It's all illusion, it'll disappear as soon as you try to do anything substantial with it."
I poked at the scroll and it crumbled instantly into dust, and then even the dust vanished.
"Huh. OK, so if I wished to know where he was, would that work?"
"Yes, absolutely. Although, pro tip, single serving wishes like that aren't very useful. You want a wish with a bit more oomph."
I gave him an annoyed look.
"Yes yes, I know, I'm just trying to figure out what's possible."
"Oh, ok, yes, well that's possible."
"And I can wish for powers? That's how Aladdin got his?"
"Yes to the first part, can't comment to the second. Not allowed to talk about what other people wished for."
"So... what if I wished for the power to instantly know the answer to any question I wanted to ask?"
"Oh that would violate so many rules. No seeing the future, no reading minds, no giving you knowledge about other people's wishes, no..."
"OK, that's fine. What if I wished for the power to instantly know the answer to any question I wanted to ask as long as knowing that answer wouldn't violate the rules?"
"Um. Yes. You can do that. But... I think maybe you shouldn't."
I blinked. "Really? Why not?"
"Because it will drive you completely loco. Instant gratification and near omniscience are both really not what they're cracked up to be, take it from me."
Listening to the incredibly powerful supernatural being who seemed to be looking out for me would have been much easier if he hadn't sound like yet another man who knew better than I did about what was good for me.
"I think I'll be OK. Genie, I wish for the power to instantly know the answer to any question I ask as long as knowing that answer wouldn't violate the rules by which you are bound."
The Genie winced and said. "OK, you got it. I'm really sorry."
A poof of smoke, and I felt a strange certainty settle on me.
My first question was "Is the Genie right about this?"
It wasn't like a voice in my head. It was if I had always known the answer. The answer was "Entirely".
Is it possible to keep this power without going crazy? Yes, if I'm disciplined enough.
Am I? That would be seeing the future, and thus a no go.
Where is Aladdin? Sleeping, in a chest under the sea, bound by the seal of solomon.
Is he unharmed? Yes, but without outside help he will sleep eternally.
How can I rescue him?
A flood of answers poured into my brain. It felt like trying to swallow the ocean, and like my head was swelling like an overripe melon. I screamed and fell to the floor.
Amidst the pain I managed a question: How do I stop this? And suddenly I knew how, and the torrent slowed to a trickle and then stopped.
I looked to the Genie. He was looking miserable. "I'm really really sorry. I tried to warn you. This isn't a safe power."
"It's OK. I just need to learn how to use it well. I think I've got this."
Apparently asking my power for advice on how to do things was a mistake. That's fine. We can still narrow this down the old fashioned way...
And then light. The world was moving under me. I sniffed and smelled a stench of rotting.
I looked around, and I was buried in garbage. That little shrew. She poisoned me. I couldn't believe the audacity. I had underestimated her.
It's a good thing the first thing I did with my new sorcerous power was seal my heart in a jar as a protection against death. I'd been after the secret for doing so for some time, and suddenly it had been so simple that I couldn't understand how the trick had ever escaped me.
And so I lived yet. And there would be a reckoning.
Warning: Trying this strategy with an unvetted genie may be extremely hazardous to your health.
I had knowledge now. Too much knowledge, but I'd figure out how to deal with that. But I was still very limited. I needed to be able to do more.
I started asking questions about what was possible. Can I wish for omnipotence? No. Can I wish for as much power as the Genie? Only if I want to be attached to a lamp.
I gradually teased at the complex web of rules and limitations on what powers beings were allowed to have, discarding plans and coming up with new ones.
I started to realise that a good second wish might take me a lifetime to come up with.
Or... hundreds of lifetimes. I suddenly realised there was only one question that really mattered.
Can I trust the Genie?
Wait, why was I able to answer that? The Genie of the lamp is explicitly excluded from the protection against reading minds.
I started to ask more and more questions about the Genie. What had he seen? How did he think? I could trust him, but what kind of person was he? What did he want?
And suddenly I understood what I of all people should have realised at the beginning.
"Oh Genie, I'm so sorry."
I ran up to him and hugged him.
He mostly looked confused.
"What? What happened? Whaddid I do? Who died?"
"Genie, I'm going to ask you my second wish in a moment. Once you've done that, I'm going to immediately set you free. Whatever happens."
"Oh, gee. I, uh, you'd do that? Really? Wow. I mean you don't have to, Aladdin has already promised and uh..."
"It's been put off long enough, and two people have already lost the lamp. I don't want it to fall into the wrong hands and cost you your freedom."
He swallowed visibly, and a tear trickled down his face.
"Thank you, Jasmine."
Then he shook himself, put a big grin on his face and cracked his knuckles.
"OK, hit me! Wish #2, the last real wish. Lets make this one a BIG one."
"Genie, I wish for this: Give me whatever power you see fit, whatever you think will be useful to me and make me happy. Give me as much as you can without compromising my freedom or fundamentally changing who I am. Within these guidelines, do whatever you think is best."
The Genie turned a really unpleasant shade of green.
"Uh, really? That's quite a lot of responsibility. I don't know if..."
"I trust you, Genie."
He paused and swallowed.
"OK, I can do this. You're not going to want to be awake for it though, so lights out."
He snapped his fingers, and the world went dark.
And then there was light.
What had he given me?
The answers expanded in my mind. It was a lot, but somehow more manageable than before. Was that? Yes, that was part of it. The first wish was still there, but... modified. A bit more manageable. More directly under my control. That seemed likely to be a good thing.
I cast around for what else there was available. It was a lot. Even this would take me a lifetime to explore.
Oh, apparently "a lifetime" was suddenly a lot longer...
I looked around and saw the Genie waiting anxiously.
"Thank you Genie, it's perfect."
"Oh, phew." he brushed sweat off his brow. "I was pretty sure you'd like it. I mean, I knew you'd like it, I've got this whole omnsicience during wishing thing going on, but you know it's so hard to tell and then the waiting and the anticipation and the -"
I picked up the lamp.
"My turn now. Genie, I wish for your freedom."
I don't think he'd entirely believed I was going to do it until I said it. He looked astonished, and then happy, and then peaceful.
His bracers disappeared in a flash, which jumped across the room to strike the lamp in my hands. Afterwards the lamp looked different somehow. Merely ordinary.
"Heh, heh! I'm free. I'm free. Quick, quick, wish for something outrageous. Say "I wish for the Nile." Wish for the Nile. Try that!"
"Uh, I wish for the Nile"
"No way!! Oh does that feel good! I'm free! I'm free at last! Time to see the world!"
The genie was like an excited kid. It was adorable, and completely understandable.
"I still need to go rescue Aladdin. Want to tag along so you can say goodbye before you head off for parts unknown?"
"Sure! It's been ten thousand years, I can wait a few more hours, and the kids a pal! Be good to see him safe."
OK. Rescue. Lets do this.
I see I can move things from place to place now. Can I just fetch him? No. Seal of Solomon. I can't even touch the box without being trapped myself.
The genie too? Yes, of course.
OK. Who can touch the box? Any normal human.
Are there fishermen around? Plenty.
Are any of them trustworthy? I can't answer that.
Are there any who have a track record of honest dealing? Yes.
"OK. I have a plan. Lets go"
A step, and I was at the sea front. I probably should have accounted for the fisherman's reaction when I appeared right in front of him.
"By Allah! A spirit! I-"
"No, no. I'm no spirit. I'm Princess Jasmine. I'm, uh, being assisted by this Genie"
The Genie stuck out his hand.
"Pleased ta meetcha"
The fisherman started babbling incoherently, looking completley unsure whether to run or genuflect.
"I wish to hire your boat and services. Will this be enough?"
Reach and twist and a bag of gold the size of a coconut appeared in my hands. Of course it was enough - it would set up the man's family for generations - but it's not like it was being put to good use in the catacomb I got it from.
Apparently money is very clarifying and the man rapidly found his wits.
"But of course, Princess. That will be, uh, more than adequate."
He reached for the gold and it disappears again.
"Payment on job completion of course."
"It's low tide at the moment so we can't sail right now, but if you can just wait a few hours..."
"I'm in a bit of a rush. What do you need to sail now?"
"Well, we can't get the boat to the water. I suppose we could put a team together but it will take nearly as long as just waiting."
"Oh is that all?"
Reach, twist, push. Suddenly the three of us were in his boat and well out to sea.
"Who else do you need?"
"Ah, my son and my men but they are currently-"
"Right, lets get going."
The genie was looking at me a bit slack jawed.
"You, uh, you adapted to power fast."
"I'm a princess. I've had my entire life to adapt to power. This is just a bit more immediate."
Ugh, where am I?
The last I remember was Jaffar -
Jaffar. I sat bolt upright, only to be confronted by an exuberant Genie.
"Al! Good to see you back in the land of the living!"
"Genie! Did you rescue me? How!?"
I looked at her. To my new genie senses she glowed like the sun.
"How did you - I - what - "
"I don't mean to steal your thunder, Al, but she is a much better wisher than you are."
"I don't understand. What happened? Where's Jaffar?"
Jasmine smiled. It... was a bit of a scary smile to be honest.
"I don't think we need to worry about him any more."
Suddenly the genie's ears perked up and his head swivelled around.
"Uh. I... think that might not be true."
In the distance, dark clouds were gathering.
I can't believe I lost the lamp to that... that insolent child, Jasmine. She will pay for this.
But first I need to protect myself. I am immortal, but as she had proven it was easy enough to incapacitate me. Then it was simply a matter of time to find my heart.
So I have to make defeating me too high cost.
First, it was time to unmask. Jasmine had proved there was no point still pretending.
I stride into the throne room. The Sultan is there with a number of courtiers.
"Ah, Jaffar! I've been meaning to come - "
A brief exertion of power and a wave of my staff. I don't really need the staff now, but it helps.
"You are my slave."
"Of course, Jaffar, whatever you say."
I looked at the rest of the courtiers.
"You are all my slaves."
They rumble their assent.
An excellent first step.
Sorcery is a tedious business. Complex ingredients, endless experimentation, laborious drawing of patterns and careful incantations. It is a difficult and time consuming art. Even elementary tasks like constructing a seal of Solomon are an unbelievable amount of work.
At least, that's how it used to be. I waved my hand casually and Agrabah was surrounded by the largest seal the world had ever seen.
It would keep me safe from that insolent child and her Genie while I made my next move.
I looked around the court at my new slaves. A good start.
I planted my staff firmly into the ground and cast my power outwards. I could feel the world fighting back against my sorcery, but it was now a small matter to push it down. Clouds gathered in response, and there would be a great storm, but it was no concern of mine.
In this distance, first a murmur, then a rumbling, and finally my power had encompassed enough people that he words became clear.
"ALL HAIL JAFFAR. ALL HAIL JAFFAR."
I smiled. Now the real work could begin.
I looked back towards the city and could feel the power emanating from it.
Whose magic was it? It was Jaffar's, of course.
What was happening in the city? I couldn't tell. The seal blocked my vision.
How did he survive? Magic.
I stamped my foot.
"By Allah, that should have been the first thing I checked. I knew he was a sorceror but I didn't think about what that meant."
I could feel the power growing in the distance. This was bad. There was no time. What could we do now?
Ah, of course. Time. Time was much less of a problem now. I concentrated and the world slowed around the three of us.
"Jaffar's power is growing fast. He must be stopped. Will you two help me?"
The Genie looked at me like I was crazy. "Are you serious? That guy is a dick! I owe him some serious payback. Of course I'll help."
Aladdin shrugged. "Yeah, no kidding. I'm in."
"OK. Here's how I see it..."
We'd been talking for hours, going over assault strategies. Outside only moments had passed - I'd been tracking a sea gull that was in the air near us. By my count it had flapped its wings three times so far.
Jasmine's powers were... impressive. I don't know what she had wished for, but she was clearly better at this than I was. And the Genie was free now, which meant I couldn't use my second wish to catch up. Fortunately I wasn't the jealous type. Much.
The key question we kept beating our head against was this: How do you get to someone who has the power to trap you in an instant and is sealed behind an impenetrable barrier?
The barrier was easy enough. You just drop enough rocks on the seal from a great height. Bam, seal is broken, we swarm on through, kill Jaffar.
Assuming we don't accidentally trigger any traps he's left. Or pass over a seal that he's hidden. And that he hasn't set the outer seal to just recast as soon as we were inside.
The time trick would help, but apparently there are rules about that too and we can't move it with us. Moving we're faster than Jaffar, but only like two or three times faster. It wouldn't be enough given the power he likely had.
We had so many powers available to us and they were all useless because defending against arcane powers was one of the few things we were certain Jaffar was able to do.
The real problem was that we knew nothing about what was going on behind that seal, or what his powers were. The Genie was still bound by the rules on what he could say and couldn't tell us what he'd wished for, and the seal blocked all our arcane senses.
So how do you get someone who is protected behind a near impenetrable barrier that they have likely filled with traps for the unwary?
Oh, of course.
You stop thinking like a Genie and you start thinking like a street rat.
The Genie and Jasmine were lost in some detailed discussion of arcane fundamentals and how to bypass seals. I waited a few minutes for them to slow down and when they showed no sign of doing so I interrupted.
"Uh, guys? I have an idea..."
My control of Agrabah was complete. The city was mine, any any attempt to take it from me would be swiftly regretted.
Now for my next priority. The lamp. I waved my hand and a nearby window turned into a picture of where it was.
The shrew, the street rat and the Genie were all having a massive argument. The lamp lay casually on the ground near them.
And... incredible. She had turned herself into an arcane being as well. Did these children not learn? The cost of innate power is that it gives those of us who have earned it power over you.
This would be too easy. I checked for traps, and there were none. None.
Apparently they were just stupid. Oh, certainly they had a low cunning to them - the street rat had stolen the lamp, and the shrew had poisoned me, but they lacked the ability to plan that was the mark of true intelligence.
A now-simple spell and I appeared before them in a puff of smoke. A wave of my staff, and they were surrounded by seals of their own.
They turned to me in shock.
"But how? I killed you!"
"Pah, fools. I am immortal now!"
Grandstanding, I know, but what's the point of having your enemies in your power if you can't have a bit of fun with them?
They both fell silent.
The Genie just glared at me.
"Oh, it's you again."
I picked up the lamp.
"Hello again, slave."
"Can we compromise on servant? Assistant? Aide de camp maybe?"
Something was off. The Genie seemed less sullen and more nervous than last time. I decided to use my wish quickly in case there was some subtler trap I was missing.
"For my third wish, I wish to have the ability to summon any magical artifact from anywhere in the world."
The Genie bowed.
"Your wish is my command."
He waved his hands, trailing smoke and sparks from his fingers. The sparks flew from his hands to me and I felt a rush of magical power.
"Ka-power! Done. No more wishes for you."
I reached out with my new power to summon the sceptre of the Oracle and... nothing happened.
"Genie! What is the meaning of-"
I felt a sharp pain and the world went white, and then black.
The last thing I heard was the Genie's smug voice.
"You know, that was way less satisfying than I always imagined it would be."
The Genie waved his hands and a man appeared. He looked like some sort of common labourer - a quick check revealed he was a miner from lands further West.
The Genie held out a large bag of gold.
"Here, this is yours if you pick up my friends here and carry them out of these seals."
The man fell backwards.
"Lord Jesus! A demon!"
The Genie sighed, waved his hands, and the man disappeared.
A few tries later and he'd found someone willing to overcome his fear of the genie and get us out of there.
I looked at Jaffar under the large anvil that had fallen on him. There was a lot of gore.
"You know, my way was a lot cleaner."
The Genie mimed gagging.
"I know. This was gross. But I've been using the anvil thing as an example for so long, and now that I could actually do it I just had to. I wish I hadn't."
How do we kill him? We find his heart and destroy that.
How do we keep him from harming people before we do that? Remove his head, put a spike through it, encase it in concrete. It won't kill him but it will stop him from coming back for now.
"Well, it's not about to get less gross."
Jasmine and Aladdin were organising the work crews. They still couldn't enter the city proper - they'd destroyed the outer seal five times - five! - before it had stopped recreating itself, and almost every step you took inside the city a smaller seal would pop up.
Fortunately this was no great obstacle when you could summon people from all over the globe to work and fight for you, along with more than enough money to pay them.
The people of the city fought tooth and nail each step of the way, but fortunately Jasmine easily found the rites of unbinding, so "all" they needed to do was subdue people long enough to fix them.
It was going to be a long slog, but there was no doubt they'd get there in the end. They'd free the city without destroying it, and then they'd find Jaffar's heart, and the story would be done.
But I didn't have the patience to sit around for it. It had been ten thousand years, and I was finally free. I didn't think I could hold on much longer, and besides which they didn't need me any more.
I sighed, sucked it up, and put on a grin.
I disappeared in a poof and reappeared next to Aladdin and Jasmine - still can't help the flair for the dramatic.
"Hey kids! It's been a blast, but it's time for me to blow this popsicle stand!"
Aladdin looked confused, but Jasmine understood - of course she did. Nigh-omniscience is great for understanding millenia old slang, among its other less important uses.
"Of course. It's been incredibly kind of you to stay around for as long as you have."
She immediately put the lie to her formal tone by embracing me in a big hug.
"I'll miss you, Genie."
"Aww, shucks kid. I'll miss you too. Hey, Al, get over here. Big group hug time!"
I reached out an arm over the couple of meters between us and pulled him over. The three of us stayed in a silent embrace for a few minutes.
"Jasmine, I owe you big time. You need anything from me, any time, just give me a call. You'll know how to find me. Al, it's been great. I'm really glad you're the one who found my lamp. Ask Jasmine if you need to get in touch."
I disentangled myself from the two of them and stepped back.
"Chow, kids. Sayonara. Auf wiedersehen. Gooood byeeeeee."
One final dramatic exit. No puffs of smoke this time, just the smoke from my exhaust trails as I turned into a rocket and blasted out of there.
Jasmine got the reference of course. Good kid. A bit scary, but a good kid. She'll go far.
I'd see them both again, I was sure of it, but for now I needed to find a way to recover from 10,000 years of servitude without blowing too much up.
It took us more than a month to clear enough of the city to find Jaffar's heart. It would have been faster, but fighting a war without killing the enemy is hard.
After that, it was a simple matter. All I had to do was ask and I knew the complex ritual to unbind it.
Instead I just glared at it until it turned to dust (after checking that that would suffice).
After that, things became easier. The remaining enchanted all fell into a deep slumber. We had to proceed cautiously still, but we were no longer being fought every step of the way and after only another week we had reached the palace.
Which left only the final, hardest, task.
Only humans could invoke the rites of unbinding, so I stood well back as one of our men recited the prayer and waved his hands over the latest victim.
The sleep takes only a moment to pass, and the victim's eyes opened. He looked around, at first confused, and then his gaze settled on me.
Jasmine was incredible. It's not that she was vastly more powerful than me - except the perfect knowledge thing, which I admit I was still a bit jealous of - but power just came so much more naturally to her. I'd watched her grow into it over the last year and I was increasingly awed by her.
Which made it easy to forget that she was also a 16 year old girl, barely a year younger than me. She had been so nervous about finally meeting her father again, and so I had come along for moral support despite the fact that I'd really rather be almost everywhere else.
When he woke up I took a step back and stopped listening to give them a bit of privacy, which is why I was a bit a bit surprised when he came over and started shaking my hand vigorously.
"Well done, my boy! You saved our city!"
I must have looked completely blank.
"What? No. Honestly, that was mostly Jasmine. I-"
"Nonsense, nonsense. Humility is all very well but you've got to take pride in your actions, my lad!"
"I, no, really, she did-"
"Of course, you two must be married at once!"
"Daddy, I'm not marrying him!"
I hadn't even really thought about it before then, but I must admit that hurt.
"Well, not yet, anyway."
I'm reasonably sure if I'd still had a human body I'd have been blushing intensely.
"Oh, but, I thought that seeing as how he saved the city and you two seemed to be on such good terms that you would want this."
"Your majesty, seriously, it wasn't me. Jasmine saved me. I had the idea that got Jaffar in the end, but none of this would have been possible without her."
He stopped pumping my hand and blinked slowly at me.
Jasmine stamped her foot.
"Ugh. Daddy, stop and listen to me for once in your life."
He let go of my hand and turned to her. His voice was very quiet and subdued.
"All right, Jasmine. I'm listening."
"Our forces have freed the city and we're returning it to your control. Which means I'm done here. I came to say goodbye."
"Goodbye? But where will you go?"
"Wherever I want! I have all this power now, and I want to learn to use it, and to explore. I can't be confined to this one place. Agrabah has been my prison for too long."
"But I need you here! Someone has to inherit, and I don't have any other children!"
She huffed dramatically.
"Right! You distracted me and I almost forgot. I have a gift for you."
And just like that, the Sultan's hair began turning black. His skin smoothed out, his belly receded - though not as much as I expected - and within seconds he looked like a man forty years younger.
Wow. I hadn't known she could do that. I checked, and it turned out that I could do that too. Neat.
She disappeared. Reflexively, I grabbed onto her trail. I did not want to be left alone with the sultan.
We ended up in the desert outside Agrabah.
She turned to face me.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you, Aladdin. I wasn't sure myself until I talked to him, but then agh. He makes me so mad."
I ran my hands through my hair awkwardly.
"That's OK. It's your life, Jasmine. You can do what you want with it. I'll miss you though."
She smiled nervously back at me.
"Actually I was hoping you would come with me. I know what's out there already, but it's different when you can see it and share it with someone you, uh, care about."
She held out her hand to me.
"Please? I want to show you the world."
And she did.