One Thousand and One Maidens
by Christine E. Schulze
Alcyb is a cynical Djinn tired of the vanity of life. He is sworn to a Veela, a childlike beauty who soon holds a powerful sway over his heart. Yet she harbors a deep secret and is not what she appears to be...
Thus their days passed — like him, for a dream. A dream he awaited to soon wake from but which he found himself more and more deeply immersed in with each passing day. If this was sleep, if none of this was truly real, then it trumped all reality, and he could die happily in the folds of such a sleep.
Daily, she took him on some new venture. They sailed many times upon the sting rays. They sang new songs to the gumnuts who crafted new melodies for them in turn. They visited the unicorns, sharing the music, basking in their grace, keeping a reverent distance yet studying them in awe.
And each night, he would keep careful watch, only sleeping in those times when she said she must make to the pool to bathe and refresh. He began to grow weary but knew he was too hearty to be daunted soon. He wished to spend as many waking moments by her side as he could — another novel desire for him.
At times, he even forgot she was his master; he felt no longer an obligation but a desire to fulfill her every whim. Many whims she possessed, but all led to some grand new venture or discovery which made him feel purpose, alive, so many brilliant gifts not bestowed him in so many hundreds of years that it was impossible to remember exactly how many.
On they continued, until one night he’d saved up enough courage to make a request of his own: “I do not wish to keep watch tonight; our minds are so connected now, I will sense even in sleep if some danger approaches. I would like... I would like very much to sleep by your side.”
“Hm...” she sighed, then smiled amusedly, pensively. “I warn you... if you wish to sleep beside me, I should like nothing more. However, Veela are dreamers; our dreams are the most vividly real that any creature ever experiences. We can make such dreams so for others, and since you are now so bound to me...
“In my dream-world, I can make all your wildest dreams come to life. But we may embark on some adventures, the ends of which you might not fancy. No one whom you love or hold dear would be harmed. Yet at times, it may seem so. So, if you wish to accompany me, know the risks. But if not...”
“I fear neither sleep nor dreams,” he said firmly. “And I would desire to remain near you.”
She nodded, beaming. “Then let it be so.”
He nodded in turn. “Indeed; let it be so.”
Together, they lay beside the pool. At first, its blackness, shining like blank but piercing eyes, unnerved him. But as he turned away, closing his eyes and hiding it from sight, he smirked to himself. It was just a lake. Just as the journey they prepared to embark on would be just a dream. Unlike the countless, wonderful moments he’d spent with her, moments just like this one, moments so like a dream and yet so real...
* * *
He blinked in the bright moonlight and stood dazed. Shops surrounded him, lining the quiet street. At first he panicked; had something happened to her? Something so terrible he was transferred instantly to a new master?
But then her delicate hand was in his, and with a sigh he smiled. His next thought was that she had warped them somewhere by some hidden power of hers.
Her impish laugh signified the truth though. They stood in a dream. They had entered her dream world.
“Amazing,” he breathed. “The transfer was seamless... it all feels so real...”
“Of course it does,” she quipped, doing a sprite-like dance before him.
“What are we doing here then?” he asked.
“Well... I want you to do something for me.”
He rolled his eyes but did not bother concealing his grin. “Of course you do.”
She pointed to a shop where many creatures slept: fox Thebaziles, platydogs, even a tigerfly cub. But in the front-most window, several white, puffy creatures were wide awake, hopping on large, rabbit-like feet, floating a bit before landing again, round black eyes sparkling without a care in the world.
“Fluffs...” he breathed. “Are they really Fluffs? From the Lozolian moon?”
She nodded. “I have always wanted one to add to my garden. I envy them their freedom.”
“Yet you would seek to make them your captives?”
“Only one. And not a captive. He would be as free as any other creature in my wood.”
“Every creature but me, you mean.”
She laughed lightly. “Of course.”
“So... what do you expect of me?”
“I want you to take one of the Fluffs.”
He started, whirling to stare down at her. “You mean... steal? You expect me to steal a Fluff?”
She shrugged. “We’re in a dream, aren’t we?”
“Does that make it right?”
She shrugged again. “I’ve often thought of it that way and still can’t conclude. If it doesn’t harm anyone though, I suppose it’s okay...”
The pain of his hesitation began to ripple through his body. He flinched; for a dream world, it certainly felt real enough.
She smirked. “I told you I was good at what I do...”
“Indeed...” As was he. Well, no way around it. His mind plagued, dying to ask her more questions about how everything worked, whether they would truly cause no harm in committing such a crime. But the irritating pain nagged more at his weary body than his conscience tugged at his heart. Why did he ever choose to come with her tonight? No doubt when he woke, he would feel more unrested than if he had stayed up all night and taken his hour’s sleep when she, her hour’s leave.
He marched groggily towards the shop, suddenly realizing the true weight of his tiredness, a string of cursings hissing beneath his breath. She giggled behind him, but he didn’t care. He cursed again. At last, he stopped before the shop. The pain lessened to a dull throbbing, and again, he could question what he prepared to do.
He jumped as the command issued as a sharp hiss. Pushing back the stabbing jolt in his chest, he turned to watch her eyes, blank except for a suddenly thirsty gleam, an undeniable hunger. He narrowed his eyes, wondering. Such an expression did not befit her face. The impishness, yes. But not such a complete, consuming hunger...
His own body decided for him. He yelled as the pain struck him all over, and he fell forward, straight through the window of the shop; such was one of the abilities of a djinn, passing through walls and select inanimate objects. With a final curse, he grabbed one of the Fluffs and slipped back through the window.
He jumped again, nearly dropping the creature as she stood right before him, again herself. Impish but innocent, eyes sparkling happily as she cuddled the creature, ignorant of his illegal capture, close to her heart...
He gasped, eyes springing wide open, and he sat up, panting hard.
She giggled beside him, and he looked over, glaring; pain still pulsed dully all over his body.
“So, what exactly was that? I didn’t peg you as the stealing type. Not that it wasn’t fun and all, but it doesn’t seem like the kind of idea you’d come up with...”
“The narwals made me do it,” she whispered, eyes widening as if she shared the most terrible of secrets. He smirked. A child’s game, to conjure and excuse her actions on such fanciful creatures. Narwals only lived in lakes, and the only lake he’d seen was the one near the gumnuts, too small to host a pod of narwals.
But he gladly went along with the game. Though containing a seductress’ aura, Veela were often innocent virgins, naive. They protected their purity at all costs; their rage at foolish men who tried to take advantage of their purity or else their child-like naivety often got men killed. This same danger was accompanied by a child-like impishness and imagination which made them prone to telling fanciful stories and performing impish pranks.
“The narwals, eh?”
“Hm...” She smiled, though sadly, distantly; the grey clouds washed more heavily over her eyes.
“Munya...I have only watched you these few days, but I will confess — already I love you. For that is the way of a djinn. I am sworn to be so closely bound to you anyways... but this is different from anything I’ve ever experienced. I hope you can become more than just my master. Yet in the meantime, if anything is troubling you, if you are in any danger...”
“Sh...” Her delicate finger brushed his lips; again, a desire before unknown coursed through him. “I feel the same. For that is the way of a Veela — to fall so easily in love with the first one to fall in love with and swear total allegiance to her. Because it is so difficult to find such a one... too many chase solely after our external beauty alone. But I am in no danger. Thus, neither are you. So let us sleep and escape together to the world of dreams, where no sorrow or harm can befall us...”
Again taking his hand, she drew him across the arch, away from the pool, out of sight of its glaring, empty eyes. They lay together beside the gumnuts, she burrowing close to his heart. They slipped into the realm of glorious sleep...
* * *
Copyright © 2011 by Christine E. Schulze