Chapter Fifteen- Heading into the South

As the sun rose and cast a golden gleam across the sandy plains, Ali stretched awake. Barika and Taj gently snoozed close by, their arms wrapped around each other. Malakah was gazing off into the distance, her hands by her side. Strolling to her side, Ali looked over to her face and caught her with a dreamy, enchanted expression on her face.

"I've missed the sun dearly" She said fondly, "The sun in the Genie realm just isn't the same, is it?"

"No it isn't" said Ali, staring over at the sun and appreciating it's glorious shine.

Memories of the Genie realm washed over him. He hadn't been out from it for very long. But it's beauty hadn't left his mind. The glorious green valleys, the trees that were as tall as mountains, stunning rivers that ran through the mountains. Blue skies that trembled with the breeze, and night skies that sparkled upon command. But it was artificial, so transparent. The real world, was far better.

"Thanks for taking me in again" said Malakah gratefully, "Being the Genie of Crazy Grandpa wasn't a lot of fun".

"It was our pleasure" said Ali, "I'm glad to have you with us".

"I just hope, I can help" Malakah sighed, "I hope I can be of some use.."

"You've been a Genie for so long though" said Ali, "Wouldn't you have grown bitter towards the Humans? They put you in the ring after all".

"One human did" reasoned Malakah, "A long time ago... But is that reason to wish all of the Desert Plains killed? No, it's not. I always look on the bright side of things".

Ali nodded in agreement, he found himself admiring her positivity.

"So have you met any of the other Genies?" asked Ali.

"No" replied Malakah.

"Me neither" said Ali, "If what my Grandfather has said is true, I'm a little apprehensive".

"Understandably so" Malakah said, "Not all of them are as forgiving of their fate as we are".

Ali didn't reply to this, he just nodded.

"It's clear to me now" said Malakah, after a short pause, "There was no way you couldn't be Fudail's Grandson".

"Oh? Why is that?"

"Not many have those big soulful eyes" grinned Malakah, "He was a lovely wise...had a real knack for story telling".

Ali smiled, he fondly remembered sitting in the comfort of his small home in Abab, beside his brother and sister, engorged in one of his Grand-father's stories. His memories of the adventures of Courageous Cassandra and Lut hadn't faded; and Ali was convinced they never would.

"When did you meet him?" asked Ali, "He did mention meeting you, though he never shared any details".

"At least 40 years ago" said Malakah, "In Midah, up north...I was the Genie of a simple maiden who had me grant her wishes of grandeur and wealth, but anyhow! He realized almost immediately I was a Genie, for he knew this woman and had known of her prior poverty and previous ugliness. We struck up a conversation, he shared some of the experiences he'd had with other Genies. I hadn't seen him since that day, but I will always remember him".

The two of them, united in their fond memories, stared out in the distance.

"I guess we should get going" He said, heading back over to Barika and Taj, "Wake up, we're going to Ungoliant".

Barika blinked and yawned loudly. Taj rolled over and staggered to his feet, swaying dizzily.

"You two are so cute when you're tired!" giggled Malakah.

"Ugh, all of this travelling will outstay it's welcome very soon!" pouted Barika grumpily.

"So which way are we heading?" asked Taj.

"South" replied Ali, "Which would be..."

"That way" said Taj, pointing in a direction, "I'm certain of it".

The four companions began walking. Ali and Malakah were far more talkative than the other two, who took a few minutes to wake up. There was definitely a good vibe that morning, a hopeful glimmer that it would work out for the best was in all of their hearts.

Taoul drummed his fingers apprehensively on his sword, stewing in his own vitriol. From his position in the hut, he was able to over-see all that was going on. The villagers of Nimiya were cowering before him, knowing that he was in a thoroughly poisonous mood.

"Perhaps, it's for the best" sighed Omana, "That we never got to hold them for ransom. That Genie...he could have done us great harm".

Taoul shook his head, "He didn't have it in him. I saw it in his eyes. Too meek..."

"Why are you so angry?" asked Omana indignantly, "It's almost like you want them to return!"

"You foolish whore!" Taoul snapped, slapping her across the face, knocking her down, "Don't you see? They humiliated us! We've had many people come into this village, many! Far stronger than those three! And they gave us the slip! They burned our main hut to the ground! They killed two of our men! I will not let this go in such a hurry!"

"What difference does it make?" grumbled Bab, "Abid will dispose of them, anyhow!"

Taoul scoffed, "They aren't typical wanderers. There's something about it, in fact, the more I think about it, they probably have survived a brush with Abid. My thirst for vengeance could very well go..unquenched".

A silence fell over all of them, who were gathered in the room, and eyes shifted towards the doorway. Taoul turned around, and looked towards the figure standing in the door. In the early morning light, he lifted up to pull back his hood, revealing orange skin and a devilish smile. Bab gasped in shock.

"If it's revenge you desire" said Ghazi, "Then I have a proposition for you".