The Merchant and the Afrit

Tomas looked at the Afrit, though his eyes burned to do so, like staring direct at the great Sun in the sky above. “You shall serve me, you say? You can make all that I desire, all that I wish manifest?”

“I can do as you command, to the extent of my powers.”

“You can make me a King then?”

“I could, though not with such a command. I cannot simply snap my fingers and make it so. I am powerful, old and ancient, but even my power has limits, and I do not trouble my mind to search for methods for mortals. You must command me to a task, not a desire. You say ‘make me a king?’ This is not a task. You tell me to kill a specific king perhaps? This I could do. Or you tell me to take you here or there, to bring you this or that, to do battle with him or her.”

“I could command you, then to bring me a thousand gold coins? Or a million?”

“If you did not care from where they came, yes. Though I will surely get them from someplace that suits my liking. Perhaps a sultan with three million coins to his name finds one million missing. Perhaps they bear his mark.”

“Then I could tell you to kill him.”

“You could. I would. Then you would have a million gold coins and a dead sultan. Perhaps his heir would forgive you that.”

“I could have you kill the heir.”

“You could. I’ve destroyed whole lineages of kings for masters in the past. Chopped down families and clans from wizened grand uncles to squalling babes, to babes yet unborn mere quickenings within a mother’s womb.”

“No. No, I think I should not like to order such a massacre.”

“Perhaps you do not truly desire a million gold coins then. Or to be a king.”

“You have told me you can carry and can kill, but what else can you do? What magics are at your command?”

“The magic of the Afrit, mortal. You know of us. Our magic is smoke and fire and flame and ash. We are the king of Jinn.”

“I know the stories, yes, I know the stories. In them the Afrit carried magic swords that spit fire as they slashed. You could make one for me?”

“I can lay in the enchantments, call out the flame in the blade, and set it ablaze, but I am no swordsmith.”

“My blade then? My falchion? You could transform it to one of these?”

“If you so command.”

“Yes, I do. Afrit, make my falchion into a great fire weapon as your kind carried in the tales of old.”

The Afrit held out his hand, and the falchion flew to it. He examined the blade for a minute, then his hand ignited into a white hot flame. He ran his hands down the length of the blade, the rust and wear scouring away at the merest touch. A solemn chant in an ancient tongue Tomas had never heard before flowed out of his mouth.

The blade began to glow, white hot. As the Afrit continued chanting, continued rubbing the sword it ignited in flame, burning bright and hot. The Afrit gripped it by the hilt and tested three quick swings, lofting it in circles in a single fist as easily as Tomas himself might swing a much smaller, lighter blade. Then he passed his hand across the blade and quenched the flame.

The Afrit offered the blade up to Tomas who took it tentatively. He examined it now, restored to its new forged brilliance and beyond, a series of scrolling runes running its length, its steel nearly looking silver. He tested it in a swing—still too heavy to hold one handed as the Afrit had done, but lighter to swing, swifter yet Tomas could tell no less powerful for it. He imitated the Afrit’s motion of passing his hand across the blade and nearly dropped it when the flame lit anew.

Tomas was awed by it. So long as he held the hilt of the blade the flame did not hurt him, he could not feel the heat at all. He passed his hand across again and the flame winked off then back on again. “A marvelous wonder indeed,” the fat Pitr muttered, his seaweed-like whiskers shaking as he nodded his head.

“A merest trifling trinket of my power,” the Afrit replied.

Tomas stood tall now, setting aside the newly enchanted blade. He looked the Afrit in its burning orange eyes, locking his own to its. They looked like fire and ocean set against each other there, the Afrit magenta and burgundy with flames of orange and red and Tomas with his blue skin, green hair and pearl teeth. “If you are so powerful that this is but a trinket to you how is it you came to be trapped in this iron ring?” Tomas asked.

The Afrit eyed him warily, “I could tell you the tale. . . If you so command.”

“I do,” Tomas replied.


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