So very long ago, that time itself had yet to be, the ifrit dwelled within their cities of brass and fire. Their power was great and terrible; they grew wise in strange magics and entertained themselves with the suffering of smaller, weaker things. When time came to be, and humanity eventually became known to these cruel spirits of living flame, they looked with a hungry eye towards the frail, ever-so-mortal creatures, eager to find some new sport with which to occupy their endless days and nights.
Nasrin was a gentry of the ifrit and particularly cruel, even by their immortal standards. Crossing the farthest dunes and passing through vicious oases of barbs, she crossed into the human realm, seeking her pleasures in the torments of merchants caught in greed, maidens in jealousy, children in curiousity, and others still. Upon the Material, she would visit them in the small hours of the night, and make available to them her services, and her vast power, all to the end of granting the foremost desire of each wish, but twist it upon itself in such a way as to bring utter destruction and ruin to the wisher.
Nasrin came and went as she pleased from the Material to the City of Brass, sowing pain and misery with such wild abandon that their broken hopes and wishes rained down like sweet nectar upon the desert sands and that strange, wild blooms sprouded wherever the shattered dreams fell. So great was Nasrin's fame that it became known even amongst mortal chroniclers of the otherworldly, and a nameless, but wise, man conspired to ensnare the vicious spirit in a web of her own making.
For several years, the merchant-scholar pondered every possible avenue of this wish. Every dark end to which the ifrit might bend anything that he requested, and he perfected his words-smith in such ways as never had been seen outside of mages of the highest rank. When all was said and done, the scroll upon which the man's wish was written trailed from his hand to the floor, and its intention, so tightly woven that none of the spirit's malice could possibly slip through the pattern of its threads. While he could not unmake the creature's evil entirely, it was possible to confine her and so limit her power to work wickedness only upon those caught by her seductive promises.
After that followed long months of pursuit, wherein the scholar-merchant followed a trail of destroyed lives, and devastated leavings of wishes turned spiteful and sour. Here he found the funerary procession of a prince who had hanged himself for the cost of freedom from an unwanted betrothal. There, he puzzled through the barely coherent mutterings of a prostitute whose mind could not bear the weight of the price of her vengeance upon the man who had carved her face into such shapes. Still further, he broke fast with a heartbroken father who learned only too late what had come of his longing for his son to return home from a faraway war. Each of Nasrin's sins, he studied within his mind, and within his heart, taking the measure of the noble's monstrousness.
At last, among the ruins of a civilization long since fallen, the merchant-scholar found Nasrin, and, as was her way, she offered to grant unto him the foremost wish of his heart. An offer he readily accepted. When she asked whatever it was he had desired, the young man unrolled his scroll, and began to recite the command he had so painstakingly created. By the tenth word, Nasrin's eyes went wide with vicious seething and horror, for she knew the man's intention but was forbidden by her nature either to interrupt or to refuse. Even as he continued to speak, the ifrit was compelled to fashion out of her magic a crystalline bottle and stopper, and began to pour the totality of her being and magic into the vessel. She shrieked ugly words born of pain and fury, though the man listened to neither her maledictions nor her desperate pleas. Nasrin offered to make the man a king, but still he read. She promised him a mountain of coins, but he still did not desist. She told him she could make him immortal and like unto one of the ifrit in power, but he had no ear for her deceptions....
And so it was that Nasrin was captured by a mortal man.
Eventually, the man became filled with sorrow for his captive. For the first time in her life, the ifrit had been bested, and possibly permanently. She flew into rages, crying out at the man who had trapped her. He did not waver. She would sneer, taunting him from her glass chamber. He did not waver. She would tempt and promise, eventually devolving into begging and pleading. He did not waver.
However, one day, the wind blew just so, from the south; tinged with heat, dry, and carrying the scent of exotic flowers. The ifrit grew calm, and a hint of a smile curved her lips, and it became clear to the man that the things that reminded her of home brought a measure of peace to her inhuman heart. He became entranced, and allowed her to dance among the dunes of Toril's deserts, to savor the fruits plucked freshly from the trees of forgotten oases, content to watch her happiness. Nevertheless, every time her brief respite was ended, she would resume her solemnity and anger, becoming more and more spiteful, more and more hateful. The merchant-scholar's heart cracked softly, and offered her a semblance of release, and wished for the ifrit's hand in marriage.
The ifrit was furious, of course, but, powerless to resist. She then set up a series of labors for her merchant suitor, quests ridiculous in of themselves from the sheer scope of them. She had him fetching from the vines of the deepest reaches of the Cormanthor a fruit that brings certain death with a single taste. He was set to forging, in a day, the sharpest sword in the world from steel alloyed out of elements that had never touched Toril before. All tasks nigh impossible, but ultimately able to be accomplished.
And when he accomplished this, he was transported into the inmost paradise of her prison, and a celebration of nearly unfathomable scope unfolded, merging immortal flesh to mortal bindings...
Narishka slowly shut the book. I never thought you for such an embellisher, father, Narishka thought offhandedly, sweeping her hand across the thick, embossed leather of the old tome.
And the man succeeded, of course. Where would the story be if the protagonist failed? Even if he was trying to wed the antagonist, they painted Nasrin as quite the prize.
Narishka tiptoed her fingers across the spine of the book, and quietly slipped it into her bag, away from the shelf where she had found it. A blaze of pride shot through her chest, and she could feel her heart swell a bit. She was one step closer to finding her mother.
The Lady, the Lake, and the Long Sword
1 year ago