Passion runs high in the desert. This is a tale of love and deceit. And passion.
When the djinn arrived, some of them sought wives amongst the local Dervin tribes of the desert. The Dervin women were beautiful, proud and strong.
The djinn brought many of them to live in the Shimmering Citadel. From amongst these, the Djinn Master chose his first bride: Samirah.
Her hair was dark but beneath the light of the sun, it looked blood-red.
Samirah was no different from the other Dervin women, though in time the elevation in her position wrought changes to her personality.
She sharpened her tongue on those who were of a lower rank than herself — and as the Djinn Master’s First Wife, she outranked them all.
Servants jumped to do her bidding. Whatever she wished was procured for her. Her rooms in the Palace were more extravagant even than the Master’s.
While some of the Dervin women missed the freedom they had in the desert, Samirah reveled in the beauty of her surroundings.
She feasted her eyes on the bright colors with which the Palace was decorated. After living amongst the drabness of the desert, the Palace took her breath away.
The Master was kind to her. He told her tales of the distant Planes. He wrote poetry for her. And yet, sometimes Samirah felt that she held everything in her hands but his heart.
In her own way, Samirah loved the Master. If anything displeased him, she arranged for it to be removed. Some nights she would prepare lavish feasts for him and waited until it was clear he would not come to her.
He had given her access to everything in the Palace. From the menageries, to the poets, to the gardens, Samirah was free to roam in places denied to the other wives.
In this way, she came upon another woman in one of the secret places of the Master’s home. Samirah became enraged.
Who was she, this rival now seated so serenely in the hidden garden, reading a book?
And yet, it would not do to show her true feelings until she learned more about this woman.
“Greetings,” Samirah said, striding forward with an engaging smile. “I am Samirah. We have not met before, have we? I do not know you.”
The newcomer was frightened and tried to flee, which pleased Samirah’s jealous nature.
“Do not be afraid; we can be friends,” Samirah said.
She sat beside the reflecting pool and patted the ground beside her — ground slightly lower than that upon which she herself sat, of course.
The newcomer hesitated then came and sat as well.
She was young and uncertain, mumbling her words such that Samirah did not catch her full name.
“What brings you to the Master’s hidden garden?” Samirah finally asked.
“I am to be First Wife,” the newcomer responded shyly, “though I am not sure what that will entail.”
Samirah froze for a moment, then said smoothly, “Let me tell you.”
“He is replacing me with this, a callow female who cannot even speak clearly,” Samirah thought angrily.
Aloud, Samirah said, “The Master will seem kind to you…at first. Then he will torture you where no one will hear your cries for mercy. And even if someone did hear, they would not come to save you.”
“That cannot be,” said the newcomer, recoiling in horror.
“There are many forms of torture,” Samirah said softly, and realized as she said so that it was true. Enduring love given without being loved in return was her torture.
Sensing movement at her side, Samirah turned quickly to find herself staring into the eyes of a sphinx.
She reached for her dirk, but the newcomer said quickly, “He means no harm; the Master gave him to me as a pet.”
Samirah felt her world closing in, as though she were being shut into sarcophagus. He had never given her a pet.
Samirah could find no refuge in the Palace. The servants answered the newcomer’s summons before they came belatedly to her.
The Master moved Samirah to other, even more opulent rooms and installed the newcomer in her place.
“In my place,” Samirah said to her mirror bitterly. “I loved him and he cast me aside. For her.”
The beauty of her new rooms brought her no joy, for Samirah realized that he did not love her any more than he loved the lowliest creature in the menagerie.
On the day of is wedding to the newcomer, the Master gathered his other wives and said, “I have no need for any of you now.”
When Samirah begged him to reconsider, the Master raised a hand and uttered an incantation. “But I love you!” she cried.
“You do not know what that means,” said the Master scornfully, banishing them forever.
He changed Samirah and the other wives into the naga, who both love and hate the djinn to this day.