Section 33: On Djinn
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rating: +15+x

Rumor says that long ago, a party of wise and fearful humans discovered a way to hold power over the djinn. They scattered themselves across the land, traveling to every corner of Man's domain. One day, something changed. Some say a member had minced their words. Others claim that they believed their work to be over and retired, eventually forgetting their wish. Regardless, the group and their methods were lost to time, and the djinn have made a slow return in their absence.

I found myself on a well-trodden road, searching for a manor and following a rumor about a nearby vampyre dwelling. Laying at the road's edge was an adorned canteen, the silver image of a tree embedded in the leather. I had never seen anything like it. At least, not in Europe (or in any other area where the civilization of Man reigns supreme).

There are multiple theories floating around as to the origin of djinn. Some believe that djinn are the souls of the power hungry who have been given unlimited power (but only to serve other people) as divine punishment. Their malice, in turn, is petty revenge— scorn at the world for punishing their misdeeds. Others believe that the djinn themselves are the punishment for the power-hungry, who are destined to make a wish in pursuit of pursuit of more power. A growing minority of people observe the djinn's seemingly innate set of rules and their ability to twist words like a knife and assume that the djinn are some form of fae. In all cases, the evidence is inconclusive. Finding a djinn and wishing for more information is (obviously) ill-advised.

As I removed the cap, dark green smoke fled out of the opening into the air above. By the time I dropped the canteen, the smoke had taken the shape of a legless, four-armed man. Although his biology shouldn't have allowed him to speak (for he didn't seem to have a biological spat in his being), words flowed effortlessly from him to me.

Hardly anything is known about the djinn. What's immediately observable is that they are creatures of immense power bound to both their word and their container by some unknown contract. What's noticed by more experienced of us is that no two djinn are the same, varying so widely in size, shape, and color that their existence is an almost direct affront to taxonomy itself.

Djinn take the appearance of thick plumes of smoke or translucent sources of light.While the light source usually appears as a featureless colored mass, there are reports of djinn appearing as dancing flames.. While objects can be passed through a smoke/fire djinn's bodies, doing so is a bit of a faux pas. Djinn bear the silhouette of creatures both known and unknown, and posses limited shapeshifting abilities. While not nearly as automalleable as the changeling, the djinn can exaggerate and minimize its features, consequentially resulting in minor changes in size.

A common way to distinguish a djinn from an illusion or some other magical trickery is to look for their container. Djinn are bound to their containers, always keeping them nearby and retreating to them for rest. While Moroccan oil lamps are the most well-known container, they are by no means the only kind of container. I've seen djinn find refuge in conch shells, barrels, and even human garbage. It's unknown whether djinn choose a home or if they're bound to one at birth/creation. Again, wishing for more information is ill-advised.

"Greetings, traveler." The smoke rippled and shifted as the being's arms gestured. "I see that your keen eyes have found my hiding place. So clever! So perceptive! As much as I hate to say it, it seems that you've beat me at my game."

"Game?" I took a half-step closer, mentally noting which weapons I'd recently sharpened.

"Yes, my hiding game. Since you've defeated me, I must give you your reward." If the creature had eyes, they would have flicked with an inner fire. "Ask for something. Anything. Wish it, and I will make it real."

Djinn are not your friends.

I pursed my lips.

This is so critical that I am going to say it again: djinn are not your friends.

I knew that there was no hiding game, only a plot to make me bring upon my own misery.

They don't offer to grant wishes out of charity, they aren't polite or sycophantic because they like you, they only want you to make a wish so they can turn it against you. They are malice-filled creatures through-and-through.In my experience, this is another sign that they are fae.. If you find one of the few well-intentioned genies out there, you will realize too late there is no such thing: once again, djinn are not your friends.

And yet, the desire to summon my final target, to wish that the bookwyrm were with me so I could finally kill it, had sunk its fangs deep into my mind. I silently argued with myself about whether my wish could be turned against me. Such is the nature of delusion.

If you yourself want to get rid of a djinn, do not wish for their freedom. A soul must always fill the container and uphold the contract. You cannot remove the djinn's shackles without placing them upon yourself.

I abandoned that canteen on the well-trodden road and did not speak a word to anyone until I reached a nearby town.

In preparation for writing this entry, I met with an old friend by the name of Marcio Silva. While he primarily studies the sphinx, his expertise on quick-witted beasts extends to the djinn.

As I stepped into the town, I was greeted by a young woman dressed in fine silks. Her clothes flowed around her like a leaf in a stream, the majority of her face obscured in reds and oranges.

"Huntsman! I've been waiting for you." Marcio greeted me with open arms and a hot cup of tea. We chatted for a bit about life and the surprising paths it can take. Turns out that Marcio recently quit sphinx hunting. Eventually, we decided to take a walk through a nearby forest. I asked him about the ones who dominated the djinn.

"Their 'power' was murder," Marcio finished his tea, quietly slipping the cup into his coat. "They called themselves the Djinn-Killers."

"And how did they do it?"

"The same way you get a djinn to do anything. A wish."

I turned to him. "What kind of a wish could kill a djinn?"

"A terrible one." That word struck me as it came out of Marcio's mouth. Terrible. "So airtight that it left no room for interpretation."

I spoke to her about the mansion of vampyres as we walked the town's dirt paths. She told me the eldest of the vampires (who also owned the mansion) was Count Alphonse. As the day wore on, she offered to show me the town's pub. I had no desire to drink, but I was her guest. And so, I accepted.

"And I assume the wish wasn't written down anywhere."

"If any of it was, then it's since been erased. There's hardly a human soul that knows the Djinn-Killers by name."

"And how did you learn their true nature?"

"I asked a djinn."

I stopped walking.

"You made a wish?"

As we worked our way through the night, our bodies coming closer and closer with every drink she bought on my behalf, she gave more snippets of information. There were either 2 or 3 vampires in the house. The youngest, Little James, was around 35. And yet, he had the appearance of a human but 16 years of age. Every time I made a motion to leave or an expression of disinterest, another morsel of information was dangled in front of my face.

"I didn't wish alone!" Marcio seemed ready to throw his hands up in the air. He kept his composure. "I workshopped it with people. I don't mean to wave the expert card around but understanding this sort of thing is my field. I know what I'm doing."

"Then what did you wish for?"

"The same thing I wanted when I began studying the sphinx. I wished for the knowledge to save people."

All things considered, it was a very safe wish. I couldn't think of any way it could be turned against him, but that's how wishes always are. "What did you learn?"

"I learned about the Djinn-Killers and about what they did. I learned more about your journals, and how you'd be coming here today. I learned about what will happen if you finish them."

"So my journals save people from the universe's monsters. Or they will with your assistance."

"Huntsman, these journals are venomous." Even with his coat, I sensed the tightness in his shoulders, the way he gripped himself so that his lips didn't flail in wild gesture. "If they're going to save people, then what are the dragons? What are the fae? What are the selkies?"

Another verbal blow. "They're creatures that kill when they can and maim when they can't. They're monsters, Marcio."

And as we walked beneath the pale half-moon, I thought more about the way she dangled information like a worm on a hook. I thought about how the drinks blunted my reason when I suddenly found my lips pressed against hers.

"Monsters with societies and cultures and traditions! Your elvish friend… Jikra, they aren't human, but you don't see them as a monster."

"Jikra isn't a monster. They have all the things you claim the monsters have."

"But the monsters do have them. Because 'monster' is an arbitrary term."

I took a step towards him. "Listen here, Marcio. I don't know what that thing told you. I've seen monsters with my own eyes. I call them monsters because when I watch them, I can't find an ounce of morality in their lives. I can't find the flicker of a soul in their eyes."

I thought about how we were kissing in a pitch-black room. About how she'd kept the bottom half of her face covered until this moment.

"You don't see it because you aren't trying to understand a living being," Marcio's hand slipped into his coat pocket, "you're trying to stalk prey."

"I'm studying them so that I can protect people."

I realized that she wasn't a chance encounter. She didn't accompany me out of love or lust.

Although Marcio lacked the presence of a large man, he was nearly as tall as me. His absinthe eyes met mine. "You can't finish those journals, Huntsman. So, so much suffering is going to come out of it. People will die." His poise was unwavering, his voice passionate and composed.

"I don't want to see you get tricked like this." The ice in his blood brought mine down to a simmer as my hand slid into my jacket.

"There is no trick. I don't know how to make you see that."

She was there to kill me.

A flash of silver leapt from around Marcio's waist, severing locks of my hair as it arced past my skull. In the next moment, my own knife shot from the folds of my jacket into his neck. We stood frozen for a moment. His eyes met mine a second time before he fell to the ground.

I drove a stake through her heart that night. I don't know if she had intended to kill me that night, or if she was going to toy with me for longer before turning me into a pale carcass. Thankfully, the smouldering ashes of her corpse meant that I didn't need to find out.

That evening, I buried him not 10 feet away from where his blood had stained the soil. I buried him with our knives and a prayer. To the rest of the world, I relay this curse: if you wish with a djinn, it will be your demise.

Long ago, I gave up my true name. Marcio gave up his life. Do not give them any more.

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