[personal profile] hat_writes_stuff
Title: To Be Free, Part Three: Free to Throw Away a Treasure
Author: Almighty Hat
Fandom: Aladdin
Characters: Aladdin, Jasmine, Mozenrath, Genie, Jafar, Sultan, Destane, Abu, Xerxes, Carpet, Iago, Rajah
Word Count: 13,608
Rating: Harder PG than the last part.
Pairing(s): Technically, Aladdin/Jasmine and Jasmine/Mozenrath.
Warnings: CHARACTER DEATH. Also, again with the age disparities (Jasmine is just barely sixteen, Al is eighteen, Mozenrath is twenty; not too bad but not legal in my state), implications of consent issues, violence and the aftermath of violence, abusive parental relationship, a touch of body horror, and again I am warning for Jafar, Destane, and CHARACTER DEATH.

Author's Notes: The final part! This part is not light reading, but you'll notice I didn't warn for an unhappy ending. Further Author's Notes and the full lyrics of To Be Free will be included at the end of the work (not included in the word count), for all your curiosity-satisfying needs.

Summary: Jasmine's sixteenth birthday starts off with a reasonable plan and an engagement announcement, and then Jafar gets the lamp and everybody's plans go right out the window.

Act three of a three-act canon divergence story where Mozenrath an Jasmine met three years before the events of "Aladdin." Contains selected scenes of unchanged or nearly-unchanged dialogue where plot relevant as well as veering off into brand new territory. Covers about twelve hours of one day.




It was Jasmine’s sixteenth birthday, the last day for her to marry and still be within the limits of the law. She and Mozenrath had kept Aladdin up late last night, outlining their plan.

Mozenrath would return to the Land of the Black Sand (had gone; Destane expected him by midnight, on pain of a lot more pain). He might be able to return to Agrabah eventually, but they wouldn’t see him for months, at least.

Aladdin, who would keep up the Ali Ababwa act for pretty much the rest of his life, would marry Jasmine today, after as massive a feast as the palace staff could throw together for as many important people who could arrive in time.

When Jasmine’s father decided to abdicate (Jasmine assured them that it probably wouldn’t be for a while, not until her father could be sure the decisions he’d made while Jafar had been his vizier were sound ones), Aladdin would become Sultan of Agrabah, with Jasmine as his Queen.

Mozenrath argued in favor of Aladdin naming Jasmine his Sultana, granting her some real political power of her own, but the general idea was for Jasmine-- who honestly mostly knew what she was doing-- to be the power behind the throne, helped out by Aladdin, who had a better grasp on how Agrabah’s laws affected everyday people.

Sultan Ali Ababwa would just be the guy who stood up and made proclamations and sat on the throne.

Someday, when Destane died and Mozenrath took the throne of the Land of the Black Sand, there would be a formal peace treaty between his kingdom and Agrabah.

And somewhere in all of that, he needed to set Genie free.

On the surface, even knowing the truth, it looked good. The humble street rat got to marry the beautiful princess he’d met in disguise in the marketplace, live a life of luxury, and inherit a throne. Happily ever after.

Under the surface, it looked smart-- Agrabah got a sultan who wouldn’t overlook the poorest commoners, a queen who knew what she was doing, and… okay, a really long-running con, but as long as Aladdin got used to answering to ‘Ali’ or ‘Your Highness’ (and nobody ever called the Sultan ‘Ahmed,’ so he probably could get used to that, eventually), there was no reason they couldn’t run the con indefinitely. Not a whole lot of work for a really big payout.

And there he was, in his gold-embroidered silk clothes, leaning on polished marble, looking out over shaded twin reflecting pools that were home to a flock of flamingoes, feeling like his heart was made of lead and had sunk all the way down to his stomach.

“Sultan,” he mused, and it just… didn’t feel right.

He turned away from the reflecting pool, trudging back toward the suite of rooms he’d been given to use-- a suite that was bigger than the entire tower he’d called home. The doorway was bigger than the usable space up at the top, where he lived.

Blue smoke poured from the spout of the lamp, and Genie appeared, grinning and expectant and self-accompanying with a burst of triumphant music.

Aladdin kept walking. Somehow, he needed to figure out what to do-- if there was anything to do besides go along with the plan.

But apparently, Genie was looking for a response, and met him walking into the room-- arms extended, fingers making a frame. “Aladdin! You’ve just won the hand of the Princess! What are you going to do next?”

“… If I knew, I’d tell you,” Aladdin allowed, and flopped onto the bed (probably the bed. It was a huge square cushion; if it wasn’t the bed, then he’d slept on a really big footstool last night), face-first.

“Close,” Genie whispered, peering at some sort of soft book, “very close, but your line is, ‘I’m going to free the djinni.’ Any time.”

“Do we have to do this now?” Aladdin asked.

“No time like the present,” Genie offered.

“Tomorrow,” Aladdin pled. “Just let me get through this day-- tomorrow, Genie--”

“And tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. How many tomorrows are you gonna make me sit through, Al? You won.

“Did I?” Because this didn’t feel like victory.

“Uh, well, let’s see, defeated the evil sorcerer, won the hand of the Princess-- remember her, with the smart, the fun, the hair, the eyes? Inheriting the throne, gonna be the next Sultan… Al, if you were winning any harder, we’d have to replace you with Ashton Kutcher.”

Whatever that meant. “Hand of the Princess,” Aladdin pointed out. “Not heart. Just hand.”

“Look, I know these fourth-date marriages can be scary, but there’s a princess involved. That drastically ups your chances of a happily-ever-after. If we can work in rescuing her from a magical curse with true love’s kiss before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday, we’re golden.

“Yeah? You don’t think we’d have to invite Mozenrath back for that? How do the bedtime stories end when there are two Princes?”

“… Depends, children’s library, or fanfiction-dot-net?”

Genie.

“Look-- Al. Aladdin. I swear, I promise, I was listening last night. Just give her some time, okay? Yes, she loves Mozenrath. She might not be in love with him. They’ve been friends for years, she had a problem that could be solved by marriage, he’s… got one heck of a bad master, and I know from bad masters. It’s only natural that a couple of unhappy kids would wrap each other up in their escape fantasies. … And I know from escape fantasies, too. But Jasmine picked you.

Genie’s big hands settled on Aladdin’s shoulders. Aladdin bowed his head, not trying to shrug them away. “Not because she loves me. Not even because I’d make a better sultan than Mozenrath. She chose me because the other option is breaking the law. And…” Aladdin took a breath. “I understand. You know? I’m the right ‘prince’ in the right place at the right time, and I get to win a prize I don’t even want and have no idea how to handle, because I didn’t think about why the Princess has to marry a Prince.”

“Al…” Genie pulled him into a hug, and Aladdin held on tight-- well, tight as he could, his arms wouldn’t go all the way around Genie. “Buddy, I just--”

“I know. You want your freedom so bad you can taste it.” So did Aladdin. He pulled away a little, looking up at Genie. “It’s just that I don’t know how much more I can handle today. There’s all these… feasts and ceremonies and announcements where I have to be Prince Ali, and I have to look at Jasmine-- I have to marry Jasmine-- knowing she’s wishing it could be somebody else up there with her, and… Genie…” Genie broke contact, getting his guard up again-- so Aladdin told the truth, or finished telling it: “If I have to pull off all that, I don’t think I can take saying goodbye to you today, too.”

“… Oh… aw-- Al--” And Genie had hold of his shoulders again. “You make it really hard to stay mad at you, kid.”

Aladdin offered him a solid try at a smile. “Survival tactic. … Think it’d work if used my third wish for everybody’s freedom? Yours, mine, Jasmine’s, Mozenrath’s?” At least it might make Aladdin feel less like a pawn. A guilty, cheating pawn.

“… I think that one’d need a team of lawyers to word it just right,” Genie decided.

Jasmine’s voice floated through the door, sweetly. “Ali! Oh, Ali! Will you come here?”

But she knew his name was Aladdin… He glanced up at Genie, and realized they both had the same suspicious look on their faces. “… Oh. No, she couldn’t call me Aladdin if there’s anyone out there who can overhear.”

“Right, the secret identity. Hey, maybe you can fight crime by night, be a billionaire playboy philanthropist by day!” Both ideas were accompanied by costume changes, but Aladdin had no idea why he’d want to wear a dagged cape with a masked cowl or a weird black-and-white suit of clothes with strangely tight-looking pants.

“Shhh. Witnesses?” he reminded, then called back, “Princess Jasmine? Where are you?”

“Right,” Genie whispered. “I’ll just stay here and pretend to be an innocent oil lamp.” Into which he disappeared.

“Out in the menagerie,” Jasmine answered. “Hurry?” It didn’t sound too urgent-- probably important people, not an emergency.

“I’m coming!” he answered. Before he headed out, Aladdin tapped the handle of the lamp-- hopefully like knocking, not rubbing. “The sign’s too much.”

The little painted sign reading Innocent Oil Lamp looped around the knob on the lid disappeared with a faint jingle.

As he passed by the reflecting pools, he didn’t notice one of the flamingoes was red rather than pink.

And on bamboo stilts.

And had an oversized, tied-on beak.

~*~


Above the palace gates, the Sultan introduced his future son-in-law, the fraud prince. From his tower workroom, Jafar couldn’t quite make out the speech-- but he could hear the throng cheering.

It soured Iago’s mood, but he did live for praise. “Look at them! Cheering that little… pipsqueak.”

“Let them cheer.” They meant nothing-- all they knew of Ali Ababwa was that he’d paraded through their midst yesterday. A flash of finery, a few coins tossed among them, and the rabble were bought, for a few days. Jafar had something much, much better than a simple parade.

It ran on the same magic, though.

He had waited years for this moment-- all the research, all the dead-ends and useless maps, discovering the nature and then the location of the scarab halves, to say nothing of finding the thrice-bedamned diamond in the rough-- but all of it, every second, was worth it for the moment Jafar settled his palm against the curve of the djinni’s lamp and rubbed.

He wasn’t prepared for the singing, belted out in a forced tenor, the djinni wearing some sort of head ornament that covered his ears, holding a sheaf of paper in his hands. “A thrilling chase, a wondrous place, for you and meeeee da da da da dah… Man, the deleted songs from this show are good. That’s like Oscar Bait good. The stuff that gets chucked for story edits…”

The strange tiara and papers disappeared as the djinni realized he was no longer in luxurious apartments fit for a prince, but a proper wizard’s lair. “… Al… did you redecorate?”

Jafar could wait. Let the clown have his fun.

It would end soon.

“This one’s on both of us, really,” the djinni said to no one in particular, drifting down toward Jafar and Iago. “Seriously. Shoulda kept it in the hat. I mean.” He held up a hand, a golden ball appearing in it.

Jafar noted that it was marked ‘idiota’ in Greek, whatever a citizen who didn’t vote had to do with anything.

“What can you do, the plot must go on. Hey, here, catch--” the djinni tossed the ball to Jafar-- he caught it, sparing only one hand, never dropping the lamp. The ball turned black as soon as he touched it, and ‘idiota’ shifted from Greek letters to proper Arabic-- reading simply ‘villain.’

Jafar dropped the foolish thing, grabbing the djinni by the beard, instead, throwing him to the ground-- it was perhaps easier than it should have been for a being of the djinni’s size. “Insolent wretch! I am your master now!” He pressed his foot to the slave’s face, to drive home the point-- and show him what Jafar thought of nonsense and insults.

“You know, I was afraid of that,” the djinni admitted.

“Djinni,” he ordered, heart singing, “Grant me my first wish! I wish to rule on high, as sultan!”

“This is gonna be a long day,” the djinni sighed.

~*~


Djinnis had a little more wiggle-room in terms of granting wishes than of responding to a rub at the lamp. If the master hadn’t said ‘I wish,’ there was room to negotiate, and sometimes if all they’d gotten out was ‘I wish,’ the wish could be stopped or postponed. A particularly clever djinni-- or one who wasn’t worried about what High Chancellor Nasty-Pants would do to his mere-mortal friends, probably while Genie watched-- might have thought to make Jafar the Sultan of Swing, Swat, Samba, or Some Unimportant Rock Out In The Desert. A jerk of a djinni might even have thought to turn Jafar into a living constellation always visible over Agrabah called The Sultan. Sure, djinnis couldn’t kill anyone, but really, you’d be surprised what you could live through.

But Genie wasn’t that big a jerk, and having seen what a particularly bad master could do, and having the sneaking suspicion that if he gummed up the first wish, Jafar’s second wish would be ‘bring Aladdin to me,’ Genie ran with the lesser of two evils.

It just so happened that the lesser of two evils included storm clouds, scooping up the palace in his arms while people screamed down below, and setting it up on a mountain, looking down on the city instead of out over it.

It also included stripping Sultan Ahmed to his skivvies and giving Jafar a big magical costume change, because… well, because he seemed like a ‘big magical costume change’ kind of guy.

He also looked kind of weird in soft white. Not his color. Jafar just didn’t pull off ‘white hat’ all that well. Or ‘lesser evil.’

Al jumped onto Carpet and begged Genie to stop-- which sucked, because stopping? Stopping would have been really nice, but once the wish was wished, it had to be granted. It was like trying to stop an avalanche, or an earthquake, or executive meddling.

Ahmed (not exactly ‘Sultan Ahmed’ now) ordered Jafar to stop, and Jafar just laughed. “Ah, but there’s a new order now-- my order! Finally, you will bow to me!

Ahmed, smart guy that he was, made ready to bow.

Jasmine, spitfire that she was, stepped in front of her father and made everything worse. “We will never bow to you.” Brave kid.

Brave but stupid, at least in terms of not poking rattlesnakes.

“If you will not bow before a sultan,” Jafar declaimed and yes, he was declaiming. That was a textbook declamation, right there, “You will cower before a sorcerer! Djinni, my second wish! I wish to be the most powerful sorcerer in the world!

… Yep. That’d do it. He couldn’t look. Had to grant, but couldn’t look.

“Genie, stop!” Genie was the size of a smallish kaiju, hands like king-sized mattresses, but Al still hopped onto his wrist and tried to steer his thumb.

Not that there was any way to stop it, steer it, or make it miss. Why, why had Genie let Al leave the lamp anywhere but on him somewhere? Phenomenal cosmic power, not something to leave sitting on your nightstand unattended.

Why hadn’t he just promised Al he’d stick around for a while after Al set him free? He could have done that. ‘Free’ didn’t have to mean ‘immediate goodbye,’ no matter how much Genie wanted to see things he’d only heard about (or pretended to be)-- no matter how much he wanted things that would never happen, now.

As Jafar went through a pointy-turban paint-it-black makeover, complete with shiny new +1 magic staff, the parrot called for, “A warm Agrabah welcome for Sorcerer Jafar!”

Jafar finally finished laughing. “Now, where were we? Ah yes. Abject humiliation.”

A gesture of the staff had Jasmine and Ahmed unwillingly bowing, bodies forced into position, foreheads pressed against the floor. Rajah came running to his mistress’s rescue (good kitty!) but Jafar heard him coming and zapped him back to cub-hood.

… Which, honestly, was a lot less evil and a lot more adorable than Genie might’ve expected.

Jafar turned his attention back to Jasmine, creeping all over that poor girl with the same spell that still had her father stuck to the floor. “Oh Princess… there’s someone I’ve been dying to introduce you to.”

Al and Carpet headed straight for Jafar, and Al… oh, Al, Al, who was still clearly clutching the idiot ball, yelled at the guy. “Jafar! Get your hands off her!”

The same ‘you move how I want’ magic that worked on Jasmine, predictably, worked on Aladdin, and Jafar twisted the background music into using its powers for evil, starting up an uncomfortably compelling reprise of the little number Genie had put together for Al’s big parade.

But he seemed to be working from an earlier draft of the script-- Jasmine wasn’t surprised to learn the whole ‘merely Aladdin’ deal, and if Al was embarrassed to be back in the vest-and-fez combo, well, hey, Ahmed was in his skivvies. Genie suspected Jafar would whip up a gold bikini and a leash for Jasmine any second, honestly.

Luckily Jafar was still getting the fear he wanted, enough of it that he didn’t mind the lack of shock and dismay (Captain Costume Change did not seem like the kind of guy who’d take being interrupted during his big villain solo number all that well) and cheerfully zapped Abu from elephant back into monkey, twirled Aladdin through the air like a Cirque du Soleil act-- and then all of a sudden got serious, slapping Aladdin and Abu in a tower and setting the tower off like a rocket-- “The ends of the Earth!” Jafar crowed, and Genie… didn’t want to think about it. He spared a quick burst of optimism to hope Carpet tagging along at the last second might keep the kid and the monkey alive, but…

This?

This was what happened when you started thinking you had a really good master. The closest thing to a bright side was that the most powerful sorcerer in the world only had one wish left.

And that was less of a bright side than a shoe waiting to drop.

~*~


Mozenrath had collected Xerxes and left for home before midnight, told Destane it was done, and once dismissed, staggered off to bed, to sleep on his chest.

Or try to sleep.

Jafar. Of all the dangers he might have imagined rearing up against Jasmine, of all the miserable, murder-able, hypothetical husbands who might have slithered their way onto Agrabah’s throne… On the one hand, of course it was the vizier; he was close to the throne, legally untouchable, wielded the Sultan’s power as if it were his own, and Jasmine had never actually liked him. On the other hand, whenever Jasmine complained about him, she’d always admitted he was good at his job, and a necessary friend to her father.

By the time Mozenrath had to leave Agrabah, they still hadn’t found the man. Or his parrot-- Jasmine, at least, knew that the parrot couldn’t be underestimated.

Aladdin still had one wish left, for all he’d said it was already earmarked. If he were smart, he’d turn the lamp over to Jasmine in case of an emergency, giving her three wishes-- enough to fix anything.

He hated having to trust someone else, even if he owed Aladdin for saving Jasmine’s hand, possibly her life, in the marketplace. He hated having to not only concede Jasmine’s hand, but step away, likely for months, with Jafar on the loose; he was a sorcerer of unknown (probably middling, but unknown) power, and Agrabah no longer produced magic users of its own the way it had in centuries past. And what did they have do defend against the sorcerer who, before sunset, had been the second most powerful man in Agrabah?

City guards, a flying carpet, and an admittedly remarkable street rat down to one djinni’s wish.

And Mozenrath, in his condition, with Destane so furious at him as to resort to a whip, couldn’t do anything but scry, secretly checking in when he could.

Despite Xerxes fussing over him and the fascinatingly assorted pain in his back (the cuts stung. The bruising, which would be spectacular when it started to change color, throbbed. None of it appreciated him moving in the least), Mozenrath did eventually sleep. It was fitful, and full of dreams where things kept being taken from him because he wasn’t strong enough to hold onto them.

He woke late, used magic to both clean his bandages and to dress, and carefully set out to find Destane.

“A slow start today, my boy,” was Destane’s greeting. “It’s past noon. But then, you did have such a full day yesterday.”

But he had a plan for this. “A lot of work wasted,” Mozenrath agreed. “I know my little project upset you, but, Master, what I can’t understand is why it upset you.”

Destane drew himself to his full height, standing dangerously close to Mozenrath. “… Oh, can’t you?”

“I would have been heir to the throne of Agrabah. We would have had a perfectly good reason to conquer everything between that kingdom and our own, consolidating it, and from there it’s only a short journey to Paramoor and the sea. Within a few short years, the entire Seven Deserts could be united under a single banner.” Something Mozenrath knew full well Destane didn’t care about in the slightest-- but it was a more than plausible motive for Mozenrath.

Ruling more than a kingdom of the dead fascinated him.

Destane regarded him, wry and almost humorless. “I suppose the fact that the girl was quite pretty didn’t factor into your plans at all?”

Mozenrath shrugged-- then winced, and the way Destane’s shoulders relaxed was worth it. “I considered it a bonus.” And it had never been Jasmine’s beauty that had made her fascinating. Lovely, plain, or ugly, Jasmine had a mind like a keen blade, and Mozenrath was beyond disappointed that he’d never get to find out what the two of them could accomplish together.

“You are young yet,” Destane mused. “I suppose I should have given you leave to explore certain aspects of youth some time ago. But let me give you some advice, my boy, on choosing a mistress-- and let that advice double as the reason-- the non-conquest reason, you know I don’t favor expansion the way you do, it’s an invitation to mage-war-- I pulled you out of Agrabah.

“Whether or not you can seduce a princess, try to stick to attractive commoners. The particular princess you wanted to claim was a part of another sorcerer’s plan for Agrabah-- that’s just poor manners, my boy. We don’t know who this Jafar’s allies are.”

“Jafar’s plans are dust,” Mozenrath pointed out. “He tried to have Prince Ali murdered last night, but was caught, and dismissed from his post. When I left, he was on the loose, but if he didn’t flee the city that might not last long.”

“Odd. I decided to keep an eye on things in Agrabah-- a day’s diversion, certainly you’ll be of no use for a while-- and he seemed to be doing well enough as of an hour ago.” Destane sketched a rough oval in the air, lined in his signature green smoke, forming a simple window onto Agrabah’s palace.

Or the hole where it was supposed to be. “… Ah yes. Inertia.” A little gesture changed the angle of the image, and Mozenrath had to hope if he’d paled at seeing the palace gone or relaxed at seeing it simply moved to the ridge above Agrabah, Destane would mistake it for his injuries playing up.

That was the point of the injuries, after all-- a reminder that it wasn’t necessarily better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.

“… I wonder how he managed that,” Mozenrath mused, his face as calm a mask as he could make it. The palace had been lifted, like a child’s plaything set on a shelf. Was Jasmine all right? Had the boy protected her? How had Jafar done it? “If Jafar had power like that last night, he would have used it long before now.” Had he sacrificed Jasmine to something for power? It almost looked as though there were finger-marks at the very edges of the palace wall.

Mozenrath leaned forward to get a better look at that-- and yes. Yes, it truly did look as though something had grabbed hold of the palace like a massive loaf of bread and just… picked it up and set it down. Although there were only three marks, not four…

… And when Aladdin’s djinni had taken on the disconcerting form of an old matron to play at being a chaperone, ‘her’ hands had only three fingers and a thumb.

Jafar had the lamp.

Jafar had the lamp, he had Jasmine, and it was safe to say he had the palace if not the whole city.

Jafar, who had stayed subtle and patient for years, now had three wishes of nearly unlimited scope and power.

‘Leaning forward’ turned to ‘pitching forward’ until Destane caught him around the chest-- one hand against his back, making Mozenrath grunt in pain and surprise. “What is wrong with you, boy?” he demanded, shifting Mozenrath upright again-- the image of Agrabah disappearing into smoke. “The girl can’t have meant anything much to you.”

Did she even live? If she lived, what was Jafar doing to her? How long did she have? Mozenrath tried to pretend wooziness. “I--”

It was enough. “… Are you ill? How much magic did you work last night trying to hide your stripes? One day you’ll exhaust yourself completely-- magic is a tool to be used when necessary, not leaned on for every little thing, you know that.” The back of Destane’s hand went to Mozenrath’s forehead, which was anything but flushed. “You’re cold as clay, Mozenrath. Go back to your chambers-- preferably your bed, and well-covered. I’ll send a Mamluk with something warm to drink shortly.”

“Yes, Master,” Mozenrath lied. “You’ll forgive me if I don’t bow.”

“Go, now. Twenty years old and no idea how to take care of himself,” Destane muttered, throwing his hands in the air as Mozenrath staggered from the study. “I swear by all the powers, youth is wasted on the young.”

Mozenrath ordered the first Mamluk he saw to help him back to his rooms, though he didn’t need it as much as he pretended he did while there was still a chance Destane could see them, then collected Xerxes. “We have an errand to run, you and I. But first.” It would tire him more, but it was a necessary risk-- it would buy time. A few sub-vocalized Words, a Gesture, and the Mamluk now resembled Mozenrath in every detail-- except that it couldn’t open its mouth. “Get into the bed, laying on your stomach. Pretend to both breathe and sleep until I come back and tell you otherwise.”

It wouldn’t work forever, and it wouldn’t even work for long-- the Mamluks obeyed Destane first and Mozenrath second, Xerxes a distant third. The magic that made them was intimately tied to the Land of the Black Sand, and they recognized the Land’s ruler. If Destane tried to wake Mozenrath, it would be the work of seconds to discover the decoy.

On the other hand, if Mozenrath survived the end of the day, he might return to absolve this Mamluk of his duty as its new absolute master.

With the decoy in place, snug as an undead monstrosity, Mozenrath beckoned to Xerxes to follow. “Mozenrath in trouble?”

“Jasmine’s in trouble.” If Jafar hadn’t killed her. “We’re going to go help her. But I need… much more than I have.” He needed power, raw power-- and he needed a lot of it.

Luckily, Mozenrath knew just where to find some.

~*~


The end of the Earth was cold, and Aladdin knew he had to find Abu and get them out of there, fast.

… Somehow.

He wasn’t even completely sure how he’d survived the tower hitting the snow-- magic was a pretty good guess. Jafar probably wanted him to die just slowly enough to believe he couldn’t escape.

But Abu’s hat blew past him on the freezing wind, and Aladdin shoved himself up off his knees to look for his friend-- buried in the snow, somehow. “I’m sorry, Abu--” but at least he was alive, even if Aladdin didn’t think tucking Abu inside his vest would really keep either of them all that much warmer, “I made a mess of everything. Somehow, I gotta go back and set things right.”

Stop Jafar, rescue Jasmine and the Sultan, save Agrabah, apologize to the Sultan for lying, free Genie, in no particular order-- but ‘stop Jafar’ was pretty high up the list.

Right after ‘avoid dying in the snow.’ Aladdin trudged along the side of the tower, using it as a windbreak while he could, regretting that his feet weren’t quite numb yet-- then he stepped on something stiff, something that levered upward instead of compacting.

Something rectangular.

“Carpet!” Trapped under the tower, of course, but he was there-- and if they could get him free, they could get home. (Maybe. If they didn’t freeze on their way out.) Just pulling at Carpet didn’t free him-- though it shook some of the ice out of him. “Abu, start digging!” If they could clear away just enough snow that Carpet could get loose…

Aladdin heard a faint crunching sound, even over the wind and their efforts.

The tower, like all of the palace’s towers, was round, and they were on a snowy slope that rolled gently down to a cliff edge.

Apparently they’d dislodged just enough snow for the massive marble tower to start rolling gently down the slope, just fast enough to be inescapable.

If Aladdin had been thinking clearly, he would’ve run for one end of the tower or the other, rather than darting straight away, toward the cliff. He might have made it, or might not-- but he wouldn’t have spotted the window. He wouldn’t have run, have curled up as small as he could in what he thought, hoped, prayed was the right spot-- a mistake could cost him his feet, his head, his monkey.

But Aladdin didn’t have the time to think clearly, only to calculate, to run back toward the approaching tower, to huddle up in a tiny bundle-- and by the grace of what Aladdin had to acknowledge, even in that brief moment, as crazy stupid luck, he and Abu were fine.

Well, he was fine, and Abu would probably have a few choice words for him if he could speak human languages, but he wasn’t hurt. Carpet was fine, too, despite the tower rolling over him, shaking the last of the snow away and gliding over to Aladdin. He leapt on immediately.

“Let’s go!”

He had a stop to make before they headed back to Agrabah.

~*~


For an adventurer, getting through Destane’s citadel would have been a challenging exercise in avoiding death. Reaching his treasury would have been nearly impossible-- likely something Destane would have to choose to allow, as part of springing a final trap. Not only was there gold, plenty of traditional non-magical riches that kept them in bread and meat and boots, there were hundreds of magical artifacts in the room, some collected to use, others collected simply so potential rivals couldn’t find them first. Enough of them could be set off at a distance to destroy a thief-- or to simply turn them into something amusing.

But Mozenrath was no adventurer, no thief, no raiding party out to retrieve a specific item and slip out again.

Mozenrath was Destane’s apprentice and heir, and everything in the Citadel obeyed him as it would his master-- unless his master was present Mozenrath’s orders contradicted Destane’s.

He knew where to find the correct key. Nothing stopped him from reaching the little iron chest, or from opening it. Brushing aside the rock salt and unwrapping the silk was the work of a moment.

Still, he hesitated as he took up the gauntlet.

A vast increase in power and a matching increase in control, but it took a price Destane had never clarified, and the gauntlet’s wearers never lived more than a handful of years after first claiming it.

Raw power that he didn’t know would be enough to defeat a djinni’s magic (how many wishes had Jafar used?), for an unknown price and a shortening of his life… for the chance, just the chance, to save Jasmine.

Worth it-- if Jasmine still lived.

If she were dead…

… No, it would still be worth it-- but not today. It would be worth it later, when his back healed, when he was stronger-- he’d bank his revenge only long enough to make sure he was utterly unstoppable when he went to destroy Jafar, if Jasmine were dead.

The floor was polished stone; it was reflective enough. (He could have used the air, but it was easier and faster on a mirror or the surface of water.) Mozenrath had burned the hairs Jasmine had given him years ago-- he knew her too well to need them anymore, and it had stopped being worth even the infinitesimal risk that Destane might find them. It had grown so simple to hold the thought of her in his mind, foremost in his heart-- Jasmine, Jasmine, show me Jasmine-- as he traced an oval of blue flame out on the floor.

As the image took shape, Mozenrath failed to recognize where Jasmine was for a long moment. Everything was bathed in gold and red, heaps of coins filling the room-- the treasury? It wasn’t until he saw Jafar, in an eccentrically-wrapped turban, lounging on a massive cobra-shaped golden throne that he realized it was still Agrabah, the throne room of the palace. Jafar had just… remodeled.

In a cobra motif.

Jasmine was in chains at Jafar’s feet, in a pale purple dress she wore only on formal occasions. In that room, she stood out like an orchid against a wildfire.

Jafar murmured something about there being no rescue for her-- “Your dashing little street rat is dead, and the sorcerer’s apprentice? Whatever interest he might have in you has been brought to heel. You are mine, Jasmine-- you, and your father, and your dear little pet live on my sufferance, for exactly as long as I find you amusing. And,” he continued, smiling and oily, “I’m quite certain I’d find your pleas for your father’s life terribly amusing. Are we quite clear?”

“As crystal,” Jasmine agreed, her pride as swallowed as it could be. She hadn’t knelt or bowed her head, but she kept her eyes lowered.

Jafar touched his staff to her chin, tipping her face upward. “Excellent.”

Mozenrath jolted forward as Jafar blasted Jasmine with magic-- as though he could reach through and save her, somehow-- but all it did was knock her backward into a heap of coins…

… And alter her clothes.

The bottom half was much like what she wore every day, but Mozenrath had no idea how a choli that brief could stay up. Both garments were red as cool fire. Her hair was swept upward, exposing her back, and none of her jewelry was familiar to Mozenrath-- but the lack of a necklace, and of any sort of sleeves, made her seem alarmingly bare.

Jasmine looked exposed and vulnerable. Worse than that, she looked afraid.

Much better,” Jafar told her-- and Mozenrath ended the spell. Whatever happened next, he didn’t need to see it. He needed to claim the gauntlet and stop it.

“Princess in trouble,” Xerxes concluded, nervously.

“We’re going to go fix that,” Mozenrath informed him, shaking out the gauntlet and settling his right arm into it. Simply slipping it on felt… like wearing a leather glove. He could sense the gauntlet’s pent-up power, but it wasn’t yet his. How to claim it? How to use it? Mozenrath conjured a simple flame and--

Oh.

Oh.

Instantly, he could feel what he needed to do, like a map with the right path picked out in light instead of ink-- gather his magic and channel it through the gauntlet, not simply wear the thing. Let it know him, let it taste his own power, and then it would be his.

So he gestured to bring up a second flame, intending to scale down its size-- but this one turned into a fireball, sending Xerxes scrambling for cover, and Mozenrath crowed with triumph. Power flooded him, power and the skill to use it, the gauntlet now his gauntlet, a part of him, and nothing, now, could stand in his way.

Then the pain started, a tender sting at first, barely noticeable under the dizzying power-- and the aches and twinges from his back. It deepened, suddenly, into something that penetrated his flesh, burning like acid, and Mozenrath tried to pull the gauntlet free, to stop it.

It refused to budge, leaving him feeling as though he were trying to tear his own flesh away from the bone-- was this why its wearers rarely took it off? Did it bind itself to their skin? Mozenrath had a brief moment of panic over what that meant for his sleeve, caught between leather and skin-- would he die mad with fever in a few weeks, or lose the ability to use the gauntlet along with a gangrenous arm?

The gauntlet began to glow, red and eldritch, not the blue-black of Mozenrath’s own magic. He could feel it, his flesh torn apart, muscle by muscle, magic separating flesh and tendon and vein like the tiniest of blades, even if the surface of the glove was undisturbed by motion or blood. The fingertips were the worst, the shearing so much brighter there, sharper, as though it were happening on a finer scale to the more sensitive parts of his skin. His inner wrist felt flayed, the back of his hand scoured, the skin between his fingers scraped and eaten away.

Mozenrath began to scream when he felt his fingernails split, cracking apart under the onslaught.

He had a vague impression of falling to his knees, he thought he heard Xerxes calling his name but by then, everything was graying out.

Mercifully, the gray went black.

~*~


The Land of the Black Sand was further north than Agrabah, technically on their way back from the ends of the earth, and Aladdin decided not to think too hard about why neither he nor Abu had died from the cold, or why it didn’t seem as cold as it should’ve been while riding Carpet, or how fast Carpet made the journey.

He was a magic carpet. Aladdin was willing to take their survival on faith.

The Land of the Black Sand was also not at all hard to spot from the air, and was aptly named-- tendrils of almost glittering black sand threaded into the warm golden sand of the surrounding desert, and grew into a solid inky mass the closer to the center of the kingdom they got. The palace, smaller than Agrabah’s own, sat on a cliff at the edge of the city, overlooking a field of canyons and caverns full of wicked-looking rocks.

The sky was darkly cloudy, and everything looked blue and gray and dead as a corpse.

“Up ahead,” Aladdin urged Carpet-- quietly. “They’ll be in the palace.” Call it a test run for slipping into Agrabah’s palace undetected-- all they needed was a window.

Jafar had wished to be the most powerful sorcerer in the world, and Aladdin only knew one other sorcerer who might be willing to help him.

~*~


Mozenrath woke with a start as someone kicked him over from where he lay curled around his right arm to land flat on his striped back. He struggled to think, to breathe, and finally realized Destane was standing over him, glaring down at him, beyond displeased.

“You idiot boy. Do you have any idea what you’ve done to yourself?”

Mozenrath could only answer with a blast of pure magic-- blue light, no flame at all-- before scrabbling to push himself to his feet. No-- no, he didn’t know, he only knew what he needed to do, and Destane would not stand in his way-- not ever again. “Xerxes!”

Xerxes rushed out of hiding, unarmed, swimming around Mozenrath’s shoulders-- hissing at Destane as he stood, slow and stiff. “Take it off, Mozenrath, before it drives you mad.”

“Madness isn’t on the list of side effects,” Mozenrath said, drawing power, drawing magic, to swirl around him like a cloak. His flames were blacker than they’d ever been before. “My apprenticeship here is done.” He’d give up his claim to Destane’s throne if he had to, he’d see Destane dead if it came to that-- but he wouldn’t give up. He had to get to Jasmine-- Mozenrath was not allowed to die before getting her away from Jafar, at the very least.

“Because you’ve cheated the last exam? No.” Destane aimed a spell at Mozenrath, and he had enough time to feel out which one it was-- one he loathed, the sensation but not the reality of the body rapidly aging and dying-- before burning it away, blasting flames against Destane.

Destane shielded.

“You won’t stop me!” Mozenrath swore, refusing to take turns or play by rules-- the fire was easy, it had always been part of him, but now there was so much more to draw on!

“I won’t have to!” Destane screamed from behind faltering shields. “The gauntlet has already killed you, you just haven’t fallen down yet! Mamluks!”

They ringed the room and Mozenrath cursed himself for not noticing them before.

Of course, they brought swords to a wizards’ duel. They were nothing against him, not now. Bolts of magic rendered one after the other to heaps of limbs, collapsed at the seams.

Destane caught him in the back with a simple undifferentiated blast of magic, but it was enough to make Mozenrath cry out and knock him to all fours-- bleating in pain again when his gauntleted hand hit the floor.

~*~


They were barely inside the palace-- more of a fortress, really-- when Aladdin heard a shout of pain. “That sounded like Mozenrath,” he murmured. “This way-- hurry!”

~*~


“Take it off,” Destane ordered Mozenrath, moving closer with the remaining Mamluks. “Take it off, and we’ll see if there’s any chance to save your foolish life.”

“I won’t,” but it was a groan. He had power, yes, enough that it boiled inside him-- but every time he stopped for even a moment, all he could feel was pain.

Distracting pain.

Destane grabbed at the gauntlet, and it felt like fire arced over Mozenrath’s arm-- making him cry out again, but this time?

The cry accompanied a blast, knocking Destane back far enough for Xerxes to dart in and attack in whatever small ways he could-- a bite here, a tear there, moving too quickly for Destane’s reflexes to keep up with.

But that still left Mozenrath with a handful of Mamluks to fight, from the ground.

He managed to kick the legs out from under one raising its sword, rolling away even though it made his back scream in protest, but had trouble scrambling to his feet until two of the Mamluks grabbed him by the shoulders and hauled him upright. “Hold him!” Destane demanded, cursing at Xerxes, trying to swat him away.

It would have been easier to shake the Mamluks off if they hadn’t interpreted ‘hold him’ as ‘hold him by the outstretched arms so I can blast him.’ It was a reasonable enough assumption, but with one pair of undead hands holding fast at the wrist of the gauntlet, Mozenrath couldn’t help another pained cry as his vision went gray for half a moment.

“Hold on!” shouted what Mozenrath would have thought was a hallucination, if that hallucination hadn’t just lopped the arms off the Mamluk holding his right arm captive.

The Mamluk’s hands loosened enough for Mozenrath to blast it, sending it bowling into a sturdy chest as its hands fell loose. He whirled on the other Mamluk-- its turban pulled over its eyes by a monkey, where had the monkey come from?-- shouting, “What are you doing here?” at Aladdin-- Aladdin, on that flying carpet, Aladdin, alive even though Jafar had claimed he was dead! How many things could an open-ended wish for a rescue grant someone? Still he blasted the Mamluk, giving the monkey enough time to leap clear.

“Saving you!”

Jasmine’s in trouble, not me!”

“… Seriously?” The deadpan question was just enough distraction for a Mamluk to grab the flying carpet, sending Aladdin falling-- but not sprawling, he rolled and came up with his sword held high and his back to Mozenrath’s.

One with his sword at the ready, the other with magic blazing. Yes. This could work.

Destane finally managed to fling Xerxes away, his robes the worse for wear. “Is this still about the girl?” he demanded, exasperated, while the flying carpet wrapped around a Mamluk’s head, blinding it. “You’re both fools!” Green light blasted towards them, but Mozenrath raised a shield at the last moment, covering both of them with opaque blue fire.

“Is that Destane?” Aladdin asked.

Mozenrath nodded, holding the shield while Destane kept the magic pouring-- maybe Destane would exhaust himself. “Listen-- Jasmine needs help, you have to go back to Agrabah--”

“I’ll need your help with Jafar,” so that was why he’d come.

But Mozenrath was having sorcerer problems of his own. “Destane has to fall.”

Aladdin set his jaw and nodded. “You go left, I’ll go right, whoever gets there first? On three?”

Mozenrath raised his left hand and held up fingers.

One.

Two.

Three, and he let the shield collapse, lunging to the left as Aladdin darted to the right, both of them running for Destane-- but Destane was focused on Mozenrath, instead of the street rat with the sword. The burst of magic sent Mozenrath to his knees again, but by the time Destane turned to handle Aladdin, it was far too late.

Mamluks were shambling, half-dead things, their clothing tattered, their skin held together with magic and thread-- but Mozenrath had suspected for a long time that they might have been a standing army long before they were a shambling army; their clothing was uniform and they all did keep their swords very sharp.

It should probably have been Mozenrath who ran Destane through, who pinned him to a wooden column like an insect specimen. It would have been right, usurping him completely, but Mozenrath was panting on the floor while Aladdin held the sword in place, speared through Destane’s chest.

“Name,” Destane managed. “Who… has killed me?”

“Don’t--” too many things a necromancer, even a dying one, could do with a name--

“Aladdin.” Too late.

But Destane said no arcane words, made no gestures-- only smiled, and said, “I knew it,” and was silent.

“… That was creepy,” Aladdin decided, but reached out to close Destane’s eyes-- cautiously.

Mozenrath shoved himself to his feet. “Mamluks!” he called. “Destane is dead. As his heir, I am now Lord of the Land of the Black Sand, and I am your master now. Reassemble any who were damaged in the fight. I have an errand to run and will return soon.”

“Carpet!” Aladdin beckoned, as the Mamluks moved to obey Mozenrath’s orders.

The rug unwound from his victim, and the monkey reappeared-- as did Xerxes. “Mozenrath win!”

“Only round one,” he said, shaking his head-- then swaying, caught on one side by Aladdin and the other by the carpet.

“Are you sure you’re ready for round two?” Aladdin asked.

“I have to be.” For Jasmine.

“You can barely stand.”

“But I can still cast.”

Aladdin considered for a heartbeat or two, then nodded. “Stick with Carpet, if you can. He’ll keep you moving. Carpet?” Aladdin shifted Mozenrath, taking more of his weight, and the carpet-- or, Carpet, Aladdin kept using it as a proper name-- laid out flat, a step above the ground. Aladdin kept Mozenrath steady as he climbed on, then settled himself ahead of Mozenrath. The monkey scampered onto Aladdin’s shoulders, and Xerxes followed his example by wrapping around Mozenrath’s.

“Tell me you at least have a plan,” Mozenrath asked, holding tight to the edge of the carpet as they took off-- flying through the halls far faster than he could run. Faster than Xerxes could fly, he’d bet.

“Not exactly. More like goals. And I know what Jafar’s first two wishes were.”

“… He’s down to his last one?” Maybe he could be convinced to waste it.

“He’s Sultan of Agrabah, and the most powerful sorcerer in the world,” Aladdin cautioned. “Sent me and Abu to the ends of the earth under his own power-- and I figured we could swing by here on our way back.”

Mozenrath’s right arm still pained him, throbbing in time with his heart. He looked down at it for a long moment. “How long ago?”

“What?” The carpet took them through a high window, but Mozenrath fixed Aladdin with a stare.

“How long ago did Jafar wish to become the most powerful sorcerer in the world?”

“Uh. Four--” One corner of the carpet folded up, tapped Aladdin’s hand, and waved. “Five?” Aladdin offered, and the carpet’s tassel imitated a hand, gesturing that yes, five was right, and Mozenrath began to see why Aladdin used ‘Carpet’ as a name. “About five hours ago.”

It was next to impossible to tell time by the sun in the perpetually-overcast Land of the Black Sand, but Mozenrath had lived there for as long as he could remember, and could generally guess by the quality of the light. It hadn’t been more than an hour, and probably much less, since he’d claimed the gauntlet. The gauntlet granted power, and he might have been willing to wager that he, wearing the gauntlet, was the most powerful sorcerer in the Seven Deserts, but Mozenrath had no idea how he stacked up to the most powerful sorcerers in the world.

On top of that, as Aladdin had said, he could barely stand. Still, there were two of them, and Jafar hadn’t appeared to have surrounded himself with guards-- Jasmine and her father would be on their side, and the first person to get their hands on the lamp would win.

“It might be enough.”

~*~


Jafar had turned Agrabah, at least on a surface level, into something dark and terrible.

Jasmine had seen stormclouds before, and they had always rolled in gray, or black-- rarely they looked bluish. The clouds that filled Jafar’s skies were red, flickering with lightning but no rain.

The throne room had been transformed, as well-- from the throne itself to the hue of the marble to the fact that what had been an audience chamber big enough for hundreds was now filled with whatever treasures Jafar and Iago had decided would be most amusing. Gold coins were piled halfway to the distant ceiling in places, and there were rubies scattered around that ranged from the size of her head to the size of her father.

And when Jafar insisted they take a break from obscene wealth, Iago decided to amuse himself with her father-- Jafar had changed his clothes, too, again to amuse Iago. Dressed as some sort of clown, her father dangled on unbreakable strings from a paddle that floated above his head, bouncing him around like a child’s toy… while Iago shoveled crackers down his throat.

“Puppet ruler wanna cracker?” Suddenly Jasmine, chained to flank Jafar’s new throne opposite Genie, no longer felt so bad for Iago’s treatment at her father’s hands all these years. “Here! Have a whole bunch of crackers! Shove ’em all the way down your throat!”

“Stop it!” she cried, hoping she wouldn’t weep, as well, but Jasmine couldn’t hold it in any longer. She’d act as a servant as long as Jafar demanded it, she even understood that this was revenge on them for… apparently, years of gainful employment, but still. “Jafar, leave him alone!”

She let herself beg, hoping it would work better than demanding.

Jafar held up a hand, and Iago thrust one more fistful of crackers into her father’s mouth before flapping off to lounge on a silk cushion next to a fruit bowl of his own, full of an assortment much like the spread on Jasmine’s tray.

But the tray disappeared, leaving Jasmine holding one single red apple. She had barely a breath to stare at it in confusion before Jafar hooked her chains around his staff, hauling her… far too close to him. “It pains me to see you reduced to this, Jasmine,” he informed her, as though he weren’t directly responsible for it. She struggled to put some distance between them as Jafar leaned forward to take a bite out of the apple she hadn’t managed to drop. “A beautiful desert bloom such as yourself should be on the arm of the most powerful man in the world.”

Jasmine was so annoyed and disgusted at the flecks of half-chewed fruit spattering her cheek that she almost missed the moment her chains disappeared-- Jafar turned them into a mirror-bright golden tiara, offering it to her.

She dropped the apple.

“What do you say, my dear?” he offered, eyes locked on Jasmine’s. She groped for something, anything she could use as a weapon. “Why, with you as my queen…”

Her fingers closed around the stem of a very fine glass goblet.

It would do.

The first assault was just the wine. “Never.

Jafar nearly vaulted over the arm of his throne, hand upraised as Jasmine stumbled backward, crashing to the floor along with an urn full of rolls of the finest fabrics Jafar had cared to conjure-- “I’ll teach you some respect!”

But then something in his demeanor changed, the fury banking into cruelty. “… No. Genie.”

Genie, sitting on the edge of the dais, flinched at the sound of his name.

“I have decided to make my final wish,” Jafar announced, and all Jasmine could do was stare up at Jafar. What could he want for her, from her, that his own magic couldn’t do? “I wish for Princess Jasmine to fall desperately in love with me.”

… No…

But Genie came to her defense, or tried to. “Ah, Master,” he began, “there are a few addendas, some quid pro quos--” and that was right, Aladdin had said there were things djinnis couldn’t do-- making someone fall in love had topped the list.

Jafar would hear none of it, jerking the Genie down by his beard-- “Don’t talk back to me, you big blue lout!”

With Genie bent forward, Jasmine had a clear view of one of the highest windows in the throne room-- one Aladdin-- Aladdin, alive!-- had just stepped through, Mozenrath right behind him on Aladdin’s magic carpet.

Four of them-- four of them, Aladdin, Mozenrath, Abu, and Xerxes, all alive and safe-- saw that she saw them and shushed her. She nodded, and thought, desperately. They needed the lamp. All they needed was for someone to get to the lamp and-- then she wasn’t sure, wish Jafar’s wishes undone, or something-- but the lamp was in Jafar’s hands, and they were so far away.

They needed time.

You,” Jafar bellowed at the Genie, “will do as I order you to do, slave!

… Well, Jasmine could make him think that third wish had worked. She took a deep breath and steadied herself.

“Jafar,” she said, as warmly as she could manage. When she had Jafar’s attention-- and Genie’s, too-- she stood, smiling, a wisp of sheer blue silk sliding from her shoulder to the floor. “I never realized how… incredibly handsome you are.”

She settled the tiara into place.

Jafar and Genie stared for a long moment, Genie’s jaw dropping-- halfway down his chest, but Jasmine kept her eyes on Jafar.

“… That’s better,” he decided, and she wouldn’t stare at whatever had just happened to Genie’s chin. No, instead she’d note that Jafar set the lamp down on the arm of the throne-- out in the open. “Now. Pussycat,” he said, stepping closer to Jasmine, “Tell me more about… myself.”

Of course.

“You’re… tall,” she said, warm and low, breathlessly, “dark…”

“Yes…” Jafar prompted, fascinated.

“Well-dressed…” She could keep Jafar’s attention on her for a long time if that was the most he wanted-- they’d only have to get past Iago. “And I love those…” She bit her lip, trying to make hesitation look like flustered eagerness.

~*~


Genie stared at his finger.

Well, it was that or stare at To Catch A Predator, Agrabah Edition, and nope.

Had he done that? Making people fall in love wasn’t like bringing people back from the dead-- technically he could raise the dead, but the results were not pretty and never, ever what the master doing the wishing wanted. But love?

Love was complicated, chemical, emotional, mental, there were just too many variables-- it was different for every two people, and djinni magic couldn’t actually keep up with it. No magic could really do love right. Creepy stalker stuff or brainwashed Stepford stuff or flat out lust, sure…

But Genie looked up from his contemplation of his finger to see-- “Al!” Aladdin, hale and hearty, sliding down the curtains with Abu clinging to his vest, like an almost-fully-clothed Tarzan and Cheetah. “Al, little buddy!”

“Shh!” Aladdin hissed, and Genie zipped his lip and dashed over to Al’s side.

Behind him, Jasmine purred something about “eyebrows! They’re so… angry.”

Genie unzipped. “Al, I can’t help you. I work for Señor Psychopath now,” he reminded. “What’re you gonna do?

“We’ll improvise,” Al promised.

“We? Who’s we?”

But Aladdin zipped Genie’s lip back up again and was off.

~*~


“I adore your… cute little gaps between your teeth,” Jasmine told Jafar, as Aladdin made his way over a mountain of actually really tempting gold coins.

“Go on,” Jafar urged.

The lamp was right there on the edge of the throne-- all he had to do was grab it while Jafar’s back was turned. He crept across the floor, knowing Abu would take care of Iago, with backup from Xerxes if he needed it.

“And your beard,” Jasmine enthused, hands sliding over Jafar‘s shoulders-- one hand beckoning to Aladdin, “is so… twisted. You’ve stolen my heart.”

There was the faintest ruckus behind Aladdin-- Abu had Iago, which meant he was free to run the rest of the distance to the throne.

“And… the street rat?” Jafar prompted.

It was absolutely hysterical, the things Jafar didn’t know.

“What street rat?”

Aladdin reached for the lamp, feeling like he was in the Cave of Wonders all over again-- one wrong move and everything would explode.

Before his fingers could brush against the lamp, there was a clang behind him-- Iago and Abu had knocked over a fruit bowl. Aladdin snatched his hand away, but before he could duck back behind the throne, Jasmine-- Jasmine thought faster than any of them.

She kissed Jafar.

~*~


Delicious creature, Jasmine-- his Jasmine, now, all her willfulness transformed instead into a delightful, desperate wantonness.

All for him.

“That was…” He opened his eyes to look down at the woman who would very soon be his queen.

Her crown, unfortunately, held an unwanted jewel-- the street rat’s reflection. Jafar whirled around, raging, “You!

~*~


“How many times do I have to kill you, boy!”

From Mozenrath’s point of view, circling high above the throne room with Carpet, everything started to happen at once.

Jafar blasted Aladdin away from the lamp, Jasmine tried to tear Jafar’s staff away from him, but was tossed aside, Aladdin shouted at her to get the lamp and tackled Jafar himself.

“Lower,” Mozenrath urged Carpet-- blasting at one of the mounds of coins, sending a controlled avalanche between Jasmine, nearly to the lamp, and Jafar, grappling with Aladdin. Jafar was wearing robes, and instead of using his staff for magic, he was wrestling with Aladdin. It was entirely possible he’d just try to chase after Jasmine and loose his footing on the loose coins.

Jafar barely spared a glance for Mozenrath-- he wasn’t sure he’d seen anything but Carpet-- but managed to fling Aladdin away with a burst of strength born sheer of fury. “Ah, ah, ah, Princess!,” he crowed just as Jasmine lifted the lamp, “Your time is up!”

No!

But it wasn’t a simple death-- instead, it was a massive hourglass, with Jasmine trapped in the bottom, sand pouring too quickly down on her. A death trap, and a glass one, at that, easily broken by someone on the outside.

“I have her!” Mozenrath called, leaving Aladdin free to tackle Jafar again, pounding on the sorcerer as though they were in any street brawl. Mozenrath urged Carpet closer to the hourglass, blasting at the upper dome-- stop the sand falling on Jasmine, first, then get her out.

Jasmine pounded at the glass, calling Mozenrath’s name-- it was only muffled-- but he heard Jafar taunt, “Don’t toy with me!” and Aladdin shouting for his monkey.

Jasmine finally got his attention, desperately pointing and shouting, muffled but audible-- “Get the lamp!”

He nodded, hating himself for it, and the Carpet sped unerringly toward the lamp, laying next to a carved wooden monkey.

… oh.

Jafar raised his staff, and started to say-- something-- but Mozenrath raised his gauntlet and blasted, knocking the Jafar off his feet while Carpet snatched up the lamp in his tassels, soaring high above the hills of coins. Carpet reached up to offer the lamp to Mozenrath-- who at least had hands to rub with-- before a bolt of Jafar’s electric gold magic caught them from underneath.

Carpet unraveled, and Mozenrath fell.

He fell well, and the coins had a surprising amount of give, but he found himself rolling down the slope of them, damaged back and raw right arm screaming at him by turns, leaving him dazed and breathless by the time he hit the floor.

~*~


“Get the point?” And a ring of swords fell from nowhere, cutting Aladdin off from Genie’s lamp.

Jafar cackled, having entirely too much fun with this. Carpet was down, Mozenrath looked… well, Jasmine was still alive, at least, and Aladdin reached between a gap in the swords, straining to grab the lamp-- until Jafar bent down to collect it.

So Aladdin grabbed a sword, instead. He’d had pretty good luck with swords against sorcerers today.

“I’m just getting warmed up!” and like a cheap trick in the marketplace-- complete with the bad puns he was as bad as Genie, maybe worse, since Aladdin understood the puns enough to know they weren’t funny-- Jafar blew out a gout of flame-- but one that turned the rest of the swords into a ring of fire.

“Are you afraid to fight me yourself, you cowardly snake?” He had to get the lamp away, or buy Mozenrath enough time to wake up-- if he was still alive-- or maybe just con Jafar into giving Aladdin a chance to cut him in half.

Anything would work for him right now.

“A snake, am I?” Jafar asked, stepping through the fire unharmed, like some sort of demon. “Perhaps you’d like to see how snakelike--” oh and that tongue was wrong-- “I can be?”

The tongue was just the start of it, Jafar’s shape melting subtly, horribly, into the head of what Aladdin hoped would be the biggest cobra he’d ever see in his life.

~*~


Mozenrath came to his senses just in time to see Jafar complete his transformation into a massive snake.

“… That… that never helps,” he muttered-- but got to his knees, then his feet, ignoring the fact that he felt sticky in a few very suspect places. Enough sand had fallen into Jasmine’s hourglass that Mozenrath grabbed the nearest blunt instrument-- a solid gold hookah, one of a hundred random treasures in the heap-- and struck hard at its base, under the weight of the sand.

That Jasmine was watching Aladdin didn’t matter. It was probably pretty hard to look away from the giant cobra, and Mozenrath had crept up behind her, where the sand was piled highest. What mattered was the force of the sand pushing the shattered glass outward, toward Mozenrath’s booted feet, instead of inward over Jasmine’s unprotected shoulders.

Jafar was briefly distracted by Genie’s nonsense, enough to cover the shattering as sand and glass poured over Mozenrath’s boots, Jasmine stumbling backwards as the sand burying her legs shifted-- then climbing incautiously through the shattered bulb, arms tight but careful around Mozenrath’s shoulders.

His left arm wrapped around her waist, cheek to her hair. “Where’s the lamp?”

“I don’t know.” They both flinched as Jafar tore through pillars to try to chase Aladdin out onto-- or out over-- the balcony. “He had it when he changed.”

Outside, Jafar screamed, and Aladdin ran back inside toward the hourglass at top speed-- only to be trapped in Jafar’s coils.

“We have to find it,” Jasmine whispered.

“Now, while he’s focused,” Mozenrath agreed shoving her-- gently-- away. Jasmine to the right, Mozenrath to the left.

It had worked before.

~*~


“You little fool,” Jafar chortled, coils tightening around Aladdin as he struggled. “You thought you could defeat the most powerful being on Earth? Without the djinni, boy, you’re nothing.”

But even as Aladdin struggled to keep from being crushed-- Jafar had luckily gone for poison, which he hadn’t used, instead of a good strangler in his choice of snake-- there was something… something to that. “The djinni… The djinni has more power than you’ll ever have,” he taunted Jafar.

What?

“He gave you your power-- he can take it away!” That had been the plan, honestly-- get the lamp away from Jafar and to Mozenrath, who’d wish for Jafar’s first two wishes to be completely undone.

And probably for his own injuries to be healed.

“Al,” Genie said, like someone trying to avoid getting dragged into a friend’s senseless fight, “What are you doing? Why are you bringing me into this?”

“Face it, Jafar,” Aladdin shouted, “You’re still just second best.” He’d bet Jafar had hated that, all those years of being vizier-- being the second most powerful man in the kingdom. … In fact, he’d just bet all their lives on it. If Jafar didn’t take the bait…

“You’re right.” Good-- insanely powerful as he was, Jafar still wanted more power. “His power does exceed my own-- but not for long.” Jafar slithered down to face Genie. Aladdin watched desperately from where Jafar still held him, too tight to escape but not so tight he was worried about broken hips. Jafar could still make the wrong wish.

… Jasmine and Mozenrath were loose, and alive, half-hidden in the coins and searching for the lamp.

“The boy’s crazy,” Genie said, forcing a chuckle. “A little punch-drunk. One too many hits with the snake.”

Jafar looped his coils loosely around Genie, almost looking relaxed until he bellowed, “Slave! I make my third wish. I wish to be an all powerful djinni!”

… Hook, line, and sinker.

Jasmine turned to stare, aghast, and Mozenrath stumbled and sat heavily-- neither breathed a word.

“… All right,” Genie said, hopelessly, “Your wish is my command.” He muttered something else Aladdin couldn’t quite catch before raising his hand to grant the wish.

Jafar’s hooded cobra head shifted into the broad-shouldered, barrel-chested torso of a djinni-- all in red, just like everything Jafar had conjured that wasn’t solid gold. His coils disappeared into trails of smoke, and Aladdin hit the ground running, met at Mozenrath’s side by Jasmine.

There was blood creeping up Mozenrath’s sleeve, under his new glove.

“I’m fine,” Mozenrath lied, as Jafar pushed his way through the high dome of the throne room.

The absolute power!” Jafar exulted.

“What have you done?” Jasmine demanded, helping Aladdin get Mozenrath to his feet, away from falling chunks of ceiling.

“Trust me!” When Jasmine and Mozenrath were out of the worst of it, Aladdin ran back to where Jafar’s smoky tail trailed off, still surrounded by whirling magic.

It would work.

He just had to hope Jafar wouldn’t bring the whole palace down on their heads first.

“The universe is mine to command-- to control!” Jafar bellowed.

The magic stopped whirling, resolving into a black oil lamp-- harder, harsher lines than Genie’s. Perfect. “Aren’t you forgetting something, Jafar?” Aladdin called up through the shattered roof. He looked down at Aladdin, perplexed. “You wanted to be a djinni? You got it!” As if on cue-- maybe it was on cue, djinni magic seemed to work that way, sometimes-- manacles clamped themselves around Jafar’s wrists-- seamless, just like Genie’s, only one way to get them off. “And everything that goes with it!”

Jafar bellowed in protest, managing to catch hold of Iago as the parrot tried to flee-- the two screaming and squabbling with each other-- “Phenomenal cosmic power!” Aladdin shouted over the last of the din--

And then Jafar and Iago were gone, pulled into the lamp, their argument muffled and tinny. “Itty bitty living space,” Aladdin concluded, grinning.

Genie reached out and ruffled his hair. “Al-- you little genius, you!”

~*~


So.

There were freebies, and then there were freebies. Aladdin had tricked Genie into, effectively, one free wish-- getting out of the Cave of Wonders. Technically, when Al had wished to become a prince, Genie could have just said poof, you’re a prince, maybe with a little light show, and that would’ve been that-- but the idea of a prince needed more and Genie was feeling pretty generous, what with the whole promise of his own freedom, so Genie got out his bedazzler and started the whole Prince Ali Ababwa shtick.

And then there were the freebies that… barely counted, because they were just doing things that just wanted to happen next-- logically or just emotionally. Narrative causality freebies. Like how the glass slippers never turn back into wooden clogs at midnight with the rest of the formalwear, because the story needs them for a later scene.

Hitting the reset button on Jafar’s sorcerous doings, putting everything back the way it was?

Narrative causality freebie. Easily slipped in there not because anyone had burned a wish on it, but because it should have happened, and was easy enough to tack onto the backwash of Jafar’s ‘whoops I accidentally a djinni’ wish.

So, the crazy psychotropic weather went away (leaving a late afternoon that was shaping up to be a beautiful sunset), Abu no longer qualified for a part in Toy Story, Carpet’s weave got restored, Ahmed not only got to be the Sultan of Agrabah again, but got his old duds back (turns out Xerxes had spent the fight trying to chew through the Sultan’s puppet strings so he could make a couple grabs for the lamp, too), Jasmine got a change of clothes and importantly, magical mouthwash for that minty-fresh ‘no evil aftertaste’ breath, Rajah aged back up to where he should be, the palace was not only magically transported back where it belonged, but got put back exactly as it had been, no cobras in the décor or giant snake damage or cracks in the foundation, and Genie cheated just a tiny bit and in patching up everybody’s bruises or pre-bruises, also healed the worst of Mozenrath’s injuries. There’d be scars, but they’d be faint.

As for Jafar himself?

Genie couldn’t help listening into the bickering with Al for a minute. It was a little muffled, Jafar and Iago fighting like cats and dogs about elbow room and unfortunate smells, but totally worth a giggle. Apparently, Jafar’s lamp wasn’t big enough for two.

“Allow me?” he said, relieving Al of the black lamp. “Ten thousand years in a Cave of Wonders ought to chill him out…” And, big as Genie had gotten to get enough range, despite the dramatic wind-up, all it really took was one magic-assisted flick.

And… then things got a little complicated.

“Marry me,” Mozenrath blurted, graceless and desperate and holding onto Jasmine’s hands like he was afraid she’d disappear.

“… I beg your pardon?” the Sultan spluttered, but Jasmine only spared a glance for her father protesting.

… Probably reasonable to protest a little, too. After all, the last he knew, his baby girl was engaged to the street rat formerly known as prince.

“What about Destane?” Jasmine asked, and Mozenrath shook his head.

“He can’t stop us now.”

“… What did you--” But Jasmine shook her head. “Yes. Yes, I will marry you, Mozenrath-- you have no idea how long I’ve wanted you to ask me.”

“… I’d guess about as long as I’ve wished I was free to ask you.” He wrapped Jasmine up tight in his arms-- careful of the right one. Maybe it was still sore, but Genie couldn’t sneak in anything more now.

The Sultan looked over at Aladdin. “Don’t you have anything to say about this?” Genie thought it was more curious than accusing, but Aladdin stood up a little straighter anyway.

“I do. When we were on our way to Agrabah, I found out we were thinking about this whole thing differently-- me and Mozenrath. I wanted to stop Jafar-- and keep a promise,” he added, nodding to Genie. “All Mozenrath could think about was Princess Jasmine. So, uh. … Congratulations?”

“… I never wanted any of this to hurt you,” Jasmine told Al-- but she didn’t pull away from Mozenrath, who didn’t let her go. “I know what you went through for me.”

“I went through it for a fair chance with you. I had that.” Which was… wow. Genie would be a lot more bitter at losing the girl to another guy. Al really was a diamond in the rough. “Besides, I’m not really eligible anymore.”

“You’ve got one wish left, Al,” Genie offered. “I can fix that-- just say the word and we can get that prince wish back in business.”

“Genie, they love each other. Even if I really were a prince, it wouldn’t be right to get in the way of that. Besides, I wish for your freedom.”

“-- wait what?”

“Genie, you’re free,” Aladdin declared, deliberately, thrusting the lamp forward.

And it was magical. Everyone else watched the effects, but Genie could feel it, a granting that seemed to come from outside as well as in. The lamp was still tied to him, but he wasn’t tied to obey, not anymore. There was a lightness, a suddenness-- a loss of power, but who cared? His manacles opened, fell away, and disappeared.

He actually felt kind of naked without them, but ten thousand years et cetera.

And for the first time, for the first time ever, without cheating and using something else to lift it, Genie picked up his lamp.

It was packed full of magic-- he’d need to keep it safe, and it could still be home, a hiding place… but it wouldn’t ever be a prison again.

“I’m free,” he breathed. “I’m free.” But he had to test it. “Quick--quick, wish for something outrageous,” he said, shoving the lamp back into Aladdin’s hands. “Say ‘I want the Nile,’ wish for the Nile, try that.”

“… Uh, I wish for the Nile,” Al offered, bewildered but obedient.

“No way!” Genie crowed, and meant it-- not only meant it but didn’t have to do it anyway! There was no urge, no compulsion, no irresistible burst of magic-- “Oh does that feel good!” and if he was cackling, it was at least gleefully, not maniacally, as he bounced from balcony to pillar to lintel and back, everything lit up like a pinball machine. “I’m free! I’m free at last! I’m hittin’ the road,” he decided, and started throwing things that hadn’t existed a moment before into a suitcase that hadn’t existed a moment before, “I’m off to see the world, I’m--”

… And there was Al.

Al, who’d gone through everything-- the rough life on the streets, the Cave of Wonders, the wacky emotional roller coaster that was courting Princess Jasmine, the ends of the earth, whatever happened when he stopped to pick up Kid Power Glove, saving everybody from Jafar… And what did he have to show for it? His wishes hadn’t left him with anything but memories and his life, he hadn’t gotten the girl, and yet there he was, smiling up at Genie like Genie was the most important person in the world, like Al’s heart was about to break or burst.

And this morning, he said he didn’t want to say goodbye to Genie today.

“Genie,” he started, awkwardly, running a hand through his hair. “I’m gonna… miss you.”

“Me too, Al,” Genie admitted, quietly, drawing Aladdin into a hug.

“Is there some pressing reason,” Mozenrath started, and Genie looked over to see… a very weird happy couple, Jasmine’s eyes as wet as Genie’s, and the two lovebirds each with a hand freed to pay attention to each other’s pets, “that Aladdin couldn’t go with you?”

Genie looked at Al.

Like the abyss, Al looked back.

“Would you want to? It’s not like I have a plan, I’m making up for millennia of seeing pretty close to nothing, here…”

“I-- I’d need to make a stop first, but… I don’t really have any plans for the rest of my life,” Al agreed.

That could’ve sounded really depressing.

The way Al said it, it came out hopeful.

“Road trip!” Genie declared. “Don’t forget the monkey! Rug-man, you in?” he asked Carpet, who nodded (sort of nodded) enthusiastically.

“Now, just a moment!”

… Oh right.

The Sultan.

If Genie sort of edged between Al and the Sultan, well, that was probably a figment of somebody’s imagination.

“Father,” Jasmine protested. Could’ve been ‘scolded’ or even ‘admonished,’ but she was definitely starting with ‘protested.’

“Now, the two of you,” the Sultan said to Jasmine and Mozenrath-- then just pointed at Mozenrath. “Young man, I have questions. But they can wait-- the two of you have my permission to marry, and my blessing.” Jasmine deflated, and Mozenrath sagged in relief. “As for you, Aladdin,” the Sultan began, and Jasmine puffed back up again-- so did Genie, a little. “I obviously cannot offer you my daughter’s hand in marriage, despite it being traditional in this sort of situation. But whatever else you have done or been through, whatever your station in life, today, you have saved my daughter, myself, and my kingdom from a madman, and used your last wish to grant someone else’s deepest desire.

“In light of your bravery, your quick thinking, and your remarkable willingness to see to the happiness of others before your own, I grant you a royal favor, Aladdin,” the Sultan concluded, “anything you ask for, if it is in my power to give, you shall have.”

Al gave it some thought. Some deep thought, and all Genie could really do was keep a hand on his shoulder.

“The sun’s going down,” Aladdin said after a moment.

“So it is,” the Sultan agreed.

“If you try to get Mozenrath through a wedding before Jasmine’s-- Princess Jasmine’s sixteenth birthday ends, he’s going to fall over.”

“… I wish I could argue with that,” Mozenrath agreed.

“What are you asking, my boy?” the Sultan asked, and frankly, Genie was a little confused, himself.

“If I can ask you to do one thing within your power, Your Majesty, I ask you to change the marriage law. … To whatever Jasmine thinks is reasonable. I know she has her prince already, but… you could have granddaughters, someday.”

“… And how is that asking for something for yourself, my boy?” but the Sultan seemed happy about it anyway.

“With all respect, Your Majesty, I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow morning. I don’t know when I’ll be back in Agrabah. This is… the best thing I can think of, and I don’t know if Jasmine would’ve asked for it herself.”

“… Not that openly,” Jasmine admitted.

“Mm,” the Sultan agreed, then wagged a finger at Genie-- “You stay put a moment. I’m not done with this boy yet. Jasmine,” he said, turning to his daughter, “what do you think is reasonable?”

“I think… I understand,” she started, “why a princess in my position might need to get married, but--”

“She should be your heir,” Mozenrath broke in, skipping Jasmine’s diplomacy. “Jasmine would be a remarkable ruler in her own right.”

“I was going to say that-- that even though I know I want to marry Mozenrath, I want more time. I don’t feel ready to be a wife.”

“Something we’ll need to sit down and scribble out, I think,” the Sultan concluded. “For now, consider the marriage law suspended. As for you, Aladdin… you, and your remarkable friends, are welcome in the Royal Palace of Agrabah as our honored guests at any time. When you return from your travels, I hope you’ll visit us.”

“Give me a few days,” Mozenrath said, “and I’ll see to it nearly every door in the Land of the Black Sand opens for you, as well.”

“Gotta tell you, Al,” Genie said, leaning on Aladdin’s shoulder, “this has to be the most non-standard Happily Ever After any master of mine has ever wished their way into.”

“It doesn’t have to be happily ever after,” Al said, shrugging-- smiling, warm and bright enough for everybody. “We’re all free.”




"Lucky bird, inside a gilded cage."
Golden words, spoke by an ancient sage
"Everything you may have in life,
Still all you hold is dust"

Must I yearn forever to be free
Free to climb a tree and ponder
Free to wander
There's no desire I hold fonder
Than to be
Simply me
To be free

How ungrateful is this lucky bird
Spurning privilege for one simple word
Freedom to stretch these golden wings
Freedom to touch the sky

"Why," some would ask, "Would she want to be
"Free to throw away a treasure?"
For with pleasure
I'd sacrifice riches beyond measure
Just a girl
With a boy
What a perfect fantasy

To find love
To feel joy
To be really free...

Further Author's Notes: Now that you've made it this far, I can tell you the English Class theme of this story. The film Aladdin was about disguises, truth versus lies, and being yourself. To Be Free is partly about truth and lies, but mostly about captivity versus freedom, only a secondary theme in the movie. Everyone in this story, whether or not I want you to root for them or not, is a prisoner somehow-- to social status, to a job, to obligation or duty, to a magic lamp. Some of them are satisfied with their cages and prisons. Some of them would gnaw off a limb to get out of their traps. Some of them would be willing to bear up for the rest of their lives, if they could free someone else.

This story has been in my head for at least five years, and spilled out into the keyboard over nine days. Emily kept me going with encouragement and amazing feedback like "I've never even seen a Mozenrath episode, how are you making me ship them so hard?" which, really, is a super-awesome compliment to get. The total word count over all three parts is 41,826. To Be Free is almost eighty pages. I have a few terribly vague ideas for continuations (it'd almost be unfair not to introduce Sadira to this universe), but I make no promises as to what or when.

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