Chapter 1: An Unpleasant Surprise
"So how long do you plan on staying this time?"
"Not for very long, I'm afraid. You know how it is."
Aladdin sighed. "Yeah dad, I know how it is.b
Cassim watched his son with guilt as Aladdin lowered his gaze, staring at the ground as they walked through the palace gardens. He inwardly cursed himself. If only he had not been so foolish in the past. Seeking out treasure without realizing that his only true treasure was back in Agrabah with his family. Becoming the King of Thieves so that he was now a wanted man in most cities. He wished he could spend more time with his family, he really did, but his mistakes in the past prevented him from doing so.
"Listen, dad," Aladdin's voice broke the silence. "We really shouldn't stay here. If one of the guards should come by . . ."
"I know son, and you're right. Let's head back."
Father and son began to walk toward one of the back entrances of the palace; an entrance that Aladdin knew wasn't guarded at this time of day.
Aladdin didn't like the silence between himself and his father. He hadn't seen his dad in almost a year. He was desperate to get rid of the feeling of discomfort that now floated in the air.
"So how has Iago been?" the younger man started. "Not giving you too much trouble I hope?" Aladdin began chuckling to himself at the thought of Iago being well behaved.
Cassim began laughing as well. "Actually, he hasn't been bad at all."
Aladdin's eyebrows went up in surprise. "Really?"
"Yes, in fact, he's proven to be quite a good friend. Very trustworthy." Cassim stopped himself as a smirk spread across his features and he gave Aladdin a wink. "Of course, he's still as stubborn as a mule and twice as grumpy. Not to mention how greedy and conniving he is-"
"Hey! I do have ears ya know!"
Swooping down from a tree, Iago perched himself on the King of Thieves shoulder, glaring at his friend.
"Iago!" Cassim feigned surprise. "I'm sorry my friend, I had no idea you were listening."
Crossing his arms, Iago began grumbling angrily to himself.
Aladdin shook his head and laughed. "Same old Iago I see," he said with amusement.
The parrot perked up at this, forgetting his momentary feud with Cassim. He looked over to Aladdin with unbridled happiness on his features. It wasn't common for Iago to let anyone see him be anything but grumpy and sarcastic. However, seeing his friend after such a long time he couldn't hide his excitement if he tried.
"Al! Hey kid, how ya been?"
Aladdin smiled fondly at the bird. "I can't complain at all. One of the best things is how nice and quiet it's been around here this past year."
Iago nodded in agreement, before a look of realization came over his face. "Ohhh . . . well you know what Al? You can kiss my-"
Cassim gave the parrot a smile as he clamped his beak shut. "It would be wise, feathered friend, not to speak so harshly to the future Sultan."
Iago rolled his eyes before prying Cassim's hand off of his mouth. "As far as I'm concerned," he began as he flew into the air, "you can BOTH kiss it." The bird gave the two men a wink before flying ahead toward the palace.
Aladdin and Cassim laughed to themselves as they continued forward.
They had almost reached the palace when, suddenly, both men were knocked backwards off of their feet. Looking up dazed and confused, a swirling portal of what looked like the darkest blue ink appeared in front of them. A thin, caped figure emerged from the portal; smirking at the other two sprawled out on the ground. As the man stepped away from the vortex, it disappeared into a cloud of dust as if it had never been there to begin with.
"Aladdin!" the stranger began happily. "Taking a stroll are we? It is a lovely day for it isn't it?" The man spoke conversationally, as if the two had been friends for a long time.
"Mozenrath," Aladdin grumbled as climbed back to his feet. "Don't you have some world domination plot you should be working on or something?"
Cassim looked up at the other man for the first time and his body froze. He couldn't quite place him, but Cassim knew he recognized that man somehow.
"Ooooh, funny Aladdin! We're a comedian now are we? Well, I have to say that I'm impressed," Mozenrath replied mockingly.
Aladdin sighed tiredly. "Skip the pleasantries Mozenrath. Why are you really here? And don't say to take over Agrabah because I'm not in the mood to fight you, and I'm sure you're not in the mood to be defeated."
Mozenrath glared angrily at Aladdin, his temper beginning to flare. A blue flame began to glow around his body before he calmed himself down and regained his suave composure. He wouldn't give Aladdin the satisfaction of making him angry, for now anyway.
"Actually, Aladdin," Mozenrath began through clenched teeth. "I came to warn you."
"Too late," Aladdin replied. "YOU are already here." Helping his father up, he stepped around the sorcerer and began to walk away.
"Aladdin?" Cassim whispered. "Who is th-?"
"Incompetent fool!" Black magic erupted from Mozenrath's gloved hand, striking the other two down once again.
Both Aladdin and Cassim pushed themselves to their hands and knees, shaking their heads to wear off the effect of the blow.
His magic in full power now, Mozenrath flew over to the others and picked Aladdin up by his shirt collar.
"Release him!" Cassim commanded as he leapt for Mozenrath.
Mozenrath struck Cassim down with his free hand and enveloped him into an inescapable orb.
The young sorcerer, still very angry, pulled Aladdin close to his face and stared deep into his eyes.
Aladdin's dark eyes glared right back, knowing how much Mozenrath hated it when people met his eyes.
A smirk spread across the paler man's features as he loosened his grip on his enemy, but still held him in the air. "Surely you've heard of the Sphere of Fire?" Mozenrath began questioningly. "Even the most uneducated have heard the tales of this phenomenon at one time or another."
Aladdin just nodded, continuing to glare at Mozenrath.
"Good. Then you would have to know that the Sphere of Fire holds within it all of the demons damned to Hell for eternity?"
"Of course I know," Aladdin spat. "So what exactly is your point, or do you even have one?"
"My point, Aladdin, is this: tomorrow night, when midnight approaches, the Sphere of Fire will emerge onto the Earth's surface. All of the demons within it will claim the living as their own."
Aladdin let out a disbelieving snort. "You're full of it Mozenrath. Everyone knows that story is a myth."
Mozenrath smiled down at his adversary. "You should know well by now Aladdin, that nothing I talk about with excitement is a myth."
Aladdin quirked and eyebrow at the sorcerer as he considered what Mozenrath just said.
"Oh, and I can't forget to mention this one more thing. Here's the part you're going to love," the other man began with a devilish gleam. "This sphere, the prophets tell of the exact location it will emerge. And you my dear friend, will never guess where it's going to be. Then again, perhaps you will seeing as how it brings me so much joy."
Aladdin's eyes widened. "Agrabah."
Mozenrath began to laugh evilly. "Not JUST Agrabah. It's going to join our world in the middle of your very throne room! I guess your founders should have read into any old myths or curses your land may have had, huh, Aladdin?" Mozenrath began to laugh again, almost maniacally.
Aladdin was beginning to worry now. Mozenrath may have been a snake, but he never lied about anything this serious.
Continuing to laugh, Mozenrath threw Aladdin into the orb with his father. The orb vanished almost as soon as he entered it and Cassim helped Aladdin to his feet.
The younger man shouted over the laughter of his enemy. "And how exactly does all of this affect you Mozenrath?! Why the warning?!"
Mozenrath stopped laughing and looked down at the other two. "Why I'm glad you asked Aladdin," he responded cheerily. "You see, with my magic, I have the power to control these demons. They must obey me," he stated proudly. "Therefore, if you give a damn for your family or your people, you will surrender to me so that I in return will spare their lives."
"You're out of your mind Mozenrath!" Aladdin shouted. "I would think you would be smart enough to know that you shouldn't meddle with forces that powerful. There's no way you can control them!"
"We'll just have to see what happens, won't we?" Mozenrath tore open a portal in the sky and vanished inside of it as it too disappeared.
Aladdin's shoulders sunk. He felt defeated, and he had not even fought a battle yet.
Cassim approached Aladdin from behind and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"This is not good," Aladdin stated to no one in particular as he massaged his temples.
"I gathered," Cassim replied as he stared at the sky, deep in thought. "Tell me, Aladdin . . ." he began, unsure of how to approach the subject he was about to bring up. "Who exactly is this Mozenrath?"
"One of the most powerful sorcerers I've ever come up against." Aladdin sighed as he turned to face his father. "He rules the Land of the Black Sand, and his only goals are to be the most powerful sorcerer in the world and use that power to rule the seven deserts."
The older man began to walk in the opposite direction, deep in thought. "Too bad that's impossible," he mumbled under his breath.
"What? What do you mean?" Aladdin inquired.
"Well," Cassim began. "In order for him to become the most powerful sorcerer in the world, both of his parents had to have possessed magic of some kind."
Aladdin's jaw dropped as he looked wide-eyed at his father.
"Or so I've read," Cassim added quickly. He then began to walk away as Aladdin stood there in shock, trying to register what had just been said.
"Wait a minute!" Aladdin shouted as he grabbed Cassim by the shoulder, spinning him around so they now faced each other. "Would you mind telling me how, exactly, you now that both of his parents didn't possess magic?"
Cassim sighed and scratched his head, not wanting to tell Aladdin what he knew he had to.
"Well?" Aladdin asked impatiently.
"Aladdin, there are a few more questions I want to ask you. Is there somewhere more private we can go?"
"Sure." Aladdin whistled for Carpet, and the magical rug appeared so quickly, he barely had enough time to pull his fingers from his mouth. The two men boarded Carpet and took off in the direction of Aladdin's old hovel. They quickly soared over the palace walls and the bustling city below. Once they arrived, Cassim cut right to the chase.
"Aladdin, tell me what you know about Mozenrath's past." The older man began, taking a seat on the stairs by the large window that overlooked the city.
"Well," Aladdin started, taking a seat across from his dad. "I know it wasn't pretty."
"How so?" Cassim inquired.
"What happened to his parents, whether they abandoned him or died, no one really knows."
"Go on," Cassim pried, leaning forward and giving his son his full attention.
"But what we do know is that he was adopted at a very young age, maybe three, by a very powerful sorcerer named Destane. Destane sensed the magical ability in Mozenrath and began to train him in hopes that he would be the most powerful sorcerer in the world one day. However, Destane's "training" wasn't very pretty. Supposedly, he would beat Mozenrath on a daily bases and lock him in dungeon cells for weeks at a time. He would say he couldn't come out until he had mastered a certain spell. But when Mozenrath turned 17, his power exceeded his masters, and he damned Destane for all eternity. That was six years ago and he's been alone ever since, always trying to improve his power."
"That poor boy," Cassim said sadly as he looked downward at his hands. "How do you know all this, Aladdin?"
"Well, after our first couple of run-ins with him, we all wondered how he became the way he is. You know, we wanted to know exactly who we were up against. So Genie was able to do a sort of background check on him, and we received all this information on his past." Aladdin paused and then looked out his window as he seemed to be thinking deeply. "I've always sort of felt sorry for him. The only reason he is the person he is today is because he was orphaned as a child and lived a terrible life. It wasn't his fault," Aladdin finished quietly.
"The way you're talking, you make it sound like you think you're to blame." Cassim looked intently at his son, his eyes deep with compassion.
Aladdin sighed sadly as he looked at his father. "I know it's not my fault dad, you don't have to tell me that." He turned his head so that his attention was focused on the world outside his old home. "It's just that my whole life basically revolves around helping others, and while I've tried, there seems to be nothing I can do for him."
Cassim stood up and took a few steps away from Aladdin. "Son, don't beat yourself up over this," he said quietly. "If anyone is to blame for what happened to Mozenrath . . ." Cassim paused as he looked guiltily at his son, "I am."
To be continued