Author's Note: And here is the final chapter! I decided to cram it all in. =) I am very pleased with how it has ended. I hope you all enjoy it!
Night had fallen over Agrabah. The people that had once been on the streets were returning home while those who had slept away their headaches emerged to begin their troubles all over again. The palace glowed from its small hill behind the walls, casting a pleasant smile over its subjects. The guard was changing for their first watch. All was peaceful. All was silent.
Aladdin walked hand in hand with Jasmine down the marble hallways, whispering and joking as they went. He tried not to let the occasional bouts of pain to reach his eyes. Jasmine had enough to worry about. After the battle with Inaya, Genie had healed what he could - but even magic has its limits. Some wounds take the slow passage of time to mend them.
Coming to a stop before white doors, intricately carved with peacocks and other exotic birds lounging in a garden, Aladdin turned the beautiful young woman to face him. He smiled lovingly down at her before brushing his lips to hers. He felt her smile into the kiss, only making his heart swell all the more for her. How had he ever been so lucky as to live another day to be with her?
Jasmine broke slowly away from him and smiled shyly - always so shy with him. "Good night, Aladdin."
"Night, Jasmine." The young man closed his hands a bit more tightly around her small, delicate hands. Not wanting the day to end yet.
Concern clouded her eyes and she tilted her head. Aladdin watched her hair fall in front of her eyes and he freed one hand to brush the strands back behind her ear. Jasmine took the opportunity of a free hand of her own to light her smooth fingers against his jaw. "Get some sleep tonight. The guards don't need your help patrolling."
"I'll be fine." He promised. "I'll see you in the morning." Aladdin waited until his fiancée had passed through the door, casting her worried gaze over her shoulder at him. Once the door was shut, Aladdin continued on down the silent hallway. His thoughts strayed from what needed to be done with the guards to the lessons he would need to look over before meeting with the sultan and the court advisers. Sighing, Aladdin decided it would be best if he got some sleep that night.
Turning down one hallway, Aladdin made his way toward the suite that served as his private quarters. Some days he really missed sleeping in that old hovel he called home back in the marketplace. Occasionally, he returned to it when he just needed to get away from the oppressive atmosphere of courtly 'dos-and-don'ts. Reaching the dark wooden door of his apartments, Aladdin entered wearily. Without so much as a second glance at the lavish furnishings Jasmine had picked out for him, the young man stumbled over to the bed and fell among the cushions with a sigh.
Aladdin's eyes began to droop close and his breathing was just beginning to even out in the steady cadence of sleep. "My, my. Rough day, Aladdin?" Shooting up in bed and eyes snapping open, Aladdin glared around his room for the source of the familiar voice.
"Show yourself, Mozenrath!" Aladdin stood from his bed and wished he had his sword or friends there to back him up. He wondered briefly if his mind wasn't playing tricks on him. Mozenrath was dead wasn't he? Well, Aladdin had mistakenly believed that before.
Stepping from the shadows, eyes narrowed, Mozenrath sneered at the man by the bed. "It's so good to see you again, Aladdin." Eyes travelling over Aladdin's bruises and welts, one eye brow rose. "A very rough day it seems."
"What do you want?" Aladdin snapped, not wanting to admit to Mozenrath that Inaya had bested him.
"My apprentice. I should think that would be obvious." Mozenrath replied as he patted Xerxes, who was hovering around his shoulders. Aladdin suppressed a shiver at the deadly glare the eel was sending his way. "Now tell me," the sorcerer's voice captured Aladdin's attention again, "where is she?"
Aladdin thought of playing ignorant for a split second, but when a cat stepped out from behind Mozenrath's cape - a cat with mismatched eyes that oddly enough reminded him of Inaya's angered glare. Attention returning to Mozenrath's pale face, Aladdin said, "Not here."
"Then where is she?" Mozenrath hissed through clenched teeth.
"I don't know." Aladdin answered. "She left after killing some of the slave traders."
Mozenrath stared silently at Aladdin as if the boy had grown a second head. "She - killed - the slave traders." Arms folding in front of his chest, the sorcerer leveled a steely glare at Aladdin. "What happened?"
"Why should I tell you?" Aladdin demanded irritably.
"Because I'm only a few seconds from finishing whatever Inaya started. Now talk!" Mozenrath waited more or less impatiently for Aladdin to begin. Aladdin glared at the other man before sighing and allowing himself to sink on the edge of the bed. He recounted the incident as best he could, wincing at the almost proud look Mozenrath had on his face when Aladdin recounted how Inaya dispatched Fatih and Mahir.
Mozenrath's face blanked of all expression when Aladdin spoke of Inaya's fury turned on Aladdin. The young man watched his rival carefully. "She said she loved you. She said you loved her." There was a long silence before Aladdin asked, "Do you love her? What were your real reasons for having her in your tower? Did she really have a choice to be there?"
Scowling at Aladdin, Mozenrath clenched his fists. "For your information, the answers to your questions are none of your business."
"That's answer enough." Aladdin countered. "You don't love her and she was a prisoner."
"Silence!" Mozenrath thundered. Breathing hard, the sorcerer flexed his hands. "She may not have had a choice in the matter once, but there came a point where she was free to do as she wished."
"Did she know that?" Aladdin demanded. "Did she know she was free?"
"Obviously she did when she told you." Mozenrath replied, sarcasm dripping from his voice.
"Then why are you going to look for her?" Aladdin asked angrily. "If she didn't return to you after the fight, then why go after her? She's chosen! She's chosen not to come back!"
Mozenrath stilled. Xerxes and Rahi looked up at the man in anticipation for his next words - both worried about what Aladdin had just said. A dark chuckle passed Mozenrath's lips. "You are a fool." Aladdin blinked in confusion. Was the sorcerer speaking of Aladdin or himself?
With a wave of his gloved hand, black sand swirled around behind him. Mozenrath stepped backwards into it, his eyes never leaving Aladdin. "I hope your wounds heal quickly, Aladdin. You'll need all the strength you have for when I come next time."
Collapsing into a chair, Mozenrath knocked his turban from his head and ran his hand through his hair and over his face. Sighing, he shut his eyes and tried to clear his thoughts and still his throbbing heart. He could feel Xerxes and Rahi's eyes on him and he did not want to meet them. Did not want them to see more weakness from him. They had seen enough of his weakness.
"Mozenrath?" Xerxes whimpered. "Where Inaya?"
"Gone." Mozenrath stated. "She is free to leave."
Xerxes looked at Rahi, who was crestfallen. "What Rahi do?"
Mozenrath lifted his head and looked down at the cat. Inaya had left her familiar. She hadn't even come to retrieve her cat. He scowled. All those pretty words she had said about a bond with her familiar and friend seemed empty now. As quick as the mean thoughts had come, they vanished just as quickly, his shoulders slumping. He could not stay mad at the girl. "She may stay here or she may go look for her mistress."
Mozenrath pushed himself up from his chair and wandered toward his desk. "I do not care."
Rahi's tail and ears drooped. "Know not where go." She slinked over to Inaya's pillows and curled up sadly atop them. "Inaya come. Inaya always come for Rahi." she whimpered into her paws.
Mozenrath stared at the open book before him, feeling the stitches holding his wound together stretch, he shut his eyes again. He thought over everything Aladdin had said. Inaya had exceeded his expectations. She had learned her lessons well - but there was so much more he could teach her! Why hadn't she come back? She knew how! Staring ahead of him, Mozenrath mulled over this question. Why had she chosen not to return?
No matter what her decision or the reasons behind them, Mozenrath found that he could not go after her. He would not. She was free to choose. Sighing, he clenched his fists as they rested on the desk. She said she had loved him. Yet she hadn't returned. Aladdin said that Inaya believed him to be dead - was that the reason she didn't return? Love. She loved him. Love him enough to exact revenge on his behalf. Mozenrath's jaw clenched. She hadn't come back.
Pushing himself away from the desk, the sorcerer stalked off among the bookshelves - leaving the two familiars to brood. He passed by the towering shelves until he reached a familiar door. It opened without physical help and allowed him to step in. Mozenrath looked around at all the crystal objects he had made. She loved him. She had said those words so often. Some days he had believed her. Some days he thought her words empty. He did not know what love was. Not truly. He saw Aladdin and his princess and what they called love. It sickened him. But now - now –
Mozenrath replayed the incident in his mind from the very instant the alarms had gone off in his tower. The first action he had taken was to find Inaya. There had been no premeditated plan to do so, he had just risen from his task and went straight to her. He'd locked her in her room. To protect her. He had hidden her presence from Aladdin - and asserted that he had not kidnapped her. He hadn't. Held her against her will - yes - but somewhere along the way something had changed. Hadn't it? It was never said but she had been granted some kind of freedom. Not to leave but to go and do as she pleased. She had sensed that. She said as much to Aladdin.
When Mozenrath recalled Genie bringing Inaya to Aladdin, something inside his mind had snapped. A similar frame of mind like when Mozenrath had found the mass grave of his family and people. Only instead of revenge it was protection - possession even. She was his. He was hers. No one could have her - not Aladdin and not her father, who incidentally was not her father. He would have saved her. He wanted to save her but his body had not fully recuperated from his last fight with Aladdin. Mozenrath had been too slow and Aladdin's blade too quick. The pain of the sword did not rival the pain in Mozenrath's chest when he came to and discovered Inaya to be gone. Blood loss had drained him of energy and magic. Xerxes helped stitch the wound up but all they could do was wait.
Waiting was torture. With each day that passed, Mozenrath's thoughts railed against him. Where was she? Was she gone forever? His strength and magic restored enough that he could transport himself and the two familiars to Agrabah, Mozenrath sought out Aladdin to demand for knowledge of Inaya's whereabouts. He certainly would not stoop to saying - or thinking - that he was asking Aladdin for help. What Mozenrath had learned though - the trail was cold. No one knew where she was. All Mozenrath had to go on, was the knowledge of what she had done before she disappeared.
She said she loved him. She thought he was dead. She said she knew he had loved her. Mozenrath swept a hand through his hair. Did he love her? What did he know of love? He knew of love from mother to child. He had experienced that. When he was a child he loved Xerxes as a boy loves a friend or pet. Love had been beaten out of him by Destane. Mozenrath grew up believing love between people was nothing but a myth. Inaya loved him. She said he loved her. How could she possibly know? How could she know? He never said those words. She had said them freely and easily - and often. He never said those words once to her. Yet she knew. How could she be certain?
Mozenrath could clearly remember when she first said those words. It had been in this room. Why had he made this room for her? Why had he - changed - toward her? Because she understood him? Because they had reached a point where fear was no longer an emotion keeping them at arm's-length? Because she loved him? Because he loved her? If he did love her - then why was he not out scouring the deserts for her?
He knew the answer to that thought before he even asked the question. The answer came to him from some great philosopher he read about once. When he had read this man's work, Mozenrath had scoffed. Yet now - now he felt he could grasp the meaning of the words. Those words. "Love is to learn to let go." Mozenrath murmured into the room. Let go. The sorcerer held so much anger, bitterness, hurt - a plethora of negative emotions festering in his heart. Recalling the childhood love he held for his family and people, Mozenrath wondered if he could ever let go of the emotions that went along with their death. Recalling the strange sensations that rushed through him - body, soul, and mind - whenever he was with or thought of Inaya, Mozenrath wondered if he could let her go. Could he except that she may never return to the tower?
Mozenrath stood contemplating all of this. She said she loved him. She had not come back. Could he blame her? He knew how she felt about death. Mozenrath shook his head. No, he could not blame her. She said she knew he loved her. Did he? Here was not going after her! "To love is to learn to let go." he said the words again to himself. She chose not to come back. He must respect that. She was free now. She had always been free. Mozenrath loved her. Now he must let her go.
With a wave of his gloved hand, Mozenrath doused the lights and silenced the nature sounds the crystals were mimicking. The only light was the light from the laboratory beyond the open door. Mozenrath's boots clicked against the stone floor as he made his way to the door. He paused on the threshold and turned to look back on the room - his silhouette the only thing visible and appeared to be an extension of his shadow. Slowly, he stepped out of the doorway - the door's hinges crying out as it shut.
The winds blew across the desert, scattering the sands into spiraling masses. No living thing dared travel out in the storm for fear of becoming lost or suffocation from the sand. The only mass that dare test its bravery against the sands of time were the stones of abandoned villages - and even those stones were slowly being eaten away. However, one ghost village seemed to repel every attempt the flying sand made to gouge out the stones. Every whirlwind of sand buffeted against a flash of white, making a shape like a protective bubble appear with each onslaught.
Within the bubble and the ruinous remains of the once prosperous merchant village, everything was calm - and eerily silent. From one building in the center of the empty streets, colorful lights danced and sparked from its tidied interior. Inside the building, Inaya was standing over a table with a large map spread out on its surface. Her blue eyes stared blankly at the spell enchanted images of the map passing before her eyes.
She was so far from her old hovel. So far from Agrabah's palace. So far from the Black Desert and the tower it hid in its expanse. Inaya had left her hovel for fear of being discovered and captured again. For some time, she wandered from village to village and from city to city. Inaya occasionally contemplated returning to the tower - pay her respects, retrieve the familiars - but then her shuddering thoughts would conjure images of the Mamluks having committed some disgusting deed to Mozenrath's body then turning on the helpless animals left trapped in the tower. Or perhaps Destane's spirit took Mozenrath's lifeless corpse and now reigned in terror once again! No, Inaya had not the heart to go and see what became of her fallen love.
So here she lived out her days, far from the prying eyes. Lonely. So very lonely. Inaya waved her hand dismally and the map sped over images of the desert and cities - coming to a stop over a familiar palace. Agrabah. Snapping her fingers, Inaya enlarged the image until she was peering into the miniature palace's halls. Muttering a spell that would form crystals, Inaya fashioned a purple crystal to look like Aladdin and a light pink for Jasmine. She set the pair down on the map and spoke another spell. Instantly, the life-like representations began to move and talk.
During her solitude, Inaya learned how to connect her miniatures to their original. She could spy on anyone. This came in handy whenever she wanted to see if Aladdin was coming any closer to finding her. He had searched for a while. Recently, he seemed to have forgotten her, much to Inaya's relief.
Growing bored of watching the engaged pair - and jealous of their love for each other - Inaya banished the small doppelgangers. On an uneasy whim, she waved her hand and waited as the map sped over the sands again. The image halted on an expanse of black, roiling sand and a black tower that stood ominously among it all. Inaya stared at the tower with wary blue eyes, rubbing her hands anxiously together. Mozenrath was dead. There would be no harm in making a miniature of him and recalling things he had said and done. It would be like reliving those months.
Inaya snapped her fingers and watched as the map's image zoomed into the tower and into Mozenrath's laboratory and library. Painstakingly, she created a midnight blue crystal statue of Mozenrath. She turned the crystal in the air to get every angle and make sure she had not left out any detail. Satisfied with her work, Inaya settled the statue's feet down on the map. She remained very still as she thought of what she was about to do. To hear his voice again - even if she was only projecting the words from her memory - Inaya had the distinct feeling that she would end up crying.
With a sad and weary sigh, Inaya moved away from the table. She left the statue where it stood while making her way to a fabric covered window. Arms folded over her chest, the young sorceress stared out at the sand storm raging all around her sanctuary. A single tear escaped and she hurriedly wiped it away.
"Xerxes, bring me that bottle." Inaya froze, her eyes widening. "Xerxes, will you stop tormenting Rahi for one second and bring. Me. That. Bottle!" Whirling around, she stared at the statue of Mozenrath as it stood with arms folded before his chest and tapping an impatient foot. Finally, he held out his glove covered hand as if to take something. "Next time, be a bit more prompt."
The Mozenrath-miniature turned his back on Inaya and muttered something beneath his breath. As if in a trance, Inaya approached the table and knelt so she was eye level with the crystal statue. Now that she was closer, she could hear his muttered words. "If I had asked Inaya, she would have anticipated my need of it and I wouldn't have had to ask at all!" Inaya watched with baited breath as Mozenrath sighed and said, "To love is to learn to let go."
Inaya gasped and covered her mouth with her trembling hand. She had not cast the spell on the miniature! These were not words she had imagined or remembered. These were original thoughts! "Alive." she sobbed for joy. "He's alive!" Inaya stood abruptly and looked frantically around the room. She had to leave. She had to go to him. Running over to a cupboard, Inaya threw open its doors and began pulling out scroll after scroll. Occasionally she would roll one out before growling in frustration and tossing it over her shoulder. "Here!" Inaya exclaimed in triumph as she rushed back to the table with the map on it. Spreading the scroll out on the surface, Inaya's eyes roved over the words while she mumbled the contents to herself.
She had copied down the spells she could remember from her studies. To her surprise, she remembered the teleportation incantation she used to runaway so long ago. Inaya copied it down - never intending to use it unless for an emergency. Inaya stepped back from the table, letting the words flow through her mind. The words poured out of her mouth as she felt a pull on her magic then warmth coursing through every part of her body. Inaya focused on where she wanted to be. She focused on Mozenrath.
Shutting her eyes to the bright light that engulfed her, Inaya felt as if she were falling and breaking the surface of water at the same time. With a gasp, her eyes flew open - only to be met with darkness. Stumbling, Inaya collapsed to her knees. She was not sure how far she had travelled - or how much magic she used up. Confused, Inaya looked around the dark room. Where was she? Was she even in Mozenrath's tower? Raising her hand, she waved it in front of her face, but she could not see it. Inaya whispered the spell for light and a dim glow flickered, chasing away the shadows. As her eyes adjusted to the gloom, Inaya spied a crystal flower beside her.
Inaya fingered the smooth petals of a pink rose. She was in the room Mozenrath had created for her. Turning her head, the young woman sought out the door. She shakily rose to her feet and stumbled toward the door. Inaya opened the creaking door and looked around at the towering bookcases. She was bombarded with the smell of musty, dusty books.
Using the shelves as support, Inaya stumbled on through the halls. Her vision swam before her eyes and once in a while her vision went black. "No." She chided herself. "I must get to Mozenrath." The walk that was once a quick walk took her what seemed like forever. Eventually, she stumbled into the main area. Quietly gasping for air, Inaya searched the room. Her eyes fell on Rahi, who was curled up and moping on the cushions Inaya used to sit on. Gaze travelling up and over, Inaya stared in awe at Mozenrath's turned back. Head turning at the sound of the laboratory's door opening, she smiled fondly at Xerxes as he floated in.
The eel's head lifted and he cried out in shock. "Inaya!"
Rahi's ears quirked up before the cat's head lifted. Lunging from the pillows, Rahi ran to Inaya's feet and jumped - pleading to be held. "Inaya! Inaya came back!" Laughing, the weary girl knelt to wrap her arms around her familiar. Xerxes darted toward them and curled around Inaya's shoulders.
Mozenrath - upon hearing Xerxes' exclamation first - had stiffened as if her name had struck him like an arrow. For a split second, his anger got the better of him and he would have in a cold voice ordered the eel to refrain from saying her name again. However, when Rahi's joyful statement reached him, Mozenrath's anger was doused with shock and hope.
Turning now, slowly, he stared with wide eyes at the girl kneeling on the floor. She was laughing and crying - relief and fatigue etched on her features. Mozenrath raised his hand and made to approach her as well, but instinctively his hand fisted and fell silently to his side. Straightening, he put on a calm and indifferent face. "I see you've come to retrieve your familiar. I can say I was beginning to doubt you ever would."
Inaya looked up at him now with confusion written all over her face. Her blue eyes held a mixture of emotions - all of them giving him cause to hope and then also to despair. "Mozenrath, I didn't just come back for Rahi." She released her hold on the cat, ignoring Rahi's protests. Gripping a shelf with white-knuckled intensity, Inaya pulled herself to her feet. She swayed but remained standing. Her eyes ever searching his face. "I came back when I learned you were alive."
"You thought I was dead? Well, shows you do not have respect for the dead." Mozenrath berated himself in his head. Why was he treating her so cruelly? "You left my body to rot or to be - defiled by those Mamluks." Shaking his head he continued, "And your pet. You never came back after you escaped Aladdin to rescue her? What of your pretty speech of loyalty?"
Inaya bowed her head, shoulders slumping. "I feared death. To see you dead - truly dead - I do not think I could have lived." Raising her head again, Inaya glared at him. "I feared the worse had happened to Rahi and Xerxes as well." Sadness descended upon her again. "I was not thinking rationally after I escaped Aladdin and the slave traders." A frown crossed her features. "But - how did you know I escaped?"
Mozenrath looked away, feigning a haughty expression. "I went looking for you. Only to discover you had run off."
"You came to rescue me?" Inaya gasped, swaying once again. Shaking her head, she blinked as if trying to clear her vision. "But once you knew I was not with Aladdin - or the slave traders - what did you do?"
"I returned to the tower." Mozenrath stated reluctantly. Out of the corner of his eye, he looked at her. "You promised never to leave the tower. You broke your promise. I saw no point in retrieving you again."
Inaya felt tears sting her eyes. "You - did not want me?"
Mozenrath felt a stab of guilt at his words and from the tone of her voice. "No." He shook his head and turned to look at her. "No, that is not - I mean -"
"I love you." Inaya muttered, interrupting him. "I came back because I love you. I thought - I thought you loved me too."
In sure and steady steps, Mozenrath was standing in front of Inaya. She tilted her head back to look up at him, hurt showing in her eyes. Without a second thought, he caught her in an embrace. He took her weight - knowing that she was standing only because of her sheer stubbornness. He buried his face in her hair and breathed deeply. "I did not come after you because you were free." At her startled gasp, Mozenrath's hold tightened. "I believed you had made your choice to move on. I learned that I must do the same."
"I want to stay." Inaya whimpered into his chest. "Always. Never let me leave again. Never." She lifted her face away so she could look up at him. "Let me help. I can help you with anything you need me to do." She felt her consciousness slipping again. Her words slurred together. "I - I have to show you what I can do."
In one smooth move, Mozenrath swept her legs up so he could cradle her in his arms. "There is plenty of time for you to show me. Right now, you need to sleep."
"Your room?" Inaya mumbled.
A chuckle reverberated from his chest. "Naturally."
Inaya was aware of being laid down upon a soft surface and that the weight beside her was Mozenrath. He held her close, stroking her hair away from her face. Inaya tried to fight the fatigue. "I love you."
"Inaya," Mozenrath waited until her eyes focused on him. He wanted her conscious of what he was going to say. "I love you." Satisfaction coursed through him when Inaya smiled and sighed.
"I know." She whispered before drifting off into exhausted sleep.
Night fell upon the desert and the world was oblivious to what had happened. The pair slept peacefully in each other's arms. The feared sorcerer of the Black Sands and the young woman who turned the monster into a man. Both would live on to be known as the Rulers of the Sands.