On Sale Today!
"A fine and rare tortoise! They say it will live for a hundred, no, two hundred years! Can also be used as a helmet, a doorstop or made into soup! It will not die! It will not-!" The hawker paused, flipped the dormant shell over and stared at it.
"It's dead!" Frowning for a moment, the short man scratched his turban and mentally backtracked his sales pitch. Then in a mysteriously secretive, yet very audible voice, continued to holler out his wares. "A fine and rare shelled demon! They say it is a fire-breathing immortal near impossible to kill! Luckily this one comes pre-deceased for all your medicine-grinding needs!" He balanced the tortoise carefully upon his head, and now that he couldn't see it the bemused creature's head peeped out and looked down at its new perch in terror. "The shelled demon also makes an excellent sorcerer's hat!"
That caught the attention of only one man in the marketplace crowds, yet that one man was no stranger to catching all attention himself. The billowing black cloak, the looming headpiece that glittered with silk and jewels; the beard so twisted…it could be none other than the Sultan's infamous Grand Vizier.
Heavy-lidded eyes flicked sideways, examined the sorcerer's hat, and dismissed it. But a few of the dodgy vendor's other showpieces could be used for leverage at the palace, and so he swept a little closer.
In the battered and dusty cages were exotic animals and objects equally as dusty as their prisons. A tiger cub panted in the heat next to a clutch of gawky young flamingos; an ugly bird so stressed by captivity that it had moulted all its feathers sat hunched beside a scrawny monkey - that seemed transfixed by the apple resting a hairsbreadth out of reach.
Jafar observed all this with a scathing glance, as the merchant picked up a strange white cube and began jabbering away about Dead Sea Tupperware. An expression of infinite boredom crossed his face.
"Why must I scour the markets of Agrabah in search of birthday presents for the young princess, when I could be at the palace plotting to kill the Sultan?" he asked himself in a snake-like hiss. He was a dark man of dark purposes, yet his hypnosis of the desert's ruler was not yet complete. Hence why he could still be ordered out on childish errands given only to 'trusted advisors'.
The plucked chicken contrived to show an evil grin as it heard these words. If it was going to be chained to a post the rest of its life, it could at least have a little amusement. There were scimitar-wielding guards just a few stalls away.
"Polly want a sultana?" muttered the parrot to clear its throat.
The seller was now bravely shoving the cardboard box into the Grand Vizier's face. "Exceptionally rare, and still fresh! Reward yourself with a peek inside! But don't lift the lid too high, worthy master!"
Ignoring the nomad was not working, so Jafar snatched the box away and lifted it up to eye level. As the height difference between the two men encompassed several feet, there was quite a way to travel.
The Vizier opened the lid by a crack, and his jaw almost dropped.
A flash of gold, a brief glimpse of a scuttling, glittering scarab, the buzz of filigree clockwork wings…
He slammed the lid back down, and stared at the dull white carton now shaking in his fingertips as the beetle within danced for escape.
"It is what is inside that counts, great sir…" purred the dealer. "Shall we discuss price?"
The tall, imposing man visibly flinched. Of course, he had the gold, more than enough…but to physically pay for something so magical went against every immoral fibre in his craven soul. And the strange little gypsy was oddly impervious to the mesmerising glare of his serpent staff…
"WAARRRK! PLOT TO KILL THE SULTAN! WAAARRRK!" shrieked Iago with malice volume He would have spread his feathers wide, flapped his attention-grabbing red wings had he any plumage left, but perhaps his disposition was bit too delicate for captivity and the pet trade.
Jafar almost froze, but as the words went in one ear and out the other, it took no longer time than that for a back-up plan to hatch. Clearly the bird had heard his mutterings and judging by the leering grin had understood the implications. It was therefore smarter than the rest of Agrabah's population combined - besides himself.
"What's this?" hissed Jafar, never far from a scapegoat or a scam. "Have you been plotting to kill our highly esteemed Sultan?" He was aghast.
He loomed over the trader with a black gleam in his eyes. At least his little shopping trip had become somewhat entertaining. "This is high treason!" he roared, sending guards skidding round the corner and ploughing up the market street towards them. All obstacles were trampled underfoot, be it fakirs or furnishings or fruit.
"Arrest this…TRAITOR!" spat Jafar, revelling in another evil deed well done. A satisfying twist, to frame the one who might have uncovered his serpentine lies. The only slightly crooked salesman whimpered as two extremely tall guards dragged him up by the arms.
"The Palace shall confiscate all of his goods," continued the Grand Vizier, suddenly remembering his earlier chore. The flamingos once washed; possibly disinfected, would make a good addition to the Royal Garden's ornamental ponds, even if they did look a little dorky and idiotic.
The tiger would make a very grand gift for the princess, and he could even convince the Sultan that it wouldn't eat her…unfortunately. Well, maybe luck would do him a favour, and he would be rid of the wretched girl.
Now he sent the bald parrot an ugly look. That…could be skewered for canapés. The bird choked.
"Aw, come on, come on," squawked Iago, scrambling to escape; "I was just kidding!"
Jafar blinked. It really could speak. Now this was a real find, possibly even of suspicious origin. "Why would I want to spare a little bird that's already been plucked for roasting?" hummed Jafar in his most sumptuous voice.
He didn't spot a street-rat behind him slipping in among the entourage, mimicking the Palace assistants and making off with the rather soulful-looking monkey; snatching a handful of apples along the way.
With the bird still in his grip, not daring to peck him although that fat beak could surely do some damage, Jafar looked back at all the eclectic items adorning the now ownerless stall. He had almost forgotten – how could he?
Lying untouched, pristine, was an odd white box. The Dead Sea Tupperware holding the key to all his wildest dreams. A glittering, whirring golden scarab.
He scooped it up with a flourish, tucking it into a fold of his voluminous black cloak with a low, wicked chuckle. Almost by instinct, the not-so-scarlet macaw dangling from his grasp imitated him. All laughter, even evil laughter, is still somewhat infectious.
It took few repetitions before Jafar and Iago were cackling together like old friends.
…Although, friend is such a strong word, you know? Maybe evil acquaintances would suit better…
Jafar walked smoothly, smugly back up the market street and into the Palace, through imposing doors that often opened only for him, a little taste of what would one day be his alone as Sultan. It was time to do some research on the Cavern of Wonders. And on his foreboding spiked shoulders a scrawny half-dead parrot perched, victorious in its changing of its own fate, unaware that it had just been consigned into a long and torturous existence of "Polly want a cracker?".
Among the cool blue-toned shadows, the unyielding grey stones, and the moonlight silver-gilt on every hook and manacle and torture implement in the Agrabah dungeons; the short, portly hawker slumped in depression.
When he was certain that the guards had fallen asleep, he dragged himself up, hobbled over to a certain section of the wall, and rapped on it four times. As he did so, his skin took on a decidedly azure cast from the similarly-hued light all around him, and the shackles on his wrists became inexplicably golden.
A door swung out and flung a harsh ruby glow into the prison cell. The 'merchant' sighed and spoke through the gap to his accomplice on the other side.
"I hope this plan of yours works, Rug-man, I don't want all Agrabah finding out I grant the wishes of every floor furnishing to fall against my lamp, ya know?"
And Carpet's three wishes were, of course: the power of flight, kick-ass gaming skills and a way out of the Cavern of Wonders.