Author's Note: Because it's probably going to come up at some point, let me just put this out there right now: This is not going to be one of those stories in which Mozenrath turns out to be Aladdin's long-lost brother. I don't have anything against the idea; it's just not one I have an interest in exploring here. Also, for the purposes of this story, assume that Mozenrath somehow got his gauntlet back after "Two to Tangle." I'm not going to go into details with that, because again, that's not the focus of my story. Also keep in mind that this takes place sometime during the TV series, meaning Aladdin and Jasmine are not yet married. And no, without further ado, I give you …
Chapter 1: The Deal
Sadira and Jasmine dissolved into a fit of giggles after the princess managed to finish telling the story of Aladdin's latest disastrous attempt to give Rajah a bath. Not long ago, if anyone had told Sadira she'd be welcomed to the palace, much less laughing and talking with Princess Jasmine, she'd have thought they were crazy. She'd been a lonely street rat, outwardly tough but inwardly desperate for some shred of affection from someone, anyone. So desperate, in fact that she latched on the first person to show her any hint of kindness for as long as she could remember: Aladdin.
Her behavior in that regard still shamed her when she thought of it, but things had turned out surprisingly well. Where she had once only been able to see Jasmine as a rival for Aladdin's affections, she was now able to count her among a growing circle of friends. Sadira had to admit that the princess hadn't been what she'd expected, even back when she'd regarded her as an enemy. Far from the spoiled, sheltered girl she would have envisioned, Jasmine had turned out to be kind, resourceful, and generous. Not to mention forgiving.
"But enough about palace life," Jasmine said, when their laughter had subsided. "Tell me, Sadira, how are things going with you? Learning any more magic?" Initially, Sadira hadn't thought herself very capable with sorcery, but after managing to defeat the witches of the sand, she'd taken to studying it more seriously, especially the scrolls they'd left behind. Not only had she gained mastery over sand magic, but she was gradually learning a variety of other spells as well.
"Yes, I am. Though I must say, it's slow going. I really wish I could get into contact with some other sorcerers. You know, maybe get an apprenticeship somewhere. But at least I'm managing to make a decent living out of what magic I do know."
"Yes, I've heard good things about your protection spells," Jasmine said, smiling.
"Thanks. I'm even getting better at potions too, and those fetch a decent price on the open market. I mean okay, so I'm not rich, but it's …"
"Better than stealing, right?" Jasmine finished for her.
Sadira nodded. "Definitely. Speaking of magic," she asked, glancing around. "Where's your big blue friend? I wanted to ask him if he knew any others witches or sorcerers I could work with … good ones, of course," she added hastily.
"Oh, he's on a date."
"A date?" Sadira echoed, somewhat surprised.
"Yes. You see, a while back, Genie met … well, he met a female genie."
"Oh. Uh, they don't both go by 'Genie,' do they? 'Cause that could get kind of confusing."
Jasmine laughed. "No, thank goodness. Her name's Eden. After a small misunderstanding, she and Genie hit it off. They get together whenever they can."
Sadira sighed. "Well that's … nice, I guess."
Jasmine was puzzled as to why her friend suddenly seemed so dejected. "What's wrong?"
"Oh, nothing … it's just … sometimes is seems like everyone has someone except me. I mean, am I so unlovable?"
Jasmine patted her friend's hand. "Of course you're not! You'll find love one of these days, I'm sure. Just as long as it's not my boyfriend." The fact that she could say that so playfully, without a hint of bitterness or malice, was a mark of what a true princess she was, Sadira thought. She didn't know if she would have been so easygoing if their positions had been reversed.
"Honestly, Jasmine, the more I think about all that awful stuff I did … it wasn't even really about Aladdin. I mean, I didn't want your boyfriend, I wanted the relationship you had with him. I wanted someone to look at me the way he looks at you. I still want that … if it makes any sense."
"Sure it does. Who doesn't want to be loved? Like I said, it'll happen for you. In the meantime, at least you know that you have friends."
Sadira smiled. "I really am grateful for your friendship." The moment was interrupted by a rumbling which shook the very foundations of the palace. The two women went tumbling off the cushions they were sitting on and onto the floor. Gradually, it subsided.
Sadira got up first. "You okay?"
"I think so," Jasmine said, as her friend helped to her feet.
"Any idea what that was?"
"Mozenrath!" Sadira turned to see Aladdin gliding into the room on Carpet, along with Iago and Abu. He was scowling.
"Wait … Mozenrath? That creepy sorcerer guy you told me about?"
Jasmine nodded, her expression mirroring Aladdin's. "That's the one."
"Right, and he had that … glove thing …"
"Gauntlet!" Iago squawked.
"I thought you got it away from him though."
"Yeah, well, he got it back," Aladdin's scowl deepened. He didn't like to be reminded of how he'd failed to keep the gauntlet out of Mozenrath's hands.
"And let me guess, he's decided to make you pay for taking it from him in the first place," Sadira concluded. Aladdin nodded, looking grim, and he took out the lamp.
"Well, I hate to interrupt Genie's date, but…" He rubbed the lamp, only to be greeted, not by the appearance of his friend, but by a ringing sound, followed by a voice: "Hello, you have reached Genie. I can't come to the lamp right now. Please leave a message at the beep. Beep!" He let out an exasperated sigh and rubbed the lamp again. "Genie, come on…" However, all that happened was that the message played over again.
"Great," he muttered. "How are we supposed to defeat Mozenrath without magic?"
Sadira cleared her throat. "Um, hello," she said pointedly, only to have Aladdin give her a blank stare. Geesh. She still thought he was kind of cute, but the boy could be awfully dense sometimes. How could she ever have had a crush on him?
"Witch, remember?" She said, pointing at herself.
Jasmine looked doubtful. "Sadira, are you sure? Mozenrath is our enemy, not yours, and you're still learning …"
"Hey, Agraba's my home too, and this guy is attacking it! Besides, right now, I'm the only magic you've got … unless you expect Carpet to, oh, I don't know, smother him or something."
Aladdin looked like he was about to reply, perhaps protest, but before he could say anything, a black-rimmed portal appeared above them, and Mozenrath himself stepped through.
Sadira was rather surprised; he didn't look like what she'd pictured in her head when Jasmine had talked about him. The princess had described him as "pale" and "scrawny," and it wasn't as though she hadn't been accurate; his skin was whiter than anyone she'd ever met, and he certainly didn't look like he had a problem with over-eating, but somehow, she hadn't quite expected …this.
He was luxuriously dressed, in dark but expensive clothing, and he moved with an elegant, almost careless confidence. Beneath his turban, a few black curls spilled out, in sharp contrast with his pallor, like ink strokes on paper. His eyes, as black as his hair, were locked on Aladdin with a look of intense dislike.
What's more, Sadira thought that she could actually feel his power, the energy of his magic crackling in the air. She'd hardly been sensitive to magic back when she was a mere street rat, but it was different now. The overall effect was rather intimidating. She swallowed. Could she really match her meager skills against him?
"Surrender now, Aladdin, and I promise to be merciful … oh, who are we kidding? You know I won't. After all, what would be the fun in that?" He smirked.
"Hee hee … no mercy." Said an extremely creepy voice, and Sadira gave an involuntary start as she noticed the … what was that? A fish? A flying eel? Well, whatever it was, it was gross, and it was draped on the sorcerer's shoulder.
"Face it, Aladdin, without your genie, you're no match for my magic!" Mozenrath gloated, directing a blast of magical energy at him. Aladdin managed to successfully maneuver on Carpet to avoid it, inadvertently clearing a path straight towards Jasmine.
"No!" Sadira cried as the magical energy hurtled towards her friend. Her apprehension forgotten, she reacted on instinct, frantically reciting a protective incantation. Her own bolt of magic met with his, deflecting the energy away from the princess.
"What the –?" Mozenrath was caught completely off guard. Looking down, he spotted an unfamiliar young woman who looked to be around his age. For a moment, he thought she might be a visiting sovereign … but no, she wasn't dressed well enough for that. She had a large mass of rather bushy brown hair, dusky skin, and strikingly blue eyes, which looked rather exotic in contrast to the rest of her features. She didn't have the polished, smooth beauty of Princess Jasmine, but for a moment, he was struck by the unbidden though that she was rather striking … in an unkempt sort of way.
"Who are you?" He demanded, and she looked up at him defiantly.
"I'm the witch who's gonna kick your butt, that's who!" She snapped, directing a strong but unfocused blast of magic at him. He was easily able to deflect it, and he didn't fail to notice that she was now unsteady on her feet, staggering in the blowback of her own spell.
"Amateur." He sneered, and she scowled.
"I am not!" Again, she tried to blast him, and again, he easily deflected.
"Oh yes you are," He countered. Going on the offensive, he directed a bolt of energy at her. She managed to counter it, but only just.
"Not bad … for a beginner," he said mockingly. Taking advantage of the fact that Mozenrath was focused on Sadira, Aladdin glided up to him on carpet. He tried to pull the gauntlet off his hand, and was struck to the ground for his trouble. Jasmine ran to him.
"Aladdin, are you alright?" He was wincing.
"I'm okay, Jasmine."
Mozenrath chuckled malevolently. "Not for long – hey!" He snapped, as an attack from Sadira caught him off guard. The blast sent him hurtling through the air and out the palace window. Sadira followed, looking out on the balcony, but there was no trace of him. Oh my god, did I just kill someone? Even though he'd been trying to hurt her friends, she felt sickened at the thought.
"Looking for me, little witch?" He said, suddenly floating above her. He laughed at her shocked expression. "Don't look so surprised. If you weren't such an amateur, you'd know I couldn't be defeated so easily." She felt a curious combination of relief and annoyance.
"I'll show you who's an amateur!" She said, directing a binding spell at him. At her bidding, magical ropes appeared, flowing from her hands to wrap around his wrists. He didn't seem particularly bothered, but rather amused. He grasped one of the ropes with his gloved hand, using the subsequent magical feedback to pull her off the balcony and towards him as he was floating in mid-air. His arm snaked around her waist, and he smirked as he saw her eyes go wide with fear.
"What are you so worried about? Even if I were to drop you, you could just … oh, wait. Don't tell me you haven't mastered levitation yet?" He could read the answer in her expression. "You really are a novice, aren't you?"
She scowled, wanting to wriggle out of his grasp, but was afraid of falling to her death if she did. "Don't worry, little witch," he continued, in a tone that could only be described as patronizing. "I won't let you fall." Now more humiliated than frightened, Sadira felt her face go red. She clamped her hand onto his gloved one. If he could tap into magical feedback, so could she!
"My name," she hissed. "Is not 'little witch.' It's Sadira!"
The feedback sent a jolt of pain through his body, and with a small cry he let go of her. Sadira's feeling of triumph was short-lived, however, as she realized she was hurtling toward the earth. Acting on pure survival instinct, she screamed out an incantation, and found herself stopping several feet from the ground. That was close!
"Sadira, are you okay?" Aladdin was asking her. He had dove down on carpet in an attempt to save her.
"I think so … hey, look at me! I'm levitating!" She exclaimed happily, righting herself so that "stood" upright, even though her feet didn't touch the ground.
"Not bad," came an amused voice from above them, and they both looked up to see Mozenrath still floating above them. His eyes lingered on Sadira appraisingly. "Maybe you have some potential after all."
Sadira was just about to snap back a tart reply when there was a flash of blue magic and Genie appeared. Beside him was a green-skinned woman; she could only guess it was his girlfriend, Eden.
"Genie!" Aladdin cried happily.
"You rang, Al?" Genie smiled. "Better late than never, right?"
"You again!" Eden snapped, catching sight of Mozenrath. "I'll teach you to mess with my friends."
The young sorcerer scowled. "We'll see about that."
Aladdin and Sadira, now seated on Carpet, flew up to face him. "Give it up Mozenrath!" Aladdin said. "You can't fight all of us. You've lost."
Mozenrath's gaze flicked between the two genies and the powerful but unschooled sorceress. Much as he hated to admit it, Aladdin was right. Even with his newly restored gauntlet, he'd be unlikely to defeat all three of them. It was time for a strategic withdrawal.
"Maybe for now. But this isn't over, street rat. Not by a long shot." With a practiced ease, he opened a portal to his own realm, glancing over his shoulder as he departed. "Be seeing you, little witch."
"Sadira!" She corrected angrily, but he'd already vanished.
Jasmine ran out on the balcony, Abu and Iago by her side. "Is everyone okay?"
"We're fine, Jasmine. Looks like the fight is over."
"At least for the time being," Sadira added.
"Hey, nice work by the way. You're getting better at this magic stuff, huh?"
She smiled at Aladdin, feeling rather proud of herself. "Thanks for noticing." They slid off carpet and onto the balcony. The group made their way back into the palace, and Sadira and Eden were formally introduced. She and Genie made a cute couple, Sadira thought.
"Never a dull moment around the palace, is there?" She remarked to Jasmine as everyone settled down.
"I guess not. Thanks again for your help, by the way."
Sadira waved her hand. "Eh, it was nothing. Least I could do." She paused. "So … that was Mozenrath, then."
"You didn't say he was so …" Sadira trailed off, and Jasmine looked at her friend questioningly.
"Uh, powerful." Sadira finished.
"Actually, I thought I did. In any case, you managed to stand up to him."
"Still, you did it. It seems you're better at magic than you thought."
"Maybe, but not good enough. I'd better start practicing for next time."
"Oh come on Jasmine, he doesn't exactly strike me as the giving-up type."
Jasmine nodded. "You have a point." She glanced outside, startled to see it was nearly dusk.
"It's getting late," said Sadira, following her gaze. "I should get going."
"Oh no, you don't have to leave yet –"
"Jasmine, it's okay. I'm getting tired, anyway." And truth be told, being around two happy couples was only reminding her that she was alone. She'd rather go home and bury herself in spell books that watch them all be all lovey-dovey. She pulled her friend into a hug. "I'll come visit again soon, I promise. Have a good night."
She said her goodbyes to the rest of the group, and made her way out of the palace and back home.
A little while later, Sadira was contentedly absorbed by the contents of one of her magic books, trying to find spells that might throw Mozenrath for a loop the next time they met. She was almost looking forward to encountering him again; after all, it wasn't like there was anyone else around against whom she could match her magical skills. And she had to admit a sort of grudging respect for his abilities.
"He's barely older than me, and he's already been able to use magic to conquer a whole kingdom," she muttered to herself. "It's impressive."
"I'm flattered." With a yelp of surprise, Sadira jumped up, the book falling at her feet as the Mozenrath appeared before her. She reacted quickly, shooting a spell at him, and naturally, he deflected. Frustrated, she summoned the energy for another volley, but Mozenrath held up his hands.
"Easy, little witch. I come in peace." Beside him, his little eel-thing scowled, apparently displeased at this statement.
"Not likely. And stop calling me that!"
"Sadira, then. And actually, it's true. I have an offer to make you."
"I'm not interested," she snapped, but he merely smiled.
"Oh, don't say that till you've heard me out."
"I don't care what you have to say. You tried to hurt my friends!"
"Look, the thing is, you're powerful, but you're undisciplined," he continued, as if she hadn't spoken. "You've been learning magic haphazard, piecemeal, because you've had to teach it to yourself. What you need is someone with more experience guiding your magical development. Someone like … me."
Stunned, Sadira lowered her defensive posture. "You're offering to teach me?" Of course, this was the exact situation she'd been searching for – well, except for the fact that he happened to be evil, and was bent or world domination, and wanted to cause harm to her friends. She couldn't exactly ignore all that. "You can't be serious!"
"Oh, I'm dead serious." He moved closer to her. "Come on, Sadira. You've got to admit my offer has a certain appeal. I can see it in your eyes. You want to say yes." She scoffed.
"I'm not going to work to say yes! Besides the fact that you're evil and completely untrustworthy, it would be a betrayal of my friends."
Mozenrath shook his head. "Do you realize how good a sorceress you could be with the proper guidance? You'd really choose friendship over power?"
Sadira hesitated, and then answered "Every time," hoping she sounded surer than she felt.
"Would you? And here I thought you were more ambitious than that. Pity. But I suppose we could still work something out. What if I promise not to hurt your friends?"
"I'd say you can't possibly think I'd be so stupid as to trust your promise."
"And you'd be right. Which is why I propose we enter into a binding magical contract. I take it you're familiar with such a thing?"
"Good. The terms will prevent me from attacking Agraba or any of its citizens for the duration of your training. Once we're done, of course, all bets are off."
Sadira paused to consider. "I see. And if I agree to this, what exactly is in it for you?"
Mozenrath cocked his head. "Would you believe the pleasure of seeing a pretty young sorceress reach her full potential?" He asked with faux-sweetness.
"Yeah right, tell me another one," she snorted.
"Okay, so obviously that's not it." He paused, seeming almost unsure of himself for the first time. "I'm looking for something … more specifically, a place. Have you ever heard of Avalon?" Her blank look told him the answer was no, so he explained. "It's an island, the ancestral home of a magical race that left its shores long a go. There's a plant that grows there, and it can save my life. I don't know if your little friends told you this, but … my gauntlet …"
"Will eventually kill you, yes, I know." She felt a sudden flash of sympathy for him, though she didn't know why. He cleared his throat.
"Yes, well … the point is, I don't want to die. So I've been trying to locate this island. You can only find your way there by magic, but my spells have not strong been enough to decipher the way to its shores. Not without help."
"So … you expect me to help you find this … Avalon?" Sadira asked, and she nodded. "Why are you asking me, and not some other sorcerer with more experience?"
"Because … I don't really have anything to offer another sorcerer. In fact, most of them would be happy to see me die, so they could have a shot at taking over as the most powerful sorcerer of our age. So that leaves a novice … like you."
Sadira scowled. "I'm not as much of a novice as you seem to think."
"Maybe not, but you've still got a long way to go." He countered. "Look Sadira, I'm taking a risk here too. The contract will require that I teach you to the best of my abilities; I'll be as bound by the terms as you are. Which means, when we go our separate ways, if and when I decide to attack Agraba, I'll be going up against someone who learned from the best."
"Well, don't you have a high opinion of yourself!" Sadira snapped, but he could see he was beginning to win her over.
"It's well-earned." He said. He extended his good hand. "So what do you say? Do we have a deal?"
Sadira looked down at his outstretched hand. This is a bad idea, she told herself, even as she felt her heart beat faster in excitement. To learn magic from one someone as powerful and skilled as him … how could she pass up such an opportunity? And what about the opportunity to help save someone's life, even if it was his? Surely that couldn't be a bad thing. Not entirely. And the contract would keep him from hurting her friends … at least for a while.
Sadira took a deep breath. "Okay," she said, and grasped his hand.
Mozenrath gave her a feral smile. "Excellent," he whispered. The air swirled about them, and indication of the magic that was sealing the bargain, and she felt herself shiver involuntarily in fear, or anticipation, or both.
What have I gotten myself into?