Author's Note: Hi all, I haven't written an Aladdin fic in quite some time, but this is a new inclusion to some of the other stories I've penned. This one plays upon a "what-if" scenario feeding on the fears of each of the characters, and marks the entrance of a new villain as well as the return of an old one that many of you might recognize. But things are never what they seem to be where magic is concerned, and there might be a little more than meets the eye to some of the events that occur here. I figured I'd play around with this a bit. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.
Synopsis: An area outside of Agrabah known as the Moonstone Oasis is said to be an area with a prominent curse. If a person looks at their reflection in the lake during a certain stretch of full moons, their deepest fears will come to life. Aladdin dismisses the legend as myth, but on evenings where Agrabah stands under the light of a full moon, strange things start happening to the people of Agrabah who have visited the oasis, to the point where Aladdin and his friends have to investigate for themselves the line between myth and reality.
Prologue: Disappearing Acts
Warek didn't like traveling under the light of a full moon. He hated even more that he was traveling alone on a camel that couldn't carry it's fair share of weight. The camel was moody, grumpy because neither of them had anything to drink in some time. Even the camel's head drooped forward, legs dragging through the crests of sand. Warek used his heel to the side of the beast, which prompted it to snort and trot along at a quicker pace.
Then an odd sight before Warek emerged over the crest of a sand dune, setting his heart fluttering in his chest. His rubbed his eyes, which bulged when he saw what appeared to be a blessing - an oasis. The lush expanse of trees and the waters that lapped against the moon-kissed rocks filled his hopes, as if he were already taking a long cool drink from the lake.
He laughed heartily, cackles that spread across the otherwise empty desert plain, at least on sight. "At last! At last! We can cool our parched throats, Dyna," Warek said, addressing his camel as he gave her a firm pat on the side of her neck. "It can't be far now to Agrabah, but at least this is a great place to rest for a little while. Perhaps we can sleep here until the first light."
Dyna's ears perked, her movements quicker along the sand, trotting toward the oasis. Warek unloaded his wares before the two of them drank heartily from the lake. When they seemed to have their fill, Warek sank back against a cool rock, sighing in contentment. He studied his reflection briefly in lapping waters while a full moon shone overhead, before turning to the camel settled beside him.
"Refreshing, indeed. I wonder if there's any food to be had in the trees among here. I will go search for some, so you stay right here. Look after the cargo while I'm gone." His scowl deepened when Dyna snorted, but the camel recovered quickly as her master's eyes narrowed. She gave a slight nod.
Warek stroked his beard wearily, turning from his stubborn steed and walking into the forest. His bare feet shuffled along the cool sands, further stirred by a distant breeze. His footprints made indelible impressions as he trekked forward.
Traveling by evening was preferable to dealing with the hot desert of the day, but Warek still felt at odds, even with the bright light of the full moon. He couldn't help but be a little superstitious. "Bad things happen on nights like these," he remembered his wife saying one night during a full moon in their small home. "A moon as clear and full in a dark clouded sky brings forth a wicked magic."
He was inclined to agree with her. Even as he looked up to the sky while among the trees, it was the same type of night she'd described, a bellied moon, dark clouds streamlining through the sky, the stars difficult to see. He saw the glint of fruit hanging in the nearby trees and, forgetting his fear while licking his lips, he started picking the ripe fruit to take for his travels - for himself and Dyna.
A sudden rustle of leaves filled his ears in the path behind him. He turned quickly, clutching the fruit tightly to his chest, though a few fell to the sands at his feet.
All he could see was the stir of the breeze, the flutter of leaves above and beyond him.
He sighed with relief. "Warek, you fool, stop getting spooked by everything you come across." He snorted and moved forward, but then another similar sound passed his ears.
Was it a serpent near? He looked around his feet. Nothing along his ankles. He hated serpents, but at least he could handle the sight of one. He just didn't like being surprised.
But as he looked up from the ground to the sudden shape that emerged before him, the fruit dropped from his arms in the same motion as his jaw.
His scream echoed far through the night.
Chapter 1: Illusion and Dream
Aladdin groaned as he stood in front of the merchant's booth, his eyes rolling. "Are you saying that's really how much you're willing to offer for these?" He struggled to keep his voice level, his hands balled into tight fists at his sides.
The merchant before him sneered. "If the price is too high for you, boy, then you can take your business somewhere else!"
Abu blew a raspberry noise. Aladdin couldn't have agreed more. "Fine, you know what? I'll do that. I think you're just trying to rip off any customer wanting those sugar dates. They're not worth that much."
"Confound you! Get away from my stand, you street rat! And don't bother coming back!"
"Hey whoa! Okay, okay! We're going!" Aladdin had to duck a few dates as he ran from the merchant stand, while Abu screeched in alarm, crawling inside Aladdin's shirt to hide.
When the two of them were a distance away, Aladdin sighed. "It's okay, Abu, you can come out now." His eyes narrowed. "Don't think that guy will get any business today, that's for sure."
Abu poked his head wearily from Aladdin's collar. But the sudden appearance of a shadow behind Aladdin made Abu screech again and hide. Aladdin turned with a start, but relaxed as he saw Genie materialize.
Genie had a scowl on his face, puffing on a pipe that blew bubbles floating in mid-air, like a detective. "Geez, that guy must be new. I don't understand why you didn't pull the Aspiring Prince card out there, Al. Doesn't take a genius to figure he would've treated you a little differently if you did."
"He probably wouldn't have believed me, not with the way I'm dressed." Aladdin gestured to his usual street clothes. "And even if he had, he would've drove the prices higher. And you're right...he's not from around here. I don't know why I bothered. That was a hassle that wasn't worth it." Aladdin ran his fingers through his hair.
Genie raised an eyebrow. "Wow, someone woke up sunny side down this morning." He materialized a pan with frying eggs that he flipped casually while donning a chef's hat. "And I'm not talking about that merchant."
Aladdin's eyes widened. "What? Who, me? What did I do?"
"I'm just sayin' you don't need to be stressed out about this whole dinner thing, even though there are going to be a lot of visiting leaders..." Genie held up his hands to protest, but startled voices from among a group of merchants nearby silenced them both. Aladdin could hear them talking in hushed whispers in the alley beyond. Abu seemed just as interested in the conversation, poking his head from around Aladdin's collar.
"I'm telling you that the curse is true! Why else would that camel and cargo been left there? Its owner's been spirited away, and no one here thinks to care!" One voice called out.
"Someone went missing?" Aladdin's tone remained low.
"Seems that way," Genie said.
Another of the merchant's voices was louder. "He was at Moonstone Oasis, of course he'd go missing, and last night was a full moon! They say those that stare at their reflection in the waters of Moonstone Oasis during a series of full moons will have their worst fears brought to life. Those fears might even kill them." The merchant made a cutting motion across his neck.
A third merchant in the group ran a hand down his face. "Nonetheless, Warek wasn't the type of man to leave his steed or wares behind. I am concerned, but I do not believe in any myths that you choose to tell. Now are you going to help me look for him or not?"
"Are you mad? I'm not stepping one foot on the oasis. This has been the second night of a full moon in a row, and I think some strange magic has been afoot. I will not subject myself to some curse!"
"You're a fool to believe in such a curse," another merchant said. Several started arguing in heated tones, but Aladdin wasn't listening anymore. He'd heard enough.
Genie looked at Aladdin, who had his hand cradled against his mouth. "Uh oh. I see the wheels turning in your head, kid, and I think I know what you're going to say."
Aladdin snorted. "Okay, what do you think?"
"I think you want to go searching for the guy."
"Well, yeah. It's not that far from Agrabah, we can get there by Carpet, but..."
Genie scowled. "But what? You're afraid of the curse?"
Aladdin laughed, waving his hand dismissively. "No, it's just a scary legend that I've heard about since I was a kid. I'm surprised those merchants believed it." His expression fell, more serious. "But I'm wondering whether we should go back to the palace first. I'd rather tell Jasmine what we're doing - just in case looking for the merchant takes a lot of time. Iago probably won't like we're skipping out on work, though."
"Spoken like a true hero." Genie transformed into a soldier with a trumpet and blared a tune announcing an army advance. "Tell you what, you take Rug-man and monkey boy here to start the search. I'll tell Jasmine and Iago what happened and after working some of my semi-phenomenal cosmic power - I'll come find you at the oasis to search for him."
Aladdin grinned. "Sounds like a plan." He whistled and Carpet appeared from a distance above them. "Okay, Genie, leave a good word for me, and I'll meet up with you later."
"You've got it kiddo!" Genie turned into a horse and galloped toward the Palace, while Aladdin, Carpet and Abu streamlined over and out of the city to the desert beyond.
"Down there, Carpet! I don't see anyone by the water, though. He might've gone in the forest somewhere." Aladdin looked down at the edge of the oasis, the sky darkening to shades of orange, reflected in the water.
Abu sniffed the air, his eyes widening at the fruits that hung on the trees. They were large, red, and plump, ready to pick as Aladdin approached the edge of the forest. He stood on Aladdin's shoulder, reaching to pull one of the fruits down.
"No, Abu, we can't think about eating right now." Aladdin pushed Abu's arms down. Abu scowled at him. "Though it wouldn't be a bad thing to take some of this with us to the palace. Let's first focus on finding the merchant."
Abu folded his arms across his chest, but gave a small wave of his paw. "Yeah, yeah, yeah."
"Hello? Is anyone here? Hell0-o!" Aladdin called out, but the breeze ruffling the trees of the oasis came as the only response. Carpet hesitated nearby as Abu and Aladdin moved forward. Aladdin noticed him trembling.
"Carpet, you're not scared, are you?" Aladdin's brow lifted.
Carpet shook his knob ends at first, but then hung its head low.
Aladdin laughed. "There's nothing to be scared of, trust me. The old legend about this place is just that - a legend. Though it's a weird coincidence that the merchant went missing on the same night as a full moon. That's never happened before. I wonder if something..."
Aladdin didn't finish the thought as a sudden anguished cry broke through the forest. It made every patch of fur on Abu bristle, as he lept to the sands at Aladdin's feet. Carpet shook, his lower knobs knocking together as if they were knees. But Aladdin's brow narrowed.
"Come on, it came from that way!" Aladdin pointed north from where they stood and rushed off in the direction, with Carpet weaving behind him, while Abu trembled briefly before running after them.
Aladdin stopped short as he saw the man knelt in the middle of shrubs, his head in his hands. He seemed to be really upset, moaning and rocking back and forth.
"Hey, sir, are you okay? What happened?" Aladdin asked, but the man didn't seem to hear him. Abu and Aladdin exchanged confused looks, before Aladdin stepped forward.
"Excuse me, are you Warek?"
That seemed to get the merchant's attention. In a flash, the man whirled around grabbing Aladdin by the collar and throwing him against the bark of a tree.
Aladdin felt a shock of pain run down his back, and his vision blurred from the impact of the back of his head with the tree. But he heard the man's voice clearly.
"You think I'm a fool to trust the sight of you, even if you know my name? I'm not easily deceived!" Aladdin saw a flash of silver in the dim moonlight that shone through the trees. His eyes widened. The merchant's dagger had a jagged design, sharp to the tip.
Aladdin held up his hands quickly. "Wait, wait! I'm not here to hurt you. I just..."
The merchant shook his head. As Aladdin's vision cleared he saw that the man had a glossy look to his eyes. They were an odd grey, like tiny full moons were over his pupils.
The merchant raised the dagger. "No, I'll not be taken for a fool again. Before you have a chance to torture me as you've done before, demon, I'll kill you where you stand!"