Part One: The Taranushi

It was April fifth, 1929, and Nimrod Godwin was only fourteen years old, and yet he was expected to find someone to grant three wishes to. Just last year, his older sister, Layla, had passed her taranushi. All Nimrod had known about it was that she'd gone to Chicago (reputedly the unluckiest city in America) for a year and had come back to London with a mysterious glint in her eye. Nothing of which helped Nimrod at all.

Now it was Nimrod's turn to travel somewhere. He remembered that Layla hadn't told anyone where she was going- not even Nimrod had known. But that was beside the point. Nimrod had to decide where he was going to go.

Nimrod pulled out his big atlas from underneath his bed and opened it to his favourite page: the map of Egypt.

Egypt had its own page for purely one reason: Nimrod had created the atlas himself using his powers. The actual map was simply a larger image of the one he'd seen in his school atlas. The other pages in his special atlas were all of places that interested him, and among these were Egypt, India, Brazil, Peru, Morocco, and China.

Nimrod traced the length of the Nile River with his index finger, thinking that he might go to Giza to see the pyramids. After all, he had an entire year to find someone to grant three wishes to: why not see the sights in advance, and worry about this assignment later? Nimrod was a powerful djinn, if a youthful one, and he was quite sure he'd manage to find someone worthy of the honour.

"Are you ready yet, Nimrod?" called his sister, Layla, up the stairs. Hurriedly, Nimrod shut the atlas, shoved it into his half-packed suitcase, and shouted back.

"Nearly finished, Layla!" He lied. Racing around his room in a last-minute panic, Nimrod grabbed everything he might find useful, including the spyglass that his father had given to him before he'd vanished.

It was a rather unusual family arrangement that Layla and Nimrod had now; and a rather unheard of one as well. Their father, Mr. Kenneth Godwin, had also been a pure-blooded djinn, and had vanished under mysterious circumstances while the family was vacationing in Cairo. Since that trip, so many years ago, the siblings' mother, Ayesha Godwin, had been particularly careful in regards to the safety of her two djinn children, raising them in the quiet atmosphere of their house in London. However, as of last December, Ayesha had left to become the very important Blue Djinn of Babylon- the ultimate arbiter of all djinn matters, at least, those that were brought to her attention. She had told Nimrod and Layla to come and visit her in Berlin, where she would take up residence in the Villa Fledermaus, where the previous Blue Djinn had lived when not in her palace in Babylon. Nimrod was already referring to the place as 'Bat Mansion' in both his thoughts and his words. He and Layla knew that visiting Ayesha Godwin as she had become would not be visiting the sweet, kind, caring mother that they'd known all their lives. She would be replaced by a hard-hearted, indifferent, insensitive termagant that neither Nimrod nor his sister could ever learn to love, not even one bit. He was quite sure of that point.

Sighing as he recalled all of the tragedy that had been crammed into his (comparatively) short life, Nimrod finished throwing his clothes and other equipment into his brand-new red Harrods suitcase and struggled to lock it, or even to get it closed.

"Nimrod!" Layla shouted again, sounding more impatient than ever. Finally, and only by sitting on top of it, Nimrod managed to get the latches to click shut, and he quickly locked both of them, tucking the little key into the pocket of his trousers.

Almost dragging the suitcase behind him, Nimrod left his room, shutting the door behind him, and struggled down the stairs. At the bottom of the steps, Layla was waiting.

"Is the cab here?" Nimrod asked her, nearly tripping over the last step and sending the heavy suitcase toppling onto his head. Layla seemed confused.

"Didn't you say that you'd be leaving by whirlwind? I know you know how to make one."

Layla was what anyone would call beautiful. At almost 16 years old, she stood almost six feet tall, had lustrous chestnut hair that curled around her face in a most becoming way, and dark, dewy eyes that seemed to know everything. Every day, compliments would pour forth from everyone who spoke to her, and she didn't hide the fact that she loved the attention. On top of her looks, Layla had used quite a bit of djinn power to help make everything she touched successful. No one paid much attention to Nimrod, but he was always there. In the background, he often thought. He didn't resent Layla for this, though. It wasn't really her fault that she was beautiful and captivating, and he... well, wasn't. Nimrod disliked talking to anyone but his elder sister at the best of times, and, added to the fact that he looked quite unremarkable, this made Nimrod the more shy and retiring of the two. In any case, the only other people (besides Layla, of course,) he would willingly speak to were other djinn. In the schoolyard, his mates were all djinn, and outside of school, he tended not to speak with anyone. Mostly, Nimrod reserved his thoughts to himself, which, for him, was a blessing; if he did speak his mind more often, he would have had his teeth knocked out several times by now for all the snarky insults, snide comments, and prideful thoughts that floated about in his head. For someone who was merely fourteen, Nimrod had pride enough for ten people.

"Oh, yes. I did, didn't I?" Nimrod said finally, remembering that he had, indeed told Layla that he'd be leaving for wherever his taranushi took him by whirlwind. "Could you help me get this up to the roof? It's quite heavy for one person to carry, even if I am a djinn."

Layla smiled her stunning, perfect smile, and picked up one end of Nimrod's suitcase, while he took the other. A few minutes later, they were in the attic of the house, and Nimrod was preparing to leave through the skylight and go out into the sooty London air.

"Goodbye Nimrod!" Layla said cheerily once her brother had successfully climbed through the skylight, utilizing an old table as a step. "Good luck!"

"Thanks, Layla." Nimrod smiled, and gathered his willpower. "QWERTYUIOP!" Soot that had settled on the nearby rooftops was stirred up and joined the funnel of warm air that Nimrod had created, and he rose into the air, higher and higher until his own house became indistinguishable from the rows and rows of identical houses.

Nimrod flew straight up until he deemed that he'd gone high enough to avoid the shocked stares of those who were on the street. Plunging his hand into his trouser pocket, Nimrod drew out his heavy gold-plated compass and tried to figure out which direction he ought to go if he was to head to Giza. Finally, he determined which way was Southeast, and steered his whirling funnel of sooty air in that direction. Smiling at his own cleverness, Nimrod sighed happily, and threw his weight back into his whirlwind, relishing the feeling of being seated on the softest cushion imaginable. Even the soot and ash that he'd picked up from the rooftops couldn't bother him, not that the London fog ever bothered djinn in any case. Feeling a lot more contented than he had in a long time, Nimrod spoke his focus word again, causing a large cigar to appear in one hand, and a gold-plated lighter to appear in the other.

"Freedom," Nimrod said to himself as he lit the cigar carefully, "is a truly remarkable thing. Too bad the schoolmasters have never heard of it." He laughed, a little bit cruelly to be sure, and began to smoke in earnest.

Somewhere over Italy, Nimrod began to grow sleepy. He thought that perhaps it was the altitude, but he soon dismissed that notion, thinking to himself that surely a djinn, such as himself, would not be affected by mere heights. This was utter nonsense, of course, since djinn are affected by altitude just as much as the mundanes are, unless the djinn happens to be in his or her bottle or lamp, which Nimrod certainly wasn't. A minute or two later, Nimrod's eyelids drooped, closed, and finally, he fell asleep with the cigar still smoldering away in his right hand.