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The Practical (and Occasionally Impractical) Princesses of Persia

Description: There once were three sisters, who were like the sides of a three sided coin. It was one of those twist of fate things (and other stuff that they weren't supposed to hear about until they were older, but did anyway) that the three sister-princesses were born on the same day and in the same hour to three different mothers (then they had adventures, but there was also danger, and metaphors like rivers run through sands of time).
Rating:  PG-13
Genre: Fantasy, Humor, Bechtel test, Characters of Color, Female Characters, Muslim Characters

It was one of those twist of fate things (and other stuff that they weren't supposed to hear about until they were older, but did anyway) that the three sister-princesses were born on the same day and in the same hour to three different mothers.

Princess Zainab was born first. Just as the golden hour pulled on a feather-light hijab of dove-grey shadows. While high above a djinn of the air soared on an updraft and a golden feather spun free from her whirl. The feather of air and fire slipped through the wide white lattice into the place of cool niches and tiled alcoves. Into the noon-sky-blue tile room where the Lady Mihrimah lay in her labors. The djinn's feather brushed her cheek, and Princess Zainab was born. None too soon, for with the guttering feather against her skin, the Lady Mihrimah became a very irritated golden eagle and no amount of coaxing or equally irritated magi ranting could turn her back into a woman. And so the Lady Mihrimah traded the Shah's harem for the Shah's mews (Mahin Banu would like to be clear that a harem isn't like some people think; while Zainab would like to remind her sister that she's not even born yet and so perhaps the story should be allowed to get back on track, which is when Farangis took the pen).

Princess Farangis was born second as the olive shadows pooled into evening-oil twilight. Inside the room where the spring-grass-green tiled fountain spilled water in an ever changing pattern, a lotus, contrary to the gathering night, opened its petals wide. The Lady Abadiya breathed in perfume and breathed out. Princess Farangis was born. None too soon, because as the Lady Abadiya brought a new life into the world, she had been considering birth and death, and had come to a bit of a realization, which resulted in her turning into a mote of light, which was just like her because the Lady Abadiya'd always been an odd sort of person. Farangis was odd too, if it came to it. The first manifestation of this being her habit of looking solemnly at motes of light dancing dust across a quiet room (but that was later, or three minutes after her birth, and, well, Farangis quite liked tangents, but Zainab was looking at her significantly, so this story got back to birthing the final sister).

Princess Mahin Banu was born third as the night poured sand on the last embers of day. Inside the hammered gold room with the Chin silk sheets, the Lady Tajlu Khanoom gripped a piece of leather between her teeth, while still breathing like she'd practiced and pushing down like in all her research during the long months of pregnancy. Lady Tajlu Khanoom believed ignorance was for other people. She bit into the leather and got what needed to be done, done. Mahin Banu was born as the first star woke up and got on with its job of twinkling and guiding travelers far from home.

As the djinn made her way home. As the lotus contemplated a transient flicker of light that didn't come from a cut glass lamp.

All of which is to say the three sisters were like a three sided coin, if such a thing were to exist. Zainab might have rolled that coin with her hand while she stood balanced on one foot. On a ledge. Zainab said, "We're triplets," and jumped.

"Prodigies of nature," muttered Mahin Banu over a history of Tamerlane. She'd just learned the word prodigy. She used it whenever she could, which was giving the word rambunctious a much needed rest (although, Zainab missed how Mahin Banu defined the word by neighing like a horse, pawing the air with her hands for hooves and flipping her hair, saying, "Rambunctious!").

Farangis captured a fly in her cupped hands. She smiled at Zainab. "Balancing on one foot. We open our hands." As she spoke, she slid her hands through the window's lattice and opened her hands. The fly flew away.

Zainab shrugged and did a hand stand.

Mahin Banu turned a page. "The fly will come back."

Farangis said, "Then I will let it go again."

"You're weird," said their brother, Prince Shahzadeh Sultan Rustam Mirza, who had begun insisting that they use his full name and title since he was very nearly twelve and about to leave the women's world of woven-niches for the road-bright world of men. His mistake was shoving Farangis, who fell down and looked at the rug burn on her knee with round fat tears of surprise.

Zainab and Mahin Banu looked at each other. Mahin Banu closed her book. Zainab nodded. They jumped their brother, Prince Shahzadeh Sultan Rustam Mirza Fat-Head. Mahin Banu added the Fat-Head, which strictly speaking was not part of his name. She also held his arm behind his back until he said he was sorry. Zainab sat on his legs and did a thing to his knees that she wasn't supposed to do. He might have cried a little (a lot - seriously, he cried like a boy) as he limped out of the room.

Zainab went back to her leaps and Mahin Banu went back to her book. That moment happened in the year they were eight.

Back when they were six, Mahin Banu had began a serious study of practicality and preparedness. After that year, and all the years that life wove after, Mahin Banu studied.

She studied what to do if Mummies should shuffle from their tombs, which was something that only happened in Egypt, but she wanted to be ready if she ever went there, which was unlikely because she was a girl and a princess. She lived in tiled rooms and looked out from balconies and latticed alcoves. Nevertheless, she believed that ignorance was for other people, and possibly not even them.

She studied what to do if the Sands of Time were released from the Dagger of Time and time was rolled back, or time was rewoven, or someone messed up the words to do either and turned everyone into purple furred monsters with little yellow horns. She often wondered why her father, the Shah, and then her brother, the Shah, thought it was a good idea to keep something around that rewove time or turned everyone into purpled furred monsters with little yellow horns. Most people didn't think of all the (horrible, horrible) possibilities.

She studied how to tell if a Div assumed the shape of one of her sisters, which it should be noted that while she had a great many sisters and brothers, there were only two that she thought were important. The Shah, her brother, was not one of those important siblings. Partially, but not only, because of the Dagger of Time thing. This last study turned out to be a waste of Mahin Banu's time because when a Div did impersonate their cousin Mirza, Farangis was the one who noticed because he moved the light in the wrong way.

All these studies started when they were six. That year was a year that the Ottomans invaded like locusts, came and left, and Mahin Banu hadn't known that she needed to prepare for that. But she remembered what they took. The Shah's favorite wife. A political-pulley for negotiations. The Lady Tajlu Khanoom. Her mother. The mother she'd shared with her sisters, because a golden eagle (however fierce) and a mote of light (however bright) didn't have a lap and arms. So, after that year Mahin Banu studied and prepared for a great many eventualities.

When they were eleven, Zainab taught herself to climb walls and out windows (the earlier climbing ledges being mere precociousness, while Mahin Banu liked to think of herself as more perspicacious; she learned those words at the same time and used them in rapid fire like a rain of Timiruid arrows from her favorite book). Mahin Banu rolled her eyes at Zainab and said, "You'll break your leg," but Zainab knew she wouldn't. Well, mostly she knew she wouldn't.

Farangis said, "Tell me what the sun's kiss looks like on the roof tiles." Closed her eyes and stretched.

Zainab laughed and climbed out the wide window lattice and over the wide white wall that held them in. She stood on the edge and she jumped. It only hurt a little (a lot - those were thin shoes). She ran through the streets. Full of sights and sounds. Rotting garbage and bright-traveled cloth. Sharp-spices. Shouting voices. Wonders. But she wasn't with her sisters. She went back to the wide wide white palace and ran around the roof. Taught herself the way down to the mews. Learned how to take her mother out to fly.

When they were fourteen, they swore that they'd always stay together. They sat in the gold hammered room with the faded Chin silk by a small oil lamp, a brass braiser over the flame. They held their clasped hands over the smoke and swore that they'd stay together always, seven times each. Farangis had asked Zainab to purchase the seven herbs of Sini-ye Aatel-O-Baatel (Mahin Banu would like to explain that these are wedding herbs: poppy and nigella seeds, wild rice, angelica, salt, black tea, and frankincense) from the spice market by the wide red road. The spices smelled acrid as they burned, but Farangis said, "Its from the bitter that comes the sweet," which made no sense to Mahin Banu, but she rolled her eyes only once.

When they were done chanting words that Farangis had written on the side of a leaf, and they burned the leaf and all that was left was to inhale was the smoke, Mahin Banu said, "You realize this means that at best they'll marry us all to the same man," which was true. Unlikely. Three princesses weren't going to be spent on any one prince. Mahin Banu didn't say that. Practicality and preparedness only went so far. She held her sister's hands and they looked out the window at the crescent moon and woven rusari of night (Mahin Banu wanted to mention that a rusari is a head scarf, while Zainab thought it was stupid because the night was nothing like a rusari, and Farangis wanted to mention that the rusari was covered in twelve point stars, which as Mahin Banu hurried to point out was a sort of metaphoric joke since all three sisters practiced Imami Shīa Islam, which was also called Twelver, and then Farangis said that poetic metaphors shouldn't be explained and Zainab gritted her teeth and asked if the story could get on with itself).

Now it should be noted at this point that the princesses didn't really see themselves as great beauties, what with the none of them being moon-faced women with red recurve bow mouths and big-breasted-tiny-waists, and had that explained to them by a range of Ladies, which was what happened in a place full of necessarily competitive people with not much to compete over. Truthfully, Zainab had a tiny waist. It came with the figure of a fourteen year old boy and a hatchet nose. Mahin Banu perhaps stress-ate a little (although, not during the month of Ruzeh, when she never seemed to loose weight, as she did make up on day time fasting with night time stress-eating under the cover of darkness, which Zainab wanted to point out looked nothing like a rusari) more than was healthy, which also worried her, while reading up and preparing for all the things that could kill them. But she wasn't as lumpy and splotchy as she was told she was. Farangis was cross-eyed, which, when a Lady pointed this out, Farangis laughed at a mote in a sunbeam and wrote a poem on the transient nature of beauty on a blue-tiled wall.

When those high-strung voices competed to call them ugly, Zainab had a phase where she'd say, "They're a bunch of bitches," because when she wandered the streets, she pretended to be a boy, and sometimes she forgot when she came home. Mahin Banu would have said something about pejorative language, but she'd been crying, which was a phase, too. Zainab put nasty things in various beds, and lay on her back on the roof while her mother perched, and preened, and listened to her problems. When they were thirteen, and a particular Lady had been vocal, Farangis painted a poem on silk, "I know the Truth as my supreme guide, I would sacrifice myself in his way, I was born yesterday, I will die today, Come, whoever would die, here is the arena." She put down the brush and spread out her work. As that particularly vocal Lady gaped, Farangis said, "The silk was your dress and now it is my art. The voice of our father, the Shah, who has gone on a journey." She got into a bit of trouble over that, but still she managed to give the dress to Mahin Banu.

When they were fifteen, the kingdom was invaded from the west. Ottomans again. Mahin Banu was filled with not like for the Ottomans. Lots of really serious not like. She took that painted dress from a trunk, Farngis helped her with the letter, while Zainab found the messenger to send it to the Magnificent Sultan Suleiman. He did not reply (he laid siege to the city, but Mahin Banu didn't think that was a direct response).

When the Shah, their brother, went off to go fight the Ottomans, they weren't surprised when their brother's Vizier, Jaffar, laughed manically for a long length of time and grabbed the Dagger of Time off the wall behind the throne, brandished it in the air and shouted, "The kingdom is mine!"

In Mahin Banu's studies, nine out of ten viziers named Jaffar were evil. Appoint an Ibrahim, or Ahmed, or whoever else as the Vizier and the Shah received loyal service. Appoint a Jaffar and for some reason he went crazy the moment the Shah's back was turned.

This Jaffar released the Sands of Time from the Dagger of Time, which somehow had something to do with taking over the kingdom, and in no surprise he said the words wrong, and everyone in the court (and presumably the city and the surrounding Ottomans, Mahin Banu smiled as the she thought that Sulieman was not so magnificent now) turned into purple furred monsters with little yellow horns. The sisters weren't turned into monsters because, well, Mahin Banu coughed and said, "It's because we're wearing amulets." She waved her arm in the air and her charm bracelet loaded with forty-three separate keep-bad-stuff-from-happening charms jingled. There were two ancillary charm anklets, but they weren't relevant for the Dagger of Time or this story. Farangis contemplated the way the light struck her own charm bracelet. Which was different from nothing. Zainab, also in a fairly typical move, jumped down from the women's niche and grabbed a sword from a wall. She yelled, "Turn everyone back!"

Mahin Banu climbed down more cautiously, not wanting to injure herself. While, Farangis, well, it was hard to say how she got down. She was just there.

Jaffar stared at them, surrounded by drooling purple furred monsters with little yellow horns, and laughed some more. Did a magic thing with a white ivory thing that he plucked off the wall, which might have seemed like a bad place to store things, under the circumstances, but Mahin Banu's studies found that it didn't actually help to put anything in a pearl, in a fish, in a falcon, in a goat, in a cow, in a dragon on the top of a mountain. These things always ended up in idiotic hands. But that really wasn't important. What was important was Jaffar whirled them all back to his house and into his over-wrought bedroom decorated with a large hourglass, and actually twirled his mustache. Jaffar said, "Mwhahaha." Seriously, he actually said, "Mwhahaha."

Zainab made a vomiting gesture and gripped her sword, which he'd forgotten to take away from her. The only reason Mahin Banu was not rolling her eyes so hard that they fell out of her head was because of her extensive studies. She'd begged the Shah to appoint that perfectly intelligent Aladdin as Vizier. But no. The Shah just had to have a Jaffar.

A Jaffar, who twirled his mustache and said, "Mwhahaha, you three have until the hourglass fills, and then you will be my virgin brides."

He swooshed out of the room. Literally, he made a swooshing noise with his mouth. "Swoosh." Mahin Banu was actually beginning to get embarrassed for him. While Zainab was going with a kill-Jaffar plan, when he waved the ivory wand, made another swoosh noise and disappeared.

Farangis pursed her lips. "I may have made a slight error in the phrasing of our prayer."

"Yeah, we should have prayed to all marry someone who isn't completely insane," said Mahin Banu.

"Hmmm..." Farangis sat down on the bed and looked ready to start over with her prayer.

Zainab tapped experimentally on the hourglass with the sword. Kicked it. Shoved it. But it didn't break, budge or otherwise move. She looked out the window. It was at least a 1200 foot drop (impressive given building constraints, but Mahin Banu suspected that Jaffar used magic in the construction) onto a very uneven cobblestone street. A street teaming with snuffling purple furred monsters with little yellow horns. At least from this height (and with a convenient set of magical ocular lenses), they could tell that the Ottomans were snuffling monsters, too. Suleiman had really magnificent fur. But still, this was no way to leave a kingdom.

Zainab looked at Mahin Banu. "You know how to fix this, right?"

Mahin Banu tilted her head to the right and raised her eyebrows. Then jingled her charm bracelet for extra, "Oh, please!"

Zainab shrugged her apology. "We've got to get out of here." She pursed her lips. "We could wait to be rescued." Zainab and Mahin Banu looked at each other.

Mahin Banu and Zainab laughed at exactly the same time and in exactly the same way. A little like braying donkeys. This wasn't the low sultry laugh that Mahin Banu had been practicing, but it felt good. Better than, well, she wasn't sure better than what. Mainly it was a relief to have something she'd prepared for actually happen (she was still a little annoyed at how the thing with the Div went down).

Farangis wasn't laughing. She was eyeing the hangings around the egregiously huge bed, which really said something about Jaffar's egregious ambitions (Mahin Banu loved the word egregious, because it covered a multitude of sins).

"Err..." said Zainab, "You're not going to, I don't know..."

"Tell us to accept our fate," said Mahin Banu. Not that it happened often, but still. It was all or none.

Farangis climbed on the bed and unhooked a series of ropes, which were egregious (and possibly rambunctious and after much pleading from Zainab, Mahin Banu neighed like a horse, after which the story got on with itself). Farangis said, "Breaking free from this cage, we attain the world of the soul." She looked at her sisters. Sighed. "The rope is a sign that we should escape." Paused. "It's important to learn how to interpret signs."

"Oh," said Mahin Banu. Then they all got with the program and collected rope. Took apart hangings. Tried to pull up the very heavy metal barred gate that opened onto the room. Unfortunately, there was not enough pulley material in the room.

They had pretty much taken the room apart when Jaffar reappeared saying, "Is it time yet?" Paused. Looked around his room. Shrieked when he saw what they'd done. Yelled, "You daughters of whores!" because he was a jerk as well as crazy.

Zainab looking around for where she'd put down the sword (Zainab wanted to be clear that stripping a room to find useful bits required both hands). She saw it by the open window and dived for it in a roll. The roll was actually a mistake, since it ate precious momentum. Not that she needed it, because as Jaffar lunged at her, something large and fast dived through the window from the wide open sky. A large, and very familiar, golden eagle clawed at Jaffar's face in a get-away-from-my-daughter sort of way.

This gave Mahin Banu time to grab a torch, because Jaffar was an idiot and didn't use sensible oil lamps, and Zainab time to grab the sword. If this were a different sort of story, there'd be a long description of the fight, but there wasn't much of one given it was two teenage girls (sadly Farangis was useless in a fight) and a golden eagle against one crazy jerk. He was soon very, very dead, and Lady Mirhrimah (that was the golden eagle's name for those of you who have forgotten) perched on his corpse.

Mahin Banu gingerly pulled the Dagger of Time from Jaffar's by now very tattered, singed, and ichorous (she'd just read that word the previous week in a pathology book and was quite pleased to have an opportunity to use it) robes, while Lady Mihrimah pecked, somewhat unhelpfully, at what was left of his face. Mahin Banu held up the Dagger of Time. "Excellent. This will be a lot easier with this."

Then for relativistic plot reasons (or you know, fate), a white mouse skittered out into the room, saw Lady Mihrimah and skittered right back out out through the barred gate, which somehow triggered something and the gate opened with sound of great wheels turning. They chased the mouse, (Mahin Banu felt that specific subjects in sentences were important, so she added that "they" referred to the sisters and the eagle), which made the mouse run faster and the gates opened each in their turn.

Finally, a wide archway opened onto a stair case. The mouse beelined (if that even made sense as a statement, because Mahin Banu thought so, but Zainab wasn't quite sure) down the stairs, which led to a Jaffar-seriously-had-had-some-issues, grey, stone labyrinth.

Zainab laughed when she saw the labyrinth. Jumped across across a wide gaping space to the far stone platform. Jumped back. "Maybe I could have married him. It's like it's made for me." Then she made a noise that was sort of a ululation with a woot at the end. Lept back across and did a little dance.

Mahin Banu heard a horrible click. As steel blades sliced up from the floor under Zainab (oh, don't worry, Farangis wants you to know this isn't that sort of story), Mahin Banu opened the Dagger of Time to release some sand. She didn't mess up the words when she turned back time.

Zainab laughed when she saw the labyrinth. Mahin Banu grabbed her wrist. "There are traps all over." She pointed at the uneven flagstone across the abyss. "That's a trap."

"What seriously?" Zainab didn't look convinced. Mahin Banu tried to spring it by throwing a dodaw (a technical term for gewgaw) from Jaffar's room at it, but it fell a little (lot) short.

"Seriously, you need to work on upper body strength." Zainab threw another dodaw, hit the flagstone and long blades went woosh out of the floor.

Mahin Banu made a face at Zainab. "I'm not the one who was almost kebabed. I had to turn back time. It was really hard."

"What? All you had to do was open the knife." Zainab narrowed her eyes.

"It's a dagger." Mahin Banu crossed her arms (this was never a good sign; especially when Zainab had her eyes narrowed, because even sisters who were the best of friends argued when they'd had a bad day, or had been kidnapped by a crazy Jaffar Vizier and almost kebabbed).

Farangis tilted her head. "This means the labyrinth wasn't made for you." She hummed a wedding song off key. "The groom is dead on the wedding rug, and the brides flee east into the light."

This effectively broke up the fight as Mahin Banu and Zainab shared a our-sister-is-wierd-but-only-we-get-to-say-that look.

Lady Mihrimah screeched for everyone to focus and get moving (Zainab was always amazed that her mother could fit so much motherly advice into a single screech).

Zainab went slower then as she explored down. That way was a dead end. Went up. Yelled down, "Throw me the rope." She helped her sisters across the abyss while Lady Mihrimah screeched advice.

Eventually, the corridor emptied out onto a wide open empty space. The sisters stared over the edge. Jaffar. Serious issues. Forty feet below there was nothing but rows of blades. A dead blond man was impaled on them. "Um," said Mahin Banu.

"I could... uh, yeah," Zainab rubbed the side of her head, "I've got nothing."

"Shh," said Farangis. She smiled at a mote of light that danced across the abyss and hovered in space. Lady Abadiya (Farangis' mother, who turned into a mote of light, for those of you who have forgotten) bobbed patiently.

"Oh." Farangis smiled. Turned to her sisters and said, "I love leaps of faith. It's like a literal metaphor. Well, it is a literal metaphor." Farangis stepped out into the abyss. Empty nothing turned into solid stones under her feet. Quaking, falling, completely unarchitectually supported stones. But stones. They ran across the non-abyss. Pavings appearing under their feet until they reached the other side. The mote of light settled on the golden eagle's head, which annoyed Lady Mihrimah to no end.

Zainab widened her eyes at Farangis, who smiled and said, "Mother, please stop trying to make pearls" (which was Farangis speak for stop being irritating, because she knew perfectly well being annoying only made pearls in oysters and otherwise made for blisters). Lady Abadiya settled into Farangis' rusari, which was useful for illumination for the long stretches between smoking, burning torches in the enclosed space.

Mahin Banu shook her head as she slowly climbed down a rope past a sputtering torch. "Seriously, Jaffar. Oil Lamps." But really, Jaffars were always crazy like that. When she dropped to the floor where her sisters waited, three figures dropped from the ceiling.

They wore the princesses faces, but as if they'd had the colors reversed. And for some reason, a little blurry.

Zainab said, "Hey, that's my face," and drew her sword. Her other self drew her sword and they fought. Every thrust, the other-Zainab parried. Every feint the other-Zainab countered. Mahin Banu waved the Dagger of Time at the other-Mahin Banu, who somehow had her own Dagger.

Farangis stared at the other-Farangis. The other-Farangis stared back. Waited. Farangis stepped closer. The other-Farangis stepped closer, until they were nose to nose. Farangis smiled, a mote of light winked against the curve of her cheek. Other-Farangis smiled, a mote of darkness winked. Farangis stepped into the other-Farangis in a pop of light and then there was one Farangis. She took a breath in an attempt to be linear and said, "Stop fighting yourselves."

Mahin Banu let go of the other-Mahin Banu. The other-Mahin Banu let go. Zainab put down her sword. The other-Zainab put down her sword. They each merged with themselves (Mahin Banu thought this was several kinds of creepy. Zainab thought it was only one kind of creepy). They looked at each other. Had a moment. Lady Mihrimah screeched get-over-your-moment-and-keep-going. They kept going.

It was infinite and if they hadn't killed him, Zainab would have killed Jaffar around the third floor, because this was getting old. Some floors had walking skeletons. Princess Zainab didn't feel bad about killing them. What with them being dead and all. But it was a pain. Some floors had purple furred monsters with little yellow horns in guard uniforms. Some floors were just full of dead bodies impaled on blades or crushed under flagstones.

Farangis was killed once, but Mahin-Banu used the Dagger of Time to give Farangis another life. Then they got to hear about the philosophical poetry of that for two more floors. Zainab died twice and was gruff with embarassment. Mahin Banu said, "I told you so," both times (this did not help Zainab's mood and the second time she died was a result of feeling irritated about the previous time). Plus there was a lecture that Zainab was out of lives and now had to be really careful.

Anyway, floor. Climb. Jump. Dead blond guy on blades. Falling stones. Floor. Floor. Run. Climb. Jump. Fight skeletons. Avoid purple furred monsters with little yellow horns. Wish Jaffar was alive so they could kill him again.

Finally, they went out the last door and into the street outside where the night glittered its moonless (twelve pointed, pointed out Farangis) stars. The darkness didn't matter. They had a mote of light to follow. There were still monsters to deal with and Farangis was still useless in a fight, but Zainab made up for it by being really not.

Up the cobbled streets and into the wide white palace where they'd lived all their lives. They didn't linger in the women's alcoves and niches. They ran down the main hall and into the court room.

Mahin Banu held up the Dagger of Time. Held her amulet in the palm of her hand and said the words that pulled back the Sands of Time into the Dagger of Time. And it was that morning. There was Jaffar ranting. Reaching for the Dagger of Time that was not on the wall (Mahin Banu felt it was important to mention that the Dagger's paradox didn't run that way). Unexpectedly, it was Farangis who hit him on the head with a vase. "This phantom world gives you false signs. And blisters. Lots of blisters." Lady Abadiya buzzed in Jaffar's face. Lady Mihrimah perched and looked down her beak at him. Zainab tied him up with the rope.

Mahin Banu stood there, holding the Dagger of Time. Looked at her sisters. At the wide room full of people blinking at them. These girls outside of their niches. Put the Dagger of Time back on the wall, because it wasn't theirs.

Zainab grinned and said, "Come on." They ran (or in some instanced flew or floated) out of the hall. Back out of the wide white palace. Into the garbage-spice streets.

"Where are we going?" asked Mahin Banu.

Farangis said, "We are incomplete." A golden eagle shot over head. A mote of light danced at the edge of vision.

Zainab said, "Istanbul." Grinned wide. "We're going to rescue your mother."

And they all grinned and ran and that was that.

Well, in that they had many more adventures along the way. There was an ifrit aflicted horse. A great Roc with designs on Lady Mihrimah and a lost Egyptian Hawk, who likewise delighted Lady Mihrimah's eagle eye. A city in a bottle. Eventually, they rescued the Lady Tajlu Khanoom (Mahin Banu's mother for those of you who have forgotten), who had used her time in the excellent educational facilities of the harem of the Sultan Sulieman to study architecture. So, when they went back to Persia, the Lady Tajlu Kahanoom and Mahin Banu built domes (specifically the dome of the Jannatsara at the shrine of Sheikh Safi at Ardabil), buildings with domes, shrines, comfortable (and safe) places along the ways of pilgrimage, bridges and caravanserais (actually, it might have been more useful to list the things they didn't build, but this story had committed itself, so let's pretend that that was that). Which is to say the sisters and their mothers traveled. Because it wasn't as if these places were next to each other. Spread out along the long silk roads.

But those steps were part of another story. Or several. There were no happily ever afters. Although, they did all accidentally marry a time traveling dragon, who was a Marxist and an Astophysist, which he would explain at length. The dragon was also an enchanted Timurid poet-shepherd, and a fern, who loved adventure and was a devout Esmaliyan Shia (this was somewhat problematic since the sisters were, as previously mentioned, Imami Shia, although Farangis was persuded to the metaphoric, which she explained to her sisters in typical fashion). It should be mentioned that these three (dragon, shepherd and fern, not the sisters) were separate beings in a time-share curse, which resulted in a bit of confusion over who had married whom ("Other people were confused," Mahin Banu hastened to explain, "We know exactly who we married"). But really, it's time for this story to knot the tassels of the tale. So to be brief (if as Mahin Banu would insist not entirely accurate)...the end.