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