The Bronze Ring

For fourteen years Bayan has thought of nothing but rescuing her parents from the evil Ifrit that kidnapped them.Things seem to finally look up for her when she discovers a secret portal in the desert of Yemen – a portal to the other world.

Only problem is, no one believes her.

In her despair she accidentally fumbles upon a pair of djinn siblings who are as desperate for her help as she is for theirs. Bayan is determined to go to any lengths to find her parents, even if that means trusting a pair of cunning djinn.

What she isn’t prepared for however, is being stuck in the company of a devilishly handsome – yet incurably annoying – djinn prince.

In a world in which darkness shrouds the realm and not everything is not what it seems – Bayan will have to overcome her own demons and realize what it is that she really wants in order to come out alive.

If she wants to come out at all …

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1. ۩۞۩ஜ For Fourteen Yearsஜ۩۞۩ஜ

 

 

They were all around, like haze and smoke. Everywhere, blending in with normal human life as if they belonged there. And Bayan Hamdan could see them. 

The Djinn.

To the few who knew Bayan, she was an orphan; a girl who grew up in foster homes and made up fantasies to deal with her bleak reality. An awkward girl who continuously stared off, oblivious to what was around her – but that wasn't true – not completely. Far from oblivious, Bayan could see what was not meant to be seen. She could see them.

"Poor Bayan. Look at her. No wonder she's so weird. Foster system does that to you, you know?"

"I can't imagine witnessing my parents murdered in front of me!"

"I would make up stories too. Shit."

Bayan learned early in life to not care what others believed, because her parents weren't dead – they just were kidnapped by djinn and held captive in magical lamps. So, all technicalities aside, she wasn't really an orphan – just a peculiar twenty year old, with a heavy secret.

She stopped telling people the truth about her parents when the looks got too much to bear. She knew no one believed her anyway. The only proof she had of the whole djinn ordeal was an ugly bronze ring, too big for her skinny fingers.

She had looped a chain through it and wore it  for fourteen years, she wore it as necklace, to remind her of the truth.

ஜ۩۞۩ஜ

She held onto that ring with one hand as she ran up the stairs of her university, taking two steps at a time. She couldn't afford to be late to this meeting. She was supposed to present her research proposal; research that – if granted the funding – could help her locate her parents as well as expose the world of the djinn. All she had to do was convince Dr. Burger that it was viable research – real stuff and not fantasy.

No biggie.

She burst into the dim lit classroom, out of breath and with a minute to spare. Her archeology research supervisor sat staring at his watch. He was an old, German man, who hated everything.

"You are late, Bayan," he stated, his accent as thick as sauerkraut. He proceeded to write something on her form. "Not a brilliant start."

Bayan slumped her bag to the floor and bent over to catch her breath. "I'm ... sorry ... Dr. Burger ..."

At the mention of his name, her stomach growled. She had skipped lunch just to make it to the meeting on time. Dr. Burger looked at her and she knew from the extra frowning, he definitely heard the sounds of her hunger. With a sigh he scribbled on the form.

More points deducted. Excellent. Thanks hunger.

Bayan pulled out her laptop and went about plugging it to the projector. All the while she could hear Dr. Burger sigh irritably in the background. She tried not to let his attitude get to her. He was such a sour old man. He only allowed the meeting because Bayan was persistent and she was his best research assistant.

"Do hurry up, Ms. Hamdan. My time is precious."

She fumbled with the wires, her hands sweaty and shaking.

His accent made her anxious. She couldn't help but think of Nazis. She wiped her hands on her pants and clicked on her computer, searching for her PowerPoint.

Nazi. Nazi, her brain continued to chant. Burger is a NaziGrammar Nazi? Her hand stilled over the PowerPoint icon. Dammit! Did she spell check her presentation?

Too late, she thought as she clicked it.

ஜ۩۞۩ஜ

"So, in conclusion, after days spent translating the scrolls of Solomon from ancient Arabic and Sabean ... I seem to have come across the location of a sort of portal."

Bayan took a deep breath and steadied her hands from the excitement that surged through her and clicked the next slide.

"A portal to the other world. The world of beings that have long been able to see us ..." She pointed to herself. "But we are blind to them. With this portal we could easily leave this world and enter theirs!"

Bayan clicked the next slide, a slide with photos of ancient ruins in Yemen. "If we trace the path of the famous Arab scribe and adventurer, Ibn Battuta, we can see that he too was looking for the portal, but I have reason to believe that the it is in Yemen and not North Africa."

She clicked to the end of her presentation and said, "With your backing I would be able to go to Yemen with a team of archeologists as a field study and – "

Dr. Burger held up a hand. The expression upon his face was reminiscent of the looks Bayan got all her life. He looked at her as if she was possessed, as if she was on drugs – as if she was crazy.

"Have I been working you too hard?" Her professor's eyes were wide with shock, mixed with his own version of concern. He shook his head in disbelief. "You cannot actually think I would back this?"

"I know it sounds a bit outlandish but – "

"A bit outlandish? This is absolutely preposterous. Absolutely a waste of time!" Dr. Burger got up with so much force his chair slammed onto the ground. Bayan kept her eyes on the floor.

"And here I thought your were one of my star pupils." He shook his head and handed her the research proposal. In big, taunting, red letters he had written: REJECTED.

Bayan bit her lip, but tried to convince her professor one more time. "In Islam it speaks of the presence of djinn and the separate world they occupy ... that they can interact with us but we can't interact with them unless they want to. In Judaism – "

Dr. Burger shook his head, not paying attention to anything she was saying. "Genies? I cannot even ..." He continued to shake his head as he gathered his supplies. "Genies! What next Ms. Hamdan, were-camels?"

Bayan cringed. His laughter was worse than his words and what hurt most was that she was telling the truth. It was the truth! Djinns existed and always have.

The bronze ring was both a blessing and curse; it allowed her to see the djinn but it also saved her from the same fate as her parents – and for that she couldn't take it off. Even with the protection of the ring, Bayan rarely slept. She rarely did anything except work and ignore the djinn's presence – no matter what it took, she made sure they never knew she could see them.

They were everywhere – blending in with her world as seamlessly as the air she breathed. She saw the ones that entered the human world but remained invisible to everyone around her; she saw them while their world remained veiled to her – some looked human, varying from distractingly beautiful, to disastrously hideous. On rare occasions she saw ones who were – for lack of a better term – monsters. They mostly minded their own business, whatever it may have been; she didn't want to attract their attentions.

With the portal Bayan could enter their world as effortlessly as they entered hers, retrieve her parents and leave, without disrupting anything. That was all she wanted. She would leave the ring behind and never see the djinn again; soon with time she would forget they even existed and she would be normal and live a normal life with her parents. That was all she wanted – to be normal.

"I'm giving you some time off, Bayan. Don't come back to work until you sort out whatever is going on with you." Dr. Burger packed his things and turned to leave. "And sort it out if you ever want a decent recommendation from me. Genies? I never!" He walked out leaving Bayan staring at her shoes.

ஜ۩۞۩ஜ

Bayan was back in her apartment, a miserable studio, cramped with books and papers. She slumped beside a tower of articles threatening to topple, and pulled her knees to her face.

What was she to do now? He professor thought she was insane. She couldn't go back to work. She was out of school and what sucked even more was that her proposal was rejected. The portal in Yemen was her only chance – it was the only way to get her parents back. For fourteen years, she had been waiting for the moment she would rescue them and never had her hopes faltered – until she saw the red letters on her proposal: REJECTED.

Maybe she was crazy. Crazy people didn't know they were delusional. It was a very likely possibility. Maybe she had a sort of schizophrenia, although rare in females, it still happened. Maybe her parents were kidnapped and killed by the mob and she made up the entire djinn fantasy as a child to cope with the tragedy? That was more reasonable than what she had believed for fourteen years. It was what everyone else believed – it was what was on the police report. Bayan took off her necklace and clasped the ring in her fist.

But that didn't explain the ring and its powers.

Just throw it out and forget everything.

Do it.

Bayan stood up and walked over to her window. She had the ring loosely on her index finger and was mindlessly rubbing with her thumb as she thought.

If she threw it out the window she would never see another djinn again. She would lose the protection of the ring however, and if the monster that took her parents returned for her, she would be taken.

But then again he hadn't returned since that day – perhaps she should just throw the damn ring away – just chuck it into the night.

She wanted to. She wanted the peace of mind, but how could she live peacefully while her parents were held captive? Bayan sighed. There was another reason why she couldn't throw the ring away and live a life of blissful ignorance – it was her fault her parents were kidnapped in the first place.

Just throw it. Do it. You can't even go to Yemen. You can't save your parents. Just throw it and forget!

Bayan clasped the ring in her sweaty hand and took a deep breath.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," a low, slightly accented voice resonated from behind her.

Bayan jumped. Did she just hear someone talk? In her empty apartment?

"Fourteen fucking years and it just now occurs to you to rub the fucking ring?" the irritated voice continued.

Her apartment was empty. Empty except for her. There should not be any one talking.

"I can hear them now," Bayan mumbled. She didn't dare turn around. "Oh, God. I can hear them."

"Honestly, Farid you're such an ass," another more melodious voice chimed in. "You're frightening the poor girl."

Bayan couldn't believe her ears. "Oh, God. Two voices." She grasped the windowsill. "Two!" She was trembling but she kept her eyes tightly shut, her back to the voices. She hoped with all her might that the voices belonged to robbers – she didn't want to think that a pair of djinn were talking to her. They never talked to her.

"I'm crazy," she whispered. "I am crazy. I should go to the nearest mental hospital, check myself in and call it a night."

"Does this mental hospital have better accommodations than this ... hovel?" Farid sighed. "Actually, what's worse than a hovel, Asma? You know more about peasants than I."

Asma laughed, a sweet chiming song. "No, you dumb cow. This is an apartment."

"It is worse than our fucking prisons," Farid continued. "How fucking pitiful."

"You need to stop the language, brother," Asma instructed. "If we are ever to return home, Father will rip out your tongue."

"This may come as quite a shock, Asma, but I don't give a fuck."

"If we are to return home." Asma sighed, ignoring her brother. "Imagine how delighted the kingdom would be to hear that Farid ibn Qatan is a mute! The kingdom will rejoice!"

"I doubt he will rip out the tongue of his only son and heir," Farid retorted. "Rejoice? I dare those camel shits to rejoice at my misfortune."

Meanwhile Bayan was telling herself to breath and ignore the fact that there were indeed two djinn siblings bantering back and forth in her cramped little apartment.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

"S-shut up," Bayan whispered, her voice hoarse. She took a breath and louder she exclaimed, "Shut up! Or I'll throw the ring. I will! I'll do it!"

The talking stopped, but Bayan could still feel the two djinn's presence. She continued to breathe, easing her trembles.

"Bayan," Asma's beautiful voice hesitantly called out. "If you throw the ring and it falls into the wrong hands ... "

Bayan tensed, but she tied the necklace around her neck once more, granting her relieved sighs. She slowly backed away from the window and retreated to the corner. Cautiously, Bayan opened her eyes, ready to be assaulted by the atrocious djinn sent by the monster that had taken her parents. Only when she opened her eyes, the room was empty.

It was only her and her books.

She could feel the cold essence of the djinn, yet she could not see them. "W-where are you?" Bayan asked the empty room.

"If you are this frightened hearing our voices, I doubt you will survive if you see us, " Farid stated, and just for good measure he added, "Your human eyes might burst or something."

"Ignore him, Bayan," Asma's calming voice answered. "We've hidden ourselves from you is all."

Bayan held onto the ring with her fist and stated, "I'm not scared. Show yourselves!" She had not even exhaled the breath she held when in front of her materialized a man.

The hand that tightly clung to the ring fell limply beside her.

He was unearthly. She had never seen a djinn quite like him. 

He stood unbearably close to Bayan, trapping her in her corner – tall and lean with skin the color of caramel. He wore a blue vest and what looked like silk trousers. His midnight curls fell upon his face, concealing his ears although a gold earring winked at Bayan in the dark. Her gaze moved back to his face and to his bright golden eyes; his eyelashes were long and almost feminine, but on him they only softened his sharp features.

Bayan took a deep breath, but that only flustered her even more. He smelt of the incense her mother used to burn – frankincense, sandalwood, and myrrh. His scent left her dizzy and her vision hazy. The more Bayan stared into Farid's falcon-like eyes the harder it was for her to think of him as a being whose essence was that of fire. He leaned in closer – just that slight movement made Bayan shiver uncontrollably as she pushed herself further away from him and into the wall. Her eyes locked onto his lips and he smiled, smug and confident.

Farid – aware and uncaring of the distress he was causing Bayan – leaned in even closer and with a horribly smug sneer whispered, "Boo."

His warm breath tickled her neck and then everything around her went black. 

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