Laresa's World Ch. 25: Ben & HoracebyRedHairedandFriendly©
Author's Note: My apologies for the long gap between this chapter and the last. Real life dealt me some serious blows and I struggled with the muse. Please enjoy this chapter of Laresa and feel free to comment and vote if you'd like. Most of all thank you for enjoying Laresa ~ Red
Ben jerked awake as the sound of rain splattering against the window mingled with the sound of a fire, crackling from his dream, merged as one. He reached out for the ring, cradled it in his palm and then brought it to his chest. With a trembling hand he flicked the lamp on. Cautiously he opened his fingers.
The amber gem glistened and the warmth of it radiated up his arm. He'd seen her. . .Laresa. He'd watched her willingly walk to the alter, willingly lay across it and willingly die for her people. She hadn't screamed, pleaded, or even cried as the flames devoured her. Ben knew it was because she'd been drugged and/or hypnotized by the shaman of her people. He wouldn't have known this had it not been for all the research he and the Society had on the Djinn and their existence.
Yet, Ben knew even more than most. His dreams were becoming more intense and detailed since he'd been struck by Horace's medallion months ago. No longer could he deny that there was something happening to him. Tonight's "vision" as he was now referring to them, was one that was not only lengthy, but was also very personal. He'd been there. He knew it was odd to say and if he told his friends, they would tell him he was nuts, but he wasn't. He had been there watching Laresa die.
"You're not dead though; are you? Your people didn't know until it was too late. You're in there waiting; I can feel it. I can feel you," Ben whispered to the glittering stone.
Twelve hours ago he had arrived in Chicago and found Franklin anxiously waiting for him. They had both traded information as fast as their mouths could move and their minds comprehend. In the end, both admitted that just laying all the artifacts out on the table could be dangerous. It was at that time that Ben confessed to Franklin that he'd been having dreams. He shared with him how they had started out as simple ones, not meaning much, but aiding him in finding exactly where to look in History for evidence of Djinn interference. He thought nothing of it at first, just good luck and outstanding wits. Then he had stumbled upon, or was pointed to, papers concerning a legend in a small town of Massachusetts. He visited the town and read what little history was available on a "Witch" called Bethany. The hours grew late, so he opted for a hotel in the sleepy town. That night he had the first of what would later become many dreams. As he slept, the legend became real and he watched it all happen as if he were there.
Bethany had suddenly appeared one day on the outskirts of the town. She was dressed oddly, wearing thin revealing clothes that made many a man stare in lust. Women gawked and then whispered behind her back. Yet, she said nothing, just smiled wide as she made her way through town and eventually stopped at the edge of a farm. Everyone knew the farmer had passed away; the woman seemed to believe the owner, a young man of only twenty-four years, still lived there.
Bethany walked up to the house, a look of confusion on her face when no one came to greet her. She still pressed on, walking in as if she owned the small rickety home. When she came out, the women of the town were whispering about her odd dress and the manner in which she had appeared. She asked where Jeremy was and a man came forth, leering hungrily at her. He explained that the young man had killed himself, distraught over the loss of his fiancé. Bethany fell to the ground and wailed for Jeremy, eventually sobbing about going back in time and saving him, confessing that she wanted her magic back, that her life was not supposed to be like this. She was all powerful and she demanded her love return to her.
The town folk were stunned, but for the most part the men didn't care about Bethany's litany of words. They were seeing a woman, single, and desirable. The women however saw the lust in their husbands' eyes and the words "Witch," "Demon," and "Hell" circulated through the small mob. The smarter men pulled their wives away, the weaker ones listened and soon Bethany was hauled from the porch and pushed onto the ground, where she was beaten.
Still she wailed as she twisted a ruby encrusted bracelet and begged it to let her back inside. The women shrieked and tore at Bethany's clothes, lifted her by her hair and dragged her to a rotted tree. She was bound to its lowest branch, forced to remain on her toes to stand upright. Not once did she beg for freedom, lost in the despair of her dream being crushed. Men groped her. Women poked her with sticks, lashed at her with reeds and called her vile names. Still Bethany cried to the gods and goddesses, pleading for them to take her back. She wanted to go home; she wanted to be in her bracelet. She wanted a Master.
Ben watched in horror, unable to move in his dream, or speak. He saw a woman appear, pushing a lighted torch into her husband's hand and then urging him to light the woman and the tree on fire. He hesitated, but knew who he was married to and who would make his life a living Hell if he didn't obey. He didn't want burnt food for the rest of his life, so he stepped forward and ran the torch over the gauzy dress that Bethany wore, then he pushed the flaming end into the rotting trunk, where it took on a life of its own.
That night, when Ben woke up from his first dream, he'd been screaming. The flames of Bethany consuming him as it did her so many years ago. He'd spent a week on researching everything he could about Bethany and Jeremy, eventually uncovering what some saw as "legend" was indeed fact to him. Bethany had been found by Jeremy, her bracelet at the bottom of a dried well that Jeremy had fallen into as a child. Bethany and Jeremy had become friends, and later lovers as the boy grew into a man. But suddenly Bethany disappeared. No one knew where she went, but Jeremy did and he blamed himself, soon afterwards ending his life.
More dreams followed, some revealing to Ben that some Djinn led wonderful lives, others led horrible ones, but all had been freed with the help of some element that was formed at the time of their imprisonment. It was because of the dreams that he now lay in bed holding a genie and not yet offering to free her.
Franklin told him they needed to think before they just jumped in and tried to free Laresa. Especially now that Ben had seen the ugliness of some Djinn's lives. Ben agreed and though it had taken him hours to do it, eventually he'd fallen asleep in one of his friend's guestrooms. A soft knock on the door, brought him back to reality and he tucked the ring in his pajama shirt's pocket.
"Come in," he called out and watched Franklin's wife walk in with a tray grasped tight in her hand.
"It's early, but I heard you rustling in here and thought you'd like a cup. Franklin's in the study, ready to see you when you're up. He's been studying those trinkets you brought."
Ben smiled and thanked Franklin's wife, Abby and watched her as she set the tray down and turned to face him. "I've supported Franklin in all he's done with the Society. I think you should give the girl a choice. He told me about the dreams. It's not your right to force her to be something she may not want to be." She lifted her hand and Ben stopped the words that were about to come out. "Franklin's waiting. Drink up and whatever you two decide, I'll be supporting you. Especially if you pull that child from her ring. She'll need someone to hold her hand."
He watched Abby leave and pulled the ring back out of his pocket. "Why wouldn't you want freedom?" he asked the amber stone and then he remembered Bethany. "She chose to go back to that time. So do you get to choose? Where would you go Laresa? Who would you want to go back to? Or . . .would you want to stay here?" A spark of desire ran through him as he recalled the beautiful woman who was sacrificed for the weather. He would care for her. He'd love her and cherish her, guide her and protect her.
Ben shook his head as he repeated the thoughts. "Sounds like you'd marry her to keep her safe," he muttered, slipping the ring back on his finger. Quickly he dressed and shaved, all the while enjoying sips of Abby's hot tea and small biscuits she'd also brought up.
Once downstairs, Ben made his way to Franklin's office. He noticed the older man bent over, magnifying glass in hand and staring intently at something on his desk. "Amazing detail," the old man said as Ben closed the door behind him.
"Aye, the craftsmanship on this is unlike anything I've ever seen before. We don't know much about Horace. He must have been quite a man to have this as his home." Franklin put the glass down and picked up the medallion. "Are you ready?" he asked Ben.
Ben pulled the ring out and sighed. "I dreamed about her."
"Take a seat and tell me," he said, pulling a pipe out and lighting it. Franklin was the oldest member of the Society that was willing to break the rules, yet he also would enforce them if he felt the Djinn were in trouble. As rare as it was, he did on occasion agree with the young folk and lately, because he was close to retiring, he could see where the Society was dragging their feet and the young folk had the right idea, but needed a bit of older guidance to lead them. He saw that in himself as well as in young Ben.
Ben sat down and toyed with the ring. He told Franklin the story of Laresa and how she was in love once with a man of her village and then later she was offered up as a sacrifice in hopes to appease the gods and find favor with them. He spoke of the flames and how Laresa had braved it all, seemingly under no distress, but welcoming it. "I'm sure she was drugged or controlled in some way. I remember the screams of Bethany. Laresa would have felt all that unless something had been done to her to make her not feel it."
"Perhaps you are right, but in the whole scheme of things, does that matter?" Franklin asked.
"No. I still don't know if freeing them is the right decision."
Franklin puffed out a few rings. "It isn't our decision. We are here to give them the option, right? If not, then we are no better than the Masters and Mistresses that controlled them," Franklin said, before tossing the medallion at Ben. "Put it on. Let's learn more about these people from one that we know is not only cunning, but older than the two of us put together."
Ben pushed the ring into his trouser pocket and nodded his head. He slipped on the medallion, toyed with the surface and rubbed the small diamonds nestled inside. "Horace," he whispered, knowing there was no real need to speak, since the smoky haze was already forming.
Both men watched in fascination as a giant of a man appeared and stared back at them, briefly touching on Franklin, but pointedly fixing himself on Ben. "Good morning, Master. I am Horace. How may I serve you?"
Ben's thoughts were mush as he tried to comprehend he was actually talking to one of the oldest and most known tricksters to exists. A cough from his left made him blink and he turned to his friend. "The Shield," Franklin muttered, eyeing Ben as if he was forgetting something. Which he was.
"Oh yes. My apologies, I simply forgot," Ben turned to Horace, "this," he said, pulling a Finder's Stone from his pocket, "is a stone that is full of magic, use it to block anyone from discovering your whereabouts. Be quick too. The longer you're left unshielded the easier it will be for the Society to discover what we are doing."
Horace took the stone and smiled. "Laresa wove this; did she not?"
"Yes, she did; now do it. . ." Ben insisted.
"It is done Master. As soon as you showed me the stone. All I needed was to see it; that way I could use that knowledge, plus what I have filtered through your mind to answer your wish. I see much Master. You know more about me than any other, with the exception of myself and Laresa. Which I can also see you are very interested in and you have her ring. You wish to free her? How is that possible? Do you know what you are doing? If you harm her, I'll... "
"Stop!" Ben shouted. "You are not to be in my head!"
Franklin snickered. "I thought you were going to let him go on and on processing your thoughts. You've got to watch this one; remember he's sneaky."
Ben sighed as he felt Horace retreat from his thoughts. "He's quick," he muttered to Franklin.
"You've no idea," Horace answered back, lifting a brow as he tried to comprehend the man in front of him. "I am no longer in your thoughts Master, but what I have seen tells me you are not here to hurt Laresa, or myself; not that it matters to me. I am yours to command. I just must tell you that I cannot defeat her alone; you'll have to get more genies and since you have two already you can't have any more."
"I don't want any more," Ben sighed. "Do be quiet for a moment and let me think. You saw plenty and yet not enough. Sit down," he commanded, then softened his voice, "Please." Ben watched Horace flick his wrist and then hover, as a pillow of thick red velvet suddenly appeared. He was amazed at how the object just appeared out of thin air and how easily it all seemed to happen. Once Horace was settled on the plush cushion, Ben took a deep breath.
"Horace, my name is Benjamin. You may call me Ben and this is Franklin. I am your Master, but you will answer my questions as well as Franklin's and treat him as equal to a Master as you can, though I am in possession of your medallion. Do you understand this?" Ben asked, glancing briefly to his friend.
"Yes, Master. I understand," Horace muttered, his voice betraying his annoyance at being spoken to like a child. "What is your desires?"
Franklin cleared his throat. "The rules Horace, all of them. We know the general ones, but over the years it is possible for us to have not discovered all of them. Please list them and in detail so we can better understand the limitations of the Djinn."
Both men watched Horace's eyes slant and both knew they had struck a chord within the genie. "You don't like to list the rules, do you?" Ben asked, eyeing his genie carefully. "You feel you lose some of your power whenever you are forced to reveal the flaws of the Djinn?"
Horace cocked his head to one side. "I would rather my Masters and Mistresses ask for what they want and fulfill their wants and desires. The rules bar them from that."
"Surely that isn't true. We have documentation showing times where you seem to have tricked your Masters and Mistresses. If you cared for their well being surely listing the rules would only benefit them and this so called 'joy' you receive from serving them," Franklin interjected.
Horace grinned. "I simply granted their wishes as they asked them. If they weren't detailed it is not my fault. I did what I was supposed to do. 'Joy?' I found joy in serving some, not all."
"What you 'want' is your joy. I have a feeling that pleasing one's Master is not high on your list of priorities," Ben said, "but enough of this. The rules please. All of them."
Normally, it didn't take long for Horace to list the rules, but this time was different. As each one was listed the two men countered with questions and examples, as if they were searching for a way to break the rules, yet not break them. By the time they were content with the answers, Ben felt ready to speak with ease to Horace and not fear his sudden disappearance. "Thank you, Horace," Ben said, before pulling Laresa's ring from his pocket.
He glanced up at Horace and saw lust written clearly on his face. "Tell me about you and Laresa. What is it about her that makes you want and hate her all at the same time."
Horace glared angrily at Ben. "I do not hate her. I do not like how she allows her heart to interfere with her judgement. Want her? Oh, Master, if you could see Laresa, breathe in her scent, touch her skin, and taste the folds of her womanhood, then you would know the answer to your own question. To want something so much and never hold it for long. . . that makes you hate the want, not the woman. She is like a tease. Being a Djinn is like a tease. We get attached to one and then suddenly they are gone, pulled away by a broken rule or some other interfering force."
"And when was the first time you met Laresa?" Franklin asked, breaking the stony silence that had descended as Horace spoke.
"Laresa and I were possessed by the same Master; it was many hundreds of years ago. We served an evil man. Killed many in his name. Violated the rights of his people. Murdered those that would take over his throne if he were to suddenly disappear. We aborted children at his command, grotesquely disfigured his enemies. But, through it all we loved. I was Laresa's first Djinn lover. I was the first of our kind she'd ever seen, since her creation. We became friends. We became lovers. When our Master was finished with her body, I captured her soul and took her to places she'd never been."
"You loved her?" Ben asked, feeling a stab of jealousy rush over him.
"Love?" Horace chuckled, "that is a mortal's word. Love has no place in the life of a Djinn."
"You didn't answer the question," Franklin countered.
"No need," Ben said, just as Horace moved to open his mouth and reveal the depth of his desires for Laresa. "Tell me why you two continue to meet up with each other. That may have been the first, but it was far from being the last."
Horace cleared his throat, not because he needed too, but because it added to the dramatics of the day. "We met up again when she was serving a young American woman. The woman muttered something about wanting two genies. I was the closet to Laresa that was not possessed by a Master or Mistress. Therefore to fulfill Hanna's wish, Laresa was forced to call upon me,"
Horace grinned, "She was not thrilled by this. I do not know what happened to the beautiful Hanna, but Laresa and I eventually met up again when a vile Master attempted to kill her and her Master. Needless to say, he failed, for you have her ring. Don't you?"
Ben toyed with the bauble. "Yes, we do. So you served the same Masters twice and you attempted to destroy her but lost. Why is this? Why did you not win? Are you not the older and wiser of the two? The more powerful?"
"I am older and I believe I am more . . .what is the word. . . experienced in the way of the world. Laresa is young. She is powerful. I wasn't aware how powerful until she was forced to protect her Master and herself. She tapped into the power of the Djinn, but not the type of power we all possess, but something more. I do know it surprised her. It surprised me as well, for I had thought she was nothing more than another Djinn that could easily be controlled. I will have to rethink my opinion on her, in my own time."
Ben and Franklin, couldn't help but notice the expression of thoughtfulness that crossed Horace's face. "We believe she is unique because of her bloodline," Ben replied, bringing Horace out of his musings and back to the present.
"Her bloodline?" Horace asked, suddenly even more interested in his Master than he had been before. "You know who she was before she was a Djinn?"
"Yes. She was daughter to the Chieftain of her people. We believe that is why she's been more visible over the last several hundred years than most Djinn. We believe we are on the edge of a great discovery. We," he looked to Franklin, "want to try and free the Djinn from their homes."
"Free the Djinn? You know how to do this?" Horace asked, his features now suddenly full of both curiosity as well as a tinge of fear. "I have only heard rumors. I have not seen it done. I know to destroy one is to bring about the destruction of their home. You do know this; do you not? You can not destroy a Djinn's home and free them!" Horace was unaware that his voice had grown more heated, or that his fists were clenched.