Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe. ~Anatole France
A hiss, like the exhale after strenuous activity, invaded Princess Fadia's slumber. She had been having a dream of a midnight stroll with a, predictably, handsome stranger. They were discussing the cultural injustice placed on the poor; at least that's what she recalled when thinking back on the dream. Suddenly the man began hissing!
It wasn't a pleasant way to end her rest, especially when the goose down mattress had just the right amount of softness. She was even more grateful to have moved out of the girl's sleeping area a year prior. As usual, her silken covers were halfway on the gold tiled floor, but that was the least of the princess' concerns.
The blinding dawn invaded her molasses irises as Fadia awoke. She was greeted instantly by the source of the strange sound. At first all she saw was a blurry lump of leafy green. Yet as her eyes adjusted to the onslaught of sunlight, the intruder took its shape.
With a yelp, Fadia bolted upright.
"Heva!" The chamber seemed to tremble with the force of her scream. She quickly skittered to the opposite side of her bed, away from the green snake and its forked tongue. While Fadia always had a soft spot for the exotic, such as tigers, her love only went so far for snakes. Her youngest sister knew this but it seemed she was in the mood for tricks.
'What a pleasant way to start my day,' she thought sarcastically as her little sister strolled in. Like their father, Heva had the uncanny ability to appear completely unaware of trouble, even if she was the one who caused it. Being only nine, the little troublemaker was sure to cause her eldest sister more heart attacks as the years went on. Yet with her doll-like appearance, it was hard to punish the little imp, or so Aladdin often claimed.
"Yes?" Heva's blueberry eyes twinkled mischievously, revealing her knowledge of the cause of her sister's distress.
"What," Fadia glared at Heva as she stood in the marble doorway, "do you think you're doing?" She growled.
The little lady giggled and, with a skip, was by the gigantic bed. She scooped her snake Nasim up and immediately the reptile hung languidly around her neck.
"Well, Mama said to wake you up, so I did! She never said how," Heva explained with a grin that rivaled Aladdin's.
The elder sighed, running a dark hand through her dishevelled waves. "Why did she want me awake so early?" Fadia yawned and reached towards the mural ceiling, causing her embroidered shirt to rise up. When Heva didn't reply right away, Fadia turned to see what was wrong. She found the young girl staring at the eldest princess in astonishment.
"You don't remember?"
"It's Malik's wedding day!" Heva exclaimed, astounded that her usually well-prepared sister could have forgotten such an important family event. After all, Malik was the first of Jasmine's seven children to get married. This was a monumental occasion for the family!
Fadia slapped her forehead with a deep set groan. How could she have forgotten? Hadn't she been planning the elaborate wedding, well helping Jasmine plan it, for over half a year now? Up until two nights ago the princess had locked herself away in her private study every night to go over wedding details, among other things of course.
With a quick brush of her hair and tying of her most concealing robe, Fadia was off to her mother's public chamber where it was likely the bridal party had gathered. Yet before she shut the door behind her, she addressed Heva.
"Next time I see that—that thing in my room, I'll feed it to my tigers!" With the threat still hanging in the air, Fadia departed.
To say the woman had been surprised the day her brother shared the news of his engagement would sound cruel, yet that didn't change how truthfully it described her reaction.
Being the eldest of the seven, it was expected of Malik to depart home first. Originally, the plans consisted of a journey to India, Israel, and Turkey. Yet the prince, having always been the most persuasive of the bunch, managed to convince his parents to let him go to Greece. Once he had the proper documentation and enough supplies, the lad was off. Later on, he confessed to Fadia alone that this decision was not made with his head, but with something else entirely.
"Haven't you ever had one of those moments when all you want to do is go someone and never come back? Greece was that to me I suppose. I just felt like something spectacular was waiting for me there. Turns out I wasn't too far off, especially when I met Eris."
On his way home from the European gateway, Malik and his crew stopped on the island of Crete to restock on supplies. As usual, his curiosity got the best of him and, when wandering the village square, he stumbled upon a maiden from the Crete castle. She brought him back with her and that afternoon he was presented to Queen Hippsodeth, as well as her lovely niece Eris. He could scarcely recall what it was exactly the queen said to him, for Malik was fixated on Eris.
While the two were formally introduced earlier in the day, the prince and lady actually conversed that evening at a ball which Hippsodeth invited Malik to. Now, normally Fadia would not fall for tales concerning love at first sight, but considering who her parents were, she took her brother's word for it when he explained,
"I saw her and my mind drew a blank. I couldn't think, couldn't see anything but her. It was—it was like my heart had known her before. It ached for her in a way it does when you stumble upon an old love." How her brother knew what an "old love" was like, Fadia had no idea, but at least her brother seemed happy. She always wanted that for him, for all her siblings really.
And so Prince Malik stayed in Crete for a month to properly court Eris. It appeared she cared for the lad as well, for she accepted his marriage proposal at the end of the month.
Typically, if the couple was of a different status, a hasty wedding would have preceded the engagement. Frankly, both parties would have preferred that when what was to follow. Yet because both were of royal blood, certain things had to be sorted out first. Since this was not an arranged marriage, a dowry had to be established. Contracts, treaties, and a line of succession (for Eris' side) had to be drawn up as well. Because of the distance from Agrabah to Crete, it took time for the documents to reach both parties which drew out the engagement far longer than Malik or Eris would have liked. Finally though, the day had arrived for the son of a "street rat" and the niece to a slightly inate queen to wed.
First though, the wedding party had to be dolled up. That alone was a challenge, considering there were almost ten in total. Thankfully, by the time Fadia arrived Eris was already prepared and waiting in Jasmine's private chamber for her cue.
"Mother please, leave at least one clump of hair intact!" Fadia whined as Jasmine proceeded to pull out what felt like every last strand of the princess' locks.
The queen clucked her tongue, a common sound when raising seven children, and smartly tugged on a strand. "If you arrived on time, we wouldn't have this problem," she reminded gently. Despite her obvious annoyance at being set back, the queen of Agrabah was not truly unhappy with her eldest daughter. After all, she was known for handling unexpected setbacks, and this was hardly that terrible.
"It's not as if I planned on it!" She hugged. "If Eris arrived on time last night, I could have gotten enough sleep!" That was the problem with long distance relationships: the getting there always took the longest.
"You can't blame it all on her. After all, it's not as if she controls the winds, or the camels," Rasha, the middle daughter, chimed in as she continued to apply rouge to her tan cheeks. By far she was the pretties of the three sisters, perhaps the gaudiest in Fadia's opinion. The elder wasn't surprised to see her stationed in front of the mirror for it was her favourite place to be.
Princess Fadia rolled her eyes at the fifteen year old. "Mind your own business Rash," she retorted. The lady caught the flicker of annoyance cross her sister's bedazzled appearance and settled against her seat, quite pleased with herself. Rasha always hated her childhood nickname, especially now that she had entered the "grown up" faze of her life. It was the perfect ammunition when the nosy girl was stepping on Fadia's toes.
Focusing back on the mirror in front of her, Fadia saw herself beginning to take shape. The lids of her eyes were outlined in inky charcoal, the colour of her hair, and the lids were stained a raisin purple. Like Rasha, she too wore rouge but only a little to accentuate her prominent cheek bones. If she didn't know herself well enough, Fadia would have sworn she was a different person altogether, jut from the face.
The rest of her was covered in navy fabric the cropped off just below her bust only to spill over her hips in a floor-length skirt. As customary, her feet were bare, as were her arms save for the two straps that held her top in place. Once her jewels were applied, the look would be complete. Being her mother's first-born daughter, Fadia inherited the turquoise jewels in the collection. Rasha would wear her diamonds and, if Heva could be convinced, she would use a few topaz pieces. Eris' maid-of-honour, her younger stepsister, had been given a set of rubies to use just for the occasion. Fadia hated how thrilled she was to see the end result of everyone
Unfortunately, that rested on her hair being finished. Speaking of hair, the young lady looked to her mother to see how things were fairing.
Despite the trials of queenly duties and general peace-keeping, Jasmine still clung to her youthful radiance. In Aladdin's eyes, as well as the kingdom's, she was still the most ravishing of ladies, even when the streak of grey took its toll on her confidence. Although the two ladies didn't look very similar, Fadia still believed she was most similar to her mother. After all, she hadn't learned how to evade unwanted marriage proposals from thin air.
Suddenly, the doors flung open. Five sets of eyes turned to see who stumbled upon the preening ladies. Was something amiss? Did the bridegroom get cold feet?
Two figures, one female, the other male, strolled in. The male wore a blue cloak that concealed his face while the lady donned dark brown fabric.
"Cassim, Shea, what a lovely surprise," Jasmine greeted, her enthusiasm non-existent as she faced her in-laws. Cassim, always one for making an entrance, tossed his cloak on the ground and bowed to the queen. Quick to follow was his wife Shea. Frankly, Fadia never understood the union so she never commented on it. Then again, she had only seen Cassim five to seven times in her life. She couldn't make much sense of the man in general. Yet she could not deny her admiration for the thief. He had managed to crash two royal weddings and lived to tell about it. Not many could brag about that.
As she watched her grandfather make his way inside, she noticed how he now walked with a gold encrusted cane. Her first thought was pity for the person is stole it from, the second humour, for she knew how much Cassim despised feeling feeble or aged. Jasmine had shared enough tid-bits about him over the years for her to build an outline of Aladdin's father. She also knew things had not always been so strained inside the family, but she had yet to find the cause behind the deeply set rift.
"Did you think I would miss Basir's wedding?" Cassim exclaimed. Whenever he spoke, Fadia was always torn between covering her ears from the shear loudness and continuing to listen, for he was an intriguing character. Rather, Cassim was a puzzle. Unfortunately, she was still missing a great deal of pieces that would give her a winning chance.
Fadia felt her mother tighten her grip around the braid she was weaving, causing the princess to flinch.
"It is Malik's wedding, Cassim. Basir is only ten," Jasmine corrected, her voice straining to keep her composure.
Cassim nodded, "Yes, yes, of course. Hasim found himself a lucky catch there," he chuckled. Heva quickly tackled him in an embrace, stopping whatever else he might have said. She was still too young to understand the friction, the thin layer of ice that encased those involved in the conflict of Cassim and Jasmine.
Yet at the mention of her twin, Fadia sighed inaudibly. She hoped Cassim would forget about Hasim's wedding, whenever it came around. At least then he would be saved from the embarrassment that was her grandfather.
This time though, Jasmine did not correct her father-in-law. He was too busy marvelling over Heva's snake to be really paying attention to anything anyhow. Instead, Fadia paid heed to her "nana" that was hovering around the mirror where Jasmine and her daughter were.
In her younger years, it was said Shea led a band of skilled pick-pocketers. Her crew could weave through a crowded street and in minutes their pockets were overflowing with their bounty. Legend told of her unrefined beauty, of her independence, but mainly it described the rumours surrounding her past. After all, once the sun has scorched the flesh and they have been given other bodies to lean against, what does one have but history?
Fadia was never particularly interested in the speculations, but she saw enough of Shea to know most were wrong. From the tattoos on her body it was likely she had spent time in jail, but nothing serious or she would still be there. Her grace though, the way she carried herself, one could only truly master that from years of practice that could only be acquired in a castle. Unless she was faking it all. Then Fadia was as clueless as the rest. Yet she liked to think Shea wasn't all bad, even though she could be a royal pain.
"You look lovely as always Fadia," Shea complimented as her own dark eyes sparkled suspiciously.
"Thank you Shea," the princess addressed calmly, keeping her eyes fixated on her reflection.
"Would you like any help, Jasmine dear? That braid seems to be giving you some trouble." One reason for such friction in the family was mainly because of Shea's undermining nature. No one appreciated it, not even Heva who felt its blow on occasion.
Jasmine shook her head stiffly. "No Shea, I'm fine. Besides, whenever you lend a hand, something always goes missing." Fadia knew on the surface the comment appeared as a joke, but the princess had lost too many earrings and baubles over the years to not take such a thing seriously.
A formal knock silenced any retort from either party. A maid followed said introduction and whispered something in the queen's ear. Jasmine nodded but did not dismiss the girl just yet.
"The wedding will start in a few minutes," she explained to her in-laws. "You had best got find a seat." To everyone's surprise, Cassim and his wife left without a fuss. Once they were gone, Jasmine motioned to the maid to come closer.
"Make sure you arrange for at least two guards to keep an eye on them. When they are leaving, tell the guards to pad them down." The maid bobbed her head then was gone.
Jasmine heaved a grievous sigh as she put the finishing touches on her daughter's hair.
"I pray when you wed you are blessed with less bothersome in-laws," the queen whispered, to which Fadia nodded. She always hoped the same, even though love had yet to make its grand entrance into her life. She would wait it out though; patience was a virtue after all.