Ostaad Hushyar finished his calculus lecture and all the other students put their notes and writing utensils back into their satchels, except for one. Olgun needed to talk to the professor for some assistance with the things they had just went over in class, since none of the other students were willing to help her with things like that. As much as she had gotten used to their bigotry and ignorance, it still stung from time to time. It was in moments like this that she really felt lonely and wished she could be back home with her own kind.
Olgun was only 3’6” and weighed about 90 pounds, with a curvy figure that would look good on an Aryan bandari dancer if she was Human. She wasn’t, however, and so it almost made her look plump. If her size didn’t make it apparent that she was not like most of the students here at Gundishapur University, then her short silver hair, tan skin and milky white eyes would have definitely driven the point home. The name for her people in their native language was Guran’nash, or Those Who See. They preferred that to what most people called them, a name synonymous with those who went mad or had behavioral problems: Djinn-touched.
As she waited for the professor to finish talking to one of the female Human students, Firuzeh, Olgun thought about how her people came to be. They were a gerontocracy, and the eldest who were no longer capable (or desiring) of leading always delighted in telling the youngest stories of their history. Supposedly, when the Aryan were still in tribes and hadn’t yet formed kingdoms much less the land they now called Padeshahi, her people were hand-picked by the Elemental Air rulers called Djinn to be their assistants and servants, to help them keep an eye on the rest of the myriad races that made up the land.
It was a glorious time, or so she had been told. As thanks for their service, their masters gave them many gifts, the first being the ability to see in next to no light, followed by the teaching of the means to summon small elemental spirits that they could use to cast spells that resembled the natural magic of the Djinn. The Guran’nash commanded respect wherever they went, the Djinn were free to focus on whatever it was they focused on, and the lands finally knew peace. And all was good.
But then came the Kaybolan, or Vanishing, the time when the Djinn simply disappeared without leaving instructions for when they would return or what they were doing. Their faithful servants tried carrying on as best they could, but eventually all of their minds snapped in different ways without the calming presence of their immortal masters. It seemed that the ‘gifts’ that the Djinn had imparted to their assistants had a price, one that they all continued to pay to this day. Hence why they now possessed their unfortunate moniker.
“Olgun. Shaagerd Olgun, did you have a question for me?” the diminutive student finally heard the professor’s insistent voice, and she came back from her daydreaming. Her ears burned from embarrassment as she overheard another of the students, Laleh, giggling about how, “Two-moods is woolgathering again,” as she and her roommate finally left the classroom.
Technically, she had more than two moods, but that nickname did fairly accurately describe the condition that affected Olgun. She had days or weeks where she seemed possessed by this boundless energy, and then she would whip back down into a darkness where she seemed to have no energy at all and could barely drag herself out of bed to attend classes. Of course, none of that was important to the professor, so she pushed it to the back of her mind (like she always did) and asked her question. “On today’s lecture, you said that the Runga Kutta method is an excellent way to approximate solutions to differential equations.”
“Hmm, yes I did. I also said that the truncation error generated by this method has to be understood in order to make a good use of it.” Using his cane, Ostaad Hushyar limped back to his desk and sat down in the chair behind it, which prompted Olgun to walk around the desk so she could still see him.
While she understood that he had what was so crassly known as a ‘bum leg’, it still seemed rude of him to have a seat where he knew her diminutive stature prevented her from seeing him as he spoke. But she was used to most Aryan being rude to her, and so she swallowed her sigh and went on. “That was the part I needed help with, Ostaad. Is there a book that you can recommend for me in the library that I can read on my own?”
Grunting slightly, the older Human male pulled out a piece of parchment and wrote down something on it before picking it up, shaking it rapidly to help dry the ink while blowing on it, and handing it to her. “Here. Since very few of my students try to crack this on their own, this book should be readily available for your perusal. Is there anything else, Olgun?”
“No thank you, Ostaad. Have a blessed day.” He simply waved her away, and so Olgun turned and went over to where her stuff was, gathered it up, and left the classroom while Ostaad Hushyar started writing his next lecture and muttering to himself. And they say that my people are crazy, she thought bemusedly; I firmly believe that to be a professor of something as difficult as calculus means you must be insane! The thought made her smile, but only for a second. Once she exited the room, she found Laleh resting on the floor, legs stretched out and blocking the small hallway that Olgun needed to use to get to her next (and favorite) class.
The Guran’nash knew that she could easily pick up some speed and jump over the Human female’s legs; she also knew, from experience, that doing so could result in the stupid girl raising her knees and tripping her mid-jump. So, once again, she had to talk to someone that was bullying her and try to plead with them not to be such a bitch. It got old, but Olgun suspected that if she went to the Raees, it would be her word against Laleh’s. And while she didn’t know the head of the University personally, she didn’t want to take the chance that he would side with an Aryan over a Djinn-touched.
“Please move, I’m going to be late to class,” she said the words as nicely as she could to the stupid ungainly cow. Honestly, how they moved around in the world in that ridiculous height was beyond her! It irked her that most of them picked on her just because she was closer to the perfect size than they were, in her opinion.
“Come on, Laleh, stop being so mean! We don’t want to be late to lunch, remember?” Laleh’s roommate, Firuzeh, tried to convince her friend to move, but it seemed neither of their words were having any effect.
“Oh, don’t be such a spoilsport Firuzeh! Besides, what are you going to do about it, Two-moods? Are you going to sit down and cry, or maybe run off and tattle on me like you did Dara?” Olgun had regretted that after she had done it, but her report had threatened the Human male’s graduation, and he had steered clear of her from then on. Reaching over, the Human female shoved Olgun’s shoulder, causing her to take a step back.
“Don’t do that,” she warned Laleh as she returned to her previous spot, and while she didn’t seem to pick up on the tone in Olgun’s voice, her roommate did, and tried in vain once again to get her friend to stand up and let the diminutive student through.
“Or what, Two-moods? What are you going to do if I do it again?” she sneered as she repeated her earlier action, pushing Olgun back another step.
“That’s two, you ignorant bovine; touch me once more, and I won’t be responsible for what happens next,” Olgun growled out.
Scowling, Laleh reached out once more to shove Olgun, but the Guran’nash was ready for that move. Stepping to the side, she grabbed the arm right around the bicep and gave it a jerking pull. An audible snap rang out, and Laleh began to wail as her dislocated arm hung loose from her shoulder. “I warned you, Human,” Olgun simply said as the Human female began to sob hysterically.
Before it could go on too long (and potentially attract spectators), she gripped the arm once more and shoved it hard against Laleh’s body. The pop as it went back into the socket seemed even louder after the crying, and the resulting pain caused the Human female to mercifully pass out. “Do you want to mess with me?” Olgun challenged Firuzeh, who shook her head no frantically. “Good answer.”
“How did you…I mean, you’re so…where did you learn to do that?” Firuzeh breathlessly stammered out as she stared with concern at her unconscious friend.
“My father, Djinns guard his soul, was ‘touched’ in that he felt everyone was out to get him. Until he became convinced I was planning to kill him around my 30th birthday, he taught me many things, one of which was a way of fighting using only your body. The main draw of this type of fighting is that not only can you not be disarmed, but it uses your opponent’s size against them, since nobody is smaller than we are.” This was the longest conversation Olgun had ever had with another student here, and it almost felt surreal to her.
Just then, Laleh sat up with a gasp, cradling her arm even though there was nothing wrong with it now. Olgun had known that she wasn’t truly knocked out, just passed out from the sudden pain while her body reset itself to normal. Eyes finally focusing, the Human female glared at Olgun and spat out, “I’ll have you banned from the University for this unwarranted attack on me, you little bitch!”
“I don’t think so,” a deep timbered voice rang out, and all three females turned to see who the newcomer was to their little conflict. When they saw who had spoken, the two Humans gasped in shock while Olgun gave a small triumphant grin. Standing in the hallway and glaring at them with bright red eyes through his glasses perched on the bridge of his nose was her Sha’ir Ostaad, an Efreet by the name of Lahahana.
Like most Efreet, he was large, almost 6’ tall, and very muscular with a frame that looked like it weighed 220 pounds. What skin showed under his robes was black as coal, and his long white hair was pulled back into a tail, signifying to other Efreet that he was a widower who never planned on remarrying. The only reason Olgun knew this was she had asked him why he wore his hair like that when most other Efreet that she had seen wore it differently. Rather than being offended, he was proud one of his best students asked about something she was ignorant of, a trait that marked her as a thinker rather than a follower in his mind, as he explained.
Firuzeh helped Laleh to her feet, since her legs seemed to not be working too well. Efreets had that effect on most people, Olgun had come to realize, which always struck her as odd. They judged based on appearances and on the Efreets history, rather than getting to know them individually. Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that in the very distant past, Lahahana’s ancestors had made a deal with the Deev Apush, sacrificing their first born to the scheming demon for the change wrought to their bodies and the opportunities for more power than their fellow Aryan. Not that Lahahana had any more say in the matter of his distant past than Olgun had a say in her ancestors choosing to link their destiny to the Djinn, but ignorance knew no bounds it seemed.
“What do you mean, Ostaad? I don’t know if you saw, but Two-moods popped my arm out of my socket using some kind of trickery, and all without provocation!” Laleh drew herself up while she tried to maintain her innocence to Lahahana, but she was unable to meet his eyes for long, and looked away in shame. Firuzeh didn’t denounce her friend’s claims, but she didn’t condone it either, so Olgun was grateful for small favors.
Arching an eyebrow, Lahahana drawled out, “Oh, really Shaagerd Laleh? So, since I was walking back from the well where I had refilled my waterskin to my classroom, I didn’t see you block the hallway preventing Shaagerd Olgun from heading to class? I supposed I also didn’t see you shove her twice, while she warned you not to provoke her? It seems that I may need to adjust the strength on these glasses, then.” Saying that, Lahahana took off said spectacles and began cleaning them on the edge of his robe sleeve, waiting for Laleh to deny his charges.
“Well, that is, I’m not sure if I would say it like that…” the Human female hemmed and hawed as she tried to find a way out of this predicament.
“No matter. How about we all go down to see the Raees and we can discuss the matter with him? I believe he told me this morning as we broke our fast that he has a Sheikh here for a special lecture, and it’s well known that they can tell when someone is lying. But, the punishment for lying to the Raees is being caned in front of the whole student body, as a warning not to waste his time… Hmm, I sure hope you’re not lying to me.” Finished cleaning his glasses, Lahahana put them back on his nose and looked over them sternly at Laleh, who was now perspiring profusely. “Well, no sense delaying any longer. Off we go, then.”
“No!” Laleh yelled out, which caused Firuzeh to step back from her friend. She was obviously smart enough not to want any part of what was about to happen.
“No? What do you mean, no? Are you deliberately defying a request from an Ostaad, Shaagerd Laleh?” the Efreet leaned over the Human female, a hint of a growl in his voice.
“What I meant to say, honored Ostaad, is that I do believe I was mistaken earlier. I was playing a harmless prank on Two-moods…uh, I mean Olgun, and it got out of hand. It won’t happen again.” Laleh seemed to be having difficulty swallowing, a sight which Olgun was deliciously relishing.
“Well now, that’s a whole other story. I’m glad you found your way to the truth,” the Efreet smiled down at Laleh. As the Human female sighed in relief, he dropped his smile and leaned close enough to her for her breath to slightly fog up his glasses. “However, since you willingly lied to an Ostaad, I will expect you to report to the Headmistress’s Office for your punishment, which I believe is only one swat from the paddle done in her office with the door closed. Of course, if you don’t go and I find out, the punishment increases…” Letting the threat hang in the air, a very pale Laleh bowed to the Ostaad and stumbled down the hallway towards her just reward, Firuzeh helping her along as quickly as she could.
Once they were far enough away, Lahahana let out a sigh and shook his head. “You really need to learn how to make friends, my prized student.”
“You don’t think I started this, do you?” Olgun’s voice squeaked in outrage, which only caused her Ostaad to sigh once more.
“No, no I don’t. I’ve met plenty of bullies in my time, and that young lady is definitely one of them. I’m just saying that maybe you should try befriending one of, how did you put it the other day, miscreants and imbeciles that make up the student body here. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, after all.” Turning away from Olgun, the Efreet headed down the hall towards his classroom and the Guran’nash did her best to keep up with his long strides.
“Well…” Olgun said, slightly out of breath from practically running. “The other Human female, Firuzeh, she doesn’t seem too bad. Not only did she tell her friend to knock it off and let me be, she didn’t back up her lies to you. It’s a start.”
“That does speak for her character, Olgun. So, onto brighter and better things. Were you able to read the passages that I had assigned last night? If you were, then you know what that means…” the Efreet left it hanging in the air, waiting on his shaagerd to finish his statement.
She couldn’t help but grin as she answered her Ostaad. “I did, and I already know which element I want to pick from for my gen servant.” The passages that she had read resonated.
“Is it air?” he asked her as they arrived at the classroom and he unlocked the door.
“Ostaad! That’s racist, you know. Not every Guran’nash feels the call towards that particular element.” Olgun pouted, until she looked up and saw the Efreet grinning down at her. “You were teasing me!” she accused him, which he answered with a guilty booming chuckle.
“Yes I was; sorry, I couldn’t resist,” he apologized, giving her a small bow.
“All is forgiven,” she replied back, giving him a smile of her own. Tonight, she took the first steps towards becoming a full-fledged Sha’ir, and then people like Laleh better beware if they tried picking on her anymore. Then, she would have power to back up her protests.