Flashback: The Fall of Agrabah

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Flashback: The Fall of Agrabah
Date of Scene: 14 November 2012
Location: Agrabah
Synopsis: ICly set on the very night Final Kingdoms launched, Jafar moves into what he thought would be the endgame of his quest for total domination of Agrabah. The coup is swift and successful, but Jasmine escapes...
Thanks to: NPCs by Jafar: Razoul, Fakim, The People Of Agrabah; NPCs by Jasmine: Iago, Maleficent, The Sultan, Aneesa
Cast of Characters: Jafar, Jasmine, Maleficent

Jasmine has posed:

Wrapped in a black cloud of grief, Jasmine weeps for the boy in the marketplace, slain for the crime of helping her. Beheaded, just like that, by Jafar. She is inconsolable; her royal father tried to lift her gloom, without success, eventually retiring to his own rooms for the evening, while Rajah's steadfast, furry presence has soaked up a gallon of remorse without stemming the tide one bit. Eventually, limp with the exhaustion of her day's emotional whirlwind, she cries herself to sleep.

Her dreams are even worse than her waking life.

Shadows rise from the walls of the Palace, which rise to the clouds, seemingly impenetrable; but when she looks up, the stars wink out one by one. All in a rush, the moon is extinguished, leaving her in absolute darkness. No, Darkness; an entity all its own, it reaches for her, and no matter where she flees, it waits for her to cease her flight and absorb her when she is least aware. To snuff out her light forever.

With a gasp, the princess sits bolt upright on her chaise, suddenly wide awake. Something is dreadfully wrong. Vitally so. She can feel it like a pressure all around her, cloying and corrupted... her nightmare seeping into reality. A tingling presence makes itself felt from the back of her neck to coil around the base of her spine. She doesn't know what it is; she's had increasingly severe headaches as the Heartless have come closer and closer to the Palace, but that connection is not obvious to her.

What IS clear is that she can follow the feeling... perhaps to its source. Not entirely sure if she's awake or dreaming, Jasmine frowns, rises from her cushions, and pads silently through her hated, beloved prison of a Palace. She thought she knew every nook and cranny; exploring its labyrinthine chambers was her primary entertainment for many, many years. But as the sensation of wrongness, like a saccharine aroma, guides her to a wall she's never thought much of, it dawns on her that she's also never thought much about where Jafar rests his head. It's not like she's ever willingly sought him out.

Resting a slender, delicate hand on the wall, she can feel the vibrations beyond. From there, it's a matter of moments before she's tried the nearby lamp -- she has to leap to reach it, but does so gracefully. A door slides open in perfect silence; it's designed not to be heard, after all. As quietly as she can, Jasmine slips inside, leaving the door cracked open behind her.

The first thing that reaches her ears is kvetching... from a voice she's never heard before, or only heard at a distance and discounted as her imagination. It sounds like it's laboring heavily; panting intersperses the irritable words.


And then there's the least amused laughter she's ever heard. Simultaneously, it is the coldest sound she's ever heard. Inching forward, she cranes her neck around the spiraling stone staircase to catch just a glimpse of the speaker, a tall green(?!)-skinned woman clad in shadow, whose face, from what she can catch from the profile, is lined with cruelty.

"Your servant's complaints are most amusing, Jafar. I understand now why you tolerate such a lesser being in your service." Big talk for a lady with incompetent porcine underlings, but she's long since upgraded to Heartless. Much less backtalk.

Jafar has posed:

Jafar laughs richly. He's never had anyone to share his amusement at Iago with, save for some isolated moments where, say, he and the Sultan would both laugh at the parrot's reaction to a mouthful of crackers, but since those were for such different reason, there was little true cameraderie. Iago himself has been Jafar's only true confidante, and as sharp a mind as he had, having only a parrot to socialize with has been a (small) contributing factor to Jafar's considerable... strangeness.

Even as he's delighting in having another wicked mind to confide in, however, he's already cutting himself off from her with deception. This is the hidden cost to lying; he denies himself the connection to others that is so natural to Jasmine. He sees it not; it is his life, it always has been. He can only watch real friendship and resent it for being saccharine, facile... denied to him.

"Quite so, dark lady," Jafar intones with a slight bow. "Iago's incompetence has so many redeeming attributes that it is practically a virtue all its own." Lightning sparks from the great coils above, striking the rim of a vertical disk of green-black swirling darkness, from which steps a Heartless, which lopes down to join the increasingly cramped ranks of shadowy creatures lining the walls.

"The pieces are all in place, my queen, thanks to you," Jafar says, with an insinuating tone that is surely obvious to the cunning Maleficent in a way it never was to the Sultan: Jafar wants something. "In my gratitude, I have no choice but to cede the glory of commanding the Khayal--excuse me, the Heartless--to topple this weakened regime. I myself will make haste to secure the princess, that her power might be added to that of the others, and further our recently-mutual aims." Of course. /That/ is the only reason he wishes to secure her, nothing personal about it.

Jasmine has posed:

Maleficent's laughter may be unspeakably awful, but Jasmine begins to tremble at Jafar's. It is, indeed, a dreadfully personal sound. And quite unlike the sounds he's occasionally made at some Prince's half-witticism at a banquet. It sends daggers of ice into her heart, knives that twist as she hears the traitor Vizier call this stranger his Queen.

She's always suspected him. Always. He's been a part of her life for a long as she can remember, but as a young child she was always confused by why his smile never reached his eyes; even then, she could sense his ambition. She always expected that one day he would leave for greener pastures, probably in the middle of Agrabah's greatest time of need -- it's astounded her that he's stuck around this long during the Heartless crisis, and seemingly worked so diligently to thwart it.

It had gone a long way to convince her that maybe she'd been stubborn all these years, persisting, silently, in her suspicions. That makes this betrayal even more painful.

Fire rising in her eyes, she gets about a half inch into storming up there to confront him -- them -- when sanity reasserts itself. There is an army of shadows, straight out of her dreams, assembling up there. And worse: 'Wizards', said ... Iago. The parrot always seemed cunning to her, and in fact her father's brutal affection always bothered her deeply. It does not strain credulity, that he's fully sentient and speaking, to boot. She feels much the same about Sahara and especially Rajah, for all that they are wordless companions.

But... wizards. She freezes right where she is, conflicted.

There's a pause as the Dark Faerie considers her options. "She is why I am here; I care nothing for your little world. Everything else is meaningless." But, in the end, she has a certain grudging respect for petty revenge: "...Very well. Have your fun. So long as I have her, in the end."

That's more than enough for Jasmine. Swiftly, she retreats, closing the door behind her without so much as a pop. Jafar's words echo in her mind: 'the pieces are all in place.' The guards. She daren't call for them, perhaps cannot even be seen by them. And they are always, always posted outside Father's door; she cannot warn him without getting through at least a few. Her intimate knowledge of Palace layout leaves her in good stead as she makes her way back to her room.

She needs three things:

Rajah, who surely has not been co-opted. She'd stake her life on it, and she's about to.
The scimitar her Father forbade her to own, that she can reach him before it's too late. Her skills are miniscule, but she hasn't watched the Guard train all these years for nothing, then practiced in secret in her room.
And her share of the royal jewels, in case all goes ill.

Jafar has posed:

A deep blue midnight is draped across the sprawling City of Enchantment. Little swirls of wind-blown sand catch the moonlight, like glittering sparkles of magic in the air. In all directions, pure white dunes heap like sugar piles, a landscape both monotonous and arresting. Inside the walls, the palace's alabaster towers gleam as though they were coated in a thin layer of ice, but the heat belies this; even at this hour, Agrabah is warm enough to reward rest and punish motion.

Jafar, Grand Vizier, rarely has cause to venture outdoors, and the cool marble caverns of the palace protect him. Still, it is unusual that he chooses to wear such dark colors and multiple layers, even if they are in the light Arabian style. The truth is, his body is gaunt enough that it's all surface area; he loses heat very easily and actually requires some swaddling to be comfortable inside the palace. It is odd, then, that he shivers as he walks, on three legs as in the riddle of the Sphynix, his third tapping metallically. Always he has acted subtly, his venom slow. Tonight, he risks everything in one blatant gamble, and the thrill and terror are oppressive.

Jafar pauses outside Jasmine's chambers. Once more he comes to her room, this time as himself, and with an even more diabolical heart. He inhales, setting his face to fearful submission, eyes wide, mouth small. He enters, and gets down on one knee, eyes closed, head down, one palm laid sincerely across his chest. Humiliating himself like this does not hurt him; tricking others was always sweet enough to him to be worth it, and besides, this will be the last time. Even if he fails, he will never have to bow again. There's a certain nostalgia in the moment, and he takes pleasure in the role.

"Princess! Your highness, ten thousand apologies from your humble advisor, but a situation has arisen in the palace that simply cannot wait." His voice is high, wheedling, subservient. Iago, notably, is absent from his shoulder.

Jasmine has posed:

Her pockets are stuffed with treasure, invisibly so; one of the benefits of bedlah pants is that they can conceal a remarkable quantity of stuff without losing their poofiness. Rajah is awake and briefed, and curled around her practically like a shawl. Her scimitar is a plain device, a soldier's tool in every way, but she's been keeping it sharp, especially since the attacks on the city began.

Fully loaded, Princess Jasmine turns to begin her one-woman, one-tiger assault on her father's chamber, when... Jafar arrives. She's too slow.

But perhaps not yet too late.

Her mind races through her options. She probably can't take him; she knows, from the rare times that they've touched, out of courtesy or some awkward attempt at 'comfort', that he's frightfully strong, and a magician to boot. Plus there's the matter of that army of monsters. She cannot hope to overcome him with her small strength, and perhaps not even Rajah's.

But a battle of the minds... perhaps. Perhaps not, considering how successfully he's engineered all this. Even so, it's her best chance.

Carefully, without turning around, she holds the scimitar out to Rajah, who silently accepts it, cradling it carefully in his fangs. A single hand gesture, coupled with the terrible tension he can sense in her body, communicates her desire: follow, but at a distance.

Then she embarks upon acting the part of her life: the innocent girl she was five minutes ago. "Jafar," she murmurs, finding soft sleepiness somewhere in her voice -- she's still so tired, though the most alert she's ever been in her life. Her every sense is on edge, including the new one that she doesn't understand... and it's suddenly screaming to stay away from the Vizier.

But that's the one thing she mustn't do, not yet. Not until they're somewhere where she isn't cornered. Slowly, keeping hidden all traces of the pain it costs her to do it, she emerges from the shadows, into the golden lamplight of her chambers. "What is so urgent that it could not wait until morning?" Don't be a fool! her instincts scream, he knows you're up to date on the Khayal -- the Heartless -- at least. He knows you care, and he knows you worry.

Fear is easy to summon to her voice. It fills every part of her that isn't brimming with anger; the challenge is keeping the latter out, but she manages. "Is it," she hesitates, as though she dare not speak of such a calamity, "Is it the Khayal? I... I dreamed of them."

The best lies, she's long since learned, growing up in this house of vipers, are always seeded with truth.

Jafar has posed:

Jafar underestimates Jasmine. Some of that is sexism, but more of it is classism. She's a princess, she's never had to work for anything, or face challenges. And then some of it is simply out of his control; he doesn't fully understand what being a Princess of the Heart means, and can't imagine the potential she has, or that she might have sensed the dark powers he was unlocking. He just hasn't had enough time to talk to Maleficent yet... or get his voracious eyeballs on her library, which he assumes exists somewhere, and he lusts for profoundly.

Still, his suspicions would have been aroused if Jasmine had acted entirely confused. What did she /think/ might be happening, a parade? He rises gracefully, hand still on his chest, head slightly bowed still, but not so far that his serpent-slit eyes cannot look upon her. "A dream?" he says, feigning admiration. "The royal blood in your veins grants many gifts, your highness. Perhaps it is of import." He's lying shamelessly, until he realizes that he isn't. She's not just a princess of Agrabah, she's a Princess of Heart. Is this a normal dream she had, or a premonition? The latter idea chills him.

"But we must discuss that later," he says. "If I might beg your silence... can you hear it?" There's nothing to hear, really, just a faint breeze, and an almost inaudible hint of city noise, which can only be heard at all in the palace if the wind is right, but is always present.

No... it's always present /during the day/.

"The populace has gathered outside the gates, princess. Rebelliously they ignore the wartime curfew, and seek to protest the policies made necessary by these regrettably militant times. General Razoul even fears they will tear down the gate. Forgive my impertinence, Princess Jasmine, but only you can calm them at a time like this. Your father for all his wisdom and might is not always... I dare not go further, I merely beg you to speak with them."

Jasmine has posed:

It chills the princess, how skillfully Jafar attempts to manipulate her. He knows her so very well, at least superficially. And why shouldn't he? They've shared a home for her entire life. Obediently, Jasmine tilts her head to one side, to listen carefully for the sound. "I hear nothing," she protests softly, and why shouldn't she? That's how he's always seen her... credulous and pathetic. And maybe she has been, to allow this to occur. If only she'd been bolder with Father... somehow made him see this cobra at the heart of his court. Why wouldn't he listen to her? Why has he become so difficult to reach, the older and more eloquent she's become?

The passing breeze provides all the explanation required for the goosebumps raised on every bit of exposed flesh. She shakes herself out of her very real reflections, the motion sending cascades of luscious black hair pouring around her. It doesn't warm her at all. She is permanently freezing.

As though pettily blaming the Vizier for her own hesitation, she snaps, "Must you mince words even during an emergency?" Stalking out of her chambers -- got to get him away from Rajah, got to get him away from Rajah, got to create some distance so that Rajah can follow -- she furiously pushes aside the silken curtains of her door and sets a tremendously fast pace down the hallways. Now, at last, she allows some of her fury to leave her lips, scorching the very air. "The people have every right to be frightened, and to act on that fear. If the guards have harmed one hair on their heads... if you've dared commit more murder in the name of my safety this night..." she warns, eyes narrowing almost to slits.

Jafar has posed:

Jafar is forced to sweep back diagonally in a noisy flutter of red-lined black cape, his brazen staff planting down as he bows at her passage. His mouth twists in annoyance when he can tell it's safe; and he's very good at it by now, he's been making faces behind her back since she was a toddler. The people have the /right/ to riot, now, to disagree with the Sultan? That would have been one small consolation if he had lived to see her and her husband on the throne; watching her either lose that idealism painfully, or rule ineffectually with all her sickening compassion.

"I have come to understand your feelings on such matters," he tries to soothe, knowing that saying he /agrees/ with her feelings would not be believable, "and hope that you are able to resolve the situation without violence." He hurries along. Why is she walking so accursed quickly? He has to break into a jog to catch up, to lead her to the gatehouse, where the Sultan traditionally addresses his kingdom.

Deeper inside the palace, Razoul stands like a grim, broad-shouldered statue outside the Sultan's chambers. His hand is on the handle of his drawn scimitar. Already he has committed treason a dozen times, but it isn't getting easier. He's flanked by four palace guard, including the tall, skinny Hakim and the round blob Fazahl, standing on the threshold of an irreversable decision.

  • * *

"The princess does not value your service. But she does not see the real you, nor has she seen the threat as you have. No one has," Jafar said, his words possessing a force of reason that could not be denied. Every one of them struck a chord of truth inside Razoul, even if it was a truth some part of him wanted to fight. "The Khayal are the most mortal danger Agrabah has yet faced, and require decisive action to defeat."

"This will require decisive action," Razoul had told Jafar sternly, as if the cowardly vizier would balk.

"You must protect the people. No one will survive if the situation persists as it stands presently. The Sultan awaits his own death, the death of us all."

"I know you don't want to hear this, Jafar, but the Sultan cannot protect us," Razoul decided.

"I must bow to your argument. But strength alone cannot defeat an enemy of infinite strength. The only leader for such desperate times is one with unmatched cunning and guile."

"Unmatched... unmatched cunning. You need to take responsibility for this, Jafar. /You/ need to lead us against the Khayal."

"What makes you suggest such an extreme measure, General?" Jafar asked, in his normal voice.

  • * *

"It's the only way," Razoul says firmly. "It is this, or we all die. For Agrabah," he says, and his men echo it. They march into the bedchamber boldly. As they approach the Sultan's bed, one by one the guards drop to their knees reflexively, as if they cannot physically stop themselves, but Razoul grits his teeth and forces himself onward. "My lord," he says, he /commands/, "wake up."

Jasmine has posed:

Jasmine, of course, cannot counter Jafar's silent assertions; she herself is partially saying what she thinks he expects to hear, and is gratified by his oily response. But it's also true that her eyes have been opened as to the plight of her people. Until earlier today, she had no idea what kind of poverty existed in her kingdom. Surely her father does not know -- he is unreasonably proud of their prosperity, that he banished most traces of squalor in his mighty youth.

But bearing brief witness to the casual suffering of the ordinary citizen of Agrabah has not shattered her idealism, but rather inflamed it. It burns more brightly than ever, within her, and the words that spilled from her mouth were, on some level, raw, unvarnished truth. She's wise enough to know that a certain amount of violence is inevitable in a riot... but strong enough, she suspects, to prevent it, if it came to that.

Of course, it isn't really. Right?

She does not want to go to the gatehouse; a tiny, enclosed space like that, it's the only place worse than her chambers were. Rajah is a shadow within a shadow, behind them, intelligent enough to angle that scimitar so that it doesn't catch what little light there is, here in the heart of the night. He is absolutely, viciously silent in the way that only a great cat can be.

Jasmine has learned much from him as well.

Like the way she can spring from reasonably casual jog to sudden, intense, beautifully fluid motion. Just as they reach the outer wall, she leaps into action, trying to pound past the gatehouse and around the corner, out of sight. She's very fleet of foot; running within the courtyards, when she could get away with such unprincessly behavior, was one of the ways she could badly simulate freedom. She's known to do so daily, in fact, rising with the dawn to take a perimeter or two, at the run.

But in this critical moment, her gait is arrested by shock: there ARE crowds assembled outside the Palace. It wasn't all a sham. And, inevitably, she can't help but be blinded by concern for her people, even in the middle of a coup: could she actually be needed here?

She stumbles and slows, exactly long enough for Jafar to react.

With better hunter's instincts than his ward, Rajah does exactly nothing. He continues to lie in wait for his moment.

  • * *

The Sultan has also had troubled dreams, of late. His late wife, his beloved queen, weeps in them. Sometimes she rages. Either way, she is as brilliant as the dawn, exactly as he remembered her. "You are blind!" she cries. "You are deaf!" But always she continues, bafflingly to his hypnotized, befuddled brain that is so convinced that everything in the world is fine (except for Jasmine's pesky suitor situation): "You are needed! Your people need you! Our daughter needs you!"

"Whuh-whuh-what?" he sputters, his beard bristling, his moustache wobbling as wildly as his jowls, as he's forced awake for the first time in years. "Razoul! What is the meaning of this intrusion?" He can yet be imperious, in his bumbling way, and misunderstands the guards who have taken a knee all around them. Mostly, however, he sounds testy... until the mix of his dream -- Jafar may have been more right than he realized, about the bloodline of Enchantment -- and his confused awakening cause him to turn even paler than his decades indoors already have. Or perhaps it is simply a father's love for his daughter making him unconsciously wise. There are few forces more powerful in the universe, after all, especially when in conjunction with one such as she.

He has a terrible premonition, and suddenly -- somewhat foolishly, but also very rightly -- fears not for himself, but for his heir.

"H-has something happened to Jasmine?"

Jafar has posed:

The massed crowd is there, just as Jafar said, but they are not rioting. They wait, as dazed as their Sultan at being rousted from bed at this hour by the heralds, gathered to hear a proclamation. When they see Jasmine, even running, a weary applause rises. Jafar, grimacing at Jasmine's speed, shoves forth his cobra staff and lets a bolt of red energy, suspended through motes of floating sand, strike her in the back, knocking her forward first, then dragging her her back rapidly, first along the floor, and then through the air. Laughing with pure, genuine glee at the sheer fun of manipulating physics with his new powers, Jafar twists Jasmine and pulls her upright to face him, her hands held to her sides, her body immobile below the neck due to a shroud of glimmering red, that turns her skin a sunset orange and her clothing a rich purple.

The crowd below could see little of this; they can only see Jasmine at all when she's in the gatehouse, and so they simply saw her run out, and then reappear as if she crawled back in or something. Well, it's not the strangest thing they've seen rich people do, what with all the suitors rolling through the main avenue. They wait placidly to be addressed.

"I cannot compel you not to scream," Jafar warns her calmly, "but I can squeeze you until you have no air to scream with. I take it your dream was more illuminating than you let on. It seems even a kitten has some deceit in her... admirable." His approval seems genuine. "Wave to the nice people, prin-cess," he instructs her in a friendly, baritone singsong, twisting her at the waist while leaving her legs facing him, and lifting her right arm until her hand is at the level of her face. Grimacing as he tries to learn the fine motion, he has her palm swipe back and forth, accidentally bonking her lightly in the cheek twice. The crowd doesn't notice, and their cheering is riotous. They don't get to see Jasmine very often.

  • * *

The sound of the crowd reaches even Razoul and the Sultan. Razoul glances toward it, knowing his time is running short. "Your daughter is fine," Razoul assures him. "But I have my duty tonight, like all nights... only this night, you won't like it very much." His large, wide face works with emotion, and something boils out. "Didn't I serve you well? Didn't I love Agrabah? Didn't I love you, and your family, for my whole life?"

The brawny man controls himself. "I am here to depose you, my lord." Razoul's vocabulary isn't great, except insofar as it relates to his job. "For the good of Agrabah. Jafar is sultan, now. You had your chance to protect us, and you failed."

Jasmine has posed:

The Sultan sits there on his bed, stunned by the tidings bourne to him on the lips of his guards; relieved by news of Jasmine, but staggered nonetheless. "General Razoul," he murmurs, "I have known you since you were a lad. I have loved you like a son." In a properly distant Sultanesque way, anyhow. He's very fond of Razoul, the only reason the man's incompetence has been allowed to persist, other than Jafar's influence. "What madness has seized you, that you would choose to destabilize the city at a time like this?" He looks very childlike, wide-eyed and staring, totally unable to comprehend the treachery afoot.

Until a name penetrates his consciousness.

"Jafar... you... you VILE BETRAYER!" The curse springs hotly from his tongue, and he stands up along with it. Even atop his cushions, he must crane his neck to look up at his men. But his glare makes him seem ten feet tall. "Take me to your new master, then. General." The title is made mockery of with his tone, yet he offers his wrists with great dignity. "But he is no Sultan... only a pretender." Razoul is not so great and terrible as Jafar will be; he retains his poise, for now, rage spots high upon his cheeks.

The cowering will come later...

  • * *

Jasmine screams.

Who can blame a girl for trying? Besides, she's wanted to scream ever since she first felt the terrible presence of the mysterious shadowy woman, and events since then have not put her in a better state of mind. It's an outlet for the hysterics she's been so desperately suppressing. But she quickly discovers that Jafar is as good as his word; she is squashed by an invisible hand practically before her piercing cry is released, and spends the next few moments trying not to black out, as stars of asphyxiation dance before her eyes.

Afterwards, when she can breathe again, she glares daggers at Jafar... well, at the crowd, though they can't hope to catch the finer details of her face. Nor does the ex-Grand Vizier need to see it, to feel it; she radiates rage, that fiery defiance she's so famed for rolling off of her in waves. It has never burned hotter. If she were a flame, it would be pure white, without even the faintest hint of blue.

She does not dignify the man with words. Lifting her chin imperiously, every inch the queen she was born to be despite the flopping of her hands, she awaits his next move at /her/ pleasure, or at least somehow manages to make it feel that way.

In only one way does the remnant of her body she yet controls betray her distress, perhaps even her delicious despair: a single tear escapes her left eye, and, left unmanaged, rolls slowly down her cheekbone, to her chin, and finally, her swanlike neck.

Jafar has posed:
  • * *

Razoul trembles. He is like a big child, sometimes, and he's been chastened by his father. But rage follows. "You are the one who has destabilized the city. I was wrong, I'm not deposing you. Because you haven't been the Sultan in a long time. And it's about time this city had one. Clap him in irons and take him to the courtyard, men." The guards slowly rise, glancing at each other. "I didn't say /tomorrow/, you buffoons. Sultan's orders," Razoul growls.

That seems to work. Hakim and Fazahl step forward, pulling the Sultan from bed, not roughly, and lock his wrists in manacles. They push him along behind Razoul, marching out into the courtyard.

Above, in the gatehouse, Jafar basks in the applause as if it was his own. He doesn't particularly enjoy hurting Jasmine physically by crushing the air from her, what he enjoys about it is silencing her, controlling her, shaming her. The freedom that never should have been hers to begin with--she, a mere walking dowry--was taken from her so easily by his new power. This is how it should have been all along. He has suffered all too much impudence from her.

"Oh, my my my," Jafar tisks with mock gentleness in his deep voice, seizing control of her head and turning it towards him. It's an external force, and though it is surprisingly precise, it cannot make her do anything a number of invisible hands couldn't; her tears are safe, and any control over her expression would be extremely crude. What he can compel her to do is turn her face up to him as she cries, denying her even the privacy of her dark canopy of hair. "Are those tears? Poor little girl. Perhaps you realize how thoroughly you have underestimated me. Perhaps you regret your treatment of me all these years. But what is happening tonight, my dear, is merely na-tural. What was artificial was a pampered, self-righteous girl like you having power over me, and one day soon, over all of Agrabah."

Jafar's voice had descended into a snarl around 'self-righteous,' but it lightens into an elegant courtier's tone again. "You have a decision tonight, Princess Jasmine, perhaps the first you have ever truly made. And you /are/ a princess, yes, even now. A desert rose such as yourself is a rare treasure worth coveting." Using the thin snout of the bronze cobra, Jafar touches Jasmine's jawline, then slides the cold metal up along it until it arrests one of her tears, which he then tosses away with a flick of his wrist.

"Your first option is to turn to your people--MY people--and announce our engagement. Hail the rise of the new sultan. Your father will live a life of luxury, and you will rule as queen, just as you were born to do." He leans in close to her, savoring her expression. The crowd can see it, and there's a general sound of discontent, which Jafar simply enjoys. "You do not relish this choice? Well, allow me to educate you about the other."

Stepping back, Jafar swipes his staff across his body, spinning Jasmine about as if she were dancing, to face the opposite direction, where Hakim and Fazahl have forced the Sultan to his knees in the courtyard. The vizier crosses his arms, releasing Jasmine's body down to the waist, so she can react more effusively to the sight of her father in irons.

Jasmine has posed:

The cruelest realization of her own total powerlessness comes when Jasmine cannot even shudder at the touch of Jafar's staff; her body remains helplessly in the thrall of the shimmering crimson sands, limp, pliable. Vulnerable.

Her spirit is none of these things.

"My /treatment/ of you?" she murmurs furiously, incredulously, modulating her voice carefully so that it does not fall upon the crowd below, and thus necessitate cutting her off again. It purrs with anger. "You were raised to the highest honors in the land, honors that you rightfully earned! Grand Vizier, second only to my Father! He conceded your every whim, treated you like family! Your luxuries are no less than our own! And it all meant... meant nothing to you, just because it was a single step below a man who respected your wisdom utmost?"

Somewhere in this tirade, around the time her voice breaks on the word 'nothing', it -- and she -- undergoes a gradual transformation... from anger to another emotion. At first, it's hard to clearly recognize.

"Yes... I underestimated you. I truly believed that somewhere in your heart you enjoyed your lofty position, were gratified by the esteem of all Agrabah."

It's sadness. No, worse than that; it's pity. Actual sympathy.

"Your many victories tasting of nothing but sand, sand that slipped through your fingers, leaving you nothing but pain."

Her flow of tears had stopped at first, dammed by exactly the sort of self-righteous rage the sorcerer so despises, but now they come again... not for herself, not for her people, not even for her father, though her hands drifted up to her mouth in the gasping, woeful reaction he was looking for, back when the Sultan first appeared.

She weeps for Jafar.

And through her shimmering tears, she lifts her mournful gaze to meet his eyes, and see past them, somehow, to what lies beneath. To his unhappy essence. She inhales sharply, his suffering becoming her own.

"How miserable have you been, all this time... for you to be driven to /this/?"

Jafar has posed:

Jafar can see that she wants to flinch, to shiver, at his metallic touch, and relishes the look in her eyes when she realizes she can't. /This is your reality now. Your desires, which have ruled me for so long, now mean nothing/.

Her outrage only makes him increasingly more smug. It's expected, and impotent. All of her various tantrums throughout childhood and adolescence have been; only a chance of birth made them have the force of state. Why should being a single step beneath a simpleton please him, when he was twenty steps more brilliant? What comfort were luxuries when he had to bow and kneel hundreds of times more often than any peasant?

It takes him a little while to understand the change. It's hard to comprehend, this scrap of kindness. He wasn't wrong about her: a desert rose blooms in spite of everything, in the worst conditions. Her sympathy wracks him, she can even see it; his shoulders hunch in a bit, his chin bows from its proud lift. "You wretched girl," he seethes, glad Iago is still churning that wheel, glad no one else is here to see her speak to him like that, and see his responding weakness. "You shed tears... FOR ME? I don't want your disgusting sympathy, I want your submission! Even now, you condescend? I am a lord of darkness now, princess. I am a Sultan! Your tears are as worthless to me as grains of sand are to the desert." Funny, he seemed to enjoy them a moment ago.

"And you lie!" he says, turning on her savagely, having just barely started to pace. "No one respected me. They would bow if they thought they had to, but held mockery and disdain in their hearts. They respected /you/, and for what? You have never done anything worthwhile in your life that did not pertain to hair maintenence. Only now will they respect me. Only now am I pure and true, a dark monolith that will rise over this kingdom and cast its icy shadow across history." Jafar's voice is becoming louder, more hoarse, less sane.

Drawing his staff back, Jafar looks for a moment as if he will strike Jasmine across the face with it, but instead it whips past her, and suddenly she is surrounded by a groaning crackle of twisting stone. The four corners of the gatehouse roof, each held up by a polished stone pillar, rip free as he completes the motion, sailing up high into the air, charting an arc down toward Razoul and the Sultan. The roof rams into the carefully watered grass of the courtyard, ploughing it up deeply enough to reveal the red, infertile soil beneath, and grinds to a halt near the startled Razoul.

The sky above Jafar begins to glow red, reacting to his rage, covering the crowd in a bloody hue as they begin shoving back into each other, trying to back away. "Say it!" he orders Jasmine, locking her limbs out straight. It's painful, but he's not /trying/ to hurt her to compel obedience. It seems to be simple carelessness. "Tell me I am better than you in every way!" he howls at her, saliva flung from his empassioned lips. She will not take this moment from him. He has suffered for it for so long.

Jasmine has posed:

Jasmine's compassion withstands Jafar's fury, his intimidation. She stares up at him, maddeningly serene in the face of his insults. One eyebrow dares to lift, eloquently expressing her disagreement, as he rants on and on about how he had never been truly respected. In its silent insolence, it concedes that perhaps /she/ hadn't always been taken with him, but given the events of today, was that such an unreasonable reaction?

But when he moves to strike at her, then starts wrecking the palace, she finally shows signs of fear. She pales and shrinks away from him until his power over her is once again absolute, holding her light as a feather and stiff as a board, so to speak. Then she's lost that option. At first she winces, anticipating further violence. But then something in her alters, again, the tension in her body unlocking as though someone had opened her with a key.

Floating there, in the ruined gatehouse, the princess relaxes into the hold, mentally if not physically. By not fighting it, she spares herself some pain.

She probably earns some from her expression, though, ROLLING HER EYES like such a teenager. His tantrum, his five-year-old demands -- ones she's heard before, from a Prince that age, sent by a distant court to 'woo' her just last year -- she finds them tiresome. 'Are you quite finished?' her flashing eyes ask, impatiently, darting away to glance at the ruin of the rooftop, and, very briefly, her father. Then they glaze out again, and she's silent for many long seconds... weighing her limited options, perhaps? Preparing to submit?

The words, spoken with dawning awareness of their truth on far more levels than the physical (which is where, of course, they are the most false), drop from her lips like delicate baubles, carried on the unseasonal wind to the city:

"...You have no power over me."

Once more, very suddenly, comes that fluid transformation from inaction to action, poetry in motion, as she unleashes the concentration she'd been building from the moment she stopped actively struggling against the red sand and started feeling her way through it, getting a sense of its function, its true form, and her freedom within that form. It's far more clumsy a motion than she'd wish it to be, her shoulder lunging forward. She screams in agony as it pops out of alignment, then right back in, in a sickening moment of strain.

But the message could not be clearer to the populace below, as the rigid arm, and hand, both conveniently attached to her shoulder, slams up towards Jafar's face in what is surely an earth-shatteringly loud slap if it manages to land. Even if it doesn't, her defiance is blatantly obvious.

"You can't be both," she gasps through the red miasma rising before her eyes, not magical at all but the vocal objection of her body to such callous treatment, as Rajah chooses that moment to lunge in, body-checking the Vizier to try to break his concentration. "The Sultan must be the guiding light of his people... and you have chosen... a path of darkness."

Even then, a degree of her sympathy remains.

"It's not too late... to turn back," she suggests, as she's half-dragged, half-carried away by the mighty tiger, her fists in his fur, his leaps devouring the distance to the stairs down to the courtyard. Still, her soft, sad voice reaches him, somehow. "Never... too late. But I was never... yours to claim. Do I not... belong... to your dark mistress?"

Her scimitar, worthless and precious, lies forgotten at Jafar's feet, dropped by Rajah when he went for the princess.

Jafar has posed:

Jafar does not punish her for her insolence, not physically. He hadn't intended to hurt her in the first place, but one shouldn't think better of him for it; his indifference to her pain is a different sort of bad, and his sadism is emotional, which is in some ways worse. It spares Jasmine what surely would have been an unpleasant punishment, though, as there are any number of horrible ways she could be twisted at the moment. Her eyeroll irks him, but on a shallower level; suddenly she is that frustrating teenager again.

Instead of hurting her, he thinks about how he will threaten her. Her father is the obvious route. There is that tiger, too, and the horse. He does not dismiss the idea of cutting her hair as silly, either. No one keeps something for the length of time Jasmine has been working on that long black tail without valuing it. He pauses in his thought as she relaxes, seems to work on a decision. His arms lower, his face quiets, and he glares at her, waiting.

Her statement of independence shocks him. He doesn't understand; if he were in her position, he would at least pretend to submit. What value is there in defiance that deception would lack? It simply boggles the mind. Then she is yanking, hauling herself as if from quicksand--or worse, drying cement--a wet pop announcing what was probably the worst pain of the princess's life. Jafar opposes her, but he's always a step behind, trying to drag the sand back into position around a lithe and wriggling form. Her slap lands like a snapping tree branch, almost dislodging the vizier's turban, the side flap half-covering his cheek as he twists from the blow.

"You," he says, and that word is filled with a fast-bubbling gurgle of rage. His staff flares up in a starburst of crimson, preparing some dark magic, but Rajah is there, his sheer size and weight ramming Jafar into the stone bannister on the palace side of the gatehouse. He seems more resilient than he once was, however, and it is not a mistake for Rajah to flee rather than try and press the advantage. Jafar throws himself to his feet with a thrash of his cape, flipping the bent top of his turban back into place, long, thin face twisted in a snarl.

Lifting his staff up with both hands, he prepares the slam the butt of it into the stone, to carve out a chunk to ride atop and pursue. He hesitates, however, his mind always ready to examine a choice from many angles. His power is nearly untested, at the moment, and if he fails, Maleficent will know. He will hear from her either way, but if it's the guards that let her slip, and not him, it will spare him some blame, at least. More importantly, he will not fail in front of Agrabah. At the moment they will have difficulty interpreting today's events, but if he goes out chasing in the streets...

Jafar sets his staff down. "Don't just stand there, fool!" Jafar howls down at Razoul. "After her!"

Jasmine hears alarm bells being pounded in the towers, sees palace guard spilling from every door. Jafar dusts off his shoulder mildly, and levitates his way down to the ground, walking over to the Sultan, who was left in the hands of two guards as the others peeled off after Jasmine. The grim-faced vizier looks down, far down, at his royal captive, and fills his palm with crackling red energy, letting it illuminate his gaunt features from below as his mouth curls in an anticipatory grin. When he speaks, the relish in his voice could only have been born of many years of greedy patience.

"Now then... tell me I am /better/ than you. In e-very way."

Jafar's cackle is audible to the fleeing princess, dry and wild, even over the pounding bells.

Jasmine has posed:

It all happens so fast.

Rajah takes her directly to Sahara; the silver-white mare is unsaddled but clearly raring to go, stamping a foot quite as impatiently as Jasmine rolled her eyes, moments ago. She finds her feet, and then the tiger's head finds them too, urging her up, up.

She barely has time to question who released her beloved steed, the creature only she and her mother could ever tame, when the answer presents itself amid a rush of sensory overload. The sound of rushing guards, their swordbelts all a-clatter, turbans askew, feet slapping against the marble floors, wars with Jafar's laughter and the extended ringing in her ears that just won't quit; vestiges of her abused shoulder. The smell of churned earth as they gallop past the lawn, and the sight of her father starting to go to his knees, then hesitating, jaw hitting floor as he sees this vision of his lost bride ride away.

It is the commoner Aneesa, Jasmine's nurse as a child and maid as a teenager, who has obviously set Sahara loose and is now wrestling open one of the smaller external gates. The pure, fierce gratitude and love in the princess' eyes as she realizes the truth is reason enough to have done it. The old woman may have been beneath Jafar's awareness as a possible avenue for revenge until now, but she gladly sacrifices that anonymity to spur her princess-daughter to freedom. To finally and absolutely throw open the gilded birdcage and let that girl fly free.

But she isn't free. Sahara may leap, gloriously, over the makeshift barricade of tables that desperate guards try to shove in her way, reveling in the wind and the speed, but Jasmine's heart was left back with her father. Looking over her shoulder, trusting to the horse's instincts for guidance, the last thing she sees is the Sultan's submission before Jafar, chubby arms thrust past his head, embracing the dirt. And then the guards, surrounding Aneesa, drawing their blades and --

-- she's past the palace wall, she's in the rioting crowd, now, and it's eyes front if she wants to keep her seat. It's a combination of impressive horsemanship, divine intervention and tiger roar that allows her to slice a path across the town square without trampling anyone. The guards pursue desperately, not nearly as careful of the people between them and their quarry, but no brutality is going to change the fact that she's on the four fastest equine legs in all Agrabah, arms wrapped around Sahara's neck, hanging on for dear life...

"I ran away." The memory, less than a day old, hits her like a stone wall. She leans close to the boy, confiding her secret and her solace, her pride and her shame. "I ran away, and I am /not/ going back."

How strange, some wild fragment of her mind reflects, that her life has transformed so completely in so little time. She finally has what she always wanted: escape from Palace life, adventure in her immediate past and forseeable future.

And now she'd do anything to go home.

"I will..." It takes her a moment to realize that she's swearing this oath out loud, but once she does, she goes through with it at the top of her lungs. Let them hear, and wonder. Let /him/ hear, and tremble... or laugh. "I will return to you!" Agrabah, people, father. Vizier. "With aid, and... with justice!" It's a promise.

Voice echoing around her, hair flying behind her, she disappears, into the winding streets and ultimately out to the desert.

'Free' at last.

Jafar has posed:

Jafar, from behind, is mostly the black monolith he described himself as. The monolith twists, in the courtyard, revealing his calm, smug face, confidence bolstered by the praise of none other than a Sultan. He drolls only one word in response to Jasmine's promise.