Of Jann, Genies and Athasian Cosmogony: The Tale of Da'jan, as told by Ebrezon the Old

Gentlemen, for your review, a short story that proposes much, including a splash of an Athasian cosmogony and an origins account and explanation of the jann, or here put, the “da’jan”. Hopefully you enjoy this dark little vignette.

I of course welcome your comments and critiques.



The Tale of the Da’jan as told by Ebrezon the Old, Prophet of the Burning Tree

Ebrezon clenched his broken teeth as he sneered at his proud and latest pupil, his wizened and wretched old man’s body baking beneath his haggard robe in the unrelenting and devastating heat of the deep Athasian afternoon.

The arrogant upstart… I should burn him to a cinder where he stands. How dare he allow one of his own sacrifices to escape!

Upon the fire-scorched boulder Ebrezon sat, overlooking the Burnt Tree. Black, evil and mighty it stood, its burnt roots dug deep into an ancient pile of the ashes of the doomed, its twisted bare branches reaching into the bleak sky. Turning away from the brazen youth, a cruel smile rippled across Ebrezon’s foully bearded face, pleased to see beneath the black branches the smoldering charcoaled skeletal remains of the last night’s sacrifices. How they had howled and crisped so. It should please the Burning Tree…

Ebrezon clutched his black burnt staff and looked down again with narrowed eyes at Zadok, his new initiate, his smile fading as he contemplated destroying his pupil of several years. It would not be the first time a pupil had met such a fate. He had survived though hadn’t he, the immolation of the flames? Ebrezon thought to himself. The spirits of fire had spared him, and embraced him in their eternal fires, though one of their victims had escaped. No. Do not destroy him. At least not yet. Let him bring that slave girl back to feed the starving flames. After all, the Tree must burn… The thought pleased Ebrezon immensely, almost totally. He thought of that stupid girl in particular screaming in pain amidst a sacrificial fire. In his momentary reverie, were one to have looked, in the depths of his dark pupils a blazing tree could have been seen by those with sight to see it, a tree forever aflame in the abyssal blackness of his mind.

“Master,” Zadok interrupted, “you who have traveled to the hottest and furthest reaches of the desert where the very air burns like fire, you who have risen in spirit to the highest stars and the realms beyond, you who know the deepest secrets of Athas: do you really not know where they come from?” The youth asked it like a challenge, no doubt believing that he would soon learn all the secrets that his aging and addled master had failed to discover. The new initiate kept on about the girl’s savior, her secret da’jani lover, as if the excuse of the manner of her escape meant anything to the Burning Tree. Zadok would surely pay, or else the entire tribe with compensatory sacrifices, if the new fire cleric failed to bring back the girl for her intended fiery fate. The Burning Tree would not be denied what was promised.

“Well?” Zadok asked in an arrogant tone, interrupting his master’s thought, no doubt already envisioning himself supplanting his aged master, though he had only been a cleric of fire for less than a day.

Ebrezon narrowed his eyes, and in simmering anger clenched his gnarled fist on the jagged high rock that was his chair.

“Quiet boy!” his voice commanded in power, crackling like a raging fire, his gnarled black staff held aloft in anger. The proud young man suddenly trembled, his pride for a moment melting away, and a fear came over him as Ebrezon’s eyes grew wide and he stood tall, his hunched elderly form suddenly looming like a pillar of the deepest shadow before an inferno. He seemed in a moment ready to destroy Zadok with a spell of death and flame, as Zadok had seen him do many times before, often times for no other reason than his cruel pleasure, or for the pleasure of the Burning Tree. But no spell came to destroy the new cleric, and the fire in the old man’s eyes dimmed after a few long moments of Zadok’s doubt and fear. “Now be silent and listen, for you have a quarry to fetch for the Flame.”

Zadok swallowed, steeling himself in obedience. Zadok knew deep in his sadistic mind that he ought not to have tried to burn the slave girl that had only so recently shunned his advances and wounded his pride. He had known Zamina was a secret sorceress and had even known of her secret lover, one of those wretched da’jan, the mystical nomads of the deep desert. He had guessed that her lover would dare to try to save her, but it was that the da’jan had actually succeeded that had surprised and amazed Zadok, when he had meant rather to humiliate and wound his romantic rival by forcing him to impotently watch the girl shrivel and fall to ash and bones in the sacrificial blaze. The Chorsh were not easily outdone, by anyone or anything, but the da’jan had used his powers to bypass their normally excellent vigilance, even against the magical and unseen. But now instead of the da’jan, it was Zadok who had been embarrassed before the whole tribe, and worse it had been at the moment of his triumph, when at last he had passed the Trial of Flame and became a cleric of fire and priest of the Burning Tree. And now he was going to have to pay for his mistake, for his vindictive vengeance he had meant for the beautiful dark-haired slave girl. Now she had to burn, or he would in her stead. His mind since dawn aflame with such angry thoughts, the new fire cleric silently listened to the ancient prophet of the Burning Tree, his cruel master over the last three long years, hoping to hear clues from the ancient priest about how he might deal with and overcome this da’jan.

“In the Beginning,” the old priest started in his crackling voice, now seeming old and wizened again, “before even the Tree began to Burn, the spirits in the Ether were but few, and in the endless murk they were quiet and small, lone voices amidst the endless tide of possibility. But in the nascency of their thought, they grew in number, and there were those whose natures sought form and measure, and they took on shapes and minds as might befit their nature, roaming the sea of all that would or could ever be. Among those spirits who would know what it was to be, there were those who would rather flood and flow, those who would be hard and solid, those who would fly free and breeze, and those who would blaze with light and consume. For these they found their Earth, Air, Fire and Water, pure and perfect, and they took on shapes and gloried in their elemental natures, truly knowing what it was to be one of the four fundamental elements from which all Primal Matter springs. But for some they would not take one or the other element, and instead desired to be all four at once. They would know what it was to grind and to be heavy, to be wet and to freeze, to rise to the heights and to be lighter than all other forms, and also to burn with a blazing flame, and all at the same time in a single corporeal form.

“And so it was that these spirits, who would not choose the Truth of the Final Fire as we have, came into the Material World, and were thereafter bound by time and space as we know them upon Athas, knowing what it was to experience all that the Four Elements had together made, even as we do. Far and wide, deep and high they ranged, and some so far, even beyond the moons and stars, that they never returned, or some so far down they never emerged from the deepest caverns and most hidden fires, where the molten earth quakes and flows. But some became enamored with the living surface of Athas, and loved the world as it was in those remote ages, before Athas had heard its first spoken word. Invisible they roamed, playing in the earth, the first plants, the fires, or even in the light that burns through the air. But in the deep recesses of time, as these spirits grew in knowledge and understanding, the first speaking races came to be, and though many creatures and forms had fascinated the spirits in the primordial ages before, none had ever so captivated them as those who could speak. Those first races could reason and remember as the spirits now could, and in time the spirits longed not merely to spy upon, play with, and even possess those thinking creatures, but to actually become them, or at least like them, completely. Though they had animated matter before, and could whip up sand and flame, and drive water and air upon our Material Plane, or even possess creatures outright, never before had they truly forced themselves into living matter in a binding way, enmeshing themselves so tightly to the elements of material reality that they could truly live, as we do.”

“The spirits made themselves living bodies?” Zadok interrupted, amazed at and not expecting this explanation. “You mean, as the spirits of elemental fire inhabit living flame?”

“No,” Ebrezon dourly dismissed, narrowing his eyes. “Not as elementals. For elemental spirits, their bodies are but shells, and though you might destroy an elemental’s outward form and even weaken such a spirit for a time by its outward destruction, another shell is easily formed as soon as the spirit recovers. No, in this case the spirits wished not only to inhabit living bodies, but to become a body as well. To do this, using all their will and power, they bound themselves so tightly to the composite elemental matter of Athas that they could no longer voluntarily free themselves. They became trapped in living bodies they themselves had fashioned, or possessed, of their own accord, but by doing so they had circumscribed their own powers, and sealed themselves in forms that they might alter, but not escape, save for in death.”

“May we then bind them by spells as we might normal elementals,” Zadok asked, “and command them to our will?”

“No,” Ebrezon grumbled conclusively. “Because of their spiritual affinity for the Material Plane of existence, their spirits are not alien, but are rather at home here upon Athas, and therefore the spell of spiritual protection I have taught you will be of no use. And because of the nature of their physical manifestation, they are too tightly bound to their bodies for the normal elemental spells of binding and loosing to command them. It would take much greater magic, and far greater spells than you can presently hope to master.”

Zadok peered up at his aged teacher while he sweltered beneath the brown orange haze and hot breeze of the deep desert, panting as he stood in the inferno of the day. Ebrezon did not often divulge such lore as he did now, though Zadok knew the old cleric knew a very great deal, and secrets enough to make Zadok chief of the tribe one day, and likely even more. Could Zadok regularly expect more such lore, now that he too could hear the mad whispers of the fire elementals? Zadok doubted it. Old Ebrezon was telling him all this for a deeper reason. He would prefer to know what that reason was, but he also would seize the moment. With his new spell powers granted to him by the elemental spirits of fire, perhaps he could turn this situation with the da’jan to his advantage.

“Go on, master. If this was ages ago, at the beginning of our world, what became of these spirit people, and why are they not masters of Athas, instead of humans? For they are certainly more powerful in body, and have considerable native magical abilities, as we saw last night.”

Ebrezon’s eyes seemed to stretch back through time as if he were actually seeing the distant age Zadok had asked about. “In such ancient times, in the most remote antiquity, they indeed were the lords of Athas as you have said. Using their powers and ingenuity, they built the first cities, though their vaulting towers and brightly colored crystal homes were alien to what we would imagine as cities today. In their time they made many great wonders and artifacts, though almost none of them survive into our own time. But their palaces were wrapped in elemental magic, and they hid themselves from the earliest speaking peoples, for they feared them and their growing numbers, for these spirits grew in numbers but very slowly when compared to the fecundity of the natural world.”

Zadok, amazed to hear such explanations about primordial times, desired to know more. Clearly Ebrezon knew about this because of visions granted him from the depths of time by the Burning Tree. Of the great priests of high standing of the Burning Tree, despite several of them being exceedingly powerful, only Ebrezon had ever been granted such occult knowledge, knowledge which the corrupt old man rarely shared, even with the Great Chief. Zadok would learn all he could, for such knowledge may have its use one day.

“Then they could have children, these spirits made flesh, even as we?” Zadok asked.

“Indeed,” Ebrezon continued, almost irritated at his initiate’s interruption. “Their bodies were and remain today true flesh, not that dissimilar from our own, though of a denser and hardier nature than ours, animated and empowered as they are by the living elemental spirit within them. But in this spirit lies their weakness, though also a strength, for as we the native living of Athas possesses our own souls which are wholly ours to do with as we please, for the da’jan, as they came to be known, they could only multiply by sharing and dividing between themselves their spirit from among the original number of those who came into the Material World. For every birth that adds to their number, the soul of the original binding spirit must be divided once again, and though that spirit may grow in power and scope, this is but slowly. This is why their women rarely conceive, or less often, when compared to ours, for the essence of the original elemental spirit that created the first body of their line must be strong enough to again divide itself, and then yet again, and so forth. There may ultimately be no limit to how many bodies to which their original spirits might extend, but it may only be done slowly, much as a muscle well trained may only slowly grow stronger over time.”

Zadok was concerned by this notion. “Surely by now these original spirits have all intermarried, as it were, or a great many of them at least. And in turn this must mean their binding spirits must have intertwined and overlapped. Does this mean they all can share each other’s thoughts, and feel what they feel?”

Ebrezon clutched his dreaded crooked black staff crafted from a fallen branch of the Burnt Tree, and braced his old body up, his bulbous knees shaking as he did. He always enjoyed feeling the charcoal of the staff in his hands, as it reminded him of the great power the rod commanded should he will it so, should he speak the vile words to active it. Down he descended from the great soot covered rock to speak face-to-face with his pupil, now more aptly his minion, sliding down at places from the greasy ash that covered the rock. “No, Zadok,” he answered. “Their connection is spiritual, not mental. It is true that their spirits may feel one another, after a fashion, as you have said, but it is in their brains that their memories and thoughts are contained, just as with you or I. You need not fear that the da’jan has instantly alerted his brethren to his peril. In fact, I think it all but certain that that da’jan is alone, though he might wish he could find safety amongst his kin.”

Zadok could not imagine how Ebrezon might know that the da’jan was alone. Mighty though Ebrezon was, he had no native power that allowed him to use the Way of the Unseen to scan the future or see lands and people from afar, as Zadok had been able to do since he was a boy. Zadok’s native skill with such talents was not inconsiderable, and even he was unsure if the da’jan was fleeing to a tribe of his fellows. Had the Burning Tree granted Ebrezon another vision in the fires?

“Are these cities of the da’jan hidden still, Master?”

“No,” dismissed Ebrezon with his croaking voice. “They were destroyed. It seems a king arose among them, one of the original spirits who came into our world, and one who sired no children to divide the force of his animating spirit. This allowed him to live longer, much longer than his fellows, and he became very great, learning many secrets in his application of elemental physics. He fashioned great tools to harness and amplify the forces of material nature, artifacts of power beyond our understanding, and it was he who directed the rise of the first towers and cities. He was the original Da’jan. But as his temporal power grew even he slowly aged and degenerated in overweening pride. To safeguard his power in the approaching decrepitude of his age, he was the first to bind the elemental spirits, against their will, into physical shapes and forms. But he was no wizard to seal them in artificial bodies with sealing spells, like the golems I have taught you of, numbing their minds and binding their wills, for this was long before the Age of Magic. Instead he forced them into living bodies that he had fashioned himself, much as he had once fashioned his own. Using his own raw power and lost sciences that now no one understands, he fused them into these forms so that they could not escape. They became the first of the enochol, the “genies” in the common tongue, and were his servants, elite soldiers and royal guards.”

Zadok listened in wonder at this tale. How had he not ever heard this before? Or rather, he thought to himself, how had he failed to ask?

Ebrezon slowly walked them towards the base of the great Burnt Tree. The old man strode over the threshold of still smoldering ash that lay about in a great circle around the cindered bole. Part of Zadok feared to walk further, for but yesterday the ash would have burned his feet. But he was an Initiate of the Burning Tree now, when he had emerged from the flames of the Burning Tree that very dawn, and now no fire or heat from this place could ever hurt him again.

Ebrezon continued. “King Da’jan made varieties of these enochol, each of air, earth, fire and water, though of more solid forms than of single elements, for he could not bind them so intimately and permanently into singular shells of pure elements, but rather required denser and more composite forms of various mixtures of elements, as he had needed in the creation of his own body. However, being animated and empowered by spirits tied by nature to their particular Elemental Planes, Da’jan discovered that the forms of the enochol were not as stable in the Material Plane, but that also as a result of their singular elemental nature their spiritual powers were natively far greater than Da’jan’s, for the enochol were not so bound to the Material world as he was, and thus their spirits had considerably more remaining power, having merged himself with all four of the primal elemental. Rather, each enochol had great powers, often considerably beyond that of the da’jan, and they were some of the most powerful beings upon Athas in these most ancient of times. But created by king Da’jan himself, they were bound by his power of command and the imperious force of his will. They were taught by him and obeyed his edicts. But unlike the da’jan their forms on the Material Plane were even more unnatural. Their very existence in such composite bodies was one of pain and discomfort, and unlike before upon the Elemental Planes when their spirits were free to inhabit the primal energies of the elements, now they knew a fear they had never experienced before: the fear of death. They remembered and felt now as material creatures do, and though they longed to be free, for every year they lived upon Athas the more they knew what it was to fear death. And soon the wisest of them learned, as the first of them died in Da’jan’s wars of conquest or by some accident, that upon the death of their physical body their spirits would not quickly rebound in power and regenerate themselves as had been the case in the Elemental Planes, but rather that upon death they would fade into an echo, fleeing back to their Elemental Plane, a diminished spirit that although not totally destroyed, might not ever form in power again, or if so only after a very great time of regeneration. For such, they learned, was the cost of elemental spirits binding themselves so intimately to the Material Plane; it required so much of their vital essence and energies to be made into living beings that should such material bodies be destroyed, they might never recover even enough to assume pure elemental bodies ever again, much less the composite bodies of an enochol. Once this truth was understood, some leaders among the enochol began to grow angry, and dared risk rebellion against the Great Da’jan.”

“Did you see this war of rebellion in the flames of the Burning Tree, Master?” Zadok asked, both amazed and jealous at his teacher’s access to such esoteric lore. What else had the miserable old fool seen that he has withheld from me?

“Yesss…” Ebrozon hissed, once again in reverie for a moment as he contemplated the Flames of his memory. “Never before and only rarely since have their been such battles upon Athas… Da’jan had waxed tyrannical in his power, and many of his vassals pursued rebellion, both enochol and his lesser da’jan subjects. Forces of enochol and armies of the da’jan faced off with one another in open war, and by the appeals of great da’jani lords raw elemental spirits came into Athas to fight on many sides. Athas shook, and it was then for the first time understood by the wise just how closely the Elemental Planes and the Material Plane were linked, for as the power of the elements burned and quaked upon Athas, so too did the Elemental Planes roil and gyre in the tumult. In the end king Da’jan might have called the greatest of armies of elementals to his command, for so great had his will and power become, but seeing the consequences of his war upon their home planes and understanding somewhat the gravity of what he had done by creating the enochol, the great elemental tides that he meant to summon did not arrive to save his venal throne. Da’jan was overthrown. But the cost of his dethronement was the loss of the greatest portion of the da’jan race as a whole. Their cities were broken by the wars, never to rise again, and the da’jan fled in fear of the rampaging enochal and enraged elementals, who had turned to blaming all the de’jan collectively for what had befallen. Seeing the symbiosis of Athas with the Elemental Planes the ancient elementals healed the bruised world by flooding it with waters, and the surviving da’jan who did not drown dwindled to but a tiny remnant of their numbers, preserving hardly a trace of their power and glory.”

As Ebrezon had spoken, by now the two clerics, master and initiate, had come before the base of the great Burnt Tree, surrounded by ash and ruined bones. The smell of still smoking wood mixed with the charred remains of the last night’s victims was appalling to Zadok’s human senses, but closing his eyes and breathing in once more, Zadok heard the infinite and eternal whispers of the starving fire elementals who exulted in his breathing in of the fumes, and in the feeding of their hunger. In that moment, the smell became pleasing to Zadok too, and he longed for ever so much more. Opening his eyes the dread tree was before him, cracked and ashen and rising high up into the orange brown sky. Even now, at last an Initiate, Zadok feared standing so close to the grizzly bole, wherein would manifest the spirit of the Burning Tree.

“Why did you not tell me this story before, Master?” asked Zadok boldly as Ebrezon stared wildly into the red embers still smoldering in the core of the tree. “Little have you said of the enochol or the da’jan before. And now all this. Surely you should share all such lore with me, so that I might better be the servant of the Burning Tree.”

“It is because now you are an Initiate, Zadok,” the elder priest explained. “You are now bound inextricably to the service of the spirits of fire. Such lore is only for the initiated… and for those who serve as priests of the Burning Tree, working towards the Final Conflagration of the world.” Ebrezon now searched the burnt cracks and seams of the dead black tree as if he were searching for some future or secret in the charcoal bark, scratching his broken fingernails across the ruined surface.

“What more can you tell me, Master?” Zadok pressed once again. “And why tell me this history now? I thought you might tell me more about their powers and skills so that I might…”

“And why would I tell you what you could learn from Ebron, or any number of other hunters and murderers?” Ebrezon snapped, turning from his attention towards the Burnt Tree. “That they can fly, turn invisible, and possesses great strength… you have seen all that yourself just last night when the da’jan saved that former love of yours. I told you that story because now you must understand that the da’jan is not merely the rival for your lusts. He and his kind are enemies to the Burning Tree itself, and ought be destroyed whenever you find them.”

“But why is that, Master?” Zadok asked incredulously. “Are they not now a broken and scattered race? Their little clans and tribes in the most distant wastes bear no resemblance to the great kingdom you just described, and they are little more than petty mystics like the jozhal or villichi.”

“They are elemental spirits made flesh, you fool, and are greater than any spellcasting lizard or psionic sisterhood of the Tablelands. They may be weaker and in far fewer numbers than they once were, but having entered upon Athas at the very dawn of the world they are tied inextricably to it in a way that humans and demi-humans are not. There are those of the da’jan who obviously know of the Burning Tree, and the wise among them may have already felt its spiritual touch through the spiritual connections I have just explained to you. They may tell our foes of what they have seen at the edges of their spiritual awareness. We will need to find a new Burnt Tree, once again.”

Zadok began to understand the importance of the whole matter, and why Ebrezon was taking particular care. The selection of a new Burnt Tree was no small thing.

Ebrezon, having returned his gaze to the dead tree, and returning his fingers to its surface for some moments longer, at last seemed to find what he was looking for. With a twisted grin he then ripped from the Burnt Tree a small patch of blackened bark, holding it greedily in his wrinkled gnarled hands.

“Though enough of them may have devolved into nothing much more than brigands, thieves, and tricksters,” Ebrezon chided, “when it comes down to it more often than not they are on the side of druid-kind, friends of the pyreens, who would seek to destroy the Burning Tree if they could as an abomination. And by your foolishness with the girl they may learn of the Burnt Tree and its location once more.”

Ebrezon took his claw-like hand and put the piece of burnt bark in Zadok’s palm, holding it there while he spoke a dark litany of wretched words in their degenerate tribal tongue, dark words that echoed in Zadok’s mind as if a drum were pounding there. A mighty spell that would open up a path through the very Plane of Fire had been prepared and imbued into that little patch of cindered wood, and the charcoal smoked slightly as it grew red on the edges in Zadok’s hand,his master muttering his incantation with his croaking ruin of a voice. Though the pain of holding the smoldering bark was real, it did not truly burn and harm Zadok’s flesh.

Finishing his litany, Ebrezon withdrew his hand, and said, “Summon Ebron and his crew of killers. Upon nightfall throw the bark into a bonfire and speak the litany again as I have just now. The fire will open into a great portal through which you all may pass, opening up right into the campfire of your quarry. The Burning Tree has revealed to me in the flames that the fool da’jan will start a fire tonight to keep his lover warm, for by nightfall he will have taken her to the southernmost extremity of the Ringing Mountains, thinking he is somewhere far and cold enough that we would never find him. But his fate is foretold in the cracks of the bark, and tonight the Burning Tree will know where he sleeps when at last the dark sun sets behind the world. Upon a snowy mountaintop the da’jan will plant his child in the girl’s belly in the throes of their lust. Slay the da’jan and bring back the girl. The Burning Tree demands what was promised It, in return for the power It has given you.”

Zadok’s eyes narrowed. Hate, thirst for revenge, and most importantly desire to please the Burning Tree coursed through him. “Ebron and his team are mighty hunters, Master, with considerable magic of their own and skill with the Way. I will endeavor to capture both the da’jan and the girl, if you give me magic enough to see it done. And I will return with both alive if I can, the da’jan as a compensatory offering for the Burnt Tree. Let our enemies spiritually feel the burning of their kin in the fires of this Burnt Tree’s final sacrifice, so that they may taste true fear in the flames of the Chorsh.”

Ruined teeth were revealed by of one of Ebrezon’s more wicked smiles, his dark mad eyes blazing with a flame-wreathed black tree centered within his pupils. “Yes Zadok. You may prove to be a Prophet of the Burnt Tree after all.”


The first successful attempt I am aware of to strip the Arabian Nights veneer from genies, making for them a new mythos


I appreciate it Pennarin, and good to see you still out there BTW. Genies are in the 1st box, and upon reflection I would like to use them, or at least the opportunity to use them.

I am working on a formal monstrous compendium write-up for them, in case anyone else likes the general idea.



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