Slave of the Lamp: Releasing the Genie by Paula Fogarty by Paula Fogarty - Read Online

Vista previa del libro

Slave of the Lamp - Paula Fogarty

Ha llegado al final de esta vista previa. ¡Regístrese para leer más!
Página 1 de 1


Part 1


Rufus Tyler strolled along the beach at the water’s edge, the bag containing his bodyboard and fins tucked under one arm. The late afternoon cooled as a north-easterly breeze whipped up white tops on the waves, carrying with it the salty tang of the sea. He caught a glimpse of a dolphin’s fin at the back of the set and stopped to watch it play.

He loved Tuncurry in January. The weather was hot, the water was cool, and today the waves had been perfect. Out on the surf he could be alone on his board with no company but his own thoughts. He had been mulling over the job he had been obliged to leave last year as assistant to Abu Hasan, a genie, worried that he had not yet heard from his employer. ‘Slave of the Lamp’ was his official title, and his work had taken him around the globe and across time helping heroes achieve their destinies.

But his mother was a journalist with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the ABC, and his work had been interrupted when she was posted to Moscow as a foreign correspondent for six months. Moscow had been great fun but the cold grey days of the Russian winter had made him yearn for the bright blue skies of summer in Sydney. Rufus now wondered if Abu Hasan had found someone better to take his place as Slave of the Lamp, then shook himself. Why did he want the job so much? It wasn’t as if it paid well; in fact, it didn’t pay at all. It took up all his holiday time and was, on occasions, downright dangerous. But he reminisced wistfully about his adventures with Theseus and Scheherazade and hoped Abu Hasan hadn’t forgotten him.

The dolphin caught his eye again as it surfed in on a wave. It raised its head and grinned at him, nodding its head as if in greeting. Rufus nodded back and noticed that it was nudging something towards the shore with its nose. He waded into the water and to his surprise the dolphin swam straight up to him, nearly beaching itself in the process.

‘Ulph,’ it grunted at him. ‘Ulph, ulph.’ It looked up expectantly, as if waiting for an answer.

‘Right, then… ulph to you, too.’

It nodded again. The object it brought in on the waves floated by Rufus’ legs. He picked it up and the dolphin turned, flicked its tail at him in farewell and sped off. Rufus looked at the gift it had given him. It was a bottle, and not just any old bottle. Most bottles that washed up along the shoreline were beer bottles or water bottles, their labels peeled off and their insides lined with brown slime. This one was a deep ruby red and shaped like a teardrop. It had a cut glass stopper held in place with a wax seal.

Rufus waded out of the shallows and headed up the beach towards the holiday house where his family were staying. He spotted the track leading home and jogged over the soft sand towards it. As he reached the track, he noticed movement inside the glass bottle. He held it up to study it more closely and almost yelled in surprise. A large eye looked out at him.

Although stunned with amazement, he had the presence of mind to recognise the owner of that eye. Stuck inside the bottle was Abu Hasan, the genie.

As he watched, a nose squashed against the inside of the glass and another eye came into view. The face then disappeared and a hand replaced it. Large knuckles rapped against the bottle and Rufus could hear a faint tapping coming from it.

He glanced around. A kite surfer further up the beach was putting away his gear, oblivious to him. Three teenage girls in bikinis walking across the sand pointed at him and giggled. Girls could be really terrifying sometimes. He looked down at the bottle and once again Abu Hasan’s anxious face appeared in it, staring out at him. ‘Not here, mate. You’ll have to wait a while,’ Rufus whispered.

He put the bottle in his bag with his bodyboard and fins and hurried back to the holiday house.

As soon as he returned, Rufus hid the genie’s bottle in the passageway that ran down the side of the weatherboard holiday house. Then he pocketed his Swiss army knife from his bedroom table and waited. After dinner, the family gathered in the lounge room. His parents were playing Scrabble while his younger brother flicked through an old well-thumbed atlas. Zulu, the black Labrador pup the family had acquired when they moved back to Sydney, was sitting under the coffee table chewing one of Rufus’ thongs. Rufus slipped quietly out to the back balcony and the puppy gambolled after him, carrying his thong in its mouth.

Rufus retrieved the glass bottle and sat on one of the rickety banana lounges. Abu Hasan’s face again pressed against the inside of the glass and he mouthed at Rufus, ‘Get … me … out!’

Zulu sniffed the bottle and licked it right over the glass through which Abu Hasan was peering. Rufus saw him close his eyes in horror. He removed his Swiss army knife from his pocket and dug out the wax that was sealing the stopper in place. It was a difficult job in the twilight darkness and he nearly cut himself several times when the knife slipped on the smooth edge of the bottle. When all the wax had been dug out he set to work loosening the stopper. It was jammed in and tricky to dislodge, but after a few minutes he felt it give. It came out with a satisfying pop, and the stale smell of someone who hadn’t washed for several weeks wafted up to him. He put the bottle on the decking and waited.

Nothing happened for a while until a large green finger protruded from the spout. It tested the wind and felt the temperature outside of the bottle. Finally, a sluggish, amorphous mass oozed from the bottle, hovered nervously and then formed itself into a seven-foot green genie.

‘Abu Hasan! You look terrible! What’s happened?’ Rufus asked.

Zulu gave the genie an encouraging bark and wagged his tail. ‘Shh!’ said Rufus, checking over his shoulder to make sure his parents weren’t peering out the back door to see what all the fuss was about.

The genie’s bloodshot eyes gazed at him from a haggard face. He had lost weight and his clothes, usually so splendid, were threadbare rags. ‘It’s been hell, these last few months,’ he gasped, falling to his knees. ‘Rufus, you’ve got to help me!’ He grabbed the front of Rufus’ tee-shirt with both hands. ‘I can’t stand it any longer!’ The genie was almost shouting. Zulu, thinking it a game, pounced on the genie’s feet and began to worry them.

Rufus glanced over his shoulder again at the back door, then said, ‘Shhh! Calm down. What’s wrong?’

‘Everything,’ Abu Hasan groaned, collapsing onto the decking and clasping his arms around Rufus’ ankles. ‘Please say you’ll help me … I’m desperate.’

‘Okay, okay, I will! Just tell me what’s happened.’

The genie sat up. ‘You will? By the Crown of Osiris, Rufus, you’re one in a million!’ He leaned back on his elbows and relaxed. A shaft of light from one of the windows shone on his face, making it glow eerily. If Rufus had not been well acquainted with Abu Hasan, the sight of him would have been terrifying – a huge green man with a bald head and earrings who had materialised out of a bottle looking like he’d been on the losing end of a fight with a dragon.

Rufus wondered what he was getting himself into as he sat back down on the banana lounge. ‘Tell me what’s been happening.’

Abu Hasan stretched out on the balcony. Zulu scrambled onto the genie’s stomach, who obliged by scratching his ears. ‘It’s a long story, so I’ll only tell you some of it. When you went to Moscow last year I advertised for a new assistant to help.’ The genie sighed. ‘The applicants were disappointing, nowhere near as good as you. I even had some doubts about Gavin, the boy I eventually employed. As it transpired, they were well founded. I sent him off on his first adventure on what I thought would be a simple job. I even sent one of Fatima’s assistants with him, a very bright, capable person …’


‘No, somebody you haven’t as yet met; a girl by the name of Rosie. Anyway, after three days on the job, Rosie was captured by cannibals. It was all Gavin’s fault, and in a fit of cowardice he deserted both her and the hero. Gavin wound up in an African swamp with leeches up his nose, surrounded by hungry crocodiles. Fatima alerted me to the problem and we went in and extracted the both of them. The hero won’t speak to us now, Gavin’s still getting nosebleeds and Rosie can’t get the smell of marinade out of her hair. Fatima was so mad she shoved me in that bottle.’

‘Wow! What a mess!’

‘It’s been terrible. Before I was bottled, Gavin refused to do any more work for me. He threatened to tell his mother all about it and I was forced to adjust his memory a little. And now I need another assistant.’ He smiled winningly. ‘Would you consider doing just one teensy-weensy adventure for me at short notice?’

Rufus thought about it. He had enjoyed his week in Tuncurry, but another adventure as Slave of the Lamp was too good to pass up. An idea flashed through his mind. Maybe he could wangle a whole six months’ worth of work as the genie’s assistant. ‘Now, hold on a minute …’ he began.

‘I’m really desperate, Rufus,’ Abu Hasan pleaded. ‘It will be a pushover for you. And you did say you’d help me.’

‘Is it going to be easy?’

‘You could do this in your sleep.’

‘What about work for the next six months? Can I be your assistant for the whole time?’

‘Of course! It saves me trying to find someone else for the job.’ The genie had perked up. ‘I’d better go take a bath and find some decent clothes to wear. Five months in a bottle has worn down my constitution.’

‘When do I start?’

‘Tomorrow’s Saturday, isn’t it? I’ll send you off then, at midday. I’ll fill in for you back here as your double, like last time.’

Rufus figured Abu Hasan needed the break. He also thought the genie rather liked the idea of being his double and doing all the things a schoolboy would normally do over the school holidays: surf, hangout on the internet, sleep in when he wanted, eat pizza, and generally relax.

He disappeared with a loud pop and Rufus was left wondering if he had made the right decision. He turned to see Simon’s face pressed against the fly screen of the back door.

His little brother pushed the door open and grabbed Zulu. ‘I was walking down the hallway to my room when I saw Abu Hasan’s green face. I thought you’d say yes when he asked you to do another trip for him.’

Rufus grinned. ‘It’s great, isn’t it?’

Simon shuffled his feet. ‘Now that you’re going on another adventure, can … can I come with you?’

Rufus sighed. ‘No, you can’t come with me, and don’t ask me again. You know Abu Hasan won’t let anyone under thirteen do work experience, and you’re still eleven.’

The next morning, Rufus prepared himself for this new adventure. He thought he’d try and make peace with his little brother by asking for a few tips.

Sulking on his bed reading his favourite book, Bullfinches Mythology, Simon refused to give him any advice on what things he should pack. ‘You know what to take. You’ve done it all before.’

‘Why do you read that stuff, anyway?’ Rufus asked him, trying another tack.

‘It’s educational.’

‘About what?’

‘Flying horses, for one thing.’


‘Yes, really. You know the flying horse called Pegasus that ancient heroes rode when they set off to perform noble deeds? He was made from Gorgon’s blood.’

‘That’s gross!’

‘No. He was really cool. Now go away; you’re annoying me.’

Rufus sighed. He wasn’t going to get any more advice from Simon. He slouched off to his own room to pack for the journey.

Just before twelve o’clock, Simon sneaked through his door and asked if he’d finished packing.

‘No, because you wouldn’t help me,’ he said.

‘Here. Take these. You never know, they might come in handy.’ Simon held out Rufus’ new reflector sunglasses, a Christmas present from his parents.

He thanked his little brother and stuffed the sunglasses into his top pocket.

At the appointed hour, the genie arrived wearing a hula skirt and lei.

‘I like the outfit!’ Rufus said. ‘Who have you been helping out?’

‘No one,’ Abu Hasan answered. ‘I’ve been to a fancy dress party and it’s only just finished.’

Rufus wondered why a seven-foot green genie felt the need to dress up. Abu Hasan asked him if he was ready to go. ‘All sorted,’ Rufus replied.

‘Now don’t forget,’ the genie reminded him, ‘to leave nothing behind. The Guild of Genies frowns upon scattering modern-day litter around ancient worlds. Historical pollution carries stiff penalties, not to mention an apology written in blood. Your own,’ he added.

Rufus made a mental note to be extremely neat and orderly while he was away. ‘Okay. Point made. Now toss the lamp!’

The genie sent the lamp spinning into the air. It spun three times, and then he was gone.

Part 2


‘My goodness, gracious me! Perseus, what have you done?’

The speaker was a plump middle-aged man, elegantly dressed in a tunic and cloak, lounging on a couch set at one end of a lavishly decorated room. Its ceiling was painted with bright geometric designs and covering the walls were pictures of lion and deer hunts. A fountain played in the centre of the tiled floor. At the other end of the couch sat a woman with a round face and pink cheeks who gazed at Rufus in astonishment. Standing to the left of them was a figure clutching both the lamp and a large polishing cloth. Rufus’ eyes kindled with excitement. This was Perseus, the ancient Greek superhero!

He was a good-looking, muscular young man with a sword at his side and a long cloak bordered in blue. His fair hair was immaculately styled and his strong cleft chin hinted at a determined nature, but his brown eyes were bulging with surprise. For some reason he reminded Rufus of an ox, albeit an intelligent one.

‘Who are you?’ Perseus asked him.

‘I’m the Slave of the Lamp. You called me when you polished it.’

Perseus stared down the length of his aquiline nose at Rufus. ‘I thought the goddess Athena would appear in person, to bring me wise counsel. Are you a god?’

Rufus tried to look modest. ‘I’m not a god, but you’ll get plenty of good advice from me. How can I help you?’

‘So you’re only a boy, and from the look of you, a very average one. I was hoping for a companion with the sort of strength and wisdom that I myself possess. What possible use will you be to me on my quest?’

The man lounging on the couch spoke again. ‘Really, Perseus, what more do you want? This marvellous young man has materialised in front of our very eyes and all you can say is that he’s not wise enough! Shame upon you. Anyone clever enough to hide himself in a lamp and then pop up in a cloud of smoke at a moment’s notice is worthwhile having around, I’d say. What do you think, Chloris?’

The woman seated next to him nodded. ‘You are right, of course, Neleus my love, as always. This magical young man must go with Perseus on his adventure. Such an air of purpose! Such an aura of enthusiasm! Such magnificent red hair! I declare, I would like to travel with him myself, if the journey were not so dangerous.’

Rufus turned to Perseus. ‘My appearance out of the lamp was pretty magical, wasn’t it? And I’ve helped all the other heroes I’ve been sent to assist.’

Chloris gracefully applauded him and Neleus said, ‘You see, Perseus? You can’t turn down his very generous offer of assistance. It would be not only churlish, but foolish, to ignore his advice.’

Perseus looked as though he would be quite happy to turn it down. ‘I expected that if I required help, the goddess would send me a warrior or magician, someone more suited to my royal standing,’ he said. ‘This boy looks more like a servant. And I’ve already engaged a servant from you. I don’t see that I need his presence here at all.’

Rufus opened his mouth to protest but Neleus got in first. ‘Ridiculous. I’m sure the priest gave you that lamp for good reason, and this lad will offer you some invaluable assistance. What is your name, young man?’


‘Now then, Rufus, how do you go about assisting heroes? Do you offer them good advice, or do you accompany them during their tasks? And, most importantly, do you charge a fee?’

‘In the past, I’ve always gone along for the adventure, you know, like with Theseus, when we killed the Minotaur. And yes, I charge a fee.’

There was a short silence in the room until Perseus asked in a voice full of incredulity, ‘You helped Theseus slay the Minotaur?’

Rufus flushed, stung by his tone. ‘Yeah. I helped him find a way through the Labyrinth, then we discovered some weapons and I helped him kill it.’

‘You’ve certainly gained plenty of experience of adventure, for one so young,’ said Neleus. ‘Perseus, you simply must take him with you. If Theseus didn’t spurn his help, you definitely shouldn’t. Except, Rufus, I should ask on my friend’s behalf, are your fees high?’

‘Not really. I just accept what the hero thinks that my assistance has been worth.’

‘You certainly can’t get much fairer than that, Perseus,’ Chloris chipped in.

Perseus gave in. ‘Very well, Neleus. I will grant him the opportunity to help me. So, slave, tell me what I should do.’

‘All right then. First of all tell me where we are and what you want done and I’ll see what I can do.’

Perseus told Rufus his tale. He was the grandson of the king of Argos in Greece. He was looking for the Gorgon Medusa and had travelled across Greece to the city of Messene, where they were now. Perseus was staying there as a guest of Neleus and Chloris, king and queen of the city, while he carried on his search for the monster. Medusa was hideous, having not only snakes for hair but also the tail of a snake. The added complication was that she could turn anyone into stone if they looked her in the face.

‘I have promised the King of Seriphos that I will kill her,’ Perseus added.


‘I was at his wedding feast. Everyone promised him great gifts, but the notion suddenly came to me that the head of Medusa would be the greatest gift of all.’

‘Wouldn’t it have been simpler to buy something nice? You know, like some silverware or a set of cushions?’

Perseus shrugged. ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time.’

Rufus eyed Perseus for a moment, thinking he was either extremely stupid or extremely brave to risk his life for a wedding present. ‘Well, I suppose we need to find the Gorgon. Do you have any idea where she is?’

This was why he needed help, Perseus told him. While he was still in Seriphos, the prince had a dream where the Goddess Athena (his patron goddess) advised him that the first step was to find three sisters called the Graeae. They lived somewhere around Messene, and could tell him the way to the Hesperides, where he would find aid in killing the Gorgon.

‘It all seems very roundabout, to me,’ Neleus said. ‘These goddesses have tortuous ways of going about things. Why didn’t she tell you all the details in the dream? It would have saved you a lot of time.’

Rufus agreed.

Perseus, annoyed at being questioned, said, ‘Because this is a heroic quest and the goddess is testing my wits and commitment.’