The Third Wish.

© 1998, Foxy.

Starlight shone brightly into the small bedroom, illuminating the chamber and casting shadows across the walls. Two young foxcubs lay curled up in bed together, the bedcovers gently rising and falling in time to their breathing. The vixen stood in the doorway, a smile on her face as she watched in silence. Suddenly a small voice cried out from the bed, disturbing the tranquility of the moment.
"Mum, Mum. I can't get to sleep."
The vixen sighed inwardly to herself and with a smile, walked over to the bed, sitting down beside the cubs. Brushing a stray strand of hair from her muzzle, she looked down on them. "I will tell you a story.. but then, sleep, understand ?"
Both heads nodded eagerly.
"Very well," began the vixen..

"Once upon a time, not so very long ago, lived a rich and vain king. He ruled over all his lands from a splendid palace atop a hill, while the villagers below struggled in poverty, with barely enough food to survive the cold, bitter winters. Now, every summer, the king would demand gifts from other lords of far off lands to appease him. Every year was the same, gold, gemstones and rich clothing. And every year, the king grew more and more angry.
"Why can't anyone bring me something new and interesting ?" He fumed.
Finally, as he was giving up hope, a merchant from the kingdom of Araby entered the room, bowing gracefully.
"Yes, what is it, man ?" Demanded the king.
The merchant desert fox wrung his hands nervously. "I.. I bring you a gift, Sire", he stammered.
The king nodded, a bored look on his face. "Show me then."
"Well, you see..", the merchant stammered, approaching the throne, "times have been hard in our lands this past year, we have little to offer."
The king put both hands on his throne, making as if to rise in anger.
"But that is not why you are here, correct, merchant ? I have no desire to hear of your misfortunes."
The desert fox hastily shook his head. "No, my Lord. I am here to offer you a gift."
"Very well," nodded the king, "come before the throne and let me see your pitiful offering."
Taking a few paves forwards, the fox knelt before the throne, and opened a small wooden box he was carrying.
Lifting out an object, he explained.
"This is perhaps the most valuable treasure we possess."
The king frowned. "It looks like an ordinary lamp to me."
"Oh no, Sire. This far more than just an ordinary lamp.. for trapped inside is a most powerful djinn!"
With a snap of his fingers, the king summoned his royal guards to his side. "Take this fool away!"
Kicking and screaming, the merchant was dragged away by the guards, to the dungeons.

Now, much as the king was vain, he was not uninterested in the gift.
The following evening, he sat alone in the throne room, looking out across his kingdom, cradling the lamp in his hands.
"What if that fool was telling the truth ?" He mused to himself.
Placing the lamp atop a table before him, he ran both hands over the gleaming surface of the treasure. There was a sudden puff of smoke and a strong wind, as though a hurricane was whistling through the palace, and the king fell backwards over his chair.
A fearful, booming voice echoed around the room.
"Who has awakened me from my slumber ? Answer now!"
The king got to his feet, brushing his robes off.
"I, King Feran! Who.. what.. are you ?"
The smoke slowly dispersed, drifting away through the open windows, into the cool, still night. In it's place, was a small blue horned cat.
Looking slightly less than powerful, the cat exclaimed, "I am the djinn of the lamp. And you have set me free!"
The king shook his head in disbelief. "You mean.. that fool fox was telling the truth ?"
The cat-djinn nodded, inspecting his tail.
"So now you have to grant me three wishes ?"
"Er..." began the djinn, a little nervously, "technically, yes. However, you could also set me free by not wishing for anything. Which would be preferable, I think." Feran laughed out loud. "Oh, no my friend! I have freed you and I will take advantage of those wishes."
The djinn sighed outwardly. "Somehow I thought you'd say that. Very well, what is your first wish ?"
"Do I have to take them all straight away ?" Asked Feran.
The djinn grinned and shook his head. "You have as long as you wish. Just call for me when you have made up your mind.."
With that, the cat hopped across the floor towards the lamp.
"Wait!" Commanded the king. "I know my first wish!"
The djinn purred and nodded. "But if it's a wish for infinate wishes, I'm going home."
King Feran shook his head. "I wish I was the richest man in the whole world."
"Very well," replied the djinn, with a flick of his paw. "It's done."
The king looked around, confused. "I see no proof that my wish has been fulfilled."
The blue cat hopped into the lamp, vanishing in a puff of bright green smoke. "Check the royal vaults then."
Sure enough, when king Feran went to see the vaults, an overwhelming mound of valuable gems and gold had mysteriously appeared, making him very happy indeed..

..for a little time at least.
King Feran stood in the royal gardens, sheltering under the canopy of leaves of a large oak tree, rain pouring down beside him.
"Djinn, come forth!" He demanded, shaking the lamp.
With a clap of thunder, the cat-djinn appeared, holding an umbrella over his head.
"Djinn!" Began the king, angrily, "I wished to be the richest man in the world, yet this has not brought me the happiness I first thought it would."
"I see," replied the djinn, grooming his fur. "So you desire a second wish in order to achieve this happiness ?"
"Too right!" Bellowed Feran.
The djinn laughed, a mocking, purring sound. "Very well, let me hear your next wish."
"I have thought hard about this, " Feran explained, "And my second wish is thus.."
And moment later, the King found himself surrounded by hundreds of beautiful women: vixens, felines, mustelids, all dressed in shimmering harem silks and gold jewellry, and all fawning over him.
The djinn of the lamp shook his head and vanished in a puff of blue smoke, shaking his head, as if in dispair.

A few days later, Feran summoned the djinn once more. It was midnight in the royal palace, and the King sat on the edge of his bed, a cool breeze blowing through the room from the open windows, making the drapes billow in the wind.
A pair of barely dressed feline women, one black, one white, lay at the King's feet, looking up at him in admiration.
"Djinn, come forth!" Feran demanded once again.
The djinn popped into existance, perching on the white feline's head. He yawned, rubbing his eyes. "Have you any idea what time it is ?"
"The time is immaterial, djinn! I command you!"
The djinn nodded. "But not for much longer. Remember, you only have one more wish available."
King Feran nodded glumly. "And yet my first two wishes have not pleased me. I think that you are cheating me, djinn."
The cat-djinn glared back, one paw on his hip, the other paw pointing angrily at the King. "So first you wake me at an ungodly hour, and now you accuse me of not granting you your wishes ?"
"Have I not already made you the richest man in this known world, and then surrounded you with your own personal harem, as you requested ?"
"This is true", replied the King, "but these have failed to please me as I thought they would."
"So what do you truly desire as your final wish ?" Asked the djinn, leaning against the ear of the cat girl.
"I desire true happiness. All the wealth and company here does not please me enough. I also desire to be happy with life."
A broad grin spread across the djinn's face, stretching from ear to ear. "So.. let me fully understand you. You wish to be important to others, have people reliant upon you, and find yourself in a position that suits you best ?"
Feran slowly nodded, scratching his chin. "That does sound like my final wish, yes. But none of your tricks this time, understand ?"
The tiny blue cat clapped his hands together, failing to suppress a laugh of delight, his tail swishing behind him.
With a loud clap of thunder, everything went black for the briefest of moments, and when King Feran could once again see, he found himself standing in unfamiliar territory. It was nighttime, the moon full in the sky above, providing enough light for him to see, filtering through the canopy of leaves above his head. Here was a woodland, a far cry from the finery of his palace. Feran slowly looked around, surveying the area. He was standing in a partial clearing, a small wooden shack off to one side, smoke curling through the chimney and drifting into the crisp night air.
"Djinn ?" Called Feran, unsure of what was happening. "What is the meaning of this ?"
A few minutes passed and there came no answer, save for the hooting of an owl far off in the distance, and the rustling of the trees.
The King looked perplexed, but then realised he still held the lamp, clenched tightly in his left hand. Hastily, he rubbed both paws over it, hoping for a response from within.
Sure enough, the djinn popped into existance before him.
"Hey!" the magical feline exclaimed. "You've had three wishes already! Let me go back to sleep!"
Feran growled, showing off teeth nearly half the height of the little djinn.
"Not until you tell me what this is all about! I wished for happiness, and yet I find myself here, lost, in the middle of a forest!"
The djinn nodded. looking critically at his tail, brushing it with one paw.
"You wished for happiness. A place where people would rely upon you and respect you, did you not ?"
The King briefly nodded. "That does not explain my question."
A giggle came from the djinn, before he hastily put one paw over his mouth.
"And here you are. You'll find the shack over there to be yours for the taking, as well as the contents. A few miles north, " here he indicated with a small paw, "you will find the town of Dagan.."
"Never heard of it!" Interrupted Feran.
The djinn laughed again. "You'll find the world extends much further than the small kingdom which you ruled over, Sire," here he pronounced the final word with a mocking tone," as I was saying, Dagan is to the north. You'll find that the woodcutter the people once relied upon has now moved on, and well cut wood for fires and building is desperately needed."
King Feran stood bewildered as the djinn explained further.
"Therefore, take the axe you find in the shack and put it to good use. Now are you content ? People rely upon you and you are in an important position, just as you wished for."
Feran lunged for the djinn, catching his tail for the briefest of seconds, before the blue cat popped out of existance.
A voice from inside the lamp mumbled, "Some people. Never satisfied."
With an angry cry, Feran hurled the lamp as far as he could into the foliage, watching it sail out of view. A nesting bird squawked in reply, flapping into the sky with annoyance at being disturbed.
The King, now seemingly just plain Feran, muttered all the obscenities he could think of at the djinn who had so cruelly tricked him. This lasted for several minutes, before Feran the fox dropped to the ground in dispair, and all about him was silent.

Feran awoke from a surprisingly refreshing sleep, warm sunlight streaming in through the open door of the shack. He sat up, momentarily disorientated, before he recalled the events of the evening before. He clearly hadn't bothered to get undressed, simple collapsing into the wooden bed and drifting off to sleep. He got to his feet, his first thoughts of the djinn. Where had he put the lamp ?
"Of course!" He cursed aloud, quickly padding outside into the warmth of the summer sun.
The fox spent what must have been hours searching through the undergrowth around the shack, but no trace of the lamp could be found. It was almost as if the djinn didn't want to be found again by him.
Turning his anger to an inanimate object, he hefted the large woodsman's axe which rested beside the shack, and brought it down with an almighty swing into a small tree trunk, splitting it straight in half, the wood chips flying as he worked up a sweat, striking the trunk over and over again.
The sound of splitting wood echoed all throught the small forest, disturbing the wild animals all around.
"Sir ?" A female voice behind him suddenly sprung him from his thoughts of revenge upon the djinn, and he whirled around, axe in hand.
"Who is there ?" He demanded, turning to face the stranger.
Standing before him was a young vixen. She was about five foot tall, with plush reddish-orange fur, and a gleaming white tail-tip, matching her chin. Black paws held tightly to a small wicker basket in front of her, containing what appeared to be a selection of fruit and vegetables. She was dressed in a white linen peasant blouse, off-the-shoulder, tucked into a long flowing scarlet skirt, which billowed around her ankles. Over the top of the blouse, she wore a black leather bodice, laced up the front, which lifted and framed her cleavage, offering a subtle hint of what lay beneath, but nothing more. Wild black hair blew around her in the slow breeze, tumbling down to her waist.
Feran found himself staring for a moment, before she blushed coyly and turned her gaze to the ground, a blush coming to her cheeks.
"Forgive my intrusion, Sir." She murmured, her voice soft and sweet, like gently flowing honey, "I mean ye no harm. I merely heard the sound o' yer woodcutting. Has been many a month pass since ol' Gref left this shack. Be ye a new woodsman, come to supply our town ?"
The fox blinked for a moment, unfamiliar with her common tongue. "Uhm.. yes. I only arrived here last night."
She put the basket down and clapped her paws together with obvious delight.
"Jus' wait till I tell Randolf an' the others! Ye'll be in big demand, sure as ye will!"
Feran scratched his head. "Thanks.. I think."
The girl looked up. "Be ye not from nearby ? Pardon me fer asking, but yer tongue sounds not to be local."
Feran shook his head, leaning the axe down against a pile of wood. "I come from Felloria."
She pondered for a moment. "Nay. Never not heard of it. Minding you, I've never hardly been beyond the town." Here she paused, bringing one paw to her muzzle. "Oh, forgive me Sir! I be wasting yer time and keeping ye from work. An' Mother down at the Inn will have me hide if I be late with her supplies."
Feran smiled, shaking his head. "I was taking a rest anyway. You're more than welcome to stay.."
Inside, he felt ill-at-ease.. here was a stranger talking to him as though he was her equal! And yet, somehow it didn't feel all so wrong.
She turned, her skirts billowing out beside her, as she made to leave.
"Feran," he said.
"Begging yer pardon ?" She replied, looking over her shoulder, stray curls of hair flopping across her eyes, before she reached up and brushed them back.
"Feran. It's my name."
She smiled, and nodded. "I be called Amelia. Be seeing ye on the day after next for market, I shouldn't be doubting."
"I'll be there."
Amelia waved shyly, before skipping off into the woods, her tail making an alluring sine wave behind her as she moved.
Feran sat down apruptly on the ground, his head spinning, and an unfamiliar feeling surrounding him. "Amelia..." he murmured softly to himself, lomg after she had vanished from sight.

Over the next few days, Feran worked on cutting wood, simply having nothing else to occupy his time. He had trained with the axe when he was young, and found it to be a fairly simple task.
He found his ordeal with the djinn slipping rapidly from his mind, and Amelia the vixen filling more and more of his thoughts. What was it about her, he pondered to himself. Sure, she was pretty, but she was only a peasant girl, working at an Inn. Nothing like the rich Princesses and nobility he met regularly before.. and that was just it! She was different, something new.
Market day in the town of Dagan was quite an event. The town was nothing special, merely a collection of wooden buildings, surrounding a central square, where today, crowds gathered, and the cries of sellers filled the air, the sweet smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the streets, chickens flapping and squawking as they ran wild through the dirt tracks that passed for roads.
Sure enough, just as Amelia had said, Feran proved to be very popular, a crowd collecting around him to haggle and bargain for the supply of firewood he had brought with him. In the late afternoon, he found himself incredibly thirsty and hungry, and all his wood long since gone, a handful of silver coins in his paw. Stopping a nearby badger, he obtained directions to the Inn, and quickly walked there, pushing the door open and stepping into a smoky room.
The barmaid looked up at him from where she was cleaning the bar and waved excitedly, recognising Feran.
He walked over to the bar, wooden floorboards creaking as he went, and nodded in acknowledgement.
"Greetings Amelia."
She smiled happily. "Be ye enjoyin' yer first market day, Feran ?"
He shrugged, placing both elbows on the bar. "It's certainly profitable. What do you have for a thirst ?"
Reaching up and pulling down a pottery jug, she filled it to the brim with a foamy liquid.
"How's about a special ? Folks be coming from all aroun' just to taste Father's home-made ale."
At this, the older fox behind the bar grinned a lop-sided grin, pipe hanging from his mouth. "Damn straight! Now be servin' the man, girl."
He handed her a coin, and lifted the mug to his mouth, drinking deeply. Suddenly he doubled over into a fit of coughing.
Amelia giggled, and her father gave a good hearty laugh, slapping Feran on the back. "Be ye no' a heavy drinker, man ? Go easy with that stuff.. it'll fry yer brain sure as no' if ye drink like that."
Feran shruggled helplessly, and drunk the rest down, unable to keep a smile from his face.

Days went by. Days became months, months turned into seasons, and seasons into years. Feran and Amelia saw more and more of each other over the time that followed, and it was rare for her not to visit during the day while he worked.
Finally, almost two years after he had first arrived, Amelia's father pulled him to one side whilst he was in the town.
"Son.." he began, "seems that my little girl has taken' quite a likin' to ye. And ye seems to be a man o' yer word, sure as not."
He led Feran into the small back room of the Inn, where Amelia and her mother were seated.
Gesturing for Feran to also sit down, he continued. "Now, woodcutting be a useful profession, and I'll be wagerin' profitable too. Knowin' how our girl here feels about ye, we figures that we all needed a little talk."
Amelia explained how she felt to Feran, all the while blushing nervously, and looking down at her lap.
Not all that long ago, Feran would have laughed in the face of such an offer, and had his guards sort out the family, if not the entire town. Now though, he truly had become used to his life here, and simply nodded.
"I feel the same way." He said simply, in reply.
"I be havin' a question, Father." Amelia quietly said.
"Yes girl ? Speak up."
She turned to look at Feran, still blushing. "When I met ye in the forest all that time ago.. an' I be asking ye about whether ye be local. I walks that path most days and I never saw ye arrive. Where did ye actually come from ?"
Feran had, he guessed, been waiting for people to ask this question. Yet, it seemed, as time passed, no-one really cared. Until now.
Taking a deep breath, he related his tale with the djinn of the lamp.
At the end there was a long silence, the single candle on the table before him flickering.
Amelia's father laughed loudly, and slapped him hard on the back. "I'd wager ye'd been havin' a few drinks with a tale likes that!"
Amelia too giggled softly, stopping when Feran glared at her.
He rose to his feet, smashing a fist down on the table, making the candle jump in the air, before crashing to the floor. "It.. is.. the truth.." he shouted, each word drawn out pointedly. With that, he turned from the family, and slammed the door hard behind him on the way out.

The figure slipped silently through the darkness, skillfully negotiating the vines and foliage that threatened to trip her. Keeping her eyes focussed on the building in the clearing, she slowly circled, eyes darting from side to side, the dimly lit lamp in one paw casting shadows all around. Suddenly, the light caught a dull gleam amongst the creepers growing along the woodland floor.
Bending over, she lifted the lamp to her face, lighting it up, and let out a shocked gasp. "He was telling the truth!" The figure whispered into the night, cautiously running her fingertips over the surface of the lamp. It was unlike anything she had ever seen before, and curiousity rapidly got the better of her. With a sudden puff of smoke, a small blue figure appeared atop the lamp, and she dropped it onto the floor in shock, nearly crying out.
"Have no fear." The djinn smiled. "I am merely the djinn of the lamp. By rubbing the lamp as you did, you have freed me, and it is in my power to grant you three wishes. Whatever your heart desires may be yours."
"I..." she looked confused, "Feran wasn' lying!"
The djinn's ears pricked up at the name. "You mean Feran, the ex-King, stuck-up, snobby, spiteful.."
"The... the woodcutter ?" She asked nervously.
The blue cat nodded. "The very same. He really did have it in him to survive his wishes after all, I presume."
The figure brought her paw to her face in shock. "An'.. an' we's all laughed at him. Thought he be lyin'."
Suddenly Feran's voice cried out. "Is someone out there ? Show yourself !"
Amelia's heart skipped a beat, and she crouched down, putting out the lamp, plunging herself into darkness.
"Would you like a wish ?" The djinn questioned. "Or would you rather say 'Djinn, you may go free, never to be enslaved to this lamp again ?'" He looked rather hopeful.
The vixen leant over and whispered. "One wish. One is all I be needin'. Simply that the man I love love me in return once more. Then ye may be free."
The djinn hopped in delight, and waved his paws. "Thank you most kindly girl." He smiled, and with that, ran off into the darkness, singing.
"Is there anyone there ?" Feran's voice brought Amelia back to reality.
She stood up slowly. "It's me.. Amelia."
Suddenly she felt strong arms wrap around her, stroking her back.
"Oh, Amelia." Feran whispered to her, "How I've missed you."
She cast a quick glance down at the lamp, and silently mouthed thanks to the mysterious little blue cat.
Feran's eyes followed hers, and he saw the lamp. He had looked here on countless ocassions, trying to find the djinn. Maybe the djinn truly hadn't wanted to be found by him again.
He looked questioningly at Amelia, but her only response was a loving smile, followed by her muzzle pressing hungrily to his, her body melting into his embrace.

The pair were married a few days later, and the town of Dagan celebrated long into the night, and the following morning.
Feran never did ask Amelia about the lamp, or the djinn, but secretly, she felt he must have known what happened that night.
Nothing much changed in the town. Amelia moved into the woodcutter's house, and the following year, she gave birth to a fine pair of cubs.

"And they..." The vixen smiled down at the children asleep in the bed, snoring bringing her out of the tale and back into reality. "And they all lived happily ever after."
With a smile, she silently tiptoed out of the room, closing the door behind her, and leaving the youngsters to their peaceful sleep. Padding softly down the old wooden stairs, she walked outside, and cuddled up against the man waiting outside for her.
"They couldn't sleep. Had to tell them a story," she explained.
He smiled and nodded, kissing her softly. "What did you tell ?"
Brushing her tail up against his, she smiled back. "Nothing special, dear, nothing special."
With that, they stood in silence together, in a woodland, holding hands, in a partial clearing, a small wooden shack off to one side, smoke curling through the chimney and drifting into the crisp night air.

The End.