Last time: She crawled to the tree and leaned against it, tipping her head back to look up at its dead branches, thankful for even this tiny bit of shade. A last drop of water, a small crystal tear, rolled down her cheek and evaporated against the sand as she closed her eyes. Her exhaustion finally took its toll and pushed her mind into unconsciousness.

As her weak body relaxed against her last hope, a thought floated through her mind.

I'm sorry… Aladdin...

Chapter One:

A Child in Wait

The air was pleasantly cool, no longer the burning heat it was before. There was a comfortable warmth, almost like a thin blanket, wrapped around Jasmine. Her mind slowly rose to consciousness, confusion being one of the first thoughts in her mind.

Where was Aladdin?

She wasn't dead?

Where was she?

The dazed girl's eyelids fluttered open to meet the white canvas hanging far above her. A tent? Confused, Jasmine blinked and started to sit up, wincing as the movements pulled on her strained muscles and sunburned skin. A colorful blanket that was laying across her body crumpled into a heap on her lap, but she paid it no mind. She was sore, and hurting, but alive. There was something sticky on the areas of her body exposed to the sun, slightly green in color, and when Jasmine sniffed it, she wrinkled her nose at the bitter smell of it. She had no idea what it was, but she wasn't burning as bad as she was before. The redness was still there, but it was faded some.

Slowly, the girl let her gaze wander around, her eyes looking for any clue as to where she was and what happened to her.

It did seem that Jasmine was in a tent. The canvas surrounding her had an area inside that was spacious, large enough for the cot she now laid on as well as two others. The space included a small wooden writing desk and a carpeted sitting area with several large and colorful cushions propped together.

The floor, other than the carpeted area, was plain sand. There was no heat rising from it as it probably did outside of this tent. This meant it had probably been there a while.

Jasmine sat up a bit more and pushed the blanket off of her legs to drag them to the side of the cot. Her feet dangled off the ground, a fact that annoyed for a few moments before she noticed a smaller table next to the head of her cot. A tray with a cup of water, a jug, and a bowl of fruit sat atop it. It had to have been left for her.

Immediately, she grabbed for the water, drinking it down as fast as she could to quench her growing thirst. Jasmine didn't think for a moment about how drinking so much at once could make her sick and spluttered when her stomach rebelled against it. The girl choked a moment, holding a hand over her mouth, trying to keep it in. After a few moments, her stomach settled and she managed to keep it down. Lesson learned, she set the almost empty cup down on the table, breathing deeply.

She looked sullenly at the bowl of fruit. After the water, she didn't want to risk losing what she already had in her stomach, but she was hungry and needed to eat. A ripe pear caught her eyes and she picked it up, rolling it between her hands a moment before sinking her teeth into its sweet flesh. Oh, it was delicious! Jasmine kept herself from eating all of it at once, forcing herself to eat it slowly, feeling more alive than she had in the past few days.

After a moment of letting relief wash over her, she set the core on the table and moved to get up.

A sweet smell drifting through the air stopped her. It was flowery, almost, and she started to feel eerily sleepy. Jasmine's eyelids started to droop and her head nodded against her chest. Before long, the small girl was asleep sitting up.

Just before she gave way to the comforting darkness of sleep, she felt someone lift her body and lay her down. Her eyes fluttered for just a moment as she tried to see who it was.

A soft smile was the last thing she saw before her head was pillowed on the cot and she was out like the flame of a candle.

"I wonder who she could be?" A whispered voice cut through the darkness of the young girl's consciousness.

"I'm not sure, but I may have an idea." This time was a man's voice. It was deep and rumbled the same way Ugo's did.

"Well, you keep your crazy ideas. She should be waking soon." The woman's again, along with a sigh. "We're almost out of water for the jug. I'll go fill it before she wakes." Sand shifted in time with soft footsteps and Jasmine slowly opened her eyes. After a moment of staring, she slowly sat up. She took stock of her body, feeling that she was still sore, but not as much as before. She no longer felt strained.

"So… the child is awake?" It was the man's voice from before. Jasmine turned her head towards it to see a middle-aged man sitting on a wooden chair at the writing desk. She stared at him, searching for possible signs of possible malice that Ugo had warned her and her brother about in strangers, but nothing about him told her he had any evil intent.

Actually, she blinked, there was a cloud of little golden birds circling him. There was something special about him.

"You must be a special child to have the Rukh circling you the way they do." The man chuckled. "As well as to have survived such a walk through the desert on your own with no supplies."

Jasmine didn't answer at first, watching him. He was dressed in a white and burgundy robe, a turban of the same colors atop his head. In his right hand, he held a wooden cane with the head of a snake carved into the top. In his left hand, he held a half-eaten mango.

"Is… is that what they are called?" Jasmine asked, swallowing when her voice rasped. She glanced at the tiny birds that seemed to dance around the two of them. The man laughed at her question.

"Aha! I knew it! You can see them as well! But this can only mean…" He trailed off, eyeing her with consideration.

Jasmine was taken aback momentarily but stared back in confusion. She opened her mouth to ask what he meant when the flap at the front of the tent opened and a woman walked in, the jug from when Jasmine first awoke in her hands.

"Good, you're awake. I was worried there for a bit." The woman said and walked towards where the child sat.

Well, this woman was pretty, Jasmine immediately noticed. She was well dressed in a pea green top with elbow length sleeves. She wore a matching skirt that tied on one side with a slit running down her leg to her knees. As the woman walked, her ankles jingled with tiny silver bells on an anklet. Her white blonde hair cascaded down her back in straight waves, ending in a silver bell-like hair tie.

Jasmine stared almost enviously for a moment at the grown woman. Her chest was huge! Jasmine herself was a flat chested child and would be for an indefinite amount of time. It frustrated her.

"Here." The woman said after pouring some water from the jug into the cup from before and handed it to Jasmine. The child took it and sipped at it until she finished, trying not to stare at the two in front of her. When she was done, she set the cup on the table next to the cot.

At this, the woman put her hands on her hips and gave Jasmine a stern look. "Now, can you tell us what in the world you were doing out in the middle of that desert by yourself with nothing to eat or drink?"

The older man chuckled at this. "Orlene, give the girl a break. She just awoke. Ask something easy first."

Orlene gave him a hard look before turning a softer gaze on the child that sat in front of her.

"Alright then. What's your name?"

"Jasmine." Came the answer. Jasmine looked up at the man expectantly, as she already had Orlene's name.

"That lump over there is my father, Gaziim." Orlene pointed at the man. She paused a moment before continuing. "What were you doing out there? You are a child, a girl. You would have been easy prey for slave traders."

Jasmine looked down at her lap, not meeting their gazes. It wasn't her fault she woke up in the desert in the first place. "I was looking for my brother."

"Let me guess, an Aladdin?" Gaziim spoke.

Hope filled Jasmine and she immediately swung around to look at him. "Yes! Have you seen him?"

The man sadly shook his head and her hope instantly deflated. "You were saying his name in your sleep."

"Oh." She sighed out, looking at her hands in her lap. She was silent a moment before the Rukh, as Gaziim called them, drew her attention. Jasmine watched them as they fluttered around the tent in a glowing whirlwind.

"What are you looking at?" Orlene questioned.

"The Rukh." Gaziim answered before Jasmine could open her mouth.

"Oh, don't start with that old fairy tale again." Orlene gave an annoyed sigh and looked sternly at Jasmine again. "Don't let him drag you into his silly fantasies. It's all he talks about now."

The child just looked at her in confusion. She couldn't see the Rukh? Jasmine exchanged a glance with Gaziim who shrugged. 'What can I do?' his eyes seemed to say.

"Well, thank you for your help," Jasmine said. "I really appreciate it. I would have died, most likely. But I need to go." She made to climb off of the cot, but Orlene intervened.

"Oh no you don't! You've only just recovered, you're still not fully hydrated! I'm not going to let you go back out there just to die!"

"I need to find my brother though!"

"Your brother can wait. You won't be able to find him if you die! How do you think he would feel if he's searching for you too, only to find that you died trying to find him? There is a sandstorm coming, child. You wouldn't last ten minutes out there!"

"She is right, Jasmine," Gaziim spoke up. "The air smells dry and the wind is picking up. Stay and recover, at least until the storm lets up."

They were both right, Jasmine realized. A sandstorm did not sound good. She'd never been in one before and didn't want to.

Her strength was back somewhat, she could push herself to fly a few days on her turban if she had to, but that was outside of a sandstorm. If she were caught in one, she definitely wouldn't make it. Aladdin was waiting for her, she knew it.

So, Jasmine nodded to the both of them. "Alright…"

Orlene finally smiled and clasped her hands together. "Good! I'll go tell the others you will be joining us for a little while." She pushed the fruit bowl that was still on the table towards Jasmine. "Eat, you probably haven't had much in a while. You'll need more than just a pear. But eat slowly."

Orlene left the tent just as the wind started to pick up.

Jasmine looked at the bowl and picked an apple and bit into it.

It was delicious.

Wait for me, Aladdin.

Word Count: 1988