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Who Walks Beside Her Sister

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Dunyazad wears a veil, and Dunyazad is still unwed, which is how she wishes to stay, and is why she dulls her hair with walnut juice. Shahrzad is more shameless; went to their father and whispered a plan, a plan that Dunyazad wishes she didn’t know, into his ear. She still walks with Shahrzad into the Zenana; her sister is clever, and brilliant and the one of the two of them that can wrap people around her little fingers, but Dunyazad is the one who has common sense.

Is the one who walks into the Zenana with her sister, and who can read the currents in the abandoned rooms; who walks into the depths of the precincts, and who finds the rooms where the talismans are laid out.

Is the one who returns the next day, when Shahrzad has returned from Shahryar’s bed, still unbroken. She leaves her sister to her sleep, and returns to where she had left the hajab-talisman, and she settles down to unweave all that had been woven in this place.

It takes her many days to undo what her sister’s predecessor had made; many many days where her sister talks from dusk to dawn, and weaves her tales that keep them both alive. Where the Jinn, tempted by the power in this place, offer her sister the seeds of a pomegranate. The seeds of Hawwah’s fall, and the seeds of their falls, if her sister eats them.

She - not her sister - slips from the precincts of the Zenana, and walks, veiled, amongst the stalls of the market; finds the seller of talismans - more powerful than she could ever make; it is her - and they - that ward off the Jinn that come, who buys her sister time to round with Shahryar’s child.

It is she who powers the nafra-talisman her sister clutches so tight; and it is she who turns her from the man who is not a man in the gardens.

(It is she, whom they will call upon, the maiden, who is sister to the queen; she who they want to midwife their births, as she does each of Shahrzad’s. It is she whom they will mourn, a women of flesh and blood who knows them and does not fear them, not her sister, who tells stories of them, no matter what he says.)