She balks the first time one of them asks; how could she midwife a creature of fire and smoke, whose body is a nebulous creation that can slide through solid objects? And the creature smiles sadly and walks away. The second of them to ask picks her time better; she is tired, so very tired from helping Shahrzad to birth Shahryar’s son, and delirious with it, and with relief that her prayers had been heard, and she agrees without thinking about it. Without bargain or demand, she walks into the palace of smoke and fire wearing the blindfold they demand, and finds that midwifing djinn is much like midwifing her sister; terrifying and glorious.
Shahrzad’s second child, also a son comes easier, and they can laugh this time, rather than the tears of frustration and the blood of the first, and this time the Djinn doesn’t even have to trick her into agreeing; she walks into that palace of smoke and fire, head held high, eyes shut. Neither bargain nor demand pass her lips, and she kisses the newborn on the forehead before she passes her to her mother, and whispers the call to prayer to her, for there is no father present.
She expects punishment for her daring, but the mother smiles, and just says that she will be shaving the babe on the seventh day, and asks Dunyazad to return for the silver.
And so the years pass, and she midwifes as many children of smoke as she does of flesh, but it’s not until her niece is kneeling beside her, learning this art from her, like she has learnt of the other arts from her the she realises the Djinn upheld the old agreement with her; she rarely loses a child in the birthing. She takes her niece with her into the other palace, and allows her to neither bargain nor demand, and the Djinn merely smile.
She is Dunyazad, Sister to the Queen. But more importantly, she is Midwife to the Djinn.