Of wishes and horses

by Tym Greene

A panther finds a lamp and gives it a rub…but what happens when the genie’s new master has heard the stories already?

Added: May 2021 9,246 words 2,516 views 4.5 stars (2 votes)

Author’s Note

This story is set in the fictional city of Dagune, a merchant city in my country of Talamhir (map here).


“Those brasses won’t polish themselves,” Houdeet Humpherus had proclaimed, one paw in the air, as he headed for the door. The fox wasn’t senile, not by a long shot, but he was old enough to be more than a little eccentric. Still, eccentric shop owners were de rigueur in the seaside city, and Houdeet certainly fit in among the other members of the Dagune merchant guild.

“Yes, Master Humpherus,” Bertrand said obediently, plucking up an old lantern and applying a dollop of polishing compound. The panther worked carefully to ensure that the result of his labors—and Master Humpherus’s particular blend of salt, vinegar, and flour—struck the proper balance between bright polished metal and antiqued patina.

After watching for a moment, Houdeet adjusted his glasses and grinned toothily at his apprentice. “Excellent. I’ll be back within the hour, maybe two.”

“Yes, sir,” Bertrand didn’t look up, but his swiveling ears caught the snick of the lock and he allowed his shoulders to relax… slightly. Making quick work of the lantern, he placed it to one side and plucked up a bowl hammered with a pattern of dancing figures. After a moment’s analysis, he decided to polish the interior until it glowed, giving the outside only the lightest of swipes with the rag to bring out the shine on the design’s raised points.

That done, he selected the next item: an oil lamp. The greasy smell of burnt olive oil still lingered around the spout, and the handle was tarnished with the marks of many hands.

Still, Bertrand thought, a little polish should make short work of the discoloration. As he rubbed, Bertrand let his eyes wander.

Even from where he sat behind the counter he could see through the plate glass window in the front of the shop, could watch people going about their business in the high street outside. A part of him wished he could be out among them, enjoying the sea air and the bright summer sun, but that was the same part that had gotten him in trouble in the first place, and he tried to ignore it.

The world, as it turned out, was not his for the taking. Not without cost, and he’d already paid that; indeed, some of the brasses he’d been sorting and cleaning had come from his own ancestral home. The panther sighed, then applied a bit more elbow grease on the lamp’s stubborn tarnish. It’s not like I really needed any of it. He’d often remind himself of just how drafty and run down the old pile had been, especially towards the end.

And now he had a snug little room in a garret, a cot just big enough for one, and enough money to pay for rent and a little food besides. It was enough.

Lost in thought, he didn’t realize that he’d been manhandling the lamp’s spout with such abandon: it now looked almost new, with only traces of patina lingering in the crevices of the repoussage decoration. He switched his attention to the handle, then finished by swiping his cloth across the lamp’s belly. It jerked in his hand, as though a desert cricket had been hiding inside and only just then woke up.

Tentatively, he opened the lid… revealing nothing but more soot and cloying burnt-oil smell. Giving it an upside-down shake for good measure, he righted it and returned to his task. The foot and lid didn’t need nearly as much work, so soon he was left with only the other side of the main body of the thing. Glancing around as though expecting to find a trickster hiding behind an old chair or peering out from within an airship trunk, he rubbed the lamp again.

It jumped right out of his hand, and froze in mid-air, hovering, vibrating. With a shower of sparks that landed harmlessly on his outstretched arms and a puff of sunset-colored smoke, a figure emerged and swiftly coalesced into solidity.

The figure was male, twice as broad as Bertrand and easily a head taller, with thick round muscles that spoke of real strength. He was horse-shaped, but with an unnatural purple hue. The horse also had a pair of short horns sprouting from his brow, which were bright green, the same as his hooves and piercing eyes.

He stood, arms crossed over his impressive chest, his pale blue tunic tied by a sash of dusky rose that brought out the emerald fire of his eyes, as though waiting for something. Finally, he broke the silence. “What wouldst thou have?”

“I’m sorry? Look, I don’t know who you are, or how you ended up here, but I’ve got work to do—”

“I am Arhanquish the Radiant,” He said expansively, as though that explained everything.

After a moment’s thought, he added, “I am a genie.”

“So this lamp… ?”

The horse nodded.

“Three wishes?”

The horse nodded again.

Bertrand thought for a moment, then shrugged, huffing into his whiskers. So the stories were true—or this was an elaborate hoax for someone’s amusement—either way, he had too much work to do to bother with this sort of interruption. I may as well just skip to the end of the story, he thought. “Ok, I wish for a ham sandwich, and I wish for your freedom.”

The genie stared at him, even as his massive hands waved in the air of their own accord: first producing a perfectly serviceable layered stack of meat and bread from thin air, then each hand pointed a forefinger at the other hand’s wrist, zapping off chains that seemed to flicker into and then out of existence—metaphor momentarily made real.

Rubbing his newly-freed wrists, the genie glared at his erstwhile master. “So, what, that’s it? Have you no… no desires, no ambitions? By all the gods, man, I could have made you a king, and all you wanted was a sandwich?”

“I was hungry, but I’ve got work to do—I can’t be fooling around with magic all day. Also,” he paused, looking up from the expensive-looking floriated majolica plate on which his meal now rested, “also, there’s sand in my sandwich.”

“Oh, right. Sorry. Standard wish-twist.” He waved a hand offhandedly and the grains of sand vanished.

“Wish twist?”

“Are there no stories of my kind? My last master couldn’t stop talking about the tales he’d heard, perhaps I’ve been in there too long.” He paused in uffish thought; reminiscing about his imprisonment or his previous masters, Bertrand couldn’t tell. “It’s pretty simple. You wish, say, for a mountain of gold. Fine, I give you a mountain of gold… but make it appear one cubit above your head and then let gravity take effect. Or I could give you a little toy mountain made of gold, complete with tiny golden trees and maybe a beaten gold foil waterfall. The point is: no wish is ever as simple as it sounds.”

Bertrand nodded, vindicated. “And that’s why I decided not to bother with it. Thank you for the sandwich, and enjoy your freedom. I’ve got to get back to polishing these.”

The genie glowered at him, his eyes fiery, his mane wafting in a nonexistent wind. He snapped his fingers. “I will not be ignored, mortal.”

But the panther was now too upset to pay attention to magical threats. “You idiot, what did you do?”

“Idiot!?” Smoke literally poured from the genie’s nostrils.

“Yes, idiot. These are antiques, and you made them all look brand new.” He bent to examine one of the vessels. “There’s no tarnish anywhere, no signs of wear… you made them actually new, didn’t you?”

“Well, yes, you said you had to clean them, and new things don’t need cleaning.” He shrugged eloquently as though it were common knowledge.

“That’s not… arrgh.” Bertrand threw his hands up in exasperation, already more-than thankful that he hadn’t succumbed to the temptation of the wishes. “Just, can you fix them? I mean put them back the way they were? Before you magicked them clean. And no ‘wish-twist’ or whatever. I’ll polish them myself.”

Arhanquish looked from the pile of bronzes to his one-time master, and sighed. Bluster gone and shoulders drooping, he lost some of his awesome grandeur. He snapped his fingers and the urns and plates were all scuffed and tarnished once more.

“Thank you,” Bertrand tossed over his shoulder as he bent to his polishing once more.

Sensing the horse’s eyes on the back of his neck, he explained: “It is an art, you know. Knowing what to polish where to put shine on a bowl or ewer where to leave the tarnish, even how much pressure to use when wiping it. They have to look their age, but not too much.”

“Why bother when they could just be melted down and re-formed into bright new things?”

“That’s just the point! Sure, there’s a market for new things, but these, these have a history. A new bowl gets used for salads and soups, for mixing dough, for serving punch; an antique bowl gets displayed, used for ornamentation, to hold potpourri, scrolls, glows—anything really. People will pay three or four times for an antique what they’d pay for it new.”

“That… well, I shouldn’t be surprised at the doings of mortals. My past masters have certainly wished for stranger things.”

The panther’s ears twitched at that, and he momentarily wondered what some of those wishes might have been. But he had work to do, and indulging his curiosity wouldn’t get it done any faster. “Besides, the craftsmanship and design of the old pieces is so much superior to what the foundries and workshops are putting out today,” he added offhandedly as he bent to his polishing once more.

“Clearly you live in strange times. And now that I’m freed, I suppose I should get used to the way things are done. You will teach me.”

Bertrand glared up at him; it had been a statement of fact, not a request. But, even as he watched, the violet horse’s posture softened, the thick slabs of muscle relaxed, even his horns seemed less intimidating. “I suppose. The work will go faster with you helping me… perhaps I’ll have a little time to show you things.”

He showed the genie what sort of things to look for when approaching a tarnished vessel and how to wield the polishing cloth to greatest effect. Thankfully Arhanquish was a swift learner: by the time Houdeet Humpherus returned from the merchant’s guild luncheon, they had finished the pile of brass and had begun sweeping up the store.

“Closing time soon, my boy… my boys?” the fox slurred. Merchant guild meetings tended to be well-lubricated with small beer, and Houdeet had never been one to abstain.

“Yes, Master Humpherus,” Bertrand said, thinking fast. “I thought—with business doing so well—we could use the help of an assistant.” He shot a piercing glance at the horse, who took the hint and bowed low.

“Master Humpherus, I sincerely hope you won’t take my eagerness amiss. I have been looking for employment, being newly-come to the city, and my friend Bertrand said he could vouch for my diligent work ethic and unimpeachable references.”

The panther felt his face screw up as he glared at the genie, trying through sheer force of will alone to make his displeasure known. This had not been the plan… not that there had actually been a plan. But the damage had been done, and the bait had been taken.

“Well, I suppose,” the fox mused. “But I won’t be able to pay you more than thirty-five Der a week. I don’t know if you’ll be able to find lodgings at that rate, but this isn’t a charity I’m running, eh?”

Bertrand’s surprise grew: not only was his master taking on another employee, but he was drastically lowballing the genie’s salary. He himself made ninety-four Der a week (well in advance of the average clerk’s take-home), which truthfully wasn’t quite as impressive as it sounded when current prices—such as 2 Der for a standard loaf of bread—were taken into account. Then he felt his mouth moving of its own accord. “That’s ok, Master,” he found himself saying, “Arn here will be lodging with me for now.” His eyes flashed fire at the genie and the conspiratorial wink he got in return.

“Well, excellent. I’m sure you two have details to arrange, and I’m a bit bushed from the meeting; why don’t we close up early for today. Weather’s changing and I doubt any customers will be heading our way.”

The panther peered out the shop window and realized with surprise that there was indeed a storm blowing up. The first spatters of rain were tapping at the window, and wind rattled the shop signs hanging across the street. The day had been mostly cloudless the last time he glanced outside, and when he shot an inquisitive look at the genie, he got another knowing grin in reply. So, he can control the weather too, that’s… worth remembering..

The shop closed and the shutters battened, the three men departed: Houdeet struggling against the wind toward the palace district—where the new houses of wealthy merchants jockeyed for space with ancient aristocratic manors—while Arn followed Bertrand towards the towers of the temple district.

They walked in silence as the wind whistled between marble columns and rattled shanties propped against temple walls. Even the soup-and-bread stall was shuttered for the day, a gusty ballet of crusts and crumbs swirling around the cobbles. A side street beside one of the more impressive buildings led them eventually to a two-story building with a gated front door and only small windows looking out onto the street. The cracked plaster was disfigured by layers of sgraffito: scrawled ads for the local whorehouses, political jibes, markers for gang territory, they all ran together until they looked as incomprehensible as the inscriptions on the line of ancient columns that marched down from the city center to the sea.

Bertrand slid past the toothless jackal on guard at the door, dragging Arn in behind him. Once within the walls, the scenery did improve somewhat. A small garden took up a fair amount of the space in the courtyard, assorted green things whipped by the curls of wind that flowed over the roof tiles. Various tubs had been set out by enterprising residents who’d rather wait for rain than lug gallons up from the nearest pump. “We’re up here,” the panther said, leading the way up a set of creaking stairs to the balcony that lined the atrium’s second floor.

The door he unlocked showed a small room with a single bed. One of the tiny windows they’d seen on the outside of the building let fitful light (and the occasional raindrop) in. Arhanquish turned his powerful neck from side to side, as though looking for other doors, other rooms. “This… is it? Lad, my lamp is roomier than this room.”

“I suppose, but it’s all I can afford now.” The magical horse’s eyebrows lifted at the pause before “now”, but the panther rushed on. “Besides, if you dislike my apartment so much, you’re welcome to sleep in your lamp… since it’s so roomy.”

The genie sat on one of the three mismatched chests scattered around the space and leaned back against the faded fresco decorating the walls. “If you’d kept your wishes, we might have improved on things.”

“I never said you had to stay with me. I freed you; so go, be free! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to set out a tub for rainwater.” He was halfway to the door when the genie snapped his fingers; the sudden weight of water filling the jug was almost too much.

Staggering, Bertrand managed to lower the vessel to the floor.

“No, we’re not done here,” Arn replied, facing his former master’s glare with aplomb. “I’ll not be dispensed with so handily. After all, we are roommates now, are we not?”

“That’s what you say.”

“Right.” His fingers snapped again, causing the room to balloon outward. Faded frescoes became clean white paint, chipped mosaic tiles merged into solid wood planking, the cot was now a wide four-poster bed, with room enough for two of the green-horned horses. Hallways and doors led off to who-knew-where. The only things that had remained unchanged were the locked trunks, the cheap jug of water, and the panther’s sour expression. “There, that’s greatly improved.”

Bertrand, fighting disorientation, dashed to one of the large windows that now pierced the wall and threw it open. Gone was the squalor of the temple district; instead, he could see the high-leaping arches of the ancient arena, could hear the grumbling hubbub of a match threatening to be called on account of rain. Even the rain itself seemed of a higher quality. If that’s the arena, he thought, doing some quick calculations, then we’re halfway across the city! This seemed to be the decently upper-middle class area where up-and-coming merchants built new palaces for themselves

A dozen questions rose in his mind: what had happened to the former occupant of so nice an abode where did the other doors lead to, how much would this cost him… but only one reached his lips. “Why?” The genie simply grinned.

“Showoff,” Bertrand grumbled as he went about inspecting the trunks: they were all there, each one positioned the same as they’d been in his former room, each one locked and apparently unmolested.

“What is in those, that you care for them so intently? Is that where you keep your good humours?”

“It’s none of your business.”

“Roommate, it’s entirely my business now. Of course, I could always just…” he lifted his hand meaningfully, fingers poised to snap.

“Ugh, you don’t know when to quit, do you?” His glare withered before the genie’s indefatigable smirk. “Fine. It’s… all I have left, alright?”

“All you have left from what?” the purple horse prompted.

“I really didn’t want to tell you this. I used to be rich. Well, my family did. Then everyone died and I got it all and I spent it all. Wasted, more like. So I had to sell everything to cover my debts—the only reason I was able to get the job with Master Humpherus was because I had experience in buying and owning the very antiques he sells. So there you are, the full life story of Bertrand Profugo.”

“Is that really your last name?”

“No, I even had to sell that.” The purple horse-shaped genie cocked his head at him, horns fiercely green in the dimming stormlight. “It came with Titles and Rights and Cachet and the like. All very aristocratic. And all worth enough, as a package deal, to be worth selling. I had no need of a manor, or generations of ancestors, or a hereditary seat at the arena. I was the last living Gerhardt, what good were all those things to me? At least, this way, the name will live on; I know my father would have wanted that.”

“Don’t you think he’d have rather had you keep it all and use it better? Get a wife, have a child… ah.” He had seen something, some expression like a cloud crossing Bertrand’s face, that gave him pause. “Well, adopt then, pass on the name that way—or is that frowned upon in this age? One thing you learn, being trapped in a lamp for a few centuries at a stretch, is how easy it is for morals and values to change. It usually only takes a lifetime or two.”

“No, it’d’ve been allowed, it’s just… this will sound petty, but it felt like a lot of pressure. Back then, at least. Plus, I had all the debts to contend with too, so it’s not as though I could have made it work.”

“True, but—” the genie held up his strong arm, fingers poised for the snap.

The panther shook his head. “No, I couldn’t let you do that, return it back to the way it was. This isn’t some fairy story where the hero gets all his mistakes undone.”

“That’s true enough: are these the muscles of a little pixie?” Arn flexed his bare chest, purple hide gleaming in the gloaming, and Bertrand felt himself smile despite it. “So we don’t go backwards,” the genie continued, “why not go forwards? Why not pick some new direction, something you’ve always wanted, and go for it?”

“It’s still cheating. All of this,” he outstretched his arms to take in the new room, the new locale, the new furniture, “it’s all cheating. I didn’t earn it.”

Arhanquish snorted. “Sure you did, you freed me! Do you have any idea what that’s worth? Far more than your last name, I’ll tell you!” And this time, he did snap his fingers.

Bertrand felt an odd sensation, as though he’d just finished a feast of marbles, like he was full of small round hard things to the point of bursting. He tried to look down at himself, but could only see the floor; tried to touch his belly or head, but found he could do neither—only make a little flapping sound as he moved his handles. Hmm, handles? Didn’t I have arms? On the whole, he was decidedly nonplussed, really more curious than concerned. He opened his mouth to speak, and felt it open wide, like a dustbin or shark… No, not a shark; more like an oyster.

“There, how does it feel, being part of your own meager inheritance?”

“Wh… whaaat do you mean?” Bertrand felt as though his mouth needed oil, it took some effort to form the words at first, and even then he spoke slowly, with a sort of inertia.

By way of answer, the genie snapped his fingers again and was replaced by a flattened, stretched-out version of himself. The horse’s head was reduced to a little decorative scrollwork on the top of a great oblong shape, his arms and legs seemingly fused into a stand hitched up at the middle, and the remainder of his body transmuted somehow into a perfect plane of purple-tinted mirror glass. Bertrand looked in the genie-cum-mirror and was confused.

Is this another trick? There’s the wall behind me, and the floor beneath me… There too were the two trunks on this side of the room—the third he could see behind the genie-mirror’s legs—but right in the middle of the glass was a fourth trunk. It was sleek and new and glossy black, unlike the weatherbeaten canvas-covered planks of the other three, and seemed to be placed right where he…

“Oh, no, you didn’t…” But sure enough, when he opened his mouth to speak, the trunk in the mirror opened its lid. When he flapped his handle in surprise, the trunk’s handle moved as well. Wait, handle… I’d known I had handles and didn’t even question it. Slowly, watching his reflection, he opened his mouth, the lid rising higher, revealing that the “feast of marbles” was actually a small fortune in gold coins.

What was oddest was that he felt no pain, nor discomfort, not even concern that he was technically no longer alive, that he was simply an object. There was a part of him that reveled in how well he was holding all these coins—so heavy, so important—and how solid he looked in his reflection. Even bereft of his contents he’d still fetch a good price as a fine trunk. The mere thought almost felt better than the few times he’d had sex (once with a chum from school, which had been more awkward than pleasurable; and twice with the city’s male geishas, who’d known what they were doing—and what he’d been worth at the time), more satisfying, if less piquant.

So they sat there for a few minutes, mirror and trunk, regarding one another. “You know,” the panthertrunk said contemplatively, “this really isn’t so bad. But who owns me?”

“As of right now, no one,” the horsemirror replied. “I suppose if you really liked this form, I could leave you this way, assign you to someone or other. Maybe Master Humpherus would like a new trunk?”

“I supp… no that wouldn’t work. He’s not getting any younger, and he never travels. I’d just sit getting dusty until he died, and he’s got no heirs that I know of… I suspected he was planning on leaving me the business, but he can’t very well will his property to a trunk.”

Outside, a roar went up from the arena, audible even from several blocks away. “Sounds like Jonahlan just got beat by Becton,” the genie remarked, mirror glass flexing as he turned to look out the window. “Hmm, that gives me an idea. Instead of ‘cheating,’ as you say, why not win the improvements to your reality, fair and square?” The wooden leg lifted, the carved lion paw flexed and snapped its claws, and suddenly the trunk was gone, replaced by a trunk of a different sort.

The mirror had also changed, once more becoming a big and burly purple man, but he wasn’t a horse any longer. Instead, the genie stood before his one-time master as a rhino, his naked body gleaming glossy violet, his horns (the two on his long, blocky face and the two smaller ones on his forehead) and nails the dark green of carved jade. He raised his hand, thick sausage fingers moving as though to snap again, but Bertrand was distracted by the shiny bulge of his muscles, like he was watching them move at a glacial pace.

Seeing the mountain of rhino hide before him—not to mention the long-drooping cock (a paler shade of green that made it seem to float above the dark eggplant thighs)—made Bertrand lose all sense of propriety. Moaning as his trunk found its way to the base of his own thick shaft, he fingered a thumb-sized nipple as he started to give himself a trunk-job.

“Hey, pachy-pal, easy there. What if someone sees you? Or is public nudity allowed nowadays?” The genie stroked his fore-most horn contemplatively, his biceps bunching and flexing and driving Bertrand almost to distraction.

His other hand had joined his trunk in stroking the flexible shaft, his eyes glued to the purple-and-green rhino who seemed almost to be posing for him. “Hnngh,” Bertrand-the-elephant groaned eloquently, overwhelmed by the lustiness of his lemon-sized balls, the swirl of blood pumped by his massive heart, and the heat of his own muscles.

Then Arn stepped closer. Bertrand’s trunk lifted, nostrils flared, flexible tip wiggling as he scented the other male. The touch of skin on skin was electric, sparks making the few hairs on Bertrand’s new hide stand straight out; their bellies pressed together, their heads tilted as though through a prearranged choreography, and their lips met.

The former panther had never kissed with a trunk before, and having to lift it out of the way was an odd sensation, but he found that the awkwardness kept him grounded in reality. The other sensations—the Arn-rhino’s hands gripping his biceps, the way their groins seemed to be drawing closer with their own magnetism, the mint chewstick taste of the genie’s kiss—they piled atop one another like the shouts in the arena, building from individual voices into a solid roaring wall. Even back in his profligate days Bertrand hadn’t really been a fan of the gladiatorial contests, but now it felt as though he’d lived and breathed the arena’s air for most of his life, and would do so until he breathed his last on the sand.

He opened eyes that he didn’t remember closing, and found himself staring at the light filtering through a flicking purple ear, notched with old scars. The iridescent green of Arhanquish’s irises seemed to glow and spin as their gaze met, but then Bertrand put his elephantine tongue to better use, filling the rhino’s mouth as though inspecting every part in turn. His trunk pressed gently against the back of the genie’s head, and he felt the grip on his arms slacken, ceding power back to his former master.

But along with the undeniable arousal and power was the ache of a hundred battles, the creak of joints broken and healed, bones not as straight as they once were, muscles corded around old scars; while there were rules and safeguards in place, the arena was still a dangerous—sometimes deadly—realm. Which only served to season their passion as the two men grappled, as though the extremes of life were as much a part of them as their race and size, trunk and horns. Above all, he felt big.

He shifted his trunk’s grip, draping along the rhino’s shoulders with its tip just barely pressing up under his jaw, and hooked one thick leg behind his opponent’s. It was the work of an instant to overbalance Arn, never breaking the kiss, strong arms easing his weight down while also pinioning his opponent. The planks of the floor had that cool warmth peculiar to high quality wood, and supported their shifting weight without protest. The arena had rules and standards for the contestants’ costumes, too—wrestlers’ loincloths were different from chariot pullers’ harnesses, weightlifters’ tunics, hoofrace runners’ leggings—but it was little more than the thinnest bit of fabric separating one contestant from another, and the stories about the locker rooms and steam baths certainly had their grounding in truth.

In a twinkling the elephant had hoisted his partner’s legs into the air, the rhino’s bare back flexing on the floor unprotested. Bert and Arn were the most successful tusslers in years, after all, and had started many of those rumors themselves, especially when they moved together to this large villa overlooking the arena. The parties they’d thrown… or had they? His prehensile shaft had already found its way beneath Arn’s heavy sac, pressing against the hole that was rarely unlubed; he had to fight the rising tide of pleasure to hold onto any rational thought.

Then Arn grunted: “Take me down, Bert, you’ve won this round,” and it was as though the starting bell had rung in the elephant’s ears, a silent clanging that shattered all other thoughts but the desire to win, to best his opponent.

Massive hands gripped massive thighs—grey skin on purple—as golden eyes stared into emerald, sweat dripping between the two pachyderms and onto the wood; it wouldn’t have been the first time they’d indulged in the middle of the floor. The acting of the arena, the crowd-pleasing taunts and posturing, were just as useful when it was only the two of them. Bert towered above his opponent, flexing his biceps and showing off his chest, trunk raised for his signature “victory trumpet.” A single chest-thump drove home his physical superiority (for the moment) and gave him the focus to glide his shaft home.

Arn’s well-practiced hole welcomed him in, just as it had after so many matches and on so many nights—first in the gladiators’ dormitories, and then, once they’d made names for themselves, in the villa. And then, just as Bert finished his thrust and began to withdraw, he realized that something was wrong. His body was too big, his cock was too huge, and he shouldn’t have this heavy trunk hanging from his face.

His concerns didn’t stop his humping back into the strange purple-and-green rhino; it was as though his body had a mind of its own, and it was horny. So he rode the waves of pleasure, feeling sweat pouring down leathery skin that he shouldn’t have had, ears flapping to cool his blood, breath huffing through cubit-long nostrils.

It was good to feel this big, this strong. Arching his back, he lifted both heavy arms to flex, turning his head back and forth to admire the bulk of his biceps. Purple and green, he thought, like a dreamer slowly waking. “Arn, this is your doing!” Bertrand stopped hunching up into the rhino, his mind trying to deal with two different sets of memories.

“No, don’t stop,” the heavyweight wrestler moaned, still very much in the grips of his current form’s reality. “C’mon, Bert, plow me like when you won the championship.” The voice was deeper, of course, words more thickly-formed, but still there was that resonance, that unplaceable accent that resulted from his centuries of service in different eras and different cultures.

“Arhanquish, this isn’t me, isn’t you.”

“Does that matter? Doesn’t it feel good to be big? You’re still hard—” he underlined his statement with a masterful squeeze as his eyes glowed.

The rhino’s hole did feel good, so did the vibrations rattling Bertrand’s trunk as he trumpeted again, giving in to the genie’s wishes. The feel of so long a shaft flexing and writhing in so deep a hole was both intensely novel and entirely familiar, and reminded him somewhat of trunk handles. He could feel the whole of his massive body tensing, like a baker squeezing a pastry bag towards the tip. Visions of éclairs and profiteroles dripping with cream made his stomach rumble even as he felt himself drawing closer to climax.

Beneath him, the rhino grunted and gripped his own flexible cock, fingers playing over the oddly-shaped head as his calves pressed against Bertrand’s shoulders. Sweat dripped and mingled; on the spur of the moment, Bertrand leaned forward and curled his trunk around Arn’s frontmost horn. Their eyes met, and—feeling only the slightest tingle of magical assistance—they came.

The elephant’s trumpet rattled the rhino’s skull even as the trunk released its hold and let it fall back to the floor. Fluids slickened their skin and filled the air with a locker room aroma that was familiar and pleasant to both their current forms. A few runnels of cum dripped from the ceiling beams back onto Arn’s chest, while his stubby tail whisked back and forth in a puddle of concentrated elephant.

“That… wasn’t fair…” Bert panted, using the rhino’s still-upheld legs to keep himself vertical. “I’d never have… done that. I mean, I barely know you.” He paused: that wasn’t exactly true. He’d only known the genie Arhanquish the Radiant for the better part of the day; but Arn the gladiator rhino had been fellow competitor and more-than-friends for most of their lives. He shook his head, ears languidly fanning through the steamy air. “It’s some kind of trick.”

“A trick? You think genies and wishes were all about tricks? Well, this is the trick no one tells you about: once you have it, it’s so easy to forget that you ever didn’t. Say you wanted to wish for a fortune. Even if you hired a lawyer to help you word it to prevent loopholes, in no time at all you’ll be worried about paying taxes and protecting yourself from thieves—and here’s the kicker—just like you’d always been doing. Because it’s so much easier to just weave the whole tapestry of reality around the new wish, rather than trying to extract and replace one single thread.”

“Well, what if you tie the new thread to the end of the old one and pull—”

“I mean, metaphorically.”

Bert rifled through his thoughts, feeling like he had to muscle through stacks of athletics broadsheets, penny dreadfuls, and tomes of gladiatorial rules to get to the place where his old memories still lingered. He blinked as he re-learned the word, then shook his head again. “Arn, buddy, can you change us back? This has been fun and all, and it’s not like I don’t love being this big, but… I feel like I’m losing something.”

“Are you sure? I mean, this way Bertrand Gerhardt never existed, never let down his family. Hells, you remember your dad sitting in his box at our last match?”

Bert did remember, and it was easier to call up the memory of his father than it had been to find the definition of “metaphorical.” The broken-tusked old elephant had had one arm around a skinny fox, as the other arm pumped the air in time with his shouts. He’d been so proud of his son’s victory over Flink the Flattener. “That… wasn’t my father.” He had to force the words out: after all, there was more mass behind those memories, that reality, than there was backing up his old identity.

Arn sighed eloquently, his eyes meeting Bert’s. “I can see this isn’t easy for you, probably because of how easy it would be to just give in and accept your new reality, right?” The panther-cum-elephant nodded.

“Well, at least you can’t say I didn’t show you a good time,” Arn said with false bravado, clapping a hand on the elephant’s shoulder the way he’d always done when they were feeling chummy. “I’m going to miss this, though.”

Bert flexed his softening dick, giving the rhino’s innards more of a flop than a punch. “I’ll miss this too,” he said playfully, once again forgetting the angst of his old reality.

Stifling a moan, Arn grinned despite the sadness of centuries that once again weighed in his eyes. Raising a heavy hand, he snapped his fingers. In a flash they were back in the little one-room apartment, fully clothed, free of fluids, and in their original forms.

Bertrand blinked as his self-image caught up with reality. “Well, at least you can’t say it doesn’t make for easy cleanup.” On a whim, he slipped his trousers down and fished out his dick. The leftover arousal still pumping through his body stiffened it quickly enough, but the familiar handspan felt positively tiny next to the half-remembered sensations of his onetime elephantine member. Even as he thought that, though, the memory faded like a dream. He realized that Arn was watching him intently.

“It’s a nice view,” the genie remarked in reply to the panther’s quizzical look.

“And… well… I’ve never had fun like that, with one of my masters. Yes, yes, I know: you’re not my master any more. But you know what I meant.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed it too. It really did feel good to just be physical like that, not have to worry about stuff.”

“Oh, we would have had worries if we’d stayed that way long enough. Dodging fans (or rival gladiators’ fans), trying to figure out how to beat an opponent, and then finding out that your body can’t keep it up forever—there will always be someone younger, better, stronger than you. The only people who don’t have worries are either dead or have the brains of garden slugs.”

“You mean…”

“Yeah, there were a few masters who wished for a sinecure kind of life. They weren’t able to make any more wishes afterwards, so let’s leave it at that.”

“I’m glad I decided to not get any more wishes, then.” Realizing he’d been standing exposed, Bertrand stuffed his shaft back in his trousers and patted down his clothes, as though returning everything to normal. He looked around the little apartment, the three chests, the cot, the tiny window, the cracked plaster, and sighed. Back to normal indeed.

“I’ve been thinking—and stuck in the lamp I’ve had plenty of time for little else—and I might have come up with a loophole. Something that might allow us to make some improvements but not… get used to them. Is that something you’d be interested in?”

“Well, it’s worth discussing.” He placed a hand on the genie’s forearm, the short hide warm and soft. Their eyes met and Arn could see the smile creeping across the panther’s face. It seemed he wasn’t the only one glad to have a friend after so long alone.

A heavy arm draped across Bert’s shoulder, pulling him in for a hug. Bertrand surprised them both by throwing his own arms around the tall purple horse’s back and hugging him close. They stood there for a few minutes, each enjoying the physicality of the other. The panther didn’t even notice the genie’s snap until they broke the embrace and stepped away.

With tipped-back ears and a broad smile, he realized that there was more space between them than there should have been, more space than in the entirety of his little apartment.

Bertrand put his hands on his hips as he examined the large room they were now in.

A large hearth took up one wall, with large windows looking out on the harbor on the opposite wall. Thick tapestries flanked them, showing parties in vintage dress cavorting in floriated fields. Bertrand couldn’t help but notice that the picnickers were all male and all handsome, especially the unicorns. There was a hint of dark wood paneling behind the tapestries, which matched the heavy construction of the padded bench and armchairs the flanked the fireplace. Doors led out from the non-windowed walls and a thick Tenobrian rug was soft beneath his paws.

“You did it again, didn’t you?”

“It’s just a little thing. I figured that, since we’re working and living together, that meant more money to afford better housing. Your room is through that door, and mine’s opposite.” He pointed to the left, then the right, then to the larger of the two doors set beside the hearth. “And that leads to the stairs down. We have half a whole floor, you know.”

Looking more closely at the furniture, Bertrand exclaimed: “These were from my family home!”

Arhanquish blushed a deep shade of eggplant beneath his hide. “Well… you’d told me you’d had to sell everything, so I figured that Master Humpherus would have bought the more interesting pieces, and that he might have been willing to sell them back to you, now that you had a suitable apartment to furnish.”

“Hmm, you know what, I do remember that. I… I’m getting used to this new reality, aren’t I?”

“It’s not so big of a change, and you’ll be glad of the new memories when it comes time for us to walk to work. I thought you’d appreciate having more space and… I really am sick of being in that tiny little lamp.”

“Well, before I forget that this wasn’t the way things were: thank you.” He swiped at the tears starting to well up. He really hadn’t been that attached to anything in his ancestral home, let alone the chairs or wall hangings, but having these little pieces helped soften a pain he hadn’t known he’d had. Plus, his new memories told him, it was nice to sit on the bench’s brocaded padding and lean against Arn’s sturdy side while they watched the fire burn down on a frosty evening.

“But,” the panther pressed on, as though to distract both of them, “you said you had a loophole. This just feels more like the other magic you did… I’m getting used to it.”

“Oh, this isn’t it. I merely wanted to start in a more… comfortable place.” He snapped his fingers again and a tray flicked into existence on a small table beside Bertrand.

For a moment, he admired the long spindly legs, the hexagonal shape traditional to the furniture of Sashim. Then he realized that the tray held a vial of inky blackness. “What’s this?” he asked, lifting it up gently; the fluid within sloshed back and forth like a slowmotion tide.

“It’s… liquid loophole.” Arn grinned and the firelight glinting from his horns made him look positively diabolical. “Take a drink.”

Bertrand examined it: there was no label, and the top had been sealed with a bit of wax as though some apothecary intended it to be drunk all at once. He looked over at the genie, but only got a smile and a pair of lifted eyebrows. If he wanted to kill me, he reminded himself, he’d have done it by now. He’s trying to be nice.

So he flicked off the wax stopper and upturned the small glass cylinder above his mouth… and waited. It clung to the glass like the sticky sweet sap of certain trees in the Patu jungle. When the viscous black potion finally touched his tongue, it seemed to explode with a sweet-sour burnt tanginess that made his nose dry and his eyes water. It also, he realized, had been little more than a thimbleful: the vial’s thick walls had magnified its contents.

Bertrand dropped the vial to the tray, and realized that a pitcher of water and a glass were sitting there as well. He glanced at Arn, who nodded. Not even bothering with the glass, the panther simply chugged straight from the pitcher’s mouth, trying to wash the gloop off his tongue and down his gullet. It wasn’t until he’d drained half the water that he had to stop for breath. The red-pepper-molasses-lemon flavor was gone, and he was left with a belly full of water and an odd tingling sensation in his groin.

“What,” he panted, “was that?”

“I told you, it’s a loophole. You might want to get naked for this next part.”

Bertrand knew better than to question his magical friend, and stripped off his tunic and breeches without a second thought. It’s not like the horse hadn’t seen it all before. The panther, however, noticed something new. His shaft was already poking out of his sheath, but instead of a pink taper it looked more like a black cylinder. A glossy black cylinder… he caught a whiff of spice and citrus, and shot a glance at the still-grinning genie, before turning his attention once more crotchward.

His sheath was stretching now too, and even his balls seemed bigger, heavier, but the focal point was his cock. He might have been imagining it, but Bertrand could swear that the muscles down there were growing stronger too, as though preparing for a weighty burden. From just over a thumbbreadth in width, his shaft had swelled to thrice that size, and now stuck out almost a full handbreadth. The long tube shape with its flat head and round middle ring looked particularly familiar, and Bertrand looked once more at the equine genie.

Arn was now naked as well, and was stroking his own shaft. “I’ve got to say, it’s a good look for you.”

Struggling against the pleasure (not to mention the not-insignificant amount of blood that had been redirected from one head to the other), Bertrand clenched his fists. “How is this… a loophole?” Mmm, holes…

“Well, it’s so easy I’m surprised I didn’t think of it before. Magic exists, right? Potions exist. So it’s a tiny change for me to make it so you have a potion that—for example—gives you a nice hefty horsedick. That way you get your wish without completely rewriting reality: I’m not making it so you were born as some sort of half-equine hybrid, I’m just giving you the potion to take yourself. So you see: it’s a nice big loophole.”

Bert wasn’t even listening by that point, his hands too busy exploring the new flesh. He could feel it, it was definitely a part of him, but the texture was less skin and more rubbery, almost as though he’d grown one of those toys he’d seen in the shopfronts of the city’s seedier districts, red lantern light glinting off smooth heads and knots. He shook his head, feeling as though he’d been about to start drooling. His heart was pounding and his tail lashed behind him, setting his new shaft to wobbling.

Then he noticed that Arn had noticed. Licking his lips with his big equine tongue, he stepped forward, kneeling in front of the panther. The feel of those heavy hands on his hip, his shaft, was so good, so grounding, that neither seemed to notice when Bert grabbed the genie’s horns and started pulling him in closer.

The tongue, the lips, the hot breath found and then engulfed the broad flat head, slurping it down as only a horse’s muzzle can. Bertrand’s claws dug into the horns, pressed into the floorboards as he felt the tingle of Arn’s magic, followed by the sensation of his entire new shaft being wrapped in hot wet clenching muscles and the horse’s lips pressing against his newly-rubberized sheath.

The panther unscrewed his eyes and looked down: what he saw was what he’d expected to see. Arhanquish The Radiant was deep-throating him, nostrils breathing hot and moist against his belly, the genie having magicked himself to be able to perform without pain or awkwardness, as though he’d always been used as a living sex toy.

How long they stood like that, neither could have said, but after a while the panther’s knees began to grow tired, and an ache blossomed in the small of his back, possibly from the position, possibly from the new off-balance weight he was carrying. He withdrew from the genie’s mouth, feeling every ridge and bump of his modified gullet, then the rubberized teeth—firm but harmless—and finally the lips that closed for one last kiss. “Let’s take this to a more comfortable place,” he purred, running a hand down the soft springy bristles of Arn’s mane.

Rising to his hooves, Arhanquish still towered over Bertrand, but his body now glinted in the dying firelight: from horn to hock, he was made of the same kind of rubberized flesh as the panther’s equinized dick. That explains a lot, Bert thought with a grin, noticing the little claw-holes he’d made in the genie’s horns already sealing themselves up. Wordlessly, Arn led the way to his bedroom.

It was simply furnished, with the emphasis on broad swathes of blank wall and bare floor. Bertrand had no idea what the inside of a genie’s lamp was like, but if he’d been of a mind to hazard a guess, he would have said it would be the exact opposite of this room. A broad window looked out onto a different angle of the harbors than could be seen from the main living space, and the bed was simply a thick mattress placed on the floor, Kalaptrian-fashion, covered with a bird’s nest of thick quilts and pillows.

With a sweep of his massive arm, Arn cast all of that aside, leaving only the smooth white sheet between his knees and the bare mattress. He dropped to all fours, his own shaft bobbing against his belly and making his balls jiggle as he canted his tail to one side. There was no doubt about it: for that night, at least, the genie was a sex toy. The donut between those meaty cheeks was simplified, smoothed, and gleaming like an eggplant’s rind—the same luminous violet as the horse’s other tender parts, as though they’d all been dipped in the same coating.

On a whim, Bertrand leaned in and was surprised to find that the only scent was a rich berry-like aroma. He stuck out his tongue, gliding the rough surface as lightly as he could across the horse’s hole, and got a mouthful of a thick, syrupy fluid, along with a sinus-clearing burst of flavor. It tasted like the açaí berries he’d tasted—dried and chewy—from the Soryal forests, clear on the other side of Talamhir, but how they must have been fresh from their tree and cooled by morning mists.

He stuck his face as far as he could squeeze under the tail for another, longer slurp. He felt Arn’s body shuddering and heard a gurgling moan. Giving the donut one last lick, he straightened out, looking to one side to see the genie’s head bent low, the same violet gloop dripping from his slack jaw to stain the sheet, eyes unfocused and ears flopping loosely. Judging from the way his eggplant shaft was bouncing against his belly, Bertrand surmised that Arn was simply overwhelmed with pleasure, and decided it was time to join him.

The purple hole needed no additional lubricant, nor any stretching: it gaped wide to welcome in the panther’s enbiggened shaft, closing snugly around it just as had the horse’s other end. It was like being wrapped in warm slabs of bacon, he decided, slick and heavy and yielding just enough. With his knees padded by the mattress and his new burden shouldered by Arn’s hips, Bertrand began to thrust, setting up a slow rhythm like the waves outside the window.

There was no rush: the next day was tenthday and the antique shop would be closed. Outside, the rain started up again, pattering against the window and making the bedroom’s smaller fireplace hiss occasionally. The only other sounds were the slurping squeak of well-lubricated rubber against rubber, and the grunting, growling, heavy breath of the panther getting close to climax, then backing down.

With the genie, they had all the time in the world—if they needed it—and Bertrand was intent on making the evening’s pleasure last as long as possible. Suddenly, the thought of sharing an apartment with Arhanquish felt more like the opening of a life of adventure and possibility, and less like an unwanted imposition. He leaned forward and wrapped his arms around the horse’s strong torso, reveling in the smooth rubber against his fur, the warmth beneath the cool surface. Holding both their weight with only one hand, Arn reached up and pressed his arm against Bert’s, fingers squeezing even as his hole gave another clench. It was good to have a friend.

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