So, I liked the movie, but frankly, Tamina was a bit annoying, so I wrote a story where she's not the heroine. I basically follow the movie's plot, just with a new character, who's a bit less of a damsel in distress. Well, enjoy! :)
I don't own any of the characters just my OC.
The sun was just coming up over the horizon. I looked around from the tower's window, you could see all the city from up there. The scenery would've been beautiful, if not for the army just outside the city walls and the sounds of the siege. People were fighting, and I knew that our soldiers had literally no chance to win. It was a long time ago since Alamut had been in war, and the lack of practice was sure to make the soldiers weaker. On the other hand, the Persians had a very capable army, and they outnumbered ours too.
'They breached the Eastern Gate!'
A flustered servant ran into the room, panting, scared. I turned to the princess, she was scared, I could see it, but she put up a brave front to not scare her servants. We exchanged a look and she nodded to me. I stepped down from the window, and opened the door which hid the sacred dagger. I took the dagger from its stand and handed it to the princess, who in turn gave it to her most trusted man, the head of the royal guard.
'You know what you must do.'
The man bowed his head, nodded to me and ran off with the dagger in his belt. After she sent everyone else away I joined the princess in her prayers. She bowed down while I got on my knees beside her. I never prayed, but I saw it rude to stand when my princess was bowing. I listened to the noises coming from outside, the battle got closer and closer with every passing minute. I felt for my dagger and wrapped my fingers around its hilt, just to feel safer. I doubted the Persians wanted to kill us, but I was prepared to fight to the death to protect the princess. The sound of running feet and the clanking of the weapons now came from right out of the door to the high temple.
She looked up at me, saw the dagger in my hand and shook her head.
'Don't do it, Cressida. Not like this.'
I sighed and stood up as the Persians flooded inside the room. They filled it up, circling us with their weapons, like we were animals. The urge was strong to teach them a lesson, but I restrained myself. A tall man in black armour came up to me with a spear in his hands. He looked me over suspiciously and pointed the tip of the spear on my throat. I smiled nicely at him, but judging from his reaction it must've looked like a sneer instead. I was never good with smiling. I glanced at Tamina, who got up in the meantime. She was still scared, her face was eerily pale, but she stood bravely while another man marched into the room. He was the leader, I could see from the others' reaction.
'All the prayers and scented smoke could do little for you now."
A third man spoke up, older the others and bald. I had to agree with him on his statement, but it was great offense to say it out loud. The other stepped close to Tamina, close enough to make her uncomfortable. I glared at them and the man with the spear as he raised the veil in front of the princess' face.
Tamina waved me off and turned back to the leader.
'So for once the stories are true.' said he, brushing a hand against Tamina's face.
'We know you build weapons for the enemies of Persia.' again, the bald man spoke.
My eyes, along with Tamina's widened.
'We have no forges here.' she said.
The man grabbed her hand and I stirred, but that spear stopped me from moving.
'You can save a lot of pain, if you told me -'
'All the pain in the world cannot help you find something, which doesn't exist.'
The man smiled and let go of Tamina's arm. He looked around, laughing, which made me see red.
'Wise words from someone who would consider the political solution.' he took Tamina's hand 'Join hands with Persia's future king.'
Tamina looked furious, which wasn't good, since she was opt to make bad decisions when angered.
'I'll die first.' she spat on the ground.
That was one of those bad decisions.
'That can be arranged.'
The prince, for now it was clear that he was a Persian prince, put a dagger on her throat. I couldn't stand by idly while he threatened my princess, whom I was sworn to protect. I pushed the spear aside enough to move out of its range and pulled out my dagger. The crowd roared at that moment, and I even heard someone shout 'Prince Tus', but they were too slow to react. I grabbed the prince's arm and pulled Tamina behind me. Still holding onto him, I twisted prince Tus' arm until he dropped his dagger. I swept his feet from under him and knelt into his neck, putting the dagger under his jaw.
'Do not dare threaten the princess again.' I hissed.
When the first hands reached to drag me off of their precious prince, I dropped my dagger and didn't struggle. I quickly found many swords in my back and chest, so I remained on my knees, not stirring a muscle. Tamina fought her way out of the arms of the man with the spear and pleaded with the soldiers.
'Please, don't hurt her. She was only protecting me.'
Prince Tus gathered himself up in the meantime and looked down at me, thunderous.
'She is like a rabid dog.'
'I prefer wolf.' I commented.
The resulting general outcry was loud enough to raise the dead. Prince Tus lifted his arms to quiet the people. I looked around, the crowd was too big even for me to fight my way out, unfortunately. My eyes locked onto another figure, leaning against the door, watching us with furrowed brows. He was tall and bulky, with mid-long hair. The sacred dagger was tucked into his belt.
'Promise me that the people of Alamut will be treated with mercy.' I heard Tamina say.
Prince Tus took her hand again, kissed it with fervour and lifted it into the air, while his soldiers cheered. I was allowed to stand, but the man with the spear watched me closely. Tamina didn't notice the man with the sacred dagger at the door, but I watched him while we walked out. He noticed me too and we locked gazes for a few moments.
The soldiers escorted us back to the princess' chambers, where we were to wait until Tus arranged the wedding ceremony. They stripped me of my weapons, but fortunately left my garments, because Tamina said that I was not a handmaid, but her personal guard and that I should dress like the part. They put guards in front of the door, and Tamina's handmaids prepared her for the wedding.
'Isn't it a bit rushed?' I asked her after she took a bath.
'I imagine that the prince is very eager to seal our alliance.'
'Alliance...' I snorted 'I could've killed him, princess, and now-'
'We both would be dead. No, killing him is not the solution.'
'But it would feel good.'
I knew I went too far. Tamina never approved of killing, and the way I talked about it was upsetting for her. I shrugged and stepped closer to the window. Down on the square prince Tus was talking to the man who had the dagger. I couldn't hear them, but I saw when Tus handed over the sacred robe of Alamut's regent. I turned back in disgust, they had no shame, disgracing our sacred items.
'What should we do about the dagger, princess?'
Tamina looked up at me and I could see she was worried. Her handmaids were painting floral patterns all over her hands and feet.
'Are you sure that man has it?'
'Very sure, princess.'
'Then we must get it back. They mustn't know what it is capable of. From this moment on, Cressida, your first priority is to get the dagger back.'
I bowed my head to her, although I had no idea how I should go about this mission. I couldn't walk around the palace freely anymore, and I doubted I could get away with murdering and robbing another prince. As we got to know, that man who took the dagger was prince Dastan, the youngest of the three princes of Persia. I decided to wait for an opportunity, but those tend to be rare when needed.
Tamina was ready when a knock sounded on the door. We stepped outside to be immediately surrounded by footsoldiers, armed up to the neck. Prince Dastan stepped forward from one window to greet us.
'You must fear us very much, if you need this many soldiers to protect you.' I sniggered.
His eyes narrowed, but he didn't say a word, just waved for our escorts to start moving.
'The Lion of Persia himself. Must feel wonderful to earn such a name for destroying an innocent city.'
'A pleasure to meet you too princess. And if punishing the enemies of my king is a sin, then it's one I'll gladly repeat.'
I snickered, surely, Prince Dastan wasn't lost for words at all. But getting into a bout of words with princess Tamina was a foolish decision.
'Then you are a true prince of Persia. Brutal, without honor.'
Dastan stopped before a door and turned back to Tamina with a sigh.
'Don't make the mistake of thinking you know me, princess.'
He stared at Tamina, and then at me for a while.
He walked into the great hall and disappeared behind the swirl of soldiers and servants. I turned to Tamina, who seemed distressed. We knew that the King was waiting for us inside and his word would either save the city, or destroy it for good.
'I saw it.' Tamina whispered in my language so no one would understand but me.
'I don't know how to get it from him.'
'Oh, I'm sure he'll drink himself senseless tonight. You'll figure something out.'
I chuckled, which made her smile too. A moment later the door opened, and our escorts spread to let us in. The hall was crowded with celebrating Persians, dressed in colorful robes, drinking our wine and spirits from our cups. I let Tamina walk in front of me, she was dressed beautifully, in ceremonial robes befitting a princess. I, on the other hand, was still dressed as a soldier, in leather and linen, black and red in color, so I stood out very much. The Persian King stood to greet Tamina.
'In all my travels, I had not seen a more beautiful city, Your Highness.'
Tamina went and took his hand, slightly bowing her head.
'You should've seen it before your camel-riding illiterates descended upon it.'
I had to suppress a grin, but the whole chamber laughed out loud, after the King himself did.
'And you would make a great queen. But… Tus has already enough wives.' the King turned to the youngest prince. 'You, Dastan, might take fewer chances if such a beauty waited for you in your chambers. The princess of Alamut will be your first wife.'
I almost choked on my tongue, trying not to laugh seeing Dastan's frightened face. My smile instantly faded though, when I looked at Tamina, who was equally frightened. She went to stand behind the King's seat and snached a cup from a servant passing with a tray. I was about to join her, when the King's voice stopped me.
'And who your servant might be?' he spoke to Tamina, but kept his eyes on me.
I bowed my head slightly 'I am Her Highness' personal guard.'
'I have never seen hair colored like yours before. Is this dye, or natural?'
I instantly became conscious of all the people in the hall, looking at me, scrutinizing my hair, which was a golden colour, unusual in this part of the world.
'Natural, my Lord.'
'Where do you come from?' the King asked, and I shot a frightened look at Tamina.
'She's not from our lands, my Lord.' she came to my help instantly.
The King looked me over, but let the matter rest. I went to take my place beside Tamina, who offered me her drink. I took it gladly.
'Our problem might be solved, if you are to marry Dastan.' I whispered to her, again in my language.
Tamina looked at me, angrily.
'I don't want to marry any of them.'
'If you had let me...'
I stopped in mid-sentence, because of a great commotion around the King. At first I didn't see what exactly was the reason for all the fuss, but then I realised that the sacred robe he wore, the one Tus gave Dastan before, was smoking. Dastan rushed to his side, and the third prince, Garsiv tried to tear the robe from the King's body, only to have himself burned too.
'The robe! It's poisoned!'
All eyes were now on Dastan, who was kneeling on the floor, shouting "somebody help him!". One of his men grabbed his shirt and pulled him away from the crowd.
'My prince, you have to go!'
'Seize the murderer!' Garsiv shouted, pointing at Dastan, who was still in shock, clearly.
Tamina tugged at my arm, and pulled me aside a bit.
'Get back the dagger!' she ordered, and pointed to the already fleeing Dastan.
I reluctantly turned and left her in the middle of the swirling crowd. I pulled a sword out from the belt of one of the guards without him noticing me. I stole up to the stairs which led to the great balcony, where Dastan was headed too. I kicked down a few guards on my way there and when Dastan reached the top of the stairs I grabbed his shirt.
He followed me without a word, I could see he was shocked and his mind was in a haze. I pushed him towards the railings of the balcony and that's when he regained his composure.
'What are you doing?'
'Helping you. Jump!'
I took the lead and jumped from the balcony, right into the fountain below. It was shallow, but enough to dampen the force of the fall. Dastan landed a second after me. I looked up at the balcony, people were staring after us and I saw them motioning for the door. I hoped that princess Tamina will be safe in there, and that they won't hurt her. I climbed out of the fountain and searched around for Dastan, who disappeared in the meanwhile. A moment later I saw him galloping towards me on the back of a big black horse. Soldiers were running behind him. He reached his hand for me and I took it, jumping into the saddle.
'You could've got me a horse too.' I shouted in his ear, while holding onto his shirt.
He ignored my complaint and spurred the horse into a sprint to leave our pursuers behind.
'That way!' I pointed to a lesser known gate leading out of the city.
My first concern was to get us out without being killed, the dagger came only second to that. A few arrows shot right beside us, one so close I could reach up and catch it. I threw it at a Persian soldier trying to block our way, he collapsed the moment the arrow pierced his throat. Dastan glanced at me over his shoulder, and let the horse race full speed through the gate, out into the desert.
We only stopped when the sun was going down. The horse was tired from carrying two persons for such a long time, so Dastan got off from the saddle and helped me down too.
'I didn't kill my father.' he told me, like I cared about this.
My priority quickly became the dagger, which still was tucked in Dastan's belt.
'Tus… gave me that robe.'
'Yes, I saw it.'
He lifted his eyes at me and I saw how desperate he was. He frowned at me, and took a step back.
'Why did you help me?'
'The princess… ordered me.'
'Why would she do that?'
I shrugged my shoulders, taking a step towards him. 'How should I know? She's the princess, and I follow her orders.'
Dastan looked down at me, still suspicious. He didn't see me holding the stolen sword behind my back and let down his guard. Big mistake. I slashed, aiming at his chest, but his reflexes were quick so he managed to jump out of range. I still wounded him on his shoulder and stepped in for another attack, this time aiming at his neck. He got his sword in hand immediately, blocking my attack.
'First you save me and then try to kill me?'
I smiled at him, then thrust my sword forward to throw him off. He stepped to the side which gave me an opening. I used it to kick him in the side, so he would double over. Then I kneeled him in the face, breaking his nose. Blood sputtered down on his face when he looked up, but he wasn't down yet. He pulled the dagger from his belt to block my next attack, but I grabbed his wrist and twisted it so he would drop it. But he held onto it, and even slashed at me with his sword, making me release his hand to protect myself. He straightened himself and I saw his thumb hovering over the jewel in the dagger's hilt. I jumped in to stop him from pressing down on it, but then…
'...and I follow her orders.'
Dastan looked at me, bewildered, and took a giant step back. I saw confusion on his face as he looked around and finally back at me. I took advantage of his disorientation and slashed at him with the sword I was hiding behind my back. He couldn't step away so the blade tore into his flesh, leaving a bloody trail across his chest. He fell to his knees and I went to finish my job. But then he put his hand on the dagger, and before I reached him…
'...and I follow her orders.'
Dastan stepped closer to me and reached for my arm. I didn't know what he wanted, but I took the opportunity to attack him. He dodged my blade deftly, like he was counting on that attack, and pulled his sword from the scabbard on his back.
'Do that again and I'll kill you.'
'I dare you try.' I taunted him, although I was puzzled by his sudden attack.
He thrust his sword towards my neck, just the way I would've done to throw him off. I stepped back instead of the side and bumped into the horse behind me. I lost my footing for a second which was enough for him to grab my wrist and twist my arm. I dropped the blade, but spun to get out of his clutch. He was faster and pulling on my arm, got me close enough to put the dagger on my throat. I glanced at its hilt and saw that the sand was all gone from it.
'Tell me what this thing is.' Dastan said behind me, I could feel his breath on my ear.
The blade cut into my skin, drawing blood, and I didn't dare move around, for fear that he might kill me for real.
'A dagger?' I tried to sound as innocent as I never were, but only managed to anger him.
He turned me around and pushed me against a rock nearby, keeping the dagger on my throat. He turned its point towards my jugular and pressed down on it enough to pierce my skin.
'Whoa, whoa, alright, not funny, I get it.'
I grabbed his arm, but couldn't get the dagger away without moving my head, and that would've been my death. Dastan looked determined enough to really cut my throat, should I cross him.
'You tried to kill me, twice, for this thing, so I want to know what this is.'
'Twice… You used up all the sand in it, so I wouldn't kick your ass?'
Dastan's eyes darkened and I saw that I was way over my head in this matter.
'Alright, I'll tell you, but would you take this thing out of my throat first?'
He considered for a moment, then took the dagger away. I touched my neck, my fingers came away bloody.
'As you could see, this dagger turns back time, using the sand inside. Now that there is nothing left, it's just an ordinary dagger.'
He lifted it up and touched the red jewel in the hilt. Judging from his face nothing happened, so after a few tries he tucked the dagger back into his belt.
'So you helped me just to get this thing back.'
'Tamina ordered me to.'
'She ordered you to kill me too?'
'No, that was just me.'
Dastan stepped back and stooped to take the sword I dropped. He put it away in his belt too, now I was left without a single weapon, which I didn't like. He came back carrying a rope. I shook my head instantly.
He held it out and tilted his head to the side. I reluctantly reached out, letting him tie my wrists together.
'And now what? You'll leave me here?'
He looked up at me, surprised 'What do you take me for? I won't leave you here. But I can't have you running around freely, can I?'
'You're afraid I'll kick your ass again?' I sneered.
Dastan pulled out the dagger and thrust it into the rock just inches away from my head, before I could even blink. My heart stopped for a moment, my eyes widened and breath quickened as he looked down at me with his dark blue eyes.
'I'm afraid I might kill you if we fight again.' he whispered in a menacing tone.
I licked my lips and smiled up at him.
'Just be careful, I might like it.'
He seemed puzzled for a moment, then he stepped back, yanking the dagger out of the rock. My heart still beat like crazy, it was a rare occasion that I became so excited to fight someone. I loved fighting, but in this world very few people were a real challenge to me. But Dastan, he was on a level I might consider worth fighting. So I didn't lie when I said I might like losing to him. It was a bright prospect in the boring monotony of always winning. And he managed to scare me a little, a feat not many people were capable of doing. I went after him, grinning ear to ear.
'You're crazy.' he mumbled, seeing my expression.
'I might just be.'
'Can I ask where are we going?'
We walked among the dunes in the deepest part of the desert. We left behind the oasis a long time ago, and I was devilishly thirsty. Dastan walked in front of me, my hands were still tied together, and to the saddle too, so I won't run away, or stab him in the back. Not that I had the energy. We spent the night in the oasis, me bind to a tree, Dastan covered with a hundred layers of fabric to keep himself warm. He had the mind to cover me too so I wouldn't freeze, but I still was too cold to sleep.
'I hate the desert.'
Dastan looked back at me, then resumed walking. He draped a blue linen cloth around his head to protect it from the sun. I had leather all over me, which was good in case of an attack, but otherwise I sweated like a pig under it, and my skin boiled too. It was hell, a very hot and sweaty hell.
'I grew up among forests, trees, humidity, rain, rivers. Green things.' I continued to complain, which wasn't really my style, but I couldn't keep quiet.
'Forests? You came from far far away, then.'
'Yes… So, where are we going again?'
'To Avrat, where my father will be buried.'
'Are you crazy? The whole empire is looking for you, and you go to the one place, where it's sure to be a crowd?'
'My uncle Nizam will be there. He's the only one I can trust.'
'The bald guy? What do you want with him?'
'I'll tell him the truth, show him the dagger. He'll believe me.'
'For your information, every road to Avrat will be covered with soldiers. We won't get there in one piece.'
'I'm not taking any roads. We'll go through the Valley of Slaves.'
I stopped dead in my tracks, until the ropes yanked on my wrists. Then I resumed walking, but with less and less determination after every step.
'You are crazy for sure. Your whole plan is suicide. I don't want to die with you. You could just hand over that dagger, and then I'll go, and you can get yourself killed for all I care.'
Dastan stopped and turned back to me, yanking on the ropes. I pulled back, but with pretended strength, I was far too tired to put up a real fight.
'You said I used up all the sand. Is there more?
'Why would my brother kill our father for a dagger which becomes useless after so little use? What is it you're not telling me?'
'I don't know what you're talking about, prince Dastan. There is no more sand.'
He opened his mouth to say something, but then turned around and spurred the horse into walking again. I shook my head and went after him. The sun became more and more hot with every passing minute, my head became light while my legs became heavy soon.
'Can't we just stop for a second? I don't feel really good.'
Dastan acted like he didn't hear me at all.
'Have you gone deaf too?'
'Shut up and walk.'
'Oh, so you're not deaf, just a genuine, stuck-up prince of Persia. It must run in the family.'
Dastan quickly turned on me and I could see that I angered him considerably.
'I wasn't born in a palace, unlike you. I lived in the slumps of Nasaf, where I lived if I fought and clawed for it.'
He looked away quickly, realising he had said too much. I stared in front of me, then looked at Dastan, who in the meantime turned his back to me again.
'I wasn't born in a palace either.' I mumbled. 'How did you become a prince?'
'The King, he was marching in the market one day and he… I don't know… he saw me, he took me in, gave me a home. And now they think I killed him, but I would never...'
We started walking again, in silence. I knew the pain and despair of losing one's home, so I understood Dastan. I might say I even felt a little pity. But my order was to bring back the dagger to Alamut. I considered for a moment the possibility that the Persians sacked our city in search for this dagger. If Tus was really behind the whole thing, bringing back the dagger to Alamut wasn't such a good idea after all. There was one possibility other than this, but it was too risky. And besides, I didn't even have the dagger. Yet.
A ruin of a city was before us soon, the road paved with skeletons on sticks standing in the sand. It wasn't a pleasant sight, and I knew what dangers the Valley of Slaves hid. Or at least what was the word about it, I have never been there before.
'Welcome to the Valley of Slaves.'
We walked through the ancient gate that was half covered with sand.
'I'm dying for a drop of water.'
I felt my legs weaken gradually, but until then I could drag them along the road.
'You emptied our canteens hours ago.'
'I don't go well with the sun and the desert.' I mumbled. 'And Alamut is famous for its wells and clean water.'
'Stop complaining, it's almost sunset. We'll stop then to -' Dastan looked back to me, but I was already on the ground.
My legs buckled beneath me and I couldn't get up anymore. Dastan kneeled down beside me, and brushed his thumb against my parched lips, I guess to check if I was pretending or not.
He grabbed my hand and pulled me up into standing position. My legs were too weak, so he carried me to the horse and lifted me into the saddle. It ran across my mind that he was very strong, for I wasn't a lightweight, and it was the last thing I thought before the world faded into darkness.
The next thing I knew was Dastan holding me up and tilting my head to pour water in my mouth.
I took the pitcher from his hands and gulped down the cool water eagerly. The rest I poured over my face to wash away the sand and cool my burning head. Dastan took the pitcher away and I faintly heard noises from all around. I assumed we were in a market, in some small village, but when I opened my eyes I didn't see any ordinary townsfolk around. Instead, there was a giant black man and a smaller one with a big beard, who was talking to Dastan.
'You were right, she'll make a fine addition.' the bearded one looked at me.
'So we have a deal?' Dastan asked.
'Deal? What deal?' I asked him, suspicion rising in my mind.
'We have a deal.'
The bearded man motioned for his servants, whom grabbed me by my arms on either side. I struggled, but considering that my hands were still tied and I was still dizzy from the sun, I gave up quickly. I'll have my chance later on, for sure. I glared daggers at Dastan, who had a smug smile on his face.
'You sold me to them?'
'Oh, I'm sure you'll be fine here. Right? What are you gonna do with her?' he turned to the bearded man.
'Yes, please tell him.'
'Take her away.' he waved and the servants dragged me towards some darker side corridor.
'I'll have you pay for this, you hear me?! I'll strangle you in your sleep! I'll cut your heart out and feed it to the dogs!'
'She's a feisty one.' the bearded man commented cheerfully, but Dastan didn't look too happy.
I hoped that he believed my threats, because they were very true. I never threatened to do anything I might not do afterwards. If Dastan sold me to be a concubine, I might even cut his heart out while he was still alive.
The servants dragged me away to a room full of girls. Two older ladies were standing beside a tub full of water. They stripped me of my clothes and forced me into the tub to peel away my skin with their camel-hair brushes. I did come out cleaner, though. I didn't get my leather vest and pants back, but they gave me blue baggy pants and a blue vest, barely covering my breasts. They tied my hair into a bun, all the while murmuring prayers, because they have never seen a golden-haired person before. They cut the ropes tying my hands, and I was grateful for that, now I just had to wait for the opportunity to escape. The only problem was that I couldn't do that without Dastan, who still had the dagger. I waited patiently, until a door opened in the wall, and they ushered us all out, giving us trays with cups on them. I stepped out into the sun, in between two plank walls, which made for a road in the desert. I looked around for Dastan, whom I found on top of a wall, talking with the bearded man, again. Someone reached for my butt, and I slapped his hand away. The next one I grabbed and twisted his wrist so he cried out. I drew the attention to myself, and I heard the bearded man shout 'Hey, you drop anything, you pay for it!'
Anger flared inside me, so the next guy to reach for the tray got it right in the face. I slapped another with it too, and a third got the cup of liquid in his eyes. The crowd was stirring, so I glanced at what Dastan was doing. As far as I could see, he was in a pinch too, and the dagger was being taken away from him. I ran to get it, but some guys got in my way. I was eager for some fight, as I had many stress to relieve. I knocked them out one by one, but when I could get to the dagger, Dastan had already acquired it. I ran after him, with the thugs in our heels.
'This way!' he shouted, and ran into a side road.
I followed him and dodged a spear flying just towards my head. Dastan fought off two guards and I saw that the gate was being let down. I slipped under it in the last minute, but Dastan was stuck on the other side. The pursuers were getting closer and closer, we could hear the noises.
'Pull that lever, it opens the gate!' Dastan pointed to my left.
I held out my hand 'Give me the dagger.'
'This is not the time, pull that lever!'
'This is just the time. Give me that...'
I heard the shuffling of feet behind me, and lifted my hand to block the attack, but Dastan was quicker. He buried his sword in the guard's belly, saving me from him. I looked into Dastan's eyes and he shook his head.
'Don't think it didn't cross my mind.'
Our pursuers, led by the bearded man and the giant, showed up at the entrance of the tunnel. Dastan bent down and grabbed the gate, slowly lifting it up. I watched as the muscles flexed in his arm and neck from the exertion, and to my greatest surprise he could lift the gate enough to slip under it and get to my side. He stood up as the bearded man clashed into the closed gate.
'Show off.' I murmured and Dastan grinned.
We ran to the exit, now safe from pursuit.
I took down the guards beside the main gate of the Valley, while Dastan went to look for a horse. He came back, with only one horse, again. I wanted to mount behind him, but he shook his head and pulled me up in the saddle in front of him.
'I do not trust you behind my back.' he said and spurred the horse into a gallop.
'That's what I should be saying. You sold me!'
'And you'll... what was it? Strangle me?'
'I hope a scorpion bites you in your sleep.'
'Very nice, thank you.'
'I hope sand buries you and you'll suffocate under it.'
'Hey, no more blessings, please, I feel lucky enough, with you by my side.'
I fell silent, it really wasn't in my character to be so upset. But he threw me off my balance, and now I didn't know what to do. The dagger was still with him, and I needed to get that, but then what? I couldn't just go back to Alamut like that, especially if Tus was intent on getting the dagger. I decided to stuck with Dastan for a while, take the dagger away if I see the opportunity, and take it to the secret temple only Tamina and I knew about. It might be safe there, until we could resolve this matter with Tus and the empire.
Avrat was already full of Persians when we got there.
'They have all come to my father's funeral.' Dastan said, while we were looking down from a dune just outside of the city gate, where nobles were still flowing in.
'There are at least a hundred soldiers guarding that gate. How do you plan to get in without being noticed?'
Dastan got off the horse and me after him.
'Disguise.' he said.
Half an hour later we were dressed as slaves from one of the nobleman's appendage. Dastan got to keep most of his clothes, but I was again dressed like a concubine, very lightly, and too revealing.
'I keep my clothes next time and you dress like a harem girl.' I whispered to Dastan when we were already inside the gates. We passed the guards without much ado, no one noticed Dastan, and I wore a shawl, so my hair color wasn't standing out either. He looked me over with a sly smile on his face.
'Apart from the scars you look okay.'
'So you like me, then?'
Dastan looked positively flabbergasted at my question.
'No! Who said that?'
'You've just complimented me.'
'It wasn't -'
He shut up and furrowed his brows. I enjoyed teasing him, his reactions were too honest, not what I was used to. We stayed in our disguise until we got to the really populated part of the city. There we slipped away to change, Dastan back into his old clothes, and me… Well, I stole some clothes from a wire, they were plain linen, pants and a shirt. I secured it with a belt I made from Dastan's headgear, and draped the shawl around my head to cover my hair. I saw a black vest hanging unattended and took it with me.
'Dastan, hey.' I showed him the vest, it had a hood too to cover up his face.
He turned to get it on, and I took the opportunity to change the dagger to a stick I took from one of the stands too. He never even noticed the change.
'I need to get a message to my uncle.'
'It's nearly impossible.'
'Difficult, not impossible.' he said, eyeing the rooftops and the road where the procession was marching.
He left me with the instructions to wait for him at the market. I watched him leave, then made sure I had the dagger with me, safely. I went to find a horse and get out of the city without being seen. Finding a horse was an easy task, but leaving wasn't. If I stole the horse, the whole guard will be upon me in a minute. That was out of the picture. But I didn't have money to buy a horse either. I decided to do what seemed the least risky. I lured a man who looked rich enough into a side alley, which was silent and abandoned. He thought we will do something… dirty, but he was in for a great surprise when I whacked him with a stick, knocking him unconscious. I gagged him to silence him long enough for me to get away, and took his purse. Now I had enough money to buy a horse.
I was already at the gate when I heard the noise. People were shouting and pointing to the sky, so I turned, and saw what I feared. Dastan was running from soldiers, across rooftops, dodging arrows and spears. I fought with my conscience for a while, contemplating if I should just leave him be to get caught and possibly murdered, or should I go help him. My better side won, partially because I knew what Tamina would say. I turned my horse and galloped towards the loudest noise, following the people's excited shouts. I saw Dastan jump into a building, so I dismounted and went inside too. I grabbed a club from beside the door and proceeded with caution, especially because I heard nothing from inside. The sounds of a fight came closer as I got deeper in and at last I came upon the inner garden. I turned a last corner and saw prince Garsiv with an axe held high in his hands. I stepped behind him and knocked him straight in the head with my club. He promptly collapsed on the ground. I turned to Dastan, who was lying on the stairs, panting, looking at me like he just saw a ghost. I realised that I had the shawl covering my mouth too, so only my eyes were visible.
'Are you alright?' I asked him and then I saw as recognition dawned on him.
'Why did you come back?'
'I couldn't let them get you, I already promised to kill you myself.'
I offered him my hand and he took it. I pulled him up, but was too slow to notice the coming danger from behind. Dastan's eyes widened and he tried to push me away, but it was too late.
I felt a sharp pain in my back as the blade tore into my flesh. It slashed right across my back, from my right shoulder to my left hip, leaving a trail of white-hot pain behind. I turned instantly, and knocked the blade aside before the second attack. Prince Garsiv looked at me surprised and I took the opportunity to kick him down the stairs. He sprawled on the floor and I almost fainted from the pain. Dastan helped me up and he all but carried me out to the horse. Every move was like someone pressed a burning rod into my back, but I managed to mount, Dastan behind me. He wrapped his arm around me, to keep me from falling off, and we galloped out of the city.
Somewhere along the way I lost consciousness, I felt my blood wetting my clothes and the pain wasn't subsiding either. When I woke I felt Dastan shaking me, trying to get me off the saddle. I let myself slip down, into his arms and he carried me to the already standing tent. I registered that the sky was very dark on the horizon and I knew that a sandstorm was coming. Dastan put me down on my side, which was still painful, but less than my back would've hurt.
'I need to clean that wound.' he said.
I rolled onto my stomach, trying to keep my mouth shut and not let any screams escape.
'You do what you need to.' I mumbled.
'It will hurt.'
'It already hurts.'
I heard as he pulled the plug from a waterskin and he pulled my clothes apart, toring my shirt to uncover my back. When the wet fabric touched the wound I almost screamed out, but I bit my tongue. I was stronger than that.
'You know, I don't even know your name.'
'Cressida.' I pressed out between my teeth.
'Cressida… Even this sounds foreign. Where are you from, for real.'
'Really? You want to talk about this right now?'
'As good a time as any.'
'You… I don't… Nevermind. I'll tell you, but promise you won't laugh at me.'
'Alright, I promise.'
'If you do, I'll rip your tongue out.'
'God, you have the most astonishing and violent ideas.'
'Just saying. So… I came from another world.'
'Uhum… You mean like India?'
'No, from a completely different world. Not this… Not this… not your world. I was on a mission and there was this blinding light and the next moment I was standing in the middle of the desert. I don't know...'
I heard his snicker, so despite the pain I propped myself up and slapped him while turning around. I landed on my back which wasn't really pleasant. I cried out, then quickly turned to my side and bit my lip to muffle the painful sobs.
'Are you crazy?! Why did you do that?!' Dastan shouted at me.
'I heard you laugh at me. I told you I would...'
'Oh God, you can have my tongue out after I finished cleaning your wound, alright?'
He turned me back to my stomach, and started the cleaning all over again. When he finished I was writhing in pain and tears flooded my eyes.
'It's done.' Dastan announced.
'You don't believe me, do you?'
'About you coming from another world?' I couldn't see his face, but I could imagine that he smiled condescendingly 'I don't know.'
'Tamina found me in the desert when I was almost dead. She took me to Alamut, taught me your language...'
'You couldn't speak Persian?'
'No, I couldn't. I told you, I'm not from here.'
'So Tamina took you in and you became her bodyguard?'
'I was trained to be a killer, so that was the only thing I could repay her with.'
'You don't believe me.'
'I didn't say that.'
'I know what you think. But just wait a bit, you'll see.'
'Whatever you say.'
The sandstorm was upon us in a minute, bringing down the fury of the gods. Dastan patted the horse to calm it down, as I watched how the fabric of our tent flicked and rippled in the wind. I felt the pain in my back gradually subside, it still hurt when I moved my arms, but not that much. I propped myself up on my elbows and looked at Dastan.
'Now say that I'm a part of this world.'
He looked at my back and his eyes widened in surprise.
'This is… Not possible.'
'You see now? I heal faster than your kind. As I said, I'm not from this world.'
Dastan looked at my back and then in my eyes and back at my wound. He reached out and touched the still sensitive skin which now covered the wound.
'It will leave a nasty scar.' I mumbled while he pulled his finger over it.
I sat up and stretched my arms to see how much I can move them.
'Can I get your tongue now?' I asked Dastan who sat on his heels, and still looked baffled.
He looked into my eyes for the longest while, with an unwavering gaze, which made me uncomfortable. I looked away, but Dastan touched my face which brought my gaze back on his face. He put his fingers under my chin and tilted my head back a bit. He kissed me gently, lightly brushing his lips over mine. When I didn't protest he got more daring, biting on my lower lip, as if asking me to open my mouth. I did, I let him in, and we explored each other's mouths eagerly, patiently, not rushing. When we pulled apart, out of breath, my heart was racing, and placing my palm on Dastan's chest I could feel that his was racing too. I didn't know how to proceed, but Dastan solved that problem for me.
'You can get my tongue, as long as you leave it in my mouth.'
I felt my face heat up and I imagined I looked like a ripe apple. I pushed him away, in my life I have never felt so embarrassed before, ever. I tried to hide my face, but Dastan laughed and held my hands down. I felt weak, which was terrible, I couldn't fight him, not like this. I turned away from him, but he only grunted and placing his hand on the back of my neck, captured my lips again. This time he was passionate, not slow or gentle, but dominating and taking everything from me he wanted. He pushed me down on my back and his hands were already roaming all over my body, when I realised what he was trying to do. I snatched his wrist before he could wander into dangerous territory and pulled away from his kiss too. When he opened his eyes I could see how dark they became and for a moment I really wanted to let him do whatever he wanted. But the sandstorm was over, and I needed to think about the dagger and the danger, not forgetting myself in the arms of a blue-eyed Persian.
'Dastan, the sandstorm is over. We need to go.'
He blinked a few times and I repeated what I said to get him back to his senses. He got off of me and pulled me up too, apologizing for his manner.
'I'm sorry, I didn't mean to… Not like this...'
I let myself have one last bit of happiness before focusing on the mission again. I kissed him lightly, which made him smile.
'Just… Get this dagger thing over with, alright? After that… I'm all yours.'
I saw him gulp and his pupils dilated again.
'I know, I know.'
He got up and stepped out of the tent. The sun was shining brightly again which was blinding to my eyes after the dark of the tent.
'I guess your uncle didn't believe you.'
'No. His hands were burned. He said that was from trying to get the robe off my father, but I never saw him touch that thing.
'No, me neither. So he was the one who killed your father, not Tus.'
'It seems so. I just can't understand why. What would he gain by turning back time at a minute?'
He turned to me suddenly.
'There is sand in Alamut, right?'
'I guess it's no use hiding it from you anymore. There is sand in Alamut, but it better stay untouched. Tamina told me that once, when your world was young, the gods decided to wipe out mankind, because they were sinful. They sent a sandstorm to wipe everyone from the face of Earth, but one child begged the gods to be merciful. The gods listened and closed the sand inside a glass container, which is below Alamut now. They gave the girl a dagger to control the power of the sand, and that's how Alamut was founded.'
'So if I want to, I can turn back more than just minutes.'
'But for that you have to pierce to container with the dagger, and then it will break, releasing the storm again.'
'My uncle doesn't know that.'
'Would he stop if he knew?'
Dastan turned to me, with a sad smile on his face.
'I don't know. I don't know anymore.'
He pulled the dagger out of his belt, holding it up to his eyes, scrutinizing it thoroughly.
'What should we do?' he asked.
'There is a temple. It's a sanctuary, where the dagger can be hidden. I can lead you there.'
Dastan nodded and smiled at me. He stooped and gave me a quick kiss which surprised me very much.
'That… don't do that out of the blue, please.'
'Does it make you uncomfortable?' he asked, with a smug smile on his face.
'I… no… Just… It's distracting.' I stuttered out.
Dastan laughed, then got on the horse and offered me a hand.
'Can I sit behind you now?'
He pulled me up in front of him again.
'I don't understand, I thought we were over this.'
Dastan wrapped a hand around my waist and kissed my neck, his breath tickling me.
'Yes, but I'd like to have the opportunity to do this.'
He laughed again and spurred the horse into a sprint.
After half a day of riding, and getting saddlesore, we stopped at an oasis.
'We made good progress. Let's stop here for the night, and then we can push for the mountains tomorrow morning.'
I crouched beside the water and splashed it over my head and face. I was too hot and too tired to notice that there were people around us, until it was too late. They got us surrounded and I looked at Dastan to see if he was willing to fight our way out. Apparently he wasn't, because he got a sword to his throat and three men holding him down. The same bearded man in the turban came out of hiding with his giant servant who got us captured in the Valley of Slaves.
'Persian! We parted under such rush circumstances, I had no time to say proper goodbye.'
He came closer and saw me too, standing not too far away from Dastan, to be able to help him if anything goes wrong.
'And this girl… You two have wrecked my racetrack, it washed away like footprints in the sand.'
An ostrich came out of the bushes, with a satchel on its head. The bearded man walked to it and caressed its neck. I exchanged a look with Dastan and he shook his head. I rolled my eyes, one more minute of this madman and I'll really lose patience.
'See Lita here? She's the only one left of my gaming empire. And no matter how skilled you are, you can't hold an ostrich race with just one ostrich! Am I right?!'
He waved to his servants, who led the ostrich away. Dastan started stirring, but the men holding him down were too strong for him to subdue. I wanted to help him, but he looked at me again and formed a silent no with his mouth.
'It occurred to me that the only way to get over my tragic losses was to track you down, and collect the price on your head. Your brother will be pleased to see...'
He got distracted by Dastan, who eyed something far away on the horizon. I saw it too and it filled my heart with the mixture of excitement and fear.
'The sand dervishes, they are common as camel dung.'
Dastan glanced at me and then back at the man.
'Sheikh Amar, listen to me...'
'I'd rather not.'
'Those are not sand dervishes.' I put in.
The Sheikh turned to me angrily.
'No one asked you, you… you...' he waved at me, trying to find a word.
'Wench?' I offered.
'You wench!' he yelled.
'Those are hassansins.' I pointed to the swirling sand whirlwinds on the horizon.
There were three in number, but that was more than enough of that kind of killers. I heard of the hassansins from the soldiers of Alamut. They were supposed to be the killing force of the Persian King, but I thought they were disbanded some years ago. I was thrilled at the opportunity to fight with a hassansin, but at the same time I wasn't sure if challenging the most deadly group in Persia was a good idea.
'Whatever you say.'
They bound Dastan and me up for the night. I couldn't really fall asleep, I was a lousy sleeper anyway, but knowing that hassansins were so close to us, it made dreams avoid me in a wide circle. Dastan was sleeping lightly too, I knew it from his shallow breathing and from how he stirred from time to time. I turned to my side to face him and wondered how this journey will end for us. The Sheikh must not deliver us to Tus before we could get the dagger to safety. But getting out of his hands and avoiding the hassansins didn't seem easy then. I closed my eyes for a bit, and when I opened them again I saw that Dastan was watching me. I smiled at him, despite the circumstances and he smiled back. I heard rustling from close by and at first I thought it was just the leaves of the tree. But there was no wind blowing and as I looked up to the leaves, they weren't moving at all. I instantly jumped to my feet and Dastan did too. He looked at me puzzled, and I pointed to the ground, where the sand was moving under us. Our captors woke up too, and Dastan turned to the giant.
'Give me a sword!'
A snake slid out from under the sand and bit one of the servants of the Sheikh. The whole camp was awake by then and the night came alive with screams. The giant threw a dagger to Dastan and cut the rope around his wrists. He got about killing the snakes, but there were too many.
'Give me a sword!' I shouted too, dodging a snake jumping in my direction.
Dastan heard me and tossed me a sword he snatched from a dead servant. I cut the next snake in half and then pierced a third under my feet. I saw that one was sliding from the tree, heading straight for the Sheikh so I threw my sword and cut its head off. Now without a weapon again I could only dodge the vipers, while leaving Dastan and the giant the job of killing them. I ran for my sword when I stepped on one of the creatures and it bit my ankle. I stumbled as the poison spread quickly through my veins. I stopped for a moment to stomp on the damned viper's head and crush it under my feet. I was out of breath when I finally reached my sword. I collapsed on my knees beside the Sheikh, but I managed to wrench the sword out of the wood and cut the head of another attacking snake before my arms gave up. I sat there on my heels, trying to breath slowly, but the burning sensation in my veins was something new. A new level of pain. I felt it reach my heart and pump into my head, making me dizzy enough to not feel as Dastan lifted me up and laid me on a rug. I opened my eyes to see him leaning over me. His mouth was moving, but I couldn't hear him at all. Only buzz was in my ears and I closed my eyes again to stop the world from whirling. I breathed in and out and in and out, until the haze over my mind cleared a bit. I could hear whispers then, voices saying 'not make it' and 'impossible'. I opened my eyes again and now Dastan's face was clearer, his blue eyes radiating concern. I smiled at him, as finally the fog lifted from my mind completely.
'I'm fine.' I said, my voice coarse.
I sat up with his help, my muscles were weak, they felt like mud.
'No man could've survived a bite like that.' I heard the Sheikh whisper.
'I am no man.' I said, looking up at him.
He frowned, then started laughing and it caught to everyone in the camp. Everyone that survived, that is. Dastan wasn't laughing, he leaned in for a quick kiss which no one saw, then stood up, pulling me up too.
'My uncle sent the hassansins after us. We need to get to that temple soon.'
'We need to get going.'
'Wait, wait, wait.' Sheikh Amar heard our conversation 'These hassansins are after you two, right?'
'Then we will stay here.'
Dastan glanced at me, then turned back to Amar.
'We could use your help getting to the temple.'
'Why would I risk my life for you, Persian? You attract trouble like flies around rotting mango-'
'There is gold at the temple.' I cut in 'More than what ten horses can carry.'
He blinked frequently, I could almost hear how his thoughts were racing in his head.
'And besides, I saved your life… twice.'
'She has a point.' Dastan said, grinning.
We got to the temple by midday the next day. It was a bit past noon, and clouds covered the sky. We were deep into the mountains, and the weather was more pleasant and bearable for me. I missed my leather clothes by then, but there was no way to get them back. Aram said they burned them after we escaped, which earned him a punch to the face. They agreed to come with us in hope of the gold. I didn't lie much, there really was gold in that temple, only they wouldn't be able to move it. All the gold was moulded into a giant statue of the God of Time, or whoever, Tamina didn't really explain this part to me. When we got to the village, there was a small village full of priests and their families guarding the temple, it was very quiet. Too quiet. Dastan glanced at me and we went to explore the houses carved in the rocks. Dead men and women and children were everywhere, killed in their sleep, not too long ago.
Aram and Seso, the giant man were waiting outside. They seemed concerned, especially Aram, who was worried about his gold.
'Dastan, give me the dagger.' I help up my hand to him.
'Why? What do you want to do?' he asked, suspicious.
'I'm going to return it to the gods. There is a rock inside, from it came the dagger. I have to put it back.'
Dastan reluctantly pulled the dagger out of his belt and placed it in my hand.
'Are you sure?'
'What else can we do? If Nizam gets this dagger, the world will end. And I got so used to living in this world already.'
He smiled at me and gave me a kiss, taking his time. I heard Aram gasp then sigh, mumbling something like 'not the time'. I pulled away just to see soldiers coming down from the rocks behind us.
I pulled him to the left to dodge an arrow headed straight for his heart. Apparently Garsiv caught up with us.
'Put back the dagger!'
Dastan ran to face his brother, while I was heading to the entrance to the rock. I fought off the Persian soldiers with ease, but there were too many, so they slowed me down quite a bit. Aram and Seso were holding their ground too, but I was worried about Dastan, who disappeared in one of the houses with Garsiv. I knew he would try to convince his brother, and I remembered only too well how that ended last time. I considered for a second, before I made my way towards them, instead of the cave. I was stopped by sharp iron spikes shooting out of the clouds it seemed. I dodged, but I saw that Garsiv just stepped outside, and he was pierced by the spikes before he could react. Dastan ran out a second later and he barely managed to avoid the next rain of spikes.
'Hassansins!' he shouted.
I looked around, the three fighters were already on us, one with a whip, another throwing the spikes and a third with iron claws attached to his hands. People, the soldiers and Aram's servants were dying at alarming speed. I got into a fight with the clawed one, he was skilled, moving deftly and very fast. I started to enjoy the fight just enough to let myself go after all this time. I reveled in the feeling of my muscles clenching and relaxing, the feel of my limbs moving like fluid, like I was dancing, fast and without concern. I focused completely on my enemy, not giving him any time to get his eyes off of me. I waited for my opening, I dodged and slashed and swirled and danced around him, parrying and attacking in a rhythm which was etched in my body since childhood. Dancing the terrifying yet beautiful dance of life and death where one wrong step could end your life. He tripped once, and lost footing for a second. I took advantage of that mistake mercilessly, cutting into his shin. The blade stopped at his bone, then I wrenched it out and slashed at his wrist. I cut his hand off clean, then his head in the next strike. I stopped for a moment to look around and I saw Dastan in a fight with the hassansin who had the whip. That moment was my wrong step, because I could feel again the sharp teeth of the viper in my wrist and the burning poison in my veins. I cut the beast in half but it was too late, the poison acted much more quickly this time. It reached my head before I could call out for Dastan, and I fell to the ground, losing consciousness.
I opened my eyes at Dastan trying to shake me awake. My head was still dizzy, but I was clear enough to register that the dagger went missing.
'Where is the dagger?' Dastan asked, his voice coming through to me in a whisper.
I saw drops of blood on his face and started looking for his wound, but there was none. I shook my head to get it clear, and to my greatest surprise it worked. I sat up, grabbing Dastan's shoulder for support.
He shook his head, the pain was evident from his features.
'What now?' he asked.
'We must stop Nizam.'
I stood up, shaking my body to get the numbness out of my limbs.
'We're going to need another horse.' I said.
Dastan smiled, thought it wasn't as bright as it used to be, and turned to Aram, who was, surprisingly, still alive.
'Where do you plan to go?' the Sheikh asked.
'To Alamut. We must stop my uncle's plan.'
Aram shook his head, as if saying 'you're crazy', looking at Seso, who looked back at him with determination.
Seso shook his head and took a step towards us.
'A knife thrower with a conscience.' Aram mocked.
But he agreed to help us, and gave me a horse too. We were off towards Alamut before nightfall.
It took us a few days, crossing the desert, to get back to Alamut. I wondered how princess Tamina was holding up, I regretted leaving her, and now that I came back without completing my mission… I told Dastan my worries, but he waved them away, after all I almost died three times, while trying to protect that dagger. We no longer rode the same horse, but we got into the habit of sleeping on the same rug. It was considerably warmer, but it was very hard to restrain ourselves and just enjoy being close to each other. Dastan told me that he wanted to convince Tus to believe him. I strongly objected to this plan, it seemed to me that whenever he wanted to convince someone of something, it never turned out the way he expected. And we had to deal with Nizam too, who would surely be somewhere around Tus at all times. But he was adamant about this, he said that the only chance to stop Nizam before he finds the glass container was to convince the King of his treachery.
'And how exactly would you do that?'
'I don't know. Having the dagger would help much.'
I considered talking him out of this, but I knew already that he was too stubborn for that.
'There is some of the sand left.'
'What? Where? Why didn't you -'
'It's with Tamina all the time.'
'We need to get that. If I could show Tus how it worked, he will believe me.'
I shook my head, but smiled at him either way.
'I can help you with that. But there's the problem of the dagger too.'
'We'll get it back.'
We got into Alamut by the secret passes which I knew the entrance to. Aram sent out his men to inquire about the dagger and how Nizam's search was progressing. They came back with two bad news. One was tht Nizam was already very close to finding the sand. And the other...
'The dagger is up in the high temple, guarded by the spiky hassansin.'
'I'll get that for you.' Seso declared to our surprise.
'Then I'll get the sand from Tamina.'
'Okay, I'll wait for you outside Tus's chamber. There is a balcony there too, can you climb it?' Dastan asked.
'Who do you think you're talking to?'
We separated to get about our tasks. I slipped into the palace under the nose of the guards. I was trained to do this from childhood, it was very easy to remain hidden, especially as I knew every nook and cranny of the palace. I climbed to Tamina's chambers, I hoped they didn't move her to some other place already. I glanced inside, searching for guards, but there were none inside the room. I landed softly inside and stole to Tamina's bedroom, where she was sitting, staring into space apparently.
'Tamina.' I whispered to her, not wanting to spook her.
She snapped her head in my direction and got up instantly when she saw me. I held my hand out and placed a finger on my lips to warn her not to talk too loud.
'Cressida! How? When did you...'
'I have little time, Tamina. Give me the sand you keep in that necklace, please.'
She shot me a suspicious look and took a step back.
'Listen to me, Dastan's uncle, Nizam wants to use the dagger to turn back time and make himself King.'
'Wait, Dastan? What are -'
'Please, hear me out. Dastan didn't kill the King, Nizam did. Nizam now has the dagger, and we need to prove to Tus that he's a traitor. It's our chance to stop him. Dastan has a plan, but we'll need the dagger for that. I need that sand, Tamina.'
She looked at me a long while, but in the end reached for her necklace and gave it to me.
'I trust you, Cressida, but Dastan...'
'He's a good man, trust me on that too.'
Tamina smiled a little and shook her head.
'Don't tell me that you and him...'
I felt my face heat up and I saw from Tamina's smile that I went red again.
'Go and save your prince, Cressida.' she whispered in my language.
My heart skipped a beat while I thanked her, her words made me wonder. My prince? That sounded very embarrassing. I climbed down from her balcony unseen and stole my way towards Tus' chambers. I met Dastan by the wall just under his balcony. I gave him the sand which he poured into the hilt of the dagger.
'How do you plan to make him use the dagger?' I asked, but he didn't answer.
I had a very bad feeling about this, but we climbed up in silence. There was no chance to talk him out of this crazy plan either way. He was way too determined. Tus wasn't alone in his chamber, so when Dastan jumped in, he had to pretend to attack him. I watched the whole thing from behind the curtains, Dastan said it would be better for me to stay out of sight until he can convince Tus. I agreed, but the uncomfortable feeling of a shadow upon us didn't pass.
I watched as Dastan talked to Tus, telling him the story of how Nizam poisoned their father and framed him for murder. I saw when he took out the dagger, showing Tus, and telling him that it was no ordinary dagger. I knew in that instant what he was planning to do and jumped out from the curtains.
Two things happened at once then. Nizam walked into the room, sword in hand and Dastan stabbed himself with the dagger. I heard only the crashing sound the pitcher and table made when Dastan fell to the floor, and knocked it over. I instantly forgot about Nizam, and rushed to his side, looking into the eyes of the very confused Tus. He held the dagger in his hand, indecisive.
'Press the jewel!' I yelled at him, while cradling Dastan's head. He was already dead.
He looked at the dagger like it was a poisonous snake, he hesitated still. Time was of importance, and he was stalling. Everything seemed to slow down for me, when I reached for the dagger, shouting 'press the jewel!' at Tus. But I was too late, Nizam, whose presence I completely forgot about, cut Tus' throat before I could get my hand on the dagger. Nizam snatched the dagger from the ground and I pounced at him, risking even that he would stab me with his sword. My mind was in a haze, I knew that if I can't get the dagger back in a short time, Dastan will remain dead for good. And that was something my mind didn't want to process. Nizam stepped out of my reach and called for the guards. While the soldiers kept me busy he slipped out from the room, taking the dagger with him. I took down the soldiers mercilessly, letting out my rage on them. After I was done, I sat down beside Dastan and took his hands in mine. I teared up, not knowing what to do next. I wondered what he would say, what he would do, and then I knew that I must still stop Nizam.
I ran as hard as I could to get Tamina. I took down the guards in front of her door, and burst in, desperate.
'Princess! We must get to the glass, now!'
She looked frightened, but followed me out of her room.
'The plan didn't work. Nizam has the dagger, we must stop him.'
I shook my head and she placed a hand on my shoulder.
'I'm sorry, Cressida.'
'He gave his life so Nizam couldn't go through with his plan. We must stop him.'
'Come with me, I'll show you the way.'
I went after her, down to the cellars of the palace. Tamina was the only one who knew where to find the glass that contained the sand. She didn't even show me, it was too sacred, too dangerous to trust anyone with the secret. We took the old way, while Nizam was going in straight from the surface.
'We must hurry.' I urged her after we left the last door behind.
A great hall was in front of us, covered with sand, and at the other end there stood the great glass container, with the sand of time inside. Tamina swept a little sand from the floor, then turned to me.
'Follow in my footsteps. Nothing else can touch the surface.'
I placed my feet right where she put hers. We progressed slowly, but surely, never losing our ground. Tamina was very sure where to step next, but the ground was shaking from the digging they did on the surface, and some rocks rained down on us from time to time. The little ones weren't a problem, but I had to catch a few bigger ones to stop them from falling on the floor. Until one of them was too far away to catch. When it touched the ground the whole place shook beneath our feet and Tamina started running.
'Cressida, run!' she warned me, but I lost footing before I could get to solid ground.
I fell down with the floor, on top of the sand that was apparently under the whole room. I tried to get my foot fixed on something, but the whole ground was one flowing river of sand, taking me further away from Tamina and the glass by the minute. I caught a pillar standing out from under the sand and waited till the flowing was over, and all the sand was washed away to some indiscernible depth under us. I was left stranded on that pillar for a while, until the sand cleared away to reveal the remnants of a stairway not too far from me. I took a jump and managed to catch the end of the stairs. I pulled myself up just to meet with a hassansin, the one with the snakes. I almost got bitten again, but this time I was on the guard, so I dodged and locked the hassansin's hands behind his back. I caught the attacking snake too, there was only one left, and threw it in his face. He screamed when the viper bit him, and I tossed him down to the darkness. Regaining my footing, I searched for the way to Tamina and the glass. I ran along the walls, up on the ruins, jumping through cracks and gaps in the stairs, until I came face to face with Tamina herself. She started to look for me after the ground collapsed.
'Cressida! I'm so glad you're okay.'
We reached the glass just after Nizam. He held the dagger in his hand and was ready to pierce the glass. When he saw us, he unsheated his sword, pointing it in our direction.
'The princess and the foreign girl. What do you think you can do now?'
'I have an idea.'
Before he could slash at me, I stepped inside his reach and grabbed his wrist. He tried to stab me with the dagger, but I stepped to the side so he only pierced the air. Tamina tried to convince him.
'If you pierce the glass, it will unleash-'
'What? The wrath of god?'
Nizam pulled his hand out of my clutch and slashed at me with the sword. I jumped to dodge but I got too far away from him to stop him when he pushed the dagger into the container. Wind started blowing around us as I tried to get Nizam's hand away from the dagger and get it out from the glass before it broke. It cracked and some of the sand already was flowing out, causing a sandstrom around us. I heard Tamina shout something, but couldn't make out what. Nizam was clutching the dagger with incredible force, I realised that I couldn't take the dagger out of the glass in time. I decided to do what was next best, I pressed the jewel on its hilt.
Time flowed back with a speed I couldn't follow. I searched for one exact point, where I could still stop all this madness, where I could even prevent Alamut from being invaded. The second one I couldn't do, but the first was possible. I stopped time where I handled the dagger, just after the Persians breached the Eastern Gate.
I stood in my old clothes, with the dagger in my hand, before Tamina. She looked at me puzzled, I was standing too long in place, not saying a word. I heard the sounds of the battle from below again.
'Princess, forgive me, but there is something I must do.'
'What on earth?'
'Forgive me, but I'm taking the dagger, I promise it's for the best.'
Tamina was suspicious of me, I could see, but she trusted me too much to stop me.
'Do you know something, Cressida?' she asked when I was on my way out.
I turned back to her, glad that she realised why I acted weird. 'Too much, Princess, too much.'
I ran down to the street, towards the Eastern Gate, where I knew I'll find Dastan. Indeed, he was there, fighting with our soldiers.
'Prince Dastan!' I called out to him, and he turned in surprise.
I was very happy to see him alive again, even when he pointed his sword at me.
'Who are you?' he asked with a confused look on his face.
I put my hands up to show I wasn't a threat. 'I'm the personal guard of the Princess of Alamut.'
'And what do you want from me?'
'Your uncle, Nizam, is planning to kill your father, the King. He made you attack and siege this city to get his hands on this dagger, which can turn back time. He's planning to use it to become King himself.'
Dastan stared at me in disbelief and when I finished my story, he started laughing. I pulled out the dagger from my belt and he instantly became serious and suspicious again.
'I didn't want to do this, but you leave me no choice.'
I attacked him. He parried and countered, I gave it my all to bring him down, which wasn't easy. I was right before, I really enjoyed fighting with him, a bit too much. He was fast and agile, and he even cut me once. It was a shallow wound and disappeared after a minute, which he registered with a horrified face.
'How is that possible?'
I used his surprise to sweep him off his feet and kicked away his sword. I kneeled in his neck to keep him down and stabbed him in the shoulder with the dagger. He cried out, but I remained unfazed.
'Calm down, it will be gone in a minute.' I said, then took his hand, and placed it on the dagger.
'Press that jewel in the hilt.'
Instead of doing that, he wrung the dagger out of his shoulder and stabbed my in the stomach with it. That was a move I didn't count on. I grabbed onto his shirt, keeping him down on the ground.
'You are… really a stubborn one, Dastan.' I smiled at him faintly.
He looked at me completely bewildered when I leaned in to give him a kiss.
'Press that jewel, please.' I said before rolling down from him to lie on my back.
He stood up and I could see the hesitation on his face. But he pressed the jewel all the same.
'... but you leave me no choice.'
'Stop!' Dastan shouted and dropped his sword to his side. 'That dagger… Who are you again?'
'Cressida. Princess Tamina's guard.'
'How do you know my name, or what my uncle is up to?'
I pulled out the dagger from my belt and he flinched.
'You saw what this can do, right? How do you think I know?'
He nodded, then looked up at me, squinting his eyes.
'You kissed me.'
I blinked a few times, trying not to turn completely red again, but when he grinned I knew it wasn't worth the effort.
'That… Technically, it never happened.' he seemed to mull that over in his head. 'You need to stop Nizam, or else all of us will be killed. Again.'
'I don't know...'
I stepped closer to him and placed the dagger in his hand.
'Dastan, you told me that the King gave you a family and a home. And that he always says that "the bond between brothers is the sword that protects the empire". We have to stop Nizam, or your father and both your brothers will all die by his hands.'
He took the dagger and nodded.
'Come with me.'
We went to the entrance of the palace, where Tus, Nizam and Garsiv were gathering their soldiers. Dastan ran up the stairs and shouted 'Wait, wait!'. Everyone stopped and stared, first at Dastan, then at me.
'You have been misled to attack this city. Alamut has no forges.' I said.
Tus spoke up first. 'Says who? An Alamutian?'
'I am not of Alamut.' Dastan cut in, drawing the attention to himself.
'Dastan, what is the meaning of this?' Tus turned to the younger prince.
'Brother, didn't you feel that this attack was wrong all along? Don't you feel that something is not right?'
'Dastan had been out in the sun too much, he needs a rest. To gather his wits.' Nizam spoke with a mocking smile.
The soldiers laughed around us, Tus too. I pointed at Nizam.
'He was the one who showed you the evidence of our treachery, right? He was the one to push the matter of a siege in council. He was the one to plan this whole trick, to get you to do what he wants.'
Nizam laughed, but I could see in his eyes that he was raging inside.
'Your accusations are ridiculous, woman. Dastan, get her out of my sight, before I accidentally kill her!'
Tus wasn't entirely convinced, though. Confusion and hesitation was in his eyes. He looked at Dastan.
'Do you believe what she says? Dastan, do you believe her?'
He looked at me then slowly nodded.
'I knew it in my heart that this wasn't right. Those weapons… Far too weak for evidence.' he stepped beside his brother and looked him in the eye 'Listen to your heart, Tus, isn't this what father always told us?'
Nizam spoke up again. 'He defies your order, leads the attack and now he wants to turn back… Tus...'
Nizam was far from happy, in fact I was afraid he will attack Dastan. Tus was too confused, looking back and forth between the two, but he reached a decision.
'The spy, get me the spy! He holds the truth.'
I could see Nizam's face fall and he reached for his sword. Dastan reacted before me, he blocked the blow which was aimed at Tus. The soldiers roared as they engaged in a swordfight. Dastan managed to block Nizam's attacks, but he was forced into defense. He was tired from the fight already. I decided to see how this will end and not step in. I didn't want to dishonor Dastan by protecting him in a fair fight. Tus and Garsiv watched them spar too and I knew the two finally believed Dastan and me. Nizam attacking the prince was enough proof. Dastan has backed up to the railing, but managed to threw Nizam off the stairs. He jumped right after him, while we ran to the other side to see the end. Dastan was standing above Nizam who lay in the sand. He looked up at me for a brief moment and now I knew that he believed me too.
'You had everything a man can want. Love, respect, family. But that wasn't enough for you, was it?' he said to Nizam.
He left his uncle on the ground but Nizam got out another dagger and attacked Dastan from behind. This time I reacted first. I blocked the blow and sent Nizam flying with a kick. He remained on the ground after that. Dastan turned to me, surprised, but then smiled.
'I shouldn't be so surprised, I saw you fight before.'
Tus and Garsiv hugged Dastan and Tus bowed his head to me, apologizing.
'It's not me to whom you should apologize.'
Tamina received the three princes in her finest garments, sitting on her throne. I explained everything to her after I got back to the high temple. She hugged me and thanked me for what I had done. We prepared for the feast at night after that. Tamina convinced me to wear something a bit more womanly to the event and I reluctantly agreed to it. So I was standing by Tamina's side in blue silk pants and matching blue vest which left my bellybutton uncovered. When the princes walked up to Tamina and bowed, I saw how Dastan looked at me. Tamina also ordered me to let my hair down, and with its unusual golden color, I must've really looked out of place.
'I was misled to attack your city. Forgive me, Princess.' Tus said 'What can I offer to make amends?'
Tamina smiled then turned to me. I suspected mischief so I shook my head fervently.
'It was by the efforts of my faithful guard, Cressida, that you found out about the treason in your house. I believe it is her place to make wishes.'
Tus and the whole court turned to me and I felt my face heat up again. Before I managed to say anything, Dastan stepped forward.
'Tus, my dear brother, let me offer my services in restoring the friendship between our cities. If you will accept me as envoy, Princess.'
While he talked he never took his eyes off of me, which made me very uncomfortable.
'I accept your offer, Prince Dastan.' Tamina declared 'Cressida, please show the prince around, he will stay here for a while, I imagine.'
'Yes, Princess.' I mumbled, then stormed out to the garden, not looking behind to see if Dastan was following me.
I stopped by the fountain and sat down on its edge, catching my breath.
'Are you running from me, Cressida?'
Dastan sat down beside me, smiling.
'No, I wasn't, prince Dastan.'
'You have become very formal suddenly.'
I looked up at him 'I'm sorry if I -'
He placed a hand on my mouth, silencing me. He was smiling, his eyes shining, radiating warmth.
'You know I want to stay because of you, right?'
'You don't even know me.' I whispered.
'I know, but I think I should. And I just can't get that kiss out of my head. Even if it had never happened at all.'
He leaned in to kiss me and I kissed him back. It felt even better now, that we weren't in grave danger, running for our lives. Dastan caressed the back of my neck, but I pulled his hand away.
'We need to go back to the feast.' I mumbled.
'I doubt they will miss us. Besides, you haven't showed me the palace yet.'
'Then come with me.'
I stood up, holding his hand. He smiled at me again and we walked out of that garden to another one and another one, talking all the way.
'I saw you heal, very fast.' Dastan blurted out after a while.
'That is because I'm not from this world. And before you laugh, I warn you that I'll rip your tongue out for that.'
'I didn't want to laugh.'
'So you believe me?'
'If I didn't believe you, we wouldn't be talking here right now.'
He stopped and wrapped his arms around me tightly.
'All I know is that you're an incredible fighter, who could kill me anytime she wanted to, and that you have saved the whole Persian Empire just now, along with Alamut. You turned to me for help, which means we knew each other once. And I regret I don't remember that at all.'
'You shouldn't. Be glad that you could forget the pain, the suffering. And death.'
'Did I die?' he asked quietly.
I turned my face away and he drew me in for a tight embrace. I held onto him, resting my head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat. I remembered his cold hand in mine, and his lifeless body beside me. A tear escaped my eyes.
'You were stupid and reckless.'
'Sounds like me.'
'You broke my heart.'
'How can I mend it?'
'Stay alive and stay with me.'
'It can be arranged.'
I hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading this long. Have a lovely day, everyone. :)