AN: This story was prompted by two moments that have recently stood out to me in the scene where Sharaman dies. First, often I forget that Sharaman's last act in life is to declare Dastan and Tamina betrothed. Why didn't they do more with that in the movie? That could have been comedy/romantic tension gold, if you ask me. And this got me wondering how it would have affected the rest of the movie if the betrothal had played a bigger part, or been of a longer standing, or even if they'd actually been forced to marry each other (I am a sucker for the arranged marriage romance novel trope, I must admit).
But for that to happen, Sharaman would have had to survive a little longer, and that's where we come to the second moment that stands out to me: I think it's a bit odd that Sharaman happily accepts the prayer robe of Alamut's regent and tries it on. We know that Sharaman's a religious man who respects the faith of others to the point that he forbade his sons from invading Alamut because it's holy, and he considered the invasion to be wrong and wished Dastan had prevented it, so it seems to me that he would consider religious vestments stolen from an Alamutian leader to be a poor gift.
So then I wondered, what if Sharaman hadn't put on the robe, and had therefore survived, and Dastan and Tamina's betrothal had then become official? How would the movie have played out from there? I found it a fascinating idea. So I wrote it. I'm not sure of the number of chapters yet, but it will be at least 8-10.
"A great man would've stopped the attack from happening at all. A great man would've stopped what he knew to be wrong, no matter who was ordering it. The boy I saw in that square was capable of being more than just good, but of being great."
It's amazing how that disappointed tone, that gentle admonishment, hits Dastan like a blow from a hammer. For a moment he's a young boy again, desperate to prove himself to his new father, not because he's rich and powerful, but because he's the only father figure Dastan's ever had and because there's something about his kind voice and his immense wisdom and the sparkle in his eye that would have made Dastan love him even if the king had been only a poor commoner.
Vowing, for what must be the thousandth time since meeting Sharaman, to be a better son to please his father, Dastan nods and changes the subject. "Well, in the meantime, I have a gift for you."
And Sharaman knows he's dodging the topic—he always knows—and he laughs and lets Dastan move on to the new conversation. "Some questioned the wisdom of my bringing a boy from the streets into my family," he announces to the room at large as Bis comes forward with the gift. "I saw a boy whose blood wasn't noble, but whose character was: a king in spirit."
"Thank you, Father. May I present the prayer robe of Alamut's regent?"
The light in his father's eyes dims just a little as the embroidered box is opened, and Dastan knows that somehow he's messed up again. "Thank you, Dastan," Sharaman says after a moment's hesitation. "You are very courteous to think of giving me a gift."
He nods to one of his guards, who closes up the box again. Nearby, Dastan sees his uncle Nizam blink a little, as if surprised, and then call out cheerfully, "You aren't going to honor your son's gift by trying it on?" Dear Uncle, always so ready to look out for his youngest nephew.
Sharaman only smiles. "Such a beautiful garment—with all the wine being passed around, I'd hate to risk spilling any on it."
It's a convincing-sounding reason, and everyone in the room seems to accept it at face value, but Dastan knows there's more to the story than that. So under the cover of the commotion of the guards taking the box from Bis to carry it from the room, he leans closer to his father. "You didn't like the gift?"
Sharaman smiles at his son. "I know it was kindly meant," he says quietly, so no one can hear. "But holy vestments taken during a potentially unprovoked invasion of a holy city . . ."
Dastan's face falls. No wonder it didn't occur to him; he's never been as religious as his father, and he doesn't think of these things in the same way. But now that the king says it aloud, it does seem a poor choice of gift for such a spiritually minded king.
"I know it was kindly meant," his father repeats, a little louder, by way of encouragement. Then he raises his voice again, including the whole room in the conversation. "What can I grant you in return?"
This is Dastan's cue—his one job at this party. He signals the guards at the door, and a moment later the princess strides confidently into the room, a glittering star of gold and white shining in a dark expanse of Persian robes. She's an absolute terror, haughty and imperious and headstrong and far too proud, but Dastan's honest enough to admit that he finds her stunningly beautiful. Too bad that lovely face is accompanied by such an acerbic personality.
"May I present the princess Tamina? Tus wishes to make a union with her people through marriage. It is my deepest wish that this win your approval."
Sharaman looks as stunned at meeting the princess as everyone else has been, but he recovers enough to deliver a sincere compliment to Alamut. "In all my travels, I have never looked upon a more beautiful city, your highness."
Princess Tamina apparently does not feel the need to respond with similar politeness. "You should have seen it before your horde of camel-riding illiterates descended upon it." And Dastan can't help smiling, even as he wonders if this girl values her own safety at all. She might be irritable, she might be crazy, but she's certainly not a coward. He respects that, though he'd certainly never tell her.
And Sharaman seems to feel the same, based on the look he gives her. "Clearly she will make a fine queen," he says, and everyone else laughs. But then something unexpected happens. "But Tus already has enough wives. You, Dastan, might take fewer chances if such a jewel awaited you in your chamber."
Dastan blinks. Is he saying—
"The princess of Alamut will be your first wife."
Yes, he is saying that, and Dastan can do nothing more than stare in surprise. Wife? Princess Tamina? Bad enough to be tied down to any domestic situation right now, but to be married to Princess Tamina, who has an acidic tongue that she never seems to stop using, who has no love of Persia or its royal family— (To be married to Tamina, says a traitorous voice in his head, who is more beautiful than any woman in the Persian Empire and who stands fearless and defiant before the mightiest king in the world—)
The princess's composure doesn't break, but she blinks rapidly a few times, and then she glances over at Dastan, and then down at . . . down at his hip, or perhaps the Alamutian dagger on his belt, it seems? This is not the first time he's seen her look at that spot. Very odd.
"What say you, Dastan?" When there's no response, Sharaman chuckles at his son's expression. "He plunges into a hundred foes without thought, but before marriage, he stands frozen with fear! And yet there are those who say he's not yet wise."
The attention—the betrothal—are too much for Dastan, and he turns to Bis. "I need a drink."
But Sharaman stays him with a look, then turns back to Princess Tamina. "I hope this arrangement meets with your approval, your highness," he says: he's not asking her consent, precisely, but he's giving her some sense of control over what happens.
Tamina stares the king down, and for the first time that evening, her mask seems to fall a little. But another glance at Dastan—at his hip again?—seems to strengthen her resolve. "It is acceptable," she says, with the tiniest incline of her head.
"Then we shall meet to discuss the arrangements tomorrow," the king declares, and shoots a look at the guards around Tamina that sets them to bustling her out of the room.
Dastan is left standing in the crowd with a snickering Bis at his side. Five minutes ago, he was free and unencumbered, and now he's betrothed to a woman who clearly hates him. He stares at the crowd a moment as they move on to other business; then he turns to Bis. "Now I really need a drink."
Dastan wakes tired and hungover the next morning, having drunk a truly heroic amount of wine last night in the hopes that somehow it would make his problems go away. It never works, but sometimes he likes trying.
At least he's fortunate in that the first person he runs into when he leaves his tent is exactly the person he set out to find: Tus, who is very serene and very forgiving about the fact that Dastan set out to get approval for Tus to marry Tamina but ended up betrothed to her instead.
"I've heard reports of the party," he says. "I know you tried and that Father surprised you with his decision."
"I know you wanted—"
"She is a rare beauty," Tus breaks in, "but Father makes a good point: I already have three wives; it's time you found your first one. She will make an excellent choice."
"I was not seeking this out," Dastan says. "This seems a poor time for me to marry. My duty to Persia, to the army . . ."
"It's possible to do your duty and have a wife at the same time," Tus points out. "Look at Garsiv and me; we each married our first wives ages ago. Besides, what about your duty to your family? My children could use some new cousins to play with, and Father would love to have more grandchildren to spoil, and when my Shapur becomes king after me, it would please me to know that he had military leaders and advisers around him who take after their father: who are brave and loyal and . . . climb walls like monkeys."
Dastan laughs, even as his chest feels warm. Tus and Sharman and even Garsiv have been loving enough that he long ago stopped worrying that they were going to tire of him and send him back to the streets, but even so, there's a tiny part of him that still needs and craves these moments of assurance that he is wanted, not simply tolerated.
"I hadn't even been thinking about children," he admits. "That's a rather frightening thought. But you're right; Father would love new grandchildren to dote on." Children. His and Tamina's children . . . best not to think about it.
Fortunately Tus changes the subject. "While apologies are being made, I believe I owe you one: Bis told me that Father had reservations about the gift you gave him, and as I am the one who passed it on to you, I feel responsibility for that."
"No apology needed," Dastan assures him. "You were trying to help, and it was a very regal gift. It's just . . ."
"None of us thought enough about how Father would feel," Tus agrees. "I should have thought it through."
"Really, don't apologize. And thank you for the gift, even if Father had mixed feelings about it. I know it was meant as a kindness."
Tus smiles and claps his brother on the shoulder. "And now, little brother, Father would like to see you as soon as possible. Something about wedding contract negotiations?" And he grins as Dastan's face falls.
Sharaman and Dastan take their midday meal in the palace with the princess and a few advisers, to discuss and sign the marriage contract.
"Don't look so nervous," Sharaman chuckles as they wait for the Alamutians to arrive. "This is a joyous occasion. You don't know how much I've been looking forward to the day you wed; it will be good for you, to have . . . an anchor, so to speak. Family life steadies a man."
"Yes, but you've met Princess Tamina," Dastan mutters, running his thumb absent-mindedly along the hilt of his newly acquired dagger, which he's taken to wearing nearly constantly. "Do you think she's really the steadying type?"
Sharaman simply laughs. "The princess is perfect for you," he says. "You need someone with spirit enough to fight you when you need it." His expression grows nostalgic. "She reminds me very much of my dear Pantea: the same fire, the same will of steel."
Dastan's heard stories enough of Pantea, Tus and Garsiv's mother, to feel as though he knows her, even though she'd passed away before he ever came to the palace. In addition to being Sharaman's first, best beloved wife, she'd also been the only of his three wives to bear him any children who survived past infancy.
"I suppose I find that a comforting thought," he admits reluctantly. Not comforting enough, though, to set him at ease. It's not that he's against marriage; he believes in it very much, actually. It's that he'd thought he'd have more notice and more say before he wed; it's that he'd thought his betrothed wouldn't glare at him as though trying to set fire to him with the force of her disdain; it's that he wonders whether Princess Tamina knows that he's not really royal blood and whether knowing it would change her opinion about him.
But maybe he should take Princess Tamina's glaring off his list of things he's concerned about, because when she comes in, exquisitely adorned in white and gold and flanked by her two advisers, her expression and her greetings are calm, even pleasant. She gives Dastan a small smile and says she hopes he's comfortable here in Alamut, and maybe this should put him at ease but instead it makes him suspicious. Maybe she'd simply been in a poor mood yesterday? Maybe she's decided she had better make amends with the Persians now that she was to intermarry with them? Anything's possible, Dastan supposes. But all he knows is that this smiling princess is nothing like the firebrand who yesterday called him brutal and without honor, and he can't rid himself of the feeling that she's up to something.
If she is, though, she keeps it well hidden, discussing the wedding placidly with Sharaman. It will be held here in Alamut, as Sharaman concedes when Tamina says she'd prefer to be married at home, and will be a mix of Persian and Alamutian traditions, as Sharaman believes in tolerance of others' beliefs. The princess agrees easily with their future living arrangements—the plan is that she will return to Nasaf with Dastan—with only one caveat: that they stay in Alamut for at least a month after the wedding so that she can make arrangements for what will happen to her city after she leaves, and so that they can await the results of Tus's search, which she maintains will yield no fruit. Sharaman clearly doesn't see the need for this—Alamut is now under Persia's protection, and she can still make decisions as needed from Nasaf and visit often, as the two cities are only two day's ride apart—but he agrees graciously. He stays silent on the subject of Tus's search, and Dastan knows him well enough to know he's torn between hoping for Persia's sake that forges are found, and hoping for the princess's sake that they are not. Dastan's surprised to find that he feels the same way; things will get rather more complicated for Princess Tamina if it is proven that she sold weapons to Kosh, and somehow he doesn't want that for her.
Either way, it is agreed that a month after the marriage, the new couple will return to Nasaf. Dastan tries to imagine the princess in the palace he now calls home, and fails. He tries to imagine her welcoming him home with an embrace and a kiss after he's been away at war, and fails. What he does successfully imagine, quite clearly, is her poisoning his wine glass and smiling serenely as he dies. But he should stop thinking like this; she's been nothing but pleasant all through the meeting.
The biggest surprise of the meeting (after Princess Tamina's sudden polite behavior, of course) is the timeline of the wedding. Sharaman thinks it should happen as soon as possible, and Princess Tamina agrees.
The way it happens is this: Sharaman explains, "My sons came this direction to deal with the warlord Kosh, and they might be called away again at any moment. Better to act quickly, before Dastan's military duties call him away again."
Princess Tamina looks surprised a moment. "That was the original purpose of your expedition?"
Sharman nods. "As I'm sure you're aware, he has been a burden on this region for some time, raiding villages and conscripting men into his forces; both Persians and non-Persians have been the victims of his villainy."
"I am aware," the princess says. "Some of my own people have been affected; we've had several trading parties and caravans attacked. It is a good thing to have Kosh stopped." She looks pleased to hear of Kosh's imminent defeat at the hand of the Persian army, and Dastan watches her with confusion. Surely that's not the behavior of someone who's been selling Kosh weapons. But on the other hand, he's seen enough of her to suspect that she's a very good actress. Maybe her story is a lie, to back up her claims that Alamut is innocent.
"So perhaps the wedding could be held in the next week?" Sharaman asks.
The princess considers this. "Weddings in Alamut always take place on the first day of the week, if you don't mind indulging our local traditions," she says. "Which leaves our options as the day after tomorrow, or nine days hence."
"I would prefer not to wait nine days," says the king. "But is the day after tomorrow too soon?"
Princess Tamina hesitates, just for a moment. "We could have the preparations done in time."
"I prefer that, then," says Sharaman, and Dastan's heart starts to pound. He'd been imagining the wedding taking place weeks from now, even months, so he'd have time to resign himself to the idea of being married to Princess Tamina. But two days?
"Prince Dastan?" Princess Tamina turns her clear gaze on him; there's a smile on her face but it doesn't reach her dark eyes. He's more sure than ever that she's not as pleased about the marriage as she's pretending to be, but what is he supposed to do about it? She could refuse, if she wanted; he's not forcing her into anything. She must see all the reasons it's a logical choice, he supposes, and has accepted that their political marriage will do a great deal of good for her city, even if it doesn't do much for her personal happiness. It's very common, in his experience; one of Garsiv's two marriages and all of Tus's were contracted for the same reason. And why should he expect to escape the fate his brothers took on willingly?
"The day after tomorrow is acceptable," he says, and wonders if the princess feels, as he does, as though a jail door has just been closed.
"Another thing," says Princess Tamina. "Would it trouble you very much, Prince Dastan, to move your things into the palace today?"
Dastan blinks. "No, but why?"
"There will be a great deal to do, with planning and fitting you for your wedding clothes. It will be easier if you are here, not out in the camp. And also, according to our traditions, the groom moves into the couple's new home several weeks before the wedding, as his presence makes it more truly a home. After the ceremony the bride and groom return to that home for the wedding night." A touch of pink comes into her cheeks at this, and Dastan is strangely glad to know that he's not the only one who's a little . . . unsettled, thinking about that event. "It is too late for you to spend the usual three weeks in our new chambers, but two days will be better than nothing."
Of course Sharaman, with his love of others' beliefs and traditions, agrees immediately. "We'll have Dastan's things sent over immediately, if the chambers will be ready soon."
The princess inclines her head. "They will be."
Dastan learns as well that he will gain the title "prince of Alamut" because of his marriage, but will have no more political power than one of Tus's wives. He doesn't much mind; "prince of Persia" is the title he cares about most, much more than he cares about gaining power in some tiny city-state in the western reaches of the Persian empire that only survived independently this long because Sharaman has left it alone out of piety. Princess Tamina will gain the title "princess of Persia," although Sharaman adds that, as Dastan is an adopted son, he and Tamina will not be in line for the throne. The princess looks surprised at that, but not displeased; Dastan assumes she has no desire to become queen of the Persian empire.
The discussion winds on to topics that, though important, bore Dastan a little—property and divorce rights, mostly, and it basically boils down to "the groom has more of them than the bride"—so instead he watches the somber-faced man next to the princess write down everything that's been decided on. It takes an embarrassingly long time for it to occur to him how odd it is that despite bringing in these two advisers, the princess has done all of the discussing and negotiating herself. As he was last night when she stood up to the king, he is reluctantly impressed.
Finally it's done, and the man who's been writing gives his pen to Princess Tamina so she can place her mark at the bottom of it. Sharaman signs next, then slides it to Dastan, who picks up the pen, then hesitates. It feels strange, agreeing to this; he doesn't want to do it, and he's fairly sure Princess Tamina doesn't want to do it, not matter how willing she acts now. On the other hand, he's known for many years that he might one day be called on to make a politically expedient marriage, like his brothers. Having grown up among the commoners of Nasaf, and having seen how many of them make love matches and how happy it makes him, he'd always hoped, a little, that he'd be allowed to do the same. But clearly that's not his lot as a member of the royal family, at least not for his first marriage, and if the price he pays for the love and kindness and comfort his family has given him over the years is to marry Princess Tamina, that's not so much to ask, is it?
Then he glances up at his father and his decision is made. All he's wanted to do in the last fifteen years is to please Sharaman and make him proud. And now Sharaman has asked him to make a political union with Princess Tamina. It's as simple as that.
So he marks down his name, and the man who wrote the contract places his seal on it to witness the signing, and Prince Dastan of Persia and Princess Tamina of Alamut are officially betrothed.