"Dastan, the Lion of Persia!" Sounds came from every direction as the youngest Prince walked through the crowds. People from all statuses were patting his strong back as he passed them.
The Prince smiled. He had disobeyed his brother's orders, and yet he was being praised for his actions. Perhaps if they had known the order that he been given to him, they would not be so kind towards him. But then again, he had done what no man had ever been able to do before. He had breached the East Gate of the Holy City of Alamut, giving he and his brothers a victory that was worth celebrating.
"Dastan." The Prince turned, facing the voice that he already had a match to. Bis, his best friend and soldier stood, his dark eyes shining with approval.
"Bis," Dastan replied with a courteous nod, his sweaty hair falling into his eyes.
"We have found the Princess. Tus is going to ask for her hand in marriage. You should come. Though she does not seem happy about the current predicament. Alamut has not been breached for centuries, and it is obvious that she will not be welcoming." Bis smiled slightly. "She is even fairer than it has been told. Tus is a lucky man."
"That is, if she agrees to marry him," Dastan said, his voice knowing. "As you pointed out, she is most likely not very happy with the current state of things. She may not want to marry a Prince who has taken over her city. If she has held it off for as long as she has, then it may be because she is wiser than we suspect her."
"Ah, my Prince. But it was you who took control over her city."
"Yes, but did Tus not say to attack the city?"
"This is true. But hurry! You are going to miss the proposal!" Bis grabbed Dastan, dragging him along through the crowd, not stopping once for the people who still congratulated Dastan and all of his achievements. "Will you stop dragging your feet? I don't want to miss this! She is feisty, and I cannot wait to see her spit in your brother's face!" Bis called over his shoulder.
Dastan laughed, but still made no attempt to move any faster through the oversized crowd of Persians. Even though the idea of a Princess spitting in his older brother's face was amusing, he just did not feel motivated. Something else plagued his shrewd mind.
He looked down at his belt. Tied tightly to his side was a dagger. It was a curious thing, not at all a common piece of weaponry. It was not at all sharp, and was made of a dark stone. On its blade were many engravings, the language unknown to Dastan. It was shaped like a typical dagger, but it seemed so much more important than that. The man that he had killed wore this. It seemed to be a prized possession, like he was its guard, its protector.
But it was the hilt that was the strangest. It was made with a dusty, clear glass. Golden vines twined themselves all the way around the artifact, reaching to the top. At the end of the hilt was a round red ruby, shining faintly when the light would touch it. Inside of the glass hilt, was sand. Ordinary sand that could not have cost more than a trip through the desert. It was not full, but it seemed that it could be.
"Dastan?" Bis's voice said. The youngest Prince looked up from the knife that still laid securely in his belt. Why was this piece of weaponry important?
"Sorry." Dastan picked up his pace, coming to his friend's side. The dagger could wait. "Where is she, the Princess?"
"In a Temple of some sorts. We are almost there." Bis walked expertly though the halls, already knowing in which room the fair Princess resided.
A loud sound of chatter abruptly hit Dastan. His brothers and their most trusted guards must have been cramped in the Temple, Garsiv most likely destroying the place.
Two guards stood by a large wooden door, their spears sharp and their dark eyes keen. They were clad not in Persian armor. They were the guards of the Princess.
They both gave Dastan a crude look. They already knew who he was, and what he had done to their sacred city. Somewhere in his heart, he felt guilt. Father had told his brothers and himself that attacking Alamut was not wise. It was a Holy City, and many people all over their country would not agree with the actions that had been conducted. Attacking Alamut had not been the wisest idea that Tus had ever thought of, and he felt worried for his brother. The reprimand that his Father would give them all would be difficult to take, but even more so for his brother. Tus had ordered the attack, and Garsiv and Dastan had just been following orders. He hoped that the punishment would not be too severe.
"Stand aside," Bis commanded, once more bringing Dastan from his thoughts.
"Filthy Persians, thinking that they own everything," one guard muttered under his breath, but stood aside. The other glared, for a moment refusing to make way for the Prince and his soldier. Bis challenged him with one look, moving his calloused palm to the hilt of his sword. The guard huffed, then stood aside, still glaring at Dastan.
"Thank-you," Dastan muttered, giving a small nod to each of them. Neither of them made a move; they stood resolutely in their places, glaring at the wall just ahead of them, their knuckles white from the grips on their spears.
Bis opened the wide door, the oil on its hinges preventing a creak coming from the ancient wood.
The chamber was filled with people, Persians and citizens of the conquered city. He knew that a Prince would belong at the front, getting a view of the entire chamber, however he stayed, not wanting to disrupt the conversation that was being transferred.
Tus stood at the front of the room, raised on several steps. He faced a young woman. Dastan guessed her to be the Princess, the robes and jewelry covering her, telling him of her position. Her hair reached past her tiny waist. It was dark and thick, soft waves flowing easily. Her eyes were partly masked as she was facing away from him, but he could see the golden paint that covered the lids of her eyes. Her skin was dark, darker than any Persian's; it had been kissed by the sun. Her dress was of cream and greatly contrasted against her skin color, and a long over coat covered her weak shoulders. Priceless jewelry hung from her ears, twinkling as she turned. Around her wrists and ankles were several golden bracelets, jingling when she moved. Even though Dastan could not see her face, there was not a doubt that she was one of the most beautiful women that he had ever seen in his life.
The door closed softly behind him, and a fair few turned to see who entered. No one made a sound however. They quickly turned their attention back to the monarchs on the steps, waiting for the answer to Prince Tus's proposal.
"I would die first," her weak voice proclaimed. Although Dastan was at a great distance from the Princess of Alamut, he could tell that she glared at him.
She looked outward, towards the people surrounding her. She looked as if she was going to say something, no doubt a cruel speech towards the people of Persia. But then she saw something. Something had caught her eye. Dastan looked for the person who beheld the gaze of the Princess. Then he came to a sickening realization. She was looking at him.
Her eyes were dark, and her face lean. Her full red lips froze in their making of a snarl and only remained open. Why would the Princess be staring at him? Did she know who he was? Nay, that was impossible. She could not know him. Paintings of himself would be hung in her palace, and would most likely be burned if intercepted.
Dastan's eyes widened slightly, but he kept his composure. He would not falter under the intense gaze of one so beautiful. That would only give her strength, and she could not have that.
"That can be arranged," Tus said, bringing the Princess's gaze back to him. Tus made a small gesture to a guard who came up with a spear pointed at her throat. Dastan sighed. He loved his brother, but it was known that if Tus did not get his way, then things could be blown out of proportion. There was no need for the Princess to die. At least not yet.
Dastan was just about to stand up for her when a loud shriek came from her mouth. "Wait!" The guard froze in his movements, but did not lower the spear. She made another look at Dastan, this time with anxiousness written over her fair face. Dastan took a step forward, looking deeper at the Princess. He knew that she would be wise, but a monarch not knowing what she wanted was not quite right. A sudden change of heart must have taken her. Would this woman just be another item in his brother's collection of wives? Lord knew that Tus surely had enough by now.
She turned to look at Tus, his deep blue eyes waiting eagerly for a reply that would satisfy him. "Can you promise me that my people will be treated with mercy?" her composed voice questioned. Her rich eyebrows raised softly.
Tus grabbed her hand tightly, and he placed a fierce kiss on her hand in the means of a promise. The Persians around Dastan cheered; this was their ultimate victory. She turned her gaze back at Dastan, and he did not try to hide the surprised reaction.
His head cocked to the side, his dark eyes narrowing slightly in confusion. Why would she reconsider something that had sounded so concrete in her mind? And why did she look to him? Was he the deciding factor of her death? It was very confusing.
Dastan marched through the horde of people, eager to his brothers. At the sight of a royal tent, the young Prince found them.
"Ah! Dastan!" Tus yelled, beckoning his little brother over. "Do you hear what they are calling you? The Lion of Persia! You never did follow orders well…" he trailed off.
"Tus, I have some explaining to do," Dastan began. He never did like disappointing his brothers, even though he was not physically related to them.
"No! We have some celebrating to do!" Tus said, raising a glass of wine in honor of him. "But, since you led the first assault, you owe me a gift, a homage." Tus grabbed the hilt of the knife at his belt, admiring the craftsmanship of the dagger.
"He gave you Alamut and the Princess, I think that is homage enough," another voice said. Dastan's uncle, Nizam walked in between the brothers, holding a large piece of parchment. Tus's mind was quickly occupied and Dastan took the dagger gently away from his brother, placing it back in his belt.
The pondering thought of the Princess, (who he soon found had a name other than that which was bestowed upon her), was gone. Her name was Tamina.
He no longer thought about such things as Princesses. His mind was blissful as he downed another glass of alcohol. Everything he saw seemed hilarious, and he could not control the non stop flow of laughter coming from himself.
"Dastan! Walk on the wall! Show us!" his soldiers yelled, also unhealthily intoxicated.
But, since the mind of the Prince was weakened by his overindulgence, he could not resist but show his troops his inhuman abilities, as they liked to call them.
Dastan stood a good distance from the wall, kicking his foot back against the hot sand, like a bull when ready to charge. He ran at full speed, stumbling several times on his own feet, and ran against the wall. After the second step, he lost his footing and gravity pulled him back down to the dusty road. The air was knocked out of him, and all he could hear was the mad laughter of his troops, holding their glasses tightly, looking down at their fallen Prince.
"The third step's the hardest," he said loudly. His voice was obnoxious and free, like he had no care in the world whatsoever.
Dastan looked up from the road, meeting the smiling gaze of his eldest brother. Tus took his hand and pulled him to his feet. "Brother!" Dastan yelled, sounding so surprised.
"What?" was all that Bis could say. A look of confusion swept past his face, and then he returned to drinking and laughing with the soldiers.
"Oh," Dastan said, turning back to his brother. "It has been momentarily misplaced, but don't you worry. I shall find it." Dastan turned back, ready to give another shot at climbing up the stone wall. His brother, grabbed his shoulder and pulled him close, nearly pulling Dastan down, but with a couple of determined swoons, he kept his footing.
"I figured that you would say as much," Tus said smiling. Dastan never really was any kind of proper. Tus ushered a man forward. He was holding a cloth box. Dastan looked down at the box with complete wonder etched on his fair face. "A Holy artifact, the robe of Alamut." Tus took the edges and pulled them apart, revealing a cream robe. It was beautiful.
"Father is expecting you," Tus said quietly. Then his attention was caught.
Dastan followed his gaze, seeing Princess Tamina as she gave a crude look to him and his brother.
"The Jewel of Alamut," he heard his brother say, his voice husky with lust.
"Do you suppose that you really need another wife, Tus?" Dastan asked. Tus had several wives, and though Dastan knew that it was customary for monarchs to have so many, he did not like it. He always thought that a man, no matter his status, should find the one. That one person who you would want to spend the rest of your life with. Multiple wives was not something that would be joyous to the mind of the Lord, no matter what Tus and Garsiv thought.
"Listen to me! Marryying her will assure her loyalty to Persia. Unbound to her would be a liability that I am not willing to risk!" Tus looked hard at Dastan, daring him to fight him. He added in a softer tone, "I am going to ask Father for his approval. If he does not agree, I want her to be killed by your own hand. Do you understand, Dastan?"
Though Dastan knew that that was even more wrong, he nodded. He only hoped that his father would agree so that the blood of one so pure would not be spilt.