It's been while since I tried writing, but this plot bunny has been nagging at me. I'm using "Señor" by Bob Dylan and sung by Dierks Bentley and the Punch Brothers as a loose guide for the plot. So here it goes. Let me know what you think. Reviews keep the writing fires burning!
Señor, Señor, can you tell me where we're headin'
Lincoln County Road or Armegeddon
Seems like I've been down this way before
Is there any truth in that, Señor
Dastan was halfway up the wall he'd scaled during the invasion, suspended next to Bis as he and his men worked their arrows from the stone walls, working with the Alamutians to restore their defenses, when word of his father's arrival reached him. The king wanted a private audience with Tus, and would then hold court to greet the senior officials of Alamut. He wanted to meet with all of his sons privately after court.
Aware that greeting he couldn't meet his father in his current sweaty, sandy clothes, Dastan motioned for his men to lower them to the ground. Grinning at the jibs from the rest of his men about having to pretty up to attend court, he and Bis headed back to the palace.
After washing up and changing into clothes more suitable for court, Dastan and Bis met Garsiv in the hall, waiting for the formal audience with Alamut's rulers to end. Pacing and edgy Garsiv alternated between glaring at Dastan and glaring at the closed door to the court. "Have you heard any word of how Father is handling the news, little brother?"
Equally uneasy, Dastan shook his head in reply. "Aside from our summons to be here, I have not heard anything. I wish there was some way to spare him this. He truly loved Nizam."
Garsiv stopped pacing and focused on Dastan. "How did you know, Dastan? So many things you had to have suddenly seen and understood in such a quick time?" Having asked Dastan that same question many times in the three days since the battle, the shadow that crossed Dastan's face was expected, but no less disconcerting. As was his silence. Garsiv grabbed his upper arm, giving Dastan a slight shake. "Tell me, Dastan. Whatever it is that you know, it is eating at you. We will bear the burden together, as brothers. However you came to know this information, we will understand."
Dastan struggled to find the words that would divert Garsiv's concern and attention. But his response was prevented by the opening of the chamber doors, allowing the exit of Alamut's High Council and their entourage. Through the open doors he could see Tamina accept a goblet of liquid from one of his father's servants. Forcing a deep breath, Dastan moved away from Garsiv and stepped toward the door. As custom dictated, the brothers waited until the receding Alamutians had left before entering. Pushing all thoughts of how things had ended the last time he saw his father, Dastan strode in and turned to face his father.
His father who was wearing the prayer robe of Alamut's Regent. The color draining from his face, Dastan all but yelled, "No! Where did you get that?" Running the last steps to his father, Dastan reached out to pull the clock off. "Could Nizam have gotten to this? You must get it off."
Overcoming their surprise at Dastan's actions, both Tus and Garsiv moved forward toward their father, uncertain of what to do, but trying to help both their father and their brother.
With his eyes wide and confused, Sharaman took in his youngest son's obvious fear and concern, stopping Dastan from removing the clock from his shoulders. "Dastan? The clock is a peace offering from the people of Alamut. I will wear it while I am here, and then return it to them as a sign of good faith."
Tamina appeared beside the king, her eyes blazing in anger and no small amount of suspicion. "We have not harmed your father, Persian. To suggest such an act is a great insult, Prince Dastan."
Breathing as though he'd just run for hours, his head spinning, Dastan forced himself to clear his mind of the past. This was now, not the banquet where his father had died believing Dastan had betrayed him. Nizam had been stopped before he could poison the robe. He was jumping at shadows. Stepping back and rubbing his hand over his eyes, Dastan struggled to find the words to explain his bizarre and, at least to Persia's relationship with Alamut, dangerous behavior.
Tus's voice grabbed his attention before he could formulate his response. "Father, as I told you, Dastan has recently developed an …uncanny ability to see threats stemming from our Uncle. His concern has not been misplaced yet. Perhaps we should again heed his advice, troubled though it might seem."
As Tamina rose to her full height, preparing to flay Tus with her considerable tongue, Dastan intervened. "No. Tamina is correct. The people of Alamut are no threat to you, Father. It is truly a gift from them. Nizam had no time to poison it." The last came out as whisper, told more to himself than to his family and the Princess.
"Princess Tamina, I apologize for any insult I may have given to your people. I know that no threat to my family stems from you or your people. It was only concern for my father that prompted my behavior." Dastan looked at her, expecting to find anger and insult in her eyes. Instead he found fearful suspicion. He had once again managed to arouse her suspicions about how he could predict threats to his family.
Sharaman watched his son with a careful eye. Dastan's color had not yet returned, leaving him pale and worn, his eyes constantly flicking back towards the robe, as though in spite of his words, he couldn't quite bring himself to trust the garment around his father's shoulders. "My brother's betrayal has left this family shaken. Brotherhood was once the sword that kept Persia strong."
"And it will be again, Father," Dastan interrupted. "If there is nothing else I know, it is that the bond between the three of us,will not fail." As he finished speaking, both Tus and Garsiv stepped to his sides, the same beseeching look in Dastan's eyes echoed in theirs. "Brotherhood is still the sword that keeps Persia strong. Without my brothers, Nizam's treachery would not have been stopped."
Pulling Dastan into a hug, which the Prince returned with more force that the King had anticipated, he spoke quietly in his son's ear. "You are king in spirit, Dastan. You follow what you know to be right, even when it flies in the face of those around you. That is what makes you the Lion of Persia. Scaling walls and opening gates are important to Persia in battle, but you have the heart that to direct that battle to the right place."
"But I should have the battle before it happened. I knew something was wrong, and I didn't stop it."
The weight the king saw in Dastans's eyes was far heavier than he would have expected had the mistaken attack been the only cause. Well aware that Dastan took his every word to heart, the King was reminded of his oldest son's words during their audience earlier, that Dastan seemed weighted by this new knowledge he had found. "Yes, you should have," he said, but pulled Dastan's eyes back to him before they could look away in guilt, "but once you realized the extent of the mistake, you did everything in your power to right that wrong. And that shows honor and strength as well."
Stepping back from his son, King Sharaman addressed all three of his sons. "Perhaps the time to inform me of Dastan's upcoming marriage is not now. I think it much more imperative that we learn from Dastan the full nature of Nizam's betrayal, so that we avoid any more surprises and accidental insults to the people of Alamut." He turned to address Tamina, "Forgive me for keeping you here unnecessarily, Princess Tamina. Will you give us this time?"
Tamina hesitated a moment before answering. Her eyes locked on Dastan's. All of her dealings with Dastan had led her to believe that he knew at least the basic details of the dagger. After watching him come apart over a prayer robe, she had the distinctly uneasy feeling that he knew much more than a few repeated seconds could give. And if he were to tell his family…
"Please, Father. Allow the princess to stay." Seeing Tamina pale at his words, he extended a hand to her, sending her an imploring look. "They have a right to know. As do you, Princess. They will bring no harm to your city or what it protects, Princess. I give you my word."
"Your word as the Persian who attacked my city and insulted my people?" Her eyebrow raised, echoing her cold voice.
Dastan gave her determined smile. "My word as one who knows just the dagger is capable of doing, and who does not wish to see that path taken again."
Struggling to keep unease off her face, Tamina placed her hand in his and allowed him to lead her to the cushions surrounding his father's temporary thrown, her eyes boring into his.
"Dastan, she may be your intended, but you've only known her a matter of days. Must she listen as our family secrets are revealed?" Sharaman asked as delicately as a king could.
"In this matter, Father, our secrets are hers as well."
Eyebrows raised and skepticism clear on his face, Garsive asked, "That isn't possible, Dastan. How could she be involved? We watched you make a fool of yourself when you met her the first time."
With a tight smile, Dastan replied. "Tamina and I have a history of awkward dealings. At least in the beginning." Before his family could begin to think Tamina was in any way involved with their uncle, Dastan raised his hands to silence their questions . "Please, allow me to explain. I know this will seem like madness, but hear me out. What I tell you is what I have witnessed with my own eyes …"
Averting his eyes, to avoid looking any of them in the eye, Dastan told his story, sparing no detail he could recall, no matter how small it seemed. The robe, who at first he suspected, the ostriches, each time that he and Tamina tried to steal the dagger away from each other. All of it was laid before them, as coherently as he could manage. The only details he left out were kissing Tamina and her words about wishing they could have been together. He had no wish to confuse this Tamina with the emotions of her other self.
When he finished the room stayed still and silent for several long moments. King Sharaman closed his eyes and swallowed loudly. "How long he must have been planning this. Hiding from all of us."
"I am sorry to have to be the one to tell you, Father. But the Hassansins are still a threat, and I cannot say how many more layers uncle had put into place. I only know the ones that I encountered in that other time."
At his son's apology, Sharaman waved it away. "You have acted to protect your family and the empire, Dastan. You have no reason to feel guilt for that. And we will have to comb through every detail of my brother's life. His treachery cannot be allowed to stand."
Tamina sat silently as the king and his sons began to discuss the details of their investigation. Her eyes watched each of the men in turn. They had believed Dastan, taking in the details of the dagger with only the slightest shock and disbelief. And now they showed no sign of running to gain the dagger's power for their own, only the deep hurt of betrayal by family.
But Dastan's words about the Hassansin who bore the marks of the Guardians clawed at her. They were no longer pure, their power given to the highest and most dangerous of bidder. And though Nizam was dead, the dagger wasn't safe. Not if the Hassansin chose to use their dagger for their own gain.
As the king and his sons moved to pour over the maps of the empire, Tamina stood and slipped quietly outside. The Gardians had to be informed, and the dagger protected from any remaining threats. Moving quickly, before anyone noticed she was gone, she approached Zhila, one of her closest Guardian attendants. "We will leave within the hour. We will take the dagger to the secret Guardian Temple. Prepare the horses, and prepare to travel inconspicuously."
Focused on helping his father and brothers located each of the stops he had made on the journey to stop Nizam, and all but overwhelmed that both believed him and forgave him for his doubts over Tus, it took more than an hour before Dastan realized Tamina had slipped away. And for a brief moment, he assumed she had gone to warn her Guardians. That lasted roughly a second before he started for the high temple, knowing what he would find. Moving as quickly as they could without attracting unwanted attention, Dastan lead his family to the temple, only to find it filled with a praying Guardian. The pedestal that held the dagger was empty.
Cursing himself for not anticipating her move to protect the dagger, Dastan swore. He'd told her the Hassansins knew of the secret temple. That left her only one reason to go there. Destroying the dagger would eliminate its threat from everyone. And while he had no problem destroying that cursed thing, he was not willing to do so at the cost of Tamina's life. He wasn't willing last time, and sure has hell wasn't willing to this time.
"This makes how many times has she run from you, Dastan? Five,six?" Garsiv asked, surprised and annoyed by the Princess's actions.
With a glare at his brother he turned to their father. "I have to stop her. I'm not losing her again."
Directing his gaze to the praying, but no doubt attentive Guardian in the temple, Sharaman moved his sons out into the hall way. "Yes, Dastan, you must stop her. If she dies so soon after the invasion, there will be significant political fallout." Seeing the flash of temper in his son's eyes, the king continued. "That will be my reasoning should the Council of Alamut question why I am sending two of my sons to follow and protect their unwed princess. You and Garsiv shall go after Princess Tamina, make sure the dagger is safe, and convince her that she must return. I have no doubt you will do any less, Dastan; I can see how you look at her. If you are questioned as to why you are leaving, you are on a journey to Avrat to deal with more of your uncle's schemes.
"Tus, take half of your army and return Nasaf. No doubt three days is enough time for his servants to destroy any damning evidence, but see what you can find there. Hopefully we will find enough to root out whatever surprises he has left for us before the traps are sprung. I will remain here, under the guise of learning the holy ways of Alamut, and make it appear the princess is still here. We must protect the dagger and Alamut, as well as Persia. I know you will do no less. Be quick and be safe my sons."
Is it at all interesting?