Charging through the marble hallways, grim determination set into every line of his body, Garsiv felt a rage like nothing he had ever experienced before surging through him. Their Uncle had taken everything from him, starting first with his littlest brother – who should not have had to go so far before they believed him – then his eldest brother, and now their father. That bastard would damn their entire existence, desecrating everything that had ever called family, just for his own selfish gain.
Nizam would pay.
Spying a large set of double doors down a short corridor to his right, Garsiv moved swiftly toward them, ignoring Dastan's calls behind him. Now was not the time for thinking. Now was the time for revenge.
Nizam would pay with his life.
Pressing his hands to the ornate wooden handles, he pushed the doors wide, sending them swinging on their hinges and slamming against the walls opposite. The noise was more than enough to attract the attention of the man standing in the middle of the room.
The man waited there with a malicious grin on his face, a sword already clutched tightly in his hand.
"Little nephew," the man drawled, spreading his arms wide. "How kind of you to join me." His gaze veered to the side slightly, looking at a point past Garsiv's shoulder. "And you brought the whelp with you … dagger and all. Delivering the very item I seek straight into my arms? Not the wisest move."
Dastan moved to stand at his side, drawing his blades and staring at their Uncle with hatred. "Neither was killing our father. Or our brother."
Shaking his head, Nizam slowly started to step away from them, walking nonchalantly to the side of the room. "Poor Tus. He was always so eager to please your father and I. The foolish boy would have severed his own head if it would greater serve the Empire."
The two Princes stalked forward, side by side, pursuing Nizam as he crossed the room.
"He loved and respected you," Garsiv spat. "And you did nothing but betray him."
"Tus got what he deserved!" Nizam retorted, finally reaching the wall to his right. Leaning casually into an alcove, he softly added, "As will the two of you."
A soft grinding sound began, and the brothers looked around in confusion. Garsiv's eyes then darted back to their Uncle in time to see him slipping through a narrow gap in the wall, one that hadn't been there moments before.
"Dastan, the wall!" He warned, rushing forward even as he heard the mechanism's growl start again, and watched as the door closed before he could even reach it. "Damn it!" Slamming a hand against the smooth marble, he couldn't even see a crease in the wall where the opening might have been. "Nizam!" He yelled out, unsure if their Uncle would be able to hear him.
"He's gone down to the Sandglass chamber."
It was the Princess. Turning around, looking first at his brother then at Tamina, Garsiv managed to nod at her, biting out, "Lead us there," through his gritted teeth.
Her gaze strayed to Dastan for a moment. "But the dagger—"
Shaking his head, he cut her off and said, "We're bringing it with us."
"My people would be able to protect it," Tamina replied, frowning.
"We are not leaving that thing lying around if it's what our Uncle needs to corrupt history. I want it where I can see it." And that was final.
She stayed thankfully silent for a moment, just looking between him and Dastan, before nodding. "It's this way."
"This is a trap," she whispered, descending the stairwell after Dastan, squinting in the flickering light of the lit torch he carried.
"Then it's one we have to fall into, Princess," said Garsiv, pushing past her and stepping behind his brother. "If we have to take the bait for Nizam's head to roll, then so be it."
Shudder at his deadly serious tone, Tamina quietly pointed out, "Neither of you know which way to go." They had both moved in front of her in their haste to reach the Sandglass Chamber and confront their Uncle.
But Garsiv was single-minded, completely focussed on tracking down Nizam; he wasn't in the mood. "It's a staircase, Princess, there's only one way it can go."
Stifling her nervous giggle when they reached the bottom of the enclosed flight of stairs, finding an odd kind of justice in the moment, Tamina moved in front of the two men who had stopped and paused when they entered a large, ancient underground hall. Curved arches towered over them, disappearing into an inky darkness above. They had travelled so far under the surface that the light from their fiery torch didn't even reach the ceiling of this below-ground room.
From the look of surprise on Dastan's face, he hadn't been here during his travels in his time.
"The temple was built directly above the Sandglass, above passageways and structures built by the Guardians to access its chamber," she told them, venturing forward, not needing the soft light of the torch to know where she needed to go. "Most of it has crumbled and fallen over the years, but we try to maintain what is left."
"Enough with the history lessons," Garsiv snapped, urging her forward. "Just show us where Nizam is."
"… I'm closer than you might think …" Came the echoing reply of a voice.
Nizam. She had only seen the man's face once, and the hard set of his jaw and the cold depths of his eyes as he had stared at her from within the Royal Chamber of her family's palace had not endeared him to her. His voice slithered down her spine, making her shudder, and beside her she could hear both Persians gripping the hilts of their swords in preparation for an attack.
"The Sandglass chamber is through those doors," she told them, pointing ahead to where they could now see two grand double doors rising before them. "Then just follow the balcony."
Her gaze strayed to where the Dagger of Time sat at Dastan's side, then up to meet his eyes. "This is it." His voice was just a murmur, but in the great hall around them it sounded strangely loud to her ears.
Garsiv drew his sword, a grim determination etched across his face. "You're about to meet your maker, Nizam!"
A sneering laughter filled the hall around them as they pushed the doors open.
The throbbing hum of the Sandglass reached them as soon as they opened those doors, and its iridescent glow warmed the rocky surfaces around them. Drawing his sword, Dastan followed Garsiv as they moved past the Princess, following the crumbling balcony around until the Sandglass itself came into view. It rose before them, towering high above in its case of glass and rock. The sands within churned with an unholy fierceness, seemingly burning from within.
But in the bright glow of the chamber they weren't paying attention to what lay hidden in the gloom of the rocky edge next to them.
From behind the shadow of a protruding rock Nizam stepped forward, his sword swinging down in a wide arc, catching both men by surprise and drawing a shriek from Tamina's lips.
"You're more foolish than I thought," said their Uncle, brandishing a second short sword that he held in his other hand, stepping slowly in a circle around them, carefully retreating back toward the Sandglass. "And you Garsiv? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. This gutter-trash and his Princess have corrupted you."
Garsiv let out a low growl, stalking forward with deadly intent. "You murdered your own family," he spat, ignoring Nizam's words. "Sharaman was your brother!"
Pausing for just a moment, the sneer dropped from Nizam's face as he murmured, "And my curse."
Taking advantage Garsiv lunged forward, but Nizam deflected his attack, following through with another jab to his side with the short sword. Catching Garsiv off guard, Dastan watched as his brother stumbled and fell into the rock face at their right.
"Nizam!" Dastan yelled, darting forward to engage his Uncle. "I looked up to you."
Better matched for his Uncle's two swords as he carried his own twin blades, Dastan easily parried the swift blows dealt to him.
"And for all those years, I had to stay silent when I detested your very existence. I never understood why my brother brought trash into the palace."
Recovered, Garsiv chose that moment to move in, but Nizam was quicker to react than he expected. Blocking his swing, then darting to move out of the way of Dastan's following attack, Nizam rushed back closer toward the Sandglass again. Swords held ready, he watched the two Princes with a wild determination as they each closed in on him, drawing nearer and nearer to the Sandglass itself.
"Just hand over the dagger, Dastan, and we can forget this whole debacle ever happened."
"You'll have to pry it from my dead hands!" He replied, their swords clashing together once more.
A sneer overcame Nizam's face, and he said, "That can be arranged," before slashing forward with the shorter sword.
Not prepared for the attack, Dastan had to react quickly, barely stopping the blade before it bit into the skin of his side. As their swords met, the ringing sound of metal on metal echoing in the air, Dastan felt his shoulder flare in pain and then a cold numbing feeling skated down his skin. Gritting his teeth against the jarring agony, he used all his might to push Nizam away from him, but cursed when the fingers of his left hand could no longer grip the hilt of his sword.
"Dastan?" Garsiv's voice was tinged with alarm, but he had eyes only for his Uncle, who swivelled to attack once more.
Tamina, forgotten until then, rushed forward to see to him. "Your shoulder …" she whispered, lightly touching the bandage they had wrapped his arm in just that morning.
Letting out a strained laugh, he asked her, "Is that concern I hear?"
Her expression softened as she met his eyes. "Caution. If anything happens to you, I'll be left with Garsiv."
The reminder of another time, of similar words and similar situations, raced through his mind, but before he could reply the Princess' gaze skittered to the side and her eyes widened.
"Dastan, the Sandglass!"
Looking up, he finally saw what she saw, what the Priestess and the Hassansins had warned them of. A single jagged line tore through the glass, small cobweb-like splinters shooting off from that one fault.
The Sandglass had started to crack, but the sands were still contained - for the moment.
Tearing his gaze away from it he looked over at the circling duo in front of them. Swords clashed, metal against metal, parted, circled, clashed again. Dastan stood watching, holding one blade tightly in his right hand, the other hanging limply at his side. "Garsiv!" He called when there was an opening. His brother looked up, and Dastan gripped one of the blades then flung it through the air toward him.
Garsiv deftly caught the blade, turning on Nizam with a vicious smile. "Now we're on an even playing field."
"Come on," Dastan said, taking Tamina's hand and hurrying across the make-shift rock bridge to the Sandglass.
"If you're going to do something, Dastan," Garsiv called after them, pressing Nizam back and away, stopping him from advancing toward the couple. "Make it quick!"
"Do something?" He asked, looking up and up and up at the glass container that now burned beside him. "Tamina." Looking down again, meeting her eyes as he clutched at his shoulder with one hand, he pleaded, "Do something."
It seemed that she'd been entertaining the same thoughts. But what to do? Even now as they stood there staring helplessly at first the warring men locked in battle, then at the powerful bulk of treasured sand next to them, they could hear the chilling crack of glass splitting open. The longer they stood there, waiting, the more the rip in the glass stretched.
"You said ..." Taking a deep breath, Tamina cast one fearful last look at Garsiv and Nizam, locked in their vicious battle of swords, before training her gaze onto Dastan's features. "You said that the Sandglass only cracked, that with the short amount of time you turned back it didn't shatter completely."
Dastan stared down at her, unsure what she meant at first, almost dreading what she could be thinking. "It didn't shatter. I don't know how close it came to doing so, but it didn't. But Tamina …" Looking above them at how brittle the glass was, the Prince didn't know if the Sandglass could withstand even a moment of the dagger's power.
"Too many people have died," she whispered, her voice barely audible above the growl of the Sands and the clash of swords. "You've lost too much, and I … there is no way to stop the Armageddon that is sure to come when the glass shatters completely."
The pain from the loss of his eldest brother and his father returned at her words, and even if they were to overcome Nizam and overthrow him they would still be facing the inevitable wrath of the Gods once the sands broke free of the divine seal that could no longer contain them.
"Tamina," he murmured, shaking his head. "We—"
"You could go back," she whispered, moving closer to him, placing a hand softly on his arm, over where his own hand clutched at the aching wound. "We could erase this time, start again."
"I don't want to turn this back, not again," he said over the threatening hum of the Sandglass towering above them. "I don't want to lose you, Tamina, I don't want you to forget." He couldn't bear the thought of living through the pain of her lack of memory again. "I'm not letting you go."
A sad smile graced her lips, despite the danger they were in, and the Princess stepped forward, her hand sliding up his arm until it rested against his cheek. "Then take me with you," she told him, staring up into his eyes. "As a Guardian I have trained my mind to hear Destiny's call, to be open to the Gods' messages. Let me pierce the Sandglass, Dastan. Let me go with you."
The dreams ... "But what will happen next time? How many weeks do we have to spend running around the world trying to protect it from my Uncle? How many more times must I go through with this?"
"Trust me Dastan," she whispered, rubbing her thumb against his rough cheek, looking up at him with hope.
It was the last that made him decide, a last flicker of emotion that made him give in and relinquish his fears. Dropping his hand to tug the dagger from its resting place, he held it out to her; a wordless agreement. Smiling, giving way to the tears that she had held on to, Tamina took the dagger from his grasp, raised it high, and slid it home.
Lifting one hand to cover hers, the other wrapping around her frame and dragging her close, Dastan leaned in and pressed his lips to hers, just as he flipped the jewelled seal of the dagger.
The first loud crack! sounded through the air, and the Sandglass slowly ripped apart above them, its surface already beginning the playback of their lives together over the last few weeks. Flashes of Garsiv's face, of the Hassansins, of hot deserts and terrifying moments of pain blazed across the face of the glass, and the two of them looked up to watch the display.
Not far away, Garsiv and Nizam broke apart, their Uncle staring at them in horror. "No!"
"Goodbye," Tamina whispered as the Sands spilled from the dagger's hilt, sending its powerful contents ricocheting around the chamber.
Author's Note: Oh god, I didn't want this to end! I hope you enjoyed Dastan and Tamina's journey as they thwarted his Uncle a second time around. Since before the start of writing this piece, I toyed with the idea of leaving Dastan in a time loop, forever destined to fight his Uncle and help Tamina save the world from her Gods, but wasn't sure if I actually liked the idea. However, with how the story progressed, this ending appealed to me more and more.
But just like how I felt when the movie ended, I really dislike leaving things as they are - and because of that, I'm outlining a story for a sequel! Keep an eye out for "Return" ;) This next story will contain a lot of elements that I wrote into "Destiny", but will follow a bit of a different storyline than what I originally intended for D.
Thank you to everyone who read this story, and thank you very much for all your comments, reviews, PMs, suggestions, and kind words along the way. Special thanks to the select few who were sweet enough to leave comments for me after every update. Without you guys I wouldn't have been able to continue as I have :)