Author Notes: So here is my first multi-chaptered Prince of Persia fic! I actually began writing this very soon after finishing my other fic, Remains, but only got halfway through this chapter before inspiration left me. But as soon as I got the dvd, I had to come back to this! The relationship between the three brothers is probably my favourite dynamic of the movie, so this fic is me creating what I hope to be a plausible background of growth, friendship and brotherhood. Because there is no way that it would have been easy to start with! Please enjoy!
Heart of Electrum
Chapter 1: Water
King Sharaman was not truly paying attention as they rode through the streets of Nasaf, the current seat of the Persian Court. Normally, he did not begrudge his kingly duty to show himself to the people every so often. In truth, he normally enjoyed it. But he was so anxious to get back to the palace – and yet, equally dreading it – that the splashes of colour, the rich bustle and wafts of spices from Nasaf's markets just completely passed him by.
The source of his preoccupation was, as ever, his two children; the Crown Prince Tus, and his younger brother Garsiv. Of course, he had other sons, other daughters, but they were children of the court, or else, children of the nursery. None of them were children from his first royal wife Taja, who had died giving him Garsiv eleven years ago. The Persian beauty; she who he would have gone so far as to say he had loved, indeed, still loved. Tus and Garsiv were not only the true heirs to his throne, but were the only ones in the public eye, the only ones who carried with them the expectations of the Empire.
The events of earlier that morning were part of an already unsettling pattern. So much, Sharaman dearly wished that Tus and Garsiv would be as close as he had been with Nizam when they were children, indeed, as they still were, but this was not the case. They were too different, neither able to understand the other; Tus too logical, so calm in everything that he faced that it only served to spark the fiery Garsiv off quicker to a flame. The age difference of nearly five years did not help, and it took considerably less each time to touch Garsiv's jealousy, or Tus' tendency to patronise with distain.
The resulting whirlwind that followed was becoming the bane of the servants' lives, and indeed his own. This morning, Sharaman suspected it was Tus who had been at fault, as the altercation had occurred in the stables, and spooked the horses. No doubt his eldest son had been trying to express his 'superior' knowledge of a topic particularly close to Garsiv's heart...
Sharaman restrained the urge he had to sigh and pinch the bridge of his nose. What was a king to do? His sons, whom he loved more than life itself, got on as well as oil and water, and he did not see how this was likely to change anytime soon. Nizam had suggested splitting the boys up, sending them to different courts in the Empire, but Sharaman was loath to follow his advice. If he did so, he would have to keep Tus with him to continue the boy's training, which would only add to what he suspected was the source of Garsiv's problems – that he was no more of a son to Sharaman than any of the other children at court.
A sharp cry of anger jolted Sharaman out of his thoughts, as a small boy ran in the path of the horse one in front of his own. He watched in detachment as one of the guards made for retribution, but then in an instant another child materialised, throwing something, and suddenly both boys were running, pursued by the majority of his royal guard. Nizam brought his horse to stand next to his brother's, "At this rate, we will not be back at the palace until midday!"
Sharaman smiled softly, knowing his brother's distain for these small excursions out to the people. He nodded his head at Sirdar, the head of the royal guard, who was watching in disgust as his men were bested by a monkey of a child as it darted across the rooftops to escape. "What is the delay?"
"A boy attacked a member of your guard, sire, my men are apprehending him now."
Sharaman raised an eyebrow, "And what, pray tell, did he attack your soldier with?"
Sirdar looked around for a moment, before picking up a small object from the dust, placing it in his king's outstretched palm, before taking a step back as his soldiers returned, clearly all the more angered by the bruises they had sustained in the chase. The boy struggled and writhed as he was forced down, and Sirdar's second in command drew his sword to cut off the boy's hand in penance.
All the while, unnoticed by the preoccupied guard or the bored Nizam, Sharaman was turning an apple over in his hand, deep in thought. What kind of child, clearly starved as he was, used his only food as a projectile to save another boy? Another boy who had clearly escaped... He looked up to the child as he fought viciously with a pair of his men, reminding him much of Garsiv when his nursemaids tried to force the boy into a bath.
Thoughts racing, he kicked his horse forwards, watching with an impassive gaze as everyone dropped to their knees. The boy looked confused for a second, as his hand remained intact. Yet, still he did not run, and neither did he kneel. He stood there, calm as you please, looking up to his King. For the second time in such a short moment, Sharaman was struck by a wisp of familiarity. Not just in the way the boy held himself, which was so much like Tus in its stoicism, but also in the child's eyes. They were not the obsidian of Nizam, Garsiv and the other men of the Persian line. They were not even the deep royal sapphire of Tus and Sharaman's father, from whom his first son had gained his namesake.
They were a mirror of crystal water, clear in both colour and gaze. Such a gaze that he had only seen once before on his life – no fear, no regret, just a knowledge that all had been for the best. Later, Sharaman would realise that he had already made his decision, before he had even asked for the child's name, or his parentage. His hand had moved on its own accord as he threw the child back his apple, and indicated that Nizam should take him up onto his horse.
Taja had always teased him that perhaps she was a gift from the gods, such was the frequency of the compliments he always received on her beauty and her ethereal eyes, unique in colour to Persia as they danced with the waters of the world. It had been a bittersweet goodbye when she had turned these words on him again at her death, saying that she had served the gods by giving him his sons and had to leave him.
He had cursed the gods that day, convinced that he would never meet anyone as unique as her again. So while he knew his brother's disapproving gaze to be fixed upon his back, he felt no regret. He knew this boy was something special, to have fallen across their path such as he had; a heart of a prince beating with the blood of a street waif. A child with the eyes of Taja; with the eyes of water and the god who commanded it.
A third son with no eye to his throne, but a true prince of Persia nonetheless.
For the first time in many moons, Garsiv knew that he and his elder brother were in complete agreement. Of course, Tus was too much the perfect son to actually voice his horror; Garsiv did not see the need for such restraint, "No." At times like this, the succinct approach was always best.
"Your father has made his intent perfectly clear, Garsiv, believe me when I assure you that this is happening. Your new brother is with the King now."
"Spare me, Uncle, Parvaiz is more of a brother to me that this creature Father seems to have taken a liking to." Parvaiz was a child of the nursery, a son of a vassal prince brought to grow up in the Persian Court to ensure the loyalty of his father's city. He and Garsiv often butted heads, being of similar ages and equally short tempers.
"Nevertheless, your father's will is clear. The child is to be given chambers in your wing of the palace, and he is to be the responsibility of both of you."
"But the servants-"
"Will have no part in his place here at the palace, the king has ordered it. The boy is yours to look after, teach, and make a prince out of. You father wanted me to emphasize this fact – he is your new brother, in everything but blood."
"Uncle, I do not have time for this. My lessons-" Tus began.
Nizam smirked, "I suggest you make time, young prince. Your father is adamant on the matter. Your actions this morning have angered him to the point of taking this step, and he will not receive you until you have been able to show to him that you are the princes your blood proclaims you to be. This child is to be your way of doing so. I advise you become acclimatised to the prospect as quickly as you are able."
"But-" Garsiv tried to protest further, but the door leading into the room opened, and Dabir, the boys' tutor, entered, with a small child in tow.
Nizam nodded to the tutor, before turning back to the princes, "Tus, Garsiv, this is your new brother, Dastan."
"That's Prince Garsiv."
Dabir smirked at the younger, now middle prince, "Not to Dastan it isn't, young prince. Unless you wish to be so formal as to call your own brother Prince Dastan every time you call his name. I would imagine it would make things rather longwinded, don't you agree, my Lord?"
Nizam smirked in agreement. He might disapprove of his brother's methods and wisdom of bringing this child into the palace, but even he knew that the pair of siblings needed something to give them a shock big enough to sort them out. "Quite. One more thing – until further notice, Tus you will be returning to take your meals in this wing once more. Your father does not feel your place is in the centre of court at the moment, not while you have Dastan to teach."
Tus gaped for a second, before managing to smother his dismay and hurt under a blank mask. Garsiv was not so able to hide a snicker at his brother losing one of his favourite topics of pride.
All the while, Dastan watched the interchange with a coiling sense in the pit of his stomach. So much had happened in such a short space of time. In the flicker of a single morning, he had exchanged his rags for silks; garments that constricted around his body, stiff with newness and unbecoming of an orphan. He was surrounded by grandeur that he could not have hoped to even imagine, even in his dreams, and no sooner than he had finished talking with the King of all men, he was now being faced with his new 'brothers', brothers who were poor at hiding their coldness.
He returned the dark-haired prince's disdainful glower with an impassive resolve that in no way matched how he felt on the inside.
He would not be afraid.
And then the King's brother and the man Dabir took their leave, so that only the three boys remained. They were to be stuck here, together. Garsiv covered his poorly hidden anger with a nasty smirk, "Well, at least it has been given a bath, even if the clothes sit poorly on its skeleton." He turned to Tus, "I'll be eating in my rooms tonight. Enjoy your and Father's new pet project."
Tus watched as his brother stormed away, recognising the same childish desire to sulk swell in his throaty before he rapidly quashed it. He was the responsible one, the eldest, something he had failed to measure to in his father's eyes. So he would at least try. Mustering a formal smile, he dipped his head slightly, "You may address me as just Tus, despite what Garsiv may demand. May I call you Dastan?"
"It is my name...sire."
Tus quirked an eyebrow at the reply; short, formal, and strong of voice. Perhaps the child had more spirit that his small stature might have originally implied. Well, there had to be some reason why Father had adopted the boy, rather than just integrated one of the other children of the court into the royal brothers' lives. "I just told you that my name is Tus. If your memory is that poor, I shudder to think how disastrous your lessons will be. I pity your tutors."
In much the same way as it worked with his younger brother – or perhaps now, he should think, other younger brother – his calmly stated jibes against pride caused the boy to bristle. But unlike Garsiv, he replied in a voice pitched much the same as Tus' own. Clear and precise, "I'll be taught? Taught what?" And apparently, with a good aptitude at changing the subject.
"Everything befitting a Prince of Persia, no doubt. How old are you? Seven?"
There, the boy did snap back sharply, "Ten!" There was a pause, before he continued in a more embarrassed tone, "I think..."
"We'll say ten for now. Come, I will take you to my chambers where we can eat, and by then the servants should have prepared your rooms. Garsiv, as I think you may have realised, will not be joining us."
The rest of the evening was filled with Tus' voice, explaining in the same, dry tone, all he thought Dastan needed to know. Or rather, Dastan knew bitterly, what Tus thought the King wanted him to tell the new Prince. Despite the impressive spread of food in front of him, Dastan had never felt so lacking in the need to eat. Could this boy make him seem like any more of an inconvenience? A burden? A dirty smudge on the bright walls of a world Dastan had no right or desire to exist in?
At least, Dastan supposed that there was one benefit of the uncomfortable atmosphere Tus was oppressing him with. His dulled appetite prevented him from tearing into the food like a wild, crazed creature. He needed a defence in this place if he was to survive, and to do that, he needed to be seen to be as strong as possible. Of course, he was no fool, and Tus was equally too absorbed in his long speeches to notice Dastan putting his light fingers to use on the food.
It was not until the candles and fires had been doused, and Dastan sat alone, curled amongst a mass of plush, exotic cushions, a tiny form drowning on a giant bed, that he allowed the fear to take hold. That suffocating feeling that he could not prevent, faced with a world he could not begin to comprehend. In his heart, he knew he was being ungrateful – selfish even, for those who would never be afforded this chance – but he could not stop himself. He wished to be surrounded by a small huddle of breathing, near-skeleton bodies, knotted together in the corner of some dark rooftop, trying to stave off the growing desert cold. What would Bis be doing now?
Dastan curled further in on himself, hugging his knees tightly, before viciously wiping away the hot tears that had been burning down his face.
No. By whatever divinity, he had been given a second chance. King Sharaman, hailed as the greatest ruler in the world, had chosen him. Here he was, presented with an opportunity to not end up run through with a blade in an alley.
He just needed to stay alive, stay sharp. And stay on the right side of two very powerful princes, who by all accounts, wished Dastan had never been born.
Right. Okay. Easy.
To be Continued...
Author Notes: So what did you think? I would love to hear your feedback!
For clarification, 'children of the court' are children of Sharaman, but to minor royal wives (hey, the guy must have had more than one!) and thus not eligible for the throne. They would likely rise to position in administration or army, but unlike Tus and Garsiv, would probably stay with their mothers in different cities, as opposed to moving with the King every time. 'Children of the nursery' is a term I have borrowed from the Ancient Egyptian Court, wherein vassal states would sent their younger sons to grow up in the ruling court. This would thus ensure the child's loyalty to the ruling empire when they returned home as an adult. It's such a simple, logical process that, while I'm not positive, I believe the Persians would have probably used it as well. Much of my inference in the whole court set up will come from what I know of the Egyptian court, because it would have been similar, and we have far more evidence for what they got up to than the inner working of the Persian courts. But like I said, what I've done if still inference, and this is still just a work of fiction, so don't read in too closely!