Author Notes: This has to have been one of my favourite stories to write, and this chapter is for all you guys, especially those Bis-lovers out there. I can't thank you all enough for the unbelievable response you've given this story, and hope you like this final instalment! After this, I have 2 more Prince of Persia oneshots in the works, but as I'm disappearing out of the country for a couple of weeks, I may or may not be able to post them before I go. But keep your eyes peeled :D
Chapter 7: Sun
"Done." Dastan grinned and twisted his knife into the pomegranate's leathery skin as Bis watched with interest.
"You won't do it." Bis folded his arms as he leant against the roughly hewn post.
"That's why you wouldn't bet me ten? If you were so certain?"
"Betting too highly is bad for you." Bis smirked.
"Betting too highly against me is bad for your pocket, you mean." Dastan snorted, biting into the sticky, half bitter, half sweet fruit, rolling the fleshy seeds in his month against his teeth.
Bis winced slightly, running a hand through his hair, "He's going to murder you."
"That relies on him being able to catch me." Dastan replied around the seeds, before-
"Dastan!" Garsiv whirled around, catching half of the seed-barrage in his face as opposed to the back of his head, "Dastan! I'm going to kill you!"
Dastan grinned at Bis, "See you later!" And then he was gone, his voice floating back as Garsiv shot past Bis, "You owe me seven coins!"
"I'll deal with you once I've finished with him!" Garsiv yelled at Bis, who grinned at the empty threat and held his hands up innocently.
Tus, who had been brushing down his own horse after their ride around the hills that surrounded Aspanbar, laughed as he began to lead their horses to the stables with Bis' help. It had been over three years now, since the events that had surrounded Dastan becoming their brother, and this was their third annual visit to the city of Aspanbar with their father. Dastan appreciated the visits, and the other brothers had found that they liked Bis' company as well. Garsiv had been sceptical at first, but it had soon turned out that the three younger boys had gotten along well, in their own, unidentifiable way. Bis had changed a lot from the scared but stubborn boy Tus had met briefly all that time ago. He was now a young trainee soldier of the Persian ranks, and a highly gifted one at that. Garsiv was always quick to point out how Bis' skills on a horse never failed to exceed Dastan's. "I would warn you against letting Dastan bait poor Garsiv like that, but I fear it would be a futile conversation."
"I keep him out of trouble when I can, Prince Tus, but, well, this is Dastan we're talking about." Bis grinned amicably.
"And truer words could not be said." Tus hopped up to sit onto one of the stalls. He sighed, "I'll miss this."
Bis snorted, swiping his hair out of his eyes, "Aspanbar isn't exactly known for its exotic spices and colours, more its sweaty men and horses."
Tus smiled sadly. Bis had a similar quick tongue to that of Dastan, and an ability to skirt around a hard topic with tact, "Oh, I don't know. Surely you are used to it by now?"
There was a crash on the stable roof, and much shouting about spooking horses versus evil beasts. Bis raised an amused eyebrow at Tus, "Truly? I love it here. Time passes fast here. I hear the same of the barracks at Avrat, though they are supposed to be smaller."
"Yes, they do say that." Tus replied softly. Unlike his brothers, he was due to ride to Avrat with Nizam within the week. Not a few days past, he had turned nineteen, and King Sharaman had decided that it was time for his eldest son to take on more responsibilities. Part of this was his scheduled training at the royal barracks at Avrat, a city that, while a prominent fixture of the Empire, was not a place the boys had frequented much as children. Tus may have been a man for more than a year now, but it was Sharaman's opinion that time as an individual from his brothers would be good for him.
Bis could see the reasoning, but knew that both Dastan and Garsiv were nervous about the idea. And then Tus grinned, brushing away all seriousness, "Right. You catch Dastan. I'll go and make sure Garsiv hasn't broken his nose again chasing him."
Bis grinned, before shooting off. Tus shook his head in amusement at the boy's speed; the only person alive who actually had a chance beating Dastan at his monkey-like game. Bis would be good for Dastan when he completed his training, and might actually prevent Garsiv from killing their little brother, as he had the sense to balance whose side he took between the two brothers. Unlike Dastan, Bis actually bothered to take note of when Garsiv was in a bad mood.
Steeling himself, Tus walked outside, almost to be smacked straight into by a very sticky Garsiv, the heat of the sun having hardened the red juice into an odd pinkish sheen on his skin – Dastan had apparently abandoned the seeds in favour of the whole fruit. Quickly, Tus managed to catch hold of his brother, "Is this entirely necessary? We have an audience with Father within the hour."
Garsiv, for a moment, stopped trying to pull away, turning to his older brother with a completely straight face, "Of course. I didn't think." A pause, and Tus knew he shouldn't have loosened his grip, "Tell Father that he should be expecting two sons and a corpse, will you?" And then Garsiv was gone, his taller build allowing him to get the slip on his brother.
"What was that?" Tus looked up to see Dastan balancing on a ledge that by right was far too thin for a bird, let alone a growing boy.
Tus shrugged with a grin, yelling back up to Dastan, "I did my brotherly duty. I tried. He's your problem now. Do try not to be late for Father."
"Traitor!" Dastan voice floated as he made a spectacular leap, catching onto a canopy and looping himself up into a roof to join the waiting Bis.
This would only end badly.
How Dastan could flit so effortlessly from a boy capable of scaling rooftops to waiting outside ornate doors in fine clothes, it would always mystify Tus. "Where's Garsiv?"
"No idea." Dastan grinned, leaning against a column. And then his eyes caught something in the corridor behind Tus, and he was forced to turn away, covering his mouth up with his hand to try and prevent his sniggering from escaping.
Tus frowned, and turned to see his other brother, "Oh dear..." Garsiv had a look on his face that could freeze the ocean, made entirely less threatening by his dark hair, even darker than usual thanks to the water that dripped down from the long loose strands onto the floor.
"Please move aside, Tus, I'm going to decapitate our brother." Garsiv said with deceptive mildness.
Dastan seemed more worried about getting his breath back from laughing, "You look nice, brother."
Garsiv glowered. Dastan never missed an opportunity to mock his hair, which was now making light work of making his robes nice and sodden, "Well, it was either this, or turn up in front of Father looking like I had gotten into a fight with a fruit stall and lost."
"Not an unlikely story." Dastan shrugged concedingly.
"Alright, that's enough!" Tus caught Garsiv before he could once again launch himself at Dastan. "You are lucky it is so warm today; you'll dry quicker. Now turn around."
Begrudgingly, Garsiv did as Tus bade him, waiting as his older brother made light work of knotting his wayward hair into a tight braid down his back, squeezing out some of the water as he went. Without really looking, Tus then proceeded to reach behind him, grabbing Dastan by the wrist and pulling him forward, gesturing to his brother, who rolled his eyes as he unwound some thin leather strapping from his wrist. In no time at all, Tus was done, and both his brothers were not only void of bruises and blood, but also looked mildly presentable, "Thank you." Garsiv muttered.
Tus quirked an eyebrow, "I know, what would you two do without me? I know the servants are scared – you'll have to start coming to them for things like this once I'm in Avrat."
"I'm quite capable to braiding my own hair, brother."
"-But not when your hands are trying to strangle Dastan on their own accord, I know." Tus smirked, and Garsiv found himself returning the grin.
And then the doors were opened, servants pulling back the heavy wood to reveal the great hall of Aspanbar's citadel. To the brother's surprise and delight, there was only a mild entourage present in the room. It was another benefit of the army-focussed city. The men who lived there were practical, not overly obsessed with court life. "My sons!" Sharaman rose from his seat, Nizam standing a little way behind his brother. The bright afternoon sun played through the coloured drapes of the rooms, casting their father's crown in warm tints of red and purple. The room was cool and comfortable, and the family soon found themselves seated, laughing, drinking – although Tus was careful to watch how much wine Garsiv was slipping Dastan; the boy always had a bad reaction, and Garsiv knew it.
It was nice, and rare. And too soon, as Sharaman and Tus were all too aware of, it would become all the more infrequent. The sun was rising on a new age of Persia, as its newest sons began to venture out of their childhoods. Things could never stay the same.
Bis only just ducked in time, "I swear to the heavens, if you do not take that bow off him right now, he is going to kill half of Aspanbar!"
Garsiv complied as Dastan protested, "Oh, come on Bis! I'm not that bad!"
"Dastan, if it were possible to kill yourself with a blunt arrow in your hand and no bow, you would find a way of doing so." Garsiv sighed, "You are hopeless."
"Just because Bis can hit the target!" Dastan protested, "He's making me look bad, that's all. And you have high standards. People shouldn't be able to shoot a bow while riding a horse."
Bis raised an eyebrow, "The actual image of you going anywhere near a horse armed with a bow is actually terrifying to me."
"You're telling me." Garsiv shuddered, before gesturing behind him, "Go, sit, or do a handstand or something. You and projectiles don't mix. We should have learnt this last summer when Tus was foolhardy enough to give you a spear."
"Ha ha." Dastan bit back sarcastically.
"He will be fine, brother." Nizam walked up to join his brother on the balcony overlooking the courtyard, and the whole of Aspanbar. The city was cast in a brilliant orange glow, lit as it was by the rising of the day's new sun. Today was the day Tus left for Avrat to begin his advanced training.
"I know; it is just in my nature to worry." Sharaman smiled as he cast his eyes below them, where his three sons were laughing about something while helping to prepare the horses for the journey. Garsiv never had gotten into the habit of trusting the care of the royal charges to anyone but himself or Rostam. "This will be a test for them."
"As is life." Nizam nodded, "But perhaps the time apart will do them good."
Sharaman laughed, "And before Dastan, I might have agreed with you brother, but now I am of the mind to believe that it will make no difference at all to them. Did it for us?"
"The boy is not blood as we were-"
"And your argument to that end is growing tired. They do not need blood to connect them; they have something far stronger. They owe each other their lives, and know what it would be like to exist without the others. It will serve them well."
"They are still children." Nizam sighed at his brother's fantasy ideas.
Sharaman shook his head at Nizam, watching fondly as Garsiv and Dastan said goodbye to Tus in their own unique way, unaware that they were being watched by their father; Dastan, with a tight embrace, Garsiv, with a tight grasping of arms. And then, as was oft to happen, it ended inevitably with the two younger boys somehow tripping each other up, resulting in a scuffle that Tus was then forced to pull apart between laughs.
His sons, the future of Persia, standing tall with the rising of the sun. Sharaman smiled, having achieved his piece of mind. He turned to Nizam, "Have a safe journey, brother."
And before the sun had even fully claimed its place in the morning sky, two generations of royal brothers found themselves separated by an ever increasing stretch of sand.
The older pair thought nothing of it, too used to the habit, too sure of the place of their brotherhood in the scheme of the world.
The younger set felt it strongly, but understood the worth of the bond all the more for it, a perfectly balanced triad, woven into the very fabric of their lives.
And for the sake of the sun and the stars, for the dark of the moon and all the world that it touched, it had to be hoped that this, this would be enough.
Author Notes: I don't know how this happened, but I'm actually DONE! :D All I can say is that I have enjoyed it immensely, and hope that you have too! Please let me know of any closing thoughts you might have, and thank you!
I would also like to thank my wonderful beta Chemical Nova for all her support (with equal opportunity bribes and threats). I leave you with her wise words, which I feel embody the drive behind this fic:
"The bond between brothers is the fluff that holds together our fandom"