By Jeune Ecrivain
Disclaimer: The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and all related trademarks belong by rightful copyright to the Walt Disney Company. This story was written and published purely for entertainment purposes out of respect for Disney's creation and with no intentions of profit.
Summary: Frustrated by her conflicting feelings surrounding Dastan, Tamina examines the dagger on a whim and accidentally discovers an unknown functionality that makes coping much easier. DASTAMINA
"I hardly think we know each other well enough for that, Princess, but I look forward to the day that we do."
Her lips parted and her gaze sharpened its already steely focus, subtle traces of the wide eyes and slack jaw that might have appeared on her face were it not for the calm and reserved façade she maintained. Giving her that warm, knowing look that simultaneously intrigued and intimidated her, he offered his hand in silent invitation. The acute angle at which she had to bend her arm to rest her own palm on his served as a startling indicator of their proximity. He stroked her knuckles with his thumb, and she barely managed to keep from shivering. From what exactly, she could not tell. All she knew was that the handsome young man before her confused her like no other before.
The first inkling of mystery came with the sentry who reported that the very Persian prince who had breached Alamut's hitherto impenetrable walls had soon thereafter surprised everyone who had followed him and his two older brothers to victory with a shocking revelation. The pretense on which the attack was founded, namely that Alamut had been selling weapons to Persia's enemies, was a treacherous fabrication by the king's own brother as part of an elaborate plan to seize the throne. The traitor had soon proven his own guilt with an impulsive attack on his accuser and, in a final desperate attempt on the life of his youngest nephew, suffered an impromptu execution by the protective blade of his eldest. This tale was shocking enough to all who heard it, but the Persians then surprised the Alamutian sovereign again by marching into her palace not as callous conquerors but as respectful peers seeking to redeem their ill-advised assault and use it as an opportunity not for annexation but for alliance. It was clear that these three princes were not the boorish imperialists the young Princess expected, and she felt confident in accepting their apologies as sincere.
It was when her eyes fell on Prince Dastan, the one whose stealthy tactics had single-handedly made possible the capture of a sacred city-state that had not seen foreign occupation for a full millennium, that Tamina's world was turned upside-down. The warmth and respect in his eyes was a startling contrast to the lust and greed she had seen on the faces of countless men who had looked upon her before. He looked at her as if he knew her in ways that virtually no one else in the room did, including her most trusted advisors.
The oldest of the three princes, Tus, offered the youngest in betrothal to cement the new bond between Persia and Alamut. Dastan's lack of royal blood was yet another oddity, revealed as Tus spoke of his adopted brother's virtues, which peaked the Princess' interest. Although Dastan appeared flustered by Tus' proposal, the satisfaction of seeing him at least somewhat as unnerved as she felt was short lived. The warm gaze remained as he drew her kingdom's most precious artifact from his belt and returned it to her, handling it with utmost care. His eyes gave her the distinctive sense that he was more aware of its awesome significance than she cared to believe. It was as if he knew that the ornate dagger whose protection had been her sworn duty since birth had the power to reverse time and also to unleash an apocalyptic sandstorm if used improperly.
In this moment, there were planted the first seeds of suspicion that his abrupt change of heart was the result of a dramatic experience that he had rewound and erased. It was a disconcerting notion. The implications were dire. This conquering foreigner was privy to her people's deepest secrets. Yet if he did in fact know of its nature, the fact that he chose to simply return it to its rightful place rather than seize the dagger's power for himself was as much another mystery as it was an enormous relief. One might call her a cynic to be suspicious in the face of such nobility, but as the divine talisman's High Guardian, she could not afford the luxury of naïveté. She was torn. Everything she had ever been taught told her to be weary of him, but somehow, she also felt a nagging inclination to trust him. Dastan was either a rare jewel of a man or the most cunning actor she had ever seen, and deciding which interpretation was the truth was proving to be a very unnerving task.
As the days following the Persian invasion passed, the prince continued to confound the good judgment of character she had once exercised with ease. If she were completely honest with herself, his integrity became more and more convincing with every hour she spent with him with only a few slips of the tongue or suspicious glances to counteract it. Still, the very notion that this Persian might know things about the dagger that only the most elite and trusted Alamutians knew begged the question of how he came to possess that knowledge, and Tamina found it difficult to imagine any circumstances under which he learned of its power by any means other than coercion or espionage of some sort. If there was an alternate timeline that Dastan had reversed and subsequently altered to form the current reality, an act which was forbidden even to a Guardian, she could only assume that he and she had become very close in that timeline. It was the only way to explain how much he seemed to care for her. Aside from the tender gazes he seemed to reserve specifically for her, there was also the flicker of pain in his eyes at the formality of their interactions. She saw it, even if he did his best to hide it. This idea, however, led to a very uncomfortable conclusion: that she had been seduced and voluntarily betrayed Alamut's most guarded secret.
Two weeks after the Persians stormed the city, however, Tamina was growing more and more comfortable with the youngest prince. She had long ceased to feel any immediate danger in his presence, and he had even managed to elicit a candid smile from her on a couple occasions. Formal pleasantries gave way to uneasy banter, which in turn became more playful as she grew more accustomed to him. Yet she still could not bring herself to trust him enough to even breach the topic of the dagger. If he, by some small chance, knew nothing of its uniqueness, she did not by any means wish to give him reason for suspicion. She had to be certain, or at least more so than she currently was.
Fate, it seemed, had other plans. One day, he approached her in her private gardens looking more serious than usual. Since her control of her facial expressions and body language around him had eased, he had no trouble interpreting the inquisitive look she gave him. "Forgive me, Princess, but I feel this discourse is long overdue." He paused and pursed his lips. "I should have told you when Tus first proposed our marriage, but I could not bring myself to say it until now."
An unexpected but oppressive fear of rejection arose within Tamina and formed a lump in her throat. Did he not wish to marry her after all? She could only for him to continue, waiting with baited breath.
"Nothing would make me happier than to call you my wife, so believe me, it is not without some measure of self-discipline that I say this, but...I cannot in good conscience force you to marry me if you are doing so purely for political reasons."
She stared at him. Did he take pleasure in perpetually confusing her? "I can assure you, Prince, you could never force me to do anything." She spoke the last bit with a defiant smirk. Since when was she the one trying to lighten the mood? "It is my duty and pleasure to do what is best for Alamut, and I am quite proud to do so."
He smiled at her despite the hint of frustration that colored his tone as he continued. "Your devotion to duty is one of the things I most admire about you, Princess, but duty has no place in affairs of the heart." He interrupted the response that was on the tip of her tongue. "And for me, this is an affair of the heart and not of state. I want it to be so for you as well. There are other ways to ensure our alliance and do what is best for both Persia and Alamut." He sighed at her affronted expression. "I know you can't understand why, but you and your happiness mean alot to me. I earnestly hope that I will eventually win your heart as you have already won mine, but if our wedding day comes and you cannot honestly tell me you care as deeply for me as I do for you, then I feel I must step aside. You deserve a husband whom you can truly cherish and who truly cherishes you."
She searched his face for any hint of insincerity and found none. Confusion turned to awe as she realized the magnitude of what he was saying. "I do not understand! I stand willing to marry you for reasons which almost anyone would deem perfectly sound, and yet you stand here and tell me that those reasons are not enough for you?"
His eyes blazed as he gave her a gentle smirk and spoke what she already knew in the back of her mind. "No, I am saying those reasons are not enough for YOU! Few men will ever appreciate your strength and independence. They will either ignore it or stifle it, and you and I both know you could never be content in such a situation."
"How can you claim to know me so well?" she asked, moist eyes threatening to reveal her inner realization that he was right. "What do you hope to accomplish by showing me far more respect than anyone would even expect of you and giving me a prerogative of which most noblewomen do not even dare to dream?"
The fire in his eyes faded. "I wish I could explain it to you," he said with a sad smile. "Perhaps someday, I will. But for now, Princess, you shall just have to take my word for it." With a playful smirk to end the conversation on a lighter note (or so he thought), he cupped her cheek and pressed a chaste kiss to her forehead before walking away, presumably to resume overseeing the reconstruction of Alamut's fortifications.
Tamina stared at his retreating form. Of all the confusing yet endearing things he had done that were steadily eroding her mistrust, this one took the cake! She came to a desperate decision after a few stunned moments and walked at a brisk gait out of the gardens and through the elegant beige halls of her palace, the smell of incense and jasmine which was ordinarily so comforting in its familiarity now providing little comfort at all. She barely registered the crowd of servants and guards dwindling into nothingness as she made her way to Alamut's most sacred monument: the Temple. She was almost surprised at her destination, but she strode in and headed straight for the chamber that held the dagger. She was not entirely sure what she was doing there. She merely had a feeling that she had to be both near the dagger and alone with her thoughts. The holding chamber, with its elaborate and interlocking copper grating, beckoned to her, and she found herself unlocking the intricate security mechanisms from long-practiced memory. Her intuitive purpose now consciously clear, she reached in, gripped the hilt, and withdrew it reverently. She had no clue what exactly she hoped to accomplish by examining the dagger, but at that moment, it seemed as good an idea as any, since all other coping strategies had failed.
As expected, there was nothing noteworthy to be seen on the ancient talisman. Her nervous brain railed against the ill-advised disruption of the dagger's resting place and asked what the point of it all was, but her heart persuaded her to explore just a bit more. If there was anything at all to be learned here about Dastan's connection to the dagger, she had to know. The hand opposite the one holding the handle rose and stroke the tip of the blade gently. Her eyes then fell on the jewel on the pommel, and she let her trembling thumb brush over it with the levity of a feather. At that instant, the sound of a large stone falling into place outside startled her. For a split second, every muscle in her body tensed...with fatal consequences. The thumb that was caressing the bejeweled pommel acquired just enough tension to press down as the tip simultaneously pierced her skin. Before she could even see the speck of blood that appeared on her finger at the blade's edge, she was overwhelmed by dizziness and a barrage of mental images that progressed far too quickly for her to make any sense of them. Feeling that her grasp on consciousness was tenuous, she forced herself to focus on the present reality long enough to release the dagger before she collapsed on the floor, her world having gone black.
She was found in this unconscious state roughly an hour later by a panicked Guardian who barely had the presence of mind to notice the dagger and place it back into its protective cage before calling for help. He ordered that the event be kept secret until the priesthood could learn as much as possible about what had befallen Alamut's young sovereign. Tamina was born back to her bedchambers, where she remained unresponsive for several hours. The mystery and gravity of the situation weighed heavily upon the three priests who took turns observing her and praying for her recovery. One of Alamut's most beloved rulers and the dagger's only true protector nevertheless lay in a sleeping trance with neither an explanation nor a prognosis to be had. It was a waiting game, one that left the entire priesthood simultaneously scratching and shaking their heads, with some suspecting foul play on the part of the outwardly remorseful Persians.
Finally, the slight facial expressions and occasional mumblings that had been the only signs of life aside from the Princess' steady breathing rapidly grew clearer and more intense. Then, her entire musculature became tense as if poised in a life-or-death struggle. A few gripping moments passed before she rose in an instant with a desperate cry of "Dastan!"
Her eyes wide and her breathing heavy, she turned to find one of her highest-ranking priests staring up at her from her bedside. "Praise the gods, you have awoken! Are you alright, Your Highness? What on earth happened?"
Her breath slowing and her eyes shrinking to their normal size, Tamina paused. In one final onslaught of mental images, her present consciousness merged with that of an alternate self. Now fully alert, she swallowed and turned to face the priest with the serene exterior she had been trained since infancy to project in all but the most intimate of circumstances. "Where is the dagger?" she asked immediately.
"Safe in its place, my Princess," he answered. "You gave us quite a fright, Highness! How are you feeling? Is there anything you need?"
She sighed. "I must have been...momentarily overwhelmed by all that has come to pass. I do apologize, but I am perfectly well now. In fact, I feel quite refreshed."
The tall, curly-haired cleric gave her a look that blended relief and doubt, and his hesitance tested her patience. "Are you certain, my lady?"
She nodded and gave him a small smile of reassurance. "Yes. I am fine. Please convey my apologies for scaring the others and send for Prince Dastan to meet me in the gardens. I...need to discuss wedding plans with him."
A trace of doubt lingering in his eyes, the priest bowed. "As you wish, Your Highness."
No sooner had he exited than Tamina's calm façade melted away. A bewildered chuckle escaped her lips and lingered as a small but genuine smile. Rising from her bed, she then stood with a content yet determined countenance. She would soon need to alert the High Council to the discovery she had made about the dagger's capabilities, but since it was safely locked away once more, she felt secure in postponing the matter for a while. Now, perhaps it was finally her turn to confuse Prince Dastan.
Minutes later she found the Persian prince waiting for her in front of her favorite garden fountain. He stood with his back to her, and the mere sight of him reminded her of how he had won her respect and admiration. All doubts of his sincerity now gone, she could only smile warmly upon him. As he turned and raised an eyebrow in surprise at her expression, that smile morphed into a playful smirk. Was she giving him the same gaze with which he had so perplexed her before? She hoped so.
"Princess, I...I am pleased to see you in such a good mood," he said with a slight stammer.
"I have thought long and hard about your insistence that we form a genuine closeness before marrying, Prince," she began, playfulness dancing in her otherwise cool gaze. "Although your penchant for surprising me remains an irritation, I cannot say I am not grateful for your generosity. I accept your terms on one condition."
He smirked back and cocked his eyebrow. "I was not aware that it was up for negotiation, but go on."
She stepped closer to him and smiled up at him so that their noses were millimeters away from touching. Speaking in a low yet warm voice, she stated her demands. "Never sell me into slavery to an ostrich-racing tax evader ever again."
She might have laughed at his gaping jaw and dinner-plate-sized eyes had she not decided that teasing him was no longer worth the wait. Cupping his face in both her hands, she silently thanked Dastan's instincts for closing his mouth as she leaned in and kissed him tenderly, massaging his upper lip with both of hers as he took the hint and began doing the same to her lower lip. A soft moan escaped as their liplock became more passionate, and Tamina felt grateful that the Persian prince had the good sense to respond now and ask questions later.
Author's Note: Well, this is me trying to get back into the writing groove. I just saw this movie for the first time a few days ago and absolutely loved it, so I thought I would try my hand at a fic! I'm not sure if the idea of the dagger acting like a syringe and the way Tamina accidentally pricks herself is clever or lame, so I'll let you all be the judge. Constructive criticism is welcome, as always.