A/N: Wow, it has been a long time since I updated. I apologize, but my inspiration has been lacking lately. This next chapter is a bit short, but I hope you all enjoy it nonetheless.

Destiny

A Prince of Persia Fanfiction

012 Tamina

The foggy scenery of my jumbled dreams were lifted away with the gentle shaking of my shoulders. My blurred vision fastened onto Dastan's attractive face as disorientation began ebbing away.

"I'm sorry for waking you, but we must be on our way," his voice floated to my ears. I stretched and felt the aches in my muscles contract and then expand. Blinking the last remnants of sleep from my drowsy eyes, I exited the cave after Dastan and squinted into the bright morning light.

"Where are we going next?" I asked and looked off into the trees where the sun's rays sprinkled dappled shadows on the sporadic greenery that littered the ground.

"I have been thinking about what you explained of the Princess and how she gave the dagger into your care," Dastan contemplated, pulling on his bedraggled shirt. Lifting my eyes toward him, I listened as he elaborated. "Why would she be so adamant for the dagger to be taken away from Alumut? Why not just shield it within the city? Why take such measures and lengths to conceal something that can be easily hidden?"

Dastan's voice gradually increased with wonder as he continued with his theory of events.

"Now that I have witnessed the power of this blade, I can understand why the Princess wanted it to be kept safe. With its' ability to turn back time, anyone can use it to alter a specific moment to the liking of the bearer and nobody would ever know. The authority of such a person can even topple a King!" his words gushed out with surprising logic.

He looked at me with apparent wonder; his blue eyes glittered underneath his lashes. Marveling with a newfound discovery, he pressed on excitedly.

"Our siege upon the city of Alumut was not about supplying weapons, it was about this dagger!" Dastan reasoned in a rush. "Tus gave me that robe before the banquet to give to Father as a traditional gift. He did this! He murdered Father for the possession of this dagger."

"But why? Why would he kill your father?" I wondered, confused.

"With Father out of the way, Tus can wield the immense power of the blade to his hearts' content. As King and with the dagger in his hold, he can control the world for himself!" Dastan lowered his gaze to the golden sand underneath our feet. The enthusiasm that just moments ago beamed in his eager eyes dimmed and gloom crawled into his handsome face like a shadow that clung to the dark corners of grief.

"I was too late to save him," he muttered and grew silent. I reached out and traced my fingers against the side of his face.

"You cannot blame yourself," I comforted. He stretched his own hand to encase them over mine. I quivered at his touch, relishing the sentiment that it created in my heart. Dastan searched my face, staring into my eyes as if seeking to find something there. After several moments of inquisitive probing, a small smile appeared at the corners of his luscious lips. He drew away and began securing the fastenings on our trusty horse.

"When I used the dagger, it released sand," he said and patted the horses' flank. "Yesterday, I used up all the sand in our flight. This morning, I tried filling it up with regular sand, but it did not work. The dagger must require a special kind of sand for it to function."

Dastan peered over his shoulder at me and frowned. He bit his lip in frustration and shifted his glare from my face to the surrounding trees that lined the sparse craggy oasis.

"I need to get to Avrat. My father's funeral would be held there," Dastan pondered. "My uncle, Nizam, would know what to do." He beckoned with his hand. "Come, we should go." I took his hand and climbed atop the horse with difficulty. Adjusting the reins, he shifted in the saddle and coaxed the steed forward. I wrapped my arms around his waist and murmured with concern as we trotted through the underbrush.

"If anyone should recognize you there, they'll take you captive."

"They can certainly try, but this is the only way to prove my innocence," he replied. I clung onto his back, enjoying the jostling of the momentum of the horses' stride. The wind on my face felt tremendously good as the sun climbed higher into the scorching sky.

"There is a faster way to approach Avrat. We will have to go through the Valley of the Slaves," Dastan revealed. "It is dangerous country, nothing but vicious savages and bloodthirsty mongrels at every turn." I stiffened slightly, uncomfortable at the thought. He must have felt my taut body and chuckled softly.

"Relax. I will be there to fight them off with my charming good looks and witty comments."

I smiled at his humor and felt him pat my leg affectionately.

"I hope you have better things up your sleeve than that," I joked.

"If all else fails, there are the swords," Dastan mentioned at the scabbards that protruded from the sides of the saddle. My smile widened and I teased.

"Oh, those. And here I thought those were only for show."

His laughter echoed in the silent air, a musical sound that filled my chest with joy. Dastan regarded me over his shoulder with mischievous eyes.

"Listen, you. Carry on with this banter, and you're walking."

Now it was my turn to giggle. I rested my head on his back and felt warmth seep into me. The solidity of his body soothed and satisfied me as we continued through the immense desert. Princess Aara's instructions floated back into my mind. You must take the dagger to the ancient guardian sanctuary in the Hindu Kush. Seek out a woman named Tamina in the Valley of the Slaves. The last ember of life that flickered in her eyes flashed across my vision like a dying light that was unexpectedly snuffed out. I pushed the sad images away and tightened my embrace around Dastan's waist.

The scorching rays of the sun beat down on us as we approached the Valley of the Slaves. As we continued through the desolate terrain, a palpable lull of sinister silence permeated the mysterious dunes. The whisper of death echoed in the meager wind, revealing protruding pale bones and fragments of discarded and torn clothing that stuck up from the sand like markers of ancient graves. The farther into the valley we rode, the more the landscape began to change. The soft supple sand hardened into broken, rock-bound stone. Debris littered the rugged and scabrous ground in patches that consisted of aged tree trunks and slabs of sandstone that were once the structures of abandoned huts. Cracked low walls jutted out from the gravel as if standing lonely and lost amidst a crumbling world. The faded path that we rode on was barely visible, cluttered with chunks of rubbish and fragments of deserted ruins.

"What a mess," Dastan muttered, scanning the remains shrewdly with a watchful glare. The sound of chafing erupted loudly, magnified by the stillness. Dastan jerked his head to the right, hunting for the source of the sound. Movement behind a cluster of dilapidated buildings shifted and the neighing of horses burst forth as a dozen riders appeared from everywhere. The thunder of hoofs echoed alongside the yells of worn robed men. Dust collected around us, obscuring the visages of the company that penned us in. Dastan steadied our frightened steed and tugged at the leather restraints. I squinted through the particles of grit trying to discern the faces of the figures. When the fog settled, a large man ushered his horse forward, an amused expression on his weathered features. His garments were tattered in places and the once bright colors were faded and dull. The turban upon his head was dirty and caked with grime.

"Well, look what we have here," he bellowed, his voice impish and slathered with pleasure. "Persians, you know what this valley is? And you enter still?" The man's roguish glare scrutinized Dastan and then examined me with interest. I shrank behind Dastan, panic began to boil within me.

"Lovely girl you have there," the man said and smiled. Gold glinted from several places where teeth used to be. "She will make a nice addition to my flock. Don't you think Tamina?" he suggested airily and gestured to a small figure sitting upon a horse next to him. I was too preoccupied with the man to notice the person beside him until now. Long flowing fabric encased the delicate face, revealing only dark probing eyes. Sitting rigid upon the harness, the slim figure stared at us with veiled curiosity.

"You already have enough serving girls, Sheik Amar," a soft female voice responded.

"Oh, one more won't hurt," Sheik Amar replied, and waved her comment aside. I studied the woman carefully, and then spoke.

"Tamina?"

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