Yes, I know this is late but I'm currently going through the biggest Writer's/Artist's block ever in the history of my life. I haven't written or drawn much of anything in nearly six months.

So, I hope this chapter will be good enough for you guys.

More of the city of Samira coming at you!

Please read, enjoy, and review! (I love me some reviews!)


(Disclaimer: I do NOT own Prince of Persia or their characters. Only Daria, Sama, and any new characters that show up are mine. The Aeon bracelet belongs to me, Blue Rowan, and her sister. The storyline also belongs to me.)

*Chapter 20*

The wind blows against our dumbfounded expressions.

"You guys see this too…right?"

"Uh-huh." They all answer me, jaws slack in surprise as we all stare at the sight folding out before us across the valley.

I can't really explain what it is I'm looking at exactly. The city is bigger than any I've ever been too; even bigger than Tamina's city.

"So it's not just an illusion then."

"Uh-huh." They answer me again.

Like old forgotten ruins, the city spans out across the wide valley for miles, stone arch ways and tall towers that spill water from the tops scatter through the streets. A tall, castle-like structure rises in the center as the other buildings around it rise up around it like stairs that lower as they reach to the edge of the city. A great stone wall that crumbles in a few places guards the outskirts, but from what I can see, there are no guards or archers along it anywhere.

"Woooooow." We all draw out again.

Next to us, with her hands folded neatly in front of her, Ayani smiles warmly at us as we stare. "Are you ready to head down?"

Turning to her, we all nod eagerly. All except the Hassassin. He still remains drawn into himself; stiff and silent as he holds the reins of two horses. The rest of the horses are already walking leisurely away down the grassy hill, lured towards the ruins below mostly like by the promise of fresh food that they haven't had for days. Ayani follows behind them as if she can read their minds.

"Once we have you settled in, you will be given a hot meal and a festival to welcome you."

"A festival?" Sama exclaims.

"You don't have to go through all that trouble…" I try to start, but Sama and Kas both drive death glares in my direction and I drop the sentence before I can finish it.

"Only if we stay." The Hassassin corrects all of us.

I blink. He's right. We haven't decided yet if we're going to or not. Sama and Kas have apparently made their decisions to stay.

"Of course." Ayani chuckles. "The decision is up to you entirely. But if you do decide to stay, we will host a welcome for you and make sure your time here is restful."

I smile at the thought of a warm bed and a good meal. Maybe staying one night wouldn't put us too far behind. If anything, the canyons caused us more lag than anything. I could've gone through them a lot faster on my own, but it's too late to change that now. Sama skips to a stop long enough to take the bag off my shoulders and grabs my wrist impatiently.

"Come on, come on!"

I chuckle lightly. She's like a kid locked in a pastry shop.

As we approach the bottom of the hill, voices rise abruptly inside the walls. The loose hanging doors that barely hang onto the surrounding wall open with loud creaks and moans. Two men push them open and stand against them as a few excited women and children rush out into the grassy field. They surround the group like a herd of horses, first going to welcome Ayani back home and then to turn their attention to us.

"Mistress, who are your friends?" One woman asks.

"You have never brought home such handsome men before." A younger woman smiles flirtingly and bats her thick eyelashes at Kas, Arsalan, and Firuz. The three men smile and nod at them in return.

Sama and I roll our eyes. Men have such big egos.

"Forget those skinny twigs, check out the beautiful flowers she has brought with her." Two men approach and grab our hands, kissing them with open smiles and flirting looks. Sama and I giggle at the same time. I haven't giggled in years!

"Now, now, everyone!" Ayani laughs, waving her hands at them. "Leave them be so they can breathe. Do not bother them."

"Oh, no! They're no bother at all." Sama hurries to assure her and then allows the dark-skinned male to lead her away like a princess.

Ayani turns to me and bows. "I am very sorry about all this. My people are not used to having visitors. Not many people travel up this far anymore since they fear the canyons."

I shake my head. "No, no. It's completely fine. Just make sure they don't give Sama any alcohol because she can't hold it very well."

She smiles and nods. "I will see that it is done. Niron, would you take her bags and help her to the temple? I will make sure the women do not steal away with her other companions."

I glance back to see that all the women have crowded around the three boys cooing and pulling on the edges of their shirts while they giggle. Again, I roll my eyes. They don't do anything to back them off at all; they're enjoying themselves too much. Far behind them, three other women are walking around the Hassassin and asking him questions non-stop, but he doesn't respond to them. He just continues to pull the horses along behind them.

"May I take your bag, princess?" The tall man beside me offers with another breath taking smile.

"Oh, I'm not…" I start to correct him, but his smile is so nice and sweet that I decide against it. "Never mind."

He takes my bag and I allow him to take me by the arm and lead me through their city. Ayani leads the way through tall arches that tower over the streets, though a few are crumbling away with age, colorful awnings and beautiful handmade pots line the streets where houses stand, and fancy, colorfully dressed people of all shapes and sizes greet us with warm smiles and sometimes they pass us a small gift of an apple or flower.

By the time we get to the foot of the massive tower-like temple, I have nearly a dozen pink and white flowers threaded into the bun on the back of my head. I don't mind though, they smell amazing and give me such a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

A permanent smile has plastered to my face that I just don't even bother to get rid of. Niron shows me into the great hall that circles a giant fountain that seems as if it grew from the ground itself, carved into amazing stone shapes that spit out waterfalls in all directions.

"Whoa! This place is nice!" Sama somehow overcomes her intense conversation with the young man she's giggling with to stare wide eyed up at the ceiling. I follow her gaze up to the wooden rafters holding up the roof and my jaw drops. Spiraling sheer fabrics hang all over from the roof and create the illusion of a rainbow circling above you. The sight is beyond anything I've ever seen in my life. I wonder if any of my people had been here to see this before. I don't recall anyone ever talking about this place so I'm not sure.

"The shrine where our High Priestess prays is this way. Go on, shoo!" Ayani waves the girls and both the men out the door and they obey with defeated looks. "Now, please follow me."

She leads us through a tall wooden door, much newer than the ones that had guarded the entrance to the city, and we enter into a long hallway maybe ten feet across that is lined with candles on tall metal torch poles and the floor is polished marble of red and gold. I try to follow the strange patterns that dance in a single line along the floor towards the opposite door, but their swirling designs make me dizzy. Ayani brushes back a pink sheer curtain and motions for us to go through.

At first I'm hesitant to go into a room with no door, mostly because I couldn't knock in any way, but Sama skips in eagerly ahead of me and I have no choice but to follow. The doorway is only wide enough for one person to enter through at a time anyway so it wouldn't have mattered who went in first. We step into the room and an earthy smell whiffs under my nose. It smells floral too.

Ahead of us, more sheer curtains of many colors fall in our way, but I can just make out the silhouette of a person knelt away from us on the floor. Candles are lite on the other side of the person, so they appear as a shadow to us. The head is bowed before a tall stone with again, more strange symbols carved into it, but high on top of the stone is carved an intricate figure of something that appears to have wings of something extended from the body, but I can't be sure from this far away.

"High Priestess, I have brought the guests, as you requested." Ayani announces, bowing low on the floor when she steps into the room around us. She places her forehead on the floor and then sits up to touch her forefingers, middle fingers, and thumbs together for a brief moment, almost like a triangle, before rising to her feet.

Behind the colorful curtains, the figure moves from its statue-like state and stands up to full height. Behind me, I can feel the Hassassin's presence darken again.

I had stepped into the room right after Daria since Firuz was too afraid to go in first and the second I had, a sweet floral smell entered into my nose and it reminded me just how hungry I am.

The second the person far behind the curtains had moved though, all the thoughts of hunger and everything else practically flew out the window. I've seen lots of women in my life, but this one…

She moved like a smooth, flowing river over rocks. Her dark raven black hair falls down behind her to her knees like a free flowing cape. Her body is tanned to a smooth caramel color and her eyes are a dark, rich brown; deep and beautiful. I can't help but stare at her; shoot I'm a guy, I'm supposed to.

She wears the outfit of a dancer, her top wrapping around her chest, but still showing enough cleavage to hint at more. Her body is slender, showing off her smooth, flat stomach and perfect curves. Her skirt lies low on her hips and splits run all the way up the sides to the tops of her rounded thighs and what's left of the material is left to dangle in front of her and behind her and just brushes down to her ankles that are decorated with gold bangles with red stones. Her feet are bare, just as most of the rest of her body is, gold arm bands spiral around her sleek upper arms that remind me of snakes, and more gold and ruby bangles dangle around her wrists.

If her body didn't distract me enough, the strange tattoos that are lined up the center of her arms and down the sides of her legs and down the center of her belly really does a number on me. They make her look that much more exotic.

As she walks towards us, slow and purposefully, like a jungle cat looking for prey, the colorful curtains move to make way for her so that she can pass under them without them touching her. I can practically feel the warm power radiating from her, heating off her soft skin like a heat off a dancing blade at war.

I release a breath I didn't know I was holding and that's when the final curtain blows away and the full beauty of her face is revealed to me.

Her features are sharp with high cheek bones and round chin, to the slant of her dark eyes, and to the high forehead that bares more of the dark blue symbols that frame around her elf-like eyes. Those deep eyes slowly find mine, in no real hurry and I swallow hard.

Her features brighten even more as she smiles at me before turning those captivating eyes to Daria.

Again, I release a ragged breath and I hear Firuz and Arsalan do the same beside me.


I glare at Arsalan's impolite whisper, but then Ayani speaks to the woman again. "High Priestess, please let me introduce…"

"Daria, Sama, Arsalan, Firuz…and Kas." The woman's voice is even sexy; deep and smooth. She nods to me last, pausing as she says my name with a sincere smile. "Welcome to the Ahriman Temple. We welcome you with open arms and hope that your trip here was safe."

"Uh…yeah, Ayani was kind enough to lead us here. We had no problems at all." Daria answers, shaking her head as if something in her thoughts was distracting her. I glance over at her out of the corner of my eye and see a sad look cross her eyes briefly.

The woman nods slowly. "I am certainly glad to hear this. I had seen the death of your close companion and sent Ayani to intervene as soon as she could, but it seems my vision came too late. I am truly sorry for your loss."

Daria's eyes drop to the floor. "Thank you for your concern, but I'm fine."

"Surely you would like time to mourn her?" The woman asks worriedly, her eyes widening a little surprise. She touches Daria's shoulder gently.

Again, she shakes her head and refuses to look up from the floor. "No, Pilfer wouldn't want that. If she could talk, she would yell at me for sure if I did that. That's just how her personality is…was…"

Ayani raises a hand to her lips uneasily, but doesn't say anything. I can tell she's worried about Daria's response as well. The High Priestess drops her hand uncertainly, but nods. "Very well. If that is what you wish, but always know that this sanctuary is always open for you if you'd like quiet time to pray for her."

Daria carefully glances up through the dark strands of her bangs that have fallen into her face.

The woman smiles and motions with her eyes to the ceiling high above. "The Temple welcomes all its children and offers quiet and safety for all who seek it. Some say they are given the answers they prayed for, others claim that simply being here gave them serenity in their hearts and they were able to move on out of their hard times. I am certain that you will be granted what you need if you simply ask it of the Temple."

"I'm…not very religious." Daria admits with a nervous half-grin.

She smiles warmer as if she understands. "Then just ask. Ask the air, the trees, the sun, the grass, or even the earth. The Elements themselves are just as good listeners."

"Talk to…trees?" Sama asks, confused.

Ayani chuckles. "Yes, we also believe that, though dormant since the beginning of time, the Elements that make up the world are still alive, listening and singing. All you need to do is listen and you will hear them."

Behind the group, I pick up a low scoff from a certain Hassassin. How could he be in such a bad mood in this warm atmosphere? He's not natural.

The woman finally takes a step back and, swinging her arms wide out to her side as if she's inviting us to hug her, places one foot behind the other and bows a little from her waist. "Look at my manners, I welcome you to my home, travelers. I am High Priestess Leilah. I am the keeper of the Temple and Advisor of my people."

"You mean like…the leader?" Sama butts in again.

Ayani laughs again. "No, no, we do not believe in leaders. Past leaders have done nothing but suppress their citizens and force the men to go to war and leave their families. Our High Priestess has a much simpler role. She is a protector with her visions that tell us if danger is approaching us so that we can discuss peace with the encroacher, she also heals disease that befalls the people, and her prayers to our Temple keep our crops growing and fresh water flowing through the city. I admit that we are more matriarchal in our beliefs, but we do not force our men into slavery. We very much need the men here and treat them as equals for much more obvious reasons other than they are stronger and can swing a sword faster. Without their straight forward ways of thinking, we could never get anything done. They are able to carry out the tasks that we are unable to. Our women are able to come up with many ideas that help our city to remain in working order since we have a wider range of thinking. Our city is built on equality and harmony. If that harmony is disturbed, our High Priestess is there to help us put it back into balance you see."

"So our beliefs are based on the mind. If you believe you can do something then it will certainly come true, if you can picture something in your mind, then you are able to create it." Leilah continues. "Without the mind, one could really not do much." She directs her last statement at me and her eyes bore into mine once more. She smiles and I shift my weight nervously; something about her gaze really does something to a guy's heart.

Leilah finally turns back to the rest of us, releasing Kas's eyes, and yet the poor guy continues to gawk at her even after she turns away.

I have to stifle the urge to roll my eyes. Guys are such…guys! Leilah nods to Ayani and speaks again in her deep, mature voice that the guys seem so captivated by. She doesn't sound that much different…much.

"Come with me and I will show you the Temple. After, I will see that you are fed and welcomed."

She sweeps fluidly out of the small chamber and we follow her back down the hall that we had come down, Ayani close to her flank like a lost puppy. The Temple around us seems to light up in every room she leads us through, first back into the wide open round room with the rainbow ceiling then onto rooms further in, changing from long hallways with intricate designed walls and windows to even bigger rooms and showy designs. The last room we enter must be the center of the Temple because there's a big center structure where an obvious fire is built when needed. Already, more wood is being brought in to build the fire up once more, a torch placed into a holder near it to light it when the time came.

"Here is where we all come to celebrate our festivities, from birthdays to…" Leilah turns to smile at us, "Welcoming visitors and even weddings. Here tonight, my people will celebrate your arrival and welcome you. Next, I will show you to your rooms." She heads off to the side of the room, an inner circle of pillars hold up an upper floor above that overlooks the celebrating chamber high above, and takes a wide staircase up to the upper level. The twisting stair railing is wound up in silks of all colors while the stairs themselves are already sprinkled with pink and white flower petals for the upcoming festivities.

At the top of the stairway, women wearing strange bead decorations in their hair and with similar marks down their arms and legs, stop scattering flowers along the floor and look up at us as we approach.

"Good day, High Priestess." They all smile.

They then turn their attention to the guys as if they're the only ones in the room. I don't bother hiding my annoyance, propping my hands on my hips and glaring at the three boys as they smile like mindless monkeys.

Speaking of monkeys, a small white and black one suddenly appears on my shoulder. I gasp and chuckle. "Hey, there, little guy. How are you?"

The monkey just chirps a greeting before leaping off my shoulder to the floor and skipping off.

"You will have to excuse him. We have many monkeys in the city, but this one refuses to leave the Temple. He is always causing mischief for everyone, but nothing major. If you find that you are missing any apples or grapes, then you know who to find." Leilah grins after the monkey. I laugh as the monkey leaps up onto a small side table and quickly snatches a banana from the bowl that sits on top.

"Yeah, I see what you mean."

"He usually does not go near new people, but I guess he likes you. Maybe you can tame him and stop his reign of chaos."

"I'll see what I can do." I tell her.

She links my arm through hers and places her hand on mine. "That is the reason I believe we are going to get along just fine. I will give you a tour of your room first."

"My room?"

Leilah nods. "Yes, you each have your own rooms." She turns at my question and her expression becomes confused. "Does this displease you?"

"Well, no…it's just…We each have our own rooms?"

"Yes." Her confusion worsens.

"Wow." I sigh. "Thank you so much."

Her bewilderment is replaced with an amazing beam and she leads me on around the upper level. "You have nothing to thank us for. It is the least we can do for you after such a long and hard journey. You all deserve a restful break after all you've been through."

"You know we do." Sama laughs. I throw a glare at her rude remark and she sticks her tongue out at me like the five-year-old-wannabe she is.

Leilah stops at an open doorway where a curtain of colorful beads cascades over the entrance and she pulls half of them aside, motioning for me to head inside. "Your room, my dear."

Stepping carefully into the room, I let out an unsteady breath.

The floors are polished marble of oranges, reds, and browns, the far open window at the opposite end of the room leads out into a huge round balcony, the bed sits in the corner on the right side of the window, two water falls spill from the walls on either side of the bedstead and cascade into a moat that creates a half-moon shapes around her bed, and a small staircase of two steps allow access to the bed by bridging over the moat. A big round table sits in the center of the room with big, fluffy pillows set around it along the floor and a bowl of fruit is set in the middle awaiting hungry mouths. Flower petals are scattered around the floor here and there, giving it a floral smell and a tad bit more color.

'I've got to be in a dream.' She thinks.

So here ya go! I hope y'all enjoyed. I'll try to work hard on the story and come up with another chapter for you guys. If anyone would like to help out, I'd love that a lot.

Thanks to all my loyal readers and people who faved the story! You guys are AWESOME!

Once more, all town names and geography is made up out of my lazy imagination because I'm too hard-headed and…well, lazy to bother looking any of it up. Sooooo sorry, but please bear with me.

Again, thank you to everyone who has faved, alerted, and commented! I welcome more advice.

Please continue on with my story and review with all the help you can give! (I love me some reviews!)