A/N: I sincerely apologize for the two-year long gap between chapters 8 and 9. Unforeseen changes in my life left me unable to work on this story; however, I now have the opportunity to continue writing. Thank you to everyone-especially recent followers of Fate-for leaving reviews encouraging me to continue this story. It gave me the motivation I needed to pick up the old manuscript and start over. I hope you enjoy this next chapter.

Regret

As the blushing golden rays of morning crept into her chambers, Princess Jasmine instinctively curled into the space beside her in bed. It was the space that Esmeralda had come to fill—a cold void that had been empty for too long. In the short time that the princess had been sharing a bed with the beautiful gypsy, she awoke each morning to the dancer's soft warmth. This morning, however, there was no peaceful rise and fall beside her. For a moment, this reality escaped the princess, for she had grown accustomed to Esmeralda's presence. In a moment of delusion, she could still feel the gypsy's delicate fingers tracing lazily against her skin. However, her imagination was incapable of recreating the warmth that Esmeralda seemed to radiate, and her conjured mirage quickly faded as realization dawned.

"Where are—?" Oh. Yeah. Their heated words from the previous night assaulted the princess as violently as a desert sandstorm. With a frown, Jasmine recalled telling Esmeralda to leave her chambers. She quickly made her way to the balcony, where she had last seen the foreign dancer; however, Esmeralda was nowhere to be found. Maybe she is in the servants' quarters? Princess Jasmine spent the next hour surveying the palace grounds. Esmeralda was not in the servants' quarters, the kitchen, or out in the courtyard. It was as if she had vanished completely. "Just get out…Please, just leave. I can't think with you here." The princess closed her eyes, bringing her thumb and forefinger up to the bridge of her nose in frustrated concentration. She wouldn't have really left, would she? I didn't mean for…

With a deep sigh and a heavy heart, Princess Jasmine made her way down to the throne room. When she slipped quietly into the chamber, the Sultan was happily playing with his adored foreign trinkets. It was only when she plopped down on the step before his throne that he noticed his daughter. A smile instantly drew across his face; however, upon taking in her distant eyes and slightly downturned lips, concern flooded his features.

"Jasmine, my girl, what on earth is the matter? Is everything alright?"

The princess turned her deep chocolate eyes up toward the Sultan. "I think I made a mistake, Father."

"Oh my… well, my dear, you know what your mother used to say about mistakes," he comforted with a light pat to her head.

"Yes, I know. 'Making a mistake does not make you weak; it makes you strong, so long as you learn from it,'" Jasmine recited from memory.

The Sultan smiled, seeing part of his wife in his beautiful daughter. "Why the long face then, my girl? All mistakes can be corrected."

Jasmine sighed, shaking her head. "Not this one, Father. I said something hurtful to a new friend, and drove her away. I have no way of telling her that I did not mean it. She has to hate me after how cruel I was to her."

"There, there, Jasmine. I am sure she does not hate you. You will find a way to make things right; you always do. Maybe that new girl you hired…what was her name…Esme, or something…can help you think of something. She has been quite helpful since you brought her here."

The princess's breath caught in her throat as she tried to restrain the broken choke that she refused to articulate before her father. "I can't. Esmeralda is the one I was cruel to. She is not anywhere in the palace…" Jasmine's eyes dimmed as the corners of her lips tugged downward—remembering the empty bed she woke to that morning.

As the Sultan watched her face fall, he reached out to pat her hand comfortingly. "I'm sure she hasn't gone too far. She'll be back, my dear; you must be patient."

Without a desire to argue with her father, Jasmine bit her lip before giving a curt nod. "Yeah. You're probably right. I just need to be patient." When the Sultan gave her another comforting pat on her head, Jasmine turned to leave the room. The princess didn't know where she was headed; she just needed to get out. She needed to get away from people. She needed to escape the suffocating walls that seemed to close around her. As Jasmine made her way out to the courtyard, another painful memory punctured her heart. "Gypsies don't do well inside stone walls."

Instantly, without knowing why, Princess Jasmine turned on her heel, running back toward her bedchamber. It made no sense why she would run toward the place that had driven her beautiful Esmeralda away, but the princess could not bring her feet to stop moving. That is, until she rushed into her room and immediately turned her gaze to her mirror—taking specific note of what was missing. Esmeralda's pendant! It should be—

The princess's heart sank with realization. She isn't coming back. "Her pendent…it was all I had left of her." Esmeralda is really gone.

Jasmine made her way to the balcony, hoping that the fresh air would flow easier into her lungs. It didn't. Her chest rose and fell with shallow, strained breaths. In an effort to regain her balance, the princess reached out for the railing; however, she quickly sank to the floor and drew into herself. Bringing her knees to her chest, Jasmine could not stop the tears that began to fall. "Esmeralda…" she choked, "please forgive me."

In the throne room, the Sultan had lost his desire to play with his trinkets. It always troubled him to see Jasmine so distressed, especially since he often felt that he could not help her. His daughter had made it quite clear from an early age that she desired neither gold, nor royal privileges. She had gotten that from her mother.

The Sultan sighed. It is almost as if she is brokenhearted, and by Allah, that is the worst form of pain to heal. He thought back to the day, fourteen long years ago, when Jasmine's mother had been taken from him. Many of his people had fallen victim to the Sickness: Both men and women, old and young… even children. The streets of Agrabah grew dark, and it was a time of great sorrow. While the Sultan mourned the loss of so many of his people, and sent many envoys out in search of a cure, he never thought the Sickness would claim his beautiful wife. My beloved Kalila, I need your guidance.

He would never forget the moment that the news of her death had been delivered to him. The Sultan had been in the throne room, hearing the latest news from the most recently returned envoy. For once, their findings appeared promising, and the Sultan was eager to bring the cure to his wife, and then to the rest of his people. Just as he was rising from his chair, however, Jafar slipped quietly into the great hall, making his way to the Sultan's throne. His words have haunted the Arabian leader ever since. My apologies, my lord. We did all that we could. Just like that, his beautiful Kalila was dead—passed on into the other world. For days, the Sultan did no more than mourn. Hardly a word or a morsel of food passed through his lips. Nobody saw him—not even his beautiful six-year-old daughter.

Like her father, Jasmine also suffered greatly from Queen Kalila's death. Unfortunately, she had the misfortune of grieving her mother's death alone, for the Sultan would not come out of his chambers even to give the young princess a hug. In his stead, he had asked Jafar to secure a pet for her—something that could keep Jasmine company until the Sultan was composed enough to be around others. The king's advisor purchased a young tiger cub; Rajah very quickly became Princess Jasmine's best—and only—friend. It was Rajah who helped the young princess cope with the loss of her mother, but the Sultan wondered who could help her through the loss of her newest friend…this Esmeralda girl.

With a sigh, the Sultan pushed away his thoughts from the past. It was not a pleasant time in his life, nor was he proud of his actions. I'll never forgive myself for leaving Jasmine alone like that. Perhaps Jafar will have an idea. He always knows what is best. The Sultan picked up the small golden bell by his throne and gave it a few solid shakes. A chuckle escaped his lips. I love the sound it makes! It's laughter!

Within a few minutes, Jafar was at his side. "You rang, Sire?" he asked, a distinct scowl present on his face as if the Sultan's call had disturbed him from something more important.

"Oh! Yes—Jafar, Jasmine is feeling rather out of sorts. She is upset about the disappearance of the new servant girl. She seems to have befriended her. I hate seeing Jasmine like this. Do you know where the girl is?"

Upon hearing the Sultan's reason for calling him, Jafar's look of disapproval morphed into a quick smirk; however, he quickly masked it from the Sultan with an innocent frown. "The new servant girl, Sire? I hadn't known she left. The poor princess must be heartbroken."

The Sultan nodded, "I'm afraid she is. I haven't seen her so upset since…" There was a long pause before the Sultan finished his thought. "…Since her mother's death. I just want to see my daughter happy again—and if bringing back the new servant girl will do that, then so be it."

Jafar gave a slow nod before bringing his fingers up to run through his goatee. "Yes. The princess's happiness should be a priority," he drawled.

Thankful that his adviser understood his concern, the Sultan reached out for Jafar. "Will you help me, Jafar? I don't know how to track down the girl…"

Jafar's smirk reappeared as he patted the Sultan's hand. "Your wish is my command. The gypsy girl couldn't have gone far." With a flick of his wrist, his staff was facing the Sultan—controlling him—"I will take care of everything. When I find the whore, I will take responsibility for her punishment." Hazily, the Sultan repeated Jafar's words before awaking from the trance with a quick shake of his head.

Giving a deep bow, Jafar left his king's presence, promising to find the new servant girl soon. With the Sultan ignorantly happy, the royal advisor made his way to the west wing of the palace. What an idiot. Don't you worry your empty little head, Sire, I'll find the gypsy wench. A dark chuckle erupted from his throat as he approached the captain of the guard's chambers.

"Razoul!" he shouted from the entrance way. It took no more than five seconds for the heavy man to appear before the sorcerer, saluting and stuttering through a greeting. "J-Jafar. Wh-what are your orders?"

"I need you to take your men and track down that gypsy girl we found sneaking through the palace the other day," Jafar ordered, his voice calm as if this were a regular request.

For a moment, Razoul felt conflicted. He had always answered to Jafar; however, Princess Jasmine had made it quite clear that he and his men were to go nowhere near her new servant girl. In the end, the princess would have more authority. Unsure of how to proceed, he voiced his concern with Jarar's plan. "The princess gave us direct orders not to go near the servant girl, Jafar. Maybe it would be best—"

Rage flashed in Jafar's facial features, his cool countenance instantly gone. "You dare question my authority!?" he threatened venomously. Jafar watched as his actions created a sense of intimidation within the captain of the guard. "The servant girl has run away. Surely, you remember the punishment for deserting a position in the royal palace."

Razoul nodded before eliciting an ominous, toothy grin.

"Your orders are to find the gypsy girl, and bring her to the dungeon. I want her alive." Jafar waited for his orders to sink in with the Captain before adding, "I will see to her punishment."

Razoul nodded, turning from Jafar to summon his guards for their mission. As the guards gathered their freshly-sharpened swords, Jafar let himself smirk. My plan is working. That witch can try to run, but she will come to regret the day she stepped into my city.

A/N: I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Chapter 10 is already in production. I'm hoping it can be finished fairly soon. Thank you for reading, and I apologize again for how long it took to get this chapter posted. Until next time.