Chapter One: A Second Chance
It was loud. Impossibly loud. The Sands of Time surged around Dastan violently tossing him like branches of a palm in a storm. The pain from his recently acquired wounds, and the growing fatigue from the unending fight for survival, made his mind unable to comprehend his swiftly changing surroundings. He could not even register if he still had a hold on the mystical dagger. Everything was a jumbled mess as his body was forced to surge backwards through time. Dastan had no idea if he had stopped Nizam's plan. For all he knew, he was being sent to a time where he was not yet born, and possibly never will.
Slowly the pain ebbed away. His body stopped spinning and somehow his feet found solid ground. Dastan worked desperately for his foggy mind to clear as he now found himself no longer in a cavern, but in the streets of Alamut during the siege. He barely had time to feel the relief that he had stopped Nizam's attempt before his mind quickly started to doubt. Had he actually lived a life that had already played through all that was happening around him? Or was he suffering through a bad case of heat stroke and hallucinated everything.
"Prince Dastan!" A faded voice exclaimed through the roar of battle. "Prince Dastan." It called again, finally reaching Dastan's ears.
Dastan turned around slowly and felt another wave of shock. For standing before him was a friend who was killed weeks ago. However, there was Bis, smiling at him and looking pretty lively. It was all too surreal to grasp, this encounter had already happened.
"Bis, you're here," he spoke in disbelief. His hand automatically moved to touch his friend's chest as to make sure he was real and not a mirage. Feeling the breaths from his friend and seeing the dagger firmly grasped in his hand. Dastan finally believed himself. He had lived through all of this and had just gone back through time.
"Of course I'm here." Bis glanced down at the hand on his armored chest, confused at the Prince's statement. Yet, he thought nothing of it, as he looked back up at the face of the man who brought victory to the Persian Empire. "Our men have surrounded Alamut's palace," he informed with triumph.
However, Dastan could not help but keep glancing down at Bis's chest. It was like he was waiting for the blood to start dripping down a growing chest wound, just like one of those many nightmares Dastan suffered during his escape.
"The battle is over," Bis explained softly. Concern started to overtake the joy of victory as Bis noticed more of Dastan's odd behavior. Something was not right, the young Persian prince acted disoriented, confused.
Those words snapped Dastan into the cold reality he was now in. He might have had stopped Nizam from going back to his childhood, but the battle with his treacherous uncle was still not over. There was still a chance of history repeating itself. He would rather die than live through it all again.
"Not yet," Dastan replied with his adrenalin rising to new heights.
With one last quick glance at Bis, Dastan reached for his other scimitar and raced off to the palace. Last time he strolled into the High Temple just as Tus was giving Tamina the ultimatum of marriage or death. Dastan couldn't let it play out like that this time. No. He had to make it before they even step foot into the palace.
The trumpets blasted the victory proclamation that sent the Persian army into an uproar of cheers. The ranks gathered at the stairs of the Alamutain palace, awaiting the arrival of the royal family to officially claim victory.
"Wait!" a shout of desperation emitted from the crowds. Prince Dastan weaved in and out of his people, pushing his body with all he had just to get in front of his brothers. "Wait!" He had to stop Nizam. He must convince Tus to not go through with this plan that was built solely on lies.
Dastan made it to the staircase just as his brothers dismounted their horses. He pushed through the crowds, taking steps two at a time. "Wait," he gasped out. He wished the men around him would just stop padding his back in celebration and get out of his way.
"Brave soldiers of Persia," Dastan shouted over the cheers, when he reached a high enough place to be seen by all. "We have been deceived into attacking this Holy City!" He lifted his hand that had a firm grasp on his duel scimitars, gesturing at the palace behind him. "Alamut has no weapon forges!"
"Dastan!" Tus shouted getting the attention of his brother, his voice dropping after looking around at the men that surrounded them. "Have you gone mad?"
Dastan's focus locked on his uncle the moment Nizam place a hand on Tus's shoulder as he moved past the Crown Prince. "I cannot stand silent in the face of treachery," Dastan explained with a deathly calm falling upon his outer appearance even though inside, his mind still rang with never ending turmoil.
He dare not turn his back on Nizam as he step around Dastan to take the higher ground. "This war was set up by one trusted above all else, our Uncle Nizam!" Dastan declared with an accuse finger pointed at the man.
"Dastan has fought hard today, perhaps too hard!" Nizam quickly tried to discredit with a smile. "What he needs now is to get out from under this burning sun to rest, gather his wits!" he laughed off.
Dastan couldn't help but shake his head at his uncle's attempt to play off this charge against him. The army let out a laugh, and he could feel his heart pound wildly in his chest. He turned and saw that his two brothers smiled at their uncle's jab, but their smiles faltered quickly at seeing his face.
Oh his brothers, how could they ever know the things he was now burden with? He had to make them see. He couldn't let them die… not a second time.
"The weapons we found are forgeries! There are no weapons here, Uncle," he spat, "and you know it!" Dastan turned back and saw the cockiness in Nizam's face. That face, the man that Dastan had once looked up to, was planning to take the crown by any means. He could feel the rage building within him. "And the spy who supposedly intercepted them was hired by you, to persuade ALL OF US to invade ALAMUT!" he yelled as all of his rage, anger, and frustration finally spilled out into his voice.
"What is this, Dastan? Victor's remorse?" Nizam continued to play off his surprised but did not put off. "You yourself led the attack! Brought us this great triumph!" The crowd went into an uproar at the last statement but on the inside Nizam was beginning to panic. There was no good reason why his curbside nephew should know these things.
"I should never have let the attack happen!" Dastan looked at his brother's disbelieved faces. His words seemed so harsh and cruel especially among so many witnesses. His voice dropped as his older brother slowly moved towards him. Dastan hated doing this to him. "I knew in my heart that it was wrong."
Before Tus could say anything, Dastan quickly turned and got right into Nizam's face and spoke only loud enough for him to hear alone. "It will never be you. You will never be king. You don't have the heart." Dastan felt the smile form on his lips, as words came to mind that he knew would cut through Nizam better than any sword. He grounded every word into his uncle just as the older man had twisted his thumb into his wounded side not even ten minutes prior.
"You will die in the shadow of a great man."
When Nizam went for is sword, Dastan all but spoke for him to attack, for his fate would then be sealed. However, Nizam let go of his sword and raised his hands, silently telling his nephew that it would not be that easy.
"Get him down from there before he makes an even bigger fool of himself!" Garsiv shouted to one of the guards out of aggravation. Dastan glared at Nizam's smug features. He would not let him win.
"Tus," Dastan turned around, totally ignoring the guard, and went straight for his brother. Panic started to once again fill him, as this was the last chance for Dastan to convince his brother to not allow this attack to continue any future. "Before you left Nasaf, Father told you this 'that a true king considers the advice of counsel, but he always listens to his own heart'."
Now, Tus was feeling truly unsettled by the events folding out in front of him. His little brother was acting odd enough and making the most gravest of accusations against family no less, yet here Dastan stood before him speaking with knowledge that should not be within him.
"Father and I were alone. How could you know that?" Tus asked trying to grasp this ever changing conversation.
"He was right," Dastan ignored the question. "He knows us, and he knows what we're capable of. Just listen to your heart," Dastan nearly pleaded.
"He defies your orders in the attack and now wants to turn back," Nizam spoke up. He would not be overshadowed.
Dastan stared intently at his brother trying to hold in all the emotion that was welling up inside. Having his uncle stand so close to his big brother, sent fear through him as the memory of Nizam spilling his brother's blood flashed in his mind. Dastan felt his lip start to tremble. So much was at stake.
"Tus, take measure here," Nizam advised as he tried to remain superior in appearance.
Dastan nodded at his uncle's words, praying hard that Tus would take heed of their father's words and do the right thing. The Crown Prince kept shifting his stare between a man that was family by blood, and the man that was his brother by heart. The tension was almost too much for Dastan to bear, his eyes started to burn with pleading tears, his throat closing up as all he could do was stand there and wait for Tus to make his decision. It all came down this, and Dastan knew that if Tus did not believe him, that he would be left with no other choice but to kill their uncle himself. Dastan would be put to death, but at least his brothers and father would still live, and Tamina and the power of the dagger would be safe. It's what he'd think a great man would do.
"The spy knows the truth." Tus finally decided. "Find the spy!" How he ended up is such a difficult place as choosing between his uncle and brother, Tus didn't know. However, he'd be damned to trust emotions alone when dealing with a matter that held such importance. Yes, finding the spy would answer things.
Dastan felt a wave of relief wash over him like cool water by that demand.
"Bring him to me! We'll wring it from him!" Tus affirmed loudly.
Dastan turned and faced his uncle with a confident expression of victory. He took a moment to take in the confused and defeated face of Nizam before turning his back on him to follow his brothers down the stairs. 'We'll see what he has to say now,' Dastan thought.
He took only a few steps before he heard a sword being unsheathe. With quick reflexes, Dastan spun around just to see his uncle lunge at him. Instantly Nizam's personal guards surrounded Dastan and attacked him with their spears. It was three against one, but Dastan was so tired of being attacked by his own people, that the Prince showed no mercy and disposed of the guards quickly with just a few skilled slashes. He could only take a breath before Nizam himself grabbed another sword from one of the shocked bystanders and charged at his nephew with a wild fury of a man who has just lost his dream. Dastan, taken only partially by surprise, had to throw himself backwards to get away from tip of his slashing sword. Dastan's back hit the stairs rail and was quickly disarmed by Nizam. A shout of surprise escaped from Dastan, as he managed to grab the wrists of his uncle before he was sliced to ribbons. Using the last bit of strength he had, Dastan used Nizam's momentum and threw him over the edge.
The crowd was in shock. No one had moved to neither aid in the fight nor try to stop it due to who the battle was with. The bond of family was well known within the ranks of the army as well as the nation, so no one was mentally prepared for such treachery, between family.
Dastan leaped down and stood over his fallen uncle shaking his head at the last failed attempt of a desperate man. He bent down, placing his hand and weight down on Nizam's chest so he could barely take breath. "You had what every man could ever dream of, love, respect, and family. But that wasn't enough for you, was it?" Dastan spat on the ground, though for Nizam, it felt as if his face that was spat upon.
Dastan moved away from his uncle and retreated to his brothers. He did not have to worry anymore. Nizam sealed his fate with his attack. All that was entering his thoughts now was the need to sit down. His energy was fading, everything that was happening, and everything that had happened in an unknown past, was quickly taking its toll on him. If it wasn't for Tus quick action, Dastan would, surly in that very moment, be breathing his last breath at the hands of his uncle's blade. Yet, Tus hadn't looked away. The Persian army went into an uproar of shocked filled chatter at the sight of the Crown Prince running his sword into the King's brother.
Dastan put his hand on Tus's shoulder giving his brother thanks and comfort to what just happened. Tus grasped his brother's arm and the two of them shared a look relief that the other was alive. Likewise, Garsiv too put a hand on Tus' shoulder thankful as well that his little brother was saved. Tus threw is arm around Dastan and led him into the crowd of cheering Persians and away from their treacherous uncle's dead body. They had much to talk about in private before addressing the Princess of Alamut.