Chapter Sixteen: Made Whole
Blue eyes welcomed the blackness from behind closed eyelids as the body relaxed under the strong hands of a servant massaging overworked muscles. The fragrance of the oils filled the senses drawing the body deeper into a state of pure relaxation. Chatter from other men echoed off the walls of the bathhouse, yet their conversations fell away as too unimportant for the brain to process them. Prince Dastan winced as the servant's hands moved up to his wounded shoulder. Even though the skin was healing into a nice scar, the muscles were still tender from the Hassansin's steal spikes.
Dastan turned his head to the other side, giving the servant more access to his troubled side. A deep breath escaped his lungs as the Prince started his descent once again into relaxation without a care about his oiled clean hair now covering most of his face. He did not want his brain to spend too much time alert or else the water wheel within his mind would pick up speed leaving his thoughts to churn in a constant state of motion. Now that the altered past was no longer consuming his every waking thought, his brain had been clearly trying to over compensate the lack of target by trying to fill the void with everything menial. It seemed to be taking a lot of mulled wine to slow his stampeding thoughts. As much as his body needed rest, his mind needed it more.
Familiar laughter broke out in the far end of the bathhouse sparking just enough energy in Dastan to crack open one eye. Through the haze of one eye, Dastan saw his three close friends relaxing around a steam box. After spending a few days cooped up in the palace, Dastan wanted a day out enjoying the streets of Alamut, not as a Prince but a man among friends.
Having yet another day to relax made Dastan wonder how his brothers were faring. Would they manage to finish with the list of families before dusk would descend? Did they really know when it was customary to retire from the overly emotional task if they didn't manage to finish that day as they had suggested earlier? Had yet another morning widow feel the release of physically assaulting those to blame with extreme hurt? That reminded Dastan he needed to see how their company was faring after the truly depressing victory they had been awarded in the desert this last battle. It wasn't fair to them to have to face such monsters unprepared as they were. It had been quite the retaliation. Speaking of which, Dastan wondered if Bis was planning on any retaliation for the grapes, would his friend use some other type of fruit in his attack or try and be more random and attempt to throw him off. Is he plotting something right now with Roham and Rashid? Or would he get try and get Tamina's help later as well? What was she up to? He hasn't seen her since she was called for counsel, then again that could take a while, especially since only a few days ago they just learned that they had spies in different parts of the palace including the ranks of the Guardians; was the same thing going on in Nasaf? Surely Nizam had spies within his Father's court. That would not be such of a surprise; however they should send word to their Father about that possible threat. Does his father know about what has happened the last few weeks? His brothers must have sent word about the defeat of the Hassasins at least. How long has it been since the start of this whole thing? It couldn't be more than 30 days. Well what would he know? It would be hard to really know given the countless sleepless nights and the days that went by while he was unconscious or asleep, he really should inquire of how many days have passed. He should also inquire what herbs were mixed in that wine he had earlier it was really good. He should send for some more, yeah…
"Send for more of that mulled wine" Dastan ordered out. He really needed to learn to relax.
The lower streets of Alamut, life was bursting throughout the marketplace as it was at its peak of activity. Merchants were shouting over the crowds offering deals to entice people to stop at their stall to buy their wares. Men were gathered outside of doorways talking about daily life as they smoked hookah, while the woman bargained for goods openly. The sun that broke through the overhead rugs and sheets, formed visible rays from all the smoke and kicked up dust that hung in the air, though no one took mind to it.
Dastan, Bis, Roham and Rashid slowly made their way through one of these many active streets, checking out what these local merchants had to sell. After a relaxing time in one of the nicer local bathhouse, they had continued lower into the city soaking in the culture of this nation unhurried. However, there was not much to be seen that differed from the bazaars in Nasaf. The Persians were fortunate enough to have a great trade route that brought exotic goods from the far reaches of the earth on an annual regularity. Yet in a way it seemed that Alamut had brighter fabrics and fresher produce which could only be locally enjoyed from their region.
Dastan had to smile at one overweight merchant that was standing just past his stall with one of his rugs draped over his shoulder. He was crafty with his words, weaving a fascinating tale about the history of his majestic rugs. If someone made but brief eye contact with him, the merchant easily direct all attention to that potential customer with an expert tongue. His attentions were sever yet only lasted but a moment before moving on to yet another potential patron.
"Is this something you would add to your short list of outerwear?" Bis stopped the group as he held out a long black leather vest for Dastan to view.
Roham laughed, "When are you going to give up on trying to get our Prince to change up his attire?"
Dastan ignored the jab, and moved closer to the piece of clothing in question. It reminded him quite a bit of the black garment that Tamina had thrown on him in Avarat, and consequently stole the dagger off of him. He did like that garment despite the memory.
"I like it," he surprised his men by saying. "Get it." Dastan ordered with a smirk before heading off to see what the next stall had to offer.
He walked past one stall that had great jars of spices just as a gust of wind picked up, sending the overbearing smells straight to his senses. Dastan turned his head downwards. The inhalation of the spices were too much all at once causing Dastan to let out a powerful sneeze. The action was just enough for the surrounding people turn slightly and take notice, however recognition soon began to spark amongst the people as Dastan shook the spices from his head and stood tall.
Why had everyone grown so still and quiet?
"Seems your cover has been broken, Sire." Roham joked he returned to his Prince's side.
All eyes were now on the small party clearly unsure with royalty in their midst's.
Bis handed Rashid the folded garment, "It's not like we were even trying to blend in, in the first place."
A young woman came up to Dastan, grabbed his hand and brought her forehead down to the back of his hand. "May the gods send blessings down upon you."
"Uh, thank you," Dastan stumbled out, taken aback from the sudden encounter. The woman did not say anything else and just disappeared into the crowd.
The group continued their walk, very aware of the whispering that followed them like an Eastern breeze. With paranoia cleared from his mind, Dastan was able to look upon the city without the tainting of blood and grief. There was new life flowing through the people, they were revived. The normal uproar and chatter soon returned to the streets as if nothing had transpired. It was apartment to most that the young Persian Prince was not there for any grand reason but to hopefully shop. Merchants were offering Dastan and his men free fruits, wine, and other goods both as incentive and thanks while various women kept coming up to him and expressing their gratefulness to have such a caring future king. Yet, Dastan was a bit confused. He knew that meeting with the victim's families had created healing in regards to the city's anger towards them, but something felt off. This was too exuberant of a welcome than he deserved or should receive. It was a puzzle indeed, but a pleasant one.
Unknown to Dastan, King Sharaman had heard of how the actions of his youngest son began to restore a nation from the infection it had incurred by his treacherous brother. Being a man of prayer and respect of all things sacred and holy, felt that there was more that could easily be done. Therefore, King Sharaman had ordered a shipment of supplies sent to Alamut to aid in the city's repairs as well as their countries reputation among their allies. It was just that very morning when the supplies had arrived. News of the generous gifts traveled throughout the people all over the city before the last piece of Cyprus timber had even been offloaded, and comically Dastan and his men where clueless of such news amidst the heart of the whispers.
After checking out the marketplace, the Persian men decided if they headed back now, they would be able to make it to the palace just as the afternoon meal would be served. Bis and Dastan walked a few paces ahead of Roham and Rashid, who were stuck carrying the few items they bought or was given to them out of thanks of the people; no gift had been refused no mater its worth.
Bis leaned closer to Dastan and softly spoke to his friend as they shuffled through the hordes. "Looks like you saved more than just five lives," he wisely observed.
Dastan glanced at Bis with a warm smile before turning his attention to the others around him. "You know Bis, I think you are right."
His efforts to correct his Uncle's horrid actions were not in vain. It took some doing, many weeks, but it was possible to change events without the power of the Dagger.
Through pain, Dastan had come to the accepted knowledge that even though the Sands of Time could erase events, someone would always remain left standing fully aware to all that had truly transpired beforehand. And in a way, each person in Alamut would never forget the events that happened seven weeks ago, but how they continued on with their lives, with those memories, was what mattered most. They could have let the anger, sadness and fear consume their every waking thought, however most had come to the surprising acceptance of what had happened, and had begun taking the steps to learn to move forward.
Bis had summed it all up perfectly. For Dastan, just how his brothers and Tamina helped him through his near crippling trauma, Dastan had done the same with the hurting people of Alamut. It had been enough. He had been enough.
The sound of shouts and crashing pottery caused Dastan to come out of his thoughts, just as an adolescent macaque monkey leapt down from a nearby banister, used a man as a spring board, and shot over Dastan's right shoulder. Several young boys, raced through the crowd, pushing past people creating just as much chaos chasing down the monkey as the furry animal itself.
Having such a creature leaping so close to one's head caused Dastan to dive to the left, Bis tried to keep his friend from falling, yet the momentum was too great, sending them crashing into one of the booths. The thin framed table easily snapped under the weight of the two men; clay pots shattering on impact. Powdered dye filled the air like an explosion, bright primary colors blended together as the wind swirled the crushed pigments all around the area. Roham and Rashid nearly dropped the goods they carried to rush to aid in their fallen friends. A crowed gathered around, forgetting about a loose monkey and focused on the Persian Prince that now lay in a rubble of wood, clay and powdered dye.
"Sire, are you alright?" Rashid asked in alarm as the colorful smoke cleared.
"Are you hurt anywhere?" Roham inquired.
Dastan shook his head, "I am alright. Bis you okay?" he turned to his friend who had cushioned most of the impact from the table.
Bis tossed a half broken pot away from his head as he moved to sit up. "I'm fine, Sire."
Dastan's men grabbed each hand and helped lift Dastan off the rubble as a few other people aided Bis. Now up righted, Dastan did a mental check just to make sure he didn't gain any new injuries safe some scratches and bruises. Thankfully he had landed on his left side, avoiding any potential damage to his almost healed wounds that were namely located on all of his right side. However, as he looked down at himself, he discovered that he was now as colorful as a Persian rug if not more so. Head to toe, he was covered in blues, yellows, reds, greens, orange and other hues where the colors overlapped each other. Dastan looked over and saw that Bis was just as coated as he was. A smile formed across their dyed faces before laughter erupted.
Tus and Garsiv had decided to walk towards the marketplace knowing that their younger brother was exploring that area. They just had overseen the off-loading of the supplies that their father had sent to the city and thought to meet up with Dastan to tell him personally of the good news. However, as they got deeper into the marketplace, they grew concern as they saw there was some sort of commotion up a head. Instantly Garsiv demanded people to get out of his way as he pushed bystanders aside to create a path for his older brother. Tus worked to keep up with his determined brother. Even though he didn't have to fight though the crowds, Tus was a few paces behind Garsiv's determined stride.
The moment Garsiv broke through the crowd and into a clearing, he stopped dead in his tracks. Tus politely had people move, allowing him to stand next to his brother and get a clear view of who or what had the attention of these people but wasn't prepared for the sight.
"In the names of the gods, Dastan, what happened?" Tus declared when he saw the colorful sight in front of him.
Dastan turned from talking with the dye merchant, promising compensation for the damages, and looked at the shocked and concerned faces of his older brothers. He smiled. "You wouldn't believe me even if I told you."
Tus sighed at that statement, glancing over to Garsiv before moving closer to Dastan as he spoke. "Dastan you know that we will…"
"It was a monkey."
"…believe—what?" Tus stopped mid-stride and confusion covered his face.
Dastan tried to keep a straight face, failing miserably. "We were jolted by a passing monkey."
Tus heard a curse from behind. Garsiv let his hand fall from the hilt of his sword as all alarm disappeared from his face, returning to his normal unamused features. Without so much as a grumble, Garsiv turned on his heel and walked back through the crowd for having lost all energy to rise to such a statement.
The oldest brother shook his head with a sigh "Really Dastan that excuse again?"
Dastan looked at Bis and the mess around him before looking back at his brother. "I'm not kidding this time Tus, there was really a monkey."
"He is telling the truth, Sire," Bis spoke up knowing full well why the crowned prince was so skeptical. "Prince Dastan had to dodge a monkey that leaped right past his head…"
People all around the colorful Persians softly agreed among themselves. Tus felt a smirk tug underneath his goatee, realizing that Dastan would not pull a prank that would result in damaging a person's livelihood.
By the gods, his brother was indeed attacked by a real monkey.
The morning sun the next day was creeping up over the Holy City of Alamut. The warm light reflecting off the city's bright colored walls created such a radiance that left Dastan speechless. Dastan had felt restless in the early morning hours and so had left his chambers to climb up the tallest tower to enjoy a final moment of solitude. His elbows rested on the stone rail of the highest balcony in the palace, as he looked out upon the city. From the first time he saw the morning glow upon Alamut standing from atop the tar tower forty-five days ago, to this day, the day of his departure, its beauty never ceased to take his breath away. He enjoyed being up this high.
"Taking in one last sunrise?"
Dastan's face lit up like the city before him at the sound of Tamina's soft voice. He turned his body to face her and in that moment forgot to breathe. The freshly painted henna designs on her soft skin shimmered in the sunlight along with all the gold and jewels that covered her clothes and hair. It created a soft glow around her whole form which made her seem more of a mystical temptress than any human woman ought to be. There could not be one flaw found; he could be dreaming.
"I ah," he cleared his voice, "It will be some time before I see such beauty again," he said never taking his eyes off her for fear she would vanish.
"Surly, Nasaf holds beauty of its own," the Princess stated looking out upon her city.
"None compares to this," his heart hammered.
Tamina's glance at Dastan turned fixed as her face became flush when she realized that he was not talking about the sunrise. As awkward as having such a man look at her with such admiration, she boldly did not turn away. For the first time since their acquaintance, Tamina looked upon Dastan as the man he was, not for what mysteries he held. Strands of his feathered brown hair covered most of his face. She spotted two small scars both on the left side of his face, one above his eyebrow and a slightly bigger one across his cheek bone. Although, his face held the marks of a battle bred warrior, the smile on his stubble face and the affection in his blue eyes reflected the soft heart that she would never have thought would reside within her future partner. It also didn't go without notice how extremely hansom he looked framed by such an ornate window and warm light.
Tamina broke eye contact first with a strong blush, and turned her gaze back to the city. From the corner of her eye, she saw that Dastan's studied gaze lingered on her a moment longer before turning back to the landscape. Neither were actually seeing the city below them any longer but were acutely aware of the others presence. Foreign feelings welded up inside them both. They were alone, within a high tower no one would transverse any time soon, and Tamina had clearly not thought a chaperone would be needed en route to the high temple for early Morning Prayer.
Tamina's heart pounded with anticipation and then sadness, with the knowledge that Dastan was leaving today. This was not yet his home. Besides, all threat against the Dagger was taken care of, a nation on the mend from hurt, and a soul saved from despair, it was time to get back to normal duties.
"I uh," Dastan's voice broke through the silence, "never told you, uh-hum," he cleared his throat yet again, "Thank you. I do not know how much longer I could have lasted… you had every right to leave my family out of your affairs. However it was truly all I needed. You are quite the remarkable woman," he sincerely praised.
Tamina shifted closer to him and placed her hands along the window's ledge. She had but to tilt her head to see into his eyes once more to fully feel the love and gratitude from such words. "I myself cannot attest as to why I trusted them so. It honestly is not in my character act in such a way, especially regarding this issue. Truthfully, if it were not for the images that remained below along with the torment you failed to conceal, I would not have acted so."
Dastan smirked at her openness. He expected nothing less, but she was not finished.
"Despite all the pain you suffered, all the loss counted against you due to the Dagger, you continued to correct mistakes and keep the power of the Dagger a secret. For all you had done, and were doing for me and my people, I could not bear to witness you lose everything all over again." Tamina couldn't help but fidget a bit as revealing her heart unguarded wasn't easy for her.
"Thank you." Dastan once again expressed his deepest gratitude, while subconsciously closing the gap between them. Her breath caught as he gently reached out to trail his fingers along her jaw. So soft. The thundering of their hearts grew nearly audible as Dastan leaned closer, memorized and drawn to her like the siren she was. Tamina was quickly losing all good sense within her as his heady sent enveloped her.
"Well, you did save my life… with the power of the Dagger," Tamina breathlessly whispered.
Dastan's lips lingered above her own, completely intoxicated by her. "And you… you save my life from the power of the Dagger."
Dastan could no longer restrain himself, as he captured her lips with his own. Exhilaration coursed through them with a fierceness neither had ever felt before. She smelled like honeysuckle and tasted like coconut from the oils on her skin. A hunger filled them as Dastan pulled her closer. Tamina shuddered and gripped his collar tighter which was just too much all at once for Dastan to continue. He forced himself to break from her spell and dropped his weight against the wall, allowing his head to fall back with more force than needed.
Tamina, clearly flushed, smiled almost wickedly. "It would seem that makes us even."
Dastan could only offer her the biggest grin in response. Oh how the days and distance until their marriage would truly be torture to come. However, both now looked onto their futures with the greatest anticipation and hope no one would ever be able to snuff out.
It was, after all, their destiny.
A/N: Well…I think that's it. I hope you all have enjoyed my take on the aftermath of the movie. It was fun writing this story. Thank you all for sticking with me in between the long updates, and can't thank you all enough for all the awesome reviews! Don't venture too far from this story, as there might be something coming soon as a fun end credit scene. But as a whole, this story is finished.