Saturday, February 22, 2014

Prince of Persia II: The Petals of Life

Circle of Time

It had been two months of torture for Dastan, since Tamina had accepted his brother’s proposal that their kingdoms be united in the bond of marriage. Dastan had hoped for a quick and painless ceremony, but that was not to be. First there was the death of Dastan’s uncle, Nizam, to deal with.  Dastan’s guilt had led him to King Sharaman’s chamber to explain how Nizam had plotted to murder the king and claim the throne. The King understood it was his adopted son and Dastan’s duty to protect his father. However, King Sharaman had still insisted that his brother be given a funeral and feast. The funeral and feast had taken time to arrange and then of course there were the negotiations with the Alamut dignitaries, as to who would be in control of the city and how Alamut would become part of the Persian Empire. It was long hours and many days of discussions that Dastan had to sit through.

The knowledge and fear that Dastan was accepting the responsibility to govern the people of Alamut and Princess Tamina, began to loom in the back of his mind. Dastan began to question if he really was capable of being a Prince of Persia, as his father had told him he was. Tus had been groomed for the role as a ruler, but Dastan was a fighter and soldier; he was not a politician and did not know much about ruling. Tamina had not been much help either, each time they meet the conversations were short and interrupted. He had not been able to disclose his apprehensions to her. He had also not informed her of his knowledge of the Gods Sandglass that lay below the city. He had saved the woman he loved and Alamut by stopping his uncle Nizam and no one, not even his brothers, knew what he had been through.

Since saving the city, Dastan had only been able to meet with Tamina with a full barrage of servants and her ladies in waiting. Every time they were together she had been the noble that he had remembered from their first encounter and reminded him that he was assuming the leadership of Alamut. She was not the same person he had finally come to know past the stately façade. Dastan had been patient and slowly getting to know Tamina again. She would not remember their flight from the palace, their time in the desert, and the kiss they shared just before her death. Dastan had been the one holding on to the dagger and only he would remember those events. He would have to endure and find the Tamina he had fallen in love with. His plan had been to be like the sand; he would slowly wear away at Tamina’s noble layer and expose the woman who had sacrificed her life for his. But with the delays and being separated from Princess Tamina, Dastan’s very fiber was being pulled at and he was fighting internally to be patient.

Today the marriage counsel was discussing dowry and had come to a dispute over camels or sheep; Dastan had not been paying close attention. However, the shouting had roused him from the thoughts he was mulling over intensely. He could see Tamina across the seating area, with her head bowed in a demure and respectful way. Dastan could see her cringe with the shouts and he felt a twinge of pain. Dastan needed to do something to end this misery for the both of them.

“Stop!” Dastan shouted as he stood before the counsel. A hush befell the room. Dastan realized all eyes, including Tamina’s were on him now. A look of slight despair crossed his face, “I do not care the least about the amount of camels or sheep or… whatever it is you are arguing over now. I will take only take two things from Princess Tamina, in exchange for Alamut.  I pray it will end your bickering and move us closer to our wedding day. Princess Tamina, I ask for your trust and your heart…that is all.”

King Sharaman looked at his son carefully. He could see in his son’s expression that there was a weight upon his mind and from his words he knew that Dastan wanted to be alone with Princess Tamina.   “It seems my son has made his first declaration as the new ruler of Alamut. Very well, I think negotiations can wait.” The King stood and moved away from the counsel seating area. “I think it is time to leave these two to make their own decisions concerning Alamut.” The counsel all stood and began to depart. Dastan looked at the floor, not knowing what to say next. Tamina stood and slowly began to follow the rest of the counsel.  Dastan caught a glimpse of her movement.

“Wait Princess,” Dastan pleaded, “I would ask a moment alone with you.”

Tamina stopped and turned to face Dastan, “What is it you need my prince?”

Dastan approached Tamina slowly, waiting for the last council members to leave. “I feel the need to tell you something before we marry.” Tamina looked at Prince Dastan square in the face. She was solid and stern in her expression and Dastan knew that his father’s comment had struck a nerve with her.
“First let me clarify, I wish to rule with you Tamina, not over you…as my father may have made the wrong impression just now…” He was starting to stammer and sweat; this was not what he wanted to say.

“First you and your brothers attack my city unprovoked, then you ask for forgiveness and my hand in marriage…” Tamina was about to add the fact that she had no real choice in the matter, with the Persian army camped out in the palace square, when Prince Dastan’s fingers reached out and brushed across her lips. In shock she stopped mid-sentence and took note of the longing in Dastan’s eyes. It was only a split-second and he was so close to her that she could almost feel his breath on her cheek. His closeness and touch was intoxicating for some reason. Tamina felt her heart tremble a little.

Dastan loved Tamina when she was mad and getting worked up. He so wanted to kiss those lips again and taste her sweetness as he once had. He had to tell her the truth and he hoped that it would ease his apprehensions and melt her noble iciness. He stepped back to look at her dark, beautiful eyes as he stated, “I have loved you from the first time you told Tus that you would rather die than marry him, from the time that you jumped from the balcony and ran away to the desert with me, and the entire time that we have had to begin again.”

He looked at her waiting for the realization of what he had just confessed to her. She only looked at him in confusion. Dastan took a deep breath and added, “The day you agreed to marry me and I returned the dagger to you, was our second time meeting. I know the secret of the dagger and the Sandglass of the Gods.”

Tamina gasped and stepped back from Dastan. Dastan looked down at the floor and shook his head, “I need you Tamina to be strong and accept this. I do not want to lose you again and I need you now.”

Tamina’s hand covered her mouth as the shock of what Dastan had revealed to her took hold in her mind. She had shared another time with Dastan and obviously they had been on the run together. What had happened she did not know, but he had used the dagger to reverse time and he had been reliving time with her. She saw his pain for the first time through new eyes. The slightly sad and yearning look that Dastan wore every time they were together, had been the result of his knowledge of the past. She had been completely oblivious that Dastan could be holding on to such a deep secret. She had always thought Dastan’s behavior was a rouse, in which he was just trying to win her affections and forgiveness for his and his brother’s attack on Alamut.

She could stand no longer and sat on the stool at her side, “Tell me Prince Dastan…tell me all of it, so that I can better understand.”

Dastan sat on the stool to her left and he began to reveal how he had come in possession of the dagger and how he had seen her the first time standing up against his brother, Tus. How he had presented her to his father and instead of giving her to Tus in marriage, the King had stated that Dastan would wed the Princess. Then he described watching in horror as his father was poisoned and Garsiv accused Dastan of murder. He described their escape from the palace and the means by which the secret of the dagger’s powers had been discovered by him during their fight in the desert camp. Dastan told everything in detail and Tamina listened quietly and hung on to his every word. When he finished he looked at Tamina, who sat silently and simply stared at the floor before her.

Tamina had sacrificed herself in order for Dastan to stop his uncle. She had even kissed him! Her mind was swirling and she had to focus. Then a thought grabbed hold in her mind and would not release itself. If Dastan and she had fallen in love, how painful it must have been courting her again. How cold she must have seemed compared to the Tamina he had come to know through all their struggles together. This tugged at her heart and a tear began to swell in her eye. With a blink it escaped from the crease of her lid and ran down her cheek. She looked directly at Dastan and she slowly reached out and touched the side of his brow. With a shy smile, Tamina whispered her answer, “You have my trust Dastan… and my heart.”

Dastan knew that what had just happened was more like a sandstorm, than the gentle approach he had intended. When Tamina finally spoke, he could hardly believe what he heard. She had given him her trust and her heart! He could not refrain from the overwhelming relief and excitement that he felt and he sweep Tamina up off the stool and twirled her around in his arms. He could feel the rush of her heartbeat, as well as his own.  When he stopped, he gently set her feet back on the ground. Tamina’s nose brushed the side of his and her lips hovered just in front of his. Without hesitation he met her lips head on and kissed her deeply and held her tight against his body. It seemed to last forever before a sudden knock at the council chamber door parted them.

From that moment onward, Princess Tamina felt differently about the man she was about to marry and she made every effort to address Prince Dastan personally. She found that he was not the cruel warrior she had thought and that he desperately wanted to learn how to rule well and take care of the people of Alamut. Tamina also made sure that the dignitaries completed their negotiations quickly so that she could spend more time with Dastan each day. 

An Ill Beginning

At last, Princess Tamina and Dastan were wed in a grand ceremony at the palace in Alamut with Dastan’s father, King Sharaman, and his brothers, Garsiv and Tus, in attendance. Tamina radiated with happiness, knowing the truth between her and Dastan. That they had come full circle in time and found each other again. She also knew that she would have the man that saved her life, and city from the brink of destruction, at her side. He would help her safeguard the Sandglass of the Gods forever.

Dastan reflected Tamina’s joy that day in his own expression and knew that he would have Tamina to guide him in becoming the great Prince his father said he could become. The day had seemed to happen so fast and Dastan was trying to savor it fully. However, by the time of the wedding feast, it was difficult to refuse the wine that flowed and his friends that offered it to him. The celebration and night seemed to become blurrier as it went on. At last he found himself being escorted away from the feast as his friends and brothers were helping him closer to the sleeping chamber, which Tamina had discretely disappeared to.

Dastan entered the Chamber and had to push hard to shut the door behind him, as Bez was trying to steal a peak at the Princess that waited for her husband. Dastan leaned against the closed door and steadied himself for a minute. He had to take a deep breath, when he realized that he was now alone with his wife, Tamina, and so much had changed in just a few hours. He was now not only a Prince of Persia, but the Prince of Alamut. He had gone from soldier to husband in two months, without ever truly considering what marriage would be like.

The chamber glowed in soft golden tones from the many candles that lined the edge of the room. The sitting area was nearest the door and Dastan had to make his away past the obstacles of pillows and stools that dotted the path to the sleeping area. Between the sitting area and the sleeping area a translucent silk drape defined the spaces and Dastan could barely make out the objects that lay beyond it. As he adjusted his eyes, he was able to distinguish the outline of the bed and its grand canopy and more candles along the far walls. Somewhere behind this haze was Tamina, waiting there quietly and in all her beauty. Dastan could not make out her silhouette as he approached the barrier before him.

Dastan heard Tamina suck in a breath before he could actually see her as he split the part in the curtain and stepped into the sleeping area. His eyes were quick to find where the sound had come from. There she stood next to the right edge of the bed canopy. He could see her body tense as his eyes fell upon her and he realized the fear that she was feeling at this moment.  Her timid behavior revealed her innocence and Dastan new that he must now be gentle and try to ease his wife’s fear.

He walked to the center of the bed that lie ahead of him and turned to face Tamina. She was near to shaking at this point and completely vulnerable. Dastan looked at the space between them and with a small nod and shy smile he held out his hand as he had when he returned the dagger to her.  Tamina understanding the gesture Dastan was attempting to make and she willed herself slowly towards her husband. She took his hand and Dastan responded, “Let us sit and talk my love.”

As the sun fully penetrated the folds of the canopy surrounding the bed, Dastan turned over aware of the ache in his head. Too much wine and too late of a night. With a slight hesitation and without opening his eyes, Dastan reached out for Tamina next to him where she would be lying. There was nothing there! This caused him to open his eyes immediately. Had this been just a dream! No he reassured himself, this was indeed the bed he remembered sitting upon with Tamina last night. He was no longer in his wedding outfit either, that he was certain of. He looked at the spot next to him. Someone had been there that night with him and he could see the outline of where they had rested against the pillow.

Dastan tried to wipe away the pounding in his head. What did he remember from last night? He remembered coming in, finding Tamina, and coaxing her to the bed. He remembered how beautiful she looked with her hair down and the ivory shift of a dress that she wore. He even remembered the gold embroidery  that hid her curves behind each stitch. He remembered something else too and it made his body groan hard. The taste of her lips and everything that followed from there until he fell asleep in the wee hours of the morning. So where the hell was his wife!

An Unexpected Journey

Princess Tamina ran down the hallway, desperate to escape the creature that was chasing her. She could not see it, but every sense tingled and all she could think was to flee. As she turned the corner down a narrow and dark passage way, she realized that the corridor was covered from ceiling to floor in what looked like spider webs. Tamina could hear the low groans of the creature that was stalking her getting closer with every beat of her heart. She could see sunlight peaking from the far end of the corridor, from the exposed corners of what she thought was a window. It was her only escape! If she could just make it to the window.
She turned and battled her way through the silken threads. They were stronger than she had expected and she struggled to make her way forward. As she twisted and turned to make her way forward, she felt the webbing grab at her ankles and it finally tangled and sent her falling forward. As she fell, Tamina became entwined in the silken bindings and now her arms and legs could barely move. She fought to get free and could hear the creature coming. Suddenly she saw a shadow turn the corner, but she could not make out what it was that was coming for her. She tried to scream for Dastan, but no sound came from her mouth. WAKE UP!
Wake up she told herself, but it was hard to open her eyes. She had been having a horrific dream and her head felt as if it would split open. She tried to move to rub her face, but found herself unable to move. For a moment she thought that she had somehow wound herself in the bedding, but as she binked and adjusted her eyes to her surroundings, she discovered she was not in her wedding bed.

She was instead in a dark, small container of some sort. She tried to move her hands and arms, but realized that they were bound behind her. She could feel the silk cords and pulled hard against them to no avail. Her legs were also bound around the knees and ankles and they too could not be freed. As she struggled, it became clear that she was also gagged by a silken scarf around her mouth. She tried to scream, but like in her dream no sound came from her more than a squeak.

The realization of what was happening was a harder reality than her dream - she was being taken! Who would risk such a bold move and take on the Persian army, for when her husband became aware of her peril this enemy would feel his and his brothers' wrath. Then another thought flash across her mind, what has happened to Dastan! She hoped that he was still alive and looking for her. She hoped that he had not meet a similar fate or worse! She had to clear her mind and think about escape, yes that was the only place she could let herself wander at this moment.

Tamina could see small streams of light coming from the far right corner of her current prison. It was still day, but there was no distinguishing where she was. She could sense the rocking motion now as her head began to clear and she was able to focus more. Suddenly there was a familiar groan to that of the creature that stocked her in her dream and Tamina froze. Again the sound penetrated the vessel in which she was stowed away in. It occurred to her that this groan was no creature to fear, but the common protests of a camel. She could smell the dust and sweat of the camel and she could hear the plodding of each step. The steps were muffled, as if walking on sand. THE DESERT! She was being taken out into the desert! To where she had no idea and she prayed that Dastan would come looking for her.

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