«Arrgghh!» with a strangled cry Prince Dastan of Persia, the Persian Lion, soon to be king of Alamut, woke up from his sleep, panting for breath. It had been almost a month now since he had foiled his uncle's plans to use the dagger to go back in time and let the lion kill Father. Almost a month when whenever he fell asleep he would wake up shortly thereafter because of the nightmares that hunted him.
No, not nightmares, memories. Time and time again he was forced to watch as everyone he held dear was killed in front of his eyes. Father, Garsiv, Tus, Bis, Tamina... the list went on. If he was lucky he would wake up then, but sometimes the dream would go on and Uncle would win. He would be seconds too late and Uncle would go back in time and become king. Father, Garsiv and Tus would not exist. He would still be a street rat. Tamina would either die or be forced to become one of Uncle's wives when Uncle used the same strategy as he had used to conquer Alamut and the dagger.
He knew his behavior had changed and he knew that his friends and family had noticed. He was no longer the carefree Prince that had defied orders and taken down Alamut. Sure he might still try to act like he was, but he knew people saw the darkness that had invaded his eyes and the caution that was now a part of his every motion. Easier changes to spot was his devotion to training and labor; hoping that bone-deep exhaustion would keep the dreams at bay.
It was a sign of how worried they all were when they failed to harass him for acting like a mother hen. Deep in his heart he knew that he had succeeded and that they are were alive and well, but he couldn't help the pull that kept him checking up on them all multiple times a day. The one that understood him the most was probably Tamina. She knew what the dagger he had given back was capable of, and his comments and actions had most likely triggered her suspicions, but she had kept quiet and only watched from the sidelines.
Truthfully he didn't know what to think about the Princess. In some ways she was still his Tamina, but in others... They had not been through the same as they had, and they hopefully never would. No, the circumstances that had tied them together the first time around would never happen again, he would make sure of that.
Without noticing he had arrived in the same room he often ended up in after his nightmares; the room where the dagger was being kept. He didn't know what made him come here or why, maybe it was to make sure that it truly was safe, but in the presence of that cursed dagger was one of the few times he actually managed to relax. The other times he had come here he had been alone, this time however he quickly realized that that was not the case.
«Princess Tamina.» he greeted politely, before taking what he secretly considered his spot in the room.
«Prince Dastan.» the beauty greeted back before she too kept her silence.
«How do you do it?» Dastan eventually asked. He had not meant to ask it, but now that he had he was waiting anxiously for her answer.
«Go on living like normal, bearing the huge responsibility of knowing what you do. Knowing that you can't share that knowledge with your most trusted comrades because you might not know them as well as you think you do, or even if you can, you could be overheard or someone could lure the information out of them. And if you fail... the repercussions would be enormous and horrifying.» He squeezed his eyes shut, willing the images away.
«You used the dagger.» Tamina's beautiful eyes looked at him knowingly.
«Nizam wanted to use it to go back and become king. You and I managed to escape with it after he framed me for Father's murder, but the Hassansins... they took it from us. I didn't manage to stop him in time, he pierced the glass and... we fought... I...» the story had promised to keep to himself flew out of his mouth brokenly and the tears he had refused to let fall before started to fall.
Tamina gathered the distraught man in her arms and held him as he wept. She had kept tabs on him since he conquered and saved Alamut and gave her back the Dagger of Time. She had seen signs that led her to believe that more had happened than she knew and she had secretly been waiting for her fiance to break down. And if what she could gather from his muttering he was entitled to one.
«I have known my entire life.» She finally answered the Prince's previous question when he started to quiet down. «Guardian of the Dagger is a duty that is passed on from mother to daughter. It is what I was trained for and it's what I'll train my successor for when that time comes. It was never meant to be your burden, but now that it is you might find it lighter to bear if you share some of it. You don't have to, but know that I am here to listen if you need it.»
Dastan searched her eyes and evidently he found what he was looking for because he started talking. He told her how his father had been poisoned and together they had escaped on his brother's stolen horse. How she had tried to seduce and kill him, but ending up with him finding out about the dagger. He told her about the Valley of the Slaves and ostrich races. How he had realized that the murderer had been his uncle Nizam. The Hassansins attacks and Garsiv's death. Alamut and Tus' death. And finally how he had fought Nizam after he pierced the Sandglass. For most if would all sound like a mad story, but Tamina knew what the Dagger was capable of and to her the Prince's story was completely believable. She might not have the most flattering opinion of the Persians, but she found herself truly admiring the young man in front of her.
«You did all you could. You defeated Nizam and stopped him from executing his plans. There were nothing more you could do, can do.» She spoke softly and to her delight some of the shadows that had hunted her fiance's eyes disappeared. He gave her a breathtaking smile before yawning wide. They had been talking for hours and he had not had much sleep before coming there.
«Now I believe it is time for you to get some rest.» Tamina gently ordered.
«I believe you might be right Princess.» Dastan said lighthearted as he staggered to his feet; his exhaustion finally taken hold.
Walking down the corridors slowly Tamina was relieved to see the oldest prince hurry towards them, clearly worried. Not that she had expected anything less. The two older brothers had kept a close eye on their youngest since the battle, something that had fit well with Dastan's wish to check in on them as well. And today there had been no sign of him for most of the day, Tamina could not fault their actions.
«Prince Tus, perhaps you could help me assist your brother to his room?» Tamina asked politely.
«What's wrong with him?» Tus demanded in return as he supported most of his younger brother's weight.
«Nothing serious, merely exhaustion.» Tamina answered evenly, disregarding the lack of respect this time.
«Mmhmm... Haven't slept much.» Dastan's slurred speech confirmed her assessment.
«You alright Little Brother?» Garsiv inquired as he joined them.
'Was he alright?' Dastan asked himself. He didn't know if there excited an answer to that question. He was better, but... As his brothers stopped and stared at him intensely Dastan realized he had taken too long to answer. Hopefully they would write the redness around his eyes off as signs of tiredness.
«I will be.» he answered at last and for once he actually believed it. They were all alive, the threat was gone and he was no longer the sole bearer of what had happened. «Eventually. Maybe I'll go see some ostrich races when I wake up,» Dastan yawned once again. «But right this instant, I really need some sleep.»
«I believe I'll leave you in your brothers capable hands.»
«Thank you Princess.» Thank you for listening. Thank you for helping me. Thank you. Dastan looked at the beautiful princess and let her see all the emotions in his eyes.
Tamina walked up to the three men and put her hand over Alamut's conqueror and savior's heart. «No, thank you.» She then let her gaze wander over the two men flanking Dastan. «Your brother is a great man, know that and hope that you'll never have to witness it in person.» She then turned around and left the men dumbfounded.
«What was that about?» Garsiv asked out loud.
«Some things, brother, it is best not to know.» Dastan said with a tired voice before stumbling into his room and collapsing on his bed.