Tamina's Jealousy Part 2
A month later they made their way to Nasaf, the whole city celebrating as the Lion of Persia returned with the famed Princess. Valletta, Dastan's adopted mother was waiting for him at the door of the palace, eager to see her beloved son again.
“Dastan!” She called out when the doors were opened, opening her arms wide, the brightest smile on her face as he quickened his steps to embrace her.
“My beloved Dastan, let me get a look at you,” Valletta said as she took his face in her hands. “What is this scruff, either grow it out or shave it off,” Valletta teased before moving her hands to his shoulders and arms to inspect his clothing. “Alamut has improved you indeed, no doubt your precious Tamina had a hand in this,” Valletta continued as she took in her daughter in law.
“My dear it is so good to have you here, we are truly blessed.” Valletta said reverently, bowing in respect. “It seems impossible but you have grown even more beautiful Princess, it is clear you are truly blessed by the gods, I have never seen your equal,” Valletta praised.
“Dastan how you managed to get her hand in marriage is miracle, she is too beautiful for you,” Valletta teased, squeezing Dastan's hand.
“Mother,” Dastan groaned as Tamina tried not to laugh.
“Come, your father has a feast waiting for you, I have had your favorites brought in, more Baklava than you should be able to stand,” Valletta informed him before leading them to the banquet hall.
Dastan's mouth dropped before he shut it and swallowed, he had fallen in love with the delicacy when he was a boy and could eat an entire tray by himself.
“What is Baklava?” Tamina whispered in Dastan's ear.
“Oh you'll see, it's the greatest food on earth.” Dastan replied.
“Then how come you've never mentioned it before?” Tamina furthered.
“Because it's very difficult to make, the ingredients are hard to come by here but where my mother is from, they grow in abundance.” Dastan quickly explained.
Once on their Dais, the treat was offered to them and Tamina's eyes grew wide at the taste, so rich yet delicate, the paper thin layers of pastry along with what she assumed was crushed and pressed nuts all drenched in a thick syrup. She fought not to lick her fingertips but wasn't surprised to see Dastan almost licking his whole hand to get it all.
“You were right, this is absolutely delicious.” Tamina admitted.
Dastan hummed in agreement before taking two more portions, practically stuffing his face, his cheeks fully extended as he ate in complete bliss.
Tamina playfully rolled his eyes at him as she reached for her glass of wine to cleanse her palate from the richness of it.
In the morning Dastan, Tamina and Valletta had a private breakfast on Valletta's balcony. There were a large assortment of fruits and other pastries along with a special tea that Tamina couldn't quite pin the taste of but enjoyed it's sweet flavor. The private setting allowed Tamina to relax and enjoy the occasion, with Valletta telling tales of Dastan as a boy and the messes he would get in had Tamina laughing harder than she could remember laughing in a long time. She could tell Dastan was somewhat embarrassed by it all but took it well, often defending himself to tell his side of the story.
“Excuse me Valletta,” Tamina started as they had another tray of food brought in. Valletta telling her to use her name, Tamina insisting Valletta do the same.
“Yes Tamina?” Valletta asked.
“Dastan wrote you a few months ago about finding a destiny that you sang about in a lullaby, could you tell me about it?” Tamina inquired.
“Oh, of course dear, hold on, I'll get it,” Valletta said as she went into her bed chamber and brought back a large box. “This is my keepsake box for Dastan,” Valletta explained, putting it in the middle of them and opening it.
“I didn't know you kept all of this mother,” Dastan said as he looked at the contents.
“Of course I kept all of these things,” Valletta replied as she searched through a stack of song sheets. “When Dastan was first brought into the palace and given to me as a son, I strove to be the most loving and patient mother I could be, although Dastan did make that very difficult from time to time,” Valletta recalled fondly.
“Oh I believe it,” Tamina agreed.
“Ah, here it is,” Valletta said as she found the sheet and handed it to Tamina. “I wrote this song for him and with the King's orchestra we came up with a fantastic melody.”
Tamina looked it over, she never learned to read music but the words touched her. “This is extraordinary, you must be a very gifted singer Valletta,” Tamina praised as she handed the paper back to Valletta.
“Oh I was, that's why the King took me as a wife so many years ago, when Persia took over my homeland, we were a small city, we surrendered to keep from being slaughtered.” Valletta recalled, a bit of sadness being cast over her features for just a moment. “In return the King ordered a celebration in our city becoming part of his empire, in return we got greater trade, greater walls and protection from our enemies. But I was already known for my singing talent and as part of the celebration I was called upon to sing for him, along with a few of my friends. He picked me out and asked me to sing by myself, of any song of my choosing, I sang yet another lullaby, one that I had sung to my nieces and nephews because, since we were located on the coast of the Mediterranean sea, storms with very heavy rain, loud, booming thunder and cracking lightning were not uncommon. And it was a song that most mothers learned to sing to their little ones when the storm freighted them. The King was taken up with me and that night I was made his wife and only a few short days later I was sent here.” Valletta explained with a shrug.
“That must have been hard,” Tamina sympathized.
“It was, learning a new language, a new culture and thrown into a world I felt I had no right to be in since I had no noble blood myself. It was lonely for me until Dastan came into my life, but ever since that day, I found my destiny and I was happy. Until the King sent him off into war then it was nerve wracking, his letters were my only tie to him, every time I got one, I was relieved he was still alive, although Tus would still send a letter to me as well, informing me of any injuries Dastan had sustained, because Dastan would never write about those, he didn't want to worry me, like any good son would.”
“I wondered who it was that told on me,” Dastan muttered.
“Tus has always been a great brother to you dear, now Garsiv would tell me of the antics and stunts you pulled off, imploring me to tell you take less risks.”
“I knew it, it wasn't so I would take less risks it would be to keep from stealing his glory,” Dastan argued.
“You and Garsiv always seemed to be at odds, even as children, he was brutal, his mother and I would quarrel over his treatment of you almost constantly, your father finally had a talk with both Garsiv and his mother and basically told them to 'play nice'. Then it was quite pleasant after that.”
“I remember that.” Dastan recalled.
“But a lot has changed since then, hasn't it,” Valletta reminded him with a fond smile.
“Now Tamina, tell me of your childhood, at the wedding we barely got to greet each other, let alone get to know each other.” Valletta invited.
“In Alamut, the succession of the throne only goes to women,” Tamina began.
“Like it should in my opinion,” Valletta added which caused Tamina to smile brighter.
“Yes, well, it's not so much as a blood line, but a choosing, whenever a Princess, or Queen, dies, there is a search done, and the high priests collect all the girls between a certain age, we are then brought into the temple and we perform certain ceremonies and the results reveal the gods choosing of the next Princess and Guardian of the holy city.” Tamina explained. “However I was fortunate enough that my mother was the former Guardian and the gods deemed me worthy.”
“At what age did your mother die?”
“I was 14, she was in labor with my brother and the worst happened, they both died.” Tamina murmured, saddened to recall the memory. Dastan wrapped his arm around her shoulders as Valletta squeezed her hand.
“I am so sorry to hear that Tamina, that must have been extremely difficult to go through.” Valletta comforted, her own eyes glazing over with tears. “No child should go through life without at least one parent. But at least you were surround by people who loved you and looked after you. I'm sure you were never alone,”
“That's true, my mother's handmaiden, Irina, became like a second mother to me, she was always someone I could turn to.”
“I'm happy to hear that.” Valletta replied, a soft smile on her face.
“Now, to change the subject to something happier, Dastan, I have heard a rumor that you want us to go back to my homeland, to show Tamina where you spent part of your childhood.”
“That's true, are you able to make such a journey, I would love for you to join us.” Dastan invited.
“I would love to, inform the King yourself, he will see to it that we have a safe and wonderful journey.” Valletta instructed.
Dastan took a private audience with his father and was pleased to have his request granted.
“However my son, I will be insistent for extra protection, we can't have anything happen to the King and Queen of Alamut as well as your mother.” The King advised.
“Father my band of soldiers will be traveling with us, we should be fine.” Dastan protested.
“I'm sure you will be, but still insist.”
“As you wish father,” Dastan conceded.
After a week of preparations they finally set off, with more armed guards than seemed to be necessary. Dastan rode his horse next to the extravagant and luxurious carriage that Tamina and Valletta along with their closest handmaidens rode in, listening in on the conversations.
“That is a beautiful Amulet, Valletta,” Tamina commented as she gestured to the Amulet that hung as a pendant on Valletta's neck.
“Thank you Tamina, it was given to me as a wedding present from the oldest woman in my village, she told me it would keep me safe, I was tempted to give it to Dastan when he went off to war.” Valletta explained. “But he declined, I'm guessing because of it's feminine appearance.” Valletta construed.
“You are right mother, the last thing I needed was Tus or Garsiv to give me grief over having such a thing on me,” Dastan confirmed as he rode next to them.
“Teasing or not, you still should have had it with you,” Valletta countered.
“In his defense, he really doesn't need it, he's extremely resourceful,” Tamina defended sweetly.
Dastan grinned victoriously, happy and proud that his wife would defend him like that.
“That he is, among other things,” Valletta had to admit.
Half way through their journey they were attacked in the middle of the night by a large band of thieves. Valletta immediately left her tent and ran to Tamina to make sure she wasn't being attacked. Tamina was about to leave her tent to help Dastan defend them.
“Valletta, you're alright!” Tamina said in relief.
“Tamina, don't leave this tent, I have a plan.” Valletta instructed before leaving the tent, taking off her necklace that held the amulet, raised it over her head and pressed the jewel in the center before turning to face the sky, suddenly a beam of light brighter than the sun shot forth, blinding the thieves about to come after her as well as Tamina's tent.
“Mother what are you doing?!” Dastan called out, shielding his face from the light to keep himself from being blinded.
Suddenly the most ferocious roar was heard, not from the North, South, East or West but from above, suddenly flames burst forth, eating up the thieves but leaving the King's guards as well as Dastan's men completely unharmed. Dastan looked up and saw a shimmer of scales and a wing fly over head as the beast circled and shot more flame, suddenly a woman calling out orders once all the thieves had been dispatched. Then the large beast landed, the flames from the still burning carcasses illuminated it, a dragon, something Dastan had only heard of from fantasy stories, but here was one right in front of him, it stalked forward, the way a tiger or lion would. It's eyes glowing an eirry blue. Dastan stood still, unable to move as the dragon thrust his face in front of Dastan, sniffing him before it seemed to grin, giving a gentle purr before turning to Valletta and practically galloping over to her nuzzling her and licking at her face like a dog would causing Valletta to giggle. Dastan watched as the dragon's rider got off and hugged his mother tightly.
“Mother?” Dastan called as he walked forward, trying not to jump as the dragon turned to consider him again.
“Oh, Dastan, I'm so happy you're alright,” Valletta said as she handed the Amulet to the dragon's rider to go to her son to embrace him.
At this point Tamina had emerged from her tent and stood still as she took in the situation. The dragon saw her first and snorted to his rider who turned to the Queen.
“Your Majesty,” The rider greeted, bowing, her dragon bowing his head as well.
“Who are you?” Tamina inquired.
“My name is Jade, this is my dragon Shift.” Jade introduced.
Tamina nodded once as she tried to take it all in.
“Tamina!” Dastan called out as he jogged over to her. “Are you hurt? Are you alright?” Dastan asked, looking her over carefully.
“I'm fine Dastan, really,” Tamina assured him. “But what is going on?”
“You were ambushed, your mother lit the beacon for help,” Jade simply explained to Dastan.
“And you are...?” Dastan inquired.
“This is Jade, Dastan,” Valletta introduced. “And this is Shift?” Valletta guessed as she came over to them.
“Yes, Blast was on a different mission with Coral,” Jade confirmed.
“The last time I saw this one, he was no bigger than a mere kitten,” Valletta cooed as she stroked the dragon's face, Shift began purring in contentment as it laid down but was still able to keep his head in Valletta's hands.
“He always did love you, it was hard for him when you left. He's missed you.” Jade explained.
“It was hard to leave him, but I couldn't let the Persians know they existed,” Valletta explained.
“They would have lost their sacredness, they would have been over bred before they died early and untimely deaths.” Jade mused.
“So how do you know my mother?” Dastan questioned.
“I'm the one who gave her the amulet and it's a pleasure to meet you too Lion of Persia,” Jade answered with bow.
“But that's impossible you can't be older than thirty,” Dastan argued. “And I prefer to be called Dastan,” Dastan clarified.
“Of course,” Jade complied before returning to her old friend Valletta.
“So how is it that you are the old woman?” Dastan repeated.
Jade looked to Valletta, “You want to tell him or me?”
“Oh I'll explain in the morning, for now we should get some more rest.” Valletta said as she kissed the Dragon's nose. The Dragon opened it's mouth and did a breathy purr, blue smoke enveloping Valletta for a moment before it disappointed. Valletta coughed but giggled. “Yes I love you too,”
“I trust you'll stay with us my friend.” Valletta spoke to Jade.
“Of course, I'll stay with you for as long as you wish.” Jade replied happily as Shift began devouring the fallen thieves, shredding the carcasses into more chew-able bits.
“You should all try to get some more rest, there will be no more danger,” Jade encouraged.
Once they all returned to their tents Jade went to Shift, watching as he ate the last of the kills.
“Feel better?” Jade inquired.
Shift purred happily as he swallowed the last of it.
“Good, now let's go find the hoard those thieves had, won't that be fun?” Jade invited.
Shift got up and trotted over to her, laying down so she could get on more easily. “Let's go,” Jade commanded and braced herself as Shift stood then began running then lept into the air, his wings catching the air and lifting them high into the sky.
In the morning Dastan awoke to find Jade outside, organizing the hoard she had found and brought back while there was no longer a dragon, but a large grey dapple horse with the same piercing blue eyes rolling in the sand.
“Where is Shift?” Dastan asked.
“He's right there,” Jade replied gesturing to the horse. “Why do you think his name is Shift?” Jade asked rhetorically.
“Ah, and what's all this?” Dastan asked as he knelt down next to her to look over the items.
“This was the thieves' hoard, Shift and I found it and brought it back here, I'm just organizing it so you and your wife and your mother can look it over, taking whatever you like. There's quite a few swords and a large amount of gold, mostly jewelry, it's in that box over there,” Jade explained as she pointed to the different piles. “However, I think you would be most interested in this,” Jade added as she handed him an embroidered silk satchel.
Dastan opened it and found a variety of large jewels, bigger and better quality than even the ones that were on his father's crown.
“And those just aren't any normal jewels, they seem to have a power all their own,” Jade commented as she pulled a book out of her satchel and began going through the pages before she found what she was looking for.
“Ah, here they are,” Jade rejoiced as she showed him the pages and pointed to the different jewels and their imbued powers.
Tamina emerged from her tent to see Dastan and Jade sitting next to each other, deep in discussion over something. She felt her jealousy roar to life.
“No need to get jealous dear, Jade is already married, she would never encroach on your relationship with Dastan,” Valletta said softly when she had emerged and saw the same scene and then had looked over at Tamina who had been standing in front of her tent, her eyes narrowed and a scowl on her face.
Tamina immediately changed her demeanor once she realized she had been caught.
“It's nothing to be ashamed of, every woman experiences jealousy, just make sure Dastan knows that this has bothered you. He will not think you are being petty, communication and mutual respect is the strongest foundation for every friendship, especially marriage.” Valletta reminded her.
Tamina looked over to her mother in law who had seemed to reverse in age, she looked no older than herself.
“Have you gotten younger?” Tamina asked in awe.
“In a way, yes, Shift blew that blue smoke on me, it has rejuvenating properties, kiss his nose and if he likes you enough, he will do the same.” Valletta answered.
“But where is he? I don't see him anywhere,” Tamina inquired looking around and not seeing any dragon.
“His name is Shift for a reason dear, he's the dapple grey horse that is walking up to us.” Valletta answered as they watched him get up from the sand and shook the dust from his coat.
“How is that possible?” Tamina inquired in confusion as the horse drew nearer and began sniffing at Tamina.
“It's beyond explanation, perhaps Jade can enlighten you.” Valletta answered.
Tamina considered the horse in front of her as it did the same to her. She tentatively reached out to stroke Shift's face. Shift in response leaned his head into her hand and began nuzzling her. Tamina giggled as Shift used her as a scratching post for his head. When he was done he put his head over her shoulder, bringing her closer to him as if embracing her. Tamina rested her head against his soft mane and softly scratched down his neck, feeling a sense of calm, peace and contentment envelop her. Tamina closed her eyes and enjoyed the morning rays cut that through the palm trees, the soft breeze that swirled around them.
When Tamina opened her eyes she noticed Dastan considering her curiously as well as Jade who looked astonished. Valletta simply smiled knowingly.
“What?” Tamina asked.
“He's chosen you,” Jade murmured.
Tamina shook her head, not understanding.
“Creatures like Shift will tolerate some riders but will be truly loyal to only one. From now on, Shift will obey only you. His soul is now intertwined with yours.” Jade explained.
“Just like that?” Tamina asked in astonishment.
“Just like that,” Jade replied with a shrug before turning to Dastan. “I will need to borrow a horse until we reach your mother's homeland.”
Once Jade had put Shift's specialized saddle on after camp had been packed up, she led him over to Tamina, handing her the reins and a small book, a golden dragon embellished on the cover.
“What's this?” Tamina asked as she looked it over.
“That's instructions for how to take care of Shift as well as a list of commands you should know.” Jade answered before walking away to another horse that one of Dastan's men had gotten ready for her.
Tamina looked over the book before looking at Shift.
“Well then,” Tamina began, putting the book into a compartment on the saddle before Shift knelt down for her, allowing her to mount him easier.
“Aren't you just the sweetest,” Tamina cooed as she held onto the saddle as he got up again and began walking to the caravan, taking a place next to Dastan. With Shift being a tall horse in this form, Tamina had a good vantage point. Shift had the smoothest gait Tamina had ever experienced, she felt she could ride him for the rest of eternity and not tire out.
“On to the Mediterranean!” Valletta commanded as she climbed on board of her carriage.