Arslan knew the path to reclaiming Pars would be a long and bloody one. He knew, he expected it, but what happened today was too much. The prince was only fourteen, too young to see people die such heinous deaths; in other countries, a boy at fourteen is still a child, they could enjoy life and not worry about wars. But not Arslan, soon an entire nation would rest on his shoulders as blood rains down around him; it wasn't fair.
Taking refuge in a war-torn and abandoned home, one with window frames smashed and precious belongings ransacked; most likely taken by Lusitanian soldiers or marauders. Elam immediately went to the kitchen to prepare food, Narsus went to a back room to think up new strategies, Farangis took perch in the window, examining her arrows. Gieve sat on the flooor beside her, relishing in the fact that she's allowing him to be near her, and began strumming his oud. Daryun, who had carried his wayward and tired prince into the house, laid the young boy down on the couch.
Sitting down with his prince, Daryun released the boy's ponytail, lifted Arslan's head, placed his head upon his lap, and ran his long fingers through the white waves of silk. This was an action Daryun reserved for Arslan alone, it was the best form of comfort the man could offer, it was something derived in their youth; it never failed to cheer the prince up.
But today was different, Arslan's blue eyes were dull and glazed, face neutral; unable to even crack a smile as Daryun's fingers weaved soothingly through his fair locks. "Food's ready." Elam called as he began placing plates of food on the low table in the main room. "Your Highness, you had a long day, you should eat something." Daryun said, "I'm not really hungry... I'll eat later, sorry." Arslan mumbled.
Narsus entered the room and witnessed the scene, "Poor Prince, he is still a child, it must be too much for him." he said, lightly patting Arslan's head. "Please don't worry about me, I'm just tired." Arslan insisted, "He's not used to such things." Gieve spoke, placing a blanket over the boy, Faranagis filled a plate with food and placed it in front of Arslan, "You must eat before you retire tonight." she said.
"Thank you... But I don't need all of this special treatment." Arslan said, "A king needs to be able to lead, but they also need to accept help when it's needed, Your Highness." Daryun informed, grabbing the plate and handing it to Arslan. A gentle smile came to the prince's face, "You're right." he murmured, accepting the food, Gieve suddenly mad ea noise and stood up, "I have an idea." he announced.
The musician retieved is oud and returned to the table, "How about a story, Your Highness?" Gieve asked, "A story?" Arslan asked, "What kind of story?" Elam queried. "A tale that will, let's say, hit close to home to the prince." Gieve explaining, tuning his oud, "If you upset him..." Farangis began to threaten, "Of course not, my fair lady, I meant that it will be similar to one of his experiences; nothing more." Gieve hastily explained.
"I'm intrigued, let's hear it." Narsus interjected, "Only if the prince wants to hear it." Gieve said, looking to the boy, "Sure, I suppose." Arslan replied. Gieve smirked and began lightly strumming his oud, "This is 'The Tale of the Prince and His Knight.'" Arslan's face lit up at the title and cast a half glance at Daryun before locking his eyes back on Gieve; Daryun's face softly flushed at catching the prince's gaze, eliciting a chuckle from Narsus.
Gieve nimbly moved his fingers across the strings of his trusty oud as he began to weave the tale.
"A long time ago, there was a distant land. One rich in fertile soil and foliage as far as the eye could see, and even further. This land was ruled by a king, a man of power and grace, and a queen, a woman of marvel. They had a son, a small and frail boy, no older than the amount of fingers on one hand.
"One day, the king introduced his son to a boy who became his first friend, the young son of the Court Magistrate, a boy of the same age. The two were inseparable, one could not be seen without the other; both trained together, played together, even got in mischief together. In adulthood, the prince became a splendid young man and the boy became his knight. The perfect relationship for them.
"However, their bond went deeper, beyond friendship and loyalty; there was love. Pure, innocent love."
Arslan blushed, looking to Daryun, who refused to meet his eyes, cheeks were ever so slightly tinged crimson.
"Their love had to be hidden, the prince needed to find a potential queen; no one could know the truth.
"One year, the prince and his knight being no older than fully recognized adults, their kingdom had gone to war. The prince stayed behind to rule the land as his Lord Father went to battle, his knight staying at his side. Three years later, the war was declared over, but the king did not return, he was not reported dead or captured, no one knew what had become of him.
"The knight, an expert scout, decided to venture to find the king, this frightened the prince, 'But what if I never see you again?' he asked, crystal tears in his eyes. 'Not to worry, I will surely return. But if I do not, find happiness.' And with a kiss, the knight left.
"Despite his promise, the knight never returned, month turned to years turned to decades. The prince became the first king to never take a queen, he was not able to find happiness with another; for him, there was only his knight in his heart. IN his old age, the king wandered the city streets, he stopped when he saw a young boy. Placing the royal crown on the boy's head, he said, 'Rule this land better than I did.' and died."
Arslan gasped, he was not expecting such an ending, however, Gieve continued playing.
"And when the king arrived at the grand gate of the afterlife, youth rejuvenated to the time when he lost his knight, was greeted not by the gatekeepers, but his knight. With a smile, the prince took hold of his knight's hand and went through the gate together; the prince finally found happiness."
With the final strum of the oud, the story came to a close and Gieve was rewarded with applause. "Brilliant performance, Gieve." Narsus said, "You're much too kind." he replied. "Night has well since fallen, we should retire for tomorrow." Farangis said, placing a wooden cover over the window she had been in, "Agreed, sleep well, Your Highness." Gieve said and withdrew for the night, followed by Farangis, Narsus, and Elam.
"Your Highness, you should rest." Daryun said, grabbing his lance to prepare for the first watch. "I will. Um, Daryun..." Arslan called, "Yes?", "That's not going to happen to us... Is it?" Arslan asked, receding in his blanket. "No, I will be by you side for as long as you need me. Nothing will pull me away from it." Daryun affirmed, Arslan smiled, "Thank you, Daryun."
Daryun nodded and leaned to his prince, pressing a kiss to his forehead, "Sweet dreams, my prince." Arslan curled up on the couch and before sleep took over whispered, "As to you, my knight."