01/19/2013 03:27 PM 



NOTE: Let me know if you can work with any of the starters bellow as they are or if you want me to personalize them to better fit your character and story!

| ~* STARTER 1

The Roman Republic - the City of Capua

Relations between Rome and the Persian-Parthian Empire, collectively known as Iranians, had long been tense. While the once again united Iranian nation strove to regain the territories of their once vast empire, the largest the word had ever known, before being invaded by Alexander of Macedonia and divided by his general following his death, the emerging Roman force in the west also sought to bring under their dominance all the territories that Alexander had once claimed and then go even further. Yet, such concepts served only to further sway the men whose accord was needed for such endeavors and motivate the men who had to partake in the impending military campaigns essential in the completion of such goals. The main reason for conquest was a simpler one, which was the main reason for all wars, namely resources, and the east was a rich land overflowing with unique items and astonishing novelties.

For many years now Rome had eagerly drunk from the rich spring flowing from the east, to the point that it had become dependent on those luxurious commodities, especially the aristocracy which, in no way different from the aristocracies of other nations, better secured their position by constantly amazing their fellow citizens with some bewildering novelty that they alone had come to possess. As the Roman Republic continued to expand and develop, the task of securing a constant flow of the now much needed commodities from the east became a thing of great concern, especially since the Iranians had once again secured control over much of their former empire, except for the coastal regions of the Middle Sea and Anatolia, including the Kingdom of Armina, the northern neighbor of the Persian-Parthian Empire. To the west, the barrier between the Empire of the Iranians and the territories either directly or indirectly controlled by the Roman Republic, was the river Ufrātu River.

Long, arduous battles between the Romans and the Iranians, with grave casualties on either sides, made the two nations realize that they had met their equal and neither could be able to definitively defeat and subdue the other. Whatever victories either side might gain, it would only be temporary and the balance would soon shift, reverting the order of things to its previous state. This was due to the vastness of the territories controlled by either side and the diverse array of nations that inhabited those lands, with the people of the western and eastern hemispheres generally being at odds with each other in both culture, tradition and way of life, despite some similarities that proved the differences were merely the result of different contexts.

Continuous warfare would offer the people of both nations a tense and scarce existence, with the need to divert most resources towards sustaining military campaigns. As such, the primary means of assuring future prosperity and social development became trade, an emblem of civilization after all. To ensure the stability and security of trade routes, the Iranians and Romans first had to come to terms on a multitude of relating subjects and sign detailed treaties. Ambassadors from both sides were sent to the partner nation where they would be granted residence and the freedom to represent the interests of their nation, while respecting the laws of that land. On more important occasions, high representatives of each nation would visit their commercial partners in their homeland.

This type of visit brought Maniya to Rome for a second time, although the first time when the visit was an official one and of such high stature. Following her marriage to the second-oldest son of the King of Kings, almost two years before, Maniya kept her adoptive name of Mahtab and continued to perform the duties that came with being the heir of the House Kurush-Hakhāmanish, the oldest, wealthiest and most prominent Iranian dynasty. Due to her previous knowledge and experience in such matters, as well as being more familiar with the Roman world, mostly because of the tortures she had suffered at their hands - something she kept secret and no longer sought vengeance for, Maniya was allowed by the King of Kings, with the joint approval of the Royal Council, to head the diplomatic mission to Rome. She was the one who made the proposition for such an excursion, in light of recent events.

Back when the peace and commerce treaties between Rome and the Iranian Empire had not yet taken a final shape, military confrontations still occurred between the Persian-Parthian military contingents stationed at the western border of the empire and the legions assigned to the neighboring Roman province of Syria. One such confrontation had been delayed by means of foregoing negotiations and then averted altogether when Maniya discovered that the Legatus in charge was someone she was acquainted with, a Roman who had actually saved her life.

(Legatus Titus Flavius Virilus)

It happened years before, in Britannia, when she was a young woman in her early twenties, travelling the world alone so as to explore it with the eyes of a common individual. There she was mistaken for a Britton rebel, with whom she had sought shelter, and crucified together with all the rebels who had been caught. Titus Flavius Virilus, then a Centurion in rank, took notice of the peculiar looking boy with messy short hair and realized it was in fact a girl. She convinced him that she was not a Britton by addressing him in Greek after she realized that some Britton rebels were also familiar with the Latin tongue. After she was taken down from the cross, barely alive and with severe injuries for which she would find a cure much later and at opposite ends of the known world from where they stood, Maniya was left in the care of some Roman-friendly locals, while Virilus had to move forth and see to his own duties.

When Maniya and Virilus became reacquainted, they developed their bond into a lucrative relationship that became the starting point of military collaborations between the two opposing forces. Their combined efforts helped settle the major disputes between the Iranian-friendly and Roman-friendly people of the region, ensuring as much stability as possible. The fruitful outcome of their actions was seen by both Roman and Iranian officials as a solid foundation on which a stable alliance could be built. The final treaty outlining this collaboration was to be signed in Rome, by Maniya, on behalf of the Iranian nation. She had been authorized by the King of Kings and the Royal Council to act as representative and had with her the royal seal. Although the greatest part of the treaty presented the details of joint military engagements, its main purpose was in fact the securing of trade routes and commercial activities carried out between the two nations and their common allies. Military action was one of the means that contributed to the achievement of such end.

The Iranian delegation headed by Maniya set on a sea voyage towards Italia, departing from the eastern shores of the Middle Sea, travelling together with Legatus Virilus and a small contingent of soldiers who accompanied him to Rome. The Legatus too, left the eastern lands only temporarily, to assist in the discussions prior to the signing of the treaty, as well as to regroup some of his most trusted soldiers who had served with him in Britannia. Together with Maniya and her entourage, he would then return with the additional unit to supplement the legion left in Syria and also in the company of the new Governor of Syria, bound to replace the one in office, whose proconsulship was at an end. In Italia their vessels docked at Brundisium, a major center of Roman naval power and maritime trade, as well as the chief point of embarkation for Greece and the East.

(The Via Appia - white)

From there, the convoy comprising of horse-riders, marching soldiers and baggage carts made its way along the Via Appia and only made a one day stop at the family villa outside Capua, inherited by Titus Virilus. Although they had strived to keep a low profile during their march, Magistrate Sextus of Capua had gotten word of their arrival and on the very same day he and his personal escort went to greet the illustrious visitors at the Virilus Villa. His enthusiasm was not met by an equal response as the master of the house, Legatus Virilus, politely but rapidly sent him on his way, telling him that they were in a hurry to march on towards Rome. He did however had to promise the Magistrate that he and the foreign guests, together with the future Governor of Syria, would attend the celebrations that Sextus was eager to organize in their honour.

The political prospects the magistrate would be exposed to while mingling with the aristocratic elite partaking in such a gathering were practically boundless. Virilus was well aware of these well-known interests of politicians that were never among his interests, since he had always been a man of war. As such, he dismissed the man with a mildly obscured ironic grin and more or less closed the door in his face. Two weeks later, when they returned from Rome, it so happened that the eager Magistrate was once again there to greet them, this time having arrived at the Legatus' villa well in advance of the property's master himself. Unfortunately for Magistrate Sextus, his enthusiasm was once again dampened by the same ever changing whims of politics that he also sought to embrace more tightly.

The future Governor of Syria had not returned with the delegation all the way to Capua. Not too far from the premises of the city he and his own escort had broken away from the convoy with whom he had travelled from Rome and took the road to Neapolis. There he had to attend legal and military matters concerning the legions that either returned from or set sail towards the western territories of the Republic. Further on he was to travel to the city of Baiae, a fashionable Roman seaside resort west of Neapolis and one of the most famous gathering places of the ultra-wealthy aristocrats of the Republic. The city was also notorious for the hedonistic temptations on offer and for rumours of scandal and corruption.

Such was the double nature of the aristocracy, though not at all different from aristocracies of other nations: due to their high status they could discreetly engage in all the deeds and pleasures they themselves deemed immoral and punishable before the public they had to control, while very few dared to cast any accusations upon them, even with proof. Nonetheless, Roman learned men, some of whom genuinely adhered to the concept and deeds considered to be moral and decent within Roman society, described the city of Baiae in their writings or orations as being a "vortex of luxury", a "harbor of vice" or a "den of licentiousness and vice".

What had made Baiae such a famed resort for the wealthy, aside from its beautiful scenery and the elaborate, luxurious villas like no other in the Republic, built on the very coast and offering a superb view of the sea-side, were the topographical wonders of the city. Baiae was host to an important region for thermo-mineral bathing. Roman engineers had constructed a complex system of chambers that channeled heat beneath the land's surface into bathing facilities that acted as saunas. The baths were used not only for relaxation purposes, but often also as medicinal remedies for various illnesses. The future governor undoubtedly wanted to enjoy such delights once more before he would have to depart from his homeland but most certainly the purpose of his visit had more to do with the men of power he would encounter there, or possibly had set up a meeting there in advance.

Either way, because of his political standing no one beneath him in title could question him on his motives and when asking the governor concerning the date of his return, the party who had to wait for him in Capua had no choice but to accept his response along the lines of 'When I return you will see that I have returned'. Magistrate Sextus was the only one who found some joy in the news, hoping he would at least be able to meet the Consul and future Governor in person, upon his arrival, although the man had also instructed Legatus Virilus to be ready to depart immediately after his return. Taking into account the days to be spent on the road and speculating on the affairs the Consul would be attending to, the conclusion was that up to a week would pass before his return.

As much as she longed for home, Maniya was not displeased by the news. She would have loved to visit the city of Baiae as well and enjoy its delights but with circumstances being as they were, she had to settle with Capua that also had much to offer, despite lacking the wonders of Baiae. Capua was after all considered to be the second city of Italia, after Rome itself and was famous throughout the Republic and beyond for its bronze artifacts and exquisite perfumes. Maniya was also keen on exploring the city's cultural heritage but the Magistrate's offer, aside from the banquet at his villa to which he promptly invited them before they barely had time to dismount, comprised of a festival of games, organized in their honour, at the newly constructed Games Arena of Capua. These games that so many thrill-seeking Romans were so eager to attend comprised of none other than the renowned gladiatorial matches where slaves of the Republic and on occasions volunteering freedmen or even citizens, fought for coins and for the lives.

Maniya was by no means thrilled to see such grotesque displays as she strove to discourage violence and do as much as possible to reduce and if possible, abolish slavery in her homeland, where the notion had far less gruesome connotations than in the west. In the Persian-Parthian Empire slaves were mostly prisoners of war or citizens in debt but their treatment as slaves and the work they did was similar to that of a free citizen employed as a servant. Slaves also received payment for their work, although inferior to that received by a free servant and they could buy their freedom if they were able to raise the needed sum. The life of a slave was by no means pleasant there either, but it was considerably safer and slaves being used as sexual objects occurred only rarely. This was also due to the fact that over there a man could legally have more than one wife at the same time as well as publicly recognized mistresses and in some regions women could also have, legally, more than one husband at the same time.

Since she wanted to keep a low profile, upon their arrival Maniya and her entourage, together with the Romans who had returned with them from Rome, bound also to sail towards the east, rode directly to the stables and had yet to meet Magistrate Sextus face to face. Virilus had been the one who conversed with him each time, as was appropriate since he was the master of the villa. After having settled into the chambers they occupied during their stay at the villa, Maniya was informed that the Magistrate, together with his wife and a few more members of his escort were still in the main reception hall, awaiting to greet the foreign guests in person and offer some welcoming gifts they had brought. Seeing that the meeting was impossible to avoid, Maniya went to greet the guests but without making a grand entrance. She approached quietly, from a lateral corridor and without the company of any attendant.

(Magistrate Sextus and wife, Aemilia)

Magistrate Sextus and his wife, Aemilia, were both sited on a comfortable sofa, conversing and sipping the wine they had been served. Appius, the man who had been administering the Virilus villa for years, in the absence of its master whose military duties kept him away from home, had just parted with the couple with the promise that he would inform the foreign guest of their expecting visitors.

'Your excitement is rather exaggerated, don't you think?' Aemilia whispered to her husband through somewhat gritted teeth that were sustaining a forced smile, just in case. 'The Consul has yet to arrive and until then we must spend coin to entertain these... foreigners, and with what benefit to us?' she concluded with a rather smug grimace.

'I have told you, once cannot expect to gain coin without spending coin first, and unless you want to find the quality markets empty of fine silks and rare jewels, you'd do best to aid in keeping the stream flowing,' the husband instructed.

'And how precisely am I to do that?' the sneering wife retorted.

'By smiling and being a good host. We must make good impression and with that rewards will surely follow. Gifts of their own perhaps, to us, a good word to the Consul and even an invitation maybe, who known,' the Magistrate spoke with revived enthusiasm.

'A visit? Where? To them, in their land?'Aemilia scoffed.

'It is said to be a place of magnificent wealth and unimaginable splendors,' the Magistrate continued with the same enthusiasm.

'Have you not paid attention at the games to how that lanista of lesser note, Vibius I believe, described the place? Some wealth, indeed, but mostly ghastly and with odd people of questionable intent. He should know, his ludus is there and he practically lives there for over six month each year,' Aemilia rapidly replied, showing even more self-content upon expressing the unique knowledge she thought she possessed.

'The ludus of Vibius is in Damascus, in Syria, a different place altogether,' her husband calmly corrected her.

'He says there is nothing but arid land and deserts stretching further east. Is that where this fantastic land of fabulous wealth is supposed to be?' she inquired ironically, once more.

'Merchants and other travelers who ventured there, even scholars of Rome, describe it as such,' replied Sextus.

'So are they supposed to be Syrians of superior quality to those the Republic has subdued?' Aemilia questioned further, never losing the irony in her tone. 'From what I have heard and seen the notion proves difficult to be assumed as truth.'

At this point in their conversation Maniya decided to intervene and make her presence known. She had quietly amused herself with the couple's discourse but eventually grew tired of listening to it from the shadows.

'Those you generally call Syrian are nowadays mostly a mixture of Greeks and Arabs. We are Iranian, a different nation in its entirety.' With this unexpected intervention Maniya almost startled the couple whose attention was focused in a different direction, from where they expected the foreigners to appear. Magistrate Sextus was the first to stand up, followed by his wife who seemed to rise only because she knew her husband expected her to.

'Greetings!' the Magistrate spoke with a small, symbolic bowing of his head, a more polite tilt to be precise. 'We were merely speculating, hoping to learn more from our esteemed guests themselves. I assume correctly that you yourself are with the delegation?'

He assumed that by the robes she wore, which were evidently not of Roman fashion and neither what he would have expected a woman to wear. Maniya was dressed in a knee-long, black coat of sorts, with long, loose sleeves and golden embroideries along the edges of the sleeves, around the neckline and in a vertical line on the front, on either sides of the buttons that closed the coat. The coat was also tied around the middle by a golden-coloured sash and underneath she wore black trousers and knee-high leather boots. She wore no jewelry aside from a ring on her right hand that bore the insignia of the dynasty she belonged to. But what surprised both Sextus and Aemilia was that the foreign woman looked nothing like they had envisaged. In fact, if dressed in Roman clothing anyone seeing her would assume she was a Roman-born citizen.

'I am. The men and our attendants will join us momentarily,' Maniya replied.

'Splendid!' the Magistrate exclaimed. 'I am looking forward to meeting the honorable Mahtab who has fought alongside our brave Legatus Titus Flavius Virilus to vanquish the enemies that threatened both our nations.'

'It is an honor to meet you as well. I am Mahtab of the House Kurush-Hakhāmanish. Mahtab is a woman's name,' Maniya informed the Magistrate with a mild smirk masked into a polite smile and extended her hand in greeting.

'Ah... apologies, I did not know,' the Magistrate was so taken aback by the revelation that he failed to find the proper words with ease. 'I am Sextus, Magistrate of Capua,' he introduced himself and since the gesture of receiving an extended hand in greeting, as if from a man, confused him, Sextus courteously took her hand in his and kissed it. 'My wife, Aemilia,' he then introduced her as well, with a glance in her direction.

'It is a pleasure to meet you,' she responded on a much tempered voice and with a forced smile to mask her perplexed reaction to what she had learned while watching the conversation unfold. Maniya greeted her with a symbolic bow of her head and a smile.

| ~* STARTER 2

The Persian Empire - the City of Alamut

1 week after the Persian invasion of Alamut

Following the complicated affair regarding the wrongful invasion of the Holy City of Alamut, and the sudden marriage proposition made by Prince Tus in sign of reconciliation, Princess Tamina requested time to consider the proposition. For the sake of maintaining a peaceful relationship between the two nations, no one on the Persian side could request a quicker reply and risk spoiling the opportunity of subtly bringing Alamut under their sphere of influence and control, without any bloodshed.

In the meantime, the King of Kings himself, King Sharaman, had arrived in the Holy City and the princess had several diplomatic encounters with him, expressing her desire of ensuring the safety and prosperity of her people in the new circumstances that would arise following her alliance through marriage. King Sharaman assured her that she would retain her sovereign privileges and duties and like any other city-state allied with the Persian Empire, the people of Alamut would go one with their lives as before and the monarch of Alamut would retain the right of governing its people according to their own rules. The only change would be the recognition of King Sharman as their supreme ruler and the payment of the corresponding monthly tribute.

Much had changed in Maniya's life as well, unbelievably much to be precise. One week before, just after the invasion, she had snuck inside the city, on her way back from Hindustan, to meet her childhood friends, Dastan and Bis and now she woke in one of the lavishing guest chambers of the royal palace of Alamut, with the two men she loved, Tus and Garsiv, on either side of her. It was not a dream, but the manifestation in reality of a life-long dream. The people of Alamut had a strong belief in destiny and with all the incredible things that had happened since they arrived in the Holy City, Maniya found it difficult to ignore the proclaimed powers of the mysterious deities worshiped in that city. It seemed as if destiny had brought them all to Alamut to finally put their lives in order and end their emotional suffering.

With the overwhelming events off the past few days, Maniya had almost forgotten that she was in a foreign city that would get to keep its independent rule although it will be under the Persian sphere of influence. Now that she would openly assume the leading role of House Kurush-Hakhamanish, her adoptive family, and continue being the leader of the people living under the patronage of her house, Maniya would also have to meet with the princess and her advisors, to discuss political, administrative and military issues. She had spent over a year in Hindustan, covertly gathering information on the many dynasties that constantly fought for land, riches and power in that region and that were potential enemies of the Persian Empire, until proven otherwise.

Because of the knowledge she now possessed, her advice was crucial in any courses of action the King decided to take in the region and the support of Princess Tamina was just as crucial, since the Alamutians had century-old relations with the people east of the Hindu River. Political issues aside, there were also personal reasons for becoming acquainted with the princess, who would soon become family, the wife of the young adopted prince whom Maniya affectionately called her son, since she had taken care of him and his best friend when she was a young slave girl and the boys homeless orphans.

There had been however a slight incident the previous day, a misunderstanding that Maniya hoped would soon be clarified, as soon as she got the chance to talk to the princess. Overwhelmed with joy because everything that had happened, Maniya rushed to share the news with her life-long friend, Dastan. Their encounter was not different from any of the previous ones, Maniya acting as always like both one of the boys and a fun older sister. Still, the princess, who did not know Maniya nor her relationship with Dastan, had undoubtedly drawn a wrong conclusion when she saw her future husband having a joyful time with his arm around the shoulders of a beautiful woman, who in turn had her arm around his middle.

Maniya had drawn her own conclusion of what the Princess must have thought when she spotted her looking at them with a stern and slightly ironic look on her face, before turning around abruptly and walking away without another glance in their direction. At the time Maniya, Dastan, Bis and Roham were being shown though some public areas of the palace by a group of enthusiastic young Alamutians who were eager to receive the foreign guests, once the misunderstandings had been cleared and the Persians began to help the Alamutians in repairing the damages they had caused during the invasions.

The day ended with a banquet where the princess conversed mostly with King Sharman and Prince Tus and discreetly avoided Dastan, as well as discussions regarding her reply to the marriage proposal. When Maniya arrived later on, together with Garsiv, coming straight from a meeting with the Persian generals, her eyes met Tamina's once more and she saw the same expression on her face. Garsiv and Maniya did not linger much at the banquet and they left as soon as Tus joined them. Maniya had her arm intertwined with that of her husband to be and as they walked away she felt Tus's hand touching her lower back. She did not turn to search for Tamina's expression, in case she still had her eyes on them, but she nonetheless thought with a smile that it might have been amusing.

These thoughts returned to her the morning of the following day when a servant brought word from King Sharaman that she was to have an audience with Princess Tamina to discuss the pending political issues while Prince Tus would accompany him to Hindu-Alexandria, the capital-city of the Harauvatish Satrapy, which bordered Hindustan directly and therefore also the city of Alamut. The meeting was necessary in order to avoid any potential internal conflicts that might have arose as a result of the sudden invasion of Alamut, whom the eastern satraps had long wanted to subdue but were always ordered against it by the King of Kings.

'This should be quite interesting,' she exhaled with a snicker once the servant left, leaning back against the cushioned bench she sat on, in between Tus and Garsiv, as the three dined in the balcony of the guest chamber they were occupying. 'My first talk with my future daughter-in-law,' she added with a chuckle before bringing a dark-red, seedless cherry to her lips, which immediately enveloped it and took it in.

Garsiv, who sat on her left side, halfway turned towards her and with his right arm outstretched and resting on the back of the couch she leaned against, watched Maniya closely, the corner of his lips curling up into a smirk when the luscious moves of her lips and fingers made him relive in his mind scenes of the previous night.

'Be sure not to be too much of a shrew as a mother-in-law,' he then said with a muffled chuckle.

'I thought you liked me as a shrew,' she retorted on a seductive tone.

'I love you as a shrew,' Garsiv replied while leaning over to kiss her lips quickly but voluptuously. 'But don't scare the princess ... at least until she gives her answer.'

'I could not possibly wish for her answer to be anything but positive, although it worries me that this girl will have Dastan wrapped around her little finger.'

'You will make sure she does not cross any lines, I am certain,' Tus intervened and put his arm around Maniya's waist in a comforting gesture.

She turned to glance at him with an ironical grimace.

'That is unless your six wives combined don't drive me insane,' she retorted, referring to the four wives of Tus and the two wives of Garsiv.

The two men laughed in unison, each nodding in approval of what Maniya was saying.

'Then we should have Tamina meet Lida. A few hours with her and the princess will be the one driven to madness,' Tus added on a higher and joyful tone, trying to use amusement to help him cope with the thoughts of his difficult third wife, whom he would have to face soon enough, once they returned to Babylon.

'Or secretly plot to have us all killed and drive the empire to ruin,' Garsiv added sarcastically, with a scoffing grimace that he displayed often enough.

This time Tus's smile seemed forced and did little to hide his concern. Garsiv might have spoken in jest but they all knew better, given the trouble that Lida had caused ever since she had approached Tus with an alliance though marriage. At this moment they still knew too little about the Princess of Alamut to be certain of what they could expect.

Maniya cast a short glance in Garsiv's direction, her own smile also darkened by concern, then turned towards Tus who was visibly affected by the troubling suppositions. She leaned closer to him, putting one arm around his back and caressing his cheek with the other, then giving him a light kiss.

'Joking aside, I promise you no such thing will happen,' she assured him.

'Be wary when you speak to the princess. We cannot know just yet how well we can trust her,' Tus told Maniya on a much more serious tone.

'I always do that and if there are any secrets she is hiding, I will uncover them. Do not trouble your mind with this, focus only on your meeting with the Suren and secure your coronation.'

'If ever there will be one,' Tus turned his gaze from her, scoffing almost in the same manner as Garsiv, though still showing his own, different character.

'Of course there will be.' With her right hand still around his back, Maniya leaned even closer and placed her left hand on his upper chest, massaging him tenderly. 'The King is just overly concerned with everything that is going on throughout the empire. But the west remains the key to your glory. Drive out the Romans as you did before and make sure they don't return, secure the western border with more stationed troops and ensure the allegiance of Armina, undoubtedly wavering now with the death of Pakur. Once the western conflicts are resolved other issues will be much easier to deal with.'

'The people were on our side when we retook Anatolia, Syria and Iudaea. They will join us again if we march in better armed, better organized and in greater numbers,' Garsiv added, leaning into Maniya and reaching with his arm around her back to place his hand on his brother's shoulder.

Maniya turned to greet Garsiv's gesture with a smile and removed her hand from Tus's chest to take Garsiv's free hand in hers.

'My heart throbs at seeing you hacking Romans,' she smirked.

'Just your heart?' he smirked back.

'No ...,' Maniya trailed and gazed at him seductively while bringing his hand to her lips, which then lingered on his flesh for a few moments.

Simultaneously, Tus placed his own hand on top of Garsiv's, which continued to grasp his shoulder, thus both acknowledging and returning the gesture of support. Afterwards he moved his hand to gently grasp Maniya's chin and turn her gaze towards him, while at the same time slowly leaning forward.

'Then let us be done with this place and go home,' he half-whispered the last few words as his lips met hers, in a tender and lasting kiss.

'I long to return to Babylon,' Maniya whispered back. 'But first we have the Kushan to deal with here.'

'Barbaric cave-dweller, we'll scatter them like weeds,' Garsiv exclaimed with confidence, on his usual high tone, though at the same time he placed a rather tender kiss on Maniya's upper neck, just below her earlobe.

Their tender moments lasted only a short while longer, until the servant returned, at King Sharaman's command, to urge Prince Tus to hasten his departure. The three of them left the room together and after escorting Tus to his entourage Garsiv went to find Dastan and Maniya asked one of the Alamutian guards to show her the way to the hall where she was to meet with the Princess. Once there she was told to wait in front of two tall and beautifully engraved but closed doors. It was not a burden however because Maniya soon found herself mesmerized by the carvings that adorned the stone walls. There were also writings among the engravings, the language being that of the land and one of her favorite, Sanskrit.

She smiled when she saw her name written on the wall, although it was a mere coincidence, since in Sanskrit it translated as "glass bead". Maniya had known this for a long time and the detail was part of the very complex path that she thought to be her destiny. Noticing this on the wall immediately made her look down to the string of glass beads she wore like a bracelet wrapped around her right hand, the string that Tus had given her years back, when they were young. Her mind kept jumping from one detail to the other and since the glass beads that always made her remember Tus, when they came into view she inevitably started replaying the events of the past few days in her mind, still unable to fully believe that it was all real.

| ~* STARTER 3

The Persian Empire - the Makai Desert

After marriage, only Maniya's social position and degree of public exposure had changed, while her habits and desires remained the same. Although Maniya had found emotional fulfillment in her new life, marriage also did not ease her responsibilities towards her adoptive family and the people under their patronage, nor did she want them eased. Now more than ever she had every means at her disposal to ensure, among other things, the efficient training of the men who were compelled to come to arms when called by the lords they served, who in turn had sworn their allegiance to the House Kurush-Hakhamanish, Maniya's adoptive family. Other responsibilities included making sure the peace was kept in various regions under her patronage, by the people appointed for these tasks. When needed, she and the soldiers under her direct command, which formed a small army in effect, would march towards the conflict areas and intervene personally to solve them.

Such was the case when hordes of bandits, mostly escaped prisoners or vile, lawless criminals who had never been captured, began to rage havoc on the scattered settlements of the southern region of the Maka Satrapy. This region was covered mostly by the Makai (Greek: Gedrosian) Desert, where human settlements could only be built around the few scattered oases. Because of the environment they could not be large or thoroughly defended, making them an easy target for the desert bandits. They even took over some of the smaller settlements that were not near any major travelling routes. The entire satrapy of Maka was in fact a dry, mountainous region and aside from the few larger cities and the dispersed oases, small towns and settlements had been established on the coast as well. In that area, sea-bandits or pirates had also become notorious by frequently attacking trade ships, especially those sailing to or from Hindustan (India).

The Makai Desert was one of the largest barren regions of the empire and one of the least populated, as well as one of the most dangerous, primarily because of the harsh environment, and only in smaller proportions because of the bandits. Crossing this desert was a battle in itself and a most arduous one at that, so much so that many brave warriors of the past had made a goal of it, which, if achieved would have been a great victory in itself. The most notable of them had been the legendary Assyrian Queen Shamiram (Greek: Semiramis), King Kurush (Greek: Cyrus), the founder of the First Persian Empire and the most famous Macedonian King, Iskandar (Greek: Alexander), all of them trying to succeed where the other had failed in the past. All three had marched straight into the desert with a large army and barely made it to the other end with only a handful of soldiers. The others, together with the animals and the carts that had to be abandoned, all fell prey to the merciless desert.

Since the days of Iskandar, almost three centuries later, significant progress had been made to chart the approximate parameters of the desert and identify the areas that had to be avoided at all costs, together with those that proved to be significantly more hospitable, in comparison. The guides who accompanied Maniya's convoy were also versed in the art of finding their direction by the stars at night and by the sun in day-time, the same as sailors, and did not rely solely on landscape marks that were easily obliterated by the blown and drifting sand. In most areas there was nothing in the vast and featureless desert to determine what course one should take - no trees, as elsewhere, by the roadside, no hills of solid earth rising from the sand.

Still, there were ever-present hardships that could not be avoided such as the blazing heat and burning, sun-baked sand. In some areas there were only lofty hills of sand - loose, deep sand, into which one sank as if it were mud or untrodden snow and sources of water, aside from the few known oases, were very scarce. Even with guides, it was still more or less marching into the unknown, especially when it came to finding water sources, which were not permanent. Almost on a constant basis, old water sources dried up and new ones emerged or were formed by streams flowing from the rocky mountains bordering the desert.

In the Makai regions, the same as in the neighboring Hindustan, there were certain periods each year when it rained heavily. Rain fell not on the plains but on the mountains and the otherwise small streams could grow into overwhelming torrents able to sweep away everything in their path. Maniya and her troops were actually fortunate to not have been compelled to venture into the desert during such a period, when water in abundance was a curse instead of a blessing. Iskandar himself had met such a misfortune when his camp had been swept away during the night by the powerful torrents of an overflowing stream.

In pursuit of the bandits who had now mustered into a small army, though with the expected lack of structure and discipline, Maniya marched her troops along the outer rims of the perilous desert, heeding the instructions of the trained guides. Given the conditions, their own discipline during the march was difficult to maintain but still they went forth, following the trails left by the bandits, as few as there could be in the desert, such as lost object that had not been completely engulfed by the sea of sand.

One afternoon, after several days of travel, a scout ridding ahead broke away from the small party he was with and galloped back with speed to deliver urgent news to the commander.

'Mahtab Banu (Lady Mahtab), a small village up ahead, appears to have been sacked not long ago, a few days maybe,' the scout informed, slightly panting, mostly due to the pressing burden of the waves of heat that fell upon them. The blinding sun was almost halfway along its descending course and still it shone as powerfully as it had earlier in the day.

'Any survivors?' Maniya brought her mare to a halt upon noticing the approaching scout and raised her right hand to signal the riders behind her to do the same.

'Unlikely, but we are yet too far to be certain. Anyone who survived the raid had to hide well and they are most certainly still there.'

'Call the others back. We will regroup and advance in formation. We cannot rule out the possibility of this being some sort of trap.'

'Yes, lady,' the man complied with a swift bowing of his head and simultaneously stirred his horse to change course and ride off back from where they had come.

'Tiran�s,' Maniya called her bodyguard who also served as her second-in-command in this expedition. 'Have the archers form a line of three groups in a half circle covering the perimeter around the village from where we stand. We will advance separately through the two openings.'

Having advanced with his own mount so as to stand next to Maniya's, the seasoned warrior with the demeanor of an all-knowing hermit, was, as usual, not quick to form words, offering instead a prolonged stare. It was a look resembling those given by masters to students or by parents to children when they expect them to acknowledge their error. Here the problem was not the advance strategy proposed by Maniya but her intention to march alone, of which Tiran�s was certain even if she had not voiced it plainly. She did not have to, he knew her long enough to predict her intentions.

'You disagree?' Maniya questioned following a brief silence whose meaning was not unknown to her, but still she chose to purposely ignore it.

'Only with your intention of having me lead the other group instead of riding by your side.'

'We cannot keep arguing about this. If I appoint you for something important it is because I trust you above all others.'

'The only thing important to me is your safety,' Tiran�s responded with the severity of a dutiful protector. 'I swore to you and your honorable mother to always defend your life with my own if needed and now I also swore it to the King of Kings himself. Such an oath, I cannot break.'

Uncustomary for Maniya, her silent reply was one of compliance. A small smile spread her lips when King Sharaman was mentioned, her husband's father. The notion of having a husband was still new to her, especially since he was the man she thought she could never have, and she often found herself in need of being reminded that her life was now completely different, though apparently the same. The difference lay only in her emotions and the way she perceived her purpose in life. In the past her own survival held little meaning, only achieving the goal mattered and now, as strange as it may sound, she had to learn what it meant to care for herself, how to achieve a goal without sacrificing her life in the process.

'I understand. This is still new to me.' The smiled lingered on her lips and following a short glance in the distance ahead, she scanned the mounted men behind from the corner of her eye before returning her attention to Tiran�s. 'Have Arash lead the second advance party then.'

With Tiran�s ridding beside her, Maniya led one of the advance parties, simultaneously with that led by Arash, down the mildly steep sand and rock walls of the small valley, home to the ravaged village. In those lands, what was commonly referred to as village were in fact tent settlements raised along oases. Most communities were of pastoral nomads, sometimes also mixed with tribes of hunters. The village stood desert and even the remains of tents were torn and scattered. Desert winds had already set a thick blanket of bright-yellow sand over the remains, yet still proved inefficient in obscuring the most terrible of remains, those that once had life.

Had it not been for the layer of sand, the grounds would have been no different than those of a battlefield. There could not have been more than fifty people in the settlement, yet the massacre looked like that of thousands when they were all but piles of butchered corpses, some even with limbs and ruptured flesh or bone far from where their bodies lay. If the pools of blood had been absorbed or partially covered by sand, nothing could mask the horrid stench of rotting flesh, which the heat only made stronger.

The sight became clear to Maniya once they had marched halfway towards their destination. At that point she stopped and ordered the other party to do so as well. A soldier behind her, following her command, cried out the order to the group led by Arash. It appeared that the unfortunate souls were denied peace even in death. There was one vicious predator spread over them in great numbers. With another hand signal Maniya had the soldier behind her deliver another order. This time the man raised a flag whose purpose was to have the archers back on the hill take position and stand ready to fire. The soldier with a similar duty in Arash's party did the same and at Maniya's command they signaled the archers to release their arrows.

Many of the sharp missiles hit their target, impaling the hungry vultures to the corpses whose flesh they were tearing, while the rest caused the other birds of prey to swarm off in haste. The sight, though now less darkened by the cloud of birds, was in no way more southing. The parties went on further down and stopped just in front of the main scene of the massacre. Here Maniya dismounted and Tiran�s followed. Other soldiers did as well, while the remaining mounted ones were ordered to ride along the edge of the settlement and further scan the surroundings.

Once, such a sight would have scarred or shocked Maniya but that was a time long passed. Circumstances had forced her to expect anything at any time and always keep a straight face and a focused mind. As such, upon seeing the bodies up close she only sighed and shook her head before scanning the environment and doing a quick, visual assessment of the former conflict zone.

'Where do you think survivors could have hid to escape this?' she questioned Tiran�s as they both advanced through the corpses, one carefully placed step after another.

'There do not seem to be any such places,' he responded, yet squirted his eyes once more to prevent the wind-blown sand from entering his eyes while attempting to find in the distance areas he might have overlooked. A sand-storm had once again started, mild by comparison to what that desert often gifted its guests with but still dense enough to partially obscure sight from reaching too far into the distance. 'Perhaps over there,' he pointed to a stain of darker colour amidst the sand, far enough from where they stood, among a patch of desert vegetation and a semi-circle of palm-trees on the other side of the pool of now bloodied, water around which the oasis had formed. 'It might be a tent still standing.'

'Let us go see until this sand breeze turns into a full storm. We might as well be forced to take shelter here.'

The commander and her bodyguard encircled the water and hurried to investigate the remains of one of the largest tents, some of its vertical supporting beams still standing and holding in place the fabric that served as walls and roof. The curtain which had been a makeshift door looked as if it had been torn from its upper support in a brutish attempt to pull it aside. Only its left corner was still attached and the rest of the worn-out fabric was fluttering in the wind. Maniya left it as it was and only pushed it aside to step inside the tent.

'No bodies,' she commented, somewhat surprised by the clean sight.

'Those who took shelter here were dragged out to be taken or killed in front of the others,' Tiran�s pointed to some randomly thrown or shattered belongings and the remains of jewelry ripped apart, all indicating a struggle.

'Mahtab Banu,' Arash announced his presence when he too stepped inside not long after Maniya and Tiran�s. 'I have retrieved your weapon,' he explained his rather hasty arrival and extended to Maniya the sai he had come across.

She was about to question him on the nature of his find when her eyes met a replica of one of the dual impaling weapons she wielded. It was not a common weapon and its discovery spurred her curiosity.

'It is not mine. I have both with me,' she replied, pressing her right hand against the two weapons hanging from a belt by her left hip, in place of a sword. Still, she reached forward and took the weapon from Arash's hands and examined the design of the hilt, different from hers. 'Where did you find this?'

'Impaled in a corpse. It delivered a fatal blow,' Arash formed a new opinion after discovering it was not Maniya's weapon, while before he had been confused to discover her weapon in a long dead body.

'Show me where you found it.'

At the place in question nothing else out of the ordinary caught Maniya's eyes, not even the twin of the sai found by Arash. Not willing to give up on discovering the mystery of the one sai, Maniya ordered the two men to look for its pair while she ventured further, driven by an unknown impulse that told her there was more to be found there. Beyond the borders of the oasis, where only two or three solitary corpses lay almost completely covered by the sea of sand, a sudden brightness shone from amidst one of such sandy mounds. Maniya recognized it as the reflection of the sun upon metal, most certainly the polished surface of a weapon.

Disregarding the shouts of Tiran�s who urged her not to rush forward into open, empty terrain, Maniya did precisely that and struggled through the treacherous sand as if through tall snow to reach the place from where the light had come. Its source had been indeed a weapon and none other than the twin sai she was searching for. Clutching its hilt, a female hand by the looks of it stretched from beneath a lifeless male body, barely visible from beneath the sand covering it.

'Help me push this body,' she called to Tiran�s, once she saw him approach. When he reached her, Maniya had already brushed off most of the sand on top and began to roll the heavier body off that of the woman beneath. 'There is a woman's body beneath.'

'The sai was hers,' Tiran�s noticed the other sai in the woman's hand. 'Pull the woman from underneath when I lift the body,' he then instructed and Maniya complied.

For Tiran�s, lifting the dead body was far from difficult. He could have thrown him aside with one hand but used both so as not to accidentally bring more harm to the woman beneath, in the slim chance that she was still alive. When the body was lifted, Maniya moved to grab the shoulders of the woman lying on her stomach and pull her out.

'A Saka woman?' Tiran�s inquired after having thrown the male body aside. Judging from her yellow hair and her foreign-looking attire, his first assumption was that she might have hailed from a northern steppe tribe, generally referred to as Saka by the Persians and Scythians by the Greeks.

'It would explain the sais, but it is no certainty. The drawing on her back is a motif common in the far east, where the sais also originate. It might be that she visited the same distant lands I have and maybe even beyond,' Maniya reflected upon seeing the large, colourful dragon painted on the woman's back.

'It is not safe to linger here. If you desire it, we can take the body and give at least this woman a proper burial. There is no time for the others.'

Maniya then proceeded to inspect her for signs of life and found her breathing, though faintly and with a slow beating of the heart. 'She is alive!' The enthusiastic reaction took her as well by surprise, although it was a natural reaction to have when finding life among so much death. 'We must take her back to the tent. She is between life and death, her wounds have gone untreated for too long.' Aside from the harshness with which the sun had treated her body, leaving burns and even mild blisters, there was also slight bleeding from cuts evidently received in combat, although none too deep. A most severe wound was on the right side of her forehead, from where blood had flowed across the side of her face.

Tiran�s understood the order and took the woman in his arms to carry her back to the tent. Maniya had taken the other sai and could not help admiring the twin pair on the way back, glancing from time to time to her hip to compare them with her own. They returned to the tent they visited earlier and placed the injured, unconscious woman on a pile of blankets that served as a bed.

'We will take shelter here for the night and set off early in the morning. The guides say we could reach the canyon by nightfall. Bring the physician from Harauvatish (Greek: Arakhosia) to tend to this woman and have the men dispose of the bodies outside, before the storm gets worse.'

The man complied with a nod and left Maniya to tend to the woman before the physician arrived. She placed the blonde woman's sais next to the improvised bed she had been laid on and began to look around the tent for any items that might be of use. To begin with, water was needed and she was fortunate to discover a small waterskin still half full. She used half of what was left to soak a piece of cloth and with it she proceeded to wipe off the dirt and dried blood off the woman's face and arms. Special attention was paid to open wounds, which were carefully cleaned and prepared to be treated with medicine by the physician.

It wasn't long before the physician arrived, one of the few women taking part in the expedition. Already informed about her task, the woman only bowed her head to Maniya upon entering and went forth to where she was needed. A boy, her son and apprentice, came after her, carrying the required supplies.

'It will take time for her to awaken, days, maybe weeks. I would have to remain by her side, should there be complications,' the female physician informed Maniya.

'Do so. We will be taking shelter here for the night but tomorrow we move on. Perhaps, by some miracle she will awaken, if not, we will move her with a stretcher or some improvisation.'

'As you command, Mahtab Banu. In the meantime, I shall do my very best to bring forth that miracle,' the spirited woman assured her with a confident smile.

'I have every confidence you will,' Maniya returned her smile, knowing well that the woman's words were not in vain. She had proven her skills many times before. After one more glance at the blonde woman and her sais, Maniya left the tent to go find her mare, Devi. No doubt she had already been taken care by a soldier or another attendant but Maniya preferred to tend to her personally. Devi was not just an animal or nothing more than a means of transportation, she was a longtime companion.

While tending to Devi, whom she found near the water, together with the other horses, Maniya was approached by Arash.

'Has something happened?' she inquired.

'Nothing worrisome, Mahtab Banu, but we did find something we thought might interest you. Close to where you found the injured woman there was a dead horse beneath the sand. It might have been hers. The bags strapped to the saddle were full of written scrolls, Greek writing. I had them brought to your tent.'

'Thank you, Arash. Quite an interesting find.' The unexpected announcement came as a pleasant surprise that made Maniya eager to unfold the scrolls and uncover the mysteries. 'It seems we may discover much about my sai-wielding comrade before she even awakens,' she exclaimed with some enthusiasm, turning towards Tiran�s, who was tending his own horse close enough to hear what Arash had said.

'If they're even about her,' he commented plainly.

'They appeared as accounts of journeys, but I did not linger on them to be certain.'

'Now you have made me even more curious,' she replied to Arash's comment with a smile. 'Let us be done here and go uncover these new found mysteries. But, crucial matters first. Arash, once the men have set up camp here make an assessment of where we stand - casualties, wounded, supplies and report back to me by nightfall.'

Later in the evening, after a fairly optimistic assessment report presented by Arash, Maniya had freed herself from her light armour and unbraided her long hair to brush off the sand, then sited herself within the larger tent, close to the wounded woman. The recovered parchments were spread around her and Maniya unfolded each in turn to see if they were numbered or if any order for their succession could be established, perhaps after the chronology of the written accounts. However, such an ordering was difficult to establish so Maniya lingered on a parchment that caught her attention due to the mentioning of Hindustan. The following parchment she picked up described, as she had assumed earlier, a journey to the far eastern lands.

01/19/2013 03:22 PM 

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01/19/2013 03:02 PM 

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Background Story

Combat Style

07/28/2012 12:58 PM 

Connections 3


Navaz || Adoptive Mother / Mentor
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At eighteen years of age Maniya was freed from servitude by a wealthy but solitary Persian noblewoman named Navaz, who had long chosen to live away from court. She had isolated herself from her noble heritage and dedicated her life to learning and putting her inherited fortune in the service of common, disadvantage people and the improvement of vital sectors of the empire.

Maniya remained to live with Navaz in one of the most lavishing villas of the rich district of Babylon, not too far from the royal palace. Navaz became her mentor and spiritual guide but also legally adopted her as a daughter so she could inherit all her properties after her passing and carry on her legacy. Maniya stayed with Navaz because she had nothing and no one in the world and also because she had to make sure no one who had known her before would find out she was alive. To the world she was dead and she had to remain that way, especially if she had to understand her new identity and mission in life.

Navaz differed from most women because she had never married and unlike many other women she had dedicated her life to studying history, geography, astronomy, medicine, philosophy, religions and other such domains that helped one understand the world and one's purpose in life. The same as a dedicated scholar, Navaz had accumulated basic knowledge in the various sciences of the time and had gathered many books and manuscripts in her life, thus bringing some of the most important works ever written in one place. As Maniya's mentor and adoptive mother, Navaz began to pass her knowledge onto her, putting her through extensive study sessions from the first day her house became Maniya's as well.

As a free young woman, the only tasks that Maniya now had to accomplish were the ones she set for herself or the ones that her mentor and adoptive mother, Navaz, set for her. In the beginning, these tasks involved only her education and unlike her previous tasks they were not a tiresome burden but a true delight. Later on, other of Maniya's duties included protecting the hidden Temple of the Goddess outside Babylon, helping the needy (often by stealing from some of the very wealthy nobles, mostly the greedy and vile ones) and encouraging people to have an open mind and constantly enrich their knowledge so as to understand more and more of the mysteries of life.

Most knew Navaz to be one of the wealthiest women in Babylon but only few knew that she was not just any noblewoman but a descendant of royal blood, a cousin of the current Queen of the Persian Empire, Amāstrī, the first wife of King Sharaman. Also following a personal calling from a young age, Navaz chose to live a different life dedicated to learning and helping the less fortunate, not just by random charity acts but by trying to make lasting changes in society. With her large inheritance as a financial background, she acquired properties and started various businesses whose revenue she would donate or reinvest. Because of this she became well-known and respected in Babylon and throughout most of the major cities of the empire.

It was not long however before Maniya found out (actually Navaz told her) that not all the wealth and repositories of knowledge had been acquired through law-abiding means. Having been a slave to many selfish, wealthy masters who thought themselves above the rest simply because they had been accidentally born into a noble family, Maniya was not repealed by Navaz's ways. In fact, she approved and embraced them because even though they were breaking the law, they were doing so in favor of the common, suppressed people. Navaz did not believe that the gods simply endowed some people with riches and deemed them superior to the rest and worthy to rule others, who had to obey blindly. A man of power, evidently one possessing great riches, had once told her: 'I have the greatest respect for thieves. Every man born to wealth has a good thief amongst his ancestors somewhere.'

Although kind in spirit, like any dedicated parent or mentor, Navaz knew to be strict when it was required and she made sure to impose enough discipline on Maniya's daily schedule and education so she would not fall prey to idleness once she found herself a free young woman, living in wealth. Her methods proved very useful and Maniya would forever remain grateful to Navaz for shaping her into the strong-spirited, knowledgeable and resourceful woman she gradually became. Whenever in doubt, Maniya would seek Navaz's advice, knowing that she would always receive a practical solution, which was the correct path to take, even if occasionally it was not one that Maniya would have wanted to take. Such was the time when Navaz strongly advised young Maniya to put an end to her secret meetings with Prince Tus, offering solid reasons in favour of it. At first Maniya was too overwhelmed by her passions to accept Navaz's advice but later she understood that the right decision, one favourable for others, is not always one favourable for yourself, unless you learn to detach yourself from impossible desires.

An even more well kept secret than Navaz's noble heritage was that she spoke from experience when advising Maniya to cease her juvenile affair with Tus. The coincidence was most bizarre, because the poor, orphan girl Navaz adopted as her own, just like King Sharaman had adopted Maniya's friend (yet another peculiar coincidence) became enamored with the future King of Kings, the same as Navaz had been when she was of Maniya's age. Yet, her situation had been different. Years before, when they were much younger, having only recently reached adulthood, it was Sharaman who attempted to win Navaz's hand in marriage.

From a political perspective alone, Navaz would have been the best choice to occupy the position of first wife of the future King of Kings since she belonged to one of the oldest and most prominent families of that time, the House Kurush-Hakhāmanish (descendants of Kurush the Great of the Hakhāmanish dynasty, the founder of the First Persian Empire). Their lineage descended from the union of Artastūnā, a daughter of Kurush, and Dārayavahush the Great. Although none of the sons born by Artastūnā to Dārayavahush succeeded their father as King of Kings, the lineage from which Navaz claimed direct descent was perpetuated by the daughter of the two, also named Artastūnā. She married a descendant of Ariyāramna, great-grandfather of Dārayavahush and one of the first kings of Pārsa, the core region of what would later become the Persian Empire. Their descendants also married successors of this lineage and so their family continued to be renowned and respected as descendants of both Kurush and Ariyāramna, an even older descendant of Hakhāmanish, and the purest of the old Persian bloodlines.

Their dominion over the region and the city of Pārsa (Greek: Persepolis) prevailed even after most of it was burnt to the ground by the invading Macedonians. The seat of power of the Pārsa satrapy then moved to the nearby city of Estakhr. Navaz's parents used to spend much time in their residence in Babylon, the one she inherited and which is her current dwelling. After marriage, Navaz's younger sister moved to Estakhr with her husband, the satrap of the Pārsa satrapy. Less than two decades later, after both of them passed away, she of illness and he in battle, the governship of Pārsa went to a descendant of Dārayavahush, from the House Dārayavahush-Hakhamanish.

Navaz could have become Queen of Queens instead of Amāstrī, but she could not be swayed to accept, despite her feelings for Prince Sharaman. She was determined to follow her own path in life and giving it up for marriage was not something that appealed to her, even if it meant suppressing the true feelings of love she had for Sharaman. With her father dead and no other living, close male relative to force her into marriage and no financial pressures upon her to do so, Navaz followed her own path and desires, which also corresponded to her family's heritage.

As proud descendants of Kurush, Navaz's family had always sought to continue the legacy of the Kings who ruled throughout the years the first Persian Empire, a legacy that came to an end with the Greek invasion and their subsequent dominance. Not even the Parthians, a north-eastern sister-nation of the Persians (both of Iranian descent) who drove out the Seleucid Greeks and Macedonians and regained control of the territory that had once formed the Persian Empire, managed to reinstall the prosperous form of government sustained by the Hakhāmanish dynasty when they had been in power.

As such, Navaz's family saw it as their duty to continue the legacy of their forefathers and strived to ensure decent standards of living and education for all common people, as much as possible, as well as reduce slavery. They themselves held no slaves and only employed servants who were free men and women, who received payment for their services and could leave the employment if they so desired. Beginning with the reign of Mithradata II, grandfather of Sharaman, a Second Persian Empire began to take form, although it would be consolidated as such only later, during the reign of King Sharaman.

Mithradata founded his own Persian-Parthian dynasty, the House Arshak-Hakhāmanish, to which all Persian families belonged from then on, including Navaz's, even if it had lost the fame it once held. Despite the reforms initiated by Mithradata, there was still much turmoil in the empire and much work to be done until the Second Persian Empire would reach the heights of the First and with the numerous bloody disputes that seemed to be a regular occurrence among noble Parthian families, Navaz's family continued to refuse becoming related to the current ruling family.

Still, despite her choices, those who knew Navaz and her family closely, continued to recognize the importance of her heritage, since with the passing of her younger sister she remained the sole descendant of a very old and noble family, the only living, officially attested, direct descendant of the first King of Kings. This connection to a King that Maniya greatly admired, even if she was only an adopted daughter of Navaz's, together with the fact that she had been born in Pāsārgād, a city built by Kurush to serve as capital of the First Persian Empire, and which still held his eternal resting place, emphasized her belief that it was part of her destiny to help revive the glory of the Persian Empire.

Yet, it was not a destiny born purely out of personal desire and choice, it was also born out of duty. When Navaz chose to dedicate her life to study and the service of the Goddess, she did so thinking the family would live on through her sister and her children. But when the younger sister died without leaving behind any living heirs and Navaz was already passed the age of bearing children, the once great dynasty was faced with the inevitability of living on in name only, though Maniya, an adopted child.

Zoraideh || Employee / Confidant
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In the house of lady Navaz, Zoraideh works both as a housekeeper, a supervisor of all the other servants and an administrator, making sure the house is well supplied with the basic necessities as well as anything else Navaz asks to be acquired. Aside from being in charge of all the purchases and the maintenance of the dwelling, on occasions Zoraideh also helps Navaz with the financial management of the estate. Now a woman in her mid forties, Zoraideh had come to live with Navaz's family since she was a child and served their house ever since, acquiring an education along the way. Zoraideh does not remember much about her family, who unexpectedly found their end as victims of war, only that they were Bedouin desert dwellers of Arabic descent.

She retained their traditions and beliefs which held great meaning to her as sole reminder of her people and family. Zoraideh has a strong tendency of perceiving life from the point of view of her inherited believes and many times she gives Maniya advice accordingly, being able to bring her some comfort and at least some sort of explanation to things happening in Maniya's life that she could not otherwise explain. She helped Maniya find her path in life by leading her to believe that the things happening to her could only be part of her destiny. Whether this was true or not, Zoraideh's explanations proved to be a real support for Maniya and helper her move forward each time she found herself in seemingly impossible situations.

Zoraideh is a gentle and kind-hearted woman who was always sympathetic towards Maniya's emotional pain and offered her comfort each time, unlike Navaz who sometimes adopted a severe attitude, fearing not to spoil Maniya or soften her personality. Aside from being Maniya's confidant and a good listener with whom she shares all her secrets and emotions, especially those which Navaz would disregard as being silly, Zoraideh is also a good adviser and the only person Maniya knows she can go to for help, no matter the problem. They share many secrets, even from Navaz, especially regarding the times Zoraideh helped Maniya in her more reckless escapades that she threw herself in without thinking and later had to bear the consequences, which sometimes extended to her friends as well, so by extension Zoraideh also keeps secrets of Dastan, Bis and a few other of Maniya's friends.

Afari || Unofficial step-sister / Protegee
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Coming Soon ...

07/28/2012 12:55 PM 

Connections 2


Prince Tus || Lover, Unofficial Husband / First Love
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When Maniya worked as a servant in the royal palace of Babylon, between the ages of 15 and 18, she developed a na�ve, teenage crush on the king's second oldest son, Prince Garsiv. Of course it was something that she kept to herself and did not seek anything in return, knowing it was not possible. She only observed Garsiv from afar and avoided being in his presence, focusing on accomplishing her tasks swiftly and properly. The only time she came face to face with him was when she was appointed to bring a tray with wine goblets to the royal table during a banquet and she tripped, dropping the goblets and spilling the wine. Unlike Garsiv, Tus had an amiable reaction, despite having been the one stained with wine. To him the servant girl wasn't a complete stranger. They had crossed paths one time before in the palace and even exchanged a few words.

Not long after Maniya had had the fortune of being freed from slavery and given the position of a servant in the royal palace her younger childhood friends, Dastan and Bis had a similar fate. Dastan's fortune was the most spectacular as he was taken in by the king himself, the King of Kings, supreme ruler of the Persian Empire, to be raised as his son. He of course could not abandon his best friend Bis and the king had no objection to offering the other boy as well a place at court. Bis became the Stable Master's apprentice and so Maniya was able to speak to him more frequently. Often after finishing her regular duties she would help in the stables as well, an environment she had worked in before. She could also blend in without suspicion as she dressed and looked like a boy, with her hair cut short and messy bangs almost falling over her eyes and a cap that helped her disguise. She had been dressing like this all her life, not only because trousers were more practical while laboring but also because passing for a boy sparred her much unwanted trouble and unpleasant circumstances.

Maniya would usually strive to finish her chores earlier so she would have more time for the education that her mentor Dalasa was giving her. In these brief moments of spare time and sometimes even at night she would find a secluded place where she could focus on studying and the stables provided such places. When she first met Prince Tus she did not know who he was. Up until then she had only seen Prince Garsiv from far while Tus, already a young man of 24, had an overwhelming crowded schedule since he had to prepare day after day for his future as the next King of Kings. It was his birth right as the Crown Prince, the first born son of the King of Kings and he had been preparing for this role all his life.

Maniya was in the stables one quiet afternoon, sitting in a secluded place where she usually sought refuge from the crowded palace environment and she was so focused on her reading that she did not hear someone approaching her. A male voice suddenly interrupted her thoughts and she looked up to see a young man dressed in common clothes. He expressed his amazement at what he thought to be a stable boy reading scrolls written in the Persian language. The Parthian language was the common tongue of the Empire since the Parthian dynasty had ruled the lands ever since they rebelled against Alexander's successors. Although King Sharaman was the third King of Kings belonging to a Persian-Parthian dynasty and he had made great progress in rebuilding a Second Persian Empire on the mold of the first, the Persian language was not yet used extensively by the common people throughout the empire.

Not knowing who she was addressing, Maniya responded casually, encouraged by the young man's amiable attitude and friendly smile. She proudly confessed that Persian was her native tongue and made a few remarks regarding the importance of education for all people as a decisive factor in ensuring the superior position of the Persian Empire among the nations of the world. Maniya had formed such elevated opinions as a result of paying close attention to the world around her and to the discourses and actions of her masters and their interlocutors as well as by eagerly learning what Delasa was teaching her. The young man was impressed by the stable boy's answer but since he was pressed by time he could not linger in conversation and asked for assistance in saddling two horses. Another surprise came when the presumed stable boy stepped closer in better light to do what he had been asked and the young man remarked that the boy was in fact a girl.

Upon being exposed, and being uncomfortable about it, Maniya managed to appease her worries, acknowledged her true identity and presented arguments in her favour, saying that there was no shame in honest work, regardless of the trade and that she had the experience to perform the necessary tasks correctly. Still, she hurried to finish the current task, worried that she had already become too exposed to someone she did not know. Having lived as a slave all her life and then being freed by a pure stroke of good fortune, Maniya thought it best to be careful in her new life and not do anything that might reverse the good fortune. She could not end up in slavery again. Now that she had had a taste of a better life she started having hopes of finding better employment later on, once she had completed her basic education.

After the young man proceeded towards the exit with the two horses Maniya retreated to her secluded place but her focus was distracted once again a few moments later when she heard the young man calling out for Dastan. Looking out, she saw Dastan rushing towards the young man who had mounted one horse, and mounting the other. Then the two of them rode out of the stables. Driven by curiosity Maniya sought out Bis and inquired about the identity of the young man. She was perplexed to discover that he was none other than Prince Tus.

That was the last time Maniya went to the stables to find a quiet place for her studies and from that day on she was always careful not to find herself anywhere near prince Tus. It was bad enough that she had to deal with an impossible crush on Prince Garsiv but to develop a crush on the Crown Prince himself was absolutely ridiculous. With him being gallant and handsome a crush would come naturally to a na�ve young girl who, as a simple commoner born a slave, had had such a pleasant encounter with the future King of Kings. Two years later Maniya came face to face with Tus once again when she spilled wine on him while serving at the king's table during a banquet. He recognized her and despite the circumstances he was no less amiable than he had been the first time they met and still smiling.

The third time they met things became much more complicated. It was a year after the banquet incident, when Maniya was a free young woman with a promising future, having been adopted by Lady Navaz, a noble woman who had chosen to live away from court. She had escaped servitude at the palace after being presumed dead since she had fallen from a great height into a river bellow, to what seemed to have been her death, or so everyone assumed. The outcome was in fact most favorable since she had also been wrongfully accused of theft. As a free young woman the only tasks that Maniya now had to accomplish were the ones she set for herself or the ones that her mentor and adoptive mother, Navaz, set for her. In the beginning these tasks involved only her education and unlike her previous tasks they were not a tiresome burden but a true delight. For the first time in her life Maniya was free to go wherever she wanted, whenever she wanted.

One of her favourite places that she began to visit frequently were the ruins of an old city situated on the outskirts of the city of Babylon. The architectural style of the now abandoned constructions resembled that of desert dwellings. The sand-coloured walls blended perfectly with the rocky desert surrounding it and were contrasted by the green shades of scarce vegetation. The more abundant plains were those close to the banks of the Ufrātu River that flowed in the vicinity. Although not a city in itself the ruins were still home to nomads or travelers who sought temporary shelter there. Farmers living in the region also brought their flocks of sheep or goats to graze on the river plains and some of the animals would sometimes wonder off and get lost in the maze-like structure of the ruins.

Still, despite not being a completely abandoned place there were many chambers or courtyards where Maniya could spend an entire day without coming across another living soul and the noises of the outside world faded as well. In such a place Maniya would come to study or to dance, a newly found passion of hers. She would remove the long tunic she wore on the outside and reveal a dancing outfit of pure silk, whose soft texture that shifted delicately with each move from the breeze emulated the undulating moves that comprised the dances.

One warm spring afternoon Maniya made her way to one of her favourite places among the ruins knowing that somewhere near a group of nomads had set a temporary camp and the sounds of the musical instruments they played could be heard quite well from Maniya's position to offer her the necessary accompaniment for her dances. This time she had chosen a red outfit and also made use of a separate red silk veil to accompany her dance. A veil was a common accessory for a dance and with two of its edges being held lightly between her fingertips it was either held in place while the body moved or swirled about to accompany the moves of the body. In a way it was an image of how the body should move in such dances, weightlessly and delicately, like silk in the wind or like the wind itself. In fact, certain types of dances were known as dances of the wind.

That fateful day Maniya chose to dance one of these dances of the wind. She moved with focus and dedication concerned only with her moves and ignorant of her surroundings, being certain no one would venture to that place. At one point during the dance she threw the veil into the air then leaned slightly backwards and raised her arms. On its descent the veil was stopped by her palms and the rest of it fell over her body. Quickly she pushed it upwards again, as if wanting to throw it behind her but just as she straightened herself she caught the veil between her fingertips as it now hanged behind her back like a cape.

The very next moment her fingers unclenched involuntarily and the veil fell to the ground. Her enthusiastic smile vanished as well, being replaced by a look of shock, rightfully so given the unexpected sight her eyes beheld. Standing not too far away, near one of the archway entrances to the chamber she was in was none other than Prince Tus, looking the same as she remembered him from the first time she had met him and once again dressed in common clothes. Maniya was so taken aback by this that she found herself speechless and frozen in place. Tus on the other hand greeted her with the smile she had received from him twice before but did not say anything. While Maniya was speechless because of the unexpected encounter he seemed to be speechless because of being mesmerized by the scene he had witnessed.

When she suddenly regained her senses Maniya acted on her first impulse and sprung around, grabbed the bag and tunic she had left there and ran without looking back, disappearing through one of the archways into the shadowy corridors of the ruins. The moment he saw her sudden reaction Tus called after her, telling her not to run because he did not mean to scare her and only wanted to talk. He noticed she had forgotten her veil on the sandy ground and took it, then started running after her through the maze-like corridors, calling after her with the same words whenever he got close to her.

After a long chase Tus was eventually able to corner her and Maniya had no choice but to confront him. When he stepped close to give her the veil her fears came true when he gazed at her from up close and suddenly realized she looked very familiar. His memory helped him further and he asked her on a tone of mixed bewilderment and excitement if she was not Maniya, Dastan's childhood friend whom everyone thought dead. After the incident Dastan confessed the truth about Maniya's identity and Tus then knew whom he had met that one time in the stables. Putting her deceiving skills to good use Maniya offered a convincing enough reply that denied his affirmations and chose to be mysterious instead, telling him that a name is of little importance and he could give her whatever name he wanted.

She hoped that her lie would be convincing, after all she now looked quite different from before, having long, slightly curled hair with no bangs to cover her forehead and fall over her eyes and a cleaner skin and appearance since she now had access to the finest cosmetics like any noble woman. Her eyes were delicately framed by thin dark lines in an Egyptian fashion and she wore an outfit made of expensive materials. Despite this Tus found it difficult to believe her response but chose to play her game and said he would call her Maniya. When he asked what name she would give him she replied that she did not need one because anonymity was much more interesting.

The conversation that followed was also mysterious in the senses that Maniya purposely offered vague or confusing answers in order to avoid becoming trapped in a situation where she would have no choice but to tell the truth, something she knew she had to avoid at all costs. Then she rapidly excused herself but Tus delayed her, expressing his desire to see her again. She offered another vague reply but judging by the way their encounter had played out Maniya was certain she would find Tus there the next time she came, waiting for her just in case she might show up.
While she made her way out of the ruins and back to Babylon she was particularly careful not to be followed. Keeping her true identity secret as well as her new dwelling was crucial. The latter was not such an easy task given that Navaz's villa was in the center of Babylon, in the richest district, close to the royal palace and the Fire Temple. Only when she reached the confines of her chamber and escaped the euphoria state she had been absorbed into by the highly unexpected encounter, Maniya analyzed the matter from a more objective perspective. Unfortunately at that early stage of her life she was more influenced by na�ve emotions than by the clarity of reason. This, combined with the new social position she found herself in gave her hope and actually led her to believe she could somehow be with Tus, in an actual relationship. Her feelings for Garsiv had not vanished either, despite the banquet incident but she pushed them aside, dismissing them as silly ideas of her early teenage years.

With this in mind Maniya decided to continue frequenting the ruins and meet with Prince Tus. Although a more rational side of her kept thinking all that could not be real she indeed found him waiting for her in the same place the following day. Their second conversation was a more scholastic one. Tus noticed the bag she carried with her and when he inquired about its content Maniya showed him the scrolls she was reading for their historical information and also to improve her knowledge of the Greek language. The scrolls contained information regarding the travels and conquests of Alexander of Macedonia as well as biographical accounts. Maniya shared with Tus her interest for the history of their nation, the First Persian Empire and also for Alexander of Macedonia, as a person, because of his grand goals and the determination with which he carried them out. She hoped to be able to travel as well, following Alexander's trail and then going even further to explore unknown lands and gain a better understanding of the world.

Tus was amazed and intrigued to hear such desired coming from a young woman of only nineteen and also considered the possibility that he might have been wrong in thinking she could be Dastan's presumably deceased childhood friend. After all, for one to have such dreams and have hopes of fulfilling them one would have to be of noble ancestry in order to have the financial means for such journeys. The scrolls that Maniya had were also quite expensive and difficult to come across. For a commoner such treasures would have been off limits. For their third encounter Tus manifested his desire to see Maniya dance like he had seen her dance the first time. She did not abandon her mysterious ways and did not give a clear answer but the next time they met she danced for him the most appealing dance she knew.

For almost two months these frequent encounters became a regular occurrence and halfway along the way they also became intimate. It was nothing too intense, only a few innocent kissed and comforting embraces but for young Maniya it was everything; her first kiss, her first real love. Beginning with the second month of their platonic affair things took a different turn. This time Tus began acting mysteriously, offering elusive explanations and many times failed to arrive at their meetings. When he explained his absence Maniya could tell that he was not speaking the truth but at the same time she perceived his remorse as being sincere and understood that something must be happening in his life to trigger such a change. She also could not press the matters further for fear of placing herself in a situation where she would be forced to reveal her true identity, which she had managed to keep shrouded in mystery despite their many encounters.

In their very last meeting, although at the time neither of them knew it would be the last, Tus surprised Maniya with a peculiar gift, a string of glass prayer beads. It was neither a randomly chosen gift nor one with religious connotations. He chose to give her those prayer beads because of their sentimental value. The unique beads had been in his mother's family for several generations and she had given them to her oldest son to give as a gift to his future bride. Tus decided to give them to Maniya to show that in his heart at least she would always be his bride, although in real life she could never be his first wife. He did not share any of this with her when he gave her the gift but later Maniya discovered everything on her own.

Curious to solve the mystery behind Tus' peculiar behavior and his absences, Maniya snuck inside the royal palace to visit her two best friends, Dastan and Bis. Soon after her apparent death she had gone in secret to see both of them again and let them know she was still alive, while also making them promise to keep her secret. Ever since her affair with Tus began she stopped visiting them and when she did visit them again she made no mention of her encounters with Tus. After all, two thirteen and twelve year old boys had other things on their minds. As it turned out there was no need for any tactful inquires because the answer she was looking for was the news of the hour in the palace. Prince Tus was to take as his first wife Princess Vira who would one day rule by his side as Queen of the Persian Empire. Their marriage had been arranged for a long time since it represented a needed political alliance, like most marriages.

At first the news did not come as a great surprise to Maniya since she had imagined that such plans had to exist, given Tus' stature, and Navaz had also warned her against it when Maniya told her whom she was meeting in secret. It was only after she met Princess Vira in person that the fantasy world she had been living in was shattered. When sneaking inside the royal palace to speak with her childhood friends Maniya disguised herself as a servant and accidentally ended up among the retinue of the recently arrived princess. The opportunity to be so close to Princess Vira changed her views completely, despite how much emotional suffering it brought her. While before Maniya had cried and shouted when Navaz advised her to put an end to her affair with Tus and boldly swore to defeat all obstacles to be with him, she now understood that it was not right to build her happiness on other people's misfortunate.

Princess Vira was nothing like Maniya had expected and she did not see her upcoming marriage simply as a duty. She was genuinely excited about it, she was concerned about not being to the Prince's liking and what was more, she seemed to have deep and sincere feelings for him. Just like Maniya, Vira had also observed her future husband from afar on several occasions in the past and grew to love him. They had met on a few occasions when they were younger but because of the tumultuous conflicts throughout the empire Prince Tus had been rarely available to meet with the princess each time she visited.

Maniya also understood that Vira's excitement about her upcoming marriage was not at all that of a silly girl with trivial concerns. Vira was nothing like that. She was a witty, intelligent, knowledgeable and strong-willed young woman, aside from being a beautiful, elegant and well-mannered lady. Since she had been brought up to one day be the Queen of Queens of the Persian Empire, Vira took her future role very seriously and was determined to be a strong queen, involved in political and military affairs as well and become her husband's most trusted aid.

In all honesty the empire could not have hoped for a better future queen and such a strong figure was much needed in that point of the empire's history. Also, for an arranged marriage Prince Tus could not have hoped for a better wife. As much as it devastated her, Maniya had to accept these realities and find the strength to completely let go of Tus. Eventually she accepted that in the given circumstances the only way to make Tus happy was to disappear from his life and allow him to find peace, happiness and love alongside his future queen.

Of course Maniya had envisioned other scenarios as well, since she had been aware of the complicated reality from the beginning. She knew she could only be a second wife or a mistress but she had been too overwhelmed by her feelings to consider the implications of such positions. For a start she would become tied to one place, which was the opposite of what she had always dreamed of and of what her new mission in life implied. Also, being aware that Tus' feelings for her were intense and genuine, she did not want to shatter Vira's dreams, which resembled her own, by coming between her and Tus. The Princess was undoubtedly aware that her husband would later on take other wives as well but Maniya concluded that since she was the first wife and future queen Vira deserved to have her husband's full attention at the beginning of their marriage to get to know each other better and solidify their important union.

Maniya's presence and Tus' affections for her would have only been an obstacle and would have brought Princess Vira a kind of emotional suffering that Maniya was familiar with and did not wish it on anyone. There were metaphorical parallels to be drawn between the condition of a princess and that of a slave and since Maniya was well aware of what it meant to be a slave she swore to prevent anyone from living in such conditions as well as in conditions that just slightly resembled them.

However, the emotional side of the situation, concerning Tus and Vira's happiness, was only a small part of the issue. There were much more important reasons that made Maniya understand her presence would only complicate things and possibly even be the cause of negative outcomes. Tus was not just a man with an important position but the man with the most important position in the empire, since preparing to be the future King of Kings was an even more difficult task than actually being the King of Kings.

Maniya knew that he could not afford any unnecessary distractions and that he had to take his training very seriously and work very hard. The empire was also in a fragile state and could not afford any dissent within the central government that King Sharaman was trying to reinstate. Tus' affections for a freed slave could have given rise to unwanted circumstances and at that early stage of her life Maniya did not feel like she could bring any contributions. She did not want to be just a wife or a mistress, she wanted to help in improving the administration of the empire and the lives of its low class citizens and slaves but she was still young and had much to learn.

After meeting Vira in the palace Maniya went once again to the ruins, not to meet Tus but only to leave the beads he had given her, thinking she did not deserve them and also as a message to Tus, letting him know that she would no longer be coming to meet him. Just as she was about to leave she heard Tus approaching and hid, watching from a distance how he picked up the beads with much sorrow in his eyes. Without making her presence known Maniya snuck away, leaving Tus there to search and wait for her in vain, hoping he would understand the message and that it was for the best.

Then something intriguing occurred in the days following this event. While learning Sanskrit, a language for which she had developed a sudden liking, having a peculiar feeling about it as if she had some sort of connection to it, Maniya was completely baffled to discover that in Sanskrit her name translated as glass bead. Immediately she thought of the prayer beads that Tus had given her and began to wonder what was all supposed to mean. When she shared this information with her housekeeper, Zoraideh, a wise woman who was also her confidant and a good adviser, Maniya received a very peculiar but also intriguing response.

Zoraideh told her that it could not be just a coincidence and her destiny must be tied to that string of beads. She told Maniya that according to the beliefs of her people the gods would write a person's destiny before they were born and then palace it around their necks at birth. Although Maniya would dismiss such ideas as superstitions it was still an interesting coincidence that the gift she received, which bore the meaning of her name, was also something she could hang around her neck. Thus, according to Zoraideh's beliefs she would literary have her destiny around her neck.

But of all the beliefs that Zoraideh shared with her the one that had the deepest impact said that ever since birth every man and woman walk towards their written destiny and there is a time in their life when they come face to face with it. That is the moment which changes everything and you understand what you came to do in this world. Because of the circumstances in which Maniya received the prayer beads she believed that moment to be the one Zoraideh spoke of.

Being profoundly marked by the possibility of such things being true, or at least needing to believe them in order to make her loss more bearable, Maniya returned to the ruins in a hurry and was relieved to discover that Tus had left the beads there. From that moment on she never parted with that string of glass prayer beads and always carried them with her, either wrapped around her right wrist like a bracelet or around her neck. She also vowed to dedicate her life to ensuring the happiness of the man she loved, even if it meant disappearing forever from his life and only helping him from afar, without him knowing. She believed this was part of her destiny.

The day she went back to retrieve the beads was the last day that Maniya went to the ruins of the old city. Tus did return there several times hoping to meet her again but with no luck. He also noticed that the beads were no longer where he had left them but assumed someone else had taken them.

Prince Garsiv || Husband / Teenage Crush
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In her teenage years, although street-smart and with a good enough grasp on reality, Maniya was very much under the influence of her emotions and her simplistic view of life. Between the ages of 15 and 18, when she worked as a servant in the royal palace of Babylon, she developed a crush on the king's second born son, Prince Garsiv. He had never been aware of her existence, she was after all a lowly servant and she would not dare to ever come into his sight. Not because she was not allowed to but because her secret affections prevented her from having such a courage and she was a shy, naive young girl back then.

From a distance she continued to love him in secret, with the innocent affections of a teenager, and from her position of a servant she secretly tended for him. Being aware that Garsiv had no interest in knowing about the servants and their duties as long as he received everything he needed, Maniya became the servant that prepared his meals the way he liked them, washed his clothing and other such tasks.

The first and only time Garsiv became aware of Maniya's presence was the first and only time she served a tray at the royal table, during a banquet. To her utmost horror, her nervousness made her trip and drop the goblets of wine from the tray. The only one being stained by the flowing liquid was the oldest prince, Tus but he had a surprisingly kind reaction and told the shocked and trembling girl that she should not worry about it. Garsiv however reacted violently, scolding the girl viciously on a shouting tone and letting her know that for such an offense she should be whipped.

The mercy of King Sharaman sparred Maniya of a severe punishment but just the following day she was falsely accused of theft by a noblewoman from the palace. In her rush to escape the guards sent to capture her she ended up on the ledge of a balcony from where she slipped and fell into the river below. Due to the great height from where she had fallen the general assumption was that she died. Only after the news of her death Garsiv learned from Dastan that Maniya had been his childhood friend, a secret she had asked him to keep.

From that point on Maniya began a completely new life and her new residence became the house of Navaz, her mentor, who also legally adopted her. With all the unbelievable transformations that had taken place in her life, the things she now had to discover about herself and the mission she was entrusted, Maniya moved her thoughts away from her teenage crush. When she grew older she even laughed at herself for the way she used to think and feel and dismissed her innocent love for Garsiv as the nonsense of a silly and simple-minded girl.

This perception prevailed even when she once again spotted from a distance an older Garsiv, now a man and a warrior. But although her conscious self would tell her not to linger on such thoughts, on a deeper level she could feel the lurking of familiar emotions from the past. And so yet another inner conflict between the two sides of her personality was unleashed. Eventually she had to admit to herself that, for instance, her always taking the hallway overlooking the courtyard where Garsiv trained, whenever she sneaked into the palace to visit her friend Dastan, was not a coincidence.

Suddenly she realized that she was back in the same situation she had been in her youth, secretly trying to get a glimpse of Garsiv whenever she could. Maniya never held a grudge against him for how he had reacted to her spilling the wine a few years before. She would not have expected him to behave differently towards an insignificant servant he had never seen before and she had always been aware of his personality, with his fits of fury, arrogance and superior attitude. Throughout the years those traits remained more or less the same, his involvement in war giving him only a stronger focus point in life, towards which he could direct his ambitions.

The strange thing was that even though Garsiv's main personality traits were ones that Maniya usually preferred to avoid, with him it seemed that those very traits had drawn her to him. But now things were different. Maniya had more freedom than she could have ever imagined and also an important mission in life, so even though she would occasionally allow herself to check in on Garsiv from afar, most of her time was spent on her duties and travels. This helped her take her mind off personal feeling she could not or did not want to understand and avoid having to take a final decision. There was some strange feeling of hope in her soul, although she could not figure out for what exactly.

The difference now, aside from Maniya viewing life through the eyes of a young woman and not those of a child, like before, was also that Maniya had acquired some personality traits that were the exact opposites of the ones she used to have. Now she was a bold, courageous, witty and independent woman who no longer waited for things to be given to her but who instead took whatever she wanted whenever she wanted. These new impulses eventually led to her voluntarily presenting herself to Garsiv, though under a made-up identity. Such thoughts had crossed her mind before. What if she would find a way to spend just one night with him and satisfy her desires? After all that was all she could hope for since becoming a constant presence in Garsiv's life would inevitably lead to her meeting Tus once again, who would recognize her immediately. Not to mention that she would have also had to be very careful in not revealing her true identity as Dastan's childhood friend. But even if she might have easily accomplish that she always ended up postponing it.

Faith however made the decision for her and placed her in a situation that would determine Maniya to take a path leading to her much desired encounter. While returning from a very long journey of several years, the one that marked her the most, Maniya got word of a cavalry unit of the Persian army, led by Prince Garsiv himself, engaged in an armed conflict with a Dahae tribe from beyond the north-eastern border that had attacked a Dahae settlement within the empire. Conflicts between tribes who had submitted to Persian rule and those who chose to continue the fight were very common at all border regions of the empire.

The only reason for which Maniya did not hesitate in taking a decision this time was the rumor about Garsiv having been greatly injured in battle. The Persian cavalry unit had crossed the border and captured a fortress occupied by the rebel tribe. The Kyrkmolla Fortress of Gurgānj, in the Uvārazmish region, was in fact a Persian construction, build there a few centuries back when that region had been within the borders of the First Persian Empire. After defeating the rebels the Persians seized the fortress, although by then it had been abandoned by its non-combatant inhabitants.

Making use of her stealth and deceiving methods, as well as her superior agility, Maniya infiltrated the fortress and entered, through the window, a small chamber situated in the superior levels of the fortress. The door had been locked and bolted from the outside and when the Persian soldiers inspecting every corner of the conquered fortress broke in, Maniya presented herself as the daughter of the Dahae king allied with the Persians, whom the northern rebels had attacked. She told them she had been kidnapped and imprisoned in that chamber a few months before. Fortunately for Maniya's cover, the king had died in battle and there was no one around who could expose her.

When brought in front of the captain, Garsiv's second in command, Maniya made sure to drive the conversation in such a way that the captain would bring up the issue of Garsiv's health so she could offer to mend his wounds. Once she did that the captain agreed to let her see Garsiv. Her credibility was due to the fact that the king whose daughter she was pretending to be had always been a reliable ally of the Persian monarchy and the healing methods of the Dahae were also renowned for their effectiveness. Of course, Maniya had chosen this cover precisely because of these reasons.

Once in Garsiv's chamber Maniya discovered that he had not received many injuries, being a skillful fighter after all, but the reason for him being literally on his death bed was a poisonous arrow that had pierced the right side of his upper chest. For one whole week Maniya stood by his side, systematically applying to his wound the medicine she had prepared, using mostly herbs and other ingredients she had taken with her from the provisions she always carried on her travels. Most of the time she just stood next to him and held her hands over his wound, which was meant to stimulate the energy flow of the body in order for it to heal itself.

As Garsiv's state of health was beginning to improve and the moment when he would wake up was approaching fast, Maniya's fears turned from Garsiv dying to him coming face to face with her. She knew there was almost no chance for him to recognize her since she was both older and quite different looking and he wouldn't have remembered a servant he had seen only once either, even if he did find out she had been Dastan's childhood friend. Still, almost the same feeling of nervousness as she used to have in her youth took over her senses. From a certain perspective it was understandable because she did find herself experiencing what she had only dreamed of.

The first meeting was more pleasant than she had expected. Maniya had prepared to face Garsiv's rather temperamental self especially since, being wounded, he found himself in a more or less helpless position that he never enjoyed. Instead, after becoming aware of his situation and being told what had happened, including Maniya presenting herself, according to her cover, Garsiv became more relaxed. Undoubtedly, her cover as the daughter of a loyal Persian subject was very helpful in earning his trust in a short period of time.

Maniya spent a few more days aiding in Garsiv's recovery, this time with him being awake for the most part of the day. As his health was getting better they no longer kept to the confinements of the chamber where his treatment had taken place but also had walks along the corridors of the fortress and through its courtyard. Although the time spent together was brief and Maniya was mostly trying to dodge questions connected to the life of the person she was pretending to be, which she might not respond correctly, she also became familiar with a different side of Garsiv's, that of the man behind the tough soldier.

She had never purposely attempted to seduce him but often enough her behavior and way of being had a seductive air to it and the inevitable consequence of that was a very passionate night of intense bodily pleasure. It all came naturally and when she succumbed to his manifested desires none of her past doubts and fears were hunting her mind. The time they had spent together, just the two of them away from everything and everyone, as if they could actually be together, had completely suppressed those doubts and fears.

Not long after they had both fallen asleep close to each other Maniya awoke abruptly, as if commanded to. That was the moment when she reverted to reality and understood that the critical point had been reached. She had done what she had wanted to do and all that she could ever do with Garsiv. The only thing left to do was leave. And in the middle of the night she did just that, sneaking out of the fortress as skillfully as she had gotten herself in. She made her way to the village where she had left her mare, Devi and recovered her from the family who had taken care of the animal. After that she continued her journey back to Babylon.

Garsiv was surprised to find that the enigmatic woman he had spent half a month with was nowhere to be found and even more surprised, shocked even, when he found out that the Dahae king had no daughter but not as shocked as he had been when he finally understood why Maniya kept insisting that he did not remove the bandages even when he no longer felt any pain or discomfort. Upon removing the bandages he was amazed to discover that the poisonous wound that almost killed him, received only two weeks before, had fully healed, leaving behind only a small scar.

The only people whom Maniya told about what had happened between her and Garsiv were Navaz and Zoraideh, her closest confidants, as well as her childhood friend, Dastan. If before she had avoided being seen by Garsiv because she was nervous about it, now she had to avoid being seen by him because she had no other choice. Before she had also entertained thoughts of becoming reacquainted with Tus, even if just to be an occasional lover, but with this new development such a thing was no longer possible.

Her resolution was that she and Garsiv, as well as she and Tus, during their earlier encounters, had done everything they could ever do and there was nothing more that could happen between them, especially with the position of the two men and her adventurous way of life. Her resignation to this reality was sustained by the philosophy which stated that ''The secret to happiness in life is not doing what one likes to do but liking what one has to do''.

07/28/2012 12:54 PM 

Connections 1



        Prince Dastan || Best Friend / Childhood Friend
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At about seven years of age Maniya moved from Pāsārgād, her birthplace and once the capital of the First Persian Empire, to Babylon, the current capital of the reborn Persian Empire. The decision was not her own but that of her master, in whose service she found herself at that time in her life as a slave. Five years later, when she had turned twelve, faith had her meet two young boys, one six years old, Dastan, the other only five, Bis. She found them sneaking inside the back court of her master’s dwelling in an attempt to find some food and some less torn up cloths that could serve to replace at least some of their scant and barely wearable clothing. They were two street urchins, wondering the streets for as long as their young minds could remember and with no recollection of their parents or any other relative or guardian.
Being a slave herself, Maniya could not bring herself to deny the two children aid, although her act could have brought about punishment if discovered. Yet, fearful not to arise her master’s suspicion by giving away some of his possessions, however slight and insignificant, Maniya chose to give the two boys the little food and fabrics she had for herself, the insignificant possessions that a slave was allowed to keep, aside only her own worn out garment. She had seen many homeless children strive about on the streets, mostly begging and putting their lives in the hands of destiny, waiting and hoping for someone to show some compassion, but the two boys that Maniya came across were not like that.

It surprised her to see that although of such young ages, they had understood that the only way to survive was by helping themselves, not begging or waiting for help to come. They were clever and resourceful and stubbornly claimed their right to live, no matter what others might say, an idea that Maniya had also long clung to. The oldest boy, Dastan, was the most resourceful and although Bis was not his blood-brother, but another homeless child he had bonded with while striving to survive in the streets, he had cared for the younger boy the same as a good older brother would.

Maniya encouraged the two boys to return whenever they needed food or shelter and promised to find them a place to stay at least during the night, even if the chances for being discovered, especially by a loyal servant, were great. Still, she continued to help them whenever she could and the three children soon formed a strong brotherly bond, with their similar misfortunes and ill fated destinies serving as common ground to bring them closer.
Necessity often forced the two boys to steal for a living and Dastan had promised to become a skillful thief when he grew older and repay Maniya for her kindness and support, first of all by purchasing her freedom. Dastan and Bis might have been homeless orphans but at least they were free citizens of the empire, while Maniya had inherited her position as a slave through birth. She had never had a choice in the matter and had only known the life of a slave, deprived of personal choice or liberty of movement, outside the commands she received.

Faith however turned out to be most ironic and later on Maniya was the one who would learn the ways of a thief and explore life in a way she would have never thought possible. She would not only be freed from servitude but would become a very different person from the quiet and submissive girl she once was. The first step towards this journey occurred when Maniya turned 15 and the unexpected death of her master brought upon herself a most unexpected fortune. A kind elderly woman, Delasa, a relative of the man, who inherited part of his fortune, bought Maniya’s freedom and took her to work as a servant in the royal palace of Babylon. The chores might have been similar but at least she was now a free citizen.

As soon as Maniya found herself in this new privileged position, from the point of view of a slave, she made plans to ensure for Dastan and Bis similar opportunities, yet their fortunes, especially that of Dastan’s, proved to be far greater than her own. It was nothing less of a shock to discover that the street urchin she had cared for had seized the attention of the King of Kings himself who did not simply bestow upon him some impressive reward but took him out of the streets to raise him as his own son. Dastan’s shock at such an occurrence was of course greater but there were reasons to explain these unexpected gestures of great compassion.

Those months of that particular year were ones that would forever remain in history, not only that of Persia but of the world. The day King Sharman galloped victorious through the streets of Babylon and was so impressed by an uncommonly clever orphan that he decided to adopt him right there and then, was also the day that marked the conclusion of a most impressive victory. The Persians and Parthians, both people of Iranian descent, after having united their forces to ensure the rebirth of the Persian Empire, following Greek occupation, had suppressed the expansionist ambitions of the Roman Republic and proved to them that beyond the River Ufrātu lay a great empire, a force to be reckoned with, not just some scattered, easily defeated barbaric tribes as the Romans had assumed.

At the battle of Ḫarrānu (Carrhae) the Romans suffered a grave and decisive defeat, their forces practically annihilated. It was an unforgettable example of Persian-Parthian military tactics and skills, one that would impress the world at that point in history and also for centuries to come, remaining in the annals of military history to be studied by future generations. The euphoria that descended upon the citizens of the empire following this great victory, together with the peace and stability brought about by King Sharaman’s reforms, released the empire from the tension and insufficiencies they had lived with in previous years and the general mood was just right for unexpected miracles, such as a street urchin becoming a prince.

When Maniya met the two boys once again at the palace, she as a servant, Dastan as a prince and Bis as the Stable Master’s apprentice, she asked them to keep their friendship a secret. Although Maniya had been brought to work at the palace before Dastan’s arrival, she did not want anyone thinking he was abusing his new position by bringing in other homeless orphans like himself. Bis was an exception because they had been like brothers since the first day they met and he was also the boy for whose safety Dastan endangered his own life, in the faithful day that Sharaman entered the city triumphantly but was halted in his march by the tumult the two street boys had unwillingly created.

During their time at the palace Maniya spoke more frequently with Bis and met with prince Dastan only rarely, in secret, since he was constantly watched and she did not want her presence or their bond to be known. She also did not bother either of them with her silly crush on Prince Garsiv, which she kept to herself. The years passed relatively quick and the next turning point in their destiny came when Maniya was wrongly accused of theft and in her desperate attempt to escape the guards sent to capture her, fell from a great height into a small river flowing along one side of the palace. After that everyone presumed her dead and being unable to hide their grief, Dastan and Bis revealed Maniya’s identity as their childhood friend and protector, as well as the reasons for which she wanted her identity kept secret.

Not long after Maniya began her new life in the house of Navaz, as her adopted daughter, and began to develop a different, thus far hidden side of her personality, Maniya snuck into the royal palace and shocked the two boys with her presence and the revelation of being alive. Due to the new circumstances, the three of them had even less time or opportunities to meet but from their different dwellings they focused each on their own learning and training. Once again she asked them to keep her secret, this time the need to be thought dead and removed from anyone’s concerns being much greater.

Then, ever since her unexpected affair with Prince Tus began she stopped visiting her two friends and when she did visit them again she made no mention of her encounters with Tus. After all, two thirteen and twelve year old boys had other things on their minds. Once circumstances forced her to end her affair with Tus, Maniya met with her childhood friends one more time to let them know she would be taking a long journey to the land of Kemet, or Mudrāya as it was known in the Persian tongue and Egypt to the Greeks and Romans.

Three years later she returned to the city she loved, her hometown, Babylon and with Dastan now being 17, he had more freedom to move about as he pleased, or he simply disregarded orders and snuck outside the palace and the three old friends now found more time to spend in each other’s company and share the experiences they each had while apart. For the most part they met in the house of lady Navaz, now Maniya’s home as well, a sumptuous villa situated in the rich district of Babylon, not too far from the royal palace.

They had every reason to feel at home there since Navaz welcomed them as if they were her own children and they were family after all. Navaz was a cousin of Queen Amāstrī, the first wife of King Sharaman and mother of Prince Tus, but unlike Amāstrī she had chosen a completely different path. She isolated herself from her noble heritage and dedicated her life to learning and putting her inherited fortune in the service of common, disadvantage people and the improvement of vital sectors of the city.

When they became reacquainted Maniya shared with Dastan and Bis much of her long kept secrets, including her teenage crush on Prince Garsiv and her brief platonic affair with Prince Tus. She unveiled her deepest feelings to her two trusted friends and explained her actions, letting them know why she had done what she had done and how she had learned to accept the impossibility of having her dreams fulfilled. As such, she decided to dedicate her life to aiding the men she loved from afar and in so doing also ensuring, as much as she could from her position, the safety and prosperity of the empire.

Over the years, while studying the history of their people and becoming acquainted with the current state of things, Maniya had developed great admiration and respect for the nation she was a part of and the people who had elevated the empire to what it was at present. From what she had learned, also from foreign records throughout her travels, the Persians and their distant ancestors occupied a land that was thought to be the cradle of civilization, the place where humans first began to evolve and build societies and cities, then nations. The old city of Babylon and its surroundings had been from the beginning in the center of this starting point of development.

Later on came the birth and expansion of the First Persian Empire, thought by many to be the largest empire of the known world to that day, an empire unparalleled in both territory expansion and wealth. Yet the greatest feat of all was the wisdom and tolerance with which the old Kings ruled the land, showing mercy to their enemies and allowing many freedoms to newly conquered people. Despite inevitable wars and periods of great unrest, the general state of things was a peaceful and prosperous one and the empire flourished, not only in riches but also in culture and science. Throughout centuries, many libraries were built in the largest cities and filled with countless manuscripts containing works of literature, philosophy, religion, history, geography, politics, astronomy, medicine, architecture, engineering and many other sciences.

The empire they called home was truly unique in the knowledge it possessed and it had been the intention of many rulers to see this knowledge made available to all citizens and not just some privileged few. A strong, unified nation could only be sustained as such by the common will of the people, not by force and fear as others believed, and a well educated people could only help in the development of the nation. Many times before the greatest minds of history had sprung from the lowest of social classes and their ideas would have never been born if they had not first managed to acquire some level of education and then find a way to make their ideas known.

Still, it was not only her admiration for the past that dictated Maniya’s decisions. Although having an inherit disdain for the nobility, due to the unfounded superior attitude of most of them, she came to see that King Sharaman, as a man, was someone who truly understood what it meant to be a ruler and who had sacrificed much in order to see a second Persian Empire being born, as well as to ensure the peace and prosperity that people had enjoyed in the distant past.

Maniya’s change of heart regarding the King of Kings was not influenced by his adoption of Dastan. In fact, she continued to have the same feelings regarding nobility until she discovered herself that King Sharman was indeed a dedicated ruler and a honorable man. However there were still many nobles under his command who fitted perfectly the view that Maniya had of nobility in general and she would have no remorse in depriving them of their possessions and redistributing them to the needy, in her new thieving profession.

Dastan and Maniya would often debate on whether there was an already made destiny for each individual or if one made one’s destiny throughout life, but one thing was certain, there had been many peculiar coincidences in Maniya’s life that had led her to believe there could be a destiny she had to fulfill. For one, she was born in Pāsārgād, also the birth city of King Sharman, she was born in the same year and day that King Sharaman was crowned King of Kings, she had been almost like a mother for the boy who would one day be taken by the King to be raised as his own son, she was adopted herself by a noble woman belonging to the Royal House and she swore to dedicate her life to ensuring the happiness of the man she loved but whom she could never have, a man who was none other than the King’s oldest son, himself the future King of Kings.

All these put together led to the obvious conclusion that her supreme goal in life, her destiny, could only be ensuring the prosperity of the empire and its people. She had once been one of the common people, of the lowest class even, and now that she had been bestowed with much fortune it was only natural to see it as her duty to help those whose faith she had once shared. With this in mind she had unwillingly developed an almost annoying habit of reminding Dastan and Bis that it was their duty to not forget where they came from and use their new position to do the good they would have otherwise been unable to do.

Yet, as much as she wanted to put her life in the service of the empire, Maniya also wanted to travel, even further than she had already traveled, to see and understand more of the known world, and perhaps even uncover new lands. With this in mind she set on a very long journey that took her as far as Britannia to the far west, then northwards across Germania and the vast Sakai plains, finally reaching the Han Empire of the far east.

Four years later she returned a much different person, one who had suffered physical torture, mostly at the hands of the Romans, but who also embraced it, found the strength to move forward and accepted the transformation she was undergoing with each new experience, turning her into someone very different from the girl she once was. Whether she had a written destiny or not, there were many moments when such ideas were a comfort and provided a much needed, though simple and vague explanation to the turns her life kept taking.

On a more personal side, upon returning from the far east, destiny granted her a more pleasing surprise, that of satisfying her long desire of sharing a few moments of physical pleasure with Garsiv, even though it meant that from then on, more than ever she would have to make sure she never crossed paths with either of the King’s two oldest sons, while in Babylon. When she returned to the capital and was once again reunited with Dastan and Bis she shared with them all her secrets and adventures and burdened them even more with secrets they had to swear to keep.  

Each time Maniya returned to Babylon from a long journey she seemed to have lost a part of her old self somewhere along the way and the two young men had to constantly accustom themselves with her new attitude and mentality. At first she appeared only bolder and more self-confident than in her young years, but still possessing much enthusiasm and positive energy that she enjoyed spreading around, trying to get others as well to find more excitement in being alive. She had managed to accept the difficulties and sorrows that life threw her way and understood the benefits of a positive state of mind.

Yet, as the years went by and she was forced to experience more of the horrors that life and human existence had to offer, especially after her long voyage to the far west, Maniya’s smile and positive, enthusiastic attitude gradually faded. What replaced them was a cold, emotionless stare marked only occasionally by sarcastic grimaces and ironic smiles. Her general attitude often extended towards indifference and bitterness but she considered this a positive change, arguing that she now had a more realistic grasp on life and had more clarity of mind, unlike her old self, whom she grew to despise for being weak and taking hasty decisions based on emotions, which brought misfortune both to herself and to others. 
Maniya no longer had a pure pacifistic view on life. She stated that she now understood the complexities of social structures and human behavior and that what people had named evil, vile or immoral were only such depending on circumstance. What is more, such things are often needed in order to bring about their opposites, so in simpler terms, good can sometimes be brought about only by means of evil, or what people subjectively consider to be evil. As such, Maniya was no longer repulsed by the necessity of murder and could offer many justifications in its favour, depending on the case.

Still, this new attitude of hers did not spoil the brotherly bond she had with the two younger men. From many points of view it made it stronger. The many life experiences she had both at home and in her travels forced Maniya to mature rapidly and slightly beyond her years, which only served to increase the protective attitude she always displayed towards Dastan and Bis. Now that she was more prone to irony and mischievousness, she seldom teased them by saying she was like a mother to them and enjoyed pretending to display the attitude of a much older person. Then there were the times when she was the complete opposite and even had moments of irrational behavior, perhaps an inevitable consequence of the burdensome emotional pain she did great efforts to hide.
From the years they lived on the streets when they were young, Dastan and Bis developed their capability of rapidly adapting to new situations so they managed to put up with Maniya’s constantly changing personality and shifting moods. Dastan in particular shared Maniya’s newly developed taste for irony so much of their interactions ended up revolving around playfully teasing each other back and forth on various subjects. Making fun of the difficulties, problems and misfortunes they had to face seemed to be an efficient way of moving forward with much ease and learning to accept what they could not change.

Aside from the adventures they went on separately, Maniya, Dastan and Bis also shared common adventures in the few months that Maniya spent in Babylon in between her travels. When they were children, their adventures were limited by Maniya’s bond of servitude that did not permit her to venture outside her master’s dwelling without permission. When they were teenagers they still had little freedom with Maniya being a servant at the palace and Dastan being constantly supervised and attended, since he had become the King’s son. But once they came of age and entered adulthood, the freedoms of all three widened considerably and with almost nothing holding them back, on numerous occasions they ventured into unknown places and situations without a second thought. Their ingenuity helped them through on many occasion but a considerable amount of times they got themselves in trouble and their actions did not pass unnoticed.

Maniya’s necessity to keep her identity a secret proved many times to be a difficult obstacle to pass whenever she and her two best friends got themselves in trouble. However, Dastan never backed away from helping his childhood friend, even if it meant taking the blame upon himself. Maniya was not comfortable with this, even if it was a useful solution and the only way of avoiding exposing herself and she would afterwards strive to make it up to Dastan, often by ending up putting herself in harm’s way in the process, the same as Dastan had done for her.

        Bis || Best Friend / Childhood Friend
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Maniya’s relationship with Bis is similar to that between her and Dastan. They share the same secrets and shared most of their experiences together.


03/26/2012 08:27 PM 

How Maniya became the Emissary of Bast

Stories on Fanfiction.Net
Freedom is Power - a Prince of Persia fanfiction
How Maniya became the Emissary of Bastet

Born a slave, a heritage passed on by her parents who had shared a similar fate, Maniya had been sold from one master to another after her parents died, or were killed, she never really knew since it happened when she was of a very young age. When she turned fifteen fortune smiled upon her and she was freed from slavery by a kind, elderly woman by the name of Delasa who took her to work as a servant in the royal palace of Babylon after the girl's former master, an acquaintance of the woman's, passed away. Delasa gave her a basic education, teaching her to read and write, and for three years she had done all sorts of chores that were meant to ease the already facile life of the so-called superior class of society.

In her youth and teenage years Maniya had never been abused or mistreated by any of her masters and for a slave and afterwards a servant she had lived a decent life. But although she was of a kind and submissive nature, always hurrying to do whatever she was asked and swallowing without retorting the sometimes cruel and unfounded accusations and complaints of her masters, she had always felt like something was wrong, like she was not doing precisely what she was meant to do. At one point she had had a dream of becoming a priestess at the Fire Temple but it was shattered by Delasa who told her that only women of noble ancestry could occupy such a privileged position.

At present those memories made her smile. Society did not allow her to fulfill her dream of becoming a priestess but fate offered her a life like few are destined to live. She could never forget the very first event that marked the beginning of her transition from her old life to her new one, namely the present one. Of course, at that time she paid no attention to it for she could not have possibly imagined what life had in store for her.

Eighteen year old Maniya was in the bazaar one morning, sitting on a stone bench near a fountain when a woman approached her. She was a tall, thin woman, with pale skin, long, curly, light-brown hair and eyes like two dark jade stones; she was a beautiful woman, although she might have already passed the age of fifty. She was dressed in a dark green, silk dress that touched the ground, had a golden shawl over her shoulders and wore exquisite jewelry - earrings, bracelets and a necklace holding a pendant with an emerald stone that matched her eyes.

The woman who introduced herself as Navaz seemed preoccupied by the girl's sorrow and as the two started talking the girl, who felt the need to take the burden from her heart, confessed her misfortune. She told the woman about how she would never be able to fulfill her dream of being a priestess but the woman simply smiled and told her something she would always remember, though at the time it only deepened her suffering for it sounded completely implausible.

"Sometimes when the gods don't give us what we want is because they have prepared for us something greater than we could ever imagine."

Then Navaz got up from the bench where she had been sitting next to Maniya and before leaving gave her a silver pendant, representing the profile of a sited cat.

"Keep this close and it will fulfill your innermost desires."

After her meeting with Navaz the girl remained puzzled for a while but that feeling lasted only until she resumed her daily chores at the palace and by the time the sun disappeared behind the hills into a pool of reddish light she had forgotten all about it.

The day after ...

Morning came soon and Maniya leaped out of bed as soon as the first rays of light made their way inside her small, deplorable and almost empty bedchamber. She rapidly put on the gray, stripped dress and cream-colored veil she always wore and was about to exit the room when the insistent mewing of a cat made her approach the only window of her room, with no curtains, no grating, no shutters - just a square shaped hole in the wall.

On a higher ledge on the opposite building there was a cat, looking down directly at the girl and mewing as if asking for help. It was Nasmat, one of Bastet's sacred cats, but the girl did not know that back then and considered it just an ordinary cat.

"Kitty, what's wrong?" she asked from the window. "Come down from there."

But the cat wouldn't move and continued to mew at her.

"Come on, it's easy. Just jump on that beam over there. It's right below you," the girl pointed towards a beam coming out of the wall.

"What, are you stuck?" she asked when she saw that nothing would make the cat come down. "Don't make me come after you," she sighed deeply seeing how the cat kept mewing at her.

Gathering the little courage she had in her, Maniya climbed out of the window onto a beam coming out of the wall, about two feet below. Praying to all the gods she knew, the girl stretched out her arms to maintain her balance and with small and very insecure steps she walked across the beam till she reached its end. Every inch of her body was shaking violently, knowing that there was a thirty feet distance to the ground, but she was looking straight forward, trying not to make any wrong moves.

When she reached the end of the beam she realized that in order to get to the cat, she would have to jump forward and grab onto an upper beam, coming out of the wall in front of her. She cringed at the thought, and regretted her decision, wanting to go back but something inside her urged her to go on, not to mention the cat that seemed to be crying for help with her mewing. Putting her faith in the hands of the gods, Maniya jumped with her arms stretched forward, in order to grab the beam. Unfortunately she had forgot to take into consideration the ten feet distance between the two beams, plus the fact that her dress was too tight for her to make such a jump, and she fell about three feet down, when she somehow managed to grab onto another beam below.

She hung from the beam for a while until her sweaty hands could not hold on anymore and she fell again, screaming. Luckily she landed on a canopy that served as a roof for the market place that stretched along the narrows alleys between the buildings but as soon as she made a move the linen tore apart and she fell flat on her face on the dusty, stone pathway. Groaning in pain and still shaking with fear, Maniya slowly raised her head from the ground when she heard the cat's mewing which, this time, sounded as if it was coming from somewhere very close. Pulling aside the strings of her messy hair that fell over her eyes she blinked a couple of times in total stupefaction when she saw the cat standing a few feet away from her.

"Kitty? How did you ...... ?"

Finding herself at a loss of words caused by the state she was in the girl instinctively looked upwards, towards the ledge where she had first seen the cat. Though it took her a fraction of a second to do this, when she looked back down the cat was nowhere to be seen.

Several days later ...

"You stole it. Admit it!" a tall, skinny woman, with a wrinkled face, dressed in elegant robes and wearing excessive jewelry and a turban on her head, also adorned with gold and precious jewels, barked at Maniya.

"No! I swear, mistress. It is mine. A gift," the scared girl tried to defend herself, clutching in her hand the pendant, representing the profile of a sited cat, which a mysterious woman by the name of Navaz had given her and which she now wore around her neck, on a string made of thin rope.

"You cannot possibly expect me to believe the lies of a pathetic servant. Guards! Guards!" she yelled with all her strength and two guards rushed into the room. "This servant has been caught stealing from my belongings. Take her to the dungeons and give her the proper punishment, then lock her up."

Hearing such orders Maniya entered a state of utter shock that prevented her from reacting in any way or even thinking. She knew very well knew that anyone caught stealing had their right hand caught off, but if she was accused of stealing from a noble woman of the court then it was very likely she could be hanged afterwards. As she saw the guars approaching, their eyes glistening with fury, Maniya did the only thing that her instincts told her to do, she ran. Bursting through a smaller door at the other side of the room, hidden by red curtains, Maniya reached a corridor and desperately ran along it, as fast as she could, striving to outrun the two stronger men.

Turning left and right, looking back at the guards rather than where she was going, fate made it so that she reached a balcony from which it was impossible to escape. Desperate as she was, seeing the guards approaching rapidly and shouting at her, Maniya made an attempt to straddle the banister, not knowing herself how she could escape if the ground was barely visible from the impressive height where she stood. The banister, however, proved to be very difficult to straddle for someone who wore a long dress, not vaporous like silk but rough and tight like a sack.

But just as she sat there on the banister, one leg almost over it and the other hanging in the air, she heard a familiar sound, a mewing. Looking above the archway door of the balcony, she saw sitting above it, on a girder, the cat she had once tried to rescue and which afterwards disappeared without a trace. The cat was looking straight at her and mewing insistently, which distracted Maniya's attention and she did not hear one guard shouting 'Stop right there, thief' or see the other aiming his bow at her and releasing an arrow that did not hit her, but swished past her ear, which, ironically, proved to be fatal for her.

She instinctively threw her head backwards to avoid being hit, but unconsciously she also removed her hand from the banister, thus losing her balance. Her heart was pounding furiously, her entire being was filled with a terrifying fear and her eyes swum in tears when she felt her body slipping backwards and her hands could no longer reach the banister and grab hold of it. Still gazing at the cat that was now starring back in silence, she whispered desperately with trembling lips "Help me!" and then she fell.

The guards rushed towards the banister and looked down, watching the girl's body shrink from sight as she fell from the great height of the palace's upmost levels and plunged into the river that flowed along the foundation of the structure in that less accessible area of the city, near the defensive walls.

Morning of the following day ...

Warm, golden rays of the sun invaded the small chamber filling it with soft, morning light. Maniya frowned when the rays tickled her eyes, disturbing her from her slumber. Without opening them, she stretched her arms and afterwards proceeded to turn on her right side, only that when she did so she found herself slipping down from what she thought to be her bed, and collapsing to the ground from a height of six feet. She woke up on the spot and jumped to her feet, looking perplexed.

The place from which she had fallen was a supporting wooden grind, where apparently she had been sleeping. Casting a glance at the floor just below the window she noticed her usual outfit lying there, soaking wet and full of mud. She on the other hand was shinning clean, her skin and hair carrying a scent of sweet perfumes. But what astonished her the most were her clothes, all colourful and silky and rather revealing. The silver pendant now hang at her neck on a exquisitely designed silver chain and she also wore earrings, bracelets and rings made of gold or silver, some even adorned with precious gems.

The sound of footsteps outside her door made her turn and as she was starring at the door concentrated, wondering who was approaching and would probably enter her room, for a split second something odd happened. She thought she had seen, through the door, the shinning white form, like an aura, of the person approaching. Before she could ponder on it further, the door burst open and Delasa entered, looking very concerned.

"Maniya, what has ......?" she began but was struck dumb upon seeing the girl's new appearance. "Dear me, what is this? Where did you get all of these? Gods be merciful, you didn't ...... steal them, did you?"

"Aaaa ......," Maniya was also speechless, realizing she had absolutely no memory of how she came to possess such expensive belongings. "I ...... don't know."

"Where were you yesterday? I was so worried. I had to make preparations for the celebration and ......," Delasa began but was interrupted by Maniya, who all of a sudden remembered she also had important chores to do for the summer solstice celebration that took place at the palace.

"The celebration! I almost forgot," Maniya shouted and ran to the door, but was stopped by Delasa.

"Where are you going?"

"There is still much to be done and so little time before the celebration begins."

"My dear, the celebration was yesterday," Delasa explained to her, puzzled by her attitude.

Maniya starred at her, looking very confused, when suddenly she once again heard the familiar mew. Running to the window and looking down in the street below she saw the same cat she had once attempted to rescue, looking back at her.

Possibly out of the desperate need to find some answers Maniya left the room in a hurry, pushing past Delasa without saying a word and ran into the street, searching for the cat, which had once again vanished from sight. She did however have the inspiration to grab a cloak and a veil and cover herself fully if she did not take the time to remove all the jewelry that would most certainly make her a target of suspicion since she came out of the servants' dwelling. In any case it would not have been wise to leave those expensive things with Delasa, lest she could be accused of theft.

The mewing rang again in Maniya's ears and she immediately knew where to look to find the cat. She saw it at the end of the alley, sitting on top of a basket. The dizziness and anxiety that possessed her body prevented her from wondering how she had been able to hear so clearly the mewing of the cat, when there was a great distance between the two of them, and the alley packed with stalls and counters was crowded with people buying and selling, walking about and making great tumult.

Following the cat further on Maniya did not realize when she had reached the more sumptuous neighborhoods of the city, situated in the vicinity of the Great Tower. She ran after it through narrow, winding streets, then came to a stop after making a left turn and finding herself before the beautifully decorated entrance doors of one of the mansions in the area, the cat once again being out of sight. She pondered for a while, hopping to hear the cat again, but nothing happened this time, except for the doors opening just as she was about to head back.

Curiosity made her approach and she saw that there was no one there who could have opened them. Stepping over the threshold she entered a small interior court designed and decorated in a mixture of Persian, Arabian and Egyptian styles, with arabesques, coloured tiles and mosaics. In the middle there was a fountain, and on the sides many flowerpots adorned the court, some of them accommodating trailing plants, which stretched on the pillars that were supporting the balcony above.

"I've been expecting you," Maniya heard a woman's voice speaking to her left, as she was gazing upwards at the exceptionally carved screen windows, and the coloured, transparent curtains.

"Navaz?" said Maniya, recognizing the woman who nodded in response.

"I knew you would come, when you were ready."

"What do you mean?" the girl frowned in confusion.

"Follow me."

The girl did as told and they both entered an even more beautifully adorned room, with chairs, sofas, a low table and bookcases, on the ground as well as on a high wooden platform, for the room was as tall as two. The stone walls were of a simple cream colour, but the multicoloured drapes, curtains and flowers, as well as some simple green plants, compensated for the lack of tiles. However, what really surprised Maniya was the great number of cats, about fifteen, that moved across the room or simply laid somewhere on a comfortable cushion. Even more bizarre, when she entered the room, all the cats rushed to her, mewing and fawning on her. Only one cat stood still, looking straight at her, the one she had been following.

"Her name is Nasmat. She is a Mau, a rare Egyptian breed," Navaz explained as she walked towards the staircase that led to the platform. Maniya walked behind her and stopped when she stopped, in front of a shelf upon which there was a statuette of a woman with the head of a cat.

"The Egyptian goddess Bastet," Navaz began to tell her. "The Maus are sacred to Bastet, they are her messengers. Bastet is a rarity, goddess of the moon, and of the sun. She represents the duality in all women: docile, yet aggressive, nurturing, yet ferocious."

"But, why are you telling me all this? What has it got to do with me, I mean ......?" Maniya was both impressed and confused.

"What happened the other night?" Navaz interrupted her, surprising her at the same time with her question.

"I ...... don't remember."

"Do you want me to tell you?"

"Yes," Maniya said promptly, very eager to see what the response would be, to find out answers, both concerning her situation, and concerning the woman who seemed to know more about her than she herself knew.

"You died," Navaz gave her a simple answer, but one that shook her entire being.

"What? ...... I didn't die, I mean look at me, I'm right here," Maniya could not prevent herself from laughing at the absurdity of the words the woman had uttered.

"You died ......, but you were reborn."

"Oh, you're crazy! You are crazy cat lady," Maniya spoke frightened this time, seeing how Navaz stuck firmly to her explanation and starred at her very oddly, with wide opened eyes.

"Bastet knew your fate. That's why she tested you, to see if you were worthy of a gift she could give you, a gift that could change your life ......," as she spoke, Navaz approached Maniya with slow paces, while the girl backed away in fear, until she reached the edge of the platform, for there was no banister, only six cylindrical pillars that connected the ceiling with the floor bellow. " ...... and give you a new one," the woman concluded just as Maniya turned to face her again, and stretched her right arm towards Maniya's chest, pushing her gently, but enough to make the girl loose her balance and fall.

What followed was something that amazed Maniya beyond words. While she was falling, without even realizing it, she turned in mid air and landed safely on all fours imitating perfectly the graceful moves of a feline. Forgetting even to stand up, she looked back at Navaz and even though she found herself incapable of composing a single phrase her pleading eyes desperately demanded an explanation.

"You're not alone child. There have been others before you," Navaz told her, hoping to calm her down and make her accept things as they were.

"What has happened to me?"

"The goddess Bastet has chosen you to be her emissary on earth, to do what she commands and in so doing assuring the triumph of light over darkness, of justice over lawfulness, bringing order where there is chaos and maintaining the natural balance of things, without which our world would fall apart," Navaz spoke while descending the staircase and coming to stand in front of Maniya, who had also stood up from the floor.

"You speak of the impossible. This is not a task to be appointed to a common mortal."

"But you are no longer a common mortal. You died as a common mortal, but you were reborn as a child of the Goddess of Light, who has passed on to you some of her most precious gifts. You are no more tied to this world."

"What does that mean?"

"It means that you are no longer contained by the rules of society. You follow your own desires. This is both a blessing and a curse. You will often be alone and misunderstood, but you will experience a freedom other women will never know. You are a daughter of Bastet and therefore possess some of her most powerful attributes: every sight, every smell, every sound, incredibly heightened, fierce and independent, total confidence, inhuman reflexes."

"So, I'm not Maniya anymore?" she asked on a trembling voice.

"You are Maniya ...... ," she began and then she walked to a nearby table from which she took something covered in a black cloth, which she held with both hands in front of Maniya as she continued " ...... and you are a daughter of Bastet."

Removing the cloth with one hand she revealed a beautiful and rather delicate looking dagger, with a thin, curved blade and a silver hilt, shaped in form of the goddess Bastet, a woman in a tight, long dress, with the head of a cat and her arms crossed over her chest.

"This is the sacred dagger that only the emissary of Bastet may carry. Now it is yours. It is your destiny." Navaz looked into Maniya's eyes for a brief moment and saw that she was still frightened. "Accept it child. You spent a lifetime caged. By accepting who you are, all of who you are, you can be free...... and freedom is power."

"I have never wielded a weapon before," Maniya reached forth reluctantly to touch the weapon.

"Bastet is your mother and your protector. A part of her is within you, guiding your every move and you will often find yourself doing things you had so far not even thought possible."

Maniya took the dagger in her hands and as she examined it she also tried to put everything together, to better understand what had happened to her and most importantly, what was to become of her. Then she realized something and looked up to Navaz full of sorrow.

"Where am I to go? I cannot go back, resume my old life."

"I too am a servant of Bastet and therefore a servant of her daughter. Whatever is mine, from now on is also yours. The daughter of Bastet is welcomed to call my house her own for as long as she wishes."

03/06/2012 02:31 PM 




        Prince Dastan || Best Friend | Childhood Friend
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        Bis || Best Friend | Childhood Friend
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        King Tus || Lover | First Love
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        Prince Garsiv || Husband | Teenage Crush
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        Navaz || Mentor | Adoptive Mother
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        Zoraideh || Housekeeper | Confidant
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Read the Story: HERE!


        Afari || Protegee | Adoptive Step-Sister  
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02/02/2012 06:17 PM 

Maniya's Combat Style

Maniya uses her superior agility and flexibility in moves that are not very violent in nature. She does not attack her opponents with weapons, instead she prefers to use evasive tactics, to escape her aggressors and disarm them when necessary. She does not kill for pleasure and when needed she renders her opponents unconscious. Rarely she actually goes as far as killing them.

As such, the modern fighting technique that bears the greatest resemblance to the sort of acrobatics that Maniya performs is Capoeira, inspired by old African practices. Technically this is not actually a fighting style but rather a game meant for pure entertainment, a form of dancing in many ways.


The game:

The game is marked by fluid acrobatic play, feints, subterfuge, and extensive use of groundwork, as well as sweeps and kicks. Throughout the game, a player must avoid a sweep, trip, or kick that may knock him or her on the floor. Less frequently-used techniques include elbow-strikes, slaps, punches, and body-throws.
Capoeira does not focus on injuring the opponent! Rather, it emphasizes skill. Each attack that comes in gives players a chance to practice an evasive technique.

The ginga (literally: "rocking back and forth; to swing") is the fundamental movement in capoeira. It is accomplished by maintaining both feet approximately shoulder-width apart and then moving one foot backwards and then back to the base, describing a triangular 'step' on the ground. This movement is done to prepare the body for other movements.
The rest of the body is also involved in the ginga: coordination of the arms (in such a way as to prevent the body from being kicked), torso (many core muscles may be engaged depending on the player's style) and the leaning of the body (forward and back in relation to the position of the feet - the body leans back to avoid kicks, and forward to create opportunities to show attacks).
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Capoeira primarily attacks with kicks, sweeps, and head strikes. Punches and hand strikes can also be used, but they are not as common. One probable explanation for the primary use of feet is the common West African belief that hands are for creation and feet for destruction. Elbow strikes are commonly used in place of hand strikes. Knee strikes are sometimes seen.
Capoeira also uses acrobatic and athletic movements to maneuver around the opponent. Cartwheels, handstands, hand-spins, hand-springs, sitting movements, turns, jumps, flips, and large dodges are all very common in capoeira. Fakes and feints are also an extremely important element in capoeira games and the setting of "traps" or illusory movements are very common.
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Capoeira defenses consist of evasive moves and rolls. A series of ducks called esquivas, which literally means "escape", are also staple of a capoeiristas' defensive vocabulary. There are typically different esquivas for every step of the Ginga, depending on the direction of the kick and intention of the defender.
A common defense is the rol�, which is a rolling move that combines a duck and a low movement. This move allows the defensive player to quickly evade an attack and position themselves around the aggressor in order to lay up for an attack. It is this combination of attacks and defense which gives a game of capoeira its perceived 'fluidity' and choreography.
Other evasive moves allow the capoeirista to move away or dangerously close in an attempt to trip up the aggressor in the briefest moment of vulnerability (usually in a mid-kick).
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The Wonders of Capoeira

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