I had another vision. I saw the Princess standing before the hourgiass, rubbing her hands nervously. I knew she was waiting for me. I knew I was close. I could feel it. But the sand in the hourglass was getting dangerously low. Each grain that fell caused my heart to pound and my breath to tighten. I could not fail!
Level 12

As I ran through the door, I saw that I was in an ancient tower. The air was fresher here, but tinged with evil. Jaffar had left some sort of spell on it, I was sure. I peered up into the inky black above me and could see nothing. It was as if the tower had no end.

1. I soon determined that the landings and handholds gave out directly above me, so I ran to the east, the only other way I could go.

2. I climbed up three landings.

3. Then I crossed to the other side of the tower and climbed up two more landings. I avoided a spike trap and took off running. Several floor stones just beyond the spikes broke and fell, but I was aheady far past them when I heard them crash to the floor.

4. As I neared the edge of this unstable walkway, I tensed and jumped as far as I could. It was dark up here, but my vision was good, and I had spotted a hallway across the gap.

I made it by hanging on with my fingertips, as usual. Once again, I hauled myself up. I was tired, and Jaffar's evil hung over me. But I was near the Princess. I could feel her love, and it drove all else from my mind, I had reached a dead end. There was nowhere to go but up.

5. I climbed up two landings and saw that I was at another dead end. To the east I saw a series of landings stretching into the distance, each separated by a gap. The glow of torches lit an area far across the tower.

I stood with my back to the wall and ran. I estimated that I would have to make three jumps in a row, and, knowing how unstable, the floors were up here, I determined not to stop until I had made it to the other side of the tower.

I jumped across and immediately jumped again.

6. And for the third time, I jumped again without stopping.

7. I came into a room where I spotted the bones of some unlucky man. I imagined he had been like me, an adventurer, a fugitive. And he had made it this far I stood a moment in dread and silent admiration. Then I thought, Maybe he 1 was just a careless guard. And the moment passed. I continued on my way.

I climbed up one landing and explored the ceiling. I stood near the edge facing east and jumped. One of the stones fell, revealing a space for me to wriggle into.

8. I climbed as high as I could. Ahead I spotted a gap and set off running.

9. I jumped immediately and made it across to a small alcove in one of the central towers. I climbed up to the next landing, I began to run back to the west.

10. As I neared the edge, I jumped the chasm while the floor stones crashed behind me. From here, I climbed up again.

11. At the third landing I came to a gate, the first I had seen in this place. I climbed one landing higher to see what was there.

12. I found a pressure plate, and when I stepped on it, I heard the gate below begin to open. I quickly climbed back down.

11. I ran through the gate, but there was nowhere to go. So I ran back toward the eastern edge and jumped the gap. I caught the ledge with my fingertips and pulled myself up once again to a more solid perch. I ran east.

13. The stones fell beneath me and I stopped when I reached the safety of the second tower. I crossed to the entern edge and began to climb.

14. I was high atop the eastern tower and could see no place to go from here. I stood in the center of the platform, facing east, and jumped to explore the ceiling. A loose stone fell on me, making me dizzy for a moment, but then I climbed up the gap, along the eastern edge.

When I had pulled myself up, I edged close to the wall, stepping carefully, to get room for a running start. I had seen that several other stones were loose. The last stone near the wall also seemed to be loose so I avoided stepping on it. I wondered what was holding up the stones I stood upon, I had seen no visible support but I didn't want to think too much about it.

I ran west, jumped the gap, and kept running.

15. I practically crashed into a wall in my haste. Then I climbed up and continued to the west. As I ran west, suddenly part of the flickering shadows detached and attacked me. It was the Shadow Man. My first instinct was to attack. I furiously lunged and parried, trying to drive this mysterious opponent away from me, but I could gain no advantage.

Who, or what, was this silent entity which parried my attacks with machinelike precision? All I knew was that it stood between me and my beloved, and in a surge of energy, I struck quickly, finally catching it off guard. As the point of my scimitar slashed its chest, I felt a searing pain in my own chest. I backed away quickly. Astonishingly, I saw that I bled as if it had been the Shadow Man who had struck me and not the other way around!

"Who are you?" I demanded. "Speak!" But the Shadow Man remained silent.

"Demon, or whatever you are," I cried, "by Allah, you won't keep me from the Princess!" Angry and confused, I redoubled my attack. My enemy was helpless before my ferocity.

But with each blow I landed, it was I who felt the effect! A strange and random thought occured to me. What if in Allah's wisdom He were to make all men feel the pain they inflicted on others? What kind of world would we then live in? Was it that way in Paradise?

With this thought my anger spent itself. The Shadow Man, too, seemed to have lost his lust for battle. I suddenly reached the end of killing. I had only one goal - to save the Princess. And only one true enemy - Jaffar!

I moved back and sheathed my sword.

"Why don't you strike?" the Shadow Man asked in a quiet, familiar voice.

I tell you truthfully, Hamza, that I cannot swear to this day whether the Shadow Man actually spoke or whether I imagined it all. But there was a deep despair in the voice I remember.

"Kill me," he said. "End my torment."

"I can't," I told him, and I told him truthfully. "Stand aside and let me pass."

Then, strangely, the Shadow Man also sheathed his sword and stood directly before me, his dark eyes piercing mine.

I can't say who moved first, but almost as if compelled as if magnetically drawn, we ran toward each other and...

A series of bright flashes blinded me, and my body shook violently. I was paralyzed, and, for just a moment, feared that I had fallen once again into Jaffar's trap. As suddenly as it had begun, the sensation passed. I inspected myself. I felt strong and whole again. I was complete! No wounds bled; no emptiness tortured in my soul. And no Shadow Man. He was gone. If he had been a part of me, as I suspected, we were now reunited. I was ready to finish my quest. Nothing would stop me!

I ran west.

16. I came to a sheer precipice. There was nowhere to go. All was emptiness. My recent triumph with the Shadow Man faded away, and my spirits sank. I didn't know what to do.

As I stood there, it came to me. I don't know what it was. Perhaps the spirit of the Shadow Man speaking to me, or maybe the Princess calling me, but I knew what I had to do.

I backed up a few steps, ran and jumped into the sheer darkness to the west. Though there was nothing there when I jumped, I knew that a bridge would be built beneath my feet.

Such is the power of the mind that it can sometimes create what is not there. Was it my mind that did it, or was it some other protection afforded me? I may never know. I do not need to know, for when I think back on it, this was the ultimate leap of faith, and I do not have to question faith, Allah be praised!

17. As I ran, the bridge appeared beneath my feet until I reached a dead end. I jumped across to a lower path and continued to the west.

18. I entered the next hallway, hesitated, and as I watched, the ceiling fell crashing before me. I would have been crushed under the stones if I had rushed headlong through the hall.

19. Again the ceiling fell but I waited, then picked my way quickly across the rubble, still heading west.

20. I came to a wall and climbed up three landings.

21. There was the door! I was sure this was the way out, but I could see no pressure plate. I climbed up onto a higher pathway and headed east. There was nowhere else to go.

22. And there he stood. Jaffar!

"So, you have made it this far, young Prince," he sneered. "It is a pity that you have wasted so much effort only to die here!"

I think Jaffar expected me to cower and whine like one of his lackeys. Instead, I laughed. I was whole again, and I knew Jaffar feared me. I would not back down.

"Enough words, Jaffar It's just you against me now," I spoke quietly, feeling the floor with my feet. A loose floor stone wriggled before me, and I stepped quickly over it. In a flash, Jaffar had his sword out, and I drew mine as well.

Jaffar was fast. He was a better swordsman than I had expected him to be. His first stroke caught me in the arm, and I felt a searing pain. Worse, he drove me backward, toward the gap left by the stone that had fallen.

The battle was furious, neither of us giving in to the other. I parried. He parried. I thrust. He thrust. I was bleeding in several places and so was he, But I soon felt the rhythm of his attacks and was able to block them and counter with attacks of my own. It was an endurance test, and I was determined to win.

23. Ultimately I forced him into a retreat and drove my blade home. He staggered backward, mortally wounded and tell screaming into the blackness below I never heard him hit the ground, but I did hear the door open behind me. I headed west to rescue the Princess. Jaffar was gone. The danger was past.

21. I ran up the stairs. My ordeal was almost over.

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