|I Will Protect You
Author: samcatthorne PM
"Rhea," he pleaded, his voice beginning to shake. "Don't leave. I…I love you." "If you really love me...then you'll let me go." Ancient Egypt AtemXOC Rated M for sexual contentRated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Drama - Atem & Kuriboh - Chapters: 20 - Words: 56,241 - Reviews: 94 - Favs: 54 - Follows: 52 - Updated: 05-17-13 - Published: 04-16-12 - id: 8032237
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Absolutely not!" the Pharaoh exclaimed. "I will not allow it!"
"But Father, I—"
"I don't want to hear your reasons for this, Atem. It is simply unacceptable." He heard his son growl under his breath, and sighed. "The girl saved your life, and you wish to repay her by forcing her Shadow Creature to be taken from her?"
Something had changed in his son, though what exactly, he had no idea. Atem used to be such bright, sweet child. But, over the years, he'd grown steadily darker and more serious. Aknamkanon had tried everything he could in order to find out what was wrong, but to no avail. Not even Mahad or Mana, Atem's closest friends, could get through to the Prince at this point. He'd pushed everyone in his life away.
"Why don't you ask her to join us for dinner," the King suggested.
"But she's a commoner!" Atem protested.
"She saved your life, Atem. You are still in her debt, whether you're Prince or not. She chose to protect you at great risk to her own safety."
"I thought that was what subjects were supposed to do for the Pharaoh and his family," Atem argued.
"And how many of those people today actively tried to protect you out there?"
Atem paused, his head sinking as he recalled the other civilians' faces, gawking at him silently for a moment before scattering and screaming in terror. They looked like ants whose mound was just stepped on. It was rather pathetic, really.
"It was only her," he muttered quietly. Aknamkanon put a firm hand on his son's shoulder.
"You see? Telling someone they must does not mean that they will."
Atem grumbled. "Yes, Father."
"This Rhea put her own life at risk to save you. You owe her a debt of gratitude. Wouldn't you agree, my son?" Reluctantly, Atem nodded, know that any further resistance would be futile.
"Good. Now, have the guards release her from her prison cell, and invite her to dinner." Atem sighed.
What a jerk, Kuriboh said. We saved his life, and this is the thanks we get?
I didn't answer. I merely sat on the cold stone bench by the wall and leaned my head against the wall. I was worried about Karn. My prison cell had no windows, but I was fairly certain it was close to sundown. No doubt she would have heard of my arrest. My idiotic outburst had to have spread all over town by now. She must be worried sick, I thought. I couldn't help feeling like I'd let her down.
"Get up," the Prince said, snapping me from my daze. I blinked at him. He was so quiet when he'd walked in, I hadn't realized he'd entered at all. Or perhaps I was too deep in thought to notice.
"I'm sorry?" I asked.
"We're leaving," he said. "This is your one chance at freedom. I suggest you take it."
I nodded obediently. "Of course, sir." I started to follow him from the cell. "May I ask why, though?"
The Prince stopped and sighed grudgingly.
"My father has invited you to join us for dinner, in gratitude for saving my life." I paused, taken aback by the Pharaoh's kindness.
"Thank you," I blurted.
"I would advise you not to get too comfortable. Remember, you are here as a guest, and a guest only."
"I understand." The last thing I wanted to do was condemn myself and Kuriboh further.
"Good. Follow me."
He led me silently from the dungeon through a series of long hallways, each one wider than any street in town. We stopped in front of a pair of colossal doors guarded on either side by spear-wielding guards. As the Prince approached, the guards pushed the doors open for us.
Inside, the bedroom was enormous! It could fit at least five of my room back home with plenty of space to spare. The giant four-poster bed placed against the west wall was three times the size of my own. The balcony opposite the bed provided a beautiful view of the Imperial city as well as the night sky, with huge velvet curtains for privacy. It was absolutely stunning.
"This will be your bedchamber for the time being," the Prince said from behind me. "I will send a servant along in a moment to help make you a bit more…presentable." On presentable, his eyes ran up and down my figure, grimacing disapprovingly. "I wouldn't get too comfortable, though," he repeated.
"Yes, sir," I said, feeling slightly self-conscious. He turned and left without another word, closing the door behind him.
Across the room from where I was standing was a full-view copper mirror. I inspected my appearance carefully. I was horrified! Compared to the rest of the room, my short, tangled hair; dirty, tattered frock; and sand-smudged skin looked wretched and particularly out-of-place. No wonder the Prince grimaced the way he had. I couldn't face the Pharaoh like this!
I heard a knock on the door. "Come in!" I called. The door creaked open, and a girl's head popped in.
"Excuse me," she said shyly. "I was told to help you get ready for tonight's meal?" I nodded, ushering her inside, closing the door behind her. I couldn't help but notice a slight accent.
"Where do you come from," the girl asked as she began drawing a bath in the washroom that emerged from the north wall.
"I'm from the Market District here in the city," I told her. She smiled pleasantly.
The Imperial City has three different districts located in rings around the palace. The innermost ring just outside the palace walls was the Noble District. This was where the priests, scholars and other high-ranking officials resided with their families. The next ring that surrounded the nobles, was the Market District, my home. Many merchants, innkeepers (like Karn), artisans and the rest of the lower-middle class lived and did their work here. Although it was within the city limits, and therefore required by law to be kept clean and well-managed, the Market District wasn't exactly the nicest place to live in all of Egypt. The outermost ring, the Farming District, was located outside the city wall, but was still considered part of the city. The Farming District provided most of the food for the Pharaoh and the Market District.
"Which district are you from?" I asked.
"Oh, I'm not from this city," the girl said.
"Oh, you're not?"
The girl shook her head. "I'm from a city a few kilometers away. I was brought here as a servant because my mother needed the money to help provide for herself and my brothers and sisters."
"You must miss them terribly."
She nodded, smiling sadly. "I do. But, it's nice living in the palace. The servants' quarters are always well-maintained, and I always have fresh food to eat. I pray that one day, I'll be able to earn enough money bring the rest of my family here." I smiled, happy that the girl found some hope in her situation.
"By the way," I said, watching her ready the bathwater, "my name is Rhea. What's yours?"
"Auset," the girl said timidly.
"What a beautiful name," I replied. Auset blushed. Her looks were particularly different from others I'd seen. She seemed to be just a few years younger than me, yet her long hair was of a light-grey, almost white color. Her hair and her ice-blue eyes provided stark contrast to her dark Egyptian tan. She wore a simple cream-colored tunic lined with dark red trim and tied around the waist with a gold rope belt. Her smile was shy and sweet. She seemed so innocent, she couldn't hurt a fly.
After she finished preparing the bath she stood and wiped her hands, turning to me.
"May—may I see your Creature?" she asked. "I've heard so much about it."
"Of course," I told her, smiling. I released Kuriboh, and he zoomed over to nuzzle her cheek affectionately. Auset giggled.
"I never knew a Shadow Creature could be so…cute," she said. Kuriboh chirped happily.
Over the course of the next hour and a half, Auset helped me and Kurboh get ready for dinner.
Well, actually, she offered to help me get ready, but I refused considering I felt that she was my equal in the current circumstances. Instead, she helped me groom Kuriboh, just in case he were to make a sudden appearance. It took both of us together to get Kuriboh into the bath (he's a strong little sucker), but brushing his coat was no problem. He was actually purring as we combed the knots out.
Once we had Kuriboh taken care of, I bathed myself and prepared for dinner. I was combing out my hair just after my bath when there came another knock at the door. I was given a beautifully elegant gown, similar to Auset's except that it came down to my ankles and the trim was gold and black instead of red. I slipped it on carefully, tying the belt into place. Again, Auset offered to help, but I politely turned her down. After all, as the Prince took pleasure in reminding me repeatedly before he left, I wasn't planning on staying long enough to become considered of "noble" status. In fact, I wasn't even expecting to spend the night. As far as I was concerned, I would be back home before sunrise tomorrow.
"What could be taking her so long," Atem growled irritably.
"Be patient, my son," the Pharaoh urged calmly. "There is no need to rush her. The Guardians aren't even here yet."
Just then, the doors to the dining room's main entrance opened, permitting Rhea to enter. Atem stared at her, amazed that it could even be the same girl as before. Once all the dirt and grime form the streets had been washed away, she looked positively radiant! Her lightly-tanned skin glowed and her hair shimmered from the light of the setting sun. The dress, which had been one of Lady Isis's gowns from when she was Rhea's age, fit her marvelously and tremendously flattered her slim figure. Her once spiky, messy hair now fell delicately down the sides of her face, stopping just below her chin. Her green eyes sparkled with curiosity and innocence.
He snapped out of his daze when he heard his father's chuckles beside him. "The food hasn't arrived yet," Aknamkanon whispered teasingly, "and already you're salivating." His cheeks burning, Atem subconsciously wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
"I apologize for my tardiness," Rhea said, drawing Atem's eyes to her smooth, thin lips. "This is my first time in the palace, and I'm afraid I may have gotten a little lost." She laughed once halfheartedly, as if trying to make light of the situation.
"Not a problem," the Pharaoh assured her, smiling. "Besides, you're not the last guest to arrive, so there's nothing to worry about. Please, make yourself comfortable. There is an available seat beside my son." Atem scowled, silently cursing his father for his pestering. The girl quietly took her place, sitting on the edge of the chair, as far from the Prince as humanly possible. She never met his gaze. Atem rolled his eyes. Sure, he wasn't the nicest person in Egypt, but she didn't have to avoid him like he had some deadly illness.
It was obvious to the Pharaoh that the two youngsters were not going to begin any sort of conversation on their own. So, he decided to begin it for them.
"So, my dear, I don't think I've had the pleasure of learning your name yet," he started. The girl smiled shyly.
"Rhea, sir. My name is Rhea."
"What a lovely name for such a lovely young woman." Rhea blushed.
"Thank you, sire. That means a lot to me."
The trio turned as the great wooden doors opened once again, granting seven finely-dressed nobles entrance to the small banquet. Aknamkanon glanced at Rhea, who had risen from her seat and was standing stiffly as Shimon and the six Sacred Guardians took their places at each of the remaining empty chairs.
"Please sit, Rhea," he coaxed her kindly. "You are among equals here. There is no need to be so formal." He ignored his son's intense glares as Rhea slowly, unsurely sat back down.
Suddenly, the doors to the kitchen were opened, and the food was brought in.
Finally, Atem thought as his dinner was presented in front of him. Now they could hurry and eat and get this over with. He figured the sooner the girl left, the better. He could tell she had no place here at the palace. She had only been here a few minutes, and she was already clouding his mind. The farther away she got from him, the better off he would be.
His father, however, was not in quite as big a hurry. In fact, judging from the way he was leaned back in his chair, he seemed downright bound and determined to stay at the table as long as possible.
"So," his father began. "I believe introductions are in order."
Why? Atem thought. It's not like we'll ever see her again.
"Son, why don't you begin? Acquaint us with your honored guest."
"My guest?" Atem cried, jumping to his feet. "I wasn't the one who invited her to dinner."
The Pharaoh didn't bat an eye. "But you were the one who brought her home, didn't you?"
Atem felt like his father had just sucked the air from his lungs. He was left standing there, gaping at his father like an angry fish out of water. Grudgingly, humiliated at his own outburst, he returned to his seat. He refused to look at Rhea, but he could almost hear the smug grin spreading across her thin lips.
I probably should have been smug at the Prince's defeat. I should have been happy that the Pharaoh was taking my side. But I wasn't. I felt personally embarrassed for the Prince. After all, if I hadn't been here in the first place, he wouldn't have been put in this situation to begin with. As he sat down, I couldn't help but notice the slightly pink tint emerge from his cheeks. He wouldn't look at me after that.
I figured I would save him further embarrassment and spoke up. "My name is Rhea. It's nice to meet you all."
Each of the nobles introduced themselves. Mahad, Shimon, and Lady Isis all seemed genuinely pleased to meet me. Shada and Karim might have been as well, but they looked like they had more important things on their minds. Aknadin and Priest Seto both made it obvious that they were only there because they had to be. With their similar frowns, they could have been related.
Everyone began talking about their own things. Lady Isis and Mahad asked me about my life. Aknadin and the Pharaoh were talking about political things. Whatever had been on Shada and Karim's minds was being discussed between the two of them. Shimon was talking with Seto about the day's activities. Meanwhile, the Prince remained completely silent. I imagined he was probably still sore about being somewhat publicly humiliated. I truly felt bad for him.
Of course, through all the conversations, it was the one moment when the room was perfectly silent that my stomach decided to sound like a dying camel. Everyone turned and stared at me, including the Prince. I felt my face burn.
After a period of awkward silence, the Pharaoh laughed. "I suppose that is our signal to dig in," he said. Personally, I needed no further insistence.
Yeah...This chapter's kinda slow, but don't worry. There'll be more soon. I promise.
I felt kind of hesitant to use the word "salivating" cuz to me, it made him sound like an uber creeper. But I figured "drooling" was a bit too AD for Ancient Egypt, and I couldn't think of any other synonyms, so I just went with it...Still think he sounds like a creeper though. :/