Summary: Because tolls are not just extracted upon the undertaker. (Egypt-centric story)
Warnings: Yaoi, sodomy, mangling of Egyptian Mythology. Character death, eternal purgatory—you get the idea. Bakura/Seto as well as mention of Bakura/several-other-random people-that-have-no-real-purpose. It is also very confusing if you know nothing of Egyptian mythology.
A/N. 'Amenti' is the river that the Egyptians had to cross on their way to 'Punt', their land of paradise. The ferryman of Amenti is extremely similar to Charon, the barge-master of the river Styx, in Hades. The price extracted was usually a coin (inserted into the mouth of the dead) but the darker half of the myth suggests that it was more than just money Kharun was after. This is what has come of it.
And death hath lifted up his ebony heel against us.
And he hath cried vengeance against our years of life.
He hath demanded we sacrifice our souls to pay his penance to the world, and hath left us with no choice but to fall namelessly, facelessly, before thus, his triumphant declaration against the mortality of man and beast.
Devoid of the protection of our Gods, we fade, we fall, we die.
It is as though we were never born to the world, never knew love nor pain nor passion.
What shalt we do, but fade to an eternity that wants none of our existence?
Nothing, for sadly, thee and thine cannot fight fate.
And as it is, fate the master of life.
The knife was sharp; it pierced his lungs with neither effort nor any great skill. It had been directed at his heart, but the cast had been awry and the blow struck elsewhere. Though it was still fatal, it promised a more lingering death, and one could only be struck with the Dagger of Osiris once without ruining their body irrevocably.
He would need his body in the afterlife; he had no wish to enter the Afterlife with holes.
But he wasn't dead. Not quite yet.
He coughed, blood bubbled forth from his chapped lips. He suddenly found himself longing for the honeyed oil that would sooth that, so small an annoyance. He tried vainly to ignore the pain in his chest, for it was slowly draining him of life. His focus instead sought and held a frail thread, intact only within his mind. However, the borders of even this were darkening…darkening as though by the hand of Ammon-Ra himself…
He frowned at that. Surely if he was still alive enough to form coherent thought, he was still strong enough to get up and plunge that cursed dagger deep into the torso of his aggressor. The cursed Yashekhmet. He exerted all effort he was capable of, and managed only to move his fingers. Even then, strength abandoned him.
The coppery tang of blood washed none-too-gently against the back of his throat, reminding him that he was lingering upon the shores of the sacred Amenti. He knew he wouldn't be allowed passage, though, for he would not be properly prepared. And while this scared him, he also knew he would never get the chance to cross the River. Oh no, he was going elsewhere. To be forever trapped within a damnable golden trinket.
Yashekhmet had saw to that. He knew the punishment for grave-robbing was severe, but damnation had not been one of the many fates he had contemplated with any real substance, truth be told he had never lent conviction to the Egyptian myths. His father had been foreign, a Titan of northern Mesopotamia, and had thus chose to disbelieve in all Gods but his own.
But even so, Bokhura hadn't thought he'd die like this. Not choking out his life on the blade of a silver dagger. Not naked and defenseless upon a slab of multi-veined granite. His father had died a warrior, he had expected the same, or as near the same as he could manage in his occupation.
Almost spontaneously, his body went numb. He lost all ability to feel anything that might have been dealt unto him, for which he was grateful, for the High Priest of Seth was now removing his organs with the Dagger of the same. He was dimly aware of this, but only barely. Only the gratings of bone against obsidian glass startled him into realizing what they were doing.
He tilted his head and closed his eyes against the barely-there pain.
Belongs to Me…
The Keeper you shall…
The Keeper you shall be…
The Keeper of the Gates…
Sentinel of Amenti…
Servant of Mine…
He struggled, but in futility.
The Ring is thine sad prison…
Forever your soul must stay…
Come, come, away with me…
I can take the pain away…
I can right thine wounds…
I can mend thine body…
Come, with me…
The insatiable urge to sleep was driving him insane. He just wanted to give up—why would this voice not allow him so small a victory? What was keeping him, lingering so, upon the cusp of life and death?
Shush, child, shush…
Amenti is thine shattered destination…
No afterlife awaits thee…
Come with me…come…
I can offer thee immortality…
I can make thine enemies repent…
That is thine own wish, is it not?
I know you as you do not know yourself…
I am He Who is God…
Come! Come with me!
He was losing the will to fight as assuredly as he was losing his life. If this was death—
I anoint thee, The Sentinel. Master of thine Brother, Anubis, in the form which is his natural state. The Price I extract from thee is thine Ka, essence of Ammon-Ra. Thine soul shalt forever be under the control that is Mine, and thy self shalt do my every desire.
He looked up and was aware, briefly, of a figure. It was seated upon a half-cloven piece of stone. To either side of the figure were two guardians, the Emerald Lioness Bastet and the Jackal Anubis. The Scales of Ma'at were nearby as well, and the moment his eyes alighted upon them, his soul was drawn from the confines of mortal flesh, placed upon the scales…the Feather of Truth resting eternally on the opposite side, the Goddess Ma'at standing solemnly beside her scales of Divine Rite.
The scales tipped. His soul was not as pure as the Feather.
The figure upon the stone throne chuckled darkly. "Condemnation is thine fate. Thou shalt face eternity as the Guardian of Amenti until the Ring draws you back for the purpose of the same Fate."
'No!' he tried to say desperately. 'No!' But He who Was in Shadows cared not for his silent pleas.
"Yet thou shalt not be devoured by my Sister," he glanced affectionately at a nearby creature, with the alternating body of a lion, a crocodile, and a falcon. "She hungers for Other flesh." The figure leaned further into the darkness that surrounded him, speaking no further.
He chanced a look down, expecting to be naked as he had been before. But no, now he was draped in a white shroud. White, the color of death. And in his hand, a staff of gnarled Cyprus—but no…
On closer inspection, he was proved wrong. No Cyprus tree was this. It was bone…intertwined human bones…
He could help it no longer; he fell to his knees before the figure. "I beg of you---!" he was not permitted to finish his sentence; the Jackal-headed figure sprang at him, pinning him to the ethereal ground.
"Speak not before his Eminence," he growled softly. "Lest we remove your tongue and sate our Sister with that mere scrap."
The demonic mixture of animals rumbled her approval nearby, and he shuddered.
"Slave!" The figure stood suddenly, taking a step forwards. Instead of falling away from him, darkness coalesced where none had existed before. An eternal shroud of Death. "Thine name is now Kharun. Thine previous name…" he paused slightly and a smile graced his face, though it never pierced the mantle. "Thine previous name, Bokhura, is no more. Thine art now the Ferryman of Amenti. My Will is thine final Fate."
He faded; then, back into the darkness from whence he had sprang. The Jackal-headed figure of Anubis snarled at him, obviously and painfully a canine gesture, and Bokhura cowered away from him. The snapping, scowling deity of embalmment followed his Master into the ebony circumambience. The other Goddess, Bastet, gave him a sultry upwards curving of her feline lips before leaping gracefully after.
Bokhura, still on his knees, could do little more than stand. Everything that he had once thought he saw had disappeared, the scales of Ma'at, the demonic soul-swallower Ammut, the throne of rock…he was alone…
And suddenly aware of the lapping of water at his ankles.
And it rose, swiftly, (or maybe he was falling?) claiming him to Stygian depths that would never relent in their assault. He coughed and floundered desperately, dropping his staff in an effort to remain afloat. A series of helpless moments saw him eventually find something to cling to, and cling he did. His prize was a rod, rising out of the macabre water. He chanced a glance upwards, dashing water from his eyes.
A gruesome skeleton leered at him from the gloom. Flesh clung yet to the bones, and the body had obviously been impaled upon the stake anally. Bokhura choked and went under the oily water again, forsaking his grip on the grisly pole.
This time, a hand seized him and drew him from the depths. He was hauled to what might have been a raft, or a flat boat. And he lay there for the longest time, panting, gasping, holding back tears of desperate frustration. The raft rocked back and forth gently beneath him, almost a warning against the reprieve for which he yearned.
Experimentally, he pushed himself to his hands and knees and looked up, expecting to see his rescuer. Instead, he saw the staff that he had dropped in the water a scant handful of minutes before. A ghastly arm had detached itself from the other bones and skeletal fingers were waggling at him expectantly. He made no move towards the hand, and instead collapsed again.
/Rise…Rise Ferryman of Amenti…the dead seek passage…/
With deliberating slowness, he chanced an upwards glance. Poor though his vision was in this darkness, he could discern shapes amidst the murky ambiance. People, expectantly waiting for passage to the paradisiacal land of Punt.
He didn't care. He lowered his head back to the foredeck of the barge. His platinum hair hung in quiescent tendrils all about his face. Though he had been ritually shaved before his 'sacrifice' it rather seemed as though that stood as nothing in the Land of the Dead.
His shoulders quivered as though from the chill of the silent waters of Amenti. Nearby, the staff unfolded more limbs until it could reach him. It tugged at him ceaselessly until he batted it away. It then sought purchase on his ragged ivory garment and drew him upright with fathomless strength.
/Thou art the Sentinel of Amenti…Thou must guide the dead to their Fate. Ma'at has yet to judge them. Nothing endures eternity, Kharun. His Lord Osiris will be most angry with you if you chose to disrespect his orders…/
Bokhura glared at the staff and it coiled back on itself, the snapping and popping of bones a testament to its ever-changing frugality. There was no wasted space on this, the Staff of Amenti.
He then promptly disregarded the warning and sat down on the raft, cross-legged in a near-meditative state.
/He will give you to a warrior of Anubis. Cruelty is their staple. Thou wouldst suffer like no man before thee and likely no man after. Rise, rise!/
Stiffly, Bokhura lifted his head to cast a withering glance at the staff. It merely remained as it had been, unmoving, though there was obvious motion beneath and amidst the surface of limbs. For a moment, it almost seemed to glare back, and then it detached an arm and pointed behind him.
/Look, Kharun, even now, He sends His mighty army./
Bokhura ignored the words of the staff and closed his eyes as though to forget and forgo this undertaking in the dark realm. He remained this way until something snagged at him and dragged him from the small boat.
"Fool," though this figure, too, was jackal-headed, it was starkly obvious he was no god. "You think obstinate pride can save you?" His head was jerked back and he was held under the murky waters of death. When next he was drawn from this torture, the figure was hovering above, watching him.
"Mortal," he cackled. "Thou art mortal! Osiris deigns to bless thee with immortality, and thou shirk him so?" The jackal-headed warrior smiled slowly, a smile that revealed all his teeth. "He will kill thee if thou dost not obey him. I am sent as a mere reminder…perform thy duty, lest thee face His wrath," there was a slight impact upon the air, as it is with a thunderclap, but no light marked the way. The thing disappeared, leaving Bokhura floundering again.
He found the barge quicker this time, as though he merely had to think of it, and it would arrive. He clambered slowly, painfully, onto the deck and coughed.
/I warned thee. Thine duty stands firm, Kharun,/ the staff reminded him tonelessly.
"I am NOT Kharun!" He half-shrieked at the staff. "My given name is Bokhura!"
If he didn't know better, he would have almost said that it chortled at that. /Thou art what thine God hast made of thee. Thou art Kharun, by His decree. Obey His will, and thyself shall be rewarded…/
Bokhura's hands clenched upon the boat deck. His downcast head could not help but take painful notice of his tattered attire. White—white, the color of death—he was bound in white, as though a shroud…everything was black except his robes, and even then, while torn, they remained immaculate…some cruel jest of the Gods, surely.
/Perform thy duty, Kharun, lest death find you slowly…/
Decisively, he stood. His hand darted out for the staff, which he then drew towards him. "And how do I move this thing?" He growled darkly, squeezing tighter than necessary as though he might cause the thing some grievous hurt.
/I am thine tool,/ it answered monotonously. /Command it and it shall be done./
"Very well. Guide me to the crevasse of the Dead."
/Yes, Master Kharun…/
The raft moved swiftly through the water, the skeletal staff propelling it effortlessly and without his needed control. They reached the shores quick enough, the only problem there was to continue.
"What do I do?"
/Thou must take a single passenger. Thou must extract a price from this passenger, be it what it may. Thou art the Gatekeeper, they must obey thine command./
The boat nudged gently at the shores, and several hopefully expectant faces turned towards him. Shrieks and wails reached his ears, begging for him to take them first. He ignored these, and turned instead to a young girl.
Though she could not have been more than fifteen, it was obvious she had borne at least one child. Her breasts were heavy, her hips wide. He beckoned to her, and she stepped forth, prostrating herself as though before a God.
"My Lord," she began, her tongue that of the slaves. He understood it though he had not spoken it once in the duration of his life.
Roughly, he hauled her to her feet. "A coin is your passage." His voice was gravelly, not dissimilar to his customary tone when roused by ire. She cowered away from him.
"My lord, I have no token to offer you…my family is poor…they could spare no offering…" she looked up at him imploringly; her too-wide Prussian eyes glistening with unshed droplets of tears. He glared at her, grabbed her forearm without kindness and jerked her aboard his raft. She stumbled and almost toppled off the other side, but he caught her once again and pushed her to her knees. She remained there, trembling for the cold, refusing to move lest he visit his wrath upon her.
Tears slid down her porcelain-pale face, though, and he noticed this with a scowl. "Stop your whining, girl, the real challenge has not yet come,"
She tilted her face upwards but said nothing further. She even went so far as to dry her tears on a dirty forearm. He ignored her for the duration of their venture, and fairly flung her off the vessel upon arrival to their destination. She cast him a final wide-eyed glance before scampering away into the semi-gloom. She had the build of a dancer, he decided. Graceful yet voluptuous. She would have been valuable, as a slave. Her master was probably infinitely angered at her death. But, she was off to face Ma'at, now. Nothing could change that.
Was she worthy of the afterlife he had been denied? Probably.
He gestured vaguely at the staff, but it refused to move. /You did not extract a price from her./
He scowled at the bone-hewn thing. "She had nothing to offer."
/The Gods require payment. They do not care whether or not it is extracted from thyself or thine passengers. /
Pain lanced through his torso, and Bokhura glanced down in time to see a sword slide through his ribs. It twisted, and he screamed. Agony became the sole reason for existence in his shattered world, and it lessened only when the scimitar-shaped weapon was removed. Silence echoed in resonance throughout his chest, as though something had been removed from him—
/They have removed thine heart, the staff murmured softly. Next it will be thine liver, or thine lungs. The last ferry-master learned quick enough, they needed only take his eyes…/
He cringed internally; eyes were magic things, a creation of Horus! The falcon-headed God could not protect those without sight!
Bokhura brought his fingers gently to his chest, where he pushed aside the tattered ivory robes. In splaying his fingers across the area where he had once felt the beating of his heart, he felt nothing, nothing but a vast emptiness, and his flesh was cold…so cold…
He smiled then, and his smile gave way to laughter. The staff watched him in stoic silence as he vented semi-maniacal chortlings.
/Madness quickly finds those who laugh at such tolls,/ the staff observed flatly, though the tone with which it projected such words at him was almost amused.
"Perhaps," he paused, long enough to cock his head at it. "And the price of defiance?"
/'Tis worse than just death, boy. Osiris is not known for his pity. The Lady Bastet might plead for thee. She seems to have taken a liking to thee, proven with her smile. She rarely smiles at mortals, though it truly depends upon her shape. As the Lioness, she is more likely to protect. As the cat, she is more likely to scorn./
Bokhura digested this information silently, without retaliatory comments, watching the staff closely. In turn, it remained upright, the oily surface of bones continuing to shift under his gaze. "And death?" He gritted out finally, his voice a harsh cadence of false rhythms and unspoken hopes.
/It would not come to thee for many millennia./
He frowned, not quite comprehending what a millennia might have been. A dynasty perhaps? Surely he could endure torture for so long…but was it worth it? They asked little enough of him…as a raider of tombs and coveter of treasures, he well knew the virtues of playing along with whatever ploy might be set to him. More than once had he intentionally played the fool to deceive his enemies. Or his friends, depending on the current definition of either.
And then, unbidden, his hand slid back to his chest. The pain he had felt was unlike any other, including the somewhat slow death he had experienced at the hands of Yashekhmet…it was as though all his past aches and pains had been collaborated into a single beat of a heart he no longer had—
But would it affect him? He took the removal of so vital an organ as a sign that he was no longer influenced by the laws of the mortal…perhaps…
"And what price must I ask of those that have nothing to offer?"
/Whatever thou must. It should be material, but insubstantial. It should be painful, but unimportant to their afterlives. It should be a gift, a gift that the Gods can appreciate directly…/
The corners of his lips quirked downwards briefly. Material but insubstantial? Of the few tales he had heard of God/Mortal interaction, he had always assumed they spoke completely in riddles. So far everything he had heard here was far from riddles and rhymes, more like direct death sentences and insults.
Or direct insanity sentences, however he was propositioned to look at it.
His last moments drifted back to him, perhaps to torment, perhaps to make a point. Either way he was submersed momentarily into the past.
He hadn't been bound. There had been no need. His wine had contained enough drugs to lay any grown man flat. Routinely, he had been stripped, shaved, and the symbols of Ammon-Ra, Horus, Osiris, Seth, Sekhmet, Isis, and Ma'at had been carved painstakingly into his body. Three female Goddesses, three male Goddesses, and The Ultimate Lord, Ammon-Ra,
The High Priest of Seth had preformed those rituals, but it was the dagger of Osiris, in the hand of Yashekhmet, that had ended his life with a slightly misplaced aim. The ritual had been frowned upon by the priests of other sects, and many had thought it would end only with a civil war. The errant tapping of something against a nearby pillar had caused the diversion that had thus strayed the knife, for Yashekhmet had feared retribution by the followers of Horus.
He wondered, briefly, if a botched execution would hinder the other rituals that the High Priest and the Pharaoh were now honor-bound to fulfill. Acidly, he hoped that it was.
Though he hadn't realized it, the staff had apparently decided it was time to row them back across the Amenti, back to the pleading throngs of the dead. The bow of the ship cut silently through the black waters until the next meshing of shore and hull.
He frowned at this, but said nothing as a someone, or rather, several someones, waded into the calf-deep water and scrambled aboard. The helpful, multi-talented stave immediately removed all but one of these. Random selection, Bokhura mused, was a most unpleasant thing, if you were one of the unfortunate souls that were deemed unworthy.
This time, however, his passenger was a young man. Older than the girl, but younger than Bokhura himself. Likely seventeen, he figured, taking note of the smooth planes of the boy's face. His hair was blonde, a most unusual shade for anyone attesting to Egyptian beliefs, and his eyes hazel, not so much of a wonderment as his hair.
And he looked rather irritated.
"Motherless whores," he muttered at length, under his breath where he must have assumed Bokhura could not hear him.
"I require a toll of passage." Bokhura informed him without tone. The young man's eyes flashed and he glared upwards.
"And who are you to order me around?" He demanded starkly, the defiant lilt to his voice unmistakable now.
"Who I am is no concern of yours."
"Hah. So what, I'm sleeping, right? And you're part of my dream?" His tone suggested he was no more of Egyptian descent than Bokhura himself. Maybe he was from Irelan…a druid, perhaps?
"I am no dream," he informed the young man, who was apparently not listening to him.
"I should have known better—that damned pipe was probably laced with sprigga, no wonder I lost, the bastard cheated. When I wake up I'm going to kill him."
The barge had moved slightly, to avoid any further illegal borders, but was moving no further towards Punt.
"I require a toll." Bokhura repeated darkly.
"Eh?" The man looked up, frowned slightly, and then glared at him. "Do I look like I care? You're a dream. I'm sorry to say I don't hand out coins to anything that asks me for money in dreams."
Poor, un-realistic fool. "My name is Bo—my name is Kharun. I am the newly-appointed guardian of the Amenti. You are dead, and this is no dream. I am taking you to the hall of Ma'at, where you will be judged accordingly and either devoured by the beast Ammut, or sent to dwell under the watchful eyes of the Gods in Punt."
Disconcerted, the man's brows drew together and he squinted at Bokhura. "Charon?" -He mispronounced the spoken name- "Yeah, right, and I'm Atlas."
Grecian, then. Atlas was a Grecian myth.
"I still require a token for your passage of the—" he paused and a slight smile curved his lips upwards. Perhaps if the little Grecian lord could be brought to understand—
"Of the Styx." He finished finally.
The youth's head jerked up, and he glared at Bokhura, where he stood smugly beside his ever-active stave. "Fine, fine, fine, just so long as I can wake up afterwards. I'm going to kill him when I find him, I swear to Ares himself,"
He wasn't naked, as the girl had been, and Bokhura took this to mean that he rather didn't think of himself as dead. Mental projection, perhaps, was what kept him clothed. He reached into a purse at his side, withdrew something that looked suspiciously like a chunk of raw turquoise and flung it at him. Bokhura caught it easily, examined it a moment, and then stowed it in a fold of his robes.
/Thou art not permitted to keep the offering. Throw it overboard, Uadjit will retrieve it and bring it back to Lord Osiris. /
Indignant, Bokhura refused this. "How am I to profit if you are going to insist on this?" He demanded of the stave, which paused in its rowing and rotated once in the water, ending up with a bony hand extended in his direction.
/It is not thine place to profit,/ it said at length, at which he frowned.
"If I earn it, is it not mine?"
/The material offerings belong to the Gods. Those that are insubstantial belong to thee. /
"Hn," angrily, and not afraid to show it, he chucked the piece of semi-precious turquoise as far as he could. It landed with a barely-audible 'plink', but had faded from his sight long before this. Something dark and wet flashed through the waves, and Bokhura knew with a sinking feeling that this creature was Uadjit.
They reached the shores of Punt without incident, and the blonde young man smiled at him. "Finally. You think this means I'll wake up?"
Bokhura watched him dispassionately. "No."
The boy's face fell momentarily, and he frowned. "Well, ain't you the optimistic one. Remind me not to have sprigga with wine again. The dreams are disturbing."
The silver-haired tomb raider said nothing as the blonde scrambled off the barge and into the encompassing shroud of gloom.
He crossed the Amenti quicker this time.
His next companion was another young man. Quiet and somber. Barely worth his attention, let alone his offer of passage. He was blonde as well, only he was definitely a native of Egypt. He was Bokhura's age, perhaps older, though if so it was not by much. He was naked, signifying his acceptance of his death, but he did not seem troubled by this in the slightest.
When Bokhura asked for a token of passage, he removed a golden earring from his lobe and handed it to him without comment. The only words he spoke for the duration of the excursion was to say. "It was you, wasn't it? It was you that fell first."
Try as he might, the tomb-raider could get him to speak no further on the matter. The boy vanished into the Hall of Ma'at as silently as he had journeyed there.
His next fare, though, was nothing short of a miracle.
It seems that the High Priest of Seth had every bit as much credence when dead as he did while alive, for people fell before him, like a heartbeat folds before infinity. He regained his majestic composure flawlessly, and seemed to be guiding a young boy.
The boy, he guessed, was a relation. Maybe Yashekhmet had deemed it necessary to kill family as well. There was an age difference of at least five years, perchance more. The priest of Seth was very near ageless.
Seto's eyes widened, though, when he saw Bokhura. It shattered his self-possession instantaneously, and caused a shudder of intense anger to roll off him like water off the back of a flamingo.
"You," he hissed venomously. "You realize that because your body was damaged, we had to sacrifice my kin, as well?"
Bokhura smiled benignly. So it had put a bit of a dint in the plans of Yashekhmet and the Priest.
"I can take only one passenger at a time." He remarked in a patiently offhanded manner. "Whom shall I take first?"
Seto growled and put a hand to his neck, yanking the gold-and-silver beaded necklace there off to press it into the grip of the child. "He cannot hurt you so long as you placate the Gods with a gift," he whispered almost…softly? pressing his lips in a kiss of endearment to the child's forehead.
"Big brother—" the young boy murmured as Seto pushed him onto the barge.
"Quiet." Seto warned him gruffly, reaching absently to where the necklace had hung. Bokhura took amused notice in the fact that he carried nothing else that could be construed as a toll.
The journey this time 'round was laced with acidulous silence. The boy, without ever speaking a word, managed to make him excruciatingly uncomfortable.
"You're going to hurt him, aren't you?" He asked finally, intensely, purple-gray eyes flashing. "You're going to hurt him because he has nothing to offer you in exchange for passage."
"Perhaps," Bokhura allotted courteously, folding his arms.
"Don't…" as though on cue, the boy's eyes filled with tears. "Please, don't. I'll—I'll do anything. Don't hurt him…"
Bokhura snorted. "You have already died for him, child, I will take nothing more than that."
Without, or with very little warning, the boy launched himself at him. Bokhura caught him deftly, and held him at arm's length as he dangled and twisted rather like a peculiar sort of rodent.
The child was crying, now. The coldness echoing about in Bokhura's chest only grew at that. He felt immediate contempt –disgust?- at the obvious weakness and had to restrain himself from dunking the boy overboard just to stifle his cries.
The moment the bow of his craft nudged the shores of Punt he threw the boy out and away from him, where he landed and immediately tried to come back onto the boat, still maintaining his whole-hearted cries of 'Please don't hurt him!'
He stopped abruptly as though he had ran into a barrier of sorts, and it seemed he had, for even though he continued to run doggedly up and down the shores, trying to get to the ferry, he was unable to. The obedient staff poled Bokhura and his vessel away, leaving the irritating boy and his pleas behind.
His stomach knotted in anticipation of ferrying Seto himself across the Amenti. Of all the people he knew, his hatred was greater only for Yashekhmet himself, but if he must, he would settle for the Priest. He knew, after all, that Yashekhmet's soul would not be joining the other legions of the dead. He had committed his ka to the puzzle, as Bokhura's own was supposed to be committed to the ring.
Seto was waiting for him at the opposite shore, pacing anxiously, and the moment Bokhura docked, the tall priest was upon him, fingers pressed cruelly into his throat, nose inches from Bokhura's own.
"I heard him crying. What did you do to him?" His demand was low-pitched instinctively, the voice of one accustomed to uttering threats in shadows. Bokhura smiled slowly as the staff extended grisly arms to pry the mahogany-haired man away from him. It held him inert, but despite the supposed fragility of the bones, the best efforts of the priest were unable to break their hold upon him.
"I did nothing to him," Bokhura whispered seductively. "He was not afraid for what I might do to him, but what I will do to you,"
He wasn't afraid. He tilted his chin upwards and set his jaw. "It matters not," he said pointedly, relaxing in the hopes that the multitude of limbs from the staff might release him. They did not.
"You have no toll," Bokhura announced in triumph, hazel eyes flashing. "So what do you propose should be payment for your passage?"
The priest glowered at him and straightened both back and shoulders. "It matters not," he repeated stubbornly, and Bokhura suspected he was trying to convince himself as much as he was trying to convince him.
The pale-haired thief stepped forwards and splayed his fingers upon the hairless torso of the restrained man a' fore him. Seto hissed angrily, reminiscent of a captured (or injured) snake. "I could always just throw you overboard. I very much doubt you will pass Ammut, so I could save you the trouble of being devoured then, and simply speed the process along,"
Seto's eyes narrowed and he drew his lips back in a feral growl. Bokhura's falsely-coy smile increased tenfold.
Material but insubstantial. Honor. That was what he could remove from his victims. Honor. Pride.
Surely the priest was no stranger to a loss of honor. Induction into the priesthood was by no means a route of simple piety. Prices had to be extracted, no matter the cost.
They locked eyes.
No, he was no stranger. His deep blue eyes were hardened against whatever might befall him, and his expression was nearly blank, betraying only anger. Bokhura wondered briefly if that was the only emotion the priest could feel.
His hands quested lower. Seto didn't move.
A mild and continuous swell of water informed Bokhura that the ferry had ceased to move, and was now anchored by the grace of his staff. It swayed gently, back and forth, back and forth…
The ship rocked regularly for a long while after that.
When finally they reached Punt, Seto gathered all his pride to take those few steps ashore without limping. Blood formed a steady cadence as it hit the ground in his wake. Bokhura watched him dispassionately as he disappeared wordlessly into the Hall.
The ferryman of Amenti closed his eyes momentarily, touching a hand to his chest. It was cold, now, as though made of ice…
And he laughed, then, like he had never laughed before and would never laugh again.