Title: By Arrangement
Pairing: Sealshipping (Atemu x Mahaado)
Disclaimer: Yu-gi-Oh belongs to Kazuki Takahashi. I make no profit off this fanfiction, and it belongs to me under international copyright laws. Don't steal and don't sue. Thank you, *Phantomness bows*
Warnings: AU, female Mahaado, Original Characters
Pharaoh Akunumkanon rubbed his eyes tiredly, slumping despite the stiff-backed chair he was seated in. In front of him, lit by the light of a single flickering oil lamp, lay the treaty they had drawn up with their Greek allies. It had taken many weeks of difficult negotiation and he was not completely pleased with the concessions that his councilors had urged him to make. Duty weighed heavily on his shoulders, and he was at a loss as to how he would break the news to his son, Atemu. For in exchange for secure trade routes over the sea and the promise of military alliance, the Greeks had demanded that his son wed a Princess of their choosing to seal the treaty with a formal marriage.
Such was not uncommon within the Two Lands or their neighboring countries, yet Akunumkanon remained hesitant. What sort of a girl would they bring? For Atemu had seen only eight summers this year, and was far too young to be wed. In truth, the boy was frail, and he worried for his health. He was a full head shorter than his royal companions as well as his cousin, Set, and had only just recovered from a severe bout of the sweating sickness. Indeed, it was for this reason that Akunumkanon had not yet begun Atemu's lessons in the magical arts, for he deemed the Prince too sickly to participate, despite the fact that his cousin Set had started when he was but six summers of age. And, in truth, at times Akunumkanon felt despair, for his brother Akunadin had borne a strong son and for all of Atemu's strong will and skill at strategy, his body was weak, hardly a fit match for the next Horus-on-earth.
Akunumkanon sipped watered wine from his goblet, carefully folded up the treaty, and returned at last to his chambers. The Great Royal Wife Nefertari welcomed him in, helping him to undress, carefully placing his heavy crown to the side, followed by the remainder of his jewelry, before she eased him out of his royal robes. She spoke no words, seeing the exhaustion writ in every line of his face and body. With her soft hands and gentle voice she coaxed him into slumber, and at last, cradled against his wife's breast, Akunumkanon slept.
When morning dawned, the Pharaoh and his wife broke their fast simply, upon wheat bread and well-watered wine, dates and figs, for there would be a grand feast after the treaty was officially set into motion at the Temple of Ptah. When the preparations were complete, a grand procession began, leading from the Palace to the Temple of Ptah as the citizens watched with joy in their hearts, cheering loudly. There, the Pharaoh and his six Priests, along with the Grecian Generals, their new allies, drank rich red wine from the sacred golden bowl, sealing their treaty.
A phalanx of Horus Guard flanked the Pharaoh, a smaller detachment of royal guards guarding the Queen and Prince. As Akunumkanon scanned the Greek contingent, he spotted a young girl, wearing a fine chiton dyed the dusky red of pomegranate juice and a rich golden girdle, earrings and bracelets. The effect was striking, as though she were clothed in the splendor of sunset, and contrasted nicely with her long, blonde hair. He spotted several attendants, dressed in linen not as fine, and bereft of jewelry. So this was to be his new daughter-in-law…
Aglaia tried her best not to fidget during the ceremony. She had thrown a temper tantrum when her father, the great King Telamon, had informed her of her new life. She was to become betrothed to this… child, for the good of their realm? Nonetheless, he had been stern, and warned her to obey her new family. She glanced at her attendants, who were sitting as still as statues. Penelope was a fine weaver, gifted by Athena herself. Eudora was her nurse, as she had been her mother's before her, her black hair beginning to gray. Finally, there was Mahaado.
Aglaia frowned slightly as she looked at Mahaado. The girl was a half-breed, in her mind, the result of a drunken affair between her father and a lovely Egyptian noblewoman, who had moved to Greece to follow her brother when he had taken a Grecian wife. Mahaado had been named with a cruel name, a man's name in a foreign tongue, by the spiteful Queen, but King Telamon had smiled to himself, for the name meant strength, and his bastard daughter would need her strength every day of her life. He had not stopped his wife as she was forced into servitude to serve her half-sister. She had been made the Princess's body-servant, practically a slave, forced to change her soiled linens when she was barely out of toddlerhood herself, and she attended Aglaia's every whim.
She was a daughter, but he had Ajax and Teucer, his strong sons, though neither had won the heart of fair Helen.
Mahaado kept her eyes down, as was proper. She could feel Aglaia's anger when the Princess looked upon her, but she held her tongue and said nothing. It was not her place to speak. Her head had been shorn of its fine blonde locks to create the wig that now graced Aglaia's head, for Aglaia's own hair was a plain, muddy brown and the Princess had to make a fine impression upon her future family. She felt the Pharaoh's eyes upon her; barely glancing in her direction, for of what interest was a mere servant?
However, Prince Atemu found himself glancing at the hooded servant girl, wondering what she was hiding. He could see little of her, as she was draped in a formless chiton, but she was a mystery, and he was delighted to find one to occupy his thoughts as the priests droned on. Was she disfigured? No, that would not make sense. The King would surely not allow one deformed of body to attend his precious daughter. Was she a slave, perhaps?
Next, Atemu gazed at the Princess, knowing that she was to be his betrothed, but she remained a stranger to him. Soon, though, they would be living together. He was not certain he liked that.
Nonetheless, his father – the Pharaoh's – word was law, and he would do his duty, to please the gods.
Finally, the ceremony drew to a close. Aglaia was glad to rise and stretch her legs, for the cushions had been uncomfortable despite her reclining position. Her servants rose soundlessly from their kneeling position, and with a friendly smile, Pharaoh Akunumkanon invited King Telamon to the feast.
She had spotted the boy she was to marry, and had scowled inwardly at the sight. What a frightening child, with eyes like blood and hair like lightning against dark night! And he was so small… surely, it would be many years before they were grown and had to consummate. She felt unexpectedly relieved.
They were seated together at the feast, but she spoke little of his tongue, and he of hers. The spices of the meal burned her mouth and she angrily sent Mahaado to fetch more wine, irritated. What a strange land, with strange customs and even stranger gods, a language that sounded guttural, and their food! How was she to endure years of this?
"You will learn," Her father had said, "And it is a woman's duty to marry well."
Atemu peeked at his betrothed, but found her face hard. He watched as the hooded servant returned with a goblet of wine. Aglaia raised the goblet to her lips, and then paused, sniffing in disgust as she saw a single golden hair polluting the drink. It may have fallen from her wig, but she cared little.
"This is unacceptable," She hissed. Mahaado stood to retrieve the goblet from her, but Aglaia flung the contents in her face, before tossing the goblet to the ground. Atemu watched as the servant picked up the empty goblet and bowed low, despite the wine staining her chiton. Was this how she treated her servants?
He could not imagine doing such a thing no matter how angry he was. Would she really be a fit wife for him?
From higher up on the table, King Telamon narrowed his eyes at his daughter. She was not making a favorable impression!
Fortunately, Pharaoh Akunumkanon had been speaking to Grand Vizier Shimon and had missed the exchange. King Telamon hissed a quick 'Behave' at his daughter in Greek and then helped himself to another slice of beef.
Aglaia looked down at her plate, frowning. Perhaps if it had been another servant she would have been kinder, but how she hated Mahaado! It would have been better if she had been drowned at birth. For despite her plain clothing and shaven head, Mahaado was beautiful, with skin as pale as lotus petals and eyes the blue-green of the Aegean Sea. True, her hands were rough from hard labor. True, she was a mere servant. But Aglaia still lived in terror of the day when her mother the Queen died. What if her father changed his mind then, and made this filth the Princess instead?
No! That would not happen! She was Princess now, and she would become Queen when this Atemu became Pharaoh! Mahaado had no place here, except that of a servant, her servant, and that was that.
For the rest of the meal, Aglaia strove to be pleasant and mild-mannered, and Atemu relaxed a fraction. Perhaps he had misjudged her. Finally, when the feast ended with candied fruits and honeyed pastries, and the dancing girls finished their revolutions, all parties retired for the night.
Aglaia returned to her new quarters, which were sumptuous, as befitting her status. Penelope helped her bathe, washing her with rich soap and anointing her with almond oil. Mahaado had made her bed with soft linens and laid out her sleeping attire, and although Aglaia still smoldered with anger, she said nothing.
Eudora sighed as she watched Mahaado leave the room after a curt dismissal. Although she felt sorry for the girl, there was nothing she could do. Her own position would be threatened if she ever spoke up on behalf of the girl who suffered through no fault of her own. Indeed, Queen Ianthe could be quite vicious when she chose. Even here, Princess Aglaia was always watching. Thus, she also had to treat the girl cruelly.
Mahaado retired to her own bed, a simple straw mattress, exhausted. She ate hurriedly of a simple meal of barley bread and beer, and then lay down to rest. Although she knew not why, thoughts of the Egyptian Prince occupied her mind. He was of eight summers, she had heard, but resembled a younger child. His eyes were as red as blood and his hair – it reminded her of night and fire and lightning. Surely he was blessed by the gods… her gods, not the gods of Greece, as her father had taught her, but the gods of Egypt, which her mother had spoken of in secret, teaching her the proper prayers along with their language and customs.
She spoke a prayer to Isis, who watched over the downtrodden, and closed her eyes to sleep. Morning dawned ever early, and soon, she was sent to the kitchens to fetch breakfast for the Princess. The feasting would continue for another six days, before King Telamon and his party returned to Greece.
All too soon, the festivities were over, Atemu thought morosely. Now, he had to return to his lessons. His tutors meant well, but they often trailed off into lengthy discourse, which bored him to tears. He wondered how on earth Set and the other apprentice priests could stay so still and study so intensely, or did they simply hide their boredom better?
He woke early, unable to sleep, and walked to the kitchens, hoping for a bite to eat. The bakers had just finished their first baking of the day, and he saw Aglaia's hooded servant there, making up a tray for her mistress.
Atemu watched as she sliced an apple and added it to the golden tray, which already contained a dish of stewed lentils, barley bread, and sliced beef. On a sudden impulse, he decided to speak to her. He walked up to her and tugged the sleeve of her robe.
Mahaado almost dropped the tray as she turned around and spotted the Prince. She hastily set it aside and dropped to her knees, pressing her forehead against the floor. Would he punish her for her insolence?
"No, you don't need to kneel to me." Atemu said hurriedly. "I was the one who startled you."
Mahaado's eyes widened. He, the Prince, was apologizing to her, a servant? She made the mistake of glancing up, as her sea-green eyes met his.
Atemu stared back for a moment. Her eyes were beautiful, reminding him of the Nile. He thought he might drown in their depths. However, she quickly cast her gaze to the floor again.
"What is your name?" He asked.
"This one's name is Mahaado, Prince," Mahaado said.
Atemu frowned. Why did she have a man's name? That was another secret he would be happy to unravel.
"You seem to be a capable servant. My betrothed is lucky to have you," He said quickly. He would have said more, but then one of the cooks spotted him.
"My Prince, you should have come to one of us if you were hungry!"
The head cook snapped his fingers, and two servants came forward, carrying trays of freshly baked bread and salted fish, cooked meat and fruit.
Mahaado took advantage of this opportunity to slip away with her tray. The Prince had spoken to her? And he had asked her name! Why?
Surely he did not care about a mere servant?
Aglaia means beautiful. I know this is a short chapter, but it seemed like a good place to end it. Aglaia is nine years old and Mahaado is twelve.
I'm using the variation of Egyptian mythology where Isis is Horus's wife and not his mother.