Notes: Are you really seeing this? Or is it all just a dream? No! This really is the next chapter to ISE! Wow. Took me long enough. Anyway, things to address:
In regards to the comments made about how I was 'copying' The Princess Bride, no that isn't true. I don't plan to copy it whatsoever. What I really wanted to do was add a fun reference and pay homage to one of my favorite books of all time. If it makes you feel better, Vizier, Argus, and Montoya aren't main side characters. You won't see much of them after this(good or bad?).
I've been doing some revisions of the past chapters and have already posted those in the first four or so chapters. So, chapters that have deleted the script format author's notes are revised ones. Feel free to check them out– you might find something 'special.'
I know this was a long wait, and I'll try to be more frequent with my updates. I'm confident you'll be pleased with this chapter. It's a major set-up chapter for things to come.
Thanks to DarkShadowFlamefor beta-ing this, even after all this time. Her suggestions really help with and add to the story. (Especially where horses are concerned in this chapter! Thank you!!)
In the Sands of Egypt
Argus was worried. Montoya wasn't back yet and it shouldn't take this long for him to beat one opponent. Montoya was the best swordsman there was, to his recollection. 'He must be toying with that man...in black.' Of course, Argus didn't know if the man was actually wearing black, but dark was what reflected from the hazy dot of the man when he first saw him, so he just assumed. Then again, he thought, the man in black might not have even been a man at all... All this thinking was making his head hurt.
Vizier, noticing his companion's deeply crinkled brow, questioned, "What's the matter with you? Thinking again, are we?" Argus nodded slowly, still clinging to his feather-like thought process. "You aren't paid to think, only to be strong."
"You're right, you're right," Argus admitted, dropping any thoughts right then and there.
"And you," Vizier directed at Téa, "you aren't being paid at all, so using the same logic, you shouldn't be doing anything, especially not glaring at me like you are now." Téa's eyes only narrowed further. Still strewn over the back of the hulk's horse, she snorted indignantly, saving her energy for when she might really need it.
The ocean of sand seemed to hit its beach; small rocks shot up from the waves and the ground became noticeably firmer. Instead of the sliding motion brought on by the horse's hooves in the sand, Téa felt a series of sharp chops, an uncomfortable difference.
"We must be nearing Mastaba," Vizier commented, the edge of his hand shading his eyes so he could better examine the area.
Téa's lips curved downward, one side tugging a bit further than the other. She didn't remember this rocky terrain at all? Then again, she had been asleep most of the time on her past trips to the city. Something about the rhythmic movement of the horse seemed to coax her into a doze. So why wasn't she in Dreamland now? There was no possible way she could have slept through all this clatter...
'You can go to sleep. I don't mind if you lean on me, but you'd better not drool or anything.'
...Wait. She was thinking about him! Why was she thinking about that jerk, and why did she pick that moment to think of? The one time where he was somewhat cordial! Just about as cordial as you could get from Seto Kaiba, but...
'That's beside the point!' The girl's features suddenly became noticeably dark then, and Argus began to worry about the slew of... not very nice things coming from his captive's mouth.
'...and he just has to look like the priest.' That ended Téa's incoherent rant– abruptly. Téa was aware of the startling similarities between the Priest Seto, the man of– in!– her dreams, and Seto Kaiba the one she got stuck with. Sure, they looked alike, the way they carried themselves was similar, and sometimes they acted alike, but there was something about the Dream Seto that drew Téa to him. He was... nice.
...or maybe she just couldn't explain it that well.
He was like... Yami, Pharaoh, whatever the name, it was the same crimson eyes, and the same enigmatic, noble attitude that she found so alluring. But then, wasn't the pharaoh in the dreams too? Before, she thought her feelings were hopeless since he didn't have a true form... but now it seemed like him– just him. And she wasn't happy, not like before. What was different?
'And wait... I'm worrying over a dream... now that's stupid.' Téa's face sank low, nose burying itself into warm horse fuzz. 'In reality, I just have it... him... Kaiba.'
At the time, Seto didn't realize he was now being compared to an 'it' rather than a valiant hero, and at the time, it really wouldn't have much mattered. At that moment, he was scanning the smooth stretch of golden scan that sprawled out in every direction. With a dust-caked glove covering his hand, he slid it to a spot just above his eyebrows. That way he could block the glare from the sun and be able to make out the transient hoof prints that rolled out in front of him like a red carpet.
"I wasted too much time," he berated himself, as he finally resumed his trail. He should have been more careful during that last 'duel.' It took time to wrap his arm as well as his hands; shreds from the ends of his cloak now served as temporary bandages. The flask of water was half empty as well... It took time and resources to recover, and Seto didn't like the amounts he had to spend.
Ezra picked up his pace, sensing his master's anxieties... not that Seto would ever admit to them.
Only a little bit left now, Téa would be reminded, then we'll reach the city and you will be killed. Vizier seemed to love to tell her this fact every five minutes exactly on the minute. She could hardly be blamed for getting just a tad irritated. Each time his voice seemed to get even more blissful, as sadistic as that was. It was probably about time for another reminder...
"Only a little bit le–"
"Will you KNOCK IT OFF?!" The shout caused everyone to stop and look at Téa, either surprised like Argus and the horses, or flat out irate like Vizier– no one interrupted his fun. Téa was hardly one to care, however. She just glared at the leader, chest rising up and down rapidly.
'I think I'd rather die out in the desert, thanks very much!' she thought bitterly to herself. When the thought did register all the way... it didn't seem like a bad idea. After all, they were going to kill her either way... and Mr. Bull Dog's face was certainly not the last thing she wanted to see.
That's when Téa noticed the cliffs nearby. Only a few hundred feet... Sliding off Argus' horse, though, wouldn't be easy. She let her body slide down slowly until most of her weight was on one side of the moving animal. Then she grabbed hold of the edge of the saddle not occupied by Argus for balance, and quietly made her way to the ground. The initial impact of going from a moving object to the unmoving ground caused Téa to wobble forward, nearly falling over.
Hushing herself, Téa looked to see if she had been noticed. She hadn't. Her legs felt like lead weights, sinking slowly in the sand, but she had to go... had to run! As fast as she could manage, she headed for the cliff's edge. To her dismay, not long after that, shouts came from behind her– they were not happy.
"I'm so dead," Téa whispered, now giving the steep downward drop behind her a reluctant glance. Two horses and two riders advanced quickly, soon blocking any means of escape. Her foot instinctively slid backward, slipping off the edge. Caught easily though, the foot came back to solid ground, leaving pebbles to take the plummet downward by themselves.
Vizier's face was red, and deepening in tone. Try to escape on him did she? That was not going to happen, not on his watch. "You made a big mistake, Missy. A fatal one. As soon as we take you back, you're going to die."
There were two options for Téa now: forward and backward. Both led to inevitable death... It was a lovely situation. Fear and regret put aside, Téa's face molded into one of pure confidence. She was brave, strong, and certainly not going to be beaten by a guy who would compliment the spiked-collar look.
A smirk, coupled with a mighty declaration, "You'll never take me alive!" And with that, Téa Gardner leapt from the cliff, taking a graceful swan dive into the canyon below.
The golden sand rolled and folded together, giving the illusion of a vast sea of water to Seto. It continued on like this as he traveled. Swirling, turning, drifting, and then it stopped. The sand gave way to hard, dried and cracked ground with rocks scattered about on their path.
A few more miles and wells would be showing up, and a bit after that you would see the brims of the clay-colored rooftops of Mastaba. Seto needed to hurry.
"How could you let her get away?!" a hoarse cry admonished in the distance. Seto's attention was immediately drawn to the source– two riders trotting right up to him, and neither looked very friendly.
"With you at my side, the dragon sleeps. On dragon wings, your wishes leap..." The words were voiced as a light, airy melody that came from lips covered in red cloth. Much to Kir's amusement the tune echoed in the high-rocked, narrow canyon he was traveling through.
Mastaba, and Duhand's chilling laughter were willingly left behind; Kir had more pressing matters to attend to. Even though he was more of a 'fighter for hire,' Kir did hold some seniority in the ranks of the Uraeus. With that noted, there was a lively bunch of crones just waiting to be told what to do.
"I'll finally be able to relax without waking up to swords in my face," Kir sighed, willing out the image of Duhand from his calming mind. His horse snorted in agreement, picking up speed. Seemed the beast didn't like the city– or its people– any more than Kir did.
Everyone knows how it goes, though: As soon as you let your guard down to relax, something else happens. For Kir, this something first made itself known in the shrill cry of, "You'll never take me alive!" Shortly after, the rocks started to fall.
"I need a room," Marik ordered, resting his arm atop the dusty check-in counter of the Benvenut Inn. A stout innkeeper clapped his hands together and welcomed his newest customer warmly.
"And how long will you be staying?" he asked, voice shrilling up at the end of his question. From the looks of it, this gentleman was here on business. Yes, the innkeeper was very good at guessing the situations of his customers. It came with experience, of course.
'A rather dull way of finishing your report, Mister Spy, but it'll have to do. Now it's my turn to give you some more orders, isn't it? Very well, very well! I received some news from the higher ups– which, by the way, aren't that many– that you are required to stay in the city until further notice. Seems you get to be the head of a welcoming committee, you lucky devil you.
'You'll get more information as it comes, but for now you can go back and play in the sandbox, little spy.'
That was the end of Marik's meeting with Duhand, open-ended as it was. There was a lot still unanswered and the only thing he could do was wait. Stupid. "I don't know," he finally answered, eyes a solemn violet.
'Ishizu, Odion, please don't worry about me... keep yourselves safe.'
The first thing Téa noticed was that she wasn't dead, surprisingly. The fall from the cliff wasn't all that short, and there were bumps along the way– she should be dead, but she wasn't.
"Huh?" Téa would have felt that pain, if not for the fact that the ground underneath her was squishy... and moving! (Those kinds of things seem to detract one's focus on pain.) "Ah-ohaouack!"
The squishy ground underneath her was actually another person, and after removing Téa from his back, was gazing at her with a completely baffled pair of blue eyes. Téa rose a shaky finger and pointed at the figure, mouth agape. "It's you!"
"Who else?" Kir answered, as if he really expected Téa to fall from the sky and knock him off his horse. The world had a strange way of catching you off-guard. A rattlesnake or a sandstorm would have done nicely, but no! The world had to drop foreign women on you! Odd.
Kir stood up, wincing when he reached his full height. His horse, a spectator to this whole ordeal, came up and nudged the crimson-clad fighter in the back. In turn, Kir snaked his arm around the beast's neck and ruffled his mane lightly, reassuring him there was nothing to worry about.
What to do with the girl, however, was a problem. He looked down at Téa who, quite frankly, looked like a stone carving collecting sand. He put his hand to his chin; the red leather felt smooth against his chin as his finger swayed back and forth.
'I could just leave her here. I can't see any disadvantage if I do... But she looks just like a lost little puppy... I've always had a weakness for cute puppies, not that I'd ever tell that to anyone. That'd be the end of me. The mighty fighter for hire subdued by a box of newborn puppies! Ugh... That really needs to change.'
Téa was brought back to the present by a sigh and a hand extended in front of her face. Her head tilted sideways, much like that of a young animal that lacks understanding. Kir's eyebrows raised underneath the red cloth headband. Was it really that confusing? Maybe it wasn't worth taking her...?
He waved his hand, prompting Téa to grab hold. "Look... it's pretty clear you don't have a clue... well about anything right now," Kir began, brutally honest, "so I've decided to let you come with me as long as you can prove to me that it's worth it some time along the way."
"...?" Maybe it was the fall, or the heat, but Téa's fingers slowly lifted up from the dirt and wrapped themselves around the hand of the mysterious Kir. The crimson rider hoisted the girl to her feet.
"Well then, let's go."
Unbeknownst to Téa, only a few hundred yards away, her 'rescuer' was squaring off with her kidnappers. It didn't take long for Seto to get their attention, but it was taking forever to force them into giving out the said girl's whereabouts.
"I know you have her," Seto growled, sending his best glare toward Vizier. It couldn't have worked any less; Vizier's smug smile couldn't be phased. The leader only waved his hand back and forth in front of his face.
"Do you see her?" he asked, and then answered for Seto, "No. Of course not. We don't have her." That's all this person needed to know... this person who defeated Montoya. It was impossible! But it happened. His resolve to secrecy wouldn't budge.
Argus, however, was getting tired. It was hot, he was sweating. He hated sweating. Home was only a little ways ahead. Couldn't they just forget about this guy and leave? "Vizier, why can't we just tell him that girl jumped off the cliff back there?" he suggested, pointing behind him with one giant thumb.
He just had to open his big mouth.
That was all Seto needed to know. Believe it or not, Ezra reared, kicking up sand, and sped off. The leader's face became furious as Seto passed right between him and the idiot. A nasty scowl formed on his face as he slowly trotted over to Argus and leaned in close, practically breathing down the giant's neck– if he could reach, that is.
"You had better get him, Giant," Vizier hissed, "or I'll leave you here forever. All alone." A cruel warning, especially to Argus, whose greatest fear was being left alone. He was always alone– always, until Vizier and Montoya came around... He couldn't mess this up.
Monstrous leg muscles stretched and flexed as Argus's horse picked up speed. The animal carried the giant with an unnatural speed to pursue Seto. And it didn't take them long to catch up.
Seto didn't even have time to react before one long, bulky hand slammed into his back, sending him hurtling forward, right over Ezra's head and straight into the rocks with a merciless 'thud.' The impact itself was enough to render the would-be hero unconscious.
Argus, proud of himself for completing his task, jumped from his horse and approached the midnight stallion and his injured rider. He grabbed Ezra's reins and scooped up Seto, tossing him lightly over his shoulder. With his job done, he headed back to Vizier.
"I see you've done something right for a change, Giant," Vizier complemented when Argus returned. A big, toothy thank you from Argus, something that any normal person would cower at. The brute was just happy that he wouldn't have to be alone.
"Yup, I did," he responded, giddy... or as giddy as a giant man could get. Draping Seto across Ezra's back, who was tied to his own horse's saddle, he asked, "Now what'd we do with him?"
Vizier thought about this for a moment; his bully face squinched together, making even more wrinkles appear. Finally he came up with this: "Let's take him back to headquarters. He might be important."
And that is how Seto was thrown from the role of 'rescuer,' and into the one of 'needed to be rescued.'