WSJ: :D [has dragged Jin back and is now sitting on him while Kurama stands nearby and sweatdrops] Happy anniversary to MEEEE! It has been exactly three years since I first started writing for FF.N. =D Fear me, mortals!
Kurama: . Has the torture really lasted that long...?
Jin: [pouting. Or unconscious. One never knows.]
WSJ: [waves] Hi all! I'm so glad you liked the last chapter! Here we go with chapter three, then! Oh yes, as for timeline, this is obviously an AU Egypt. ;) Mahaado still carries the Ring at this point, Bakura hasn't gotten a hold of it yet.
Kurama: [sweatdrops] WSJ doesn't own YGO. Or us either, although I don't think she cares... Reviews please!
WSJ: ;) Most of this was written while I was high on Pixi Stix and listening to Into the West, from the Return of the King soundtrack, over and over. Oh yeah, and the couples have changed slightly. [points downward]
Couples: Mahaado/Mana, Seto/Aishizu/Karimu, Yami/Anzusah/Bakura, probably Bakura/Kisara or Seto/Kisara/Bakura later.
Lady Bathsheba/Sheba/Bakura-chan - Bakura in female form
Bakura-kun/[insert random insult here] - Bakura in male form
Seto-neko - Seto in cat form
Jono-inu - Jono in puppy form
Yami-tori - Yami in flamingo form
Malik-omu - Malik in parrot form
The Pharaoh's Curse
Chapter 3 - Queen of Egypt
Quote of the chapter:
"What lies behind us and what
lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us."
(Oliver Wendell Holmes)
By the next morning, when it became obvious that the pharaoh had vanished into thin air, the palace fell into utter chaos. Courtiers and servants ran around like headless poultry. Ladies maids giggled and fluttered and were all around useless. Simon was busy trying to comfort and calm a hysterical Anzusah, while Akunadin, the High Priest in Seto's absence, was taken to bed with a nervous breakdown. The High Priestship thereby defaulted to Mahaado, who had his hands full trying to keep everything from exploding in his face. Karimu, Shadii, and Mahaado's apprentice, Mana, did all they could to help. High Priestess Aishizu had not been seen all morning, but the word whispered between servants was that she was in the inner sanctuary of the Temple of Horus, praying on the missing Pharaoh's behalf, because she'd had a terrible vision in her Sennen Tauk. Shahara, with Jono-inu in her shadow, stood in the harem courtyard and talked in earnest whispers with the other maids, casting anxious glances back over her shoulder toward the door into Bakura's rooms. Yami the flamingo, having been relieved of both his crown and his Puzzle, stood in the spacious sitting room outside of Bakura's bedroom and sulked. Malik the parrot perched on his Pharaoh's back and preened.
And Bakura slept in.
Her quarters were just like those of all the other harem ladies save the Queen and Pharaoh's Favorite (which sometimes weren't the same person), who had larger apartments that were set apart slightly. Bakura's rooms consisted of a bedchamber, a receiving room that was furnished with comfortable couches, and a small bathing room. There was a door in the outer receiving room that led to the common courtyard shared by all the ladies, which was where Shahara and Jono were now. There was also a large, open-air reflecting and bathing pool shared by all the women (except, again, for the Queen and Favorite, who had their own) because the private ones were really rather small.
It was mid-morning before Bakura was awakened, in the form of Aishizu bursting into her bedchambers with Seto-neko behind her, followed by Mana and an uneasy looking Mahaado. Aishizu went to the window and called for Shahara, while Mahaado stood near the door, flicking a wary eye around the room. Mana ran forward to take Bakura by the shoulder, shaking her gently. "Lady Sheba! Lady Sheba, wake up!"
Bakura sat bolt upright almost instantly, very used to having to wake up quickly. Seeing Mana blinking at her, Bakura relaxed slightly. She'd seen Mahaado's apprentice from afar several times, but had never actually met her. "What's the matter?" she asked grouchily. She was not a morning person.
"Pharaoh has vanished!" Mana exclaimed. "He's no where to be found!"
Shahara entered the room with Jono at her heels. Yami-tori and Malik-omu followed them in, curious. Bakura thought fast, ignoring the glare coming from a certain tall bird. Thankfully, the three priests were distracted by the entrance of the various animals. Jono-inu and Seto-neko hopped up onto Bakura's bed, settling down on either side of her. Malik-omu flew over to perch on her head, squawking and whistling to himself. Yami-tori moved to the corner, still obvious sulking.
"Are these animals all yours, Lady Sheba?" Aishizu asked, blinking in surprise. "I hadn't seen any of them before you came here yesterday. The cat's been following me around, I hope you don't mind..."
Bakura shook her head, trying not to scowl. "They're not 'mine', exactly... Though they do depend on me for survival..." Several animals gulped. "And no, I don't care if Seth" she quickly altered the priest cat's name so it wouldn't be exactly the same "Follows you. They all pretty much do what they want. You said Pharaoh is missing?"
Mana nodded. "Oh yes! He visited Lady Anzusah last night, but no one has seen him since!"
Bakura tried to smile. "It's nothing to be worried over. He slipped away from his guards and came to see me, alone," she said, lying as she went. "He said he felt bad that his High Priest and captain were facing danger alone, so he decided to go after them and travel with them to drive back the Assyrians. He left the double crown of Egypt behind, and left his Puzzle in my care. Priest Seto had left his Rod with Pharaoh, and Yami left that with me as well."
Reaching under the bed, Bakura pulled out the Pharaoh's double crown. Mahaado hurried forward and took it from her, nodding his head in thanks. She bent to reach under the bed again, and this time she pulled out not only Yami's Puzzle, but also Seto's Rod. The priests gasped, and beside Bakura on the bed Seto-neko growled.
Aishizu, Mana, and Mahaado exchanged unreadable glances. Finally, after a long moment, Mahaado nodded. Mana turned and hurried out of the room without further word.
"Right then," Aishizu said. "If the Mighty Pharaoh entrusted the Puzzle and Rod to you, then they are yours to keep until their masters return. Just the fact that they do not burn you when you touch them means that you hold at least a little Shadow Magic of your own. But on to minor matters," the priestess clapped her hands sharply, and Shahara stepped forward to bow to her. "Akunadin and Simon will have to be consulted, but we shall go ahead and fit you for robes and wigs befitting your new station, Lady Sheba."
"New station?" Bakura asked, eagerly slipping the Puzzle's chain around her neck and trying not to giggle as she felt the weight of it settle against her. Mahaado had already left, still carrying the double crown. Seto-neko, after throwing Bakura one last glare, and Malik-omu followed him.
Aishizu nodded. "Yes. If you're to be queen, a new wardrobe is in order."
Shahara's eyes widened slightly and she hurried out of the room. Bakura choked, nearly giving in to her feminine body and allowing it to faint. It was only sheer willpower and her pride as a man that kept her from keeling over where she still sat on the bed. "Q-queen?!"
Yami the flamingo squawked in outrage, flapping his stubby pink wings and hopping up and down on long, skinny legs. The sight of it nearly sent Bakura into hysterics.
'You can't make the tomb robber queen!!! She's not even a real man! I'M the ruler of this country, Aishizu! Meeee!'
Bakura blinked hard, afraid she was imagining things as her laughter died into giggles. Aishizu was looking at her like she'd grown two heads. Bakura stared hard at Yami, but figured that talking to a bird in the high priestess's presence didn't rank very high on the sanity scale. She'd have to figure out what she'd heard later.
"Yes," Aishizu said. "Queen. Since Pharaoh left his crown and his Puzzle behind in your care, it is obvious he believes you to be a competent ruler. Since you are to be betrothed anyway, this shall be considered a time of training for you."
Yami squawked at her, and Bakura was about to protest to the 'betrothed' statement as well, but was given no time. Shahara returned, trailed after by three other maids and a tall man with green eyes. He was lean and tan, bare to the waist save a few woven armbands and a thin strip of red linen that held his hair out of his eyes. Unlike most men and women of Egypt, who shaved their heads and wore wigs, this man seemed to have his natural hair, which was long and thick and jet black. He wore leather sandals, which presented something of a paradox. Woven armbands seemed to say that he was only a poor slave, but the fine quality of his kilt and the fact that he wore sandals suggested he was much more. Only the nobles and the army wore sandals, commoners who were too poor and priests who were too holy went barefoot. This man didn't look like any soldier Bakura had ever seen. When he turned his head slightly to look at her, she saw the golden Aten disk dangling from his left ear, and gasped.
Aten was the god of the Heretic pharaoh Ankhenaten, who had ruled twenty years ago, before Pharaoh Yami's father, Akunamukanon, had taken the throne. After Ankhenaten's death, worship of the Aten had been banned, and all monuments and temples to it destroyed. Now, it was even forbidden to speak the Heretic's name aloud. Bakura cared nothing for the ways of the gods, but even she knew that. And yet, this man could not have been alive when the Heretic reigned, he looked no more than twenty years old himself. Just who was he that he dared, and was allowed, to wear the Aten disk in full sight of the high priestess of Isis?
Aishizu must have caught the look on Bakura's face, because the priestess hastened to explain. "This is Djel, overseer and protector of pharaoh's harem."
"But he wears the Aten!" Bakura blurted out. What she'd been about to say was 'But he's a man!', but decided that was just a tad too abrupt. Men almost always oversaw the harems, but from the way Djel's kilt fell, Bakura could see he was no sterile eunuch. To her surprise, she found herself blushing at the thought, and silently cursed female hormones.
To her surprise, Djel broke out laughing and strode over to the bed, leaning down to take her hand in his, tilting his head so that his bangs fell in his eyes and the heavy gold earring caught the light. "My dear, this is not an Aten disk, it simply looks so from afar. See, it is carved with Khnum, the Ram."
Bakura had to fight not to wrinkle her nose. Yes, she could see the ram perfectly well. Khnum was a fertility god from Upper Egypt, and the one carved on Djel's earring had particularly big horns. Why in hell's name did Yami trust him around his women?!
Djel saw Bakura's question in her eyes and grinned. "Oh, you make no mistake, m'lady, I am a whole man. I am also pharaoh's half-brother, the reason he treats me with much trust. I would never betray him, or his women." He patted her hand and winked at her. "Unless they asked me to, of course."
Bakura shuddered and pulled her hand out of his, and he respectfully backed away, recognizing that for the dismissal it was. That was the answer to the paradox, then. Djel and Yami must have shared a mother, because Djel was obviously older then the pharaoh, and had they shared a father Djel would be pharaoh and not Yami. Djel didn't seem to be bitter about it like some men would have been, though. Now that Bakura was looking, she could see the places in Djel that marked him and Yami as sharing a dam. They stood the same way, though Djel was a good deal taller, and their faces were similar too, especially around the nose and set of their jaws.
Bakura blushed again when she realized she'd been staring at him, and again mentally cursed her now female body. Fortunately, no one seemed to notice, as two more maids had arrived and Shahara and Djel were busy ordering them around. "You, go fetch the bolts of fine linen from the supply closets. I know for a fact there are at least two. And you, go fetch the cobbler and tell him to bring his best sandal leather. Someone go find the belts that the weaver women have just finished. I'll order the jewels myself, but someone go see about wigs! On the double ladies!"
Aishizu stood a bit off and watched, then nodded in apparent satisfaction. "Shahara," she called the younger girl over. "For all intents and purposes you are from this moment forward Chief Handmaiden to the Queen. You are to be with her at all times, unless she concisely orders you away, and only then if it is with good reason. You have higher rank then any servant in the harem save Djel, and are free to exercise that rank. You also have free reign of the palace, provided your lady is with you."
Shahara gasped, recognizing the literal honors that had just been handed to her, and dropped to her knees before the priestess. "Oh thank you, High Priestess! Thank you!"
Aishizu smiled and kneeled down so that her head was close to Shahara's, causing the handmaiden to gasp again at being on equal level with a priestess. "It was the will of Isis that it be so." She lowered her voice even farther in words meant for only Shahara's ears. "Priestesses and queens need friends too, Shahara. Don't be afraid to at least try."
Then she was back on her feet, giving instructions to Djel. "Clothe her properly. See if you can get her to cut her hair, too. It looks like a rat's nest."
"Hey!" Bakura yelped, half in protest to Aishizu's comment and half in indignation as three of the maids tried to forcefully undress her. "Stop it you yellow-livered camel bitches! Get your filthy hands off me!"
Shahara coloured at Bakura's use of language, and Aishizu frowned. "What a nasty mouth she has..." she murmured, half to Djel and half to herself. "That will have to be fixed."
Djel sketched a bow to her as she turned to leave. "All shall be done, my lady. Many everyday dresses and a coronation robe like none other."
Aishizu smiled at him. "If any can do it, you can Djel. Now then, I must go find Mahaado. No doubt Mana's tied him in a tangle by now. Again. I will return later to check your progress."
"As you wish, m'lady." Djel bowed again, and then turned back around to watch the fun. Jono-inu had been knocked off the bed by Bakura's thrashing, and was now over in the corner, watching with amused interest. Yami the flamingo was still in the room too, feathers puffed up in indignation and rage over the present situation. Bakura was still on her sleeping couch, thrashing and howling as three of the ladies tried to pin her down, and another one tried to pull off her night dress without damaging the fine linen. Shahara was trying to talk Bakura into calming down, but it didn't seem to work very well. Djel sighed and turned, accepting the bronze knife from the servant who offered it with a bow.
The head of the harem approached the couch holding the knife with an air of wary reluctance. He and Lady Sheba probably both would have felt better if one of the women did this, but Djel had known girls like this before. They needed a firm hand in this ritual, and women were too prone to giggle fits, especially if their reluctant patient were trying to wiggle away.
Djel nudged two of the women aside and took their place at Bakura's side, holding the bronze knife confidently. Sure enough, the all the ladies in the room except Shahara and Bakura burst into giggles at the sight of it. All of them had been through this before, and quite a few of them by Djel's hand.
Bakura went very still as soon as she saw the knife, her eyes round and locked on the blade. When Djel's other hand darted out and flipped her skirt up over her stomach, she squealed and tried to cover herself again, only to be held down. Now make no mistake, this wasn't out of any feminine modesty (of which Bakura had none), but that knife had put quite a few terrible visions into her mind. "What the hell are you trying to do to me, camel breath?!?"
Djel gave her a cool look. "Shaving." 
Bakura went white, and then bright red, half from rage and half from embarrassment, as Djel leaned over her. His eyebrows shot up and he glanced back at her face. "Virgin? Good gad..."
"Shut up..." Bakura sputtered, face red as a dying sun. "Just shut the hell up."
There was a loud honking noise from the corner, causing everyone to jump. Thankfully, Djel had been holding the knife away from him, and it was nowhere near Bakura or anyone else when his hand jerked. The ladies were surprised enough that they let go of Bakura, giving the tomb robber the opportunity to scramble off the bed and fling her skirt down over herself. She stood panting and red-faced next to Shahara, who could only pat her on the shoulder and try unsuccessfully to hold in laughter. Everyone in the room was staring at Yami, trying to figure out what was wrong with the flamingo. The general consensus was that it was dying of some horrible disease, but it was Bakura who figured out the awful truth first.
The pharaoh was laughing at her.
 Aishizu is the high priestess of Isis and Osiris. She was praying in the Temple pf Horus because Horus is the patron god of mortals, and also the special protector of the pharaohs. In fact, while they were alive pharaohs would actually be called by Horus's name. Yami would have been "Horus Atemu". After his death, he would have been known as "Osiris Atemu".
 Remember my comment about Egyptians shaving off all their hair? I wasn't kidding. They'd shave all their hair, men and women both. Arms, legs, backs, whatever. If it wasn't eyebrows or eyelashes, it was gone. That includes their heads. Many of the nobles would wear wigs. Priests just went bald. =3 Thankfully, most of the Yugioh cast seems to have rebelled against this tradition. On their heads, at least.
WSJ: So we see another familiar face. ;D Beware Djel/Shahara (Duke/Serenity) in coming chapters. [snickers] Most people who write in ancient Egypt seem to like to place Duke as a guardsman, including me. But I wanted to give him a position where he'd be in more contact with Shahara and Bakura, so here he is! =3 Making him Yami's half-brother was a whim, because I needed a reason for him to be in the harem. X3 I'll probably get mobbed for this, but I have to say that for a few moments I was contemplating making Djel a eunuch. I know, I know, that would have been harsh, but if you were a man in Egypt and you worked with the ladies and you weren't pharaoh, you were castrated, simple as that. =D But I'm not nearly that mean to poor Djel. Hmm... Although maybe I should write a more serious story along that vein... [wanders off to contemplate]
Well, now we're starting to get a little bit of historical reality in otherwise nonsensical fantasy. :) Pretty much the entire narration about Ankhenaten and the Aten and what happened afterward is true to life. Twenty years after the end of his reign would put Atemu/Yami living and ruling during the reign of Horemheb, the last king of the 18th Dynasty, give or take a year or two. Historically, Ankhenaten gave up the throne to his half-brother(??) Smenkhare, who was followed by Tutankhamen, Ay, and Horemheb. Horemheb was succeeded by Ramses I, who established the 19th Dynasty and a new line of kings. For the purpose of this story, Ankhenaten was succeeded by Tutankhamen, who was succeeded by Akunamukanon and then Atemu.
I could go off onto a huge side-rant about Smenkhare, who the scholars think he was and who I think he was, but as it really has no relevance and these notes are already too long. :p But for the sake of the point, I believe Smenkhare to be one and the same person as Nefertiti, Ankhenaten's queen. =3 To hear me argue about why I think I'm right, feel free to e-mail me. ;)
And I'm really, truly sorry if I bore some of you when I get into long, drawn out, textbook Egyptology rants. [sweatdrops and scratches the back of her head sheepishly] I try not too, but Egypt is just so fascinating...
Oh yes, for those who don't bother to read my bio, I'm going to be out of town from June 13 to June 22, 2004. I'll be in Mexico on a missions trip. :) I promise I'll get back to writing as soon as I get home.
Reviews are nice! Give me plenty so I'll have a lot to read when I get back from Mexico!
God bless minna-san!