By The Inspector
Chapter 15, Alternative
Disclaimer: Never have owned. Never have made money. Please don't sue me. Thanks and enjoy the story.
This is the no shonen-ai version of the previous chapter. It is NOT a double post of the same chapter. Enjoy.
Scattered around the base of the bridge were soldiers gathered in about three main groups playing dice, sleeping, and doing whatever it is soldiers do while off duty. Two guards were sitting on the stone pillars at the end of the bridge as Kura and the others arrived
For a moment all the two guards could do was stare. Then they smirked. They both jumped down and one planted his spear at his side, looking suddenly crisp and military while the other ran to find his captain.
No one said a word while they waited. The other soldiers didn't even trouble themselves to look up from their dice games. When the captain arrived, he didn't have much more to say than his guards. He simply looked them over.
Kura shifted his weight as he leaned on Ryou for support and felt the smaller boy's heart beating like a frantic bird. "Don't worry," Kura whispered into Ryou's ear, "These are the Eddisian Guard."
The captain let out a small chuckle and shook his head. Turning to Kaiba he said, "Welcome to Eddis." Then he motioned his lieutenant over. "Otogi, get horses," he said, "And four or five guards to take them. This is not for us to figure out."
A few soldiers noticed the movement by the bridge and head began to turn. The signs of relaxation vanished and the men suddenly became professional, eager and suspicious. By the time the lieutenant came back with the horses, the hoofbeats that Kaiba had heard behind them had been heard by the guards as well.
"That would be the Attolian Guard," Kaiba said, expecting to be handed right over to them and taken back to prison. The Queen of Attolia was not going to be in a good mood when they returned, and he feared for all their heads.
The captain glanced over at Kura and then sighed. "I'll deal with them," the captain said to the lieutenant. Then he signaled to more of his guards and tramped away.
Pushing the three weary travelers over to the horses, some soldier tugged Ryou away from Kura and swung him up onto a horse even as he tried to cling to his companion. Someone reached for Kura to do the same, but the thief swiveled around and sagged to his knees, tucking his arms in close to keep anyone from pulling on him.
"Stop! Don't do that!" Ryou shouted at the soldier who reached again for Kura, and his voice broke as he struggled to get down from the horse.
One of the soldiers looked a little closer at Kura's slightly green face and suggested that someone find a blanket. A soldier brought one, wrapped Kura in it, and lifted the thief up gently into Ryou's arms.
With a great sigh, Kura settled against Ryou, his nose against his collarbone, closed his eyes, and fell asleep.
In and out of sleep for what remained of the day, Kura found himself being shaken awake when the reached the palace, long past midnight. The main courtyard was lit with lanterns, but most of the windows were dark.
Everyone climbed down from his horse, and someone helped Kura to the ground. After that there was a lot of hemming and hawing, and no one really knew what to do. Ryou came and tucked himself under Kura's good shoulder and Kaiba stood behind them. All the others sided a little farther away as though they were afraid that the travelers' troubles might be contagious.
Finally someone opened the heavy double doors that led to the entrance hall and they all trouped in. The clatter of boots on the marble floors announced their arrival to anyone who hadn't heard the all noise in the courtyard.
Servants and passing residents appeared at the tops of the two staircases to see what the commotion was about. Kura was sure he heard a few snickers and he knew that he saw several fingers pointed in classless amusement.
The great group of travelers and soldiers moved in the direction of the lights still burning in the lesser throne room. As they moved past the stairs, the people there came down and followed, anxious to see what would happen next.
By the time they actually made it into the brightly lit throne room, Kura felt like the center of a traveling circus. All that was missing were the dancing bears and freaky midgets. And he knew there was one of those somewhere around the palace.
As they entered the throne room, Kura searched for the Queen. But she was not on sitting on the throne. True, guarded by two gold griffons on either side, the throne was not empty, but the young male stretched lazily out on it was certainly not the Queen. His long legs dangled over the armrest to fit comfortably in the seat and a trail of drool trickled from the corner of his mouth to the floor.
At the raised hearth in front of the throne, a group of women were sitting and talking and playing Go with a short boy with vibrant hair that defied the natural laws of gravity. A few other males lounged in the back and someone was playing a flute. As the people tramped into the room, one of the women stood up.
If the Queen of Attolia was fire and passion, the Queen of Eddis was ice and serenity. She had long black hair that gleamed like a raven's wing when the lamp light hit it just right and her skin was a light copper tone. Unlike the sultry Queen Mai, Queen Isis stood strong and proud like a soldier.
The Queen of Eddis stepped forward from the gaggle of women and raised one hand and quirked an eyebrow at the noisy crowd. There was an almost instant silence and the soldiers around Kura, Ryou, and Kaiba stepped hastily aside.
Isis took one look at them and sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose as if trying to banish an oncoming headache. "Bakura," she said with irritation and perfect understanding, "What did you do this time?"
Kura looked down at his feet, ignoring how his face was heating up in embarrassment and the infuriating chuckle that spread around the room. He was tired and felt oddly light, like he could be blown away like a cloud. But not so tired as to not feel chagrin for once again providing a spectacle for the entire court of Eddis and embarrassing his Queen. Still, he'd never been so happy to hear his own name.
Beside Kura, Kaiba stiffened suddenly at the greeting and Kura was a little annoyed because he had wanted to see the normally cool and collected magus of Sounis lose his composure. But Ryou gaped at him in an oddly heartwarming way and he was satisfied.
With a sigh, Isis retreated to her throne, pushed the boy sleeping there off, and sat down, impatiently tapping her nails on the armrest while waiting for an explanation.
The boy who had been forced to vacate his sleeping spot hit the ground with a thud and rolled a few times before he yawned and opened his eyes. Then they widened and he sat up with a shock. "Yugi!" he squealed, grabbing the boy from where he had just challenged Anzu to a game of Go, "Look! Bakura is home! I TOLD you he wouldn't get eaten by a mountain lion!"
"Well," Yugi defended himself, "It was more likely than him dying by getting hit with a falling chamber pot."
"It could happen," Marik insisted stubbornly as he folded his arms across his chest.
"Gee guys," Kura groused sarcastically as he nudged Ryou to take him forward, "Glad to see you have so much faith in me."
Yugi smiled and shrugged. "What are brothers for?"
"To drive me crazy," Kura replied promptly as he approached the throne. He knew Isis was angry with him because he had disappeared several months before without warning. But she was only angry because she had been worried about him.
"You've got a lot to explain, cousin," Isis said as Kura stopped in front of her. "Especially since you show up now with the magus of Sounis in tow and coming from Attolia. What have you been up to?"
Rather than try to explain, Kura reached back under his hair with his good hand to free the thong tied at the base of his neck. It was the shorter of the two Odion had given him at the river. Trying to get the knot undone one-handed didn't really work and several long strands of his own silvery hair came along with the thong when he finally pulled it free.
Glancing back quickly over his shoulder, Kura was delighted to see Kaiba's mouth open in astonishment
"Kura," Kaiba said under his breath, "You viper!"
Dangling in Kura's hand by the leather loop was Horus's Gift. It had nestled hidden in his hair since he'd placed it there after the fighting with the Attolian scouts. As soon as he'd seen the riders attacking, he had moved his horse until he was close enough to cut the thong around Kaiba's neck with the penknife he'd stolen a day or two out of prison.
Kaiba had been too distracted to notice and had assumed later, as Kura had known he would, that the thong had been sliced by a sword stoke and that the Gift had dropped into the stream.
Now the Gift swung back and forth, the light catching the sapphire within the stone and causing the carved letters of Horus's name to almost hover bright blue in the air.
Kura knew he had a speech to make now. He had composed it on the way down to Sounis and practiced it over and over while in prison. But now, he couldn't remember any of it. He was so tired. He had fulfilled his job to his cousin as the Queen's Thief and secured her throne from being taken from her.
Releasing Horus's Gift into her hand, darkness rushed in and claimed him and he fell to the floor without saying a word.
---------I was so tempted to just stop here-------------
Bakura slept for a long time. The darkness was quiet and cool and when he woke up, he was in his own bed dressed in his own clean nightclothes. Pushing himself up, he brushed his hand back and forth across the soft sheets. They were as fine as anything sold in Sounis because all of Sounis's best linens were woven in Eddis.
Comfortable and warm, Bakura lay still and looked around his familiar room and made a mental checklist of all his stuff. He knew that Yugi wouldn't take any of his things, but Marik was a notorious klepto.
Bakura turned and smirked at the person standing hesitantly at the door. "It's Bakura," he corrected proudly. "It's a family name."
"So I've heard." Ryou shifted against the door, and grinned shyly. "It's a very nice name."
Laughing, Bakura shook his head and motioned Ryou over to his side. "What have I missed?" he asked as he scooted over to make room for Ryou next to him on the bed.
"Well," Ryou started once he was situated next to the thief and had folded his hands in his lap, "You've been asleep for days. We were worried you would never wake up. The doctor said that rest was probably the best thing for you. But we were all concerned. And then your brother…Marik?"
"Marik," Bakura nodded, "The psycho one."
"Well, Marik began wailing about how you were going to die, die, die until you were dead, and then he saw me and started screaming that I was your ghost come back to haunt him."
Bakura snickered and lay back down. "Sounds like you've met the whole crazy family now. Are you traumatized?"
"Oh, thoroughly," Ryou giggled, "Especially since I had my own run in with ghosts." At Bakura's blank stare he laughed harder. "Odion and Malik are alive!" he declared. "Odion broke his arm, and Malik's got a few scrapes, but they're okay. After they went over the edge of the cliff, Odion was able to grab onto some jutting rock. The Eddisian Guard found them and brought them here two days before we got here."
"That's wonderful," Bakura said, "I'm glad, for you, that they are alright. I never liked Malik, but Odion was an okay person."
"I heard that."
Bakura and Ryou looked up as Malik, looking none the worse for wear let himself into the room, followed closely by Odion and Kaiba. The magus kept his facial features carefully schooled and beside him only Odion's bandaged arm in its sling gave evidence to any misadventure that he suffered.
"You sound funny," Malik said, hopping up onto Bakura's bed on the other side. He poked the injured thief in the chest. "You eat something bad?"
"No, you idiot," Bakura growled, pushing Malik's hand away. "I do believe I once said that gutter was a dialect to be learned. This is how I actually talk."
Malik shook his head in slow disbelief. "So after all this time, you're a spoiled palace brat, just like Ryou."
"Yeah," Bakura sneered, "It just about KILLED me at prison. I am sick and tired of being dirty, of getting sick on cheep wine, of talking with my mouth half closed and chewing with it half open, and having BUGS in my hair. I've been going mad the whole trip!"
Ryou laughed and shook his head. "How on earth did you manage it?" he asked. "I'm not sure that I really understand it yet."
"I think I know," Kaiba said with a scowl, "When he didn't find the stone or records about it in my office, he knew that we couldn't have obtained it yet. So he decided to create a reputation for himself as a Sounisian thief of notable abilities. He mentioned an Eddisian mother in forged court records to hide any trace of an accent he couldn't hide. After everything was in place, he took the Seal to draw my attention. He must have hoped that I would need a proficient but anonymous thief whose absence wouldn't be noticed."
Bakura smirked importantly. "And it worked, didn't it? Just another professional risk in the life of being a professional Thief."
"Indeed," Kaiba allowed with an annoyed sigh. "In one fell swoop, you've secured your cousin's throne and handed her the heir of her enemy."
For a second Bakura's self-satisfied smirk remained on his face, and then it fell. "Wait," he said, his mind trying to clarify, "Yami's heir? But who-"
Malik broke down in laughter. "He doesn't know!" he crowed. "He came all this way, and he doesn't know!"
"Someone explain this to me before I strangle Malik with my bare hands!" Bakura demanded.
"Ryou is Yami's cousin," Odion explained patiently. "Their fathers were brothers."
Bakura starred at Ryou in shock. "Are you serious? Your father the Duke is Yami's uncle?" he asked.
"What, you didn't know?" Ryou said, mildly amused.
"I did not!"
Ryou laughed and shook his head. "Bakura," he said. "I went to see your family shrine for your patron. I loved the large, carved emerald earrings."
Bakura snickered. "Someone told you about the Duchess," he teased. "Boy she was mad. She never even saw me take them right out from under her nose."
"So you use your skills even among your kin?" Kaiba asked. "Is no one safe from you?"
"No one," Bakura said. "Did you ever suspect?" His eyes gleamed wickedly with amusement. "That I wasn't what I claimed to be?"
"Not really," Kaiba answered after a slight hesitation. "But I should have. Your extensive knowledge of Eddisian history, politics, and mythology, your name, how you knew that a tree trunk could take us across the river, how the guard at the bridge seemed to know you and was welcoming Ryou and I as if we were your guests. And the Queen of Attolia. I think she recognized you."
"She did," Bakura said with a shiver, "But she wasn't about to inform you about it. You may have also recognized me," he added, "But when you came last time with Yami's proposal, I was in my room sulking over something."
"I knew," Odion said thoughtfully, surprising everyone, "Since you thanked me for a few ossil berries." He shook his head at Bakura. "You were careless and used a common Eddisian phrase that no lowly thief from Sounis would know. And then there was the fact that your sword abilities are clearly Eddisian trained."
"You might have told me," Kaiba growled as Bakura collapsed with laughter. But Odion shrugged.
"It wasn't my place to tell," he said. "But I did not know that he had taken the Gift from you. I was sure it had fallen in the water, or I would have searched him."
"I was counting on that," Bakura said smugly. "If we hadn't been so hurried, I would have never gotten away with it before it was found on me."
"In any rate," Kaiba interrupted with a sigh, "All my plans are ruined. Yami will be disappointed."
"Oh, poor Yami," Bakura said rolling his eyes. "He just better hope that Isis never does something stupid like giving her next-in-line the rule of this country."
"Why?" Kaiba asked suspiciously.
"Because," Bakura said, "It's Marik. And upon his psychiatric evaluation, which he will fail, rule goes to me." He smiled to himself for a moment before continuing, "And I will kick his ass. He's got payback coming to him."
"What if it wasn't Yami who was ruling?" Kaiba said, his mind working quickly and already miles ahead of them all.
"Huh?" Bakura blinked blankly. "If it wasn't Yami, who the hell would it be?"
"Ryou, duh," Malik said. And said boy blushed.
"Ryou, huh?" Bakura mused. It was hard to see Ryou ruling a country. But Kaiba would help him. And who knew, maybe a kinder hand at the throne would be good for that country. "I get along with Ryou."
"It would be incredibly risky," Kaiba said slowly, already thinking of the different ways that deaths could be caused without any tell-tale evidence being left behind, should the monarch refuse relinquishing his throne.
"Not to mention under-handed," Odion said.
"But it could work," Ryou offered with a supportive smile.
Bakura grinned, flashing his sharp teeth like a wolf or a fox that thinks himself oh-so-clever. "It's an incredibly, abysmally stupid risk."
Malik shrugged. "Let's go for it!"
Based on the book by Megan Whalen Turner
Author's Note: Answering Questions and Such
Before anyone asks, yes, in the real book, the character that is the thief IS the Queen's Thief of Eddis. After I found that out, I went back and read the book and sure enough, all the hints were there. In the book, Odion and Malik's characters died, and STAYED dead. But I liked them too much to keep them that way, this time. And if I had Malik's character follow the book and betray them, then he would have had to stay dead.
I ended this story slightly different than the other ending, and VERY different from the book. I have nothing against Yami, but for some reason, evry one plotting his death in the end amused me. So that's how it went.
Amarin Rose, I would fix the Otogi/Honda mistake, but the formats are messed up, so I can't until it's changed again.
DarkShadowFlame, see!? I didn't leave Rishid/Odion dead! I couldn't. He's just too cool to leave dead in this one.
Mokuba's Official Glomper, I'm going to look for that book next time I go to the book store!
No promises for a sequel, but I'll think about it.
And now, I shall say goodbye.
Thank you everyone! And please review.