By Katsuya Kaiba
Zahra could hear the sound of yelling before he had even made it down the hall, and by the time he reached the open doorway that led into the palace he knew that the voice he heard belonged to no one that he knew. He picked his feet up and ran, hoping that he still had time, that there was still a chance to speak to Sethe. He didn't care what this person was here for, knowing that it was for him. He ran through the doorway and into the throne room, across the long floor and towards Sethe, who was watching someone that Zahra had never seen before, and as Zahra turned his head to look at who it was he saw what he held in his hands and his eyes widened.
There it is…that's what he used to draw out the Lord of Red. Zahra looked at the man briefly and knew what he was instantly. He is Shemsu-Suti…his hair is even lighter than mine is. Zahra met his eyes briefly and his eyes grew large as he quieted suddenly and watched Zahra run into the room.
"That's him…" He might have spoken it or he may have just thought it, but Zahra heard it and knew what the man meant, and he ran faster, looking away and calling out.
"Sethe!" Sethe looked up just in time for Zahra to collide with him, but he was quick to react and he caught Zahra. Sethe only held him briefly before pushing him away. The other priests stood all around Sethe, and they watched the man who had broken into the temple warily, not sparing a glance for Zahra.
"Zahra, go back inside the temple." Sethe's voice was stern and he gave Zahra a serious look, but he didn't know what Zahra knew and Zahra had to tell him, but the stranger spoke before he could get a word out, and Zahra grabbed onto Sethe in fear, watching as he laughed loudly from where he stood near the entrance to the palace.
"Of all the places that I could think of to look for you…this would have been the last." He took a step forward, staring directly at Zahra as he moved, and Zahra could see the long scar that ran across his cheek and he flinched, knowing that he had been recognized. How this man had known, he couldn't say, but he held the key in his hands, the thing that Zahra had been shown in the shrine, and he lifted it slightly and Zahra gasped and held on tighter to Sethe. As soon as Sethe realized that Zahra was the one being spoken to he stood upright and pushed Zahra back, his face dissolving into anger, where before it had just been confusion, and he spoke loudly.
"Look…I don't know who you are or how you got in here, but this ends now." He took a deep breath and stepped forward, but before he could do a thing the leader of the Shemsu-Suti spoke again, this time to Sethe and no other.
"It most certainly does. This is the end for all of you…including you, Pharaoh." He smiled and pointed back at the throne, where the Pharaoh sat anxiously and watched, protected by the line of priests before him. "I think I speak for all of the Shemsu-Suti when I say that this exile has gone on for long enough." His cool smile went bitter and he glared at the Pharaoh, evidently holding him responsible for the wrongs he had come to avenge. "This is your fault…you and your tyrannical god. My people have been living in the Red Lands for hundreds of years, starving and dying for a crime that we never committed. But now, he's finally been reborn…" He glanced over at Zahra over Sethe's shoulder and smiled, "and I'm the only one who can control him."
"What are you talking about? Zahra is nothing to you!" Sethe seemed to have had quite enough of his ranting, and he took a step forward and started yelling at the stranger. "How can you say you know who he is? Zahra…" Sethe turned around quickly and glanced at Zahra, who was watching the proceedings from behind Sethe. "What is he talking about?"
Zahra stared at Sethe and opened his mouth, trying to think of what the right thing to say was. He breathed in deep and then closed his mouth, and before he could reopen it the other Shemsu-Suti spoke again.
"You know what you are. Tell him…" Zahra glanced over at him briefly and saw him smile, "…tell him, before I show him."
"Sethe…I…I love you." Sethe blinked and then frowned, and he looked back quickly at the leader of the Shemsu-Suti, but he was only watching amusedly, and Sethe glared at him before turning back to face Zahra. Zahra didn't have the time to wonder why he was being given this opportunity, but he took it gladly, and stepped close to Sethe and kissed him on the lips. Zahra could feel the eyes of everyone in the room on them but he didn't care; they would all be dead soon, anyhow. Sethe kissed him back for a few moments, but then pulled away, leaving his hands on Zahra's shoulders.
"Zahra…" Sethe frowned, not understanding what was happening, and wondering why Zahra was playing along with whoever it was that had broken into the palace and stormed into the throne room, slinging insults and threats at the Pharaoh. He had heard what he said about the Red Lands and feared the worst, but for the moment all he was concerned with was Zahra, and what he knew. "What…what's going on? Who is this?"
"He's…he's the leader of the Shemsu-Suti, and he's come to destroy Heliopolis. He destroyed Memphis…and Hermopolis."
"But…no." Sethe blinked and his eyes unfocused for a moment. "No, he can't be. I remember someone else."
Zahra shook his head. "He was responsible. Sethe…" Sethe frowned and Zahra took his hands, seeing out of the corner of his eyes that he had the attention of the entire room. "He told me…everything."
"Who told you?"
Zahra closed his eyes and lowered his voice. "…Suti." Sethe's eyes widened and he opened his mouth, but a voice came from behind them sooner than he could speak.
"So he doesn't know who you are…" The leader of the Shemsu-Suti broke in the conversation and spoke amusedly. "Or what you've done."
Zahra was instantly angry at the accusation, and he stared furiously at the man and spoke louder than he normally did, feeling terrified at the thought. "No! I didn't destroy Memphis! Sethe!" Zahra looked back to Sethe and pleaded with him, desperate to convince him of the truth before this awful man could tell him otherwise. "I wouldn't ever do that! Please, believe me…" The tears threatened to spill, but Zahra held them off and watched Sethe's face, which was far more than confused. Everyone else around them was quiet, either too confused or too afraid to intervene. The intruder didn't even appear to have a weapon, and posed a small threat that Sethe could instantly stop with his Ba, being the only priest able to draw it out at will.
"Zahra…" Sethe shook his head and held on tighter to Zahra's hands, searching for an answer. "…I don't understand." Zahra's tears fell at last, and he held on to Sethe's gaze with his own and didn't dare to look away as he told Sethe what he meant, what he was and what he'd done…been forced to do.
"I am…" Zahra blinked and tears ran down his face, and Sethe lifted a hand to brush them away. "I am the Lord of Red."
Sethe froze with his hand on Zahra's cheek, and Zahra watched his eyes as they dilated slightly and widened, but the changes were so small that he was sure that only he could see them. Isis made an odd noise off to his right, but all of his attention was on Sethe at the moment, who simply stood still and stared at Zahra. He closed his eyes suddenly and let go of both of Zahra's hands, stepping back slightly. Zahra sobbed aloud, scared that Sethe was angry with him, and he spoke suddenly and without thinking.
"Sethe…" Sethe opened his eyes and the pain and confusion in his face had somehow disappeared, and when he spoke his voice was firm and quiet.
"No…you aren't. It isn't possible." He reached out and took Zahra's hands again, pulling him close and Zahra pressed his face against Sethe's chest and cried. He wouldn't believe.
"Oh, no?" That loud and sarcastic voice sounded from behind them. "See for yourself." Zahra looked over just in time to see him lift his hand and point the item at Zahra, and he immediately felt that sound inside of him, the sound of something calling, just as he had heard nights ago. The night that Hermopolis had fallen. He slipped through Sethe's grasp but Sethe caught him and kneeled, and although Zahra found that he could barely move his body he was able to keep his eyes open this time, and as Sethe laid him on the floor carefully he felt the Heka that had been given to him coursing all throughout him, and he knew that it was the only thing keeping him awake.
Zahra watched as Sethe looked far off, to the other side of the room, and Zahra heard an awful sound, a tearing scream that shook the walls of the palace itself, and he knew that his Ba had left him, and he held on to the Heka and kept himself awake. He didn't even turn to look to see the Lord of Red, he could hear it and feel it all around him and it was terrifying. Isis screamed and the other priests backed away slightly and Zahra couldn't see their feet anymore from where he lay, and he watched Sethe as he looked off at the dragon and knew that it was the truth.
"You…" Sethe spoke to nothing and no one, whispering under his breath and then standing up suddenly, struck by an oddly timed moment of fury. He stared at the intruder and then yelled, out of anger and to be heard over the constant shaking of stone that was nearly deafening. "You stole his Ba!"
"Sethe!" Sethe paused and turned to look, finding the Pharaoh standing not far behind him, and Zahra could see him and wondered why he was not running. The palace wasn't safe, and the shaking would soon cause serious damage, irreparable damage that the Lord of Red would only aggravate with the fire. Zahra had seen what a city looked like under his attack, and he knew how it would end.
The Pharaoh had a stricken look on his face, and the skin on his cheeks was still streaked with the tears he had shed for Mahado. The other priests were trying to pull him back, but he stood still and pushed them off, facing Sethe intently. Sethe faced him and then looked down to be sure that Zahra was alright before returning his gaze to the Pharaoh.
"Sethe…call out your Ba!"
Sethe only shook his head slowly and called out his response. "My Ba is nothing compared to this. This…the Lord of Red is a god himself. The only way to stop him is to kill his …" Sethe looked down at Zahra, who forced himself to sit up somewhat and stared back, understanding.
If Sethe kills me…then he might save Egypt. I had no idea…My Ba leaves in the moment that I die. I remember that now. If I were to die, right now, then the Lord of Red will die, and Heliopolis will remain…if it happens soon. This palace can't stand the pressure…it's still shaking far too much. But…I don't want to die.
Zahra stared up at Sethe, knowing what he was thinking, but also remembering what he had learned in the shrine, and he knew then that Sethe would not save Egypt.
He won't let me go. He will choose his end, just as selfishly as I will. The fate of Egypt is in his hands, but he will choose me instead… And he will play my part, as you have played the Lord of Red, and he will turn his back on Amun-Ra, just as I did
"Sethe…what are you doing?" The Pharaoh yelled at him over the echoing sounds of breaking stone that rose with each second, and Zahra could feel that there wasn't much longer left. He felt so tired, but he kept himself aware with the Heka, and slowly pushed himself off the ground and onto his feet, standing up and staring at Sethe, who stared at the Pharaoh in disbelief. "What are you waiting for?" The Pharaoh pointed over to Zahra, and Sethe looked over briefly, but refused to meet Zahra's eyes. "He destroyed your entire life! He killed Mahado…" The Pharaoh closed his eyes and swallowed hard before continuing. "Sethe! If Heliopolis falls…everything will. And it will be your fault…and the fault of your people."
Zahra fell back to his knees, finding that he wasn't able to stand on his own, and Sethe saw him do it but didn't move to help him. He only stared, and Zahra stared back in sheer agony, afraid for Sethe and afraid for himself. He felt heat, there was a fire somewhere close by, but he was too dizzy to turn his head and look, but he didn't need to look to see what color it was. Stone would never burn, not without divine fire.
"You…you don't care." The Pharaoh stared at Sethe, who turned back to face him wordlessly. "Fine…but I won't stand by and watch you turn your back on Egypt." Zahra looked up just in time to see the Pharaoh moving towards him, and he tried to move away but he only fell backwards and on his back, and he tried to push himself away quick enough but Sethe moved suddenly and crossed into his path.
"Atemu…stop." He did stop, just in front of Sethe, and Zahra tried to keep his eyes in focus and watched as Sethe blocked the Pharaoh, and Zahra saw that everything was happening, just as it had before the old kingdom. It was the same story, all over again, the story that Egypt was founded on. The same actions that had brought it into power were now destroying it, and the Pharaoh stared up at Sethe and knew that there wasn't a thing that he could do to force Sethe to kill Zahra. It just wasn't going to happen.
"But…I trusted you…regardless of what you were. I…I gave you that temple. Don't tell me that it doesn't matter."
"I never said that. But Zahra, he…" Sethe paused and glanced at Zahra, holding himself up by his arms and staring in horror. "Zahra means more than any of it. I'm sorry…I won't do it. I won't kill him."
The Pharaoh glared at Sethe in a panicked rage, ignoring the fire that began to eat at the walls all around them. "If it wasn't for Zahra, Memphis would still be here…your family would still be here. If it weren't for Zahra-"
"If it weren't for Zahra, I wouldn't even care! Don't you understand? It's because of him that any of this matters to me at all!" Sethe shook his head and turned his back on the Pharaoh, walking towards Zahra with downcast eyes and kneeling beside him on the floor. The Pharaoh watched him as he did it, and then turned with tears in his eyes and ran. Zahra didn't watch him to see where he ran to, knowing that it didn't matter much. No one would leave Heliopolis. Zahra had seen it before, in Sethe's dream. It would be just the same, and Sethe knew it as well, because he took his time as he slipped his arms underneath Zahra's neck and knees, lifting him up slowly and standing on his feet. Zahra stared at his eyes, and Sethe looked back calmly, and then he walked slowly back across the palace and through the doorway into the temple. There was no sign of the leader of the Shemsu-Suti, and Zahra thought that he must have escaped long ago, knowing what was to come. Perhaps he had remained, and perhaps not, but Sethe and Zahra were alone in the temple, the only two people in Heliopolis who knew that there was no way out.
Zahra lifted his arms slowly and held on to Sethe's neck, and he leaned his head back against his shoulder and closed his eyes, wondering what would become of the Lord of Red after he was gone. It didn't matter, his purpose was fulfilled, and he wasn't needed any longer. All three sacred cities were gone, or nearly so. The temple was burning, as well, and Zahra could see it and hear it and smell it, but he tried his best to relax and to save the strength that he had. Sethe carried Zahra back to his bedroom, which was strangely quiet compared to where they had been minutes ago. The sound of the chaos was barely audible, and Sethe laid Zahra down on the bed and then sat beside him and stared silently, moving some of Zahra's bangs away from his eyes.
"You know…" Sethe began, and then paused, unsure of what he was saying. "I think that I know how the story ends. Remember that story I told you, the one about what truly happened between Suti and Amun-Ra?" Zahra nodded and smiled. "I used to think that if I knew what it was that he loved so much, that I would know something worth knowing. Something that would fix what I was, and make it alright. But I don't think that way anymore."
"…What is it, then?"
"I don't think that it matters what Suti loved so much…what's important is that he knew that he did. He knew how much he loved it…and he did what he had to do to keep it close. I never saw that…until just now. But I suppose that it doesn't matter." Zahra had been crying for what felt like forever, but his tears were renewed when he saw Sethe's first sliding down his face.
"Sethe…I'm so sorry." Zahra reached up shakily and brushed the tear from Sethe's face, and Sethe closed his eyes and shook his head.
"No…I don't want that." He took Zahra's hand from his face and held it in his own. "How do you feel? Your Ba is gone…I'm surprised you're still awake." He smiled and brought Zahra's hand up to his mouth and kissed his palm, and Zahra could feel his tears running off of his face and onto the skin of his hand.
"Zahra…promise me something." Sethe's face was frozen in fear all of a sudden, and Zahra nodded his head silently. "Please…don't forget me. Promise me we'll find each other again…please…"
Zahra smiled at him and knew that it was alright, for him to die and for him to cast the spell. Sethe had never looked so frightened before, and Zahra couldn't ever remember a time that he had known Sethe to be afraid of something. He reached out and Sethe took his hands, and he pulled himself up into a sitting position and wrapped his arms around Sethe, closing his eyes and whispering in his ear, and he heard Sethe's breath hitch as he spoke.
"I swear to you, no matter what, I will find you, and I will never let you go. Even if we are sworn and hated enemies, I will make you see the truth. You cannot escape me." Sethe laughed shakily, ignoring the fire that was now visible from the doorway and ever creeping forward. "Hold still…and just breathe." Sethe nodded against Zahra 's shoulder and held him upright with his arms, and Zahra relaxed everything in his body and forgot about where they were, and how close the fire was, and he thought back to the spell that he had been given. It was like nothing else he had ever tried to cast, but he knew that he could do it. He felt that he was powerful enough, even without the Lord of Red, the one who was responsible for everything that Zahra had ever accomplished in the temple, save his reading. He didn't need the Lord of Red, not when it came to Sethe. He was strong enough on his own.
There was no need to draw Heka from anything, since he had all that he would ever need right inside of him, holding his head up and keeping him alive without his Ba. He let it go, not allowing it to rush forth as it wanted to but instead guiding a thin crimson trail of it out of him and trailing it all around both he and Sethe, binding them together in a ribbon of blood red Heka. He whispered words that he didn't know, and Sethe's muscles tightened as he listened, but he still held tightly to Zahra and held him up as he let the last of his energy go.
"Iui em hotep amit
I-kua kher ten em ab merut
Ankh ek qendet em tu-ek senenti tu em meri-ek…"
Zahra took a deep breath and then shuddered, feeling so tired, and the heat was closing in all around him, but he couldn't stop to think about it. He had to finish the spell.
"Meriu: iu ankh en-ek em hotep nefer uret
Nuk sa he-ef."
Zahra gasped and tried to grasp Sethe's shoulder, but he hadn't expected to fall so deeply after the spell was finished. But he had done it, and now he and Sethe wouldn't ever be apart. It would be impossible not to find one another again, and Zahra closed his eyes and smiled.
"Zahra…?" Sethe felt his body give out suddenly and laid him back against the bed, and Zahra opened his eyes and found Sethe looking panicked, surrounded by the blue fire that was just as blue as his eyes were, and Zahra stared at the similarity and smiled as brightly as he could.
"Oh…I love you. But…I thought that this fire wouldn't burn you." Zahra remembered in a far off sort of way how Sethe had escaped the city of Memphis. Sethe leaned in closer, aware of the fire that was eating up the walls only steps away, but he paid it no mind and answered Zahra.
"I know why that was. It wouldn't burn me because I was afraid to die then."
"…Aren't you afraid to die now?"
Sethe smiled. "Of course not. I'm afraid of what might happen if I don't. Your spell…was beautiful."
"…It was a gift, from someone who knew what it was like." Zahra pulled Sethe down on the bed alongside him by his hand, and Sethe followed him down and lay beside him. Zahra was so tired, and without his Ba he was barely able to keep himself alive, but he shifted so that he lay on Sethe's shoulder, and Sethe pulled him closer as the flames crept around the edge of the bed.
"Ana bahebek, hereret…"
Zahra smiled and closed his eyes. He couldn't keep them open any longer, but he remembered the feel of Sethe's hand in his hair and breathed slowly as Sethe ran his fingers through his bangs and kept them out of his face. Sethe leaned in and kissed Zahra's forehead, and Zahra sleepily clutched at Sethe's sleeve with his fingers, slipping into unconsciousness. Zahra fell asleep and he did not wake up, but he did not forget, either. He remembered everything.
And...that's it, my gentle friend. Enter Clear Vision, I guess.
BTW so sorry for the long-ness between updates, but I'm, um...getting married, if you can believe it. I know, that's what I said. Thank you all so much for your reviews, I still go back and read them all every now and then. Thanks also to Sethe and Zahra, just for being who they are, and to Suti, for teaching me things that were lost and impossible for me to know otherwise.
I'm sad that it's finished, but I've never been happier than when I was writing this.