Shadow: To put it bluntly, I hate this chapter. It's given me such a headache to write out – but then, I love it too. There are at least two key scenes in here, and one of 'em gave me the summary for this fic.
This story spans over more than a year or so, and because I really don't want it to go on for forever and a day, later chapters will often jump from important event to important event, season to season. At the present moment everything happening is very much an 'important event', and so I spend longer going into detail. But expect a jump of a few weeks to reach next chapter.
Ah, but yes. Read, laugh, and cringe in embarrassment for our poor Atemu as he suffers at the hands of his menservants, and thoroughly makes an idiot of himself in his nightshirt.
I made a mistake in the first chapter – repeatedly; everyone kept calling Seto and Bakura 'your majesties', which is a big no-no. Only the reigning monarch (and spouse) can be called 'your Majesty' –every other possessing royal blood is 'your Highness', the reigning monarch 'your most royal Highness'. (That's been bugging me for a while, and I forgot to rant about it last chapter.)
Ah…and the dinner last chapter! There's this bit before Atemu runs out, when he first enters the Hall? Well, English etiquette at the time demanded you show respect to anyone higher to you, and that you address them formally unless given permission not to. Since Atemu is Crown Prince and Bakura is only an 'ordinary' Prince, Atemu's ranking is above Bakura's (and Seto's). Only those higher than you can ignore the rule. Basically, this means if Atemu enters a room where the King, Bakura and Seto are sitting, Bakura and Seto have to stand up. If the Bakura enters a room where the King, Seto and Atemu are sitting, only Seto has to rise – but that's getting really, really technical. As both Seto and Bakura are just plain princes, I think everyone would just remain seated. Seto and Bakura could be seen as possessing equal rank.
…Everyone has to rise where the King is concerned.
For this update…politics in Tudor England wasn't all that different to politics today – in England, anyways. (Everyone's still back-stabbing each other…) Slight differences? Tudor England was a dictatorship, and upsetting the ruler equals very short life span. Other than that, view the King as the PM and the court as the other politicians. Ambassadors are as now as they once were – a way to make peace with other countries, keep up good relations, and spy on what everyone else is doing.
If you're surprised at Atemu's linguistic talent in this – don't be. Anyone even vaguely royal/noble was expected to be smart, and lessons in Europe at the time of the Tudors were very extensive. Royals were expected to be able to speak at least Latin, French, English and Spanish – ancient Greek was a must have. Then of course there was mathematics, philosophy – both biblical and Greek -, religion, music, riding, hunting, dancing, archery, sword-play, jousting…the list goes on.
More notes at the bottom.
The Tudor Rose
Chapter 3: The court's a learning place
The sound of rapid voices woke Atemu the following morning.
Groaning quietly the youth blinked open liquid eyes to blearily gaze around the lavish chambers that had been given to him, letting out a soft cry and raising his arm swiftly to cover delicate orbs from the harsh sunlight that was then shining directly in his face.
The conversation stopped.
Atemu let out a drowsy mumble in his native tongue, requesting shade from the bright light.
"Highness?" The query was confused.
"Oh…" English, Atemu. Slow, fuzzy thoughts surfaced in the half-awake boy's mind. They speak English. "I…" A lick of dry lips, rough throat forced to form foreign words. "Please…close the shade? It hurts my eyes…"
There was a flurry of movement, whispering, and even through his closed lids Atemu could feel the change in light in the room.
"Highness." A voice sounded quite loud – as if its owner stood beside the bed the Prince lay in. Cracking open his eyes to comfortable dimness, Atemu found that to be true – a man stood there; face a schooled blank and expression patient.
Atemu looked at him blankly, still lying on the sheets of his too-big bed.
The man looked at him.
Atemu looked back.
An awkward cough.
A perplexed stare.
The stranger seemed embarrassed. "Highness…" He coughed again, "May I speak or no?"
Ah! Crimson eyes widened, and Atemu sat bolt upright, flushing a dull red. "Yes…" The Prince's cheeks were as red as his eyes. "Yes, of course." As a relieved expression descended over the man's – servant's, Atemu hastily corrected himself – face, the eldest son of the Tudor lineage inwardly berated himself. He had forgotten the English's inane love of society, and strict rules dictating class and status. A servant could not speak to their master without direct permission…was it any wonder he'd embarrassed the man in front of him so? Everyone was expected to know their place in life and stick to it; it was unheard of for one of low stature to inform their betters of the twisting ins and outs of pompous, stuck-up Tudor society.
This is just going to be a great day…
The manservant cleared his throat. "Your Highness, his Royal Highness the Prince Seto is awaiting your presence in your outer chambers. He wishes me to inform you that his Majesty the King has requested he show you around the Royal Palace of Westminster, to further help you settle into your father's Court."
"He – what?" Atemu stared at the manservant, astonished, clutching the thick sheet covering him with his hand.
The servant sighed. "His royal Highness the Prince -"
"I-no-sorry, I heard you the first time, I…" Atemu waved the man off distractedly, pushing back the sheet he'd been gripping up until that point and sliding across the dauntingly large bed that was now his own. (Really, whoever had come up with the term 'King-size' needed to have another look at the Tudor workmanship. This was double King-size – and then some.) Bare feet touched the cold floor, the Crown Prince resisting the urge to pull his feet back up again with a jerk into the warmth of his person and covers, and Atemu straightened. A wave of shivers ran all the way down his spine as the entirety of his body left the cocoon of his bed, the thin nightshirt that he wore doing nothing to conserve body heat. Sure, it fell to about mid-calf (the half-Egyptian had the sneaky feeling it was only meant to fall to knee-height but damn it, the English were still bloody taller than him), but its fine fabric did nothing to alleviate the chill of this northern land. Even if this was supposed to be mild for England.
"Your Highness?" Another manservant – not the one who had approached him before and looking to be about Atemu's age – was eyeing him with some trepidation. This foreign prince was nothing like the other princes, from what he had seen and heard of him, and he was infinitely wary of surprises.
Atemu ignored him. Well…that wasn't quite correct. The servants clustered in Atemu's bedchambers that morning – three in all - could only feel dismay as it became evident the English Heir to be wasn't even listening to them – he was off in a little distracted bubble of his own. And-
"Your Highness!" Shock, horror and outrage flared to life on the faces of the poor nobles who had become Atemu's menservants as their charge suddenly moved over to the door separating the Crown Prince's sleeping quarters from his greeting chambers, pushing it open and stepping though, completely oblivious to the fact he was still in his nightwear and completely unfit for company.
"Oh…" The youngest manservant let out a low groan, burying his face in his hands.
The other two merely left their compatriot to his woe, and ran after the new prince in a flurry. "Your Highness!"
Seto was fed up. Under the eyes of the guards and menservants filling Atemu's outer chambers he was bored witless, and uncomfortable sitting there in silence just waiting. Having being cornered by his uncle upon his rising the eldest prince had reluctantly agreed to play guide to his foreign cousin. The King himself was busy, unable to finish the tour he'd promised his son, and he felt guilty because of it.
So Seto automatically got roped in to help.
It wasn't that he minded showing the new Crown Prince around. It wasn't even that he minded what Bakura would say about his showing the new Crown Prince around. Partially, it was the Crown Prince himself. From what Seto had seen the day before, Atemu was a little…odd to say the least. A little different.
You say that like it's a bad thing… The brunette sighed, shifting on his seat. But isn't it? Those who stand out get dragged down, and those who don't fit in are beaten until they eventually cave. Society was cruel; he himself could vouch for the fact. It was wrong to be different, and wrong things found themselves quickly eliminated in Tudor England.
Deep down inside, Seto was thankful to his uncle. The King had done him a favour by asking him to give Atemu a tour – and any favour asked was an order demanded, where royalty was concerned -, as Seto really did want to get to know his new cousin. The little Seto had seen had piqued his interest, the gleam of ruby eyes demanding he at least speak to their exotic owner. This…'tour' was a good enough excuse to do so. And a good enough cover should any questions be asked in Court. And questions would be asked – weren't they always?
The soft voice broke the brown-haired prince's errant thoughts, recalling him to the present and causing him to turn around to finally greet his cousin's presence.
Seto's mouth fell open in shock.
Atemu was…Atemu…Atemu was wearing nothing but a nightshirt, the thin cloth dropping from his shoulders to mid-calf. Spiky hair still tousled from sleep hung about his face, and his expression was naively innocent.
Seto was floored. How could Atemu just stand there?! Didn't he notice what he was wearing?!
Or more, what he isn't, the nasty little voice in the brunette's head piped up. Flushing red, Seto averted his eyes from his cousin's, blue gaze suddenly very much focused on an intricate tapestry on the wall. Propriety meant…decorum said…oh damn it, Atemu shouldn't just be standing there in his nightclothes!
"Seto?" The Crown Prince repeated his earlier sentence, his voice sounding confused.
"Your Highness!" The yell floated out from Atemu's inner sanctum, two extremely harried-looking young menservants tumbling out the doors behind the half-Egyptian prince and hastily wrapping the flame-eyed youth with what looked like a bedsheet. Whatever it was it swamped Atemu's frame, heavy cloth knocking the Crown Prince over and sending him sprawling on the ground.
Stunned silence fell, in which the occupants of the room could hear themselves blushing.
Well, Seto cleared his throat awkwardly, pink tint in his usually pale cheeks and gaze still firmly fixed on the tapestry. This seems to have started off well.
'O Isis, Goddess great and glorious'. – Texts from the Pyramid of Unas, on the Giza Plateau
"This is the Chapel. Only the royal family may pray here."
Surprised at the size of the room considering that only a select few could use it, Atemu stepped into the Chapel. "But it's so big!"
Seto merely raised and eyebrow, leaning against the Chapel's walls. "You expected less, your Highness?"
Atemu coloured faintly. Really, he'd been doing that a lot that morning. After being dragged back into his bedchamber he had been forcibly washed and dressed by his menservants, released only from their flustered, beady gazes when Seto had grabbed his arm and pulled him from his chambers completely. Once the menservants were firmly behind them Atemu's arm had been dropped and the Prince's accompanying guards had been shooed away, Seto stalking off down the corridor at quite a fair speed, Atemu having to do two steps to match his taller cousin's one.
"Isis!" A white statue of a beautiful woman cradling a baby child caught the Crown Prince's attention. It was in an alcove at the side of the Chapel, candles and flowers laid about the statue's feet. Atemu, rapt, looked up at it.
Seto frowned, glancing up at the sculpture as well. "…Don't you mean Mary?"
Atemu hastily back-stepped. "I…yes, of course. It's the Blessed Mother. But…it just looks like-" he faltered, catching blue eyes fixed on him shrewdly, "it looks like an old goddess, from the tales."
"Such goddesses are blasphemy." Seto's tone was dismissive. "It is pointless – and unwise – to draw similarities between them and the Mother of Christ. There are always those who would be inclined to…look on you in a less favourable light, shall we say, if such inferences were known."
The warning in his cousin's voice was clear. Atemu nodded simply, moving away from the statue of Mary and heading for the Chapel door and exit. "…May we leave now?"
"We go where you wish to go, your HighnessHighnesH…" A vaguely dull note had entered his companion's voice. "You are…'above' me." Distaste. "It is you who dictates this 'tour'."
The Crown Prince frowned at the stupidity of such inane rules. "How can I dictate to you when I do not know where I am going?"
Seto paused for a moment, thinking about that one. "I…don't rightly know." He confessed, for the first time that morning actually sounding like a boy his own age and not some bored older adult mouthing words to a spoilt royal brat. "Maybe you could suggest where you want go and I could take you there if the palace has such a place?"
"I'd like that." Atemu smiled. "Could you…this palace has gardens, doesn't it? Could you show me them?"
"…I don't see why not…" Seto's expression lightened somewhat – almost a smile at the younger boy -, and he left the Chapel at a pace more accommodating to the Crown Prince than his earlier stride.
A slight wash of hope crept into Atemu's heart. Maybe, just maybe-
"Your Highnesses." A multicoloured thing suddenly stepped into the royals' paths with a flourish. "What a stroke of grace to meet you!"
Seto inwardly groaned, but made the obligatory introductions, motioning a hand to the man-thing in front of himself and his cousin. "Prince Atemu, this is the Spanish Ambassador – Bernardino de Mendoza."
'Bernardino' bowed again, raising the Crown Prince's hands to his lips. "Your Highness... la corona no enjoya a sí mismo puede tener vela a su belleza." His voice was oily.
Atemu's smile wavered slightly as he extracted his hand, hiding it discreetly at his side, but it soon strengthened again, barely missing a beat.
"Un cumplido muy amable, señor, aunque usted me halaga muchamente." His accent was near flawless. "…There are fairer creatures than I abroad."
Bernardino's eyes were bright, a gleam Atemu wasn't all too sure he liked present when the Spaniard looked up at him. "¿Usted habla mi idioma, su Agudeza? That is, you speak Spanish?"
The Crown Prince nodded. "Con fluidez, señorI find it a very beautiful language to study."
"How is your Latin?"
Now Atemu was confused. Where was this going? "I am proficient in Latin, English, French and Spanish, señor, Egyptian being my native tongue. I speak a little Italian, and am fluent enough in ancient Greek."
"Then it would appear you are a natural linguist!" Bernardino smiled, and the Crown Prince was suddenly reminded of a crocodile – the Ambassador's toothy grin was closely akin to that of the beasts of the great Nile. Atemu hated the Spaniard's oily voice, syrupy sweet and fake. Even worse was the calculating look in the man's eye, as if he were sizing the teen up for something.
"No , señorthat I am not, but I do love to learn the many languages spoken in this World."
Seto broke in. "Sir Bernardino, I am afraid his Highness Prince Atemu and I must depart your company, as my cousin has need to speak with other members of the court."
The Spanish Ambassador nodded. "Then I must bid you good day." He bowed. "Good day, your Highnesses…Prince Seto, Prince Atemu…" He caught the youngest's eye, "Fue un honor de encontrarle, el Príncipe del Subió."
Atemu smiled, relieved to be getting away. "Igualmenteseñor Bernardino. I bid you good day."
"Must we go?"
Seto found crimson eyes locked on him, for once large and wide and pleading. He fumbled for words. "I – that is – there is much of the palace left to see, your Highness. The Court…" They had been in the gardens all morning, ever since they had left the Chapel. There was so very little time left before dinner… "Do you truly like it so much here?"
The Crown Prince blinked once, twice; pausing to think awhile before replying to his question. "It's…" A slow smile spread over his face as he glanced upwards, expression suddenly dreamy. "You can see the sky here."
Why that of all things appealed to the half-Egyptian was quite beyond Seto – and he made that quite clear in his usual, less-than-flowery manner. "What?"
"The sky," Atemu reiterated, "you can see it when you look up."
"Well I most certainly wasn't looking down for it." His companion's reply was pointed. The small glare the brunette received both pleased him (he'd managed to wipe the idiotic expression off his cousin's face) and annoyed the hell out of him. "What? Your Highness, sky is sky. It's up there; it's blue, and your fascination with it is completely and utterly beyond me. Why would you care so much that you can see it here?"
Atemu sighed. "When I first arrived in London, I couldn't see the sky." His words were soft. "Not properly, anyway. The streets were so narrow; the buildings leaning towards one another, hunched like old misers over their hoards of money. There was people, noise, everywhere…and I couldn't look up and see the blue. I…needed to see the sky."
Seto was quiet for a few seconds, studying his cousin. Bakura's words from the banquet the night before drifted into his mind, and he asked: "You…you miss Egypt, don't you?"
"I miss my home."
"…But you must make your home here now…" The eldest prince was now truly striving to understand. "And so…you seek the sky? Why?"
A long silence, the Crown Prince seemingly debating whether to answer the set question or not. "…Though…it is true the sun here is weaker…" Slow, meandering words, "…and the air here is full of water...the sky is still blue. Forever, endless blue…" Atemu looked his cousin's way, words once more simple. "…The sky here is the same as it was at home."
"Oh." For a long, long while there was silence between the two boys. Birds flew overhead, a few insects buzzing abstractedly in the flowers or the leaves or somewhere about them, and the sky was blue, blue, blue. The English sun was rather pathetic that morning, but the fluffy clouds scudding across the upside-down ocean above them made it a typically nice day. It was so terribly mundane to Seto, but he guessed to Atemu, it must all be new. Foreign. But…this was not the time to dwell.
"Your Highness…we should really go; it is time to eat."
The Crown Prince cast one last, longing look at the sky before sighing, gesturing towards the doors that led back into the palace proper. "Lead on, then."
It was with some relief his cousin left the gardens - and Atemu's strangeness- behind, but Seto found his relief rather short-lived when he discovered himself walking alone down one corridor. Hastily backtracking he found his distracted relative a few halls back, studying the carvings in an ornate stair banister with vague interest. The boy glanced up when Seto approached, smiling faintly as he ran his fingers along the patterns carved into the wood. "These flowers…I see them everywhere. What are they?"
Seto's answer was polite. "They are the royal emblem, your Highness – the Tudor Rose. A long while ago, our great-grandfather, Henry VII, fought the King of the time for the English Crown. The battle was called the War of the Roses, for the King's emblem was the white rose – of the House of York -, and our great-grandfather's was the red – the coat for the House of Lancaster. When our great-grandfather won the war, he set about trying to establish a lasting peace by marrying a woman from the opposing House. He married Elizabeth of York. To show this new alliance King Henry had a new royal emblem created; the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York together, as one flower – the Tudor Rose. It has been the Tudor emblem ever since."
"It is very beautiful…" Hesitantly, Atemu stroked the carving, admiring the workmanship.
His cousin stared at him for a few moments, then spoke. "Your Highness…Atemu…the Tudor Rose is indeed beautiful, but it is a flower that thrives on blood. It is a hungry rose, and much blood has been spilt so its great hunger is abated, and it continues to grow."
"No rose is without its thorns." Atemu's voice was quiet.
A bitter smile touched the corner of the elder prince's lips. "Then the Tudor Rose is a bloody rose indeed, for I know much of Europe has felt the prick of its barbs at least once. There is much reason to fear those that hold the English crown in the grip of the rose…"
'Some say thy fault is youth, some wantonness.' – Sonnet 96
Bakura was annoyed. It was beginning to be a constant state with him really as of late, but he could not curb his temper even if he had wanted to. A large part of his fury was founded in jealousy, the rest in contempt. Atemu! A pretty, foreign boy, who oh-so-casually walked in and stole everything that was his by right away from him. The boy his father so obviously loved best, the cousin even Seto was moving away from him for. Seto, who had been at his side since he could first recall beginning to remember. And everyone encouraged it! Was…was he so wrong? So sinful? So… That those beneath him could condemn him, that those above him could strip what little defence his soul had left from him…and adore Atemu.
The injustice of it stung. The hurt he refused to admit it brought was an arrow through his heart. The loneliness that it left behind…
"I thought you wanted to go for dinner."
Seto sighed, casting a glance at the half-amused smile that adorned Atemu's face. "We are going for dinner. Presently. You have to be taken around to see some of the Court first."
"Because I would never hear the end of it if I did not make sure you were personally introduced to the Princess Elizabeth, and she is visiting the Palace partially because of you." The brunette paused. "Besides…dinner probably won't be ready yet."
"…Why must I be personally introduced to the princess?" Atemu was curious, ignoring the last comment. "Is she so influential?"
Seto smiled faintly, not really at him. "She is highly influential, your Highness; she is the King's half-sister, and a wise and pleasant woman. His Majesty consults her on matters of great importance and state – it is said it was she who devised England's current religious situation."
"…I find it surprising she was never married away to another country."
A shrug. "It was never through lack of offer, I assure you. The princess showed no desire to settle down though and marry, and His Majesty had no wish to make her. Besides…an unmarried princess is good for relations between countries, especially when it looks likely said princess will become Queen of her country someday. Everyone was so busy wooing our aunt they had no time to go to war against her –then- ill brother. And…why would His Majesty give up one of his closest and wisest advisors?"
Atemu ceded the point to his cousin and remained silent as he followed Seto down one of the many corridors in Westminster Palace. In and out and around the brunette wove, until he eventually stopped in front of a pair of wood-panelled doors, speaking bluntly to the pair of guards who stood outside.
"Inform Her Highness of the arrival of myself and His Highness the Crown Prince Atemu at once."
One of the guards immediately disappeared through the doors, the other hastily bowed. Seto ignored him; Atemu stared curiously. The other guard reappeared, ducking his head to the two princes and muttering a quick: "Her Highness the Princess Elizabeth bids you welcome, your Highnesses." He opened the door wide, and the two princes entered.
The princess wasn't all that hard to spot, even in a room full of women. As the door clicked behind them Atemu knew almost at once which of the ladies his (half-) aunt was, if simply for the presence she radiated.
Elizabeth was old; older than his father, but held a kind of austere beauty in her face and pose that never fades. Her skin was whitened with powder and her hair was red-orange and fine ("A wig," Seto whispered to him), piled up on top of her head and threaded with pearls. The princess' dress was emerald green and voluminous, layers of skirts rustling elegantly as she moved. A pristine white frill decorated the great lady's throat, golden necklaces and pearls falling to her waist in glittering splendour. She was still slim – delicate – but radiated life, vigour and strength that belied the age Atemu knew had to lie on her bones.
…Should anyone have ever doubted the glory of the English monarchy, they need have but glanced at Elizabeth Tudor dressed so fine, and their doubts would have been well laid to rest.
"I'm delighted to meet you at last, nephew." The princess held out her hand to him, the other holding a closed fan. Atemu took it and stopped. What did you do? Shake it?
Seto felt a smile twitch the corner of his lips, murmuring a sly, "You kiss it, cousin, and then you let go."
Atemu blushed red, quickly kissing the extended hand and dropping it.
Elizabeth laughed lightly, smiling. "…They tell me your name is Atemu, nephew."
The Crown Prince nodded, still pink. "It is, your Highness."
Elizabeth nodded, before shooing her ladies-in-waiting out of the room. They left quickly and quietly, setting down the various things they had been doing without a murmur. When they had gone, the woman spoke again. "Aunt." She tapped her second-eldest nephew on the shoulder with her furled fan. "I simply abhor the titles when it is but family present. I am your aunt, nephew mine, and you will address me so in private."
"Yes, aunt." Atemu replied obediently.
"Good boy!" Elizabeth smiled. "I think you shall do well here…" She tapped him under the chin, tilting the prince's head up to look at her. "Yes…you have the Tudor blood. You can see it in your eyes; in you fire…the way you hold yourself." She seemed pleased. "You have your father's nose child. It is a fine nose. But…I would say the rest of you is down to your mother. She must have been a beautiful woman."
"I am told she was, aunt."
"And you do her justice." Elizabeth let go of the youth's chin, unfurling her fan and flapping it about. "You have a noble face, nephew. And such stunning eyes! You shall have women falling over themselves to please you."
Atemu only blushed again. "…I-er- thankyou, aunt."
The King's half-sister rolled her eyes. "And you are so polite! So very unlike Seto darling here…" She ruffled the brunette's hair making the boy flush, ducking out of her grasp.
"But still," Elizabeth turned back to the half-Egyptian, "you are rather a welcome sight."
Atemu's head was reeling. To put it bluntly, his aunt was a very…interesting woman, to say the least. She was lively and vivacious, and was perfectly capable of holding her own in a conversation against two supposedly clever young men, thoroughly embarrassing both Atemu and Seto with her sharp intellect and deductions. She was open, friendly and caring, and Atemu loved her at once. Even Seto – the youth Atemu was beginning to doubt actually had a personality that didn't resemble a rock – loosened up under his aunt's enthusiasm, and his smile was both rare and stunning to see.
…Just how Atemu had been coerced into 'escorting' his aunt to dinner was beyond him though – especially since it seemed more that the princess had led him along, like some prettily trained royal pet. But that was done now, and Elizabeth was curtsying gracefully to his father, the King, and spreading her skirts as a servant pulled out a chair for her and arranging themselves about her comfortably as she sat down. Atemu and Seto bowed and took their own seats, King Edward smiling benignly at them both. It was clearly just the immediate royal family eating there alone, and Atemu was relieved. He didn't think he'd be able to stomach such public meals as last night's feast every meal, everyday. But…he'd have to see what Mahado did. He couldn't always leave his friend to eat alone…
Bakura turned up, surprising all present. No-one had really expected the white-haired teen to show – and least of all on time. Bakura's sheer lack of all punctuality was legendary, as well as his general attendance. The youngest prince merely shot a caustic glance at the mildly startled looks that were aimed his way, bowing only partially to his father before taking a seat, almost defiantly.
It came really as a shock that the meal was so quiet.
Servants brought the food in on carefully prepared trays, taking them away when waved over to do so. There was no talk until the dessert was well underway, and when it came, most of the room jumped.
King Edward spoke. "Atemu."
Startled, the Crown Prince choked on his food. Blushing furiously under the combined gazes of his family he coughed, taking a hasty swallow of the wine that had been poured into his goblet. "..Yes, your Majesty?" His voice was croaky from coughing.
"Yes, father." Atemu's blush wasn't going away anytime soon. "Was there something you wished of me?"
"Yes, actually." Edward nodded a head for one of the men hovering at his shoulder to take his plate away, speaking after the servant had swooped down to remove it. "I wish you to take lessons with Seto and Bakura."
"What?" Bakura's head shot up.
"In what, yo-father?" The Crown Prince hastily corrected himself.
"In all the things a prince should learn." The King's voice was calm. "Philosophy, religion, languages-"
"Uncle, my pardon for the interruption, but my cousin Atemu is already proficient in languages." Seto spoke up, taking a sip of his wine. "I can vouch for his Spanish, to say the least. The ambassador of that nation was quite impressed with his fluency."
"Oh?" Elizabeth turned to smile at Atemu. "You never mentioned that to me before!"
"I beg your pardon, aunt." The ruby-eyed boy bowed his head slightly, blonde bangs slipping over his face. "It quite slipped my mind."
Edward coughed, intruding into the conversation before his half-sister could draw the talk too far off topic. "Nevertheless…Atemu, I wish you to take the lessons. I shall talk to your tutors after a week or so, and see what they recommend be done with you."
"As you command, father." The half-Egyptian sat quietly in his seat.
"Good." The King smiled, pleased, and then shifted his gaze to his nephew. "Seto, I wish to inform you that King Francis and his daughter, the Princess Kisara will be arriving soon into the next season. My ambassador from their Court says they make preparations for the betrothal with great joy, and will sail as soon as they are done and the winds are fine. There will be a Ball, a feast to celebrate their arrival."
This time, it was Bakura who choked, eyeing his cousin with some horror. "You agreed to the betrothal?!"
Seto shrugged eloquently. "It seemed best."
"…My cousin is getting married?" Atemu was more than curious now, staring at the cool brunette who had led him around for so long that morning. "To whom?"
"A French princess." It was the blue-eyed youth himself who answered. "Kisara, King Francis' youngest, and some say most amenable, daughter."
"Do you love her?"
Surprised at the odd question, Seto stared at Atemu. "I beg your pardon?"
"Do you love her?" The Crown Prince repeated patiently.
"I have never met her before in my life." Vague bewilderment now.
He wasn't the only one. Confusion clouded crimson irises. "…But how can you marry someone you do not love?"
Bakura cut in suddenly, sharp and scornful. "What does love have to do with anything? Marriage is for money and power, for the provision of heirs for the continuation of such things. One does not look for love going into marriage."
For a few seconds, Atemu was rendered speechless. Then, he turned back to Seto. "You would tie yourself for the rest of your life to a woman you may or may not like simply so that she may bear you a legitimate child?"
"Why not?" Bakura was taking great delight in his half-brother's mystification. "It is what is done."
"…Love…sometimes comes later, Atemu." Elizabeth was gentle. "As Bakura says, marriages here are often more political alliances than ought else. Sometimes…there are the lucky few, who fall in love with the one they are tied to."
"I loved your mother, Atemu." King Edward was kind to his son.
"But…yours was not political…"
"No, that was my mother." Bakura's hard-edged words had returned.
"The late Queen Susan was from a prestigious and powerful noble family here." Elizabeth explained. "Marrying into them kept them under control. The fact my late sister-in-law was such a beautiful, sweet woman was but an added blessing."
"Oh." Atemu thought silently for a few moments, thoughts slowly slotting into place in his mind. He had heard of marriages of convenience before, of course; there were always 'accidents', whatever part of the world you were from, and children born mysteriously early in the marital bed. But marriage for control…
A blunt question from his half-brother startled he half-Egyptian out of his thoughts.
"You will join me in archery this afternoon, Atemu?" Bakura's question was abrupt. "You have nothing else to do now your tour with our dear cousin has been concluded."
"I – yes, of course." The Crown Prince pushed his bangs back off of his face, tucking them behind his ear. "If His Majesty permits it?" He cast a glance to their father.
King Edward nodded. "I see no reason why not."
Seto was glad to escape the rest of his family. The whole 'family-dinner' had unsettled him considerably; it had been…odd. Atemu had raise some strange points, things Seto himself had never considered. And why would he? Such thoughts of love were idealistic and naïve, as the Crown Prince was if he thought any form of life in the high politics of Europe could ever be that way. Love…who honestly considered love where marriage was concerned? As Bakura had put it, marriage was for wealth, power and heirs. Marriage was an alliance of convenience, a truce between two enemies held only by the fruit born of the marital bed.
His feet took him god knows where as his mind rambled, and it was with some surprise Seto found himself staring into the slightly astonished gaze of one blonde Egyptian – Mahado. The surprise in the other's eyes quickly vanished, and was replaced by hard glass.
"Highness." His bow was stiff, short and formal. Clearly performed with reluctance, and his voice was unfriendly. It was obvious the man wanted so very much to be somewhere else.
To spite him, Seto decided to stay, thereby forcing the other to keep his company. "Master Mahado." His tone was pleasantly cool. "What a pleasure to meet you again." Seto disliked the man. He did not really know why, only that the very sight of the blonde with the mixed-colour eyes made his every hackle rise. Perhaps when he saw the loyal youth, so close in age to he, he saw something buried there, something that he was not, and could only ever aspire to be… But that was the vaguest of feelings, and he denied its very existence. Such feelings were for fools. "I trust you are not skulking around again?"
Indignation flared across the other's face, Mahado's hand clenching suddenly in anger. "I do not skulk, your Highness."
His royal companion snorted. "You could certainly fool me."
"When have I skulked?" Mahado was clearly ruffled. "I have been in this palace but a day, your Highness; when have I had such a time here as to skulk?"
"You certainly seemed to be doing enough of it yesterday." Seto was holding his ground. "You were spying on the King."
"I was exploring the Palace. Is that a crime here?" The blonde snapped. "Can I not speak with my oldest friend?"
"He is a prince now." Stiff coldness.
"He is Atemu, and will not so perfectly fit into rigid rules enforced upon him. It is not in his nature."
"He will change or he will suffer for it." Seto's tone reached artic temperatures. "The English will not suffer a misfit for a prince, and a reject for their Crown."
"If you say so much as one word against him-!" Mahado was furious.
His brunette companion cut him short, blunt and cold. "Tell me commoner, is he even Christian?"
Mahado faltered for a split second, but Seto caught it. "Of course he is!"
A snort. "Th'art an awful liar, Master Mahado. One would think you would be more capable at the skill, considering you defend a heathen prince." Seto turned away. "Your friend shall be thrown to the dogsshould his religious views be seen, but do not even attempt to lie to the common rabble. Your testimony rings false even in the company of one."
"If you hurt him, if you speak a word of this, prince or no, I will hunt you down and kill you." Blazing fire met cold fury.
Seto glanced at his irate companion with utter disdain. "I could see thee on the block for a remark such as that, Master Mahado." His use of the practically meaningless title was scornful.
"And then you would see me walk straight back off it again, your Highness," the Egyptian gave back as good as he got, "by the power of a royal higher than you."
"As if the mobs would listen to a pagan."
"Ah, but the mobs do not sign the death warrants, do they?"
Seto scowled, turning to stomp away. Mahado did not allow him to get far though, following after.
"Cat got your tongue, your Highness?" The blonde's words were taunting.
Bitter, almost dead blue eyes twisted to gaze into Mahado's own mixed orbs. There was a long, disquieting pause.
"…Where the mobs are concerned, Master Mahadowho needs a warrant?"
'Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud.
Cloud and eclipses stain both moon and sun.' – Sonnet 35
Atemu really, really didn't want to be here. He'd asked his father for permission in the hopes His Majesty would withhold it, but – no luck. King Edward was quite content to let his two sons run off and happily play together in happy, happy land that was over the hills and so very Ra-damned far, far away.
Bakura hated him. Any fool could see it, should they choose to actually open their eyes and look. And the sneer the albino had given him when he'd handed over a bow to his half-brother had not been at all heartening in the slightest. Not that he was worried about actual archery…it wasn't that. Atemu knew for a fact he was a quite skilled archer. It was just…
I haven't seen Mahado all day. Where is he? Atemu missed his friend dearly, and faced down by his hate-filled half-brother he was filled with a simple longing for his best friend's reassuring smile and strangely-lit eyes. Seto too, was noticeably absent, and there were very few servants around to curb whatever Bakura should decide to do, should Atemu dislike it.
The afternoon sun was golden and warm as it shone down into the palace courtyard the two princes stood in. It was nowhere near as hot as Egypt…but it was nice. Pleasant, even. The faint breeze in the air brought the scent of fruit from the apple tree in the courtyard's corner, and the wind stirred the royal children's hair with invisible, caressing fingers, tossing up silver and gold strands with equal love.
Bakura notched an arrow to his bow, raising the weapon and shooting down a low apple straight from the tree. His arrow broke the fruit into two exact halves which fell to the grass below. Smug amber eyes fixed on Atemu, their look challenging.
The Crown Prince arched an eyebrow then, without warning, let fly an arrow from his own bow, another following in quick succession.
The first arrow sliced completely through the stem joining the apple adjacent to the one Bakura had shot down to the tree. The second cut through the apple as it fell towards the ground, breaking the fruit into two exact halves before it touched grass.
Atemu smiled dryly at his half-brother. Bakura scowled.
Clapping distracted the two from their wordless argument. As one the two princes turned, and two more familiar young men stepped forward into their courtyard. Both were scowling.
Mahado looked annoyed, and frustrated, and confused, but it was he who had clapped. His hands fell back to his side at the stony glares sent his way. Atemu and Bakura's cousin, Seto, was at the blonde's side, and the blue-eyed youth didn't really look all that much in a better mood – though his ill-temper seemed more…abstract, distracted. Neither was looking at one another, yet they walked side by side.
…What are those two doing together?
"Bakura." Seto walked over to his white-haired cousin, moving easily away from Mahado and casually reaching over to take the bow from the death-grip the other held it in. "…Your father has arranged for us to have a lesson in dancing with our tutors this afternoon, in preparation for the Ball that will be held for the French when they arrive."
"That is a while away." Bakura unslung his quiver of arrows as well, dropping them disinterestedly on the ground. A servant that had followed on his elder cousin's heels swooped forwards to pick it up. "Why must we dance now?"
"Practice makes perfect."
Bakura snorted, but was cut off when Atemu ventured a question, his usually pleasant voice sounding strained. "…I assume this will be a lesson for me also?"
"…Oh." Seto paused for a second to study the other teen, nodding abruptly. "Yes. My apologies, your Highness, I forgot."
Mahado let out an indecipherable mutter under his breath.
…The Crown Prince is everything that has been described to you, and more. His religion is uncertain, but rumours abound. Surely, being brought up in Egypt, he must have some tendencies towards Catholicism? It is such a devout place…and so near the Holy Land. If not, he is young enough to be taught, and I doubt the English will revolt much if he is in charge. He is such a charming boy, capable of wooing the public to his will. Already he is freely welcomed here, much loved by all…
"…No, it's one, two, three – and a step to the left. Left, I said! Your Highness-"
"…Now to the right. One two three and one two three-"
"…Your Highness, your dance partner won't bite! Would it hurt you so much to hold her hand?"
"…One two three and one two – no! Left! Go Left!"
It did not take an intellectual genius to realise the 'dancing lessons' weren't going too well. Of the courtiers who had been ushered in by the lesson's two tutors it was very few who were actually paying any proper attention to them anymore, the constant stopping and starting of the music as the tutors fluttered and fussed over the royal students – and one particular royal student specifically – preventing any sort of good dance occurring. Three musicians had long since thrown down their instruments in disgust, the stringed ones letting out a peculiar twang in complaint. Mahado had to resist the urge to start banging his head off one of the wonderfully ornamented palace walls as yet again the dance was called to a halt, his female partner sighing loudly before flipping open her fan, making sure to bat her lashes coquettishly at a certain blue-eyed brunette who was looking her way at that instant. That prince merely rolled his eyes and looked away, and Mahado began to plead with every deity in the Heavens above to let him get out of this torture Atemu had inflicted upon him, and drag the suffering Crown Prince with him.
It would appear – at least if one were listening to the two tutors berating the crimson-eyes royal and bemoaning their fates – Atemu wasn't dancing very well. And it was Atemu's fault the lesson was falling to shambles so. Mahado couldn't hate his old friend because of the pity he felt towards the younger other at that moment in time – the Tudor Court was whispering behind their hands about him, and his half-brother was smirking, taking great delight in Atemu's every failure.
As the tutors finished ranting and withdrew, declaring the lesson over for that day and stalking from the room, the dull flush on Atemu's cheeks became obvious.
Bakura's smirk only grew, his amber eyes taking on a predatory gleam. "So you can't dance…" He breathed, voice tinged with triumph.
"I – I was never taught." Atemu resisted the urge to lower his eyes, though it was hard – so hard – with Bakura looking at him like that. He could hear the whispers, see the glances shot his way by gossiping courtiers, feel the blush rising on his cheeks as they all stared, as they all pointed, as they all laughed at their strange, foreign Crown prince. None of them had left the room following the tutors – why would they, lest commanded? This was where everything was happening.
Bakura was relishing his half-brother's discomfit. "So you know nothing of dancing? What a sorry welcoming Ball the arrival of the French will be if the Crown Prince cannot dance! A shocking, sorry, shameful event indeed…"
Atemu swallowed, at a loss for words. What could he say? It was true, he couldn't dance. It was also true that if he couldn't dance by the time the Ball came around to commemorate Seto's betrothal he'd make a fool of himself, his father, and his new home country. It was true then, what Bakura had said to him on his first day on English soil.
He didn't belong here…
Seto stepped forwards suddenly, interrupting the loaded silence. "Well…his Highness will just have to be taught how to dance." An easy smile was shot at the gathered courtiers, expression fading slightly as it looked upon his cousins. "There won't be a Frenchman who won't return to his shores singing praises of England's royalty."
Bakura frowned, disliking his fun cut short so soon. "Only if his Highness Prince Atemu is taught – and he learns – in time." Amber eyes narrowed on the Crown Prince. "Nobody is that quick a learner."
The half-Egyptian bristled. "Oh, I'm quite sure I could learn."
His brother's frown changed to a small, challenging smile. "Perhaps, half-brother, perhaps not. But surely for you to learn you require a teacher…?"
Sapphire eyes crinkled slightly in annoyance. Bakura was beginning to irk Seto with his constant pettiness. And did the albino have to be so cruel? Publicly? A sudden urge seized the brunette, and he spoke up. "I'll teach him."
"What?!" Both Bakura and Atemu turned to stare at the eldest prince in stunned surprise. Mahado frowned, disliking the idea almost immediately.
"I said, I'll teach him." Seto raised his chin defiantly. "That is…if his Highness, the Crown Prince, doesn't mind…"
"No." Atemu's voice was faint with shock, ruby eyes wide with disbelief. "No, I don't mind…" He raised a hand to the back of his head, rubbing his neck awkwardly.
"There you are then." His cousin's eyes warmed slightly, but the expression faltered under Bakura's gaze. To put it bluntly, the albino looked livid, and all his venomous rage seemed to be centred on Seto.
The brunette tried another smile, but this one was even worse than the last.
Bakura turned to snap at the wide-eyed courtiers that surrounded the three royals and Mahado. "Out!" His tone left no room for argument. One lady eeped, hurriedly lifting her skirts and walking as quickly out of the room as possible – running was well out of the question with the dress she wore that day -, her friends and others like her hastily following her example. (The male courtiers, wearing slightly less-burdensome styles, only just remembered to hold the door open for their female counterparts as they made a break for it. One man, quite forgetting entirely, accidentally slammed the door on his partner's skirts, tearing a wonderful rip in the expensive fabric – which he then proceeded to make worse by pulling them out of the doorjamb in a desperate attempt to redeem himself. The situation was humiliating, the dress was ruined, and the poor young man found himself with his right ear red from his lady's wrath and scorn. That, and no-one would let him live it down.)
Bakura bore the idiocies with an uncharacteristic patience, Seto noted – and then only just restrained himself from yelping, as a smug voice happily commented in his ear:
"Your little cousin has such wonderful people skills, your Highness. Did he learn them from you?"
Seto glared at Mahado from the corner of his eye (the blonde youth stood behind him), well aware of Bakura barely a few feet away from them, the albino glowering the last of the unfortunate courtiers from the room.
"Have you yet not learned to mind your tongue?" He hissed.
"I see no need to mind it now…"
Seto gave up on discretion, turning fully around to meet the other's mixed gaze. "Are you quite mad, or is this insanity of yours just a temporary affliction?"
Mahado smiled and placed a hand over his heart, doe-innocent and fooling no-one. "Perhaps my humours are ill-mixed today, your Highness; what can I say?"
The Egyptian was baiting him, Seto knew. Everything – everything – the blonde did was intended to annoy, to irritate, to infuriate him. So…he smiled sweetly.
"…Perhaps then we should have you torn open, Master Mahado, so we can see exactly what is going on inside of you?"
"That would be most terribly inconvenient." Mahado deadpanned. "How then would I accompany his royal Highness the prince Atemu about the palace?"
Seto's smile was sickly-sweet and completely false. "'Twould not be so hard for you to accompany His Highness – I am quite sure whatever pieces left of thee after the inquisition could quite easily be transported around in a bag."
Mahado glared. Seto glared back. Behind the two of them the door of the room swung shut, and Bakura moved across to talk to a more-than-hesitant Atemu. Neither the blonde nor the brunette noticed.
Later…no-one would remember exactly what was said in those few, brief minutes. Mahado and Seto were both aware, certainly, of their argument, as undoubtedly Bakura and Atemu would have been of their own (– for what other reason would the latter two talk, of course, but to argue? There were still many grievances between them, and the list was rapidly building as time passed). Mahado and Seto, upon querying their respective 'charges' later, would meet only with stubborn silences and monosyllabic answers – eventually, they would have to give up. What the exact words were of the latest spat between the closest heirs to the English throne would forever remain a mystery; the two half-brothers' judgement for once seeming to be as one – if Seto and Mahado had not heard the argument in the first place, what they had not heard would not be told to them. Why earn an extra scolding off of their friends, as well as the indignity of the events that have followed straight after said argument? Because it was apparent, really, neither the Egyptian courtier nor the brunette prince cottoned on to the fact the two sons of King Edward were arguing – that is, of course, until there was a sudden movement at the corner of Seto's eye.
The flash of action was followed by a loud crack, and a yelp. Stunned amber eyes found themselves staring into furious cerise, feeling the sharp sting of a hand's imprint on their owner's cheek.
The Crown Prince pulled his hand away from the other's face, his voice dangerously low as he spoke to his half-brother. "Don't you ever – ever – speak like that about my mother in front of me again."
Bakura tried to regain his wits. Had Atemu just…? Had he just been...?
Seto winced, the situation obvious. Atemu and Bakura had been arguing. The albino had gone one insult too far, and his half-brother had slapped him.
No-one had ever slapped Bakura before. Not his mother, not his father, not Seto, and most certainly not any of the court. Nobody hit an English Prince – except the Crown Prince it seemed, or at least, the Crown Prince while his half-brother was in shock.
The facts fitted into Bakura's mind, slotting neatly into place. Atemu had just slapped him.
Mahado was blinking, Seto was staring, and Atemu had just hit him.
Bakura shoved the Crown Prince, suddenly vengeful. "How dare you?!"
Ruby eyes flashed, Atemu shoving the albino just as hard in return. "How do I dare?! You insulted my mother!"
"You call that thing a mother?!" The younger prince's voice was scornful. "A slut maybe, but a -" His words were cut off by a flash of multicoloured movement, a yell as Atemu descended upon his half-brother, livid. Bakura staggered, and both princes fell to the ground in a flurry of flying capes, arms and various limbs.
Seto ran forward, trying to split the two up. He was surprised to see Mahado helping him, the foreign courtier dragging Atemu away from the fray. The brunette prince, in turn, caught hold of Bakura - who was now sporting a wonderful bruise over his eye, already beginning to purple.
"Let go of me!" Atemu struggled in his friend's grip.
Bakura squirmed, trying to escape his cousin's grasp. "Seto, keep out of this!"
A few more minutes of struggling, kicking and writhing and the two sons of King Edward gave up, their efforts in vain.
Mahado felt the Crown Prince sag against him, suddenly defeated. The courtier nodded to himself. "If I let you go, will you promise not to continue this mess?"
There was a slight pause, then Atemu nodded. "I give you my word." Mahado released him, and the English Heir stood, flicking his cape back into position over his shoulders, crimson eyes fixed in contempt on Bakura.
"And you?" Seto asked the albino. "Will you also give your word to cease this dispute?"
"…I will." Bakura, too, was released. He stood, smoothing his rumpled clothes with a pale hand, expression stormy.
"…I suppose it would be too much for you to apologise to him?" The brunette's voice was low enough so that only his white-haired cousin caught it, but Mahado and Atemu both saw how Bakura's head at once snapped to look at Seto, usually bright eyes dark and glaring.
"I will not apologise." The prince's words were a hiss.
"Bakura, you cannot go on this way-"
"I said no!" Anger once more coloured the youngest royal's voice, mingling there with bitterness, jealousy and hurt. How could Seto reprimand him? They had been friends since childhood, close, inseparable. But now…
Suddenly incapable of speech Bakura fled the room, shoving past both his cousin and his half-brother, the sound of his feet and the slam of the door echoing oddly off of Westminster's walls.
Bakura did not show up for the evening feast.
The meal was in the Great Hall again, the whole Court assembled to eat, drink, and gossip. Once more Atemu had to bear the room rising at his entrance, but this time he was accompanied in by both Mahado and Seto. The brunette had silently appeared at the doorway to the Hall just as the younger prince had arrived there, and they had entered together. The three of them even took seats together, the King motioning them over to sit at the royal table – though His Majesty didn't speak to them, obviously otherwise detained in a conversation with his half-sister, who sat beside him.
Partway through the meal, after checking to his right to see Mahado was well enough distracted by others surrounding them, Atemu turned to Seto. The brunette seemed to have recovered from his earlier awkwardness of that afternoon – the period shortly following the time Bakura had left them -, and was once again had the facial expression of a cheerfully neutral rock. Atemu had some questions…but some areas were not quite safe enough to tread on –yet – with his cousin. So…to the traditional safety zone it was.
"Her Highness the Princess Elizabeth is an interesting lady, wouldn't you agree?" Atemu made sure to keep his tone friendly and light. "And so highly intelligent! I feel quite shamed."
"Our aunt has that effect on a lot of people." Seto was still dreadfully distant. "It was worse when she was younger, I have been led to believe. Age, apparently, gives one a good enough for one's wisdom. But…to be female, and possess both youth and intelligence? Our aunt was both loved and loathed for her uncanny wits."
His cousin tried again. "She cannot be here only because of me."
"She isn't." Seto lazily leaned forwards on one elbow, suddenly involved in the conversation, effectively blocking their conversation from the watchful eyes of most of the rest of the Court. "Her royal Highness came also to advise His Majesty on the matter of a traitor."
"…A traitor?" Atemu blinked, curiosity in every syllable of his words. "Of what ilk?"
"…High Treason, I believe her charge is." The brunette's smile was mirthless; bitter. "It is amazing what one can be found guilty of even when locked in the Tower for so many years."
"The Tower of London." Seto inspected a pear thoughtfully, tossing it in the air and catching it with an easy grace. Tiring quickly of his game of catch he took a bite. "It's a royal residence, but makes a good prison for political…'guests'." The fruit disappeared promptly.
"H-How can you just…?" Atemu was lost for words.
Almost pitying blue eyes rested on him for a moment. "…Because that is what is done. People come, people go. The Court's size ebbs and flows, and the King's favour fluctuates day by day. Be thankful, cousin, that it is not our Grandfather's Court we reside in. His late Majesty was so much more volatile than your father."
"I heard of that. King Henry-"
"Wanted a son." Seto cut him off. "Something which your father has no lack of, so there is no chance of such madness that occurred in his father's reign happening once more."
His half-Egyptian companion bit his lip. "Some say there is a reason in all things, even madness. Surely, to want a male child in such a patriarchal society such as this cannot be so wrong?"
"Oh…it's not wrong." Seto sighed, taking a sip from his goblet. "What was wrong was the madness that drove our grandfather – the search for a male heir became his sole reason for existence. Such obsession…he drove himself to ill-health, and this country into chaos. England was rocked to its foundations, the religion shaken up and mixed, the people wandering about dazed and confused. There were protests, rebellions…" The eldest prince paused, looking at his cousin silently for a few moments. "…The English people dislike change, Atemu. They like things to be settled, peaceful – but will rile up at the slightest provocation, the merest hint all is not well with those that rule them, those that govern them, those that give them law. They are the mob that must be satisfied – for what use is a building's roof if its foundations are crumbling?"
"But…the King is the head of all England; what he says, goes."
Seto smiled his absent smile once more. "Ah, yes. The King is the head, cousin – but you mustn't forget one vital thing about that."
"And what would that be?" Atemu had long since abandoned eating, ignoring all around him in favour of listening solely to his cousin beside him. Seto finished his drink in a few quick swallows.
"Heads can be cut off."
Atemu's conversation was the Ambassador (translation):
"Your Highness... the crown jewels themselves can hold no candle to your beauty."
"A most gracious compliment, sir, though you flatter me muchly."
"You speak my language, your Highness?"
"It was an honour to meet you, Prince of the Rose."
On the traitor in the Tower: An actual detainee in the Tower of London, I'm drawing this person directly from the history books. If anyone can hazard a guess as to who they are I'll be extraordinarily impressed – though, do bear in mind, I've put their execution date a year that it occurred in actuality.
On Westminster Palace: Nowadays: 'The Palace of Westminster includes approximately 1,100 rooms, 100 staircases, and 3 miles (5 km) of passageways. The building includes four floors; the ground floor includes offices, dining rooms, and bars. The 'first floor' (known as the principal floor) houses the main rooms of the Palace, including the Chambers, the lobbies, and the libraries. The Robing Room, the Royal Gallery, the Prince's Chamber, the Lords' Chamber, the Peers' Lobby, the Central Lobby, the Members' Lobby, and the Commons' Chamber all lie in a straight line on this floor, from south to north, in the order noted. (Westminster Hall lies to a side at the Commons end of the Palace.) The top two floors are used for committee rooms and offices.' (Information taken from Wikipedia.)
On titles: Obviously 'King' is the highest title, followed by 'Crown Prince', 'Prince', 'Duke', 'Marquess', 'Earl', 'Viscount', 'Baron', 'Baronet' and 'Knight'. Past that we reach the 'untitled' classes, with 'Esquire'. 'Master' is a practically meaningless title in terms of the hierarchy of power, applicable to any male commoner. And these titles only cover royalty and nobility – in Western Europe. There's also the religious titles (I am not getting into that), as well as military.
On 'thee', 'thy' and 'thine': Very, very polite, courtly (ye olde –grins-) English. You'll only ever hear certain people speak into it (namely the polite, educated ones (or the ones trying vainly to grovel and cover their ass before royalty)), and then only sometimes. Seto uses it most commonly (insofar) because he was brought up to be so polite – not to his family, because he would most likely have been told to stop being so formal; not to Ambassadors, because he doesn't respect them enough. He lapses into with Mahado only because he's borderline blowing his temper, and he gets more and more clipped with the blonde as his wonderful temperament gradually goes downhill.
On language in general: Hell, I'm writing this very plainly, for Tudor England. I could go all courtly on you – but that's a pain. Fun, in small quantities, but a pain in anything larger than that.
On Seto: A note that really doesn't mean anything, but I really want to smack him this chapter. Hard. He's friggin' bipolar, and it bugs me. And it confuses Atemu, who I want to pick up and hug. So sue me, I empathise with his total predicament. …Ah…and do bear I mind Seto in this fic isn't Kaiba. He's lived a totally different life to the tall, dark and stubborn CEO we're all used to seeing, and has a (slightly?) different personality as a result. And pff. As if Bakura's just gonna kiss n' make up with Atemu. Are you kidding me?
Shadow: And that's the end of the quite lengthy notes for this chapter. …And I only just realised how many meals this chapter has too. Lord…soon you'll start thinking all Tudor England did was eat. (grins)
I have no idea when the next update for this'll be out, though the plot for the next chapter has been wholly sorted out. Truly, this update has been an absolute pain from the very beginning to write. (mutters)