A/N: I honestly do think that the plot bunnies are getting organized against us. I've started taking measures to defend myself against them, but as you can tell, they're breaking through. Anyway, this fanfiction is a bit out of my usual territory, as some of my older readers might notice, but the idea's been staying with me for a while now and I figured that I'd get it onto paper, or, in this case, computer screen. In any case, this first chapter at the very least is longer than they normally are in my fanfictions, so I hope it works well. I'm not absolutely certain at this point, but I don't think that there will be any couplings this time, a features that's been playing in a lot of my newer pieces, most of which haven't been started just yet. So to close my opening notes, I don't own Yugioh, but I do hope that you like this new fanfiction anyway. Read, enjoy, and if you would, review.
"-...-" Ancient Egyptian
"..." Modern Arabic
"Return of the King"
Dreams and Hope
It was the tenth month that Atemu had possessed his own body, separate from his other half's, and it was his tenth night of battle-filled dreams. Foreign armies rode against Egypt, slaughtering her sons and defiling her daughters. Egypt's armies tried to defend their country but lacked the power, as well as a certain sense of the spirit. Even the kohl-lined eyes of the new pharaoh were weary of bloodshed and losing hope in their survival. Such familiar blue eyes. Why did you have to leave us, my cousin, just before one of our darkest hours? We need you, Atemu.
Crimson orbs shot open as Atemu woke up, gasping for breath. He couldn't take it any longer. The dreams grew too much.
Throwing off his blankets, he dressed quickly before grabbing his coat to ward off the chill present in the middle of the night despite it being summer in Japan. While borrowing Yugi's body, already used to the local climate, he'd been fine and warm at twenty degrees, but with his own Egyptian skin he preferred things to be much warmer.
With skills taught to him by none other than the embodied tomb robber himself, for the reason that "You have to be able to survive until I can kill you", he moved silently past Yugi's ajar door and Jii-san's closed one, sneaking down the stairs and slipping out through the door.
"There were no Egyptian temples in Japan – not even in Domino, which housed almost an entire Egyptian court complete with priests and dancer." But for the lone pharaoh in his time of desperation, there was one place that he could use to find solace: The Domino City Museum.
It was, of course, closed. However, as much as he loathed admitting it, Bakura was right to say that being closed had never stopped a shadow user from entering a building, and Atemu wasn't about to start letting it.
As he was passing from the shadows, shoes touching on the polished floor, he felt another's mind brush against his. /Atemu? What are you doing?/
/Who says I'm doing anything?/ the pharaoh asked, stepping through the Egyptian exhibit, which was curiously free of alarms. /Don't worry, aibou./
/Then would you mind at least explaining where you are?/ Yugi questioned, and the spirit could practically see his hikari glaring with his arms crossed over his chest. The teenager had definitely been spending too much time with the tomb robber. /And don't tell me that you're still in your bed and playing with the shadows to help you get to sleep because I'm sitting on your bed right now./ Far too much time.
Atemu sighed. /I'm at the museum./
Yugi's voice was sympathetic even through their link. /The nightmares again? Have they been getting worse?/
/Wake me up when you get back then, so I don't have to worry,/ the hikari said, yawning. /Goodnight, Yami./
/Sleep well, Hikari,/ Atemu said, closing the link.
Normally on these nights, if he left the Mouto household, the spirit would go to the tablet and remember his Egypt, of which now only a scattered few members of the court and a few tribes of tomb keepers and mejia remained. Oh, and one tomb robber, but he didn't really count.
But he didn't stop in front of the ancient tablet this night, for he wasn't seeking memories. Carefully kneeling, Atemu stared up into the stone face of Ra.
"-My lord Ra, I beg your aid. For these past ten nights, I have been plagued by dreams showing me the destruction of my people. Please, give me a way to help them.-"
The spirit lowered his head to the ground and waited, but for what he didn't know. Suddenly, a hand fell upon his shoulder. He froze as a voice that was thousands spoke.
"-Gather your allies, Atemu. Convince your priests and reunite your followers as they are scattered across the desert. Bright together what is left of Our Egypt, and bring them to the keepers' valley. Do this, and We will aid you from there.-"
"-Thank you, my lord,-" Atemu whispered, nearly shaking under the god's powerful touch.
"-You have pleased Us in the past, young pharaoh. We believe that you will do so again this time.-" Ra's grip on his shoulder grew firmer and Atemu could feel his amusement in the air. "-Thief, do you think that We have not noticed you? Come out and take your place before Us.-"
"-It was more along the lines of me hoping that you didn't feel like paying attention to me.-"
Bakura? Out of the corner of his eye, Atemu caught sight of silver hair as the tomb robbed leaned casually against an ornamental pillar. The utter rudeness before the sun god was shocking to the game king. Fortunately for the both of them, along with the structure of the building, Ra seemed to be more amused by the act of defiance than angered.
"-So you still refuse your upbringing, Akifa,-" Ra said, letting go of Atemu's abused shoulder. "-Do you still begrudge Us for Our high priest's actions, even after We saved you from death?-"
"-Maybe I just found an occupation that suits my personality better,-" Bakura said, snorting. "-Priest Akifa sounds stupid anyway.-"
"-You will aid Atemu in his quest,-" the god said with an air of finality that not even Bakura dared to challenge. "-Go ahead of him and gather the Mejia and the tomb keepers so that he may meet with them as one. We have decided.-"
Surprisingly, Bakura pushed himself from the pillar and moved to kneel down next to Atemu, who was still rather frozen in shock. "-If it is your will, my lord Ra.-"
With that, the god's presence vanished from the room and the spirit formerly of the puzzle found himself able to breathe again. Bakura was scowling as they each straightened up, muttering furiously under his breath.
"Priest Akifa?" Atemu questioned, raising an eyebrow as he regained his calm.
"Akifa's my child name, and I was originally raised to become a priest to Ra," Bakura said, stretching. "Ironic, isn't it? Could have become High Priest if it weren't for Seth's father." He snorted softly. "Damn them to hell that I still can't disobey an order from the gods."
"Why were you here, Bakura?" he asked, suspicious. "If something here went missing, Ishizu would know the first place to look for it."
"I wasn't here to steal anything, so you can stop your not-so-subtle hinting that I was," the white-haired man growled. "As for why I am here, why don't you ask him?" He jerked his head in the direction of the statue. "Someone had to disable all of the alarms, and Ra's a lazy ass." Bakura ignored the pharaoh's hiss at his blasphemy. "Well, I'm beat, and it looks like I'll be catching the first flight to Egypt in the morning. Ten days. If you're not in the valley of the tomb keepers by then, I'm leaving."
"Ten days," Atemu agreed, nodding. "Though I suspect it'll take at least half of that time to convince Kaiba to go along with us, and the other half to convince Jii-san."
"Have fun with that," Bakura said, smirking. "By the way, I'm leaving Ryou under your care until we meet up in Egypt. I won't have time to be watching over the kid all the time."
"And you think I will?" the royal asked, but he was asking the air, for Bakura had already vanished into the shadows. "I hate him. Really, I do."
Yugi was sitting up in bed by the time Atemu stepped back out of the shadows in the younger teenager's bedroom, rubbing sleep from his eyes. "How'd it go?"
Too exhausted from that night's ordeal to walk the ten feet to his own room, Atemu flopped down on the bed as soon as he managed to kick off his shoes and struggle out of his jacket, shifting just enough so that the hikari could pull the blankets over both of them. "How would you feel about an impromptu trip to Egypt?"
"And just what brought this on?" Yugi asked, settling on his side to watch his yami's face in the moonlight that leaked in through the open blinds.
"Oh, you know, the usual: Start talking to a statue of a god and he talks back," Atemu remarked wryly as he buried his face in a pillow.
"I swear, only in Domino," Yugi muttered, smiling slightly with a roll of his violet eyes. "How long do we have to get there?"
The reply was muffled by a mouthful of tan pillowcase. "Ten days."
"Well, that doesn't sound too hard," Yugi said, thinking out loud. "Use the first few to convince Jii-san, then another to book the flight and pack. We can get there a day or so early even and do some touring maybe."
Atemu rolled over. "It's not that simple, I'm afraid. We have to gather everyone in Domino, Kaiba especially."
Yugi winced. "Ouch. Well, that complicates things, doesn't it? Even if he did finally accept the rod from us when you and Bakura got your own bodies, I don't think he's taken it out of its glass case since he got it. Can't we get Bakura to convince him?"
"Nope. The thief leaves for Egypt first thing in the morning. Ra told him to go ahead of us and gather our numbers there. That's why I have the ten-day deadline," the spirit said. "Ugh, too much to think about this late. Go to sleep hikari." With that, he pulled the blanket up over his head and rolled onto his right side, pointedly facing away from Yugi as if to say that there would be no more talking this night.
"Goodnight, Atemu," Yugi chuckled, curling up against his other's back to share the heat. A sleepy grunt was his only answer.
Over the years of dealing with Seto Kaiba, the two game kings had learned that, in even in social matters, one had to go through special channels. Namely, they had to go through Mokuba.
"You've got to be kidding me," the dark-haired preteen said, leaning back in his chair. "There is no way that Seto is going to Egypt, especially on the beck and call of an Egyptian god. I'm kind of surprised you didn't send Bakura to convince him though."
"The thief will already be on the way there by now," Atemu said, wishing greatly to pound his head on the desk Mokuba sat behind. "I'm not sure whether it's really a good idea to have let him and Marik loose on Alexandria unsupervised."
"Ishizu's there," Yugi pointed out.
"So it Rashid, and he'll cover for Marik in a heartbeat," the darker half countered. He turned back to the younger Kaiba. "Could you talk to him for us, please?"
"Fine, but you'll owe me for this," Mokuba said, sighing.
When Bakura stepped out of the plane and into the Egyptian sun, he was glad that he'd been sent alone since it allowed him a moment of childish glee to spin around with his arms spread. He was home.
"Someone's in a good mood," a voice said, speaking in modern Arabic.
"I'm always in a good mood when I'm away from the royal shrimp," Bakura said, walking up to the blond and embracing him. "It's been too long, Marik."
"Not according to my sister," Marik replied, grinning as he led the spirit to the waiting motorcycle. "She's waiting at a cafe in town with Rashid."
"I hope the place serves real food, and not that imported American junk Ryou's friends are so fond of."
The pair laughed as they mounted the bike and rode toward town, carefully avoiding the people on foot because "Ishizu threatened to stop paying for the fuel."
"So where is Ryou?" Marik asked, pushing open the café door. He sent a cheerful wave to the owner, who muttered something about 'another one' in a tone that clearly said he was going to lock up the valuables as soon as he had a free moment.
"Left him in Japan with his holiness," Bakura said, flopping down at a partially occupied table. "Hello, Ishizu, Rashid."
"You've been here only once before in the last five thousand years and yet you still manage to walk around like you own the place," the woman said with a light smile. "Priest Bakura," she added by way of greeting.
Catching his cue, the thief switched to Japanese as well, frowning. "I'm no priest, Ishizu, and I never will be one, upbringing be damned. If we only ever became what our first lessons told us to be, we wouldn't be having this conversation because I would have died normally here five thousand years ago and the two of you would still be underground."
The Tauk bearer winced, glancing guiltily at her younger brother. Quickly, she changed the subject. "How do you plan to find the Mejia? The Ishtar clan lost contact with them shortly after becoming tomb keepers."
"If they're still able to use their magics, I'll find them," the white-haired man said with a shrug as a hand reached up to brush against the ring. "I wouldn't have been sent to find them had it been out of my ability. Trust me on this one. While I'm out seeking them, however, I need you three to work at convincing your clan. It shouldn't be too hard, not now that Marik has his proper item. So, Shadi finally coughed it up?"
Marik jumped. "How'd you know I received the scales?"
Bakura rolled his eyes. "Please. The shadows are still tasting your aura, and I can sense the scales themselves. It's obvious if you know how to look."
Rashid smiled. "I wonder what the Pharaoh would say if he knew how attuned to the items you are."
"Only makes sense," Bakura said with a shrug. "My blood was used to make them in the first place. So, what do you think our chances of convincing your clan really are?"
"They won't risk disobeying Marik in case we should be telling the truth," Ishizu said, taking a sip of water. "Not now that the pharaoh has been resurrected. One of our purposes in remaining isolated was to be free to answer the call of our king when he needs us. Let us worry about our own kin, tomb robber. You worry about what the Mejia will try to do when they notice an embodied spirit sneaking around their lands."
The forenamed thief grinned, canines flashing. "Oh, they won't notice me until I've gotten tired of sneaking and announce myself."
The owner of the café wasn't so sure he liked the way that the two pale-haired teenagers laughed. Oh yes, it was time to buy bigger locks for the safe.
Several miles and a couple of thousand years away, the Pharaoh Seth wiped sweat from his forehead. The spirits of his people was already falling as it was, and to see him in a state that was less than godly would not help in the least. A map was laid out on the table before him, marked with the movements of his own troops and the little they knew of their enemy's rapidly changing paths of destruction. It was as though they were being herded, like so many cattle, into the desert.
"-Seth, you are no good to Egypt if you die from exhaustion, be it by heat or overwork,-" Isis said, stepping into the tent. "-Surely a short nap will not be the source of our downfall.-"
"-I don't seem to be any good to Egypt anyway, so what's the use?-" he growled, tearing his eyes from the map to glare at the priestess. "-Don't you have soldiers to be tending to?-"
"-They are concerned for you,-" she said.
"-They are concerned that I will get them killed,-" Seth corrected bitterly, returning to his charts. "-They are concerned that I will fail now that I no longer have the shadows to help fight and my cousin no longer directs us all. It is a concern I share with them.-"
Isis sighed, shaking her head sadly. "-You have no faith in yourself, Seth. Atemu trusted you with his people--"
"-I never said he was wise,-" he interrupted.
"-He trusted you with his people and he trusted that you would be able to protect them even without the ability to call upon the shadows,-" she finished, frowning. "-Your cousin would not have wanted you to nearly kill yourself in the process.-"
The new pharaoh snorted. "-Why not? That's exactly what he did, and that was with the aid of the shadows.-"
"-Which he sealed for a purpose!-" Isis said, raising her voice. "-And he was able to give up his life for it because Atemu knew that you would be able to take his place! You have no sons, no brothers, and no living family to take the throne after your death! Egypt needs a pharaoh, Seth, and until you produce an heir, you're it.-"
"-Full points on your speech, priestess, but I have work to do,-" he said, towering over the woman. "-Tend to your duties and allow me to tend to mine. Dismissed.-"
He didn't allow himself to lean on the table until she'd left the tent, wishing to pound his head against it. Damn that woman for being right. In giving up, he'd be breaking his promise to Atemu, doubly damn his soul for laying such a heavy responsibility on Seth's shoulders.
Stepping to the doorway of the royal tent, he looked outside, odd blue eyes – a rare color in Egypt – scanning over his camp. The soldiers here were only a fraction of Egypt's total armies, the majority spread over the land to defend where they were needed. Atemu, what should I do?
He ducked back under the cloth before any of his former fellow priests, or any of the new ones for that matter, could spot him and start worrying over his health. Perhaps a little rest would help, if only to give his mind a fresher start at guessing the enemy's next moves. As he slept, Seth dreamed.
He knew it to be a sign that he had been working too much in the heat with too little water because the Thief King Bakura walked through the desert sands under Atemu's colors, searching for something using Mahado's ring, and a stranger, also under the former pharaoh's colors, bore Shada's scales as he spoke to a group of people under the sands.
But despite the fact that he dreamed of one of the worst opponents in the time of the shadows, and of a man whom he'd never seen who also bore strangely pale hair, the images sent a strange sense of hope through him.
The last thing he saw before being awoken by a messenger was a pair of hauntingly familiar crimson eyes. Seth, cousin, we are coming. Hold on.
"-My Lord Pharaoh, I beg forgiveness for waking you, but I have an urgent message from our southern front,-" the messenger said, bowing low.
"-Give it to Us and fetch Our priests,-" Seth said, getting to his feet. "-Tell them that We have received a message from the gods.-"
The man blinked. "-A message, my lord?-"
Seth closed his eyes, smiling for the first time in what seemed like years. "-Help is on its way.-"