Emmy: Well…it's been a long time. I doubt anyone is actually going to read this chapter. But I've come back from my undeclared, year long hiatus and am going to finish the fan fics I have put out there, no matter what!

Alright, so let me see where I left off…

XXX

"Mother! Have you seen that stupid little bird around? I can't find him!", Anzu cried as she stormed into the palace sitting room.

"Maybe it flew away," came a cool voice from a comfortable chair in the corner. Anzu turned her heated gaze on the other female, who was having a servant brush her long, shiny, dark brown hair. Secretly she wished her hair was as pretty, but she didn't say anything.

"Penguins can't fly, Elizabeth," she replied in a know-it-all sort of way.

"I didn't think they could live in Egypt either," was her lazy answer.

"Ryou said he was a special breed or something," she began, but before she could say another word Elizabeth let out a wail. Another day had gone by, and still there was no word of Ryou. How many days had it been now? It had to have been almost a week, at least. Honestly, Anzu didn't care. This meant that when it came time, instead of Prince Ryou marrying and running the kingdom with Elizabeth, it would be Anzu who would inherit the thrown from her Mother and marry to rule Egypt. The very thought made her heart flutter with excitement. This excitement was flattened by Elizabeth's crying.

"Oh! My dear Ryou! Where is he now? Laying at the bottom of a dark, dirty pit, at the mercy of the terrible Thief King Bakura?" She wailed once more, nearly sliding out of her chair. Kicking her legs frantically she cried, "Oh what will I do if he never returns?"

"Return the wedding dress and hope you can get your money back," Tea muttered with a roll of her eyes. Elizabeth sent her a seething look and sat up, promptly fixing her hair and straightening her fancy gown.

"I'll be keeping it, thank you," she snapped. "If not for our wedding then for another…" She lazily started curling a lock of hair around her fingers as she spoke. "It's not as if he was the first Prince to ask my hand anyway." Anzu snorted. Only moments ago she'd seemed so upset.

'She's getting tired of the act,' Anzu thought.

"There are plenty more in fact," she continued, looking over her perfectly manicured nails. "Far richer you know, and I must say almost all of them have…well," she looked around the room distastefully. "Less sand," she finished.

Anzu was losing her patience and didn't want to continue the conversation a second longer. Without evening giving a customary farewell, she briskly exited the room, still in search of her pet.

The hallway was abuzz with servants chattering and whispering amongst themselves. Anzu frowned. What business did they have, stopping all chores to whisper and gossip?

"What's going on here?" she asked, her hands on her hips. "Why aren't you all working?"

A nearby group of men paused to look at her, glanced at one another, and then one said, in a soft, serious tone, "His Majesty…seems to be getting worse."

"The Priests have all entered his chamber and have yet to come out," said another. All the servants were looking at Anzu with grave expressions. Others were glaring at her, and whispering to each other. She glared right back at them. "Has my Mother been told?", she asked.

"Her Majesty is already inside," the male servant replied. Anzu was curious as to what was going on behind the great stone doors to the Pharaoh's chamber, but knew she wouldn't be allowed in. She took her frustration out on the workers.

"Well this doesn't give you and excuse to stop working! All of you, get back to whatever it is you were doing! Go on!" she ordered in a very bossy manner that earned her more nasty looks.

'How dare they!' she thought. 'Who are they to opening glare at me?' Then a thought struck her. 'Unless they know…'

With her head still held high she stomped past them all, resuming the search for her feathery friend. She could still feel the glares on her, like rays from the sun. One servant up ahead, a boy with dark eyes and hair who looked about her age, stared at her, then muttered something under his breath to another servant, this one female. She nodded, as if agreeing to something. This irked Anzu and suddenly she was even angrier.

"What are you looking at?" she squawked, much like a bird with its feathers ruffled. "Back to work!" The servants quickly hurried on. She huffed.

'It seems like they all know…But how?'

XXX

Yugi awoke to the shaking of his own body. Opening bleary eyes he gazed up into the blurry face of Atemu. "Wake up.", he said. Yugi pushed himself up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and stretching his arms. It hadn't been the best nights sleep, but Yugi was a servant after all, so he wasn't used to too much luxury. He did, however, miss his cot back at the palace, small but the perfect size for him.

"It's time we be on our way," he heard Atemu say. The ill man appeared to be much better. He was already standing, arms crossed, waiting for Yugi, ready to go.

"You look way better. You're fever must have broken in the night!" he exclaimed. His cheerfulness was soon diminished as he realized he'd fallen asleep while he was supposed to be watching the man. His duty had been to take care of him. He'd failed.

'It wouldn't be the first time…' he thought, miserably.

Atemu nodded, his eyes studying the sky. "Do not worry," he said, abruptly. "You needed rest as well." Yugi felt a bit better hearing this.

"Where are we going now?", he asked, standing and looking around at the contents of their camp. It seemed Atemu had packed up anything useful. Where he'd packed it Yugi wasn't sure.

"Boy.", Atemu suddenly said.

"Yugi.", the boy piped up, in case Atemu hadn't remembered his name in the feverish haze he'd been in. The traveler smiled slightly, amused.

"Yugi," he corrected himself. "I would like to thank you for your kind care while I was ill. I believe the sun's rays had gotten to me. You, ultimately, saved my life." He bowed his head, regally, like the Priests at the palace bowed to the Pharaoh. Yugi felt his face get red. No one had ever bowed to him before. It felt strange, as if he were sampling some forbidden fruit. "In return for this, Yugi, I will guide you through the desert to safety, before I return to my own path."

Yugi nodded. "Thank you then Atemu. There's only one problem." He gazed at the ground, averting the other man's gaze.

"What is that?" asked Atemu, with genuine curiosity. Yugi lifted his head to explain, knowing he'd have to face his failure sooner or later.

He began his entire tale from beginning to end, though he left out some key parts. He explained how the Pharaoh had ordered him to bring the trunk to the village of Kul Elna, and about how the trunk would be in exchange for the safe return of the Prince. Atemu listened intently and Yugi noticed his eyes had become dangerously narrowed. "And…and then I saved you and, well that's it…What's wrong?" he asked, in a small voice.

"The Prince…Prince Ryou?" Atemu asked, his voice tight. Yugi nodded.

"Yes, Prince Ryou is the son of Pharaoh Rien," he replied. "His only living heir."

Atemu's lips twitched, as if itching to smile. "I see," he said, and then, "Tell me, did he tell you what was in the trunk?" Yugi shuffled his feet, and opened his mouth to say no, but something about Atemu, maybe it was his unblinking, impenetrable gaze, stopped him from lying.

"…I shouldn't say," he replied. "The Pharaoh trusted me not to tell anyone else." Atemu didn't look pleased, but he nodded.

"I see…" He did not say another word and the silence made Yugi uncomfortable because he was still being stared at. Atemu eventually spoke, slowly, "Did you happen to see what was in the trunk?" Yugi bit his lower lip, and nodded.

"Yes. Why?" Upon hearing this Atemu actually smiled and Yugi was confused as to why, until he reached into his cloak. The servant boy gasped at what he pulled out!

"Did it look anything like this?"

Dangling in tight grip of the dark colored man was a golden pyramid with the Eye of Horus planting in its center. A golden chair connected to its base so it hung upside down, its point sharp and perfect, despite the fact that it looked ancient.

"Do you know what this is?" Atemu asked, while Yugi gaped at it, looking like a fish out of water.

"That's…" He thought. It looked just like one of the items from the trunk, but he did not recall there being one with that shape. But it bore the Eye of Horus…wait!

"But my Pharaoh, even if you do know where and when you are supposed to meet this Thief King, are you really going to give him the seven items? From what you've told me, him possessing them all could mean the downfall of Egypt…" The Pharaoh was silent for a moment, and then began to get up again.

"Yes Yugi I know…but…Ryou is my son. My only family left…But, I'm not giving him all of the items…I only possess six."

Yugi pointed at it and gasped! "The Seventh Millennium item!" It had to be! It matched the other items he'd seen in the trunk before leaving the Pharaoh's chambers! Atemu made a gesture to shush him and Yugi clasped his hands over his mouth. Both stood perfectly still as Atemu appeared to be listening. His eyes darted around in their sockets, looking for the slightest sign of another life form. When he relaxed and nodded to signal they were defiantly alone, Yugi lowered his hands.

"Yes, this is the Seventh Millennium Item. And now that you recognize this," his voice became steely. "I now know the true danger of the situation we're in now." Yugi continued to stare at the puzzle as he spoke. "If the treasure in the trunk, the treasure you were sent to give to Bakura, really is the other six items…then we are in grave danger. I can't believe the Pharaoh would do such a thing." He said the last part lowly.

Yugi squirmed, discomforted by someone criticizing his ruler. Years of a servant in the palace had made him very loyal. Any talk against the Pharaoh, was talk against the Gods. He stuck up for the Pharaoh by saying, "He's ill…I think," he paused, not used to being able to share his opinion. "I think he wanted to make sure Prince Ryou returned so that he could see him again, Atemu, Sir. He is his only living heir, his only son." He fidgeted again. "Before…before he departs this world," he continued in a soft voice. Atemu watched him, and, Yugi noticed, his expression became less stern. His grimace disappeared, replaced by a face that intended to show no emotion. But just behind the eyes Yugi thought he saw sadness.

"Also," he continued. "I believe he wants to ensure Prince Ryou will take the thrown. If something were to happen to the Prince there would be no heir, and her Majesty Mai would inherit it."

"Her Majesty Mai," Atemu said slowly, gazing past Yugi, his eyes distant. Yugi turned over his shoulder to see what might have caught his eye, but there was nothing. "I remember her," the man said quietly. Yugi turned his attention back to him.

"Sir? Er--Atemu?" he asked.

"I could never forget her. Or her bratty little daughter," he continued in the same quiet voice. Yugi was used to hearing people talk about her Majest Mai and Princess Anzu behind their backs. No one ever dared to do it where someone other than a servant might here, it might cost them their life. But when the noble men and women were not around the servants spoke in soft whisper's of their dislike for the ladies. Yugi wasn't one to talk about people behind their backs, but that didn't mean he had liked them. They were the kind of noblewomen who put servants in their place, and treated them as he supposed servants were meant to be treated. He'd lived his whole life that way after all.

But older servants, his Grandfather for instance, spoke of the wonderful times when Queen Nani had lived. She'd been kind too all, reguardless of status. Pharaoh Rein always had been too.

But how did this wanderer known about the cruelty of Queen Mai and Princess Tea, when it was only shown to those in the palace?

"Atemu, have you worked at the palace?" he asked. It was possible. Yugi had been born two years before Queen Nani's death. That was still too young to remember ever face. Atemu could have been a servant, one he just didn't remember. 'But then why did he leave? Was he sent away?'

"I lived there," was Atemu's reply. But Yugi could tell there was more he wanted to say.

"Does…this have anything to do with what you told me when we met?" he asked, suspiciously.

"What did I tell you?" Atemu asked, a twinge of fear in his voice.

"You don't remember? You must have had too high a fever. You were probably hallucinating…"

"What did I tell you?" he demanded and Yugi flinched at the urgency in his voice now.

"I apologize," he said quickly.

"Well, Sir—."

"Atemu," he interrupted. "You may call me Atemu. No more Atemu-Sir." Yugi smiled slightly and nodded.

"Atemu then. You told me, when we met, that you were headed to Luxor and that…you were the Pharaoh," he finished. He watched the man closely but for a while all Atemu did was frown slightly and stroke his chin thoughtfully. At one point he turned his head sharply to look up at the rock wall behind them, again, listening for something. Yugi heard nothing and wondered why his companion seemed so nervous.

"Did I now…?" he finally spoke up. "…I believe I can explain things further later. You've trusted me, told me things you shouldn't have told, and in any other circumstance might have put the lives of millions at stake." Yugi's eyes widened in horror at Atemu's words. As if he didn't feel bad enough!

"Luckily," Atemu continued. "I am the perfect person to be told. In return for you giving me the knowledge I need, I will explain to you, the truth of this," he held up the puzzle once more, "And of myself. Now, however, time is of the essence. First thing is first. We need to find the items."

"But it was lost in the sandstorm, it could be anywhere," Yugi argued sadly.

"It doesn't matter. That trunk—those items—They are the key piece in this game." His eyes narrowed. "And to win this game, we need to beat the Thief King."

'He referred to it as a game,' Yugi thought curiously. 'Isn't that what Thief King Bakura said too?'

"Bakura's goal obviously is to obtain them, and I doubt he wants just six. He'll want this as well." Atemu stashed the puzzle back into his cloak. "We're already one step ahead, as long as I have this."

"But, Atemu, the Pharaoh told me to get the items to Bakura. Without them, we can't bring home Prince Ryou." Atemu seemed amused.

"Yugi, do you really believe that the Thief King is just going to give Ryou to you like that? If you came walking up to him with that trunk, holding so much power, just you alone, he'd most likely take it and you as well, to serve him. Even with those two men you were traveling with before, you'd be not match for a Thief King. He no doubt has many skilled followers as well, if he was able to break into the palace to kidnap Ryou in the first place."

Yugi hadn't thought of it like that…He'd just been following orders, trusting the Pharaoh, and trying to complete his task.

"I don't mean to criticize the Pharaoh," he went on. "His heart was in the right place…but if he is as ill as you says he is…and his only son left were taken, I believe he might make a few rash decisions. His mind, is no doubt, not working in the way it once was, and fear probably clouded his judgment."

Yugi knew this all made sense. He just didn't want to believe it. Pharaoh Rein was a man all turned to for guidance, and leadership. It felt wrong, and scary, to know that the Pharaoh himself, could make such terrible mistakes.

"He probably thought…as long as Bakura didn't have the Puzzle, everything would be alright, and Ryou would be returned to him," Atemu added.

"Speaking of that…Why do you have that Puzzle?" Yugi asked. This question had been itching to be answered. "How is it that you have it? You told me you lived at the palace. Did the Pharaoh give it to you?" There was something Yugi was not being told here.

"I will explain later," the man said quickly. "Like I told you before. Again, as I've already said, we're wasting precious time standing here. So we must find the trunk."

"To find the items," said Yugi. Atemu nodded.

"Looks like I've saved you a lot of time then," said a voice that belonged to neither Atemu or Yugi. Both spun around to see a figure, standing above them on a rock ledge. Her face was hidden in rags obviously torn from her own clothes to create a shield from the sun. Her shirt was so ripped apart so much the it only covered from the breasts and up. Her skirt had been ripped too, but it was tattered from travel. Her skin was sandy, dirty and tanned just as dark as Atemu's.

It took a Yugi a moment to realize that the rock her right foot was resting on was not a rock at all, but a very familiar looking trunk.

'The items!'

XXX

Meanwhile, all alone, our Prince was laying on the cave floor, his face pressed against the cool stone. Eyes shut, body unmoving he was trying his best to sleep. But it wouldn't come to him. He let out a long sigh and rolled over, his sides aching from the hardness of the stone.

It seemed like hours had gone by since Bakura had left him. At first he'd been afraid. The dark did unnerve him. He was used to sleeping with a window, giving him a perfect view of the stars at night overhead. In the cave it was just black. He wasn't that afraid anymore though. The cool, darkness had become soothing, like a blanket it covered him completely and it was the first time he'd felt peaceful in a long time. He felt detached from everything. He felt far away from Bakura, the thieves, his Father, Egypt, and everything. It was as if there was nothing but him in the darkness.

Right now, he didn't mind it so much. It's what he wanted, to be far away from all his troubles. Not just Bakura and the kidnappers, but even his Father's illness, and his arranged marriage; His bratty Step-Sister and his less than motherly Step-Mother. All of that didn't matter anymore.

And then there was a ripple of movement in the darkness as he felt a presence enter his retreat.

"Are you alive?" a familiar voice asked. Oh good, it was only Bam. Reluctantly he opened his eyes and pulled himself into a sitting position. The darkness around him was now like a shroud, preventing him from getting his bearings. He could hardly see.

"Yes, still alive, thank you," he replied in a strange, monotone voice that wasn't his own. He lacked the energy and motivation to speak with any emotion.

"You don't sound like it," Bam whispered. Ryou heard him as he shuffled forward. He nearly fell on top of the Prince as he tripped over Ryou's good leg. Ryou truly wondered how this boy was ever going to become a thief. Maybe he would fail at it and become something else, like a bard. That would be one less trouble for Ryou to worry about.

"Here." Bam suddenly thrust something into Ryou's hands. He felt it, sniffed it, and came to the conclusion it was some sort of dried meat. He stomach suddenly twisted at the thought of meat. He hadn't had a real meal in days…and this was the first bit of meat.

"Compliments of Thief King Bakura?" he asked dryly, before taking a big bite.

"No. Listen, don't tell anyone I brought you this ok?" Bam asked, still speaking softly. Ryou heard nervousness in his voice. Before he could ask anything there was another shuffle and he knew Bam was gone.

Laying back down and eating his meat slowly (even though he wanted to scarf it all down as fast as he could) he wondered about Bam, and why he'd acted so funny. If Bakura hadn't ordered this to be sent to him, who had? Had Bam actually gone against orders and brought it to Ryou of his own will? If so, then why?

'He didn't seem like the others. He's still just a kid, but not like Malik. Malik is immature and wants to be mature, but Bam has not yet been corrupted. I think he only joined to be with his sister,'

So Bam had probably felt sorry for him. The Prince wished he'd had time to thank Bam properly for doing something both of them figured Bakura would be against. This action gave him a bit of hope. Not everyone was against him. Even though Bam was a kidnapper at heart, Ryou felt he knew what he was doing was wrong. That's why he felt bad and wanted to bring Ryou the food.

He had paced himself but still the jerky was gone in a manner of minutes. He stomach ached for more, and he really had to use a toilet. He considered relieving himself in one of the pots of treasure but didn't think Bakura would take to kind to that.

Ryou couldn't decide weather he was happy or not to finally have Bakura return to the room.

"Have a nice sleep?" asked the cool voice. Ryou felt his long, red, mantel fluttering in the darkness as he moved with ease, going to light candles.

"I have to use the toilet," was the first thing out of his mouth. "I really do."

Bakura laughed, continuing to light candles. "Have Marik take you." It was then that Ryou suddenly noticed, with a jump, the tall, dark, figure standing by the entrance. He was still as stone and so quiet Ryou hadn't even heard his footsteps.

"Er, would you, please?" he asked. He felt awkward. There was nothing more degrading then not being able to walk yourself to the bathroom. Marik said nothing but gave a nod and bent down to pick the boy up.

He had finally escaped the dark bedchambers. As they walked towards the cave entrance Ryou had the weirdest feeling. They walked towards the light and the darkness began to recede. He wondered if this is what it was like, leaving earth and your body behind.

He saw the faces of Iyuna, Malik, and Bam, looking at him. Malik said nothing, and turned away to face the his butterfly jar. Ryou wondered if he was still angry.

"Look, it's the gimp," Iyuna said, in a dull, bored tone.

Bam was glancing at him nervously, from his spot where he was polishing knives. Ryou gave him a small, quick, smile, hoping to get across that he was thankful, but Bam just looked away quickly, huddling over the knives and hiding his face from view.

"What's with you?", he heard Iyuna ask just before they reached the entrance.

Marik walked him down the side of the cliff. This was the farthest he'd ever been from his captures, and the closest he had come to the possibility of escape. Still, he was injured, and there was Marik, which stopped him from putting his plan into action.

"Just go over here," Marik ordered, setting him down next to a pile of rocks and a small fern bush that looked like it had seen better days.

"What do I use to—err—you know…"

Marik snorted and pointed to the fern. Ryou expressed disgust. "How crude."

"That's how life is out here, Prince. There are people who do this every day. Sorry everything is not to your luxury," Marik drawled, crossing his arms. He continued to stand there, staring at the boy.

"Aren't you going to turn around?" Ryou asked. "I can't go with you staring at me like that." His kidnapper smirked.

"Try to run away and you'll probably kill yourself," was his warning before he turned his back and walked a few paces away.

When Ryou was finished and they were on their way back to the cave Ryou asked, casually, "So, is there any word on the ones coming to rescue me?" Marik stopped walking and turned his gaze onto Ryou.

"No."

"Oh…" Ryou wondered why. What was taking so long? Wouldn't his farther send more men by now? He wondered…

"What is it that the Thief King desires?" he asked. If Bakura didn't want him to known then Marik probably wouldn't tell him either. He got the answer he expected.

"A collection of treasures that the Thief King has been trying to acquire for a long time." No specifics. He knew he wasn't going to get anymore answers so he didn't ask any more questions.

And so Marik carried him back to the cave. Malik and Bam were still averting their eyes but Iyuna watched him the whole time, never blinking. Before he could escape her haunting look Bakura appeared. "Just leave him here," he said to Marik, not even looking at the boy, as if he were an object not a person. "I want to speak with you alone."

Marik nodded and set Ryou down to the side, before disappearing in the back of the cave with Bakura.

"Tried walking again, Gimpy?"

Ryou glared at Iyuna. "Stop calling me a gimp," he snapped. She glared right back at him and he half expected her to jump up and swipe at him, but she stayed put.

"That's what you are now."

"I am not!" he cried.

"Try and walk then, why don't you?" she challenged. When Ryou didn't move she shook her head, and said mockingly, "You're afraid because you know you're a gimp now and you won't ever be able to walk right again. You'll need a cane to get around now. Ha, that'll be a sight. The youngest Pharaoh to ever walk around on a cane, like some old man."

Where was all this hostility coming from?

"Don't mind her," said a voice. Malik was peering at him from over his shoulder. "She's being bitchy because she's bored." Iyuna turned her death glare to him and he looked away, but continued to talk. "We're all a little irritable right now. You know, we don't normally live in conditions like this for this long."

"We're not as mangy as you might think," Iyuna interjected. "We're stuck here in this godforsaken place because of you. Doesn't the Pharaoh give a damn about his own son? Why hasn't he sent those fucking—?!"

"Iyuna!" Malik said sharply. She narrowed her eyes at him, but then turned pink. Ryou perked up a bit. She'd almost told him what the treasure Bakura wanted was.

"Sent what?" he asked anxiously.

"None of your concern," she replied coldly, before sighing.

"It's frustrating," Malik continued softly. He was being so much quieter and subdued then when Ryou had last seen him the change was almost scary. "Just sitting here, waiting. We're running out of food. We'll eventually have to go back and get some. The bread has long gone stale."

Seeing Ryou's expression Iyuna explained defensivly, "We can live hard! But that doesn't mean we have to…we're fine thieves, not lowly peasants."

Suddenly Ryou understood. They all acted tough, and hard, and maybe there were, but out here, in this cave, they were just unhappy as him. It hadn't occurred to him that his kidnappers would feel this way, but obviously they did. He imagined their original hideout must have been much nicer. Maybe then they'd each had their own bed, not just Bakura. This was another thought that hadn't occurred to him. They had to sleep on the floor every night, just like him. He could see Iyuna at their original hide out—their home--lying on a soft, nice, stolen bed, and Bam eating as much of the delicious, fresh, stolen, fruit as he could handle. They called him spoiled, but the thieves he sat with were just as used to familiar comforts as he was!

This realization made him realize that really, they were all in the same boat out here.

"I know it's frustrating," the Prince said.

"You think I'm having fun out here?" Iyuna scowled at him but said nothing. The other two were silent as well. Ryou took this silence to try his luck with these three.

"You can get out of here as soon as my Father sends the ransom right? Well how do you know he has it? What if that's why its not coming?"

"He has it. The King said so," Malik replied. Ryou decided not to question the 'King' again, like he had with Malik before.

"Then…mind telling me what it is?" he asked hopefully. "If I knew, I could tell you for sure if my Father—!"

"Save it," said Iyuna, before he could continue. "I'm no fool. I'm not going to tell you. If The King wanted you to know, you already would." Ryou sighed, giving up. He tried to catch Bam's eye, but the boy was still hunched over his work.

They all sat in silence after that. But the silence wasn't long. Soon Marik and Bakura returned. "I'll be taking him with me," Bakura announced as he leaned down to pick Ryou up. "Iyuna, you're on first duty tonight. Bam, you next. Keep a sharp eye out," he ordered. The frustration that had befallen his followers hadn't seemed to infect him yet.

"Yes, my King," Iyuna and Bam said together. Bam's nervous face was the last he saw before he was taken, once again, into the dark, depths of the cave.

XXX

"Who are you?" Yugi asked.

"That depends," the cloaked woman—for with a voice like that it surely had to be female—replied. "On weather we be enemies or allies."

"I knew I heard someone…" Atemu growled. He stepped in front of Yugi, the boy realized, to remove him from harms way. "You've been listening haven't you? How much have you heard?"

"Everything," she replied. "And enough to know that what I have is of great importance to you." Atemu was scowling, Yugi's eyes were wide with surprise and fear.

"And how are we to know that's the right trunk?" Atemu asked, carefully. She lifted her foot and opened the lid, taking from inside, a long, golden rod with the Eye of Horus in the center, and two blades around that.

"That's one of the items!" Yugi cried. "I remember!"

"That's right." The woman placed the rod back inside. "And there's more here too."

"I assume now that you know what they are…you plan on taking the Puzzle from me, don't you?" Atemu asked. Yugi noticed he was standing taller now, looking mighty and quite strong, as if not even a stampede of camels could knock him down.

The woman, then, actually chuckled. She lifted the trunk. "Not exactly." She gave a great leap which made both Atemu and Yugi gape in awe of her strength. She landed with a thud, on both feet, only a few yards from them. "You see," she continued, as if the ten foot leap down had been nothing more than a stroll down a hill side. "I have a bone to pick with the Thief King myself." There was venom in her voice and Yugi got the distinct expression that she was no enemy of theirs.

"What is it you desire then?" Atemu asked. He sounded confused, just like Yugi.

"The head of Bakura," she replied simply. Both males were taken aback.

"So, you're on our side!" Yugi chirped happily.

"I suppose," she replied.

"We have to be sure," Atemu said firmly. "How are we not to know you're a servant of the Bakura? We have no reason to trust you."

The woman was silent, and then she set the trunk down, putting her foot on it again. She needed her hands free to remove the scarf covering her face…

"Miss Acacia!"

The woman gave a wary smile. "That's right. You know me?" she asked.

"I'm from the palace!" he cried, joyfully. A familiar face! This far in the desert? "Miss Acacia!" he cried again, the explained to Atemu, "She is the personal guard of Prince Ryou! We can trust her! Oh Miss Acacia if you're here, does that mean--?"

"No," she said lowly, and Yugi's smile faltered. Her smile had gone and now she looked tired and her face had gone stony.

"Acacia…" Atemu murmured. His eyes brows were raised at he stared at the woman. She looked at him and frowned slightly.

"You…" she said. "You look familiar." Atemu didn't reply for a minute.

"Tell us what happened to Ryou," he ordered. Acacia looked down to the ground, with shame written all over his face.

"Miss Acacia?" Yugi asked, timidly. "Please tell us what happened…You were listening right? So you know all about the items. But now we want to know about you, and Prince Ryou? Is he ok? Are you ok?"

"Come," Atemu said. "Let us all sit. You look like you could use a rest." Acacia gave him another odd look.

"I could swear I've seen you before," she said, softly.

"He used to live at the palace," Yugi said, before he could help himself. Atemu looked at Yugi, and the boy knew he was unhappy. He took a step back and hung his head.

"You did?" Acacia asked.

"Tell us about the Prince," Atemu said firmly. "Please, there are more important things to discuss." Acacia nodded and sat down, crossing her legs. Atemu and Yugi did the same.

"The night he was kidnapped," she began, "They came through the window. It was foolishly left open. The Prince always liked to sit on the sill and watch the sky. They came in, and I tried to stop them…There were four of them. It was him, Bakura, who held a dagger to the Prince's throat. I froze and it was then that two others were on me. I wouldn't have been able to stop them, they were too strong…but I might have been able to hold them off until further help arrived had one not hit me over the head." Now Acacia gaze shifted downward again.

"They took me too…but let me go in the middle of the desert, thinking the sun would kill me. I…I awoke and was alone. The Prince was gone."

Atemu was watching Acacia through slightly narrowed eyes.

"And that's what happened?" he asked.

"Yes."

"So we still don't know if the Prince is alive…" Yugi murmured sadly.

"Oh he'll be alive," Acacia said, bitterly. "Bakura wouldn't dispose of his one valuable piece. He would ensure that he had these items before any serious harm came to the Prince."

"How do you know?" Yugi asked.

"I just do," she said quickly.

"Yes," Atemu said, slowly. He was still watching her carefully. "He's known throughout all Egypt…Ryou will be alive, but in what condition, that cannot be known."

"It's all my fault…" Acacia said, her voice suddenly swelling with emotion. "I failed him…I failed the Pharaoh…I failed the Gods, oh Rah I failed…"

"Miss Acacia…" Yugi said her name softly, reaching out a hand to hold hers. He could relate to her. The past few days of his life had been spent feeling like a failure.

"All of us here have made mistakes," Atemu said, suddenly. The other two looked up to him, for he was now standing. "But there is a way to right out wrongs. You may both feel like you have failed, but we only truly fail when we give up. There is still a way to fix this, and win this game."

Acacia stood up as well, and Yugi followed her. Both nodded solemnly.

"We're going to save the Prince," said Yugi, his childish face suddenly becoming determined.

"We're going to kill Bakura," Acacia snarled. Atemu looked them both in the eye.

"We're going to save all of Egypt."

XXX

Emmy: Yay! Hey this ended up a lot longer than I thought it would be.

To any of you who actually read this…I'm sorry for the wait. I don't expect many people to read this, but if you do, would you review?

I'm going to finish this story!