Summary: It was as unexpected as snow on sand, as wrong as hell, and more painful than either could imagine, but was it worth it? A tragic tale of love and loss. Casteshipping Atemu/Akefia
A/N: Yes, a new fic. - But this one practically wrote itself. It's not going to be a mega-long one, I've already planned it out. Around ten, if less, chapters. You see, I was in English one day and we had to recall or make up an incident in relation to Romeo and Juliet. Considering my sudden (but not surprising) love for Casteshipping, I was all over the tragic romance deal and turned it into a fanfiction. Yay me! Anyway, thanks for stopping by, I hope you stick around for more chapters!
Inherit the Wind
By Crumpled Piece of Paper
Act 1: Denial
And his day had been going so well, too…
Pharaoh Atemu resisted the urge to slouch on the throne, though his face said quite enough. A flat expression shadowed the king's features, clearly bored despite the commotion that was taking place before him. Shouts echoed throughout the vast throne room as a white-haired man was carted off...again. It wasn't his first time being brought before the king, for sure.
The angry man screamed obscenities upon deaf ears, flailing about wildly. He was a notorious thief, one that had been riding the Pharaoh's conscience for the past three years, for you see; it was three years ago that his father's remains vanished from his tomb, only to appear once more before his own eyes in this very same room, a noose around the sad mummy's neck and Akefia holding the end of the rope.
Since then Akefia had also committed various other petty acts, (mostly to annoy him, the Pharaoh assumed) that were considered worthy of hefty punishment. However they paled in comparison to his trechery and defilement and as such probably wouldn't even be mentioned at his hanging...or beheading. Atemu couldn't quite decide which method would be most satisfying to watch... and yet, the king couldn't help but feel a nasty sinking sensation, warning him that both decisions would, eventually, come to naught.
Akefia was never apprehended for very long. The persistent tomb robber had a way of slipping through sticky situations like soap on wet skin.
Suddenly it was quiet (too quiet). Atemu looked up, now alert, his crimson eyes narrowing in suspicion. Akefia was still in the room; it shouldn't be silent. The Pharaoh glared at the man, watching...how odd, he'd stopped struggling and appeared to be….laughing? Atemu's brows furrowed and he tensed, all too aware that the thief's giggling couldn't be about anything good.
"And what is it you find so funny thei…f." Atemu trailed off, his firey gaze clashing with the steely blue look of the tomb robber, despite the good fifty feet that separated them. And while Akefia's mouth was parted in a mirthful smile, his eyes were filled with a hate so passionate, so personal, it sent shivers down the Pharaoh's spine and a lick of fear through his heart. Akefia's look said more than death, it promised immense suffering.
With that, the white-haired problem was tugged from the room without hassle, and a thick, rocky silence reigned supreme. Atemu could practically feel his High Priest's nerves crackling through the air at his sides.
Priest Seth cast him a look with his own pair of hard blue eyes, though, unlike Akefia, Seth's eyes held confidence, a sureness that can only come in knowing where you stand. Perhaps there was more haughtiness and pride than was reasonably healthy for one...or ten men, but still... No lowly thief could ever posses a High Priest's gaze.
The man had noticed his cousin's discomfort, "Don't worry, Pharaoh, in a week's time he'll be little more than a stain at our feet." Seth's smile was almost equally unnerving as Akefia's eyes, for it carried the very same message, albiet ten billion times more subdued, and far more professional, but the young king had learned to see through all the masks his cousin wore a long time ago. There was no difference.
Atemu swallowed the lump in his throat, though his expression was still tight, and he was vaguely aware that he may be having a mild heart-attack.
With a sigh the Pharaoh excused himself, dismissing his court for the day. All other cases would be dealt with tomorrow, when he was at least semi-alert and not recovering from (stroke, heart-attack..?)...something. He was tired, and a headache resonated dully at the front of his skull, effectively blocking out most incoming speech. He'd had a ton of headaches similar these past years.
Chasing, capturing and holding the white-haired menace had been horribly exhausting; talking with him a moment ago had been equally as draining as the past three years' efforts combined. It seemed no matter what Akefia did it wore on the young king, and it was starting to show.
Atemu's patience had always been papyrus thin with Akefia, and it had seemed that only the thief could get a rise out of the otherwise steadfast, level-headed and honorable ruler, for the white demon knew all the wrong ways to rub him, and hated him more than anybody else, it would seem.
Now, however, it was becoming increasingly obvious that Atemu's tolerance level for any insubordination wahtsoever was low. He'd gotten snappier and colder, not willing to tell his closest friends of his plans and staying up until all hours of the night to think and worry.
The remaining priests met each other's eyes briefly before departing, each with varying amounts of concern for their Pharaoh. None of them wanted to know what would happen down the line, should the Pharaoh be kept having to deal with Akefia's behavior. He would change. He could end up like his uncle...or worse. No, they would stop it before it started. Akefia would be executed in one week's time, hopefully sooner; no matter what.
It was late, so late it was probably morning.
Atemu stood out on the balcony that was connected to his chambers, his head resting on his jewelry-free arms as he leaned over on the railing.
The freezing night air had his skin goose-bumped, but he paid it little mind, actually enjoying the chill temperatures, so vastly different were they from the summer's sun. As far as he was concerned, the nippy breeze that licked at his exposed skin was a godsend.
As he sighed, his breath clouded and dissipated, appearing for a moment much like the sparse clouds that drifted below infinite starry skies above. Atemu couldn't help but feel calm beneath them.
And yet, something niggled persistently at the back of his mind, despite his efforts to forget about it. It'd been that insatiable niggle that had kept the young king up into the early hours of the next morning, pondering most everything that one could ponder with no satisfaction with the answers he concluded.
Ironically, this whole thought process proved very tiring.
Atemu pushed himself up from the slouched position he'd assumed and stretched, wincing slightly as his back cracked and popped, having gone stiff with nearly an hour in the same position in the cold.
Absently he wandered back into his chambers, into the spacious, tapestry-filled room he occupied. Fit for a king, rich in color, texture and soul.
Shutting the balcony door behind him Atemu leaned against it and closed his eyes. He couldn't understand his restless mind.
Moving foreword he passed by his bed without so much as a side-ward glance, there was no way he was letting sleep catch him yet, despite his weary state.
Shucking off his sandals the Pharaoh crept out into the hallway, his steps now silent as he padded through the spacious corridor. A walk through the palace at night was like a trip into another world, he mused, crimson eyes flicking back and forth about his surroundings. Warm, vibrant colors of drapes and paintings were neutralized in the moonlight, cold, lifeless. The white marble floors were icy, and with the pale light spreading out like a sheet across them, well, one could imagine a sleek snowfield. Even the king's own eyes appeared a light violet.
Atemu's wanderings took him through the throne room, past the courtyard and down the Scribe's hallway. Various doors leading to various rooms in which documents and numerical tapestries were held had been fastened several times and bolted shut for the night. Atemu rolled his eyes at the scribe's protectiveness. Nobody would be stealing any of the palace's precious knowledge of crop yields this night! Oh no, sir!
As he exited this hallway and took a left, mindlessly walking a few more paces before coming to a large door; he suddenly realized where it was he was headed.
Atemu froze for a split second, his movements halting as this thought occurred. A shudder ran up his spine, making it's way to the top of his head. But, it was as if his body had a mind of it's own now and he had no say in what it did.
Atemu had opened the dungeon door and descended the short flight of stairs to the main corridor, all without really meaning to, you see. The long, cold, drab passage way possessed twenty-five cells in all, twelve on one side, and twelve on the other. The ones on the left, upon entering, were the only ones with windows, the cells on the right had to make do with the light the other cells offered. And then there was the one at the end of the rows.
It faced the door from down the hall, a tiny barred rectangle it's only view on the outside world. All the other cells had three solid walls, and then one of bars, this particular cell had all four limestone walls, not to mention several locks and barricades across the wooden door. There were six guards standing alert outside the cell, but they paid the Pharaoh no mind as he approached. Atemu, surprisingly enough, often came down here. While he wasn't a horrible person, he did like to see what the people who ended up here were feeling in the days, sometimes moments before their deaths. He wanted to know they felt guilty for the crimes they'd committed, that what they had coming was what they deserved. Call it a way to sleep at night.
Oddly pensive at the moment, Atemu slowly put a hand on the door's surface as he reached it, only to instantly pull it back; as if the wood were on fire. The touch also seemed to set his mind right. What in Ra's name was he doing here? It was Akefia behind that door, not some long-lost friend. He shouldn't be pitying him or feeling guilty for him. Think of what he's done! He deserves this!He deserves everything!
Scowling, Atemu about-faced and stalked away. If this was what his conscious was keeping him up about, then fine, he'd stay awake, but there was no way in hell he was going back there. Ever.
Akefia listened as the footsteps faded away, only slightly curious as to who would be wandering around barefoot (a sneaking tactic). A lifetime of his own sneaking and hiding had sharpened his hearing, so the approach of someone outside was second-nature for him to sense, even when dozing.
The thief had tensed; preparing to rise should whoever was out there enter. Probably those guards again...but...why on earth would they need to sneak? And surely those monster's footsteps wouldn't be so light, even barefoot? Luckily, the footsteps left before he need exert himself further, mentally or physically.
Although he would never in his lifetime admit it, the Pharaoh had done good in choosing his men.
The one's who'd dragged him down here had left bruises in his arms from their meaty fingers, and the ones around him had taken their toll on his body after they'd beat the crap out of him for fun, or for their own purposes, whatever justified those brutes... Of course, Akefia had fought back, seriously injuring one and leaving his mark on most of the others. Then again, seven against one wasn't really fair, and when you're already starving and desperately thirsty and weak, you don't stand a ghost of a chance, no matter who you are.
Fortunately, now there was only six, as the injured man had taken his leave after Akefia had been stuffed and bound in the dark cell. They didn't trust him in any of the other far more open enclosures. Yes, heaven forbid he see the moon again...
The temperature didn't help much either, making his movements stiff and jerky with its frigid level. It was fucking freezing down here, and with only threadbare linen shorts protecting him from the cold, well, it was uncomfortable, to say the least. Despite his best efforts to conceal it, every now and again a shiver crawled up his back from any contact he had with the gritty stone walls, sending tremor-like movements through his body as his muscles spasmed in an effort to keep warm.
There was very little light to see by, only a thin haze, to be precise, thus making anything out but the shadows of his cell was impossible; though, if he squinted, he could see the barred window at the top of the door leading into his cell.
It was going to be difficult to break out of this one…They hadn't left him a window this time, security had more then doubled, both in number and strength, and he was weak and emotionally weary. To be frank, life these past few months had been like running naked through hellfire. Akefia had a moment of true fear then, his heart skipping. Was it...was it even possible that he wouldn't make it out?
His troupe had abandoned him, ratted him out, leaving Akefia with nothing but the clothes on his back…for awhile at least, those too had been taken from him after being captured by one of the Pharaoh's patrols (which, he'd like to point out, had been sent his way by those devil-loving theives he'd called his companions). Damn, his mind must be weakening too, why else would he come back to the Pharaoh's city in such a state, anyway? Had he been asking to be caught? Even without the tip-off from those traitors, he probably would have ended up here.
Oh well, it felt good to blame somebody else.
Akefia sighed lightly. All he wanted now was rest, and thanks to the Pharaoh, he could finally get it with no fear of being murdered in the night. Heh, how grim.
Shifting against the stones Akefia crossed his arms and let his snowy head fall back, eyes sliding closed. Another shiver crawled up his spine, but the white-haired man paid it little mind, barely shifting as he fell into a fitful sleep.
The early morning sun found the young king sleeping.
Not yet ready to face the morning, he yawned without opening his eyes and stretched in a feline manner, resulting in a few pops and cracks from his protesting spine and arms. Rubbing the offended spot on his back, he wondered what he could have done to…oh, yes. That's right. He'd had that fun little excersion last night. He never slept right when he stayed up late...
Crimson eyes blinked open and he found himself staring at a very pretty vase. Above it was an equally pretty painting, a peculiar painting as well, not because it was in his room, but instead because it wasn't.
Atemu pulled himself to his feet, glancing in both directions. Hallway, hallway. He'd been sleeping against (he checked behind him): a wall, wonderful…wait…Looking behind him again the Pharaoh found himself face-to-face with an all-too familiar door.
How the hell had he fallen asleep in front of the death-row dungeons!?
Shaking his head and preparing to rise, Atemu started at the sound of voices from behind the door. Shit! The change of guard! He had to move, fast.
The door opened, revealing the tired faces of several strapping men. All blinked at their ruler, some pondering if he was an illusion, a result of sleep-deprivation.
"Your highness?" One spoke, "What brings you here so early?"
Atemu's heart unclogged itself from his throat, allowing a reply, if somewhat choked, "N-Nothing. I was just passing through…continue on, then."
The face of the man who'd spoken revealed obvious doubt, but none of the exhausted men questioned it, each only wanting sleep. As they shuffled down the hallway, a few cast Atemu looks over their shoulders, muttering amongst themselves.
Atemu reminded himself to find less gossipy guards...
Coming from the opposite side of the hallway, louder, more awake voices were now audible. The change of guard, right on time.
Before the cluster of men blocked his view, Atemu's gaze drifted into the cold darkness of the many-celled dungeon through the door which had been left ajar, and for a moment he imagined he could see the cell at the very end, the only one with a door instead of bars, the only one without a window to the outside world. Its occupant probably would never see real day again. Atemu frowned, disturbed by these morbid thoughts, and then sprinted off to dress.
The day was relatively uneventful for the young king. Petty thieves and other criminals stood before his courts, were given judgment, and dragged out for the next case to be brought in. He signed a few contracts, looked over countless proposals, and somehow managed to work in a meeting with the Grecian ruler.
He was pooped.
Atemu had stayed up late working over a deal, and only now shuffled off to what he hoped were his chambers. In his over-tired state he probably made a wrong turn….somewhere. Hey, it was easy to do! The palace was huge...the former rulers had gone through every espense to flaunt their glory, build a testament to their power, etc, etc.
He expected sleep to come immediately after entering his chambers, and was a bit confused at the cold black that greeted him upon swinging open his door. No…wait…not his door, not his chambers…
Damn it! Atemu slammed the offending block of wood closed, not particularly caring who may have heard it. His scarlet eyes willed it to flames.
How the hell did he keep ending up here!? What was wrong with him!? Sleep. He needed sleep, and lots of it. Yes, that had to be the answer, for nothing else could explain what was so obviously ludicrous.
However, Atemu didn't depart immediately, he stood for a good three minutes staring blankly at the dark door before he did anything, and what it was he did he would never forgive himself for.
He opened the door.
The king blanched and shut it, only this time very gently; softly.
Atemu was beyond angry with himself and more confused then he'd ever been. A headache threatened to crack his skull and his eyes felt like they were coated with ash. Without sparing another glance towards the accursed door, he walked slowly away, fully intending on clearing his head. Somehow, mysteriously, he'd found his way to his rooms. Not bothering to undress or even kick of his sandals the young king threw himself upon the lavish comforter of his bed and promptly fell asleep; letting the night claim all thought of dungeons and thieves.
End Act 1