DIS: Someone slap me!
Marik: (slaps her)
DIS: Not seriously!
Marik: I try to help you and this is the thanks I get? (grumbles vulgar things beneath his breath)
DIS: (scowl) Anyway, I've been going crazy with inspiration. You guys don't have any idea how new stories I've started! I'll probably not post the majority of them, but it's still insane. It's also been forever since I've done an ancient Egypt fic because I'm so lazy and I don't ever feel like looking through my research books. In any case, here's some Seto/Anzu for you guys to drink up. Read below and enjoy.
Title: The Gift of Life
Rating: T for some content
Summary: Seto/Anzu, Hepshut is looking to marry his daughter, Anzu, so when the Pharaoh comes visiting, he asks him to help. Instead, Atemu sends the High Priest Seto to her. One-shot.
Disclaimer: I do not own YuGiOh, but as far as I know, I know this idea!
Notes/Warnings: Set in Ancient Egypt; High Priest Seto/Anzu; this idea was drawn from a story of mine I deleted
XThe Gift of Life
The Pharaoh was a kind, if not understanding, ruler. There were things his father had done that were regrettable and so the people had been unsure of him as Pharaoh. In truth, as soon as the young Pharaoh had ascended the throne, he had gotten rid of many of the corrupt priests that had been his father's. His own uncle, Akhenaden, was banished from the Pharaoh's City. His son – who had no idea that he was related to the Pharaoh or Akhenaden – remained a priest, even made High Priest, which surprised the Pharaoh's counselor, Siamun Muran, greatly. However, it was what he wished and so that was how it would be. The others were banished, save for Isis, who left of her own accord. Atemu had been disappointed, but allowed her to leave his close circle to take care of a temple as she wished.
As the problems of the past were fixed and new, more loyal and trusting people entered Atemu's close circle, the land of Egypt began to calm and assure themselves that they were in good hands. Whenever the head of a village came, requesting something, the Pharaoh treated their problem with utter seriousness, even if it was as simple as the need of a shaduf. (1) The Pharaoh was not, however, loved by all. It was expected that, as a great ruler, he was to be hated by a few. The High Priest himself was not entirely amiable of Pharaoh Atemu. He would not turn his back on him, though. As the High Priest was involved in the close circle that Atemu kept himself encased by, he was the most trusted right beside Siamun Muran. He had his morals and would not betray that trust. There was just a level of resentment he held for Atemu that had emerged at some point in his association with him.
Presently, the High Priest was standing before the Pharaoh with the Siamun Muran beside him. The new scribe of the Pharaoh's was sitting beside the throne, his palette (2) placed before him, and his reed pen positioned between his fingers. He didn't care for the elderly man, really. He was a man from a village not far from the Pharaoh's City, near the Theban countryside. Seto had heard about the way the man spent his money selfishly and pitied whoever was foolish enough to have married Hepshut.
"Ah," Atemu murmured, rolling up the papyrus scroll, smiling at the two. "Thank you. I can see that we will be having good crops this year. It pleases me to hear such a thing." He set the scroll aside and then glanced at his scribe as he leaned back in his chair, letting his arms rest on the throne. "Hepshut."
"My Pharaoh?" Hepshut answered immediately, raising his head to look at the Pharaoh.
"I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting your family," Atemu informed him, one of his hands raising to fiddle with his ankh earring. The sun's light glinted off the gold of the jewelry, making Hepshut blink briefly. His gaze moved to the gold of the earring without his permission. His eyes snapped back to the young, handsome face of his king's as he spoke again. "I have met Siamun Muran's family, so it is only natural for me to visit your humble abode, am I not right in believing so?"
Hepshut stared up at him in slight distress. He loved his wife and daughter, but his wife was pregnant with child and his daughter was not fit to meet any man, let alone the Pharaoh. She had been doing all the work nonstop and hadn't had the time for men and therefore did not appear as the fragile kind of woman that the Pharaoh would expect. How could he shame himself and his family by doing such a thing? "You are, of course, correct, my Pharaoh," Hepshut quietly agreed. He couldn't disagree with him. It was obvious that he did not expect to be disagreed with. "But, ah, Pharaoh...I would not want you to be shocked – "
"My daughter does the work now since my wife is with child and cannot work, so I must apologize in advance if she is not what you expect." Atemu's eyebrows rose mildly.
"Why, Hepshut, should she have to do the work? You have plenty of money to get slaves." Hepshut gazed up at him and then lowered his dark eyes in shame. The Pharaoh's own crimson-violet eyes narrowed on him. He hadn't thought his scribe one to be rid of his money so carelessly. Flicking a look at his High Priest's smug expression, he knew that his assumptions were not incorrect. If anyone would know the life of his new scribe, it would be Seto, who was constantly on the top of things. "In any case, I will come and visit by the time Ra has been reborn twice more in the sky." (3) Hepshut raised a startled look to his face and then slumped in defeat.
"Yes. As the Pharaoh wishes."
Hepshut slid off his Arabian camel, sighing in defeat. He led the animal to the back of his manor, ushering it in the pen next to his daughter's camel, Maher. As his own camel bent his head to drink from the trough, Hepshut closed the pen and leaned his back against it wearily. Day after day guilt was shot through him for buying himself fancy clothing and golden objects, but ignoring his family. Anzu would easily be able to get herself a husband if she was given the chance to make herself pretty, but she was constantly working.
She will never get a husband by herself, he thought, distraught, as he pushed from the fence and entered his comfortable home. His wife, Sheila, smiled at him as he came in and rose from the divan, stumbling slightly and then toddling over to him, holding out her arms. "How are you, my sweet?" He murmured tiredly, brushing his lips over hers.
"I am well," she replied, "but our daughter..." She trailed off, biting her lip worriedly. His eyes opened wide as he grew alert. "We must get a slave or two, Hepshut. I can't bear to see her like this. She needs a man – or at least a friend. All she has is that blasted camel of hers. He can't keep her happy forever." Hepshut took her in his arms, resting his cheek against her head. He was surprised she had been thinking of the same thing he had been, and he knew she was right. He would bring it up with the Pharaoh when he came to visit.
"The Pharaoh will be visiting," he told his wife to get her mind off their daughter.
"The Pharaoh?" She whispered, raising her head to stare at him in surprise. "But what for?"
"He wishes to meet you and Anzu."
"Amazing...I will have to tidy up around here with Anzu – and clean her up, for that matter. I will make it so she impresses the Pharaoh! He is unmarried, too, so perhaps...?"
"No, Sheila," he said firmly. "Our Anzu is not for the Pharaoh."
The day that the Pharaoh was to arrive at Hepshut's home, Anzu was sitting outside with her camel, leaning against the gate and staring up at the sky. Her father would be traveling with the Pharaoh, High Priest, and his advisor to their home and would be here any moment now. Her mother had insisted she look her best, but Anzu cared nothing for impressing the king of Egypt. She did bathe, though, and put kohl on her eyes. She had even worn her best dress, a white V-necked dress with no sleeves. It was cool and comfortable. Her mother had forced two golden bracelets on her wrists, which made her feel like she was wearing shackles. He's just the Pharaoh, Anzu thought, running her fingers through her camel's soft fur.
Hearing loud drumbeats, Anzu sighed and rolled her eyes to the clear sky. Listening to the rhythm of the drums, she knew it was the Pharaoh that was coming. "Wish me luck, Maher," Anzu murmured to her only companion, kissing him on the nose and then entering her home, her reed sandals slapping lightly. Leaning against the wall, she heard her mother greet her father and her guests. "Live forever, my Pharaoh," her mother gasped out in the other room. "It's a pleasure to have you in our home..."
"Please," a soft, kind voice that Anzu assumed was the Pharaoh's came to her ears. "It is all my pleasure to be here. But...I thought you had a daughter?"
"O-oh! We do. I haven't the slightest idea where's she taken herself to..." Anzu could hear the slight anger beneath her voice and closed her eyes, hoping she wouldn't suggest she go look for her. Thankfully, she didn't. Instead, she said, "Please. Sit. Allow me to get you some refreshments."
"Thank you, that would be nice." Anzu straightened as her mother came bustling in. Sheila shot an irritated, dark look to her daughter and picked up the water pail and shoved it in her daughter's hands.
"Go get some water and put it in goblets for them. You will serve it to them and introduce yourself," Sheila whispered harshly. "I cannot believe you hid in here while I was greeting them..." She trailed off, leaving the room. Anzu shook her head and went outside to get the water. The Pharaoh sounded like a nice enough man, but she still couldn't see what the fuss was. She pumped the water from the shaduf and then returned inside, putting water in four of their best goblets.
Placing them on a platter, she carefully balanced them and went out to where the men were seated. Her heart stuttered in anxiety, seeing the double crown propped gracefully on the Pharaoh's head. She set the platter down on the table before them and Hepshut met her eyes, smiling. She inclined her head to them in greeting, but couldn't find her voice to introduce herself. "This is my daughter, Anzu," Hepshut announced for his daughter, seeing her hands tremble slightly.
"A lovely daughter, indeed," Atemu agreed, smiling in a friendly manner as Anzu glanced at him in surprise. His smile widened when their eyes met and she blushed in embarrassment. Then her eyes moved to his ankh earrings. She glanced at the High Priest, moving up his dark azure robes, up his strong arms covered with a golden armlet, to the identical ankh earrings that hung from his earlobes. She admired the golden jewelry, wishing she had a pair. They looked incredibly expensive, though.
"...Anzu?" Her father's startled voice came to her. Blinking, she looked to Hepshut in question. He was staring at her with round eyes, making her wonder what she had done. "You were...staring at the High Priest."
"W-what?" Anzu sputtered. "No, I was – "
"Seto may be handsome," Atemu teased, "but you needn't make it so obvious." Anzu stared in horror at them and looked to the High Priest, who was scowling at the Pharaoh, irritated with his teasing. Flushing in humiliation, she bowed her head and kept silent. She had been more interested in his jewelry than him.
The High Priest in speaking wanted to knock both Hepshut and Atemu over the head, Hepshut the most. He had felt the girl's eyes on him, but he knew that she hadn't been staring at him directly. When he'd flicked a look at her, she'd been staring at his earrings. Her envious look couldn't be interpreted as anything else. He doubted she wanted to be a man. He was irritated that the Pharaoh had said such a thing to her, more because it was indirectly mocking him than because of her embarrassment. Nonetheless, Atemu should have seen how uncomfortable and nervous she had been to know not say such a thing.
"If...you need nothing more, then I suppose I will go," Anzu quietly said to her father, who nodded, still bemused at her staring at Seto.
"Yes, I will call you if we need anything." She bobbed her head and inclined her head respectfully to the Pharaoh and his companions before hurrying out of the room. Seto watched her and saw her hands clench at her sides and her shoulders become rigid. He couldn't decide whether she was angry with herself or her father. When he returned his gaze to the other men, he saw Atemu looking at him with a raised brow.
"Pharaoh, I hope I will not be presumptuous in asking whether I can pose a favor?" Hepshut queried with a hint of anxiety.
"Certainly not, Hepshut," the Pharaoh replied, returning his gaze to Hepshut. "What is it?"
"My daughter...as I said on another occasion, is always working, so I was wondering if perhaps you could find a suitable husband for her? She can never look for a man herself..."
"Very well. Seto, go visit with her," Atemu ordered his High Priest, who jerked his cold, cobalt eyes to his king's. He stared at him as though he had lost his mind, his face tight with irritation.
"Pharaoh," the High Priest stated in a cool, logical tone, "I am hardly as young as the girl. It would be wise if you thought of someone else." The real reason he didn't want to go visit with the girl was that it would an extremely awkward meeting and he wasn't in the mood for that.
"Nonetheless, you will go visit with her," Atemu informed him.
"I...wasn't talking about the High Priest," Hepshut nervously told his king, who waved a hand dismissively and then raised his eyebrows at his High Priest. With a dark look, Seto stood and left with obvious reluctance. Hepshut watched him, his gut twisting. He wasn't certain leaving his innocent daughter with the High Priest was the best idea. He didn't trust him in the least and wasn't so sure he trusted his daughter with him, either.
"Seto needs to marry," Atemu explained to his scribe, glancing at Siamun Muran for agreement. His advisor nodded solemnly, silent as ever. "He is older than me and hasn't even looked. I have, at least, searched for a wife. None have satisfied me yet." He paused, taking a drink of his water from his goblet. As he set it down, he added, "If Seto doesn't find himself interested, I am more than willing to offer myself up as a suitor to your daughter, Hepshut." His eyes flicked up to his scribe and caught the older male stiffening. Smiling lightly, he questioned, "Would you not like your daughter as queen of Egypt?"
"It's just...she's...very innocent, Pharaoh, and sensitive. I'm not saying you are a bad man," Hepshut added hastily. "I merely...want a man a little less experienced."
Atemu kept his smile in place as he said, "If I choose her as my wife, she will be my wife, Hepshut. I am a respectable man, though, and have tried giving my High Priest a peace of mind. I might even let her choose. You are eager to have her married and I am eager to get married myself, along with marrying my High Priest. It all works out."
Hepshut stared at him, a bit stunned at this sudden conclusion. He was wishing he hadn't said anything.
Seto grumbled inwardly as he exited the home. He didn't want to converse with some girl that probably couldn't read, let alone write. He was in no mood for random conversation that had no specific point. He didn't know the girl well enough to know if that was what would come from her mouth, but he suspected that she wouldn't be the most interesting company. Ugh. Just what I need, he groaned at that thought.
"...misunderstanding," he heard the girl's soft voice. He frowned, wondering whom she was speaking to. "Why would I stare at the man, can you honestly tell me?" There was a pause and then she grumbled, "Of course, even if you could tell me, you wouldn't. You're just a camel." She sighed and then continued, "Besides, the High Priest would sooner throw me in the desert and let me die there than consider me as a wife. Ha! How laughable is that! Me, married to him?" She gave a snort just as he rounded around the pen and saw her perched on the wooden fence, her head tipped back to peer up at the sky. "I doubt he even has any feelings..."
"I'm glad your thoughts of me are so amiable," Seto coldly told her, agitated with her. Whipping her head around, Anzu gasped and then fell back in the pen, letting out a startled cry. Frowning, he moved forward to make sure she hadn't hurt herself. She let out a low moan, holding her head, but other than that, she seemed perfectly fine.
"M-my lord!" She gasped out, leaping to her feet, her cerulean eyes large. "I'm so sorry. What I said..." She trailed off, seeing his dark expression. Cursing herself for talking to her camel so often, Anzu meekly moved out of the pen, closing the gate behind her. He was watching her with a murderous gaze and she wondered whether he was considering killing her.
"Quite frankly," he sneered at her, "I find your comments more interesting than the mindless mutters you gave your father in front of us." She stiffened. "Perhaps I should leave and then listen to you talk to your camel some more. I might find you more fascinating then."
"I beg your pardon?" Her head shot up, her eyes firing up. "How dare you say such a thing? You might be the High Priest, but I don't believe you're allowed to be so rude! My 'mindless mutters' in front of the Pharaoh were so that I didn't make anyone notice me. I was being polite and respectable!" She stared at him angrily for a moment and then realized she had just snapped at the High Priest of Egypt. With that realization, mortification swept through her and the color from her face drained. "I'm...sorry. Excuse me." She turned to leave, but his hand shot out and caught her wrist.
"...I was ordered to entertain you," he informed her, "and that is what I'm going to do. I won't have you running off." She slowly turned and he dropped her wrist. "I'd prefer it if you spoke your mind. I want no talking like in the parlor, am I understood?"
"My own parents get angry when I speak my mind," she informed him slowly, eyeing him carefully. "Are you sure you want me to speak so openly?"
"I'm certain it's better than what you consider 'polite' and 'respectable.'" She stared at him for a moment, and then a cautious smile slipped onto her lips. He found that it transformed her face and made it more attractive.
"If that's what you wish, then." She moved past him and climbed onto the fence, sitting on it, the palms of her hands planted on the rough surface. Seto stood beside her, mute. In any other case, he would have had the girl executed for speaking to him the way she did, but he found the contrast to her earlier nature so profound that it interested him. Glancing up at her, he frowned as he realized that, for a village girl, she wasn't terribly bad looking. Her skin was lightly tanned, just like her mother's, and her eyes were a rare color that wasn't seen in Egypt.
Why isn't he talking? Anzu thought nervously. If he thinks I'm entertained, well –
"Your literary skills," he suddenly spoke, interrupting her thoughts, "what are they?"
"My...? Oh. I can read and write, if that's what you're asking. I can speak a little Greek, but not much." He turned his head to meet her eyes, a look of disbelief clear on his face.
"Is that right?"
"Yes, my father taught me when I was really young."
"So you can read and write as well as a scribe."
"Well, yes, I suppose so." He snorted. "I can!" Irritated that he didn't believe her, she slipped from the fence and crossed her arms beneath her breasts, glaring up at him. "I'll prove it to you. I'll write for you." He stared back down at her and then nodded.
"Do so, then." She nodded as well and left inside the house briefly to return with a strip of papyrus, a wooden palette, and a reed brush. (4) She looked at him defiantly and a faint smile lifted his lips upward. "Very well. I will recite to you what I wish for you to write." She knelt beside him and placed the wooden palette before her and dipped the reed brush in it, looking up at the High Priest. "To the Pharaoh," he began. He heard the scratching on the papyrus and continued, "The crops are flourishing and the vizier of the North tells me that the Nile has risen twelve water fingers." He paused, considering what to say next. "He is dealing with many problems and so therefore, he will be unable to take your place if you are to be absent at the Tribute at Memphis. (5) Live forever. The High Priest." He waited patiently as she finished and then she stood and blew on it lightly to dry it before handing it to him. She returned the writing utensils to their places inside while he went over what she had written.
"Is it satisfactory or do you still not believe me?" Anzu questioned as she went to stand beside him. He glanced at her and folded the papyrus, tucking in his robes.
"I am impressed," he confessed, "that a village girl has such talents. I was surprised enough that a fool such as your father managed to survive in the House of Life." (6)
"My father is not a fool!" Anzu fired up. "How can you be so cruel simply because people are not the same as you?"
"Your father is a greedy, selfish man," he snapped out, "that doesn't deserve a position as respectable as scribe to the Pharaoh. You wouldn't have to do the work here and might actually be married if not for the man that is your beloved father." He cursed himself inwardly at letting that piece of information slip. She brought startled, wounded eyes to his face and he knew she had no idea about her father's spending abilities.
"What? What are you speaking of?" He ignored her question, pushing off from the fence and prowling around the green space, pausing to glance at the sandy hill that led to the sweltering, dry desert. When he turned, she hadn't moved and was staring at him with a befuddled expression.
Damn the Pharaoh for sending me out here, he cursed. "Your father gets a very nice amount of gold," he informed her at last. "Your family could be living in the Pharaoh's City rather in this village. You could have slaves to dote on you and nice clothes and jewelry. Instead, you and your mother are stuck in this manor in a worthless village because he spends his money ruthlessly. I am not about to get involved in family affairs, but it's best for you to know why you're forced to constantly work." He paused, adding, "You won't be stuck with that once your mother gives birth to the child, anyway."
"...No," Anzu murmured, looking away, "she'll have the babe to take care of. I'll be doing even more work. As long as it helps her, though, I don't mind." His eyes narrowed on her and he moved towards and paused a few feet from her as Sheila appeared in the doorway, an uncertain smile on her face.
"The Pharaoh is departing," she told him, glancing from Anzu to him. "I wanted to bid you farewell." Seto gazed at her for a moment and then nodded.
"Thank you. You have been a kind hostess." Sheila smiled again, looking to her daughter, whose eyes were cast down. Taking a hint, she disappeared back inside. "You will attend the Pharaoh's birthday gathering." Anzu blinked and raised her head. It hadn't been a question, but she treated it as one.
"No, of course I won't. I wasn't invited."
"You are now," he responded, glaring down at her. "I expect you there." Shocked, she watched as he swept past her into her house. She stared after him and then groaned, slumping against the pen's gate, closing her eyes in frustration.
The High Priest was silent as he sat across from the Pharaoh and beside Siamun Muran. He could feel something in his robes and frowned to himself, reaching inside, his fingers brushing the papyrus. Recalling his challenge to Anzu, he withdrew his hand and continued to stare out at the land as they left to the Pharaoh's City. He wasn't sure what had possessed him when he'd invited the girl to the ball at the Pharaoh's. She would stand out so badly. He doubted she had anything to wear. Only the wealthiest people of the Pharaoh's court would be going. He certainly didn't want to humiliate her. She was the first literary female he had ever met and the first that didn't annoy him to the Afterlife.
"It was pleasant, was it not?" The Pharaoh questioned in a light tone. "I invited Hepshut to my birthday gathering and ordered him to bring his daughter, so I expect them there. It will be nice seeing them out of their natural surroundings. But then, Hepshut is always so nervous..." He frowned and then dismissed it with a smile, turning to Seto and inquiring, "How do you like his daughter?"
"She is bearable," he responded disinterestedly.
"At least she's that much."
"Papa," Anzu began to her father a few nights later. He had informed her that they would be going to the Pharaoh's birthday gathering, which was in three days. None of her dresses were good enough for attending a party at the Pharaoh's and she refused to go if she couldn't get a new one and at least some nice jewelry. If what the High Priest said was true, then they were not as poor as she had assumed. "I need a new dress and some jewelry for the Pharaoh's birthday."
"It has to be a beautiful dress, papa," she insisted. "I want you to take me to the Pharaoh's City to find one tomorrow." He blinked and raised his head, staring at her in surprise. "I refuse to go if I can't look somewhat decent, papa. The Pharaoh can execute me if he wants, but I will not go if I can't look good." He continued to stare at her and then swallowed, nodding shakily.
"Of course, darling. I'll...take you tomorrow, I suppose. I don't want any conflict with our king, after all." She could tell that he didn't want to spend any money on her, either, but her threat was enough to persuade him. Smiling, she bent down and brushed her lips over his cheek.
"Thank you, papa."
Pharaoh Atemu wasn't sure why he was so excited. He was turning twenty, but that was hardly a remarkable age. As his gaze continuously swept the crowds, he wondered consistently where his scribe was. He kept thinking to himself that if Hepshut didn't come, he wouldn't only throw him from his position, but he wouldn't allow him to be a scribe to anyone in Egypt. It was a harsh thought and as he kept thinking it, he then chastised himself.
Atemu glanced up at his High Priest who had arrived only a few minutes ago himself. Seto had, at first, said he wasn't coming, but the day before he suddenly announced he would be attending. The only reason he never attended such court events was because of the women that constantly fluttered around him. Atemu appreciated female attention himself, but he knew Seto would rather stab them in the throat than deal with them.
Finally, there he is, Atemu thought, briefly spotting his scribe's lighter skin tone among the dark tan. When Hepshut came to him at the throne with his daughter close behind him, he didn't recognize Anzu at first. He had to look to Seto to make sure it was her and when he saw his High Priest eyeing her with more than a little interest, he was certain then that it was her. Who else could evoke such fascination from him? "Hepshut, it is good to see you and your daughter again." He gave a shaky smile, his eyes continuously moving to Anzu.
Hepshut growled lowly in his throat, wishing he had requested to leave Anzu home. He hadn't known what letting her make herself as pretty as she did would do to the Pharaoh's senses. Her dress was modest enough, the neckline not going down too far. He had been against the bottom part of the dress, though. It split on both sides to reveal her smooth, soft legs. She was wearing light blue slippers to match her dress and a tight, thick, gold anklet was clasped on one of her ankles, two thin, loose golden anklets hanging around her other. She had similar thin bracelets around one of her wrists, and a thick golden armlet on each of her arms, along with a loose, glittering necklace and golden earrings identical to his own, those being hanging circles. He had spent a fortune to make her "look decent" as she had put it.
Well, she looks like every other woman in the throne room, he thought bitterly, so I'm guessing she accomplished her goal.
"It's our pleasure to be here, Pharaoh," Hepshut replied in a tight voice, swallowing the resentment as his king's eyes moved down to Anzu's legs.
"I hope you both enjoy your time," Atemu said, smiling quickly. "Now, go." He ushered them and his other two loyal servants away. "I must find myself a woman to dance with." He winked at Anzu, who blushed lightly and followed her father down the steps of the throne with Seto and Siamun Muran following a bit sulkily.
"Papa, I'll be fine on my own," Anzu said to her father in a soft voice, gently removing her arm from his. He gave her a slightly panicked look. She took his hand and patted it. "Don't worry about me. Have fun, alright?"
"I'll keep an eye on her," Seto's drawling voice came from behind them. Anzu looked to him in surprise while Hepshut glowered slightly.
I'm sure you will, Hepshut thought irritably. He nodded curtly and after giving his daughter a last look, he left them, weaving through the dancing crowds.
Anzu, suddenly aware that this was only her second time alone with a man that wasn't her father, turned to the High Priest and gave a hesitant smile. He stared at her in a bored manner, before questioning, "How did you get him to spend his gold?"
"I told him I wouldn't go if he didn't," she answered in a bright manner. His mouth tilted slightly as he chuckled.
"Yes, I suppose that would do." He paused and glanced warily at the dancing couples on the floor. "Do you dance?" She blinked up at him and felt a blush starting on her cheeks.
"Yes, but – " She wasn't given a chance to finish her sentence as he took her hand and forced her onto the dancing floor. She sucked in her breath as the lack of room had her pressed against him. She nearly yelped when his hand moved on her waist. Uncertainly, she slid her hand on his shoulder as he swung her around. Her feet moved on the floor effortlessly. Nonetheless, she was finding it incredibly difficult to pay attention solely on the dance and not on the solid feel of his body against hers. I'm not sure I like this...
The Pharaoh gave a smirk of triumph, spotting his High Priest gliding on the floor with his scribe's daughter. He wouldn't have minded dancing with her himself, but the day his favorite servant got married would be the best day of his life. He knew Seto didn't particularly like him and Atemu didn't like him too well, either, however, he hated seeing his High Priest without any female companionship. Atemu at least had a harem and he indulged in it often enough and quite happily.
"My Pharaoh, you are certainly sly," Siamun Muran chuckled from beside him. Atemu laughed.
"Yes, I am. I must say I'm surprised, though, that a village girl caught Seto's interest so easily. She must be somewhat literate or he wouldn't have bothered."
"Well, perhaps it's not simply personality," Siamun Muran put in a polite way. Atemu glanced to his advisor and smiled, leaning back in his throne.
"No..." He disagreed. "There have been women after Seto better looking than Anzu. She must be literate."
Anzu sighed as she settled onto the fountain. The smell of lotuses was in the air, drifting around her like a cloud. She peered down in the water of the fountain and tucked her hair behind her ear, gazing down at her reflection. She knew she wasn't gorgeous, but she wasn't ugly, either. She still couldn't understand why the High Priest had danced with her. After he had, he'd simply vanished. She hadn't seen him since. She'd been passed around by the men and had finally escaped the chaos.
I don't care, she told herself silently. He's cold. I hardly consider him a friend. Obviously I caught his attention with my writing, though. She sighed, letting her cheek rest on her shoulder as she placed her hands behind her on the stone of the fountain. He's very handsome, now that I think of it. I never noticed until I saw him up close. "Wonder what kind of person he is..." She mumbled faintly to herself.
"Are you talking to yourself again?" Anzu jumped and turned to see the object of her thoughts walking up the stairs to the balcony. He was frowning at her.
"What were you doing down there?" One of his eyebrows rose at her question.
"I was in the gardens." She stood and moved to the banister, leaning over it slightly. Seeing that, indeed, there was a garden below her, she felt a bit embarrassed at acting so suspicious. He came to stand by her and asked in a slightly amused tone, "Did you think I was seducing a woman?" She turned to him, her face coloring.
"Of course not!"
"Or were you hoping I would seduce you?"
Growing even pinker, she stuttered, "D-don't be absurd!" He raised one of his smooth eyebrows once again, reaching out and sliding his fingers beneath her chin. Blinking her eyes wide, she met his gaze without any resistance. His eyes narrowed briefly in hesitation before he bent his head and moved his mouth over hers. Her brows furrowed slightly as his hand slid along her jaw to her hair, his long fingers gliding through her smooth locks. She ran her fingers up his chest and then around his neck, her finger curling around the hair at the nape of his neck.
He drew away, trailing his kisses along her jaw and down her neck. She shivered, a soft breath releasing from her lips as he nuzzled her shoulder, bringing the fabric of her dress down to reveal her silken flesh. As he pressed her to the banister, she moaned lightly as his body crushed against hers. Without thinking, she arched into him, her fingers tightening around his robes. He groaned and brought his mouth onto hers, his tongue slipping through her parted lips. A shiver moved up her spine as his tongue dominated her mouth. When he drew away again, she planted her hands on his chest, feeling her mind close to escaping her fragile grip on it. He didn't seem angry for her stopping him. He merely brushed her hair from her face, his hand cupping her cheek. When he landed a soft kiss on her lips, it was gentle and not passionate like the others had been.
"The celebrations are about to begin," he murmured against her mouth. "It's best we return." He moved from her and disappointment sunk in her as the warmth of his body left.
"Yes," she agreed softly. She blinked as he offered her a hand. Shyly, she slipped her hand in his and he tucked her arm in his and moved towards the palace.
Hepshut never asked Anzu what had happened to make her in such a good mood. When she had settled in the litter, she had seemed in a perfect mood. A smile was playing at the corner of her lips and she didn't seem nervous like she had been on the ride there. What had ticked Hepshut off was that it wasn't the driver that had helped Anzu into the litter, but the High Priest. He didn't fail to see how their eyes locked and his hand lingered on her waist. He didn't ask questions, though, because he was afraid of conflict – as he always was. He knew that something had happened between them, though, and the thought caused him to be petulant. He wanted his daughter to marry, but not to the High Priest. He despised the man and didn't want him as a son-in-law.
When it comes to Anzu, though, there's not much that can change her stubborn attitude, Hepshut thought to himself, his mouth pursing.
Sheila knew when someone was in love and could tell that her daughter was. She doubted her husband would talk about it and by the way Anzu was desperately trying to hide it, she wasn't going to get much out of her. However, as she sat with her head propped in her hand and watching her daughter eat a peach with a thoughtful expression on her face, she knew something was up.
Hearing her husband enter through the back, she turned and smiled at Hepshut, who gave a shaky smile in response. Seeing that he was about to announce something, she patiently waited until he drew up the courage. At heart, her husband was a coward and she knew so. "I bought a manor in the Pharaoh's City," he informed them after an inner struggle. Sheila's jaw dropped and Anzu stared at her father in shock.
"In...the city?" Sheila sputtered, her dark eyes wide and surprised. "But...This is so sudden, Hepshut! Why did you feel the need?" He sighed, running his fingers over his face in exhaustion.
"The Pharaoh demanded it. He's putting me on longer hours and knows that it takes nearly two hours for me to get to the Pharaoh's City and back. He doesn't like that I won't be getting hardly any sleep with my new schedule, so he ordered me to buy a home in the Pharaoh's City. You needn't worry, though; the manor is in the wealthy district of the city and close to the palace and the Temple." He sighed again, continuing, "We will have new furnishings and wardrobes."
"Can we afford to leave everything behind?" Hepshut nodded a bit glumly. "Oh...Oh, my!"
"I cannot leave Maher behind," Anzu spoke up fervently, putting her peach aside. "I couldn't possibly! He's my only friend!"
"You'll be able to make friends more easily in the city, Anzu," her father answered, having known that this would be a problem. "I've already got everything worked out. We're leaving tonight, so if you girls have something you can't part without – excluding Maher, Anzu – then get it now."
"I only have a few pieces of jewelry that my parents gave me," Sheila answered, her face bright. "Oh, this is magnificent, Hepshut!" He smiled and nodded tiredly, following her upstairs to their bedroom. Anzu stared at where her father had been and blinked slowly before getting to her feet and running outside to her pet.
Maher lifted his head and moved to her immediately on recognition. "Oh, Maher," she whispered, entering the pen and hugging him around the neck, burying her face in his soft, thin fur. I can't leave him. I might see the High Priest again when I live in the Pharaoh's City, but what about Maher? He's been with me my whole life. "Maher...I'm sorry..." She whispered as tears slid down her cheeks. She raised her head, sniffing and stroking his nose. He stared back at her, not understanding why she was crying. "I love you, Maher. You're my best friend." She rested her cheek against his neck and he bumped her head with his nose, chewing on her hair in affection. A shaky laugh crawled from her throat and she tightened her hold on him, staring up at him, a watery smile curling her lips upward.
"Anzu?" She turned to see her parents there, her mother looking at her uneasily. "I grabbed a few things of yours I know are precious to you."
"I don't care about my things! I'm not leaving without Maher," she announced, clutching onto him.
"Anzu, you will go get in the litter," her father commanded, his expression taking a firm look. "Do you understand?"
"I'll stay at the manor!"
"You can't afford to stay by yourself," he snapped. "I can't keep two manors going, Anzu. It's just not going to happen that way."
"This is my home, papa! This is my pet! How can you rip me from them both? At least let me have one."
"You can't have either, Anzu. Where we're going, we can't keep a camel anywhere!" Anzu looked at him with glassy eyes and then turned to Maher, stroking his nose softly. He shifted, feeling the tension between Anzu and her parents.
"Surely I could find a place to put him," she said, turning to her father. "Please, papa? Let me take him and if I can't find a place to keep him, then I'll...I'll sell him." He glared at her and then sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"Fine, Anzu. Fine. He can come. As soon as we arrive, you find a place for him. I'll give you until Ra's death. If you can't, then he goes." She nodded mutely, watching as he strode towards the litter. He muttered something to the driver, who nodded. When Anzu looked back, Sheila was smiling faintly.
I won't let anything happen to Maher. I won't.
Seto stepped out of his chariot, his mood foul and quite unholy for a High Priest. The Pharaoh had sent word that the manor close to the temple that Isis dominated had been bought and that he was to see the new inhabitants and bless the ground. He had practically thrown the Pharaoh's messenger out of his manor before shoving his robes on and calling for his chariot. He had other obligations than blessing a manor's grounds.
As he moved towards the manor, he felt his heart stutter, seeing a familiar female standing by herself with her camel. He could tell that something was wrong by her tearstained cheeks and the way she rigidly held himself. He hesitated in his walking briefly, but continued to stride forward. He slowed and stopped before her. She shifted and raised her eyes to his. "My lord," she murmured, inclining her head. He nodded. Suddenly, her eyes popped open. "Oh! My lord, do you have...camels?"
"Of course," he responded. "I have horses and llamas, too." She bit her lip and when he saw hope bloom in her face, he became wary. "Why? Do you need another camel?"
"No, no," she assured. "It's just..." She looked to Maher and he did as well. "We have no room for him and I couldn't bear to leave him." Anzu returned her gaze to him, a small smile playing at the corners of her mouth. "You wouldn't mind putting him up, would you? I'd take care of him." He considered over that. She would be at his manor constantly, meaning he'd be seeing her constantly. And she'd be alone. No one would be hovering over them, most especially her father. He hated it, but she was growing on him and he wanted to get closer to her.
"That would be no problem. I'll bring him back with me and you can come see him whenever you like."
"Oh, thank you so much!" She moved to hug him, then backed away, embarrassed. "Ahem. Thank you." A smirk curved his handsome mouth upward and he took her chin, kissing her softly. He withdrew just before Anzu's parents came out.
"My lord, how are you?" Sheila asked cheerfully. She paused inwardly, seeing her daughter's colored cheeks.
"I'm well," he replied respectfully. "I'm here to bless the land of the manor."
"When I leave, I'll be taking your daughter's camel with me."
"What? She sold him to you?" Hepshut demanded, his eyebrows snapping down. "She was begging to bring him with us..."
"No, I didn't buy him. He'll be staying at my manor since it appears you have no room."
"But...she will be going to your manor to see him."
"But..." Sheila frowned at her husband, irritated that he was making a fuss. It was apparent that something was transpiring between her daughter and the High Priest and though she respected Hepshut's protective nature, she didn't want him ruining anything. He seemed to take a hint from her and went quiet, merely nodding. When that was agreed, the High Priest left to bless the land and Sheila flicked a look at her daughter, who subtly watched him go.
It's sweet, Sheila thought, smiling, to finally see Anzu taking interest in a man.
Atemu could tell that the move from country to city had been hard on his scribe by the furious way he was writing on his papyrus. Well, it might not be the transition from the one place to the other, but something else. Siamun Muran was watching him with a clearly mild look on his face and Atemu knew his advisor expected him to say something. Sometimes the Pharaoh wished people didn't expect him to take initiative about everything. "Hepshut," he spoke up, "is anything bothering you?"
"Would you say the High Priest has been acting strange?" Hepshut asked instead of responding to Atemu's question. "I don't mean to be rude in asking, my Pharaoh, but...but I swear on my life and the gods above and below that he is seducing my daughter."
"Ah. Well. I don't..." Atemu trailed off, uncomfortable with the conversation. "He hasn't been acting strange, no, but I would have to say he is interested in your daughter. She is a very beautiful woman. The goddess Isis blessed her with such looks." His mind wandered, a strange smile moving his lips upward. Hepshut stared at him, horror clear on his face. Clearing his throat lightly, the Pharaoh continued, "In any case, your daughter is at the age where she can be allowed to make such decisions. Do not worry about it, my friend. Seto is a respectable man."
"Shouldn't you be at the palace?" Anzu asked, looking from her camel to Seto, who had come out to talk with her.
"I usually go there, yes, but I'm not necessarily needed there," he responded. He hadn't bothered with putting his priest robes on, seeing as he was on his own lands and he wasn't performing any priestly duties. He had seen Anzu's surprised gaze move over him in a quick observation when he had arrived in a comfortable attire of reed sandals, white tunic, kilt, and over skirt. She hadn't seen him without his priest crown off, either, so it was like seeing a completely different man. He doubted he would feel the same way unless he saw her bathing. He didn't go around peeking around walls, though, so that wasn't about happen anytime soon.
"Oh. I see." Anzu rubbed the back of Maher's ears and then left him after a last pat on the back. "Can I see your manor? It must be beautiful because of your station." She flinched. "I mean..."
"It's fine," he dismissed. "Come. I'll have a slave get you something to drink."
"Thank you." He ushered her inside, removing his sandals. She followed his example and entered the manor. It was as beautiful as she had thought. It didn't appear quite as extravagant from the outside, but inside lush Persian carpets covered the ground and comfortable, expensive divans and chairs made up the parlor to her right. She moved in it as Seto disappeared to get them refreshments. She slid her fingers over the smooth, carved wood of a chair and then moved to the window that had a good view of the sandy hills of the desert to the west. A soft tap came on her shoulder and she turned, taking the goblet filled with wine. "You have a gorgeous parlor."
"Mm. The Pharaoh adds a new comment about it every time he comes here," he remarked, taking a drink of his wine as he leaned against the windowsill. "Usually it's criticism."
"I like it." His smile was barely audible. "Um, I'm sorry that I forced my pet on you."
"You didn't force it. And I already told you it was no problem. Stop apologizing for it." He paused and then added, "Besides, I had enough room for it. Surely you can see that yourself."
"Well. Yes." Anzu gazed down at her wine, feeling suddenly very shy around him. It was strange. She had been hoping to see him ever since the Pharaoh's birthday gathering and she had, but now that she was alone with him, she couldn't think of anything to say. A little thought was floating in the back of her head, but it seemed rude to voice it. He said many a rude thing, though, and usually didn't care if anyone pointed the same attitude towards him, so she supposed... "I'm curious about something."
"Why did you become High Priest?" He snorted, a bitter look crossing his expression.
"I never wanted to be High Priest," he answered. "Oh, yes, the gold and power is a good addition to my life, but the obligations and responsibilities are annoying. The days seem to be the same, never changing. I was happy with being a normal priest, but the Pharaoh instantly made me High Priest as soon as he could when he ascended the throne."
"Couldn't you have declined?"
"I suppose I could have, but at the time, it seemed like a good idea to take the position. I thought it would be more interesting. As it happens, it's even more boring."
"You have so much respect from the people, though," Anzu told him, "and I'm sure that you meet new people every day."
"Do you know what the High Priest does?" He asked her with a dry look.
"I check on the temples every once in awhile to make sure things are in order, bless the grounds of manors when there are new occupants, and lead ceremonies, but there are so few of those that it hardly counts. Other than that, I make reports to the Pharaoh and entertain him. Your camel probably has a more exciting life than that."
"Maybe," Anzu agreed with a shrug, "but it's only because I'm his owner." She smiled slightly as she took a drink of her wine. He chuckled.
"Which is why my life has grown somewhat more bearable than normal."
"Um, what?" He plucked her goblet out of her hand and set it aside with his before taking her face in his hands and kissing her. As like always, she easily forgot herself and eased against his body, snuggling against the warmth.
"You're the first woman I've given a damn about, do you know that?" He rumbled softly in her ear.
"No," she breathed, "but to make it even, I haven't had anyone make me feel this way before."
"Good." She laughed quietly as he gathered her in his arms and took her to the divan. She swallowed as he moved over her, his bent leg separating her legs. She tangled her fingers in his hair, sighing as he slid her dress down, kissing the soft flesh of her breasts...
A cry broke the silence of the house of Hepshut's. Anzu blinked blearily, opening her eyes to meet the darkness. She could hear her baby brother crying wildly from her parent's bedroom and rolled on her stomach, burying her face in her pillow. She turned her cheek so that she was staring out the window in her room. It had been a few months since they had moved here to the Pharaoh's City. Her father had become less greedy with his gold and often brought home gifts for her, her kid brother, or her mother. It was a nice change. Anzu received other gifts from Seto, even though she kept telling him it was unnecessary and for him to stop. However, secretly, she enjoyed the things he got her. She wouldn't care if he stopped, though.
Why did I fall in love with him? She wondered to herself, staring out the window in thought, ignoring the cries of Rajah. He was so rude at first. After the Pharaoh's birthday, though, he opened up a bit, became a little warm with me. Not to mention, what happened that first day I went to see Maher... Sighing, Anzu turned on her back and closed her eyes, closing out the wails of the baby. I wonder if he loves me...
"What?" Hepshut stared uncomprehendingly at the High Priest, who had arrived at the palace only a few minutes ago. He had given his report to the Pharaoh and then turned to him and without any warning, had asked for Anzu's hand in marriage. He wasn't sure whether to be happy or furious. The man's face hadn't even changed in the least! He was just staring at him with the blankest expression he had ever seen! "You want to marry Anzu?"
"Excellent!" Atemu crowed.
"But...Why?" Hepshut asked, ignoring his king for the time being.
"Why else would I want to marry her?" Seto asked without any change in expression. "I love her." Hepshut sputtered for a minute and then paused. Was there warmth in those cobalt eyes of his? He was almost certain that there was. Hepshut frowned, reconsidering over what his answer was going to be. He wouldn't have believed Seto if not for that look in his eyes.
"Does she feel the same way?" Seto's eyes narrowed into a dirty glare.
"I don't know yet," he snapped moodily, surprising him and the other two. "I'm asking you if I can ask her to marry me and you're sitting here, wasting my time asking idiotic questions!"
"Well, I...Uh..." Hepshut rubbed the back of his neck, blowing out a breath through his lips. "Of course, if she feels the same way, I will support the marriage." Taking that as a 'yes,' Seto regained his calm composure and nodded solemnly.
"In that case, I'll take my leave." He bowed to the Pharaoh, who nodded his head, and then left them. When the doors slammed shut, Atemu turned to Hepshut and raised his eyebrows, smirking.
"He certainly was nervous," he chirped.
Anzu was surprised when her mother came to her room where she was playing with Heru to announce that the High Priest wanted to see her. Sheila's expression was bright, causing Anzu to be suspicious. She picked up her baby brother and handed him to her mother, who said, "He seems a bit anxious." Anzu blinked in puzzlement and left to the parlor where Seto was standing, looking, just as her mother had said, slightly nervous.
Shutting the door behind her, she moved towards him, smiling. "Seto," she greeted, taking one of his hands. "I wasn't expecting you."
"No, I expect you weren't," he agreed, his eyes darting to the door. "Is your mother...upstairs?"
"Yes, with my brother."
"What's wrong? You look terribly nervous about something." He gave a slight chortle. Of course he was nervous! He hadn't ever fallen in love, let alone asked for a woman's hand. He wasn't even completely certain of the answer he would receive. He might have been wrong about her feelings and that would make his view of women even more jaded than it was.
"Anzu, tell me...What do you feel for me?" Her eyes widened and she flushed slightly.
"Well, I..." She blushed harder. "...I...care a great deal for you and – "
"But do you love me?" She brought her gaze to his in surprise and could see that he needed her answer.
"...Yes. I do love you." A relieved look entered his eyes, even though his face hardly changed. "What about you? Do you - ?"
"Of course I do," he ground out roughly. "How could I not?" She blushed again, flattered by his comment. "I've already spoken to your father and..." He cursed and she bit her lip, stifling her giggle. Whatever he was trying to say, it was apparently strangling him. "Damn it. Anzu...Will you be my wife?"
"Oh!" Her hands flew to her mouth in surprise, the gasp having been taken from her throat. "Oh, Seto...Yes! Yes, yes, I will!" She threw her arms around his neck, hugging him fiercely.
"Thank the gods," he muttered in her hair. She laughed and snuggled against him.
Much thanks to the gods and goddesses, she thought as he kissed her, for giving me such a man.Finis
(1) shaduf: A type of pump used to irrigate water.
(2) palette: a writing utensil that holds the ink at the top and the reed brushes/reed pens. Most scribes had wooden palettes because they were more portable for when they had business trips.
(3) "...Ra has been reborn twice more in the sky.": two days; the Egyptians believed that when the sun set, Ra died, and when the sun rose, he was being reborn since he was the Sun God.
(4) Reed brush: writing utensil made of a reed plant; it's almost identical to a reed pen, except it is used more for precision writing.
(5) Tribute at Memphis: a ritual in which there is the offering of gifts to the pharaoh by foreign ambassadors in Egypt. This ceremony takes place each year. In the absence of the pharaoh, the vizier of the North often presides over the ceremony, which was what Seto was referring to.
(6) House of Life: an institute where Egyptians learn to read and write as a scribe does.
DIS: Dear Ra, Osiris, and Isis above and below, I can't believe how frickin' long that was! It was twenty-two frickin' pages on my laptop! Can you believe that? (sighs) And people wonder why I don't write more ancient Egyptian fictions. Anyway, I'm sorry if Kaiba was a little out of character in this. He was warming up, though! And I'm sorry if you thought the relationship was rushed, but it's a one-shot (even though it's long) and normally in one-shots it is rushed. In any case, please leave a review on your way out, telling me how I did! Ciao!