Shadow: Oh my…round eight of Compy's contest (and I'm still here?!!), and the next round is the finale. This time around was Chuteshipping – Kisara x Pharaoh Atemu.

Warnings: Language (Bakura has a mouth on him), dark themes, and shonen-ai at some points (boy x boy) – Corruptshipping – Priest Seth x Thief King Bakura. Don't like, don't read, 'kay?

Notes: Set pre-series AE – basically my version of events before the AE in canon kicks off. Mostly in YGO-universe, but some AU elements.

A pyrocumulus is a type of cloud that floats over volcanoes before they erupt. (grins) if that isn't a bad omen, I don't know what is…


Pyrocumulus

The world was a blaze of red and orange. Smoke, thick black and choking, rose into the sky, the wind whipping the soot and embers floating with it against the faces of those stumbling about beneath, burning cloth, burning flesh. Stinging. Hot.

The flames everywhere seared flesh, turned those caught too close to living torches, screams and cries filling the night sky, rubble crashing and smouldering where it thudded into the sands. A herd of horses broke loose from their paddock somewhere and stampeded down the main road, a woman fleeing from a burning house caught under the hooves and trampled to death, crumpling lifelessly to the road. A child wailed at the sight but no-one stopped to comfort him, too busy running away themselves, searching for safety in a land descended completely into chaos.

His cheeks were wet as he watched the sight; his feet lead as he stood on the balcony of the palace and watched his city burn. Blood dripped down his limbs, pooled on the floor, sticky liquid marking the ruined silver-white hair pooled at his feet, the cooling body below.

His wife was dead, the people were dying. The Shadow Games were open and the Dark God had been set free. Above, in the sky, a crazed, grief-stricken white dragon continued to turn the once-legendary city of Thebes to little more than charred rubble.

Ruby eyes slid closed, a choked sob rising in a young throat. This was all his fault…

Thebes continued to burn.

Crimson eyes, scarlet as the flames that still burned within their owner's mind, snapped open.


Welcome to Ancient Egypt. Or Khemet, as the natives call it. The land of shifting sands and blazing sun, of desert and water, and the never-ending blue sky. The land of two lands, where the living and the dead walk hand in hand, and concern for the After is very much part of the Now. Where history is made as you watch it, the rulers of the Two Kingdoms casting down and raising up according to their whims, Pharaoh a living god.

Now to a certain time, a particular dynasty. The old king is dead, buried in his tomb gone a year, his teenage son the new ruler of the land. An intelligent boy, shrewd enough to deal with treacherous underlings, but just enough to treat them fairly. A kind youth, friendly and open, skilful, admired. Interested in his people, to the point that he will cloak himself from time to time and escape his guardians for a few hours to venture out into the city amongst them, much to said guardians' dismay and panic (he never really cares to inform them of where he is going). When the young pharaoh returns it is often to thinly-veiled scolding, utter relief the teen isn't dead and consternation the monarch actually hasn't been kidnapped like they all originally thought – or had to think, anyway. Guarding the pharaoh is a serious duty, one the six High Priests of the Millennium Items willingly undertake with utmost devotion – though in the case of the majority of them, the urge to throttle their younger charge is often a prevalent urge among them, especially when he just ups and disappears without warning.

And so – to Egypt. To the Court of the young king, the teenage Pharaoh, and the monarch's return one late evening from one of his trips to the city to be faced with the wrath of his six High Priests…


"You could've been attacked!"

"Raped!"

"Murdered!"

"And how would we have known?!"

Atemu, Pharaoh of Khemet, sighed as he faced down four furious faces from his perch on the throne (two of his priests were absent, apparently still out searching for him), only just resisting the urge to bury his head in one hand. "Mahado, Akunadin, Karim, Seth -" he addressed each of his accusers in turn, "look at me. I'm fine – nothing untoward happened to me."

"Which is sheer fortune in itself, your Highness!" Akunadin, the eldest of those gathered, drew himself up to his full height.

"Indeed." Mahado, Atemu's closest friend growing up, chimed in. (Atemu, hoping to be spared a lecture from his confidant, shot him a despairing look, one which the brunet priest ignored.) "Sire, what would we have done if harm befell you?"

"For His Majesty's own safety, he should be escorted on every one of his many excursions." Karim added, trying to sound reasonable. "Even in peacetime the Great House may be in peril."

"But I was fine –"

"Who is to say circumstances will be as favourable if His Majesty decides to vanish again?" Akunadin's tone was stern. "Protection for the Horus-on-Earth is first priority."

"First and foremost." Seth, the tallest priest, stood closest to the throne. "Pharaoh," here he inclined his head, a partial bow, "it is our duty to protect you. How can we fulfil our duty if you will constantly do all in your power to thwart us? We need your cooperation, Majesty." His tone was serious. His eyes…concerned.

Atemu slid a little back into his seat, having been made to feel distinctly guilty by his guardian's words. "But I -" he took a deep breath, trying to regain his kingly presence, "I was perfectly fine by myself, Seth, as I have been every other time before today. My strength is more than adequate to protect myself – am I not the living god in Khemet, Horus-upon-

Earth?"

"Living god you may be Highness, you still have but one pair of eyes, one set of ears, and one set of feet." Seth's voice dropped even further, a quiet statement of fact.

His lord and king frowned, a little rankled by the subtle inference lurking within his priest's words. "If I wish to go to the city, Seth, I will go. "

"And worry us all?"

"You worry too much."

"It's still an unnecessary risk -"

"There is no risk at all!"

"Of course there is risk!! When isn't there a risk?!! The festival in celebration of Osiris' birth is tomorrow – the city is rife with pickpockets, thieves and scoundrels."

Atemu shot to his feet, his temper flaring. "If I want to go to the city alone I shall!"

Seth scowled. "Then one day you will die out in that city alone, and on your own head be it!" The brunet turned on his heel, stalking out of the room with his royal blue cloak fluttering majestically around him. Had the Throne Room's doors not been far too large for him to successfully manoeuvre by himself, they would've been slammed on his way out.

The three High Priests remaining gathered around the throne looked stressed, shooting one another anxious looks. Atemu, their King, looked mutinous. All in all, it wasn't a very good situation to be in. And then, Mahado had an idea: -

"Your Majesty, how about we compromise?" The Guardian of the Millennium Ring looked positively inspired. "You could leave us some sign next time you suddenly decide to vanish, so we know you have left of your own free will and haven't been kidnapped."

And therefore don't have to run about the Palace panicking we've lost our Pharaoh, hung in the air unsaid.

Atemu smiled, his momentary flash of bad temper melting away with such a friendly suggestion, sinking back down into his seat. "I think that's a wonderful idea."

"But his most Royal Highness should still have some protection -" Akunadin started, a little annoyed as his grievances being so easily sidelined.

"Akunadin, I'm perfectly capable of defending myself from peasants." The Morning Star crossed his arms, assuming a wounded air. "Or do you think otherwise?"

"I – uh – hm." The eldest High priest was stuck. With a sigh, he caved. "…No, your Majesty. You're more than capable of handling your royal self." There was little else he could say. Any other comment would be a slur against Pharaoh, the Living Horus, and therefore highly treasonable.

"Then it's settled." Atemu looked far too pleased for his own good, unusually-coloured eyes glowing with delight.

Akunadin couldn't help but try to continue his argument. "But -"

"'But'?" A raised eyebrow from the king.

"We only hope Your Majesty will take care." Mahado swept a full bow, diverting attention to himself. His eyes, glancing up seriously at the king, were solemn. "It would distress us all immensely to see the Great One harmed in any way."

"Mahado -"

"I beg leave of your presence, sire, to prepare better for the festivities tomorrow." The guardian of the Millennium Ring never broke gazes with the pharaoh. "As Captain of the Guards it is my duty to oversee the final defences for the celebration, and the sergeants are waiting my company."

There was a long pause, crimson eyes skimming over the Captain's face. "…You have my leave." When Mahado straightened, Atemu rose from his throne. "I shall retire to my rooms as well for a time; I have work to attend to."

"As Your Majesty wills." More bows, this time from all three High Priests.

Karim vouched a suggestion. "Would His Highness like accompanying back to his quarters?" When Atemu shook his head the older male sank back into quiescence, watching silently as the pharaoh stepped down off the dais to the throne with his usual grace, gliding past and out of the room.


"Pharaoh!" Two voices, one male, one female, the sound of two different pairs of sandals slapping off the palace's stone floors.

A hand touched his arm – a familiarity most of Atemu's predecessors hadn't allowed, but Atemu didn't mind -, a smile in the words of greeting.

"Highness, you're alright." The Morning Star paused in his walk, turning to look at his only female High Priest, the lovely Isis. The woman smiled at him warmly. "Horus be praised – we were worried."

"My apologies for troubling you." Atemu's tone was distant. Beside Isis stood Shadi, the sixth and final Item Bearer and High Priest, the man nodding his head politely in his sovereign's direction.

"It was – it is our duty, Majesty." Isis released his arm. "One which we gladly undertake."

Shadi nodded again, informing the monarch calmly. "We searched for you in the city, until the lady Isis informed us you were in the palace once more through a vision from the Tauk." The female touched the gleaming golden eye on the necklace about her throat. "We returned to your presence as quickly as possible; have you need of us?"

"Only that you continue your preparations for the festival tomorrow." Atemu took a half-step away from his two advisers, preoccupied. "I have work to go through myself before Ra begins his nightly journey in the west…"

"Then I will leave you to your labours, Highness." Isis bowed lowly, her dark hair swinging around her shoulders and over her face for a few moments before she straightened. Nodding slightly to Shadi she hurried off down the palace corridor, the two males behind her remaining silent until she'd vanished from sight.

"Majesty…" Shadi turned to the pharaoh once more, "I was wondering."

"Wondering what?" Atemu started walking, his priest quickly falling into step with him.

"About the royal harem, Sire." Shadi took note of the subtle flinch his sovereign made, steeling himself and continuing: "There have been…comments from the general populace and nobility -"

Flatly: "About my harem."

"Yes, your Majesty, but most particularly about – er –" pink touched Shadi's cheeks, the priest flushing due to embarrassment, "about the lack of things being…produced from the harem."

"Children, for example?" Atemu's voice was dry.

Even more embarrassed, Shadi bowed his head. "Yes, your Majesty. Has one of my fellows brought this issue to your attention before today…?"

"Akunadin brought up the issue with me yesterday." The pharaoh's tone turned a little cool, bordering on frosty. His opinion on the 'issue being brought to his attention' was more than evident.

His companion paused for a second, a few steps behind the young ruler. "…Ah." Hastily he resumed his motion, his superior not deigning to wait for him, searching for the right words to say. "Has…Your Majesty given thought to the matter since then?"

"As much as it deserves. If I choose not have children with my wives or concubines, surely it is my choice?" They had reached the Royal Chambers, Atemu stopping in front of the large door sealing his room and waiting patiently for the guards either side of it to open the barrier for him.

"But the people -"

"The people may wait until I decide!" The king's words were sharp. "I am their Pharaoh, and yet it is they who will dictate my life to me? Their thoughts I must follow? I love my people, Shadi - do not doubt me on that -; I will do all that is within my power to make this land prosperous, peaceful and free of drought, sickness and famine. I give all that I am into this life I live for them, and now I draw the line." Regally, Atemu drew himself up, eyes and gold flashing. "I will have children when I wish to have children, and that is the end of the matter."

Shadi protested. "But…Highness…"

"The end of the matter, I said!"

The High Priest bowed, sighing. "As you will it, Majesty."


The late evening sun was bleeding into the Royal Bedchambers when someone tapped upon the room's door, the Pharaoh of Egypt not looking up from some scrolls he was reading through at his table at the sound. "Enter."

"Your Highness." The monarch didn't need to look up to recognise a voice.

"Good evening, Seth." Atemu picked up a stylus beside him, adding some paint from his block to the tip before quickly adding a few notes to the sheet he was currently working through, demotic elegant even in his haste. "What brings you to my chamber at this hour, especially after your outburst before? The prayers are over for this day."

"It concerns the matter we spoke of the other day, when the High Priest Akunadin was with us?" Seth approached the table where the other was working, carefully standing out of the light so he didn't cast shadows over the king's work.

Another few scratches of the stylus, a frown. More water applied to the block, more paint applied to the stylus. "If it's about the production of heirs, I don't want to hear it."

Atemu could practically hear the frown on his companion's face. "Sire, it's -"

"What did I just say?" The king had yet to look up.

"But it's -"

"No." Papyrus sheet carefully set aside, another one lifted from the large pile still to be gone through.

"It -"

"No."

"I -"

"No."

"But -"

"No."

"Your Majesty, it's not about heirs!!"

Startled at the outburst, Atemu looked up from his work to see his usually most stoic High Priest breathing rather heavily, eyes closed and face visibly strained.

A note of surprise in the pharaoh's voice: "It's not?"

"No." Blue eyes snapped open, irritated, Seth's tone vehement.

"…Oh." Atemu put down his stylus, fixing a brilliant smile upon the other. "What is it about then?" A papyrus roll was stuffed none-too-delicately under his nose; Atemu opened his mouth to complain about the rude treatment – and then closed it again rather abruptly when he saw the lovely tinge of murder in Seth's expression.

"It's Lord Ahmose's proposition." The brunet's words were a little clipped, hands held loosely behind his back as he waited for the king to finish reading through the scroll. "About the possibility of his building a residence on the opposing bank of the Nile? He suggests the land he would have purchased from the Crown for the site – it is but half a mile from this very palace."

Atemu nodded absent-mindedly – and then frowned as his gaze chanced across the proposal in the document before him, the details laid out explicitly. "…Is the man actually serious?" The pharaoh glanced up at his adviser, annoyed. "Those are some of the best hunting grounds on the Nile!"

"Lord Ahmose was told you would be displeased by the suggestion, Highness, but he insisted his proposal be delivered to you in full detail, so that you might judge it for yourself." Seth looked irritated at the memory. "He upped the price he offers for the lands in anticipation of your discontent."

"My 'discontent' indeed!" Atemu flung down the scroll, his own irritation rising. "It is a well-known fact those lands are the main Royal hunting grounds due to their abundance of water-fowl – would Ahmose have us scare all sport off? Ugh!"

"…Shall I have His Lord informed the lands are not for sale?"

"As soon as possible, so he is not haranguing us for a reply." The pharaoh picked up his stylus, abruptly yanking a new sheet of hieratic towards him to be read over.

Seth bowed slightly from his upper waist. "As my Pharaoh commands." He turned to go, but paused halfway to the exit, hesitating.

"…Seth?" Atemu looked up from his work again, having not heard the other depart. "Was there some other matter you wished to discuss?"

"It's just…" The priest paused again, not looking at his ruler, seemingly searching for divine inspiration in the murals painted on the chamber's walls, "Sire, forgive my impudence, but…on the matter of children…"

"What of them?"

"There aren't any." A little surprised even at his own bluntness, Seth hastily added – "Majesty, is it the Royal Princesses, your wives? Do they displease you in some way?"

"No." Atemu paused, hands gripping the side of his writing table unconsciously, glancing out to the great balcony at the chamber's far side. "I just…don't like any of them enough."

"'Like'…?"

"They are all from the nobility, their parents' daughters to perfection. Born politicians, my harem is a seething mass of ambition and envy, my precious wives backstabbing each other for power and control, concerning themselves only with their vanities and the advancement of themselves and their opinions." Atemu's tone was sour. "It is assumed whoever is first to bear the Pharaoh a son will become the Great Queen – but me? Take one of those snakes as my Great Wife? I think not. I don't like any of them enough to make them my Queen, and so cannot take the chance of impregnating one for fear it will be a son."

"So…your difficulty lies in the women themselves, Highness?" Seth paused, thinking a few moments. "It would not be hard surely to find a new wife, one you feel more comfortable with?"

"I'm too busy." A document waved the brunet's way.

"Then let us, your advisers, find a woman for you."

"No."

"Your Highness…"

Atemu looked resolutely away from his High Priest, going back to his work. "Get some rest, Seth. The festival to Osiris is tomorrow; it will be a busy day for both of us."

Seth frowned, but left the room shortly thereafter.


Late night, and the High Priest Seth finally entered his room after a long day's work, the sun having sunk below the horizon many, many hours beforehand. With a sigh he sank back against the door he'd shut behind him, letting his eyes slip closed for just a second as some of the day's stresses slipped from his frame.

"Busy day?" A familiar voice from the balcony on the wall opposite, blue eyes snapping open once more to see a tanned hand part the sheer curtain's hanging from the arch, slim frame stepping through to grin rather cheekily at the brunet.

"Yes."

"My condolences." Smoothly the curtain was drawn more firmly aside, hand outstretched to Seth in supplication. "Come join me out here, Holiness." When the priest complied, something sparkling was withdrawn from a crimson pocket, held on an open palm towards the brunet. "I brought you a gift."

Seth smiled wryly, taking note of the gleaming, precious stones in the brooch lying so carelessly on his lover's hand. "Taken from the tomb of some late leader of this very Khemet no doubt - eh, Bakura?"

A chuckle from the white-haired thief, the other stepping closer to pin the brooch in place on the other's robe. "Such jewels always look better on the living." A quick kiss, firmly, to the lips of the High Priest. "The dead have no use for pretty trinkets."

Brushing a fingertip over the jewelled scarab he now wore, Seth watched as his companion back-stepped a few paces before seating himself comfortably on the balcony's ledge, perfectly balanced along the narrow strip of stone. "You climbed up the Palace walls again?"

An effortless shrug. "How else was I supposed to get here?"

"…I've yet to figure out how no-one's spotted you yet, and shot you down."

"Sheer skill." Bakura preened, reclining artfully in his precarious seat. "My dashing good looks don't hurt either – who could bear to send this gorgeous visage of mine into the arms of Osiris?"

"…Or into the jaws of the Devourer." At the pout that comment earned him Seth half-smiled, reaching out with one hand to cup his companion's cheek. "Vanity, thy name is Bakura."

"Idiocy, thy name is Seth."

"Wait, you -"

"Maybe some of it rubbed off of that Pharaoh of yours, you spend so much time with him…"

Seth shook his head. "I don't spend that much -"

"You spend all day with him -"

"Don't tell me you're jealous?" Seth looked up at his white-haired companion, amused.

Bakura gaped – and then closed his mouth with a snap. "Not in the slightest."

"Not even a little bit?"

"What have I got to be jealous of?"

"You said it yourself – I spend all day with him." Seth stressed the words, determined to provoke a reaction. "All day with long-legged, lithe, gorgeous him."

Bakura scowled. "If he's so gorgeous, why aren't you bedding him?"

His lover smirked, casually leaning on the balustrade beside him, glancing up at the stars. "He's not interested in men."

"So you would have him otherwise?!"

A slanted glance of blue eyes, Seth's lips curling up at the corners in satisfaction. "I thought you weren't jealous?"

"I – you…" Bakura scowled. "Shut up."

Seth's smirk returned with full-force, the brunet smoothly moving so he could wrap his arms about his companion's waist, whispering more than a little smugly into the other's ear: - "Liar."

"I'm a thief, were you expecting great acts of devout honesty?"

Another smirk, but Seth idly changed he subject. "…His Majesty is being troublesome at the moment, apparently the source of the problem lies with the royal wives. Their…whole natures repel him, and so…there's rather a problem where the producing of heirs lies."

"Can't he find someone else he actually likes to marry then?" Bakura hated discussing the pharaoh in any great depth. Seth was prone to asking deep questions, and on the subject of the king Bakura began to feel most uncomfortable…

"He's too busy."

"Then, as his High Priest, find a pretty mouse for him."

"There's no guarantee he'll accept the choice." Seth sighed, laying his head on the other's shoulder. "Pharaoh is quite strong-willed – he will need a lot of persuasion -"

"So persuade him!" Bakura was getting a little fed-up. "You're the second most powerful man in all Khemet, surely you can think of some way to convince him of your choice?" There was a long pause. Somewhat spooked by the sudden quiet, Bakura looked down to see blue eyes gleaming back at him in the night's darkness. "…What?"


The festival of Osiris came the following day, the celebration of the dead god's birthday, and the city of Thebes celebrated in grand style. The statue of the god, taken from its temple, was paraded through the city's streets, the people cheering and dancing. Work in the fields was laid off for the day, labourers taking a break to drink and be merry with their friends. Pharaoh had preceded over the festival in the morning, but in the afternoon: -

"Who, in the great name of Ra, is she?"

They were down by the Nile in the afternoon, along the banks in the Royal Hunting grounds. Boats were tethered in place, bobbing amongst the reeds, and Seth stood on one of the craft beside his sovereign king as a smirking Mahado handed a pretty young woman down to the two young on the flat boat.

"Your companion for this afternoon, Majesty." Seth kept his expression innocent, his tone perfectly neutral. "Her name is Menkaare, and she is the youngest daughter of a minor Lord from the North. She lives here in Thebes with an aunt…apparently her mother thought the life in the capital would be good for her? She's a quiet soul."

The pharaoh glared at him. "I know what you're trying to do."

"The only thing I could possibly be 'trying to do', Sire, is my job." Seth stretched out a hand to Menkaare along with a smile, leading the girl to the king. "Your Majesty – Menkarre."

"My Lord." The female immediately sank into a curtsey, her tone melodious, her face fair. She was a pretty girl but –

"I'll speak to you later." Atemu was still glaring as Seth got off the boat, heading for his own craft. The brunet only shot him a small, and quite triumphant, smile. Sighing inwardly, the pharaoh turned back to Menkarre. "You may look at me, if you wish." The girl was still looking down at the craft under their feet.

"Majesty!" Hastily, Menkarre rose from her curtsey, anxious not to displease the Morning Star. "My apologies, I -"

"You don't need to apologise -"

"But I offended his Majesty-!"

"You didn't offend me."

"His Majesty is too kind…" Another bob from the girl, "but if I vex you my Lord I would beg you to tell me. I am clumsy, my mother says and -" Menkarre launched into her life story.

Out of sheer manners Atemu let the female ramble on, but inwardly, oh inwardly, he started planning the many ways he could get away with killing a certain blue-eyed High Priest.


Atemu was bored. Really bored. Menkaare just…never stopped talking. When she stood, when she sat, when she offered a bowful of honey-covered figs by a servant on the boat, when she threw the special sticks at the water-fowl around the boat, when whole flocks of ducks were brought down (it seemed she was a pretty good shot)… She just never. Shut. Up. Atemu had quite lost the drift of Menkaare's monologue a good half-hour back, only occasionally rousing himself from the stupor the young woman's voice sent him into to make vague noises of affirmation to some point or other.

Seth, with Mahado at his side in a boat close to the pharaoh's, was getting quite frustrated at the lack of progress between the noble female and king. To the point where he was considering just –

Mahado tugged on the arm of his robe, leaning closer for a few moments to whisper something into his companion's ear. Seth withdrew, smirking.

The Millennium Ring and Rod glowed.

Atemu was still drifting, paying absolutely no attention to Menkaare anymore whatsoever. The woman had bored him beyond redemption, and now he was leaning back against the side of the boat, staring into the Nile's waters and the papyrus reeds along the river's banks.

A beady eye glared out back at him from the reeds.

Somewhat startled Atemu jolted into an upright sitting position – surprising Menkaare so much (she thought he'd been docilely listening to her) so much she actually did the unthinkable and actually paused for breath.

"Highness?"

Atemu gestured vaguely at the reeds, but the malevolent eye had already vanished. "I thought I saw something…"

"Then let us go investigate!" Menkaare suggested brightly, giving swift directions to the one steering their boat to head over to the reeds before the pharaoh could vouch a protest. Drawing closer to the papyrus plants, the girl shot the king a smile. "Now where did you see your 'something', Your Majesty?"

"Over there." Atemu waved his hand in the general direction of where he'd seen the eye (at least, he'd thought it had been an eye) glowering at him. He hung back as Menkaare leaned closer to the reeds. "It was probably nothing, just a trick of light on the water -"

"No…" The girl shook her head. "I – I think I see something -" She leaned closer still.

A hiss, a loud quacking cry, and three river ducks broke free from the reeds, emerging a puff of angry feathers at the noblewoman. Yelping, Menkaare stumbled backwards from the furious birds, her heel catching on the boat's edge and –

"Watch out!" Atemu reached for her.

A splash. Quite a loud one in fact, water flying everywhere rocking the flat boats on the Nile.

Two extremely sodden young people, one male, one female. Both mortified, one deeply annoyed, all the mud and dirt of the river clinging to the skin and clothes of both Menkaare and Atemu, the noble and royal waist-deep in cold water.

Mahado blinked. "I…didn't expect that to happen."

Seth merely smirked, and had the servant controlling their boat punt over to the two in the water, stretching down a hand to haul his sodden sovereign into their boat. "…Did you enjoy your swim, Majesty?"

Atemu glowered at him, dripping balefully on the boat's boards as Menkaare was helped out of the Nile by Mahado. The Living Horus looked most bedraggled and very not pleased.

Jubilant, three somewhat-mollified ducks swam away, back into their reeds.


Night on the feast day in celebration of the birth of Osiris, and Seth was sitting in his room, still smirking to himself over the events of the afternoon. If that was one thing to remember…!.

Karim burst through the doors of his room, panting and out of breath. "Pharaoh's vanished!"

Seth looked up. "Again?"

"Yes, again!"

"You say that like I'm meant to be surprised…" Seth went back to his work.

Indeed, the Pharaoh had vanished – again. He was gone from the palace completely, slinking out into Thebes proper with all the grace of one of Khemet's cats, those blessed by the lovely goddess Bast, a cloak concealing most of his appearance. The city was alight with torches, whirling dancers, rattling sistrums and rumbling beats. Everywhere was a party…and Atemu was not inclined to be missing out.

The crowds thronged everywhere in the capital – groups of friends, lovers, dancers, the drunk, the rogues –

She was so different she caught his eye immediately.

Long hair, whiter than the moon, a smoky blue where the shadows touched it…each strand was lifted by the unusually gentle night breeze, a fine silver halo about her face. People around her seemed to think she'd dyed it some how, or wore a styled wig of animal hair, adorned herself in some way for the festivities. But…Atemu didn't think –

She stood in the corner of the main square, watching acrobats tumbling and flipping about, carefully out of the way of the larger crowds, smiling and applauding when some of the entertainers pulled off a new trick successfully.

Atemu approached her. "My lady?" Blue eyes, more brilliant and beautiful than the day's sky, looked at him, startled. The pharaoh smiled gently to try and appease her. "My lady, your hair suits you. Is it natural?"

"Yes, I -" The woman faltered, as if expecting scorn for her hasty confession. When none was forthcoming, she looked confused. "…Why do you wish to know?" Her accent was not that of a native Egyptian…her inflections and skin suggested she came from the north.

"It is rare to see such uniqueness in a land full of the dark-haired." Atemu pitied her somewhat for her worry – he himself, with his strange hairstyle, would have probably received grief for his appearance had he not been born of the royal line. "Myself…I get the same sort of problems, sometimes." He pulled back the cloak covering his face slightly, so she could see the golden bangs framing his eyes, some of the unruly spikes about there.

"I…can see why." A hesitant smile.

Atemu smiled back, much more warmly. "…May I buy you something to eat? We could sit down, talk about past woes, if you wish."

There was a considering few minutes of silence and then, biting her lip, the silver-haired woman nodded. "I'd like that."

Atemu offered her his arm. "…And what should I call you while we talk, my lady? For, pretty a lady as you might be, I feel quite rude only addressing you as such."

A sweet laugh, pale hand resting on the pharaoh's wrist. "You may call me Kisara."


Thebes was quiet, the revellers finally returning to their beds as dawn approached. The royal palace was at peace, the pharaoh having returned to his chambers, and the High Priests had retired too to gain some much-needed rest.

Seth was sleeping in his room, long body sprawled out on his bed, head tucked on his arm instead of the uncomfortable headrest. His sleep was peaceful, untroubled, his breathing even.

Bakura pensively watched the other sleep, a frown upon his face as he leaned against the chamber's wall. There were things troubling him, largely of a practical sort, many arising from the various ways he'd employed to receive information for his 'quest'.

His problem, simply put: - Seth.

Or, better yet, Seth's loyalty. To Pharaoh, to the son of a murderer. To the brat with his father's sins upon him, the object of Bakura's hatred, he who had to pay for ninety-nine lives slain…

How would Seth take it, were Bakura ever to tell him all about his precious Pharaoh?

Seth stirred in his sleep, twisting onto his back to try and get comfortable.

Bakura, not wanting the other to wake and see him, fled into the last of the night.


Atemu dreamed of dragons in flight, of curled clouds and the never-ending blue sky where crystal soared and swooped with the wind. He dreamed of an oasis, and a soft body beside his in the sand, silver-white hair threaded through his fingers -

He dreamed of fire, and death, and destruction. And then he dreamed of Kisara, the lovely girl of the night of the Osiris festival. She had been so light, so pretty, a confused benevolence fluttering around her when addressed. Very shy, and very sweet –

"They say the sons of Horus could see truth in their dreams, or on the wind."

Atemu yelped, nearly jumping out of his skin as he whirled around, one hand clutched to his chest to see one smiling High Priestess looking at him. " Isis, are you trying to kill me?!"

"No sire," a shake of the woman's head, "but regardless I do seem to be succeeding."


Another night, and Atemu snuck back out to the city. A white-haired girl stood waiting for him, smiling when he kissed her hand and led her to a tavern for something to eat and drink. They talked together while they ate, Kisara becoming more animated as she relaxed into the conversation, Atemu liking the smile, liking making her laugh.

"Come with me." She took him to the rooftop of an inn she was staying at, showing him the city under the moonlight, the desert.

Atemu smiled at the sight. He had seen it all before, but somehow, in the company of another, it suddenly seemed so much different. "You do this often?"

"What?" Kisara looked at him, a little confused by the question.

"Look at the city under the moon, under the stars?"

The girl shrugged. "The night is kind, and hides many flaws. The moon turns everything it touches to silver – at this time of night I am not the only one with such pale skin, such white hair…"

"I like your hair." Atemu looked at her sadly; a little angry others should have treated the kind-hearted girl before him so badly, mocked her for her appearance.

"Thank you." Kisara smiled at him again, and it suddenly hit Atemu with a slap.

I like her…

Suddenly, words came tumbling out. "Will you meet with me again?"

A blink of blue eyes. "I have no reason not to. You're a lovely person, Atem," (he had not told her his full name,) "I enjoy your company so much, I -" pink touched her cheeks. "I'll gladly meet with you again."

"...Would you ride with me, in the desert? I know an oasis -"

"I haven't a horse."

"If I send you one?"

Kisara looked at Atemu's earnest face, a little doubtful. "You can afford that? But -"

"It'll be a gift. You cannot turn down a gift, surely?" The king took the girl's hands. "A lovely horse, for a lovely lady."

The pink in Kisara's cheeks grew. "You flatter me too much…" The female glanced shyly down at their entwined hands. "I'd like to go riding with you, very much."

Atemu smiled, and suddenly raised one hand to his lips again, placing a gentle kiss on it again, delighting in the sudden wash of red on Kisara's face. "I'll arrange it."


"What do you dream of?" Bakura lay curled against Seth's side, the two twined – still-dressed – on the High Priest's bed. The thief's words were a whisper in the brunet's ear.

"I dream of many things, so many they're impossible to name." The priest's reply was lazy, the words of someone half-asleep.

Bakura pressed himself a little closer to the other, the heat of his breath causing blue eyes to slip closed. "I dream of fire."

Blue eyes promptly snapped open again. "What?" Confusion, Seth not understanding, sitting up on the bed.

And so Bakura sat up as well and explained it to him, in the darkness of the room. In the silence, his words fell, swallowed by the gloom. Words of anger, words of bitterness and pain. Visions from the view of an eight-year-old child whose village was slaughtered, ninety-nine lives taken in one night. Visions of blood, and bones, and fire licking what was once 'home'. Rememeberings, and the charred rubble left behind. Pharaoh's soldiers. Pharaoh's Items. Pharaoh's command.

Seth shook his head, denied the facts, and somehow the tale fell into Bakura's anger, his hatred for the Pharaoh of the present –

And that was where things went completely wrong.

Gold gleamed in the faint light in the room from the moon outside, then silver, then red –

"Get out." Seth's voice was cold.

Bakura couldn't stop the near-hysterical laughter bubbling from his lips, both hands clutched to the bleeding slash upon his face caused by the still-dripping blade lurking within the Millennium Rod. "You are a fool to be so loyal to the brat of a murdering bastard."

Seth's expression was furious, words little more than a hiss. "Your words are poisonous lies – get gone from here or I shall carve you a new face with this blade."

"So the truth's out. You really do love that bastard more than me."

"Bakura-!"

Bakura straightened, anger lending him strength. "You're an idiot! Do you even -"

"Get out of here!" The incensed High priest yelled. "Or I'll slice you where you stand."

Dark eyes narrowed. "I'd like to see you try." Bakura's tone was vicious. "How could you, a blind man, ever hurt me? You listen to your beloved Pharaoh too closely Priest – and he's been hiding too much from you. Ask him what he's been doing out in the city recently, and with whom – my contacts tell me a lot of things, Priest, and I swear by Ra -"

"What on you talking about?" A growl.

"Your precious Pharaoh is in love." Bakura sneered. "With some devil-woman from the north. I'll have her driven from the city -"

"You wouldn't dare -"

"Watch me." Bakura ran to the balcony, Seth suddenly on his heels. "This mess is his fault! Why should he be spared the pain?!"

"You low-life, conniving -!"

Bakura snarled at him. "You'll see me again, Priest, don't worry. Only next time, I'll be standing over the corpse of the Morning Star."

"Bakura-!" But the thief had dropped from sight. Running to the balcony's edge Seth could see no trace of the white-haired male anywhere – the only sign Bakura had ever been there in the first place was the cooling blood still dripping from the Millennium Rod, scarlet droplets splattering on the floor.


The rumours of the White Dragon flooded Thebes the following morning, rumours of a fearsome beast with teeth and claws that could raze who cities to the ground in a night. Anyone not local to the area was immediately regarded with suspicion, the palace filled from dawn's rise with cases against innocent people thought to be 'guardians of the dragon', or people caught trying to attack anyone who was a 'guardian'. Most of those under fire for being a 'guardian' were pale-skinned, from the north, most of them female, with light-coloured hair –

Atemu was consumed by worry. He'd sent the horse to Kisara with a servant like he'd promised, but…all this tension in Thebes…

The servant had come back with a message for him.

'I must leave the city, and this gift of yours gives me the means to. Atem, I fear for my life if I stay here. Will you come with me?'

Atemu was determined to meet her, to talk to her, to explain his position to her and bring her under protection at the palace –

He was kept busy all day with news of the attacks.

Night fell, and Atemu had his cloak on heading for the royal stables as soon as he was able to, determined to meet with Kisara –

A voice stopped him from the shadows in the hallway outside his room. "If you go to her tonight, this kingdom will be ruined."

Atemu halted mid-step, whirling about to glare into the gloom from where the voice had sprung. " Isis!"

"Your Majesty." The High Priestess inclined her head to him in the gloom, dark hair swinging over her elegant features. One smooth hand lay upon the Millennium Tauk about her neck, the Item's golden glow – signalling recent use – beginning to fade.

"What do you mean?" Atemu sounded defensive. " Isis, have you-?"

"If you go to that white-haired woman tonight," the Priestess' words were clear, "all Khemet will burn, the Two Lands plunged into chaos and Shadow."

"You have seen this?"

"Yes."

"From the Tauk?"

"Where else, Sire?"

"But – I -" Atemu faltered torn. "I must go! She is leaving tonight and I-!" Isis took his hand, placing it on the symbol of the Millennium Eye on the Tauk.

The world was a blaze of red and orange. Smoke, thick black and choking, rose into the sky, the wind whipping the soot and embers floating with it against the faces of those stumbling about beneath, burning cloth, burning flesh. Stinging. Hot.

The flames everywhere seared flesh, turned those caught too close to living torches, screams and cries filling the night sky, rubble crashing and smouldering where it thudded into the sands. A herd of horses broke loose from their paddock somewhere and stampeded down the main road, a woman fleeing from a burning house caught under the hooves and trampled to death, crumpling lifelessly to the road. A child wailed at the sight but no-one stopped to comfort him, too busy running away themselves, searching for safety in a land descended completely into chaos.

His cheeks were wet as he watched the sight; his feet lead as he stood on the balcony of the palace and watched his city burn. Blood dripped down his limbs, pooled on the floor, sticky liquid marking the ruined silver-white hair pooled at his feet, the cooling body below.

His wife was dead, the people were dying. The Shadow Games were open and the Dark God had been set free. Above, in the sky, a crazed, grief-stricken white dragon continued to turn the once-legendary city of Thebes to little more than charred rubble.

Ruby eyes slid closed, a choked sob rising in a young throat. This was all his fault…

Thebes continued to burn.

When the vision faded, Atemu's cheeks were still wet with tears. Kisara…

"Visions from the gods are not to be ignored." Isis' voice was soft, pained. "Your Majesty, for the sake of us, I plead with you not to go to that woman -"

"Kisara." At the look of confusion on his companion's face, Atemu reiterated: "Her name is Kisara. And…you say…if I go to her tonight, she will die. As will the rest of my kingdom."

"If you go tonight, she will marry you." Isis' voice was quiet, growing quieter as she went on. "But she will die within three months, trying to save your life. Her Dragon will ravage the lands when you fall and – Atemu, my lord," here the usually composed woman fell to the ground before her king, "the world will suffer."

Atemu swallowed, hard. Beyond him he could see a wide arch leading out to the city, to the moonlit night, to the desert where Kisara would no doubt be waiting for him…

"…Set your heart at rest, Isis." His own was silently breaking. "I won't go."


Kisara waited quietly at the edge of the city, her new horse at her side. The beast was white, a wonderful creamy colour like the pearls traders from over the great northern sea brought to Khemet. A beautiful mare, proud and not too flighty. A wonderful gift, from a gentle-natured man.

Where is he? It was late, the moon nearly at its zenith – Kisara had to go soon. Atem had said he would meet with her, but –

Where is he? She couldn't wait forever. She had to get most of her travelling done by day – it was too hot to travel a long distances in the desert during the day. She'd been threatened numerous times that day – she feared for her life if she remained in Thebes any longer –

Time dragged on. She had come to the city to find a boy who had been kind to her once, to thank him for freeing her from slave traders. He had had brilliant blue eyes, so very like her own, distinguishing him from the common Egyptian.

The moon reached its peak. Kisara's eyes pricked, a lump suddenly rising in her throat.

He's not coming…

She didn't blame him. Atem was smart, she'd picked that much up about him, and kind and wonderful. Why would he-?

Kisara scrambled up onto the back of her new horse, ignoring the sudden lance of pain inside of her as she glanced back at the –empty – main street, the street where no Atem was riding towards her –

She had to go.

Kicking her horse into motion Kisara left Thebes, riding out into the desert in a spray of silver sand, the path a ribbon of moonlight before her, guiding her way to a place where she hopefully would not be so scorned.

She didn't look back.