Disclaimer: I do not own anything that comes from the series Yugioh. Though I do own the plot of this story which is the main component of the hundreds of headaches I've been subjected to so far.
Warning: homosexuality (or sodomy if you want to but I don't prefer that word. It reminds me too much of my bible…which is a pain sometime). Extreme realism (as in you'll be seeing the application of economics, political science, religious-centered anthropology and so on…but I'll try not to turn this into a college essay.) Of course there are many details that will not be adapted if they do not help the plot and only serve to jumble everything up.
Chapter 2: A God is born
You may worship no other god than me. You shall not make yourselves any idols: any images resembling animals, birds, or fish. You must never bow to an image or worship it in anyway; for I, the lord your God, am very possessive. I will not share your affection with any other god!
-Catholic Bible, book of Exodus, page 20, 21, verse 3 to 5-
The main palace was alighted with running torches and the sounds of a thousands human bees shuffling back and forward in shouted orders. The streets of Tanis too were lighted in the same way and swarmed with running sentries. All the houses spotted closed doors and windows. Once in a while, a half curious half worried pair of eyes would peek through a crack on the window-sills only to yank back inside as the nearest guard approached.
It was to this scene that Set, one of the priests of the Sacred Court, arrived, his bewilderment carefully hidden behind a neutral face. In stead of a whole retinue as was demanded of his status, only one guard followed him through the central gate of the palace, passing the two great sphinxes. The sentries bowed their head low as they ran pass him but did not slow down.
Set continued on unfazed and walked in a stiff pace towards the central keep, a gigantic fortified semi-tower nestled in the center of the complex. It was here that he found the rest of the Sacred Court standing in the centre of the top of the keep. Shada was talking to one of the commanders. Isis stood to one side as she conversed in a hushed tone with the old vizier Shimon. Karim was somewhere down below, directing the influx of reporting sentries.
Leaving his guard behind, Set approached the only free priest, the magician.
"I came as was called. What is going on here?"
Mahaad looked visibly shaken. His lips were pressed into a thin line and the irises in his eyes were dilated with stress. With hesitation, he spoke.
"The city has been shut down…and is under martial law."
But Set already knew that. It was the reason why he went to the palace with only one guard in tow. Under the law, no group of more than 2 people were allowed on the streets and public places.
"What warranted such a thing?"
'That…' Thought the magician '…is a question whose answer I also want to know.'
He did not share his thought with the other priest however, opting to shake his head in stead and throw a discreet glance at the lone figure standing behind the exposed balcony, overlooking the flows of men streaming over the streets of Tanis.
If it weren't for the warm light of fire shining of his bronze skin, the king would have been a golden statue under the torches. The touch of Midas? The magician wondered. His body was still in the way that no living things should be. His stony façade was betrayed only by the wild movement of his eyes as they meticulously scanned the streets below and the almost invisible tremble of his tightly closed fists.
"We are searching for something."
"Stolen from the palace? What could be so important?"
"A boy…" Mahaad spoke in a dazed voice, as if he couldn't believe it himself. "…that looks just like our lord."
The eerie silence that enveloped the room was even more unbearable than the scream before it. It was suffocating.
The two priests were stunned speechless as they watched their lord. His body quivered as his hands touched the linen, damp with blood, as if he couldn't trust his eyes. A choked moan escaped from his lips as he eyed his wet fingers, now stained an ugly red.
In that moment, realization dawned on Mahaad and he swayed slightly on his feet, momentarily struck with vertigo. In front of him was no powerful king, the ruthless ruler of Kemet.
In that room with the two priests was a lost child.
It was this exact image that Mahaad had witnessed eight years ago when news had come bearing the death of the late pharaoh.
Gingerly, he inched towards his charge, helpless and unsure of what to do.
"My lord…" But the pharaoh was deaf to his voice. No. not lord, not even king nor liege.
"My…prince…" exactly the same phrase. The ever loyal Mahaad, once a close friend of the pharaoh had uttered this exact phrase eight years ago. He laid a hand gently on the other's shoulder. The pharaoh drew a sharp breath at his touch, as if yanked back to reality. He closed his eyes and muttered to himself.
"…no body, no corpse… ….. … ….alive…"
As the last word left his mouth in a whisper that seemed to breathe life into the king and Mahaad immediately withdrew his hand. He stood up and his eyes stoned into a cutting scarlet. A long breathe in. Breathe out. A single second of silence. Then…
"Call on the army"
The king turned sharply and the priests flinched at his unforgiving gaze.
"Call on the army. Shut down all routes in and out of the city. Turn on full surveillance. Declare the martial law. "
"Anyone who disobeys…" He paused to emphasize "…Kill on sight!"
They were frozen on spot and stunned confusion was all too obvious on their faces but the king's eyes left no room for questions.
"You heard me. Get going!"
With that order, the priest's numb minds snapped into learned reflex, instilled into them after years of servitude. They bended down at the same time, with the same angle and same posture, one hand over their chests like a man and his reflection and immediately left the room.
The search went on, lighting all of Tanis. In the palace, a mute slave was being hunted while out on the streets, royal guards knocked on noble and priest's doors.
Meanwhile, many feet below the city, in a large stone chamber, an old cloaked man sat with a book in his lap, patiently waiting for his servants. Just in time, the door opened with a screech and a man stumbled in, a human shape lump weighted heavily on his shoulders.
The old man did not look up but his keen nose detected the pungent smell of blood hanging in the air.
"No. He slept like a sack."
It was only then that the old man turned up. His assistant laid the boy down on a stone table, heaving with difficulty. The blood smeared on the semi-transparent white cloth and stuck onto pale skin but it was obvious that it did not come from the boy. The servant wheezed and nursed a slash wound on his arm, his voice gruff with pain.
"The pharaoh laid traps like a weaver wench. I did not notice this one. It was triggered only when he was moved from the bed and my hands were busy then."
"Smart boy. He took after his father."
The old man laid his book down and walked to the stone table, eager for his prize yet repelled by the stench. He sniffed disdainfully.
"Though he obviously did not inherit his sire's suave touch. My prize has been soiled. Have him cleaned. Find clothes for him, fine ones." He rang a small silver bell as he said this, smiling eagerly.
"He shall make an excellent offering."
It was done as the old man said. Several slaves were called into the room and took the sleeper with them. And soon, he was brought back, decked in pristine linen and smelling of clove oil.
Torches lit the chamber and illuminated the altar at the centre, made entirely in black marble and glinting wickedly. Up above ground, the night of Tanis was disrupted with shouted orders, complaints and threats from the resisting priests.
The warm fire shone warmly on the sleeping boy, still blissfully unaware of the coming danger. The old man traced his fingers on the ornate hilt of a ritual blade and took leisure steps around the altar, wafting in the scent of burning aroma oil. Bare hands were so primitive and below his status but some priests liked to rip the heart out themselves. He, on the other hand preferred things not so messily.
A sentry yelled and a pharaoh clutched at his pyramid almost desperately, fearing the growing anxiety burning in his chest. But they were all far away and would never be heard in this room.
The assistant watched with a hawk's eyes, memorizing everything. The knife came down on the sleeper's chest, drawing an invisible pyramid teasingly then lifted back up, positioned in a firm grip just over its carrier's head, its tip aiming for the sleeping boy's heart, waiting.
The lamp flickered and the oil burned with their last spark. The moonlight filtered and flickered down on a tiny dot. In accordance, a single thought zipped through the old man's mind.
He swung the blade down.
The guard kicked the closed door down and entered despite the yelling protests of a woman then exited with a grunt.
"They have a cellar." The sentries, just waiting for that line, pushed inside in a horde. It took them a while more to come out.
"Not here either."
Set nodded absentmindedly and directed them to the next house mechanically, his head already preoccupied with streams of thoughts. The houses that they had gone through so far were the residents of nobles and priests and Set supposed it was very sharp of the king to target them right away. Someone that had the nerve, resources and motive to steal from the king could be no ordinary peasants. Even though Tanis was the capital of Kemet, the groups of noble and temple complexes weren't such a large number and wielding the power of the royal army, it was only time that they would find out the culprit.
On the other hand, however, the pharaoh wasn't going to be popular with the elite class of the city or even his people for that matter. People were scared and confused and in their eyes the pharaoh was doing something that violated their rights and endangered instead of protecting them. Set, of course, knew all too well that scared people equaled fools that can be easily manipulated by ambitious nobles whose cause for action the pharaoh had just given. This city might very well turn into a breeding ground for revolts if not carefully monitored.
The priest rode on his horse, overlooking the lines of soldiers fanning out over a circle intersection, one of the many large bazaar settings of Tanis.
Then there was the one they were searching for. Set was neither a fool nor was he blind. He had noticed the pharaoh's odd behavior but said nothing of it. He too had speculated what it could be, the thing that seemed to have all the pharaoh's attention and dedication. The fact that it was hidden only added fuel to his curiosity.
But even he could not have guessed that it was a boy. And not 'just' a boy either, but one that could have passed for the pharaoh's twin. Ammon, The hidden one, they said. If it weren't for the fact that Set knew the pharaoh was an only child, a rarity in the royal line of Kemet, because his father had died too soon, he might just think that it was really power play between brothers. Unless the late pharaoh had a bastard child that no one knew about but the priest quickly dismissed the notion. There was no need to hide his affair from a man of such status. Children in the royal family were welcome as gifts from above and carefully looked after in their young age no matter to whom they were borne, a palace lady or a slave.
A man with disheveled gray white hair and long beard shouted angrily above from an open window a block away. Set recognized him as a member of the elder council, Rakshidar. He was a man of extreme importance in his circle and even the pharaoh sometime had to abide to the preset rules from the council seeing as many of them predated even his father.
'This could get ugly!' Thought Set as he reined his horse to the direction of the councilor's house while mentally preparing himself as quickly as possible. Already he could see the curious eyes of many Tanisians peeking from barely open doors and windows.
The soldiers gave the councilor a wide berth as he stalked out the door of his house, looking like a lion with his white mane trailing behind him. Hiding behind the door with her tiny head peeking out was a small child. The councilor's grand daughter? Set immediately got off his horse and inclined his head in a polite bow.
"High-Priest Set, may this old man ask what is going on here?" The question was simple and reserved enough but there was a subtle underlining power that could only come with old age. This man didn't get to where he was for nothing and Set would be a fool if he thought that it was a question that he can choose not to answer.
"Councilor" He began, turning his eyes downward then back up again as a sign of respect.
"I'm sorry for your discomfort but under the pharaoh's order we're conducting a city-wide search. We ar…"
The councilor would never know what Set was going to say as the next second a massive explosion tore through cobblestone street just feet away and overthrowing all of them. A blinding white light blare like a nova and amidst the panicked cries of soldiers and civilians alike, Set cursed vehemently, uncaring of being heard and trying to shield his eyes from the light.
He could feel the obvious sense of magic in it but it was nothing the priest was familiar with. Set was only slightly calmed down when he sensed the warmth permeating into his cold body from the core of the nova.
Suddenly something else appeared inside the light, wrapped in tattered whips of darkness. Shadow magic. The priest exclaimed in his head before his eyes widened in recognition when he saw what was lying peacefully in the man's arm.
"Ammon" The hidden one. He was exactly like the pharaoh's description. He was the nova himself. The priest's mind snapped at the shadowy figure that was carrying Ammon. The kidnapper.
Suddenly the man made one swift move and Set had no time to brace for the impact that was coming when he threw Ammon at him before disappearing into the squeezing shadow.
The light had subsided then and Set no longer had to squint his eyes. He looked down at the boy now secured in his arms, sleeping and glowing gently in an ethereal light.
Around the priest, the guards had gathered in a large circle and civilians had poured out from their home, too shocked and commanded by instinct to remember the martial law still in place. The councilor stood paces away from him, stunned speechless.
More than half of those around had dropped to their knees and many others were gasping or sobbing deliriously either from fright or joy. They murmured at first then spoke and then shouted.
"It is a god. He is a god. Behold. God hath come to us. Behold! Ammon."
And through all of this, nestled safely in a bewildered priest's arms, the boy slept on unaware.
Yugi woke gradually to the feeling of wet warmth spreading through his body and a soft singing of a song that did not sound quite like one. The voice although crisp as if unused for a long time had a certain tender quality to it. It sung.
"Wahawi ya wahawi iyyahah…"
He kept his eyes close as his mind tethered between slumber and full consciousness, feeling too much like a Sunday morning to wake up right away.
The song turned into a hum then ended along with the wetness, followed by the scraping sound of a chair being pulled. A comfortable scent that reminded Yugi of soft candies that he used to eat when he was small wafted gently into his nostrils. Cool softness pulled through his body with a rustle.
Slowly he opened his eyes, blinking once then twice to get used to the sunlight flooding in through his eye-lids. He recognized the hair first, standing in spike and rimmed with red, then the bronze skin glinting with gold jewelries.
A warm familiarity overflowed him from inside as if the hole in his chest was finally filled.
The pharaoh had his back towards him and he seemed to be organizing something on the table. When he turned he did not expect the glinting amethyst eyes that greeted him. His body gave a tiny jerk and then froze stiff altogether, uncertain and unprepared of what to do or even what to say.
"Hello" Yugi smiled into the soft fur of his blanket as he said this but the king looked at him with the wide eyes of a shy child.
"You smell like coconuts." He spread his arms, bare and clean, into wings as if to say 'come here. I want another sniff.'
"I like coconuts."
A ghost of a smile appeared on the king's face before he inched in small hesitant steps towards Yugi. The shy look had disappeared and the king's eyes were warm fire.
He touched Yugi with the blades of his fingers, tracing lines on his face like a blind man trying to remember a newfound friend. There was a shine of wonder in his eyes. Yugi closed his eyes at the king's touch and smiled when he felt fingers drew a curve on his lips. His hair felt like downy in Yugi's hand. Finally, he replied.
'Three thousand years for a hello…and coconuts…' The archeologist thought dreamily, still not fully awake '…seems fair.'
They stayed comfortably silent for a long time, enveloped in each other presence until Yugi was fully awake.
"I'm Yugi" He tested.
There was no recognition from the pharaoh, only acceptance, and this was where Yugi's worry began to grow.
"Atem" The archeologist cut in gently "I know." And he said this in a voice that fully expressed a mutual understanding, without questions, arrogance or fail. The pharaoh looked startled at the sound of his own name as if it was a long time since he had heard it and there was also a hint of perplexity but those were quickly washed away when Yugi smoothed his fingers over his golden locks.
"How long have I been asleep?" His body felt a bit week and his joints bore the sore feeling that came after a long slumber.
A month? So long? What had happened in this one month? Yugi could remember nothing except the splitting pain when Shadi had sent him here.
"Not so long compared to eight years. Is…"
A knock sounded from the door before a person stepped in, cutting Atem's question. Set stopped for a split second as his eyes came to rest on a very much awake Yugi but then forced himself to continue on.
"My liege, the council elders are still waiting." The priest's voice was tight and his posture somewhat rigid and as he said this, his eyes, hidden under the incline of his head and his priest cap, never left the petit archeologist.
Atem frowned exasperatedly and opened his mouth but Yugi laid a hand on his cheek, stopping him.
"It's okay. I'll still be here when you come back." And it's quite obvious that it must be something important for a high priest to come calling.
Indecision. It was obvious that his other half wanted to stay so Yugi reasoned again.
"You're their king. Come on!"
Atem gave a curt acknowledging nod and squeezed Yugi's hand.
"If there is anything you need, just call the slaves. They are outside."
And with that, he followed Set out of the room.
Left on his own, Yugi let out a long sigh with his two hands massaging his head.
It was as he predicted, Atem had no memory of him or their time in Domino, more specifically, 'this Atem' had no idea how he got here. It was a bunch of time loop theories and chronographic science that Yugi wasn't particularly fluent in but had more than a few brushes over his time working as an archeologist and museum curator.
In his situation now, theoretically speaking there were two Atems, the first one who had laid a plan to send him back in time to the second Atem who should be and would be the rewritten version of the first Atem if the sending succeeded.
Which meant that the pharaoh he faced just now probably should have had no notion about him, the other half of his soul. But he did at the very least enough not to immediately have Yugi interrogated or executed for being an impersonator. Even though he didn't seem to know the archeologist's name, the way he behaved around Yugi was far more intimate than the first meeting between look-alikes, far more.
Something was amiss here. Some thing was left unsaid and out of the equation in his conversation with Shadi before the sending. But at the same time, according to Ishizu's words about the pharaoh's elusive behavior before Zorc's appearance, the ghost might not even know that it was there.
Questions swarmed his mind and Yugi again found himself frustratingly lost.
Did the king already perform the splitting of his soul? When did he perform it anyway in the original timeline? Was it actually because of Zorc? Why did Yugi sleep for so long? What had happened when he was unconscious? And that pain. Did something go wrong with the sending?
He raked his mind in search for any clue he might have but there was none. He did not remember anything after the sending…except for…The archeologist frowned when a hazy sense of déjà vu entered his mind.
Dreams…He murmured to himself. He had dreamt of something but could not remember what it was, only knowing that it was a terrible dream. He had felt so constricted, as if squeezed inside something, a frightening sense of chaining limbo.
"Why am I here anyway?" He spoke quietly to himself. Neither Shadi nor Isis had mentioned anything about his purpose here except that it had something to do with the pharaoh's 'heart desire'.
Yugi had made the choice to come here because he knew he could no longer run away from the black hole that was his life anymore and as Shadi had said, neither of them could go on without the other. But what was Atem's intention of sending him here in the first place? To stop the splitting of his soul? Then what about Yugi? Would he stand out like an extra piece to a whole soul? Or was it to help the pharaoh with Zorc?
The archeologist paused and gave more thoughts to the theory before choosing to discard it.
Why did the pharaoh fail in completely defeating Zorc? The Atem from this time had known his name and thus he should be able to summon the creator of light, Horakhty, but somehow, something had prevented him from doing so. Which also meant that the name of the pharaoh wasn't the only requirement in order to summon the supreme god. Was he meant to find out what it was?
"Jesus, this thing is giving me a headache." The archeologist grunted and pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to ignore the cold creep in his mind. Atem had felt strange yet familiar at the same time. Both the person he had known and loved and a complete stranger. The link between them faded and gone, no longer sustained by the magic of the Millennium Puzzle. Perhaps it was never there in the first place.
'One way or another, 18 or 3018 year old, he's still…Yami, my mou hitori no boku. He's all you've got now.' The archeologist reminded himself.
The air in the room seemed to stretch and bloat with every passing minute until Yugi resolved to mentally slap himself out of limbo.
"Well, no use letting myself rots in this bed." He said to no one in particular before pulling the fur blanket off of him and getting up from the bed, stretching his sore limbs.
It was with mild surprise that he realized he was wearing nothing but a semi transparent gown sort-of thing.
'I thought this thing was for women or priests only.'
But it was the least worry on the archeologist's mind. It was with an overwhelming sense of surreal that Yugi stood in the large oval room, finally hit with the full understanding of the situation. He was here, 3000 years too early for his time, set out for a goal that he himself wasn't clear of and aided only with the items he had brought along side with him.
Again, no family, no friends, a stranger in a strange land with nothing but uncertainty.
He took a deep breath in, swallowed the bile in his throat and took the first step.
Yugi found his backpack under a table in the corner of room, free of dust and obviously cared for. Immediately, he fished out the clothing he had packed in it, simple utility belted cream jeans and dark shirt, and put them on. He put the collar on his wrist in stead since he didn't want to give the wrong message to the people of this time. His usual outfit offered a warm and comforting familiarity in the bizarre setting.
There was no door but an invisible barrier of magic that only let itself known as Yugi passed through it with cool flutter on his skin. The hallway opened into a garden of sort, generous in space and light and full of exotic plants. Its beauty commanded all of Yugi's attention and he never noticed the entering slave with a large pottery bowl cradled in his arms.
The slave squeaked as his eyes landed on the archeologist and let go of the bowl in his shock. The bowl shattered noisily on the hard floor, spilling its watery contents all over and drawing Yugi's attention to the slave.
"Ah, are you alright?" Yugi eyed the red gash on dark skin as he approached the slave, his left hand forward and his right hand searching his utility belt for the bundle of cotton wool he always had with him for emergency first aid.
"Hey, it's okay." He said soothingly in Hieratic to the whimpering slave.
With an ease that came with practice, the archeologist cleaned the blood off and bandaged the wound in seconds, foregoing the unneeded anti-septic.
"There you go. All good again."
As Yugi did this, the slave stared at him with wide uncomprehending eyes and flailed his arms about as though he didn't know how to behave. He bolted upright and ran away the second Yugi was finished, leaving a surprised and confused archeologist kneeling on the floor of the empty hallway with only the broken pieces of a pottery bowl for company.
'Huh, was I that scary looking?' The archeologist checked his clothing but as far as he knew, ancient Egypt greeted in a fair amount of foreign traders every year so his odd garment shouldn't such be a problem.
Shaking his head, the archeologist dismissed the slave's strange behavior before turning his attention to the mess of water and hardened pieces of clay at his feet.
'They'll probably have someone over to clean this thing up. I wouldn't know what to do with it anyway.'
With that thought in his head, Yugi continued on and instead of the hallway, he walked right into the indoor garden partly to avoid another episode of frightened slave and broken things, partly because of the strange glare of light penetrating from behind the thick foliage.
The cobble stone steps crackled softly under Yugi's feet as he strode forward with his hands pushing at the tree branches.
'Such a strange place.' Thought Yugi as he eyed the setting of the garden, its faded pathway looping in decorative circles but the half roof under stone pillars was much newer and looked rather out of place in a palace garden. That coupled with the light, filtered through many layers of green leaves gave the garden a cold and almost jungle like allure.
Finally, the pathway stopped its looping and drew a straight line out under the thick foliages. In only three large steps, the archeologist was standing in an empty space clear of trees and filled with two massive stone pillar. The archeologist gasped at the scene before him.
Beyond the pillars in front of his eyes, Kemet spread out in all her glorious beauty and stole Yugi's breathe.
He stood; rooted to the floor with his torso leaning against the curve of the pillar and let his eyes traced the blue length of the Nile uncoiling over the sandy white houses of the city, heady with the scent of fertile soil and baking clay bricks. The sound of cascading water interlaced with the noise of the human beehive in full activity and flew to him through the many statues and obelisks surrounding the palace.
A wild beauty barely tamed by the hands of man.
'Hundreds of years digging around in sand and old ruins… and now…'
Yugi didn't know how long he had stood there until a voice, low and crisp with age, pierced his mental wall and brought him back to reality.
"Beautiful, isn't she?"
He gave a tiny startled jerk before turning to the voice. Sitting precariously on a platform protruding out into open space like a rooting old willow tree was a man with a gray white mane and beard, decked in simple white gown and tunic. The man's face was pulled down with stern lines and his eyes were fierce despite the nostalgia in them as they admired the cityscape. The man raised his gnarled hand and brought a wooded pipe up to his lips.
"A life time and still she is as breath-taking as ever."
He sucked in a long breath through the pipe and made a gurgling noise in his throat before finally turning his head to Yugi. The piercing look from his eyes seemed to put an invisible weight on the archeologist.
"You're not from around here."
But before the archeologist could answer the man shook his head.
"Not many people wandered to this place any more."
"Am I not supposed to be here? I don't know the way around this place."
The man gave a barking laugh at the archeologist's question.
"The only man that lives in this place never comes here anymore. But say, I see you with that slave, bandaging him?"
The archeologist nodded, feeling no need to hide this fact.
"Why did you do that?"
"Why shouldn't I?"
The look that the man gave him was one of thinly veiled fascination.
"He's a slave. There are a thousand replacements for him."
The archeologist frowned at the blatant disregard in the man's voice. Even though he had mentally prepared himself before his journey didn't mean that he was comfortable with it. The ancient world was very much different in comparison to his time. Human rights and justice, normally taken for granted in his home, were luxuries that can only afforded by the richest of nobles or royalty in this place. Who was Yugi kidding? Even in the 20th century, these basic rights still weren't guaranteed for many developing countries. But how was he going to explain that to a man who had never known of the world he was in.
Yugi clicked his tongue, then spoke in a carefully neutral voice.
"I don't think so. He must be precious to someone he knows. In that sense, he can never be replaced." Yes, that was exactly what he wanted to say. Simple and to the point, and had nothing to do with a justice that only existed in poetry.
If possible, the man's eyes grew even sharper as though he was trying to look into Yugi's soul.
'He very well might be doing just that' The archeologist thought of the many magical feats he had witnessed years ago and now he was standing on the land where most of the magical items he knew originated from. Despite his worry, Yugi kept his ground and stared back into the man's eyes unflinchingly, feeling nothing but a sense of sincerity swelling inside him.
Finally, the man smiled, causing his wrinkles to pull and curl over his mouth and eyes, and then nodded approvingly.
"Well said. Well said in deed."
As he said this, he got up from his feet and brushed the dust off his clothe with his pipe before gesturing to Yugi.
"Let's go then. I'll get you to your other half."
"Wha…? Who are you?" Yugi's mind jarred in alarm but the man waved his pipe right under the archeologist's chin.
"Just an old man, they call me Rakshidar. No one of importance now, I assure you. You want answers for your questions? Lets go get them."
And with that, he looped the crooked pipe head onto the leather collar on Yugi's wrist and pulled him along. The archeologist, now baited with the possibility of finding answers to his dilemma, let the man did so without much resist.
Rakshidar walked fast for his age and he seemed to know the layout of the palace intimately because he kept turning in the most unexpected places, entering tiny alleys in-between the building only to emerge in completely different sections of the complex.
As they passed ancient buildings, the archeologist in Yugi had jumped many times at the chance of examining their archaic design but with each time, the old man pulled at him even harder and steered him back to their original route before throwing him an inquisitive look.
Finally after passing an intersection, climbing a series of stairs and turning to a corner, Rakshidar stopped in front of a decorative arch at the beginning of a marble stair leading down, and with one hand he pushed Yugi forward, the other hand swinging with his pipe.
"Look. There they are. You see them?"
The old man was pointing down at an ornate wind hole on the roof of a dome-shaped building down below. Inside it, the royal court meeting of Kemet was in full swing. It was a bit too far from their position, but Yugi could see the pharaoh's eye-catching crown of hair sitting separately from the courtiers on his throne, surround by a large circle made of his high priests. The other half of the room was filled with people, probably dignitaries if their layered attires and gaudy accessories were to go by. He couldn't hear what was going on but the look on their faces and the rapid movement of their lips seemed to indicate a tense discussion.
"Brilliant kid." Rakshidar pointed at the crowned king with a click of his tongue. " Brilliant…but still has a long way to go. Unfortunately for him, real life isn't such a clear cut battlefield as games are, and sometimes it's hard to know who's the enemy without a guiding light."
Yugi missed the discreet glance the old man threw at him.
The pipe glided to a side, by passing the High priest of the Sacred Court and pointed to the throng of dignitaries, none of them looked to be under forty.
"The Elder Council" This was accompanied by a dry snort from Rakshidar, but Yugi recognized it. In translated documents, the elder council were the leaders of the noble class, holding power over the law of ancient Egypt, at points in time, their influence over the Egyptian people was said to be as great as the pharaoh's.
The old man made a looping gesture at one of the councilors, a thin man with bronze skin that looked like a jewelry stand with his multitude of golden accessories and a lack of any visible hair. "shepherd", a hawk-like woman with her hair done up in a severe bun under a cap, "rope", lastly, a black hulk of a man with long thick dreadlocks "…and ox." He did not mention any in the rest of the council, seemingly to regard them unnecessary.
'Well, aren't we confident?' The archeologist hid the half amused, half curious glint in his eyes.
"What does that have to do with me?"
"Quite a lot. The pharaoh needs their support…or he'll be destroyed."
"The Kushite tribes down South, up North-Eastern the Hittite empire has been growing past the border of Qadesh, and our coast is regularly threatened by the Sea-Peoples. They…" he bit onto his pipe and sucked in a deep breath, nodding his head towards the three council members. "…hold power over the armies that guard these borders. In the center are the pharaoh and his Sacred Court whose magical powers even though rival that of an army can not be dispensed away from their lord. You see the predicament here?"
The archeologist nodded. "Usurper" It was actually quite normal in history that another or more political party existed and held power equal to that of the pharaoh, at the very least in term of economical and military strength. Still, the pharaohs were firm on their throne for the most of the time as these parties lacked the one factor that favored the pharaohs over them: the people's belief. As long as the ancient Egyptian believed that their king was their only link with the gods and would protect them as was his duty then no matter what the usurpers did, they would never completely claim the throne.
"I see what you are thinking." The old man said with an amused glint in his eyes. "These three hadn't so far done anything yet, which proves that they aren't such brutish fools I thought them to be, and that brat truly is an adequate king after all. However, something had happened yesterday, and it had changed the balance."
He paused and regarded the archeologist, his face set in an unreadable expression, prompting Yugi to look back at him in confusion.
"So you don't know it. I'm not surprised though." He waved away at the archeologist's puzzled face.
"Yesterday night, the king betrayed his people."
"He held his whole city hostage and declared that he'd kill anyone who dared to disobey, no matter women or children, armed or not, all for the sake of finding one single person."
Rakshidar leveled his pipe right under Yugi's chin and forced his face up close so that they were staring eye to eye.
"And that person is right in front of me." The gleam in his maroon-colored pupils was a crazed marvel that resembled a black-hole.
"The balance has been broken, by the king of all people. And he did this willingly, knowingly of the consequences he'd reap."
Yugi's mind was numb for a split second before he exploded into action, whipping his head toward the massive dome, his eyes widened in horror and his hands quivered without him knowing.
"You…you mean to say that right now in there…they are…"
Rakshidar laid a calming hand on the archeologist's shoulder, his face unscrewed and stretch back into their carefully neutral feature.
"No…not yet. The pharaoh is no wimp though I suspect one way or another, there will be blood-shed, both literally and not, and the odds are hardly in his favor, political-wise. But you can still help him. The situation can still be turned around"
Yugi didn't bother wondering why it was him in the first place. "How? Tell me how!"
"Quite easily. In fact, your mere presence here has already delayed the consequence."
"You appeared out of the middle of the city in the light of a god, your whole body was like the sun, your appearance, made in the image of the pharaoh, the god's supreme servant, and the one who delivered you could have been the devil himself. You see, this is where things get tangled up. Because no one really know what happened so rumors of all sorts have surfaced. Half of the Tanisians think that you are a blessing from heaven, a salvation so to say, but the other half believed that you have forsaken the pharaoh and run away from him which is the reason for his drastic action to retrieve you. You see, all it takes is for you to openly align your self with the pharaoh. Surely a king blessed by gods is untouched by mortals."
The archeologist didn't react right away to Rakshidar's words because his head was streaming with thoughts, skeptic thoughts. It couldn't be so easy. Such talks could only work for the average religious zealot peasants. In order to persuade the royal court, he'd need status, which he didn't have. For god's sake. Yugi wasn't even a citizen of Kemet to begin with. He doubted that a political war could be stopped with the mere words of a foreigner, an unknown foreigner.
Apparently, Yugi's thoughts must have shown as Rakshidar immediately placated his worry.
"Calm yourself. I already have that covered. What we need to do right now is to get you in there and sweep some feet up."
With that, he pulled at Yugi's wrist and started walking towards the closed and heavily guarded gate of the throne room.
The door to the throne room was opened with a loud bang, prompting many surprised and angry glares from the occupants inside. A man shouted.
"This meeting is confidential. Who dare…" He cut himself off. "High councilor?!"
'High councilor?' Thought Yugi as he stole a glance at Rakshidar, his petite form hidden behind the now identified high-councilor's tall frame and billowing robe. Sun light entered from behind his back and warmed away the cream gray tint inside of the gigantic chamber, somehow providing a sort of mental support for the archeologist.
Rakshidar wasn't deterred however and continued his tread with the leisure grace of a great feline further into the war zone. He did not acknowledge any one but the pharaoh.
"My liege…" Said Rakshidar in a rumbling basso tone. "…please forgive your servant. These old bones aren't as quick as they once were."
He bended down and coughed lightly as if to demonstrate.
"But I think I'm not late, aren't I?" Finally, he turned to the council all of whom were wearing frowns or puzzlement on their faces. The petite archeologist still mostly hidden behind him and away from the scrutinizing stares of the courtiers.
"My fellow, I want to share something with you today. On my way here, I contemplated on my experience, my duty as a member of the council and as a child of Ra."
He looked at each of them in the eye and put weight onto each of his words.
"Trust in my king."
Some of the councilors had to visibly suppress their winces. The Sacred Court however were spotting the very opposite look.
"And faith in my gods."
Then Rakshidar turned back to the pharaoh who remained curiously blank and silent, and with a gentle nudge, he pushed Yugi forward as if presenting a present, eliciting many startled gasps from both the council and the high priests.
"My liege, I believe this heavenly avatar was lost, and now returned to you."
The reaction was instantaneous and came from many different voices at once.
"Where are your proofs?"
"He's nothing but a commoner, a foreigner!"
"He has no part in this, no place here!"
Rakshidar retaliated right away.
"Oh but he has!" He said as if stating a fact, and before the shocked eyes of the royal court and one petite archeologist, the high councilor kneeled down on one leg in front of Yugi, his head bowed and his hand crossing his chest in an absolute obedient posture. There was no hesitation in his movement.
"I, Ismal Rakshidar, hereby pledged myself to this man. My status shall be his, my title and power shall be his… and so will all my property and family."
Slowly as if to savor the moment, he stood up amidst the shell-shocked looks from the court and smiled triumphantly.
"He is now your equal."
Immediately, outraged cries sounded from the council, a multitude of conflicting racket and demand that this madman be thrown out of the hall but nothing could be done to reverse the high councilor's vow.
In the middle of this bedlam stood a very confused and disturbed archeologist. Yugi felt an inkling that he had just got in something severely over his head. He was gobsmacked by this new turn of events. In one single move, Rakshidar had given him the exact tool he needed in order to hold his ground in the palace and helped defend Atem. Yet Yugi felt even more lost than before. Why did he do that? Why paid such a price?
In his daze, the archeologist turned to the one single person he was familiar with in this time, the pharaoh. He did not expect what he'd see.
Atem sat in his throne, looking like he was wearing an invisible set of armor, his wiry muscle stiff and his face curiously blank. His whole attention was focused on Yugi, and it was then, as Yugi stared back into his ruby-colored irises that he saw something that froze his whole being.
Something seemed to lurk underneath the king's eyes, a frighteningly intense emotion. Atem did not stare and nor did he gaze. He did not crease his brows or crook his lips. He simply looked at Yugi, but in that look was a whole world on its own.
Unbiddenly, a strange emotion overtook the archeologist. The noise around him shrunk down to the buzzing of flies, and for that moment, it was as though that they were the only two in the room.
'What is it? What are you trying to tell me?' Yugi called out without any sound.
The pharaoh made no move, and he continued to look. The emotions in his eyes seemed to pile up with every second, turning even more intense, and at the same time, more desperate somehow.
And suddenly, it dawned on Yugi.
The pharaoh's heart desire. Said Shadi.
His own thoughts before he came here.
He had no friends, only rivals, enemies, and temporary allies. Anything he did he had to consider carefully if he wanted to keep his throne…and his life and trust was not easy. There was no mentioning of any prominent figures in his life, no mother, sisters or brothers, no lovers either. He had a whole harem …but no favorite.
A king that had lost his own heart.
He's a fucking Mary Sue…Sa-ad grunted.
Why would he do something so stupid? Why split his soul in the first place and leave a hole in the seal? Why did he call Yugi back?
Not so long compared to eight years. Murmured Atem when they were in his room earlier. Not so long…Not so long after all…
'Oh, god. It makes so much sense.' The archeologist thought numbly.
He had always wondered just how did Atem hold up to all that pressure and scrutiny in his life, him, a person who never had anything to fight for. Yami had always appeared so confident, so much that sometime he seemed a mask, a fake appearance put up to defend and detach the real person who was inside. As he researched on the lost pharaoh, things became even more troubling as the tension in the palace was clearer with every new discovery he made.
What sort of a person that can cope with that without turning insane? Even 3000 years after, the several first times he had appeared, the spirits of the king had seemed disturbingly unstable and extremely violent. But gradually he had softened down.
The question was how? In order to do that, he needed some sort of mental anchor. And for a person who had grown up with no one but servants and enemies, what could be a better anchor than someone he could trust?
Eight years, he said? He had waited for me for eight years but never knew my name. A ten year old child wouldn't know how to perform such a magical feat, which meant that someone else had done the soul splitting, possibly against the wish of the pharaoh. Something had happened eight years ago within the privacy of the palace and had been kept a secret since then.
Like a puzzle finally being put together, an image surfaced in Yugi's mind, that of a ten year old child, isolated, detached and forced to grow up as fast as he could to endure the harshness of imperial life, yet at the same time, wishing, hoping for someone who he could trust, who'd never betray him.
All too easily, he connected the next dots. And what if said child knew about the other half of his soul, the one single who would never betray him, the absolute trustee. Involuntarily, that forlorn but constant hope had turned into the anchor that he needed to stay sane.
'Is that why? Is that why you went to such length to ensure that we'd meet, no matter how many thousand year stands between us? Is it the reason you'd take on the risk of freeing Zorc? All for me?'
Again, there was no forthcoming reply, but Yugi wasn't worried. In fact, he had never felt this calm before. Around him, the quarrels were still going on, but he paid them no attention. None of them mattered.
Yugi took the first step, then the second step, his eyes forward and his heart at peace, finally after three long years. With each of his step, he drew more and more attention from the others but none of the councilor dared to stop him. They could see now, all too obvious as the archeologist drew nearer and nearer to their pharaoh, the startling similarities between the two.
As Yugi broke over the twenty step barrier that the Sacred Court moved, finally broken out of their stupor and fanned out in front as if to stop him.
Yugi merely smiled and nodded in acknowledgement at each of them before doing something that, even though he didn't mean to, stunned them all and ascertained him as a true avatar of gods to the rest of the council.
"Mahaad" The magician jerked as if hit, his eyes widened comically.
"Shada" The high-priest griped tightly onto his Millennium Key, his fingers turning white.
"Isis" A gasp muffled between her bronze hands.
"Karim" The Millennium Scale jiggled lightly in the priest's fist.
Right hand turn
"Set" The incarnation of his close friend stared at him, his face unreadable.
"Akhnadin" The old priest hid his normal eye under the hood of his ceremonial garb.
Then the last one that stood between him and the pharaoh.
"Shimon" The bulbous eyes widened even larger and a quite murmur escaped from behind his veil. "It is you"
Another step, although Yugi had no knowledge of this until much later, he had just broken through the forbidden barrier of fifteen paces away from the king and had crossed over this no man's land zone completely oblivious to the unbelieving wide eyes of the whole court. As he did this, his eyes never left the figure sitting very still on the throne in barely reigned anxious eagerness.
There was a pause as they gazed at each other, ruby to amethyst, before Yugi bended down and embraced Atem in his arms, his nose and breath tickling the other's ears as he whispered a secret that would stay between them two only.
In that moment, slowly, like a sun rising after the storm, before the shaken court and priests, after eight years long, the king smiled.
'I'm here. I'm here for you.'
The candles lit the long dark hallway with a warm light as the servant followed his master's steady pace, passing after many doors toward the end of the hall.
"I still don't understand why you let him go. We had him right there. Did you find him not worthy" Said the servant to break the monotony of the long walk.
There was an annoyed sigh from the master.
"He's no good to me dead. I already have what I require for now. And on the contrary, I find this apple much more appealing than previously thought."
"Still, we could have him imprisoned. They would never find out."
"Have a bit of faith in your sire!" The master reprimanded. "He's not yet ripe and he won't be in a dank prison cell. All fruits need sunlight. And I never said that I freed him…completely."
He clicked his tongue before continuing.
"Don't forget to have surveillance on Rakshidar. I want to know what he's on to."
"I have it on. I don't see why though. He's just a senile geezer, throwing away everything like that…." He was cut off immediately as his master stopped abruptly and snarled.
"Do NOT forget your place!"
"My apology, sire!"
The old man huffed before resuming his walk onward.
"Rakshidar is no fool. He has been in the council even before the late pharaoh's reign and he still is now. Your lack of vigilance today cost me a great opportunity. Did you not know the meaning of his action, however insane it is?"
The servant was meekly quiet as they passed another door.
"Not even a day before Ammon appeared publicly; he had already perceived his importance, located and befriended him. Within the same day, he gained his trust with one single maneuver, that pledge. That insane move as you called it effectively puts him into position to gain more information on Ammon allegedly and keeps others from influencing Ammon without his knowledge. I dare say that some councilors are quite vexed today. But that's not all, that move also serves to lower the other's guard, exactly like you did. Luckily for you, this won't affect us much"
"But sire, isn't there a risk as well. He did give away all his property, power and title…to a stranger."
The old man nodded approvingly.
"True, but all political maneuvers contain risk. Rakshidar didn't get where he is for nothing. Within the time after the pharaoh left Ammon and before they arrived in the throne room he had come to decide whether he could risk this move on Ammon or not. He's very confident on his judge of character…and incredibly decisive as well. But he's not reckless; he must have already planned a fall-back."
""Of course he would. It was only a pledge, mere spoken words. The duty of an elder councilor and managing of his estates are much more complex than that. Any man with a brain would keep Rakshidar as an advisor or maybe as the manager, especially after such a spectacular show of trust. Even if that comes to fail, Rakshidar had more loyal followers than needed to…dispose off Ammon, and no one would suspect him the trusted…and senile servant."
They finally arrived at the end of a hall. The old man paused in wait for his servant to push open the heavy stone door and settled inside the room.
"What I want to know is for what reason did he do that? He has not been active in the council for quite sometime now. What made him return?"
The servant heaved as he pulled a leather cover from its place in the middle of the room, exposing an oubliette on the floor, filled to the brim with clear water.
"Shouldn't the status of Ammon be enough? Today already demonstrated that."
From within his robe, the old man pulled out a bottle and poured a clear liquid into the oubliette. The water turned a dark blue as the two mixed.
"You were still a child when Rakshidar got to his position…even I was, in a way. If he wanted to, he could have already taken over the court but Rakshidar never did that. There were ample opportunities over the years but he never took them. And he never cared for the pharaoh's favor. In fact, he had voiced his disagreement with the royal family, both generations, many times before. He is…eccentric."
The old man's voice turned thoughtful once again.
"Why now? After so many years of inactivity. What is his aim?"
The old man paused for a moment before waving away the distraction. He had something to do now.
With a certain amount of reverence, the old man took a small vial from his belt.
"The blood of a god!"
Then he stopped suddenly and narrowed his eyes at his servant who was standing in wait on the other side of the oubliette.
"This is not for your eyes. Wait outside."
The servant did as he was told obediently and within moments, the old man was left alone in the stone chamber with the oubliette.
He raised the vial to his eye and stared at it as if to savor the moment, his thoughts quickly turned nostalgic.
Eight years. Eight. Long. Years. Finally, he'd know the truth.
He removed the stopper and poured the scarlet blood, perfectly preserved with magic into the water, careful not to spill even one precious drop.
The water turned red for a second before churning and bubbling. The liquid condensed and formed odd shapes on the surface before clearing out once again and revealed images in them.
There was no sound as a light shone in the oubliette and illuminated the interior of a room on the surface of the water. A woman sat in a plush arm chair, rocking a baby gently in her arms, her glossy black hair let down in long rivulets, her amethyst eyes shone in the warm fire and reminded him of an identical pair of eyes he had seen just a day ago.
"Neferee…" The name escaped from his lips in a whisper. His stance softened a bit before steeling back up again. The gold of his single eye gleamed in the light.
He had ordered ninety-nine lives killed for his brother. But for her, every man he had murdered was by his own hands, their last curses, last breath, their dying screams would forever haunt him but he would never regret any of them.
The woman's lips moved as she continued her lullaby to her child. He sung along quietly. This melody he knew very well.
"Wahawi ya wahawi… iyyahah… Ruht ya Sha'ban…Gayt ya Ramadan iyyahah"
The old man's song was cut short when all of s sudden, the image changed. The room was still the same but the occupants were different. The child had grown into a boy with his mother's glossy black hair and his father's golden bangs. He was speaking to his mother but something was obviously wrong in the scene as the lady was crying hysterically, a strange gleam in her eyes as he looked down on her child.
The boy spoke again as though he was trying to calm her down but the woman was too distressed, and soon her mouth was open in a soundless scream and made a lunge at the boy.
There was a white flash before her body was shown on the floor, lying face down in a large puddle of blood. The boy stood above her with his face hidden away, a bloody knife in his hand.
The image stopped then and the water cleared out. The light died and plunged the room into semi darkness again.
The silence was loud and seemed to stretch over the room. Under the flickering candle, the old man had his face down. A quiet choked sound like breaking stones. Then another and another, and they grew louder and slapped against the cold stones to form into thundering laughter that sounded half like wailing. The old man's mouth was spread into a savage grin, but his wide open eyes were streaming with tears.
The knocking sound from the door was crushed under the mad cacophony of wild guffaws and sobbing hiccups.
"Oh, king!" The old man said between gritted teeth, salty with tears and blood. "Twice! I held your life in my hands and I spared it…."
His fingers tightened around the vial, crushing into the clay until it broke, its pieces digging deeply into his flesh.
"…there will not be a third time!"
End chapter 2
And so the board is prepared, soon players will appear. So how was that for ancient Egypt palace life? I don't know how to say this but I was severely disappointed at the way Kemet political matters were portrayed in the original series. They wanted me to believe that a group of seven people and a brat along with a few spear-wielding guards can govern a country as big as England? Yeah, right. Dream on. Any way, I did warn you that I'll bring a lot of realistic and headache causing political science into this and this is as close s the real thing as I can get and still incorporate elements from the series (Sacred Court and all that).
On another note, Atem's personality was a challenge to me. I actually think of him as a different person from Yami. There's a three thousand years difference between them after all. Also I didn't want it to be so easy a relationship and logically there will be no mental link yet between him and Yugi.
I had a headache trying to lace the political fights, the historical facts (wars, conflicts and such) together with the emotional bonding between Atem and Yugi. Chaotic, Completely crazy I tell you. When I finally finished the throne room scene, I actually stood up to do a victory dance I was feeling so great.
Ammon, if you don't know, is a variation of Amun, a real Egyptian god that surfaced around the time of Atem's reign, the new kingdom. His name means the hidden one. I had plenty of fun writing Yugi as the original sauce of this god.
Also, I've set up a gallery of conceptual arts for this fic, along with a few other fanfics I like in my profile, so you can go and check it out Yugi's and soon Atem's stuff. I didn't exactly get the right look I wanted for Yugi but the clothing, positions and others were fun to draw. I did draw out some scenes too but I doubt I'll be posting that.
Again, I'll try to update within 2 to 3 weeks. But I can't promise anything because quiz is coming fast for me. So let's cross our fingers again and hope that nothing too big will stand between me and finished the next chapter.