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"Hmmm… two lotus petals… now the white feather… two clockwise stirs… now seven the other way… what else…?"

The early morning sunlight streamed into a small room where the magician's apprentice, Mana, was slaving over a large, black, steaming bowl filled with a pale pink liquid. She muttered to herself as she flitted back and forth between a papyrus scroll and the dark vessel.

"Exactly one leaf of monkshood… no roots, just a leaf. Then I have to leave it in the full moon's light for—" she checked the instructions—"one night."

She frowned, her shoulders slumping. "Aw… I was hoping to have it ready by evening meal…"

The petite young woman tossed back her feathery brown hair and stretched, yawning. Her hand accidentally brushed a long, thick piece of wormwood root, one out of a pile which was sitting on the table next to the scroll, into the bowl.

The potion bubbled silently and briefly turned a rather menacing shade of crimson, followed by violet, before returning to its original pale pink hue.


Mana's emerald green eyes snapped open. She brushed a thick set of scrolls titled Practical Potions over the single papyrus sheet she had been studying before facing none other than the master magician of the Palace—Mahad.

"What were you doing in here?"

"Just gathering the notes I'll need for today's lesson."

Mahad glanced at the table where the thick set of bound papyrus scrolls sat innocently in the sunlight. He turned his gaze on Mana again and studied her face closely—she appeared fairly innocent. Then again, in all his years with Mana, he had learned quite well from all her pranks that appearances can be deceiving.

Slightly bemused, Mahad nodded at her. "All right. I will be expecting you in the training hall."

He swept out of the room, with Mana gazing after him. When he was completely out of sight, she hurriedly picked up her wand and levitated the heavy vessel into the air before her.

"I'd better take it to my own room before Master Mahad sees it."

"You're late."

Mahad frowned at Mana, who had sprinted from her bedroom all the way down to the training hall.

"Sorry, master," Mana replied, looking sheepish.

Mahad shook his head and rolled his eyes heavenward before summoning a large black cauldron from across the training hall with a simple flick of his wrist. Mana set the scrolls down on a small desk.

The High Priest tapped his staff on the ground; several ingredients flew off of the racks lining the walls to settle neatly into a line on the table.

Thus began the lesson.

Moonlight streamed through the open window of the young magician's bedroom as she slept beneath clean linen sheets.

The black vessel continued to steam as the liquid inside it shimmered and bubbled slightly in the moon's gentle light.

However, the pale pink color of the potion began to fade.

Within minutes, it sat, looking deceptively harmless, on the windowsill; it resembled water, but with a pink tint. But it was impossible to notice the difference due to the black color of the container.

Early in the morning, a handmaid strode into Mana's room, holding the girl's short, gold-fringed, beige dress, cap, and belt.

The middle-aged lady glanced at the bed and smiled affectionately at the sleeping girl. Shaking her head, she made her way over to the bed to wake up the young woman.

She stopped.

The black bowl on the windowsill looked familiar…

Since she had been busy cleaning the room, the maid hadn't paid much attention when Mana had burst into the room the previous day with the bowl.

Glancing into the container on her way to the head of the bed, the maid started. Why, it was only a bowl of water! The same as the one which had been missing from the kitchen the previous day!

Barely suppressing a chuckle, the maid smiled and shook her head. Mana and her pranks… but the heat must have made her thirsty. Ra had been unusually harsh lately…

Deciding to wake the young lady up later, the maid set the outfit next to Mana's beige boots on the table at the foot of the bed and departed for the kitchen.

Minutes later, she reappeared with a glass. Deciding to do the girl a kindness, she tipped the contents of the bowl into the glass and placed it on the end table next to the girl's dress.

Still smiling, the woman shook Mana gently. The girl stirred; her emerald eyes opened and she stared blearily through her chocolate-colored bangs up at the middle-aged lady.

"Time to wake up," she whispered gently. "Your clothes are on the table."

Mana yawned and thanked the woman before stepping slowly out of bed to get ready.

Finally, after bathing, thoroughly washing her face and mouth, brushing out her hair, and pulling on her dress, she absentmindedly picked up the glass of "water" and took a long sip.

"Tastes funny," she thought idly, before turning to the windowsill and starting in alarm. "What! My potion—where'd it go!"

She began to search frantically; suddenly, Mana leaned against the wall for support, her hand on her forehead. The head splitting pain, the dizziness, blurry vision—what was happening to her?

With a pained grunt, Mana fell back onto her bed and curled up beneath the sheets, shivering slightly. She felt both feverish and cold…

Mahad frowned as he bustled up to his apprentice's room. Something must be wrong—Mana being late to his lessons was one thing, but her being late to the morning meal as well? Not very likely.

Sighing, he knocked on the door. Maybe she was still sleeping—he had given her a lot of work the previous day. Perhaps that had worn her out more than usual…

He waited, and then knocked again. Tapping his foot impatiently, he finally called through the door—"Mana! Mana, wake up!"

There was silence. Suddenly, there was a loud BANG, followed by faint sobs!

Alarmed, Mahad's eyes widened, and he threw open the door, preparing to face—

Nothing. He strode into the room, and his grey eyes widened, taking in the scene.

The table which normally sat at the foot of the girl's bed lay splintered against the wall. A glass lay sparkling in pieces, and Mana sat on her bed, her face in her knees.

Her arms were wrapped tightly around her knees, which were drawn to her chest. Her shoulders shook with faint sobs.

Suddenly, she screamed! His heart pounding in shock and fear, Mahad rushed to her side to calm her down.

"Mana, Mana, please, calm down. Calm down, please—." He whispered, shaking her gently, praying to Ra that she would come to her senses.

Suddenly, a hot blast of magic sent him flying against the wall! Mana sobbed, "Go away… leave us alone… GET AWAY!"

Mahad winced as he got to his feet, but another glance at Mana had him hurling himself to the other side of the room, narrowly avoiding another blast of white energy!

The commotion from Mana's room had alarmed the Pharaoh, the Vizier, and all the High Priests, causing them all to immediately abandon the dining hall to check on Mahad and Mana.

Atem and Shimon, followed by Priests Seto, Karim, Shadah, Akhenaden, and Priestess Isis, hurtled down the hallway to the apprentice magician's room.

The Pharaoh flew inside, his heart pounding in fear of what could have happened to his two best friends—

He stopped short, and his bright violet eyes widened in shock. The others hurried into the room after him.

They all stared at the scene, appalled.

Mahad was staggering to his feet, his long, chestnut hair falling into his face—his torn headdress lay at the opposite end of the room.

Even more shocking was Mana. The apprentice magician had a strange, almost terrifying, feral gleam in her normally warm and cheerful green eyes. She was crouched on her bed, looking rather catlike.

Her gaze slid from her teacher to the Pharaoh. Her eyes then narrowed, and her wand arm twitched.

Atem shook his head slowly—this was not his childhood friend. Mana would never deliberately hurt Mahad. What on earth was happening?

Before he could do anything, High Priests Karim and Seto stepped protectively in front of him, the golden dueling wings on their arms glowing slightly.

"Stay back, my King." High Priest Seto raised his arm. But before he could summon anything, Mahad sprang up and grabbed Mana.

The young lady screamed and desperately fought against her teacher's grip—Mahad gritted his teeth and attempted to wrest the staff from her hand.

Atem pushed forward, despite the High Priests' protests, and helped Mahad pin Mana down on her bed.

Loudly, through her screams, Atem demanded, "What happened to her!?"

Mahad replied equally loudly, his face shining with the effort of holding the girl down, "My King, I'm afraid I don't know! If she would calm—Mana!"

The young lady had abruptly stopped struggling, and her eyes had gone blank. She went limp, but Atem and Mahad continued to pin her tightly to the bed.

Mana mumbled, "Pharaoh?"

Both Atem and Mahad's eyes jerked down to meet hers. Atem spoke calmly, but his voice shook slightly, "Y-yes, Mana? Can you hear me?"

Mana only nodded vaguely. Atem took a deep breath and motioned for Mahad to leave her. Mahad looked unsure, but reluctantly released her. She moved slightly—he tensed, ready to protect his Pharaoh if need be. The other High Priests/Priestess and Shimon surged forward.

When Mana said and did nothing more, Atem looked up at Mahad. "Do you think you can find out what has happened to her?"

Mahad nodded. "Yes, but she will need to stay very still."

They both watched Mana carefully—Atem kept a hand on her arm as Mahad stepped forward. He placed one hand on her forehead and moved the other slowly in the air over her body, from her head to her booted feet.

Finally, he stood up, frowning. Atem watched him anxiously, waiting. "Well?"

Sighing, Mahad announced, "It seems that she has ingested a potion which has caused delirium. The culprit in this case is wormwood. A small amount is not dangerous, but an excessive amount can cause much damage. However, it seems that there was only one piece of wormwood in this potion—its interaction with the other ingredients must be what caused her to act like this."

"Can you fix it?" Atem asked worriedly. Mahad nodded, and he felt relief wash over him.

"But it will take two days to brew the potion." Atem frowned slightly, but nodded in understanding. They would just have to keep Mana in her room under guard.

Mana began to move again, and immediately Mahad was at the Pharaoh's side. Atem tightened his grip on Mana and leaned forward to keep her from attacking anyone. Mahad kept his hand on Mana's other shoulder.

"Pharaoh?" Mana mumbled again.

Pharaoh Atem's brow creased as he leaned forward. "Yes?"

"Don't go."

"I won't leave, Mana."

"Please… don't leave us."

"I'm not going anywhere, Mana."

"Please… no… NO!"

Mana suddenly began to thrash, and her wand, which had been lying uselessly on the ground, suddenly began to spin rapidly and emit beams of light!

Everyone scattered, and then regrouped closer to the bed. Karim and Seto made to help hold her down, but Mahad waved for them to stay back. He leaned down and gripped Mana's shoulders tightly and muttered in a low, steady voice, "Mana, everyone is fine. Nothing is happening. MANA, calm down."

Mana stopped thrashing, but kept shaking her head frantically. Mahad stood up and said earnestly, "My King, I must leave to make the antidote—"

Before he could say anything else, Atem cut him off, saying, "Mahad, we can handle her. Please, go ahead."

"Yes." With that, the High Priest swept out of the room.

Atem turned his attention back to Mana. Karim asked, "My King, is there anything we can do?"

The Pharaoh shook his head, keeping his hand firmly on Mana's shoulder. "No, Karim. I can handle it."

"Yes, my King." However, all of the High Priests/Priestess and Shimon hovered protectively about the Pharaoh.

Atem sighed and looked sadly down at his friend. He longed to see the familiar happy sparkle in her eyes, not that feral gleam he had seen when he had walked into the room. He wanted to see her enthusiastic smile, not another furious grimace…

Another mumble from Mana interrupted his thoughts. "Pharaoh?"


"Don't… don't leave me."

Atem sighed, but his reply was patient and steady. "Mana, I am not leaving."

"Don't leave… Pharaoh, don't… you can't… don't DIE! PHARAOH!" Bolting upright, Mana's eyes snapped open; her hands suddenly jumped up and grabbed Atem's arms!

There were a few alarmed cries, and a horrible shiver ran down Atem's spine. Everyone rushed forward, dueling wings at the ready, but Atem remained frozen where he was. Slowly, he took Mana's shoulders and said in a low, calm voice, "Mana, I am not dead. I am here, with you."

Mana suddenly went limp and fell backward; Atem caught her before she hit the bed and laid her down gently. However, when he began to move back, Mana reached up and gripped his hands tightly, pulling herself up as she did so.

"You're one of my best friends, Pharaoh."

Atem's heart clenched painfully, hearing his friend's small, desperate voice.

"I can't lose you and Mahad."

Atem's eyes widened again, and he whispered, "You won't, Mana, you won't. One way or another, both of us will always be with you."

Mana didn't seem to hear him—she continued to babble in a small, desperate voice. "I can't tell you… how much I… for some time… you…"

She trailed off, but Atem felt a strange feeling rise in him. He swallowed and continued. "Mana?"

"Pharaoh… I'll… I… always want to stay with you."

Atem's angular eyes grew wide again, and he ran a hand through his tri-colored, spiky hair. He was suddenly extremely conscious of all the eyes boring holes into his back.

Tears began to slide down Mana's cheeks, and she turned to face Atem, her eyes dazed and pleading. "Please don't leave me behind. I just want to be with you."

Atem swallowed and shifted away slightly; he could feel the heat rising in his face. What was she saying?

She was delirious, but still… and except for Mahad, everyone—Shimon, Isis, Seto, Karim, Shadah, and Akhenaden—was watching. He could hear a few isolated murmurs—Akhenaden's disapproving growl was distinct among them.

He stared down at Mana, the little girl he had grown up playing with, teasing, helping… she was like a loyal sister to him. But could she think of him as something else…?

The Pharaoh mentally slapped himself. What was he thinking? She was his friend, and that was that. He would have to contend with this for two days—just two days.

Mana bolted upright again, her eyes gleaming strangely—before the Pharaoh or anyone else could stop her, she had snatched up her wand and blasted an enormous hole into the wall opposite her bed!

She began laughing maniacally, and then she grabbed Atem! He only had time to gasp before Seto and Karim arrived at his side—within seconds, they had him free from Mana's grip.

Isis stepped forward. "My King," she said quietly, "it would be better for you to leave… for your own safety. We will handle Mana."

Opening his mouth to protest, Atem was cut off by a small hand clamping around his wrist. He looked down to see Mana glaring at the Priestess—"He's mine," she hissed.

Isis's misty blue eyes widened in utter shock, and Atem hastily pried Mana's fingers from his wrist, his cheeks burning.

Sighing, he reflected on the situation at hand.

It was going to be a long two days…

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