AN: This fic is dedicated to my friend Individually Packaged, aka Taemanaku, an awesome writer and also my beta for this fic!
So, this is my first shot at an ancient Egypt fic. In this story, Mahes is the pre-incarnation of Marik- as in, he's the person who will eventually be reincarnated as Hikari Marik. This story will hit upon a lot of events that happened in the series.
If Mahes seems different from Marik, it's because he hasn't been through the same traumatic life events that Marik has been through- but he will get more Marik-like as the fic goes on. My goal in this fic, as it is in all my YGO fics, is to be as IC as possible. And, as with all my fics, this fic is completely canon-compliant.
Feedback is appreciated!
Mahes was playing around in the hayloft when he heard several people enter the barn below. He instinctively ducked down behind a pile of hay. He wasn't really supposed to be playing in here. He made sure to stay quiet, so that nobody would know he was there.
The voices of the men in the barn below floated up to him. He recognized one of the voices as belonging to Akhenaden. Akhenaden was a member of the Pharaoh's court- just like Mahes's older sister, Isis.
"As you all know, I have finally obtained the Pharaoh's permission to create the Millennium items, so that we may use them to protect our great land from the coming invaders," said Akhenaden.
Mahes's ears perked up. This sounded interesting.
"And I have good news," continued Akhenaden. "I have found a perfect place for the sacrifice."
'Sacrifice?' thought Mahes. 'What is he talking about?'
"There is a village called Kul Elna. It is full of thieves- worthless people who will not be missed," said Akhenaden.
'They're going to sacrifice human beings?' thought Mahes. He was shocked and disgusted. Thieves or not, it wasn't right. He couldn't believe that the Pharaoh would actually approve any such thing- yet Akhenaden had said that he'd gotten the Pharaoh's permission...
"I realize that the dark spell required to create the items only calls for 99 sacrifices," said Akhenaden. "However, we must leave no witnesses. We will kill them all- and that includes the women and children. I trust there are no objections."
Mahes's head was buzzing. He was absolutely appalled by what he was hearing. They were going to murder children? He found himself frozen with terror, yet he felt he had to do something. But what? Should he tell Isis? He was positive that she didn't know about this- she would never condone such a thing. But what if telling Isis put her in danger? Would the people who knew of this plan kill any disapproving person who found out? Whom could he trust?
He tried to get control of himself, and he focused his mind on the conversation below again. The men were choosing their horses, and Akhenaden was now explaining how to get to Kul Elna. Mahes made sure to pay attention to this part. Could he possibly get to Kul Elna first and warn the village of the oncoming attack? If the men were leaving right away, it wouldn't be possible...but it sounded like they were planning to have a short discussion on strategy before they departed. Luckily, it did not seem that they were going to have this discussion in the barn- Mahes could hear their voices getting farther away as they departed.
The idea of telling anyone else about this atrocity had completely left his mind- there was no time, and besides, he didn't want to tell the wrong person and get some innocent person in the palace killed as a result. He was afraid, but he knew what he had to do. As soon as he was sure the men were gone from the barn, he jumped down, got on a horse, and headed for Kul Elna. He was scared, and he didn't know if he could make it there in time, but he felt he had to try.
He had a small head start on the men. However, he was still young, and not the best rider, and he had only heard the directions to the village one time, when he had been in a state of near panic. He ended up going off course and getting slightly lost, and by the time he managed to find the village, the men had already left, and the entire village was in flames. He brought his horse to a halt and stared at the destruction before him.
The heat from the fire caused the air around the village to waver, making the entire scene look like some kind of macabre mirage. But Mahes knew that the gruesome image was a reality. He was close enough to feel the sweltering heat from the deadly flames, and he could smell the smoke that was rising from the site of the massacre. He wanted to turn away from the terrible sight, but found that he could not. Unwillingly, he imagined what it would be like to be burned alive himself, choking on thick smoke as his flesh melted away from his bones. For long moments, he simply sat on his horse, transfixed with horror.
Then he saw something that got him moving. Huddled against the side of one of the buildings was a young boy. The boy's hair was a pure silvery-white color, a stark contrast to the darkness and carnage surrounding him. The boy's body was frozen and unmoving, but Mahes could see that he was not dead- his eyes were open, and he was sitting up. Mahes quickly dismounted his steed and ran over to the boy. When he reached him, he carefully put his hand on the boy's shoulder.
"Hey," he said. "Hey, can you hear me?"
But the boy did not move or respond. He merely stared ahead with unseeing eyes. He seemed to be in a state of shock.
"Come on," said Mahes. "You need to get out of here."
Still the boy did not move. Mahes crouched down and looked more closely at the boy. He noted that he was around his own age, maybe a bit younger.
"I'm Mahes," he said, trying again. "What's your name?"
Still no response. Mahes finally decided that he would have to pull the boy up and get him moving. He certainly couldn't just leave him here. It was dangerous, and besides, staring at this traumatic sight could not be good for the boy. He grabbed the boy by the arms, hauling him up to his feet. The boy did not resist, but he didn't help, either. Mahes essentially had to drag him along, away from the burning village.
It was a long time before Mahes found a place that he felt was suitable for them to stop, but they finally came to a small building that seemed to be abandoned. Carrying most of the boy's weight along with his own was not easy work, and Mahes was quite tired from the journey. But he figured it was just as well that they had come so far; the further away he got the boy from that village, the better. He was relieved to find that the building was unlocked. Mahes pulled the boy inside, and they both sat down heavily on the floor.
Mahes put his arm protectively around the other boy. The boy still showed no response; he seemed to be in a near-catatonic state.
"It'll be alright," said Mahes soothingly. He supposed that it really wouldn't be alright at all, but what else could he say?
Not knowing what else to do, Mahes finally decided it might be best if he just let the boy rest. He moved closer to the boy, trying to protect him from the cold of the night. They sat like that for quite a while, and Mahes lost track of time. He was startled when the boy suddenly jerked and looked over at him with alert eyes.
"Who are you?" the boy asked.
"I'm Mahes. What's your name?"
"How...how are you feeling?" asked Mahes. He thought it was a stupid thing to say, but again, he wasn't sure what he could say. He'd never before tried to console someone who had just lost his entire family and everyone he knew.
Bakura did not answer Mahes's question, but he did speak again. "What happen- who did- why?"
Mahes sighed, understanding what the boy was trying to ask him. He supposed he owed the boy the truth, at least.
"The men who- who destroyed your village," Mahes started with difficulty. "They were the Pharaoh's men. They needed a human sacrifice for a spell of dark magic."
"What kind of spell?" Bakura snapped. He seemed completely alert now, and Mahes could feel the anger rolling off of him in waves.
"They said they needed to use the spell to make Millennium items...I don't know what those are, exactly, but they're supposed to help protect the palace from invaders."
"They killed all my family and friends to make...weapons?" As Bakura spoke the words, Mahes felt him flare with anger again. Bakura's ka was stronger than any he'd ever felt before- and Bakura was still just a child. How strong would his ka be when he was older? Yet somehow, Mahes was not afraid of him.
"What they did is terrible, and evil," said Mahes, pulling Bakura closer in an attempt at comfort.
Suddenly, Bakura shoved Mahes away. "Wait a minute...how is it you know all of this?"
"I live in the palace, and-"
"You live in the palace? You're one of them?" Bakura's anger flared again, and this time, Mahes actually was a little afraid of the power he felt coming from the other boy.
"Yes, but I don't agree with what they did!" Mahes said quickly. "And I had nothing to do with it...I'm just a kid, like you. I overheard a conversation I wasn't supposed to overhear, and that's how I found out. And that's why I came- I hoped I could beat the men here and warn your village...but I was too late..."
Bakura seemed to calm down a little, but he still looked wary. "Why should I trust you?"
"Because...because I'm never going back!" Mahes said suddenly. Only when the words were out of his mouth did he realize he'd made the monumental decision. "I can't have any part of them, not after they've done something this awful."
Bakura laughed condescendingly at Mahes. "You think you can survive on your own out here? You've lived your entire life in the palace, haven't you? All you know about is the easy life- having everything handed to you. You wouldn't last a day trying to take care of yourself."
"I'll manage," said Mahes defiantly. "Besides...I wouldn't leave you all alone out here."
Bakura's look softened for just a moment, but then he laughed again, and it was not a pleasant laugh. "I don't need you! I can take care of myself! My people have always had to take care of themselves. I was raised by thieves, and I'm already a great thief myself. But you? You know nothing of survival."
"You could teach me," said Mahes. "Teach me to become a thief like you...teach me how to make my own way."
"I think I have enough problems without having you around, expecting me to train you and take care of you."
"Then don't help me," said Mahes. "But it doesn't change the fact that I can't go back there. Or that I won't leave you alone, even if you don't help me a bit."
"You're being foolish," said Bakura. "With no one to help you, you'll be dead within days."
Mahes looked at him hard, and Bakura saw that Mahes was serious, and would not change his mind. Bakura sighed. Then his eyes lit up as if he'd suddenly thought of something.
"As I said, I'm a thief. That means I don't do anything for free. But maybe I could help you if you'll help me," said Bakura.
"Of course I'll help-" started Mahes.
"Idiot! Listen to what I'm asking for before you agree," said Bakura. "You say you live in the palace. That means you can go back and enter the palace safely. You can collect information and bring it back to me. Like a spy."
"Why do you need information?" asked Mahes, confused.
"Because I can hear them," Bakura said quietly.
"My people! Their spirits. If only you'd listen, you could hear them, too. Do you know why their spirits are still here? Because they were so horribly murdered that they can't move on to the afterlife. They know that they were sacrificed to make weapons- Millennium items, you said they were called? As long as the items made from their blood are being used by the evil people who did this to them, they'll be trapped here. I'm the only one left alive, and that means it falls to me to get those items, and to get revenge on the ones who did this. It's the only way to free the souls of my family and friends."
Mahes looked surprised for a moment, then thoughtful. He listened carefully, and realized that he could hear the spirits. Bakura wasn't crazy or lying. The souls of his people really were trapped here.
"But what can I possibly do?" asked Mahes.
"As I said, you can easily enter the palace. In the best case scenario, you could steal some of the Millennium items and bring them back- but I don't expect that would truly be possible. I'm smart enough to know that I'm still young and small, and the time for my vengeance is not yet at hand. But if you could get information- as much information as possible on the Millennium items and what they do- then that information could help me in the future when I'm ready to make an assault on the palace. Someday, I'll go in there and get the items back, and get revenge on the ones who did this to my village."
"I'll do it," said Mahes. He said it immediately, as if he didn't even need time to think about it.
Bakura laughed at him again. "Do you understand what you're risking? What you're giving up? If you're caught, you would be executed. Even if you get away clean, you'll be an outlaw for the rest of your life. A traitor. You won't ever be able to go home. You'll be giving up all the luxury of life in the palace to live the hard life out here with me. It will always be dangerous and harsh. Do you get that?"
Mahes thought about it. He would be giving up a lot- that was true. And it would be dangerous- that was true, too. But did he have any choice? His conscience said no.
"I get it," said Mahes. "I just...it's the right thing to do, that's all. I already told you that I can't go back there and be loyal to the Pharaoh, knowing what I know. And helping you get justice for your people- well, as I said, it's the right thing to do."
Bakura looked at Mahes as if he were the most ridiculous person he'd ever had the misfortune of meeting. "You really must be serious when you say you condemn what the Pharaoh and his men have done. Are you sure you're not too righteous to help out a thief like me?"
"You're a thief- they're murderers who slaughtered innocents to make weapons. There's a huge difference between those things. Besides, you're just a kid like me- trying to do the right thing for your people, just like I'm trying to do the right thing," said Mahes.
"How do I know this isn't all a trick?" asked Bakura, suddenly suspicious again. "What if you run back to that palace and tell them where I am, so they can come and finish me off too?"
"I would never do that!" protested Mahes. "How can I prove it to you?"
Bakura thought for a moment. "Well, you've lived in the palace your whole life. You don't know about the Millennium items yet, but I bet you already know some things that can help me. Tell me the best way to enter the palace for an assault. Tell me what kind of defenses they have. Tell me everything you know."
So Mahes did. Bakura nodded along as he spoke. Mahes didn't know too much, since he was only a kid, but he did know some things, and Bakura thought he seemed to be truthful. And if Mahes could really get him the information on the Millennium items- well, that could certainly prove to be extremely useful. Maybe it was worth the risk of trusting him.
"Alright," said Bakura finally. "You go back to the palace, get the information, and meet me back here as soon as you can. If you keep your word, and bring back something useful, then I'll do what you asked- I'll stay with you and help you to survive. And you can trust me to keep my end of the deal. Once you come back here with the information, we're partners from then on."
"Partners," confirmed Mahes.
Bakura nodded. He thought this kid must really be crazy.
"I don't know how long it will take me," said Mahes. "And...I still don't like leaving you all alone out here...not after what happened."
"I may be young, but I'm not a helpless child! I told you, I can take care of myself!" Bakura sounded offended, but Mahes thought he heard another emotion underneath that.
"I'll be back as soon as I can," said Mahes.
"I'll need to go out often to steal food and other necessary things. I'll check back here for you occasionally, whenever I get the chance," said Bakura.
Mahes nodded as he got up to leave. Then he suddenly pulled Bakura into a hug. Bakura shoved him away. "Just go! And don't you dare get yourself killed!"