A/N: Mizushipping (Priest Set x Kisara) for The Contest.
Cursory searching on Wikipedia revealed no timeline for inns. I can only hope you can suspend disbelief enough to believe that there would be an inn in ancient Egypt. They existed in the Roman Empire, so we're only a few thousand years before that.
I'm a sucker for Mizushipping. It's only one of two almost-canon pairings I ship. (The other being, quite obviously, Polarshipping)
Disclaimer: Well, I'm writing in English; that's a pretty telltale sign that I don't own it.
Set arrived far too late. He took off as soon as caught word heard of the bandits from the next town over, and galloped through the desert all night, but his village was smoldering when he dismounted from his tired horse the next morning.
The bandits were fleeing. Set was too stunned to chase after them or try to get revenge. He could only watch as the dragon chased them out, the huge white dragon with blue eyes, shooting white fire. A woman stood beneath it. Both she and the dragon looked straight at him. Set ran.
He had every right to fear the dragon with the power of a god, but that wasn't the only reason he ran. Arriving at his house, he kicked in the charred door. Half of it crumbled to ash. He looked upon the remains of his house and his family. His legs gave way and he knelt on the ground, grieving.
After some time-hours, it felt-he couldn't stand the destroyed house. He forced himself to leave. There was nothing of his family left to bury. No possessions left to carry with him. He wandered around the town with no idea what to do next. Other villagers likewise wandered, mourned, or left with what little they still owned.
Amid the steady stream of refugees, the woman lay in the middle of the street. No one paid her any attention. Set wanted to do the same. He had no reason, nor means to help this woman.
She lifted her head, surprising him. They stared at the other. She said nothing, but her eyes begged him for help, that she was either too proud or too weak to ask for.
Set approached with caution. The woman and her dragon frightened him, but her unspoken plea stirred something in him stronger than fear. He knelt next to her.
"Will you help me?" she whispered, not believing anyone would give help to the likes of her.
"Yes," Set replied before he could change his mind. He looked at her, now close enough to see the whip marks on her back, the bruises on her arms and legs, the cuts, the dirt, and burns covering her.
"You..." he could not voice his despair at the cruelty she had suffered, and simply reaffirmed."Yes, I will help you."
How, he had no idea, but he hid that from her. Set picked her up easily, for she was light. He carried her to his horse, which was fighting off a would-be thief. Set shouted for the man to get away, and he did. Set mounted, holding the girl with one arm and the reins with the other, and rode to the next village.
Though he knew it was stupid, he rode through the hottest part of the day. The girl stayed barely awake through the whole trip, holding onto his arm. They arrived late in the day. Set went straight to the inn, knowing more of his fellow villagers would come this way and take all the rooms. He was forced to leave the girl outside, not knowing how the innkeeper would react to her pale skin and blue eyes. Once he had paid, the keeper would see no color but gold in either of them.
Set carried her in and laid her on the bed. He left and returned quickly with water.
"Thank you," she whispered after she had drunk.
"You should rest," Set ordered, as she seemed to be unwilling to sleep. "I'll try to find a doctor."
"No, you shouldn't... for me..." she murmured, but fatigue overtook her and she fell asleep.
Set brought a doctor as promised, though it was night now. He bandaged the girl, who slept all the while. He left medicine and more bandages, and Set paid him with his rapidly dwindling supply of gold.
She woke the next morning. Set dozed, sitting against the wall. He awoke as she tried to leave the room.
"Where are you going?" He stood up to block her way.
"I cannot stay," she apologized, bowing her head. "Thank you so much for your help."
"You can't leave. You still need to rest." He had no idea why he was forcing her to stay with him, when he barely had the money to cover his own needs now.
"I will only bring you trouble. Besides, I have no way to repay you."
Set confronted the thought he'd wrestled with this whole journey. "That white dragon was you, wasn't it?"
She flinched. Set waited, but she did not answer. "Well?" he prompted.
"Yes," she admitted, unwilling to meet his eyes.
Now that he had the knowledge, he did not know what to do with it. He feared the dragon, but it drove the bandits out of his town. And he did not fear the girl. If the dragon was hers, then it would not hurt him.
"I would not ask for payment, even if you had it." Set ignored discussing the dragon for now.
"But..." she protested.
She stood in the doorway, debating.
Finally, "Thank you," she repeated. "I will repay you someday."
She went back to the bed and took the food Set left for her. He watched her, and after a moment, asked.
"For now, you can repay me with your name."
"Kisara. ...and yours?"
That night, she woke. He looked up, hearing her.
"Are you alright?"
Breathing heavily, she said nothing for a moment. "The dragon... did it... come out?"
"No," Set answered, confused. "Why would it?"
"Sometimes... when I sleep..." she hesitated."It wants out."
"Well, there was no dragon tonight," Set replied.
"...I'm sorry for waking you," Kisara apologized after an awkward moment of silence.
"It's fine. I wasn't asleep."
"Are you all right?" Kisara went to him, kneeling in front of him on the floor.
"Yes," Set said too quickly. "Just... thinking about my family. They... they died in the fire."
"I'm sorry," Kisara bowed her head. Set said nothing, looking away from her.
"It's fine," he repeated, his voice breaking. Kisara put a hand on his shoulder, and before he knew it, they were holding onto each other while he cried.
Kisara recovered with time. For the first few days, Set watched her closely half-expecting her to bolt every time she was alone. But she stayed with him, and he cared for her. With all the people coming in from the destroyed village, Set found work in the inn. He made enough money for them to live on and haggled with the owner to let them stay in the inn cheaply. When Kisara was well enough, she worked as well, cleaning, preparing food, and other jobs that kept her out of sight. Set had been right; the keeper judged her by her skin and eyes.
When they didn't have to work, they had no one to talk with but each other. Set told Kisara of his family, his mother and younger brother. His father, he had never known. He even opened up enough to grieve for his lost mother and brother in front of her. Kisara had that effect on people. She comforted him, and instead of being embarrassed, as he would in front of any other person, Set was relieved. He told her about all sorts of things, his village, his friends, and the great palace city he had seen once as a boy. She would always listen.
But Kisara would not open up to him the same way. He learned that she was not foreign, but born in Egypt with her unusual skin and eyes. Her family shunned her and sold her into slavery. She had then been traded from owner to owner until the bandits Set had seen. If there were more details to her story, Set did not know them. She would not speak of the dragon again at all.
But Set found himself caring less and less about her past. Nothing she hid from him could turn him away from her now. She was the only person in the world he could trust. The time had long passed that Kisara needed medical care, yet she still stayed with him. Perhaps because there was no other place where she could work and earn money, but she didn't seem the kind to stay with him against her will. He did nothing to keep her bound to him.
Weeks passed in this fashion, both working, living together, learning about the other. Slowly, the refugees began to leave. The work slacked off. One such slow day, Kisara and Set were both cleaning in the tavern, a rare chance that Kisara was in sight and both of them together. A man passed by the doorway, stopped, and entered the room. Neither paid him mind till he called to them.
"Set!" He was middle-aged, with a well-worn traveling cloak; Set looked up at him, recognizing him immediately as a neighbor from their village.
"Bastet! You're alive!" Set marveled.
"I could say the same thing to you, boy!" The older man replied, coming to Set and clapping a hand on his shoulder. "There was hardly anything left of your house!"
"Yes..." Set suddenly remembered he had never liked Bastet. Insensitive, old-
"But enough of that. Have you been reimbursed by the priests yet?" Bastet pulled a sack of gold from his belt and held it up.
"What? Money from the priests?"
"Yes! The pharaoh says it was the palace's fault that the village was destroyed, so they're giving us all money! Just go to the palace, tell them you're from the village, and you can talk to the priest! They have to judge you, to make sure you're not lying, but then you get your money!"
With money from the priests, Set could leave the inn, and he and Kisara could live somewhere together. Someplace of their own. Bastet interrupted his train of thought before he could plan any more details.
"I have to get going now; my caravan will leave without me!" Bastet went to the door. "Good seeing you, boy! Remember to get your money!"
Despite Bastet's stupid reminder of Set's dead family, it was the most pleasant conversation Set ever had with the man. He turned to Kisara.
"You heard it all?" He asked. After a pause, she nodded. "Then we will go to the palace immediately! With that gold, we can leave this place! We can-" Set stopped. He meant to say 'live together', but he still was not sure of her feelings. She didn't notice his unfinished sentence.
"No, I cannot go to the palace." She looked him in the eye, firm. Set was thrown. She hadn't contradicted him since she tried to leave when she woke in the inn.
"Why?" His lack of knowledge haunted him. "We'll go together. You'll be fine."
"I have been... to the palace before," she said hesitantly. "They... I... well, I cannot go again, not even to the city."
"The palace? You? But why?"
"The dragon," she forced out. "Don't make me talk about it."
"Well..." Set could go by himself to get the money. "Fine. But I can't leave you here. The innkeeper... er..."
"He hates me. I'm used to what people think. You can say it, Set."
"I know, I know." Set clenched a fist. He hated how people judged her, the same way he judged her when she was lying on the ground in his village. "So you know I can't leave you alone."
"Yes, you can. You don't want to," Kisara countered. "I will not chain you to this place. You need not bind yourself to me-"
"Is that a bad thing?" Set asked, before he could stop himself. Kisara stared.
"I... want to stay with you." Set forced himself to look at her, not hide his eyes like a coward while he opened his heart to her. I would ask you the honor... of binding myself to you."
He thought Kisara was quiet before; Set might have been in the room alone, for the silence was overwhelming. He tensed, waiting for some answer. At least rejection would end this horrible silence.
"Really?" she murmured at last. A weight lifted from Set's heart.
"Really, truly," he promised. "I will stay with you forever."
"No matter what happens?" she pressed.
"Forever," he repeated.
Kisara crossed the room in an instant and threw her arms around him. The innkeeper walked past and shouted for them to get back to work, but neither of them cared.
"I will wait in the city while you go to the palace," Kisara said. "That's the best I can do."
"But-" Set started.
"I'll be fine. I can take my care of myself for the time you'll be in the palace, and they won't notice if I'm only in the city a short time."
Set longed to ask her why she wasn't allowed in the city, but such details were unimportant. The innkeeper approached the two of them, still yelling.
"We quit," Set told him, and the two of them ran to their room to get their things. They were gone before the keeper figured out what happened.
Again, they braved the desert during the day, fools that they were. This time, Set could simply follow the river, so the journey wasn't as difficult. Neither spoke much. There would be time for talking later. They were content just to be together.
The sky was dark when they arrived. The palace would not receive them at such hours, so they stayed in the inn for the night. People eyed Kisara as they came in, but no one said anything to the pair. Set made sure of that.
The next morning, Set went straight to the palace. He did not notice the people still staring at him, deducing that his foreign woman must still be in their room.
Set told the guards at the gate why he came. They led him into the palace and, after hours of waiting, to the priests.
Set marveled at the ornate throne room. He felt as though he'd something like it before, but where, he did not know. His home was even less compared to it, and his home was hardly more than dirt and sticks.
The guard prompted him to speak. Kneeling before the priests, Set told them he'd come from the destroyed village and was seeking the compensation the palace had promised. One of the priests bade him to stand.
"To prove you are who you claim, we shall judge you. If you speak true, you have nothing to fear." He held out a golden ankh shaped like a key.
Set felt an image of a creature. He didn't actually see it, he just knew it existed. A tall thing with the shape of a man, but with oddly shaped wings and a sword. Its name was-he simply knew the word was its name-Duos. Then the priest lowered the key, and Duos left his mind.
"He speaks true," the priest concluded. He motioned for one of the soldiers to come forward. "Give the boy his money."
Before the man could move, a messenger burst into the room.
"The girl!" He shouted. "The foreign-"
"Silence!" Another priest stepped forward, one of his eyes made of gold. "Whatever it is, it can wait! Do not interrupt us!"
"Calm yourself, Akhnaden," The pharaoh ordered, rising. "What do you have to say, soldier?"
"Forgive my intrusion, pharaoh, priests," The man bowed, embarrassed by Akhnaden's scolding. "The foreign girl, who appeared here many years ago, is in the city again. We have brought her to the palace."
"What foreign girl?" The pharaoh asked, not remembering.
"The... white dragon," the soldier said.
"Kisara!" Set shouted without thinking. All turned to stare at him. Set cursed to himself. Idiot!
"Do you know this girl?" Akhnaden demanded.
"I... have met her," Set avoided the full truth.
"Bring her in," the pharaoh ordered. "We shall see how the boy knows her."
Set bowed his head, furious with himself. He didn't look up when he heard the doors open. Footsteps echoed in the huge room. Three or four people came in. Men shouted vulgar things. Set kept his eyes shut until they threw her on the ground next to him.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, as the guards placed themselves in a circle around her.
"Girl!" Akhnaden pointed. "We arrested you three years ago for destroying parts of the city. You escaped into the desert, and have been a fugitive since. Both of these offenses are punishable by death."
"No!" Set shouted.
"You 'met her before'," The priest with the key quoted. Set ignored it.
"Please, do not kill her!" Set begged.
"You would defend her?"
"Set, I'm sorry!" Kisara said again.
"The girl of the white dragon-"
"I wanted to tell you-!" Kisara raised her voice to be heard over the priest.
"-who destroyed your village?"
The priest's voice echoed. Set was still looking at Kisara, who was almost in tears.
"What?" Set whispered, his voice growing louder as his shock faded and rage built. "What?"
"I didn't mean to!" Kisara said. "The slave traders... they had nearly killed me... the dragon came out on its own, and I couldn't stop it...
"You...!" Set did not hear her words. He could only hear his mother and brother screaming, could only see his house burning, everyone he ever knew in life dying.
"Set!" Kisara begged. The guards grabbed her and forced her to her feet.
"Your judgment, pharaoh?"
"...the girl is too dangerous to let live," the pharaoh concluded. "She cannot control her ka. At sundown, we must execute her."
"I can control it!" She screamed. "It hasn't come out since that day-"
"You lie to save your life!" Akhnaden cut her off. "Take her away!"
The guards forced Kisara out of the room. Set watched as though he were only an observer, not in the room with her. Every time he thought to help her, he thought instead of his family, burned alive, and murdered by this woman.
"Kisara..." he murmured, but he could not make himself want to help her.
The priests let him go with his money once he swore on his life that he had no ties to Kisara. It didn't trouble Set very much to make the oath.
With nowhere else to go, Set returned to the inn. They would not let him near. A crowd was gathered outside, waiting for his return. The people had seen Kisara, remembered her from years past, and turned her in to the soldiers. That explained how all of this came out, Set realized. One time he might have fought the people, but he left, running from their shouts and even a few stones.
He had been with the foreign girl, and now had nowhere to go. His horse was stolen, his few things probably taken from his inn room and burned by now. He managed to find a food vendor that would sell to him, and at least was able to eat.
Wandering the city, Set tried to think about what to do next. The overwhelming hate for the murdering dragon could not erase all of his love for her. She said the dragon did it. He did not listen then. Now... His family came again to mind, but so did Kisara, holding him while he cried for them. Set looked towards the towering obelisks of the palace. The sun cast long shadows behind them. His legs moved before he could stop them. He ran through the streets, cursing himself for ever doubting her.
Mobs of people surrounded the execution grounds. Set pushed his way through. A hush fell over the crowd as the priests declared it time for Kisara to die. The people cheered, and Set ran as they began to throw stones.
"Kisara!" He cried. People stood in his way, refusing to let him past. He fought through all of them, emerging in the clearing in the half-circle mob. The priests stood a safe distance behind Kisara, who lay on the ground, stones littered around her. Set ran to her.
"Kisara!" He called again, falling to his knees before her. She was unconscious. "Kisara! Wake up!"
People threw stones at him as well, but he did not care. Akhnaden shouted for them to stop, but the other priests did nothing and the people did not listen. Set tried to protect her, but the people surrounded them. Rocks pelted them both. He realized he would probably die here with her.
Something lit up in the sky above them. Set wouldn't lift his head to look, but he heard the roar. The dragon emerged, and landed around Set and Kisara, shielding them. Set looked up. The dragon roared again at the crowd, but it did not strike. The people all fled, screaming.
Another creature appeared, attacking the white dragon. The dragon pushed it aside easily, and then shot its white fire. The creature disappeared. The priests all shouted. The white dragon looked back to where the mob had been. Seeing no one, it disappeared.
Kisara stirred. Set cried her name yet again.
"Set...?" She asked. "You came back?"
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he pleaded. "I'm a fool. It wasn't your fault. I just... I thought it was the bandits, and when they said it was you..."
"I should've told you," she said. "But no one had ever cared for me like that before, and I was afraid you'd leave me..."
"Never," he promised. "I know I said it before, but I swear this time, I'll never leave you."
"Traitor!" Akhnaden shouted, running at them, sword drawn. "Move! I will kill the girl myself."
Set pulled Kisara close. "I will not move!"
"Set, no," she begged.
Akhnaden stopped in front of them. "You will die, boy."
"You will not kill her!" Set screamed in defiance. Akhnaden raised the sword. Set did not move.
But Kisara did. She pushed Set away as Akhnaden struck. Set watched in horror as the sword went through her.
"NO!" he cried as Kisara fell back down to him. He leapt forward to charge Akhnaden, but Kisara grabbed his hand before he could.
"Don't kill him," she begged Akhnaden. "He does not deserve to die."
"Kisara!" Set cried, knowing there was nothing he could do. How, when they had finally come together, how could it end?
"Thank you, Set," she smiled at him. "For loving me."
"Kisara, please," he begged, but her hand fell from his.
The priests let him live. Akhnaden told Set to try to enter the service of the pharaoh and become a priest himself one day.
"Become one of you?" Set spat, still covered in Kisara's blood.
"If you do not think we are just," the pharaoh said. "Then you must become one of us and show us true justice."
Set watched them walk back into the palace, grieving once again. He put a hand on his chest, feeling the dragon that now lived within his soul.
A/N: This is by far the longest Contest fic and oneshot I've ever written.
EDIT: And it will get longer! If you like the fic, please story alert or check back again in a week. I am going to revise, but I can't until contest voting is over.