Chapter Two: Secrets Resurface

Thoth, god of knowledge and wisdom, meditated by a still pond, the occasional lotus drifting in the water. All was silent around the pool. Magnificent pillars of limestone and gold leaf surrounded the place, each pillar elegantly painting with motifs of everyday life and legends. But Thoth wasn't paying mind to the grand beauty around him, only on the past, present and future, for he could see all and comprehend all, such is the mind of the god. The gods never really had a home; their homes were once in the temples that dotted Kemet, but as time passed and the temples toppled and fell into decay, they realized that they could no longer stay, their presence like the hot desert wind, felt everywhere. Thus, their new home, Heliopolis, named after the home city of Ra-Atum.

Thoth's ibis eyes shot open suddenly and he gasped, clutching his chest, his fingers digging into the feathers. He staggered upright, still clutching his chest. Something was wrong, very, very wrong. The world had suddenly gone off balance, the once tenuous peace now shattered. He stumbled away from the pool. He had to tell somebody, anybody. They had to know.

Isis, goddess of magic, found him first. Thoth stumbled into her arms, panting. The balance was painful to him, purveyor of knowledge and balance. "Thoth?" Isis asked, concerned by his pale countenance. "What is the matter? What happened?" She was a beautiful goddess, with hair like black satin curtains and richly colored wings spanning from her back. The aura of magic flowed and crackled about her

Thoth looked upwards at her, panic and fear in his eyes. "The Millennium Items," he gasped. "They-they have been disturbed. Stolen."

Isis gasped at the news. The gods had been immensely relieved that the Items had been sealed away. Being that the Items were made of blood, they were deemed 'tainted' by the gods as a whole. 'Blood Magic', Ra-Atum had called the process. The Items were never to be disturbed again, save only under the gods' supervision. However, many of the gods realized that this would be an impossible task, Isis included, for as the goddess of magic knew, once something had been made, it could not be unmade. But the news still shocked her to the core. "We must tell the other gods as once," she said, still holding up Thoth.

Thoth nodded wanly. "But the balance...it is now off again."

"I know." Isis helped Thoth to the main chamber of Heliopolis's temple complex, the resting place of Osiris and Ra-Atum. Many of the minor gods, like Paket and Maahes, watched as Isis helped Thoth to the antechamber; curious, they decided to follow closely behind, wondering what was happening. Isis and Thoth made it to the main chamber of Heliopolis. It was less of a chamber and more of a great hall, with thick gold pillars lining the walls, their circumference thicker than most trees. The heady scent of incense, including myrrh, musk and cedar filled the air, their thin wisps of smoke trickling down from brass and bronze bowls, hanging down. Ra-Atum's throne was empty at the moment, the gold and lapis lazuli backed throne looking cold and stark. Osiris, Lord of the Underworld and the husband of Isis, was there however, his dark face impassive as the crook and flail rested in his lap.

"Isis," he began. "Thoth, what seems to be the matter?"

"The Items," Thoth gasped, still somewhat weak. "They have been disturbed. They're gone." A rumble went through the hall as the gods chattered among themselves in shock.

Osiris shook his head. "That cannot be. They were sealed away with the cave in. When the Pharaoh Atem went to the afterlife, so too, did the power of the Millennium Items. They are mere trinkets now, even if they were discovered again."

"I'm afraid that is not true dear brother," Set scoffed, stepping from the shadows of the hall, black cape obscuring his form. "But of course, you cannot feel the disturbance since you are after all, dead."

Horus, the only child of Osiris, leapt from his father's side, bearing his khopesh. "Do not insult my father that was!" he screeched, hawk feathers ruffled.

"I'm not insulting your father you hatchling, I'm merely stating the truth." Set stood alongside Thoth. "Osiris, while he is the Lord of the Underworld, cannot sense certain things. Such as it goes, while I, on the other hand, can sense the disturbance. The Millennium Items were created with Shadow Magic and as the god of shadows-"

"And evil," Horus hissed, fingering the hilt of the khopesh.

"-As the god of shadows," Set started again. "I can sense the Items. Thoth is right," Set turned to the gathering audience. "They have been stolen." A collective gasp went through the audience. Set smirked and faced Osiris. "Nor are they mere 'trinkets' either; they still very much carry their abilities. Maybe not the Puzzle, but the rest are still at their full strength."

Osiris stood up from his throne, anger contorting his features. His hands shuddered with rage as he clenched the crook and flail. He jabbed the flail at Set. "You told me that they no longer had their power. You lied to me!"

"You'll pay for that you traitorous scum!" Horus hefted the khopesh high above his head.

Set's hand went to his own khopesh, still sheathed, in a flash. "Careful hatchling, or you'll lose your other eye."

"Silence!" Horus and Set froze at the voice. The hawk headed god glared at his uncle, but he slowly brought down his weapon. "I will not have violence in the hall!" It was Ra-Atum, his voice imperious. He was dressed in a white kilt and robe, complementing the solar crown and golden feathers of the hawk headed god. Sekhmet, lioness goddess of war, and Anubis, jackal god of death and embalming, walked on either side of Ra-Atum. "No godly blood shall be shed in my hall. Do you understand me?" The other gods parted from Ra-Atum like the waters as Ra-Atum made his way to his throne.

Horus nodded. "Yes, Ra-Atum."

Ra-Atum turned to Thoth, who had finally regained his strength. "What was that about the Millennium Items?"

"Someone disturbed the tomb and stole them."

Ra-Atum nodded slowly, digesting the weighty information. "Can you sense which ones?"

"I believe that I can, my lord," Set interjected. "They were the Rod, the Necklace, and the Key."

"The Items of Anubis, Isis and Ptah respectively." Ra-Atum settled down on his throne, adjusting his white garments. "This is very grave news, especially if they still have their power intact."

"Set had told me that they were powerless," Osiris snarled.

"And after all this time, you still trust Set?" Ra-Atum asked. "I told him to lie to you."

"What?" Isis gasped. "How could you lie to him that way?"

Ra-Atum turned to Isis. "You and I both know that things cannot be unmade, no matter how hard we try to do so." Ra-Atum faced Osiris, his falconoid features inscrutable and yet, Osiris could see apology lurking in its depths. "You are the god of the Underworld, of finality, the end. To see the end of the Items and their power would have made you pleased and the fulfillment of your duties. That was why I asked Set to lie to you. Admittedly, it did not take much for him to sway you." Ra-Atum clenched the shaft of his was staff. "While the theft of the Items is grave news, there are other matters to attend to, namely, the dying number of priests in the mortal world. As of now, there only a handful of them left, scattered throughout the corners of the globe. We are a dying race. The fewer worshipers we have, the weaker we get, until we are nothing more than shadows in books and art."

"Could the theft of the Items and the low priest count be connected somehow?" Maahes, son of Sekhmet and lion headed god of war, inquired. "The Items were connected to the gods individually and as the Items were in the world, so was the power of the gods. One could say that by sealing the Items away actually sealed away our doom, so to speak."

"So, what you're saying is that whoever stole the Rod, the Necklace, and the Key actually are saving us?" Horus scoffed. "That seems like a ludicrous notion to me. You better hope that this thief has noble intentions for these Items, or he better, once I get to him."

"I am only trying to find a connection." Maahes crossed his arms. "Besides, you are jealous of the fact that your Item was not stolen."

"Take that back!"

"He has a point, my son," Osiris said. "The Items were connected to us. I argue that we find more priests to seek the Items out. Anubis, didn't you find a suitable priest once upon a time, with the Dagger incident?"

Anubis snorted, hand brushing up against his beloved Dagger. "You mean Seto Kaiba? I offered and he refused, but I don't give up that easily."

"You picked a man that firmly believes in science and technology and not of the ancient powers that be." Osiris stroked his false beard, a symbol of power and Pharaohs. "Interesting."

"At the least, my priest would believe in magic. Father, you must let me pick out my priest." Horus pleaded. "He in knowledgeable in our ways and would balance out the power of Anubis and Sekhmet. As they rule the earth, so must my priest rule the sky and the sun."

Osiris shook his head. "We have already discussed this Horus. He cannot be a priest. We have already damaged him too much."

"By exposing him to the Shadow Games? He was the vessel for the Pharaoh! We cannot just let him sit by as the world goes off balance because of a mad person! He has the right credentials!"

"We have placed him through more than enough," Osiris countered. "I am sorry my son, but I cannot in clear conscious let you go through this."

"As Horus becomes Osiris, so must the boy become the Pharaoh once more," Horus added before storming off.

"As violate and fierce as the hawk, he is," Khnum, a creator god with the head of a ram, muttered. "I would be careful with him my lord," he said to Osiris.

"But what I am wondering is, why these Items?" Sobek wondered. He was the crocodilian god of the Nile. "Surely the thief would have gone for the more powerful Items, like the Millennium Puzzle."

"We will know in time," Ra-Atum answered. "As all things do. In the meantime, Sekhmet, I want you to contact your priestess and have her seek out the thief and the Items. Anubis, continue to pursue your priest. I fear that he may be needed more than we wish for him too. Something is in the air and I fear that we are on a crash course with our destiny. The peace," he paused.

"-has been shattered."

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

Domino City was never really quiet, even in the deep recesses of the night. Cars, people and various stray animals went about their business, creating a monotone din that many residents were used to. But among the towering skyscrapers that housed many of Domino City's businesses, something stirred on top one of a skyscraper's eaves. It looked to be about the size and shape of a small hawk, perhaps a kestrel or one of the native peregrines, but unlike those birds, this was a ghostly, almost ethereal white. It seemed to glow from within, nearly transparent. A bird expert would have gone into paroxysms had they seen this bird.

The spirit bird launched itself off the eave, spiraling downwards to take advantage of the cool night air. It seemed to be searching for something, the way it was moving its head to and fro and its almost anxious movements. They would be searching for it, it realized, when morning came around. They would be angry and punishing when they found out of his excursion, but he had to.

The ghost hawk let out a ringing cry as it found its target. It went into a graceful back-wing as it landed on the windowsill of the small abode. The building, lit by the street lamp nearby, was small with a loft. Even in the darkness, the ghost hawk could see the prominent logo on the place, bright yellow and green. The bird waddled to the window of the loft, peeking inside. The resident of the loft was asleep, the blankets pulled tightly over his body. He looked cold. The bird, experimentally rapped on the glass with its beak, then drew back in surprise as he went through the glass, experiencing little resistance. It was known for those who dealt with magic, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to form barriers to keep out unwanted visitors of the supernatural sort.

"The barrier must have weakened over time," the spirit creature rationalized, studying the boy with its keen eyes, which blazed like miniature suns. After a few heartbeats, the creature pushed its way inside, leaving no trace.

It fluttered to one of the bedposts of the boy's bed, folding its wings tightly, cocking its head to one side. It was ironic, it noted, that one who looked so innocent would have been so dangerous. The bird hopped off the bed post and did a half hop, half walk, to the sleeping boy. The bird, if it was able, would have smiled at his discovery.

"As Horus becomes Osiris, so must the boy become the Pharaoh. As Horus becomes Osiris..." the ethereal falcon mentally chanted to itself, as if to reassure itself. It had to go through with it; it was was the only way to restore balance and to save the gods. The hawk froze as the boy turned over, revealing his chest. "Perfect," the hawk thought. Spreading its wings, it landed on the boy's chest, the once translucent bird now glowing with a light that would rival the brightest of stars and the sun. The room's temperature rose, until it was the sweltering dry heat like the deserts of Kemet. The hawk could practically feel the grains of sand as winds picked up in the room. The hawk let out a piercing cry and flared brightly, just once. Beams of light shot out the window and under the door crack. A drunkard was staggering outside the window and paused as the loft lit up and he was struck by a hot dry wind, sending him staggering back and onto the ground, landing on his rear end. The drunkard stood up and scrambled away, frightened by things unseen. The light faded away and the room's temperature dropped back to normal. The winds died down shortly after that. The hawk was gone. The only trace that something had even occurred in the room at all was the thin layer of sand that covered every flat surface of the bedroom.

Meanwhile, an elder man sat on a couch on the floor below. He could not sleep tonight; he was restless for some unknown reason. Maybe it was the caffeine from earlier, he reasoned. He sipped at the mug of green tea he had brewed and turned a page in the book he was reading, the only known way to help him sleep. He heard something upstairs, a shrieking noise and he turned his head, spotting the flash of light just underneath the door. He started to get up off the couch to investigate, but the light went away, as quickly as it came. He scratched his head, confused, but he shrugged his shoulders and sat back down to his book and took another sip at his tea. He was completely unaware of what had just occurred and the ramifications of those actions.

The peace that had finally settled over the household was gone, and none of the residents realized it.