Disclaimer: The OC's are mine but the ones you know? Not so much…
Chapter Two – A New Day
Wally gulped. So here he was, making a fool of himself in front of this man. Despite being in full panic-mode, he kept a calm face and ended up taking in the person in front of him. The man was tall and well-built with short black hair and piercing blue eyes. He wore a long dark blue tunic with small embroidery detailing in gold here and there. There were also golden bracelets under the long sleeves – he heard them clink.
With a start Wally noticed that he was also being appraised by that piercing stare. The red head straightened and tried to withstand the scrutiny. He didn't know why he was here or why he had been saved by this man but he had to look good, somehow. There was a slight pause before the man headed to the chair on the other side of the table. When he sat he looked at Wally once more and gave a tiny nod. The scribe hurried to straighten the chair from where it had fallen and sat down in it.
They sat there in silence for long minutes. The man – Bruce (and Wally couldn't really believe it was really him) started eating, a thoughtful expression settling on his features. Wally wanted to say something but couldn't, because, what could he say? 'Not wanting to sound ungrateful or anything but why did you get me out of the prison?' There was no way he could say anything of the sort – not if he didn't want to be kicked out of the house and away from all this food and… and from the questions he still wanted to see answered, but could he really ask them to this imposing figure?
"You haven't finished your meal. Aren't you hungry anymore?"
These words sliced through the haze in which Wally had fallen and he looked up. Those piercing blue eyes were staring at him again, reading into his core – he felt nearly naked underneath it.
"No, it's not that. I mean, I'm still hungry and the food's delicious but…" the scribe couldn't hold those eyes for long and looked down at the white tablecloth. "Why am I here?" he mumbled. The sound of a chair being pushed back made him look up again. The priest was standing up, his hands resting lightly on the table.
"You are a scribe at the Temple of Thot, so you are probably aware of the signs that the gods send to us everyday," he paused to see Wally's reaction, and at the other's nod he continued. "It is appropriate to say that one of those signs was shown to me and I had to do something, because our lives aren't our own, we must follow the designs of the gods…" the priest finished with a strange bitter note on his voice. He had moved so that his hands were resting on the handrail and he was looking at the large gardens.
"Hm, but that doesn't explain much…" the red head hastened to continue at the other's level stare. "I do know that we need to live according to the gods and all," he cringed a bit when he noticed what he had just said – and to a priest! – but words continued to flow out of his mouth. "But I still don't understand anything. Nobody cared to tell me what I did or- or-" Seeing the nearly invisible shift in some of the other's facial muscles made him finish lamely, "I just have no clue…" his eyes going back to the tabletop.
The sound of footsteps nearing him made the red head look up, sharply. In a low voice the dark haired man replied, "You were accused of committing one of the most vile acts; you stole one of the Pharaoh's props that rested on the Temple of Thot, and not only that," the stare turned ruthless. "You even disturbed the naos."
Wally gasped, eyes wide in shock. He had to be joking. That had to be part of that prank from before – though that rational part of him pointed that this was a serious matter and that nobody would ever play with it.
"I didn't do it! I… that… there's no way…"
The priest acquiesced gravelly. "I believe in you." Not that it showed, Wally couldn't help but think sarcastically. "But now a problem lies ahead; who did it and why."
"I have no idea… What can I do?" he ran a hand through his hair, distractedly. "And also how can I repay my debt? You didn't have to get me out of prison, despite the gods and all…"
Bruce arched an eyebrow. "For now you shall proceed with your usual routine but return here tomorrow as soon as you can. I'll assign you with a station then."
That was a dismissal, it was clear, so Wally got up and startled when he saw the grey haired man waiting for him by the door. He followed him when he walked away and in no time was at the main entrance.
With a nod he headed to the door, only to be stopped by a soft "Wait." Turning around the red head noticed that a small, polished wooden piece was being presented to him. He took it, fingers sliding over the polished surface before the scribe inspected it: On the carved side, in black, there was a hieroglyph that he recognized easily. It said night.
"Bring this tomorrow. It will allow you to enter the precinct."
Wally nodded and closed his hand around the piece of wood and left the house. He didn't notice the eyes that followed him.
From one of the windows of the first floor, eyes followed the trek of the lone scribe down the front path. There was something strange with the red head, Bruce could tell. It wasn't a feeling (because he didn't have such things) or the sign from one of the minor oracles (that he still hadn't sorted out completely yet – but would do that later). It was something that he recognized feeling with a handful of dignitaries, at the higher rankings of the court. It didn't belong in a lowly scribe. And there was also the whole situation of having been accused… did this man have enemies? He didn't exactly look the type (he had watched as he ate the food joyously and exuding an aura of contentment – before withdrawing at his presence) so why had he been wrongly accused by that colleague? There was something suspicious going on and he had to get to the bottom of it. This was a puzzle that was probably bigger than what the spare pieces he possessed showed and he needed to continue his investigation because the omens were…
"It is almost time for your meeting, sir," the smooth voice brought him from his musings, making the priest turn his head to face the newcomer.
"Thank you, Alfred," his eyes turned back to the entrance, nearly absently.
Bruce was a bit tired. The fact that he had to go to this meeting showed that something was going to happen but he hadn't heard anything from him yet so while it might not be all the details, a lot of headaches were coming his way. The meeting might be only about extending the number of days for the complicated offers pattern for the month's festival, but somehow he didn't think that was it. The priest strode to his room, accompanied by Alfred who instantly set about finding his grey tunic as soon as they had reached it.
"What did you think?" There was no need to ask about what he was referring to.
"He didn't seem capable of doing what he was accused of. I sense that it was a set up," Alfred replied in a matter-of-fact way as he picked the tunic that had been discarded to the back of a chair.
"I know but it's going to be hard to prove that. There are many pieces missing…" Bruce adjusted the golden belt and looked at his reflection in the mirror.
"One should always cultivate patience, as the Ancient ones said," replied Alfred.
His only reply was a noncommittal noise.
Wally left the priest's house, feeling a small prickling at the back of his head. His eyes were still glued to the piece of wood in his hand. After a while he tightened his fist around it and looked straight ahead. He still had a long way home…
The scribe reached the city during the height of the day. The bazaar was quiet; people everywhere had sought a cooler location to spend the time. Well, he only had to endure a little more until he got home, but knowing that he was close to home only helped partially in the hellish heat. Finally, he got to the familiar neighbourhood; the whitewashed buildings were the same as when he had left.
Wally found himself relaxing slightly. This was a place he knew and where he had his footing. He could already see his small house, towards the end of the street. He was finally close to his sanctuary. It was with huge relief when the door closed securely behind him. With a curt nod (and thinking that he needed to change the offerings) to the shrine, the scribe entered the main area of his humble house. It wasn't big or luxurious but it was his and that was all that mattered.
So when he saw the state his house was in it was a big surprise. Tables and chairs knocked to the ground, the kitchen was a mess too. It didn't take long before he rushed up the stairs to his bedroom area to see that it was also in a similar state. His sleeping mat was balled in a corner, the chest where he stored his clothes was open and it had been brutally eviscerated, the scattered clothes strewn across the floor. The small area where he stored his material, the area where the bookcase where he had the scrolls he was studying and those that he was practicing some more delicate aspects of his writing on… that area was completely destroyed.
His palettes had been thrown haphazardly on the low table and floor, his brushes had been pulled from their storage pouches and the place reserved for the inks had him rushing there to try to salvage any thing he could. With dismay he saw that the pot of black, expensive ink was broken and the contents had dripped onto a papyrus underneath. His mouth opened and closed without emitting a sound. This pot of ink was special, it had been a present from his uncle for getting to his position at the temple. He had worked hard to be able to get him the ink and now it was staining his belongings.
A knot of outrage was tightening inside him, and at the same time that the urge to see his family also grew. He missed them… but no, first he had other things to do and to worry about. His house was like this because the police had probably been here looking for the stolen pieces. He had been accused so that was kind of logical but – this level of destruction?
With a sigh the red head knelt and started picking things up, cleaning and sorting the mess. At the same time his mind was spinning. It was surreal. And talking about surreal, he also had this little piece of wood to add to the confusion. He was going back to the dignitary's estate the following day and how was he supposed to survive the day at the temple? After all, news ran fast – especially this kind… It made no sense. As he placed the wooden piece in one of the shelves he wondered what might happen.
In the following hours he busied himself with cleaning his house, getting new offerings and grumble at the lack of food in his house. Yep, that was another thing brought by the arrest – he had meant to get food the previous day. The red head took his time, getting his house into some semblance of order until it was time for him to go to the market. He was starting to feel tiredness creeping in due to the unexpected events so he just had to hurry with the jobs so that he could get some rest.
In the next morning Wally woke way too early – again. Ra probably hadn't been able to defeat Apophis yet! With a tired grunt he got up and mechanically went through his morning ablutions, preparing for a new day.
The red head was eating his breakfast distractedly and arranging the materials for the new work day (and remembering that he probably had to go back to the prison to retrieve his materials or ask at the main gate if someone had taken them back to the temple). All of a sudden he was startled by a faint meow. Looking to his right, Wally took in his unexpected visitor. It was a black cat, with shiny fur and, the red head noticed, blue eyes.
Well, this was an unexpected situation but not unheard of. Wally got close to it, very slowly, and squatted in front of the cat, extending a hand in his direction. The fur ball was sitting regally and looking at him with attentive eyes, almost as if waiting to see what was going to happen. As the hand made contact with the top of the head and massaged lightly, the eyes closed and the mouth opened in what looked like a yawn.
"Hey there little fellow. Are you lost?" the scribe asked in a low voice with a large smile on his face. The cat opened his eyes and looked at him as if saying, 'Getting lost, me? Never.'
The red head let out a chuckle, "Alright, but you're probably hungry." He hurried downstairs and got up again with a bowl of water and a bowl that had some leftovers of last dinner's fish. "Sorry for not having anything better..." he placed both bowls on the floor before looking out the window. A small frown fluttered across his features. It was starting to get late.
Getting up again the scribe headed to the window to hang up the square of reeds that usually covered the window from the heat and whichever mosquitoes that tried to invade his house. Today, however, he let a bit of space so that the cat could leave when he wanted.
"I need to be going but you can leave through that little gap," as the words left his mouth he wondered, detachedly, why was he talking to a cat… Well, it was true that some said that cats brought messages from the gods…
With a shrug he got to the small bookcase and started collecting the rest of his usual materials for the day. The red head was about to turn around but something caught his eye: The small piece of wood that the grey haired man had given him. His fingers curled around it decidedly.
An instant later he was out the door.
The temple complex was reasonably large – considering the city they were in. Before Wally the imposing alley was flanked by the tall, sculpted columns lay. Beyond there was the pylon(1). Crossing it had him breathing differently, as usual, because he was finally inside the temple, a place where the gods (actually) paid attention to men. There was a difference from the usual, though, every place he had crossed was empty – which made his footsteps echo all around him.
He was not going to the heart of the temple – those areas were the priests' responsibility. No, his feet took him down a familiar path, the one that led to the big library and the scribes' rooms overall. However he didn't go to the library. Instead he went to one of the gardens nearby. Sitting down in one of the several benches that were scattered around, Wally looked at the calm waters of the late. Usually he wasn't one to sit down and think deeply over things that happened but the strangeness of the previous day warranted that. These seemingly calm waters could perfectly exemplify him. As calm as he looked on the outside, underneath something was happening. How was it possible that chaos had taken over his life?
From where he was it was possible to hear the chants of the priests as they performed one of the first rituals of the day, the greeting of the sun-god. The solar disc was getting stronger and slowly rising in the sky. A distracted smile stretched Wally's lips. The god had defeated the evil serpent once again, and it also meant that it was time for him to get going.
Getting up and grabbing his small satchel, the scribe headed to the library, enjoying the sweet fragrances coming from the trees and flowers that lined the path. As he got to the main corridor of the scribes' rooms he noticed the whispers and stares from the other scribes.
'Great, so the others know of the situation already,' the red head thought sarcastically.
To tell the truth, this kind of news always travelled fast within the temple grounds. Besides, he must've been seen going away escorted by the guards… he may have been alone but that didn't mean they passed unnoticed. As Wally approached the room where he was stationed, he saw some of his friends. They weren't all there yet though, he couldn't help but notice.
"'Morning guys," he greeted.
The others startled and looked at him, surprised.
"Wally! You're here."
"Welcome back man!"
"We heard some disturbing rumours…"
"What did you hear?" the red head asked.
"Well, first we noticed that you didn't come yesterday – and you're always punctual, but then we heard that you had been arrested because you stole one of the sacred artefacts. Needless to say that we didn't believe that. You would never steal."
"We didn't doubt it for a second."
"But then the rumour changed and they started saying things about Ippat. He didn't come in yesterday like you but, you know how he is, always appears late and likes to party way too much."
"At first no-one thought anything of it but as the day wore on and he still didn't appear we knew that something was wrong."
"Word has it that he was the one that did the thing you were accused of, he was the one that stole the thing."
"Are you serious?" Wally was baffled. He would never imagine that.
"You're not the only one surprised by this. We all were."
"Who would've thought he was capable of something like this? He was a little laid back towards the rules and all but his work was really good."
"Really, I never-" Wally was interrupted by the scribe in charge of their room, Sarenput.
"Go to your places, this is no place to gossip like idle women."
They quickly parted and went to their own stations. They had a lot of work to do. Wally sat and set down his writing materials, prepared the ink and, finally, spread the new papyrus. All the hustle around disappeared as it always did when he focused on this kinds of tasks. Before him were only the words of the text he had to transcribe; a text dedicated to the Eye. By his confident hand, dark ink started to fill the blank.
'The goddess reached Thebes,
The Eye of Ra,
Precinct of the pupil of the Eye of life.
So, her father, the Nun,
Came to her.
He extinguished the flame of His Majesty,
And made her an extension of water by every side.
She received, now appeased,
Her address, Acheru the Great.'
As his hand came to a stop, and laid the brush in the brush holder, Wally snapped out of that focused state that transcribing the old texts made him enter. The red head noticed that the head scribe of this set of rooms was heading towards the scribe in charge of his room, all the while he looked at Wally solemnly. The older scribes exchanged some words. Wally quickly rearranged his workplace and suddenly Sarenput was hovering by his side. When he saw that he had caught the younger scribe's attention he gave an approving nod before saying, "Scribe West, follow me, please."
Wally could only obey.
He found himself at the main building of the temple, going through unknown corridors. He could only admire the columns and sculpted walls for brief instants. Finally they stopped in front of a heavy wooden door. The older scribe knocked on the door once and opened it. He signalled for Wally to go in.
The scribes entered what seemed to be a bureau. Three of the room's walls were covered by bookcases that were overflowing with papyrus. On top of the table that occupied the middle of the room was a scribed tablet. Sitting at the table, the man looked up, then finished taking a note on the tablet. Only then did he pay attention to them.
"Here he is, as requested." Sarenput was standing a bit stiffly and seemed relieved to be dismissed as he quickly left the room when ordered. There was silence for a couple of beats until the man leaned back on his chair, scratching his chin slowly.
"You've been quite the subject of conversation these last few days…" Wally opened his mouth to reply only to shut it as the other man lifted his hand as he kept speaking. "We cleared up some of the circumstances, however there are some matters concerning you that need to be attended to."
The man, one of the temple's head priests – Wally couldn't help but recall, a little nervously – got up and strode to the red head. He was slightly smaller than Wally but much more built. He wore a yellow tunic embroidered with small brown designs and a brown belt. They left the bureau and he led Wally through some corridors, they were in a part of the temple where scribes didn't usually go.
Finally, they crossed a small door and were in a large room, where most (if not all) of the temple's priests were standing. All the eyes in the room turned to the newcomers and the scribe pasted an uncomfortable smile on his face before he knew it. The priest led him so that he stood in front of the slightly elevated five chairs (one of which was empty). As the priest that had led him sat down, Wally found himself under the scrutiny of all the temple's priests (but mostly of the head priests).
After a couple of minutes – that seemed to last from before the pyramids had been built – the elder priest got up and approached Wally. "So, you're the motive for all this confusion…?" the balding and gaunt man had an imposing aura. "You probably know what happened already, some things are impossible to be kept secret in this temple but-" he raised his voice so that the other priests could hear. "-we shall keep this only within the walls of this domain." There was a wave of agreeing mutters before silence settled again. The old priest kept on. "You, Wallace West, scribe, have been unfairly accused of a hideous crime and while there are evidences that absolve you from the crime, we are still suspicious as there is always the tendency to allow Isfet to enter and rule the hearts. Thus, you'll have to prove yourself and regain our trust in you again, by showing that you're following the precepts of Ma'at." Grey eyes bore into Wally's green ones and he felt a hand land lightly on his shoulder. "Now, you may return to your station." The man turned around and sat on his chair once again.
The scribe quickly caught that he had been dismissed so he left the room through the same door. He had the feeling that something important had been said but he needed some time to analyze it. Well, now wasn't going to be that time, for sure. He had to recheck the records that accounted the amount of food that had been gathered in the last flood, the one that now rested on the food silos. It was boring but someone had to do it, and now was Wally's turn. The red head's sigh echoed through the empty corridors, bouncing in the columns.
Back in the room, a wave of suspicious and indignant mutters rose as soon as the door closed behind the scribe. The five men in the chairs waited until one of the priests walked to stand in front of them. He waited until the noise subsided.
"Head priests," he paused courteously. "Why haven't you expelled the scribe? There might be evidences of his innocence but such an accusation has blemished him and, by association, our reputation among the higher circles as they might hear from this. In other times this would have given immediate expulsion so, why not in his case?" This was followed by approving murmurs.
The priest that sat at the right end got up and lifted his hands. "It is true that the usual method to act upon such a situation is expulsion of the individual under suspicion. However we were given a sign. The oracle's omens were decidedly against that course of action and as it is a sign of the gods, we shall obey. Let's not forget that one must work with the gods."
(1) The pylon is the gateway to the inner part of an Ancient Egypt temple.
A/N: A new chapter! And it was about time. I'm sorry that it took me so long to write this one but I think that my muse was a bit scared of Bruce. ^^
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this bit.
The chapter was beta-ed by The lunatic who cares (to whom this chapter is dedicated. I know, it's a super late birthday present but I had promised…), she had to do a lot in this chapter. And also, thank you Jazyrha for helping me to clear up a small bit. ^^
My most heartfelt thanks to everybody who reviewed, your words made me really happy.
That said, more reviews are always good… *hint hint*
Once again, I hope the Queen enjoys the chapter. =3