Lord Seto Kaiba walked down the crowded street. He was not fond of gypsy festivals, but his younger brother Mokuba—whose hand was clasped tightly in Seto's—enjoyed seeing what sorts of toys the artisans had to offer, and Seto could never refuse Mokuba's enthusiasm. So far today, nothing had caught the boy's eye, and Seto was hoping that they could return to their chateau before the sun began to set.
"Big brother, look!" Mokuba exclaimed, pointing to a group of curious villagers circled around a pretty, sandy-haired boy and a tall, nearly bald man.
"Be amazed by the incredible hypnotic powers of Monsieur Malik!" cried the man in heavily-accented French.
"Can we watch?" asked Mokuba, looking hopefully up at his brother.
Seto frowned. No doubt whoever the boy hypnotized was merely a planted member of the audience, paid to do whatever the boy commanded with a blank expression. "No." He kept walking, pulling his brother along despite the boy's weak resistance.
"But Seto, you haven't let me do anything all day!"
The young lord came to halt and talked sternly down to Mokuba. "I don't want you to think that it's possible for someone else to take control of your mind. There will be some point in your life when all you will have is your autonomy, and I want you to be able to believe in it."
Mokuba responded with a blank stare. His gaze shifted to the left of Seto's head and his eyes widened with excitement. "Brother, can we go there?"
Expecting a toy stand, Seto turned to find a small tent with a painted banner reading "The Amazing Mademoiselle Ishizu"; the "o" had been replaced by a strangely drawn eye. There was little doubt in Seto's mind to either what this woman claimed to be or what she truly was. Despite his antipathy, Seto allowed Mokuba to lead him into the tent, where his suspicions were readily confirmed by the dark silks draped along the walls of the tent and the plush red rug that sat on the ground.
On the rug sat a young woman—Seto's age, perhaps a little older. The sleeves of her white chemise hung loosely off her shoulders; over it she wore a black corset and a turquoise skirt adorned with gold tassels. She held no crystal ball in her lap. "Welcome. Please, sit." She motioned to the pillows before her.
Mokuba did as the woman—Ishizu, clearly—said, but Seto remained standing at the entrance. He realized that she must have made the claim that she was to be able to read palms. He watched with little interest as she closed her eyes and raised her hands to her throat, where she wore a gold necklace bearing the same eye as her banner.
"Behold, as I look into your future." For a moment there was nothing, but then the eye began to glow and she spoke. "You and your brother live together, alone," she stated.
Not surprising of her to know, considering the presence of the Kaibas—the only remaining children of the wealthiest family of the old fiefdom—was almost as big of news as the presence of the gypsies.
"You will be," she began. Rather than continuing, her brow furrowed for a moment, and an expression that could almost be described as shock came across her face. After a lengthy pause, she started again. "You will be very happy, very wealthy, and respected for all your life."
Mokuba turned to Seto with a smile that betrayed some disappointment. Of course, none of this was news to either of the brothers. He placed a coin in the gypsy's hand before standing and slipping his fingers back in with his brother's.
Before they could get out of the tent, a hand wrapped around Seto's other arm. He turned to see Ishizu looking up at him, the shock still evident in her features. "May I speak to you, only you?"
He tried to pull away, but her grip only tightened. "We need to be leaving very shortly."
"Please, Monsieur Kaiba," she said, this time speaking his name, which until that moment had gone unsaid. "It is urgent."
Immediately an apprehension for the safety of his brother emerged. Clearly this was a ploy to convince his to look away from his brother so an accomplice might take the rest of the francs in his coin purse. "I said—"
Her voice came in a whisper. "Do not look away from your brother."
The woman's words took Seto by surprise, but he suppressed all signs of emotion. "What do you want?" He allowed the woman to pull him to the other corner of the tent, never taking his eyes off of Mokuba, who looked on curiously.
"Monsieur Kaiba, your brother is in danger of being taken from you. I did not want to alarm him, but I feel that it is best that you know so you might prepare for this."
"I don't believe in your magic. If you're trying to sell me a charm of protection, I'm afraid you've tried to swindle the wrong man."
Ishizu scowled before opening Seto's hand and placing the gold franc Mokuba had given her only moments before in his palm. "I am not after money, Monsieur Kaiba. Your brother will be taken from you very soon. I am never wrong."
With a light scoff, Seto pulled away from her and dragged his brother out of the tent and toward the place they had left Roland and their stagecoach.
"Big brother, what did Mademoiselle Ishizu tell you?"
"She tried to sell me a charm," he replied.
"Then why did she give back our money?"
He narrowed his eyes. "Because I demanded it. She was nothing but a fraud." Despite his certainty in this, Ishizu had effectively stirred the ever-present fear Seto harbored for the safety of his only remaining family. For unsettling him, he was angry at her. No one should have that effect on a young lord, most certainly not a gypsy who claimed to be able to see the future. Seto grasped Mokuba's hand just a little harder than before.
Seto swatted away Roland's hand as he sat up in his bed, bathed in the harsh light of the early morning sun. "What is it?" he asked, irritation laced in his tone.
"Your brother is not in his room."
A moment of silence hung in the air before Seto swung his feet over the edge of his bed and stood. Without a word he walked out and entered his brother's room, just across the hall. The bed was empty and the silk sheets mussed. On the ground lay shards of porcelain in a puddle, apparently the remains of the pitcher that should have been sitting on the table beside Mokuba's bed. The rest of the room was as pristine as could be expected of a room belonging to an eleven-year-old aristocrat.
Monsieur Kaiba, your brother is in danger of being taken from you. The gypsy Ishizu's words whispered across Seto's mind; he shook his head firmly. It was impossible for her to predict such a thing. If Mokuba was indeed gone—which Seto highly doubted—then his suspicion would be immediately turned to the only likely perpetrator, the person who had predicted the event in the first place.
Seto left Mokuba's room and walked down the grand staircase to the lavishly decorated foyer. He paused and considered for a brief moment before leaning against the wall beside the kitchen door.
Not too much time had passed before Mokuba crept out, carrying a broom in one hand and a porcelain pitcher in the other. He was halfway to the staircase before he was stopped.
The boy turned, his face a deepening shade of scarlet. "Morning, big brother."
"We have servants for a reason."
The light of the morning gave way to dark, oppressive clouds in the afternoon, and finally to heavy rainfall that evening as the Kaibas had dinner together in the massive dining room. It had not seated more than two since the death of Monsieur Gozaburo Kaiba, Seto and Mokuba's stepfather, who had begrudgingly saved the boys from the streets after the death of his own son had left his house without an heir. Unlike his stepfather, Seto was not fond of grandiose parties, and had not hosted even one since inheriting the Chateau Kaiba, earning himself a reputation as a recluse. Tonight he and Mokuba sat together at one end of the long oak table eating well, like every other night since they had become the sons of the richest man of the old fiefdom.
Just as the brothers were finishing their main course—an excellent veal dish, of which Seto had always been fond—Roland entered, hands clasped formally behind his back. "Monsieur, there are three guests requesting your presence in the foyer."
Seto's eyes narrow slightly. "Why did you see them in without my explicit instruction?"
Roland took a step back at the force of Seto's voice. "Well, it is raining, monsieur, and there is a lady among them, so I—"
An impatient sigh escaped Seto's lips. Always the gentleman, Roland was. "Since they have already been seen in, I suppose I have no choice but to greet them." He pushed back from the table and stood. "Come, Mokuba." He waited for his brother to obediently join him at his side before briskly exiting the dining room through the double doors—oak, like the table—that bore the crest of the Kaiba family. His pace became more clipped as he struggled to contain his fury at Roland.
Standing in the middle of the foyer, dripping wet and soaking the fine imported carpet that ran along the floor were three dark-skinned individuals. Roland had permitted gypsies to enter the Chateau Kaiba without instruction. More infuriatingly, Seto recognized all three. In the center stood Mademoiselle Ishizu, dressed the same as she had been the afternoon before. At her left shoulder stood the hypnotist boy, Monsieur Malik, wearing the same loose silk pants and revealing lavender vest as he had at the festival. Only the man to Ishizu's right seemed to be dressed differently, although Seto suspected that beneath the long heavy coat he now wore were the same black silk pants he'd been wearing for an indeterminable length of time. The rain had probably afforded all three with a much-needed bath, for which Seto would have been grateful had it not been the reason they were standing in the Chateau Kaiba in the first place.
"Monsieur Kaiba," said Ishizu as she fell into a deep curtsy, which her brothers followed with low bows. "Forgive us, but the wind has blown down the tents of our encampment. My brothers and I would be most deeply in your debt if you could provide us a dry place to sleep for the night."
"Or we could pay him for allowing us to stay," said the boy, Monsieur Malik. He added, his tone and expression subtly darkening, "I would prefer not to be in debt to a man who could ruin us." He crossed his arms over his chest and widened his stance, as though doing it would make him appear more powerful.
Seto frowned. "I don't need your money."
"Well we don't need your charity!" Malik shot back.
Malik's vehemence elicited from Seto a sardonic smirk. "I never offered it. You are only in this room thanks to the gentlemanly manners of my manservant Roland, who saw Mademoiselle and was compelled to invite you out of the rain." He allowed his words to sink in before continuing. "As such, you are not here by permission of the lord of this house and are therefore trespassing. I insist that you leave at once before I send for the warden.
A flash of fury crossed Malik's eyes as he clasped his hands behind his back. "You know that refusal to take us in could be taken as an offense to the Romani people as a whole?"
"I seek approval from no one."
Ishizu laid a hand on Malik's shoulder. "Come, brother. We will seek a more hospitable place for shelter."
Mokuba tugged at the frill of Seto's sleeve. "Big brother, please don't turn them away."
"They're just gypsies, Mokuba."
"The men who whisper in the village are right," Mokuba said. "You are a bad person."
The words stung Seto a little, not because he cared what the men in the village thought of him, but because of his brother's opinion. He cared for nothing and no one more than the boy at his side, who looked up at him with a look of disappointment, as though he had expected more from the only man he looked up to. At length, Seto sighed. "Fine. The three of you may remain in my house for the night. But I expect you to be gone by morning."
Ishizu dropped again into a curtsy. "Thank you, Monsieur Kaiba. If it is not too much, might we stable our horses alongside your own for the night?"
"I suppose. The stable is behind the chateau."
Malik and the yet unnamed gypsy man slipped outside.
Seto took the opportunity to pull Roland aside and murmur to him. "I want you to keep an eye on the boy. He is clearly…volatile."
"Of course, monsieur," he replied with a nod.
With that, he turned back to Ishizu, who stood silently in the center of the foyer. "When your brothers return, Roland shall see you to three of our guest rooms."
"Thank you, Monsieur Kaiba."
Seto's eyes flicked open and stared straight up into the dark abyss of the ceiling as they adjusted to the night. Lightning flashed, giving the room an eerie illumination. Seto sat upright and looked around. A sense of foreboding loomed over him; he pushed it away, writing it off to some dream he must have woken from. He reached over to the table beside his bed and found the glass and pitcher that sat on it. He lifted the pitcher and found that it was empty. With a grumble, he slipped out of his bed and walked to his door, simmering all the while over the fact that the pitcher had not been filled before he had retired for the night. "Roland!" he called into the dark hallway. Through the picture window at its end he saw the storm still raging outside. After a few moments of silence but for the pounding of the rain, he called again, "Roland!" Seto's frown deepened when he was still unanswered. Irritated and impatient for his drink, he set off down the hall to fill the pitcher on his own. Roland would hear of this in the morning. On the bottom floor, he passed by his guests' rooms. The first door on the left—the one he had assigned to Malik—was noticeably unmonitored, despite the direct order given earlier that night; his irritation deepened. Without a second thought, he wrapped his long fingers around the doorknob and turned it.
On the bed, swathed in linen sheets, lay Malik, who looked to be peacefully sleeping. He breathed in and out at an even pace. Lightning flashed, and he rolled onto his side facing away from the window. In the motion, his sheets fell away, revealing his bare bronze chest.
Satisfied that the boy was indeed asleep, Seto withdrew, shutting the door behind himself. He continued down the hall until he came upon the second room, the one in which the unnamed elder brother slept. He opened this door also, and found a similar scene of tranquility. He began to doubt the sense of insecurity he'd harbored upon waking up. Across the hall from the kitchen lay the door to the psychic Ishizu's room. For the sake of invalidating his own unfounded unease, Seto entered her room as well.
Ishizu was sitting straight up on her bed, head down and eyes closed, hands at her throat as the eye on her gold necklace glowed brightly in the darkness. Without giving any other indication that she had noticed her host's entry, she said, "He is gone."
"Who?" Seto demanded, sensing that he would not like the answer to his question.
"Your brother," Ishizu replied. Her voice remained untouched by emotion. "He has been taken from you, as I warned."
"I am afraid not, Monsieur Kaiba."
An involuntary growl escaped Seto's throat. "If what you're saying is true, then I can only assume that as the only other person in the chateau who is not sleeping, you much be the kidnapper."
Her deep blue eyes opened, flashing with fury in the light from her necklace. "It is not so simple! Surely you realize that had I tried to take him, your manservant would have stopped me."
Seto was reminded sharply of Roland's absence. He dismissed the notion that was forming. Never had the man given Seto a reason to doubt his loyalty, and he was certainly not going to start on account of a gypsy's fortune-telling. Still, he was bothered.
"I can see that you understand."
"If you knew, then why didn't you stop him?"
"The future is already written, Monsieur Kaiba, and there is nothing you or I can do to stop it from happening."
"I can't believe that!" He turned his back on her.
"I can help you find him."
After taking a deep breath to clear his head, Seto spoke. "How do I know that he's really gone?" He repressed a flinch as a delicate hand was laid on his forearm.
"Since you do not believe me, Monsieur Kaiba, let us search for him. I can assure you, however, that he is indeed gone. Come." Her grip tightened around Seto's arm and she pulled him out of her room, although not without some resistance. As she came to it, she paused and knocked lightly on the door belonging to the elder of her brothers.
Almost immediately, the man had opened it and was staring down at his sister. "What is it, Ishizu?"
"I foresaw that Monsieur Kaiba's brother would be taken from him, and it has come to pass."
Seto opened his mouth to protest that she knew no such thing, but decided against arguing with the crazy gypsy woman. If she wanted to believe that she had seen into the future, then she could do that until they found that Mokuba was safe in his room, as he always was.
"Please, Rishid, wake our brother and meet us in the foyer."
"Yes, sister." Without another word, the man—Rishid, Seto now knew—slipped past his sister and his host and entered the room of Monsieur Malik.
Ishizu pulled Seto out of the hall, into the foyer, and up the grand staircase, navigating the building as if she, not Seto, were its master. She never faltered as she guided him into his brother's room.
Seto imagined that inside, Ishizu was wearing a smug grin, for the bed—with its rumpled linens—was empty. There was no sign of struggle. Seto glanced at the pitcher beside his brother's bed; it was the same one during the retrieval of which he had given Roland such a scare. After confirming this, Seto picked it up and found that it was half-full. Mokuba couldn't just be out getting himself a drink of water. "Where is he?" he demanded, trying to keep his voice steady.
"I cannot answer that, Monsieur Kaiba."
Rage and panic crept slowly into his voice. "You saw that he would be kidnapped. You should also know where he has been taken."
"I am sorry, Monsieur Kaiba, but I cannot tell you where he is now."
Seto loomed over the gypsy, his fury boiling over. "Tell me how to get him back." His hands curled around her shoulders ever-so-slightly, the pressure not even hard enough to leave a mark.
"I can help, but you must follow my lead."
A noise of reluctance escaped Seto's throat, but for the sake of his brother he swallowed his hesitation and annoyance. "All right."
There, that's all I can stay awake to write. This may or may not be continued. Hopefully will, because there is much more to tell, but it's 3:11 in the morning and BLARGH.