"Prince! Where are you?"
Atem ducked into the royal garden and nestled himself comfortably into a bush just as Master Shimon passed by, calling for him. Atem smirked. No lessons for this Prince of Egypt today! he thought smugly as he crawled on his belly under the leaves, careful not to rustle them. At the edge of the garden he straightened up and brushed himself off; his fine white linen tunic was stained by the grass.
Atem jumped at how close Master Shimon's voice had gotten and dove behind the nearest column. He tensed as the old man's footsteps grew nearer and nearer. If he did nothing, there was no doubt that he would be caught and sent to his lessons with a scolding. He glanced around, searching for any possible route of escape. His eye caught a door that was slightly ajar. He couldn't remember for sure where it went, but Master Shimon was approaching quickly, giving him little time to consider the outcome of hiding there. He took a deep breath and then dashed out from behind the column and squeezed through the space in the door. Before him was a long empty hallway, ending in another door, this one standing wide open. To Atem it was the door to salvation, and he ran for it. He prayed desperately to Bastet as he leapt through the doorway and pressed himself into the corner beside it, begging her to lend him the stealth of a cat as he heard the first door open and Master Shimon called for him. Atem feared for a moment that he was caught, that surely Master Shimon would know he had come this way and would finally drag him off to lessons, but then he heard the door creak closed and the footsteps of his tutor faded away. After a few long moments of waiting, Atem breathed a sigh of relief and examined the courtyard he had wandered into. In the middle he saw a familiar wooden doll, and realized that this was where he and Mahad practiced their swordsmanship together. A grin spread across the prince's face as he danced across the empty space to the jar where the wooden broadswords were kept. He pulled one out and brandished it at the doll. "Today I reign victorious, Master Shimon! Ha ha ha!" He ran at the doll with the sword held straight out in front of himself, leaping midair and making a slice at the doll's neck.
"I'm afraid I couldn't find the Prince for lessons today..."
"I will help you find him. I will not have my nephew skipping his lessons whenever he feels like it."
"Allow me to assist you, Master Akunadin."
"You will continue with your lessons as usual, Set," said Master Akunadin firmly."I will send Mahad to spar with you."
There was a hint of disdain in Set's voice. "Why him?"
"Mahad practices daily with the Prince."
"The Prince couldn't fight his way out of an amphora."
Atem bristled. How dare the newest member of the court speak of him, the Prince of Egypt, in such a way!
"Go on in. You can practice your form while you wait."
Master Akunadin's words did not fully register in Atem's mind for several moments, not until he heard footsteps coming nearer to him. Panic swept over Atem, and he ran, wooden broadsword in hand, back into the hall from which he had come, closing the door most of the way, leaving it just open enough for him to peek through.
Atem watched as Set sulked into the courtyard and took one of the two remaining swords from the jar. "How insulting," he muttered. "At the very least he could have sent me to study scriptures while they searched. This will just be a waste of time."
"Respect for your peers will take you far."
Set spun around to face Mahad, who stood in the doorway with his arms crossed. "I don't need lessons from you, Mahad," he spat.
"You should always make an effort to learn from everyone, Set," Mahad calmly replied as he pulled a practice sword from the jar. He walked to the center of the courtyard where Set stood and raised the broadsword. "Shall we spar?"
Set huffed. "Only because I have been instructed to do so by my master." Without any warning he made a clean swing at Mahad's waist. Even from a distance, Atem could make out the sudden erasure of the smug grin he wore when Mahad parried the blow in a swift, smooth motion. His eyes followed his sword as it was knocked from his hands and sent flying several feet away.
Mahad touched his sword to Set's neck. "You should not be so cocky. It is unbecoming of you." He did not so much as blink under the withering glare Set bestowed upon him.
Atem gave a little dance of joy, clapping his hands softly together in delight. While he did not dislike Set, he was a good deal more fond of his lifelong friend Mahad. He sent a silent prayer to the gods for Mahad's victory in this scuffle, whatever it might prove.
Set knelt down and retrieved the wooden broadsword. "You got lucky."
"I have been training for longer than you." If Atem wasn't mistaken, he could hear the slightest hint of uncharacteristic aggression in his friend's voice.
After one long, tense moment of staring each other down, the two leapt into a battle. They danced around the courtyard, swinging only to be parried, coming closer and closer together with each step they took. Set's foot landed just behind Mahad's as Mahad tried to take a step back, tripping him. In a moment of panic, Mahad clenched a fistful of Set's robes, pulling him down on top of himself. They lay there for a moment, stunned, breathing hard, barely ten feet from where Atem looked on silently.
The prince's brow furrowed. Why weren't they moving away from each other? Surely Mahad should have pushed Set away by now…
Set heaved a breath and pushed himself up onto his elbows. "Someday, I will be the Pharaoh's most trusted guardian."
Mahad turned his head up, his nose brushing against Set's. "I'm afraid you're several years late."
Atem pushed his face a little closer to the crack in the door, hoping desperately that they wouldn't look away from each other now, for surely then they would see him.
"There he is!"
He whipped around to see Masters Shimon and Akunadin in the doorway at the other end of the hall. He jumped when Master Akunadin came running at him.
"You stay right there, Prince!"
The only thought that went through Atem's mind was that he was not going to lessons, not after he had successfully evaded them for so much of the day, He burst through the door, startling the two priests-in-training.
Mahad's head jerked up, smashing into Set's mouth and causing the latter to let out a howl of pain.
Atem dashed across the room, dropping the practice sword he'd been holding and skidding around the corner into the interior hall. He ducked into a storage room and hid himself behind the nearest vase just as Master Akunadin entered. He crouched there until he could hear footsteps heading away from the room, at which point he stood and grinned smugly.
Mahad's head appeared around the corner.
The prince gestured wildly that his friend remain silent, but all he got in response was a stern head shake.
"I found him, Master Akunadin!"
As he was dragged past Mahad by the ear, Atem read on his friend's lips, "You should have gone back to the garden." He frowned, wondering if what he had witnessed between Set and Mahad was a secret he was not meant to be in on. The idea brought a small smirk to his face even as he was handed over to a most annoyed Master Shimon.
Well, this is a good deal shorter than I had hoped for. Anyway, I didn't drop out this round, so I've set a new record for myself! :D
Set in the same universe as Princes Don't Cry Over Thieves, although that's hardly a surprise as both are pre-canon. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my considerably shorter fic for this round. Reviews are lovely~!
(And how about that title? That is what I come up with at one in the morning the day the pairing is released. xD)