Disclaimer: not mine the end.
Notes: Wow. Two years changes a lot I've found and while I always wanted to finish this, I somehow lost my focus too. Not sure quite why it came back. I need to do an intense amount of rewrite/reorganizing etc on the previous chapters as I've found my writing has improved since I started this. I do really like how this chapter starts out (had it written for at least a year).
Comments would always be welcome none the less.
May It Be
By, Nicole Silverwolf
'May it be
The shadow's call
Will fly away'
-Excerpt from 'May it Be' Enya
He was unsure for a moment how he knew. But he was dreaming. He was very sure of that.
He stood in the corner of the same room he'd spent the majority of his childhood. Until he was almost eleven in fact. He recognized the bed, and the view from the large windows that lined one wall. Though when he tried to move or reach out to anything, he found that he couldn't. It was like he was reaching but nothing actually got any closer to his outstretched fingers devoid of the normal jewelry he should have been wearing.
He wasn't very concerned with that though. The room had been destroyed shortly before he turned eleven actually. That was what confused him.
It was early evening, the sky dark with stars, but the moon still high. Candles were lit in the room, though a second ago there had been no need. He found that odd, puzzling for a moment as to how the change had happened and slipped by his alert senses.
A movement across the room, near the bed drew his attention however, and why he had been confused fled from his thoughts like melting smoke.
The fact this was a dream only solidified as he felt little surprise when he should have been astonished.
His father was sitting on the edge of the bed. Bending over with a wet cloth before scooping someone up. Him, he realized faintly.
The man who was once Pharaoh was dressed in simple garb, none of his title apparent in his appearance. He looked tired, but inordinately concerned with the boy he cradled.
In an instant the realization came to him.
During the rainy months of his tenth year, he had fallen gravely ill. He remembered little of what had happened during this time, but learned from his priests that for the better part of a month there was much thought that he would not survive the illness. A fever had made everything hazy and he faintly remembered aching all the time.
The only remotely clear memories he had of that time were these. He had not known how often they had happened, as time for him had been warped with days being too short and nights going on forever. But a healer said that every night and free moment he had, his father had been by his side.
There was no way to describe the comfort that came from being curled in his arms, face pressed against a shoulder, an arm slung around his neck. It had always felt better when he was draped in his father's arms. Always.
The young man watched his father stride around the room in slow even steps, swaying his younger self from left to right quietly, even as humming and indecipherable words drifted on the bare breeze.
There was a startling moment when he realized how much he missed it.
And in the blink of an eye, he was suddenly no longer in the room. He didn't recognize it at first but was not overly alarmed, much as he had not been before. His father would come soon and explain it or make it better. Nothing to worry about.
But there was something false in that statement, something that couldn't be right even though he had believed it a mere moment earlier.
It was much colder here, and he suddenly wished he had a cloak or a blanket to wrap around him.
A strange material was encasing his arms, and he did not recognize the foreign almost cloak, almost shirt he was wearing. Nor did he recognize the bright blue color, or the thick straps around his wrists.
The puzzle was gone and he knew it was broken. But he'd never seen it broken before; didn't even know it had been a puzzle up until that thought.
He knew his father was dead, and had been for quite some time. Was he dead too? Where was his father then? Wasn't he supposed to be able to see him? And his mother. He didn't remember her at all, but still. He wanted to know her. Anzu had always been a wonderful substitute, but he craved knowledge of this one person.
The surroundings suddenly snapped into focus around him, and what he saw brought true panic to him.
A maze. A horrible endless maze that defied all the laws of nature that he had ever known. Panic because he suddenly couldn't remember why he was there or how to get out and he never would because he couldn't even remember his name. And it was all his fault. All of it. His family was dead, all directly resulting from him, and he was dead but not with them and never would be...
With a spasm of terror, Atemu woke. He was tense for a second, unable to breath, unable to think, and for a moment sure he was dead before his mind caught up.
It was dark, late evening or early morning depending on how one looked at it. He was freezing, though he could feel heavy linen weighing down on him, clinging to sweat covered skin. It faintly made him sick to his stomach.
A long moment passed before he crawled out of bed, very aware that at least for the moment, he would not be able to sleep. In theory he would only have to rise in a short while anyway. The thick linen blanket tagged along, dragging across the floor less and less as the young man tugged it as tightly as possible around his shoulders. It was comforting to be wrapped in, but he quite honestly didn't know if that was because of the temperature outside or the remnants of that horrid...whatever it had been.
Very few were awake this late at night, except for a handful of guards he could see standing at strategic points of the compound. And a few nocturnal Duel Monsters roamed the far end of the courtyard, and the air above; ones whom he barely saw because of this fact. It was quiet and calm and he wondered if it was some sort of bad omen. He could ask Isis about it. She was always willing to answer his questions, though she always cautioned that she could not answer or predict everything. Shimon perhaps could offer advice, but only if he was willing to sit through a long lecture. The rest of the council was easily dismissed. He would feel ridiculous even asking them.
An almost inconsequential fear came to his mind and he felt miserable wishing his father were there. Atemu knew, logically, maybe even spiritually that he should be happy for his father. He was now Osiris; content and at rest; the most powerful of all the Gods. That did not stop the ache of wanting him to be there, even just to sit next to. On the days when his position, his relationships (or lack thereof), his faith, or his strength seemed to fail him, he desperately wished to just be held again.
There was a small bench just outside the door and he curled onto it, in the anti-thesis of all things expected of someone of both his age and status. The view from this perch was spectacular, allowing him a nearly full view of the city he presided over, lit by a bright nearly full moon. It stretched to the horizon, and beyond it he could make out the bare beginnings of mountains, a darker ink against a sea of midnight blue. Far to the left, he could barely make out the lush greenery of the banks of the great river. His childhood room had overlooked that portion of his family's land. Atemu didn't like to think about that too much.
Though he had been grateful beyond any person's understanding for his father's presence when he had fallen ill, to this day he wished his father had stayed away as many of the healers had tried to persuade him to. Perhaps then, he would not have fallen ill. Perhaps they would not have razed the wing to the ground, and everything in it to quell the spread of disease. Perhaps, his father would not have died months later, alone in a bed that he had been forbidden to visit for fear of becoming ill again.
It was ridiculous to dwell on it, Atemu chided himself. Very unprofessional, and not fit for a leader. He had too many other things he needed to think of. Like the war that was spreading to the south. And the rumors from the north and east of amassing Shadows, dangerous Duel Monsters that even he did not dare to summon, coming forth and attacking for no apparent reason. At the very least, he should be focused on the ceremony he was heading to this morning.
The rumors of the supposed new strength of the Shadow Realm could be nothing more than that. Atemu had remembered reading about them from childhood. They had always existed in their world. It couldn't be that they were suddenly becoming malevolent if that were the case. His father had wielded them as had his many father's before. The priests had no trouble controlling their monsters of choice. Aside from the occasional squabble between creatures, and a few quarrels between the magic users, they were actually stronger than they had been in several generations.
It was possible that simply the Northern people's weren't capable of dealing with the Shadows' immense strength. His advisers however, several of whom had traveled far from the kingdom insisted that it was not necessarily the case. Seto was particularly adamant about that, suggesting that the Gamers and Magic user's from the North were even more skilled than those of the two lands.
Atemu supposed that was possible as well, and weighed the thoughts equally. Seto had spent a considerable period of time (several years in fact) far to the North, in a land renowned for it's abilities with dragons. It was where all of his current prized Blue Eye's originated from. He trusted Seto very much, but couldn't help and scoff at his assertions. If they were such renowned dragon masters, they should be powerful enough to destroy his land, decimate his people and SURELY drive back the Shadow Realm. And if they could not accomplish even that small task, they probably didn't have the kind of strength that Seto asserted.
His newest ambassadors should have mentioned something as well, if the situation were so dire. They all came from lands far North of even where Seto had spent time. The Magician of Faith in particular was not skilled at holding her temper or opinions in check. She would have said something about being summoned from her home in such a time of need.
Outside of a Duel, their brief introduction only a week prior had been their lone interaction. The only reason he knew about her temper was from watching the early morning practice of his most experienced and powerful warriors.
If he asked her would she speak her mind? Would Kyna? Or Rowan? Would any of them?
Mikel could always be trusted to give a true opinion to him, even if he didn't ever stray in his loyalty to the Pharaoh. Could he offer any insight into the conflicting reports?
Because even though the Shadows had been recorded in their histories for generations, there had never been so many attacks, so many deaths, and so many reports of their appearance.
It did worry him, though he was unsure of how or if to proceed at all.
For now, there was little he could do, he was certain of that. Several ambassadors, and a handful of merchants hailing from various directions of the wind would arrive within the next few months, and he expected to ask of their interactions with the Shadow and of how their people planned to proceed. And even if they did warn of impending disaster, he was surely powerful enough to stop them. No other people's had ever wielded control like his line did. It would be enough if such a dire time came.
It would have to be.
Atemu fell asleep clutched to that conviction, though even in his arrogance, he sensed a bit of his own foolishness. Body folded compactly on the bench, he gave the servants a terrible scare later that morning when they came in search of him, and found the bed empty; their leader no where to be seen. Shimon and Mikel had both been summoned and were also badly frightened until Mikel had stepped out onto the balcony, searching for signs of an attacker. In the predawn light, Mikel had the distinct impression that the young man was even younger than the three years that separated them.
The shouts that ensued and near leveling of that particular wing of the compound by Shadows was testimony enough as to how much Atemu did not want to wake.
Skye turned groggily towards the sounds of Shadows and mild property destruction. Rubbing her eye with a balled fist, she yawned as she continued to pull on her boots and gauntlets absently.
'Wonder what that was about?' she mumbled before rising into a stretch that made her seem a solid six inches taller. It was early even for them, and Mikel had left in a rush after an urgent summons from a servant. Probably something to do with the Pharaoh she had grumbled before beginning to rise herself. He'd fallen asleep on her bed--an unusual occurrence--and she hadn't the heart to make him go back to his own quarters.
Though training wasn't formally scheduled to begin for another length of the sunrise, she was hungry. And with that racket going on, who exactly was planning to sleep in? Carrying hat and staff, she left and headed to the dining hall.
Suspecting that they would be clear due to the early hour, she was surprised to find Kyna sitting serenely in an open archway as if she woke this early every day.
"What are you doing awake Kyna? It's so early."
Her bright green eyes turned to meet her.
"It's the solstice. I was up to see the rising. Where I come from, it is a very important celebration."
"Oh," Skye responded curiously. Kyna rose to walk with her, moving like effortless flowing water.
"In the north, this is a time of great importance to our farmers. It signals the beginning of our short growing season, when the weather grows warm. Most of the year it's too cold for things to grow from the ground at least."
Skye mulled this over as they walked. "There's something similar coming up soon. The Pharaoh goes to inspect the crops on the river. I think he blesses them. To ensure that the bugs will not come and devour them or something like that. Mikel gets all nervous at this time of the year, because it's always been a good time to try and assassinate him."
Kyna looked troubled as they entered the dining hall, took up food and found a seat again near the wide windows.
Skye didn't seem to have noticed, continuing on as if this were something both inevitable and commonplace.
"Last cycle, there was this kid in a cloak, he was really angry and he managed to get onto the boat. He had a monster with him--a demon fiend--and he tried to ambush the Pharaoh. Kalim was injured stopping him and the Pharaoh never even knew the man was there. Kalim's arm was nearly torn off. Mikel was afraid he might die before they could get him back to healers." Her hands twisted a piece of bread to shreds as she spoke, tense and unaware that she was doing it.
The horrified look on Kyna's face finally seemed to reach the young girl who in the last few moments had gone somber. Guilt seemed to radiate off her as she continued in a low voice.
"I'm glad it wasn't my brother who got hurt though. When he gets hurt...I wonder what will happen if he dies. I wasn't old enough to train back then, and even if I was, I don't think I could have made a difference." It was an admission, one that Skye clearly saw as weakness.
A long blue hand made to reach out, to offer something in return for such an intimate fear shared but pulled back at the last second. The hesitation was enough for Skye to regain her former brightness as if nothing had ever been bothering her.
"That's why I'm working so hard. Because my brother might need me someday and I'm gonna be ready when he is. I'll lend him my strength when his is gone."
Somehow Kyna was not surprised by that assertion, a challenge to herself as much as to the world. Their attention turned to food and soon they were joined by a number of other ambassadors who filled their breakfast with introductions and family histories. Kyna was surprised to meet a soon to be distant relative from her fiance's cousins.
Chatter nearly made them late for practice.
The barge was long, refined and made of a solid wood, comparable only to the ships that Kyna, Rowan and Aidan had journeyed on to reach this city. Those ships only existed due to the use of magics making this hand crafted vessel all the more impressive. The waters here were deep and blue, bordered by reeds and lush plant life that flourished on the banks.
"Quite the vessel," Rowan remarked, leaning nonchalant on the hilt of the sword buried in the sand.
Aidan agreed with a rather noncommittal grunt, standing with her back against a low mud wall, staff and leg crossed carelessly across her front. They were far from the entrance to the barge, late in a long line of duelists and monsters who flanked the water's edge. A long procession was making its way from the palace to this pier bringing the Pharaoh and his most elite priests to continue their prayers. It was hot and easy to blame the Mage's apparent bad mood on the long wait in the blinding sun.
The Magician was actually feeling mildly more charitable towards their new "master" (though she still refused to give him the luxury of that title). Railing against their status as second class citizens to the people of this nation was still a chief topic of conversations. But his clear devotion to his beliefs was something she could not find fault in.
It wasn't truly respect, but more of a tolerance than had been present before.
Rowan turned his eyes down the line, mind too hot to focus on a coherent thought.
'Maybe if I don't move, I won't sweat as much,' Skye pondered hopefully, feeling a thick bead of water trail down her back regardless. Positioned farther towards the front of the line, next to Mikel as an apprentice was expected to be, she hadn't been allowed the luxury of relax.
The calls of the city's citizens grew suddenly into a loud cacophony and as one they rose to full attention. As the Pharaoh rounded a corner to view the vessel and those lining the beach anyone would be hard pressed to find a more impressive sight. When standing at rigid attention, these Duel Monsters commanded respect. Atemu swelled with pride at the sight, assured at his standing among anyone who might challenge Egypt.
Here was the most fearsome group of soldiers that could possibly be assembled.
And all under his command. The doubts he might have felt in the pre-dawn light, no doubt a product of that strange nightmare and listening too much to the reports from outsiders, were quelled in that moment.
A nod of sincere thanks to Mikel who bowed formally low, and which was followed a second later by the entire line. He had never seen a kuriboh bow before and was mildly amused to see his bend lower than almost any other creature. A smile, faint yet warm lit his features and he mounted the boat with little preamble.
Seto had been close the entire time, alert blue eyes scanning the area in a constant but mostly discreet manner. Several other priests, all elite mages in their own right followed. Mikel mounted the boat next, Skye following. Kyna was among the party to board as well, bordered by several other high ranking players. She had been surprised at the order to travel on this journey, especially considering her argument not a week prior.
Preparations were brief, and the boat cast off, a massive cast of men pushing away from the shore with poles the length of houses. Aidan and Rowan raised their hands in traditional gestures of good parting from the north and suddenly the entire shore burst into well wishing farewells. Shouts of 'A hui hou kakou Pomaikai!' echoed along the coast not directed solely at the players but to all those on the vessel. Standing facing the shore, eyes bright, clear, and excited everyone responded in kind. The Pharaoh watched this all from far back, a dais raised above them all. His eyes cautiously watched the display of camaraderie these players shared, and eventually his eyes drifted to the horizon far distant and marred by neither clouds of darkness.
"This is not a wise idea," Seto intoned again, more token protest than anything at this point.
He'd always appreciated the High Priest's straightforward advice; somehow Seto had never shirked from speaking his mind though he was often contradicting a living God. A glance to his side and a step behind him, revealed the man with a severe frown on his face.
His priests were wrong though. This trip was vital to show that the nation was strong, that it's leader was strong, engaged and visible. Responsibility to his people was the chief reason though. It was his job to ensure the gods favored this harvest, the largest one of the year that would sustain them through the lean months to come.
"It would appear that there is not a way to turn back now," Atemu countered, smirking supremely as they watched men pole them away from the shore.
'A hui hou kakou Pomaikai!' Until we meet again, good luck!
Comments are always welcome, seeya next time (which might be sooner than two years if I can pull it off). Thanks for reading!