A/N: Vassalshipping (Dartz x Thief King Bakura) for Season 10 Tier 12 of YGO Fanfiction Contest. Final round. Because no, I obviously can't use the canon names when writing about Ancient Egypt, orz.
Disclaimer: Kazuki Takahashi and all associated companies are the rightful owners of the Yuugiou! franchise and I claim no association with any of them. No copyright infringement intended with this and no money is being made from this. Please support the creator by purchasing the official releases.
Warnings: references to violence.
Of Monsters and Men
Having watched his own world crumbling apart, Dartz is no stranger to ruin. Moreover, he revels in it – the glory of bygones and the promise of rebirth. The Light guiding him has shown him the true way, the true order of things. It has given him a mission, which he follows dutifully by purging the evil from within people in search of the worthy; the soldiers of Light who will bring a new order to this damaged world. Who will set things right again; the way they were during his reign before the monsters took over his people, before the blessing, revealing Light showed him their true colours.
He strays from his path just once, after having witnessed the birth of Darkness unimaginable. He abandons – as he then thinks – his search for the Chosen Ones to interfere in a yet another crumbling reign where Darkness slowly takes a hold of the people who could have been his Chosen Ones. Who are his Chosen Ones. He just comes too late. And at the same time, it's too soon. Much too soon. He moves too rashly. He isn't ready yet. He isn't ready to win or lose because his own tragedy is still too fresh in his mind, the emotions still too raw even though millennia have passed and the image of his late wife has already begun to fade from his memories.
Bakenra takes notice of the foreigner skulking around the same parts of the city he frequents. Every once in a while he spots him far away in the desert as well, clothed from head to toe, always certain of his non-identity because there's just something not quite right about him, foreign-style clothing or not. Sometimes he sees him near the imperial palace, which Bakenra observes from afar, plotting revenge against the King who destroyed his home and his life. The royal court to him is the root of all evil. The priests serving him and bowing to their new beliefs are no better either. The Dark One has confirmed his speculations, has helped him understand the reasons which brought forth the complete annihilation of a peaceful village and all of the horrors he witnessed as a child, but has been unable to tell him anything about the stranger. It does not care. The Darkness wants to be contained. It wants to return down below, having been summoned into the human world against its will. It has given Bakenra the task of returning the stolen power to where it belongs because the longer it stays overground, the more danger it poses to everyone who comes in contact with it. The more corrupt it becomes.
During the first years of solitude and the desperate struggle for survival, there isn't a night without reliving the fires and stenches of the day which ended his childhood in Bakenra's dreams. It starts with the most innocuous things, as only dreams can start. It slowly builds momentum from fragments of worlds and things and places which he will never come to see in his life and weaves into a haunting tale of light dancing against dark, of fire streaking across the land only to converge in a ritual pyre of crackling and hissing, and sizzling, and screaming. When he wakes up, his breathing erratic, a scream stuck in his throat and tears spilling from his eyes, there is a moment when he thinks he'll never be able to move. That he'll stay forever frozen, choking on the smoke and the acrid reek of burning flesh. His ears are still ringing, deafened by the howling of dying men, women, and children, but it's always only the silence drowning his senses. There's nothing for his eyes to see but the wasteland and his miserable, barren abode in the dawning light. And he doesn't know which is worse – reliving the nightmares in his dreams or living a barren life which shows him at every turn just what he has lost.
Slowly, gradually, he finds peace and reassurance in the Darkness and the mission entrusted to him. In the beginning, he seldom ventures near the village – he knows it to be haunted – and, just as every other traveller passing through the area, has learned to avoid it for the sake of his own sanity. He learns to survive on his own, though it's a pitiful existence. Even slaves are better off when compared to the way he makes due. But he never forgets the seed of vengeance sown into his very soul at the darkest of hours by the wailing voice of his mother and his two older sisters. The garments of the royal guards are etched into his memory down to the finest detail, all bathed in the golden-red glow of the flames that dance so enticingly on the coldest of nights out in the desert. Still, he is but a child, not yet a man, and the only thing he can expect from a direct confrontation with the higher authorities is a severe beating with a cane and life-long labour in one of the king's quarries where the heavy stones would quickly grind his life away.
Darkness has been Bakenra's guide for years by the time Dartz finally approaches him, having belatedly realised that this is the perfect soldier he's been looking for. The soldier he will now have to fight for because he already serves somebody else – something else, which the Light guiding the Atlantean king recoils from. Bakenra – whose name is rendered in Dartz's mouth as Bakura, for the language of this land seems too crude and unpolished to him – isn't as surprised at the direct confrontation as Dartz would like him to be. He has anticipated this meeting, though perhaps he has imagined the initiative coming from him instead. He observes the foreign robes, the odd green jewel on the man's forehead which he deems to be of a high value, and guesses at his identity and purpose. A messenger from a neighbouring land? But he has seen most of those and knows their clothing to be not all that different from their own. He certainly is no envoy, come to this land with a marriage proposal for the young prince, as he has no entourage of gift-bearing slaves. Bakenra supposes he could be a priest of a different belief as well, come in the name of his king to bow down to the true gods in exchange for an army and the protection of his land from encroaching enemy. And yet none of those roles seem to quite fit him.
"I have a proposition," Dartz says after a short greeting and an even shorter introduction. Bakenra doesn't speak. He stands tall and lets the foreigner do all the talking, though he remains curiously watchful.
Dartz carefully chooses his words, already well-aware of Bakenra's opinion on royalty from his observations, from the things Orichalcos has whispered to him, and from the information his associates have revealed in their moments of weakness, finding a confidante in him. He must not give away too much, lest his plans don't come to fruition. He chooses to speak on things both of them know, though there are millennia behind his back, while Bakenra shoulders no more than twelve years. He speaks of the royal court members, the priests and their new religion of Light, of the way they drag monsters out of people in the name of Light and justice. He stresses how, while intentionally a good deed, it is quite the opposite. The fact alone that the monsters have shown up mean woe and ruin; quite like the one he witnessed back in his own homeland not too long ago. People, once separated from their inner monsters, die. The monsters themselves would then set out to destroy the land, but nobody cares to listen to his warnings – which he hasn't given out, but Bakenra needs not know that.
"And have the woes not begun yet?" Dartz implores with emotion he, himself, deems wholly true, but which are just a by-product of his contract with the celestial gem. "Have innocent villagers not suffered already from such purging?"
He tells all of this to Bakenra, mixes truth with lies and half-truths until he almost convinces himself. He is a skilled conversationalist; it is one of the reasons he became the king of Atlantis. He reveals enough of his own story to convince the other and leaves out enough details to keep the timeline and location vague. When he finally asks Bakenra to join him in this fight of removing all evil from this world, he is certain of a positive answer. Great is Dartz's surprise when he declines. Bakenra's mind is occupied by a single thought, a single goal – revenge. He needs no other. Changing the entire world is a completely foreign notion to him, something too grand and not at all understandable at the time. He doesn't see a bigger picture. He hasn't learned the intricacies of life yet.
"I can help you reach that goal," Darzt offers once the initial shock has passed, trying to smooth the path once more and ascertain his success. No one has denied him before. So far, there hasn't been a man capable of refusing his reasonable offers, capable of rejecting all of the reasons he has brought forth, but Bakenra only laughs. He already has a plan of his own and he intends to act upon it before the moon grows old.
Inevitably, Bakenra's plan fails. He is still too young, too hasty, and without a back-up option to turn the tables in his favour. His attack on the King's palanquin during the latter's trip to his tomb where his most favourite sculptor works on carving glorious images onto the walls of his mortal body's final abode is stopped before he can even catch a glimpse of the man behind the gauzy curtains of the richly adorned carriage. Disguised as a poor beggar, he has patiently waited by the roadside for the entourage to pass by and hasn't budged even when a couple of guards rush forth to remove him from the path, for such pitiful men are not meant to be seen by the royal eyes. He resists and waits until the carriage draws close to lash out, expecting to finish it with a single strike, but he is alone and the guards are many. His attack falls far too short of his intended target. The attacks of the guards, however, do not.
As Bakenra lies on the roadside more dead than alive, beaten by the king's personal guards and narrowly spared by the king's merciful intervention, Dartz is nearby to bring forth his offer a second time, but he hasn't come alone. With him comes a group of black-robed men with only their glowing red eyes showing. They are the beginnings of his new army, for he intends to fight off all evil before these lands are still young, before their culture hasn't yet advanced to the level Atlantis was at, at the time of its annihilation.
For a sip of water and the promise of life, he finally succeeds in getting Bakenra's agreement. Dartz's followers pick him up like the broken ragdoll that he is and bring him to their abode where they slowly nurse him back to full health.
One more thing happens that night. The ruling king passes away, leaving his only son, still but a child, to ascend the throne. When Bakenra learns of this, he is livid. He has missed his one true opportunity, so he swears eternal vengeance upon the kin of the late king.
Dartz hasn't been sitting idly all this time. He has travelled across the land, making connections with people of different ranks and beliefs. He has confidantes and faithful followers among the royals and priests, as well as the officials and simple workers because, for him, every single soul counts. They all share his worldview, they all agree that the new laws are wrong; that the priests playing gods and judging the hearts of the people with their items – something weighed only in the Hall of Two Truths against Maat's feather – is against the divinely-set order of things and needs to be stopped.
While Bakenra listens to him and his reasoning, there are no other thoughts in his mind but those of revenge. It has swollen like a spring tide in the River after the last incident. After his life has been spared – spared! – by the king whose death was supposed to come from his hand. Dark and suffocating it churns in his chest and steals his rest at night; agonising it creeps around the corners of his mind at day. Dartz offers little in the way of relieving his blood-thirst, so Bakenra takes to stealing away in the cover of darkness and keeping his hands busy and not letting his skill of thievery get rusty.
"Patience," Dartz says in response to Bakenra's questions concerning his revenge. "There are still many things that must be done before. You will get your revenge when the time is right. The King isn't going anywhere."
This last claim is true, and yet not quite so, as the near future would come to show. Though Bakura has expected immediate action, something like a grandiose plan already set into motion, a secret shortcut to the king's bedchambers where he could exact his revenge in the pall of darkness the very next night, he is disappointed. With great displeasure he accepts his first task, which removes him from the vicinity of the king's city for the longest time and puts him on the road leading him far away from the lands known to him since childhood. He is to find others like him. Other Chosen Ones matching him in strength and determination, all wronged by others in one way or another, all seeking retribution. Still, he understands little of Dartz's plans which the latter never truly expands upon beyond the one claim that each one's little agenda will serve towards a greater goal, a cleansing of the entire world. That way, not even fourteen years old, he sets out to become one of the best known thieves from one end of the River to the other. Under Dartz's care, he finds the whole world wide open for him. He learns to break into the best-guarded places, to bypass all traps and outwit all guardians. His prowess earns him followers outside of Dartz's little circle, which the latter finds only natural to bring into it. He doesn't want to worry about them becoming loyal only to Bakenra and Orichalcos takes care of that, weaving its influence slowly and persistently in their minds. His army is gaining numbers and the only problem is that Bakenra himself hasn't accepted the green gem, scoffing at it and setting his sights on something else, something he deems to be more powerful. Something that, as Dartz assesses, might truly rival the power of the green stone.
Bakenra's followers eventually set him on the trail of someone who might be of interest to Dartz, but he comes too late and the child of rumours is already gone. All he finds at the location his men were supposed to be is a village burned down to the ground and the charred bodies of its inhabitants. This sight brings back unwanted memories from his childhood and he hastens to leave the area. His men are nowhere to be found. He listens to the hearsay of the few survivors and sets out on a chase, but no trace remains in the ever-changing desert sands. It is almost a year later when he finally finds the demon-child; stumbles upon her in the shade of a mountain by chance and luck alone. He has been following a set of hoof prints, hoping to find a traveller he could rob just to keep his senses sharp and his hands in practice, but it carries only an unconscious white-haired girl in a tattered robe, clinging to the last thread of her life, astride a tired horse who neighs pitifully and starts towards Bakenra, hoping for water. He takes the horse for himself and brings them both back to his abode in Kul Elna. Not directly to Dartz because he has taken a sudden interest in the girl, her being the first person with white hair that he sees in years. Somewhere, at the back of his mind, stirs a weak hope that she could be a survivor of that fateful night, though it is rather unveliecable. When the girl eventually comes to, weakened and stunned by the twilight of the room, Bakenra is the first thing she sees once her vision adjusts.
"Name," Bakenra grunts at her, having observed her from the other side of the room for quite some time. This is the first time someone else has stepped foot in the village of Kul Elna. The road there has been forgotten by most, erased from memories by a royal decree. Others are kept away by the ghosts and the haunts and the abundant superstition of travellers.
She trembles; either at the sound of his voice, or because she can acutely feel the horrors and death the crumbling walls around her have bore witness to and have soaked up. She tries to speak, but her throat is as dry as the desert sand and she only manages a broken noise. Grudgingly, Bakenra rises and stalks over to thrust a cup of water at her, a small smile of satisfaction tugging at his lips when she shrinks back in fear. He means her no harm. Not yet. He has to crouch down and hold the cup for her because her trembling hands can't hold its weight and almost spill most of its contents on the floor. She gulps down the water hastily, rivulets running from the corners of her mouth, and Bakenra has to order her to slow down lest she choke on it.
Eventually, she manages a weak whisper of a breath, "Khasekhet."
Bakenra studies her face for a moment before nodding in acceptance of her name and produces a piece of flat bread and a handful of date fruits from the folds in his robes. He dumps them in her lap and stands, intending to head out as if to find Dartz, though he knows that he won't find him. Dartz is usually the one seeking him out, unwilling to even come near the heart of the Darkness where Bakenra has made his lair in the forgotten ruins of his once-home. It is one of the reasons why he now haunts this place.
"Y-your name?" Khasekhet tries tentatively, her voice slightly rising in volume as she watches his retreating back. She dares not yet touch the food, too confused and uncertain of her future, too used to people shunning her, taunting her only to hurt her in the next turn. Her whisper oddly echoes around the corners of the room and maybe they aren't just echoes, for the darkness seems strangely alive here.
Bakenra is already on the other side of the doorway when her voice makes him stall in his tracks, though just for a moment. She is certain that he won't introduce himself and she has to strain her hearing when he does say, as an afterthought, "Bakenra. Stay where you are, Khasekhet. If you run, I'll chase you. There isn't a place you can hide from me here."
Khasekhet doesn't think she can get up to her feet, much less walk. She is too tired, too hungry, and still too thirsty to even move. She wolfs down the date fruits and gnaws on the hard, dry bread. Her mind is racing, wondering about her current situation and what will become of her at the hands of Bakenra. Having noted the colour of his hair, she dares to hope that, maybe, finally, she is among her own kind. She doesn't quite like the feeling this place gives off, though. There's something dark lurking in the shadows, leering at her from the corners and waiting to strike. The dry bread gives her hiccups and, not having any more water in the cup and too afraid to wander outside of the decrepit room in search of a well, she curls up in a ball and tries to suppress them. The stone floor is cold and it radiates through the thin layer of hay she is sleeping upon, chilling her to the bone.
Meanwhile, Bakenra treks through the once-lively streets of Kul Elna, subconsciously keeping the hut where he left the girl within the line of his sight. He doesn't believe her to be strong enough to attempt an escape, though he'd love a good chase with a goal that's within his sight, instead of suspended high and far-away the way Dartz's promises are. He has done his waiting. It's time to make a move, and yet he is still being stalled. The Darkness grows restless and more and more demanding. He can feel its call even on the outskirts of the village ruins. He climbs up into the mountains surrounding it to observe the place from above. He likes to imagine that the mirage sometimes playing at the horizon of the desert is the true vision of the king's city.
At the same time, Dartz is observing Sety and the Orichalcos whispers to him that he is another Chosen One, that he would be an invaluable ally and that all the boy needs is a little push in the right direction. The greater plan is already unfolding in his mind and he knows what steps need to be taken. He sees the Darkness rise steadily and knows that he will have to take action soon. But Bakenra steadily refuses to accept the power of Orichalcos for his own. He knows not what else to offer him to lure him under its spell. He doesn't want to lose a soul as powerful as his if the outcome is not beneficial for him, but the Darkness is a tough rival. It's so much easier with Sety – all he needs is to offer power and a high social status and he accepts. Dartz only needs to provide him with teachers and pull the strings amid his connections in the royal court to put the boy on the road of becoming a priest in the direct service of the current King. He is a qick, hardworking study, eager to get out of the peasant life and have his mother set free from the work in the weaving mill, which has bent her back, hardened her features, and stolen all radiance from her eyes. Sety vaguely remembers a different life in which his mother was happier and smiled more – and just barely – a man who saw them off. Through Dartz, he learns that he and his mother were just cast-offs, too useless and cumbersome for the man who is his father to keep around. Dartz promises to bring him before Sety one day, so that the young man could exact his revenge on him for all of the wrongs he has seen in his life, for all of the tears he has made his mother shed.
Sety works hard and gobbles up all knowledge, soon tiring his instructors with his insatiable curiosity and never-ending questions. His mind is set on the highest possible position in the king's court and the Orichalcos drives him ever on, having found that one exploitable crack in his mind.
When Dartz learns from his followers that Bakenra has found a curious child and keeps her holed up in his home, he turns all of his attention to Kul Elna. It is crawling with restless souls, something Dartz can never get used to, as he sees it as an abomination. To his mind, all souls should be sealed away, fed to the great beast to further ensure the dawn of the new monster-less world, not permitted to roam around freely the way they do in the destroyed village. And yet, he sees no way to claim the souls, for they belong to the rising Darkness. They reside within its central stronghold, the place of its origin. They are off limits to everyone but Bakenra who, these days, listens to them more than he does Dartz.
At first, Bakenra keeps his distance from Khasekhet, giving her enough room to ensure a false feeling of security before he begins crowding her with his presence and questions on her past. She is a timid being in the beginning, but she shows enough determination to not crumble under his relentless scrutiny. The Darkness wants her. It has read into her soul and it has seen the monster she harbours inside, without even knowing what it is. Bakenra, with his own powerful monster, doesn't even compare. Darkness insists on Bakenra keeping her, on finding a way to unleash her Ka and take control of it. It is a task much more interesting to him than the travels and rumour-hunting he has done under Dartz's guide. Though the Atlantean king thinks to understand the human minds, Darkness is much better at reading into people. More dangerous, too, as it already exists within every human being. Orichalcos only preys on that darkness and twists it to its own ends, but it cannot take root in anyone's consciousness without being invited first.
Bakenra brings Khasekhet food and water. Where he gets it – for she has seen through the tiny carved-out windows that the village lies barren – she cannot even hazard a guess. There is no stream or well within sight and not even the tiniest splotch of green graces the sloped and oft jagged hillsides. If it seems like a lonely place at day, it turns into a frightening cesspool of invisible evil at night. Sometimes she thinks she can hear distant wails and bone-chilling howls, which isn't just the wind whistling around the rocks; of that she is sure. She makes no mistake of her status in this village. She is kept prisoner by both Bakenra and the spirits haunting the place, though she no longer fears the former. She dares not venture beyond the threshold of the crumbling stone shack because the air outside seems suffocating to her, filled with dread and fear, and hostility. Inside, it isn't much better, but at least the wandering souls dare not trespass there. The darkness hiding in the corners whispers things which she can't quite make out, but which sound threatening and angry, though they never hurt her in any way either. Sometimes they just wake her up at night when the air outside is full of turmoil and she trembles for no apparent reason, goose bumps on her skin and a dreary chill crawling through her bones. Those nights, she can make out the figure of Bakenra sitting motionlessly in the doorway against the night sky and the pearly gleam from the empty streets below. He sits there cross-legged, as if protecting her, as if he's keeping the ghosts at bay. She settles deeper into the hay and pulls a rug over herself, gaze trained on his back, until she drifts back to sleep. When she wakes up in the morning, he is already gone. Sometimes she wonders if she isn't dreaming it all up.
She tries to leave once, though she tells herself she isn't trying to run away – merely testing how far her allowances reach. She steals outside while the sun is still a little ways up and the shadows have only begun to lengthen, but Bakenra is nowhere in sight. She carefully makes her way through the streets, and slinks around doorways and gaping holes in the sides of the walls, feeling as though something invisible observes her from the darkness beyond. She can see the desert stretching out at the end of the central street when she spots Bakenra. Like a gate guardian, he sits on a protrusion high above the village roofs, eyes on her. At that height, she realises, he has been able to see her trip from the very first step. She freezes on the spot, uncertain of what to do next. Neither of them moves for the longest time. She considers making a run for it, but his words from day one replay in her mind. Gazing out at the desert ahead, she realises that there would be nowhere for her to go anyway. So she stands and waits and he sits and waits until the sun goes down and the shadows thicken. She might have blinked too long or cast her gaze to the side where something pearly ghosts between the decrepit buildings, but the next time she glances back up at Bakenra's perch, she finds it vacated. She tenses, her gaze crisscrossing over the area in a frantic search for him, suddenly afraid of the consequences to her little trip outside. He appears in front of her seemingly out of thin air, making her jump. His face is emotionless, his eyes are dark, and she can't read him at all, can't even begin to guess at what punishment might await her. His eyes bore into hers until she can't take the intensity of his gaze and looks away. He doesn't say a word, merely walks past her and she finds herself following him back to the shack.
Bakenra doesn't hurt her. He doesn't lay a finger on her. He doesn't appear to be keeping her while a slave-buyer comes around. In fact, she hasn't seen a single soul in the area; only shadows lurk around and cluster together in particular places. When she eventually musters up the courage to ask Bakenra about it, he doesn't answer; he only stares at her for the longest time yet, making her feel uncomfortable and turn her gaze away. He hasn't told many people of the Kul Elna massacre, not yet. He has tried once, soon after the tragedy, but no one had believed him. Moreover, he had been beaten and chased away. And then he'd hid and run from the palace guards who had come for the heretic and the lying blasphemer, as the royal ruling had decreed. That was when he learned the power of truth and the power of lies. Though a poor man may hold the truth, the lies of a higher-standing man will always overrule it. Therefore, he does not lie. He always tells the truth as he sees it. He tells what he knows, but he picks and chooses the time and place carefully. He learns to bend the truth when necessary, but always against the higher-ups and the officials he steals from. He gives them back the poison they spout. With Khasekhet he doesn't yet know which approach to use. She is of the simple folk, quite like himself; too much, even, in certain aspects. He doesn't know how much he can trust her with, considering the company she is about to end up in. He doesn't want to give Dartz more information than he already has. And if she ends up dead the next day, if she isn't the one Dartz is looking for, it would just be a waste of words and Bakenra doesn't like wasting a thing. He has seen what becomes of the supposed Chosen Ones who turn out to not be of any use to Dartz. He has seen them disappear in a bout of green light, leaving an intact corpse behind. Where the corpses go, he never asks, but they are Dartz's black-robed red-eyed followers who dispose of them.
Darkness whispers to Bakenra to stay away from the shards of green and he does so. So far, everything he has done in accordance to the plans of Darkness has been a success. He cannot say the same of Dartz's plans.
When Dartz eventually demands to see Khasekhet, Bakenra brings her to the edge of Kul Elna, barely out of reach of the spirits' domain in defiance of the other's authority. He doesn't answer to him, not fully, but he owes him his life and that makes him bend to some of Dartz's whims, though always in his own fashion. Dartz is already waiting for them and from his posture Bakenra can see how displeased he is. This sparks a tiny hint of satisfaction in him before he steps back in the safety of the haunted grounds. The way Dartz speaks with Khasekhet – whose name he doesn't even attempt at pronouncing the proper way, instead settling for the easier-to-his-own-ears Kisara – is something yet unheard to Bakenra. He is kind and reassuring, and encouraging. He makes play at being the most noble man she has met in her brief life and he offers her safety and a place to belong to – with them, with people who understand her pain and who would never chase her away for being unlike the others.
Bakenra has been guessing at these facets of Dartz's personality, yet this is the first time he sees them put to use. He figures that part of Dartz's annoyance stems not from the fact that he is so close to Kul Elna and the Darkness it harbours, but rather from the fact that there is an audience to what was supposed to be a more intimate one-on-one conversation, delving into the most sacred and private thoughts of the person he wants to add to his steadily-growing army. He is displaying his tools of the trade to foreign eyes. The way he keeps his composure is something of amusement for Bakenra because he can see the mask slipping every now and then in the way he half-turns away from him, attempting to shield himself and the girl from his view, which is uncharacteristic for him and, because of that, a cause for anger.
While listening to Dartz, Khasekhet steals a few glances back at Bakenra who is casually leaning against a giant boulder no more than twenty steps away. She wonders about the reasons Bakenra has brought her all the way out here in the desert, how has this man helped him and whether she should agree to the offer. Having a place to call her own is tempting.
"Where…" she starts, seeking the right words, "Where would I stay?"
"Anywhere you'd like. You would be accepted in every place of your choosing."
So she doesn't have to stay in this destroyed village. Good. She studies the green gem he produces from the folds of his robes and holds out to her.
"Everything you wish for could be yours if you accept this."
At this point, she no longer glances back at Bakenra and therefore doesn't see the frown settling on his face for a moment before it disappears behind a mask of indifference. Tentatively, she reaches out, gaze focused solely on the small, sharp-edged stone. Its light seems to be pulsing from within, soon brightening, soon dimming. Something stirs inside of her, something urgent and violent, making her vision swim and her mind reel. Nausea climbs up to the back of her throat and moments before her fingertips brush the gem – it emits a cold aura – white light blinds her and she loses the ground beneath her feet.
Bakenra straightens in surprise. He can see that Dartz, too, is no less surprised at such a reaction. White light engulfs Khasekhet and a violent wind throws Bakenra backwards. He hits the rock behind him hard enough to get knocked out, but luckily he has stood close enough to not suffer any greater injuries. Dartz, on the other hand, gets thrown a good ways away in the desert and only the power of Orichalcos surging from the gem on his forehead protects him from the destructive light the transformed Khasekhet emits. The shard of Orichalcos has slipped from Dartz's fingers and is lost in the torrents of desert sand whipping about from the giant white dragon's wing beats.
When Bakenra eventually comes to, he is all alone, half-buried under the sand. It is dark outside and the ghosts of Kul Elna are already clustering about the streets and the locations of the greatest massacres, all flocking towards the main death-ground. Bakenra rises slowly, spitting out sand and shaking it out of his hair and clothes before following the restless spirits into the underground, answering the summons of Darkness. It has been roused by the display of the enormous power and it urges Bakenra onwards with his task of recovering the Items and returning them to their rightful place. Urged on by the Darkness, he sets out that very night to finally set his revenge into motion. He summons the part of Dartz's army that is loyal to him and though they are mostly under the control of Orichalcos, they have sworn to follow him to the ends of the land in the name of the wrongdoings they have suffered because of the late king's rule.
Dartz feels his reins on Bakenra slipping, but while his soldiers stay with him, he can trace his movements. A part of him is annoyed at the human's defiance, and a yet another part finds amusement in it. He stands by idly, watching Khasekhet sacrifice herself for Sety, which shatters the hold Orichalcos has on the young priest, and the way he later uses her power against the creature of Darkness Bakenra has summoned. Dartz stays to see things through to the end and watches Sety, driven to the edge of madness by grief just a year later, battle the young king Atem, his own cousin, for the throne together with Bakenra. Having missed the moment those two became allies, for the power of Darkness has spread its protective wings over them, shielding them effectively from Orichalcos, he doesn't know what brought them together when not too long ago they had been the most vicious of enemies. But their alliance is powerful and where Sety falls short, Bakenra makes up for it with his skill and sheer blood-thirst, and the resentment for the previous two losses. This time, the young king is driven to self-sacrifice and though he has aimed for both aggressors, Bakenra is the one caught in the spell and sealed away. Sety stands victorious with a king's bloody headdress in hand.
Dartz turns away from this land, moving ever onwards. He is disappointed, again. The Darkness has proven to be too powerful at this point in time, but he has learned his lesson. He has been too gentle with his Chosen Ones. He has left too much to choice and chance. Next time, he swears it, resting a hand against the stone of Orichalcos on his chest, next time, he will take matters into his own hands and he will create his own soldiers instead of wasting time looking for the destined ones. Next time, he will show no mercy and give no other choice but to follow him.