Author's Notes: An update, finally. This chapter was difficult in coming, mostly because I had this intense fear that I was going to screw up the rest of the story after what I felt was a really positive start. Thankfully, with the help of columns on how NOT to be afraid of writing, encouragement from Nicole and Zoo, and reading lots of quality stories from other fandoms, I'm over that fear. I have also adopted a lengthier style, which is a nice reward for those who have been waiting so long for an update (this chapter is 6000-7000 words; hopefully that will keep you busy for a while ^^)

I took the liberty of rewriting some of the earlier chapters. I encourage anyone who has the time to read them, as there are a few important changes and the writing is much more fleshed out. Yami is officially five years old; the reason for this change will become evident in later chapters. The story is now set in the NEW Kingdom of Egyptian history, so I need a new title (again). Suggestions are welcome so exercise your mouse and click the little button on the bottom. Starting today, I will now post updates on my profile page, as well as reply reviews and such, as my longer chapters are getting too bulky to put these notes here all the time. I think I'll erase these notes the next time I post a new chapter, so the actual story isn't crowded with my ramblings.

I want to thank everyone who has ever left me a review; you really helped to break the writer's block. This chapter is for you, Nicole and Zoo. ^^

Chapter Nine: Doubts

Amenhotep stood slightly behind his wife as she accepted the formal gratitude of the Azima warrior. His face was a mask of neutrality, his intense gaze the only fact betraying his curiosity for the young Magician. The trained eye of the experienced diplomat noted Sihrr's inclined head and averted eyes as the warrior straightened from his bow. So, there were cracks in the warrior's armour after all. Without warning, a fingertip of sympathy lightly brushed the king's opinion of the new Guardian, mixed with admiration for the warrior's self control. The emotion flashed by too quickly to catch and contain, and Amenhotep berated himself for the lapse in discipline. It would not do to let the fickle moods of the heart colour the objectivity of his scrutiny. The king focused his attention once again on the purple-clad figure. He hides it well, he mused.

[He does.]

The king's face showed no sign that he had heard the unexpected response, a quick side glance the only acknowledgement of his Guardian's comment. With practiced grace, Amenhotep took a step back towards the Sage, timing the action so that the attention of his wife and the Magician were directed to the entrance of a servant girl. Waiting for the Guardian to initiate further discussion, Amenhotep watched as Nekti administrated her orders to the servant and transferred their young son into the arms of the Magician. The warrior held the child stiffly and an expression of what appeared to be panic flitted across his face. There was a slight widening of the lapis lazuli eyes as the young prince leaned into the folds of the Magician's purple robe. Yami's serious demeanour melted into a delighted grin and the little hands came up to pat the angular planes of the Magician's cheek. Something within Amenhotep stirred uncomfortably at the sight of his son's affection, an odd mixture of angry impulse and sadness. He felt it press urgently against the walls of his control but he dared not set them loose, yet he sensed that he could not contain it forever. His mind attempted to sort through the disturbance but only served to confuse him further.

[Something troubles you, Amenhotep.]

A slight frown creased the king's forehead. He was in no mood to share his feelings with another. [My heart carries no burden.]

A short laugh echoed between Guardian and Partner. [I will never figure out how you are such a successful diplomat, Amen; your lies are thin as air.] The jest in Azrak's voice faded. [How many years have I known you, Amen? You cannot hide your heart from me.]

[I wish I could at times.]

[I am glad you cannot. Now, tell me what troubles you.]

[Do you not you already know if you can read my heart?]

[No, Amen.] It was unfair to raise his barriers against the concern in the Guardian's softly spoken words but he could not possibly name that which troubled him, for the explanation evaded even his own understanding. The closest he could come to describing it was like pressing back the inevitable inundation of the Nile waters in flood season. A river churned within him. The safety of the walls was to be questioned. He had not the words to express it, nor did he want to drown his Guardian in the waters. Keeping his eyes trained on the fluid motions of his wife as she spoke to the Magician, Amenhotep searched for something to deflect Azrak's worry.

[Will Sihrr be a good Guardian to my son?]

Amenhotep heard a note of frustration in Azrak's sigh. However, the Guardian obliged the question. [He very much wants to be.]

[Good intentions do not always produce good results.] The discussion was cut short as they watched the servant girl leading the Magician out of the room. When they had disappeared from view, Nekti turned around to face her husband and it was only then that Amenhotep noticed the bend in her proud bearing, the fatigue of the previous night rounding her shoulders under its weight. Her eyes demanded that they discuss the situation at hand. Nekti glanced momentarily at the Sage, asking a silent question. He tipped his head, a smile softening the stern face.

"I have something that requires my attention, so I must take my leave."

"Where will you be going?" Amenhotep inquired.

"To pave a future with good intentions." Nekti looked quizzically at the Sage, who graced the expression with a knowing grin. "May Amen-Re smile upon your day." Azrak sketched a short bow to the Royal couple and left with a muttered spell.

A moment of silence hung in the air as husband and wife looked at each other in preparation for the long discussion ahead. It was Amenhotep that broke the stillness. Closing the distance between them, he put an arm around Nekti's waist and guided her to a gilded chair covered with embroidered cushions. She sat down as Amenhotep circled around the chair to the back, placing his hands on her shoulders to gently kneed at the tension in her muscles. The action allowed him to gather his thoughts and walk away from the river, concentrating stray tendrils of attention to untangling the knotted strips of muscle. She relaxed under the expert administrations.

/Your muscles are like fresh clay./

/And your hands are those of a master potter, my husband./

/I am only retouching a work of art that has forgotten its perfection./

Nekti laughed at the flattery. /That golden tongue of yours, Amen./ The laughter receded. /Sihrr is settling into his new quarters. I feel that he will Guard our son well./ Amenhotep wanted to agree with his wife, but a wave within him curbed the thought. His mind was willing to acknowledge the competence of the new Guardian but his heart. He kept quiet. /You do not accept him./ Nekti put a hand on her husband's suddenly still fingers, leading his thoughts back to the matter at hand.

/That is not of importance at the moment./ He felt her ready to argue the point, but pressed ahead. /Even with a Guardian, Yami is not safe from the Shadow Realm./ Darkness crept into Nekti's mood and Amenhotep felt a twinge of guilt in being the messenger of ill news, but it was essential that this issue be dealt with immediately. The arrival of the Magician had not calmed his fears of the Shadow Realm. His son's acquisition of a Shadow Guardian meant that he was one step closer to the spectral powers of the Shadow and one step closer to the danger they represented.

/Amen, I will be the first to admit that I do not know enough of the Realm of Shadows. For me, it is a far-removed danger but I know that my ignorance is a luxury that cannot be afforded to our son. Though I do not fear the Realm of Shadows as I ought to, I too have waited long for this discussion. We must make a decision on what to do about Yami./ The violet eyes settled upon the golden beams of light playing across the painted floor, though the gaze peered into the middle distance. /His Dark needs balance in Light, as all things need balance. Ma'at will only continue to grow more disordered./

/Well do I know, Morning Star. But it is the will of the gods for Dark and Light to meet./

/It is in that that I feel helpless! We can do nothing to help our son. And if what you say is true, then the Shadows circle every closer. I fear, Amenhotep. I am afraid. that we will lose him./ Nekti's frustration and anxiety stung Amenhotep as salt pinches in the wound. Her fears echoed his own, compounding the troubles he carried in his heart. He closed his own fears from her to spare her the burden. Amenhotep wrapped a tender arm around her and rested his cheek on her head, murmuring softly into the fragrant black hair. They held each other, taking comfort in the closeness.

/I am sorry, Amen./

Amenhotep held his wife closer. /No, Morning Star. Never apologize for your fear./

/I only wish that there was something we could do./

/As do I./ Amenhotep searched his mind once again for a solution he could offer, turning over every thought and chasing every idea. It irked him that he had not discovered an answer yet in the five years that he had dedicated to contemplating the dilemma but the same problems dogged him as before. The uncertainty of the future loomed in his vision. Logic stumbled in the face of fate. Though he was the living Horus, a god in his own right, he was forced to admit to himself, in the very deepest and private recess of his heart that he was not a divine being. He was filled with the same uncertainty, questions and fears as those of any other man, perhaps more so. He was expected to have answers, not just any answers but the right answers. Many times, he doubted even as he confidently issued a command. He ran from the fear but it followed him with the persistence of a shadow. Not for the first time, he wished for guidance; not the empty silence of the stone statutes of the gods but tangible advice from the gods themselves.

And suddenly, he saw his answer. It had been right before him all those years and he had never grasped upon it! How could he have been so blind? He wanted to hit his head against the adobe walls and leap with joy at the same time but somehow mastered both impulses. /Nekti, the meeting of Dark and Light is decided by Divine order, is it not?/

/Yes. The will of the gods ordains it./

/I should have seen it before. If such a decision is that of the gods, what we need Divine guidance./

/Do you suggest the oracles?/

Amenhotep smiled wanly. /No, the oracles are of no use. I speak of Ma'atkare./

Nekti twisted around to face her husband, causing him to release her from his embrace. /I have thought of her often but I have always refrained from going to her./

/For what reason?/

/Listen to me, Amenhotep: be wary of her counsel. The prophecies of Ma'atkare are dangerous./

/I t is a risk that I am willing to take for our son./

She shook her head. /You do not understand. While I was a priestess under her tutelage, I once asked her to teach me the gift of Sight, for which she was once widely known for. She forbade it because of the tragedy her gift brought. A Greek king from across the Great Water of the Lower Lands came to seek her wisdom. He had heard of her gift and beseeched her to foretell the fate of his son. She refused but the Theban was insistent. So Ma'atkare relented. And what the man Saw was that his son was destined to kill his father and marry his mother./

Amenhotep raised a brow. The tale had amused him as a prince, and he had thought it was no more than a childhood story. Perhaps there was truth in it, if his wife so fervently believed it to be true. /Upon hearing the prophecy, the king crippled the child's feet and abandoned him in the wilds to die but a shepherd found the boy and gave him to the childless king of Corinth. When he was grown, he heard of the prophecy of Ma'atkare and left Corinth, hoping to escape his fate. In his travels, he killed an old man over a disagreement. He then was made the king of Thebes, marrying the recently widowed queen. He ruled for many years until one day, a beggar was brought before him. The peasant was the same man that had discovered the child many years before. The beggar revealed that the old man the king had killed was his father and that the woman he had married was his mother. The man blinded himself and cursed the Sight of Ma'atkare. She has not made another prophecy since./

/And you hold this tale to be true?/

/I swear to it by Isis./

/But I have heard of the tale as well and my tutors told me that it happened many inundations of the Nile ago, in the time of my forefathers./

/You do not know Ma'atkare, Amen. It is true./

The solemnity of Nekti's voice made Amenhotep pause. Perhaps it was true. But that would mean that Ma'atkare was ancient. Not unheard of for a priestess and prophet, but he had been most certain it had happened many reigns of kings ago. Perhaps an error in the tutelage of his mentors, but though the detail was intriguing it was of little significance. /Nekti, say it is true. What other choice do we have left? Know you of any other paths we can walk?/

With great reluctance came the answer. /No./

/And it is your wish as well as mine that we choose a path to walk on, for it would be foolish to let time decide the course we take. I would counsel to wait if we could, but the arrival of the Guardian foretells much that we cannot ignore. The Shadows have marked him, I believe./

/You speak as though they have a mind./

/I believe they do./ The words were grim. /Morning star, I lay a path before your feet. Would you choose it?/ Time trickled by in dancing motes of light in the warm afternoon air as Nekti settled back into the chair for thought and Amenhotep resumed the circular motion of his fingers upon his wife's back. He counted the patterns of his hands to pass the time as his wife weighed the decision in her mind. He was on the hundredth circle over her left shoulder, which he noted with satisfaction was once more supple and pliant as muscle should be, when she spoke aloud.

"Ma'atkare may refuse our audience. And she may not have the answers we seek." Amenhotep nodded as his wife rose from the chair and prepared to leave for the temple. Apprehension nibbled at the edges of his mind at Nekti's warning but he felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted from his heart. He turned his attention inward for a brief moment, and found the voices of doubt quiet.

* * * * * * * *

The rays of Amun-Ra in the latter half of his journey across the expanse of blue sky danced in pairs of golden eyes as the king and queen made their way down the aisle of sphinxes. The light slap of many feet upon the hot paved stones resounded softly as the procession of shade bearers and guards accompanied the Royal couple on their way to the temple of Isis. The ordered rhythm of the marching servants halted in unison as the king and queen stopped at the arched entrance of the temple courtyard. Amenhotep turned to the train of guards standing at attention. As a unit, the men bowed then broke formation to assume positions on either side of the entrance. The shade bearers manoeuvred their enormous fans to form an arc of black and white plume over the threshold where the passageway met the temple compound. The king rewarded his escort with a nod of satisfaction. The Lord and Lady of the Two Lands entered the temple of Isis.

Enormous figures of stone painted in vivid colours flanked the approach to the temple, tall kings of the past granted immortal life in the memories of the living. They dwarfed any that walked down the procession to the temple, calculated to inspire awe and reverence. Amenhotep could name all the figures. Ahmose, the warrior king to whom Kemet owed its unity and prosperity to. Two Amenhoteps, after whom he was named, both rulers of power and wealth. Three Thutmoses, brilliant generals and strategists that had extended the hand of Kemet to encompass its weaker neighbours. The stone kings exuded the air of strength and ancient wisdom that was the crook and flail of the pharaoh. Amenhotep breathed in their silent glory and confidence.

The procession of colossal statues ended in a short flight of stone steps bordered by two gilded obelisks. The husky lustre of the golden stone pinnacles made the white-washed temple walls glow. The light lent brilliance to hieroglyphs of red, green, blue and gold inscribed in columns on the limestone bricks. The sticky sweet smell of incense mixed with the unmistakeable metallic taste of sacrifices past faintly perfumed the air. A movement out of the corner of Amenhotep's eye drew his attention to a lone falcon sitting on an outcropping of rock. The bird surveyed the visitors with a severe golden eye, the liquid depths of the gaze reminiscent of the ageless glare of the sphinxes.

A group of priests emerged from the inner sanctuary of the temple building to greet the king and queen with clasped hands and deep bows. A grey-haired man stepped forward and knelt a respectful distance from the king. "Ahalan, Golden Ones. We are at your command."

"You have my permission to rise, Senenmut. I trust you received my message."

"My lord? My deepest apologies but we have received no message."

Amenhotep arched a brow. "My messenger informed me that it was delivered to the servant boy at the gate."

The skin around the priest's eyes tightened and he turned his head to glare at a young boy dutifully holding a lantern of incense. "Menpehtire, why was I not informed of the king's message the moment you received it?" The boy held his head at the prescribed level of obligatory respect and lidded his eyes in deference, but the grey eyes glimmered with mischief. "Mawllah, did you not command that I should not disturb you even if Seth knocked at the door?" The priest turned a brilliant shade of red while his eyes attempted to bore holes into the boy's head. To his credit, the boy shrugged off the look with a calculated display of ignorance.

"Senenmut." The priest turned at the authoritative address of his king though he kept his eyes downcast. Thus, he missed the amused smile that played across Amenhotep's lips. "I am sorry, my Lord."

"It is my wish to speak with Ma'atkare."

The old man flicked his eyes to the side. Hesitantly, he bowed in apology. "Forgive me, my lord, but the Lady Ma'atkare has given orders that no one is to be admitted into her presence."

The king frowned and was about to command the priest to obey when he felt Nekti's touch on his mind. He stilled his impatience with the priest as she stepped forward slightly. "Senenmut, his Majesty is aware that Ma'atkare strictly guards her privacy but it is his wish to speak with her. Take us to her and we shall see if she accepts our audience. And I do not think that she would turn away a well-meaning visit from an old student."

"Of course, my queen. My humble apologies again, Divine One. I shall take your Majesties to her myself." The muscle in the priest's jaw stopped its nervous clenching. Senenmut dismissed the rest of the priests with a curt nod, throwing a dark look at the young incense bearer as the boy brought up the rear of the men returning to their duties. The priest gestured towards a hallway and proceeded to lead the Royal couple into the inner sanctum of the temple. They made a brief stop in a room occupied by a shallow pool in which the visitors cleansed their hands and feet then arrived shortly before large wooden doors.

"The study quarters of the Lady, Majesty," Senenmut announced. Before the priest could lay a hand on the smooth wooden surface, the doors opened inwards without any visible aid. The old man looked at Amenhotep in astonishment. "My Lord. I believe the Lady Ma'atkare is ready to receive you."

The king nodded. "We shall enter ourselves, Senenmut. You shall stay here until we have spoken with Ma'atkare, for I have words to speak with you as well." The priest bowed again and moved to the side in obedience to the command. Amenhotep and Nekti stepped through the threshold into an expansive room with lines of cubicles imbedded in the walls. The king paused, taking in the unfamiliar surroundings. He almost dared not breathe, so still and tranquil was the room. It smelled of history bound in sweet dried papyrus and tasted faintly of honey. He felt any apprehension he had had slip away from him, bleeding and dissipating into the thick absorbent air. The tranquility did not dim his worry for his son but served to clear his mind and calm the waters of his heart. A hollow thud from the closing doors resounded off wooden shelves of square cubicles filled with lightly browned scrolls. The shelves curved inward to form a circle broken randomly by squares of light that high windows permitted entrance to and spaces through which one could access inner circles of shelves. Nekti took her husband's hand and began to navigate her way through the shelves with ease, slipping in and out of the squares of light.

/I trust you know where we are going?/ Amenhotep queried.

/Your trust will be rewarded,/ came the reply. /Amen, why did you have Senenmut wait for us outside the doors?/

Amenhotep grinned smugly. /That old man needs to take a rest from his stressful duties; I doubt it would do him good to yell at the messenger boy./

/You just want to have your fun with him,/ Nekti admonished, shaking her head.

/Perhaps but I do wish to speak with him./ The conversation ended as they approached the middle of the circular maze. Standing on the opposite side of a white marble disc set into the floor was a figure. It was a woman. Later, Amenhotep would wonder if that moment in time had stopped to hold its breath when he had beheld the Lady Ma'atkare for the first time. A white veil; folds of rippled linen. Hair that rivalled the darkness of kohl yet shone with brilliance tinged with hints of blue. Slim brown fingers, flitting from cubicle to cubicle like the small birds flicking among the Nile reeds. The figure turned to face the visitors. Her eyes. Though shaded by folds of cloth, they were clear and bright as the pale dawn and ageless in their deep blue incandescence. He felt as though he were looking into the depths of the past, for her eyes had watched as kings had risen and fallen, as they had watched his rise and would watch him fall. They held him fully in mind and heart in their gaze; nothing was denied them. He only hoped that they would not deny him his request.

"Ahalan, Amenhotep, Nekti." Time resumed its steady rhythm forward as the incandescent gaze shifted between the two visitors.

Nekti bowed. Amenhotep caught the movement from the corner of his eye and followed suite. A corner of his mind wondered at the absurd notion of the king of the Two Lands deferring to a priestess, yet he felt at ease doing so. "Ahalan, Ma'atkare. It is good to see you again, my Lady."

"As it is to see you, Nekti." She accepted an embrace from the younger woman then bade them both to sit on the cool marble floor with a small gesture. "You wished to speak with me regarding your son." Amenhotep's brow creased a fraction. How had she known the purpose of their visit? Had she used the Sight? The Lady's ageless gaze alighted upon him. "The question is plain to see in your hearts. You wish to use the Sight to reveal what the young prince has in store." The words were spoken with certainty.

Amenhotep raised a brow but dismissed the seeming omnipotence of the priestess. If anything, it validated her claim as a powerful seer, and there were more important matters at hand. "You speak truly, Lady. That is our wish. Will you help us?"

"You know not the burden you request, Amenhotep."

"The Sight would be a gift, not a burden."

"If that is what you truly believe, then I cannot grant your request for you do not understand what it is you ask for." Amenhotep bristled.

"But I do, Ma'atkare," a quiet voice intoned, drawing the attention of the priestess away from the forming scowl on the man's face. "You once showed me the double-edged power of the Sight. You taught me that to trust in it was foolish so I have never asked you to use your gift but I must ask for it now."

"Why do you wish for something foolish, Nekti?"

"I do not trust the Sight to provide us with answers, for that is foolish. But I feel it may help us see what paths are open to us and it is this guidance that we ask for."

"Then you do not need to use the Sight, for it will mislead you. Guidance can be gotten in many other forms that are less perilous."

"What is your advice then, priestess?" Amenhotep challenged.

"You wish to find the Light to your son's darkness." The man affirmed the comment with a nod. "Then heed these words. Light and Dark will seek each other in their own time, for one cannot exist without the balance of the other. Trust in time and the will of the gods to provide the Light to compliment his Dark half, as they have provided for both of you. This matter of destiny is out of your hands. Leave it be."

A flicker of anger sparked in Amenhotep's eyes. "Lady, I cannot simply let this matter be. I am his father and the Lord of the Two Lands. There must be more that we- that I- can do for him. We cannot just sit by idly and watch him fall into Shadows!"

"He will not, Amenhotep," the priestess replied firmly, her calm expression unruffled by the other's outburst. "He has the strength to survive the trial of Shadows but it will be a trying time for him. When I council to trust in time, I do not mean for you to merely mark the progress of his days. You are right. You are his father, whether you be a peasant or the reborn Horus. And that is what Yami really needs at the moment, Amenhotep. He needs and will need both you and Nekti to support him and be at his side to light his way as he searches for his own. The Shadows cannot claim him as long as he has your protection." Amenhotep felt the sharp truth of the priestess's words stab him. She was right. Had he been at his son's side, perhaps he would not be here begging guidance from a reluctant priestess. He had not been there when he should have. Was that why the Shadows had almost claimed his son? Was it merely his shortcomings as a father and protector that last night had almost been a disaster had it not been for the young Magician?

"Lady, you speak wisely and mayhap we do not care for our son as we should," Nekti said, interrupting Amenhotep's thoughts, "but our request stands firm. We have great need for you Sight. Yami was almost taken by the Shadows last night."

The priestess tensed and the ageless midnight eyes narrowed; the worry a strong contrast to the normally calm visage. "But he is still yet young, barely a child. Certainly they do not seek to claim him already."

"They do and it is only the intervention of his new Guardian that they failed," Amenhotep said, after he recounted the events of the previous night.

Nekti nodded. "Now you know why we must make our request, Ma'atkare. We do not ask it lightly and I would not ask for it at all, but the Shadows press us to do so. Please, help us." A frown knit the smooth brown features as the priestess bowed her head in thought. Amenhotep reached out to take his wife's hand into his own as they awaited the Lady's decision. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

At length, the veiled figure stirred and spoke. "If it is the Sight you wish to use, I must warn you: even I cannot discern the path you will take. I can only show you that which is possible. But do not trust these visions, for that will be your undoing." The couple nodded. With slim brown hands, the priestess took the folds of her veil and folded them back from her brow. Amenhotep started but checked his sharp intake of breath. In the center of the Lady's smooth forehead was a deep horizontal crease. The muscles around the crease shifted as an eyelid flutters before awakening from sleep and drew back to reveal a jewel-like orb of liquid black rimmed in silver. The Eye focused on the two people sitting before its mistress. Beholding the liquid blackness, it seemed to Amenhotep as if the dimensions of the world that shifted and flexed according to the fantasies of what could and could not be were sliced into thin slivers and fixed in time by that singular gaze of the Eye. It pinned him under its glare and his being dissolved into its component parts at its demand. A soft chant filled the air, a murmur that drew Amenhotep toward the black depths of the Eye. He fell into the gaze and all was black. His body was gone.or perhaps it was his mind that had left the confines of his body. It didn't matter in the darkness.

He continued to fall until he instinctively felt his descent slow. A glimmer of light shone faintly below him where before there was only the black emptiness. He fixed on the light. The ray of illumination grew, stretching thin tendrils in multiple directions. Before him, the threads of light splayed into branches, which in turn splayed further in thin aberrations that intertwined randomly as far as he could see of the dark canvas that stretched into infinity. He twisted his presence around, expecting more of the same thin embroidery of light. Instead, a single solid ribbon flowed behind him, shining true among dimming strands of gold and silver fading into the darkness. As he beheld the ribbon, it pulsed softly. Memories flashed through his mind. Playing in the sand by the Nile. Laying in bed fevered as a young priestess held his hand. Powerful muscles of a glistening black stallion under his thighs. Blue eyes and purple hair of a boy, reaching out to clap his shoulder.

He turned forward to the complex map of light before him. He picked one by random and concentrated on unfolding its possibility. An image flowered within his mind. Yami and another boy, playing in the muddy bank of the river. No, that was not the vision he sought for. He turned to another thread of light and unfurled it. A feast with many foreign heads of state attending, his son and wife at his side. Yami was much older and looked stiff and uncomfortable in the golden ornaments marking him as prince. Amusement tickled the man as he chose another thread of light and examined its vision. A wide pair of amethyst eyes, innocent and child-like, stared back at him in wonder. He did not recognize them, for they were rounder and younger than those of his wife yet so like them. Who was this? He leaned further into the vision...

Amenhotep jerked backwards as his mind was abruptly deposited back into his body, causing him to spill onto the floor. He looked to his wife and saw that she was still sitting up, though she supported herself with one hand behind her. She glanced back in concern and he smiled weakly in reassurance. The priestess offered a hand to help the man up. He declined her offer, eyes glancing above the other's eyebrows. The priestess's brow was once again shrouded by folds of white cloth, the flawless skin underneath showing no sign of the Eye's existence. "Now do you see?" the priestess enquired of the man.

"I Saw many things, Lady, but yes, I do see now."

A grave smile traced the veiled figure's lips. "That is the danger of the Sight. You can not truly ever See the path before you, for not even the wisest among us know the final destination. What you Saw was what could be, not what will be." Amenhotep nodded, turning away so that the priestess would not see the shadows of disappointment in his eyes. He felt the light touch of his wife's hand upon his own.

"I am sorry that the Sight cannot do more for you. I wish that I could give you answers but do not look to me for them. I cannot give you the right ones, if there are indeed any. And perhaps, it is foolish to know all the answers." Age seemed to sink heavily onto the unblemished face beneath the white shroud.

"Thank you for your help, my Lady." Nekti bowed to her former teacher as she got up from the floor, pulling Amenhotep to his feet as well. Ma'atkare rose as well. "Nekti, Amenhotep," she called as they began to leave the inner sanctuary of the shelves. "This room is always open to you, as am I. Trust to the power of your own choices, for it is they that enable you to realize your destiny. It is your gift." With those words, the priestess took a step back to place the marble disc between herself and the royal couple. Amenhotep turned to follow his wife through the labyrinth of shelves, sparing one last glance at the priestess. He thought he caught a touch of sadness in those composed blue depths as the Lady stood as still as stone behind the circle of white.

* * * * * * * *

The priest Senenmut snapped to attention at the sound of the door opening. He bowed low as the king and queen exited, feeling stiff muscles protest from the sudden movement. "Your Majesties."

His lord started slightly as if called back from deep thought. "Senenmut."

"At your service, Golden One."

The crimson eyes blinked then lighted in recollection as they focused on the old man, making the priest squirm slightly as the geese do under the unwanted attention of hunters "Ah, yes. I desired to speak with you." The elderly priest began to navigate through the halls of the temple at a gesture from the king. "Tell me, who was the young boy that greeted the queen and I so courteously?"

Senenmut made a noise that sounded as if he were being strangled, at which the queen raised a kohl-lengthened brow. "That young kyky is a young servant boy of no importance that does menial tasks about the temple. His name is Menpehtire," the priest added to fill the silence following his flattering description.

"I see. Is he schooled in writing or other learning?"

The older man grimaced, glad that the dim light of the corridor hid his face from the king. "No, my lord. His family did not give provisions for his education and in my humble opinion, Divine One, the little scorpion is not worthy of teaching. He would make a most troublesome student and he is too dull-witted to learn anything."

"I want you to see to it that he receives schooling."

There was no mistaking the distressed choke that gurgled from the priest's throat as he stumbled on the paved stones of the temple. "Your Majesty wishes that Menpehtire is taught?"

"Yes, Senenmut. Who is the best tutor for the task of educating a young child?"

The old priest wondered if he had upset the gods. He prayed fervently for Osiris's forgiveness for whatever sin he had committed and slapped himself inwardly, hoping the self-recrimination would suffice for punishment. Anything but what he dreaded the king would command. He considered lying, but decided that the pain of execution was slightly worse than the other doom that awaited him. Only marginally, though. "I am," he gulped.

"Then it is my wish that he begin his learning under your tutelage as soon as possible, Senenmut." The priest bowed, rooted to the ground in shock as he watched the royal couple pass through the arched entrance of the temple to be flanked by the train of guards waiting there. It was a long while before the old man stirred and sought the refuge of the buildings to wait for the dawn when he could awaken the gods and pray for their forgiveness.

/Somehow, I do not think that will aid his health for the better, Amen,/ Nekti commented as they glided down the hall of sphinxes.

/Of course it will. Two young boys should help him feel younger at heart./ Amenhotep turned to his guards and dismissed them with a nod as the procession approached the Royal sleeping quarters. Murmurs of 'your Majesty' whispered in the cool evening air as the men returned to their own quarters for the night, leaving two stationed outside the king's rooms for the first shift of the night. They questioned him silently as Amenhotep moved down the hall past his chambers. The king shook his head slightly and they stayed in position as the couple entered a room further down the corridor.

Amenhotep felt a disturbance as he brushed against a patch of shadows hugging the wall under a flickering torch. He inspected the area closer and found that it was a ripple in the fabric of the Realm. He called out a question to his Guardian, to which the Sage replied that he was indeed the source of the disturbance. Amenhotep extended his Shadow-heightened senses and detected another presence close to that of Azrak's. The man quirked a smile. So that was what Azrak had meant by paving the road with good intentions. He wished the Sage luck with his endeavours and turned his attention back to see Nekti glided (glide) silently to the side of the expansive bed. She sat down gently, taking care not to disturb the little dreamer nestled in the linen blankets.

/He looks so peaceful./

Chuckling softly, Amenhotep moved beside his wife. /Yes,/ he replied, bending down to wipe a small trickle of saliva from the corner of the prince's mouth with a corner of the linen.

/Amen, what did the Sight reveal to you?/ The violet eyes searched crimson ones as if the answer were written in them. It was ironic, the man mused. He had a feeling that the answer to her question was revealed in that elegant wine-coloured gaze, so similar to the round violet innocence that he had glimpsed in his vision. But it was childish to trust such feelings. He stepped carefully about the subject of feelings. It was late and the duties that he had taken care of from the early hours of the day to before Yami's interruption were taking their toll on him. He did not have the strength to ford a river tonight. Putting it aside as best he could, he decided that he needed much thought before he could answer his wife's question.

/I Saw many things. There were visions that I hope will come to be but there are visions that I do not understand. I wish to think on it tonight and discuss it tomorrow, if you are willing./ A protest hovered on the woman's lips but she pressed them firmly together and kept her peace. Amenhotep wrapped his arms around the slender waist and drew his wife close to loosen her lips with his own, suffusing her mouth with his thanks for her patience. The couple left their son's room and entered their own, seeking remedy for a day's worth of weariness. As Amenhotep lay in the darkness of his own bed, listening to the even breaths of the woman in his arms, sleep did not come to him. Visions and thoughts raced through his mind while it seemed to the king that he could hear the voices of a river surging faintly in the distance.