Seth heaved a tired sigh as he stepped into the gardens, mentally exhausted
from dealing with Atem’s temper for much of the day. If he’d had it his way,
the trials would have been over hours ago. Unfortunately, something had set off
the Pharaoh and caused him to drag out everything.
Kisara is probably pulling her hair out by now, the High Priest mused as he walked to the section of the gardens closest to his rooms. She always worries when the Pharaoh makes what she deems unreasonable demands. He couldn’t help but laugh softly at that thought; to Kisara, any demand that kept Seth from returning before sundown was unreasonable.
It took him only a few minutes to reach the small pool where his charge bathed each evening, and he was pleased to note that the usual guard was present as the girl tended to her long white hair. In all the kingdom there was no one he trusted more than Oten to watch over Kisara in his absence.
“Good evening, High Priest,” the guard greeted as Seth approached. His expression was carefully neutral, but the cinnamon-haired man could see concern in the other’s green eyes.
“Good evening, Oten,” he responded. “Is something troubling you this night?”
“Is there anything you do not notice?” Oten asked dryly. Seth opted not to answer, instead fixing the guard with a rebuking look. Oten smirked for a second before the troubled look returned to his eyes. His next words surprised the High Priest.
“I have been removed from my duties of guarding the Pharaoh.”
“For what reason?” Seth asked. “Only the captain of the guards is more skilled than you.”
Oten glanced over to check that Kisara was not listening in before answering softly: “Two nights ago I heard... something coming form the Pharaoh’s rooms. When I inquired about it, both the Pharaoh and Priest Mahaado told me to mind myself. The next morning the Pharaoh dismissed me from my duties.”
Seth frowned. It was an essential part of the guards’ duties to inquire about disturbances. “What did you hear?”
“Screams.” Once more Oten glanced to where Kisara was bathing, Seth following his gaze. The woman’s back was to them, but Seth wouldn’t put it past her to be listening in covertly. “It concerns me,” Oten finally added, “because lately the Pharaoh’s eye seems to be following our fair sister.”
The High Priest’s eyes narrowed and he willed himself to calm. “I will try to gain admittance to the Pharaoh’s rooms,” he said after a long silence. “I must ask that you remain close to Kisara.”
“My loyalty is to you and Egypt,” Oten replied. “It extends to Lady Kisara. No harm will befall her while I yet breathe.”
“Take care, Lord Seth,” Kisara said, confirming the priest’s assumption that she was well aware of the conversation. “I am aware that Pharaoh is Pharaoh, but he makes me uneasy.”
“Remain with Oten,” Seth commanded gently, wrapping Kisara’s robes about her as she stepped from the water, “and return to my rooms quickly. I will go once you are safe.”
“Take care,” the woman repeated firmly before stretching up to press a sisterly kiss to Seth’s cheek. She offered him a soft smile before turning to the guard. “Oten, would you take me back to our lord’s rooms?”
“As you wish, Lady Kisara.”
Seth watched the two until they vanished into his rooms, the crossed the gardens towards Atem’s. True, the Pharaoh’s rooms did not open directly into the gardens, but there was a short hall that would lead him directly into the Pharaoh’s bath chamber. He would proceed from there, come up with some excuse for entering Atem’s sanctum without permission.
Seth drew in a deep breath before pushing the door open. As he’d hoped, the bath chamber was empty but he could hear nothing from the main rooms, although only a curtain separated him from Atem’s personal quarters. Any other time the silence would be reassuring; now, with Oten’s report in mind, it served only to worry him.
Cautiously he pushed the curtain aside, alert to even the smallest sign of life. Blue eyes scanned the room, finding nothing at first. It was the faintest of sounds—a quiet whimper of pain—that drew his gaze to the bed.
In an instant Seth found himself wishing Atem dead, preferable at the end of the Sennen Rod’s hidden blade.
Two months had passed since anyone had seen the self-named Thief King Bakura. There had been rumors that he’d fled to the furthest reaches of Kehmet, far into the desert, that even perhaps he’d died in one of the many tombs he was said to have robbed. Ra, some of the rumors had come from the palace guards who’d been last to see the pale-eyed thief. Nothing had even hinted that Bakura might still be within the city, let alone a... ‘guest’ in the palace.
Seth mentally catalogued the damage—bruises covering most of the unconscious man’s skin; ligature marks on wrists and ankles, still red and seeping; cuts and scars along his sides and likely on his back; fresh blood on the linens between Bakura’s thighs. The one mark out of all this that sent his fury even higher was the bleeding mark on the thief’s right cheek. It began just above the eye and ended just below his mouth, with two horizontal cuts crossing through it over his cheek beginning from his ear.
It was an ancient mark of ownership. The Ra-damned bastard had branded the Thief King as if he were cattle.
Biting back on the urge to track down Atem and gut him, Seth quickly made his way to the bed. Even though it would be best not to move Bakura in light of his injuries, there was no way in all Kehmet that he was going to leave the man to Atem’s obviously non-existent mercy. He pulled the sheet tightly around the unconscious thief, heart aching at the pained whimper the action elicited, and carefully picked him up. Quietly, Seth slipped back out the way he came, quickly crossing the gardens to his own rooms.
18 April 2005
Whoops, I just realized I've been dating all these as "2004". Sorry! They're all 2005 stories! They should all be fixed now. Yeah, I'm nuts, I know.