CHAPTER ONE

Prolouge

Prolouge

In the third year of the reign of the Pharaoh Akunamukanon, Egypt was on the brink of a war they could not afford. Along the border to the South lay a small country, called Arcana, which was barely half again the size of Egypt. However, Arcana was an incredibly affluent country, rich in agriculture and rare metals. It was the wealth that Egypt desired and needed, but, it was the wealth that Egypt feared. While Arcana did not have an army that could compete in size or training, they had enough money to maintain a campaign that could last years.

This fear only escalated as the Egyptians discovered more about their neighbours to the south. Their once harmless neighbours became a very real threat when the true power of the Arcanian army came to light For the Arcanians had mastered the magics of their gods. By funnelling the excess power of their souls into ordinary rocks, they created something called a key stone. Key stones, when handled by a skilled wielder could be used to contra the elements, create something out of nothing and unleash a power unlike anything the Egyptians had ever seen. Fear quickly, spread; and it became very apparent that if something wasn't done soon, the empire would be threatened.

In a bid to gain the much needed resources, territory and to avoid any further conflict, the young pharaoh extended a hand of friendship and protection to the tiny nation. Arcana accepted, and it was only a few moons before Akunamukanon married the Arcanian Princess: Aimi. A few years would pass before Aimi would produce an heir, the Crowned Prince Atem. For many years both countries were happy, and more importantly however, there was prosperity in both Egypt and Arcana as trade bloomed between the countries. It would be a peace that would last for years and seemed at the time to be everlasting.

Until it ended in one night.

Not even a fortnight after the Prince's seventh birthday, an assassin slipped into the castle through the slave chambers and broke into the royal bedchambers. The Queen had been stabbed in the heart as she slept. The Pharaoh managed to disarm the assailant, but it was too late. The Queen was dead, and all hell broke loose in Egypt.

It would be more than a week of questioning before the royal guard would be able to determine who hired the killer. But with one word, Egypt was once again faced with war, and there would be no hesitation. Even as the Arcanian's denied involvement in the death of their Princess, the Pharaoh vowed revenge. By sunrise, the Pharaoh's best men rode from Memphis, was violence in their hearts. The country would have no warning and the resulting massacre would be remembered in horror for generations to come.

This is where our story begins.

Floasis was not the capital of Arcana. It was however, a large farming town which lay several leagues east of the Egyptian boarder. But Floasis was one of the most populated cities in Arcana, and more importantly it as the agricultural heart of the entire country. The farmlands stretched for miles in every direction, and supplied grain for the majority of Arana.

Which is why on a cool harvest evening 25 of the Pharaoh's soldiers crouched on the compact dirt street outside of Floasis' stone walls? Down the rolling hillside behind them, thick plumes of sickly smoke bellowed towards the moonless sky. Streaks of greasy gold and vermillion writhed in the horizon, and it cracked to the beat of war drums just inside of the soldiers hearing.

As the fields burnt however, Floasis remained silent. High above in a smooth white stone watch tower, the guard slept, oblivious to the destruction below him. There was no gate to the city, a lone guard should have been enough during peace time. There was no resistance as the grim faced soldiers crept into the city with unsheathed swords held low at their hips. In their free hands, the same torches that burnt the fields were held in tight grips

Fire flew through open window and burnt any flammable surface within reach of the advancing soldiers. By the time the alarm was called the city had been set alight. Screams split the still air like a thousands knives. People ran from their houses, half dressed and barely awake. There were few weapons to be found in the small farming villages. And only few people had been trained in the ability to use a key stone. Wielders where few and far between in Floasis and it wasn't long before Blood ran in thick, ruby rivers through the streets. Soldiers cut down the crowds with no effort. Their swords blocked blows from farm tools, kitchen pots and pieces of furniture. Piles of bodies soon grew and reached up to the sky in a grotesque sacrifice.

"Kill the adults, leave none alive.' The gruff voice of the captain rose with the screaming, a clear monotone above the shrill pandemonium. He whipped the blade of his curved sword against the thin linen dress of the women he had run through. "Grab whatever children you find. We'll take 'em with us. Be a pretty piece of change from the slavers."

The soldiers in armour that gleamed ruddy, liquid red, fanned out and broke down the doors of the burning houses with more vigour. They moved from house to house like a plague and spared no mercy on those who wouldn't or couldn't fight back. They ripped children from the cold arms of their mothers, and kicked the corpses away to make it easier to loot the buildings for whatever treasures could be found.

The largest house in Floasis belonged to a former general, who had long since retired to the quiet city. It was a grand house, the finest by far in Floasis. It had towering marble pillars and smooth stone walls that where build so seamlessly against the cities far wall that it was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began. There was a long limestone stair case that led to the wooden double doors. Standing on very top step, the general watched as the soldiers pillaged the smouldering remains of his town.

The General was a tall man with broad shoulders and strong arms build from years of holding a sword. However, he was bent with age, and he leaned heavily on a staff of Blackwood burdened by a never truly healed arrow to the hip. His eyes where dead and his face was heavily lined with stress. It would only be a few hours before the city he helped build was lost. He knew that there would be no help, nothing that could save the. The only option that was left to him was to preserve a memory and to rescue a warning.

A weak smile, the scarcest twitch of his lips, touched General Huro's lips when a familiar face crept through the thick smog. A small women had crept through the shadows, just one step ahead of the soldiers.

"Come along children" his wife said. Her voice was though and it cracked dangerously part way through the sentence. Her thick reddish-grey hair had started to fall free of it's normal tight bun. It fell limply around her pale face, and only accented the black bags under her eyes. Gently, but urgently she ushered a small group of children up the steps. The four children clung to the thin material of her night dress, and Huro could see the panic painted on their tiny faces. But they pressed in obediently, quiet as the grave.

Huro watched the progresses as he reached to his side and unsheathed a sword that had not seen the world in years. It gleamed in the firelight, a shine that Huro had wished he would never see again. He pressed his hand over the pearl like stone set into the hilt. And the stone glowed with an unearthly glow as his hand passed over it. "Usxo" he whispered in a harsh voice; the words he had not spoken in years flowing across his lips like water. Tongues of blue white fire curled around the slim blade, until the metal was covered in flames.

"Get them out, Amaya" Huro growled as he limped down towards the burning city, flaming sword in hand. He tried to ignore the ache in his hip, but the pain grew more intense when he threw his cane to the side. "Keep them safe"

Amaya nodded and her lips pressed together in a firm, bloodless line. "I love you" she said as she pressed a wrinkled, shaking hand against her husband's cheek. "Don't you forget that."

"I'll see you soon" Huro promised. "Go"

Amaya pressed her lips to Huro's cheeks and climbed the stares with her charges in toe. She didn't look back, but instead she lay a hand on the shoulder of the closest boy. He was barely more than 5 with a wild shock black, magenta and gold hair that made him seem so very small. Amaya could see the way his lip trembled, but his wide purple eyes remained clear as he looked up at her expectantly.

"We need to hurry, Yugi." she said.

Yugi nodded, and grabbed the hand of the small white haired boy beside him as he whispered something in his friends ear. The tallest of the group, a lanky blond, stumbled behind as he struggled to urge his 3 year old sister forward. But she was terrified, barely able to breath through the terrified sobs that almost made it impossible to walk. As the cries from the city grew louder, Amaya scooped the child up to her arms. There wasn't time.

Shizuka screamed when she was torn from her brother. The ear piercing, attention grabbing sound that was unique to toddlers alone. Amaya's stomach dropped at the sound, knowing it would carry and stand out from all other sounds. It wouldn't be long before they where found.

They pushed a heavy table in front of the wooden door, and raced through the large house. The children followed Amaya's break neck pace as they passed corridor after corridor. She knew that they were expecting a place to hide, and she could feel the confusion and mistrust that was beginning to grow. But as long as they followed it didn't matter. They had to get to the back of the house.

They had just stumbled into the kitchen when the front door slammed open with an echoing boom. Amaya stifled a scream at the sound. She could hear voices, low and gruff in the background, and the sound of footsteps heading in every direction.

Against the far wall there was a large greek tapestry woven from the finest of materials. Huro had brought it home years ago, and ripped as Amaya ripped it from the wall with her free hand. Behind the tapestry, a narrow staircase disappeared into the darkness below the house. Amaya shifted her grip on the still screeching Shizuka, and grabbed Yugi's sleeve. "Hurry"

The air was stale, and it stunk of dust and age. Amaya wished there had been time for her to grab a torch as she herded her charges down. More than once she stumbled on a loose flagstone, or walked through a clinging cobweb. But there was not time for needs or wants. The soldiers were too close, she could here the heavy twang of their foreign accents. It would be almost impossible to see the entrance to the kitchen stairs in the dark. But Amaya knew the soldiers could here the two year olds cries.

"Hush sweetie" Amaya whispered as they descended to freedom. She tried to keep her voice a soft crone, but Shizuka only wailed louder. "Hush"

"They're in the Kitchen." A voice called. The passage was illuminated by brilliant orange, and a large male shadow spread across the narrow walls. "There're some stairs back here!"

"Hurry" Amaya yelled, all pretence of quiet gone. The light of the torch illuminated the passage at the foot of the stairs, a hole in the city's wall. It was small, to narrow for a grown man in bulky armour to climb through. They would be safe. Yugi was barely a foot away. They could make it.

But the soldiers were at the stairs. Unburdened by children, Amaya could see the glint metal that reflected on the stone walls. She pushed Yugi through the hole, and watched as the dark hair boy held out his hand imploringly to Jounouchi. The little white haired boy was only a few steps behind. But he eyed the tiny flash of desert warily, and his breath grew rapid. "Come on Ryou!" Yugi called, and purple eyes were suddenly illuminated by torch light as the soldiers barrelled around the tight corner. "Ryou!"

Ryou cried out, and he ran towards Yugi and Jounouchi. But stumbled as a heavy hand grabbed at his tunic, and Ryou fell face first to the ground. The hand latched onto Ryou's ankle and pulled him back towards the grinning solider.

"Gotcha brat," the man sneered, the expression cracking the blood that had dried to his cheek. Amaya froze just as she was about to pass Jounouchi his sister. She whirled around the toddler still grasped tight in her arms and a dagger flew free from it's hiding place in her sleeve.

It embedded itself in the man's eye. And he screamed before he released Ryou to clutch desperately at the handle. He collapsed in a heap against the wall. Amaya grabbed Ryou's collar and pushed Ryou towards his friends. Ryou stumbled into Yugi's grasping arm's, but the force of her toss through Amaya off balance. It was too much for her sore, overtaxed body and she tripped over the dead soldiers body, right into the waiting spear of his partner.

The solider pushed the elderly women off his spear with a sicking squelch. As Amaya fell back, he ripped Shizuka from her. The squalling toddler was passed carelessly behind him to another solider who tucked her beneath his arm like a loaf of bread. The man raced up the stairs as Amaya's killer whipped his spear clean on her night gown, and a sicking smirk spread across his lean face. "What do we have here."

"Shizuka!" Jounouchi screamed as his sister disappeared out of sight. But Yugi and Ryou grabbed onto his arms as he tried to go after here. "Shizuka! Come back! Let her go!"

Jounouchi, Stop! Please!" Yugi screamed, and tears ran down his cheeks. He tried to pull Jounouchi back through the hole. But the boy was far bigger than Yugi, and he struggled even as Ryou began to yank on his rope belt. The solider made a mad grab from Jounouchi's ankle. But the blonde kicked out, and caught the Egyptian in the face.

The man's nose broke. And he stumbled back with a cry. Yugi and Ryou used the momentary confusion to pull Jounouchi back through the hole. The blonde didn't fight them this time, instead he whimpered as he landed on the cool sand of the desert. For the first time that evening tears streamed down the five year old's cheeks.

They were young.

To young to survive in the desert . Too young to survive without their parents. But there wasn't time to think about that. The children started to run the second they could stand. They didn't know where they were going. It didn't matter. They moved without hesitation, driven only by the need to get away. Away from Floasis, away from their homes, away from the violence.

Just away.