And So it finally begins. Sorry this took so long my darlings; but real life was less than kind this year and I just haven't had any desire to work on much of... well anything. But I've made some changes to my life, started actually dealing with my problems instead of flat out ignoring while the world isn't quite coming up roses for time I've had some inspiration to just sit down and write. It's a good feeling.
Oh just as a heads up, Ive made some minor changes to the prolouge to match a plot change in the story. The majority of it has stayed the same, but its been so long since Ive updated you may want to reread anyway.
Thanks to: Unorthodox Dreamer, AdriftUponASeaOfTime, Kage Kitsune 14, Dragonlady222, Rosetorn22, Ireadtomuch, Phonix0192, Zambino, Kate, for reviewing. It means a lot. Especially when you all have to deal with my lazy behind.
Yugi couldn't stop running.
Despite the insufferable heat and the thick material of the robe that clung to his slim frame and tangled between his legs, Yugi didn't let himself slow. The thin leather of his sandals struck the packed earth streets of Waset with a heavy pounding rhythm, never faltering. The hood of the scarlet robe was up, and it was sweltering beneath. Sweat ran rivers down his face, stinging his eyes and rolling down the back of his neck.
Yugi sucked in another desperate lungful of air, and the short gasp rattled in his chest and burnt like liquid fire. Every part of him screamed for Yugi to slow down, but that only made him fight to lengthen his stride, to go a little faster.
They were gaining
The rasp of Yugi's breath was not so ragged that the sound of their harsh voices could not be heard. The promise of what the Pharaoh's guard would do if he faltered hung in the air, pushing Yugi far past his limits. He had to get of the streets. But the sand as slippery, and he stumbled as he tried to turn the sharp corner.
The skin was ripped from his palm and shoulder as he collided violently into the unforgiving stone wall of someone's home, one hand thrown out in a desperate bid for balance. But it wasn't enough. Yugi's ankle rolled in protest to the collision and he crashed to the ground in a heap of arms and legs. He groaned at the pain.
It had been thirteen long years since the massacre in Floasis. Arcana had not recovered from the devastating blow to the country's economic heart. She had never recovered, and the once powerful kingdom had fallen into chaos. Her once proud citizens had been forced to scatter, fleeing out of a homeland Egypt on the other hand had prospered in the years after Queen Aimi's horrible and untimely death. Despite the loss of their precious Queen, without Arcana's looming presence, Egypt had grown into one of the most powerful nations the world had ever seen. There wasn't a trade route that didn't pass through the state and Egypt's wealth could be seen in even the poorest of quarters.
However it hadn't taken long for Yugi to discover that this wealth was reserved for Egyptian born alone; not for the survivors of a massacre that had all but been forgotten.
Desperation rolled in Yugi's gut like a festering splinter. He cradled his throbbing hand to his chest, and scrambled to his feet. He was heavily favouring his left side now, ankle protesting even the slightest weight. But he couldn't stay here. Cursing under his breath, Yugi risked a glance out of the corner of his eye. He could just see his pursers, too close and rapidly gaining.
Tall and brood shouldered, the city guard swarmed like snapping hyenas behind him. There as at least a dozen of them, all wearing the thick linen armoured tunic of their trade. The curved leather of their sheathed swords made a rhythmic thump each time they crashed into muscular thighs. Yugi could feel his heart become a solid wight in his chest, and the sweat rolling down his back seemed to freeze.
"Stop in the name of the Pharaoh!"
It was the only warning Yugi received before a dagger whistled past his ear. He yelped in alarm as it nicked the sensitive skin. Yugi felt his eyes widen as the blade sunk deep into the bricks of the wall beside him, barely a scant inch away from his skull. Yugi's hand flew to his ear, feeling liquid warmth spreading across his fingers. Too close!
Ankle screaming with every step, Yugi tried to run faster. He was fighting for breath now, and losing as each expansion of his lungs shoved an icy dagger through his side. Yugi may be faster and possibly more nimble than his pursuers, but the Guards didn't even look winded even as Yugi's legs turned into jelly. He couldn't out run the guard, Yugi thought grimly as he darted down another alley. So he would have to hind a place to hide.
The backstreets of Waset were a labyrinth. Houses had been built in no obvious pattern, leading to narrow streets that traced through the entire city like a twisting snake. With luck on your side they could be used to navigate the entire city, or they could lead to absolutely nowhere at all. It was entirely possible to get completely lost back here, even if you had lived in Egypt's capital your entire life.
Yugi was willing to take the risk. He skidded around another corner, a left and then a right. Yugi pushed harder as the voices behind him got softer and softer. It wasn't until he was certain that the guard was well behind him that Yugi let a small smile spread across his features. He would be safe in only one more turn. There the alley would narrow down into a gap that would be far to small for a solider to fit.
Yugi on the other hand, with his short stature and narrow frame would just be able to squeeze in to the tiny dark space. The perfect hiding spot. It was one that he had used in the past on several occasions, and he knew this part of Waset like the back of his hand. Except with every step that Yugi took, it felt as if fire was racing up his leg. The pain was fast approaching unbearable, it was almost impossible to think, let alone remember which way he was supposed to go.
Without thought Yugi skidded around what should have been the final corner, grateful for this one glimmer of safety. Now that it was safe enough to do so he risked a glance over his shoulder, and had to suppress a shoot of triumph when the guard was nowhere insight. The sound was easily stifled however when Yugi turned back around and nearly ran head first into a stone wall.
It was a dead end.
The colour drained from Yugi's face. The alley he had turned down, nothing more than the space between a few squat houses had been sealed off by the smooth limestone of Waset's city-wall. Three times as tall as a man, and just as wide, the barricade could hold out entire armies. Yugi was stuck.
"No!" Yugi cried, slamming his fists against the immovable limestone. "You have got to be kidding me!"
There was no way out, and this mistake was not one Yugi could afford to make. If he was caught here, he was done for. A their might have gotten away with his neck intact. But when the guard saw who, or what he really was…
Yugi didn't want to think about it.
Arcanian was an evil word in Egypt. The superstitions of old had been transformed into something whispered in the dark to scare children into behaving. There was no love lost between the two countries, especially when fear so throughly controlled memory. If anyone saw Yugi's bright hair or amethyst eyes, death would be certain, and anything but swift.
Eyes wide, and heart pounding in his throat, Yugi whirled around. At the mouth of the alley, the guard had finally caught up and was beginning to advance. The steely hiss of their swords chord as loud as thunder in Yugi's new cage. The hair on the back of Yugi's neck rose as he stepped back from the guard, his back pressing flush against the wall behind him.
With hands that trembled despite Yugi's best intentions, he tugged desperately on his hood, making sure the material was still in place. He braced himself, feet spread wide in an attempt to make a stand.
Yugi scowled as the Captain of the Guard pushed to the front of his men. Recognizable by the thick gold band that strained against his bulging biceps, the Captain seemed almost too large to be human. "Under the authority of the P:pharaoh I am placing you under arrest."
"On why charges?" Yugi asked as innocently as he could manage despite feeling like a mouse being cornered by a pride of lions. " I've done nothing wrong."
The rest of the Captains men, all as solid and stoic as the wall at Yugi's back spread out to flank their leader. Yugi watched ten warily as he tried to swallow around the lump that had formed in his throat. The Captain laughed, the sound closer to the bark of a dog than anything resembling humour. "Don't lie, little thief." He sneered.
"I don't know what you're talking about." Yugi said forcefully but he had to force himself to not reach into his pocket. The pocket that suddenly seemed to weight a thousand pounds. It was useless to try and talk his way out of this one. But Yugi was going to try anyway; defiant even as two of the guards came out to restrain him.
"Let me go." Yugi shouted, trying to break free. But the men's grip, clasped around his forearm was just too tight. "I've stolen nothing."
Anything else Yugi might have said in his defence was lost as a fist collided solidly with the pit of his stomach. Yugi grunted as the air he had only just reclaimed left his lungs in an almighty whoosh. Boneless he slumped into his captors grip, struggling to control the grey that edged the corners of his vision.
As he slumped gasping, Yugi was helpless to do anything as the Captain approached. "Give up the act." The man hissed as he tipped up Yugi's chin with one sausage like finger. "Theres low way you're getting out of this." As he spoke the Captain's other hand reached down the front of Yugi's robe, pulling free a heavy leather purse that was gilded with gold.
The Captain whistled as he tipped the contents of the purse into his hand. Piles of gold, silver and coppers chinked dauntingly in the man's meaty palm as he held it up to the alleys minimal light. "Awful nice for a piece of street trash, eh boys?"
"Hey!" Yugi cried as he tried to grab the purse back. "That's mine."
"We have a nobleman who's willing to be to differ." The Captain sneered as he looped the purse through his belt, shoving it to the back. Yugi bit back a sigh, he could have used that money. "But do you want to know the truth?"
Yugi just glared.
But the Captain continued anyway, and his dark eyes seemed to gleam with a sick delight that caused Yugi's stomach to churn. "I Don't care about the wallet." The large man breathed, and Yugi could taste the ale on his breath. "Where's the diamond?"
Whatever colour was left in Yugi's face left all at once as his knees began to buckle threateningly. He knew that if the other Guards hadn't maintained their bruising grips on his arms it was entirely possible they would have collapsed beneath him. The bag in his pocket suddenly seemed to weight a thousand pounds "I…" He stammered around a tongue that lay like lead in his mouth. "I…"
Any possible excuse Yugi had prepared slipped from his grasp like a fist full of sand. There was nothing to say, not when all his carefully laid plans had fallen apart so spectacularly. It was up posed to be an easy job. Sneak into visiting caravan that was en-route to the Pharaoh's palace, steal whatever he could before anyone noticed.
But he had only had the time to grab the diamond, a gift to the Pharaoh from some visiting dignitary before an asp had bitten the leg of the head horse. The wagon toppled when the animal had reared, and Yugi had been caught red handed. He barely had the chance to make sure his hood hadn't slipped before he had been forced to
"The way I see it, you have two options." The Captain continued, as if completely oblivious to the panic attack he had just created. " You can return what you stole, reduce your punishment."
Not willing to go down with his tail between his legs, Yugi raised his head. "What if I say no?" He asked as he drew himself up to his full height, ignoring the fact that meeting the Captains gaze meant he had to crane his neck all the way back. "What then?"
The corners of the Captain's mouth twitched, either in amusement or derision, Yugi didn't know. "Then you'll lose a lot more than that diamond when we take it back."
Behind the Captain, the guards rustled menacingly as they raised their swords, leaving Yugi with no doubt of their intentions. He wasn't getting out of this without confrontation, that much was obvious, as was the fact he wasn't going to win. There was still a chance however, if he dared risk it.
Mind made up, Yugi shook free from the arms that restrained him. They made no move to hold him back, sensing his defeat. "All right!" he cried, voice shrill with panic. "You win."
The Captain raised a hand, and his men lowered their swords. "Good choice boy." He said with a smile that was a long way from reaching his eyes. "Now hand over the diamond, nice and slow."
Yugi hooded, and reached up to tug at the loather tong looped around his neck. Attached to it was a linen drawstring bag about the size of his fist. Yugi yanked the bag open, never loosing eye contact with the Captain as he wrapped his hand around the oval stone within, careful to keep it hidden within his palm.
"Give that to me boy." The Captain jeered, and he held up his palm to Yugi. " Just know that if you so much as twitch in the wrong way and my men will run you through."
Yugi didn't doubt it. Steading himself, he stepped forward, mind reeling as it slowly pieced together a desperate bid of a plan. He shifted his grip on the stone, and reached out as if to drop it in the Captain's hand. Yugi took a deep breath, focusing his thoughts as a familiar tingling warmth began to spread through his fingers.
Barely a foot away from the guard, Yugi raised his hand high in the air, revealing the river rock clenched in his fist. "Audro!" he screamed, and squeezed his eyes tight as a blinding light burst free from the stone.
The men cried out as the sudden brilliant burned at their unprotected retinas. Many dropped their swords to dig their palms into their eyes. But ti was too late, the light had blinded them, if only temporarily.
Taking advantage of the chaos he had created, Yugi closed the gap between him and the captain. The man was one of the few still on his feet, but his eyes were squeezed shut, water streaming from beneath closed lids. Wasting no time, Yugi slammed his fist into the pit of the man's stomach, driving him down to his knees with a grunt.
Scrambling, Yugi ripped the stolen purse from the Captain's belt, and jammed his foot into the kneeling man's shoulder. He used the leverage to jump into the air towards the open window of the house to his right, making it with a scant inch to spare. For a moment he just hung there, clinging to the sill with the very tips of his fingers. Then, grunting with effort, Yugi pulled himself up through the narrow opening, and collapsed in a heap on the floor.
He scrambled away from the window the far corner of his new heaven, breathing harder than he had before in his life. The room was empty, nothing more than stone walls and a floor that lead to the mouth of a cracking set of stairs. The entire place seemed long sense deserted, its old occupants probably moving to the nicer part of the city.
Yugi didn't mind the silence.
Once his hear began to beat at a slower rhythm, Yugi crept his way back to the window, keeping out of sight but close enough to press an ear to the wall. He needed to know what was going on. He could only imagine what the guards were doing now, but Yugi knew that the effects of his light show would only lost for a few minutes at best.
Sure enough, Yugi could already here voices swelling up front he street below. "What was that!" one of the men shouted, and yugi could here the fear and surprise lacing his voice, even from here. "Some sort of Ka Monster?"
"No." The Captain snapped, all traces of emotional control gone in exchange for an anger so raw that yugi felt sick to his stomach. "Arcanian witchcraft!"
"You heard me! That thief is a bloody Arcanian" The captain growled and Yugi shrank closer to the wall, trying desperately to contain the terror that was desperately trying to overwhelm him. The hatred was written so clearly in the man's voice that Yugi could scarcely breathe. "Sound the alarm. I want his head, do you hear me! That thing can't be allowed to roam the city."
"Sir, yes, Sir."
Yugi slammed against the wall, listening with a hammering heart as the guard marched off. He squeezed his eyes shut as their voices faded off into the distance, and tried to take in deep steading breaths. But instead they were ragged and shaky, barely doing enough to calm his nerves. That had been too close, way too close. How could he have been so stupid!
It had been a long time since Yugi had a run in with the guard. Normally he was a lot more careful when he made his way into the city. A few nicked purses here and there, taken from people who would barely notice the lost money. But that barely brought in enough money for Yugi to live off, let alone Jounouchi or Ryou. So when he had heard about the Caravan, and the treasures that where supposedly within, he had gotten greedy.
And it had cost him. Yugi sighed as he looked into the palm of his hand. The keystone he had used was still smoking slightly from its hasty use. Yugi frowned as he ran his thumb over the slightly warm surface, feeling the distant thrum of energy he could still feel there. The once pearl white, iridescent surface was already beginning to fade back to the natural grey of a river rock. The spell Yugi had used has almost drained the stone completely. He maybe had one more spell left before the thing was drained completely.
Ryou was going to kill Yugi when he found out. It was a pretty risky move using any kind of spell in Waset. The Egyptians had never been fond of the Arcanian's use of key stones and magic. Even at the height of the country's neutrality the Egyptians had been afraid of this 'mysterious' power. Time had done little to improve this fear. Worse than that, Yugi might as well have declared his identity to the city with fireworks. The Guards weren't going to stop until they caught him. Waset wasn't going to be safe for a long time.
But it was worth it.
There was a pocket stitched just inside the right sleeve of Yugi's robe, and he reached into it now. Inside was a round bundle of rough canvas. With reverent hands Yugi unfolded the fabric, letting a large diamond fall into the palm of his hand.
It was perfect. The stone was the size of a small apple, and shone brightly in the afternoon sunlight that streamed from the houses window. Yugi didn't know much of anything about gem stones, but even he could tell that this Diamond was worth more money than Yugi had ever seen in his life. It would be more than enough to hire a ship to get Ryou, Jou and himself to Greece.
That had been their plan for several years now. The foreign empire gave the promise of a new life, one away from a homeland that couldn't take care of them, and an enemy that wanted nothing more than to see them dead. But until now it had seemed like an impossible dream. A few filched coins wasn't going to pay for a ship, and Yugi knew it was going to take one hell of a bribe to convince a Captain to sail with a group of Arcanians. Picking pockets was getting them nowhere. But this...
Yugi carefully rewrapped the stone and hugged it close to his chest.
This was going to change everything.
The Golden Lion was far less grand than the name implied.
Located on the east side of the city, the tavern was well known for having the cheapest booze and lodging in the city. It was just as infamous however for the people that frequented its halls. Yugi may not have always played on the right side of the law, but under normal circumstances Yugi avoided this place as much as he could.
But this was far from normal circumstances. It was one thing to confuse the guards, but a light show wasn't going to help him get rid of the diamond. Yugi doubted there was a soul in the city who didn't know what had happened by now. No one would be willing to accept something stolen from the Pharaoh himself. No matter how valuable the diamond was, to steal from the Pharaoh was nothing short of suicide. Well almost no one.
On the outside the Lion looked like any other building on the block; A squat two story stone building with a flat roof. But on the inside, the inn was dark and sweltering. The floor was always filthy and sticky and was covered in a collection of rickety, mismatched tables that locked as if they had never been cleaned. And the smell. Yugi's nose wrinkled as he stepped into the dingy room. The stench of sweat, fermented meat and stagnant alcohol seemed to have steeped into the Lion's very foundation.
There was only one stool left at the bar, tucked into the far corner between the crude stone wall and a seedy looking man who slept drooling in to the cradle of his arms. Yugi squeezed into the tiny space, careful not to disturb the cup of wine that rested half on the bar and half in the shorings man's fist. Yugi pushed the man's shoulder as he sat, trying to clear enough room to get the bar tenders attention.
Mai Kujaku had been the owner of the Lion for the last five years, and was the taverns primary bartender. A tall curvaceous woman in her early twenties, Mai was probable one of the most gorgeous people in Waset. She was also incredibly cunning, and had no qualms against using her looks to her advantage. Mai ran the Lion with an iron fist and as a result had no small amount of influence over Egypt's underbelly. Yugi doubted there was anything that happened int he city she wasn't aware off. And he was absolutely certain that every man in this room feared and respected her in equal measures.
"Yugi!" Mai trilled as she sauntered over, all brilliant smiles and flashing gold jewellery. Thick inky black hair curled elegantly over her smooth neck shoulders, framing brown eyes that seemed to look right through you. She reached over the bar and grabbed Yugi's partner's glass from his limp grasp. She pulled a rag rom the belt of her tight linen dress and began to polish the clay surface. But Yugi didn't know if it was cleaning or just making the cup even grimmer. "What are you doin' in my part of the world Hun?
The question was warm and friendly, but Mai's dark eyes narrowed calculatingly. "Hello to you to Mai." He said with an awkward cough into the palm of his hand, as always struggling with just where he should be looking. He blushed softly as Mai laughed, but Yugi ignored it. "What do you have to drink?" he asked instead.
Mai's eyebrow rose high into her thick hair. "Wine or ale." She said, not missing a beat even at Yugi's less than subtle attempt to change the subject. "But the ale keg has been sitting awhile, so unless you enjoy essence of rat, I may give it a miss."
"I'll take your word for it." Yugi chuckled, leaning back in his stool. "A cup of your finest wine." He reached inside his sleeve to the purse he had stolen earlier and pulled out a handful of coins. "Three extra coppers if you'll leave out the water."
Mai laughed again, her head tilting back in mirth. " For you honey." She said with a wink. "Seven"
"Seven?!" Yugi chocked. " For over-glorified grape juice? I thought we were friends Mai."
"Oh we are sweetie." Mai smirked before she turned on her heel to get Yugi's wine. "But a girl's got to look out for number one."
Yugi pouted at that, but dutifully counted out the coins, and slammed them on the counter.. "I had best get a clean cup for this!" He called after her retreating form.
"That fully depends on your definition of clean Yugi." Mai replied as sweet as honey as she slid the cup over to him. "Now as much as I would love to think you just want to talk to little old me, why are you here?"
Mai had lasted a lot longer than Yugi had expected. He knew that she had been dying to ask that question since the beginning. Mai wasn't the kind of women to beat around the bush, it was a trait that Yugi had always admired. "Is Aeep in?" Yugi asked, taking a long drag of the wine. It tasted little better than boiled leather, and left an acrid after taste that would probably last for days. But the alcohol helped to calm nerves that were still strung tighter than lyre strings. And right now he needed all the help he could get.
"He is." Mai said, pausing her polishing to stare at Yugi as if he had suddenly sprouted a second head. " But what does a sweet boy like you want with a slime bag like that."
Yugi shrugged. "Just business." He said with a vague wave of his hand. "I found something I think he might be interested in."
"You found something, huh." Mai said with a scowl. " Would that something be stolen from the Pharaoh's caravan by chance?"
"You heard about that huh?"
Mai's lip curled into a sneer. "Yugi, Darling, I know everything that happens in this city. And that cute little robe of yours is pretty distinctive.
Yugi frowned as he pulled self consciously at the hood that framed his face. "That's why I need Aeep." He said. "Please tell me?"
The sneer morphed into a disapproving scowl as Mai looked him up and down. But Yugi saw the moment when her eyes softened noticeably. "Yugi Motou, what have you gotten yourself into this time."
"I can't tell you Mai." Yugi said softly. "Not when you have guards in here twice a day."
"Hun, I don't need anyone's help. Especially when you can't even take care of yourself." Mai said, not unkindly. Yugi had to admit she had a point. If anyone in this city could take care of themselves, it was Mai Kujaku. One of the best kept secrets in Egypt was that the owner of lion was not in fact pure blood Egyptian. Her mother, once upon a time had been an Arcanian spice trader who had married an Egyptian noble. The man was only a lower nobel however, so when the Pharaoh's soldiers came to purge the city of Arcanians, he didn't have the power to save his wife. All he had been able to do was hide his teenage daughter, and little else.
So alone and living on the streets Mai had taken care of herself. She had dyed her vivid blonde hair and hid her violet eyes behind thin chips of glass of brown tinted glass. She had crawled her way up from the streets by any means necessary. And in the end her hard work had payed off as Mai quickly became one of the most powerful women in Waset, even if it was in an unconventional manner.
To anyone unaware of Mai's dirty little secret, she looked and acted like any other Egyptian, which was just the way she wanted it. But she always kept an ear out for any Arcanians in the city, and was the only person inWaset Yugi had ever felt comfortable talking to.
Mai sighed, shaking her head. "Why don't you give this up." She asked, one hand skating underneath Yugi's hood to run along his cheek. "A little bit of dye, and you'd have a job here. A pretty face like yours could make a fortune behind the bar."
"You know I can't Mai." Yugi relied but there was no denying the regret in his words. "Egypt isn't safe, I need to get myself and the others to Greece."
"I don't get it Hun." She said pointedly. "You've lived in Egypt before, you know how they act. You're father was the ambassador for goodness sake."
"Which is exactly why I can't stay; too many familiar faces." Yugi replied. "Aeep?"
Mai rolled her eyes. "I figured as much." This wasn't the first time they had this conversation, and probably wouldn't be the last. She gave a long suffering sigh, shaking her head even as a smile touched the corners of her lips. " You know for such a cutie, you're obnoxiously stubborn. The worms in the back."