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Series are multiple stories that go together; the order they are listed in on the tables of contents and directory pages are their chronological orders within the universe, not the order they were written or posted in. A tilde (~) denotes an original fiction series, while an abbreviation such as HP denotes a fanfiction series.

Yu-Gi-Oh Fanfiction: Empty

TITLE: Empty
CHAPTER: 1 – Oneshot
AUTHOR: Lythande ( setosgirl0 / neferseti0 / Ankh Ascendant )
DATE: 4-18-06
FANDOM: Yu-Gi-Oh
DISCLAIMER: I don’t own YGO, or make any money from it.
PAIRINGS: –none–
TYPE: angst?
RATING: PG
WARNINGS: violence
OCs: victims
BETA: none
WORDS: 2135
SUMMARY: Seth’s hatred for slavers is understandable, but it is not rational.
NOTES: I think I found something Seth and Bakura would be in complete agreement on.

* * *

Empty

In the clear moonlight, Seth crouched at the edge of the weathered sandstone outcrop that protected a small stretch of the desert’s edge from wind and blowing sand, watching the space below him. A large band of slave-drivers was setting up their camp for the night.

They were the camp he had spotted yesterday, he was certain; he had circled ahead of them by riding in the heat of the day when they had rested. Now that the night was beginning to turn from cool to cold they had stopped again, where he had predicted they would. His own horse rested in a protective curve on the back side of it, waiting for him to be finished with his business here.

His earlier glance had let him estimate about a dozen armed men in the party; now that they were stopped he could examine them at his leisure, and he counted thirteen, and about twice that number of slaves, including a black-skinned Nubian who all but disappeared in the darkness of the desert night. Their prize, however, seemed to be the pale-haired gentle girl in the cage against the rocks.

His hand curled painfully around the handle of his sword, gripping it fiercely. He should arrest them and march them back across the desert to the king’s judgment. These slaves could not be legally obtained – they were not captured soldiers, and he doubted they were debtors or freely given gifts. They had been kidnapped from small villages the band plundered, or perhaps they were travelers who had crossed their path, or maybe some, like the Nubian, were even stolen or escaped slaves who already had homes and masters. If he brought them to court justice would be served.

He wasn’t interested in justice – he was going to kill them all. His consuming hatred for slavers was understandable, even reasonable, but it was not rational. Mere justice would never satisfy him; only watching them all die by his hand had any chance, any hope, of giving him any peace.

He watched them set up their camp in silence, waiting for them to be vulnerable, perhaps in their sleep. One of them was staking down the line of pitiful naked captives, secured by a rope that ran through their manacles and was fixed to the rocks. The men, women, and children huddled together for warmth and whatever protection there was in numbers, avoiding the eyes of their captors. Another of the men was starting a fire, the tell-tale odor of dried dung proclaiming the fuel. Most of them were sitting around with their water skins and food, though none had been offered to the slaves. He watched and listened to them talking to each other, and heard a call for entertainment. The slaves’ guard answered it by selecting a young woman and a nearly-grown adolescent boy from the line and pulling them toward the camp. The boy tried to stay strong, but the woman cringed and froze up as one of the men began to grope her.

“Oh gods,” he heard the girl in the cage cry out in empathic pain. She felt the humiliating, terrifying treatment to which both of the selected slaves were going to be subjected as acutely as Seth did. “Leave them alone…!”

Seth gripped his sword tighter and slipped over the edge of the rocks.

The force of the fall drove his blade into the unprotected skull of the man on whose back he had aimed to land, and he was dead before he could utter a sound of pain. Seth rolled off of the body and stabbed the nearest man in the gut even as he regained his feet. There were cries of shock and surprise now, but he got the next two while they were still reaching for weapons.

There was a sting of pain in his back, and he turned with the sword already raised. The blade tore out the throat of the man who had stabbed him and carried on, seeking to taste more flesh. Another man walked into the blow and fell back with a scream as blood spurted from a cut in his arm so deep the sword reverberated as it struck bone.

“It’s only one man!” he heard a voice yell, a call to rally the rest of them. He dove toward the voice, ignoring the biting of blades on his skin, and silenced it with his sword plunged through his chest.

The rest of them were more uncertain now. He was more than just one man. Blood stained his sword, his hands and his body, the unraveling shenti, even his face, and yet he didn’t even seem to feel the pain of their weapons. Half of them were dead and he faced the rest without fear. He was a juggernaut, the unstoppable wrath of an angry god.

The wind shifted, and there was smoke in his face, subtly laced with the rancid scent of burning hair and flesh. The phantom orange glow on the horizon told the tale; they had set fire to the last village they had passed after they plundered it of its population, leaving the old and young and infirm there to die.

“Monsters,” he spat, and drove his sword through the nearest man with such force it lodged in the stone behind him.

He left it there and grabbed the man who tried to bolt, slamming him to the ground. He barely felt the heat of the flames on his hand as he ground his face into the fire, but the agonized scream cut off as the man’s lungs were filled with the searing heat. He yanked his sword out of the stone wall and the man still spitting blood and brought it down on one who had yet to flee. It met another sword, raised in hurried defense, and both blades broke along uneven lines of stress, but his own broken blade bore down and bit deeply into the neck and chest, covering them both in a fresh coat of blood.

He let him fall and rushed the next, the man still holding the girl slave. In the last moment the coward pulled her up against him as a shield; his broken sword ran them both through.

The man with the boy slave held with a knife against his neck faced him with a moment of indecision, then cut his captive’s throat and threw him toward him as though the dying boy would distract him while he ran away. Instead Seth threw the remains of his sword and watched it stick in his back, felling him so that he could only crawl until he lost too much blood and died.

The last man had no fight in him; he fell to his knees in surrender. Seth grabbed his face and slammed his head back into the stone, feeling the bones collapse, leaving a smear of blood as he sank down.

It was silent.

The rush of blood pounding in his ears slowed and quieted, and he made his fists unclench and his shoulders relax, letting go of the rage as the stillness slowly deepened. It was over.

Taking a deep shuddering breath, he made himself look around him. The remaining slaves were watching him, huddled together for safety, and cringed away when they saw him watching. A gaunt child cried and was hushed by a woman who was not his mother. He tore his gaze away so that he wouldn’t see their frightened eyes, their terrified cowering. Their captors were dead; it was him they feared.

The camp was a field of blood, bodies sprawled in the unnatural positions they had assumed when they collapsed into it. The sand was drinking the life fluid of the slain, turning a gritty dark brown and crunching beneath his feet as he stepped. The night was pitch black again with the fire suffocated beneath the burnt man, lit only by the half moon, and no phantom glow on the horizon.

There was no cage, no innocent girl. There was no smoke in the air. There never had been.

He retrieved a piece a broken sword, maybe his, from the sand at his feet and approached the slaves. They drew back as one; there was a whimper as he reached out, and the woman protectively curled her adopted boy close, but his hand closed only around the rope that bound them. He cleaved it with a quick motion that left traces of blood staining the severed ends and let it drop, sliding out through the loops on their heavy manacles.

Not even the shock of being freed encouraged any one of them to move; they feared him too much, and any movement might draw his attention. He couldn’t blame them, but he hated it.

“Go that way,” he instructed and pointed behind him, looking over the beaten group. Incomprehension met his eyes. Some of them were stunned by fear, some of them by the sudden changes in their lives. Some of them were so foreign they couldn’t even understand his language. It was all he could do though. “Find the river, follow it. Either way you go you’ll find a village in a day or two.”

No one moved. They stared at him in dull frozen fear, and he stared back, lacking the will to try to make them understand. Then the boy began crying again.

The naked woman picked him up, and suddenly the whole group broke and ran, scattering into the darkness. Most of them rushed past him, more or less in the direction he had pointed, but he saw at least two who ran the other way, into the desert. They would die. Some of the others tripped over dead bodies or their own feet in their rush to get away from him, but soon even the sounds of their panicked flight were lost in the darkness.

Suddenly he felt very tired. His feet scuffed the bloody sand as he turned back again, making a small pile in front of his steps, and he moved slowly to the next task.

Using an unbroken, broad-bladed sword, he dug a shallow grave away from the site of the massacre and pulled the two killed slaves into it as respectfully as he could, murmuring a prayer over them. They, too, were free; their peace in the afterlife should be equal in measure to their suffering in life, and he wished their spirits a safe journey. He hoped that the shifting sands would bury them deeper rather than expose their resting place, but there was nothing he could do about it and he simply did what he could without worrying.

The bodies of the slavers he left for the hyenas and rats.

His shoulders and back ached from the digging and lifting; everything ached from the fighting. He was bleeding, but he hadn’t even determined where he was wounded yet and he didn’t have the strength for it now. Drained, he simply found his way back to his nervous horse and rubbed its neck to calm it, although it probably didn’t help, with the scent of blood on him.

A shift in the moonlight caught his eye, and he lifted his head. From his new position he could see the top of one of the weathered outcrops of rock that sheltered the area, higher than the one behind him, and the figure of a man crouched on top of it. It was staring in his direction; he realized that the man had a good vantage point to have seen the entire fight, if he had been there. Had he?

The figure stood after a moment. He was tall; the hair that reflected the moonlight was pale, and the cloak that draped to the rock was dark – red, he thought. He couldn’t make out a face with the darkness and the distance, but he could picture the grey-blue eyes and a set of pale scars in the dark skin.

Maybe he was imagining things, or maybe they truly did recognize each other. At the moment, it didn’t matter. Without any further acknowledgment, the man jumped from his perch and ran swiftly into the desert, following the deep tracks of the fleeing slaves.

Seth pulled a blanket from the horse’s pack and spread it haphazardly on the ground where he stood, and rolled himself in it to rest.

Did he feel any better? No; he didn’t even have to feel the physical hurt of strained muscles and lacerated flesh to know that. It didn’t make him feel any better. It never did, but it was something he had to do.

He thought of the pale-haired man he thought he recognized as he sank into an exhausted sleep and wondered why he had watched.

~end~

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