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Death is but a Song Unsung

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The boy king sang in a beautiful tenor.

From the very beginning, he had a wonderful voice. His mother had encouraged it, had praised him and coaxed him until Atem lifted his voice in song most every morning. His father tolerated the quirk, showcasing Atem's musical talents when foreign dignitaries visited and training the boy in using his voice for speeches and grand gestures of royal design.

The songs Atem chose were often simple. Breathtakingly sweet and pure, everyone in the palace would stop to listen as the boy king skipped past. It seemed as though the birds themselves paused in their dawn chorus to make way for him. So it was to Set, at least. A mere handful of years older and assigned to be the boy's guardian along with a magician-in-training, Set would listen to songs that were lighter than the air itself.

Atem's songs turned melancholy for a time when his mother passed into the next world. He sang of rebirth, of safe passage, of loss. He found quiet moments to weep in corners, letting only his trusted guardians see the emotion wearing on such a young mind. His father would allow nothing less.

Atem's own court, when he took the throne, became a lively place. Dancers, musicians, singers and more. All were welcome. All were encouraged. Atem would hear them and give them a place by his side if they proved worthy enough. Rich or poor, it made little difference so long as you had talent. Set admired such a thing, knowing his own humble backgrounds could well have worked against him. In Atem's court, skill was its own reward.

The boy king himself joined their chorus more often than not, lending his sweet voice to their melodies and drowning the room in honeyed splendour. Though burdened with heavy responsibilities, such things dropped away under the power of his song. Atem came alive in those moments, dancing between the pillars scattered throughout the throne room, golden feet flickering and a smile on his lips that spread amongst all those that beheld him. There was such fire in their king.

Set felt himself quite toneless in comparison, though Atem tried to assure his longest friend that the two of them could make sweet harmony together. The priest always felt out of step with his king's dance, always left a few notes behind. He strove to catch up, but his hand only ever closed around the sparkling dust kicked up in Atem's wake.

When the pounding drums of war came to their kingdom once again, Atem adjusted to the beat with barely a stumble. His feet quickened, his hands took up weapons and laid aside instruments. Where before sound had dripped from silken fingers, blood ran in rivers. Atem's world darkened until finally, painfully, silence came crashing down on what had once been the brightest of melodies. Silence that would stretch on for an age.

Set tried his best to keep the memory of their king alive. His court was never so lively, nor so fun. But it remained open. It remained fair. And, every morning, he would walk amongst the reeds and sing his heart out to the rising sun, his voice breaking over a life never lived, a battle never won.

The clipped wings of the boy king's tenor never had their chance to dip into a baritone.