Yay!  New (really weird) ficcie!  If you couldn't tell, this'll definitely be AU.  If the Millennium Items were never created, then how was the Shadow Realm sealed away and what would happen to Yugi and friends in the future?  Oh, and I call Yami Malik Marik.  It wouldn't make sense if everyone calls him Yami Malik in ancient Egypt.  Bakura, Yami, and Marik are all sixteen in the prologue of this story.

Disclaimer:  Yu-Gi-Oh! was created and is owned by a genius.  I am not a genius.  Therefore, I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh!  The only things I do own are the personalities of a few characters who'll appear in the future, some of the evil guys, and the Scroll of Millennia.  Understand?  Good.  Now, on with the fic!

Notes:

"Speech"

'Thoughts'

@_@ @_@=scene change

No Items=no yamis=no soul link.  Otay, that's all for now.

Egyptian Shadow Destinies: Prologue

Memphis, Egypt, 5,000 years ago

A couple months ago, the common folk and slaves of Egypt would have said things couldn't get any worse.  Two weeks ago, the priests and priestesses declared it to the public.  The Pharaoh himself had started believing the same thing a week past.

They were all wrong.

Yeah, the monsters were wreaking havoc on Egypt.  Yeah, they were after the Pharaoh.  Yeah, they were controlled by evil sorcerers who wanted to rule the world.  Yeah, the high priest had turned traitor.  So what?  It was nothing compared to this.

After all, nothing but the most dire situation could get these three to work together.

Pharaoh, thief, and slave sat at the same table, glaring daggers at each other.  The walls of the room were lined with guards, all on alert for the slightest order from Yami.  Any sign of danger to the Pharaoh would have all fifty attacking.  Tension filled the air, and no one dared to speak for the longest time.  Despite the urgency of the situation, no opinions were voiced.  This meeting was called to help protect the empire, but it was getting nowhere very quickly.

Finally, the tomb robber sighed and leaned back in his chair, getting the attention of all in the room.  He brushed his white bangs out of his eyes before saying irritably, "So tell me again, Pharaoh, just what is the purpose of this?"  His disdain for the ruler was evident in his voice and the mocking way the title was said.

The Pharaoh barely managed to subdue his anger, but his impatience was still obvious in his voice.  "Bakura.  Even you must have taken note of the…recent events?" He waited for an answer, but Bakura only rolled his eyes.  "Seth is gaining more power.  Soon he will take over Egypt, and then he will set his sights higher."

The slave interrupted at this point, his fuchsia eyes narrowed in suspicion.  "And what would we care if you were overthrown?  The day that happens, I suppose Bakura and I, along with the rest of the so-called lower class, will have a celebration."  The thief nodded in agreement.  Along the walls, the guards gripped their weapons tighter, ready to kill this impudent pest.  Ignoring them, the slave continued.  "I plan on making it an even bigger and more festive occasion than your crowning, though it might be hard to accomplish.  I seem to remember an assassination attempt."

Yami growled softly at the last comment, then continued with his explanation.  "As I was saying… Seth will aim to take over the world.  Any land he conquers will be adjusted to fit his needs.  Egypt will no longer be as it is now.  Seth will destroy all who oppose him, and everyone else will be forced to work, either in his army or as his slaves.  The tombs will be desecrated, and all the gold and treasures inside he will keep for himself.  Remember," he added to Bakura, who had been looking bored, "Seth knows the location of all the tombs, so there will be none left for you to rob."

"Ah, well, then I'll steal from the merchants."  Bakura shrugged.  A mischievous grin spread slowly over his face.  "Of course, there's always your tomb."  The Pharaoh snarled, and the slave snickered.

Yami had to struggle to keep his anger from showing.  "Only if I die before you," he snapped.  "But if you wish to live in a country ruled by a psychopathic maniac, then I'll just let you sit around and twiddle your thumbs while this land is destroyed.  There is a reason I called you here today, you know."

"Oh, of course there is."  Bakura yawned.  "You know I'm the best duelist in the whole of Egypt, and Marik's second best.  You called us because you want lessons on how to conduct a proper Shadow Game, so you won't lose the next one."

"There's more to it than that, Bakura, and you know it," Marik said, finally serious.  "The Pharaoh knows how much we hate him, so the only reason he would summon us is if there was a dire threat to Egypt – either that, or he has a death wish.  I think there's more to this situation than the general population knows."

"For sure," Yami answered impatiently.  "For one thing, the rumors flying around about the size of Seth's army-" he was cut off by Bakura.

"The rumors say he has fifty powerful sorcerers on his side, and, though some believe it, most think that number has been greatly exaggerated.  The loyal priests are trying to convince the people that he has much less than that, but the truth is that the numbers are nearing one hundred.  All have fully mastered the power to summon and control the monsters, and most have rare and powerful beasts.  Seth only accepts those that have survived at least three years of the Shadow Games, meaning they are the most powerful in the world.  He is taking over villages daily, and taking possession of their best monsters.  Then, of course, there is the matter of the legendary Blue-Eyes White Dragons.  One would be enough of a problem, but Seth has three, all of which are completely loyal to him.  You and your supporters have been trying to develop new types of tablets to use against him, but the information has somehow leaked to Seth, and he is learning how to use these new magic and traps for himself.  Meanwhile, the number of magicians helping you is decreasing; some are going over to Seth's side, but most are being defeated by him, and their strongest monsters are now being forced to help him."  Yami sent him a puzzled and slightly questioning look, and Bakura grinned.  "You forget, I'm the King of Thieves.  I pick things up here and there – especially when on a palace raid."

Yami took a deep, calming breath.  He was tempted to scream at the irksome thief.  He knew all this, and yet he didn't care?…  "All right.  Now that Bakura has so kindly informed us about the situation-" Bakura grinned, sensing the Pharaoh's irritation. "-you know what we are up against.  Seth will be merciless, and he will destroy all who get in his way.  Also, he will kill me and anyone he knows has recently met with me, including you two."

"Oh, is that the real reason you called us here?"  Bakura asked.  "So we'd be forced to help you or be killed slowly and painfully by your former high priest?  Well, I doubt he'd kill us if we murdered you for him… unless, of course, if he wanted to save that honor for himself…" The guard leaning against the wall behind Bakura let out a particularly loud snore, then jerked awake at the last comment, aiming his glaive rather sleepily at the thief.  Bakura raised an eyebrow.  "Nice reflexes.  Very nice reflexes.  Seth could use someone like you in his army.  Did you even hear what I said?"  The guard made no response, but the sheepish blush crawling up his face was all the answer they needed.

Yami scowled at him, and the guard made a mental promise to himself to never fall asleep on duty again.  Ever.  The Pharaoh turned back to the white-haired thief and said calmly, "Well, that could be one of the reasons… or it could be I truly need your help, as you two have some of the most powerful magic to be found in Egypt.  You could help Seth and cause as much death and destruction as you like-" Bakura grinned, his hand moving to his belt dagger.  Yami rolled his eyes and continued, "-or you could help me, save Egypt and the world, and get honored for your assistance."

Marik leaned back and thought about that for a moment.  "Hmm… well, we haven't got anything to lose, except maybe a bit of our dignity at having stooped so low as to help the Pharaoh."

"Well, I'd be more well-known and more easily caught if I try to steal after being 'honored,' " Bakura began, "so that is definitely a down side, as well as the fact that I get to kill less people.  If I go against Seth and lose, I'll most certainly die a very painful death, and the same goes for if I try to stay neutral.  But, if I don't help you, then in the very unlikely chance that I will be defeated, I will die, though not as painfully, and I'll still have the satisfaction of sending people to the Shadow Realm, but these will be less worthy opponents.  And, if I declare that I'll work for Seth and then try to walk out of here, I doubt I'll get out alive.  So, both choices are equally appealing, and that leads me to my next question: What have we got to gain?"  The slave sighed, apparently wondering why it took him so long to ask a simple question.

Before the Pharaoh could answer, Marik interrupted.  "That's all very well, but what can we do to stop Seth?"

Yami looked slightly sheepish.  "That's the problem.  I don't know what to do about Seth."

Bakura rolled his eyes.  "What have I gotten myself into? 

"It's not that bad," the Pharaoh began.  "For one thing-"

"I don't want to listen to your lousy excuses."  Bakura snapped.  "Can't you just tell us what we will be rewarded?"

"Well, that depends what you want," Yami answered.  "You can have almost anything that is within my power to give."

"Gold," Bakura said promptly, ever the tomb robber at heart.  "Gold, jewels, treasure, and no publicity whatsoever."  Marik hesitated a moment before nodding, but he choked at Bakura's next words.  "Oh, and maybe a woman, too.  That would be nice."

Yami's eyes narrowed.  "Fine.  Everything but the woman."

Bakura shook his head in mock sadness.  "Alas, the Pharaoh drives a hard bargain.  Okay then," he said, suddenly cheerful.  "Ten pounds of gold, five of silver, twenty of jewels, and twenty thousand gold coins and we have a deal.  Thank you very much, Yami!  I'm heading to Cairo now for my first Shadow Game."  And with that, he walked out.

Yami glanced at Marik.  "For some reason, I feel like I have been sorely cheated."  The slave shrugged.

"I'll just have fifty thousand gold coins," he said mildly, then left to join Bakura.

Yami stood there for a few moments, then sighed.  "And they say I drive a hard bargain," he muttered, then went out to help Simon research in the library.

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The Pharaoh sneezed as he entered the library of the capital of Egypt, then stared around at the many shelves with great dislike.  He had no problem with reading, except maybe the extremely long and boring history of his ancestors, but he'd never really been fond of this place.  For one thing, many of the documents were so old that they had a slightly musty smell, and the place was always very dusty, making him sneeze every two minutes.  The bookshelves were huge, full of multi-colored books and scrolls and many of them reaching twenty feet into the air.  This irritated Yami to no end, considering the average Egyptian needed a pretty tall ladder to reach the top shelves, and he was shorter than the average Egyptian.  Plus, this place was massive.  It was very nearly three miles to the other end, and all the tables were grouped along one wall.  The wall farthest from the door.

As he started the long journey to the other side, Yami muttered, "I swear, sometimes I wish this place would just burn…" No matter if tons of ancient history was lost.  He'd memorized all the important stuff anyway.  And according to his teacher Simon, pretty much the entire library was full of important stuff.

When Yami passed the two thousand five hundred ninety-third shelf (he'd counted them all as a child), he finally reached the tables at the end of the room, where he found Simon poring over a green book.  He slid into a chair next to his advisor, who barely spared him a glance before going back to his reading.

"I picked those out from the shelves closest to here," Simon said, waving at the four-foot tall piles of books close to him.  "You might as well start reading now, and read quickly.  We have a lot more to search through."

Yami shrugged and reached for book with a purple and silver cover, in a stack all its own.  Simon looked up just in time to yell, "Don't touch that!"

The Pharaoh drew his hand back quickly.  "Why not?"

Simon tossed the book he had been reading into a large and messy pile next to his chair.  "I wouldn't suggest trying to read it.  It bites."

Yami scoffed at that.  " 'It bites?'  Don't be ridiculous.  How can a book bite?"  And, ignoring the look on his friend's face, Yami reached for the book, grabbed it by the spine, and put it in front of him.

Grinning slightly at Simon's surprised look, Yami made to flip it open.  "See?  It doesn't-" He broke off in a howl of pain.  The book had suddenly sprouted large golden fangs from its front cover and bitten his hand very, very hard.

Simon had to hide a smile at Yami's shocked look.  "I told you it bites," he said, holding back a snicker at the way Yami was sucking at his hand.  "Maybe you should go see the palace healer, my Pharaoh.  I still haven't figured out if the fangs are poisonous.  Of course, the long walk across the library will help the poison spread faster.  Would you like me to call someone to carry you?" This time, he couldn't help chuckling as Yami glared at him.

"I'll be fine," the Pharaoh muttered, inspecting his hand.  "The bleeding will stop soon, and I doubt there would be anything in this library that would poison a Pharaoh.  Now, as for you," he glared at the book, "your fangs better not be poisoned.  And cooperate this time, or I'll send you to the Shadow Realm!"  Behind him, Simon was in a silent fit of hysterics.  Send a book to the Shadow Realm, indeed!

The naughty little volume seemed to have heard him, however, as it pulled up its lower lip over its fangs and began to sulk.  Yami blinked.  "Okay, now I just have to read it…" The fangs disappeared, and Yami reached for the book.  His hand was almost there when the fangs reappeared, this time twice as long as before with a green, venomous-looking substance dripping from them.

Yami recoiled and began a long string of Egyptian curses.  Simon just shook his head, still laughing.  'That's quite a personality that book has.  Whoever made it must be proud.'

Having finally reached the end of his long string of insults (a part of Yami's mind whispered, 'Directed at a book of all things!  A BOOK!  What is this world coming to?'), the Pharaoh drew a deep breath and stretched out his hand toward the infuriating nuisance that Simon dared call a book.  It seemed to pause for a moment, then stretched out a purple-colored hand of its own, complete with long, sharp, silver-painted nails.  Yami didn't wait for it to touch him, however.  "MIND CRUSH!!!!!"

"No!  Wait!"  Simon yelled, but it was too late.  The book let out a long, piercing shriek and burst into a thousand pieces.  The Pharaoh turned to him, grinning, but Simon was wearing an extremely hurt look.  "That book could have the spell we need!"

Yami's look turned to one of chagrin.  "Oh no!  I forgot!  But maybe the spell's in another book somewhere."

Simon sighed.  "I hope you're right.  But that was an ancient book!  It's a valuable piece of ancient history!  Who knows what might have been in it!  And you sent it to the Shadow Realm!"

Yami shrugged.  "Ah well.  What's done is done.  But I wonder," he frowned.  "How exactly could I send a book to the Shadow Realm if it doesn't really have a mind?"

His advisor looked equally puzzled.  "I have no idea," he said.  "But you somehow managed it…"

The Pharaoh grinned suddenly.  "So I just sent a book to the Shadow Realm.  Cool.  I wonder if I could do it again?"  He eyed the stacks of books happily, sizing them up.

However, Simon grabbed the books and pulled them close.  "No!  These are for research."

"Oh well.  I guess it's back to work."

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They kept at it for the rest of the day.  And the day after.  And the day after that.

It was on the fourth day of this endless research that Bakura wandered in.  After two hours of pointless meandering around, he finally reached the tables at the end of the library, where he found Yami and Simon deeply engaged in reading various spell books.

"Oh, Pharaoh," the thief sang.  Yami looked up, startled.  He hadn't heard Bakura approach.  The white-haired tomb robber continued, "I was hoping to discover another treasure room in the palace, but look what I find instead.  An even more amazing discovery – you can read!"

Yami scowled.  "I've known how to read for thirteen years now, Bakura.  And for your information, we're researching ways to seal the Shadow Games and defeat Seth.  Have you been doing anything half as useful?"

"Actually, Yami, I have," Bakura replied flippantly.  "I've been defeating all the evil sorcerers I came across.  Of course, sometimes it's hard to tell the good from the evil, considering they're all after me anyway…" Yami looked SERIOUSLY annoyed at that.  'Bakura's supposed to be on my side!'

"All right, then, tomb robber," Yami growled.  "If you can't tell the difference between good and evil, then you might as well help us research."

"I hope you have less of a temper than my Pharaoh," Simon snickered.  "Why, he sent a book to the Shadow Realm just because it bit him!"  Yami glared at him.

"Why, Pharaoh, I didn't know you have such an anger management problem," Bakura chuckled.  "Sending a poor, innocent book to the Shadow Realm…"

"You wouldn't have thought it innocent if you'd seen it," Yami grumbled.  "Anyway, are you going to help us research or do you not know how to read?"

"I can read, Pharaoh," Bakura said.  "After all, I manage to follow the signs that say 'Treasure Room this way,' don't I?"

Yami ignored the last comment and tossed the tomb robber a book with a turquoise and gold cover.  Bakura opened it, and a pair of large green eyes appeared.  Bakura blinked.  The book blinked back.  "What in the name of Ra…?"

Simon shrugged.  "I don't know, either.  We don't usually look at the more ancient spell books."

Cautiously, the thief prodded the eyes with a finger.  They closed, and then opened again when Bakura moved his finger away.  They stared at him for a second, and then large tears appeared in its eyes.

Yami glanced up.  "Ignore the eyes," he advised as the book started crying.  "Just read it and see if you can find anything useful."

"Okay," Bakura said, and flipped the page.  The eyes followed, staring at him reproachfully.  Bakura started to scan the page, except the eyes kept getting in his way.  The thief sighed.  "Stupid eyes!  Get out of the way!"  The book started crying again.

Yami started chuckling.  "You know, you could try asking it nicely, Bakura," he said.

Bakura snorted.  "How?  Like, will you pretty please get out of the way while I read this book?" he asked sarcastically.  Much to his surprise, the eyes moved to the opposite page and watched him intently.  The tomb robber shook his head.  "This is one strange library.  You have biting books and ones with chibi personalities… I wonder how this one would act at the mention of sugar?"  At that, the "chibi" book's eyes grew wider and the pages started to flap up and down.

The Pharaoh sighed.  "This is all too strange," he muttered, watching as Bakura tried to subdue the jumping book.

A while later, after being attacked by a rabid spell book with large claws and teeth, Bakura wandered out of the library with the excuse that there was somewhere else he needed to be.  Entering the great hall of the palace, the thief stopped in surprise at the commotion.  Everything was in chaos, and it all seemed to be centered on a messenger in the middle of the hall.

Wondering what he was getting himself into, Bakura pushed his way through the crowd.  'Imagine, the King of Thieves in the middle of all this racket…  And we're supposed to be secretive…' He reached the messenger, who was babbling incessantly to the man beside him, who was looking completely lost.

"…andhe'sinGizaalreadythisisn'tgoodImustfindthePharaohdoesanyoneknowwhereheisthisisurgent!"  the man said breathlessly.  Bakura cleared his throat, and the messenger looked at him distractedly.  "Oh, hello.  Do you know where Pharaoh Yami is?  I must see him immediately.  This is very important."

"Does it have anything to do with Seth?"  Bakura asked calmly.  The man blinked, then nodded.

"Yes, of course it does, and I must tell the Pharaoh!  He needs to know this."

"The Pharaoh's currently in the library," Bakura said, blocking the way as the messenger headed there.  "But he's busy and cannot be disturbed.  What is it you want to tell him?"

The man looked slightly baffled about how this strange white-haired man could be taking so much command of the situation.  "But I must tell the Pharaoh myself…"

"Yeah, well, you're going to tell me first!"  Bakura snapped, his brown eyes flashing.  The messenger recoiled slightly in surprise.

"Well, it's just that…  Seth is in Giza and is heading this way!  He's gotten very powerful, too, and has many more sorcerers than we originally thought!"

"So?"  Bakura asked.  "Does he have two hundred?  Three hundred?"

"Worse," the man breathed.  "More like five hundred!"

Bakura's eyes narrowed.  "This isn't good.  How long before he gets here?"

"He'll be here by dawn, four days from now."

The thief did some mental calculations.  "All right.  You go tell the Pharaoh about this."

"And what'll you be doing?" the messenger asked, forgetting that it wasn't his place to question someone from the palace.

Bakura didn't seem to notice, however.  "I'm getting Marik.  We might be able to delay them just long enough."  And with that, he dashed out the palace doors and into the noon sunshine.

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It was three days after the messenger arrived with his news about Seth, and Yami and Simon had been researching almost non-stop since the tidings had arrived.  They didn't trust anyone else to help; after all, very few people knew exactly what to look for.

Yami's activities were now constricted mainly to the library.  Research, eat while reading, research, solve a couple disputes while still in the library, research, take a quick nap while Simon wasn't looking…

The Pharaoh was in a fitful doze again.  He hadn't meant to fall asleep, but he was just so tired…  He knew he ought to wake up and continue searching, but what was the use?  They had twenty-four hours before Seth arrived, and they were barely halfway through all the books in the library.  Besides, this dream was soo interesting…

They were in the great hall of his palace, him and Bakura and Marik.  Bakura was explaining, "And she came up to me and hit me on the head with a huge hammer before hugging me and saying she was sorry and that she thought I was Yami…"

Marik said, "But you don't look anything like Yami, ever since you got that new hairstyle…" Suddenly Bakura's hair was pink and purple and blue, and had a pair of poisonous-looking fangs coming out of it…

Bakura poked his hair.  "Like it?  I found the spell in one of the scrolls, it says this'll be permanent… there was also something about sheep in there…"

Marik became a sheep with wool the color of his hair.   "Like this?"

For no apparent reason, Seth came in, waltzing with Isis to some strange foreign music.  Yami stared at them for a moment.  "…what are you doing?"  Off to one side, Bakura and Marik suddenly began banging their heads to another, different kind of music, which looked very strange, considering Bakura's hair and that Marik was still a sheep.

"Dancing," Isis answered.  "We found the music in one of the books… you know, that one you sent to the Shadow Realm?"

Yami blinked.  "Books… I'm supposed to be researching ways to defeat Seth!  I want to seal the Shadow Games too, that'll help…"

As he rushed off towards the library, the former high priest called after him, "Just send an assassin or send me to the Shadow Realm or something!"

Yami was running along one of the hallways, running and running towards the door at one end, but it never seemed to get closer… rather, it was moving farther and farther away.  The door opened, revealing, not the library as he had expected, but a different room, torch-lit with walls made of clay… in the center of the room, a Shadow Game seemed to be taking place…  Yami strained to see who the duelists were, but at that moment the floor collapsed under him and he was falling, falling into an infinitely dark pit…

Images flashed before his eyes: Seth, with his Blue-Eyes poised for action and facing off against a Kaiser Dragon… an altar, surrounded by himself and two others, with priests chanting in the background… three boys, almost exact replicas of himself, Bakura, and Marik, standing before a portal to the Shadow Realm while a Leogun pushed its way through… Seth, sending bolts of black lightning streaking through a building, while the same three boys dodged them, aided by the three from his time… he was racing through the aisles of the library at top speed, not even pausing to catch his breath until he reached a row full of scrolls, where he swerved and ran to the center, panting… then the final image, an ancient scroll, the papyrus torn, the writing faded but legible, and two bronze handles at each end.  But the appearance was not what caught Yami's attention.  It was the feeling he got from it: the scroll radiated power and ancient magic with such force that the Pharaoh felt obliged to bow to it, for surely this was a thing of the gods.  Before he could read it, however, the image swirled and faded, leaving him falling into endless blackness again…

Yami awoke with a start; glancing out the window, he gasped in surprise as he saw the sun setting over the Nile River.  He had overslept; he hadn't much time to find what he wanted… then a new thought entered his head.  Why hadn't Simon woken him up?

The Pharaoh glanced across the table and stifled a grin.  Serious as the situation was, he couldn't help laughing when he saw Simon, his head on the table and snoring uproariously.  And to think, this man scolded him when he, the Pharaoh, was caught sleeping!  Yami shook his head and made a mental note to tease him about it later.  For now, he had to find a spell that would seal the Shadow Games, and hopefully help stop Seth.  He was sure he could do it, given enough time, but that was the one thing they lacked.  Judging by the position of the sun, he had perhaps ten hours to do search all the shelves.  Yami was sure that the scroll he saw held the answer to their problems, but one scroll in a huge library?  The chances of that happening were like finding a dropped needle in all the sands of Egypt.

Eight hours later, Yami was only five hundred rows from where he started.  Sighing, he sank onto the ground and rested his head in his hands.  At this rate, he'd never find the scroll he needed, even if he woke up Simon.

What did he know about where to find that scroll?  Well, it was in the middle of an aisle, that much was obvious.  And it was in a row full of scrolls, but most rows had scrolls, along with the many magical books that the library held.

Jumping up suddenly, Yami hit his head against the nearest bookshelf, causing several books to fall out and scream.  Why hadn't he thought of it before?  The shelf he had seen had contained scrolls and only scrolls, and there were only two shelves like that in the library.  One was in the very front, close to the door, and it was for the cooks to use when they wanted new recipes or when Yami tired of the old ones.  The other…

The Pharaoh raced towards row one thousand three hundred twenty-five, ignoring the pain in his side as he ran.  He skidded to a halt when he found the aisle he wanted, panting as he walked quickly to the middle.  Yes, he was right, this was the row he remembered.  As a child, he'd loved it here; all the scrolls were different colors, and looked very interesting when piled together to form a pyramid.

Now where was that one scroll? Yami looked around and found the one flaw in his plan: the shelves were crammed full of scrolls, meaning he still had to search the entire row to find the one he needed.  And with only sixty minutes left, the chances were slim to none that he would find the right scroll before Seth arrived.  He only hoped that his allies would be able to hold the high priest off long enough for him to find the spell.

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Camped out ten miles from Giza, Bakura and Marik were keeping watch for Seth's army, knowing that he would be there in maybe fifteen minutes.  Already they could see dust on the horizon, proof of the many sorcerers that were coming their way.  Bakura sat up slowly, glanced at the huge cloud, and whistled quietly.

"Five hundred sorcerers?  Seems more like five thousand!" he exclaimed.  "Either that, or they're all riding Urabys!"

Marik shook his head.  "Great.  Just great.  Seems like the numbers have swollen to one thousand at least.  And just look at who's leading the charge."  In the very front of the army, the former high priest sat, rallying his troops from atop one of his Blue-Eyes White Dragons, which at that moment spotted them.  Screeching its battle cry, it flew faster, and the men behind raced to keep up with it.  The thunder of horses' hooves was audible even from this distance, and it was clear that the animals were being pushed to the limit.

Bakura rolled his eyes.  "Y'know, I wonder how they do it.  I mean, those horses must be brainwashed or something.  No animal in their right mind would follow a Blue-Eyes; the smart ones would run away as quickly as they could!"

Marik glanced at him.  "Humans are animals too, and just look where we are.  Right in their line of fire-and we're planning to fight them, too."

The tomb robber gave the man next to him a sadistic grin, pulling out his belt dagger and licking the blade expectantly.  "Ah, well, then we must not be in our right minds.  It's a good thing, too.  I'm looking forward to this fight.  Wanna bet on who can bring down the most sorcerers?  Double points for any of Seth's monsters."

The slave answered with an expectant grin of his own.  "You're on.  I'll try and take down, say, fifty before I die."

"That all?  I could probably kill seventy, no problem."

Marik had no time to answer, as the Priestess Isis joined them at that moment.  "So you're betting on who's the better fighter?  Men," she sighed.  The two others looked at each other and shrugged.  Isis continued, "And both of you - try not to get yourselves killed.  The Pharaoh could use your help later on."

Bakura cast her a sideways glance.  "He actually admits he needs our help?"

Isis smiled slightly.  "Well, no, but it's obvious that that's what he feels."

Marik shook his head.  "Well, now I've seen it all.  Has he found a way to defeat Seth and seal the Games?"

"Unfortunately, no.  But I have a feeling that he will, soon enough, and he's going to need your help."

"Need our help?" Bakura asked.  "You think we'll give it to him?"

"Well, of course," answered Isis, amused.  "You know you'll die otherwise."

"We'll die anyway," the tomb robber muttered, but that was the end of the conversation.  All eyes, theirs and everyone else's in the camp, were focused forward on the approaching army.  They'd be here in roughly five minutes, but no one seemed to be making any last minute preparations.  Everything was ready.

Bakura leveled himself up briskly.  "Well then, time for business," he said, sounding slightly cheerful.  For some strange reason, it seemed to fit the moment.  "Remember, folks, if we're gonna go out, we're gonna go out with a bang."  Everyone else roared agreement, and Bakura continued, "Marik?  Any last words?"

"Yeah," breathed the slave, watching Seth closely.  One thousand meters and closing.  "If I actually survive this, remind me to bash your head into the ground for thinking I would die.  If you die, I'll never forgive you.  And if we both die… well, we can take each other on in the underworld."  Seven hundred meters.

"If Am'mit doesn't devour both your souls first," muttered Isis.

Bakura shot her a glare before addressing Marik.  "Very nice.  I'll be sure to remember that.  And if you die and I don't, I'll be sure to kill you."  Five hundred meters… Each member of their little party had their hands in their pockets, resting on the miniature stone slabs that were used to summon monsters.  Four hundred meters… The Blue-Eyes roared again and flew even faster.  Three hundred meters… Ah well, close enough.

"Here it comes!" roared Jou, one of Yami's closest friends.  The Pharaoh's supporters ran forward, led by Bakura, Marik, and Jou, yelling as they pulled out cards and summoned their best monsters, and the battle was joined.

Bakura fought his way through the fray, striking out at monsters and magicians alike with his belt daggers while following the trail of his Dark Necrophia.  The thrill of battle was upon him and he whooped out loud; he hadn't felt this good in a long time!  He spotted a Tri-Horned Dragon and thought briefly about using his Change of Heart card, but the thought was immediately dispelled as soon as it was brought down by Marik, who was yelling in triumph.  Bakura made his way over to the slave, yelling as he went.

"Hey Marik!  What'd you do that for?"

Marik barely spared him a glance before quickly slashing at the man who was trying to sneak up behind him.  "What do you think?  It was on the enemy's side!"

"Idiot!  I have a Change of Heart!"

"…oh.  Well, then, use it on the Blue-Eyes!"

Bakura could've slapped himself. Unfortunately, he was in the middle of a battle and that wasn't a smart idea.  As it was, he barely had the time to activate his Sword of Dark Destruction before a Crab Turtle attacked the Dark Necrophia.  His monster easily blocked the attack and sliced through the opposing beast-warrior with her newfound sword.  The tomb robber ignored all this, however, as he went looking for Seth.  Amazing how hard it was to find a specific person in this melee, even if that person had a Blue-Eyes…  He caught sight of a large form and tensed up, only to realize that it was Jou's Red-Eyes Black Dragon.  His master was on his back, yelling at the top of his lungs and looking like he was having the time of his life.  Bakura shook his head and barely caught the high-pitched shriek over the clamor of battle.  There, to his left!  He turned quickly and finally spotted the familiar blue-white shape.

Now to get Seth's attention…  "Hey!  Corrupt high priest!  Seth!  BY RA, LOOK OVER HERE ALREADY!"  Harder than it seemed.  Well then, he just had to turn to… more offensive… tactics.  "HEY SETH!  YOU'RE JUST A LITTLE BOTHERSOME PIECE OF SCUM!  AND YOUR BLUE-EYES IS… umm… wait a second… let me think of a good insult here…" Most of the sorcerers around him were looking scandalized, while Yami's supporters were cracking up.  The Dark Necrophia protected him from the more ambitious of his enemies while Bakura continued to think.  "Hmm… oh, got one!  YOUR BLUE-EYES IS SO WEAK A BABY KURIBOH COULD BEAT IT!!!!!"

That got Seth's attention.  No one insulted his Blue-Eyes, ever.  Not to mention the man had a great dislike for the cute little exploding fuzzballs.  And to think that impudent white-haired freak thought they were stronger than his mighty dragons?  He would pay dearly for ever messing with this priest of Set!  He turned toward Bakura, the dragon as eager as he to teach the tomb robber a lesson.

Bakura was grinning maniacally, having finally succeeded in attracting Seth's attention.  If he survived this, he would definitely treasure this moment forever.  He threaded his way through the crowd, ignoring the many fights he was interrupting.  Just a little closer… The thief suddenly found himself right in front of Seth, the priest's cold blue eyes glaring down at him.

"Did I just hear you insult my dragon?" he asked Bakura in a low, menacing growl.  The Blue-Eyes backed up his master's statement with a growl of his own.  The tomb robber gulped.  The dragon was a LOT bigger up close.  He backed up a few paces out of instinct.

Seth gave him a maniacal grin.  "Not so tough now, are you, freak?  Call THIS weak!  Blue-Eyes White Dragon!  White Lightning Attack!"

Bakura regained his composure and his wits just in time to whip a card out of his deck.  Praying fervently to all the gods that would listen that it was the card he wanted, he activated its effect.  "Change of Heart!"  To his everlasting relief, a half-demon-half-angel came out of the stone and took over the Blue-Eyes.  'I will NEVER, EVER insult the gods again!'  Bakura thought, relieved, watching as his magic card took effect.  The dragon immediately reared back, causing its former master to fall off, and flew over to stand next to Bakura, its rage now directed at the priest.  Seth had fallen off the monster to land rather ignominiously in the dirt, quickly standing up and glancing around to see if anyone had seen him.  Fortunately for the humiliated priest, no one had seen him fall except for a certain tomb robber, who was doubled over in laughter.  If it had been a few millennia later, Bakura would have yelled, "Kodak moment!"  Unfortunately for him, and luckily for all the Seto fangirls, cameras wouldn't be invented for 4,824 years.  So the tomb robber had to store the image away in his memory for later blackmail (if it ever came to that).

Bakura thought the odds were very nicely in his favor, considering the huge dragon was now on his side.  However, there was one fact he had overlooked.

Eyes flaming with anger, Seth pulled two more cards out of his deck and summoned them.  "Blue-Eyes White Dragons!"

The thief's laughter stopped almost immediately as he stared up at the two new monsters he was facing, both glaring at him.  Uh oh.  This was bad.  VERY bad.  And standing between the dragons, arms folded across his chest, was a very angry former high priest.

"You know what they say," Seth hissed.  "Two is always better than one-that is, unless they're the predators and you are the prey!"

As the two Blue-Eyes advanced upon him, Bakura hoped that the god of luck was on his side, whoever that was.  He could never remember all of them.  But if he died… The man prayed fervently that Isis was wrong and that Osiris would have pity on him.  He had no wish to meet Am'mit on this day.

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Hopeless.  That's what this was: hopeless.  There was absolutely no way he would find the right scroll in time.  Yami leaned back against a shelf and sighed.  Yup, this was impossible.  He closed his eyes, hoping to catch a bit more rest before the former high priest attacked.

Immediately, an image of Anzu filled his mind.  The girl glared at him accusingly.  "What, giving up already, Yami?  I thought you had more guts than to let that traitor win!"

"But Anzu-"

"No buts!  You're just going to give up this easily?  The fight's barely started!"

"There's no way I can find the right scroll!  I've already tried everything I could think of, and it still didn't work!"

The girl's look softened.  "Yami, I know you can do it.  So many lives are riding on whether you can do this or not.  You have to find the right scroll in time!"

"But it's impossible!  There must be a million scrolls on these two shelves alone!  How am I ever going to find the right one?"

Anzu grasped his hands in her own.  "I don't know, but I'm sure you can, my Pharaoh.  Just think of it as a game.  You have to find the right scroll before time runs out.  You can do this; you're the King of Games!"

'Anzu's right,' Yami thought to himself.  'I just have to view this as a game, and the answer will come to me.  I'm not the King of Games for nothing.  It's more than just a fancy title; I earned it, and I have to prove I'm worthy of it!'

The Pharaoh opened his eyes, which were suddenly full of determination.  He moved to the center of the aisle, ignoring the pre-dawn light that was starting to fill the library.  'All right, concentrate.  I'm sure I can think of something.  I mean, power that ancient is the only way to seal away the Shadow Games… Power!  That's it!  That scroll was all but glowing with power.  So if I concentrate hard enough, I should be able to find it!'

Again, Yami closed his eyes, but this time to focus all his senses.  Searching for that power… it was around here somewhere.  Come on… he could do this… he HAD to do this.

There!  Eyes still closed, he turned towards the source of the power and started walking toward it.  Straight ahead…  He opened his eyes, this time in triumph, and noticed the scroll.  It was on the second shelf from the top, seemingly ordinary, but he could tell that it was the one he wanted from the bronze handles and aged papyrus.  He'd found the scroll, but there was no ladder in sight.  Oh well, this was for the good of the kingdom.  Taking a deep breath, Yami jumped as high as he could onto the shelves, then scaled them with all the grace of a monkey.  He knocked a few scrolls out of place, but the master librarian would just have to deal with him later.  For the moment, the Pharaoh was pleased to know he hadn't lost his old talent.  As a child, he'd always skip classes and run to the library to hide in the shelves, and his old teachers had never noticed the pair of large violet eyes staring down at them.

Yami climbed onto the next shelf and didn't notice the sound of papyrus crunching under his feet as he stared at the prize he had worked so hard to obtain.  The scroll was right in front of him, handles gleaming ever so slightly in the dim light.  He reached out to grab it, and barely had time to snatch it from its shelf before he lost his balance and crashed to the floor, landing hard on his back.

"Oof…" Yami lay there winded for a few seconds, then sprang up, all pain forgotten as he stared at the scroll in his hands.  At last… the answer lay in this one roll of papyrus.  Hands trembling slightly, the Pharaoh finally unrolled the ancient scroll and began to read the faded hieroglyphs marking its length.

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"Fool," sneered Seth.  "You must have had a death wish to insult my Blue-Eyes.  Either that, or the Pharaoh's started hiring complete dimwits!"  Bakura made no reply, even though he knew for a fact that his IQ was more than a few points above Seth's.  He was transfixed by the fearsome look in the eyes of the dragons before him.  Seth raised his hand.  "Now… stare into the face of death!  Today you will go to Osiris!"

Bakura found his wits and his tongue long enough to retort, "Death's a lot uglier than I originally thought!" He made sure to stare meaningfully at the priest while making this statement.

Seth growled in annoyance.  "Now, Blue-Eyes White Dragons!  White Lightning attack!"

The tomb robber gulped slightly.  'Ah well, may as well go out in a flash of glory…'  "Blue-Eyes!  Dark Necrophia!  Attack!"

All four of the attacks collided right in the middle, creating a huge explosion.  Bakura was blasted backwards off his feet, as was the former high priest.  When the dust cleared, all that was left was one of the Blue-Eyes White Dragons and Bakura's Dark Necrophia, who appeared to be having a glaring contest in the middle of a gigantic crater, fifty yards in radius.  Bakura looked around for the two other Blue-Eyes, but they were nowhere to be seen.  Apparently, they had destroyed each other with the force of the blast.

Seth looked more than a little ticked off to have two of his prized dragons sent to the Graveyard.  However, he still had the upper hand, and he glared at Bakura.  "Hmm… now where we?  I believe my dragon was about to disintegrate you."

Bakura bit his lip, sizing up the situation.  They were back to square one; the priest had one Blue-Eyes, he had the Dark Necrophia.  Only difference was, Seth was now royally infuriated, and he was short one Change of Heart.  Well, the best thing to do now was…

The thief gasped, his widened eyes staring at something behind Seth.  Falling for the oldest trick in the book, the priest turned to see what had caught Bakura's attention.  While Seth wasn't looking, Bakura turned tail and bolted.

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The ancient hieroglyphs seemed to glow slightly with their own light.  Yami stared at them for a second before reading them aloud.

" 'The Scroll of Millennia, a record of ancient history.

" 'Herein lie the secret spells of our fathers, the most powerful and ancient enchantments known to the Egyptians.  With this scroll lies the power to tip the balance of the universe, whether for good or for evil.  Be forewarned, reader and mage, this holds the power to destroy entire cities and make barren the mightiest empire.  Use this power wisely and responsibly; if used carelessly, it will devour you, mind and soul.' "

The Pharaoh shivered at these words.  He had no wish to be devoured, but this scroll held the answers he needed.  There was no other way.  And so he read on, fearing the power of the spells he discovered.

He scanned quickly through the five-foot scroll, searching for the one spell to seal the Shadow Games.  He couldn't help noticing the other spells, however, and shuddered as he came across curses that would destroy everything in a hundred-mile radius, cause multiple sandstorms that lasted for months, and that would ensure that your enemies died slow and painful deaths, being eaten by a monster similar to Am'mit.

It was near the end of the scroll that Yami finally found the enchantment he wanted.  He skimmed through it quickly, frowning.  Many of the components would be difficult to find, but hardest of all would be the four sacrifices needed to complete the ceremony.  Where would he find four people willing to help him in this?

"What's that you've got there?" a voice asked from behind Yami.  The Pharaoh nearly fell over, and turned around to see that his advisor was finally awake.  Simon stood there, blinking sleep out of his eyes and looking totally unaware that he had just interrupted a climatic moment.

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Marik sighed, holding his bleeding shoulder while glancing around at the mass destruction that was their battlefield.  They'd succeeded in their mission.  Their plan had been to distract Seth, and it had most certainly worked.  They'd bought the Pharaoh maybe an extra hour or two of time.

The plan had only been to delay the priest, not to win.

Picking his way through the bodies of friend and foe alike, Bakura joined Marik at the center of the field, disgustedly shaking the blood off his boots.  The tomb robber took a quick look around and whistled.  "We certainly leveled this place.  At least the Pharaoh has the extra time he wanted… but did you count how many casualties we have?"

Marik shook his head.  "Not yet, though I'm sure there's many.  We probably suffered more losses than Seth."

Bakura nodded absentmindedly, counting quietly to himself.  He shook his head.  "That's three hundred of theirs down.  Hey!  Isis!  You done counting yet?"

The woman glared at him, obviously annoyed with the thief.  "Yes, no thanks to you.  We lost eight hundred people."

Bakura shook his tangled white hair out of his face.  He was probably the only one unhurt in the entire battle.  "Eight hundred?  That's not good.  They lost five hundred less than we did.  Anyone that the great Pharaoh Yami will be seriously annoyed about losing?"

Isis hesitated.  "Well… no.  Not yet, anyway."

Marik raised an eyebrow.  "Not yet?  What's that supposed to mean?"

The priestess sighed and stared at the ground, not answering for a long while.  Finally she said, "Follow me."

She led them over to the westernmost end of the battlefield, carefully stepping around the bodies and puddles of blood.  Marik did the same, but Bakura would occasionally step on a sorcerer's face, and it didn't seem to be an accident.  The bloodstained sand suddenly came to an end three hundred meters from where they had started, and kneeling on the fringe was a man about Yami's age.

Honda looked up as the three approached, a desperate look on his face.  He waved away the healer that was trying to tend to his bleeding temple and beckoned Isis, Bakura, and Marik closer.  Offended, the healer moved away, giving Bakura and Marik a clear view of the scene before them.

Marik gasped slightly at the sight of the crater.  Bakura merely raised an eyebrow, not as impressed.  After all, this wasn't as big as the one he had created.  Still, the depression was fully twenty yards in radius, and lying in the middle of it, next to Honda, was the figure of a blond-haired man.

The two dropped onto their knees next to Jou, whose eyes were closed and seemed to be having a hard time breathing.  A deep foot-long gash ran across his chest, and it was bleeding profusely.  Honda was trying his hardest to stop it, to no avail.  Judging from the sight of the wound, it was most probably fatal.  Brows knitted in worry, Bakura asked gently, "Jou?"

His eyes opened slowly, and he gazed blearily at the four people above him.  "Bakura… Marik… you're here."  The words were slow and labored, and he practically had to force them out of his mouth.  "They were… too strong.  I tried… to stop him… I really did."

"Stop who?" Marik asked quietly.  With a great bit of effort, Jou raised one hand to touch the slash across his chest, but said nothing.  Bakura growled quietly.  If he ever met the man that did that…

Honda put more pressure on the wound, and Jou winced.  With a slightly distressed note in his voice, the man said, "You'll be fine, Jou, really you will.  Yami'll really want to hear everything about this… how you stopped at least thirty by yourself…"

Jou shook his head slowly.  "Sorry, Honda… you'll have to… tell him about this… yourself."

Isis bit her lip.  "Don't say that, Jou."

"Hey… it's true…" Jou's eyes focused for a moment on Bakura, and a weak smile crossed his lips.  "Bakura… we really did… go out… with a bang… just like I promised."

Bakura nodded, holding back the tears that were threatening to fill his eyes.  "Yeah, Jou, you did… you really did."

The man managed one last smile before his eyes blurred and the light in them faded.  His breathing stopped, and Marik leaned over to close the brown eyes one last time.  He joined Bakura, who was staring the other way, out across the desert towards Memphis, and the last of the dust clouds created by Seth's men were filling the horizon.  The tomb robber swallowed hard before turning to Marik, his eyes glittering with tears.  With a great effort, he said, "The Pharoah'll want a full report on the battle… the statistics and… the list of casualties."  He dropped his head at the last statement.

Marik nodded, also swallowing the lump in his throat.  "Yeah… we'd better get going if we want to get there before Seth."

Bakura nodded mutely in return, and they set out for Memphis, leaving behind them the final memories of Jou's last stand.

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" 'Do you wish to lock away

The games of old that all play?

Shadow Games of mystery

Played through all of history?

Sacrifices four you need

To complete this massive deed.

First soul, hatred borne of old

Second has a love of gold.

Third knows violence, born a slave

Tragedy first's hatred gave

To fourth, he who casts this spell

Noblest, he'll make all well.

Dragon's blood of greatest might

Mixed with sand of Egypt's night

Darkness portal in noon sun

A Shadow Game, quickly won

Mixture placed on highest dune

Invoke the most ancient rune

Through the portal lies your fate

But beware a later date

Five millennia shall pass

Don't do anything too rash

Shadow Games will be unlocked

Opportunity will knock

All four souls will be set free

But the first one holds the key

Beaten by the three, they could

Seal the Realm away for good.' "

Simon sweatdropped slightly at hearing the rhyme.  "That's it?  That's the great and powerful spell?  Sounds more like a riddle to me."

Yami nodded slowly.  "I think it kind of is-a riddle that describes what is needed for this."

His advisor stared at the scroll doubtfully.  "Really?  It kind of sounds like a prophecy.  Maybe this spell was meant to be performed in this time by these people."

Yami said thoughtfully, "Maybe.  But who would those people be?"  He shook his head, trying to understand what it meant.  Finally he said, "We might as well figure it out line by line.  All right…" he took a deep breath and started scanning the scroll yet again.  "Well… it's obvious that we need four sacrifices.  The first one hates the fourth… the second loves gold…"

"Ha, with the greed most nobles have these days, that could be almost anybody." Simon snorted.  When he saw the Pharaoh glaring at him, he waved and said, "Carry on."

" 'Third knows violence, born a slave…' That's easy to figure out, but there are thousands of slaves in Egypt… and the fourth is the spell caster, and apparently the nicest out of the four.  Still, that could be anyone."

"What about the next two lines?" Simon suggested.  " 'Dragon's blood of greatest might, mixed with sand of Egypt's night.'  Well, I can't think of any real dragons, much less dragon's blood."

Yami stared hard at the scroll.  "No, neither can I.  But the sand… it can't be just any sand.  That's too obvious, too easy…"

"Wait a minute," Simon said suddenly.  "Maybe they mean the sand of Khon?"

"Maybe," Yami replied.  "There's only one way to find out.  The only question is if Jou, Bakura, and Marik were able to buy enough time for us to get there."

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It was anyone's guess why the great army of Seth had stopped.  It may have been that they were throwing a party to celebrate the defeat of Yami's sorcerers.  It may have been that they were lost.  Most likely, it was that Seth's subordinates had managed to beg the former High Priest for a rest so they could lick their wounds.  Whatever the reason, it worked out very well for Bakura and Marik.

The two sat crouched about a hundred yards away behind a sand dune, conversing in low whispers.  Seth's army had overtaken them about ten minutes ago, and they had barely been able to keep up.  Now they were catching their breaths as they sat hidden, and Bakura, as usual, was complaining.

"To think, it took us half an hour to get here, while they only took about twenty minutes, and us running at full speed, too!  At this rate, we'll never make it to Memphis before them!"

"Yeah, I know," Marik grumbled.  "You know, we could probably go a lot faster if you had a flying Duel Monster or something useful instead of all those zombies of yours…"

"Marik.  Shut.  Up.  I don't see YOU with any useful monsters.  And technically, they're not zombies, they're fiends."

"And technically, Seth will have fully destroyed Memphis two hours before we get there.  So how about you stop arguing about Duel Monsters and start thinking up something useful?"

"I don't see YOU coming up with any brilliant ideas, Mr. Mastermind," Bakura muttered.  Marik made no response, and the next five minutes were completely silent between them.

After a while, something caught Marik's eye and he focused his full attention on it.   The blond elbowed Bakura in the ribs.  "Hey, look over there."

Bakura glanced in the direction Marik was indicating and stifled a yawn.  "They're horses.  So what?"

Marik grinned at his friend, a mischievous glint in his eye.  "That's all the genius thief has to say?"

An identical grin spread over Bakura's face.  "Right.  That's all the King of Thieves has to say."  He stood up slowly, creeping as close as he could to the camp without being seen.  Marik followed in his shadow, less skillful at hiding among the dunes.

They didn't have long to wait.  Within minutes, a careless soldier wandered by their hiding place, yawning sleepily as he sought a good place for a short nap.  Bakura waited until he was very close until he pounced, slapping a hand over the man's mouth and dragging him back to their hiding place in the sands.  Marik delivered a quick punch and the man slumped over, unconscious.

"All right then," the tomb robber breathed, stripping the man of his uniform and donning it quickly.  "I'll untie two of the horses and move to the eastern edge of the camp.  You wait for me there, and hopefully we can make a clean getaway."

"Hopefully," Marik repeated.  Reaching into a pocket, he drew out a piece of cloth and handed it to Bakura.

The thief fingered it curiously.  "What's this for?"

"To cover your hair.  The last time I checked, exactly one person in all of Egypt had pure white hair-one person that was under the age of twenty, that is."  Marik allowed himself a smirk as Bakura scowled at him before tying the cloth on and walking casually towards the edge of the camp.  The slave slipped along behind the dunes until he reached one close to that end of the camp.

Picking out two stallions, a chestnut and a black one, Bakura soothed them for a few seconds before quietly untying them from the poles.  Allowing himself a small grin for his victory, he walked them to the edge of the camp.  Marik came out from behind the closest dune, walking up to the black and quickly mounting.  Bakura did the same with the chestnut.

As they casually walked the horses out of the camp, Marik muttered out of the corner of his mouth, "That went well." Bakura nodded in silent agreement, but they had spoken too soon.  Their moment of quiet celebration was interrupted by a loud voice, obviously one of authority.

"Hey, you two!  What do you think you're doing?"

Both of them whirled around quickly in the saddles to face the speaker, the cloth around Bakura's hair coming loose as he did.  It floated slowly to the ground, and his white hair was revealed for all of Seth's army to see.

The soldier stared at Bakura in surprise for a moment before Seth's voice cut through his thoughts.  "That's the one that tried to take control of my Blue-Eyes!  Get him!"

Marik swore fervently as he and Bakura kicked their horses to gallop as fast as they could out of there.  A few of the soldiers tried to give chase, but Bakura had a good eye for horses and had picked well.  The two were long gone in a cloud of dust by the time the entire army was ready to move, and the pursuers were lost soon after.  As soon as they were a good ten miles away from the campsite, they slowed their horses to a trot, looked at each other, and heaved a collective sigh of relief.

"That's one thing I never want to do again," Bakura remarked.  This time, it was Marik's turn to nod his agreement.

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Khon, the Egyptian god of the moon.  The son of Amon, god of the hidden sun.  The full moon was when his powers were at their fullest, and they were lucky that tonight was one of those nights.

Yami stopped in amazement at the scene before him.  The sand of Khon was half-legend, one of the tales that the old midwives always claimed to be true, but which everyone else scoffed at.  According to ancient myth, it was located south of Memphis, but few people had ever actually been there.  Until now.

"Is that it?" Simon muttered in quiet awe.  "That IS it… right?"

"I suppose so," Yami answered.  "There's nothing else it could be, right?"

The humans were standing on top of the northernmost dune, one of four that surrounded the small depression on all sides.  Unlike the rest of the desert around it, the sand in the middle of the depression was pure silver, glinting slightly in the moonlight.  It almost seemed to reflect the moon-but that was impossible.  It was just sand.

Taking a deep breath, Yami slid down the side of the dune, stopping himself just before his feet hit the silver sand.  He reached out to touch the sand, hesitating slightly above the pool.  In that instant, a figure materialized in front of him, toes barely skimming the sand.  The Pharaoh glanced up and his eyes widened in surprise and fear as he realized that he stared into the face of a god.

Yami bowed down so far that his nose touched the sand, not noticing the amused grin spreading across the god's face.  "My Lord Khon… I didn't know you'd be here.  I am honored by your presence."  A humble tone of voice was not a Pharaoh was required to use very often, but then again, most Pharaohs never met a god.

"Get up, Pharaoh Yami," Khon said, still sounding amused.  "You come to this place which bears my name, and yet you still do not expect to see me?  Stand, I do not mind, for I believe you have something to ask of me."

Somewhat sheepishly, Yami raised his head, then stood upright, fully registering the god's appearance for the first time.  Khon's skin was the silver of a full moon, his waist-long hair the navy blue of a midnight sky.  He was dressed in long robes of black and was fully sixteen feet tall, something that Yami resented in the small part of his mind that was not still in awe of the god of the moon.  But what caught the Pharaoh's attention the most were the eyes: eyes that were exactly the same shade as the sand that the god hovered over.

"Well then, young mortal," Khon began, a slight smile on his face.  "What is it you wanted to request from me?"

Yami stammered slightly, trying to get the next sentence out without letting a blush creep to his cheeks.  He'd completely forgotten about what they had come here for, but luckily, the silver pool caught his attention and he remembered.  "The sand of this place, my lord.  We require it for a spell that we must perform for the good of the kingdom."

"Are you sure you truly wish to seal away the Games of Darkness, Pharaoh?"

Yami's eyes widened in surprise before he realized, 'Of course!  The gods know everything about the mortal realm.  Why shouldn't they know about this quest?'  Aloud, he said gravely, "Yes, I do."

"You do realize there is much more at stake here than the possibility that Seth will conquer Egypt, don't you?" Yami nodded in reply, although he actually had no idea what the god was talking about.  Khon's smile grew wider.  "Don't worry if you don't understand now.  You'll find out soon… or maybe not.  The lives of you humans are so short."  When Yami sent him a puzzled glance, Khon waved it away.  "Never mind.  Just take the sand, if you truly want it."  With that, he started to disappear, dissolving from the feet upwards into light blue mist.  Within seconds, the god had disappeared entirely.

Yami stood there silently for a few minutes before hesitantly reaching down and scooping up the sand.  Surprisingly, it didn't have the texture of water, like he had expected, nor did it feel like real sand.  Instead, it was soft and felt like grains of water solidified-either that, or sand where all the rough edges had been taken out.  Pulling out a bag, he filled it with the sand and climbed back up the dune, sliding a little.  He reached the top to find Simon and the guards lounging around on the sand.  Upon spotting the Pharaoh, Simon raised a questioning eyebrow.

"What took you so long, Pharaoh Yami?" he asked.  "Surely it can't take half an hour to get some sand."

Yami blinked in surprise.  "You mean you didn't see him?"

"See who?" Simon questioned.  "All I saw was you bowing to thin air and talking to yourself."

"Funny, I thought his voice could've been heard for at least five miles in every direction," Yami muttered, but he suddenly smiled as he remembered something his mother had once told him.  'Yami, the gods appear to who they will, but only to those chosen by them.  If you ever meet one before your journey to the afterlife, it means you are destined for great things.' The Pharaoh smirked.  "No wonder you couldn't see him or hear him.  You, my friend, are most definitely NOT destined for greatness."

"What are you talking about?" Simon demanded.  Yami just grinned in response.

"Come, we must go to Memphis to prepare for the ritual.  I'd also like to get a report of the battle from Bakura and Marik before Seth gets there."  He jogged towards the horses, mounting his own, and Simon and the guards quickly followed.  They rode north once again, Simon still questioning Yami about his earlier statement, with the Pharaoh giving only cryptic answers.  In the distance, the first rays of the sun were starting to peek over the horizon.

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Bakura stood in front of the main gate to the palace, tapping his foot impatiently.  Finally he burst out, "Where is that Pharaoh?  He should have been here an hour ago!"

Beside him, Marik yawned lazily.  "Maybe he's late because he thinks we delayed Seth long enough for him to take all the time in the world."

"Or maybe," a voice behind them interrupted, "he's here already, and just didn't go through the main gate and didn't find you in the great hall, where you agreed to meet."  Marik and Bakura turned around to find Yami standing there, arms crossed and looking distinctly annoyed.

"Pharaoh Yami.  About time." Bakura grumbled.  Yami shot him a glare before beckoning the other two to follow him.

"So what exactly do you need to talk to us about that's so important?" Marik questioned.

Yami sighed.  "We've found a spell that will work to seal away the Games for the time being.  Unfortunately…" Here he paused, obviously not wanting to voice what was on his mind.  "…I'll need your help figuring out what it means."

Bakura and Marik glanced at each other.  "The Pharaoh's actually asking for our help!  The world will end!"

Yami snorted at this, but made no reply.  "So how did the battle go?"

"Do you really have to ask?  Of COURSE we won, considering they had about twice as many fighters as we did.  Of COURSE we defeated Seth, Blue-Eyes White Dragons and all.  Well duh, Pharaoh, we lost.  What, did you really expect us to win?" Marik said sarcastically.

"No, not really, unless the god of luck was on our side today," Yami replied.  "Did we lose anyone important?"

Bakura bit his lip.  It was just a simple question, but still… luckily, they were spared the agony of answering it, as they entered the great hall at that moment.  "How about we discuss this later, Yami?"

Yami looked slightly thrown off at being called by his name, without the customary "Morning and Evening Star, Son of the Gods" stuff in there, or even the title "Pharaoh."  He had no time to think on this, however, as he led them to a table near the far wall where the kingdom's best scholars were pondering over the puzzle the Scroll of Millennia presented.  They cleared a path as he approached, Bakura and Marik following closely.  Ignoring the protests of those who were studying it, Yami grabbed the scroll and retreated to a small study off the main hall.  He read it aloud as Marik and Bakura leaned over his shoulders to see the scroll.

When he had finished, Bakura and Marik looked at each other, sighed, and shook their heads.  "Really, Pharaoh," Bakura began, "You said it sounded like a prophecy, and you have yet to figure out who these people are.  Read it over again and tell me if you know who they are then." Yami did so and shook his head.  Bakura sighed again.  "Hopeless."

"What is it that I'm supposed to see?" Yami asked, completely lost.  Marik rolled his eyes and picked up the scroll.

"Okay then, Pharaoh, listen closely.  I'll speak slowly so as not to lose you." Yami raised his eyes to the heavens as if to ask, "What did I do to deserve this?"  Not noticing, Marik continued, "Look at the lines.  The first person we can't figure out right now, but the second has a love of gold.  Who else fits that description better than our very own King of Thieves?" Yami looked at Bakura to see his reaction, and the white-haired tomb robber smiled and waved cheerily.

"All right, I get that part.  What about the next line?"

" 'Third knows violence, born a slave.'  You DO know Marik's past, don't you?" Bakura asked.  This time, Yami glanced at Marik, who stared back, looking bored.

"So that's two people… what about the fourth?"

"That's easy.  It's you, Yami."

"WHAAAT??"  Yami glanced at the scroll.  "What makes you think that?"

Marik looked slightly surprised at the Pharaoh's reaction.  "Well, you wouldn't trust anyone else to perform this spell, would you?"

Yami blinked.  "No, I guess not… but what about the part about a tragedy?"

Marik looked at Bakura.  "I don't want to tell him. At least, not right now."

"Neither do I.  We'll tell him later." Yami had a strong feeling that they were hiding something from him, but it couldn't be that important, and he didn't want to press it.  After all, they had something more important to do.

"Well then, this brings us back to person number one.  Who is it that hates me?" Yami noticed both tomb robber and slave staring at him in utter disbelief.  He raised an eyebrow.  "What?"

"How DENSE can you GET?" Bakura asked, sounding completely amazed.

Marik shook his head.  "I don't think I want to know."

"What is it?" Yami asked, confused.

Bakura sighed and patted Yami's spikes, something that he hated.  "We'll let you figure it out, little Pharaoh.  In the meantime, how about we start preparing for the spell?"

"All right," Yami said slowly.  " 'Dragon's blood of greatest might'… maybe we could borrow Jou's Red-Eyes?  Oh wait, he'd never let us use it…" He didn't notice the look that passed between Marik and Bakura.

"Well," Marik said, carefully controlling his voice so his emotion didn't show, "I don't think we could use a Red-Eyes, since it has to be of 'greatest might'…"

"But the greatest dragon is a Blue-Eyes," Yami mused.  "How are we ever going to get blood from one?"  He didn't notice his two companions facefault behind him.

Bakura opened his mouth to scream the answer at the Pharaoh, but Marik slapped a hand over his mouth.  "Hush," he whispered.  "Let's see how long it takes him to figure this out."

"We'll be here for years, then," the King of Thieves muttered in reply, but this time, he didn't tell Yami the obvious.

Not noticing Bakura and Marik, Yami continued reading the spell.  "Hmm.. the sand we already have, and the highest dune is obvious.  The most ancient rune, we already know… so I guess that's it, except for the dragon's blood and the first sacrifice."

"Well then, let's go prepare for the Shadow Games, shall we?" Bakura said briskly.

It was at that moment that Simon burst in.  "Pharaoh Yami!  Seth will be here in about half an hour!"

"Not a moment too soon," Marik noted.  "Let's ready the temple, shall we?"

Yami nodded in agreement, and the three walked outside, heading for the Temple of Ra in preparation for the final battle against Seth.

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Seth stood before the great gates that marked the western entrance into Memphis.  His face was completely expressionless as he stared up at the fifty-foot monoliths.  Finally, he sighed and turned to the man beside him, whose stony face showed nothing of what he was feeling.  "Why don't they open the blasted gates?  Haven't they noticed we're here?  All this waiting is doing nothing for my temper.  What do you suggest?"

The red-haired man shrugged, his face still completely unreadable.  "I don't know.  As to what I suggest… why don't you just get your dragon to tear them down?  Ra knows we could kill quite a few civilians if they fall inward."

A sadistic grin spread over the former priest's face.  "I don't want to destroy the city, since it will soon be mine anyway.  But I like the way you think, and I may be forced to if they don't allow us in soon…" It was at that exact moment that the gates open with a groan, two of Yami's messengers pulling it open.  Seth's smile grew wider.  "Well, well, it seems that they are finally ready for us."  As he walked in, followed closely by his second-in-command, he said over his shoulder, "By the way, Zake, you know full well that I don't believe in any gods other than Set."

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The Pharaoh was sitting on a throne as they entered the main room of the temple, Bakura and Marik standing near the right wall, where the defenders would be fighting.  Seth came in through the left, smiling falsely as he saw the line of sorcerers ready to face him and his army.  Taking their positions on the left side, Seth strode forward to where the dueling arena was, pulling them out of his pocket as he walked.  He turned expectantly to the other side, waiting for his challenger to step forward.  Yami's supporters, however, seemed to be waiting for their Pharaoh's cue.  Grudgingly, the former high priest looked in that direction too, and cold blue eyes met violet for a split second before Yami broke his gaze.  Looking over those assembled to duel, Yami beckoned one forward.  The man nodded and took his place on the other side of the arena.

The rules were simple.  Your monsters were brought to life by the mages chanting the spells behind you.  You had forty mages; your entire game relied on them.  Each one represented one hundred Life Points, and they were playing by tribute rules.  That much was obvious: even a fool knew to do that when facing the power of Seth and his three mighty Blue-Eyes White Dragons.

The forty sorcerers of Seth's opponent stepped forward.  They were all lesser priests, willing to die or even be sent to the Shadow Realm in the service of their pharaoh.  The priest of Set snorted.  Fools.  All of them.  Barely glancing behind him, Seth beckoned forty of his own people forward.  They came silently.  Of course, they were all certain that Seth would win.  They wouldn't be doing this any other way.  Off to the side, Zake stood watching the whole scene, ready to kill any cowards who tried to make a run for it.

Sneering slightly at the man across from him, Seth shuffled the stone tablets and quickly drew five.  They grew in size before him until they were fully six feet tall, and his opponent did the same.  The player's decks floated quietly before them as the chanting started slowly, and the duelists glared at each other over the arena.  Yami was the one who ended the uneasy silence between the two competitors.  "Begin."

The staring contest was broken off with that word.  "DUEL!"

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It was halfway into the game, and Bakura had quickly lost interest in the battle going on before him.  He surveyed the enemy, his eyes landing on Zake, who was watching the game and occasionally sparing a glance toward the human "life point counters."  The tomb robber snorted derisively as the red-haired man quickly cut down a sorcerer who was trying to sneak unobtrusively through the door.  He whispered to Marik, "So that's Seth's second-in-command?  Looks like a total wimp to me."

Marik's eyes didn't leave the duel for a second.  "Quiet.  Don't you have better things to do?  This is one of the fiercest duels I've ever seen!"

Bakura glanced toward the game, where Yami's sorcerer had just summoned a Kaiser Dragon.  "This is what you call fierce?  I've seen tougher streetfights between ten-year-olds."

The slave made a witty retort, but Bakura's attention had already been drawn away.  He saw two men approach Zake, and the taller drew out a small pendant from beneath the neck of his robes.  Looking at it, Seth's second nodded, and the two men slipped past him and out the door.

Marik had noticed it too, but unlike Bakura, he hadn't caught a glimpse of what exactly the object was.  He nudged the tomb robber in the ribs.  "Hey, where d'ya think they're going?"

His eyes narrowed, Bakura drew one of his belt daggers and gripped the handle tightly.  He stared fixedly at the point where the two had exited.  "I don't know, but I'm willing to find out."

The slave blinked in surprise.  "Aren't you going to watch the duel?"

"No," Bakura hissed angrily.  "This is more important.  MUCH more important."  With that, the King of Thieves walked unnoticed past the guards and through a door facing north, the same direction in which the two men had gone in.

Pausing for a second to stare after him, Marik shrugged and turned back to the duel.  "Whatever you want, Bakura," he muttered, not fully understanding why the white-haired man had left.  After all, unlike Bakura, he hadn't noticed the pendant of a black dragon that hung around the enemy soldier's neck.

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Yami saw Bakura leaving and wondered why for a very brief moment, but he had no time to dwell on the matter as Seth's monster was destroyed by the Kaiser Dragon, taking out a good deal of Life Points.  Eight sorcerers were instantly vaporized by the resulting lightning, and the rest hesitated in their chants until Seth shot all of them a death glare.  Drawing his next card, the priest of Set scowled and played it in defense mode, also setting one card face-down.  "Your turn."

Yami's sorcerer drew confidently, smirking at the card he had drawn.  "One card face-down as well, and I'll summon Blackland Fire Dragon, in attack mode!"  The dark dragon appeared before him, roaring out its battle cry and making Yami wince.  "Blackland Fire Dragon, attack the face-down monster!"  The hidden La Jinn cried out as it was destroyed by the black fire coming from the dragon.  "Now, Kaiser Dragon!  Attack his Life Points directly!"  The dragon of light complied, wiping out a good twenty-three opposing mages in no time at all.  Seth growled as he was reduced to only 900 Life Points, and Yami smiled slightly.  With a little luck, they just might win without the help of the King of Games.  He turned his full attention to the duel, already having forgotten Bakura's mysterious disappearance.

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Meanwhile, in another section of the city, the tomb robber was tailing Seth's two soldiers, hiding around corners and behind stands with ease.  They soon came to a residential area and Bakura managed to get close enough to hear what they were saying.

"…don't know why Lord Seth even bothers," the shorter one was commenting.  "We know he can beat the Pharaoh, but still he wastes his time and manpower by dueling all of his little servants.  Why can't he just challenge the spiky-haired idiot and get it over with?"

His companion shrugged.  "Maybe he enjoys humiliating those useless fools and sending them to the Shadow Realm.  I know I enjoyed killing the Pharaoh's 'friends' in the battle today.  The blond one was especially easy to kill.  I don't know why-" He cut off with a gasp as the other man suddenly slumped to the ground, dead with a knife between his shoulder blades.  He spun around quickly to see Bakura standing behind him, his hand still in the position in which he threw the blade and his face as mask of pure fury.

"What do you want?" Seth's minion asked, sounding slightly fearful.  Slowly, Bakura lowered his hand and straightened up, his eyes never leaving those of the soldier.

"I came to see if you were who I thought you were," the tomb robber answered.  "What was it that you showed Zake on your way out of the room?"

"Why should I tell you?" the other man snapped.

The other belt dagger was immediately in Bakura's hand.  "Because if you don't, I'll have to kill you without knowing if you're really the one that I swore revenge on."

The soldier considered his choices for a moment, then grinned suddenly.  "Sure, why not?" With that, he pulled the pendant out from under his shirt, and the small dragon made of ebony with rubies for eyes shone slightly in the morning sun.  Bakura's eyes narrowed as he saw and recognized the miniature Red-Eyes Black Dragon that hung from a gold chain around his enemy's neck.

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Seth growled as his Ryu-Kishin was destroyed.  Luckily, the monster wasn't that strong, and it had been in defense mode… but soon his defenses would run out, or his opponent would summon another monster to wipe out his remaining Life Points.  Unfortunately, the only monster in his hand, the Battle Ox, had a lousy defense, and its 1700 attack couldn't stand up to the Kaiser Dragon's 2300.  He noticed in a back corner of his mind that the white-haired thief had left his position on the wall, and wondered for a split second where he went.  He had no more time to think about it, however, as his opponent ended his turn.

Hoping desperately that it was a monster, the former High Priest drew his next card and glanced at it.  Yes!  It wasn't a monster, but it would do.  "I'll summon Battle Ox in defense mode, and activate this Magic card!  Nightmare's Steelcage!"  The cage surrounded Yami's sorcerer, effectively stopping all attacks for two of the mage's turns.  "Your move."

His opponent drew, looked at the card, and sighed.  "I pass."

Placing his hand on top of the stone tablets, Seth paused, hoping it was a playable monster so he could set his plan into action.  He drew, and ended up with just that.  Perfect!  "I'll summon the Mystic Horseman, in attack mode!"  The centaur appeared on the field before him, letting out a whinny to announce its presence.

Yami's servant looked slightly interested.  "Hmm… Mystic Horseman and Battle Ox.  You could fuse them into the Rabid Horseman, but his 2000 attack points would be nothing compared to my dragon's 2300.  I wonder what you have up your sleeve?

Seth smirked in reply.  "I'd tell you, but you'll find out soon enough." He held up one finger.  "One more turn… that's all it will take.  Just one turn, and you'll find yourself in the Shadow Realm."  He glanced over the cards in his hand, checking for anything useful.  Finding nothing, he said calmly, "I end my turn."

The opposing sorcerer drew and passed again.  As he ended his turn, the Nightmare's Steelcage disappeared, leaving the monsters free to attack.  When it was Seth's turn, he drew and got just the card he was hoping for.  He grinned evilly across the arena at the other man.  "Now, it's all over for you!  I'll sacrifice my two monsters to summon the Blue-Eyes White Dragon!"  Nearly everyone in the room gasped as Seth's most powerful monster burst into being, blue-white scales shining in all their glory.  Seth laughed maniacally at the look of utter terror on his enemy's face.

Leaning against the wall, Marik rolled his eyes at everyone's reactions.  He didn't get what all the fuss was about.  Seriously, hadn't they all seen it coming?

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The Red-Eyes Black Dragon looked slightly lonely, sitting in the hand of a person not its master.  Bakura glared angrily at the person holding it.  "Where did you get that?"

The man shrugged nonchalantly.  "I guess you could say I won it off someone.  It looked unique, like only one existed, so I decided to take it."

"Very unique," Bakura hissed under his breath.  "Tell me, did that someone have blond hair, brown eyes, and was his name Jonouchi?"

"Why, yes," Seth's minion said casually.  "I believe so."

"I know for a fact that the Pharaoh gave that to Jou as a token of their friendship," Bakura said in a low tone, seeking to control his rage.  "There's only one in the world.  While you were at it, did you also take his real dragon?"

"Well, no, of course not.  We were in the middle of a battle, so I couldn't.  I barely had the time to pick up this little trinket.  Why, was this Jonouchi a friend of yours?" the man asked, fingering the dragon.

"Yes," Bakura breathed angrily.  Not able to take it any longer, he yelled, "And I told myself that I would kill whoever did that to him!"  He pointed the dagger at his opponent.  "I sure hope you know how to wield a blade, because I challenge you to a fight to the death!"

"All right," the other man said coolly, pulling the dagger from his dead companion's back and pointing it at Bakura.  "If you win, you get your revenge and this dragon pendant." He slipped the Red-Eyes back under his robes, then returned his gaze to Bakura.  "And if I win…?"

"If you win," the tomb robber said slowly, "then you will get my deck, as well as all the magic that I possess."

"Fine," the other grinned.  "If you so wish.  Because when I win, the full power of the legendary King of Thieves will be mine to command!"

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 "Now, Blue-Eyes White Dragon!" Seth shouted.  "White Lightning Attack!"  He laughed as the attack connected with the Kaiser Dragon, as it decimated his opponent's Life Points, and as the final seven sorcerers were struck by lightning and screamed their last.  He watched, still chuckling to himself, as at last the man standing across from him was finally hit, crying out as he disappeared, a tribute to the Shadow Realm.  The former High Priest smiled as the new power from the mage filled his being, boosting his own magic ever-so-slightly.  Pitiful, really, that it had taken him that long to beat such a weakling.  He turned to Yami, his purple robes swishing about him.  "Well then, Pharaoh, with all your other pathetic morons out of the way, isn't it time for us to duel?"

"Yes, I suppose so," Yami answered calmly.  "However, it may take some time for our duel to start.  We'll have to prepare another arena, as you so kindly destroyed this one.  It seems to be in flames right now." He waved his hand to encompass the arena, and Seth scowled as he noticed for the first time that Yami was right.  This one was unusable.

"Fine," the priest of Set snarled.  "Hurry up and ready another one.  I won't have you stalling just to delay your destruction."

"All right," Yami replied mildly.  "However, Seth, you may be surprised.  I don't think I'm the one who will be destroyed today."  Seth growled and swept over to Zake, who was looking impassive at the whole scene.

"Well done," his second greeted him.  Seth nodded in acknowledgement.

"How many tried to run?" he asked, surveying the floor for bodies, though he had the idea that Zake had already thrown them into the flames.

"Only three," the man answered, "though two of the more loyal ones stepped out for a walk a few minutes ago.  They haven't returned yet."

"Hmm," Seth mused.  "I wonder what happened to them?"

Zake shrugged.  "They'll be back," he answered indifferently.  "They know what happens to traitors."

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Yami walked over to where Marik was still leaning against the wall, an impassive expression on his face.  The Pharaoh raised an eyebrow.  "What, not surprised?"

Marik shrugged.  "Hey, did YOU expect your side to win?  How long do you think it will take for the new arena to be prepared?"

"Probably the better part of an hour.  Where's Bakura?  I haven't seen him since the Kaiser Dragon was summoned."

"I think he went chasing off after some of Seth's sorcerers that left the room.  Don't know why, really.  Your guards could have taken them.  He looked really angry, though."

Yami looked thoughtful.  "If he was angry… maybe one of them did something to offend him?"

"No, I don't think so." Marik answered.  "He looked more like he wanted to kill them for some reason… revenge, or something."

Yami looked questioningly at the slave.  "Revenge?  For what?  Did something happen on the battlefield?"

Marik averted his gaze.  "Um… kind of.  I'll let Bakura explain.  How about we start preparing the arena before Seth gets impatient and orders his Blue-Eyes to blast us all?"

Yami frowned at the sudden change of topic, but replied, "All right.  We might as well get started, and hopefully Bakura will appear before the duel begins."

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The soldier lay panting on the ground, his weapon twenty feet away to the side.  He stared fearfully up at the white-haired man towering over him, whose face had not yet lost the look of pure rage.

"P-please," he begged.  "Please spare my life.  I'll do anything for you, anything!  Just don't kill me!"

Bakura continued glaring at him, no hint of mercy showing in his angry brown eyes.  "Coward.  You call yourself a warrior?  Jou didn't deserve to die at the hands of a spineless fool like you.  And remember, we said that this was a fight to the death."

"I know," the man whimpered piteously.  "I know… but please don't kill me!  You've already beaten me!  Isn't that enough for you?"

The thief sighed and turned away.  "I hate to do this," he muttered to himself.  Just as the man opened his mouth to thank him, Bakura turned back around and slit his throat.  The look of utter surprise stayed on the dead soldier's face as Bakura continued, "I don't like killing people when they're on their hands and knees, begging for mercy, but I suppose the world's better off without pathetic weaklings like you."  He kicked the body over to a dark alley, hiding it where it probably wouldn't be found by a stray child.  He'd come back and dispose of it later.  "Oh well.  I guess my revenge is complete, and I couldn't have done it without killing someone…" As he walked out in the open, he completely ignored the body of the other man, where some of the Pharaoh's royal guards were gathered.  Upon seeing him, they nodded, suddenly understanding, and carried the body away.  Bakura called after them, "I left another one in the alley over there.  One less mystery for you to solve."

Heading back to the temple, Bakura smirked to himself.  A few months ago, the King of Thieves wouldn't be caught anywhere near those people!  And now, they recognized and respected him… The tomb robber shook his head.  The duel was probably already over, with Seth being the victor.  The former High Priest wouldn't allow himself to be defeated that easily, and that meant that it was Yami's turn to play.  This was one game that Bakura wouldn't miss for the world.

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Yami was seriously on edge by the time the arena was almost ready.  He hissed to Marik, "Where IS that blasted tomb robber?  He should've been here by now!  Whatever he's doing shouldn't take THIS long!"

Marik shrugged.  "I have no idea.  Bakura should be here soon – unless he gets killed along the way."

Yami opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by a voice behind him.  "Me?  Killed?  Have you no faith in me, Marik?"

The slave smiled slightly.  "Do I really have to answer that question?"

The Pharaoh cut in before Bakura had the chance to answer.  "Where WERE you?  What could be more important than a duel that decides the fate of the world?"

Bakura hesitated slightly, glancing at Marik before answering with a single word.  "Revenge."

Yami looked completely puzzled.  "Revenge?  On who?  For what?"

Bakura sighed heavily before reaching into his pocket and pulling out the Red-Eyes pendant.  He handed it to Yami, who stared at it for a few seconds before his eyes filled with tears.  "No…"

The other two crept away slowly to let the Pharaoh mourn alone, but unfortunately, it wasn't long before he was interrupted.  "My Pharaoh?" Simon asked.  "The dueling arena-it's ready."  He took a quick look at Yami's face, concerned.  "What's wrong?"

Yami sniffed slightly, then ran a hand over his face quickly.  "Nothing," he answered.  "You said the arena's ready?" Simon nodded.  "All right then." He walked toward the door to that room of the temple, slipping the pendant over his head.  Marik and Bakura glanced at each other and followed, catching up within seconds.

"Do you get it now?" Marik asked softly.  No longer crying, Yami stared straight ahead and nodded once.

"Yes." The Pharaoh glanced at the two to either side of him.  "To seal away the Games, I must defeat my worst enemy in battle." He took a deep breath. "Seth will be the last sacrifice.  And this…" His hand went up to clutch the small dragon.  "This is for Jou."

"For Jou," both Bakura and Marik echoed as they entered the room where Seth was already waiting, deck placed on the altar before him.
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Seth sneered slightly as Yami ascended the steps to take his place on the other side of the arena.  "Pharaoh.  It's about time you got here.  Trying to delay our battle, are we?"

"No.  It's just that I had other business to attend to," Yami said calmly.  "I'm ready for you now.  And I swear," he touched the pendant around his neck, "I swear on this dragon that I will defeat you."  The dragon's eyes shone slightly for a moment, as if it was acknowledging the promise.

Seth raised an eyebrow as he recognized it.  "Jou's pendant?  So they're dead.  Pity, I had that one marked as a good fighter: after all, he managed to kill your best friend."

Yami's eyes narrowed.  "Shut up and let's play."

"DUEL!"

The priests on both sides began chanting immediately.  "Realm of Shadows, in this twilight hour, accept these souls and grant us power, Realm of Shadows, in this twilight hour, accept these souls and grant us power…"

Yami ignored them and drew a card.  "I'll set two cards facedown and summon the Celtic Guardian!"  The elf appeared, sword held at the ready, signifying that it was in attack mode.  "Your move."

The former high priest drew, glancing at the card.  He smirked when he saw it.  'Perfect.  My first turn, and I already have one of my Blue-Eyes in my hand.  I'll save it for later.' He shifted his gaze to Yami.  "I'll also set two cards facedown, and I'll set a monster in defense mode."  The tablet appeared before him, and Seth sneered at his opponent.  "I'd advise you not to attack.  You won't like what I have in store for you."

Yami's game face didn't disappear for a second.  "Oh really?  So it's an effect monster.  In that case…" He held out a hand, and one of his two facedown cards revealed itself.  "Activate trap!  Light of Intervention!"  The light flooded the field, and Seth's Cyber Jar flipped face-up.  Thanks to the trap, its effect wasn't activated.

Seth scowled as he scanned over his hand one more time.  "End turn."

Yami drew his next card, adding it to his hand as he once again scanned through the cards he currently held: Kuriboh, Giant Soldier of Stone, Silver Fang, Spellbinding Circle, and Catapult Turtle.  "I'll summon Silver Fang!" The wolf appeared on the field in attack mode, baring its fangs ferociously.  "I'll use Silver Fang to attack your Cyber Jar, and my Celtic Guardian will attack your Life Points directly!" Seth cried out slightly as the monster roared and swung its sword, taking a sizeable chunk out of his Life Points (Seth's LP: 2600).  "I'll set one more card facedown and end my turn."

Seth drew, and, to his surprise, got his second Blue-Eyes.  'Two in a row… not bad.  Seems like all of the Pharaoh's gods are against him.'  Searching his hand for a card that could possibly beat one of Yami's monsters, his eyes fell on the leftmost card that he held: Ryu-Kishin Powered.  It could easily help him stall long enough to get his one of his Blue-Eyes into play.  "I'll summon Ryu-Kishin Powered, in attack mode!  Attack his Silver Fang!"  (Yami's LP: 3600) "Your move."

Yami drew and got the magic card Exchange, useless in this situation. "I'll switch my Celtic Guardian to defense mode, and summon the Giant Soldier of Stone, also in defense."  Yami sighed as he scanned his hand again.  "There's nothing else I can do.  End turn."

Seth smirked at his next card.  Not a Blue-Eyes this time, but it would do.  "I'll sacrifice my Ryu-Kishin Powered to summon the mighty Swordstalker!"  The purple warrior appeared before him, grinning as it brandished its black sword.  "Swordstalker-attack the Celtic Guardian!"  The elf tried to block the attack with his sword for a moment, but the stronger monster got the better of him and sliced him in half.  (Yami's LP: 3000)

Growling slightly, Yami drew a card he desperately needed.  "Swords of Revealing Light!"  The Swords flew towards Seth's side of the field, freezing his monsters for three turns, which would hopefully be long enough for Yami to get something useful.  "Then I'll play Kuriboh in defense mode and end my turn."

Seth drew his next card and grinned widely.  This would be fun.  "I'll summon Saggi the Dark Clown in attack mode, and set one card facedown!" The demented clown cackled slightly as it appeared, with the other card hovering behind it.

Yami tensed slightly at the play.  He'd dueled Seth a few times before, so he was pretty sure of what was waiting for him.  "Saggi the Dark Clown?  So that means that one of your facedown cards has got to be Crush Card…"

"Maybe, maybe not," the former High Priest answered mildly.  "You'll just have to wait and see.  In the meantime, it's your turn."

Yami drew and barely glanced at the card: Feral Imp.  He was too busy with the situation before him to really consider the monster.  'Seth knows I know his dueling strategies, so one of those cards might really be Crush Card.  On the other hand, he may be bluffing, stalling so he can summon a powerful monster to wipe me out…  There's only one way to find out.  But the fate of the world rests on this duel, so can I risk it?'

"Pharaoh!" a voice called from the wall behind Yami.  He turned to see Bakura looking at him, casual as usual.  "What are you waiting for?"  Yami glared at him, but the tomb robber continued, "Stop worrying about one little move in the duel.  There's no way you'll lose against this moron." He gestured towards Seth, who raised an eyebrow, looking bored.  "I know you're worried about his facedown cards, but you'll still win.  After all, you're not the King of Games for nothing."

Yami turned back to the duel, Bakura's words echoing in his mind.  'He's right… I'm the King of Games.  So I guess I'll have to take a gamble.' Taking a deep breath, he yelled to Seth, "I'll summon the Feral Imp, in attack mode!" The little fiend appeared before him, fangs bared in anticipation.  Yami continued, "Feral Imp-attack the clown!"

As the Imp rushed forward, Seth smiled.  "You've just fallen into my trap, Pharaoh.  Reveal-"

"No!" Yami shouted.  "Activate facedown card!  Dust Tornado!"  The trap revealed a gigantic whirlwind, which headed straight for Seth's traps.  The priest didn't lose his composure for a second, though.

"Dust Tornado can only destroy one magic or trap card," he stated calmly.  "That means you have a one in three chance of choosing the right card.  So what'll it be, Pharaoh?"

Yami stared intently at the cards, willing them to tell him which was the trap.  Common sense told him to pick the card that Seth had just played, but something else was there too… "Destroy the card in the middle!"  Behind him, he heard Bakura and Marik shout, "Yami, you idiot!" in unison, but it was too late to pick another target.

The tornado hit the middle card just as the Feral Imp slashed at Saggi the Dark Clown with its claws.  Everyone in the room held their breaths as the clown was destroyed, waiting for the dark virus to attack Yami's deck… but it never happened.

The whirlwind flipped the middle card faceup for a split second before it burst into a thousand pieces, revealing a pattern of purple spores.  Seth looked slightly annoyed with the new development, and the look of absolute amazement on both Marik and Bakura's faces was priceless.  Seth also took some damage from Saggi's destruction.  (Seth's LP: 1900)

"So how did you know it was that card and not the one I just played?" the former priest asked.

Yami smirked.  "I guess you could call it luck.  Luck, and a little something called faith.  It's your move."

"Only one turn left until your Swords disappear," Seth remarked as he drew.  "La Jinn the Mystical Genie of the Lamp, in attack mode.  That'll end my turn."

Yami drew and finally got a monster that rivaled the Swordstalker in attack points.   "I'll sacrifice my Feral Imp for the mighty Curse of Dragon!  Attack his La Jinn!" Yami grinned slightly.  "That's what happens when you load your deck with high-attack monsters with almost no defense." (Seth's LP: 1700)

Seth drew and sighed slightly.  "Mystic Horseman, in defense mode.  And it's your turn."  Right after he finished his sentence, the Swords of Revealing Light disappeared, freeing the Swordstalker and leaving him free to attack next turn.

Yami drew, glanced at his next card, and placed it in his hand. "Curse of Dragon, attack the Mystic Horseman!"  The dragon drew a deep breath in preparation for his attack, but Seth acted first.

"You've fallen right into my trap, Pharaoh!" he sneered.  "Activate trap!  Shadow Spell!"  One of the facedown cards flipped up to reveal Seth's infamous trap.  Yami gasped slightly as the black chains reached out and ensnared his monster, stopping it from attacking and reducing its attack points by 700.

"I guess it's your move," Yami said softly.  Seth smirked as he drew.

"Afraid yet, Pharaoh?" he mocked, looking at his next card.  His smile grew wider as he recognized his third Blue-Eyes White Dragon.  "All right then… I'll sacrifice my Swordstalker and Mystic Horseman to summon the all-powerful Blue-Eyes White Dragon!"  The legendary monster appeared, screeching to announce its presence on the field.  "Attack his Curse of Dragon!"  The Blue-Eyes' White Lightning washed over the dark dragon, which screamed for a moment before bursting into a thousand pieces and taking a huge chunk out of Yami's lifepoints.  (Yami's LP: 1300)  "And with that, I'll end my turn.  Why don't you surrender now?  There's no possible way for you to win, and you might as well end your suffering now."

"Never," Yami snarled, and drew.  A smile lit his face as he looked at his next card.  "One card facedown," he began, and it appeared behind his two monsters.  "And I'll end my turn."

Seth laughed scornfully.  "Is that all you've got?  Pathetic."  He drew his next card and barely glanced at it, adding it to his hand.  "Blue-Eyes!  Use White Lightning to destroy his Giant Soldier of Stone!"

"Not so fast," Yami said calmly.  "Activate magic card!  Multiply!"  The card he had just played activated itself, and the Kuriboh multiplied at an amazing rate, moving in front of the other monster and blocking the Blue-Eyes' attack.  Seth growled in annoyance, glaring angrily at the fuzzy little monsters.  Yami laughed.  "I forgot, you don't like them…" In the background, Bakura snickered slightly.  Hmm… Kuribohs and a Blue-Eyes…

"End turn," Seth said, still glaring hatefully at the fuzzballs.  Yami raised an eyebrow before drawing his next card.

"I'll pass," the Pharaoh said.  "Not that it matters anyway.  It might take a while for you to get rid of my defenses."

Seth drew and got just the card he was looking for.  "Not as long as you might think, Pharaoh.  I'll activate this magic card!  Soul Exchange!"

"I'll use its effect to sacrifice both of your monsters and summon my second Blue-Eyes!"  Squeaking, all of the Kuribohs disappeared, along with the Giant Soldier of Stone.  On Seth's side of the field, another Blue-Eyes appeared, roaring its battle cry.

"Unfortunately, Soul Exchange's only drawback is that I have to wait one turn before attacking on the turn when I use it," Seth said regretfully.  "Too bad, Pharaoh.  I would have completely destroyed you on this turn if I could attack, but I suppose your demise will have to wait."

"We'll see about that," Yami said, drawing his next card.  "I'll activate Card Destruction, and use it to send both our hands to the Graveyard!"

Seth smirked.  "You have no idea how much that's just helped me, Pharaoh."

"Whatever," Yami said indifferently.  "It's your move."

"Time for your destruction then, Pharaoh," the priest of Set smiled.  "I'll activate my facedown Monster Reborn to bring back my third Blue-Eyes White Dragon, in attack mode!  And…" he pointed to a card in his hand, and it turned around to reveal Polymerization.  "I'll fuse them together to form the Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon!"

"But you can't attack this turn because it's a fusion monster," Yami stated calmly.  "So I guess it's my move."  Receiving a nod of affirmation from Seth, he drew his next card.  "Well, I guess the first order of business would be to unfuse your dragon.  So… De-Fusion, activate!"  The card flipped faceup, and the look on Seth's face was absolutely priceless as he watched his dragon being torn apart.  "Next, like you, I'll activate Monster Reborn and use it to bring back the Dark Magician!"  Yami's favorite card appeared before him, brandishing its staff.

"Your magician's still not enough to defeat my dragons, though," Seth noted.

"Not yet, maybe," Yami said confidently, "But I'll also activate these cards!  Book of Secret Arts and the Yami field magic card!  The Book raises my magician's attack power by 500 and my field magic a further 200, bringing his total attack power up to 3200!  Dark Magician, Dark Magic Attack!" (Seth's LP: 1700)  "That will end my turn."

Seth drew and frowned at the card he got: not what he needed.  So… "I'll activate Pot of Greed and use it to draw two new cards," he announced.  The first was useless, but the second… he smirked.  "I'll activate the magic card Dragon Treasure and use it to raise the power of one of my Blue-Eyes to 3300 attack points!  Blue-Eyes, attack his Dark Magician!"

"Did you forget my facedown card, Seth?" Yami asked.  "Go, Spellbinding Circle!"  Seth growled as his dragon was surrounded by Yami's trap.  "My Spellbinding Circle card lowers your Blue-Eyes' attack by 700 points."

"I know perfectly well what it does, Pharaoh!"  Seth sneered.  "I'll set one card facedown, and it's your move."

Yami drew his next card, setting it facedown on the field.  "Dark Magician, destroy his Blue-Eyes!"  The monster obliged, annihilating the dragon in no time at all.  (Seth's LP: 1100)  "I'll end my turn."

Seth drew his card and smiled upon seeing it.  "You know, Pharaoh, this is the play that will end the duel."

"Indeed," Yami answered.  "Let's see it, then."

"Fine!  First, I'll activate the magic card DNA Surgery, to change all Dragon-type monsters to Machines!"  On the field, Seth's one remaining Blue-Eyes roared as its blue-white scales changed to metal, forming a coat of steel and transforming it into a mecha Blue-Eyes.  "And next, I'll activate this card!  Limiter Removal doubles the attack strength of all my machine monsters on the field!  They're destroyed at the end of the turn, but you'll be done for before that happens."

"We'll see about that," Yami said calmly as he and the Dark Magician stared up at the Blue-Eyes.  "You're right; the duel will end this turn, but you won't be the victor."

Seth smirked.  "Let's see you prove it, then.  Blue-Eyes," he cried, raising his voice.  "White Lightning!"

"This duel is over," Yami said confidently.  "Activate trap!  REVERSE TRAP!"

"No!  Stop!" Seth cried, but it was already too late.  The attack had been unleashed, but instead of his dragon's attack power being doubled, it was brought down to zero.

"Dark Magic Attack!" Yami called, and the Dark Magician obeyed.  The metal Blue-Eyes was destroyed, and Seth's LP were at zero.  The duel had been won.

"No!" Seth cried, falling to his knees.  "How can this be?"

Just then, Bakura walked up to Yami and tapped him on the shoulder.  Turning, Yami looked at him quizzically, and the tomb robber pointed to a spot on the floor.  Yami glanced at it and noticed the pool of dragon's blood forming in a small dip in the floor.

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The next few hours were a blur to Yami.  All he remembered was bits and pieces of the ritual…

"Dragon's blood of greatest might

Mixed with sand of Egypt's night…"

Simon knelt down next to the dip in the floor in the arena, carefully dribbling Khon's sand into it.  The mixture turned a deep blue, and he carefully scooped it up and put it in a small jar before joining the others in the doorway…

"Mixture placed on highest dune

Invoke the most ancient rune…"

The blood and sand were spilled on a huge dune, fifty miles from the capital.  To the surprise of all, a huge black portal appeared, lined with gold, and they knew it was time for the sacrifices.

"First soul, hatred borne of old…"

Seth, bound and tied, was shoved through the portal.  Yami shivered as the former high priest glared at him, and then he was gone.

"Second has a love of gold…"

Bakura walked calmly to the portal, staring at it for a slight moment.  "I never thought I'd give my life to help the Pharaoh," he remarked, then walked in.  Yami could have sworn he winked.

"Third knows violence, born a slave…"

Marik was next, no emotions showing his face as he approached the portal.  He glanced at Yami right before he went in and said, "See you later, Pharaoh."

"Tragedy first's hatred gave

To fourth, he who casts this spell

Noblest, he'll make all well."

And then finally, it was Yami's turn.  He stepped up to the portal and looked behind him at the faces of all his friends and advisors.  His eyes fell on Simon last of all, and a lump rose in his throat.  "Take care of the kingdom for me," he whispered.  Unable to speak, his old friend nodded silently.  Taking a deep breath, Yami stepped forward and through the portal, Simon's final words echoing in his ears.  "I will, my Pharaoh, I promise you I will."

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"So he's gone," Anzu whispered.  "Just like that, the Pharaoh's gone…"

"He'll be back someday," Isis said quietly.  "Many centuries from now, through many trials and hardships, he will return to Egypt…"

As everyone slowly turned and walked away, Isis remained, staring at the place where the portal had been.  "The path you have chosen is harsh, my Pharaoh," she whispered.  "But you will make it.  You have to.  Good luck… to all of you."  With that, she turned and walked away.  Within minutes, nothing was left to show what had happened.  Nothing… but a small pendant of a Red-Eyes Black Dragon, the eyes glittering in the sun.

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Wow… that sounded more like an ending than a beginning, and this is only the prologue XD.  Next chapter the real story starts, and we skip forward five thousand years to the present day.  Fun.  And I know I suck at death scenes, no need to tell me that.

Review!  Review!  Review!  I want at least three reviews before I continue, considering how hard I worked on this.  Of course, I'll probably post the next chapter no matter how many reviews I get…  But I write faster with more reviews!  I'll try to get the next one up soon (in other words, before my December 3 birthday), and reviews'll help!  Oh, and flames will be used to make s'mores to give to everyone who reviewed nicely!  Yet again, please review!