DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fanfiction produced for entertainment purposes only. Yu-Gi-Oh! and all related characters are the creations of Kazuki Takahashi.
Hearts, Souls and Shadows
Chapter 14: Magic, Swords and Spears
By Shadow's Mirror
"Guards. Seize them all. Then kill the two with the glowing objects. It will be far easier to hunt down the new bearers and turn them to my side."
The little servant girl stood in the corridor outside the throneroom, where the nice lady had told her to stay. She knew it was safe there, for now at least, but she was terrified that her new friend was not there with her. Her new friend was inside, and in danger, but there was nothing she could do to help. She was too little. Too scared. At the Pharaoh's words, spoken in a cruelly mocking voice, her whole body began to tremble with fear and horror.
Moving took all the courage she could gather, yet she somehow managed to creep a little closer to the space where the throneroom's doors used to be. She peeked inside, using one of the tattered remnants of the door to keep herself hidden from sight of any of the room's occupants.
She need not have bothered. The ones inside were all far too busy to notice her.
At the Pharaoh's command, the guards had begun to advance towards the small group still standing defiant. The tallest of the group frowned at them and shifted slightly, revealing the glowing item in his possession. "If you do not stop, I will not hesitate to use this." His words were softly spoken, yet carried a resolve so firm that a couple of the guards did hesitate on hearing it. But only for less than a heartbeat.
They all feared the Pharaoh far too much to be stopped by mere words.
"So be it." As the young man sighed softly, the lead guards made their move. They sprang forward, drawing their swords as they targeted the two with the glowing objects. The remaining guards began to divide to either side, trying to flank the group so they could not escape.
There was a flash of movement, then the clash of steel upon steel. The attacking guards jerked back in shock as their swords met with unexpected resistance in the form of a half dozen strange beings, all heavily armed, who had appeared out of wisps of dark shadows that had not been there a moment earlier. The guards had all witnessed the Pharaoh's Shadow Games, of course, so they realised immediately that the ones now standing between them and the group of mortals were Shadow Monsters, but where were the massive stones that they were normally summoned out of? Where was the tension in the air that always heralded one of them stepping from the stone? For Shadow Monsters to simply appear out of thin air... That was unheard of.
Yet, there they were.
One of the Shadow Monsters, a young man with a long red cloak that flowed almost as much as his long golden-blonde hair, frowned at the guards. He was holding what looked at first glance like a short staff made of a length of twisted gold. A second glance and the guards noticed the hilt at one end and how the gold came to a point at the other. It was a sword, surely? A sword that none of them had ever seen the likes of, before. It looked as if it had been made from the horn of some creature. Rather like the red horn that grew from the Monster's own forehead, in fact. His long, delicately tapered fin-like ears also confirmed that he was not human. He raised his sword a little higher as his frown deepened.
"Leave. Now. While you still can." His voice was soft but deep and something about it made the guards shift a little with uncertainty. There was a note of power in that voice. It was like hearing the Shadow Magic that was so highly regarded in the land. The Pharaoh's voice had held that note also, once, just after he had first taken the throne.
"What are you fools hesitating for? Attack!" There was no note of power in the Pharaoh's voice now, but there was a definite anger in it, as well as the hint of something more. Something a little... off.
Whatever it was, it didn't bother the guards. They merely heard the words and obeyed them. They attacked. Then again. Then yet again. But no matter how they tried, they could not get past the line of defence the Shadow Monsters had formed around the group of humans.
The Pharaoh scowled. "Do I have to do it all myself?" Standing, he reached for the woman who had taken up position earlier beside his throne. Grabbing Akila's wrist so tightly that she winced from the pain, he sneered at her. "Well, my dear, shall we show them what I am truly capable of? Now that I am no longer being stopped." He gave her a hard look.
She did her best to not show any further reaction to her physical discomfort, but her expression was a pale imitation of her usual serene smile as she nodded to him. "But of course, my Pharaoh." Akila's low voice could not quite hide a slight tremble. She had not actually tried to do this before. If she failed... No, she would not even consider failure.
The three items she and her younger sisters held had been made to react whenever the Pharaoh used his own item, their power rising up to block his power so he was unable to use it as he wished. It was something the girls had no control over, however Akila believed she could turn it off. If so, then her item would no longer stop the Pharaoh's power.
Her item gleamed as the Pharaoh raised his hand towards the battle area and Akila felt the power begin to stir inside it. She latched onto that feeling and used it as a focal point, willing her item to stop responding to his item's use. The gleam wavered for only a moment before it faded out entirely. It had worked. Her item would no longer automatically block any attempt he made to use his item's power.
Her success renewed her confidence in herself and her future position as Queen. When she glanced at her younger sister and nodded, her expression was as haughty as always. Mariasha swallowed hard then silently obeyed the unspoken order, turning her share of the power block off as well.
The Pharaoh's sneer became a cold and twisted smirk as his power, now only blocked by one item instead of three, was finally strong enough to work his will, for the first time in five years.
The air behind the guards darkened into deepest shadow. From that shadow, a dozen Shadow Monsters stepped out into the room's dim light. As they joined the guards, their faces remained blank. Only their eyes revealed the immeasurable pain they were feeling as they were forced to join the fight against their own kind, at the command of one they hated.
It was the worst possible scenario that could have happened, but the magician's two sons were prepared for it. The ones who had helped them in the Shadow Realm earlier in the night had given them warning that the Pharaoh could, and surely would, do this if he regained the use of his item. They also knew that the Pharaoh had a single limitation with it.
He could summon only the Shadow Monsters whose full names he knew.
Unfortunately, he had been learning their names for the past five years.
The only hope they could still hold on to was how few he had summoned. His item was still not quite at full power and would remain weakened for as long as the youngest girl's item continued to work against it.
Her will had been strengthened, her heart was sure that she was doing the right thing. Her item had begun responding to her a little more. So, as the Shadow Monsters on the Pharaoh's side moved in to battle with their brethren, it was with a great deal of confusion that the youngest girl noticed her item's glow was beginning to flicker. It was failing. Why?
As she tried to will it not to fail, the faintest sound reached her. Instinctively, she glanced over at the door, thinking the whisper of sound must surely have come from the little servant girl, but right away she realised that could not have been the case. The battle was all around them. There was too much noise for her to have heard anything.
It came again. The softest whisper. But for her to hear something so faint, surely the source had to be right beside her? She looked around, her bewilderment growing as she again failed to locate anyone saying anything. Was she hearing things? No. There it was again and this time it was a little clearer to her.
It was such a tiny, weak sounding voice. A child's, surely? What was it saying? She still could not make that out. No, wait... it was the same words, repeated over and over. Once more... She might understand if she heard it just once more.
The youngest girl's eyes went wide with shock as she got her wish. Not only that... but in that moment she realised who she was hearing and why her item was failing. As her shock turned into horror, she didn't notice that her item had stopped working entirely.
Unfortunately, the Pharaoh did. With a triumphant cry, he summoned another two dozen Shadow Monsters into the ongoing battle.
The eldest brother frowned and braced himself as they appeared. "This is not good." He barely muttered the words, but the man beside him made a sound of agreement right in his ear.
"Aye, lad. I be thinking it be time for me to join in as well. If I could just be laying me hands on..."
As he spoke, one of the guards fell. His sword clattered to the ground just outside the protective ring of Shadow Monsters. Alasdair grinned. "Ah. That will do nicely." He moved quickly for such a solid man, darting forward as he stooped down to scoop up the blade in a single smooth motion.
The Shadow Monsters protecting them seemed to consider pushing him back inside with the others again, as Alasdair wriggled himself into a space between the horned one and another one whose billowing armoured skirts and metallic winged helmet were almost as impressive as the massive blade he wielded with one hand. But when he took out two guards with two well placed attacks barely ten seconds later, they accepted his being there.
The eldest brother glanced around, taking in the situation. He frowned. "All right. New plan." He spoke quietly to his brother. "I'll open up a path back to the door. Something's going on with our sister. Take care of her. Hopefully she just needs a few moments to focus in peace." He didn't bother trying to hide his worry. He knew his brother would see right through him, even if he did.
Although the younger brother didn't like the new plan at all, he saw the sense in it and nodded. Reaching out, he took both girls' hands and held tight. "Do it. Good luck."
It had been a long time since the magician's eldest son had actually used the Shadow Magic that he had been born with. Fortunately it was a skill that he had never really needed to learn, much less use on a regular basis to keep it strong. It had always responded to him as soon as he called it to him. The item he bore now made it easier to focus the power, but he was not expecting it to also strengthen it tenfold. When the powerful magic rushed into him, it almost overwhelmed him with its strength. He found it impossible to breathe, much less exert any sort of control onto it. But then something his late mother had once told him flashed through his mind.
"Don't force the power to obey your will... merely guide it to where it is needed. Respect the Shadow Magic and it will always help you."
Closing his eyes, the eldest brother gathered the magic to him as if he was embracing it before he sent it out to do what was needed with the gentlest of nudges. He opened his eyes again in time to witness the results.
A wave of sheer force ran out from him, striking those who opposed his side in the battle and knocking them all to the ground. Behind his group, the wave had even pushed the guards to either side, forming a narrow path between two groups of stunned guardsmen. It was through this path that his younger brother ran, pulling the girls with him. Their sister seemed to be in some form of shock as she didn't protest at all, but the other girl was clearly unhappy with being removed from the battle.
She was nowhere near as unhappy as the Pharaoh, however.
"What are you fools doing? They're getting away! After them! Kill them! Kill them all!" The Pharaoh's cry was uncomfortable to hear. Higher and shriller than ever before, his anger had completely cracked his former composure.
Alasdair blinked in surprise and awe at the elder brother when he came forward to stand at Alasdair's side. It seemed he was not the only one impressed, either, as the horned Shadow Monster politely moved aside to make room for the young man to join what had become a line of defence instead of a circle, now the others were no longer in need of defending. "Lad. That was impressive. 'Tis a right shame that one did nay take your challenge. Ye would have put on a better show than the fair Rhonwen at a dance." He barely murmured the words.
Somehow, the eldest brother managed not to laugh. The situation was dire, and the battle was definitely not in their favour, but it seemed that his companion's sense of humour was still intact, at least.
As the guards struggled to their feet, the three in retreat made it outside the throneroom. The younger brother glanced at his sister. "I can buy you a little time, but I am not sure how long I will be able to hold them off." Even as he spoke, his right hand was in motion. He held it up in a typical 'STOP' pose. There was a shift of power in the air and the doorway before them was suddenly blocked by a thick door made entirely of shadow. The young man panted a little, but the door held firm with no sign of breaking down. It even muffled the noise of the battle continuing on its other side.
The other girl gasped as she got a good look at the youngest sister. "You're so pale! What is wrong? Here, sit down." She moved to help her but the little servant girl was already there, burying herself in her friend's skirts.
The sister shook her head a little as if trying to clear her mind. She looked down and gently stroked the child's hair. The horror and shock finally left her eyes, but an intense sorrow remained there. "It is all right, child. For the moment, we are all safe here."
"Sister? What has happened?" The younger brother looked worriedly at her. "Your item... Why did it just...?"
She winced slightly. "Do you remember what I told you happened..." She tailed off, her eyes widening a little as she realised. "Was it truly only earlier tonight? It seems like so long ago." She sighed softly. "The child our eldest sister took me to see. You remember I told you that she simply... vanished?" At his nod, she softly continued. "I heard her voice. She said that she was scared. Then my item failed. I was right." She was near tears, now. "I... She... She is inside it, somehow. I believe she has been the one making my item work. But because she is scared now, it has stopped."
Her younger brother looked thoughtful as he shook his head. "I think our big brother knows something about that. He told me that he needed to tell you something important. But I do not think it was anything bad." He frowned slightly. "If you could hear that child's voice... I wonder if..." He trailed off, lost in thought for a moment before he blinked and shook his head. "Well, whatever is going on, the fact remains that your item is not working now. We will just have to work with what else we have." His frown deepened. "Should we escape? As much as I do not wish to go... it feels like we would just be in the way if we remained here, now."
His sister was about to reply when a cry echoed through the hall from further down. Two guards with spears had just come around the corner and were now heading for them, frowning fiercely at them as they demanded to know who they were and what they were doing there.
The youngest sister moved so the little girl was a bit more behind her, holding on to her as she tried to calm her mind and heart. She was determined to keep this little girl safe, at least. She had failed with the other child, but she would not fail a second time! Her eyes narrowed as she glared at the oncoming guards.
Her brother moved slightly, calling on his power for a second time. The guards cried out in shock as a wind plucked their weapons from their hands, sending the spears skidding along the ground between the two groups. They started after them and the youngest daughter instinctively moved as well. She darted forward to grab one of the spears, only mildly surprised to realise that the other girl had done the same thing. They stood together, facing the two angry guards and shared a glance. Neither of them knew anything about weapons. The men were coming closer... so they just did what they thought made the most sense.
They both hit the guards over the heads as hard as they could.
The men were wearing helmets, but apparently the combination of heavy spear and determined female was enough to knock them out, despite that.
The girls blinked down at the men, then blinked at each other. The other girl suddenly grinned. "I think I like this thing."
The younger sister managed a small smile and nodded in response. "Indeed. I do also." She looked at the spear in her hands and tightened her hold on it. Looking at the other girl, she took a deep breath. "I do not want to run away."
The other girl nodded and her grin seemed to grow even brighter. "Same here. I think we should go back in and fight too. They're going to need all the help they can get. We might not be able to do much... but even if we can knock out a few of the guards, that would be a help, right?"
"Right." They looked down at the guards, then turned and ran back to the young man blinking at them both in bemusement. "We have decided. We do not wish to run. We wish to fight." His sister's voice was strong and calm.
The younger brother sighed. "I had a feeling you would both decide that." He smiled wryly. "I agree. I do not know if my magic is strong enough to be useful in that fight, but I think I have to try. So... back in we go."
As her brother turned towards the throneroom's shadow door, the young woman smiled gently at the little servant girl. "I fear out here may not be as safe now as before. Perhaps you should go a little way down the corridor and find somewhere to... hide... No?" The child was shaking her head.
"I will go with you." The little girl was pale and trembling with fear, but there was a flash of something in her eyes that looked very much like determination.
The sister bit her lip. She was about to say something when the guards groaned. She winced and looked unsure.
"I can hide her in a patch of shadow near the door." The younger brother smiled gently at the child. "Just slip in behind us and head for the deepest shadows you can see. All right?"
The little girl nodded. His sister nodded as well. She seemed a bit relieved at the thought that the child would have somewhere to hide.
"Then, if we are all ready?" The young man looked around at the other three and then turned back to the throneroom door. "Here we go."
He removed the shadow door and they charged back into the battle.
To Be Continued...