Chapter 1: The Duelist of Legend
By: Azurite - azurite AT fanfiction DOT net
Final Edits: 5/24/04
I should be in bed now, but I'm not tired.
Disclaimer: I spend tons of time writing something that I will never profit from. Why would you want to sue someone as silly as me?
Note-thingy: This is based off the YGO game for Playstation2, "Duelists of the Roses." But it does involve anime and manga elements, and I am trying my best to stay true to the storyline of the game... smirk You'll see what I mean if you keep reading.
Thank you: To my betas for this fic, Mamono, Svelte Rose, and Snapdragon-chan! Go read their excellent fics and nag those ladies to finish them! My own betas don't listen to me! ;;
The British Empire in the 1480s...
The War of the Roses, a power struggle between the Houses of Lancaster (The Red Rose) and York (The White Rose) to decide a royal successor, was nearing its end.
With the Yorkists well in the lead, the reign of Richard III was but a step away. And in France, Henry 'Yuugi" Tudor --the last Lancastrian heir-- was forced to live a life of exile.
The Lancastrian forces were rendered powerless by ancient cards of sorcery wielded by Christian 'Seto' Rosenkreuz III, and his seven followers who, known as the 'Rose Crusaders,' served under the flag of Lord Crawford, a powerful Yorkist nobleman.
Lacking a duel to champion their cause, defeat was imminent for the Lancastrians. In England, duel card games were still at the fledgling stage. Thus, the Lancastrians had to look elsewhere for a duel master capable of facing the Rose Crusaders in battle.
With this in mind, Margaret 'Mai' Beaufort of Lancaster secretly requested a High Druid to summon a duelist from another age...
[ Stonehenge - Near Salisbury, England ]
The sky was an endless stretch of swollen purple clouds, swirling about the mystical circle that was Stonehenge. The faint sound of thunder grew closer and closer, until the point when it resounded loudly in the ears of the only human within the stone circle...
The High Druid, Simon McMooran.
It was dangerous to be so deep in Yorkist territory alone, but McMooran had a job to do. He had to summon the legendary Rose Duelist, and pray that he would agree to help the Lancastrians in their quest for the throne.
Lightning streaked through the clouds, striking on each 'ceiling-stone' of the Stonehenge formation and upon all six points of the magick inner circle. There was an explosion of light, causing the eight roses McMooran had lain in the center to burst into individual petals of flame.
It was done. The spell was completed. The sky stopped its relentless swirling, the thunder rumbled off into the distance, and the smoke and light cleared...
There, in the middle of the circle of Stonehenge, stood a solitary figure, cloaked entirely in black. Face hidden from view, the only way McMooran knew that his summoning had truly succeeded was by the rose pendant which held the figure's cape and hood closed.
It had worked!
The duelist of legend...
"Oooooh! ...Summoned from the mystic circle of red and white roses, the one capable of harnessing pure power! There is truth to the legend of the Rose Duelist!" The old man, covered in cream-colored robes and a tall hat adorned with gold, moved about excitedly, unaware of the twin blue eyes that had settled upon his form.
"L-Lady Margaret! I must tell Lady Margaret! I--I did it! Now we have the means for defeating the evil forces of Rosenkreuz!" The man stumbled about, picking up eight scarlet cards emblazoned with roses. He stared at them a moment, nodding as if to affirm to the cards that their job had been completed.
"Disperse these to the duelists," McMooran said, as he turned to a messenger that had waited for the ceremony to complete before coming forth. "Heed my words, lest you suffer the consequences-- under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you allow these cards to fall into the hands of the Rose Crusaders!"
The messenger nodded once, taking the cards and wrapping them in a leather purse. He quickly ran to his black steed and galloped off into the night, taking the eight Red Rose Cards with him.
"Oh!" McMooran suddenly seemed to realize that all his work had been for the purpose of summoning a PERSON, and that person was waiting for him to explain things.
"My apologies!" The old man sputtered, his blue eyes widening as he studied the Rose Duelist. Well, he was... shorter than Simon had expected. But no matter! The Rose Duelist's appearance was of little concern, especially if he could defeat the Rose Crusaders as easily as the Legend had it!
"In my excitement, I'd forgotten I was in the presence of the Rose Duelist." McMooran continued, raising his gaze momentarily to meet the Duelist's. McMooran's own stature was not very imposing, but somehow, the Duelist radiated an aura that intimidated even him, the High Druid of Lancaster, and the last of the Old Celts guarding the ancient magicks of Stonehenge!
"Allow me to introduce myself," the shrouded man said, clearing his throat. "I am Simon McMooran, High Druid and servant to the House of Lancaster." McMooran paused momentarily, wondering if the Duelist was even able to understand him.
"M-May I be so bold as to ask the name by which the Rose Duelist would like to be known?"
There was silence as the unmoving Rose Duelist regarded the Druid. The only way McMooran could even tell that the Duelist knew he was there was by the pair of brilliant blue eyes shining beneath the black velvet hood the Duelist wore.
"...You may call me 'Rose.'" The Duelist finally murmured-- in a woman's voice!
McMooran could hardly contain his shock-- the legendary Rose Duelist-- a WOMAN? It was a far cry from anything he could have predicted.
"R-Rose?" McMooran managed, his voice still containing a measure of surprise. "A fine name indeed!"
The Duelist remained silent, but stepped forward and out of the mass of red and white rose petals that had been so necessary in her summoning.
"Ah... perhaps I should inform you of the situation?" McMooran regarded the Duelist's silence as an affirmative, and so continued, "The year is 1485, and you are currently in Stonehenge, near Salisbury, England. The British Empire is in turmoil with the House of Lancaster's rightful claim to the throne being challenged by the Yorkist usurpers."
McMooran's already blue-tinged face took on a deeper hue as he spoke loudly, slowly leading the Duelist from the circle and back towards the grassy knolls. His own steed was tied up in the forest not far from there, and he would ride to Dover with the Duelist, and then head towards France to meet the Lord Tudor.
"The power struggle is referred to as the War of the Roses, a name based on the badges worn by both sides-- a red rose for the Lancastrians, and a white rose for the Yorkists. Right now, our kingdom is threatened by the Yorkists and their wrongful claim to the throne!" McMooran inhaled sharply, speaking at such a rapid pace that the Duelist found it nothing short of a miracle that his skin wasn't already purple.
"All because the Yorkists enjoy the support of the Rose Crusaders and their sorcerous White Rose Cards. Using our Red Rose Cards, we summoned you, Lady Rose, to this day and age."
All this was nothing new to the Duelist.
She'd been through this many times before.
Heard almost the same exact explanation.
And the man had always looked akin to Sugoroku Mutou -- or in this case, Simon McMooran.
The ties that bind us all together go farther back than even this time and place.
Sugoroku Mutou wouldn't be born for another four hundred and twenty five years, at least. Simon McMooran was as close to Grandfather Mutou's age as the Duelist had ever known in her rightful time...
But that was the past. Or the future, if you wanted to be technical about it.
In any case, it was a time that she would never see again. Not if things went properly.
"...We hoped that your dueling experience would defeat the Rose Crusaders and lead us to victory! You will help us...?" For a moment, McMooran looked unsure, casting his azure eyes up at the cloaked woman of legend.
"Of course, you will! Foolish of me to even doubt where your loyalties lie! Rumor has it that only the legendary Rose Duelist stands a chance against the power of the Rosenkreuz. We appreciate any help you can provide against them."
Though her face remained hidden, the Duelist frowned.
Like all the other wars she'd been in, this was always the man who called on her to aide Yuugi's side. No --in this age, he was Henry Tudor!
Each time, she'd lent an ear to him, and helped Yuugi -or Atemu, or Henry, or whatever his name was in that time and place- in his quest to defeat whatever side Seto was allied with.
And each time, it had ended the same.
Her hands clenched underneath her cloak, lace-gloved hands turning a splotchy red and white with the sheer pressure of her grip. No matter what time she was in, or where in the world, she could still feel the blood on her hands...
She could still smell it, still taste its coppery residue in her mouth...
Each time she sided with Yuugi, everything had gone wrong.
Now was her last chance to make amends-- to figure out what had to happen in order to save the man she loved.
If she didn't, her best friend and his worst enemy... would die in a fortnight.
"Before I forget..." McMooran was still speaking, much to the Duelist's chagrin. In all the centuries, in all the millenniums, he was still dreadfully annoying during these explanations. It would be nice to just say "Hey! I'm a legend for a reason! I already know everything about dueling, ancient and modern, so I don't need to hear it from you, you old coot!"
But the Duelist was much nicer than that. Well, at the moment she was, anyway.
"...I should warn you that the rules to dueling differ from those of your age. In England, dueling is governed by what is known as 'The Perfect Rule.' In addition to several minor distinctions, there are two major differences--" Here, McMooran paused, tapping his staff on the moist grass beneath his feet.
A swirl of mist arose from the hill, forming into a rotating board with a grid imposed over its pristine surface. Squares in the grid resembled various types of landscapes --mountains, meadows, forests, and countless others.
A bright shine burst forth from one of the squares on the far end; in miniature, the Duelist recognized the form of the Dark Magician.
"One is the existence of movement or positioning." A crest formed of a red rose in full bloom, two swords crossed over its center. The Dark Magician hovered slightly over the crest, the six surrounding squares glowed a faint blue as he --and the crest-- moved on McMooran's command.
"The other is the existence of the Deck Leader concept. These are two aspects of dueling that were lost when the ancient sport of Duel Monsters was adapted to card form. The 'Perfect Rule' represents those lost rules that were miraculously revived here in England. Perhaps a practice duel will serve better than an explanation... shall we?"
The Duelist only nodded her head slightly, moving around the grass to the other side of the board, taking the position of the Red Rose's opponent-- the White Rose. Her distaste for McMooran's words remained carefully masked beneath her velvet cloak, and she stayed silent.
She wanted to tell him that he was wrong --so very wrong. That while Duel Monsters was indeed 'ancient,' it was certainly no sport, and in ancient times, movement and deck leaders hadn't been an added bonus to the game, but a strict necessity!
"Let's start with the basics of dueling." McMooran started, bringing out his own Dueling Cards. The art wasn't very fanciful considering how ancient the magick was --too much detail in anything possessing so much power would surely entail disaster. That and, the cards were increasingly common, what with all the Rose Crusaders, the Lord Tudor, Rosenkreuz, and countless others possessing their own complete decks...
"If you please," the Duelist interrupted McMooran, "I would not be called a Duelist of Legend if I did not know the basics. As different as our times may be, I am not that unfamiliar with the mechanics of this... 'game.'"
McMooran's eyes went wide --the Rose Duelist had just-- just! Well. She was a surprising one. Not only a woman, but a legendary one. And for good reasons! Hopefully if her attitude was any indication of her dueling skill, the Rose Crusaders would be defeated promptly.
"Well, ah... what is my Lady not familiar with?" McMooran spoke carefully, wondering just what he would need to explain to the Duelist. Legend had it that she came from a time unlike anything ever imagined. Whether that meant the past or the future, not even McMooran knew, but... just how familiar with the game was she?
"...These stones." The Duelist motioned to a set of glowing orange and gold stones sitting in a well, formed into the board. In reality, nothing suspended them above the grassy ground but the magick with which McMooran had summoned them.
"Ah. Those are the Summoning Runes. At the start of a Duel, each Duelist is allocated four runes, or 'stones,' and obtains three more with each passing turn. However, if you expend those stones by summoning a monster, you do not gain them back in addition to the three others. One can collect a total of twelve stones in the Rune Well, but no more, even if another turn passes by."
"Mm. And the movement in this age? How does it differ from the other variations?"
In her rightful time and place, there was no movement. But she'd been to so many different times and places, she wasn't sure what was right and wrong anymore... what was part of the original Duel Monsters and what was simply a fanciful variation brought about by the reincarnations of...
"...My Lady?" McMooran spoke a bit hesitantly; the Duelist's eyes had taken on a far-off glaze, as if she was staring at something in the distance hidden from McMooran's gaze.
"Begging your pardon, Sir McMooran," the Duelist said immediately, regaining her composure. "but my thoughts wandered. Please, continue."
"Well... a creature that is summoned can only move once per turn. And a Deck Leader's summoning doesn't count as a move, so it can move immediately after it is brought to the board."
"In order to attack an opposing monster, all you have to do is move one of your monsters onto a space occupied by your enemy. When one monster attacks another, it is called a 'Battle.' The outcome of such battles are determined by the attack and defense factors of both creatures in question."
That was nothing new. Just a long-winded explanation for what the Duelist already knew quite well.
"If you succeed in eliminating your opponent's monster with an attack from your own creature, your monster moves into their space. Monsters automatically assume attack position whenever they are moved, and as such, the attack position indicates that your creature has moved, or will attack."
"...And if you attack a monster that has a higher attack or defense than your attack, you take the difference as damage, correct?" the Duelist asked, though it was apparent by the tone of her voice that she knew she was correct.
"Y-Yes, my Lady. And in such an instance, the enemy's monster does not move into your space. Likewise, if the attack factors for both monsters are equal, both creatures are destroyed."
McMooran droned on about the possible outcomes of battle for a few moments, while the Duelist's gaze strayed to the horizon. She was sure she had spotted a flicker of movement, but she couldn't be sure.
It was the dead of night in the middle of nowhere... who would possibly be riding around like it was broad daylight?
I must have been imagining things.
Yet, she didn't think she had been. And if there was someone out there, maybe...
Her heartbeat quickened at the thought of her lover-- rather, his incarnation in this period. It was never long after her initial summoning that she faced him again-- and was forced to make the ultimate decision between sides.
Somehow, she'd always gathered the courage before to ignore the strong resemblance between his incarnation and the man she'd fallen in love with --but so many losses, so much blood on her hands-- it all had the Duelist second-guessing.
Would she be able to tell him "no" this time around?
And even if she could... what would her reasons be?
"...how to win. Lady Rose?"
"Yes." The Duelist brought her attention to McMooran again, sure he was giving her a disapproving look under his own cloak and mask.
He wasn't a fool, really, but his attitude was wearing thin on her nerves. He was so assured that she was going to help him-- help Yuugi!
But she couldn't.
She'd made up her mind. She couldn't do it anymore. This was where her journey ended, where the death and destruction would stop.
This was where she would save the man she loved.
"In order to win, one must reduce their opponent's life points to zero, correct?"
She tried not to sound exasperated, but nothing ever changed when it came to winning or losing.
"W-Well, yes, m'lady, but there are also three other methods that we employ."
Under her cloak, the Duelist's eyebrows shot up. Three?
"You see, this board before you is a miniature example of how duels occur here. Since we are in the midst of a war, the magicks employed by both the House of Lancaster and the House of York actually take up a great deal of space."
"Well, should you be challenged by a member of the White Rose faction, for example, a grid of space between you two would be used to summon your creatures. These monsters would duel in the same way human soldiers would, and the life points are affected much the same way your energy is."
A Dark Duel...
It wasn't a game, as McMooran had initially led the Duelist to believe. People didn't just whip out some cards and play-- they really fought on the battlefield, using their wits and their inner strength. Their magick...
And duelists that lost didn't just lose physical energy, they lost...
Well, there had to be something that both sides were after. What was it this time?
"The other three methods employed include the occupation of a deck leader's spaces by monsters of the opposing faction-- preventing movement or summoning of creatures; the time limit running out on the duel--"
"Time limit?" The Duelist interrupted, holding a hand up. McMooran nodded slowly, "We are not entirely sure whyyet, but the magicks of the Cards only work after sunset. If a duel extends past sunrise, the duel ends, and whoever has the higher life points wins."
"I see." One had to assume that multiple duels couldn't take place in the same night. That meant avoiding potential enemies at all costs-- and still traveling as quickly as possible.
"Finally, if one manages to summon the legendary creature, Exodia, the duel is immediately declared finished, and the duelist responsible for Exodia's summoning wins."
Bile inched its way up the Duelist's throat-- Exodia? A life-size demon, ready to wreak havoc on the known world... Magicks from ancient times had brought that creature to life. In this day and age, it wasn't a mere hologram, it was a real soldier of war.
Quite possibly the hardest to find soldier.
She would have to get her hands on Exodia, if she wanted to end this quickly and easily.
McMooran continued speaking, going over various other aspects of the "game" that differed from what the Duelist knew. A maximum of five cards could be held in one's hand at a given time.
That means the God Cards are still sealed, the Duelist realized. If they had been discovered, then that five-card rule would have been disposed of immediately. Otherwise Osiris the Heavenly Saint Dragon would have been utterly useless...
Well, almost. 5000 Attack points 'useless.' But it can be much stronger.
If she possessed the God Cards, then she would have been over and done with this mission of hers long ago. But the only one who could unlock them was Yuugi...
And he was her enemy.
Only one card could be 'summoned' or 'set' per turn-- and that included Spell and Trap cards. The exception was if Spell or Trap cards were used to Power Up monster cards, or if two monster cards were put together in a Fusion. Polymerization was nonexistent.
How ridiculous. During Ancient Times, the Pharaoh could easily summon his own creatures while the Priests chanted spells and set traps. Why would they change that for this time?
Perhaps they weren't very magickally inclined, the Duelist smirked. She would show them.
"Now, if a face-up monster attacks a Spell card, the Spell card is destroyed, and the monster occupies the Spell card's place. There is no damage done to one's life points. If the monster is face-down, the Spell is destroyed and the monster moves, but the creature remains face down." McMooran continued, tapping his staff on the floor to demonstrate each of these things on the miniature playing board.
"If you control a Spell card and move it into a monster's space, your Spell is destroyed, but your opponent's monster does not move. The same is true if their monster is face down-- so you must be wary of when you activate your Spell cards and where you summon them."
He glanced up at the Duelist, pausing to make sure she understood. She was staring at the board with a strange, glittering expression in her eyes. She was a duelist of legend, but apparently some things differed from the time she had been summoned from. McMooran was curious-- just how much had they gotten correct in the bringing of "Duel Monsters" to their kingdom?
"And," McMooran coughed, moving on, "if a face-down Spell card attacks another face-down Spell card, the attacking card moves to the opponent's space, destroying their card. If your Spell card is face-up and it attacks another Spell card, face-up or down, your Spell card activates and moves into the other card's space, once the opponent's card is destroyed."
It was too complicated.
Back in ancient times, things had to be kept simple-- if powerful things were made too complex, chaos would result.
Chaos HAD resulted, all the same, but... it was for entirely different reasons.
"Please note, my lady, that a Spell card cannot turn an opposing Spell card up in battle... and that face-down monster cards do not gain a terrain bonus."
"The spaces in which the creatures are summoned--" McMooran gestured broadly around them, to the meadows surrounding Stonehenge and the forest they were near, "All have properties which can strengthen or weaken a monster's statistics. There are only four types of terrain that do not exist in this natural world-- they are the Crush space, the Labyrinth space, the Toon space, and the Dark space."
"I see. And the monsters they affect?"
"Well, there is a normal terrain, that isn't favorable or unfavorable to any type of creature. That's the sort of terrain you'll find in the palaces or villages, where Duel Monsters is really more a game than as we use it, a means to an end. Besides that, there's Wasteland, which is favorable to Zombies, Dinosaurs, Machines, and Rock types, while it's unfavorable to Plants, Fish, Sea Serpents, and Aqua-types."
Machines? They have machines in this day and age?!
Their idea of 'machines' might be a butter churn or a stone catapult. But if it wasn't... Maybe it was magick.
"There is the Meadow terrain, which is this area around us. It is favorable to Warriors and Beast-Warriors, but not to Spellcasters. The Forest, which is not far from where we stand now, m'lady, is favorable to the Beast-Warrior, Beast, Insect, Pyro, and Plant types, but not Fiends.. The Mountain type is favorable to Dragons and Winged Beasts, as well as Fairies and Thunder types, but not to Zombies. The last natural terrain, the Sea, is good, of course, for Fish and Sea Serpent types, but also for Thunder and Aqua types. It is not very good terrain for Machines and Pyros, though."
"And the unnatural terrain? What creatures does it affect, and how is such terrain brought forth?"
"...Well, we're still not sure on that." McMooran admitted, somewhat sheepishly.
Tampering with magicks you don't understand! The Duelist frowned deeply. This time period might just be worse off than any of the others she had visited. There were so many complexities, so many potential complications...
"There is a type of monster that we have not yet been able to identify, and it thrives in the Crush space. Normally, the Crush space destroys any monster occupying it with an attack value of 1500 or more, but for this type of monster, it bolsters its strength as the other natural Terrains do for the normal types of monsters."
A mysterious monster type?
The Duelist was well aware of the usual monster types-- Dragons, Spellcasters, Zombies, Winged Beasts, Beasts, Beast-Warriors, Fiends, Fairies, Insects, Dinosaurs, Reptiles, Sea Serpents, Fish, Machines, Thunder, Aqua, Pyro, Rock, and Plants... and each of them fit into one of the basic Elemental types of Light, Dark, Water, Fire, Earth, or Wind. Spell and Trap cards had categories of their own.
Ironic. The Duelist thought to herself. That both Pegasus's and Kaiba's trademark deck-killer cards had been transformed into powerful terrain changers...
Thoughts of the past hurt. She couldn't think of the past --her past, not when she wasn't even sure if she had a future. She had to learn everything about the Duels in this day and age. She had to become the Legendary Duelist again, and defeat...
It sounded impossible even as she thought it, but it had to be done. She had to side with Seto's incarnation in this day and age, if only to save him hundreds of years from now...
"There is also the Labyrinth type, which isn't favorable or unfavorable to any creature type, but it does prevent movement of summoned monsters and the deck leader. There are few creatures which can utilize this space... and of course, some monsters can be teleported INTO Labyrinth space. You can attack a creature in Labyrinth space, but even if you destroy it, you cannot occupy that territory. It makes for an incredible fortification against attacks."
"Or a one-way trip to your life points." The Duelist remarked. Everything that seemed like an advantage had a strong weakness to it. That was how it always was.
"Y-Yes, I suppose so, m'lady. The last two unnatural terrain types are the Toon terrain, which benefit Comic-type monsters, but impair all other types; and the Dark terrain, which benefits Zombies, Spellcasters, and Fiends, but negatively affects Fairies."
This 'terrain' feature was something like the Field Spell cards in the Duelist's age. Yet there could only be one Field Spell on the field at a given time... while here, every single terrain type could exist within less than a half mile of one another.
"Now, if a face-up monster is in a favorable terrain space at the start of its turn, it can move two spaces rather than one. And finally, of the six Elements, each of them has a superior or inferior. If a monster of an inferior Element attacks a weaker monster with a superior Element, the winning creature is Spellbound for a turn."
"Yes. Wind type creatures are superior to Dark types, while Darks are superior to Light, Light to Water, Water to Fire, Fire to Earth, and Earth to Wind. There are some cases in which Spellbinding lasts for an entire duel, and prevents the monster in question from moving or acting at all-- it can be a very useful strategy if played right-- or a weakness if ignored."
This was new. Spellbinding-- something like a status ailment for the soldiers? They would be petrified and unable to move, attack, or change position... at least, for a single turn. Still, a single turn could change the outcome of an entire duel. She would have to watch for this.
"Is that all?" The Duelist questioned, once McMooran had fallen silent.
"W-Well... there is something else, m'lady, but not many of the other Duelists believe in it."
"Y-Yes. The Lord Tudor and I have encountered something in our duels which we call the Destiny Draw. When one believes in their luck, and in the heart of the cards, on a turn during which that person has less than five cards in their hand, they will draw a card that will enable him --or her!-- to win the duel."
The heart... of the cards, huh?
It had been a while since she'd heard that phrase. It was a rather Yuugi-like thing to say. No wonder McMooran said the 'Lord Tudor' believed in it.
"Also, since the creatures are used as soldiers, they proceed through ranks much the same way real people do. They start at 2nd Lieutenant and progress as high as Secretary of Defense-- and with each promotion, they gain special Leader Abilities that aid them and the creatures they summon."
"Abilities such as?" The Duelist prompted. This sounded vaguely familiar, but it was a concept from the older times, not from her own time period. Why had it been lost in the conversion?
"Increased Movement, Opening the Opponent's Card, Increased attack for Same-Type Friendlies--" McMooran ticked them off on one hand, raising his eyes after a moment.
"In truth, m'lady, we aren't entirely sure of all the abilities a Leader can possess. Much like humans, in that respect, I suppose. The best way to discover all the ways a Leader and its Abilities can affect a duel is to play someone and play close attention to their Deck Leader."
With a wave of his staff, the board dissipated into a fine mist, whirling away in a faint breeze as if it had never been there.
"We are finished, then?" The Duelist asked quietly.
She could feel it. It was almost time.
"Well, first, Lady Rose, you must select a deck to duel with. It is important that you feel the vibrations of a Deck Leader-- the minute resonations that ring true to your soul. The cards themselves draw power from the energies of the Ancient Ones. The Deck Leader acts as an intermediate between the Ancient Ones and the deck-wielder Lady Rose," McMooran moved forward, his eyes strong and determined, "it is essential that you select a Deck Leader whose rhythm matches the stirrings of your soul. I have... several decks--" McMooran rummaged through his robes, bringing out a variety of cards tied up with colored ribbons.
"There is no need, Sir McMooran," the Duelist spoke up suddenly. McMooran glanced up at her, his eyes wide with surprise. The Legendary Duelist had no need of a deck?
To his astonishment, she pulled out a deck of cards from her own cloak-- cards similar in style to the ones he possessed, but... just from glancing at the top card, he could tell that they were incredibly rare-- and undoubtedly powerful. She was certainly the Duelist of Legend for a reason!
But McMooran had barely a second to look at anything but the topmost cards before the Duelist put them away again, her gaze averted. It was as if she were looking at something in the distance, but there was nothing there...
"So, that's the effect of the Celtic Red Rose Cards. It looks like there's some truth to the rumor that the Red Rose Cards are capable of time transformation."
The Duelist felt her heart leap into her throat. It had been far too long since she'd heard that voice, and her body resonated with a mixture of longing and pain upon hearing it once more.
"Who's there!?" Simon McMooran demanded, looking about wildly. He brought his staff further up into his hands, intending on casting a spell to protect the Duelist, if need be.
"It's been some time since the Battle of Barnet, old man..."
From the shadows of the nearby forest, a single figure emerged, the moonlight glinting off the silver plating of his armor.
"Rosenkreuz! What brings you here!?" McMooran exclaimed, his face turning a slight red. Christian 'Seto' Rosenkreuz III was the most formidable enemy McMooran had ever faced-- and the youngest, as well.
He served under the Yorkist nobleman Lord Crawford, and aimed to get Richard III on the throne-- but he would fail if McMooran had anything to say about it. The Druid smiled vaguely under his mask; McMooran and the Rose Duelist! The House of Lancaster would be unstoppable with her on their side!
"Only a member of the Rose Crusaders may call me by that name," Seto informed McMooran coldly, midnight blue eyes narrowing as his gaze met with McMooran's angry, wide-eyed stare.
"As you may recall, I told you once before that you may only address me as 'Seto.' Or does memory fail you, old man?"
McMooran made a noise something like a growl, but he held his tongue. His glance drifted over to the Duelist, who had remained silent since Seto's arrival on the scene.
He uses his name so flippantly, the Duelist thought. Such was just one of a myriad of thoughts and feelings racing through her brain. It was him. Seto.
"And you." Seto turned toward the Duelist, looking her up and down with a critical eye. "You must be the Rose Duelist. I must admit," he cocked his head to the side, his eyes shifting over her form, "there is a certain aura of power emanating from you." He paused, stepping forward and straightening his posture even more rigidly than it had been before.
"I believe an introduction is in order. I am Seto, leader of the Rose Crusaders. There are members of our little group that prefer to call me by the name of C. Rosenkreuz."
His impossibly deep eyes met with the Duelist's, the only part of her visible underneath her layers of cloaks and masks. Though it was not apparent to anyone but the Duelist herself, her heart thundered wildly in her chest at the sight of him.
It was if he'd been removed from her own time and been plopped right here, in the Medieval Ages.
He looked exactly the same...
"I ask you again," McMooran began harshly, "What brings you here, Seto!?"
Seto broke his gaze from the Duelist --though somewhat reluctantly. He didn't understand what it was he felt-- something much stronger than 'an aura of power,' that much was certain.
And there was another odd feeling...
"Mind your manners, old man! What else would bring me here?" He straightened, adopting a haughty smile. "I've come for the Red Rose Cards! After all, it is you who showed me how the summoning capabilities would evolve when the Red Rose Cards are combined with the transport powers of the White Rose Cards."
So. That's what they're after. Cards. Magical cards...
"You aren't thinking of attempting the forbidden Rose Summoning-- if so, then the Red Rose Cards will never fall into your evil hands! Card Sorcery taps into the powers of the Ancient Ones... by their very nature, each card is a double-edged sword that can cut both ways. The Rose Cards alone harness tremendous power. There's no telling what horrors one might unleash on the world by combining both Red and White. I will sacrifice my own life if need be to prevent any from uttering the Spell of Doom!"
Spell... of Doom?
It sounded painfully familiar to the Duelist. When she'd first been to the Ancient Times, when everything had begun...
Sorcery. The Ancient Ones. A Spell of Doom.
She had to stop fate from repeating itself.
"The Spell of Doom?" Seto scoffed, his face plainly displaying the disgust that he had for McMooran's words. "Fool! The sixteen Red and White Rose Cards grant 'power over all!' Druid legend has twisted the true meaning of these cards! We Rose Crusaders have sworn to create a utopia free from the ravages of war. And we intend to accomplish this with the power of the cards!!! And we shall do so by extending the rule of Richard III throughout the known world!"
Simon McMooran was silent, gripping his staff tightly.
"By the way," Seto smirked, pacing about in front of McMooran and the Duelist, "it was clever of you to form a circle of red roses within the white rose barrier to summon the Duelist." He halted in front of McMooran again, his eyes glinting a steely-gray, "But it was foolish for you to come alone. This area is surrounded, and if you wish to leave with your life, you will do so only by handing over the Red Rose Cards."
"Me? A fool?" McMooran spluttered, though it was out of sarcastic surprise more than actual shock, "Then what about you? Are you fool enough to believe that the Red Rose Cards would remain here in my possession? Right after the summoning, I had them dispersed amongst out best duelists to keep them from your tainted hands!"
Seto grimaced, but his scowl was quickly replaced with a menacing grin that the Duelist knew could only mean one thing.
"Then you leave me with but one option!" Seto declared, "I shall enlist the aid of your precious Rose Duelist!"
McMooran rolled his eyes. "You take leave of your senses."
"And you speak too soon, old man!" Seto shot back. "Heed my words, Duelist!" He turned to her, his eyes ablaze with a look of sheer determination and strength that the Duelist was well familiar with.
"If you wish to return to your proper time period, you will require all sixteen cards of the Red and White Roses... the Red and White positions must be laid out in reverse of the summoning in order to send you home--"
"You know the spell?!" McMooran blurted, his eyes wide with shock.
"Since you need the sixteen Rose Cards just as much as we do," Seto continued smoothly, ignoring McMooran's interruption. "I propose a partnership. Help us gather the cards, and I shall guarantee your return after we have achieved our ultimate goal!"
"An absurd proposal!" McMooran spoke up immediately, not even giving the Duelist a moment to speak for herself. "Do you think the honorable Rose Duelist would even lend an ear to your ridiculous proposal?!"
"Can you be so sure, old man?" Seto sneered, casting his gaze towards the Duelist. Whatever he felt, he was sure the Duelist felt it too.
"Let me see... Simon's side has eight of the Red Rose Cards, while my side --the Rose Crusaders-- has possession of eight of the White Rose Cards. As the numbers are even, simple arithmetic indicates you could side with either of us. But," Seto narrowed his eyes at McMooran, who took an unsteady step backwards, "I'm sure that you'll take into account who's winning this war. After all, who was desperate enough to summon you in the first place? I think it's quite clear which side is better-positioned to send you home." Seto's eyes turned back to the Duelist, who kept her eyes locked with Seto's.
"L-Lady Rose! Heed not the words of this... this power-hungry lunatic!"
Seto started. LADY ROSE?
"You're a woman." He stated quietly, though it was left open for the Duelist to confirm or deny. Simon McMooran already knew the truth --part of it, at least. Indeed, the Duelist of Legend was a woman...
Her voice. Where had he heard her voice before?
"A thousand apologies for my rudeness, my lady," Seto recovered quickly, bowing at his waist and gently grasping Rose's left hand, gloved with black lace. "I am honored to meet you." He pressed his lips gently to her knuckles, raising his gaze slowly.
Had he been able to see her face completely, he would have seen her cheeks burn a faint tinge of scarlet.
Chivalry was far from dead in this day and age, and the longing within Rose was so great that she hadn't wanted Seto to pull away. She hadn't wanted the moment to end.
Simon McMooran seethed as Seto romanced Lady Rose with few words and little movement-- that was the only thing the youthful duelist had over McMooran. His charm had won him many admirers, but of all people to swoon over him, the Rose Duelist...!
Surely she has taken into account the plight of the House of Lancaster. The Duelist is a woman of great intelligence, I am sure, and won't be swayed by Seto's fool attempts at seducing her!
"Simon," Seto clicked his tongue, bringing McMooran's attentions back to the fore, "You mustn't resort to petty name-calling. I'm hurt." He faked a pout, and quickly turned his gaze back to the still-silent Duelist, his eyes searching hers.
Who was she? How could the Duelist of Legend possibly be a WOMAN?
"I'll tell you what. Why don't we leave the decision to our dear Duelist? After all, Simon, the Duelist's future is not for us to decide, now is it?" His eyes never left hers, even as her gaze dropped to the ground.
"Well, yes, but..." McMooran began, but Seto cut him off.
"Splendid! In keeping with the tradition of the Old Temple gardens, I offer you a choice, Duelist." Seto moved towards the forest edge, where a briar of roses bloomed, red and white. Being the middle of the night, the blooms were closed, but they were touched with dew and their scent hung thickly in the cold air.
"Here are two roses." Seto plucked a red rose from one of the branches, and a white from another. They were both equally beautiful, pure and rich in color, and none of their petals flawed in any way. "The white represents me, and red for old Simon here..."
"For the sake of justice, choose the red rose!" Simon begged, his eyes darting nervously from Rose to Seto, who handed the two roses to her.
"Stand by my side, Duelist. Choose the white rose."
She froze, her heart slowing to a pace that might as well have been standstill.
"Stand by me. I need you."
Seto Kaiba had never needed anyone. But he'd gone and said he needed her, and her heart had been his. Long before that, even...
White roses-- innocence, purity, beauty, young love. Secrecy. Silence.
Red roses-- 'I Love You.' Respect. Courage... passionate love.
Passion that she and Seto had never gotten the chance to share, because everything had fallen apart too soon. She'd lost him before she realized what she truly had, and the ache in her heart couldn't be quelled...
Rose closed her eyes, remembering the sensation of rose petals brushing across her lips... and then, Seto kissing her.
Warmth had raced through her veins, a tingle spreading from the tips of her fingers to the soles of her feet. And she'd known, in that very moment, that she was in love.
And she wasn't about to let go of that.
Unawares that her thoughts had bested her, Rose gripped the red rose in her gloved hand, crushing it easily. The thorns pierced through the black lace and into her tender skin, drawing blood as crimson as the rose petals themselves.
"You are forgiven, Sir McMooran." Rose finally said, in a voice clearer and louder than when she'd spoken before.
"My lady?" McMooran asked in a quaking voice.
She raised her eyes to meet his, the startling blue of before having deepened into something cold and icy.
"For assuming so easily that I am a tool to be used, and that I, as a person, did not have my own agenda in coming here. Know this, Simon McMooran, it was not YOUR powers alone that brought me here, but my own as well. Your Rose Cards only aided me in knowing the exact location to where I was being called."
She fell silent, glancing at the crushed rose in her hands. The petals slid from between her fingers to the thick grass below, the rose almost completely dead.
"I have my own purpose in being here, in this time and this place. And while your cause is... noble," Rose fumbled over her words, wondering just what to say, "I cannot side with you."
She turned her gaze to Seto, who refrained from grinning broadly and gloating. He knew very little of this duelist, and what little he knew could be horribly wrong. He had to wait. Wait and listen.
"Seto Rosenkreuz. You seek to 'free the world from the ravages of war.'" She paused, waiting for an answer.
"Y-Yes, m'lady. War is a horrible thing-- this power struggle must come to an end if we as a people are to ever find peace."
It was a blatant lie and they all knew it-- but it was a lie that everyone dreamed of. Peace. Unity. Was it possible?
"I shall help you attain that peace, if I can." She lifted the white rose up, and for a moment, reveled in its simplicity, its beauty, its soft scent.
Memories engulfed her completely, but that's all they were-- memories. She had to take action if she wanted to find that peace --find that love-- again.
"A wise choice, Duelist." Seto finally said gruffly, his gaze still fixed upon her. A woman. A woman of legend-- of power. And... it seemed that she too, had her own motivations. Did she really want peace, or something else?
"I see you are well-versed in judging a situation," Seto continued, casting a faint smirk at McMooran, who looked absolutely flabbergasted, "Welcome to the Rose Crusaders. I am... honored." Again, Seto picked up her hand, but this time found it bleeding.
"Oh." She whispered, stripping her hands of the lace gloves and tossing them to the ground. Seto and McMooran both blinked; they had never encountered a lady so flippant with her belongings before.
But her wound was steadily bleeding, and that was more important than whether she cared about her lace gloves, torn and bloody as they were, or not.
Concerned eyes met with hers, and Seto pulled a white handkerchief from the folds of his clothing, tenderly holding up Rose's hand and wrapping it to stop the blood flow. When he'd finished tying the makeshift bandage shut, his eyes met with hers again, and for just a moment, he could hear the blood rushing in his ears.
"All right old man," Seto coughed, quickly wresting his eyes from Rose's, "It's time you made yourself scarce."
"Wha...? What are you doing?"
McMooran found himself suddenly surrounded by two heavily-armored soldiers bearing the insignia of the White Rose on their shields; they bodily escorted the Druid away and into the darkness.
"Don't worry, old man. They're not going to hurt you. But I need you out of the way until everything is settled."
McMooran's howling scream echoed for a few moments, and then disappeared into the night.
Seto turned to Rose, whose eyes were still trained on the white fabric now spotted with her blood-- and emblazoned with fine embroidery bearing the White Rose insignia. Just below the circular emblem, the initials CSR III were sewn in delicate script.
"Now," Seto cleared his throat, wishing to avoid the awkwardness that had so thickly filled the space between them before, "let's talk about the Red Rose Cards. Simon mentioned that he spread the cards among certain individuals. I think it's safe to assume that a large number of those individuals are his confederates currently located in France. I would like to ask you to enter France from Dover and retrieve those cards for our cause."
"Very well," Rose said softly, beginning to walk into the forests. Seto quickly caught up with her.
"I don't mean immediately-- Well, time is of the essence, but... m'lady, your presence would be... appreciated at the palace."
Seto seemed to have a hard time choosing his words, Rose thought. He was both like and unlike the Seto she was intimately familiar with.
Rose glanced at Seto when they reached a clearing, finding a lone black stallion tied to a tree.
"You expected me to join your cause, did you not?" She asked, slight curiosity tingeing her voice.
"...I knew the Duelist would select the cause that would aid most in her return to her proper time." Seto said after a moment.
Rose only smiled, and then said, "If that is so, why didn't you bring an extra horse? You did not know that I was a woman."
Seto stilled-- she'd caught him. What was he to say?
Rather than expecting an answer, Rose only chuckled. She moved towards the stallion, stroking its nose briefly before hoisting herself up onto its back-- and sitting upon the saddle like a man.
Seto stared at the black-cloaked woman from the ground, amazed. Not only had she treated his stallion --the wildest beast in the Yorkist Stables-- like some sort of tame pet, but she'd gotten up and on the horse as if it were her own, and she were some sort of hot-blooded knight!
"I don't believe I have ever met a woman quite like you, Lady Rose." Seto finally murmured, getting onto the horse himself. Despite the thickness of his armor, the Lady still sat in front of him, her body slender enough to allow Seto ample room to hold the reins and control the horse.
Much to Seto's surprise, Rose laughed, the sound bright and out of place in the darkened forest.
"And you never shall again, my dear Seto."
There was an odd way in which she said his name, and an odd look in her eyes when she'd turned to him and spoken-- but then, the woman was very odd. From a time and place like nothing he or his fellow duelists could imagine-- a duelist of legend, with such power and understanding of Duel Monsters that whoever could win her to their side would be able to turn the tides of war.
A duelist... that was a woman.
Seto couldn't process the thought.
Was she young, or was she old? She didn't sound old. She held herself upright, with a graceful posture, but an air of someone limber and experienced. Yet... she wore a dress. Seto could see little of it, hidden as it was underneath her black cloak, but he knew she was restrained by it.
Was she beautiful, or hideous? Seto half expected her to be like the enchantresses of fairy tales-- sounding beautiful and possessing stunning, alluring eyes-- but utterly hideous and despicable underneath.
Yet something told him that he shouldn't put much stock in fairy tales, and that, though legends oft turned out to be lies woven around a simple truth, this duelist --this woman-- was more than she appeared to be. And maybe, underneath all those cloaks and that mask, there was a beautiful young woman, with strength and spirit unmatched by anyone else.
It was certainly an amusing thought.
Not long after, the two found themselves in front of a grand stone castle, lit by flaming torches and framed with terraces and eaves covered in rose briars as far as the eye could see. Dark shadows of knights and guards patrolled every inch of the castle up to the drawbridge, at which point Seto signaled them and was allowed entry.
The guards looked entirely baffled at the presence of another person on the fore of Seto's horse, but none of them managed a close enough look to realize that the said person was a woman.
Once the horse had been put to the stables, Seto led Rose through the dank hallways. In the main foyer, he stopped and turned to face the still-cloaked duelist. There was a distinct burning inside him to see her face --to confirm if his suspicions were true or not-- but he would not be thought rude for asking her to remove her cloak.
There had to be a reason she kept hidden, Seto told himself. And for that, he would say nothing on the subject.
"I must thank you again, my lady, for joining our cause. With the House of York backing you, I am sure that you will find your way home much quicker. We must obtain the sixteen Rose Cards in order to do so."
Rose nodded silently to herself, raising her hands and looking them over. The bleeding on her right hand had stopped, but Seto's handkerchief was still stained in places, her blood mixing with the ivory white of the fabric in an odd pattern that kept the Duelist's eyes trained on it.
"Does your hand still hurt, m'lady? I could have the apothecary make a salve--"
"Both my eyes, and my hands," Rose spoke, "contrary to appearance, are quite old. They have been through many duels... but it ends here."
Rose raised her eyes to meet Seto's, crystal blue meeting with sapphire.
"The legend of the Rose Duelist ends... in this time, in this place. You will achieve your goal and ascend the throne, and I will have the ending I've deserved for so long."
Seto stared at her, trying to process her words-- but by the time he had, and realized that the Duelist had said he would ascend the throne, she had already disappeared down the hallway and into the chambers given to her.
"...The ending I've deserved for so long."
Seto could not fathom her meaning. This Duelist was an enigma-- a mystery of many layers. And he would solve that mystery. He would find out the secret of the Duelist of the Roses-- even if it was the last thing he did.
Note: The card types are all based off the English TCG, rather than the Japanese-- That's why Demons = Fiends, Black = Dark, Angels = Fairies... and all that stuff. Players of the English TCG will have no problem understanding this fic.
I'll be sending all fics from here on out to my betas first, so if there's any more delays (that is, non-typical Az ones... I already know I take over a month to get things out) then... er, yeah, talk to them! Feed them cookies or whatever. :)
This is Az signing out... for now.