....But to hint and hover, to draw near us in dreams and oracles, or in a waking vision that vanishes as soon seen, to be dead silent when we question them and then glide back and whisper (words we cannot understand) in our ears when we most wish to be free of them, and to show to one what they hide from another; what is all this but cat-and-mouse play, blindman's bluff, and mere jugglery? Why must holy places be dark places?

I say, therefore, that there is no creature (toad, scorpion, or serpent) so noxious to man as the gods. Let them answer my charge if they can. It may well be that, instead of answering, they'll strike me mad or leprous or turn me into a beast. But will not all the world then know (and the gods will know it knows) that this is because they have no answer?

C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

——

The nights lay silent in the Valley of Kings. His voice rang arrogantly against the quiet: self-confident, assured.

"Let me enter," he said. "I have come to bring a case before Lord Pharaoh."

And what is your case? the tomb asked. What is so important, that it must be brought to Lord Pharaoh and disturb him?

He walked in, heedless of traps or dangers. Lord Pharaoh would hear him, and the tomb would not harm him—yet. Not until he had brought his case to the gods. Not until justice had spoken.

He entered the burial chamber, and held up his torch.

The fire danced against the stone walls—gold and gems catching the broken light. The sarcophagus' face stared blankly up at him, unseeing, uncaring, blind to the thief who came to destroy the sanctity of its tomb. Blind to the fire which had broken the peace. Blind to all, for it had no eyes to see. He touched it hesitantly.

The fire caught him as well—a short, slouched figure, looking at times like a shadow-child and shadow-demon. The shadows on the wall caught up everything and twisted it, making a wavering shadow-world in which nothing was true and nothing was false.

But the sarcophagus, he thought, staring down at it, did not get caught up in the shadow-dance. Just a mere block of blackness, cold and ugly, best not there, a flaw in the dance of light and darkness.

He would like to destroy this tomb—take up a knife and blot out the names, cut out the hieroglyphs, mangle the golden animals and tools. He'd set fire to the Valley of the Kings—unholy fire, that could reach to the depths of the tombs and destroy it. Let the king pass through eternity in misery, bereft of all his comforts! Yes...the king deserved it.

"You—"

His voice darted through the chamber, filling every corner, lurking in every shadow. You...you...you...

He paused, staring at the unimpressed mask.

"Lord Pharaoh," he said, to the sarcophagus, softly, "I have come to you with a story. Do you like stories? I used to."

Did he just think that the eyes flickered with interest? Could they? No—just the firelight. The sarcophagus lay dead—dead as the man entombed within it, never to rise again...nothing but a shade...

"Once upon a time," he said, "there ruled a great and powerful kingdom. Yet, as strong as it was, there came another yet stronger. The first kingdom struggled and began to fail. And so it turned to another kind of strength to save itself...and the pharaoh, Lord Pharaoh, the son of Ra, spoke the words that would commit a crime. A horrible crime...the worst of crimes. Do you know what that is?"

The eyes of golden jackals watched him as he stared down the face, eyes dark, face hard. The scar looked livid and hideous in the shifting light—a pale dead serpent, one with his face.

"Betrayal," he told the mask.

The mask said nothing.

"In this kingdom," he said, "there was a village. In the village lived a hundred people—just people, that lived and died and breathed and drank and loved like all men do. There were mothers and fathers, children and grand children. And they stole. But they were human. And they were not traitors...no...thieves are not traitors..."

He looked around the room. "They aren't," he repeated, raspingly, fiercely. "They aren't!"

The ruby eyes of a copper snake stared at him—the men in the hieroglyphs frowned as he paced around the room. He picked up a long metal creature, hard and smooth. Hard enough, perhaps, to shatter a weaker metal—with sufficient force.

"The pharaoh had them killed, one by one..." He stabbed in the air with his statue. "Stabbed, dying, clutching the ground...one by one, they died alone. One by one..." he said, again, catching himself up again in the memory. "Such a betrayal, Lord Pharaoh. Such a betrayal by the gods. But that was not all..."

Yes? asked the pots, the writings, the drawings. And then what happened? asked the statues, the spears, the possessions.

"He took them, as they lay, dead and motionless—took their bodies. All of them, down to the last child—they should have been embalmed, laid to rest, as their souls went to paradise: well, if the gods allowed them that last mercy—but he did not do that. He melted their bodies together with gold." He brushed a vulture with a finger, as if to demonstrate to the faceless mask that this was gold. "He destroyed their afterlife...and they wander as ghosts, wailing, hurting, doomed forever to stay tortured in this world..."

"Didn't he betray them, Lord Pharaoh?" he asked, sharply. "Didn't he betray their loyalty?"

The fire danced and the shadows watched, but the silence remained unbroken.

"I know what you ask, Lord Pharaoh," he said, smoothly. "Who saw this betrayal? Who can come as witness, that the criminal might truly be found guilty?"

Who? asked the flickering lions. Who shall testify against the gods?

"I," he said. "I come...I come to bring you, Lord Pharaoh, to pay for Kuru Elna. Your afterlife shall be one thousand times more wretched than theirs—I swear it. What have you to say?"

He stared down at the mask of the sarcophagus, as the shadows closed in and swirled about his feet, as the stone of the walls seemed to loom larger. The tomb waited for an answer.

"Answer me!" he screamed.

The sarcophagus looked blindly up at himCbland metal, nothing more.

"You, Lord Pharaoh—you, son of Ra—answer me! When man betrays the gods, he is destroyed. What shall we do when the gods betray man? What shall be your penalty?" He began to hysterically cackle, a high and wailing noise.

He raised the smooth statue up, higher and higher, staring down at the sarcophagus with pure hatred. "What shall I do to you, Lord Pharaoh? What shall I do to the gods?"

The dead jackals and serpents watched him with heavy, heavy eyes. What...shall...I...do...to...the...gods...what...shall...I...do...what...

"Answer me..."

What shall you do? What shall you to the gods? asked the shadows, and suddenly the room seemed alive, shifting brown and black and gold—over and over in one twisted pattern.

"Answer me, coward! Lord Pharaoh—Lord Osiris Akumanakanon, yes? You must be the Osiris for us, to watch over Egypt, yes? Then suffer the fate of Osiris! Be destroyed in your own tomb! Let Egypt die..."

The statue swung down. The shadows frozeCbirds and beasts of prey waited. One soul wavered between chaos and misery. Still the sarcophagus lay still, black-painted eyes dead and uninterested—mocking him, mocking with their lifelessness. They should fear him—not mock him.

"I will destroy you!"

The mask shattered. The metal smashed against a senet board, ruining it.

"Just as I will the gods..." He tilted his head upwards. "You—all of you—you shall all pay for Kuru Elna!"

The gods laughed.

Among the broken metal, Lord Thief King Bakura heard nothing but the sound of shadows dancing.

——

Note about "Lord Pharaoh": in the manga, Thief King attaches -sama to every name. Since I don't know any Japanese, I try to refrain from using it. Hence, -sama gets translated to "Lord". It's the same meaning.

Note about title: It's from a line in...Homer, I think: A hunter of shadows, and himself a shade. Which you may interpret as you will.

This story follows manga-canon, in which he brings a mummy, as opposed to anime-
canon, in which he uses a coffin. Personally, I find the mummy approach much more interesting...like just about everything else in the manga that I've read. Except for Kisara's Fluffy Moment, which is apparently not in the anime at all... (cries)

Tamara, if this is ripped off of your storyit struck me that it might be, re-reading thisthen tell me, and I'll remove it. And hit myself, for good measure.

Aaaaand...to say something completely off-topic: the computer with chapter three of Egyptian Chaos got eaten. By a W key. Which one of the reasons for delay.

Oh. I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh!; that is © Kazuki Takahashi.

-Ethelflaed-