PART III: INTO THE SHADOWS
Summary: Yugi and his friends go after Rex and Weevil and try to find the answers about who brought them here and why as they fight the shadows, both without and within. End of series spoilers. YugixTéa, JoeyxMai, mild MokubaxRebecca, hints at TristanxSerenityxDuke.
Disclaimer: I don't own Yu-gi-oh or its characters; Kazuki Takahashi does. I'm just taking them for a joy ride. I promise to put them back when I'm done.
Rating: T for mild language, violence, suggestive content.
A word about continuity (such as it is): This story mostly follows the dubbed American Kids WB version because that's what I watch with my kids. So sue me. ;) That said, whenever it suits my purposes, I borrow from the original Japanese version (gleaned from episode guides on the brilliant Yu-Jyo site, Janime, and False Memories – e-mail me if you want the links) or the manga. For example, Yugi and Téa were childhood friends, as in the manga, even though in the American version a flashback shows Yugi and Joey deciding they should get to know her after the boys are already friends. Basically, wherever there is a conflict between the American, Japanese, and manga, I go with whatever I like best. :) Events referred to that have not yet aired in the U.S. (some of the Memory World/Dawn of the Duel arc) I got from Janime and False Memories.
Oh, and about Mai's age: I've fanwanked her about five years younger because the idea of a woman in her mid-twenties falling for a 15-year-old kid is a bit too Mary Kay Letourneau for me (shudder). I have her at about 19 when she first met the others on the boat to Duelist Kingdom and yes, there is an explanation for the discrepancy between this and canon (see Part II).
1. The Four Pharaohs
Yugi stood in the opening to the large cavern trying to absorb what he was seeing. It was one thing to hear Joey and Tristan explain it to him. It was quite another to see it with his own eyes, to be standing in the middle of it. They were spread out along the ledge just inside the doorway, all eleven of them—Yugi, Kaiba, Téa, Joey, Tristan, Mai, Serenity, Duke, Rebecca, Mokuba, and Evan Haines—looking down into the vast chamber. It was lit at very regular intervals by torches along the walls, and between the torches hung eight giant stone tablets, four on each side, all carved with hieroglyphics. If he hadn't known better, he'd have thought he was in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings, not a cave on an island in the Pacific somewhere west of Canada.
"Geez," Mokuba breathed when they walked in. Serenity gasped, and Duke gave a low whistle.
Even Kaiba seemed awed. He stared, slack-jawed for a moment, then said grimly, "We were definitely brought here deliberately."
"What the hell?" Evan said. "When you said there were stone tablets with Egyptian hieroglyphics, I had no idea…."
Of the seven of them who had not already seen the cave, Rebecca alone remained completely silent. Yugi tore his eyes from the cavern walls to find his young friend. Slipping past Kaiba to where she stood beside Mokuba, Yugi put his hand on her shoulder.
"You okay, Rebecca?"
She nodded. "I… I knew this place felt like Egypt as soon as we got here," she said quietly.
He squeezed her shoulder and saw Mokuba slip his hand into hers and giving it a squeeze. She turned to him and smiled. Joey could say what he wanted about "big brothers" needing to keep boys away, but at that moment Yugi was exceedingly grateful for Mokuba Kaiba.
"We didn't go any further than this," Tristan explained when they all had absorbed the vastness of the cavern and its intricate ornamentation. "It has a sort of Indiana Jones vibe going, so we thought we'd wait for the expert." He nodded at Yugi.
Yugi snorted. "Indiana Jones. Riiiiight."
"Well, you know, if he were a really short dork with goofy hair," Duke deadpanned, trying to lighten the tension.
"Are we going to stand here all day or are we going to find Raptor and Underwood and get to the bottom of why we're here?" Kaiba snapped.
Joey bowed deeply and waved his arm forward. "By all means, Kaiba, after you."
"You're pathetic," Kaiba scoffed, then brushed past Joey, his long overcoat draping elegantly behind him as he headed around the ledge to the left.
Yugi started moving too, following in Kaiba's wake around the ledge as it looped toward the other side of the cavern. When he and Kaiba reached the first stone tablet, they both stopped beside it.
"Can you read it?" Mai asked. "What's it say?"
"I'll bet it's some sort of warning, 'Abandon hope all ye who enter,'" Tristan said dramatically.
"Oh for… it's from a pharaoh's tomb, you moron. It describes the deeds of the pharaoh," Kaiba sneered.
Yugi's eyes went wide as he looked at Kaiba. "Can you… you can read this?"
As if just realizing that he had, in fact, read it, Kaiba took a step back in surprise. "I can read it. Well, not completely, but I understand the gist," he marveled.
"It's just like with those Egyptian God cards, Seto," Mokuba said, coming up behind them, still holding Rebecca's hand. "You could read the Winged Dragon of Ra card, too."
"You've got to be kidding me," Rebecca grumbled. "Thirteen years of living with my grandpa and two years living in Egypt and I still have trouble understanding that stuff."
"It's because of his connection with the past," Yugi said. "Oh, don't look at me like that, Kaiba, you know it's true!"
"Can you read it?" he asked.
"After an intensified two-year study of Egyptology in Egypt? I should hope so!"
"But could you read it before that?"
Yugi hesitated. "Um… not really, but kind of. It's strange, actually. I could understand the inscription tattooed on Marik's back, but I don't think I was really reading it. It was more like… like the Egyptian God cards were somehow translating it for me. Then when we went to Egypt that first time, when we were in the Memory World, I couldn't read Atem's name on the cartouche in the golden room. But after… when I went back to Egypt with Professor Hawkins and Rebecca and I had his memories… it came easy to me. I learned very quickly."
"Interesting," Kaiba said.
"It's weird," Mokuba commented. "I wonder why Seto could read hieroglyphics and you couldn't if you're both connected to ancient pharaohs. I would think it would be reversed since yours actually lived with you, Yugi."
Yugi shrugged. "There's a whole lot about all of this I still don't understand. It might have something to do with the Pharaoh losing his memories when he was sealed into the Millennium Puzzle. I don't know."
"Okay, are you guys talking about one of those weird role-playing games?" Evan asked, bemused.
Kaiba snorted and Yugi gave him a crooked smile. "Something like that."
"While this is all fascinating, I'd kind of like to get on with the main event, kiddo," Mai interrupted. "Do we need to jump out of the way of flying darts or giant boulders as we go?"
"I hope not," Yugi shuddered. "All this says is what Kaiba said: it's a description of Ramesses I, his great acts, that sort of thing. It's an epitaph."
"Why is it here?" Téa asked. "Was this one of the things stolen from the pharaohs' tombs?"
Yugi put his hand out and felt the stone wall, his fingers gliding across its surface, feeling the indentations the hieroglyphics made. "I don't think so. The engravings are sharp and fresh. If this were ancient it would feel worn and smoothed over. But it probably is a re-creation from the scrolls and stuff that were stolen before Rebecca and I left Cairo." He looked at it more closely. "It's an excellent reproduction, too. Whoever did this, or had it done, is an expert on ancient Egypt."
"Okay, you all are starting to creep me out here," Evan said. "Stop playing this game of yours and just be yourselves. We have serious work here."
"We aren't playing a game," Yugi assured him. "I'm talking about some real thefts that happened about six months ago." When Evan still looked skeptical, he reminded him, "I told you, I'm an Egyptology student and Rebecca's grandfather is an archaeologist."
Duke came up beside Yugi and Kaiba and looked at the stone closely, then stood back and scratched his head. "I don't get it. Why would someone go to all this trouble to put reproductions of ancient Egyptian artifacts in a huge cave on a deserted island off the coast of Alaska?"
"I have no idea," Yugi admitted.
"That's not all."
Yugi looked over to see Tristan examining one of the torches placed in between the stone slabs. "What is it?" he asked.
"This thing isn't just dipped in kerosene and lit," Tristan said, indicating the torch. "It's fueled by gas. Look."
Yugi, Kaiba, and a few of the others crowded around. "He's right," Kaiba said, "it's hooked into a pipe that goes into the wall."
"Okay, that makes no sense. This ain't downtown Tokyo here. How is this place wired for natural gas?" Joey asked.
"It's probably CNG, compressed natural gas," Tristan replied. "It's portable. But it still must be hardwired into the walls and it would have to be stored somewhere. It would take a lot of it, too, depending on how far these caves go and how many torches there are."
"Anyone with the resources to outfit this place with all these tablets would certainly have the resources to outfit the place for gas," Kaiba said, and Yugi knew from his tone he meant Pegasus.
"I don't think Pegasus is responsible for this," he said flatly.
"But why would whoever did this go to so much trouble? Wouldn't it be easier and cheaper to wire the place for electricity and run it off a generator?" Duke mused.
"Atmosphere?" Yugi shrugged.
"Meanwhile, boys and girls, we aren't getting any younger," Mai prompted.
Yugi brought his attention back to the tablets. "Listen, Kaiba, since you can read these as well as I can, why don't you look at the ones on this side and I'll read the ones on the other side."
"Whatever, let's just get on with this," Kaiba replied.
Yugi backtracked past the doorway and to the right side of the chamber where he stopped before the first stone on that side. "This one is also about Ramesses I, how he was the vizier of Pharaoh Horemheb, High Priest of Amun, yadda yadda ya."
"This one is about Pharaoh Seti," Kaiba called out from the second stone across the room.
"This, too," Yugi said, reading the second stone on his side. "Seti I, Ramesses I's son."
The third stones on both sides were about Ramesses II. "He was also known as Ramesses the Great," Yugi explained while reading, "He's probably the most famous of all the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs except for maybe Tutankhamun."
"Who?" Joey muttered.
"King Tut," Téa answered impatiently.
"Anyway, Ramesses the Great is the pharaoh most commonly associated with Moses and the Hebrew exodus," Yugi went on. "He was very aggressive and imperialistic and made a lot of military forays north into the Middle East and south into Africa. Between the military campaigns and the Exodus story, he has a reputation for being a pretty ruthless leader. And he had like two hundred wives and over ninety children."
"Geez," Tristan whistled. "I don't know if I'd even want one little pain in the rear, let alone that many."
"Are you talking wives or children?" Serenity asked dryly, and Tristan turned red and mumbled something in response that Yugi couldn't hear over Joey's cackling at him.
"Am I the only one who is dying of boredom as we speak?" Kaiba asked pointedly. "Can we move on now?"
"Sorry," Yugi muttered. "I find this stuff interesting."
"And I find economic trends and market indicators interesting, but I don't blather on about them in mixed company," Kaiba shot back.
"These stones are here for a reason, Kaiba," Téa retorted on Yugi's behalf. "We should know what they say."
"We know what they say. Ramesses was a great and mighty pharaoh, beloved of the gods, blah blah blah. Moving on."
The last tablets on either side were about Ramesses III. "There are about thirty years and seven rulers between him and Ramesses the Great. He's not even from the same dynasty. His father, Setnakhte, was believed to have deposed the last ruler from Ramesses I's dynasty, Queen Twosret. I wonder why the gap in rulers and years and the switch to a whole different dynasty? Unless it's just because the rulers between them had such short reigns."
"Yugi, aren't these the same pharaohs whose tombs Pegasus said were raided?" Rebecca asked.
"Well, yes, but why these and not the others of the Nineteenth Dynasty?"
"Didn't Pegasus also say that these were the same pharaohs that tried to uncover the Millennium Items?" Rebecca continued.
Yugi paused. "Yeah, Rebecca, I think he did say that." He thought of the Millennium Ring that Sho had given him, the Millennium Eye that Tristan had found with Pegasus, and the Millennium Puzzle Sho claimed Weevil had been wearing. "Then this is connected with the Millennium Items."
"Does that make them… does that mean that they're probably real?" Téa asked.
Yugi looked over at her. She was across the way on Kaiba's side of the cavern, so he couldn't read her expression to tell what she was thinking. Was she hoping the Puzzle was real and that Atem would be with it? That he had somehow managed to come back to them? The thought once again tore Yugi in two directions. He still missed the spirit that had become his "other self," still missed the leadership and guidance and especially the friendship he had brought into Yugi's life. But he also liked being his own person, the way he was now, with a little bit of the Pharaoh's personality mixed in with his own. He didn't want to have to share again, not himself or his body.
He didn't want to share Téa.
"We won't know until we find the Millennium Puzzle," Yugi said at length, keeping his voice carefully neutral.
"Okay, not to keep pestering you with questions, but what in the hell does any of this have to do with Underwood and Raptor?" Evan asked impatiently.
"Weevil claims to have an ancient Egyptian artifact that used to belong to me," Yugi explained. "He also had another one that used to belong to Pegasus. That's how he lured Pegasus out here in the first place."
"Okay, this just gets weirder and weirder."
"Welcome to our world," Mai retorted. "Aren't you glad you insisted on coming?"
"Oh, and there is this," Tristan said, handing Evan something. From where Yugi was on the other side of the chamber, he couldn't make out what it was.
"An MRE wrapper," Evan said. "From the stolen provisions, no doubt."
"Knowing those two bozos, there's probably a whole trail of wrappers and crumbs to follow," Tristan said.
"All right, then let's not spend so much time reading hieroglyphics. If we're going to find them, we should keep moving."
"Finally," Kaiba grumbled.
They met up on the other side of the chamber where the circle completed and started down the path that sloped down to the interior of the cavern. It wound downward, looping back around clockwise until they came full circle at the bottom. There was another cave opening that lead to a long tunnel, also lit by torches.
"Convenient, all these torches lighting the way," Duke said, but he didn't sound comforted by it.
"Yeah, cozy," Mai said snidely.
"I'm not sure I like feeling so… expected," Serenity put in.
The tunnel went on for several hundred yards, then opened up into another wide cavern even larger than the last. This one was not decorated with any stone tablets or Egyptian hieroglyphics; it looked more like a regular cave with stalactites hanging from the ceiling and stalagmites rising up from the floor. It, too, was lit by torches, and a path wound through it.
"It's like a whole underground city down here," Joey commented. "I wonder how far it goes."
"Maybe all the way back to the beach where we first landed?" Mokuba mused.
"Actually, it may well go much further than that," Mai mused. "We only got about a quarter of the way around the island from the beach where we landed to the beach where we made camp. If this keeps going south, we'll go right past where we landed and end up on the south side of the island."
Their path did not continue in a straight line, however; it looped around through the huge cavern, twisting and turning multiple times as it wound its way through the vast area. It was at least an hour and a half before they reached the other side, and no one had any idea how far they'd walked. With all the twists and turns, this cave and its tunnels could go on for miles, even given the relatively small size of the island.
When they left the cavern, they entered another tunnel, once again lit by gas torches. This one also was covered in hieroglyphics, but instead of carvings on large stone tablets, these were painted directly onto the cave walls.
"So are these more stories about the same pharaohs?" Serenity asked, looking around her as she entered the tunnel.
Yugi looked at the walls closely. "Pretty much, yeah. Also some stories about the lands, their holdings, their building projects, that sort of thing."
"This is ridiculous!" Kaiba groaned. "This isn't getting us any closer to finding Raptor and Underwood and it isn't giving us any answers about why we're here. This is turning into a colossal waste of time!"
"Uh guys, maybe not," Téa said, her voice sounding wary.
Yugi quickly went over to where she was standing by one of the torches a ways down the tunnel. "What is it?"
She didn't even need to answer. Before her, painted onto the wall, was a depiction of the Millennium Stone and the seven Millennium Items.
"What's it say, Yuge?" Joey asked, coming up behind his friend.
"Hold on," Yugi replied, standing on tiptoe to better see the markings beside the painting of the Millennium Items.
"Maybe we should give him a boost," Duke said dryly.
Ignoring the dig, Yugi explained, "It's a description of three pharaohs. They aren't named, but I'm pretty sure it's referring to Aknamkanon, Atem, and Seto."
"Who?" Evan asked. "Hey wait, did you say Seto?" he asked, looking at Kaiba. "Isn't that your first name?"
Kaiba said nothing, but Yugi answered, looking at Kaiba, "Interesting, isn't it?" Then he went on to explain, "Aknamkanon, Atem, and Seto were a succession of three pharaohs. Aknamkanon was succeeded by his son Atem—" Joey squeezed his shoulder at the mention of their friend and his father— "and Atem was succeeded a short while later by his cousin, Seto. They… they were unknown until very recently, found in the last several years, actually, and their names were only discovered two years ago." He felt a little self-conscious saying this, knowing that he, Joey, Téa, and Tristan were the ones responsible for the discovery, although Ishizu had been given credit officially. "This story here is not from any of the usual historical sources. And it's… uh… not a very favorable depiction."
"Why, what's it say?" Joey prompted.
"Uh… it describes them as selfish and power-hungry, that the Millennium Items were created for the peace and glory of Egypt but that the three 'nameless pharaohs' stole them from the future generations because they wanted to be known as the greatest of the pharaohs. That's why they are nameless, not to be remembered."
"They aren't nameless any more," Téa said softly. "We know their names. We remember."
Yugi looked at Téa feeling a confusing mix of both gratitude and jealousy, then mentally reproached himself. Atem was a part of him, not a rival. He nodded stiffly at Téa, acknowledging the more appropriate gratitude he felt on Atem's behalf. He would want to be remembered.
Joey clapped his hand on his shoulder. "Sounds like sour grapes to me, eh Yuge?"
"It's a load is what it is," Tristan said bitterly. "A village was slaughtered to create them and the world would've been destroyed if Atem hadn't sealed himself and Zorc away."
"Okay, are you guys all experts on Egyptian history?" Evan complained impatiently.
"We just… learned a lot from a really close friend who came from Egypt," Joey said with another squeeze of Yugi's shoulder.
"Anyway, you're both right about the story depicted here," Yugi agreed, focusing once more on the matter at hand. "It also talks about Ramesses I, Seti, Ramesses the Great, and Ramesses III and how they tried to find the Millennium Items to restore them to all of Egypt."
"Like that's a good thing," Joey said.
"According to this, yes."
"Obviously whoever put this stuff here, whoever brought us here, is a big fan of the three Ramesses and Seti," Kaiba said.
"Yes," Yugi agreed. Turning away from the wall, he started walking on. "Let's find the Puzzle and see if they succeeded where the four pharaohs failed."
At the end of the tunnel they found another cavern filled with stalactites and stalagmites. An occasional dripping sound could be heard as calcium and water dripped down from the stalactites above. It took about an hour to wind their way through to find two tunnels. One was lit by torches; the other was dark.
"Now what?" Duke asked.
"I'm guessing we follow the torches," Tristan said. "Looks like there are more hieroglyphics painted on the wall that way, too."
"I don't like being led by the nose," Kaiba replied. "I think we should split up and explore both. We can give it maybe twenty minutes, half an hour, then catch up with the main group later."
"Fine, you take the one that's dark," Joey suggested.
"What's the matter, Wheeler, afraid of the dark?"
"Oh stop it, both of you," Téa snapped peevishly.
"I'm with Kaiba. Underwood and Raptor could be anywhere," Evan said. "A couple of us should head that way for like fifteen minutes and if it doesn't look like there's anything there, they can turn back and catch up with the main group again."
"Okay, so who volunteers to go down the dark way?" Serenity asked nervously.
"I'll do it," Evan offered.
"I will, too. I don't need my mommy," Kaiba said, with a pointed look at Joey.
"I'm in," Joey volunteered quickly, taking the bait.
"Oh great, just who I'd want for a traveling companion," Kaiba sneered.
"Too bad, rich boy, you're stuck with me," Joey shot back.
"I'd better go, too," Mai offered. "Somebody needs to help Evan keep these two lugheads from killing each other."
Duke went up to Mai and solemnly put a hand on her shoulder. "For the sacrifice you are about to make, we salute you."