Author's Note: This is an expansion of my one-shot, "Enthralled." Even if/though you have read the one-shot, please read all of this chapter, including the parts that overlap. There are numerous changes in important details.
THANK YOU SO, SOOO MUCH to PharaonicWolf and MyAibou, my beta's. MA's work, especially, has been insightful, to an extent that I've spent a lot of time reworking this whole thing. Chapters are shorter, which also means there's more /of/ them before getting back to new material, so reviews dated before September 10, 2007 are "off" in the chapters referenced. Chapter 1 is still Chapter 1. What /was/ Chp 2 is now Chp's 2 & 3. Chp 3 is Chp's 4, 5, & 6. Current chapter 7 is new. Original Chp 4 is now Chp's 8, 9 & 10. Chp 11 starts all new material as well. There are also many reworked sections/extensively/ in some cases, plus a whole /new/ chapter in the middle (again, Chp 7), so be sure to look everything back over, those of you who are not new to the story. And THANKS SO MUCH to all who are reading!
Full Disclaimer –"Yu-Gi-Oh!" and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to Takahashi Kazuki and any other related owners/distributors/producers. "Rifts: Role-Playing Game," "Nightspawn/Nightbane: Role-Playing Game," and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to Palladium Books Publishing and related entities. Most (not all) of the named non-YGO characters are mine, while the rest of the named entities, all races, countries, weapons, equipment, and locales (except Hell Hole) are from Rifts RPG sourcebooks. No, I'm not that creative. LOL I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters. ((PS – Screw Todd What's-His-Name, I /LIKE/ the name "Nightspawn" and will never mistake a correspondence to his creation. If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry about it. Heh.))
"Between the Shadows"
Chapter 1 – Enthralled
Yami trudged across the broken street, walking through massive debris littering the concrete around his ragged boots. It was not that he stepped over or around anything, but through it quite literally. As a ghost, a pure energy being, such material things did not hamper him. He had even discovered – how long ago he could not recall just then – that he did not have to locomote with his feet at ground level, that he could sink into the ground or even float above it, though he could not get higher than a dozen meters without a surface upon which to anchor his energies, such as the side of a building. Not that he would, though even he admitted that acrophobia was an odd concern for one who could not be killed.
He turned to let his eyes slide up the face of the building from which he had just descended. It had no windows left in it. He was amazed it still stood, that it had not collapsed in on itself. Pure age had not yet toppled this monument to the bygone civilization that had built this city, nor had the gunfire of the fight that had just ended. He let his eyes fall back down to the armored personnel carrier parked outside of what once had been the ancient hotel's lobby as the soldiers loaded up the oversized cargo crate. Overall, the mission had been a success: the retrieval of a drop-off from contacts in the Federation of Magic. However, a couple of Coalition Dog Boys had sniffed them out when they should have passed through undetected – that had been Yami's job. The pack of mutant canines had been greater in numbers than he could feasibly throw off the men's trail, and one had escaped to inform her superiors. Donovan had been shot by a Dog Boy that looked like he had been contrived from a bull terrier, and none of the others could get to him to snatch up his Talisman of Tongues until the fight was over. By then, Yami had failed to successfully warn the men of several more Coalition soldiers bearing down on them. It was not his fault that he did not speak American – the old term for the language was "English" – none of them spoke Japanese, and that he had to expend a little extra energy for them to be able to hear him at all. The opposing company was successfully eliminated, between the team's gunfire and his own Shadow-borne efforts, but there was no way to know if any of them had managed to relay any further intelligence to their commanders. Yami sighed, having no doubt that the blame for the complications of this mission would fall upon his thin shoulders. He tugged self-consciously at the threadbare hem of his t-shirt.
One of the mercenaries, a brawny werewolf-looking non-Terran by the name of Bleidd, barked an order. The subordinate who had salvaged the amulet from Donovan threw it to the commander, and Yami watched him place it around his neck and invoke the spell built into its material. "You, come here," he commanded in what came out as Japanese.
Yami scowled. "I'm returning to Anghrist. My time is running short."
The Wolven growled low in his throat. "I said get your scrawny human-ghost ass over here now. I don't feel like shouting."
It was interesting to watch how the sounds that issued forth from the mouth did not match the shapes formed by the lips. The Tongues spell really only affected the bearer, changing the sounds hitting his ears to words he would understand, as well as his own words to sounds intelligible to the one listening to him.
I can hear your echoing, bullhorn voice just fine, Yami thought in annoyance. He considered telling the beast as much, but he had little doubt that word of his disobedience would get back to Anghrist and . . . He shuddered in spite of himself, then snarled silently and trotted to the Wolven's side.
The seven-foot alien smirked down at his decoy and recon scout. "Good boy. I'd offer you a bone but . . . " He shrugged. Anghrist had not seen fit to give Yami the ability to be solid for this mission, depriving him of the ability to affect or handle anything physical. Commander Bleidd shook his head, getting back to business. "I'll ignore the fact that you . . . 'forgot' his title again, since it'll be a moot point before I talk to him again myself. Anyway, because of the alert that CS mongrel bitch managed to report, I'm taking a different route to the rendezvous point. Tell Lord Anghrist we will be a few hours behind schedule to make sure we throw off any further tailing. I'd radio him myself, but that Dee-Bee never repaired the encryption programs on the damned vehicle from the last mission, and I don't need CS picking up a comm."
"Yes, I will tell him." If the bastard gives me the chance . . .
He saw Bleidd study him a moment longer, probably noting his greater-than-normal transparency. "Get out of here before your pattern collapses. Lord Anghrist said he was gonna want you active again sometime this afternoon, so no holing up in that pretty prison of yours."
Yami ignored the insult to grasp at the hint of new intel. "He's going to need me again so soon?"
Bleidd shrugged a second time. "You now know's much as I do. So, git!" He aimed a kick at his subordinate's backside. To neither one's surprise, the clawed foot passed right through the incorporeal body.
Yami grimaced at the further reminder of his situation before managing a salute, then turned to bolt back for the base. He had a mere hour to make it before his energy pattern fell apart altogether from overexertion, and he was whiplashed into his soul room, restricted for a full twenty-four hours while his taxed energies recovered. To say the least, Anghrist would . . . be displeased if that were to occur.
Not being physical, many of the constraints in his movement rate did not bind Yami now as they must have in life. He could run faster than a living human, and he was not restricted to unobstructed roads, able simply to pass right through any buildings in his path. "As the crow flies" was a feasible route for the human spirit.
That Dee-Bee . . . that Dee-Bee . . .
Tears stung his eyes, blurring his vision as he raced through the blasted skeleton of a former metropolis, deftly avoiding contact with most of its denizens. DAMN you, Bleidd! "That Dee-Bee" was my friend! Donovan was one of the few people in Anghrist's company whom Yami truly had come to trust, defying the fact that his unknown origins gave him a lesser status than anyone else "in his right mind" would afford the alien. While it seemed to Yami that one had to come from a known source – such as a planet in the far-away Three Galaxies like the Wolfen did – in order not to be lumped into the trash-slang "Dee-Bee," Yami himself had never paid a second thought to Donovan's blue skin and crystalline eyes, his foreign birth on some planet otherwise unknown to anyone or anything on this accursed Earth, a being initially displaced by a random, dimension-crossing ley line storm. In reality, Yami had learned that "Dee-Bee" was the slang for any "dimensional being," any non-Terran not particularly supernatural in nature, such as a dragon or any number of other monstrosities Yami had come across in his recent adventures, ever since being pulled here with –
More tears clouded his vision as he shook it from his mind – the brief, vivid image of a young man with full, tri-colored hair like his own and brilliant amethyst eyes that had always shone with such incredible life. Eyes that now –
Stop it! he snarled at himself. That will not accomplish anything, not at the moment at any rate. Just . . . get back to Anghrist. Reluctantly, he redoubled his efforts.
Before long, Yami had crossed a respectable portion of what had once been the American city of St. Louis, now generally referred to as Demon's Gate – and rightly so, its signature structure being the source portal site of most of the diabolic forces that reigned throughout the majority of the city. Gargoyles, a smattering of darker-hearted dragons, and a host of various demonic races whose names he did not know had driven out all but the hardiest or the most foolhardy of humans generations ago. Yami had long become practiced in dodging their attention if he were careful enough in his passing, as most individuals were much less adept at sensing and hunting Astral prey than they were physically-living ones.
Though he had laid eyes on it hundreds of times now, Yami paused at the sight visible in the distance between ruined skyscrapers: a immense permanent rift in space and across dimensions within the bordering structure of what they told him was originally called the St. Louis Arch. Magical activity was stronger there than in any other parts of this entire region, as three ley lines intersected to form a powerful nexus point in the very spot the Americans of centuries ago had built their mathematical monument. He murmured in awe, the sight never failing to amaze him, as he studied the towering walls of crackling, blue-white energy dominating the landscape, the mighty ley lines whose sudden, violent appearance had redefined reality some centuries ago. He wondered if the architects and original planners who chose the site of the arch had any clue of the mystical energies all but dormant back in those days, or that their celebration of whatever it was they had meant to commemorate would one day be a gateway to Hell, figuratively or otherwise. With a sigh, he shook his head and continued on, before any of the fell forces that dwelled in the vicinity caught a mystical whiff of him.
Yami finally slowed as he rounded the corner from a back alley onto yet another shabby side street, eyes locating his goal. The casual passer-by – and there were surprisingly many who eked out a living in this gods-forsaken ruin – would likely dismiss the storefront as nothing more than another abandoned relic of past prosperity. Yami knew better. He caught the eye of a seeming bum – Hn. Ruiz is on duty, now, is he? Thought he was up in Chi-Town. – and was allowed to approach without hindrance. Inside the building, he passed a few more men and women who recognized him, finally reaching an armored door in the back. He could not actually touch the security plate on the wall, but passing his hand through it activated the mystical portion of its circuitry in response to his energies. He then hovered his palm over the scanner. A field of magic crackled out from the depths of the techno-wizard device, zapping him as it sampled his energy pattern for recognition, and he managed to keep from jerking back initially at the shock. He massaged one hand in the other, rubbing out the pain, as the door made several heavy clicking noises and slid aside with a low groan to reveal the teleportation chamber within. He still did not fully understand how such things worked, but the transport chamber's shielding against intangible and Astral beings was not really so uncommon, at least not with anything concerning Anghrist's company. Yami could not simply pass through its walls, ceiling or floor as he had so many other structures to get here. And yet, it held within it the means to send his energy pattern across the great distance he needed to go before his time ran out.
A roughly humanoid robot, with three sets of arms too many, rolled on treadbelts to greet him as he stepped in, the thick door closing behind him with a schunck. A blue scanning laser emitted from one of several "eyes" in what passed for its face, sweeping Yami from head to toe. When it did not register what had just passed through its door, it switched to a green laser, scanning for energy signatures rather than physical material. "//Yami Mutou,//" it intoned by way of recognition, then asked a question. He did not know the language, but he had done this enough times to know what information it had requested.
Mutou. Hearing that always made him pause with a pang of hurt. It was not truly his surname, but one he carried in homage of another. One day, he growled silently for the umpteenth time. I swear it on my honor . . . He sighed. If I have any truly left . . .
"//Hell Hole.//" He had the American name for Anghrist's base memorized, even if the sounds felt more like he was simply sighing breathy nonsense. There had once been a time, about two years in length, when he could have learned at least some of this land's language, but he had never been active during those lessons. Now, the one whose classes he had not directly attended . . . could no longer teach him.
Not true, Yami snarled, even as grief pierced him. It's not like he's dead, just . . . His fists clenched as he waited for the robot to complete the sequence code.
Hell Hole was an underground complex deep below Lake Michigan, built by Anghrist himself. This techno-magical transport chamber was one of the few ways in or out, as it was firmly sealed from intrusion, both physical and immaterial. It was a military stronghold, a tactical center, an absolutely secure retreat and, Yami thought with a stab of frustrated grief, it was home these days, had been for decades now. There were three very important treasures Anghrist kept locked away down there, treasures that, if only Yami could touch them, he would steal away from that terrible place in a heartbeat . . . but he could not. In more than forty years, he had been unable to liberate himself and the treasures. It was not that he had not tried. Quite the contrary, he had come up with more than a few plans over the years, even attempted to implement a handful . . . all without success. He had paid dearly for each effort. A violent shudder wracked his slim frame at the memories, and he crossed his arms over his chest to force down the trembling, disgusted at himself for his fear.
A magical field of dark mist spun into existence between poles on one side of the room, and the robot intoned the instruction in its programmed language that the portal was ready for entry. Yami drew a deep breath and rolled his shoulders, attempting to relax and regain his composure, then strode through the mystical film of swirling energies.
He appeared in an identical chamber, and an identical robot had already sent an electronic command to the door, unlocking and opening it for him to exit. He stepped out into a hallway, making his way unerringly through the sprawling complex, passing guards, mercenaries, thieves, spies and worse. His shoulders hunched, fists burying into his pockets. It rankled him to no end to have to associate with such abhorrent men and women, but his . . . "master" – even mentally, he all but spat the word – gave him no choice. Now within the perimeter, he could just float through the walls, but why rush to the inevitable? On the other end of the spectrum, he did not have to be visible to everyone around him, even in this magic-rich environment, but again . . . why bother? They knew he was there, too many able to sense him easily enough even without the boost of the ambient, mystical energies so common throughout the world in this day and age. Most of them could not touch him any more than he could affect them, at least not by any physical means. Of course, he had learned long ago that there were means other than physical by which one could be "affected." He shuddered again in spite of a sense of disgrace at allowing that he should be so shaken, hating this place, these people . . . himself.
With over ten minutes still to spare, Yami reached Anghrist's study, deep in the heart of the complex. He wondered idly – not for the first time and if only to keep his mind just a moment longer from what was coming – if his own ancient chambers had once been so decadently ornate. Anghrist was practically a pharaoh in his own right, after a fashion – the leader of one of the most powerful and influential mercenary companies on the North American continent. Only the Coalition States, the New German Republic, the Federation of Magic, and Atlantis itself could boast equal or greater militant forces. Hell Hole was his prized location but by far not his only base, having no fewer than a dozen satellite complexes and a hundred lesser camps across the continents. Over the years, Yami had been to most of them, as an enthralled vassal in Anghrist's vaunted entourage.
Only the single door into the chamber broke the layer of bookshelves lining the walls all around the room, ceiling-high and filled with scrolls, small chests and other oddities, and a wide assortment of books, a priceless commodity in this post-Apocalyptic world where knowledge granted one just as much power as the renewed levels of magic abundant in the atmosphere. The subjects ranged from histories, sciences and military tactics, to spellbooks and other tomes of the arcane, every major language of the world represented, and several not native to the planet. Anghrist was a psychic and sorcerer of rare power, who was whispered to have ties with some of the darkest forces of nature and the supernatural in existence. Though he had witnessed many things, Yami did not know how much was truth and how much hyperbolic rumor, but there was one thing he did know: somehow, Anghrist held in his possession knowledge he should never have been able to acquire, knowledge that bound Yami to him by shackles stronger than even the once-renown King of Games could break.
Anghrist knew the ancient spirit's true name.
A low clearing of the throat jolted Yami out of his reverie, and he failed to suppress a wince of alarm before forcing his feet to carry him into the room. A great oaken desk dominated the chamber, the front and side panels richly carved with artful but terrible scenes that might have come straight from Dante's Inferno, the feet monstrous claws half-buried in the luxurious carpet. On a forward corner stood a small, elegant stand of wrought iron enfolding one of Yami's three treasures: the Millennium Puzzle. A shallow bowl topped the structure, containing liquid mercury of a mystical, even Astral, quality that radiated a living aura to those who could sense such things. Beside this stood an ornate silver dish with a large hematite stone next to a small, footed steel chest – just the right size for a deck of cards. Behind the desk, poring over who-knew-what tome of knowledge, sat Anghrist himself. The man might easily be taken for an attractive, tall, middle-aged human with full beard and mustache peppered red-and-silver, with piercing blue-green eyes in a sun-bronzed face – might, except that he had not visibly aged in the four-plus decades since Yami had first laid eyes on him. Anghrist did not look up right away nor did he say a word, would not until the spirit had properly positioned himself.
It had become almost ritual over time, Yami stepping to take his place at the center of the room before the great oaken desk. He paused a moment, fists clenched in humiliated anger, before he dropped to his knees, sitting on his heels as he bent forward onto his hands, head bowed deeply in submission. "Master" – He bit the word in disgust, intoning the prescribed greeting only because the alternative was more terrible than even his great pride and honor warranted. – "your . . . slave has returned." He kept his eyes trained on the floor, watching the other by periphery vision. He knew better than to look up.
"My slave has failed," Anghrist corrected, his tone low with his own annoyance.
It was useless to argue and, in truth, he knew it. Still, he could not bring himself not to try. "Sir, the Dog Boys were too many and too widely spread. I cannot be in multiple places at once. The fact that one slipped by could hardly be helped."
He flinched back as a small round mirror dropped onto the carpet within his sight, and Anghrist murmured a word in the language of spellcraft. The reflection wavered and swam across the surface, darkening, reforming to view a small chamber elsewhere within the complex, dimly lit to reveal a single, small figure seated in docile silence on a low bench against the back wall, the room's only furnishing.
Yami tensed in frustrated helplessness, fingers curling into the plush carpet without even the satisfaction of being able physically to grip the deep fibers. Do what you will to me. Just leave him alone! He dared not speak his thoughts aloud. He knew how to play this game, and the most important rule in effect in that moment was that one did not give his opponent any satisfaction with pleas or demands, as that only told the enemy how best to exert control. He braced, unable to deny the growing tremor that shuddered through his frame, knowing what was to come, dreading it in spite of himself.
Anghrist stood and stepped around to the front of his desk, brushing the mirror aside with a booted foot, cutting off his slave from the comfort of being able to see that his companion was safe – for now. "Prepare yourself." It was the only warning he ever gave.
Yami was prepared, had been since the first warning howl of the Dog Boys, since he realized that he would fail. He suppressed a whimper of miserable anticipation.
Power slammed into Yami, crackling through his energy pattern as though threatening to tear it permanently asunder. Shrieking, he collapsed into a fetal position, writhing at his master's feet. He wished in vain that he could pass out from the agony, surrender into oblivion for a time, even as he knew that such luxuries were reserved for the living. He had no material nervous system to overload, no means to escape the punishing torture visited upon his psyche and his mystical existence. His only saving grace was that Anghrist would have to release the attack before his time was up and let him withdraw into the Puzzle to recover before he was trapped in there the full twenty-four hours. Until then, only one small, distant bit of knowledge helped to fortify his innermost sense of honor and satisfaction – by suffering himself, he knew that his aibou had been spared one more time.
Author's Note: Please be sure to check my bio page for any updates, etc. Thanks!
Aibou – "Partner" or "Pal." Yami's nickname for Yugi, born both of fondness and respect (per canon).