Disclaimer: If I owned Yu-gi-oh! and its characters instead of Kazuki Takahashi, would I be posting this for free online? No. I'd be out on a trip around the world spending my royalty checks.
Rating: T for language, suggestive content, mild violence (of the battling-cartoon-monsters variety).
Pairings and Warnings: Yugi x Téa (x Atem). Kaiba x Kisara. Joey x Mai. Tristan x Serenity. Some Bakura x Marik (shonen ai mostly; nothing very graphic.) Puzzleshippy stuff if you squint really hard. And yeah, I use the dub names. It's how I got to know and love these characters. But the continuity pulls from the dub, the sub, and the manga and exists in the same universe as all my other YGO stories. Sequel to the Revival series.
Acknowledgements: I have a lot of people to thank for helping me make this fic suck less than it would've otherwise. First, to ArcherRat and Julietvalcouer for their very helpful feedback in a writer's workshop. Would that every writing teacher had ArcherRat's gift for constructive criticism mixed with enough encouragement to make you want to improve instead of run away screaming.
I also owe a big thanks to Lucidscreamer for her tireless efforts in researching ancient Egyptian info for me. Without her, the Egyptian stuff would be completely wrong and unbelievably lame. Anything I got right in that regards is thanks to her; any mistakes are completely my own.
I really don't have enough words for the debt of gratitude I owe Dragondancer1014, who is not only a fantastic beta-tester, but has been wonderful in helping me brainstorm ideas when I got stuck, encouraging me through some nasty writer's block, and just being incredibly supportive. Some of the best "little details" are because of ideas she had. I couldn't have finished this without her.
And last but never least, my biggest thanks goes to The Spouse and The Kids, who put up with my obsession with this story for 18 months—about a year longer than I'd planned on working it. A fanfic writer couldn't ask for a more enabling spouse or more patient kids. ("Not now, Mommy's writing!") Too bad I'm not making any money for this so I can pay for their therapy. Although… it is their fault for getting me hooked on the stupid show in the first place.
This is the first
phase. The player whose turn it is…draws 1 card from the top of
their Deck. A player with no cards left in their Deck and unable to
draw loses the Duel. After you draw, Trap Cards or Quick-Play Spell
Cards can be activated before proceeding to the Standby Phase.
—Yu-gi-oh! Trading Card Game Official Rulebook
1. The Nameless Pharaoh
There was power in a Name. Romeo and Juliet could lie to themselves that names didn't matter, that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but if a rose had no name at all? It would be nothing. Worse than nothing, it couldn't exist beyond its fleeting lifetime because it couldn't be remembered.
With a Name, however, it could be immortal.
He had several names. There was the one he was given at birth, of course, but that wasn't his Real Name, the thing that connected his spirit, his Ka, to those that came before him. His Real Name was already immortal, known by anyone with even a passing knowledge of Egyptian history, a Name shared by the greatest of the pharaohs: Ramesses.
Today, however, he was using neither his Real Name nor his birth name, but one he created for himself to employ in certain business dealings.
"What you ask is very difficult, Mr. Monarch." The mercenary sat on the other side of his desk, hands folded. Dressed in a black tunic and a black turban tied around his head, he almost disappeared into the shadows cast by the flickering torches that lined the walls of the stone chamber. "Both of the tombs are well-guarded twenty-four hours, with security during the winter holidays even tighter, and they are closed to tourists until the restoration is finished."
Monarch leaned back in his leather seat—one of the few luxuries in this underground dwelling. He tapped his fingers on the chair's arms. "I'm hardly a tourist."
"No, of course not," the mercenary hastened to say, bowing his head in apology. "I was merely pointing out that tombs that are open to the public are easier to access than those that are not."
Monarch narrowed his eyes. "Are you offering me excuses?"
The other man's thin lips curled into an ugly smile revealing stained yellow teeth. "I have no need to offer excuses." He glanced behind him, motioning with a jerk of his head to one of the four men lined up against the wall near the doorway. Like their leader, they were all dressed in black tunics and pants and had black turbans tied around their heads. The one who had been summoned stepped forward carrying a burlap sack. He placed it on the desk before Monarch with a muffled thud, then retreated two steps behind his leader.
Monarch raised his eyebrow. "And this is?"
"An offering. To show you we are more than capable of what you ask of us."
Monarch didn't move or so much as nod in acceptance. After an uncomfortable moment, the mercenary signaled to his underling again, who stepped quickly back to the desk and pulled open the sack, tugging it down to reveal an earthenware jar. It was simple, with no hieroglyphics decorating its sides, but its lid was fashioned into the likeness of a jackal's head.
When Monarch still didn't react, the mercenary's smile widened slightly, looking more nervous than cocky now. "A canopic jar," he said, hitching his smile still wider.
"Yes, I know what it is. Why is it here?"
His smile faltered. "It holds the entrails of A—the Pharaoh." He'd corrected himself before Monarch could so much as twitch his cheek. "With this, you could—"
"I know very well what I could do with the Nameless Pharaoh's entrails. I don't remember asking you to retrieve them for me."
"But you wish—"
"To do a thorough job at the appropriate time." Monarch glowered at the mercenary, who lowered his head. The underling took another several steps back, but Monarch kept his attention focused on the leader. "Has it not occurred to you that the authorities will notice the missing jar and increase security?"
The mercenary took a moment to compose himself. "Of course we thought of that, Mr. Monarch. We replaced it with a replica."
"Which will somehow go unnoticed by those doing the restoration work?"
"Most of the restoration work is being done by westerners and is on a western holiday schedule. With your Christmas falling on a Saturday, the workers will get Monday as a holiday, meaning no work will be done between now and Tuesday morning, and even then the work will be concentrated on the antechamber, not the burial chamber. It is highly unlikely that anyone will discover the replacement before you arrive Tuesday night and, as you can see, we are quite capable of getting into the tombs. We will have no difficulty bringing you there as you requested."
"I should hope not."
The mercenary shifted in his seat, gathering his courage. Monarch raised his eyebrows as if in polite inquiry. "You have something else you wish to say?"
He immediately sat still. "Sir, I would like once again to recommend that we not wait. With the restoration workers on holiday, now would be the best time—"
"And as I've told you before, timing is my concern, not yours. There are many more factors than just ease of access into the tombs. Either you can accomplish the task on the appointed night or you cannot. Which is it?"
"We can, of course."
"Then there is nothing left to discuss. I will be leaving Luxor, but shall return Tuesday night. Meet me at the airport's executive terminal at ten o'clock." Monarch waited another moment. "You're dismissed."
The mercenary rose and then bowed. "Happy Christmas, Mr. Monarch." It was an obsequious deference to Monarch's native culture, as Christmas in Egypt was celebrated on the Coptic calendar and would not be for another two weeks. The underlings behind him bowed as well and they all filed out of the dark chamber.
As soon as they were gone, Monarch stood to examine the canopic jar more closely. He recognized it immediately, of course, having visited the tomb many times, and it did indeed belong to whom the mercenary claimed. Its lack of markings indicated the haste in which the jars had been prepared for a youthful pharaoh whose death had come so quickly and unexpectedly after his ascension to the throne. The jackal's head represented Duamutef, one of the four sons of Horus, and indicated that the contents of the jar would be the stomach of the Nameless Pharaoh.
In truth, he wasn't Nameless, not any more, although Monarch refused to dignify him by acknowledging his Name. It had been lost for millennia, its absence holding the Pharaoh hostage in a strange limbo of his own making, his soul neither able to move on to the afterlife nor condemned to Duat. But when the Name was found three years ago, the Pharaoh had finally gone on to the spirit world, taking with him the seven Millennium Items and sealing the door to the Shadow Realm and all the power it held. That marked the second time the Nameless Pharaoh had denied that power, which he himself had freely wielded, to those who had come after him.
Monarch clenched his jaw in anger. Power that should have been mine.
Power that will be mine.
Brushing his fingers along the outline of the jackal's head on the canopic jar's lid, he thought of the Pharaoh who should have remained Nameless and in limbo. Who was he to decide that those who came after should be denied that power? He was no one, nothing, not deserving of a Name.
His anger growing, Monarch got up from his desk and walked across the room to the large hearth at the far end of the chamber. It had been built primarily for ceremonial purposes, but even in Egypt, Christmas morning could be a little chilly, particularly in an underground cavern, and he'd had the fire lit for warmth. At the moment, however, he was more interested in the rack of tools beside the hearth. Pulling the heavy brass poker out of its holder, he hefted it like a cricket bat and crossed back to his desk. Without so much as breaking his stride, he swung the poker down onto the canopic jar. It made contact, smashing through the ancient pottery and its dried and remarkably well-preserved contents, sending chunks of ceramic and desiccated stomach flying in all directions.
Yugi Mutou sat up in bed, hands automatically reaching for the Millennium Puzzle he expected to be hanging at his chest. He experienced a moment of panic and confusion when he didn't feel the familiar weight of the heavy pyramid-shaped pendant he always wore around his neck on its thick steel chain. Disoriented, he groped for his bedpost to see if he'd hung the Puzzle there, only to realize not only was there no Puzzle, he wasn't even in his bedroom above his grandfather's game shop. And he wasn't alone—he could see the outline of another person curled up under the covers beside him. Other Me?
But no, that was ridiculous. His other self wasn't solid; he was a spirit who had lived thousands of years ago, a pharaoh of ancient Egypt who had sealed his soul into the Millennium Puzzle to save his kingdom and his people. Ever since Yugi had solved the Millennium Puzzle, the spirit of the Pharaoh had been living within him, sharing his body. He couldn't be a separate person lying beside him. So who was it?
The person in question rolled over in their sleep, turning toward him, and in the dim light filtering in through the window he could make out the dark brown hair and heart-shaped face of his oldest childhood friend. Téa?
Everything clicked into place then, and he knew where—and when—he was. Not a fifteen-year-old kid living with his grandfather above a game shop in Domino, Japan, but a twenty-year-old adult in his own penthouse apartment in San Francisco. And Téa Gardner, asleep beside him, was more than just his childhood friend; she was his girlfriend of seven months. She had her own apartment on the opposite side of the building, but she stayed here as often as not.
As for the Millennium Puzzle and his other self—
No, not his other self. Atem. His name was Atem, and he and the Millennium Puzzle were gone.
But something's wrong.
Yugi shook his head, pushing that thought away. Nothing could be wrong, not with Atem anyway. He was where he belonged, in the afterlife—Yugi couldn't quite bring himself to think of him as dead, not really. But whatever words he wanted to put around it, it was over, finished, done. Atem was never coming back.
But something in his gut kept insisting something was wrong, and he felt Atem's absence like a hole in the pit of his stomach. Slowly, so as not to disturb Téa, he got out of bed and went over to the window. Pressing his head against the cool glass, he looked out at the lights of San Francisco. It was late Christmas Eve—or early Christmas morning, he wasn't sure which—and from his vantage place on the fortieth floor of Illusions Tower, a skyscraper situated on the edge of the financial district not far from Union Square in downtown, the lights of the city below had a sort of Christmas-tree feel to them. The effect was marred somewhat by the closer lights from the upper floors of the other tall buildings nearby, including the narrow spire of the Transamerica Pyramid a few blocks northeast. The building didn't look much like a pyramid to Yugi, but he got an odd sort of comfort from being able to see something even vaguely pyramid-shaped from his room. Tonight, however, its presence only highlighted the absence of the spirit that had once been a pharaoh of Egypt, and the hole inside him deepened until it became almost a physical pain. He put his hand to his abdomen and took a deep breath.
Monarch stepped back from his desk and the chaos of bits of pottery and ancient, mummified entrails. Leaning on the poker as if it were a gentleman's cane, he examined his handiwork. It had been a stupid thing to do, he knew, not because of the mess he'd made of the chamber—his servants would take care of that—but because it was not the optimal time for all the results he hoped to achieve, and it was quite possible this might tip his hand. Still, he could not deny the satisfaction he felt at the physical act of destruction.
Soon. Very soon, he thought, smiling to himself. After all, names weren't the only thing that held power, and doors thought locked forever could always be reopened.