It was the sound of Yami's gurgled breath, as he slumped beneath Yugi's bloodied boot that suddenly made the darkness grow so much darker, as Yugi suddenly jerked in the rush of confusion, and horror, and overwhelming emotion. He felt himself being poured back into himself like some fragmented waterfall.
He remembered so little of where he was, all he knew was that he was imprisoned in pain, and shadow, and shackled by every dark thing he had ever feared. Was this the hell that Yami feared with every shattered fragment of his being? Was this the reason why he lay so broken and bloodied underneath him? Yugi shuddered in helpless remorse, as he slid to his knees, gathered the broken form in shaking arms, and cradled him in a gesture of wrenching guilt, and sorrow.

Yami's body was so slack and yielding now, there was none of the coiled, frantic stiffening against the shattering, the hurt, the last desperate attempt to cling to breath, and life, as it was ground out of his crumbling ribs, and bled out between his clenched jaws underneath the heels of the one he gave up everything to defend. Yugi had felt the last breath heaved out with so much scarlet, wafting softly over his palm, and then gracing against his forearm for a lingering moment, as if in farewell, before the body finally released him, and Yami left him without opening his eyes again. Timidly, Yugi placed seeking fingers to Yami's still throat, hoping against the terrible truth he had instinctively known from the beginning of this horror. One tremor, one breath, even a tear, and seeing Yami rise up with all his fire to exact his revenge.
anything would be preferable to the overwhelming emptiness of the shell left behind. Yugi balled fists to his quaking cheeks, and screamed.

The Puzzle glittered in smug satisfaction at the outworkings of its cruelest manipulation. Having the inocent, and oblivous Yugi deliver such retribution under its vicious influence was wonderful. And to see the torn, still body of the Pharoah, crushed by the Puzzle's evil encased in such small hands that would never act that way, had Yugi the choice was bueatiful. And to see Yugi so torn and guilty that he would be broken or end it all by his own hands was quite a stunning victory.

Isis was again performing her obligating visit to Seth, in the strange spirit prison that he had chosen for himself. It was eerie to hear his joyous song rising high from the depths, a sharp contrast to the aching, cloying despair.The clink of his bleeding shackles, and his joyful laugh at seeing yet another cut appear only made him celebrate. She shook her head, sadly. The eerie song, so soft, and angelic pierced her. It was unnerving in its bueaty as it was out of place, and Isis did not know if she loved it, or loathed it.
She stared, dumbly to see his filthy form huddled in the corner, as he rose from his crouch. His eyes were burning with light, and he lurched forward to embrace her.

She instinctively held him in her arms, for a brief moment, as he flung himself away, but held one hand in his own bloody fist. Isis winced to feel the warm, wet against her flesh, and gently freed her hand. With an apologetic grunt, he allowed her, and retreated back a respectful distance.

"Seth? Are you well?"

Her gut coiled in forwarning, as she studied him, seeking some sort of answer for this bizarre, and very misplaced happiness. Madness could cause such glee, but there was far too much exuberance, and clarity in those saphire eyes that now peered into her own, with some hidden knowing. For a few tortured moments, she was haunted by the vision of Seth's strong nobility, the rigid morality, that he held with so much grace before he swept it all away in a fit of rage and a blade to Yami's throat. Even after all the passage of so much time, there were some things that age could not erase, some absolution that was withheld, either by the kindly patience of divinity, or denied out of the sense of justice from the eternal. She was no longer sure of what.

There was a coy, radiating smile that graced his marred face. "I will be, my lady. Wait for a moment, and you will see." Her heart ached. Seth sounded so much like the one she once called friend, but she flinched at the dangerous urge to consider him restored. There was no way that madness could be so carelessly disolved from the heart, and mind, no way that right could be restored, and anguish finally ended. Wasn't Yami's cringing sobs proof of that? But...Seth was here before her, coherent, and respectful, and regal, despite the blood and the pain, and the horror. She pitied him, and no longer tormented herself in feeling guilty for it. Her heart had been broken over the fate of both of her friends, and she did not need to add the futility of the unanswered to her tormented thoughts, any more.

It was in the groaning smile, and the strange shaft of light that radiated from the cracks of the stone that arched so high over their bowed heads. Seth cast his wide, and seeking eyes to the source of this alien brightness that suddenly filled the darkness. Isis startled at his gentle nudge to her arm, and the beckoning, bloodied finger that gestured towards the bright heavens that were filtering through the roof of the prison.

"It is not finished, Isis."

His voice held wonder, not fear, as he shifted with a grunt of pain and rose to gape. Isis sensed the ripple of anguish through her soul, piercing her to the deepest quickening of her spirit. Something so entrenched in her essence fragmented against the terrible knowledge that suddenly rose in opposition to any denial she could contruct. No, the truth would always out itself, regardless of how painful the emerging of it may be, or the cost to those who were charged with it.

Yami was dead.

The thought reverberated through her, echoing through every hollow, shadowed fortress she had so diligently built in tears for so long, coiled teasingly around her heart that suddenly felt strangled, and yielding to join him, as she slid to her knees with a wailing shriek.

The images floated up like corpses suddenly dredged from the Nile's depths, so disgusting, so displaying, so horrible in their aftermath, as she felt fire and ice co-mingle into their own freezing burn that surged with so much potent frustrated rage through her trembling veins. Yugi's face filled her vision, with Yami's wounded squeal of pain. Isis snarled when she saw Yami's blood scarlet against the neat tile of the floor, and Yugi's bewildered sobbing.

That inocent child, swept away by so much of the overflowing aftermath that he had no consent, or control over that Yami sacrificed all to save.
That wretched monster that had crushed him, and killed him, and tortured him...again...

Isis wept for them all.

Author's Note: I know, it's a very depressing chapter. To answer the questions, Yes, Yugi is under the influence of the puzzle, and not in control of himself, Yami really is dead, and Seth is still doing penance for what he did to Yami in the afterlife, and Isis is visiting him. I apologize for any trauma, heartbreak, disgust, or whatever issues may be involved in being submitted to so much torture. I don't hate Yami, or Yugi, and any of the other characters. I hope that God blesses each one of you for your faithful reviews and I hope you will forgive me when I tell you that this is the end of part one. The story will definitely continue, I promise!
But, I have flogged all the tears and torment out of this segment that I can, and I need a bit of time to regroup, focus on some personal issues, and sort some stuff out. Your faithful support through all of this has been wonderful, and I wish I could repay you all for the kindness that you have shown me. I have grown as a writer through this, and I am so grateful that you've stuck with me this long. You all have been such blessings! To clarify one more time...A Proud And Bitter Crown will be continued! And, I will try to maintain my rapid updating that so many of you are so fond of, if my life and time permits. So, while begging your forgiveness, thanking God for you, and with this plea for understanding, I'm signing off at the moment.


P.S. A substantial help would be any suggestions that anybody might have as to the direction they want this story to go with. You have all had such good suggestions so far.

she gasp