Gods of the Tabletop

By TwinEnigma

Disclaimer: I do this for fun and don't own YuGiOh, it's cast or characters.

Keywords: post-Memory World, Ryou Bakura

It was a sunny Sunday morning and Ryou found himself once again in the Domino City Museum, drifting deeper into the controlled labyrinth of artifacts he oft called home. It had been a week, more or less, since the Ceremonial Duel, where all the spirits of the cursed Millennium Items had been laid to rest, never to trouble the world of the living again. Burdens lifted, he and his friends had returned to Domino and once more to the mundane existence that had come before their brief fling with destiny.

There were still some things, however, that needed taking care of in order to put the matter to bed once and for all, Ryou noted with a slight frown as he tapped in the security code to get into the more secure section of the museum.

The door lock released with an audible click and, entering, the teenager set a brisk pace down the familiar corridors of offices and preservation laboratories. The technicians were absent today, leaving the normally bright corridors with their large windows to the offices eerily dark and gloomy. Artifacts, some still in their protective padded shipping crates, seemed to stare out at him from behind the glass as he passed by and, suppressing the urge to shudder, he hurried on to the door to the basement storage level. Once again, he tapped in the security code and opened the now-unlocked basement door, flicking on the lights as he began his descent into the underbelly of the museum.

Finally, at the entrance to storage room 1-B, Ryou stopped. Opening the door and flipping on the lights, he noted the room was exactly as it was when he had come to after the conclusion of the cursed tabletop game. Four empty sarcophagi lay on the floor, the sand from the model scattered across the floor and edges of the large box-shaped game surface, and the sarcophagus of one Zorc Necrophades still was chained to the wall like a macabre decoration.

Ryou winced. He still could not recall how he and his friends had ended up down here, much less the circumstances of the game that they had overcome, even though they had explained to him in detail all that had transpired within the World of Memories. All he remembered was waking up to the faces of his friends, the terrible whispers that had haunted him since he received the Millennium Ring suddenly silent. And now that the items and the pharaoh had been laid to rest for good, the shattered remains of the last game were all that remained of the ordeal.

The teenager sighed, wandering over to the ruined tabletop. Sand had spilled everywhere, as if all the modeling sand he owned had been poured onto the game surface, bits of painted foamcore and plastic jutting up from the miniature dunes in a parody of ancient ruins. Even if he could not remember it, he supposed that it must have been the most beautiful tabletop game he'd ever had the fortune – or misfortune – of putting together and he was a bit disappointed he'd never seen the finished board before the controlling presence in the cursed ring completely wrecked it.

Perhaps now he'd be freely able to play tabletop RPGs with Yugi and the others without having to fear for their safety, Ryou mused as he carefully pulled an overturned hourglass from the sand. He didn't know what he'd have done if he'd have lost his friends to the monstrous presence that had haunted him, but that was now over and done with. They could all move on as friends and, for once, no longer fear danger lurking in the shadows of even the most innocent of games or worry about ancient cursed artifacts with extra spiritual baggage mucking about.

He sighed again, looking at the ruins. It seemed such a waste to just get rid of the ruined board, especially one this detailed. Still, it could not remain here – his father would have a fit!

Maybe, just maybe, he could see what could be salvaged.

It had taken the better part of two weeks for Ryou to move the tabletop back to his apartment and sort out the remains of the massive board. He'd had to dump the modeling sand into buckets before he could even consider releasing the clasps holding the four sections of the board together to move them – it was dirty, messy work and he'd ended up getting a fair amount of it in his hair and clothes. Additionally, sneaking out the large board sections without the advantage of a cursed magical artifact proved to be exceedingly difficult and he'd had to pass off the sections to the guards as part of a damaged model he was restoring for the permanent part of the Ancient Egypt exhibit. Of course, as long as no one dug a little deeper into the log of recent acquisitions, no one would realize what a flimsy story it really was and give him hell for it. That done, he'd then cleaned out the storage room as best he could, dragged the sarcophagi off to the side, and shoved a large empty storage crate in front of the remains of Zorc. All evidence of the storeroom's use being thus concealed, he had then been able to focus entirely on sorting out the remains of the board in his apartment, piece by painstaking piece.

It was a tedious task, perhaps more so than actually moving the damn board, but after a solid week's worth of sifting through the sand, Ryou now had a very good idea of exactly what he had left over from the original board's setup and what he needed to repair it. Most of the buildings were damaged or flat out crushed beyond repair, at least a hundred assorted character and monster figures had survived intact and the rest needed replacement parts, one of the foamcore mountains split and he had about two and a half large buckets of modeling sand, most of which he didn't need. He could replace the mountain fairly easily – he'd just carve and paint a new one – and most of the missing figurine parts he'd managed to find while sifting through the sand just needed to be super-glued back together. The buildings needed the most work, being as he'd have to completely replace and repaint most of them and the detail work on them alone would be a nightmare and a half.

The white haired teen also was certain that something was slightly off about the scale, though he couldn't tell why or what it was that was bothering him. Perhaps it was that the distance between the ruins of Kuru Elna and the great city seemed so paltry set in the confines of the billiard-sized, reassembled game board. He had a feeling that the real village and city had been separated by a much greater distance, but could not place the origin of it. The feeling was almost instinctive, a gut feeling of just knowing and, idly, he wondered if this gut feeling was a result of his time serving as the malicious spirit's medium or just an artist's instinct. Either way, it would be easy to make a small extra panel to correct the distance between the two.

Ryou scratched his head and sighed. This was definitely going to take a while.

Several months passed and slowly the board began to come together again as Ryou patiently worked on each part in his free time. The mountains now loomed impressively and the resin Nile swept down the board, forever frozen in place. The city was colorful, once more filled with the miniature figurines, decorated statues, mural-covered buildings and flying banners. On the terrace of the palace, he'd placed the high priest figurines, a few of whom carried tiny little Millenium Items even now. He did not, however, place the figurines of the pharaoh or the Black Magician priest back on the board – Ryou had decided instead to touch them up and give them to Yugi in memory of them.

Even the ruins of Kuru Elna had not escaped his attention – the remains of the guardian tablet had been carefully removed and he'd added a bit more weathering to the buildings to reduce the haunted appearance to a brighter, more vacant look. It seemed appropriate, now that the spirits of the village had been laid to rest, to reflect their current absence. It didn't feel right to leave it unchanged and where Kuru Elna was involved, Ryou preferred to follow his instincts entirely.

...Although, he did have to admit that sometimes his instincts led him in odd directions.

It started off as a small thing, that he was certain a boulder had been placed just-so against a sheer wall on the mountain bordering the western half of the village, near some ruined carts. But, no matter how he adjusted the boulder, it simply didn't look right. Thus, he found himself boring a hole through the foamcore at two in the morning, creating a tunnel, and hollowing out a section of the mountain into a small valley. Only the tunnel connected the two areas now and that had required some extreme creativity on Ryou's part to paint.

By the end of a few days, he'd built a very humble and sort-of run-down temple for the valley, complete with some jackal-eared statues he was quite proud of. The aged, chipped look of the white paint on their heads had been difficult, but he'd managed. He even added a dried-up streambed that seemed to abruptly disappear into the mountain, as though the mountain had sprung straight up around the temple and cut it off from the village. Now, that this seemingly tangential addition to the game board had been finished, the boulder he'd agonized over sat perfectly, covering exactly three-quarters of the entrance to the tunnel connecting the village and temple area.

Ryou smiled, leaning back in his swivel chair and stretching until he felt several vertebrae pop. He was almost done – only one figurine was left – and it was a great feeling. Pushing off, he spun back towards his work table and with the ease of practice, stopped his spin by catching the table edge in his hand.

The last figurine, the figure of the thief king, rested alone, his body and arms secured firmly in place by alligator clips attached to an adjustable metal rod on a sturdy base. Ryou had glued the figure back together and filled in the cracks with epoxy the day before and let it sit to make sure it set correctly. All that the figurine needed now was a little touch-up work to hide the repairs and that would be that. He pulled the magnifying lamp down in front of the base, turned it on and picked up his paintbrush.

It was strange, really, when he thought about the thief that this little figurine represented and Ryou could not help but wonder as to the full nature of his personal connection to the thief. How was it that he and this tragic figure in the tale of the Millennium Items shared a name across all this time? Had it really been just a coincidence that he was the one to come into possession of the Millennium Ring or had other forces from long ago been at work?

He sighed, staring at the figurine, and carefully began painting over the epoxy with primer.

Perhaps some things were better off remaining a mystery.

Ryou presented the small figurines of the young king and Black Magician to Yugi the next day and excitedly told him about the efforts he'd taken to restore the game board.

"Are you sure that was a good idea?" Yugi asked, concerned. He carefully cradled the little figures in his hands, clearly remembering the last two times that he'd played a tabletop RPG under the guidance of Ryou Bakura.

"It'll be fine – after all, the Millennium Items are gone for good," Ryou assured him. "That means you'll have to really play hard now, since I won't go as easy on you as the ghost did!"

Yugi laughed at that and shook his head. "That's right! We never did get to see how good of a game master you are."

"I was perfectly good at it, but that stupid ghost kept ruining my evil plans," Ryou joked, making a mock-evil overlord face. He then straightened up, smiling, and added, "Anyway, you want to come over and take a look at the board? It's all done."

Yugi chuckled, carefully placing the two figurines in his pocket and nodded. "It'd be nice."

When Ryou turned on the lights in the room with the finished board, Yugi's eyes seemed to pop out of his head for a moment as he took in the size of the massive tabletop. He started forward, immediately drawn to the game like a child to a candy display. "You restored the temples! And look, there's Blue-Eyes White Dragon with Pharaoh Set – Seto's going to want that model if he ever finds out, you know," Yugi said, narrowing his eyes as he looked back at the white-haired teen. "Wow, you really didn't mess around. This must have cost a fortune!"

"Nah, not really," Ryou admitted. "The stuff to repair it was pretty cheap. I mostly just fixed it up."

There was an unspoken "I don't want to know how the Spirit of the Ring managed to pay for it, but it probably wasn't legal" that neither of them wanted to contemplate.

"It looks amazing, Ryou," Yugi said honestly, eagerly examining the palace. "Really, you're an artist!"

Ryou beamed under the praise. It was terribly nice to be appreciated for his talents. Idly, he drifted toward his worktable and checked the dryness of the paint on the thief king figurine, smiling when he noted it was finally dry. Taking it out of the clips carefully, Ryou announced, "Ah, and here's the last figure!"

Yugi turned, looking at him curiously, and blanched at the familiar figure in the palm of his friend's hand. "The thief king – Ryou, why?"

Ryou smiled softly, cradling the small figurine in his palm. "I don't know. I guess for the same reasons I gave you the king and his priest. I don't think I can forget him, despite everything that happened."

Yugi's face softened immediately in comprehension. "Yeah, we've been through a lot, haven't we?"

Ryou nodded, moving past him to put the thief king on the board, near the Nile. An electric shock seemed to race through his arm and then suddenly the tiny figurine was moving in his fingers. He immediately dropped it and watched in horror as the small figurine tumbled into the sand, stood up and started cursing as it spat sand from its mouth. It then turned, looking up at Ryou's hand and shrieked in terror, falling backwards, the tiny shape of the Millennium Ring clearly visible around its neck.

Yugi's eyes went impossibly wide.

At one end of the table, the city now moved noisily, bustling as colorful banners flew in the air. The Blue-Eyes White Dragon preened on the roof of the palace, her scales now shimmering like spun silver. The Nile gurgled, running through the board actively and disappeared into thin air when it hit the end of the board.

"Oops?" Ryou managed.

AN: If you build it, they will come. Also, I am a geek. A huge tabletop game geek. Huge.

You'd think, though, that Ryou would have remembered to file off the Millennium items from all the figures before putting them back on a game board which had been exposed to shadow magic and reconstructed.

I might leave this as a one-shot or not, depending on if I can work out how the model-sized people can interact with the modern Yugi-tachi and still be heard.