Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! It's been a long time since I've tried writing a multi-chapter fantasy fic, but I've been on such a fantasy kick lately, and discovering the prompts at the Livejournal comm 30 Quests made the plunnies explode. So I'm going to try it! It takes place in my post-series Pendulum Swings timeline, where Yami Bakura as the Thief King survives Zorc's destruction. Many thanks to Kaze and Lisa and Crystal Rose for plot help!
A Chill in the Air
Prompt: #5 - Hidden Meaning in a Dream
Fire. . . .
The fire was all around him, torching higher and higher into the sky as it consumed all in its path. A cruel, all-too-familiar cackle was echoing as well. Bloodshot lavender eyes imposed themselves onto the backdrop of the farthest flames, with just a hint of bulging veins around the eyes on all sides. Behind the blazing wall, the silhouette of something akin to a pocketwatch was swinging back and forth.
Then came another mad laugh, not that demon's, but someone else's. The fire burned out, leaving everything blackened and twisted. Charred corpses were sprawled among the ashes and shattered pieces of property and livelihood. He stood there, staring, bewildered as to what had just happened.
The scene faded, leaving him alone in an endless void. But then, a black-cloaked figure was charging out of the night, a sword held high.
"I'll never forgive you!" a grief-stricken voice cried. The metal glinted as it cut through the air.
He dodged the swipe of the blade, stumbling to the side. As he righted himself, he caught a glimpse of a brown eye from beneath the depths of the dark hood.
Lavender eyes snapped open, staring out at the stillness of the room from behind white bangs. For a long moment the owner of the eyes lay there on the edge of the bed, gripping the quilt with tan-skinned fingers. His thoughts were a confused tumult.
What sort of bizarre dream was that? It seemed different from the nonsensical dreams everyone, including he, had most of the time. And yet it was certainly filled with nonsense. Random fires, cruel eyes, mad laughter . . . an unforgiving swordsman. . . . He clenched the quilt tighter. For some reason, that part bothered him most of all.
It was probably just random, leftover feedback from his mind after the torment he had suffered at the hands of Yami Marik. Yes, that made enough sense to be plausible. Even though he had mostly recovered, there were still times when a sudden word or action would spark a painful memory and he would have to pause to get hold of himself again. Occasionally he still dreamed of the neverending days as Yami Marik's prisoner, being tormented out of his mind.
He raised up on the mattress, glancing over his shoulder. Bakura was burrowed into the other pillow on the opposite edge of the bed, sound asleep from the looks of it. He was not being disturbed by odd and outlandish visions, or even by the quilt sliding down his shoulder and exposing his arm to the cold room. But that was all the better; he deserved to sleep.
His father was home tonight, working on translating the hieroglyphs on some artifact or another. But in case he decided to go up to bed, his bed needed to be free---making it a necessity for the Egyptian to share Bakura's bed since there were no extras. Neither of them were particularly pleased or comfortable with the arrangement, but they put up with it as best as they could, mostly by staying as far apart from each other as possible. They were . . . well, he was not sure what they were. Related? Friends? They were close in any case, but that did not mean they did not like as much space as possible to move around on the bed.
Bakura was probably still mortified by what had happened the first time they had tried the setup, when he had refused in his sleep to share the quilt and then had snuggled against his old ancestor while also refusing to move. They had separate quilts now, and Bakura fought hard to stay on his side of the bed, even when he was deep in slumber. His subconscious determination really was a sight to behold.
The tired eyes gazed at the boy until they were not really seeing him at all, and instead were caught away to another world, the world of the troubling dream.
The brown-eyed swordsman. . . . It couldn't be . . . could it? The voice had sounded somehow familiar.
How preposterous. As if a boy so innocent that he could not bear to harm any living thing would take up a sword and even try to fight him. Not to mention Bakura did not even know how to use a sword in the first place. He himself was the reckless, unforgiving one.
The gruff thief reached across the space in the middle, pulling the quilt over Bakura's mostly-bare arm before laying down again.
Sleep, Bakura. Sleep.
You don't have to bother yourself with strange dreams. For tonight, you don't have any worries at all.
And that was as he liked it; Bakura did not deserve to become embroiled in any more agony.
Yami Bakura brought the pillow closer to him as his eyes drifted closed. Inspite of the eerie dream, he was apparently not wide awake. That was good; he could just sleep as well. Hopefully it would be a dreamless slumber, something actually restful. . . .
He grunted low in his throat at the voice that dared to break into his sleep. But then, annoyed, he opened one eye.
Bakura was bending down in front of him, the apology clearly visible in his eyes. "Yami, I'm so sorry to wake you," he said. "Father's been asking for you all morning. He seems highly upset."
Both eyes snapped open. "What?!" Yami Bakura demanded. It was hard to say which of Bakura's statements was the most shocking---that apparently a good deal of the morning had passed away or that Bakura's father wanted to talk to him. They had a mutual understanding that they would tolerate each other for Bakura's sake, which worked well enough, but they rarely conversed.
Bakura straightened up, shifting as he kept his hands behind his back. "I . . . I think it might have something to do with that strange little box he brought home," he said.
Yami Bakura sat up, throwing back the quilt. "And how would I know anything about it?" he grumbled.
Bakura gave a helpless shrug. "I don't know," he said. "It was found in Egypt, but the writing doesn't really look Egyptian, so . . ."
"Bah!" Yami Bakura got up, grabbing the robe he had thrown into the nearby chair and pulling it on as he headed for the doorway. Bakura stepped aside, watching him. Several muttered snatches of complaint reached the teen's ears as the man shuffled into the hall. "Not Egyptian . . . how would I know about it? . . . I won't be able to translate it. . . ."
Bakura sighed, but then gave a rueful smile. Yami Bakura was grouchy a great deal of the time, which was one of his father's main objections to the rascal.
But, Bakura could not help thinking, he's always stayed with me.
His eyes widened as he tried to shake the thought. His father had been so grief-stricken over half their family's deaths years earlier. But though he had traveled for years, trying to escape the pain, it had been Yami Bakura of all people who had made him realize he needed to be grateful he still had Bakura and to be around for Bakura more. Since then, he had tried to be at home much more often. Bakura would not feel right about holding the past against him.
He turned back to the bed. Yami Bakura might come back to sleep more, so he would not bother making up Yami Bakura's side of the mattress. But he would fix his own side. He had not done it earlier, so as not to run the risk of disturbing his friend. He walked around to the other side of the bed and began straightening his quilt.
Now he was amused; Yami Bakura never made the bed at all. When it was fixed neatly, it was always Bakura's doing. He had needed to make sure his father's room was in order last night, before the man had arrived. His father was, to Bakura's knowledge, unaware that Yami Bakura slept there when the room was otherwise unoccupied.
Bakura was not sure he would like it.
He fluffed the pillow and then straightened, gazing at the mismatched bed. With an amused shake of his head he turned, heading out of the room and downstairs.
James Bakura was looming over his desk, his arms spread and his hands gripping the edges of the carved and finished wood. His glasses slipped down his nose, but he hardly noticed. He was focusing all of his energy on the sight of the small square box in front of him.
It was one of the oddest pieces of workmanship he had ever encountered. Made of smooth gray stone and covered in hieroglyphs save for a strange, circular indentation on what seemed to be the front side, it bore no obvious way to open its sealed top. And the symbols glowed. A strange, turquoise light would illuminate one image, then go out and travel to another.
It showed no signs of wear whatsoever, despite the fact that it was clearly of ancient make. Two days ago an archaeologist had stumbled upon a mysterious, dark corner sticking out of the sand, and upon digging it out, had uncovered the box in which this box had been preserved. Obviously it was of great importance somehow, but that archaeologist, and now Mr. Bakura, could not determine what.
He only gave a cursory glance over his shoulder when the floor creaked. "Thief, what do you make of this?" he asked.
Yami Bakura went into the room and promptly picked up the box, glowering at it. "It's not Egyptian," he growled.
"I specialize in Egyptology," Mr. Bakura retorted. "I know that much."
"And how do you expect me to know any more?" Yami Bakura shot back. He moved to plop the thing back on the desk when something stayed his hand. A frown crossed his features as he returned the object to his eye level. Something about a few of these symbols seemed oddly familiar.
Mr. Bakura crossed his arms as he observed. "Well, do you?" he said. "And be careful with that!"
Yami Bakura grunted. "I don't know," he said. He set it down on the desk---gently---and stepped back. "There's something about it that I recall from centuries past."
"Have you ever seen it before?" the blue-haired man persisted.
"No, I have not." Yami Bakura regarded him in irritation. "But I have seen some of the hieroglyphs."
"Where?" Mr. Bakura frowned.
"Somewhere," Yami Bakura snapped, his patience growing very thin. "Perhaps a wanderer was writing them down in a tavern."
Mr. Bakura sighed. "You don't know what culture they're from," he said, removing his glasses and massaging the bridge of his nose.
"No," Yami Bakura said.
"Well, let me know if you remember anything else," Mr. Bakura said. Crossing to his chair, he sank into it.
"Perhaps," Yami Bakura said, and walked out.
Mr. Bakura set his glasses on the desk. "Sometimes I really wonder what Ryou sees in him," he muttered to the room.
The box's images pulsed, as if in response. Mr. Bakura gave it an odd look.
"If I didn't know better, I'd say that thing agrees with me," he said.
Yami Bakura could not explain his feelings as he left Mr. Bakura's office. That box. . . . Something about it, about the symbols he vaguely remembered from ages past . . . it disturbed him. Why? What was it, tugging at the edge of his mind, telling him that the thing was dangerous?
What was the figure he could see, clothed in shadows?
"A traveler?" he said aloud, staring into the distance. Yes . . . a mysterious man in a black cloak. . . . They had spoken once, briefly, long ago at an inn where he had stopped to eat.
"That man was the one writing the strange hieroglyphs." Yami Bakura paused, racking his mind for their conversation. He had lost many of his memories after countless millennia of being absorbed by Zorc's spirit. Sometimes he felt like he was still picking up the pieces. Most of the things he could not remember he doubted were important, so he had not even actively tried to recall the majority of them. But this . . . this could be important, perhaps vitally so.
"You're not from around here, I see."
"No, I am not."
The words echoed around him, long-forgotten snatches of conversation. He stood still, processing the voices as they swirled over him.
"I've never seen writing such as that."
"You're a thief, are you not? I would doubt you've seen many of the languages of the world."
Whether it was intended as an insult or just a flat-out fact, the Thief King was annoyed. The stranger continued to write, almost as if challenging him to defy the statement.
Gritting his teeth, the Egyptian crossed his arms on the table. "I may not know how to read these other languages, but I at least know what many of them look like," he said. "Travelers from all parts of the world pass through here."
The writer paused and looked up, a turquoise eye visible from behind the hood. "You have a point," he consented. "But what does it matter where I am from or what my language is? For the moment, I have only Egyptian."
"Then why don't you write in Egyptian?" the Thief King smirked, not ready to back down. "I can only think of one reason---you don't want what you're writing to be deciphered by anyone here."
"What if I don't? Everyone has their private matters that are not to be made public."
The memory faded. Yami Bakura growled, looking away from the opposite wall. "I never did know who he was or where he came from," he muttered. "I remember that much."
And there was one other thing, if he was remembering correctly. As the man had left, hadn't he muttered something about his writing being in a dead language? Or was that only a pipedream?
He started and looked over with questioning eyes. Bakura had come downstairs and was looking at him in concern and confusion, his own, brown eyes wide and blinking.
"What did Father want?"
"He just wondered if I could identify the thing he has in there," Yami Bakura said. "I can't."
"I see." Bakura still looked confused. "I wonder what on earth it is."
"I wonder why it's flashing," Yami Bakura grumbled. "I've never seen anything like it."
"It's very odd," Bakura agreed. "It's almost like that . . ." He stared off into the distance, mulling over his thoughts. "Like those strange turquoise stones that were landing all over the world sometime back. And the pillars of light."
Yami Bakura's eyes widened. Of course! The color of the lights in the box was exactly like the stones and the lights from the incident with the Doom organization. But was it a coincidence? Or was there really a connection? Atlantis was certainly nowhere near Egypt. Still, if Dartz had really been wandering for thousands of years, he could have ended up there. . . .
He could have even been the stranger from the inn. But would he have been foolish enough to lose the box, if indeed he had been carrying it with him? Or was there another explanation?
He whirled, storming back to Mr. Bakura's office.
Bewildered, Bakura chased after him. "Yami!" the boy called. "Yami, wait!"
Mr. Bakura looked up with a start as they both came in. "What is it?" he demanded, turning his gaze to Yami Bakura.
The thief picked up the box, which was still matter-of-factly twinkling and glowing. "This may have come from Atlantis," he announced.
Both Bakura and his father gawked.
"Atlantis," Mr. Bakura said at last.
Yami Bakura glared at him. "You don't believe in Atlantis?" he growled.
Mr. Bakura glared back. "I heard Professor Hawkins claimed to have gotten photographs of something he thought was Atlantis," he said. "That doesn't mean it actually was. Atlantis isn't anything but a myth to me."
"You say this to a three-thousand-year-old thief standing flesh and bone in your house," Yami Bakura said.
"Good point," Mr. Bakura groaned. "But at least you're from a culture that obviously existed. As long as any writing in Hawkins' pictures can't be translated, we have nothing to prove that there ever was an Atlantis."
Yami Bakura turned the box around in his hands. "Why don't you get a hold of Hawkins and describe these symbols to him?" he said. "If they match with what he found in those photographs, it would be an interesting coincidence at any rate."
Mr. Bakura looked surprised, but then nodded. "It's worth a try," he said, reaching for the phone.
Bakura just shifted uncomfortably as his father dialed. "Something about that box feels wrong," he said, speaking low to only Yami Bakura.
"Wrong?" Yami Bakura repeated with a grunt.
Bakura stared at the ominous container. "What if that really is the Orichalcos making it glow like that?" he worried. "If it is, we shouldn't even have such an evil thing around."
"Someone would have it around," Yami Bakura pointed out. "Perhaps someone who wouldn't be as responsible as us."
Bakura's shoulders slumped. "Yes," he said slowly, "that's true, I suppose, but . . ."
He trailed off as Mr. Bakura came to attention. "Hello, Professor Hawkins?" he said into the phone.
Yami Bakura fell silent too, observing the other man intently. He set the box back on the desk to allow Mr. Bakura to describe it.
From the tone of Mr. Bakura's voice as he explained, he was not pleased by how Professor Hawkins was reacting to the news. But after he had told about only a few of the symbols, Hawkins exclaimed loud enough that Bakura and the Thief King could hear him through the phone.
"That's exactly what they look like?!" he cried. "And the box?"
"Yes," Mr. Bakura frowned, holding the phone away from his ear. "Is there a problem?"
"Oh yes," Hawkins answered, his voice grave. "Mr. Bakura, I've seen a carving of something that looks like your box in some of the pictures I took at the site I believe to be Atlantis. And judging from the story being told in the carvings, it seems to contain a great deal of ancient magic. I can't determine exactly what it did, but it looks as though even the Atlanteans were afraid of it. That's why they sealed the lid."
"Is there any way to open it?" Mr. Bakura wondered. "Not that I would want to, but . . ."
"There is a pendant that fits into the indentation on the one side," Hawkins said. "Supposedly that opens it. The pendant was worn by the king of Atlantis."
"Dartz," Yami Bakura muttered.
Bakura stiffened. "Then it really is the Orichalcos inside?" he gasped.
"It appears as though it could be," Yami Bakura said.
"And I'm sure that pendant was lost during Yugi's battle against Dartz," Bakura said. "I suppose that's a good thing. . . ."
"Unless it wasn't destroyed and instead fell into the wrong hands," Yami Bakura countered.
He crossed his arms. "But I would still like to know how the box got to Egypt and then was lost," he said. "I can't believe Dartz would be so careless, from what I've heard about him."
Bakura sighed. "It really doesn't seem very likely, does it," he said.
"There's more going on than meets the eye," Yami Bakura growled.
A familiar, wicked laugh from out in the hall made him and Bakura freeze and Mr. Bakura stare in shock.
"There certainly is, Thief King," a dark voice purred. A figure came to stand in the doorway, veiled in silhouette with only his gleaming, bloodshot eyes illuminated.
Yami Bakura went pale, his eyes widening. "You!" he snarled.
"I have bad news and worse news for you," Yami Marik sneered as he stepped into the light. "The bad news is, I'm back."
Mr. Bakura's mouth dropped open. Now he could not focus on the telephone call at all; he could only gawk at this bizarre man . . . creature . . . whatever it was.
"Hello?!" Hawkins called into the receiver in vain. "Mr. Bakura, are you there?"
Yami Marik held up a talisman by the cord, grinning as he watched the trio's eyes following its every swing. "The worse news," he said, as the veins popped out on his face, "is that I think this is what you've been talking about."
Yami Bakura continued to stare, for the moment registering only one thought.
The object from my dream! he exclaimed in his mind. That's it!