Author's note: Hello everyone. It's been a hectic few weeks. I went home to my parents' house for Independence Day weekend, and I was nowhere near my computer for about four days. On top of this, the chapter you are about to read is an important one, and I didn't want it rushed. Hence, it took a long time for me to update.

Before I do anything else, I'd like to thank Metal Overlord 2.0 for helping me brainstorm and make the actual duel and plot of this chapter much better than it was before. I'm pleased with the result, and even I might start seeing Ben in a new way after this.

Read on…

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The Wager

A Cold Dark

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Ben slowly came to in a dark place. His head was spinning.

"Ooh…" he groaned. "Did someone get the number of that Monster that hit me?"

He slowly got up and looked around. He was in a dark, dreary dungeon. A few dim torches provided shadowy light.

"I know this place…" he said, ominously.

Then he heard a snickering sound, and saw two sinister eyes glaring at him from the shadows in front of him.

Ben stepped forward, and saw that it was Dark Marik again. But he clearly wasn't dreaming this time.

"So, it's you…" said Ben. "Why are you lurking in the darkness chuckling like some demented lunatic?"

He frowned.

"I mean… Other than the fact that you are one…"

"Sticks and stones, hero," said Marik, stepping into the light.

"So… What have you been doing since we last met? Has anyone else perished to prolong your unnatural life?"

"Why should I believe a single word you say?" asked Ben, nervously.

To be honest, he could only hope that Marik was lying.

He noticed that Marik was wearing a Duel Disk now. It was the same demonic style common to the cult of Tharizdun.

"You'll soon have all the proof you need," said the fiend.

"So a duel now?" asked Ben. "And a Shadow Duel, I suppose? One where I'll be trapped in my worst nightmares if I lose? Or maybe turned into a doll? I hear that's become quite popular these days…"

Marik chuckled a little.

"That would be amusing," he replied, "but my partner requires something with more substance this time…

"Shadow Duels can't be all fun and games any more like they were in the old days… Ever since I returned from the other side, it's been business before pleasure.

"You speak of the more modern punishment for losing Shadow Duels used by upstarts. Usually in more traditional versions of such contests, the combatants bet their lives… But I'm not even sure I can kill you that way…

"So here's the deal… If you defeat me here – as if – you get all your memories back."

"And if I don't?" asked Ben.

"Then you lose what you have," replied Marik, with a sinister grin. "Everything you've gained since you woke up in that morgue on the South Side."

"How the Hell did Tiberius find out about that?" shouted Ben.

"I never said my partner was Tiberius," chuckled Marik. "He's an exceptional person…"

"Who is he?" demanded Ben.

"You'll meet him eventually…" replied the fiend. "But exactly what happens then depends largely on what happens here…

"Incidentally, I'm not giving you a choice. As you can see, this chamber has no exits. The only way to enter or leave it is via magic that you don't have."

"I'm not afraid to duel you…" said Ben. "After all, from what I heard, your most powerful weapon is buried under the sands of Egypt…"

At that, the fiend in front of him laughed out loud.

"So it is!" he laughed. "So I don't have The Winged Dragon of Ra! Are you suggesting I can't duel without it?

"My other half founded the biggest organization of card ghouls in the world and was running it for a long time before he unearthed the three Egyptian God Cards. You don't start a group like that without becoming somewhat skilled in dueling.

"And in case you're wondering, I know everything he knew up to the point I separated from him… I think I can manage without my 'most powerful weapon'."

He lifted his arm, and the relatively small dungeon grew to almost four times its size. At the same time, it became illuminated by thousands of candles, giving the place a diabolical feel.

"So then…" said Marik. "The stage is set and the stakes have been made… Are you prepared to lose?"

Ben paused. He wanted to say he wasn't going to lose, but he wasn't so sure…

Marik's gloating wasn't just tripe. He was an expert. Could Ben possibly win after losing to someone like Roxy?

He'd had a Synchro Monster so powerful, that it had required two Tuners to summon… But she had still destroyed it and beaten him… The only thing worse than the pain had been the humiliation…

Looking around, he saw that there was indeed no way out. He was unarmed.

It seemed he had no choice…

As he activated his Duel Disk, he felt a feeling from it that he hadn't before… A feeling of warmth and invigoration…

Suddenly, he felt a little more confident… Not much, but a little…

"Duel!" they both shouted.

(Ben: 8,000) - - - - - - - - - - (Marik: 8,000)

"The first move is yours…" said Marik.

Ben glared at his foe, and drew a card.

"I summon… Light Lindworm," he said.

There was an aura of light, and a large creature appeared in front of him. Though technically a Dragon, it looked more like a big lizard, lacking wings with a rough, armored hide, with multiple tails ending in spear-like points. (1,900 ATK)

"I set one card facedown," he continued, as a set card appeared in front of him, "and my turn is over."

Marik grinned as he made a draw.

"I summon Dark Crusader!" he exclaimed.

He played the card, and a Warrior appeared in an aura of shadow. He wore blackened armor with a tattered, red cape, had a skull-like face, and carried a sword that looked far too big for him to use. (1,600 ATK)

"Next, for each Dark-Attribute Monster that I choose to discard from my hand…" he continued.

He discarded two cards.

"…my Warrior permanently gains 400 Attack Points."

(2,400 ATK)

"Slay his Dragon!" laughed the fiend.

Dark Crusader lifted his sword, and swung it at Light Lindworm with a powerful smash, blowing the old wyrm to pieces.

"I activate… Soul Rope!" exclaimed Ben, as his facedown card lifted up.

"Eh?" said Marik. "Soul Rope?"

"I'll give up 1,000 Life Points…" said Ben, "and then summon a Level 4 Monster from my deck…

"I summon Kaiser Sea Horse!"

In another aura of light, the armored aquatic humanoid holding a spear and shield appeared in Light Lindworm's place. (1,700 ATK)

"Bah!" said Marik. "I end my turn…"

(B: 6,500) - - - - - - - - - - (M: 8,000)

Ben quickly drew a card.

"I don't suppose an expert like you needs to be told," he said, as Kaiser Sea Horse dissolved into grains of light, "that when this Monster is sacrificed to summon a Light-Attribute Monster, it can count as two Monsters.

"So… I summon Guardian Angel Joan!"

She appeared in a brilliant aura of light… A beautiful angel clad in white robes, with lovely, feathered wings, that radiated an aura of pure brilliance. Yet, she frowned as she looked at Marik. (2,800 ATK)

"Impressive…" said Marik.

"How's this for impressive?" asked Ben. "Attack his Dark Crusader! Divine Flame Strike!"

Joan flew at the evil Warrior, and blasted holy fire from her hands. He screamed and was blown into pieces as Marik grunted.

"And now Joan's effect comes into play," said Ben. "I gain Life Points equal to your destroyed Monster's base Attack Score."

(B: 8,100) - - - - - - - - - - (M: 7,600)

"Big deal…" growled Marik.

"I set this card facedown," said Ben, as a new set card appeared behind him, "and I end my turn…"

Marik frowned. He paused as he looked at his deck.

He made a draw. Then he grinned wickedly.

"Ready for some serious pain, hero?" asked Marik. "I have exactly three Dark Monsters in my Graveyard…"

It can't be… thought Ben.

Marik played the card, and there was an explosion of dark energy on his side of the field. With a bellowing roar, Dark Armed Dragon loomed over Ben. (2,800 ATK)

"I think I'll summon Vengeful Shinobi while I'm at it," said Marik, as he played another card.

A dark ninja assassin holding a kukri appeared next to the huge Dragon. (400 ATK)

"Now, for every Dark Monster in my Graveyard that I remove from play," continued Marik, as two cards slipped out of his discard slot, "My Dragon can destroy one card."

Dark Armed Dragon roared again, and both Joan and Ben's facedown Draining Shield shattered into shards.

"NO!" screamed Ben.

"If you think that was brutal," laughed Marik, "wait until you see its actual attack!

"Attack him directly! Genocide Blast!"

Dark Armed Dragon opened its jaws, and fired a beam of pure destructive darkness, striking Ben and propelling him against the wall. He hit hard, and slumped to the ground.

He barely felt it as Vengeful Shinobi threw its weapon, hitting him in the chest.

"I end my turn..." chuckled Marik, "and when D.D. Scout Planes are removed from play, they are summoned to the field at the end of the turn."

A portal opened, and two spherical robots, each with a large, single eye and two spindly arms, floated out. (800 ATK x2)

(B: 4,900) - - - - - - - - - - (M: 7,600)

As Ben slowly got up, he heard crying and moaning. It seemed to be coming from the walls around him.

"What?" he said. "What's that?"

"It's the tears of the ones who've died to prolong your life, hero," chuckled Marik. "I forgot to mention… This Shadow Duel will make their cries of anguish that you didn't hear before all the more obvious…"

The crying increased, turning into wailing and sobbing.

"Can you hear it hero?" asked Marik. "Can you hear the Symphony of Sorrow? The cacophony of utter despair? Families torn, lives ruined, all to prolong your own miserable existence! My god it's almost too beautiful for words, even my sins pale in comparison with what you have done. As one monster to another I must say, I truly envy what you have become."

"No, no…" said Ben. "I'm not like you…"

He drew a card.

"I'll never be like you, understand?" he screamed.

He thrust a Spell Card forward.

"I play Star Blast! For every 500 Life Points that I pay, I can downgrade the Level of a Monster in my hand by 1. So I'll pay 2,000 Life Points to downgrade this one from 8 to 4."

What? thought Marik, opening his eyes wide. That's a pretty big risk he's taking!

"Now I can summon this Monster with no sacrifice," said Ben. "I summon… The Creator!"

There was a flash of lightning, and another radiant being appeared in an aura of light. It was a giant humanoid covered in golden armor, with a metal discus on its back that supported wings made of the same material, metallic versions of celestial wings. (2,300 ATK)

The crying and sobbing quickly died down. Ben paused…

"Now, I'm using its effect," he said.

He discarded Totem Dragon from his hand.

"For the cost of one card, I can bring Joan back from the Graveyard."

The Creator glowed with energy, and with a sound of celestial trumpets, Joan reappeared next to it. (2,800 ATK)

"So now what?" asked Marik. "Her Attack Score is equal to my Monsters'."

"But its Defense Score isn't too great," said Ben, as he played the last card in his hand. "Go, Book of Moon!"

Dark Armed Dragon vanished, and was replaced by a set card.

"And now Joan can easily destroy it. Attack! Divine Flame Strike!"

Joan launched her holy beams, and the wicked Dragon briefly appeared before it exploded into globules of darkness. Marik growled.

"Now, The Creator attacks Vengeful Shinobi!" shouted Ben. "Attack with Fires of Creation!"

The Creator lifted its hand, and formed a ball of crackling, fiery energy…

"I use Vengeful Shinobi's effect," said Marik. "I get to draw one card…"

He made a draw.

Then he braced himself as the ninja was blown to pieces.

"It's your move, pal…" said Ben.

(B: 5,700) - - - - - - - - - - (M: 5,700)

Marik made another draw.

Hmm… he thought. This Monster could destroy The Creator… But if he managed to make Joan stronger, he'd just gain far more Life Points…

I'd best wait until I can take care of both of them at once…

"Here's a card that the Pharaoh was awfully fond of…" he said, as he threw a card into his Disk. "I play Swords of Revealing Light!"

The Spell Card appeared, and a storm of glowing blades shot out of the card, forming a cage around Ben and his Monsters.

"Not the Swords!" he gasped.

"Yes…" said Marik. "That will keep even the mightiest Monsters at bay for three full turns…

"Next, I set one facedown card, and move both my Scout Planes to Defense Mode."

A set card appeared behind the Scout Planes, and the two droids shielded themselves with their arms. (1,200 DEF x2)

"I'm finished," he said with a sly smile.

Ben made one draw.

Not bad… he thought.

"I play Reinforcement of the Army!" he exclaimed, as he played it.

A card slipped out of his deck, and he took it.

"Now I…"

"Trap activate…" said Marik.

"Eh?" said Ben, looking at it. "Zombie's Jewel?"

"This was a card I kept from the deck I used against the Pharaoh," chuckled Marik. "Some cards I just became sort of fond of…

"Anyway… Zombie's Jewel lets me take that Spell Card you just played as soon as it goes to your Graveyard…"

The Reinforcement of the Army card appeared in Marik's hand.

"Now, in exchange for that, you draw once… Best pray that it's a good one…"

Ben drew a card. He looked at it.

"It's still my turn, pal…" he said. "And you can't stop me from summoning the guy I got with that card.

"Meet Justice Bringer!"

A Warrior stepped onto the field. He wore formal attire similar to Judge Man's raiment, but he was much more human-looking. His helmet was bronze, and had four golden wings. He held a long staff with two crescent blades on the end. (1,700 ATK)

"I'll end my turn there," said Ben. "Two turns to go…"

Marik chuckled as he drew a card.

Then he laughed out loud.

"What's so funny?" asked Ben.

"I just drew a card so rare," said Marik, "that even my 'better half' had never heard of it when he was the leader of the Rare Hunters…

"You know, that upstart duelist Jonouchi may have been a pain in the neck, but he had some good cards…"

"Upstart duelist?" asked Ben. "If I remember that story correctly, you would have lost that duel if he had remained conscious for five more seconds."

Marik growled.

"Don't remind me," he said.

"Besides," said Ben, "the only Dark Monster of note he used was his Dragon… And there are no Dark Counterparts to any of his other cards.

"How little you know," said Marik. "My partner directed me to this very special card…

"But before I use it… I'll use the Reinforcement of the Army I got from you…"

He played the Spell Card.

"…to get Dark Grepher from my deck."

He took the card from his deck, and quickly played it. An evil Warrior with coal-black skin and smoldering embers for eyes appeared in front of Marik. It was Warrior Dai Grepher right before he completed the transformation into Dark Lucius. (1,700 ATK)

"Now, I use Dark Grepher's effect…" said Marik. "I send one Dark Monster from my hand to my Graveyard…"

He discarded a card.

"…and then send one from my deck to the Graveyard."

He took a card from his deck, and discarded it as well.

"And now it's time for something completely different!" he cackled. "I sacrifice all three of my Monsters…"

The two D.D. Scout Planes and Dark Grepher turned into bonfires of black fire, and then into a globe of inky darkness. There was a sound like the rumble of thunder…

"I summon… Gilford the Black!"

With a roar, a hulking, massive Warrior leapt onto the field. Combining the worst aspects of Gilford the Lightning and Gilford the Legend, he was clothed in black iron barbarian armor and a blackened iron mask covering his face, under which wild, maddening eyes could be seen, He held a nasty two-handed sword… In one hand, as if it was no more than a dagger. (2,800 ATK)

"I could have Special Summoned him by sacrificing only one Dark Monster," chuckled Marik. "But the more, the better, because for every Dark Monster sacrificed, Gilford the Black can destroy one of your cards…

"Wipe out his Monsters! Dark Blade of Hell!"

"Go, Shield of Justice!" shouted Ben.

Justice Bringer held his staff in front of him, and closed his eyes. As the blast of dark energy shot towards his three Monsters, a golden energy shield sprang up, and the blast was deflected.

"HOW?" shouted Marik.

"Justice Bringer's effect," said Ben. "Your Warrior was Special Summoned, and once per round, Justice Bringer can negate the effect of a Special Summoned Monster."

Marik glared at him.

Okay… thought the fiend. Now my patience is wearing thin…

"Attack The Creator!" he commanded.

Gilford the Black swung his mighty sword, cutting the golden deity in twain. The two pieces shattered.

Marik looked at the last card in his hand.

"I'm not done…" he said. "Because I have at least three Dark Monsters in my Graveyard, I can remove two of them from play to send this one to the Graveyard."

He discarded the card.

"…and you'll get to see it next turn. My turn is over, and because I just removed my two Scout Planes from play again…"

The two D.D. Scout Planes appeared again. (800 ATK x2)

(B: 5,200) - - - - - - - - - - (M: 5,700)

Ben paused to catch his breath.

That was close… he thought. And I still can't attack with these blasted Swords in the way…

He drew a card.

Maybe this will help…

"I play…. Akashic Record," he said, as he played the Spell Card.

He made two draws.

He turned them forward, showing that they had clearly not been used yet.

"I move Justice Bringer to Defense Mode…" he said.

The Warrior knelt, and held his staff in his lap. (1,000 DEF)

"Then I summon Herald of Creation," he continued.

In another aura of light, a woman in flowing, golden robes and a veil, with long, blonde hair, appeared next to Joan. She was holding a long staff tipped with a design that resembled the discus on The Creator's back. (1,800 ATK)

"Now I'll use her effect," he continued.

He discarded a card, and the Herald started to chant.

"By making one discard, I can recover a Level 7 or higher Monster from my Graveyard."

The Creator slipped out of his discard slot, and he took it.

He looked at it. Then he looked at the other card in his hand, a Trap Card.

Better wait to set this, he thought. I have a pretty good idea what's coming next…

"My turn is over…" he said.

"In that case, I draw!" exclaimed Marik.

"And during my Standby Phase, the Monster I sent to the Graveyard last turn rises to the field… Behold… Dark Nephthys!"

With a screech and an explosion of dark flames, a huge bird covered with black, metallic armor shrouded in black fire, a grim parody of the Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys, rose onto the field. (2,400 ATK)

"You made a mistake, Marik," said Ben. "When that Monster is summoned, it automatically destroys one Spell or Trap Card on the field… And the only one it can destroy is your Swords of Revealing Light!"

The glowing swords shattered into pixels. Marik growled.

"I was kind of hoping that your Justice Bringer's effect wasn't optional…" he said with a sneer. "But no matter…"

He played the card he had just drawn.

"I activate… Shrink!"

Joan gasped, and she was reduced to half her normal size. (1,400 ATK)

"That fool Kaiba was a big fan of this card," he chuckled. "He actually used it to help me during the four-way duel in the Battle City finals!"

"Kaiba was a fool?" asked Ben. "I remember his role in that story too… He figured out a way to defeat Ra, didn't he?"

Marik growled again. Then he pointed, and Gilford the Black swung his mighty sword, blowing Joan to pixels.

Then Dark Nephthys breathed a gout of dark flames, and Herald of Creation was incinerated.

Ben held his chest in pain, and the crying and sobbing coming from the walls of the chamber started to get louder again…

"No…" he begged. "Forgive me, please…"

(B: 3,200) - - - - - - - - - - (M: 5,700)

"Once again, I move my two Scout Planes to Defense Mode…" said Marik, as the two Machines defended. (1,200 DEF)

"…and I end my turn…"

Tears and sweat started to drip down Ben's face. He tried hard to ignore the cries of anguish, but they were so intense…

His hand was shaking, but he somehow managed to drew a card.

He set it and another card in his Disk, and two set cards appeared in his Spell Zone.

He took a deep breath.

"Done!" he said.

"To think I expected a challenge from you," laughed Marik, as he drew a card. "This is like target practice…

"Dark Nephthys, obliterate his final Monster! Flaming Scourge!"

The evil phoenix blasted its flame, blowing Justice Bringer to shards.

"Gilford the Black, attack him directly!" continued Marik.

The barbarian roared, and lunged towards Ben.

"I activate… Defense Draw!" shouted Ben, as his facedown card lifted up.

Gilford's blade stopped short.

"I not only escape without a scratch, but I get to draw one card…"

He made a draw.

Marik frowned.

"Then make your move…" he said.

"Oh, I will…" said Ben, drawing a card.

Then his other facedown card lifted up.

"Due to my Common Sacrifice Trap Card, I can send your two weakest Monsters to the Graveyard…"

The two D.D. Scout Planes vanished.

"…and then I can Special Summon a high-Level Monster from my hand. You remember this guy, right?"

In an explosion of golden fire, The Creator appeared again, this time kneeling in Defense Mode. (3,000 DEF)

"Now, it's time for him to do what he does best," said Ben, as he discarded a Masked Dragon from his hand.

The celestial choir sounded again, and Guardian Angel Joan appeared once more. (2,800 ATK)

I'm getting awfully sick of her… thought Marik.

"Now…" said Ben, as he took the last card in his hand, "I use the Equip Spell, Unstable Evolution, and I Equip it to Gilford the Black."

As he played the card, Gilford became hunched over, somewhat more muscular, and simian in appearance. (2,400 ATK)

"Because my Life Points are less than yours, this Equip Spell makes his Attack Score 2,400, which is just enough for Joan to handle.

"Attack, destroy him!"

Marik was about to lift his hand, as if to respond to this…

But then he seemed to change his mind. Joan's radiant beams struck the evil imposter, blowing him to pieces.

The sobbing and crying started to quiet down again. Ben sighed with relief.

"And once again, due to her effect, I gain Life Points…" said Ben. "It's your move…"

(B: 5,600) - - - - - - - - - - (M: 5,300)

Marik drew a card.

He quickly set both of his cards in his Disk, and both a set Monster and a card set in his Spell Zone appeared. Then he turned a card, and Dark Nephthys folded its wings in Defense Mode. (1,600)

"Your move…" he said.

"I draw!" said Ben.

"And I summon Sacred Knight Joan!"

In another aura of light, the Warrior that Penelope used, the one that depicted Joan of Arc as a mortal woman, appeared with his other two Monsters. (1,900 ATK)

Then The Creator got up, and moved to Attack Mode. (2,300 ATK)

"Guardian Angel Joan, attack his Dark Nephthys!"

"Not so fast!" shouted Marik, as his facedown card lifted up. "This is one of my favorite Traps! The dreaded Nightmare Wheel!"

The horrible torture device appeared, and to Ben's shock, Joan was bound to it. He could only look in surprise as Marik chuckled evilly.

"You know…" said Marik. "Some say that this device was based on an instrument of torture called St. Catherine's Wheel… St. Catherine was a martyr who, according to legend, was sentenced to be executed with it… But the legend says she not only survived it, the wheel broke when they tried to use it on her. So she was burned instead.

"Joan of Arc was a martyr too… I don't believe they tried this on her before she was burned… But why don't we see if she can withstand it, eh?"

"You know something, Marik?" said Ben. "I don't find you funny in the least… Creator, you destroy his phoenix!"

The Creator powered up its Fires of Creation, and threw them at the Dark Winged Beast, blowing it to pieces.

Sacred Knight Joan leapt at the set Monster with her sword held high, her Attack Score falling to 1,600. The Morphing Jar appeared, and lurched out of its jar right before she slashed it to ribbons.

Marik chuckled, and made five draws. Ben did the same.

"No harm, no foul, eh hero?" he said.

"Make your move…" said Ben.

"Oh, I will," said Marik, as he made another draw. "And it seems that this is an ironic coincidence…

"First, you take 500 points of damage from the Nightmare Wheel."

The horrible wheel started to turn. Ben forced himself to look away. Joan didn't scream, but when Ben looked again, she clearly wasn't happy.

Don't worry… he thought, as he looked at her. It won't happen again… And you can help me next turn, if Marik is as sadistic as I think…

"Now then…" said Marik, "Because I control no Monsters and I have at least five Dark Monsters in my Graveyard… I can Special Summon The Dark Creator!"

With a flash of lightning and an aura of shadow, an evil twin of Ben's Monster appeared. It had glossy black armor instead of gold, and its wings were bat-like. (2,300 ATK)

"Now, I use its effect…" continued Marik. "By removing a Scout Plane from play once again, I get to Special Summon a Dark Monster from my Graveyard…"

With a roar, Gilford the Black reappeared. (2,800 ATK)

"And now it's time to deal out some punishment of my own… Gilford, destroy The Creator again!"

Just like before, the Dark Warrior brought his sword down on the golden entity, smashing it to golden shards.

"And now my Dark Creator will vanquish your Sacred Knight!"

The Dark Creator formed a crackling orb of darkness, and hurled it at Sacred Knight Joan. She screamed and fell backwards before shattering.

"I use her effect!" shouted Ben.

He quickly discarded a card.

"By sending one card in my hand to the Graveyard, I get to recover a Warrior from my Graveyard."

He took a card from his discard slot. It was The Creator Incarnate, the card he discarded to pay The Creator's cost last time.

Marik chuckled.

"In that case, hero," he said, "I set one card facedown, and end my turn. I'm sure you know what that means…"

A set card appeared, and D.D. Scout Plane emerged from the portal again. (800 ATK)

(B: 4,200) - - - - - - - - - - (M: 5,300)

Ben drew a card.

"Time to turn this around, Marik!" he said. "I summon the Tuner Monster, Hanewata!"

With a loud squeak, a little Monster appeared. It looked like a Watapon, only with wings. (200 ATK)

Guardian Angel Joan, strained, and then broke free from her chains. The Nightmare Wheel fell to the ground and shattered. She looked at Marik with an expression of fury.

"I Tune my Level 1 Hanewata with my Level 7 Guardian Angel Joan…" said Ben, as the two Fairies turned into a cluster of stars.

"Let the power of Light shine down from the heavens and give birth to a being of pure, unspoiled radiance!"

(*1 + *7 = *8)

"Synchro Summon… Light End Dragon!"

An aura of super-intense Light gave way to a large and incredibly beautiful Dragon alighting on Ben's side of the field. It was serpentine with platinum scales, had two small claws, four feathered wings, a crown of gold on its head shaped like a halo, and a golden breastplate with a large, perfectly cut emerald in the center. (2,600 ATK)

"Ergh…" said Marik, as he shielded himself from the light. His two Monsters didn't seem to like it much either.

"All right!" shouted Ben. "Now my Dragon attacks your Dark Creator! And by shaving 500 Attack Points off of his Scores, he can reduce the Scores of the target's by 1,500!"

Light End Dragon roared again. Its Attack Score fell to 2,100, while The Dark Creator's fell to only 800…

"Attack! Shining Sublimation!"

"I remove Necro Gardna from play to negate your attack!" shouted Marik.

The card slipped out of his discard slot, and the blast was halted in mid-air.

Of course… thought Ben, nervously. What else are you going to discard when you use Dark Grepher's effect?

"Most people use the effect of this card at the earliest opportunity…" chuckled Marik, as he held up the card. "I say… It's all a matter of timing…"

He laughed evilly as the card vanished in a dark shadow.

Ben took a card from his hand and set it in his Disk. A facedown card appeared.

"I'll end with that…" he said.

Marik chuckled as he made a draw. Then his facedown card lifted up.

"I activate Tyrant's Temper," he said.

Ben had never seen this Trap before. The card art showed the underwear-clad king from The Emperor's Holiday yelling angrily at Marauding Captain.

"I simply sacrifice a Monster," he said, as the D.D. Scout Plane vanished, "and my Monsters become immune to all Trap Cards except this one.

"Now, I use The Dark Creator's effect again, removing D.D. Scout Plane from play again…"

Ben thought that Marik was going to bring back Dark Nephthys… But to his surprise, the Monster that appeared was completely different. It looked like the Ancient Gear Golem, but rather than being covered with rusty, gunmetal grey armor, it was covered with glossy black armor similar to The Dark Creator's. It had the same glowing optic sensor and it glared at Ben and his Dragon. (3,000 ATK)

"Meet my Dark Gear Golem," said Marik. "This was the Monster I discarded from my hand when I used Dark Grepher's effect. It may not have its counterpart's effects, but as you can see, it can indeed be Special Summoned…

"And now…"

"Go, Threatening Roar!" shouted Ben, as his Trap Card shot up.

"Afraid you can't attack this turn…"

Marik grinned.

"Well, in that case," said the fiend, "I'll set these…"

A facedown Monster appeared with his others, and a set card appeared behind it.

"…and end my turn…"

D.D. Scout Plane appeared once more. (800 ATK)

"So what will you do?" asked Marik. "Your Dragon can defeat one of these Monsters… But it will lack the power to defeat another one when my turn comes around…"

Ben didn't respond. Then the crying and sobbing started again.

"You don't like losing, do you?" asked Marik. "You say Kaiba wasn't a fool… You say he knew how to defeat Ra… Well, it's strange… He wasn't the one confronting me in the final round, with both Osiris and Obelisk in his deck."

The Pharaoh had a card that could beat Ra too… thought Ben. Ragnarok… And it actually worked when he used it.

"You see, 'hero'," chuckled Marik, "Kaiba had the same problem you did… He got too big for his britches… Folks say I was always too proud for my own good… Well, maybe I am… And let me tell you, you're an egotist after my own heart…

"I saw the duel with Roxy… Very interesting… Do you know why you lost?"

He chuckled again.

"Roxy might not have bothered to use Giant Trunade if she didn't know about Vairon Omega's final effect," he continued. "But she knew… Because you boasted about it before she made that move!

"It was so hilarious…"

Ben didn't answer right away. He looked down at his feet, not saying anything for a long time. Then he sighed and brushed some of his hair away from his face.

"It does seem like I've been gotten pretty full of myself hasn't it?" he finally said. "It's funny, but hearing you talk about how everything in the universe hinges on the balance between Light and Darkness, Chaos and Order, it made me realize something.


He paused before sighing as he started again.

"I've been way too inwardly focused, ever since I woke up in that morgue. At first, all I cared about was getting my memories back… With every clue to my past I chomped at the bit rushing from one lead to another… Everyone I met, friends, foes, they seemed so unimportant. The Dread Emperor, Willy, Kesto, even poor Ravel. I started treating everyone I fought as beneath me, thinking it would all be worth it once I regained my memories, and discovered my true self.

"It seems that whoever I was before I met Ravel the first time… He was an arrogant son of a bitch… Maybe that's how I got into this whole mess…

"But now…"

His right hand clenched into a fist.

"Now I know that getting my memories back, that finding my true self… it all doesn't mean shit if I only end up looking back with shame at what I was willing to become to get there! I'm not the only one with a stake in this fight… The people who took me in and treated me like family are risking their lives for something bigger then who's right or wrong, or who's more powerful. We're fighting to protect all of creation… Every human, every Shadow... Every resident of Heaven, Hell, and every realm in-between… If Tharizdun returns nobody will be spared, so I can't keep on acting like some petty little child and act like I'm above it all!"

He drew the top card off his deck.

"So I'll use the strength all of my opponents have given me, good or evil, strong or weak, and the lessons taught to me by everyone who's helped me when I needed them the most, and I'll take down you, Tiberius, and everyone else involved in this mad plan!"

He looked at the card he had drawn. The crying and sobbing suddenly went dead silent.

"What's this?" asked Marik.

"THIS is my move!" said Ben, as he played the card.

The Pot of Avarice appeared in front of him. He took Sacred Knight Joan, Totem Dragon, Masked Dragon, Light Lindworm, and Herald of Creation from his discard slot, and added them to his deck. The deck was reshuffled, and he made two draws.

All right… he said, as he looked at them. Now I might have a chance…

"Light End Dragon…" he commanded. "Destroy The Dark Creator!"

Light End Dragon roared, and its Attack Score went down to 1,600, while The Dark Creator's Attack Score once again fell to 800. With a blast of holy light, the evil Thunder Monster was blown to particles.

"ERGH!" grunted Marik.

"I activate a Trap…" he growled, as his facedown card lifted up. "Retribution of the Dark Ruler! Because my Dark Monster was destroyed and I took damage, you take 200 points of damage times the Level of my destroyed Monster!"

A bolt of dark energy shot from the card, and struck Ben.

He barely seemed to care.

"I'll set three cards facedown," said Ben, as three set cards appeared in his Spell Zone, "and my turn ends…"

"Three set cards," growled Marik. "Have you forgotten the effect of my Tyrant's Temper?"

(B: 2,600) - - - - - - - - - - (M: 4,500)

He made a draw.

"I summon Dark Battle Ox!" he exclaimed.

The Monster that appeared was a dead ringer for its classic namesake, but its armor was completely black, and it held a nastier, serrated axe. (1,700 ATK)

"This whole Dark Counterpart thing is getting out of hand," said Ben.

"It may not look like much," said Marik, "but it gives ALL my Dark Monsters a trampling effect!"

Now who's boasting about the effects of his Monsters? thought Ben. If there ever was a case of the pot calling the kettle black…

"Dark Gear Golem…" ordered Marik, "attack his Light End Dragon! Dark Crush!"

The huge Machine prepared to throw a punch at the Dragon…

"I activate… Forbidden Chalice!" shouted Ben.

One of his facedown cards sprang up.

"With this Spell Card, a Monster on the field loses its effect, and gains 400 Attack Points…"

"Wait…" said Marik, opening his eyes wide. "If your Dragon loses its effect…"

"That's right…" said Ben. "It regains the 1,000 Attack Points it lost. And don't forget, it gains 400 from the effect of Forbidden Chalice."

(3,000 ATK)

Light End Dragon roared, and flew to meet the Golem's attack. Both Ben and Marik braced themselves as both Monsters exploded.

"Bah!" shouted Marik. "I can still finish you… Gilford, attack him directly!"

Gilford lifted his sword…

"I activate… Miracle's Wake!" shouted Ben, as another facedown card lifted up.

Light End Dragon reappeared on the field with a bellow. (2,600 ATK)

"You know…" sneered Marik. "You're starting to annoy me!

"My attack is called off! I move D.D. Scout Plane to Defense Mode…"

The Scout Plane defended again. (1,200 DEF)

"Then I set this…"

He set a card, and a new facedown card appeared in his Spell Zone.

"Make your move…"

Ben drew a card.

He started to reach for a card in his hand…

Then he paused. His hand trembled a little.

He looked at the Monster Card. A female Warrior called Pious Warrior Rowen. She was Level 4… She could defeat Dark Battle Ox…

But a feeling deep in Ben's gut told him not to play this card… The same feeling told him that it just wouldn't be right…

His hand moved away.

"Light End Dragon, attack Gilford the Black!" he commanded. "Shining Sublimation!"

Again, Light End Dragon's Attack Score fell to 2,100, while Gilford's fell to 1,300. A beam of light shot from the Dragon's jaws, and Gilford the Black burst into gibbets.

(B: 2,600) - - - - - - - - - - (M: 3,700)

Ben took a card from his hand, and set it in his Disk. A facedown card appeared next to his other one.

He glared at Marik. For the first time, the demon in front of him looked a little nervous…

Marik drew a card.

"Hmm…" he said.

"I flip my Dark Mimic LV1 into Attack Mode…" he said.

His facedown Monster flipped face-up, revealing a small, fiendish-looking treasure chest. (100 ATK)

He made one draw. He frowned when he looked at it.

Then his facedown card lifted up.

"I activate Dark Spirit Art – Greed," he said. "Now, I sacrifice one Dark Monster…"

The Dark Mimic vanished.

"And I get to draw two cards… unless you counter this effect by revealing a Spell Card in your hand."

"I don't have one," said Ben.

Marik made two draws.

Then he made a grin that Ben did not like at all…

"Now it ends, 'hero'…" he said. "I hope that speech you made felt good…

"Because I have at least four Dark Monsters in my Graveyard with different names, I can Normal Summon this Monster with one sacrifice, so long as I'm sacrificing a Dark Monster…


The D.D. Scout Plane turned into an orb of darkness…

"Come forth, Darklord Zerato!"

The whole room went dim, and above diabolic laughter, a sinister-looking fallen angel appeared. His skin was ebony black, he wore a dark helmet and a cloak that gave the illusion of wings, and he held a nasty serrated sword. (2,800 ATK)

"Now I'll use his effect," laughed Marik. "By discarding one Dark Monster in my hand, I can wipe out all of your Monsters!"

He quickly discarded a Doomsday Horror, and dark lightning flashed, blowing Light End Dragon to pieces.

"I could just end this with one mighty strike from him… But why let my other Monster go to waste?

"Dark Battle Ox, attack him directly!"

The Beast-Warrior charged at Ben, and slammed his axe into him hard. Ben struggled to keep his footing.

(B: 900) - - - - - - - - - - (M: 3,700)

"You're through!" shouted Marik. "Darklord Zerato, finish him off!"

The fallen angel flew at Ben, and hit him hard with his sword. Ben didn't scream, but this time he truly fell over…

"Hmm…" said Marik.

The dust started to clear…

Ben slowly got up…

(B: 2,100) - - - - - - - - - - (M: 3,700)

"WHAT?" screamed Marik. "You gained Life Points?"

Ben pointed to his Trap Card, which he had activated.

"All thanks to Nutrient Z," he said. "Because Darklord Zerato's attack was capable of doing at least 2,000 points of damage, I gained 4,000 Life Points before I lost any."

Marik looked on the verge of losing his temper.

"I'm not done!" he shouted, as he played a Spell Card. "I play The Beginning of the End! Because I have at least seven Dark Monsters in my Graveyard now, I can remove five of them from play to draw three times!"

Both Scout Planes, Dark Armed Dragon, The Dark Creator, and Dark Mimic LV1 fell out of his discard slot. He made three draws.

Marik smirked slightly.

"I think I'll use the effect of my Dark Gear Golem," he said.

"It's in your Graveyard!" responded Ben.

"That's the idea," replied Marik.

He discarded three cards from his hand: Sangan, Metabo Globster, and Mask of Darkness.

"The regular Ancient Gear Golem can't be Special Summoned," he continued, "but Dark Gear Golem's effect is all about Special Summoning it. Because the Levels of those Monsters I just tossed total the Level of the Golem…

"Well, see for yourself…"

In a shadowy aura, the Dark Gear Golem towered over the field again. (3,000 ATK)

"I'll set one more card," said Marik.

A facedown card appeared in his Spell Zone.

"…and my turn ends… You know what that means…"

The portal opened again, and the two D.D. Scout Planes flew out. (800 ATK x2)

"It also means that Darklord Zerato leaves," said Ben, "because you used his effect."

Zerato shattered into pixels. Marik frowned.

Ben glared at him, and drew a card.

Uh huh, he thought, as he looked at it.

"My Trap activates!" exclaimed Marik.

His facedown card lifted up.

"It's called Fake Friendship Treaty, and it prevents you from summoning any Monsters that are Level 4 or lower."

He chuckled, and then looked at the two cards in his hand, Dark Wall of Wind and Shadowpriestess of Ohm.

With him only able to set Monsters, he thought, mine are safe, and I can summon this one next turn…

She'll be able to inflict 800 points of damage for each Dark Monster I sacrifice… I only need to sacrifice three, and this duel will be over…

"Well then…" said Ben.

Marik looked up.

"If I can't summon any low-Level Monsters…" said Ben, "I'll have to go higher!"

Guardian Angel Joan and Hanewata appeared behind him, and then faded into grains of light.

"By removing two Light Monsters in my Graveyard from play," he continued, "I can Special Summon Soul of Purity and Light!"

A woman in a long gown with wings who looked almost transparent appeared in front of him, her hands clasped in a praying position. (2,000 ATK)

Marik frowned.

Well, so much for Dark Battle Ox… he thought. But I can still…

His train of thought was interrupted by what Ben said next:

"I sacrifice Soul of Purity and Light…"

The spirit vanished.

"To summon the divine punisher…"

There was a rumbling and the whole chamber shook as a gargantuan form rose behind Ben…

"I summon… Majestic Mech – Goryu!"

A Fairy of gigantic proportions seemed to fill the whole chamber. It bore resemblance to a giant, serpentine dragon, with a segmented body made of gold and platinum, with two metal wings made in the shape of a seraphim's. (2,900 ATK)

Now Marik looked more than nervous… He looked downright frightened…

"Attack the D.D. Scout Plane on the left!" shouted Ben. "Sacred Lightning!"

Goryu bellowed, and it seemed that the whole chamber erupted in a violent thunder storm. The small Machine exploded, and Marik screamed as he was thrown backwards, knocking over a whole set of candelabras.

(B: 2,100) - - - - - - - - - - (M: 1,600)

He slowly got up, and glared at Ben with an expression of pure hate…

"I hope that was worth it, you utter fool…" he said through his teeth. "You summoned that thing with only one sacrifice… That means it will go to the Graveyard when your turn ends…"

Ben glared back at him…

Then his facedown card lifted up…

"I activate Miraculous Descent," he said, as he stared at the demon. "By using this Trap Card, I can Special Summon a Fairy that I removed from play…"

There were no celestial choirs this time… Guardian Angel Joan appeared once more, but judging by her expression as she looked at Marik, she was angry… Maybe even a little pissed… (2,800 ATK)

"Oh… no…" said Marik.

Ben simply pointed, and Joan launched her holy fire one last time, smashing the other D.D. Scout Plane. Marik screamed again…

(B: 2,100) - - - - - - - - - - (M: 0)

Marik clutched his chest.

"No, wait!" he shouted to someone that Ben couldn't see. "You can't! We had a deal!

"It wasn't my fault! No! I don't want to go back to…"

Before he could say anymore, he burst in an explosion of foul, black smoke. His Duel Disk fell to the ground with a clatter.

Ben fell to his knees. His heart was pounding, and sweat was pouring down his face.

He looked around. The dungeon had returned to its previous size, and the hellish candles were gone.

He sighed. He wondered what would happen next. Was this mysterious partner that Marik spoke of going to appear? He hoped not… He was exhausted… He felt like he wanted to throw up...

Then he realized that someone was indeed in the room with him.

Looking up, he saw the dark homunculus that had transported him to the room with Roxy.

Slowly, he stood up. He looked at the homunculus, and it looked back with its blank face for a long time.

Then Ben screamed and clutched his head…

He collapsed, and for the second time tonight, everything went dark…

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Card Specs

Type: Dragon
Attribute: Light
Level: 4
ATK: 1,900
DEF: 1,200

Flavor Text: An ancestor of modern Dragons, the Lindworms were until recently thought to be extinct. Their lack of wings distinguishes them from their modern kin.

Note: "Light Lindworm" was first used by Manjyome in the "Yu-Gi-Oh GX" manga. Creative credit goes to the writers.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Normal Trap

Image: Freed the Brave Wanderer, Sasuke Samurai, and Marauding Captain confronting a hulking, demonic creature in an evil temple.

Card Description: Activate during your Main Phase when your opponent controls 3 or more face-up Monsters. Send the 2 face-up Monsters your opponent controls with the lowest ATKs to the Graveyard; then, select a Level 7 or higher Monster from your hand that can be Normal Summoned, and Special Summon it.

Note: "Common Sacrifice" was first used by Judai in the "Yu-Gi-Oh GX" episode "The Power Within (Part 1)". Creative credit goes to the writers of that episode.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Normal Trap

Image: A zombie holding a gemstone that is pulsating with light.

Card Description: Activate when your opponent activates a Spell Card. Your opponent draws 1 card. When the activated Spell Card is sent to the Graveyard, add it to your hand.

Note: "Zombie's Jewel" was first used by Marik in the original anime episode "The Final Face-Off (Part 1)". Creative credit goes to the writers of that episode.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Continuous Trap

Image: A human hand shaking hands with a clawed hand as a fiendish shadow laughs in the background.

Card Description: Your opponent cannot Summon Level 4 or lower Monsters. If a Monster you control attacks, or you inflict damage to your opponent with a card effect, destroy this card.

Note: "Fake Friendship Treaty" was first used by the spirit of Scarr, Scout of Dark World in the Yu-Gi-Oh GX episode "Friend or Fiend". Creative credit goes to the writers of that episode.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

DARK GEAR GOLEM (Monster Card)

Card Specs

Type: Machine/Effect
Attribute: Dark
Level: 8
ATK: 3,000
DEF: 3,000

Card Description: If this card is in your Graveyard, you can discard DARK Monsters from your hand whose combined Levels are equal to or greater than the Level of this card to Special Summon it. Battle Damage to your opponent inflicted by this card is reduced to zero.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

DARK BATTLE OX (Monster Card)

Card Specs

Type: Beast-Warrior/Effect
Attribute: Dark
Level: 4
ATK: 1,700
DEF: 1,000

Card Description: As long as this card remains face-up on the field, when DARK Monsters you control attack with an ATK that is higher than the DEF of your opponent's Defense Position Monsters, inflict the difference in battle damage to your opponent's Life Points.

Note: "Dark Gear Golem" and "Dark Battle Ox" were first used by MichaelDJ54 for his fic, "Shadowchasers: City of Angels". Used with permission.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Card Specs

Type: Warrior/Effect
Attribute: Dark
Level: 8
ATK: 2,800
DEF: 1,400

Card Description: You may Special Summon this card from your hand by offering any number of DARK Monsters you control as a Tribute. If this card is Special Summoned in this manner, you may destroy 1 card your opponent controls for every Monster Tributed.

Note: "Gilford the Black" was first used by Metal Overlord 2.0 for his fic, "Shadowchasers: Dance Macabre". Used with permission.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Normal Trap

Image: Dark King of the Abyss screaming in pain and holding his head as a phantom form of Dark Ruler Ha Des lurks in the background.

Card Description: Activate when a DARK Monster you control is destroyed as a result of battle and you take damage. Inflict damage to your opponent equal to 200x the Level of the destroyed Monster.

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Dugan: I can't find Karl, Nichole, or Ben, and I'm getting worried. But I have found Tiberius… Or perhaps he's found me.

He's confronted me in a dark place full of human remains, some sort of prison that he claims is meant to hold one of the Brotherhood… And now he's challenged me to a duel.

Can I defeat him? And what the Hell is the Brotherhood? It seems Tharizdun has some dark secrets, and maybe it would be best if they were left dark.

Coming soon, all will be revealed. "The Brotherhood, Remnants of a Dark Age" is next.