"And finally, coming from the farthest reaches of our world, we have earned the right to dine with the finest Shadow Mages in the magical world!" Dumbledore cried as the door burst open with a resounding crash.
All students leaned forwards in their seats to get the best view of the newcomers. The entry doorway was steeped in impenetrable blackness, no sounds resonating from within the simmering shadows. Nervous murmurs bubbled rapidly throughout the Great Hall as a minute dragged by and not a soul passed through the shadowy void. "Where are they?" Hermione breathed, her face pale in anticipation.
The shadows exploded outwards like a bullet through water, steeping a tall figure in opaque darkness. It marched down the center aisle, shadows dripping from its form to reveal the body bit by bit. It stopped in front of the teachers' dais and turned around, throwing the remaining shadows from its body. It was a tall, tan man with a fluffy ponytail of shockingly blond hair. He was dressed in a pair of black cargo pants and a violet wife-beater. Even at a distance, his kohl-lined violet eyes sparkled and glowed in the torch light. He crossed his muscled arms and snorted, "Is this it? You invited us to compete with these children?" A hint of gold sparkled at the edge of his deep back pocket.
Murky shadows began pouring out of the teachers' table and table cloth as if there were a fountain beneath, causing most of the wizards to back away and draw their wands as one. A tan, muscled man ducked out from the darkness, and stood tall in front of the armed wizards. He snorted and turned towards the students, his red cloak flapping at the motion, and the shadows disappeared swirled and disappeared beneath his feet. His snow white hair was a striking contrast to the black tee shirt and jeans he wore beneath the blood red cloth. His eyes were a stormy blue, promising sneers and sarcasm to all who faced him. There was a leather cord around his neck that disappeared behind the shirt. "You're one to talk, Shadow of Malik." The teachers returned to their seats, eyes and wands drawn uneasily to the men in front of them. Only Dumbledore remained blissfully relaxed, as he leaned his chin against his hand to stare at the mages in front of him.
"Shut up, parasitic thief." The blond shadow sneered at his companion before yelling down the hall, "Asshole, you're taking too long!" Students turned in a single movement back towards the shadowy doorway.
A short tanned man stepped from the shadows without preamble, uninterested in flashy entrances like his companions. He had warm eyes framed with crow's feet, but they were colored like dried blood. He, too was wearing all black, which only further highlighted his high-styled hair; it was spiked high and divided into layered pieces of black, maroon and gold. "Do not yell profanities, Marik. It is uncouth." He stated as he ambled up the center aisle, leather pants reflecting in the lamp light.
"Fuck you!" Marik snarled.
The white-haired man shot the blond a glare, settling beside him, "Shut up."
"Please do not give our hosts such a terrible impression!" The short man begged, almost at the front of the hall.
The white-haired man rolled his eyes and turned his seemingly usual glare at Dumbledore. "Are we done here?"
The short man ascended the steps and stood beside the other mages, facing the students.
Dumbledore smiled, "Not quite. If you will introduce yourselves to the students before taking a seat at your table." He gestured and a mahogany round table appeared in front of the hall, near a table decked in silver and green.
The short man nodded and executed a quick bow to the students. "I am Atem Muto. My most recent residence has been in Japan. I have practiced my magic for," His lips twitched, "Many years. I shall not entertain questions." He turned on his heel and sat at the table without another word.
The white-haired man sneered at Atem's receding back, before turning his stony glare to the students. "Master Bakura. Egypt." He abruptly turned and ended up sitting opposite of Atem.
"Marik Ishtar. Egypt." The blond paused, eyes narrowing before he broke into a Cheshire-like grin. "Questions welcome."
"Tomb-keeper!" Atem hissed, gesturing for the youngest mage to sit down.
None of the students seemed willing to trust his grin. Marik pursed his lips, "Rude." He rolled the kinks from his neck and began cracking his fingers one by one. "Fine, I shall simply go through my life story until one of you cracks and asks me a question." His grin widened, "I bet I'll make it through the entire fucking thing before one of you pussies works up the nerve to ask anything." He popped his final finger. "It started—"
"Do you dye your hair?" A heavily accented voice demanded. The hall broke into frenzied whispers.
Marik's eyes snapped to the table clad in green and silver, grin gone in a flash. "Stand up and ask me again." He snarled.
A tall, gangly boy stood, dark hair shaved to stubble. He was clad in a red cloak trimmed with red fur. "Do you dye your hair?" The boy enunciated once more and this time there were audible murmurs of "Seeker" and "brave bastard".
Marik blinked and cocked his head to the side. "You don't match. Where are you from?"
"Marik, you made a deal." Bakura snapped, kicking his legs up on the table. "Answer his question then be quiet and sit the fuck down."
The blond swung his arm towards the other and bolts of lightning-like shadows burst from his fingers. Bakura blinked lazily and the magic disappeared more than a meter from his face. Marik sneered and dropped his arm by his side, fingers curling and uncurling. "I do not dye my hair, Mister…?"
"Krum. Victor Krum." Krum replied and sat in a smooth movement.
Marik's eyebrows furrowed. "Krum." A gleeful grin suddenly covered across his face, like a lit match in a bucket of gasoline. "I'll watch out for you~!" He cooed, before sitting at the table with the other two mages.
Whispers of awe and fear mixed and washed over the hall. After a moment, with no signs of the hushed conversations letting up naturally, Bakura snarled and glared at the headmaster. "Well?"
Dumbledore merely smiled and stretched his hand towards them, palm up. "Are you finished, or would you like more time? I don't wish to interrupt anything."
Bakura and Marik growled vocally and Atem's smile became strained. "Thank you for the offer, Headmaster Dumbledore, but I do believe that we do not wish to take up anymore of you or your student's valuable time."
Bakura snorted, turning his glare back to the students with valuable time. They stared unabashedly back.
"Masters Bakura and Ishtar, is there anything you would like to add?" Dumbledore inquired, the same mild smile on his lips.
"No." Marik snapped. "Although I would appreciate it if the fucking pharaoh didn't try to speak for me the next time."
Dumbledore tilted his head at Bakura "And you?"
The thief snapped his eyes to Dumbledore and slowly stood from his chair. "Do not think you can embarrass me into silence, child. I am a force of nature and I shall do as I damn well please. Do not push me." He settled a sullen glare on Atem as he sat down. "Also, that asshole does not speak for me. He's a snake and he misrepresents my interests."
Dumbledore nodded and turned to the rest of the hall, clapping his hands together once. "Your attention please! I'd like to say a few words." He walked to stand behind a detailed, gold embellished pedestal and the students quieted almost immediately.
The three shadow mages oriented themselves to stare at the headmaster, eyes flickering with suspicion and a dark intelligence. They had only been told about a magical tournament and the prestige that it would give them. Other than that, the letters from the headmaster had been deliberately obtuse, ignoring or inverting every question. This would be their chance for answers.
"Eternal glory. That is what awaits for the student who wins the Tetrawizard tournament. But to do that, they must survive three tasks; three grueling, deadly tasks. In that light, the ministry has decided to impose a new rule on the tournament. To explain all of this, we have the Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, Mister Bartemius Crouch." Dumbledore inclined his head slightly and backed away from the podium, allowing a mustached man to take his place.
A loud clap of thunder interrupted Bartemius before he could even form a word, as furious storm clouds rushed to cover the ceiling. Fat drops of rain poured from the black clouds, illuminated occasionally by cracks of lightning.
Students shriek as they vainly attempted to protect their heads from the icy water. Marik sniffled and sneezed, wiping his dripping nose across his robed arm.
"I could have done that." Bakura scoffed under his breath as he held a plate over his head. A crackling red bolt of light exploded across the ceiling and the frenzied clouds dissipated, revealing a starry sky. The man responsible for the bolt, a ragged heavy-set blond, came from behind a pillar and shook hands with Dumbledore. One of his eyes whirled around to stare at the mages, while the other remained on the headmaster and the intent, whispered conversation between them. After a few seconds he nodded and went back behind the original pillar.
Atem's eyebrows were furrowed and he stared at the man almost hidden by the pillar. "That was not the Millennium eye. But gods did it give me the same sense of worry."
Bakura set the wet plate back on the table, eyes narrowed, as he too watched the edgy man. "It was focused on us. It looked as though it could see us." He hissed, lips curled in distrust.
"Does it matter? You didn't seem to care if someone saw us and our powers a moment ago." Marik mocked, adding the same inflection.
The tomb robber remained focused on the wizard; the only indication of hearing the snide remark was the slightest twitch of his lips. "He doesn't feel like most of them. Only two others similar to him." After a moment he shrugged and moved his gaze to the ministry official. "As long as he doesn't interfere with my competition, he can cause whatever trouble he wishes."
"You do not even know if you will get in." Atem snorted, crossing his arm.
"Shut up!" Marik snarled darkly, "None of us will," a sniffle broke through his retort as he wiped his nose, "get in if we don't listen to entry rules."
"You are the spawn of Malik. It is doubtful that any of his few good qualities passed to you. So I find myself asking, when have you ever followed any rules?" Atem demanded softly, keeping his eyes trained on the ministry official. The man stretched his arms out and began to speak.
Bakura crossed his arms and leaned back into his chair rigidly. "'Battle City' ring any bells?"
Irate purple eyes flickered sharply to his fellow mages. "You have to know the rules to know how to cheat them. Now shut up!"
"—Of 17 will be allowed to put their name in the goblet for consideration of entering the Tr-Tetrawizard tournament. This decision is—" Bartemius's voice was completely eclipsed by the outraged clamor of the students present in the Great Hall.
Marik faced to the others. "Now we don't know if it's older or younger than 17, imbeciles."
Atem gestured to the protesting crowd. "Judging by the cries of the children, the rules most likely state that only students over 17 are allowed. There is no need for names."
"We don't know that for sure." The blond persisted, trying to work through his clogged sinuses. "I told you to shut up and neither of you bastards listened!"
The pharaoh and thief shared a look of disgust and simultaneously argued, "My father was a good man and he died for me. There is no greater insult than to insinuate my father was a drunk, lay about thief like his!"
Marik paused and cackled as the two bristled and glared at each other. "Good job, dumb fucks. Do you prefer that one over bastard?"
Bakura pulled his attention away first, "Unless you were able to find useful information on this school, we don't know how old the students that go here are. It could swing either way. We just need to—"
"Silence!" Dumbledore yelled over the protests of the students. When they quieted, he waved his hand and the golden pedestal slowly evaporated, revealing a large stone goblet. Blue fire began to spit from its cup and Bakura averted his eyes.
"The Goblet of Fire. Anyone wishing to participate need only to write their name on a sheet of parchment and drop it in the flames before this hour on Thursday night. But be warned, these tasks are not for the faint of heart. If chosen, there's no turning back." Dumbledore paused, eyes shifting to each school in turn. "As of this moment, the Tetrawizard tournament has begun." He glanced back at the table of teachers, none of whom seemed to feel the pressing need to add anything. "You are now dismissed to your dorms. For those of you in foreign schools, your headmaster shall escort you back to your sleeping quarters."
The three shadow mages instantly stood up and leaned toward the center of their small table. It was quiet for a long moment as they stared each other down.
"I suppose we are all going to enter." Atem stated in a dangerous whisper, eyes filled with steely determination.
Bakura nodded. "I suppose we are."
Marik supported himself against the table, biceps bulging. "Are you sure you want to compete against me? I can promise you won't last long." He suddenly sneezed, nearly banging his head against the table.
Twin snorts sounded from the other mages. "Ask the pharaoh that. Now that I'm out of host's body, I could take both of you on at the same time and win, without resorting to shadow magic once."
The pharaoh's smile instantly vanished. "Remember that this goblet judges does not judge on outside appearance." He reminded. "I suppose Yugi would suggest that the best way to settle this would be a democratic vote on who shall enter. Is that acceptable?"
"There's nothing to vote on, Son of Osiris. We'd all just vote for ourselves, no questions asked." Marik argued, a lazy smile passing beneath his eyes. "Even with my Millennium Rod, as long as you are still even remotely under the influence of your Millennium Items, I can't control you to vote for me. And I don't believe that unstoppable mind control is covered by either of your items or normal shadow magic."
Bakura backed away from the table, making sure that his stony eyes remained focused on the other well-practiced shadow mages. "Posture later. I need to go and find my room now, since I'm going to ask the teachers about that and the rules before they all leave."
A bony finger tapped his shoulder impatiently. "Are you three hooligans finished with your 'conference'? I have been assigned to guide you to your room."
The thief barely suppressed a strangled yelp as he whirled around, hands sparkling with defending shadows. Marik's amusement did not even pique at the sound, his violet eyes narrowed suspiciously at the foreboding staff member. Atem handled the situation with more aplomb as he shook the man's hand. "A pleasure. I am Muto Atem. And these are Bakura and Ishtar Marik."
"Charmed." The man drawled as he removed his hand with a shake, as if he were flinging slime from his fingers. "Follow me."
Bakura lifted his head imperiously as the magic surrounding his hands faded, and he somehow managed to more than make up for his previously flustered appearance. "Did you say room?"
"What of it?" The black haired man asked, annoyed at the delay.
"We don't get along well." Marik snapped, sending flickering glares at his companions. He gave in and wiped his nose with his sleeve. "We've had past run-ins with each other and they've been… explosive."
A thick eyebrow rose. "Do you think I care? You are all here for one reason and one reason alone; to participate in the… Tetrawizard tournament. I could not care less as to what you do to each other in your free time."
Atem turned to the two. "We will make do. I can promise you that I will make sure of it." He hissed, before facing the black-haired man once more. "I apologize for their ungracious attitudes, we truly appreciate the opportunity to stay inside one of your distinguished dormitories. Now please, lead the way."
The man looked tempted to roll his eyes, but managed to retain his composure as he walked through the double doors. "Memorize this route. There will be no one leading you after this time."
Marik quickened his stride so he was keeping pace with the guide. "Did the ministry official say you had to be above or below seventeen to enter the tournament?"
"Above." The man replied, shooting a short, questing glance at Atem's face. The petit pharaoh, however, was smirking up at Marik.
"Looks like you are not allowed to enter." He gloated, a small smirk almost exploding into a full blown smile. "And I do not believe magic will allow you to crash this tournament."
Marik snatched the spike of hair and pulled Atem towards him. "Shut-up." He growled, as his other hand curled around Atem's skinny throat. "If you're dead, it doesn't matter if you're allowed to enter this competition or not." His grip on the pharaoh faded and the shortest pulled away, stepping to the space furthest from Marik.
"How long are we staying here?" A petulant Bakura demanded.
"The rest of these damned brats' school year." The blond hissed, fingers aching to strangle his companions.
Conversation fizzled as they continued their journey up to their room, with only Marik's occasional sneezes and sniffles breaching the silence that had settled over the four. Higher and higher they climbed until they reached a dimly lit hallway filled only with dusty bricks and rusty iron balconies.
"Looks like home." Bakura and Marik chorused, before glaring darkly at each other.
The greasy-haired man ignored the quip as he stopped in front of a painting of a gaunt ballerina. "This is the door to your room. You tell her the password and she will let you in. You may choose your password now."
"Kekewey." Bakura stated, before Marik or Atem could even begin to open their mouths.
The bony ballerina giggled, stretching her pallid arms over her head. "Sounds foreign. I like it." The painting swung open.
"It should. It's Late Egyptian." He stepped through the door, ignoring the glares of the irate mages following him. The dark man stared at the painting as it slammed shut. "You know your job." He reminded before stalking away, black cloak swirling behind him.
Two shadow mages were glaring at the third with an intensity that could melt through a solid block of iron. "That man said that we could choose our password. Not you." Marik snarled, his face twisted in irritation.
"What's the problem?" Bakura asked airily as he innocuously allowed the fringe of his bangs to cover his eyes so he could avoid meeting the duo's glares. "Do you dislike the password?"
"Yes." "No." Atem and Marik disagreed simultaneously.
"Then I don't see the problem." Bakura slipped onto the couch and let out a comfortable sigh, as he was finally able to slide beneath glowers of the unnerving pairs of purple and crimson eyes.
"The problem is that you did not ask me first!" The pharaoh argued as he moved to lean over Bakura. "As one of the three most powerful shadow mages, you must discuss with us before acting. This is how my council ruled Egypt peacefully for years, and this is how we must proceed with shadow magic from here on out!"
Bakura snorted. "I brought your council down within two years, and one of your members was so corrupt that the dark god was able to physically manifest through him. You'll forgive me if I disagree with your opinion that democracy is the best choice."
"There are three of us here. That means there is always a tie breaker. And as of right now, I know the two of you are no longer involved in anything particularly unscrupulous. It is the best way to proceed throughout this tournament."
"Fine then." Marik snapped and crossed his arms. "Let's have a council meeting about the council. Who votes we have a council and work closely and intimately together in order to create peace and unity between the three of us?" Atem raised his hand. The blond grinned in the face of the pharaoh's frown and wiped his nose. "And who thinks this is a stupid fucking idea that should be trashed and never looked at again?" Marik and Bakura raised their hands. "There we have it. The council has decided! There is no longer a council."
"There was no need for that vote." Atem muttered, crossing his arms. "You both could have said no."
"What fun is that?" Marik simpered, before his eyes suddenly widened. He blinked twice, staring at the pharaoh's conspicuously empty chest. A maniacal grin broke across his face, "Where's your puzzle, pharaoh?"
Bakura's eyes shot to the same location and he smirked, "Lose it?" He stood and began to circle Atem, eyes travelling up and down his body.
Atem bristled, but shrugged, staring straight ahead. "I left it with Yugi. I am concerned about dark forces attacking, so I left him some line of defense. Because I actually care about my host."
Bakura laughed, "If you truly cared, you would leave him alone. Your actions of caring make him a target for your enemies." He stopped in front of the pharaoh and leaned in, his warm breath brushing over Atem's face, whispering, "I guarantee he will be dead before this school is finished."
"I believe you're wrong." Atem replied, steadily staring back at Bakura, ignoring the invasion of personal space.
"I'll attack him myself if I have to fulfill that prediction." Marik volunteered, widening his violet eyes like a mad man, "During the last week of the school year, I will fly back to Japan and begin following him around the city. I will watch as he and his friends enjoy themselves, go to school, play at the arcade. But when his friends leave, I won't. I will sit outside of his window and watch him as he does his homework alone. I will watch him as he pauses and stares at the wall in front of him. He's reaching for you through your link, trying to speak. But the distance is too great. He sighs and strokes the puzzle. Your hikari misses you, but knows you are gone for the pride of the shadow mages. He will finish his homework and then he'll lay back on his bed, staring into the shadows. He reaches out and they twitch, but nothing more. Your light never got good at the shadows, did he? And then I will enter the room. He'll sit up, grabbing the puzzle because he senses something is wrong. He tries to call out through your mind link again, and when he is distracted, searching for you, I will appear and stab in the heart with my Millennium rod. He'll stare up at me, gasping and he'll try to reach out and then his hand will grab the rod, trying to prevent me from pulling away and causing his certain death. And I will grin and I will lean down and lick the blood dripping off the rod and yank it out. He will cry out and collapse, a pool of blood spreading around him. He might reach for his desk, trying to get to his phone; after all, he is a fighter. I'll watch as he bleeds out, as that last bit of light fades from his eyes. And then I will leave his disgraced body and return here. And before your eyes even widen in comprehension, I will stab the same, bloodied rod through your gut." Marik sighed, closing his eyes in bliss. "It will be beautiful."
Atem stared at him in blatant horror, hands twitching towards his chest, where the puzzle usually sat. Even Bakura looked disgusted at the scenario Marik painted. "You are depraved."
"At the very least, I shall be able to prevent one death from occurring. Perhaps I could put a wizard guard on your Oriental friend towards the end of the year."
The three mages were suddenly alert, scanning the room for danger.
"Who's there?" Marik hissed, holding his glowing Millennium rod in front of him. Nothing answered.
Atem began walking forward, trying to get closer to any indication the intruder might make. Bakura stalked around the room, waving his arms in random circles. The intruder giggled and the thief's face darkened in embarrassment and hatred. "Come out you, bastard."
"Good thought, but wrong."
Atem's eyes narrowed and focused on the painting over the mantle. It winked at him and he blinked before turning and making his way to the other side of the room. "I see no one."
"That doesn't mean they aren't here." Bakura snapped and began waving his arms once more, an angry blush on his face. "With Diabound, I can become invisible and go through walls." He glared at one of the thick tapestries and began beating it with his hands, trying to flush out anything behind it.
"I loathe this castle." Marik snarled, sending a violent slash of shadow towards the doors. "Now they have no escape route."
"Once again, good thought, but wrong." The voice chirped. "I shall leave you now, but I will be back." Atem noticed that the man in the painting did not disappear, but instead just froze completely.
Marik and Bakura quickly bolted to cover the only two doors in the room with their bodies as well as the shadows. "No you won't." Marik growled, eyes darting around the room. Minutes passed and slowly he untensed before snarling and throwing himself onto a chair. Bakura remained on guard at his door, sneering, "Giving up already, child?"
"He left." Marik snapped, glancing at the shadow covered door. "The bastard had a way through these walls.
"We should seal the walls then." Atem suggested. "The stones are porous and dark; our shadows should cling well to them. And if we each expend a little energy, it should not tire any of us out unduly. Each of us will concentrate on an area; Marik can have the ballerina door wall, the wall adjacent to that and one of the bedroom walls, Bakura will have the door between to the bedroom, two walls in the bedroom and the bathroom and I will take up the rest."
Marik and Bakura glared at each other before giving curt nods to Atem. The three mages closed their eyes and their skin slowly grew darker. After a moment, shadows began dripping from their bodies and pooling in the shadow of their bodies. Suddenly they wiggled across the floor in an explosive burst of speed and disappeared into the walls. They opened their eyes and sighed, all relishing the euphoric feelings of the shadows. Bakura suddenly stared at Atem. "You only have two walls."
Atem shook his head, "No, I got the floors and ceilings as well."
Bakura appeared placated and turned to Marik, "We should put a portal to the shadow realm on door. If anyone gets past the portrait without our permission, they die."
"I do not want to kill anyone." Atem argued, crossing his arms.
Marik glared up at him, still seated in his armchair. "If they're coming through the door without our permission, they deserve it."
"Besides if these wizards are as strong as they claim to be, anyone coming through the door should have sufficient power to escape the realm." Bakura wheedled, walking over to the door. He placed his hand against it and shadows began crawling over the wood. Marik stretched out a hand and shadows dripped to the carpet and shot across the floor over to the door. Bakura frowned and put his foot down, stopping them from seeping into the door. Marik glared, his violet eyes flashing, "What are you doing?" He hissed.
"You're doing it wastefully." Bakura retorted, shooing the shadows back across the carpet to the shadow of Marik's hand. "If you don't know how to control them well, don't bother. It'll be a waste of energy for you and ruin the flow of mine."
That brought Marik to his feet and he stormed over to Bakura, shadows trailing behind him like lost puppies. "How dare you insult me!" He snarled, eyes narrowed in a glare. "I will show you what power I have!"
Bakura shot him a scathing glare, and for a moment the shadows behind Marik stopped their movement and almost retreated to the arm chair. "I'm simply stating the facts. You don't have the control that," He wrinkled his nose, "Atem or I do. Myself to a greater extent. It comes with age and practice. What I am doing is leaving a trail of shadows around the threshold; if something crosses, they automatically reach into my reserves and call forth the Shadow Realm. You were going to leave a gate to the Shadow Realm open constantly. It is a useless drain that interrupts my work and makes it redundant." Bakura turned towards the door and smirked. "When I get into the tournament, I suppose I'll have to teach you how to do this. After all, it would be bad if the shadows tried to leave me at such a dangerous time…. Or…" He turned back to Marik, who was trembling with rage. "Perhaps I should put some of my shadows in you and, in the case of my bidding, they will drain your energy instead of mine."
"I dare you." The blond hissed, hands clenched in fists. "Try me and I will obliterate you without a second thought."
Bakura patted him on the shoulder, flickers of shadows exploding from his hand, and walked to the bedroom. The blond froze in rage, not even breathing as he glared at the ground in front of him. Slowly, his shadow began to bubble, shredding the intricate rug beneath him. He whirled around and stormed towards the door, an after image of roiling shadows following him as he screamed, "Get back here you coward!" He slammed the bedroom door behind him.
Atem stared at the door for a moment, before shaking his head and sitting on the worn velvet couch. He rubbed his hands over the purple fabric for a moment, memories of his finely woven tunics coming to mind, before he stopped and stared at the portrait above the mantle. "You are very brave."
The elegantly dressed man unfroze and smiled warmly at him, dimples creasing his cheeks. His brown hair was greying and receding, but he had the face of a younger man, baby fat still pooling at his cheeks and chin. He was very pale, but his blue eyes were sharp and bright, taking in the sight of Atem and memorizing it. "I must admit, I was worried for a moment. But goading those two was such fun." He agreed before bowing deeply. "I am Lord Gimberfound of Nosgalloway the II. At your service." He wore a flat red cap with a white feather sticking from it, and his body was encased in all the trappings of medieval wealth, including an ermine cloak. In the portrait, he was reclined against a large oak tree.
Atem inclined his head in respect, "And I am Pharaoh Atem, servant of the Shadows."
"You do know, I once went on an expedition and the crude writings mentioned mages of the shadows. Of course, when we found the accompanying skeletons, they were no more interesting than a muggle's and we dismissed the writings as fantasy." He shook his head with a rueful smile. "Although my body has not lived to see the day, it looks as though we were completely and thoroughly wrong."
Atem gave a small smile. "We have worked very hard to maintain our secrets. I would not be surprised if the tomb keepers replaced the skeletons with normal ones."
The man stared at him for a moment, before giggling, "That is a fine joke indeed. I must commend the—tomb-keepers were they?—for their success."
The pharaoh's smile faded and shadows began to pool around his form. "Now I'm afraid we must get into some messier talks before I become too complacent."
Lord Gimberfound II nodded and placed leaned his cheek against his hand. "Of course. After all, I am obviously a spy."
"Indeed." Atem nodded. "But I would like you to expound upon your purpose in our abode."
"Ah." The lord sighed and shut his eyes. "And if I don't, I suppose you'll report me to those monsters in the adjacent room?" A scream and muffled thump served only to accentuate his question.
"No." Atem replied firmly. "I will take your portrait from the wall and move it elsewhere in the castle. Then no one gets hurt, nor do you spy on us anymore."
Lord Gimberfound II opened his eyes and smiled with crooked yellow teeth, "Good. Then I shall respond as you wish."
Atem nodded once more and leaned forward. "Who has put you here for the purpose of collecting information?"
"The headmaster and that black-haired teacher. Snake, or whatever his name is." It waved its hand vaguely in the blue sky. "Such an unmemorable man."
Atem frowned, "Stop acting obtuse. You know his name. You would not be selected for this job unless you were able to present concise, accurate and detailed reports."
"I am found out." The brunet laid the back of his hand against his forehead, "Oh whoa is me." He grinned, "You are smarter than I gave you credit for, Pharaoh Atem. Dumbledore and Snape planted me here to spy on you."
"Isn't it obvious?" Lord Gimberfound II chuckled, shaking his head. "You and your friends are positively terrifying. They invited you to the tournament to learn about your shadows, but besides the name for them, they know absolutely nothing about you. Your tomb-keepers did an exceptional job; with the exception of the expedition I was a part of, I have never seen mention of shadow mages anywhere. We don't know why you're called Pharaoh, Tomb-Keeper and Thief King, we don't know where you draw your powers from, we don't know how powerful you are, we don't know what this 'Shadow Realm' that your friends put on the door is and we don't know the history of your magic. We are absolutely lost." He smiled wearily, "Is that informative enough for you?"
"Then why invite us to this tournament with children? I am sure they are wary of Marik in particular—"
"I'm going to warn them about his psychotic fantasies and short temper, you know. They need to know." Lord Gimberfound II interrupted, his expression stoic.
Atem nodded, "Tell them as much as you want. I do not want children hurt when they inevitably decide that they must snoop about us. They need to stay away from him." He replied emphatically, before returning to his original question, "So why are we here? Any information they have on us should show our unscrupulous pasts. It seems like quite the risk."
Lord Gimberfound II shrugged, "That I do not know the answer to." The connecting wall shuddered as something heavy slammed into it. The portrait looked into the distance, staring past Atem. "There is something brewing in the wizarding world. Something dangerous. No one will admit it, but everyone is beginning to feel the effects." He shook his head. "I do not know what it is; the headmaster is either in the dark or wants to keep the information private."
Atem drummed his fingers against his leg and let out a tired sigh. "That is rather ominous. I was hoping for a vacation from that sort of thing."
Lord Gimberfound II smiled, a little sadly. "Then you have come to the wrong world for that. Something is brewing, and I am afraid it will erupt soon."
They remained in silence for a moment, listening to the fight on the other side of the wall. Atem suddenly spoke, "Could you not inform them of the specifics of our powers?"
Lord Gimberfound's eyebrows raised, "One of my duties is to report that. Why would you stand in my way?"
Atem frowned, "From what I understand, coming here was an extraordinarily stupid and prideful act. I did not intend to alert any darkness of our powers. In fact, I wished for our powers to die out without anyone noticing." He sighed again. "Regretfully, invitations were sent to Bakura and Marik individually, and they were both bent on coming to show off. I came to moderate them and learn of your world." He drummed his fingers once more before stilling them. "Our powers are dangerous and due to the nature of most evil people, they tend to be more enthusiastic about shadow magic, if not only for the name. If there is trouble brewing, I do not want any collection of information about us to be available to anyone. If we must, we shall shock, awe and then finally disappear, never to be heard from again."
Lord Gimberfound II had been frowning thoughtfully through the explanation. He sighed and shook his head. "I apologize, but I cannot promise that." He lifted his hands up to placate Atem's protest. "I will leave out as many specifics as possible, but they will learn some of what your compatriots let slip. This obfuscation is the most I can grant you."
Atem settled back into his spot before nodding. "I suppose I must accept that. And I accept it gratefully, for I know you dislike not completing your job to the fullest extent."
The painting smiled, but it suddenly faded away as he stared through Atem. "I must go now. They are calling me." He stood up and brushed dirt and grass from his pantaloons. "We shall probably not get a good chance to converse again. But it was an enjoyable encounter." He walked out of the scenery of the painting without a word, leaving only an oak tree blowing in the wind.
Atem blinked at the person-less painting. "I hope Bakura does not notice."
Marik collapsed to the floor, holding his stomach and panting. His dark purple eyes remained on Bakura though, fury and embarrassment written clearly on his face.
Bakura folded his arms and leaned against the dividing wall. "Are you finished, Shadow of Malik?"
Marik growled and forced his aching arms to push him into a sitting position. "Do not get cocky, thief. I have not practiced enough recently."
"Really?" Bakura gave a toothy smile, "Lack of practice…Where have I heard that as a critique before…hmmm!" His eyes brightened with faux enlightenment. "Me! I said that to you!" He laughed away Marik's curse. "You are too easy to anger tomb-keeper. You have to learn to control it." His eyes flashed, revealing a previously hidden darkness in their depths, "You must use that fury to feed the fire in your soul. Do not waste it on such meaningless fights with me." He smirked bitterly, his emotions switching too fast to follow, "Unless you, you, have given up your crusade against the pharaoh."
"Never!" Marik barked, muscles tensing. "How dare you insinuate such a thing about me?"
Bakura shrugged cryptically, "It is always an option." He pushed off the wall and walked to the bathroom. "I'm going to go to sleep. Tell the pharaoh I'll kill him if he rouses me."
"You tell him yourself." Marik replied petulantly, reaching towards a bed post and using it to stand. He wobbled into the bathroom behind Bakura and braced himself against the stone sinks. Bakura frowned and bumped him to the side with his hip. He reached down to the ground and a circular shadow materialized at his fingertips. A sturdy grey duffel flew out of the shadows, gaining about a foot of air and landing the floor beside his feet. He furrowed his eyebrows and grumbled, however his lips suggested an amused smile.
"You treat them like your mongrel." Marik sneered. "They don't have feelings, you know."
The ghost of a smile disappeared in an instant and he glared up at Marik, "Would you like your luggage or not?" He hissed, shadows bubbling in response to his anger.
Marik flapped his hand, looking away. "Yeah, yeah. Sorry and whatever." The shadows spat out a trunk and it slammed into the blonde's face, stifling his shriek as they nearly knocked him backwards into the bedroom. He clung to the trunk and pulled it down, unblocking his widened eyes and bloodied nose, "You bastard." He snarled.
Bakura flapped his hand dismissively, "Yeah, yeah, sorry and whatever." The door shut in the blonde's face and Bakura turned to the sink, beginning his nightly ritual.
After a few moment he finished, having brushed his teeth and hair and clipping his fingernails. Finally, he splashed soapy water on his face and dried his face as he walked out to the bedroom. He paused, removing the grey towel from his face to stare at Marik. The yami was sprawled over the blood red bed, an irritating smirk scrawled across his lips. The brat had the choice of dark red, blue or green, and he chose red. There was no way that the mage was unaware of Bakura's favorite color. He advertised it with every step he took from beneath a deep, blood red cashmere cloak. This was revenge for earlier.
Bakura finally sighed, and walked back to the bathroom. After another minute he returned, lugging the duffel over his shoulder and marching to the bed of navy blues.
He threw the bag on the bed and Marik suddenly sat up bolt straight, blinking at him. "Why are you taking that bed?"
"I wanted the red bed, but you took that." Bakura replied as he dug through the bag, not even sparing the mage a glance. "So I took my next choice."
"You were supposed to take the green one." Marik insisted, eyes flickering to the dark green bed between his and Bakura's beds.
"Deal with it." Bakura replied, shaking out a white wife beater. "Atem won't kill you while you sleep. You should be more worried about me doing that." He laid it down on the bed and took off his shirt. Without even pausing, he unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans and slid those off as well, and was standing only in his red plaid boxers. He let out a sigh of contentment and closed his eyes, stretching his arms over his head.
"I believe we have a bathroom to change in." Atem remarked, walking into the bed room.
A horrible sneer destroyed the calmness on the yami's face and he whirled around, teeth bared. "Here's your stuff—" He reached down into a pool of shadows and grabbed Atem's bag, throwing it at him with as much force as possible. Atem ducked and it smashed into the wall where his head previously was, "Now shut up."
Atem straightened slowly, eyes on Bakura as if dealing with a wild lion. "I did not mean to offend you, Bakura. I was just being facetious." He replied and turned to pick up his bag.
Bakura and Marik watched him like hawks as he turned back around and headed to the green bed in the center of the room. "This is my bed, yes?"
"Dumbass." Marik sneered.
"Did Marik do anything to it?" He continued, shadows dripping from his fingers to inspect the constitution of the bed.
That brought a flicker of a smirk to Bakura's face. "Do you really think the Shadow of Malik could do anything that subtle?"
Marik bristled, but remained silent, focusing his fiery glare on Atem. The pharaoh shrugged and sat on the bed, placing his bag at his feet. "This room is nice." He commented, looking around. The dark stone walls were covered in colorful tapestries depicting the history of the wizarding world. The floor had a golden area rug, adding a degree of comfort and warmth to the stone room. The beds were oak behemoths, with rich, velvet fabrics stretching between the tall posts. Each bed was matched with a sturdy oak night stand and a golden gas lamp. He rubbed his hand over the silky green duvet beneath him. "I may have to get something like this at Yugi's house."
Bakura looked around and shrugged, slipping into the strung-out wife beater. "I've seen nicer."
"Does it matter?" Marik drawled, flopping back onto his mattress. "They're just fucking carpets on the walls."
Bakura smirked, shaking his head. "You truly are a pathetic shadow. Show some interest in something, dumbass."
"This is a treasure trove of knowledge for those who pay attention." Atem added, before walking up to a tapestry and pointing to it. "See here? There are short angry creatures attacking a wizard. They look like Goblins from Pegasus's Duel Monsters. These wizards may actually have dealt with or continue to deal with real goblins." His eyes suddenly widened as he crouched down, pointing at another picture, "And look at this! It's a wizard battle." He paused and looked over the tapestry in front of him, murmuring, "These wizards seem to have many violent confrontations."
"What an adorable little historian." Bakura cooed, collapsing on his bed. "Is that your new job?"
Atem sighed and turned to face the yamis as he sat on the floor. "You really want to know what I do?"
"Well I haven't heard anything about our proud and illustrious pharaoh-sama in the newspapers, so I figured you are doing something grand and keeping under wraps until the big reveal. You are rather theatrical, after all." Bakura replied, languidly waving a hand in the air. "So don't keep me waiting pharaoh-sama. Impress me with your noble and regal standing in this modern era."
"I'm going to sleep." Marik grunted, rolling face down into his pillow.
Bakura rotated his head to stare at him, face twisting in disgust. "You didn't brush your teeth."
The reply was muffled, "Fo-goh mah toofbruf."
"To answer your question, Bakura, I do not do anything. I go to the library and I read. I finally have a grasp of modern geography and politics and I know basic history from the past 3000 years. I am also attempting to learn Latin." He shrugged, staring at Bakura's calloused feet. "I do not have any material that would allow me to work or even exist in this world. I cannot get a job. I am even required to use Yugi's library card." A rueful smile crossed his lips, "The librarians always ask if I have gone on vacation to the beach."
"Hathor, you're pathetic." Bakura muttered. Marik sneezed and let out a screech of disgust, pulling his face away from the pillow, strings of snot sticking to his skin. He ignored the blond yami and continued, "You know there are people who make up those papers. Some criminals walk around with dozens of perfectly tailored false identifications. It is not difficult to find someone to work that out." Marik flipped the pillow over and readjusted his face so the incident would not reoccur.
Atem shrugged again. "Yugi and his grandfather do not belong in those circles and I will not endanger them so I can feel productive." He leaned his head back against the tapestry and looked up at the ceiling. "I am learning much and I am contented. I will not jeopardize that."
Bakura snorted, worming his way under the blue covers.