A/N: Alright, here we are at the beginning of my Yu-Gi-Oh! project. Yeah, I'm a YGO! fan. I'm a dork.
Just one or two notes before we get into the story. First, with each chapter there will probably be notes on things going on or used in the story. Partly to help keep everyone orientated on where we are in canon, as sometimes it might be hard to tell. I try to keep my fics true to canon as well as realistic, so if I use details that aren't hugely obvious, I'll site my sources. Or, on the occasions when I bend or break canon, I'll own up to it and do my best to justify why it had to be done.
On a related note, every now and then I will be using non-English words or phrases. (GASP!) I don't sprinkle in foreign words just to make the story seem more exotic, I use them because I think that they're necessary for one reason or another. Some words just don't have a very good translation to English, or even an English counterpart. One example would be the Japanese phrase 'Nii-chan', a familiar way of saying 'older brother'. Yes, obviously that can be translated to English, but you don't normally hear younger siblings going around squeaking 'older brother'. Even 'brother' is awkward. So to keep the feel right, 'Nii-chan' stays. There'll be more words / phrases in Japanese and Egyptian strewn about, but hey, these are the places where the story is taking place, so deal, people.
Foreign words and phrases, history, mythology, any obscure culture references, basically anything that might be unknown, confusing, or just really interesting I'll give a little notation in the Author's Notes after the chapter. So if you see a word you don't know, you can either scroll down and find it or just wait it out until you get to the end.
Only one more note before we get started, there will be spoilers! YGO! has been around forever, so I'm assuming anyone who is here has a good understanding of what's going on. That said, I'll be using the manga canon, not the anime, (so no sojourn to meet the Kaiba step-brother Noah or the highly unlikely subplot with Dartz and Atlantis), and I'll be completely ignoring anything after the original story, so nothing from the movies, GX, 5D's, or (gag) Zexal.
Kay, I'm done. Enjoy!
Warnings: Spoilers! Haven't made it through Yu-Gi-Oh!: Millennium World manga and don't want it spoiled, then read that first, then come back. Also, we will probably have a rating jump to M later on. I'll give a heads up before it happens, but be aware.
Disclaimer:Yu-Gi-Oh! and related characters are © to Kazuki Takahashi.
- To be visited or pursued, most often persistently, by spirits or specters of unknown origin.
- To be preyed upon, as by some lingering emotion, memory or obligation.
In all things, there are rules, basic laws that allow the universe to run smoothly. Gravity, cause and effect, action and reaction, all are principles used to make sense of the world. The discipline of magic is no different. It, too, has its guidelines initiates wishing to learn the art of magic, which is the art of slipping into fine print of those laws, of levering them against one another, must know better than he knows himself. Before the first incantation can be read or the first spell spun the laws must be thoroughly understood, lest the wielder of the spell make some fundamental error and be consumed by the very powers he sought to control.
There is the Law of Conservation, which states that power cannot spring forth without a source, and conversely, no power may simply disappear without affecting change. To perform magic, the user must draw his energy from somewhere, be it from his own body and spirit or from some outside supply. Once drawn, that power must be used up completely, or the residual will spin away without purpose. Loose magic, actuated but without guidance, doesn't bear contemplating. There's the Law of Contagion, wherein two objects, once they have come into contact with one another, will forever bear impressions of and be affected by the other. Many is the mage who has forgotten this basic premise, and believed that change he has wrought in the world was change limited to the external. No user of the arts ever walks away unchanged, immune from the powers he has used.
One of the most central laws is the Law of Polarity, of Opposites. It is also known as the Law of Balance. It states that for everything that ever was, is or will be, somewhere there is its opposite, its perfect reflection. For day there is night, for hot there is cold, for male there is female, for good there is evil. One cannot exist without the other, and where there is imbalance in one, it manifests in the other. However, despite how complete a picture this offers, and however irreconcilably distant these things appear to be from each other, they all share one thing in common: they all exist and bear some weight in the fabric of reality. In one form or another, be it in mass, in spirit, or just in consciousness, they all take some sort of shape. In this way, all things known to man can be placed on one side of the cosmic coin, and on its opposite face would be the opposite of all.
Void. The never-was, the never-shall, the spaces between where nothing can exist, nothing is created and all is devoured.
Few civilizations have ever grasped this concept, that what they know to be the great opposing forces can all be considered as one on a grander scale, with Nothingness the opposite of all. Few ever did, but there was one worth noting. The high priests and learned scholars of Ancient Egypt recognized this tenant, and they examined it closely. One faction, that of the Priest-Mages, saw this Void and believed that if they could but bend it to their will, they could draw a new kind of power from it, in quantities never before dreamed of. In attempt to harness this potential source, they gave it a name, even as they had given names to their Gods so they might evoke and call upon them.
Names are powerful things. By naming what was once nameless, they gave something formless a handgrip they could grasp, and in this way they intended to wield their new power.
In their eagerness to possess the potential of the Void, the Priest-Mages forgot all it was that a name could do. In their lust for power, they disregarded the very nature of what they desired to control.
Words are a special kind of magic, for words are the shadows of things. By speaking, one can evoke action, or thought, or will. Names are the most potent words of all, for they not only give shape, they also confer identity. When a name is given to something that before was – literally – nothing, it confers shape, identity and will. Foolishly, the Priest-Mages birthed a new God-thing from the essence of Nothing.
The Void that was the opposite of all existence changed under the influence of its new name. It, in defiance of its very nature, developed a consciousness, self-awareness and intelligence. It was the embodiment of Nothing, and yet by existing it was its own opposite as well as the very epitome of its nature. By being, it was what it was not, what it could not be. By giving Nothingness a form, the Priest-Mages called forth a creature of paradox, a being that was a perversion even unto itself. A God-thing of madness and rage.
In its immeasurable wrath, the God-thing seized upon the Priest-Mages that had named it, and unmade them, as though they had never been. The God-thing knew nothing of mercy or forgiveness, and unmade the men down to their very souls, so they might never know immortality in the afterlife. With their souls snuffed out as candle flames, they would never know anything ever again.
The God-thing might have continued on and on, until there was nothing left at all. With a mind and will, the being also felt desire, desire to unmake all that there was, to consume and eradicate the abomination that was existence. But with a physical shape, the God-thing found itself limited as never before; with a body, it was bound by the same laws that governed all life. It could not stretch out and cover all that there was as it once had, now it must move slowly, its ability to act limited by the immediacy of its own body.
Seeing what it was they had unleashed, those Priest-Mages who escaped the first terrible onslaught of dissolution cried out to their Gods to rescue them, to strike down the result of their folly. The Gods heard Their Priests, and when They turned Their eyes toward them, They were appalled at the atrocity They saw. They knew exactly what it was, and They knew that it would not stop its carnage even when all the Earth was a mere memory. It would eventually turn its gaze to the very Gods and the entire universe beyond.
So the deities of Egypt gathered together, light and dark setting aside Their differences to face against a common threat. They combined Their powers, divine and infernal alike, and bent Their wills against the monster Their Priests had unleashed. With the strength of the pantheon working in concert, the Gods bound the God-thing and sealed it away in darkness. They could not unmake it as it had unmade others, nor could they abolish its shape, for once a thing has been named, it cannot be unnamed. Instead, it was sealed away in a place where neither Gods nor humans may tread and where it could no longer continue its carnage. Had They been able to, They would have sealed it away completely, with no chink or gap in its prison, but there are rules, even for Gods. They could not create a prison without a door, but this door was sealed tightly with blood and dark magic's. The secrets of the rituals and of the God-thing contained within were written within a single book, and that book was entrusted to a single, aged Priest to guard. He had not a drop of magical blood in his veins, and so it was safe for him to possess the knowledge. It was also his duty to find one trustworthy, an apprentice, to take on his task after his death.
Within its prison, the God-thing tore and raged against the walls of its new world, but could not free itself by force alone. The Gods had been clever in Their construction of the prison. Brute strength could not rend it, nor fury weaken it, either from within or without. The only way to escape was through the door, and the only way to open the door was with the keys described within the tome guarded by the chosen Priest. The God-thing might have been a construct of madness, but it knew well that for any hope of escape it would have to rely upon humans. It would have to learn subtler methods to be free once again.
With nothing but time, it did learn. It learned how to harness its own abilities and to exploit them to best advantage. While it was true that the God-thing the Priest-Mages had called forth was an embodiment of Void, that did not mean that it represented all of Void. There still existed patches of Nothingness, places of Void outside of the God-thing's body, and therefore beyond the confines of its prison. While it could not use these oases of self to escape, it could reach out and affect them, ever so slightly. Like a child blowing on the calm surface of a lake, there were ripples, but tiny ones.
It was a slow, incredibly slow process, and for many hundreds of years, the secrets of the God-thing and the door to its prison were well protected. Eventually, the world of men simply forgot. But the God-thing, it did not forget, nor forgave men for their selfish gifts of name and shape. It worked, slowly yet tirelessly, learning more of the nature of humans, finding those who were best positioned to use those forbidden magic's and who were the most easily influenced by gentle nudges and whispers of power. The God-thing stretched itself thin, reaching out, finding those places within human hearts and minds that were touched with darkness, despair or loneliness, anything that might be construed as "emptiness". There the God-thing waited and planned for the proper time, the time when He would be free, and He would have His revenge upon the ones who had named Him so long ago:
On the edge of the desert, a gentle breeze caressed the landscape like a lover, eliciting the soft sighs of sand and brush. Nights were cold in the desert, freezing as the days were boiling. As the sun God Ra descended below the horizon, swallowed up by the sky Goddess Nuit to travel through the underworld and be birthed anew with the golden banners of dawn, He took with Him the life-giving light and warmth. Surrendering the night unto Nuit, the gentle Goddess arched Her body over the land, Her soft skin glistening with stars. Under the Goddess's protection, the men and women of Egypt could sleep peacefully, resting from their day's labors and preparing for the next.
But for every innocent soul held in Nuit's embrace, there were those who skulked within Her shadows, who used Her sinuous darkness to conceal their deeds from virtuous eyes.
A scream, hot with blood and terror, ripped through the silken calm of Nuit's night.
And this night, the crimes committed under the Goddess's eye were true atrocities to behold.
The scream was the first and only warning to the rest of the village. The response was lightning quick as slumbering folk were jolted out of their dreams into the pitch black of their huts, tumbling up from sleeping pallets, searching for anything that might serve as weapons. Blindly, hands clutched after stones, beer jars, the rare knife or sickle, anything that was close to hand and better than mere fingernails. The villagers flew from their mud brick huts, expecting a pack of desert jackals or a desperate pride of lions preying on an unguarded neighbor, or at worst, a wandering band of outlaws, come to raid as the tiny village slept.
Imagine, then, the confusion when, as they charged into the roads, sleep logged but ready to defend all that they owned from the unknown intruders, they came against a completely organized body of men invading their village. They were many, bearing torches, horses and good bronze blades… and they wore the armor of the Great Pharaoh's own army!
Villagers were seized as they emerged from their doors, without ceremony and without explanation to any, and dragged, one by one to a small temple, set into the side of a hill and dug below the earth, that had lain there before the first villager had ever build a hut. They were brought, cursing and fighting, to the waiting Priest-Mages, so they might begin a forbidden ritual of oldest magic's. Those villagers who did not emerge from their homes were sought out, dragged from their huts and taken to the hidden temple to join their fellows.
The screams wouldn't stop, nor the pleading, the threats, the desperate bargaining or the sobs for mercy as the Pharaoh's own men dragged them away. Men, women, children, even babes not yet out of the cradle, all were gathered to be brought before the Priest-Mages. Those who offered too much resistance were knocked unconscious, bound, or their legs broken. The Priest-Mages stipulated only that the villagers must remain alive and whole, their condition beyond that was of no consequence, and the soldiers used whatever means made their jobs easier. In this way, the entire village was emptied, every villager taken underground to the temple, to the Priests and their magic's.
All… save one. In the confusion and chaos of the attack, one mother got her child away to hide before she herself was taken. Her son watched as she, too, was taken by the men who wielded their strange, shining blades that flashed red in the light of their torches. Even now he remained, wedged between two huts and in complete darkness. He knows it's not a good hiding place, that if the village is searched more thoroughly he will be found, found and taken. He knows he should find a better hole to hide in… but he doesn't. He can't convince his body to move for terror, as the screams of the villagers, his family and neighbors, slowly turn from pleads to inarticulate shrieks of agony coming from within the temple. Huddled in his hiding place, the last poor protection given by his mother, the boy could only tremble and try to stop his ears from hearing.
The hellish glow of torches spilled down the narrow space as soldiers trooped past, in search of more villagers, joking amongst themselves. The boy felt ill, and suddenly even more afraid than before. They were laughing? They found some kind of joy amid the screams? Were these men human, or were they demons that ravaged his home? The boy pressed himself further back, as far as he could go, away from the revealing light and wished himself away, invisible, gone, anywhere but here.
Perhaps if he had remained still they might not have noticed him.
There was a shout, and the sound of heavy footfalls. The sudden form of a soldier, silhouetted against the glow of fire that glinted off of armor and bare bronze blade, cut a ragged black hole in the narrow passage of light. His grin was terrible as he called to the boy, coaxing him from his corner, but his eyes were more terrible still. The boy only retreated further away, pressing his back to the rough, cold wall behind him and praying to any Gods that might hear to save him.
The soldier only laughed, amused by his prey's pathetic whimpering and squeezed between the huts to fish the boy out himself. The boy stared, unable to take his eyes away as he came closer, his large, calloused hand reaching for him –
Suddenly darkness, and silence. All was peaceful and still.
For a moment, the boy wondered if he had died, and if he would soon see Anubis, Guardian of the Scales, ready to weigh his heart against Ma'at, Embodiment of Truth. He wondered if his heart would pass the test, or if he would fail and be handed over to Ammit, Eater of Souls.
Then, slowly, the light returned. Only it wasn't light, it was still as dark as ever in his narrow hiding place. It only seemed light in comparison to… What? To where? Wherever it was that he had been, where the weakest of moons would have been as the sun, and where the screams of his dying village had been silenced. Now they returned, but the boy didn't hear them, distracted by the disappearance of the soldier that had been reaching for him. All was as it had been, but the soldier was gone, his torch fallen into the dust and guttering. The boy stared, unable to comprehend.
Around the edges of his vision, the struggling fire made the shadows dance. But he thought, maybe, that they were moving on their own, reaching toward him as the soldier had.
You will not die today, boy.
He jumped, pressing back against the wall harder than ever, his eyes darting from side to side in search of whoever had spoken so close to him.
You will not die, it repeated, and the boy realized that he couldn't hear the voice, it seemed to be coming from his own mind.
And if you so wish, you need never fear death again…
Disembodied souls did not dream. Souls free of the demands of the flesh had no need to sleep. So what this soul experienced could not be called an awakening from a nightmare, so much as shaking free of tangled memories. Even so, those memories were the very stuff of nightmares, and the soul was not slow about brushing them away.
The razing of that tiny town on the west side of the Great Mother Nile, and the slaughter of its people was a memory the soul would never forget, and never wanted to. After the Pharaoh's army had left, he, the soul now trapped in this limbo, had been the only survivor. He'd heard every one of his fellow villagers be put to the sword, had seen some of what had been done to them, and they were memories burned into his very essence. Later he had learned why his village had been massacred, and exactly what it was that had been done to them in that hidden temple.
The slaughter of nearly one hundred people, and the binding of their very souls, for seven trinkets.
If the Pharaoh had ordered the destruction of his home because he believed it to be a den of thieves, he might have eventually forgiven. Though, possibly not, as well. That night, still as raw and vivid in his mind as when he had laid hidden in the alley, included the details of what had been in that temple. The tables, the long, complicated runnels carved into the floor to form a pattern, the huge vats hung over flames stoked to white hot heat… No, perhaps he would never have been able to excuse the deeds, whatever the motivation, but when it was all for seven golden items…
His quest for revenge had pitted him against the Pharaoh of all the Upper Kingdom of Egypt, man said to be descended of the Gods, and all his legions. To avenge the death of a village would have a single man battling against an entire nation. It was the kind of tale children were told at their parents' knee, and not one likely to end in the favor of the underdog. Not in the waking world. But then, if Pharaoh were a God on Earth, then he, the underdog, had powerful allies. Powerful enough to face the Gods of Egypt.
Except something had gone wrong, and now he was here. Not defeated, for even after death he would not accept defeat, he clung even to the entrapment of his soul if it meant he would have another chance to destroy his enemies. He waited, a prisoner of one of those golden trinkets that had left an entire village empty, fit only for the jackals and snakes.
But he would have his revenge. He would. It was not only his soul that was held prisoner, but somewhere, in another item, that of the Pharaoh, as well. It was only a matter of time for his second opportunity to arise, and even if it took until the end of eternity, he would be there at the end of all things, still waiting.
Though what he might be at the end of all that time, he didn't know. At the end of eternity, he wasn't sure if he would still be a man. He could already feel the boundaries of his identity softening and chipping away, and that of others pressing into him. He was not the only soul trapped within the item; there was also that ally, the one capable of facing the Gods, there with him.
As were the many fractured and still terrified souls of the entire village of Kul Elna.
A/N: Okay, lots of these, so I'll try to be brief.
Ra: Also known as the father of the Gods, he is usually depicted as having the head of a hawk, sometimes also with a sun disk.
Nuit: Also known as Nut, she is the sister/wife of Geb, God of the earth and mother of Isis, Osiris, Nepthys, and Seth.
Anubis: The jackal-headed God of death and mummification. He watches over the rituals of death and the weighing of hearts on a person's death.
Ma'at: Goddess of truth, justice and harmony, seen as either a woman with a feather in her hair or as… a feather. The feather hearts are weighed against, in fact.
Ammit: Not a Goddess and not worshipped, Ammit is a demon living close by the scales of justice, having the head of a crocodile, the upper body of a lion and the lower body of a hippopotamus (the three big 'man eaters' of Ancient Egypt). If one hasn't lived by the principles of Ma'at and their heart is found too heavy, they are devoured by Ammit.
Ancient Egyptian History: I'm trying to stay fairly accurate, but the very first part seen here, with the Priest-Mages and their understanding of magic… Yeah, I made that up. This is where the 'fiction' in 'fanfiction' comes into play. ;D
Zorc Necrophades: This is another place where I'm playing with what's unknown to fit my purposes in the story. So far as I know, we don't get any backstory for Zorc other than 'Lord of Darkness', which leaves some room for interpretation. This is mine.
Timeline: Okay, so obviously the first section is many, many years before the time seen in Millennium/Memory World. I'm never going to pin down exactly when that is. As for when in real time I'm putting the Millennium World, when Pharaoh Atem and everyone are, we're going to be somewhere between the late New Kingdom and early Third Intermediate Periods (1150 – 850 BC). This seems like a fairly good time to be set for what we see in canon, with what they have in way of culture while being a time of lots of change. (Again, not too specific for plot convenience.)
Law of Polarity: The laws mentioned were inspired pretty heavily from the seven Hermetic Principles found in the Kybalion, (look 'em up, way too much to explain in a fanfic notation), but this one was pretty much lifted as it was. I love the Hermetic Principles, and reading this one just got me thinking a lot, so it had to show up somewhere. Those interested but don't want to look it up, the Principle of Polarity:
"Everything is Dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled."
Kul Elna: The fictional village that was razed to create the seven Millennium Items and where 'Bakura' came from. While doing research for this I found it mentioned (I don't remember where) that it was based on the real village Qurna. Considering where it is in relation to Luxor (Thebes in ancient Egypt and the capital during the New Kingdom), and the eerily familiar pictures of the place, I believe it. Check it out, it's weird.
Backstory: If it isn't obvious yet, this a backstory fic. What I love to write the most. So we won't be focusing so much on action or card games, but on characters. Heads up if you dislike a lot of internalization. But if you like the Bakuras, stick around! ;D
Right, that should be it. Updates will be slow in coming, as I have a several page list of projects (not kidding), but I have almost the entire thing sketched out, so no worries it won't be finished.
Thanks for reading, everyone!