Prophecy: Vicious Circle

By: AJay Lin Shorn

 

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh or any of the characters and locations affiliated with it. I do, however, I do own the story “Vicious Circle", all references to dialogue not originated by Konami.

 

DO NOT COPY MY STORIES!!

 

If anyone wants to post this story or “Power of the Pharaoh” anywhere else, please just ASK and then give me credit for writing it.  Email yugiohyamimarik@yahoo.com with any requests.

Authors Note

Well its here, sorry it’s taken a while had a major bout of writers block with the plot but I got it sorted in the end. This story is a little darker than its predecessor “Power of the Pharaoh” so I’ve upped the rating for safety. I still think ‘Power of the Pharaoh’ ran a little close to the wire as a PG but I got no complaints. Let me know if you think I should down grade (rating based on later chapters).

If you haven’t read ‘Power of the Pharaoh’ then you need to ‘Vicious Circle’ takes place two years after the events of the first story and I don’t go into much detail about past events. So you will need to read the first to make sense it. If you’re reading ‘Power of the Pharaoh’ for the first time please let me have you review as they are still much appreciated. Like wise goes for the sequel. I hope you like it. Gosh I’m nervous, please review I don’t mind criticism but please make it constructive if you feel the need. : -)

=============================================================
Chapter 1 – A New Beginning

As the sun began to rise over the desert its golden light outlined the figure of a young boy with dark hair standing on a balcony looking out over the city. He was not particularly tall and his dark hair was tinted with crimson at the edges and long blond bangs framing his face.

Prince Yugi leaned on the edge of balcony with a peaceful look on his face as he watched the progress of the sun. When the sun had finally hit the last of the buildings he sighed contentedly and turned back to the room behind him. He moved to the table in its centre and sat down smiling at the figure in front of him. The figure that smiled back was almost identical to him although slightly taller and some of his blonde bangs had been swept back into his dark hair. The other difference was that he wore a crown.

Yami smiled as he took in his companion’s contented look. Yugi always greeted the morning the same way, watching the sunrise over the city. Ever since Yugi had arrived at the palace it had been his favourite thing to do. Yami leaned back lazily and reached for his goblet as his mind drifted back to the day when he had first met Yugi. It was two years since Yami had undertaken the tradition of choosing his slaves from his subjects. He recalled the sight of the small, frightened and beaten boy he had taken as his personal servant. He had taken pity on him, and the similarities in their features had been intriguing. However, he could never have imagined at the time that their meeting had been foretold and expected the dangers and surprises that followed. He turned back to look at his cousin who was happily eating his breakfast. They always had breakfast together. Yes, the dangers for the two of them had been very real. Yami closed his eyes as he recalled the events of the past. Yami still couldn’t forgive himself for the mistakes he had made. After an attempt on his life he had accused Yugi of being his attacker and had ordered his arrest and execution. A command he thought to his horror, after learning the truth, had been carried out, but he had been tricked. He began to play with the inverted pyramid hanging around his neck, deep in thought. His then High Priest, Seto had kidnapped Yugi and Yugi died at his hand. Due to a prophecy made at Yami’s birth Yugi’s death had given Yami control over the shadow realm a dark and terrible place where monsters and great power dwelled. Using this power Yami had banished Seto to the shadow realm for eternity. Yami sighed. Although he had revived Yugi with the powers of the millennium puzzle and knew that there was no way Seto could return, he couldn’t help a worried thought at the back of his mind.

“Yami?”

Yami looked up to see Yugi standing looking across the table at him.

“Are you alright Yami? I’ve been trying to get your attention for ages but you didn’t hear me” Yugi asked concerned

Yami smiled at his cousin.

“No, I’m fine, really.”

Yugi sat back down.

“So, what were you thinking about?” he asked as he carried on with his breakfast.

Yami adjusted his position to a much more comfortable one and reached for the fruit in front of him. He had been so deep in thought that he had almost forgotten to eat breakfast and his stomach was growling loudly.

“I was thinking back to when we first met. Do you realize it’s been two years?”

“Two years already” Yugi exclaimed tipping his head back and placed the back of his hand against his forehead in feigned shock.

“I don’t know how I’ve lasted so long”

His words had been said in jest but Yami’s look darkened.

“You nearly didn’t you know”

Yugi lowered his hand and looked over at the Pharaoh, his face taking on a more serious expression.

“So that’s what’s been keeping your mind occupied over the last few days. You know he can’t come back”

Yami sighed.

“What if I did something wrong when I sealed Seto in the shadow realm and he found a way to get back”

Yami paused

“What if he came after you again?” finally was getting to the real reason for his concern.

Yugi was the chosen one and Yami always worried that someone trying to gain control over the shadow realm could kidnap him again, just as Seto had done.

Yugi stood up from his chair and walked around the table. He knelt down beside Yami.

“It’s never going happen Yami.” He said firmly looking up at the Pharaoh

“Seto is gone and with the amount of guards you pack around me and the training Jou is getting from Honda there is no way anyone would try to take me. No one would dare”.

He flashed Yami one of his mischievous smiles.

“Besides, you would come after them and kick their butts so stop worrying”

Yami couldn’t help but burst out laughing at Yugi’s terminology. He swept Yugi into a tight embrace, which made Yugi squeak in surprise.

“You’re right Yugi I’m sorry. I just want to protect you. After all we went through I don’t ever want to loose you again and besides, you are next in line for the throne if anything should happen to me”

Yugi’s face fell and his eyes widened.

“Then we had better make sure nothing does” he said a look of abject terror on his face.

Things had been much simpler when Yugi had been just a slave, aside from the beatings his grandfather had given him. That was until he met Yami. After going through hell and back and nearly dying on several occasions Yugi had thought that things couldn’t have got any worse until Ishizu had smiled and hit him with the news that he wasn’t a slave at all but Yami’s cousin, a Prince. He had never really recovered from that and although he now accepted that people would bow to him and call him Your Highness, he really didn’t like it. It had taken a while to get used to his new role and despite the fact that he could wear any clothing or jewelry he chose, he still opted for the simpler garments, plain tunics with very little trim or decoration which were in stark contrast to Yami’s. The jewelry he also kept to the bare minimum, mainly because it was heavy and he was only small. He recalled a time when Yami had piled so much jewelry on him he had collapsed under the weight. He hadn’t been able to stand until a good proportion of it had been removed. Yami had collapsed in fits of laughter at Yugi’s predicament and although at the time Yugi was not amused he could see the funny side now. He smiled at the memory. Yugi was exceptionally cautious now and the only thing he wore to identify his position was a small gold circlet around his forehead and he only wore that because Yami insisted. He loved Yami dearly and would do anything for his cousin but he had never really got used to being a Prince.

Yami loosened his hug and gave Yugi a smile.

“I have a great idea. Why don’t we forget work today and go out into the city.”

There was a slight hint of something in Yami’s voice and a glint in his eye that Yugi didn’t like. That look normally meant trouble.

“Why?” he said slowly.

“No reason,” Yami said lightly

“We could do with an outing and it’s been a while since we’ve had a day off”

Yami stood and started to walk towards the main door. Yugi remained where he was for a moment trying to find a hidden agenda to Yami’s statement. After deciding that the apparent danger had passed he started to follow.

“Besides, you need to get yourself a new slave” Yami’s said in a calm voice.

Yugi froze.

“I’ve already got one” he responded quickly.

He had reluctantly agreed, after much pushing, to get himself a personal slave to do the menial tasks, which Yami said, were below the attention of a Prince. Yugi had firmly pointed out that he had been a slave and these menial tasks as he put them were something he was quite familiar with. However, Yami had insisted, even to the point of pulling rank and ordering him to get one. Yugi had flustered at the indignity but had finally agreed when Yami had offered to put him the dungeon for failing to comply with a Royal command.

Reluctantly Yugi had picked a slave but he had been clever in his choice. He had picked a quiet and dependable man to serve him but the problem was he getting old. A trait Yugi had picked him for on purpose knowing that he would soon be too old to work. Yami it seemed had seen right through this though. Yami’s voice cut through his thoughts once more and Yugi grimaced at his tone.

“Don’t think I don’t know why you picked Getan as you servant Yugi. You and I both know he’s too old to work much longer and you’re not getting off that easily. We will swing by the slave market on the way and you can pick a new servant, one that’s a little younger this time”.

Yugi muttered something under his breath, which sounded like ‘you reckon’ and defiantly stalked towards the door. Yami grabbed his shoulders and swung him round as he passed.

“Yugi if you don’t pick sensibly this time then I will pick for you”

Yugi’s eyes widened at this. He was cornered if Yami picked for him he would end up with some over-bearing mother-like figure. Seeing that he had no way out he sighed in defeat.

“Ok, Ok. You win”

Yami stood up with a triumphant look on his face ignoring the rebellious looks Yugi was giving him. He gestured to the door with a dramatic sweep of his arm.

“After you Your Highness” he said with a mock bow.

Yugi stalked towards the door, back straight, trying to regain some of his dignity.

=============================================================

The sun blazed down against their skin as they walked across the courtyard. After they had returned to the palace from their adventures at Hamet the previous year Yami had insisted Yugi have his own bodyguard. He had assigned him Honda. Yugi hadn’t minded having Honda as his bodyguard and he had to admit he always felt safe when Honda was around. Honda had taken his new role seriously and Prince or no Prince he would often lecture Yugi extensively about taking care of his own safety when he put himself innocently into what he would call a ‘high-risk situation’. Yugi recalled one time when he had decided to retrieve a rather juicy looking apple from a high branch of a tree in the south garden. Yugi had climbed the tree but on reaching for his prize had slipped and fallen. Honda had caught him. Yugi had to admit if Honda hadn’t been there he could have been seriously injured. Yugi didn’t really mind the lectures.

They continued across the courtyard towards the guard’s quarters and training yard. After their return to the palace Yami had mentioned to Honda that Jou had fought well in the fight with the Seto’s men when they had attacked Yugi’s rescue party. Honda had taken it upon himself to train Jou. Jou was a willing student but a bit overconfident at times. These occasions usually ended in Jou landing on his backside in an undignified fashion. As Yugi and Yami entered the training yard they were greeted with just such an occasion.

Jou and Honda were sparring with swords and it looked like Jou had the upper hand as he pushed Honda back with his swings. However, as a skilled swordsman himself Yami could see differently and smirked as Honda suddenly dropped to the floor and rolled. Jou stumbled and fell to the floor as he over balanced with his swing. He rolled onto his back but stopped as the tip of Honda’s sword pressed against his throat.

“You did it again,” Honda growled in frustration.

“Never, overstretch your swing, you’re only going to over balance and hit the dirt every time”

He withdrew the sword and held out a hand to Jou who grabbed it. Honda pulled him to his feet with a look of amusement as Jou grumbled under his breath. The two of them looked around at the sound of laughter. The Royal pair had collapsed against each other for support, laughing.

“I suppose Your Highnesses thought that was funny,” Jou said in an un-amused fashion as he approached Yugi and the Pharaoh.

He stopped before Yugi and smiled. Yugi wiped the tears from his eyes and smiled back at his friend and advisor. Jou had grown quite a bit in two years and thanks to the hard training Honda was giving him he was developing into a good fighter. Yugi knew the real reason his gentle friend had agreed to learn how to fight. Soon after being appointed as Yugi’s advisor Jou had told him that he wanted to learn how to fight in order to protect him. Yugi had been so moved by Jou’s admission that he had burst into tears. Jou really was the best friend he could have.

Honda approached, dusting himself off in the process.

“Your Highness” he said as he bowed respectfully to Yami.

“What can I do for you or did you come to see me knock Jou’s skinny behind into the dirt again” An amused smirk crossed Honda face as he glanced at Jou.

“Hey, enough of the skinny. I beat you yesterday remember” Jou said indignantly.

Yugi smiled as the two of them batted insults at each other. Yugi knew they were the best of friends and the apparent offence was just their way of showing affection for each other. Yami coughed awkwardly and the two looked around sheepishly at their audience.

“When you two are quite finished?” Yami gave the pair a stern look.

“I think we could all do with getting out of the palace for a while and His Royal Highness here needs to pick a new slave”

Yugi cringed. He had hopped Yami had forgotten about that. Jou smiled at his friend’s reaction. Yami ignored Yugi’s reaction and continued.

“Before you two end up rolling on the ground again can I suggest we retire to the stables?”

Jou and Honda both nodded in agreement.

“Sounds like a great idea and might I just add that as your advisor Yugi, I fully agree with Yami’s decision. You need a new servant. I like Getan but he really is getting too old to work”

Annoyed at Jou siding with Yami, Yugi crossed his arms across his chest in a huff.

“Thanks a lot; I was hoping you would be on my side”

Jou smiled at his friend.

“Sorry, Yug but it’s for your own good”

=============================================================

The party left the training yard and headed towards the stables. Yami had sent word ahead of their plans and their horses stood ready with several guards to accompany them. Yugi sighed at the presence of the guards; they were for Yami’s protection, not his this time. Although Yami was well loved by his people there was always the possibility that someone could try an assassinate him. Just like Yugi’s parents Yami’s father, the previous Pharaoh had been murdered and Yami lived with the possibility that someone may try to do the same to him.

Once mounted, something Yugi was getting better at now that Yami had bought him a smaller horse, they set off through the gates of the palace and out into the city.

“....” Conversation

‘.....’ Thought

#.....# Yami to Yugi mind link

##.....## Yugi to Yami mind link

=============================================================
Chapter 2 – Gift

They rode at a leisurely pace through the morning sun as they made their way through the streets of the city, enjoying the feeling of freedom. There were many beautiful and peaceful gardens within the palace walls but nothing was quite like escaping the palace completely. They continued to ride through the city stopping occasionally to talk to people and point at interesting stalls and shows, which filled the busy market streets. As they made their way down the main street running through the centre of the city Yugi turned to Jou and pointed to an alleyway off to the right. Jou turned to look at where Yugi was pointing and shivered as he too recognized the alley. He turned back to Yugi.

“Still looks the same doesn’t it” he said a slight hint of emotion in his voice. Yugi nodded and turned back to Yami.

“That was the alley where I met Jou after he escaped from my grandfather”

Yami nodded

“This is going to sound terrible Yugi but in some ways we have a lot to thank your grandfather for”

“How do you mean?” Yugi asked confused.

“I was looking for slaves that day two years ago. If he had taken you into his home, as he should have done I would never have met you and you would have been in even greater danger then you already were. Seto would have found you eventually and there would have been no one to stop him. He could well have succeeded with his plan and destroyed the world”

Yugi shuddered but nodded.

“I know you’re right but I’m not sure I can ever forgive my grandfather for what he did to me” he said sadly.

Yami bent down closer to him and whispered in his ear.

“I know something that will cheer you up”.

Yugi looked up expectantly. Yami smiled and turned his horse down a street to their left and stopped before a large shop. The sign that hung outside gave its identity as that of a jeweler. Yugi knew this was the royal jewelers and rolled his eyes. Not more jewelry Yami was obsessed with the stuff. Yami dismounted and entered the shop beckoning for Yugi to follow him. The shop was dimly lit but even in the poor light Yugi could see the flash of the gold and jewels on the shelves. Yami approached the counter and a short, skinny man appeared. The shopkeeper bowed to the Pharaoh and then the two of them began to talk in hushed tones. Yugi leant a little bit closer trying to hear what they were saying but before he could get close enough the shopkeeper left through a curtain in the back of the shop. Yami waited. Soon the man was back but this time he was carrying a polished wooden box with the eye of Horus embossed in gold on the lid. Yami took the box and thanked the shopkeeper. He turned to Yugi. Yugi was about to ask what it was when Yami closed his eyes and placed a hand on top of the box. The millennium eye began to glow on his forehead. Yugi started to back away slowly, the eye normally only glowed when Yami was calling forth his shadow powers. Something that usually only happened when he was angry. Yugi was about to reach for the door handle and flee when the eye faded and Yami opened his eyes. He approached Yugi and held out the box to him. Yugi gave him a questioning look.

“What is it?” he asked.

“A gift” was all Yami said.

Yugi gingerly took the box from Yami’s hands. It was heavy and Yugi gave an inward groan. If this was jewelry for him to wear it was going to weigh a ton.

“Open it”

Yugi followed Yami’s instruction and opened the lid of the box. He gasped. Inside the box was a perfect replica of the millennium puzzle that Yami wore around his neck.

“It’s beautiful” Yugi exclaimed.

Yami took the box from his hands and lifted out the replica puzzle.

“Want to put it on now?” he asked.

Still concerned about the weight, but not wanting to offend Yami, Yugi nodded. Yami placed the gold chain around Yugi’s neck and fastened the clasp. As Yami let go Yugi braced himself for the weight. But none came. The puzzle was as light as a feather. He couldn’t have hidden his shock particularly well because Yami chuckled. What came next was even more of a surprise.

#Not as heavy as you thought?#

Yugi yelped and looked up at Yami. Had Yami just spoken in his head? Yami continued to chuckle at Yugi’s surprise.

#It’s my gift to you.#

Yugi jumped again.

“What...how...how are you doing that”

“I used the power of the shadow realm to transfer some of the puzzles power into your copy. We can talk to each other using our minds now” Yami explained.

“You mean I can talk to you and you to me without actually speaking out loud?” Yugi asked still in shock.

#Yes#

Yugi was silent for a moment as he stared down at the puzzle in his hands. Yami was a little hurt at the boy’s silence. Maybe he had been wrong and Yugi didn’t like the gift. Yami made to turn towards the door but Yugi grabbed his arm.

##Thank you, I love it ## Yugi answered using the puzzle.

Yami sighed in contentment as Yugi smiled up at him.

#Your welcome Yugi #

=============================================================

Yugi showed Jou the puzzle as they left the shop. Jou was utterly amazed at the gift. For some reason Yugi did not tell Jou about the puzzle’s special ability. Yami was about to ask Yugi again if he really did like the gift but Yugi answered for him.

##I just want to keep this a secret between you and me for the time being. Besides I’m looking forward to winding up Jou. Want to play?##

# I see. A game. I’m good at those # Yami smirked understanding Yugi’s plan.

They started out with an innocent conversation about the weather. The fun thing was that by using the power of the puzzles they kept finishing each other’s sentences. Jou looked from one to the other in utter amazement and confusion as the conversation progressed.

“Of course it’s been like...”

“...this for weeks. Hasn’t...”

“...rained in ages. Might do...”

“...next week...”

“...though”.

Jou finally couldn’t take it anymore.

“HOW IN RA ARE YOU TWO DOING THAT?” he finally yelled.

The Royal pair turned in the saddle to give him an innocent look.

“Doing....

“...what.” they said together

“That, finishing each others sentences”

They turned back to look at each other keeping their innocent expressions.

“Can’t think...”

“...what he’s...”

“...talking about...”

“...can you?”

Realizing they weren’t going to tell him Jou groaned and buried his face in the mane of his horse. Honda rode up beside him and patted his back in a comforting, understanding fashion.

=============================================================

At the arrival of the Pharaoh chaos broke out in the slave market. People tried desperately to put their best stock to the front for him look at. Yami just waited for the chaos to die down before he approached the lines of slaves. Yugi followed. Yami stopped and waved his arm to the rows of slaves.

“Off you go then and remember if you don’t pick wisely this time I’ll pick for you”.

Yugi nodded quickly and dismounted. He started to walk up and down the rows of slaves. He may be being forced into it but at least he would make a good choice if he could. He continued to walk past the older slaves knowing that Yami would never let him pick one and approached a line of younger slaves that looked around his age. He began to look at each one carefully. His eyes swept past a young girl with blue eyes and short brown hair. He was about to move past when he stopped and quickly looked back at the girl.

“Tea?” he said surprised.

The girl’s eyes widened as he address her.

“Y...Yes Y...Your H...Highness” she stuttered shocked at being recognized and addressed directly.

“Tea? How did you get to be here?” Yugi said again as he moved towards her.

Suddenly he stopped as his eyes settled on another figure in the row behind. This figure was that of an older man and like Tea Yugi knew him.

“Danota” he whispered in fear

=============================================================

From back where he was standing holding the reins of Yugi’s horse Jou couldn’t see much. He watched for a short while as Yugi wandered up and down the lines of slaves before his attention began to wander.

“I wonder who Prince Yugi is talking to?

Honda said beside him. Jou’s attention refocused and his eyes traveled to where Yugi was standing in front of a line of younger slaves.

“Don’t know. Maybe he’s chosen a new servant. Let’s hope Yami approves this time, if....”

He stopped. Yugi was beginning to back away from the line. Concerned Jou began to run across the yard towards his friend. Honda followed.

Jou skidded to a halt beside Yugi. Yugi’s face was pale and he was noticeably shaking as he stood looking transfixed into the crowd.

“What’s the matter Yug? You look like you’ve see a ghost” Jou called out as he reached his friend.

At no response from Yugi Jou looked to see what had scared him so much. His eyes fell onto the familiar face of Danota and he drew his sword.

“DANOTA” he snarled as he descended on the man that had caused Yugi, himself and many others unbearable pain over the years. The other slaves backed away quickly from the sword bearing man. Danota gave a small pitiful cry as Jou advanced and dropped cowering to the floor. Jou was shaking with un-containable rage and his blood boiled with hatred as he towered over the defenseless figure before him. He raised the sword to strike down his torturer.

“JOU, NO”

Jou’s arm froze as he heard Yugi scream out his name. Jou whirled around to his friend, sword still in hand.

“What’s the matter Yug? This animal deserves to be punished for what he did to us.”

Not waiting for a response Jou turned back to the man on the floor and raised his sword again. This time he felt Yugi grab hold of his arm.

“JOU, I SAID NO”

Jou looked at Yugi confused.

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want my best friend to become a cold blooded killer”

Yugi was sobbing now but he still kept a tight hold on Jou’s arm. Jou began to lower his sword at seeing his friend’s distress. He hung his head in shame as he began to realize what he had almost done. He had nearly killed an unarmed and defenseless man in cold blood.

“I...I’m sorry Yug, really I am. I didn’t think. It...It’s just seeing that piece of filth after all this time I lost it”

Yugi let go of Jou’s arm and wiped his tears away. Jou moved back to stand beside Honda, shaking violently with shock. Yugi turned back to where Danota was still cowering on the floor in fear. He was vaguely aware that Yami was approached.

Yugi looked down at the man cowering before him as he struggled with the turmoil of emotions flowing through him. He thought back to the life of pain and fear he had lived with his grandfather and the way Danota had treated not only himself and Jou but others as well. Just like Jou hatred boiled through Yugi’s veins but as he looked down at the man before him his heart began to soften. Instead of the towering and powerful being he had once been, all Yugi saw was a frightened cowering shell of a man. He remembered a time when Danota had been the most feared slave master in the district. His punishments had always been harsh and both Yugi and Jou bore the scars as proof. Yugi had hated this man with every fiber of his being but he had almost forgotten that Danota, although his grandfathers slave master, had always been a slave himself. Seeing him here now, in the slave market, living the life he had forced upon others, was punishment enough. In that moment Yugi forgave Danota for the past.

“Get up” he said to Danota.

Danota didn’t move. Yugi bent down and held out his hand.

“I said, get up”

Danota opened his eyes and saw the hand held out to him. Yugi helped him to his feet and stood back. He looked hard at the broken man before him. He turned to Tea who was standing transfixed with fear.

“Tea, come here” he said gently.

Tea made a small hesitant step forward.

“Please, I won’t hurt you”

She took another hesitant step forward and dropped to her knees at the feet of the Prince.

“There’s no need for that Tea”. Yugi said as bent down lift her back to her feet.

“Now tell me how you got to be here. Did my grandfather sell you?”

Tea raised her head to look at Yugi.

“N...No he died, about two months ago”

Yugi closed his eyes at the sudden news of his grandfather’s death. An unbelievable feeling of relief flooded through him. He was finally free. His grandfather could never hurt him again.

#Are you all right Yugi?# Yami asked in concern through their mind link.

##Yes## Yugi responded with a mental sigh.

##I’m finally free## He felt Yami’s understanding flow through their link.

Yugi looked back up to Tea and then over to the slave pen master who had been hovering in the background.

“I will take this one”. He said pointing to Tea.

The slave master nodded and Tea gave a gasp in surprise. She fell back to her knees and kissed the bottom of his robe. Slightly embarrassed Yugi pulled her back to her feet. Honda stepped forwards and placed a comforting and protective arm around her shoulders gently maneuvering her towards the horses. Yugi turned back to Danota.

“Life has not treated you well lately Danota” He said

His voice was firm but there was no malice there anymore. Danota fell to his knees before the boy he had treated and punished like a slave for so many years. He was trembling in anticipation, sure that his life was about to end. Yugi took a step closer to him.

“P...Please Your Highness, let me say a few words before you decide my fate”

Yugi nodded, he already knew what his decision would be. Danota continued.

“I know that you can never forgive me for what I did to you over the years. I was only following the orders of the master but I admit that I was harsh and cruel. I deserve nothing less than the final sentence and I accept your judgment but I am truly sorry for my actions”

Yugi straightened to his full height, which wasn’t much.

“Do you fully repent?”

“Yes” Danota responded in a tired voice. He knew the end was coming.

##Yami, could we use another stable hand at the palace?## Yugi asked through the mind link.

Seeing where Yugi was going with this Yami played along

#Yes, we could use another hand if you’re sure this is what you want#

##It is##

“Are you any good with horses?” Yugi asked Danota.

Danota’s head shot up.

“Y...Your Highness?” he responded in an obviously shocked voice.

“Are you any good with horses? We could do with more help in the palace stables.” Yugi repeated.

Danota had been expecting to be sentenced to death and executed on the spot or at the least thrown in the dungeon, not to be offered a job at the palace.

“Well? Better answer quickly or I might change my mind” Yugi said as he smiled kindly down at him.

“I...I... yes I can work with horses”

“Good”

Yugi beckoned over to the slave master who drew out a bunch of keys and unlocked the shackles from Danota’s ankles. Yugi turned around to the shocked audience behind him.

“Are you sure about this Yug?” Jou asked.

Yugi nodded and Jou shrugged his shoulders in acceptance.

Your Highness?” Yugi turned back to Danota.

“Thank you, for showing me mercy when I deserved none.” Yugi nodded.

“Just don’t make me regret it.”

Danota smiled a genuine smile. Something Yugi realized he had never seen him do before.

“No Your Highness I promise you, you won’t”

#Yugi, are you really sure this is what you want?# Yami asked again.

##Yes, I think it’s finally time to lay the old ghosts to rest##

-.....- Other Mysterious voices

=============================================================
Chapter 3 – Dreams

They returned to the palace with their two new members in tow. Yami constantly questioned Yugi about his decision but Yugi wouldn’t respond vocally or by mind link, except to say that he would talk about it later. Yami shrugged and decided to wait.

The journey back to the palace didn’t take long. Danota shared a horse with one of the guards and Tea sat behind Honda. He had insisted that she ride with him and once back at the palace he gently helped her down from the horse. Jou nudged Yugi as they watched Honda and they both smiled. Honda had a tough exterior but he seemed to have developed a liking for Tea and his gentler side was showing through. Danota was introduced to the stable master and he set about work immediately rubbing the horses down with straw before returning them to the stable. Danota, it seemed, knew a lot about horses.

‘This is a different man, I was right to forgive him’ Yugi thought.

“It would seem Danota has hidden talents.” Jou said as he stood beside him interrupting Yugi’s thoughts.

“It would seem so” Yugi responded.

“I’m sorry for my behavior Yug. I’m ashamed of what I nearly did. I’m learning to fight to protect you should I need to, not to kill unarmed men because of a grudge”

“It’s alright Jou. I’m not entirely sure how I managed to control myself at first. But I think I made a good decision”.

“I agree” Jou tuned and smiled at his friend.

Yugi moved towards Tea and Honda.

“Shall we introduce Tea to Mai? She could do with some new clothes and some food?” he said as they approached the pair.

Jou’s eyes lit up at the mention of food.

“Why not, I could do with swinging by the kitchens. All this fresh air is making me hungry”

Yugi smiled, one thing about Jou would never change and that was his appetite. It was the main reason he had become close friends with Mai the head cook. Yugi suspected that their feelings went a little further than ‘just friends’ but they were too stubborn to notice it or admit to each other that they had deeper feelings. Honda stood with a protective arm around Tea’s shoulders.

“Would you like a bath and some clean clothes Tea?” Yugi asked as they approached.

Tea curtsied and nodded shyly. Yugi smiled.

“Jou, would you and Honda take Tea to Mai for me. Tell Mai to bring her up to me when she’s ready”

“Sure Yug. No problem”

Jou and Honda left in the direction of the servant’s quarters and Yugi turned to enter the palace. He was aware that Yami was following him but he carried on through the palace until he entered the west garden. He sat down on a stone bench and waited for Yami to sit down beside him. Yami didn’t say anything to him as he sat down, just looked over with concern. Yugi gave him a reassuring smile.

“I’m Ok Yami, really” Yami didn’t seem to believe him.

“I know you better than that Yugi,” he said seriously

“I just need a little bit of time to get over what’s happened today” Yugi responded. Yami noticed the slight shake to his voice.

Away from everyone his shield was beginning to crumble and he was trembling a little now. Yugi blinked back the tears that threatened to fall. Yami leaned a little closer as he watched Yugi.

#It’s not Tea or Danota that’s the problem is it....It’s your grandfather#

##I...##

Yugi couldn’t finish his response to Yami’s question as he struggled with the internal battle he was fighting. The news of his grandfather’s death hadn’t hit him particularly hard but he felt guilty at his feeling of relief now that he was gone. As well as this the feeling of release and the lifting of the weight that had settled in his heart over the years was overwhelming. Yami could feel the turmoil of feelings from Yugi tumbling through their link.

Yami wrapped an arm around Yugi’s shoulders and pulled him close. Yugi finally crumbled under the strain of his emotions and broke down in Yami’s arms. All Yami could hear through their link were the words ‘I’m free’.

=============================================================

Several hours passed and although Yugi wouldn’t admit it, the events of the day had exhausted him. He had cried for a long time in Yami’s arms. The feeling that he was finally free from his grandfather’s reach had been overwhelming but aside from feeling a little bit light headed from his crying he was in good spirits. Once he had regained his composure Yugi had wanted to make sure Tea was Ok but Yami assured him Honda would look after her and had insisted that they go back to his chambers. They now sat in Yami’s room waiting. There was a gentle knock on the door and Yugi looked towards the door in anticipation.

“Enter” commanded Yami.

The door was opened and Mai walked in closely followed by Tea who seemed to be trying to hide behind her. Mai gave a respectful nod and steered Tea to the front of the room. She was no longer wearing the rags from the slave yard but now wore simple beige, knee high tunic, belted at the middle with a yellow sash. Her hair had been brushed back away from her face. Now she was clean Yugi could recognize the girl he had once known. She still had her eyes fixed on the floor and her arms clasped behind her back.

Knowing how he had felt the first time he had been brought to Yami’s chambers as his servant Yugi felt sympathetic to how she was feeling. He stood up and walked over to her. As Yami enjoyed frequently pointing out, Yugi was small for his age. Tea had grown since he had last seen her and although he knew that they were of a similar age she towered over him.

“Tea, how are you feeling? Better I hope?” he said as he approached her.

Surprised at the friendly way he spoke to her Tea lifted her head and looked at Yugi with big blue eyes. He smiled at her and she responded with a timid smile of her own and nodded.

“Have you had something to eat?” Yugi asked.

“Y...yes. Mai cooked for me,” she said finally

“Good, well we have a lot of catching up to do and I’m sure Jou would love to find out what’s been happening since he left”.

A slightly confused expression crossed Tea’s face. Why was she being treated so kindly? Wasn’t she meant to be a slave? She looked across at Mai with uncertainty. Seeing the unasked question on Tea’s face Mai smiled and nodded.

“Go on ask,” she whispered in Tea’s ear.

Tea, a little more boldly spoke.

“Excuse me Your Highness but may I ask a question?” Yugi sighed a little at the method of address, yet another person to break out of the habit.

“Sure, ask”

“Aren’t I meant to be a slave? Your servant?”

“Yes”

Tea started to look a little awkward and found the floor very interesting all of a sudden.

“Well, then why are you treating me so nicely, like a friend?” Yugi sighed again.

“Because you are my friend Tea. Just because I have a title and position now doesn’t mean I’ve changed, and neither has Jou. In fact to be honest I still can’t get used to having a title and despite my appearances I would much rather not have a servant at all”.

Tea’s eyes saddened a little and her shoulders slumped. Then it was true. She was just a slave to him for a brief moment she had thought he really wanted her as a friend. Yugi was still talking.

“In fact if it wasn’t for my loving cousin here I wouldn’t have even gone to the slave market today. He insists that I have a servant so in preference to spending a night in the dungeons I chose you. And I would much rather have a servant that I can call a friend than any other”

He turned to Tea giving her a knowing look. He himself had been in the same position two years previous and he knew what she was thinking. He turned to look at Yami.

##I have you to thank for that insight##

Knowing that Yugi was referring to how Yami had treated him as a friend when he was just his servant, Yami smiled.

#You’re welcome Yugi.#

Yugi turned back to Tea who was now looking up with a wide smile. It was the first genuine smile of happiness he had seen from her since they had left the slave market. He turned back to Yami and gave him an impish smile. Yami seeing that he was never going to get Yugi to pick a proper servant buried his head in his hands and groaned.

“I give up. You win”

Yugi gave a broad smile of triumph but refrained from leaping in the air at his victory.

=============================================================

The following days were hectic. Getan trained Tea in her duties and in any free time she had Yugi would talk to her about the events of the last two years. Tea’s story really only started when Yugi’s grandfather had died. All the slaves had been sent to the slave market to be sold and nearly all of them had been bought. All except Danota and herself. Tea was fitting in well at the palace and had become come close friends with Mai. Mai was a few years older than Tea but unlike Tea she had lived in the palace since she was a young child being brought up by the head of the kitchens, an older slave called Sarah.

However, aside from telling each other stories there were more serious matters to attend to. In a few days there was to be a gathering of the millennium guardians. It was to be the first time since the events of two years ago that all seven guardians would be together again. Once presented with their items, each of the guardians had retained the item for safekeeping and Yami had sent them out across Egypt to ensure that peace was maintained. This was to be a gathering to ensure that there were no causes for concern and the items themselves were safe. Although Yami had been assured by Ishizu that should any ill befall the items or their guardians he would know about it through the puzzle.

Yugi wasn’t sure why Yami had insisted that he be a part of the gathering. Despite being the chosen one Yugi really had no further part to play, his task had been fulfilled. He had sacrificed his life in order to save Yami’s and in doing so had given Yami control of the shadow realm. Therefore, fulfilled his role in the prophecy. Yami had been able to bring him back to life using the power of the millennium puzzle but according to the prophecy there was no further role for him. However, Yami was still concerned that Yugi could be used again, as Seto had tried, to transfer the powers of the shadow realm away from him but Yugi wasn’t sure that was possible. He was just an ordinary boy now. He had no powers to command unlike the other guardians. Even Jou had more use than him, as he was guardian of the millennium scales.

The day of the gathering arrived and Yugi, Yami, Jou and Ishizu sat in the throne room awaiting the arrival of their friends. Honda and Tea hovered in the background in case their master needed anything. Despite Yami’s attempts to involve Yugi in their discussion Yugi was bored and his attention started to wander. It was one of the hottest days of the month and he really wanted to be sitting in one of the gardens under the shade of a tree asleep rather than sitting in a hot and stuffy throne room. He had asked Yami if he could miss the greeting of the guardians but Yami had insisted. He looked over at the others who were talking intensely around the table. Seeing he had been forgotten, he moved his chair a little away towards the wall behind them. The others were deep in conversation and although he tried to pay attention he was beginning to feel drowsy and very soon he was asleep. As he slept Yugi began to dream.

=============================================================

Yugi opened his eyes to find himself standing in the middle of the desert.

‘Where am I?’ he thought.

He looked around squinting against the glare of the sun and raised his arms to protect his face and eyes from the flying sand being whipped up by the wind.

‘What’s going on? One minute I’m in the throne room the next I’m up to my neck in sand standing in the middle of the desert.’ He thought.

He looked around at his surroundings and through the whirlwinds of sand he saw the outline of some distant ruins. Still confused at how he had come to be there but knowing it was his best bet for shelter, he set off in the direction of the ruins.

Although the ruins had seemed a long way away he reached them in a matter of minutes.

‘That’s strange’ he thought.

He was still pondering how he had reached his destination so quickly when he started to look more closely at his surroundings. He stopped and spun round quickly on the spot with a slight feeling of panic in the pit of his stomach. His mind raced back to two years ago. He knew this place. It was Hamet.

‘Maybe it just looked like Hamet?’ he thought desperately.

He wandered through the fallen buildings and walls looking for shelter and saw an open doorway. He ran in and sank to the floor.

‘Well at least it’s shelter’ he thought.

His mind started to whirl.

‘How could I be back at Hamet? How did I get here?’

He found no answers to his questions and sat quietly in the doorway waiting for the sandstorm to die down. It was while he was waiting that he thought he heard a faint whisper calling his name. He turned his head to look down into the tunnel that the doorway opened onto. He shook his head. Sure that he had imagined it.

‘This place has got me spooked. It’s just the storm’ he thought.

Then the whisper came again, but louder this time.

-Yugi-

He defiantly heard it this time and he jumped to his feet.

“Who’s there?” he called out. Silence greeted him.

“Who’s there?” he called out again with mounting fear. Still no answer came.

Against his better judgment he took a fearful step forwards into the dark. He walked cautiously down the tunnel but at seeing anything in front of him Yugi turned to return to the doorway and daylight. He cried out in alarm as the light behind him vanished and he was plunged into darkness. His panic rose. He had always been afraid of the dark and now he was trapped in it. He reached out, trying to feel for a wall, something of reality in the terrible black. Despair was rising within him as he groped his way forwards until he saw a glimmer of hope in front of him, a light, although faint was reaching out to him. He hurried quickly towards it desperate to get out of the crushing darkness. His pace quickened as the light came closer and brighter until finally he stumbled out of the tunnel and into a vast chamber. The chamber walls glinted white with marble and in the centre stood a raised platform bearing a white marble plinth at its top. Yugi started to back away toward the tunnel entrance. He knew this place all too well. He jumped as he felt solid stone behind him and spun round to face a blank wall of marble. The entrance to the tunnel was gone, sealed off. Yugi’s breathing quickened with a growing sense of fear. What was going on? If this was a dream he really needed to wake up. Suddenly the light faded and again he was left in the dark. He cried out. The light returned as quickly as it had gone but Yugi found himself no longer standing by the sealed entrance to the tunnel but on top of the platform beside the marble plinth. He started to tremble.

‘What is going on? Yami please help me’ he cried in his mind.

-Yami can’t help you.-

“What? Who said that?” Yugi cried out backing up against the plinth in fear his eyes sweeping the chamber before him for the source of the voice.

-The time has come-

Yugi spun around. The voice had come from behind him this time. He leaned on the marble plinth for support.

“What time? Who are you?” he shouted out desperately.

-Do you not remember?-

Yugi’s eyes widened in horror as red streaks of blood, started to stain the white marble before him and fresh blood began to run down its sides. Yugi backed away from the horrific sight before him. He remembered. He remembered being tied to the altar. Remembered being nearly sacrificed and he remembered who had tried to kill him. He jumped, as a shadow suddenly loomed over him and he spun round. Before he could react a ghostly white hand had clasped itself tightly around his throat and pushed him back across the altar.

-I’m glad you have not forgotten me Little Yugi.-

Yugi struggled against the grip and screamed.

Chapter 4 – The Return

At hearing Yugi scream Yami spun around. He cried out in alarm when he saw the sight before him. Yugi was thrashing about in his chair, hands clenched white and grasped around something unseen holding his throat and he was drenched in sweat and crying in fear. He dashed toward Yugi and shook him. Unable to rouse him Yami reached out through their mind link. The instant he connected with Yugi he felt the presence of something evil trying to coil itself around the young boy’s mind. The millennium eye began to glow on his forehead and the puzzle glowed in response as he called forth his shadow powers to force back the attacker. He felt the unknown attacker’s resistance and the force coiled tighter around Yugi’s mind. Yugi’s struggling began to cease, as he was gradually overwhelmed. In a desperate attempt to free him, Yami reached deeper. Deep into himself and the puzzle’s power and using everything he had he pushed back. He was quickly becoming exhausted and it looked like the evil would win when suddenly it broke away and Yami felt the presence retreat. Yugi went limp in the chair breathing heavily from the mental attack he had suffered and Yami collapsed to his knees beside him in exhaustion. Seeing the danger was over Ishizu approached and bent down beside Yami. Yami lifted his head weakly to look at her and then back at Yugi.

“Is he Ok?” he asked her concerned.

Ishizu placed her hand on Yugi’s forehead and watched his breathing for a moment. He was breathing more regularly now and although still shaking and unconscious seemed to be Ok.

“Yes, I think so. He’s just exhausted”.

She looked at Yami.

“And you?”

He shook his head and waved a hand; in a gesture to say don’t worry about me, as he tried to stand.

“I’m fine”

He gave her a weak smile, trying to confirm his words, but he leaned heavily on the arm of Yugi’s chair for support. Knowing it was pointless to argue with the Pharaoh Ishizu returned to the main subject.

“What was it?” She asked as she held Yugi’s hand.

Yami’s brow furrowed as he thought back.

“I don’t know. Something was attacking Yugi’s mind but I don’t know why or what it was”.

Ishizu nodded thoughtfully. Seeing Yami lean even more on the chair for support she turned back to the others who were waiting behind them concerned, not sure if it was safe to approach.

“Jou, Honda please help Yami and Yugi back to their chambers”

Both approached and Jou slipped Yami’s arm over his shoulders for support as Honda bent down to pick Yugi up in his arms. Yami, despite his earlier claim, did not protest at the assistance. The intense use of the puzzle’s power had drained him.

“Is he alright?” Jou asked in concern at the sight of Yugi’s pale unconscious form in Honda’s arms.

Ishizu nodded.

“Yes, I think so. He just needs rest”

“What was it?”

“I don’t know. Hopefully Yugi can tell us more when he wakes up”

She turned back to Yami.

“And you Your Highness will need to rest as well. You used a great deal of energy reaching so deep into the puzzle’s power”.

Yami didn’t protest he just nodded his head.

“Jou will you pass on my apology to the other guardians when they arrive for not greeting them in person” Yami asked Jou.

“Sure thing Your Highness”

Ishizu started to move towards the door.

“Jou, Honda come with me. I want to give these two a thorough check up.”

Slowly both followed her out of the door with their charges.

=============================================================

“I’m fine now Ishizu” came Yami’s protesting voice from inside Yugi’s chambers.

After being walked, half carried to his chambers, Ishizu had insisted that she give Yami a complete check over to make sure that exhaustion was his only problem. Yami sat up from the divan Ishizu had made him lay down on. Yami had regained some of his strength after a short rest and would not stay still, being overcome with his concern for Yugi who was now laying in his bed in what appeared to a peaceful sleep. He pushed Ishizu’s hand away from where she was trying to check his pulse. Ishizu grumbled loudly.

“Yami, you are still not strong enough to be moving around” she exclaimed in frustration. Yami never was a good patient.

But Yami would have none of it. He stood up. As soon as he stood he swayed dangerously. Ishizu caught him as he started to collapse. She sat him back down on the divan.

“Now do you believe me?” She said in a gentle yet understanding voice.

Yami placed a hand on his brow.

“I’m sorry Ishizu” he sighed.

“It’s just; I’m concerned about Yugi I want to be beside him when he wakes.”

Ishizu nodded in understanding.

“Very well, you can go to him but you must let me help you and you must promise to remain seated when we are there.”

Yami gave her a weak smile.

“It’s a deal”

She helped him to stand and together they made their way slowly over to Yugi’s bed. Yami sat down in a chair beside the bed and reached out to take Yugi’s hand. He rubbed the hand gently whilst Ishizu set about her work and placed a cool damp cloth on Yugi’s forehead.

‘He’s so cold’ Yami thought

Satisfied she had done everything she could Ishizu sat down in a chair across from Yami. She looked at Yugi and then back to Yami.

“Do you have any idea what it was that attacked him?” She asked.

Yami shook his head.

“No, it was just felt like something was trying to coil around and suffocate him. I couldn’t get through at first but then I reached deeper into the puzzles power and the presence retreated. I don’t know what it was but it was evil and I could feel its hate towards Yugi”.

Yami paused

“Ishizu, it felt strangely familiar, as thought I’ve felt that presence before”.

=============================================================

Yugi opened his eyes to bright and blinding sunshine. He started to panic.

‘I’m back in desert’ he thought

He started to sweat in fear. He was alive. How he didn’t know but he had to get away. Had to run, if he didn’t it was going to happened all over again. Trembling in fear he sat up and felt something heavy on top of him. He still couldn’t see properly, blinded by the light, and he began to thrash at the force preventing him from escaping. Tears ran down his face. He didn’t want to die again.

Yami, woken by Yugi’s struggles, stood up and tried to restrain him frightened he would hurt himself.

“ISHIZU” he shouted.

Yami pushed Yugi back down on the bed but Yugi increased his struggles convinced that someone who wanted to hurt him was holding him down.

“Yugi, please, you have to calm down. PLEASE” Yami cried trying to get through the fear, which was choking Yugi.

Yugi heard Yami’s voice through his tumbling thoughts and fears and slowly ceased his struggling. He looked up at Yami breathing heavily with wide fearful eyes. Slowly recognition came back to him and he realized he was lying in his own bed, not in the desert and the restraints he had feared were only his bed sheets. Finally he realized Yami was leaning over him holding his shoulders to the bed. At recognizing Yami he broke down and flung himself into Yami’s arms. Yami fell to his knees beside the bed as Yugi buried his face in his chest sobbing uncontrollably. Yami rocked back and forth gently rubbing Yugi’s back trying to sooth him. Whatever had attacked Yugi had filled him with mind numbing terror.

Yugi slowly calmed down and when he thought he was ready Yami laid him back onto the bed taking his hand firmly in his own.

“Yugi?” Yami asked tentatively.

Yugi turned his head to look at him.

“What happened? What was it?” Yami asked.

Yugi shuddered and turned his head back to look at the ceiling. After a little while he spoke in a quiet voice

“I fell asleep. It was so warm in the throne room, I couldn’t help it”

Yami smiled.

“That’s alright Yugi. It wasn’t the most exciting place to be”

Despite everything Yugi gave Yami a weak smile, and then his eyes darkened.

“I was dreaming, at least I thought it was a dream at first. I was standing in the desert in the middle of a sandstorm when I saw some ruins. Not sure what else to do and decided I should shelter there out of the storm. When I arrived I recognized it, it was Hamet”

He paused.

“Go on”. Yami encouraged. Yugi took a deep breath

“I was sheltering in the entrance to a tunnel when I heard a voice call out my name. I followed the voice down the corridor to a large chamber”

Yugi turned his tearful eyes to Yami.

“It was the same chamber where I...where...I”

“Shush its Ok Yugi. I know the one. The one where you died” Yami said gently understanding Yugi’s fear.

Yugi nodded.

“When I realized where I was I tried to get out but the entrance to the tunnel vanished. Then everything changed and I found myself standing beside the plinth, the one you made for me”.

Yami nodded sadly. He knew the one.

“What happened next Yugi?”

“I...I was afraid and I called out for you to help me, b...but you didn’t come and the voice spoke to me again. Except this time it was different. It told me the time had come”

Yugi paused again and Yami waited knowing Yugi was ready to tell him about his attacker.

“I called out to the voice wanting to know who it was and what it meant. It asked me if I remembered and then the plinth turned into the altar again”

Yugi was trembling again and Yami tightened his grip on his hand reassuringly.

“Something came up behind me and grabbed me by the throat and forced be down onto t...the altar”

Yugi was weeping openly now.

“Yami...” he said in a quiet barely audible voice.

“Yes, Yugi”

“It was Seto”.

Chapter 5 - Gathering

Yami and Ishizu both sat back from Yugi’s bedside in shock.

“Seto, but how is that possible? He’s sealed in the shadow realm. He can’t be free?” Yami said in disbelief.

“I would know if he was free wouldn’t I?” Yami directed his question at Ishizu.

Ishizu nodded. Seeing that they didn’t believe him Yugi started to sit up.

“It was Seto. He’s after me again.” He said desperately.

He had to get them to believe him.

“But Yugi, it’s not possible” Yami said slowly.

“It was Seto” Yugi said more forcefully.

Seeing Yugi was getting upset again Yami decided to change tact.

“Ok, Yugi, I believe you. It just took me by surprise that’s all. Lay down again. You need to sleep.”

Yugi nodded and lay back down on the pillows. Yami gave his hand a tight squeeze and stepped back pulling the curtains around the bed as he did. He walked to the door and opened it. Sure enough Honda and Tea stood outside.

“Is his Highness Ok?” Honda asked Yami as the Pharaoh opened the door

“Yes, he’s resting now. Please watch over him while I talk to Ishizu.”

Honda nodded and walked into the room followed by Tea. Yami checked once more on Yugi who seemed now to have drifted off into a more natural sleep and moved through the adjoining door into his own chambers. Ishizu was waiting for him.

“Is it possible?” he asked immediately desperate to know if his worse fears had come true.

“Could Seto be free from the shadow realm?”

Ishizu shook her head.

“No, I don’t think so. You were right before. If he was free you would know.”

“So, what was it? Who was it that attacked Yugi? Why did it take him to Hamet?”

“I don’t know, but I can feel a new threat approaching.”

She closed her eyes and placed a hand on the millennium necklace around her neck.

“As you know, through the power the millennium necklace I can see into both the past and the future. I can see darkness approaching and echoes of the past coming to pass again.”

Yami sat down with a deep look of concern on his face.

“Why would whoever, whatever it is, attack Yugi? I know he’s the chosen one and we keep telling him he still has a part to play but is that really true. The prophecy was fulfilled. Yugi gave his life to save mine and gave me control of the shadow realm. There is no more to the prophecy.”

Ishizu sat down deep in thought. Her eyes narrowed slightly.

“I don’t know Yami. Something attacked Yugi that’s for certain but I can’t see how it could have been Seto. It could be that whatever it was took the form of Seto in order to terrify Yugi or maybe Yugi put his attacker into Seto’s form and that’s why he can’t tell us much. He could have been more traumatized by his treatment at Seto’s hands than we first thought.”

Yami leaned forward onto the table.

“I suppose you must be right but that doesn’t explain how the presence felt so familiar to me. If it was Seto I could understand it.”

“Maybe you were just feeling the familiar presence because the attacker had taken Seto’s form?” Ishizu suggested.

Yami nodded.

“Makes sense I suppose but still, why did it attack Yugi?”

“It’s possible the attacker was trying out your theory. That by using Yugi the powers of the shadow realm could be transferred.”

A worried look crossed Yami’s face.

“I know I’ve asked you this before Ishizu but is it possible? Can Yugi still be used like that?”

She shook her head.

“No, Yugi’s role ended when he died. The prophecy never took into account that you could revive him but I can see no way that the prophecy could continue. His role was fulfilled whereas yours continues along with the other guardians.”

“Then this is still a mystery.” Yami said exasperated.

“It would seem so. However, being thwarted once the attacker may try again”.

A dangerous look crossed Yami’s face.

“If he does I’ll be ready for him.”

“Be careful Yami. We don’t know as yet know who or what the attacker is or what they are really after. You must be on your guard for both your sakes. I in the meantime will look into the ancient records concerning the millennium items. Maybe there was something I missed in my earlier studies. A section of prophecy or legend.”

Ishizu stood and started towards the door. She turned back to Yami.

“I will be gone for a few days. The records are kept in my home village a day’s ride from here. Whilst I’m gone do not mention any of these events to the other four guardians. When I looked into the future I sensed great danger for both you and for Yugi.” She paused.

“I also felt an overwhelming feeling of betrayal.”

“Surely you don’t suspect one of the guardians?” Yami said shocked.

“I don’t know. I hope not but for now keep this a secret. At least until we know more and that includes telling Yugi. He’s scared enough as it is. There’s no point frightening him further with the knowledge that someone could be after him again”.

=============================================================

Yugi recovered after a few days rest but despite excessive questioning from his friends was not yet comfortable with talking about what had happened to him. He just smiled and said that he was fine.

#Are you sure your fine Yugi?# Yami asked through their link.

##Yes, I just don’t want to talk about it, leave me alone.##

Yugi’s response was harsh and Yami felt a little hurt at the tone. He couldn’t figure out what was going on with Yugi. He had been like it for a few days. One minute he would be his usual cheerful self and then the next he would get angry and snap at people.

The instant Yugi snapped at Yami he regretted it. Yami had only wanted to check he was Ok. He shouldn’t have snapped at him. He was about to apologize but Yami turned his back to him and started to address the assembled group. Yugi felt annoyed at Yami for this.

‘No, why should I apologize to him after all he’s the one who thinks I’ve been lying.’

Yugi sat down angrily in the chair behind Yami.

“My friends, I apologize for not being able to greet you in person on your arrival. I hope you had a safe journey” Yami started.

A murmur of thanks and nods went round the table. Yami continued.

“Good. This is the first gathering of the millennium guardians since the evil priest Seto was sealed in the shadow realm. I hope the time has been spent well. I’m afraid Ishizu will be unable to join us as she is researching something for me and is away from the city. However, I am looking forward to hearing your reports”.

Again nods of agreement went around the table.

“Very well. Pegasus will you start?”

A tall thin man with white, shoulder length hair stood up.

“Incidentally Pegasus, I understand congratulations are in order. I hear you are married now.” Yami said.

Pegasus smiled.

“Yes, Your Highness to a woman named Cecelia. We met several months ago in Upper Egypt where I was helping a town track down a notorious thief and murderer. The thief got the better of me on one occasion and Cecelia nursed me back to health.”

“I take it the thief was caught.”

“Oh, yes he didn’t get away from me a second time.”

With that Pegasus reached into his robes and held up a small glass orb. Inside, a small but bright light glowed.

“His soul” he said with a note of pride in his voice.

Yami leaned a little closer.

“Interesting, you accomplished this with your millennium eye?” he said in wonder.

“Yes, I tracked him down using the item’s mind reading abilities and then when he was cornered I used the power of the shadow realm to lock his soul away. I have his body safe. When he’s learnt his lesson I will reunite them”.

Pegasus finished his report and then one by one each of the guardians gave their own reports in turn. Shadi’s report was brief as most of his time was spent on research and Marik and Bakura gave a joint report as they had been working together. Jou’s report was also fairly basic having spent most of his time in the palace. Once all were done, Yami stood. Yugi looked up in anticipation.

‘Yami’s bound to tell them about the dream I had. I hope they don’t ask me to tell the story again’ Yugi thought.

“My friends thank you for your reports. I’m afraid I have very little to tell you.”

Jou was about to speak but Yami gave him a firm looks so he remained silent.

“Having to spend most of my time in the palace I get very little time to see the rest of my country and its people. I thank you for being my eyes and ears over the last two years. I am hoping that Ishizu will be back shortly so in the meantime please accept my hospitality and remain at the palace for as long as you wish”.

He turned to the door and proceeded to leave signaling that the meeting was over. The other guardians began to rise. Yugi just stood there in disbelief. Why hadn’t Yami told them about his dream? Why hadn’t he told them about Seto? The group filed out of the room and Yugi followed. He was angry, angrier than he had ever been. Common sense told him that Yami probably had his reasons for not telling the others but he wasn’t thinking rationally. Anger clouded his judgment and blind irrational fury flowed through him and all directed at Yami.

Yugi could see Yami up ahead entering the east garden and he followed. He spotted Yami sitting on a bench, eyes closed with his back to a tree. Yugi clenched his fists and approached.

#You’re angry with me, aren’t you.# came Yami’s calm voice in his head.

##You’ve got that right. Why didn’t you tell them?##

#We need more information before we tell people what happened.#

##Why? I’ve told you what happened.##

Yami opened his eyes and looked at the shaking Yugi.

##You don’t believe me do you?##

“No, it’s not that” Yami said out loud.

“YES IT IS” Yugi shouted.

“You don’t believe me. You think I made the Seto part up. You think I’m just some traumatized child who can’t face his demons.”

Yugi was in full flow now finally getting off his chest the issue that had been bothering him over that last few days. Yami gasped as he realized Yugi had heard every word he and Ishizu had said a few days before.

“You were listening.”

“Yes, you didn’t shut the door properly.”

Yami reached out for Yugi but Yugi pulled away.

“Please, Yugi you misunderstood. I didn’t mean it that way.”

“Didn’t you.” Yugi spat.

Tears were now steaming down his face.

“I’m just a burden to you; you never really wanted me here.”

Yami felt like he had been stabbed by Yugi’s words and an intense look of anguish crossed his face.

“No, Yugi please. How could you ever think that? I care about you.”

“Then why didn’t you tell them, if you care about me?”

“Yugi...it’s not that. It’s just...there may be more to this than first appears.”

He wanted so badly to tell Yugi what he feared. The betrayal Ishizu had foreseen was very real as was the danger to both Yugi and himself. Yugi had been through enough. The less he knew about it the better.

“Tell me, then.” Yugi asked.

“I...can’t...I’m sorry Yugi.”

Yugi turned and started to walk out the garden.

“Fine then. See if I care. If you want me I’ll be down in the servant’s quarters where I belong.”

Yugi’s words were shredding Yami’s heart. He leapt up from his seat and started to follow. He had to tell him. Ishizu was wrong, Yugi needed to know.

“Yugi please.” he said as he walked out from under the shelter of the tree.

Yugi heard rather than saw the arrow strike as he turned back towards Yami. Yami staggered and then sank to his knees, the shaft of an arrow buried deep between his shoulder blades.

“Yugi...” he managed to say in a faint voice before slumping forwards into Yugi’s arms.

Chapter 6 – Poison

“YAMI” Yugi cried as Yami fell forward into his arms.

Yugi looked in horror at the arrow buried deep in Yami’s back.

“HELP ME, SOMBODY HELP ME,” he shouted looking desperately around.

He caught a glimpse of a figure with long white hair on the high wall as it dashed out of view.

“PRINCE YUGI”

Yugi gave a sigh of relief at hearing Honda’s voice.

“OVER HERE” he shouted

“PLEASE HURRY”

Honda came dashing into the courtyard closely followed by Jou. They both took in the sight before them and rushed to Yugi’s aid. Yugi was crying openly as he held Yami in his arms.

“Please help him,” he pleaded to Honda.

Honda nodded and quickly lifted Yami into his arms being careful so as not to touch the arrow in his back.

“He’s still breathing,” he said with obvious relief.

“But he’s in a bad way. We have to get him to a healer.”

He rushed past Jou who proceeded to help Yugi and headed in the direction of Yami’s chambers. On arrival they found Mai and Tea just leaving the apartments. Tea placed a hand over her mouth in shock at the sight of the wounded Pharaoh.

“Tea, quickly, we need a healer.” Honda shouted to her.

She nodded and left at a run down the corridor. Mai re-opened the door to allow Honda to carry Yami in. Honda approached the bed and gently laid Yami on his side so as not to aggravate his wound. Yami was still breathing but his face was pale and screwed up in pain and his breathing was laboured. Yugi dashed to the side of the bed and grasped one of Yami’s outstretched hands.

“Hold on Yami, please hold on” he pleaded with his unconscious friend.

At that moment the doors were flung open and Katara, Ishizu’s assistant dashed in.

“Tea said that Pharaoh Yami has been wounded,” she said out of breath

Katara dashed over to the bed at the sight of the stricken Pharaoh. She looked at the arrow protruding from his back and emptied the bag she was carrying onto the bed. She took up a piece of clean white linen and wrapped it around the arrow shaft as close to Yami’s blood soaked back as she could.

“I’m sorry Your Highness but this is going to hurt”. She said as she braced her arm.

Yugi looked up worried.

“What are you going to do?”

“I need to remove the arrow but it may not be an easy job. It depends on how deep it is and whether it’s caught any bone. From the angle I would say it’s missed anything vital but it’s still not going to be pleasant”.

She tightened her grip on the shaft ready to pull. Yami gave a soft moan of pain and realizing Yami was regaining some consciousness Yugi grasped his hand tighter.

“Yami, Katara needs to remove the arrow.”

Yami gave another groan in response and grasped Yugi’s hand back. Yugi nodded, signaling that they were ready. Katara took a deep breath and with one strong pull the arrow slid free. Yami gave a howl of pain as the arrow was pulled free and he took deep breaths as he tried to control the pain. Katara quickly examined the arrow wound and then applied a medicine soaked cloth, which she proceeded to bandage into place.

“It doesn’t look like there is any major damage or internal bleeding but he will need to be watched closely. The soaked cloth should help with the pain and aid in the healing. Whoever fired that arrow was a lousy shot.”

Yugi nodded and with Honda’s help turned Yami onto his back. Yami gave a hiss of pain as he was laid on his back but it looked like the pain killing herbs on the cloth were helping. Yugi gently pulled the covers up around Yami who had begun to shake as shock set in. He again took hold of Yami’s hand. Katara retired to a table across the room and started to mix some herbs and liquids together. Honda came up beside Yugi and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder.

“What happened Yugi?”

Yugi’s eyes changed from concern to guilt and then to sadness as he recalled the events before Yami had been attacked.

“It’s my entire fault Honda. W...we had an argument. I was being childish and storming away when Yami decided to follow me. We had been standing under a tall tree during the argument but as Yami moved out of the shade he was hit by the arrow.”

Yugi looked up at Honda tears streaming down his face.

“Whoever it was must have been waiting in the garden. If I hadn’t been so selfish we would never have argued and Yami would still be Ok.”

Honda knelt down beside Yugi and lifted his chin with a gentle finger and looked deep into his eyes.

“Yugi, that’s enough. It wasn’t your fault. Yami lives with the threat of being attacked every day of his life. If this attacker hadn’t struck now he would have struck at some other time in some other place. The fact that Yami and you had an argument and he followed you has nothing to do with it.”

Yugi hung his head in shame.

“I...I...know. It...It’s just....if he dies, then the last words we would have spoken would have been......” Yugi choked on his sob as he told Honda his real fear and the reason for his guilt.

Honda laid a hand on Yugi’s shoulder and squeezed it reassuringly.

“I understand Yugi really I do but you heard Katara. She says he should make a full recovery and I have to agree with her that whoever shot the arrow was a lousy shot. From that range Yami should have been dead the moment it struck”.

Yugi nodded and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.

“Thanks Honda.”

Katara returned from the table she had been working at, carrying a bowl. She set the bowl down on the table beside the bed and placed a hand on Yami's forehead. Satisfied, she removed the hand and turned to Yugi.

“He’s not running a fever and seems to be in a normal sleep so he should make a full recovery with no ill effects, apart from being a little sore. When he wakes, give him this.”

She indicated to the bowl she had just carried over.

“It will help with the pain and speed up the healing.”

Yugi smiled and nodded his understanding. Katara’s confidence filled him with hope.

“Thank you Katara. Has there been any news from Ishizu since she left?”

She shook her head

“No, but I’m going to send a message to tell her what’s happened and ask her to come back.”

She moved towards the door.

“Call me if there is any change.”

Yugi nodded and gave her a faint smile of thanks as she left the room, before turning his attention back to Yami.

“Will you take some rest yourself Your Highness?” Honda asked looking concerned at the weary Yugi.

“No, I’m fine Honda. I want to stay with Yami”.

Honda signaled his understanding and moved towards the door.

“If you need me I will be right outside,” and with that he left, leaving Yugi alone with Yami in the candle-lit room.

Yugi reached up a hand to brush Yami’s blonde bangs away from his face.

‘Please be all right Yami...please don’t leave me,’ he thought.

=============================================================

A movement underneath him and a low moan disturbed Yugi’s fitful sleep. He opened his eyes sleepily and raised his head. He hadn’t meant to but he had fallen asleep whilst still sitting beside Yami’s bed. Yugi looked over at Yami and panic and shock ran through him at the sight before him. Yami’s eyes were tightly shut in pain he was drenched in sweat and thrashing around and gripping the covers tightly. Yugi leapt out of his chair as Yami gave another pain filled cry. Yugi didn’t waste anytime. He ran across the room and threw open the main door.

“HELP ME,” he shouted down the corridor.

Honda appeared from around the corner at hearing Yugi’s cry, closely followed by Jou who had already been on his way over to see how the Pharaoh was doing. He was tired after being up most of the night with the other guardians trying to identify Yami’s attacker. With the brief description Yugi had given it wasn’t easy. Everyone in the palace seemed to have long white hair. Jou ran towards the Pharaohs chambers as he heard Yugi shout.

“What is it Yugi... What’s happened?” they both asked together.

Yugi was beside himself with worry and struggled to get his instructions and explanation across to Jou and Honda.

“It’s Yami...he’s getting worse not better...fetch Katara...is Ishizu back yet?”

Yugi stood in the doorway wringing his hands. Jou took hold of them quickly.

 “Don’t worry Yug I’ll get her” and with that he left at a run.

“Hurry.” Yugi whispered after him.

=============================================================

Jou returned a few minutes later with Katara who instantly rushed to Yami’s bedside. Yugi and Honda between them had been desperately trying to calm Yami down and restrain him so he wouldn’t hurt himself but Yami was much bigger and stronger than Yugi and his thrashing had become worse.

“Did you give him any of the medicine I made last night?” Katara asked Yugi urgently.

Yugi shook his head.

“No, he never woke up. I...I fell asleep for a short while and when I awoke he was like this”.

Katara quickly pulled a piece of cloth from her bag and dipped it into the liquid.

“Hold him still.” She said in a tone familiar to Ishizu’s when she wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

Yugi, Honda and Jou did their best to keep Yami still as Katara reached over and squeezed a few drops of liquid from the cloth into Yami’s mouth. She then stood back and waited. Slowly Yami’s convulsions lessened and he dropped back down onto the bed breathing and sweating heavily.

“That should help calm him down.” She said as she began to examine Yami.

“What wrong with him?” Yugi asked, a slight hint of fear in his voice as, Katara shook her head.

“I don’t understand. The wound wasn’t deep enough to do any damage and the medicine should have kept out infection...I just don’t understand”.

She turned Yami onto his side with Jou’s help and inspected the bandage around Yami’s torso. She suddenly stopped.

“No...How could I have missed it” she exclaimed.

Katara quickly dashed over the table where the offending arrow lay after being placed there in a hurry the night before. She picked it up and examined it closely then she held it to her nose and sniffed. She quickly held the arrow out at arms length, a look of disgust on her face.

“Poison.” She said as she threw the arrow to the floor.

“I’m sorry Your Highness I should have realized last night. The archer wasn’t a bad shot after all he just didn’t need to make a good shot because the arrow had been dipped in poison. A mere scratch would have been enough.”

Yugi’s face fell in horror.

“P...poison?”

“Can you cure him? Please say you can,” he said desperately.

Katara returned to Yami’s side.

“I don’t know Your Highness. This is beyond me I don’t even know what the poison is. We need Ishizu.”

“Please Katara. You have to try.” Yugi pleaded.

She nodded solemnly.

“I will try but I need to find an answer quickly. The poison appears to be an extremely virulent one. It’s attacking his heart,” she said indicating Yami’s rapid breathing and excessive sweating.

“I don’t know how much longer he can hold out. It may only be a few hours”.

“A...few...hours. Oh Yami please hang on. You have to. I can’t live without you.”

Chapter 7 - The Puzzle

Several strained hours passed by as Katara worked trying to identify the poison slowly killing Yami. Yugi sat beside Yami’s bed and held his hand tightly, rubbing his thumb across the back of his hand trying to coax a response from the weakening Pharaoh. Yami was fighting, but he couldn’t keep it up forever. Yugi laid his head on the bed and let out a quiet sob.

“...Yugi...”

Yugi’s head shot up at the sound of Yami’s feeble voice. Yami’s eyes were slowly opening and he gave Yugi’s hand a weak squeeze.

“Hey Yami,” Yugi said happily.

“How are you feeling?”

Yami squeezed his eyes shut as he struggled for breath.

“Like I’m dying.”

“Yami please don’t say that...you’re not going to die.” Yugi sobbed as he hugged Yami’s hand to his chest. Yami gave him a soft smile.

“Yes I am.”

He paused as he tried to find the breath for his next words.

“Yugi...I want you to promise me something.”

Yugi’s eyes widened as tears flowing freely down his cheeks.

“Anything Yami, just ask”.

Yami took a deep and painful breath.

“Look after my people.”

Yugi’s eyes widened further at Yami’s words, understanding their meaning.

“No, you’re not giving up Yami.”

Yugi leapt from his chair dropping Yami’s hand and grabbed his shoulders, shaking him.

“Yami, your not leaving me...do you hear me Yami...your not leaving me alone...I need you.”

Yugi let go of Yami’s shoulders and collapsed weeping onto his chest. He felt an arm on his back and looked up into Yami’s pain filled eyes.

“I’m sorry Yugi...I’m so tired...so very tired...please promise me you will look after my people.”

“I don’t want to loose you Yami...I don’t want to be Pharaoh.”

“I know Yugi...I don’t want to go...but you have responsibilities now.”

Yami brushed away Yugi’s tears with his thumb.

“You will make a good Pharaoh Yugi. Promise me.”

Noting the urgency in Yami’s voice Yugi choked back a sob.

“I promise.”

Yami sighed.

“Thank you Yugi.”

Yami’s hand slipped back down onto the bed and his eyes slowly began to close.

“Yami...Yami...no please, please don’t leave me.” Yugi sobbed.

“I love you Yugi” Yami’s said quietly as his eyes slid completely closed and he slipped back into unconsciousness, his breathing becoming more labored than before.

Yugi knew the final moments were near and he sat there helpless and shaking, watching his dying friend.

“I love you to Yami,” he whispered as he watched Yami’s breathing begin to slow.

Suddenly the door was thrown open and Katara rushed in closely followed by Jou, Honda and then Ishizu.

“Ishizu.” Yugi cried in relief as she rushed to the side of the bed looking in shock at the dying Pharaoh.

“Please help him...there isn’t much time left.” Yugi begged.

She hurriedly picked up the arrow sniffing it like Katara had done.

“Vesanium!” She exclaimed.

“No wonder you couldn’t find a cure Katara there isn’t one.”

Yugi turned his face to the floor in defeat. He had been sure Ishizu could save Yami.

“Then there’s nothing we can do?” he whispered.

Ishizu shook her head.

“No, not through the use of medicine but we may be able through the use of magic.”

She hurriedly reached for the millennium puzzle, which had been placed on the table beside Yami. She picked it up and turned to Yugi.

“Do you remember the puzzle’s special power, the one to heal?”

Yugi nodded.

“Yes, Yami used it to revive me.”

“We may be able to use that power to save Yami.”

“But how? Only Yami can use the puzzle.”

“Not so. As the chosen one there is a chance that the puzzle may allow you to use its power, but I must warn you there may be a risk to you.”

Yugi leapt from his chair his face filled with new hope.

“I don’t care. I’ll risk anything to save Yami.”

Ishizu nodded and handed Yugi the puzzle.

Yugi lifted the item in his hands awkwardly. He had never touched the real puzzle before only the replica Yami had given him.

“What do I do?” he asked.

“You need to apply your strength though the puzzle and then through it to Yami.”

Yugi nodded trying to understand Ishizu’s meaning. He closed his eyes and focused his strength towards the puzzle. At the same time he reached out to Yami with his mind hoping that although not actually wearing the puzzle Yami would be able to hear him. At first he got no response and he began to panic. Time was running out. Desperately he pushed a little harder and was relieved when he felt the puzzle grow warm in his hands. He also felt Yami’s mind and shuddered at the pain he was feeling.

“It’s working Yugi. Now slowly touch Yami with the puzzle.”

Yugi opened his eyes at Ishizu’s voice and took a step forward with the glowing puzzle and placed it on Yami’s chest. Almost at once he felt the puzzle transfer the strength he had passed to it to Yami. Yami gasped and arched his back off the bed as the power flowed through him. Yugi stood there holding the puzzle firmly to Yami’s chest as a greenish vapour began to rise from Yami’s mouth. The puzzle was expelling the poison from Yami’s body. The vapour hung in the air for a short time and then faded away. Yami collapsed back onto the bed breathing heavily but more regularly.

“It worked.” Ishizu cried in elation.

“You did it Yugi....”

She stopped as she saw Yugi. He was standing stock still holding the puzzle close to him.

“Yugi.” She said again concerned.

Yugi looked down at the puzzle not hearing Ishizu. The puzzle was still glowing in his hands and to Yugi’s horror he could still feel the puzzle reaching out to him.

‘What’s happening? What does it want?’ he thought in confusion.

He felt the coils of the puzzles power slowly wrap around him trying to draw him into it, trying to absorb him.

‘Oh Ra.’ He cried out in his mind.

‘Its wants me.’

=============================================================

Seeing Yugi transfixed by the puzzle and sensing the boy’s fear Ishizu leapt forward and pulled the puzzle out of the entranced Yugi’s hands. Yugi staggered as the puzzle was removed and shook his head.

“Wh...What happened?” he asked.

Ishizu placed the puzzle back down on the table away from Yugi and approached the dazed youth.

“I’m sorry Yugi, I should have warned you that might happen. You see you were not the one destined to use the puzzle and it was curious about you.”

She said these words calmly so as not to frighten the boy but her eyes told a different story. Yugi saw the look.

“It...It was trying to draw me into itself. Absorb me.”

Ishizu placed her hands on Yugi’s shoulders.

“It was just over curious. It wouldn’t have hurt you.”

“I guess so.” Yugi answered.

Ishizu’s explanation made sense but the look in her eyes still concerned him. However, before he had a chance to raise the question his attention was drawn back to the bed where Yami had broken into a coughing fit. Yugi dashed to his side.

“Yami,” he asked urgently.

Yami slowly opened his eyes and after a brief moment he smiled at Yugi.

“Hey,” he said in a horse voice.

“How are you feeling?” Yugi asked.

“Like I’m alive, which, going on the fact I was dying a few minutes ago shouldn’t be possible?”

Yugi smiled in relief at the jovial note in Yami’s voice.

“You were. Don’t you ever scare me like that again?”

Yami smiled again and reached up his hand to Yugi’s face.

“I’ll try not to.”

Yami tried to sit up but Yugi gently pushed him back down.

“Oh, no you don’t. You are going to rest.” Yugi said with a ‘don’t argue with me’ look on his face.

“Yes, mother.” Yami sighed. He turned to Ishizu.

“How comes I’m still here Ishizu? I thought I was dead for sure.”

She smiled at Yami.

“You nearly were. Yugi managed to drive the poison out of your body using the power of the millennium puzzle”.

Yami glanced over at Yugi.

“You used the puzzle, how?”

“I don’t know Ishizu said that as the chosen one I might be able to use the power of the puzzle even though I wasn’t the one destined to use it. You’re alive so it must have worked.”

Yami noticed the slight change in Yugi’s voice and the fearful look in his eyes as he talked about the puzzle.

“Is something wrong Yugi? Did the puzzle hurt you?”

Yugi shook his head.

“No, it just got a little curious about me that’s all.”

The look in Ishizu’s eyes still concerned him but he had decided to accept her explanation for now.

“Good.”

“Right that’s enough you two,” came Ishizu’s crisp voice.

“You,” she said pointing at Yami.

“Need a thorough check up and then rest.”

She then pointed to Yugi.

“And you need sleep. You haven’t slept for nearly two days.”

Not having the strength to argue Yugi nodded. Before leaving for his adjoining chambers he gave Yami a hug.

“I’m glad you’re Ok Yami, I was so worried.”

Yami tightened the embrace.

“Everything’s going to be fine now, thanks to you.”

Yugi pulled away from the embrace smiling warmly.

“Call me if you need anything.”

“I will thank you.”

Yugi gave Yami one last smile and left. He took the few short steps to own his door and entered his apartments unaware that a tall man with white hair watched him from the shadows.

‘So little Yugi, you found a way to save your precious Pharaoh, but at what cost I wonder. It matters little. I will not fail next time. Next time Yami won’t be so lucky and you my little friend will be his undoing.’

The figure detached itself from the shadows and began to move towards Yugi’s door.

Chapter 9 - Ransom

Yami stirred in his sleep and sat up with a start at hearing Yugi’s cry in his head

“YUGI,” he shouted.

Ishizu pulled back the curtains around the bed.

“What now? Yami you’re supposed to be resting.”

She stopped her scolding as she noticed the panicked look in Yami’s eyes.

“Ishizu, its Yugi, he called out with our mind link. He really is in trouble this time. Something terrible has happened I can feel it”.

Ishizu didn’t stop to question Yami. She left the room at a run and skidded to a halt outside Yugi’s room. The doors to Yugi’s chambers were open and the bed was empty, the covers in disarray, evidence of a struggle.

“Yugi,” she called out desperately but there was no answer.

She ran back out into the corridor.

“HONDA,” she shouted.

Honda appeared from around the corner where he had been talking to Tea.

“Ishizu what is it?”

“Have you seen Yugi?” she asked quickly.

Honda shook his head.

“No, he’s in his room.”

Seeing the frantic look on Ishizu’s face Honda began to realise something was wrong.

“What is it? What’s happened?” he asked concerned.

“Yugi’s missing.” Ishizu said her voice filled with worry.

Honda dashed forwards at Ishizu’s news.

“What, how, when?” he exclaimed.

“Just now. One minute he was there, the next he was gone. Have you seen anyone else come through here?”

Honda thought back to the last few minutes.

“No, no one suspicious. Only Bakura. He passed by a few minutes ago heading to the washing well to have his travel clothes cleaned.”

Suddenly everything dropped into place for Ishizu.

“Was he carrying a sack?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact he was.” Honda answered.

“Big enough to put a small boy in?”

“Y...Yes...s.” Honda said slowly as realization dawned on him to.

Ishizu’s expression grew grim.

“Alert the palace guard Honda we have been betrayed. We must find Yugi before Bakura can get him out of the palace.”

Honda didn’t wait to be told twice he was off down the corridor as fast as he could go. Ishizu mentally slapped herself as she returned to Yami. The presence Yami had felt in Yugi’s chambers had been real. He had felt the presence of a millennium guardian, Bakura. How Bakura had hid the presence of the ring she didn’t know but it had given him the opportunity to kidnap Yugi. She entered Yam’s chambers and approached him sadly as she prepared to give him the news. There was no need. Yami spoke first.

“He’s been taken hasn’t he,” Yami said quietly.

Ishizu nodded solemnly.

“I’m sorry Yami. Bakura has betrayed us. The palace guard has been alerted. Don’t worry we will find him”.

Yami had a serious and stern expression on his face as he swung his legs out of bed again. Only his eyes showed the pain and turmoil he was feeling.

“I’ve tried to call out to him with my mind but he’s not responding. Either the replica puzzle has been taken away, he’s unconscious or he’s....”

“He’s not dead Yami. If Bakura wanted him dead he wouldn’t have bothered taking him. No he wants Yugi for something”.

Yami turned his pain filled eyes to Ishizu.

“He’s going to try and use Yugi to gain control of the shadow realm from me. Just like Seto tried to do.”

Ishizu shook her head.

“I don’t think so Yami. I knew you were concerned about this so before I came back I managed to carry out some more research and I’m convinced it can’t be done again. Once the power was transferred to you the only way to transfer it away would be to....” She paused realizing what she was about to say.

Yami closed his eyes.

“So, he wants me dead and having failed once himself he’s now using Yugi to get to me.”

Ishizu took a step forwards.

“We will find him Yami. I won’t let any harm come to Yugi.”

Yami raised his eyes to Isuzu’s and she took in the look of determination that showed there.

“Neither will I. If it’s me Bakura wants then its me he will have.”

=============================================================

Against Ishizu’s wishes, Yami had left his bed and now sat in the main throne room. Several hours had passed since Yugi’s abduction and Yami’s once youthful face was etched and strained with worry. He turned his head quickly to the door as a disheveled guard rushed in. The guard bowed respectfully to Yami.

“My Pharaoh we have finished our search of the palace but have found no trace of Prince Yugi or the thief Bakura”.

Yami sighed.

“Have you searched the underground tunnels yet?”

“Not yet Your Highness but now our search of the palace is complete we will move into the tunnel system.”

Yami leant wearily onto his arms wrapped up in own thoughts and worries as he listened to the guards report. The tunnels stretched for miles disappearing under the city and possibly right out into the desert itself. Time was running out. If they didn’t find Bakura soon he would have to large a head start to catch.

Your Highness.”

Yami’s attention was pulled back from his thoughts as he realized the guard was still standing there.

“Yes, is there something more?”

The guard stepped forward and handed a piece of parchment to Yami.

“This note was found in Bakura’s room.”

Yami quickly took the offered note from the guard. He ripped open the seal and began to read.

My dear Pharaoh,

No doubts by now you have discovered I have taken the little runt you call your cousin and have your guards combing the palace looking for me. I’m sure you also realize that it’s not Yugi I’m after but yourself. I’m prepared to trade, you for him. Meet me at the Yakai canyon at sunrise tomorrow. I will allow you one companion, another of the guardians, but not the pup Jou or the woman. That leaves you with a choice of three unless you would like to pick myself. You are not to be followed.

If you do not comply with my instructions I will kill the boy.

Bakura

Yami screwed the note in his fist in fury as he finished reading Bakura’s words.

“What does he want?” Jou asked cautiously

“He wants to trade, me for Yugi.”

“What! The creep. You’re not going to consider it, are you?” Jou exclaimed.

Yami lowered his head so that his bangs fell down the side of his face covering it in shadow.

“Yes, if I don’t, he will kill Yugi.” Yami said in a quiet sad voice.

“But he will kill you.” Jou said in shock.

“I know.”

Jou leapt in front of Yami his fists clenched by his side.

“In that case were coming with you.”

Yami shook his head sadly.

“You can’t. He will only allow me one companion. Shadi, Pegasus or Marik, anyone else or if I am followed he will kill Yugi.”

Jou hung his head in defeat. He wanted to help but he wouldn’t risk his best friend’s life.

“Who will you take?” he said finally.

“Marik. Pegasus is a good man but perhaps a little over zealous in his use of his millennium eye. He might make a mistake that will endanger Yugi and Shadi is better suited to research than fighting. Marik is more down to earth and the mind control powers of his millennium rod may be useful.”

Yami looked down at the puzzle around his neck.

“As will the puzzle.”

“When does he want to do the exchange?” Jou asked.

Sunrise tomorrow at the Yakai canyon.”

Chapter 10 - Traitor

There was a sombre atmosphere in the courtyard as Yami, Marik and their friends approached the stables. Before mounting his horse Yami turned to the others as they gathered round. He went over the plan one last time.

“If all goes well both of us will return with Yugi before sundown. If we can’t get Yugi away together I will give myself to Bakura in exchange for Yugi.”

“Yami...please reconsider” Ishizu sobbed.

Yami held up his hand to stop any further protest. They had been through this already and his mind was made up.

“No Ishizu, Yugi has saved my life on countless occasions and I owe it to him to do anything I can to save his. If it means sacrificing myself in exchange, I will.”

Yami looked sadly at the group of people around him.

“Please, my friends pray to the gods that we may all return safely.”

Yami mounted the horse held for him by Danota and bent down to take the offered reins. He was slightly surprised when Danota spoke to him.

“Y...Your Highness.” Danota stuttered.

“Yes.”

“Please save Prince Yugi and come back safe.”

Despite everything Yami gave Danota a warm smile and clasped him on the shoulder.

“I intend to Danota.”

With that he swung his horse around and closely followed by Marik galloped out of the palace gates.

=============================================================

It was still dark as they made their way across the desert. The canyon was only a few hours ride from the city and they had plenty of time before sunrise. Yami’s mind raced as they galloped. He was determined to save Yugi no matter what, even if it meant giving his own life in exchange. However, Ishizu’s warning was still fresh in his mind. If Bakura did kill him the powers of the shadow realm would transfer to Bakura. This thought worried Yami greatly. Not only did he have a responsibility to Yugi but also he had a responsibility to his people and perhaps the whole world. The dilemma he was faced with was not an easy one to solve. He ran over the plan Marik and he had formed prior to their leaving. The ultimate plan was to get Yugi away from Bakura and for all three of them to escape. Yami would keep Bakura distracted whilst Marik used his millennium rod to take control of Bakura’s mind. It wouldn’t be easy, Bakura would be expecting it but if Yami could distract him long enough Marik should be successful. Yami glanced over to his quiet companion. He knew very little about Marik apart from the fact that he had spent a lot of time with Bakura. He wondered how the news of Bakura’s betrayal had affected him. Marik had been eager to help when Yami had asked for his company and seemed thirsty for revenge against his former friend. Yami was sure he could trust him. He would often see him talking with Ishizu and he was sure Ishizu wouldn’t trust and confide in someone she suspected of being untrustworthy. These acquaintances with Ishizu made Yami think of him as a dependable and loyal friend. He glanced back at the desert in front of him. The ground ahead of them was becoming darker as they approached the canyon and soon they were at its edge looking down into the dark depths.

“Knowing Bakura he will want to meet at the bottom of the canyon.” Marik said as they dismounted.

Yami nodded in agreement.

“You’re right. Are you ready?”

Marik nodded and together they began to make their way down a rocky path to the canyon floor.

Unbeknown to them two riders approached from behind. They stopped keeping a fair distance between themselves and the edge of the cannon so as not to be spotted.

=============================================================

Seeing the two distant figures vanish out of sight as they entered the canyon Jou breathed a sigh of relief.

“I thought they would spot us for sure. Yami’s is going to be mad when he finds out we disobeyed him and followed” he said as he shielded his face from the flying sand.

“No more than Ishizu will be if Yami gets himself killed,” came Honda’s reply.

“Are you sure were not going to endanger Yugi by following?” Jou asked concerned.

“Not if we stay far enough away so as not to be seen. We just need to be close enough to help if we are needed.”

Jou nodded and kicked his horse into a slow walk towards the canyon’s edge.

=============================================================

Yami and Marik made their way cautiously down the rocky path to the canyon floor. Yami took the lead and slowly advanced into the canyon drawing his sword as he did. Marik did the same behind him. The sun was now beginning to rise and they squinted, partially blinded as the new light of day crept its way along the canyon walls. Suddenly Yami stopped.

“What is it?” Marik asked.

“Bakura, I can feel the presence of the millennium ring.”

“THAT’S FAR ENOUGH” came a voice echoing from a rocky outcrop in front of them.

“BAKURA YOU TRAITOR. COME OUT AND FACE ME.” Yami shouted his own voice echoing around the rocks.

“Now, now Pharaoh, that’s not very nice,” came Bakura’s voice a little louder and clearer as he appeared from behind a boulder.

“You’re a coward Bakura. Where’s Yugi?” Yami shouted again.

Bakura’s face turned into a snarl.

“Be careful with the insults Pharaoh or I might decide to take my displeasure out on your young friend here.”

Bakura reached behind the boulder and dragged a bound and gagged Yugi into view.

“YUGI.” Yami cried.

“If you’ve hurt him in any way thief I’ll...”

“You’ll what. Remember Yami one false move and I will kill the little runt.”

To emphasize his point he drew a knife from his belt and pressed its sharp edge against Yugi’s throat. Yugi whimpered through his gag.

“NO.” Yami cried out and took a pace forward.

“Stay where you are Pharaoh or I’ll cut his throat.” Bakura said menacingly.

Yami stopped in his tracks. Bakura smiled an evil smile.

“Good, now throw down your swords.”

Yami looked at Yugi and their eyes locked for a moment. Yugi’s eyes were silently begging Yami not to follow Bakura’s instructions and Yami hesitated for a moment but there was no alternative. Yugi was in too much danger and Yami had no doubts that Bakura would carry out his threat and kill Yugi without a moments thought. With apology in his eyes Yami flung his sword to the floor. Marik did the same. With them both disarmed Bakura withdrew the knife from Yugi’s throat and threw the young boy to his knees. Yugi cried out in pain through his gag as his knees hit the hard stony ground. Yami cried out again and made another move forward.

“I said stay where you are Pharaoh. One step closer and I will snap his neck.”

Yami stood with a look of resignation on his face.

“It’s me you want Bakura. Let Yugi go and I will come quietly.”

Yugi started to make protesting noises as Yami offered to take his place. Bakura noticed Yugi’s distress.

“I think our young friend here has something to say.”

He reached for the knife again. Yugi tried to move away from Bakura fearing the worst but Bakura held him fast. However, Instead of the expected the attack Bakura cut Yugi’s gag free. Yugi instantly shouted out to Yami.

“Yami no, he’ll kill you. Get out of here.”

Yami shook his head.

“I’m sorry Yugi but I must. He will set you free then.”

“Actually, I lied about that part.”

Yami’s head shot up to look at Bakura again.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m afraid I can’t free runt. I have plans for you both.”

At that Bakura threw open his robe to reveal the millennium ring around his neck. Yami’s eyes narrowed dangerously.

“I see. You want to duel.” Yami said recognizing Bakura’s gesture.

Yami started to laugh.

“Your a fool Bakura, how in Ra’s name do you expect to win against the power of two millennium items.”

Bakura started to laugh in turn.

“The more pressing question is Yami, how do you?”

At that instant Yami knew something was wrong. He spun round to face Marik. Marik had retrieved his sword from the ground and now stood holding it raised, ready to strike and smiling wickedly. Bakura’s voice continued behind him.

“A good thief always has someone watch his back.”

Realizing it was a trap Yami spun back round towards Bakura ready to run but before he could a sharp and heavy object collided with the back of his head and he fell limp and unconscious to the floor. Yugi cried out as Marik hit Yami with the Millennium rod and watched in horror as Yami fell to the floor. He didn’t get much of a chance to react though as the back of Bakura’s hand struck the side of his face and he was thrown back against the boulder. He too slumped unconscious to the floor.

“Well that was too easy.” Marik said as he gave the unconscious Yami a harsh kick.

“Trusting fool.”

“Now Marik, stop playing with our toys.” Bakura chided his counterpart.

Marik gave Bakura an evil smile.

“Let’s get these t....”

Bakura stopped in mid sentence as the ring around his neck began to glow.

“It would appear we have visitors. The Pharaoh was followed.”

“Do we kill the boy?” Marik asked eagerly.

“No I think our employer may be a little upset if we did. He has great plans for little Yugi. Yugi is going to play a vital part in the Pharaoh’s destruction and I’m sure our employer wouldn’t want him to miss it. Take care of our pests but be sure not to harm them too much, they may be useful.”

Marik’s eyes glinted cruelly in the light of the newly risen sun.

Chapter 11 – Facing Death

As Yami slowly came to, the first thing he became aware of was the cold, hard ground he was laying on. The second was the missing weight of the millennium puzzle around his neck. Slowly he pushed himself into a sitting position and looked around at his surroundings. He was lying at the bottom of a deep pit. Yami looked up. The top of the pit was open but the smooth steep sides meant there was no way he could climb up and escape. Above the pit was a low roof with a small opening letting in light. Yami groaned as he tried to move. His head throbbed painfully from where Marik had hit him and his body ached all over from where he supposed he had been dropped into the pit whilst unconscious. He tentatively reached behind his head and touched the place where the rod had made contact. He winced.

‘Damn! He hit me hard. How long have I been out?’ Yami thought.

He slowly, with the help of the wall, pulled himself into a standing position.

‘Where’s Yugi?” he thought frantically.

“YUGI,” he called out hoping the boy was somewhere close but there was no reply.

#YUGI# he called out again, this time using his mind but the absence of the puzzle made this form of communication impossible.

Suddenly there was the sound of movement above and Yami held his breath in anticipation. Marik appeared at the edge of the pit and looked down at Yami with amused eyes.

“I’m afraid Prince Yugi can’t be with us right now. Can I help?” he asked sarcastically.

“Marik, you traitor.” Yami snarled.

“Where is he? If you’ve hurt him I swear I’ll...”

Marik started to laugh.

“You’ll what, pull faces at me. If you haven’t noticed yet Pharaoh you’re not really in a position to make demands. You don’t have the millennium puzzle anymore and without it you’re too weak to call forth any aid from the shadow realm.”

Yami snarled in frustration he hated to admit it but Marik was right.

“Where is he?” Yami repeated.

Marik wagged his finger from side to side in a mocking gesture.

“Patience, patience Pharaoh. Bakura is getting him ready for our little finale”.

A cold smile of utter delight crossed Marik’s face and he chuckled.

“I must admit Bakura has surpassed himself this time. He has an exquisite death lined up for you Yami and your little friend as well as some other acquaintances of yours have a key role to play.”

“What do you mean?” Yami asked suddenly feeling afraid.

“I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise. You have until dawn.”

With that Marik vanished from the edge of the pit.

“MARIK.” Yami shouted after him but if Marik was still there he got no reply.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dawn came too quickly for Yami. He wasn’t afraid to die. He’d lived with death all his life. It was for Yugi he feared. When they were finished with him what would be Yugi’s fate? Yami sat at the bottom of the pit and watched as the new light of dawn crept its way down the walls. He stood at hearing a sound above him. Whatever was to be his fate he would face it bravely. Marik appeared at the top of the pit again.

“Ready?” he said as he threw down a rope ladder for Yami to climb up.

Yami took a deep breath and started to climb. As he reached the top he was roughly grabbed and hauled the rest of the way. He struggled against the sudden contact as his hands were tied behind his back but stopped as he caught a look at his assailant’s faces.

“Jou?” he exclaimed.

He looked to the face of the other.

“Honda?”

Instantly he knew something was wrong. These were not the friends he knew. They wore blank expressions and showed him no recognition at all.

“What have you done to them Marik?” he snarled.

Marik chucked and held up the millennium rod.

“We found these two trailing a little way behind you. The human mind is so easy to manipulate. They were no challenge at all.”

Marik had Jou’s millennium scales tucked in his belt.

“Let them go Marik. They’ve done nothing to you”.

“Free my toys? Oh I don’t think so Yami, besides its so much fun watching your own friends take you to your execution and besides they fit in beautifully with Bakura’s show.”

“What do you mean?” Yami asked slowly.

“Why spoil the surprise.” Marik laughed.

Marik turned his back to Yami and beckoned to his two servants who tightened their grip on Yami’s arms and pulled him forwards. In his current condition Yami didn’t have the strength to try and break free.

It seemed like forever as they followed Marik along a long dark corridor. Despite his weariness Yami stood tall. Whatever was coming he would be ready for it. They finally entered a dimly lit chamber. Marik moved away to the side and Jou and Honda let go of Yami’s tied arms but stayed close.

“Welcome Yami.” Bakura’s voice echoed out of the darkness.

“Are you ready to face death Yami?”

“Go to hell Bakura.” Yami said defiantly.

“Probably” came Bakura’s droll reply behind him.

Yami hadn’t heard him approach and the blow from behind took him by surprise. Yami fell to his knees.

“Where’s Yugi?” he said through clenched teeth.

“Not far, you will see him soon enough. He has a fairly major part to play in our show”.

A hand grabbed hold of Yami’s hair and yanked his head backwards. Yami glared defiantly up at Bakura.

“Why are you doing this Bakura? What is it you want?”

Bakura gave Yami a savage smile and tightened his grip. Yami winched.

“You mean besides you dead. I want power Yami what else.”

“You’ve already got power Bakura, the millennium ring. What more do you want?”

“It’s not enough. I want all the items.”

Yami couldn’t help a small smile at this.

“And just how do you intend to get them? Do you think Ishizu and the others will just hand them over to you? Besides you know I’m the only one who can use them.”

Bakura drew near to Yami’s face.

“So you say but it doesn’t matter how I’m going to get them or how I’m going to use them. The fact is once your gone there will be no one to stop me and besides I’m going to have help”.

Yami laughed at Bakura’s statement.

“You mean Marik? I suspect he’s after the same thing you are which means he will turn on you just as quickly as he turned on me”.

Bakura gave Marik the briefest of cautious glances before whispering in Yami’s ear.

“He might try but that’s all he will do, try”.

Tired of the conversation Bakura pulled away and forced Yami to turn and face a dark corner of the chamber. Yami could just make out the shadow of something tall standing there.

“Now enough with this banter shall I show you what I have in store for you Yami?” Bakura said in a delighted voice.

At these words Marik began to move around the chamber lighting torches as he went. As more light lit up the room the shadow was revealed as a tall, rectangular object, covered with black cloth.

“Ready?” Bakura asked as Marik reached up and pulled the cloth free.

Yami’s heart skipped a beat at the sight of the contraption before him. The main structure was a large rectangular frame of wood. In front of the frame stood a wide board about the height of a man with hinges at its base and onto the board were fixed three hinged metal hoops, one to secure the ankles and two to either side of the body to hold the wrists. It was obvious that the board could then be lowed flat. Yami’s eyes finally took in the large straight edged blade fixed into the frame and suspended by a thick rope. Yami’s eyes traced the course of the rope to a windlass and lever. The position of the board once it was lowered would place the neck of the unfortunate creature bound to it into the path of the blade.

“Ingenious isn’t it”, Bakura whispered in Yami’s ear.

“I call it the mystical guillotine. What do you think? Catchy?”

Yami answered by spitting into Bakura’s face.

“Like I said before Bakura GO TO HELL.”

The harsh blow Yami received from Bakura knocked him to the floor.

“Before we commence the show I have one more person I want you to meet Yami.” Bakura said in an angry voice as he wiped the spit from his face with the back of his hand.

Yami was pulled back to his knees by Jou and forced to turn and look back at the open doorway. In the half dark Yami could just make out the figure of a young boy with spiky hair.

“Yugi” he said uncertainly.

The boy who stepped out of the shadows was not Yugi. He had long dark hair and deep blue eyes. Yami instantly recognised him as the boy Yugi had described as Yami’s attacker two years ago. It was Seto’s brother.

“Mokuba,” he exclaimed.

However, the look Mokuba gave him was not that of a child. Mokuba’s face cracked into a hideous smile and his eyes began to glow a crimson red. The voice that came forth from his lips was one Yami recognised all to well.

“Welcome Yami, I’ve been waiting for you.”

“Seto.” Yami gasped.

“The one and only.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“How did you escape the shadow realm?” Yami said recovering from the shock of hearing his greatest enemies’ voice coming from the form of his brother.

“I haven’t.” Seto spat.

“Then how?” Yami asked confused.

“I have Mokuba to thank for our current conversation. Ever since you sealed me in the shadow realm Mokuba has been attempting to free me. After all, I am his beloved brother.”

Seto’s words were filled with venom as he spoke of his brother.

“After many attempts and a little encouragement from my associates here he finally managed to break through to me. At first I tried to leave through the portal he had created but it was not large or powerful enough for me to use. It was then that I realized Mokuba could come and go as he pleased so I took over his body with my mind”.

“You’ve possessed your own brother.” Yami said in shock and disgust.

The Seto controlled Mokuba took a step towards Yami his eyes glowing fiercely with hate.

“Thanks to you I’m forced to live this miserable form of existence. My body and part of my mind are still trapped in the shadow realm but thanks to Mokuba I’m able to gain a little freedom.”

“Where’s Mokuba’s mind?” Yami asked still shocked by the actions of his enemy.

“Still in here.” Seto said as he tapped Mokuba’s finger to his head.

“But he can’t break free, not whilst I’ve got him under control and that’s the way it’s going to remain until I get my body back. The ironic thing is Mokuba wasn’t the one I had intended to possess”.

Realization dawned on Yami.

“It was you that attacked Yugi. He was right. You tried to posses him so you could break free.”

Seto took another step towards Yami. He was now less than meters away. Seto’s movement was lightening fast as he grasped Yami around the throat. His grip was much stronger than that of the small boy he possessed should’ve been. Yami gasped as Seto tightened his grip.

“Yes, but you interfered again, didn’t you Yami? You stopped me yet again from claiming my prize.”

“And you will be stopped again Seto. If not by me then by others loyal to me.” Yami managed to gasp as Seto tightened his grip still further.

Suddenly Seto let go and Yami collapsed back down onto his heels coughing.

“Oh but I will Yami. You see I’ve discovered a way to open a portal to the shadow realm large enough for me to use. I intend to gather as many of the millennium items together as possible and use their power to open the portal”.

“It’s still not going to work Seto.” Yami said in triumph.

“Despite Bakura’s illusions only I can control all the items”.

“Ah, now that’s where you’re wrong Yami. There is another.”

Seto stepped aside and gestured to a figure behind him to step forward. There was no mistake this time.

“YUGI.” Yami cried out.

He tried to stand but was held in place by Jou and Honda. Yugi didn’t respond to Yami. He just returned Yami’s look with the same vacant expression worn by Jou and Honda. Seto chuckled.

“Ironic isn’t it that the one who will bring about the destruction of the world is the one who saved it in the first place. And I have you to thank for it Yami. Yugi should have died in accordance with the prophecy but you revived him. With his revival a new chapter to the prophecy was opened. Yugi is now the only other person beside yourself capable of wielding all seven millennium items. However, unlike you, they will eventually destroy him. You see the prophecy has become twisted and a new and darker side has been brought forth. If Yugi uses any of the items they will slowly absorb his life force. The life force he should have given to them when he died. He was never meant to survive beyond the completion of his task. He should have died and that would have been the end of the story but a new chapter is now open and I intend to write it”.

Seto turned back to Yami with a look of delight on his face.

“Shall we get on with the show now that our guest of honor has arrived?”

Yami had no time to react as Jou and Honda dragged him to his feet and pulled him over to the upright board of the guillotine. Yami started to struggle trying desperately to break free but froze at Seto’s next words.

“Remember Yami, I only need Yugi alive which doesn’t mean I can’t have fun with him first.”

Yami ceased his struggling at the sight of the knife that had appeared in Seto’s hand.

“That’s better. Bind him” Seto commanded to his two slaves.

The ropes around Yami’s wrists were untied and strong hands pulled his arms out to either side and closed the cold metal bands around his wrists pinning them in place. Yami didn’t resist. How could he? He would put Yugi in danger. Jou finished closing the band around Yami’s ankles and joined Honda at the side of the guillotine. Seto approached Yami.

“Are you ready to die Yami?”

Yami gave Seto a defiant look but said nothing. Seto smiled and looked triumphant at his enemy’s response.

“Defiant to the end I see Yami. Oh by the way, I haven’t introduced you to your executioner.”

He beckoned to Yugi who approached.

“NO, leave him out of it Seto.” Yami cried out realizing Seto’s plan.

“Ah, now that got your attention.” Seto said in delight at his enemy’s distress.

“Please Seto, I beg you. Leave him out of it.” Yami pleaded.

Seto didn’t say anything as Yugi moved himself into position by the lever that released the blade. Yami was desperate now.

“Don’t you want the pleasure of killing me yourself.” he baited Seto.

“Nice try Yami but I will have even more pleasure in watching Yugi realize what’s he’s done when Marik releases him from his control. I might even give him your head as a trophy. Then I’m going to use him to free myself from the shadow realm. Don’t worry; it won’t be long before he joins you in the land of the dead.”

Yami’s stomach churned.

“You’re sick,” he finally said.

Marik clapped his hands together and Jou and Honda moved to either side of board and lowed it into position. Yami stared up at the blade as it hovered above his neck. He then turned his head to the side to look up at Yugi.

“Please Yugi you have to wake up. Don’t you recognize me?”

Yugi glanced down at the sound of a voice and looked into Yami’s fearful eyes. For a brief moment Yugi’s controlled mind recognized the prone figure before him. However, the recognition was gone as soon as it had come and he lifted his head back up and took the lever in his small hand ready to release the blade.

#Yugi.# Yami called out with his mind.

Yugi was still wearing the replica puzzle around his neck but Yami had no idea where the real puzzle was or even if he could use the mind link without it. Yugi’s hand tightened on the lever.

#YUGI# Yami shouted as loud as he could with his mind in one last desperate attempt to get through.

For a brief moment he felt Yugi’s mind respond. Yugi blinked and looked down again at Yami and moved his hand away from the lever. Yami saw the recognition in Yugi’s eyes but his moment of triumph was short lived as Marik stepped forward raising the millennium rod. Yami was thrown out of Yugi’s mind with such force that he cried out in pain. He looked up at Yugi through a haze of pain and saw another brief look of recognition in Yugi’s eyes but his hope was soon crushed at Yugi once more reached for the lever. Seeing there was nothing more he could do Yami resigned himself to his fate. He turned his head away from Yugi as a single tear rolled down his pale cheek.

#I’m sorry Yugi. I’ve failed you; please forgive me#, were his final words as Yugi slowly pulled the lever.

Yami squeezed his eyes shut as the blade began to fall.

Well here’s the next chapter. Sorry I had to leave you in suspense for a few days I didn’t get a chance to post before I went away for the weekend and this chapter needed a little bit of work on it. Hope it’s up to standard.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chapter 12 – Release

As Yami’s final words echoed in his mind Yugi at last knew who he was. At the same moment that Marik ordered his mind controlled slave to release the guillotine blade and kill his friend Yugi wrenched himself free of Marik’s control and quickly pulled the leaver back, stopping the descent of the blade inches from Yami’s neck.

Now free and realizing he had to move fast Yugi turned and dived off the platform towards Marik. Marik, realizing that Yugi was no longer under his control, raised the rod to re-establish the connection but was too slow. Yugi collided heavily with him, knocking him to the floor. In his surprise Marik dropped the millennium rod. Seto gave an inhuman snarl as he realized what was happening and leapt towards the guillotine. He was thrown back by a blast of energy.

“Who dares?” he spat as he climbed back to his feet and spun around to face the direction of the blast.

His eyes settled on a figure standing in the centre of the chamber.

“You!” he shouted in fury.

Yugi stood holding the now glowing millennium rod out in front of him. The tip aimed at Seto’s chest and his once gentle violet eyes narrowed in grim determination and concentration as he fuelled the rods power with his own hate.

“One step closer Seto and I will destroy you.” Yugi said in firm voice.

“Only by destroying yourself in the process.” Seto snarled.

“If that’s what it takes.”

Yugi tightened his grip on the rod. The Seto controlled form of Mokuba looked at Yugi then at Yami inches from death. He took in the distance between himself and the blade release leaver and knew he was too far away. If Yugi carried out his threat he would never make it. Seto gave a howl of frustration and then turned and dived at Yugi, knocking him to the floor. Yugi cried out as he rolled in the dust. Bakura, enraged at the recent turn of events and at being denied his entertainment turned to the still controlled forms of Jou and Honda.

“Kill him.” He screamed and pointed towards Yugi.

As Honda and Jou approached, Yugi scrambled as fast as he could across the chamber floor desperate to retrieve the millennium rod that had flown out of his hand. Jou was nearly upon him when he finally grasped hold of the rod. Instantly it began to glow. Still lying on the floor Yugi rolled over to bring the rod round in front of him.

“I’m sorry Jou”, he said as he fired a bolt of energy towards his friend.

Jou was thrown to the floor by the blast. Yugi quickly got to his feet and turned to do the same to Honda but not fast enough as Honda’s powerful hands clasped around his throat. Yugi gasped for breath as Honda slowly squeezed and lifted him off the floor. Honda’s grip tightened still and his vision began to blur. Suddenly there was a dull thud and the pressure around his throat lifted. Yugi dropped to the floor shaking and gasping for breath. As his vision cleared he saw Jou sitting on top of Honda trying to hold him down.

“Quickly Yug blast him.” Jou shouted.

Realizing that the blast from the millennium rod had freed Jou Yugi brought the rod round to bear on Honda. The blast struck Honda just as he broke free from Jou off, hitting him in the chest. Honda fell backwards and after a short moment he sat up rubbing his head.

“Where am I?” He exclaimed.

Yugi gave a sigh of relief. Both his friends were back to normal. Seeing his slaves released Bakura decided to make a run for it. Seto had already fled and Marik was starting to raise himself groggily from the floor. Not stopping to help Marik he made a run for the door. Jou saw Bakura go and started to give chase.

“Jou stop. Leave him.” Honda shouted.

“But I can catch him.” Jou protested.

Honda shook his head.

“I doubt it, I suspect Bakura, being the rat that he is, knows those tunnels very well. You will just end up getting lost.”

Jou signed, Honda was right. He knew it. He just wanted revenge for the humiliation he had suffered and the hurt he had been forced to inflict upon his friends. It was then that he caught sight of Marik rising unsteadily to his feet.

“What about him? Can I have him?” Jou indicted Marik to Honda.

“Yeah, now him you can have.” Honda replied with a wicked smile.

“Thanks.”

Jou picked up a large rock and approached the dazed Marik. Marik realised a little to late that Jou was in front of him and had no time to react before Jou brought the rock down hard on his head, knocking him unconscious to the floor again.

“Nice.” Honda said in approval.

“Thanks.” Jou smiled as he retrieved his millennium item from Marik’s belt.

“Guys, please you have to help me with Yami.” Yugi cried as he ran over to the guillotine.

Honda and Jou rushed to his aid and together they worked to free Yami. They worked quickly, the rope had been stretching under the weight of the blade and it now hovered only millimeters from Yami’s throat, a thin line of blood showed where it had rested against his skin. Yami had given in to unconsciousness. Honda took hold of the rope holding the blade and began to pull it away whilst Jou released the metal bands holding Yami in place. As the blade was lifted free and Yami was released Yugi dragged him out of danger. Suddenly there was a loud snap and the blade came crashing down. Yugi breathed a sigh of relief the rope had snapped, a few moments more and the same could have happen whilst Yami had been under the blade.

Yugi knelt beside his friend. He slipped an arm around Yami’s shoulders and lifted him halfway off the floor into his arms. He hugged him tightly. Relief that Yami was safe flooded through him. A few moments more and Yami would have died.

“Yami,” he called softly brushing Yami’s bangs away from his face.

“Yami, please wake up. You’re safe now.”

At hearing Yugi’s voice Yami began to stir. Finally his eyes fluttered open and he looked up into Yugi’s deep violet eyes.

“Hey.” Yugi said gently so as not to startle him.

Yami had a slightly glazed look in his eyes as he raised a shaky hand to Yugi’s face.

“No, we can’t both be dead. I’ve failed you,” Yami said in a sad hopeless voice.

Large crystal tears began to fall from Yami’s eyes. Yugi shook him, shocked at Yami’s words.

“No, you’re not dead Yami. You’re alive, I’m alive”.

Yami continued to give him a dazed expression.

“No I have to be dead, the blade fell,” he said in the same quiet, sad, echoing voice of someone who had given up, having nothing left to fight for.

Yami’s condition was worrying Yugi and he shook Yami again. Yami’s mind was deep in shock he didn’t seem to know what was going on or where he was. He thought he was dead.

“I stopped the blade, you’re not dead. Yami please, you have to snap out of it.”

Realizing it wasn’t working Yugi started to panic. Then an idea came to him. He gently placed his fingers to the still bleeding wound on Yami neck and held up the blood-covered fingers so Yami could see.

“Look Yami, blood. The dead don’t bleed.”

Yami took Yugi’s hand in his own and looked at the blooded fingers closely. Slowly Yugi could see coherence return to Yami’s eyes. Yami suddenly sat up.

“Blood,” he said in a child like voice. Then realizing whose hand he held he turned to Yugi.

“You’re hurt,” he said quickly, a tone of realization returning to his voice as he looked at Yugi checking for sign of injury.

Yugi shook his head.

“No, I’m fine it’s yours.” Yugi corrected and indicated to Yami’s neck.

Yami reached up and gingerly felt the deep cut. He then looked over to where the blade was now imbedded into the wood of the board.

“That was close,” he said quietly.

Yugi turned Yami round to face him.

“Are you Ok Yami?” he asked concerned. Yami turned once more to look at the blade and shuddered.

“I am now, thanks to you.”

Yami turned back to Yugi.

“Where are Seto, Bakura and Marik?” He asked hurriedly. Suddenly remembering how he had come to be there.

“Seto and Bakura have fled and Marik, well he’s a little out of it at the moment.”

Yugi pointed to the collapsed figure of Marik.

“What happened to him?” Yami asked

“Jou hit him with a rock.”

Yami smiled.

“What a good idea, but Jou.”

“Yes Yami.”

“Next time use a bigger one.”

They all burst out laughing at Yami’s serious tone.

“There’s nothing wrong with your sense of humor Your Highness.” Honda chuckled.

Yami’s brow furrowed but a slight smile played at the corner of his mouth.

“What do you mean sense of humor? I was being serious,” he exclaimed.

Yugi shook his head and smiled as he stood up.

“Come on let’s get out of here.”

Honda helped Yami to his feet whilst Jou picked up and slung the prone figure of Marik over his shoulders. Yugi went to pick up the millennium rod once again but paused, his hand outstretched. Just like the puzzle he could hear it calling out to him. In the heat of the fight he hadn’t noticed it but its song was quite clear now, it was hypnotic. He was suddenly aware that Yami had pulled free from Honda and was bending down beside him. Yugi gave a slight shake of his head to clear his senses. Yami picked up the rod and gave Yugi a worried sideways look. Yugi saw the look but said nothing.

“I think these needs to be put in a safe place don’t you?” Yami said.

Again Yugi said nothing. Yami stood shakily and pushed the rod into his belt. Despite his sense of humor Yami was extremely shaky and weak after his rough treatment at the hands of Marik and Bakura and he began to sway with the effort of standing. Seeing his Pharaoh in need of help Honda quickly moved to his side and without a word slipped an arm around Yami’s waist for support. Yami’s gave Honda a grateful look and together they moved toward the chamber exit. Yami stopped at the entrance to the corridor and glanced back over his shoulder at the guillotine.

“Jou, could you do something about that thing. I don’t think it should just be left like that.”

“Not a problem You Highness” Jou answered understanding Yami’s meaning.

He casually dropped Marik to the floor, turned around and walked back towards the chamber and the guillotine.

“Thank you Jou.” Yami said gratefully

Leaving Jou behind they began to make their way forwards into the darkness. It wasn’t long before the once dark corridor lit up with the yellow and orange glow of flames flickering behind them. A short while later Jou rejoined them carrying Marik once again, a grim expression on his face.

“Good riddance” he said as the group made their way back out into the daylight.

Chapter 13 - Brother

They emerged from the underground tunnels at the far end of the tunnel. It was already well into the day. Honda went in search of the horses and returned ten minutes later leading four.

“I knew Bakura was too mean to let them loose.”

Honda helped Yami into the saddle and then moved on to help Yugi.

“Here Your Highness,” he said as he lifted Yugi onto the back of one of the horses.

“Thanks, Honda. I suppose you could call our recent exploits one of those ‘high–risk situations’ you keep talking about.” Yugi joked.

Honda smiled a sad smile in response.

“I think this definitely counts as one.”

“Not my fault though this time, right.”

A look of grief and distress came over Honda’s face.

“No, but it is mine. Some bodyguard I turned out to be.”

Yugi was mortified by Honda’s words.

“Honda please, I was only joking,” he said hurriedly.

“Maybe, but if I had been standing on guard as I should have been and not talking to Tea I would have seen Bakura entering your room, or even stopped him. I was only round the corner for Ra’s sake I should have noticed something was wrong.” Honda berated himself.

“Honda please...” Yugi started to plead with his friend when Yami inturrupted in.

“He’s right you know.”

Yugi turned to Yami.

“What do you mean, he’s right?”

Yami shrugged.

“He should have been there. I appointed him as your protector and he failed in his duty. He will be removed from the position when we return to the palace”

Honda’s face fell, devastated by Yami’s words and he looked ashamedly at the floor. Jou made a move to protest but Yami held out a hand to stop him. Yugi had a look of complete shock on his face at Yami’s words but Jou could see a slight glint in the Pharaoh’s eye and remained silent. Yami was up to something.

“Shall we go?” Yami said as he spurred his horse forward.

There was an uneasy pause before Yugi spoke.

“No”

Yami turned his horse around.

“Sorry?”

Yugi was sitting upright in his saddle, arms crossed over his chest and a fierce look of determination in his eyes.

“I said no. Honda will not be removed from my service.” He said stubbornly.

Oh, and why is that?” Yami asked carefully.

“Because he’s only human. We all make mistakes. Its not Honda’s fault I was kidnapped. If it’s anyone’s its mine. I’m the one whose always blasé about my safety. I should have paid more attention to your warning and called for Honda when I wasn’t sure. Instead I just brushed it aside. I’m to blame. I’m the one who almost got you killed Yami. Honda is a good man and will remain as my protector.”

The official and firm tone of Yugi’s voice took everyone including himself by surprise. Except for Yami. A sly smile slowly crept across his face.

“See. I told you that you would make a good Pharaoh Yugi.”

Yugi opened his mouth but wasn’t quite sure what to say. He had the distinct feeling that he had just been tricked into something. Yami turned to Honda.

“Yugi is right, you are a good man Honda and we do all make mistakes, myself included believe it or not. If Yugi wants you to remain in his service then you shall stay. That is if you wish to remain in the position.”

Honda didn’t need to be asked again. He had failed his master once he was not going to fail him again.

“I do”.

Satisfied with the outcome Yami straightened in his saddle.

“Good, shall we be getting home? I think I’m long overdue a few days in bed.”

With that he turned his horse and began the steep climb up the rocky path and out of the canyon. The others followed close behind. After an hour or so of riding, Jou pulled his horse in beside Yami’s.

“That was very clever Your Highness.” He said looking across at the Pharaoh.

Yami shrugged and gave Jou an innocent look.

“I don’t know what you mean Jou.”

“Yes you do. Back there you managed to stop Honda feeling depressed after failing to protect Yugi and at the same time you managed to get Yugi to finally accept his position and responsibilities. All in all not a bad days work.”

“It was rather good wasn’t it,” Yami smiled mischievously.

Jou couldn’t help but laugh at Yami’s lack of modesty.

“You do realise that Honda won’t let Yugi out of his sight now, not even for a second.” Jou continued.

Yami just smiled again and Jou shook his head.

“You’re a devious man Yami.”

“Only when I have to be Jou.” Yami laughed.

Jou noticed that despite Yami’s jovial appearance he was leaning heavily on his saddle for support.

“Are you alright Yami?” he asked concerned.

Yami nodded.

“Yes...just a little tired. I’ve had a busy few days. I’ve nearly died twice, Yugi was kidnapped and on top of that two of the seven guardians have betrayed us. Plus it’s not over yet.”

Yami turned wearily to look back at Honda and to the body of the unconscious Marik draped over his saddle.

“You mean Seto.”

“Yes, even though he’s not really free or regained any of his powers yet it will only be a matter of time. He now has Bakura’s millennium ring and my millennium puzzle. With those two items alone he may be able to open a portal big enough to use and escape back into this world, especially with the puzzle’s power. After all it has the power to control the others.”

“But if Seto is right only Yugi and yourself can wield the puzzle.”

Yami scratched his head thoughtfully.

“Maybe, but I will feel happier after I speak to Ishizu”.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The rest of journey passed by quietly and soon they were approaching the gates of the city. Yami was having a feeling of déjà vu. Once before, two years ago, they had made a similar journey. That, along with other recent events, was beginning to make Yami feel like they had done all this before, like they were going round in circles. He would raise his theory with Ishizu when they arrived. If indeed the events of the past were repeating themselves then it would end as it had before. Someone would be trapped in the shadow realm and someone would die, a thought that Yami was not particularly comfortable with.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They had just entered the city through the main gates when disaster struck. Unbeknown to Honda Marik had begun to regain consciousness and he was not pleased to find himself draped in an undignified fashion over the saddle of a moving horse. Before Honda knew what was happening Marik twisted and shoved him in the stomach. The sudden attack took Honda by surprise and the blow threw him from his horse. The others turned round at his cry to see Marik slipping from the horse and disappearing through the crowd at lightening speed. His hands had been securely tied but not his feet. Marik was making good use of that fact. Jou cursed and spun his horse round to give chase but the number of people in the busy street prevented him from making fast progress. He quickly jumped down from his horse and whilst keeping the back of the fast disappearing Marik in view tried to follow. However, the crowds of people were too thick and being smaller and lighter Marik found it easy to slip through. Jou soon lost slight of him. He stood in the crowd looking round and shoving roughly past people but it was no use. Marik had escaped. He returned reluctantly to the others cursing under his breath. Yugi wasn’t even sure Jou should know, let alone understand some of the words he was using. Obviously Jou had been spending too much time in the guard’s quarters and had developed a wide vocabulary. Jou helped Honda to his feet.

“Sorry,” he said simply not looking at Yugi or Yami.

“Its Ok Jou. You would think he had wings for feet the rate he sped off. I told you, you should have used a bigger rock.”

Yami tried to lighten the mood with a joke but he struggled to hide the disappointment in his voice. He knew Jou and Honda would be angry with themselves for losing their captive even though it wasn’t their fault. The once good mood was very much dampened they continued towards the palace

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They were greeted with euphoria when they returned. Questions were hastily asked and answers were given where possible as they dismounted and made their way into the palace. Ishizu already knew of Bakura’s betrayal but unlike what Yami would have expected the fact that Seto had returned by possessing his brother did not surprise her. However, the news that Marik had betrayed them had her stopping dead in her tracks.

“Ishizu, is everything alright?” Yami asked concerned.

Ishizu was pale and trembling violently. Afraid she was about to collapse Yami moved forward.

“Ishizu?” he said again more urgently.

“Marik betrayed us.” she side in a quiet, hoarse voice.

“Yes, he’s in league with Bakura and Seto.” Yami repeated.

“No, he can’t be?” She said shaking her head in denial.

“Ishizu what’s the matter? I know you two were close but...” Yami concern was increasing.

“Close.” Ishizu exclaimed suddenly.

“We are more than close Yami, he’s my brother.”

At Ishizu’s announcement everyone turned and looked at her in shock.

Your...brother?” Yami repeated. Dumfounded by her announcement.

“We didn’t know. Why didn’t you tell us this before?”

“Because he was to take my place should anything happen to me. We kept our relationship secret in order to protect the millennium secrets.”

She gave Yami a wide-eyed fearful look.

“Yami, he knows everything, about the millennium items about the guardians...about the shadow realm.”

Yami finally understood Ishizu’s fear. Their greatest enemy now had a willing source of information concerning the millennium items at his disposal. They were now in a race against time.

Chapter 14 – Echoes

Yami paced his room. It was the middle of the night and he knew he should be resting but he couldn’t sleep. So much had happened in last few days that sleep was a luxury he could ill afford. They had to stay one step ahead of Seto. Try to guess his next move. However, despite Yami’s determination he was at a loss as to what to do. His strength was returning slowly but without the millennium puzzle he was as good as powerless. He stopped his pacing at the sound of a faint knock on his door. Yugi pushed the door open and peered in.

“I thought you might still be up. Can I come in?” he asked.

Despite everything Yami smiled at his cousin.

“Of course, you know you never have to ask.”

He beckoned for Yugi to enter. Yugi returned the smile as he slipped through the door and pushed it shut behind him.

“You should be resting.” Yugi scolded as he approached.

“You know Ishizu will have your hide if she knows your still up.”

“Then we had better not tell her.” Yami said as he sat down wearily on the bed.

Yugi sat down beside him and looked awkwardly at the floor.

“Is something wrong Yugi?” Yami asked concerned.

Yugi continued to look at the floor as he answered.

“No. Well maybe. I’m not sure.” came Yugi’s confusing reply.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Yami said as he moved further onto the bed so he could lean against the pillows.

He indicated for Yugi too join him.

“Want to talk about it?”

Yugi nodded and settled on the bed beside Yami.

“Yami do you remember how I used the millennium puzzle to save you after you were poisoned?“

Yami nodded.

“Do you remember I told you the puzzle was curious about me?”

Yami nodded again.

“Yes, you said it was nothing to worry about.”

Yugi glanced to the side and absently wrung.

“I lied.” He said quietly.

Yami sat a little straighter on the bed and half turned towards Yugi.

“I see. What really happened?”

Yugi took a deep breath before answering. He’d wanted to tell Yami this for a while.

“After I used the puzzle to heal you I tried to put it down but it wouldn’t let me. I couldn’t break the connection I had made with it. It felt like it was trying to absorb me into itself and I think it would have succeeded if Ishizu hadn’t taken the puzzle away and broken the connection. I asked Ishizu about it. She just said it was because the puzzle was curious about me but I knew at the time it was something more than that.”

“And now?” Yami asked a slight edge of worry to his voice.

Yugi took another deep breath to calm his rising nerves as he recalled the next event.

“After our encounter with Seto I think I might have been right. Even though Marik was controlling me I could still hear and understand everything that was going on around me. I heard Seto tell you that I was the only one, apart from yourself, who could control the puzzle and the other millennium items. That was the reason I used the millennium rod to free Jou and Honda from Marik’s control. I somehow knew I could do it.”

Yami leaned a little further forward and laid his hand over Yugi’s.

“So what’s bothering you?”

Yugi looked up into Yami’s eyes and Yami was startled at the slight flicker behind Yugi’s eyes and the familiar feeling of the millennium items power.

“Yami, I can still feel the millennium rod’s power in me, and the puzzles. It’s like they both left part of themselves behind when I used them”.

Again there was a slight flicker in Yugi’s eyes, this time one of fear.

“Yami they’re calling out to me. I can hear the rod calling out to me right now.”

Yami knew Yugi could not possibly know where the millennium rod was hidden. He had hidden it himself for safe keeping on their return to the palace and no one had been around at the time. Curious, Yami decided to test Yugi.

“Do you know where it is now”? he asked.

Yugi nodded.

“Yes, I can feel its power, its close”.

“Show me.” Yami asked simply.

Without a word Yugi slipped off the bed and walked with confidence towards the far wall of the chamber. Without hesitation he reached up towards a carving of a bird on the wall, one of many, and pulled its wing down. As the wing was pulled down there was a faint click and a stone panel slid open in the wall. Lying on a silk cushion in the centre of the hidden alcove behind the panel was the millennium rod. Yugi reached in to take hold of the rod but was stopped as Yami grabbed hold of his wrist.

“Don’t touch it Yugi.”

Yugi looked at the rod.

“It won’t hurt me.”

Yami look was grave as he spoke.

“Maybe, but I’m not going to take that risk.”

He pulled the bird’s wing and the panel slid closed. Yami knelt down in front of Yugi and laid both hand on Yugi’s shoulders as he look into Yugi’s eyes once more. There was no way Yugi could have known where the rod was hidden what he said had to be true. He had developed a link with the millennium items he had touched.

“Can you feel the millennium puzzle?” Yami asked.

Yugi answered with a nod.

“Where is it Yugi?”

Yugi took hold of Yami’s hand and pulled him toward the balcony. Once there he pointed out across the desert towards a small rocky outcrop in the distance, just visible against the horizon. They stood there for a little while looking out into the desert. On hearing a small sniff Yami turned towards Yugi.

“Yugi?”

Yugi didn’t answer. He had turned away from Yami and his blonde bangs had slid forward to hide his face. Yami gently turned Yugi round to face him. He was not surprised to see silent tears pouring down Yugi’s face. Yugi snatched his face away again.

“Yugi...what’s the matter?” Yami asked gently.

Yugi didn’t answer.

“Yugi....” Yami started to say again when he was interrupted by Yugi’s quiet voice.

“Its happening again isn’t?” He said in a heart wrenching voice.

Yami didn’t know what to say but he knew what Yugi was referring to.

“It’s not going to be like last time Yugi,” he said confidently.

“How can you say that?” Yugi half shouted letting the fear he was feeling come through as anger.

“Seto’s back. He’s after the power of the millennium items again. He kidnapped me again. How can you say it’s not the same as last time?” Yugi was almost hysterical now.

“He’s going to break free from the shadow realm. He’s going to try and finish what he started last time. He...he’s going to come after me again and...and.” He stopped, unable to finish the sentence.

“It would...It would have been better if you had left me dead,” he sobbed.

At this Yami grabbed hold of Yugi’s shoulders and shook him hard.

“YUGI, look at me.”

Yugi quietened but refused to look at him

“Look at me.” Yami, said again more firmly.

Yugi turned and the look of hopelessness in his face nearly broke Yami’s heart.

“Don’t ever say that Yugi. You deserve to live, just like the rest of us. Listen, I know things seem hopeless. I know things would seem to be happening again and I’m going to hate myself for saying this. There may be some truth in what Seto said back in the cave, but Yugi there are differences. If indeed the prophecy is still working but has been altered in someway then we will find a way to either fulfil or alter it again. It won’t be the same as before.”

Yami lifted Yugi’s chin with his finger and looked at him with serious eyes.

“You’re not going to die again.”

Yugi continued to look at Yami then raised his own hand to touch the now healing but still visible cut on Yami’s neck.

“But you might.” he said in a quiet voice.

Yami smiled and shook his head.

“I don’t think so Yugi. It will take a lot to get rid of me and Seto knows it. That’s why he’s been using others to get to me. He can’t confront me direct and Yugi...”

Yami wiped away Yugi’s tears with his thumb.

“...when he does, I, will be the victor.”

Yugi sniffed again and wiped his face with the sleeve of his tunic.

“Promise.”

Yami drew Yugi into a tight hug.

“I promise.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They stayed on the balcony for a while before Yami lifted a half sleeping Yugi into his arms and carried back into the room. Yami laid Yugi gently on the bed and smiled as he snuggled contentedly into the soft covers and fell into a deep sleep. Yami stepped back and drew the curtains around the bed. He then moved back to the balcony. A cool wind ruffling his hair and robes as he looked out across the quiet city and desert, leaning heavily on the balcony deep in thought.

‘So much has happened in the last few days but it seems like its finally coming to a head. I know where the millennium puzzle and Seto are now. It’s just a matter of time,‘ he thought.

He sighed time was something that weighed heavily on his mind. He hadn’t lied to Yugi. He would make sure that things didn’t happen the way they had two years ago. He would not let Yugi die and if it came to it he would sacrifice his own life in exchange. He had made that decision a long time ago. However, the feeling that they were going around in circles concerned him. He hadn’t lied to Yugi about that either. There were differences this time. Yami began to tick the events off in his mind. It had all started with the purchase of a slave except this time it had been two slaves, Tea and Danota and Yugi had been the one doing the purchasing not Yami. The next event had been the poison except two years ago it had been a snake biting Yugi and this time an arrow striking Yami. The similarities continued. There had been a kidnapping and on both occasions it had been Yugi but the difference this time being that Seto had kidnapped Yugi in order to kill Yami not the other way around as it had been two years ago. He carried the scars of the next, his near execution. Two years ago he had mistakenly ordered Yugi’s execution by beheading, thinking he had attempted to assassinate him. Recent events had seen him nearly suffer a similar fate except this time at the hands of the mind controlled Yugi. Yami shook his head. These similarities were not a coincidence and the thought of what might happen next filled him with dread. Two years ago Yugi had died and Yami had sealed Seto in the shadow realm. If his theory were correct the same would happen again.

Yami clenched his fists. He would not allow Yugi to die again. He had suffered enough and if Yami had his way the person to be sealed in the shadow realm would once again be Seto, except this time for good.

Yami moved back into the room, his mood grim. Yes, he knew what he had to do and he had to act fast. He moved back to Yugi’s now peacefully sleeping form. He loved his cousin more than anything else in the world. Yugi had changed his life. Yami had never really had friends or a family before Yugi had arrived, he had given him so much. He smiled down at the almost child like form in front of him. Yugi still didn’t look his age of seventeen. He thought of his cousin’s selfless nature. Yugi only cared for others, never worrying about his own needs. He would willingly give his life if he thought it would save someone. Yami recalled the time when Yugi had kept his whereabouts a secret in favour or giving up a fugitive Jou, even at the cost of being arrested and facing the death penalty for his alleged crime. Yami knew what he had to do. His mind was made up Yugi would not be the sacrifice this time.

‘I know something is different this time the way the millennium items behave towards Yugi concerns me. If what Seto said is true, that they could destroy Yugi, then I must either retrieve the items or destroy them.’ Yami thought as he turned away from the bed and moved towards the door.

‘Nothing will ever hurt you again Yugi. I promised you that, two years ago. I broke that promise once I won’t break it again.’ Yami thought as he silently slipped out of the room so as not to disturb Yugi and closed the door quietly behind him.

Chapter 15 – Past Tragedy

Yami knocked quietly at Ishizu’s door but wasn’t surprised when the door was swung open immediately. Ishizu stood in the doorway.

“I’ve been expecting you,” she said touching her millennium necklace and gestured for him to enter.

Yami followed her into the room and sat down in a tall chair beside her desk. The desk was overflowing with yellowed manuscripts written in a long forgotten language. Yami noticed that several of them bore the symbol of the millennium eye.

“You should be in bed,” Ishizu scolded as she sat down in a chair opposite. However, her statement was said more out of habit than any real annoyance at Yami being up and about.

“So should you.” Yami responded.

Ishizu looked tired and drawn. The events of the last few days had been particularly hard on her. She had taken the betrayal of her brother, Marik badly.

“I guess we should both know better,” she said with a weary chuckle.

Yami nodded and indicated to the pile of papers on the desk.

“Any luck?” he asked.

He knew Ishizu had upped her efforts in searching for an answer to their recent problems. Desperately looking through the old manuscripts she had brought back after her brief trip home. Trying to find some way to stop Seto, some way to defeat him once and for all. She shook her head.

“No, nothing. I’ve found a few references to the millennium items and a strange second power that some of them posses.”

“Second powers? What does that mean?” Yami asked suddenly interested.

Ishizu shrugged.

“I don’t know. If I understand the writings correctly these extra powers are some kind of failsafe. They can be activated should the original powers of the items be used for a purpose other than that which they were intended for but that’s it. There is very little in the way of details.”

Yami sighed.

“It’s looking a bit hopeless isn’t it,” he said in a desolate voice.

Ishizu leaned back in her chair and tapped the fingers of her clasped hands against her lips in thought.

“Maybe, but I’m not giving up just yet. There must be some way of defeating Seto.”

She paused for a little while.

“I have to admit I’m worried. The more time we spend searching for answers the more time Seto has to free himself from the shadow realm. It would help if we knew where he plans to open the portal.”

“I know where he is.” Yami said quietly.

Ishizu leaned forward.

“You do? How?”

“Yugi told me.”

Ishizu didn’t say anything. She just closed her eyes and looked down at the floor. At that moment Yami knew Ishizu had been keeping something from him. He sat up quickly.

“You knew didn’t you? You knew Yugi had been effected by the millennium items he had touched?”

Ishizu stayed silent.

“Ishizu, answer me.” Yami said angrily.

Ishizu sighed heavily. She had been keeping things from Yami. She had thought it best at the time but now, after recent events, she wasn’t sure that had been such a good idea. She lifted her face to Yami.

“No, I didn’t know. Not until you told me just now but I feared it would happen.”

“How do you mean? Explain.” Yami demanded.

Ishizu looked at Yami seriously. Yes it was time to tell him. She should never have kept it from him in the first place. She took a deep breath and began to tell him everything

“After you came back from the desert Yami you told me of what Seto had said concerning the altered prophecy. I did some more research and looked further back into the old manuscripts trying to find a reference to a time when this may have happened before. I don’t know if you‘ve noticed but it feels like time is repeating its self, like were stuck in a loop.”

Yami nodded.

“It’s one of the reasons I came to see you tonight.”

He quickly began to reel off his list of repeated events. Ishizu nodded in agreement when he had finished.

“You’re right except for one thing. This is not the first time this has happened. Yami you are not the first bearer of the millennium puzzle, there have been others. Many prophecies and many evils faced and destroyed. Several hundred years ago a similar event as that taking place now occurred. The then bearer fought as you did to seal away an evil that threatened the world. The difference this time being that he did not just seal the evil away he changed it, bound it in the form of a monster, before sealing it away in the shadow realm. The form he chose was that of a blue and white dragon.”

Yami eyes widened in surprise at this.

“The Blue Eyes White Dragon. The monster Seto called forth in our duel at Hamet?”

Ishizu nodded again.

“Yes, but I don’t know how he did it. Seto always had some shadow powers, it went with his role as high priest but he was unskilled. Without the aid of a millennium item Seto should never have been able to call forth that particular monster. I don’t think Seto summoned it I think is decided to appear on its own.”

“This is not filling me with confidence Ishizu.” Yami said sarcastically.

She signed again. The worst was yet to come.

“There’s more. The chosen one back then was also a close friend of the bearer, just as you and Yugi are. There has always been a special bond between the bearer and the chosen one. The bearer of this time also used the powers of the millennium puzzle to revive his friend after he died to fulfil the prophecy.”

“So are you saying that the prophecy was altered in this time as well as our own? What Seto said is true?” Yami asked intrigued but with a slight feeling of uneasiness. If Seto had been right about that then how much more of what he had said was true.

“Yes.” Ishizu replied.

Yami knitted his brow in confusion as he tried to make sense of what Ishizu was telling him.

“So what has all this to do with Yugi?” he asked.

Ishizu took a deep breath before continuing.

“The chosen one, as is happening now with Yugi, developed a connection with the millennium items. It started out with just the puzzle and then other items followed. The more items the chosen one touched the more powerful the connection became. To everyone’s surprise he was able to use the items in the same way the bearer could and could sense their presence whether they were close by or far away. They called out to him.”

Yami glanced up at this. The items had ‘called out’. It was just like Yugi had described. He began to listen more intently.

“The guardians and bearer of the time were concerned that the chosen one should have such an ability. However, before a further investigation could be carried out the evil that had been sealed in the shadow realm found a way to escape.”

“This is sounding awfully familiar Ishizu.”

“I know but the worst is yet to come. The bearer and chosen one worked together to fight the evil and seal it away once more but tragedy struck when the bearer was defeated in a duel. In order to save his friend the chosen one combined the power of the millennium items to seal the evil away in the shadow realm for good.”

“This doesn’t sound so bad but I can see a ’but’ coming.” Yami said gravely.

Ishizu stood up from her chair and moved towards the desk.

“The chosen once was never destined to wield the power of the millennium items that task, according to the original prophecy, was for the bearer alone. The altered prophecy that allowed the chosen one to use the power had a deadly twist. The chosen one was possessed by the millennium items, by a consciousness no one had known existed. The items took control of the chosen ones mind and body.”

Ishizu reached for a scroll, which had been placed to one side of the desk

“The items were created to keep a balance between good and evil. The manuscripts talk of bringing together pieces of a puzzle when the items are used together, the creation of a single consciousness and purpose. When the bearer combines the power, the consciousness is controlled and contained. However, when combined in the wrong hands this is no longer the case. Rather than controlling the items the items control them. I once used the word ‘curious’ to Yugi when I described what happened after he used the puzzle. It was this curiousness that nearly brought about the destruction of the very world the items had been created to protect. The seven millennium guardians exist for a purpose Yami, to keep the items separate and prevent them from combining into the evil force they could become. They cannot exist on their own, they must have a living being to work through, the chosen one, he is the only one. If the chosen one dies as he should the chain is broken and these events can never come to pass.”

She began to unroll the scroll in her hand for Yami to see.

“The bearer had no choice. In order to save the world from the very items created to save it he had to destroy the chosen one. He had to destroy his friend and reassert the balance.”

Yami turned away feeling sick at the drawing on the scroll in front of him.

“He did that....Ra...I can’t believe it.....he did that to his friend.”

Yami normally had a strong stomach but he took deep breaths to help the feeling of nausea he was feeling. The drawing had been very graphic as to what the bearer of the time had done to his friend. Ishizu sat back down, the scroll still in her hand.

“We must keep Yugi away from the other items. He has already come into contact with the puzzle and the rod. He must not touch any of the other remaining items.”

Yami passed a shaky hand in front of his eyes as Ishizu continued.

“Yami, If Yugi comes into contact with any more items you may have to destroy him.”

Yami’s head shot up at this His eyes wide in shock at the coldness of Ishizu’s tone as she made the terrible statement.

“NEVER.” he shouted.

Ishizu’s looked at the horror and despair in Yami’s eyes. When she next spoke it was in a much gentler voice.

“You must. If the items possess Yugi he will destroy the world. Yami you have a responsibility, as bearer of the millennium puzzle, to safeguard the world from evil just as your ancestors have done before you.”

Yami stood.

“Where are you going?” Ishizu asked quickly. Fearful of what Yami would do now he knew the truth.

“To stop Seto. I understand my responsibilities Ishizu. I always have but I will not, cannot hurt Yugi. There is only one choice left. I know where Seto is attempting to break through and I must make sure I can either prevent it or be there to defeat him again. Once and for all this time.”

Ishizu stood and moved in front of Yami to block his exit as he moved towards the door.

“Yugi must stay here. If he comes with us he may come in contact with other millennium items. Whilst they are in possession of the guardians there should be no danger to him but I don’t know how strong their control over him is yet. It would be safer to leave him here.”

Yami nodded in agreement. Ishizu’s voice was grave when she next spoke.

“Yami, without the millennium puzzle this is going to be difficult for you.”

Yami bowed his head and clenched his fist at his side.

“I know, but even without the puzzle’s power to boost my strength I have enough to call on the powers of the shadow realm.”

“Are you sure?”

Yami laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

”Yes, I’m sure. I will not fail.”

He stepped around Ishizu and moved once more towards the door. He turned to look back at her.

“Come, we must gather the remaining guardians together. We have a long journey ahead of us.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Wow, heavy chapter. Lots of explanations here so I hope it all made sense. Needless to say were building up to the climax but don’t worry there are still plenty of chapters to go.

If anyone’s confused and needs something clarifying let me know either through review or e-mail (address can be found in Story) and I will try and help out but hopefully I’ve covered a lot above. More will become clear in later chapters.

Hope everyone is still enjoying this fic and cheers for all the great reviews. Keep them coming. One more and I level with my first story. (Very excited by this :-) ).

Thanks for all the reviews I broke my record for PotP so I’m very happy right now. Not to give too much away (as there are still 6 chapters to go, this one included) but I’m a good always triumphs writer so don’t worry this isn’t going to end badly (keep the first fic in mind) but I might put everyone through the suspense ringer to get there :- )

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chapter 16 – Vision

The early morning air was cool and there was a feeling of determination surrounding the small group standing in the courtyard. Yami wrapped his cloak more tightly around his shoulders to ward of the chill and adjusted his sword belt. He was ready. He knew the fight ahead was going to be hard, maybe the hardest he had ever fought and he knew there was only a slim chance he would survive but he had to try, for Yugi and perhaps the world’s sake. At the thought of Yugi Yami’s eyes drifted up to the darkened balcony of his chambers where Yugi still lay sleeping. He had returned to the room briefly after leaving Ishizu to gather his traveling cloak and sword. He had considered taking the millennium rod with him in the absence of the puzzle but the thought of putting the rod within the reach of Marik again filled him with dread. No, it was safer where it was. He smiled at the memory of Yugi sleeping peacefully and it was that picture of Yugi happy and contented, unaware of what dangers lay around him, that spurred Yami on to seek victory. He would not accept failure as an option, too much was riding on his success. He turned at the sound of approaching hooves.

A group of stable hands approached bringing horses for the group. Yami, Jou, Ishizu and Shadi approached the horses closely followed by Honda and a handful of palace guards. Yami looked over at Honda and sighed. Honda took his role as Yugi’s protector more seriously than ever now. When Yami had asked him to leave his charge and join the group Honda had refused. The argument had been a heated one. In the end Yami had ordered Honda too join them. Yami hadn’t wanted to upset Honda but he needed him. Unable to refuse a direct command from his Pharaoh Honda had reluctantly joined them in the courtyard and now stood with a small group of hand picked guards who would be accompanying them. Yami had tried to assure Honda that Yugi would be safe in the palace and that by coming with them he was fulfilling his duty to protect Yugi but Honda wouldn’t listen. Jou had tried several times to get Honda to talk to Yami but nothing had helped. Yami just hoped Honda would understand when all this was over and forgive him.

With an air of anticipation the party mounted their horses and silently waited for Yami’s signal. Yami, looked at his friends. They were few in number and although they faced only three opponents they would be facing the powers of the shadow realm as well. Perhaps an impossible task but each was resolved to try. Before Yami mounted his horse he approached Danota who had been amongst the group from the stable.

“Danota, will you do something for me?” he asked.

Danota looked shocked at having been address directly by the Pharaoh but nodded and approached. Yami reached into his robes and drew out a folded and sealed piece of parchment. He handed it to Danota.

“Will you see that Prince Yugi gets this?”

Danota nodded again.

“I will see that His Highness gets it my Lord.”

“Thank you.” Yami said as he mounted his horse.

He moved his horse to the head of the column and signaled to the guards at the gates. The heavy gates were swung open and without a sound Yami spurred his horse forward. Ready to face his destiny once again.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yugi sat up in bed with a start, sweating slightly. The early morning sun streamed through the open balcony into the room.

‘It was only a nightmare,’ he thought relieved.

He shivered a little as he recalled the dream. Yami had been dueling Seto and it hadn’t ended well. Thinking of Yami, Yugi looked around. The room was as it had been the night before but with one difference. No Yami.

‘He must be in the throne room,’ Yugi thought.

Yawning, he slid off the bed. As he made his way through the palace he was surprised at how empty it felt. There seemed to be a lot less guards then normal and try as he might he couldn’t find Honda. Yugi pushed open the door to the throne room.

“Yami?” he called but there was no answer.

Getting slightly concerned Yugi set off in the direction of Ishizu’s room. On arrival he found the room in complete disarray. There were scrolls and parchment everywhere. Yugi had always been a curious sort and he made his way over to the desk where large quantities of unrolled scrolls were piled.

‘Ishizu won’t mind me having a little look.’ he thought as he settled down behind the desk.

At first the scrolls he looked at made no sense. The language and writing unreadable but then he came to one marked with the millennium eye.

‘These must be the scrolls on the millennium items Ishizu was researching,’ he thought as he picked it up.

He was about to discard the scroll in his hand when the strangest thing happened. The ink on the page began to blur and as if hundred of spiders were walking across the page the words began to reform. Slowly the once illegible words formed into ones Yugi could understand. Shocked at what had just happened yet curious none the less, Yugi began to read.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The scroll fell to the floor from Yugi’s shaking hands as he finished reading. He knew now where Yami was and he knew why.

He sat in shock for a while turning over in his mind what he had read. He knew it was true. He could hear the whispers of the millennium rod and puzzle in his mind. They were calling out to him, just as the scroll had described. The shock of what he had just read remained with him as he raised himself shakily from the chair. Yami had left for the rocky outcrop Yugi had pointed out to him the night before. He had gone to confront Seto one last time and he had left without telling Yugi. Yugi’s initial reaction was one of anger but this was quickly surpassed. He knew the real reason Yami had left without telling him. Yugi would have asked too many questions and Yami would not have wanted to give the answers. However, Yugi now knew the answers. The scroll had told him of the events of the past, of the fate of his predecessor. He shuddered, would that be his fate as well? Would Yami have to destroy him? Would Yami really do it? Yugi started to leave the room when his foot caught on another scroll laying the floor. He picked it up and unrolled it. He fell to his knees reaching violently at what he saw. His fate if the past was to come full circle once more.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The group galloped across the hot desert plains with Yami in the lead. They needed to hurry. Seto could already be free. Without the millennium puzzle or by using the powers of the shadow realm Yami had no way of knowing. He knew they should stop soon. The horses were getting tired and needed water. Seeing the green of an oasis up ahead he reluctantly spurred his horse towards it.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yugi guided himself unsteadily along the halls of the palace, back towards Yami’s chambers, the image on the scroll still fresh in his mind. Yugi knew Yami would do everything in his power to prevent that image from coming to pass, from having to face the prospect of destroying Yugi. Yugi was afraid there was no denying it. He had felt this kind of fear before, back when Seto had kidnapped him and tried to kill him to gain control of the shadow realm. The gut wrenching fear he felt made him feel sick and ashamed. Did Yami feel like this when he was afraid?

‘Am I a coward?’ Yugi thought as he tried to control his emotions.

‘Am I afraid to face my fate should it come to it? Even to save the world from destruction? Destruction that I might bring about.’

This question still churned through his mind as he entered the empty room. There was no comfort there, not without Yami. Yugi collapsed onto the bed and cried. He cried until he felt his heart would break.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They sat under the small amount of shade provided by the trees as their horse’s drunk their fill from the oasis. Reluctantly Yami had agreed to stop for a while. As well as the horses the rest of the party needed rest. They were all suffering from the intense desert heat and the pace Yami was enforcing. Yami looked up as Ishizu approached.

“How are you feeling?” she asked as she sat down beside him.

Yami gave a snort.

“As well as can be expected I suppose,” he said as he tilted his head back and laid it against the tree he was leaning against, looking up into the branches.

She nodded.

“There’s something more I need to tell you Yami”.

He looked round quickly as this. Something more? Could things get any worse? Seeing the look in Yami’s eyes Ishizu quickly shook her head.

“No Yami this time its good news. At least I hope so.”

“Go on then,” he said turning his head to the side to listen.

“Back at the palace I told you about a lot of bad things that had happened in the past, things that have scared me beyond belief. I’ve dedicated my life to the study and guarding of the millennium secrets. I never believed they could have such a terrible history.” Ishizu said as she absently reached up to touch the millennium item around her neck.

“There is one glimmer of hope though. Back in the time of the last altered prophecy a young priest by the name of Mahaado was the guardian of the millennium ring. After the death of his friend the guardian of the millennium puzzle fell into a deep depression and his guardianship of the shadow realm began to waver. Fearing the evil could break free once again Mahaado made a noble sacrifice. He volunteered to be sealed in the shadow realm, bound in the form of a monster. There he could protect the world and keep the evil locked away.”

Yami sat more upright at hearing this.

“So, are you saying that there is someone inside the shadow realm who’s on our side? Someone who can help us? How can we get in contact?” he asked quickly suddenly seeing a glimmer of hope.

Ishizu turned and smiled at Yami.

“You’ve already met.”

Yami’s eyes widened in surprise and understanding.

“You mean...the Dark Magician. The Dark Magician is Mahaado?”

“Yes”

Ishizu stood but turned back to Yami before rejoining the others.

“Not all hope is lost Yami. Think about what I’ve said. We still have friends that can help us.”

Yami nodded and looked out into the desert deep in thought as she moved away.

‘No, Ishizu is right not all hope is lost yet. There is still a chance’

He dragged his weary body to its feet and moved from the shade into the sun to look out across the vast expanse of sand and their destination. He was so deep in thought that he didn’t hear Jou approach. He jumped as Jou placed a hand on his shoulder.

“How close are we?” Jou asked.

Yami pointed to the distant outcrop of rock.

“It’s at least another four hours ride. It will be approaching dark when we arrive.” Yami said in a desperate voice.

Jou squeezed his shoulder reassuringly.

“We will make it Yami. Ishizu seems to think Seto will try to open the portal tonight as it’s the first full moon.”

Yami nodded. Once before they had raced against time on a full mooned night.

“Do you think Yugi knows where we are by now?” Jou asked.

They had left an hour after sun up and were now two hours into their journey from the palace. Yami sighed at thinking about Yugi.

“I suspect so; I left him a note with Danota to explain everything. In case I don’t come back.”

“We will win.” Jou said confidently.

“The good guys always do”.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yugi lifted his head at the intense calling from the millennium rod.

‘It’s so loud,’ he thought as he slid off the bed and moved to pull the wing of the carving to open the secret panel.

He paused.

‘I wonder why Yami left it behind.’

He paused again.

‘Is this the right thing to be doing? If I touch the rod am I just going to speed up what’s happening to me?’

He waited a while before deciding what to do.

‘It couldn’t hurt to look,’ he though finally and pulled the leaver, opening the panel.

Yugi stared at the millennium rod. It was glowing with an intense white light. He moved a little closer, curious as to what was causing it to glow. Suddenly he collapsed to his knees as his head exploding with pain.

It was as if he was dreaming. He hovered above a rocky outcrop looking down on two figures below him. Both figures were standing far apart, two monsters locked in a duel between them, one in long purple robes carrying a staff the other a large blue and white dragon. Without warning the blue and white dragon attacked the figure dressed in purple and the figure behind, the one controlling the robed figure, collapsed to his knees in defeat. At the command of its master the blue and white dragon closed in upon its fallen prey. Yugi shouted, trying to scream out a warning but it was no use the fallen figure was engulfed in white flame and vanished.

Yugi was still screaming when he came to on the floor of the room. He was weeping openly as he pushed himself to knees. It hadn’t been a dream. It was a vision, a vision of things to come. There had been no mistaking the figures he had seen. Yami had been dueling, just like in his dream. He had lost to Seto and been destroyed.

After a while Yugi dragged himself to his feet. The millennium rod, no longer glowing, lay before him in its hiding place.

‘It was showing me the future’, Yugi thought frantically.

‘Yami is in great danger. He will be destroyed if he duels Seto again.’

He clenched his fists tightly together as he wrestled with his decision. If he listened to his heart and followed Yami he ran the risk of being possessed by the millennium items and endangering the world but if he didn’t Yami would be destroyed. If this happened Seto would be free to walk the earth once more and the world would be in danger. Yugi was the only one, besides Yami, who could use all seven of the millennium items. Yugi knew the risks involved but he had no choice. The fate of his friends, Yami and the world depended on him. Yugi reached out and clasped his hand around the shaft of the millennium rod. He could hear its song of elation in his head as he did. His fate was sealed now, only time would tell.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The rod safely concealed under his travel cloak Yugi ran towards the stables. Yami had at least two hours head start on him and he needed to hurry if he was to catch and stop him. The stables were empty when he arrived. He quickly found his horse and was struggling to attach the saddle when Danota appeared. Danota bowed and without being asked, finished the job Yugi had started. When he had finished he turned back to Yugi.

“Thank you.” Yugi said with genuine gratitude.

Danota smiled and led Yugi’s horse out into the yard. Yugi was about to mount when Danota spoke.

“Prince Yugi?”

“Yes Danota,” he said once he was mounted.

“You’re going after the Pharaoh aren’t you Your Highness?”

Yugi nodded.

“He gave me this to give to you. I guess he must have known you would come down to the stables.”

Danota handed him the sealed parchment Yami had given him earlier. Yugi took the offered letter and held it lovingly in his hands.

“Thank you Danota.” he said in a quiet voice.

Danota smiled as Yugi tucked the letter inside his robes and spun his horse around.

“Good luck.” Danota cried as Yugi galloped out of the gate.

The race had already begun, Yugi was at the back and time was running out.

Apologies for the delay in updating, my normally fast posting got interrupted by my end of year Uni project but its all done now and I’m finally free. At least until February when it starts all over again, never mind (makes note to have ritual burning of books at the weekend in defiance of education). It’s a fairly long chapter so I hope that makes up for the delay.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chapter 17 – Letter

Yugi pushed his horse hard as he rode towards the rocky outcrop in the distance. He was exhausted and his horse was in desperate need of water. Despite this his hard travel had paid off and he had made good time. Being smaller and lighter he had crossed the stretch of desert behind him fast, faster than Yami he was sure. Yami, traveling in a larger party would be slower. At least that’s what Yugi hoped. He caught sight of a green oasis ahead and altered his course. Despite his desperate hurry water was scarce in the desert and he would be a fool to pass up the opportunity to water both himself and his horse.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yugi slid to a halt at the waters edge and almost dived into the cool water, drinking as much as he could. His horse did likewise. However, after only a few minutes he reluctantly lifted himself from the water and made to mount his exhausted horse again. He couldn’t stay long if he hoped to catch Yami. Yugi was sure he was gaining on him. It was then that he spotted something shiny, lying on the ground under the shade of one of the trees. Yugi walked over and picked it up. He gave a small cry of elation. The object was a ring and Yugi recognized it as belonging to Yami. Yugi had given it to him on his twentieth birthday and Yugi wore one similar. The hieroglyphics around the band read ’soul mate’. Yugi stood there for a few moments holding the ring in his hand lost in his memories before he clenched it tightly in his fist. He would save Yami. He would get him back again no matter what the cost. It was then that he remembered the letter Danota had given him. Deciding he had a little time to spare, he pulled out the letter and broke the seal. Yami’s familiar writing lay before him.

Yugi,

You will have realized by now that I have left to confront Seto this one time. I hope after all is done that I can proclaim myself the victor and return to you but I must be realistic. Without the millennium puzzle it will be difficult. Know this though, should I die trying to protect my people I will be confident in the knowledge that you shall succeed me as Pharaoh. Although we are cousins I have always thought of you as the brother I never had. My life changed a great deal when you came into my life and if time should turn back I would not change a thing. Before I met you Yugi I never had any friends and was always very much alone in this world. You filled my world with light and happiness and I know that I can never fully explain to you how much that has meant to me. I wish I could tell you these things to your face but it would seem time has caught me up. I know times have been hard and should I fail times will be harder still but I also know you will stand tall and rule and guide my people well. You have a strain of selflessness in you Yugi that I have always admired. You will do anything for someone but ask nothing in return for yourself.

I have one last request of you Yugi. Do not follow me. The dangers to yourself are far greater than you could ever imagine. Should you follow me the world itself may be in far greater danger. Please do not be alarmed at this. I know the fear you are feeling and it is not a sign of weakness. Believe me I understand. The fear of what might happen should you follow fills me with dread. The choice I may be faced with too horrible to bear.

I love you Yugi. You have filled my once dark world with light and I cherish that light. I cannot contemplate that light being extinguished, possibly by my own hand. All I ask is that you accept your responsibilities and face the future with strength. Remember, I will always be with you whether in this life or the next.

Remember me always.

Yami

Yugi stood in the sweltering desert with tears streaming down his face as he finished reading the letter. Yami was not expecting to return, he was going to die and he knew it. Yami was saying goodbye. Yugi gently folded the letter and placed it back in his robes. He looked out at the desert, at the distant rocky outcrop. He was facing the hardest decision of his life. He knew of the dangers to himself that Yami referred to and knew that Yami was right; he should turn round and go back. However, the vision was still fresh in his mind and the thought that he was just going to leave Yami to his fate filled Yugi with fear again. He gritted his teeth and clenched his fists as he struggled with his choices. He knew what he should do. He should return to the palace, to his people, if things turned out badly for Yami but he couldn’t do it. Yami was his friend, his soul mate and just as Yami had said Yugi had brought light into his life Yami had done the same for Yugi. He had given him a life, a home, friendship and love. Apart from Jou as a friend, Yugi had had none of these things before. Yami had treated him as an equal even before he had learnt he was his cousin. With one final glance at the desert Yugi mounted his horse. His mind was made up. Making the first selfish decision of his life Yugi turned his horse and continued his journey towards the rocky outcrop. He would save Yami or die trying. Yugi owed him too much not to try.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The anticipation was high as the group approached the outcrop. As they entered its shadow Yami felt a feeling of foreboding creep over him. The time of his final battle was close. He could sense the presence of the puzzle and he tipped his head back and looked up the steep rocky wall to where the top was just visible. Ishizu moved to stand beside him.

“The puzzle is close,” he said simply.

Ishizu nodded and touched her own millennium item around her neck.

“I know, I can feel it as well, along with the millennium ring. Bakura and Seto are here...and Marik.”

Yami turned to his friend and counselor.

“I may have to fight Marik.”

Ishizu nodded sadly.

“I know Yami. You must do what you have to.”

Yami turned to those gathered behind him.

“My friends, we have arrived. I don not know what is to come but I know I must face it. You, however, do not. I cannot ask you to follow me to what may be certain doom. All I ask is that if I should fail you will try to hold back the evil for as long as possible with the power of your millennium items. Thank you all for coming this far with me but I cannot ask you to go any further I must face this alone.”

Yami was glad that the light was starting to fade, his eyes glistened with unshed tears as he said goodbye to his friends. A part of him hoped for victory but a more realistic side of him and an unwanted voice in his head told him that this would be his final journey. He had said as much in his letter to Yugi.

‘I wish I had more time,’ he though sadly.

He turned his horse in the direction of the rocky path, which led to the top of the outcrop but stopped as a firm hand clasped his shoulder. He turned to face Jou.

“Uh, ah Your Highness I’m coming with you.”

Yami lifted his sad eyes to Jou.

“You can’t Jou. This is my responsibility.”

Jou shook his head.

“Blow responsibility. I’m not going to watch or let a friend of mine go to his death without a fight. We’re coming with you.”

Jou indicated to the group behind. They all had the same resolute look on their faces as they moved their horses closer. Yami was about to protest when Jou cut in again.

“There’s no point arguing with us. Were coming.”

Despite everything Yami smiled.

“Thank you Jou. Thank you everyone. I will never forget this my friends.”

He clasped Jou’s hand warmly in his own.

“Shall we? We have an appointment to keep and I wouldn’t want to be late.”

Jou smiled at Yami.

“Lets. I’m feeling a sudden urge to kick Seto’s butt straight back to shadow realm.”

With that the party began the slow climb up the path.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yugi pushed his horse as hard as he dared. The outcrop was in view now. He had made good time and he knew he was close to catching Yami. He was still too far away to see the base of the outcrop so he never saw Yami and the group start their ascent to the top.

‘I must hurry. Time is running out,’ he thought and kicked the last few ounces of speed out of his horse.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The climb up was slow but they finally crested the top and dismounted. Yami drew his sword as he moved cautiously forwards. The top of the outcrop looked deserted but Yami knew differently he could feel the presence of the ring and puzzle growing stronger. He stopped suddenly as three figures detached themselves from the shadows in front of him. He tightened his grip on his sword as Seto, Bakura and Marik stepped into the moonlight.

“I’ve been expecting you.” Seto’s said in a cold, calm voice.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to make you wait.” Yami said sarcastically as he assumed a defensive half crouch, his sword held tightly ready to attack or be attacked.

“That’s alright Yami. I always crave your company. Timing is of little importance” Seto’s voice this time had mockingly lilt to it.

Not taking his eyes of the targets in front of him but seeing that the three of them were alone Yami signaled for the rest of the party to fan out behind him. Seto smiled as he noticed Yami’s companions.

“I must thank you Yami. You have done my work for me.” He said, a small smirk crossing his face.

“How do you mean?” Yami asked but didn’t really want to know the answer.

“I thought I might have to hunt down the other guardians but here they are, all present and correct.”

Yami watched as the Seto controlled form of Mokuba moved slowly across the top of the outcrop. As he moved further into the moonlight Yami could see the millennium puzzle hanging around his neck. Seto was planning something. Yami could feel it. He took a step forward and raised his sword in a move to attack but Seto, with lightening speed, raised his hand and fired a bolt of energy straight at Yami. Unprepared for the attack Yami was thrown off his feet as it hit him in the chest.

“Now, now Yami you don’t attend a party unless you’ve been invited.” Seto’s said laughing and wagging his finger in a mocking fashion.

Startled at the power and speed of Seto’s attack Yami struggled to get back on his feet.

“Yami be careful.” Ishizu warned.

“Something is very wrong here. Seto shouldn’t have that kind of power he’s getting help from somewhere.”

Listening to Ishizu’s warning but undeterred Yami once more made to move forwards but to his alarm he found he couldn’t. He couldn’t move at all he was frozen and from the cries of alarm from behind him the others were in the same situation. Seto turned to his immobile foe.

“I think you can stay there for a while Yami, even in your weakened state and without the puzzle I’m not sure what you’re capable of so I think it best if you just watch for now. You see were not quite ready for the finale yet. We’re one short”.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yugi slid to a halt at the base of the outcrop and without stopping dropped from his horse and started to run up the slope to the top. He pulled the millennium rod free from within his robes and clasped it tightly in his fist as he ran. Yami was close and so was Seto. He could feel the puzzle calling out to him from above.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“What are you talking about?” Yami said through gritted teeth as he struggled to break free of the invisible force holding him.

Seto crossed his arms in a relaxed fashion as he moved closer.

“You see Yami; I need all of the millennium items present in order to free myself from the shadow realm. I was worried that only you would come to confront me and I would have to work for my freedom but here you are handing it to me on a plate.”

Yami gave a snort of triumph as he listened to Seto.

“Then I have beaten you Seto and without having to lift a finger. Not all of the items are here.”

“Ah, now that’s where you’re wrong Yami.”

“No, Seto you’re the one who’s wrong the millennium rod is still secure in my palace, away from your grasp.”

Seto turned round and the manic grin on his face made Yami feel sick. Something was terribly wrong. Seto was laughing as he moved towards Yami.

“Ah, but that’s the ironic thing, the rod is no longer secure in your palace. It’s here. I’m going to enjoy this,” Seto said as he approached Yami.

Yami struggled against his bonds but it was no use.

“What do you mean? How can it be here? Only if someone.........”

Yami stopped, a cold feeling of dread settling in his stomach. He could feel the presence of another millennium item approaching.

‘No, it couldn’t be,’ he thought.

He could feel the presence of the millennium rod. He could also sense another familiar presence.

“Yugi.” he said out loud in a quiet, terrified voice.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yugi could hear voices above him and he slowed to a walk before creeping forwards. As he reached the top of the path he saw Yami, Jou and the others standing still like statues. Seto was standing in front of them laughing.

‘Why don’t they move?’ Yugi thought as he took in the scene before him.

He moved a little closer trying to hear what was being said.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Seto continued to laugh as he moved away from Yami and out into the open.

“Shall I invite our guest to the party Yami?”

“NO.” Yami shouted as Seto raised his hand.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yugi cried out in surprise as bands of energy wrapped around him, pinning his arms to his sides. He struggled against the grip of the unseen force but to no avail as he was lifted into the air and floated towards the group of people in front of him.

“YUGI.” Yami shouted in anguish as Yugi drifted past him and came to halt on his knees in front of the Seto.

Yugi looked up in fear at his enemy. He could hear Yami struggling even more behind him trying to break free from his restraints and the cries of his friends as Mokuba’s small hand cupped his chin.

“Welcome Yugi. I’ve missed your company.”

Yugi tore his face away from Seto’s grasp in defiance. Seto snarled and brought his hand down across Yugi’s face.

“You’ll regret that you little brat. I’m going to make you suffer like you’ve never suffered before. When I’m done with you you’re going to beg for death.”

“I very much doubt that Seto. Pain is something I’m familiar with,” Yugi said bravely as he spat blood from his mouth.

Seto snarled and grabbed his throat.

“LET HIM GO.” Yami cried out behind them.

“What are you going to do about it Yami?” Seto spat as he turned his attention back to Yugi, who was starting to go blue as Seto tightened his grip.

In desperation Yami reached out with all his might to the shadow realm, willing the power to come to him. His whole body shook with the effort and he cried out in pain but he was rewarded with a surge of power like he had never felt before. The millennium eye began to glow on his forehead as power flowed through him. He threw off the invisible bonds that held him and fired a blast of energy towards his enemy.

Seto raised his head and released Yugi at hearing the cry of pain from his rival, but was unprepared for the powerful blast that threw him back.

Seto skidded across the floor at the force from the blast and Yami began to advance towards him. With Seto’s concentration broken Yugi had been released from his bonds and now raised himself shakily from the floor where he had fallen.

Yami towered over Seto, his clenched and still smoking fist raised in front of him.

“I said, leave him alone.”

Yami was panting and sweating heavily at the effort of using his shadow powers without aid from the puzzle and could not react quickly enough when Seto’s leg swept out and knocked his feet out from under him. He exhaled sharply as the air was forced from his lungs when he hit the floor. Seto dragged himself to his feet and stumbled towards the very edge of the outcrop.

“I was right to be wary of you Yami. It would seem you have found a way to use your powers without the aid of your puzzle. You have been a worthy opponent and I will enjoy destroying you but I think a more suitable and fitting form is needed for the task.”

Seto raised his arms to the sky and the clouds above him began to darken.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Finding themselves free of Seto’s control Honda, Jou and the others began to move towards their fallen friends. Yugi was still struggling to get to his feet and Yami looked dazed from his fall. Jou and the others rushed to Yami’s side but Ishizu stopped to watch Seto. She could feel a power building, a power like she had never felt before. She watched as Seto raised his arms to the sky. Suddenly she gasped as she felt a sharp pain in her chest. She saw the other guardians do the same. Then the pain came again, stronger this time and she fell to her knees. The millennium necklace around her neck was glowing fiercely as if its power was being called upon. She looked up and saw that the same was happening to the millennium scales and Ankh.

“What’s happening,” Shadi exclaimed as he to fell to his knees in pain.

“Someone is calling on the power of the millennium items.” Ishizu responded,

“But I thought only Yami or Yugi could do that,” Jou questioned.

“It feels like my very soul is in fire,” he said through gritted teeth.

She looked up in horror at the figure of Seto standing on the edge of the outcrop. The millennium puzzle around his neck was glowing with the same fierce light along with Bakura’s ring and the millennium rod, which lay at arms reach from Yugi where he had dropped it.

“Seto has somehow found away to use the millennium items. He’s getting help from the shadow realm,” Ishizu shouted.

It was true she could feel the presence of something powerful probing at the edges of the shadow realm waiting for the opportunity to break free. She knew what it was. Seto was a minor evil compared with that, which had been sealed away in the form of the Blue Eyes White Dragon. Somehow it was channeling its energy through Seto but it still had one disadvantage. It was a monster and could only be summoned in a duel. She was about to shout out to Yami who had finally managed to get back to his feet with the help of Honda when the millennium item around her neck gave a violent jolt and the power that had been summoned broke free. At the same time she saw streaks of light fly from the other millennium items. However, they did not go towards Seto as she had expected but to Yugi instead. Yugi screamed as the energy streamed into him.

Yami ran towards Yugi as he screamed in pain but had to shield his eyes from the intense glow that Yugi was now giving off. Somehow Seto was using the power of the millennium items, channelling their power through Yugi. Yugi gave another pain filled cry and the combined energy of the items shot from him to disappear into the air beside Seto. Yugi collapsed to the floor. Seto lowered his arms and began to laugh.

“With the aid of the seven millennium items and the presence of the chosen one. I can now free myself from the accused shadow realm.”

Concerned for Yugi but knowing he had to stop Seto Yami began to advance on his foe. He could see the beginnings of a portal beginning to open and he knew he had to move fast. In one fluid movement he dashed forwards but Seto had been ready for it. With the sweep of his arm the clouds above him began to boil and flashes of lighting lit up the sky.

“There’s nothing you can do Yami. It’s already too late.”

Suddenly a series of lightening bolts bolt struck the earth around Yami and he was thrown to the floor. However, unlike normal lightening they did not vanish instead they remained surrounding Yami like bars on a cage. Yami was trapped.

Yami lifted himself weakly to his elbows to look in horror from his prison as a black, swirling abyss began to open behind the small form of Mokuba. Seto looked down at Yami, his eyes glowing a bright blood red.

“You will pay Yami for the humiliation and pain you have caused me. You have your little friend Yugi to thank for your destruction. I knew he would follow to try and save you. Friends are so predictable.” He spat the words from his mouth as the portal behind him grew in size.

Yugi tried to crawl towards Yami but stopped as he saw the beginnings of something emerge from the black depths of the portal. A tall figure cloaked in black robes emerged and towered over the smaller form of Mokuba. The robes were wrapped tightly around the form covering its face. The next words that were spoken were said in echoing unison as the two parts of Seto’s mind came together.

“I knew your little friend would come and bring the millennium rod to me, after all how could he let you die, after seeing such a vivid vision of your fate.”

Yugi looked up in horror at these words and realization began to dawn on him. Seto’s echoing laugh rebounded off the surrounding rocks.

“Yes, little Yugi, you were tricked. I sent the vision you saw of Yami’s destruction, not far off the truth when I’m done with him. Once again I must thank you I really couldn’t have done any of this without your help. Instead of helping to save your precious Pharaoh as you had intended you have aided in his destruction and as a reward I am only to happy to provide you with a ringside seat”.

With that both figures raised their hands and Yugi was suddenly encased in a clear box of energy. Yugi banged on the clear shield, which rippled but did not break, as the full meaning of Seto’s words drilled into his soul. He had been tricked. He had played right into Seto’s hands. Seto’s was free and it was his entire fault.

The small form of Mokuba collapsed to the ground as Seto finally released his body and mind from his control. Returning to his true body now it was free. The black cloak slipped from the face it had been covering and billowed in the wind. Yugi gasped at seeing the face of his most hated enemy, the man who had wanted him dead on more than one occasion, the reason for his nightmares. The once deep blue eyes now glowed golden with power and sparks flew from around his feet as he moved forward towards Yami’s cage. Yugi cried out in fear and he banged on the walls of his prison as Seto advanced towards his fallen friend.

“And now Yami I think it is finally time for you to die” Seto said in glee as approached the fallen Pharaoh.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hope you liked. Am I forgiven for the slow update:-o?

On an aside I’ve just learned the ending to Yu-Gi-Oh (don’t worry I won’t let the cat out of the bag for those that don’t want to know). It was a fantastic ending but dam-it it wasn’t supposed to end that way. I will be writing my own ending, probably a one shot, to make me feel better : -). I quite fancy the idea of starting an ‘alternative ending to Yu-Gi-Oh’ community. What do you think? Anyone interested? Let me know by review of send me an e-mail.

Chapter 18 – Duel

Yami struggling to his feet within his cage as Seto drew closer. Seto laughed as he approached and stopped a little way back from his victim before raised his arm and firing another blast of energy towards the cage. Yami did not move as the blast approached him, he just raised his hand. Yugi cried out and banged on his prison as the blast hit the cage fearful for his friend but as the dust cleared he breathed a sign of relief. Yami stood, unharmed with the millennium eye glowing brightly on his forehead. The lightening bars of his prison were gone. He was free. In response Yami launched his own attack at Seto. Seto waved his hand and the flaming energy died into nothing.

“Nice trick Yami, using the energy of your cage to deflect my attack. It would seem we are evenly matched again. Shall we settle this as we did once before, with a duel?”

Yami kept his fists clenched at his sides as he glared at Seto.

“If you wish, but there will be a difference this time. We shall use only one monster and when that monster is defeated its owner shall lose.”

Seto nodded.

“I agree to your terms but I will add my own condition. The loser of the duel will be sent to the shadow realm for eternity.”

Yami paused for a moment before nodding.

“Agreed.”

Seto laughed as he discarded his cloak, preparing for the duel.

“You’re a fool Yami. You throw away your life and for what. Your people, friends...loved ones?” He said this looking at Yugi whose fists were red raw from trying to break the walls of his prison.

“The only fool here is you Seto,” Yami said as he moved himself into a position opposite his foe.

“To fight for our loved ones is not a hopeless cause but then I suppose you could never understand the concept of love. You, who treated your own brother like a tool and discarded him when you were finished. Your brother sought to free you out of love but you rejected it and now you will pay the price.”

“ENOUGH.” Seto snarled in anger.

“Let the duel begin.”

They slowly backed away but neither took their eyes from the other. Soon they had enough room for their duel and both stood waiting for the first move to be made. Yugi clenched his fists against the side of the walls containing him as he braced himself to watch the duel.

Yami could hear the call of his friends behind him shouting their encouragement and out of the corner of his eye he could see Yugi still trapped within his prison. He clenched his fists and turned to face Seto. He would win. He had to. Yami began to draw on his power and he felt Seto do the same as they called forth their monsters from the shadow realm. Seto was able to summon his more easily than Yami and the form of the Blue Eyes White Dragon slowly materialised beside him. Yami knew what monster he was calling. There was only one choice. Yami had to concentrate hard but slowly the form of the Dark Magician in his long purple robes and carrying his staff appeared beside him.

Mahado”, Yami whispered at seeing the familiar figure beside him.

The Dark Magician looked down at Yami and nodded before turning its attention back to the Blue Eyes in front of him.

The Summoning of the Dark Magician had taken its toll on Yami and Seto laughed at the beads of sweat that had formed on Yami’s brow with the effort.

“You’re weakening already Yami. This will not be a long fight.”

Yami scowled at this is defiance.

“We shall see Seto, DARK MAGICIAN ATTACK WITH DARK MAGIC.” Yami shouted.

The magician dived forwards at the command from his master and fired a bolt of dark magic from his raised staff. The Blue Eyes sprang forwards in response and it met the bolt of magic in mid air with its own white lightening attack. Both Seto and Yami shielded their eyes at the intense flash as the two attacks collided. Yami concentrated all his energy towards the Dark Magician and watched as the Magician sprang forwards once more. The Blue Eyes dived out his way and lashed out with its tail. The tail caught the Dark Magician across the shoulder. Yami cried out in pain clutching his own shoulder as the blow struck his monster.

“First blood to me I think.” came Seto’s mocking response to Yami’s pain.

Yami, still clutching his shoulder, raised his head.

“It’s not over yet Seto,” he said though clenched teeth.

With that the Magician raised his staff and lashed out at the soft flesh of the dragons belly. Seto cried out in pain as Yami had as his monster was struck. The speed of the attack had taken him by surprise and his dragon staggered at the blow.

Yugi watched the titanic battle before him intensely. It was just like his dream and the vision Seto had sent him. Yugi knew that if Yami began to weaken, as he appeared to be already, Seto would win and Yugi would loose his friend to the darkness.

A slash from the dragon’s claws caught the Dark Magician unawares and although he jumped back away from the slash it caught him across the stomach. The Dark magician staggered and fell to one knee holding the area of torn robes. He turned his head at the pain filled cry from his master. Yami was likewise on his knees, head bowed and an arm wrapped tightly around his middle. Yami slowly moved his arm away to look in horror at the three blooded slashed across his stomach. The blood was seeping into his white tunic.

“Give up Yami. There’s no hope for your now”.

Seto’s mocking voice cut through Yami’s pain fogged brain and he gritted his teeth.

‘No, it can’t end this way’, he thought.

Yami rose shakily to his feet.

“It’s not over yet Seto.” Yami shouted in defiance and again directed his energy towards the Dark Magician.

The battle progressed and with each second Yami was getting weaker and weaker. The Dark Magician staggered back at a series of blows from Seto’s Blue Eyes and Yami fell to his knees again. He could hear Seto’s cold laughter and it bit into his heart. Yami had given it everything but he knew he was going to lose. There was nothing he could do to stop it. He caught sight of Yugi kneeling on the ground surrounded by his prison and his anger flared up again. No, he couldn’t give up. Yugi depended on him and he would not disappoint his friend. With one last surge of his remaining energy he willed his Dark Magician back to its feet. Yami showed inhuman strength as he raised himself to his feet once more, a shimmering aura of power surrounding him. He screamed in pain and frustration as he willed his Magician into one final attack, giving him everything he had. The blast from the Dark Magician’s staff was more powerful than anything he had produced before and the Blue Eyes White Dragon was flung back to lie still at Seto’s feet. Seto howled in pain and collapsed as his monster was flung back by the massive blast. Seeing his enemy fall Yami staggered closer. The Dark Magician approached with him and raised his staff ready to finish the weakened dragon.

“Surrender Seto, or face defeat.” Yami said as he approached.

Behind him Yugi gave a shout of triumph at Yami’s apparent victory.

Seto did not move but instead a cold and chilling chuckle emanated from the shadows covering his face.

“You think you’ve won don’t you Yami?” he said in a deathly quiet voice.

“I know so Seto. Your monster is weakened beyond recovery. If you do not surrender then it will be destroyed, and you will face a similar fate.”

Seto continued to chuckle.

“Fate, its such a simple word but it has such great meaning,” he said as he slowly climbed back to his feet.

Yami braced himself. Why was Seto laughing? What had he missed?

“I’m sorry to disappoint you Yami but I’m afraid there was always only going to be one winner of this duel.”

Seto raised his hand and to Yami’s horror the blue eyes white dragon slowly climbed back to its feet.

“I’m sure your faithful Ishizu told you the story of the millennium guardian before you who trapped the evil he fought in the shadow realm in the form of a Blue Eyes White Dragon and I’m sure by now you’ve realised that this is the very same dragon. That being so, this monster has a few special abilities which you would appear to be unaware of.”

Yami stood in horror as the blue eyes began to glow an intense blue and then as if watching from a nightmare two new heads, one either side of the original, began to appear.

“You see there are three Blue Eyes White Dragons in the shadow realm. Each a powerful force on its own but combined they form an unbeatable monster. Oh your Dark Magician is powerful Yami, no doubt but still no match for this creature. BLUE EYES ULTIMATE DRAGON DESTROY THE DARK MAGICIAN.”

Yami staggered back as he tried to call on his power to protect the Dark Magician from Seto’s new attack but he had no more to give. He was hurled across the ground by the force of the blast as it struck the Dark Magician. He struggled to rise but he had no strength left. He had lost. Seto had won. His eyes locked with Yugi’s and he watched as tears ran down his young cousin’s cheek.

Yugi knelt back on his heels in shock and placed the palms of his hand flat against the clear wall of his prison in stunned disbelief. Yami had lost. His monster had been destroyed. He started to cry out Yami’s name over and over again. Once more pounding on his prison trying in vain to break free, to go to his friend, to help him but is was hopeless. Yugi watched, as Seto and the lumbering form of the Blue Eyed Ultimate Dragon approached and everything seemed to move in slow motion. Seto tilted his head back and laughed at his stricken enemy kneeling beaten and defeated before him.

“I’ve waited a long time for this.” Seto said as his Blue Eyes tilted all three of its heads back.

Yami lifted his face bravely to face the white lightening attack as it streamed towards him. He closed his eyes, a last single tear running down his cheek as he heard Yugi crying out his name and the words ‘you promised’.

Yugi watched in horror as the white flame engulfed his friend. When the smoke had cleared nothing remained of Yami but a single smoking hole. Yami was gone, sent to shadow realm. Yugi wailed a cry of hopeless loss and grief as he collapsed to the floor. It was over, Seto had won and Yami had been destroyed.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I’m evil right :-0. Now don’t throw things at me. (ducks at low flying object from reader and hides behind sofa). Don’t panic there are still 3 chapters to go so don’t flame me :- ).

Chapter 19 – Another Power

Yugi stared in shock at the space were Yami had once been. His mind reeling at what had just happened.

“Yami?” he said in a hopeless voice as if calling out his name would somehow bring him back.

The closeness of Seto’s cold laughter brought Yugi back to his senses and the very real danger he was in. Now Seto had dispensed with Yami he would turn his attention to Yugi.

As Seto approached Yugi backed up against the wall of his prison. He was taken by surprise when the force behind him vanished as the prison dissolved but he had little time to escape. Cold hands grabbed hold and lifted him off the ground.

“We have unfinished business little Yugi.”

Yugi kicked out with all his might, desperate to break free of Seto’s hold. His feet contact hard with Seto’s body and Seto dropped him to the floor, crying out in surprise. Yugi tried to crawl away but was pulled back as hands grabbed hold of his hair, pulling his head roughly backwards. He reached up and cried out in pain.

“Feisty little thing aren’t you,” Seto spat in fury.

“I would have thought all the fight would have gone out of you after seeing your precious Pharaoh destroyed but it would appear I was wrong.”

“You never defeated Yami,” Yugi said through clenched teeth.

“What?”

“I said you never defeated Yami. You cheated. You would never have won otherwise.”

Seto’s snarled and dragged Yugi to his feet

“You’re a coward Seto,” Yugi said bravely as he looked up at Seto in defiance.

Seto’s response to this was to throw Yugi away from him with force. Yugi skidded across the ground and winced at the bruises and cuts he received.

“HOW DARE YOU,” Seto yelled.

“You’ll pay for that you little brat.”

Yugi turned just in time to see the bolt of energy streaming towards him and dived out of the way. He looked up bravely as Seto bore down on him. Once more Seto attacked with his shadow powers but Yugi dodged again. He was not so lucky the third time. The blast caught him square in the chest and he was thrown several meters away to land hard on the ground. He could hear the sound of his friend’s approaching, rushing to his aid. Seto noticed as well and with a flick of his hand they ground to a halt, frozen once more. Undeterred by this his fiends continued to shout out their encouragement to Yugi.

“Get up Yug.”

“You’ve got to fight back.”

Yugi recognized the voices of Jou and Honda urging him to get up but his battered body would not respond. Seto began to advance, murder in his eyes and thirsty for Yugi’s blood. It was then that Yugi became aware of a second sound, a familiar calling. He looked round and his eyes fell to the millennium rod which lay only feet from him. He dived for the rod just as Seto fired yet another bolt towards him. Yugi knew he would not survive this one and held the millennium rod out in front in a final, desperate attempt to shield himself.

He opened his eyes at hearing an unexpected cry of pain from Seto. The rod had surrounded Yugi in a kind of shield and it looked like Seto’s attack had been fired right back at him.

Seto began to chuckle again as he circled Yugi. Yugi clambered back to his feet but kept the rod held out in front of him ready for the next attack.

“You’re brave Yugi, I’ll give you that.” Seto said in a low voice.

“You’re just like Yami, willing to risk your own life in order to defeat me. I wonder though, if you are so willing to risk the lives of your friends?”

The cries from behind him distracted Yugi and he turned to see Jou and Ishizu being held by Bakura and Marik. They had been released from Seto’s control but now had swords pressed against their throats. Bakura’s eyes were glinting menacingly as he held the blade to Jou’s throat. Marik did not look so happy at having to threaten his own sister.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Both Ishizu and Jou struggled to break free when Bakura and Marik grabbed them. Marik was extremely uncomfortable at holding a sword to Ishizu’s throat, threatening her life but he had his orders. To disobey would mean a sudden and very pain full death at the hands of Seto or maybe even Bakura. Marik may have been working with Bakura but it didn’t mean he trusted him and for that reason alone he didn’t want Bakura to be the one to threaten his sister.

“Why are you doing this?”

Marik started a little at hearing his sister’s voice.

“What do you care”, he whispered back not want Bakura to know he was taking with her.

Ishizu had silent tears poring down her face as she spoke.

“Because you’re my brother Marik and I love you. Why have you betrayed us?” she asked again.

Marik didn’t answer.

“Please Marik, tell me.”

“Because I’m fed up of being the keeper of all this knowledge but never being able to use it. Our family have been given this burden this guardianship and we have served faithfully for many generations, its time to claim our reward. What’s rightfully ours.

Ishizu couldn’t believe this was her brother talking.

“You want power? You had the millennium rod, what more is there?” she said confused.

“There’s more, more than you could imagine. I want control over all the items. Not just one. Seto can give me that power.”

“You’re a fool Marik. Seto can’t give that to you. Even he had to use Yugi to open the portal. He can’t control all the items without help, he never will. Even if you don’t believe me trust in everything you’ve learned. Search your heart Marik you know its true.”

Marik tightened his grip and brought the blade closer to Ishizu’s throat.

“Shut up,” he said with venom but his voice wavered a little, doubt starting to sink in at Ishizu’s words.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yugi watched helpless, as his friends were held tight and threatened.

“Leave them along Seto,” he cried.

“Looks like I’ve found your sensitive spot Yugi. Give me the millennium rod and I will let them go free.”

Yugi tightened his grip on the rod.

“How do I know I can trust you?”

Seto smiled a cruel smile.

“You can’t but what choice do you have.”

As if to emphasis his point Bakura and Marik tightened their grip on their captives. Yugi looked desperately around, his mind racing. What could he do? He was running out of options. It was through his haze of panic that he heard a new voice in his head.

Use me

Yugi looked down in shock at the millennium rod. Had it just spoken to him?

#Use me# it said again.

##How?## Yugi asked.

#I have another use#

Yugi’s attention was brought back sharply as Seto spoke again.

“Time is running out Yugi. Give me the rod or your friends die.”

Seto raised his hand to signal to his two accomplices.

“NO, WAIT.” Yugi shouted.

Seto’s hand paused.

“Please wait. You can have the rod.” Yugi said quickly.

“Yug no,” Jou cried out from behind him.

Yugi turned to his friend and a look passed between them. Jou could see something in Yugi’s eyes that Seto could not. Yugi was planning something.

Yugi took a gamble and before Seto realized what was happening Yugi fired a blast of energy from the rod straight at Bakura. Bakura let go of Jou and cried out in pain as he was struck. Yugi swung the rod around towards Marik. If he had been wrong in his suspicion that Marik would not hurt his sister, Ishizu would be dead. He had been right. Marik had let Ishizu go from his grip and dropped the sword before running. Jou and Honda drew their swords and advanced on Bakura.

Things had happened quickly and the element of surprise had been on Yugi’s side. Realizing that his captives had been freed Seto lunged at Yugi, knocking him to the floor. The millennium rod skidded across the floor to the edge of the outcrop. Yugi dived for the rod as fast as he could and closed his hand around the cold metal just as he felt himself being lifted upwards. Seto now in the full throws of his fury lifted Yugi in the air with his shadow powers. His arm extended and palm outstretched to the sky.

“You will now pay for your disobedience. The millennium rod will be mine.” He screamed.

With that Seto slowly began to close his outstretched palm.

Yugi screamed in pain as an unseen force began to crush him. Slowly Seto closed his hand more causing Yugi to scream louder. He was slowly being crushed to death. Through a haze of pain Yugi heard the voice of the rod once more in his head.

#Twist me, use me#

Images flooded through Yugi’s mind and suddenly he knew what to do.

Yugi was close to death now but with his last remaining strength he took the millennium rod in both hands and twisted it. With a metallic rasp a long thin dagger shot out of its base. Without hesitation Yugi fought against the force crushing him and drew back his arm. He threw the millennium rod like a spear, straight at Seto’s heart. His aim was true and it plunged deep into Seto’s chest. Seto cried out in surprise as the rod buried itself within him and his power wavered and died. Yugi dropped to the floor groaning. Seto looked down stupidly at the rod protruding from his chest. His shock turned to anger and then to pain as the rod began to glow. He cried out as the glow spread, encasing him completely. Seto fell to his knees and he clawed at the rod, trying to pull it free. Cracks filled with light began to appear, spreading out from the entry point of the dagger. The cracks continued to spread across Seto’s body and the glow increased in intensity until finally his body exploded in a brilliant flash of light and power. Seto’s last scream echoed around the outcrop.

From his position on the floor Yugi watched Seto’s destruction with cold eyes.

“You wanted the millennium rod Seto you can have it and everything that goes with it.” He said as finally he collapsed unconscious to the floor.

Here’s the penultimate chapter, hope you like it :-).

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chapter 20 – Resurrection

Yugi slowly became aware of voices around him and he opened his eyes to find his friends looking down at him with concern. He groaned. His whole body hurt. He hadn’t felt like this since the last beating he had received from his grandfather. As he came around he was helped gently into a sitting position.

“Are you Ok Yug?” Jou asked concerned.

Yugi shook his head to clear his senses. Slowly the events of the night came back to him. They had won. Seto had been destroyed. Consumed by the very power he had sort to control. Yugi looked around. The outcrop was quiet now. The millennium rod and puzzle lay on the ground where they had fallen and the howling winds and portal were gone. All that remained was a burnt out area of rock where Yami had once been, still smoking slightly. Yugi pushed himself to his feet, supported by his friends as he swayed unsteadily. He gently pushed himself free of their grasp and slowly limped towards the area of blackened rock. No one made to follow or say anything. They understood the loss and pain he was feeling. They all felt it.

At the sight of the devastation up close Yugi collapsed to his knees weeping uncontrollably. They had won but at a terrible price. Yami had been sent to the shadow realm and even if he had survived, there was no way of getting him back. Jou approached his weeping friend and knelt beside him. Without a word he swept Yugi into his arms determined to comfort his friend as best he could. As he did Yugi wailed a terrible cry of grief and buried his head against Jou’s chest weeping as though he would never stop. It was unbearable, he felt as though a part of soul had been ripped away.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It was a little while later when the others approached. Yugi’s wails had quietened to gentle sobs. Ishizu knelt down and laid a gentle hand on Yugi’s forehead.

“I’m so sorry Yugi,” she said in a choked voice.

Yugi lifted his swollen eyes to her.

“Is there no hope?” he said in a barely audible voice.

Ishizu shook her head sadly.

“No. The only way to open a portal to the shadow realm from this side is for the bearer to use all seven of the items together. Without Yami that is impossible, and even if we did somehow succeed it is very unlikely he has survived the graveyard”.

“The graveyard?” Yugi said in a small, frightened voice.

“It’s the doorway to the shadow realm.” Ishizu answered quickly.

Yugi suddenly sat bolt upright.

“Only if someone uses all seven items together?” he asked as Ishizu’s words from before finally registering with him.

Ishizu sat back in surprise.

“Yes, but without the bearer its impossible no one el...” she stopped at the grim look of determination in Yugi’s eyes.

“No, Yugi, you can’t,” she cried.

“I must.” He said in a resolute voice as he stood, ignoring the pain in his body. He knew what to do. There was a way to save Yami if it wasn’t already too late.

“What’s going on? What do you mean?” Jou said in confusion.

Ishizu’s eyes did not leave Yugi’s as she spoke.

“Yugi is going to try and use the seven millennium items to open a portal. He’s going to use his power over them as the chosen one.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad. Why all the doom and gloom?” Jou scratched his head in confusion.

Ishizu rounded on him angrily.

“Because it will destroy him you idiot. If he used all of the items he will be consumed by their power and may well destroy the world in the process.”

Jou looked at Yugi in shocked disbelief.

“Yug...you can’t. Yami wouldn’t want this....”

Yugi was getting angry now. There was a way to save Yami and they were refusing to listen to him.

“How do we know what Yami would have wanted? He never got the chance to tell us did he? My mind in made up.”

“That is enough Yugi.” Ishizu said crisply.

Yugi’s anger died down a little at her tone. He noted that it was filled with both hope and fear together.

“Ishizu please, this is our one chance to save Yami. I know the risks but you must let me try.”

Seeing the look of determination on Yugi’s face Ishizu gave way.

“You must be careful Yugi. Are you truly aware of the consequences should this go wrong?”

Yugi nodded gravely.

“I am. I read the scrolls in your room Ishizu. I know what happened to the last chosen one who attempted this.”

He raised his head to look at his friends.

“I have one request of you all. If this should go wrong there is a high chance that the millennium items, once combined, will take me over and become a force of evil like the one we just defeated. I can’t allow that to happen. If the worse should happen you must destroy me.”

“Yug...what? Y...you can’t be serious.” Jou exclaimed in shock.

Yugi’s look became even more serious

“I mean it Jou. You promised me once you would protect me no matter what the cost. If the items do possess me then I’m relying on you to protect me from myself. Will you keep your promise to me Jou?”

Yugi’s tone and determination frightened Jou but at the request to confirm his promise Jou snapped out of his shock. Yugi was deadly serious and he needed his friend’s reassurance. Tears running down his face Jou turned to his friend.

“I will Yugi. I promised to protect you and by Ra I will. Even at the cost of my own life.”

“Thank you,” Yugi said simply before turning back to Ishizu.

“I’m ready.”

Ishizu sighed and reached up around her neck to release the clasp holding the millennium necklace. She held it out to Yugi but before handing it to him she spoke.

“When the chosen one last used the millennium items together there was a delay between using them and being taken over by them. If you are quick and you manage to find Yami before it’s to late there may be a chance that what came to pass before can be prevented.”

“I understand.” Yugi said as he took the necklace from Ishizu and fastened it around his neck.

The moment he touched the necklace he heard it call out to him. One by one the other guardian’s approached and handed him their items.

“You’ll need this as well,” Jou said as he handed Yugi Bakura’s millennium ring.

“How did you get this?” Yugi asked. He had completely forgotten about the ring.

“Bakura took a little tumble and I decide to relieve him of the object,” Jou said as he pointed towards the edge of the outcrop.

Yugi’s grim expression reflected his tone.

“Good” he said.

With five of the items in his possession Yugi’s head was ringing. He turned and bent down to pick up the millennium rod that lay on the ground a little way from him. He paused before picking up the puzzle. This was it, he could feel the puzzle calling out to him and he knew that the moment he touched it the seven items power would become one. There would be no going back. The image of Yami being engulfed in the blue flame came rushing back to him and with no further hesitation he grasped the chain of the puzzle and hung it around his neck. As he did so he felt the unbelievable power of the items combine and flow through him. If he hadn’t had his mind firmly set on rescuing Yami he may well have given in right there and then but his resolve was strong and he fought back. Suppressing the sound made by the items to a whisper in the back of his mind. He turned to the edge of outcrop where Seto had opened the portal to free himself and raised his hand. He didn’t need instructions as to what to do. The knowledge had come with the combination of the items. A portal began to slowly open in front of him and with one last glance at his friends behind him he stepped through.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yami ran. It was all he could do. The darkness around him closed in and he stumbled and fell. He could hear the sound of his pursuer drawing closer and he knew time was running out. He laid there for a moment, his tired and beaten body crying out for rest. His robes were torn and he was bleeding heavily from both the wounds received in the fight with Seto and those picked up in his flight. He dragged himself to his feet once more and continued to move through the crowds of tombs and memorials, each one representing a soul that had been trapped in the shadow realm. The graveyard was a formidable place indeed.

Yami had been running ever since he had arrived. After the Blue Eyes White Dragon’s final attack he had woken to find himself in the graveyard, amongst the stone slabs that rose from the ground like trees. Something had been following him ever since. He hadn’t seen it yet but he knew that if he did it would be the end for him. The feeling that he was being followed was growing stronger and Yami glanced over his shoulder to look back. He didn’t see the large stone monolith in front of him until it was to late. He hit it and was thrown to the floor. He struggled to rise but his strength was failing him. He knelt on the cold ground shaking with fatigue.

‘Why do I run?’ he wondered.

‘It’s over. Seto won and I paid the price for my weakness and failure.’

He slumped forwards, now kneeling on all fours, and hung his head in shame at his admission. He had failed. He had failed his friends, his people and worst of all he had failed Yugi. His body shook as he thought of what Seto would do to Yugi now Yami was out of the way. He slammed his fist into the ground.

‘No, I can’t give up. I must find a way out of this, a way back to Yugi,’ with that thought and his last ounce of strength he climbed back to his feet.

The ominous presence of his pursuer was growing with every second but he limped forwards. To his surprise the tightly packed slabs of stone suddenly cleared and he found himself in small area of empty graveyard. Empty except for a solitary stone slab in its centre. An immerse feeling of foreboding crept over him and fearful of what he might find Yami dragged himself forwards. As he approached he noticed that letters were beginning to form on the stone. He sank to his knees in final acceptance of his fate at the name inscribed on the tomb.

YAMI

“Its over,” he whispered and turned to face the approaching pursuer he had fled from for so long.

The tall dark robed figure of the reaper appeared from the darkness and glided towards Yami his scythe held high. Yami found he could not move as the reapers shadow fell on him as it drew closer. He looked up fearfully into the dark empty blackness within the reapers hood as it towered over him and shivered as a grey, shrivelled hand reached out from the expanse of his robe. It entwined itself in Yami’s hair and then gently, almost lovingly, tilted his head backwards. Yami watched, powerless to do anything, as the reaper discarded his scythe and unsheathed his sword.

‘I see,’ Yami thought sadly.

‘Kings get the sword’

He gently closed his eyes, as the ice like blade was laid against his throat.

“LEAVE HIM ALONE.” A voice shouted behind him.

There was the sound of a solid thump and then Yami felt the cold hand release him and the presence of the reaper move away.

Yami looked around and was astounded to see Yugi standing in the middle of the clearing hefting a rock in his hand. A similar rock to the one he had just thrown at the reaper.

“Yugi?” he said in shock and surprise.

“Quickly Yami, we’ve got to get out of here,” Yugi said desperately as the reaper advanced on him, his former prey now forgotten.

Still in shock at seeing Yugi in the shadow realm Yami continued to stutter his amazement.

“But how? How did you get here?”

“Please Yami we have to go.” Yugi said again desperately as he dived out of the way of the reaper as it made a grab for him.

It was then that Yami noticed the puzzle around Yugi’s neck and he realised he could feel the presence of the other six items.

“NO...you’ve used the millennium items.... You’ve combined their power. Yugi please I’m not worth this. I’m not worth throwing away your life for.” Yami cried out in dismay.

Yugi dived out of the way of another lunge from the reaper and turned to Yami.

“How can you say that Yami after everything we’ve been through, after everything you’ve done for me, how can you say you’re not worth it?”

Yugi dived once more out of the reach of the reaper but stumbled and fell. He flipped quickly onto his back and looked up fearfully at the reaper as it towered over him. Why wasn’t Yami moving? Why wasn’t Yami helping him?

“Please Yami you have to snap out of it we’re running out of time. I’m running out of time.” He shouted.

Yugi’s eyes widened and he shrank back in fear as the reaper reached out for him. Then there was a loud fast swish and the reaper burst into flame. Yugi looked up in relief at Yami who was standing with the reaper’s scythe in his hand. Yami dropped the scythe to the floor in disgust as Yugi picked himself off the floor and ran to him, wrapping his arms tightly around his middle. Yami returned the hug and smiled.

“Oh Yami, I thought I lost you forever,” Yugi sobbed.

“It’s alright Yugi, I’m Ok.”

Yami tipped Yugi’s face up to his own.

“Its time to go home,” he said.

Yugi suddenly let Yami go and moved towards the edge of the clearing at hearing the word ‘time’. Time was something he was running out of.

“Please Yami we have to hurry. We have to get out of the shadow realm.”

Yami noticed the rising fear in Yugi’s voice and he finally realised why. Yugi was using all seven of the millennium items and the longer he was in contact with them the more chance there was that they would combine into the evil Ishizu had foretold. Yugi was in great danger.

They ran, ran like they had never run before towards the portal to freedom. As they approached Yami took the lead and could see the rocky outcrop and the figures of their friends in front of him. Before he dived through he turned to check on Yugi’s progress and was horrified to find him leaning heavily on a stone slab for support.

“Yami...” Yugi said weakly.

Yami dashed to his side and was terrified at what he saw. Yugi had one hand grasping the slab for support whilst the other clutched at his chest in pain. The look in Yugi’s face was more terrifying. Although his eyes were still violet in colour they had dimmed somewhat and Yami could see something else behind his eyes, another presence trying to force its way through.

“Help me....” Was all Yugi could manage as he struggled to stay in control.

Yami glanced over his shoulder towards the closing portal. It was nearly closed there was no way he would make it carrying Yugi.

“Leave me.”

Yami’s head whipped around from the portal at hearing Yugi’s weakening voice. Realising what Yugi was asking of him Yami shook his head.

“No, I’m not leaving you Yugi.”

The power of the millennium items was growing and Yugi was weakening rapidly. Yugi had a look of hopelessness in his eyes as Yami spoke. After all they had been through. They were both going to be trapped in the shadow realm.

»MASTER.»

Yami swung around at the voice. He didn’t recognise the deep tones but he knew to whom they belonged. The Dark Magician stood beside the portal halting its rapid closure with his staff.

»YOU MUST LEAVE. I CANNOT HOLD IT FOR LONG.»

Not having to be told twice Yami swept Yugi into his arms and carrying him ran towards the portal. Before diving through he turned to the Dark Magician.

“Thank you Madoh,” he said.

The Dark Magician smiled and nodded to Yami.

Hurry, he said in a more human tone.

Yami nodded and dived through the portal, just as it closed behind him, into the cool night of the desert. He could hear the cries of elation from his friends as he appeared but he paid no heed to their approaching footsteps. His attention was focused solely on Yugi. Now they were back in the real world Yami could see the seven items Yugi was carrying. One by one he quickly tore them free from Yugi’s grasp. If he could get Yugi away from the items maybe he could prevent what he feared from coming to pass. Yugi was breathing fast and screwed his eyes shut as he struggled to fight with the growing power inside of him. Yami had successfully discarded six of the items and now turned his attention to the puzzle. As he reached to remove the puzzle from around Yugi’s neck Yugi’s hand snaked up like lightning to grasp Yami’s wrist. Yami cried out at the unusual strength in the grip.

As Yugi slowly opened his eyes Yami and the others shrank back from him. Yugi’s eyes once a deep violet now glowed a blood red. Yami cried out again as Yugi flung him away and slowly stood.

The possessed form of Yugi slowly began to advance on his friends. Realising what was happening Yami picked himself up from the floor and dived in front of the advancing Yugi.

“Yugi, listen to me we are your friends, you must fight it.”

Without a word Yugi raised his fist and fired a bolt of lightning straight at Yami. Yami dived out of the way before the bolt struck but was showered with shards of rock as the blast hit a boulder directly behind him. Yami once more climbed to his feet.

“Please Yugi you have to hear me, fight it.”

The controlled form before him stopped and smiled a cold uncharacteristic smile and his blood red eyes flashed.

»Yugi is not here anymore. We are in control »

A cold chill ran though Yami’s spine at the sound of the cold metallic voice that came from Yugi’s lips. It was not Yugi who spoke.

“Where is he? What have you done with him?” Yami questioned.

Yugi advance closer to him.

»He has served his purpose. We are free now»

“Let him go. Please, Yugi fight it” Yami cried out in desperation. If he didn’t get through to Yugi soon it would be too late.

Yami reluctantly reached his hand to the hilt of his sword as the figure in front of him clenched his fist once more it erupted in a ball of blue white flame. Yugi levelled the fireball at Yami and drew back his arm. Yami half slid the sword out of its sheaf as Yugi released the fireball but to Yami surprise it was not fired at him but flew harmlessly into the air. Yami looked at Yugi and saw the figure in front of him stagger and let out an inhuman, animal like cry, which altered into a more human scream. Yugi turned toward Yami again holding his head in pain.

“Yugi...?” Yami said in desperate hope.

Yugi’s eyes, although still red, now looked more normal, more human. Yami approached the struggling form of his friend.

Yugi backed away from Yami.

“NO...stay back...I can’t control it...help me,” he cried out.

Yugi screamed in pain again as he fought to control the force taking him over. Yami started to move forward. Concerned for his friend.

“Yami...please I can’t control it...you must...you know what to do....” Yugi said through clenched teeth.

Yami knew what Yugi was referring to and he couldn’t bring himself to contemplate it.

“NO, I won’t. Let me help you.”

“You...you have to. Please Yami I don’t want it to end this way...Help me...destroy me...please.” Yugi cried as he collapsed to his knees.

Yami drew closer until he was only feet away from his fallen friend. He reached out a hand to Yugi but was thrown back by an incredible force.

»We will not be touched Came the cold metallic voice once again as the controlled body of Yugi lifted its head. Blood red eyes flashed once more in place of the violet.

»We are in control once more

From the confines of his mind Yugi watched as the consciousness within the millennium items controlled his body and moved closer to Yami. Backing him into a small rock face. Yami was trapped.

»You must be destroyed the metallic voice said as Yugi raised both his arms for the final blast.

Yami drew his sword. If he was quick enough he could get his strike in before Yugi was able to summon his power. The skies began to darken once again.

Yugi could feel the build up of power inside himself and he knew Yami would not be quick enough to strike. In one last desperate attempt he pushed at the barriers holding him back and with a sudden jolt he broke through. Yami watched Yugi struggle for control and then fall to his knees. Yugi wrapped his arms tightly around his body, as he once more took control but he knew his time was short. The power of the puzzle and the other items was growing again. He knew he would not have the strength to fight them off for a third time. He raised his pain filled eyes to Yami who cried out in elation at seeing Yugi return to normal but he also noticed the trembling of Yugi’s form and the way he hugged himself in pain. The battle was not over yet.

“Yugi...” he said tentatively.

“Yami... you have to...whilst I’m still in control...I don’t know how much longer I can hold out...please Yami you must...you must kill me.”

“No”, Yami said in despair.

“Yami you must...there’s no alternative...I don’t want to destroy the world”.

Tears were streaming down Yami’s face at Yugi’s words.

“Yugi I....” he said, his voice filled with grief and pain.

“Please Yami...time is running out...please before it’s too late”.

Yami nodded and raised his sword. He could hear Jou’s cries behind him but he knew what he had to do, what he hoped would never come to pass. He raised his sword high has be drew closer to the boy before him. Yugi’s eyes were tightly shut and his head was bowed as he fought to remain in control.

The tears poured down Yami’s face like rivers as he made the final step towards Yugi and raised his sword high over his head. He would make it quick and clean. Yugi wouldn’t suffer he gave out a howl of grief as he started to swing the sword down. Suddenly a bright flash from the puzzle around Yugi’s neck blinded him and he staggered back, altered his swing. The sword imbedded itself deep into the ground beside Yugi barely missing him. Yami raised his hand to shield his eyes again as he stared at the puzzle.

Suddenly he knew what to do and he threw the sword aside and made a grab for the puzzle. The puzzle burned his hands as he grabbed hold of it but undeterred Yami yanked at the chain around Yugi’s neck. The chain snapped at the force and came away. As he took hold of the puzzle and moved it away from Yugi he heard the cries of anguish from the millennium items and watched as Yugi fell limply to the floor. Yami staggered at the onslaught of voices in his head as he held the millennium puzzle in his hand but he knew what he had to do. He raised it high above his head and threw it to the floor. The puzzle shattered into pieces at his feet and the cries of the items faded away. Yami himself fell to the floor unconscious to lie beside Yugi.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Well, there you go see I couldn’t just leave Yami in the Shadow realm but how will it end. One chapter to go.

Chapter 21 – A new day

The warm bed Yami woke up in was not what he was expecting. He opened his eyes groggily and sat up extremely surprised to recognize his own bed. The drapes around the bed were pulled closed but he could hear movement on the other side. Just as he reached for the drapes they gave a twitch and were pulled back. Ishizu stood on the other side. A look of relief crossed her face at seeing Yami awake.

“Thank Ra your finally awake,” she said happily.

Yami still wasn’t sure how he had come to be in his own bed but the events were slowly coming back to him.

“How long have I been I asleep?” Yami asked.

The last thing he remembered was smashing the puzzle.

“Five days. I was beginning to worry that neither of the two of you would wake up again.”

“Two of us...Yugi,” Yami exclaimed and made a move to get out of bed.

“Oh no you don’t,” Ishizu said firmly grabbing hold of Yami’s arm to stop him leaving the bed.

“He’s fine. He woke up two days a go. You took a little longer.”

Yami settled reluctantly back in bed.

“Two days...is he ok...where is he...what happened?” Yami asked firing the questions at Ishizu in rapid succession.

“One question at time Your Highness,” Ishizu chided.

“You’ve been unconscious since we brought you back from the desert. Yugi woke up two days ago. He was shaken after his experiences but none the worse for wear. That was quick thinking, breaking the control by shattering the puzzle. How did you know it would work?”

Yami shrugged.

“I didn’t. I just had nothing left to lose. I recalled our conversation about how the consciousness within the puzzle was brought about by the combining of the items, like the pieces of a puzzle and how some of the items have a second power. Well it suddenly came to me, the reason why the millennium puzzle is called a puzzle. I figured that if I could break it into pieces then I could break the consciousness possessing Yugi into pieces as well”.

“It was good guess because it worked,” Ishizu said as she sat down beside Yami.

He looked over at Ishizu.

“Where is it now?”

Ishizu pointed to a golden box on the table across the room.

“The pieces are in there.”

Yami looked at the box.

“And the other items?”

“Locked away in a vault under the palace. It seemed best after what happened. At first we were going to destroy them but we may need them again some day. Even though combined they became a force of evil the individual items themselves are still a force for good. I suspect the creators knew that this might happen and that’s why they built in the secondary powers as a failsafe. Personally I’m extremely glad they did.”

Yami nodded his agreement.

“I think you may be right. What happened to Mokuba, Seto, Marik and Bakura?”

Ishizu eyes dimmed a little at the mention of her brother but continued to smile.

“Yugi discovered the secondary power of the millennium rod, an ability to be converted into a powerful dagger through which the items power could be administered directly rather than be summoned by the user. He used it to destroy Seto. Marik ran and Bakura is missing. According to Jou he fell off the edge of the outcrop but we couldn’t find a body. Mokuba, well we brought him back with us. He was pretty shaken up by his treatment at Seto’s hand. I don’t think he ever really realised that his brother was evil.”

“Where is he now?” Yami asked.

“Now don’t be angry Yami. Yugi freed him. Jou was all set to have the boy publicly executed but in your absence Yugi pardoned him. It wasn’t really his fault that Seto used him the way he did. He tried to help his brother out of love and Yugi decided that being betrayed by his brother was punishment enough.”

Yami smiled. Yugi had done exactly what he would have. It wasn’t Mokuba’s fault.

Where’s Yugi now?” Yami asked realizing his third question had not yet been answered.

Ishizu smiled again.

“He’s alright Yami really. He’s where he always is at this time of the morning.”

It was then that Yami noticed the sun streaming through the window. It was early in the morning and the sun was just beginning to rise. Without hesitation or listening to the protests from Ishizu Yami slipped out of bed and made his way over to Yugi’s adjoining room.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yugi stood looking out at the rising sun and sighed. After everything that had happened to him in the last few weeks he had feared that he would never see his favorite scene again. The sight before him calmed his soul even though he was worried about Yami. Yugi had visited him that morning, hoping for some change, some sign that he was finally waking up but there had been none. He leaned forward onto the balcony, listening to the birds singing. He was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he didn’t hear the door open behind him.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yami quietly slipped into the room and looked around expectantly for Yugi. At first he couldn’t see him but his heart leapt with joy when he noticed him leaning contentedly on the balcony listening to the birds singing. Yami slowly moved across the room until he was standing behind him.

“I don’t know how anyone can sleep through that racket,” he said calmly.

“How can you say that Yami, their beautiful,” Yugi replied automatically.

He stopped.

“Yami...?”

Yami was knocked off his feet as Yugi spun round and threw himself at him.

“Yami...I can’t believe it, you’re awake...when? ....How are you feeling?” Yugi babbled in joy at the sight of his cousin alive, awake and well before him.

“Now, now Yugi one question at a time,” Yami laughed mimicking Ishizu’s earlier tone with himself.

Yugi sat down on the floor beside Yami, grinning broadly.

“Sorry.” he said.

“Seriously though Yami how are you feeling?”

Yami smiled at him.

“I’m fine but what about you?”

“I’m not hearing voices anymore if that’s what you mean,” Yugi joked.

Yami lifted himself from his back and sat beside Yugi on the cool marble floor. It would have looked pretty funny to anyone passing to see a Pharaoh and a Prince rolling on the floor like common street kids but neither of them cared.

Yami took Yugi’s hand in his own and although still smiling, his tone was one of seriousness.

“Ishizu tells me you let Mokuba go.”

Yugi nodded.

“Yes. You’re not angry with me are you?” Yugi asked slight afraid.

“No Yugi, you made the right choice. I would have done the same. He’s suffered enough and doesn’t deserve to be punished.”

“I’m glad.” Yugi said relieved.

“You were very brave back there in the desert Yugi. I should be telling you off for following me but I understand why you did it. I want to thank you. You risked a lot to save my life.”

Yugi smiled and reached into the top of his robes he pulled out Yami letter.

“You would have done the same for me and besides I had this to spur me on.”

Yami looked slightly embarrassed as Yugi waved his letter in front of him. He had been extremely emotional at the time. He had truly believed that he wasn’t coming back. Yami made a grab at the letter but Yugi moved it out of his reach and slipped it back into his robes, a gentle smile on his face. He knew the letter embarrassed Yami but Yugi cherished it. Without a word Yugi stood up, moving back to the balcony. Yami joined him.

“I really thought I wouldn’t see this again.” Yugi admitted as he indicated the golden scene of before him.

“Neither did I.” Yami agreed.

They stayed like that for a little while until the sun had finished its journey to the top of the sky and morning had truly arrived.

Yugi turned to Yami.

“I have something of yours to return,” he said.

“Oh, what’s that?” Yami said in interest.

Yugi turned back to the room and made his way over to small table beside his bed. On the table was the wooden box that had contained the replica puzzle. Yugi opened the box and drew out the ring he had found at the oasis. Yami gave a cry of delight when Yugi gave it to him.

“I thought I had lost this. Where did you find it?”

“At an oasis where I stopped for water.”

“I know the one. I’m glad you found it.”

Yami slipped the ring back onto his finger and made to turn back to the balcony but stopped when he noticed that Yugi still had his hand on the box.

“Is there something else?” he asked. If there was he couldn’t think what it was.

Yugi flashed him an uncertain smile.

“Now I don’t want you to worry about this Yami. I’ve checked with Ishizu and she is completely sure that now the puzzle has been broken and the control over me is gone that the circle is broken, it can’t happen again.”

Yami’s eyes narrowed. If he was to understand Yugi’s meaning there was only one thing that could be in that box.

“Yugi...I’m not sure about this. What if she’s wrong?”

Yugi shook his head.

“No it’s Ok now. I’ve held it loads of times since I woke up and I’m fine.”

With that Yugi held up the replica puzzle to Yami.

“I know it shouldn’t work but I’m curious...” He said with a mischievous glint in his eye.

##Yami##

The look of shock on Yami’s face at hearing Yugi’s voice in his head was priceless and it confirmed to Yugi that the replica puzzle was still working.

“But...how? ...It’s not possible...I don’t have the puzzle....” Yami stammered in shock.

Yugi collapsed to the floor in fits of laughter at Yami’s expression.

“Look Yugi...be serious.... What if...I mean we don’t know?”

He started to laugh as well as he realized that Yugi had just got his revenge for his initial shock when Yami had first given him the puzzle.

“Now that was unexpected,” he said finally as he sat up from the floor wiping his eyes. Yugi did the same.

A mischievous look crossed Yugi’s face.

“You know we never told anyone about the puzzles and their abilities. About how we were able to finish each other’s sentences. Only Ishizu.”

Yami looked at Yugi in understanding.

“I think you’re right. Ishizu’s the only one who knows. We should really destroy the replica.”

Yugi pouted at this. Seeing Yugi’s expression Yami continued.

“However we don’t necessarily need to do it soon.”

Yugi brightened up at this.

“Shall we go find Jou?” he asked eagerly.

Yami stood.

“Why not.”

With that they both left the room to hunt out their friends. Yugi hid the replica puzzle behind his back and grinned. This was going to be fun.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Authors Note:

Well that’s it, the end of ‘Vicious Circle’ and the second in the trilogy I’ve come to call ‘Prophecy’. Let me know what you thought, loved it, hated it, want me to write another one?

Needless to say if this is a trilogy there needs to be three stories. I have some loose ends to tie up, like what happened to Bakura and Marik and will they return? Plus I haven’t covered all the main bits of the show yet, namely the Egyptian God cards. The third is underway and I hope to have the first chapter posted by the end of November beginning of December. I have to say I’ve really enjoyed writing ‘Vicious Circle’. ‘Power of the Pharaoh’ was my first fic but I felt like I really got to grips with my writing with ‘Vicious Circle’ and I love my new style. As for suspense well I think I’m addicted. Sorry to all those that cursed the endless cliffhangers, hope I’m forgiven. I don’t have a title or a summary for the third story yet but watch my bio. As soon as I have something I’m happy with I’ll update there.

Thanks to all my constant reviewers and everyone else that’s been reading. (A little miffed at the hit count for the last chapter. At one point I had 5 reviews and only 3 readers????? I think it must have been bust that day. Never mind here’s hoping its working OK now). Your feedback helped me no end and really helped my confidence and writing. Plus I hit the 100 reviews last chapter, which is extremely cool.

Just a note to say I have two more Yu-Gi-Oh fic lined up. One is my one-shot alternative ending to Yu-Gi-Oh (by the way I have started a C2 for alternative endings to Yu-Gi-Oh because the actual ending was rather disappointing. Let me know if you want in). The second is a vampire fic. Don’t run away screaming there won’t be any blood or anything. It’s more of lonely finds friend fic. When I have more details I will post on my bio.

Well that’s it let me have your reviews. :- ). See ya soon or e-mail me if you want to chat, swap ideas etc.