DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fanfiction produced for entertainment purposes only. Yu-Gi-Oh! and all related characters are the creations of Kazuki Takahashi.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: If anyone's interested, the book I referred to for information on the Judgement of the Dead ritual and the names and roles of the Ancient Egyptian Gods was 'The Egyptian Book of Living and Dying' by Joann Fletcher.
"Can you not tell? This is the antechamber of the Hall of Judgement. We are about to be judged by the god Osiris to see if we are worthy to enter the Afterlife... or instead be cast into eternal oblivion."
Yami's strained voice told Bakura even more than his horrifying words. He was telling the truth and he was already sure of his fate.
Almost gently, Bakura set Yami down again on the black marble tiles. The one-time Pharaoh looked at the one-time Tombrobber and for the first time, Bakura knew that they both felt the same way at that moment. He bowed his head. "So... this is it."
"Yes." Yami sighed. "In the end, after everything that has happened, we should have realised that we would not be able to escape... this." He shook his head slightly. "We were raised knowing this day would come." His voice was soft, little more than a whisper, but it echoed loudly in the hall all the same.
Bakura nodded. "Yes." He looked away. "But I'd hoped that of all the stories, this was nothing more than one of them."
Yami blinked at that. "You... did not believe in the Gods? In the Afterlife?" He looked horrified.
The other yami smiled mirthlessly, his eyes glittering as he recalled his life in Egypt. "I believed that the Gods had forsaken me from the day they took my sister and mother. Believed it even more the day my village burned to the ground... along with my father. After that, I made my own destiny, as you well know." He shrugged and looked away. "I guess I figured... after everything that had happened in life... the trials couldn't possibly continue after death too."
"Trials..." Yami frowned at that, looking as if Bakura's words had made him think of something that was confusing him.
"Yeah. You know, things you go through that you don't like and don't see the reason for except to make you stronger if you survive them. Trials." Bakura eyed Yami warily.
Yami shot Bakura a look of irritation. "I am aware of what 'trials' are, thank you. That is what is puzzling me. There have been no trials for me. What of you?" Before the other could do more than glare at him, he waved a hand. "Wait, I do not mean during our lives or even while we were spirits. You must know how the story goes. The dead do not simply... appear in this place."
Realising what Yami meant, Bakura's eyes widened in shock. "You're right. The Hall of Judgement was said to be the last stop, not the first. The dead were supposed to make their way here through the underworld and they had to pass through five gateways to do so. I don't know about you, but I definitely didn't do that. One minute I was in limbo and then I was here wearing... this..." He plucked at his tunic shirt with a grimace of distaste.
"It was the same for me." Yami frowned and looked around. "This is most strange. Perhaps I was mistaken about where we are."
Hope flared in Bakura's heart.
A door at the far end of the hall opened and a man entered the chamber, stopping just inside the doorway. He was tall and slender, lightly muscled, and dressed in a similar fashion to the two yamis, except for an Egyptian-styled collar that shone golden between the intricately-laid pieces of obsidian set into it. His long brown hair cascaded to the middle of his back, with two pieces falling in front of his shoulders and framing his face. His definitely inhuman face.
Yami and Bakura stared at him in shock, recognising him instantly.
With their recognition came the knowledge that no, Yami hadn't been wrong about where they were. Their escort had arrived exactly as in the stories they had both grown up with.
Anubis, the jackal-headed god of death, raised a hand and beckoned them forward. "Come." His voice was the deep rumbling echo of an empty tomb and neither yami could prevent the shudders that passed through them at the eerie sound. They glanced at each other then, as if given strength by the knowledge that at least they were not alone, they both began the walk down the hall.
Anubis did not seem to be in any particular hurry. He waited for them patiently, no sign of any emotion on his face. It could have been carved from sandstone, except that stone could not move and, as they stopped a few steps away from him, both yamis saw a flash of his pointed teeth as he began to speak again. "You are about to enter the Hall of Judgement, also known as the Hall of Two Truths. Osiris awaits within to judge your mortal lives. Come."
Yami and Bakura both nodded and followed Anubis out of the hall of black marble and into the hall where both Osiris, the Judge of the Dead, and their final destinies awaited them.
The Hall of Judgement had the same carved walls as the outer chamber, but that was where the similarity ended. The floor was simple sandstone rather than black marble and the ceiling, Bakura was relieved to see, was also plain and not the disconcerting shadows of the other room. He had checked it instinctively but his attention remained there only for a moment before being drawn to the scene before them.
On the far side of the room was a dais with a set of immense golden scales beside it, in perfect balance. The man seated on the dais and the two women who stood on each side of him all appeared to be human, but the yamis knew otherwise. Off to the side where the scales were, another man stood silently. There was no doubt at all that he was not human, either.
The man seated on the dais was wearing a long white tunic that fell to his feet along with the traditional Egyptian-styled collar. He also wore a plumed ritual crown that bore a little too much of a resemblance to the Dark Magician's hat for Bakura's comfort. In his hands, he held a crook and a flail, the sight of which also made the ancient Tombrobber more than a little uneasy.
As far as Bakura could recall, the crook, flail and even the hat were just the regalia of the position, but it had been so long that there was always the possibility that things had changed.
He was Osiris, the Judge of the Dead and the God of the Underworld.
Beside him, wearing simple tunics with golden, jewel inlaid collars, stood his sisters and protectors, Isis and Nepthys.
Beside them, the two outer figures were identical twins. Or rather, they were two of the same being. Maat, the goddess of justice and truth. Her form divided to show her dedication to the maintenance of balance and order. They were dressed identically to the sisters, except for one thing... Each Maat wore a single tall feather in her hair.
Those feathers... the sight of them sent a bone-deep chill through Bakura. He knew what they were used for. He knew they would be the cause of his final, and absolute, end.
The other male in the room was dressed like Anubis except that his collar was set with quartz rather than obsidian. His dark brown hair was just a shade lighter and perhaps an inch longer, but he wore it the same way, falling down his back except for two pieces that fell in front of his shoulders and framed his face. His long beak curved down and his bright eyes regarded the two yamis with keen intelligence and what looked to Bakura like a mix of curiosity and fascination.
There were only two things that stopped Bakura from being very annoyed by that look. The first was his knowledge that the man was Thoth, the ibis-headed scribe and god of writing and said to possess the most knowledge of any of the Ancient Egyptian deities. To Bakura, that made curiosity more of a side-effect of his job than a self-indulgence. The second thing was the fact that of all the beings in that room, Thoth was the only one who looked even remotely interested in them. All of the others wore what Bakura guessed Yami would label 'expressions of dignified serenity'.
To him they just looked bored.
Still... Bakura figured that had to be better than the outright hostility or anger he could have been entitled to, considering how often he'd cursed all of the Egyptian gods. Both mentally and verbally.
Anubis spoke from behind them, drawing Bakura out of his thoughts. "You stand in the presence of the great Osiris. Recite the Negative Confession." He paused and then said the words that Bakura had been dreading. "The white-haired one first."
Ah yes. How had he managed to forget about this particular requirement of the judgement ceremony? As he moved forward a few steps, Bakura barely managed to keep from wincing outwardly at the thought of the very long, very detailed list of sins that all Ancient Egyptians had been expected to memorise just for this occasion.
The idea was that the dead recited the Negative Confession, swore that they had spoken the truth and that they were guilty of nothing mentioned in it, and then the feather of truth was placed on the golden scales. The feather that Maat wore in her hair. Their hearts were then weighed against the feather. If the two remained in balance, then the confession had been true and the dead would be granted eternal life, their souls set free to someday be reincarnated. If the scales tipped, the confession had been false and the dead would be... Uh oh.
This was not going to be good.
"I think we all know how this is gonna go, so how about I save you guys some time?"
Bakura heard the words being spoken and recognised his voice. He almost panicked, but then he realised that he had actually never felt more relaxed or in control. This was right. It was unorthodox, sure, but when had he ever gone by the rules?
He drew himself up to his full height and smiled slightly. "I was a tombrobber. That's about as bad as it gets. There's no way I'm going to pass this. I've done too much and seen too much more." He shrugged. "If this is the end of me, then fair enough. I always knew I'd have to pay the price for my life, someday." His eyes narrowed and hardened. "But this test of yours is unfair for him." He made a brisk gesture with his head to indicate the former-Pharaoh, who he knew without looking was staring at him in shock.
"He's no angel, but he's done more for this sorry world than anyone else at any time or place. He's saved it more than once, but that won't count at all with the way you judge those who stand before you." He turned his head slightly, speaking now not to the Judge, but to the protector of truth and justice. His voice softened as he looked at her. Both of her. "The judgement worked fine in our time. Things were simpler then. But after everything that's happened... For his judgement to be a just one, surely what he did needs to be taken into account as much as what he didn't do? That's the only way he'll be judged fairly."
"Bakura! Silence!" The words came from behind him, swift and furious with more than a hint of embarrassment in their tone. "It is not your place to say what is fair or just, anymore than it is your place to speak on my behalf. I am prepared to accept their judgement. It is none of your concern."
Bakura turned and glared at Yami. "No. It's one thing for me to end here but not you. Shadows, you and I both know that. I've done nothing to deserve anything but oblivion, but you..." It was only a slim chance, but it was one he knew he had to take. Even if it was the last thing he ever did... at least he could do something that would make Ryou proud of him, if he ever knew.
"I said silence!" Yami glared back at Bakura, obviously moving quickly beyond mere fury.
"Newsflash, Yami. You're not the Pharaoh Atem anymore." Bakura snarled and took a step towards Yami as he spoke in a low growl that seemed to swirl around him in the echoing room. "That was five thousand years ago, before we both became what we are."
He would have said more, but something happened to distract him.
Throughout Bakura's appeal and the resulting argument with Yami, the rest of the room had been completely silent, although whether that was due to them being willing to allow him to have his say or merely being stunned into silence by his impertinence was unclear. But as Bakura paused in his tirade to take a break, a soft gasp and softer sound broke that silence.
All eyes in the room turned to look in surprise at Thoth, who was picking up the quill pen he had just dropped. The scribe blinked at the parchment in his hands, then looked over at Osiris with wide, almost frightened, eyes before looking at Bakura. "Um... excuse me... but... did you just say... Pharaoh and... five thousand... years?" He was either of a very meek and tentative nature, or he was going into a state of shock.
Considering how much his hands were trembling, Bakura would have bet on the shock.
As Bakura blinked in surprise at the scribe, Yami replied, his voice soft. "In life, I was the Pharaoh Atem and he was Bakura, a tombrobber. We lived in Egypt over five millennia ago. Our lives were taken as a result of a spell, but at that time our souls were both divided in two. We slept in magical items until our other halves gained those items and we emerged, in the form of spirits. Now, our duel has finally ended and our half-souls have moved on to here."
Thoth's eyes were very wide and there was something in them that Bakura thought looked oddly like panic. "These... other halves... you speak of... They were reincarnated into the mortal world? They were human?"
Bakura nodded before Yami could. "Yeah. Yugi Moto and Ryou Bakura. We call them our light halves, since we're the ones with the Shadow Magic."
"Shadow..." Thoth began to tremble so much that Anubis moved to his side to steady him in case he was about to faint. "Oh no." He quickly whispered something to Anubis. Bakura couldn't hear what it was, but he could easily see the effect it had on the jackal-headed god.
Anubis's slanted golden eyes went so round they were almost circles and he suddenly looked very uncomfortable. When he strode towards Bakura, the yami tensed, expecting trouble. What he got was something else entirely.
"It seems there is some... discrepancy... in our information. We need to clarify a few things before you can be judged. So, if you and your..." he made a vague gesture to Yami and didn't waste time trying to work out the relationship, "... would wait out in the antechamber, I will come for you again shortly."
As he spoke, Anubis made a shooing motion with his hands. Whenever Téa had done that, Bakura had just thought it looked silly. When a jackal-headed death god did it...
Bakura blinked as the door to the Hall of Judgement closed firmly in his face a few moments later. He slowly turned and looked at Yami, only slightly relieved to see that the former-pharaoh looked just as confused as he felt. "Any idea what that was all about?"
Yami started to shake his head, then paused and frowned thoughtfully. "None, unless..."
"Unless?" Bakura prompted when Yami just trailed off without finishing his sentence.
"Well... they seemed to be rather surprised at hearing that we have been spirits for all this time. There was also our coming here without needing to pass through the underworld with all its trials." Yami paused to try to get his thoughts in order, but quickly continued when Bakura glared at him. "It has just occurred to me that perhaps, since we both possess only half a soul each, the judgement procedure may be different for us."
Bakura blinked. "As much as I hate to admit it... you're making sense." He looked at the doors. "But you know... they didn't exactly seem happy about it. They seemed almost... afraid."
He turned at the sound of footsteps and arched an eyebrow as he watched Yami walking over to the wall and sitting down with his back to it. "What are you doing?"
"Sitting." Yami shrugged at the look Bakura gave him. "We do not know how long it will be before we are summoned before them again. We might as well be comfortable."
Bakura hated it when Yami was right. Scowling, he moved over to the wall and sat down beside Yami, then closed his eyes and settled in to wait until the doors opened again.
As much as he despised the former-pharaoh, he couldn't help but be a little relieved that he wasn't there alone.