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Magic Ties

Yami was in his chambers, sitting in a small circle of golden candlelight that was enveloped in darkness. Silence blanketed the close, warm air as he assembled his spell, thinking, arranging... 

He laid out his components with the same precision and accuracy he had used when dueling in the Game. Everything in his Spell Circle was precisely in place. He had no margin for error; this was difficult magic, dangerous and demanding on his power. A mistake could mean much worse than his death. But - his eyes narrowed - he would do this, for Zaphnath, for the Game. It was too important. They had worked too hard for this kind of magic to have it all destroyed by power-hungry, controlling wizards. This was his life, and he would not have it stolen away... 

All right, he thought, almost ready. But this was no ordinary conjuration. He needed something more, something to bind, something permanent... 

His eyes traveled around the room, over items glinting on shelves, on tables. What to use...? 

His eyes fell on his own hands. His ring, his silver magician's ring caught the light of the candles glowing feebly on the table. But it was not silver. It was gold - very rare gold. White gold... 

He placed his other hand on his ring. Slowly, he pulled it off his finger and stared at it. 

Gold: untarnishable. A circle: unbroken. Rare... 

This was it. The binding item he needed. 

Yami braced himself, knowing this would complete the spell. He knew this spell, but he had never performed it before. He did not know how much magic he would need to use - how much it would draw from him. His own strength, the Game had taught him, would be directly proportional to the strength of the spirit he called. Also, this spell would decide the type of spirit, but he did not know what the Shadow Realm would send; drawing a good spirit was not a matter of control as much as one of faith. But - he stiffened - his strength would have to be enough. It would have to be... 

For you, Zaphnath. For the Game... 

He took a deep breath. 

"The ring," Yami murmured softly, "unbroken and unending, to bind; the eternal purity of gold. With this, I call you to me, me to you, in trust." 

He placed the ring in the centre of the circle... 

He felt the energy surge within the circle, felt it draw on his own power. And immediately felt it draining him. 

No! I... will not weaken... 

He clenched his fists on every ounce of his strength, drew himself up in the power he had mastered over all of his years of study and practice. But it was so hard. And the spell had just begun... 

"Wekha Wenen!" 

The power increased again. Yami felt his legs shake, and he forced them to stop. He directed his magic, brought the spell under his control... 

Now he focused his mind, concentrated every fibre of his being on what he had asked for... 

...a good spirit... good, yet strong... wielder of justice... 

Inside his circle, Yami saw the glow, and he watched his spell take form... 

Silver... like the ring... White gold... 

Through glazed eyes, he saw the spirit's hair fly out in a silver cascade. The magic wind blowing lifted it, and flung it out and around the face that was as white and bright as the full moon... 

Tall, slender - yet powerful, exuding a command that was unmistakeable, irrefutable... 

... the Power to Rule the Hearts... 

Hands trembling, sweat streaming into his burning eyes, he saw elegant robes, white and silver, billowing out around her form... 

Her form. A female form... 

The magic wind slowed and stilled. The form in the circle was complete. Finally, the spell was over. Yami fell to his knees, then to his hands, shaking, hearing nothing but his own heart pounding. It seemed like he stayed there for a long time, inhaling and exhaling spasmodically. He was weak, so weak, but... he had done it... 

He raised his eyes, just to see... just... for a moment... 

He had one glimpse - his breath caught. 

The spirit's form was sharp, clear and bright, but insubstantial - like a moonlit fog, glowing and swirling as twinkling star-lights flew around her. The silver hair hung suspended in the air as though she was floating in water. Her head was crowned with a delicate circlet, and it was bowed, the eyes closed. As he watched, they opened... 

Perhaps he shouldn't have looked at her. Not in his weakened state. 

I am the Queen of Hearts, Yami. I will bring order. 

Her voice penetrated his thoughts, and it was music - unearthly music. His arms gave out and he fell. He dreamed only of silver hair falling over a timeless beauty, and silver-green eyes that smiled into his own... 

* * *
 

It worked well, at first. According to her word, she brought order to the Game. The dark ones could no longer conjure their beasts with her there. She would appear, harness the spell and give the magician who played fairly the advantage - give him the power he needed to summon the beast to win. She would weaken the powers of evil by her light alone, and they would be confounded, confused, unable to draw their power. At first, they could not see her - only the monsters and myself could. Then, sometimes, those of us who fought for good would glimpse her. It gave them hope and strength; she was all I could have wanted. 

But then the dark ones began to suspect my work. They knew something had happened and they began to investigate. The dark forces were not to be held in check forever by my plans. But I had expected this - would have been a fool not to. They were angry, and they began to whisper and make plans of their own. I saw them coming. I knew there was danger for the Queen because at the sunset of every evening of the New Moon, she became mortal, and could therefore be destroyed. They had looked into my spell, and discovered this. 

All they had to do now was wait. Wait for every New Moon. So we waited, too. But there was more - one more weakness I hadn't counted on... 

My own spell had bound her to me and me to her with an unbreakable bond. What she was and what I was became entwined, and we were caught in an unbearably powerful union - one that was made more painful because I was human and she was spirit: a boundary we could never transcend. And the times she crossed into the physical realm became more and more difficult to bear. 

I thought we were prepared. But how could I have prepared myself for what she had done to me...? 

* * *
 

"They know, Cora." 

Yami's words hung like the heady smells of earth and vegetation that radiated with the heat upwards from the land into the cooling evening air. Cora had become solid, and Yami sat with her among the tall grasses of the Nile River plain. The sunset bled across the western sky, spreading its colour through Cora's iridescent hair and over her alabaster cheeks. Even her eyelashes were tinged with red. Yami never ceased to marvel at Cora's beauty, never ceased to marvel at the life that seemed to bubble from her like a wellspring so that just being near her infected him with it; made him feel as ageless and timeless as she was. Sitting with her there, he wished that he was ageless and timeless - that he could just stay here in this twilight world with Cora, watching the sun run its colour into her hair. Stay here and not have to return to what they were... 

The thought scared him and brought him rudely back to reality. Reality was they could not stay here. Reality was they had to go back. And it was becoming harder and harder to do it. 

"I know that. We have long expected this, Yami. Are you surprised?" 

There was a hint of amusement to Cora's answer, but Yami could not return even her tiny smile. He forced his eyes away from her beautiful face. 

"Cora... I..." he stopped, fighting inwardly against the tide of emotion that rose up so powerfully inside him every time he was near her, especially these times when she was so real to him. Cora's smile faded, and Yami knew she anticipated what was coming. He tried to continue. "I... used to know... why I fought them... why I summoned you. It was the Game. Always for the Game - the magic. But now..." - Yami paused - "now, my love for... the Game is divided. I feel split - I don't know my reasons, anymore. It's so different. Cora, I don't know... if I can..." 

He fell silent as he became aware of her moving closer. She stopped in front of him, her face very close to his own, and he was suddenly very conscious of his own heart beat, which seemed loud. 

"It is because of your love for me," Cora said softly, "that I know you can. It gives you strength. Just as my love for you gives me strength." 

"Sometimes," Yami whispered, finally voicing a tiny piece of what was in his heart, "I wish there was no Game. That it was only us..." 

Cora smiled - a sad smile that mirrored the sadness in Yami's own soul. "If there were no Game, Yami, there would be no us." Cora grew serious, and looked meaningfully at Yami. "You still love the Game, Yami. I can see it in you when we fight. And the Game gives us time - time together." 

She always knew his thoughts and seemed to read his mind before he even voiced them. He looked into eyes the colour of frosted jade. He wondered had he known the agonizing bond they would share, would he have conjured her? Without thinking, he touched the moon-shaped face. It was always excruciatingly beautiful, her touch: at once like the kiss of a spring wind and ibis feathers. 

For him, yes. He would have died a thousand deaths for her. But, for her...? 

"And I will always fight with you, for you," she said, again answering his thoughts as she reached her hand up to cup his own, "as I have sworn to always do. I will stay with you, Yami. Forever." 

* * *
 

The New Moons came and went. The Game went on, and the dark ones still could not find a way to overcome the power of the Queen. The atmosphere became tense, and I sensed danger like a storm on the horizon. I suppose it was my own folly, my own weakness around her, but I became proud, careless. I should have guessed, with their numbers, that they would conjure more than one beast eventually. But when they did, I realized exactly how dangerous this had become... 

* * *

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