Anybody who'd even so much as seen a shadow game invariably dreamed of monsters. But Isis was not generally prone to waking dreams, which is why she was more than a little startled when a giant cobra with a woman's head slithered into her exhibit.
It wasn't until Malik walked through the door, choked, and stumbled to a halt that Isis realized she was not, in fact, dreaming.
The snake-bodied woman laughed in genuine amusement, her voice rich and low and fully human. "You have nothing to fear from me," she said gently, glancing at Malik before turning to face Isis fully. "I would-"
"I know you," Malik breathed, and Isis, filled with a superstitious foreboding, waved at him to shut up. But the serpent had already turned to him, wearing an expression that spoke of annoyance transformed by pity into something like compassion.
Malik had wandered a few steps forward, stooping a little to see the snake-woman better, eyes shining with wonder like they had that time Isis had taken him outside. "You found me the time I went into-" he paused, shooting a nervous look at Isis, who raised an eyebrow. She recognized that look. "-the tunnels I wasn't supposed to be in. I thought I imagined that."
The snake lady laughed softly. "Yes, boy. That was me." She turned to Isis, not so much as twitching when Malik knelt down next to her, still staring. "I would remind you of something," the snake said gently.
Isis was not sure she wanted to hear what this strange person had to say. "What?" she asked, licking dry lips. Malik looked at her, with the look of a little boy wondering why the adults are upset.
"I would remind you to not be so hard on your brother," the snake said, tilting her head at Malik. "Tombs are not meant for the living, and you were allowed to leave."
With that, she turned, coiling briefly around the hand Malik had tentatively stretched out to her, and slithered out through the door to the street.
When she got to the exit, Isis was unsurprised to see that the serpent was gone.
Bakura had absolutely no idea why he let Ryou drag him to these things. These ... outings. Especially when the Pharaoh was coming along.
Which was always, come to think of it. Yami (he'd insisted on them calling him that) never missed a group activity. Bakura was sure he did it just to bug him.
They were out in the park, Anzu and Otogi, of all people, browbeating them into agreeing to a picnic. Bakura had taken to hiding in a tree far away from the lively group, which was probably why he hadn't noticed the serpent until it was too late.
He heard the group go slowly quiet behind him, then heard Honda mutter, "What... is that? That's not a Duel Monster, is it?"
Yami was being uncharacteristically quiet, and it was that that caught Bakura's attention, and as Yugi replied in the negative, the ex-tomb robber scrambled around the tree to see what the hell was going on.
Most of the gang was standing around, looking perplexed. Yami, though, had gone absolutely still, and was looking gravely worried.
And there was a cobra with the head of a woman coiled on their picnic blanket, watching the tree Bakura was clinging to with grave eyes.
Bakura went gray, and damn near fell out of the tree. Not. Possible.
"It is perfectly possible," the serpent said, to the confusion of the others. "If some of the greatest of the others can channel themselves through your flimsy cards," she said with a flick of her tail at Yami, "why can I not show up where I please?"
You're not real. Bakura couldn't bring himself to actually say it out loud.
It didn't matter. She could hear him anyway. She laughed, flexing her hood. "Why don't you come down here, Bakura, so we can speak?"
Bakura wasn't sure he could actually move. This could not be happening. He hoped that maybe a re-embodied spirit could conveniently drop dead.
No such luck, though his heart was certainly giving it all it was worth.
The serpent-woman sighed. "Then I will come up." She slithered around the tree.
Ryou made a move as if to stop her, but Yami finally moved, pulling him back.
A scorpion had climbed out from under her hair, Bakura noted as the serpent lady drew even with him. It was now sitting on her head, stinger at the ready.
And Bakura knew with utter certainty that he was about to die. He should've listened to the stories after all.
"Yes, you should have," the serpent said quietly, too quietly for those listening below to hear, "but you should perhaps have also remembered the other ones." The scorpion skittered, and she flexed her muscles. "I am the protector of the Valley," she said. "Do you think me incapable of hiding something from human discovery?"
She paused, and Bakura realized he really needed to breathe, so he did. "I also," she continued, watching him solemnly, "am merciful. Do you think I would not take pity on a lost young child, especially one whose village was on the border of my necropolis? In a way, it was my responsibility, and so I provided for you the best I could. Did you think," she said, half laughing, "that your luck around the Valley was entirely your doing?"
Bakura blinked. She could not be saying what he thought she was.
She turned to go. "And I do not have to worry about you again, I think," she said as she descended. "So my duty is discharged. You have been judged, and punished accordingly." Her lip curled up, and the scorpion scuttled away. "You've gotten stuck here, with them. Deal with it," she advised, before disappearing into the grass.
There was a long, long moment of silence.
Finally, Jounouchi voiced what was on all the others' minds. "What the hell was that?"
Yami was standing by the base of the tree, looking up. "Are you okay?" he asked, and Bakura was surprised at the note of concern in his voice.
Shakily, he nodded, wrapping both hands around the next branch up and resting his head on the bark. Ryou had joined Yami, also looking up in concern.
"What was that?" Jounouchi asked again, aggravated.
"Meretseger," Bakura managed, before dissolving into giddy, relieved laughter.