He woke up slowly. It was impossible to tell if it was morning yet or not; he had yet to see a single beam of sunshine around here, but he did possess a fairly good internal alarm clock. It was screaming at him that it was well after dawn but not so late as mid-morning. That, in turn, meant it was probably time to get up and get moving. He wasn't planning on venturing out of these rooms just yet, but he at least wanted to start going through some of those books and start finding out something about the situation here.
What he wasn't counting on was the overwhelming weight holding his legs down. He managed to maneuver the top portion of his body to sit up, just enough that he could stare at the end of the bed.
It wasn't unheard of for Mokuba to start on one side of the bed and end up completely covering the rest of it by morning. What he was not used to, however, was a gigantic dog joining him in the habit. It wasn't like Gwyllgi was even a third as heavy as his size seemed to indicate he should have been, but he definitely wasn't a feather either. If anything, he was a tad heavier than Mokuba. It was the combination of the two, though, that fairly had him pinned in place.
Carefully, he worked his legs free and climbed off the bed, much to the protest of the oversized mutt and his little brother. At least it seemed those two were bonding well, at least over taking large portions of the bed away from him. He hadn't been kidding, after all, when he had told Bakura that Mokuba would be interested in his dogs. The way the white-haired man had talked he had several more, but at least for now, Mokuba was happy with this one.
The books lining the wall beckoned, promises of knowledge hiding in their depths, but first he had to find out if Bakura had taken human needs into account when he designed this room. He didn't think gods needed to use the rest room, even first thing in the morning; he certainly hadn't seen Bakura heading in that direction at any point during the time they had been together at the hospital.
When Bakura had opened the wall to reveal this room, he had proven that there didn't seem to be any such thing as actual doors here, which made him wonder what he had seen Amane coming in and out of last night, so he gave shoving on various parts of the wall a try, until something shifted beneath his hand. Yes, Bakura had indeed taken human needs into account with this place, even if it was well hidden.
Morning business quickly taken care of, he slipped back into the bedroom and selected a book from the shelves at random. It wasn't like most or even many of them had titles on the spines, only the newer looking ones. It was going to be trial and error trying to find something that would tell him what he needed to know.
He opened the book he had selected to roughly the middle section -- and frowned. It would also apparently going to be trial and error to find one in a language he could read. He wasn't sure what language this might be, but he couldn't say he had ever seen a Latin letter language where there were either no vowels... or the letter 'w' was counted as one. He set that one aside to try another. This one at least looked vaguely like English, but the spellings were all wrong, which probably pushed it back at least several centuries before his time.
By the time he had finished going through a single section of the shelves, he had eliminated all but four books. The ones that remained were newer, and they at least boasted all being in the same language. And for now, he was going to count the lack of 'w's as vowels as an accomplishment. Now it was only a matter of seeing what he could find before either Bakura showed up or the other inhabitants of the room woke up.
The stories on Hades were pretty straightforward. Most of what was in these books mostly concerned the Persephone story and pomegranates. The Pluto and Proserpina story was almost identical in every fact. Like Mokuba had said, it was just that the names had been changed. There was nothing on that other name, but it could have just been that he wasn't correct on the spelling. He didn't know Malik's god name -- and that was frightening just thinking it -- but he had some hints to work with for Amane: the names of her two blood brothers and the fact that their release would end the world. It was as good a starting place as any.
As far as he was concerned, everyone was doing a particularly nasty sneeze mixed with what might have been their intestines exploding every time they said that second name; he was fairly certain he could manage the first one, though. 'Fenrir,' he thought it was. That one should be something he could manage to spell correctly. With the second one, he was only reasonably certain that it started with the letter 'j', and anything after that was officially beyond him.
It wasn't in the first book, where he had found most of the information on Hades and Pluto. 'Fenrir' didn't really sound Greek or Latin anyway. So that ruled out Edith Hamilton's Mythology, he decided, setting the second book aside as well. The third book seemed to cover the gamut of pantheons, so maybe he would find something in this one. It probably would not contain a lot of detail, but a little something was better than nothing.
He skimmed through the pages, glancing each one over quickly looking for names he had heard to date with little success. Fenrir was in this one, though, accompanied by a set of illustrations that made him want to rethink any idea he may have had about the possibility of Amane being the nice and sweet one. He quickly flipped to the back of the book to check the information on the two images: "The Children of Loki (1920) by Willy Pogány" and "Loki's Brood (1905) by Emil Doepler". Then that would definitely mean these were Amane's brothers then: a gigantic wolf and what looked like a snake. And Bakura had mentioned Loki by name, that he was one of the gods that would be released when the rest of them died.
With a little more trepidation now, he turned back to the article he had found and started reading what this author had had to say about Fenrir. That seemed to be the wolf, described as large enough that, with his mouth open, the top jaw touched the sky and the bottom jaw the earth. Amazing, considering how tiny Amane had been -- or least had seemed to be. Maybe they could alter how they looked... but one paranoid theory at the time.
The article stated that Fenrir had been bound in some sort of special cords with a sword through his jaw; once he was set free, he was supposed to kill Odin in Ragnarök, which he was not one hundred percent certain on but that he was fairly certain was the end of the world Bakura had mentioned. Fenrir was supposed to have two siblings: Jörmungandr and Hel, or Hela, depending on the source. Jörmungandr had apparently been cast down into the world ocean, swam around until he circled the earth, and bit his own tail; when he let go, it was -- again -- Ragnarök. And Hel had apparently been sentenced to rule an Underworld, which took her name, and later became the Christian Hell. He wasn't having a lot of luck on the specifics of why the three siblings were punished, just some vague references about where they were being raised and worry concerning their father being Loki, but still, it was fascinating stuff.
Honestly, he wanted to know if there was anything to be found on Gwyllgi, but that was another one he was none too sure on the spelling of. It wasn't like there was a way for him to speak what he wanted and the book look it up for him. Stuff like that was reserved solely for science fiction, more was the shame.
Bakura had said something about what kind of dog Gwyllgi was, though, so maybe that was a starting point. He would take his starting points where he could get them at this point. What was it Bakura had said? A Gabriel Hound?
On a hunch, he decided to stick with the book he was currently using, the one where he had found the information on Amane's older brothers, and went straight to the index and for the term 'Gabriel Hounds'... which in turn led to the terms 'Gabble Retchets' and 'Cŵn Annwn'. There was that damn 'w' as a vowel again. He seriously needed to remember to ask Bakura about that later. He flipped the entry on 'Gabble Retchets': supernatural spectral hounds that haunted Great Britain during the Wild Hunt. That... didn't sound good. Likewise for the other one, the one he wasn't even going to try to pronounce, it came down to ghost dogs and the Wild Hunt, as well as death portents and the Otherworld, Annwn in the latter's case. He read one line, paused, reread it, and had to snort quietly in amusement: the Cŵn Annwn sounded close when they were far away but distant when they were close. Gwyllgi had already displayed that talent outside the hospital.
The second article in turn linked another one on black dogs and another on Black Shuck. Right now at least, neither of those seemed too terribly important, so he decided to skip them. They might have been important later, even if they weren't right now, so he set the four books aside, somewhere where he could find them quickly and easily, on a small marble table near the bed.
When Bakura had apparently been considering his human needs, he had at least also included a rather elegant claw footed tub, so he grabbed the small duffle with his meager belongings and slipped back into the bathroom to bathe off quickly before the day began here. It didn't seem too likely that it would begin early. Bakura had been pleasant at the hospital, but by no means had he been a morning person. It would make sense, in that case, that his entire realm -- and that was something he wasn't going to think too hard on, lest he break something in his brain -- would be the same.
To himself, he wondered if it would be possible to get Bakura to replace the tub with a shower or at least a combination shower-tub, he thought as he waited for the water to fill; it was unusually quick, probably due to its location, but there was still a moment or two's need to wait. Not that he didn't appreciate that Bakura had at least taken this into account in bringing him here, but he was a bit used to 21st century accommodations, such that the ones that he had known were. As it was, what he had seen of Bakura's realm was far, far beyond in luxury the highest standard he had ever had to measure against: his uncle's home.
Gouzaburou had maintained a very hands-off policy to everything in his collection. If a single finger touched it without gloves, there would be hell to pay. If someone younger than thirty even looked like they might have been thinking about touching something, there would be entire worlds of hell to pay. He remembered less than stellar evenings there with him and Mokuba wandering around with their hands in their pockets, too afraid to take them out and risk possibly touching something. Mokuba, as he recalled, had still managed to brush something with his elbow. The vase -- or whatever it was, his memory was not too sharp on the subject -- had teetered but not fallen. That hadn't made any difference to Gouzaburou, though. He couldn't remember too many of the specifics, but Mokuba had been a tiny thing at the time, much smaller than even now, and so he had lied through his teeth and said it had been his fault. Everything after that for the rest of that night was still something of a blur. Come to think of it, it wasn't long after that incident when he and Mokuba had been taken to the orphanage.
Bakura's collection... It didn't seem right to even call it that, a 'collection'. Everything in this place might have been old enough to put the oldest piece in Gouzaburou's to shame, but there was a sense of casualness to it, as if this was how things were every day, as if Bakura lived like this. He probably did. If gods were as old as Bakura had been implying, then it was entirely possible that Bakura had acquired some of these pieces in person.
When he had been in the living area and bedroom, he had spotted Ancient Greek vases that Gouzaburou would have died to have possessed. He had seen a painting on the wall that looked like early Italian Renaissance. The couch was Rococo period, while the chair Bakura had pulled Kaiba into to share with him was an oversized version of what could be picked up at any modern furniture store.
There was no real rhyme or reason to the collection, instead giving the impression that Bakura was just picking up things that caught his eye, like a magpie or something. Somehow that did seem to be an apt description for the white-haired man. If he saw something he liked, he took it and that was that. After all, hadn't Bakura as much as admitted that he had picked up and taken three people now, including him? That definitely seemed to fit.
He made the bath as quickly as he could, dried off, and slipped into the other outfit he had brought with him. This officially ended the clothes he had brought with him: the scrub pajamas, the clothes he wore yesterday, and these. Still, it would be best to just deal with everything one thing at the time and not try to rush into dealing with everything at once. That was just the kind of crazy he didn't go for.
He pushed open the bathroom door - and was promptly assaulted by Mokuba, as the boy caught his legs in a crushing hug. "Good morning, niisama!" he called out in a singsong once he let go again, a huge grin plastered all over his face. At his side, Gwyllgi panted.
If he had half of the sense of imagination that his little brother did, he might have actually been willing to say that the dog looked like it was grinning, perhaps even intelligently. And somehow that wouldn't surprise him in the least: if Bakura's dog was freakishly intelligent too, given that all the information seemed to point towards it -- him -- being supernatural. He could live with that; he could deal with the idea of supernatural animals; but it was the idea of spectral -- of ghost -- dogs that went a bit beyond the pale for him.
Gwyllgi seemed rather solid to him, though, so maybe that part was actually embellished or something. Maybe he should have taken the time to read up on the other versions of the supernatural dogs, but it seemed that he had timed it perfectly as it was; he had had time to get up, research a bit, and get ready before Mokuba was up and moving. It was really starting to seem like he might be the only person here who woke up early, or perhaps others were stirring outside these chambers and he just had not heard anything from them yet.
After all, it wasn't as if he had met all that many gods yet: just Bakura, Malik, and Amane. If the three of them were somehow representative of the rest of the gods here, then he could expect...
Well, truthfully, he had no idea what he could expect.
Malik was a bit of an asshole, Bakura freely admitted he was crazy, and Amane had brothers who could end the world. All they really had in common was that presence they all wore wrapped tightly around them like a cloak or a cape. No, he took that back: there was also affection there, seemingly reluctantly between Bakura and Malik, among the three of them, like they had carved out their own small family in the midst of this war that was apparently going on. Bakura had said that few of the gods liked the death gods and so they had bonded together, him and Amane, and if Amane was... with Malik -- which he really did not want to think about, thank you very much -- then that did make them into some sort of a family unit, one that maybe he and Mokuba might one day be accepted into.
"Good morning, Mokuba," he returned, allowing himself a small smile. On an afterthought, he then turned his attention to the other creature in the room. "Good morning, Gwyllgi." The dog huffed something that might have almost been an answer, and that wasn't as frightening as it might have been last night. Now, he could almost deal with it. The sleep and the reading had helped with that. He felt better able to accept and, yes, deal with this strange change in his life.
"I like this place, niisama," Mokuba declared cheerfully, bouncing back up onto the bed. "I like the way it feels. We're going to stay here, right?"
He opened his mouth to answer, but another voice spoke up before he could. "I certainly hope you're planning on that."
Bakura looked... Well, to him, the man looked gorgeous, and that was a new revelation too; apparently he did have a sex drive after all, and it liked very, very pale men with white hair. It was actually a little surprising, just a little, to him to see Bakura still dressed the same way he had been when they left; he wore a different pair of jeans and a different t-shirt, but it was still very casual, not all what one would expect a god to wear. He also looked exhausted, though, more so than Kaiba had ever seen him look. Not that he had known Bakura all that long, but still... Clearly being back here wasn't exactly relaxing for him, but then there was a war going on. There probably wasn't really time for relaxing.
"I'm planning on it," he answered quietly. "You're not getting rid of me that easily."
"Good." A chair appeared near the bookshelves only a few seconds before Bakura collapsed down into it. His entire demeanor screamed exhaustion, and that just wasn't right at all.
For a split second, he was frozen in place just past the bathroom door, just barely in the bedroom area, Mokuba and Gwyllgi standing next to him. A moment later, he found himself having crossed the room to place a careful hand on Bakura's cheek, thumbing over skin that seemed too soft to be real and pushing snow white hair out of the other man's face. Bakura sighed, turning his face into the caress and reaching up to lay a possessive arm around Kaiba's waist.
"What's wrong?" he asked just as quietly has he had spoken before. Somehow it seemed important to be soft-spoken right now, as if someone might find them if he was too loud or something. More than likely, however, it had something to do with the pinched look on Bakura's face; it was one he recognized, as it was something he had often seen in mirrors, as that of someone in the midst of a rather outstanding headache. Apparently, it seemed that gods could get those too.
"I'm going to find a way to kill Atemu and feed him to the hounds." Even the threat lacked the vehemence of the similar ones he had made last night.
"What did he do now?" Because he was coming to understand how poorly Bakura and this Atemu guy got along.
"Breathe." Bakura shook his head as if to clear it and gave Kaiba's waist a light tug, pulling him in closer. "Don't worry about it, Seto. Atemu's just a pain in my ass. He has been since the gods formed this alliance, and he will continue to be until the day we all die horribly. That's the just the way of things, I guess."
"I guess I'll see," he finally offered. Sooner or later, he was going to have venture out of these rooms and meet all these other people. Sooner or later, he was going to have to start earning his keep. At that point, he supposed he would get to see if Atemu was as bad as Amane and Bakura made him out to be. He was having a hard time seeing how that could be, but then he hadn't laid eyes on the man yet. Maybe they were exaggerating, maybe they weren't. He would find out soon enough, he supposed.
"Yeah, well, maybe we can put that off a bit." Bakura slowly pushed himself to his feet and stepped over to a blank spot of wall near the bathroom door. He was still a long moment then pushed it open. Well, that definitely solved the problem of him not having enough to wear from here on out, if Bakura could create walk-in closets out of nowhere. "What do you think?"
He headed in, taking the time took glance over each item of clothes in turn. He wasn't too sure on the trench coats -- a dark blue cotton one and a sleeveless white leather one further back -- but the rest of the clothes seemed to be perfectly serviceable. "They're good."
"If they aren't to your tastes, I can always change them out for something that is."
But he was already shaking his head. "They really are good. Thank you." On the spur of the moment, he stalked back over to the white-haired man to place a gentle kiss of thanks to his lips. When he leaned back, he whispered again, "Thank you, Bakura."
Behind the white-haired man, he heard the sounds of someone nervously clearing their throat. "Excuse me?" That was Mokuba, and yeah, he did sound a little nervous. Kaiba couldn't help wondering why, though. It wasn't like Bakura had given them any reason to be worried about him or what he might do to them, not like some of the people they had met over the years.
Bakura turned, pale eyes locking unerringly on the boy, barely glancing over the huge dog sitting contentedly beside him. "Yes?"
"I hate to ask, but if he leaves Annwn, will the clothes--?" A faint red tint stained his face. "I mean, the clothes are kind of like fairy-made, right? They don't only exist only here, do they?"
Well, okay, yeah, that was important. He would hate to walk out into the real world -- the human world or whatever it was called -- and suddenly find himself stark naked. "Bakura?" he prompted.
Bakura laughed, and he was a little pleased to hear that it was that carefree one again. He was going to have to try his best to make sure he could hear it at every possible opportunity. "Yeah, they're real enough, and they won't be disappearing in public any time soon. I don't think anyone here would want that, would we?"
Mokuba was shaking his head hard. "Yeah, no, no way. I mean, you might want to see my brother naked," great, now he could feel his own face heating up hard and fast -- and that was in turn another set of thoughts that he shouldn't be thinking right now, "but I definitely don't. I could live the rest of my life happily without ever seeing him naked."
"I'll bear that in mind," Bakura replied with another quiet chuckle. "What about you, Mokuba? How do you like it here? Anything you want or need?"
His little brother shook his head quickly, grinning mischievously. "Nope, not yet anyway." Oh, he knew the tone of voice Mokuba was speaking in, and he had learned to fear it many years ago. Generally, it meant he was about to get teased for something soon. He had, in turn, learned not to rise to the bait. Bakura hadn't, though, and so raised an eyebrow in a silent question. "I mean, these are your rooms, aren't they? That means I'm going to need some of my own sooner or later." He took a step back, glancing back and forth between the two of them, that damned grin only building. "You two are going to be wanting some alone time soon, yeah?"
"Mokuba," he groaned. Yep, that feeling of worry had been correct. When they were both younger, Mokuba had lived to embarrass him wherever it was possible. That, at least, had not changed.
And Bakura, apparently, found it funny. Well, he would, wouldn't he?
Maybe it wasn't too bad. It wasn't like he was being embarrassed in front of anybody else.
If there was one thing he had picked up from Bakura talking with Amane, it was that family -- even adopted family -- teased one another, and it wasn't like Bakura had been spared that then. So then the gods weren't that different in terms of family relations to how humans functioned. That was good. He was forming and extending his own little family as it was.
It took him until much later that he realized what had been so strange about that morning. It was, after all, the first time in years he could remember anyone speaking to Mokuba - or even acknowledging his presence. That in and of itself was odd, but then so much else now was odd too that maybe he just needed to push it aside. He was getting better at stuff like that now, after all.
In the meantime, he would just be glad and count his blessings that he was with someone who would at least acknowledge his little brother's very existence, to say nothing of taking the time to joke and laugh with him. That, at least, was good.
26 July 2010
Yes, now it's time for the info dump chapter. Yeesh, I'd forgotten it was that long.
Still at zero sales on the re-release of Amaranth: The Preterhumans Book 1 on its new site of Lulu. You can find it at: http://stores.lulu.com/apollymi.