The Sacrifice

Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers. They belong to whoever holds the copyright. This is a fan work and no profit is being made.
Author’s note: This chapter features around the Rangers who left to answer the cry for help from Aquitar. I do intend to write the story of the Liberation of Aquitar at some point, but for now the story picks up after their triumph. This also marks a leap forward in time for the series and happens after the events in Stirring in the Dark. For those wondering, even at this stage Dark Specter’s conference is still taking place.

The Sacrifice

March 10th

They had won, lost and drawn. It was very difficult to decide as with most battles it was all a question of how they wanted to interpret the outcome. The Power Rangers of Earth had received a telepathic cry for help from the people of Aquitar less than two months earlier. They had not needed to discuss their response, they owed the people of Aquitar a debt and despite having paid a part of it back in the past, still considered the watery world a close ally. And so they had had left, leaving only the Turbo Rangers to protect their world in their absence.

Their first stop had actually been to a hidden store house Zordon had had built many years before his battle with Rita. There they had found a fleet of space craft they could use during the mission – for it had been pointed out that relying on just Pyramidas would put the Rangers and especially Trey at risk due to his intolerance to Aquitar’s atmosphere. Armed with the resources to help them liberate the Aquitian people, the next month or so had been a constant blur of planning and action against a world where even their allies were their enemies.

For something had corrupted Aquitar. And while the Slaver Lord known as Zanzibar – who had seized control of the planet following the departure of its previous masters – had been relatively easy to dethrone, something had been working against the Rangers. When Zanzibar had finally been driven from the surface, his skiff trailing smoke as it struggled to escape the planet’s atmosphere, the Rangers had realised that something was still polluting the waters.

The evil force had been seeping into the normally pure water for months, but the Aquitians had been under the psychic slavery of Zanzibar and had failed to react. Once they had been freed though they had detected the corruption and their collective minds had reacted with panic, generating a telepathic wave the entity could latch onto. From there the force had taken control of the Aquitians, using their fragile mental states as a means to embed itself in their consciousness. It had ordered them to attack their liberators, forcing the Rangers into a fight they did not want.

The last fortnight had been a nightmare for the Power Rangers of Earth. Unwilling to kill the people they had come to help, they had been forced to run constantly, driven further and further away from the source of the problem as the evil entity emerged. Taking the form of a giant squid it had raised itself from the depths of the ocean, its sickly ink poisoning the seas around it.

====

It had been Aisha that had realised that the ink it was constantly spewing in the water was the cause of their problems. She had analysed the waters and discovered that just like a Triforian, the squid would find the waters of Aquitar inhospitable. The ink was changing the make up of the water, reducing certain chemicals and increasing other so it became comfortable. But worse the ink contained an hallucinogen that caused the Aquitians to see the squid’s enemies as their own, forcing them to attack their liberators. What they couldn’t see was how the changes in the waters had also started to alter their body chemistry – for those Aquitians that had remained closest to the squid had started to mutate into demonic creatures fed by the dark water.

Finally the Power Rangers had been left with no choice. Once their escape route had been cut off after the squid had ordered its forces to strike their ships, they had been forced to fight back. Instead of targeting the Aquitians though they had taken their fight directly to the monstrous squid and its demons.

The problem with such a bold move was that the squid was much larger than any monsters they had previously fought and they lacked Zords. The beast could smash their sea craft with its tentacles, and anything they threw at it was practically useless. Even the Power Cannon and Zeo Power Blaster failed to do more than lop the end off one of its limbs. And with the pollution increasing, they had found their craft swarmed by water demons.

“Brachio Staff – Power Strike!” the Dino Thunder Ranger called, aiming for the squid’s eye.

“Shadow Ribbons – Strike!” Zeo Shadow called, the black tendrils from her staff knocking back the incoming demons.

“Rolling Thunder!” Black Morphin Ranger cried, using his powers to blast the beast with a wall of sound energy as Red Morphin and Red Zeo attacked with their swords.

The Power Rangers were all over the beast, using their weapons to create breaks in the skin that they could use has handgrips and footholds. As Zeo Blade used her lightning attacks to distract the large beast, the other Zeo Rangers were attacking the back of its head and the Morphin Rangers were striking from the side. The giant beast tried to strike them back but only succeeded in striking itself. In desperation it dove beneath the surface, hoping to drown the Rangers only to find that it could not do so – for the Rangers had managed to direct the battle in such a way that the beast found it was no longer over the deep waters.

“Saurian, Thalian, Ninjor!” the Morphin Rangers cried, summoning the ancient Morphin Masters.

Ninjor easily flew his magical cloud around the beast, confusing it and leaving it open for his fellow Morphin Masters. Meanwhile Thalian used his powers to battle the squid with the power of air and fire. Saurian was more old fashioned in his approached, preferring to enlarge himself and drive his sword into the belly of the beast.

“Zordon, something’s wrong!” Yellow Zeo warned.

The White Morphin Master had been helping to fight in his own way, but paused when he heard Tanya’s warning. Sure enough the blood from the Squid seemed to be affecting the Aquitians, turning them even more rabid than before.

“If this keeps up we’ll destroy the squid but end up with a world of water demons,” Green Zeo warned.

“And if we don’t defeat it’ll still transform Aquitar, it’ll just take longer,” Black Morphin added.

“Either way, there’s nothing we can do now,” Yellow Morphin stated sadly. “That things already polluted the planet too much.”

Silently Zordon agreed with that assessment. He didn’t know where the squid had come from, a part of him knew that it had somehow remained hidden on Aquitar from a time long before the current occupants had appeared. Had it been sealed away? It was a possibility, although that also meant that at one time it had been free and something had been powerful enough to contain it. His mind drifted briefly to tales of untamed monsters that had once roamed the universe, and the creatures that released them on suspecting world and then hunted them for sport.

He shook the thought away as Thalian was struck by one of the beast’s remaining tentacles and tumbled towards the sea, reverting to his normal size as he did so. In a flash of white light he was gone, his ability to help exhausted. Ninjor made short work of the offending limb, only to be set upon by a swarming horde of water demons. In the end he too had to teleport away just as Saurian managed to drive his sword into the thick skull of the squid. He too retreated as he was covered in toxic ichor.

“Now!” Red Zeo cried and the Rangers once again unleashed their complete arsenal. This time though the squid was severely damaged and unable to move properly. The Rangers concentrated on the beast eye, striking it multiple times until they managed to burn their way through.

The agonised scream could be heard around the planet as the mental shockwave blasted forth. The Rangers fell to their knees as their minds were overwhelmed by the pressure. The Aquitians that had not mutated found themselves free of the influence while those that had joined their master’s death cry. The planet shook as the beast bellowed in rage. The waters around it were dark and bloodied, the Rangers had to scramble for safety as their armour started to burn.

And then in a final act the squid unleashed a massive spray of ink, emptying its body of the poisonous liquid. Great clouds formed, carrying devastating rain across the planet. And the Rangers realised even as they tried desperately to stop it, that there was nothing they could do. Aquitar was doomed.

“Rangers there is little time, but we can still safe this world,” Zordon told them.

“How?” Jason demanded. “We don’t have that much power.”

“Actually we do,” Billy answered, although he seemed reluctant. “Zordon’s body is a living manifestation of the Great Power. If we can release some of that power we could cleanse the planet. Unfortunately I lack the equipment to build the means to direct the energy and prevent it from dissipating completely. For all we know it could create a wave of energy and wipe out all evil in the galaxy, but leave Aquitar untouched.”

“What about the Zeo Crystal?” Tommy asked. “If Zordon directed his energy into that it could purify the waters.”

“And if we combine our powers we could direct the energy so that it doesn’t escape.”

“What about Zordon?” Kimberly asked. “Wouldn’t letting go of the Great Power destroy him.”

“If it does then I will live on in all of you,” Zordon promised. “A sacrifice I am willing to make to assist the people of Aquitar.”

“I have a better idea,” Nate decided. “Let’s make sure he doesn’t lose too much power. There’s no reason he has to do this by himself. We all have powers, let’s use them to keep the Great Power under control.”

Now it was Jason’s turn to take the lead, as he had done a few times before. “We call on the power of all ours combined: Morphin!”

The eight Morphin Rangers joined hands, pooling their collective energy.

“Zeo!” Tommy added as the nine Zeo Rangers gathered. A gold light signalled the arrival of Trey as he joined the effort.

“Dino Thunder!” Nate called, pouring forth the incredible power of a Ranger that easily exceeded the strengths of those around him.

“I ask the Great Power: heal this world!” Zordon bellowed.

The multiple streams of energy merged together, pulling all the power the Rangers and their mentor possessed. It was an incredible strain, a force they could barely control as the raw energy tried to escape them. Then the giant ball of power exploded, knocking the Rangers off their feet as purifying energy stormed around the planet, destroying the squid’s evil as it did so. The water demons were reduced to droplets of water and forced back into the depths of the ocean where the squid had previously been trapped. The dark ichor that polluted the seas was eradicated along with the squid’s body as the people of Aquitar were finally released from their mental bondage and restored to their normal state.

As the shock wave dissipated Trey was teleported back to Pyramidas high above the planet and a small surge of energy sought out the three Morphin Masters, healing their wounds. The Dino Thunder powers flickered briefly before stabilising, their strength reduced to that of a normal Ranger. The Zeo Rangers and Morphin Rangers felt their powers tested for a moment before normalising as the Great Power enhanced their ability to draw on the Power to make up for their exhaustion.

And finally Zordon felt the Great Power return to him. It felt weaker than it had been before – for there was no way that restoring a whole world could be portrayed as a minor feat and it would take time for it to return to normal. However the Great Power was almost unlimited and given time it would gather once more. For now though he was almost mortal again, something that he welcomed. His body was now more and less than it had been before. It was flesh and blood, vulnerable in ways it had not been when he had returned to the physical world. But in his weaker state the temptation to use and become corrupted by the Great Power also diminished, giving him a welcome break from an incredible burden.

It was funny in some ways how the battle had turned out. The Rangers of Earth had been weakened by their efforts, yet the power they had lost had brought them closer together and helped to eliminate some of the concerns they had held about their own power levels; Nate had even by his own admission been too powerful to unleash unless as a last resort. Now his powers remained impressive and he would likely still have an edge, but the amount of raw power he could use had been reduced. That was likely to convince the Council to leave him alone until his powers reached their previous level.

Likewise the Zeo powers had been realigned, making the Rangers equals in spite of their capabilities. Jamie, Lillian, Katarina and Christina had along with Trey held more power than the other Zeo Rangers despite not using their powers as often. Now the ten Rangers were at the same level.

As for the Morphin Rangers there had been very little change. As Full Aspect Rangers they had been incredibly powerful and the Great Power had taken their excess strength, but in doing so it had strengthened their link to the Grid, allowing them to draw more power to make up for the shortfall. In effect they had neither lost nor gained.

====

Aquitar was free butjust like its saviours, it would need time to fully recover. The world’s infrastructure had been devastated, it defences shattered. As much as the Rangers of Earth wanted to go home they knew they would not be able to do so until they had helped the Aquitians recover. To not do so would leave Aquitar open to whichever pirate or alien overlord decided to claim it. It meant there would be a lot of work ahead for the Rangers as they tried to restore a world that had not been the same since Minion had targeted them years before.

There had been some good news when the Rangers had discovered that their allies the Aquitian Rangers were still alive. Their powers had been dormant during their planet’s enslavement, but now they were once more able to protect their world, something that was assured when Ninjor had reappeared and presented them with new Power Coins.

Still there were questions to be answered about the giant squid. Aquitian history spoke of huge beasts being driven into the depths of the planet, but didn’t mention where they had come from or how they managed to mutate native Aquitians. There were references to the Water Demons though and those descriptions implied that it had not been a coincidence. Evil was on the rise once more. The recent departure of known villains for some sort of conference was an indicator, but the Rangers knew from experience that they rarely faced a single threat. If there was a new player they recognised that they would likely struggle against it, especially if it could turn whole planets insane with just one of its giant creatures.

But those concerns were put to the side as they turned their attention to repairing the damaged world. When a threat arose they would fight it because that was what they did. In the meantime the battle was over and their mission: complete.

====

Angel Grove

“O’Neil! In my office now!” yelled Ronald Jacobs. Jacobs was the cantankerous editor of one of Angel Grove’s three major newspapers, The Angel Grove Gazette. The Gazette’s major competitor was the Chronicle, which had the best reporting team in the city. They had recently published yet another article about the Power Rangers, and as usual, Parker O’Neil was feeling the heat.

“Yes, boss?” he asked, strolling into Jacobs’ office and casually taking a seat in a chair. Parker was 6’4″, and well-muscled, with brown-blond hair and odd tawny eyes. He radiated the easy charm and complete confidence that made him such a wonderful reporter. People talked to him, even people who had something to hide. But it was Parker’s skill with a camera that made him such a valuable asset to the Gazette. He had a gift for taking pictures, especially pictures of the Power Rangers, that no one else could take. Not to mention that he was the only reporter the Power Rangers would talk to.

“O’Neil, why the heck didn’t you get this story? ‘Pizza Monster rips up Little Japan.’ The Chronicle’s made fools of us- again.”

Parker just grinned at his choleric boss. “Relax. I’ve got something even better.” Tossing a packet on Jacobs’ desk, he had the pleasure of seeing the older man’s eyes light up as he thumbed threw it.

“A direct interview with the Power Rangers! Plus pictures! Hot damn, O’Neil, you’ve pulled it off again!”

Parker paled a little knowing that the story he had handed over was nothing compared to the scoop he had been handed in December. The greatest story a reporter or photographer could be handed and he was unable to tell it. It was frustrating for somebody dedicated to telling the truth, but not for the first time Parker O’Neil reminded himself that the lives he could ruin by doing so were worth more than a moment of fame. For Parker like many others in Angel Grove had recently been let in on a secret: the identity of the Power Rangers. It was a secret that the families had agreed to protect for the sake of their children and themselves. How the Parks, Cranstons, Taylors and Kwangs had reacted to the news that one and in some cases more than one of their children were heroes was uncertain; the news had been broken just hours before the majority of those revealing their secret had left on some mission to the planet Aquitar. Very little had been discussed other than a cover story for their absence.

Parker was smart enough to understand that his concerns were mostly focussed around his sister Lillian. As the Black Zeo Ranger, or Zeo Shadow as she preferred to be called, she had been one of those leaving the planet. He knew that she was in good company, but a part of him was still worried. And that worry had driven him to uncover the facts and learn the identities of the other Rangers.

He had spent a good few weeks trailing the Turbo Rangers, recording their exploits. If knowing his sister was a super hero had been a shock, learning that the Earth’s first line of defence consisted of even younger teenagers had been almost too much to take in. But he had followed their adventures and watched them thrive against a very bizarre and unfocussed enemy. They were swift, innovative and crafty. And that made up for the lack of experience and overall strength. At first he had been mistaken in believing they were facing a less dangerous threat than their older teammates, but after witnessing one such battle he had to admit, they were doing a fine job. And the interview he had secured helped to make sure that others also recognised their hard work.

“That interview gives everything the Chronicle’s article has, all from the Power Ranger’s mouth, so to speak. We’ll blow them away.”

“I knew I hired you for a reason, boy. Now go on, go find me another headline.” Shaking his head, Parker left Jacobs’ office, whistling.

Now if only his sister and her friends would come back safely.

End of part **THIS IS THE END OF THE FILE**

The Children of Chaos – Daughters of Destruction

Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers. They belong to whoever owns the copyright. I also do not own Ma’erok. His name is taken from a character created by Hell Fire in his series written back in the late 1990’s.
Author’s note: This storyline might seem to be going a little slow, but there is a good reason. I have seen many stories where an ancient evil has been released and picks up from where it left off. My intention with Xanatox and by extension Ma’erok is to have him unable to simply resume his mission due to unexpected obstacles. The practical reason is that this is a set up for a story that happens much later in Conquest of Evil. I’m just putting the pieces in place.

The Children of Chaos – Daughters of Destruction

“Every universe has one source of pure, unadulterated evil. Sometimes though it takes a while before the the that source can be identified. Evil is not an easy force to define, its very nature is deceptive. Misdirection and falsehoods are part of the illusion that gives villains a their power. Sometimes even the villains themselves can be mistaken.”

Geeiliecthiz – Philosopher of Ranxborne Seven

====

Pragmia Void

Time had passed since Xanatox had been accidentally released. Pragmia’s second star had completely collapsed, releasing a dark wave of energy. He had seen that every asteroid, planetoid, meteor, speck of space rock or piece of debris that wave encountered met the same fate. Only he and those he allowed to survive existed within the darkness. Yet despite the absolute control he seemed to hold over the void, the fact had become clear that the one thing he could not do was escape it. And after failing to revive his master on the Dark Star, he realised that any hope of restoring the Chaos Bringer lay in escape.

The opposing army had been thorough in their approach even if they had been clumsy in its execution. Ma’erok’s plan had always called for the formation of the Pragmia Void although the Chaos Bringer and his followers had meant to retreat to just beyond the outer limit of the void they intended to create before destroying the star. Their enemies had destroyed a different star than expected with Ma’erok and his forces to close to the explosion. Doing so had not only trapped Ma’erok’s forces within, but had failed to control the spread of the resulting void which now extended far beyond the boundaries that many assumed existed.

It had taken time to understand the nature of their entrapment even though he had grasped the truth of his situation within moments of his release. The Pragmia Void was saturated with his master’s energy and everything within had been altered by that power. Those exposed to its influence became physically different from those outside of its effects. After only a short time within the boundaries of the void, those that attempted to leave were unable to survive. Any attempt to move beyond the boundary caused the cells of the body to break down. No magic could sustain itself for more than a short time, no technology could keep them alive once the decay reached a certain point although a combination of magic and science extended the period a body could endure the wider universe.

Luckily the leaders of the winning side had been foolishly lenient with some of his brethren for only those that had fought with him near Pragmia Major were trapped. Others had been hunted down, captured and sentenced to execution, but as they had been active participants in the ritual they had been invulnerable to harm. With time short and the uneasy alliance on the brink of breakdown they had been disposed of in ways that the victors hoped would mean they would not provide aid to either their master or members of the alliance. Most had been driven insane but some of the Chaos Bringer’s favoured disciples had survived albeit without Xanatox to guide them in their master’s will.

It had taken the absorption of the entire star for him to gain the limited strength he now possessed. His body was still weakened, Terminus was but a shadow of its previous power and the warriors that stood alongside him were barely capable of the simplest of tasks. His prisoners had long since succumbed to his power although they all tried to defy him on some level. Still he had gathered the magical and mental strength he needed to send a message to those that remained loyal to his master. He was weak, but outside they had real strength and now it was time to use it.

“CHAOS LIVES!”

Two words, spoken with all the power and force he could muster. A clear blast of enhanced by his mental abilities. He could not step beyond the boundaries of the Pragmia Void, but the message he projected was unstoppable and completely unguided. In his desperation he had sent the message to the entire Universe. Most would ignore it, some of those that would oppose him would tremble without knowing the reason, those that would be his rivals would double check that they were as powerful as they believed and those that served his master would feel the elation of knowing their sire had returned.

“Return, creatures of chaos,” he whispered, exhausted from the immense effort. “Break the bonds placed upon you by those too foolish to understand their failure. Our time has come once more. Ma’erok shall rise and the Chaos Bringer shall consume all.”

====

Watalune Asylum

Watalune Asylum was the oldest hospital for the sufferers of mental illness in the galaxy. It had opened shortly before Lord Zedd had turned to evil and over the many thousands of years that had followed, boasted a huge number of success stories. However despite the developments in magical, scientific and psychic approaches to the problem, the asylum housed a single failure, a lost soul that their numerous techniques had failed to help.

Nobody knew where the woman had come from originally. She had been transferred to the facility from an earlier institution and had been placed there after passing through several other hospitals. All they could really say for certain was that she was old. Not that they could tell by looking at her. Her long blonde hair might have been caked in dirt, and her delicate face was unusually pale from being held inside for so long, but she would have passed for thirty on some worlds, not the thousands of years that her medical records suggested. And in those years, since her arrival, she had never spoken a word or shown the slightest interest in her surroundings. Occasionally she would be found chewing the ends of her hair, but never anything that suggested there was some form of intelligence behind her empty blue eyes.

For centuries the staff had cared for her, ensuring that she never lacked for food or other basic needs. She was both their most intriguing patient and their greatest failure. Many promising young healers had been humbled after discovering that for all their knowledge they could not repair whatever trauma had turned her into the mere shell of a person they saw before them.

It was a young healer named Tarq that had been given the chance to test his abilities on the incurable woman. The other healers, nurses and orderlies watched from behind the glass screen as they always did on such occasions, the humiliation of a new member of staff helped erase the memory of their own failure. As had been the case of previous healers he approached her confidently and attempted talking to her, hoping no doubt to inspire some sign of awareness. Then he had placed his hand to the side of her face just as previous healers had done, seeking some spark of consciousness to nurture. As expected he found nothing.

They could see the moment that he realised the futility of his task. The hope and confidence had been replaced with disappointment as he followed the expected procedures to double check his findings. They watched his expressions change, money exchanging hands at how quickly he sussed that he had been set up.

They did not expect what came next. His eyes widened in shock as he sensed something, a small pulse of energy deep within her mind that had not been there before. It grew at an alarming rate as he tried to withdraw his consciousness. Horror crossed his face as he was thrown carelessly across the room, crashing into the glass screen before sliding onto the floor.

“Chaos lives!”

They were the first words she had ever spoken according to her notes. In fact this was the first time she had demonstrated any conscious motor skills as she stood, head raised and eyes staring at some distant point.

“Chaos lives!” she repeated, her eyes glowing orange. “And so do I.”

Outside the healers were scrambling to open the door, some concerned about their colleague, most eager to examine their facility’s greatest accomplishment.

“Hello,” a wizened healer said as he approached her. “I am Healer Oddburt and you are a patient at Watalune Asylum. You’ve been here a long time I’m afraid, but don’t worry, we’re going to take good care of you.”

She ignored him, still looking beyond the room. While her skin had already regained some of its colour, she now she looked a lot older and slightly deranged.

“Perhaps we should sit down,” one of the other healers offered. “This must be quite a shock to you.”

“He lives,” she said for a third time before she snapped out of her trance and addressed the healers directly. “I must go to him.”

“Yes yes, but perhaps we should talk first,” one of the healers suggested, nodding to a couple of orderlies to lead her back to her bed. “A great deal of time has passed since you first came here.”

Her movements were so smooth that the healers didn’t realise what she had done until the two orderlies were lying at their feet, their necks snapped by her sudden and precise application of pressure and leverage.

“Yes, I am a little behind the time,” she admitted, her hand snaking out to grip Oddburt in an iron grasp. “Enlighten me!”

As she spoke the tips of her fingers dug into the top of his skull, glowing with green energy as she tore the knowledge from his mind, not caring if doing so caused lasting damage. As she mercilessly raped his consciousness, the orderlies were trying to restrain her. When the bubble of energy erupted around her, they were not in a position to defend themselves.

Finally she released the now trembling healer, discarding his body as she glanced around, daring those still conscious to make a move. They didn’t, they had gotten the message that this was not a woman to be messed with. She clicked her fingers, using the little piece of her magic that was not focussed on the mind to change her clothing from the standard blue hospital gown into a more comfortable black dress with silver symbols along the edges and a hood which she pulled over her head to hide her ancient features. It seemed that while dormant her powers had kept her ageless, the moment her gifts returned there was nothingto stop the effects of her Sight from showing through. Her eyes were still glowing as she concentrated on her left hand, forcing the proof of her loyalty to appear, bubbling through the skin of her palm. Her palm glowed a soft blue, indicating that while her master lived, he was in some way incapacitated.

“Rise!” she commanded, pointing to the fallen staff. Controlling others was a part of her powers, but not one she enjoyed using. Having a personal puppet that would do anything she commanded was all well and good, except for the immense strain it placed on her frail body. Still as bodyguards they would not need too much guidance other than to attack anyone foolish enough to stop her as she made her way to the exit.

====

Dagomir

Far from the asylum, the people of Dagonmir had cause for celebration. The leader of the coven of witches that had plagued their planet for as long as they could remember had finally been brought to justice. Once she had been found guilty, she had been stripped and secured to a post ready for purification by fire just as she had been many times before.

It amused her greatly as the ropes cut into her skin that after all this time they still feared her. Oh there was no question that she was evil or that she had once wielded magic beyond their comprehension. That magic had faded the day her master had been defeated. Once a powerful sorceress, without his presence she was incapable of more than a few simple spells while the suppression bracelets were locked around her wrists. Still she relished the knowledge that the people feared her just as their ancestors had feared her because she chose to test her magic on them.

And now she lacked the power to conjure the small amount of water needed to douse the flames the question remained whether or not the flames would kill her this time? She snarled at the man that held the torch toward her. If she was going to burn she would make sure that they would remember her in their nightmares.

“Cease your snarling Witch!” Squire Truman commanded. “Your days of tormenting our people have ended.”

The priest stepped forward, throwing water in the witch’s face. He looked giddy with excitement as she scrunched up her face in reaction to the cold liquid. He turned, regarding the Squire and his people as he spoke.

“See how she fears the purity of our water, for evil cannot abide that which is pure. That is why she writhers our crops and pollutes our air with her stench. That is why the fire will drive the evil from her body and we shall finally be free of her darkness.”

She wasn’t sure what religion he belonged to. He was a firebrand preacher that had turned up one day seeking donations and promising to drive the witch away. So far he had been true to his word.

The flames were growing around her naked body, burning the bottom of her feet. It hurt but as she struggled against her bonds, she knew that the flames would not end her life; she would be left burnt and unmoving while her magic took centuries to repair the damage. Then the cycle would start over just as it had before.

“You see my friends, she fears the fire just as we do,” the preacher told his flock. “Listen and soon we will here the sounds of the evil escaping her wicked flesh.”

Or not. The timing could not have been better. One minute she had been powerless against those that sought to destroy her and the next, she felt her true magic – for the power she had been granted was beyond the petty magic of the Mortal Realm – return.

“Chaos lives!” He words echoed those of her sister in another part of the galaxy.

She had the satisfaction of watching as the Squire and Priest could only stare with widened eyes as instead of burning, she starting floating. The flames turned black, covering her nudity as she threw her head back, sending her wild black hair flying in all directions.

“Chaos lives,” she repeated, eyes burning white as she focussed on her enemies.

The fire moved up her body, along her arms and into her hands. She cupped the black flames as she regarded those that had attempted to burn her. A cold smile crossed her face as she tossed the fire towards them.

“Chaos lives and you will BURN!”

It was a beautiful sight for the slightly crazed sorceress as she basked in the smell of burning flesh and the screams of men, women and children alike. She seemed to grow stronger as she felt the lives around her extinguished. This was the power of destruction and she loved it. Eyes sparkling maliciously she laughed as the screams grew louder, spreading across the land. They would not last forever; she had not put any real power behind that fireball.

Suddenly she stopped laughing, ignoring the screams in the background as she remembered why she was in a position to enjoy watching their pain instead of experiencing it herself. Her master had returned; she was certain. And with his return all the gifts that had been taken from his followers as punishment for their loyalty had been restored.

She closed her eyes in contemplation, remembering how she had been back then, back before she had set aside her true magic to be a part of Ma’erok’s ceremony; all three sisters had lost something that night, one her body, the second her mind and the third her magic. She pictured herself as she had been in those days and willed her body to match the image.

When she opened her eyes she was whole again. Her body was young again, her senses renewed. Her hair moved as if in a breeze while her elongated fingernails clicked together as she wiggled them. Her previously naked body was now covered by the skin of a dead animal, although it only offered the least amount of coverage needed; only the essential areas were hidden. Long strips of leather had been carefully wound around her feet and up her legs, stopping mid thigh. She wore a gold bracelet on each wrist and a necklace made from gold and silver. On her left hand she bore the mark of her master, a sign that she had been restored to her previous place as one of his chosen. The skin pulsed slightly as she reached out with her magic. Then it started to burn, and a flicker she vanished, magically transporting herself across the vastness of space to be close to her master once more.

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Elsewhere

She was a slave, nothing more. The most successful gladiator in history and she was treated as just another servant. The shackles on her wrists and ankles prevented her from acting without permission except when they were deactivated to allow her to fight. The shock collar around her neck ensured that any thought of rebellion was instantly quashed. She was there to fight for the entertainment of the paying audience. They had promised that should she lose a fight she would die, but should she triumph she would live to fight another day while her owner collected his prize money. She was confident that they were lying, but her pride had never allowed her to lose a fight and find out.

It had not always been this way. Once she had been a real warrior, a master of the fighting arts capable of taking out whole armies on behalf of the Lord of Klattu-shaar. That had been truly living; she had given no quarter and expected no mercy from her foes. Her lord Ma’erok’s power had sustained her, keeping her ageless and near invincible. She had been unstoppable.

But then the battle had come and her lord had fallen. She had been overwhelmed along with her sisters, but while one had lost her mind and the other had been dumped powerless among into the slums of Dagonmir, she had been taken as a trophy of war, a trophy to be shown off as an example that even the most powerful warriors of evil could fall to the light. And when they had tired of displaying her, they had dumped her into a prison surrounded by the most horrendous killers, and she had demonstrated that when it came to killing she had no equal. She had cleansed the prison of its criminal element. That was when the corrupt prison governor had sold her to the owner of an arena, making her a part of the games. And it was there that she had remained, growing older, slower and weaker, but somehow surviving.

She had made her owners plenty of money during her enslavement, both in bets they had placed on her winning and as a punching bag – for her owners were not above allowing others to beat her while the restraints were active. So long as she survived she continued to make money. Today her opponent was not what she would consider a challenge. Standing at an impressive seven foot she would allow that the muscles and extra arms made him look imposing, but her ‘gift’ allowed her to know that he would not take long to defeat. That she had been forbidden to use any weapon besides her claws for the battle suggested her owners were just as confident.

She dived out of the way as the signal to begin was given. Her opponent had moved at the same time, four arms swinging in her direction. She dodged and tried to deliver a kick to the side of her opponent’s head. The blow did little than make him angry. She tried again, only to be lifted high over her opponent’s head and then dumped hard onto the ground. She instinctively rolled out of the way before the massive fist could connect, landing a foot to the face as she retreated.

Taking advantage of a momentary break, she managed to extend her claws. The ancient weapons were built into what remained of her armour, pieces the victors had never managed to cut away. Over time they had become rusty and their once perfect edge had been ruined by lack of maintenance. Even the mechanism to deploy and conceal them had broken. Still they were her weapons and she knew how to use them.

Her opponent had somehow summoned four spiked clubs and with a growl had started to charge her again. Her hand flicked in the direction of an incoming club, slicing through with ease. She caught the second on the back of her claws and took an opportunity to swipe at the tendons of her opponent’s leg with the other claw.

Around her the crowd was growing angry. Many had bet on her opponent winning and she was costing them money. Then suddenly she felt her restraints activate as the crowd erupted into cheers. Her owner had claimed his winnings that she would last more than a minute and had been paid so that the other spectators could see her defeated.

Her opponent moved in and she could do nothing. Sharpened spikes pierced her skin as he brutalised her with the massive weapons. For the next five minutes she was beaten for the delight of the audience. Her owner showed no signs that he was going to stop the brutal offensive. And when her opponent raised its clubs to deliver the final blow, she saw her owner walk away. Finally she was about to learn whether her immortality remained.

But the blow never connected. One moment she had been on her back, beaten to a pulp and the next she was standing, her claws embedded deep into her opponent. She sneered at him for a moment before pulling the blades free, causing blood to spray from the fatal wounds. As he collapsed she realised that her own wounds had healed and her armour had been repaired. She felt young and powerful, just as she had long ago.

“Chaos LIVES!” she bellowed, turning her attention to the crowd.

Arena security had started towards her the moment the fight had ended. The lead guard was frantically trying to activate her now useless restraints. She couldn’t blame him for trying though, she had killed thirty or so guards the last time she had had the opportunity. With a snarl and a promise to be quick, she leapt towards the security team. Her opponent had not been much of a challenge; the security team were not worth a second thought. Her blades cut through them mercilessly as she made her way to the exit. The return of her strength had been accompanied by an instinctive knowledge of where her master was waiting. While she could not travel by magic or thought, she was capable of commandeering a ship. Hours later she was on her way; she was the only living being to leave the arena that day.

End of Part

**THIS IS THE END OF THE FILE**