Shadows of Evil: Chapter Fourteen
Rebirth of the Tiger
A sound vibration roared through the mountains outside of Angel Grove like a tidal wave of destructive energy, tearing through rock and pulverizing stone.
At the shockwave’s center, a white saber with the head of a tiger sculpted on its handle sat stabbed within a large stone. The saber was Byakkoshinken, former weapon of the white Kiba Ranger.
Zedd stood on his balcony while staring down at the Earth below. He had sensed the energy pulse produced by Byakko, and he recognized it immediately.
“It can’t be,” Zedd said as he tightened his grip on his staff. “I killed the Tiger Ranger with my bare hands.”
“It’s Kiba Ranger, sire,” Draklith said from behind Zedd.
Zedd extended his hand backward and fired a pulse of energy that knocked Draklith to the ground.
Zedd scanned the mountains around Angel Grove with his visor while searching for the source of the energy wave. Through the red energy emitted by his visor, Zedd spotted Byakko in the mountainside.
“There!” he shouted. Zedd extended his staff towards the Earth and fired a stream of jagged energy that cast a spell on a white tiger in a city zoo. The tiger transformed into a humanoid monster with a plate of silver armor covering its black-striped white fur. The monster was armed with a broad axe.
“Retrieve the saber!” Zedd shouted to his creation.
Within her cave lair, Trakeena rose to her knees as a pile of rubble slid from her back. “Finster! What was that?!”
“I am not sure, Trakeena,” Finster said as he wobbled to her side and helped her to her feet. “But whatever it was, it was very powerful.”
“I could tell,” Trakeena said. She brushed herself off and pushed Finster aside while walking to her main chamber. She uncovered a small crystal ball and started tapping it on the side with frustration. “I hate these stupid things...work!”
Finster waddled into the room. “Perhaps if I created a monster we could use as a scout.”
Trakeena sighed impatiently. “Fine. Get to it…”
Azrael snapped her eyes open as she sensed the energy pulse from Byakko. She was standing on the rooftops of Angel Grove along with her four Dark Riders.
“That saber,” she said to herself as she smiled wickedly. “I must have it…”
She turned to her Riders. “Well? What are you waiting for? Bring me the tiger saber.”
The Dark Riders bowed as they leapt across the rooftops in a blur of motion towards the mountains.
The teens stood in front of Zordon as they faced the Viewing Globe. It showed an image of Byakko in the mountains outside the city.
“What’s Byakko doing?” Adam asked.
Billy shook his head. “He emitted a sonic vibration that nearly destroyed the mountains.”
Kimberly had her arms crossed over her chest. Seeing Byakko again reminded her of Kou. Tommy placed an arm around her for comfort.
“I believe that Byakkoshinken has chosen another carrier,” Zordon said.
“As in a new Kiba Ranger?” Rocky asked.
“Precisely,” Zordon said.
Alarms in the Command Chamber started to blare.
“Ay-yi-yi,” Alpha said. “Two monsters and the Dark Riders are approaching the tiger saber’s location!”
Kimberly shook her head. “Zedd and the others must be after Byakko too.”
“Let’s get going,” Tommy said. “No way any of those clowns are getting that saber.”
The Tiger monster led an army of wolfmen across the rocky mountain slopes. The creatures stopped in their tracks when they heard a voice shout down from a cliff above them.
“Hey fur-brain!” Tommy shouted. “You want that saber, you’ll have to go through us!”
“Which won’t so much happen,” Rocky added.
The four Dark Riders dropped from the sky and landed behind the Tiger and his wolfmen.
“Get in line,” a Dark Rider said as the four demons snapped into defensive stances.
A dark howl cut through the air as blur of motion slammed its way through the formation of wolfmen and knocked the Tiger and Dark Riders to their feet. The blur materialized on a cliff facing the rangers.
It was Finster’s monster, which appeared as nothing more than a mesh of black muscle covered in white bone with the skeletal head of a wolf.
Rocky shook his head as he looked over the assembled villains. “This is going to get messy.”
“Let’s take care of business,” Tommy said as he readied his braces. “It’s morphin time!”
“Chakra ignite, Aura Power!” the teens shouted as energy shimmered around them and they morphed into their armor.
Dragon Ranger leapt down towards the Tiger while arming his Thunder Staff. He swung the weapon diagonally across the monster’s chest, knocking the creature backward. He placed his weapon horizontally over his shoulders as Lion Ranger and Tenma Ranger hopped onto opposite sides of the staff and pushed off.
The two Rangers leapt over the Wolfmen and angled their descent towards the Dark Riders while attacking with energy blasts.
“Shining Fury!” Lion Ranger shouted as he extended his hands and fired a sphere of luminescent energy.
“Gravity Well!” Tenma Ranger shouted as he fired a swirling vortex of gravity energy.
Their combined blasts slammed into the Riders and knocked them backward.
Phoenix Ranger leapt towards the pack of Wolfmen as she shouted “Cyclone!” and produced a cyclone of pink energy that knocked the soldiers to their feet.
Kirin Ranger ran towards the Wolf monster while twirling his staff into a fighting position.
The monster fired dark optic blasts that Kirin Ranger deflected with his staff before flipping through the air and snapping off his Kirin Blade, which struck against the monster’s chest.
Azrael held her palm upward as she emitted a holographic image of the battle around the saber. She wrinkled her brow with growing concern, realizing it was unlikely her Riders would be the ones to claim the saber.
She closed her eyes and reached out with her mind, using her psionic abilities to scan the saber. She opened her eyes, and a smile crept across her face as she formulated a plan. “Everyone is going about this the wrong way…perfect…”
Azrael followed the psychic link being broadcast from Byakko, much as it was broadcast to Kou more than a year ago.
The broadcast led to Tommy’s younger brother Teddy.
Dragon Ranger gathered a large sphere of fiery energy between his hands as he shouted “Nova Force!” and snapped the energy blast forward, blasting through the Tiger monster and causing the creature to explode.
Nearby, the Wolf monster used its jaws to bite down on Kirin Ranger’s stringed blade and whipped the ranger off his feet.
Phoenix Ranger moved in with her Star Blade and swung the circular weapon down across the Wolf’s chest before spinning and striking the creature with a horizontal blow.
The Riders outnumbered Tenma Ranger and Lion Ranger two-to-one, and the Rangers were overpowered by the demon spawn’s fast kicks and punches.
Dragon Ranger used his Star Cutter as he dashed forward through a group of Wolfmen, hacking through flesh and bone as he made his way towards Byakko.
He flipped over the last soldier and leapt towards the rock the saber was stuck through. He grabbed Byakko by the handle and ripped the blade free.
“I’ve got the saber, guys,” Dragon Ranger shouted as he outer crescent kicked a wolf soldier that approached him, crushing the creature’s skull.
The five Rangers regrouped as the Riders, wolf monster, and remaining Wolfmen ran towards them.
“Let’s bomb ‘em,” Dragon Ranger said.
“Bomber set,” the Rangers said as they gathered spheres of cyan-colored energy in their hands. “Kiryoku…bomber!”
They launched their destructive spheres as they combined into one blast that crashed against the villains and exploded. When the smoke from the explosion cleared, the villains saw no sign of the Rangers.
Twelve-year-old Teddy sparred with his friend Simon at Bear Lake. Simon had spent more than two years as a student of Tommy before enrolling in the Hayate Way school, and Simon had gotten to know Tommy’s younger brother during that time as well. The two boys had become especially close while living under the same roof after Shadow Ranger burnt the Oliver home to the ground.
Simon’s movements were much more fluid and graceful, whereas Teddy’s strikes were more simple and firm.
They didn’t get a chance to finish their match before small explosions sparked across the ground around them. They were thrown backward and landed on their tailbones. Azrael appeared in front of them with her daggers in hand.
Simon looked to Teddy. “Your brother really needs to start keeping better company.”
“Tell me about it,” Teddy said as he rose from the ground and helped Simon to his feet.
“Let’s book,” Teddy said as the two boys started to run for cover among the trees.
Azrael flipped through the air and landed in front of the two boys. They skid to a halt while losing their balance and falling again.
Azrael smiled with delight as she picked Teddy up by his shirt collar.
“Let me go!” he shouted as he kicked at her and struck against her locked elbows to no avail.
Simon moved in to Azrael’s side and snapped a round kick underneath her arm. But she reached backward and slapped Simon away with a simple backhand blow.
Azrael smiled as Teddy continued to struggle. “Go ahead and squirm. It’s fitting behavior for bait.”
The Rangers returned to the Command Chamber to see Alpha running around frantically. “Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi!”
”What’s wrong, Alpha?” Kimberly asked.
Byakko answered before Alpha had a chance. “Azrael has Teddy!”
“Teddy?!” Tommy asked as he held Byakko up to his face. “As in my brother?”
“Yes,” Byakko answered. “She must have found out he was to be the next Kiba Ranger.”
“No,” Tommy said as he shook his head. “He’s not getting involved in this.”
Byakko shook slightly with frustration. “He already is!”
“Can you find him?” Tommy asked.
“No…just sense him,” Byakko said.
“Billy…” Tommy said as he looked to his friend.
“I’m on it,” Billy said as he and Alpha started a search for Teddy via the Command Chamber’s scanning systems.
Tommy paced back and forth nervously as they searched for his brother. He refused to accept that he might lose another loved one to the war with evil.
“Got it,” Billy said.
“Good work,” Tommy said as he walked over to his friend.
Billy shook his head. “No need to thank me. They’re not exactly hiding. Just the opposite in fact.”
Billy pulled up an image on the viewing globe that the five teens turned to see. The image was focused in on the middle of a plaza at the center of the city’s main business district. Azrael was blasting everything with black lightning as Teddy stood behind her while bound to a post by chains.
“It’s a trap,” Adam said.
“Never matters,” Tommy said as he readied his morphers. “Let’s go.”
The five teens ran to the plaza and snapped into fighting stances as they faced Azrael.
“Let him go!” Tommy shouted.
“Haven’t you learned by now that demands like that never work,” Azrael said as she stood in a fighting stance with her daggers held at the ready.
Tommy readied his morphers. “I don’t suppose you’ll be different for a change…it’s morphin time!”
“Chakra ignite, Aura power!” Energy shimmered around them as they morphed into their standard suits of armor.
Azrael held out her hand as a crystal ball appeared that hovered in midair. Inside the ball appeared a cluster of flames. “You should recognize this, Lion Ranger.”
“What…?” Lion Ranger replied.
Azrael grabbed the crystal ball, and a stream of flames shot out and circled around Teddy before sucking him in.
“NO!” Dragon Ranger shouted.
“Your little tiger has just gone to Hell,” Azrael said with a crooked smile. “If you want him back, you’ll have to fight your way out.”
The crystal pulsed with energy as a dark gateway appeared to the side of Azrael.
Byakko spoke while in Dragon Ranger’s hand. “We have to follow!”
“You’re going to pay for this,” Dragon Ranger said. “Count on it.”
Azrael laughed. “Yes, yes…in you go…”
The Rangers energized and leapt into the dark portal.
The Rangers slowly pulled themselves to their feet. They were in a barren desert of black ash that stretched out and met with the blood-red sky in the horizon. Wind howled across the landscape, lifting up small patches of dust that whirled through the air.
“Byakko?” Dragon Ranger asked as he held the saber. “Can you sense Teddy?”
“Yes,” Byakko answered. “But I don’t know where he is.”
Phoenix Ranger shook her head. “How are we supposed to find him when we don’t even know where we are?”
Kirin Ranger did a quick survey of his surroundings as the wind became more violent. “Judging from Adam’s experiences when rescuing Kujaku, and myth, I’d say we’re in one of the outer circles of Hell.”
Tenma Ranger nodded. “Second circle.”
The Rangers looked to Tenma Ranger, surprised at his knowledge of the subject. He simply shrugged. “I do read, ya know…”
“Let’s just start moving,” Dragon Ranger said as the gusts of winds increased in intensity, blowing piles of ashes across the air. “This storm doesn’t seem like it’s going to let up any time soon.”
The Rangers made it to the edge of the desert, which ended at a steep cliff looking over a valley that stretched miles below. The valley was filled with dirt-covered ice that floated amidst muddy lakes. A single dark cloud stretched over the valley and spun like a whirlpool as it rained hail down upon the ground.
“I don’t suppose there’s any way around,” Tenma Ranger said.
The five Rangers heard screeching noises coming from the skies, and they looked up to see three winged beasts of black ice fly from the dark cloud. The beats opened their jaws and fired volleys of razor sharp ice along streams of sub-zero energy.
“Ki!” Dragon Ranger shouted as the five Rangers extended their hands and projected an invisible force shield that the ice blasts slammed against. The force of the impact slammed the Rangers backward as they slid across the ground.
One of the ice dragons swooped down and picked up Phoenix Ranger with its claws before angling around and flying back towards the dark cloud.
“Kimberly!” Dragon Ranger shouted as fiery energy swirled around his right hand and he leapt towards the beast.
The second ice dragon snuck up behind Dragon Ranger and slammed against his back. Dragon Ranger fell to the ground as the ice dragon swooped down to finish him off.
“Magna Blast!” Dragon Ranger shouted as he extended his hands, producing a wave of heat and fiery lances of energy that shattered the ice dragon to pieces.
Nearby on the cliff, Lion Ranger, Tenma Ranger, and Kirin Ranger jumped clear of the ice dragon’s sub zero blasts as they slammed against the ground, kicking up a large cloud of dust that clouded the Rangers’ vision.
Lion Ranger struggled to see through his helmet, but he was too distracted by the clouds of ash and didn’t notice the third dragon swoop towards him and grab a hold with its claws. The dragon flew off through the air and carried Lion Ranger towards the cloud.
“Adam!” Tenma Ranger shouted as he and Dragon Ranger ran to the edge of the cliff to try and stop the dragon. They were too late. By the time they reached the end of the cliff, the beast was out of range. Kirin Ranger caught up with them after a moment.
“Now what?” Tenma Ranger asked.
Dragon Ranger shook his head. “I have no idea.”
The two ice beasts flew across the whirlpool cloud, using its force to gain momentum and travel to the center of the valley before swooping back down towards the ground. They approached a castle of towering spikes that appeared to be made of black ice surrounded by pools and streams of mud.
The two beasts entered the top level of the castle while carrying Lion Ranger and Phoenix Ranger.
Lion Ranger and Phoenix Ranger were thrown to the ground within a cavern of black ice. They rose to their feet as they looked upon a throne of the same material. Upon the throne sat a woman dressed in a dark gown that matched her dry mangled hair. She had solid, deep blue eyes with no pupils or white, and her skin was pale with specs of frost.
She was leaning back in her throne nonchalantly while bending a knee back and resting her chin and hands upon it. She smiled at the Rangers.
A creature that resembled a three-headed dog with spiked-black fur, only twice the size of a human, lied next to her throne.
“Welcome to my little corner of the underworld,” she said. “I’m sure you’ll fit right in.”
“Why did you bring us here?” Lion Ranger asked.
“And what have you done with the others?” Phoenix Ranger added.
“I’ll ask the questions, if you don’t mind,” she said as she placed her leg back down and leaned slightly forward. “I’m not exactly known for my fighting forces, but what I am known for is knowledge. Knowledge can be power, too.”
“Who are you?” Lion Ranger asked.
“Lady Freelyn.” She stood and descended her throne while placing her hand on the center head of the black beast. “I am ruler of the Circadyn Clan here in the Third Circle. This is Cerebus…”
She gently pet the creature’s center head as it purred a low rumbling noise with delight. “Don’t mistake him for a gentle creature. He is the guardian of the Circadyn gate.”
Her gaze drifted to Lion Ranger as a crooked smile spread across her face. “You’re familiar with the gatekeepers, Warrior of Light. The Shadow Clan was quite displeased when you slayed the keeper of their gates.”
“I’m sure they’ve gotten over it,” Lion Ranger said.
“Not likely,” Freelyn said. “The Shadow, and all clans of the Seventh Circle, tend to hold grudges. They’re murderers, war makers, violent beings with a strong lust for blood.”
“Evil is evil,” Lion Ranger said.
Freelyn tilted her head back and laughed. “You think you understand evil? Do you know what kind of souls clutter my grounds? The gluttons. That’s right…over indulgers. Can you believe that?”
She laughed again as she shook her head. “No, we are not evil, Ranger. We are victims. I was born here as a victim, and for countless eons, the members of the Lower Circles have crossed here to torment us in an effort to expand their territory.”
“What does this have to do with us?” Phoenix Ranger asked. “Why did you bring us here?”
“As I said,” Freelyn said. “I have information. I sensed your presence here as soon as you set foot in the Second Circle…we don’t get visitors often, you see…at least not live ones. It didn’t take long for me to piece together why you were here.”
“Where is he?” Phoenix Ranger asked.
“The boy is being held by the Shadow Clan in the Lower Circles,” Freelyn said. “If you try to reach him by conventional means, you will most certainly die.”
“Can you tell us how to get to him?” Phoenix Ranger asked.
“For a price,” Freelyn said.
“What kind of price?” Lion Ranger asked.
“A simple one,” Freelyn said. “Slay the king of the Shadow Realm.”
“We won’t do your dirty work,” Lion Ranger said.
“You’ll have to if you want to save the boy,” Freelyn said as a sly grin spread across her face. “I’ll send Cerebus to escort you to the entryway into the lower levels. The gate will take you directly to the Sixth Circle. You’ll have to face the Shadow’s recent gatekeeper there before proceeding into the Seventh. It is there, among the pools of hot blood, burning sand, and black trees, that you will find the boy.”
“What about the others?” Phoenix Ranger asked. “What have you done with them?”
“Nothing,” Freelyn said. “And I’ve lost sight of them as well. Someone else must have found them. Like I said, we don’t get many visitors who walk and breathe.”
“Why should we trust you?” Lion Ranger asked while trying to hide the uneasiness he felt when staring into her cold blue eyes.
“You don’t have much of a choice,” Freelyn said matter of factly.
Lion Ranger didn’t want to admit it, but she was right.
Beyond the fiery pits that lined the entryways into the lower regions of the underworld, and past the lakes of boiling blood guarded by demonic Centaurs, lied the barren wasteland of the Shadow Clan’s realm within the Seventh Circle. The castle was tall and obsidian, nearly blending in with the black sky and ground of onyx. Leafless, decaying trees of black tangled wood dotted the landscape.
Xeria paced back and forth within the castle’s gloomy brick dungeon as she watched Teddy, bound to a stone pillar by chains, with growing curiosity.
Teddy was scared. He tried to snap off a witty remark, using his humor to hide his fear as the rangers were known to do. But whenever he opened his mouth, his voice froze in his throat. He wasn’t just scared. He was in Hell. He was terrified.
Xeria stopped pacing and shook her head. She had waves of curly black hair flowing down to her waste, and she wore two black pieces of leather that went across her chest in a v-formation. She wore silver bands across her upper arms. Her skin was tan and her eyes like never-ending black voids.
“I’ve never seen a mortal before,” she said.
“Maybe you should get out more,” Teddy managed the courage to say.
Xeria wrinkled her brow with confusion. “Out where?”
Teddy shook his head.
“You are such a strange creature,” Xeria said with fascination as she stepped closer to Teddy.
Yeah, I’m the strange one, Teddy thought sarcastically to himself.
The rear doors to the dungeon boomed open as a towering man with reptilian features strode into the room. He was dressed in black plate armor that covered his chest and lower torso. He wore bands around his forearms and ankles that were crafted from silver. His skin was scaled and tinted blue gray. His forehead was ridged outward with small bony spikes outlining the curves. He had four eyes, each solid black. His name was Xeracon.
Xeracon stepped forward towards Teddy and wrapped his massive three-fingered hand around the boy’s throat. “Who are you, whelp? How dare you invade my domain?!”
Teddy struggled for air as he answered. “Not exactly…my choice…”
He released his grip on Teddy and stared into the boy’s eyes. “You were sent here?”
Teddy nodded, trying to hide his fear.
“Azrael,” Teddy answered.
The scaly creature wrinkled his bony brow as he turned to face Xeria.
“Why would your sister summon such a fleshling to our realm?” the being asked.
Xeria shook her head, not reacting to the being’s anger at all. “I do not know, father. She was never easy to understand.”
Xeracon flared his nostrils as he shook his head. “No…she was not. We will keep the fleshling here until you contact your sister and find out why he was brought here.”
“Yes father,” Xeria said as her gaze drifted back to Teddy, causing a chill to creep up his spine.
Tommy awoke on a cold damp floor within a dark pit nearly pitch black. He rubbed the back of his bruised head as he slowly rose to his knees.
He barely remembered what had happened. He had started a trek into the valley along with Rocky and Billy to track down Adam and Kimberly. Somewhere along the way, they had apparently blacked out.
As soon as Tommy stood he heard slithering noises surround him from several directions. A gigantic snake-like creature covered in spikes towered into view as it slithered forward and sprang to strike Tommy. He reacted on instinct.
“Fire Wave!” he shouted as he slammed his fist towards the ground and produced a wave of fire that tore through the ground and exploded underneath the snake, sending the creature flying backward.
He heard hissing from behind him and turned to see two more snakes snap towards him. Tommy leapt backwards while extending his hands and shouting “Star Fire!”
He launched a comet of flame that exploded against the two creatures.
In the distance, he saw flashes of blue light that he recognized as Rocky’s gravity blasts.
“Is that you, Rocky?” Tommy shouted as he fired a fire stream that tore through another snake.
“Not for long if these damn things don’t stop trying to eat me!” Rocky shouted.
“Guys!” they heard Billy’s voice shout. “They seem to be coming from below ground. I suggest finding a way up.”
“Blast upward,” Tommy shouted. “Use your ki to deflect any falling debris.”
“Isn’t that kinda risky?” Rocky asked.
“Yes,” Tommy said simply.
The three fired upwards, and a rocky ceiling collapsed around them. They used invisible shields of ki to deflect the falling debris. Pale light crept into the pit from the opening, and the snake creatures slithered away from the light as if it caused them great pain.
The three rangers regrouped in the center of the pit as they stared up at the opening far above them.
“We can probably reach when morphed,” Tommy said as he readied his braces.
“Aura Power!” the three teens shouted as their armor shimmered around them.
The Rangers energized and leapt up through the opening. They landed in a circular room lined with gray stone pillars and decaying brick walls, covered with dark green moss.
“Where the Hell…literally…” Tenma Ranger said as the three looked around.
A voice came from behind the three Rangers as they turned to see a dark figure step out from behind a column. “I must say, I am impressed. No one has ever escaped the snake pits.”
His body was covered with a black cape. His skin was pasty white, and his eyes were solid red. His dark hair was slicked back across his head.
The Rangers snapped into fighting stances.
“Who are you, and what have you do with the others,” Dragon Ranger demanded.
“Your two teammates?” the being asked as he arced an eyebrow. “They are no where near here. Still in the Third Circle. As for my identity, I am Mordanthos. I rule the Thaimoc Clan here in the Eighth Circle.”
“You’re not exactly a pleasant host,” Tenma Ranger said.
“The snake pit was necessary to see if you were fit for the task before you,” Mordanthos said.
“And what might that be?” Dragon Ranger asked.
A snake-like grin spread across his face. “The destruction of the Shadow Clan.”
The man slowly stuck out his pale bony arm from his cloak and held his palm up. An image appeared between his long, neatly trimmed nails. It was an image of Teddy. “They have this small mortal in their holding. You and your two companions arrived shortly after him. I assume you want him liberated from the underworld or destroyed. Either way, you’ll have to face the Shadow to do so.”
“Tell us how to get there,” Dragon Ranger said.
“But of course,” Mordanthos said. “And I will not send you alone. “I will arrange for a group of Serpent-men and my most prized warrior to accompany you.”
“We’d rather go alone,” Dragon Ranger said.
“No,” Mordanthos said. “You are far too valuable to be wasted. You will need support.”
“Then what?” Kirin Ranger asked. “What do you expect after we defeat the Shadow?”
“You’ll be free to go, of course,” Mordanthos said.
Dragon Ranger didn’t like the idea of being used as a tool at all, but he saw little choice. He had to rescue his brother. He would face any obstacles as they came along.
“Fine,” Dragon Ranger said. “Just show us the way in.”
Mordanthos entered his private chambers to speak with his warrior alone. The soldier appeared amphibious and stood seven-feet tall. His scales were like armor and tinted with various shades of gold and silver. Two long blades extended from his forearms and curved backward towards his shoulders.
“Lead them to the Shadow,” Mordanthos said with a sly grin. “After they’ve destroyed the Clan, kill them.”
To be continued…Chapter 15