Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers. The very first sentence in this fic belongs to Jeremy Ray Logsdon.
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 part of their power.
Athenia was a small planet far from the planet that would one day become known as Earth. Circled by two moons in a cosmic dance around a single blue star. It was a planet with a history, one that had left portions of the surface incapable of supporting life. Not even weeds could survive the harsh environment where evil had tainted the soil, water and air. It had been this way for as long as anyone could remember, at least as long as the planet's second moon had been turned from a life rich environment into a cold rock barely a third of its original size.
There had been attempts to colonise the unpopulated parts of the planet and turn them into useful resources. Such plans never succeeded, the environment was too harsh for the machinery needed to turn such a barren landscape into an acceptable climate. Over time it had simply been accepted that the planet did not want those areas to be anything other than festering wounds.
The history of Athenia was lacking at best. Official records had disappeared during a mass purge of the neighbouring star systems that had made up to dominion of King Keldor and Queen Melina, servants of the Emperor Xing. Some of the remaining documents suggested that a war had been fought after Xing's defeat between the planet's dark rulers and an army of good, just as similar wars had been fought on many other worlds. The evidence had always suggested that the war on Athenia had been won at tremendous cost; the planet had never recovered. There had been no survivors to confirm the events surrounding the planet's condition because the population had vanished overnight.
Appearances were often deceptive though and in the case of Athenia; the failure to look beyond outward appearances and explain the area of dead ground allowed a secret to fester for millions of Earth years. Athenia had indeed been the location of a great battle. It had been a war that had shaken the planet and its moons to the brink of destruction and had robbed the planet of all its inhabitants. But the people hadn't died.
There had never been a clear winner. The forces representing light and justice had sacrificed themselves to claim victory. They had banded together and transformed themselves into pure energy in order to imprison the forces of darkness and chaos. An ancient and extremely primitive form of magic had been used, sacrificing the lives of the righteous to create a mystic wall that sealed the wicked beyond the physical plane. The pure of heart had physically died that day while the evil they had sought to contain had survived. It was a wasteful practice, but sadly one that was still used.
Such was the backlash of the spell used that vast areas of the planet were soaked with the tainted blood of war. The ground was poisoned and the air polluted. The first moon had shattered, creating a cloud of debris that bombarded the second moon. Both lunar satellites had shifted in their orbits making them cold and lifeless.
Behind the barrier the forces of darkness had settled. The all of magic and technology made it impossible for them to leave the folded space that had been their prison for what to them had been little more than a quarter of a million years. Until they could find a way to break through the barrier they would remain in their state of perpetual torture. In this place they were neither alive nor capable of escaping through death. They just existed!
Their ruler, a man known as Keldor still tried to break their prison's walls. His prowess in battle had been incredible before they had been sealed away, but his understanding of magic was sorely lacking. Back then he had shared his essence with the demon Albion. Such a bond had made him and all those that followed his banner incredibly powerful. The bond had been broken by the barrier, which prevented evil from entering as well as leaving.
Still Keldor remained as leader, his own powers exceeding those of his subordinates and the memories of things he had done during the first years of their imprisonment fresh in the survivors' minds. He was truly feared and that fear kept him safe from his followers' instinct to kill him.
He sat on a throne made from the bones of those who had trapped him. Every last person he thought responsible had been resurrected and tortured for information of how to escape. He had performed acts that were too sick for many to watch and had personally slain his victims when their usefulness and entertainment value had diminished.
Some had had the skin stripped from their body by magic, some had witnessed their organs removed by the blade he kept strapped on his back after using his finger nails to peel away their flesh, and in a few cases he had gone so far as to tear his victims apart with his bare hands before burning out their eyes. All had been conscious when he had done so and remained aware for hours afterwards. Those who were allowed to bleed almost always drowned in their own fluids. Those that were unfortunate enough to have a spell delaying the physical signs of their injuries screamed when it was lifted and the full effects were felt.
He had killed the his last few victims by draining every drop of magical, psychic and cosmic energy from their bodies. With each death he had grown ever stronger, assimilating any unusual abilities while absorbing their energy. But even the combined power of all those he had drained wasn't enough to create the vast amount of dark power needed to break the barrier.
Over time some of his followers vanished. The barrier somehow prevented death, but could not stop creatures made of magic from fading as their determination faltered and their dedication to Keldor dwindled. Of the generals he had commanded during his freedom, only forty or so survived. Their forces remained as strong as ever though, the weaker creatures in their arsenal had been exposed and destroyed; those that remained were the strongest of Keldor's generals.
All they desired was freedom. But despite the reluctance they felt the question had to be asked: would Keldor ever manage to destroy the barrier? The last of the light wizards had spoken briefly of the need for an explosion of dark energy to crack the wall and Keldor had thrown everything in his arsenal at the wall only to have it repelled. His troops were questioning his abilities and Keldor could not argue with them. For unknown to his servants and his equally wicked wife Melina, Keldor was dying.
Every being was born with some level of magical potential stored within their body, even if that potential was zero. When the need arose they could use that store to perform magical deeds. When the store emptied it took time to return to its normal level. With practice and experience some could reach their full potential, although for most the demands of doing so were too extreme. But no matter whether they had a small potential or the ability to become the greatest magical being in the Universe, it was impossible for the body exceed its physical limits. Too much power would cause an irreversible breakdown from which the individual could not recover.
When forced to contain more power than it could hold, the body had two choices. It could adapt and change into a shape that could hold the new power, a solution that made the body larger bringing practical advantages to the individual from both a magical and physical standpoint. However despite being the preferred solution it was the less common outcome and only occurred when potential was exceeded due to stress.
The more likely effect of the body containing more power than it could potentially hold was that the magic overloaded the body, causing the cells to breakdown prematurely. In some cases it could make a man of twenty appear fifty, but in extreme cases the effects were such that the body became too fragile to do anything with the magic it possessed. In such cases the body was maintained by the very magic it coveted so much to a point where even such immense power could not prevent the inevitable destruction of the body. On those occasions the individual and much of their surroundings simply vanished.
Keldor was a man who had exceeded his body's natural capacities. In his youth he had been a powerful man and a skilled warrior who relied on his body first and foremost. But he had grown to love the use of dark magic and had been corrupted by its power. Over centuries he had preserved his life until the battle that had sealed him away from the Universe he sought to dominate. Since then he had continued to increase his magical limits, using the energies of the recently departed as a quick way of building up power.
During his imprisonment his will had remained strong and his determination could never be questioned. His body had grown weaker and weaker until he had been forced to use illusion charms to hide his infirmity from his followers. His forces believed in the traditional principles that the most powerful should lead. The loss of his physical strength effectively robbed him of his right to rule.
His body had continued to decay over the centuries. At first his skin had turned blue and then started to thin. His muscles had disappeared and his bones had crumbled. His skin, what was left of it, was brittle and clammy; his face little more than a yellow skull with empty red eyes. He had taken to wearing a thick woollen cloak to cover his overly exposed body. In his prime he had been able to survive wearing just boots, trunks and a hood made of purple leather.
Yet despite his physical decline he continued to grow powerful. His magic was unsurpassed even though he was as helpless as a kitten. He was more reliant on his loyal followers and the forces at their disposal than he wanted them to believe. Any show of weakness could cost him his life.
Unfortunately for Keldor, his powers never equalled that of all the light wizards who had conspired to create the barrier. He was close, but to break through would in his opinion require more energy than he could ever hope to hold.
Queen Melina watched her husband carefully. She had also extended her powers beyond her potential by siphoning off some of Keldor's magic whenever he tried to increase his power. While Keldor had been foolish, she had been cautious. The magic he tried to store inside his body she channelled into her clothing, her jewellery and the metal staff her husband had created for her. The glowing orb at the tip of the staff swirled with more of the energy she had deposited. It was all tuned to her mind so that only she could access the powers she had placed there.
Keldor might have weakened over time, but his queen remained as strong as ever. She didn't fear her husband even though he was more powerful than she could hope to become. She saw the truth, that a well-placed knife was all that was required to end Keldor's life, but it didn't matter because she would be his strength.
Together they had discovered a way to breach the barrier sufficiently for their forces to break through. The golden light that had passed over the planet years before had weakened the wall. Now it just required a massive release of dark energy to turn that weakness into a hole through which they could escape.
~I'm going to miss this place,~ she thought as she played with the dagger she had magically summoned. A small smile crossed her face, revealing her true ugliness as she thought of all she planned to do once she escaped. ~But not that much.~
Months passed and another leading figure in Keldor's command had vanished. The evil king had taken the opportunity to steal the energy unleashed at the moment of death and despite straining the containment spells holding him together, he had once again enhanced his powers and helped to provide Melina with the proof she needed. When power was unleashed spontaneously, the energy was far more potent than when released in simple combat. That was something Melina had come to realise. Her husband's followers were more powerful in death than they were in life, it stood to reason that the same would hold true for her husband.
Today she had brought the king to the edge of the barrier where he had made all of his previous attempts. It had taken a lot of arguing on her part before he had agreed to give the wall one more try. She had watched patiently as he had built his magical strength to its maximum, until she could practically touch the energy that crackled around him. She had encouraged him as he had drawn his blade and aimed his carved staff at the same spot he always picked. This time they knew it would be different.
"Good luck my love," she whispered, kissing his cheek.
Her husband did not reply since he was already fighting against the power that sought to overwhelm him. She watched as he started to blast the barrier, the dagger appearing in her hand as she did so. She watched for several seconds before driving the dagger into his back and throwing him at the wall.
"Everybody down!" she shouted, drawing on her own powers to place force behind her voice.
Keldor lost control the moment the blade had pierced his wicked heart. Without his mind to control the energy he was unleashing, it started to run wild. As his wife shoved him against the barrier, the stored energy was released full force against the wall. The whole area shook violently and for the first time it looked as if the power of the light wizards had been countered.
"Attack!" Melina ordered.
The shocked generals did not question her orders. She had slain their master and had taken his place in the hierarchy. She was their queen and they would obey her. They attacked, each more powerful than the last and all equally useless.
"Move," she hissed when the last of them had tried and failed.
She walked up to the wall, sensing the flow of energy within the barrier. She smiled happily as she saw in her mind's eye the damage that had been caused. It was not obvious, but she could sense the rupture with the structural spells. She reached out a delicate finger and pressed her painted nails against the wall.
"Crumble," she said.
It was barely whispered but all her followers heard the command. At first nothing happened and then the barrier exploded outwards and the folded space was torn open. Melina waited until the barrier had completely vanished before she relaxed her finger. That was how you made an impression.
"You can get up now, my love," she said as she peered down at her husband. They didn't need to fear physical death and she had known the moment she had stabbed him that her husband would revive.
As the shocked generals, those who had questioned their king's ability to release them, watched, King Keldor was returned to life, smiling as he felt the familiar embrace of his demon familiar. They were free once more and the power had returned to them.
With a wave of his hand the staff and blade returned to his hand. He moved to one of the few generals he had allowed to survive long enough to see their success. The man looked terrified and with good reason. A moment later he was dead.
"Life removed and death denied, in this object thou reside," Melina whispered, trapping the remnants of traitor's spirit in the tiny fragment. "For too long we have been held in this prison. Now we are free and will retake all that is ours. And you my dear general, the one who thought his treachery would be overlooked, you shall serve us in death as you failed to in live.
She held the stone out, already knowing what she would do with it. "Not living yet undying, to truth you're bound, no lying. Hazrech, ghomanch, tofirror, transform this stone your soul to mirror."
The gem was transformed into a large gold plated mirror in which the last vestiges of the traitor's soul remained, bound by her words to speak only the truth.
"Long live Keldor, all hail the King!" one of the unseen generals cried.
Shouts of: "Keldor, Keldor, Keldor," were intermixed with cries of: "Melina, Melina, Melina, Melina!"
The chant was deafening as the planet came alive with energy, a show of their renewed power. They would show the Universe how true villains should behave as they conquered it one galaxy at a time. The future was coming and from their viewpoint, it held only darkness and despair. What a wondrous future it would be.
"Perhaps it's time to see what we will be facing," Melina suggested. "Oh mirror mirror cased in gold, from your lips no falsehood told, answer me this question asked, fulfil the deed with which you're tasked: who is the most evil of them all?"
A face appeared in the mirror's depths. His image was grey, his face showing a mix of intense loathing that his former queen had managed to trap him in such a way and fear at the thought of what she might force him to do. When he answered his voice was deep and authoritative, there also seemed to be some humour in his tone.
"There is no doubt that you are quite the pair, your wickedness knows no bounds. But to the universe at large you are nothing. Your time is gone and your names have long been forgotten; Rita, Zedd and the Machine Empire are the most evil of them all."
She scowled angrily, but restrained herself. Keldor showed no such inhibition and made his displeasure clear for all to see. The thought that the universe had moved on without them was infuriating. That others had dared to usurp the place of Keldor and Melina was unthinkable. That would change though, the universe would once again tremble at their names and they would reclaim their rightful places as the High King and Queen of Evil.
To be Continued