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Old April 19th, 2019, 09:49 AM #1
BlazingRedRanger's Avatar
> BlazingRedRanger
Power Ranger
 
Joined: Aug 2016
Posts: 13
BlazingRedRanger
Power Ranger
BlazingRedRanger's Avatar
 
Joined: Aug 2016
Posts: 13



Zoron Era Fanfic – Battle on Hopeless Ground

Introduction:

Before you dig in, thanks for reading, I’m looking forward to your feedback. At the very end of the story you’ll find a small “behind the scenes” section, giving you insight into some of my thought process behind creating this story, as well as my basis for my interpretation of some of the characters I used.

Lastly a little bit of day dreaming: If like someone of the Boom-Studio-Comics team should stumble across this fic and think “Man, this would make a good comic.” please feel free to do so – it would be my greatest honor to see it adapted. No royalties charged if credited somewhat like “Based on the fan fic of BlazingRedRanger”

Summary:

Ten thousand years ago, Zordon and his allies are winning their battle against the evil witch Rita Repulsa. In a desperate effort to turn the war into her favor Rita stats to dabble into forces that, if she isn’t careful, could mean her own destruction. With the first of these new threats defeated, Zordon sends one of his comrades to uncover the origins of Rita’s newest and most terrible plan jet…

Battle on Hopeless Ground

A maniacal laughter echoed through the darkness, emanating somewhere close to Zordons right. The darkness was one of Zordons own choosing, as soon as he’d realized that it was a liability to trust his eyes in battle against his current enemy. But while his eyes might deceive him at the moment, he still had other senses at his disposal. Senses like his hearing. A sense, that was especially aided by his enemies need to relish in what he perceived as Zordon’s certain defeat. The Wizard of Deception ended his latest burst of laughter eager to resume his taunting.

“I hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as I have Zordon. I must admit though, that I’m a little disappointed. With all the trouble you’ve caused for Empress Rita, I would have expected you to put up more of a fight.” The wizard’s voice grew louder as he came closer. Zordon remained on all four with his head facing downward as well, while he emulated the quiver he had seen in those, who had fallen victim to one of the wizard’s illusions. His right hand was lying loosely on his staff, ready to grip it as soon as he would drop the charade.

“Now what would be a fitting end for this miserable display of weakness?” the Wizard of Deception meanwhile mused.

“Your allies, for example, I’ll banish into the ancient past. While I doubt that this would be enough to stop you, they’ll certainly remain lost there forever.” The wizard paused to let the desperation, he hoped his word would incite, sink in.

“But for you, Zordon I’ll need something special. You’ll get the honor to suffer at my greatest work; a spell that combines my mastery over time and mirages. It’ll force you to revile this exact moment forever and ever.”

The wizard erupted into another burst of sinister laughter. The drifting of the sound and a gust from his billowing cape told Zordon that the wizard had made a half turn and was now facing away from him. A needless gesture; one this arrogant buffoon must have chosen, simply to give his victory more of a dramatic flair. Zordon felt a mystical surge and head the crackling of energy as the wizard charged his wand for his spell, all the while still laughing. Zordon used the noise to cover his casting of a spell of his own and then he sprang into action.

He opened his eyes at the exact same moment as he hardened his grip on his staff. A quick glance assured him that his assessment of the situation had indeed been correct. He shifted his pose, tensed his muscles and catapulted himself over the wizard in front of him. His cape billowed as he made a turn midair, which allowed him to land face to face with his adversary. The Wizard of Deception stood in a shocked awe at Zordons sudden movements. Zordon pressed the tip of his staff against the wizard wand, sucking the mystical charge out of it. When his rival finally realized what was happening to him it was already too late.

“No!” the wizard tried to scream, but the word ended as a muffled sound of anguish. Zordon had twisted his staff around and rammed its blunt end with such force into his enemy, that it had lifted him off the ground. Before his feet were able to reconnect with the surface, Zordon followed his first attack with a kick of his right, sending the wizard crashing hard against the nearest rock. With the tables completely turned the wizard looked up in confusion and terror. The energies of his spell were now coursing through the tip of Zordon’s staff. Zordon allowed himself a brief smile.

“You may be the master of deceit, but by thinking that you could defeat me, you’ve pulled the greatest deception on yourself,” he declared as he cast the wizard's own spell onto him. Before he could make another scream, the Wizard of Deception was consumed by the mystic energies, trapped in a prison of his own creation.


The battle was won. Zordon exhaled and started to look for his allies. With the wizard gone, his spell over them had been broken as well. They had stopped their quivering, and now seemed more like people who awoke from a night of consuming too many alcoholic beverages. He stepped over to the closest of them and offered a hand.

***

“Now this was something else.” A shudder cursed through the Phantom Ranger as he remembered the horrors the Wizard of Deception had made him see. It had seemed so real. Zordon stood next to him, looking down on his sitting friend and on the fire that illuminated the center of their camp in this nightly hour. They were alone, their other comrades either sleeping in the barracks or patrolling the outer perimeters. Phantom Ranger had tried to rest as well, but hadn’t managed to find any. So he had decided to bide some time at the fireplace.

“Rita didn’t have a single victory since the disaster on Tarmac 3." A guilty frown crossed Zordons face before he continued. "All she could manage was to slow us down. But now, with Tirna in our hand, we can finally launch a direct attack against her palace. If we do this right this senseless war could soon be over.” Zordon, who had just finished his inspection of the sentries, sat down next to Phantom Ranger and paused to ponder on his analysis.

“But you are right; that encounter was something else. She’s getting desperate, otherwise she would have used a monster like the Wizard of Deception a long time ago to stop us. Our continued success must have pushed her to dabble into powers that pose a threat even to her.”
“I doubt we’ll be lucky enough, for her to simply destroy herself with these powers,” Phantom Ranger commented.

“Me neither,” Zordon agreed with a smile that turned into a frown before he continued. “That's why I'm stopping the mobilization for our push against her palace. I just can't risk her falling into our flank like that again.”

“No. The more time she has now the stronger her defenses will be. We already know that she's recalled Cyclopsis to Earth. If we don't use this opportunity to strike we might not get a second chance altogether." He had barely spoken these words, when Phantom Ranger was hit by the solution to the problem at hand. "I'll find the source of Rita's new terrors and eliminate it, while you'll keep the preparations for our strike against her headquarter on schedule." They locked eyes and for a short time Phantom Ranger thought he would get scolded for his brash decision. But Zordon simply nodded gravely.

“I accept your plan, but on one condition only." Zordon raised his left index finger to emphasize that his condition was meant to be understood as an order. "This will be a reconnaissance mission. There will be no heroics you know you can't get out of." Zordons face softened into a smile before he continued. "I won't trade your live for a hundred chances at a strike against Rita's Palace." Phantom Ranger felt the tension leave his body as well before he replied. "I know. I won't disappoint your trust old friend."

***

This tomb was a place of evil. One didn't need to actually be able to sense the mystical energies permeating its ancient walls to realize that. A healthy instinct was enough to tell one, that this was a dangerous place. It instilled a chill that came from something more than mere cold; a chill that even Rita couldn't help but feel. While the evil presence that was lingering as a ghost of darkness inside these catacombs was only a faint tingle to her at the moment, things would soon become a lot more unpleasant.

She expelled her doubt by strengthening the grip on her wand, gathered up her skirt with the other hand and continued her descend into the structures heart. It came to no surprise that she found everything in the state she'd left it. She had rearranged the burial chamber into a shrine for the remnants of a once equally powerful and sinister warlock, the formers skull taking the most prominent place in the new setup.

Necromancy was one of the hardest skills to master, not because of the practice itself but because of all the precautions you had to take to not end up dead yourselves. Evoking the spirits of dead was a little akin to reignite a smoldering fire. The flames needed fuel to make them burn brightly again. For the dead there was no better fuel than the life-force of those still breathing. And very much like a fire, it was all too easy to lose control over the process and get consumed by the flames. Her father had trained her well and Rita was sure she wouldn't have any problems, but still, a little danger always remained.

As soon as she'd finished the incantation powerful energies began to course though the tomb. Since the remnants of his body weren't enough of a physical anchor for the dark spirit’s powers, excess energies started to randomly discharge into arches of lightning and flames. Lidless eyes took form inside the once empty sockets, when –despite his weakened state – the specter managed to reconstruct part of his former physical self. The warlock's dark ghost had been awakened from his slumber.


"Greetings my evil child. I sense that Zordon has defeated the Wizard of Deception." The ghost probably tried to sound fatherly, but in his incorporeal state his voice it just sounded hollow and artificial.

"Yes, oh Ghost of Darkness. Just like we suspected he would," Rita answered in her crowing voice.

"Now that you can gauge the depth of his power, do you think another of your monsters could finish the job? The one you've called M..." Rita gave a short pause and gestured with her left hand while trying to remember the name only to give up "...what's its name sounded like the right guy for the job."

"I think not. Zordon is a powerful and resourceful enemy. And without me powering it up, the creature will only wield a fraction of its strength. If we want to defeat Zorden, we'll both have to face him directly." The warlock pondered on his analysis before had added, "But once Zordons troops are leaderless, it would be an excellent way to deal with the leftovers."

Rita clenched her teeth. She had feared as much. The warlock wanted to return to an at least semi-physical form. A reawakening of this magnitude would put even her into serious danger. But she had nothing to bargain or talk the ghost out of his desire. She could either accept or lose her last chance at beating Zordon. So was it worth the gamble or was her live not already forfeit either way? Rita's moment of doubt ended, when her insatiable ambition dispelled her fears and she nodded in agreement of the plan. "Then it will certainly please you to hear, that I have finished crafting the idol, according to your instructions."

"Indeed it does," the ghost replied, his voice as flat as usual.

***

Horror Hound wiggled his snouts; all three of them. He gave a short thought of thanks to his creator Finster. Each of his three heads faced into another direction giving him a three hundred and sixty degree view. It made him the perfect candidate for the job of overlooking the slaves in the clay pit. But what these miserable fools didn't realize was that Horror Hound's true strength as a guard didn't come from his vision but from his impeccable sense of smell.

To his eyes there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. All the slave-workers were perfectly on time. And this perfection made him uneasy. Things never went without at least a little act of defiance. Be it a barely audible curse or someone who just walked a little slower, than he actually could. Something like perfect obedience just didn’t exist, especially in unwilling subjects. And his smell told him, that he was right to distrust them. No matter how good the charade, they still reeked of fear and anger. And this could only mean they were trying to lull him into a false sense of security.

Horror Hund growled flashing his teeth. Time to teach these worms, just who is running this show! he thought. His left paw reached down to his belt, until the feeling of cool metal reassured him that his growth grenade was still in place. Then he picked up his axe and sat himself into motion. The sudden movement caught the attention of the slaves around him and they instinctively started to look at him. Horror Hound decided to make an example of the first slave that had accidentally locked gaze with him.

"You are here to work and not to gawk." he barked at the man loud enough to be heard in the entire labor-camp. When the other slaves realized what was going to happen, they quickly tried to look focused on their work, hoping to avoid becoming a second target for his anger. And still, whenever they had the chance, they would covertly try to observe Horror Hound and his victim. Good! he thought with grim satisfaction. Now that I have their attention, I can get to work.

Horror Hound closed in on his victim until he towered over him. An easy task considering this planet’s inhabitants were all of dwarflike stature by nature. He raised his axe via the oval handle at the end of its shaft until it was aligned like a pointer towards the slave. With the axe's two parallel blades pointing down, it looked like he was holding a giant key instead of a weapon. Suddenly, with a sound somewhere between a violent electronic discharge and clinking, a beam of yellow light sprang from the tip of the axe's shaft, growing longer and longer as it coiled like a snake towards the slave. The slave tried to raise his hands in a futile gesture at warding off the attack, but the beam of light was to quick and powerful and had soon ensnared him like a piece of rope. Horror Hound motioned the blades of his axe ninety degrees to the right, whereupon the light beam disappeared, leaving the slave frozen motionless into place.

He was preparing to deliver a line about him hoping the slave was happy that his wish for a break had been fulfilled and could look forward to remain on break for the next few hours, but before Horror Hound could utter even a single word he was approached by a Putty Patroller. The Putty signaled with a string of garbled noises that he had something very urgent that needed his attention. Oh it better be urgent, or else you’ll rue that you've interrupted me! Horror Hound thought angrily, while he briskly ripped the sealed parchment from the hands of the always floundering.

Only then did he realize that the parchment had the seal of Empress Rita herself. So at least it won't be a total waste of my time. Horror Hound mused, feeling his anger subsiding and make room for curiosity. He had read the letter about half way through, when he stumbled over information that caused him to pause in surprise. When he had overcome the initial shock, he started to carefully read the letter all over from the beginning. Horror Hound’s stares went blank, while he was pondering what he had just read.

When he snapped back from his short trance his gaze once again focused on the slave he had paralyzed just minutes before. "Enough with your break already. Get back to work, you scum," Horror Hound said, pointing the tip of his axe once more into the direction of his slave. This time however he turned its blades ninety degrees to the left. A short burst of light seemed to emanate from the slave, as he was released from the spell of Horror Hound's weapon. The man, who still held the twisted pose he had been trapped in, now found himself without the invisible iron grip, which had held him in place, lost his balance and fell to the ground. As soon as he had recovered he and the other slaves threw surprised glances at Horror Hound. The warden however had lost all interest in his captives and hurried towards the fortress that loomed over the clay pit.

***

As soon as Horror Hound was out of sight other slaves hurried towards their comrade, making sure he hadn't been harmed. A man in a green but mostly brown tunic was the first to arrive and helped the monster's victim back on his feet. Phantom Ranger slowly opened his clenched fists. He had witnessed the entire incident from his hiding spot in the dense tropical foliage surrounding the clay pit. The other slaves show of compassion had helped calm Phantom Ranger's anger.

He took a moment, to dwell on his plight. Sure, he could help these people by freeing them from Horror Hound now, but that would alert Rita to his presence in her territory. And Rita was apparently well aware of the fact that she needed to hide the source of her new monster from her enemies. There simply was no other explanation for the path the Wizard of Deception had taken. This world, apparently called Gratha, was the third from last the monster had visited, before he had attacked them on Tirna. Phantom Ranger meanwhile was ready to bet his power ruby and thereby his live, that this planet wasn't the end of the Wizzard's intricate trail.

So as much as it pained him in his heart, to leave this people to their cruel fate, exposing himself now would give Rita the chance to cover her tracks. In the best case that would give her the chance to summon more of these powerful monsters and in the worst case turn around the war in her favor again. Seen logically, his mission outweighed his burning desire to free the slaves. Of course that doesn't mean I have to like it. Phantom Ranger thought grudgingly. As soon as my mission is done I’ll teach this mutt a few new tricks! So I better stop wasting time and return to gathering intelligence.

He turned to leave only to freeze in shock mid movement. The man that had helped Horror Hound's victim back on his feet was looking directly at him, or at least directly at his hiding spot. Phantom Ranger had activated his suits adaptive camouflage, so nobody should see anything but greenery. Of course the cloaking wasn't perfect, after all what was, so an observant onlooker could notice slight distortions, especially when Phantom Ranger was moving.

After what felt like an eternity the short man quickly shifted his gaze towards the fortress and then back to Phantom Ranger's hiding spot. A faint smile flitted over his face. Then the man returned to his digging spot grabbed a shovel and resumed filling up the nearest wheelbarrow. Phantom Ranger's view lingered on the man's back for a view more heartbeats until he finally took off.

***

Horror Hound stood in the fortress's great hall. He tried to project an image of collected coolness but his nervousness kept him fidget. The mere minutes that had passed, seemed to drag on like an eternity. The sudden flashing of an orange flame like light ripped him from his musings and Horror Hound snapped to attention. As soon as the light had subsided he crossed one arm over his waist and bowed before Rita Repulsa. "You honor me with your presence my empress."

"Yes, yes, of course I do." She whisked his platitudes away, rotating her left hand, emphasizing that she was in a hurry to get to more pressing matters. Horror Hound was wise enough to not harbor any resentment for Rita's lack of etiquette. There was a reason, why she was his mistress and to invoke her wrath could easily spell his doom. Instead he smoothly he replied "Certainly."

He shifted his attention for a few seconds from Rita to examine her entourage. There were six putties; he had noticed their damp and musty clay smell as soon as they had arrived. They carried an object, which for the most part resembled an ordinary, marble white column. But while one end was flat the other was adorned by a strange sculpting. It resembled the spread hood of a poisonous snake and had some text engraved on its back, written in letters that Horror Hound had never before. The hood enfolded a human looking face with hollow eye sockets, giving it an unsettling and eerie look.

Buzzing around the Putties and their strange cargo where Squatt and Baboo. Baboo, who probably meant to project dignity, had assumed a stiff bearing, but coupled with his bustling movements he just looked cramped instead. He was giving unqualified instructions about how to best haul the column that even the putties where wise enough to ignore. Squatt was happily echoing Baboo's commands, obviously much too relieved that someone else was doing the thinking for him to notice how equally unnecessary and unwanted they were. His step was care free, nearly bouncy; as if his head was filled with a lightweight gas instead of a brain and constantly pulling him upward, which for all Horror Hound knew might actually be true. He had never understood how these clowns had managed to enter Rita's inner circle.

He suppressed a disgusted growl. Instead he took half a step backwards, gestured with his right towards the halls entrance and said "I am sure you will find the place exactly to your liking. Allow me to lead the way."

When they arrived on the fortresses main balcony Rita strode into its center and raised her arms like a child eager to grab a new toy. "Ah, excellent!" she said approvingly with a wicked smile. It was only then that Horror Hounds inner tension finally subsided. "I am happy to be of service to you, empress." He retorted giving her another bow.

Not bothering to give a reply, Rita brushed past him and turned to Squatt. “The map.” she ordered him with an upturned palm. Again Horror Hound didn't let this apparent rudeness bother him. Instead he was actually kind of happy to no longer be under Rita's direct scrutiny. To not lose this relative freedom again, he positioned himself near the exit, where he wouldn't be in any position to incur Rita's wrath by accident and watched the events unfold.

"Here it is your evilness." Squatt blurted out triumphantly after he had managed to fumble the requested item out of the depth of his bag. Not wanting to be outshined by Squatt's usefulness Baboo meanwhile had rushed to Ritas side. "Let me be of assistance." he suggested reaching for the map in Squatt's hand. Before he could touch it Rita shoved her wand into his hands. "Hold this." she commanded, the tone of her voice implying that she want to stop him from breaking the map. Only seeing Rita's vote of confidence, Baboo enthusiastically clutched the staff like some kind of trophy.

Horror Hound managed to get a look at the map while Squatt clumsily unfolded it and recognized it as a copy of these fortresses floor plans. Rita drew a toothpick sized miniature of her wand from a hidden pocket on her dress and placed it onto the map Squatt held spread before her. Horror Hound wasn't surprised that it defied gravity and stayed upright on the map as soon as Rita let go of it. He hadn't however expected it to move over the floor plans, apparently on its own. After a little shifting it had found a place and stopped, though Horror Hound couldn't make out where exactly.


Ritas eyes widened for a second before she gave a satisfied laughter. "Place the column here." she instructed the Putties, pointing to a spot about two thirds of the balconies length removed from its railing. When the column was in place, Rita raised her wand and uttered magic words. Lines of light appeared on the ground and drew a magic circle with sizzle like fire. With it completed the Putties released their hold on the column, which now stood without any aid inside in the circles center.

"Looks like everything is ready." Rita finished her inspection of the magic circle with an approving nod. "Soon I'll have the ultimate trap for Zordon and his annoying do-gooders." She looked directly at Horror Hound and gave a sinister smile. "And as luck will have it, I've even got the perfect bait to lure him into it delivered right onto my door step." He hadn't even begun to process what Rita just had said, when she brought her wand into a horizontal and unleashed a crackling volley of red lightning into his direction. The sudden developments caught Horror Hound completely off guard. This is unreal. he thought. Time seemed to slow down while he watched the deadly energy arcing towards him and jet in his shock he lacked any power to move even an inch. He felt how the static made his hair stand up and then in blink of an eye the bolt had passed his head by only a few centimeters.

***

A plume of smoke rose from the small crater on the wall, right in the middle of the shadow of Horror Hounds head, where the energy had impacted with a bang. Phantom Ranger suppressed a curse as he came back to his feet after he had jump-rolled out of the line of fire.

How? shot through Phantom Rangers head, as he struggled to regain balance for his mind after the shock while his muscle memory did the same for his body. He rewound the events of the last minutes in his memory, when it suddenly hit him. Of course! That divination Rita performed hadn't been to find a spot for that weird column – it had been a spell to check for spies.

Damn, I've gotten to careless! Phantom Ranger cursed himself. I’ve been caught totally off guard by the fact that Rita had shown up herself. I know Zordon has ordered me, to not bite of more than I can chew, but still this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. If I can take out Rita here and now this war will be won. So what do I do? Flee or fight? And with that thought Phantom Ranger knew that it had never been a question at all. So he stopped thinking and let his fighting instincts take command of his actions.

"Phantom Laser!" he summoned his weapon to his vertically raised right forearm. He fired three shots at Horror Hound. Sparks flew, as the first hit his right paw, making him drop his axe. The second hit the knee of Horror Hound's supporting leg and he started to fall. The last hit the snout of the face directed at Phantom Ranger. His instincts goaded Horror Hound to reach for the snout with his uninjured paw, thus robbing him of his last means to brace his fall. Of course neither the shots nor the fall were enough to take the monster out for good. But for the moment he was out cold; and a moment was all Phantom Ranger needed right now.

He turned to face the Putties, which had rushed into the space between him and Rita. A quick glance revealed that the two voices shrieking with panic were those of Squatt and Baboo fighting for a hiding spot behind the column. The putties were advancing in pairs of two, but zigzagged left and right instead of moving in a straight line. When the first pair stood the furthest apart and the second practically side by side Phantom Ranger dashed through the opening and charged the two in the middle.

He leapt of the ground and used his legs to put the left Putties’ head in a scissor choke. The sudden stop robbed Phantom Ranger of all his forward momentum, so like a pendulum trying to return into equilibrium his upper body started to fall backwards and towards the putties feet. He used his new downwards thrust to slash the right Putty with the wing like blades of his bat shaped laser.

When his head was hanging almost straight down, Phantom Ranger rammed his hands onto the ground, pulled the Putty he had still in hold of its feet and catapulted it against the two he had just rushed by only moments ago. Phantom Ranger finished collapsing his handstand like pose and came to a crouch, now facing forwards again.

Two more shots from his laser and the last putties between him and Rita were falling over. He resumed his forward dash angled for the left Putty, but broke off for the right in the last possible moment. He used the falling Putties body as a steppingstone to launch his body into the air, so he could attack Rita form above.

He managed to fire four shots but Rita deflected them all with twirls of her staff. Now to close for another he tried to use the wing shaped blades of his weapon for a melee attack. However Rita again proved to be his better, when she escaped Phantom Rangers intended trajectory with a quick sidestep, all the while slashing him right across the torso with her staff. Despite the hit he'd taken Phantom Ranger managed a save landing by roiling over his shoulder and thus avoided crashing into the balconies railing which was now directly in front of him.

His feet had barely made contact with the ground when Phantom Ranger was already starting to turn around. Too late he realized that Rita was already facing in his direction. She unleashed another volley of red lightning. Phantom Ranger raised his arms in defense, but he was hit point blank. Rita’s energies detonated with a resounding bang. Phantom Ranger groaned in pain, as the force of the explosion pushed him backwards and over the railing, making him fall uncontrollably towards the clay pits below.

***

Still dazed from the attack Phantom Ranger was unable to brace his fall this time around and slammed back first into the ground. He groaned in pain and realized how his consciousness started to slip from his grip.

“Can … hear … ?” Fragments of a sentence slipped into the darkness that clouded Phantom Rangers mind. “… … must stay …!” Using the sound as an anchor for his mind he managed to force open his eyes. Looking at him with a worried face he found the man dressed in brown and green from earlier. When the man realized that Phantom Ranger had avoided falling unconscious he allowed himself a quick smile.

“Quickly! We have to get you to safety before the Putties realize what has happened.” he said, while wasting no time to ease Phantom Ranger back on his feet. Leaning on the small man the two made for the foliage. When Phantom Ranger finally heard the faint sounds of the approaching Putties the two of them had already broken through the wall of green. So I am at least safe for now. He allowed himself a sigh.

***

Horror Hound weighed his body on his axe like it was a crutch. Getting back on his feet, he carefully rubbed the nose Phantom Ranger hat shoot. It still hurt like crazy and made his sense of smell feel kind of off. This whole incident had made him look as incompetent as the two bumbling fools who just reemerged from behind the column. So now that he had regained his composure it was time to take action and save what he could.

He raised his axe high above his heads and turned the blade ninety degrees to the right. An energy beam emitted from the tip of the weapons shaft, rose few hundred meters into the sky and then dispersed.

"He won't get far, my empress. I have put the entire island on lockdown." he said to Rita. He then patted his axe. "My weapons curse is impeccable. Not even the best teleportation spell will get him out of here. Nothing leaves here without me saying so." He added with a vicious smile of all three heads.

Rita stopped watching over the balconies railing and crooked an eyebrow at Horror Hound. "Does that include me?" she asked. He felt his heart drop with his smiles. "Of course not." he replied meekly and fumbled to quickly point his weapon at his empress. A ninety degree turn to the left was followed by a short glow of Ritas staff.

"Now, I would be honored to hunt down the intruder for you, my empress."

"Good, go then. Make sure, that he is occupied until I'm finished up here."

Horror Hound gave her another deep bow and took off.

***

"The night may seem so pitch black dark, but still behold each stars white spark, …"

The words greeted Phantom Ranger as he returned to conscience. He groaned, lifted himself into a sitting position and shook his head to dispel the last of his dizziness. "... for they tell truth that can't be denied, ..." They were spoken by the man who had helped him find a hiding spot after his fall and who now stood with his back towards him, apparently standing guard. As soon as his savior realized, that Phantom Ranger had awoken, he turned towards him flashing an honest smile.

Phantom Ranger raised a hand. "I didn't mean to interrupt you. Pleas continue." he apologized. The man's face showed his struggle to keep down probably dozens of other urges that seemed more important right now, before he regained his smile and said, "... darkest night always follows daylight bright."

"That is a good rhyme. I'll have to remember it."

"Thanks," the man requited Phantom Rangers praise. "My parents taught it to me as a way, to dispel fears and self-doubt’s sway. So whenever I lacked courage from that time, I couldn't stop myself and start to rhyme."

It cost him some obvious effort to stop from just going on. "Sorry, it has become quiet the habit."

Phantom Ranger smiled under his helmet. "Don't be. I might be dead right now, if you hadn't mustered the courage to save me. So whatever it is that helps you muster that courage, it's quiet alright with me. By the way, me sincerest thanks for that …"

"Oh right, Quagmire's the name." the other hastily replied.

"Glad to make your acquaintance Quagmire, I'm the Phantom Ranger."

Quagmire's smile grew even bigger. "Yes! I knew it," he exclaimed punching the air. "You finally came to free us."

Phantom Ranger let his head sag, his promise to Zordon echoing through his thoughts. He’d already broken it when he attacked Rita and look what that had gotten him. His heart ached so much that he would have loved to just scream out his frustration. Just why was it so often, that the right thing to do in the bigger picture was to do what would deny him to follow his desire for justice. He sighed. “Look I … I really hate to disappoint. You can believe me that I’d really love to put that scumbag Horror Hound in his place and see your suffering ended right here and now, but that’s not the reason I’m here.”

Quagmire said nothing, but that couldn't hide his disappointment. So Phantom Ranger tried to explain: "I know it’s not much of a consolation, but I have a mission that if I succeed, might actually help to end this war real soon. I mean, I actually tried to have both my cake and eat it but you’ve seen where that had gotten me end up. So I’ll save what I can and at least stick for the rest of my mission to the original plan.”

“I understand,” Quagmire sounded actually quiet cheerful when he said so. “And I mean both of it. Sure I’d hoped to be freed rather sooner than later, but the others and me have managed thus far, we can hold out some time longer. Besides I was actually quiet shocked that Horror Hound would be able to beat you so badly.”

“He didn’t,” Phantom Ranger replied dryly. That comment had hurt his pride a little more than he’d like to admit. “Horror Hound I could deal with, but his Mistress is too powerful for me alone."

"That wicked witch is here?" Quagmires fear was unmistakable. Phantom Ranger nodded. Quagmire swallowed audible. Phantom Ranger gave Quagmire an uplifting clap on the shoulder to snap him back to the situation at hand.

“Come, well get to my ship. I’ll radio my allies from there. Zordon will know what best to do next. I can tell you everything on the way there.”

***



"Dam, it’s definitely jammed,” Phantom Ranger shut down the power to his ships communicator, cutting of the static that had been the only answer to his latest try. Quagmire leaned into the cockpit of Phantom Rangers one man cloak ship, studying the advanced electronics.

“That’s probably Horror Hounds doing,” he said. “You see his locking ability is not just restricted to paralyze an individual. He can also cage an entire area. It’s virtually inescapable; at least it was for everything we tried when he conquered this planet.

“So if I tried to fly out of here…”

“Like a bug on a windshield,” Quagmire underlined his answer with a gesture of his hands. “Same goes for teleportation.”

“So to get out we’d first have to destroy Horror Hound.”

“It’s actually not necessary to go that far,” Quagmire scratched his head. “We’d just need to get a hold on his axe. For you see, whoever holds it, has total control over movement inside the spells area. We could simply warp ourselves out of here before he’s able to do as much as blink.”

Phantom Ranger leaned back in his seat. Well that changed everything. After a minute of silence he turned his head to look Quagmire in the eyes. “OK, new plan. We’re getting everyone out of here today after all.”

“But, what … I mean … are you sure?”

***

The man screamed half in panic and half in pain when Horror Hound's punch hit him full force. Horror Hound released the spell of binding and saw the unconscious body slump to the ground, joining the four slaves he had knocked out before. He knew how do-gooders like Phantom Ranger thought. In order to trap them, you had to make them come to you. So while the Putties where wasting time searching the forest, he had started to systematically harass the slaves. But now with his fifth slave in, doubts began to creep up on his mind. Could he have been too late with casting his lock-down spell? Or could it be the opposite? Had Empress Rita hit him so hard, that he'd died from his injuries?

There were still twenty seven paralyzed slaves in front of him, the rest cowering in fear somewhere out of sight, in the furthest corners of the clay pits. He had been careful to just knock them out until now. There was no need to waist resources after all. But perhaps his prey was banking on that, so it might be wise to increase the pressure. It was worth a try. Horror Hound clutched the handle of his axe with both paws and raised it to kill his next victim. The woman who saw him coming started to sob uncontrollably sprinkling it with useless pleas for her worthless life.

Horror Hound literally didn't see the kick that sent him flying coming. Picking himself up he saw how Phantom Ranger appeared between him and the slaves, dropping that blasted cloaking field of his.


"So the coward finally shows himself."

"Guile is not cowardice, but bulling certainly is."

Horror Hound growled angrily and raised his weapon, ready to strike. Phantom Ranger materialized his wrist mounted blaster and began to circle to the right. Horror Hound mirrored his movement. They stopped as soon as the stood in a ninety degree angle towards the slaves. Everything seemed frozen, not even the slightest wind daring to break the intense tensions between the duelists. When suddenly some rocks on one of the many piles in the pit went loose, it seemed like a floodgate had been opened as tense muscles were released into blurring motions.

Phantom Ranger fired two shots with his blaster, but Horror Hound who had already taken three steps towards his enemy deflected them with his weapon's blade, not slowing down at all. So Phantom Ranger prepared for close quarter combat and started to charge as well.

Horror Hound delivered a powerful straight blow, which Pahntom Ranger blocked by fluidly guiding most of its energy into empty space instead of taking it in a contest of brute strength. Then they had passed each other.

The turned with blinding speed to face the other again and exchanged two more blows. Horror Hound caught the momentum of Phantom Rangers third strike, enabling him to land a punch that sent the other a good deal towards the edge of the pit.

Phantom Ranger caught himself catlike and was back on his feet to parry Horror Hounds next swing of the axe. He countered with a roundhouse kick that Horror Hound managed to doge, for the price of widening the distance between them.

Phantom Ranger pointed his weapon near his own feet and fired. Thanks to the ground on the edge being dryer, this raised a dust cloud which soon had him completely enveloped.

I've got the upper hand, so he's trying to cloak himself again, thought Horror Hound. But that won't do him any good, because he'll rupture his smoke screen as soon as he's leaving it. Horror Hound prepared to cast his spell of binding. There! He thought when something fast pierced the left side of the cloud.

But even before the paralyzing ray had reached it, Horror Hound had realized he had been duped, when he registered the smoke screen billowing outwards on the right side only moments later. Instead of his enemy it was only a lump of clay that now hung motionless in the air.

Damn it! He's going to switch back to fighting me long distance. But that won't do him any good either, after all I've got no blind spot with three hea... Horror Hound never finished the thought, as he suddenly got tackled in the back.

It was not easy to get a grip on Phantom Ranger but he succeed. Now he could play out his superior strength, sending Phantom Ranger flying once more and thereby disrupting the others cloaking field. Horror Hound had no time to wonder about the strange tactic as Phantom Ranger once again had raised a smoke screen.

You won't fool me this time! thought Horror Hound, as he raised his weapon. As soon as he saw the lump of clay shooting out and into the jungle he immediately pointed his weapon towards the other side of the cloud and cast the spell.

Phantom Ranger howled as he got frozen in place, his camouflage dissipating for a second time. Horror Hound felt the vicious grins on all of his three faces grow even larger than usual, as he slowly approached his prey. I'm going to savor this.

"You should have kept hiding in your hole." Somehow Phantom Ranger managed to radiate an aura of relaxed self-assuredness, despite being frozen in an awkward pose, when he said: "So it seems, but you're missing something."

"Oh really! And what is it that I don’t get?" Horror Hound gloated.

Even so there was no way to tell, with all of his face under a helmet, it felt like Phantom Ranger was smiling confidently, even relaxed at him.

“No, you misunderstand. You’re literally missing something.”

As if it had been his cue, Quagmire sprang from the jungle. And not from any spot, but from where Phantom Ranger had thrown the second lump, holding in his hand a still mostly clay covered growth grenade. Horror Hounds eyes shot toward his belt, as it finally dawned to him why Phantom Ranger had tackled him directly instead from a distance.

Looking up he saw Quagmire slam the grenade onto the ground in front of him and getting swallowed by an explosion he soon began to outgrow. With the now giant little man marching towards him, Horror Hound managed to shake his surprise. He still had his axe and if he could manage to freeze Quagmire. But when the other raised his right foot over him, Horror Hound realized he had lost. He raised in his arms in a defensive but useless posture as a curse raced through his mind.

"Bad dog! Sit!" boomed Quagmire's voice from above him. Then the foot came down like a hammer; the stomp forcing Horror Hound into the ground until his body was no longer able to withstand the pressure and exploded.

***

Rita's throat was sore. Facing the column, she had been chanting nonstop since Horror Hounds departure. This kind of summoning was one of the hardest types. It was in way both less and more dangerous than the one she had performed in the tomb. Less in the way, that once returned to the physical plain the spirit would draw its sustenance directly from the world itself and no longer form Rita's life-force.

What made it more dangerous, was that Rita would act as a conduit or better a valve for the energies to flow into the spirit. It would take tremendous focus of mind and body, to not be made into a mere tool for the summoned specter and end up as a burned out husk. And thus the spell had to be cast most carefully and diligently. But if it worked, this would enable the spirit to cast spells with the same power as when he had been alive.

Now all her senses told her, that she had reached the perfect point, so she finalized the dark rite. "Shaboe magar wishar, I summon the terrible Lokar!"

The empty eyes, of the effigy atop the column began to glow with red hot power, which was immediately released as two beams that shot into the sky. The temperature made a sudden drop and dark clouds appeared seem lightly out of thin air and tremors began to shake the ground; like reality itself tried to recoil against being twisted in an unnatural way.


An instant later a giant ball of fire appeared darting over the sky. It stopped equally as sudden as it had appeared and discharged a volley of lightning across the sky. Once the blinding flash had subsided a head was floating in its place. Or at least it seemed to. It was the physical manifestation of a disembodied spirit, so while at times it looked solid enough to touch, just moments later it seemed nothing more than a thin veil between a viewer and the background.

Regaining a form of physicality was a rush for Lokar, as it not only brought back his senses but also his emotions. Reveling in this, a sinister laughter burst forth from within his depth.

That voice, thought Rita shuddering. With her being Lokar's tether to the physical world, his manifestation was in large influenced by Rita's image of the warlock. And considering the acts of horror and terror Lokar was renowned for having committed, she could hardly imagine a more fitting voice then that of... Rita caught her wandering thoughts and focused on the blue face with the menacing spikes for hair.

"I am happy to see that your summoning worked perfectly, great Lokar." The giant head shifted his attention towards her.

"As you can see I've already prepared the circle according to your instructions." She pointed towards the markings engulfing the ground around the column.

"A yes, very good." Lokar replied, unable to mask his displeasure. Of course unlike her, he had no hurry, as for the faster they were finished the sooner Rita would dispel his summoning. But given time enough a warlock as mighty and crafty as Lokar would surely find a more permanent way to keep his essence on the physical plain. So he cautioned her.

"Moving something of this size into demi-plane is a task you shouldn't underestimate in any way."

"If your fabled breath of doom is as mighty as you claim, it's well worth the risk."

"Oh it most certainly is," pride booming in every word he said.

Rita suppressed a smirk. It had been a gamble, but Lokar had been dead so long, he obviously had forgotten how much emotions controlled ones actions and more importantly how to guard oneself against following the impulses they stir. He could be manipulated. And someone who could be manipulated could be controlled, even if he was more power full then her. Just a little more nudging and he would be her total pawn.

"And you are sure, that moving the island will be enough to keep your breath from dissipating?"

Lokars frown told her, that she had succeeded.

"By enclosing this space we'll have terminated this minor weakness." he explained with fierce determination and added with a sinister smile: "As long as this island exist it will be haunted by my most terrible curse."

***

Would have been too easy now, wouldn't it? Phantom Ranger thought looking at the giant head floating near the fortress's balcony. He had made quiet the entrance and now seemed to be talking with someone standing up there, probably Rita. Pity he couldn't hear about what.

"They are busy with themselves," he said turning back towards the still giant Quagmire. "OK try again, and remember what I've told you."

He gave a cautious nod and slowly averted his own gaze from the giant head in the sky. He closed his eyes, relaxed his body and exhaled.

It worked and soon Quagmire was back to his usual size. About half of the former slaves, whom Phantom Ranger had ordered to keep their distance to avoid any unintentional injuries, now rushed towards their comrade to laud him. The others were taking care of the ones Horror Hound hat beaten down. Phantom Ranger had a suspicion, why he and the slaves had been unfrozen the moment Quagmire had crushed the monster under his foot, but the sudden appearance of that giant head had distracted him from checking it.

He rushed towards the still smoking crater, and saw that the axe had been crushed as well. If the spell had been lifted their entire plan would be ruined. Meanwhile Quagmire and his fellows had joined him at the crater edge. Knowing what's at stake, Quagmire looked insecurely to Phantom Ranger.

Phantom Ranger checked the readings in his head-up display.

"My communicator is still jammed however my teleporter is back online. The field is weakened but definitely still intact." He tossed Quagmire the largest splinter of the former axes shaft he could find.

"That means you’re clear to go. You know the plan."

"Uh, sure. Warp these people to the ship, warp it and them off this island, send your prerecorded message to your allies and return here to pick up you and the rest of the prisoners." Phantom Ranger smiled, as he listened to Quagmires nervous recounting. He gave him a thumb up and then dashed to gather the other prisoners.

***

Squat and Baboo staggered around like they were drunk. They bumped into another, lost the last of their balance in the confusion and fell down. To Rita the bickering heap of bodies looked as distorted as everything else in her vision. The world around seemed to be made out of rubber someone had made to vibrate like a wave. She too felt, like she was being squeezed and stretched at the same time. And then it was suddenly over.

"Very good," Lokar's voice brimmed with anticipation.

"The playing field is prepared. Now allow me to add the finishing touch!"

Lokar inhaled.
"And you are sure the circle will protect us?"

Lokar didn't even try to hide his annoyance at hearing the question.

"Yes, yes of course. It is after all the lynchpin through which you've pushed this island into its own demi-plane."

When he saw Rita trying to speak, he impatiently continued.

"So it's technically it isn't part of the pocket dimension and thus not affected by my blanket curse."

Rita turned to Squat and Baboo and bellowed "Get over here, now!"

Lokar had already stopped to pay any attention towards his allies, inhaled again and released his breath of doom.



***

Phantom Ranger cursed his luck, as he cowered in the thick fog that had enveloped the entire island. Just a moment ago, he had been sure, he would make it. He had found the remaining slaves and had been well on his way back to the meeting point when suddenly that dam quake had set in. And so he had to order his wards to stop and take cover. Before they could resume their escape the floating head had started to spew this fog. But since he had no clue what he could have done to prevent him from doing so and it then spreading so fast, all he had been able to do, was bear the thick clouds rolling over him.

He clenched his fists. It was so frustrating to feel so powerless. Just as he wondered if he could risk it to lead the slaves through the fog towards the meeting point, it suddenly cleared and he was back under a sunny sky. Phantom Ranger didn't waste time to wonder why and prepared to give the order to resume running, when suddenly a familiar noise caught his attention.

It can't be, can it? he thought. And then he saw the Megazord, riding on the Carrierord Titanus busting through woods, aiming for the fortress and firing all of its weapons at it and the floating head.

"Yes!" Phantom Ranger shouted, throwing his fist into the air. Zordon had gotten his call for help and had come to the rescue.

Suddenly fear clutched his heart. The Megazords barrage had no effect on the floating head and after it had shrugged it off like dust, he retaliated. Lightings danced around his spiky hair and finally shot out of its eyes. The Megazord began to shake under the massive onslaught and when Phantom Ranger dared to hope, that it had successfully withstood, it exploded.

"No!" Phantom Ranger screamed as he ran towards the charred pieces of metal that remained. He began to dig through the wreckage. He felt the still hot pieces burning through his gloves, causing pain to sear in his hands, but it was not enough to drown out the far greater pain, that welled up deep inside him.

They can’t be dead, they must have survived! His thoughts screamed in his head. When he overturned the next piece of wreckage he found him.

The entire right half of Zordons face was burned black. His clothes where teetered and soaked in blood leaking out of countless injuries. Phantom Ranger froze unsure how to progress without hurting Zordon any further. That’s when the other took the initiative. Zordon moaned in pain as he turned his head towards phantom Ranger.

“Easy Zordon. Don’t push yourself. I’ll get you to my ship and there I’ll patch..:”

“No,” Zordon cut into the others ramblings. “Don’t bother it’s too late for me.”

Phantom Ranger felt a crushing weight descending upon his shoulders and let his head sag for a minute. Tears welled up in his eyes, though they couldn’t be seen through the helmet. He reconnected his gaze to Zordons.

“Zordon, I …”

“Yes you,” the other cut in again. “This is your entire fault and yours alone!”

The words hit Phantom Ranger with a force that left him feel numb. Thought welled up inside of him, thoughts that tried to defend and justify his actions. But before any could form, Zordon continued berating him.

“I told you, no unnecessary heroics, but you wouldn’t listen and have doomed us all!” The dying man’s voice seemed to gain strength all the while his scarred face began to look more and more like a skull.

But Phantom Ranger had no longer the willpower to question these strange transformations. He felt like he was plummeting in free fall towards the dark bottom of his deepest despair.

***

“Ok.” said Quagmire. It might have seemed useless, since there wasn’t really anyone around, or considering the thick fog, more accurately in sight to speak to, but it lifted his spirit to hear a voice, and be it his own! Maybe the splinter is no longer working properly? he thought. Perhaps, if I try again. Quagmire reached for the piece of wood, but couldn’t find it. Dart where is that dam thing!

Before he could wonder too much, the fog cleared and found himself back in the familiar surroundings of the tropical island. That’s better. Time to find Phantom Ranger and the others. And with that thought he had completely forgotten about the mysteriously disappeared splinter. Soon he was oriented and began jogging towards the pit, desperately looking for a familiar face.

When finally he found some, two to be precise, it was like his stomach had been hit by a sledge hammer. Not because they had jumped out and scared him. No, they were just casually standing around on a clearing, apparently fully expecting to meet him. He gasped and felt tears welling up in his eyes.

“Mom! Dad! You’re both alive!” He ran over to them, and began to embrace the two in a hug. He pressed his head on their shoulders, while tears continued to flow uncontrollably out of his eyes.

“This is a dream come true! I’ve heard your screams the day the Putties conquered our town. And old man Marsh told me he’d seen you lying on the Ground, unable to move no more. But I’ve never given up hope. And now we are finally reunited!” He’d probably have kept on blathering forever, had his father not spoken up.

“Quagmire,” he said in a stern voice. “Unhand us.”

Only now he realized how uncomfortable the embrace had been. His parents had remained stiff as wood the entire time. And then there was the fact, that their skin felt incredibly cold. And then there was the way his father had spoken to him, like he had emotionally misread the current situation.

“Yes, of course,” he replied a little embarrassed and took a step backwards. “I was just so happy to …”

“Hold it, before you let your emotions get the better of you jet again!” his father commanded raising his hands flat palms pointed towards Quagmire.

“This isn’t a reunion.”

Dumbfound for a reply all Quagmire could do was ask: “What?”

“This is our final good bye.”

“But we…”

“Didn’t I just tell you to get a hold of yourself?” his father snapped at him.

“It’s always the same with you! You’re just such a disappointment in quite frankly every way to us. We just couldn’t bare it to be with you any longer. So Rita’s attack on our village was the perfect opportunity to finally rid ourselves of you.”

Quagmire felt the blood drain from his face, as his mother picked up his father’s verbal beat down.

“But then we realized that you’d try everything you could to find us. And so we decided to tell you the truth. It’s not that we didn’t do it because we didn’t want to hurt you. Actually we couldn’t care less about that. We just couldn’t suffer another minute of your stupid face, or your ridiculous idea to become a great musician.”

Quagmires vision narrowed to a tunnel, the vicious grins of his parents growing bigger and bigger, while his internal thoughts spiraled into an endless darkness.

***

A scream of anguish, echoed all the way up to the balcony. Lokar stared at the scene unfolding below like a cat hypnotized by prey, while he periodically erupted into vicious laughter. Infected by the maniacal laughter Squatt too began to chuckle.

"Bwahahah! Must be a riot down there."

"Oh yes, this is quite delightful," Baboo agreed an added gleefully:

"They're probably squirming like worms right now."

Rita saw Squat's eyes turn blank as he used what little imagination he had to picture Baboo's assumption. It had been fodder for the blue troll’s malicious joy and he began to fidget nervously, as he cheered: "Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!"

They had been listening to the tortured cries for quite some time now and she was on the edge herself. She felt a smile force its way onto her lips, even though it had nothing friendly at all, and finally even a short burst of laughter.

Another yell of terror reached the trio and Lokar responded with an especially loud laugh. Squat, still fidgeting, lost control of himself. "I can't take it no more. I've got to see this!"

With that he ran towards the railing and looked down. He was immediately entranced by the scene unfolding below, and jeeringly enjoyed the spectacle.

"Bwahahah! This is even better than I've imagined!"

Envious to be left out of something good, Baboo rushed stiffly to his side. All the while he deliberately tried to take over Squats spot.

"Don't hog the best view all for yourself!"

Rita finally lost the last of her inhibitions. She too had to experience the suffering with more than just her ears. Like a shark drawn to blood she steered herself towards the railing.

And indeed it was even better, than she could possibly have imagined. The curse's victims were not only riddled by cramps induced by their utter despair; they were losing themselves in their deepest doubts and the more they did, the more they lost their very physical existence. There is that pesky Phantom Ranger; and he's already missing almost his entire right half of his body! Oh, I can't wait for the moment when I'll see that old pest Zordon himself dissolve into nothingness! She felt a deep satisfaction rise up inside her and she joined Lokar's and her minion's laughter.

A sneering voice cut short her pleasure: "How nice that you're enjoying yourself, Rita." She froze and carefully turned to the right. Spirits of Evil, it can't be! she thought, but there stood the looming figure of Lord Zedd, in the horribly burnt flesh.

"If you just could be so kind and explain to, what's so funny, because I sure don't see anything that is you miserable wrench!" Zedd continued viciously.

"I left you to govern my empire, only to see upon my return, that you've lost it all!" he snarled his latest accusation with such a force, that it finally broke Rita's paralysis and she jerked. She had at least try to defend herself. Where was her staff? Hadn't she clutched it just a moment ago? With no means to defend herself she slowly moved backwards, aiming for the balconies door. Perhaps she could at least make a run for it.

Lord Zedd drew closer, his visor burning red with energy. Rita stumbled and fell, landing on her butt. She had no energy to even think about standing up again. Instead she used whatever strength she had to continue crawling towards the exit, so it only seemed to get further and further away instead. Panic was welling up deep inside of her, she had to somehow stall Zedd, if only for a minute! Yet she felt her strength to resist her despair fade at an ever increasing rate. She had lost the feeling in the entire left side of her body.

And then suddenly it was like a thick fog, that had clouded her mind had been blown away. She looked down to her right hand, and realized that it still held her magic wand, that she had so desperately searched just a moment ago. More importantly, it had reached into the magic circle around the column. She felt the blood rush to her head, as she pieced together what had happened.

She crawled a few more inches into the circle, until she had enough safe space below her to stand up. She did so with as much dignity she could muster. The cheeks where still burning red, but now from anger and no longer from embarrassment.

There were Squat and Baboo both quivering in anguish on the floor, pleading for their lives, while the where slowly dissolving, Lokar, who still hypnotized by the events unfolding below, was totally oblivious to those unfolding on the balcony and most important of all, no Lord Zedd!

"How could I've ever let you dimwits talk me into thinking, that this was a good idea!" Rita screamed with a fury that immediately got her not only Lokars but also the half dissolved Squats and Baboos attention.

"This was a total waste of my time! No one could be stupid enough to succumb to such pathetic illusions! Squatt! Baboo! We're leaving!"

"No wait Rita!" Lokar tried to reason with her. "If you leave now my summoning will be disrupted!"

But it was in vain. Rita raised her staff. A ball of red and yellow fire engulfed her and the two minions and when it disappeared they were gone.

Lokar's face twisted with exertion, as he tried to uphold his semi physical form. Finally the effort became too much and while screaming horribly himself, he reverted back into energy returning to the point from whence he'd been summoned.

***

The scream was loud enough to divert Quagmires attention from his parents. He looked up and saw the blue head disappear in a ball of fire. It was bright, almost like a miniature sun. Thinking about the sun made him remember his favorite poem. And thinking about it made him feel warm for a moment. Only now did he realize how incredibly cold he felt; so cold in fact, that he could no longer feel his feet and legs, and when he looked down it was actually like they had disappeared.

When he saw that he didn't fall in panic. He was actually surprised himself, how calm he was, but suddenly everything made click in his head; or as he liked to think of it, it began to rhyme.

"Stay away you specters of fear; you are not my parents dear! They were folks most good and kind; you're just fog inside my mind!" He knew, what he said was true. He knew his parents and more importantly he knew how much they'd loved him. He was confident in their love and that made him confident in himself! And with that the illusion was dispelled.

Looking down he not only found his lower body restored, but also the splinter of Horror Hounds axe back in his belt; it had been with him the entire time, only the spell had prevented him from seeing that simple truth. With his vision now clear, it didn't take him long to find Phantom Ranger and the remaining slaves; and not a moment too soon! There were only few left that had not already lost more than half of their body.

Quagmire singled out Phantom Ranger and rushed to his side. He listened to the others ramblings of guilt, of having led everyone to their doom because of his need to take unnecessary risks. Quagmire inhaled.

“You did not fail dear friend, no not at all. But you might jet, if you don’t escape this curses thrall!”

Phantom Ranger slowly turned his head, and though his eyes were hidden, Quagmire realized that he was looking at him. Good Quagmire thought. But Phantom Rangers body language, as well as his transparency, told him clearly that he was still dazed

"Be no longer be deceived by guilt misplaced. Open your eyes, the day is saved! It was courage, not foolishness that made you act. The wicked witch and her minions, they have fled!" Quagmire gestured frantically, first towards the freed slaves, then towards the fortress and the visibly missing ethereal head.

Slowly at first Phantom Ranger turned his head towards where Quagmire had directed his view. The motion grew stronger while at the same time more and more of his transparent parts returned. “You’re … you’re right! I was just about to save the remaining prisoners and meet up with you to get us out of here!” He gave Quagmire a friendly clap against the shoulder with the backside of his hand.

“And here you are, so we have made it.” And with that his body had returned completely. He shifted his seating into a more comfortable pose and then returned his gaze towards the fortress.

"But where did they go?"

Quagmire shrugged: "Destroyed themselves? I sure can’t tell. What matters now, it didn't break this place's dark spell."

"Yes, you are right.”

It took Phantom Ranger only a single fluid motion to jump up. Quickly he crossed half the distance to one of the most critically looking victims.

“We'll concentrate on those in the worst state and work us down towards the least affected. I'll start with her; you take the seventh from the right!"

Quagmire smiled and rushed to do as he had been told.

***

“We were just in time, but in the end it worked. We were able to save every last one of them and escape that darn place.”

“I see,” said Zordon, as his friend had finished the report of his adventure. “Rita and this specter have created a truly horrible trap, that is. Even if things apparently didn’t go the way she’d planed.”

“Did she perish together with that blue head?” Phantom Ranger asked hopefully.

“I fear not. Out spies reported sightings of her, back in her palace.” Zordon gave Phantom Ranger an optimistic smile. “But the experience seems to have her cured of trying to summon more of these incredibly dangerous monsters.”

“Good,” Phantom Ranger nodded.

“But these are matters for tomorrow, when will start our preparations to make a push for Earth” Zordon closed with a smile. He then placed his right hand on Phantom Rangers shoulder and exerted a firm but friendly grip.

“You did the right thing, prioritizing the livelihoods of these people and saving them.” He removed his hand, hoping that his next question wouldn’t open a wound in his friend’s heart.

“Alas allow me one final question. You said that you were able to save every last one of them, but it seems that this Quagmire fellow is not present. Did something unfortunate prevent it?”

Phantom Ranger took a while before he answered. “All things considered, no. There was nothing unfortunate. Actually, it’s quite the opposite.”

Seeing Zordons surprised look, he continued to explain. “Quagmire has found the hero inside him. He realized, that as long as this Island of Illusions exists, there’s always the danger that Rita might send another victim onto it. So he decided to voluntarily stay behind, to act as a guide and helper for any other soul, cruel fate might wash ashore on it.”

***

Quagmire laid down the file and left it next to the other tools he had found inside the fortress. He wanted to use both hands to inspect his handy work. Having hunched forward during his labor, he now eased himself backwards against the tree he was sitting under. He raised what once had been a splinter of the axe shaft, looked through the longest hole he had drilled into it and onto the serene lake before him. Satisfied with what he saw he moved the flute towards his lips and began to play it.

The notes and especially the melody sounded somewhat off. Quagmire grimaced and thought. Well, my musical skill has always been more in the field of arranging instead of actually playing. But for the time being it at least looks like I’ve got enough time to practice.



The End

Behind the Scenes:

The two-part episode Island of Illusion, well at least the clip show part with the Rangers on the island, is awful. I’ve had plenty of chance to revisit it for my research and even with my origin story in mind I didn’t like that part of the episodes. I remember once having read a review of the episodes, where one, of the entertainingly snarky arguments for its badness, was somewhat like: “There probably exist some awesome fan fic out there, which explains Quagmires deal, but he is just unbearable.” So I felt inspired to try creating this “awesome fan fic” XD

In tone I tried to emulate the TV-show, while keeping the things that might create continuity problems as few as possible. Like what Zord die Phantom Ranger have during that time? Had Artillatron already been built? But it’s no Power Rangers without a giant battle. Oh and if someone wonders why there is a fortress on the island: In Power Rangers it’s only visible when you see the island as a whole, but in Zyuranger it played a major role.

Lokar: His design is just frigging awesome. Also since (unlike in Zyuranger) his destruction is never shown, I’m rolling with him still kicking around, at least in a sense. After all according to my story he is already dead to begin with. The idea to retcon his character as also being the Ghost of Darkness from Return of the Green Ranger came to me during my original brainstorming. The names Island of Illusion and Wizzard of Deception just lend themselves to drawing connections. Besides I think it strengthens the two incredibly under developed villains.

Phantom Ranger: Since Phantom Rangers true identity has never been revealed I avoided calling him by anything but his code name. From the many possible origins I like the “embodiment of the spirits of fallen Power Rangers” the most, but with my own spin. From the episode Happy Birthday, Zack it is known, that Zordon lost one of his finest warriors to Knasty Knight on Tarmac 3. So I imagine Phantom Ranger to be the guy in black, we see fighting in the viewing globe (who is the demorphed Mamoth Ranger from Zyuranger for all that don’t already know that). But he doesn’t get killed, only severely wounded. Zordon finds and saves him by making him into the Phantom Ranger. The downside is he has to stay permanently morphed if he doesn’t want to succumb to his injuries. Thus neatly explaining, why he never demorphs and nearly loses his life when his power source gets stolen in Turbo.

Horror Hound: He is an entirely original creation of mine. For him I worked backwards, thinking up a Dora Monster (from Zyuranger). They were mostly inspired by creatures from Greek and European mythology. So I came up with Dora Cerberus. And since Cerberus is the guardian of the gates to Hades it seemed only logical to give him the ability to “lock up” people. Then I adapted the Dora Cerberus to the Power Rangers franchise. During the writing I realized, that it would be handy expand the scope of his locking abilities – as to give an origin for Quagmires ability to wrap around the Island of Illusions.
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Old April 19th, 2019, 08:06 PM #2
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This is a very fascinating origin story!
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Old April 20th, 2019, 11:19 AM #3
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Thanks, you should see my smile right now

That's totally what I'd hoped to accomplish.
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