Disclaimer: I don't own the Power Rangers or the Strigoi
Chapter 4: Nightmares become a reality.
Author's note! Just a reminder, Astraios, Mariana, Aarde, Vienta and Lustros are the ancient Mystics. So if you see Maddie being mentioned, don't be surprised, I'm just bringing the story back to the present where the rest of this fic will take place. Sorry if it seems abrupt, any advice on how to make the transition smoother would be great.
Vienta waited patiently for her sister's tears to subside, for her sobs to soften. Her heart ached to see Mariana's sorrow filled eyes, but knew that her decision needed to be carried out.
"Mariana," the Mystic Sprite began in a soft, imploring voice. "Please, please you must do this!" She was surprised to see the sadness quickly flash to anger.
"So that's it?" Mariana began in a low, scathing voice. "This is the end? You're going to give up so easily? You're that ready to cast away you're life as if it meant nothing?"
"Sister, you know that's not why I'm asking to die," Vienta said calmly.
"Are you certain?" Mariana spat, eyes glowing silver. "Would you like for me to end it right now?!"
Vienta frowned, "I see we need to end this conversation quickly. Your emotions are going to get the best of you, allowing the darkness to corrupt your heart."
"Like you allowed your to emotions get the best of you?" Mariana shot back.
This time Vienta let the calm slip away as she retaliated, "Lustros, the love of my life was killed right before my eyes! There was nothing I could do to save him! Do you honestly believe I was in the right state of mind to even care about what the Strigoi wanted to do with me? Absolutely not."
Mariana rolled her silver eyes as realization hit her. "What a vicious cycle they're creating!"
"That's the Strigoi's strategy of taking us down," Vienta explained patiently.
Mariana quirked an eyebrow, "But wouldn't it just get worse? Honestly Vienta I believe out of the other three, I have the least self control. Astraios and Aarde have much more inner strength in comparison to me."
Vienta shook her head. "Your theory about yourself couldn't be farther from the truth. You're my sister Mariana! You hold the same fiery temper I have; you're just so much better at controlling it. You have that spirit Sister, I've seen it when I watched you take on the Alpha Strigoi on your own. Never have I seen such passion and prowess. It's in you, and once you unleash it, the strength will protect you from the emotional vulnerability that destroyed me."
The Mystic mermaid frowned slightly, "that's what I don't understand. How could it be that our positions are not reversed?"
Vienta smiled ruefully. "Astraios is alive," The Mystic sprite replied simply. "Lustros is not."
Mariana tightened her grasp on her magi-staff. In a sharp whisper she asked, "And what pray tell my sister, does Astraios have anything to do with this?"
Vienta's rueful expression changed into a teasing smirk. Briefly Mariana was faced with the sister she had always known and loved; not the desolate shadow she'd been speaking to seconds ago. "If Lustros is my weakness, then surely Mariana you aren't oblivious to the fact that Astraios is your weakness."
Mariana's eyes flickered away from her sister for a moment, trying to quell the feeling of indignation and childish anger that rushed through her. "Why do you specify the Phoenix? I'd be in despair if any one of you died."
The Mystic Sprite decided not to push her sister. "Still, I believe your soul would fare far better than mine ever could. You have better control of yourself Mariana. I'm not saying you're an emotionless being who merely exists; out of all of us, as a healer you wear your heart on your sleeve. Yet, I believe that unlike me, you wouldn't allow yourself to fall so deeply in love; so deep that you wouldn't be able to survive without your other half."
Mariana smiled weakly, "I'm one of many contradictions." Then she frowned. "Why is it necessary that you must be killed Vienta? Surely the Alpha Strigoi grows stronger by the hour. We're severely weakened without you..." She trailed off, noticing Vienta's grimace. "Is there something I'm not following?"
"My master," Vienta began in an exaggerated tone that was dripping with sarcasm. "Grows stronger by the hour because he feeds off of our energy. When he strikes us with his claws, the intent of joining his clan on his mind; our souls, our life energy is linked to his. He is slowly sapping the life from us, and once we are of no use to him, he kills us."
Glancing at the puzzled Mystic Mermaid, Vienta answered the question that was about to form on her lips. "No, I don't know why despite the fact we are linked to him, the situation can't be reversed. Why we can't use his energy as well. Well, I can guess it's because we are nothing but tools to him, but is that ever really a surprise why it comes to the inner workings of a villain's mind? I assume that I'm more vital to him than his other followers because I'm a Mystic. Our magic gives us a larger life force. More food for the master. If I die, he will become greatly weakened, even more so because as we converse he still suffers from the injury you gave him."
Mariana looked thoughtful. "Well, you've explained quite a lot Sister, but earlier today when two Strigoi were submerged in the lake, their transformation was reversed. Why can't yours be reversed as well?"
"I don't think they'll survive for long," The Mystic Sprite began softly. Upon Mariana's confused look, she continued.
"Do you think they will? After the transformation is reversed, the memory of being a Strigoi remains. All of the darkness they spread, all of the lives they've taken, this knowledge still lingers in the heart. I don't think a soul, even a Mystic's soul, is strong enough to not shatter from the emotional turmoil they will suffer. I believe once you are a follower of the Strigoi, you are slated to die."
"No!" Mariana cried. "No, no! I don't want to hear this!" She spun away from her sister and drifted toward the dim light, the only light in the whole realm.
"Mariana, please listen to me," Vienta pleaded. "I know that because of your purity as a healer and the fact that you're my sister might be enough to keep my soul from shattering. At least the magic will be able to be passed on! Without the magic of the Mystics the darkness can submerge the world completely. But as long as my soul isn't shattered, I can still help you. But in an ethereal sense, not a physical one. You will be okay Mariana, I believe in you."
Mariana looked her sister in the eye; silver boring into tainted amber. "I'm not sure if I believe in myself." As soon as the words left her mouth, the brilliant light in her magi-staff began to dim.
"You have to believe in yourself," Vienta insisted. "You're only weakening yourself by not believing." Sternly she added, "You can't give up Mariana. Not only does the magic of the Mystics protect the world, but it also is utilized to protect one another through balance and harmony. I'm sorry I'm going to be leaving you, truly, I am. But no matter what, Lustros and I will be there for you, promise."
Mariana loosened her hold on the magi-staff minutely then tightened her grip. "It seems you are resigned to this Vienta," she began in a detached voice. As she went on her voice grew stronger in emotion. "I want to be able to save you, keep you her on this physical plane with us, with me. But if it means you're going to suffer for the rest of eternity, then I don't want that. If death is the only way to save you, then I'll do this." The turquoise light in her weapon blazed to life. "When dawn creeps over the horizon, the Strigoi's reign of terror will come to an end."
Vienta nodded, determination filling her red tinted eyes. "Indeed it shall." Her gaze flickered toward the crack of light high above them. "It seems your mind is calling your soul back into consciousness. We should get back to the physical plane now." She locked eyes with her sister once more. "I shall see you on the battlefield." Her form slowly began to fade, taking on a transparent appearance. Soon her voice was the only thing that echoed deep within Mariana's mind, "I believe in you Sister."
Mariana's eyes flew open. Her soul returned in a sense to find her lungs burning, her throat parched and her limbs weak with exhaustion. 'I suppose if I do magic with my soul like that again, the consequences could be far more jeopardizing than they are now.' Gingerly she stood, eyeing her comrades sleeping forms. Stealthily she slipped out of the cave, walked a short distance along the length of the cliff before diving off, keeping her body straight, slicing through the water.
As she floated on her back, regaining strength from the water's healing agents and being in her mermaid form, Mariana watched the moon enter its waning phase. Like the ever changing moon, tides and wind, my friends and I too are going to change. It's inevitable. She kept her eyes on the sky, watching it change from pitch black to royal blue, gradually lightening to a pale gray, a hint of rose reaching the edges of the horizon. It was time.
Astraios awoke to Mariana standing before him, drawn to her full height, magi-staff in it's true form, a glowing jeweled trident pulsing with sapphire light. When he looked into her eyes, he knew that the final battle of this war was about to commence, and not everyone was going to come out of this with a happy ending. Trying to maintain his usual collected demeanor he asked, "I take it you've managed to speak with Vienta?"
The look in the Mermaid's eyes didn't change as she answered, "Yes."
Aarde was alert, "Vienta? How is she? Was she able to escape the Strigoi's grasp?"
Mariana turned her head and stared out at the pink expanse of dawn. "She shall be free soon."
Before Aarde or Astraios could ask for a clearer answer, the harpy-like shrieks of the Strigoi ripped though the air. The two males flanked Mariana as they watched the demons rapidly fill the air, their evil auras turning the sky into a melancholy black. Despite the battle being located far from the dwellings of mortals, screams of agony still pierced the air. The Mystics knew they had to act fast, for if the demonic aura lingered in the atmosphere for too long, mortal lives would be lost due to asphyxiation.
As Aarde galloped down the mountain at full speed, Astraios took to the skies while Mariana dove back into the ocean. Aarde barreled into the first hundred Strigoi. Rearing onto his back hooves, Aarde roared before coming down on his enemies, scattering them across the land. As he charged over the battlefield, the earth split into a labyrinth of geysers, gorges and granite pillars, felling every one of his adversaries.
Astraios flew into a hoard of Strigoi, knocking him aside with his fists or cutting into them with his flaming sword. He sent many careening into a downward spiral, Mariana taking over from there. Knowing the Strigoi's affliction when it came to water, the Mermaid had a clear path to the middle of the waters. Summoning the coldest magic of water from the very veins within her blood, Mariana formed a berth of ice surrounding her body and spreading a great distance. Raising her trident, she quickly slammed it into the ice sending up diamond shards of frozen water and dark blue lightning from the trident itself. Shocked and shredded, the Strigoi lackeys crashed into the water, its magic restoring them into humans. Mariana flicked her wrist to summon gentle waves that transported the unconscious humans onto the shore. Although she knew what prices there were to pay, part of her still hoped that her sister's theory could be proven wrong.
As she prepared to summon a cyclone, a body slammed into her side, knocking the air out of her and sending her sliding across the ice. Woozily, she looked up to see her sister in her Strigoi glory standing before her. Her crimson eyes were bright with malice and bloodlust.
"Get up," Vienta growled. Mariana shakily rose to her hands and knees. "Hurry up you disgusting worthless being I have the misfortune of calling my blood relation!" The Sprite barked. Mariana would've believed her sister's words to be true had it not been for the emphatic bond the two shared and Vienta's mental cringe at her own harsh tone. Maintaining a mask of composure Mariana stood, shoulders square and her head held high.
"I suggest we forgo the pleasantries and get this over with Vienta," Mariana growled, brandishing her trident.
Vienta raised an eyebrow at her sister's transformed weapon. "So little Mari has decided to play with the grown up toys and the big kids it seems," she cooed in a sickly sweet tone.
Growling, Mariana jabbed the trident, forcing Vienta back with a blast of blue energy. Despite their act, Mariana could still find her sister's teasing to be annoying to no end. Hearing a flapping sound, Mariana looked up to see Vienta high above the water, great leathery wings flapping behind her. Mariana smirked, though she was powerful as a Strigoi, there was one flaw in Vienta's transformation. Her wings when they had been light and delicate, shaped into that of a butterfly's gave her subtlety and inconspicuousness. Now they beat quite loudly, easily giving her away. Pointing her trident upward, Mariana sent lightning arcing up toward the dark Sprite.
With a demonic scream, Vienta narrowly evaded her sister's attack before swooping down towards the ocean, a strong gale of silver and fuchsia magic trailing in her wake. She slapped the trident out of Mariana's hands, her claws ripping through the blue sorceress's sleeve, blood running down her arm. As the two began to grapple Mariana hissed, "A bit too convincing, aren't we sister?"
"I could say the same about you," Vienta growled. "Nevertheless, don't forget that I'm still attached to the alpha Strigoi, he can read my emotions just like you can."
"Can't he sense your rebelliousness then?" Mariana queried.
Vienta gave her sister a wry smile, "Just because I'm not on the side of the Mystics anymore, doesn't mean I can't apply the magic I ascertained as one."
Mariana glanced briefly at the battlefield, noting that aside from the large mass of Strigoi Aarde was fighting, the rest of the war was being fought up in the air leaving Mariana and Vienta to fight on the mass of ice alone. "So why exactly is your master not calling for you for an energy refill?"
Vienta sighed before answering, "His lackeys aren't tethered to him physically because he can just sap their energy at any time. He hasn't touched my energy yet because I'm supposed to help take down the Mystics, you especially, because he knows you being my sister is a weakness. If Lustros were still here, I'd most likely be attacking both of you." She gritted her teeth. "We must be cautious however, he isn't a patient creature."
Before Mariana could question her sister on what she meant by that, hundreds of bodies fell toward them. Snatching up her trident, Mariana summoned plumes of water to ease their descent. As the Strigoi returned to being human, Mariana saw that the majority of the bodies were unscathed, not touched by Astraios. She then knew that their life energy had been depleted in order to fuel the alpha Strigoi. Despicable.
The Mermaid debated on abandoning her sister versus taking on the alpha Strigoi when to her horror, she watched as the alpha Strigoi closed his massive hand around Astraios's throat then hurled the struggling Mystic into an unaware Aarde, the two slamming into the earth and creating a giant crevice. Mariana screamed as her friends did not rise, suddenly shivering as the adrenaline rush that came with fighting washed away and realization touched upon her, telling her that she was utterly alone in the battle against the alpha Strigoi and his rebellious puppet, her sister.
Her scream was cut off when her sister knocked both of them into the water. 'Quiet!' Came Vienta's reproach. 'His hearing may be sharp, but as you've proven even he isn't immune to the effects of water meaning his hearing dulls even if he's near it.' Her eyes flickered up to the pale shadow of the ice. Mariana's gaze followed and saw a darkened spot to the far northeast of their location. 'He's a tracker,' she surmised.
'All Strigoi are,' Vienta corrected. 'Just with his position he's the strongest.'
"I know you're in the water Little Mermaid," came the sneering voice of the Strigoi leader. While smirking, he unleashed a torrent of orbs of demonic energy.
Mariana and Vienta swam in opposite directions trying to evade the onslaught of dark power. Mariana had a sudden thought as she tried to avoid being struck. 'Hey, where's that big brute who harpooned me yesterday?' She sensed her sister grimace as she answered.
'The Master used him for target practice yesterday for letting you live.'
A feeling of unease settled into Mariana's stomach. 'Oh.' Another question came to her. 'Why hasn't the water weakened you, or changed you back?'
'I'm not weakened because I can still rely on the good magic hidden deep within to keep me strong. Perhaps the good magic and the tainted magic cancel each other out, or at least counterbalance one another, preventing the transformation's reversal.'
The barrage of demon orbs stopped abruptly. A growl sounded followed by the impact of two bodies slamming into the ice, causing it to tremble. Mariana assumed Astraios was the attacker, taking advantage of the alpha Strigoi having a lowered guard during his manhunt for the water Mystic. Had Aarde attacked, he would've been just as vulnerable as the demon leader, crashing through the ice and just like the element whose power he harnessed, sank.
Mariana felt a thrill of fear wash over her as she sensed Vienta's aura change. It became much darker, hazy. Her very being screamed malicious intent and Mariana knew it wasn't from the transformation. It was polluting the water slightly making her dizzy. Hesitantly, she turned toward her sister. Vienta's crimson eyes were now glowing, her lips pulled back into a snarl exposing elongated fangs. Vienta's body sunk into a crouch, fleeting seconds ticked by before she leaped at the frightened Mermaid.
Vienta shoved Mariana into a jagged rock formation that had sprung up from the bottom of the ocean. Vienta held her fast to the rock, pinning her arms to her sides. Though she was a mermaid, like most sea creatures with gills Mariana would need to come need to come up for air eventually. That time was coming quickly. Mariana thrashed wildly, trying to escape her sister's grip. Her blue tail knocked into the Sprite, but unlike any other creature, Vienta was far too strong to be bothered by the tail. As Mariana looked her sister in the eye, she noticed that although her eyes were glowing, they looked to be glazed.
Vienta was possessed.
Vienta's curved claws began to glow black with poison dripping. She raised her arm and brought it down with the intent of striking when she hissed and swung her arm sharply away, narrowly missing her sister's chest. She whipped around and began speeding toward the surface, Mariana trailing in her wake.
By the time Mariana reached the surface she saw Astraios shaking off a dazed look on his face and Vienta charging toward the alpha Strigoi. Using the added speed the demon leader bestowed upon her, she tackled him to the ground. As she fought to keep him at bay she screamed, "Now Mariana! Do it now! You only have one chance! Now!!!"
A calm flowed through Mariana that both relaxed and numbed her. She willed her trident to return to its form as a staff. Conjuring all of the magic from within her own soul, and from the world beyond, a dazzling white light blazing from the staff's end. She pointed the staff toward the battling entities of light and darkness, the beginnings of tears pooling in her silver eyes.
Undeterred by this she shouted, "Rilascio di anima!!!!"
It felt as if time was stopping. The white light flew to Vienta lifting her up and away from the alpha Strigoi, enveloping her in its soft glow. Vienta felt the light gently eradicating all of the evil from within her, taking away the cold that ran through her veins suffusing her with warmth. Her skin returned to its tan color, her claws receding into much more human looking nails and smoother hands. Her wings returned to being feathery, looking like gossamer. Her eyes were no longer a blood lusting red, but their limpid amber. The light began to shrink, seeping into Vienta's body, a feeling of serenity stealing through her soul.
As the magic restored Vienta on to the side of light, the alpha Strigoi began to scream in an animalistic wail. Mariana was surprised as he rapidly began to age, his body quickly turning to dust. A magic induced wind blew the dust particles, shimmering pink dust rising. With a raspy moan, the alpha Strigoi reached out in desperation trying to corrupt the magic encasing Vienta. The white chrysalis repelled his evil, purifying him and erasing his existence from the physical plane. Mariana guessed that once he had Vienta within his grasp, he relied solely on her strength alone. Sapping the other Strigoi of their energy was just because he had a surplus on hand.
When Vienta opened her eyes, a cold terror began to wrack her body. She began to writhe and gasp as the horror of being a Strigoi came back to her. Instantly her sister was at her side, grasping her hand and willing pulses of healing strength to radiate through her. Taking deep breaths Vienta said hoarsely, "I made the right decision….I'm free….and the world…shall be safe." Closing her eyes, a serene smile graced her face. "I'm glad." She looked at Mariana, "You will be okay…won't you?"
Mariana nodded, the numbing feeling she had felt earlier was still in place. "I will be fine. The others, have their souls moved on?"
Vienta shook her head, the smile still in place. "I don't know how …..this knowledge is coming to me, I think….. Lustros is………telling me this…..My soul is enough…..The humans will live….their memories….shall be erased….they will know….that the world faced a great calamity….But they will never know that they had any part in it." Vienta closed her eyes again. "I'm ready." She briefly squeezed her sister's hand. But to the two it felt like centuries. Ever so slowly, Vienta's hand eased it's grip on Mariana's. Her body became swept up in a gust of pink and silver magic, fading into the very heart of nature from where it came, now waiting for another pure soul to harbor it.
The Mystic Mermaid bowed her head. She stayed in that position until she felt Astraios's warm touch upon her shoulder. He guided her into a standing position, the two Mystics never meeting the other's gaze. Astraios flew them over to their mournful friend. As soon as their feet touched the land did Mariana allow her body to slump against Astraios's side and begin crying openly for the loss of her beloved sister.
Two years later….
Mariana stood in front of a large rock that stood between the home she shared with Astraios and Aarde's dwelling. The rock had two joined hands carved into it. One hand was rather large and had talons on its fingers. In the middle was a piece of topaz. The other hand was smaller with slender fingers. It had a piece of rose quartz in its center. Aarde had created it with his magic as a memorial for the two fallen Mystics, their comrades, their friends. Their family.
Mariana waved a hand over the small garden planted at the base of the rock, watering the flowers. Smiling gently, she returned inside her cottage. She went over to the fire in the hearth and began tending to it. 'Astraios and Aceso should be returning soon.' Her smile grew slightly as she thought of Aceso's round dimpled face, dark green eyes flecked with silver and wild red curls. Her smile faded as she sensed a presence behind her, a shadow falling over the fire.
"Hello Mariana," a cold, venomous voice greeted.
Whirling around, Mariana believed for a heartbeat of time her sister had come back. Unfortunately this was enough for the visitor to flick her wrist and yell out, "Prisiare de Heladaire!"
Mariana gasped as she felt a cold jet of magic wrap around her body before sinking through her skin. It touched her soul, freezing it. The magic engulfed her conscience and imprisoned it in the far recesses of her mind. By the time the spell was cast, Mariana had become a living prisoner of her own magic.
In Briarwood, a storm raged and winds howled as three stunned teenagers sat in a tree house staring at an old book that just exposed one very large secret. The teenager in the middle was female. In an emotional whisper she uttered one word.
More notes: Aceso is the daughter of Astraios and Mariana. The vengeance part of this story spans generations hence why Madison's mother was attacked centuries later. Aceso also is the name of a Greek goddess of healing which seemed fitting for the mourning Mystics. Why exactly would Castalia whom, I'm hoping you remember is the daughter of Lustros and Vienta would be childish in doing something like this despite losing her parents? Well, you'll just have to wait and find out.