Prologue

Dark clouds churned angrily in the sky as the Oder-naries approached the citadel of the demon Tau'rin. Despite the gravity of the situation and the fact that they were running short on time, the Spirit Master had to stop and admire the building before him. Whistling appreciatively, he said, "I have to hand it to him, he's really made a good one this time, and in rather short order."

"Come on," the Mage said, tugging his teammate's arm, "We've got a job to do, remember?"

"Yeah yeah," the Spirit Master said with a sigh, "round… what are we on now?"

"I lost count at ten," his sister said.

"This will be the thirteenth," the Mechanic said, "good thing we don't believe in luck right?" she added with a weak smile.

"Nope, just track records," the Mage said as the four approached the citadels' gate, which stood tall and solid before, mocking any who would think of breaching it, "and I don't need to remind you all how terrible ours has been." He pulled a spell card out of his pocket and pressed it against the gate. Orange light slowly spread out from the card for a second, only to retract violently and blast the Mage away from the gate.

"Ash!" the Spirit Master's sister exclaimed in horror.

"I'm good," the Mage said, picking himself up, "nothing broken." He reached up and moved the eyepiece of the computer on his head in front of his right eye. "Basic despell didn't work PC," he said in the computer's mike, "Any ideas?" Text flashed across the transparent eyepiece, and the Mage frowned in annoyance. "Well excuse me for preferring subtlety," he griped, reaching into the bag at his waist. He pulled out a flawless ruby slightly smaller than his hand and held it out toward the door, focusing his magic into it. The ruby glowed brightly before releasing a wide beam of light that hit the gate, causing it to explode in flames. Once the ashy remains of the gate crumbled away, the ruby was snatched out of the Mage's hand by an unseen force deep in the darkness of the citadel. "Skvetch!" the Mage swore, "Played right into his hand!"

"We've still got three of the others," the Mechanic pointed out.

"Truth," the Mage said, pulling out another spell card, "Well, no time like the present. Let's move!" The group ran inside, only to find themselves surrounded by a thick darkness. The Mage attempted several light-producing spells, only to have them swallowed up by the gloom. An evil laugh filled the air, followed by a deep, condescending voice.

"Come now, my persistent foes," it said, "Surely you can do better than this. It's just a simple shadow."

"Tau'rin," the Spirit Master said, "Show yourself!"

"Make me," the taunting reply seemed to come from everywhere at once. The Spirit Master reached out and found his sister's hand, gripping it tight as the two of them began to glow with a blue ethereal fire. The darkness retreated, but only enough to allow the Order-naries to see on another. The sister raised her free hand, and the flames around her began gathering on front of her palm, turning into a disc of energy divided into four colored quadrants. With a shout, she threw it out and directed it as it spun around the group and then spiraled out until it was swallowed by the darkness. Tau'rin laughed again as the Spirit Master and sister scowled in frustration.

"We don't have a choice, do we?" the sister said, reaching into her pack. She pulled out a large diamond that was quickly sucked away into the shadows.

"New strategy," the Mage hissed, "Don't bring out the others."

"Aw, now where's the fun in that?" The darkness vanished and the group found themselves standing before Tau'rin, the demon of chaos, grinning maniacally at them. At his feet sat the ruby, diamond, and three other gems of similar size and cut. "Of course, you'd hardly stand a chance anyway," he said, "Why don't you just give up? Time and again you've failed to stop me from gathering the Gems."

"We won't stop," the Mage said, "Not until we've brought an end to your march of destruction."

Tau'rin's grin faded. "Could it be possible that your attempts to stop me are what really brings down the destruction? Twelve worlds lost to the ultimate chaos under your watch, my adversaries. Does that not drag at you? Give it up, submit to my control, and I may let you live."

"Not now, not ever," the Mage said.

"So be it," Tau'rin said as his eyes began to glow, "then die now." The gems at his feet began to glow, and were quickly joined by those still in the Oder-naries possession. Tau'rin's face went slack as the glowing approached blinding levels.

"Ah, crap!" the Spirit Master said, "Not again!"

"Hold tight everyone," the Mechanic said, pulling the Mage in close to her as she plunged her hand into her pack to grip the Gem inside. The entire group gathered in close and squeezed their eyes as they and Tau'rin became enveloped in the energy of the Chaotic Gems. The ground beneath them began shaking as the combined energy began tearing holes in the fabric of reality. The last thing they heard before the ground gave way under them and they were swept into the numbing void between worlds was Tau'rin's emotionless declaration of "Ultimate Chaos."