Kidash Zek: Part V
Splinter felt a strong disturbance. His eyes shot open and he glanced around the empty lair. Something bad was going to happen. He looked at the clock and noticed it was almost morning. His students had not yet come back. Hopefully they were not in any danger. He sighed, and continued his meditations.
The Turtles looked around at their surroundings. Their frozen bodies had passed right through the blackness and ended up in an enormous cavern. All light came from a hole in the ceiling far above. The light shone down on an enormous black pillar. All around the cavern were many Minions, everyone wearing robes. Looking around, Leo could see other outlined doorways drawn on the walls.
He turned his attention to the black pillar. All the Minions seemed to be focused on it. It was twice the height of a man, and as thick as a tree trunk. Leo could see several objects lying around it. With a shock, he noticed they were the stolen items.
Chalang, carrying the mirror, walked to a man standing next to the pillar. The Turtles were brought with him, their weapons taken from them. The man had a red symbol on his robe, the same sword and goblet symbol at the crime scenes. With a bow, the man accepted the mirror. "Greetings, High Servant," Chalang said in a loud voice. The Minions in the cavern quieted down in anticipation.
"You are gracious, Chalang, for giving us the final Relic," the High Servant said.
"And you are gracious, for keeping the faith long enough for us to be freed," Chalang said. There were approving murmurs from the crowd.
Chalang turned to address the crowd. "But before we free Zek," he said, "I present to you the animal-people, those who thought they were powerful enough to defeat the great Kidash Zek."
"This doesn't look good," Don whispered.
"These will be the first victims of Zek's wrath after he is released," Chalang shouted. The crowd cheered.
Chalang turned to face the Turtles, lying helpless on the ground. "Welcome to Navand," he said. "Prepare to meet your doom."
"Wait!" Mike cried.
The crowd murmured in bewilderment. "For what?" Chalang asked.
Mike searched for an answer. "I don't know," he said. "It sounded like a good thing to say." The crowd laughed at him. Raph growled.
An idea struck Don. "We don't think you're so great," he said, sounding more confident than he really felt.
"What?" Chalang asked, bending inches away from Don's face. "After all the amazing things we did, things your inferior 'science' cannot possibly explain?"
"I don't understand it," Don said, buying time. "It has no meaning. I mean, why would a stupid sword be powerful enough to free Zek?"
Chalang leaned back. "You wouldn't understand, inferior."
"Try me," Don said. His eyes dared Chalang to continue.
Chalang sighed and turned to the crowd. "What do you think?" he asked.
There were many approving shouts from the crowd. "They're going to die anyway," one Minion said.
"Let them be awed by the power of the legend before their death," another said.
"Then it is decided," Chalang said. He turned to face the Turtles.
"Hundreds of years ago," he started, "Zek was imprisoned by the Saheer." The mention of the name brought negative rumblings from the crowd. "He was trapped in Nesson, and the only entrance was through the Closed Gateway." He pointed to the black pillar. "It could only be opened by the four objects held most holy: the Sword, the Goblet, the Mask, and the Mirror. These four Relics were scattered across the world in an attempt to keep us from retrieving them. Of course, this attempt has failed.
"The Sword and the Goblet represent the power given to us by Zek. With the Sword, we can chop down our enemies. With the Goblet, we can pour out poison upon those who oppose us. We will use these powers to rule!" There were triumphant shouts at this.
"The Mask and the Mirror," Chalang continued, "represent the traits of the inferiors. They make masks and try to hide their true self. The Mirror does not lie and shows back all their flaws. These separate the inferiors from us, the chosen of Zek.
"Now do you understand?" Chalang asked them.
"It all makes sense now," Raph said sarcastically. "You're a bunch a raving lunatics!"
"I knew you wouldn't understand," Chalang said. He walked next to the black pillar, still holding the Mirror. "Now the time is at hand!" he shouted. The room grew silent. Raph growled and tried to break free from the ice.
Chalang placed the Mirror down next to the Closed Gateway. He stepped back and raised his arms. "I summon you, great Zek," he shouted. "Now you are free."
The Turtles watched helpless as the Closed Gateway began to glow. Soon the whole room was filled with golden light that radiated from the pillar. Chalang turned to face them, his eyes wild. "Now do you realize you cannot win?" he shouted.
"No!" Raph yelled angrily. "We could kick your butt any day!"
"Really?" Chalang asked.
"Raph, shut up!" Mike whispered frantically.
"Go, then," Chalang said. The Turtles were picked up and tossed into the Closed Gateway.
They landed face down. Leo looked around and noticed they were lying on black stone. He couldn't turn his head far enough to see anything else. "Nice going, Raph," Mike said.
"Be quiet," Don said.
Suddenly, the ice holding them was shattered. The Turtles jumped up and observed their surroundings. They were standing on a large, black floating platform. The sky was a constantly changing swirl of colors. In the middle of the platform was a black pillar like the Closed Gateway. "I'll bet that's how we get back," Don said, pointing to it.
"If I let you," a booming voice said. The Turtles turned to see a large black cloud. With a shock, they realized the voice was coming from the cloud.
"What are you?" Don asked.
"Isn't it obvious?" the cloud said. "I am Zek."
The cloud was shaped in the form of a man. Only the top half was visible, the rest hidden below the platform. There were horns on its head, and it had glowing red eyes. No mouth could be seen when it spoke. It looked much like a large black demon, which in fact it probably was.
"What are you going to do with us?" Mike asked in a small voice.
"I suppose you wish to stop my reign of the world," Zek said.
"You bet," Raph said angrily.
Zek bent closer to them. "You're a feisty one, aren't you," it said. "Maybe I can have some fun with you." Zek leaned back and laughed, the laughter echoing around them. It waved a hand, and the Turtles disappeared.
Mike reappeared in a dark hallway lit only by blue burning torches on the walls. He walked to one end and found a doorway. He turned the knob, but the door was locked. He felt the damp stone around it to check for weaknesses. A loud noise distracted him, and he turned around. The hallway turned a corner, and around it came a large knight. It was covered in heavy armor that clanked as it walked, and it held a large sword. Seeing Mike, it charged, sword raised.
Mike dodged the glistening sword and ran down the hallway. He turned the corner in hopes of finding another door, but met only a solid wall. He turned and quickly dodged another swing by the knight. Mike ran back down the corridor, desperately trying to think of something. He was trapped with a raging knight, and it looked like there was no way out.
Don found himself in a dark tower. He looked at the ceiling high above him. There was no opening except one small window many stories above him. Through it, he could see the strange sky of this alternate dimension. Nesson, he thought it had been called.
There was a golden table in front of him. On it were two black goblets, each full with some strange liquid. Don bent his face close to them, then backed off, repulsed by the smell.
"Like it?" Zek's voice asked. The sound seemed to come from the walls. "It is the smell of death. Yours, to be exact.
"One of the goblets contains a firepoison. Drink it, and your body temperature will rise until you roast. The other goblet has icepoison in it. Drink that, and your body temperature will plummet until no heat remains inside you."
"What if I don't want to drink any of them?" Don asked defiantly.
"Then you will stay here," the disembodied voice said, "and die of starvation. The choice is yours."
Don looked at the goblets and tried to think of a plan. There had to be some way out of this. This situation couldn't be completely out of his control.
Raph appeared inside a small room. Everything was painted white. Before him was a door and a table with two objects on it. Raph went to examine them when he heard a voice behind him. He turned to see Chalang standing there. Raph started to charge, but Chalang's urgent voice stopped him.
"Don't do it!" Chalang shouted. "If we touch each other, we'll both be instantly vaporized!"
"That's stupid," Raph said, though heeding the warning.
"It's to insure that there is no cheating," Chalang said.
"Cheating at what?"
"At the contest, of course. The contest to determine if you live."
"What's the contest?"
"All in good time," Chalang said. He pointed to the objects on the table. "First you must choose a mask."
Raph walked closer to examine the objects. They certainly were masks, though they were made of some strange clear material that glowed and shimmered as he looked at them. It seemed like light was flowing through them.
"These are special masks," Chalang said. "If you take the one on the left, it will give you increased intelligence. If instead you choose the one on the right, your strength will nearly double."
Raph hesitated. "And I have to pick one?"
"You will take one and I the other."
Raph eyed the masks for a moment, then picked up the one on the right and put it on his face. Chalang took the other and did the same.
Raph was almost overwhelmed. He could feel the increased power flowing through his body. It felt wonderful! But something was missing.
Chalang was laughing. "Feel different?" he said. "You are a fool to think everything is freely given. These masks do not give, but take. While you have increased strength, you got that from me. And this mask has given me your intellect! You are now stupider than a rock!"
Raph could tell this was right. He realized he couldn't name the thirty states of whatever country he lived in. He didn't even know what a country was! Raph growled and started stalking towards Chalang.
"I must remind you," Chalang said, "that if you touch me you will vaporize. I believe your diminished mind can at least comprehend that."
Raph growled again but stood still. "Excellent," Chalang said. "Now, on to the challenge." He led the way through the door into another white room. Raph looked and saw a piece of wood painted in different colors placed on top of four legs. The piece of wood had different colored smaller pieces of wood on it. It looked familiar, but Raph couldn't think of what it was.
"You are challenged," Chalang said, "to a game of checkers."
Leo had been transported to a different floating platform. It was as clear as glass, and when he looked through it could see that this place had no bottom. The multicolored sky continued on forever. Leo turned and saw the Zek had appeared before him.
"I present to you the simplest challenge," Zek said. It brought up its hand and placed a mirror on the platform. "All you must do is look in this mirror."
Leo walked closer to it, at such an angle that he couldn't see his own reflection. It was a full-length mirror and was cradled in a golden stand. It didn't look too threatening, but he knew that it couldn't be harmless. Was it a trap?
Leo finally walked up right next to it. Cautiously, he peeked in it to see his reflection.
What he saw horrified him! He could see every single flaw in him! Every stupid mistake he'd ever made was relived! All his terrible secrets were exposed right before his eyes! He tried to turn away but couldn't. Instead, the onslaught continued. He felt his mind breaking under all this pressure! He withered, yet the unrelenting stream of imperfections would not let him go! He felt so small and utterly crushed by his inferiority. He slumped to the ground, with Zek laughing.
Mike kept frantically dodging the knight's strikes. Though it was heavily armored, it wasn't slow. Mike barely had time to think. The walls seemed to close in on him as he scurried like a rat trying to save himself. He tried again to break through the door, but to no avail.
The knight tried another running attack, but Mike rolled between its legs. The knight looked around in confusion, trying to find where the turtle had gone. Mike couldn't help it. He started laughing. It seemed to help clear his head. He realized that he was overreacting, letting his feelings overwhelm him. He needed to lighten up. The idea that Mike, the most easy-going of the Turtles, needed to lighten up struck him as very funny. He laughed again.
By now, the knight had located him again. It rushed and swung at him, but missed as Mike dodged. "Strike one!" he said. The knight attacked again, again missed. "Strike two!" Mike called. The knight, now very angry, aimed a blow at Mike's neck. He ducked and ran away. "Strike three!" The knight tried to cut Mike's leg off, but he jumped. "Strike four? Dude, I think you ran out of strikes a long time ago. You can stop now." The knight didn't listen.
Mike ran back to the heavy wooden door. It seemed like the only way out. He needed a way to break through it, but he didn't have any weapons. The knight aimed another blow at him, giving him an idea.
Mike stood right next to the door. "Yoo-hoo, over here!" he called. "Come and get me!"
The knight looked at him, then charged. It held the sword out in a blow to drive it through Mike's chest. But Mike ducked just in the nick of time, and the knight instead ran right through the door. It crashed through it and fell out of sight.
Mike looked outside at the weird sky. He stepped out of the doorway and onto a walkway that ran suspended in midair. It continued off into the distance. Seeing nothing else to do, Mike followed it.
Don stood in front of the goblets, still puzzling over his quandary. He had yet to think of a plan. "Which one is which?" he asked, trying to find more information.
"Find out for yourself," the bodiless voice of Zek answered.
Hesitantly, Don reached and put a finger in one of the liquids. The effect was instantaneous. It felt like his finger was on fire! He blew on it, but that didn't work. The voice laughed at him as he tried to think of something. On a whim, he put it in the other liquid. It immediately cooled down.
Don examined his finger, which showed no signs of damage. He then turned to the goblets. How did they work? Were they really magic? Did they really affect whatever they touched? It gave him an idea.
"I guess I have no choice," he said. He picked up the goblet with the icepoison in it. He brought it closer to his face, eyeing the liquid. It quivered as he held it. He thought he could feel Zek tensely waiting to see what would happen. Slowly, he brought it up to his lips.
Then, he suddenly flung it against the wall. The freezing cold liquid splattered on the stone, and he could see ice forming. Zek's voice shouted in outrage, but Don paid no attention. He kicked as hard as he could at the wall, and the super-cold stone broke easily. Don was free.
He stepped outside, and looked around. The tower he had just left was floating in the air, and he noticed a walkway stretching out that also was apparently floating. He followed it away from the tower.
Raph knew he was in trouble. At least he knew that much. He was supposed to play a game of checkers (whatever that was). There was no way he could win. He had no idea what the rules were. He couldn't even count the pieces!
Chalang laughed at him. Raph growled but did nothing. There was nothing he could do. "Why so angry?" Chalang asked. "It's just a simple game of checkers. I'm not that good at it anyway. Actually, I guess I am now." He laughed some more. "You should have known better than to mess with the Kidash Zek. I knew you would pick the mask of strength and lose your intelligence. I knew that I could then easily beat you at a simple intellectual game. You inferior fool."
Raph lost it. The anger was raging inside of him. He wanted so much to wipe that nasty grin off Chalang's face. He roared and picked up the table. All the pieces fell off and clattered on the floor. "What are you doing?" Chalang asked in surprise.
"I'm not touching you," Raph said, and brought the table down on Chalang's head with all his might. Chalang slumped to the floor, all the sense knocked out of him.
Raph broke off one of the table legs and used it to pry the mask off Chalang's face. Raph felt all the knowledge come back to him. Never had he been so grateful for it. Raph used his increased power to break down a wall, and pulled the mask off his own face. He didn't want to have anything that had to do with the Kidash Zek.
Outside the hole he had made in the wall, there was a walkway that ran off into the air. Raph followed it.
Leo was still shriveling. He knew, knew with all his heart, that he was a nobody. He didn't deserve to live. The mirror had told him so.
He felt someone shaking him. He rose out of his misery and saw Raph holding him. "Snap out of it," Raph said, looking worried.
Leo gradually began to think clearer. He saw the other Turtles kneeling close to him. "How did you guys get here?" he asked in a soft voice.
"We followed the walkways," Raph said. Leo turned and saw four walkways leading to this platform. Where did the fourth one go? He didn't care. He didn't matter anymore.
"Leo, you've got to come with us," Raph pleaded. "We're leaving here."
"He can't leave," Zek said.
"He's right," Leo said. "I'm a nobody. Just like you said."
"No, you're not," Raph said.
"You were right, Raph," Leo said. "I don't deserve anything."
"I was wrong," Raph said. He turned away. "In fact, I was a real blockhead. I'm like that sometimes. I say stupid things when I'm mad. But you never believed anything I said anyway. You were smarter than that."
Leo felt his strength returning. "Do you mean that?"
Raph looked Leo in the eyes. "Yes."
Leo let Raph lift him up. "How did you guys get here, anyway?" Leo asked.
Each of the Turtles told how they had beaten their challenges. Leo gained confidence the more he heard, and when they were all done, he looked like his old self. He also looked like he had a plan.
"Let's go, Leo," Mike said.
"I'm afraid that's impossible," Zek said.
"Guys, I can handle this," Leo said, and walked towards Zek.
"What are you going to do, inferior?" Zek said. "Nothing you can do will stop me. It's hopeless."
"I think it's you who are in trouble," Leo said, strength in his voice. "I see now the mistake you made."
"Mistake?" Zek asked, as if the idea was the most ludicrous thing in the world.
"Yes," Leo said. "All the Relics, the symbols you chose for yourself to represent evil, were in fact good. Yes, the sword can be used to kill the enemy, but it can also be used to free the wrongly imprisoned and to defend the innocent. Yes, the goblet can pour out poison, but it can also pour out life-sustaining water. Yes, the mask can be used to hide oneself, but it also can be used to express yourself in ways not possible otherwise."
Leo looked triumphant. "And yes, the mirror will show back your flaws, but it will also show your strengths. You just have to look for them." With this sentence, he looked into the mirror. But this time he knew the secret, and he saw all of himself, not just the flaws. He looked into the mirror and saw himself for what he was.
The Turtles cheered as Leo walked back to them. But Zek was not finished. "You still haven't won," it said. "You are still trapped in my prison, while I am free to escape and rule the world!"
"Not yet," Leo said. "I have a challenge for you."
"What?" Zek asked in disbelief.
Leo walked towards the mirror. "I am a complete person, but you are merely a spirit, and an evil one at that. So I wonder, what do you see in the mirror?" he asked, and turned it around so Zek could see it.
Zek let out a wail and tried to cover its eyes, but it was too late. It had looked into the mirror, and seen itself. It had seen all its evil traits, but there was no good to balance it out. The Turtles watched in amazement as the cloud dissipated into nothing, and the wail faded into silence. Then they cheered.
They walked up the walkway and arrived at the original platform. Without looking back, they entered the pillar and left Nesson behind.
The Turtles appeared back in the lair of the Kidash Zek. They tensed, ready for a battle, but nothing happened. The Kidash Zek were wondering around aimlessly. They had a blank look in their eyes, as if they had lost the thing most important to them. "Our power," one of them moaned.
"It's gone," Don said. "Zek was the source of their power, but now it's gone. They're powerless."
The Turtles picked up the Relics from around the Closed Gateway, and headed for the wall. Nobody stopped them. They stepped through the glowing doorway, which fortunately still worked, and came back to New York.
Charles Henderson felt awful. He had just lost the most important thing his family owned. The mirror had belonged to his family for generations. The police had been unable to help, and now he sat alone in the room where it had once been.
There was a knock on the door, and he rose to answer it. He looked outside, but no one was there. Puzzled, he looked down. There was the mirror! His heart leapt with joy, and he carefully picked it up and brought it into the house, shouting to Isabelle that he had found it!
The Turtles watched from the shadows as the door closed, then left to return the remaining Relics and head for home.
Splinter looked up when his sons returned home. "How did your adventure go?" he asked them.
"We defeated Zek," Leo reported. "The Kidash Zek won't be causing any more trouble."
"Boy, I'm starving," Mike said. "Can't we talk over supper?"
"There's some leftover pizza in the fridge," Splinter said.
Mike immediately rushed off to get it. "All right!"
"We want some too, Mike," Raph said, running after him. "If you eat it all before we can get some, I'll kick you halfway to Timbuktu."
Splinter could tell that Raph's threat was only a joke and there was no menace behind it. "I see that things have returned to normal," he said. "The tension among you is gone."
"I know," Leo said. "We had to work things out against Zek."
"How so?" Splinter asked.
Mike and Raph entered carrying the food. While they ate, the Turtles told Splinter of the challenges and how they had overcome them.
"I am proud of you all," Splinter said. "You performed wonderfully."
"It seems to me that our problems had been planted in our heads by the Kidash Zek," Raph said, "and weren't real at all."
"The power of the Kidash Zek had an oppressing affect on your minds," explained Splinter. "That was what you felt."
"What seems so ironic," Don said, "is that by bringing us to fight face-to-face, Zek actually helped us out. He gave us something physical to fight. Otherwise, the invisible affects of their power might have torn us apart."
"Whatever the explanation," Raph said, "I'm just grateful that this is all over."
"Indeed," Leo said. "Indeed."
Chalang passed through the Closed Gateway. He looked with disdain at the Kidash Zek wandering around aimlessly. "Control yourselves!" he snapped. That got their attention. "I am ashamed of you, losing hope so quickly. That is just like the inferiors. The Kidash Zek have gone through hardship before, and we have triumphed!"
"We are sorry," the High Servant said, "but the sudden loss of our power was pure torment."
"That is understandable," Chalang said. "I look kindly upon you, and I swear that I will not rest until your power has been restored!"
There were many cheers to that. Chalang smiled, planning what would happen next. The Gateways would still work, being tied to the ancient power of the earth. He would use those to travel to New York and teach those animal-people about their wrath. No inferior would defeat the Kidash Zek.