The Sacred Temple of the Elder Gods could not be located on any map, or discovered anywhere on the face of the Earth. The reason for this being the Temple had no physical manifestation, with the exception being its entrance from Earth Realm, but even that was constantly shifting from place to place. How Rayden always knew where the entrance had moved he had never questioned, simply believing it to have come with the territory of being a Realm Protector or that like knew simply where to find like. The entrance could literally be anywhere in the world, one time it was a small knothole in a tree, another one of the arcs of Stonehenge. This time however it had manifested quite close to Zhu-Zin as if it knew of his need. This time it was the entrance to a cave behind a waterfall.
Thus Rayden prepared himself mentally and then stepped through the waterfall cave's entrance. Now, say, if Kung Lao had tried to do the same, as a mortal he still could not access the temple by just knowing where the "entrance" was for he'd still be standing in a cave. Rayden however could ascend here, leaving the physical plane to arrive at the temple in its ethereal location, the entrance just making it easier for him to do this than what he'd have to go through on his own to reach it.
He had shed his physical appearance the moment he walked into the temple, and reverted to his natural form of living electricity. The temple itself if seen by mortal eyes just looked like a black, endless void, yet Rayden could "feel" its boundaries from that of the Ethereal that lay beyond it. He advanced to the "center" of the area and began to send a signal to the Elders respectfully wishing for this emergency meeting with them and apologizing for the inconvenience. All was done with no words, no sounds, just pure thought and energy.
Rayden was surprised that he did not have to wait long and that quite a few Elders showed up in response to his calling. Other energy manifestations winked into existence around him, but the difference between he and they resided in how huge their auras were in comparison to him, as well as the fact that some of these new entities could command more than one element whereas he only commanded the abilities of an electrical storm. It was like comparing a tiny dwarf star to the largest of the universe's blazing suns. Rayden noted who had shown up and what clan they hailed from from their "position" within the temple around him. Again, he found himself surprised at how many representatives had shown up from he different clans, as there weren't many left these days. One quadrant was empty though, the one that used to hold the Egyptian Clan, one that sent sorrow, pain and shame go coursing through him. He quickly stowed those feelings as he had a job to do and he didn't want the Elders to be kept waiting, even though time truly had no meaning to his kind.
-Revered Elders, I thank you for heeding my call. I have come to warn you of an impending, illegal invasion of Earth Realm by Shao Kahn.-
From there he launched into describing the city Shao Kahn had set up in Earth Realm and how he had created a staging base for an invasion under all of their noses. As Rayden finished the place exploded into conversation between the Elders. Accusations and denials flew back and forth, as well as at Rayden, which was not unexpected with news like this.
Just when he was loosing hope of ever getting to prove his information was true, a voice boomed out above the din, -BE SILENT ALL OF YOU!-
Rayden flinched at the intensity of the command, as did quite a few others, but he recognized the voice of who said that. It was Apollo (as he was known to the mortal on Earth Realm), the current head Elder of the Greek Clan.
After everyone shut up, Apollo spoke again in a more reasonable tone, -Now, I'm quite sure the Realm Protector here is willing to verify his information?-
-Yes I am.- Rayden replied respectfully.
With that, a lesser Elder approached him as they merged briefly, the Elder verifying that what he spoke was the truth as their energies touched and information transferred. After this was accomplished, the Elder moved away and announced his words were true and Shao Kahn had broken the laws of Mortal Kombat.
However he wasn't out of the woods just yet as a darker voice spoke up, -May I ask how the Realm Protector how he came by this information?-
-Isn't it obvious?- Apollo nearly growled the question, obviously annoyed with the delay in discussing actions to be taken with Shao Kahn.
-The question stands.- the dark voice replied.
Rayden's throat would have gone dry if he was in a physical form as he instantly recognized the dark voice. It was Anubis, as apparently the lone representative of the Egyptian Clan had decided to show up after all. Anubis outranked even Apollo on age and power considering that the Egyptian Clan had set up residence on Earth long before any of the others, thus Apollo couldn't brush off Anubis's question and move on like he wanted. Plus it was very evident to Rayden that Anubis had not forgotten about their shared past…
Unfortunately the Thunder God could not worm his way out of answering the question without loosing the respect of the other Elders of whom he needed their support. Thus he again threw himself into the tale of how this information came to pas. He held nothing back, letting his emotions color the painful story, but he did leave out mention that his only help was actually an Avis of Gaia. He finished and held his tongue while he waited for the Elder's words. It seemed like forever to him, a non-corporeal being, until they spoke next.
Finally his patience was rewarded as he received the answer he had hoped for, spoken by his own clan head, Ama-terasu.
-Realm Protector Rayden, we thank you for your diligence and coming to warn us. We shall close the portal and deal with Shao Kahn for this transgression. You may do what you wish with his city of mortals, although we suggest you dispose of them or their taint may spread even with their city destroyed. With that said, I now adjourn this meeting of the Elders. Be well, Realm Protector and the blessing of us all are with you.-
And with that, the Elders all winked out one by one, leaving Rayden alone in the temple. After a moment, he too tried to take his leave, but when he descended to the temple's entrance in the physical world he found he was no longer in a cave behind a waterfall…
It took him a moment to adjust as he studied his surroundings keenly. He found himself in what looked like a temple of his, only more keeping with a theme that made the temple look like it was something nature made, or rather grew, and not like the ones made by mortal hands. The wooden walls were lightly carved with lacquer, aboriginal swirls and spirals as light filtered through sliding doors and windows that only had thin paper on their frame, not glass. Swathes of silk fell from the ceiling in muted colors that best brought out the rich reds and browns from the wood it played against. He turned slowly as a feeling washed over him that he had been here before as he looked for anything familiar.
When his eyes took in the sight behind him it finally all clicked as he knew where he was, and who had brought him here. There stood a dais cut off from him by more translucent silk panels hanging down, an easy barrier to penetrate to be sure, but not one he would dare to cross ever. The reason being was in who was behind that silken barricade, as Rayden was far from alone in this nameless temple for the slight form of a woman in rich, flowing Japanese robes sat serenely. Her silver-white hair was loose and so long it could have been mistaken to be another part of her ornate clothing. Her skin was somehow both translucent and radiant, which accentuated the fact she transcended trying to place a physical age on her. Her heavy-lidded eyes had no pupils as Rayden was glad her gaze was not entirely directed at him even though it was evident her focus was on him alone somehow. This was the head Elder of his clan, the Goddess Ama-terasu.
He instantly fell to his knees and bowed so low his forehead touched the floor, the very stance Shao Kahn had tried to exact from him and very nearly succeeded in doing so.
The most musical voice then graced his hearing, "Please rise Lord Rayden."
"Elder," he spoke in response as he sat up to face her.
"I would like to start off by thanking you for being so diligent in your duties toward Earth Realm," she said quietly, yet her voice somehow resonated everywhere in the room.
Rayden bowed his head at her acknowledgement but for the moment he kept his mouth shut. He still had no idea why Ama-terasu brought him here and with powerful Elders it was safer to play dumb as they always had other agendas he normally tried to keep himself out of getting entangled in.
She continued, "I was present for the emergency meeting earlier. A well warranted meeting my Lord, and rest assured he will be dealt with promptly." There was no mistaking who she was referring to when she said "he" as Kahn had once been a part of this clan, "However I suspect thanks to this you may only enjoy a brief respite of peace as no doubt he'll be back to his games before long – albeit more cautious than before."
The Thunder God lowered his eyes in dismay as Ama-terasu's words mirrored his thoughts exactly. The Elder Gods could only punish Kahn so much under the rules of Mortal Kombat and the minute the punishment was up he'd no doubt make sure Rayden got no rest in a very subtle revenge. Again, he did not reply to the Elder Goddess as he knew she didn't bring him here for idle chitchat she knew he could already very well deduce on his own. Hence he waited as she would get to her point eventually and he hoped it would be soon.
"You must be wondering why I've brought you here my Lord," The Elder Goddess' eyes now moved to meet Rayden's, "I wanted to speak with you concerning the tale you told the Council."
She paused as Rayden's mind whorled; did she know the truth of what Jai'eesh was? He had purposely downplayed the woman's role in his escape from Kahn's clutches that Jai was nothing more than a skilled mortal warrior and not an Avis of Gaia as he wanted the Elders' attention to be on Kahn's transgressions alone – not on how to deal with a supposedly fully developed Avis. Regardless, he still wasn't so sure she was, as part of him inherently did not want to believe what Kahn had said when the two of them had confronted him. He wanted to confirm it for himself before he brought the Elders into it. Plus, he already knew what their decree would be if Jai were an Avis; her immediate destruction and proof that the deed had been carried out. Considering Rayden wasn't so sure Jai was still alive at the moment with all of her wounds, it was better just to say nothing at all for the time being. Yet, he now feared the Elder had seen right through his story, did others in the Council as well?
Finally Ama-terasu spoke, "Describe again the deaths of your Champion and his comrades."
Rayden didn't know whether to be relieved or not as he pushed aside his fears about dealing with a possible Avis and switched to new ones why Kung Lao, Siro and Taja's deaths interested his clan's head Elder.
He licked his lips without thinking about such a mortal physical movement as he tried to form a decent reply, "Forgive me Elder, but what does their deaths in that horrid timeline have to do with anything?"
For once and Elder answered him frankly, "Because it was rather evident to me from your tale that your are growing too close emotionally to those mortals."
The Thunder God was stunned at first, opening his mouth as if to reply, then shutting it again promptly when his mind produced nothing but confusion then slowly building resentment.
"Lord Rayden, granted you have unconventional methods when it comes to dealing with mortals, but because you have been so successful defending your Realm, the Elders have overlooked this. However with the events you have described where he nearly defeated you using your own mortals against you. Your rage nearly cost you more than just your mortal's lives, but the downfall of your Realm as well."
Shame and resentment flooded through Rayden as his eyes followed the wood grain in the floorboards he sat on. Instantly his mind began to retaliate with sulky reasons why he had no other choice, but then he stopped himself. He took a deep breath and forced himself to follow Ama-terasu's logic. It was true, he loved his mortal friends, just as he enjoyed all Humans on Earth. They were such amazing creatures, so complex when he knew others of his own kind thought them nothing more than simplistic lower life forms. Time and time again when it seemed Humanity had no choice but to admit defeat at the hands of any great obstacle, they had always somehow managed to turn the tables and win. Rayden never understood why no one else of his ilk seemed to notice this, and yet…
Yet, he realized slowly, his love of his three human friends had just almost cost him the entire Realm of Earth and the rest of his beloved humanity right along with it. He closed his eyes and sighed dejectedly; by the Elders he was a fool!
Ama-terasu's voice gentled a bit as she observed Rayden's realization, "Please think me not cruel when I say this, but you must learn to distance yourself from your mortals. You have become too close to these three, more so than any others that has come before. We both know they will all die one day, especially your Champion for he cannot win forever in the Tournament. It is in the best interest of your Realm you keep yourself apart from their affairs lest you be tricked again and lose everything you hold dear."
Rayden's eyes glazed over in deep contemplation of this as an ironic memory surfaced of his own warnings to Kung Lao of similar entrapments when his Champion had risked the Realm for the sake of Taja and Siro's lives.
Finally, the humbled Thunder God bowed low, "I understand Elder."
The Goddess nodded solemnly, "Yes. I believe you do. You may go my Lord so you may finish tying up loose ends in your Realm, unless you have anything else you wish to tell me?"
The Storm Warrior didn't even bat an eyelash as he replied, "No, honored Elder. By your leave…"
With that she dismissed him with a look as Rayden suddenly found himself back at the cave behind the waterfall wondering what the head Goddess of his clan was really up to but then quickly dismissed the thought as he did have more important things to do at the moment. Then, he was gone in a flash to deal with the leftovers of Kahn's foiled invasion plan that was still in his Realm.
S was bored, but at least he wasn't the only one as misery so did love company. Constant and fierce storms kept everyone inside the temple complex that the Nightmare now found himself at, himself included as he may be undead, but by no means was he going to explore in weather more akin to a category one hurricane coming ashore. Plus he physically couldn't go to far from where Jai thanks to her injuries and their connection. His existence depended on her survival, so he had been sticking close despite the monks' efforts to the contrary.
Naturally, they didn't understand what he was other than what he looked like and he had no choice to keep up that façade as Nightmares had certain guidelines they had to follow when dealing with the living outside of their bonded. S couldn't just introduce himself unless he had the permission of his bonded or his bonded's life was in jeopardy where he would have to reveal himself completely to defend her. Plus there was the whole language barrier thing going on too. He knew he was still trapped back in time, even more so he believed from how Rayden took off on him and so far no one was speaking anything even resembling modern English.
Every time he had tried to go visit Jai in the infirmary, the monks would kick him out, although to their credit, they were very polite in doing so, seeing him off with a pet to the head and some words backed by kindly feelings that he could sense. He realized they thought he was just some stray cat who would contaminate their infirmary, but it was getting on his nerves. He had tried earlier to plant 'suggestions' in their minds to look the other way in some sneak attempts, but that didn't work either. Whatever that damn God had taught them, he really couldn't get around them without resorting to screaming at them in English (which he could not do without Jai's permission) or taking his powers up a notch to a level that would reveal him as more than just a large housecat.
Thus, S just had to wait until Rayden got back, whenever that would be as his guess was that the storms were of his doing and something big was going down. Honestly, S didn't really care on that end as it wasn't aimed at him or Jai'eesh and they were safe at the moment. Whatever was going on was between Gods obviously and the less he knew the better on that end. However, aside from the kindly monks, he was not alone in his boredom and he did have something to watch for his amusement while he waited for the Thunder God's return.
There were three here who showed up before the storms had started and two of them were obviously not originally with this sect of monks, while the third probably had been a monk here at one time from the way he had fallen so easily back into the habits of a monk when he had gotten here. S had taken somewhat of an interest in watching the three, which might had something to do with the fact that two of them loved to pet and shower attention on him when he approached them. Despite the language barrier, S had hopefully determined the trio's names. The female who petted him the most was named Taja, the smaller male who had once been a monk here was named Kung Lao and the large male who mostly ignored S was named Siro, or so S guessed. He tried to keep an ear out for Rayden's name, which did come up often, but he sensed mostly confusion, worry and annoyance off the three humans and nothing more he could make sense of.
At the moment, S happened to be in Taja's lap, purring, as she absent-mindedly scratched him behind the ears as she sat watching Siro. The large male happened to be performing some sort of physically strenuous activity that S was sure constituted as a 'workout' of some sort. Occasionally the two would exchange words, but today that was about it. He knew, from following them around individually earlier that the other one, Kung Lao, was doing his daily meditations with the rest of the monks in another chamber. So this is life before television, S though, How droll.
After more thrilling moments passed, S lost himself again in thought, primarily about how he could learn the local language. He suddenly wished Jai's other Nightmare bonded were here as Pinto's Bardic talent of learning things by ear alone would have been very useful right now. Then it dawned on S that he could use Narnia to translate! Narnia could easily change shape and turn into a 'collar' for him to wear so it could translate everything said around him. Of course, after that grand thought, he quickly realized Jai's Narnia unit was in Jai's pack which was located in the infirmary where he couldn't go undisturbed for any length of time. Crap.
S grumbled, which was thankfully masked by his loud purring, as something new entered the room – a monk. He said something that made Siro stop what he was doing and Taja look up in interest, which at first S found odd as it wasn't time for dinner yet. Then the monk said something that S did understand among the gibberish: "Rayden." Apparently he had just arrived as Taja put S down as they all left the room. S opened his full senses to the temple complex and there, where he knew the infirmary to be was an enormous energy signature of a God where none had been previously. He took off like a shot, passing Taja and Siro and dashing in the infirmary even before Kung Lao got there despite the fact though he was closer to the area than S had been. S passed Rayden like a streak of gray lightning and leaped on Jai's chest where she was unconscious in one of many cots that were lined in rows. He buried himself in Jai's chest, the feeling of being so near her when he had been denied for so long was pure bliss to even something undead like he.
"Nice to see you too cat," Rayden growled sarcastically at being completely ignored by the Nightmare.
-Maybe I'd have been happier to see your sorry ass if your stupid Humans would have let me see Jai!- S shot back just as rudely.
Rayden opened his mouth to retort, but stopped as Kung Lao entered, -We'll talk more later.- he spoke privately to the Nightmare feline.
As long as S was with Jai, the undead cat could care less what the God said.
"Whoa!" Kung Lao exclaimed as the odd gray cat passed between his legs in quite a hurry, the same one that had shown up at the temple at nearly the same time as he, Taja and Siro had a few days earlier.
He paused for a moment wondering what got the cat so excited, but then pushed it out of his mind as he too hurried toward the infirmary where Rayden had just appeared. As the current Champion entered the sick ward of the temple and laid eyes upon his oldest advisor, trainer and friend he felt a strange feeling come over him. Rayden looked haggard somehow to Kung Lao's eyes, there was an odd air between them now; aloof and distant.
He was about to ask what was wrong, but then Taja and Siro showed up in the room as the monk that had brought them news of Rayden's arrival spied the cat rolling on the unconscious woman in a sick bed. The monk went over to the cat and tried to shoo the thing away, but the cat took on a feral look as it's ears laid flat to the back of its head in anger.
Rayden stepped in quickly, "Leave the cat alone. It is the woman's pet. It's best for them both if it is allowed to see her from now on."
The monk bowed low, then let himself out as he knew his place, even if others did not.
Such as when Taja started things off with blurting out, "Well, hello there stranger! Mind explaining who the woman is to which the cat belongs?"
"And what's going on with the weather and why you made us come here?" Siro followed up while Kung Lao remained quiet.
Rayden sighed like he was bone-weary and pulled up a stool to sit next to the woman's cot. The stayed quiet for a moment longer as he looked at her, confusion briefly flickering over his ageless face that Kung Lao suspected only he saw.
Finally, "Rayden, are you okay?" Kung Lao asked in a soft voice full of concern.
Rayden looked at the trio of mortal warriors and smiled weakly, "I'm sorry, so much has happened I scarcely know where to begin."
He sat up and regained some composure, "Her name is Jai'eesh. The cat's name is S. They helped me… save Earth Realm. I don't know how to explain this to you, what happened originally.
"Let me start by saying this; imagine you three were not warned by me to close up the Trading Post and come here, that something else happened… That Shao Kahn unleashed his worst warriors on Earth Realm under the pretense of getting rid of Kreeya and her forces stationed here. And in doing so, he took the opportunity to kill everyone he considered an enemy and launch an invasion from a secret base to take over."
"Whoa, whoa, wait a second Rayden. What are you trying to say here?" Siro asked as confusion masked his face (as well as Taja's and Kung Lao's).
"Like I said, it's hard to explain. Let's just say I had a very powerful 'vision' of a possible future where I watched you three die before my eyes in an elaborate trap set by Shao Kahn and this woman helped me back so I could prevent it from ever happening."
"It sounds like it was more than just a vision, almost like that alternate reality Quan Chi and Shang Tsung set up as a trap for me," Kung Lao reflected.
Rayden paused, "Yes, like that, but unlike that illusion, this was real."
"You mean, you've been to a future where we're all dead?" Taja blinked at him in disbelief.
The Thunder God nodded with infinite sadness echoing in his eyes. He took another deep breath and told the story from the beginning of how the downward slide started right up until he was captured and imprisoned by Shao Kahn.
Kung Lao had to finally sit down on one of the empty cots as his head swam with the information. He scarcely noticed that Taja and Siro looked equally disturbed and shocked at this possible future where they all were gone and everything they had accomplished up until now had been nothing more than a drop in a bucket.
Despite his throat being dry, he had to ask, "What happened next?"
Rayden continued, "I ran into Jai'eesh, or she ran into me, who knows which. She released me from my prison within the Kahn's Black Tower and we escaped together. Although in trying to escape back to Earth Realm, Kahn confronted us and she fought him. That's how she ended up like this. Somehow we managed to open a portal to Earth Realm, but instead it took us back in time as well. Hence, I get a second chance to set everything right and stop Kahn.
"When I sent you here I went to the Elder Gods and told them this story. They are now punishing Kahn for his transgressions and we probably won't hear from him in a while. But when the punishment is up…"
"He's gonna be really pissed at us," Taja summed up the Thunder God's sentence like only she could.
"To say the least," Rayden replied, "Anyway, from there I tied up all the loose ends here, like that hidden city. Which is why the weather was so bad lately."
He left it at that, but Kung Lao could read between the lines all too well as now he knew why Rayden had been so distant. An entire city of humans on Earth that worshipped Shao Kahn. He had no doubt what Rayden had done to 'tie up all the loose ends' as he put it.
Silence filled the sick ward as the four of them sat there, three absorbing all the information Rayden had just told them and Rayden just reflecting, the sadness back in his deep eyes as he turned back to stare at the wounded woman.
After a long time had passed, finally Siro broke the silence, "Well, I guess the only question I have left is; what are we going to do now that we have this second chance?"