GRAY STILLNESS filled thelarge, circular hall, a tomb-like silence that permeated the chamber's very essence. A light layer of gray dust covered everything-- the cylindrical wall of black stone, the once-ornate furnishings and tapestries, the circular carpet-- fading away any sign of their former grandeur and color. Dim light filtered in through the room's three windows, poor attempts at illumination that were barely reflected back by the unpolished surface of the seven-foot mirror made of black glass built into the wall opposite the chamber's sole doorway. High up, on the wall, near where the dome of the fresco-covered ceiling began, a ring of tarnished gold sconces encircled the hall, each one of their twin arms holding a fist-sized clear crystal of lifeless luster.

Of all the contents of the room, only a solitary item remained untouched by the depressive drabness that saturated the atmosphere. Lying on the faded carpet before the dark mirror was a single gemstone, a faceted sphere of glossy black whose deep-green highlights were the only sparkle to be seen.

Suddenly the sepulchral stillness was shattered by a sound-- a low, deep thrum of energy. The dark gem's glitter grew, intensifying into a glow. From deep within its depths came a greenish-black light, pulsing in a heartbeat-like rhythm. With each pulse, both the light and the sound increased. As they did so, the entire room began to transform, shaking off its oppressive atmosphere.

All around the pulsing gem, the gray dust disappeared, bringing back the true color and luster of the carpet, the tapestries, the furniture and the fresco of the solar system painted on the domed ceiling. Even the black stone wall took on a glossiness previously lost, while each of the sconce-mounted crystals high above began to gleam with an inner white light.

The metamorphosis continued as the light and sound formed a slow crescendo, building into an inexorable climax that filled the hall. The gemstone's light, no longer pulsing but now a steady beam of greenish-black brilliance, transformed into a vaguely human-shaped silhouette. Both light and sound then quickly faded away, leaving behind a six-foot-tall figure with long, wavy, dark-brown hair and draped in a nearly floor-length cloak.

The reflection in the now unearthly polish of the transformed mirror was that of a youthful adult, a human male of noble bearing and handsome visage. Deep-brown eyes so dark they appeared black glanced over his own image reflected in the smoky mirror, taking in the familiar look of his dark clothes and athletic form. Like his knee-high boots and gold-buckled belt, his tucked-in pants, mid-thigh-length tunic and long cloak appeared black, but the bright illumination of the glowing crystals above betrayed the truth. In their light, those three items were revealed to be actually dark blackish-green in hue. Around his head, a golden circlet glimmered from beneath his thick, dark hair, an oval-shaped black gemstone set in the center of the metal band where it crossed the middle of his forehead. Satisfied that he was truly conscious once more, the regal man turned around to inspect his surroundings.

The metallic-gold trim at the neck, wrist and hem of his tunic, as well as the metallic-gold lining of his cloak, glittered in the light as he scanned the circular hall with his dark-brown gaze. Spying no evidence of violence in the room-- everything was much the way he remembered it should be other than the few small items lying scattered across the pictures of the Zodiac woven into the circular carpet-- the tall lord nodded in satisfaction. So, the enemy never reached the sacred Hall, he thought. At least our sacrifices weren't made in vain.

Images suddenly flashed through his mind, memories from that last fateful day. No, not yet, he chastised himself. Closing his eyes, he ruthlessly pushed the pictures and their accompanying emotions away. I must find out what happened first.

A determined frown crossed his handsome face, twisting its masculine beauty into a sinister mask. With a fluid grace that betrayed his quickness and strength, he strode over to the right-hand window and looked out.

An utter wasteland greeted his sight, a desolation of sand, dust and stone bathed in the dim light of a perpetual twilight. Looking down upon the devastation from atop the tall, round, castle-like tower, the dark-clad lord could see that nothing remained save the black marble wall that encircled the tower a quarter-mile away. From just beyond that somewhat distant wall, the uncomfortably close dome of what could only be called the sky rose upward to a zenith merely a quarter-mile high. There were no stars, no sun, no wind, no sound-- just muted light, powdery dust and profound silence.

A scene from the past: The dark lord is leaning out of the open tower window where he now stands, a gentle breeze stirring his shoulder-blade-length hair, and is smiling as he watches other lords and ladies stroll through a lush, green garden. The others, dressed in a rainbow of colors, are making exclamations of delight as they discover each new fascinating flower gathered from the four corners of the Universe by the lord in the tower. Beyond the marble wall, emerald-green trees and sapphire-blue skies are seen, a rival to any such beauty found on Earth.

Another scene from times long ago: Wounded and obviously exhausted, the dark lord is on his knees before the black mirror, which is glowing with an eerie greenish-black light. Eyes closed and head thrown back, he's apparently concentrating on the flow of the energy.

Outside, in a defensive posture before a gate made of wrought-iron bars, a silver-haired, silver-eyed amazon stands ready, a formidable crystal spear in her hands. She glares at the advancing hordes, daring them to come closer. As a tall, demonic-appearing woman with long, flaming-red hair urges the army on, seven humanoid shadows rush forward. As they pummel the gate with their dark energy, the amazon braces the iron with a force-field of sparkling silver light. Concentrating on both tasks at once, the white-clad amazon telepaths to the dark lord in the tower that the enemy was at the gate and that she would hold them off as long as she could.

Up in the tower, the dark lord acknowledges his captain's message. Desperation fueling his actions, he throws his arms out to either side of his kneeling form. A sphere of blackish-green energy explodes outward, engulfing everything in its path.

Down at the gate, the seven shadows combine in a massive attack that shatters the amazon's shield. Before she recovers, two warriors on the other side step forward. Both are male and wear simple gray uniforms; the one to the left has short, golden hair and the other has long, dark, reddish-brown locks. Together they raise an arm, combining their powers into an intense emerald-green bolt that smashes the female warrior to the ground. Both men smile in apparent satisfaction as the amazon's unmoving figure vanishes in a glow of sparkling silver light.

Seconds later, the leading edge of the blackish-green sphere is seen sweeping past the spot where the amazon disappeared. The enemy force pauses, seemingly confused by the dome of energy as it stops just beyond the black marble wall, then renews its attack. However, no matter how hard they try, the now immobile shield appears invincible.

At the same time within the tower, the dark lord screams out in an agonized voice, "NO!" His deep-brown eyes then open, despair and determination written all over his handsome face. Focusing his gaze on the glowing mirror, his own form begins to glow as well. When his blackish-green aura becomes brighter than that of the dark-glassed mirror, the entire tower begins to shake. As small items crash to the carpeted floor, the quaking and the light become more intense.

Outside, the ground is shaking as well, creating panic within the enemy ranks. As first fissures open up and then entire chunks of earth begin to rise in the air, the red-haired demon-like woman calls a retreat. Gathering together as best they could, the obviously frightened horde impatiently waits as four gray-uniformed figures take up positions along the outside at each of the major compass directions. To the north is the man with long, reddish-brown hair who helped with the attack on the amazon, while his partner in the deed now stands to the east. The figure to the west is a slender woman with her golden-blond hair bound in a ponytail and the figure to the south is a tall man with long, silver-blond hair and a long, white cloak. As one, they raise their arms up to the dirt-filled sky, swirling their energies together to create a sphere massive enough to encircle the army and themselves. Dead center in the sphere stands the demon-like woman, the seven shadows surrounding her tall form. As they and the sphere fade away into nothingness, she glares in enraged frustration at the black stone tower within the blackish-green dome. Once the invaders leave, the other sphere abruptly disappears as well while what remains of the trembling planet explodes apart.

The dark lord slowly shook his head, the enormity of what he had done sinking in. Behold that which you have wrought, Lord Obsidian, he thought as he continued staring down at the eerie, barren landscape below. My poor, beloved Lithos, you who once rivaled any jewel in the solar system, including that peerless sapphire known as Earth, I felt your agony in those last few moments as the power of the Mirror tore you apart. Driven by duty and desperation, I had no choice but to sacrifice everything I held dear in order to safeguard the Vortex Mirror. As it has always been since the Dawn of Time, when the Spirit of Cosmos appointed me Guardian of the Gateways, so it shall always be that my duty comes before all else.

Obsidian started to turn away from the forsaken sight in guilt and frustration when a momentary flash caught his eye. Startled, he paused, carefully searching the gray wasteland that had once been his prized Garden of Delights. Finding nothing, he dismissed the invisible barrier serving as the window's glass with a wave of his hand and leaned out of the three-foot-wide opening for a better look.

From his new vantage point, Obsidian could now see, off to his left, the wrought-iron gate where the final confrontation had taken place. The gate still showed signs of the past violence, for even from the Hall of the Mirror high atop the Obsidian Tower, the Lord of Lithos could see twisted, blasted bars within the gate's intricate structure. It was from near there that the faint shimmer had come. Scanning the area meticulously, he was about to abandon the search when a dim sparkle caught his eye again. There! he thought, focusing on the distant object. Reaching out an arm, he felt his power wrap itself around the item. To me! he Called.

The object erupted from the barren ground, exploding the thin layer of dust in a shower of fine gray particles. It streaked through the oppressively still air and landed in the dark lord's outstretched hand. Retreating back into the circular room, Obsidian restored the window's invisible barrier with an absent-minded wave.

The moment he saw it, he knew what it was. It was a Gemlord's soulstone and was all that remained of his advisor, friend and close companion, Captain Diamond of the Tower Guard.

Another scene of the past: Obsidian is sitting at the high table in the tower's Feast Hall, smiling in amusement, a golden goblet in his hand, as the beautiful amazon with silver hair and silver eyes sitting next to him tells a rather ribald joke. The couple about whom the joke is told don't seem to appreciate Diamond's sense of humor and a confrontation appears inevitable until Obsidian stands up and takes command. At his insistence, Diamond apologizes. Apparently satisfied but still appearing somewhat miffed, the insulted couple returns to their meal. The dark lord then telepaths to his friend that in all reality, he enjoyed the joke. Diamond's face breaks out into a sly, satisfied grin.

A mere inch in diameter, the multi-faceted diamond sphere that had once been the heart of a living being was now dull and dark, its facets chipped, its luster and inner light gone. Alas, my dear friend, such is the fate of all Gemlords, to live eternally young but able to die, our spirits locked away in cold, lifeless stone should our bodies be destroyed. I alone am the exception, having been given the gift of true immortality by the Spirit of Cosmos when I was chosen Guardian of the Gateways. Yet even I doubted that gift that last, fateful day; when the darkness overcame me, I was sure I would never awaken again.

Yet here I am, whole once more, while you sleep for eternity within the crystal of your power. And for what? For greed, for power, who knows. I know only that five of our own turned on us, leading the forces of Chaos against us to gain control of the Vortex Mirror. And where were those warriors of justice, the Sailor Senshi, the allies whom Queen Serenity promised would come to our aid should a major threat against the harmony of the Cosmos ever appear? Nowhere! Outnumbered by the Chaotic horde, facing leaders who knew our defenses and powers inside-out and overpowered by the Seven Shadows, we were slaughtered to a man as we foolishly hoped for reinforcements. When Ruby and Sapphire fell, leaving only you and me, I knew then that the only way to fulfill my duty to the Spirit of Cosmos was to rip the Mirror from the physical realm to a place where nothing could reach it save that which is brought through the Mirror itself.

Obsidian clenched his hand into a fist around the dead soulstone, his face a mask of blistering rage. I swear, by the spirits of each and every one of you who fell defending the Obsidian Tower and the sacred Mirror, that I will exact revenge on those responsible for your deaths and the destruction of our beloved planet, he vowed. After carefully placing the chipped and lusterless diamond on a table nearby, Obsidian walked to the center of the circular hall.

His handsome face was still grim as he looked down at the knotwork mandala woven into the center of the carpet beneath his booted feet. His eyes following the intricate loops of the pattern in what amounted to a relaxation spell, the dark lord let his anger go and centered himself, clearing his mind of all thoughts and emotions. Once that was achieved, he looked up into the domed ceiling, his deep-brown eyes unfocused as he stared through the fresco of the solar system painted there. For the first time since his reawakening, his rich baritone voice filled the room, breaking the silence that permeated the Hall of the Mirror, speaking a phrase once taught to him by another Gemlord long ago. "The movement of the stars rules everything."

The past once again: Obsidian is standing in the center of the Hall, looking up, while another man-- who has long, dark, reddish-brown hair and wears an outfit of greenish-white and emerald green-- points upward and speaks. "I've imbued the fresco with an essence of my power, my Lord. Anytime you wish to observe the patterns of the past, present or future, you will be able to do so without having me by your side. All you have to do is speak the triggering phrase I told you and the Orrery will appear."

The dark lord replies, "Thank you, Lord Nephrite. A generous gift, indeed."

The other Gemlord turns and faces his leader. The handsome man, who would later be one of the invaders under the command of the demon-like woman, salutes the Lord of Lithos by placing a fist over his heart and bowing. "Think nothing of it, my Lord. Anything to help fulfill our sacred duty of safeguarding the Mirror."

he moment the trigger was spoken, the crystal sconces dimmed, throwing the domed ceiling into deep shadows. Obsidian could feel the slight tingle of old power as the planets of the fresco seemed to leap out into the center of the darkness and begin their majestic orbits around their miniature sun. Glittering sparks appeared in the shadows, representations of the constellations within which each planet appeared to move. He frowned in guilt when he noticed that the Orrery accurately depicted the solar system as it now was-- an asteroid belt now filled his beloved homeworld's orbit.

Composing himself once more, the dark lord spoke again. "I call upon the planets of Saturn, who rules our limitations, Uranus, who rules sudden and disruptive change, Neptune, who rules the land of dreams and spirit, and Pluto, who rules our destruction and regeneration, show me the shadows of the past from the time of the death of Lithos to now."

The darkness around the Orrery shimmered, pictures forming within its depths. Obsidian's deep-brown eyes narrowed as he watched the destruction of the Moon Kingdom, the return of the Chaotic power and the resurrection of the Moon Princess, Earth Prince and the Inner Senshi, the deaths of the four traitorous generals, the second deaths of the Inner Senshi and the Earth Prince, the final showdown between the demoness and the Moon Princess, and the second resurrection of the Senshi, Prince and Princess. He also caught unclear images of other Senshi, but found himself still too weak to pull the pictures into focus.

The patterns would have continued to dance among the moving representations of the solar system, but the dark-haired lord had seen enough. With a disgusted shake of his head, he dismissed the power of the Orrery. Turning around to face the table on which Diamond's soulstone was placed, the crystals high above brightening yet again as the vision of the planets became once more merely a painting on the ceiling, Obsidian mused out loud. "So, the ones truly responsible have met their fates at the hands of the Princess and her Senshi. And though I was unable to discover what role the other Senshi had in the fall of the Silver Millennium, there is one thing I know: those Senshi directly under Queen Serenity's command were enjoying themselves at a masquerade ball while I and my Gemlords were under attack! How dare they ignore my pleas for help in defending the Vortex Mirror in favor of something as frivolous as that? Queen Serenity knew what would happen to the Cosmos should the forces of Chaos ever gain control of the Gateway to the Worlds, yet she continued on with her idiotic nightly party while my people were slaughtered and I destroyed my world.

"I swear I will make them pay for abandoning us," he snarled, addressing the cold, gray soulstone. "Somehow I will make them regret not answering our call. For Lithos, you and all the others, I will have our revenge against the Princess and her Senshi, as well as that simpleton Prince Darien.

"Protector of the Earth indeed! Had he not been such a love-struck fool, always sneaking off with the Princess, perhaps he would have noticed the signs of approaching danger. Had he informed me that my generals were beginning to act in a suspicious manner, I would have recalled them immediately and found out what was going on. Instead, he had to spend his time either hiding the Princess from the Senshi on Earth or hiding from the Senshi on the Moon, never once paying attention to what was going on under his nose."

A scene from the past: Within a palatial courtyard, Lord Obsidian is standing in front of a regal-appearing young man with short, black hair who wears black and silver armor and a long, scarlet-lined, black cloak. Light glints off the formidable sword strapped to the raven-haired man's side. Behind the Lord of Lithos stands a bound and gagged, rather angry-appearing woman with long, flaming-red hair who is surrounded by four others. The person behind the bound prisoner is the green-clad Lord Nephrite. To the prisoner's left stands a serious-looking man with short, light blond hair who wears orangish-yellow clothes while to the tall captive's right is a slender, androgynous-appearing, blue-clad man, his long golden-blond hair bound into a thick ponytail and his arms crossed. In front of the flame-haired criminal, his back to her, stands a tall man with long, silver-blond hair, a nearly floor-length pinkish-lavender cloak covering his lithe form.

"I don't care who gave you the authority, I still don't like it, Lord Obsidian," the armored man says, his anger quite apparent.

"Forgive my frankness, Your Highness, but you don't have to like it," the dark-brown-haired man replies. "You need only obey your Sovereign, the Queen. You know as well as I that Earth is the only place our Gemlord powers are greatly inhibited. Therefore, it's the only place I can exile the prisoner and be reasonably sure that she will cause no more trouble for anyone."

The Prince slowly shakes his head, his expression stubborn. "Any Gemlord, no matter how weak, is a source of potential disaster for the mortals in my care. And had you kept a better watch on the Vortex Mirror, none of this would be necessary."

Obsidian's expression becomes as enraged as that of the Prince. "Never before in our long history has any Gemlord used the Vortex Mirror without my authority. There was no need to be especially vigilant. However, I will not repeat my mistake. Nothing happened this time, but I won't give her another chance to complete whatever it was she was attempting."

"I resent this intrusion into my domain, Lord Obsidian. I don't appreciate my planet being used as a jail," the Prince insists.

"It's not a choice, Darien, it's a command from Queen Serenity herself. Are you willing to shatter the peace of the Silver Millennium over this?" the Lord of Lithos asks.

"No," Prince Darien quietly admits, his posture becoming one of defeat. "But I want more than just your word that she'll cause no trouble among my natives, Obsidian. She's one of yours, therefore she's your responsibility."

The dark lord considers the Prince's demand for a moment. "A reasonable request," he finally says. Snapping his fingers, he calls, "Lord Kunzite!"

The tall, lavender-cloaked Gemlord steps forward. Placing his fist over his heart and giving a slight bow, he inquires, "My Lord?"

"You, Lord Nephrite, Lord Zoisite and Lord Jadeite will remain here on Earth as the criminal's jailers. I'm placing the four of you under Prince Darien's personal command; you will obey him as you would obey me."

"My Lord, I must protest," the golden-blond-haired man in violet-blue interrupts, his strident voice sounding full of contempt. "To be stationed here on this backwater mudball among a horde of stinking primitives--"

Obsidian whirls around, obviously livid with rage. "You dare question my authority and insult our host all in the same breath, Lord Zoisite? Must I remind you of your proper place?"

"Please, my Lord, let me speak to him about it," Kunzite hastily pleads. In the next instant, he bows in obeisance to Prince Darien. "Your Highness, I beg your forgiveness on behalf of us all. Zoey's still relatively young for a Gemlord and rather impulsive."

As Prince Darien nods his acceptance of the silver-haired Gemlord's apology, Obsidian sighs. "Very well," the dark lord responds. "I shall dismiss his outburst this time. However, Lord Kunzite, it shall be your responsibility to see that he learns how to properly address his superiors. I don't want him starting an interplanetary incident." Noticing the expression of relief that crosses the lavender-clothed man's handsome face, Obsidian telepaths to him to watch it where Lord Zoisite was concerned, that he must not be allowed to cause unrest on Earth. Kunzite bows again, telepathing his acknowledgment.

"So where do you plan on incarcerating her? I want as little contact as possible with the mortals," the black-cloaked Prince asks, his attention focusing on Obsidian once more.

"An underground cavern on an island near Earth's North Magnetic Pole should work the best. There are few natives there and the intense magnetic field will inhibit her powers the most. With my generals stationed here to assist you in watching over her, I believe the prisoner can be locked up safely," the Lord of Lithos responds.

Prince Darien stands there a moment, a thoughtful expression on his noble face. "Fine. You may report back to our Queen that all shall be done as commanded."

Looking up from where he had been staring at the lusterless stone, Obsidian's deep-brown gaze froze on the window through which he'd retrieved it. Recalling the oppressive barrenness of the landscape beyond, he spoke out loud once more. "If that which lies beyond the Tower cannot be the blue skies and emerald fields of the Lithos I loved so well, then I wish to never look outside these walls again. Obsidian Power Magnify!"

At the sound of the triggering phrase, the dark-glassed Mirror behind the Lord of Lithos began to glow. In response, Obsidian's own greenish-black aura began to shine as well, steadily becoming stronger. Once the eerie deep-green light around the tall Gemlord was bright enough to fill the Hall, the Mirror became dark, shining no more.

He stood there a moment, head bowed and eyes closed, delicately balancing the energy from the Mirror with his own, fine-tuning his control. Satisfied, he then flung his arms out to either side, letting the power go.

Twin beams of dark-green light erupted from his palms, striking the black wall. Absorbing the energy, the stone began to glow. As more power poured into it, the deep-green glow began to spread until the entire surface was covered with the light, including the areas where the windows were. Then, abruptly, the beams were gone, all of the energy having been transferred to the Tower itself.

Pale and shaken, Obsidian dropped his arms and fell to a knee. Taking a few deep breaths to steady himself, he thought, I seem to be a bit out of practice. By the time he had regained his composure, the radiance had all but vanished from the obsidian wall. Looking around, a grim smile crossed his handsome face. Where the windows had once been was now black stone; all of the openings in the Tower to the world outside had been sealed. There, he thought. No more shall I see what you've become. Instead, I shall always remember you as you were.

Rising once more to his booted feet, he crossed the carpeted floor to where the Vortex Mirror stood. Waving an arm in a graceful arc before the dark glass, Obsidian's voice intoned a phrase well-known to him. "Great Mirror of the Vortex, to whom all routes are open and no place unknown, show me the area where Lithos would be if it still existed."

The Mirror began to shimmer again, a softer, more muted light. The unearthly polish of the dark glass's eerily-smooth surface began to ripple, like the wind-kissed water of a still lake. Obsidian's reflection became distorted, then disappeared altogether, leaving behind a vision of star-spangled space. After clearing his mind of all thought, the dark lord stepped through the shimmering, liquid-like, black glass.

He reappeared out in space, his dark cloak and long, dark-brown hair billowing in the solar wind. Made immortal by the Spirit of Cosmos itself, the vacuum of space had no effect on him. In fact, there had been times in his past where he'd gone out into the void in order to enjoy the peace, silence and awesome grandeur that was Creation. Glancing around, he noticed that he was floating in the midst of an asteroid field. A scowl darkened his expression when he realized that they were probably the pitiful remains of his homeworld. Looking outward beyond the asteroids, he saw the shining red light of Mars, the sapphire star that was Earth and, brighter than anything else, the golden glow of the Sun.

He closed his deep-brown eyes to the awe-inspiring sight, concentrating instead on expanding his psychic awareness. With every heartbeat, his mind reached further out, encompassing more and more of the space within the solar system. Finally, inevitably, he achieved his goal; from Pluto's majestic orbit all the way to the Sun and back out to Pluto's orbit again, he could sense the patterns of matter and energy from which the star and planets were made. With the music of the spheres singing in heart, mind and soul, Obsidian raised a hand high and sent out a special Call to all the Gemlords of Lithos, one they could not deny be they dead or alive.

One by one they came, streaking through space like miniature comets from wherever they'd been floating abandoned and forgotten in order to orbit around their Lord. At first dozens--then hundreds--of cold, lifeless stones, each one a smooth or faceted sphere an inch across, circled the dark-clothed man as he continued his Call, determined to bring them all home. A few more straggled in, joining the swirling kaleidoscope of muted colors, but eventually there came no more.

Obsidian continued his Call a moment longer, an odd feeling deep within that there was one left who resisted. But the sensation was borderline at best. Perhaps I'm mistaken, he thought, dropping his arm and pulling himself out of his trance. Opening his eyes, he saw the whirling spheres that surrounded him. Holding his hands out in front of himself, he formed a greenish-black orb of energy between his palms. One at a time, the orbiting soulstones spiraled into the globe, nestling against one another as the ball was filled. Once they were all collected, the dark lord took a moment to silently address what remained of the Gemlords of Lithos. Forgive me, lords and ladies, my friends nearly one and all. I never meant to abandon you to the cold nothingness of space, but I myself have only just recovered from the disaster that overtook us. Let me now honor your heroic sacrifices on my behalf by taking you home to rest within the Obsidian Tower. Bowing his head and closing his eyes in order to concentrate on his power once more, he then silently cried the trigger-phrase. Obsidian Mirror Return!

In response, the large oval-shaped obsidian on his golden belt buckle began to shine, its mirror-like surface taking on a watery sheen identical to that of the Vortex Mirror. His dark aura began to shine as well, the shimmering light causing the outline of his form to ripple and flow. Then, in a flash, he disappeared.

Back in the circular Hall atop the Tower, the dark liquid sheen continued to dance across the Mirror's face. Without warning, a pair of hands, between which floated a greenish-black ball of light, emerged from the Mirror, sending waves across the sparkling surface. The hands were quickly followed by the rest of Obsidian's tall form as he stepped back through the Mirror into the Hall. While he walked forward into the center of the circular carpet, behind him the Mirror became smooth and dark once more, its highly-polished surface now reflecting the contents of the room.

Stopping in the middle of the knotwork pattern of the carpet and letting his hands fall to either side, the dark lord watched as the energy sphere rose upward on its own. Once it had reached a height level with the crystal sconces, the orb began to spin. The soulstones left the globe in the same manner they entered it, spiraling outward one at a time, then floated gently downward, joining Diamond's soulstone on the table below.

The entire process only took a matter of minutes. When it was done, the entire tabletop lay covered with round, lusterless stones loosely grouped together by color. Obsidian stepped forward then, looking down at what remained of his entire race. He felt the profound grief he'd been suppressing well up from beneath his iron-willed control; for a moment, he was sure he would break down beneath the weight of the emotional burden. But then his deep-brown gaze locked on a pair of stones, and it was anger that filled him instead.

The soulstones that had caught the dark lord's eye were unremarkable compared to the others. Both of them were faceted stones and, like the others, they were chipped and lifeless. Sitting side by side, looking innocent enough, their dimmed colors complemented one another; one was violet-pink, the other violet blue. But Obsidian could sense the flaws deep inside that marred what little remained of their beauty.

A bitter smile flickered across Obsidian's face. "I suppose I should've known that you would have had to answer my Call as well as the others," he mused out loud. "So tell me, Kunzite, did you ever learn what was happening around you before it was too late? Or did you willingly join the traitor when offered the choice?

"And I suppose it was you, Zoisite, who first turned to Beryl's side. After all, you were quite insulted by the last assignment I gave you.

"However, it matters not. Both of you have paid for your past treachery. Just be thankful that I choose to do no more."

Seeing the soulstones of the pair of traitors, however, made the Lord of Lithos curious. Scanning the tabletop carefully, he ticked off names in his head, a momentary flash of that lord or lady appearing in his mind as he thought their names. When he was through with his impromptu roll-call, he realized that there were three still missing.

Now where--? he asked himself, walking away. Pacing back and forth across the knotwork pattern, Obsidian reviewed the visions of the Orrery in his mind. Of course! he thought, snapping his fingers. At least two of them will be there.

With quick, graceful strides, he stood before the Mirror again. Passing his hand over its surface, he intoned the trigger-phrase once more. "Great Mirror of the Vortex, to whom all routes are open and no place unknown, show me that area of the Negaverse where Beryl and Jadeite sleep."

This time, the watery image in the glowing glass was one of unrelenting darkness covered by a glittering gossamer curtain of silver light. But when Obsidian placed his hand on the shimmering surface, it stayed there instead of going through. "Huh? What's this?" he said out loud, surprise evident in his rich baritone voice. He tried again, but no matter how hard he pushed on the Mirror or concentrated on the image, his hand remained flat on the rippling glass.

Stepping back, he glared at the image shown in the Mirror. With a sudden intuitive flash, he knew what was wrong. The seal put on the Negaverse by the Imperium Silver Crystal, he thought. That's what that curtain of light is I see.

He took a couple more steps back. No pathway lies closed to the Vortex Mirror and its guardian, Obsidian seethed. His jaw set in determination, he continued his thoughts. The Silver Crystal may be the focus on the infinite energy of the Universe, but the Mirror rules infinite Space. By the Law of Cosmos itself, no place is unreachable to me. In this, my power is supreme; I shall not be denied! Bracing his legs apart, his arms raised in front of himself with his palms facing the Mirror, the dark lord yelled a trigger-phrase, tapping further into the power of the Mirror with each word. "Obsidian... Power... Magnify!"

Both the Mirror and the Gemlord began glowing at Obsidian's first sound, each word after that causing the twin auras to brightened significantly more. With the last shout still echoing through the Hall, a thick, swirling beam of deep-green energy erupted from his outstretched hands. Striking the dark glass and rippling its liquid surface, the power disappeared.

Beyond the Mirror, however, Obsidian could feel his power continue to be blocked by the Silver Crystal's barrier. Moment by moment, he steadily increased the pressure, until deep-green light shone throughout the circular room and Obsidian's cloak and hair were blown back by the force of the beam. With a final explosive "Ha!", he threw everything he had left at the barrier all at once. As he collapsed to the ground, the dark light abruptly blinked out and the silver seal around the Negaverse shattered into a million shimmering pieces. Then they too faded into nothingness.

Far away, in another dimension, on a small, watery world known as Earth, a teen-age girl lay stomach-down on her frilly pink-and-white bed. With one foot on the bedspread and the other lazily waving in the air, her head resting on slender hands, she was concentrating on the comic book lying in front of her. Shiny blond hair, worn in a pair of ponytails so long that she had to consistantly twist some of her hair up into spherical buns on top of her head in order to keep them from dragging on the ground, spilled from her head to lie all over the lace-trimmed cover. Near her foot, curled up on a pink-covered pillow, a black cat with a remarkable spot of white fur-- it looked just like a crescent moon with horns pointing upward-- on its forehead lay watching as the teen flipped a page.

All around them, the girl's room showed signs of that transition from child to adult all teen-agers underwent. Dolls and stuffed animals on shelves shared the wall with unicorn posters and a school calendar. And the pink-and-white frills of a young girl's bedroom were balanced by the cosmetics that were lined up on top of the dresser in front of the mirror.

"Honestly, Serena," the black cat said in a very human-sounding, female voice. "Shouldn't you be studying instead of reading that?"

The blond teen kept perusing the comic, unperturbed. For her, talking cats were a part of everyday life. "Don't worry, Luna," she replied, blue eyes still glued to the colorful pages. "I've got loads of time. There's still three days before my next test. Besides, I've just gotta see how Sailor V gets outta this mess."

Sighing deeply, the dark cat slowly shook her head. "I wish you were as involved with real Sailor business as you are all this made-up stuff."

"Quiet, Luna. I'm trying to read. Ooooh! This is the good part... Get him, Sailor V! Toast that slimeball! OWWW!"

At Serena's unexpected cry, Luna quickly jumped into a standing position. Seeing the slender girl roll onto her right side, curling up and clutching her stomach with both arms, the feline advisor became alarmed. "Serena! What's wrong?"

"Oww! I don't know! It feels like someone's inside tryin' to make me explode," the teen-ager moaned, rocking back and forth.

"Well, it couldn't have been those two ice cream cones and three candy bars you had for an after-school snack," the midnight-furred cat said, her voice puzzled, as she walked over to look at Serena's agonized face. "You've eaten much worse and never had a problem before."

"Very... funny... Luna. I'll remember this... next time... you're sick. Owwwww! Makeitstopmakeitstopmakeitstop!"

"I wish I could, but I haven't got a clue," Luna replied. She was still looking down at Serena's curled-up form, panic starting to fill her, when her keen feline ears suddenly caught the distinctive sound of breaking crystal. "Did you hear that?"

"Yeah. Sounded like somethin' broke," the slender blond answered. She suddenly bolted upright on the bed. "Hey! The pain's gone!"

"It is?"

"Strange," Serena mused. "It went away so fast, it was almost like someone flipped a switch and shut it off."

"I've got a bad feeling about this. Why did the pain go away when we heard that sound?"

The teen-aged girl shrugged. "Ya got me."

"And that noise was most definitely the sound of shattering crystal."

"But that's impossible, Luna. The only thing I have in here that's crystal is--" Serena stopped in mid-sentence, blue eyes going wide in alarm. Bounding from the bed, her long ponytails flying, she rushed over to her maple dresser. Pulling open drawers, she frantically searched through stacks of neatly-folded clothes until she finally laid a hand on what she was looking for. A look of triumph on her pretty face, Serena pulled the object out.

It was an ordinary-appearing brooch, solid gold with a five-pointed star etched on the surface. But what she wanted to see was inside. With a practiced flip of her wrist, she flicked open the golden case. Nestled inside was a colorless crystal.

A multi-faceted sphere of awe-inspiring beauty and unearthly clarity, the silver-sheened stone caught the sunlight filtering in through the bedroom window, turning the light into thousands of tiny, radiant, shimmering rainbows. Inspecting the dazzling sight carefully, Serena was about to put it away in relief when a chance turn of her hand caused the crystal to lose much of its sparkle. Huh? she thought as she peered closer at the suddenly visible shadow in the heart of the stone. "Oh, no. How did this happen?"

"How did what happen?" Luna asked, nimbly leaping from the bed to the top of the ransacked dresser.

The blond teen held up the locket so that her advisor could see the crystal within. "It's broken, Luna. There's a crack deep inside that wasn't there before. But I didn't think anything could harm the Imperium Silver Crystal except for the wielder herself. And I've been so careful!" she whined.

"I don't think it's anything you did," the black feline reassured. Sitting down and thinking over the events of the last few minutes, her tail whipping from side to side in slight agitation, Luna stared at the deep-green shadow inside the Crystal. For some reason, that color reminds me of something. Twitching her whiskers in annoyance at not having a better memory, Luna added, "If you want my opinion, I'd say that somehow the Imperium Silver Crystal was attacked by something and that the pain you felt was that attack."

Serena's eyes grew wider. "Attacked? How? I thought the Crystal was the most powerful thing in the Universe."

"In its own element of energy patterns and the flow of energy within the Universe, the Imperium Silver Crystal is unmatched. But there are other things that are just as powerful in their own way."

"Oh? Like what?"

"Never mind, Serena. Just take my word for it that there are other items out there that represent various aspects of the Law of Cosmos. What bothers me is that whatever cracked the Crystal is either something almost as powerful as the Crystal itself-- or it's one of those other items. Either way, I don't like this one bit."

"Do you think there's trouble ahead?" the slender girl asked.

"I wish I knew," the cat finally replied.

Back in the pocket-sized dimension where the Obsidian Tower was now located, the dark lord slowly rose to his feet. Still weary from the enormous burden of power he'd channeled, Obsidian took the time to shake off the worst effects before approaching the Vortex Mirror again. The image in the Mirror's rippling surface was now clear; it showed a shadowy cavern similar to that one on Earth in which he'd imprisoned the rebel Gemlord Beryl long ago. Frowning at that realization, Obsidian stepped into the Mirror. This time, he slipped through with ease.

Once in the Negaverse cavern, the Lord of Lithos drew his blackish-green cloak closer around his tall form. Cold and forbidding, the eerily-illuminated stone seemed to suck up his warmth. He could smell the malignant scent of Chaos in the air. How appropriate, he thought to himself as he started searching the cavern with his psychic powers.

Something registered on his heightened senses. Curious, he strode over to where the sensation had come. Looking at the sight, Obsidian couldn't help but smile in grim satisfaction.

Up against a thick stalagmite leaned a transparent crystal, a lone figure frozen inside. The person was a youthful-appearing man with short, wavy, light-blond hair. Wearing a gray uniform, the imprisoned male appeared frozen in an attitude of pleading horror, one arm upraised to ward off a power he couldn't resist. Obsidian put a hand on the clear crystal, sensing the energy patterns within. So, he silently said. You sleep within a construct only Beryl can remove. And if the construct's destroyed by other means, you'll instantly die. An interesting quandary indeed.

He cast out with his mind again, searching for the other two soulstones still unaccounted for. One of those two he knew would be here somewhere, but the second one's location remained a mystery. Not finding either one in the immediate area, the dark lord sent out his special Call.

Only a single soulstone came in response, a deep red sphere whose facets were full of flashing fire. Startled, Obsidian realized that he was looking upon not a dead Gemlord but one in a comatose state. Mind reeling, he reached up and grabbed the floating stone-- then instantly let it go with a shout of shock and disgust.

The spirit within the stone may have been that of Beryl once, but nothing now remained of that rebellious, ambitious Gemlord. Instead, the soulstone housed a spirit of pure Chaos, lying dormant and slowly recovering strength, waiting for the time for it to reawaken and spread destruction again.

As a guardian of the Cosmos, Chaos was Obsidian's mortal enemy. His duty to the Universe was clear-- no matter what, he could not suffer an agent of Chaos gaining a foothold within the Universe itself. So long as Beryl's physical remains existed, the sleeping Chaotic spirit had a way to become active and terrorize physical reality. Without another thought, the Lord of Lithos grabbed the dark stone once more. Then, in a fluid move strengthened by his greenish-black energy, he dashed the soulstone to the ground, where it shattered into a thousand pieces. As the deep ruby shards skidded across the cavern's stone floor, their color fading into dull reddish-gray, Obsidian thought he saw a shadowy mist rise up from the point of impact. But the vision was quickly gone, so the dark lord dismissed it from his mind.

Nearby, another crash of shattering crystal echoed in the oppressive cavern. Glancing over at the transparent prison, Obsidian dispassionately watched as the colorless fragments melted away, letting the blond man's body fall to the ground. Then that also disappeared, leaving behind a smooth sphere of glowing orangish-yellow. As he picked up the soulstone and cupped it in his hand, the dark lord caught a momentary flash from the spirit within before the stone became lifeless yellowish-gray. Mildly surprised, the Lord of Lithos commented out loud, "My forgiveness, Jadeite? Perhaps one day. But for now, you can lie within the stillness of death with both your victims and your conspirators." Clenching his fist around the stone, Obsidian looked around the frigid, shadowy cave.

Strange, he thought, thinking back to the feeling of resistance he'd felt during his first Call. I didn't truly expect him here, since the Orrery showed him dying on Earth, yet he shouldn't have been able to ignore my summons. Shrugging his worry aside, he continued, Well, no matter. It's a loose end I shall deal with in time. Obsidian Mirror Return!

Once back in the familiar, comfortable surroundings of the Obsidian Tower, the dark lord walked over to the stone-covered table and set Jadeite's soulstone down next to those of Kunzite and Zoisite. With Beryl's stone destroyed, only one traitor remained at large.

Obsidian scowled, unwilling to let that fact distract him. No, forget about not finding him. Now is the time to concentrate on a way to make the Senshi pay for abandoning us. I have only enough energy left to resurrect one of you. Since the Mirror's ability to gather power is severely hampered by being cut off from the rest of the Universe, it may be a long time before I'm able to bring back another. Which one of you should I recall to my side so that we may punish the Senshi?

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"The Silverlands", "The Obsidian Tower", and "The Rose Garden" all © 1997 - by Dianna Silver. All Rights Reserved