Title Notice: The title was suggested by Dagmar Buse, who appears as a minor character in this. The series title was suggested by Peregrine.
Special Thanks: Special thanks go out to Elizabeth Wegner, my true sister. No one ever taught me more than you, Liz. No one ever will, either.
Regular Thanks: Dagmar, Peregrine, SilvorMoon, WhiteZeo, everyone else who helped me and made me finish this first fic on pain of getting my head chopped off...thanks. :) I think....
Beta Thanks: Cat did this one...are you nuts yet? :) I know I am...
What he didn't see, and what the Rangers didn't see as their attention was all focused on the Machines in front of them, was Zedd looking away from the fight for a moment and spying him. If the evil sorcerer's face could've been seen, it would have been smirking. Casually he dropped his staff to point at Jason, then fired a blood-red bolt of energy towards the now ex-Gold Ranger.
Jason stiffened for a moment, taken by surprise, and felt a cold iciness filling his soul as his weakened system was overwhelmed by a deep and abiding evil. A voice whispered to him, You are the slave of Lord Zedd, and no other. Only his commands will you obey, now and forever.
He shuddered, then his normally warm eyes turned scarlet. As you command, my lord. he thought. As you command.
Zedd lifted his staff, resuming his watch of the battle without anyone ever having noticed what was going on. Jason belonged to him now, though he would conceal this knowledge from everyone else until Zedd determined the time was right. He cast a quick glance to his side, where Rita was cheering on first Mondo, then the Rangers. Perfect. Soon I shall be rid of this cackling witch...and then my son and I shall crush the Rangers and take this world for our own...again.
Below him, Jason's eyes went back to their normal color, not a trace of the evil that now filled him displaying. To all outward signs and scans, Zedd had done nothing to him. But secretly he now watched his friends with an eye to their every weakness, to knowing everything that could be used as a weapon against them. He burned with the desire to make them hurt, to make them suffer...
After all, what else could the son of Lord Zedd do?
None of the Rangers had seen much of Jason since he had returned the Gold Powers to Trey. Tommy understood what his friend was going through, however. He'd been there himself, and he was glad Jason had Emily to talk to and help him through it. Though the blonde knew nothing of what he had been through, the few times they had seen Jason, Emily had been right there beside him, helping in every way possible.
What none of them knew was, that though they might not be seeing Jason all that much, he was seeing them quite frequently. Whenever they worked out or went into battle, he observed them from the shadows, eyes flaring scarlet upon occasion. He would be ready, when his father and master called.
In the Lunar Palace, Zedd was watching things as he had so frequently in the "old days". Rita was fluttering around with Finster, Goldar, and Rito in tow, putting things back in order all over the palace. Her husband ignored it all, his only focus the Earth and the Rangers that defended it. And someone else.
He was watching Jason. The dark lord approved mightily of the son he had spawned during a brief visit some years earlier. It was time I drew him to my service. The enslavement spell won't last forever, but it will do until he is accostumed to being in my entourage and will give me no trouble about obeying my commands.
His eyes flickered briefly to where Rita was haraunging Finster over the placement of some of the draperies and frowned. And that shall be the first order of business. During their stay on M-51, Zedd had fallen into a habit of visiting with Finster and Master Vile's scientific lackeys, for lack of anything better to do with his time. One of the experiments they had gotten into had backlashed on him, and he'd passed out for several days. When he'd recovered, two facts had been crystal clear to him.
The first was that Jason Lee Scott was his only son and heir to all his power. The second was that Rita had used a love potion on him to trick him into marrying her. The potion's effects had been too strong for the antidote to work on him previously, but when it combined with the effects of the acacident, it had cleared his mind of love-struck nonsense.
He had maintained the sham, however, to the best of his ability. It would make it all the more entertaining, and easier, once he revealed to Rita that her scheme had ultimately failed. And it shall be my son who does it. He found himself thinking of Jason more and more as 'his son' than anything else lately. Suddenly he came to a conclusion. He would waste no further time.
"Rita, it is time to attack the Rangers once more!" he declared. "And I have a very special secret weapon that will destroy them this time."
His wife snorted. "I've heard that one a few billion times! What's so different about this one?"
Zedd just smiled. "You shall see." He rose up, lifting his staff as the rest of his court drew nearer. They were going to love this! And so was he...."First and only son of my body and my blood, appear! The time to serve your master and father has arrived!"
Rita, Rito, Finster, and Goldar were expecting some hideous creature of destruction, or a fierce warrior in armor, to appear. They were not expecting to see a flash of brilliant red light burst up from the floor beside Zedd, and fade away to reveal the calm, quiet form of Jason Lee Scott.
"What's he doing here?" Rita hissed, her fingers tightening on her staff. "You can't mean he's your son?" She hadn't even known her husband had a son! What else did he have that she didn't know about...
Zedd nodded, placing a hand on Jason's shoulder. "Indeed he is. My first and only son and heir to all my power and my empire." It had been the faint memory of the possibility of this child's existence that had made him want to have a child with Rita, though the very notion now was nauseating, and unnecessary. "Speak, Jason."
"I serve and obey only you, father," Jason's voice was a monotone and his slightly glassy gaze did not waver from some point in front of him. "Forever."
A smile cracked Rita's face and she swept closer to her new stepson. "Excellent! You've got him under a spell, too?"
"Just for now." Zedd admitted. "Once he's gotten used to being my offspring and I've trained him, then I'll take it off and he'll be formally made my heir back in the Dark Galaxy."
Goldar snorted. "What makes you think that the Rangers can't lift the spell before then?"
In answer, Zedd only nodded briefly to Jason. The ex-Ranger exploded off the dias, driving at the armored monkey with a force and speed he had never before possessed. Goldar had time only to cry out before he was placed flat on his back, with Jason's foot directly on his throat. The enslaved teen glanced back at his father for further instructions.
"Let him up, son," Zedd ordered. "I think that's enough of a demonstration." As Jason stepped back and Goldar, head low in shame, got to his feet, the lord continud, "You see, Jason no longer holds back because of any silly rules or promises. He is free to use his entire potential, and that means if the Rangers try to release him before I'm ready for him to be released...they'll regret it."
Rita nodded, pleased. If she'd known Jason was Zedd's son before this, she would have tried to recruit him herself! "So how is he going to help us destroy the Rangers? It's not as if he's got his powers anymore!"
"No, that's true," Zedd slowly nodded. "I've already made arrangements to remedy that, however."
"You have something to make an evil Ranger?" Rita's eyes lit up with dark fire, her mind springing to life with thoughts of how that could be useful.
Zedd shook his head. "Something...more interesting. Less likely to turn on me." He smiled briefly. "Let me show you."
He lifted his staff again, pointing it at Jason. Crystal clear light poured out, caressing his son almost gently. The light grew darker, enveloping him in a cloud of shadows, then it vanished, revealing the new and improved Jason Lee Scott, born of Lord Zedd, Master of Evil.
His feet were encased in boots that came to his knees. His legs, torso, and upper arms were wrapped around by a wave of something that was neither fabric nor metal. Gloves extended from his elbows to his fingertips, and on his head was a helmet vaguely similiar to that of a Ranger, but completely blank, save for a slightly tinted visor. Every last inch of it was blood-red, save for a design upon the chest: that of a black dragon.
"This is the armor worn by the firstborn son of my family," Zedd's voice held a strange catch to it, one he quickly dismissed. "And the name borne by those who wear it is...the Shadow Dragon."
Behind the helmet, Jason's eyes flickered momentarily between red and their natural state, but his absolutely rigid stance didn't so much as twitch. His entire attention was focused one hundred percent on his father and his father's words.
"Excellent choice," Rita nodded, walking around him quickly. "I always thought he looked best in red!"
Zedd smiled. Such a perfect opportunity. How could he pass it up? "Rita."
"What, Zeddikins?" Rita ignored the dangerous tone that had entered his voice, being too busy checking out the skin-tight uniform that her stepson had on now. Oh, yes, this covers him just right in all the right places...
"I'm going to demonstrate some of the Shadow Dragon's abilities," he said smoothly. Jason glanced at the sorcerer, and Zedd smiled. "Jason...drive this conniving witch out of my castle and destroy her powers."
Rita gaped in shock at what she had just heard. She tried to deny it, brought her staff up to blast this upstart and Zedd both, only to watch helplessly as it was batted aside as if it were a child's plaything by one of Jason's gloved hands. A sword appeared in the other one, slicing downwards at an angle, and a clatter of metal on metal said plainer than anything that her staff was nothing more than useless junk now, taking with it the greater part of her powers.
"Zedd! Stop him, you've proven your point, he's powerful!" Rita backed away as the point of the blade suddenly appeared in front of her face and began to edge towards her. "What is he doing?" her voice climbed easily into the upper registers of sheer panic.
Her husband just chuckled. "He's doing just as I told him to. You are banished from here forever! If you are ever seen here again, whoever does it will have not only the right, but the duty to kill you! Now, go!"
"No! You can't do this to me!" Rita shrieked, wanting to dodge and finding nowhere to go. "I'll be back, Zedd, I swear it! I'll be back!"
Picking up her skirts, she concentrated what energy she had left, and teleported away. She could only hope she could make it to her destination safely.
As she vanished, Zedd turned his gaze upon Rito. The empty-headed sack of bones scratched his skull. "Uh, where'd Rita go?" he blathered. Zedd's eyes narrowed.
"The same place you're about to go!" a blast of his staff kicked the walking skeleton out of the palace and soaring down to Earth on the same trail Rita had left behind. Zedd resumed his seat upon the throne, gesturing for Jason and Goldar to stand on each side of him. "My warriors, we have much to prepare for. Jason, you will have to return to Earth shortly, to maintain your secret." The Shadow Dragon bowed his head obediently. "But until then...we have plans to make. Finster, come here. This is what you must do."
"So what do you think of Earth life, Trey?" Rocky DeSantos, Blue Zeo Ranger, asked, biting into a sandwhich. Mmmm....Kat's one heck of a sandwhich maker.
"It is quite different from what I'm used to," the Lord of Triforia, who had returned just that day, told him. Five days since the defeat of Mondo and Machina. In the vernacular of his companions, time had certainly flown.
Tanya sipped a drink, then glanced around with a faint frown. "Has anyone seen Jason lately?" the ex-Gold Ranger had been practically missing, except for the occasional brief phone call, for the last two days.
"I wish," Kat sighed deeply. "He's really been depressed since losing the Gold powers." I wonder where Tommy is? He's usually not this late...
Adam nodded. "Maybe we should go talk to him?"
"Has this sort of even happened before to any of you?" Trey asked with a raised eyebrow. "It has been my experience that if one has someone to talk to that has shared a similiar event, it is easier to speak."
As the other Rangers muddled through it, Kat nodded. "Tommy lost his powers before, and he and Jason are best friends. I think they're going on some sort of "male bonding" hiking trip this weekend, anyway, maybe they're going to talk them?"
The chatter fell to other things just then, of other friends and of old battles, of things Trey had done while seeking to reunite himself, and things they might all do now that he was staying on Earth for a while. Kat was fairly silent, however, glancing up repeatedly and futilely to look for a familiar red shirt coming through the trees.
Now, however, things were different. Everything that had been black was still there, while those that were red or gold or any other color were replaced by things that were black. The entire room looked as if it were in mourning for something. Not to mention the strange sensation Tommy had that someone was looking at him the whole time he was here.
"How are you feeling, bro?" the Red Ranger wondered. Jason was half-curled on his bed, his eyes shut. He didn't move an inch as he answered.
"I'm fine. I already told you that, and I've been telling you that for the last five days that I'm fine!" Jason practically snapped the words out. What a moron. It's going to be so much fun smashing his silly face in.
Tommy frowned. He recognized the sympotoms of what Jason was going through, and wanted to help him. He'd been through it himself: the horror and helplessness of losing the Power. Jason had to be feeling it worse; the Gold powers had come close to killing Jason even before he had lost them. "I know what you're going through, Jase. I've been there, remember?"
"Yes, I remember," the young man's voice was tight and controlled, not letting a single true emotion pass through. I could slaughter him where he stands, and he wouldn't be able to raise a finger fast enough to help himself. The Shadow Dragon kept the sneer off his face by effort. It would be soon enough that he would destroy them all...
Tommy sighed. He remembered how he felt all the times he'd lost his powers, and he wanted to bring Jason out of the pain as Jason had done for him so many times. You can't make him feel better, though, not unless he wants to feel better, he reminded himself. He opened his mouth to suggest something else, when his eye fell on Jason's small digital clock. The..the picnic for Trey....oh, no! I'm late!! "Jason, I've got to run. The others are having a picnic for Trey, sort of welcoming him to Earth for a while. Want to come?"
His friend slowly raised his head and delivered a sharp-eyed look. "I don't think so. I've got other plans."
Tommy frowned, reaching his hand out just a little, then letting it fall as Jason turned back around and closed his eyes. "I'll ...see you later?" a faint grunt was his only answer. The Rangers' leader sighed, then headed out. There were times when he truly did not understand his friend. Thankfully those were few and far between.
Behind him, Jason's eyes flew open suddenly, and were now a pulsating blood red. His father's voice echoed in his mind, sharp and clear. Shadow Dragon, my son. Go to the Rangers' picnic and show them the power of the house of Zedd.
I hear and obey, my father.
He bowed his head briefly, then concentrated. His human parents wouldn't be around for several hours, so he had nothing to worry about. With a swish of shadow, the room was empty.
"Kat?" Tanya touched her friend's hand, and looked at her. "Is something wrong?"
The Pink Ranger shrugged, startled a little. "I'm ...I'm not sure. Things...feel...wrong."
Tanya frowned. "What do you mean?"
"I'm not sure," was all Kat had time to say before a powerful red-gloved fist slammed it's way into her stomach. Tanya acted on instinct drilled into her by Adam, throwing herself back and looking to see what the attacker was.
It was a tall young man, she presumed it was male at any rate, clad from head to foot in a strange red armor-like outfit with a dragon etched in black upon the chest. He was looking contempoustly at where Kat lay on the ground, a furrow driven into the earth where she had practically flown back from his blow.
"Who are you?" the other Rangers had quickly fallen into their fighting stances, glad that the girls had chosen a picnic area that was out of the way of the normal park traffic. Adam was staring at the strange enemy. "What do you want?"
The stranger seemed to smile, or at least gave off the impression of humor. "Your destruction." He bowed slowly and mockingly. "I am the Shadow Dragon, son and heir of Lord Zedd. It is my duty to destroy you...my duty and my pleasure."
Kat was getting up, her head clearing from the blow. "Great. Just what we needed....an evil Ranger." She came close to spitting the words out; the thought of another living being under the thumb of Rita and Zedd the way she had once been was completely horrific to her.
"A Ranger?" Shadow Dragon snorted, slowly walking towards the group. "I wouldn't lower myself like that. I am the Shadow Dragon, Prince and Heir to the Dark Galaxy, and your destroyer. Morph if you like...it will do you no good, and might prolong my amusement."
He actually seemed to be waiting for them to morph, and the Rangers didn't even consider not using what advantages they could. "It's morphin' time!" Kat shouted as she joined the others.
"Zeo Ranger I, Pink!"
"Zeo Ranger II, Yellow!"
"Zeo Ranger III, Blue!"
"Zeo Ranger IV, Green!"
"Gold Ranger Power!"
The five of them had almost suspected that this 'Shadow Dragon' would be gone by the time they had morphed, but instead as the momentary light faded from their transformation, he was racing towards them with a bright-edged sword upraised.
It had been quite some time since the Rangers had faced an evil warrior of this level, and it was obviously a very unfair match. Kat, Tanya, Adam, Rocky, and Trey were getting their behinds handed to them, rather easily. The Shadow Dragon moved like lightning, the force behind his blows overpowering, his movements calculated to cause the most amount of damage to the Rangers, while he escaped without so much as a scratch on his hide.
Finally the five of them regrouped almost where they'd started from, with Kat staring with deep anger at the warrior. "You can't possibly be Zedd's son! He and Rita haven't been married that long, and she'd rather die than have a kid by him!" Not that I blame her!
The Shadow Dragon laughed coldly. "I have no blood of that witch in my veins! I was sired many years ago by my lord father...and that is all you need to know about me!" He looked at Kat a bit visciously. "I will most definitly be seeing you again, Pink Ranger....if there is one thing I can say about that boyfriend of yours....he has excellent taste!" A faint leer seemed to shine out from under the helmet, and then with a flicker of power only to mark it, he was gone.
Slowly the Rangers demorphed, and Kat leaned against the picnic table, shaking like a leaf. "Where's Tommy?" was all she said. The others said nothing, as Tanya came to gently put her arms around her friend.
"What's going on?" everyone turned as the voice came from behind them, and saw Tommy there with a frown on his face. "Did I miss something?"
Jason nodded briefly. "I live to serve you and you alone, Father," he said, his voice echoing slightly in the vast chamber. "What are your commands?"
I'm going to have to release his mind soon. I have a strong grip on it, but if Zordon learns of this and breaks my spell beforehand, it could have...unforeseen side effects. I will not have that. Zedd considered for a moment, then nodded. "Return to Earth for now, and maintain your secret as always. I will summon you again when I need you."
Jason bowed, then vanished as quickly as he had arrived. Zedd leaned back in his throne and considered. He really should have claimed Jason when he had first arrived on Earth, and part of the reason he had tried to knock his son's confidance in his leadership skills out from under him after the destruction of Tommy's Green powers had been an attempt to get the then-Red Ranger to turn to him in need. Admittedly it wasn't the best laid out plan he'd ever had, but considering that he hadn't really known Jason was his offspring then, it could be forgiven. All he had possessed was a vague sensation that there was something...different...about the Red Ranger. Something about the fiery core of him that Zedd found familiar...
His lips thinned briefly at the memory of his son's conception so many years earlier. Zedd had been travelling around, exploring various galaxies and getting out of his home palace for a while. During his trip he had happened across Earth, and decided to flirt with danger by visiting the world that had Zordon of Eltar stationed on it. Keeping himself shielded had been easy, and Zedd had amused himself by taking a variety of forms and shapes during his visit.
Then a young woman had caught his eye. A beautiful young woman, who had reminded him in various ways of someone he knew back on his world. He had followed her invisibly for a time, learning about her, and had been somewhat peeved to discover she was married. Deciding that wouldn't get in his way, he watched a bit longer, and discovered another interesting fact: that her husband was going to be out of town for several weeks quite shortly. This was Zedd's perfect chance, and one he took.
While his target's husband was busy and off his guard, Zedd struck. The husband would leave on his usual date, but the wife would not know. Zedd took on the husband's form, accurate to the last detail, and informed the lady that "he" wouldn't need to leave for another week. The true husband left on schedule, false memories of a farewell with his wife implanted, while the lady slept in that day, convinced her husband still slept beside her.
When she had awakened, the first thing her eyes beheld was her beloved husband near her, gazing at her. It was the beginning of one of the most wonderful weeks of her life, as they entertained themselves frequently. Zedd said and did nothing to indicate that he wasn't her husband, and with his spells kept her mind muddled so that nothing seemed to be unusual about anything that went on. When the week he had chosen was up, Zedd was well aware that his offspring was growing inside of her; his magic had told him that.
He had intended to bring her with him if that happened, but chose in the end not to. He didn't want to alert Zordon to the fact he'd been there, and the non-detection spells were growing somewhat thin and weak already. In the end, he had simply vanished, weaving spells on her mind so she would never question anything that had happened. He had more or less forgotten about the incipeint offspring over the years, until the accident had made him realize that what he was seeing in Jason was a reflection of himself.
And now that his son was his at last....it would only be a matter of time before the entire world was at his feet...forever.
"Who is this Shadow Dragon, Zordon?" Rocky asked, worry in his eyes as he looked up at their mentor. "Is what he said true?"
Zordon nodded slowly, a grave look on his face. "It is indeed, Rangers. The Shadow Dragon armor can only be used by those of the bloodline of Lord Zedd, and there is no other known of that line save for Zedd himself. He must have sired this child without my knowledge, and kept it secret from all the universe. Whoever else he is, this truly is the son of Zedd."
Tanya shuddered. "There's actually a child of Zedd in existence." She hadn't dealt with the skinless maniac as long as the others had, but she felt the same revulsion, spawned by the tales that the others had told her. "I think I'm going to be sick."
"You're not the only one," Kat couldn't get the way that the Dragon had been looking at her out of her mind. It made her feel slimy all over to think of that thing looking at her like that!
Zordon spoke quietly. "You must be careful, Rangers. Zedd's son could be anywhere and could be anyone, even someone you know. Do not accuse anyone...but be careful. Whomsoever this is might not be aware of their nature, they could be under one of Zedd's spells as well, and if they are, then once they are free the Shadow Dragon armor and powers can be used for good, if they so choose." He paused. "But for now, return to your homes. We will be watching to see what Zedd and his son do, and we will keep you advised."
Tommy looked as if he were going to say something, but instead simply teleported away with Kat. The others also left, and Zordon sighed deeply as only he and Alpha were left in the Power Chamber.
The little droid looked at him worriedly. "Aren't you going to tell them, Zordon?"
"Not now, Alpha," Zordon's voice was very heavy and very tired. "Let us see what happens. Jason is very strong, and I do not know the power of the spell Zedd has him under. We must be careful. Premature breaking of it could result in permanent mental damage. He will not be able to truly harm the Rangers...his own honor will prevent it, regardless of Zedd's power."
The old wizard fell silent as Alpha began to take care of some sensor upgrades in the Power Chamber. He had known for years, since just after the first Rangers were chosen, that Zedd was Jason's father. The blood tests made it perfectly clear, as well as something else: a birthmark on the inside of Jason's left arm, a small 'z', legacy of the alien blood of Zedd's family. Jason had never asked about it, probably never even thought about it. But Zordon knew what it was...and had dreaded the day when Zedd realized who his offspring truly was, and what he would do about it.
Please try to be free, Jason. We will help you...no matter what, we will help you.
"You will be safe, Katherine," Zordon assured her frequently. "We are watching to be certain nothing occurs."
It took him ten minutes after that to reassure her that they weren't going to watch her in "sensitive situations", such as when she and Tommy were having private moments or the shower..
"Jason's looking really good, isn't he?" Tanya said, her eyes flickering to the black-clad figure on the mats. "Is he practicing for anything or just working out?"
"I think just working out," Tommy shrugged. "And he's never been better than this."
His eyes darkened just a bit. I've seen those moves...somewhere else...his mind presented him with the image of the Shadow Dragon in one of those smooth, elegant powerful moves that he had used against them frequently the last week. NO. It can't be. Jason isn't Zedd's son, I've met his father, they're exactly alike! It's just a coincidence.... But he couldn't stop thinking about it.
Trey sipped at the drink he had been given with a faintly curious expression, then glanced back at the former Gold Ranger. Something was wrong with him, but the Triforian lord had no idea just what it was, or how he knew. Perhaps some sort of resonance left over from sharing the Golden powers? he considered that. It was possible; such things had been known during the few times that power had been transferred among various beings on his homeworld.
There is something...as if of evil...about him. And not just imposed upon him. Evil is a part of his nature, yet the Golden powers accepted him. He considered. If that is so, then the evil does not dominate him, and perhaps never shall. Or at least, did not at the time when he was given the power. Anyone can change...yet I always believed Jason was more than strong enough to handle anything of evil.
He frowned. I believe I shall keep an eye upon him.
Jason, on the mat, smiled as if at something he was thinking was quite amusing. To be quite honest, it was. The thought of him, their enemy and the son of their enemy, being quite so calmly among them was quite tantalizing to him. His eyes flicked unnoticeably from his girlfriend, serving drinks to everyone around the Juice Bar, to Kat, sitting beside Tommy and with just the faintest hint of panic in her crystal blue eyes.
Always have liked blondes, he grinned to himself. Wonder if I could persuade Father to let me have a collection of them once we take over? I can see two I want to start with right now...
Sliding into his last kata, he let himself go completely free, releasing every ounce of power and energy he had in him. In his desire for the workout, and so deep in his thoughts, he didn't notice someone was watching him. Seated beside the workout area was a woman who hadn't taken her eyes off him since he'd started to work out. It would not be quite right to say that she was drooling....but it also wouldn't be that far from the truth to say she wasn't.
Midway into his final set of movements, Jason decided to display a little for the crowd he knew was watching, especially a few certain members of it. With a sleek twist, his tank top came cascading to the floor and was casually kicked to one side. In the years he'd been gone from Angel Grove, he hadn't lost a single ounce of muscle; indeed, it was said by some who would be in the know that he had gained some. Every inch of those muscles were now liberally streaked with sweat, and as he began his workout anew, they glowed with good health and skill. A low whistle, from nowhere in particular, came through the room, and Jason thinned his lips briefly in something that might've been a smile a few weeks earlier. I truly love this part...
As he leaped and whirled and exploded into a magnificent kata the likes of which had yet to be seen on Earth, every female with a pulse in the place turned to look, including Emily and the woman who hadn't stopped watching him yet. Just as Emily passed her, with the blonde's head turned to gaze unerringly at the man she loved, the woman's hand fell bonelessly into her lap, striking the plate of cheeseburger and fries at just the most perfect angle to decorate Emily's head and shoulders liberally.
"Ohh!!" the young waitress frowned at the mess, more annoyed at having to take her eyes off Jason than anythign else, and started to clean up what had hit the floor. "I should've been paying more attention to where I was going!"
The woman shrugged. "It was my fault...do you know if he has a girlfriend?" her eyes were still locked on Jason, who hadn't broken out of his kata's rhythm for a moment.
"Yes, he does," Emily's voice held just the slightest touch of an edge. "Me."
The other woman blinked, hope fading in her eyes. "Oh. You're very lucky."
Emily smiled, a strange, almost sad smile as she got the last of the mess up. "More than you know, my friend. More than you know."
I have something else to do first. He nodded briefly to himself, then glanced around the chamber. Everything was fully prepared for what he was about to do, and he couldn't deny that he was somewhat nervous. His memories of the last time this ceremony had been performed were sketchy at best, despite the fact he'd been the central figure of it. Or perhaps that is why my memories are vague. I was in no condition to really take notice.
It was a family custom that for a certain amount of time prior to the Oathtaking, a son of the house of Zedd experience life under a mind controlling spell. It gave them a greater appreciation for the power they had over others when others had power over them for a time. The spell was traditionally lifted before the ceremony, and Zedd had hopes that it had worked it's way into his system enough so that there would be no flaws at all in it.
"Goldar!" Zedd shouted for his chief lackey. "Is the banquet prepared?"
"Yes, my lord," Goldar bowed low. He didn't particularly like the thought of one of his worst enemies being honored the way Jason was going to be, but he really had no choices. He'd sworn his loyalty to Zedd and Zedd's family, and like it or not, Jason was part of that family.
Zedd nodded. "Good. And all the preparations are made, Finster?"
"Yes, mighty Lord Zedd," Finster bowed even lower than Goldar. "Everything is in readiness!"
The dark lord rose. "Then let it begin! The ceremony of Oathtaking shall begin!"
He stamped his staff hard on the ground, and complete silence fell in the chamber. Finster and Goldar stood side by side to the right of the throne, while Squatt and Baboo were on the other side. The various Tengas were in rows as the Putties had for Zedd's wedding to Rita. Everything was perfect...flawless...silent.
A sort of black curtain seemed to wrinkle reality, and as it passed, Jason stood there. It had taken him only a few moments to dismiss himself from the Youth Center once he had known his father wanted him, and now he was here. He didn't quite know what was going on, but he would do whatever it was he was required to do.
"Jason Lee Scott, born of human woman and Lord Zedd, stand forth," Finster declared. Jason stepped forward, and Zedd raised his staff. Light whirled around Jason and he blinked momentarily.
I.....I was in the desert with the others...for a moment he wasn't quite certain what was going on, then memory flooded back into him. I'm Zedd's son. He's my father...he shivered for a moment, then felt a strange sense of resolve. So be it. I will do as he says. It was the only right and reasonable thing to do, of course.
Zedd spoke. "Come closer, my son," Pride, strange and almost human pride, lit his eyes as Jason, free of the spell that had ordered his will, stepped forward. The moment after the breaking was always the most dangerous, when the potential prince-heir could say or do anything at all....and it was doubly dangerous in this situation, when Jason, who had grown up good, might revert to that. Zedd had planned for that, however. By placing the spell on him in a moment of weakness, it had overcome all of Jason's natural mental defenses, and then had time to grow on him. Parts of his mind had been slightly warped and changed to fit in more with what Zedd wanted, enhancing a desire to make his father happy.
"You are my son, my only son and heir," Zedd uttered the words firmly. "From this day forward, you are the full weilder of the Shadow Dragon powers, and you shall take your place as heir to my throne and future ruler of my empire. Do you swear your eternal loyalty and allegiance to me and only me, your liege, lord, and father?"
Jason dropped to one knee just before the throne, bowing his head low. "I swear from this moment on, I am your loyal servant and son, my lord father. I will obey your commands without question and serve you in every way I can, for the rest of my life."
His father smiled. "Even to the destruction of the Power Rangers and the conquest of Earth?" This was the most crucial moment, and the one he had slowly shaped the spell to bend Jason's mind towards. In effect, Jason wasn't spellbound, but the way he thought had been somewhat...altered...in the very deep recesses of his mind. He now believed, as he had not before, that Zedd was right in all that he did.
"Yes, my father," Zedd's son said quietly. "They will fall to us."
Zedd smiled, and beckoned him to rise. "So shall it be, my son." With a gesture, a second throne appeared next to him, and Jason took it as if born there. "Lord Zedd and Prince Jason....names to be reckoned with!"
Jason smiled just a little himself. "Yes, father. Reckoned with...and feared...forever!"