Two cycles of the silver orb that encircled Terra had passed since that fateful day. The Tower remained in the Vortex, cut off from physical reality in that place between all places. Deep brown eyes gazed down at the dull gray stone in his hand; Obsidian sat on his green-upholstered, black stone throne, his mind dwelling upon the recent past.
The Senshi had been returned to the life-filled blue planet of their current bodies' birth, escorted there by the dual Ametrine, Kunzite and Zoisite. He had offered them an explanation before they were whisked away, telling them his story from the fall of Lithos to his awakening and beyond. Though he probably hadn't deserved it, they had gracefully accepted his apology. The faint flicker of a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth; if anything, they had seemed to understand and sympathize with his position. Even so, he had sensed a continuing wariness within them as they were ushered from his abode. He couldn't fault them for something like that.
As for Sailor Draco . . . He sighed, a feeling of deep regret sweeping over him. Working together, Jadeite and Nephrite had attempted to undo the rending he had done, all to no avail. Something had happened to her during her time in the Negaverse, a something further aggravated by his unthinking and callous mental rape. Not even the Air and Earth Warriors could mend the tattered mind he had left behind. In the end, it was decided that if anything could restore her, it would be her planetary patron. Gathering her up in his strong arms, it had been a grieving Nephrite that had carried her home, Jadeite accompanying him to the nearly lifeless planet from whence she had originally come.
The Northern Commander had then traveled to Terra, picking back up the pieces of his life as Maxfield Stanton. Determined to make good on his promise to pay back those he had harmed while a tool of Chaos, Nephrite had concentrated on that, though Obsidian knew that the Earth Warrior deliberately avoided both Molly and Lita. Anything that even hinted at companionship was, at the moment, consciously rejected by Nephrite; he spent most of his time brooding in his mansion, though he remained in contact with the others of the Elemental Binding.
Jadeite, upon his return, had thrown himself into the restoration of the Record, the vast system that was the repository of all the knowledge accumulated by the Lithosian race over the millennia. Though much had survived along with the Tower, the thousand years of de facto neglect needed to be made up, to have its impact erased. The Eastern Commander also needed to look into restoring what was lost in the fall of Lithos. Ametrine had been the Air Warrior's constant companion, helping him in any way that Jadeite had requested. Items had to be catalogued, files needed to be checked for integrity, a full accounting of what was lost and what remained was required in order to move on to fill in the gaps that were now present.
Zoisite had remained within his quarters, continuing to watch over the deep red stone into which his sibling had retreated and then caring for the still-weak Garnet when the redheaded spy was finally able to manifest again. Whatever quirk it was that had kept the Water Warrior within her feminine form seemed to have resolved itself; Zoisite spent about an equal amount of time in each form, judging from the subtle shift of the West within the web of the Binding. Obsidian hadn't demanded the soulstone back, knowing full well that it was better to let the Western Commander care for his sibling.
A frown settled on his handsome face as his thoughts turned to Garnet. Three weeks had gone by before the fallen Gemlord could project a physical form around his stone again. At the Water Warrior's insistence, Lady Ametrine had been persuaded to Heal the redhead, but it had been another week before Garnet was truly back to a hundred percent. Just recently, he and Zoisite had been spending more and more time on Terra; apparently Garnet was picking up his life as a private investigator as something to do to pass the time. At the moment, their friendship was strained, the Guardian's pride too much to allow him to apologize to the young spy.
Of them all, Kunzite had been the one to stay near, keeping Obsidian company most of the time, even during those long stretches of brooding silence. The Guardian of Space was under the impression that the Fire Warrior was worried about him; Kunzite actually had good cause to be concerned. Depression and apathy had settled in, draining Obsidian of his drive and his ability to care. Each day was a struggle just to face, let alone try to continue on with his work, but within the darkest of his moods, he managed to continue on. In those moments, the Lord of Lithos would again hear Serenity's soft words--" Existence goes on. They need you, as does the Cosmos."--and recall the feel of her lips against his. It was enough to keep him going despite his desire to just shut himself away in his chambers and never deal with anything more.
In those moments after the Senshi were gone, Obsidian had walked over and retrieved the dead stone that had been the brave Adamant. Holding it in his hand, the echoes of the power he had channeled remained; to his surprise, he sensed Adamant changed slightly by the phenomenal energy, more in tune to both the Center and the Elements as a whole. A grief-tinged pride had settled within the dark lord's heart as he had gently returned the lusterless soulstone to rest next to that of Lord Quartz. Adamant's actions had been truly inspiring. So had those of all the living Gemlords, to be honest.
A faintly sad smile returned to the Guardian's visage while he shifted his gaze from the stone in his hand to the low table upon which his people slept. Out of deference to both the dead and the living, the wooden structure was now covered with a cloth, a symbolic burial for those still locked within their stones by death. One day, they would all be living again, but for now, he had to settle for doing what he could when he could. And Beryl's shards had been gathered up, every little piece carefully swept away from that low table into a container that even now rested within a safe place in Obsidian's private chamber. To have something like that--a virtual gateway to a Chaotic infection--being easily accessible was just asking for trouble, even if he trusted those Gemlords currently alive.
Metallia bothered them all no more. Having refused to allow her to have power over them, he and the four former generals were well and truly free of her influence. In looking back over the events after his awakening, Obsidian could only guess that he had been first infected with Chaos at that moment he had taken Beryl's stone and had shattered it. From that point on, the dark empress had done her best to turn his impulses and emotions against himself; that she had succeeded so well had taught him just how truly subtle Chaos could be. No more could he resent the Elementals for succumbing; he truly understood how they may not have known what was happening before it was too late.
However, he knew better than to think that Metallia had given up. No, she would continue to further her goals, using other methods, tactics, and tools. And he would be there, with those of his people who were active, fighting against her. He knew what Chaos could do to an entire Thread of the great Tapestry that was the Cosmos; he was a force dedicated to opposing that, to maintaining Balance in the universe.
He gently sighed, his attention turning to the soulstone he held. Enough energy had been gathered to bring back another. He had stood before the table for a long moment, the shroud covering them pulled back, before deciding upon which one of his children he would bring forth into the world. When he had made his choice, it was truly for selfish reasons; still, he was sure none of those living would fault him for his motivation.
Rising from the throne, Obsidian stepped down the three stairs of the dais. Stopping at the edge of the Zodiac-adorned carpet, he folded his hands over the lusterless, bluish-gray stone. Deep brown eyes closing and bowing his head, he drew forth what energy he had, sending it into the dead jewel. Mirror and body alike taking on their characteristic blackish-green auras, the Guardian of Space willed the Gemlord in his hands to come back to life.
The pattern deep within glowed; the spark of existence caught and held. Feeling the presence within awakening, Obsidian set the gem down on the carpeting and took a step back, eagerly watching the process.
From dull blue-gray to a rich-hued swirl of blue, purple-pink, green, gray and white, the soulstone glowing with a light that shifted through those same colors. The glow intensified, taking on the pulse of a heartbeat. A forceful blast, far more intense than anything yet directed at what was supposed to be a very solid door . . . The heavy panels ripped from their hinges, becoming deadly crushing projectiles . . . The swirling, multi-colored light grew as bright as a miniature sun, casting shadows across the length and breadth of the Hall. Then the radiance disappeared, leaving behind the still form of a man lying upon the floor. Of slightly more than average height and of average build, the Gemlord there had something of an elegant, stoic and scholarly air to his appearance. His shoulder-length straight hair was an appealing shade of blue streaked with purplish-pink, the locks highlighted by shifting shades of white and light gray; his well-toned body was clad in conservative clothing of those same colors.
A smile came to Obsidian's face as he awaited the other man's return to reality.
Utter disbelief and horror as two very familiar forms are struck down, their presence extinguished like candleflames in a stiff breeze . . . Twisted, misshapen forms come pouring in, hardly noticed when all the focus of the world telescopes down to the sight of a faceted stone changing from deep, watery-blue sapphire to lifeless blue-gray . . . With a gasp, the Lithosian lying on the floor opened his green eyes, the last moments before the profound darkness clinging to him. Blinking rapidly, it took him a moment to realize that he wasn't in the City Library anymore. Somehow, he was now in the Hall of the Mirror, staring up past the ring of illumination crystals to the frescoes on the underside of the domed ceiling. "Iolite?" he called out, part of him hoping--praying--that what he recalled was some disturbing phantasm.
"I'm sorry, Lord Kyanite. I have yet to bring her back," a voice replied, a rich baritone very familiar to the supine Gemlord.
Part of him greeted the confirmation with a deep sense of loss while another merely acknowledged the statement as the truth he knew it was. Gathering his thoughts, Kyanite struggled to his feet as swiftly as possible, offering his ruler a salute of respect once he was standing. "Forgive me, my lord."
"There's nothing to forgive," Obsidian assured him. "Welcome back, Lord Kyanite."
Verdant gaze sweeping over the Hall, the scholarly Gemlord frowned, aware of few presences in the telepathic network of which they were all a part. "Nearly all are gone?" he asked, his voice low in disbelief.
"Yes. Only a handful of us are in existence at the moment."
"What exactly happened, my lord?" Kyanite asked, looking once more at the Guardian of Space.
"That, my friend, is a long story," Obsidian replied. "Rest assured, I shall tell it to you, however . . ."
"There's another story I'd like to tell you first."
A sudden wave of dizziness swept over the resurrected Gemlord. Swaying slightly, the Lithosian in charge of the resources of the grand library of knowledge and media of Lithos pressed a hand to his forehead as he tried to will away the vertigo.
Appearing quite concerned, Obsidian swiftly crossed the space between them, reaching out to steady the shorter man. Continuing to support his close friend, the dark lord said, "Give yourself a moment. The dizziness will pass, though you will need to rest soon."
Kyanite nodded, then opened his eyes, the light of curiosity in their green depths. "What story is it that you wish to tell me first?"
"Do you remember, long ago, that time when I went missing and Captain Diamond had to assume control of Lithos?"
"Of course, my lord," the Librarian swiftly replied. All of them could recall that time, so different from the normal course of things. The Guardian of Space himself had vanished without a trace; such an occurrence was not lightly ignored.
Stepping to the side and holding the other Gemlord against himself to better support Kyanite, Obsidian began to walk toward the dais and the secret door that would lead to his private chambers. As they approached it, the door swung open of its own accord, the dark lord's baritone voice adding, "Let me tell you what happened during that moment of our history. It's a tale I've been meaning to tell you for a very long time. You see, I met a woman there . . ."
They stepped through the doorway together. Once they had passed, the section of obsidian swung shut behind them, leaving them to further discuss the matter in privacy.
Author's Note: It's taken me over three years to finish this project, and I'm quite proud of it and the story it tells. However, no person is an island, and without the support of my online friends and you, gentle readers, this project would never have been completed. To you all, I want to say "Thank you!" from the bottom of my heart.