Shinnok was still bound to the Netherrealm, for he was blind to the ambition of Quan Chi, who secretly possessed the Amulet and was still in the process of unlocking its power. In order to escape his banishment, Shinnok would need to be explicitly invited into a realm by a being with the authority to do so.
This was facilitated by the Edenian traitor Tanya. Acting in her role as daughter to the ambassador and with the authority of her father, she invited a group of refugees from the realm of ‘Treche’ to find safe haven in Edenia. These ‘refugees’ were in fact, Quan Chi and his chief acolytes. They were brought into the presence of Queen Sindel, ostensibly for an audience to seek safe haven under her rule. Sindel, an empathetic ruler, granted their request and declared that all whom they represented were welcome in Edenia. She then used her power as the ruler of Edenia to open a portal, ostensibly to ‘Treche’ as Quan Chi used his magic to fool Sindel as to the true nature of the realm she opened hers to.
Once the portal was opened, the acolytes revealed themselves, subduing and defeating Sindel and her guard. Acting quickly, Quan Chi took charge of the portal and, empowered by the invitation of the trusting Sindel, allowed the waiting Shinnok to cross. Shinnok then summoned the rest of his forces, the ‘Army of Darkness’, which included Mileena, Baraka, Reptile and Reiko.
Reiko had been Shao Kahn’s greatest general and was reputed to have been unbeaten in the command of his armies. Upon his death and descent into the Netherrealm, Reiko was offered the chance to escape damnation by agreeing to serve as Shinnok’s chief military commander. Reiko agreed. Rumours persist that he had in fact served Shinnok before his death but the truth of this is unknown. Ruthless and ambitious, Reiko coveted the position of Shao Kahn himself and may have done so during his lifetime as well as his afterlife.
Noob Saibot and Scorpion also served Shinnok at this time. While it is unknown precisely what role Noob Saibot served at this time, it is known that Scorpion was convinced to willingly rejoin Shinnok after the Battle of Earthrealm by Quan Chi. The necromancer again deceived Scorpion, this time by telling him that after he himself had been murdered, Sub Zero and the Lin Kuei, including the younger Sub Zero he had sworn to protect, murdered the entirety of the Shirai Ryu, including his family. Outraged, Scorpion renounced his vow of protection and swore to finally end Sub Zero and the Lin Kuei.
Princess Kitana was elsewhere when Tanya’s treachery crystallised. The Princess was attempting to broker a peace in the vicious Outworld civil war which had broken out following the defeat of the Emperor, primarily between the Shokan and the Centaurs. Although the negotiations were fraught and violent, the re-emergence of Prince Goro, respected by the Centaurs due to both his nobility and bearing, ensured that a treaty was signed and peace was established between the two warring races. Kitana immediately returned to Edenia upon hearing of the attack, however, and hostilities resumed in Outworld, while Goro would soon become obsessed with seeking out Liu Kang and defeating him, avenging the only defeat he had ever suffered in combat.
Upon arriving in Edenia, Kitana was swiftly imprisoned, alongside her mother and Jade. Finally seeing her chance to prove herself the superior sister, however, Mileena allowed Kitana to escape and swore to Shinnok and Quan Chi that she would hunt Kitana down and finally kill her.
Shinnok, drawing upon all of his power, mounted an attack on the Heavens themselves. Taking the Gods unaware, Shinnok succeeded in killing many minor Gods and led his army of demons on the Eternal Palace of the Elder Gods.
Among those who protected the Eternal Palace of the Elder Gods in a last stand was the Wind God, Lord Fujin. The defenders were eventually overwhelmed, however, and the Elder Gods fled from the Heavens to hide from Shinnok’s wrath, sequestering themselves throughout the realms. Fujin plummeted from the Heavens and crashed into Earthrealm where, pursued by Shinnok’s demons, he would have been slain if not for the timely arrival of Liu Kang and Kai, who had seen Fujin fall from the nearby Shaolin temple.
Liu Kang had dedicated himself to training his newfound disciple Kai, subjecting his protégé to rigorous sparring, drills and meditation in the course of his instruction in the way of the Shaolin. This had led Kai’s skills to grow to rival even Liu Kang’s. Together, master and student defeated the legion of demons who had pursued Fujin, with Raiden arriving to help finish the last wave of attackers. Upon being informed of Shinnok’s rise and Kitana’s capture, Liu Kang swore his aid, as did Kai.
Liu Kang left Earthrealm immediately to attempt to quickly rescue Kitana. The deceptive Tanya, whose treachery was still unknown to the wider realms, lured Liu Kang deep into a deserted structure in Outworld by telling him Kitana would be found there. She had indeed to ambush him and kill him with her witchcraft. Her trap failed, however, and Liu Kang escaped. Having failed to find Kitana, he would in time return to Earthrealm.
Sub Zero, having retrieved and donned his brothers garb from the then-deserted Lin Kuei strongholds, had journeyed to the Temple of Elements to attempt to learn more of his brother’s last successful mission and his subsequent death. Learning of the new threat to the realms from Raiden, he pledged to once more aid Earthrealm and uncover the truth about his brothers’ fate.
Unbeknownst to Sub Zero, Sektor was still active and his primary programming still informed his actions: to track Sub Zero and either subdue him for cyberization or terminate him. To this end, Sektor retrieved Cyrax from the deserts of Edenia in the midst of the chaos caused by Shinnok. Cyrax was repaired by Sektor and the remaining Lin Kuei but acted somewhat strangely, as if his programming were conflicting with something. He would join Sektor in his quest to capture or kill Sub Zero, with Sektor again leading the effort and monitoring the functioning of Cyrax.
Sonya Blade, now of the OIA, had become obsessed with bringing about the end of the Black Dragon. With Kano assumed dead, the OIA believed Jarek to be the final Black Dragon. Eventually, Jarek escaped into Edenia and Raiden convinced Blade to abandon her chase in favour of aiding the effort against Shinnok.
Finally, Raiden was sought out by Johnny Cage, whose soul had found peace in the afterlife. Seeing the vengeance Shinnok had wrought upon the Gods and knowing his friends and allies would be tasked without defeating such power, Cage begged Raiden and the Elder Gods to restore him to life to aid his living allies. The Gods assented and Cage, forsaking eternal bliss and salvation, returned to life to battle the forces of the Netherrealm and risk his very soul in the coming battle.
Kung Lao, who had been enjoying his newfound peaceful solitude, was jerked from his seclusion by the news from Edenia and Outworld: most notably, to his ears, that Goro still lived. Having assumed his death and thus the satisfaction of his ancestral blood debt, Kung Lao once again accepted the burden of heroism, first to ensure Shinnok was defeated and secondly to finally definitively avenge his ancestor by slaying Goro. He sought, however, to keep his continued existence a secret from his allies, so he could return to his new life afterwards: thus, he never joined his efforts to that of Raiden’s forces and operated alone.
Credit to EsauMurga
With his warriors assembled, Raiden brought his forces to Edenia to fight their way through Shinnok’s hordes, reach the Fallen Elder God himself and send him back to the Netherrealm, shadowed by the hidden Kung Lao.
Meanwhile, Kitana was attempting to locate allies in Edenia, ignorant of the presence of Raiden’s warriors, when she encountered Mileena in a now abandoned palace. Engaging in a fierce battle, Kitana again overcame her ‘sister’ but, either from pity, hope of redemption or aware that slaying Mileena a second time would only result in her returning to the service of Shinnok, Kitana imprisoned Mileena in a hidden prison deep in the abandoned palace and fled deeper into Edenia.
Once Raiden’s warriors arrived in Edenia, Blade, taking the opportunity of being in Edenia, decided to pursue Jarek. She separated from the others and communicated to OIA that she had caught up to Jarek but soon after ceased communication with the OIA and failed to reunite with her comrades. Jackson Briggs, at OIA headquarters, became distressed at this and joined Raiden’s forces in Edenia to find Blade. Blade had in fact cornered Jarek and explained to him the threat posed by Shinnok, offering him a brief alliance until Shinnok’s defeat, whereupon he would be arrested. Jarek agreed to assist in the defeat of Shinnok but remained noncommittal on surrendering to the Special Forces. Briggs, Blade and Jarek then rejoined Raiden’s warriors to prepare for the coming battle.
Battle was soon joined between Raiden’s forces and Shinnok’s legions. In the midst of the chaos, Goro, battling through both forces without heed to allegiance, finally found and challenged Liu Kang but once more found himself defeated by the peerless Shaolin monk. Accepting the superiority of Liu Kang in combat and acknowledging the Shaolin as the greatest living combatant, Goro left the battlefield with honour and dignity. He returned to Outworld, where he would rededicate himself to peace and to the many peoples of Outworld.
The battle raged and many of the warriors were separated from their fellows, with combat spanning across the Palace of Edenia where Shinnok had installed himself. While Raiden, Fujin and Liu Kang led the assault on Shinnok’s main forces, Sub Zero found himself cornered in a dungeon by an irate Scorpion. The two had departed, if not as allies, then certainly not as enemies and Sub Zero was unaware that Scorpion had reneged on his vow of protection and sought his death.
Scorpion bested Sub Zero, brutally beating him and prepared to kill him when Sub Zero asked why he was to die. Furious that Sub Zero would feign such ignorance, Scorpion put to him that he and his clan were responsible for the murder of his clan and family. Sub Zero refuted the allegation and, nearing death, explained that Quan Chi had annihilated the Shirai Ryu as payment for his elder brother succeeding in obtaining the Map of Elements. Scarcely believing the words of his enemy but with a dawning realization that Sub Zero’s version of events was plausible and seemed to explain the events of the previous years’ perfectly, Scorpion ceased his assault. Quan Chi then appeared.
Scorpion questioned the necromancer. Quan Chi, convinced of Shinnok’s (and, ultimately, his own) imminent victory burst into mocking laughter. Calling Scorpion a fool, Quan Chi revealed that what Sub Zero had said was indeed true and that he had manipulated Scorpion for years: having murdered his family and clan, he had tricked Scorpion into agreeing to an eternity of servitude in hell for the very being who was responsible for the deaths of his family. Scorpion could never reach salvation or escape torment, as his need for vengeance could only be slaked with the death of Quan Chi himself.
Quan Chi then prepared to send Scorpion back to the Netherrealm and permanently imprison the ninja in hell. Uttering a wordless cry of fury, Scorpion tore towards the necromancer and seized him at the very moment he was transported back to the Netherrealm, bringing Quan Chi with him. Left alone and clinging to life, Sub Zero slunk away to nurse his health and returned to Earthrealm.
It is unknown whether or not Cyrax and Sektor encountered Sub Zero but it would seem that they did not. It quickly became clear at this time that Cyrax’s memories, soul and personality were returning, conflicting with his programming, causing his processing unit to wildly misfire.
Eventually, Cyrax and Sektor became separated, leaving Cyrax to wander the depths of Edenia half mad. Sektor, whose programming had begun to advance itself, concluded that if the logic of Cyber Initiative was correct and that cyberization would result in superior individual Lin Kuei, then it must hold true for the entirety of the clan. This led him to conclude that he would have to become the Grandmaster of the clan and shape it in his own image: complete cyberization of all Lin Kuei and total subservience to his will. The fact that this would involve killing his own father did not alter the logic of the situation or faze Sektor even slightly. Abandoning his chase for Sub Zero, Sektor departed for the Lin Kuei headquarters.
Eventually, Raiden’s forces battled their way through to Shinnok’s sanctum, where Liu Kang engaged the Fallen Elder God in combat. Although powerful, Shinnok was not joined by Quan Chi as he had anticipated, due to the attack of Scorpion, though he remained confident of his ultimate victory.
Credit to Esau Murga
Despite the vast power difference between the two, Liu Kang proved victorious, thanks in no small part to the treachery of Quan Chi depriving Shinnok of his amulet. He subdued Shinnok long enough for Raiden to invoke the power of the Elder Gods and once more banish Shinnok to the deepest planes of the Netherrealm, freeing Edenia and all the realms from his rule.
Earthrealm’s forces freed those Shinnok had imprisoned and returned Sindel to the throne. Returning from her wandering throughout Edenia, Kitana finally declared her love for Liu Kang, which he reciprocated. She offered him her hand in marriage and, eventually, a place on the throne of Edenia. Liu Kang, though tempted and touched by the offer, rejected it. Though he had desired retirement after the fall of Shao Kahn, he now realized that his destiny, and duty as the pre-eminent warrior of his generation, was to defend Earthrealm against all threats: his only retirement would be death, should he ever be bested in combat. Heartbroken but understanding, Kitana accepted his decision and the two parted with mutual affirmations of their love, though they understood that they would never be together.
Credit to EsauMurga
Their task completed, Earthrealm’s warriors began to return home.
Jarek attempted to flee from Blade and Briggs until they eventually cornered him against a cliff in Edenia. Defying their offer of peaceful arrest, Jarek attacked the two and attempted to slay them but was flung from the cliff by Briggs. Unbeknownst to all, Jarek in fact survived this fall, albeit barely, by jamming his sword into the side of the cliff to slow his descent. He would go into hiding and spend the years honing his skills and knowledge of killing methods to ensure his ultimate vengeance.
Oblivious to this, Briggs and Blade prepared to return to Earthrealm through their OIA technology, but then encountered Cyrax. Seeing that he did not attack on sight and noting that his cybernetics and programming were malfunctioning, Briggs resolved to attempt to aid the cyborg using his technological expertise and brought him back to OIA headquarters.
Raiden’s wisdom, leadership and courage in defeating first Shao Kahn and then Shinnok for a second time had not gone unnoticed. The Elder Gods offered Raiden elevation to their exalted ranks. It is unknown if this had ever been offered to another God before. Raiden accepted, although he knew it would mean relinquishing his position as Protector of Earthrealm. Surrendering his office, he appointed Fujin his successor. Then appearing before Kai as the young warrior meditated on his experiences, he enquired as to what Kai intended to do having assisted in defeating Shinnok.
Kai informed Raiden that he intended to wander Earthrealm, searching for enlightenment. Raiden wished him good fortune and rewarded Kai for his bravery and service against the Army of Darkness with his own staff, which would grant Kai great power and immortality. His affairs concluded, Raiden ascended to the Heavens and took his place among the Elder Gods themselves.
Not all of Earthrealm’s warriors returned home, however: Kung Lao had secretly assisted in the defeat of Shinnok but still sought to avenge his ancestor. Accordingly, upon hearing that Kitana would journey to Outworld as plenipotentiary from Edenia, he stole away among her retinue.
Kitana’s task was to conclude a permanent alliance between Edenia and Outworld: Goro, newly focused on statecraft with the matter of his ego-driven vendetta against Liu Kang settled, had brokered a permanent truce with the Centaurs and seemed poised to bring about a peaceful ruling coalition of Outworld under his leadership. He was amenable to Kitana’s offer and the two met to discuss terms.
During the negotiations, however, Kung Lao launched his attack. Taking all present by surprise, Kung Lao attacked Goro and could have slain him thanks to his near-unrivalled speed and surprise. Instead, however, he merely inflicted a visible but superficial cut on Goro’s chest and ceased his attack. Having witnessed Goro’s nobility and honour in acknowledging Liu Kang’s superiority and dedicating himself to the welfare of the peoples of Outworld, Kung Lao had determined that Goro was not, in fact, a vicious brute but instead recognised him as noble warrior worthy of respect and honour.
Explaining to Goro that the superficial blow satisfied the honour and memory of his ancestor he offered the hand of friendship. Goro, understanding the monk’s motivation and filled with respect for his sense of duty, honour and wisdom, declared any enmity between the two at an end and himself a friend and ally of Kung Lao and the Shokans allies of the White Lotus Society. Moreover, Goro complimented both the skills of Kung Lao and his ancestor, telling him that the only being he had encountered who surpassed the skills of the Great Kung Lao was Liu Kang himself but that none surpassed him as a man. As the two shook hands, Goro also assented to an alliance with Kitana and the Edenians. At a stroke, the Shokan under Goro, the leading power of Outworld, had become firm allies of both Edenia and Earthrealm.
The History of Mortal Kombat, Chapter 10: The Revenge of Shinnok