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The Path To Destiny
by Leslie Johnson


The snow was blinding and the fact that she hadn't eaten in two days wasn't helping any. Kryssa took another shaky step and found herself burried up to her knees in the blasted Dezo snow. "We haven't had storm like this in ages," she thought. "Just my luck that I should get caught in it." She had left her town, Tyler two days ago. There had been no particular reason, she was just tired of the life that a cramped Dezo settlement had dealt her. She was the odd girl of the town: always sitting by the grave marker on the outskirts of the village, her long golden hair blowing loose in the wind. She had never fit in to begin with. Some subtle difference had always separated her from her fellow citizens. She had never considered herself conceited, but talking to the locals had always seemed bothersome for her; and when they did talk to her they usually offered nothing but unkind words. So two mornings ago, when a sleepless night stirred her in her one room flat, she had taken up a few belongings including a cloak her deceased father had given her, and left. Something had called her. Perhaps it was the wind howling wild and reckless between the buildings. However Kryssa needed no explanation and merely laughed and called it Destiny beckoning her.

Her feet were becoming weary and she could no longer feel her fingers. "I can't die out here," she thought mustering what little determination she had left. "This isn't what was meant to happen." Suddenly her foot gave way into a snow drift and she fell face first. Blackness enveloped her.

Moments later she found herself staring into a pair of piercing azure eyes. Long hair of the same color blew into momentarily in front of them. "Don't let me die here," she murmured weakly. Under any circumstances she would never have pleaded to strangers but delirium had clouded her logic. "Don't worry." replied a soft yet somehow insensitive male voice. "I don't intend to." She felt strong arms around her lifting her up and carrying her. The last thing she remembered before she lost conciousness was her head drooping against her rescuer's long white robe.

She came to after three days. Her body had been emaciated by the weather and lack of food she was later told. When she awoke she found herself laying in a rather simple yet comfortable bed in a large stone room. An old man with a long white beard wearing what appeared to be grey ceremonial robes sat a few feet from her. "Ahhh...awake at last little one," he said with a smile. "You had us worried." "Where am I?" she asked blinking in the light which suddenly seemed bright to her. "This is EsperMansion. The Reverent Fifth One found you just a short distance from here." "Reverent Fifth One?" she asked tilting her head incredulously. "Yes...the Fifth Generation Lutz." "Fi...Fi...Lu...Lutz?!?" she stammered. Everyone on Dezolis knew about Lutz, High Esper and Protector of Algo. "He brought you here and was personally helping with trying to heal you. He was most concerned." "Lutz?!?" The old man smiled. "You still must be in shock from your ordeal dear. Where are you from?" "Hmmm? Oh...Tyler...I'm from Tyler." "Ahhh...and why did you leave?" Kryssa stopped. She couldn't expalin to this nice old man whoever he was that she'd left on a foolish and childish impulse. In hopes to save her dignity she stammered, "It was ah...personal problems. I'd rather not discuss it." Seeming satisfied the old man rose. "Rune might be in to see you later. He's been checking in every day to see how you're doing." "Oh...I didn't catch your name incidentally," Kryssa says as the old man was about to leave. "Hage," he replies before stepping out the door. Kryssa lay back on the pillow and scowled more. So Rune had been the one to rescue her! Now things were beginning to get exciting. Just then the door swung open and Rune stepped in. "Well well!" he said with a grin. "It's nice to see you up. I was afraid we had lost you." "I'm hard to get rid of," Kryssa said wryly, "I suppose I should thank you for saving me." "Well," said the Esper with a wry grin of his own, "It would be nice." "Thank you then." "It was a pleasure...I couldn't leave a gifted soul like you to die and be picked by the Dezo Owls." 'How insensitive!' was the first thought that came to her head, but instead she delicately querried, "Gifted?" Rune grinned even more broadly than before. "We'll discuss that later. Untill then m'lady." A roguish smile crossed his face as he gave a low, sweeping bow and kissed her hand. Kryssa was glad when he left so she could hide the blush that had risen to her cheeks.

Her recovery was rapid. A few days after awakening she was up and walking around the mansion. She had been given a comfortable room in the student's dorm area. Although she had not seen Rune since the first day he had come to visit her, she could never shake the feeling that he was watching her. She saw Hage while roaming about the halls and often conversed with him. On one occassion she ventured to ask where Rune was and he simply stated that the Reverent Fifth One was a busy man and probably just hadn't had time to look in on her. Kryssa's heart was sinking a bit. She had felt so giddy after first meeting him, but now her hopes dissolved and she wondered if he even remembered she was at the mansion.

One day Kryssa was feeling particularly bored. She ventured north down the winding corridors, nodding to the Espers she passed with a friendly smile. However they only stared back at her. "Just another place I don't fit in." she thought wearily as she passed through double doors into a large, open courtyard. Suddenly a voice shouted, "You there!" Wheeling to run she crashed hard into a robed figure just behind her. Powerful hands grabbed her wrists and she cried, "Let me go! Please let me go! I meant no harm!" "Kryssa?" Glancing at under the tall figure's hood she saw the all too familiar bright blue eyes. "Rune??" she asked incredulously. Just then the guard who had called out to her approached. "You oaf!" Rune said with a scowl on his face. "You almost scared the poor girl to death." "But Reverent Fifth One, she was entering the Inner-Sanctuary...she could have been an assassin!" "Bah. Look at her Slade, does she LOOK like an assassin to you?" The man regarded her and then shuffled back to his post at the door. "I'm sorry to have caused you this trouble," she muttered turning to leave. "Trouble?" Rune said, "No trouble at all...in fact I was just comming to look for you." "You were?" she asked incredulously. "Yes, yes. Come on now. You look like you're about to faint from shock."

They walked about the inside of the Inner Sanctuary. Frost had kissed the evergreen trees and the grass that crunched beneath her feet. "Do you like it here?" Rune asked on a sudden whim. Caught off guard, Kryssa merely nodded. "Good," Rune said. "A person with your gift needs to be properly trained." "What gift is this you keep talking about?" she asked with mild agitation. Rune sat down and indicated that she should join him. Doing so, he said, "Close your eyes and concentrate." "Are you playing games with me?" she asked feeling mildly suspicious and indignant. "Of course not. Just close your eyes. Now concentrate on me. No, not THAT hard...Great Light girl you look like you're expecting to have cold water poured on you. Just relax and concentrate on me. Now try to place any thought you can in my head. Try to make me see what you're seeing." Kryssa concentrated hard and suddenly Rune burst out laughing. "Roast Rappy?!?!?" Kryssa looked at the ground blushing bright crimson. "I'm hungry," she said with an apologetic frown. "That's all right. But see? You did it. You have the Esperean gift, you just need to learn to use it." Kryssa looked thoughtful. She had always thought that Espers did more than simple telepathy. "Do you want to learn spells then? I can't teach you that. You'd blow up the whole Mansion!" he said with a mocking smile. "No," Kryssa says trying to hide the disappointment in her voice. "I just thought I'd learn more than Telepathy." Rune smiled, a true and genuine smile. No hint of sarcasm played on his face or in his voice as he said, "Patience Kryssa...patience." He took her hand and gently kissed it again as he stood to leave, but this time held it in his a bit longer. Kryssa merely smiled up at him.

Rune made it a point to see Kryssa more and more frequently. He told her that she was of the "upper path" and didn't need to learn spells so he began teaching her what he called "skills" or as she had heard it called back in Tyler, "Real Magic." Her lesson had begun disasterously. She had heard Rune say something to Hage about 'Flaeli' and she had decided to try it of her own accord. The result was a demolished statue of the heroine Alis and some very ruffled feelings on the part of some of the elders. Rune made apologies to the proper people and promptly began teaching Kryssa to control her powers, and more importantly to aim.

*     *     *     *     *

She had been at the mansion for half a year. She and Rune had begun to talk more and more frequently. Not a day passed that she did not talk to, or think about him. The other Espers weren't much more accepting of her but by this time she was used to the wayward stares. In the halls she heard sniggers and idle whispers about 'Rune's Lover' and what have you. It didn't phase her in the slighest though. So what if she was infatuated with the Reverent Fifth One? Nothing would ever come of it. He was a lofty man and she was a wayward waif. He couldn't possibly have any interest in her.

She wandered to the Inner Sanctuary. It had become one of her favorite places now that the guards let her pass freely at Rune's request. No sooner had she walked in the door but a voice reached out into her mind, "Kryssa!" Turning she saw Rune hidden in the shadowy area beneath the high wall. Walking over to him she gave him a customary hug. She knew he regarded her as a close friend and had never seemed to mind the simple term of affection. "I'm glad you came," he whispered. "I missed you." Kryssa blinked in shock. "You're talking nonsense Rune. You saw me yesterday." He smiled and shook his head and began placing his thoughts into her mind rather than speaking them aloud. "I know...but it's been too long." She glanced at his face for the usual hint of sarcasm but saw instead that his chiseled features had a strangely serious look on them. "I don't know what to say." she thought back at him. "Then don't say anything," his thoughts softly whispered to her as he leaned in close to her and gently kissed her. Kryssa's mind was swimming. She'd never been kissed before, but now....Lutz! The Reverent Fifth One! "Of all people...." she mused inwardly. "Rune I...." she began after he'd drawn away. "Answer me one question," he said cutting her off, "Do you love me?" Kryssa blinked. She felt her knees getting weak and her world reeling around her. Through her mental intoxication she nodded...."Yes...I do Rune." Before she knew what was happening he was gone.

*     *     *     *     *

Time had passed quickly with Rune in her life in this new found position. The whispers had stopped among the other Espers and some even dared to cast her admiring glances. However, her bliss was soon interrupted again. Nightmares had begun to come to her every night. She could see a hellish daemon, with razor claws, and close set eyes like black onyx reaching for a woman whom she recognized as Alis. Other nights it would reach for a woman she didn't know, who carried two slashers. At the end of the dream the creature turned its hideous countenance towards Kryssa's mind's eye and said, "I come for you as well as her. You will be mine."

"Rune?" "Hmmm?" the Esper said sleepily turning over away from her. "Rune!" "What? What? I'm up..." Glancing at her concerned face he sat up and put an arm around her. "More nightmares love?" She nodded shakily. "Rune, who's this woman I keep seeing dressed in red with long brown hair and carrying two slashers?" Rune blinked. "Alys?!? You dreamt of Alys?" Kryssa nodded and glanced at Rune "She isn't your fiancee I hope" she said with a mild grin. "No...no, Alys is an old friend of mine. She's a world class hunter back on Motavia. Did you dream of her?" She related the dream as best she could, tears in her eyes at the end. "Shhh..." Rune said, "It's only a dream. Nothing more." Lying back down Rune bit his lower lip. This dark intimation troubled him greatly. "Rune?" Kryssa whispered into the darkness. "Yes?" "What does the name Alys mean?" Kryssa asked sleepily. "Vanquishes Darkness," he told the already sleeping girl. Staring into the darkness of their room, Rune found himself reflecting on the meaning of Kryssa's own name. "The Star" he thought quietly....

They were out walking together at Kryssa's request. The snow had subsided for a bit, and she had felt what was perhaps the outdoors calling to her. He was carrying his staff in case they ran into trouble but Kryssa had made a cryptic remark that she was ready for whatever came. They had just reached the top of an outlook when they stopped. Inky black smoke began to pour out of the snow bank in front of them. "Get back!" Rune shouted. The smoke formed into a greasy looking cloud and finally a tall menacing shape that Kryssa recognized immediately from her dream. "Rune! That's it! That's that thing I dreamed about!" Kryssa cried. "Fools," the creature said in a deep, raspy voice. "I hoped to kill you, Lutz, but your young harlot too...how convenient!" 'Hewn!' Rune shouted, sending whirling blades of magic at the creature. The being merely cackled. "You'll have to do better than that, Lutz." Suddenly Rune was sent flying by a powerful bolt of energy. "Rune!!!!!!!!!!!!" Kryssa screamed. "Now I'll finish you and further the tasks of my master, The Profound Darkness!" the beast said with a tirumphant laugh. Suddenly a sickening black wave of magic began to form around the creature's hand which he pointed at Rune. "No!" Kryssa yelled running forward. Leaping at the last moment she placed herself between Rune and the bolt of Black Energy that went seering through her body. "Kryssa! Kryssa! Ryuka ar EsperMansion!"

Rune stared down at Kryssa with tears streaming down his manly cheeks. "Kryssa...don't leave me. You'll be better soon. Don't leave me." Her body lay on the bed it had lay on so long ago when he had first brought her to the mansion. Sweat poured off her slender frame and she shook with violent tremors on occassion. "Rune...." she murmured quietly. "I'm here Kryssa...I won't leave you." "Rune...please go fi..." her sentence was interrupted with another convulsion. Her eyes closed against the pain and she bit down hard on her lower lip untill she drew blood. "Find Alys....that thing must be sto...pped." Rune glanced helplessly back at Hage. "Do something!" he cried. "Help me save her!" Hage shook his gray head sadly. "Thank...you...Rune...for...for...." she gave a hard gasp as if fighting to finish her sentence. "I love you," Rune whispered quietly, his tears falling unabated. "I ll...love you...t....too. Goo....goodbye, Ru--" Kryssa's body gave one last violent shudder and she gasped one last time for air. Then she lay completely still.

Rune walked out into the Inner Sanctuary. Kryssa had been laid to rest beneath one of the trees here. Beneath the tree where he had first kissed her so long ago. Staring up at the sky he saw a brief twinkle, followed by a small flash. And a little blue star began to shine brightly above him. "Kryssa..." The breeze whispered through the trees. And the voice it carried with it brought memories rushing back to Rune. "Alys....."

*     *     *     *     *

Rune scowled and traipsed down the main road of Molcum again. "Where IS she? She's always late." He was about to give up when a familiar voice said, "Rune?" It was Alys...with a scrawny blonde kid and a scientist. "Great...a pipsqueak. How is HE going to help me avenge the lives lost?" Rune thought icily.

*     *     *     *     *

He was watching Alys die. He couldn't believe it. First Dark Force had claimed Kryssa, and now the same vile Black Energy wave was taking Alys from him. As he watched his oldest and dearest friend slip away he remembered the night he had told her about Kryssa. "Don't worry Rune...I'll avenge her or die trying." Those had been her exact words. And now here she lay....entrusting the quest to the pipsqueak. He could hardly believe his ears. But his grief silenced him for the time being. Looking up he saw Alys give the familiar shudder that Kryssa had, then lie still.

They burried Alys in Krup. That was well, because she had once confided in Rune that she always liked Krup better than Aiedo. That night they stayed at her old house. Chaz commented every ten minutes or so that despite the fact there was a whole group there that it felt empty. Rune had gone out on the balcony and found Chaz gazing at the night sky. Looking up for a moment, Rune found Kryssa's star without any trouble. Chaz had continued to babble about the fact that he had been fighting for money before and didn't know what to fight for now, but Rune's thoughts were elsewhere. This boy had promise. And a good heart. And deep down, Rune knew he was the only one that would avenge the fallen. He left the balcony feeling crestfallen and walked out to the lawn in front of Alys's old house. Staring up at Kryssa's star, he noticed a bright glimmer in the west, as a bright red shooting star streaked very close to the blue one....

'Kryssa? Is that you?' 'Alys!...what a pleasure.' 'Yeah...an assemblage of victims...how quaint.' 'You're going to Elsydeon now, right?' 'Yes...I can't imagine why you aren't there. You gave your life to save Rune.' Kryssa twinkled a moment before replying, 'True heroes dwell in Elsydeon. Lovers dwell in the sky.' Alys couldn't help but feel pleased. 'Alys?' 'Yes?' 'When you go in to Elsydeon, Chaz will carry the sword, will he not?' 'Yes.' 'And you will help him, right?' 'We will all help to the best of our ability.' 'Alys?' 'Yes, Kryssa?' 'Please protect Rune for me....' Alys laughed...'I will do my best. But you are in a far better position to watch over him. Will you stay here forever then?' 'No...' Kryssa reflected. 'I know I'm to go somewhere important...for now I think I'm just waiting.' 'Very well then...wait well, and watch well. I go to EsperMansion.' Kryssa watched Alys streak off to her Destiny in Elsydeon. 'Farewell, Alys Brangwin.'

*     *     *     *     *

She watched from her lofty vantage point. She saw the hole open up in the middle of Motavia as the Profound Darkness tried to rear its ugly head in the peaceful Algo system. She saw Rune, Chaz, Rika, Wren, and Raja all venture into the hole. And she waited. And while she waited a voice came to her. 'Hello Kryssa.' 'Hello...who are you?' 'I am LeRoof.' the voice answered, 'Spirit of Rykros, the other planet in the Algo System.' Kryssa smiled inwardly. 'Then it's you I'm waiting for.' 'Yes...' said Le Roof. 'You must come with me.' 'No...not yet...I need to know if they survive....if Rune survives.' 'Child,' LeRoof began, 'worry not whether they win. Alys watches over Rune and the others... as well as Nei and the spirits of the great Past Protectors.' Kryssa was not convinced. Suddenly the earth below her trembled and she saw the hole close up. Rika, Chaz, Rune, Wren, and Raja appeared outside moments later protected by swirling clouds of stars...swirling clouds...of Elsydeon. The shards mounted upwards and a voice carried on the wind, 'I have fulfilled my promise Kryssa. Rune is safe. Now it is your time to fulfill your destiny.' 'Thank you Alys' Kryssa said. 'Now come, little one.' LeRoof gently whispered.

***********************************

"Chaz!!!! Hurry or you'll miss it!" Rika shouted from a grassy hill outside of Aiedo. She and Chaz had taken up residence in Alys's old house and tonight was a night neither wanted to miss. Tonight, Rykros would reach the point on its orbit closest to Motavia. Running outdoors, Chaz flopped down on the grass beside Rika staring upwards. Slowly, Rykros appeared on the horizon. "It's beautiful!" Rika cried. "Hey Rika...what's that?" "I don't know Chaz....oh, but it's beautiful." What the couple watched was a small blue star. It could have been described as a moon, for it orbited Rykros in a graceful, eliptical pattern. "We never saw that when we were there did we Chaz?" Rika asked incredulously. "No....I wonder if Rune is watching this wherever he is....," Chaz mused reflectively.

He stood on a hillside far from the city. As Rykros began to rise, the first thing he spotted was the slowly orbiting blue star. "Kryssa..." he murmured to the breeze. "Care for her well, LeRoof," Rune whispered softly. The star burned brightly for a moment and the voice of LeRoof came to Rune, "She will care for Rykros, and Rykros will care for her." "But will I see her again?" Rune wondered aloud. "The universe works in mysterious ways," LeRoof answered to his mind, "Some were chosen for greatness on earth, such as you who protect the Algo system...some were chosen for greatness out of the world's sphere." Rune stared at the lone blue star orbiting Rykros. "The brightest stars aren't always the most influential." He whispered to the wind. Turning his back as Rykros set, he began to walk towards the vast expanse of horizon. The galaxy was a wide place to protect...

And there was more than one path towards Destiny.

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