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by John Gomes

Zio walked away from the Ladea Tower, having recovered one of the two holy items needed for his quest to awaken the Great Light. Draped around his shoulders was the Frade Mantle, a cape and cowl made entirely of magic. Created by the most powerful esper to ever live, the esper Tajim, teacher to Noah, it's soft white glow served both as a protective magical barrier to attack and as an amplifier of ones own magic. Zio could feel his increased powers surging through every fibre of his being. He was now as powerful in magic as he was when under the influence of Dark Force, yet at the same time he was stronger. His magical prowess was much improved, yet instead of being fuelled by his arrogance and hatred as it once was, it was now augmented by his kindness, his sense of honour and justice. However, Zio was distraught to learn that the other item he needed wasn't at the tower. He passed his hand through his midnight-black hair in frustration, trying to think of where possibly the Psycho Wand could be. If Rune hadn't put it back in the tower, then that must mean he still carries it. But why ?

The Psycho Wand was a very powerful tool, not to be treated lightly. According to Le Roof, not even Rune knew the true significance of the Psycho Wand. Now, when the singular god had originally split into the Profound Darkness and the Great Light, parts of itself also split into more minor beings, demi-gods if you will. They were composed of Le Roof de Rykros, the incarnation of knowledge and fate, De' Vars, incarnation of strength, Sa' Lews, incarnation of courage and Re' Faze, incarnation of anger. However, after splitting into these beings and the division of power that it implied, there was still a part of the god that remained. Literally, what was left was a fragment of the god's power. This final fragment of unimaginable power became the Psycho Wand, the literal incarnation of the god's power. This wand could counter any magical attack aimed at it's holder, even if that attack came from a god, but it also magnified it's owners powers many times over. It was this reason that Chaz, with the added power of Elsydeon, was able to even get close enough to strike down the Profound Darkness, because the Psycho Wand rendered any attacks by the Profound Darkness powerless, even the most destructive magical power in existence, Megid.

But it wasn't in the tower.

The only other explanation for it's whereabouts was that Rune still carried the wand. This scared Zio, for even in his current state, Rune struck him down with the power of the Psycho Wand as if he were a gnat. If he were to meet Rune, Rune could very well kill him, thus he would fail in his endeavour. Rune wouldn't be entirely unjustified either, Zio thought ruefully.

" Does Rune have the Psycho Wand, Le Roof ? " Zio asked the giant.

" Yes he does. " The Giant replied.

" Nothing is ever easy... " Zio replied ruefully.

" If this was going to be easy, I would have chosen some simpleton instead of taking the time to take you away from your prison, Zio. Don't think of it as an obstacle, think of it as a challenge. Then it shouldn't seem so bad. " The giant replied, a large smile on his bearded face.

" Easy for you to say. You don't have to face someone that made a god his prison bi... " Zio started to say.

" Now, now Zio. Stay focused. You'll find him in Krup. "

" Krup...Isn't that where...? "

" Yes, that's where Alys Brangwin is buried. You have your work cut out for you. "

" It is true what they say, fate truly does have an obscure sense of humour. "

*     *     *      *     *

A few seconds, and a Ryuka spell later, Zio appeared in a flash of blue light on the outskirts of the village of Krup, the hometown of one of the greatest protectors to ever live, Hahn, and the burial site of Alys Brangwin. The village was quaint and small, despite its fame of housing two protectors of Algo. The people shied away from popularity, choosing to retain their simple lives of farming, living off the land. The small homes bustled with the laughter of children and adults, children playing games on the cobblestone streets. The school of Saya, Hahn's wife, still stood, and the children are still taught the basics of mathematics and history, continuing Hahn's and Saya's legacy of education. A descendant of Hahn's line still taught in this school. Zio marvelled at the beauty of this small village, how happy these people were, who had no crime, everyone knew everyone else. It was a tightly knit community. It was not hard to fathom why this city survived the hard times of the Darkness. These people would protect each other with the ferocity of family protecting their kin. The small homes, really only dilapidated huts, housed large, but happy families, all well fed and clothed. The school on the eastern edge of the town was really only a converted barn, with small makeshift desks and chairs. But these people were happy. They did not dabble in the politics of Aideo, the scheming of the university in Piata, nor the now defunct cult in Kadary. They simply lived a natural blissful existence, in harmony with Nature. Zio admired and envied their simple yet blissful life.

Walking along the cobblestone street, he came across a few children, who were playing tag on the street. A small sandy-haired boy was chasing a blonde little girl, both of them not more then five years of age. They were beautiful children, with tans from aiding their parents in the fields, their chubby arms and legs pumping in the run, enjoying every minute of their innocent lives. Zio was startled out of his peaceful moment watching them when the little girl tripped on a loose stone on the street, coming down on her hands and knees, skidding on the suddenly unforgiving stones. She began to cry in startled pain as the minor lacerations on her hands and knees began to bleed. The boy stopped, and placed a concerned hand on her shoulder, as she sat down and wailed. Zio walked over to her, a sympathetic smile on his face.

" Do you need some help, young ones ? " Zio asked the two children, as the rest of the kids gathered around in concern for their friend.

" My little sister tripped on the stone, sir. If you had some monomate with you, we would be mighty grateful, and ma and pa will pay you back sir. " The sandy haired boy replied.

" That is not needed. I have something better then monomate, and it will be my pleasure to use it to heal her. "

Zio kneeled down beside the girl, who looked up at him with innocent hope in her tear stained eyes. Cradling her small frame in his arms, he channelled some magic, using a simple Res spell to heal the girl. Although the simplest of the healing spells, Zio's Res spell was more powerful then dimate, never mind monomate. As the healing power washed over the girl, the startled children watching as the soft light of Zio's Res spell faded into the girl, the lacerations closed before their very eyes. Taking his water skin and the corner of the corporeal Frade Mantle, Zio gently washed away the little bit of blood from the girls hands and knees. All the children looked at Zio in innocent wonder. The little girl especially looked at Zio with a wonder bordering on worship in her eyes, having never felt the invigorating touch of healing magic. Wrapping her small arms around Zio's neck, she placed a wet kiss on Zio's cheek, which brought a helpless smile to his face.

" Thank you, mister. " She said sweetly, and then her and her friends ran off, no doubt to tell their parents of the mysterious healer with the kindness in his eyes, who wears a glowing cloak and commands magic.

Zio got up, happy that he had spared the little girl some pain and a gentle scolding by her parents to be more careful, fixed the hood of the Frade Mantle about his head, and walked further down the cobblestone street towards the grave of Alys Brangwin. He walked along the street, seeing some of the children who had witnessed his magic talking to their parents and gesturing to him excitedly. One of the boys of the small group, a red-haired boy, very pale of skin and with a cute freckled face looked at him with longing in his eyes. Noticing him, Zio diverted from his path towards the grave to the boy. Zio kneeled down in front of the boy, looking at him square in the face, a kind smile on his own.

" What is wrong, young one ? " Zio asked.

" I noticed you healing my friend Sarah, so I was wondering if you could help my pa. " The boy asked, a tear coming from one eye.

" I will try. Is he in your home ? " Zio asked, gesturing to the house a little ways behind the boy. "

" Yeah, he's real sick. He was hunting, and he captured a baby sandworm. When he was bringing it home, a Locusta attacked him. It poisoned him, and now he's in a fever, and dying. Please sir, if you could... "

" Say no more. Lead the way. "

Following the boy, who ran to the house, Zio hurried after him, coming through the open door. On the floor was a small pallet, where presumably was the boy's father. The village healer was around him, but he was not equipped to handle the Locusta poison. He looked to Zio, des[pair in his eyes at his inability to heal the man. The man was gaunt, pale, and shivering. His body was very feverish, sweaty, his mane of red hair sticking to his face from the sweat. Zio knew right away that this man was at death's doorstep. Zio was a good healer, but this far along, Zio knew that the man was at the very limits of his power. Zio didn't think he could save him, but he would be damned if he didn't try his best.

The village healer, the boy and his mother gave way to Zio, who placed his hand on the man's forehead, using his telemental powers to gauge the exact extent of the damage the poison had done. Scanning the man, he found that the poison had already shut down the man's liver and kidney's, releasing even more toxins into his bloodstream, and was now systematically breaking down the man's nervous system. This man was already halfway into the realm of the dead. However, first things first, Zio had to cleanse the poison from his system, as well as the unfettered toxins in the blood. Zio unleashed the Anti spell, releasing a wave of magical energy into the blood, immediately cleansing it of toxins. However, the liver and kidney's were another problem entirely. He had to bring them back to working order. To do that, he would have to use a very powerful spell, the Rever spell, which would bring the shut down organs back to life. Using his power to activate the spell, Zio began to glow white from the release of the Rever spell. The healing power worked feverishly, draining Zio's magical store to correct what would normally be irreparable damage, bringing the liver and kidney's back to working order, and once again purifying the blood. Now, for the people watching Zio, they were in abject shock. His whole body was glowing white, as was the man, and they watched as he began to breath easier, no longer sweating and colour returned to his pale skin. However, Zio, wasn't finished. Now Zio had to rejuvenate the man's vigour and stamina, as well as heal his ravaged nervous system, and with a final usage of magic, Zio cast the Nares spell, the most powerful of the healing spells, which immediately fixed any left over physical damage, including the man's nervous system, and restoring his stamina. The man opened his eyes in full cognisance for the first time in days, and looked up into the eyes of a tired, but smiling Zio.

" You have saved my life, great Wizard. I do not have anything of worth to repay you for what you have given me, but ... " The man began.

" There is no need. Seeing a family happily reunited and spared the pain of a lost love one is all the payment I need. " Zio replied.

" Please, noble Wizard. Remain here and dine with us, spend the night. Our offer is humble, but it is the best we can give to you. " The man's wife said.

Zio looked to the brown-haired, beautiful wife, and the man who now sat up from the pallet and looked to him, and found he could not refuse such a offering. It would be good to finally speak to real humans, to know of the comings and goings of this world he had not known for over five centuries. He nodded his acceptance, smiling in thanks. The small family beamed in happiness, that he, this great wizard, would accept their hospitality.

*     *     *      *     *

Late into the night, Zio left the small house. He had eaten with the family, who spoke with him of all the recent events of the world. They were at first in awe of Zio, for in their eyes he was a great wizard and healer, but slowly, their awe faded away due to Zio's complete lack of arrogance, and they spoke with him as they would a regular person. Zio found out that Motavia now had a new government, centred in Aideo's Hunter's Guild, led by the descendants of Chaz and Rika Ashley. The Hunter's Guild became the not only the seat of power, but the military force, although they remained mercenaries. Anyone could still hire a hunter, but they were much more regulated as to what jobs they took now. He also inquired about their daily lives, and he was happy to find that they were a peaceful town, rarely troubled my monsters or the cult of Zio in Kadary. They were especially happy to hear that the cult was destroyed, all its initiates finally returned home. When they asked who had accomplished this, he simply smiled at them and winked, and they all laughed, for they knew that it was he, especially when he told them of the great and noble wizard. As he walked away from the small house and it's sleeping occupants, he knew that until he died, this house would forever be a source of happy memories for him.

However, Zio could still feel the presence of magic in the town. He knew that Rune was still here, at Alys grave. Even though he had fully recovered his power after healing the man, he knew that if Rune decided too, Zio would not leave Krup alive. However, Zio needed the Psycho Wand. His face set with determination, he strode up the grassy knoll towards the grave. It was a small tombstone over a plot that had long since grown over with plants. The writing on the tombstone was faded, but Rune knew well what it said. He stood before the grave of Alys Brangwin, holding the Psycho Wand in his hand. His robe weathered and travel worn, his hair, once a vibrant blue now grey, and his worn boots all spoke of a well traveled individual. His face was bearded and wrinkled, but still retained the sarcastic mirth in it's blue eyes. The Psycho Wand glowed a soft green at his approach.

" I've heard a lot about you, ' wizard '. " Rune called out in a strong voice, despite his apparent age.

" Good things, I hope. " Zio replied timidly.

" Well, from what I hear, you saved a girl from being crippled and you raised a man from the dead. "

" A little exaggerated on the girl, but the man was almost dead. I was barely able to save him. I'm glad that I was able too. His death would have crushed the family. "

Rune chuckled.

" Strange. I hear and recognize the voice, but I do not recognize the man speaking them. You've changed, Zio. " Rune called out.

" Yes, I have. "

" Tell me, though, how did you come back from the dead. I don't think even I could do that. "

" He had some help. " A voice called out to the right of Rune.

There stood the giant, Le Roof de Rykros in all his glory, his hammer at his side, his great beard and long hair flowing over his massive muscles, a look of merriment in his eyes. He had his arms crossed as he lazily leaned against an oak tree.

" Ah, Le Roof. Of all the people to bring back, why him ? Why not Chaz, or for that matter, why not Alys. " Rune asked.

" Well, for one thing, you need a successor for your legacy. Zio was the last esper powerful enough to bond with the Telepathy Ball and become the next Lutz. No esper born since has been strong enough to receive the memories and powers of five generations of Lutz. Second, he still has a final part to play in the destiny of the universe. "

" Fate has a very strange sense of humour, eh Zio ? "

" Tell me about it. "

" Well, first things first. " Rune said, pulling out a glowing ball from under his cloak. He looked intently at the ball, concentrating his telemental powers, using them to imprint his memories and powers into the ball. It glowed brighter for a few moments, then faded. Rune tossed the ball to Zio.

" Bond with it. " He said.

Zio focused his own telemental powers, creating a telepathic link with the receptacle of memories. With the force of a sledgehammer, the memories of five incarnations of Lutz slammed into his mind, imprinting themselves forever in his psyche. Zio came to his knees with the abrupt shock, startled. However, quickly, he brought his chaotic mind back under control. He returned onto his feet, a little unsteady, but alright. He marvelled at the simplistic transfer of memories. No fanfare, no huge release of magic, just a simple telepathic bond, and then suddenly, your Lutz. It was almost funny.

" That's it? I'm now Lutz ? " Zio asked, not quite believing it.

" Well, yeah. What, did you expect the Great Light herself to come down and announce to the cosmos that there is a new guardian of the known universe? " Le Roof inquired.

" Well... " Zio began.

" Trust me Zio, Being Lutz isn't that great. You have the personalities and memories of five extremely powerful espers in your mind. You also have a community of people that worship you like you were a god, and think that you are all knowing. Plus, you are the guardian of the universe. Think you can handle it ? " Rune asked.

" I certainly hope so. " Zio replied, still shocked at the utter simplicity of it all.

" Rune, I need to tell you something... I'm deeply sorry... "

" Zio, I've been around for 500 years, man. The Zio standing before me is not the same Zio who killed her. I might never forget it, but forgiveness is still in my nature, even though I loved her. If Le Roof thinks you're redeemable, then who am I to argue with an incarnation of fate? "

Rune suddenly threw the Psycho Wand to Zio, who caught the glowing green staff with one hand. The simple titanium rod, topped by a white stone that glowed an inner green was beautiful in it's simplicity. However, Zio did not feel any stronger now that he had finally gained it. He felt the same as he had before. He looked inquiringly at Rune who simply smiled.

" You wondering why you don't feel any stronger with the staff in your hands? Oh, you are stronger. Watch out though. The next time you use magic with the Psycho Wand in your hands is when it amplifies your power. It has a mind of it's own, the thing. You have to use your magic for it to recognize the power of its wielder. Be very careful. The first time I used the wand for a spell, I levelled half of the mountains around Termi with a Foi spell. Be VERY careful. "

" I'll keep that in mind, Rune. "

With that, Rune waved to Le Roof and Zio, and walked away from the duo. With simple motion of his hand, and he disappeared in the blue flash of a Ryuka spell. Zio was still shocked. THIS was Rune Walsh, the fifth generation of Lutz ? Zio wondered to himself.

" A tad irreverent, Mr. Rune Walsh, no Zio ? " The giant asked Zio.

" He must be the most laid back Lutz in the history of all the Lutz's. " Zio replied.

Abruptly, four different voices voiced their agreement in Zio's mind, with a fifth voice protesting feebly. Zio was shocked that not only had he the memories of five Lutz's, but an imprint of their personalities as well, something Rune mentioned but Zio didn't quite believe.

" Le Roof, having five different Lutz's in my head is going to be very trying of my patience isn't it ? " Zio asked Le Roof wearily.

" Well yes. Now you know how the first god felt, having all of us running around in its head. " Le Roof replied.

" Great....Just great... "

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