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Sins Of The Past
by John Gomes

Simply clothed in a worm leather combination of a jerkin and pants, a simple wooden staff in his hand, Zio walked along the harsh, destroyed remnants of the countryside surrounding Kadary. He himself had utterly destroyed the once beautiful land with his own hand, manipulating Nurvus to let the land recede into its desert state, impoverishing and starving the surrounding villages. Such beauty, he had destroyed, and the guilt he suffered was almost unbearable. In his memories, he saw the sweeping fields of wheat, corn, cows out to pasture. Small farms with smiling families, toiling under a rich soil to feed themselves, yet happy. He himself, by his own hand, had reduced this beautiful land to an arid valley of death. However, that was in the past.

Zio came to the gates of Kadary. He was here to begin his journey. Le Roof De Rykros had told him that to begin his journey; he must correct a past sin. As he ventured forth through the scattered towns, cowering from a legacy he left behind, he knew what it was that he must do. There was someone he must meet. Crossing under the huge gates, into a town of terror, people looking at him oddly. They had never seen a healthy human before, not in these parts. Maybe in Aideo, under the direct protection of the Hunter's Guild, you might see people like Zio, but not in the fallen towns of Kadary, Molcrum, or Piata. Even Piata fell under the evil spreading forth like a plague. This evil Zio knew well, for it was devoted to him.

The Cult of Zio.

People walked by in a trance chanting his name. They were under the spell of a fanatic, but it was not for them he had come. He had come for two reasons, and two reasons only, to Kadary. One, to finally level that scar on the face of the planet, the temple of Zio, and two, to confront the man who rules in his name. Walking along the cobblestone streets, amid small shacks of homes, fanatics eyeing him suspiciously, Zio used his magical abilities to search for remnants of a terrible power. He felt it, like a knife covered in cold fire, in his gut, his esper powers reacting strongly to a concentration of the Black Energy Wave. Even after the Profound Darkness' permanent resealing, its treacherous tentacles still reached into this world, maybe not to destroy it, but to cause unrest, death, decay, to destroy. The Profound Darkness had an infinite amount of patience. However, this particular concentration of Black Energy was very much known to him. He had wielded it on many occasions.

Finally coming to the temple, it's mockery of beauty in it's palace-like appearance, with soaring spires and balconies, adorned with the face of Dark Force, the pain of such a concentration of Black Energy was seriously weakening him. His defences were being worn down, as he felt it caress him, for the Black Energy recognized its former master. People were everywhere, kneeling down before a figure enveloped in darkness, chanting his name, as if he would save them. The darkness, especially after travelling under the beautiful Algo sun for the past few days, was suffocating to Zio, reminding him of his prison of non-existence. Hearing these people chanting for him, asking him to return and to reduce the world to ashes and create his utopia of death sickened Zio, the darkness in which they dwelled an insult of the live-giving light of the sun awakened in Zio his anger at their futile stupidity, to ask for destruction from a being who would not destroy them, but keep them in eternal torment. Zio raised his hand, and from that hand flared a blinding light, the power of magic given to the espers by the Light herself surging through every fibre of his being, illuminating the temple, casting aside the darkness, even the insidious Black Energy cowering from Zio's righteous anger.

"You who lead these people, come forward and face me!" Zio bellowed at the priest leading the ritual. It was he that Zio wanted.

"You do not belong here esper. Your taint shall be washed away by the cleansing fires of destruction, so decreed by Zio, messiah of the dark one. Your arrogance in coming here shall end in your death at my hand." The priest replied, removing his cloak.

Zio was dumbstruck. Wearing the armor that had once been his, the Blood Gem, created by the powers of the Dark Force from the blood of ten children, hissed as it amplified the powers of the one wearing it. His face was scarred almost beyond recognition, for Chaz Ashley had struck him down with the strength of a protector, but his white hair and eerie white eyes, his baritone voice, betrayed his identity to Zio. It was Juza, one of his former lieutenants, and by far the most fanatical one. He was wearing Zio's Black Armor, given to him by the darkness to protect him and amplify his power. In his hand he held an organic staff, and it literally pulsated with Black Energy, as it's sinewy form, black as night, seemed almost an extension of his wizened arm. 600 years, Juza had survived, using the Black Armor, Blood Gem, and remnants of Black Energy to keep Zio's Legacy alive. Zio felt pity for the man, who led such an empty existence.

"Juza, are you so drunk with power and hatred that you do not remember me? Juza, for six centuries you have continued my mistake, yet you do not remember me?" Zio asked, sadness in his voice, for this warped soul was his doing, his responsibility.

"What? My eyes see him, as my ears hear him, yet my mind does not recognize him. Zio?" Juza replied, almost fearfully.

"Juza, my heart pains me to see you suffer so. And to think this is my doing! No, this mistake shall be corrected right now. This legacy I have left behind shall crumble to dust, as it should have with my death." Zio replied, grim determination in his eyes, as he channelled power through himself, preparing a spell.

However, he felt a wave of evil heading toward him. Juza somehow had mastered the Black Energy magics, sending a wave of it towards him. Zio's Legeon spell suddenly became a shield of pure magic, a barrier. The Black Energy assailed his shield, crackling with evil intent, and it was almost all he could do to keep it a bay. Somehow, he was able to channel more force, creating a fist of air, that struck Juza, breaking his concentration and launching him into a huge pillar. Zio was breathing hard, but kept his power at the ready. Suddenly, Juza rose into the air, laughing. Zio then saw it, the face of evil hovering over Juza, the face of Dark Force. With a chill, Zio realized that Juza had the power to create a constant magical barrier, impervious to magic or physical strikes, a power that can only be given to an esper who had fallen to the Dark Force. Zio only knew of one way to break that barrier, the Psycho Wand, but he knew not where it was. However, Zio still would fight Juza, to his last breath. He channelled more magical force, weaving a web of magic. Juza looked at him oddly, wondering what he was up to. Juza knew that his barrier was impervious to any attack Zio could do.

"You left the masters side, and are now a weak shell of your former self. Your pathetic magic cannot harm me, for I am invincible to you. I will continue the will of the lord, for you are nothing now compared to me. I shall create the utopia you had not the will to create!!" Juza said, laughing maniacally.

"Juza, it is you who are the shell! You think that the Darkness will reward you with eternal life, but what it grants you is soulless servitude to its dark appetite. It will be I who will show you the way, but you will find me a harsh guide!!" Zio replied defiantly.

Zio's robe billowed outwards as he channelled enough magical force to level a mountain into his spell, a Flaeli spell. His hands glowed orange with the magical fire of Flaeli, eager to be released. His flapped as if by wind, driven by the force he was creating. Juza, feeling the power of the magic Zio would unleash once again brought up the Magic barrier, smug in its abilities. However, Zio had one last card in his hand. Staring into Juza's white eyes, Zio used his formidable telepathic powers to blast Juza's mind, attacking his very psyche. Juza was completely unprepared, for telepathy is not a form of magic that can be protected against by his barrier, and thus, to ward off the telepathic blast, he had to break his concentration on the barrier to protect his vulnerable mind.

It was all the time Zio needed.

Zio released the Flaeli spell, with all the force he could muster, and a blaze of magical fire, fuelled by enough magic to level a mountain, flew towards a distracted Juza. The spear of fire slammed into the armor, right into the Blood Gem, and suddenly a light so blinding that Zio had to shut his eyes tightly to keep from being sightless filled the temple. When Zio opened his eyes, the temple was gone, reduced to ash by Zio's overwhelming magic. The Black Energy had dissipated, leaving Juza, without the armor, huddled and naked on the floor, shivering, dying, as the power that kept him alive for so long left him to the icy jaws of death. Zio walked to the huddled body, hearing Juza moans as his body was racked by the pain of death, spasming.

Zio knelt down, sympathy in his heart, which did not know what it was for so long, and cradled a dying Juza in his arms. Tears streamed down his face, for even when he was a pawn of the darkness, Juza was always loyal to him, and was at many times a valued friend.

"Zio, my lord…you have...c...c...leansed me of the taint. For so long I only knew hate." Juza replied, his body racked by pain, the fear of death in his eyes.

"I know, old friend, how well I know."

" My lord…no, Zio, when you struck me with your power and the light flared forth…for a second, my eyes saw not a man wearing simple clothes, but a great seer and wizard, clothed in robes of light, holding aloft a majestic staff of power. In your eyes, I saw not only a kindness, but justice and a sense of destiny unlike any I have seen before. Zio, my friend, although I die now, you have given me back my soul. For that …. I shall always… be… indebted to you. Goodbye….o...o...ld…fri...end..."

Feeling Juza's last breath leave his body, Zio closed his eyes, and channelled magic through his arms. Juza's wizened, scarred body glowed white, then reduced to ash, as Zio said a small prayer to the light over his fallen friend. Le Roof De Rykros appeared suddenly beside a weeping Zio, who mourned what he had to do, and placed his gigantic hand on Zio's shoulder in comfort. The giant knew Zio's sadness was profound, but he also knew that Zio had many hard choices to come, and what he did here proved his spirit and devotion, but more importantly, it proved that Zio had the will to do good, no matter the cost.

The giant then knew that Juza's vision, a final seeing into a future that his eyes gave him when he was finally free of evil, would come true.

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