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Child Of Darkness

Chapter Four

Dezoris: Planet of Ice.

Dezoris' orbit was far enough away from its sun, Algo, to remain under snow and ice perpetually, but close enough to sustain its own flora and fauna, including a native people -- the Dezorians. Though its surface is never actually exposed, certain species of grasses and trees manage to take root and grow atop glaciers, forming vast forests. Palman scientists theorized that Dezoris' climate may have not always been this way, that it once supported a vast amount of life. Part of that theory stated that its orbit used to be closer to Algo when the solar system was formed, and that it had been slowly deteriorating ever since.

Two thousand years ago, the first Palman people established a city on this planet which was previously thought to be uninhabited. Unfortunately, they quickly discovered otherwise, and was faced with confrontations with its inhabitants, who were strongly territorial. The Palmans set up a community known as Skure, a city built underground in order to escape Dezoris' harsh climate. From there they made their stand, determined to show their neighbors that they could live in peaceful coexistence. Eventually, a tolerance was developed between the peoples and an uneasy peace reigned.

It was also around this time when an extraordinary race of people known as Espers came to Dezoris to escape King Lassic's iron-fisted tyranny. There, atop the Altiplano Plato, Noah, who was arguably the greatest Esper, helped erect Esper Mansion.

For all intents and purposes, Esper Mansion was to be its peoples' greatest stronghold, and a refuge from the fear and ignorance that plagued all Palmans. Ever since the beginning of civilization and the Profound Darkness' first re-emergence, the Espers had been Protectors of Algo. Traditionally, members were chosen before birth or by heritage and were among all three races -- Palmans, Motavians, and Dezorians.

It was believed that the Espers' Telemental powers originally were the result of a genetic mutation, or more specifically, an abnormality in the first chromosome pair of each species known as trisomy-1, a condition where there exists three chromosomes in the first chromosome pair instead of the normal two. This abnormality "switched on" a normally dormant part of the pituitary gland which, when stimulated by the hypothalamus, secreted an unknown hormone that activated a normally dormant, noncoding portion of a gene called an intron and produced a specific electrochemical signal inside the cerebral cortex. This signal released an enzyme, termed "3-1-phospho-esperase" by Palman scientists (3 for the number of chromosomes, 1 for the first chromosome pair), which created a cascading effect within the unmyelinated fibers of the brain's grey matter and manifested itself by generating an incredibly powerful bioelectric field (myelin is a fatty sheath which surrounds neurofibers in the brain's white matter and serves as insulation when transmitting nerve impulses. Scientists said that the bioelectric field generated by an Esper's mind had to originate from the grey matter because myeline would only suppress such a field.). This field became known as telekinesis and was capable of projecting kinetic energy onto inanimate objects, but much more than just that. When focused, it could draw in energy from the surrounding environment and project it in the form of fire, wind, lightning, or any of nature's greatest energies. Espers whose mental capabilities were greatest were even said to be able to draw in energy not only from the natural, but the supernatural as well, calling on beings from other planes of existence to aid them.

Almost ten years later when studies of molecular genetics was at its peak, those theories explaining the origin of Telemental powers were proven to be correct. What they could not explain, however, was what caused a mutation to occur, and why it occurred in all three races almost simultaneously.

It was not until after Chaz and his friends sealed off the Profound Darkness that one scientist offered that it was The Great Light itself that caused the mutation because it sensed its nemesis' inevitable return and required Champions to defend Algo.

As mentioned before, Espers were chosen before birth. Potential candidates were determined easily for an Esper can detect another's bioelectric field, even before he or she is born. Parents of these children were all too happy to give them up, fully understanding an Esper's role as Protector and because they knew that it would require "special" attention. Training began early and if everything went well, a new Esper would have nearly developed his powers fully by adolescence.

Their pilgrimage to Dezoris may have been the Espers' downfall. Each generation saw fewer and fewer children. Soon, Motavian and Dezorian Espers became extinct altogether and only Palmans remained. Without any Palman people to diversify and replenish their bloodlines, their numbers diminished, and soon inter-marriages were common, which polluted them even further. Children were being born without Esper power and terribly disfigured. Those that did make it into adolescence and into adulthood possessed only an infinitesimal amount of Telemental ability. Noah recognized this threat to their survival and planned to move his people back to Palma, but his plans were put to an abrupt halt.

Native Dezorians, growing tired of Palman occupation of their planet, took up arms and attacked Skure, its citizens defenseless. A small party of Espers went to their aid, but arrived too late. When they entered the city, they were attacked. Noah, filled with an incredible rage at seeing Skure's residents murdered in cold blood, used his very life force to bring the cavern down around the Dezorian Army, completely annihilating Skure in the process. He returned to Esper Mansion after that, wounded and dying, and cast a spell that would forever hide it from normal eyes.

Noah called Lutz, his student and last of the "pure-blood" Espers, to his bedside and asked him to assume his role as Protector of Knowledge and Guardian of Light. Not wanting to disappoint his teacher, Lutz accepted the titles. Noah instructed him to enter the cryogenic sleep chamber and return every ten years to monitor his peoples' progress, and to enter Palman society as an observer to see if Esper blood still remained.

Noah died shortly afterward and Lutz fulfilled his promise to his dying teacher, awakening from cryogenic stasis and doing what he could to maintain his dying society.

He was successful, as were his heirs. In two thousand years, Esper population had grown tenfold, but only about fifteen percent of them possessed true Telemental abilities. It was the third generation Lutz who aided Rolf in his quest, and the Fifth Generation Lutz, Rune Walsh, who accompanied Chaz Ashley on his. Rune was Algo's current Lutz, but disappeared following his quest with Chaz, and not even his own people knew of his current whereabouts. Even without him, Esper society flourished, and for the first time in two thousand years they slowly began to integrate themselves into society.

Kyra Tierney was the first.

She was a pioneer of sorts, being her peoples' first representative and the first Esper since Lutz and his descendants to return to a world that had literally banished them. In Lutz's absence, she was selected to journey to Meese, a Dezorian town of Palman settlers, to aid its population which had fallen ill from a mysterious illness. Shortly after, she met up with Chaz and his companions, or rather was rescued by them.

When Garuberk Tower appeared, things began to change. First came a storm, a fiercely strong storm which dropped Dezoris' ambient temperature to intolerable and unlivable. Even native Dezorians who spent all of their lives in their planet's harsh climate suffered. Kyra traced the source of both the unnatural weather and Meese's sickness to Garuberk Tower and immediately set off to rectify it.

In the meantime, Chaz and company arrived in Meese and discovered its people sick and dying. A short time after their arrival, Raja, a Dezorian Priest and their current travelling companion, fell ill, having contracted whatever was making Meese's residents infirm. It was Raja who alerted Chaz to Garuberk's presence, and that he felt what was like an evil chill emanating from it. Upon questioning the town's citizens, Chaz was told that the Esper Kyra had left Meese for Garuberk Tower in hopes of ending their suffering.

Chaz, Rika, Rune, and the android, Wren, found Kyra entangled in a dense forest mass of carnivorous trees and pulled her free. Those trees were unaffected by sword and spell alike, and guarded Garuberk like a pride of lions guards its young. Kyra cursed herself for being so foolish in thinking she could get things done on her own, but was gently coerced into joining her rescuers to achieve their common goal -- to help Meese's people.

To help them on their quest, Kyra recommended that they visit Esper Mansion and seek counsel with Lutz, the Esper's great Leader who had aided Rolf in his quest one thousand years prior to their own. They were saddened and disheartened to discover that he passed away long ago, but not without leaving an heir, a legacy passed on to each succeeding generation. Much to their surprise it was revealed to them that Rune Walsh was this legacy, and as the Fifth Generation Lutz, his entire existence was devoted to protecting all of Algo from Darkness.

Rune recalled from memory an ancient tale of Dezoris' most holy possession, the Eclipse Torch, which was worshiped as such in Gumbious Temple, the two thousand year-old structure of Dezorian religion. He believed that it could help them, for its holy light was rumored to be able to dispel evil. They agreed that retrieving the Eclipse Torch would be the most logical course of action and immediately embarked on a journey to Gumbious Temple.

When they arrived at Gumbious, Chaz and company encountered some resistence from Dezorian priests who objected to their most holiest possession being removed from its sanctuary. During their dispute, however, three sinister sorcerers commandeered the Eclipse Torch and extended to them an invitation from their master, King Lassic, to visit his Air Castle and recover it. The Dezorian priests begged them to recover it, agreeing to let them use it if they were successful.

Chaz's party made a gruesome and terrible discovery while in Lassic's Air Castle. After defeating his henchmen, they made their way to the inner sanctum and faced King Lassic himself, or rather, his horrid reincarnation. Flesh decaying from his bones, he seethed evil like a cracked dike. Opposing forces engaged in a violent battle and just like Alis Landale, Myau, Odin, and Noah had done before them, Chaz and his friends vanquished King Lassic back into the Underworld where he belonged.

With the Eclipse Torch once again in their possession, the Protectors used its holy light to destroy Garuberk Tower's carnivorous trees and gained entrance. There, they ascertained that its very structure was a living, breathing entity that polluted its surroundings with evil. The walls of Garuberk were biological tissues and pulsated with life; consequently, Chaz felt like he was walking in some creature's digestive system.

A form of Dark Force awaited them at Garuberk's apex, serving as both its mind and heart. Again, Chaz was forced to lead his friends into combat, the sake of an entire solar system hanging in the balance. Fortunately, Dark Force fell just as its predecessors did, and Garuberk was destroyed as well, restoring Meese's health, returning Dezoris' climate to normal.

Obligation nearly fulfilled, Kyra took leave of her companions, but not before she thanked them with sincerity worthy of an Esper. She regretted leaving them, but part of her obligation was to return to Meese and ensure its peoples' full recovery, then to return to Esper Mansion. She bade them a fond farewell, especially Rune who did not turn out to be the Lutz she expected, but expressed that he did not bring any shame to his name. They went their separate ways, but Kyra left hoping that her Leader would return to his people soon.

* * * * *

That was three years ago.

Rune Walsh never returned and despite all their efforts, the Espers could not locate him anywhere in Algo. There were three possibilities of why they were not able to locate him: He was unconscious, he was not in Algo, or he was dead. Discounting the first and third possibilities, Kyra and her people agreed that the "Reverent Fifth One," as Rune was referred to, must have left their solar system on a sabbatical to seek knowledge or to answer another calling. It was therefore logical to assume that Rune would be absent from Algo for an inestimable amount of time, and that another Leader should be appointed in his absence.

Kyra Tierney was that Leader.

It was common knowledge among her people that she had journeyed beyond the walls of Esper Mansion to help Meese recover from its sickness. During her travels, Kyra acquired massive amounts of information about society, its strong points and its ills.

Normally, all Espers lived a sheltered life save that of Lutz and his descendants, but desperate times called for desperate measures. Kyra stepped up to the plate and like the consummate ball player, hit a home run. In two thousand years, no other Esper did what she did and was able to return to Esper Mansion afterward. And in the process, her Esper powers grew with the experience she gained making their strength second only to Rune's. Kyra was more than qualified to lead her people.

That did not mean that she wanted all of the responsibilities accompanying her title. Kyra accepted it because for the first time in history her people were without a Leader and she feared that anarchy and chaos might result if they foolishly decided to reenter society without being prepared. In reality, her title was just that -- a title. The Espers functioned perfectly well without a "commanding" leader, evident because of Lutz's ten-year hibernations. Kyra's purpose as Leader was merely to serve as an iconic symbol and maintain order within their society.

Kyra Tierney, Leader of the Espers, was plagued by many things, but nothing more so than by her own people. Never in her people's history over the past two thousand years had an Esper Leader remained among his or her charges for more than a brief interlude, and they began to question her leadership capabilities. Many of them hounded her with questions about what being their Leader meant to her, or how she planned to reintroduce them to Algo's societies. She was able to supply them answers that quelled their curiosities, but quickly grew tired of them and wondered if leadership was all it was cracked up to be.

Lutz commanded both respect and trepidation from his people, demanding that they obey his every command without hesitation. Kyra, however, did not command as such, and soon a few of their population came down with a burning desire to leave Esper Mansion on their own. Not accustomed to belligerence, she called a formal meeting to address their desires.

"We are going to leave, and there's nothing you can do to stop us!" a young Esper man shouted in defiance. Kyra eyed him carefully, choosing a proper response so as not to anger him further.

"You're right," she told him, "I can't stop you if that's what you want, Desel." She looked into his eyes and saw herself reflected in them. Once trimmed and short, her straight, blue hair, a characteristic shared among Espers, was now at a length past her shoulders. It seemed to her that it grew even faster now that the burdens of leadership were placed upon her.

"Then you'll let us go?" Desel asked, surprised at Kyra's response. His Leader stood up and walked away to consider her answer, then returned to her seat at the end of the Council Table. Seated at both sides were Council members, mostly elderly Espers. It was their society's younger members that was the voice of rebellion.

"Desel," she spoke clearly and with authority, "let me tell you something of my experiences outside of Esper Mansion's walls. I learned that all three races, Palmans, Motavians, and Dezorians, are avid history recorders as we are. There was a time over two millennia ago when we intermingled with them on a daily basis, but like all mortals, they -- we fear what we don't understand. Do you understand what I'm saying?" Desel nodded. "Good. Now, when King Lassic came into power, he fed off of the Palmans' fear, creating anger and distrust where there had once been only truth. He gained their support from banishing our numbers from Palma, where Esper culture once flourished, and then led his people to the slaughter like lambs.

"Once Palmans realized that Lassic was, indeed, a tyrant, they felt guilty for what they had done to us, but knew that there was nothing they could do to restore our numbers to their planet. In order to hide their guilt and disgrace, the Palmans did the unthinkable and recorded into the annals of their history that we abandoned them, leaving them at Lassic's mercy.

"When I went to Meese, Desel, I was fortunate that its citizens were desperate for assistance in any form, otherwise I would have not been welcome there. Against my better judgement, I openly announced to them my heritage, and immediately they began to speak of me in furtive whispers, questioning my intentions. If anything, that was a clear indication that they studied their history well, as falsified as it may be. My point is that not every Palman will be willing to welcome us with open arms, and after what Master Noah did to Skure, I doubt the Dezorians would be willing to either. If you leave Esper Mansion, Desel, you may be walking to your death, something I am trying my hardest to prevent. I have no real dominion over you and I won't make your decisions; we are all separate, thinking individuals. If you choose to leave, then you may do so. If not, then we will be happy to have you remain among us. It is your decision and I invite you to make it before your peers."

Desel faded to back to his supporters, a group of about twenty young Espers, male and female, to discuss their next course of action. This made Kyra weary for never in her wildest dreams did she ever imagine any of her people's numbers leaving their sanctuary. The renegades continued discussing what was to Kyra a consequential event in Esper history, and the longer they did, the more nervous she became.

"Leader," Desel finally spoke, addressing Kyra in a customary form that some, but not all, Espers referred to her as, "after careful consideration, we discussed the weight of your words of wisdom and advice and our decision is this: We feel that for the time being, it would be in our best interests to remain here at Esper Mansion until we feel otherwise, but first we must have solid evidence that society will be willing to accept us as a part of it again. We will leave that decision up to you, Leader."

"Thank you," was Kyra's response. "Your decision shows the wisdom of ages. Noah himself would have been proud of you at this moment." Each member of the rebellious faction delivered to Kyra a humble bow, then exited the Council's chamber.

When they were gone, Kyra let out a visible sigh of relief and sank deeply into her chair, a high-backed wooden piece with arm rests decorated with ancient Esper markings of wisdom and power. Never before had she been so tense in the company of so many. She feared that she may have given some sort of a sign indicating her nervousness, but apparently she was able to hold up under pressure without assistance from her older, yet more distinguished, peers.

"They should be punished," one Council member commented, a man whose years had been kind to him. Kyra corrected her posture and sat upright.

"Give them a break, Metash," their Leader returned, "they're only kids." Over the past few months of being Esper Leader, Kyra had developed a habit of referring to teenagers as children despite that she, herself, was at the ripe old age of twenty-one. Her age was all that kept the Council from following her absolutely.

"No, Kyra," an elderly Esper woman addressed her, "Metash is right. Such insubordination should not go unpunished. It only sends a message to our people that this Council does not support its own laws."

"I understand that, Ephemera, but I also understand their position. Is it not the responsibility of a Leader to hear both sides of an argument before passing judgement?"

"Yes, a true Leader," said Ephemera, spoken beneath her breath.

"I'm sorry, I didn't quite get that," returned Kyra who was perfectly aware of what was said.

"I said a Leader must also carefully weigh the good of many over the good of a few. Kyra, these children are revolutionaries and if one thing has been proven time and time again in history, its that their kind spreads feelings of nobility, recruiting sympathizers into their ranks. If they are allowed to continue to discuss their ideals among our people, the results could be catastrophic." Kyra was by no means a fool, as some of her fellow Council members secretly might have led some to believe. She was aware of the discord rebellion could cause, as Ephemera should have remembered. Kyra herself had started one when she requested to leave Esper Mansion to help Meese.

"Change is good, but it is our responsibility to see that it does not occur too rapidly. If Algo's people did not request some kind of change, then we would probably still be under Lassic's rule. It was Nero and Alis Landale who first recognized that things needed to change because life under Lassic was less than desirable. Their case was one of a few in which rapid change was required, not the more common and conservative gradual change. Still, it is those who rebel or revolutionize that produce society's greatest changes. So, Ephemera, you can see that if we suppress revolutionary ideals, then we suppress progress. In our current state, we need to advance as quickly as possible." Ephemera opened her mouth to speak, but Kyra raised a negating hand and she was silenced. "Before you say another word, hear me out. We may need to advance quickly, but the way we do it is as important as how quickly it is accomplished. I believe that how our 'revolutionaries' propose to do it is the incorrect way. It is in my opinion that we keep to Master Noah's original plan and stay within Esper Mansion's walls until Rune -- er, that is, Lutz, returns and tells us otherwise."

Ephemera agreed, as did the rest of the Council. For once, everyone agreed with what Kyra had to say and she proved to them that she did possess wisdom and insight enough to lead the Espers in Lutz's absence. An enormous burden was lifted from Kyra's shoulders for she no longer had to deal with her Council members' doubt along with her own.

"I have a suggestion," First Council Member Lian spoke. As First Council Member, Lian was second in command and his words held almost as much weight as Kyra's. "Perhaps it would be prudent for you to do as your predecessors did and retire to the Sleep Chamber. You, I -- we all have seen that the continuous presence of a Leader is only creating confusion and anarchy. Everything is much easier when a Leader represents an ideal, just as a martyr does. It will give our laws a sense of absoluteness, and will give our people something to look forward to when you return in ten years." Lian spoke with eloquence, which, at times, lulled his fellow members into a false sense of security. A low murmur spread among the Council, making Kyra uneasy. She did not trust Lian and questioned his motives. Sometimes she thought he put his own interests in front of his people's.

"Metash, Octavian, Perla, Ephemera, Balor, Francis, Jakob, Lian," Kyra addressed each of them by name, a sign that she wanted their undivided attention, "I realize that I have yet to prove myself as your Leader, but you did elect me as such and I am trying my best not to disappoint you. I can't pretend to replace Lutz, nor would I ever try. I am merely serving as Leader in his absence, and I am certain that he will eventually return to lead us. I do not believe that he is gone. I will not enter his Sleep Chamber and pretend to be him when I know I am not. That chamber is like his throne, designated to Him and his descendants, and I am neither." The Council exchanged curious glances, nodding in silent agreement to something that escaped Kyra's notice. "My fellow Espers," Kyra continued, "if you are certain I am incapable of carrying out my duties in physical presence of our people, then remove me now. To enter the Sleep Chamber would be like a sacrilege, and I will not have any part of it."

Murmurs once again started in response to Kyra's final words, but this time they swayed in her support. She knew exactly how the Council thought, choosing her words carefully and effectively so that could sympathize her position. None of them envied her, for as first Leader since Lutz, she was presented with a whole new agenda and was forced to live in the shadow of his greatness, never living up to the standards that He made.

Grudgingly, Lian announced that after careful consideration, they decided to keep Kyra in her current position as Leader. Kyra often derived a certain sadistic pleasure from seeing Lian get flustered, but felt guilty afterward. She knew that he thought himself more fit to lead. His feelings were justified by the fact that he was senior Council member and led their people during Lutz's ten-year hibernations. Nothing could convince him otherwise.

A strange sensation, like that of two similar poles of a magnet passing over each other, overcame Kyra, and she collapsed. For an instant, she felt her entire world ripple, a ripple passing through her body and twisting her insides like one might wring a rag. She screamed out in pain, a haunting scream which echoed within Esper Mansion's walls. Instantly, the entire Council was at her side. She looked to them for assistance and empathy, but it seemed they were not affected by the sensation that incapacitated her.

Then, as suddenly as it began, it ended. All of Kyra's sensations returned to normal, or as normal as they could. She could feel something different, not within herself, but in the aura of their natural surroundings. Kyra, who determined that her Telemental powers were more finely honed than those who accompanied her, detected a disturbance in Dezoris' magnetic field. She had felt it before, but could not quite put a finger on its source. She was looking at a face, but could not associate a name with it. Then, without warning, a memory came to her, unadulterated.

The Esper Leader doubled over in fear.

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