Child Of Darkness
Chaz and company reappeared within Esper Mansion's walls. Its few
remaining inhabitants, those who were either too elderly or too young to
make the journey, were startled by their arrival, but instinctively knew
that they were not a theat. They were oblivious to what occurred, assumed
that everything was well because of Algo's return. The Espers offered warm
congratulations which the Protectors gladly accepted.
Dispensing with any more formalities, Rune led his friends through the
small crowd of grandmothers, grandfathers, and children that gathered
around them. Walking swiftly through the Mansion, he glanced back at Chaz
who was being led by Kyra and Hahn. Elsydeon's light must have burnt out
his retina. That must have been why his eyesight was rapidly
deteriorating. It was funny how the weapon could save thousands of lives
and not spare the vision of the one responsible for it. He felt bad for
him. At least Wren and Demi would be there for him since they would most
likely be taking up residence in Aiedo. He would not have that luxury.
The Reverent Fifth entered his sanctuary and it was empty. Normally
there would have been at least two guards, but since every capable Esper
was needed for the journey, they left it unguarded. The door which led
down into the Hibernation Chamber was relatively close by and they reached
it only after a few moments. Rune opened it and together they walked
Chaz walked with caution, forced to feel each step to make sure
something solid was beneath his feet. Still helped by Hahn and Kyra, he
felt guilty for slowing their progress, but not a single soul would have
complained. His friends, after all, were there at his request. They went
along to be supportive of him, to comfort him at the very moment his
vision was lost forever. To lose a sense, whether it was sight, hearing,
taste, touch, or smell, was very traumatic. All he could see now were
faint, blurred images he knew to be his companions. He hoped that somehow
his vision would clear up enough to be able to look upon Rika's peaceful
visage one more time. It was not exactly the way he wanted to remember
her, but a glance was better than nothing. After that, the Hunter would no
longer to behold the rising of Algo in the East or its setting in the
West. He would no longer be able to recognize familiar faces, faces of
friends and neighbors. Chaz would be cast into a world of utter darkness
and the light of day would never welcome him again.
Gryz was truly torn between two worlds now. Noah instructed him to join
with the Espers, to learn about their power and their heritage. He fully
intended to do so, but now that his best friend needed him, he was not so
sure about leaving. Chaz already sacrificed so much for his friends and
for his world and now, like salt on a festering wound, he was delivered
another blow by his loss of vision. Nothing Raja or anyone else could do
would save it and to attempt to do so was futile. The Light itself willed
it to be so.
After nearly half an hour passed, the Protectors reached the floor of
Rune's Hibernation Chamber. It was peaceful there and seemed to wipe away
all of the agony and suffering of the past months. This hallowed area was
free of even the slightest hint of impurity and Chaz felt like he was
finally coming to accept his loss. He saw a vague impression before him
which he assumed was the sarcophagus, blinked his eyes, and then it was
"It's too late," he said calmly.
"No!" Demi gasped. "Not yet!"
"My eyesight is gone," the Hunter blinked a few more times and rubbed
his eyes. "I guess I won't be able to see Rika again after all. It's all
right, though. I can see her clearly in my mind the way she was when she
was alive and well. That is the way I want to remember her, not laying
lifelessly in a coffin."
"I am sorry for your loss," Wren said. "Demi and I will do everything
possible to accommodate your handicap. Who knows? Perhaps there will be a
way in the near future to give you back a portion of what was taken from
Chaz heard a whooshing of air from somewhere in front of him. "Rune,"
he said, "what are you doing?"
"You may not be able to see her, Chaz," the Reverent Fifth told him,
"but you can still hold her hand one last time." He lifted the Chamber's
lid and a platform slid out from underneath it. The Hunter heard him gasp,
take a few steps backward.
"What?" he asked. "What is it?"
"Kyra, Raja," Rune spoke, "would you come over here, please."
Hearing them move away from him, Chaz suddenly began to worry. It was
not like Rune to keep anything hidden, but his reasoning must have been
sufficient enough to do so now. He started walking forward and Gryz lay a
restraining hand upon him. The Hunter did not like being kept in the dark.
He would have to get used to that from now on.
Rune placed his hand on Rika's forehead and it felt chill to the touch.
Her lips were blue and she looked only like she dipped into cold water for
too long a time. Moving downward, he placed his hand upon the forehead of
another -- a newborn infant. It was chill as well, its body as lifeless
as the one who held it in her arms. The Reverent Fifth wondered how it was
that the infant came to be inside the chamber with Rika. He was shocked
into the realization that it may be the very child they just defeated.
That was obviously Kyra's conclusion and Raja silently argued that they
should not tell Chaz at all. It would only add to his grief.
While they whispered in silent conference, Chaz became impatient. He
wanted desperately to know what was going on. His friends were far enough
away to be just out of earshot and secretly cursed them for their
secretiveness. It was not fair that they were hiding something from him,
but he guess that they did so for his own protection.
Rune felt a curious warmth against leg and reached into his pouch,
bringing out three round objects. The Laerma Nuts glowed with a startling
intensity. Something nearby caused the magic within them to activate, but
what that was remained a mystery. The Reverent Fifth held the Nuts in his
palm, brought them closer to Rika's body and was surprised to witness
their glow intensify. Taking two Laerma Nuts, he placed one inside the
Numan's mouth, the other inside the infant's . . . .
A thumping sound like that of a heartbeat echoed through the
Hibernation Chamber. It was so abrupt that Chaz was startled by it and
jumped. A choked sob from Kyra alerted him and he started toward her
voice. "By the Light!" Hahn breathed.
Chaz listened intently to the heartbeat and found himself comforted by
it. Drumming its sound into his head, he found familiarity and ardor. It
seemed to reach out, caress his very being, weaving its way into his bones
and muscles, flowing through arteries and veins. If he were anywhere else,
the Hunter would have given in, let it consume him wholly. The comforting
touch of his friends slowly guiding him forward broke him from the trance,
however, and the drumming ended as quickly as it began. Chaz was in an
almost drunken state and was barely aware of footsteps approaching
An object was held out to the Hunter. Although it barely grazed his
chest plate, he was consciously aware of it. The hands he touched were
warm, smooth. Chaz took the object and held it awkwardly for he was still
unsure of what it actually was. Upon taking it, he felt movement, and a
breath of life.
The cry of a baby rang out and Chaz pulled it close to him before he
dropped it. Many, many months had past since he last heard a baby's cry
for Palman birthrates declined sharply. The last one he heard was from one
whose mother died giving birth to him. The Hunter instinctively knew that
this infant was his own, but was not prepared to accept that yet. Still,
having a daughter to raise could have been the Light's gift to him. He
eyes could never look upon her face, but his love would not be lessened
because of it.
Chaz cradled her, swinging her back and forth. The cries ceased and was
replaced by the sounds of a happy infant. He wondered what she saw in him,
wondered if she was looking at him at all. What color were her eyes?
Feeling around her head, he found her pointed ears and smiled. Gently
smoothing back an almost full head of hair, the Hunter wondered if it was
blond like his or some other color. He poked at her stomach playfully and
a tiny hand grasped at his finger.
"Kyra?" Chaz lifted his face to whoever stood before him, wondering if
she was the one who handed him the baby.
"No," she answered quickly from his right, he voice hinting of great
joy and happiness.
Chaz felt his heart nearly explode within his chest. His stance wavered
as he was overcome by emotion. Unable to remain standing, Wren and Hahn
gently lowered him down to his knees. The Hunter cried, emotions
empowering his sobs. He shook his head over and over again as in disbelief
while making several attempts to speak, but the words failed him. His
entire body began to tremble. Hands reached out, grasped his own tightly.
Lips pressed against his forehead. Chaz's blind eyes could not see, but
his heart provided all the sight he required.
"R -- Rika!"
The Hunter reached up with one arm and brought their lips together,
then used it to do the same for their bodies. They wept without restraint,
then began to laugh as they nearly crushed their daughter between them.
She struggled, but did not cry. Kyra, on the other hand, held both hands
over her face and let tears of joy flow into them. Rune used his cape to
wipe his eyes dry. Raja's tears were flowing as well. He thanked
Tak'khan over and over again for its great gift. Hahn and Gryz
patted each other's backs and smiled blissfully like fools. They needed no
tears to express the happiness they felt in their hearts. Wren and Demi
held hands as they watched the tearful reunion, overjoyed to have Rika
back, comforted by each other's presence.
"Chaz, my only love," said Rika, "I told you that I would never leave
"How is this possible?" her husband questioned.
"It was Myau's Laerma Nuts," Rune explained. "Once Rika's soul was free
from its captor it must have returned to her body. The magic contained
within the Nuts was able to restore both her and your daughter to
"It doesn't matter how I came back," Rika told him, then noticed that
his eyes did not look at her and jumped about at random. She did not want
to believe it at first but now knew it to be true. Her husband was blind.
"What matters is that I'm here for good," the Numan continued, "and I'm in
it for the long run."
Rika kissed Chaz on the forehead again and caressed his head. Tears
fell from her eyes, streamed downward, mingling with his own. The Hunter
nearly jumped away from her, quickly handing their daughter to his wife.
He eyes stung like acid had been poured into them. He rubbed and rubbed,
but the sensation did not stop. Finally, it began to abate and he opened
There was only blackness again, but the Hunter noticed a change. A grey
tinge, a slight lightening and suddenly his world did not seem so dark.
"What is it, Chaz?" Rika asked.
"My sight is returning," he told her.
"Can you see us?"
"No, but I can see light again." Chaz rubbed his eyes again. "I think
I'm back in business!"
Rune was delighted beyond words. When he found out that Rika died he
never believed that Chaz could ever truly be happy again. He found
happiness with Nei, but even more now that his wife returned from the
grave. The Reverent Fifth suddenly remembered Noah's words to him, how he
said that he did a not bring shame to his title and that his devotion was
inspiring. While Kyra was puzzled by what he said to her, Rune understood
completely. She had a special destiny which she had yet to discover and
only he could reveal. His devotion to her and to the rest of his friends
was not over yet, and time was running out.
"Come on, you guys," Rune called his friends from their reverie. "We
have to get going."
"Why?" Hahn questioned. "What is there left to do?"
"Save the Palmans from extinction."
* * * * *
Arriving at Dezoris' only spaceport near Tyler, Rune led his friends
aboard the Landale and instructed Wren to take her outside the
planet's atmosphere. The Reverent Fifth managed to once again surprise his
comrades with this unusual course of action. Instead of aiming their ship
toward Motavia, he instructed its pilot to take them to the Palman
asteroid belt. Obviously there was something there that needed to be
Wren did not even question him, just did as he asked because he trusted
him implicitly. The big android noticed a change in his friend, a tired
sullenness about him. It was unlike Rune to do anything to place them in
danger. It was, however, in his character to place himself in danger to
ensure their survival. Could he be doing that now? Not likely, Wren
thought. The greatest danger was gone, banished into another
Still, Rune seemed anxious. He undoubtedly had some kind of plan of
action to accomplish what he said they needed to do. That plan was masked
in secrecy, but in order to make it work, he had to tell them what it was
at some point. Perhaps time is what he needed to mull through his ideas
and check and compensate for any anomalies that might occur.
The Reverent Fifth returned from looking out a porthole and sat down
with a sigh. "Everyone," he called his friends' attention, "I'd like to
tell you a story, a story whose roots began over almost two hundred years
ago. Kyra, come sit here before me."
The Esper Leader did as Rune instructed, pivoting in a chair, she sat
down and faced him. Gryz, Demi and the others joined them, taking the
remaining seats, devoting their full attention to the Reverent Fifth. Rika
guided her husband closer, stood behind him with one hand on his shoulder,
the other cradling a sleeping child. Chaz's vision continued to improve.
He could now see a vague image he knew to be Rune as he spoke.
"My life as Lutz has been comparatively brief where my predecessors are
concerned," Rune began. "The Lutz before me lived for over seven hundred
years. Before him, the Lutz who help Rolf on his quest was a ripe old age
of five hundred. Both the Reverent Second and Noah lived to be
approximately three hundred years before passing on.
"As you can see, it's just like I said -- my life has been brief
compared to them. There is another factor that separates us and that is I
have been forced to battle Darkness twice in my lifetime, a burden none of
the other Lutz's had to bear. Our last battle has taxed my strength far
more than you can imagine. I am exhausted and it's time for me to
Kyra tried to insert something, but Rune raised a silencing hand.
"When I was born almost two hundred years ago," he continued, "I knew
of my destiny to succeed the title of Lutz before I understood what it
meant. I grew into a man and on my twentieth birthday I replaced the
Reverent Fourth. For sixteen decades I awoke every ten years and handled
administrative matters for the Espers, ensuring their survival. Upon
awakening in that sixteenth decade, I learned of another matter I needed
to attend to. In Aiedo on the planet of Motavia, a young girl at the age
of six was to soon face the pain of abandonment and I was required to
befriend her for she would be key to defeating the Darkness when it
returned in twenty years. I visited her once in her dreams and told her
that the future held great disappointment, but to be strong." Rune paused
for a moment, then continued.
"I retired to the Hibernation Chamber and cast a spell which would
allow my mind, though not my body, to awaken in two year's time. When the
girl was abandoned by her parents at eight, I returned to her in her
dreams. That is when I befriended her, coming to her on her loneliest
nights, comforting her, speaking reassuring words. She grew up to be one
of Motavia's finest Hunters."
"Alys," Chaz said, reaching up to touch his wife's hand. She took it in
hers and held tightly. "So that's how she knew you."
"Yes, Chaz," the Reverent Fifth went on, "it was Alys. We talked as
often as four nights a week and she always told me her thoughts. Our
conversations went on for the next eight years and we grew close.
"When Alys was sixteen she learned of the deaths of two of Aiedo's
residents and heard that they left a five year-old boy behind." Chaz knew
the rest of the story from there on, at least the part where he was
concerned. That five year-old boy was him. Curious, though, how Rune said
she was sixteen when she took him in. Alys maintained that she was
thirteen although he did not know any better at the time. He guessed maybe
she was not aware of her true age or that she did not want him to know how
much older than him she truly was.
"Using Ladea Tower's magic," Rune was saying, bringing the Hunter out
of his pondering, "I physically visited her that year although you were
never aware of it, Chaz. There was only ten years left before the galactic
seal weakened enough for Darkness to rear its ugly head in our dimension
again. I explained to her that it was vital that she train you in the ways
of a warrior so that both of you might help me banish it. She agreed.
"After that, I returned to Dezoris, returned to my Chamber. We
corresponded only a couple dozen times in the next decade, but Alys was
still true to her word. She trained Chaz in the ways of the Hunter and he
grew up into a fine young man. I awoke when I was scheduled to, took a
year to stay with my people, then went to Motavia where I met Chaz, Hahn,
Gryz, Demi, and Alys for a second time. All of you know how the story goes
from that point on."
"I don't understand," Kyra spoke up. "Why is this story supposed to be
so important to me?"
"I haven't gotten to that part yet," Rune returned with a warm smile.
The Esper Leader smiled back.
"I spent part of my childhood growing up with a girl who my mother told
me was my adopted sister," he explained, completely changing the topic.
"We were extremely happy children, extremely close in age, and were very
close despite that I believed that we were not related by blood. When I
began my studies, we were separated and I missed being with her very much.
Only when I had been through two hibernation cycles did I finally find out
the truth. Sariah Walsh was not my adopted sister, but a sister in the
truest sense. She was my twin."
"Saria?" Kyra questioned, the name sounding vaguely familiar to her.
"But one of my ancestors --"
"Saria met a young Esper when she was in her twenties," Rune
interrupted. "They married and had three children. The man's name was Kyle
Kyra's eyes widened. "By the Light!" she breathed.
"Your family has always been gifted with strong Telemental abilities,
Kyra, and you are no exception. Our people have always traditionally
thought of Lutz as being a male figure, as much as I'm ashamed to admit
it. My parents knew that because Saria was a few minutes older than me,
she would have the right of succession. Rather than reveal her true
identity, they concocted a story to allow me to become the Reverent Fifth.
Kyra, my friend, this is what I needed to tell you. I wanted to know your
true heritage. You have more right to lay claim to Lutz's name than any
other Esper besides me. You will need to return to the Mansion and lead
them into a new generation of peace with the Dezorians."
"Me?" Kyra asked with surprise. "What about you? You are the current
Lutz and you need to come back to lead us! I can't possibly --"
"You can, you must, and you will. I have faith in you, Kyra. Since I
don't have an heir it's only logical that you take my place. You're about
the right age to do so, anyway."
"What will you do?" Rune stopped and thought for a moment. He knew what
he needed to tell them but was loath to speak the words.
"I will join my ancestors in the pages of history."
"No!" Chaz yelled abruptly and stood up. Rika was instantly by his
side. "No, Rune! Say it's not true! You can't leave us just like that! For
the sake of all that's good, why now?"
"Because the Light beckons me, my friend. I have done far more than it
ever expected of me and now it wants me to find peace in eternal
Despite his clouded vision, Chaz somehow managed to quickly find his
way to Rune and wrapped his arms around the Esper's body. "Don't cry,
Shorty," Rune said playfully, recalling how Chaz used to hate that
nickname, but did not get the angry response he was so used to. "We live,
we die. It is all a part of the cycle of life."
"I owe so much to you," the Hunter managed to say between sobs.
"No, Chaz. You owe me nothing. You have been a true friend and like the
son I never had." Rune's admission of his true feelings toward him only
drove the Hunter's sorrow deeper. Truth was, he thought of him as a father
figure although he never summoned the courage to tell him so.
Chaz looked up at him and the cloudiness faded away. He saw tears in
Rune's eyes. It was the first time he ever recalled seeing him cry and
knew that the Esper's sorrow mirrored his own.
Rika approached with tears in her own eyes. Chaz released his embrace
and turned toward her, saw his child with clear vision for the first time
and almost wept again. He held his head close to his wife's and they wept
together. They then faced Rune and she held the girl out to him.
"Please," she said, "just this once . . . hold our daughter so that we
may tell her of the brave man who once held her, of the man who helped
save her parents' lives, of the man who helped save her lives. Hold her so
that we can tell her that she was once carried by Greatness."
Rune took the Ashley child and walked a few steps away from them. She
was awake but did not cry. He saw both of her parents in her face. She was
beautiful and had the most beautiful parents in any world to raise her. He
knew that she would never be a point in her life when she went
"This is such an honor," Rune told them with his back still turned, but
then faced them. I -- I don't have the words to express what this means to
"Really?" Hahn asked, wiping his eyes. "The day Rune doesn't have
anything to say is the day that sand crabs fly. Look out." The Reverent
Fifth laughed half-heartedly and Hahn approached him. "For what it's
worth, I'm glad we spent that time together when we travelled to Krup. You
learned a lot about me then and I learned about the true friend you really
are. You're about to help save the Palman race and then you're going to
be taken from us. Forgive me, but I'm feeling a little short-changed
"Me, too," Gryz added while staring down at his feet. "I was hoping
that you would be my mentor, that I could learn from the greatest Esper
who ever lived."
"Not me, Gryz," Rune told him. "I'm far from it."
"Not in my book. Not in any of our books."
"Oh, Rune," Demi said, "I never thought I could be close to any mortal
before I met all of you. There are many who say that an android could
never truly love, but I feel it. To think of your passing causes me great
anguish. I still get surges when I think of the adventures we had
together. I will miss you."
"And I, you," he returned.
"Dezorian history will record your name in its pages," Raja spoke after
a brief silence, "and I will make sure that it records you as the greatest
Esper who ever lived just as Gryz said. You helped bring our people
together after thousands of years of petty bickering. That is no small
feat. From now on, Dezorians will no longer call you enemy or Esper. You
will be called Khrabal. You will be called 'friend.'"
"We all know that I have never been an expert at expressing myself,"
Wren began. "Sometimes it is hard for me to realize that, like Demi, I,
too, have emotions. If what I am feeling now can be interpreted as loss
and sorrow, I hope to never experience it again. I did not realize what
love was about until Rika died. I know now that it is a powerful weapon
for it gave me the strength to fight even when the odds were against us. I
also discovered that love and friendship come hand-in-hand. You helped me
to finally understand that. Thank you for being my friend."
The Protectors became silent as Rune handed the Ashley child back to
her parents. When Rika died they barely had enough time to say good-bye.
At least they were spared the grueling backlash of emotions one
experiences when saying a lengthy farewell. It was not the same with Rune.
He was there with them until the very end, but no more. Kyra knew it was
her turn to say something, but was at a loss of words.
"I can't ever possibly hope to replace you, Rune," she finally told
"Then don't," he returned. "Start a new chapter, one that begins with,
'Kyra Tierney, Lutz by heritage . . . ."
"I've learned so much from you, not only how to be a great leader, but
also how to be a great follower, how to lead others to inspiration, how to
show true devotion, but most of all, I learned how to live. I will try my
hardest not to bring shame to our heritage. Knowing now that we are
related is the greatest honor anyone could bestow on me. I follow in the
footsteps of a great Esper. I follow in the footsteps of Rune Walsh."
"We've arrived," Wren informed his comrades. Rune peered out of a
porthole. Only a few hundred fragments of what used to be Palma remained.
"What is it that we are here to do?"
"Used the Landale's cannons to seek out and destroy those
asteroids," he told the big android. Wren nodded and instructed his
friends to return to their seats.
The next half hour or so was spent chasing down rock fragments. Wren
fired the ships cannons with deadly accuracy, not missing a single target.
Flying at several hundreds of thousands of miles per hour at some points,
his friends wondered how he could find them at all. There was, however,
one enormous fragment that was too large for the ship to destroy. It was
the fragment Lassic's Air Castle sat upon.
"How do we get rid of it?" the Scholar questioned.
"With concentration," Rune replied, "and teamwork. If we concentrate
hard enough, we can project our energies outside the ship and use them to
our advantage. So, what do you say? Want to fire up the Nova Cannon one
last time for old time's sake?"
"Let's do it."
Demi, Wren, Kyra, Chaz, Rune, Raja, and Hahn prepared themselves for
the task before them while Gryz and Rika stood away from them. Aiming
their concentration and energies directly outside the Landale's
nose section, they amazingly projected Nova Cannon and fired. A gigantic
beam traveled through space at the speed of light and impacted its target,
blowing it into thousands of harmless fragments.
"Now what?" inquired Raja.
"Now we must move Motavia into Palma's old orbit."
"Yeah," Rune laughed. "We thought as much when we first set out to
defeat the Profound Darkness. Improbable, yes. Impossible -- perhaps. We
should all know by now that anything's possible, even returning from the
dead." Rika reached over and held his hand, patted it gently. He silently
thanked her for her support, then turned to Kyra.
"Kyra, do you remember the special way we combined our Skills? You
know, the way only two Espers could?"
"Black Hole," she said almost immediately. "I know what you're getting
at, but it's only the tiniest portion of one and I doubt that the two of
us alone can move an entire planet."
"We have to try . . . for our friends and for all of the Palmans on
Kyra nodded, try to effectively grasp the enormity of the task before
them. Any astronomer would know that a black hole is a star which has gone
out and collapsed in on itself. Normally one of the last cycles of a
star's life, the immense gravitational field created by a black hole was
so great that not even light could escape it. Espers, with their ability
to manipulate vacuums and gravitational fields, were capable of creating a
false Black Hole, one that was disproportionally smaller, but having the
Wren carefully examined Rune's plan. Being that Motavia and Palma had
very similar mass, he ventured to say that the chance of Motavia following
the other's orbit was approximately ninety-seven point three percent. The
change in the distance from Algo would most likely moderate the surface's
temperature as well as other climatic changes. That was, of course, if the
planet was not torn apart in its moving. They hated playing fate to
millions of lives, but if everything turned out well, life would get much,
Rune held Kyra's left hand in his right and they closed their eyes.
The Reverent Fifth cast Negatis and a shadowy black sphere appeared
outside of the ship. Reaching into the farthest depths of her Esper
powers, the Esper Leader used Nagra. There was a brief flash and suddenly
Black Hole sprang into existence. Negatis' powerful vacuum was augmented
by a virtual gravity bomb and the Landale began to shake like a
leaf in autumn. "We need more power!" Rune strained, veins appearing on
his forehead. "If we don't do this right, Motavia's atmosphere will be
sucked away and everyone will die!"
Chaz and the other knew how dire the situation was, instinctively knew
what they could do to help. Joining hands, he and his friends threw in
their support. Rika took Kyra's hand and Wren took Runes. Each felt his
circle of being come together, strengthen the other's. Their bodies
erupted in a brilliant white light and slowly but gradually, Motavia began
to shift . . . .