Lutz was dying. He could feel it deep within him, not just from the
aching limbs that protested at his slightest movement but as a black
void deep within him, a void he had felt growing month by month, day by
day over the past few years. As Algo's greatest wizard, chief of the
Esper Mansion, Lutz was as familiar with the essential force commonly
called life energy as he was with air or water, and he could tell that
his own was, at last, burning low.
He had known long ago that this day would come, of course. After
five hundred years of sustaining himself through magic, he had reached
the point where natural aging could no longer be held in check. That
was why he had condemned himself to the frozen nightmare of cryogenic
stasis, waking only for a month or so once every ten years to make sure
that his plans were not completely disrupted, that Mother Brain had not
pursued the Espers to Dezo to finish the work she had begun when she
chased them from Mota. Lutz had to be alive in AW 1284, he had vowed,
so that when the ultimate evil rose again, he would be there to fight
and give guidance to the champion that had to come forth as well.
Lutz himself had fought alongside such a champion. He had
accompanied Alis Landale in 342, back when he still used the name old
Master Tajima had given him. He sometimes wondered if his teacher
would have felt disenheartened to know that Lutz had gone back to the
name of his birth, but the wizard simply could not tolerate bearing the
same appellation as the ship which housed Mother Brain. The activation
of that system in 845 had sent waves of such evil echoing throughout
Algo that it had rocked the archwizard to his soul. He had never
understood, not until the end, how a machine could somehow possess a
moral attribute, but the feeling had been strong enough that he never
wanted to be called Noah again.
So much had gone wrong, he realized. When he had first decided to
take upon himself the duty of protecting Algo not just once but through
future thousand-year cycles, he had anticipated fighting alongside the
next champion as he had done with Alis, but this time wielding the
power that could be built through centuries of training. Instead, Lutz
had woken from cryogenic slumber with enough magic to instantaneously
transport groups of people across thousands of miles, to annihilate
Mother Brain's robot patrols with barely a thought--and a body so weak
from inactivity and age that a child's toy sword could have struck him
down with one blow. He had been unable to face Dark Force, Mother
Brain, and the Earthmen alongside Rolf and his companions, had been
unable to prevent Palma's destruction, had been forced to watch
helplessly with his psychic senses while the seven heroes waged a war
of mutual extinction with the last survivors of a centuries-lost planet
light years away from Algo. The only silver lining of this
millennium's Pyhrric victory had been the escape of four hundred ships
from Palma with a tiny fraction of the planet's population, from huge
worldships originally designed to colonize far-flung star systems to
small shuttles packed with as many as could squeeze aboard.
That single ray of hope, though, had been the reason why Lutz had
not returned to cryo-sleep following the destruction of Mother Brain.
The settlement of the cast-aside Palmans on Dezolis had proceeded
steadily, and there were centuries of bad feelings between the Dezolian
natives and the Palman race. Memories of the huge hole torn in the
planet's surface to become the Skure mine were all too fresh, as were
the leaks of toxic gases that had savagely mutated several of the
native creatures. Lutz had worked tirelessly as a mediator, and
combined with those such as the former space pirate Tyler and the
Bishop of the Dezolian theocracy he had been able to forge a beginning
for, if not friendship, at least peaceful coexistence between the
This work had been so consuming that the disaster of 1286 had taken
Lutz completely by surprise. An asteroid, a tiny fragment of Palma,
had struck the planet Mota--no, Motavia, he had to remember that
it had gone back to its ancient name, too--destroying the capital of
Paseo outright and setting up a chain of destruction that reduced the
Palman civilization from a thriving, technologically advanced society
to an existence that teetered on the edge of barbarism. At that point,
the thought of returning to slumber became impossible. Lutz had worked
constantly for nearly fifty more years, fighting the chaos in whatever
ways he could, forcing his aged body to function despite the painful
protests it made, until finally the inevitable surrender to time had
come upon it.
He let out a deep sigh at the end of his reverie, drawing the
attention of his faithful attendant, Thain.
"Reverent Lutz, is there anything you need?"
"About seventy years of youth, a window view, and a glass of nyshar.
Could you at least try for the third?"
Obligingly, Thain poured the brilliant, fuschia-hued Laerma-berry
liqueur into a tall, slender glass. Being a recluse, Lutz reflected,
was making him even more short-tempered than usual. The problem was
that all too many Espers regarded him as some kind of deity, so when
his illness left him unable to make public appearances without giving
away the truth, Lutz had retreated to his inner sanctum. If the
reaction showed by the highest ranks of Espers to the truth about his
impending death was anything to go by, letting the news out generally
would reduce Esper Mansion to chaos.
"Here you are, sir."
Merely closing his fingers around the glass was painful, and raising
his hand to drink left tingles of fire trailing along Lutz's nerves.
The delicately flavored beverage slid soothingly down his throat,
though. Since the Laerma tree was sensitive to magic, the nyshar
interacted differently with Lutz's body than with ordinary drinkers,
helping to ease the pain and preserve his sanity against the implacable
approach of death. It would be no more than a matter of weeks, now,
and with him would go what many believed to be Algo's greatest hope for
The one chance remaining to preserve that hope rested between the
hands of Lyre Anthony in a workroom one level above. It did not look
like much, merely a Laconian sphere eight inches across cradled between
the green-haired Esper's palms, but it was the only thing that stood
between Lutz and the eternal night.
"I am curious," remarked High Priest Nobera as he watched Lyre at
work, "as to why the young man is the one crafting the orb." The
Dezolian took a puff from his long-stemmed pipe, its bowl inset with
mosaiced designs of a half-dozen rare woods. "Would it not be more
apropos for Lutz to do it, or at the very least someone of more
experience and training such as you, Avin?"
Avin Nathane, senior among the Esper Mansion's Adepts, shook her
"It couldn't be Lutz," she said sadly. "If he were to attempt any
but the simplest magic, he..." She broke off her explanation, then
skirted a direct mention of the truth by explaining, "If it were only a
matter of technique use, that would be one thing, requiring only his
will--which is as strong as ever--to shape the power and call it forth.
True magic, though, draws on his own body's strength as well..."
"I see. I would assist, myself, but though our priestly arts and
your esper magic clearly share certain similarities the particular
talents needed for this work are beyond me. We Dezolians have not
practiced magic for over two millenia."
The glowing nimbus of light surrounding Lyre faded, and he lifted
his hands from the silvery sphere. A sheen of sweat glistened on his
"Is it done?" Avin asked.
"No, but one more session should do it. Then the orb will be
properly attuned to Palman thought patterns."
"I suppose," Nobera commented, "that the fact that you, Lyre, have
been chosen to receive Lutz's memories is another reason why you are
preparing the Telepathy Ball. In this way, the chance of error is
Nobera was an odd fellow, especially for a Dezolian. Unlike the
fairly lighthearted common folk of their race, the fire-priests tended
to be a sober lot, but even the Bishop himself had been known to crack
a smile now and again. For that matter, Lyre had met androids
who had a better sense of humor than the painfully formal High Priest.
Still, Nobera was a good man, one who had been vital in recovering the
ancient documents that had told of how long-dead Dezolian wizards had
preserved their memories for future generations in orbs such as this.
When Lyre thought of how close a thing it had been, how near the
renegade Espers who had hoped to seize control after Lutz's death had
come to thwarting this last hope, he couldn't help but feel warmly for
the stoic priest despite Nobera's humorless personality.
The fragrant smell of the old man's tabak brushed Lyre's nostrils,
breaking the chain of his reminiscences.
"Do you really think that we're going about this the right way?"
Lyre asked. "I mean, preserving Lutz's memories and all his knowledge
for the future is one thing..."
"It is necessary," Avin said firmly. "We can't allow Lutz's wisdom
to be corrupted and edited by the annals of history. The next
millennium will come, and though Lutz himself can't be with us,
by passing down his memories, he will again guide us when Dark Force
Avin was more than a little in love with their master. Lyre had
known it for some time, but the nearness of Lutz's death was wearing
away the barriers she hedged her emotions behind, making her feelings
very obvious. Neither he nor the priest said anything, though. To
embarass her would only hurt her more.
"yes, i agree, but what I mean is, why should assuming Lutz's
memories automatically make me the new chief of the Esper Mansion? We
don't follow Lutz because of what he knows; we do it because of who he
is. You're the senior Adept, Avin. Why shouldn't you lead us?"
She frowned at him.
"We've been through this before, Lyre. You were chosen as Lutz's
heir because he sensed you have the greatest potential for power. Even
with Lutz's memories to guide me, I could never develop his mastery of
magic. Too, you're what, seventeen? That gives you more than
twenty-five years on me." She spread her hands helplessly. "We've had
the stability of one leader for nearly nine hundred years; you need
every year you can offer to establish yourself in his place."
And there it was. In truth, before the crisis of AW 1284, Lutz's
leadership had been more a thing of belief than reality. A man who
woke from cryogenic sleep once every ten years could not be an active
guide to his followers no matter how powerful or wise he was. The
legend of Lutz, though, had grown to a near-religious stature,
and his actions in the past four decades had hammered home that
legendary status to the current generation of Espers. Could they truly
survive the death of their deity?
Lyre sighed and combed his hair off his forehead with his
fingertips. He was tired, both physically and mentally, and melding
his mind with an inanimate object for nearly five hours didn't lead to
clear thought about human relationships. He wrapped his white Esper's
mantle around his shoulders and fastened the clasp in place.
"I'm ready to go," he said.
"Food or sleep?" Avin asked him.
"Sleep. I'm so tired that I can barely stand," Lyre admitted.
"All right then; I'll go and report your success so far to Lutz."
"I too, will bid you good evening and dreams of light," Nobera told
him formally and turned to go, but Lyre stopped him with a gentle touch
on his arm.
"Is there something else?" the priest inquired.
"I just wanted an opinion from an outsider's perspective. You're
not an Esper, so I thought you might have a clearer view."
Nobera looked thoughtful.
"Perhaps so. I will certainly attempt to advise you, though I am
uncertain whether or not I shall be of any use."
He lifted the pipe to his lips again, waiting calmly for Lyre to
"It's about becoming Lutz's heir."
"A great responsibility."
"Yes, it is, and I'm not sure I'm ready for it."
The Dezolian's narrow, knowing eyes surveyed him thoughtfully.
"Indeed, I doubt that anyone would be."
Lyre sighed deeply, then all at once he found himself telling Nobera
all of his concerns, his fears that he would be inadequate to assume
the role of a legend."
"The problem is, I'm just not a leader," he summed up the torrent of
emotion. "I never have been. Even with Lutz's memories to guide me,
it isn't natural." He blushed, then added, "I could barely give a
speech in front of my class when I was a student, and they want to set
me above all of Esper Mansion?"
Nobera regarded him patiently. No doubt he'd heard many similar
complaints as he worked his way up through the priestly ranks. Lyre's
situation might be unique, but even he himself knew that his emotions
"There may be justice in your words. Our bishop, as you know, is
over ten centuries old, and undeniably he is the heart and soul of our
clergy, a most holy man, but unlike your Lutz he does not govern our
order. His advice is a valued aid to each of the Archpriests who have
served during his life, but it is merely counsel, not commandment. In
this way we have tried to prevent one person, no matter how powerful
and virtuous, from replacing God as the core of our faith. To the
common Dezolian, the flame, eternally renewable by his or her own
hands, is the symbol of the faith, not a living person."
Lyre appreciated the point. After all, it had been Rolf Landale,
descendant of Alis, who had led the fight against Dark Force and Mother
Brain forty years ago. When Lutz's ultimate mission had come to pass,
he had provided advice and assistance but not leadership.
Unfortunately, that didn't help the present situation. In a very real
way, the Espers were merely a support network for Lutz, a group founded
to help him carry out his self-appointed mission of protecting Algo
from the thousand-year cycle of destruction. Now that network would
have to carry on his work without him, a task it was not perfectly
"No wonder Avin and the rest want to recreate Lutz in me," he said
aloud. "Even Lutz does; that was why he was concerned about choosing
an heir who could, one day, possess power near to his own."
The priest looked at Lyre as if measuring his thoughts.
"Only, I'm not him. Even his memories won't make me Lutz. I'm just
an ordinary Esper at heart."
"Do not undervalue yourself," Nobera cautioned. "Eternity is a
legacy too great for most of us. I would not wish it for myself." He
rested one long-fingered hand on Lyre's shoulder. "Do not let the fact
that you are not Lutz keep you from recognizing the worth of being
The young Esper's dreams were troubled that night.
* * * * *
The ceremony of transfer was a small, private matter. Avin, Lyre,
Nobera, and the other two Esper Adepts filed into the inner chamber
where Lutz had once slept in cryogenic stasis and where the Telepathy
Ball would now be kept. Together with his attendant, the
thousand-year-old wizard awaited them.
"I still believe that the Espers have the right to see and
understand this momentous event," the burly Adept Parl declared. he
wanted everyone to witness the transfer of memories and with it the
passing of leadership so that there would be no secrets, no need to
offer explanations later. He had said so at length before and was
becoming positively tiresome to his peers on the subject.
"Parl, I'm going to die at the end of this," Lutz snapped at
his underling. "Facing the end of my existence is difficult enough
without you trying to make it into a public spectacle."
Lyre smiled as he brought the now-finished Telepathy Ball to its
stand on the room's polished metal table. Lutz possessed many great
qualities: intellect, wisdom, courage, honor, even spirituality. Tact
was not on that list.
Taking a deep breath, the young man undid the red silk wrapping and
drew out the shining orb, His own memories echoed through him,
memories of the quest to make this moment possible. He saw the
towering shelves of the Gumbious Temple library, his awe at paging
through books never before touched by Palman hands. There was the
excitement of battle as his Flaeli magic merged with Avin's
Hewn to engulf an onrushing pack of Hungrymoles in a storm of
fire. He saw the gentle face of the bishop, the giant form of the
winged musk cat, the easy manner of Tyler, the pirate
captain-turned-mayor. He heard the dying screams of his companions
Valis and Kayt as the fell before the renegade Adept Simon. Most of
all, Lyre recalled the triumph he felt as he uncovered the pristine Orb
of Memory from its hiding place in the ancient ruins--the only such
artifact remaining from the days of yore. Now attuned to Palman minds,
the Telepathy Ball was ready to serve its new masters.
Lutz's pale blue gaze fixed upon him.
"Are you ready to do this, Lyre?"
The young Esper looked into his master's face, seeing once again its
perfection marred by a tracery of lines, the skin's almost translucent
thinness. He looked first at Nobera, then at Avin, before raising his
eyes to meet Lutz's.
"Yes, I am. I'm ready."
"It won't be easy."
Lyre swallowed, trying to keep his emotions in check. If Lutz
sensed for a moment what he was about to do...
"I know, reverent one."
They stood on opposite sides of the table, each man extending his
right hand and laying it flat against the cool laconia surface of the
Telepathy Ball. Lyre invoked his magic, feeling himself slip into that
familiar communion with the orb. The shimmering radiance surrounded
himself, the Telepathy Ball, and Lutz as well as Lyre drew his master
into the link.
Now it was time for Lutz's work, for what would be the final act of
his legend. Avin's heart was in her throat as she watched not merely
with her eyes but with her telemental senses as well. She could see
the power flowing in from all around at Lutz's silent command, could
feel his weary heart skip a beat from the stress placed upon it. The
others could sense it as well; as one, they held their breath.
"Daerona!" Lutz's voice was a high, breathy whisper as he
released the spell of activation. The gathered power surged into the
Telepathy Ball, then rushed outwards into the bodies of Lyre and Lutz.
The aura surrounding them burned a brilliant red, casting their
features in crimson. The silver-hued laconia faded to translucence,
and both men stiffened, arching their backs as their bodies strove to
adapt to the enormous forces flowing through them.
Then, at once, it was over. The nimbus of light vanished, as did
the invisible eddies of mystic energy. The Telepathy Ball returned to
its inert gray status...and the bodies of both men slumped to the
The gathered spectators rushed forward as one. Avin flew to kneel
at the fallen Lutz's side, tears flowing from her eyes as she realized
that he was gone. Lyre's chest rose and fell with his shallow
breathing, but he would not wake. A variety of healing spells and
techniques were tried on his unconscious form, but he responded to none
"Please, Lyre," Avin whispered softly, "don't let his sacrifice be
for nothing. We can't afford to lose you, too."
* * * * *
They placed him in Lutz's bed and kept watch over him night and day.
For nine days his condition remained unchanged; neither priest nor
Esper could determine what was wrong. Avin attempted to reach his mind
with her empathic senses, to see if she could communicate with Lyre in
his dreams, but each time she failed. Whatever the Telepathy Ball had
done, it had left Lyre's thoughts in such a state that they could not
It was on the tenth day that Nobera noticed a curiousity. While
Lyre slept, his hair had continued to grow, except that as the Dezolian
pointed out, the roots were not green but azure blue. The ensuing
changes came rapidly: his face slimmed, the features becoming more
attractive, while his body actually grew taller.
"It is apparent," the priest concluded, "that the process of memory
transfer is inducing a physical transformation as well. Possibly, this
period of unconsciousness is because the energies of Lyre's body are
being completely focused on assimilating the mental and physical
A groan escaped the lips of the sleeping young man.
"Could you please...repeat that...after...I put on...a mogic cap?"
Lyre whispered. His long-lashed eyes opened, revealing deep blue
irises. He sat up gingerly, pressing a hand to the side of his head.
"What, did you inherit Lutz's sense of humor along with his
"Lyre? But I'm--"
His voice broke off suddenly as the last remnants of sleep cleared
from his mind and a flood of conscious memory filled his thoughts. The
face that was and was not Lutz's tightened with sudden anger.
"That little idiot!" he roared, catching both of the watchers
"Lyre, what's going on?" Avin exclaimed, worried. "What's wrong?"
"What's wrong is that I'm not Lyre!"
Nobera and Avin looked at him, stunned. The Esper rose from the bed
and looked at himself in the mirror. The changes in Lyre's body
recalled much of Lutz's own youthful form, but there were still
differences. He wasn't quite as slender; the almost ethereal beauty
had been replaced by a more human attractiveness, but the face still
clearly belonged to Lutz, not the young man who had once inhabited the
It was easy to understand what had happened, now that he was fully
awake, for he had Lyre's memories merged with his own.
"He was afraid," Lutz said, leaning against the heavy Laerma-wood
mirror frame for support. "He didn't think he could lead the Espers,
even with my memories to guide him."
"Lutz?" Avin whispered incredulously.
He looked up with a grin. "You were expecting maybe Alis Landale?"
"How did this happen?" Nobera inquired. "Lyre was supposed to
retain his own personality after the transfer of memories."
Lutz straightened up, Lyre's muscles still weak from the forced
inactivity but nonetheless much stronger than his own aged body had
"When he was working on the Telepathy Ball, he reversed its purpose.
He was so sure that he wasn't fit to govern Esper Mansion that he
decided to sacrifice himself. The Telepathy Ball absorbed not only my
memories, but also my will."
"Your spirit?" Nobera asked.
"If you like. Yes, I think that describes it quite well, though
it's a bit more religion than I care to have on my mind."
The usually phlegmatic priest actually smiled.
"You can hardly discuss the state of your spirit without religion
entering into it, whatever you may believe."
"Oh, I'm a believer, Nobera, perhaps not in your Dezolian religion
but in some form of God. I think anyone who's ever faced Dark Force
has to have faith, even if only out of self-defense."
"So what happened to Lyre?" Avin wondered.
Lutz lowered his gaze.
"He's gone. His memories are here, now," he said, tapping his
forehead, "but his will and personality are nowhere within me. It's
what was supposed to happen to me. It's as if he died and left a part
of himself behind for me to use."
"Then...what will you do now?"
"Travel, learn. Lyre's magic wasn't trained to anywhere near the
level mine was; I'll have to relearn most of it. It's funny, though;
in a way, this is an opportunity. I can do things as the anonymous
Lyre that Lutz would never be able to accomplish. Yes," he said,
warming to his theme, "I think that the legendary wizard is going to
continue as a recluse, which will give me the chance to be out in the
world, doing more for Algo."
"Do you mean to keep this a secret?" Avin verified.
"Yes, at least for now. If it doesn't work that way, we can be open
about it later. Oh, and Nobera," Lutz said to the Dezolian, "I'd
appreciate it if you would pass this on to the bishop and the
Archpriest. We've worked very hard to establish peace and even some
level of trust between our races; that relationship is too valuable to
lose. Besides the Espers and the Dezolian priesthood may well need to
work together someday...say, in nine hundred and fifty-three years or
He looked into the mirror again, becoming accustomed to his new
face, before going to the door.
Lyre Anthony, second-generation Lutz, took the first steps into a