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Eternal Legacy
by Darrell Whitney


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 races.

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."

"Thank you."

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 future.

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 head.

"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 youthful face.

"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 minimized.

"That's right."

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 comes again."

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 speak.

"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 were not.

"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 suited for.

"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 Lyre."

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 floor.

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 of them.

"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 be touched.

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 changes."

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.

Avin chuckled.

"What, did you inherit Lutz's sense of humor along with his memories, Lyre?"

"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 off-guard.

"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 body.

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 been.

"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 so."

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 new legend.

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