The Esper Saga

Showdown at the Center of the World

In which the Emperor is injured, and the heroes reach Pandemonium

Arriving in the Sanctum of Phoenix, Gehenna had words with Ramuh and Phoenix. To his great surprise, before they let him leave to find Momo, the Espers instructed him to bring the remaining stones, up until then kept safe in the hands of the Espers. He was given the Heart of the Forest, the Eye of Ra, and the Heart of the Mountain – told to carry these along the Eye of Konsu to the center of the world. Gehenna questioned this decision in his heart, as he knew there was a risk they might encounter the Emperor – but he knew not to disobey the Espers, and so he took the four stones and hid them within a secret shadowy dimension, from which only he would be able to retrieve them.

Meanwhile, Gwendolen, Ryana and Ma-Ha-Sutra were moving through the forest from the old Warp Zone, heading north towards the Sanctum. They did not get all the way there, however, before they were interrupted by a team of five Wraith, led by Serenity – the R-Series girl from the Arena. A fierce battle ensued in the woods, with the heroes already quite injured. Ma-Ha-Sutra – who had managed to steer clear of Zjaar’s attacks – tackled Serenity to the ground and wrestled her down, while Ryana and Gwendolen did their best to deal with the wraith. They overpowered Ryana, and she might have died if not for Gehenna’s timely intervention. He arrived, riding on Momo, just in time to burn almost all the wraith to the ground with three swift bolts of fire.

Furiously attacking the last Wraith that had so greatly injured Ryana, Gwendolen struck it with full force – and something flared up inside her. Something greatly like the light of Alexander exploded from her hand, filling her up from inside. She finally revealed, that she had somehow absorbed a fraction of Esper power when they had fought Ogawa Beatrice; somehow her body had adapted to it. Gehenna was greatly worried by this development, because Gwendolen was different – she wasn’t merely wielding an Espers’ power like so many of the villains they had fought, she had somehow managed to make it her own. Gwendolen was shocked by this – and told Gehenna that she would understand, if he would have to kill her when all this was over.

But presently, Ma-Ha-Sutra restrained Serenity, and Gwendolen interrogated her about her service to Siegg. Although she had been thoroughly brainwashed, there was the slightest chance of a spark of free will inside her – so even though Serenity struggled and protested, Gwendolen decided to spare her life. She left the girl in Ma-Ha-Sutras care, instructing him to restrain her and do his best to reverse the brainwashing. Serenity said she would want to see the world burn down to the ground and be recreated; Gwendolen wished the same fate for Serenity. At least that way, she would be free.

Ma-Ha-Sutra took Serenity back to Phoenix’s Sanctum; the rest of the heroes climbed aboard Momo and flew east overnight, towards the great Central Ocean. Gwendolen, Ryana, Leesa, and Gehenna finally got a chance to rest some, while Jessica kept watch – and so they slept, flying over the great expanses of Terra, seeing nothing of the beautiful world below.

When they arrived, it was a spectacular sight. The great mighty ocean had been frozen, a great lid of white ice covering the waters. It was clear that Leviathan, its great guardian, had been defeated – and that someone was channeling Shiva’s powers. At the very center of the ocean stood a great tower, built by the Ancients to hold enemies of Terra and of the Espers; it was inside this oubliette that Leviathan and Shiva were no doubt being held. Momo refused to fly any closer, repelled by Shiva’s powers – so the heroes must cross the vast expanse of ice on foot, until they reached the doors at the base of the tower. There was a brief discussion about how they should enter – but Gehenna said, that his father had taught him to “walk in proudly through the front doors”. It was decided, that a direct approach might perhaps be preferrable.

So it was that the five heroes came face-to-face with Juutila Dawnshire and the Shadow Stalkers, waiting inside the tower. They had been given orders to destroy the intruders, and it looked like a bloody battle was inevitable; but Gwendolen spoke to Juutila, and convinced her that it was her duty – as a Kardus – to protect the world from Siegg, and that serving Siegg’s interests would be to betray her cause. She saw the error of her ways, and turned upon the Shadow Stalkers – killing them.

Gehenna, Gwendolen, Jessica, Leesa and Ryana slipped past the ensuing battle, reaching a set of old windtunnels designed by the Ancients. Traveling through them was as easy as thinking of your destination, and so the five shot through the wind-tunnels into the heart of the prison, located deep beneath the ocean. They arrived far from the center, and must walk before they could reach the central chamber – where a terrifying scene unfolded before their eyes. The mighty ocean was kept out only by a frozen Magi forcefield, so that the walls glittered like ice and the shapes of great sea-creatures could be seen outside – but the King of the Ocean himself had been chained inside the chamber, pinned to the ice-walls by magical spears. Inside the mighty Leviathan’s mouth was Shiva – crucified to one of Siegg’s dangerous devices which kept the monsters’ jaws open, powerful enough even to drain an Esper of her powers. In the center of this dismal scene stood four people: Sarasvati, Tobias, and two Kardus members. The first was Reginald, the Second of Kardus, a dangerous psychic. The other, Medina – the Fifth of Kardus, the Berserker.

Sarasvati had almost achieved apotheosis – her naked skin turning blue like her mothers’, and ice crystals forming on her body. She turned towards Gehenna, and told him she would destroy him. Gehenna was not threatened – for he knew that Sarasvati had misunderstood the lesson of their parents. The reason the Espers torture their children so, is to give them strength of their own. To steal power, to take a shortcut, would be to deny ones’ own strength. Sarasvati did not believe him, so he proceeded to teach her a lesson.

Within moments, the room was enveloped in a storm of ice and fire, as Gehenna poured out all his own strength against Sarasvati’s stolen might. The will of the gods clashed, and in the ensuing chaos, Gwendolen threw herself against the Berserker, while Tobias and Reginald attacked Leesa and Ryana. Jessica – thus free of distractions – set to tearing loose the spears lodging Leviathan to the wall. The battle was short, but furious: In the end, Gehenna bested Sarasvati, and drove her to the ground in flames. Now free from distractions, the half-Esper could unleash his fury against the bonds tying down the true Gods. With but a thought, he melted the spears free from the walls, releasing Leviathan and Shiva. Reginald, surprisingly, turned on Tobias and killed him before anyone could intervene.

And then, everything happened very quickly. Alexius entered the room, throwing down a defeated Juutila. He turned against Gehenna, ready to slay him and steal the Hearts and Eyes for himself, completing the plan – and at his side stood Angela. With a gesture, she revealed that this very room held the setting needed to complete the weapon, that the seven magical stones would form. They flew from the Emperors’ hands and from Gehenna’s cloak, to assemble into a weapon lacking only the Heart of Flame. It seemed like the Emperor would win, for Gehenna was gravely injured by his fight against Sarasvati. And then, in a great flaming meteor, Zochaan slammed into the Emperor, wielding the Heart of Flame against him. The Heart was taken from him, however – drawn out of his chest and into the mighty weapon that was forming in the central chamber.

Alexius recovered, and it seemed he and Zochaan would fight to the death – but then, Gwendolen intervened. Grabbing Leviathan’s tail, she lifted the great Esper and hit Alexius with it. It didn’t injure him, but it distracted him enough for Angela to make her move – and in the span of a heartbeat, she drew her black blade and plunged it deep into Alexius’ side. The anti-Magi of Phoenix poisoned him, and the spark of immortality instantly faded from his body. Alexius could do nothing but flee, and the heroes must do the same – for Zochaan had damaged the stability of the prison, and it was collapsing.

Reginald and Medina revealed, that they too intended to betray the Emperor. Hearing that Juutila had decided to abandon Alexius’ cause, they took her and fled by their own means, using Reginald’s telekinesis to escape. Gwendolen used the flickering flame of Esper power within her to revive Leesa, who had been hurt in the fight, and the girl formed a force field around them and the Weapon – just in time to leap into the ocean and float to the surface. They crashed through the ice and landed near the shore, where Momo waited for them.

Climbing aboard Momo, they flew away from the ocean and towards what Gehenna instructed them was the actual center of the world: Pandemonium, the home of Ifrit and the largest Esper Sanctum in all of Terra. It was a short flight, for Momo flew quickly – almost as if driven by fear. They arrived in the great Sanctum, where they met Ifrit and Alexander, and the host of lesser Espers as well.

They were told that Gehenna had been given the stones as a lure, a gamble to assemble the Weapon and take back the two missing stones from the Emperor. Now that all seven were gathered, the completed Weapon would be kept in the hands of the Espers, so that not even a fraction of its powers could be wielded by Alexius. There would be more to explain, but first the heroes would need rest; and thus it was, that Gehenna could invite his companions to stay in his fathers’ house.

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MrGreany Riklurt

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