Shortly after the defeat of Magic Emperor Ghaleon...
The merciless Raculi sun beat down on the dusty village. It glittered off the sparkling Minea Sea. It also shone brightly on a man once known as Lord Leo, or White Knight Leo. With the Silver Sharion shining in his fist, he circled his opponent slowly, watching for an opening. His expression was one of stern readiness, but his eyes shone as they always did when he looked at his squire, his niece.
Ronfar and Mauri named her well, he thought with pride, Celeste truly is a miracle sent from heaven. To him, the girl was a reminder that they had all survived the War of Zophar, and how close he had come to losing the two people he loved the most. Celeste was wary, keeping a close eye on her unpredictable uncle. She was a replica of Mauri at that age, except the tiny grin on her face was definitely from her father. Leo loved her more than anyone else in the world.
Without warning, Leo thrust the silver sword. Celeste parried easily, then countered with his own specialty, the Flash Blade. Leo beamed with pride. He hadn't mastered the difficult move until he was seventeen. Celeste had pulled it off at fifteen. Leo dodged the first few blows, then brought his blade to meet her White Fang. He pushed hard, trying to disarm her. Suddenly, Celeste slid the white sword down until the blades were locked hilt to hilt, then gave a vicious twist. The Silver Sharion went flying in the dirt, and Celeste brought the tip of her sword to Leo's throat.
He stepped back and bowed. "I concede," he said formally, then smiled. "Well done, Celeste! Where did you learn that hilt twist, my dear?" he asked curiously.
Celeste grinned. "From Nall, "she answered slyly. "He showed me a few moves last time at Taben's Peak."
"That's good," Leo replied approvingly. "A variety of teachers means more maneuvers and ways to last in battle. But always remember, Celeste, a true knight uses his or her heart first, and sword last."
Celeste nodded. "Compassion can help avoid bloodshed, but sometimes a fair fight can reduce it. I'll always remember to fight fair, Uncle Leo."
"I expected no less," Leo said," Come on inside. We both need something to drink, and I have a surprise for you."
Raculi had, what the locals considered, one of the finest springs in Lunar. Celeste gratefully accepted a tankard of water and drank it down thirstily. Leo shook his head and drained his own more slowly. He seemed to be deep in thought, mulling over something. At last he nodded, and spoke slowly, "Well, Celeste, your eighteenth birthday is in four days."
"I know," Celeste said, "I'm looking forward to the knighting ceremony. Finally, I can live out my dream!" Celeste wanted more than anything to become a knight and protect the people of Lunar. Having grown up on the stories of Zophar from her father, and the Guard from Leo, Celeste knew that her destiny lay in a similar direction.
"Yes, I've seen that. Celeste, being a full knight may change your life in many ways. A knight's duty must take priority; the care of the people must sometimes come before family. As a knight, you may be responsible for making vital decisions. The mastery of the sword, in fact, may be the least of your skills," Leo explained, "but, I believe you can do it. You have the same golden heart as your parents, the same concern for the people. I have a gift for you. It has a story and a lesson, a harsh one." He reached into his pocket and handed Celeste a small gold key. "Go open that chest by the chair. It's yours now," he said.
Celeste looked at him curiously. "You've never opened that chest," she breathed softly. "You never told anyone what was in it, in all the times we've asked."
Leo grinned mysteriously. "It's been a secret of mine for twenty years," he said, "Go ahead and open it."
Celeste inserted the key and opened the chest at last. She reached in and took out a small model. "This is the Dragonship Destiny, the ship that saved the world and your ship, Uncle Leo!" she said excitedly. "Where did you get this?"
"Nota merchants made these after the battle," Leo answered. "They were quite popular for a time." He waited for her to find the true treasure of the chest. Celeste examined the model carefully, then poked a small button. The top popped open, to reveal it. A small scrap of white silk lay in the bottom, the decider of a fate. Celeste gasped as she realized what it was.
"Yes, my dear," he answered, smiling, "That is the mask of Mystere. It is mine."
"Uncle Leo! Why... why did you keep this hidden all these years?" Celeste asked earnestly. "Dad always teased you about it, and Ruby and Jean did sometimes, and you never admitted it! Why not? And why now?"
Leo had thought carefully about this for a long time. He was proud of Celeste as a future knight. She was a strong fighter, exceptionally gifted with the sword. She had bested young men years older than she. Most importantly, though, she had a pure heart. She would never be cajoled into doing something she didn't believe was right. Not like he almost had...
"Ronfar told you the whole story of Zophar, did he not?" Leo asked. His niece nodded solemnly. "So, you know that I had agreed to take Lucia and the others to Pentagulia. That was my first willing defiance of my orders given. After seeing how the Chosen had decimated Azado... willing to sacrifice lives for the chance of catching Lucia... Ronfar was right. I was scared," he sighed at the memory. The flames had terrorized him in dreams for a long time. He continued, "I chose this path to make it out of my hands. If Lucia was indeed innocent, which I was starting to wonder because of Ronfar, she would have a chance to prove it to Althena herself. If not, I was prepared to do my duty."
Celeste nodded sadly. "You didn't want to," she commented.
"No," Leo admitted. "Although I was angry when she escaped, there was a tiny trace of relief. But, I never expected Lucia to claim the goddess was a fake and attack her. Then Ghaleon attacked Hiro, and then turned on me. I knew Hiro was only guilty of helping someone he cared about, so I brought him to the prison in the White Tower. Lucia was out of my hands.
"I went to my suite in the tower and thought for a long time. If the goddess was a fake, it would explain why the Chosen were acting so cruel. I was scared to consider it, knowing that it bring would much suffering if it were true, and knowing the price I would pay if it was wrong. I had heard that the others had been put in prison, as well. I knew that wasn't right. At last, I decided that the only way to make amends was to free Ronfar and the others, and let them rescue Lucia. I also knew that I would be executed as a traitor if I was caught, so I needed a disguise."
"So you became Mystere!" Celeste said joyfully, looking forward to her favorite part in the story. She had always loved the thought of her solemn, dry uncle as the dashing masked savior of justice.
Leo grinned at her amusement. "Yes, I became Mystere. I cut a piece of white silk out of an old dress uniform, and made it into a mask. When I put it on and looked at myself, I burst out laughing. I looked ridiculous, but at the same time, I felt fearless. I left behind White Knight Leo, and became a... I'm not quite sure what exactly, but it worked. I brought along a coil of rope and headed to the prison. I made a big speech and a dashing entrance, until..."
"...until you realized you forgot to release the ladder and needed Ruby to fly over and bail you guys out." Celeste finished wickedly.
Leo blushed. Ronfar didn't need to tell that little detail! he thought, picturing his friend and brother-in-law laughing wildly as he told his daughter of the 'rescue'. "Yes, that's true," he admitted, "but, the White Knight would never have gotten stuck, so it just added to the persona. Hiro and I freed Ronfar out of Mauri's tower, Jean from Lunn's, and finally Lemina from Borgan's. After that, my need to be Mystere was at an end, so I quickly left the room and stashed the mask in a pocket."
Leo's face grew serious, now that the jest was over and the climax had arrived. He took a small sip of water to steady his nerves and continued, "As the White Knight, I led them to the Sanctuary through the secret entrance in the sewers. Lucia was being kept on the second floor, the floor forbidden to all but Althena and Ghaleon. This, too, was a defiance, but a necessary one. That was where we learned the truth, confessed by the fake Althena herself. The Chosen were created to serve not Althena, but to revive Zophar. Everything I had done as a knight, I had done for the evil Zophar. Everyone I had hurt... all the times I went against my sense of justice because I thought the orders were Althena's... my blindness was turned against me. It was one of the worst moments in my life," he finished, tears shining in his eyes.
Celeste reached out and took her uncle's hand. "Uncle Leo, your sense of justice saved Lucia's life," she reminded him. "You followed your heart to spare her life. Then you followed it to rescue Dad and everyone else."
Leo smiled at his kind-hearted niece. She sounded just like her mother. "Your forgiveness is as good as Mauri's," he commented. "That is wonderful and rare. After I heard the declaration, I lost it. I returned to the Destiny and dismantled the Guard, determined to unravel at least one weapon of evil. I then decided to return the White Dragon Aura to Nall. I didn't need it. Hiro and the others had beaten me there, and came on the Destiny for that Aura.
"I saw now why the fake Althena had demanded Lucia's death. Hiro had aided her for good, while I had tried to capture her for evil. I needed to see that good would prevail. So, I asked Hiro for a duel, to prove that I had been wrong. He won, and I gave him the Aura... and the Destiny."
Celeste frowned suddenly. "Leo, you didn't know what was really happening," she scolded. "You didn't know you were being used."
He held up a hand. "Celeste, the point is, my heart knew," he said tiredly, "and I disregarded it because it went against orders. That's exactly the trap I want to prevent you from falling into."
"Oh," Celeste replied quietly. "Then what happened?"
"I decided to head to Azado to aid in the reparation as best I could," Leo answered, "to help undo the damage. The people were suspicious at first, but grateful nonetheless. It was there, that I got news from Raculi..."
"Mom being forced to do the cleansings," Celeste murmured, "Zophar making her brainwash others."
"Yes. I chose to go home and see what I could do for my sister. I hired a boat and left, and did some questioning around town. Ronfar met me there, and I told him of a rumor about some stone in Serak Palace," Leo continued, "but, at this point, my faith had been shaken so badly that I did not trust it. I made my way to Serak Palace and demanded to see Mauri. The lady refused, until a strange light flashed, and she allowed me in. Mauri seemed to be better, but I didn't trust it. I had been fooled before and... drew my sword... By Althena! If Ronfar had gotten there ten seconds later... I would've... destroyed one of the people I love most..." Leo stopped as the painful memory assaulted him full- force. For a second, his niece looked like his little sister, frightened and alone, knowing the horrible things she had been forced to do and powerless to stop them.
"Uncle Leo... you were trying to do what you thought would be best," Celeste said slowly. "You knew how much pain Mom was in. She still has nightmares from those years."
"I think we all do," Leo commented softly. "Luckily, Ronfar was in time, and managed to save Mauri. The thought that I had failed again, and this time my clouded judgment almost costing my sister her very life, drove me away again.
"I returned to Azado to continue the reparations as a way to relieve my conscience. We heard news that Pentagulia was destroyed, which was wonderful, and then that Zophar had been revived. The Destiny had been spotted near Vane, so I knew where Ronfar and the others were.
"It was decision time. I took out the mask and considered, remembering how right it had felt to free them. I realized that I could keep running from myself, which would help Zophar, or I would try again to do what was right in my heart. I was done aiding Zophar, and ready to help Ronfar and everyone. I traveled to Vane and joined up, then we traveled to Zophar's lair. Together, we won."
"So the mask was a reminder of when you followed your heart to justice," Celeste breathed softly.
Leo nodded. "That's it exactly. I've kept it as a reminder to do just that. When a difficult decision arose, I would take it out and remember, and choose what seemed right," he explained. "Celeste, I hope that it might do the same for you as a knight."
"Uncle Leo, I know that this means a lot to you. It means a lot to me that you have enough faith in my abilities to trust me with this," Celeste said. "Thank you. By the way, can I tell Dad?"
Leo chuckled. "No, my dear," he replied. "What do you say we keep this our little secret?" Celeste nodded. Leo embraced his niece and gently kissed her forehead. "Happy birthday, Celeste. And a happy knighthood, as well."
Back to the Library of Vane.
Back to the Shrine to Ghaleon.