First appearance: Final Fantasy III (Square, FAM, 1990)
Distinguishing traits: Parachute pants, shirtlessness
M.O.: Pearls before swine
Known crimes: Being the swine

Profile by Nicola Nomali | February 2, 2011

If ever there were a man in the world of Gaia who could be called omnipotent, it would have been Archmage Noah. His feats included sealing the terrible heavenly beasts, Leviathan and Bahamut, and minstrels pass down the tune he would play so benevolently upon his lute to this day. So transcendent were Noah’s powers that he is believed to have realized some calling beyond the bounds of our material world; whatever the reason, he seems to have completely disappeared past a certain page in history -- the same page, sadly, to usher in one of the world’s most fearsome devils.

There were just three individuals worthy to bear the station of Noah’s disciples: two men, Doga and Zande; and a woman, Unne. After teaching them everything he could, but before he finally departed from this world, he bestowed upon each of them a gift born of his fantastic power. To Doga, he gave complete mastery of magic. To Unne, he gave dominion over the world of dreams. And to Zande, he gave life as a human. Then he was gone.

Doga spent the rest of his days in a manor at the end of a winding canyon, with fierce winds that turned away even airships and towering mountains on all sides, the better to practice and protect his magic in solitude. Unne secluded herself in a remote cave and submerged herself in an indefinite slumber, for she could only watch over the dream world while asleep. And Zande, alone, began plotting.

Furious that the Archmage would leave him with nothing more than a ticking clock, and desperate to escape his own demise, Zande pored over the knowledge Noah had taught him. He remembered the four Crystals which embodied the elements and collectively sustained this world of light; likewise, he recalled how the balance between this world and that of darkness was once disrupted by a flood of light. Hence, he surmised to drain the Crystals of this world of their power, thus tipping the balance in the opposite direction. With the world of light flooded by eternal darkness, time itself would freeze, and he would never have to die.

As the tide of darkness ran over the world, a floating continent bearing two of the Crystals was sent into the sky to escape Zande’s wrath. As years passed, Zande feared for his incomplete plan, that some remained who could possibly reverse it -- so he used his mind to send forth beasts that would attack the continent, bringing it crashing down to his world of nothingness.

Zande’s fears proved accurate, for a quartet of young boys rose to protect their homeland and eventually discovered the plight of the world beyond it. They brought the world back to life, learned from Doga and Unne, and eventually came to face Zande himself. Although they bested him in battle, he was finally struck down by the amalgamate will of the realm he had dared to disturb: the Cloud of Darkness. Only by stepping into the world of darkness, by combining forces with the warriors who had fought back the light in ages past, could the valiant youths drive back the cloud and restore balance to the two worlds.

So ended Zande’s life: damned not by evil, but by misunderstanding. In all his anger and self-pity, what doomed Zande was his inability to appreciate that with which Noah had graced him. The Archmage had not condemned him to death but, indeed, granted him a chance to live as a human, among humans, with all the beauty and joy that entails. Doga and Unne’s gifts made them powerful beyond words, but those boons effectively reduced their existences to those of tireless, solitary sentinels; meanwhile, Zande was so shortsighted in his fear of death that he couldn’t perceive that transience and togetherness are what make life worthwhile.

Noah loved Zande most of all, but in the mage’s great wisdom, his only mistake was to cast pearls before swine.

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