- “But once again you have it all wrong, Eraqus. Darkness is a beginning, you see, not an end. At birth, every one of us emerges from darkness into a world of light, do we not?”
- ―Master Xehanort to Eraqus
Master Xehanort is the main antagonist of the eponymous "Xehanort Saga" of the Kingdom Hearts series. A Keyblade Master, Xehanort believes that darkness and light should exist in perfect balance, and for this reason, he seeks to conquer Kingdom Hearts and recreate the world in his image.
Along with his many different incarnations, including Terra-Xehanort, Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, and Xemnas, Xehanort has been responsible for the massive destruction across the worlds and the antagonistic bodies that have plagued them, and personally responsible for the tragedy to those who have crossed his path.
Xehanort grew up on the Destiny Islands, and as a young man, he was visited by his future self's Heartless, Ansem, who granted him the power to traverse time and tasked him with gathering twelve other incarnations of himself from across time.
After carrying out his duties in the future, Xehanort returned to his proper place in time and lost his memories of the future, but retained the desire to travel to other worlds. He was eventually able to leave his home world and arrived at the Land of Departure, where he was trained as a Keyblade wielder, along with his fellow pupil Eraqus, under one Keyblade Master. Xehanort eventually came to see Eraqus as a brother, and both soon became Keyblade Masters while Eraqus was chosen as the Master's successor. The newly titled Master Xehanort was free to take on apprentices of his own to train, and he traveled the worlds freely.
During his travels, Xehanort learned more about the Keyblade War and Kingdom Hearts, coming to believe that darkness and light were meant to be in balance, but the "tyranny" of light had destroyed much of the darkness and shifted that balance. He therefore resolved to obtain the power of Kingdom Hearts, so that he may create a World in balance. To that end, he sought to recreate the legendary χ-blade and begin a new Keyblade War. Soon, Xehanort took Ventus in as an apprentice as part of his plan to create the χ-blade. After failing to stimulate Ven's darkness during a training exercise in the Badlands, Xehanort forcibly extracted the darkness from his heart, creating Vanitas. With Ven's heart badly damaged in the process, Xehanort brought him to the Destiny Islands to die, but Ven showed signs of recovery after his heart connected with that of the newly born Sora. In order to strengthen Ventus' light and keep him separated from Vanitas, Xehanort brought him to Eraqus to have Eraqus train Ventus as a Keyblade wielder. Xehanort also decides to make Terra his new vessel While there, Xehanort notices Terra's desire for power, and he decides to make Terra his new vessel.
When developing Xehanort's arrival in the series, Xehanort was chosen to appear in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep to establish his role as the central antagonist in order to connect him to Terra-Xehanort, who was at the time believed to be the "true" Xehanort and the original persona of Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, and Xemnas. Birth by Sleep clarified this by revealing the character as simply a possessed version of Terra.
The casting of Leonard Nimoy as Xehanort in the English version of the series was an intentional part from Tetsuya Nomura because of Nimoy's role as Mr. Spock from Star Trek and because Nomura himself is a huge fan of both Star Trek and Star Wars, which also influenced his decision to additionally cast Mark Hamill as Eraqus, Xehanort's rival and enemy. This was intended to allude to the rivalry between the two franchises.
Like Ansem and Xemnas, Xehanort is shown to be a cunning, callous, and pragmatic being with the sole goal of merging with Kingdom Hearts and obtain ultimate knowledge, the lives of innocent people and even those who care for him meaning absolutely nothing to him. To this end, he is willing to put whatever he pleases on the line or destroy anything in his way, demonstrated when he manipulated several characters such as Terra, Aqua, Ventus, Braig, and even Maleficent, created Vanitas, a sentient being born for the sole purpose of forwarding his evil plan, and slew his old friend Master Eraqus in cold blood after tricking Terra into defeating him in battle. He even shrugged off ruining Terra, Ventus, and Aqua's lives by telling Mickey and Riku that they were destined to fall, and went as far as to refer to Sora as a "dull, ordinary boy", despite Sora having foiled several of Master Xehanort's plans. His attitude towards his own allies is quite apathetic; he showed a lack of concern for Vanitas' misery from his separation and did nothing to help him until Vanitas was willing to obey, and had little to no regard for the killing of Eraqus. In the case of Sora, Xehanort tends to have a series of back-up plans to occur whenever his previous scheme fails. Yen Sid mentions this to Mickey while discussing Xehanort, and describes him as a brilliant strategist.
Despite his overweening malice, Xehanort has been shown to have some slight sympathy for his victims, such as when he takes pity on Ventus, following the rupture of his heart, and decides to leave him to perish peacefully on the Destiny Islands. All of Xehanort's other seeming virtues are revealed to have sinister intentions behind them, demonstrated when he only took Ventus as an apprentice and cared for him solely with the intention of making the boy his vessel once he was strong enough, and when he only accepted Master Eraqus's invitation to witness the Mark of Mastery Exam to win back Eraqus's trust following their falling-out and sabotage the exam to put Terra on the path to darkness so as to make him his new vessel after deciding to instead use Ventus for the χ-blade.
Overall, Xehanort is the true catalyst of all the events in the series so far, effectively making him the true villain of the Xehanort Saga, having been responsible (either directly or indirectly) for converting Terra in the first of his many vessels, arranging his younger self's quest through time, the Disney villains' hunt for Kingdom Hearts, the creation of Vanitas, the Unversed, and the original Organization XIII, and the release of the Emblem Heartless and Nobodies. Xehanort has a few unusual tendencies and quirks, however, such as turning away from the people he speaks to, or over-dramatizing his hand gestures when delivering a speech, even flexing his fingers in an unusual manner, as if itching to grab something.
As an old man, Master Xehanort is bald except for thin eyebrows and a curled, silver goatee. His ears are pointed and his eyes are yellow. He has broad, hunched shoulders and a crooked back. He appears overall as a somewhat feeble old man, certainly deceiving given his immense power. His clothing is the same as that worn by his eventual Heartless Ansem. It is composed of a white and black coat with a red inner lining, which is worn over a white shirt with two thin black belts, as well as white gloves and calf-high black boots. The major difference between the two outfits is that Ansem wears the shirt unbuttoned, exposing the Heartless emblem on his chest. However, there are a few minor changes as well; Ansem's coat has gold lining on its edges, where Xehanort's has black lining. He sometimes wears a black coat, which would later be worn by Xemnas and the Organization members, over this outfit.
In his youth, Xehanort had mildly tanned skin, golden eyes, and silver hair which both slightly spikes and falls past his shoulders in the back; it is styled similar to Terra-Xehanort's, albeit with four bangs framing his face, the back two thicker than the front two, and the two backwards spikes on the sides are absent, the topmost one slicked back. He wore the same style of white shirt, which only reaches to his thighs, a black vest with a high collar, long armbands which cover his forearms, and dark grey pants stuffed into his boots, similar to those worn by Organization XIII but without the silver lining on top, much like those worn by the guards of Radiant Garden. While traveling through time, he wears the black coat.
Powers and Abilities
Master Xehanort is an extremely skilled Keyblade Master and magic user. His magic skills are some of the most advanced seen in the series so far, as he can manipulate the elements around him, block shots without raising his arms, telekinetically control the Keyblades covering the Keyblade Graveyard to attack Terra and Aqua, and bombard foes with multiple Fire, Thunder, and Blizzard-based magic. Able to teleport if he is in danger, Master Xehanort strikes opponents with powerful, fast-paced attacks. Despite his age, Xehanort possesses physical strength sufficient enough to grab a fully-armored Ventus by the back of the head and lift him into the air, slowly cracking the helmet as he did so. His Keyblade skills have also not tarnished, as he was able to fight at incredible speeds and hold his own in battle.
Thanks to his studies on the heart, Master Xehanort shows a great deal of skill in utilizing the heart and its capabilities, able to create a living being from a heart, and even able to direct his heart into Terra's body to possess it after his defeat in the Keyblade Graveyard. Master Xehanort's greatest asset, however, is his intellect and capacity for manipulation: he had directly and indirectly caused many of the hardships and suffering of the worlds for over a decade through complex schemes and contingencies, and always has backup plans ready.
In his younger incarnation, Xehanort demonstrated the ability to control and stop time.
- “Seek out the darkness that upsets the balance. Find Vanitas and put an end to him... Master Terra.”
- ―Master Xehanort manipulates Terra.
A few years later, Master Eraqus invites Master Xehanort to the Land of Departure to witness Terra and Aqua becoming Keyblade Masters. Xehanort accepts, but he hints that Terra has the potential for darkness and suggests Eraqus administer a Mark of Mastery exam to the two apprentices. During the exam, Xehanort subtly uses darkness to affect the Orbs of Light and nudge Terra's darkness during his spar with Aqua. At the end of the exam, Eraqus names Aqua as Master, telling Terra that he failed to keep his darkness in check. Meanwhile, Xehanort leaves the building, passing by Vanitas, who tells him that Terra is the key to luring Ventus away from home. Outside, Xehanort tells Terra that he should not fear his darkness, and that he should learn to channel it instead. He then leaves via a Corridor of Darkness, making himself unavailable when Eraqus tries to contact him about the Unversed threat. Master Eraqus tasks Aqua and Terra with countering the Unversed and locating Master Xehanort, and Vanitas manipulates Ventus into following Terra.
During his travels, Master Xehanort meets the evil fairy Maleficent, and he informs her of the existence of other worlds, the Princesses of Heart, and Kingdom Hearts. He also tells her that the Keyblade is necessary to take others' hearts, and warns her of the three Keyblade wielders that would follow him to her world.
Some time later, Master Xehanort summons Terra to the Keyblade Graveyard, where he tells him of Vanitas and his connection to the Unversed. He explains that he created Vanitas after Ventus succumbed to darkness in a training accident, and he asks Terra to stop Vanitas for him, suggesting that he may be drawn to Radiant Garden, the city of light.
After arriving at Radiant Garden, Terra spots Master Xehanort walking into the Castle Town, but he is distracted from following him by a giant Unversed. Xehanort strikes an alliance with Braig, and they stage Xehanort's kidnapping in order to manipulate Terra into using darkness. Braig faces Terra in battle, and Terra accidentally channels his darkness, scarring Braig's face and forcing him to flee. Xehanort consoles the distraught Terra, offering to take him under his wing, so they may pursue a balance between light and darkness together. He tells "Master Terra" to continue his journey and his search for Vanitas.
After Terra leaves Radiant Garden, an injured Braig attempts to gun Master Xehanort down, furious at being set up as "collateral damage", but Xehanort easily forces him to back down. When Braig remarks that a scarred face is better than a lost heart, Xehanort reveals that Terra is incapable of stealing a heart, implying that he himself was the one who stole Aurora's heart.
Later, Master Xehanort has Vanitas abduct Mickey Mouse to lure Ventus to the Keyblade Graveyard, where he reveals to Ventus the truth about his past and his plans to create the χ-blade. He adds that Master Eraqus has kept Ventus from venturing away from the Land of Departure in order to prevent the creation of the Keyblade, and that he never trusted Ventus enough to tell him the truth. Xehanort summons a dark vortex that sends Ven to the Land of Departure, expecting him to confront Eraqus. He then calls Terra to him, telling him that Ven went to confront Eraqus on his own, and that he fears for Ven's safety. He sends Terra after Ventus, and Terra arrives in time to protect Ven, throws him through a portal to safety, and defeats Eraqus in battle. Although Terra and Eraqus both regret their actions, Xehanort appears and delivers the final blow against Eraqus, who dissolves into light in Terra's arms. Revealing his true intentions to Terra, for him to succumb to darkness, Xehanort tells Terra to return to the Keyblade Graveyard, where he will see Ventus and Aqua meet their ends. He then summons his Keyblade and uses it to unleash darkness on the Land of Departure, completely destroying the world and leaving nothing but the castle's remains, before departing.
When Terra, Ventus, and Aqua travel to the remains of the Land of Departure again, they meet the time-displaced Young Xehanort, who hides his identity by keeping his hood up. After he is defeated, he departs again through time.
Terra, Ven, and Aqua arrive at the Keyblade Graveyard, where Master Xehanort and Vanitas confront the three Keyblade wielders. Xehanort uses his immense magic to alter the landscape by summoning giant cliffs and creating a whirling stream of abandoned Keyblades that pursues the three friends. Terra is knocked onto the cliff where Xehanort stands, Ventus tries to attack him from behind, but Xehanort instantly moves behind Ven and grabs him by the helmet of his Keyblade Armor. Terra is knocked off the cliff by the flying Keyblades while Xehanort flash-freezes Ventus and drops him off the cliff. Xehanort then creates an orb of magic which he launches into the clouds overhead, summoning Kingdom Hearts in the sky.
Terra returns to the top of the cliff and faces off against Xehanort and Vanitas, but Xehanort soon sends Vanitas to fight Ventus, leaving Xehanort and Terra to fight one-on-one. Xehanort goads Terra into tapping into his darkness, and Terra successfully defeats the elderly Master. While the battle between Ventus and Vanitas climaxes in the forging of the χ-blade, Xehanort uses his Keyblade to extract his own heart and implant it into Terra, declaring his vow to survive to see the results of the Keyblade War. Terra-Xehanort becomes the new incarnation of Xehanort, with his old body fading away in a shower of light with a triumphant smile.
- “A man like Xehanort will have left many roads open.”
- ―Yen Sid to Mickey
When Mickey returns to the Mysterious Tower, Yen Sid explains that the destruction of Ansem and Xemnas will inevitably lead to the resurrection of Master Xehanort. Musing that Xehanort will have left himself many paths to take and cryptically suggesting that there may be more than one of Xehanort to contend with, Yen Sid instructs Mickey to summon Sora and Riku to the tower to take the Mark of Mastery exam.
Meanwhile, Young Xehanort travels to Radiant Garden and revives Braig. After discussing Xehanort's goals and the details on his Keyblade, Xehanort and Braig decide to take Isa with them to further their plans.
- “I am Xehanort from the most distant past. My future self gave me a task—to visit the splintered versions of myself in many worlds, and ensure they gathered here today.”
- ―Young Xehanort to Riku
The time displaced Young Xehanort successfully gathers other incarnations of himself from across time, until they total twelve, including himself and the elder Master Xehanort.
At the beginning of Sora and Riku's Mark of Mastery exam, the disembodied Ansem appears, in his robed appearance. He causes Sora to be marked with the Recusant's Sigil, allowing him to be tracked and guided through the Sleeping Worlds by Young Xehanort and his comrades.
He appears before Sora and Riku in several worlds, often accompanied by either Ansem or Xemnas. They taunt the two, Sora about his unknown links to others' hearts, Riku about his dark past, and both about being trapped in their dreams. Young Xehanort chooses to make Sora the thirteenth vessel for Master Xehanort's heart, as Riku had developed a resistance to darkness. Eventually, Sora is brought to the real World that Never Was, where Xigbar explains how his journey had been manipulated all along, and Young Xehanort plunges Sora back into a deep sleep, showing him illusions of his own past. Sora then dreams of the many people connected to him, and when he chases the phantoms in his dream, he falls deeper into sleep. Eventually he confronts Xigbar and Xemnas, who reveal to him the true purpose of Organization XIII and admit that Nobodies can regrow their hearts over time. Although Sora defeats Xemnas, the fight weakens him to the point that he cannot escape from his deep sleep. Young Xehanort reappears before him, and he tells Sora how they had manipulated his journey. As Sora falls unconscious, Xehanort informs him that he will become the thirteenth member of the new Organization XIII.
Riku attempts to find Sora in the World That Never Was, eventually defeating Ansem and returning to the real world. He tracks Sora to the Castle That Never Was, where he finds Sora in Where Nothing Gathers. Young Xehanort stops Riku from reaching Sora, and he tells him about the true purpose of Organization XIII as vessels for Xehanort, as well as his role in gathering the members from across time, and his choosing Sora as the thirteenth member. The current members appear, but before Master Xehanort fully materializes, Mickey arrives and freezes the area with a Stopza spell. However, Master Xehanort possesses his younger self's body and faces Riku in battle, but Riku finally prevails. The time freeze wears off, and Master Xehanort fully revives on Xemnas's former throne, while Young Xehanort takes his place on Marluxia's former throne.
Master Xehanort admits to his past endeavors and his failed attempt to create the χ-blade to Riku and Mickey, but also reveals that he has another way to create the χ-blade and restart the Keyblade War. Since the χ-blade was divided at the conclusion of the Keyblade War into thirteen darknesses and seven lights, he had orchestrated many previous events, including manipulating Maleficent into capturing the seven Princesses of Heart and the creation of Organization XIII as vessels of darkness, each meant to harbor a piece of his own heart. Due to Sora and Riku's interference and the unforeseen independence or weakness of a number of Organization members, the two-part plan had failed. However, having given Young Xehanort the ability to travel through time, Master Xehanort has brought about the creation of a new Organization XIII made up of himself, his other incarnations, and vessels that harbor pieces of his heart, which he intends to pit against the "Seven Lights".
Master Xehanort moves in to place a fragment of his heart inside Sora, but the arrival of Lea, Donald, and Goofy forces the incomplete Organization to retreat, each member returning to his own time. As Master Xehanort fades, he tells his opponents that both the seven of light and the thirteen of darkness will have their numbers filled when the time comes.
Although Yen Sid and Mickey agree that they will be playing into Xehanort's hands, they resolve to gather seven Keyblade-wielding defenders of light, rather than endanger the Princesses of Heart.
- “You are just one of many roads that I might choose to take.”
- ―Master Xehanort to Terra
Master Xehanort and Terra continue to dispute over internal dominance within the new Xehanort. Despite Xehanort's insistence that he will soon subsume Terra's heart into his own, Terra remains confident that he will win over and eventually expel Master Xehanort. Xehanort realizes that Terra is harboring the heart of Master Eraqus, which may allow him to resist his darkness for longer than he expected. However, Xehanort serenely points out that he has many other plans in the works should he lose control over Terra's body.
A fragmentary passage
A young Xehanort stands on the beach at Destiny Islands, and as he turns around, images of Ansem, Xemnas, and the elderly Master Xehanort at the Keyblade Graveyard also appear.
- Xehanort's design is heavily reminiscent of the Mad Doctor. He also bears a resemblance to executive Disney film producer Roy Conli, something Conli himself notes in a Kingdom Hearts III promotional video.
- Like the members of the original Organization XIII, Xehanort's name contains the letter "X", along with the anagrams "Another" and "No Heart".
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