Keyblade Master (キーブレードマスター, Kīburēdo Masutā?) is the title given to exceptional Keyblade wielders who pass the Mark of Mastery exam in the Kingdom Hearts series. There are a total of thirteen known Keyblade Masters; the Master of Masters, Aced, Ava, Gula, Invi, Ira, Luxu, Eraqus, Xehanort, Yen Sid, Aqua, Mickey Mouse, and Riku. Currently, only eight remain active; Luxu, Aced, Gula, Invi, Ira, Mickey, Riku, and Aqua. Yen Sid retired this title and passed his Keyblade down to Mickey, Eraqus was slain by Master Xehanort, Xehanort was defeated by Sora, and the Master of Masters and Ava befell an unknown fate.
The Keyblade Master who passes the Mark of Mastery exam is given the choice to either travel to many worlds and explore their horizons, or to succeed their mentor and take refuge in their world to protect it from malevolent forces. However, there are also Keyblade Masters who have instead chosen to abuse their powers for their own gain, such as Master Xehanort.
Before Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep
Long before Aqua and Terra's exam, two young men, Eraqus and Xehanort, were both tested for the Mark of Mastery by their Master. They both passed, but Eraqus was chosen as their Master's successor.
After many years of training, Terra and Aqua were ready to take the Mark of Mastery exam. Unfortunately for Terra, he failed, while Aqua passed and was chosen as the successor of Eraqus. Terra could not keep the darkness in his heart in check, a trait that Master Eraqus did not see fitting for the title of Master.
Eraqus informed Aqua her new duties as a Keyblade Master, including a "secret" in particular that she should know: as his successor if anything were to happen to him, and the darkness plundered the world, he wants her to take his Keyblade and lock the world away. He informed her that generations of Keyblade Masters have been entrusted with keeping the world safe, because the light and darkness are balanced there, and there are people who might want to abuse such a neutral powered world. Their predecessors devised a "trick" that allows the Keyblade to transform the world, so that all who visit the world will be lost to oblivion, as none would be able to solve its mystery, except for the one who transformed it.
Meanwhile, retired Master Yen Sid had allowed his former apprentice, Mickey, to come back to him for more training. Yen Sid discovered that the worlds were being threatened by creatures that feed off of negativity, which he called the Unversed, and that the Princesses of Heart were in danger from them. Mickey saw this as an opportunity to prove that he is Master material, so he stole his former Master's Star Shard, and left to investigate.
Yen Sid informed Eraqus of the situation and he called forth Terra and Aqua to investigate. He told Terra, that if he performs well on this journey, he might reconsider to make Terra Master, but he must not rely heavily on his darkness. However, Master Xehanort manipulated Terra into succumbing to darkness and possessed him, transforming him into Terra-Xehanort.
Much later, Aqua returns to the Land of Departure with an unconscious, heartless Ventus. She sees that it was completely destroyed by the darkness and finds the fallen Master Eraqus's Keyblade lying in the remains. She brings Ventus into the castle and places him in one of the thrones. Remembering the "trick" the Master told her about, she uses his Keyblade to completely transform the world. She promises Ventus to return with Terra to wake him up and leaves him in the newly-formed Chamber of Waking. As she leaves the castle, she turns to see the new world she created, Castle Oblivion. She then leaves to search for the missing Terra, but following a brutal fight with Terra-Xehanort, Aqua ends up trapped in the Realm of Darkness.
Meanwhile, Mickey passed his exam under Yen Sid and was named a Keyblade Master.
Aware that the destruction of "Ansem" and Xemnas will lead to the reconstruction of Master Xehanort, Yen Sid commands Mickey to summon both Sora and Riku to him, so that they can be tested for the Mark of Mastery in order to become Keyblade Masters themselves and finish Xehanort once and for all.
Sora and Riku undergo Yen Sid's Mark of Mastery exam, but only Riku is named a Keyblade Master after Sora drops into the darkness while Riku is the one who rescues him. Despite failing, Sora congratulates Riku, who is then ordered to bring Kairi before Yen Sid for Keyblade training in order to counter Xehanort's new Organization XIII.
Donald Duck teases Sora for not attaining the rank of a Keyblade Master.
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Powers and abilities
All Keyblade Masters share the ability to extract the hearts of themselves or others, this is shown when Master Xehanort extracts the hearts of Aurora and himself. They can also extract part of the heart as well; for instance, Xehanort extracts the darkness from Ventus's heart and creates Vanitas.
Keyblade Masters also have the ability to perform the Bequeathing, a trial in which a person is chosen to inherit the power of the Keyblade by clutching the Keyblade in their hand and allowing it to accept them. This is shown when Terra performs it on Riku, and when it is accidentally performed on Kairi when she grasps Aqua's Keyblade. Although Terra does not have the title of Master, he is on the level of one, therefore he is able to perform this rite.
In addition to performing the Bequeathing, Masters can conduct the Mark of Mastery exam upon potential Keyblade Masters. Although Yen Sid is a retired Master, he is still able to conduct the exam.
Also, Aqua is able to sense that the ceremony has been performed on Riku, although it is not known whether all Keyblade wielders can sense this, or if it is a Master's ability.
Notes and references