by Brendan McGrath
Mindi paced the library, wondering how she could ever manage to find all the items needed for a Garuda Stone. The Nasha Plants wouldn't be too hard, but sap from the Mana Tree! And a white dragon's feather! And how would she ever get out of the Elf Village? Her parents would never let her go, but she knew she had to. Nasia had asked her!
The only way out of the village was the vine ladder, which was carefully guarded to be sure that no little sprites would wander down from the safe treetop village. There was no other way. Unless...
Mindi walked outside, and looked down at the ground far below. She then raised the ring on her finger to the sky, and called for Sylphid, the wind elemental. In a swirl of wind, he appeared, hovering above Mindi's head.
"Good morning, Mindi!" he exclaimed.
"Quiet, Sylphid!" she hissed. "I need to get out of the village to make a Garuda Stone! And I need your help!"
"Me?" said the stunned sylph.
"Yes, you," confirmed Mindi. Then she raised her ring again, this time calling for Gnome. Far below, on the forest floor, the ground rumbled, and Gnome shot out of the ground, and zoomed up, planting both earthy boots on the wooden walkway of the Elf Village, next to Mindi.
"Hello, Mindi!" he said. "Sylphid?! The wind elemental? What's that wind bag doing here?!"
"Wind Bag! Look who's talking! The one who's as dense a rock!" scoffed Sylphid.
"That's enough, you two!" giggled Mindi. "Together, can you two turn the air in front of me into a rock, and then, Sylphid, can you gently lower it down on a gust of wind?"
"Easy!" said Sylphid, and Gnome agreed. They raised their hands, and the air became dust, which condensed into pebbles, which swirled around to become a slab of rock. Mindi hopped on, bow in hand. Sylphid lowered his hands, slowly, and the slab, in turn, lowered in the same proportion. Mindi shut her eyes as she went through tree branches, twigs scratching at her eyelids. She opened them seconds later, as the land below came closer and closer. Overhead she saw the tall trees which housed the village. The two elementals waved goodbye.
"Bye, Mindi!" called Gnome.
"Call us if you need us!" added Sylphid, and then the two disappeared.
Mindi waved, then lowered her hand as she saw that they were gone. She was alone. But not for long!
"Kupo!" came a call from nearby.
"A moogle!" cried Mindi. She looked behind her, and there, hiding in the bushes, was a young moogle! "Come on out," she coaxed, "I won't hurt you."
Slowly, the moogle stepped out of his hiding place, and Mindi got a good look at him. His fur was tan colored, and his wings were a light green. His little pointed ears rippled in curiosity, as did the fur above his eyes. The little bear-like creature seemed as if he was only a moogle child, a moogling. "Who are you?" purred the little moogle.
"My name is Mindi, and I'm trying to find Nasha plants. You've heard about Melcifia, right?" The moogle nodded. "I need the plants to make a Garuda Stone, to defeat her. I also need sap from the Mana Tree, and a white dragon's feather. And the Mana Tree must bless it."
"Well, since many of the Nasha plants were burned in Melcifia's fires," pondered the moogle. But there might be some deep in the wintery part of the forest, where fires are hard to make. After you get that, maybe the moogle elders can help you get to the Pureland."
"I'll get a Nasha plant from the winter woods, and then visit the moogle village in the summer woods."
"Can I come with you?" asked the moogle.
"Ok," agreed Mindi. "What is your name?"
"OK, let's go. The winter woods are north of these spring woods. Let's go."
Mindi hiked through the colorful spring woods, as her furry companion Kuku toddled along beside her. The buds on the trees were beginning to bloom, and birds chirped in the sky, gathering food for their young. The sun shone through the gentle filter of leaves, and caressed their faces. The moist morning dew bathed their ankles.
On they went, travelling around a large thicket of bushes, all in bloom with pink flowers. The thicket seemed to be the center of the spring woods, and only the rabbits could travel through it. As they kept turning to the left, they eventually passed the path leading to the burnt sprite village. Mindi kept her eyes away from the path, as tears rushed to her eyes, and began to overflow, flowing down her cheek like a mountain stream. She tilted her head up, trying make the tears fall back into her eyes, but like a spring of water, they bubbled out. She kept walking, trying to remember that she was trying to undo this whole mess. She knew it was OK to be sad, but you couldn't let it get in the way of making others happy.
She held her head high, and walked on.
She saw the path leading through some trees, and motioned to Kuku to follow her. As she wondered down the path, the buds on the trees turned to icicles, and the soft warmth of the sun was replaced with a cruel arctic wind.
"Nasha plants grow near ponds!" yelled Kuku above the wind. There's a pond in the center of the Winter Woods!"
Mindi made her way against the wind to the frozen pond, and through the blurred air with snow, she saw a withering Nasha plant on the other side of the small pond. She got on her knees, and crawled over the ice. She was at the center when a flash of light caught her attention from behind. She turned her head, and through the snow saw a glaring Melcifia!
"Now I have you right where I want you, Mindi!" growled Melcifia, her eyes narrowed, into a deadly gaze.
"Melcifia!" cried Mindi, in terror. But the terror soon changed to rage, as Mindi's face countered Melcifia's. "You destroyed my home! I am going to stop you!"
Melcifia giggled in scorn. "Stop ME? A little sprite like YOU? Oh, spare me your foolish dreams! I will make them a nightmare!"
Melcifia's eyes flashed red, and two arrows of fire shot from them like lasers, and flew around Mindi, making a ring of fire on the ice.
"That is the end of your little mission, Mindi!" Mindi whispered, mocking sympathy. With a whirl of her cape, she vanished.
The ice around Mindi was melting, and soon she would be in the freezing water! She could not take a temperature that low. And she couldn't go through the fire. "Kuku, help!" screamed Mindi.
"Call Undine and have her put out the fire!" called Kuku.
Mindi held the ring to the sky, but it shimmered, and then darkened. The fire and ice had created an anti-magic range, and disenchanted the ring! "It won't work!" screamed Mindi, her heart in her throat.
The ring of fire ate its way slowly inward, and the patch of ice that Mindi was kneeling on was diminishing. Mindi saw the Nasha plant nearby, and grabbed it. "Kuku! Deliver this Nasha plant to Kamaj, in the elf village! He'll know what to do! I'm lost!"
But Mindi was not as lost as she thought. The Nasha plant began to emanate a peaceful green aura, and it permeated the air, and met the magical fire. The fire began to die! Mindi raced away from the pond, just as what remained of the fire cut a hole in the ice where Mindi had been, and ice cold water shimmered, like jaws of venom.
Mindi was out of breath. "The... Nasha Plant... the Mana within it... it saved me!"
Kuku hugged Mindi, and kissed her on the cheek, thankful she was safe. His whiskers tickled Mindi's face, and she began to laugh.
They headed towards the summer woods, where the Moogle village was.
"A white dragon feather?" repeated Kupan, the moogle elder.
"Yes," confirmed Mindi.
"The question is how to call a white dragon!" pondered Kupan, stroking his whiskers, deep in thought.
"Legends say that Yada, Lilac, and Nasia used a toy drum," suggested Mindi.
"The drum is kept in Matango," said Kupan, "And Melcifia has supposedly cast a spell, blocking the way. In fact, she's isolated the entire Great Forest, nearly. None can go out or in, at least by normal means. With a white dragon, it could be done."
"I suppose we'll have to make a drum," suggested Kuku.
"We don't have time!" whined Mindi.
"Hmm... it might not have to be a drum," speculated Kupan, "Anything musical, from the heart."
"From the heart?" repeated Kuku.
"Of course. King Truffle made the Flammie drum, raised him with it, and that was what drew Flammie to it."
"What about... a song?" asked Mindi.
"That might work..." shrugged Kupan, walking away.
Mindi sat down in the tall summer grass of the Moogle Village, and tried to think of a song. As she thought, she looked around the village. There were no huts, or any houses, the moogles all lived in the open, or in trees. Some slept on hammocks, tied between trees, often high in the branches. The village was filled with little baskets of herbs, spices, and fruits here and there, with a fire pit in the center for cooking meals.
Mindi leaned back, the palms of her hands pressed against the ground, holding her back at an angle above the ground. She tilted her head back, and her braids of green hair dangled towards the ground. A song. She thought of all the songs she knew. The lullabies her parents would sing her, the ceremony chants for the yearly Mana Celebration... and then she remembered one her grandmother had taught her two years ago, right before she had crossed to the Realm of Mana... she began to sing it, softly, yet it vibrated through the air, into the sky...
Hush, child, listen with ears,
A story of what one did create,
Mindi never really understood the song. Yet she always had felt safe when her grandmom and sung it to her, on a starry night. Yes, the song for her was full of love.
And at that moment, Mindi heard a rush of air from behind, and was suddenly swept into the air by a beautiful white dragon!