Secret of Mana: A Novelization
by Intrasonic

Chapter 14: Thanatos

Three days later, they arrived back at Pandora. They would have no doubt made it back in two days, but Randi had insisted they both rest a night to make sure they were up to par upon reaching Pandora. Strangely enough, Randi noted, the two of them were beginning to show less exhaustion from traveling all day. He knew that he didn't get tired, on account of the Mana Sword. But them? Keith was no doubt tough enough to do it. But Purim? Most people needed at least a little rest each night or else they'd be in poor condition the following day. Yet Purim and Keith doggedly kept pace with him, even when he tried to show them up enough to convince them to rest the second night.

The lone guard at the city's gate rubbed his eyes as he saw them approaching. Obviously they weren't expected. "L-lady Purim! You're back!"

She glared daggers at him. "I go where I feel like. Is that a problem?"

"N-no, lady Purim. We were simply concerned about your safety..."

Keith snickered. "You tell a good lie, buddy!"

The guard shuddered nervously, looking away from them. Randi pushed both of them along. "Let's go, guys. We have some ruins to crash, right? No sense in giving Thanatos a chance to get ready for us. Purim, where are the ruins?"

"About an hour's walk south of here. I know the way."

Ten minutes later, they set out, having stopped only for Purim to refill her quiver of arrows. The trip to the ruins was a quiet one, to say the least. All three of them kept their hands on their weapons, despite the absence of enemies.

"It's quiet," Keith observed. "Even the wind's dead."

Purim nodded in agreement. "Dyluck told me that it only gets worse as you get closer. He never actually went into the ruins, but he's gotten close a few times."

"Everything feels... evil," Randi muttered. "Even Elinee's castle didn't feel this bad."

"Elinee said that Thanatos was the one who provided her with power," she reminded him.

"Who goes around here?" Keith inquired. "This trail is really well-worn."

"All the people who become zombies. They just become mindless idiots and stay still for a few days. Then they just made their way to these ruins. Didn't you notice how deserted Pandora was? Before this started, it never quieted down until near midnight. Recently, people have been dropping like flies."

"What about you?"

"Don't ask me. I never felt any different."

"Someone's up ahead," Keith announced.

Randi strained his eyes to see what Keith had spotted. Several minutes later, he was finally able to make out the figure. It was a young woman, walking along somewhat stiffly.

"Another victim," Purim noted, uninterestedly.

They approached her quickly, since she was walking slowly. Randi thought he recognized her. He was sure he'd seen her before... "Hey, isn't that... Phanna?"

"Yeah," Keith agreed. "Unless someone else in Pandora has got that blue-dyed hair thing going."

Purim's eyes opened wide. "Phanna?" She broke into a run until she had caught up with her. "Phanna? Wake up!"

Phanna didn't reply, simply continuing to walk along the pathway. Purim grabbed her by the arm and shook her gently. "Hey, wake up, Phanna. Snap out of it..."

"If that was going to work," Keith pointed out, "your village would have more people in it, wouldn't it?"

"Shut up!" Purim snapped, but her attention remained focused on Phanna. "Hey, Phanna, you don't want to go this way!"

Still no response.

Purim decided for a more drastic measure. "Fine then..." She grabbed Phanna's arms and tried to physically drag her back towards Pandora. But it was no use. For all Purim's efforts, Phanna simply resisted, and continued forwards.

"Randi!" Purim snapped, looking a little frantic. "Hold her!"

Randi grabbed Phanna by her wrists, surprised at how much she was resisting his grip. He had a feeling that at one time, she might actually have overpowered him... but the Mana Sword had made him stronger... In one swift move, Randi lifted her clear off the ground, and began to carry her back to Pandora.

Then Phanna disappeared.

Purim and Keith both gasped in shock. After a moment, Randi realized that he wasn't carrying anything. "Where... where did she go?"

"She fricking disappeared!" Keith exclaimed in disbelief.

"Come on!" Purim cried, breaking into a run towards the ruins. "She must be down at the ruins! We're going to get her back too!"

Randi and Keith glanced at each as they began to run after her.

"Hey," Keith hissed, "wasn't this the same girl she told off last time?"

Randi shrugged in reply. "Don't ask me. Maybe she's got a heart after all?"

"Nah," Keith objected. "I'll bet she's just worried about losing a good patsy. Must be hard to find servants willing to listen to her chewing ‘em out all day!"

"Whatever. She must be concerned about something! Look at her run!"

Surprisingly enough, Purim didn't tire the whole trip there, even though Randi and Keith were able to catch up to her quickly enough. Within ten minutes, they had arrived at the ruins. They stopped at the entrance, taking in the place.

The area looked like some ancient castle. A wall had been built around it, made of a blackened rock, but there was no gate and they were free to walk in. Inside, large statues were placed all over the courtyard. They were all cut in the figure of a strange Minotaur-esque monster that looked unlike anything they had ever seen. They could have been from an entirely different world.

Randi took a deep breath and started forwards, trudging across the smooth courtyard. It was devoid of even the smallest weed or insect. He could see nothing dangerous, but he swore he could almost feel evil in the air. They were going up against someone stronger than anything they'd ever faced before. This was someone who could turn an entire village into nothing but mindless zombies. Even Jema seemed to have failed here.

He glanced at his two partners, privately admitting that this was one time that he was glad to have them along. Thanatos obviously had magic of his own. They would need all the magic they had to fight it.

"Dyluck and Phanna must be in here," Purim decided.

"I'd say the whole village is in here," Keith suggested. "Unless you can think of somewhere else they might be?"

They walked in silence until they reached the central structure. It was made of the same blackened stone as everything else, and very tall. The gold doors were wide open.

"I guess we're allowed in," Randi observed.

"You're a world of comfort," Keith agreed.

"Well, don't stand around gawking, you two," Purim snapped, passing through the doors without even slowing. "Thanatos isn't going to wait forever for us."

"I kind of liked the idea that he wasn't expecting us," Keith mumbled. "So bring on the monsters!"

Strangely enough, nothing greeted them when they went inside. The inside room was grand, with huge chandeliers providing dim light on the floors, and strange paintings adorning the walls. The scenes depicted on the canvases made all three of them shudder slightly. None of them looked like anything from this world, and many were of gruesome war scenes and what seemed to be various depictions of death.

"Man, this guy could really use a little interior decorating," Keith observed, looking over a picture of a strange creature that resembled a man made of black lightning. "Maybe some therapy too."

An instant later, the painting's frame began to pulse with a white energy. With a yelp, Keith backed away, ready to throw his weapons at the frame. After a moment, a strange black creature began to slide out of the frame. It looked like a person... made of black lightning.

"What the heck is that?" Keith demanded.

Without a sound, the monster advanced towards them. Keith immediately let fly with two daggers, but they simply passed through the monster harmlessly. Keith opened fire with a barrage of ice-crystals, but these two simply passed through the creature. Keith sprang backwards, narrowly avoiding the creature's lunge for him.

Randi darted forwards, slashing twice with his sword before the creature could even think to counterattack. But all the Mana Sword did was made the creature waiver a little. The creature reared back to strike at him, but it was slow. Deciding that their weapons were useless, Randi had already sprung to his feet and cut loose with two powerful punches to the creature's face. He staggered and lost his balance as both his fists went through the creature without even touching it. He stared at the creature in surprise as it drew back to strike again. Something wasn't right...

After what seemed like an eternity, Randi came to a decision. He stood up slowly and walked forwards. "If I can't hit it, it's welcome to try and hit me!"

Purim opened her mouth to protest, but thought better of it and simply waited hopefully.

Interestingly enough, the creature simply began to back away. It still darted back and forth threateningly, but it never struck at Randi. Finally, it simply faded away into nothing. Randi gave it an amused glance. "Nice intruder system. Looks dangerous, and you can't kill it. Looks like you two just wasted some of your magic."

Purim and Keith glanced at each other. They had both learned the hard way that their magic resources were limited. This little trick had depleted a little of that limit.

"Tricky guy," was Purim's opinion. "But we know better now."

"Right," Keith agreed.

They continued forwards. The room quickly narrowed into a hallway, with more pictures hanging on the walls. The three of them pointedly ignored them, until another creature stepped out of one of the frames. This one looked like a person made of red lightning as it advanced towards them slowly. Randi faced it openly. Another illusion, no doubt...

Then the creature swung at him, smashing him right off his feet into the wall.

"Randi!" the other two chorused, realizing that this one wasn't a trick.

"Get it!" he growled, trying to ignore the screams of pain throughout his body. He felt like he'd just been trampled under a crowd. Everything seemed to be a bright red in his vision. After what seemed like an eternity, he staggered to his feet and tried to get a bearing on the enemy. It was going to pay for that... his body was still screaming with pain...

Keith let off a blast of ice water towards the creature, impacting it squarely in it head. At the same time, Purim hit it with an ice-charged arrow. In seconds, the creature shriveled away into nothing.

"Randi!" Purim shrieked in horror, finally looking at him. "Y-you're on fire! Keith! Use some rain on him!"

Keith reacted quickly, creating a small rain cloud over Randi.

Randi felt the shock of the cold water hitting him, then a soothing wave of numbing relief over his right arm and shoulder. He looked himself over stiffly. His clothing was partially blackened, and his skin looked blistered.

"Are you okay?" Purim asked in disbelief. "I swear, the minute that thing hit you, you caught on fire!"

"I'm fine," Randi agreed, although he looked a little unsteady on his feet.

"No, you're not," Keith objected, pointing a finger at him. "But I'll fix that..."

After several moments, nothing happened. Keith looked at his finger strangely. "Hmm... that's odd. If Princess can do it, I should be able to..."

"Amateur," Purim muttered, placing her hand over his shoulder and concentrating. A blue glow extended from her hand and enveloped his shoulder.

After several moments, the pain began to fade away and the skin began to return to normal. Randi whistled appreciatively as he flexed his arm. "Thanks. That's a nice trick."

"An easy trick," she replied, smirking at Keith.

"Speaking of tricks, Thanatos knows a few too," Randi added, before they could begin arguing again. He pointing to the now empty picture frame. "First he makes us think that they're all illusions. That makes us leave ourselves wide open for the next one which is real!"

"No more stupid mistakes," Purim agreed, unable to help but be a little impressed. "Let's go."

Randi stopped her advance. "I go first."


For an answer, Randi grabbed her arm and spun her around to face the wall where he'd been knocked into by the creature. There was an image punched into the wall approximately the size and shape of Randi. Purim stared at him in disbelief. "Are you sure you're okay? It hit you that hard?"

"Maybe the wall was just a little weak in that area," Randi suggested mockingly. "I go first, understand?"

She nodded slowly, shaking her head. "Not a Mana Knight. Whatever."

Resolutely, but more cautiously, they advanced further into the castle.

For the next hour, they wove their way through empty passageways. The pictures were always present, but most did nothing. Occasionally, one of the creatures would threaten them. But they were on their guard for anything now. Purim would fire an arrow at it to determine if it was real or not. If not, they ignored it. If otherwise, all three attacked with all their power. But they were getting increasingly frustrated with their lack of progress. The castle obviously wasn't as big as it seemed.

"Forget this!" Purim ordered disgustedly. "We've been here before! We're being led in circles! Just like in the Haunted Forest!"

"And we can't climb a tree to find the right way," Keith idly mused. "I'll bet this place has movable walls or something. Thanatos could be lettin' us walk in circles for all we know. We're just wearing ourselves out."

"Then we go somewhere that he doesn't want us to," Purim decided. She turned to Randi. "You're the Mana Knight! Why don't you try that stupid trick again! Close your eyes or whatever it is you do and try to find a secret passageway!"

Randi glared at her. "I thought I already made that clear! I'm not the Mana Knight! This might be the Mana Sword, but that's where it ends! Why don't you two try and do something with your magic, huh? I'm here to help, not do the entire job! This is your boyfriend in here, right? What about the Earth magic you're supposed to have now? I haven't seen you guys even think about it yet!"

"Well, what are we supposed to do with dirt magic?" Keith demanded. "Throw a mud ball at a monster? You want us to make his carpet dirty? Kill him with the cleaning bill?"

"Use your imagination!" Randi snapped. "You have water magic, don't you? I've seen you guys do more than just splash monsters with water!"

Neither could come with a reply to that.

"Think it over, guys," Randi suggested. "Now keep moving."

"Think is so pointless," Keith muttered. "And these fricking pictures are driving me nuts! They all look the same!"

"Stop complaining," Purim retorted. "As soon as we get Dyluck and Phanna back, we're out of here!"

"Then why you come up with a brainstorm for once?" Keith snapped. "After all, it's your boyfriend who's on the line! I couldn't give half a shit for this queer!"

"Then go home before you slow us down more than you have!" she snapped. "You just be glad I've got more important things to do than rip your throat out!"

"Why not try?" Keith challenged. "You can't do any worse than you are at finding your boy-toy!"

Purim's reply was cut off abruptly. A horrendous impact shocked both arguers into silence. They spun around, expecting the worst. What they saw made them both swallow.

There was a huge hole in the wall. Several clean cuts down the sides were matched with some jagged edges around the top and bottom. A pile of rock was on the floor. Amidst the pile stood Randi, fist outstretched, looking rather satisfied with himself.

"I think we've been going in circles, guys," he decided. "Let's take a new path."

"What the hell made you want to break a wall down?" Keith asked in disbelief.

"Simple," Randi informed them, walking towards a picture frame. Without hesitation, he stuck his hand in it. His hand passed right through the surface. The frame was nothing but a window.

Purim pieced it together. "We thought those monsters were coming from the pictures, but they were really coming from another room!"

"Let's find out where they're coming from," Keith decided. "I'm getting sick of them!"

The three walked through the hole Randi had created, suddenly finding themselves in the middle of a huge room. It was big enough to hold the entire village of Pandora. In the middle was a tall pyramid with steps leading up to it. A lone figure was atop it. But something else distracted them first.

"Randi..." Keith whispered, looking around in the dim light.

"These are..." Randi wasn't sure, looking questioningly at Purim.

Purim was certain. "These are all the people from Pandora!"

They were. Along the edges of the room, dozens upon dozens of people were standing like statues, all staring mindlessly at the central pyramid.

"Prince Harold!" Purim said, beginning to recognize various people. "Muriel! Dad!"

"Jema!" Randi exclaimed, picking out the big man, still in his armor. Even he hadn't succeeded...

"It is considered polite to use the door..." a deep voice intoned, echoing throughout the room.

All three people focused on the center pyramid and the figure atop it. Without a word, they advanced forward, scaling the steps rapidly. They finally reached the top and faced the source of the voice. What they saw wasn't what they expected.

"Thanatos!" Purim growled.

"Indeed. You three are no fools if you were able to beat Elinee..."

Thanatos faced them squarely. He was draped in a floor-length white cape that was lined with gold lace. Underneath a blood-red robe was draped over what appeared to be a heavily built frame. Pitch-black boots were visible from under the edges of the robe. His hands were sheathed in heavy black gloves, adorned with rubies. Thick, blood-red hair flowed around his face to his shoulders and down his back. But the most striking thing was his face itself.

Or perhaps the absence of it. A delicately fashioned gold mask covered the upper portion of his face, but behind the mask, nothing but blackness could be seen, even though he was in the light. Even his eyes were nothing but blackness.

"You were expecting something else?" Thanatos inquired, his deep voice continuing to reverberate throughout the room. "Perhaps a fearsome monster? Or perhaps a weak, pathetic forest witch?"

"What's it matter?" Keith retorted, making ready to throw a ring at Thanatos. "We needed information from Elinee. We need you dead!"

Thanatos chuckled, extending a robed and gloved arm towards them. "All in good time, Little Ones. But you've proved quite proficient in destroying my demons. Why not get rid of the last two I have left?"

Faster than they would have believed possible, two of the lightning creatures materialized in front of them and lunged at them, both with deadly intent. But Randi was already moving, his sword slicing through them both. They were still shriveling into nothingness as Randi continued his attack, the Mana Sword aimed straight for Thanatos.

Then two more figures appeared in front of Thanatos. Randi halted, only just avoiding decapitating the two figures before him.

"Looking for these two, Little Ones?"

"Phanna!" Purim exclaimed. "Dyluck!"

"Fascinating, isn't it? I've drained the life energy from their bodies. Now they're my mindless and willing slaves. Especially this one." Thanatos gestured towards Dyluck. "Elinee had a hard time controlling him. He seems to have some special power within him. A valuable find, wouldn't you agree?"

"Give him back!" Purim demanded, drawing an arrow on Thanatos.

"Tsk, tsk, my dear. You're welcome to kill me. If you think that a mere arrow would even hurt me... even one with the magic of ice imbedded in it." As if to build on his point, he slowly walked forwards until he was staring down at Purim. "Well?"

Purim appeared to be a little paralyzed. But not Keith.

After a moment, Thanatos took a large step backwards, somehow appearing graceful in the process. A fraction of a second later, a huge, pointed icicle smashed down where he'd been, gouging a hole in the floor.

"Damn," Keith commented mildly. "Missed."

"Pathetic, you worthless sprite. You all are, I might note. Seeing as you've killed all my demons, why don't you see if you can do that same to another of my pets?"

They all looked around quickly, trying to spot the threat. Nothing showed itself.

Thanatos laughed. "Not here, Little Ones. One my precious prizes might get hurt."

Abruptly, the floor beneath them disappeared. Randi had but a minute to try and grab the edge, but it was out of reach. He plummeted downwards into the darkness with the other two.

The ground came quickly, but he managed to land on his feet. A muffled exclamation to his left suggested that Purim hadn't been quite so fortunate.

The air was suddenly alive with blue light, from which showers of blue icicles came forth.

"Move it!" Keith yelled. "I don't know what this thing is, but-"

"You must be among those who don't believe in vampires," Thanatos's mocking voice suggested, echoing throughout the darkened room. "Allow me to restore your faith!"

"What?!" Purim yelled. "I can't see a thing!"

"Stupid humans!" Keith yelled. A sharp metallic ring sounded to their left. "Make some light! I'll try and hold it off!"

"Can you make some light with your magic, Purim?" Randi demanded, trying to make out some shapes in the darkness.

"Um... I've never done that before..."

"Well, you'd better learn!" he snapped disgustedly. "Or would you sooner get killed right now!"

A ear-pierced roaring sounded throughout the room, joined by Keith's laughter. "Got him trapped, guys! But I dunno how long it's going to hold him!"

"Where's some light?" Randi demanded.

"Shut up!" Purim yelled. "It doesn't work that way!" She stumbled through the darkness until she found Randi. "Where's your sword?"

"Right here. Where do you think-"

"Hold it out!" she ordered.

Baffled, Randi did as he was ordered.

Purim placed her hands lightly on the blade, then used her magic on it.

Almost immediately, the blade began to glow a pale blue. It continued to get brighter as she put more magic into it.

"That's more like it," Randi agreed, letting the blade's blue light fall across the room until he could see the threat for himself.

"Beautiful, eh?" Keith asked proudly.

Purim muffled a squeak of disbelief. For lack of a better term, it was a vampire. More specifically, it was half man, half giant bat, and foaming at the mouth. Its huge bat-like wings flapped furiously as it tried to fly. But it seemed to be held down...

"Cement shoes!" Keith laughed. "Looks like Earth magic has its uses after all!"

Randi couldn't believe Keith was even joking right now, but he could clearly see the huge slabs of rock, with the vampire's feet imbedded in them.

"Time to kill it," Purim muttered. "Let's see what happens when you use some Earth magic in an arrow..." She promptly let fly with an arrow, aimed straight for the creature's heart.

The vampire promptly snatched the arrow out of the air and held it for an instant.

Thanatos's laughter came from above again. "This vampire not only sucks blood. It sucks Mana energy too..."

The vampire abruptly tossed the arrow aside, then proceeded to hammer the slabs of rock with its fists. After several blows, the cement crumbled apart.

"Oh crap," Keith muttered nonchalantly. "Guess we'd better kill it, guys."

"We can see it now," Purim muttered, letting loose another arrow, this time with no magic in it. The vampire snatched it from the air again with its hand and tossed it aside.

"Enough of this!" Randi yelled, charging the vampire and slashing it across the chest with his sword. The vampire reeled backwards, but it recovered quickly and placed a hand over the wound. Blue energy flowed from its hand to the wound, healing it quickly.

"It sucked up the water magic in your sword!" Keith yelled.

"And it used it to heal itself!" Purim added in disbelief.

And now Randi couldn't see, since his sword had reverted to darkness again. He sprang backwards even as he felt the vampire's claws whisper through the air in front of him.

"Purim! I don't care what you have to do, but make some light!" Randi yelled. "You too, Keith!"

"What do I look like?" Keith demanded. "A lantern-boy?"

Purim didn't bother arguing, instead beginning to concentrate her magic on an arrow. It quickly began to glow with a blue light. The glow began to steadily get brighter as she poured more of her magic into it. Before long, it began to light up the room. She gritted her teeth, trying to put more magic into it. She didn't know what Randi was planning to do, but she realized that he had a better chance of getting the job done than anyone else. He just needed to be able to see...

Randi skipped sideways, trying to let the weak light fall on the vampire. It slashed at him again, tearing at his clothing. Randi ignored it, slashing with his sword. The vampire dodged the attack, slashing again.

Showers of icicles raked at the vampire's body, courtesy of Keith, ripping into its wings, but otherwise doing it no damage. The sprite fired more, but they were smaller and slower.

"Ahh!" Keith yelled in horror. "I'm beginning to disappear!"

"Don't... give up... yet!" Purim growled, now on her knees from the effort of making light.

Keith tried to fire more icicles, but this time nothing appeared. "My magic's out!" he exclaimed disgustedly, pulling out a handful of poison darts. "Time for the old-fashioned way! Randi, back off!"

Randi sprang backwards, giving Keith a clear shot at the vampire.

Keith let out a curse as the poison darts began to fall through the palms of his hands. The rest of the weapons on his belt were clattering to the floor. "I'm... I'm not even here!" he squeaked in horror. "I can't even pick up a weapon!"

Randi resumed attacking the vampire, but it was a stalemate. Both were fast enough to avoid being hit by the other's attacks. But the light was beginning to fade, as Purim's strength gave out.

"You can beat him!" Purim urged. "You've got to!"

"I..." Randi dodged to the left, "...can't see him!"

Without warning, the vampire charged forwards, grabbing Randi bodily and hurling him into a wall. Randi fell to the ground, still holding the Mana Sword, but almost unconscious from the impact. He tried to get to his feet, but his vision was swimming too much for him to stand up straight.

"Stall him..." he urged Purim. "Hold him off..."

"I... can't!" she protested, still too weak to stand. Any other person would have been killed by what the vampire had just done to Randi. And she was supposed to fight it?

"Do it... for Dyluck," Randi urged, still unsteady on his feet.

The instant he said that, Purim changed visibly, pushing herself to her feet with all her strength. She tried to pull back her bow, but was too weak to draw it back far enough. Gritted her teeth, she tossed aside the bow and grabbed an arrow in each hand.

Gritting her teeth, she advanced towards it. "This one's for..."

Brilliant blue energy pulsed from her left hand into the arrow it was holding, causing it flare up blue. And from her other hand, a brown-yellow light surged into the second arrow, making it light up with magic.


With a yell, she charged the vampire. At the last minute, she dove underneath its swing and stabbed both arrows into its chest, holding them there.

With a roar, the vampire grabbed hold of the blue arrow and tried to rip it out. Then it stopped.

For what seemed like an eternity, the vampire's roar echoed throughout the room. Then it faded away, leaving only Purim's gasps for breath to be heard.

"What did you do?" Randi asked, coming over slowly.

For an answer, the vampire began to tip over backwards. Finally it fell over and shattered on the ground. Hesitantly, Randi picked up piece of it. "Stone. You turned it into stone... with Earth magic?"

Purim accepted his arm and got to her feet. She nodded wearily. "Where's Thanatos?"

"Right behind you, Little Ones," the familiar bass voice called mockingly.

They spun around to face Thanatos. He was barely visible in the darkness, which only made him seem even more evil. Randi could make out Phanna and Dyluck behind him.

"You... die..." Purim growled, lunging with another arrow at him. The tip of the arrow passed through him like he was nothing but air.

Thanatos chuckled. "You three are fortunate that I was never actually in Pandora. This is nothing but an illusion of myself. Otherwise I would destroy you all in an instant!"

"Give back Dyluck and Phanna!" Purim demanded.

"Ha! You three have destroyed all the demons I sent here, so it seems I must bid you farewell for now. The people of Pandora are yours, but not these two!"

"Wait!" Purim protested.

Too late, Thanatos disappeared. Moments later, Dyluck and Phanna did likewise.

"Nooo!" Purim protested, vainly grabbing where they had been moments ago. "No... Dyluck..."

Randi swallowed. All this... and what did they have to show for it?

"Purim... I'm sorry..." he whispered, honestly meaning it.

She slowly got to her feet. "I'm... okay. I'll get him back. I know that he's alive. We couldn't do anything about it. Thanatos was waiting for us the whole time. But next time will be different..."

"At the very least, Pandora should be back to normal."

She managed a weak smile. "Yeah, I guess you're right. Let's get out of here now."

Several minutes later, they emerged into comparative brightness. After having fallen down inside the pyramid, they had no way to get out again. Randi had finally found a wall and chopped a hole big enough for them to exit from. A welcome sight greeted their eyes. Literally hundreds of people were milling around in a confused state, many stopping to stare upon seeing them emerge.

Randi looked around hopefully for someone. But that someone spotted them first.



Jema strode over to them, still looking a little disoriented. "What are you doing here?"

"Kicking Thanatos' ass," Keith informed him proudly.

Jema looked a little surprised, his gaze lingering a few moments of the faded visage of Keith, before moving over to Randi's other companion. "Lady Purim? What are you doing here?"

She glared at him, looking angry in spite of her weariness. "Exactly what he said! He has Dyluck prisoner, and I'm not resting until I get him back!"

"Purim and Keith here have been helping me out," Randi offered. "Can we talk later? After we all get some rest?"

"We have a lot to catch up on," he agreed. "But it can wait, I suppose. Whatever you did, you did well. Thanatos is one of the Empire's best men. We know almost nothing about him, but this suggests that he's not to be taken lightly."

Randi nodded wordlessly.

"Although I can't imagine why he would be stealing life energy..." Jema continued. "The Empire is concerned with Mana energy, of course. But life energy? Something about Thanatos..."

Jema cut himself off, changing the topic. "At any rate, how you got this far into the ruins is beyond me... I blacked out after taking only a few steps into these ruins..."

"Later..." Purim reminded him.

"Um, you want a hand?" Randi offered hesitantly, worried that she was going to collapse at any moment.

"I'll make an exception this time," she agreed wearily, almost collapsing on the ground before Randi rescued her. "Just be a little gentler than last time."

"The shock must be getting to her," Jema observed.

Keith snickered. "That Amazon?"

"She used too much magic," Randi informed him.


"We'll explain later."

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