by Luna Manar
Warren emerged from the cave and into the night air. Splashing through the shallow water of the entrance falls, he made his way to the dry land on the other side.
Holding the mysterious sword in his right hand, he fished around in his pocket with the left.
Finding the small drum that the white dragon had given him, he looked at it curiously. Would this tiny child's toy actually summon a majestic white dragon to him? One way to find out.
Feeling slightly foolish, Warren rotated the drum back and forth, causing it to emit a quick, hollow, rhythmic sound.
The dragon was there and had swept Warren up before he even realized it. Startled, Warren grabbed hold of the creature's fur so as not to fall off.
Flammie looked over his shoulder to the confused and slightly irritated Warren.
"So, are you absolutely bewildered yet, or just confused?" the dragon asked, not really expecting an answer. "I see you've talked to Trahern, and I know exactly where you need to go, so no need to bother telling me."
Warren glared at the dragon, whose aristocratic attitude was beginning to get on his nerves.
"Then will you kindly explain to me exactly where it is we're going?"
Flammie looked annoyed.
"To the falls near Potos! Didn't Trahern tell you to go there?"
Warren was unconvinced.
"There are no falls near Potos! I've never seen any, at least," he argued.
The white dragon banked and flew downward. They were already over and past Potos.
"Then what do you call that?" said Flammie, motioning in front of them.
Warren strained to see over Flammie's billowing mane. He couldn't see much, but what he did get to observe was more than surprising.
Across the dead forest to the right of Potos was a small mountain. That in itself wasn't unusual, Warren had seen the top of it many times. What he had never seen, however, was a large, roaring waterfall that usually was obscured by the trees of the dead forest.
As they came closer, Flammie slowed. Soon, they were hovering over a shallow pool at the base of the falls. The white dragon set himself down gently in the knee-deep water, which only came up to his heels.
Climbing down one of Flammie's long, blue-tipped wings, Warren shivered slightly at the touch of the cool water, but quickly got used to it and took some time to look around.
The clearing in which he stood was unlike the rest of the dead forest. It was the only spot that was still green with life. Warren figured that that was because of the waterfall, which in itself was a thing of beauty. The moonlight reflected off the falls and the pool, making it look like a huge, liquid diamond with thousands of moving facets. In the center of the pool was a large boulder, the only dull object in sight.
Warren looked expectantly up to Flammie.
"Well? I'm supposed to meet someone here, right? Someone who's supposed to answer all my questions? So where is he? This has been a terribly exciting couple of days, and I hate to sound impatient, but I'm tired, and I would appreciate it if I could just get this mystery business over with so I can go home!" Warren would have said more, but the white dragon interrupted him.
"Oh, for the love of – Warren! Do you read history? Haven't you got it into your pea-sized brain what you're dealing with here?" he bellowed, "Look! Look at that new-forged sword you're carrying! Haven't you seen anything like it anywhere before? Think! Paintings, books? Don't you recognize it?! Doesn't anything about it look familiar to you?!" The white dragon stopped, panting.
Warren gazed down at the sword he held and took a good look at it for the first time. The blade was long, razor sharp, and ended in a perfect point. The strange inscription on the front was still a mystery to him, but, indeed, it did look familiar. In fact, the hilt...
He had seen this sword before. Somewhere. Frantically, Warren searched his memory for where, or at least when. He couldn't remember.
All at once, he did remember. He had been in the Elder's study, had found a book about ancient legends. He had flipped through the pages, then stopped on one with a picture… of a longsword, perfect in every detail, strange markings etched in its blade, an emerald stone set in the center of a platinum hilt.
He remembered looking to the top of the page, where the name of the blade had been written in old historian scrawl.
Warren stared at the blade in his hand, unable to move. He couldn't believe what his memories were telling him. It was impossible! Not him, of all people. The object in his hand could not be...
But despite all, he couldn't deny the truth of what the object in his hands really was. There was nothing else it could be.
In his hands was the Mana Sword.
It was the same sword that had fought evil since the day of its forging, that had survived countless generations of both chaos and peace, the sword that only those of the Mana Tribe dare hold, the sword that fought against the ultimate evil, the sword that...
Warren drew a shuddering breath.
"Shattered fifty years ago in the ancient ruins," he finished his thoughts.
"Yeah," came a fiery voice to his right, "And if you keep staring at it like that, you might just bore a hole in it."
Warren looked up from the Mana Sword to the new voice.
A young man, who couldn't have be much older than Warren was, stood a few yards away. Warren couldn't see much of him, but he could make out the man's broad shoulders and long reddish-brown hair. It wasn't those features that startled him, though. As he looked to the man's face, even in the dark, he could clearly see two ice-blue eyes whose stare was as cold as their color.
Warren shivered involuntarily from their gaze, but did not look away.
"Who are you?" he demanded quietly, backing up a pace.
The man was silent a moment before answering, as if thinking about the best way to say what he was going to say. A sudden breeze caused the man's hair to billow forward, obscuring his face for a brief moment. When the breeze passed, he answered;
"I am Brisbe, of the Mana Tribe."
Flammie burst out laughing from the priceless look on Warren's face.
Brisbe put his hands to his head and snarled. Of all the inopportune times!
"Flammie!" he bellowed.
The white dragon tried unsuccessfully to stifle his laughter, but did manage to lower it to a snicker.
"W-what...?" he asked, still snickering.
Brisbe glared at him.
"Will you be quiet!" he snarled, trying to control his temper. "This is serious!"
The white dragon couldn't stop.
"But… but did you see.. the look.. the look on..."
"Yes, I saw it!" interrupted Brisbe, " And it wasn't funny!"
Finally, Flammie stopped laughing. He frowned down at the former Mana Knight.
"Well, ex-cuse-moi! It's not as if you ever had any sense of humor!" The dragon spat, and turned away. "I'll just leave you two alone. You can be serious without me!" With that, the dragon spread his wings, and in a rush of air and spray of water, was soon gone from sight. "
Brisbe shook his head.
Oh, Flammie! he thought, Even when I'm dead you still find a way to embarrass me! Why did I ever agree to do this? Why not someone else? Why not Serin, or Percival, or Mom? Any of them could do this better than me!
The answer came to him in his mind, from any of thousands of generations.
I know, I know, he answered back, But that doesn't mean I have to like it.
He turned his attention back to the dumbstruck Warren, who was still staring at him in disbelief. Brisbe waved his hand in front of him.
"Are you okay?" he asked, not particularly concerned.
Warren blinked, coming out of his trance.
"Um, yeah. I'm fine," he said quickly, "I'm just not used to meeting a white dragon that talks, finding the Mana Sword, and meeting someone from the Mana Tribe all in one day. It's just a little bit on the strange side, for me," he explained, a sarcastic note in his voice.
Brisbe smiled. "Strange" didn't begin to describe it.
Warren continued, "Um, Trahern... you know who he is? Anyway, he said there was someone down here who would tell me exactly what was going on. I guess that someone is, uh, you."
The former Mana Knight nodded.
Warren waited expectantly.
Brisbe hesitated. Should he just be blunt, or make one of those hour-long explanations that he himself hated listening to?
"Well," he started.
Wonderful beginning words, he thought.
"It seems you've figured out the first part," he said, then pointed to the Mana Sword. "You know what that is, and I suppose you know that only one person can hold it."
Brisbe inwardly kicked himself. He sounded like an idiot.
But Warren only nodded.
"I know," he said, " But that would make me the… Uh-uh. No way. I don't believe it. Not for a second. Not me." He put his hand up in mock-defense.
"Besides," he added, "The last guy who took up this job – well, you know what happened to him."
Brisbe's eyes grew cold. Yes. He knew. All too well.
"That would be me," he said simply, icily.
Warren stared at Brisbe in shock.
"You?" he whispered, "But, you're supposed to be..."
The former Mana Knight put his hand up to silence Warren. Walking over to the boulder near where the youth stood, he tried to lay his hand on the stone.
It passed straight through.
Brisbe gave Warren a sideways look.
Warren took another step backwards.
There was a long silence, Warren considering what he was going to say and Brisbe waiting for him to say it. At length, Warren said, rather hesitantly,
"If I am the next... y'know, and you were the last one, does that mean you're–"
"Not exactly," Brisbe interrupted quickly. "I... never married."
"Yeah, you never lived long enough to," spat Warren in return.
Brisbe scowled, suddenly angry.
"Hey! I was just unlucky! I really hate to be this blunt, but you are the next Mana Knight whether you like it or not! Now, just because that's true, it doesn't mean you're gonna die in two years!"
Warren only yelled back:
"Why? Why me? If you never had a son, then how am I tied to you? Since when am I a member of the Mana Tribe? I'm just a kid who lives just like anybody else! Why me?"
Brisbe winced at every word. He knew what Warren was feeling, had felt it many times himself. It pained him deeper to know that Warren didn't know the half of it. But he had to make Warren see, understand. How?
Again, his answer came, from the depths of the generations.
He is your son. Treat him as such.
Brisbe shook his head at the answer.
No, he's not! Not really. He's… not really anyone's.
Again the voices came.
He is not anyone's, yet he is all of ours. You are the closest to him. You must be his surrogate father.
I don't know how.
None of us did, either.
True. Quite true.
Turning back from his thoughts, Brisbe tried a different approach.
"I don't know if this will make any sense to you, but… Even though you are not my son, I am your father. It's the only way I know how to say it. I can't explain it any better than that. Did Elliot... the Elder ever tell you how he found you?"
"He said some guy named Joch found me in those woods," he motioned to the dead forest behind him, "and left me in his care. Trahern asked me if this guy Joch was a sage. I said I didn't know, but right now I wouldn't be surprised if he was."
Brisbe clenched his teeth. This wasn't working. It felt strange, the old habit, as he hadn't been in human form in over fifty years.
"Look," he started again, "Right now, I'm not asking you to do anything extraordinary. In fact, right now, as far as I'm concerned, you can stick that sword in that boulder over there and go home. You may never have to touch it again, who knows? Just as long as you accept who you are, and be ready to help when… if something happens. That's all you really are – a protector. A guardian. Unless something comes up, you don't have to do anything."
Warren was not reassured.
"And if something does 'come up'? What then?" he growled.
Brisbe crossed his arms.
"Well, at least you have one thing on your side; resourcefulness seems to run in the family… and one day, try staring at someone, say – what's that kid's name… Detrius? I'll bet you anything they can't stare you down." He smiled.
Warren was confused.
"Nevermind." was the response.
Warren watched as the first rays of sunlight peeked over the eastern horizon. Was it morning already? He didn't feel the least bit tired now.
"As I said, though," Brisbe continued, "Unless something happens..."
A roar tore the air, and Warren jumped out of the way as a huge flaming orb struck the water where he had just been. The ball hissed, steam arose from it, and the fire went out. Above them, a huge, monstrous red dragon roared in frustration at its missed target.
"Does that count?" yelled Warren.
"Yes. I would think so," Brisbe replied, too casually.
There was a shout from the forest, and all around them, a band of creatures – wolfish, but standing upright, like a man, emerged from the dead brush and into the living green.
Warren sighed. What next? This was not his day.
"This does not look good," he said, backing up.
Brisbe only smiled and shook his head.
"Dragon. Band of werewolves. Go figure. Warren, I wouldn't worry. You'd be surprised what that sword can do."
Warren was only half-listening.
Again, "Nevermind. Just bear with me."
The werewolves, seeing their prey unguarded, advanced closer. The dragon hovered overhead, watching. He would come in if the wolves had any problems. They could not fail. The Mana Knight, no matter how young or confused, had to be destroyed at all costs. The other person, the dragon knew little about, but supposed was not a threat, seeing as he had just disappeared from sight. Mana, though alive, was still too weak to allow for magic. It was unlikely the man could cause much trouble.
The werewolves attacked.
Howling battle cries erupted from their wolfish visages. They ran at Warren, snarling and snapping.
Warren didn't know what to do. He had never used a sword before in his life. He knew nothing of the battle-tactics of werewolves or anyone else for that matter.
Still, he had the sword. But what to do with it?
One of the lead werewolves attacked head-on, snarling and lashing out with its vicious claws.
Not knowing how he did it, Warren thrust the Mana Sword out in front of him, point first. The werewolf impaled itself on the sword, gave a choked yelp, and vanished.
Warren had no time to wonder if the creature had actually been destroyed, for he had four more attacking werewolves to deal with.
Two attacked head-on, much in the same way the first had. The other two approached from the sides.
Warren didn't have any idea how he took on the first one, much less what he would do with four of them. He backed up farther, until he was nearly in the falls themselves.
The werewolf to his right attacked, was countered by Warren's slashing blow. That wolf, too, vanished.
There were only three left that Warren could see. He felt strangely calm. For some odd reason, he wasn't frightened. The Mana Sword felt warm and comfortable in his hands. He could not explain it. He didn't have time to think about it, though. The three werewolves had new friends.
Over fifteen of them.
Warren suddenly wondered where the other Mana Knight was. Had he been left alone here to die?
His answer came when Brisbe appeared between the mayhem of werewolves.
"Guess who?" he said, and made a swift motion with his arms.
The trees around them, the ones that had seemingly been dead, now burst into full bloom. Vines grew from the trees with amazing speed, and reached out toward the wolves. The beasts were so startled, many didn't have time to regain their senses and move before the attacking foliage wrapped around them, trapping them. The werewolves vanished… except for a lucky few who were able to escape the rampaging vines. They tried to retreat back into the forest, but found a new man standing in their path.
He was tall, broad-shouldered, wore armor characteristic of a Pandoran knight. In many respects, he looked exactly the same as the one who had sent the vines after them, but he seemed older...
Serin smiled at the wolfish fiends.
"Going somewhere?" his deep, baritone voice bellowed.
The wolves attacked the specter, only to pass through him and bury their faces in the water...
Which rose up as if alive, and enveloped them.
They disappeared, as had their comrades.
Warren rushed up to Brisbe.
The former Mana Knight gestured to the armored man, smiling.
"Warren, I want you to meet Serin, my father."
Serin strode over to the two.
"Kinda makes me your grandfather, eh?" he chuckled to Warren.
Beware! Above you!
The generations screamed.
Brisbe looked up and stared.
The dragon! They had forgotten about the dragon!