Shadows of Evil
by Luna Manar


Brisbe woke from a strange sound – no, not a sound, a strange voice – then again, maybe a strange dream? He sat up and shook his head to clear it. He looked around. Just like always, no one was there in the room except him. He sighed.

This dream, this voice, it had haunted him in his slumbers ever since the beginning of spring. And, as always, when he woke he could not remember it. He brushed back his long red-brown hair. He had stopped wearing it up in the spiked fashion he used to and now it hung just a few inches past his shoulders, though he still sported the blue bandanna.

It had been two years since his battle with Thanatos, and Brisbe was now seventeen. He had settled down back into Potos, after his initial banishment, but sometimes he still longed for an adventure. Life was just too dull for him now.

Not that he'd ever want to go through anything like that again. He had had his share of trouble. He had been a hero (well, of course he had been a hero, he was destined to be a hero), he had (with definite help) brought peace back to Earth. What more could anyone want out of life?

So, he thought, Why am I so uneasy?

He had assumed that the strange voices from nowhere had just been a part of his anxiety to get out.

But then, why was he so anxious to get out?

He looked to the clock Neko had given him that was sitting on his dresser. Eleven thirty. He couldn't go out at this time of night.

Wait a minute, he thought, What am I thinking? I am the Mana Knight anyhow. I can go out anytime I want to, anyhow I want to.

He made a decision then and there that he had to get out of Potos, if only to look around.

The Mana Knight quietly closed the door to his house so as not to wake the village. He looked up into the night sky. It was clear and beautiful. The stars and a conveniently full moon shed a pleasant, silver light on the land. It was still a little chill from the past winter, but not particularly uncomfortable.

Brisbe strode over to the town's side entrance. There was an old, ill-used dirt road leading out from the town. That path led to the falls. But it wasn't on this path which the Mana Knight intended to stay.

Slipping quietly out the gate, Brisbe started down the old path. The surrounding forest was quiet in the still night air, but not silent. Night birds and owls hooted and called from deep in the emerald trees. Small insects chirped and scuttled across Brisbe's path. Small animals scurried up trees and into holes as he passed them by. Off in the distance, he could hear the faint sound of the falls from down the road.

Brisbe came to a spot where the road narrowed a bit. It was here that he turned off the path and pushed through some branches and bushes and other impeding foliage. On the other side of the trees was another path, this one so old it was barely visible.

The path to the Mana Sword.

Brisbe hadn't gone there in quite some time. Maybe just being there, near The sword, near the only thing he had left of his family, would make him feel better about the strange voice that had been haunting him. He looked down fondly at the ancient path.

And drew back in sudden fear.

The path had been used recently. Boot prints and hoofprints trailed down the old road. This was a definite concern, for, while the Mana Sword was definitely able to take care of itself (as it had proven on many occasions), no one except the Mana Knight and a select few of his friends knew about this path.

Worrying fervently what was going on, Brisbe ran down the trail, the feeling of unease growing ever stronger within him.

He approached the stream where the Mana Sword waited. Turning the corner, he slowed when he heard voices. He silently pushed through a cover of vines that hid the opening where the stream was. He could pick out two voices now, though he couldn't understand what they were saying. Cautiously, he peered through the last of the vines.

Two figures, both heavily armed and armored, stood over the Mana Sword, discussing something. Though he still couldn't understand what they were saying, Brisbe recognized one of the voices from somewhere.

Low pitched and raucous.

Realization crept through Brisbe's body like poison.

"Geshtar!" he whispered to himself for the first time that night.

But that was impossible! Geshtar was dead! Brisbe had seen the mechcycle explode with Geshtar on it! So what was he doing here?

Brisbe's brow furrowed. He would find out what exactly was going on. He took out the boomerang he always kept with him on walks like this. If there was anything he learned from his little adventure, it was that you never know what can happen.

The weapon he held had once belonged to a sprite, Drek, that had accompanied him and the girl, Malina, on their journeys. He was gone now, though. Brisbe knew not where, but he was sure the little fellow was still alive.


He took careful aim and let the weapon fly. It hit one figure, apparently a low-rank soldier, in the back of the helmet. The soldier fell instantly to the ground, unconscious. The weapon returned back to the Mana Knight, who threw it again, this time cleaving off the top of the bewildered Geshtar's spiked hair, then returning to hit him square in the chest, knocking the air out of him and causing him to fall back into the shallow water.

Taking this chance, Brisbe ran over to the disabled Geshtar. He picked up the now idle boomerang and approached the other warrior warily. The man looked up and a string of soft curses confirmed that it was indeed Geshtar. Brisbe crouched next to the winded warrior and held the boomerang's jagged blade ready, should the hated man decide to retaliate. The Mana Knight scowled down at Geshtar.

"What are you doing here?" he asked in his strong, fiery voice, which was now lowered and iced over in hatred and menace.

Geshtar eyed him calmly.

"I was about to ask you the same question," he said silkily, "And I would have, too, if something hadn't knocked the wind out of me." He shivered from the cold water. "Since you asked, though, I came here for the same reason you probably did." He smiled crookedly.

"And that is?" asked the Mana Knight testily.

"Answers," Geshtar replied in kind. "Haven't you felt something strange lately? Heard voices in your dreams and then not remember them? I know I have. So has the new emperor Baird and a couple of other people. At first I saw no connection, but then I realized that they all had some connection to the war two years ago, and on further investigation, that they all were connected to Mana power in some way. I would think that you of all people would be feeling the same disturbances we are." He looked away from the knight's ice-cold stare.

Brisbe didn't avert his gaze.

"But why here? And how did you find out about this place?" he questioned. None of this made sense. Geshtar doing anything that was not directly related to more power? It didn't add up.

Geshtar was silent for a while. He seemed to be thinking about whether or not to answer. Finally he said, "I had heard stories that the power of Mana was omniscient. What better place to look for answers." He said it in a voice that was a mumble, almost inaudible. It made Brisbe wonder if the warrior was telling the truth.

"How do I know you're not lying?"

Geshtar shot him a hateful glare.

"I don't expect you to like me, Knight," he spat, "But do you call this a lie?" He held up his gloved hands. Dark scorch marks ran across either palm. The Imperial warrior smirked. "It would seem that your Mana Sword remembers me quite well, don't you think?"

Brisbe thought a moment. Could Geshtar actually be telling the truth? The Imperial warrior wasn't stupid enough to lay his hands on the sword with theft in mind. He had learned that lesson quite well two years ago. Brisbe imagined that if Geshtar were to take his gloves off, the scars would probably still be clearly visible where he had tried to wrest the sword from the Mana Knight. He had been rewarded for his efforts with a shock that had sent him reeling.

Brisbe was interrupted from his thoughts with a shout. The other Imperial soldier had regained consciousness and sneaked up behind the knight. Using the hilt of his sword he struck Brisbe at the back of the neck. The Mana Knight keeled over. Geshtar got up from his undignified position and started to walk toward his horse, an elegant bay stallion that was tethered to a nearby tree. He motioned for the other soldier to follow.

"But sir," the soldier protested, "What about–?" he motioned to the unmoving figure of the Mana knight.

"Leave him there," ordered Geshtar with a wave of his hand.

"I have no further accounts to settle him." He and his companion mounted their steeds, turned to leave.

"Best of luck to you, knight!" Geshtar called behind him. "You'll need it!"

Brisbe awoke with his head spinning. Groaning, he picked himself up from the shallow stream. When he could see clearly, he looked around. Geshtar was gone. So what else was new?

He started thinking about what the Imperial warrior had told him. Could it be true that he was not the only one experiencing the dreams? Did Geshtar really come here to get "answers"? Brisbe turned to the Mana Sword, which was sticking idly out of its stone. It looked almost as if it, too, was shrugging in bewilderment.

But Brisbe knew, now that that dream couldn't have just been tied to his boredom. It had some meaning on a much larger scale. He knew that there was one way he could find out more – if indeed there was more to learn. He strode over on wobbly legs to where the Mana Sword rested in its stone. He gripped its hilt firmly. The platinum hilt was warm and soothing. It seemed to pulse with a life of its own. Brisbe felt suddenly stronger, calmer, more focused. The cloudiness in his head vaporized. With a strong pull, he slid the sword from its rocky bed.

Then he knew, for the sword must have told him, what the dream was. It had been the Mana Sword all along, calling him.

But calling him for what? This he didn't know, but he knew who did, and he knew he'd need help to get there. He fished around in his pocket for an object. Finding it, he held it in one hand, Mana Sword in the other, and started to rotate it back and forth in his hand. It made a hollow drumming sound that cut through the now-morning air. The startled cries of spooked animals and aggravated shrieks of birds who had been swept from their perches, prepared him for what was coming.

In a white rush of fur, scales and feathers, Flammie swept the Mana Knight up from the ground and onto his furry, muscular back. The two soared up into the morning sky, leveling out high above the continent. Flammie looked over his shoulder at Brisbe, giving him the "Hiya! Where to?" look.

"To Pandora," commanded Brisbe with a smile. "I'm going somewhere and I'm going to need a little help."

Flammie gave him the "You gotcha!" smile, and the two soared off toward the mighty city of Pandora.

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