Shadows of Evil
by Luna Manar

PART 2
ANSWERS

Flammie skimmed low over the ground in Pandora.

"Land there," Brisbe instructed, pointing. Flammie gave him a look that said: "Land?! You've got to be kidding! I never land, especially in small spots like that one!" He gave a low rumble for good measure. Brisbe rolled his eyes.

"Come on, Flammie! Just this once. You land to sleep, don't you?" Flammie nodded.

"Then doze off down there while I'm gone."

Flammie gave a look that said: "Fine, but this is an insult to my reputation."

Again the growl.

Flammie slowed his pace, circling the spot on which he'd been instructed to land. Bushes, branches, and grass were blown backward from the sheer force of his wing beats. He received stares from villagers who happened to be passing by. He was used to this, in fact, was proud of it, but it embarrassed his rider a bit.

Touching ground, Flammie's wings stopped their constant flapping and the trees returned to their normal shape. Brisbe jumped off, and people seeing him, recognized the familiar face and went about their business. The Mana Knight walked up to a familiar door, knocked on it.

A young girl about his age opened the door. Her teal eyes and golden blonde hair lit up at the sight of Brisbe.

"Brisbe! I haven't seen you in weeks! What have you been doing?" She ran up to him and hugged him.

Brisbe blushed. "Do the words 'absolutely nothing' mean anything?"

The girl looked up at him, a slight frown crossing her face. "Why didn't you tell me you were bored? We both could've thought up something to do."

Brisbe hurriedly related to her the dreams, his decision to take a walk, and his encounter with Geshtar.

"So you think something's wrong... with the sword?" she asked hesitantly, not completely understanding.

"I think that the sword knows something we don't," explained Brisbe, "And it's asking us to do something about it."

The girl frowned. "Do something about what, though?" she asked.

The Mana Knight sighed. "That's what I intend to find out, and I have a feeling I'm going to need your help. So get your stuff and let's go." He turned and walked toward Flammie, who was busying himself with snores and grunts. But the girl caught Brisbe's shoulder.

"And just where are we going, Sir Brisbe?" She cracked a smile.

"To see Sage Joch. If anyone knows what's going on, he does."

Hearing this, the young girl went back into the house, was gone for a few minutes. When she came out, she was no longer the innocent looking girl she had been. She was dressed in a dark blue shirt and black leggings, and wore a short leather vest. At her waist was coiled a whip, and slung on her back was a long, razor tipped lance that was positioned so it could be hefted in an instant should the need arise. Her hands bore protective leather guards that were well worn from frequent handling of the spear. The only thing left that she had previously been wearing was a pink ponytail band, which contrasted ridiculously with the rest of her garments.

But she was Malina.

And she was ready.

She walked calmly over to her companion, who was trying (without success) to wake up the dozing Flammie.

"Allow me," she said as she approached. Brisbe, knowing what was coming next, backed up a few paces and covered his ears.

Malina, with swiftness that would have made a snake's strike look like a casual knock at the door, pulled out her whip and cracked the air inches from the sleeping dragon's ears.

The white dragon instantly jumped ten feet (at least) in the air, shrieked in surprise, and landed, snarling, on all fours, every mammalian hair on his reptilian body sticking straight up. When it realized what had happened, it hung it's head in embarrassment. Brisbe could almost see the blush through Flammie's white fur.

Trying to regain some of his dignity, Flammie casually yawned, stretched, then offered a blue-tipped wing to his riders.

Without further ado, the companions climbed on and, with another rush of wing-created wind, soared off for the Lofty Mountains.

They were not the only ones.

They arrived at the mountains at mid-afternoon, this time not bothering to land. Flammie dropped them off at the highest point of the mountains, in front of Joch's cave. He then sped off to elsewhere, leaving Brisbe and Malina to enter the cave alone. Before they did so, however, Malina turned to the Mana Knight.

"I have one question. Why Sage Joch? Why not Luka? She's the one that's supposed to know everything that goes on in the world." She eyed Brisbe skeptically. He returned her stare with his ice-blue eyes, and was silent for a long while. When she could stand the stare no more, Malina looked away.

"Don't do that," she scolded. Brisbe broke free of his thoughts.

"Sorry," he apologized, "I was just thinking."

Not for the first time in his life, Brisbe wished he wasn't the Mana Knight. For some reason, to fulfill such a position, you couldn't be just anyone. He had been endowed with no superhuman abilities, of course, but more subtle ones that, while useful, were always reminding him that he could never live a life like every other normal person, though he longed to. Normal, though. What normal? There were so many crazy things going on now that Brisbe wasn't quite sure what "normal" was anymore.

Certainly he wasn't. As some bard had put it (he detested bards, who were always exaggerating):

A heart of stone
A stare of ice
Blood of fire
A will of wind

Born in darkness
With a soul of light
At knowledge's end.

Which, literally translated, meant:

He'd stand by his friends to the end
He could stare anyone down.
He had the Mana Knight's blood (obviously)
He was stubborn.
His childhood wasn't all that pleasant.
He was a good guy.
He had an uncanny sense of when something bad was going to happen.

And, therefore, he was supposed to come running to the rescue when something terrible happens. He despised all of it. Why couldn't I have a normal life like everybody else, he would sometimes wonder. Again that word. Normal. But then, if he didn't do it, someone else would have to.

But it was his job. His father had been the Mana Knight, so he had to follow suit.

That was the worst part. He carried the blood of the Mana Tribe in his veins, and when the bard talked about him having blood of fire, he wasn't kidding. This mountain is where it had started.

After taking the test of courage, not only had he learned to work together with his friends as a team, but he had also realized something about himself. Then and there, he had come to terms with who he was and what he was destined to do. At that moment, he had fallen to his knees as searing pain had coursed through his body. It had only lasted a few moments, but even now he could remember it quite clearly, so clearly that the very thought of it caused him to shudder. He remembered Malina running up to him, asking what was wrong. But the Sage had instructed her, "Leave him be! He has realized himself, and now he feels the blood of Mana course through his veins."

At the time, Brisbe did not understand this statement, but he later learned from his mother, the Mana Tree, shortly before her death, that his father had been Serin, the Mana Knight, and that he was the last of his people, the Mana Tribe.

But though there were a lot of setbacks, if he wasn't the knight, be would probably have died of boredom a long time ago.

Malina shook him from his thoughts again.

"Brisbe!"

"What?" He emerged once again from his deep thoughts. "Oh, sorry. Joch. Right. The truth is, I was told to come here."

"By who?" Malina questioned further. Brisbe was about to answer when he realized that he didn't know who had told him. He hadn't really thought about it. He was about to say "I don't know," but was interrupted by his friend again.

"Brisbe...your sword it's glowing!"

The Mana Knight looked down to his sword, which he had sheathed, emit a soft green light from the emerald centered in its hilt. Almost as instantly as it had started, the glow faded. It was like the sword...

Had answered.

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