Part One: Lucius
"Be good, boy!" the Elder called out as Lucius dashed out the door. "And stay away from the falls!"
"C'mon!" Timothy hissed and Elliott motioned for him to follow.
"Are you sure this is safe?" Lucius asked them.
"'Are you sure this is safe?'" Timothy mimicked him.
"Stop being such an old lady," Elliott snapped.
"I was not!" Lucius protested, but the other boys had already run off without him.
"Hey guys! Wait up!" Lucius called out as he scrambled over to the slippery log bridge.
"Shh! Be quiet!" Elliot said in a loud whisper and looked around to see if anyone had heard Lucius. "The Elder will find us here and be mad!"
"Yeah, we're not supposed to be here," Timothy nodded. "There's a ghost around!" he added nervously.
"Do you really believe that?" Elliott scoffed. "People say that to scare us!"
"But I heard Grandpa say something about a shiny object near the falls," Timothy began.
"That must be some kind of treasure! We must find it!" Elliott said and practically dragged the smaller boy after him. Lucius started after them, but slipped. The two other boys walked back to where Lucius was hanging by his fingers. Snickering, Timothy stepped on Lucius's fingers, sending him plummeting down into the falls.
Lucius plunged into the lake at the bottom of the falls; wet, but alive. He looked up, surprised at how far he had fallen. "No way to get back up," he said to himself. "What am I going to do?"
"Lucius. . ." an eerie voice called out his name.
"Huh?" Lucius looked around, puzzled.
"Lucius. . ." the voice seemed to come from the direction of a nearby lake. Lucius shrugged and walked to the lake. Curiously, there wasn't anything there except for the lazily swimming fish and a sword.
"So this must be the 'treasure' in the falls," he said to himself. "But who was calling my name?"
"Lucius. . .Remove the sword. . ." the voice seemed to come from everywhere.
"W-who are you?" Lucius asked, frightened. "And what's this sword doing here?"
The boy pulled the sword out of the rock it was imbedded in, wincing at the metallic scraping sound it made as it slid out. A brilliant white light surrounded Lucius, blinding him for a few seconds. The light dimmed and Lucius could see an armor-clad specter standing where the sword had been.
"Lucius. . ." the ghost said as it faded away. "It is I who asked. . .the sword. . ."
"You mean this sword?" Lucius pointed to the sword he was holding, but the ghost and the light were already gone.
"I'd better get back home, the Elder's probably worried sick about me," Lucius muttered and slashed at the overgrowth that obscured the path to Potos. Out of the brush, a rabite leaped at him, teeth gleaming. Lucius gave a small cry of surprise and struck it with the sword. He was amazed at how natural it seemed, at how the sword seemed almost a part of him as the blade cut into the rabite's yellow-furred body. Lucius stared at the fallen rabite for a moment before running back to Potos.
"Lucius! You're not hurt! They just told me what happened," the Elder indicated Elliott and Timothy.
"I thought you were a goner!" Elliott added.
"I told you it was stupid to bring someone like him along," Timothy said under his breath.
"You idiots!" the Elder was livid with rage. "Weren't you told not to go there?!"
"But I found this sword. . .it looks pretty old," Lucius showed him the sword.
The Elder rage melted into horror. "Oh no. . .It couldn't be!"
"Cool! Did you find the treasure?" Elliot asked excitedly.
"Way to go!" Timothy cheered.
"What have you done?" the Elder was still staring numbly at the sword. "How could you have pulled out the Mana Sword? It's impossible!"
"The Mana Sword?" Timothy's broad smile disappeared. "Legend says that our village is finished. . ."
"If the sword is removed," the Elder finished sadly. "It is said that the Mana Sword has been protecting our village from disaster."
"So that's it! That's why all the monsters are attacking us now! How could an outsider like you have removed the sword?!" Elliott shouted and smacked Lucius.
"Hey! Stop it!" Lucius backed away.
"You did it! It's your fault! You!" Elliott dove at Lucius and began punching him.
"Please, stop!" Lucius pleaded, but Elliott continued to hit him. Suddenly, the ground opened up and swallowed them both.
"It's a monster!" Elliott wailed, pointing to the monstrous insect that was emerging from an underground tunnel. "You have a sword -- use it!" he whimpered and cowered behind a rock.
"Watch how it moves before attacking!" a man's voice advised Lucius.
The giant mantis-ant darted at the two boys, clawing at the air above them with its spined arms. Lucius, seeing an opportunity, slashed at the mantis-ant's chitinous legs. The creature shrieked and Lucius was sprayed with its sticky blood. The boy screamed, its blood was like acid. The mantis-ant stumbled and Lucius jumped onto its shoulders and drove his sword into its head. With an unearthly screeching sound, the beast went into convulsions, sending the boy sailing into one of the cave's stone walls. Lucius saw the ant combust, leaving only his sword and a strange looking globe behind.
A man peered over the edge of the cave. "You did it!" Lucius recognized his voice as the one who had advised him. "Wait here, I'll pull you out!" The man lowered a rope down the cave and Elliott eagerly scrambled up, crying. Lucius retrieved his sword and the globe and climbed up the rope.
"That appears to be the real Mana Sword," the man studied the sword in Lucius's hands.
"What?" Lucius was puzzled.
"It is supposed to be pulled out by a knight in times of great trouble. Problem is, you're too young! Something must have happened to the Mana Sword."
"Here!" Lucius tried to give the sword to the man. "It's yours!"
The man shook his head. "Sorry, but the Sword is losing its power and must be re-energized! Only the person who pulled it from the stone can do that."
"What should I do?" Lucius queried.
"Visit Sage Luka in the Water Palace. She's been protecting these lands for over 200 years."
Timothy crept up to them. "Lucius! The Elder wants you in his house!"
"Well, I have to be off. Oh, and my name is Jema. I'll wait for you inside the Water Palace!" with those words, Jema exited the small village of Potos.
Lucius stood at the head of the stairs, listening to the villagers who had assembled in the upstairs room.
"Elder! We can't go on like this!" one of them complained.
"Yeah! There's no relief in sight!" another agreed.
The Elder noticed Lucius, who was standing in the doorway. "Oh Lucius," the Elder shook his head sadly. "You've really done it this time. The reason why monsters have appeared is because you removed the sword."
"It's settled," a villager said. "We can't let Lucius stay in the village anymore!"
"If we do, monsters will come after him!" another villager added.
"Go! Get out of here!" another shouted at Lucius.
"Yeah, on your way now!" yet another shouted.
"I don't want to do this, but I have no choice. I'm going to have to ask you to leave," the Elder said sadly. "You can take what's in those chests over there."
After Lucius had returned, he noticed that the Elder was almost crying as well. "I took you in and I raised you, but there's nothing I can do to help. . .please forgive me," the Elder's voice caught in his throat and a few tears rolled down his cheeks. "I know I've told you this before but your mother brought you here when you were just a baby. Soon afterwards, she disappeared. . .I took you in and have done my best to raise you, but now we must part. . .I truly hope you'll find your mother someday."
Lucius nodded and ran out of the only home he had ever known, an outcast.