Part Three: Witch-hunt
"So you're a soldier, kid," Elinee said as she prepared a mixture in her cook-pot. "My daughter is a soldier."
"Really?" Dyluck hoped that the witch would go easy on him since her own child had chosen the same profession as he.
"She would have been a great sorceress, though," Elinee growled. "Such a waste of talent."
"I see," the boy sighed. No such luck.
"If she hadn't run off, I wouldn't have to rely on Thanatos to supply me with sufficient magical energy," the witch smiled and sparks of black magic arced down her fingers. "He's made me dependent on the magical herbs used to grow around here. Without those herbs I'm nothing."
"Great," Dyluck thought. "I'm trapped with a junkie."
Lucius walked into the town of Pandora, still a bit sore from being dragged through the woods by goblins. "Excuse me," he tapped a passing townsperson on the shoulder. "Can you tell me where the King's castle is, miss?"
The woman just stared at him, a blank look in her dull eyes. She looked at him for a moment longer, then walked away.
"Strange," Lucius whispered. He looked around until he spotted the castle towers and headed towards them.
"This is outrageous! I can't get married to this simp," Rosary pointed to the pudgy son of a local nobleman. "I love Dyluck!"
"But Rosary my dear, you were betrothed to him," Elman explained. "We've been over this before. . ."
"And it still isn't fair!" Rosary shrieked, her green eyes flashing with rage. "I won't marry someone I don't love!"
"Honey, there have been many, many betrothals that have worked out just fine," Elman tried to comfort his daughter.
"And there's been a lot that haven't!" Rosary wasn't impressed. "What about the --"
"Let the dead rest," Elman put a finger to Rosary's lips. "This marriage was arranged when you were just a little over two years old and can't be changed. You knew from the start that you couldn't marry Dyluck. . ."
"But it isn't fair!" Rosary was near tears. "You can't do this!" she shrieked, voice cracking, and ran out of the room.
"What's going on in there?" Lucius wondered as he walked up the stairs. I could hear it all the way down on the first floor."
Rosary burst through the doorway. "Dad! You're impossible! I'll make my own decisions about my life!" She turned to Lucius, "Hey! It's the guy I saved! What? You're a swordsman?"
"Huh?" Lucius pointed to the rusty sword at his hip. "This?"
"Yeah, sword -- swordsman, get it? This is great! I helped you, didn't I? It's your turn. We're going to teach that witch a lesson. We're going to save Dyluck!"
"But. . .I've got to go to the Underground Palace," Lucius said.
"Later. . .later!" Rosary was practically shoving him down the hall.
"Um. . ." Lucius was caught off-guard.
"Right, let's go. . .uh. . ." the noblewoman stopped.
"I'm Lucius," Lucius introduced himself.
"And I'm Rosary," Rosary followed suit. "Nice to meet you again."
"You saved me because you mistook me for Dyluck, didn't you," Lucius asked her as the two walked to Gaia's Navel.
"Yeah," Rosary admitted, blushing. "Sorry."
"Don't be," Lucius drew his sword and slew a rabite that was lurking in the bushes. "I want to return the favor."
An eerie wind blew around the portal to the Haunted Forest, smelling of strange herbs and the sharp tang of magic. Rosary stepped through it without hesitating and Lucius stopped outside the portal. Unlike Rosary, he had never seen magic before; Potos didn't have any magic users living there and none ever came to visit. Rosary had been raised in the castle of Pandora, a castle full of jesters and storytellers and court magicians. The wind howled around him and the three statues seemed to be mocking him with their stone tongues. Lucius closed his eyes and stepped through.
"This way!" Rosary greeted him on the other side, pointing down a path. "C'mon!"
Lucius didn't like the look of the forest, with its strange mists and odd sounds. An arrow whizzed by him and Rosary cried out in surprise.
"It's Chobin Hoods," she told him.
"How do you know that?" he asked Rosary.
"Can't you smell them, too?" Rosary looked puzzled. "Their stink is all over the place."
Lucius inhaled deeply. Nothing. "Right Rosary, Chobin Hoods," he said, not wanting her to feel uncomfortable. "Let's go find Dyluck."
The two raced through the forest, dodging arrows and jumping over roots that seemed to emerge from the ground just to try and trip them. Lucius looked over his shoulder and nearly froze with fright. Something with a pair of glowing green eyes was chasing him! The young Mana Knight whirled around, sword drawn, to face it.
"Lucius! Have you lost your mind?!" Rosary screamed in the darkness. Lucius stopped, stunned. The eyes were hers?
"Jeepers-creepers, Rosary," Lucius laughed uneasily. "Where'd you get those peepers?"
"Dad told me I got them from my mother," Rosary replied. "She was a Mandalan illusionist and I guess this is all I inherited of her talent."
Lucius struck at a barrier in front of them. "This seemed to be the only path to Elinee's place. Can't cut through this hedge though."
"We have to save Dyluck," Rosary tried to climb the thorny barrier, but cut her hands in the process.
"Rosary," Lucius said. "The dwarves in Gaia's Navel may have something that could cut through this; they know everything there is to know about weapons and weapon-making."
"Okay," the young noblewomen nodded. "I'll go with you."