The next morning started in the common room with a shouting match. "I need to go to the Underground Palace, and I can't afford to waste time. I know you want to find Dyluck, and so do I, but I, no, we have no time for side-adventures!" exclaimed Keven.
"But we need to go to the Haunted Forest. It's the quicker route. And besides, think about it! The faster you help me find Dyluck, the sooner I'll be out of your way and you can spend all the time you want to finding your precious Palace!" retorted Leanne. The innkeeper had left the room at the beginning of the fight, having been paid, and was no out of hearing range.
Knowing that he couldn't win this yelling match, all Keven could do was roll his eyes, turn around and walk out the door. "Come back here!" she wailed from behind him, but he kept on walking northward past everyone in Kippo. A little while later he turned to find he was the village was out of sight and Leanne was nowhere to be seen. Why would anyone want to marry that whiny brat? Laughing at that thought, Keven decided to look around. The area was new and different. A small valley lay before him, and many paths were to been seen. These paths led to a small pond where three waterfalls cascaded into it, and behind the left and right waterfalls were two caves. "Well, I guess this's Gaia's Navel."
"And the Forest is straight north on the better path." Leanne's voice filled his head. Looking back he saw no one and started to walk forward, but something was clinging to his right leg. Looking down he noted that Leanne was clinging to it very tightly, and that she was laughing. "Too bad, smart boy. You can't get rid of me that easily. I will follow you until you say we're going to the Forest." She looked up in a triumphal smile, and started to laugh at his exasperated expression.
Keven shook his head. He knew he'd lost, because he wanted to stop her persistent whining. "OK! If you get off my leg, then I promise we'll go to the Forest." he mumbled. Immediately she got off and apologized. "Oh, one thing I will ask of you before we continue." he tried to keep his voice calm.
"Just treat me like a normal person, and not like I'm some great person - I'm not!" To this she nodded solemnly. "I agree. I am sorry." she said, her face looking at the ground.
So on northward they went, bypassing the valley, and all the while Keven's foul mood seemed to keep all the evil enemies away. Through the upper part of Gaia's Navel they reached a garden with evil flowers that tried to bite them. They met a man that told them of a recent flood that supposed to have washed a sprites' child into Gaia's Navel, and that to the far north of the garden was a teleporting circle of twelve stones. The sprites' child story didn't interest either of them, but the stones did. They thanked him and decided to find the circle. Before they stepped onto it, Keven handed Leanne her armor - the bracelet and dress he had bought from Kippo.
"You bought me all this...? Thanks!" her eyes were big and watery.
Keven only shrugged. "Don't mention it. If you really want to travel with me, you'd better be well protected." Leanne smiled and went behind a tree to change.
Once they stepped inside the circle, they found the Forest a maze of dense hedges and mists. Almost immediately they were attacked by Chobin Hoods, who hid behind the hedges and who seemed to use the mists as cover. "They're like teddy bears with bow and arrows!" exclaimed Leanne. They slowly made their way through the area, and the Chobin Hoods left a lot of money. In the midst of battle, in the middle of the worst fighting, Keven spotted Neko the salescat.
Neko seemed surprised to see Keven again, not to mention he now had a lady friend. "How do you do, purr? Nice to see you again, Keven! I have a nice piece of armor for you, little lady. It is a hair ribbon in fact." When Neko saw the two look at each other and frown, he made a rare decision, for he wasn't one to lower his prices for anyone. "Less than 100GP! That's right. Just for you, purr. For the likeness of my best customer. I usually charge more... anyway. I have this in any color. Here's a purple one... a blue one would match your hair."
"Oh please, Kev? Pretty please?" Leanne looked at Keven pleadingly. "You know I don't have anything for my head!"
Keven eyed the salescat. "You sure know what you're doing, Neko. Got anything that can make a tired man like me feel useful again?" he inquired.
"Purr, but of course!" Neko laughed. "How about some chocolate? Royal Jam is always a nice treat, and it comes straight from the Queen of queen bees herself! For accidents, I recommend a Medical Herb. Purr, cures anything except death. For death that is caused by mortal wounds, a Cup of Wishes is the only thing around. Invented after the last war Mana endured, and I've seen it work, purr." He gave them the best smile he could.
"We'll take four of everything, and the blue ribbon." Keven said without hesitation. Leanne just stared at Keven as he handed well over a 1000GP just for the Cup of Wishes alone.
"Thank you very much. Purr, safe journey!" Neko took the money and walked the way they had come. When he was out of sight, Leanne was still staring at him. "Here, let me put this ribbon on you." Keven put it on her and stood back, waiting for her to say something.
"You spent all that money... and the ribbon too?" her voice reflected her awe.
Keven just smiled. "We had the money, and I don't want to be left for dead. I think you should get used to it. I don't want either of us dying." he turned to walk away. "Besides, that ribbon looks good on you."
Leanne caught up to him. "Well, I was always told blue was my color..." she said in a matter-of-fact voice.
Keven bursted out laughing. "I don't believe you sometimes!... " Leanne then bursted out and they continued to walk and laugh. Soon they came to a teleportation device, which sent them to another area. After fighting two more Chobin Hood's, which Leanne claimed were everywhere, two stone pillars rose in the middle of the road and there was no way to get around them.
"OK, how are we to get around this?" Keven looked at Leanne and asked sarcastically.
Biting her lower lip, Leanne surveyed the pillars. "I guess an axe would cut through these... " she brightened, "I've heard the best are made in the Dwarf Village."
"And where is the Dwarf Village?" he smiled at her slyly.
Leanne looked defeated. "In Gaia's Navel." she muttered dejectively.
"I can't hear you." Keven's voice was a sing-song, sickly sweet voice.
Rolling her eyes she shouted, "We have to go to Gaia's Navel!"
So they went back the way they came. Thankfully there were no more Chobin Hoods in the area and so they weren't attacked. The man in the garden outside the Forest looked at them puzzledly. "You two went into the Forest, and now are coming out this soon?"
Keven only nodded. "We forgot to do something, that's all."
The man smiled. "Ah... I see. Remember, it is always best to be prepared for anything that will come and face you. Good luck!" and walked to the east. Leanne then noticed a sign pointing eastward that read Cannon Travel Center.
"These guys are everywhere!" remarked Keven.
Leanne agreed. "Dad told me they shoot people out of a cannon to anywhere there is another of their centers. I think it's pretty cool."
Keven looked at her in disbelief. "You want to go for a ride in one of those things?!"
"No! I would if I had too... but I hope I don't."
They then walked south and reached Gaia's Navel. A nearby stairway led down to the next level, and then around the pond to another stairway, and then to the pond itself. As they descended they were attacked by flowers, mushrooms and huge bees. These bees used their stingers like cannonballs, shooting them at the pair. "You know, it seems that almost every kind of animal hates you, Kev." Leanne commented after killing two bees before they stung her to death. By this time they were near the pond, and a hole in the bank let them gain access to the pond and its caves.
Through this whole time Keven had remained silent. To Leanne it seemed he was deep in thought about the Palace he had to find, which annoyed her. If he spent a little bit of that thinking on how to help me find Dyluck, I think I could stand it. Even with this in mind she followed him into the caves.
Keven, on the other hand, was no just thinking about the Palace, but about the very little information both Jema and Sage Luka had given him. It was as though they were testing him to see what he was really like, if he was really the Mana Knight. This thought irked him, but shook it off when Leanne tugged on his sleeve no more than 20 paces inside the cave. Ahead were 2 sleeping goblins guarding a stair that led further into the ground. The memory of what he had gone through at the goblin camp and the boiling water he was forced into made him angry. Really angry. So much that Leanne couldn't stop laughing when he took out the Sword, charged and with one swipe beheaded the goblins - who had no chance to retaliate. He kept on going down the stairs, and yelling so loud to wake up the dead.
Leanne followed behind, walking at a normal pace. Only when she reached the bottom of the stairs did she realize the extent and depth of Keven's anger. All along the edge of the walls and the lava river that ran through the middle of the room at least 15 goblins lay dead or dying on the ground and up against the wall. Keven stood at the edge of the lava flow, breathing heavily and cleaning blood off the Sword with his shirt.
Noticing that every single one of the dead goblins had money, Leanne went around collecting the pouches. At the last body she found a bronze helmet. She picked it up and walked up to Keven. Tapping him on his shoulder, she held up the piece of armor and smiled at him. "Here ya go. A piece offering." she tried to make him cheer up with her innocent voice tone. It seemed to be working, because Keven cracked a smile and took the helmet.
"Thanks! It's better than my Bandanna!" he took off the fabric and replaced it with the simple bronze helmet.
Leanne tried not to laugh. "You just look funny in that thing." she explained when he asked her why she was smiling. "Keep the Bandanna, then you'll have something to wipe your Sword with." Keven smiled at her and nodded in agreement.
Afterwards they looked around. The room was a dead end, and besides the lava river and the bodies there was a skull on the wall near the left side of the river. As he walked towards it Keven saw something move inside the skull's eyes and open mouth.
"Trapped. We are totally trapped!" Leanne muttered.
"I think I can get some nice rat for lunch!" Keven said and hit the object with the Sword.
"Keven? What are you talking about?... " she stopped short when the skull started to glow and emanate.
Suddenly the ground beneath them shook and fell away. When it stopped the wall in front of them exposed a hidden staircase going down. They looked at each other and wondered what was down there. "Wanna go see?" asked Keven.
Leanne shrugged. "I don't care. If we're looking for dwarves, then we had better keep looking, just to see if they really do live in here."
The stairs were very long and dark, and so their imaginations were running wild with what they would find at the bottom of the passage. Slowly, they could hear the sounds of a party, complete with music and laughter. As they walked closer they saw a small light and little figures walking around. When they emerged, they found themselves in a village.
There were three levels to the small area, accessible by metal stairs. On the ground floor was where many of the villagers were. These people were short and stout with long beards. On the second floor they could see one door with a sign in front of it and four others without. There were two sections to the third floor - one led to one door in the far top left corner of the area, the other to two doors with signs on them.
Village of the Dwarves
It seemed that the villagers then recognized them then, and one of them came up to them and bowed low. "Welcome to the village of the Dwarves!"
"Thank you." was all Keven could say.
The dwarf seemed not to notice how speechless his companions were. "We don't get many visitors from the surface. It's always nice to see new faces, especially in these troubled days... "
"Why do you say it like it will be the end of you?" asked Leanne gently.
The greeter looked her in the eye. "You are a healer - there's not many of you left in this world anymore. I'm sorry," he apologized quickly when he saw her puzzled expression, "I didn't realize you didn't know that you were a healer. Ask an Elemental when you meet one to tell you more." Leanne shook her head in confusion and disbelief. What is this guy talking about?!
Keven saved her from an embarrassing comment. "What's going on? Did we interrupt a party?"
The dwarf laughed. "Oh! No, you didn't. We're just dancing and celebrating the find of a new lode of gold. Any new find is worth celebrating." he then seemed to be deep in thought, for he said nothing for a few moments. "Well, today there's a show in the theater beside the store, and Watts' having an open house. He's the veteran when it comes to forging weapons. Be seeing you!" and the dwarf skipped away back to the dancing.
They looked around. Not everyone was involved in the celebration. They went to the stairs that led upstairs. As they walked up a dwarf was descending. When they brushed each other, a small earthquake shook the area. The party cleared in five seconds, and the trio on the stairs collided. "Sorry!" said Keven.
"Are you OK?" asked Leanne to both the dwarf and Keven.
Both nodded. The dwarf then shook his head and muttered something. "Is something wrong?" inquired Keven.
The dwarf shrugged. "I dunno... we've had little tremors like that one a lot lately. None of us like it - it feels evil."
Leanne nodded. "It sure did."
"If I were you, I'd try to find someone who will take you in for the night. Then again, everyone's so nervous that the Inn will be your only choice. Good luck!" he bowed low and ran down the steps and out of the village.
"What do ya wanna do now?" asked Leanne, "There's not much we can do now that everyone's got scared and gone in."
Keven thought for a minute before answering. "I want to see this blacksmith!" he said, "Don't forget, I was told to find one to reforge this sword." he pulled out the Sword to show Leanne what he meant.
Her eyes went big at the sign of all the rust. "I see your point... " she said slowly, "But I think a theater show would be good. We both need a break."
"The sign in front of that house up there is the guy's shop. I just want to see if he can do anything about this."