Deals and Talk
Watts was glad to see them, though his face darkened a bit when he saw James. "I believe you'll like the axe," Watts said to Keven, "It won't be as strong as that sword, mind you, but it'll be strong sure enough." He gave the axe over for inspection.
Keven looked up and smiled. "Thanks! I'll take it. How much did you say it was?"
"100GP. No more, no less." The smitty's face was full of pride as he got the money.
James spoke up suddenly. "Keven, why's that spear glowing?"
Leanne took out the weapon and to everyone's surprise it was indeed glowing. Keven grinned and took the spear from her, and offering it to Watts. "Want another job?"
The dwarf shrugged. "Sure thing. Let me look at it for a bit, then I can tell ya how much it'll cost." He looked it over for awhile in awe, then nodded his head in approval. "I'll do it for 200GP. I consider the sword an introductory deal."
They all agreed and Watts set out to work immediately. After a minute, though, James got bored and whined, "Are you going to be done soon?"
Watts laughed. "Ask me that when I'm done. Where did you say you got it?"
"The Water Palace." Leanne spoke up. She had kept silent because she was always told you could learn a lot when you didn't put your opinion in. The sprite, she had decided, wasn't that mean, just misunderstood. I think we'll all get along. I hope. she thought weakly.
Watts stopped hammering and studied the three people in his cave. They seemed the least likely to be able to do the fabled quest of the Mana Knight. The sprite had so much mischief; the girl was a bit too selfish and sulky; and the boy looked like all he had was skin and bones. And then again, who can judge a person by what they look like? "The Water Palace, you say? I hear not many people can get an audience with the Sage there. You have to be someone special to talk to her."
"You bet I am!" grinned James. Leanne tried not to laugh while Keven was speechless.
"Hmmmm..... Well, I think you all seem to be more than what you look like. Like I told you before, Keven, if you find anymore orbs like the two you've found, bring them to me. I'm the last person in Mana who can work with Mana weapons." he hammered a few more times and then handed the spear to a waiting Leanne.
"Thanks, Watts. We'll remember you." she said softly as she followed her new friends out. Watts called out for them to stop.
"I almost forgot!" he cried, "Hand me that axe for a moment." He walked over to a few huge boulders and wacked them with the axe. "Just as I thought," he muttered aloud, "This axe can cut through rock! This," he pointed to a set of stairs the boulders had hidden, "is a secret way into the village. I'll let you use it, since you're such good friends of mine. It'll cut your traveling time to see me in half or more. Now, be seeing you!"
James Gets a Few Lessons
The staircase was steep, dark and long. It seemed like forever to three strangers with no clear course in their lives. Outside James stopped and looked at Keven and Leanne, knowing he wasn't being told everything. "So, how're we going to beat this witch of yours? And where will we meet her?" he inquired.
Keven and Leanne stopped and looked at each other. "Look," Keven spoke up, "Can you keep a secret?"
James put a hand across its chest. "You betchya I can. What's so secretive?"
"Let's tell it on the way there." Leanne answered. "I think we might be able to get there by sundown." So as they walked to the Haunted Forest, and even to the two stone pillars that blocked their way earlier, Leanne tried to explain to the sprite what was going on in Pandora. "So you mean to tell me one old lady is turning people into zombies? I think there's more to it than that." James said after she had finished her story.
Leanne nodded. "That's why we're going to see her. Besides, I can't bear the thought of Dyluck as a zombie."
The sound of chopping and cracking drew their attention and they noticed Keven with the axe and the pillars destroyed. "All set to leave?"
James bounced up and down. "Yep, I sure am! If you're from Potos, Kev, why are you going to see the witch?" he looked puzzled.
"Because, I need to get into the Underground Palace, like you. But I have a different reason."
Keven looked it in the eye. "Ever heard the tale of the Mana Knight?"
James' eyes went big. "If you say that to the right person, you'll never be without anything. I remember being told something about the end of time, that my people will fade away. It's all suppose to start to happen when the Knight appears again." he looked downcast.
They continued in silence until a crevice separated the land they were on to another piece of land. There were two pegs, one on either side. "I guess you can use a whip to get to the other side," James commented, "But we don't have one."
"I wonder where the trail on the other side leads to." Leanne wondered aloud. Keven continued to walk. "All in good time we'll find out. But first we have someone to pay a visit to, and I think I see her castle in the near distance."
"Yahoo! Let me at her." the sprite cried, and they broke out into a run. The castle was in bad need of repair, with the walls crumbling and the floors caving in. A werewolf stood guard of the gate. "Leave this one to me!" James whispered. Before either of his companions could stop him, he took the bow and an arrow and took aim. It landed between the werewolf's eyes, killing him instantly. With the way now cleared, they walked up to the front door and opened it.
Inside the castle they moved slowly, for there were many different types of guards. There was the green eye that created Chobin Hoods from nothing, bats that would swoop down on them and distract them, and even a few more werewolves. By the time they'd come to a floor switch that didn't do anything when one of them tried to step on it, Leanne complained she needed some rest.
"Have a candy." Keven took one out and threw it at her, hitting her on the forehead. "Hey, watch where you throw that thing!" she cried out. She got up and walked up to him.
"Let me try this thing!" she asked, trying to push Keven off the switch. James went over and yelled at the same time as its foot went onto the switch with Keven and Leanne on it. "Would you two please not fight!" But they didn't hear him, because the switch was activated and a pathway suddenly appeared, crossing an abyss to a door.
"Thank you, thank you! This wouldn't be possible without the great James!" they all laughed.
Keven shrugged his shoulders and composed himself. "Come on. We have an appointment with a witch named Elinee, and I don't want to keep her waiting."
They found Elinee a few moments later at a table looking through her spell book. She noticed them almost immediately. "Oh, you are pesky children!" she cried angrily, "Don't you know your place?!" and went through a door that was behind her.
"We should be careful," warned James, "I have a feeling she is hiding something that even I can't guess what." and with that in mind they followed the witch.
The sprite couldn't have been more right, for when they opened the door they heard the witch say, "You I can't control. I'll send you to Thanatos, since he says he can do something with you." and they saw Dyluck standing in front of her, his face twisted in pain. Behind him was a large iron gate that was closed.
"No! Elinee, let him go!" Leanne cried. Dyluck saw her and yelled, "Get out of here and save yourselves! You don't know all you're up against! Leanne, please!..." but he was cut short by the witch, who made him vanish into thin air.
Leanne gave the old woman an evil eye. "What have you done with him?" she screamed. Elinee just laughed and said, "My dear child, since I can't control him, I sent him to Thanatos, who can most certainly do something with the brat."
"Thanatos?" the trio said in unison.
"Why, the leader of a secret organization bent on overthrowing the Republic. He already has half of Pandora working for him... "
Leanne was in shock and disgust. "How can you do that to us?!" she cried.
Elinee only laughed. "Because I can, dear child! Now, there was something I was going to do... but I'll let you do that instead. Can you please feed my little Spikey? Why thank you!" and she smiled secretly and vanished. The large jail gate that was closed was now opening, and a huge tiger with long spikes charged after them. "Watch out!" cried James.
No matter how hard they tried not to, they were getting hurt badly. 'Spikey' would curl up into a ball and roll around, jump up and then land on top of them, but the worst thing it could do was cast a fire spell on them. Finally, after using all those Cup of Wishes he had bought to save his friends, Keven finally dealt a death blow.
"Where's that witch?!" he rasped furiously. Leanne went over and wrapped something around his head. "You've lost a lot of blood," she whispered, "Don't do anything too strenuous for awhile."
The sprite looked at her funny. "I didn't know you were a doctor." he said.
"I didn't think it would do me any good. Besides, this bandage I got from that overgrown cat. It should help you heal faster."
Keven started to sulk. "I'm not hurt!" he replied, "And I still want an explanation from that old woman." They found her underneath a staircase.
Not all Witches are Evil
"Please, forgive me." she was crying, and she looked like a normal old woman and not a witch anymore. "I didn't mean to do anything harmful. The herbs I use are the only food I have and they're dying, and I traded villagers with Thanatos for his herbs. But I will make do with what I have in the Forest, and be the simple woman I used to be. I have a few things on the other side of the stairs that I won't be needing anymore. I want you to have them, in gratitude for freeing me of my problem." Leading the way she produced two treasure chests. One had money and the other had a whip.
"That whip and me go back a long time. It's one of the Mana weapons, you know." Elinee softly said. "I know you're wanting entrance to the Underground Palace, but I have no more magic power left." When they were saying their thank yous and goodbyes, she interrupted them. "If you want to leave now, I can teleport you." she offered.
"That would be nice." answered Keven.
"Come and visit me when you get a chance to!" and with those words in their heads they found themselves outside of the gates. They looked around and breathed in the air. "She's not such a bad person after all." commented Leanne.
"Yeah, well, you can never judge someone on first impression alone most of the time." James spoke up.
"I wonder where we should go next." Keven kicked the ground and looked in the distance, "Considering I can't get into the Palace now, and Dyluck's gone... you guys don't need my help anymore. I guess I'll go see Luka."
"I'm coming too." said Leanne, "Dyluck's still alive, but I'd like to help you along too. I... kind of like traveling around, having the freedom to do anything."
James jumped up and down. "Me too! Me too! Please don't send me back to that awful village. They never let me have any fun."
Keven studied his friends. "You both sure about this? I mean, even I don't know what I'm up against." They nodded solemnly. "OK, onto the Water Palace."
"I have a thought." piped up Leanne. Keven and James turned towards her. "Remember that spot on our way here, where the only way across was to use a whip?"
"Yeah, I see!" James clued in, "Why don't we use the whip the witch gave us and see what's on the other side."
"OK, then let's go." Keven pulled out the whip and cracked it a few times. This's a nice piece of work. I just better get used to this idea of whipping someone... or something! They found the spot with the two pegs and they held on as Keven snagged the opposite peg and they flew across. "I see something. Come here!" yelled James.
A teleportation device was placed on the ground in front of three stones. "See ya!" Keven stepped on it and disappeared.
Leanne gasped and James laughed. "Scared?" he asked coyly and disappeared.
"This is what I get for praying to the Mana Tree for a free life." she muttered in disgust as she stepped on it and disappeared.