Starting A Destiny
by Nightshade

Part 9

Undine's Trouble

Sage Luka wasn't in a good mood when they'd found her at the altar. "Of course I'm upset!" her voice was broken, "Undine, the Element of Water, hasn't talked to me in a very long time, and that's not like her. And I fear her seal of protection on this Palace has failed, and that she is in great danger. And if that's the case, then all these strangers that are snooping around this place maybe able to do some harm." the tears on her face were coming down like a waterfall.

Keven went up and hugged the sobbing Sage. "There, there," he was saying calmly, "If Undine's in trouble, I'll find out what kind. Where does she live?"

"In a cave to the east. But please do be careful!" she sounded genuinely afraid for them, and for Undine.

Walking over to his companions, who were looking about the Palace in awe and wonder, he announced that he was going to go find Undine. "You can count on us to be coming!" replied James, with Leanne nodding.

"I thought I'd never see the world like this. No chaperones, no one telling you what to do... I'm not passing up any offer of adventure for the world!"

Outside the Palace they discovered a path in the waterlilies that covered the shallow lake going east. Soon they were greeted by three fish that spewed water at them and tried to hurt them with sharp scales. James noticed the cave behind the fish. "Avoid the water and follow me!" he yelled. Yet inside the cave there were three more spitting fish and another cave entrance. They found another cave entrance that led deeper into the cave, and this one led to a room with an egg in the middle of the floor. "What is that?" Leanne asked.

As if it heard her, the egg cracked and a lizard popped out. "I don't know what it is," Keven answered, "But I'll betchya it's got the Element prisoner." and he gave the lizard a mortal blow. The lizard turned towards him, wrapped its tongue around his waist and swallowed.

"Keven!" yelled Leanne and James in unison. They wacked the creature until it laid dead on the ground, with what looked like a lock of Keven's hair at the back of its throat. The creature jerked around and out popped Keven's head.

He looked at his friends and screamed, "Help me out of here!"

James held the tail while Leanne pulled on his hair. "We at least know that you're fine." laughed the sprite.

"Look! There's a new cave entrance over there!" pointed out Keven when he could stand without wobbling.

"I wonder where it leads to." James said aloud.

Leanne walked towards the opening. "I sure hope it isn't another monster that we get these stupid orbs from! Every time we get one it clings to the weapon. My glove feels like a ton of bricks now."

The room was empty and a dead end. They waited awhile, then just when the companions were ready to leave, a blinding blue light stopped them. A blue being that resembled a mermaid with a blue aura around it appeared to a far wall.

The Water Elemental

"I am Undine. I will not hurt you, so please come closer." They went closer the being, not feeling any fright or fear. Undine looked at all three of them for a long time, then smiled and closed her eyes before continuing.

"Thank you. I do not know what would have happened if you had not come." the voice was like a waterfall, "Mana is so very weak... it would not take much for the balance of it to tilt and for utter chaos to erupt." She looked downcast. "Not even us Elementals could stop it."

"You couldn't stop Mana's fall during the Fortress War?" asked Keven.

Undine looked at him sadly. "No. We had the chance, long before that... but we never seized it. Now we wait for the poem to come to pass... " Seeing their confused faces, Undine laughed. "I'm sorry. I forgot that you do not know much. Remember, you will learn what you need when you need it, and not before."

"My dad always told me that poem when I was younger... " Leanne commented wistfully.

Undine smiled. "It is an old saying. I am not surprised that Pandora remembers... it is as older than the Fortress War. Much older."

Leanne nodded in wonderment. "I thought that was only a fairytale that Phanna's grandma used to tell us to impress us with!... I guess it's true." She smiled at the thought.

James glanced at Undine curiously. "You sure know a lot." When Undine's full attention was on him, the sprite blushed brightly. "Sorry, just I was wondering... you seem so old!"

"James! Be nice!" said Leanne.

Undine only laughed. "Do not worry! We Elementals have been here since the beginning of Mana itself. Please, I wish to reward you for freeing me. The only thing I have to give to you are my powers. Leanne, I give my healing magic, since you are a healer. Because of that you can only use healing magic. You asked what a healer was, and they are simply the people who heal the hurts of Mana. Each tribe had them. James, since you love the fight, and have the fighting spirit in you, you can use my fighting power." the Elemental spoke in a mesmerizing voice.

Leanne looked at her arms. "I understand now, how magic works! You simply know what the spell is and how to use it!"

"And no one can stop me now!" laughed James menacingly.

Keven looked at his two friends, and then to Undine. "What about me? Don't I get to learn anything?"

Undine smiled. "Do not feel left out. Your sword is more powerful than any magic. Once you learn to use it properly, you will be stronger than any magic user, except maybe an Ancient. But Leanne can cast Saber magic to influence the power of weapon. In the desert, casting my saber can make your foe's turn to ice." Leanne nodded in agreement.

"I must also say that once you learn a new spell, or visit a Seed, take the time to bring up the power of your magic. For now, you can go up to level 1, since you have only gone to 1 Palace - the Water Palace.

And Keven, you need only to take this Mana weapon to complete your collection. It is a javelin from the Fortress War. You now have all the weapons of Mana, and I feel your quest has truly begun. Heed the words I have spoken, and do not forget them, and you will succeed in your Quest. Until we meet again." and the Elemental disappeared.

The three companions looked at each other. ""Maybe we should go and tell the Sage that Undine's OK." Keven's voice broke the silence.

"Yeah, and maybe we can get some sleep," Leanne yawned, "I haven't gotten any sleep since we were in Kippo Village." and so they left the cave laughing.

A Little Break

Luka was grateful that Undine was now safe, and was glad to repay them by providing beds for the night. The three slept restfully and awoke feeling more refreshed in their lives.

"I hope you all feel better," Luka was saying at the breakfast table in the morning. It seemed that age hadn't curved her appetite, either, "Because you'll need all the strength you have on this Quest." she stated as the trio got up and said their goodbyes.

"Thanks Luka for the room and the meal. I'm stuffed!" announced Keven, patting his stomach.

Leanne laughed and rolled her eyes. "And that's a compliment, to be sure."

"Before you leave, I must urge you to get into the Underground Palace. If there's an orb blocking the way, then I suggest using Freeze magic. It's been the only one the old woman knows strongly." the Sage said seriously as they were leaving.

James turned towards her and smiled. "Don't worry, old woman, I'll take care of it."

His companions gasped. "Don't say something so rude to someone so nice!" cried Keven, but the Sage was only laughing.

"Now, I don't mind being reminded of my age now and then. Now, get going!" and she turned towards the Seed.

"Why don't we take the short cut through the Forest?" suggested Leanne, "I don't really want to visit Pandora right about now." everyone agreed and they went back the way they came - through the Forest, passed the garden, down into the valley and into Watts' entrance.

Back to Dwarf Village...

They passed through the blacksmith's shop and stopped to talk to him. "Let me take a look at that boomerang, and that glove... you see, I'm starting to recognize when you've got more of those orbs for me. I'll work on them for you, and give you my cheapest rate. But this rate will go up with the quality I have to put into the weapon." the traveler's agreed and waited for the improvements to be done.

After paying Watts, they went to look for the Elder, but couldn't locate him. Finally he was found in a cave under the main area with a lava lake and a crystal orb high up. On the other side of the lake was an entrance that led deeper into the ground. James cried out his hello to the Elder, which seemed to give the old dwarf quite a shock.

"Oh, there you are!" the dwarf greeted them warmly, "I see you've come back... did you talk with Elinee?" they nodded, "And the lake's not gone... do you have any idea on how to get rid of it?" they nodded again, "Well... go to it." he stepped back and let them work. But all that happened was the sprite concentrating, and the orb started to freeze. When the orb looked like it was about to explode, it just disappeared along with the lava lake.

"Amazing!..." the dwarf whispered. Then he noticed the traveler's walking to an opening on the other side of the once lava lake. "Please, do be careful!" he yelled, and hoped it got to the distant ears of the trio.

The Underground Palace

Inside they came to a staircase blocked by two goblins. Both were sleeping, but when the three traveler's walked near them, they woke up and started to charge at them with amazing speed. James fell, almost spent. Leanne had to keep curing just so they would stay alive. After it was over, Keven looked at his friends. "Still want to stay with me?"

The two just looked at him like he had to be kidding. "I wonder how many enemies are waiting for us up there." said Leanne.

James rolled his eyes. "You worry too much, lady." he growled.

"Be nice. After everything, she has every right to worry. I was wondering the same thing, anyway. So keep those comments to yourself or don't come up the stairs." announced Keven firmly as he stomped up the stairs. Leanne stuck out her tongue at the sprite and followed.

"OK, be that way. I'm... not coming!" yelled James. He stood in place for a few minutes, taking in his surroundings. Then a female voice caught his attention. "Why can't you let us through?!"

Keeping out of trouble was one thing that James wasn't used to. Running up the stairs with blazing speed, he caught the sight of Keven and Leanne standing in front of a Gnome, their body posture reflecting their frustration. "Leave here now!" the Gnome was saying, "We Gnomes won't allow intruders, especially idiots..."

"Who are you calling an idiot?" piped up James.

"James!" Keven and Leanne exclaimed.

"James, am I ever glad to see you! This's the keeper of the Palace, and he won't let us by because we're supposedly too rambunctious." Keven explained.

Leanne got an idea. "James," she said too sweetly, "You know we're not a pain, and you love to be one. Want to prove yourself?"

James jumped up and down. "You bet!" he cried, and started to shoot arrows at the Gnome. Three arrows made their contact.

"This is an outrage! We Gnomes won't allow this kind of behavior..." the Gnome was cut short by an earthquake. The Gnome looked around quickly and ran, shouting, "I'm out of here!" The three looked at each other in amazement.

"I thought he was going to kick us out!" said Leanne.

Keven looked behind to where the Gnome had been and whispered, "I don't know, I think he's got someone else to do that for him. Look!" They turned to see a huge red giant coming towards them. "Fresh meat!" it said, making their skin crawl.

James ran away to a far corner. "Where do you think you're going?" inquired Leanne, who was looking for this creature's weak spot. But just as she was going to lunge forward Keven grabbed her arm and stopped her.

"Let him do this. I think he knows what to do." he said calmly.

As soon as the words left his mouth, the creature froze. "Kev, crack the ice for the love of Mana!" James cried out in frustration.

Summoning up all his strength, he walked up and broke the ice, and the creature also, with a crushing swing. Turning he gave Leanne an 'I-told-you-so' look. "See, James does know what he's doing." Keven taunted.

Leanne just rolled his eyes. "Lovely. Now you're a gloating swordsman."

All was quiet for a moment. "I wonder where that Gnome is... " James broke the silence.

The Foe is A Friend

"I'm here." they turned to see the Gnome floating in front of a Mana altar, "Forgive me, but that big bad meanie's been bugging me for so long that I thought you could be useful and get rid of him for me."

"You used us?!" cried Keven.

"Me? Isn't there more than one of you?" asked Leanne.

The Gnome shook his head. "Nope, just me... I liked the show you servants put on!"

James looked at the Gnome. "If you want to see some serving, serve me or else I'll let my servant Keven deal with you." he stated clearly and without emotion. But Keven had lots of emotion, called anger.

"Just who do you think you're calling a servant?!" he exclaimed hotly and almost punched James' face, if Leanne hadn't stopped him.

"Don't listen to him! We both know he's full of it!" she whispered as she restrained him.

The Gnome looked at James, then Keven, then James again in confusion. "No! I want to serve you, since you saved me from that monster. Hmmm... " the Gnome studied Keven for a moment before resting his gaze on the Sword. "Is that the Mana Sword?!" he spoke in awe.

Keven nodded. "Yeah, but I'm not giving it to you, or anybody!"

Gnome laughed. "I wouldn't blame you!" he paused then, as though remembering some distant memory. "I remember the War... the Fortress... " he said softly.

James got bored then. "That's nice." he said, and tried to cast Freeze magic on the Gnome. The Gnome looked at him in shock.

"You've been to see Undine?!" he squealed.

Keven and Leanne nodded, but James was the one to answer. "You betchya! Now I'm unstoppable!!!!!" he smiled devilishly and cast an Acid Rain spell on Keven.

"Hey! Watch it with that thing!!!!! I'm here to help you, not be killed by you!" Keven yelled angrily. Leanne tried not to laugh too hard, and noticed that the Gnome was doing the same thing.

The Gnome cleared his voice and continued. "I know Undine, and what her powers are. You see, I am also an Elemental of Mana, the Elemental of the Earth." he bowed low.

"Oh, so let me get this... there's an Elemental for every Palace?" asked Keven.

"Yep! Actually, we were kinda falling asleep and not doing our jobs when you pulled out that blade and woke us all up."

"Woke you up?"

Gnome nodded and yawned. "Yep. Spent the last 5000 years waiting for you to come! Took ya long enough!" Keven was about to apologize when Gnome stopped him. "Don't worry about it! It's nice to have a surprise. Want to ask a question? I'll answer only one, because you should be going!" the Elemental smiled.

"Are there any other Mana Palaces in this area?" asked Keven almost immediately.

"Not what I would've asked... " grumbled Leanne.

"Thanks Kev! Now I can't ask one!" James pouted.

Gnome looked concerned. "You should all get along! It would do you all some good... well, there are no other Palaces, not in the Lower Lands, anyway."

Keven nodded silently. "Thanks." he murmured.

"You should be going! Time is on your side, for now. As my reward to you for saving me, I give my fighting magic to the sprite and my sabre and healing magic to your wife."

Leanne, who had been laughing at everyone silently, suddenly stiffened. "I am not that ugly... whatever's wife, and I don't plan on it!" she crossed her arms and started to pout.

Gnome now truly looked worried. "Oh dear! Well, I hope you get along soon." and he disappeared, leaving Leanne and James to feel the knowledge of the new and powerful spells he left with them. Looking around at the decorations and ornaments in the room, Keven decided he was going to enjoy this new life of exploration and discoveries.

"To the Seed!" he shouted, and added in a lower voice, "C'mon, James! You want your memory back, right?" So as the three touched the Seed, the room glowed with a brown hue. The magic users felt a new sense of power, while Keven realized the full extent of his diplomatic and social skills.

"You, a good speaker? Get real!" Leanne exclaimed when he told them of his new found abilities, for she was still mad about what Gnome had called her his wife. James remained silent.

"What's wrong, little buddy?" asked Keven calmly when he realized that the sprite had been crying.

James wiped his face and looked at them. "I remember everything! Everything!" he exclaimed happily. "I live in a place called the Forest of Seasons. It's to the north of the Water Palace, but it can't be entered into by land. We would have to fly there."

Leanne shook her head. "But there's no way to fly!"

James' sly smile came to life. "Then you'll just have to put up with me until we do."

"Oh boy! I just can't wait to get started!" Keven replied sarcastically. Leanne laughed and James gave Keven a mock hug.

"Don't worry," James was saying, "When I'm done with you, you won't want to forget me."

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