Starting A Destiny
by Nightshade

Part 10

Luka's History Lesson

After the Gnome had left they walked out of the Underground Palace and were immediately greeted by the Elder, who seemed too shocked to answer them. James had hinted that Elder was probably expecting them to be dead, and reluctantly Keven and Leanne agreed. Glad that Elder had left them in a hurry, they agreed to see Watts. "Who knows what he'll be able to do next!" said Leanne.

Watts was glad to see them, and had reforged many of their weapons. "You three should get to know when you need to see me!" exclaimed Watts.

"Who cares?!" cried James.

Keven rolled his eyes. "Look, I don't want to start a fight right about now. Why don't we just come and see you whenever we get the chance? That way, we'll always be able to travel around without knowing we need to reforge and come back here." To this everyone agreed.

They then took the stairs up to Gaia's Navel and couldn't figure out where to go next. "Why not try Luka's? It's as good a place as any." commented Leanne. At the Water Palace Sage Luka met them at the Seed Altar. Her features reflected her grief and worry.

"What's wrong?" asked Keven gently. Luka just looked at him as though he should know the answer, and was just playing stupid.

"Sage Luka, are you feeling alright?" asked Leanne when the Sage hadn't responded.

Luka nodded. "I myself am fine. I'm just worried about Jema." everyone was puzzled, so she went on. "Pandora Kingdom is behaving strangely as a whole, and he volunteered to investigate. That was two days ago. He was suppose to report back yesterday, but hasn't. Not even the ebb of water has heard him. And Undine's not much help... "

"But, isn't Undine an Elemental?" asked a very confused James, "I thought the Elementals knew everything that was going on in Mana."

Luka nodded sadly. "That used to be true. But long ago, in a time dim and distant that no legends speak of it, they did. Something happened then, and they passed on the protection of Mana to the Protectors... "

"Protectors?" James wondered in awe.

"Theirs is one of the saddest tales in all of Mana. I will try to tell it to you quickly, and as to not waste too much of your time." Luka turned and looked at the Seed for a second before continuing. "The true keepers of Mana are the Elementals. But when the First Ones left, they didn't want the job anymore. It was then that the Protectors came forward and took on the responsibility of Mana. There was one from every tribe. Not much was ever known about them, not even what their true identities were... " she shook her head, "All I know is that Undine says that they are sleeping, and inaccessible to anyone, save the Elementals."

There was silence for a moment, then Leanne found her voice and wondered aloud, "I wonder... could the Protectors be revived?"

Luka gasped slightly and nodded wearily. "Yes, but that would only happen, I believe, if the Doom Prophesy came true, which it has not. But, implore you, don't let your minds be bothered by thinngwas terribly worried that Jema hadn't reported back from his intelligence mission to Pandora. So, when Luka asked them to go and check up on the old soldier, they agreed.

They went to the troubled Kingdom and stayed the night at the inn, mainly because Leanne admitted she would breakdown if she had to spend the night with someone she knew (which happened to be everyone in the town) and who knew of her engagement (which seemed to be the entire Kingdom).

When one of the guards from the royal court had seeked them out, Leanne got even more scared. "The last thing I need is to see that twerp Clarence," she admitted to Keven and James in a hushed voice, "It was bad enough when everyone in the town agreed that I should marry him, but you two don't need to be involved."

But the guard wasn't there to wisk Leanne away, only to inform the group that the King had found out that they were in town and was now seeking an audience with them, at their earliest convenience. The three friends looked at each other for a moment, and the decision was left up to Keven. "Go for it, oh fearless leader." joked James.

Keven thought about it. "We can come in the morning. Let us sleep off some things first."

The guard nodded in approval and disappeared. The three sat in silence for a moment before resuming the discussion they had carried on. The moon was half risen when Leanne yawned and announced that she was going to bed. "I can't stay awake forever." Keven and James followed, and they went to their separate rooms for the night, and dreamed that some force was looking for them, and would stop at no end to find them.

Pandora's King Asks a Favour

Breakfast the next morning proved to be more heartening. No one talked about the nightmares of the night before. Keven mimicked the Dwarf Elder's face from the day before, the broke down laughing. "That was so funny!"

"Oh, was that ever priceless! I wish I could capture that face forever." wished Leanne.

James took his plate and, in one gulp, finished off his breakfast. "Be careful what you wish for," he taunted, "It might come true one day."

Leanne threw him a disgusted glance. "Shush up. You let me have no fun!" and she started to pout. Keven started to laugh. "Stop it with that face! You look like a whiny brat!"

Before she could retaliate, a figure shadowed the door. "Excuse me," they turned to see a guard of the King standing in the doorway, "The King wishes to see you now, since yesterday you said that you would at this time." Keven and Leanne hurried to finish their meals, then followed the guard towards the castle.

"Do you have any idea why he wants to talk to us about?" asked Leanne as politely as one can be under pressure. It seemed that everyone, including the guard, knew about Leanne and her situation, but no one said a word. At the castle gates the guard stopped and opened the doors for them.

"His Highness is expecting you in the throne room. Please go directly there." He bowed and stood guard. They murmured their thanks and entered. Many people were in the castle, but none of them paid much attention to the two strangers travelling with one of their own. They caught snips of conversation, and all of it seemed to be about the zombie problem. They entered the throne room with no problem, and the King looked as though he too was a zombie. He perked up when he saw the three friends.

"Welcome back, Potoan child. I see you've brought with you a new and old friend... " the monarch's gaze fell on Leanne, who returned it with a cold stare, " ... But that doesn't matter. I have a little assignment for you, if you wish to help out.

"Jema hasn't talked to me in two days, and he said he'd report back to me then. This isn't like him - he does what he says. And he isn't a man to go back on his word. The last time he was seen was yesterday in the Ruins, walking like a zombie... "

Keven perked up. "You mean to say that Jema is a zombie?"

The King shook his head. "These are only rumours. All I can say for certain is that he has gone missing, and is seen in the ruins."

"So what can we do about it?" asked James less than enthusiastically.

"Jema told me that I should put my trust in you, and also that you are the Mana Knight. I want to believe that and put my trust in you, since I believe Jema's word. If you can free my Kingdom, Pandora will forever be in your debt." He waited for the remark.

After a long moment of silence, Keven spoke up. "OK, but what will you do if we don't come back?" he said slowly.

The King looked shaken. "You're Pandora's last hope. I have nothing else to rely on." he replied quietly. The four exchanged nods of understanding, and the three left the castle quietly and quickly.

"A trip to the local Ruins, anyone."

"Kev, come on! What's a day without adventure?" piped up James.

Leanne got up. "I'm starting to get used to it."

Keven gave her a doubtful look. "I thought you said you had been wishing to get out and see the world!"

"Be careful what you wish for... " said James.


As they neared the Ruins, Leanne noticed her friend Phanna walking nearby. "Hey, Phanna!" she yelled, but the blue-haired girl ignored her.

James shook his head. "She looked really out of it, like a zombie."

"Hmmm... I don't like this... " murmured Keven.

"Phanna? Phanna, what's wrong?!" she grabbed her friend's shoulder, but Phanna shrugged her off and continued walking south.

"Why won't you speak to me? Phanna!... " but she kept on walking and soon disappeared.

Leanne had to use all her control to not cry. "I don't get it - she's acting like Grandma... "

Keven's head jerked up. "Grandma? Isn't she a zombie?" Leanne nodded slowly, not catching on to his thinking, "Where do the zombie's meet?" he asked her.

Realization dawned on her face. "At the Ruins! They're to the south and west. Come on, we might not have much time!" and they ran as fast as they could, pushing past citizens who didn't even notice them.

They ran for about a mile before reaching the famous Pandoran Ruins. When they reached the paved courtyard, both Keven and James looked in awe of the buildings, for they had never seen anything like them before. There was one building directly in front of them with three towers that commanded the attention, while four smaller buildings, almost identical to the larger one, lined the courtyard. There was only one way to enter the main building, and that was by a set of stairs about 50 paces in front of them.

The courtyard was filled with zombies, both plain-clothed and dressed up in fancy ceremonial robes that Leanne claimed had never been seen in Pandora in her life. They walked past these people without them even noticing the three travelling friends who were searching for Jema and Phanna.

When they found Phanna, she was standing on some stairs leading inside. It was obvious that she was too a zombie. Leanne was about to cry at the sight of her friend's motionless figure standing in front of two zombie guards, all on the stairs. When they neared close enough, about 5 paces or so, Phanna turned around. She just stared straight out, at the horizon. "In the name of the Tree... Phanna?!" whispered Leanne.

Her voice seemed to awake Phanna from a trance, because she then turned to Leanne and smiled, but it was empty, as was her voice. "Leanne! I'm going on a one-way trip with Dyluck! I'm lucky, or what." she said, then turned around and walked past the guards, disappearing inside the main doors.

"Phanna!" yelled Leanne as James and Keven tried to keep her settled down. But she broke free and pushed away the guards as hard as she could. "OUT OF MY WAY!" she screamed at the top of her lungs. Even though they didn't say anything, the two guards moved away, leaving just enough room for the three to walk through. Once inside, James bounced around.

"I think I know where she is!" he proclaimed.

Leanne almost shook him. "Where?! Show us!"

"Yeah," spoke up Keven, "But I get the strange feeling there's evil here, and lots of it."

"I just want to get to the bottom of this mystery as much as you guys." said Leanne quietly. "Me and Phanna were almost raised together. I hope nothing's happened to her... "

It was with the thought of Phanna in their minds that they made their way through the old ruins. There were many dead ends and empty rooms, and the hallways and stairs seemed to be filled with not only twists and turns, but flying swords, and hovering plantmen in machines that created mindless zombies. After what seemed to be miles upon miles of twists and turns and dead ends, finally they reached a room in which had robed zombies in an almost circle around an altar-like structure in the middle, which was very tall and had a large staircase leading up to it. When they stopped, James got the shivers.

"What's wrong?" whispered Keven.

Are You Thanatos?

"I feel pure evil in this room." was the reply. Indeed, the only being in the room that appeared not to be a zombie was a man at the top of the altar. He turned around to reveal that he was wearing a skull mask with purple hair on top of it. His robes were multicolor and in need of no repair. When he spoke, they had to summon all their courage not to run, for it seemed he spoke with an empty and frightful voice.

"Ah, I see you are the little one with the Sword." he drawled out, "I have been waiting to meet you."

Keven was the only one who seem unaffected. Indeed, he was angry. "Who are you?" he asked in an angry tone, "And what have you done to the people of Pandora?"

"My, but you are a feisty one!" the man said, "I am called Thanatos. I am trying to create a better world for everyone. These people understand that," he gestured to all the zombies in the room, "And so they do my bidding."

Keven only looked at him. "And why should anyone follow you? What makes you so special?" he challenged.

"Yeah, really, and why should I believe you?" James said.

Leanne crossed her arms and looked at him with an evil eye. "Where are my friends, Dyluck and Phanna."

Thanatos let out a laugh that chilled them all to the bone. "Am I to assume this is Phanna?" and the blue hair of her best friend appeared behind the cloaked man.

"Phanna!" cried James, since Leanne was whimpering, "Hey you, big galoot! Release her!"

Thanatos only chuckled, "Oh, really? And I expect you want me to free these two, my gold mines?" as he spoke Dyluck appeared beside Phanna, "He was a challenge, having an attitude like yours... ah! I have an idea."

"I don't want to hear your ideas." grumbled Keven.

If they could see his mouth, the most hideous smile would be seen. "Ah... you remind me of someone I didn't get along with years ago... no." He shook his head and mumbled something to himself.

"Let everyone go!" yelled Leanne at the top of her lungs.

Thanatos looked at each one of them, then quietly laughed. "I believe that there is someone you should meet. He didn't like the blond one here... he is always hungry. A hunger that cannot be satisfied. But, child," he looked at Keven, "I believe you'll all be a lasting meal to it."

The floor beneath the trio disappeared and they fell into a pit. Spikes were to their backs, and a wall with three eye shapes faced them. The middle eye opened and sent a beam of energy at James. The sprite countered with one of the Gnome's spells, which sent piles of earth covering its target. The other eye's opened and attacked, so Keven went for the middle and urged Leanne to do the same.

"The first one to open has got to be the strongest, so we can get rid of it first and almost be done." the sentence was broken, but audible. When James cast his third spell, 'Earth Slide' on the middle eye, the wall started to crumble and cry. It disappeared and the three found themselves facing Thanatos again.

The mysterious man didn't seem fazed by the battle's outcome. "I see you are more than you look to be. For your victory, I give you the villagers of Pandora."

"Dyluck!... " cried Leanne softly.

Thanatos laughed. Ah, but for myself, I will keep these two." he then disappeared with Dyluck and Phanna.

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