The Great Forest
They landed in an icy region that was a bit cold, but not too unbearable. Snow was everywhere, and the trees and lakes were made of what seemed to be ice. Seeing his friends' bewildered faces, James tried to explain.
"This's the Great Forest, and it's divided into the four seasons. We're in Winter now."
"Your village can't be too far from here. Lead on!" said Keven, but James looked sad.
"Sorry, but I can't remember how to get in. It's hidden, you know." "This may take awhile." remarked Leanne as something darted across the plain. One ran up to Keven and made a laughing sound.
"They're so cute and adorable! I love the way they laugh." said Leanne.
James looked up at her warily. "They may be cute, but they're all crying. The whole Moogle village is here in Winter because three Pebblers have taken over their homes."
"Do you know where the village is so we can let them go home?" asked Keven.
James scratched his head. "I think it's in Summer, but I can't be too certain... "
Leanne smiled in sympathy. "It's OK, we'll find it and your home too." she looked around and asked, "Which way is it to Summer, anyway?"
James shrugged. "It doesn't matter. The seasons are in a loop, so we'll get there sooner or later."
As they walked along in Winter, a familiar voice called to them. "Watts?!" they cried in unison.
The dwarf smiled. "Yep, I thought I'd go see the world. Nice change from that hole in the ground, that's for sure. Say, while I'm at it, why don't I look at those weapons of yours. I was reading upon weapon orbs before I left and... well, all you have to do is pass by one and you get it. And there's nine orbs, if you already didn't know. The skills needed to make the Ninth level, well, those haven't been seen since the Fortress War!"
"Then you have them!" said Leanne, making Watts blush.
"Me? Naw, I'm just a simple blacksmith, trying to make a living, and an honest one at that." He took the two orbs they had collected since the last visit and forged them, while the trio informed him on what happened at the Water Palace. The news seemed to disturb him.
"Not right!" he murmured as he worked, "No one's desecrated a Palace since the Fortress War... Now I really don't like the sounds of what's going on!" on that note they said their goodbyes and parted ways. James then led the way a half mile away to a stone archway that had the word 'Autumn' at the top of it.
On the other side of the arch was indeed the season Autumn, in all its true form. But Autumn had more than just falling leaves. There were owls swooping down, attacking and casting a different kind of spell called Confuse. This confused both Leanne and James for awhile, but it soon wore off. After a half mile they came to a bend in the path, and another half mile after that reached another archway that read 'Summer'.
"Hey! We reached Summer!" exclaimed Leanne.
Summer was hot, but not humid. The trees were in full bloom, the lakes clear and blue, and a stronger kind of Rabite attacked them, along with some harpoon throwers. In a distant corner there was a stone archway, and when Keven asked James what it said on it, the sprite replied, "A Cannon Travel."
Leanne rolled her eyes. "They're everywhere!"
Smiling faintly, Keven nodded. "Yep, and more than likely they'll give us a ride back to Luka's."
The three of them just stood where they were for a moment, and took in the beauty of what true Summer meant. It seemed to strengthen them somehow.
"James, do you remember where the Moogle's village could possibly be?" Keven asked warily.
The sprite gave them a faint smile. "Do you doubt me? Fear not, for there is the village of the Moogles." he pointed to a section of the forest that had a narrow, almost invisible path. Walking up it they found a few huts and gardens, but nothing else.
"Looks like no one's home." commented Leanne. But she spoke too soon, for three creatures with spiky shells on their backs charged forward, showering them with pebbles. "There's one for each of us," said Keven, "Let's teach them a lesson. It's not nice to take over someone's village without permission!"
The battle lasted for about five minutes, for the Pebblers were fierce and strong enemies. "Whew!" Leanne tried to catch her breath afterwards, "At least the Moogles can come back." And so they did. Every Moogle in the world seemed to converge on the site. As this was happening the travellers finally got a chance to look at the village properly. There were 2 chests in a corner of the small open area, no houses or whatever. As soon as the Moogles realized that their village belonged to them once again, they danced and yelled in voices that Leanne could have sworn was running water. At the end of the 'teddy bear parade' came Watts and Neko. "Purr, we meet yet again." the purple cat nodded a hello.
"Hey Neko!" said Keven. Leanne smiled and James looked confused.
"No offense," the sprite blurted, "But who are you?"
Neko only smiled. "I am Neko the Merchant. Which reminds me, I'm doing my yearly tour of the world to gather fresh supplies, and I just picked up some new armour. They're hats made from bird's quills. I guarantee that they're better than what you have now. Want to try them on?"
The hats only fit on Leanne and James, so Keven bought 2. "Oh, and Neko? Do you have any more of those Faerie Walnuts? We're fresh out." he asked as the last gold piece was counted out.
Leanne left and went to talk to Watts. Neko looked surprised at Keven's request. "Purr, of course I do, but I mean no offense when I say you were the last people I'd expect to know magic of any kind..."
"Hey, don't worry!" blurted out James, "We didn't expect to be using it either!"
Neko looked curiously at the Sprite for a few moments, then shook his head. "No matter. Here are 4 Walnuts, and use them wisely. I may be a salescat, but I'm no cheat." James coughed at this, receiving a cold stare from Neko. "Purr, and who are you to judge me, young one?"
James only stuck out his tongue and went off to join Leanne. "Forgive him... he isn't who he should be... " Keven apologized.
"No need to apologize, my friend. A person with little knowledge can make a dangerous friend. Use those only when you have to - staying at an inn is cheaper, and has the same result. Be seeing you!" the cat ended its speech and walked into the swarm of Moogles.
Just as Keven was about to ask Watts a question a Moogle came up to him and handed over 2 treasure chests. "Kipuo Kapika!" it exclaimed and left.
As Leanne handed over the axe and gloves to Watts for upgrading, James put a hand to his forehead and moaned. "What's wrong, little guy?" asked Keven.
The sprite's moan turned into a gleeful laughter. "Yippie! I remember the way to my home! There's a riddle to get to it:
'Walk the Seasons from Spring to Winter, Spring again, and we can enter.'"
Watts finished with the weapons. "Sounds like you're in a rush." Keven handed over the money, "Good Luck, I'll be seeing you later if I can!"
So after saying good-bye to the Moogles and them thanking the trio for saving their village, James led them out of the area and through a stone archway saying 'Spring'. "See that lake?" James pointed to a small pool of water to the north, "Run through the seasons backwards and it's still there. C'mon!"
What's Behind a Riddle?
They ran through the archways as fast as they could, so even the evil creature didn't know what the blur was. From Spring, to Summer, then Autumn and Winter they traveled. When they reached Spring again, Keven thought he heard a noise coming from his left, like stones and water were being moved. They soon discovered that the lake James had pointed out earlier was reduced to a small, bucket-sized shallow puddle with a path leading into the trees.
"This's what you see when you walk the seasons in order." pronounced James proudly, "The path leads to my village." So Keven and Leanne followed the sprite into his village. But all they found was ruins. A few ruined houses and charred plants was all that was left in the large clearing.
"What happened?" cried out James, "No one's left, and the place is destroyed."
A bird's cry of anger caught their attention. "It sounds like it's coming from the north." commented Leanne.
James perked up. "There's only a clearing and a temple up there."
"Let's check it out." said Keven as the sprite led them north to a clearing with two raised mounds. A giant bird with huge, disproportioned legs and head was standing facing them as though it had heard them come.
"What an ugly thing!" said Leanne, "I wonder why it looks like that..." The bird gave her an evil glance full of hate, and proceeded to jump up in the air, squawking. It landed almost on top of Leanne. She fell to the ground dazed and confused.
"Hey! This bird's crazy!" exclaimed the frightened girl.
Keven tried to make the creature calm down, "Hey there buddy... what's up?" he smiled, but it seemed to only make it angrier. It sent wind blasts at him, though Keven was not hurt.
James watched quietly, though his anger at the bird was increasing. He realized that the bird had destroyed his village, maybe his people, and that now it threatened his friends. Finally the sprite past the breaking point.
"Triple Earth Slide!" he shouted, and suddenly a fantastic amount of dirt came up out of the earth and suffocated the creature.
The area seemed to go quiet for a moment, and during this Keven helped Leanne to her feet. After the moment had passed, they looked at James. There was no expression but one of solemn determination on its face, mixed with a little sadness and regret.
"Keven, would you be mad at me if I told you I was hiding something from you?" James looked up and smiled hopefully.
"What in Mana should I get mad at you for?" Keven replied, calmly but a bit confused.
James didn't answer. "James," Leanne walked up to him and smiled, "Don't worry... if you've got something you're hiding, there must be a reason for it! But in telling us, you're going to show us, right?" The Sprite nodded and walked north. He came to the edge of the trees and turned around. "C'mon. This forest hides more than I know is here... and there is a ton of secret passes..."
The Sprites' Secrets
Keven walked up to where the Sprite stood and looked into the forest. After a moment he looked at James and smiled. "Don't worry." he winked, "I love surprises." Leanne laughed as she joined them. James only faintly smiled and started to walk through the trees. When they got through the brush, they came upon a grand yellow palace. James ran up the flight of stairs to the entrance.
"My people always came here to give thanks to Mana and to ensure the crops would grow..." James' voice failed, and Keven opened the palace door and they all walked in.
"In the name of Mana!... " whispered Leanne. James had shown them a Mana Palace, for a Seed was on an Altar. Beside the Altar to the left was an old man with a walking stick, hunched over and mumbling to himself.
"Who comes and disturbs the Palace of Wind?" cried the old man.
James ran ahead. "Grandpa? Can't ya see me?"
The elder sprite looked sad. "No. Some men came and undid the seal on the Wind Seed... " he sighed.
"What men?! From where?!!"
Grandpa smiled. "You were never for patience tyke. A few days ago some men from outside the Forest came into the village and undid the seal... I remember one had a skull mask... "
"Thanatos." muttered Leanne and Keven.
"Yes. That was his name. Seemed that he was the only one who knew what he was doing... " he sighed and continued, "The others worked like zombies... though there were a few who were clear-minded but a bit confused and angry and all that... " Grandpa stopped and leaned on his stick.
Meanwhile, Keven was deep in thought, Leanne was looking around the Palace and James was looking at Grandpa worriedly. "You OK Grandpa?"
He nodded. "I am, but I think the others aren't. See, when the Seed's seal was broken, all our food left. Did you know our food was Mana energy itself, tyke?? We are not from Mana, us sprites. When Mana was created we were drawn here... all that beast did was destroy our houses, not our people."
James was confused. "You never told us this before! What do ya mean???"
Grandpa paused for a moment and then continued. "Tyke, this is not our world. Ours is separate from this one. We don't die, we just go back home. That's what's happened to everyone but you and me." he sighed in sorrow.
"So you aren't from Mana?" Leanne thought for a moment, "Do you know what the other men looked like, Grandpa?"
"No, that's the problem. I wish I had looked at them more closely... but then again, I hadn't expected to be blinded!" he laughed, "Well, I should have listened to Sylphid more."
"Who's Sylphid?" asked Keven quietly.
Grandpa seemed to notice Keven then, and wrinkled his face in thought. "Strange... I can sense a power coming from you young man. You must be the special one Sylphid talked about. Sylphid!"
A blue genie came out of nowhere. "Now you show up!" cried Grandpa, "Why did you disappear when I needed you?!"
A voice came from the being, one that sounded like a soft breeze. "It was not my place to intervene... many old, old battles have taken place because of my intervention..."
Grandpa sighed. "He's been talking strangely like that for months!" he said to the three visitors, to which they laughed. The laughter caught Sylphid's attention, however, and he studied the visitors carefully.
The soft wind voice rose over the laughter. "Three travellers, all fitting the description..." it seemed he smiled, "I've been waiting for you."
The laughter stopped and the visitors were confused. "What do you mean?" asked Leanne.
"Word of your travels has gone throughout Mana... both Undine and Gnome have told me about you three... " he paused and looked at Keven, "Welcome Mana Knight."
Keven tried to smile. "Are you an Elemental?" he asked cautiously.
Grandpa jumped into the conversation. "Of course he's an Elemental!!! Can't you tell?"
Sylphid seemed to pause for a moment. "You are wasting your time here. I can give you my powers, but that is all I have to offer you on such short notice... " and disappeared.
"So he leaves without saying goodbye!" cried Grandpa, "How much more rude can an Elemental get?!" But no one was paying attention to him. Leanne and James were left feeling strange after the sudden departure. Keven went and sealed the Seed. "I hear songs... I can see healing." he whispered to himself.
"Eh? Did I hear you right, boy?!" Grandpa asked, "You sure are a strange one... no matter. Young lady, you now know a spell called 'Analyzer'. Use it on the orb to the west of Spring. James will know where it is. The road to Matango is on the other side, and I've heard of a white dragon there. You may need its help. Go! I've wasted enough of your time."
"'Bye Gramps! I'll be back!" yelled James as they left. Back in Spring he led them to a path they hadn't seen before and soon they came to a crystal orb. Analyzer revealed it was weak to Sylphid. James sent blasts of air at it and the orb disappeared.
"Hey James," Keven said suddenly, "You're not mad all humans, just because some broke the seal and destroyed your people."
The sprite smiled. "What's done is done. As long as I can save others, it meant something. C'mon, I'll race ya to Matango!"
They had fun on that road, playing tag, running races. It felt like the fun and trouble was just starting, and together they could make it joyful and memorable.