Secret of Mana
by Uftaki


Again, the three found themselves winding through the shadowy and misty Haunted Forest. When they came to the first transporter, they came to a fork in the road. Heading down the western path, they came to two huge pillars blocking the pathway.

"I guess we go the other way," supplied Taba. They turned around and headed down the eastern path. There were bats in their way, as well as Mushbooms and Chobin Hoods. As they went down a staircase carved into a cliffside, a Chobin Hood shot its arrows at them. Lia and Taba fought back with their boomerang and bow, while Janz went forward to clear away any obstacles on the ground below. Lia noticed an odd looking creature with the Chobin Hood, but Janz called them to continue forwards before she could find out what it was. The lower path led to another transporter. Janz, Lia and Taba all stepped onto it, and were sent to a higher level of ground. Janz couldn't tell where they were. There was another path on lower ground, but the three of them couldn't get to it. There was another transporter a few feet away, and some Chobin Hoods guarded it.

Janz decided not to risk combat, and to just jump onto the teleporter. They did so, but to their surprise, they weren't transported away. Instead, there was a slight shaking of the ground, then that stopped. The Chobin Hoods kept attacking, though.

Janz stepped back. "Come on," he said. "Maybe that shaking did something to those pillars. Let's backtrack."

The other two agreed, and followed Janz's lead. Returning to the two, tall pillars, they found that they were still intact.

"Maybe we can cut them down?" suggested Lia. Janz shrugged and said that it was worth a try, and handed the axe over to Lia. Lia slipped the boomerang into her belt and grasped the handle of the axe with both hands. Hauling back, she aimed then struck the pillars dead on. There was a scraping sound of metal against stone, and Lia wobbled a bit. The impulse of her swing had traveled up her arms when she struck the pillars, and that shook her up slightly. Regaining her composure, she aimed and struck again. After the fourth hit, the pillars came tumbling down. Woozy, Lia handed the axe back to Janz, and borrowed the spear from him. Then she proceeded to impaled it into the ground and rested against it until her head stopped spinning. When Taba realized this, he was about to start laughing, but Janz cupped his hand over his mouth. The two of them waited until Lia felt that she could continue on, though Taba wasn't quite as patient as Janz was.

Behind the pillars was a staircase. Going down this, they came to another teleporter. After stepping on it, they found themselves on a small cliff, which was quite thin as well. Below them, Janz could see the section of the Haunted Forest where they had just been, with the teleporter that caused the ground to shake. At the end of the small path was a staircase that led to the lowest level of the area. A path headed east, then turned north, then headed west. At the top of the northern most reach of the path was another cliff with a staircase leading to the flattened top, but when Janz went up to check it out, he found that there was a large chasm between one section of the path and its continuation, and there was no bridge to cross over the gap. Janz came back down and ushered the others westwards. Not too long afterwards, they came to a rocky outcropping with a staircase carved into it, and a teleporter was located on the top.

By now, the three of them were getting weary at fighting off the Chobin Hoods, and they wondered when they would reach the castle. Lia kept them going though, at these times. The path the transporter led them to headed south for a long stretch. It turned east, then northeast. They came to a split in the path, but when they headed up the top path, they realized that a section of forest had just taken over a large clearing in the path. After the small circular area, the path headed south again, then west. A staircase led to a small cliff, and at the far end of the cliff was another teleporter. Taba groaned when he saw it.

"Another teleporter?" he asked. "I'm getting tired of these. How many are in here, for crying out loud?" Janz shook his head.

"I don't know. We're just going to have to keep using them until we get to the castle."

Stepping on to this transporter, however, took them to the castle. The castle section lay to the east, and walls bordered a small courtyard in front of it. It didn't have the open feeling of the Castle of Pandora, though. This had more of a feeling of oppression and fear. There was no way to enter the castle directly; the gate right in front of them was inaccessible. There was a path to the east, and the three of them followed that. Winding around the outside of the castle, they found they could enter the courtyard through an opening in the side wall. Again, they wound their way around the inside wall until they reached the front steps leading up to the castle doors.

They found themselves in a small, square shaped room when they entered. A door lay across from them, and a small, rectangular table sat in the center of the room. On two sides of the table were four chairs, two on each side. As they passed the table, Taba accidentally knocked into one of the chairs. To his surprise, the chair wobbled, then started moving about. It jumped towards Lia. She was so surprised at this, she didn't have time to defend herself against this attack. The thing knocked her to the ground. Janz grabbed it, and threw it back, then helped Lia to her feet.

"Yipes!" she exclaimed. "We're gonna have to watch ourselves here, if even inanimate objects can attack us! They must be under some sort of spell!" Janz nodded, but headed towards the door.

"We can't waste our time with these things. They're considerably slower than us. We can outrun them. Come on, Taba!"

Taba knocked the chair back, and followed the other two through the door. They followed the hallways of the castle, running into some very tough creatures. One of them was the wolf creature that had been harassing Lia when Janz and Taba found her. The other was the odd creature that Lia had spotted in the forest. It was a dull gray colour, with a short, stubby tube-like base, and a round knob on top. It was fixed in one spot, but it wasn't necessarily easy to get around. It could call up Chobin Hoods from nowhere. The most disgusting feature of this creature was that on one side of the roundish knob was a single eye, almost the size of the knob. The eye sometimes put out some weird beams. The three tried to stay away from those beams, but once when Lia was charging it, the beams caught her right in her chest. Lia immediately disappeared, much to Janz and Taba's fright. Then they noticed that there was something in her place. A small, teddy bear-like creature, with small pink wings on its back. Taba almost laughed out loud, despite the serious situation.

"I'll be," he said. "She's been turned into a Moogle!"

"A what?" asked a perplexed Janz.

"That's a Moogle," explained Taba, pointing at the bear creature that had scooted up behind Janz's legs. It was smaller than Taba. "Somehow that thing has turned Lia into a Moogle."

Janz frowned down as he looked at his small, transformed friend. "I hope it's not permanent. She's so helpless like this." Taba nodded, saddened.

No sooner than Janz had mentioned this, than the little Moogle quivered, and then was instantly replaced by Lia. Lia put a hand up to her head and stumbled around a bit, dizzily. Janz put out an arm to help steady her.

"Oh, geez," she exhaled. "That was weird. What was that thing called, again?"

"A Moogle," said Taba.

"Well, that... Moogle Maker is going to get it for changing me!"

With that, Lia jumped at the thing. "I, ah, don't think it's called a moogle maker, Lia," said Taba hesitantly.

"What difference does it make?" asked Lia.

"I think it's called an Eye Spy," continued Taba.

"Oh, Taba, give it a rest," said Lia wearily after she had destroyed the thing.

After heading down a twisting hall, the three of them came to a small gap in the floor. It was too large to jump, but there was a switch set into the floor, similar to the kind Janz had seen in the Water Palace. But nothing happened when he stepped onto it. There was a staircase opposite the gap, and they went down this.

The three found themselves in the castle dungeon. And inside the cells were the missing Pandoran soldiers. At first, the three were happy that they had found the soldiers, but then Lia and Janz realized that one was missing: Dyluck. Opening the cell gates, Lia questioned the soldiers.

"We've come to help!" said Janz.

"Where's Dyluck?" added Lia.

The soldier just looked at them blankly.

"What? Um... Maybe... with the witch?"

"It's hopeless," muttered Janz. "These guys seem like zombies."

"Just like in Pandora!" exclaimed Lia. "You can bet the witch is behind this!"

"Are you... goin' to... witch's lair?" stuttered the soldier. Janz, Lia and Taba immediately focused their attention on him. "Go up to... next floor. When three people step onto... platform... uh... bridge..." The soldier trailed off, but he had given them the information they needed.

"Come on, let's go see that platform!" shouted Janz, and ran up the stairs.

Back at the gap, all three of them stepped onto the switch in the floor. A bridge slid out from a slot under the floor and joined with the other section of the hallway, allowing Janz and his group access to another door.

Beyond the door there were two hallways, and two doors. The first one they took led to a dead end, and they had to exit through the door they had just come through, and wound their way back around to the other door. Through that door, their passage was blocked by a wall. There was a hallway heading up, and the three took it. It ended in a dead end, but there was a switch on the floor. When Janz stepped on it, all three heard a loud, grating sound. Returning to the main hallway, they found that the wall had slid back into a recess in the wall. Continuing on, they reached an open room filled with books. A table sat underneath a wooden platform, and it was covered with all sorts of beakers and chemicals. A small set of stairs led to the wooden platform. On that platform, in front of a door, was a very annoyed looking lady, dressed in a white robe and a pink coloured collar and a small pink hat. Her hair was a sort of light purplish colour. She was Elinee, the witch.

"Phew! What noisy little children! See what you get!" she was saying. Then she departed through the door. Lia charged up the stairs after her, and Janz and Taba followed close behind.

The passage led to a small courtyard-like area, filled with stone columns. It was in three levels. First there was a small, narrow passage. Then a small set of steps led to a wider, squarish area. On either side of this area were two raised platforms. They could see no visible means of reaching these platforms. In back of the square shaped area was a large gate that spanned the length and width of the back wall. Upon reaching the area, Lia let out a gasp and stopped short. When Janz and Taba caught up, they could see why Lia stopped. At the base of the steps was Elinee, her back turned to them, and at the top of the steps, in some sort of trance, was Dyluck.

"Is that the guy Lia's after?" whispered Taba to Janz. Janz just waved Taba off.

"Yes, quiet."

"Allow me the pleasure of sending you to Thanatos!" said Elinee to Dyluck, who just stood there. With that, Elinee made some violent hand gestures, and Dyluck vanished into thin air. Lia snapped out of her own little trance and shouted at Elinee.

"Dyluck!! Elinee, what have you done with him?"

Elinee turned around slowly and smiled an evil smile. "What have I done?" she repeated. "Well I just sent him to the ruins in Pandora. My magic doesn't seem to work on him too well and I couldn't handle him... But Thanatos wanted him, so I sent him there!"

Lia was about to jump out and strangle Elinee if she could, but Janz put out an arm to block her way. This sounds serious, gotta learn more about it, he thought.

"Thanatos?" he queried.

"The head of a secret organization that intends to overthrow the kingdom," replied Elinee. Lia drew herself up, but she wasn't going to fight. The information startled her, and Janz could guess why. The kingdom was her home, and that was a threat to her home. She was still upset over Dyluck, though.

"How could you!" asked Lia. There was no anger in her voice, just shock.

Elinee laughed. "He's already dispatched most of the people in Pandora." Janz and Lia looked at each other, and Taba looked up at the two of them.

"So it's this 'Thanatos' that's been draining the people's energy. Not Elinee, as we were told," whispered Taba.

"She still drained a lot of people's energy," whispered Lia harshly. Elinee continued her speech.

"All that's left is for Sir Thanatos to storm the castle from the ruins. Now..." she said, turning to leave, "won't you be so kind as to feed yourselves to my cute little Spikey!" Then Elinee herself disappeared, leaving the three of them all alone.

"What did she mean by feeding ourselves..." asked Taba nervously. He was answered very shortly. The gate on the far wall clanked up slowly, the grinding of its chains unnerving the three. If the grinding disturbed them, the menacing growling coming from the darkness nearly froze them in terror. A pair of gleaming eyes could be seen in the shadows. When the gate stopped rising, a huge, strongly muscled tiger came striding out. Its chest area was huge, and its fore and hind limbs immensely powerful. It was a tannish-yellow colour with black stripes along the contours of its body that rippled as its muscles contracted as it paced about. All along its back were some deadly looking spikes, each about six inches long. It had huge canines in its lower jaw that rose up to about its nose. It snuffed and snarled as it regarded the three quivering people in front of it.

Then it shot into lightning fast action as it jumped up in the air and landed in the midst of the three, sending them scattering. One swipe from its immense paw sent Janz flying to the opposite side of the room, and a kick from its hind leg bowled Lia over. Taba straightened himself up and nocked and arrow to his bow. Lia took the boomerang, and Janz readied himself with the spear.

The tiger jumped and landed on the higher platform. Janz stood and built up the power of his spear as Lia and Taba shot at the tiger. It jumped into the air after taking a direct hit, and Taba tried to shoot it while it was in the air. He nearly got Janz as he spun around to try and get the tiger.

"Hey, watch it, Taba!" shouted Janz, annoyed. Taba didn't have time to respond, for the tiger had launched a new attack. It curled up into a ball and went spinning about. Janz swung out with a power attack of level two with his spear, and Lia aimed the boomerang at it. Both managed to score direct hits. The tiger howled, then lowered his head abruptly and let out an eerie yowl. Before he knew what had happened, Taba found himself engulfed in flames.

"That thing had magical powers!" shouted Lia. "Janz, those herbs we picked up on our way here, do you still have them?" Janz remembered finding some odd herbs in some of the treasure chests the creatures had left behind in Gaia's Navel. He nodded. "Good," said Lia. "I think they're medical herbs. They should be able to stop this." Lia grabbed one out of his pack, then the two dodged the tiger that had come up behind them. While Janz distracted the tiger, Lia went up to the small, shaking little flame. Not knowing how to use it, Lia just threw the herb towards Taba. It broke apart and blue sparkles dropped down around Taba. Instantly the flames stopped, but Taba was terribly weak. Lia turned to attack the tiger, and found that Janz had been knocked senseless.

Taba took out a candy and gulped it down, and when Janz came to, he gave one to him as well. Lia took shot after shot at the tiger, but it wasn't seeming to have any effect. Taba joined in, and Janz checked their inventory. It wasn't entirely hopeful. They had four chocolates, but only two candies and two medical herbs. Janz wished that they had bought some Royal Jam, and at least one Cup of Wishes, before they had attacked this place, but it was too late for that now. He just had to make sure that when they were entering a potentially dangerous situation, that they had all the items that they could hold.

His attention was drawn back to the fight as he heard a yell. Lia was now a victim of the tiger's fire spell, but now that they knew what to do, Taba threw another herb at her. Janz leapt forwards at full strength, and a second later Taba joined him. The tiger swatted the two away, but that left him open for Lia to attack. All three were getting weak though. Taba was the weakest, so Janz pulled out a piece of chocolate for him. He and Lia didn't take any, though. Both agreed to save it until absolutely necessary.

Concentrating all their strength to fighting the tiger, Lia switched to the sword, and all three waited until their weapon level was at its greatest before attacking. It was risky business, because it left them open to attack. They were extremely weak, but all three let out one tremendous sigh as they saw it stop and turn red. They found out, much to their delight, that when they defeated the monster, their full strength was returned. Janz bent down to pick up the weapon orb, a look of happy exhaustion on his face. He turned to Lia.

"It's a Boomerang Orb," he said. "Put the boomerang to it." Lia did so, and let the Mana energy enter the small weapon. "Come on, let's go see if Elinee will undo the seal on the Underground Palace," said Janz. Taba nodded vigorously, and Lia agreed as well.

Back in the small room, they found Elinee hiding in a corner. "Shriek! Please forgive me!" she pleaded. Her form wavered, then her robes changed into a brown skirt and vest with a deep green sweater, and her hair turned into a light gray shade with just a tinge of pink, tied up in a bun. "Sorry... The magical herbs that grow in this forest have withered. I have been trading the villagers for Thanatos' herbs. From now on, I'll simply be a normal, elderly lady, and live peacefully," she said. "If you're looking for that other kid, he's at the ruins, south of Pandora." Elinee turned and pointed to the opposite side of the room. The three of them turned to look. Two treasure chests appeared. "You can take what's in the treasure chests. I don't need them anymore."

Janz went over and opened the treasure chests. One contained a fair amount of money. The other held a whip.

"Is it a Mana Weapon?" asked Lia. Elinee shrugged.

"We'll find out," said Janz. "Elinee, can you undo the seal on the Underground Palace?" he asked. Elinee put a finger to her chin.

"The orb in the Underground Palace? You need to use the magic of ice. But I don't have any magical power left. Except for enough to send you outside. Would you like me to?"

Janz looked at the other two and they nodded. "Sure," he said. "Thank you, Elinee."

"Of course," she said, and with a wave of her hands, Janz, Lia and Taba found themselves on the front steps.

"Dyluck is alive!" breathed Lia.

"Yes, but, how are we going to get into the Underground Palace? We don't have ice magic," complained Taba. "I guess you'll be heading off to find Dyluck."

Janz was about to comment, when he heard a voice inside his head. It was Luka's.

> >Janz... Can you hear me? Come immediately to the Water Palace! < <

The voice was urgent. "It's Luka!" Janz said.

"Who?" asked the other two in unison.

"NOW what's the matter?" Janz wondered. He turned to his new friends sadly. "I I've got to go..." he started. He felt sad because he believed that this was where they went their separate ways. He was in for a surprise.

"I'm going too!" declared Lia. "I'm worried about Dyluck, but I can't save him alone. I'll go with you! In return, you can help rescue Dyluck."

"Yippee!" shouted Taba. "I'm coming along! You can count on me!"

Janz smiled. "Thanks. Thanks a lot. Now let's get to the Water Palace. Luka called out to me and asked me to come. It sounded urgent. We'd better hurry."

"Where is the Water Palace?" asked Lia.

"Above Pandora."

Lia groaned. "It'll take the rest of the day to get there. We can't see the sun in this forest, but I know that at least half the day has passed since we came in here. How are we going to get there in a hurry?"

Janz thought about that for a moment. "When I first arrived at the Water Palace, I met Dyluck and his squad. They said they could use a shortcut if they had a whip. We have a whip now, so maybe we can use the shortcut."

"Great," said Taba. "But where is it?"

"I'll bet it's that chasm we passed on the way here. Let's go see."

The three headed off. Janz used the whip on the creatures that came in his path. It was an odd weapon, and it took him a while to get used to the snapping motion of it. When they came to the chasm, Janz noticed poles on either side of the gap. Standing on the edge, Janz told the other two to get close and hold onto him. Flinging the whip out, it took him a couple tries to snag the pole on the opposite side. Pulling the whip taunt, he gave on strong jerk to tighten it more, and jumped as the elasticity of the whip pulled the group over the gap.

It was an odd feeling, and their landing was anything but graceful, but they managed to get across the chasm. The small cliff side ended with another teleporter, and the three of them stepped onto this. They blinked at the bright sunlight suddenly hitting their eyes. Janz saw that they were at the triangle of three pillars where he had seen Dyluck's troop disappear. He ran up the path headed north, and up the steps to the Water Palace. Lia and Taba hung back a while to take in the grandeur of the Water Palace, then followed Janz inside.

At the seed stage, the three of them found a very upset Luka. She looked at Lia and Taba as they arrived, and Janz gave a brief introduction.

Luka quickly got to the point. "Undine, the Elemental of Water, lives in a cave behind a waterfall. It's east of the steps leading to this palace. You've got to find her! Her seal on this palace has failed, and I fear she is in great danger!"

"We'll get on it right away, Luka!" said Janz, then turned and headed down the steps.

Taba turned to Janz as they exited the palace. "She's nice, but why'd you agree to help so fast?"

Janz looked at him. "She is a very wise sage, and she told me a lot about my Mana Sword and my mission. Besides, she's my friend. If her friend is in danger, then I'll want to help, no matter what."

"That's admirable," said Lia. "So let's help her friend, fast!"

They walked along the lake to the east. They came upon the high cliff side that separated the Great Forest from the lands below it. A waterfall was coming over from a lake up top, and emptying into this lake. Behind the waterfall, the three of them could see a cave. There were fish in the water, and they spat up water at the three of them. Taking up their weapons, they fought the fish off.

"These are called Iffish," said Taba as he finished one off.

"Do we care?" muttered Lia towards Janz. Janz just shrugged and headed into the cave. It opened into a small recess, with another opening further on. Iffish were in this cave, too, and the three had a doozy of a time fighting them off. Entering into the next cave, they found a large open area of dry land surrounded by water. There was no other exit that they could see, and more importantly, no sign of Undine, whatever she looked like.

In the center of the dry area, there was an odd, medium-sized egg-like thing. It was a pinkish sort of colour. "What the..." muttered Janz. The egg shook, and a creature popped out. It was a roundish shape, pink in colour on the top, and whitish on the bottom. It had a medium sized flat tail in the back, and two small flippers at the front. It had two small eyes right in front and a small mouth, bent up in a smile. It hopped and flopped around.

The three started to attack this creature. Taba identified it as being called "Tonpole". It didn't put up much of a fight. However, just when they thought they had it, its form wavered, and it changed. It turned into a kind of lizard. It was bluish in colour, with a pinkish chest, and yellowish coloured plate-like things on its head. Its head was quite large, and the rest of its body was quite small in comparison. They soon learned the reason for this, much to their dislike.

It shot out an incredibly long tongue that wrapped around Taba. Then the lizard swallowed him. Shocked, Janz and Lia attacked the lizard. It quickly spit Taba out.

"Guh, guh, euuuu..." groaned Taba. "Sick! It wasn't going to eat me, but that was just as bad. I think it's called a Biting Lizard."

"Well," said Janz, "it's dead, whatever it is. Just keep hitting it guys. And stay away from that mouth!"

"Gahh!" shrieked Lia as the tongue grabbed her and pulled her in. The Biting Lizard released her after a second. "Ugh! That's easier said than done, Janz!"

Fortunately, the tongue attack seemed to be its only form of attack. It wasn't an easy opponent though, as they found out. It had a magic power as well, though it could only cast spells upon itself, but that was enough. Whenever it got weak, it cast a healing spell that returned its strength. The three of them had to keep hitting it continuously, so its spells didn't have much effect. At one point, it collapsed over onto the ground and disappeared. They were expecting a sneak attack, until Taba spotted the weapon orb and money that it left behind. They also noticed that a cave had opened up behind them. Picking up the weapon orb, they found it to be a Glove Orb.

Entering the new cave, they found themselves on a dry stretch of land, which was bordered on the three other sides by water. Coming to the edge of the dry land, they looked into the water. To their surprise, it started to swirl around. Even more surprising was that it started to head upwards in a cone shape, still swirling around. The upside- down whirlpool picked up speed, then broke apart. Inside the cone was a creature, floating in midair. The three immediately realized that it must be Undine.

She was a small little thing. He was humanish from the chest up, but from the chest down she had the tail of a fish. There was a literally heart-shaped outfit on her chest. It was a deep blue colour; the same deep blue colour as the fin on the end of her tail. There was a series of a tannish-orange coloured plates down the front, center of her tail, that decreased in size as they neared the end of her tail, and the rest of her tail was an aquamarine colour. She had an oval, little face, with big, bright blue eyes. She had a small, little mouth that was turned up in a smile. Her skin was a very light bluish colour, but it wasn't a sickly colour, though. Her ears were an oddity. They resembled little webbed wings. It was roughly a triangular shape, the wider base sticking out. The thicker part of the ears framed the top and bottom of the ear, and also went through the center, and they were the same light blue as her skin, and the thin "webbing" in between the thicker parts of her ears were a light green. On her forehead, right above and between her two eyes, was a diamond shaped, light green object. Her bangs fell to either side of this. Her hair was the same shade of blue as her heart-shaped chest piece. It was long, and fell to where her knees would be if she was human, and it was tied by her neck with a small, golden band. She had a similar bracelet on her right wrist. It was a pretty wide strip of metal, with large ovals lined all along the length of the bracelet, just a little smaller than the width of the bracelet. In the spaces between the ovals curved tops and bottoms of the ovals were small circles. There was a thin band bordering the two openings of the bracelet. She held a thin, blue-green coloured staff with a winder, cylindrical knob at the top in her left hand. She was actually quite cute looking, all in all.

"Thank you! I am Undine," she said. "My power is your reward. I'll give you two kinds of magic. Lia can use my recovery and defense magic. Taba can use my battle magic."

Undine waved her staff, and a jet of water rose up and circled around Lia and Taba. Janz looked at them, then turned to Undine.

"And me?" he asked.

"Your Mana Sword will one day become more powerful than any magic," explained Undine. "You can receive an Elemental's power, such as Ice Saber, on your sword. Lia can cast Ice Saber on your weapons to turn enemies into snowmen! And this! Take this with you."

Undine raised her right hand, and a long pole with a small, thin blade on one end and a red ribbon tied to it rose from the water into her outstretched hand. It looked considerably lighter than the spear. Undine tossed it to Janz.

"This is a javelin," said Undine. "It is one of the Mana Weapons. Call me anytime!" With that, she disappeared in a swirl of water.

Taba puffed himself up. "No one can stop me now," he bragged.

Janz smiled and tossed the javelin to Lia. "Eight Mana Weapons," he counted. "That's quite a bit. Let's go tell Luka Undine's okay."

"Fine," said Lia. "We can practice our magic on the way. I've done a personal check on my magic powers, and they aren't that strong. If Taba's spells are anything like mine, he'll understand what I'm saying. Each spell requires a certain amount of magic points, and I don't have very many. What about you, Taba?"

"It's the same thing," said Taba. "I don't have very many magic points."

"Well, let's go talk to Luka," Janz said, and headed out of the cave. When the Iffish started to attack, Taba tried out his new power.

"Undine!" he shouted. "Freeze!"

A drop of water appeared in the sky above them, and disappeared as if it landed in a pool of water. The rebounding droplets suddenly turned into the small form of Undine, who waved her staff down and lengthwise across her body. Then she disappeared, and in her place, small balls of ice appeared and hit the Iffish that Taba had selected out. This all happened very fast, but they were able to see everything. Taba tried another spell of his.

"Undine-Acid Storm!" he cried, stepping back with his left foot and thrusting his arms forwards. The actions were unnecessary, the Elemental would have reacted if Taba had not moved an inch, but the movement seemed to make the spell that much more whole. The spell started up the same as before, but instead of balls of ice, an acidic rain fell on the fish. That finished the Iffish off. Lia finished off another with the javelin, and Janz finished off the last with the whip.

"My turn!" shouted Lia. Raising her hands, she called out: "Undine-Cure Water!" The form of Undine appeared again, and a large drop of water hit Lia square on the head. She was surprised, but it was not a wet feeling. Instead, it was a good feeling as she felt her strength returning. She repeated the spell twice; once for Janz and once for Taba. Then she tried out the Ice Saber spell on Janz. Three small, white "sparkles" entered his body, and then his whole body turned blue, as it did when the Cure Water spell occurred, and four, small little forms of swords circled his body then vanished. When he looked at the whip, he found it was a frosty white colour. Exiting the cave, Janz struck out at a Iffish. All three had a good, hard laugh at the result.

The Iffish turned into a snowman, literally! One large ball of snow with three little lumps of coal in a vertical line, and a smaller ball of snow on top of that with two lumps of coal as eyes and a long, carrot nose. The three of them were laughing so hard they almost forgot about the other Iffish in the area. Taba practiced more of his spells until he was out of magic points. Lia and Taba both found out that they each had three spells they could call up. Taba's third spell was called "Energy Absorb", which transferred some of the enemy's strength to him. Lia's third spell was called "Remedy". She was able to practice with this spell alone until her magic points were exhausted because it only required one magic point. The spell cured people of poison, if any of the group had been poisoned.

When they got back to the Water Palace, they went up to inform Luka that Undine was okay. Taba asked if the ice spell he had could work on the orb in the Underground Palace. Luka nodded.

"Yes, you can use Undine's power to stop the lava in the Underground Palace. Crystal Orbs are made to respond or react to an Elemental's power."

"What about our spells?" asked Lia. "Can you tell us anything about them?"

"Just as your weapons can increase in power, so too do your spells. The maximum level of power that your spell can reach is determined by how many Mana Seeds that you have sealed."

"So the maximum level their spells can reach is level eight, since that's how many Mana Seeds there are," Janz reasoned.

"Yes," said Luka. "I believe that the maximum power your weapons can reach is eight as well. I'll restore you," said Luka, raising her hands. Again, Janz felt the flow of strength through him as once before, but it was a new feeling for Lia and Taba. Then Lia let out a shout.

"Hey! My magic points are returned!" she yelped.

"Mine too," added Taba.

"My power can return your magical strength as well as your physical strength," explained Luka. "The same thing happens when you sleep. Now go to the Underground Palace and seal its seed!"

Janz nodded, then started down the steps. Lia and Taba followed.

"I think it's best if we work on increasing our skill level. You two can work on raising your magic level, and we can all work on bringing the whip and javelin up to power level one. When we reach Gaia's Navel, we can reforge the boomerang, and work that up, too."

Taba and Lia both agreed. The rest of the day was spent building up their experience levels. When Taba and Lia exhausted their magic points, they wondered how they would gain them back, other than going to Luka or sleeping all of the time. They found the answer at Neko's shop. He had an item there called a Faerie Walnut. When eaten, it brought back their magic points. With some extra money, even though the Faerie Walnuts were quite expensive and he could only afford one, Janz also purchased some Royal Jam and a Cup of Wishes while they were there. Lia and Taba moved some of the items Janz was carrying into their own pockets because Janz's pack was getting crowded and heavy. By the end of the day, Lia and Taba had both brought their magic level up to one, and the whip was at level one for everyone, and they were working with the javelin and bringing the boomerang to level two, which was now called the Chakram. It was a light blue coloured, flat, metal disk with serrated edges. They found out the magical quality of the javelin while they were fighting. As with the bow never running out of arrows, and the boomerang always returning to the sender, the javelin, once it landed, disappeared from where and what it hit, and returned to its thrower. When dusk fell, they found themselves in Pandora. Lia was a little hesitant to spend the night there, but preferred the inn to her home.

The three headed out for the Dwarf Village at the crack of dawn. The forest path was cool in the early morning, and it was a pleasant walk to the caves. Entering the Dwarf Village through Watts' entrance, they stocked up on some extra recovery items, then entered the small cave. The orb was still on the raised section of earth, glowing faintly in the dimly lit cave. The hot lava still bubbled, blocking the entrance to the Underground Palace. Lia shivered despite the warm interior of the cave.

"Taba, cast your spell and let's get out of here as fast as we can," she said. Taba nodded and approached the orb.

"Undine-Freeze!" he shouted. The ice balls assaulted the orb, which then disappeared along with the restricting lava river. Taba jumped up. "Yeah!" he cheered. "We're on our way to get my memory back!" he sung out. Janz suppressed a giggle.

"Come on. Let's seal that seed." There was another cave opening, and the three of them entered it. They immediately found themselves in a palace, similar in construction to the Water Palace, but with evident differences too.

The first room's walls were set up in a sort of zig-zag pattern, coming together at the northern end, and they all had stained glass windows set up in them. Torches of similar design to those in the Water Palace were set up along the path, and also on the path were a couple goblins. They were a little stronger that those found in the caves above, and one type was able to summon other goblins. This made progress slow, and it weakened the three fighting them.

"Maybe we're not strong enough," called out Lia. "Maybe we should go increase our skill levels more."

"No way!" snapped Taba. "We keep going on until we seal that seed."

"We'll see..." was all Janz said, and rushed out the door into the hallway beyond. Lia and Taba followed.

The hallway was large and stretched from left to right. A staircase that lay directly in front of them was blocked by a large torch, and as much as Janz, Lia and Taba pushed and pulled, they couldn't move it.

"Maybe... maybe there's something further on," panted Janz. Heading west down to the end of the hall, the three came to a door on the southern wall. Going through it, they found themselves in a thin corridor. At the end of it was a small floor switch. Stepping on it didn't seem to have any immediate effect, but a faint clanging sound was heard. Returning to the main hall, the three ran to the opposite end of the hall and went through another door on the south side. Again, there was the floor switch, and a faint clanging sound after it was activated. Returning again to the main hall, they found that the large torch had disappeared, and the path to the steps was clear. Going up them, they found a large gap in the floor ahead of them. There was a switch on the floor, and pressing it extended a bridge over the gap. Going through a set of doors, the three made their way along a darkened hall that was shaped basically like a 'C'. At the other end of this corridor was another door, and in the hall beyond was another gap. This time, there were crossing poles that they snagged with the whip to get across. The hallway then turned north after this. At the end of the long stretch was another staircase, and the three climbed up it. There was a small room, then a box-like room with a projection from the northern wall straight down the center. A door to the left of this on the northern wall led to another long hallway and another staircase.

Maneuvering their way through this was not easy. There were all sorts of dangerous monsters in the Underground Palace. The three were besieged with goblins, Green Drops (the same, orb-like creatures in the caves above) and odd creatures called Chess Knights. They were built like columns, but they had the head of a horse. They had a very strong dashing attack. The three found that the best method of attack would be to fully charge up their weapons and then attack.

Going up the third staircase, they were tired, but they could tell that they were close. "This is the stage room..." breathed Janz tiredly. Before they could go through the doors, a small being suddenly popped up from out of nowhere. He was vaguely human, although very small; smaller than Taba. He was dressed in a simple brown shirt and pants, with long, reddish brown shoes and a green pointed hat with a cream coloured pom-pom on the tip. The brim of his hat came over his dusty blue eyes, his ears were pointed, and he had a long, yellowish beard.

"Hey!" he was shouting. "You can't barge in here! We gnomes won't allow it!"

"What a windbag!" grumbled Taba.

"Little brat!" snapped the gnome.

"Take this!" shouted Taba, hitting the gnome lightly with his weapon.

"This is an outrage!" exclaimed the gnome angrily. Suddenly the whole palace started to shake, and the gnome looked around nervously. "Oh, oh... I'm out of here!" With that, the gnome disappeared.

"Look! Back there!" shouted Lia, pointing to the room beyond. The three rushed into that room and came face to face with a giant creature: another boss monster. This creature was a biped, with strong, short legs and huge, muscled arms. Its hands were more like claws, and its head was bald and oval shaped, with pointed ears and bushy eyebrows, mustache and beard, and it had fangs instead of teeth. The three got ready to fight this creature, but before they could strike it let out a howl, and Janz learned painfully that it had fire magic on its side.

"What is that thing?!" shouted Lia.

"I dunno. I can find out by casting a spell, though. And it's good that we have Undine's magic, because it would be hard otherwise," Taba responded.

Lia nodded. "You attack, and I'll help Janz." Taba nodded, then turned towards the creature. At the same time, Lia turned towards Janz.


"Undine-Remedy!" they both shouted at once. Then the monster howled as Taba's freeze spell took effect, and the flames that had engulfed Janz were doused. Janz stumbled a bit before regaining his balance.

"What is that?" he asked. Taba dodged a swipe by the creature before responding.

"It's called Fire Gigas. Undine-Freeze!"

The Fire Gigas stopped in his tracks again as the spell took effect, and Janz and Lia struck at him with their weapons.

"I have an idea!" shouted Lia. "Undine-Ice Saber!" She stopped as she shouted this and concentrated. The spell then reached all of them and frosted up their weapons.

"Great idea, Lia. How'd you cast the spell on all of us, though?"

Lia shrugged. I dunno. I just thought about it, and it happened."

"Maybe all you have to do is think about casting a spell, and it'll happen," said Taba. "I hope that's true. It'll save our voices if it does, but I'm not about to try that out now."

Just before Lia was about to deliver a blow to the creature, it suddenly disappeared. There were small, circular, "sparkles" that floated around the room, and the three found that they couldn't affect it at all. It gave them a chance to recoup, however. The Fire Gigas didn't stay insubstantial for long. Soon it regained its original form and started attacking the three again.

"This is getting tiring!" shouted Taba. "And I'm running out of magic points again, and we only have one Faerie Walnut left!

"Then we'll have to concentrate on weapons for a while," said Janz.

"Fine! Just let me use up my remaining magic points then," muttered Taba, and cast one freeze spell after another. Lia paused in her attack for a moment.

"I didn't know you could cast those spells so quickly," she observed.

"Neither could I," admitted Taba. "But I can..."

Finally, the Fire Gigas roared his last, and disappeared into nothingness, this time, permanently. Janz leaned over and picked up the weapon orb that the boss had left behind.

"An axe orb," he told the others, and let the axe absorb its power. All of a sudden, the gnome reappeared, much more pleasant this time.

"Phew! Thanks! That oaf was always bugging me," he explained. "Forgive me. I used you to get some relief." Taba was a bit upset.

"Dolt!" he snapped. "Serve me and maybe I'll forgive you. Otherwise, I'll throw you to my servant, Janz."

That worried the gnome. "Aieeee! No! Let me be your servant!"

Janz wasn't too thrilled at what Taba had said. "Hey! Who're you calling a servant?!"

"Oh dear," mumbled the gnome. "Anyway, call me anywhere. Now, close your eyes..." Taba and Lia both felt the magic of the gnome fill them. "Both you and your wife may summon me.

"WHAT?! Me married to... that?!" shouted Lia indignantly. She turned around and crossed her arms in a pout. Taba snickered.

"I like your style, gnome," he said.

"Well, that's that! Be seeing you!" And with that, the gnome was gone, and the way to the seed stage was clear. Janz quickly rushed up the steps and held up the sword to the seed. It rose a couple of feet into the air, and a brownish glow filled the room. The sight took Lia and Taba's breath away, who had come up behind Janz. The seed settled back into its niche, and Janz and Lia stepped down from the stage. Taba hesitated at the seed.

"Hey, Taba!" said Janz. "Come on. We've got the power of the second seed now, so let's head back."

"Yeah," agreed Lia. "I need to rest! I don't care if it's daytime or not!"

Taba looked down, then turned back to the seed and touched it. Then he let out a moan and dropped down the steps to the floor. Janz and Lia leaned over him.

"Owww...! My head...." he mumbled.

"You okay?" asked Lia.

"..... Oh!..."

"What's wrong?" queried Janz, concerned for his small friend. Taba then gave a huge grin and jumped up.

"Whew! I can remember everything now! We live in the Upper Land Forest! You've got to take me there! I'll let you hang out with me until we arrive!"

"What a treat," muttered Janz, still a bit upset over what Taba had called him earlier.

The three made their way back to the Dwarf Village through the Underground Palace. Now that the boss monster had been defeated, all the monsters were gone, and it was easy going. Once at the village, they got Watts to reforge the axe. It became the Lode Axe, which was a shaft of steel with a circular hand guard that spread out from the base of the shaft that the axe head was on until it was slightly wider than fist-sized, with a white, leather wrapping around the grip and a pommel slightly larger than the width of the shaft. The axe head was bolted to the shaft and fanned out at the cutting edge. It was about the same length as it was before, though. The three then left Gaia's Navel, and found that it was around midday. Lia and Taba wanted to collect more Faerie Walnuts, and only Neko had them. Lia practiced her Gnome spells until she was out of magic points, and Taba had to wait until he could regain his before he could practice, and that angered him. Janz suggested going to see Luka while they were there, and she could return their magic points without having to use up any Faerie Walnuts or sleeping through the day to regain them. Lia and Taba agreed, so the three headed off for the Water Palace.

At the Water Palace, they found a very distraught Luka. She returned their strength and magic points, and then told the three what she was so concerned about.

"Jema has not returned from Pandora yet. Something must have happened to him!"

"We're going there right now," said Lia. "We'll look for him while we're there."

Luka nodded graciously. "Thank you," she said.

Back on the path to Pandora, Taba turned to Lia. "I thought you didn't want to return to Pandora. Why the change of heart?"

Lia looked down at him. "Elinee said that she sent Dyluck here. All I want to do is to find him. If Janz's friend is here, then it's just something I can do along the way."

Janz sighed inwardly and looked up into the sky. Oh gee, thanks, he muttered to himself.

Along the way, Taba and Lia practiced their spells while they all practiced with the weapons. They found that it was getting easier and easier to defeat these creatures; usually all they needed was one blow to do the job. The three backtracked many times until they had brought up all their weapon levels and were out of magic points.

In Pandora, after they had slept for the night to regain their strength and magic points, the three headed up to the throne room of the Pandoran Castle. This is where Jema had been before, and if he was still in Pandora, this was where he probably was. He wasn't though. The king was still as distraught as ever.

"This is a nightmare!" he was moaning. "The people are acting like zombies!" The king suddenly stood up. "Oh, I have a headache! I'm going back to my room for a nap!" With that, the king shuffled off to a door in the upper left-hand corner of the room, the queen following close behind.

"Oh dear... Why don't you try to calm down a bit?" she was calling after him. Cautiously, Janz, Lia and Taba followed the king into his quarters. They had to find out if Jema had returned to the castle. The king was pacing along nervously in front of his great bed.

"This is a tragedy!" he was saying. "We absolutely cannot allow the Empire to invade at a time like this!"

Janz stepped back. This was not a time to concern the king about Jema, he could tell that. Maybe one of the other people here has seen him, thought Janz.

There was a maid standing by a desk on the side of the room nearest the door. She hadn't seen Jema, but it was the first time she had ever seen the king looking so troubled. There was a guard standing by a staircase leading to a lower floor that was situated by the door. When Taba asked him where the staircase went, the guard told them that it led to the treasure house, and that he was guarding the objects inside for the knight of the legend.

The three then left the Pandoran Castle. It had become obvious that Jema had not shown up at the castle.

"Perhaps he's still at the ruins?" supplied Taba. Janz nodded.

"Then let's go!" shouted Lia. She dashed off, then slowed down as she heard someone call her name. It was Phanna's grandfather who had called out to Lia, and she went over to him with Janz and Taba following close behind.

"This is the pits!" he was saying. "Both Grandma and Phanna are gone! Could they be at the ruins? Have you seen them?" he asked. Lia shook her head.

"No, I haven't seen them, but I'll check it out for you. I was going to the ruins anyway," said Lia.

"Well, you be careful," warned Phanna's granddad. Lia nodded, then turned to the southern exit of Pandora.

That's where they found Phanna, standing around in a daze like all the other people. Lia rushed up to her.

"Huh? Phanna! What's the matter?" she asked, her voice full of concern. Phanna said nothing and just stared off into space. Then, in the blink of an eye, she vanished from sight. The three all jumped back a foot in surprise.

"She disappeared!" exclaimed Janz. "Let's go check out the ruins down there."

previous chapter author's index main index