Disclaimer: I don't own Seiken Densetsu, Heroes of Mana, or the characters within. I am merely a recreational user.

Good Morning! This story is a prequel to my Seiken Densetsu 3 novelization, "Dark and Light". Here, the events of some years before SD3 are covered, involving the actions of Valda, Richard, and others, and how they led to SD3. This one is a bit shorter and less involved, and there is only one POV (Valda, obviously).

I add a lot of background to my stories. The background to this story is actually contained in the last chapter (the history book), so you may or may want to read that chapter first. No spoilers. Additional information on changes I made are in the introduction to "Dark and Light".

NOT BASED ON HEROES OF MANA! Which is the prequel released for Nintendo DS. Which I don't even HAVE. They CHEATED, the game is Warcraft-style, not an RPG. I do use some names from it, but generally I defer to names and plot from the SD3 ROM. Why? Because a group of fans took the time to translate the game for us, and Squaresoft still won't publish it in any version. Score: Neill Corlett -1, Square - 0. BOOOO!! Ahem.

--

1. PRINCESS OF REASON

Princess Valda stood before the Mana Stone of Ice uncertainly. Of all the things to do on her seventeenth birthday, this would not have been her first choice.

But the Goddess had made it that way, when her mother left for the Holyland seven years before, leaving Valda's father to assume the regency until this day. It was fortunate her mother had been married, unlike many Altenan queens; she had found among her consorts a man who she liked enough, and more importantly was intelligent enough, to marry after he had fathered the Crown Princess. Despite taking on the regency, Kayen was all too happy to hand the rule of Altena to her now. She suspected he would never have advanced from Sorcerer to Archmage had he really had a choice in the matter.

Valda was finally of age, but there was no way she could ascend the throne without at least the first Gift of Mana. As it was, this would only be her "primary" coronation. The final coronation could not occur until the second Gift was received, and that would be some time off for her, young as she was. The rest of the world, not mindful of the distinction, would call her "Queen" from now on, but most of Altena would refer to her as "Princess" for a while yet.

She looked at the small gathered party. Her father. Her advisors, her friends, a couple of her current consorts. None, fortunately, foolish enough to think they were candidates for marriage.

Uncertainty stopped her for a moment. Valda looked the part of the queen, clad in fine blue silk that molded itself to her body to complement the violet hair that fell starkly almost to her knees. She might have expected a small nod of encouragement from her father, but he would no longer tell her what to do, even in this. She was frightened, the more so after being told for so long how great her magical potential was. But Valda rarely allowed her emotions to cross her face, and her fear did not show to the waiting guests as she stepped up to the Stone.

--

The light swallowed her, blinding her completely, for what seemed to be forever. Valda knew her choice already, but surely there must be more to it than this?

When the darkness started to appear, it was almost a relief from the monotony of the light.

She watched the darkness twist between the light, the dark spots growing bigger and bigger, yet the light never diminished completely. Between the two, she felt Mana, the force keeping the two in balance, yet eternally opposite. Without Mana, there would be no distinction, no order, no life.

She could not see herself here, but she was not alone. Turning to her left - how did she turn, without a body? - there was Undine, the water elemental, the blue mermaid she had seen in her prayers and dreams. Never this close, but even here, the Elemental seemed no more substantial even if more present.

"Do you understand?" Undine asked Valda, the Elemental's voice trickling into her nonexistent ears like a peaceful babbling brook.

"Yes," the new Queen of Reason replied. "Dark and Light, both sacred, both necessary." She had thought the topic through herself, many times, but seeing it like this made it clear as still water.

"And you will need to understand that structure to advance your magic powers as a Sorceress. It was hard to show you the things you needed to know, the determined way you came here. You already knew exactly what you wanted. Most give even a split second to the other choice, but you never even considered it. Why?"

"There is no choice. It is too dangerous, for a Queen with no heir. Altena cannot risk losing me." Valda had reasoned it out, weeks ago, but the decision was not hard.

"You wear the title Queen of Reason well, Valda." And Undine was gone.

Valda was still glowing with pride when they set the crown on her head that evening. If the Elemental had faith in her, perhaps she was ready to be Queen after all.

--

The young Sorceress-Queen found responsibility calling her sooner than she knew, the next year, as the Beast Kingdom, its borders not yet completely established, attacked Forcena.

The situation was all very strange. The beastmen were forest-dwellers, why would they attack the grasslands country? And why would a new kingdom attack one as old and well-defended as Forcena? She would have expected them to head for Wendel, if anything. None of it made sense.

But nevertheless, a conflict like this was not something the powerful nation of Altena could ignore. And thus, Valda found herself landing with a contingent mage-soldiers in the hills of Forcena, some distance away so the secrets of their airship would not be revealed. Some things had to stay within Altenan borders.

She was surprised by the man who greeted her at the gates to Forcena.

She had only a bare minute to contemplate him as a regular man before the formal introductions were made. The leader smiled charmingly, obviously aware of the effect his blond good looks had, even had he not been a Prince. As tall as Valda was, he was several inches taller, and his finely shaped muscles matched features that could have been sculpted from marble. Richard of Forcena looked the part of both a Knight and a Prince.

His brown eyes sparkled with a flirtatiousness that was probably as natural as he breathed. Valda met his eyes, but allowed no expression to show; she did not flirt back, nor did she give him the keep-away signal. She merely ignored for the moment what his eyes suggested; she was a queen first, after all.

Patiently waiting for the proper forms to be observed - her long list of titles, and the equally long list that followed Richard's name - Valda was finally able to step forward, into the castle of Forcena.

"Welcome, Queen Valda," Richard greeted her warmly, genuinely, kissing her hand with a full-blown version of the knightly chivalry that Forcena was known for. Offering her his arm, he escorted her through the castle to a meeting room. Valda dismissed all but her highest officers, and Richard followed suit.

As soon as the door closed, though, Richard lost his aura of jovial hospitality, and became a serious ruler once again.

"I apologize for the King not attending in person, your Majesty," he said, addressing Valda but indicating the response for her companions as well. "My father is quite old and increasingly sick, but I assure you, I am quite qualified to take control of this situation, having trained as a Knight along with the other Forcenans, and being well educated in the arts of war."

Valda listened to him, sensing that underneath that brazen confidence was a thin vein of fear. She did not draw attention to it, with either words or demeanor; the most important thing was that he covered it well enough to present to both her troops and his own. It was her job to cover that fear as well. The fact that he knew what to hide and what to show spoke much for his cleverness. As she listened to his words, she thought to herself that he would take over his father's throne as a wise and skillful ruler.

Finally, the monarchs gave the order to dismiss, Richard using the formal words, Valda giving only the slightest nod. As her sorceresses and sorcerers got up to leave, she rose to approach the Prince of Forcena, her blue silk skirts brushing the table as she walked.

The Prince looked at her with restrained interest, his expression well covering the discomfort he had been holding in for the last hour. "Your Majesty," was all he said.

"Queen Valda, will be adequate, if we are to achieve alliance," the Sorceress replied. Despite the excursion into informality, Valda maintained a regal tone. She had an image, and the reputation of her country to uphold, and over the past year she had started to realize how much of herself by necessity remained hidden in that process.

"Queen Valda, then," he agreed, his eyes still questioning. "And you may call me Prince Richard."

She decided to skip to the point. "You left out a lot out to protect your troops."

"Whatever do you mean?" he asked, cautiously.

"You covered all the technicalities. The possibilities, the strategies, like the game that warfare can be likened to. But you skipped over the whys. Why the beastmen are here, what do they want."

"And there is something you are afraid of," she finished.

Richard looked down at her. Not in a degrading way; he was much taller, and Valda strained to meet his eyes. "They call you 'Queen of Reason', for a reason, apparently," he conceded. "But the questions you are asking should be addressed more privately. Perhaps later tonight?"

--

Valda reminded herself that she was here as a head of state, but somehow, not even the servants flocking around the table could make her feel like anything but an eighteen-year-old woman in the private chambers of the twenty-five-year-old Prince of Forcena.

Fortunately, despite the slightly suggestive setting, Richard maintained a dignified distance, as they discussed the matter at hand.

"The Beast Kingdom has been content to stay in the background for the last twenty years, as they formed their kingdom," Richard began. "But now they seem ever more power hungry, ever more eager to expand their territory."

"Perhaps not surprising, given the persecution they have suffered," Valda observed. Despite the humanitarian efforts of Wendel, most common people scorned the Beastmen, and they had been driven from nearly every town where they tried to coexist with humans.

"But they have always been tribal groups until now."

"History remembers when Navarre, Rolante, and even Forcena were once the same, when Pedan and the Ancient City of Light ruled this world."

"And of course, not Altena?" Richard put teasing into his tone. Of course, he was well educated; he would have known that Altena had grown out of Pedan, so many centuries ago.

"But what, then, turns Ferolia into a kingdom now?"

"The same thing as all the others. A leader. Gauser, his name is, though apparently he is only referred to as the Beast King, just as the kingdom is rarely called Ferolia. An intelligent, rational Beastman, who has been to Rolante and Wendel, as well as Forcena."

"You speak as if you know him," commented Valda.

"I do," Richard replied.

For the first time since entering Forcena, Valda allowed surprise to touch her face. She left the expression at that, and waited for Richard to resume.

"Gauser is perhaps fifteen, sixteen years older than I myself," Richard finally spoke. "It was probably twenty-four years ago that he gained acceptance to study in Forcena. I, of course, was only a baby, but my father told me how he absorbed the information of our libraries and scholars even as he scorned our fighting techniques, dismissing them as clumsy and slow. My father considered him to be something of a protégé, and Gauser continued to visit, the last time being when I was twelve."

"Shortly after that, Ferolia declared itself a kingdom, and now they attack us. It's the way of nations."

"An intelligent leader," Valda mused. Despite her education, she herself found it hard to dismiss the notion of beastmen as ignorant animals. "That changes many things."