A/N: So, I've decided that I wanted to write a story for Sword of Mana. I was real disappointed when I went searching for Sword of Mana stories, but found only two—so I figured I'd write my own. It's a novelization of the game, but it's way different than the actual game. The game has a lot of plotholes story-wise, so I've changed some things, added some, and even removed some, so that it would seem somewhat more realistic. I'll stick as close to the original plot, though, and maybe even add some to it.

The hero's name is Kevin, and the heroine is Abby. I don't know if they have any official names that aren't used in the game, but these are the ones that I always use when playing it. Willy's personality's gonna be completely changed, 'cause I didn't like his character in the game. The hero might be changed to have a more cocky attitude, so that he doesn't seem like too much of a goodie-two-shoes. Everyone else is staying the same, though. Or at least, as close to the same as I can possibly get without making them seem Mary-Sue-ish.

The first few chapters are gonna be awkward, because I need to introduce the characters and explain how my version of the world of Sword of Mana works. I'm gonna twist the Sword of Mana universe so that it makes a tad more sense, but not enough to make it AU.

And one last thing—if there are any other games besides the GameBoy Advance one (you know, the one with Willy, Amanda, Cibba, Vandole, Medusa, etc), I haven't played it yet. This is a story all on its own, and all things that didn't make sense to me, I made up an explanation for.

It's written in first person's POV, and the POV may change between Abby and Kevin.

Other than that, I hope you enjoy this feeble figment of my imagination :D

Disclaimer: I don't own Sword of Mana.

...

Sword of Mana

Long, long ago, there was a Goddess

She cherished all life and transformed herself into a Mana tree to watch over the world

Thus the legend began

As time passed, memory of the Goddess faded from people's hearts

One day, a man crept into the sanctuary where the Mana tree slumbered

With the power of Mana, he built a great civilization, but this marked the dawn of a terrible darkness . . .

The man forced the world to kneel to his will—his name . . . was Vandole

When souls were trapped into the darkness of despair, a glimmer of hope shone in the hearts of a few brave youths

The fighting was fierce, but they would not give up

One wielded the holy blade that gleamed as brightly as the hope in their hearts

Powerless before this light, the darkness was vanquished

The power of Mana was reclaimed from human hands and restored to its rightful place

But now . . .

The people have forgotten the Goddess once again

Prologue

Abby

No, not this dream again. It's a nightmare! Please don't make me see it again!

In the beginning, the world was void—then the Goddess appeared.

In her left hand she held the Light of Hope and her right, the Sword of Mana.

The Goddess summoned spirits to assist in the creation of life.

Finally, to maintain peace, the Goddess cast away the sacred sword.

It is said that the sword rusted the moment it left her hand.

The Goddess then transformed into great tree that would sustain and watch over the world.

A mystical power guards the sanctuary where the tree stands to this day.

". . . And that's the song of the Mana Clan."

"That was wonderful, Mother!" I cheered in my little girl's voice as my mother finished an old song that told the legend of our town. My mom's name is Elise, and she's one of the minstrels of our village, the Mana Clan. "I almost felt as if I could see the Mana Tree itself!"

Elise laughed at my enthusiastic reaction.

"Oh, you, my little Abby," she said smiling down at me. "Always exaggerating."

The Mana Clan is said to be the secret guardian of the Mana Sanctuary—the magical forest that created life itself—for thousands of years, keeping outsiders and travellers with foul intentions out of the Sanctuary.

Right now, I swayed from side to side and murmured, "That's strange," almost to myself. "Even though that's the first time I've ever heard that song, it sounded so familiar . . ."

Mom watched my face in silence for a few seconds before saying, "You know, there's an even better songstress in the world than me, you know."

I cocked my head to the side and stopped swaying, examining Elise's face closely.

"Really?" I asked, curious. Elise wasn't the only minstrel in our town, but she was definitely the best out of everyone. It would be nearly impossible for me to find someone whose voice could compete with hers. "Do you think I would ever meet her?"

"I'm sure you will. You'll see many great things on your journey, and your old mother would pale in comparison."

"Oh," I said, trying to smile. I knew that she was just kidding, but her simple sentence of reassurance once again reminded me of the journey that lay before me.

I was leaving the Mana Clan, leaving my home for the world. It had been my dream to see the world ever since I was old enough to understand the stories my mother would tell me of her own journey when she had been my age.

And today was the day that I would be leaving, with an old friend my mother claimed to know back when she had been out to see the world for herself.

"Goody," I sighed. My eyes dropped to the beautiful green grass beneath us, not feeling as excited as I should have been.

"Oh, come on, honey. No more sad faces, okay?" Elise said, trying unsuccessfully to cheer me up. "You know I'm not one for long goodbyes."

I sniffled, trying with all my might to keep from crying.

"Mother, I'm really going to miss you." I tried to blink the tears in my eyes away—but, instead of disappearing to wherever they had come from, they fell down the brim of my eyes and flowed uncontrollably down my cheeks. Traitors.

Elise watched me for a second, seeming to think something through. Then she reached behind her and unclipped the necklace around her neck. She brought her hands back to the front again, bringing the chain of the necklace with her, and held the silver pendant out to me.

"As long as you wear this," she whispered, "I'll always be with you."

My eyes widened. "No, Mom, I can't . . . You can't give that to me!" I tried to protest. "It's all you have left of grandma. I can't—"

"And now it's yours," she said, cutting me off. She gently nudged my shoulder so that I could turn around. She collected my long, dark brown hair and threw it over my shoulder so that she could clip the glimmering silver chain around my neck.

I turned back when she was done and looked at her with teary eyes.

"Never take it off," she said seriously, looking me straight in the eye.

I nodded helplessly at her. "Never," I agreed.

She pulled me closer into a hug and whispered, "Take care of yourself," in my ear.

"I'd rather just stay here another year or two."

As soon as I said it, I realized that it was exactly what I wanted to do: Postpone my dream for staying here another year in exchange.

I pulled back so that I could see Elise's reaction. She didn't say anything.

"I mean," I said quickly, "I sure will miss everyone . . . and I really like it here. But . . . if I go out into the world . . ." I hesitated, not sure what else to say. "I don't know. I guess I'm just afraid of what I might find there."

"Sweetie," Mom started, brushing a stray strand of hair out of my face. "The world out there is a big place, and it might get scary and overwhelming—but if you stay here, you'll always wonder what could have been. The things that you don't do in life are the things that'll haunt you the most. It might get terrifying, but after the first leap of faith, you'll find that you enjoy the unknown more than you might fear it."

I looked down to the grass again, not wanting to meet my mom's wise, knowing eyes.

"I guess . . . But what if I don't like it?"

"You will," Mom answered. "You'll understand it all soon enough." She reached down to the bag that lay motionless at my feet and gave it to me. "Now, go say your goodbyes to everyone. I'm sure Sir Bogard will be here any minute now."

"Okay," I said. "But promise me you'll be here when I come back."

"Well, it depends . . ."

My eyes widened and my resolve wavered. "On what?"

"Enough talking," Erika said quickly, pulling me into another hug. "You should go say goodbye to everyone."

I stared at her for a half minute before sighing.

"I guess you're right. Thanks for everything, Mom." The tears came back to my eyes again. "I sure will miss you."

"I'll miss you, too, sweetie." She kissed the top of my head. "Now, go. Enjoy your trip."

"I will. I love you."

I turned and walked away before I could stop myself again. As I walked, I could hear the wind carry Mom's soft I love you, too over the distance to swirl around my ears.

I wiped the tears off of my face with the short sleeves of my T-shirt as I headed down the narrow path toward my best friend's house, waving at the people I passed on my way.

When I was within shouting distance of Willy's house, he waved and called out to me, "Hey, Abby!" smiling happily at me.

"Hey, Will!" I called back. I picked up my pace, nearly jogging to eliminate the distance between us.

"So you're travelling with one of the Gemma Knights, huh?" he asked excitedly. "That's totally awesome! Is he here yet?"

I laughed at his enthusiasm, shaking my head.

"No, I don't think so," I said. "But he should be here in a bit."

The three Gemma Nights were warriors who had fought against the Vandole Empire Mana only knows how many years ago, and they were the ones who had restored peace to the world when times were hard. They were still well-known, but were no longer warriors.

Or, at least, that's what the stories say.

And rumour has it that Sir Bogard—who I was travelling with—used to be one of the Gemma Knights.

Willy's smile suddenly faded from his lips, and his face turned serious.

"I'm really gonna miss you, Abs," he said softly.

"I'm gonna miss you, too, Will." I watched his face. Trying to memorize it so that I won't ever forget. But his expression was so sad . . . it wasn't how I wanted to remember him.

"Hey, we'll see each other again, won't we?" I asked, smiling at him. Slowly, a small smile rose at the edges of his lips and he pulled me into a big, soft, comfortable bear hug.

"Just take care of yourself, alright?"

"I will. I promise." I pulled away from him, and he reluctantly let me go. I held both his hands in mine, my face completely serious as I met his dark eyes.

"Take care of my mother for me, will you?"

He pursed his lips as he thought, then said, "I'll make you a deal, okay? You come back home safely, and I'll take care of everyone for you."

That wasn't what I wanted. It just wasn't enough. I was not going to leave my beloved village, not sure if I'm going to see everyone ever again.

"No, you have to promise me," I insisted, putting my hands on both sides of his face and staring sharply into his eyes, making sure that I got his full attention. "Take care of my family."

"Don't worry, I'll take care of them." He placed his hands on top of mine, holding them to his face. "I promise," he added in a low, sincere whisper.

I nodded. That was what I needed to hear. And I knew he would keep his promise; my Willy would never break a promise to me.

"Goodbye," I whispered, a brand new flow of tears blurring my vision.

I sniffed and let my hands slide out from under his. His hands dropped to his sides when mine were no longer there, and he didn't move as I walked around him, wiping away more tears with the back of my hand.

"Abby," Willy called before I could get very far.

I quickly spun around to look at him. He wasn't facing me. "Yes?"

He hesitated for a fraction of a second, and then he turned around slowly to look at me.

"I know it's not much, but . . . I want you to have this." He took one unsure step toward me, pulling something from the pocket of his sweater and reaching for one of my hands.

I held out my hand for him, watching curiously as he clipped a silvery-gold chain around my wrist. He watched me nervously as I brought my wrist back to look at the bracelet he had placed there, and opened my mouth to say something when I saw it—but the words got stuck in my throat as soon as I studied it more closely.

"It's a little something to remind you that you have to come home, so that you won't forget or something."

It was a silver charm bracelet, with two small heart charms on either side of the chain, opposite each other. One of the hearts was a locket, which, when I opened it, held a miniature picture of me and Willy in it. The other was a plain, silver charm, with the words 'Always in my Heart' written across it. The chain sparkled in the sun, reminding me of the beautiful stars in the night sky.

Willy fidgeted nervously when I didn't say anything for too long.

"My mom helped me make it," he said. "My dad convinced the blacksmiths to give us a discount if he made the charms for us. It's from all of us." He wasn't looking at me; instead, he was watching his feet as he kicked some dirt with his shoe.

"Will, I . . . I really have no idea what to say," I managed to choke out.

"You don't have to say anything," he said, hesitantly glancing up at me through his eyelashes. "I just want you to know that, no matter how far apart we are, no matter for how long, we'll always find each other again."

I wrapped my arms around his neck.

"Thank you," I whispered. "For everything."

"Hey, no problem!" Willy said, back to his old cheerful self again. "That's what friends are for, right?"

"Goodbye," I said, letting him go.

He touched the side of my neck and grinned. "Just come back, okay?" he said.

I nodded, not trusting my voice, and turned around again and walked away.

Walking away from him left some sort of empty feeling in my heart. My imagination, of course, but I couldn't help but to feel this way as I turned my back on my family, my friends—my home—to meet Sir Bogard at the entrance to the Mana Clan near the Cathedral.

I headed there now, absently waving or smiling at the people who greeted me on the way.

I was getting second thoughts about this, about my dream. I was leaving everyone behind. What if I came back and some of my friends weren't here anymore? What if the people I knew won't be here when I came back? What if my mother . . . But I wasn't going to think about that.

I was grateful when someone pulled me away from my horrible thoughts.

"So you're really leaving today, huh?" the mayor, Kaseem, asked me, suddenly walking right next to me.

I looked around and saw that I was now only a few yards away from the Cathedral, and that Kaseem had fallen in step beside me while I hadn't been paying attention.

"Yes," I told him. "If I don't leave now, I don't think I ever will."

"Bogard, the swordsman who will be accompanying you, is scheduled to arrive soon. He is quite an interesting man, so you won't get bored," Kaseem said.

"Does Sir Bogard travel a lot?"

"Yes, he travels the globe all the time. He's got very important business all over the world."

"It sure would be great to have such an experienced travel companion," I said, smiling—and this time, it was almost genuine.

Kaseem and I started discussing minor details about my trip. I knew this was my decision, my choice to travel, but I was the only one who had a dream big enough to accomplish. No one wanted to leave this beautiful, peaceful village where everyone knew each other, so we didn't get much info on the outside world—especially since our village wasn't supposed to exist.

I had to get outside news for the villagers while I was travelling, and, when I one day might return, I had to fill everyone else in. A war could have broken out and we wouldn't have noticed. It was like being in our own little sphere of happiness, a little bubble of peace—no one even knowing that we existed. Not only was this my dream, but it was my job as a travelling member of the Mana Clan.

Kaseem and I started talking about the places I'd see, people I might meet, and the adventures I might go on. Talking to him about these things made me a tiny bit more excited about leaving, but I couldn't help but notice this strange feeling I was getting. I couldn't shake off the feeling of emptiness, the feeling that I might not see my friends ever again.

I tried to ignore it, though—I thought that it was maybe just the side-effects of leaving my home.

But my body had other plans.

When a villager came running from the northern forest—the forest that was supposed to protect us—a forest that you could get lost in unless you've gone through it before, and from the inside out—a forest that only the people of the Mana Clan can travel through—when a villager boy I've known my whole life came running, panic stricken, my body tensed up. It could have been one of the monsters from the forest—one of the particularly strong ones—that he was escaping from—but I knew by the twist of my gut that something bad was about to happen.

Thinking back now, I realized that I could have saved them. I'd gotten this terrible feeling weeks before, when I'd first found out that I'd finally be living my dream. Every day, the feeling grew stronger, more accurate. I didn't know that my gut was warning me before, but in those few seconds, when I saw another one of my childhood friends running from the forest—I knew. I knew it wasn't good, and I could have told them to run, and never look back. I could've given them a few second's notice.

But I didn't.

"Kaseem!" the boy gasped. He was panting, trying to talk through clipped breaths. "The forest—the forest is being—destroyed. A man—a soldier, I think—he's leading an army toward us. I don't know—how they found us—I just saw them coming—and—and I came running."

The expression on Kaseem's face frightened me, as if we'd already lost. It looked so frightened and resigned, as if we'd just lost a huge battle, instead of just starting one.

"How?" he whispered in a voice so devastated, I almost fell to my knees.

"I don't know, Sir," the boy replied, now suddenly formal, and that frightened me even more. He didn't spare even one glance at me.

"Inform the villagers," Kaseem said, voice clipped, chocked. "Get every man in the village that can fight. Tell the women and children to escape through the eastern forest."

"Right away, Sir," the boy panted and ran deeper into the village.

Kaseem turned to me. "You don't have time to wait for Bogard. Find your mother and run." He pushed me in the direction of my house.

He was too late. I could already hear them. Their footsteps crashing on the mud trail that leads the last few miles to our village; metal clanking against each other. I could hear that there were a lot of them—too many.

"Kaseem," I said in a low voice, "I can't—" leave without you.

My sentence was cut short by a booming voice echoing through the narrow lane of the outskirts of town.

"Well, well, well," the voice said. "If it isn't my old friend, Kaseem."

They were coming closer, and I could see their leader now. I couldn't see his face; it was covered by a dark, creepy mask. The only feature visible was his mouth, which was screwed into a smug smirk.

"Stroud," Kaseem hissed through his teeth. "You lost the quality of being my friend years ago. You don't belong here!"

I gasped. Kaseem knew this man?

"Come, now. What's a little time and a few misguided quarrels between old friends, hmm?"

"Get away from here, Stroud! You have no business here!"

"It's Dark Lord, now, actually. I abandoned that infernal name years ago."

"Dark Lord or not, you are still not welcome here."

The man who called himself Dark Lord tsked, and another man with flaming red hair and burning scarlet eyes came forth from behind him and looked around curiously.

"So . . . this is the village that keeps the power of the Mana Sanctuary to themselves," the man with the red hair said. "Fascinating."

Kaseem redirected his attention to the mysterious man.

"What are you talking about?" he demanded.

This time, it was Dark Lord who spoke up.

"Battles rage everywhere, but you seem to have a peaceful town here, my friend. Even though other people are suffering, you seem to be living here peacefully, enjoying yourselves."

"I don't understand," Kaseem said, his voice rising a few octaves higher.

The man next to Dark Lord rested his scarlet eyes on Kaseem in one long, frightening glare, and, when he spoke, his voice was so cold, that the fine hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.

"While the rest of the world suffers and buildings perish, you steal all of the Mana power and use it for yourselves, while others need it."

While the rest of the world suffers. Those words stuck with me as I took the conversation in. Buildings perish . . . Did he mean a . . . war?

"That is complete nonsense!" Kaseem yelled in response to what the man had said. "Mana power flows through the earth freely as it wishes—it is those who use it with the wrong intentions that are—"

"Silence, heritic!" the man with the red hair ordered, and I was surprised to see Kaseem obey. "No one preaches at Dark Lord!" The man's eyes flashed a deeper red.

"Now, now," Dark Lord said calmly, extending one of his hands. "If you'll just hand over the key, we won't have to hurt anyone."

The key. The key to Mana Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary couldn't be entered without the key, and the key couldn't be found unless someone could enter the Mana Clan. I had never seen the key myself—it was hidden from all but one person: The chosen protector. Not even the villagers knew what it was or what it looked like—or even who had it. It was worked out this way so that, if it were to happen that someone could get through the forest around Mana Sanctuary—like now—that they would never find the key.

"Never!" Kaseem hissed at Dark Lord.

"What a pity," Dark Lord said, shaking his head sadly. "I was hoping I wouldn't have to kill you, Kaseem. Well, then. Desperate times call for desperate measures. And these certainly are desperate times."

Dark Lord's voice then rose, so he could speak to the soldiers behind him. "Get them! Arrest the heretics! Kill whoever tries to escape!"

The soldiers charged right into the village and, within a matter of seconds, people were crying in pain and yelling for help.

I gasped in horror when Dark Lord grabbed Kaseem by the collar of his shirt and threw him against a wall.

"I'm giving you this one last chance," he warned, towering over Kaseem. "Hand over the key and we'll leave this pathetic village. If not . . . well, it could be a shame to lose such a good friend."

"Go ahead. Kill me. Burn down the forest and take every unfortunate soul to prison in this wretched village. Even then, you'll never find the key!"

"Oh? Is that a threat, dear friend? Well, you wouldn't want your precious townspeople to die in vain, then, now would you?"

"If it means doing my duty to the Goddess and fulfilling my vows, then so be it!"

"Pity," Dark Lord said again. "Your devotion to the Goddess is touching, really." And then he raised both of his hands over his head and said something too low for me to hear.

"Kaseem!" I cried and ran toward him. I didn't know what I was going to do, but I knew that I had to do something.

Just as I was about to reach him and distract Dark Lord from whatever he was doing, a hand gripped my upper arm. The fingers connected to the hand gripped so tightly that it made me scream in pain, and long, sharp claws for nails dug into my skin.

I looked up, straight into scarlet red eyes, smirking down at me.

"Wouldn't want to do anything stupid, now would we?" he said, tightening his grip on my upper arm.

I screamed in pain and tried to pry my arm out from under his grip.

"Get your filthy hands off me, you freak!" I screamed.

"Abby!" a familiar voice yelled, making me glance back to see Willy running toward me. As I'd glanced back, I could see that everyone had come out to see what was going on, and they were all screaming, trying to get away from the soldiers. I also saw a soldier behind Willy, catching up close behind him.

"Willy, watch out!"

Willy glanced back and dodged the attack the soldier had directed at him. He then pulled out a dagger that I hadn't noticed before out of his belt.

"Get out of my town, you son of a bitch!" he cried and threw the dagger right into the soldier's heart.

I gasped when the soldier fell limply to the floor, bleeding and unmoving.

I had never seen Will fight before, let alone kill someone.

He pulled his dagger out of the soldier's flesh and ran straight towards me.

I tried again to free myself, but that only made the man tighten his grip on me and grab my other arm. I knew it was a wasted effort. I turned my head back to look at Willy.

"Willy, no! Get out of here!" I yelled at him as he ran past all of the soldiers who were now busy dragging screaming people to the northern end of the village to imprison them.

He ignored me and fought off a few of the soldiers who tried to capture him, then continued running towards me.

Willy grabbed the man's arm that was still holding me with an unbreakable vice grip and pulled out his dagger again.

"Let her go or I swear I'll kill you," Willy said, holding his dagger to the man's throat.

"Willy," I gasped in a whisper.

"Pathetic mortal," the man snickered. He freed one of his hands and punched Willy in the stomach. It didn't seem like it was with all that much force, but it sent Will flying right into one of the walls of the Cathedral.

"Willy!" I screamed, and then I turned toward the man who was still gripping my upper arm. I wasn't a fighter, but I couldn't stand watching as my whole village was being invaded and destroyed, and then watch them hurt my best friend, too.

"You monster!" I shrieked and pulled my free arm back and punched him in the face. It didn't hurt him much, but it distracted him enough to pull my arm free.

My arm ached as the blood ran back through my veins, but I gritted my teeth against it and ran towards the spot where Willy was lying on the floor.

"Why, you little snip!" the man growled when he recovered from the shock that I had actually fought back. He started to say something, chanting words in some language I couldn't understand.

"Julius, no!" Dark Lord ordered the man. I looked up to see Dark Lord next to the man he called Julius again. I glanced around quickly, but I couldn't see Kaseem anywhere. "The girl could be useful. And that boy is a good fighter. I want them both alive!"

The man named Julius stopped what he was doing and bared his teeth like an angry wolf ready to attack. Then he walked walk straight to us.

"Abby, go!" Will whispered. I looked down to see his eyes open, staring fiercely at me. "Get out of here. Save yourself!"

"I can't leave without you!" I told him.

He opened his mouth to say something, but then his eyes moved to something behind me. I didn't look to see what.

"Elise!" Willy yelled as loud as his pain could allow. I had to look back then.

When I looked back, I saw my mom running toward us, and I only needed to look a fraction of a centimetre to the left to see Julius doing the same, with a sickeningly victorious smirk on his face. Elise yelled something I couldn't understand, and a blast of white hit Julius, making him stumble and fall to the ground.

"Mom?" I gasped, just as she reached us. "What was that?"

"We have to go," she said, ignoring my question. "He won't stay down for long. We only have a few seconds." She tried to pull me up with Willy, but he just slumped back to the ground whimpering. Mom shot him a panicked look.

"Elise, take her and run. I'll be fine. Just get Abby the hell away from here!"

Elise's eyes still looked frightened and worried, but she grabbed my arms and pulled me away from Willy without hesitation. "Come on, Abby," she said.

"No!" I yelled as she pulled me toward the southern forest. "Willy!"

I turned my head to look at Elise as she proceeded to drag me through the fighting and crying. "Mom, what's happening? How did you do that—that with the light?" I was familiar with magic; they had taught us about it in school. But they had also told us that all of the mages in the Mana Clan had died, and their blood no longer runs through our veins, so we could no longer do any magic—especially not white magic.

"There's no time to explain," Elise said. Her hand slid down my arm and held mine tightly, pulling me with her. "I have to get you out of here. Sir Bogard is waiting in the outskirts, and we have to get you to safety."

"Sir Bogard is here? I don't understand. What about Willy? We can't just leave him there!"

"We can't afford to let you die, Abby." Elise looked down at me. "You're our only hope. If something happens to you, we might not get another chance."

"What are you talking about, Mom? How can I be your only hope if I can't even go back to save my best friend?"

Elise looked back at the forest we were now running through, avoiding my eyes.

"I can't explain now," she said. "We have to get you out of here, first."

I didn't say anything as we ran further through the forest. It was dark and frightening—not the same as the northern forest, which was a cheerful, colourful place where everything looked like it was a nice, pleasant day.

This was the opposite.

The loud silence almost screamed exactly how I felt: anger—directed at the man who was destroying my home; sadness—because I was leaving my best friend—not to mention all of my other friends—in the destruction of my village; resentment—directed at myself, because I couldn't do anything to protect them; hate—toward that man, Julius, who had hurt my Willy in the first place; and, most of all, guilt—because I was running to protect myself.

I glanced back only once as we ran through the forest. I couldn't see the village anymore, but I could see a thick cloud of smoke coming up from the place where the town it was supposed to be.

A tear escaped my eyes. I was leaving everything behind with the thought that I could come back. That alone was hard.

But to leave my town in ashes? That is unbearable. I could feel the aching pain in my heart already. Everything was happening so fast—it was almost unreal.

I skidded to a stop as if I had run into an invisible wall when Elise tripped over a vine of one of the trees sticking out of the ground.

"Aaah!" she gasped in surprise.

I knew she was keeping secrets from me, but I couldn't leave her to die, too.

"Mother, get up!" I pulled her arm to help her up, and, just when she managed to get to her feet again, she stumbled and fell back down to the ground.

She looked at me with an expression so devastated, that, for a few blissful seconds, I forgot all about my questions.

"Abby, it's no use! Just go! Sir Bogard is at the end of the trail—he'll help you!"

"No, Mom! I can't leave you, too!"

"Just keep running!"

I was about to say no again and try to help her to her feet—even carry her if I had to—when a booming voice made the blood drain from my face and my heart beat in double time in fear.

"Ha! I told you no one will escape," Julius said with a sneer as he appeared behind us.

"Why are you doing this?" I asked softly, my devastation showing in my voice, and Julius came to a stop. "Why are you attacking the Mana Clan?" I cried.

I let myself hope that Julius was starting to regret what he was doing when he threw his head back and howled with laughter.

"Why am I doing this, you say? Why? Because it's what you deserve, that's why!" Julius's voice rose, and he lifted his arms over his head. The trees around him started to wither and bow with weakness. It seemed to get darker and sadder, and it was making me crazy.

"What are you doing?" I screamed. "Stop it!"

"You heretics think you can hoard Mana power all by yourself. You don't deserve it! I am going to rid the world of petty humans like you, and I'll create a brand new world—and I won't fail this time!"

The air around Julius was pulsing darkness, almost like it was surrounding him with an aura, while the trees seemed to wrinkle and wither to the ground. It took me a few seconds to jump to the conclusion that he was he was absorbing the life out of the trees.

"Hoard?" I asked, wishing he would stop, wishing the trees would get their life back . . . wishing I could wake up and find that I was only dreaming . . . "Mana power flows in abundance everywhere. It pulses life into everyone, gives life to everyone, it—"

"Don't waste your rebuttals on me! Dark Lord had already passed judgement. He had already fallen right into my trap, and eliminating your village is now the will of all of Granz Realm!"

"How could you?" I whispered, my eyes filling with tears.

"Don't listen to him, Abby!" Elise yelled. "You run while I try to hold him off!"

Then Elise did something I had never seen before. She closed her eyes in concentration and then pulled a long string of light seemingly out of nowhere. It grew bigger and brighter, so much that I had to shield my eyes from the brightness of it. Then she hurled it at Julius, making him cry out on pain. As he was thrown back, the aura around him disappeared and the trees lifted and came back to life again within a matter of seconds.

With a cry of pain, Julius crashed into one of the trees with enough force to snap it in half.

His face was twisted in pain when he looked up at us, trying to move but only flinching and falling back to the ground. With a frustrated growl that wasn't at all affected by his pain, he yelled, "You will regret this!" There was so much anger and hate in his voice that I stumbled back a few steps.

My gaze went to Elise, who was panting, as if what she had just done had taken a lot of energy out of her.

"Mother . . . How—how did you—?" I began, but she cut me off.

"There is no time to explain right now. Run. Run as far as you can from this place, and never look back. Never think about this place ever again, never return. Do you understand?"

"But, Mother, I can't leave without—"

"Go!" Elise yelled, cutting me off again. Then a look came across her face that was so sad, I almost dropped to my knees to try and comfort her. Then, in a voice that mirrored her sadness, she said, "Go and . . . go find . . ." She swallowed, and then said in a rush, "Go find . . . Go find your real mother!" Her voice got stranger near the end, and her eyes were filled with determination, and only slightly tinged with fear.

I couldn't move. I couldn't think. Even more so than before, I wished I could wake up and let this horrible nightmare end. Almost unable to speak, I forced the words through my raw throat and out of my mouth—though they were so soft, I was surprised that Elise could actually hear them.

"What did you say?" I whispered.

Elise just stared back at me, tears gathering in her eyes. Before she could say anything, a male voice came from behind me, the deepness of it making me cringe.

"Elise! I saw the smoke, so I came running. What—?"

"Bogard! Take Abby and run! There's no time to explain!"

Suddenly, it seemed like my voice was back again. "But, Mom!"

Elise looked at me. "Listen to me, Abby," she said in a low voice. "I didn't want to tell you like this, but this might be my only chance. I'm not you real mother. When you were a little baby, a man came to me and said that I had to take you. He said that he'd come back for you when you were ready. I swore that I'd do everything in my power to protect you, and to take care of you. I'm keeping my promise. Find him, and find your real mother."

A strange look came into Elise's eyes when she said, "Take care of her Bogard. Swear to me that you'll protect her with your life."

I glanced back for the first time at Bogard. He nodded at my mother, and the same strange look came to his face when he said, "I give you my oath. She's in good hands, Elise. I swear that I'll protect her with my life."

This seemed like the words she wanted to hear, because the tears dried out of her eyes and she nodded. Her body relaxed, as if she accepted whatever would happen to her now.

Bogard grabbed my arm and held me firmly, yet gently. He started to tug me along with him, but I ripped my arm out of his grasp.

"No!" I screamed, tears rolling down my eyes again. "I'm already leaving everything behind! I won't leave Mom!"

"Go, Abby," Elise said in a calm and loving voice—the voice she used to use when I had scraped my knee when I was younger—the voice she used when I'd had nightmares and she would hold me till I fell back asleep. "Go with Bogard. He will protect you."

It was only then that I saw Julius behind her, back on his feet. His scarlet eyes were burning with hatred, and he was walking silently toward Elise.

"Mom!" I screeched, but she didn't look behind her, didn't face the oncoming danger. She only closed her eyes as Bogard tenderly wrapped his fingers around my upper arm, as if we were old friends just walking down the road, hand in hand. Elise whispered something I couldn't hear, and a silver aura began to form around her, and then seemed to stretch out to surround me and Bogard.

My eyes widened when I saw that Julius was now behind her, silently lifting something over his head. It looked like some kind of a sword, made out of darkness. Just when I realized what he was doing, my vision started to blur around the edges and everything went black.

As I slipped into unconsciousness, I could hear the words I love you, soft as the whisper of the wind, float gently into my brain and settle into the darkest pit of my mind, where foul memories would haunt me for the rest of my life.

Hours, days—or maybe even weeks—later, I woke up in a strange place. Forgetting everything for the moment, I closed my eyes again and groggily rolled to my side, groaning when I felt a sharp pain in my arm, as if I had somehow gotten a bruise there. I tried to remember, thinking that I might have been playing with Willy near the rivers on the hidden part of town and had slipped on that one stubborn rock that always seemed to be slippery, even though the water only touched it when a storm from the other side of the forest made the water go all wild and made the river flow a lot faster.

I sighed, eyes still closed. How many times had Elise told me to stay away from there? And I just wouldn't . . .

The thought of Elise made my sigh catch on a sob and everything came back to me.

I snapped my eyes open and jerked upright so quickly that it made my head spin for a few seconds.

"Are you awake, sweetheart?" a soft voice whispered to my left.

My head snapped in the direction of the voice in time to see a woman in her early thirties, I guessed, placing a thick book on a coffee table and getting up from a couch and heading toward me.

I flinched away from her, pressing myself hard against the wall on my right, trying to put as much distance between the woman and me as possible.

"Stay away from me!" I cried out when she didn't react to my edginess. I could hear my voice shaking when I spoke.

The woman didn't stop. She sat at the edge of the bed and reached one hand out to me. I cringed away from her.

"It's okay, dear," she said softly, smiling gently but sadly at me. "You don't have to be afraid. You're safe here." She reached out her hand again and touched my forehead; I didn't flinch back this time, but I didn't relax, either.

"How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine." I couldn't speak above a whisper.

Yes, I was fine. I was, and everyone else I knew was . . . not.

"You've been asleep for a long time—almost two days. It was very dangerous for you to Warp. There are consequences for people who go for their first time without being prepared."

I couldn't understand what she was saying. I could hear her words, but my mind couldn't decipher their meanings. There was only one thing I could understand.

"My mother . . ." My voice still came out in a whisper.

"Yes, Bogard told me. He said your village was under attack . . ." Her voice trailed off and her eyes met mine. I was surprised by the amount of sympathy in them. "I'm so sorry, sweetie."

"Wh-who are you?" I stuttered.

"My name is Carolina. You can call me Lina if you want. I'm a good friend of Sir Bogard, and I'm the wife of the Council. I promise I won't hurt you."

My voice got stronger, and I was able to speak just over a whisper when I said, "I have to go home. I have to go help my mother and Willy!"

"Abby, I can't even begin to imagine how you must feel, and I know this is hard to believe, but . . . Your village, it's . . . It's not there anymore." Lina looked down, and her voice shook. "I'm sorry."

I was shaking my head back and forth she before she was even finished with her sentence.

"It can't be. It can't be!" I screamed. "It can't be true! You're all lying! I want to go home. Mom must be worried." I threw myself off the bed before Lina could say anything. I was still dressed in the clothes from before. I headed stiffly for the door that must have been the way out; it was the only one in the room.

Lina didn't move, and I was about to rip the door out of my way when her soft voice stopped me as if I had walked right into a wall.

"I'm sorry. I only wish I could bring back your home for you. I wish I could do something to bring back your beloved village, but I can't. There is nothing I can do but weep with you."

I turned around slowly. She wasn't looking at me, and neither of us said anything for a few seconds.

"It's true, then?" I finally whispered. "The village . . . nothing's left?"

"I don't know what really happened, but I know that Bogard wouldn't lie. If it was indeed Dark Lord who attacked the Mana Clan as he said, then I suppose . . ." Her voice trailed off.

"So Mother, Kaseem . . . Willy . . . the rest of the villagers . . . They're all gone?"

"I can't say for sure. They could've escaped. Or maybe they're just being held captive."

I nodded, knowing that she was only trying to make me feel better. No one else could have escaped. Not without . . .

This train of thought made me remember that weird spell Mom had used, and my head snapped up abruptly.

"What was that?" My voice sounded hoarse, and I tried to clear my throat. "What my mother did? I thought people in the Mana Clan couldn't use magic. And how do you know of the Mana Clan?"

"There are a lot of things you don't know, Abby. Your mother . . . she was chosen to protect the key to Mana Sanctuary. Not many know about it, and not many know that the Mana Clan is real. Both were supposed to be a secret. I don't know how Dark Lord knows about it. Your mother was given permission to use magic so that she could protect the key—and you. She was sworn to secrecy. That's why she never told you—or anybody, for that matter."

I slowly walked over to the bed again, taking all of this in.

So Mother was keeping things from me. To protect me? Because she was keeping her promise? Or was she trying to find the right way to tell? I couldn't know. I would never know.

She was the keeper of the key. I would have never suspected that it was her. And what about the magic? Was it just her, or could others use it, too? Was it some sort of sacred secret that was lost between the members of the Mana Clan, only revealed to some, or was it just a secret, period?

How many things did I not know? How big of a lie had I been living? What else had my mother been keeping from me?

I suddenly remembered when she'd said that I had to search for my real mother . . .

I couldn't take it anymore. I changed the subject.

"Where is Sir Bogard?" I asked quietly. "Is he still here?"

"Yes," Lina said, meeting my eyes. "He's talking to my husband, Council Herman." Then she suddenly stood up. "You should get some sleep, dear. I'll wake you up later to get something to eat. You've been though a lot today."

"Thank you," I said, and let her pull the covers over my shoulders as I lay back against the pillows.

Lina smiled and patted my cheek. Then she headed to the couch again and picked up the book she had been reading.

I rested my head against the soft pillow and closed my eyes. Tears flowed silently down my face as I drifted off into a deep, uncomfortable sleep.

"Abby! Abby, wake up!" I heard the voice yelling my name. I recognised Lina's voice. "Abby, you must run—right now!"

I groaned. I was so tired. My cheeks were damp from the tears that had silently slid down from my eyes, probably while I had been sleeping. It felt as if I had only slept for five minutes, but, when I forced my eyes open, I could see dim a light coming in through a small window. It was probably either very early in the morning or late in the evening. I couldn't tell.

I tried to open my eyes wider, and I saw Lina at my side, urgently shaking my shoulder with forced gentleness.

"What's . . . going . . . on?" I mumbled, only half awake.

I was jolted all the way awake when I heard a pounding on the door on the room and the voice that followed. I would never forget that voice.

"Open this door right now!" the voice of none other than Julius growled.

I shot a frightened look at Lina. She pulled me to my feet and said, "There's no time to explain."

There's no time to explain. The same words my mother had used.

She didn't stay to help me to keep my balance; instead, she turned toward a boy that was standing a few steps behind her. He looked about the same age as me.

"Kevin, listen to me, honey," she said in a low, serious voice. "I want you to take care of this girl. Do you hear me?"

Take care of yourself. I shook the haunting voice of Willy in my mind.

"Mom, I don't understand. What's happening?" the boy asked. He sounded as terrified as I felt.

Mom, what's happening? My own terrified voice.

"Baby, I can't explain right now. Don't ask any questions. Guard her with your life. Do you understand me?"

She's in good hands. Bogard.

The boy glanced at me with a questioning look on his face. In that second, something seemed to happen inside of him. Seeming to push his confusion away for a minute, it was replaced by a determination so strong, it took my breath away.

"Yes, Mom, I understand," he said seriously, but I could see that his eyes were filling with tears.

"Kevin, you're a big boy now. I trust you." Without looking at me, Lina reached out and pulled me closer to her. She kissed the boy's forehead. "I'll catch up with you later. I promise, you'll see me again."

Tears welled up in my eyes and I looked away from Lina's 'temporary' goodbye. It reminded me of me and my mother's farewell back in the Mana Clan—back before everything was taken away from me.

For a fierce, red-hot second, I wish that the boy—Kevin, I think his mother had called him—wouldn't see his mother again. For one terrifying second, I wished the most cruellest and selfish of wishes. I hoped that Julius would burst through the door and take her away, as well as his father—Council Hermann, if I remember correctly.

For a second, I wished that he would feel the same pain—the same loss—that I was feeling. The same emptiness.

It was gone a second later, though, when a fist pounded on the door again, and another voice started yelling threats.

Lina turned so that she could include me, too.

"Now, go," she said. "Remember, Kevin: Take care of her."

"I promise I'll protect her, Mother."

Kevin turned to me and grabbed my hand. "Come on. We can go out the back door." He pulled me toward the back of the room and opened a door that was completely camouflaged into the wall.

"Don't worry about your father and me!" Lina called after us as Kevin pulled me into a dark passage. "We'll catch up soon!"

Her voice sounded a little choked, and I could have sworn that I could hear her whisper Goodbye, and start to sob softly.

A tear slid down my cheek as we ran through the passage, and I regretted hoping that he would lose everything, just like I had—because now he was really going to. He was going to lose everything because I was there, because they were looking for me—because I provoked the devil by escaping his clutches.

We came to a stop in front of a door and Kevin let go of my hand. He quickly dug in his pocket and pulled out a key. He unlocked the door and yanked it open, and then we were running through a dark forest as fast as our legs would allow. Kevin was clutching my hand hard, so when he suddenly tripped over something, he pulled me down with him.

A low cry of pain escaped his lips as we hit the ground. I wasn't hurt badly, so I got to my feet and tried to pull him up. He balanced himself on one foot, but, just as he was preparing to run, he stumbled back down to the ground.

"C'mon, get up! We have to be close to a town by now!" I pleaded, trying to help him.

Kevin got up to his feet again, but whimpered when he stepped on his left foot.

"I can't!" he said. "I think I twisted my ankle." He sank to the floor against a tree. "You go on without me."

"I can't leave you, too!"

"Just keep running!"

"No, I can't leave you here! They'll find you!"

"Mom told me to protect you. I swore I'd take care of you, so run! My parents and I will catch up with you! Just go!"

It's no use! Just go! Sir Bogard will help you!

I shook my head stubbornly.

"Listen to me," he began seriously, "we will meet you at the next town over. Bogard said we should find him there. Keep heading west. You'll find a town somewhere close to a lake. Be careful."

I hesitated for a few seconds, and then nodded. I started to run in the direction he had pointed me in.

As I ran, the echo of a dark, deep chuckle filled my ears, getting louder. Behind my tear-filled eyes, I could see blood red irises and a sinister smirk.

Remember what I had said about being able to save everyone if I had said something? Well, I didn't. And all of this happened because of me.

...

A/N: Whew, that was the longest prologue ever. I hope I didn't bore you guys to death.

I realize that, since there aren't many stories on Sword of Mana, there probably aren't gonna be many reviewers, either. But, if you do happen to read this, please review. I'll update chapters anyway, even if I don't get any reviews. If I don't get reviews, though, I'm gonna update when I feel like it, and that'll be near next to never.

If anyone has a problem with any changes, please tell me. I won't travel through cyber space and attack you in your sleep, I promise. But if you do tell me, do it now, cause I'm not gonna rewrite everything in the whole entire story later. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer.

And no flames, please. They're mean and unhelpful—if you have something to say, then say it, but say it nicely and helpfully.