Glarryg's Guide to Secret of Mana

--Part One: What is Mana?

In the past, I've seen hints floating around the Internet that people like to compare Secret of Mana to the "Star Wars" movies, if only in part. In this essay, I will play up to that comparison and show how Mana is similar to and how it is different from the Force. Bear in mind that I will be using the representation of the Force from the original three movies, and ignoring all that midechlorean garbage they crammed into the prequel.

To begin with, Mana exists as a field of energy much like the Force. But the largest difference between these energies is that the Force is said to be present in everything that exists; this does not seem to be the case with Mana. Mana seems to be its own field, while the Force exists in proportion to what exists in the universe (remember how Obi-Wan Kenobi felt a "great disturbance" when Alderaan was destroyed?). After the Mana Fortress was smashed by Serin (and after Randi and company destroyed the Mana Beast), it was said that Mana faded from existence. Likewise, it is not an essential part of the universe, strictly speaking. It is not necessary for (human) life. The role it does perform is not one that maintains life, but rather one that makes life livable. Mana brings hope, and sustains people's will to live, according to several experts that are encountered through the course of the game. It seems to be an addition to the fabric of the universe, whereas the Force is more of a resulting effect of existence (it's in rocks, for crying out loud).

This "hopes and dreams" theory undoubtedly applies to humans, but others are a little more ambiguous in their relation to Mana. We know that Sprites need Mana to "live" in the strictly physical sense. There are hints that they do not necessarily die without Mana (the most obvious being the fact that Sprites were alive some time after the Mana Fortress was destroyed by Serin, implying that they can return to the terrestrial plane when Mana restores itself), but they definitely cannot thrive on the physical plane without Mana. As far as how Mana affects other races (Dwarves, Walrus People, etc.), one can only speculate. We do know that animals have a sort of kinship to Mana, in that they make up the great Mana Beast that attacks the Mana Fortress.

Like the Force, Mana can be utilized to perform superhuman feats. These feats come in the form of magic. Magic takes the essence of one of eight kinds of energy; these specific energies are regulated by the Elementals. They are arranged in complementary pairs (water/fire, earth/wind, light/dark, moon/forest) that cancel each other out (e.g. fire hurts water, but water hurts fire also, depending on who is attacking and who is defending). This would seem to imply that a balance is maintained within Mana, much like the Force's balance, except that the Force is balanced using good and evil and not energy types. It should be noted, however, that good and evil do affect Mana significantly.

The Force seems to be used most easily by those who have an inborn tendency to tap into it. This is apparently not true for Mana. It seems as though all people, from alchemists to Santa Claus, can use Mana if they have a general idea as to how to do it, and this relative ease of access is what leads to trouble. In the case of Santa Claus, neglect for Mana leads not only to personal harm (in this case, mutation), but to an overall draining or crippling of the integrity of the whole of Mana (as is evident by the fact that the Fire Seed could not restore Kakkara's water on its own). By contrast, an abuse of the Force does not seem to injure the entire energy field, despite its dire personal consequences.

As we have seen, there are nearly as many similarities between Mana and the Force as there are differences. Perhaps the largest similarity is that both become an integral factor in the struggle between good and evil. Despite their dissimilarities, both inspire people to do great things even in the midst of others abusing them for selfish or malignant ends, which is part of the idea behind their respective stories.

--Part Two: The Fifteen-Years-Ago War

A major plot point in Secret of Mana is the great nameless war that occurred fifteen years before the start of the game. As the story goes, civilization used Mana to improve upon itself. This betterment culminated in the construction of the Mana Fortress, meant to be a sort of tribute to Mana. Unfortunately, it also ended up being the world's ultimate weapon, as well as a big Mana-suction device, and the gods didn't take too kindly to this. They sent their monsters to destroy the Fortress, and a war broke out in the process. Kingdoms turned on kingdoms and a ruthless man named Vandole started accumulating power for himself, attacking the likes of Tasnica and Lorima. Mana was being drained over the course of the fighting, and the only way to save mankind was to beat the god-sent monsters at their own game. A renowned knight named Serin took the legendary Mana Sword and destroyed the Fortress-- not completely, but enough to stop the monstrous onslaught. As a result, the war subsided, but civilization pretty much went down the tubes. Everybody had to rebuild, and television was no more. What was left of the old cities was either torn down or sunk to the bottom of the ocean; in fact, a whole continent sunk somewhere along the line.

The Mana Seeds, which embodied Mana, were used as a sort of padlock on the remains of the Fortress; as long as their seals held, the sunken continent (which held the last traces of the old civilization) and the Mana Fortress could not be raised/re-activated. The Mana Palace itself (also known as the Tree Palace) became a key to floating or sinking the continent. If somebody could raise the continent, s/he could find the secret to re-activating the Mana Fortress, and could start the whole thing over again.

Unfortunately, the world's hero, Serin, ran into the Emperor Vandole and got into a fight. He was mortally wounded and found himself near the village of Potos. Embedding the Mana Sword in a rock, he died. Randi was somewhere in the picture here, because he ended up in Potos as well, with no memory of what happened (possibly because he was too young to remember; we never get his age). Vandole began planning to obtain the Fortress, and years later (at the beginning of the game), he sent his minions out to break the seals on the seeds. The Mana Sword, weakened by the assault on the Mana field, sat in its rock, ripe for the plucking. This is where Randi comes in, and where the story takes off.

--Part Three: Character Bios

Randi: the hero; the boy; the Mana Knight; the token orphaned protagonist, except that he is not the same kind of do-right, brazenly courageous, sacrifice-it-all type of guy. He's actually rather wimpy at the beginning of the story, and remains kind of wishy-washy throughout the course of events. He all but shuts down after witnessing what happens to the Mana Tree (many heroes would be filled with rage after watching their mothers die), and he has a hard time deciding whether or not to fight the Mana Beast. Still, he does acquire a bearing for his moral compass, and he can recognize between right and wrong; he just keeps finding himself in difficult situations.

Purim: the heroine, the girl, the quasi-love interest; the token pampered princess-type, if not more justified than most in being as angst-filled as she is. A little more sarcastic than her Chrono Trigger look-alike, Marle, she must nevertheless defend her right to decide for herself how she will live out her days. Constantly reminded that her beloved Dyluck is barely within reach, she keeps her head held high and pushes towards her personal goal. Definitely the most stubborn of the three heroes, although it is a necessary quality to have when up against the hit-and-taunt-and-run tactics of the Empire.

Popoie: the token third party member, the sprite, the non-human, the comic relief; the happy-go-lucky trickster type. Orphaned like Randi, and culturally displaced like Purim, the sprite just wants to go home, and have some fun while doing so. Rounding out the "Fighting/Status-Boosting/Offensive-Magic" triumvirate, he is a valuable force in the group's fight; it is, however, a personal commitment that keeps Randi from dumping the joker at the nearest town. Besides, the little guy grows on you, which makes it all the more tragic when he vanishes from the physical plane. Rumor has it Popoie is female in the Japanese version.

Dyluck: the commander, the tragic supporting character, the hunk; arguably the most important non-playable character. Although he is never seen doing more than standing or walking, he commands a division of the Republic's army and, after being captured by Elinee, manages to foil Thanatos more than once by virtue of his willpower alone. The same strong life force that keeps the evil forces at bay is the same thing that makes him so desirable for the enemy, and what ultimately puts him on the list of casualties. Determined not to upstage the hero, he leaves prophetic last words to Randi before making the ultimate sacrifice. His parents, by the way, live in Kippo, but never do anything for the story besides worry about him.

Neko: the cat-man, the peddler, the swindler. One could theorize until the cows come home about how this guy ends up exactly where and when he is needed, but any viable ideas will also have to account for why his wares just happen to be twice the price of anybody else. Funny he never ends up on Gold Isle; he could afford it for the price he charges for barrels.

Watts: the smith, the weapon expert; the most important character without a walking animation. Without him, the Mana Sword would never be restored, since Randi doesn't know a thing about blacksmithing. He seems to have the same knack for finding the heroes as Neko, except that he had the sense to look them up in Gold Isle.

Flammie: the dragon, the runt, the Mana Beast's little brother; the faithful steed-type. Yet another orphan, this furry creature is as loyal as they come, and a lot safer mode of transportation than Cannon Travel. The Alpha Mana Beast is basically a conglomeration of Flammie, Flammie's cousins, and every other animal that has a stake in the persistence of Mana (which is all of them).

Phanna: the best friend, the pawn, the stooge; Purim's pal from Pandora. Her contribution to the story is letting Thanatos control her mind for a brief period so as to mess with Purim's head, then apologizing profusely for the remainder of the game.

Jema: the good knight, the warrior, the tactician; the most helpful fighter who is never seen fighting. Once a genuine commander of the Tasnican army, he works as a sort of freelance commander of the armies of the Republic. He studies Mana, knows a lot of influential folks personally, and apparently has the ability to bring people back from the brink of death, but never shows any other super powers beyond that.

Luka: the Maiden of Water, the guide; the supportive mentor-type. The first of many experts on Mana that Randi meets, she tells him of his peril and occasionally calls him telepathically when she's in a jam (except for the one time she gets thrown into her own basement jail).

Krissie and the Resistance: Krissie and her lieutenants, Man and Girl, head the underground Resistance movement that wanders about, complaining about and planning to revolt against the Empire. Possibly because their eighteen-year-old leader had to grow up before her time, the group ends up in the Emperor's dungeon on account of its collective naïveté. Guess who breaks them out.

The Emperor Vandole: the nemesis, the imperialist, the... uh... emperor; the most important enemy whom you never fight. Although you only meet him face-to-face a few times (and one of those times he ends up being less than alive), he is talked about the world over as being the mastermind behind the plot to break the seals on the Mana Seeds, raise the Mana Fortress, and desecrate Mana any other way he can think up. If only he was as good at hiring henchmen (two screw-ups and two mutineers; maybe he should have asked for references at the interviews).

Thanatos: the immortal, the vampire, the embodiment of badness; the secret, real enemy. After making a deal with the forces of evil, this guy orchestrates an alliance with the Emperor, scheming the entire time to use his position to take over the world, and find a new body before his old one melts.

Geshtar: the evil knight, the Emperor's errand boy; basically used by the Emperor as a diversion so the bad guys can escape, Geshtar/Mech Rider is probably the most emotional of the Emperor's four henchmen, in that he gets more and more ticked off every time the heroes whomp his mechanical heiny.

Sheex: the shape-shifter; the second-most underused nemesis in the game. He appears not only as a major boss, but also in disguise (shape-shifting, see?) as an assassin in Tasnica.

Fanha: the backstabber; the only significant thing she does is, well, stab the Emperor in the back.

Serin: the legend, the original Mana Knight; Randi's dad, who appears in ghost form when Randi procures the Mana Sword. He met his end near Potos, while on the way to fight Emperor Vandole. Apparently, he had both the Mana Sword and his baby son with him, because both ended up in the village, although Randi has no memory of the incident, or of his father.

The Mana Tree: listed here because it is actually Randi's mom, who became the Tree in accordance with the Mana Tribe's practice of turning women into trees. It/she gives the second-to-last boost of power to the Mana Sword, leaving the rest of the restoration job to Dryad, the Tree Elemental.

The Elementals of Mana: Undine (water), Gnome (earth), Sylphid (wind), Salamando (fire), Shade (darkness), Lumina (light), Luna (moon), and Dryad (trees), listed here in the order of their joining the group. Aside from guarding the Mana Seeds, they give the three heroes magical powers and tell them to hurry up, since Mana is growing weak and they're not going to do anything about it on their own.

The Mana Beast: a committee of the world's animals in the form of a Flammie-style dragon, determined to stop mankind's hubris (embodied by the Mana Fortress) in order to save Mana. Even though it wants to save Mana, it's far too angry to control itself, and its rage is enough to destroy the world; now there's a nice paradox for our hero.

The Sprites: magical beings who live in proportion to the strength of Mana. Since a giant bird kicked most of the Sprites off of the physical plane, the group only meets Popoie's grandfather, who happens to be the village elder (a hero related to nobility: who'd have guessed?). Of course, "Grandpa" may just be a colloquial title for the elder Sprite.

The Dwarves: underground denizens who love to take in a good show/scam every now and then. Their elder plays babysitter to Popoie until Randi comes along and blows the lid off of his swindling sideshow.

The Moogles: Pebbler punching bags who reveal the secret passage through Upperland and make the vague Secret of Mana-Final Fantasy connection (Fun Fact: SoM's prequel had a Chocobo as well as the "Moogled" condition).

The Walrus People: hey, somebody has to run the only town in the Ice Country. They still complain about the relative warmth even after the Salamando-powered resort is kaput; could Mana be responsible for maintain the balance of weather, too? That's probably up to the fans.

The Fungus People: stationed in Matango and rule by King Truffle of Fung Castle, they prove that not all monsters are bad. Ninety-five percent of monsters are bad, but that's not all of them.

The Scorpion Army: headed by a curvaceous and unnamed leader, they manage to muck things up at the worst possible times, and have a knack for building robots they can't control. One of the best theme songs in the game, however.

Joch: the sage, the mentor; the wise teacher who lets his students do all the work. Initially operating under the identity of Jehk, he tricks the gang into proving their courage to themselves through a series of rigorous trials that just happen to net them the use of three of the eight Elementals.

Elman: the dopey dad, the unsuccessful matchmaker; Purim's father, and a nobleman of Pandora. He tries to dictate who his daughter marries, and after she runs off he spends the rest of the game wandering around his room hoping she'll come home. Purim's mom has passed on by the beginning of the story, by the way.

Mad Mara: the secret agent, the nut-job; widow to a key player in the Resistance, she mulls about among Imperial cities, handing out secret codes and keys to inquisitive travelers.

Elinee: the witch; the confused old lady who gets chalked up as another moral casualty. Bent by the prospect of staying young, she makes a deal with Thanatos to capture him some fresh soldiers (including Dyluck), but changes her ways after the kids scare the bejeebers out of her by whomping her pet tiger.

Morie: young, cocky captain of Tasnica's sandship; he enjoys assuming people are spies (hey, it fills the slave quota pretty quickly), but can't run a ship worth spit. Maybe if he got a decent back massage...

Meria: the better captain; Morie's elder, he commands the Republic's sandship with a much better sense of duty than his upstart offspring. Trouble is, neither of them is able to foresee/avoid the Empire's infiltration.

Sergo: not to be confused with Chrono Cross' Serge, this guy is (well, was) a real pirate, and apparently one with a heart of gold, since he doesn't rob our hero when he runs into him.

Amar: King of Kakkara, and not much else to talk about beside the fact that he looks just like the dancing merchants that litter Randi's world.

Kakkara's Elder: really enjoys his "waaaaaater!"

King Mammon: greedy king of the Gold Isle, he uses alchemists and Mana to turn everything he sees into shiny metal.

Santa Claus: like you really need to know who this guy is; Santa's contribution to the story is showing, by example, that if you screw with Mana you get burned, or at least turned into a Gigas.

Cannon Travel: run by a horde of look-alike Neanderthals, this amusing method of travel is vital at the beginning of Randi's journey, and simply entertaining later on.

Karon: benevolent monster that operates the ferry to the Moon Palace.

Pecard: the least-important character with a name; not a bald-headed spaceship commander, but rather the bald-headed lighthouse keeper on the island south of Pandora. He spots the sunken continent for you, as if you couldn't find it yourself.

--Part Four: Key Locations

There are three major clues that suggest that the world of Secret of Mana is the same Earth that we know and love. The first is the fact that the Mana Sword's nicknames include "Excalibur" and several other Earth-specific monikers. Also, the existence of Santa Claus implies the existence of Christmas, which implies the existence of Christianity, at least at one time. The third clue is the "veedeo" records in Mandala. They not only suggest the existence of television, but of "Jeopardy!" also ("Who is Abe Lincoln?"). Nevertheless, this is a world ravaged beyond identification, and the few major habitations left (and locations of the eight Palaces) are listed below.

Potos: Randi's hometown, and resting place for the Mana Sword. It was here that Serin died after a scuffle with the Emperor Vandole. The people are none to reticent to throw out a screw-up, as Randi quickly learns.

Kippo: Dyluck's hometown, and not much conversation material beyond that.

Neko's: expensive Neko-managed inn/store, located near the Water Palace.

Pandora: Republic-friendly miniature kingdom that houses creepy temple ruins. First stop of Thanatos' Zombie-Making Campaign. Home of Purim and Phanna.

Dwarf Village: underground pocket in Gaia's Navel (just north of Kippo) that leads to the Underground Palace. Somehow, a river connects Gaia's Navel to the Sprite Village, for this is how Popoie ends up among the Dwarves.

Sprite Village: hidden hamlet near the Wind Palace, not too far from the Moogle Village.

Matango: home of the Fungus People, and King Truffle's Fung Castle. Flammie is found in the nearby cave.

Kakkara: desert city that relies on the Fire Seed (in the nearby Fire Palace) for its water supply. The Sea of Mystery and the Moon Palace are not too far.

Southtown: smallest of the Empire's major cities, this is where Mad Mara hides out.

Northtown: home of the Emperor's castle, and the Resistance headquarters (don't tell). There's also another creepy temple nearby.

Mandala: home of some ardent Mana-worshippers and a huge temple to Mana; located near the Palace of Darkness.

Gold Isle: fancy-schmancy resort island made entirely out of gold, and governed by the greedy King Mammon. Home of the Light Palace.

Tasnica: the Republic, confined to the boundaries of a castle after the Fifteen-Years-Ago War.

Sunken Continent: site of the largest remnants of the old civilization, and home of the Grand/Tree/Mana Palace.

Pure Land: home of the Mana Tree, and a lot of baaaaad monsters.

--Part Five: A Brief Synopsis of the Story

After running (falling?) into a rusty old weapon while treasure hunting with some "friends," young Randi inadvertently pulls the Mana Sword from its resting place in a rock near Potos village. A ghost appears and tries to tell him something about the sword before it disappears. When Randi returns home, he finds himself at the bottom of a newly-caved-in hole with a monster and nobody outside sympathizing except a strange armored man. After vanquishing the beast with his new sword, he is pulled from the hole and told that he must restore the ancient blade to its former status; the armored man, called Jema, then leaves him in the hands of the angry villagers, who had been using the sword for protection from monsters. Against the better judgment of the village elder (a.k.a. Randi's foster father), Randi is banished from his home, left to figure out for himself what to do with the rusty old sword. First stop: the Water Palace.

Luka, the caretaker of the Water Palace, tells Randi that it's his job to revive the Mana Sword because he pulled it from its resting place (she also gives him a spear, as if he didn't have enough to worry about with the sword). Furthermore, the forces of evil are planning to take over Mana for themselves by breaking the seals on the eight Mana Seeds. Randi needs to seal the Seeds with his sword or the world is doomed. Jema adds that the boy should look for the Sage Joch, who can teach him about real courage. Filled with "confidence," Randi sets off for Gaia's Navel, in hopes of finding a decent blacksmith among the Dwarves. Along the way, he is captured by Goblins.

Rather than simply jump out of the Goblins' sacrificial cauldron and escape, Randi waits around until somebody shows up. A young lady, mistaking him for her boyfriend, pulls Randi from the pot and runs off after realizing her mistake. Bewildered, our hero continues on his way. He passes through Pandora, taking notice of the zombie-like locals (and possibly running into the young lady again, if he ventures into the castle).

After fighting through Gaia's Navel and taking in a rip-off sideshow in the Dwarf Village, Randi runs into another monster. Upon killing it, he meets the Dwarf elder and mastermind behind the scam-show. It turns out that the show's main attraction, a conniving Sprite child, is actually a real Sprite, and the little amnesiac joins Randi in hopes of finding his way home. The boy and his new friend, Popoie, meet Watts the blacksmith before heading to the Haunted Forest at the elder's behest. By this time, they've already collected a boomerang, bow and arrows, axe, and brass knuckles (if the girl joined them earlier).

Randi and Popoie run into the girl, named Purim, again in the Haunted Forest (Fun Fact: while a CPU-controlled Purim will not follow Randi into Gaia's Navel, a shrewd player can make her go anyway). She joins the pair in hopes of finding her boyfriend. The witch Elinee maintains a castle in the forest, and the trio finds her, whomps her monster tiger, and scares her straight. She apologizes and gives them a whip (handy for crossing chasms), but cannot produce Dyluck, Purim's man. He'll have to wait anyway, because a telepathic message summons the group to the Water Palace.

It seems as though Undine, the Elemental of Water, is under siege. Upon being freed from the clutches of a monster, she gives Randi and company her powers. Purim gains use of Undine's defensive magic, and Popoie is granted offensive spells. Randi is promised that his "sword will one day become more powerful than any magic," and Undine gives him a javelin (possibly as a more immediate consolation gift). Having done that, the trio heads for the Underground Palace in the Dwarf Village, and the next Mana Seed.

Undine's magic conveniently helps the group gain access to the Palace and defeat the Gigas that had been harassing Gnome, the Earth Elemental and guardian of the Seed. He gives the kids his powers and they seal the second Seed. Popoie touches the seed and gets zapped by Mana, which jolts his memory. He tells the gang that he lives in the forest in Upperland, but they take a detour to Pandora first.

The zombies in Pandora can't hold a candle to the weirdos in the temple ruins just south of Pandora. An investigation of the place lands the gang face-to-face with Thanatos, a henchman of the Emperor Vandole. He had been sucking the life out of the locals, including Purim's best friend Phanna. After whomping his monstrous minions, the trio chases Thanatos off, but fails to secure either Phanna or Dyluck despite freeing the rest of the town. Jema, who is on the scene (and a little spaced out himself), tells the gang that he's headed for the Underground Palace, and they follow.

Apparently, thieves have plowed their way into the Dwarf Village, and Jema tells Randi that they've stolen the Water Seed. The apparent thieves are the Scorpion Army, and they sic an apparently dangerous robot on the group. An apparent scuffle yields possession of the Seed back to Randi, and he leads his friends back to the Water Palace to replace it.

Unfortunately, the Palace has been overrun by Imperial troops, led by Geshtar, another one of the Emperor's goons. He traps the kids in a magical barrier, threatens them with the destruction of the Seed's seal, then leaves. A well-placed monster hides his escape, but the gang prevails and once again secures the Water Seed. They're finally free to head to the Upperland.

Upon landing, via Cannon Travel, in the middle of the forest, Popoie konks his head again and forgets exactly where his home is. But after ridding a local Moogle village of monsters, the group learns the secret passage to the Sprite Village, and the Mana Seed in the Wind Palace. What should have been a tearful homecoming ends up being a fight with the same monster that thrashed most of the village, leaving only the village elder to recount the tearful fate of the Sprites. He lets the group use the powers of his associate, Sylphid the Wind Elemental, and they seal the third Seed. Next stop: Matango.

Grandpa Sprite has promised that King Truffle, of the Fungus People, will know where Randi can find another Mana Seed, but the king won't give away any information until the gang clears a nearby cave of a monster snake. After whaling the monster, the trio finds a baby dragon in the back of the cave. They take the runt to King Truffle, who agrees to raise it, names it Flammie, and sends the trio to Kakkara.

Cannon Travel tosses the gang in the general direction of Kakkara, but they're not quite close enough to make it there without dying. Luckily, a sandship from the republic of Tasnica finds them before that happens. Unluckily, the crew thinks the kids are Imperial spies, and sends them off in different area to work as slaves. With the aid of an ex-pirate named Sergo, Randi escapes his boiler room torment and rounds up his friends just as the Empire attacks. Geshtar is again heading the operation, and he fights Randi and company himself this time. A battle leaves the former running with his tail between his legs, and the latter, who has won the trust of the Tasnican shipmates, gets pointed in the direction of Kakkara.

Kakkara should have been home to the Fire Seed, but it is nowhere to be found, and the villagers need it to maintain their water supply. Rumors of a tropical city in the Ice Country arouse suspicion, and the trio heads that way.

The Ice Country houses not only a village of Walrus People, but also the aforementioned tropical vacation resort. Running the odd locale is the Scorpion Army, and Randi discovers that the secret behind their unseasonably warm village is the Fire Elemental, Salamando, who had been captured. Angered at his imprisonment, Salamando agrees to join Randi and grant the trio "the power of FIRE!" Sadly, without Salamando, the resort freezes up and loses all of its clientele. Randi: 2; Scorpion Army: 0. In addition, the nearby Ice Palace yields the thief of the Fire Seed, who at first seems to be a giant monster but end up being jolly old Saint Nick. Santa misused the Fire Seed, hoping to regain the children's belief in him, and ended up turned into a Gigas. Like Elinee, he repents and gives the kids the Seed, which they return to the Fire Palace.

Strangely, the water does not return to Kakkara, and this is taken as an omen that Mana is becoming weaker. As it is, Randi cannot stick around, and he takes the gang to the Empire's Southtown city, given that it's the only place left to go on Cannon Travel's list of destinations. Southtown is a pretty boring place, except that Mad Mara hangs out there, and she helps the gang gain access to the secret tunnel to Northtown, where all the action is.

Randi and friends run smack dab into the Resistance, headed by Krissie. After clearing up a misunderstanding, they befriend the rebels and peruse the town. Another weird temple piques their curiosity, and they run into some more zombies and Thanatos again. This time he tries to use Dyluck and Phanna as puppets, but they resist and Thanatos is left to throw another monster at Randi. Phanna is rescued in the end, but Dyluck gets dragged back to wherever Thanatos runs off to. Before Purim can lament too much, news of the Emperor's willingness to negotiate with the rebels makes its way through town. Krissie heads off for a peace conference, and Randi follows. The Emperor is happy that everybody fell for his ruse, and tosses the forces of good into his jail. While the Resistance complains, Randi fights his way out, and ascends the castle to face Geshtar once again. Angered by yet another defeat, Geshtar tries to blow up the castle, but King Truffle arrives riding Flammie and rescues the gang. The grown-up dragon proves to be quite a helpful monster, and the King tells Randi to find Mandala, and the Sage Joch.

Mandala sits in the Lofty Mountains, and after checking out the temple there, the gang climbs to Sage Joch's cave. Jehk, the sage's disciple, tells them that his master is in the Dark Palace, also located in the Lofty Mountains. While there is no sage, the Palace holds a Mana Seed, and Shade, the Elemental of Darkness. Shade gives his powers to Popoie and the group returns to Joch's cave. Jehk tells them that the sage went to the Gold Isle, which is a real gold island, and the kids head off on Flammie-back. The king of the island has been abusing Mana to make everything he own gold, and the trio breaks into the Light Palace (with the aid of a key given to them by Mad Mara) to figure things out. Lumina, the Light Elemental, tells them of her imprisonment by the king and gives her powers to Purim. Randi seals the sixth Seed and returns to Jehk to ask why Joch wasn't there. Jehk sends them off to the Moon Palace, in the Sea of Mystery near Kakkara. They find Luna (the Moon Elemental) and another Seed, but no Joch. On their fourth visit to Jehk, he tells them that the sage is in Tasnica, but all they find there is an assassin trying to impersonate the king. Jema is also there, but he doesn't help them fight or anything. Understandably ticked off at this point, the kids visit Jehk one last time, and he finally presents them the Sage Joch. Joch instructs them to proceed through his cave, which holds monsters and clones of the three adventurers. Once they kill themselves, so to speak, the Jehk congratulates them and reveals that he was Joch all the time, and that the whole "the sage ain't here" bit was a test to see how much the kids could do before they faced themselves. (Somewhere along the way, the trio finds the Upside-Down Turtle Island, where they obtain a Sea Hare's Tail that restores Kakkara's water flow; that probably counts as a character-building exercise.) Satisfied with the gang's maturation, Joch sends them off to the final Palace, in the middle of the Sunken Continent.

As luck would have it, the last Seed's seal is broken, and the Emperor stands tauntingly in front of the group as they reach it. With his forces all around the world breaking seals, he is ready to raise the Sunken Continent, which will revive the floating Mana Fortress. Using Sheex, his third henchman (and the assassin from Tasnica, we learn!), he distracts the gang long enough to pull off the stunt. Dryad, the Tree Elemental, arrives to usher the kids out of the place, and they take her along as they summon Flammie in time to watch the Sunken Continent rise from its sunken resting place. Landing back on the continent, they run into Jema, who tells them that they must head off the Emperor and find the ancient city known as the Grand Palace. They do just that, and find a shortcut (and the Scorpion Army, ready for a third humiliation) in the process. Upon re-entering the Tree Palace, the gang finds what was left of the Emperor after Fanha, the fourth thug, killed him. Quickly running into Fanha herself, they grapple with her as Thanatos activates the Mana Fortress. Too late to stop him, the trio calls Flammie and watches helplessly as the Fortress takes to the sky and the Sunken Continent sinks again. They land, and Jema (who was able to survive the sinking of the continent, along with several other folks) tells Randi to go to the Pure Land to re-energize the Mana Sword. Time is of the essence, because the Mana Fortress consumes Mana at a dangerous rate.

Pure Land contains a slew of monsters and the Mana Tree, which is what Randi would much rather see. By the time they fight their way to the Tree, Thanatos reaches it as well, and blasts it with the Mana Fortress' weapons. When the dust settles, the Tree is all but destroyed, and with its last bit of energy, it speaks to the kids. Apparently, the Tree is a sort of overseer of the environment, and is made of the women of the Mana Tribe. The last man of the Tribe was Serin, the legendary knight who stopped the Mana Fortress the last time, and also the ghost at the falls, and also RANDI'S DAD. Additionally, the voice of the Tree comes from the last woman to embody it, who happens to be RANDI'S MOM. She uses the last of her strength to re-energize the Mana Sword, and sends her boy off to stop the Mana Beast, because the world could not survive the Beast's attack on the Fortress. So, off our hero goes to the Mana Fortress to head off the savior of Mana.

Storming the Fortress, the gang pummels the last of Thanatos' lackeys and confronts the bad man of the hour himself just as he is about to take over Dyluck's body. Luckily, Dyluck resists long enough to ruin Thanatos' window of opportunity, and the demon-man reverts to his skeletal form and attacks. Purim's Lumina powers play a big role in the slaughter of the devil's apprentice, and, although Thanatos is gone, Dyluck is, too. The group's mourning is cut short when the Mana Beast makes its noisy entrance.

Dryad's most powerful spell had been crippled by Thanatos, but with him out of the picture, she can use her powers to maximize the Mana Sword and completely restore its legendary stature. Purim and Popoie channel this power into the blade as Randi hacks away at the monster. When everything is all over, the Beast is killed (and turned into snow, of all things), but Mana is drained such that Popoie is gone, too. As the Mana Fortress crashes to the ground, only Randi and Purim are left to pick up the pieces. From there, only the fans can say what happens.


IcyBrian's Fanfic Resource -- Secret of Mana
IcyBrian's Fanfic Resource

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