Clouds circled the peak of a great mountain , it must be high into the sky as the air blew harsh and cold. Between the swirling clouds the sprawling lands below could be spied. There was a sense of awareness, of consciousness, but no ability to move the body. Certainly this must be a dream. Dreams were often formed of images from one’s past or one’s desires, but this seemed to be neither.
Above the ground enemies of the dreamer appeared. Does that mean that the dreamer was to fight them? No...no that wasn’t quite it...they were enemies of someone else. Does that mean that the person the enemies pursued was showing the dreamer these images? Why? For what purpose?
As the dreamer pondered the images further, a voice pierced his mind.
”Gill, Gill! Wake up!” The young man returned to reality. He had been thankful that the dream wasn’t his usual depressing sort, it made it easier to get up. The voice that had awoken him was that of the elven prince, and noisy friend, Cecil.
”Before you get upset with me, remember that you told me to wake you up, Gill.”
”Are you sure?” Gill said, yawning. “I don’t seem to recall saying such a thing.”
”Because you forget anything when it’s convenient for you.”
”If I keep getting insulted like this, I think I might have to just go back to sleep.” Gill began to close his eyes.
”You should be thankful that the prince has decided to come wake you.” Cecil protested.
”Ah, I just remembered.” Gill sat up.
”You finally remembered?”
”No, I just remembered that I have something important to do today.”
Though human, Gill was a long time friend of Cecil and was well liked by the elvish kingdom at large. Gill and the prince had grown close over their years of friendship. Cecil’s faith in his friend did not waver, even when Gill began consorting with the Dark Elves, longtime enemies of the elves, it was even Cecil who suggested Gill be the mediator between the two parties to help resolve their longstanding disputes. Though he was a slouch at times Cecil could see a spark in Gill that he didn’t see in other humans. Ever since Gill had rescued Cecil’s younger sister Tia when she was a child, he was certain Gill was different, he had a will to act, to change things.
”Alright, well I’ll be off then, Cecil. I’m headed for the Panda Kingdom.”
”Sasaru? What’s so important you need to head there? We’re close to the border, but it’s still a half day’s march at least.”
”Sasaru’s got the best taverns. I need to gather some information.”
”Something specific you’re looking for?” Cecil cocked his head to the side.
”I want to know more about that Dark Castle people have been talking about recently.”
”Not that again. That’s just old superstitious human traders spreading rumors. A castle that suddenly appears from nowhere? It’s nonsense.”
”Maybe, but at least I’ll know for sure if I see it with my own eyes. You don’t have to come. I don’t mind travelling alone.”
”Even if I wanted to I couldn’t. My father would be furious if I disappeared with you on some silly adventure again.”
The Elf kingdom lied deep within a forest concealed in a powerful illusion, and was only accessible by a magical gate known as the portal. Since the dark elves were driven out of the elven kingdom years ago, they had established themselves in the deep woods near the marshlands further east. The Panda Kingdom of Sasaru lied on the border of with the elves to the west, with the mountain home of the Dragonoids lying to the north of that. The ocean depths belonged to the merfolk. Human settlements lied scattered across the world. Gill’s destination was Sasaru. The Panda Kingdom was the trade hub of the world, for goods and information. If it could be bought, chances are you’d find it, and several knock off versions in the markets of Sasaru. Sasaru’s King, Pearlshine embodied the spirit of his kingdom like no other, his love of the gems that made his kingdom so wealthy was well documented.
Gill perused several taverns in the Sasaru markets that evening looking for information, to the best of his ability all he could turn up was that the castle seemed to appear somewhere within the lands of the Dark Elves, and that anyone who’d gone looking for the castle had never returned. Oddly enough, no one seemed to know exactly where the rumor had started either. Passing through Dark Elf lands alone was known to be dangerous. Those who’d gone searching for the castle probably fell captive to Dark Elf patrols.
”In the end all I’ve got is a direction. No choice but to check it out for myself I suppose.” Gill couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to this rumor. The Dark Elves didn’t want people snooping about their lands, so it made no sense for them to start the rumor. So then what did start it?
Stepping out from a tavern into the evening air, Gill spied a squad of the Sasaru Royal Armed Forces. It seemed as though they too were searching for information on the enigmatic Dark Castle. In the center of the guards was King Pearlshine himself, eyeing a gem he flitted about between his fingers.
”So they’re searching too, I knew there was more to this.” Gill spoke with a whisper, but somehow Pearlshine seemed to have heard.
“Hey, hey.” His deep voice boomed as he looked around. “My impeccable Panda ears heard that, just now. Who was that?”
Slipping away, Gill made his way into the night, back into elvish lands, from there he would pass into the Dark Elf forests.