”Could you spare me some?”
”Later there won’t be any.”
”You want some?”
The journey to the Dark Castle was taking longer than Gill had anticipated, and his provisions had run out. Perhaps Hilda and Saffina had snatched some from him to spite him? It was no use pondering now. Seeking food, the smell of an open fire led him to a clearing in the dense dark forest. Sitting near the fire, was a red dragonoid man, chewing on some sort of cured meat.
”Hey, give me some of your gems.” Gill insisted.
”What? Don’t go trading my gems away.” Taegrus argued.
”Would you rather go hungry? Gems won’t fill your stomach.”
Behind Gill was Taegrus Pearlshine, the king of the Pandas. The two had joined together, somewhat reluctantly, after realizing that their goals were essentially one and the same, the search for the Dark Castle. Both without much food, they decided there’d be no benefit to fighting and were working together, for the moment.
”Oh, this is pretty good. What’s it called?”
”Wild Hoelle pig. When prepared properly it keeps for a long time, makes it good for long journeys. A journey is a test of strength, and you two don’t seem particularly well prepared. What have you come here to do?”
The Dragonoid introduced himself as Kirik, and handed GIll and Taegrus some of the meat he had brought along.
”You tell him, Pearlshine.” Gill said, already eating.
”Hm, yes let’s see. It was six years ago...”
Kirik’s people, the red Dragonoids, lived upon the dangerous Mt. Hoelle. A people who value strength above all things, the red Dragonoids spend their lives testing their strength in various forms of unarmed, hand to hand combat against all manner of creatures. Kirik explained that he was the most recent champion of his people’s yearly contest of strength.
”Do the Dragonoids always eat such good food, I wonder?” Taegrus asked, rather interested in hearing the answer.
”Better than this.” Kirik answered. “Cooks are highly valued among the red Dragonoids. We depend on them. Food is what gives us the strength to fight after all. The best cooks among my people create food that can restore strength to even one who has collapsed.”
”We can talk about food later. We’d like to know what brings out so far away from your home.” Gill interrupted, to Taegrus’ irritation.
”I’m searching for a place rumored to be in these woods called the Dark Castle. There’s been stories of both red and white Dragonoids going missing because of it.”
”Interesting, then our goals are the same.” Gill said. “Well ultimately our goals are somewhat different, but our destination is the same, at any rate. I’ll help rescue the Dragonoids if I can, I’ve got some people to rescue at the Dark Castle as well.”
”Is that what brought you here? Were some of your people taken as well?”
”No, that was sort of added along the way, I’ll tell you later.” Gill waved his hand dismissively. “I was just curious about the rumored castle itself.”
“Rumors in my kingdom suggested new manner of treasures and gems.” Taegrus added quite suddenly.
”And what were you two planning on doing if I didn’t give you food?” Kirik asked, but neither Gill nor Taegrus provided a response. Sighing, Kirik stood up and began to gather his things.
”Leaving already?” Gill asked.
”We all should. Look at the sky.” Kirik directed the attention of the other two to the heavens. “It’ll rain before long. We shouldn’t be too far from the Dark Castle, if indeed it is real. It’s our best chance for shelter.” Indeed it seemed Kirik was correct as the clear skies of only a few moments earlier had suddenly clouded over in thick dark blotches.
”You’re right. We should go. Come, Gill!” Taegrus, his strength returned from the food stood up and patted Gill on the back so harshly the young man nearly tumbled over.
As the three continued their journey, it indeed did begin to rain. However, Gill noticed something curious about the clouds. They were perfectly circular, and they seemed to be following a relatively similar path to the three men. Gill took careful notice of the clouds over the next hour’s march, there was no doubt, it was following them.
Disliking the idea of being tailed, Gill summoned a small leaf elemental creature, and instructed it to discretely search nearby and report back of any suspicious persons.
The tiny green elemental trotted off into the brush, and Gill did not hear back from it for a short while. After a while longer however, Gill, Taegrus, and Kirik’s dreary trudging through the rain was suddenly interrupted by a nearby voice.
“Euch~ So unpleasant~”
The three turned to face the source of the voice. Through the rain and some of the underbrush of the forest, the three spied the form of a young girl in rather regal looking attire.