It had been ten years since the Dark Castle and its mysterious master had vanished. All those that had been abducted by Reiya and taken to the Dark Castle had been recovered, appearing in various places around the forests. There had been no sightings of the castle or Reiya since her disappearance.
Pearlshine had returned to Sasaru, depressed after discovering the rumors that the castle held new gems were a lie. Disappointed though he may be, his pride remained in tact. Kirik and Shaela too, had quickly returned to their own lands, having little contact with the other members of their unlikely group for the past ten years. Kirik had apparently gone into a somewhat reclusive lifestyle in order to seek greater wisdom and strength. Shaela’s time back in the Coral Palace seemed to do little to cure her irritating habit of patronizing speaking.
”Gill! Are you there? Gill!” Cecil’s voice called out. Gill had been living on the edges of the elven lands.
”Gill!” Tia’s was there too with her brother. Tia had grown into a competent hunter in the last decade. Cecil occasionally worried about her when she went out on her own, but she had never encountered any trouble.
”What are you two doing here? Did something happen?” Gill asked, knowing they both wouldn’t have come if something important hadn’t happened. If it had been just Cecil, Gill probably would have refused him, but it was harder for him to turn Tia down. Cecil likely knew this and had asked Tia along for that very reason.
“Father says he wishes to speak with you.” Cecil said.
The elves guarded the way to their kingdom with powerful illusory magic and rarely let non-elves enter their lands. Gill even as a good friend of Cecil and Tia, was hardly ever allowed in. Even then he had never met with the king proper. This was something serious.
”I got it. Let me get ready, you can tell me what happened in the meantime.”
”Alright, just hurry it along.” Cecil urged.
”I’m sure you’re well aware of the situation between use and the Dark Elves.” Cecil began.
”I used to negotiate. So yes, I’m aware of your absurd quarrel.”
”Apparently a Dark Elf child was recently slain by an elvish arrow, and an elvish bow was recovered as well. We haven’t been able to find the culprit, but the Dark Elves haven’t hesitated to condemn our entire kingdom for the act.”
”So basically, they think it’s an intentional act by the elven kingdom because of the weapon.” Gill reasoned.
”Yes. We’ve been investigating things on our own as best we can, Cecil and I have been trying to placate the tensions between our peoples, but we’ve turned up nothing as to a possible culprit. Despite the hostilities it’s law in our kingdom that Elves may not instigate such acts against Dark Elves. We are all kin after all. But without a culprit, rumors are spreading of a Dark Elf conspiracy to instigate war.” Tia said dejectedly.
”What about the possibility of a third party?” Gill proposed. “Someone who had something to gain from a conflict between your peoples. It’s not as if it’d be particularly hard, considering the uneasiness between both sides, and the readiness of one side to blame the other.”
”You may indeed be correct, but more than a culprit we need a peaceful resolution.” Tia said.
Gill new Frayla, the leader of the Dark Elves, to be wise beyond her years. Cunning too. And though she was certainly no fan of the ELves, she loved her people more than anything. Gill couldn’t imagine she’d abide by any sort of deception that involved the death of one of her own.
”Alright, I understand.”
”At any rate, you should meet with father. We’ll lead you through the portal.”
Cecil, Tia, and Gill, made there way through one of the portals that went beyond the illusion and led to the Elf kingdom. All at once the illusions dissolved and the elvish kingdom spread out before them. Entranced, Gill took in the splendor and the sights of the kingdom.
“Come on, Gill, we’ll have time for a tour later.”
”Ah? Yeah, right.”
The three passed through the streets of the kingdom, and over an ornate bridge where the pond below was filled with water lilies, to the palace where King Faerur awaited Gill’s arrival.
”I assume you’ve heard of the troubles?” Faerur asked.
”Cecil told me everything, my lord. I assume you’ll have me negotiate with Frayla?” Gill asked.
”Not quite. I would indeed have you speak to them on my behalf. But as an agent to negotiate their surrender, not compromise.”
”Wait a moment. There’s still a way to reach an equal accord on this, why are you just suddenly jumping to...”
Just then a messenger arrived and handed some missive to Faerur. The king’s placid expression soured upon reading it.
“This is most unfortunate, and rather auspicious timing.”
Gill cursed under his breath. A statement like that could only mean one thing.
“Dark Elf forces have been sighted moving into our lands.”