The Golden Kingdom

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Once upon a time there were two kingdoms on either side of a great mountain. One kingdom crumbling in perpetual darkness, and one thriving in the constant light of day.Unable to sit still and watch her Father's kingdom waste away, Princess Anneli sets off on a quest to save her people.A Graphic Novel. 

The Golden Kingdom

Once upon a time, an elderly King reigned in a once-great Kingdom called Varjo. It was the Kingdom of Shadow and it sat on the darkest side of a great mountain.

No crops grew in Varjo, and the people were hungry. The Shadow King sat solemnly on a broken throne in a crumbling castle, but still he was proud. He was proud of his people, the most knowledgeable people in all the known lands.

The King of Varjo had a daughter, the Princess Anneli. She was a kind and gracious woman who hated seeing her father struggle and her people starve. One day she decided it was time to take action. That evening, under the cover of the eternal darkness that blanketed her home, she snuck away towards the mountain and the bright moonlight beyond.

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Far up the mountain lived a Sorceress, banished to live her life in solitude. The Shadow King had told Anneli many dark stories of the woman’s powers, of how she had refused to help Varjo when the king had demanded it.

The wind tugged harshly at Anneli’s robe but she continued on, gradually climbing the stony path until she was standing in front of the wrought iron gate of an old dilapidated cathedral.

“I thought the people of Varjo were too wise to ask for my help,” the Sorceress said, her voice travelling through the wind. She approached the princess across the courtyard, smoke billowing around her.

Her long hair fell around her gaunt face, hard worn from years of solitude. Pale skin showed through the tatters of her red velvet gown.

“They are wise, but they are starving. I have to help them,” Anneli replied.

“Well then, my dear, there is only one thing to do. You must travel to Valoria, the Golden Kingdom. Beg its king for help; only if you swallow your pride will your kingdom survive.”

Fury cast a dark shadow across Anneli’s face. “We do not beg,” she said.

The Sorceress laughed darkly, a ball of fire illuminating her palm. “Then you are as proud as your father. Don’t confuse knowledge with wisdom my dear. Follow the stream at the iron gate. It will take you through the heart of the Great Mountain. You will find the Dark Lake, beyond which lies the Golden Kingdom. You will get no further help from me.”

The Great Mountain

Through the caves and crevices of the Great Mountain Anneli crept, following the stream. Her eyes quickly grew accustomed to the gloom after the bright moonlight, as darkness was all that she had known.

Eventually the winding stream lead her to the bank of an underground lake. The water was dark, of fathomless depth, except for a bright patch on the far side of the lake. This water was illuminated by a beacon of sunlight, the like of which Anneli had never seen before. She gazed in wonder at the pure light of day streaming through a gap in the rocks above.

She moved cautiously towards the light, her cape trailing in the calm edge of the water until the Dark Lake seemed to awaken. What had been just ripples on the shore suddenly became waves and Anneli found herself pulled under. Something cold and firm wrapped itself around her ankles and dragged her down to the murky depths below.

As Anneli struggled through the winding kelp she caught a glimpse of her captor: half terrible fish, half handsome woman. A mermaid had her in her grasp. Just as the water threatened to pour into Anneli’s lungs, the mermaid let go of her leg, only to swim up and grasp forcefully onto either side of her neck. Anneli gasped, so sure that this was the end of her journey, her eyes shut tight. With the mermaid pressing cold hands to her throat, she realised the threat of water invading her lungs was gone!

“Your journey to the Golden Kingdom will be in vain, Anneli,” a harsh voice whispered in her ear. “The king is miserly, and will not give your what you need unless you have something to offer him in return.”

Swallowing against the mermaid's grip, Anneli was able to reply. “I have nothing of value. What can I offer this king, who wants for so little in his prosperous kingdom?”

“Then you must bring back to Varjo the most precious thing the king owns. Only then will you secure your own happiness and that of your people. However, if you take the wrong possession, you will have doomed more than just your people.”

As quickly as she had pulled her under the water, the mermaid grabbed Anneli’s hand and swam her back to the surface, leaving her coughing up water alone on the shore.

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They Shall Meet

Scrambling quickly to her feet, Princess Anneli set off once again to journey through the tunnels of the Great Mountain. After many long nights underground, she emerged at the large cave mouth. The light blinded her with its intensity.

There, sparkling on the rocks below her, was the Golden Kingdom. It was surrounded by acres of orchards; fields overflowing with grain and grazing cattle. Lush greenery spread as far as the eye could see, and above her head magnificent birds flew, the light bouncing off their brilliant feathers. 

Once she had descended into the city, Anneli headed for the Golden Palace. The people of Valoria were more wealthy than any people she had ever seen before.

They wore velvet robes, and gold glistened from every finger and neck of the passers by as they strode through the lavish market place. Piles of exotic fruit and mountains of nuts and spices wafted tempting aromas to Anneli, but she hurried past them all.

The Golden Palace was magnificent. There were dozens of servants waiting on the king, whose crown glittered with so many jewels that he seemed to glow in the perpetual sunlight as he travelled by in a glorious carriage.

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Anneli hastily grabbed a servant’s uniform from a washing line in the courtyard, and began to search for a way deeper into the luxurious palace grounds.

After what felt like an eternity, she found an old and forgotten servant's passageway hidden behind a large tapestry. No torches illuminated the way but Anneli’s eyes soon adjusted to the lack of light after her life spent in the darkness of the Shadow Kingdom. Hands placed against the wall, brushing past cobwebs she slowly made her way along.

Once inside, Anneli found with dismay that each room she entered was filled with golden statues, elegant paintings and treasure chests stuffed with jewels. The plethora of large ornate windows allowed the sunlight to dance across each room, as if mocking her.

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How am I meant to find the most beautiful thing the king owns amongst all of this wealth? Anneli thought to herself in despair. Giving up after what seemed like hours wading through the treasure troves of the Golden King, she leant exhausted against a column in a beautiful courtyard garden. The sounds of a waterfall soothed her.

“Who are you?”

A voice so smooth and quiet that it was almost lost amongst the sound of the falling water carried across the courtyard. The voice was followed by the most beautiful woman Princess Anneli had ever seen. As the stranger made her way towards her, Anneli took in her glowing

dark skin, and how both sadness and kindness entwined together on her face.

“I’m sorry to disturb you,” said Anneli, “I had just stopped to rest.”

“No matter,” said the woman, “I thought no-one was allowed in here. My father has confined me to this place, and nobody can argue with the King. Not even his daughter.”

Feeling overcome by the sadness in the princess’s eyes, Anneli decided to tell her the secrets of her being in the palace.

“I am Princess Anneli, from the Kingdom of Shadow,” she said. “I have come to Valoria in search for a way to save my kingdom. Why has your father kept you hidden away?”

“You are not dressed like a princess!” The woman laughed. “I’m Lotta. My father wants me to be wed. He has presented me to many suitors, each worse than the last. When I told him that I cannot and will not love them, he became angry and locked me away in the palace. I would

give anything to be able to escape from here.”

Upon this revelation, Anneli’s heart pounded. The melancholic air engulfing this beautiful woman erased all thoughts from her mind, except an overwhelming desire to come to her aid.

“I know a way out of here,” she said. “Do you trust me?”

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