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.
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.”