Waves rocked the small ship. Ahead, James could vaguely see the castle by the sea. Its majestic walls rose high up above the churning ocean, green-blue water crashing against them. It looked unreal, too fantastic, too bright. Whether or not it was still eluded his mind.
He remembered waking up on the shore of the ocean near this very castle. He'd woken slowly to the sound of crashing waves.
"Did you think you could escape?" a voice had asked him. He'd sat up, but no one had been there. The voice had a dark cast to it, like the finality of the grave. The sound of a storm breaking on the shore. "Just like old times, eh?" it had said, almost conversationally, "All three of us, all alone together. Again. Still."
Even now he shivered. The residents of the castle had rescued him shortly after. And then came the screams.
He'd met with the king in the grand throne room. Its walls a shining white, an immaculate brightness, had seemed to shrink away from him. The king, though, had smiled and welcomed him, offering him shelter and food. James had just begun to accept the offer when he heard the shout.
It had seemed to echo, shaking the walls of the castle. The court had fled, and the king had rushed to the highest tower, dragging James along with him. Once there, they'd seen it. The darkness in the West. Boiling storm clouds rife with wicked-looking black lightening. Thunder had seemed to continuously roll from those black clouds, shaking the foundations of the earth.
And now he found himself in a boat, surrounded by arms men, returning from the blackness. Of course, the strangest thing was, he couldn't remember what they had found.
"We'll be docking in a moment sir," one of the arms men said, dashing up, "you might want to step back." James nodded and returned to the center of the boat as it drifted lazily towards the dock. There, he joined Laura, the princess of this land, who had been sent with them. She smiled at him.
When she had requested to go on the trip, James had wanted to advise the king to say no. Why, he didn't know. All he knew was that it was a bad idea. But he hadn't been able to bring himself to say it.
And now they were back. Back to the castle with findings no one could seem to remember, from a blackness that had disappeared somewhere along the way, to a castle that seemed too bright to exist. And nothing had gone wrong. James looked up at the castle. It rippled.
His mouth fell open in shock as he watched the castle's white walls blacken, seeming to twist out of reality. Suddenly, the blackness was back, larger than before. It stretched across the sky. And he understood.
He rushed off to the helmsman, grasping at the wheel. Startled, the helmsman pushed him off.
"No!" James shouted, "This isn't right! He's here! We can't go there, not again!" But the helmsman just steered the boat to the dock. James felt tears well in his eyes.
"Please, please," he muttered, grasping at the helmsman's fixed arms, "not again. Not again. No. No. No! You can't let him do this again!" But it was no use. The boat hit gently on the dock, slowly stopping its slow movement. And the world exploded.
James felt himself falling. Failing. Dark laughter rang out, echoing from the shards of light that seemed to span his sight.
He fell, and the last thing he remembered was the sound of waves crashing.
"You have failed again," a voice said as the darkness swept over him, and laughed.