World: The Gray Lands
Subworld: The Passageway
The portal widens in the shape of an oval, flaring into existence in a single moment. The edge of the portal seems to flicker, black and ghostly, like fumes distorting the air above a fire. There is also a reddish glow to the tips of the fumes, as if it is possessed of a strange, dark power. We exit the portal, grunting with surprise as we realize we are falling through the air, and then groaning with pain as we strike the ground. The portal vanishes in a puff of red light just as quickly as it appeared. We stand.
The place we have entered into is heavily drenched in shadows, which lay deep and thick by the walls of the cave-like corridor that we appear to be in. The corridor is tall and round, and utterly bare. Behind us, the path fades into the blackness, and whatever lies in that direction is hidden by a wall of shadow. Ahead of us, the cave seems to come to an end; we can tell only by the eerie, bluish light that shines dimly before us, revealing the beginning of a large, stony cavern.
A shiver runs through us. We have no idea where we are. We only know who sent us here: an Evil, one of impressive, supernatural power, named Shiralk.
We shift closer to one another, casting our eyes about the place we have landed in with fearful expressions. We don’t know which way to go. That’s when we see a figure move out of the shadows at the end of the cave. We stiffen and then step backwards, unsure of who or what the figure is.
“Don’t be afraid,” the figure says, his voice evidently human.
“Who are you?” we question.
“I’m a Knight,” the figure says, stopping before us. The dim light falls onto him, and we see his face; his dark, actually red hair; his cool, icy blue eyes; and his reassuring but determined expression. “I’m here to lead you through the Passageway.”
PROTAGONIST SWITCH: LOGOS
The two people standing within the usual entrance into the Passageway, a young couple, reveal a sense of distrust. I don’t blame them. But they really must come with me if they want to be saved. The first wave should be coming soon. If they don’t find protection, then danger will find them. Evil will find them.
“What’s your name?” they ask, still hesitant.
I pause, unsure if I should tell them. My name could make them fear me, or worse; loathe me. I decide to reply, “My name is not important. Just know that I have been assigned the duty to protect all who enter the Passageway. And you should come quickly,” I add. “The werebeasts will be here soon.”
They exchange a glance, and then come towards me. Whether they like it or not, it’s their only choice, if they want to live. I’m glad they made this easy. I lead them to the mouth of the cave, which looks out into the bluish cavern beyond. Peering cautiously into the cavern, I ask them in a low voice, “What are your names?” I want to know if they’ll tell me, though I didn’t tell them my name. I want to know how much they trust me, though we’ve just met.
“My name is Joshua,” states the Knight.
“I’m Elizabeth,” states the Beloved.
I look at them and nod in acknowledgement. I know that I have to question them further, in order that I can truly and effectively help them exit the Passageway. But there will be a time for that later. “Sir, where are we?” inquires Joshua.
“You are in the Passageway,” I answer, “it is a subworld that no human can enter on his or her own. You must be sent here.”
There’s a pause, and then Elizabeth asks, “Were you sent here like us?”
I frown, a twinge of sadness etching across my face, but I know they can’t see my countenance. I know why and how they were sent here, and I know it was for a reason very different than mine. “Yes,” I say, slowly considering my words, “but in a different way.” Before they can ask anymore questions, I beckon them forward, and together we enter the cavern.
We cross through the cavern, hugging the walls tight and remaining in the shadows, and enter into a tunnel on the other side. As we enter, I notice the couple stiffen, and they seem to grunt with surprise. They behold the bodies of the Evil I had just been fighting, their corpses scattered about the path. I can tell uncertainty is filling them. “What happened here?” Joshua asks.
Explaining to them what I did should only boost their confidence in me. “I killed them,” I state simply. I turn to them. “Now would you come on?” They really can’t be stopping so much. They shouldn’t be taking interest in the Passageway; they should be concerned about how to get out.
We continue forward. The tunnel breaks off into two passages, the one on the left shorter and more cramped than the one on the right. I’m aware that we want to go right, so I lead them in that direction. The light grows brighter, and the ceiling of the tunnel steadily becomes higher. Where there was otherwise almost complete silence, now we hear the sound of rushing water. At the end of the tunnel, we come to a halt, and we look out over the pleasant view.
We behold a valley, suffused with waterfalls descending from rocky heights on our left, a green, grassy plain below us, and a river flowing out to our right. The air is tinted with a bluish hue, betraying the sense of magic and supernatural power that this area holds, and glowing, violet flowers grow from the edges of the river. The water is especially glossy, as if it is filled with crystals. “It’s beautiful,” I hear Joshua say.
I smile wryly. “Yeah, that’s what most people say…” I look to our left, to the top of a cliff from which a cascade flows, and I spy a scout. “…Until right about now.”
A shrill cry sounds from the top of the cliff, and then almost immediately, fifty or so strange creatures emerge from the cliffs and behind the waterfalls. This is the werebeasts’ typical strategy; an announced ambush. They are something between animal, Evil, and man. Each one stands a foot taller than the average man, and they are coated with thick gray fur on the outside of their arms, legs, and the top of their heads. Otherwise, they are naked. Screaming with insanity, they commence rushing towards us.
So it begins.
“Listen,” I say to the couple, looking over my shoulder at them, “the goal for now is to stay alive and keep each other alive. Both of you stick together and follow my lead. Stay as close to me as you can. We need to cross the valley.”
“We’re going to run towards them?” exclaims Joshua.
“That’s right,” I confirm. And I brandish my blade, quickening my pace down the slope that precedes the valley.