Soul Works - IC
The Ruins, 20XX.
A quiet, tensed air filled the weathered and windowless buildings. The many youths, or few when compared to the World prior to the vanishing, were all sitting or standing eerily quiet. They were waiting. All eyes fixed on a single location within the dystopian metropolis. Their eyes all lingered on a single point, an empty spot which had at one point been a parking lot for a supermarket. There, at the very center of it all, stood a large door of bright, orange coloration. It was the very first door that had appeared in the city after the Blacksmith's sudden appearance and brief explanation. But the fact that it was the first door to have appeared was hardly the reason for why the youngsters were gawking at it with deathened silence. No, the reason was that it was the first, and only door, so far to have been opened and entered by anyone from The Ruins.
Morgan O'Baile, Johan Schneider, Tobias Johnson and Micha Sbarochenko were the names of the brave four, first adventuers who had volunteered to enter one of these so-called dungeons. But before they had left, they had given strict warnings for nobody else to go exploring or touching other doors - as they needed to return and tell everyone what it was like in the para-dimensional world. The four had gone because, among other things, they were among the eldest of the youths gathered, and the four also knew one another from prior to the cataclysm. They had all attended the same, international boarding school. Given this, they had reasoned that there was a good chance that they could work and cooperate together, to ensure success. However, this was several hours ago, back in the mroning - and it was now high noon. Faces filled with grim, frigttened experssions was the norm for those who kept staring at the closed and sealed door... But not a sound was heard, except for the wind blowing through the gaps and glassless windows and doorways.
Minutes turned to hours and noon came and went. Soon it was evening and dusk began setting in... However, just as the adolscents were about to give up, something happened. The orange door disintergrated into radiant, glowing green sparkly dust, and as it melted away and vanished, there stood the team that had entered, along with several crates! A loud roar of excitement rose through the city and the previously petrified people of this place rushed to meet their heroes. But while they were met with cheers and shouts of joy, the returnees all looked strange... Especially the german boy and the russian girl... THe irish lad looked to be holing up well but... Wait... Where was the fourth guy? Where was the yankee? In their enthusiasm the teenagers seemed to have overlooked something incredibly important. Namely, that only three of the four had returned.
Despite questions and a loud, cacaphony of noise, the three returners passed through the mob of gathering youths, telling them they needed some privacy to talk amongst themselves. The youngsters left them to their decision, but then turned their heads to the crates that had come along... One cheeky person even approached and opened one of the lid, to which his eyes lit up like fireworks.
It was the one magical word, the only thing that needed to be said. Ignoring and forgetting about the trio that had come back with this bounty, all heads turned to the crates and an almost pandemonic riot ensued as everyone hurriedly raced for the boxes of supplies, afraid they'd be left without anything if they didn't take the opportunity to act now. Meanwhile though, in an old three-storey apartment building, which was still unfurnished and unaided by electricity, the trio sat themselves down in seclusion and began their talk...
"Hah, tha' was a real blast, wasn't it?"
"This isn't a game or some joke, O'Baile! Tobias' dead!"
"Be his own fault for tryin' to do things he ain't cut out for."
"You bastard..." The german stood up and walked over to the irishman, grabbing him by the collar and raising up - then pushing him against one of the walls. "Don't you feel aynthing for your friend!? He was in your class!"
"Quiet, both of you." The only female said, rubbing her temples tiredly. "Fighting won't get us anywhere, or solve anything." Her accent was thick and almsot stereotypically russian, it would've been amsuing if not for the grim situation.
"Ya heard the lass, schnitzel-breath! Put me down'n let's get back to talkin'!"
"Tch." Reluctantly, Johan loosened his grip on Morgan, who just smiled a goofy grin and then sat back down opposite the ruski.
"So, whaddya think we should be doin' now?"
"It's obvious we'll need to brave those doors if we want to keep living..." Micha sighed contemplatively. "But they're dangerous... Not everyone's cut out for this, even if they have these things..." She looked at her weapon, eyes half-closed.
"I think it'd be best if we organized outselves." Johan spoke up, folding his arms over his chest. "If we go into the portals as teams who know each other, we have a better chance of working together successfully."
"We already tried tha'n look how it turned out? Ol' Toby be sleepin' in some alien's gullet by now."
"Morgan, I agree with Johan here. Working in a team with people you know and trust gives us a much better chance than if random people just bundle together and rush in, unprepared."
"So, ya wantin' us to form lil' clubs'n gangs?"
"No, we all work towards the same goal and share everything we come across." Johan rebuttled. To which Morgan smiled a sly smile.
"... And what goal be that?"
"OF course it's -"
Micha and Johan replied at the same time, then looked at each other. Morgan just laughed.
"Obviously, it's the aliens who did this to us! I say our main goal should be to strike back and make them pay!"
"Wha- Johan! What're you saying!?" Micha stood up, obviously upset with this idea. "We're not some army! More than half the people with us are just children still! Besides, didn't you hear that smith? All we need to do is clear the doors, we don't even need to fight if we can avoid it!"
"No need to fight!? Are you an idiot as well as blind, russian!? Don't you remember what happened to Tobias!? We weren't being threatening at all and they still jumped at us from out of nowhrere!"
"Then what good will fighting them and losing our own do? Isn't it better to try and keep as many of us alive as possible?"
"Ahaha, ye're both daft! We should just go'n enjoy ourselves in them lab'rinths! Was like a spaced-out virtual reality-game."
"This isn't a game, Morgan!" Johan yelled furiously.
"To you, maybe not. Bu' see, I was always bored'n fed up with tha' world we lived in, so gray'n dull'n boring 'twas. But this... This be a real thrill! The suspense, the action, the fear...! Heck, I dun even care if the world ever turns back, I'd actually prefer it didn't."
"What're you saying, you lunatic!?"
The discussion spiraled out of control. The three surviving members of Team #1 obviously all had very different opinions and views on what needed and should be done. One wanted to strike back, cleanse and get revenge upon the alien dimensions, another wanted to treat this life and death-nightmare like a bizarre game and form of entertainment, while the last just wanted to try and avoid going and spending time in the parallel worlds as much as possible. Three ideas, three concepts, but none of them compatible. At least not for now. In the end, the three former schoolmates left, going their seperate ways while still filled with anger or disappointment at their former comrades.
The next day, things became more difficult.
Morgan O'Baile had begun picking up followers and allies by weaving tales of adventure and excitement, portraying his trip into the labyrinth as nothing more than a fun, harmless game. Meanwhile, Johan had begun to propagate stories of horror and terror, stating things like that the alien denizens were planning to use the doors to invade and destroy the last vestiges of humanity, and the only way to prevent this was to fight back. Meanwhile, Micha took a much more passive approach, spending her day lying ontop of one the crates she had brought back. When people asked or talked to her, she would merely state short, concise facts and experiences about the trip she'd made with the others. When asked why she wasn't gathering people like the other two, she merely said something along the lines of: I don't want to be responsible for anyone else's lives just yet. After which she closed her eyes and fell asleep, obviously still tired from the excursion.
Still, even with Johan and Morgan doing their best to divide the surviving 63 humans into two camps, there were still those who didn't agree or believe either of them. There were some who wanted the russian girl to lead, since she seemed the most level-headed and down-to-earth, but there were those who also wanted to try their hand at becoming somebody. After all, this was a golden opportunity, wasn't it? Only a small amount of people, a world with no rules and dangers everywhere? What better place to shake off the shackles and labels of who you had once been back before the vanishing? What better way to become someone who could possibly become a legend, a hero? Many smaller groups formed as well, and it wasn't long before the Ruins started to turn into a ghost town with youth-gangs... Each looking out only for themselves...
Now, by the second day, many more doors had appeared and the time had come for people to start their adventures and begin the process of procuring supplies and necesseties. Either for themselves, their friends or everyone... But how many would manage to make it all the way?
Red, plain door.
After having stepped through the portal back in the Ruins, Vivian, Bree and Martin now found themselves somewhere else entirely. It was a vast, green field, choked full of knee-high, swaying grass. The sky was a bright and distcint cyan color, and there were a sun, much like our own, looming above - judging from its position, it seemed to be about noon in this world. There was a real lack of anything else though, no trees, no wildflowers, no visible wildlife - just grass and hills. Oh, and the yellow-brick road. That's right, there was a road of yellow tiles, with each tile being roughly one foot in width and breadth, laid down just under their feet. They had actually stepped out onto it and were standing in the center of it. Thick enough to let four people wander arm in arm, they still had some space to thesides before they'd step into the grass.
The yellow path slithered and turned, twisted and bent, leading off into the distance. There were two paths, the one forward and the one backwards. Apart from this, there really wasn't much to see right here. Hopefully their navigator would be able to tell them which way to go and begin leading them straight away. It seemed as though they were in luck however, seeing as there didn't seem to be any native creatures or aliens about!
Yellow, plain door.
Meanwhile, Joseph, Sebastian and Ailis all stepped through and entered the world belonging to the yellow door. This was a place of stark contrast. First of all, the skies were covered by heavy, dark grey clouds and a nasty and intense rain was currently pouring down. In addition, the place they stood in resembled a swamp, with many small, boggy lakes, mossy grass and knolls, gnarled trees with dark, heavy leaves and branches... There was no paths or roads here, just marshlands, and at the very edges of it, the trees formed a sort of thick, natural wall that made it impossible to explore or go beyond this mire. To further complicate matters, there was a veil of translucent, white mist rolling in and veiling the world, obscuring long-range vision.
There were many kinds of vegetation growing about the edges of the little lakes, from things that looked like our cat-tails to things similar to hydrogena plants. There were also other, bizarre flora that resembled purple or bright-red lollipops that stuck outta the water. But these flowers all faded in comparison to things on the edge of one's vision. For skulking about, just at the edge of where the fog shrouded as thickets, there were signs of movement. And given that there was no direct or mentionable winds blowing at the moment, one could only assume that this was the movement of some local entities...
In this stormy quagmire, the three explorers should probably prepare themselves, and travel with caution - less they run into something they might not get along with...
How strange, innocence.
After the destruction in the post apocalyptic wasteland of the ruins, the contrast offered by these clear skies and the dancing blades of grass would be a welcome change, weren't it for Vivian's nerves racking up. The wind played with her hair, the sun felt like it was gently caressing her face and the air tasted fresh like springtime. These sensations sent shivers down Vivian's spine. Was this a dungeon like Morgan, Johan and Micha had entered? Johan's and Morgan's stories about their orange door had been so fundamentally different from each other, while Micha's short descriptions had sounded nothing short of apathetic, but for all Vivian knew, this tranquil was place designed to catch them off-guard.
Them included herself, Bree Takqueen and Martin Ramirez. Her dungeon-partners stood at a near, if not identical height, both about half a head shorter than Vivian. Bree was a blond lass, about her own age, Vivian guessed. She wielded a stopping sign on a pole. What had possessed Bree to pick a tool that out there was beyond Vivian. Martin on the other hand was carrying around something that looked like it had once gone alongside her own tool of choice; a net. Together with her arm harness and a trident, he could cosplay a retiarius. At least in theory. Vivian's harness wouldn't fit Martin and as a typical fourteen year old youth with the bulk of a scarecrow, the boy looked nothing like a gladiator.
The three were standing on a yellow paved road that ran through the grasslands like a snake on drugs. It was like nothing Vivian had ever seen before and yet it felt somehow familiar. It was as if she had been here before, but that couldn't be. To erase or confirm the doubt the so-called dungeon was messing with her head, Vivian turned to her team-mates.
“Do you feel you've been here before?” She asked to the both of them. It must have come rather sudden. “Something is telling me to move forward, as if there is something in that direction. I want to know if you two feel it too.”
Yellow, Plain Door
All in all the marsh seemed to personify one’s likely emotions when finding themselves trapped within. This wasn’t at all what Joseph had expected, when he first heard ‘dungeon’ he had taken it in a more literal sense. Expect the unexpected and you will never be surprised, he thought sarcastically, that quote implied more wisdom then it really possessed.
The musty stench of the stagnant water and whatever putrid filth its unhealthy coloring hid was almost too much for him, at least it was somewhat muted by the rain. He would have gripped his weapons if the twin katar were not already in his hands, he could feel…things moving in the swamp, some close and some far. Joseph could feel something else though, something different, it was somewhere in front of him and slightly left. It was impossible to tell what direction it was with this rain obscuring the sun, but if the directions hadn’t changed between worlds, which was doubtful, then he thought it would be eastish.
“What do you two feel?” he asked, a hint of anticipation in his voice. At least, from what he had observed before entry, his two companions seemed possessed of a relative level of maturity and competency. He would hate to be stuck here with fools, or worse, children.
The Red Door
Bree whistled. It'd been awhile since she'd seen a sky so blue and grass so green. It was like looking out over the ocean, with a big ol' sea serpent winding it's way through the waves. The road seemed far less dangerous than a sea serpent though. And there was no water. That'd make it rather hard for a sea serpent. Maybe it was just a snake; they slept under rocks and such to cool off right? They could eat for weeks if they could snag something like that. They'd need salt though. No salt meant the meat would go bad quickly.
Her mind ground to a halt as Vivian spoke though, catching her attention like a hook. Familiar? Hardly. There wasn't a bit of snow and ice in sight. "Nope. Feels all new to me!" Bree quipped as she strutted from the grass towards the path, her stop sign slung across her shoulders giving her a slight resemblance to a scarecrow. She spun on her heel to face the others once again. "I like your idea though. And if it feels familiar, may as well lead on. Should always trust your instincts!" She gave a nod, confirming her own comment as she waited for the others to join her on the yellow brick road. They were quite the odd bunch of folks; a rather ridiculous trio. Bree couldn't help but feel they needed another companion. Perhaps it was because the path was wide enough for a fourth. Maybe a fifth if they were as scrawny as the boy in their group.
Speaking of the others, Bree was quite happy with their party. None of them had wet themselves at the thought of entering the doors like some of the others had. They hadn't passed out or had panic attacks or even vomited either! Vivian seemed as curious as Bree about the odd doors and what lay behind them, and Martin either hid his excitement very well, or just didn't really care. Either way, it seemed like they had their heads on straight.
Yellow, Plain Door
A small pool of water up to her ankles, the rhythmically loud droning of rain, and a breath of the fetid air hanging in her lungs, Ailis absorbed her first glimpses of her battleground. The "dungeon" was simultaneously as ominous as Johan's warnings, and as adventurously mysterious as Morgan's fanciful recallings. Like a literal dungeon, the place was dark and damp, but there was little else in this derelict land that could be confidently reported as "dungeon-like".
In this unpleasantly unwelcoming atmosphere, Ailis dared not take a single step forward or back until the other two with her were sure of their bearings and could provide support, and until she too felt ready to proceed. Settling with taking in more of the sights, Ailis adjusted the distribution of her weight across her partially submerged feet, making soft, squishing noises that remained inaudible over the misty, gale of a storm that poured down on them. Rather than feel intimidated or entertained by the swamp-like environment's prodding at all five of her senses, the Irish-American felt little more than the same determination to survive and to reclaim that she had stepping into the portal.
Still, being used to and having lived within the trappings of a large, sprawling urban environment for quite literally the entirety of her life, Ailis felt a momentary sensation of being lost in this washy morass, at this time ironically—or coincidentally—recalling the catchphrase words of a story involving a Yellow Brick Road.
With her mind centered on the sheer alienation that she felt from just being within this place alone, Ailis almost lost herself to inward thought before an especially heavy raindrop hit her nose. Shaking her head, she regained her concentration and composure, gripping tightly onto her weapon and adjusting its weight on her shoulder, she reached up with her free hand to adjust her red hood to better cover her face, partialy thankful for her rather thick, utilitarian taste in clothing within this inclement weather, though the lightly water-resistant material would likely do little in the long run.
Mind cleared and back on track, she looked at her two companions, taking in their appearances and her immediate impressions of them for the first time. Ailis hadn't picked her party, much less gave them too much of a lookover, instead just stepping into the portal that looked most appealing and had less than 0 other people entering. So she didn't know the two at her flanks, finding now the best time to give a glance to the pair of people that had taken the initiative to burst into what is likely another dimension with her. Consequently, from looking at posture and demeanor alone, she mused over her next actions, as well as evaluated what type of people they might be. The tall one for sure seemed to be rather confident in himself, and the shorter of the two seemed... Cautious, and properly paranoid in a situation that had them possibly surrounded.
"I feel–" she clearly added a reply to her pale junior, locking eyes with him, her voice only thinly laced with her mother's accent, "that we should proceed toward where we're already facing, cautiously, and close together. As for how... In a place like this, it's best that we advance in a line, with you, likely the fastest melee combatant among us three, in the rear to keep watch and guard our backs, myself in the front to take on any of the more straightforward threats that could lunge at us and our ranged combatant in the middle so that he can cover any direction should we need it. That way we can best utilize our skills in the best positions. Is there anything you want to add?"
By this point, she had walked forward three steps to a comfortable distance to converse with the pair, and she finished with a question directed at the haughtier looking one. She spoke firmly, with certainty and displaying the fact that she'd likely lead a group of people before. As she gave her opinion, her diction was carefully chosen to sound like it wasn't a direct command, but advisory for the most efficient methods, with room for adjustment and movement to give people a sense of freedom. When talking about positions, Ailis made a few concise gestures with her hands, giving both visualization, and queues to keep their attention centered on her.
Now hopefully... They were more agreeable types that would help her...
Yellow, plain door.
Sebastian kept his fingers on the triggers of his guns. He couldn't see very far, a problem for the long range fighter. The rain was throwing off his hearing, the only features he could recognize were the tall trench coated form of Joseph and and the red haired Alice. Sebastian had taken it upon himself to know the people he had been scrounging a 'life' with.
The girls voice cut through the droning rain like a scalpel. It was a short sharp speech that have him the impression of a dictator...of a dominatrix. He could just imagine the white girl in some leather...
He shook his head slightly and laughed "I like you" his accent was easily placed to be British, and upper echelon at that "don't worry, I've got your fine ass covered" he brought the two pistols up and smirked. He had since let loose with his manner of speaking, giving in high class words for common slang. He looked at Joseph, then back to Alice, a small smile playing across the thin line that was his lips "Lead on then?" He gestured with his guns.
Plain Red Door
Martin cocked an eyebrow at the strange question. Did it feel like he'd been there before? Definitely not. Did it feel familiar? Absolutely. What struck him as odd was that this iconic scene didn't seem to register so immediately to his fellow team mates, and it was strange enough that he decided to voice his concern. "Doesn't this remind you of the Wizard of Oz? I mean like the yellow brick road and stuff. It was a childish statement, but as far as Martin was concerned he was still a child. He didn't mind pointing out something obvious or making a silly comment. After all, the worst it could come to would be a bit of derision from his comrades. Certainly from what they'd seen it was hardly enough to assume this door-world would be anything like the Wizard of Oz, but it did certainly share some thematic components.
At any rate, they really didn't have anything to go on but gut feeling as to where they should be going and what they should be doing. That being the case, Martin really felt no need to rock the boat. Going forward was as good as going backwards, so he was content to go along with the pair wherever they were heading. "Anyways, lead on. You've got a feeling where we should be going, which is more than I can say."
“Wizard of what?” Vivian asked, but instantly regretted her question. The girl's knowledge on classic literature was effectively none and judging by Martin's appearance Vivian had assumed the boy was talking about something completely different. Now wasn't the time for her ask about whatever Dungeons & Dragons, Harry Potter or Star Wars-thing Martin was into. Not so much because Vivian didn't want to get to know her teammates, on the contrary, but because at that moment she expected to react with nothing but absolute indifference towards whatever kind of fantasy book or video game Martin was referencing. Nothing like a cold shoulder to ruin first impressions, so instead Vivian started a brisk walking pace. “Anyway, forward we go then.” She called the start of their dungeon-exploring. “Let's get this done.” Perhaps the sudden action would make her previous question slip Martin's (and Bree's) mind.
The road stretched a significant length, but despite it's completely random taken directions, Vivian encouraged the team to stay on the path. You never knew what could be lurking in the tall grass after all and Vivian felt little for random battle encounters. “Keep your eyes peeled.” She warned, although to little avail for they wouldn't see any monster for at least quite a while. What would come into sight were hills and murky green rivers circling around the landscape. Far to the sides of the road there even were giant stones sticking out of the ground; although it would take one hell of a detour (through the grass) to even get there, but the less familiar the landscape looked, the more familiar it felt to Vivian. This was definitely odd.
Yellow, Plain Door
Joseph ran a hand through his soaked hair pensively as he considered Ailis’ words, head slightly cocked to the side. She certainly wasn't what he had anticipated, she had the authority and charisma one would expect from a leader, and yet made it all seem a suggestion. Joseph also noticed that she immediately focused that sense of command on The Gunslinger, detecting a now obvious roguish streak that had slipped underneath his radar. So, while he was certain she had no experience in the department of leading, she had already successfully asserted herself as the leader and taken the reins of this mission. Impressive, and no problem to him...so far.
The Gunslinger on the other hand, he was less than Joseph had expected. He had expected him to be significantly more mature, of course one might say the problem was that he was too mature. It was a wonder that he was not channeling lust, of course he very well might be, Joseph didn't know. Either way, he now suspected two things. One, the Gunslinger was going to prove a problem, and two, Ailis was going to solve that problem with a well-placed kick. Neither were his concern, what was his concern was this fetid, rotting swamp, and the things he felt lingering inside of it.
"Proceed at your leisure. Allow me to warn you though; I feel something, many somethings, in this swamp. They are moving, though not fast, and judging by what the others said I suspect them of suffering from a severe lack of peaceful intentions," he stated in a calm and almost apathetic manner. He seemed almost detached from the whole situation, it was how he managed to control his anger. He would tell them about the other thing when and if necessary, right now though as long as they were moving in the right direction it was irrelevant, he imagined Ailis would have some issue with that logic, but he didn’t care.