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December 8th, 2008

Hall of Heroes: Act I

After the blackness, after the impact with the light, the first thing Kevin noticed was the sensation of falling.

Oh no, he thought. Not again.

But even as he screamed and flailed and tried to reorient, his eyes adjusted and saw the blur of ... torches? ... flicker by, illuminating walls of earth-green stone. One of those surfaces was speeding toward him, a cluttered stone ring full of motionless grey lumps with a shimmering circle in the center --

Then he hit that inner circle with a bone-jarring smack, and his senses went haywire again.

He shook his head to clear it, slowly, feeling a strange pressure around him, feeling his flailing slow as if his limbs were dragging through water -- and then he saw bubbles rising around him, and realized he was in water, clear and cold. Instincts kicked in as every muscle lunged and scraped back for the surface, lungs building an inner fire, and then his head broke the surface with a resounding whoosh and he scrambled for the pool's stony edge, and he clung there, gasping for air, as a yell echoed over his shoulder, followed by a loud splash and the slap of water against the back of his head.

David surfaced, thrashed over to the edge next to Kevin, and the two of them struggled out of the pool onto the stone floor, breathing heavily. Kevin looked around; there were what appeared to be half-lit piles of metallic refuse strewn everywhere, and most of the floor was damp, but not a thing was moving besides him and David. The room was silent, except for the trickle and drip of water and the quiet lapping of the pool against its edge.

"You alright?" Kevin said, in an effort to make conversation and reassure himself of a fellow human presence.

"Jesus," David said, legs curled to his chest, massaging his limbs. "That hurts."

"What hurts?" Kevin asked, checking himself. With the sting of the water impact fading away, his body ached all over, inside and out, but nothing at all like the consuming pain from waking up after the car crash. "Did something hit the pool wrong?"

"Everything hurts," David said, prodding himself and wincing. "When I leapt into the darkness, it felt like I was getting pulled apart and put back together again. My whole body feels like it's on fire."

"Huh," Kevin said. "It wasn't that bad for me. Maybe ... maybe, since I've travelled between worlds before, with Rosalind, maybe it gets easier the second time."

"Hey, wait a second," David said, sounding surprised.

"What?"

"I'm not wet."

"Huh? You -- huh! Me neither."

Kevin rolled over and put a hand in the pool that had cushioned their landing. It certainly felt like water around his skin, cool and solid; it smelled neutral, perhaps a bit fishy. Kevin splashed around a bit, and the liquid beaded and flew like water. He cupped his hand and poured some on his pants; the liquid dribbled onto him and ran directly off, refusing to soak the fabric. He stuck his finger in his mouth and there was no taste to it.

David groaned and flopped back to the floor, spread-eagled, staring up at the distant ceiling. "Where are we?"

Kevin looked around. "I don't know. Diune -- he's the one who gave me the pendant -- called his home the Shadowlands. We must be there. It looks like we're inside some sort of building, but I don't see any doors."

David raised an arm. "Up there. Directly above us, there's a glowing white square hanging in midair. That must be the thing we jumped through."

Kevin looked up. Sure enough, there was a tiny square of light at least a hundred feet above their heads. It was hard to judge from where they sat, but it looked like the square was standing upright -- the same way a normal doorway would, except normal doorways didn't hover in midair. It was poised between the ends of two stone walkways that jutted out into space from the upper heights of the room's walls. Kevin glanced around the cylindrical room; those walkways were each at the top end of two ramps cut into the walls that spiraled around, intersecting each other, all the way down to the floor.

At ground level, the room was about thirty paces across, a third of which was the central pool. The room widened slightly as it climbed, but it was hard to tell how much from their vantage point. The dominant theme of the room was green stone; occasional highlights seemed to be predominantly some sort of whiter granite or marble. Torches honeycombed the walls, mostly at the level platforms where ramps intersected.

The glowing doorway jogged Kevin's memory. "Where's Trent?"

"I came through first," David said. "Maybe he's still waiting."

"Oh," Kevin said faintly.

"He'll come through," David said. "He wouldn't abandon us here."

"You're right," Kevin said, leaning over the pool again and staring into its depths. Whatever bottom there was to it was beyond his vision, somewhere in the darkness. It was a little disorienting.

Kevin pulled back and stood. He glanced over at David, still on the floor. "You alright to move?" he said.

"Give me a minute," David said. "I mean, seriously, ow." He took a slow breath and looked around. "I have to say, I was expecting to end up inside DL3 somewhere. But there's nothing like this in the game."

"I still don't know where Dragon Legend fits into this," Kevin admitted. "Diune didn't recognize the name Rosalind. And actually -- here's the weird thing -- it really sounds like he got ..." Kevin trailed off with a strangled noise. "The pendant! I left it back in my room!"

"Eh," David said, unconcerned. "Don't worry about it. We can still see the doorway we came through, right? And clearly we don't have to be wearing it to walk through."

"I suppose so. But still, it must be important."

"We'll go back and get it in a minute. What were you about to say?"

Kevin repeated Diune's description of the man with the pendant. David nodded thoughtfully and gamely sat up. "There's nobody in the third game matching that description. It's a perfect match for Yan-Li. But he's from a different game in the series."

"I know. That -- and I have a feeling we'll be saying this a lot -- makes no sense," Kevin said glumly.

"Well, if Rosalind is real, why not Yan-Li? If the pendant can link between different worlds, and a video game's world is one of them, why should we assume only one game is real?"

"Do you think we're inside one of the other games in the series, then? You've played everything with Dragon Legend in the title."

"I really doubt it," David said. "Wherever it is we are ... I don't recognize it from the games. And the only place I've heard of called the 'Shadowlands' was in Starfarers, where everything was made of crystal and an electromagnetic aura kept your technological gear from working." David glanced at his watch, apparently satisfied at the result. "Who's this Diune you keep mentioning?"

"He was the creepiest thing I've ever seen in my life," Kevin said. "You know those therianthropes that look like people, the ones that have animal heads and human-shaped bodies and fur all over, and stuff? Like the minotaurs or some of the werewolves. Diune was a unicorn man-theri. Except for he was completely, perfectly black, absolutely no features at all, some sort of ... living shadow."

"I guess that makes sense, since he lives in the Shadowlands. Was he two-dimensional?"

"No, he was standing in the middle of my room and he carried a non-shadowy sword," Kevin said. "And his eyes --"

Kevin broke off as a pop echoed from above their heads and a yelling figure plummeted toward them. "Trent!" he and David called.

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legend of hero
ttustories
Tales from the Tomorrowlands

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Legend of Hero
[001]. Premonitions
[013]. Incursions
[026]. Companions
[043]. Complications

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