Scene 1.2: Into the Abyss
The Kindred Fortress:
Faster than he could have blinked, Kyle opened his eyes and found himself in the dark underground fortress of the Kindred. It appeared to him as silent and foreboding as a tomb. He peered around slowly, his eyes scanning the distance for any sign of life.
It was a temple of some sort, the elders had said. If it was, it had been abandoned to decay a very long time ago. It was nothing more than a dilapidated ruin—or so it appeared to him. It smelled of must and dirt, just as he’d assumed any tomb might when it had been sealed shut for over a thousand years—if not more. The air was stagnant, although oddly breathable. Only the faintest glow of light permeated the room he was standing in. It came from the strange green glowing rocks above him on the ceiling. The light moved and shimmered, just barely illuminating the ground beneath his feet.
In every sense of the word, the fortress appeared uninhabited and lifeless. He knew better, however… He’d been warned that was not the case. His slow steps across the stone floor were measured at a respectful pace, just one cautious step at a time. No need to appear overzealous, lest his arrival appear hostile in nature.
He readjusted the weight of the bundle he cradled in his arms, finding it difficult to remain calm on such foreign territory. He could feel his heart pounding in his ribcage, tightening his hold ever so slightly—as if the act of holding such precious cargo might somehow protect him just a little. It brought him slight comfort, if nothing more.
Kyle was not a nervous person by design. Under normal circumstances he shied away from such heightened emotions. Still, his nerves were set on edge and there was no hope for it. This mission required extreme caution. No sudden moves… No aggressive posturing… He’d been warned quite explicitly that he should not attempt to disguise his appearance or use any of his gifts in any way today. He must appear strong and confident—and above all, unemotional. Those words of wisdom were at the heart of what bothered him now.
It would take no time at all for one of the Kindred to discern that they were not dealing with one of the elders—nor any ordinary human for that matter. It had been assumed, much to his consternation, that it had been deemed wisest to send a representative of the humanoid variety to try and conduct negotiations. How presumptuous the elders could be… Since he was neither Grey, nor human, he had been the natural choice for this job. Even as he accepted the mission, he’d known he had very little choice in the matter. He’d suspected as much just a few hours earlier when Ashen had arrived to collect him.
Passing through an enormous stone hallway, a gush of air escaped his lungs as he caught sight of movement to his left. It came from the shadows across the room, all but invisible to ordinary human eyes. Halted, his eyes whipped sideways. His body momentarily seized up in fear before he realized he was merely staring at his own reflection in a mirror that was mounted ten feet away on the wall. Relief swelled within him as he felt his face flaming from the rush of emotion.
The thrill of this adventure made its mark on his soul at that precise moment. The feel of flushed cheeks was not something he’d experienced before. He had thought, as did the elders, that he was created of far sturdier stuff than that. What an unpleasant revelation it was to realize how susceptible he was to human emotions despite his years of hard work to the contrary.
For a moment he regarded his expression in the mirror. It was almost foreign to him. Dark brows raised… Eyes widening slightly… Those dark, onyx eyes… Not a speck of white could be seen in them—unlike those of the naturally bred men who walked the earth all around him every day.
He found himself questioning the wisdom of the elders who had warned him not to use a single trick to disguise himself in mind or body. Wouldn’t appearing more human, down to the false appearance of having human eyes, gain him a greater measure of trust and sympathy by the hosts he was about to meet?
How did one even call them forth? How did one approach the unapproachable? What words could be used to greet a race of beings who had not been seen, nor heard from in centuries—or had they said millennium? Did the Kindred sleep? Were they even truly still here, living in a place so remote and desolate that even insect life no longer existed within their keep?
Perhaps they were bound and trapped somehow, wrapped as mummies in the Egyptian underworld. Kyle’s mind began to envision images of the living dead, with skin matted from eons of decay…
Truthfully, he had no idea and he was more than certain he had no desire to see any of it. He hadn’t even thought to ask such questions at the time he was told precisely what his mission was. Just deliver the gift, make introductions to the inhabitants in an exchange of information—and that was the end of the discussion, such as it was. Unfortunately the elders were not accustomed to offering more information than necessary under any circumstances. He’d learned that at a very early age.
Looking down at the delicate creature he held in his arms, he could only hope what he saw within her was somehow represented in what he would eventually find when he at last met his host—a being who was presently aware of his unexpected arrival, Kyle began to realize. A host who was moving progressively closer to the long hall in which he stood.
The presence he felt nearby was unmistakable. He was no longer alone in the room. If the mental warnings firing off in his brain were any indication, the being was not at all pleased about his arrival there.
What Kyle sensed was a dire warning not to move… Not to breathe… Not to exist at all…