It was cold inside, at least a ten degree drop from the courtyard. Pitch blackness surrounded him. Cal blinked hard, trying to adjust his eyes to the sudden shift. Slowly, shadows began to peel themselves free from the viscous darkness, melting into recognizable molds. He had the odd sensation of being enveloped by some large sentient being. The murky interior of what he now took to be an antechamber materialized around him. It occurred to Cal that he wouldn't have thought a room shaped such as this would have fit into the structure he had observed outside.
He shrugged the uneasiness off; it wouldn't do any good in this situation. He knew he was in a precarious position, no need for the worming sense of dread currently souring his stomach to warn him of the fact. He was in a floating church that had appeared from nowhere, there was a fairly high chance of this ending poorly.
A sound pulled him from his musings. The sound of heavy piece of fabric being dragged along a stone floor. Ever so light, yet audible still. The hall was deadly silent. Stone muffled any stray tendrils of noise from the world beyond those great wooden doors. Cal was on the alert. He couldn't quite tell which direction the swishing noise was coming from. Absolutely infuriating. Luckily, his annoyance wasn't to last long. Just as he was about to step forward in an attempt to follow the sound, a flash of red caught his eye. A quick flame that was extinguished in an instant by layers of ancient granite. Cal could no longer hear any movements. Then, a voice. Low, sultry. Melodic and burning at the same time. A voice beyond its years, one used to being obeyed, used to being alone.
"So, she sent you after all." Cal froze. Taking into consideration that anything was now possible, he went through a quick rundown of the most likely explanations: it was the church speaking, it was a ghost, he had officially lost it and was hearing things, this was who he had been sent to meet.
None of the options afforded him much comfort. Cal realized he was shaking a little and snapped his arms down to his sides, trying to hide the nervous reaction.
"H- Hello," dammit, he sounded like a timid child. Taking a deep breath, he collected his thoughts and began again, “if by ‘she’ you mean the Diamera then, yes, she did send me.” Silence. No hint of a sound, not a trace of life.
Then, that voice. It sounded closer now. It wound its way around Cal, through his mind, leaking back into the walls once finished its caressing circuit.
“Good. I have been waiting longer than you can imagine for your arrival.” Waiting? For him? Cal couldn’t fathom such a thing.
He was nothing, had always been nothing. He was an outcast that no one wanted. That not even his parents had wanted. His mother… No, he couldn’t think about that. About her. All that mattered was this. The voice in the church, or of the church, he still wasn’t sure which.
“Are you Carinna?” It almost went without saying but he figured it was better to ask.
“You may call me that if you wish,” came the reply. Maddeningly enigmatic, just like everything else.
An awkward silence fell for so long that Cal began to think the church had gone dead. Then, out of nowhere, a response. Another shift. A ripple in the fabric of time and space. There was now a doorway directly in front of him. It was closer than he had remembered seeing one before, though he knew he hadn’t moved. He looked at it with interest, unfazed. Cal was beginning to get used to this, that’s probably a bad sign, he thought without much real concern. A few seconds later, a shape slipped into view. The first thing Cal noticed was the color. It was really the only first impression anyone could come away with. The same shade he had seen earlier. Almost too bright to look at, a halo of flaming red hair adorned the figure’s head. A woman, he realized. At least he had been right about one thing. As she stepped through the doorframe before him, the long, black dress she was wearing made the same swishing sound he had identified earlier. Its dark color had the effect of making it seem as if her corporeal form consisted of only a head and a set of pale hands. This only served to further the ghost-like impression. Her eyes flashed out at him from the shadows, cutting into his retinas like burning gold scalpels. The same color as his own.
She took another step forward. With an audible, woosh, torches set in sconces all around the room burst into life. The chamber was suddenly flooded in a golden glow. Shadows were sent scampering to the very edges of the room, hiding and cowering in crevices for fear of being extinguished. Cal blinked hard to clear the mist of a long time in darkness from his eyes. He could now see his surroundings clearly. A high, vaulted ceiling rose into blackness above him. It was even bigger than he had first imagined.
His attention was quickly snapped back to Carinna. Her thin, lithe frame made her appear much taller than she was in reality. Cal could look her in the eyes without craning his neck upwards. She was looking straight at him now.
“Why does it always have to match the era? I liked electricity.” She seemed to be talking to herself more than to him, so he stared mutely ahead. “You’re much smaller than I expected.” She added abruptly.
“Wha-?” Cal was startled into stuttering like an idiot. He didn’t have time to silently curse himself.
“I mean, you kind of expect some ‘savior’ you’ve been waiting millennia for to be manly and heroic looking, but you,” she paused to look him up and down, “well, you’re not really hero material. At least you have black hair. I always liked black hair. Could use a trim though. I like long hair on boys but yours is getting sort of scruffy looking.”
“What are you-?”
“Ah well,” she cut him off, “when life gives you lemons, as they say. Oh wait,” a look of concentration settled itself over her face, “that’s ahead of your time. Dammit! I can never keep these things straight.”
Cal looked on in bewilderment. Just when he thought things couldn’t get any stranger. Why did life always have to prove him wrong?
“Anyway,” taking a deep breath, Carinna continued, “how did you like that whole entrance I prepared? You wouldn’t believe how long it took to get everything ready.”
He stared at the girl before him for a few seconds, is she serious?, he thought. Must be, she was still looking at him like she expected an answer. Cal gathered his thoughts.
“Well, the opening doors and self-lighting torch thing is kind of overdone,” not wanting to offend, he rushed on “even so, it was impressive.”
Carinna studied him intensely, an expression he couldn’t quite place masking her whole demeanor.
“Do you know why you’re here?” she asked in the same silky cadence Cal had first heard her use.
“The Diamera only told me that it was important.” He was almost used to these unsettling conversational shifts.
“I suppose I can’t blame her, it’s hard to explain. And there wasn’t much time to do it. Are you aware of our kind’s involvement in rift balance?”
Cal’s mind raced, revolving around and around one part of her question, “Our kind?”
“Good lord, we have to start from there?” When his only response was a wide eyed stare, she sighed heavily and continued “I thought the Diamera would have at least told you that much. She is your Guardian, after all. But alright, fine. To start off, you’re not human.”