Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!
Clara woke up with warm glow of the sun warming her face. As her eyes fluttered open she saw the familiar settings of her room. She looked to her side and noticed that Ada and Maria we already up and about.
They were bound to be cross with her sleeping through part of the day. After all, every waking moment counted when it came to getting their chores done.
Clara sprung out from the bed and noticed that she had a new nightgown. It was one of Maria’s and hung loosely from her frame. She furrowed her brow trying to remember if she had worn it last night.
Sounds below got her attention, so Clara quickly got dressed then ran down the stairs and leapt over the second step. Clara expected to find her sister’s hard at work making breakfast or busy with this morning’s laundry; instead what she found surprised her.
Her sisters were sitting around the table filled with food. Clara could not help but salivate at the thought of all that scrumptious food being ripe for the picking. So what was the occasion?
Ada looked up when Clara landed on the first step. Her eyes and cheeks were red from crying and Maria was avoiding making eye contact. Clara thought it over for a moment and realised she had seen this once before.
“Where is mum,” Clara asked although she could guess the answer.
Maria began to sob uncontrollably at the mention of their mother which confirmed Clara’s worst fears. She must have passed in the night and sought to spare her feelings.
Ada swallowed hard, trying to steel her resolve before she could reply, “Mum passed away last night.”
Knowing the truth and having it confirmed were two separate matters. Those words hit her much harder than Clara had expected and reacted the same way her mother had when papa died.
Ada swooped in to console her, taking the weeping Clara into her arms. Her sister held her tight even as Clara shook violently from the sobs.
“There, there,” Ada said in a soothing voice. “It will be alright,” she added.
Alas for Clara no one was home. How could God see fit to take both her parents away?
* * * *
“What do you have to report Father,” said the man wearing a red cap with red accents on his frock.
There was an aura of authority surrounding the man, even if the bulk of his life had been spent serving the will of God. Opposing him sat a man in priestly garbs who had no distinctive features; a desirable feature for those of his particular calling.
“Your eminence,” Father Michael said to collect his thoughts.
When one a story this fantastical it proved difficult to convey without appearing insane. Even Father Michael found it difficult to believe and he had been at the scene.
Father Michael said, “I arrived on scene a fortnight ago; called in by the local parish. The local priest led me to a home where I found three found girls and their mother recently passed away.”
Father Michael hesitated for a moment before adding, “The youngest of the three had been found hours before asleep on the floor with a knife. The blade had caked in a green liquid that was also found covering the walls, floor and bed.”
“Green you say,” the Cardinal asked.
“Correct your Eminence,” Father Michael said in reply. “I will get back to this in a moment,” he added.
“Very good. Carry on,” the Cardinal said.
Father Michael added, “There was a path leading out of the room through the opened window. Some of the locals had gone out to find whatever had escaped the scene. Their bloodhounds found Father Andrews a couple of miles into the forest.”
Father Michael had no interest in mentioning the particularly gory details. How the eyes had been gouged out, nor mention the multiple stab wounds on the face and neck. It was a altogether disturbing scene to witness.
“Father Andrews has been dead for close to a decade now,” the Cardinal stayed in a neutral tone.
“Correct Your Eminence,” Father Michael said. “Closer inspection showed that the face was nothing more than a mask fashioned from the skin of the parishes former priest,” he added.
Before the Cardinal could comment further Father Michael delved into the situation in greater detail. He wanted to get this out in the open so they could move onto the concerns of the living.
“It was a ghoul,” Father Michael said. “They feed on the narcotic flesh of the dead. People have a natural aversion to them and make excuses for the havoc they cause.”
“So this child attacked this creature,” His Eminence asked.
“Somehow she saw through its deceptions and was able to defend herself before she passed out,” Father Michael said.
“Passed out,” the Cardinal asked.
Father Michael nodded, happy that the subject was slowly going where he wanted. A dead ghoul meant the matter was closed, now there were three young girls who needed to be looked after.
“Yes, your Eminence,” Father Michael said. “Their eyes have a certain hypnotic quality which lead to memory loss. When the child awoke she was unaware of anything that took place. She could not recall having dreamed.”
The Cardinal seemed to be deep in thought. The myriad of Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals he encountered on these missions rarely accepted a world which differed from scripture. This one seemed more accommodating to this truth as though this had not been his first time.
“What about the girls,” the Cardinal asked.
Father Michael sighed before replying, “They have no known living relatives. I was hoping that Your Eminence would see fit to make them wards of the church.”
Specifically he was interested in the youngest child. Anyone who could see past the veil and do so without panic had potential. The fact she had also destroyed one of these abominations further peaked his interest.
“I will see to it that they are appropriately placed,” His Eminence said.
“If Your Eminence would indulge me, I would be more than willing to arrange for their placements,” Father Michael said.
The Cardinal stared at Father Michael for a good long time. The man was not stupid and knew there was an ulterior motive to his eagerness.
“See to it,” the Cardinal said.
“Right away,” Father Michael said before letting himself out.