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!
Joining les Filles de Jeanne D’Arc marked a significant change in Clara’s life. While she had the freedom to leave the Tower, that privilege was rarely used. While exploring the world had its charm, there was something to be said about advanced weapons training in high heels.
Many of the other girls from the group had made the same choices, so Clara did not feel like she was neglecting other aspects in her life. The courses she took were markedly more challenging; combat training became a daily event as were courses reserved for students of the finest European finishing schools. Clara could not help but feel that there was a certain dichotomy to her training.
Clara and Edith grew closer as the weeks together turned into months. She rather enjoyed having an ally who did not feel threatened by her youth. No price could be set on being friends with someone who had her back, no matter how dangerous the situation got. Of course the feeling was mutual, and that did much to strengthen their bond.
Edith had grown into a beautiful woman, calm under fire and tough as nails. Clara found herself looking up to her, hoping to meet or exceed the standards Edith set. Many of the other girls felt the same way, so Edith served as the group’s unofficial leader.
Despite Clara’s brief brush with fame, she was not the focal point of the group. This enabled her to lurk in the shadows and enjoyed the ability to move about unnoticed. What better way to avoid getting caught? Mischief after all needed a certain amount of discretion.
She was not the only one who used their skills to hide in plain sight. Some instructors were adept at remaining unnoticed even when teaching their lessons.
“God they were so boring,” Clara thought.
Clara soon learned that some in society were unseen not by choice, but by convention. If humanity was good for anything it was ostracising one’s fellow man.
Sister Beatrice however was a different creature altogether. She arrived at the Tower a month or so after Clara had joined the group. At first glance, she was a young woman who had adopted the habit, one who could sail through crowds without raising a brow. Such a talent was a skill that Clara wished to master.
The day the Sister walked into class left Clara puzzled since she could not remember having seen her before. A trait they later found out had saved her countless times.
“Sex,” Sister Beatrice exclaimed while on her way to the podium.
The class was silent went as a tomb. It was not an everyday occurrence (if ever) to have a nun utter that word. Or at least without the accompanying sting of a leather strap.
Even though most of the classes looked as though they had witnessed a train wreck, Sister Beatrice took things a step further when she pulled a few pins from her habit and let her veil drop to the floor. Layers like her crown band, underveil, and coif followed suit. As though by magic, her long locks of auburn hair flowed down to her shoulders.
Clara grinned, there was a lesson to be learned here. Many of the girls were busy wondering how many taboos had been broken so far.
Her tunic was the last item left to to drop and showcased her a stunning hourglass figure. Gone was the mousey woman who could hide in a crowd. This version of Sister Beatrice could bring about serious neck injury to any male student.
This had been a vixen in sheep’s clothing, with the veil removed Clara saw how Sister Beatrice’s ample breasts were barely contained by her little black dress. Clara could tell that a few of the girls were somewhat uncomfortable, but doubted their bruised sensibilities were the cause.
“Sex or even the idea of sex can have great sway over people,” Sister Beatrice said. “Can anyone name a few themes people associate with sex,” she asked.
From the back row of the class came, “It sells.”
“Correct,” Sister Beatrice said. “Advertising often portray beautiful portraits of men and women to appeal to persons baser instincts,” she added.
“It evokes trust,” Clara thought.
“Art,” the word came from the corner of the room.
“Sex and sensuality has led people to create beautiful works that have been cherished for generations,” Sister Beatrice said. “Does anyone believe that the Mona Lisa would have been painted if she were a shrill hag? Ever wonder why she was smiling,” she asked.
The girls giggled, that meant the atmosphere in the class was beginning to thaw. They were beginning to get over the provocative nature of the entrance.
Had that been her intent all along? A nun in a habit would have led to a muted discussion.
“Murder and war,” Clara said.
Several of the girls stopped giggling as soon as those words reached their ears. For a moment Clara felt as though the class’ collective gaze were focused on her.
“Not many students mention that aspect,” Sister Beatrice said.
For a moment she observed Clara but quickly shifted her attention. Apparently this had been the opening needed to continue on with the lecture.
“There are stories of wars fought over the love of a woman. Duels, murder and deceit can often be attributed to interactions with the fairer sex,” Sister Beatrice said.
“Women are not guiltless in this matter,” Sister Beatrice said. “Women have killed to keep a man in their lives or prevent competition,” she added.
By this time the girls were murmuring, questioning the course material and how this all tied together. Clara had an idea on where this was going and looked forward to watching it develop.
“Now… Now… Girls,” Sister Beatrice said. “Sex is also a weapon,” she added just as the girls were starting to simmer down.
“How,” an older student asked.
Clara could fathom a few scenarios that fit the bill; heck, she had survived an example case. Alas that meant she could never truly forget what had happened. Henceforth Jack would always be there in the back of her mind.
“It disarms your target,” Clara whispered.
Clara noticed that Edith was staring right at her. Was she concerned about her tone of voice? She was normally assertive, not milquetoast. Clara could feel all those eyes on her now, burning a hole into her skull. This moment been a long overdue, and it was that time it came out in the open.
“Correct,” Sister Beatrice said. “The process of flirting, foreplay and ultimately barneymugging can be used for or against you.”
A few girls giggled at the word barneymugging. Clara remained silent, hoping someone else would take up the relay.
“How,” Edith said as though reading her mind.
“Good question,” Sister Beatrice asked. “Can anyone take a stab at it,” she asked.
Once again the room went quiet, it was obvious that most of the girls were unwilling to delve further into this topic. Some wanted to avoid ending up in Clara’s place whereas others were just waiting for Clara to speak up so they could hear more.
“Between a rock and a hard place,” Clara thought.
Clara gulped and steadied her nerves because there was no backing away now. She needed to get through this, so she might as well do it on her terms.
“Their kind have a way of praying on our base instincts,” Edith said. “All you can think about is your burning desires that only they can satiate,” she added.
Clara cocked her head to get a better look at Edith. The answer was eerily like the one she planned on, including in the depth of emotion. Had her friend experienced a similar event?
“You are incapable of coherent thought, your instincts scream out for you to do something, but they are drowned out by your needs,” Clara added.
“That,” Sister Beatrice said. “That is how they often control their prey. They have used this skill to hunt for millennia,” she added.
Students were beginning to whisper amongst themselves. The little hens had just been handed a treasure trove of rumours to spread.
“How do we defend ourselves,” a student asked.
Clara smiled at Edith and said, “Faith, luck, willpower or a partner concealed nearby.”
Sister Beatrice looked at Edith and Clara before she went on. Had this been planned as a therapeutic session? Had this another thinly veiled test? To what end?
“Willpower,” Sister Beatrice said. “Is rarely effective against their kind. The older they get, the more powerful their abilities to manipulate us become.”
The chatter between the girls was growing in intensity. There was static in the air that was intangible and difficult to explain. In the end, all it took was a single look from Sister Beatrice to kill it.
“As for luck,” Sister Beatrice said. “Luck is always a factor but not something that no one should count on,” she added.
“It takes an incredibly brave person to head into danger while knowing they might never return,” Sister Beatrice said.
“Or foolhardy,” Clara said in a defeatist tone. “Sister,” she added belatedly.
“The difference of which is how successful the fool was on that particular endeavour,” Beatrice said before she smirked.
“As for a partner,” Sister Beatrice said. “Hunters often do so in pairs,” she said.
“Boy and girl Sister,” a student asked with a hint of excitement riding on every word.
While the question had been asked to see if they would be interacting more with their male counterparts it remained valid. Clara however guessed there were other elements at play, one that only a few students present were able to comprehend.
“Generally not child,” Sister Beatrice said.
The formal pattern of speech had been used to dissuade students from overtly showing their disappointment. This was a serious topic for discussion and thinking about boys did little to help.
“Women are typically paired together. There is no better way to hide then posing as sisters or later on spinsters,” Sister Beatrice said.
Clara found it odd that the sapphic nature of some of these girls had not been mentioned. Admittedly someone with such inclinations were still considered taboo by the church. There was an obvious advantage to a hunter who was immune to the conventional fare. Clara had an idea on how to explore that aspect without being too obvious.
“So they cannot affect more than one subject at a time Sister,” Clara asked.
There was a brief hesitation in the Sister’s voice while she said, “They can, but we ensure the effect of a threat is mitigated ahead of time.”
Sometimes a non-answer was enough to confirm a hypothesis. Clara would take on the male vampires while her partner would go after the women. It made sense, seeing as they would need a viable subject to be bait. What better way for their partner to strike then when their prey was otherwise occupied?
It also explained Sister Beatrice’s attempt at selling same sex teams. Posing as husband and wife could lead to additional complications that would make them vulnerable. One could not afford that kind of attachment to their partner when on the hunt.
Besides how else could Clara manipulate men for information? It would be difficult to seduce a man if she posed as a married woman or appeared to be spoken for… Well at least for some of the men.
Edith was smiling as though trapped in a pleasant daydream. Was Edith looking right at her? Did she know something that Clara did not?
Clara was not certain of much right now. This was a new situation which brought about a new set of challenges. However, she had a hunch that this particular series of lectures would not only prove to be useful but would also be memorable.
Sure the old wounds left by Jack might resurface, but that would only harden her soul. In the end, this was a necessary step to take. In the future she would be sure that the tables were turned on them.
Besides, she had also found a kindred spirit in Edith. That meant Clara only needed to persevere, toughen up and face the world waiting to strike her down. After all, there were a few years left of schooling before she had to face the world.