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 had no idea what to expect once she got back to the Tower. Full-fledged hunters with years of experience often disappeared without a trace, so for an acolyte to return where so many had failed? Now that was bound to get some attention.
Clara knew that her credibility would be questioned. Others had claimed kills that were not their own to progress through the ranks. Such a lie would be far more plausible than returning as the victor after walking into a trap.
Clara took a deep breath while focusing on the door leading into the Tower. While this area had no defences beyond obfuscation, Clara was certain that something would happen once she opened that door. The question was what?
Clara closed her eyes, let out her breath and recited a prayer. With one push of her hand the door gave way and she crossed the threshold.
~ ~ ~ ~
Blinding white light greeted her on the other side, Clara struggled in vain to keep her eyes open. Even during that brief attempt her vision was marred with deep purple streaks.
So that particular door led to other destinations? Clara had suspected that direct and unfettered access to the Tower would pose a security risk. In a way, it was reassuring to learn that the Tower had a few more secrets left, especially those which favoured self-preservation.
Clara did not move, because she felt the sharp edge of a blade touch her skin. A thin rivulet of blood ran down her neck but she was not worried. This had been a warning, if they wanted her dead, Clara would have never known what hit her.
“There are very few ways to trigger the Tower’s defences,” Edith said.
Clara said nothing, since speaking would only worsen the bleeding. If Edith was interested in an answer, she would have to permit it.
“Traitors are not welcome here,” Edith said. “So why are you still alive,” she asked.
The blade remained firmly in place. Chances were that Edith had expected Clara to be a smouldering heap of ash right now.
“I wonder if that would the best time to cook a marshmallow,” Clara thought.
At this moment Clara was in Limbo, caught in a state between life and death. Clara needed to convince Edith that she was not here to betray them.
Clara reached into her pocket in a slow and deliberate manner. She then found her prize and dropped them onto the floor. The two bloodied fangs made no more sound than a pin drop. Wherever they were it had to be spacious to dampen the sound to this extent.
“Where did you get those,” Edith asked while she sheathed her blade.
Clara turned around and felt something being dropped into her hands. Her fingers probed the metallic, glass and leather device. Without a second thought she slipped them over her head to protect her eyes. Now she had the opportunity to take a look at where she was.
Edith stood before her while sporting spectacles fitted with onyx coloured lenses. They looked a bit like welders glasses and assumed she had been given an identical pair.
“Jack surrendered them,” Clara said.
“Jack,” Edith asked with a hint of confusion.
Clara nodded before she said, “Must have been turned a couple of years back.”
“Jack? We had no intelligence on this,” Edith said.
Clara pulled out the folded canvas portrait which contained the list of girls killed. The portrait had the same effect on Edith as it had for Clara.
“He was careful on who to ambush and when,” Clara said. “He even painted a tableau mort for every one of those poor girls,” she added.
“You got the better on him,” Edith asked.
“I got lucky,” Clara said. “So what now,” she asked.
Edith focused intently on Clara’s facial features. In that moment her fate was being decided based on very little evidence. Clara hoped that this glimpse at the truth was enough.
“Follow me,” Edith said.
They walked away from the blinding light until the levels dropped to a manageable level. Both Edith and Clara removed their glasses and hung them against a whitewashed wall. It took a moment, but Edith found a hidden latch which enabled her to push away a portion of the wall.
Clara had visited many fortifications as part of her training. She saw arrow slits in the rock and larger openings that would permit a small cannon loaded with grapeshot to fire salvos. Simply put, this was a killing field designed to prevent entry.
At the end of the tunnel there were heavy steel doors reinforced with massive rivets. Clara had never seen those doors before. Once they walked through, Clara found herself safely within the confines of the Terminus.
“A pocket of reality to keep undesirables away,” Edith said.
That was a detail that Jack would have wanted to get his hands on, so Clara would have died for nothing. Another reason why Clara should have been thankful that her strategy had worked out after all.
A moment later they were back in the Main Hall. No one seemed to be paying her any particular attention so no alarms had been raised. Edith moved at a frightening pace, so Clara did her best to keep up even while they made their way up to the Reverend Mother’s office.
Clara had been to see her before, to clear up some misunderstandings. Old habits did die hard after all, but this time there would be a lot of explaining to do.