Evelyn Chartres Author
Clara – Page 2

A Saucerful of Secrets – Part III

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!

The Tower had mysteries and some left Clara certain that there would be no answers. Often her instincts served her well to make that determination. It often proved wise to keep silent on such mysteries to prevent a whole slew of uncomfortable questions. Clara especially dreaded being questions on where a particular line of questioning came from.

In other circumstances Clara knew that she would need to get dirty to get the answers she wanted. There were many nooks and crannies dispersed throughout the Tower waiting to be explored; some of which led to long forgotten sections of the Tower.

Officially the Tower had few forbidden spaces. Some were flagrantly ignored by staff and students alike for convenience while others were from bans enacted long ago for a reason no one could remember.

Other places were simply rumours to be forbidden, so most kept a wide berth. Clara came across old archives covered in dust and cobwebs, she often found them to be filled to the brim with history and artefacts.

One particularly neglected lavatory led to a another wing that had been abandoned centuries ago. Rumours were that the Tower had once been accessible directly from the outside world, just like any modern college or campus.

While the wing had been sealed off using heavy stone and mortar, Clara had come across a small access point. Pipes and drains had to connect to somewhere after all.

The opening was just big enough for her to squeeze her way through. Clara forced her tiny frame through opening while her back grated against the rough stone surface and was instantly covered in dust, mortar and years of accumulated filth. On the other side she found the mirror image of the lavatory she had just passed through.

Dust must have been over an inch thick here. Oddly enough the lights and plumbing were functional. Clara took a moment to clean up before she walked out of the room, after all even explorers had standards to uphold.

The rest of the wing was also covered in a thin layer of dust and displayed signs of life. Scat could be found in some corners, bones from predator and pray alike littered the floor. Spiders had created large networks of webs so thick that she initially thought they were the tattered remains of drapery.

Clara was in awe on how nature persisted and even thrived after human interference had been removed. Nowhere else in the Tower were there such obvious signs of life. This was a prime example of survival of the fittest, visible only because a cleaning staff did not wipe away all the evidence.

It took a few moments for Clara to size up the wing. There were two adjacent rooms, one large enough to serve as a classroom while the other contained the remnants of a library. Against the wall she saw something that seemed to be a trophy case.

Clara looked over the tarnished silver cups, sceptres and crowns. These items would have been worth a princely sum to the right buyers, even in their deteriorated state.

She considered disturbing the artefacts to have a better look, but thought it best not to. She would likely have to dedicate significant effort into reading the inscriptions. For what? To learn that the Tower at one point in its history had a semblance of normalcy?

Within the old library she found a small section filled with thick tomes. The rest of the library had been stripped bare. She ran her hands over the leather bound spines but could not make out the titles. These looked and felt ancient and given the state of this wind they probably were.

Clara pulled out a book at random then opened it up towards middle. They were filled with row upon row of names, all written in a fine hand. Most of these names were in Latin with a few exceptions found throughout. Occasionally, these would be accompanied by an amplifying paragraph such as a notice on promotion, appointment, or commendation.

These appeared to be personnel records and quiet old based on the use of animal hide for the pages. So why were some of the lines blotted out?

Clara pulled open a few more books and discovered that they also contained blotted out sections. Were these deliberate attempts to purge records from the books? Odd, although abandoning these book in a sealed part of the tower was certainly more effective.

Once she left the library, she came up to a set of heavy oaken doors. The doors had been reinforced with steel, to deter any sustained attacks.

Immediately to the side she found a door dwarfed by its adjacent kin. Clara would have missed it if she were looking at it from any other angle. The door was effectively invisible when viewed directly, probably as a camouflage to avoid accidental discovery. That in itself was not unusual, there were many such anomalies and people occasionally went insane trying to find the right room.

Clara approached the smaller door then ran her hand over the door handle. The brass was tarnished and confirmed that it had not been used in years.

Without hesitation Clara pulled on the door and felt it resist at first. With a bit more strength the door creaked and moaned until she heard a snap that echoed throughout the hall. With corrosion shaken loose from its hinges, the door opened easily.

Given the large doors immediately to her side, Clara had not expected much from this particular entrance. She suspected this door would lead to a caponier or some sort of defensive structure. How else would defenders be able to repel any invader?

Instead of a dark musty tunnel she was greeted by a bright light, bright enough to leave her temporarily blinded. Clara closed her eyes and walked out into the open, expecting to feel the warm sunlight on her skin. Instead she felt nothing. Odd?

Clara slowly opened her eyes so they could adjust to their surroundings. Before her there was a city washed out by the light and devoid of detail. The longer she looked over the scene, the more ethereal the world seemed.

All around she found signs that this city was inhabited. Houses were well-maintained and foliage nearby was neatly trimmed. The streets were neatly cobbled, marked, and the sides were covered in barrels and pottery. The latter was more telling since it helped her establish a time period.

Strangely absent from this world, was the wind or any sounds. Clara could not hear or see signs of insects, birds, animals or humans. Even when she came across a bazaar full of food, wares and wealth there was no one in sight.

Clara found a stand of fruit and helped herself to an apple. One bite into the plump and ripened fruit had no taste. The entire situation reminded of something her sisters had said after Papa had died, namely about the existence of limbo.

She headed back towards the Tower and expected to make out some details on its exterior. What she saw instead was far more awe inspiring. Right before her eyes there was a towering volcano in the midst of an eruption. Did this mean they were in danger?

“Know where we are,” Reverend Mother Augustine said.
How had that woman managed to sneak up on her? However, the surprise caused Clara to turn around so quickly that the Reverend Mother in turn flinched.

Reverend Mother Augustine was a tall and imposing woman who was rumoured to have been a hunter. She did not wear the habit which people tended to expect for someone bearing the title of Reverend Mother. Instead she opted to wear the same uniforms the girls were issued.

The woman had deep blue eyes that gave Clara the impression she could peer into the very depths of her soul. It never failed to send a chill down her spine when the Reverend Mother adopted her pose. The one where she narrowed her eyes and cocked her head to the side for a moment or so before she rendered judgement.

Clara supposed there was a theatrical component to this act. What better way to discourage further interactions? Today she appeared just as would within the confines of the Tower, in spite of the blinding light. Clara looked down and noticed that she too was unaffected by the light. Alice Liddell’s adventures did not hold a candle to this experience.

Clara was not certain on the answer and was tempted to say Limbo. However, such an answer would fail to impress the Reverend Mother. Professors expected a reasoned answer, one which reached beyond faith and scripture.

“Roman architecture,” Clara said. “You can tell by the furniture, available goods and frescos,” she said.

“Go on child,” Augustine replied.

“The abundance of fresh and fruits tells me that we are in a port city,” Clara said. “There is also a volcano in the distance spewing ash—,” she added.

The Reverend Mother was about to speak when Clara’s eyes brightened. Ash had been the trigger that she needed to unlock the name.

“Pompeii,” Clara exclaimed.

“A sharp mind you have there, my child,” the Reverend Mother said.

“Thank you Reverend Mother,” Clara said after realising she had forgotten to use any marks of respect until now.

“Managed to find your way out here too,” Augustine said. “None of the students have managed that feat since the nineteenth century. You’re the first so far,” she added but hoped the number remained at one.

An obvious reply did not come to her, so Clara nodded and kept her eyes low. It rarely paid to appear confident when one’s transgressions were discovered.

“How did you find your way here Child,” Augustine asked.

“I followed the plumbing through the wall and into an abandoned section of the Tower Reverend Mother,” Clara said.

The Reverend Mother smiled before she said, “Only two others ever used that particular route Child.” Just as Clara’s eyes began to glow she added, “Yes there are other ways inside. Since the cat is already out of the bag, you are welcome to try. So long as you do not neglect your studies or tell the others.”

Clara cocked her head to the side and looked genuinely confused. It was not every day that someone encouraged her to break the rules.

“Reverend Mother,” Clara asked confused.

“Have you been able to explain why our surroundings appear as they do,” the Reverend Mother asked to change the subject.

A quick glance at the Volcano was all Clara needed before answering, “A pocket in time Reverend Mother.”

“You guessed or knew,” Augustine asked.

“A bit of both,” Clara said. “I initially thought this was Limbo,” she said honestly.

“I could see how you might have thought that,” the Reverend Mother Augustine said. “If limbo existed, it might very well be a place like this,” she added.

“Why are we in a pocket of time Reverend Mother,” Clara asked.
Clara expected to be given the runaround or told she was simply too young to know the truth. After all, that was the modus operandi. At least until now, because today was a day of firsts.

“I am not quite sure that I can adequately explain child,” the Reverend Mother said. Before the crestfallen look washed over Clara’s face she added, “I have been told that humans need to exist somewhere within space and time.”

Clara’s eyes brightened up, and beamed a smile. Fortunately there were no sounds or stimuli to distract her from listening.

“We cannot exist in any environment where time or space are absent. However, space and time can sometimes be coerced to permit situations like this,” Augustine said.

“Defensive,” Clara added and gripped her mouth just as the word slipped out.

“Correct child,” the Reverend Mother said. “When in sync with the world we can be located, and an attack mounted. The Tower exists here for now, so an attacker would need to coordinate an attack on this very day. That the active volcano and the poisonous gases would dissuade any direct physical attack,” she added.

So that explained the need for the Terminus. On the bright side, it likely saved a fortune on maintenance costs.

“I am afraid that’s all I know child,” Augustine said.

“Thank you Reverend Mother,” Clara said. She then grinned before adding, “Do I get any hints on the other entrances?”

“No child,” the Reverend Mother said. “However, I will show you a quicker way back to the Main Hall,” she added.

For now Clara supposed that would have to suffice. At least she was not expressly forbidden from returning to Pompeii. It appeared to be the perfect place for those who needed a bit of time away from the hustle and bustle of Tower living.

A Saucerful of Secrets – Part II

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!

On occasion she would bring up concerns in the hopes of finding answers. Most of the professors and clergy toed the line; they dared not betray some unwritten rule.

Professor Stephens as the keeper of secrets on monsters and ghosts was her most sympathetic source. On occasion he would fill in the blanks or send her in the right direction. How else could she contend with a threat of she remained ignorant of the world before her?

Her most memorable conversation she had with Professor Stephens revolved around a book she had found on pre-Christian and pagan gods. Clara had noticed how the pages had been amended to include symbols. The aspect that caught her attention? Every symbol was found by the name of every god or goddess discussed.

Every symbol started out as a circle and varied based on the fill or pattern. The circles were filled in by quarters and sometimes they were divided by a coloured border be it red, blue or green. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the symbology, so Clara could not decipher their purpose.

When she brought the thick and heavy tome to class, Professor Stephens noticed immediately. For one, it was rare for students to bring reference material in and secondly Clara was pretty sure he was familiar with this book.

“A surprise for me,” Professor Stephens asked.

“No exactly,” Clara said. She opened the book to a random page, “I can’t decipher these annotations.”

“Annotations,” Professor Stephens asked.

By this point in time Clara had grown accustomed to having her words returned to her in the form of questions. It seemed to be an efficient way to throw a student off the scent.

Clara played along by pointing out to two separate instances of the circles on the page. She then flipped through some pages to showcase more examples.

“I found them all over this book,” Clara said. “Although I cannot make heads or tails of their intent,” Clara added.

Most of the Professors or Clergy would sit there and for the most part feigned curiosity. Father Allen was a poor actor who could ill deflect her questions whereas Professor Stephens was an expert. Even then it was rare for her to buy into his deception wholesale.

This time Professor Stephens surprised her. Instead of the expected song and dance, he sat down at his desk and sighed. It was the first time she had seen him show his human side to her.

“There is knowledge that students are expected to know,” Professor Stephens said.

He paused while he flipped through the book’s pages. Clara observed how some entries seemed to trigger some memories.

“We expect students to deal with situations involving vampires, ghouls and ghosts,” Professor Stephens added.

Such a statement was logical, students were taught to counter known threats and equipped them with strategies that would enable them to strike a deathblow. Over the past few years Clara had learned how to distract, attract, trap and strike at their such foes.

She supposed that doctors worked the same way. At first they would study human anatomy and specialise later. They would not waste their time by learning how to butcher an animal or study alchemy.

“There are certain topics that are deemed unnecessary for you to know. They run counter to our policies and officially are not acknowledged,” Professor Stephens added.

“So—,” Clara said.

The professor raised his hand to prevent her from saying anything further while he scanned the room. Did the walls have ears? That aspect was not wholly unexpected.

Before long Professor Stephens said, “That’s the official story of course. The truth is however lies somewhere between our doctrines and your wildest imagination.

“God—,” Clara said.

“Alas I can say no more on this subject,” Professor Stephen said. He then winked before adding, “I know nothing of these symbols or how they are applied to the gods and goddesses of myth.”

That brief moment of honesty had been a revelation for Clara. There were things that those within the Tower did not openly discuss. The reasons? Clara did not expect that answers would be forthcoming.

A Saucerful of Secrets – Part I

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!

After learning that creatures from the deepest and darkest corners of the human mind were real, Clara knew there were still many secrets left to discover. For now these secrets and discoveries would have to wait since lectures and her studies were a priority. Sure, it might have been disappointing to control her natural curiosity, but she knew it would beneficial in the end.

Courses were taught in classes found all over the Tower, from the deepest bowels of the dungeon for combat training to its highest reaches for poetry. Clara’s course load seemed tailored in a such a way to make the lectures on time.

On Thursday’s she would sneak through a library past the watchful eye of Father Allen, the chief archivist to shave twenty minutes on her travel and attend an improvised weapons course. Sometimes Clara managed to arrive early enough to feed her curiosity and get some answers since the risk was often well worth the risks she took.

Every Wednesday, Clara would leave five minutes early from bible studies to grab an early bite to eat. She would greedily consume everything that was on her plate so she would have the time to make it to her hand-to-hand combat classes.

Clara observed other initiates who had reached the same point in their training. Some were cool and collected as though the chaos had been woven into the fabric of their souls; while others were the cusp of a complete breakdown.

While never formally acknowledged, every aspect of their training had been designed to test the students. The ability for a student to realise this fact and adapt was a key factor on how students survived. Those who sought perfection and needed to control their situation saw their grip on reality loosen little by little every day. It was obvious they wanted people to overcome these situations or fail spectacularly.

There was one factor which remained constant throughout, the Tower held a proverbial cornucopia secrets. There were skeletons in every closet and people rarely gave you a straight answer; there were even omissions in their archives.

For a young Girl who liked to cause a bit of mischief, finding these omissions became a passion of hers. She would fly through rows upon rows of books looking for something that appeared peculiar or out of place.

Clara vividly recalled the conversation she once had with Father Allen about a particular omission. It had been one of the first times she had found an omission although it would not be the last.

“What do you mean child,” Father Allen asked.

“Some pages are missing from this book,” Clara said. She then added, “Father,” belatedly as a form of respect.

“That can’t be right Child,” Father Allen said.

Father Allen had torn the book from her hands to get a better look. There was something about his dramatic behaviour which made her suspicious.

“Which page Child,” Father Allen asked.

Clara took back the book then placed it neatly on a table surface. That way both of them got a clear view of the pages, Clara then thumbed through it quickly until she found the offending pages.

“I would say five pages or so are missing Father,” Clara said.

Father Allen looked at top of the book nearer to the spine; there were no voids to show that pages had been cut away. Fortunately, Clara knew full well that these books were often rebound.

“There are no voids visible child,” Father Allen said.

“No but the animation is off Father,” Clara said.

“Animation,” Father Allen asked.

Clara had come across many medieval texts before. These were often hand written works of art, normally created using the precise hand of a scribe. However, some must have found the task monotonous, since she occasionally came across these little doodles or illustrations hidden throughout.

Some of these doodles were depictions of killer rabbits locked in mortal combat against a noble knight. Some included elaborate battles which invariably involved a man taking an arrow to the rear end. Others included scenes where men fought their way through trees shaped like penises.

In this particular book the scribes work had been more elaborate. At first, it looked harmless enough since every page featured the same design. That is until someone read far enough to realise just how these subtle changes over time could lead to something unique.

This particular doodle featured an owl who ruffled its feathers before taking flight. While it soared, the owl would spot a mouse, grab it, find a perch and feast on its flesh. Flicking through the pages quickly enough showed the animation transitioning in such a way that these doodles appeared to move.

Clara flipped through the pages from the beginning. All the while she pointed to the doodle which was busy ruffling its feathers.

“See that owl Father,” Clara asked. “Watch as it takes flight,” she added while flipping through the pages.

Sure enough the bird spread its wings and soared through the pages. But there was a visible jitter, one which did not exist before or after the animation.

“A jitter,” Father Allen asked.

Clara smiled warmly before she said, “Yes Father.”

“Surely you have more evidence to bring forward than a faulty drawing Child,” Father Allen said.

Clara had expected her evidence of tampering to be taken seriously. It took an eye for detail to catch such a tiny flaw surrounded in a sea of information.

“The book is a collection of songs and prayers Father,” Clara said. “The page before speaks of a protective prayer that can ward off evil spirits. The page that follows is a morning chant instead,” she added.

“You can read Latin,” Father Allen asked.

“Of course,” Clara said. “Such knowledge is expected for all students is it not Father,” she added.

By that time Father Allen had been called away by one of the staff. She did not see him again for a month and in that time the book had mysteriously gone missing.

“Curiouser and curiouser,” Clara thought.

Clara assumed that the spell had been deemed dangerous or sacrilegious. If true, then why leave a reference to the text? Unless something more grievous had been omitted in between?

From that point on Clara used every opportunity to delve further into the archives. Father Allen was a popular target with these matters since she enjoyed his attempts at evading her. Silently, she wondered if the feeling had been mutual, since not all of the staff were social butterflies.

Here Be Monsters – Part II

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!

On the final day of lectures before the children were sent on a religious pilgrimage, Professor Stephens provided them with some context to the existence of the Tower.

He opened up with, “Throughout history there have been stories of things that lurked within the deepest corners of the forest, haunted castles or were thought to exist exclusively in our nightmares.”

“There are fairy tales which describe witches who prey on children. Creatures who grant wishes but exact a heavy toll for their service,” the professor added.

Clara could remember several stories that fit these themes. Hansel and Gretel came immediately to mind whereas Rumpelstiltskin was an obvious choice for the later.

These were children’s stories, told to keep a child’s behaviour in check or used to teach a valuable lesson. It seemed hard to believe that such a revered academic would lend credence to these stories.

“In the past, we discussed how legends are rooted in fact. How these were nothing more than fishing stories that reached legendary proportions. What initially started out as a story of a man catching a six inch trout turns into an epic struggle between man and beast,” he said.

Clara almost giggled but held her composure. She knew they were being observed and had her suspicions as to why.

“Fairy Tales are also rooted in fact. Some argued that Little Red Riding Hood was a tale on how the feminine form and sensuality can soothe the savage beast,” the professor said.

One of the girls giggled and Clara did not dare to look. Had this man really brought up a version of a fairy tale where the big bad wolf was seduced by the girl? She would have loved to hear that particular version. Clara bit the inside of her cheek to keep a straight face.

“The fifty or so variations of this story that I have studied over the years all featured one specific element,” the professor said while he looked at every student on the eye. “They all featured a creature appearing as a wolf and in many cases could take on human form to blend in with the villagers,” he added.

Clara mulled over the matter and connected the dots. Nowhere was such a creature described or defined as such, but certain elements appeared in the story. One might be able to infer the truth from these stories and yet this seemed more like a case of hindsight…

“In fact we are talking about a creature which stands approximately 10 to 18 feet high. Bipedal, is most powerful during the full moon and deadly beyond reckoning,” Professor Stephens said.

Clara leaned forward and opened her eyes as wide as she could. She was not about to miss what this man had to say.

As though on cue the lights blacked out and a large furry wolf-like creature appeared out of thin air. The apparition towered over the professor which made everyone in the room feel small and insignificant.

So this was the creature behind Little Red Riding Hood? What about the boy who cried wolf? In the background Clara heard one of her classmates break out into tears. What would the fire extinguishers do with her?

“Lupinotuum pectinem, a lycantrop or colloquially known as a werewolf,” the professor said nonchalantly. “A pack of these is rumoured to have decimated a battle hardened Roman Legion,” he added.

The werewolf slowly morphed into its human form. This particular specimen it seemed had been a woman. Easily determined, even with her emaciated breasts and wide hips. It was hard to place an age because of the hard life this specimen had lived through made it impossible to determine.

Clara was not surprised, the transformations and associated behaviours were bound to make them social pariahs. Fear and isolation would be sure to follow them and that made getting regular meals or proper hygiene more daunting.

“The males are both larger and more powerful than their female kin,” the professor added. “However these are not the only creatures which feeds our primal fears and haunts our nightmares,” the professor added.

The woman’s image was instantly replaced by something humanoid. It was tall, lanky with ashen skin and a long distinctive nose. Clara was unable to make out any other features, but that was more than enough to send a shiver down her spine. Why did this thing seem so familiar?

“There is something wrong with the eyes,” Clara said and immediately regretted having spoken out of turn.
Professor Stephens stopped cold and observed her for a moment before he asked, “What about the eyes.”

“They should be glowing,” Clara replied although she did not understand why she knew.

“That is only true in low light conditions,” he said. “Although an excellent point to bring up,” he added.

“Homo ‎pallidi or colloquially known as a ghoul,” the professor said. “Most tales surrounding these creatures originate from Arabic mythology. They describe creatures that seek out houses of the dead since they feed on decaying flesh,” he added.

The image changed again showing a different kind of creature. This was a thing of pure beauty, even with elongated fangs. Clara had no need to look at it further, she knew exactly what it was.

The professor began to name the creature, “Homo striga or more commonly known—”

“Vampire or nosferatu and popularised in by Bram Stoker in the last century. Creatures who are perversions of humanity, feast on human blood and whose rapid movements can appear like a blur to our eyes,” Clara said.

“Correct,” the professor said although he looked a bit surprised. “How did you know,” he asked.

“That one killed Father Michael a little over a year ago,” Clara said. “She did so on consecrated ground,” she added.

For a moment the tables had turned. Processor Stephens was now clearly uncomfortable with the information that came to life. How had news of this altercation not reached the confined of the Tower?

Clara felt betrayed, not only had they never spoken to her about the matter. Also, they never cautioned Professor Stephens against the use of that creature’s image? There must have been an ulterior motive to this lecture?

“Of course, you knew that already,” Clara said aloud and to defuse the situation and by this time noticed she was the only student left.

Edith walked in from out of the shadows then joined the professor at his side. Until that point she had rarely seen her outside of school gatherings. Why was she here?

“Of course we did,” the professor said. “We needed to see how you’d react,” he added.

“Your next phase of trading could not begin until we assessed you and that phase begins now,” Edith said with a grin.
So Clara had been correct. How many were initially surprised to hear that there were monsters in the world? Not just innocuous oddities, but things dangerous enough to require significant resources to counter?

Like the old charts she discovered in the Tower’s archives said, “Here be monsters.”

Here Be Monsters – Part I

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 never got a name for her new home or at least an official one. Some called it the Tower of Babel or the Tower for short. Others referred to it as the Library of Alexandria while some used an assortment of less savoury terms. It was rumoured that using proper name would endow their enemies. The lack of a name suited this place admirably.

Beyond the mysteries of the name there was an abundance of cultures and languages to be found here which made the experience richer. There were vast libraries and archives that contained vast sums of knowledge, some tomes of dated back to the Antiquities. Clara would occasionally explore the massive structure, always in awe that she could find something new daily.

Professor Stephens had taught them how the Church had amassed massive stores of information before the fall of the Roman Empire. The Church had hoarded knowledge in the hopes of preserving knowledge until humanity was ready.

Sadly there was something in his tone that implied humanity would wait a while yet. This was further hammered home when he commented on the Edison and Tesla rivalry. The professor even bragged that the acolytes of the Temple of Zeus had resolved those debates centuries ago.

While that certainly explained a few aspects of this structure and the wonders within, it did little to explain others. The Terminus was a prime example of this disconnect, the network of gates which led to destinations around the world.

This gateway was a wonder of design, architecture and functionality. No religious acolytes from the antiquities could have dreamed up that technology, nor were there any known scientists who could unravel its inner workings.

There were a few who believed the Terminus to be a magical construct, even if that this notion was vehemently rejected by clergy and academics alike. While there was no clear answer, Clara occasionally heard the name Georgian whispered in the air.

The instructors were as varied as the subjects they taught. There were priests, nuns, and professors who all approached the world differently. Occasionally they brought in specialists to teach specific courses. Clara especially enjoyed these specialists courses since their instructors had not been indoctrinated by the order.

While academics made up a small part of her curriculum, there were also courses on theology, high arts, physical fitness and combat. Instructors were nebulous when questioned as to why the latter was a considered a core subject. Clara could guess why combat was important, but very few of the students had been exposed to the truth like she had. She often envied their ignorance, especially their ability to imagine a world without things that went bump in the night.

Classes were almost exclusively segregated by gender or at least for her age group. Courses which included both genders were heavily chaperoned. There were fire extinguishers to be found at every corner, keeping a watchful eye on the students to ensure there was no fun to be had.

Clara was a bit younger than her classmates but even she noticed the less than subtle attempts to get noticed by the other sex. While young, Clara was not immune, Jack would occasionally glance her way and would subconsciously blush. During those moments Clara prayed for an answer on as to why this happened; alas a prayer that would remain unanswered.

Over the course of the year, students occasionally disappeared from the group. When Clara had joined, there were eight girls and by the end of the year there were four left. Like every other mystery in this school, there were no reasons or explanations, simply endless theories generated by those who remained.