Evelyn Chartres Author
Clara – Page 3

The Prelude to Action – Part I

Clara had not been recalled in years, so the request from the Reverend Mother herself surprised her. Mind you, the fact she was to have a private audience with the Reverend Mother really threw her for a loop.

While Clara walked up the staircase all of her memories came back in a rush. The mischief she had caused as a girl put a smile on her face, one which was sure to make the staff cringe.

There were very few from the staff that Clara recognised. The Great War had severely depleted their numbers. Clara could not recognise any of the students, but that was to be expected. A lot had changed since her time here.

Fortunately, the Tower and its architecture were immutable. Clara guessed that the Tower being tied to a specific point in time prevented change.

An older student saw Clara approach and opened the doors leading to the Reverend Mother’s chambers. Clara beamed a smile at this awestruck girl in hopes that it would ease her excitement. Alas, it only made things worse and left her worried that the child was about to suffer a case of the vapours.

Had Clara become a legend over the years? In her mind, there was nothing worse than living up to the ideals of being famous. Then again, it might have been innocuous, nothing more than Clara being fashionably dressed, which reminded the student of some starlette of the silver screen. Appearance did much to set the stage, especially when she was fresh out of the hen coop.

“Reverend Mother,” Clara said with a slight flourish and bow. “It is an honour to be in your presence once again.”

“Oh stop it,” the Reverend Mother said with a chuckle. “You could barely remember to use marks of respect as a student.”

“True,” Clara said with a smile.

The matron motioned her to take a seat by an oversized fireplace. While a fire crackled happily within, it lacked sufficient size to warm up the room.

The Tower’s secrets never ceased to amaze Clara. With a wave of the Reverend Mother’s hand, stone blocks slid away to reveal windows and a view of that washed out landscape. Windows? That explained how the Reverend Mother could catch the scent of students exploring the city.

Clara sat down as directed, crossing her silky smooth gams, and pulled out a compact with a mirror. She used the opportunity to powder her nose and fix up her lipstick. It was all for show; Clara sensed that the Reverend Mother needed more time to prepare.

“Thank you for coming in so quickly,” Augustine said.

“Anytime,” Clara replied.

“How have you been,” Augustine countered.

“As best as one can expect I suppose,” Clara said. “I am certainly enjoying these new fashions. So liberating!”

Clara enjoyed the freedom to live her life as she saw fit. She had her own clothes; possessions and lived out of a flat in the city that she used as a base of operations. Independence turned out to be a powerful motivator for her.

“Anyone of interest in your life,” the Reverend Mother asked.

Now that surprised Clara, but she kept it hidden beneath the veneer of cultivated sophistication. She supposed that if her mother were still alive, that particular question would come up nauseatingly often.

“No,” Clara said flatly.

There were flings. After all, men did have their uses. For one, they could scratch that itch better than she could by hand. They were also handy for the occasional free meal or when she needed to get into exclusive venues.

However, Clara did not feel any desire to keep a man around. They would insist on muzzling her freedom and limiting her activities. Such restrictions would invariably drive her away. So why go through all that drama?

“A shame,” the Reverend Mother said. “Now onto business.”

Clara put her things away and listened intently. She had no desire to show disrespect or miss a telltale detail.

“We lost two hunters recently,” the Reverend Mother said.

Clara was not surprised. Hunters disappeared all the time; some were killed, turned, deserted or simply vanished. To be brought here for missing hunters meant there was something else at play.

“They were members of Las Brigadas Femeninas de Santa Juana de Arco,” Augustine said. When Clara’s eyes widened, the Reverend Mother added, “I see that the name still has meaning for you. It should, since it was founded by members from your group.”

“Do we know why they went missing,” Clara asked.

“We dispatched them to Mexico to determine if there were any outside influences on the government’s anti-clerical activities,” Augustine said. “There were legitimate fears that they were trying to destabilise the Church within the region.”

Clara had heard news of what was going on in Mexico. Truth was that it mattered little on the world stage. World powers were busy rebuilding or waging war over some distant colony.

“Their taint is all over the conflict. There are rows upon rows of hanged Cristeros lining up major roadways,” Augustine said.

“Rather brutal response to a religious uprising,” Clara said. “So how does this tie into the disappearance of two hunters?”

“As a precaution, our gates to that region were disconnected,” the Reverend Mother replied.

Clara followed the trail of breadcrumbs laid out by the Reverend Mother. During conflicts, gates were shut down to prevent any unauthorised access to the Terminus.

The hunters’ disappearance meant that the deal she interrupted over a decade ago might be back in play. The difference being that this time the payment had been met in full and that worried Clara. The last thing they needed was Drusilla gaining access to the Tower.

“When do I leave,” Clara asked.

Reverend Mother Augustine smiled and, for the first time, Clara noticed that her ageless beauty was beginning to erode. There were a few more wrinkles present and the crow’s feet were asserting themselves. No one could hide from Father Time, unless you made a deal with the devil, that is.

“You leave immediately for our closest gate in the United States. From there, you will make your way south,” the Reverend Mother said.

Clara got up and said, “Right away, Reverend Mother.”

With a smirk, she headed towards the door. Soon, she would be headed off on her next mission and needed to keep her wits about her. She was bound to encounter opposition en route; that was inevitable.

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!

Dinner with the Devil – Part II

Clara was perusing the newspaper while sitting at a booth. She noticed the article detailing the discovery of a burnt-out car near lover’s lane. It seemed that a young couple heading home from a petting party had spotted the wreck.

A coroner’s inquest was sure to follow, but Clara suspected they would find nothing. After all, their investigations into the deaths of those girls had turned up empty and their bodies left behind valuable clues, not ash.

A waiter passed by and placed a drink on her table before he said, “Compliments of the lady at the bar.”

Clara had been offered drinks before. It came with the territory. Doubly so when she was all dolled up, but until now only men had made such overtures.

Even from here, Clara saw the impeccably dressed flapper who could make jaws drop from a hundred paces. For a moment, she even felt a twinge of envy.

The lady’s green eyes simply enhanced the overall effect, enough to overshadow her expensive jewellery. Clara assumed that lady, in this case, was most likely the correct term to use with this one.

“Long haired brunette,” Clara said in a mumble.

They had crossed paths last night. She was the one who leered at her for having that tattoo. This had to be more than a coincidence.

Clara raised her glass in salute and the lady reciprocated. They both sipped on their drinks and kept their eyes locked on one another. Clara had an inkling that the lady enjoyed the attention.

A waiter dropped something at the corner of her table. When Clara turned to investigate, she felt a cool breeze. Some might assume it had been from an open door, but she knew better.

“Beautiful work you did last night, ma chère,” the lady said.

“What do you mean,” Clara responded nonchalantly.

Clara knew full well that she should be dead. That diversion alone would have given her ample opportunity to bury a blade in Clara’s chest and escape unnoticed.

When she turned to get a better look at her guest, she let out an involuntary gasp. It was hard to believe just how stunning the lady was up close.

“What’s wrong with me,” Clara wondered.

“I love this fashion trend,” the lady said. “My body type is finally starting to turn some heads.”

Clara had studied history extensively, but such anecdotes were usually left out of the books. It was unusual to hear such a statement from someone who lived through it. Although she kept wondering why she had not been relegated to a footnote in the history books by now.

“I’m Evelyn,” the lady said.

“Clara,” she replied. “We met last night.”

Evelyn giggled. Her voice had musical overtones that bordered on being hypnotic. Clara knew she was toning it down, likely to prevent anyone else from becoming entranced.

“Yes, we did, ma chère,” Evelyn said. “We were after the same man, you and I.”

“You hunt in packs,” Clara asked.

Evelyn giggled again before she said, “I was there to stop him.”

Clara had been sipping on her drink while the words sank in and coughed up its contents. Not exactly ladylike, that statement had thrown her for a loop.

“It hasn’t been my experience—,” Clara said before coughing again.

“You deal with the dredges, those we eventually put down, ma chère,” Evelyn said. “You think we need that kind of publicity?”

In a way, it was a relief to hear that the more dangerous elements of their kind were culled. However, that implied there were a great many more than they suspected, concealing their numbers by taking out the ones who got caught.

“I suppose not,” Clara said.

Just then, a series of plates were brought in by the waiter. While the man silently deposited the food, Evelyn winked at him.

“That waiter was with you last night,” Clara asked.

“Of course, ma chère,” Evelyn said. “He and I have travelled together for four centuries now.”

Evelyn broke a bun with her hands and dipped it into the bowl of soup. Clara eyed every movement, even when she brought food to those lipstick covered lips and took a bite. It was the first time she had witnessed their kind eating food.

As soup broth ran down Evelyn’s chin, she giggled. It was so disarming to watch her do these every day actions and for a moment Clara forgot who she was dealing with.

Clara looked at the various items placed before her and opted to grab a devilled egg with anchovies. She wanted something that required one hand to eat.

“So why are we having this pleasant chat,” Clara said.

“An excellent question, ma chère,” Evelyn said while she clapped her hands in excitement.

Evelyn really seemed to be an innocent and excitable young lady. There had to be a dark side to her. They all needed to feed after all. Besides, how could she have silenced that man without a predatory nature? No, Evelyn clearly had a dark side, and it was important to keep that in mind.

“I can honestly see how you might be confused,” Evelyn added just before she bit down on another piece of bread. “I’ve admitted to my advanced age, hinted that I was associated with your latest conquest, and I know you’re not a prostitute.”

“Sounds about right,” Clara said.

“You know, I was a courtesan before my partner found me. Though not nearly as famous or in demand as the Mata Hari,” Evelyn said. “I owe him a great deal for taking me in.”

“So you two are close,” Clara asked.

“Not physically,” Evelyn said dryly. “But yes, more so than many couples will ever be.”

“If I were a prost—,” Clara managed to say.

“It may have elicited some sympathy,” Evelyn said.

Clara nodded and grabbed another egg. Fortunately they were rather scrumptious, not a bad choice for a last meal.

“That’s not why you are here. After all, we normally strive to keep your order out of our business,” Evelyn said.

“You like my eyes,” Clara said facetiously.

Evelyn gave her a good long stare as though she were expecting to find her soul. It was the grin that followed that hinted how close to the mark Clara’s comment had been.

“The fun you and I could have,” Evelyn said. “The passion and ecstasy you’d experience. I could make you question your very existence.”

Every word she said became more hypnotic. Clara had trouble staying focused. She sensed that those words were not only meant to entice but also marked Evelyn’s own loss of control.

“Oh,” Clara murmured while blood flushed through her cheeks.

“You are a very beautiful woman, Clara,” Evelyn said. “It would be fun while it lasted, but eventually you’d realise that I was really the monster you originally envisioned.”

“The hunt would be half the fun,” Clara said with a grin.

“True, ma chère,” Evelyn said and winked. She brought up her glass and said, “To the endless possibilities of life.”

“That can follow you into death,” Clara countered and finished her drink.

“Now, I must get going,” Evelyn said while getting up.

“So soon,” Clara said honestly.

“The opportunity for trouble is far too great,” Evelyn said. “You did us a favour by ridding the world of that filth, so I can in good conscience spare your life.”

“How kind,” Clara said.

Evelyn did not seem to be bothered by the reply. That did not stop Clara from cringing. She had run off her mouth at precisely the wrong moment.

“However, I am obliged to inform you that you have two days to leave this city. Others in your order would do well to leave us be… For now,” Evelyn said.

Clara nodded, the seriousness in Evelyn’s tone made it clear that she meant business.

Evelyn then did something that completely took Clara by surprise. She leaned over and kissed Clara square on the lips. The passion of this act overwhelmed Clara, so much so that she felt her inhibitions melt away.

The lady then picked up a cloth napkin and wiped the combination of their lipstick from her lips. Clara was impressed, Evelyn was aware of her fail-safe.

“You owe me one,” Evelyn said.

She walked out with an elongated gait to show off that sensual sway of her hips. Clara loved to be with men, loved their bodies and how they felt inside of her. Despite all of these points, this imp had been able to negate that factor without breaking a sweat. Clara had learned an important lesson tonight, one that every hunter should learn early in their careers.

“I always repay my debts,” Clara said.

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!

Dinner with the Devil – Part I

[Please note that sexually explicit elements of the scene were scrubbed]

“Two women were found dead last week,” Clara said.

Clara hopped lightly from one foot to the other so her toes would stay warm. Snow covered the ground, while more fell lazily from the sky in the form of large snowflakes. This could have been a romantic winter’s eve if she were not busy working.

A couple passed by on the opposite side of the street. While the gentleman paid her little heed, the well-dressed flapper at his side leered at her. Even from that distance the tattoo on Clara’s leg was visible and around here that was a symbol for women who were from the wrong side of the tracks.

Clara had been working this particular corner for the past three weeks. In that time there had been eight deaths involving prostitutes. All of them had been killed without a single witness coming forward. In itself that was odd since the deaths all occurred in heavily trafficked areas.

The city had done their best to keep things under wrap, namely by clamping down on the prostitutes. The local intelligencia also kept it out of the news, even that nagging tidbit about the women being drained of blood. Worse still, their fates did not lend any sympathy from the constabulary; around here an impure lifestyle meant they deserved a death to match.

Every victim had certain commonalities, all were ladies of the night, dark haired and young. Lastly every one of them had a tattoo on their leg although the latter might have been a red herring.

“Fortunately I can have it removed when I’m done,” Clara thought.

In the distance, she saw a set of glowing headlights coming down the street. Cars were getting to be more common now, especially in big cities. The snow today would make driving treacherous, these vehicles were tricky to control since there was no traction.

Fortunately this was a newer model, long hood with side mounted spare tyres, a hard top and running boards. There was a single occupant inside who sported leather gloves and a white scarf. Funny how some people were unable to break from tradition.

The car slowed as it approached, Clara saw how he was sizing her up. This was not the first time that she had been approached in this matter, so she opened up her coat to let him have a peek. While the cold air rushed in she shivered, an effect that somehow got his attention.

“The spider is checking its web for flies,” Clara thought.

The man obviously had money, how else could he own an imported car of this sophistication? That may have been a disarming trait for some, but Clara suspected the killer was wealthy. For the most part they were all affluent and drawn to power.

The man pulled up to the curb and rolled down his window. This was the part Clara dreaded, feeling like a piece of meat. She wore a simple dress that left little to the imagination and did much to draw the eyes to her ample bust, but he showed no interest. Instead, he focused on her eyes and then lingered on her tattooed leg.

“Hiya handsome,” Clara said mimicking the accent of the local street urchins.

“How much,” the man asked.

“Starts at two bits for a dry bob honey,” Clara said.

The man never batted an eye at the price, since he could easily afford the going rates at an exclusive brothel. While Clara was attractive, she was hardly unique in that aspect, so her prices had to be competitive to not arouse suspicion.

The man smiled before he said, “I’ll pull up over there.”

“Whatever ya say honey,” Clara said and winked.

While this gentleman drove off fifty feet, Clara made her way towards the alley and noticed how his car had no frost in the windows. Despite that clue, all she could think about was how cold her feet were, and how divine it was to start walking again.

From her purse she pulled out a lipstick applicator and applied a fresh coat. A moment later, she dabbed a bit of holy water on her lips, a trick that worked well in the past, but prayed it would not be needed.

Once she got to the alley, Clara saw the gentleman standing by a series of refuse bins. Inside she heard the band playing, which meant no one would notice errant moans, grunts or gunshots.

Clara played her part and placed the purse she carried within arm’s reach. She then sat on a bin and hiked up her dress to reveal that she had no knickers. For a moment his eyes glanced at her inviting muff before he licked his lips.

For all the pomp and circumstance this man had shown while driving that car, he displayed none of that now. The buttons to his trousers were undone in a flash which caused them to drop effortlessly around his patent leather shoes.

Clara would have helped him, but he was too fast for her. Before she knew it, his hands were on her thighs forcing her legs apart while his member hovered just an inch away.

“Take it easy handsome, we got all the time—,” Clara said.

Clearly this man was not in a mood to listen… …All the while her hand slid ever closer to her purse, and the derringer concealed within.

“This is a powerful one,” Clara thought.

He had to be, being oblivious to her aura of faith required nothing less. It also explained why he was still enjoying the ride…

…Clara opened her eyes just enough to watch him clench his jaw. The act should have been pure rapture…

Clara grabbed a hold of her derringer and drew it out… …she squeezed on the first trigger of her weapon.

The muted shot still echoed through the alley, but the music inside drowned out the noise. The man fell face first into the snow and gave her a view of that gaping hole through the back of his skull.

She sighed in relief that her precaution of applying holy water in all the right places had been an unmitigated success. With her weapon trained Clara got back on her feet and closed up her coat. She was chilled to the bone and looked forward to a warm bath at a reputable hotel. With this threat neutralised, she had no need to stay at the local dive.

“At least he has a car,” Clara said.

The hunter then fired another well-aimed shot at the base of his spine, which ensured he would stay down until morning. Now all she had to do was get him into the boot of his car.

“All work and no play,” Clara said.

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!

Raiders and Tombs – Parts VIII, IIX and IX

Clara and Jonesy ran without pause, even when their lungs felt as though they were on fire they ran on. When they passed by the tomb, Jonesy tripped on the slippery surface and without missing a beat was dragged back onto his feet by Clara.

When they finally reached the light of day, they both dropped to their knees. After the experience they had, it was great to feel the warmth of the sun’s glow, a sure-fire sign they were safe.

“Well that explains the lack of traps,” Clara said.

“No kidding,” Jonesy said.

The locals were quick to notice that someone was missing. If the tables had been turned, Clara would have pressed them for information, but they already knew. There must have been local legends on what lurked below.

“Professor Jones,” Clara said. “I thought they had been instructed to set up camp,” she added.

Jonesy looked around and came to the same conclusion. His face was still flushed from the exertion and would need time to recover his mental faculties.

There was still a solid hour of daylight left. That meant they had time to get away from here and never return. Jonesy was certainly thinking the same thing, so he passed on new instructions.

While the locals quickly collected stray items before getting atop their mounts, Clara fetched a pack from hers. She casually walked towards the entrance, gave it another donation of blood and walked on through.

The locals looked at each other in awe. It was one thing to face the horrors below and come back alive. It was something else altogether to walk back inside willingly.

Fortunately Clara emerged quickly and within a minute there was a dull thump. The ground shook, the camels were spooked, but Clara never flinched.

“What did you do,” Jonesy asked.

Clara mounted her camel with a self-satisfied look on her face. Nothing was going to find its way down there without a lot of effort.

“I blew the entrance to the tunnel,” Clara said calmly. “Some things are better left buried by the sands of time,” she added.

* * * *

Clara sat by a fire looking through the contents of Father Allen’s bag. While Professor Jones wrote up his final report, it was up to her to sort through Father Allen’s belongings.

She never took the time to look at his sketches. They were really quite good, an excellent combination of speed and accuracy. She found a series of sketches dedicated to the city and inside the ziggurat.

She even found a sketch of Professor Jones interacting with the locals. Clara wondered if the professor had known he was being sketched.

She was certainly unaware that she had once inspired him. Clara had been reading a book on that particular evening, even now she found it bizarre to witness another’s perception of her. She was both flattered and worried, given her vocation she should have known what he was up to.

The sketches drawn underground revealed a great deal. Clara had taken pictures as directed, but she had not noticed a series of symbols found throughout the complex. For Clara they had been lost in the noise, like picking out minutia on a complex tapestry.

There were at least fifteen different instances of the half-crescent moon; over and above the one found at the entrance. Some symbols had been in plain sight, while others were concealed.

When Jonesy came by Clara said, “Did you notice these instances of the crescent?”

Professor Jones looked at every sketch. It was clear from the look on his face that he had missed these as well.

“Makes sense,” Jonesy said. “That step pyramid was built in his name,” he added.

“It’s a fitting symbol for those who fear the sun,” she added.

“What do you mean,” Jonesy asked.

“Well,” Clara said while trying to find her words. “Being exposed to the light of God will set them aflame,” she added.

Professor Jones looked at her sceptically. Only the clergy were expected to make that type of connection. Most professors saw these creatures from a pragmatic point of view, concepts based on faith rarely occurred to them.

“Go on,” Jonesy said.

“It would be sensible for them to worship a God that stood in opposition to the sun,” Clara said.

“Worship,” Jonesy asked.

His eyes were glassy as though years of indoctrination had been shattered. Clara was sure to hear about this back at the Tower, first she lost a priest and then breaks a professor on the same day. At least that would mean no more babysitting for her.

* * * *

Clara overlooked the top of a ridge and saw the sand swept and desolate land. Up ahead there was a crew busy pulling up a large globe from the back of a truck. The item was covered in spikes that would normally trigger a detonation, however those elements had been disabled as a precaution.

Besides the truck the river was being swallowed up whole. This was one of two access points for the river that ran under the ziggurat. The men continued pulling on with ropes until the sea mine splashed into the water.

In all, there were five other trucks similarly equipped. Clara had managed to convince the Reverend Mother to support this plan. A lot of strings had to be pulled to make this happen, but Clara knew this was the only way.

As the sea mine floated downstream, she looked at her watch and set the timer for twenty minutes. While the default triggers had been disabled, a timer had been wired into the detonator. Clara estimated it would take eighteen minutes to float down and make contact with those doors.

Clara sat down on the ridge with a sketchbook in hand. She began to sketch out the rough details of the landscape and would make touch-ups later. She found the process relaxing and thanked Father Allen for introducing her to it.

After the timer ran out Clara felt the ground shudder. The hunter began to smile once the water level dropped significantly. That meant the obstructions had been destroyed by the mine and the rest of her plan could continue.

A second mine was dropped with a forty-two minute timer. As it floated away, Clara continued on with her sketch. She fought for a few moments to capture the wind-swept ridges, but there was no need to rush.

The second mine detonated out in the open. As expected it overshot the complex by a hundred feet or so.

The third mine detonated after thirty-nine minutes causing the water levels to rise. Clara had detonated this one to damn the river’s exit, exactly as planned.

Before water levels rose over the river banks, the remaining mines were dropped into the water with a thirty minute timer. Clara kept busy by continuing her sketch.

This time the ground shook violently and prompted Clara to collect her things. By that point the trucks had already been evacuated to higher ground. Clara watched as the river flowed over its banks and began to form a lake.

It was impossible to imagine just how much damage had been done by the mines. However, Clara was certain that the water level would make any future pilgrimages impossible. For now, the threat was contained.

The water level would rise until a new path to the river was found. In time the tunnel would be filled with silt and harden like mortar and seal the complex shut.

“Rest in peace,” Clara said as she walked away from this dustbin, never to return.

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!

 

Raiders and Tombs – Parts VI and VII

They walked along the slippery path for about two hundred feet before they came across an opening. This entry had been carved into the rock and as judged by the tool marks, the excavation had been done recently.

When Clara wandered on through, she saw the many layers that made up this formidable fortress. Beyond the natural rock and sediment there was pitch, brick, and an inch of rotted iron plating followed by more pitch and brick. This section had been built to keep something out. Or was it to keep something in?

Once they entered the chamber, they saw how the walls had once been covered in ornate symbols. Alas, water had rushed in after the excavation, rendering the writings illegible.

The room was in shambles. Broken pottery littered the ground and boxes that had been lined with gold were shattered. In the centre there was a large gold coffin that reminded Clara of a sarcophagus. The lid had been broken into three pieces and was empty.

When she looked above, Clara noticed two large slabs of rock that had been used to seal in whatever was inside. Whoever had been interred here was never meant to come out.

“Where do you think we are, Clara,” Father Allen asked.

His use of her given name surprised Clara. She thought over the convoluted route they had taken and despite the uncertainty, she knew where this was going.

“Roughly underneath the step pyramid, Father,” Clara said.

“I would wager that this room is precisely under the centre of the pyramid,” Father Allen said. “This chamber had been used to hide a vampire of unimaginable power.”

Clara vaguely remembered Professor Stephens giving lectures on such structures. Some of their kind were so powerful that they could control others even while in a state of deep sleep. They could run entire empires from the safety of these tombs. These were the eternal puppet masters who pulled society’s strings and never got their hands dirty. Peons rarely realised that they were being controlled, save for a trusted few.

“I recommend we be quick about it then,” Clara said and proceeded to take some snapshots.

* * * *

Everyone left the chamber feeling soiled. There was something to be said about being in the same room that housed evil for so long. Clara found it hard describe, but it reminded her of an abandoned sanatorium. A place where souls were still lurking about, tortured and eternally detached from reality.

Despite leaving the crypt, wherever they were approaching sent a shiver down Clara’s spine. Was this a real world example of jumping out of the frying pan and landing in the fire?

In response Clara asked, “Can anyone feel that?”

Father Allen turned to ask, “Feel what, child?”

“You mean that feeling of walking on a mass grave,” Jonesy asked.

“Yeah,” Clara said.

Father Allen shrugged and carried on. The man had spent the majority of his life in the Tower. He never had to rely on his instincts to survive nor did he know what to do when a shiver ran down his spine.

“Any idea what we are going to encounter,” Clara asked.

“Not sure,” Jonesy said. “Not sure I want to.”

Clara could relate. The same emotions were swirling around in her mind. Hunters were trained to keep their emotions in check, but she found it hard to ignore that sense of dread growing within.

Within a couple of minutes, they came across a new chamber. This one had a large staircase carved into the rock itself. The path beyond the chamber was flooded; it seemed that the river’s alternate path met up just beyond the chamber. Clara was impressed. It was impossible to reach this particular point from any other route.

Despite their growing sense of unease, the group scaled the steps. Clara kept an eye out for any trouble but saw no obvious threats. Atop, there was a cobblestone floor with an ornate altar that dominated the chamber. Immediately after the altar, she noticed a large pit or well.

Father Allen and Professor Jones lit the torches while Clara ventured closer to the well. It was built in a perfect circle and had no visible bottom. Nonetheless, the glow from her lantern was enough to make a startling discovery. The walls were stained with blood.

“Deep,” Jonesy said.

“Really,” Clara remarked sarcastically. “I hadn’t noticed.”

Father Allen chuckled nervously, a sign that he too was beginning to feel that something was dreadfully wrong here.

“The altar is stained with blood,” Father Allen said grimly.

Clara tied a rope to the end of her lantern and lowered it down the shaft. The red stained rocks glowed like hellfire as it descended. No matter how far it travelled, the bottom would not show.

“So either it’s infinitely deep or—,” Jonesy said.

The lantern’s light went out without explanation. In response, Clara tried to bring it up so she could light it, but something was fighting her every pull.

“Must have gone—,” Clara said.

Just like that, the light appeared, just as bright as before. The men looked at her, then down the pit, just in time to witness the light being enveloped another time.

“Here,” Clara said as she handed the rope to Jonesy. “And make it fast,” she added with a hint of urgency.

While Professor Jones pulled up the lantern, they noticed that the darkness was trying to overtake the lantern. Whatever was down there was interested in the flame.

Clara dropped her pack to the ground, then rummaged through until she found a potato shaped Bakelite contraption fitted with a metal spoon and pin. She had no interest in talking things over with whatever was down there.

Clara pulled the pin and watched the spoon fly off as it was dropped. The grenade began its descent, just as the lantern was recovered.

“Get back,” Clara exclaimed.

The floor shook, but the expected flash of light did not materialise. Instead, she heard a shrill shriek. Clara was done with her experiment; she backed away with her pistol drawn.

“Gentleman,” Clara said.

Her voice roused them out of their stupor and they followed her lead. Just then, a series of shadowy tendrils emerged from the well, probing the area in search of something. Clara had no desire to find out what.

“Holy water, Father,” Clara asked.

“Left it behind in favour of the whiskey,” Father Allen replied.

“That will be worth a laugh if we ever ma—,” Jonesy said.

Clara raised her hand to silence the group while the tendrils continued to probe. So far there was no sign that it could hear, but she had no desire to taunt fate.

Slowly, they backed away while keeping an eye on the creature and for a moment, it appeared as if they were free and clear. Alas, the end of tendrils changed into spearheads and shot out in every direction.

The attack may have been blind, but nonetheless proved to be effective. Clara saw that Father Allen had been struck in the shoulder by a tendril.

The tip blunted immediately after penetration, making it impossible to extract. Clearly, he was in shock, since she could see there was no one home in Father Allen’s eyes.

She fired several rounds into the tendrils with no effect. Without warning, Father Allen was whisked away into the well, leaving only his bag behind.

“Run,” Clara exclaimed sharply while grabbing the extra pack.

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!