Evelyn Chartres Author
Hunter – Page 3

Hall of Higher Learning – 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!

“Congratulations,” a priest said. “You managed to find your way through that trial in near record time,” he added.

“So that’s not a trap,” Clara asked while sounding a bit disappointed.

Clara looked around and saw that she was now at the epicentre of a large circular tower. The architecture was airy and marble made up the bulk of the structural supports and walls. Winding their way through the core there were two staircases that led higher into the rotunda.

The ceiling was made of glass and steel permitting the sun to beam down directly into the centre of the room. Clara’s spirit rose and oddly enough felt at peace.

“Oh! It’s a trap as well,” the man said. “Can never be too careful about who or what ventures into the Terminus,” he added.

The who or what part of his statement had gotten her attention. However, there were perhaps more pertinent questions to ask. Would they be inclined to answer?

Jack appeared from one of the side doors with her suitcase in hand. Where did he find the time to get her bag and find an alternate entrance? For a brief moment her mind saw past her logic and irritation and noticed his piercing blue eyes and sharp features. Why did her face feel warm?

“Father Taylor,” Jack said. “Shall I bring this to her room,” he asked.

“No that is quite alright young Jack,” Father Taylor said. “You know you’re not allowed in the women’s wing,” he added.

“But that places smells of flowers and spice and everything nice,” Jack whined, and followed through with a smirk.

That had been Clara’s introduction to his mischievous side. If that kind of behaviour was even partially tolerated here then she was about to have a grand ole time.

“Jack is a second year student here,” Father Taylor said.

“Pleasure was all mine,” Jack said. “Barely had to lift a finger,” he added.

Barely? Jack had been more of a killick than an enabler. He must have been placed there to act as a diversion and prevent her from asking the pertinent questions.

“Likewise,” Clara said. “Father, what are plans for me,” she asked, seeing that she was eager to begin.

Without a word an older student appeared from one of the upper levels. At first she assumed it was a nun given the uniform that reminded her of a nun’s habit.

“Clara this is Edith,” Father Taylor said while pointing to the new arrival. “Take your things and follow her to the women’s dormitories,” he added.

“Yes Father,” Clara said and hid her disappointment.

It seemed that answers would have to wait. This time, Clara was certain they could not evade her for long.

Hall of Higher Learning – 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!

Clara rubbed her eyes once she crossed the threshold. She was faced with a long corridor filled with doors on both sides. The walls appeared to be made of onyx and the doors were painted black without any identifying features.

Those who designed this area had obviously meant to confuse and mislead. She looked down both ends of the hall but found no end in sight. That might have made her nervous, at least until she learned that the door she had walked through was locked.

“What an interesting welcome,” Clara said while half-expecting to be answered.

When no answer came, Clara left her suitcase in place and followed the hallway to her left. She hoped her bag would serve well as a point of reference.

After three hundred paces she saw an object up ahead. At first she felt a wave of excitement wash over her until her worn out suitcase came into focus. So she went full circle? How?

This hallway did not have an obvious curve to it, at least not enough to accomplish this feat. Things were certainly getting interesting.

A minute or so after Clara’s return to her point of reference there came a noise originating from couple of doors down. A quick glance in that direction revealed a young man with a suitcase passing through.

“Don’t let that door close,” Clara exclaimed.

The young man jumped then looked behind him just in time to hear the door click in place. Only once he looked down both ends of the hall did he have an idea of the situation.

“Sorry,” he said shyly. “Jonathan Carmichael,” he said.

“Clara Grey,” Clara said before she beamed a smile.

“Most people call me Jack,” he added.

“Pleasure to meet you,” Clara added interested only in getting these social graces out of the way. “Know where we are,” she asked.

“No clue actually,” he said looking confused. “Been here long,” he asked.

“Long enough,” Clara said. “Mind if we put something to the test,” she asked.

“Sure,” Jack said. “What do you have in mind,” he asked.

“Head that way,” Clara said pointing in the direction. “I will head the opposite way and if we encounter anyone else to ask for assistance,” she added.

Jack cocked a brow and shrugged. Clearly not concerned with asking questions, he began his stroll down the hallway.

Clara did the same but left her bag behind. She looked at every door along the way in an effort to find a pattern or identifying features, alas they were identical. The more she reflected on this matter the more she had to conclude that this had to be some sort of trap.

They crossed paths mid-way and once more found her bag waiting for her. Jack did not seem phased by the sight of Clara’s bag from the opposing direction; so clearly this was some sort of loop.

“How did you do that,” Jack asked.

Clara smiled before she replied, “Been here for a bit remember?”

“Oh,” Jack said. “What now,” he asked.

“Not sure. Do you have any ideas,” Clara asked.

Jack shrugged which nearly disheartened Clara. Clearly she was here for a reason and reasonably concluded that she would be able to find her way out. Interesting how Jack had entered through a different door. Did that mean there was a separate entrance?

But how would they find the door leading to their salvation? Every door were identical, and the stonework had been expertly done to create the illusion that there was no variations. She could try every door, but there were no assurances that one would even open.

Exasperated, she ran a hand through her hair and leaned back against the wall. She closed her eyes aware that Jack was watching her intently. Just what she needed…

When she opened her eyes, she looked up as though the curse God and was suddenly struck by an epiphany. While the walls and floor were nondescript that was not the case for the ceiling.

Seven doors were enclosed within an arched ceiling, high enough that people would not even notice they were within a section. There was a band of stone missing from domed ceiling which permitted light to bleed through. It was a bright white light, almost like daylight but with was no variation. Artificial light?

Now came the interesting part. As part of the vaulted ceiling, a text had been carved each section. Of course it had to be written in Latin.

“How is your Latin,” Clara asked while orienting herself in such a way to see the entirety of the text.

“I can muddle through,” Jack said.

Should she have expected another answer from him? Fortunately Clara had spent a lot of time reading the bible and guessed that her prayer sessions on ship had been for a reason. She would have to thank Sister Maria another time.

“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth,” Clara said aloud.

“The book of Job 19:25,” Jack said.

At least he was right about something. Clara had a suspicion that every section held a different passage. The reason for these passages? That needed to be put to the test.

“That’s right,” Clara said to encourage Jack. “Let’s go see what the rest say,” she asked nonchalantly.

“2 Corinthians 2:17, John 12:25, Revelation 3:5, Romans 5:10,” Jack said.

Clara found it amusing that he would dutifully call out the chapter and verse they came across. After all, they were clearly marked and engraved. However, there was merit to keeping him focused.

Clara read every verse looking for a clue, but so far they seemed to be random. Without a discernible pattern finding a clue would be difficult. This worried Clara but she remained hopeful that something would leap out at her.

“Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, and in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places,” Clara read.

“Isaiah 32:18,” Jack said.

“So why does it say Isaiah 32-29,” Clara asked.

Jack looked up and shrugged before he said, “No such thing, Isaiah 32 ends at 20.”

The boy was right and Clara was ill equipped to admit it, even to herself. Of all the verses this one seemed fall in line with the type of passage she expected. Clara had come here to find her new home after all, not this never-ending corridor.

“Engraver made a mistake,” Jack asked.

“No,” she said. “Every piece of stone here is seamless joined with its neighbour.
That takes a mastery that is rarely witnessed on earth,” she added.
Given the unlikeliness of this discrepancy being due to an error or flaw. That meant the error had been stamped there for a reason Clara thought.

“A clue,” Clara exclaimed.

Without another word, Clara turned to face the set of three doors in this section then turned the knob for the door to her right. The door opened without any resistance; confident in her decision she walked through without hesitation.

Hall of Higher Learning – 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!

For the second time in her life Clara was travelling with Sister Maria. That meant more time waiting on a train platform and she presumed the next connection would be made together. Their first trip together had been a stroll through Versailles’ palatial gardens in comparison.

For one, it was longer and involved a dizzying rate of train transfers. To make way over the open ocean had been a new experience for Clara and at first she was unsure of herself while the ship heaved and hawed with the waves. If her travelling partner had any inkling at all for amusement, Clara might have enjoyed the experience.

Instead they spent the bulk of the trip below decks, kept busy with prayers and lessons. Clara even missed the sights as they approached red mud shores; iconic for the region although one would ever know by looking at Sister Maria.

They left the station and grabbed the first available handsome. The ride was pleasant enough, and this was her first taste of a larger settlement. There were people and horses moving every which way, it was quite chaotic but infinitely enjoyable to watch since Sister Maria could do little to hurry on.

Whereas her hometown had a few buildings along the main stretch of road, this city had neighbourhoods and streets crammed with houses, storefronts and warehouses. It was something to behold especially after two years of being cooped up in that school.

This time around Sister Maria seemed to be enjoying the trip. Had this been her hometown? More likely she was elated that her charge would soon be released.

“Here we are,” the cabby said once they arrived.

It was the site of a massive construction site, visible on the foreground where the beginnings of church spires. This structure of wood, masonry and stone would stand tall above the neighbours; a point of pride for any city. So why here?
Clara and Sister Maria stepped off silently once the cabby had been paid. Without hesitation the nun pushed past the protective fencing and walked onto the construction site. Although there was showed no hesitation, Sister Maria seemed slower and more deliberate somehow.

They walked through the chaos as workers were busy with their trades. They continued on until they reached a cemetery located by the stone wall. At a point separating the two sites Clara saw a simple wooden door.

Sister Maria paused, stood aside and said, “I am afraid this is where we part ways child.”

Clara looked at the facial features of her escort as usual not a so for emotion had been betrayed. At least until a naughty little thought passed through her mind. Would be a shame to miss this opportunity to speak with impunity.

“I was the one who re-arranged all of the furniture in your room,” Clara said with a smirk.

Sister Maria maintained her stoic disposition for a moment then began to laugh.
“Was it now,” she asked in a light-hearted tone. “The sisters and I spent a great deal of time trying to work out how someone managed to get all my things onto the ceiling,” she added.

“You are not angry sister,” Clara asked, somehow slightly disappointed at this particular reaction.

“Of course not Clara,” Sister Maria said in her serious tone. “Sister Theresa nearly wet herself laughing and anything that knocks her down a peg is worth its weight in gold,” she added with a smile.

So Clara had gotten her wish after all. Not only did Sister Maria smile, but she had also learned that nuns were human. A good lesson for any child to learn.

“Now child, you must be the one to go through that door,” the nun said. “You never know, we might end up seeing one another again. Although not as travelling partners. You are far too talkative for my tastes,” she exclaimed.

Clara smiled, took her worn out suitcase and opened the door. It was dark inside, but she was not fearful, sometimes things you should be feared were hidden in plain sight. Without hesitation she crossed the threshold curious as to what she would find.

First Blood – Part IV

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 been whisked away the moment men dressed identically to Father Michael entered the room. They did not seem to hesitate nor asked questions, instead the eldest simply glanced at one of the younger members and she was carried away.

Why was it that Clara had never seen these men before? Normally in a cloistered environment there was near perfect segregation, a new face was a rare occurrence. Any workmen, tradesmen or drivers were kept under a close watch.

To see a dozen such men certainly got Clara wondering if she had missed something in these past two years. Was there some sort of tunnel or access to the outside world that she never knew about?

A bit further down the hall Sisters Agnes and Maria were waiting. Clara was then placed under Sister Maria’s charge who in turn escorted back to her room. From the corner of her eyes she saw the man and Sister Agnes exchange words. When the nun collapsed, Clara had a good idea what had been said.

“What were you doing in the rectory child,” Sister Maria asked.

Clara looked down at her blood covered hands remembered she was still holding the thin blade. Of all the things to ask? Clara palmed the crucifix under her sleeve to avoid it making a topic of discussion.

“Sister Maria, I was following Father Michael,” Clara said in reply.

“Now why would go and do such a thing.” Sister Maria asked while sounding exasperated.

Now that was a good question. However, that tone in her voice hinted that this nun had been aware of what took place. So she likely already knew that Father Michael was dead. The question was how?

Clara thought over her words before she said, “Father Michael told me earlier today that he wanted to discuss his plans for me sister.”

Sister Maria was white as a sheet, despite this being a blatant lie it certainly got her out of the hot seat. Now if only she managed to coax more information out of her before she was caught.

“What exactly did he tell you child,” Sister Maria asked.

Now Clara had to think on her feet. If she feigned ignorance, there would be no further gains. If Clara guessed his involvement the she might gain more insight. The latter came with more risk but Clara enjoyed a challenge.

“Father Michael had just begun explaining the particularities of his order,” Clara said.

Now that was vague enough to avoid getting caught in an outright lie. She was basing this line of questioning on the fact that men of the cloth were rarely, if ever armed. Father Michael had been armed for a reason and she guessed the fallen angel was a big reason as to why.

Sister Maria gave Clara a good long look before she said, “No matter child.” She paused a moment before she opened the door to the dormitory and added, “Now get cleaned up and ready for bed.”

A shame that bedtime was not for another two hours yet…

* * * *

News of Father Michael’s death had been hushed up. Clara continued on for a few days, curious as to why they would not share his fate with the rest of the school. Even as a new priest settled into the rectory, the nuns maintained a wall of silence.

Despite being the only witness to what had happened, no one questioned her about the event nor questioned her presence that night. It left her feeling a bit uneasy as though she were in trouble and was just waiting for the punishment to follow.

For once Clara kept her nose clean and continued on with her studies. An easy matter when other children avoided her, likely due to a secret directive. Like all directives, tenants or commandments, there tended to be severe repercussions for those who failed to uphold them.

After the events of Father Michael’s passing went by unobserved for a fortnight, Clara was pulled out of class by Sister Maria. Without notice she was hurried to the courtyard where horse and cart waiting for them. Surprisingly her things were already packed into that tattered old suitcase she had arrived with two years ago.

“It seems that Father Michael’s got his wish,” Sister Maria said while getting into the cart. She then reached down to help Clara up before adding, “It’s time to start your training child.”

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!

First Blood – 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!

Her arrival to this cloistered environment marked her first exposure to both schooling and religion. These had been luxuries her family could not afford. After all it was difficult to justify higher learning if one had to give up eating a meal or keeping a roof over their heads.

Clara readily embraced her new way of life, giving in to her newfound thirst for knowledge. Clara employed what she learned to make life difficult for the sisters; especially Sister Maria since she had sworn see this nun smile before she finished school.

There were other children who enjoyed pushing the boundaries as much as she, but Clara quickly learned how to avoid the nuns’ wrath. She noted that judgement was rendered only to those who were unlucky enough to get caught.

Not only did this push Clara to conceal her movements, but it made her escapades much more challenging. What better reward could there be to have Sister Agnes darting her eyes from child in another failed attempt to find out who was responsible.

On occasion Clara would get caught although it was normally for crimes of her own choosing. She would take her lashings, pray or fast as required. All the while she would plot her next bout of defiance while the staff continued to underestimate her capability for mischief.

In her second year at the orphanage, Clara noticed that Father Michael would often be called away. The man would disappear for days or even weeks at a time without raising suspicion. For a mischievous little girl, the concept of being able to avoid her responsibilities along with their consequences had some allure.

Motivated to discover his secrets, Clara shadowed the man. This proved to be easy enough since he probably never considered the possibility. After all, this was a foreign concept for those who lived under the watchful eye of their God, especially one who had given their vow of poverty.

In anticipation of his destination, Clara went ahead and hid in his quarters. She was reminded on how the devout were notorious for remaining covered at all times. Clara once caught a sister flaying herself as she bathed; all in an effort to keep impure thoughts from her mind. She later learned that was the reason they adopted the habit. They did it to keep their body and hair concealed even from members of their own order.

Clara caught no more than a glimpse of his scar-riddled back. These scars had not been left by a whip, paddle or another form of corporeal punishment. There was an animalistic quality to the scarring, but what kind of animal was capable of inflicting those?

While sisters of the order tended to assume they were alone with God when in their quarters; this priest surprised her when he spoke. So much so that it blew her earlier theory out of the water.

“It is not wise to enter the house of God with impure thoughts,” he said calmly using the voice he reserved for his sleep-inducing sermons.

Clara did not say a word and even held her breath in an effort to remain undetected. He never turned to look at her before speaking again. Since there were no mirrors or reflective surfaces in the room, her presence should have remained a mystery.

“You have been following me all morning child,” Father Michael added.

Even with the priest keeping his back to her, she knew better than to continue this game. It was obvious that she had been discovered, so the question was, how?

“Curious,” Clara replied then mulled over her initial response. She then thought it best to add for good measure, “Father.”

“Curious child,” he asked while continuing to change.

Clara noted how these were not a priest’s garbs. The more Clara questioned this situation, the more curiosity swelled within.

“Why a man of the cloth disappears for days on end,” she replied. “The origin of your scars and more recent wounds,” she added despite that being a wild guess.

So why not turn the tables and evade his attempts at an inquisition? At least that was easier than constant evasion.

Once again she threw in, “Father”, as a belated mark of respect.

“The sisters often mention how bright you are,” he said.

Clara wondered why he dropped the formality of calling her child. Father Michael turned around then kneeled to get a better view of her. It was the first time she had looked into his eyes, steel grey like hers and full of life.

“Clever enough to stay out of sight,” the priest said which was quickly followed by a warm smile. “Quick enough to ask questions that could provide you with valuable insight,” he added.

Before she could reply, he raised his hand to interrupt. This confused Clara since she heard no other sounds. Was a veiled attempt at making fun of her? An attempt at teaching her a lesson?

The answer came when the door was torn from its hinges and revealed a woman of intense beauty. Clara had no words to describe her, only that she was as beautiful as Clara imagined angels to be.

Such beauty might adhere a sense of trust in a little girl or even admiration, but it did nothing to arouse desire. There was no primal aspect of her soul which yearned for that woman, especially a child whose hormones had yet to wreak havoc on her mind.

Not the case for Father Michael, he seemed bewitched, unable to think or focus. At first, she wanted to say something, to snap him out of it. Yet she sensed there were forces at play that went beyond her comprehension.

Clara remained concealed and even held her breath while she watched. If that woman was aware of Clara’s presence, she showed no obvious signs.

The creature continued her slow deliberate movements towards the priest. Once she was a foot away from Father Michael, he broke out of his trance and pulled out a rosary from his pocket. This particular rosary had been fitted with a thin metallic blade at the base of the cross.

With one quick motion, he attacked but missed. This woman moved like a blur, reappearing just behind Father Michael and with one vicious strike, gouged out a chunk of his neck.

Clara watched as blood shot out in spurts. The initial spurt covered the wall to his left and the second narrowly missed Clara. The third spurt never materialised since this creature had latched onto his neck to feed.

Terror should have taken a hold of this girl, culminating in a blood-curdling scream. Such a response would have made her the second victim of the night. Somehow she was able to remain even-keeled, her mind clear and focused.

Clara snuck out of her hiding place then crept quietly towards the rosary. She picked it up prior to focusing on the horror. Given the nasty wound, it would take no more than a moment for that creature to finish her feast. Even now he was white as a sheet, a sign that he was far too gone.

Regardless Clara realised this was her one and only chance, she closed her eyes and recited a prayer. Relying on faith alone, she plunged the rosary into the woman’s back and was greeted by silence. This entire situation evoked a sense of déjà vu although she did not understand why that was.

In the time it took for her to blink the other had turned around to glare. Pure hatred was painted on the creature’s face, clearly indicating what she planned to do. Meanwhile, Father Michael’s body slumped to the ground with nothing more than a few drops of blood trickling from his wound.

“How dare you,” the woman shrieked.

Again this confrontation should have left her shaking like a leaf. Instead, Clara stood tall, with blade in hand. Blood from that creature covered the blade and Clara wondered why it appeared to be both thicker and richer than her own.

The girl then looked out to the doorway, noticing how it splintered when torn from the frame. Were these titans? Who could be capable of such strength and speed?

Shadows appeared in the hallway followed by the sound of footsteps a smile came upon Clara’s lips. The creature’s face flickered for a moment followed by a hint of worry, it seemed that she had arrived at the same conclusion. In a blink of an eye, that creature was gone, her escape left nothing more than a breeze from an open window.