Evelyn Chartres Author
Salt the Earth

Salt the Earth – 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!

Edith still looked pale but her eyes were aglow. At first she attempted a smile, but faded once Clara came into focus.


“You’re not my Angel,” Edith said.

“That’s not what you said when I found you,” Clara teased.

Edith looked torn as though her mind were struggling to make sense of the situation. Clearly she remembered things differently.

To distract herself, Edith looked towards her leg. What had been a hive of infection and infestation was now mostly healed. The new skin was pink, a miracle if she had been sent to any other medical facility.

Above the bed Clara saw that mechanical monstrosity of Georgian origin. She had never seen it in action, but the results were always spectacular. It was said that given enough time the machine could reattach or even regrow limbs.

“It wasn’t Angela,” Edith said and promptly burst into tears.

The Reverend Mother pulled Clara out of the room. Between the two girls, she had managed to connect the dots.

“Angela was a ginger,” Augustine said. “How could you have possibly known,” she asked.

Clara gulped hard before she said, “She came to the bistro and informed me that there had been an incident Reverend Mother.”

“She’s been dead for over a decade,” The Reverend Mother said.
“I did not know that at the time,” Clara replied.

Clara described the situation in detail including any odd statements made. The Reverend Mother listened intently, but showed no signs of surprise.

“So the attacks may have continued unopposed had you not been warned child,” the Reverend Mother asked.

Clara simply nodded, there was nothing more to add. Still she hoped there would be no repercussions for her omission. After all she had failed to report the apparition.

“Those two were thick as thieves growing up,” Augustine said. “Inseparable and their friendship had all the markings of one that would last a lifetime,” she added.

“Was that how Edith managed to send out her plea for help,” Clara asked.

Clara wondered how powerful such a bond needed to be to wake the dead.

“Edith withdrew from the world after the accident and devoted herself to her studies,” the Reverend Mother said.

They both paused when Edith went silent. Until that moment she had been sobbing uncontrollably, audible even through the door. The nun must have given her a sedative.

“I never thought I’d see her embrace life again, or at least until you showed up,” the Reverend Mother said. “I think she saw your penchant for mischief and felt that spark in her soul reignite.”

Clara smiled, in a world where death followed her, it was great to know that she could occasionally improve the life of others. The fact that it was someone she revered made it all the sweeter.

“I’ve made a decision,” the Reverend Mother said.

“Yes Reverend Mother,” Clara asked.

“Your time at the Tower as an acolyte is over Child,” Augustine said.

“I thought—,” Clara said but was cut off when Augustine raised her hand to interrupt.

“You’ve been ready for a couple of years now child,” the Reverend Mother said. “We don’t typically send hunters out at your age. We were waiting until you were old enough to travel freely,” she added.

Clara’s early exposure to death had accelerated her development. The price paid for her prodigious rise had indeed been heavy.

“Edith was reaching out to you for help,” Augustine said. “She had faith that you would come through for her. Those are the signs of a great partnership,” she added.

“Really Reverend Mother,” Clara asked.

Those words were not faint praise coming from her. Clara felt her heart overflow with pride, she took a deep breath to keep her emotions in check. Betraying her emotions now would do little to show that she was ready.

“Really child,” Augustine said. “Now let Edith rest before you tell her the news,” she added before walking away.

The life of the Reverend Mother was indeed busy. Clara silently thanked the woman for giving her any time at all.

She would wait by the door until Edith was ready to leave. Freed from her academic responsibilities, she was free to let her mind wander.

“How much could she accomplish with support from Edith,” Clara asked.

Clara had to admit it, she liked where her mind was headed.

Salt the Earth – 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!

“I’ve been told that you made quite an impression when you burst in with Edith on your shoulder,” the Reverend Mother said.

“Oh,” Clara said, sounding distant.

Truth be told, Clara had not been looking to make a grand entrance nor a scene. She was also unable to think of an effective way to deflect that statement without appearing to be insubordinate or appearing to be a braggart.

“Sometimes it’s a no win scenario,” Clara thought.

“They had been domesticated,” the Reverend Mother said when she decided to get to the point.

“What do you mean Reverend Mother,” Clara asked.

“Same as a dog I suppose,” the Reverend Mother said. “Taught them how to hunt and hide within a heavily populated area,” she added.

“Was that why their place was so clean,” Clara asked. “Except fo—,” she added but faltered.

It was difficult to remember what she had witnessed. The gore, the stench and the flies were all elements drawn together from a poorly written horror story. Even if the minutiae of the scenes was impossible to recollect, the images still haunted her.

Surely Jack’s room had been just as gory. A dismembered head with gouged out eyes should have evoked a similar response. Still there was something about this particular scene that made her mind run through what she witnessed over and over.

“Precisely,” Augustine said. “They had a fully stocked kitchen and one of the little ones was found in the icebox dead,” she added.

Clara noted that even the Reverend Mother seemed troubled by this development. She had always assumed that the head of her order was impervious to such news. Surely bad news came often enough to blunt her emotions.

The sight of the Reverend Mother showing a sliver of emotion was enough to endear Clara. The matriarch of the Tower being human gave her hope that she would not turn into some mindless killing machine. Somehow that notion warmed her heart.

“Was the young one a ginger Reverend Mother,” Clara asked.

“No child,” Augustine said. “Why do you ask,” she said.

Clara had not reported the apparition since ghosts and spirits went against all they were taught. To talk about such things might lead them to question her sanity. For now it was best to keep such knowledge close to her heart.

“What about the cigarette holder and hair Reverend Mother,” Clara asked.

“Your instincts had been correct that the item had been used recently child,” Augustine started with. “They also found a series of broken vases, frames and knick-knacks swept into a closet,” she added.

So the altercation had been far ranging, which meant that Edith must have put up one hell of a fight. Clara expected nothing less, but it was reassuring to have her suspicions confirmed.

That also meant they must have been waiting for her to die. Clara shuddered to think about such a death; left there to succumb to the infection. All to add flavour to the meat so that these creatures could feast on her friend.

A nearby door opened, and soon after a nun peeked out. Clara tried to read the emotions from the nun’s deep blue eyes but drew a blank.

“Reverend Mother,” the sister said. “The child is awake,” she added.

“Oh good Sister,” Augustine said while looking at Clara. “Shall we go in,” she asked.

“Of course Reverend Mother,” Clara said with a twinkle in her eyes.

Salt the Earth – 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!

Carrots led the way while Clara followed, until the girl provided her with a proper name the nickname would have to do . The young girl was certainly a straight shooter, even the hustle and bustle of a major city did not sway her.

When Clara had been that young, she could never have resisted the temptation to explore. Even now that desire was just below the surface of her conscious mind, begging to be freed.

While the word incident had been used, the severity had been misreported. An incident would not require her to report back. Was it a death? It was not every day that someone from her order died.

Well not daily although a few times a year was accurate. Hunters were not normally recalled for a death, frequent use of the Terminus risked exposure. So what was important enough to have her recalled?

Clara kept these thoughts concealed along with the emotions that inevitably followed. It took a great deal of willpower to keep cool when one’s head was swirling, but Clara would not let an acolyte see anything more than cold professionalism. That much was expected from older students.

“Almost there Miss Grey,” Carrots said.

Clara nodded, she knew where the gate was currently located.

“Love your dress,” Carrots said just before walking into a restaurant.

Clara waited until the kitchen staff were out of earshot before replying, “Thank you.”

“Must take a while to put on,” Carrots said.

Clara momentarily looked down at the row of a hundred or so buttons that led from her collar to the very bottom. It did take time, but so did many aspects of being a lady.

“The price of fashion,” Clara said.

“I wouldn’t know,” Carrots replied.

“You will,” Clara countered, certain that in time Carrots would grow up to be a beautiful woman.

“We don’t all make it past our first day of freedom,” Carrots said bluntly.

That statement really caught Clara off guard. In that moment she realised that this exchange had been an elaborate distraction.

“Why,” Clara wondered.

They came to a door at the end of the kitchen’s storage area. On the other side there would be a small courtyard leading to three other buildings. The abandoned one on her left led directly to the Terminus.

Clara eyed Carrots and realised how the girl was deathly pale, even for a fair skinned redhead. Clara remembered a lecture that covered many of these details. It had been memorable because these details had been used as proof to deny the existence of these events.

“How did you find me,” Clara asked.

At first Carrots was quiet as though she were not expecting any questions.
“She wanted me to find you,” Carrots said.

“Who,” Clara asked.

While waiting for an answer Clara pulled a few pins from her hair that were used to anchor her hat. Her derringer dropped out from under and landed into her waiting hands; it was light and entirely familiar to the touch.

Instead of replacing her hat Clara kept it in hand. Meanwhile Carrots’ corporeal presence lost cohesion; so much so that Clara saw right through her.

“Rest now young one,” Clara said and for a moment Carrots appeared to smile.

Clara moved her attention to the door, hovering over the door she listened intently. For now it was silent as a tomb, which did little to reassure her.

At the moment she had the advantage of daylight to cover her advance. Vampires would not attempt an attack in broad daylight, even when under the cover of shade. The risk was simply too great.

Her instincts told her something was wrong. After all, that spirit were not roused from the grave for idle chatter.

“Well no sense in delaying the inevitable,” Clara thought.

With one swift kick the door flew open. The light of day strained her eyes, but she made out a lanky figure standing at the edge of the building’s shadow.

At first she hesitated until Clara caught that orange glow in its eyes. Without a second though she threw her hat at the figure, brought her derringer to bear and squeezed both triggers.

Even loaded with half-power charges, the weapon roared and obstructed her vision in smoke. Clara did not wait for the smoke to clear, instead she reached for her crucifix and charged.

Clara took three steps before the creature fell to its knees and collapsed. Only then did she see that a portion of its skull was missing. Clara watched as black ichor pooled on the ground.

“Ghoul,” Clara said.

Without a moment’s notice one of the adjoining doors blew open. A new figure was barreling down on her, the squeal it made would have filled her with dread if her training had not taught her to ignore such stimuli.

“Another,” Clara asked.

Clara stood her ground even as the seven-foot tall creature barreling towards her. Clara averted its gaze waiting and once it was nearly within arms reach she kneeled. Her positioning tripped the creature and sent it soaring overtop. A moment later Clara heard its body impact against the wall.

Once she dropped her arm, Clara noticed how it was stained with black ichor. Her blade had caught a piece of that thing during their brief interaction.

“That’s never going to come out of the fabric,” Clara said.

She approached the second attacker and without hesitation cut a deep gash through its throat. A spurt of ichor splattered against the wall, but the tide soon subsided once the creature’s lungs filled with fluid.

Clara was confused, Ghouls followed death. It was unheard of for their kind to seek out the living for their meal or for that matter hunt in packs.

“She wanted me to find you,” Carrots said.

Clara’s thoughts were disrupted when the cooks appeared at the doorway. One nearly dropped his butcher knife when the Ghoul’s stench reached them.

Clara expected to talk her way out of this situation, but they all seemed clueless. The human mind often chose to cast aside things that were deemed an impossibility. That’s the reason why Ghouls were able to survive without being discovered.

“Is everything alright mademoiselle,” a moustached man asked.

Clara concealed her crucifix and blackened sleeve. Her smile was warm and genuine, even while she looked over the courtyard to find an excuse.

“Mais oui,” Clara said. “I tripped on a crate and ran into the wall,” she added.

At first they seemed sceptical and the smell certainly kept them from getting closer. Fortunately that smell also provided her with an excuse.

“Must have been an old crate filled with rotten eggs,” Clara said. “Oh dear, looks like I broke a nail,” she whined.

“Pierre,” a man in the back row exclaimed just before he slapped the armed cook. “You idiot,” he added.

The cooks’ civility devolved until they retreated from sight. Fortunately men tended to keep their quarrels concealed from the fairer sex. Although there would surely be a black eye or two after the dust had settled. At least she had the opportunity to deal with this mess.

“I was called here,” Clara thought.

To give her a moment to think, Clara picked up her derringer and hat. The smell was really overpowering and her eyes nearly teared up. Still there was something amiss, so on a hunch Clara held her breath and closed her eyes.
“Nothing,” Clara thought. “Wait,” she said.

Clara heard a swarm of flies nearby, but there was nothing in sight to attract them. The ghouls bodies were too fresh to attract a swarm. That meant there was carrion nearby.

She walked from door to door until she neared the one nearly torn from its hinges. The sound through that door was more pronounced, but as a precaution she reloaded her derringer using full-powder charges.

The first thing she noticed was just how clean the Ghoul’s home was. These things tended to live in crypts or in caves, so this was highly out of the norm for their kind.

“Other than a few stray claw marks this place looks ready to live in,” Clara thought.

Clara came across a pearl encrusted cigarette holder with lipstick smudges at the base. Someone had left this behind recently and could not have been the ghouls. Difficult to say the least since they did not have a set of lips.

Immediately besides the cigarette holder there was a stray blond hair. Clara thought about it at length, but thought better of it, after all blondes were not exactly uncommon.

Clara followed the sound of the swarm and moved deeper into the building until she found a locked door. There were claw marks around the lock, which meant that whatever was inside had been locked in.

“Why would a Ghoul lock something in? Or why were they locked out,” Clara asked.

With the help of hair pins Clara unlocked the door with a skill that would make a locksmith envious. With her derringer in hand, she cracked open the door.

Signs of a brutal attack were immediately apparent, blood spatter covered the walls and there were blood streaks that led both deep inside and out of the room. Clara saw that this was a library, on a different day she might have been excited to make this discovery.

Instead she followed the blood until she found a shoe, followed by another and a bare leg with a deep gangrenous gouge. Clara gasped, even through a thick cloud of flies she could make out the pale and delirious Edith.

“My angel has come to save the day,” Edith murmured.

Salt the Earth – 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 sat down at her favourite bistro and let out a contented sigh. People flowed all around her, busy with their own affairs. Alas that also included the waiter who was busy flirting with two young ladies at another table.

She did not mind per se, although she had hoped that someone would notice her dress. It was a long red number which hugged her body and had a long row of buttons running down the front. It certainly managed to turn a few heads back at the Tower, but Parisians tended to be more accustomed to cute girls and their dresses.

God she enjoyed the the ability to wear trendy clothing! Her ability to blend in demanded that she tap into current trends and fashions. That was one of the perks of being a senior student and Clara intended to enjoy every moment of it.

Below the brim of her hat, Clara saw the clear blue sky. She scanned the many shops, bars and restaurants that brought back a flood of memories. For the most part this neighbourhood had not changed since her first visit. The buildings were immutable, a testament to the builders who made this neighbourhood possible over a century ago.

All except for a cabaret that was absent from the scene, that site was was still empty, relegated to open storage for the neighbouring businesses. The adjacent buildings still showed signs of fire damage on their sides. Odd how everyone who passed by her were oblivious, although the fire was bound to be considered ancient history now.

Clara sighed, this annual pilgrimage of hers invariably led her to linger on her memories of Jack. She often thought on what might have happened if he were a normal boy out to get her virtues.

Her thoughts moved to his last words and how the poison he spouted had salted the earth. Nothing else would grow on that field now, ironic that his actions would help her become a formidable hunter.

It was fortunate that the impact of this anniversary lessened with every passing year. This year she was mostly blasé about it and hoped that the cute waiter would strike out. Clara would make sure to get some mileage out of him.

“Miss Grey,” a young girl said.

Clara turned and found a little girl with red pigtails and freckles. The sight of her left Clara momentarily confused; it was not everyday that a character walked out from the pages of a book. Of course, the acolyte’s uniform did much to kill the fantasy, but Clara chose to play this one out.

“How can I help you Miss Shirley,” Clara said on a lark but got nothing more than a vacant stare.

“You’ve been ordered to report back,” the acolyte said.

Her imagination had distracted her, Clara should have been wondering why anyone from the Tower was in Paris. Especially for an acolyte so young, they rarely went anywhere without an escort.

“Oh,” Clara said while her eyes narrowed.

“Yes Miss. There’s been an incident,” the girl said.

“Oh,” Clara said faintly.