Evelyn Chartres Author
Van Helsing Paradox – Page 5

Raiders and Tombs – Part III and IV

Clara held a lantern in one hand and her pistol in the other. She stepped forward, crossed the threshold and stopped once she had a clear view of a chamber along with a set of stairs leading down.

Clara took a few steps forward before Father Allen came through the threshold. At first there was a gasp followed by a grunt when Professor Jones ran into the Father.

“It looks like there is a missing segment,” Jonesy managed to say.

Right by the entrance there was a section carved out to accommodate a large slab. Had the slab been in place, their expedition would have ended there.

“Early cuneiform,” Jonesy added.

“I agree,” Father Allen said. “It would take weeks to analyse even a small segment of this tunnel,” he added.

“Clara can you take some pictures,” Jonesy asked.

While she snapped a few shots Clara said, “What god or gods were worshipped at this site?”

“Nanna who was also known as Sin,” Father Allen replied.

“Represented by a crescent moon,” Clara asked.

“Yes. Why do you ask,” Jonesy asked.

Clara moved closer to the stairwell where a large relief of a crescent moon was prominently displayed. Given their aversion to sunlight it seemed perfectly reasonable for them to worship a nocturnal god.

“Oh no reason,” she said. “Shall we head down,” Clara asked.

The men nodded in unison so Clara took point. There was no sense in putting the brains of this outfit at risk.

* * * *

The place was cold, humid, and had the faint odour of mould hanging on her every breath; in the distance Clara heard running water. Given the construction, she assumed this place had originally served as a well. There were pitch covered torches found at regular intervals, which were lit as they progressed. At first the walls were reinforced with brick, followed by stone slabs and eventually gave way to natural rock.

Father Allen and Professor Jones were busy discussing how this discovery would change their understanding of the world. Clara had expected some form of resistance, unless this was meant to be an escape route. After all, that slab by the door would have taken ten men to move out of the way, or one motivated vampire.

After five minutes of descent they came across a large chamber. This place was so large that the light was swallowed up before it reached the opposing side. The walls were smooth, carved by years of erosion. Had it not been for the cobbled floor, Clara would have assumed they were exploring a natural cave system.

“Wait here,” Clara said and after ten minutes the large chamber was dimly lit by torchlight.

There was another tunnel opposing them, blocked by rock and rubble. She guessed that the other entrance once led directly to the gate. The direction seemed about right, but Clara had to admit that spiralling down like they had, made it difficult to be certain.

There was a natural beauty to the place, but everyone could feel the chill touch of the grave. Clara knew that no one else had been here in a very long time.

“So what now,” Clara asked.

Jonesy and Father Allen both shrugged. For now, this appeared to be a dead end which effectively ended this expedition.

“Why have Georgian construct to protect an empty room,” Clara asked.

“They might have cleared the contents when they abandoned the site,” Jonesy said.

“There are no drag or scuff marks to indicate that anything has been moved,” Father Allen said.

Father Allen moved towards the centre to sketch. Once he was within ten feet of the centre, they heard a loud click that echoed throughout the room. Everyone paused and held their breath.

“What did you do,” Jonesy and Clara asked.

“Nothing,” Father Allen said. “Just stepped on this area of the floor,” he added.

Clara moved towards the centre but kept her eyes peeled. From this vantage point she saw a well defined circular seam in the floor.

Once she stood opposing Father Allen, Clara pressed down hard with one foot. That was enough for the platform to give way and sent Father Allen on his ass.

While Clara kept a straight face, Professor Jones began to laugh maniacally. Hopefully that would not sour their team cohesion; the last thing she needed was to mollycoddle these two.

“Our first trap,” Jonesy said. “How did you know,” he asked.

“I assumed most people would be travelling through the centre directly to the exit behind us,” Clara said.

“So I forced the platform back onto its seat,” Father Allen asked.

“Precisely,” Clara said. “Now would you please wedge something under the platform Father,” she asked.

Clara waited patiently as Father Allen ripped his pack apart. Item after item came out of that bag, but nothing seemed suitable. Eventually he thought of using his walking stick, which he used to keep the platform from falling into place.

The sound of water was more pronounced now, on Clara’s side the supporting rock had been carved away so the slab would give way. This trap had been clearly designed to catch people travelling in a certain direction.

Clara hammered a climbing piton into the floor. She then used a length of rope to grapple and force the platform at its apex.

With the platform out of the way, the walking stick fell through the opening and made a racket below. Clara illuminated the area using her lantern and saw a slew of rusty spikes. The area was littered with bones, skulls and dried blood. Even after all these years, the stone was still stained red.

Clara grabbed the remaining rope and draped it over the edge. Using the light of her lantern Clara had no trouble manoeuvring around the obstacles. She then lit the torches and within minutes Clara was able to shed some light on the macabre scene.

“I’m going to explore,” Clara said.

Without waiting for an answer she ventured through an archway. Visible were two entrances, one that led up presumably towards the chamber above, while the other led down to the source of that running water sound.

Clara pulled out her sidearm and moved closer to the stairs going up. She called out in that direction and eventually heard the men come down.

“Another Georgian illusion then,” Clara said.

“Precisely,” Jonesy said. “It even provided some resistance to prevent accidental discovery,” he added.

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 – Part II

The group spent the next two days scouring the temple complex. Clara kept a close eyes on the tribesmen, it appeared they did not like lingering here and the last thing she needed was for them to get any ideas.

On both sides of the pyramid there were channels which led all the way to the top of the structure. Clara noticed how these shafts had been heavily reinforced.

“What were these for,” Clara asked.

“Not sure,” Jonesy said.

“Used to bring up stores,” Father Allen asked.

“Garbage shoot,” Jonesy guessed.

“Drainage,” Father Allen mused.

“Good cover,” Clara said. “No one can see what is going on from either side,” she added.

Clara walked into the channel and disappeared from sight. Only those who faced her directly were able to see what she was up to, which proved her point.

She pulled out her canteen and took a quick sip. The water was refreshing and cool as it ran down her throat. Alas she had something else in mind for what remained.

“Oops,” Clara said after she dropped the canteen.

The water was initially absorbed by the ground but soon began to pool. It seemed that the theory that these were drains had been wrong, at least for this side.

Without a word, she picked up the canteen and handed it over to one of the locals to refill. Meanwhile she pictured the ziggurat in her mind and realised that this particular channel received the least amount of daylight.

“No obvious markings or pressure points to trigger a mechanism,” Jonesy said.

“No,” Clara said. “Just the way they would want it,” she guessed.

Before Father Allen could speak, Clara cut into the palm of her hand with her crucifix. She then smeared an area just inside the nook with blood.

For a moment nothing seemed to happen, but the blood was slowly absorbed by a portion of the bricks. The break in the streak clearly outlined the concealed doorway.

Jonesy barked out orders and within moments three lanterns were brought forward. Since they were about to descend, the locals had also been instructed to make camp.

Clara had never seen so many people go pale with dread. With a good six hours of daylight left, Clara made a note to ensure they were back before then. She had an odd feeling their camp would not be ready as instructed.

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 – Part I

For weeks Clara had been trudging through sand and dust. This arid and sun bleached land was a new experience and in her opinion this place was the perfect stand-in for one of the seven levels of hell.

Like Europe, war was no stranger to these lands. Occasionally she came across abandoned battlefields, some buried by the sands of time, while others bore fresh scars of modern warfare. Had they gained anything by unleashing such carnage?

Clara had been assigned to an expedition, exploring the ruins of a city abandoned for over six-hundred years. Specifically their interests were centred on an abandoned portal site.

Why had a portal been built here? Some gates existed for obvious reasons, there were always portals leading to Paris or London. These were major cities of colonial powers that provided access to vast populations.

While this city had been the centre of a revived Sumerian culture, that was true for a comparatively short time. Curious that this gate appeared to have been used well after the city had been lost in the desert.

Clara kept an eye out for anything out of the ordinary; ghouls, djinn, and angels of death were all creatures of myth that originated from this part of the world. The fact that vampires and Georgians were also interested in this region only heightened her suspicions.

On this particular day they were searching the ruins of a structure that must have had a great religious significance; Clara supposed that it functioned in much the same way that cathedrals did today.

“A ziggurat,” Professor Jones said.

Clara had never dealt with Professor Jones before this mission. Under his tan clothing and pith helmet, there was a man with a chiselled jaw and a day’s old beard. His roguish good looks would have been a diversion to blossoming girls. That alone might explain why he instructed male students exclusively.

“Quite right,” Father Allen replied.

Father Allen was the team archivist and a fixture at the Tower’s numerous libraries and archives. His thick glasses, pale skin and balding head made him seem inoffensive. Clara guessed that many underestimated him based on his appearance.

Clara looked at the pile of rocks while Father Allen sketched out the site. Today was an especially warm day, the world shimmered in the distance. If only she could find some shade instead of being cooked alive.

“Shade,” Clara said.

“Something to share Miss Grey,” Jonesy asked.

While her statement had been nothing more than the slip of the tongue, it was time to speak up. She was tired of this infernal heat and perhaps she could move things along.

“Yes shade,” Clara said. “We are exploring the surface of a city that was important to them. So travelling overland in broad daylight would have been impractical,” she added.

For days their search had yielded no immediate signs of underground structures. There should have been ventilation shafts or even a few sinkholes. Clara knew this, but it was time to think outside the box.

“If the Tower had to be abandoned,” Clara said. “Sensitive areas would be collapsed, filled in or concealed to deter future expeditions,” Clara said.

“How does that help us Miss Grey,” Jonesy asked.

“This step pyramid is directly in line with the gate room,” Clara said. “The chamber is located by the city’s secondary harbour and would have provided ample escape routes,” she added.

“How—,” Jonesy said.

Clara could have told them how the ruins were mapped out in her mind, but that would be a bitter pill for academics to swallow. She could have used a compass to prove her point, but there was a simpler way of pointing out what should have been obvious.

“At this time of day the sun’s shadows point directly towards the chamber which is four hundred yards in that direction,” Clara said.

Father Allen’s jaw dropped to the floor while Professor Jones eyes bulged. Clara brought the camera forward, held it at waist height, looked down and took a shot. Events like these were meant to be cherished.

“So why don’t we look for the entrance,” Clara asked.

“But this structure is supposedly solid Child,” Father Allen said.

“True. This structure has an imposing facade, even after centuries of degradation,” Clara said.

“So what if it does,” Jonesy asked.

“Would their kind risk travelling through crowds or use the front door,” she asked.

“Well no—,” Jonesy said.

“So let’s concentrate on the sides and back,” 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!

Saint Augustine’s Wrath – Part III

Clara stood on a ridge overlooking the battle that raged on a few miles ahead. Flashes of light erupted on both sides as gunfire and artillery flared up.

Occasionally a blast would occur near one of the trenches and for a moment there was silence. It was just enough time for the men to shake the cobwebs loose before they sent their own volley in anger.

Tonight the casualties would be lining up at the field hospital. There would be soldiers with lost limbs and gouges in their flesh caused by shrapnel or bullets. That’s if they were lucky, either side was not above using mustard gas or chlorine on unsuspecting troops, and those afflicted never fully recovered.

In the distance, Clara heard the sound of a car coming. She turned and saw the hard wheeled affair labouring along the hellish terrain. Eventually it stopped near the base of the gentle slope that led up to this ridge.

Two soldiers exited the cab, and headed towards the back to fetch something. Clara turned to look over the battlefield, even with this reduced light she made out a few observation-balloons looming in the sky.

“Men were slowly refining their ability to kill,” Clara thought. “How long until humanity found a way to end all life on the globe in one strike,” she wondered.

Even over the sound of intense fighting Clara heard someone struggling against his captors. The fact that he still had some fight left in him meant that her orders had been followed.

“Miss Grey,” one of the soldiers said.

Clara turned to face the soldiers and recognised them as graduates from an earlier class. The first, named Sophie was a tall and elegant woman, so much so that all of that padding did little to conceal those feminine features. More effort would be needed in the future to avoid drawing suspicion.

The second, named Bell was shorter in stature and had a uniform which fit her perfectly. She would prove invaluable in navigating No-Man’s-Land even as a junior officer.

“Any trouble,” Clara asked.

“None miss Grey,” Sophie replied.

Sophie appeared to be shielding her side from the Colonel. He probably managed to land a lucky blow to her ribs; Clara was surprised the man was still standing.

“Excellent,” Clara said. “Colonel Blythe,” she said in a feminine and sultry voice.

The Colonel looked up and he went white as a sheet. It was as though he had seen a ghost and Clara’s smile did little to reassure him.

“You and I need to talk,” Clara said with her hands behind her back.

Clara began to pace back and forth while looking over her shoulder to make sure there were no surprises on the Western front. Colonel Blythe followed her every step, leery of what would happen.

“I hope they did not treat you too badly,” Clara asked.

The Colonel never said a word. In fact, if looks could kill she would end up as a casualty of this damned offensive.

“Cat got your tongue,” Clara asked. This time when he failed to respond Clara added, “Sophie if you please.”

It was very important to deliver their lessons early, so the tall one landed a blow to the man’s sternum. The Colonel collapsed into the mud gasping for air, class was now in session.

Clara smirked while she continued to pace. She would give him a few moments to recover, because she needed him to be coherent enough to answer questions.

“Well Colonel,” Clara asked.

The fire in the man’s eyes grew in intensity. Clara watched as the fires of hell claimed all sanity and reason within. Now things were getting interesting.

“Bell,” Clara said.

This time Clara did not even bother to look. The smaller one sent the Colonel head-first into the mud in one smooth motion. Now he was beginning to get the idea.

“We can play this game all evening Colonel,” Clara said. “Right now my girls are under orders not to hurt you,” she added.

Clara did not need to add anything to that statement. This man had either bought his commission or worked his way through the ranks; either way he was no fool.

“What do you want,” Colonel Blythe asked.

“You mean you don’t know,” Clara asked while her voice oozed with sarcasm. “Girls! Didn’t you pass on my personal invitation for tea and crumpets,” she added.

“No Miss Grey,” they said in unison.

“What do you want,” the Colonel barked.

She had to laugh at his attempt to establish dominance. Perhaps it was time for her to show that her authority was not only ordained but earned.

It took a few minutes of laboured effort for him to get back on his feet. Before he could blink Clara was holding a straight razor a hair’s width from the base of his larynx.

Once he sensed the blade against his days old beard, he immediately looked towards the sky to avoid being cut. Clara however maintained control over the blade even while the cool steel glistening in the moonlight.

“If I wanted you dead,” Clara said. “You would have woken up in front of the Pearly Gates wondering how you’d arrived,” she added.

Sophie pulled out a little silver triangle that German snipers used to monitor casualties on the battlefield. If a casualty moved, the triangle would glisten in the light and draw sniper fire. The Colonel knew exactly what this object represented and what the implications were.

“Instead I had them bring you here so we could have a little chat,” Clara said. “Now why is that,” she asked.

“You want something,” the Colonel said.

“Very good,” Clara said.

Meanwhile she pressed the blade in just enough so that a trickle of blood ran down to his collar. That would let him know that he was not out of the woods yet.

The Colonel was stiff as an ironing board; it surprised her that he was not shaking like a leaf. Clara kept a close eye on him, waiting for some sort of response.

“She was so beautiful,” Colonel Blythe said with a cracking voice.

“Who was,” Clara asked, but suspected that Gladys was the answer.

“She never told me her name,” the Colonel said. “Met her one night at the officer’s mess. An angel surrounded by every officer in the room. When—Once I walked in, she only had eyes for me—,” he rambled on.

The rest of his sob story revolved around her stealing his heart then threatening to tear it apart if he did not do exactly as asked. The rumours of his infidelity would lead to a divorce, which meant the loss of lands and title back home.

Had this been the first time such a tale of woe reached her ears, Clara may have been tempted to feel an iota of pity. Everyone needed someone’s company from time to time, even just to forget the horrors encountered. However, ignoring everything that an officer and a gentleman were expected to uphold? That was another matter entirely.

This man had betrayed not only Edith, but everyone else under his authority. A wounded soldier deemed a threat to her could have been administered an overdose of morphine. The power of a CO in time of war was near absolute and tonight Clara was going to remind him of the consequences.

There was no way to determine the damage this man’s indiscretions had caused. He would never expose himself nor accept any blame for his actions. It was always easier to blame someone else than accept responsibility.

“—Could not help myself,” the Colonel said. “Please forgive me,” he pleaded.

Clara moved her blade away then turned to observe the battle. She watched intently as the firefights grew bolder and that meant men would soon scale the walls in an attempt to gain an inch of land. In a couple of hours casualties would come pouring in.

Clara turned back to face the Colonel then leaned in close. So close that he could feel her lips tremble.

“I could have been there for you,” Clara whispered so faintly that she sounded far away. “I would have made you come so many times that you’d pray for me to stop,” she added with growing intensity.

Colonel Blythe eyes widened while his heart pounded with excitement. Clara had no doubt that her words would have him to rise to the occasion… how typical of a man.

“Instead you sold me out to some blonde number who offered you a dream,” Clara said. “It was pride that changed angels into demons; it is humility that make men soar with the angels,” Clara added.

The louder her words became, the more distant she was from him. There was something about her mannerisms that would have chilled the mood at an orgy. The Colonel was beginning to realise just how much trouble he was in.

“What did she offer in trade,” Clara asked. “A piece of tail or the promise of a longer life,” she asked.

Why else risk his career, title and wealth for a beautiful woman? Women like that were generally relegated to trysts or brought on as mistresses. Wives even tolerated their husbands playing the field as long as they were discreet, but these actions were anything but.

“I—I—Er,” he said.

Clara was growing weary of his games, so she drew her sidearm and trained the weapon on him. Once she cocked back the hammer, the colonel knew he no longer had any leeway.

“More life,” Colonel Blythe said through sobs.

This man, defeated and broken collapsed onto the mud while sobbing uncontrollably. Clara merely glanced at Sophie who responded by landing a blow at the base of his neck. Just like that he went silent, oblivious to the world and the nightmare unfolding just a couple of miles away.

Without direction Bell silently secured his arms and legs. The girls then walked down the ridge to the lorry and drove away.

It was not up to her or anyone else from her order to judge another human. People were often used as pawns while others were victims in their own right. Many were easily seduced, which explained why sexuality was a weapon wielded by both sides.

After a half an hour of travel they reached the remains of that burnt-out farmhouse. While Sophie and Bell changed back into their nurses uniforms, Clara picked up a field phone.

She wound the handle several times, and then picked up the receiver. After a brief exchange she hung up and sat down on what had once been a bed.

Clara closed her eyes, and heard artillery strikes moving closer and closer to their position. They eventually erupted in a volley so powerful that the farmhouse shook.

“Fire for effect,” Clara thought.

Perhaps the Colonel could not be judged by those in her order. However, that did not mean she could not nudge fate in the right direction. Many survived artillery strikes and if God wished it, he would make it through.

Clara guessed that God would not intervene tonight. There were many who deserved to live under the grace of God that would end up run through with a bayonet or cut down by machine gun fire. Saint Peter would be busy admitting entire companies tonight.

From the ground, God appeared to be absent from this part of the world. Until he chose to pass his wisdom down to his flock, Clara and her ilk would have to look after his best interests.

“Safe travel girls,” Clara said before they left.

With their mission complete, Clara watched as they melted into the night. She then pulled out the sealed envelope that bore the Reverend Mother’s insignia. As promised she had not even looked at it until her mission was complete.

Without a second thought she pulled out a knife and cut through the envelopes top. Inside she found a simple sheet of folded paper.

“Great,” Clara muttered. “Time to babysit,” she added.

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!

Saint Augustine’s Wrath – Part II

For some reason people tended to believe that the Paris gate was located within the catacombs. There was a certain logic to that, many of the gates were located near cemeteries and mausoleums. However, people often overlooked how popular the Parisian catacombs were, even during wartime.

For some reason people tended to believe that the Paris gate was located within the catacombs. There was a certain logic to that, many of the gates were located near cemeteries and mausoleums. However, people often overlooked how popular the Parisian catacombs were, even during wartime.

While an unnamed cemetery in some forgotten part of town was an ideal location for most gates. A site swarming with tourists, treasure hunters and historians did little to conceal traffic. Instead Clara and Edith stepped through the backdoor of a dilapidated hospital complex and found themselves in the Terminus.

Next week it would be in a different location. In a city the size of Paris, changing the gateway’s location with some regularity helped reduce accidental discovery.

“Right on time children,” said Reverend Mother Augustine.

Clara had never been greeted at the Terminus before, so it all came as a bit of a shock. Since Edith shared the same stunned look, that meant it was a new experience for her as well.

“Reverend Mother,” the two said in unison.

“Come with me,” the Reverend Mother said. “We have no time to waste,” she added without formality.

The girls fell in line, walking alongside the doors designed to confuse. They walked down a few sections until the Reverend Mother stopped and opened a door.

“Through here,” Augustine said.

Clara moved through the door and found herself standing in the middle of the Reverend Mother’s chambers. Apparently there were many ways into the Tower, some that were active only when certain conditions were met.

Once the Reverend Mother entered the premises she said, “Who gave you the name Drusilla?”

“That detail was clearly outlined in my rep—,” Edith attempted to say.

“I don’t care what the report says,” Augustine said. “I am perfectly capable of reading a report Edith.”

Clara found the exchange telling, staff rarely set aside formality for the sake of brevity. Proper marks of respect were to be used on both sides. How else could the staff expect the young ones to follow their lead?

She also noted how a lot of security had been bypassed for no immediate gain. This report must have gotten the senior echelon’s attention, but a key detail was missing. So they had been recalled to tap directly into the source without relying on the war machine’s bureaucracy to relay their queries.

“Yes Reverend Mot—,” Edith attempted to say but was motioned to stop.

Both girls remained silent, clearly the Reverend Mother had something in mind but had not voiced her requirements. Edith was not about to get cut off again and by convention Clara was expected to let her senior take the lead. So she remained silent, besides she wanted to see how far this would go.

“Cat got your tongue,” Augustine asked while staring at Clara.

“Gladys’ partner volunteered the name before sunrise,” Clara said without showing a hint of amusement.

“You have met Gladys before correct,” the Reverend Mother asked.

“Once before, when she killed Father Michael,” Clara said.

“The same woman you identified in Professor Stephens’ class,” the Reverend Mother asked.

“Of course Reverend Mother and the same woman portrayed in Jack’s sketches,” Clara said. After a pause she added a belated, “Reverend Mother.”

Clara glanced at Edith for a moment and realised her partner was just as confused. This information was not new, nor did it provide them with any motivations for their recall.

“Did she recognise you,” the Reverend Mother asked.

Clara thought back over the events of that night. Had this been more than a mere coincidence? Up to now she had dismissed the idea as being paranoid.

“I don’t believe so Reverend Mother,” Clara said.

“Why not,” the Reverend Mother asked.

“Edith was attacked first,” Clara said bluntly.

This implied that Gladys had gone after the biggest threat first. If that thing had recognised Clara, then her rage would have been appropriately focused.

“True,” the Reverend Mother said while pacing. “How did you know where to fire your weapon,” she asked.

“She attacked Father Michael in the same manner Reverend Mother,” Clara said while avoiding to mention that this had been a wild guess.

The Reverend Mother smirked, she had no difficulty in seeing through what was left unsaid. It would be hard to get anything past her, so perhaps it was the time to change the beat.

“Reverend Mother Augustine,” Clara said in an unwavering voice. “This was all covered in our report, surely that is not the reason we were brought here,” Clara asked.

The elder hunter’s immutable face formed a smile. So this had been some sort of trial to see who could break through their conditioning and operate independently?

“Will these tests ever end,” Clara wondered.

Had the Reverend Mother suspected Edith of embellishing her report? Could that have been the reason for their being summoned? Edith was known as a straight shooter, so the Reverend Mother must have wanted to make sure that Clara’s portion was truthful.

“Drusilla,” the Reverend Mother said. “Was one of the first hunters in our ranks,” she added.

Both of the girls cocked their heads to the side and looked confused. Clara would not have guessed the origin of that name, so their mole had been one of their own. The big question on her mind was how long ago that had been?

The Reverend Mother carried on for nearly an hour about Drusilla’s history. A woman who had been recruited shortly after Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. Quite literally she was one of the founding members of the Tower; a member integral to how the order functioned.

She had moved up through the ranks quickly, very much like Clara had done. However, there was always an appetite for power that no amount of training or self-actualisation could purge. These days students were discharged if that flaw came to light, but back then it grew unchecked.

The day Drusilla was passed over for selection as Reverend Mother was the beginning of dark times for the Tower. It was as though a shadow loomed over that staff and students; dozens of hunters including some of their most experienced disappeared without a trace. Faculty members were found mutilated and tortured just outside the gates.

Until that point, attacks against the Tower had been few and far between. There had been no coordinated campaign against them, nor any strategy behind their attacks. After Drusilla had been turned down, they began fighting a unified front fielded by a whole new class of monster.

No one ever suspected Drusilla, even when the attacks grew more vicious she remained to shore up their defences. At least that had been the image she portrayed on the homefront.

In truth, she had been rallying the enemy, focusing their attacks to weaken her opponents. When the political tables did not shift, she vanished without a trace.

The memory of these attacks faded from the Towers collective memory. Soon a new generation of hunters ventured out into wild, better equipped and informed on what to expect.

A century later rumours began to circulate on a dangerous vampire lurking about. Every encounter spoke of a woman of unimaginable beauty. The Tower ordered out waves of hunters to confirm these rumours and neutralise the threat. Most found nothing or were never heard from again.

A hunter eventually escaped the clutches of what she described as a cruel woman. While she barely escaped with her life, the contents of her report shook the very foundations of the order. That revelation led to many of the security precautions put in place today.

“Her name was stricken from all official records, as were the names of any who subsequently betrayed us,” the Reverend Mother said.

Clara’s eyes brightened when another piece of the puzzle fell into place. Obviously some records remained, since the Reverend Mother knew exactly who Drusilla was. So why were the names stricken from the record? Augustine seemed to sense the question lingering in the air.

“When their names come up, it confirms the intelligence as authentic. Drusilla however, has been clever enough to change her name frequently,” Augustine said. “Because it’s far easier to hide amongst your prey when your name is nondescript,” she added.

“Yes Reverend Mother,” the girls said in unison.

So these names became a red flag to alert hunters that a threat was moving against them. That meant that Drusilla’s name must have sent off one hell of an alarm to get this level of attention.

“We’ve always suspected that Drusilla was responsible for Father Michael’s death,” the Reverend Mother said. “You confirmed it today when you mentioned her name,” she added.

“The man who gave up the name told us she was the mole Reverend Mother,” Clara said.

“That’s probably the truth as he knew it,” Augustine replied. “Do you believe she would have trusted this man with actual information,” she asked.

“No Reverend Mother,” both girls said in reply.

So this was nothing more than an attempt at taunting them. Although the word haunted was more appropriate.

“Why did she vow revenge Reverend Mother,” Clara asked.

“What do you mean Child,” the Reverend Mother asked in return.

“What were the chances of two hunters being called upon to witness the meeting between the Georgians and Drusilla’s party,” Clara said. “They were expecting us to be there to conclude a transaction Reverend Mother,” she added.

The Reverend Mother looked as though she was deep in thought.

“Had Drusilla’s name been used to throw them off,” Clara thought.

“This means that we have a mole within our order,” Clara said out of turn. “One who can issue orders without raising suspicion,” she added.

“Orders,” Augustine said. “What orders,” she asked.

“We received orders through our CO to investigate sightings in that area. Intelligence strongly indicated that a meeting would—,” Edith said.

“Did you see these orders Child,” the Reverend Mother asked.

“—No. These were passed on orally Reverend Mother,” Edith said without hesitation.

That was a departure from the standard operating procedures, hunters were normally given their orders directly. Their COs would have to break the envelope’s seal to know the particulars.

“We should warn whoever remains—,” Clara managed to say.

“See to that child,” the Reverend Mother said to Clara while she kept her eyes fixed on Edith. “Edith you will stay behind to discuss matters further,” she added.

Clara looked over the situation and knew this was the end of an era. Until now they had been inseparable, a formidable force to be reckoned with.

This time Clara had proven her worth as a full-fledged hunter. It had been her quick thinking that revealed Drusilla’s ongoing interests in the Tower.

She left the office quietly without looking back, but prayed that Edith would be fine. She was a good soldier and one hell of a partner so that had to stand for something.

Once Clara reached the main floor, a young acolyte handed her a sealed envelope.

“For your eyes only Miss Grey. You are to open the letter once your mission has been completed,” the acolyte said before he scurried away.

Clara stood there in awe, an impressive feat considering how little time had passed. Or had the Reverend Mother known how this debriefing would turn out?

“She is never one to be underestimated,” Clara thought.

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!