HERE BE MONSTERS

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1907

Clara was never given an official name for her new home, some called it the Tower of Babel or the Tower for short. Others referred to it as the Library of Alexandria and a few used an assortment of less savoury terms. It was rumoured that using its proper name would empower their enemies, so chances were, the name had been forgotten long ago. The truth was irrelevant really, since the lack of a name suited this place.

Besides the name, there were many libraries and archives that contained vast sums of knowledge. Some contained codices dating back to the Antiquities. Clara made sure to explore the massive structure, ever in awe of what she found.

Professor Stephens had taught them that the Church had amassed stores of information before the fall of the Roman Empire. That hoard existed to preserve knowledge in the hopes that one day humanity would be ready.

Sadly, there was something in his choice of words that implied humanity would have to wait. This was further hammered home when he commented on the Edison and Tesla rivalry. He even bragged that the acolytes of the Temple of Zeus had resolved those debates centuries ago.

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

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

There were a few who believed the Terminus' inner workings were due to magic, although that notion was vehemently rejected by clergy and academics alike. While there were no clear answers, Clara occasionally heard the name Georgian whispered in the air.

The instructors were as varied as the subjects they taught. There were priests, nuns, and professors who all approached the world differently. Occasionally, they brought in specialists to teach and Clara especially enjoyed those occasions. It was a real treat to see someone be free from the taint of the order's indoctrination.

Academics and theology were not the only course matter. There were courses on music, high arts, physical fitness and combat. Instructors were nebulous when questioned as to why the latter was a considered a core subject. Clara could guess why, but very few of the students had been exposed to the truth like she had. She often envied their ignorance, especially their ability to imagine a world without things that went bump in the night.

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

Clara was a bit younger than her classmates but even she could pick out the awkward attempts to get noticed by the other sex. While young, Clara was not immune. Jack would occasionally glance her way and her cheeks would turn a bright red. During those moments, Clara prayed for an answer; alas, that prayer would remain unanswered.

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

* * * *

On the final day of lectures for this semester, Professor Stephens provided them with some context as to the existence of the Tower.

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