SAINT BARBARA'S WRATH

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1915

The girls were run off their feet the moment they got back to the field hospital. While casualties piled up faster than they could handle, Clara prayed that none of the patients showed signs of an animal attack. Alas, there were times when a pyrrhic victory was the only reward for being right.

Her hunch had been dead on; that thing had almost decimated an entire company of soldiers. This senseless mass murder had been necessary to satiate her bloodlust and regenerate. Clara felt guilty for what she had unwittingly unleashed and promised that Gladys would get the fate she deserved.

After two days of relentless fighting, the front had shifted back to the same stretch of burnt-out land they had fought over for years. All of those munitions, equipment, and men had been wasted in an attempt to gain a foothold into enemy territory. Now, they were back at square one; Clara could once more feel the ground tremble from bombardments.

After the third day, the fighting ebbed and the opportunity for rest became real. Alas, the girls received orders to muster at their Commanding Officer's tent. At the sight of them, he adopted a stern look and handed them a letter. While addressed to him, the contents were clearly meant for them.

Fortunately, such letters were a common occurrence, so without a word they were dismissed. In the past, a great deal of time had been wasted in an attempt to extract information from them. Eventually it proved easier to give up, since enemy soldiers were more forthcoming with their secrets.

"That was quick," Clara said. "When did you send out the report?"

"This morning," Edith said which effectively set a record.

"So where to?" Clara asked even if she had her suspicions.

"We have been ordered back to the Homefront," Edith said.

Clara was surprised. Here they were in the middle of a war where tens of thousands of lives were lost in a single campaign. Those figures did not include the carnage resulting from ghouls, vampires and their ilk. So far, nothing they encountered merited this level of attention from the Tower.

Clara often imagined that the Homefront had been ripped from the world, which was technically correct. The inhabitants were shielded from the atrocities that plagued this war. Clara often considered herself lucky to get orders at all.

Edith smiled meekly before she said, "I know exactly how you feel."

Edith was about to pull away but paused. There was something about the orders that required extra thought, but she did not say.

"You'd better get packing," Edith said. "The truck will be here at first light."

"Never a dull day," Clara said with a grin.

* * * *

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.

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