Author: sakurazuki PM
Alexa Young has always been able to see things others couldn't. Little did she know that her ability would land her a place in the Crusades, a secret organization founded by the Church to fight an ongoing battle against the undead. Chapter 2 up!Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Adventure - Chapters: 3 - Words: 7,411 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 08-05-12 - Published: 08-01-12 - id: 3046931
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Book One of the Crusades series
It was the first day of the new term at St. Adrian's, which meant everyone was talking about who spent their holidays where. With everyone suffering from at least some form of holiday hangover, the first day of each school year at St. Adrian's began with not a single pretense of classwork among students and teachers. Alexa Young, of course, was the new girl and was not aware such a system existed. She immediately deduced everyone to be spoiled, pompous nincompoops, and who could blame her?
In fairness to her adviser, Miss Turner, the woman had tried to introduce her, but in the end all Alexa had to do was to step inside the room in her dark eye make-up, shorter-than-average skirt, and military boots in order to silence the class.
"Hi, I'm Alexa Young," she drawled while chewing on her gum. "Nice to meet you."
Miss Turner sat up straighter at such rare display of attention and cleared her throat with renewed vigor. "Miss Young came from Dovecross Preparatory School for Girls in Hearthworth. Show her some St. Adrian's hospitality, everyone!"
But the only hospitality took on the form of murmurs and giggles. Alexa looked at her new adviser with some exasperation.
"Where can I sit?" she asked with an idle raise of her eyebrows.
"Er... You may take the empty seat at the back by the window."
Alexa was completely aware and absolutely unmindful of everyone's stares as she approached her seat rather audibly in her boots. Two girls burst into laughter when she passed by.
Alexa threw her bag over her desk and sat down. She defiantly raised her eyebrows back at everyone watching her, until they all eventually went back to their own businesses and returned to ignoring Miss Turner up front.
Alexa averted her gaze to the window and resumed chewing her gum. Just when she thought the crowd at Dovecross was bad enough...
Half an hour later Alexa found everyone's incessant chatter driving her insane, and with an excuse to go to the restroom, she skipped the rest of the class and spent her time trying to learn her new surroundings.
Despite the castle's size, many rooms at St. Adrian's were either locked or unused. She already took interest in a small sitting room in the East Wing, which was near Barty's office but made it less likely for the other students to use. Alexa already referred to it as her Scarlet Chamber, since everything in the room, from the wallpaper to the carpet, was a dark shade of red. It was mostly empty save for an old dresser and a chintz sofa set, but what she liked the most about it was the wide windowsill, which offered a view of the lush, green forestry behind the castle grounds.
Based on the concentration of energy she could sense from the North Tower and somewhere underground in the West Wing, Alexa figured that the Crusade headquarters was located in either of the two. She tried to seek out Raoul's energy, but she could no longer sense the Mortoviv anywhere. Perhaps he never stayed in the castle at all, or was probably away somewhere for the day. Contrary to popular belief, vampires were free to move around anytime they pleased. It was naturally just easier for them to hunt at night.
All Crusade members were required to stay in a separate dormitory called Knights Hall, which was a modest-size mansion located south of the castle. Everyone else knew Knights Hall to be the residence of the headmaster and other faculty who lived far from home. Alexa had only arrived last night from Hearthworth in time for the new term, but it had been too late and she was too tired to meet anyone other than the doorman who let her in. According to the letter that had been slipped in from the crack of her door, the first meeting of the Crusades would commence at 9 o'clock that night, well after everyone else had gone home.
It was half past five by the time Alexa decided to postpone her tour for another day. She was only walking down one of the main corridors on her way back when she heard laughter by the courtyard. The grounds were mostly empty by now, save for a small group sitting by the fountain.
A young man with sandy blonde hair and dark blue eyes stood in the center of the group. Everyone was listening to him in rapt attention, perhaps because even from afar, Alexa could tell that the guy was a natural charmer.
18-year old senior Nicholas Gray had only stood up when the corner of his eye saw a figure walking down one of the corridors. It was a girl with long, black hair and thick, dark make-up.
"Woah," he muttered. "Who's the freak?"
"Oh God, that's the new girl from my class," One of the girls said beside him in disgust. "She's so freaky."
"She certainly looks like it," Nicholas snorted, sending the rest of his companions laughing.
Alexa fixed her gaze on Nicholas. He had a smug and rather derogatory look in his eyes when he stared back at her, and she immediately deduced him to be the kind of asshole who thought he could get away with anything.
Without so much as a second glance, Alexa continued on her way to the end of the corridor leading to the main doors. She stepped out into the castle grounds and followed the path heading south to Knights Hall. It took about fifteen minutes walking to the mansion, which was separated from the school by an ornate iron gate and a long lane of trees before reaching the four-storey residence.
The footman, Mr. Burns, welcomed Alexa at her arrival as she continued to her room on the third floor. Her room was located at the very end of the hallway, a location just to her liking.
Alexa paused in her step when the door adjacent to hers opened. The ebony haired girl who she remembered seeing on the day of her initiation stared back at her. She no longer looked scared shitless, but her big, round eyes made her look like she was in a perpetual state of surprise.
"Oh hello," The girl began in a small voice. "I believe I've run into you before."
Alexa merely blinked back at her. Most people would grow uncomfortable at her silence, but the girl seemed to have received a boost of confidence from it. She stretched out a firm hand and smiled back at her.
"Hi, my name's Beatrice Watson," she said. "But everyone calls me Bea."
Alexa blinked again. She decided to follow standard social protocol and slowly shook hands with her, feeling rather awkward in the process.
"Alexa Young," she replied.
"This is your room?" Bea asked, glancing at her door. "Oh yay, we're neighbors!"
Alexa felt herself cringe inwardly and decided she didn't want to spend another minute with her.
"So you're coming to the meeting tonight, aren't you?" Bea asked when Alexa walked to her door. "I didn't think I was going to make it! I still can't believe I'm here now!"
"Um," Alexa opened her door several inches. "I have to do something now."
"Oh sorry, please don't let me bother you!" The girl laughed. "I'll see you later then!"
Alexa closed the door behind her without another word.
A dinner commemorating the first night of the new school year was arranged for 7 o'clock, but Alexa decided to skip supper, not just because of her lack of appetite, but also for the fact that she despised social interactions.
Alexa was on her bed reading a book when she glanced up at the clock. It was ten minutes before nine. With a small sigh, she closed her book shut and rose from the bed.
She stared at her reflection by the dresser and saw a girl with long, black hair staring back at her through slightly smudged eye make-up. She was still wearing her uniform from that day, but she decided to discard the coat and rolled up her sleeves. Her necktie was rather loose with two buttons undone from her blouse. She had modified the length of her skirt until it barely passed the school standard, but saved room for decency with thigh-high socks.
Content with her appearance, Alexa left the room and made her way down the empty corridor as her boots thudded on the red carpet floor. She could still hear laughter and conversation below as she descended to the first floor, where the winding marble staircase ended just in front of the dining hall. Everyone was in formal evening wear, all turning to stare at her arrival.
Alexa was surprised to find the blonde-haired boy from the courtyard in the room, the smirk on his face seemingly more derisive than she last remembered it. He was in an open gray suit and black pants.
"Miss Young," The man at the center of the group said. "We were wondering where you were."
Alexa had never met him before, but judging by his appearance—a pleasant-faced man wearing square-framed glasses, with a tall and lean build under a dark gray pinstripe suit—she assumed him to be Dr. Grayson Pearce, overseer for the Crusades in training and headmaster of St. Adrian's Academy.
Everyone else in the room regarded Alexa's late arrival with either confusion or disdain, but Dr. Pearce was still waiting for her response with a patient smile, leaving Alexa feeling just shy of remorse.
"Um, sorry," She cleared her throat. "I wasn't hungry."
"Well, anytime you feel hungry there's always something in the pantry," Dr. Pearce genially shrugged. "Now, ladies and gentlemen, it's almost time to commence our first meeting. Let's proceed to headquarters, shall we?"
The group began to follow his lead. Bea materialized by her side in a blue one-piece dress and meekly asked, "Why didn't you join us?"
Having already said her answer once, Alexa said nothing to her. She followed the group that made their way down to the end of the corridor, where they proceeded down a staircase to the left. This eventually led to a narrow, empty hallway with stone walls.
The sound of everyone's heels echoed as they ventured further. A right turn later and the stone walls gave way to a dark tunnel dimly lit with torches. Alexa felt a cold draft the moment she stepped in, although it had nothing to do with the supernatural. This eerie walk continued for several more minutes until a bluish glow began to form at the other end of the tunnel.
Having emerged from such a primitive-looking chamber, Alexa was surprised to find herself stepping on glass floors, which emitted the same blue glow that she saw back in the tunnel. The rest of it gave way to a vast and very contemporary-looking facility with the latest computers, touch panel machinery, and numerous other equipment that she couldn't identify. The facility was spread out in a circular fashion, with a high ceiling that housed several docks when she looked up. There was no actual illumination in the area, save for the light from the floors and the technology around them.
Despite its vastness, there were only a handful of people in the room before their arrival. There were about four people: three men and one woman, waiting for them by the computer dock where the rest of them gathered.
"Welcome to the Crusade headquarters," Dr. Pearce began. "As you can see we are beneath the west wing of the school, connected to Knights Hall through the tunnel we just came from."
"For the sake of our two new members this year," The man motioned to Alexa and Bea standing at the further end of the group. "I'd like everyone to formally introduce themselves once more."
"My name is Grayson Pearce," The doctor began. "I am Auctor, or head of operations for the Crusades here at St. Adrian's. I was an Indago, or a researcher when I first joined, and I still lead the team of scribes in this institution."
"I'm Zachary Walker, but call me Zach," The tallest man in the group said in a gruff voice. He was tanned and muscular, with dark brown hair and an amiable look on his face. "I'm the Ferio Domini, or head weaponsmaster here. Basically if you need any equipment made or fixed, you come to me or my team and we do it for you."
"My name is Florence Dixon," The woman standing beside Zach said. She looked like in her mid-forties, with fair hair and a rather unyielding expression on her thin face. "I am the Altrix Domini, leader and teacher of all healers in this faction."
"I'm Riley Mitchell," The one of two boys on Zach's right said. He and the other boy beside him both had light brown hair and freckles on their faces. "This is my brother Avery."
"We're head of communications," Avery Mitchell said. "We track Renati movement and locations to aid Crusaders during battle. We're also sophomores."
"I'm Seth Callaghan," The first from the group at Knights Hall said with a grin. He had cropped, red hair and a faint Irish accent. "I'm a Princeps in training and I'm a third year at St. Adrian's."
"Nicholas Gray," The blonde-haired boy in front of Alexa drawled. "Princeps Domini. Senior."
"I-I'm Beatrice Watson, but you can call me Bea," Bea stammered. "I'm in my first year as an Altrix in training."
"Alexa Young," Alexa finally said. "First year. Sancti."
Everyone suddenly seemed to regard her with piqued interest. Even Bea's eyes seemed to widen more than usual.
"Christ, we have a Sancti?" Seth laughed. "Well this is gonna be interesting."
"I don't think I've ever met one," Riley said in amazement.
"But seriously Grayson, only two new recruits this year?" Zach shook his head with a frown. "What is this world coming to?"
"Yes well, over the years we've realized that there is but limited strength in numbers," Dr. Pearce said. "Although we have a core team of only ten this year, I have full faith in all of you and your respective capabilities."
There were only nine when Alexa wordlessly counted the heads in the room. She had only wondered who the tenth was when the tingling sensation at the back of her neck sent her turning to find the Mortoviv from her initiation.
"Ah, Raoul," Dr. Pearce said. "Glad you could join us tonight."
Alexa assumed that the undead had properly fed the way his skin no longer looked pale, but a natural olive that made him look very much alive and human. Strangely, she could not feel any revulsion in her despite being in such close range with him.
Alexa followed Raoul with her gaze as he brushed past her and made his way beside Dr. Pearce.
"Alexa, Bea, I'd like to introduce you to Raoul," The man smiled. "He is a Mortoviv, but a Fallen one. Not to worry, he is on our side."
Raoul no longer seemed to display any hostility towards her and merely eyed her back with indifference.
"Now, Nicholas and Seth, the two of you already know how things work," Dr. Pearce continued. "Beatrice, you will be under the guidance of Mrs. Dixon for your Altrix training, and Alexa, being the sort of wildcard in this group, you will receive your training alternately from Raoul and myself."
Alexa stared at the doctor and the undead in disbelief. "What?"
"Due to the scarcity of Sancti nowadays, most from your order are in the main office in London," Dr. Pearce explained. "As students like yourself are just as rare, we never really had a Sancti Domini here at St. Adrian's."
"By principle I will assume that you use vodou for your spells, but I believe we also have scriptures that can teach you advanced Sancti magic," he continued. "You can practice those spells with Raoul."
"A Sancti's punching bag, you mean?" Nicholas snorted. "Just when you thought you couldn't sink any lower."
Alexa was glad she wasn't on the receiving end of the vampire's icy glare.
"We hold a meeting every Thursday at 9 o'clock in this room," Dr. Grayson said. "When situations arise, we notify each other through a mark that we must carry on our person at all times."
The man flashed a small brooch on his left chest. It was the symbol of a red cross. Alexa noticed that the others' took on the form of necklaces, earrings, and other accessories that blended naturally with the rest of their clothing.
"This pin will transmit a small surge of Fidem or holy energy notifying you to proceed to headquarters immediately," The doctor explained. "You will be expected to drop whatever engagements in order to do so."
"Take your pick, girls," Zach opened a red and gold ornate box before them. Inside was a small selection of different accessories all bearing the red cross on a velvet cushion.
Bea picked a chain bracelet. Alexa picked a silver necklace. They wordlessly put it on as she felt the red cross pendant cool on her skin.
"The pin works both ways: If you think you're in trouble, channel energy back into it," Zach said. "There's also a microchip inside it that can serve as an ID and a tracker."
"Nothing like magic and technology," Riley grinned as Avery typed on one of the computers behind him.
"You are free to visit headquarters anytime you like," Dr. Pearce smiled. "This room is accessible from the painting of Lord Jacques Beaune on the fourth floor of the school's West Wing. Simply place your pin anywhere on the painting to activate the passage."
"Do any of you have any questions?" Dr. Pearce inquisitively raised his eyebrows.
"When do we start training?" Bea piped up in a small voice.
"I'll meet you here on Wednesday at 7 o'clock to draw up a schedule, Miss Watson," Mrs. Dixon said beside Zach. Bea nodded in reply.
"As for you, Miss Young, we can discuss it in my office tomorrow after class," Dr. Pearce smiled. Alexa said nothing and did not smile back.
"Well, if there will be nothing more, this meeting is adjourned," The man cleared his throat. "A busy day as always for everyone tomorrow. Don't be late for class now!"
"Yes, Headmaster," Seth drawled with a grin as he and the rest of the group began to disperse.
Alexa looked at the facility before her one last time before turning on her heel to head back to Knights Hall with everyone else.
to be continued