Chapter 10: Oublié Cathedral
If someone had told me I'd be flying to France on a mission to investigate an enigmatic cult that may be trying to bring an Ancient into this world a week ago, I would have thought they were crazy… After all, Alex and I thought they were finished for good.
Danielle stared out the window of the Boeing 747 that she was aboard, but she couldn't fall asleep despite how tired she was. While she had never flown internationally, she was well aware of the severe case of jet lag she would suffer from.
"You should get some sleep," Elena suggested, startling Danielle out of her thoughts. She sat in the seat beside Danielle, barely looking fatigued at all. Behind them, Reno was fast asleep, his soft snores lost to the gently hum of the plane. Rude, who sat beside him, seemed to be staring off into space, his eyes hidden behind his dark sunglasses. The seat behind him was occupied by Tseng, who was reading over some documents. Rufus had stayed behind in the States with Alex and Devin to help them. Already Danielle could tell this would be dangerous. She had seen it in Rufus's eyes, even though he hadn't said much about what dangers could be lying hidden in her destination.
Zombies shambling down the corridors, mindlessly searching for victims… Trappers waiting to hear intruders approach… Horrors guarding the corridors with their three heads filled with vicious teeth… Bonethieves biding their time inside their hosts and preparing themselves to take another… And somehow they're the worst of all because they could easily take control of you just like they could anyone else…
"Not really tired," Danielle finally replied, eliciting a chuckle from Elena.
"Either you learn to lie better or just stop trying to altogether. I can tell something is on your mind."
Once again, she was amazed at how quickly the Turks had changed from the people she had fought when they tried to capture her to "friends" of sorts. She was still a bit cautious around them. "Uh… Well…"
"Thinking about what the boss said?" she asked softly.
Danielle sighed, shrugging her shoulders a bit. "I suppose… Yeah, I am. I'm scared." She looked forward. "I'm worried about what may be in there… What I'll have to face on my own…"
"That's understandable." Elena closed her eyes, leaning her head back. "Television and books make something like this seem so interesting and exciting. In reality, that's far from being the truth. Even if you weren't dealing with monsters, it would still be nerve-wracking. For me, my problem was being too eager. I wanted to do my best and show off my skills to the others." She let out a slight chuckle. "I ended up messing up pretty bad as a result. That's why the others say I always talk too much. I ended up letting something really important slip and nearly botched the whole job."
Danielle allowed a chuckle herself, but her grin soon fell away. There was a nagging thought in the back of her mind that just wouldn't go away. No matter how easy the mission seemed, something always went wrong.
That, or I'm reading too many books, she thought to herself, staring down at the book in her lap that she had been reading lately. Reading helped take her mind off of a lot of things, but these days, even reading the three Alex Rider books she had for the second time in the row didn't do anything to help.
Stormbreaker, Point Blank, and Skeleton Key. They may be fiction, but I'm positive that just like in these stories, something always goes wrong at the worst possible time. One different though. This isn't some book. It's real life, and the stakes are much higher.
Elena rested her hand gently on Danielle's shoulder. "Just get some rest, Danielle. You need it."
Danielle sighed softly and slipped her book into her backpack she had carried onboard with her. Her mind raced with the possibilities of what could happen, never stopping and never giving her a second to rest. She was terrified. Before she had been with her sister when she had first encountered the servants of the Ancients, but now there was a chance she would run into them and be all on her own…
She turned over slightly, her head resting on the seat itself. Closing her eyes, she tried to will the thoughts out of her mind, even though it wasn't easy. Eventually, she did manage to slip into a light doze, dreaming once more of the strange meeting between her and her mirror self.
"Never expected to spend part of Thanksgiving vacation in France," Danielle muttered, stifling a yawn.
Reno had his arms behind his head as they walked down the road, occasionally glancing around at the people who were staring at them and talking to each other in French. "Tell me about it. Makes me wish I had actually passed French class back in high school. I don't understand a word they're saying. Bet they think my hair looks weird." He shook his head, stifling a yawn. "Man, I'm never going to get used to jet lag. Anyhow, you sure about this Tseng? Don't you think these guys are going to be a bit suspicious if a college student from America suddenly comes up doing research on different religions and randomly happens to pick theirs?"
"Perhaps, but we're positive they'll believe her. Rufus set up a cover for her after conversing with them," Tseng replied.
"And if they don't?"
Tseng looked back at Reno. "Then we get her out of there. We've been over this before."
"Yeah, yeah, I know." Reno stopped, his eyes narrowing as he looked at what lay ahead of them on the road. As Danielle followed his gaze, she felt her heart race painfully in her chest. There, off in the distance, was an ominous looking cathedral. She recognized it instantly from the painting that hung in her grandfather's secret study at the Roivas Estate.
"Oublié Cathedral…" she whispered. The very place where Anthony and Paul Luther had been killed. Where Peter Jacob had defeated the Grater Guardian of Chattur'gha and retrieved the Veil of Ulyaoth.
And where I'm about to go…
"I'm still not sure about this," she heard Reno say, the worry clear in his voice. "That place gives me the creeps, and I'm not even near it."
Tseng glanced over at Danielle, a serious look on his face. "Remember: Keep that radio with you at all times. We'll be able to hear everything that goes on, and we'll only contact you if it's absolutely necessary."
Danielle nodded, gripping the radio that was hidden beneath her T-shirt. "Right." She stared down the dirt road that led to the cathedral, the whole town a reminder of days long past. At least, that's how it was to her. Taking a deep breath, she started forward. It was time to find out just what was going on.
Danielle couldn't shake the dark feeling that came over her as she stepped through the massive wooden doors into the foyer of Oublié Cathedral. A man in an ornately decorated red robe with silver lining stepped forward, his arms outspread. "Bienvenue à la cathédrale d'Oublie."
Danielle blinked a few times, trying to brush up on her French but failing miserably. "Sorry, I don't speak French."
"Ah, you are the American? Forgive me," the man apologized in a heavily accented voice. "I am Voltaire Augustine, the leader of this fine church. May I ask your name?"
"Danielle Sterling," she replied, using her adoptive surname as Rufus had told her to. She had instantly grown suspicious. Augustine was the same name Pious had used when he posed as the leader of the cathedral during Paul Luther's time…
"Here on vacation, yes?" Augustine smiled thinly. "Mr. Shinra told me. It is an honor that you have come. May I ask what for?"
Guy's pretty fluent in English…
"Just research for a report I'm doing on different small religions in Europe. Mr. Shinra sponsored me to come here."
Augustine seemed to be considering this. "I see… we are honored to be featured in such a report. Because of our small size, we are rather unknown in these parts. The stories about this great cathedral do not help much either. Tell me, do you have accommodations elsewhere?" Danielle shook her head. "Then feel free to stay here. We have a small room in the south tower for you to stay in. It is not often that we have guests here."
"Uh, thank you. Think I can go there now? I've had a long flight."
With a slight bow, Augustine motioned for her to follow as they entered the massive sanctuary. People in simple black robes knelt in pews, their chants soft and in Latin. "Often the monks come here to pray. There are even those who spend every second they are awake here on their knees."
Danielle glanced at the altar silently, noting that there was nothing on the table. No sacraments, no religious icons… This seemed almost like Paul's chapter with the exception of there being no murder…
In the south tower, Augustine opened a door beneath the stairs, revealing a small plain room with a bed, desk, and bookshelf. The room was lit by a ceiling fixture on a fan. "Feel free to leave whenever you wish to go into town. If you require assistance, find any one of the monks here. They may speak broken English, but they will be able to help. Rest well, Miss Sterling."
As soon as he had left, Danielle set down her backpack and blue duffle bag. The radio Tseng had given her was still hidden completely beneath her T-shirt, so if those monks even thought about going through her bags, they wouldn't find anything suspicious.
I can't go looking around just yet. I have to wait until nighttime… no matter how much I'm going to hate it.
She didn't bother taking off her shoes, lying down on the bed and closing her eyes. She gradually slipped into a doze, completely out of it from her jet lag.
"You must be careful, Roivas… Many dark secrets are hidden within this cathedral. While you may believe the evil that once resided here to be gone, it has returned even stronger than before. Do not let our deaths be in vain."
"She is asleep…" an unfamiliar voice whispered from near Danielle's door. But to her, it was just another otherworldly voice in her dreams.
"Good. Then she will not struggle when we take her… Do it."
"Uncover the secret that lies hidden here. Stop them before it's too late. Now awaken. Awaken, Guardian of Light!"
Danielle's eyes opened suddenly, the feeling of someone looming over her incredibly strong. Danielle pushed off her bed, rolling over the side, just as she felt hands brush her back, grasping for her. She heard a startled cry of surprise, along with a low hiss that sent shivers up her spine. She jumped to her feet, one hand held over her left arm as she looked at the two monks who had entered her room. Something seemed off about them though. Their skin was too pale, and there was just something about them… Something inhuman. That was when she spotted something as one of them stretched their neck, something that Danielle recognized from her ancestor's medical journals. It was as if something was moving within the monk's neck.
The one that had tried to grab her lunged forward again, and Danielle sidestepped before bringing her right leg around and kicking him in the face. He stumbled back only slightly, and that strange hiss was heard again.
Aww shoot… I was right. I don't have any way to bring these guys down!
The hairs on the back of Danielle's neck stood on end, and she instinctively ducked as a blade passed over her head. It seemed the first monk's buddy had thought to bring in a weapon. Danielle was at a major disadvantage. The second swung again, and Danielle ducked once more before kicking at her attacker's legs. He crashed to the floor with a cry, his blade clattering beside him. Danielle jumped out of the way of the first monk's arms as he tried to grab her again, snatching the sword up from the floor as she went by it. Danielle stood up straight, a bit surprised at heavy the sword was as she pointed it at the monks, trying to ignore the twinge of pain in her right hand and left arm.
"I see why no one ever comes here. You guys have some terrible hospitality," Danielle said out of the blue, trying to keep herself calm. The first monk growled in frustration, running at her now. Danielle brought the heavy sword around, managing a powerful strike to his chest. He ran past her before collapsing to the ground, not moving. With a cry of anger, his buddy charged forward as recklessly as he did. Danielle cried out slightly in surprise, trying to bring the sword up to defend herself. She felt a jolt as the man felled himself upon the blade, and when Danielle looked up into the man's face, she could almost see his life slip away from him. Danielle's hands shook as she pulled the blade out, stumbling back as the man's body fell to the floor.
I killed them… I killed them both… No Bonethieves… These guys were human…
Danielle suddenly felt sick, and she rested her forehead against the cold stone wall of the room, her insides churning. She had been wrong. There weren't Bonethieves. She had imagined it and ended up killing two normal people. She had never killed before, and even though she knew it had been in self-defense, it didn't help.
"Danielle? Danielle! Are you okay?" the frantic voice of Elena asked over the radio. Danielle didn't answer, to busy trying not to throw up and calm herself down. "Danielle!?"
"I… I'm fine…" she mumbled slightly, taking deep breaths. "I'm fine…"
"Two guys tried to capture me. I… I killed them…"
Everything was silent for a minute before Elena spoke hesitantly. "I see… You've never killed a person before. I can tell by the sound of your voice."
Danielle shut her eyes, shaking a bit. "I don't… f-feel like talking about it, okay…?"
"I understand… Listen, we've got some bad news… The boss just got a call from Devin. He said that one of your friends has been kidnapped. Found it out when he went to the campus. Someone in red and silver robes got them."
An icy hand gripped Danielle's heart. "Who? Who did they take?" she whispered, filled with dread.
Elena paused before answering, seeming hesitant. "Rika Hikari."
Danielle leaned her forehead against the stone wall once more, feeling numb. This couldn't be happening, it couldn't. First she killed two people, and then her best friend was kidnapped?
Red and silver robes, just like what Augustine wore. But we're in Europe! It must have been someone else, because no normal person could get there and get back here that fast! And why would anyone want to kidnap Rika? She didn't do anything!
"Yeah… I'm here…" she replied, her own voice sounding distant and unfamiliar to her. She looked at her watch, calculating the time difference, since there was no window in the room. It would be night by now… She had best started looking around. "I'm going to check around the place…" Danielle said quietly, trying not to look at the bodies on the floor as she swallowed hard.
"Be careful, okay?" Elena sounded worried.
"I will…" Danielle placed one hand on the door handle, hesitating as the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. She didn't know what it was, but she definitely had a bad feeling.
There was a low hiss, one Danielle knew she wouldn't have heard if she had been any deeper into her thoughts. She looked over her shoulder, just as a blue shape lunged at her. She let out a startled cry and ducked down, hearing talons tear into the heavy wooden door. She looked up, right at the unmistakable form of an Ulyaoth Bonethief. Its eyeless head turned towards her as it landed on the floor, hissing again. Behind Danielle, she heard the tick of talons on stone.
They were Bonethieves after all…! I was too stupid to make sure!
Danielle gripped the sword, ignoring the spike of pain in her hand. The first creature leapt at her, but she swung the sword with two hands, cutting right through its neck as it passed over her. She scrambled to her feet, but not fast enough as the second Bonethief leapt onto her chest. "Gah!" she cried, dropping her sword and wrestling with the creature as it tried to tear at her chest with its wicked bladed arms. Using all of the strength she could muster, Danielle flung it to the ground, picking up the sword and bringing it right down through the head of the creature. She shuddered slightly at the jolt that ran through the blade and into her arms as it hit the stone floor. Danielle let the sword clatter to the ground as the Bonethief's corpse vanished, catching her breath.
"I'm good… Just had to take care of something…" Wearily, Danielle stood up straight, grabbing the sword slowly as she looked around the dark room. She turned away and pushed open the heavy wooden door, keeping her gaze away from the two long gashes in the wood as she walked into the small room that was once a smaller sanctuary. She wearily tried to go over her mental map of the cathedral from the chapters of Anthony, Paul Luther, and Peter Jacob, knowing that the passage to the catacombs had changed numerous times. She had trouble thinking straight though, feeling a bit fatigued even after how long she slept.
"Only one way to find out if that old passage is still good for getting to the catacombs anymore," she muttered softly to herself, heading for the door back to the sanctuary.
Wherever you are, Rika, be safe. I'll find you somehow…
Danielle pushed the wooden door open slowly, peering around the darkened sanctuary. The rows of pews facing the plain altar were all empty, devoid of the monks that had been there before. Her eyes flickered around the room quickly, her heart beginning to race. Something was watching her. She could feel it.
Doing her best to ignore the shifting shadows all around her, Danielle stepped through the doorway completely, her footsteps incredibly loud in the empty darkness around her.
Whatever was happening in Oublié Cathedral, Danielle was going to uncover the truth behind it, no matter what the cost.