Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not even impenetrable darkness indicative of a pitch black room.
As expected. Searching for Nel Stirling had not produced any results over the past six months, today would be no different.
If only she had the decency to leave behind a body. Annie could think of a thousand more useful things to do with her time. Ten thousand that she would rather be doing.
She had started keeping a mental list. It wasn’t like there was anything else to do. Even bringing a notebook to idly work on her artwork was forbidden.
“Sister Reinhardt, it is time to switch.”
“Finally.” Annie slid her chair away from the altar, rubbing her eyes as she moved. “Sorry to break it to you, Sister Vlaus, but nothing has changed.”
“That’s fine.” Sister Vlaus moved out of the doorway and leaned in close to Annie. “I found an older gentleman who watches decent television with closed captioning on. Our rogue augur will just have to wait for the commercials.”
Annie smiled. “Don’t let Brother Maynard hear you say that. You’ll be in the inquisitors’ hands before you could think about regretting it.”
“I know,” she said with a sigh. “I’d much rather be training with the others. I don’t know what I was thinking when I volunteered.”
“None of us do, sister. None of us do.”
“Yeah, well, I better get to it before Brother Maynard comes in and starts yelling again. You going back to the training yard to discourage potential augurs?”
Annie caught a quick glimpse outside of the temple. “For a time, but it is a nice day out. I may retire to the old oak tree.”
“They don’t see you being unhappy, you know. They see an augur, poised and posed, prim and proper. Something to look up to. Especially when you go draw.”
Annie pressed her lips together. “It is my one remaining joy.”
“The best you can do is to talk to any that may come up to you. Discourage them. Subtly, of course.”
Nodding, Annie said, “I hope you take care when speaking such things, Sister Vlaus. We are not always as alone as we may believe.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Sister Vlaus waved her hand from one side to the other. “Get out of here Sister Reinhardt. I’ve got our sister to watch.”
Annie nodded again before turning to leave the white-lit augur chapel.
The winding path leading down towards the Elysium Cathedral proper was one of her favorite places. Rather than the cobblestone and fenced roads, the path walked her through a small wooded area full of trees and wildflowers.
Sadly, the path ended all too soon.
Elysium Grand Cathedral towered over Annie. There wasn’t much that it didn’t tower over. Even the augur chapel looked like a shack in comparison. Sharp steeples erupted from every angle like daggers, further adding to the building’s height.
Annie paid the cathedral no mind as she passed by. A few monks, priests, and nuns had gathered outside on the steps. As expected; it was a nice day out. Some nodded to her as she walked on, and Anne returned the nods in passing.
Nowhere was it more important to play the part of a proper augur and nun than in public.
Beyond the far edge of the cathedral lay the lecture hall. Prospective recruits, trainees, and even experienced nuns wishing to revisit the basics all attended lessons provided by passing prioresses.
Annie almost faltered in her graceful movement across the yard. The students today had gone out to the training yard; however, they were not training. One prioress stood in the center of a small group of students, giving an outdoor lecture.
Vanishing the frown that had appeared on her lips, Annie approached until she could hear the voices.
“…be facing them. However, the source has had ample opportunity to refine its knowledge on demons as of late. You will not be facing a complete unknown so long as you are connected.”
The frown reappeared on her face in full force. Demons, Annie thought. Wasting their time on such irrelevant topics.
The Elysium Order was not meant to fight demons. Sister Cross and Sister Stirling had riled up half the order over their problems. The priests should have kept a closer eye on the personal interests of the chapter leader.
“While our spells are capable of severely injuring most species, demons might be our worst enemy. Unlike necromantic constructs such as skeletons, they are not held together by spells and magic. Unlike most living creatures, they do not require spells or magic to heal–rather they rely on a natural process of their bodies. As such, banishment will generally be the best means of removing the fiends.
“Banishment can be performed by anyone, even if they are unable to cast magic on their own. So long as they recite the proper words, the demons can be vanquished. You need not memorize countless litanies for the source will feed you the proper words.
“The length of the litany can vary depending on the demon and if the source was able to properly identify the creature. The source will tell you the demon as well as its two primary heritages. These will align with the seven deadly sins. A demon identifying with Sathanus of Wrath may be intensely violent while Belphegor of Sloth might lie down and take a nap while you are chanting.
“These are not the be all and end all. Keep vigilant. The demon heritage has been diluted to the point where not many demons will acknowledge their own antecedents. Even a demon of sloth might..”
Annie turned and walked away. If they wanted to waste their time on something they would never come across, they should do it after school hours.
Biting down a sigh, Annie changed directions for the sleeping quarters. The day was too nice to waste on that drivel.
Sketching beneath the old oak tree sounded far more pleasant.