As Danny walked back to his chambers, huddled once more in the blanket Mother Abigail had given him, he avoided speaking to the other nuns he passed. Nothing could prevent him, however, from hearing the whispers circulating around him as he walked by. One snippet of conversation between two of the younger sisters made him pause in his tracks and listen in. He knew eavesdropping was rude, but his curiosity temporarily outweighed his sense of decorum.
"A man?" one of them gasped, her eyes wide with shock, "Agnes, are you sure?!"
"Positive," the other whispered, "I know what it feels like to have a man in my room, Dorothy!"
He heard Dorothy murmur a soft prayer and saw her cross herself, "Goodness me, are none of us safe? How did he even get onto the grounds?!"
"I don't know," came Agnes's shaky answer, "It was the most awful thing; I could hear him walking around, going through my belongings... and the smell-...Oh, I could hardly bear it!"
"Smell?" a third nun inquired, "what smell?"
Agnes let out a little sniff, "His cologne. It stank like... l-like mulled wine and paint thinner, mixed with dead flowers. It was the most noxious, overpowering thing I've ever smelled!"
Suddenly, all three nuns turned to Danny, realizing he was standing in the corridor listening to them. He blushed deeply at being caught and stared at the floor to avoid their accusatory glares, then continued quickly on his way. When he reached his floor, he found Mother Abigail deep in conversation with one of the older nuns. The latter of the two looked quite pale and frightened as she held up a palm-sized stone in her left hand. In her right was a crumpled up piece of paper, which Danny surmised had been wrapped around the stone. Littered all over the floor were small fragments of colored glass, and there was a jagged hole in one of the windows beind the women that matched the size of the stone almost perfectly.
"This wasn't just mere vandalism," the nun insisted, "look at these runes, Mother Abigail; it's a warning! If the Iron Boar is truly after the boy, he can't stay here!"
Mother Abigail held up her hand to calm her suboordinate, "Patience, Sister Hyacinth. We are safe here from persecution from all the Clans... as is Daniel. The Lord will keep his eye and hand upon us at all times."
Sister Hyacinth did not seem convinced. Her features arranged themselves into a deeply etched, angry frown, "But Mother Abigail, how can you allow him to stay at all?! After last night, I would have thrown him out on his ear, and the troublesome little minx he came with! I don't trust them!!"
Mother Abigail's expression remained calm, but her wise eyes gained a small bit of sternness, "Daniel and Penelope have come to us seeking refuge, Hyacinth. Is it not our duty as Shepherdesses of the Lord to shield and guide them into the fold?" When Hyacinth provided no answer, Mother Abigail patted her arm with a sigh, "Do not let your fear sway you off the Path of Righteousness, My Child. GOD will protect us and the convent from evil, if it is HIS will."
Her eye drifted past the nun's shoulder then to Danny, and she gave him a warm smile, "Ah, there you are, Daniel. Finished with your communion, I take it? I'm afraid you've missed breakfast, but if you would be so kind as to make yourself decent, I'm sure Sister Hyacinth would be more than happy to fix up a little repast for you." Sister Hyacinth glared daggers at Danny, and to his deepest shame he recognized her as one of the sisters who barged into his room the night before. His head was abuzz with questions for them about what they meant by "the Iron Boar" and who these "clans" were, but at the moment he was too embarrassed to speak up. Instead, he nodded and disappeared into his rooms.
His bedroom was still quite a mess from the night before. His wings had managed to upset his nightstand and the small desk by the window, and the books he'd borrowed from the library were strewn all about the floor. With a sigh, he dropped the parcel he received from Gabe on his bed and set about tidying up the place. Luckily the furniture was quite sturdy and had suffered no damage from being so brutally knocked over. The books were undamaged as well, save for a few wrinkled pages, but he smoothed them out as best he could before stacking them up on the desk neatly. He was just about finished when he saw another book sticking out from under the edge of his bed. He retrived it, puzzled, and examined the stack of books he'd already assembled. When he left the library the night before, he was certain he'd only taken three books with him, but the one in his hand made four. Curiously, he took another gander at the hand-tooled red leather cover and hummed thoughtfully, "How odd... I must have been more tired last night than I thought."
He shrugged, then added the fourth book to the stack without another thought. After a speedy dress and shave, he gathered up the books to take with him downstairs. He paused to look at the parcel still sitting on the foot of the bed, and after a moment's hesitation scooped it up as well. It seemed odd to take it with him, but he had the uncanny feeling that he had to keep the parcel on his person for the time being. When he reached the dining hall, Sister Hyacinth served him what must have been the stalest crust of bread she could find in the kitchen and a glass of tepid water. After that, he was given a list of chores to complete as per usual. The list was quite a bit longer and more involved than ever before this time however, more than likely a form of punishment. Still, he completed his tasks to the best of his ability and without complaint, hoping that his actions would show his remorse for what had transpired better than words. As the day wore on, it seemed to be working a treat, as many of the nuns had already begun to soften toward him by lunch time.
He didn't see Penelope at all throughout the day. Honestly, Danny wasn't surprised by this, as he thought she must surely still be angry with him. When he didn't see her at lunch however, he began to worry, and by early evening he finally plucked up the courage to ask someone if they'd seen her. At this time, he was tending the garden with Sister Marie, which was an awkward situation in itself. She was quiet and a bit more timid around him than usual, but spoke with kindness when he asked her about his beloved. "Penelope?" She frowned, then shook her head, "No, I haven't seen her at all since breakfast. She might be in the library still. I heard her say something about being on the verge of a breakthrough."
The pretty blonde then scrunched up her face with annoyance and tugged at the tuft of greenery before her. "Darn these stubborn old turnips," she grunted, "they're always the worst! Daniel, would you mind-?" Danny shook his head and knelt down beside her with a little grin, "Oh, no, of course not." He placed his hands on top of hers, earning a small flinch and a squeak from the nun. She didn't run screaming or hit him and tell him to let go, so he presumed that he was alright to proceed. It took a few firm tugs, but eventually the two of them managed to finally uproot the stout tuber together. When it breached the hard-packed earth at last, both Danny and Sister Marie tumbled backward from the force of the pull and landed in the dirt. Danny began laughing with surprise and stood, dusting himself off before offering a hand to Sister Marie. "Man, one; turnips, zero," he grinned. Sister Marie wasn't laughing, but there was a small, shy smile playing on her lips.
"Thank you," she said quietly, taking the hand he offered with a blush. Once she was on her feet again, she dropped the turnip into the basket with the other vegetables they'd harvested. "It's been so nice to have a man around the convent," she giggled softly, "I shall genuinely be sorry to see you leave."
Danny cast a glance at Sister Hyacinth, who walked by the pair with a stern scowl, then sighed glumly, "Ye'd be one of the only ones. I'm surprised I haven't been tarred and feathered yet. Sister Marie, I truly am sorry about what happened. If there's anything I can do-"
Sister Marie cut him off with a shake of her head, "No, it's alright, really. I hold no ill will toward you whatsoever, Daniel. You're a good man, despite what they think."
Danny paused, startled a little by her comment, "Despite what... who thinks, Sister? What do ye mean?"
Sister Marie shifted her weight with a sigh, "I really shouldn't say. It's a sin to spread gossip. Still... maybe you ought to know." Her large blue eyes looked up at his face timidly, "Some of the Elders have been saying that... they don't think you're a real angel. They think you're a devil in disguise, and that you've come to destroy the convent."
Danny's jaw dropped open, and he shook his head in vehement denial, "What?! No! No, that isn't the least bit true! I would never do anything so diabolical!"
Sister Marie took his hands in hers with a small, relieved smile, "I believe you, Danny. It seems strange to say out loud, but... I know you were sent from GOD. I've been told that you're of Heaven, and that your purpose on this Earth is good."
Danny blinked at the young woman, touched by her kind words but also a little confused. "Ye... were told?" He repeated, "by whom, Sister?"
The nun twisted the hem of her apron and bit her lip, a blush rising to her cheeks, "You'll think it's silly. The Elders certainly would." Danny remained quiet, waiting in polite anticipation for her to continue. After a moment or two, she sighed. "I've been having dreams," she murmured, "about you... and other things. Terrible, dark things: the world tearing itself apart, disease, sickness and death all around..." She paused with a hard swallow, taking a moment to compose herself before speaking again. "Most often, I see a man in my dreams. He says that you are pure, but in grave danger from evil." Suddenly, she reached out and grasped his hands gently, "Last night, I dreamt of the man again. He told me that you needed help, and to go to you immediately. That's why I came to your room... and when I got there, you were crying out, so..."
Danny felt a swell of appreciation and sympathy for the young holy woman, who looked close to tears before him. He gently swiped a smudge of dirt off her cheek and did his best to smile. "Thank ye for coming to my rescue then," he murmured, "I feel even worse now for my behavior toward ye. Ye've shown such kindness to me in the short while I've been here, Marie; I don't know how I can repay it, but ye have my word that I shall try." Sister Marie smiled, then stood on tiptoe and pressed a very quick gentle kiss on his cheek. Danny was a little caught off guard by the kiss; it was a sweet gesture, he thought, but one that was - in his mind, at least - totally unwarranted. Sister Marie then gathered up her basket quickly and dismissed him, heading off herself to deliver the fresh-picked produce to the kitchen. Danny cringed a little as he watched Sister Hyacinth grab the younger woman by the arm and drag her into an alcove, most likely to give out a thorough tongue-lashing. "Oh dear," he muttered, "I'd better make myself scarce."
"It seems you've become quite the troublemaker overnight," Dr. Horace's voice quipped from behind him. Danny turned around to see the aging therapist sitting on a stone bench nearby where he'd left his books and jumper.
Danny harrumphed and strode over quickly, yanking on his jumper right away, "I have no idea as to what ye're referring."
Dr. Horace's eyes sparkled with delight as he thumbed through one of Danny's books absent-mindedly, "Of course not. Still, it's nice to see you breaking out of your shell a little, eh? You could do worse than Sister Marie; she really is a fine young lady... and a pretty one at that. I approve."
Danny felt the tips of his ears burn hot, "Sister Marie is only a friend, strictly platonic. Besides, she's already taken her sacred vows, and it wouldn't be prudent to have her break them over nothing." Dr. Horace simply shrugged and waved his hand dismissively as he yielded the book he held back to Danny, but chose not to comment. Upon taking the book back, Danny paused when he spied the back cover. He hadn't noticed before, but stamped into the leather on the very middle bottom of the book was a Triquetra, exactly like the one branded into his skin. It startled him to see it, and he reached back to scratch the mark between his shoulders instinctively as he turned the book for Dr. Horace to see, "This symbol... I haven't seen it on any other books in the convent library. D-Don't ye think it looks remarkably similar to...?"
Dr. Horace examined the mark with pursed lips, then nodded, "Yes, I do believe it is. It doesn't surprise me to see it here, however. That symbol has been used for centuries to depict the Christian Holy Trinity, hence why all three points are separate yet connected. Before that, it was used by several Pagan tribes and clans throughout much of England and Western Europe."
At hearing Dr. Horace's explanation - one he'd honestly heard a few times in his life - Danny's thoughts drifted back to the conversation he'd overheard that morning between Mother Abigail and Sister Hyacinth. "Clans," he repeated quietly, then a bit louder he asked, "Dr. Horace... have ye ever heard of something referred to as 'The Iron Boar'?"
Dr. Horace's eyes widened a little, then his expression settled into a stern yet curious frown, "Iron Boar? Where on Earth did you hear that phrase, Lad?"
Danny hesitated a moment, not sure if he should've even mentioned it. "It's... something one of the nuns said," he murmured, "to Mother Abigail. They were talking, and I overheard. They mentioned something about clans as well... which is why I asked." He rubbed his temple with a sigh as a very brief, mild ache pulsed through it, "It's strange... I cannae explain it, but I feel like I've heard that term somewhere before. Does it mean anything to ye?" Dr. Horace's face was completely unreadable as he sat there pensively, which for some reason greatly unnerved Danny. After a handful of minutes, the older man stood and tugged the wrinkles out of his sweater vest sharply.
"It doesn't ring any bells," he sniffed curtly, then clapped Danny on the back with a grin, "I don't know about you, but I'm famished. What do you say we pop into the kitchen and see if we can filch a tiny morsel to tide us over until supper?"
Danny glanced over toward the library building apprehensively, "Ah, that sounds tempting, but I really should be checking in with Penelope. I haven't seen her all day, and-"
Dr. Horace began steering him toward the dormitory building with a frown, "I'm sure Penny Dear is quite alright on her own, nestled among the stacks. Besides, I haven't yet confirmed if she's truly on our side or not. Until I do, it's best you keep your distance, Son. Trust me." Just like the night before, Danny started feeling a little queasy and foggy-headed the longer he conversed with Dr. Horace. A small voice in the back of his mind told him that something was terribly wrong here, but whatever doubts he had were swiftly quelled by his therapist's calm, soft voice. Without him even fully realizing it, his feet had started walking on their own alongside the older man, while his heart and mind were comforted by the thin arms that guided him.
About the Creator
Welcome, Travelers! Allow me to introduce you to a compelling world of Magick and Mystery. My stories are not for the faint of heart, but should you deign to read them I hope you will find them entertaining and intriguing to say the least.