Elizabet looked up at James, her small hand in his and smiled as they crossed Rue Notre-Dame Ouest and made their way into the basilica The fact that James was wearing his cassock, the 33 buttons representing the years of the life of Christ shining brightly under the candle lights. They made their way slowly to the main nave of the church, James stopping from time to time to help people pray, lighting candles, the typical Roman Catholic shit he was expected to. He took a deep breath when they got to altar proper where the public was not allowed to go and quickly walked into what appeared to be a confessional booth.
James winked at Elizabet as he knelt on the bench and felt the lever catch and fall away and slowly the entirety of the confessional was lowered by a pulley system a great deal newer than most of the Church and when they reached the bottom, James gestured for Elizabet to pen the door. Her face like a babe on Christmas morning she did and a very long hallway that was well lit and floored with teak stretched out before them and standing just outside the door to greet them was the voice from the phone, Jeanne Antoinette, a name she selected from her love of Madame de Pompadour, the chief mistress of Louis XV. Her voice was friendly, however, it gave absolutely nothing away as to what was ahead for the both of them. She bent at the knees and looked at Elizabet as she began to speak.
“Cher Elizabet, would you please go to the third door you see, open it, make yourself comfortable, and wait for the two of us there?” No one would ever say no to that voice and Elizabet smile and even curtsied before making her way to the door. Both adults looking her into the room and waiting for the locking click that would tell them the door was fully closed. Jeanne Antoinette quickly turned to James and smacked him as hard as she could across the face, her eyes lighting up as James smiled as he stumbled back a step or two with the force of the blow.
“Bonjour Mon Prêtre Chéri, I assume you have briefed her the barest bit as is per protocol?” Her voice was like electricity under a velvet glove, something you never wanted to feel the full force of but you were so very aware that it was there at all times and you treated her like a water moccasin.
James smiled and nodded, his hand rubbing a cheek a single time. “I told her what was told to me. A man wants to see her and test her to see if she can do great things in the worlds of man.” He said the words very seriously despite the smile on his lips as he said it. He was an irreverent man, but the Grand Master had plucked him from death itself and brought him in, there was never anything funny about a man with near-total power in the world.
Jeanne Antoinette smiled at the sentence she had heard a hundred times and nodded before reaching out with his arms open, James immediately walking into them and the two embraced like the old lovers they were. James kissed her on both cheeks and once on the forehead and took a step back and brought up the thing he was terrified of.
“Why am I to be assessed? Have I failed the Grand Master? I will slit my throat on this very carpet if he but suggests it.” His voice was laden with emotion and Jeanne Antoinette shook her head and took his face in both of her hands. She did not joke for she knew how serious James was at the last sentence, having watched him do things for their leader countless times.
“Non, Non, Mon Chéri, you misunderstand. You are not to be assessed, you are to be the assessor. You will put this child through the Gauntlet and see if she is worthy. The Grand Master asked for you, by name, to be elevated in such a way. You know the honor you bring us all each day.” Her eyes filled with genuine tears, the tragedies James had prevented were countless, this was a deserved thing.
“Now, kiss me a last time and go to the room, they are waiting for you.” Her voice dropped into a whisper in the second half of the sentence.
“They?” James knew that there was no babysitting here, no hand-holding.
“The Grand Master himself.”
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