Mayor Rush hated The Awakening, it was an event that was held every month and it was a Public Relations nightmare.
Once Rush had tried to stop one of these events, had asked the Sheriff to postpone or cancel. Rush had pointed out the amount of attention the town had gathered after the last Marshall had been killed, but the Sheriff refused to comply and Rush walked away with nothing but a bloody nose.
It was on this night that Rush had the job of protecting The Awakening, ensuring that any visitors the town had were well occupied and there was no trace of what 'might' happen.
Rush didn't actually know what happened at The Awakening, being told by the Sheriff it was the foundations that New Fairbank was built on. Rush feared that the Sheriff was being more literal than figurative.
Deep below New Fairbank Chapel the Awakened gathered, they stood in a grand circular room in a part of the Crypts long cleansed of any Beasties. Many of them were famous among the town, including Frank the owner of Last Light, Dog the town's Blacksmith, and Isaac the town's infamous drunk among them.
Each and every one of them held in their hands a collection of three crystals, some vibrant red, others dull and lacking any particular shine.
In the centre if the room stood the Sheriff, his long duster and wide brimmed hat as ways obscuring his face from view, next to him was an object covered in a black sheet, this object was roughly six foot tall and two foot across, the sheet made this object look almost like a mannequin in storage. Behind both the Sheriff and the object stood five men, all covered in dirt and blood, bruises covering their skin and a dehydrated, hungry look across their faces.
"You have all been gathered here as we always do to honour the Awakened and welcome new members into our ranks!" The Sheriff called out, his arms raised high above his head like a preacher.
"We have all faced the Dark Below, and we have all returned..." The Sheriff paused "But others have not been so fortunate".
As one the crowd spoke in solemn tones "Remember the fallen".
The Sheriff continued "Tonight we have five more of the fortunate! These men have survived the Dark Below and are ready to truly awaken!"
Pulling at the black sheet, the Sheriff revealed a large crystalline structure below it it radiated a rich, thick red, the colour of blood.
"Behold the Blood Stone!" Called the Sheriff once again to the crowd "Our vessel to Awakening!"
Leaning against the Blood Stone was a large blade, appearing more like an axe stolen from the pits of Hell itself. With a silent prayer the Sheriff gripped the blade tightly with both hands, raised it high above his head and brought the blade crashing down on the Blood Stone.
With an explosive crack three shards of crystal shattered from the Blood Stone and slid to the floor. The Sheriff paused long enough only to admire his handy work before bringing the blade to bear four more times, with each strike dislodging a further three shards of crystal.
With absolute care the Sheriff knelt down to pick up the shards, and gently handed three to each of the five men stood behind him.
"Two weeks ago you were sent into the Dark Below with little more than your wits and each other for company. Today you have proven your worth and have been rewarded accordingly" The Sheriff paused one more time "Today you awaken!"
It was at that moment the crowd all cheered as one, trusting their own crystal shards in the air.
"Protect these Blood Shards, and they will protect you" the Sheriff continued "but forsake them, and be forsaken".
A man emerged from the crowd, blankets and bottles in hand, it was Frank Hodges of Last Light, the man who always had the honour of tending to the newly Awoken. With a tender hand he escorted the five men out of the ceremony. As he did a further eight were lead out into the room, each one looked both scared and excited, ahead of them walked a hooded figure.
"Fresh meat!" Cried out the Sheriff as the eight came to a halt in the centre of the room. The crowd cheered. "These have yet to brave the Dark Below, but each must prove their worth to truly awaken!".
One by one each of the eight knelt before the Sheriff who raised his arms once more "In two week's time you will all enter the Dark Below, the Crypts! In two weeks time you will all be tested and you will prove your worth!" The Sheriff paused again as the hooded figure lead the eight back out. The crowd cheered with an appreciation rarely seen in New Fairbank outside of the Awakening.
Once the ceremony had concluded and the Awakened had all left to their own lives the chamber was left empty, the Blood Stone covered and carried back to the secret hiding spot only known by the Sheriff himself, and finally once everything was as it should be the Sheriff stood alone in the chamber.
The Law had been followed on that night, not the law of the government or the marshals, but the Law of the town, of the Stone itself and the Law of the Dark Below, but despite all of this, the Sheriff couldn't help but grow concerned.
Every month more people turned up in the town determined to prove themselves worthy of Awakening, and they all went through the same challenge, to survive two weeks in the Crypts with no supplies, no weapons, only each other and what they find therein to aid them.
The latest group had been fortunate, they had found weapons from some old corpses and worked together as a team, if his spies were correct they spent most of their time bunkered down in one corner of the Crypts using almost military strategy and eating raw vermin to survive. Compared to the usual group however where almost everyone dies, often by the hands of their own team members.
But the Law always stood, and should they survive their two weeks in the Crypts, they were given their Blood Shards and accepted as members of the Awakened involving but not restricted to, free, unlimited and unrestricted access to the Crypts and the varied rewards that awaited them within.
Few people truly understood what it meant to be Awoken however, how they were all connected, by strength, by power and by blood. The Sheriff didn't mind this however, it warmed his heart to see the rabble raised, even if they were not fully aware of why they did what they did.
For the Law must always stand.
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley