Ahead of the posse the corridors of the crypts stretched on for what appeared to be an eternity. For the first time in hours they were able to see far into the distance as a result of the unusual and bulbous pods that lined the walls which in turn were coated in a thick slimy residue. All of the posse members had heard of this region of the crypts; The Spider nest.
Travelling in single file they crept from tunnels into larger chambers and then back into smaller tunnels. On more than one occasion they encountered a variety of giant spiders, some not much bigger than a rat, others about three to four feet in length. Every time the posse dispatched the creatures with relative ease using Claire's protection spells, Cairo's sword and Brute's poison bullets.
After what felt like three to four hours of getting no where, the party reached a terrifyingly large chamber. The walls were lined with yet more bulbous pods, yet still the darkness clinged creating deep impregnable shadows. The residue was much more built up creating a range of stalactites and pillars of thick, solid material. Looking around the posse slotted a variety of large white webbed structures. These structures pulsed and throbbed as Brute approached. Peering at these structures Brute appeared almost shocked as he carefully stepped backwards. He turned quietly on the balls of his feet as he slowly and deliberately mouthed a single word to the rest of the posse; "Eggs".
Both Claire and Cairo were stood motionless, their faces white and their eyes unmoving as they stared at Brute. The gambler paused for a moment contemplating what could cause such a reaction before the realisation came to him and very quickly Brute turned just in time to see two large, black, spiked claw like legs thrust from shadow and through his torso. The legs lifted him off the ground to a waiting pair of porcelain-white hands tipped with needle-like nails which grasped at his neck gripping tightly as a face emerged out of the shadow.
The face was that of a youthful woman, appearing not much older than Claire but equally pale as her hands that held her prey in place. Flowing from the face was long thick black hair that seemed to shimmer almost blue in the glowing light of the room. With black eyes she looked over Brute before parting her lips revealing row upon row of dagger like teeth as, with an inhuman speed she sunk these teeth deep into his throat and tore out chunks of flesh spraying her immaculate face with arterial blood.
The body of Brute twitched and spasmed as the blood soaked creature tossed his remains into another dark recess of the chamber. As it lay there a swarm of rat sized spiders massed over his remains blotting out any sign that it was anything more than a shifting mass of black.
The creature stepped out from the shadows. It stood on six long chitinous legs, each one hard and black ending in blade like claws. Attached to these legs, a black body rose upwards that paled from black into grey before reaching the pale white naked torso of the beast. It's black hair billowed over it's shoulders and barely covered it's exposed breasts giving it a very feminine appearance before running down her back towards a large black and red abdomen.
Cairo's lips trembled as he recognised what he saw. They were standing in the chamber of Rach'Noir, the Queen of the Skittering Shadow and mother to the giant spiders that lurked below New Fairbank.
Claire fought back anger as she realised too late that the alcoholic Brute had led them into a trap. For only a moment she mused on the knowledge that it was the same trap that had seen him fall.
The Spider Queen rushed towards the pair with a speed they had never seen before in a creature her size. Reacting on almost instinct, Claire returned the gesture by closing the gap herself as she launched herself at the beast.
At first Cairo was unsure what had happened, he had seen Claire sprint towards the attacking creature, had seen her jump into the beast's open arms and then an eruption of a red like mist followed by a high pitched squeal. As the mist cleared he saw the Spider Queen curled up on the floor, a massive gouge in her now blood stained chest. Standing over Rach'Noir was Claire. Cairo wasn't sure what disturbed him the most of what he saw, the blood that smeared Claire's arm up to her elbow or the claw like shape it had twisted itself into, her hand replaced with a single blade like structure, the skin hard and armour like.
Claire turned to face Cairo, a warm smile on her face as she felt an cold hand grab her wist and thrust her to the floor. Her smile turned to a scream as she was dragged along the floor towards the open mouthed and bloody maw of the Spider Queen that was scrambling to it's feet. She quivered as she felt a warmth spread over her body. At first she thought she had been wounded, that this was what it felt like to die. It was then that the realisation of what was happening occurred to her.
Cairo didn't know how to react as he saw the transformation take hold. At first it was slow as Claire's skin darkened and began to thicken, however it was only a matter of moments before the change began to increase in speed as bones shifted out of place NF muscles stretched and tore. In a matter of what must have been seconds he had seen Claire go from being a pretty young lady to an eight foot tall behemoth, her hands replaced by club-like arms while her body had become a thick protective carapace.
The Spider Queen stopped and began to sniff at the now changed Claire as if unsure what to make of her captured prey. She paused for a moment as the monstrous Claire brought one of her club like arms smashing into the monstrously beautiful face of Rach'Noir.
Over and over Clair pounded away at the beast, a blood filled rage had overtaken her and she was hungry for pain, death and more blood. From the shadows came a scream of anguish and Cairo twisted away from the pummelling to see the humanoid form of Brute rushing towards him with arms outstretched.
Cairo readied his sword as Brute closed the distance between the two of them. Brute's skin now a sickly green, Cairo could make out what looked like a squirming under Brute's now dead skin. Bringing his sword down hard on Brute, Cairo cut through both soft tissue and bone with relative ease causing Brute's right arm to sever just below the elbow. The creature that was Brute stopped and examined the site where part of it's arm used to be. There was no blood that flowed from the wound, instead Cairo could all but balk at the sight as hundreds of tiny spiders spilled from the open wound.
With a grin of self determination Cairo thrust his blade through Brute's guy and left it there as if Brute was nothing more than a carving pig. Cairo grunted as he unslung his shotgun again and quickly raised it level with Brute's head. Staring the reanimated man in it's eyes Cairo saw only confusion as it tried to understand what was happening, and for a brief moment Cairo was sure he saw fear just before he pulled the trigger turning what was Brute's head into a dark red mist.
Cairo steadied himself as Brute's beheaded corpse fell against him. As if on cue hundreds of large spiders spilled out from the vacant hole where Brute's head used to be. They scuttled and scurried across Cairo's chest and poured in unison onto the floor disappearing into the dark shadows of the crypts. Looking around he saw Claire, once again appearing as her young slender self laying in the foetal position, splayed across her battle worn and body was the bloody and crushed remains of the Spider Queen. Cairo rushed to her side and began to lift her off the ground and, holding her arm over his shoulders began to help Claire walk in an unsteady motion out of the spider's nest.
Claire came to as Cairo began to lift her off the ground. She was grateful for the help as it felt as if her body had been beaten and broken beyond belief, as if a hundred horses had trampled over her body a thousand times. She noticed that Cairo too was clearly wounded, slash marks ran down his chest from his earlier encounter with the giant spiders but despite all of this he bore her weight and with every step she knew she was getting closer to reaching the bright sun of the surface and the much needed rest she longed for. She knew that she had ventured into the crypts seeking a reckoning for her mentor's death, but that would have to wait for now.
After what felt like many hours of twists and turns Cairo stopped in his tracks. He smacked his lips together and smiled before turning down a corridor that clearly had not been disturbed for a very long time.
"What is it?" Enquired Claire, hardly having the strength to lift her head to look.
"The air" replied Cairo with a smile on his face "it tastes, dusty".
Cairo gently dropped Claire to the ground and started gathering materials from around the corridor before beginning to build what looked like a makeshift fire.
"What? What are you doing?" Asked Claire. There was a weakness in her voice, she would need to sleep soon.
Cairo just smiled back at her to begin with before he finally opened his mouth again to speak "the air tastes dusty" he said again "the undead are this way". Cairo paused as he continued to make their campfire "I agreed to help you avenge your friend by killing undead, I'll see that job done or else die in the process".
Claire heard Cairo's words and smiled warmly. She could feel her body drifting to an uncontrollable sleep, as she did visions of her foe swam through her mind. Sitting on a throne of bone, wearing a suit of armour crafted from the thousands who had fallen to his devilish blade and surrounded by the remains of those who had once stood against him, now acting as his willing slave in death. Claire's enemy was known by many as The Skeleton King; The Lord of Bones. To Claire however, he was just someone that she would pound into oblivion with her newly awoken abilities.
As she drifted further and further to sleep Claire began to smile wider and wider, even in her exhausted and unconscious state she knew that somehow, somewhere, she would have her reckoning.
Deep underground, at the very heart of the crypts never touched by daylight something stirred. It reached out with it's body and mind, a thousand voices silently screaming to be heard. It reached out with it's very being, it's own potent blood coursing through it's conscious as it stirred once more.
The silent voices swam through the air like water, falling and wafting over the ground until they reached their target. They knew their purpose and quickly set themselves on their path.
Skin began to knit together and armoured hide reformed where it was damaged, legs previously broken began to twitch at the call of it's master and as time began to stall, the remains of the Spider Queen reformed as if new.
The reborn creature screamed the name of her master in both pain and obedience; Luth'Nak.
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley