It was always dark down in the crypts, and today was no different. As usual the shadows of the Dark Below crept into every nook and cranny forbidding any light, even that cast from the torches, to spread further than a couple of feet. What was different however was the humidity, the air was thick with it and it made the hair on the posse's heads stick to their skin.
The posse consisted of only three people; a young woman by the name of Claire, a man who went by the name Cairo and a large bullish thug who everyone called Brute.
Claire was not new to the crypts, and she led her posse with a physical strength not expected of someone with her slight figure and short height, but Claire knew that she had more on her side than her physical body.
Claire thought over their situation as she twisted a Blood Shard in her fingers; it's reddish energy drifting from it's shell and across her hand before being absorbed by her skin. On the back of her hand she wore a stamp inked into her skin that told all who she met that she belonged to The Order of Blood.
The Order had always been good to Claire. They had taken her in from the streets when she had arrived only a few years ago as a young homeless girl. They had given her food and water and introduced her early on to the true power of the Blood Shards.
To begin with Claire was not sure if she believed the same as The Order. She knew full well that they had influence in New Fairbank and she would have been stupid to betray their hospitality, however as time passed that uncertainty was replaced with a curiosity. With open arms The Order allowed Claire to attend their meetings where she learned of their message; that the Human form was nothing more than a chrysalis, something to allow our transformation from the very Will of The Divine into something even greater.
It was at these meetings that Claire heard the stories of transformation, of how The Blood Stone was a gift from The Divine and with the right level of exposure mankind was able to shed it's cocoon to ascend to our greater selves. Claire thought these meetings were crazy, at least until she saw the transformation herself.
It was two years into her tutorage, her mentor; Father William had called all his wards to his chambers so they could witness his ascension. At the time Claire didn't know what to expect until she saw it for herself, as his skin hardened and cracked revealing rows of red and black spines that sprouted in rows from his back. Father William's arms distended as more spines erupted along his triceps before finally his face itself darkened and cracked like pottery revealing a mass of tentacles and teeth.
Instantly Claire was in awe, she knew that clearly she gazed on the image of The Devine itself and she longed for the moment that she too could ascend from her physical shell and join Father William as one of His chosen. It was then that Claire noticed another change in her mentor.
It started slowly, an apparent sluggishness in Father William's movements which grew and increased it's rapidity as the moment continued. After what felt like a matter of seconds this spread to a discolouration of the Father's new skin as it turned an ashen grey. In no time at all it spread across his form until he appeared no more the majestic chosen and instead replaced by a statue of one so majestic.
Claire ran to the aid of her mentor and wrapped her arms around his hard and chitinous form. The moment her body touched his, the form of her mentor began to disintegrate. Just as the earlier discolouration it began slowly, like sand slowly blowing into the wind, but in no time at all it had increased in speed revealing Father William as human once again, his old form returned to him but drained of energy.
As time went on Claire learned that what she had witnessed was not Ascension, but only a temporary change. She learned that to truly ascend much needed to be done and many more awoken to the message of the Holy Order. This news troubled and saddened Claire but it would not be long before she would be overjoyed to look on Father William's glorious change once again.
Claire remembered the night well. They had finished their annual inauguration of new members when an attack began. The ground opened up with horrific green tendrils as the dead literally began to claw out from the very soil their ceremony had taken place on. Within a matter of moments they were under assault by attackers all of whom bore the mark of the Cult of Bones.
Until this moment Claire had never met a member of The Cult, but she had heard many tales of the perverted nature and means with which they treated their Blood Shards; using the power of The Divine to corrupt their souls with rot and death. She saw as one of their members, his skin blistered and withered began to channel his own Shards which themselves had turned a sickly green revealing their own corrupted nature.
As the Cult member continued his un-divine ritual Claire noticed what appeared to be humanoid forms materialising in the air around him. They shimmered like reflections in water before darting towards the members of The Order.
It was the sight of Father William that brought a smile to Claire's face as he once again began his near-ascension and charged towards the channelling Cult member. Father William moved like a being a pure beauty, every step placed perfectly and every swipe of his dagger like claws drawing blood in great torrents.
Claire didn't know how, but it appeared to her that somehow her mentor was siphoning the spurts of blood from the very air as it was spilt, with every drop absorbed his attacks grew more divine while his perfect skin knitted over injuries caused by the Cultists.
No one knew when it happened, but with tens of dead Cultists at his feet; Father William began to turn back to his human form as his Divine shell was shed once more. Claire didn't see the attack that followed, but she heard her mentor's screams as he was stabbed in the heart by a ritualistic blade.
The offending Cultist was quickly dispatched, however Father William's weakened state there was nothing any of them could do for him. Claire held his head in her arms as his Blood Shard began to fade as did his life. She held his Shard and washed it in the dark blood that spilled down his chest, hoping and praying that somehow the Divine would hear her and bring the closest she had ever had to a Father back from whatever abyss he was being drawn towards.
Claire knew it was all for naught, that in life your energies were celebrated by The Order, but in death you were enslaved by The Cult.
It was always that way and on this night, deep in the crypts accompanied by Cairo and Brute; both member's of the Sheriff's Law she intended to find the source of The Cult's power. Claire had sworn an oath to herself, to learn all she could, to awaken her own transformation and use this gift from The Divine to cut The Cult from it's font of perverted energy in Father William's name.
As Claire stared into the darkness of the crypts she felt a tingle in her fingers that wound around her vibrant red shard. Today was the day. She nodded to herself in agreement. There would be a reckoning.
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley