22 Dekémvrios, 1860
[The writing is illegible and covered in blood.]
Rioting and screaming rose up around them, the small seaside town a bloodbath. Elizabeth stumbled back, one hand clapped over her mouth, the other reaching behind her. Nathaniel grabbed her flailing appendage, steadying her as the blonde fell back against him.
"What in the ever livin' blazes?" Peter looked around with wide eyes. "What happened?"
Abigale was the first to shake off the shock, clenching her fists until her nails dug into her palm. "Allons-y. We need to go find the Virtues."
"B-But… What about the—"
The Frenchwoman shook her head, cutting him off. "This is the pinch of the game. If—When, we find the Virtues, less people will die. We can stop the war."
There were several beats of silence before the others eventually agreed, some more reluctantly than others. Abigale led the way, jogging through the village, keeping her eyes trained ahead.
"Where are we s'pposed ta even find these Virtues?"
Lucian sighed. "Rather," Nathaniel replied, "what do they look like?"
"Je ne sais pas. We are supposed to know once we see them."
The world shook, sending several of them off their feet. The screaming around them got louder, reached a crescendo. There was blinding light and suffocating darkness, and everything went silent.
The Seven Sins. Given to humanity in a time when the development of human souls and morals are at a turning point. Temptation for power. To have complete control over humanity's darkness; to cease being human altogether. Lust, Gluttony, Wrath, Pride, Envy, Greed, Sloth.
But all humans have both the good and the bad. All have an equal chance at both redemption and damnation.
And so the Seven Virtues came to exist. Hope, Temperance, Justice, Faith, Charity, Prudence, Fortitude. They are the only things known to effectively put a stop to the Seven Sins. The light to the darkness. But will the light be strong enough, or will it cast more shadows? For light cannot exist without darkness, just as the darkness cannot exist without the light.
Abigale opened her eyes to isolated chaos. The others were slowly regaining consciousness around her, most of the buildings have caved or crumbled. And the ground… the very earth the town stood upon had severed itself from the mainland. It was an island now, an island drifting further and further into sea.
"Impossible…" She breathed, wide-eyed.
"No. This is the Simon pure. It is happening." Lucian reached over, pulling her by her arm to her feet.
"But why?" She turned to him, blue eyes desperate.
Why. There was so much weight to that question, and he knew no one could understand.
Lucian shook his head, turning to walk into what remained of the town. He didn't get very far as someone ran at him. No, something. It's pale skin was a deathly white, eyes not much more than black holes that bore into you. It raced towards Lucian with an inhuman speed, jaw open wide as it lunged.
"Look out!" Shadows separated from the ground, severing the creature into several pieces within seconds.
"What kind of bloody bastard was that?!" Peter came closer, though he still kept five feet between him and what remained of the humanoid. When it twitched, he leapt back.
"They are called Tuthana." The six turned to Hope, the calmest one aside from Lucian. "When the Seven Sins plague a human soul, they are what is created."
Lizz gasped. She looked sick. "So then… they're human…?"
"No." William clenched his fists, tensing. His hands were shaking, voice trembling. "Not anymore."
"But…" He shook his head violently.
"If we question ourselves, we'll be knocked into a cocked hat and then we'll just be goners."
Lucian nodded. "He is right. Let's go." He turned and started walking. After a moment of deliberation, the others followed.
As they headed further into town, stumbling only somewhat as the now-island drifted further from the mainland. The town was in complete ruins, buildings crumbling and in pieces. Some were no more than a pile of rubble.
The smell of blood was everywhere. In some cases, parts of bodies or pools of blood could be partially seen amongst the buildings. As they got closer to the center of the town, the stench of death only grew stronger. The bodies became visible in the streets as well, some partly eaten, some missing entire sections, some even still moving. They made sure to give those in particular wide berths.
The center of the town was what used to be the main area, where every week the local market was set up, as was evidenced by the remnants of the stalls and tents and food. It seemed that most everyone had gathered there, for the bodies seemed to be in a greater number there than anywhere else. And most of them were still moving.
The pasty-skinned ones were there, but in much greater number were grayer-skinned creatures with eyes rolled back in their heads. They were more human in appearance than their counterparts, though that didn't seem to extend to friendliness. All the creatures began converging on them at once.
"Y'all ready to fight like Kilkenny cats?" Peter grinned, fists lighting up.
The others eyed him for a brief second, before William snorted derisively. "I'm game." Water condensed from the molecules in the air around him.
The rest of the group nodded in agreement, the Tuthana descended upon them, and chaos erupted.
They were surrounded, but they were holding their own, the elements completely under their control as they formed a tightknit circle. As the bodies piled up, they moved outward, increasing their radius, slashing and piercing and hacking away. The only one not fighting, standing in the center of the others' makeshift circle, was Hope. She stood with her eyes closed, hands clasped together as if she was praying.
"Find the well. That is where everything will begin and end." She did not speak loudly, yet the others seemed to hear her despite that, and they pushed forward with a new vigor.
Nathaniel was the closest to the well; he could see it, just within arm's reach. If he could clear a path, just for a moment—
He stumbled, hands grabbing onto the edge of the well to steady himself. The stone thrummed with energy beneath his fingers. It filled him with a new energy, made him feel alive in a way he'd never felt before. He turned, prepared to get rid of the rest of the Tuthana—he felt as if he could do anything—but he was too late.
William looked at him, and he was in so much pain, but when Nathaniel met his gaze, he smiled.
"William… You are hurt." They both knew it was more than that. He had killed it right after, but there was a chunk of his neck gone.
Nathaniel reached forward, catching his friend's body as he fell. Where moments ago he felt fulfilled, whole, a yawning emptiness seemed to open up within him, growing as the blood pooled around him.
"Nat… I'm sorry…" Nathaniel didn't know what to say to that. What was he sorry for? Why was he sorry? Why is he dying?
Nathaniel stared at his lifeless blue eyes. His skin was taking on a grayish tint, eyes slowly rolling back into his head. His hand was grasping at his sleeve. William's mouth opened slowly, but whatever he had meant to say was lost as shadows came up around them, crushing his skull.
Nathaniel looked up silently, though he didn't need to say anything. Lucian could see the question in his eyes.
"He was already dead." Nathaniel just watched as Lucian made his way over to the well. He turned back to what remained of the body in his arms. If he didn't feel so numb, the sight would have made him pass out. Perhaps he already had.
Lucian wasn't completely stupid. The Virtues, as with the Sins, could not be touched by human hands. The shadows gingerly wrapped themselves around the substance at the bottom of the well, pulling them up. Even through the shadows, it was enough exposure for all the Tuthana to crumble into dust.
The others turned, seeing where Lucian stood with his concentration very firmly on his new possession, Nathaniel kneeling before him with the nigh-recognizable corpse of William.
He looked back at them, red eyes hardened with resolve. "Hope, you know what has to happen." She didn't respond, but she knew. They both knew that much. "Then… Goodbye."
"Wait, Lucian." Abigale stepped forward, eyes wide with suspended understanding. She didn't want to believe it. "You… You are not…"
He didn't respond. He stepped around Nathaniel, walking towards the edge of town. Perhaps it was because of what he had in his grasp, but his power was no longer contained, the shadows leaving their confinements.
Abigale, Lizz, and Peter ran after him, but a wall of darkness arose, blocking them off.
"Wait! Are you leaving us in this bone orchard?!" Peter shouted through the wall, knowing full well Lucian would be able to hear him. "I shoulda' smelt the rat! I shoulda' known we'd get euchered jus' so you could shin out, ya mudsill! Ya're not someone ta ride the river with… You're jus' a four-flusher!"
When the wall faded away, Abigale was the first to leap over and race after the traitor. She stopped at the edge of the island, where she could see him, and the Virtues, on a makeshift boat of shadows. The Frenchwoman wiped furiously at the tears that dripped down her cheeks, berated herself for crying over a traitor.
Lucian didn't have to ask what she meant by that. He betrayed them. He left them to die. He stole the Virtues. He left the world to fall into hell. He made her a promise. He broke that promise. And he didn't regret any of it.
As some of you are probably aware, there are a lot of different 'Virtues'. Since not all of them are equal to seven, the way the sins are, I'm using the Heavenly Virtues in this case. Although, technically the Contrary Virtues (Chastity, Abstinence, Patience, Humility, Kindness, Liberality, Diligence) could also work.
This is also the last of the Founders chapters. Of course, that doesn't mean they're not important. :3 But that'll be the last of the ridiculously hard-to-understand 1860s slang. I swear. Probably.