She watched the city burn. Not back then, no…but she watched men fall victim to the beasts within. She watched her friends grow horns and teeth. She watched her congregation become slaves to the blood, and the moon. She watched helpless, clutching Laurence's pendant, kneeling before his beastly skull.
She did the only thing she knew how: she prayed.
She prayed that the plague would leave them, sooner rather than later. She prayed that humanity would find their strength, not give in. She prayed to the gods to give her guidance. She prayed that she wouldn't fall prey to the beast herself.
As if words were enough to save her. Words and not actions. Words, and not blood.
The blood healed them. The blood turned them into beasts.
The blood was to be feared. The blood was to be praised. In equal measure, like the best of gods. Those things which are truly sacred can bring the worst of judgment.
Surely it was their own indiscretions, their own weaknesses which brought this on. It was because they, human, were too weak to bear the blood of gods that they became, not more holy, but less than themselves.
Our minds are too young to understand the nature of the cosmos. Too green...they must be broken.
In most fairy tales the beasts wait in the woods to pounce. We fear the dark for that's where they may lie.
Little red riding hood found the wolf in the woods, yes…but she also found him at home, disguised as her closest kin.
She'd been around beasts long enough to know, yes, there were beasts in the woods. Not just the woods; in the cities, in abandoned houses, in the schools…Even in the church yard. They were everywhere. Always watching, waiting…and sometimes they didn't wait.
But the beasts were at home too. They were our closest family members. They were ourselves. If we dug deep enough into our chests the beast would be there.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. But when in Yharnam…you'll do as the Yharnamites do eventually; you would become a beast. There was no question. No choice. No say in the matter…It was inevitable. No one remained human without losing their minds.
There must be a moral in there somewhere.
So the beast most feared wasn't the hundreds waiting in the forbidden woods…it was the one sitting in your own veins. Still waiting. Waiting to break out of your skin. Devour your flesh, reason, and soul altogether.
And if Laurence couldn't stop it, then how could someone as weak and breakable as her stop it?
She was soft and gentle, made for domestic life; meant to preach, to teach, not fight beasts.
So Amelia sat in the church, doing just that: softly, gently, preaching to herself, waiting, hoping, dreading, praying.
She knew it was coming for her. Sometimes she thought she could see it, in the corner of her eye. Even if she locked all the doors and prayed her hardest, one day the beast would pounce from her blood. She would never know exactly when, exactly how.
Would it come slowly? Would she watch in agony as her hands, piece by piece, became claws, her skin become fur—another inch each day, feel her jaw aching as it became, day by day, a wolfish snout? The grandmother's clothes still there, you could almost believe she was still herself…until you looked at the teeth.
Or would it happen all at once, in one moment of sheer misery, without a second to spare, to organize her affairs, or a chance to scream?
And which would be more horrifying?
The members of the church became the worst of beasts. Why was that?
She had faith she could be saved. That they all could be saved. That the city would stop burning.
Time passed, and she dared to think that maybe it wouldn't come, maybe the gods knew mercy. Maybe their faithful servant would live to see it end.
…Then a hunter walked in the church doors.
She wanted to talk to them, to answer their questions, to ask her own. To tell them she was no beast, and would not hurt them. That she meant no harm, although maybe they ought not come any closer—
—They smelled like the moon—
—And she wanted to lick the moon off their fingertips—
—and she might just raid Red's basket for a taste—
She could feel it in her heart. Something in there was writhing, crawling forward on greedy, bloody knees, desperate to break out. It had always been there, sleeping in its cell, but now it was awake, ready pry out of her ribcage and gobble up the moon on their wings.
The thing pried open her skin, like she was a jar, and this greedy, bloody thing wasn't a beast…it was her. Herself, breaking out of herself, like some Russian nesting doll of dismay. A version of herself that she didn't recognize. A version of herself she prayed against. A version of herself she promised wasn't there.
A part of her that they all knew needed to be hunted.
She had always been soft, always followed the rules. She never had much of a wild streak. But this thing crawling through her veins was feral and untamed. She never knew such savagery, but there was beauty in the breaking.
But emerging from herself was painful; the black, razor claws within reached forward and pierced her chest, her skin erupting, bubbling into fur. The thing crept along her arms and legs, slithered within their veins, elongating them, with jerking, snapping motions, making them into the very claws that broke open herself—(but even with these claws she would not let go of Laurence's pendant, she would not lose herself within herself). It climbed up her neck like it had a mountaineering pick, seized her face and made it into a snout—her teeth aching, her head splitting open—her hair pulling, lengthening across her body, like a snow made out of needles. …And as she screamed her voice deepened.
It was like fire and lightning, her skin and bones cracking like glass, the room painted red…yet there was a strange ecstasy in it all. This was what she would have guessed being born was like.
Did she want this? She couldn't quite remember…Who was she? Was she that desperate girl praying at the alter, or was she this greedy thing made of blood and teeth?
She held the pendant tighter, and tried to remember why it was so important, to remember the prayers of that little girl in white.
No. She didn't want this. To be this. She didn't want to be a beast. To die as one. She tried to tell this moonlit hunter that…But only screams and roars echoed from her wolfish vocal chords now.
So she only did what she could; she fought for her life, defended herself. As best she could, with her new—still too breakable—beastly limbs. And she clutched the pendant, and she prayed for healing. Prayed that this too would pass. That there was such a thing as a cure.
There was…but it was only in death now.
She lost, still. Everything over as fast as it started. Put down before she could walk the world. She couldn't save herself in as much as she couldn't save her congregation.
And the hunter wiped her blood off their blade, and ripped the locket from her claws, and walked into the woods to slay the monsters there…all the while knowing the blood would be their undoing: the beast was waiting for them too. Waiting to pry its way out of their own veins. That one day—no one could know when, though you might want to check the moon—they'd come home, looking for grandmother, and find only the wolf.