Order of the Cross

- Class Introduction -
It was almost an hour after the Shell strike force was saved by the timely arrival of the Shark Tank, a legend of the seven oceans, that two seasoned hammerhead sharks arrived at a secluded grotto cave deep within the Java trench that runs alongside the Indonesian archipelago. Between the two strong sharks, a young mermaid, sorely wounded in the surprise attack on their forces, clung to each of the sharks inside pectoral fins. Her face was paler than moonlight reflected off the ocean surface and blood still seeped from the jagged wounds.

Inside the grotto, the scene was anything but peaceful as mermaids and grey nurse sharks tended a range of wounded sea life. Seeing them enter, an elderly mermaid, her hair a stark white amongst the vibrant colours of her younger kin quickly guided them to a spare section of the cave where an outcropping of rock was layered with freshly cut kelp. The two hammerhead sharks laid their charge down upon the rocks and nudged her affectionately until she assured them, she was settled and at rest. That rest was short-lived as the matronly mermaid, her face weathered by both the years and her concern for the injured within the grotto pushed past the sharks to examine their young charge’s wound.

“You two, please wait outside, there is nothing more you can do to help her,” she waved them off, so she had room to work. 

Nodding briskly, they turned to leave, as the matron, checking her own impatience and fatigue, spoke again, this time in more measured tones. “You have both done well getting her here so quickly, forgive my terse tone.” And with that, she turned back to the young mermaid and began cleaning the wound and singing to her in a low voice, a song of renewal and hope, where the words brought nearly as much comfort to the young mermaid as the imbued magic of the matron’s voice.

The two Order of the Shell hammerheads emerged from the Grotto into the darker waters of the Java trench with some relief, having felt intimidated by the bustle, noise and strange scents of unguents and sea flora. Settling back against the rocky walls of the trench, they felt a ripple of laughter in the waters from the other side of the grotto entrance. Peering into the gloom, they soon discerned the source of that mirth as a huge bull shark swam lazily toward them, one eye covered in a black patch with an ugly scar running beneath it while the rest of his body was covered in elaborate, slightly fluorescent tattoos. 

“These grottos of the Cross are not so easily gotten used to,” he said in a voice as gravelly as an undersea landslide. “But they sure know how to patch us up, which is worth all the discomfort, I can assure you.”Both hammerheads just nodded in agreement, at ease again, now they recognised the renowned warrior known as Nado. “They patch you up too?” one asked, gesturing back to the Grotto. 

Nado nodded once and gestured to the patch with a shrug, “Couldn’t save me eye though,” he replied, suppressing an urge to scratch the still puffy scar.

The hammerheads were about to reply when movement further up the rocky trench caught their attention, stealing the words from their toothy maws. Seeing their clear shift in attention, even with just one eye, Nado turned on a dime and scanned the trench and canyon walls, heavy set muscles bunching under the faint luminescent ink of his tattoos. Moments later, they were all rewarded with another glimpse of what had alerted them. An armoured Atlantian Crawler or mechanical pincer crab was slowly descending into the trench, the shape of its cabin and deadly front claws concealed by some cleverly attached detritus. 

All three sharks, veterans of numerous battles knew an Atlantian Crawler, armoured, and equipped with powerful hydraulic pincer claws could tear through regiments of sharks with ease and a relatively unguarded Grotto of the Cross would present little resistance, especially with over half of the occupants within badly injured or infirm. 

Nado looked from the advancing Crawler and back to the two Hammerheads, noting their grim, yet determined expressions. A vicious smile spread across his brutish bull shark features and his one remaining eye widened in excitement and bloodlust.

“Speed and stealth, lads” he instructed them in a low voice. “Approach from behind and to either flank and take out those back legs so it can’t turn on you easily.”

Nodding in unison, they started off, quickly and quietly in the darkened depths of the trench, before calling back quietly, “what about you, Nado?”

They could still see the gleam of his bright white teeth as his words rippled through the water towards them, stunning them momentarily in both awe and amazement. 

“I’ll bust straight through those front claws and smash the canopy wide open lads. Then… it’s feeding time!”

Inside the grotto, the matronly mermaid raised and cocked her head to one side, before shaking it in fatigue and going back to her work on the young mermaid. Watching her reaction, the young mermaid asked her weakly.

“What is it?”

The Matron smiled and patted her scaled hand reassuringly, “It’s nothing dear, just an old maid slowly losing her mind I suspect,” she answered with a chuckle. “Could have sworn I heard Atlantians screaming in pain. As I said, must be losing my mind.”