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Aftermath - Berserk! - Not a rock, I'm just Ruth
All Me, no apologies
Aftermath - Berserk!

Title: Aftermath
Author: Ruth
Series: Berserk
Disclaimers: The characters and situations of this anime and manga belong to Miara Kentaro and to whichever corporations have contracts with said artist.
Rating: PG
Pairing: none, really
Warnings: OC, angst, mentioned violence
Archive: see author
Feedback: Anglofans@aol.com
Summary: After the Black Swordsman passed by. .


They said he should rest, but he couldn't not until he had returned to the manor. Not until he had seen her. She had a right to know. He would tell that it was over.

She might kill him. She had that right.

What was left of his arm had begun bleeding by the time he reached the manor door. The surly butler who opened the door at his order paled to the color of cheese as he dripped blood on the grand carpet that had come all the way from the East. Willium was the only one who could talk sense into him. He let them change his bandage, stop the bleeding. Agnes went up to see if the Lady would see him. They draped his wounded side in a cloak to hide it from the Lady, lest it upset her.

He told them nothing. He would say nothing until he saw her.

A prison, no matter how grand, no matter how many soft cushions and velvet draperies is still a prison. She had been there for seven months, ever since she realized she was pregnant and tried to kill herself. Three women watched her closely, but sometimes they weren't vigilant enough. He saw fresh bandages on her wrists.

There was a time when she was celebrated in ballads; Fair Ellen o' Iron town, her father a poor knight that married the daughter of the owner of the iron mines. Her beauty had won her a Prince, like in a children's tale. Her hair was still spun sunlight, her eyes like the pale winter sky, but all the joy had been snuffed from her. The prince had done that. Lady Ellen was sitting very still in the large chair. She was thinner than the last time he had seen her, looking almost too frail to support the great swelling of new life within her.

"Lady," he said, "Prince Aurelian, your husband is dead."

Her thin hands began to shake violently and she laced her fingers together until the knuckles were white. What little color there had been in her face fled.

"You lie!" she shrilled. "You lie! Why do you lie to me, Merreck?"

"I saw him die." He said flatly. Her eyes went wider and something flickered in them. Was it hope?

"Get," she grabbed the arms of her chair as if to support herself. "Get him a chair! Get him wine, water, whatever he wants." Her three guardians scrambled to do her wishes. "Tell me?" she whispered, she stared into his face, he could smell the fear radiating from her, fear that this was another trick, another game.

He didn't blame her. He knew how Aurelian changed. How his handsome face and winning ways masked a dark ambition and a casual cruelty. How close he had come to leaving but . . . "I need you, Merreck. You're the only one I can trust. The only one I can love." All lies.

"His Highness rode as usual to hunt," he said flatly. "As we left the slopes of the forest and passed the southern road; there was a swordsman. He," Merreck had to swallow. "He blocked the Prince's path. He was tall, very dark. He had a sword. I've never seen such a sword. It was huge, but he swung it like it was no more than a rapier."

"He attacked the Prince and his hunters. He was," Merreck shook his head, words failing him. "He could not be stopped. I saw him slice a horse and rider in half! He had a repeating crossbow on one arm and whoever didn't die from his sword died from that. . ."

"But you lived," she shrilled.

"Aurelian pulled me in front of him like a shield," Merreck shouted back. "That's how much I meant to him! He hid behind me!" He shrugged off the cloak. "I've lost my arm and the swordsman killed him!"

"That thing . . . that thing he always wore on his neck."

"The swordsman destroyed it." It was a queer sort of amulet, like an odd-shaped little face made of clay. Aurelian never said where he found it, but somehow, once he began wearing it, he changed.

Brandon died, then Prince Conroy. He married Judith and she died before having a child, but he still kept her lands. He had gold from her lands, then he sought Ellen to gain iron. But always, always "Merreck I need you. You're the only one I can trust. The only one I can love."

Ellen was silent for a long time, twisting her hands. "Is he really dead?" she finally whispered.

"Yes," Merreck shuddered. "YES!" It was a wail of pain for what had once been. "Yes, he's dead, he's really. . .really dead."

"Oh." She fell to twisting her hands again. "What do I do now?"

"You need to come out, you need to be the Princess," he said wearily.

"I can do what I want?" she asked.

Here it comes, he thought. Aurelian teased him about Ellen being jealous of him. Jealous Princesses were not known for kindness to their rivals.

"I can go riding again?" she sounded almost childish.

"You are the Princess," he repeated. His head felt too heavy to stay up and he rested it on his good arm. He was filthy, he stank of blood and death. He didn't care.

"Merreck?" she stood up, wobbling a bit. He looked at her. She stumbled over to his chair and touched his face. Her fingers were light and she patted his cheek with their tips. "Merreck? Can you . . . help me?"

There was a glimmer in her eyes. She had found hope again. Maybe he could too.

"As my Lady commands," he said.


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