Busy writing. And procrastinating. Posting old fic is a good way to procrastinate! (Notes soon.)
Summary: Oswin and Serra at Araphen. Love and lies, a woman's strength, and the choices one must make.
Characters: Oswin, Serra
"You do not love me."
"My lord," she began indignantly, but was silenced by a single look. It was a look she knew all too well after eighteen years of marriage, a look dark and stern and impenetrable.
"Don't talk. You're dying," she snapped instead. She had been kneeling at his side in the same position for the past few minutes. Or perhaps it was hours. She no longer knew. The sun had set long ago.
"Fine, talk yourself to death then! See if I care!" She wiped her eyes on her bloodstained sleeve in a single, fierce movement. Then she thrust forth her stave once more, willing all her power into the flimsy stick. A white glow emanated forth, enveloping them in a gentle, warm haze, then faded, leaving only the silvery light of the moon. It was no use: broken flesh mended partway, then tore apart again. Blood continued to gush out of the gaping wound in his belly. She could see the entrails glistening within, and felt bile rising in the back of her throat.
"Serra..." he murmured, almost groaning.
"... Yes, milord," she whispered.
"Get out of here."
"But I don't want to leave you," she said, feeling far more like the petulant child she had once been, than the woman she had since become.
"Do not forget... your duty..."
"Damn you. You and your duty!"
"I know... you have never loved me," he said, with much difficulty, his voice hoarse and strained, sweat trickling down his face. She noticed for the first time, despite herself, that his hair had begun to gray near the temples. She wanted to scream at him. But she did not. The troops from Bern were searching for them. It had taken all her strength and more just to drag him here, armor and all, armor that she had long since removed in order to gain better access to his injuries... All the way here to this abandoned clearing behind Castle Araphen, as far away from the sounds of battle as possible. She did not know how she had managed even this short distance. She, with a mere woman's strength, bearing a man more than twice her weight!
But that mattered not. Not now. Not ever.
"My lord --"
"Do not lie to me, Serra. Give me... that much, at least."
"If you think I'm going to cry for you..." She choked on her words.
"I know... you married me only... for status and security," he said. "You are still young... Still beautiful... So if you..."
"If I'd wanted status and security, I should've married Erk instead! At least he wouldn't have run off to die pointlessly at the hands of these Bernese b--"
"Serra," he said, his voice gently chiding.
"Yes, milord. I know," she said, her voice sounding strangely muffled to her ears. "Language unbefitting of a woman dedicated to the path of St. Elimine. I know."
After a moment, she added, "I'm never going to forgive you."
He made a noise that might have been laughter, and something resembling a smile crept onto his face before it twisted in pain.
"My lord --" she said, alarmed.
"... Thank you," he whispered, so softly that it might have been the wind, or a sigh.
And then all was silent.
For a long time she remained kneeling there in the mud. Then she said, "You idiot. You idiot. You stupid, stupid man!"
A sudden noise to the side startled her. She leapt up, stave gripped firmly in hand.
"Hey, there's someone here -- You! Woman! Are you from the castle? The village?"
A soldier. In the light of the moon, she could see that he wore the colors of Bern.
She gave a little scream, angling her body so that the staff was hidden from view. "No, please, spare me --"
The man looked somewhat bemused for the briefest moment before leering in response. "Now, now, I'm not going to hurt you..."
At that, her expression of meek fright transformed into a vicious grin, dripping with cloying sweetness.
"You wish you could. Sucker." With one hand clutching the tome of light she had secreted away in her robes, and the other holding out her staff, she chanted the words of power passed down by St. Elimine, feeling all the while as if her chest would burst.
The man screamed and fell to the ground, writhing.
"I am Lady Serra," she said. "Tragic, beautiful young widow of the honorable Lord Oswin, most loyal retainer to House Ostia. Filth like you is not fit to touch me!"
Just for good measure, she kicked him. Several times. When at last she was satisfied that he was truly dead, and not merely faking it, she straightened, noting vaguely that her previously pristine robes were caked with blood and grime. She could hear faint shouting in the distance. More Bernese bastards, most like.
She glanced briefly at her husband's body, and knew, with some regret, that it would be the last time she would ever see him. He did not look at all peaceful in death. Instead, his face was frozen in a grimaced mask, evidence of the suffering he had been holding back for her sake, of the agony that had tormented him even in his final moments. A part of her wanted to curl up beside him and never wake up again. But those were foolish, childish thoughts, and it had been many years since she was a child.
She would have her vengeance later.
"St. Elimine," she muttered. "Give me the strength to do what I must!"
Lord Hector was captured, perhaps dead. Her own lord husband was dead. All those she might have once considered friends were dead. The list of the dead would soon line every inch of Castle Ostia, and all the roads that led there too. Even then it would not be enough to hold all their names.
But she had no more time for the dead. She was a servant of House Ostia, and House Ostia had yet to fall. Nor would it, so long as life remained within her. Besides, whatever would the young Lady Lilina do without another woman to look to for guidance? Serra knew all too well the likes of those armor knights who had sworn to protect the girl in Hector's absence, and who would follow her now as they had followed her father -- men who would report in for duty at the slightest whim or command of their lord, even if it meant abandoning their bride at the altar on their own wedding day, and would not even apologize for it afterwards; men who would not press the issue if their new bride claimed that her vows of chastity prevented her from being able to consummate their marriage, and would instead wait patiently until she gave herself to him of her own free will months later (and would then laugh at her for it, even as he moaned and gasped at her touch -- and how astonishing it had been, to realize the power she wielded through her own body!); men who would not even fault their wives if it were discovered that she was unable to bear him an heir... Men who were stubborn, loyal, and above all, utterly stupid. Hardly any proper role model for an innocent young maiden.
The sound of shouting grew nearer, and Serra tightened her grip on her staff and the tome of light. With one final glance at her husband, she turned west and fled, slipping into the dark safety of the forest beyond.
She did not look back.
First posted at ff.net on 12/23/07
There I was, all excited to see that you had posted 'fic, and...it was one I had already read. But, for the record, this is an excellent piece of writing, and Serra is so...Serra. I suppose I'll have more to say on the notes. :P I just had to leave a comment here to tell you that I still really like this.
They're separate characters in my verse, mostly because I wasn't all that comfortable with the timing that would be necessary for Bors to be their kid (he's in his 20s according to the artbook). I also considered having Bors be adopted and Wendy being their first kid, but wasn't too happy with that either because neither of them really take after Serra much at all, and I didn't want to deal with yet ANOTHER absent mother. That said, I haven't decided exactly what to do with em yet.