AN: Please note: this is a new chapter. During my rewrite of this story, I decided this chapter was necessary, so here it is! The next chapter will also be new, before we get into the actual rewrite process!


Chapter One

{i'll ask of the Berserks, you tasters of blood}

Lucy feels out of place in this city, more so than she'd care to admit. Pergrande isn't a place for her kind, she knows. It isn't safe here. Not for her. Not for most people, truthfully, but most of them have nowhere else to go. Lucy herself wouldn't be here if it wasn't necessary, and she's beginning to wish she hadn't come at all, aware of the curious eyes following her as she walks the streets, slipping through the alleys purposefully.

She looks out of place in this city, she knows, though hopefully they wouldn't guess her origins are Fioren. Fiore and Pergrande haven't gotten on well in decades, not since the Pergrande Civil War. Things have been bad since the Centari line usurped the throne.

Lucy glances down at herself, tugging on her top absentmindedly. When she entered Pergrande the cultural differences had nearly made her turn back. The soldiers were in golden colored armor from head to toe; the women covered in long dresses, red and brown in color, flowing and nearly sheer in some places. While Lucy didn't consider herself underdressed in her long tunic and brown sleeveless jacket, she knew very well that she wouldn't blend in with the natives.

She was unfamiliar to them, and that made them watch her. Eyes have been on her for the last two weeks since she first entered Pergrande, the stares only growing worse the closer she came to the capital. It was unnerving, among other things. Every time a soldier stared she couldn't help but think they were peeling back the layers of her skin, searching for the spark of magic in her blood.

Her fingers twitch at her sides, Lucy leaning back further against the wall behind her, rock scraping at her skin through her jacket. It's uncomfortable, but she hardly notices, her mind elsewhere as she waits, the alley suffocating.

At least she had the sense to wear the colors of Pergrande, Lucy thinks, tugging at the long, red tunic she had adorned back in Fiore. She doesn't remember where she bought it, just that she liked the delicate golden design on the front and the way it matched perfectly with a pair of long, striped socks she found the same day. Lucy never thought they would come in handy, but now she's glad she bought them. She doesn't stick out quite as much with the palette as she would wearing the blues common in Fiore.

Of course, she still looks like an outsider. She hasn't seen any other women wearing shorts, or baring as much cleavage as she is. Everyone is covered shoulder to ankle, and while Lucy has kept herself mostly covered in her long gloves and socks stretching up her thighs to attach to the bottom of her knife holsters. Lucy's gotten more than one look from the men milling around the city, something she's loath to think about.

Her foot taps absentmindedly against the cobblestone beneath her, a steady rhythm building as she waits. Her meeting with Cobra is supposed to be at twelve bells, but she knows better that to expect him on time. He's always late for their meetings. She would have stayed in the room she rented, away from the gloom of the city and the watchful eyes, had she not felt like she was crawling out of her skin in that room.

Lucy stills suddenly, a shadow shifting at the other end of the alley. Her breath catches in her throat, her fingers jumping to the holsters on her thighs, curling around the single knife she allowed herself to carry through the city. She moves to brandish it, hoping the threat will work, but she stops when she sees the familiar face walking towards her, Cobra amused.

Slowly, Lucy wets her lips, trying to remember how to greet him in Pern, the common tongue of Pergrande. "You're late," she drawls, voice low as she glares at Cobra from the corner of her eye. Her jaw clenches in irritation when he shrugs off her anger, unconcerned with the veiled threat in her tone.

"Actually," he corrects her, smirking faintly when the clock tower in Ðüskell's square chimes loudly, signaling nine bells, "you're just early." He speaks to her in their mother tongue, waving off her poor attempt at Pern, and Lucy huffs, sneering at him.

She shifts slightly, glancing over her shoulder to make sure no one is watching them before speaking to him in Fioren. "I don't have all day to wait for you, Cobra." It isn't a gentle reminder, a hard edge to her words. Her hands clench into fists, the bag tossed over her shoulder feeling heavier than before.

Cobra snorts, rolling his eyes as amusement flickers across his face. "Five minutes isn't going to kill you, Kelfie," he says, the old nickname mocking on his tongue. Kelfie and Cobra are an old joke between them, Cobra for his love of snakes, and Kelfie for her supposed resemblance to the catlike creates wandering the desert. They're little things, no larger than a common house cat, but they have a vicious reputation for ripping out the throats of much larger animals.

Slowly, Cobra slips his hands deep into the pockets of his long coat, completely relaxed as he leans sideways against the alley wall, his one red eye trained on her.

Lucy bristles at his words, both because of the name and the calm tone of his voice. He knows exactly what she's risking by being here. "Don't call me that," she spits halfheartedly, annoyed but pleased to see him regardless. It's been nearly a year since they were last in contact, Cobra having gone silent until only three months ago. "Do you have it?" Her words come out softer this time, a sigh heavy in her voice.

"Of course I do," he snorts back at her, narrowing his one good eye in offense. He's nothing if not reliable.

She rolls her eyes. "Than give it to me." Lucy crosses her arms tight across her chest, fighting back a wince at her tone. She doesn't mean to be so snappish, not when it's been so long since she last saw him, but she has no business being in this city. Her trade with Cobra isn't exactly legal, and more than that, Pergrande has always been violent to her kind. If anyone knew what she is she would be executed by twelve bells.

Lucy takes a step towards Cobra, but he holds up a hand to stop her, shaking a finger in her direction. "Not so fast," he warns her, clucking his tongue. "How do I know you're the real, Lucy?" She can't tell if the flash in his eyes is amusement or not.

"What?" Lucy frowns at him, taken aback.

Cobra only sends her a smirk in return. "Am I supposed to trust the Fae and their glamour?" he asks lowly, glancing over her shoulder at the mouth of the alley before his eyes jerk back to hers, questioning.

She only sighs again. "You know I can't glamour," she tells him in hushed Fioren, mindful of the eyes and ears that hide in the shadows of Ðüskell. A glamour is a rare Faeborne ability, one practically gone extinct after the Pergrande Civil War. Some can still partially master the ability, able to change their eyes or the hair, perhaps the shape of their nose or their lips with enough practice.

"No," Cobra corrects her, again wagging that finger in her face, "you say you can't glamour. There's a difference." This time she knows he's only joking, her irritation spiking.

A sound reminiscent of a growl pulls from her throat, Lucy's eyes narrowing dangerously. "Erik," she spits, using his real name for the first time in years, "I swear if you don't—"

He cuts her off quickly, seemingly holding back laughter. "Now I believe you." The old scar cutting across his right eye crinkles at the edge when he sends her a familiar smile, though there's something tight about it.

Lucy stares at him for a long moment, realizing he's just as tense as she is, his fingers playing with the Balisk venom she knows he keeps in his pocket, the Joya Viper venom able to melt the flesh from people's bones. It's an old nervous tick of his, a comfort to him. Despite being in Pergrande for nearly three years now, he's just as wary of the city as she is, he's just better at hiding it.

Rolling her eyes, Lucy sends him a tightlipped smile as she holds out her hand, golden eyes burning against his, unamused. "Just give it to me," she demands slowly, fingers twitching impatiently. It comes out softer than she means it to, Lucy understanding the hesitance buried in his eyes, though they don't have time for it. Not now.

Cobra stares back at her for a long moment, his half-grin slipping from his face, expression pensive. For a moment he rocks back and forth on his feet, almost swaying with the faint breeze that sweeps through the streets of Pergrande. He wets his lips suddenly, hand shifting against the fabric of his coat before he pulls a small vial from within, glass tinged blue and a cork tightly wedged through the opening. Cobra holds it delicately in one hand, pulling a leather pouch from the other pocket before handing both items over to her, careful not to drop either of them.

"What does Makarov need with Encan fire viper fangs?" he asks as he shifts them into Lucy's grip, a finger tapping against the side of the vial. "And their venom."

There's an edge to the question, but she ignores it. Lucy pulls open the pouch, squinting to see the slightest glint of a fang from within, pleased. "I don't know," she tells him, shoving the pouch into the bag tossed over her shoulder. "I probably don't want to know." She holds up the vial into the light, shaking it slightly. "Is it pure?"

He sends her an irritated look, huffing at her. "I milked the snake myself," he informs her, bringing a small smile to her lips. "It was not pleasant."

Her smile widens. "I thought you liked snakes," Lucy muses, a mocking edge to her words. She slips the vial into her bag, silently reciting a prayer to one of the old Gods to keep it safe. She doesn't know exactly what Cobra went through to get the venom, but she can't risk losing it.

"You can't charm a fire viper, Lucy."

"Maybe you can't," she drawls back. She crosses her arms again when she turns back to him, weight shifting from one hip to the other. Her snorts at her insinuation and Lucy manages to grin back at him, relaxing despite herself.

Cobra wets his lips, staring down at her expectantly. "And did you bring what I wanted?" he asks. His hands slip from his coat, fingers twitching eagerly. She rarely sees him so excited Cobra more content to brood alone than show genuine enjoyment for anything. He always got along fantastically with Jellal because of it.

"Of course I did." Lucy clucks her tongue, resisting the urge to roll her eyes at the question. She's always made good on her deals, especially those with friends. Cobra is one of their biggest suppliers outside of Fiore. She wouldn't insult him by going back on a promise. "And I'll have you know they weren't easy to find. Or to get through Bosco with."

Lucy was nearly detained at the border, a pair of guards stopping her and searching her bag for anything illegal. She would have been caught and arrested for smuggling if it weren't for the magic lacing her bag. It doesn't reveal anything she doesn't want it to.

Cobra waves off her complaint and this time she does roll her eyes as she pulls her bag from her shoulder. Her hand disappears inside the mouth of the bag, Cobra watching eagerly as she feels around for only a moment. Her fingers brush against the smooth surface of a wooden box, indents in the wood where Makarov carved an enchantment. A failsafe incase anyone did manage to find the secrets of her bag.

She lifts the box from her bag carefully, aware of how precious the contents are. If she were to drop them not only would she lose out on her deal with Cobra, but her entire trip would have been for nothing.

Cobra snatches the box from her hands, his fingertips tracing the carving in the wood for a moment before he unlatches it, humming to himself as he sees what's inside. "Oh, they are beautiful," he whispers, more to himself than her, as he lifts a small, pale object from the box.

"What in Frell's name do you need Veridian Viper eggs for anyway?" she asks, more curious than she'd care to admit to him. She was nearly killed by one of the adult sand snakes trying to get to those eggs, a part of her wants to know what all of the trouble was for. All Lucy knows is that the eggs have become something of a delicacy this far east. "I didn't think you were one to eat snake eggs."

"I'm not going to eat them." Cobra shoots her a nasty look, his nose wrinkling at the mere thought. "I'm going to hatch them," he corrects, his eyes alight with something mischievous. "And then I'm going to sell them." He grins at her over the lid of the box before closing it with a snap.

Lucy gapes at him for a moment. "Are you mad?" she snaps at him, taking a step forward until she's only a breath away from him, Cobra staring down at her as she props her fists against her hips. "Even transporting the eggs is illegal." It isn't something she should have to remind him of, given their situations, but the sheer stupidity of the claim makes her second guess using Cobra as a supplier.

He only snorts in return. "And yet, here we are." He slips the box into a pocket sewn on the inside of his jacket. Wetting his lips, Cobra glances down at her, smirking at the disapproving look she sends him. "Don't give me that look." He clucks his tongue, looping an arm over her shoulders and steering her towards the mouth of the alley. "They sell enough to make people kings these days," he tells her, almost mockingly.

She peers at him from the corner of her eye, pressing a hand to his chest and stopping them before they can step onto the street. Lucy shifts to face him. "So I nearly get myself killed getting those eggs and you make off with several thousand crowns?" she asks, voice light, though there's a sour note to the question.

Cobra blinks back at her innocently, either not understanding the severity of the question or simply not caring. Lucy would bet money on the later. "That would be what I'm saying, yes." He tries to lead her onto the street once more, but again she stops him, turning on her heels until she's blocking his path.

"I want fifty percent of the profit." It isn't quite a demand, but it doesn't sound like a suggestion either. She purses her lips, tilting her chin and wishing not for the first time that she was taller. Lucy has no real business asking so much from him, she knows, but if she's going to stick out her neck for him and risk so much for a dozen eggs than she wants more than venom and fangs that are of no use to her.

He frowns back at her, his brows knitting together in confusion at the request. "What do you want fifty percent for?" He tries to slip around her, but Lucy pins him with a stare that makes him go still.

Despite the two of them being companions for years, he's always been unnerved by her Fae heritage, and he once said that her entire family had eyes that could pin even the boldest of men and make them wither.

"For doing your dirty work." Getting the eggs wasn't easy, nor was transporting them, and she won't be scammed by Cobra, of all people. He should know better than to cheat her out of a deal by now, but he never has been the best learner, despite his wit.

Cobra wets his lips before taking his bottom lip between his teeth and worrying the flesh. He frowns at her, mulling it over, though only for a second. "I'll give you thirty," he bargains, holding out a hand for her to shake.

"Fine." She ignores the offering but allows him to place his arm back around her shoulders.

"And you have to bring me five more eggs," he tacks on, nothing sly about the way he says it.

Lucy purses her lips. "Deal," she agrees easily, his terms nothing unexpected, "but I won't bring them to you in Pergrande again." Her voice dips into a whisper as she says it, Lucy wetting her lips as he leads her down the busy streets towards the main square of Ðüskell. The morning markets have already begun for the day, and she knows he must be eager to return to his shop.

He's always been fussy about leaving his store in the hands of others, even back when he lived in Magnolia for a time. He never was one for trusting others.

Her gaze sweeps around the streets, unfamiliar faces a blur around her as Cobra leads her through the tangled web of strangers. Lucy's fingers twitch as she catches the eye of a passing city guard, the man's gaze lingering on her as he passes. She shrinks against Cobra's side, wishing she could disappear, the heat of a dozen gazes burning against her, as if they all know what she is.

"Fine," he says, echoing her agreement from earlier and startling her from her thoughts. His grip tightens around her shoulders and Lucy tucks herself closer against his side, taking comfort in his familiar presence. "I might have business in Minstrel soon. How does that sound?"

Lucy chews her bottom lip for a long moment, swallowing thickly as her skin crawls, magic thrumming through her veins in time with her rapidly beating heart. She wants nothing more than to leave this city as soon as possible, but her business isn't finished in Ðüskell. Not yet. "Anywhere's better than here," she murmurs back to Cobra, her fingers absentmindedly curling around the fabric of his coat. She manages a tight, bitter smile, and Cobra squeezes her shoulder gently.

He wets his lips, dipping his chin slightly until his mouth is nearly pressed against her ear. Lucy leans into the touch, playing the part as they pass a group of women. "You know I wouldn't have asked you here if I didn't need to," he whispers, an apology lacing the words. Again, he squeezes her arm, his grip tighter than before.

She sighs, eyes squeezing shut tightly before she forces herself to meet his gaze, managing a small smile for him. "I know, Erik."

He knows the dangers of her being in Pergrande just as well as she does, how much she's risking just by entering the capital. They've always agreed to meet somewhere in the middle before. Joya usually, sometimes Bellum if he can't travel as far. He wouldn't ask her to such a dangerous place without a good reason, not when he needs her for information just as much as she needs him.

Lucy being here is as much a risk to his life as it is to hers. She'd be executed for the magic burning in her blood and Cobra would be taken to trial for conspiracy against the crown.

It wouldn't be a fair trial.

They continue down the streets in silence for some time, the sky growing dark as clouds drift over the city. Rain, she thinks, perhaps a storm, though she can't be sure. It's rained quite a bit since she entered Pergrande, a chill creeping through the air. The Pergrande Kingdom has a nasty winter, nearly as bad as the icelands in the north. Storm country, they call it. Good for illegal business. It's harder to track criminals in a storm. The Berserkers can't follow their scents.

Cobra's boots make a wet slapping sound when they connect with the damp cobblestones, rain water clinging to the streets from the night before. A drizzle starts, Lucy shivering despite her coat, and Cobra pulls her closer, due to the cold or something else she can't be sure.

Ducking his chin to breathe against her ear, Cobra clears his throat, speaking to her in Pern, the language strange on his tongue. "They've got eyes on me, Lucy," he tells her, grip tight on her shoulder. His throat bobs with a harsh swallow, Cobra careful to keep his voice even and low as they weave through the streets.

She casts him a quick glance, a muscle in her jaw jumping as she clenches her teeth. "The crown?" Her Pern comes out broken, but intelligible enough, the question thick, loaded with something secret.

Cobra's business here has always been secret and illegal as hers, his business in illicit trade and secret selling. He's their eyes and ears in the capital, Cobra knowing practically everything there is to know about Pergrande and the royal family, placed as a spy by the Triumvirate, though none of them would admit to it. He can't be compromised.

"Someone's tongue was loose," he replies simply, something bitter and mocking creeping into his tone. Lucy doesn't need to ask to know that he's already taken care of things. He's never had any sympathy for those who betray him, and Cobra always has been poetic with his sense of revenge. "They've been watching me for weeks. I couldn't leave."

She nods slowly, chewing her lip. At least it's a good excuse as to why he had to drag her all of the way to Pergrande. Their deal was too important to break, damn the consequences. "Can they pin you with anything?" She could pull some strings back in Fiore if she needs to, though the Triumvirate won't be happy about it.

He's shaking his head before she can finish. "No. No, they'll lose interest soon enough." She doesn't understand the assurance in his words, but she won't question him on it. Cobra has his methods and she rarely wants any part in them. It's best for her not to ask. Not when she won't like the answer. "I would have called this off, but I needed those eggs."

And Makarov needs the viper venom. Besides that, it was the excuse Lucy needed to come all of the way here. Her business with Cobra wasn't the only thing prompting her to face Ðüskell's hellgate.

"Speaking of Minstrel," she says suddenly, slipping back into Fioren when they turn down the street towards his shop, the sign over the store glowing brightly with some kind of crystal, snakes winding around the lettering, "I recently had business there myself."

Cobra's tongue flicks over his lips, his eyes wary as he peers down at her, jaw clenching slightly. "What kind of business?" It comes out as more of a growl than a question, and she knows he's already guessed the reason for her trip. It isn't often that she has business in the Golden City.

"I made a deal with your old guild leader," she tells him, though it's obvious. She never has other business in Minstrel and they both know it. While the country is friendly t those like her, there are plenty of spies in the Land of a Thousand Suns, and radical groups have been rising in recent years. It isn't as safe as it used to be.

Cobra practically sighs, a low sound leaving his chest. "You made a deal with Loke," he repeats after a moment, nodding to himself. His fingers drum against her shoulder briefly, each tap timed perfectly to show his annoyance. "Did he finally send you here to kill me?"

She smirks at the amusement in his tone. Ever since Cobra double crossed him three years ago, Loke has been sour. In the first months of Cobra living in Pergrande, Loke sent at least two men to follow him, though they've long been dispatched of. Their animosity is still strong, though Loke hasn't tried to kill him in some time and Cobra has yet to send him a package of deadly vipers.

"No," she tells him. "And even if he did, I wouldn't do it." Cobra is much too valuable for her to kill him over a petty grudge. Their business is their own and Lucy wants no part of it.

"I knew you cared," Cobra mumbles and it sounds like a joke, but she isn't quite sure.

She clears her throat. "You're our best supplier," she replies simply. It isn't the whole truth, but Cobra doesn't need a head bigger than his already is. He knows he's a valuable person, both for business and to her family, that doesn't mean she has to say it out loud.

Cobra merely hums in reply, his free hand slipping into his coat pocket. "So what did he want?" He pulls a ring of keys from his coat, not looking at her as he flips through them, their steps slowing as they near the shop. Cobra's arm drops from around her as they near the front door, and Lucy curls her arms around herself as she glances around the square, watching.

"You know of the King's jewel." It isn't a question. Cobra knows everything.

He falters as he flips through his keys, fumbling with them as they nearly slip through his fingers. His spine goes straight as she leans back against the stone wall behind her, not looking at him as she waits for him to speak. Cobra glances at her from the corner of his eye, his lips pressed into a thin line. "The one he always wears around his neck?" he asks lightly. "The one his family stole from yours?"

She quirks a brow, eyes snapping to his. "Did Loke tell you that?" She briefly mentioned it to the man once, though that was years ago, back before the bad blood rose up between him and Cobra. Back when things were far simpler. Even then, Loke wasn't one for sharing information so freely, especially not something about their kind.

Cobra huffs a laugh, his shoulders shaking. "No, no of course not," he tells her, maroon eyes flashing with humor as he looks at her, "I was eavesdropping." She snorts loudly at his self-satisfied smile, her eyes rolling. Of course he was.

"What does that have to do with Loke?" Cobra continues after a moment, glancing at her curiously, his brows knit together.

Lucy sighs, swallowing back her distain. "He wants me to steal it." The words are sour on her tongue, Lucy shaking her head slowly as she says it. She hadn't agreed to do it, not really, yet here she is. Loke timed it well, and she can't help but wonder if he knew she would be coming here.

"By yourself?"

She bristles at his tone, but understands the reasoning behind his surprise. It's dangerous, and Lucy isn't so much a fool that she would try to steal from a murderous king alone. "I'm more unassuming when alone," she tells him, swallowing thickly.

He snorts, finally unlocking the shop. "And more vulnerable," he grumbles, gesturing for her to step inside.

"Perhaps," she whispers as she slips by him. She shakes off her coat as she steps inside, ignoring Cobra's gaze burning against her back.

He's quite for a long moment. "If Loke really wants it you should tell him to get it himself. The greedy bastard." There's more venom there than she would expect from Cobra, but she knows what he means. Loke's always had a way of getting others to do his dirty work for him. It's why Cobra left the guild and why Lucy has never been tempted to join.

"We both know how Loke would react to that." He doesn't like being told no, especially not when it involves stealing something, but Lucy was never one of his carriers. Besides, she was never planning to give him anything. She doesn't steal for any gain but her own. Her family's gain.

That jewel doesn't belong to Loke as much as it doesn't belong to the King of Pergrande.

She turns on her heel to face Cobra, his eyes locking with hers as she straightens to her full height, her hands clenching into fists. He stares at her, his one eye pensive, expression unreadable as he holds her gaze. "What do you need, Lucy?" he finally asks her, swallowing.

She shifts her weight onto her right hip, foot tapping against the floor slowly. "Erik," she begins, dragging out his name before pausing. "Can you get me inside that castle?"

Cobra scoffs, shaking his head in disbelief, eye blown wide at her question. He murmurs something she doesn't catch, sighing heavily as he rubs his palm across his jaw, his weigh shifting from one foot to the other as his fingers run along the stubble on his chin. Quickly, he turns away from her, walking back to the door. He pauses there, staring out the window and looking out at the rain before he suddenly locks the door once again.

He turns on his heel as the door clicks shut, the sound piercing in the silence of the room.

Cobra looks her in the eyes as he gives a sharp nod.

AN: Hope you all enjoyed the new first chapter of Berserk lmao. You can direct reviews to the last chapter if you want! I'll be posting chapter two tomorrow, so watch for that!




Ðüskell [Ju-skell]: Capital of Pergrande.

The standard currency of Pergrande is "crowns."

Language is called Pern