The sound of horses could be heard trotting along the dusty road while a flag bearing the symbol of the Band of the Hawks blew effortlessly in the wind. The faint outline of a large decrepit tree grew clearer as the group made their way through the rough terrain. Every member of the mercenary group could see skeletal figures hanging from the tree's branches swinging ominously with the wind. Each of the corpses had a noose strung tightly around its neck and some of the bodies appeared so old that they probably had been left to rot for years under the tree. The armed soldiers who could not fear death while on the battlefield all stared at the tree with all of its ghastly ornaments and shuddered.
"That just gives me the creeps," Corkus said harshly.
"I wonder what these people did?" Rickert chimed in with a mix of sympathy and fear in his voice.
"They were probably enemy soldiers or thieves," Corkus replied.
"But some of the skeletons look too small for a soldiers' build. Look," Judeau said as he pointed to a group of smaller skeletons. "Those corpses look like they might belong to children, or even women."
"Why would they be hanging women and children? They have to be soldiers or thieves," Corkus practically yelled. "Either way, they probably got what they deserved."
"That's so scary," Rickert said as his hands clung to his reins.
"What are you afraid of? They're not going to jump out and bite you," Corkus said as he patted his young comrade's back. "But maybe we should do that to our enemies. Hey, Griffith! What do you say?"
"Will you just shut-up!" Caska said as she pulled her horse in front of Corkus, blocking his view of their leader.
Guts listened to his comrades' droning and then turned his attention to the decaying corpses. The feel of the land and the image of this tree seemed familiar to Guts, like he had been here before long ago. He remembered the first time he ever heard about his real mother. He couldn't sleep that night and overheard some of Gambino's men talk about finding him under the body of a hanged woman. That was the moment he realized that he wasn't Gambino's real son. Looking up at the patch of small corpses, he wondered if Judeau was right. Were these the bodies of women? What crimes did these women commit to get there here? Could this be . . .?
The group finally made it to the tree and most of the soldiers looked away from it, keeping their eyes ahead of them. As Guts passed, he turned his head and glanced at the bodies. The wind picked up slightly and caused the skeletons to twirl around until one of the corpses stared straight at Guts. He knew that if the body had eyes, he would have been looking right at them, but instead he stared into two empty sockets that once held many tears and tales of hardships. Turning his head quickly, Guts fixed his eyes on the road.
He tried to concentrate on keeping his horse in line, but his mind wandered back to the corpse's face. He wasn't sure how he knew, but he could tell that the corpse was once a woman. Guts was tempted to turn his head for one more look to get a better glimpse of body, but something held him back. Just one look. Guts slowly started to crane his neck but stopped when his eyes landed on Caska. She had finished her argument with Corkus and had been staring at him.
She lurched her horse forward until she was right next to Guts. "You're drifting, that's not like you," she said with no emotion.
"I was just thinking," Guts responded.
"About the battle?" Caska said as she cocked an eyebrow. "I hope so, because you're going to do your job and do it well or you'll have to answer to me," she said as she pulled her horse forward closer to the front line.
Guts watched as Caska rode ahead closer to Griffith. She made her way to their leader's side silently and faithfully. Guts smiled as he watched her look at him out of the corner of her eye. He gave his horse a slight kick to catch up to Caska and Griffith, forgetting about his earlier desire to see the face of the corpse one last time.
Guts' image became fainter and fainter as he moved further away from the old gnarled tree. The wind caused the lighter skeletons to spin around until one of the bodies turned and stared at Guts' fading figure. When the corpse was still alive, she had short brown hair and a thin red cloak protecting her body. Her eyes remained open when she died and if her body hadn't rotted away, she would have seen for the first and only time the face of her son.
A/N: This was just a one-shot fic that I thought of after finishing The Hanging Tree. I consider it a supplement to that first story, but it's not necessary to read that story to understand this one. But I've exhausted my current Berserk fan fic ideas. Unless I'm really inspired, I'm going to pursue other subjects of interest. But I hope you enjoyed this one.