Disclaimer: I am not Chiho Saito, Be-Papas, Software Sculptors, or anyone else connected with Revolutionary Girl Utena. I didn't create these wonderful characters, their settings, or their official storyline. I'm just writing a bit of non-profit fan-fiction, without intent to challenge copyright.

Cold Iron

by Cerise Tennyo

He woke with a heavy head and a burning thirst. Grimacing, he sat up, pressing his fingertips hard against his temple. It didn't help much. By the look of things, he'd collapsed into bed fully dressed, down to his boots. His sword stood propped against a nearby table. His clothes still smelled of horse, sweat, and dirt.

Where had he gone? Who had come to their door with another tale of a fair maiden in peril? You're the only one who can save her!

That phrase, like an incantation, drove him out to journey, again and again. The only one... He wondered, sometimes, carrying yet another fainting maiden back to her weeping kin, why her menfolk had been so careless. The way they let dangerous beasts encroach on their holdings, or accepted mysterious gifts after making an enemy of a conjurer, or bartering their women for gold, favors, or some other fleeting gain... So many of the perils that befell these women could have been prevented. But he couldn't let an innocent suffer on account of the wicked or the foolish.

Sighing, he turned to the water jug resting on the table. A dull ache began to pulse at the base of his skull. The last time he'd woken up with a head like this, he'd overindulged in his sister's strawberry wine, but he couldn't remember drinking more than a cupful last night.

He needed both hands to raise the jug. Against the jug's dark glaze, his hands looked wasted, skeletal, blue veins twisting under his chalky skin. Sick...withering away into a husk of himself. It worried his sister, he knew, though she didn't speak of it. She only urged him to eat, to drink her teas and tinctures, to rest. Poor little flower...she did the best she could.

He pushed the thought aside, drinking tepid water straight from the jug. Water trickled from the corner of his mouth, dribbling onto his shirt. He set the now-empty jug down, dragging the back of his hand over his lips, mildly disgusted at his own sloth.

The water helped clear his head a bit. He leaned against the table, trying to order his thoughts. By the angle of the sunlight streaming into the room, he'd slept most of the morning away, more rest than he usually got. The pulse in his skull threatened to bloom into a real headache. Perhaps he should find Anthy, ask her to mix up one of her powders for him...

That was when he noticed the quiet. He frowned, turning around to face the door. He should hear Anthy singing as she tended the garden, or playing music by the hearth. Many times, she'd soothed away the pains of his journeys with the sweet notes she drew from gilded strings.

He started through the rooms, calling his sister's name. She didn't answer. Wherever he looked, he saw disturbing signs. The fire had burned to cold ash on the hearth, and the shutters still closed up the windows. He couldn't smell any cooking odors from the kitchen, though preparations for the evening meal should have begun. And there, beside the chair he always used, sat the goblet Anthy had brought him the night before. 'Welcome home, dear brother. I made this for you.'

He picked up the goblet, saw the sticky remnant of some herbal syrup drying at the bottom. She had dosed him? With what?

"Anthy..." he whispered. Fear dug icy talons into his heart. Flinging the cup aside, he strode towards the main door, shouting her name.

Halfway there, he heard it: the dull, droning buzz of flies. His heart pounded, driving the air from his lungs. A cold dread he'd never felt, not even in battle, slowed his limbs. He could see the door, now, the bright line of light where the portal did not quite meet the sill.

Dark spatters marred the clean stone. The sound of flies grew louder. He stumbled forward, stretching out his hand for the door latch. He could see vertical cracks in the stout wood, cracks he recognized from any number of door battered down with axes and hammers. He lifted the latch, and the door swung towards him, groaning on its hinges.

Light bounced into his eyes from a broken blade embedded in the door, dazzle-blinding him. The front panel bristled with blades, whole and broken, in a grotesque parody of Anthy's pincushion. A cloud of black flies, fat and lazy from gorging on blood, droned like a chorus from Hell.

The blades pinned something to the door. Tattered, blood-soaked cloth fluttered in the breeze. He smelled the rank stench of spilled blood left to bake in the open sun.

What is this? He took a step forward, then recoiled when the toe of his boot sank into a puddle of thickening blood. His mind refused to name the shape skewered to the door. Cold-forged blade, driven into living flesh...death-spell for a witch...

The impaled figure twitched its left hand.

She was still alive!

"Anthy!" Her name tore out of his throat, his soul. With both hands, he began wrenching the swords loose. He closed his ears to her gurgling moans, ignored the gashes the broken blades made on his own hands. He hurt her, had to, to free her. She slumped towards the ground, more like a sack of drowned kittens than a living person. He caught her before she hit.


Her left eyelid fluttered, showing a sliver of green iris. It looked glazed and dim, its brilliance fading with her life.Blood caked on her face, in her beautiful hair, trickled from the terrible wounds riddling her body. He cradled her against his chest, trying to coax warmth back into her cold flesh.

"Why?" he moaned, rocking in place. Raising his head, he shouted into the stillness, "Why did you do this?"

You...the countless, faceless many who came to our door, pleading for our help. You, who mocked my sister's grace...you, who did not care enough to safeguard your own, sought to take what is precious to me!

Anger, fierce as any dragon he'd ever fought, flared in his heart. Images tumbled through his mind, the riddle-beasts who devoured the flesh of those not clever enough to solve their puzzles, the cold stare of the basilisk, who turned the unwary to stone, the trolls who devoured children, the blood, the flames, the grief and the pain... In the center of that storm, Anthy smiled at him.

'Oh, dear brother...perhaps all maidens are princesses...but not all men are princes. A princess needs a prince...but I already have you. I'm happy this way."

They...destroyed her happiness. Damn them! He flung his head back, staring into the sun. His heart shuddered, burning like a coal in a blacksmith's forge. He was too weak from the demands of others to use his power. He pressed his cheek to her hair and closed his eyes. He fell into that inner darkness without fear. The memory of Anthy's laughter, of her voice, lured him on. He fell away from himself, plummeting into the dark. The memory of brightness, of laughter and joy, broke away, wrapping around Anthy's ravaged body.

Live, Anthy...live, my little flower.

He opened his eyes. Her wounds were closing. Though her eyes remained closed, she breathed with more ease. The flies, denied their feast, rose to buzz around his head. He felt hollow and cold, empty of all he cherished. But Anthy lay in his arms, alive, if not well.

With a supreme effort, he got to his feet and carried her inside. He set her down on the settee beside the hearth.

"Rest, little flower," he whispered. "We will find a way back to ourselves. We will help each other from now on."

If Anthy heard him, she did not respond.