A/N – My first Berserk fic. An experiment in present tense. Revised 9th May.
Disclaimer – I don't own Berserk, or Griffith, or Guts.
Griffith replaces the quill in the ink well, sands the letter and blows, gently, scattering the tiny grains of sand across the desk. He enjoys the physical act of writing, the scratching of the quill on parchment and the thick, heady scent of the ink, almost as much as he enjoys the power it represents.
Scritch, scratch, and the Band of the Hawk accepts a lucrative royal contract as front line troops in the field. Scritch, scratch, and Griffith, the rising favourite of the King, pours subtle poison andhoneyed lies into the right ear, trapping one more troublesome enemy in his web.
Scritch, scratch, and a young man who was once a poor, uneducated peasant moves closer and closer to the castle, his ruthless, merciless ambition driving him ever onwards, ever upwards.
But there is far more to power than literacy and subtle court manoeuvres.
Soft footsteps echo through the rising tower, alerting him to Guts' arrival.
In the firelight, the commander of the Hawk's Raiders is formidable: powerful muscles developed over years of fighting, the harsh, no longer boyish face lined with experience and the memory of pain. To Griffith, Guts is rock-solid, confident strength, always reliable, always loyal.
Smiling, genuinely pleased to see him, Griffith talks of books, and of the marvels contained within, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Guts smiles at his enthusiasm, but quickly becomes serious when Griffith comes to the point of this late night meeting –
"I want you to kill a man for me, Guts," he says pleasantly, his eyes very serious.
Guts does not think himself a particularly idealistic man, nor even a truly good one. Most of the time, he is content to follow orders and lead the Hawk's raiders into battle, leaving the intangible questions to Griffith. But there are times when he suspects that Griffith has even less of a conscience than he: sometimes he admires that ruthless, implacable will, and sometimes it scares him.
"Who?" he asks, curious to discover which foolish noble has had the misfortune to earn Griffith's enmity.
"The second in line to the throne," Griffith answers. "Count Julius."
Guts remembers a crudely handsome face, a loud, angry voice, and the shocking sound of a backhanded slap. He remembers Griffith's smile as he'd bowed, murmuring pleasantries, crimson blood shocking on his white, white skin.
"And the reason for his death,"his captain continues, still smiling, "is this." He holds up an arrow, its head smeared with a dark oily film. Guts recognises it as the one that had sent Griffith to his knees on the hunting field, that had so nearly brought the Hawk down in flight.
Guts shivers. Griffith's angelic blue eyes are cold, merciless, and utterly implacable.
"Understand me, Guts, this is an assassination. It is a very different thing to killing on a battlefield." He looks up, and Guts is struck once again with the terrible contrast between his white, heroic beauty and the ruthlessness it masks. "It is dirty work. You cannot leave any witnesses, and you must not be seen. There is no one else I could ask to do this – can I count on you?"
And there it was. Griffith had asked him if he was willing to do it. That was Griffith all over: the same man who could so calmly arrange an assassination would also risk his own life in a mad, reckless attempt to rescue Guts'.
That was Guts' morality. Protect your friends, and kill the enemy -
"Keh," Guts says casually. "Just tell me to do it, and I will. You know you don't have to ask."
A/N - Just a small exploratory piece. But please tell me what you think.