Disclaimer: I do not claim ownership over Twilight or the characters.
...please take a moment...
Welcome to another tale of suspense! I want to thank you for giving this story a chance. It means a lot that you've even taken the interest.
As you will read below in the summary, this fic is set during post-apocalyptic times, so I want to take a moment to let you know what you may be in for.
There are many people in our fandom that are very sensitive to particular subjects, therefore they are unable to read certain types of fiction (mostly those that contain "dark themes").
If you are one of these people then consider this your warning, because this will be the only one.
I'm not saying that to be mean, I just don't want to see anyone get hurt through words, and I don't believe in spoiling people that don't wish to be spoiled before each chapter. I can tell you there will be NO scenes of unwanted sexual advances, because everything is witnessed through Edward's eyes. However, it will be discussed by many characters.
I ask that you please exercise care when reading material pertaining to post-apocalyptic periods. The characters you are going to meet will be desperate, deprived (of everything), brutal and mentally unsound. Even though I'm asking you to suspend reality with me for a couple thousand words a week, I'll tell you now that there are things that happen in this piece that occur every day in our real world.
And the world is not (always) a pretty place.
Thanks again, and - if I didn't scare you away - I hope you enjoy this story!
K I N G D O M _ O F _ R U S T
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This is not a love story between a man and a woman. This is a story about a man and everything that occurs in his world after ours ends.
Edward Cullen and Alice Brandon rely on each other to stay alive in a post-apocalyptic world. Scavenging for food, scouring for water and pushing back un-wanted temptation, Edward fights their battles with steel, fists and guns. He prepares for the worst in any situation, and is determined to protect Alice and himself from anything and anybody that may threaten their lives.
There are few rules to be followed in the Kingdom of Rust; one is to never travel alone, and Edward feels sympathy towards a girl who appears to break that crucial rule. But after she runs away from him, terrified, will he be able to hold off the consequences from following her? He and Alice are both spun into a tattered web of lies and darkness as he's torn between the woman he must protect, and the woman he can't keep his eyes off of. (Based off a Grimm fairy tale.)
FOR: Shamatt0403 and Javamomma0921! Thank you for your donation to The Fandom Gives Back! This story is for the both of you!
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AH / OOC / EPOV
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P R O L O G U E
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I've never seen a more beautiful thing in my life.
Beauty is hard to come by, now; a gem in a penniless world. Yet, somehow I am surrounded by it.
It's in the amber that glistens from the strands of her ruddy hair, and the shimmer that only makes her eyelashes appear longer than they really are. She's too precious to be mine, too beautiful to belong to me.
I stroke the soft strands that have fallen on her pillow, then brush my finger against her even-softer cheek, finer than any material ever found or created. My love for her is rooted deeper than anything else that holds me to this world. She's the reason I'm here. She's my reason for existing.
I stand from her bed, which only creaks and sighs with relief the further I distance myself from her. I worry that she'll wake from the noise, but that is short-lived when she didn't move a moment later. I take my lantern from the old, exhausted bedside table, almost knocking over the small, wooden horse statue I chipped from a sturdy log when she was little, but it corrects itself before it can topple. I exhale a sigh of relief, releasing the tension that built in my chest from the potential noise.
As I look to her one last time I know my mission is complete, and I check her off my daily list. She'll be back on there tomorrow morning, of course, but for now she's at rest. I smile as I head for the bedroom door, leaving behind any dreams I have for her to capture as she sleeps. (I'm too old for those, anyway.) The glow of the lantern guides me, although I don't need it; the moon is full tonight.
I place my hand on the knob to pull the door open a little more so I can squeeze through. If I open it too much it'll squeak.
"Daddy, will you tell me a bedtime story?"
I'm caught. What woke her? My boots against the hardwood, perhaps? The squeak of the bed?
And even though I'm beyond tired and can barely carry myself from room to room without feeling my knees go weak, I smile before I turn back to her. "It's late, Sweetie. Very late."
Little, hooded eyes are peering over the pink quilt. She's still tired. Otherwise she'd be sitting up in bed, leaning against her pillow and trying her damnedest to coerce me with a playful pout.
"Please? Just a little, bitty, tiny one, and then I'll go to sleep? Promise."
The moonlight leaking in from her window and the glow from my lantern become one to fill up the darkness when I turn to her completely. I can see her features pull down as she frowns slightly while her eyes appear to grow a little wider. She's giving me the look. I'm very certain she doesn't even know she's doing it, nor does she realize the power it has on me.
I can spare a few more moments, and even though I'm full to the brim of self-doubt at her request, I walk back to my place beside her and set my light on her bedside table once more.
She reaches for my hand, wrapping her small fingers around one of my own.
I'm hers then, and I can't say no to anything she asks. Yet, still I linger, clinging to a wavering edge. I never had a good imagination. What I wouldn't give to have one now. "Mommy's a better story-teller. Wouldn't you rather hear a story from her? I'm not that good."
"No, I want you," she says in her powerful tone that's barely above a whisper.
"Okay." I gulp, and stroke my free palm against the rough cloth at my thigh. "Uh, what type of story would you like to hear?" Please don't say anything princess-e.
"Do you know any about princesses? The kind that Mommy tells?"
Dammit. "Maybe I should get Mommy," I say as I start to get up.
"No!" She holds me in place with just a tug on my captive finger.
"Daddy doesn't know any princess stories, Sweetie," I respond with more sympathy than I can stand, because I wish I knew tales of magic, knights and castles, but the simple truth is I don't. I can only tell memories. They're all I know.
Slowly, the anticipation melts from her face.
What stories do I know? Do I know any fairy tales at all? Is The Three Little Pigs a fairy tale or a nursery rhyme? There's a wolf in that one, right? What was the purpose of it again? Stability of various structures during a windstorm, or something like that?
What about the kids who found the house made of gingerbread and candy in the woods? I fairly remember that one. It's Hansel and Gretel. A house made of candy can be magical, right? More magical than three pigs hiding from a big, bad wolf. That's not a bedtime story, anyhow. But how could I make it relate to princesses? I can easily change the names and some of the details. She wouldn't know the difference.
"Tell me how you met Mommy," she requests before I can restore my title as Best Dad Ever.
Her request shocks me, to say the least. I've never heard her ask how her mom and I met, and I always hoped that she never would. It wasn't a tale to tell a child her age. It's meant for when she's much, much, much older. That is, if her mom even wants it told at all... if I even want it told. Our story isn't a fairy tale.
I grin despite my thoughts churning into unsettling memories. "I thought it was my pick?"
"I changed my mind."
"Actually," I say, hoping I can rid her story idea with my re-vised version of Hansel and Gretel, "I do know one with a princess."
"What is it?"
"It's called... The Knight and the Princess. Has Mommy told you this one before?"
She shakes her head. "Is Mommy the princess?"
"She can be if you want her to."
She pulls her tattered doll closer to her, tucking it under her arm . It's so worn; a testament to how often it's pulled around by my little girl. Her friend looks so much older than her.
She straightens the quilt at her chin then says, "Okay, we're ready."
"Dolly all tucked in?" I smooth the covers as she nods.
I take a much-needed breath to soothe the knot that forms in my stomach before I begin the story. I've killed a hundred men without a second thought, but I can't tell a story? I need to get it together. "One day, a long time ago..."
"Daddy, you have to say: once upon a time."
"Once upon a time," I corrected myself, "there was a courageous, and handsome, knight that guarded a very large kingdom that was home to a beautiful princess. One day, a large storm blew away the kingdom, leaving only the knight and the princess behind."
Her eyes grow wide. "What happened then?"
"The princess told the knight that she was very scared, but the knight said, 'Don't worry. Everything will be alright. I won't let anything happen to you', and she believed him. They were so determined to find a new home, so they traveled all the way across the land in hopes of finding another kingdom that needed a new princess, but just in case they got lost, because the land was so big, the knight left a trail of rocks behind them so they could easily find their way back to their old home if they ever needed to."
I find so much of myself in that moment, in my own words of fiction. There is something familiar about this story now that I'm recalling the plot. It's so oddly similar to that of my own life, and to her mother's.
It's the horrifying tale that I never want to remember, but it's too late.
An older world develops in my mind, along with a younger me.
It's full of anger, hate, fire, nightmares and... her. She's always in the back of my thoughts, smiling, but not there. She can't smile in that old world.
My heart begins to ache.
My little girl's brown eyes bring me back.
"You stopped," she says.
"I'm sorry. Daddy's just tired."
"Will you finish the story?"
Finish? What will happen when I reach the end of the tale? Can I change it? Can I change the ending and leave out all the details that haunt me so?
Yes I could, and I will. She doesn't need to hear about desperate people and starving families. She has plenty of time to learn what humans must do to survive, but the time doesn't start now. She deserves magic, not reality.
I concentrate on her precious face, eager and waiting for me to answer her. Will I finish the story?
"Yes, Darling. I will."
A story like mine, however, should never be told. It belongs only to the shadows of the past.
A place where not even the bravest souls survived.
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C H A P T E R - O N E
A Serious Calm
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(One day, a long time ago...)
She slept soundlessly, reminding me of the eye in a hurricane; a serious calm. When everything around us moved, she was still. She was always perfectly still, and that was one of many qualities that made her a good companion, because war, even though it was loud and chaotic, was anything but.
It was a game of stillness, a world of silence. Pieces would be moved through the darkness, across a board then returned before anyone could see, but decimated if revealed they were even the slightest bit out of place when the sunlight came.
That's what my world was – an endless chess game played in the dark.
Hell, it never changed. Not really. Although, silence was different after entire cities crumbled to the ground. I don't think any man - any soldier - could deny that it was frightening at times because a long time ago there was some break in the quiet. There would be a noise to distinguish; a gun shot or a voice to interpret. It all meant that we weren't alone, we were in good company.
The men that I had come to know as my family would talk about their wives or children, releasing us from the terrible tension that had built in the darkness. Their voices were a comfort, similar to a lullaby – the only one available for a grown man such as myself. I could piece together their conversations like a puzzle without edges. Their words made sense to me, and I found rest in their conversations.
But after the explosions? After all the death?
There was just that: death – the noiseless void that didn't offer a lullaby of hushed whispers. Only an occasional wind would rustle the fallen leaves or the long grass around us. Sometimes it made me nervous, wondering if we'd been found, but when the silence continued I knew that we were alone.
We were always alone.
And that simple sentence was enough to break the mind of the strongest person, and it scared me so, but also brought astounding comfort because I found I didn't enjoy killing. As long as we were alone, my guns remained at my side and I could preserve my ammo for a time when I might really need it.
My bullets didn't belong in the head of civilians, like those two men in Phoenix, or the poor soul who attacked me and her in Houston, and all the others in between.
I was reminded of why I killed – why those men died. They tried to take her. Those persistent men who wanted nothing more than to keep her. I knew what they would do once they had her. I saw it in their eyes. They would take from her until she was dead. It was something I wasn't going to allow.
She was not property. No one was.
As long as I continued to breathe I would be sure of that.
Her warmth beside me was reassuring. Her peaceful breathing as she slept gave me comfort. It told me over and over again that I was trusted. She trusted me. I trusted her. And even though the wound in my leg stung and the night air was chilly, that simple truth – of trust – almost put me at peace.
But not at rest.
I couldn't sleep. I had to persevere to ensure our safety. It was my mission. I wouldn't fail the only mission I had now. I reminded myself every time my eyes were about to close that she was all I had, and if I fell asleep then I could lose her!
My eyes burned and furiously tried to convince me to give in, but I refused.
I refused to give into such simple notions that would cause me to fail. Even the wind seemed to try to coerce me, carrying a voice whispering pleasant temptations. It even had a familiar ring to it; the voice of my First Sergeant, it sounded like, only I didn't recall my First Sergeant ever hissing.
"Go to sleep," it said. "You'll be fine. She'll be fine. Just close your eyes and sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep."
I became frustrated, and wanted nothing more than for it to leave me alone. "No, I won't!" I whispered furiously into the dark ahead of me. "Stop talking to me!"
I clutched onto my newly-cleaned pistol, angry at the persistence.
"Sleep," the voice said again. "All it takes is one shot."
"Shut up," I growled, as I placed my finger over the trigger.
"You want to," the voice hissed through the long grass.
The chilled wind blew across my face right before I buried my ears in the palms of my hands. The cold metal from the Glock shocked me as it found my cheek, and I felt myself begin to rock back and forth. My lungs came to life with a harsh sting.
"Only one shot," I heard again as the grass swayed around me, clicking and whistling.
I raised my head to look at the gun I was holding, it's shape becoming more visible as the seconds passed. One shot? But what would happen to her if I used a bullet for myself? We had discussed it before. Death was always an option, but one she never wanted to take, although I didn't know why. Maybe she was afraid of the unknown, but we faced it everyday.
It would be so easy to do, I thought, as I pointed the barrel at my temple and gently scratched my hairline with it. It would be so easy to pull the trigger, to allow myself to be taken by death, to not wonder if every sunrise would be my last. She would be better off without me.
My eyes grew hot, my already-limited sight blurring.
She'd be better off without my guns and uniform to slow her up. I was more dangerous to her than I was an asset.
What if I was gone?
Who would protect her? Who would keep her safe?
I lowered the pistol back to the ground, removing my finger from the trigger.
I looked to her, then. The horizon had lightened, revealing her form bundled in the blanket beside me. She was without a care, and at peace.
She was my mission.
And I wouldn't fail my mission.
For the fourth morning in a row, I watched the darkness give way to the orange, clouded sunrise, and wondered, once again, if it would be my last.