So, a few things first: This isn't my first fanfiction, but it is my first one in english, so please be so kind and tell me my mistakes and what I could do better. I will try my best to make not to many mistakes, but since english isn't my mother tongue, I guess I will be still making a few. So, enough with talking! Have fun reading!

Edit 1(September 26, 2012): Corrections of a few mistakes, hopefully better readable

Prologue: The unfortunate Undead

Claire desperately tried to hide her Darksign beneath her manchette as she went by the black armoured guards that were guarding the street. The Darksign marked her as an Undead - cursed to lose her mind and her humanity eventually. Even though she still looked human enough with her braided silver hair, her dark grey eyes and the pale skin the dark sign still marked her. She had escaped being shipped of to the Undead Asylum for now but she didn't know how long she would be able to hide. Her pyromancy flame gleamed softly while her axe dangled against her hip as she started to walk faster. Claire needed to get back to her hometown as she promised her little brother Sven. She was out teaching pyromancy to earn money so she and her brother could survive as the curse struck her. At the time she discovered her condition, she made an oath to at least return once to her brother to bid her farewells, but her pursuers proved persistent. Especially one, a low classed knight seemed eager to get her into the Asylum. She shuddered, not because of the cold air around her, but of her fear. Certainly she would go hollow in there, where every single Undead was brought to. Claire remembered the fairy tales and ghost stories of it - a place, forsaken by Lord Gwyn, full of death and hollows, not to mention the demons and ghosts. She gritted her teeth while she made her way through the crowd. An armour-clad, strong hand stopped her.

"Where do you think you are going?"

She turned around. It was the knight. Claire bit her lip. Should she beg? Should she tell him her story? Asking him to visit her brother? She opted for the second choice.

"Dear Sir, please, listen to my story first. Have compassion and humanity. I beg this of you!"

She couldn't see his face, as it was hidden beneath his dull grey helmet. Then he grabbed her arm to force her off the road into a small alley.

"Speak fast, Undead." he snarled.

"Please, sir, my little brother is waiting for me. Let me see him! After that, I will go to the Asylum without hesitation! This is my last wish as a human."

"You are from the Great Swamp, are you not?" The knight asked.

"Yes, sir, I am. I am living near the borders, it is not far away. And if I am not allowed to go, then I beg of you, please give him word from me and my money, so he will not starve to death."

"Very well. But I will accompany you as a part of my duty. But if you lose your mind on the way there or try to kill me, neither of us will visit your dear brother."

"Yes." Claire bowed my head, clutching her fists. Then for all she knew, she did not knew, when she will turn hollow or if the knight simply decides to drop her off at the next courthouse, so he can have the bounty on an Undeads head.

"And your name is?"

"Claire of the Great Swamps. May I hear yours?"

"Duncan, Knight of the Grey Oath."

"Thank you, dear sir, for your kindness."

He huffed and stepped back on the main street. "We will see if my kindness pays out."

Duncan and Claire left the little town and walked down the roads that would bring them to the Great Swamps. As soon as they left the town and the few travellers fell behind, Claire tossed back her hood. Her silver white hair gleamed in the golden sun, as she disentangled her long braids. "What are you doing?" Duncan asked harshly.

"I am letting my hair down. Who knows, how long I can stay like this out at the sun."

Duncan sighed. "If I am getting found out, I will be banished to the Asylum as well. "He hissed. "Or tortured and killed. So either you wear the hood or I will take you to the next courthouse on the road."

Claire frowned and put her hood back on. She secretly thought of disobeying, but the thought of her brother let her become obedient.

As they rested at nightfall, they spoke little. Claire lit up a small fire and squat down in front of it. She loved playing with her flames, the heat they radiated as well as the play of light and shadow they cast. She smelled the cinder, almost like it would be cinnamon mixed with cloves and saffron. Duncan watched her from the other side of the fire.

"You are a fine pyromancer. "He said suddenly.

She ignored him.

"Why are Undead so much attracted to the fire and yet despise it so much?"

Claire let her flame travel to her Darksign. "They are attracted to it?", she asked.

"I saw it on many journeys." He shrugged, letting the metal of his armour screech. "They reach out for the flames as we pass by and yet they back off if someone hits them with a fire ball or a torch."

"I did not know."

There was silence for a while, only the fire crackled.

"You know, I started hunting Undead, because I thought it was good." Duncan suddenly said. "But, if I see them in the carts to the Asylum, my heart aches. Some lost their mind but the worst are those who fight, cry, weep, who still have their mind intact. Even though they are cursed by the Darksign they are still so human, so vulnerable."

"Do a lot keep their mind?"

Duncan slowly raised his hands to his helmet to take it of. His face wore a grim expression. "Not for long."

The next day, they reached the Great Swamp. The usual smell of the turf greeted Claire as she breathed in. She felt sad. Tomorrow morning she will be on her way to the Asylum. Thoughts of fighting back rose in her head, but she dismissed it quickly. Before Duncan went to sleep last night he promised to take care of her brother. She, in no need of sleep, stayed awake, watching the fire and the road. Claire remembered his face clearly. He had brown eyes and black hair and was surprisingly young - not older than thirty winters. A jagged scar crossed his nose and he looked battle-harded and more grownup than she ever did. They did not speak much after Duncan talked about the Undead, yet he left a lot of questions unanswered - for example why he did listen to her request in the first place. It sure was odd but she was in no position to mistrust him now. He kept his promise this far and she hoped that he would surely not break it now. She fastened her steps.

"No running", scolded Duncan.

She ignored it as she led the way to the miserable she and her brother inhabited and calmed finally down. The whole time she asked herself what she would tell him but now it does not matter anymore. She would see him again, only to say good bye.

"Sven.", she called as she reached the hut. "Are you in?"

No response was heard.

"Maybe he went to the next town.", suggested Duncan and took of his helmet. He was breathing heavily as he had a hard time keeping up with her in his heavy armour. Claire frowned.

"He should not be in need of food right now. The food I bought shortly before I departed should have been enough for another two weeks."

"Sven!" She called again and knocked at the door. "Where are you?"

Slowly, Claire opened the door and stepped in. Duncan remained outside looking around. There was no trace of Sven, no matter where she looked. The fire was out, the hut tidy.

But no trace of Sven.

Shocking her head she went back outside. "Seemed like you were right, Duncan. He is not in."

As she lifted her head she froze. Her little brother stood over the knight, a bloodstained sword in his hands. And on the right hand there was it. The same, small ring of fire that disfigured her own hand. The Darksign.

Claire clasped her hands in front of her mouth. "No..."She cried out. "No… dear gods, no. Not you too." Sven raised his sword and attacked. There was no doubt, that her little brother went hollow. Undead, almost decayed eyes stared at her while she evaded his attack. Sword met axe as she defended herself. She felt herself crying. Claire never thought that she would cry as an Undead, but yet she did. Lifting her pyromancy hand, she backed off. Fire gathered in her palm, burning without burning her, swirling around her pale fingers. "Oh, brother, please forgive me, for what I am about to do. Let thee be guided to Nito, the first of the dead, so thee can rest in peace." She throws the small fire ball. Her brother - or that what remained of him - screamed furiously, as the flames engulfed him, reducing him in a matter of seconds to ashes. A few sparks flew around, carried by the wind, as she kneeled down by the knight that accompanied her.

He was breathing heavily and his grey armour was splattered with his blood. "I'm sorry." Claire whispered.

"Do you know why I did accompany you?" he asked. A small stream of blood flew down his chin.

Claire shock her head.

"You remind me of my younger sister. She would be as old as you, if she would not have gone hollow. It brought back a lot of memories." He looked her in her eyes, the first time after she met him. "My younger sister carried the Darksign, went hollow and killed a lot of people. I… wanted to atone, for what I did. That I did not send her to the Asylum, as it would have been my duty. So I started hunting Undead, the bearers of the Darksign. But my sister… haunted me. She is always there… every Undead I caught and helped sending to the Asylum. Every..." His voice started to faint. "What are you going to do now? Going hollow, get mindless? Or… will you not?"

"I will eventually." I tried to smile.

"Give me a kiss."

"Excuse me?"

"Fulfill my last wish. I did as well." he started coughing. "I am not asking a lover's kiss - but a kiss you would give a brother."

She moved her hand along his scar. "I'm sorry." She leaned down and planted a soft kiss at his cheek, than at his forehead.

"Claire, thank you. Thank you for stay with me till the end. Please, try to stand your ground till the very end."

He moved his hand, entwined it with hers and let something small and round fall in her hands. As Claire opened her hand, she saw a small ring, engraved with a script she did not know. As she looked at his face again, she saw, that he had truly died. His brown eyes stared blindly at the heavens and Claire closed them softly. "Thank you for listening to my request. Thank you for accompanying me. Thank you for everything."

She did not know, how long she stayed like this, but as the knights and soldiers came, she remained at his cold, lifeless body and clutching the ring he gave her tightly. Claire did not fight back, as they took her weapons and enchained her.