Ch 11

Ahri, still half out of breath, picked herself up, ran towards Lauryn and hugged her. She didn't care that Lauryn had been scarred and beaten, she was her friend, through thick and thin. brought her in close she heard her gasp in pain, and Ahri tried to draw back, realizing that she was hurting her, but Lauryn grasped her tighter.

"Don't let go, Ahri, it doesn't hurt at all. I thought that I would die with Merrick - that I would never see you again." Lauryn squeezed Ahri's hand and tried to look happy. "But I'm ok. Merrick is dead, and I'm with you. I'm glad things ended up this way..."

Ahri knew that it was another one of Lauryn's white lies, just like how she had refused to see the truth about Merrick's depravity. As they embraced, Ahri could hear her straining to breathe - could see her bruises and cuts, the mess of broken and scalped skin where her hair had been - and wanted desperately to comfort her somehow. Lauryn had always been so strong - so optimistic and hopeful. But now, as Ahri stared into her eyes, they stared back with an emptiness and sadness that had not been there before, and she knew that Lauryn was not the same anymore.

Ahri felt a hand tug on her shirt, and she looked down and saw Ashy holding something out to her - a glint of metal.

"Keys, Ahri," the boy said, handing Ahri a chain of metal keys he had taken from Merrick's body. Ahri took the keys and looked at the boy in surprise. This was the first time she had ever heard him talk, and what surprised her was that he had pronounced the words almost as skillfully as any other human.

"Ashy...He's talking again," Lauryn said.

Ahri wanted to ask Lauryn how the boy could speak so well, but she knew there was no time. She took the keys and started fitting them into the door's keyhole one by one, praying that one of them would fit. It was only a matter of time before another guard would check up on them and see what had happened.

One of the keys finally slipped into the lock, and with a turn of the wrist, the cell door clicked open. Ahri was about to tell Lauryn when she heard her scream.

"No! How...?"

Ahri whirled around to look at her, and saw Merrick standing there, alive and well, as if nothing had happened to him. He stroked his healed neck, and twisted his scarred and burned lips into a gleeful smile. "That damn scientist...his mana experiment actually worked. I'm not going to die so easily now ...you should have put a knife through my heart when you had the chance!"

Merrick drew out a short sword from a small scabbard on his waist and started playing with it. He drew a thin line of trickling blood as he ran the blade's sharp edge along his hand, smiling at the large gashes he opened up, knowing they would heal completely in time. He then laughed maniacally and grabbed Lauryn. He pulled her close to him, then ran his blade through her stomach.

Lauryn gasped out in pain and dropped to her knees as Merrick twisted the knife in her stomach. She desperately wrapped her arms around his waist, and held on as tightly as she could.

"Run, Ahri, please, take Ashy and just run!" Lauryn yelled.

Ahri felt Ashy grip her hand and tug on it, and Ahri hesitated, unsure of what to do. She wanted to help Lauryn, but Merrick would surely end up killing all three of them.

"Get the fuck off me, you bitch!" Merrick growled as he withdrew the knife and stabbed Lauryn again. Lauryn gritted her teeth and pushed against Merrick with all the strength she had left.

Ahri knew there was nothing more she could do for Lauryn. She couldn't let her die in vain, and so she pulled on Ashy's hand and started running.

Lauryn...I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry!

It was the only thing Ahri could think of as she ran. Tears streamed down her face, and she tugged on Ashy's hand again, urging him to run faster. They couldn't die here. She couldn't let the guards catch them, not after what Lauryn had done for them.

I'm so sorry Lauryn! I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry!

She didn't dare look back.

-o-o-o-

-o-o-o-

The blood ran down and covered both Lauryn and Merrick like sticky molasses. Merrick released his grip on the girl and stared at his hand. He couldn't tell which was his blood and which was hers - his hand was just goopy mess of sanguine fluid. Lauryn squeezed his waist one more time and looked up at him, and he gazed into her eyes. They didn't seem sad or scared - her eyes were cloudy and distant, but she looked content.

"I knew you had your eyes on Ahri from the beginning, Merrick," she said, straining to get the words out. "But I couldn't let anyone else love you. Don't you see? We were bound by our seed, and now we're bound by blood. It was meant to be this way, wasn't it?"

Merrick drew the blade out from her body, and Lauryn coughed up more blood but refused to let go, nor tear her eyes away from him. She smiled.

"He's better off with her, Merrick. If you still care, you'll leave things be-"

Merrick roared out in frustration, not wanting to hear any more, and with one more swift strike, brought his sword down, silencing her forever.