Daphne awoke with the sun pouring through the woodland clearing, the rays pummeling her eyelids and prising them awake. For a moment, the world danced around her; it blurred and swayed with the morning breeze, the trees moaned. The sky, which had seemed so beautiful and comforting as she laid down to sleep the previous night, the stars lighting her way and the moon a gentle light, had turned harsh and irritable.
Daphne leant on her elbows, forcing her thin but athletic body from the ground, an action made harder by the armour, red as dragon scales and just as thick, resting against her chest. Eventually, she sat up and wiped her eyes, before reaching for the water pouch by her side. She tilted her head back and allowed the water to stream down her throat, bringing her hydration and comfort. Daphne, taking her small bag of necessities in one hand, and her sword in the other, rose from the forest floor and ambled towards the river nearby, allowing herself a moment of vanity as she dragged a fine-toothed comb through her auburn hair, seeing it straighten and grow in length before her dark eyes. Once satisfied with her appearance, she slung the bag over her back and began to walk, the sword singing quietly as she moved. It cried out for flesh, a low moan with which Daphne was well acquainted.
As she left the clearing behind and reached the dense woodland, she held her greatsword in both hands, swinging it towards the thick branches blocking her path. As she began to make some headway, she began to see two shapes in the shadows. She stopped obliterating the woodland for a moment, instead peering through the gaps in the branches. As the shapes drew closer, she discovered that they had the forms of men, large and strong. As the seconds passed, she learnt more of them - their expressions rigid like iron, and just as cold; their bulging, sculpted torsos were bare and they covered in sweat, intermingled with a scarlet substance. A few seconds more, and the gentle winds it brought, confirmed her suspicions.
Blood, Daphne thought, shrinking back a little as she realised it was not theirs. With little more than ten metres between them, Daphne marked the strange patterns and symbols inscribed on their arms.
It was then that she was sure that the two men were a threat.
She began to place her weight on her hocks, shrinking back for a moment, before sidestepping slowly to the adjacent tree trunk. She leant against the bark and set her sights upon the men. They continued to move, ever towards her, and she began to wonder whether she could be seen. Thinking quickly, she took a throwing knife from its sheath at her waist and forced it into the tree trunk with all her might, forcing it to penetrate the tree's skin, its off-white lifeblood beginning to seep out. Once it was stuck firmly, she rested her foot upon it and began to make her way up the tree, taking hold of one of the branches further up. In the deathly silence, Daphne looked down upon the two men, and made her decision. Inhaling deeply, she took her sword in one hand and the tree branch with another, before pushing herself from the branch and making her speedy descent towards the earth. As she fell, she took the hilt of her sword in both hands and held it up above her head.
The man on the left didn't stand a chance.
The keen blade pierced his bald, shining head and fractured his skull, ripping his brain, his face, his heart in two. As his lifeless body slumped to the ground, now wet with blood, Daphne forced the blade out quickly, now coated in a dripping, ruby red. The other man turned pale. As Daphne smirked at the coward before her, she swung her sword, slicing his kneecaps and stealing his legs from beneath him in one clean strike.
A moment later, all blood, all screams, had stopped.
Daphne wandered back to where she had left her throwing knife and pulled it from the trunk, before returning it to its sheath. She was now breathing heavily, her face wet and her throat dry. She felt her heart aching as she saw the mutilated bodies; her anger, her despair - it was twisting her mind and causing her to forget herself. She fell upon her knees, her eyes beginning to well, as she choked upon a crumbling plea.
"Mother... tell me... where are you?" For a moment, Daphne felt lost, confused and alone, until another, familiar voice filled her head.
"Daphne, do not fret, your mother is strong." A pause ensued as Daphne smiled weakly. "And so are you."
"Father.. thank you."
With the last words of her father before she had begun her search now echoed through her mind, as Daphne breathed in relief, remembering that he still lived. With her strength and courage renewed, Daphne wiped her forehead, smiled, and continued to forge her path, with her mission burning brighter than ever in her heart.
"Mother, I shall find you. I promise."