I was leisurely chasing a rabbit, my youthful eyes bright and soft giggles filling the crisp forest air when I heard the familiar 'thwap' of an arrow making contact with flesh. I found my small companion mortally wounded in the break of the trees ahead of me, an arrow protruding from his chest. I remember looking on with pained eyes as I crouched beside him, my hands trembling ever so slightly as I picked up his writhing body.
Its eyes gazed up at me with heartbreaking familiarity, a small plea for me to end his suffering. Even at such a young age I knew what had to be done. I looked around me, searching for a large rock or another tool of violence. In hindsight, I can remember how my blood sang as I gripped my necklace pendant tightly, an odd compulsion urging me to reach into the bush beside me. How odd, I had thought, though I didn't resist as I did as my body craved.
My bloodstained hands made contact with a small, but weighty chest with ornate designs covering it. The black opal vessel was adorned with what looked like crystal inlays and gold latches. On the lid, was a winged beast of some sort, it's eyes glinting with crystals at the center of them. My fingertips gently brushed over the metal wings - they were beautifully horrifying. A small tremor from the animal in my lap brought me out of my stupor.
I opened the chest after a bit of fumbling and found two daggers, both sharp as mortally possible featuring a white, scaly handle with a large diamond set at the end of each hilt; they were not materials that I had ever come across before. I remember carefully removing one from the box, shuddering as what felt like a jolt of electricity coursed through my veins. With a new found resolve, I took my rabbit friend by the ears and gave him a small nod of respect, slicing the rabbit's throat quickly and with finality. The putrid tang of blood burned my nostrils, and I breathed through my mouth in an attempt to lessen the nausea that threatened to consume me.
I held that small creature as the life left his eyes, clutching the dagger tighter in my hands to ground myself in the moment. I would not abandon something who's life I had just taken. Even then I had some semblance of morality, though where it came from I still do not know.
A lone tear slipped down my ruddy cheek, and I recall the anger that I felt. I had been frolicking about with that rabbit for weeks. How senseless was his death? I stiffened as realization rushed over me. Who shot the arrow? I looked up at the surrounding trees, my eyes narrowing as I scanned the tree line with unpracticed observance. There was nothing there.
I looked over the tree line once more, the blade in my hand humming as my gaze flitted over what I thought to be a tree trunk. I stilled, eyes widening. A cloaked figure stood blatantly in front of me, though his body blended into the shadows. How long had he been there, watching? It was obviously he who had shot the arrow, if the bow on his back was any indication.
I looked on with disgust. His clothes were that of a noble, his cloak featuring the finest embroidery and his boots freshly polished. He had no need for a rabbit to eat, he obviously had the wealth and status to buy whatever he needed. The rabbit was a senseless death then, a casualty of a cruel man looking to carry out pointless violence.
Strangely enough, I found myself free of fear as I gripped the dagger tighter, a flicker of something sparking in my chest. Anger? Not exactly. Fear? Definitely not. It was more like...power.
"Where did you get those daggers?" The man spoke quietly, voice low and grave though he made no move to come closer.
"None of you business," I had snapped, clutching the blade tighter as the hairs on my neck stood up. "On your way, sir."
"Is that how you were taught to speak to your elders, girl?"
"I respect those who have earned my respect, elder or not," I set aside the rabbit and took the other dagger from the chest before standing. "You killed that rabbit for no reason but for sport. In my mind, that makes you a pathetic coward. You are not worthy of my respect."
"If I remember correctly, you dealt the killing blow," the stranger challenged. "He was alive when I struck him."
"I gave him the one mercy I had to offer," I grunted, young brow knit together. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be on my way."
"The woods are a dangerous place for a child," he took a step forward for the first time, his face still covered by his cloak. "Shouldn't you be at home with your family. You never know what strangers are lurking in the shadows, waiting to hurt you, little one." His words were like freezing water through my veins, and I gripped the hilts of my daggers tighter. That same electricity from before coursed through me and I found myself emboldened, my chin titling higher and features unafraid.
"I would like to see someone try," I spat, my nostrils flaring and chest heaving as a the daggers in my hands seemed to vibrate, meeting my own body's energy. I still don't know how to effectively explain it. It's as if I was one with the small pieces of forged metal. They were alive in my grasp, offering me power and guidance. I no longer felt so alone in the world anymore. I had her.
The man in front of me took a sudden step forward, his body stiffening and hand resting on the hilt of his sword. His shoulders straightened as if he was steeling himself to do some awful deed when my hands moved of their own volition. I flung the dagger at him with practiced precision, though I had never touched such an implement before. A pained yell tore from his lips as it sunk into his chest. For a moment, I was both horrified and proud of the thing I had just done, sure that I had killed him, but those feelings were quickly replaced by terror. The man ripped the blade from his chest and threw it to the ground with an angry grunt.
"You shouldn't have done that, girl," he growled, in an instant his hands around my throat, choking me. My feet kicked and I lashed out with my dagger, blindly slashing at him. Spots were flying in my vision and I was sure I was near death when he was ripped off of me, his body flying into a nearby tree.
I gasped and coughed, trying to regain my composure as I gripped my dagger tighter. As my vision came into focus, my eyes widened realizing that there was a second cloaked figure fighting my attacker. I was frozen, my limbs heavy with shock. Swords clashed and growls ripped through the air. For a split second my savior managed to throw my attacker back what felt like an inhuman distance. Hands clutching his sword tightly and hood masking his face, he turned to me.
"Run," he ordered, his voice deep and filled with authority.
I didn't question his command, I only listened, taking off into the trees as another loud, rage filled roar filled the air. I clutched the remaining dagger so tightly to me, my feet lithely carrying me through the familiar woods and away from the fighting.
I think back and wonder what my attacker's intentions were, pondering whether he was motivated by sadistic desires, genuine concern, or greed for the daggers. Whatever the answer is though, I never stuck around to find out.
I found a small alcove in the mountain side and spent hours curled up there, twirling the dagger with ease and smiling as they vibrated. That day, I had taken my first life, gazed upon humanity's depravity, and found solace in a dagger that seemed to sing to me. I fell asleep clutching it so tightly, the sleep I experienced being more refreshing than ever I had felt before.
To this day, I can't explain how it worked, but the next morning I awoke with both daggers clutched close to my chest, their energy whispering softly and sweetly to me, promising safety and companionship.
I imagine most people have memories of warm hugs and nights spent by the hearth reading stories amongst their families. My fondest memory is of that morning, realizing that whatever life I had before, thought that life was a mere haze, that things would never be the same. I was Alethea, the daughter of no one from no place in particular, but I was no longer utterly alone. I had her.
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