(This is the prologue).
Gasping in pain, the woman clutched her daughter to her tightly, weeping openly as the snow started to fall on them. The snow around the shivering pair was stained with blood, a sign that this poorly clad woman had just given birth. A flimsy blue cloak hung weakly around the both of them.
The babe fed greedily from her mother, mysterious blue eyes seeming to big on her defenceless face. The brunette woman winced in pain, and knew that she didn't have long to live. She had outrun her fate far too long, now it was time for her to leave this world, and join the Gods. Perhaps the almighty one herself, Hagne, would be there waiting. Or perhaps there was nothing.
Don't let these dark thoughts harm you now. Thought the woman, as she rose gradually to her feet. Wobbling slightly, she made off in no particular direction, panting and clutching her daughter tightly, desperately hoping that both would survive.
She could only hope.
The forest seemed to go on forever, twisted and diverting, making her passage so much harder. Weariness started to creep over her, and her almond shaped eyes were drooping, but still, she carried on, clutching her feeding baby. Soon, the food would run out, and if they could not find people, then her child would perish in the cold.
Why had she run from her family and her village? Why hadn't she just made the baby die in her womb, thus, it wouldn't of been born. Her family were disgraced, she had betrayed the Priestess', and she had put a bad word over her village. What must people think of her; a tramp? Was it an act of horror to fall in love?
But it did not matter anymore. The child's father was dead. The child born. The village disgraced. And Daphne, the poor, bullied Priestess, forced to give birth to her only child in the wild.
Finally, when all her strength had gone, she stumbled across the road. It was an unimpressive road that linked the Northern villages of the land with the Capital, a relatively insignificant town, really. The road was surrounded on either side by thick forests, which would eventually thin out into a tundra like surrounding. Potholes and erosion had taken hold on this pitiful road, but to Daphne, its sight was like soft music to her.
Her daughter had been silent for most of the journey, occasionally feeding, but now, the child felt the cold, and was tired. She started to wail miserably, tears trickling down her small face. Daphne smiled warmly, and wrapped her snow covered cloak around her child.
“Hush, my little one. You will be warm and safe soon. Hush. . . ” but even as she said that, a searing pain in her stomach sent the former Priestess to her knees. The snow clouds above were dark and foreboding, as if they were already mourning a death to come. Luckily, the snow had ceased for the time being.
Leaning against a tree, Daphne panted deeply, face red with the strain. She shivered again, this time not with the cold, or the lack of sunlight, but with fear. For she could hear the faint, but unmistakable, sounds of a horse coming towards them.
“Don't cry, please, darling, please don't cry,” urged Daphne as she huddled behind a tree with her daughter. The horse sounded even closer, and it was about to pass them. The babe had been silent for a while, and as Daphne sensed the horseman pass, she breathed a sigh of relief.
But then came a loud wail from her arms. A snowflake had landed in the baby's eye, causing it to wail. Nearly in tears, Daphne closed her eyes and prayed. She probably doubted that this horseman was one from the stories, the ones that murder innocent travellers, but could she afford to take that risk?
A shadow fell over her, a man. She opened her eyes and blinked slowly, cautiously up at the fur covered man. His weary looking mare stood by near him, pawing at the ground anxiously.
The man was fairly old, and most of his teeth were missing. His skin was tanned and wrinkled, and his hands were calloused and blistered, showing that he had to work hard to earn a living. A not very welled trimmed beard clung to his chin, and his bushy eyebrows gave him a stern appearance.
“Well, what do we have here?” spoke the man in a gruff, yet strangely comforting deep voice. He bent next to Daphne, and looked at the crying babe.
He looked back at Daphne. His eyes held recognition. “Daphne?” he murmured softly. Daphne nodded, trying to recall him. Suddenly, it clicked.
He was a craftsman from another village, who sometimes came to her village to sell items. Daphne had befriended him.
“I had heard about.....” he trailed off, then got to his feet. He walked over to his horse, and brought the sullen mare over to Daphne.
“Come with me back to my village. You'll be safer there.” he was about to help Daphne up, when she shook her head.
“No, I have to stay here...it is my time to leave this world.....please, take my child,” she weakly held out her daughter, and the rugged man accepted it without question. It would be foolish to argue with her.
The man mounted his horse, the babe still in his arms. He wrapped her gently in some furs, then turned his head to face the weak woman.
He blinked back a tear. “ Daphne, w-w-what is your child's name?” he glanced at the child briefly, then gasped slightly as Daphne said.
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