A flash of purple stopped her, her breath fogging in the frigid air. She inhaled, the smell of morning dew and leaf decay filling her nose. Birds were only now starting to wake, their songs filling the air along with the rush of the stream.
Again, purple glinted, this time she was able to spot from where. In the streams muddy bed laid a rock of violet. Her dog bumped her leg, the fowl's blood had begun to seep into her dress, she noted as she pat his head absently. She was about a quarter day from home, her hunt had taken her far in the attempt to find prey. It would be better to wash the meat now, she decided.
Plus, she was far enough from the city that no one would run upon her in her bloomers. After all, most travelers tended to stick to the main roads. Her eyes trailed to the waters bed where the object laid, as if it was calling her. How silly, she grinned as she began to untie her cloak. She unstrapped her bastard sword from her hip, and unwound her quiver from her torso next. The air was cold against her light dress, her warm cloak abandoned with her treasured items on the mossy ground.
Even if just pottery washed up, long lost by the swift current, she might be able to trade it for medicine for her father. Violet was not a common color in these parts. Sometimes when the traveling merchants would pass though they would have items of vibrant color and odd design; they always sold well in her city.
Clad in undergarments, she dropped the fowls in front of her dog. "Make sure the scavengers don't get it, will ya' pup?" She giggled when the dog licked her hand, oblivious of her human words. He was a herding dog, black and white in color, eyes blue as the sky. He often accompanied her on her hunts, despite her brothers protests. Well, it wasn't like they had much of a flock to heard anymore. Ever since her father fell ill in the winter, they had been selling off their flock in order to get medicine. Now all they had was a pregnant sheep, three younglings, and a ram. It was getting harder and harder for them to get the medicine required for their father. Soon she feared they would have to sell their pigs and hens.
She left her dress unfolded by the creek, she still had the intention of rinsing the blood after getting the object.
The water was freezing, the mud slick as she waddled further in. The stream itself was about 10 feet across, the edges lined with thick moss and slick rocks. The water came directly from the nearby mountain, assuring her with its freezing temperature. Water rushed around her thighs when she reached the object. The cold air blossoming into clouds from her breath, she bit her lip as she dove in with her arms, feeling for it. Shoulder deep in freezing water, she made a horrifying discovery. It was embedded into the mud.
She had already come this far, she groaned, her dog barking from the warm, mossy edge. The rushing waters had packed the mud hard, so hard it was difficult to indent it with her fingers. She pushed harder, uprooting just a smudge of dirt. It was enough, as she used that small spot to dig further.
It was larger than she thought. She had been in the freezing water for a good 10 minutes, digging the mud, only to have one side uncovered. She dug her fingers underneath it, letting out a small sound of victory as she wiggled the object from captivity.
After the intense battle, she pulled it out, the violet emerging from the murky water, her hands grasping it hard, as if it would be swept away by the current.
It was... She stared at it. The ovular shape, the sleek shell; there was no doubt it was an egg of exaggerated size. Perhaps it was a decorative egg of precious stone? No, it was not heavy enough for the size. She turned it over in her hands as she began to walk to the waters side. Her dog barked, but she ignored it as she turned the egg over. It was smooth like a polished horn, and warm to the touch despite being in the frigid water.
She emerged from the water and plopped down in the warm morning rays. It was still chilly, but her breath no longer clouded in the sunlight, and the dew was evaporating. Dawn broke fast, and warmed up the forest faster. Her dog picked up her kill and brought it over, before dropping it and curling around her feet. A faithful companion, as always. His warm fur tickled her bare ankle, making her giggle as she placed the egg on his side. He laid there, paying no mind to the added weight.
The shell was sleek, no blemish visible. It glinted in the morning light as if it had been recently polished. She grabbed a nearby rock and tapped the egg lightly. It made the sound of rock hitting rock, but no blemish was made on the violet surface. This time she moved the egg to the mossy grass and tapped it the with the rock harder, still no blemish was made on the violet surface. It remained perfect and pristine. The rock however, chipped slightly.
Strange. She would have to bring it home to show Elric, perhaps he would have an idea what it was so she could sell it. Elric, her best friend, and the first son of a wealthy merchant. His family had settled down in their small city, despite the fact they could have done better, and settled in a more handsome city. Apparently his father was fond of the mountain range that covered the whole northern border. Beautiful, he would call it as he sipped his tea and watch the sun rise and set along the snowy peaks daily. He was a kind man, she hummed as she picked up her bloodied dress and dipped it into the creeks cold water. The egg sat discarded next to her dog, along with her bow, sword, and cloak.
Her father and Elric's used to do business in the past. Her father would take her along on visits, much to his grievance. She tended to be a rather busy child, and was to much to leave in a house with her delicate mother. This was how she met and befriended Elric, they were both toddlers and unaware of the gender norms. Being of such a age, neither of their fathers expected their friendship to last. But it did, she grinned as she scrubbed the bloodied cloth. Even to this day, and to their fathers protests, they retained a rather strong friendship.
When her mother was still alive, she was known for her excellent modiste skills. She would make quality garments from their city house, while her father tended to the animals on their farm in the outskirts, and would come to handle their business in the city multiple times through the week. Since her mother's passing, they had to sell their city house and move to the farm house, which was not made for a family to live. It was small in size, and had just the necessity.
It was a hard adjustment period, for her at the tender age of 9. Without her mother's earnings, they could not afford a wet nurse, nor a maid. She, being the woman of the house now, was expected to raise her youngest sister in her mother's place. Which they were quick to figure she was not meant for. She raised her sister for 4 years. She taught her little sister the basic mannerisms and life skills, but she could no teach further. So, when her sister reached the age of 5, they sold part of their flock to send her to a woman's boarding school.
Now she was 13, and without a sister to raise, and was now expected to help with the hard labor of the farm. They were quick to find she worked well on the harder jobs. She grew strong fast, and learned well. She had a calling with the animals, her father would say. They grew close; their father and her. Despite his better judgement, he would teach her skills for men. She gulped down the knowledge, learning so fast that her father said she would have been better born a man. She excelled with the sword, and did well with a bow. Elric and her would spar often, only strengthening their bond as friends.
However it was unladylike, and she was frowned upon. When she reached the courting age of 14, no suiters showed interest. However, she was fine with such. She would farm, heard the beasts, and fight to all her heart's contents. Her father would laugh, telling her she would change her mind one day. She never did, even when he fell ill. She frowned and placed her dress in the sunny patch beside her dog, before looking down her pale skin that showed through her wet undergarments. It was time she bathe, she decided.
She began to unbraid her thick black hair, the unruly locks curling wildly from being kept in a restraint for so long. The sunlight passed through it, showing the hint of purple in the depths. She bent down at the water's edge, looking at her blurred reflection. She thought her eyes were too large, girlish, with their warm lavender color, and being framed with dark thick eyelashes. She would rather eyes like her brother's, cold, hard, and unforgiving as ice. At least maybe then, he would treat her fairly, like her father did. But no, her feminine features, delicate nose, and soft pink lips made it all to obvious she was a woman.
Her eldest brother, whom had left to be a mercenary, returned a year ago on her 18th birthday due to her father declining health. Now he was the bane of her existence. She touched the discolored marks on her arms, then her body, the blossoming bruises were harsh against her snow colored skin. Green, purple, blue, and red made their home on her in the past year. She had bruises before, from spars, but this was not from training. This was from her being a disobedient female who did not know her place.
She washed herself, glowering at the marks. She used to be proud of being bruised, it was a sign she fought hard and earned them. Now they were there from being hit and beaten with a belt. When she returned home, she was sure to bare more marks for the following day.
And now, she was clean, and there was no more reason to dawdle on the creek side. Despite how much she hated him, she would have to return to home for her father. She slipped on her still wet dress, before strapping her sword and quiver to her. Her bow laid beside the egg, waiting along with the fowl. Ah, the fowl. In her absence of thought she had forgotten she had hunted.
She was quick to pluck and wash the birds. There was 3 in total for her hunt today. It was less than normal, but would have to do. It was done quickly, too quickly.
She strung the meat to her belt and tossed her cloak around her shoulders. Her dog barked happily and licked her face as she picked up the egg, making her grin. It would be okay.
The rest of the walk was quiet, her dog trotting happily, and her footsteps quick. She would have preferred for her hunting trip to last longer, but she did not bring the right gear. Her brother had sold it a week ago, along with her cherished men's clothes. They were made for her, of good quality, durable, and of darker cloth. She had two pairs, both gifted to her by her father for their hunting trips two years ago. Luckily, she had not grown much, so she was able to use them on her trips. That was, until he sold them.
It was very improper for a woman to wear men's clothes, he would say. It was improper for a woman to hunt. It was improper for a woman to speak up. There were many improper things she did. Such as read, fight, butcher the livestock, train. The list went on and on.
It would have been better if she was born a man, she thought as she exited the trees to her farms field. Their few sheep roamed about, eating the tall grass. The pigs squealed in their pens, rolling in their mud. The chickens roamed around the house, picking at the ground. It all seemed so peaceful, if it was not for her brother who sat in a chair by the door. Likely, he was waiting for her return.
His hair was long, sleek, and black as coal, unlike hers that was wavy and unruly. He had the same snowy skin, pale despite the hours they worked in the sun. His eyes, grey in color, but cold as ice, and were harsh as a judge. His lips were permanently downturned, his brows furrowed.
Those eyes turned to her, and she could feel a shiver down her spine despite him being across the field. Her dog submitted and started to go forth, leaving her side.
"Verrine." She could see his lips say her name, his eyes wild with rage. She gripped the rock tight in her arms before slinking back into the forest. She was sure she was going to be beaten harder for it, but she could not hide the egg from him in the house when he lay in wait.
She slunk to her hiding spot, a thick old yew tree, the branches wild and reaching. She dropped down and climbed into the small niche, it was only known to her and her dog. She hid her last pair of men's clothes here, one she bought on her own. She preferred to hide the sword and bow in her room, however when he was waiting for her she had no choice but to leave them here. She wrapped up the egg in her cloak and shoved it under a root that was roaming above the ground. Then she bid farewell to her treasured bow and sword, keeping her dagger strapped to her thigh. She always kept her dagger there, it was its home. So much so, it was like a part of her.
She crawled back out, dusting herself off.
Now to face the beast.
Thank you for reading!