"So thirsty." The sand kicked up beneath the traveler's footsteps like puffs of brown sugar. Her line of footprints faded into the hazy mountains in the distance. She pulled the hood of her cloak down until the shadow blocked the harsh rays of the sun.
She wiped her finger across her cheek and pulled off a chunk of dead skin. Thinking of her home, nestled within the shrinking mountains, was the only thing that kept her mind off the heat. She thought of her mother and father on their hands and knees begging her to leave the village.
Why? The traveler wondered. She told her parents that she had nothing to do with the burning of the farmer's barn or the murders that plagued the village. She even swore that she would protect her parents from whoever was responsible, but they didn't listen. They just told her to leave for fear that the entire village would turn on her.
The traveler could see the beginnings of a forest sprouting from the land like a tuft of hair. The thirst gnawed at her and scraped her neck until her vocal cords were like two dried planks. The forest was her only hope of finding sustenance, but she had never ventured this far from the village before. She didn't know what she would find.
The sun had finally set. She immediately felt her skin and the boiled leather jerkin begin to cool. Seeing the beautiful colors of the sunset cascade across the sky reminded the traveler of a similar sunset before she left the village.
That night she followed the creek running alongside the village. The lazy smoke of a campfire floated from atop the hill where she used to roll down as a child with her friends from the village. She traced the smoke to a camp where a dozen tents were erected. The moon was full that night and revealed men draped in animal furs.
One in particular, sat by the campfire and sharpened a dagger. His hair was wet and curly, and a scar ran straight down his eye fusing the skin together. The dagger he held was stained a dark red, and she could see the locket from her murdered neighbor dangling from between his fingers. The rest of his companions were enjoying a succulent meal of roast pig, the same pig that belonged to the farmer.
She disappeared like a shadow at night and drew out her longsword, quietly slaying the bandits one by one. The menace was stopped and the items were returned, but the village still leered at her and hid from her wherever she went. No good deed would ever be enough. So she left and ventured past the mountains and into a self-imposed exile within the desert.
It was dusk now and her hunger pained horribly. She had finally crossed the desert, but the forest refused to give her even a miserable rat to eat.
"Hello? Is someone out there?"
The whisper of a man's voice caught her ear, but it was weak and desperate. She looked past the trees and saw broken carts sitting in a field. The traveler ventured into the high grass, and saw dead bodies and soil saturated with splatters of blood. Her body trembled at the scent of copper wafting into her nose. She could practically taste the iron on the tip of her tongue.
"Please, someone. Help me . . ."
The traveler wiped her mouth and followed the voice. A man was sitting next to the broken cart. His face was covered in red warpaint and his leather armor was battered and ripped. He clutched his stomach where essence spilled out from his body. The man looked up and made a crooked smile.
"What happened?" The traveler asked.
"I'm a guard for the city just a little ways from here. I heard screaming and shouting and saw these merchants being attacked by bandits. I ran in and tried to fight them off, but there were so many. I was outnumbered by at least a dozen of them. I killed as many as I could, but I couldn't save them."
The guard looked up into her eyes. "Do you . . . Do you have any potions? I need to get back to town and warn--" the man's eyes rolled into the back of his head. She wiped her lips again and doubled over from the hunger pangs in her stomach. The vein in the man's neck throbbed and pulsed with dwindling life. She wanted to save him, but the hunger was too much. She needed to eat.
The traveler knelt down and clutched her head. She groaned and tried to fight the growing urges inside of her. Her body trembled and primal growls escaped from her parched throat. The traveler looked up at the starry sky and opened her mouth wide. Her blue eyes turned a blood red and her incisors grew into animal-like fangs. She grabbed the man's hair and yanked his head to the side, exposing his carotid artery. The traveler brushed a lock of blond hair away from her mouth and placed the pointed tips of her fangs onto his vein.
She could sense the rumble of blood flow beneath his skin, vibrating the ends of her bloodstained teeth. The traveler wanted to drop her head, to let her teeth sink into his skin and send an explosion of blood rushing down her gullet. She turned her head against every impulse traveling through her body. She couldn't bring herself to kill him or to sire a vampire.
The traveler retracted her fangs and placed her hands on the man's wound. She gave him one of her potions and quickly left before the hunger could change her mind. Instead, she set her sights on the city where there would be plenty of opportunities to satiate--