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It was dark and it was cold -freezing really. Ursula couldn’t move, packed in from all sides by snow. How long had she been unconscious? What was up, and what was down? Ursula tried to think back to the events leading to their fall off the mountain. They had been making good time, moving slowly down the steep and treacherous path, the sun had been warm and bright, but perhaps that was what lead to their downfall. Snow had been piled up from the blizzard that nearly killed them during their ascent that the sudden rise in temperature made the snow and the ground soft. They couldn’t get out of the path of the falling snow even if they wanted to. The avalanche barreled down on them before they could group together, and then flung them in separate directions. Ursula vaguely remembered the snow coming up from behind here, and sweeping Yuger away from her as she was knocked off by the force of a fallen tree. For a brief moment she heard Yuger’s distress, the shouts from the others, and a terrified scream coming from no other than little Freja’s lips.
Ursula was pinned to that tree that weight her down. She had tumbled and rolled as the snow carried her away. Several times she hit other trees or smacked into a boulder, until she finally went airborne right off the edge of a sheer drop, and then nothing. The snow piled on top of her unconscious body, trapping her deep under a freezing blanket. This was her worst nightmare: enclosed spaces, trapped... it was like being inside her glass coffin in Arethousa’s Armory all over again. Ursula tried to gauge how badly damaged she was, but all she could focus on was how her body was slowly freezing being trapped inside the ice. For a brief moment she wondered if she might die this way, but then quickly scoffed at the thought -there was no way in Helheim she was going to freeze to death here. Her new master would no doubt find her with minimal effort on his part. Still it was hard to keep from slipping into a panic.
Not willing to wait to be rescued, because what self respecting Valkyrie would do that? She did as she always did, and dug deep within herself and began to claw her way out. Little by little she slowly managed to burrow a hole, reaching up desperate to be free. In a way she was glad to be Valkyrie, glad she wasn’t mortal... the fall alone would have killed a human, considering it had roughed her up pretty bad, and if the fall hadn’t killed a human than the cold certainly would have. It took her hours to finally tunnel her way out, that by the time she did manage to get out the sky was inky black and the air colder than ever before.
Finally free and exhausted, she laid out on top of the snow breathing heavily and staring up at the sky. With the sky as clear as it was, she could see bands of cosmic dust streaking in an endless ribbon across the night sky. It was the moon she noticed though, just a tiny sliver of light. In a few short weeks it would be a full moon and her time would be up. She was torn, go onward to the next village, or make her way to the veil and meet with Oberon? She assumed he wasn’t worried about her, or he would have summoned her to his side, or he would have come and plucked her from the snow himself. As he had done neither, she was certain he had enough faith in her to save her own ass -which she could.
There was nothing around her, just more snow as she finally managed to sit up and look around. Her body protested against her moving any further, desperate for rest, and time to heal. She could see her uniform was stained with blood, and she knew it had to be her own. Ursula wasn’t too worried about it as she knew any damage she’d taken in the fall was well on it’s way to being healed. She needed a moment to asses the damage she’d taken. Breathing was difficult and she felt pain all over. She looked down and saw a large stain of blood over her pants, and reached down to feel her femur protruding harshly against her bruised skin. She cursed, gritting her teeth, and panted quick shallow breaths before ruthlessly snapping the bone back into place. The sickening crack was dampened only by Ursula’s wailing shriek of pain. She whimpered softly, willing it to heal as well as her undoubtedly broken ribs which made it hard to breathe. All of her hurt, all of her ached, and most of her was bruised and covered in blood... she had fallen off a fucking mountain. She was just thankful it happened to her and not any of the others.
“Evangeline?!” She called hopeful that there might be another of the group near where she had fallen off the mountain. “EVA?!” She called again, rising to her feet and stumbling. Pain had shot up what she believed to be her good leg from her ankle and she grit her teeth together. A sprained ankle, she was sure of it, but not overly concerned, it too would heal in time just like everything else. “Kyrain?! …. Anyone?” The only answer she received was the howling of lugarou. It caused her to tense and immediately reach for the spear at her hip. A pack must prowl nearby. Thank the Gods her spear hadn’t been ripped from her in the fall... she had a feeling she was going to need it. The first thing she needed to do was try to find shelter. It was late at night, and she had no idea how long she’d been unconscious and buried. Nearly encompassing her was the dark shadows of the mountains and their dark peaks, and before her the sloping hills towards the flatlands.
With no other choice, Ursula extended the staff of her spear and used it to help her walk. She started making tracks in the snow towards the next village, in the hopes she would be reunited with the rest of her group.
Words could not describe Eva’s elation at returning to the surface of the mountain and being reunited with the rest of the group. This also meant she was finally able to see the extent of Mira’s injuries and failing health. I gave her great cause for concern, but there was little time to dwell on it. Nox had been correct that they needed to move. Apparently Serenity and Yanai had gone off ahead of them. She looked about and didn’t spot Ursula anywhere, that gave her great cause for concern and with hope she looked to the sky, hoping to see Ursula’s lightning replying to her own that had apparently happened to lead Nereus and Palo to them. Nothing in the blue sky greeted her and her brows pinched together with worry at the thought. Surrounding them was nothing but jagged knife-like mountains behind them, and flat lands ahead coated in snow.
Eva was deep in her own thoughts when she heard Calder ask a sudden question, to which Odin replied in guarded interest. Calder’s response caused Eva to look down and see that her hand was still firmly in Odin’s since they began to trek off down into the valley. She smiled to herself and then gave a glance to Odin before answering Calder.
“We never hated each other, Calder. One day, when you meet the right girl, you’ll understand.” Calder seemed unconvinced, if not uncertain to what she was eluding, so Eva clarified. “Sometimes people fight, and sometimes we disagree, sometimes life is difficult, but I love Odin. I always have, I always will. There’s nothing Odin and I can’t overcome… because we love each other. We may not like the other at times,” Eva smiled, even as she spoke, her hand remaining tightly gripped to Odin’s. “Sometimes we might cause worry, or anger from the other… but when things are meant to be… they are, and they find a way to remedy themselves. Sometimes… it just takes time. So I’m so sorry, but I’m still very much taken,” she teased Calder, reaching out to poke his arm.
They continued on well into the evening making camp, since they were unable to find a waylay due to Mira’s condition, and Eva spent the better part of the night sitting up… waiting… hoping… that Ursula would strike her lightning and show them she was alright. Odin even tried to call her to bed, but she only shook her head, offering to take the first watch with Nox. She sat staring at the sky, her ears preened and listening to their surroundings. From the soft snores of Odin’s sleep, to Palo’s dream induced mutterings, and Mira’s wheezy breath, nothing escaped her scope of hearing. Not even the wind against the snowy earth, or the very distant howls of Lugarou. Nox seemed indifferent to the howls and so Eva didn’t merit any worry towards it. Being alone with Nox allowed her a moment to see if she couldn’t squeeze some further information from him. He had helped her and Belle, she had great respect for him, and he was not only a king, but a God in his own right. She was naturally curious as well.
Gaining her courage she stood up and walked over to sit beside him, and when he made no move away from her she relaxed slightly and finally looked from the sky ahead to him. “O-Nox…” she blushed at her almost mishap, but forged ahead. “I was hoping, that I might ask you something, well a few things actually…If you.. if you don’t mind, of course. If not, I can just… go back… over there?” She tried, ending with a nervous smile towards him. The look she received and answered granted her permission to continue, though she knew he only accepted as long as she kept it within reason. As curious as she was to know what Oberon had traded for Ursula, she had seen what happened to Serenity, and she dared not make the same mistake. Instead she opted for a more tactical question, something that might offer her a clue… if possible. “You’ve been so helpful to us… to mankind. Yet, we have forgotten you, and you still come to our aid. You are Honorable and I know you are kind. I don’t say this to endear you or anything of the sort, I just… I genuinely admire you, Sir. And I would be a liar if I said I wasn’t curious. I’m often curious about most things, but… I was hoping you might shed some light on why you helped Ursula.”
“Helping, is that what you think?” He asked in that deep voice of his. He was so dark against the pristine white landscape, that in the shadows she nearly couldn’t see it, and she probably wouldn’t if it wasn’t for her valkyrie sight.
“Well, she was enslaved by Arethousa, forced to serve under Tiernan, has been kept in captivity… and suddenly you come and purchase her from Arethousa for no apparent reason.” She quickly held up a hand in submissive gentle fashion, still wearing a nervous grin. “I’m not going to ask what you had to give. I’m not so foolish, nor am I really asking why [i you] did it, I suppose… I just want to know if you see the same things I see in her…” Her shoulders slowly slumped and she looked back out at the dark sky that twinkled with a million glimmering stars.
“She hasn’t returned yet. I can’t sense her lightning, or her… I haven’t learned that yet. She’s my only connection to what I am now. The only one who can really teach me… I’m worried she may be lost, and even though she hurt me… I have come to think of her as a mentor. As a friend… I… I want her to come back. Do you believe she’ll come back? That she’s alright?” Eva dared to ask peering up at Nox curiously. If anyone would know it would be him.
Odin dreamt that night, face buried in his arm as he sat back against the all of the cave; his other arm grasping at the stick of wood he was using to stir their small fire. He dreamt of faces- many he knew and some he didn’t. Awash in a mist, voices circulated in his ears; whispering things about power, the future, and the war to come. Maybe he should have been frightened, but something about it was oddly comforting. It was as if the words were a promise that he was going to survive to find a way out of the underground labyrinth that he and Eva had found themselves. The last thing he saw was a distant shimmer of red that shifted until it became the red of his mother’s hair. He saw her eyes among it, and knew- although there was no mouth- that she was smiling.
The vision was stolen from him when he was suddenly jolted awake by Eva, her hands gripping the torn sleeve of his tunic and giving him a definite shake. “What is it?” he asked, his voice a raspy, half-coherent demand. There was no way to tell just how much time had passed, because the cave was still dark, but their fire was little more than embers now. Still, even that small light caught her eyes, giving her an eerie glimmer of a cat.
“Mira is awake,” she said, her voice soft but hopeful. He blinked as she released him, and he lifted a hand and yawned into his wrist as she fell away and moved to reach for a bit of leftover bread and began to break it up for Mira to eat. Using the stick, he poked at what was left of the dim, orange glow, coaxing a few sparks which caught on the remainder of kindling he had laid to the side. It managed enough light for him to glance over at the two girls. Mira’s eyes were opened, but she coughed harshly and her forehead glittered from sweat. There was a deep gash in her forehead, and when she wouldn’t take the bread her sister offered, Eva took to melting snow in her palm and letting it drip between her cracked lips. This, Mira took greedily.
“How is she?” he asked, scooting closer. Eva didn’t answer at first, though he knew she heard him, and her brow furrowed for a moment as if deciding whether the truth would be too harsh, spoken in the echoing cavern.
“When you feel up for it, we’ll start moving. We can’t stay here and need to find a way out so we can regroup with the others,” she finally managed. Odin pursed his lips and nodded, before quickly standing and brushing off his breeches. He made his way to the pile of material that had fallen with Mira and picked through it for anything else he thought they could use. There honestly wasn’t much, but since they were going to be carrying her with them, he knew that it was likely that they would not have been able to bring much even if there had been. What he could find, he stuffed into the slightly ripped saddlebag which he held out to Eva who had managed to coax her sister to sit. She frowned.
“I’ll carry Mira,” he assured her, but Eva only shook her head, her stance protective.
“I’ll do it. I’m as strong as you now. I can manage,” she reminded him. He smiled, though if he had to guess, she was more than likely stronger than him ta the moment. He didn’t admit it, however and the two proceeded to eat what was left of the reindeer meat and bread before dousing the fire. While he slung the pack over his shoulder, Eva worked to scoop Mira onto her back, the woman sounding as if her throat would give out at any moment, judging by her wheezes. “Ready?” he asked when she seemed comfortable. Eva nodded and he lead the way, his hand on her shoulder to help guide her through the darkness.
They traveled in silence, with only the sound of their boots padding on the rocky floor beneath them and the occasional drip of melting water as it trickled down the various conical stalactites that hung above them like razor teeth. Eva hadn’t been lying- she was strong. Odin only asked once if she needed to take a break, and she declined. Even if he hadn’t been able to see in the dark, he could have practically felt the look of determination on her face; as if she had something to prove. It wasn’t to him, he guessed. To Mira? He merely squeezed her shoulder. Without daylight, however, there was no way to track how long they had gone. They had followed the mass of twisting, vine-like tunnels that didn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason for what seemed like hours. At first, he and Eva had passed the time talking about anything and everything, but the further along they went, the faster they seemed to run out of topics and the quieter they became, until finally they merely trudged along in silence. Odin’s gut sank, uncertainty filling him and replacing the confidence he had gained that morning. There really was no telling how long it would take them to escape, and he almost wondered if they would find themselves at the center of the planet before that happened…
It took Mira coughing for it to come to a head, however. Without warning, she had suddenly let out a hollow, wet sounding hack that had Eva freezing and gasping, and Odin paused, concern furrowing his brow. “Eva?” Eva swallowed tightly, and he watched her lift a hand to wipe away a dark streak that coated her jaw and neck. “What is it?!” In the darkness she trembled, her lips quivering as her hand went back to grip her sister and heft her higher. Mira’s head merely lay on her shoulder, eyes shut tight and body limp. Odin suddenly smelled the blood.
“W-we have to… we have to get out,” she said, teeth clenched as she fought to remain calm. “We have to get out Odin.”
“I know,” he said, looking around as if the answer to their predicament would suddenly appear. Nothing did… but there was a sound that made them both go still. It was distant- extremely so- and if either of them had been human, it would have been likely that neither of them would have heard it. Odin stared at the floor, while Eva glanced upwards. It had been deep… a rolling thud. For a moment Eva’s breath hitched, her voice dropping to a whisper; partially out of fear, and partially out of hope they might hear it again.
“What was that?”
“I… I don’t know,” he managed.
“Another avalanche?” she breathed.
No sooner had the words escaped them then they were both bombarded with a flash of light so intense they had to shield their eyes. Eva almost dropped Mira out of surprise, and even as Odin stepped in front of her out of habit, he was forced to raise his hand to block the light. It was like a supernova had exploded right there in the underground, and Odin felt his very bones seared by a wave of intense power. The white light was edged in an iridescent rainbow, but as it faded, they could make out the smell of ocean brine mixed amongst the burning ozone. The light zipped inwards forming a much less intense floating orb, allowing them to blink and adjust to the sight. The amazing, wonderful, brilliant sight that was Nereus and his son.
“Eva! Odin!” Apollo exclaimed and all but lunged at them. Odin could only blink in shock as the young marine-haired prince wrapped an arm around each of them and tugged them close. “You’re alive!”
“Palo!” Eva finally gasped, relief in her voice. “How did you find us!?”
“We didn’t!” Apollo said, stepping back with a grin. “You found us!” It was a grin they could both see it thanks to the light from the orb that floated above Nereus’ open hand.
“What are you talking about?” Odin asked.
“Our Miss Valkyrie here flagged us down with her lightning,” Nereus explained, his other hand resting on his hip with a, approving smile.
“You should’a seen it!” Apollo said with an excited gesture. “It ripped a huge hole in the side of the mountain!”
“Enough to allow me to feel your energy through the rockface.”
“You mean we’re still inside it?” Odin asked in disbelief.
“Of course, you are,” Nereus arched a brow. “Where else did you think you’d be?”
“I… I’m not sure,” he admitted sheepishly.
“It feels like we’ve been walking for days,” Eva told them.
“You kind of have,” Apollo told them. “Almost three. We thought we’d never see you again.”
They were interrupted, however, as suddenly Mira made another, thick sounding cough, and more blood caught in Eva’s hair. “Mira!” Eva all but cried out, and sank to a knee, Mira sliding from her to hit the ground with a thud; unconscious with blood dripping from the corner of her mouth and nose.
“What’s wrong?” Nereus asked, bending beside her to asses the damage. The orb hung suspended beside their heads like a friendly fairy, and in the light they could see how pale she was; her face sheet white.
“We found her under her reindeer. She wasn’t moving! Oh god is she breathing?!” Nereus wasted no time, in waving a hand down the length of her chest.
“Yes. But for how much longer, I do not know. Come…” The god scooped Mira up into his arms, and quickly gestured for them to take hands with Apollo. “Take a breath,” he directed them as they all clamored into a circle. Odin and Apollo were on either side of Eva, and both of them took her hand, setting their other ones atop the god’s shoulder. No sooner had Odin filled his lungs with air did he feel as if he were being pulled apart from all sides, the breath ripped from his lungs and then shoved straight back in. Soon it was over, and he stood blinking with the rest of them in ankle-deep snow; the bright light of day making it difficult for him to focus. Eva was no different. Seeing their discomfort, Nereus reached out to touch Eva on the top of her dark curls that fluttered in the light breeze, and she was able to instantly see. When he touched Odin, however, a spark ripped off his shoulder causing him to wrench his hand back, rubbing his fingers together with a frown. “I keep forgetting… Nox’s magic. I can’t go against it.” When Apollo question him on it, Nereus gave him a look as they began to move as a group down the trail, with Eva leading Odin by the hand while he worked to get used to the sunlight. “We’ve gone over this before. A blessing or a curse laid down by one god or goddess, cannot be usurped by another.” Apollo merely rolled his eyes.
Apparently they’d come out near the base of the mountain, and sure enough as they rounded the end of the rocky trail, the remaining figures of their group appeared with the exception of Yanai, Destiny, and Ursula. The lot of them looked tired and haggard, and Otto had been confined atop one of the two elk’s that remained due to a broken leg, but they were alive and greeted Odin and Eva with relief. Freja all but ran for Evangeline and hugged her tightly, while Kyrian gripped Odin in his arms like a father welcoming his son home. If he’d been able too, Odin would have blushed, and he hesitated out of surprise before closing his arms around the man. “Are you fit?” he asked gruffly, one of his arms bandaged. Odin quickly nodded.
“Aye. We fell beneath the ground. There are miles of tunnels below. We walked them until Nereus and Apollo found us.” Kyrian nodded as he pulled away, and his eyes surveyed their group intently as if looking for something. It took him a moment to realize that Kyrian had greeted him thusly not because he feared Odin dead… but, as they soon discovered, they hadn’t found Ursula.
According to Nox who seemed as surly as usual, the avalanche had stolen their gear and all but two elk, a reindeer, and both Yuger and Nox’s massive steed. When it had ended, they had lost sight of Eva, Mira, and Odin, and Ursula had gone missing as well. When they had regrouped, Nox had sent Destiny on ahead with Yanai- the next best thing to the Pathfinder- to plot their way. They could waste no more time. The rest of the group had remained behind to find the others. “We should make haste, if you two are fit,” he said as he finished tightening the belts he used as makeshift stays to keep Mira’s body bundled atop the other Elk. “We need to move quickly to reach the others. I have no doubt they’ve already found the next master gaurdsman. Or rather, he has found them…”
“How do you know that?” Otto asked skeptically.
“I am connected to Destiny in my own way,” he replied cryptically as he hoisted himself atop his massive, midnight horse. Kyrian, himself mounted none other than Yuger; Freja nestled against his chest. With the two other rides holding the injured members of their party, the rest of them were forced to walk along side them. Calder lead the elk holding Mira, reigns clutched in his hand, and glanced over at Eva and Odin who kept their own entwined.
“So… I’m assuming you both hit your head in the fall?” he quipped with a raised brow.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Odin frowned. The Prince shrugged.
“I mean that before the avalanche you both hated eachother. Now you’re all better?”
Odin was right of course… she wasn’t [i that] in control of her lightning. Ursula hadn’t taught her how to channel it yet, and Eva knew it was foolish to even attempt. She was just concerned for her sister, and desperate to save her. Odin managed to create a fire with his sword, it was small and didn’t do much for heat, but it did help light up the space, and Eva was able to tuck herself under a set of blankets with Odin’s help, and pulled Mira close to her. She was hopeful her body heat would be enough to help stave off Mira’s chill.
Laying down also proved Odin was right again, she was exhausted. In truth, if it wasn’t for her newfound Valkyrie powers… Eva wouldn’t have been able to come at all. She’d have died before they ever made it to Hammasbourg. She’d always been weak and slow, and fragile. What strength and stamina she had before, Eva had worked tirelessly to create in an effort to try and prove she wasn’t the poor sickly princess. The draw back to having the power she had now, meant she had no real conception of when to call it quits. Thankfully she had Odin to keep her in check, and she fell asleep with her eyes watching him before they slid shut and swallowed her back up in the darkness.
[i Eva felt she was jolted awake, but there was nothing but the dark cave. It was cold, and seemed endless. That was when Eva realized she wasn’t in the cave, but back in Aditchora. That was evident enough by the long dark hands that suddenly reached out for her with long sharp nails fro the shadows. Eva shouted out as they grabbed her, and the twisted face of Kaibe appeared. One eye dead, his face warped, his body misshapen, and dressed in black robes. His hair hung greasy in his face, and his teeth were filed to sharp points. He gripped her arms in his hands, shaking her violently.
“You did this to me!” He bellowed, spittle flying in his rage. “You left me here to rot, just like you’ll leave Mira! You selfish cunt! I hate you! I will never forgive you! I will find you and I will kill what you love most! I’ll rip his beating heart out of his chest and make you eat it!” Kaibe tilted his head back and began to laugh with a sinister cackle, dropping Eva who suddenly fell into the darkness. It felt never ending, the air rushing past her made it difficult to breathe, she couldn’t see where she fell from or where she was falling to. When she did land it was with a sickening smack of her body into the marbled floor of the Winter Court Throne room, but even it was twisted in shadow and darkness. A sickness had clearly moved in and tainted the place. Tiernan sat on his throne his red eyes watching her with amusement as she picked herself up from the floor.
“You really thought I’d let you get away that easily?” Tiernan asked getting up from his throne until he was suddenly before her and holding her up by her jaw. No matter how hard she tried to fight back, Tiernan held strong and she was nothing but a weakling. “I OWN YOU! You belong to me now, and you’ll do well to fucking remember it! This is what you get for running away… you did this.” He hissed at her, and the scene changed to a wintry courtyard of the Caslean Rarmarch. She looked up in horror to see it burning and crumbling to the ground, and not just the Caslean, but the surrounding villages too. Standing before her were large wooden Xs and tied to each one was a family member. Each of them had been flayed, and disemboweled, their innards spilling out from their severed torsos. Aiden’s eyes had been plucked and chained to him was the small body of Galen, his little blue body hanging limply off Aiden’s side, and the crows had already begun pecking at his newborn flesh. Her Father had been dismembered, his tongue was nailed through, forced to hang out of his mouth, and his hands had been crushed. Her mother was stripped nearly naked, and bound with rose quartz. No only was she disemboweled, but her heart had been carved out, and she was missing the two teeth that made her fangs, and her ears were cut away. They had harvested from her, but it was little Julian who stared at her with dead blue eyes, that had her crawling to get away. He wasn’t strung up like the others, he simply sat on the ground at their mother’s feet, his stomach cut open, and his mouth hung open. Behind her on the back of her neck she could feel Tiernan’s breath on her skin as he told her it was all her fault, but if she was a good little girl and came back… he might spare them all, but in Eva’s dream… it was all too late. As promised Kaibe dragged a bludgeoned Odin towards her and with a serrated dagger, he plunged it into Odin’s chest. Try as she might she couldn’t break free from Tiernan and save him. She was helpless, and she was helpless to stop Kaibe from coming at her with the knife next. She expected him to plunge it in her chest, but he stopped short and pressed a palm to her abdomen in an almost gentle way. She’d never felt so cold in her life. “If there is life in here… I will cut it out. I will see to it nothing ever grows here.” Eva felt only the sharp cold pain of steel in her womb before she finally jolted awake at the fading cries of a baby.]
Eva jumped up in the blankets a hand quickly rushing to her lower stomach. She licked her lips nervously and felt out the space of flesh under her trews. Her stomach was still flat, still taunt, and she felt nothing out of the ordinary… though… it was time for her to have her woman’s week. Eva would give it another day or two before she’d really start to worry about it, but the fact it hadn’t arrived yet was beginning to give her cause for concern. Eva laid back down, keeping herself calm, even as tears started to fall down her face. She had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn’t still dreaming. The images of her nightmare still fresh in her mind. The cave was dark, save for the ragged breathing of Mira, and the gentle snoring of Odin, Eva was able to listen and know she wasn’t in that place, that it was only a bad dream. She didn’t tell Odin what her dreams were about, even though he’d been there to hold her while sleeping before. Not having him next to her the past couple weeks had been far more difficult than Eva might have anticipated. Though she’d been doing better about the nightmares, they still affected her, and this one had seemed so real.
She laid beside Mira for the next few hours, unable to sleep, but when Mira finally started to move, Eva’s disquiet was replaced with relief. She gasped, sitting up and looking Mira over.
“Praise the Amphi, you’re awake!” She breathed with a smile. Mira had a high fever, and was shivering, but she was awake. Quickly Eva got up and crawled over to Odin and shook him awake to show him Mira.
“Mira is awake,” She gave him a moment to process the news before she moved to reach for a bit of leftover bread and began to break it up for Mira to eat. “When you feel up for it, we’ll start moving. We can’t stay here and need to find a way out so we can regroup with the others.” If the made it. That was another thing bothering Eva. How were the others doing? Was Palo alright? What about Calder? Her mother, little Freja? Too many unknowns, and Eva was too like her father that she hated what those unknowns did to her. Made her rife with anxiety, but gave her focus and purpose. They’d find their way out, they’d get their answers, just one step at a time. First things first. Mira needed to get well enough for them to move.
She was unconscious, and her head lolled to the side as Eva all but lunged forward, pulling her from Odin’s grasp and cradling her in her arms. With fear in her eyes, she dipped her head and pressed it to her chest while Odin busied himself digging the snow out from around them and moving the dead reindeer. “Her breath is weak... It sounds... muddled like something is keeping her from breathing... and her heart rate is weak. She needs a healer...”
“Don’t worry. We’ll find someone,” Odin replied with a breath as he shoved the creature to the side. His response did little to calm the distress that gleamed in Eva’s gaze, and Odin didn’t blame her. They were gods’ knew how far under the surface and no idea how to escape. Swallowing, Eva cupped Mira’s face in her hand.
“Mira? Mira, it’s Eva. Please hang on! We’ll find a way out of here!”
“Here,” Odin said, and Eva looked up to find him shrugging out of his parka. They worked together to exchange it for Mira’s soaked one; working quickly to thatch up the laces.
“We need to start a fire...” Eva suggested. Odin frowned.
“Eva… I don’t think…”
“Do you see any bits of wood lying around? I know the avalanche took down trees, perhaps there’s pieces of one here? I think I can, or rather... I want to try and see if I can’t start a fire with my lightning!” He glanced around, his eyes shifting along the walls of the enclosed space.
“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea. Even if we had wood, your lightning could cause more damage than good. In such an enclosed space-”
“She’s ice cold, Odin! If we can’t...” Her voice broke and she curled around Mira and held her closely. “I did not spend a year in Fey doing all I could to reunite Belle back with her mother, just for her to perish in a cave. If there’s a chance, I’m going to take it.”
“Eva…” Odin breathed, pity in his gaze. He reached out and gripped her shoulder, but she merely closed her eyes and buried her face in her sister’s frozen hair. Odin sighed and dropped his arm, eyes once more peering through the cavern as his soul begged for an answer. They fell on the rubble that littered the ground where Mira had fallen through and suddenly they widened in realization. Immediately he stood and made his way a few steps over, bending to pluck a chunk of chipped stone off the ground. Turning it over in his hands, he examined it for a moment before grabbing the hilt of his sword and unsheathing it. Lifting it, he held it out, and after a moment of hesitation he took the stone and struck it against the blade. It made a loud ‘clang’ that echoed in the hollow space. He repeated the action again, and sure enough a shimmer of sparse sparks glittered mere moments in the blackness. On the third strike, the sparks rained down, bouncing off the floor and the toes of his boots. Turning he held them up with a triumphant smile to Eva whose face was awash with relief and happiness.
Laying Mira to the side, the two of them made quick work to gather up what little resources they had to burn, going so far as to remove their tunics, and shear the strips of fur from their parka hoods. Inside the saddle bags on the reindeer they found a few items of merit they could burn, along with two thickly rolled blankets. Piling the perishables in a tight mass, they used the sparks to set them alight.the two of Immediately the cavern filled with a warm glow and Evangeline pulled on her parka to cover her chilled skin before moving Mira to one of the blankets directly beside it, while Odin borrowed her Valkyrie’s spear to slice into the reindeer’s hide and cut a portion of meat they could cook over the flames. The fire wasn’t strong enough to do much more than make it hot, but the two of them ignored the fact and downed the meal with gusto, washing the remnants from their hands in pools of melted snow. Afterwards, Odin sat cross-legged, elbows braced against his knees while Eva poked at the fire with the spear, desperate to keep it going for as long as they could. They were quiet, sharing simple smiles, as their hands gently entwined. It wasn’t until he saw Eva trying not to yawn for the third time did he give her a look. “Why don’t you lay down with your sister? The body heat will help. You’re exhausted.” When she accused him of being no different he merely cupped her face and brushed his thumb along he cheek. “I’ll stay up and keep the fire going for as long as I can.” Eva finally complied, and Odin took the second blanket and laid it over them, smiling gently as he tucked Eva’s hair behind her ear. “I love you,” he said softly, leaning down to press a kiss to her forehead and then to her lips, and then settled down and tossed what was left of their supper into the fire, letting the fat coax the flames higher.
Odin swore he never fell asleep, but sure enough, he found himself ay some point be shaken awake by Eva. Blinking rapidly, he grunted, immediately plagued by severely stiff muscles, thanks to falling asleep sitting up. “E-Eva? Wh-a- what is it?” he yawned. It took him a moment to realize she was smiling, and she quickly showed him Mira who peered up at him through heavy, bruised lids. He was wheezing, desperate for breath, and her skin speckled with a sheen of sweat, but she was awake.
Odin didn’t believe her at first, but boy did she grin ear to ear when Odin finally stopped her a mile later in another cavernous chamber claiming he saw something. She waited as asked, with baited breath at what he might find. She couldn’t see, but she could imagine what was happening, and tried to picture things in her mind. The size of the cave, where Odin’s footsteps were headed, and what he could have possibly drew his sword for. Then again, this was Odin and he never took chances. She felt he was taking too long, but that might have also been in part that Eva was anxious to know as she couldn’t see.
Whatever it was, it must not have been a threat, as Odin sheathed his sword and she peeled away from the wall. She was tempted to disobey and go to his side regardless of what it was.
“What do you see?” She called into the darkness with a whisper.
“It’s one of the reindeer. Poor thing must have died from the fall...” Eva frowned as she began to shuffle her feet towards the sound of Odin’s voice. She strained her ears further to listen for signs of life. She had just heard the coughing not a moment ago!
“Are you certain it’s dead?” She asked, still able to hear something like a heart beating.
“Pretty sure, why?”
“It doesn’t sound dead to me... I hear... a heartbeat...” She frowned not sounding so sure of herself and placed a hand to one of her ears. Maybe she wasn’t hearing correctly?
No it certainly wasn’t that, as not a moment longer came a haggard, wheeze of air. Lungs rattling with the threat of death, and weakness.
“I hear it again, Odin... it can’t be dead,” She tried finally making her way over to him by following her ears to his strong loud heartbeat. She knew he believed her, or maybe he heard it too because she heard him shifting snow around until he gasped. “Wha-“
“What is it?” She asked nervously.
“There’s someone here.” something in Eva fluttered with hope, and pride. She [i had] heard someone! She helped him move the reindeer out of the way and dug out the snow further with him, feeling out for anything firm and unmoving.
“If it’s a reindeer... Odin, only Yanai or Mira were riding the reindeer...” She grew nervous “Who... who is it?” She asked
“Oh God -it’s Mira!” He gasped.
“Mira!” She reached forward hoping to get her hands on her sister and pull her to safety. “Her breath is weak...” Eva said pressing her ear to Mira’s chest. “It sounds... muddled like something is keeping her from breathing... and her heart rate is weak. She needs a healer...” Eva breathed sitting back up and cradling Mira against her in the hopes of warming her up. She had been the first to fall.
“Mira? Mira, it’s Eva, please hang on. We’ll find a way out of here.” She was for the most part unresponsive, but after having the pressure of the reindeer off of her, breathing slowly came easier, but she was nowhere near out of the woods.
Eva was too afraid to move her sister, at least not until she had woken up and could tell them how she was. She looked to Odin with concern over what they could do to survive, and now things were more complicated with Mira. Her mind rushed to find a solution to their problem, but without any light to see it made things that much more difficult.
“We need to start a fire...” She suggested, but without a way to light it how would they do that? She was instantly reminded of how she had burned Odin with her lightning. She’d been better at controlling it, and she’d seen what a bolt of lightning could do to a tree... perhaps she could make a flame if they could only find a bit of wood... “Odin, do you see any bits of wood lying around. I know the avalanche took down trees, perhaps there’s pieces of one here? I think I can, or rather... I want to try and see if I can’t start a fire with my lightning.” She couldn’t see him but she looked to the sound of his steady breathing, her expression hopeful. “She’s ice cold, Odin. If we can’t...” Her voice broke and she curled around Mira and held her closely, desperate to get her warm, and get some sort of response from her other than haggard breathing. She took a deep breath to calm herself and looked into the darkness as if it might have the answer. Sighing she spoke with less vibrato, and more fierce determination. “I did not spend a year in Fey doing all I could to reunite Belle back with her mother, just for her to perish in a cave. If there’s a chance, I’m going to take it.”
The caverns were eerie, or so Odin thought. It wasn’t so much the darkness or the cold; neither of which much bothered him. But rather it was the emptiness. But for a few select stalagtites that hung down from the ceiling, the two of them passed nothing but the odd boulder or two. There was no signs of life, and no sounds but for the distant rush of running water; most likely the snowmelt from the outside weather. Although Odin didn’t feel like coming up against any lifeforms that might have been hiding, he had to admit that the he didn’t like the odds of having no food or water for the however long they might take to find their way out. Eva might have been able to survive on blood, but Odin would have to eat and drink eventually.
“It’s definitely running water I hear…” Eva whispered at one point as he helped her over a protruding boulder from the ground, his hands griping her waist as she set a hand to his shoulder.
“Good. If you can hear it, chances are there some kind of opening that it’s coming from. Depending on where it is, it could be our ticket out of this place.” She giggled in response as he set her on the ground. Odin frowned. “What’s so funny?”
“It’s just like any other walk in the forest with you… helping me over rocks and jumping over streams, and Allhalla forbid if there was a muddy puddle in our path.” She sighed and hugged his arm tight to her as they traversed the path. “You always managed to pick me up and carry me across.” She pressed a kiss to his bicep. “Always protected me during storms too…” she drew him to a stop, and she held his hand tightly. “I’m glad I’m with you…”
“Me too. This place… it’s giving me the creeps. I have to admit I wouldn’t want to be down here alone.”
“The dark it,” Eva suddenly said, her voice growing quiet. “It reminds me of… of the place where I died.”
Odin paused, and looked down at her. She stared straight ahead, and although he knew she couldn’t see, something about her expression was as if she was looking at something in the darkness. He felt her tense. His hand squeezed hers. “Come on,” he urged her forward. “Tell me about it. I was in Fey for such a short time. I only saw a few things. I can’t imagine what it was like for you.”
“It was called… Aditchoria- a dark void where I met the great evil we are to face.” Odin blinked in surprise.
“You met it?” She nodded.
“I was left in there for what felt like months. Alone, cold, unable to see, no sound, and no hope of escape. By the time I went, I didn’t even have the strength to scream or cry. The only thought on my mind was how I had failed Belle, and that I’d never get to see you again. That’s how I saw you in my mind before all the pain ended. Handed extended out with that warm smile of yours to lead me across from the world of the living.” Odin felt a pang in his chest that had his jaw tightening in anger. The thought that his precious Evangeline had been left to die, cold and alone made him want to find Tiernan and run the bastard through- over, and over, and over again.
“I’m sorry you were alone,” he said, his voice rough. “I did everything I could to find you, and when I did, I forced Nox to take me there as soon as he could. He told me I would have to die to do it. In that way… I guess we’re not so different. But you can be sure,” he paused and turned to hold her to him. “I’ll never let you be alone.”
“I missed you,” she whispered, cupping his face. “And now that I have you, I’m never letting you go.” She pulled his lips down to hers and Odin kissed her deeply.
It was during the kiss Eva heard a new sound and she broke the kiss, and slapped a hand over Odin’s puckered lips. “Mph?!” he managed, eyes snapping open in surprise.
“Shh!” she snapped. Her ear twitched as the sound came again. “I hear something… it’s…” He frowned as she released him and stretched her arms out, wandering through the darkness until she found the far wall. When she was quiet for what he thought was far too long, Odin frowned.
“Eva? It was probably just the water-” She cut him off with a gasp.
“I hear coughing!” Odin blinked.
“Like… from a person?” She glanced back at him.
“It’s faint, but it’s coming from that way,” she pointed further down the path. “Maybe it’s one from our group!” He glanced upwards, listening for what she heard, but he couldn’t make out anything more than the stagnant air.
“If you say so,” he said, and made his way to take her hand.
Leading her down the path, they walked for nearly another mile before the path changed, and the ground became covered in the remnants of snow. Glancing up, he half expected to see some kind of crack of light from the outside, but it too was covered, and he was certain the avalanche had seen to that. The coughing Eva had claimed to hear also caught his ears- tiny and faint, and had she not told him about it, he probably wouldn’t of heard it at all. Up ahead, he could make out where the majority of the snow had fallen, piling up in the center of another large, open cavern. In the very center was a large dark mass. Immediately he pulled Eva to a halt. “There’s something up ahead,” he frowned when she asked him why they stopped. Pulling her to the edge of the wall he squeezed her hand. “Stay here. Let me check it out.” Unsheathing his sword, he edged forward, his eyes seeking out shapes in the pile of snow. When he was almost upon it, he finally realized what he was looking at, and sheathed his blade. “It’s one of the reindeer,” he called out to Eva, taking a knee as he brushed the snow away. “Poor thing must have died from the fall…” He sighed, rubbing at his chin as he tried to think of what to do with it. Reindeer meant meat, but he didn’t have the means to start a fire. Could you eat it raw?
“Are you sure it’s dead?” Eva asked. He frowned.
“Pretty sure? Why?”
“It doesn’t sound dead…” He glanced at it once more, and laid a hand upon it. The animal was definitely dead, not even moving when he pressed down against its chest. It took him a moment before he realized what Evangeline was hearing. The sound was faint- so inaudible he hadn’t even noticed it and he was right next to it; a gurgling, wheezing sort of sound that seemed to come from under the deer. Frowning, he dug through the snow, and then pushed the animal to the side, and as he did, his eyes widened. There was a body underneath it. “Holy shit!” he breathed. “There’s someone here.” Evangeline, following his voice, joined him, and together they managed to remove the dead weight. It wasn’t until the reindeer had been moved did Odin recognize the blood-spattered face. “Oh god- it’s Mira!”
He tasted divine! She had missed the feeling of him against her for the past two weeks. She was so happy she felt she could burst. She was instantly wrapped up in the feel and taste of him that she nearly forgot to breathe. The cold damp wall of the cave slammed against her back and from there was it sweet pressure. For a moment they were able to escape the truth that they were trapped in a cave. It didn’t matter to Eva, all that mattered was she had Odin back. Their moment of bliss was broken only by a final rumble and shiver of the cavern. Snow packed down over the top of their only would be exit, and their only source of light. Eva gasped, a cold feeling of dread washing over her. Her hands fisted tighter against Odin’s parka that her claws threatened to puncture holes through the thick furs, and her legs wrapped tighter around his hips. She had to remind herself she was only trapped in a cave, and she was with Odin… This was [i not] the dark room. For a moment she was trapped in the horrific idea that Kaibe and the Uriac-Dhun would emerge from the pitch blackness.
Odin drew breath, and Eva honed in on it, and slowly other sounds began to filter in.
“We’re really trapped now…” her voice was barely a whisper as Odin set her down, she curled closer to him as her vision adjusted. Slowly but surely she could make out faint shadows, but nothing with true clarity. “I can’t see anything,” she managed with a shaky breath. She was trembling the slightest. Horrific flashes of her time in the void made her shake her head in hopes of shaking those memories away. It took Odin tensing beside her for her to pull her mind from caving into fear. “Odin? What is it?” She asked nervously.
She found it funny now that he’d been so worried she wouldn’t need him, and yet here she was clinging to him because she was terrified. Not from the fact they were trapped underground, but from the suffocating darkness surrounding her.
“It’s alright,” he quickly assured her. “It’s just… I can see. Must be Nox’s magic…”
“Oh…” Eva blinked. “I guess that makes us lucky. Do you see a way to go?” She asked, waiting in the hollow echo of the caves as he looked around.
“I’m going to be honest… I have no idea what direction to go…”
Eva frowned, and if Odin couldn’t see their way out, perhaps she might hear something?” With her arms wrapped firmly around Odin’s arm, Eva focused her ears to listen. She heard the dripping of water, and something else. It was a constant sound, never rising or falling in pitch, but rather hollow in tone. Running water? Wind? Maybe if they went that way they would find a way out?
“We need to go that way,” she said confident she had heard wind.
“Huh?” Frowning she lifted a finger and tapped her ears.
“Hyper sensitive hearing remember?” She teased. “These ears aren’t for show… Besides, I can hear something… something like… running water. Or wind. In that direction. Water or air- either way they both lead to the outside. We should follow it. Don’t you think?” She couldn’t make out his face, but she did feel him take her hand in his.
“Well Miss Scarlet, between my eyes and your ears, we should be out of this place in no time. Shall we?” She smiled, she could hear his in his voice.
“Only if you promise not to let go. I can’t see, it’s all dark and even darker shadows.” Odin assured her with a squeeze of her hand he wouldn’t let go.
It wasn’t enough for Eva as they made their way through the tunnel slowly. She was glad she wasn’t separated from Odin after the fall. Without his presence she was sure she would have lost her mind being in this darkness. It was too reminiscent of Aditchoria. Perhaps that event had turned her previous fear of lightning into her strength, but she had unwillingly traded it for a fear of darkness. She kept her ears open though, and she knew they were going the right way because the sound was getting louder.
“It’s definitely running water I hear…” Eva whispered at one point before the reached another split. Odin gave her the layout of their choices, and she listened down each tunnel to find their running water. He was her eyes in the darkness, and one point he helped her over a protruding boulder from the ground and she was reminded of times long ago.
“It’s just like any other walk in the forest with you… helping me over rocks and jumping over streams, and Allhalla forbid if there was a muddy puddle in our path.” She sighed as she jumped down with his help from the boulder she could not see. “You always managed to pick me up and carry me across.” She gave him a kiss to his arm, since she was holding it and knew where it was. “Always protected me during storms too…” she drew him to a stop, and she held his hand tightly. “I’m glad I’m with you… The dark it… it reminds me of… of the place where I died.” She confessed. “Aditchoria was a dark void where I met the great evil we are to face. I was left in there for what felt like months. Alone, cold, unable to see, no sound, and no hope of escape. By the time I went, I didn’t even have the strength to scream or cry. The only thought on my mind was how I had failed Belle, and that I’d never get to see you again. That’s how I saw you in my mind before all the pain ended. Handed extended out with that warm smile of yours to lead me across from the world of the living. I missed you, and now that I have you, I’m never letting you go.” She smiled for him, and felt his hand on her face. She follow his lead and she kissed him.
It was during the kiss Eva heard a new sound and she broke the kiss, and slapped a hand over Odin’s puckered lips. “Shh!” She snapped. Her ear twitched as the sound came again. “I hear something… it’s…” She stepped away from Odin, walking with a hand on the wall towards the sound. The sound had faded, and so she waited in tense silence, hoping it would make itself known again, and it did not a moment later. Eva gasped realizing what it was. “I hear coughing… It’s faint, but it’s coming from that way. “Maybe it’s one from our group!” She held here hand out for Odin to take and lead her the way her ears directed them.
Eva shook her head and forced him back into her arms. “I love you too…” her voice finally broke, but her tears did not last. They fell delicately down her cheeks, but she smiled all the same. Odin smiled too, and for the first time in a month it was a true smile. His old smile.
“My beautiful Valkyrie…” he whispered, sweeping his thumbs across her cheeks to wipe away her tears. She let out a gentle laugh before burying herself in his chest and he held her tightly against him until she stepped back and wiped away her tears.
“Alright,” she finally sighed out. “Odin Attercop, I’m going to tell you something right now, and don’t you dare ever forget it,” she pointed an accusing finger at him with comical cuteness. He smirked and made an ‘x’ motion against his chest.
“Cross my non-existent heart.” She giggled.
“You are more than just my champion,” she said. “You are my everything, and there will never, do you hear me? Never be a time that I will not need you.” That accusing finger reached out and hooked a handful of fabric of his heavy parka drawing him closer, her voice growing softer. “I may not need you in the ways I once did, but there are many more that I need you for. I need my best friend, without you I am lost, and perhaps that makes me weak, but I don’t see how this life is worth living if I can’t live it with you.” She rose to her tip toes to nuzzle her nose against his, and holding him closely to her. “I need you to be my husband because no one else will do. I need you to care for my heart because you’re the only one that can keep it safe, even if you’re also the one who can destroy it. It’s yours because I trust you with all that I am. It’s yours because I love you. I do need you Odin, and not just me… but…” her words trailed away and she frowned.
Odin frowned too, lifting a hand to touch his fingers to her face. “Eva? What is it?” She nibbled her lip for a moment, eyes averted, before finally meeting his gaze; cheeks pinked. “It won’t always be just us. One day… there -there might be three of us.” He blinked, confusion in her gaze before it dawned on him what she meant. A baby. The thought made him blush.
“Ah… that is…” He quickly cleared his throat. “I know.” She reached up and gripped his sleeves tight, her expression determined.
“And if you think I won’t need you, then you’re sorely mistaken.” She brushed his hair from his face.
“We’ve both been through too much to be together for it to fall apart. If Lapsus really thinks he can come between us, he has another thing coming.” Odin’s smile faltered but she was quick to grip his cheeks in her delicate and chilled hands. “I won’t let him have you. I’ll make sure you never forget how much I need and love you, I’ll drive you mad with attention and fill every dark corner with as much happiness as I can, so he can never reach into your heart again!” she proclaimed, and he smiled then and took her hands from his face, pressing a gentle kiss into each of her palms.
“I love you Evangeline.” Her eyes filled with tears again and before he could stop her, she leaped upon him; claiming his lips with hers.
The kiss was incredible. As if to keep her word even then, the taste and heat of it filled every facet of him until it had taken over his brain, and suddenly he was meeting her mouth with his own, in a flurried frenzy that eventually had him falling forward until her back hit the wall and they were tangled up in each other. He did not know how long it was, but they lost themselves In one another, only stopped by another loud rumble, and the sudden snuffing out of the last but of light that came from the opening. Both of them stared upwards through the darkness, and Odin felt her tense against him. He let out a breath, a bit tense himself. “We’re really trapped now…” she breathed softly and he let her slide down, her boots thudding on the stone floor.
“Seems like it,” he answered, just as softly. It was as if the darkness prompted their silence, lest something in the blackness hear them. And it got Odin thinking, these cavers were now doubt eons old… there was bound to be something living in them. Without warning, something seemed to heat just behind his eyes, inside his head, and without warning everything became clear; as if the light had never left them. He sucked in a breath, blinking in surprise. It prompted Eva to grab his sleeve.
“It’s alright,” he quickly assured her. “It’s just… I can see. Must be Nox’s magic…” He gazed around, and his eyes found the four other caves that surrounded them. “I’m going to be honest… I have no idea what direction to go…” Eva was quiet for a moment, glancing around, though it was obvious her sight was hardly compared to his. Without warning she lifted a hand and pointed towards the opening, second from them.
“That way,” she said confidently.
“Huh?” Frowning she lifted a finger and tapped her ears.
“I can hear something… something like… running water. Or wind. In that direction. Water or air- either way they both lead to the outside. We should follow it.” Odin smiled.
“Well Miss Scarlet, between my eyes and your ears, we should be out of this place in no time.” Reaching out he took her hand and brought it to his lips for a quick kiss. “Shall we?” he smiled and together they headed through the darkness.
Eva was caught off guard by the proclamation of that name. She hadn’t thought that possible. She had heard of the creature from her studies with her mother. Afterall, Eva was intended to be the wife to a Prince of the Gods, she had ought to know all there was. Her own confusion was answered in Odin’s explanation of what Nox had told him, and his confession of the darkness in his mind. Her eyes never left him, even as he stood up with his back to her and walked away. She could see how tense his shoulders were, but he spoke plainly and honestly about the effects Eva’s changes had on him. He’d been jealous and afraid of the new friends Eva had made, and his fear that she was leaving him behind. Her brow furrowed in sadness to hear that. She didn’t want to be among the list of those he felt abandoned by.
She stood up slowly, her ears primed to every word he spoke. He said he had been weak, tired and overworked, and that was how Lapsus had managed to make a claim on Odin.
“He whispered all the things I feared. Made me see things that weren’t really there.”
“Like what?” Eva dared to ask.
“Like you… with Calder. Or the priest. Or even Apollo.” Eva blanched, surely Odin could have seen past those lies.. only he hadn’t. It explained so much though, and Eva was reminded of the words Destiny spoke to her.
[i ‘Odin has a parasite…’]
Nox’s words too rang in her head.
[i ‘Your man is not himself…’]
She felt a shiver, for it had all be true. She was suddenly overcome with Guilt for having not seen it. It wasn’t Odin that was pushing her away… it had been Lapsus. Manipulation was done best when one alienated their victim. From where she stood watching him, she could see his hands fisted tightly at his sides.
“And damn it, it makes me so angry… Because I told myself, when I proposed to you I made a promise to love you for every moment of every day. And those days that are gone from my memory… are moments I’ll never get back with you.” She couldn’t stop herself if she tried. Feeling his pain, his guilt and his sorrow, she rushed towards him until she all but slammed against his back. Her hands wrapped around him with a ferocity that promised to never let him go.
“Oh Odin, I wish you had told me…” She whispered against him, her voice ready to break from emotion.
“I was weak Evangeline… and I’m so sorry.”
“It’s all forgiven,” She told him breathlessly, sniffling as he turned to face her. To see his smile again, made her giggled lightly and reach up to cup his face the way he held her own.
“You’re right,” he said, his voice soft. “You can take care of yourself now. I just don’t want to hold you back. So I became distant so that I didn’t interfere. I stayed away… because I love you.” Eva shook her head and forced him back into her arms.
“I love you too…” her voice finally broke, but her tears did not last. They fell delicately down her cheeks, but she smiled all the same.
She held him for a long while, overjoyed to be back in his arms, before finally stepping back to wipe away her tears. She composed herself with one heavy breath, head tipped back and shaking her hands loose. Once calmed down from the flux of emotions raging inside her, she was able to breathe and look up at him with a clear expression of absolute love.
“alright,” She finally sighed out. “Odin Attercop, I’m going to tell you something right now, and don’t you dare ever forget it.” She pointed an accusing finger at him with comical cuteness. “You are more than just my Champion.” She informed him, sounding more like a motivational speaker than his betrothed. “You are my everything, and there will never, do you hear me? [i Never] be a time that I will not need you.” That accusing finger reached out and hooked a handful of fabric of his heavy parka drawing him closer, her voice growing softer. “I may not need you in the ways I once did, but there are many more that I need you for. I need my best friend, without you I am lost, and perhaps that makes me weak, but I don’t see how this life is worth living if I can’t live it with you.” She rose to her tip toes to nuzzle her nose against his, and holding him closely to her. “I need you to be my husband because no one else will do. I need you to care for my heart because you’re the only one that can keep it safe, even if you’re also the one who can destroy it. It’s yours because I trust you with all that I am. It’s yours because I love you. I do need you Odin, and not just me… but…” her words trailed away and she frowned.
To tell him or not? It still hadn’t shown, but she wasn’t even certain herself. However her need to be upfront and honest with Odin prevailed over her desire to keep it hidden. He was waiting for her to finish, and she did so with a feverish blush to her cheeks. “It won’t always be just us. One day… there -there might be three of us.” She had to take a calming breath to hide the fact she was truly concerned that day might be sooner than later. “And if you think I won’t need you, then you’re sorely mistaken.” Finally she smiled and it was tender and sweet. Her eyes roamed over his handsome face, his blood red curls clinging to his cheeks, and his intense blue eyes staring right into her soul. She was overcome with a great urge to kiss him, instead she reached up and brushed his hair from his face. “We’ve both been through too much to be together for it to fall apart. If Lapsus really thinks he can come between us, he has another thing coming. I won’t let him have you. I’ll make sure you never forget how much I need and love you, I’ll drive you mad with attention and fill every dark corner with as much happiness as I can so he can never reach into your heart again!” She proclaimed and finally it was she who jumped up to wrap her arms around his shoulders and meet his lips with hers.
It had been two weeks since he’d kissed her last, and the result was an explosion of pent up lust he hadn’t realized he’d been harboring. It was made worse when he arched into him, lips parting to accept his tongue. His hands clenched around her, delving into her silky hair as he went to take advantage of her open mouth, but before he suddenly found himself across the cavern, sliding with a hard slam into the icy, stone wall behind him. The sudden impact caused a curtain of snow to let loose from the opening high above them and it fell to the floor of the cavern with a loud rumble. Breathing hard he stared at her as she pushed up to her knees, her chest heaving, the fur of her parka clinging to her wet hair around her pointed ears.
For a long time they stared at one another, and Odin felt like an idiot as he watched her eventually crawl to sit against the other end of the wall. Hugging herself as she gazed upwards, waiting- as he was- for the rumbling of the avalanche to die off. Afterwards it became eerily silent, save for the dripping of melting snow. No voices. No calls from the others. His stomach twisted ever so slightly with the wonder of what had happened to their companions, but honestly he was far too relieved that he at least knew Eva was alive and well. He finally took a moment to peer around. Despite the fact that several hundreds of feet above him he could see the hint of sunlight, they had fallen too far for it to make much of a difference. The result was dimly lit cavern bordered by multiple openings in various sizes that lead to branching paths. His mind immediately went to Shtra’vanger and the memory of massive nesting place the people used to escape from the storms. He recalled Nad’ja’s description of the cave systems; carved from the waters of ancient, melting glaciers. The problem was, they had been traveling for almost three days now, and there was no telling how far from the village’s caverns they were… or if the cavern they were in was even connected…
“I think we’re trapped down here until we can find a way out,” Eva muttered softly, her words echoing in the emptiness. He glanced over at her and sighed, pushing up against the wall to stand. He brushed the snow that still clung to him away, happy to find that none of his clothing had torn in the fall and that his sword remained belted faithfully at his side.
“I fear you’re right,” he replied, and looked once more at the distant exit. “Don’t suppose you could… do that thing you can do? Up to there?” He pointed and she followed his gesture with an apologetic frown.
“Phasing.” He blinked.
“That thing? It’s called phasing. Or at least… that’s what Ursula calls it,” she blushed and tucked a lock of hair behind her air.
“Oh,” he murmured, feeling sheepish. “Can you?” She glanced upwards again before solemnly shaking her head.
“No… It’s too far. And the avalanche pushed us… off course. I wouldn’t know where to go. I could end up phasing us into the middle of the mountain. Then we’d both be dead.” He sighed and closed his eyes.
“You’re right. My mistake…”
“Come sit with me?”
Odin’s eyes snapped open and he stared at her in surprise. It was the last thing he thought she’d ask. She patted the stone floor beside her. “Let’s figure this out.” For a moment he couldn’t move, his reply caught in his throat. His hesitation made her expression fade into one of concern and she held out a hand. “Please?” she asked, her tone hushed. He quickly came to sit beside her, and although he was eager to hold her hand… he didn’t. They both stared at their boots.
“Eva… I’m sorry…” he finally said. She didn’t say anything at first, and he was fearing his luck had run out before she finally spoke again. When she did, her tone was flighty- soft and broken. Like she was holding in tears. He hated the sound.
“I don’t want to continue this way. I want things to go back to the way they used to be…” He looked at her and found her blue eyes dark with sadness, and pale cheeks flushed as she bit her lip. “Back when my greatest fear was Sora Johanson.” She let out a half laugh at the thought, her eyes on her hands that fidgeted together in her lap. Tears filled her eyes. “Now it’s… that you don’t trust me, and that you truly don’t want me.” Her voice wavered and he quickly reached out and grabbed her hand. She didn’t pull it back and he held on tight.
“That’s not true!” he exclaimed, ferocity coating the words. “That will never be true.” She lifted her eyes to him, and what little light the cavern could boast was caught in the glistening tears that gathered at her lashes. It made them large and luminous, and although he hated to admit it, he finally understood what it meant when he’d heard the rumor about his sister being beautiful when she cried. Eva was beautiful too… those tears like stars. But if he had a heart it would have broken at the sight of them.
“Eva…” he breathed, and reached out with his free hand to cup her face. She sniffed, holding back the tears even as her lips trembled.
“Something has been bothering you, but you won’t talk to me! I can’t help you if you won’t talk!” Odin’s eyes widened, and his hand twitched as if to pull away, but she was quick to grab it and hold it to her. “What are you so afraid of, Odin?!” she begged. “Have I changed too much? It’s not like I asked for this… All I wanted was to be with you.” Finally, she released him, pressing a clenched fist to her chest as she pulled away, head turned to hide her face behind a curtain of darkness that had grown thicker and more lustrous with her Valkyrie change. “I know you said it was over… but it’s not over for me. It never will be, but I can’t do this game of never knowing when you’ll be content and when you’ll be angry. I don’t know what I did, but…” She lifted her face enough to peer at him, longing in her eyes that cut him to the core. “I’m sorry.” Odin stared at her for a long moment and suddenly the word flew out of his mouth without a chance to stop it.
He swallowed at her confusion, and looked away, eyes shifting across the floor as if looking for something to shield him from what he was convinced would be her disgust. “Lapsus… came to me. I don’t know how or why. I thought… I thought he was just with my brother, but… Nox says that he has the power to travel great distances. To latch onto… shadows in our minds. If we have them. And I had them.” He lifted a hand to scratch at his chin which had grown a shade of stubble in his lack to take care of himself. Ta’tarans didn’t grow facial hair, but his mother’s blood flowed through his veins. After a moment he stood and took a few steps forward, setting his hands on his hips and squaring his shoulders as he finally told her the truth. “When you changed… it was a lot. It wasn’t just your transformation… not just the eyes or ears… You changed… so much. And I worried that you were forgetting about me. I watched you train with Ursula… and she taught you differently then how I taught you. And you stopped asking for my help. You started to laugh and smile at others the way you used to laugh and smile with me. Just me. I didn’t feel special to you anymore, Eva. I didn’t feel like yours. I took care of you for so long, that when you didn’t need caring for… it also felt like you didn’t need me. And you were the last person who ever needed me, Evageline. Alex became king, and the whole country looked to him. Kyrian… Kyrian started to look to him. Your mother would call on just him. Talk to just him. Attica left us for Ryudan, and she fell in love, so she didn’t need her brothers anymore. Even Aiden… he’s… he’s gone too. My best friend. Helping his father rule a kingdom. My father left me… My mother did to. Mathias… Mathias left too…” His shoulders sagged. “I wasn’t… special to anyone any more. I wasn’t… needed.”
He swallowed and lifted his head to stare up at that tiny speck of light. “And then, when I was needed again… it wasn’t because I was Odin. I was just… the prince. They expected me to carry out his orders. All of them. I got… so tired. Exhausted. And Lapsus saw it. He saw I was weak… and he took advantage of me. He whispered all the things I feared. Made me see things that weren’t really there. Like you… with Calder. Or the priest. Or even Apollo. He reminded me of how lonely I was. My anger built and suddenly… I wasn’t me anymore. I stopped wanting to be me. So Lapsus took over. He filtered through my blood like poison. There are nights I don’t remember- days even… where there was just… nothing. I don’t remember them at all.” He clenched his fists. “And damn it, it makes me so angry… Because I told myself, when I proposed to you I made a promise to love you for every moment of every day. And those days that are gone from my memory… are moments I’ll never get back with you.” There was a rush of footsteps, and suddenly her arms were around him, her hands gripping painfully tight in his stomach and chest as her face pressed to his back. He smiled and gently placed his hands over hers. “I was weak Evangeline… and I’m so sorry.” Gently he pried her grip from him and turned to cup her face, smiling down as she stared up at him. “You’re right,” he said, his voice soft. “You can take care of yourself now. I just don’t want to hold you back. So I became distant so that I didn’t interfere. I stayed away… because I love you.”
Sometimes Eva hated when she was right. She heard the cracking of ice and snow once again, right before part of it fell with Mira. It was just one section that broke away. The entire sheet that began to tumble shifted and dropped almost 150 feet above them and just beneath them. “Avalanche!” Ursula shouted. Eva’s heart leapt with panic. All around her chaos ensued. She heard Yuger shout and Ursula do the same, Eva watched in horror as Ursula was quickly caught by a rouge tree that snapped and fell towards them. It struck Ursula clean out of her saddle and carried her down over the side of the mountain. Yuger in his own panic was caught in the snow and carried away like the rest. She couldn’t see her mother or Mira at the front of the line. At first she reached for Calder who rode close by, but a section rushed right beside her taking Calder away. Ahead she saw Kyrain managing to keep his elk above the torrent of snow falling under them. Eva wasn’t as skilled riding an elk, but she was an impressive rider. She used those skills to try and keep her elk up and above the snow as well, determined to survive if she could. She wasn’t about to let this take her down -not when Tiernan still needed destroying.
“Evangeline!” She almost didn’t hear him over the roar of rushing snow, but she had heard him. She felt his own fear, and knew it wasn’t a figment of her imagination. His tossing of her note hadn’t gone unnoticed, and it had broke her heart. Now she could see him trying to urge his elk towards her, with an extended arm. She didn’t think, she reached for him in hopes she might reach him. It didn’t stop the sensation of the ground falling out from under her. She kicked her feet out of the stirrups quickly and tried to jump for Odin. The last thing she saw was Odin vaulting into the air. Things seemed to move in slow motion, the wind whipped past her, and a feeling of weightlessness reigned over her for a moment before Gravity would rip her down and bury her in the snow.
Suddenly she came to a painful stop. Her body yanked to a stop, beneath her was a long drop of dark nothingness, and above her was Odin. She didn’t have a chance to shout his name, she only managed one frightened looked before the snow fell from under him and they both fell into the darkness. Surprisingly she didn’t scream, and she didn’t let go of Odin. He pulled her against him and she clung to him just as the ground came rushing up to greet them. She cringed and buried her face in his chest. At least she would die in his arms.
They landed with a hard thud, tumbling and rolling as the snow dispersed about the area. The air had been knocked clean out of her lungs and left her coughing. The fall hadn’t been as terrible as she thought. She was still alive, but her body hurt and the lightness of day had faded away. She groaned and rolled her head back, opening her eyes and looking around. Slowly her vision came into focus, and the faint light that still reached them, illuminated Odin’s face. She blushed, his body hanging over hers, large and encompassing.
“Od-mmph” He descended on her without warning, his mouth covering hers, and his body pinning her to the ground. Her body flashed with heat, and she arched her body towards him for a single moment. She might have lost herself in his kiss.. if it hadn’t been for the past month and especially the past week. Her feelings of euphoria and lust were stamped out as quickly as they came by a feeling of dreadful uncertainty. Eva reacted, with hands fisting at his shoulders and quickly shoved him off. Hard. She heaved for breath and scooted across the stone and dirt ground to get away from him. For a long moment she stared at him, while the thunderous roar of rushing snow began to die off above them leaving the resounding [i drip, drip], of forming icicles or cavern structures.
She had no idea what to say to him, too confused and too shocked by what had just happened to talk just yet. She looked him over once more before she rose to her feet, and finally walked away from him. She went to inspect where they had fallen in from. The snow had pretty much piled up to block the ceiling of the cave. There was no leaving out of that exit, and it kept them trapped. What light got through was faint and not helpful. She stared up at it, willing for it to break apart and let them climb out, but it wouldn’t. They were trapped for the time being, which meant Eva was trapped alone with Odin. Which meant Odin couldn’t storm away from her. Finally she turned back to look at him, but still with a loss for words she sighed and fell into the snow to sit down.
“I think we’re trapped down here until we can find a way out,” She muttered softly, but the cavernous room echoed her words loud enough to be heard. “Come sit with me? Let’s figure this out,” she suggested and held her hand out to him, but it was very clear she wasn’t talking about figuring a way out. She watched as he walked towards her and moved to sit beside her. Eva looked at him tiredly, but hopeful. “I don’t want to continue this way. I want things to go back to the way they used to be… back when my greatest fear was Sora Johanson.” She let out a half laugh at the thought, her eyes on the hands that fidgeted together in her lap. “Now it’s… that you don’t trust me, and that you truly don’t want me,” Her voice wavered, but she swallowed down any tears from forming and managed to look back at him. “Something has been bothering you, but you won’t talk to me. I can’t help you if you won’t talk, what are you so afraid of, Odin? Have I changed too much? It’s not like I asked for this,” She said reaching up to touch her pointed ears, a look of shame painting her features. “All I wanted was to be with you. I know you said it was over… but it’s not over for me. It never will be, but I can’t do this game of never knowing when you’ll be content and when you’ll be angry. I don’t know what I did, but I’m sorry,” she told him her eyes glittering with unshed tears but a determined sort of hope he would believe her and forgive her for whatever it was she did to lose his trust.
Nox glanced up from where he was examining the something beneath the folds of his cloak, his white hair taking on an odd bluish tint in the sunlight as if it weren’t hair at all, but strands of finely spun ice. Evangeline stood before him, clutching two folds of sackcloth in each of her hands from which emanated the unmistakable scent of dried meat. She held one out towards him with a weak smile, and he noticed the bags beneath her eyes and tried not to roll his own. Despite the transformation, Odin possessed his own telling features of exhaustion. Neither one of them had slept much thanks to their own hotheadedness, and much like the other adults in camp, he himself was wishing the to of them would just go back to fucking. The whole idea of “love” and human emotion in general was tiresome… “I wasn’t sure if you were like Ursula and didn’t need food,” she said sheepishly as he accepted one of the bundles. “But I thought I should bring you some just to be on the safe side.”
“My thanks,” he told her, not bothering to answer her query, and she nodded before turning to Odin.
He sat cross-legged, wrists resting on his knees, and blue eyes electric in the sunlight as they stared up at her with an intensity that brought a quick blush to her cheeks. Quickly, and without a word, she all but thrust the other portion his way. He reached out for it, his gloved hands gripping hers gently but with a firmness that didn’t allow her to pull away right off. It forced her to look back at him, her eyes widened in the slightest. Her eyes were blue too, but her own transformation had darkened the colour to a lustrous cobalt that did nothing to hide the emotion in them. He held them for a moment longer before releasing her and watching her all but run off to join the others. Nox watched them with a keen eye before reaching out and smacking the back of the Prince’s head.
“Hey!” he growled, head snapping in his direction, eyes narrowed as he grabbed the back of his head. Nox let out a huff like a horse, eyes closed; lashes long against his black skin.
“You’re being a fool and I haven’t the time or patience for it.”
“I’m not being a damn thing!” he snapped, quickly unfolding the cloth from around his meal and grabbing at the hunk of dark, rye bread that lay there. In doing so, however, something caught his eye as it fluttered to the ground, and pausing he reached out to pluck the folded bit of parchment from the snow. He unfolded it, eyes scanning the elegant, but quickly scrawled note, and his eyes widened.
[i [b If nothing else, you will always be my Champion.]]
“Your insecurities allowed Lapsus take ahold of your mind,” Nox said, voice deep. Odin clenched the note in his hand, his own blush darkening his pale cheeks as his brow furrowed, a longing in his eyes.
“I know…” he said softly.
“You’re free from his bonds now, while you remain transformed in my presence. But you know the truth of the matter. Once you and I part… I’ll take with me this form. You won’t be safe. If you explain that to her, then I am certain she would but forgive you.” There was a tic in Odin’s jaw as he stared hard at the ground.
“Or she could hate me… find me weak that I have to rely on the likes of you to fight him off. She’d never forgive me knowing that he was able to over take me. I’m supposed to be her Champion. I’m supposed to protect her. I know she’s stronger now… but what would she think if she found out her husband to be… wasn’t as strong? She’d…” He bared his teeth and tossed the crumpled note into the snow. The electricity in his eyes dimmed. A hand suddenly gripped his shoulder and he felt an odd heat fizzle up from the deepest par of his gut. It caused him to close his eyes and fight off the desire to shove Nox away.
“Even now Lapsus fights to break through the barrier I have placed on you. He won’t succeed as long as you keep your strength of will. But if you allow yourself to grow dark, then I cannot keep you. Stop disappointing me. Stop disappointing your mother.”
At that Odin’s eyes snapped open, his hand immediately going to the hilt of his sword, belted at his side. Like the rest of him, it too had changed, transforming into a glorious weapon that rivaled even Buliwyf in its beauty. In her former life, his mother had forged it for him… a gift the way other mothers might have knitted a sweater or sewn a quilt. She had used her gifts to make each of her children something special. For him, his blade, for Attica a beautiful set of jewelry. He’d never found out what she had made Alex. Odin had loved his sword, his most cherished thing- next to Evangeline of course- and in his change, she had blessed it with a new and more powerful look. Around the hilt curled metal vines of a waterlily; watch he had come to know as her new symbol; much like the rose represented Gwendolyn. The blade was angular and embossed with writing in a language lost to men long ago. And when he used it, it glowed with the light of her love. Her protection.
“Your mother wanted you to be happy. To marry the princess and cherish her in a way your father failed to love her.” Odin glanced at Nox who released him, lids lifting to reveal silver eyes that glittered with a look that made Odin wonder if he was missing his wife. “Lapsus is not like the enemies you’ve faced. He is evil- even for the ancient ones. You would never have survived on your own. Accept that. She will accept it to. She loves you.” Odin stared at him a moment longer before turning to glance across the camp where Eva sat next to Apollo, picking at her food with a delicate finger while she rested her chin in her hand and watched the prince practice melting and refreezing a bubble of snow; tongue pinched between his lips and Iona resting on his shoulder.
The call to moveout was made not much long after, and Odin pushed to his feet, taking the cloths that had held their meals to the front of the line where he held them out to Yanai who smiled and accepted them. Before he could leave she reached out, stopping him with a hand to his cheek. “You’re so loved, [i mina ewa]. So loved. Do not wait much longer. I don’t think her heart can take it…” She swept her thumb over his cheek and gave him a look he had not seen in a long time. It was a knowing look. A mother’s look.
“I won’t,” he answered, the words leaving him before he could stop them. It made him blink as he realized he meant them. Her lips curled up in a smile.
“Good,” she said, and suddenly her fingers pinched his cheek hard, and he let out a yelp.
“What the hell?!” he demanded, pulling away.
“That’s for breaking a young girl’s heart. It’s not made of stone, ya know?! Stupid man.” She gave him a slap upside the head that made him glare and tossed the cloths on her shoulder, fists on her hips. “And stop spending so much time with that [i baka’daeio], over there,” she gestured in Nox’s direction. “He’s a bad influence.” Odin watched her walk away, hand pressed to his cheek as he sighed. Taking a step back towards his horse he paused when he heard a faint, distant groan; as if some mighty beast were shuddering. Frowning, he glanced about, searching for the source but when he found none and no one else seemed to hear it, he shrugged and went on his way.
The sun continued to shine as they continued down the down the mountain, following the semi-steep trail that curved around the rocky circumference. On occasion, the wind would kick up bits of powder, but the temperature soon warmed enough by the sun to allow them to remove their masks and face guards. All but Mira, who kept hers tied tight; body hunched as she fought to appear as unshaken as the others. Around the edge of her scarf, the telltale colour of a fever inched ever upwards over her cheeks; and strands of hair clung to her forehead where sweat glittered in the light. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to move. All she wanted was to go home. To be held by Mathias. She coughed again, one had gripping the fabric of her cloak against her chest where her lungs were on absolute fire- which was funny considering she could hardly get a breath past the gurgling liquid that seemed to fill them. Fire. Water. Either way she felt like she was going to die. She didn’t dare say anything however, determined to be the pathfinder they all claimed she was. Everyone else was doing well- Eva, Apollo, even Calder. It wasn’t fair. She was older than them. Why did she have to be weaker?! Without warning the reindeer beneath her stopped and bucked slightly, tossing its head in dismay. She gripped the leather saddle tight in an effort to remain on. In front of her the path was swimming, and she tried to give her head a shake to clear it but that just made it worse. The animal bellowed again and she attempted to lift her head to find the reason, but no more than a moment later did the ground open beneath her and she and animal tumbled into the abyss beneath.
As she fell she found herself staring at the bright light of the sky but it was fleeting, and before long it was replaced by darkness. She could have sworn she heard distant screams and yells, but they too were gone in an instant, covered by the wind that rushed past her and the snow that cascaded overhead. It was like a dream, the sensation of flipping through the air, too weak to fight it. She did not know how long she fell, only that it ended with her slamming into the ground, and a weight collapsing on top of her. She tasted blood and felt the heat of a body and it took her a moment to realize that the reindeer had fallen atop her. She her its breathing, the sound cut off by a gurgle and coughed and it went still. Mira laid there, blinded by a streak of blood in her eye that she was uncertain whether it came from her or the animal who held her to the ground, staring up at the darkness. Was this how she was to die? She tried to draw breath but couldn’t. Her eyes fluttered shut and she found herself oddly thinking of her mother and wondering if she missed her…
It was an avalanche, a wave of heavy snow that broke from the mountain side in a thousand-ton sheet that rushed down upon them with no warning. The group was completely separated, most of them swept away by the thundering tsunami. Odin had done his best, urging his elk to rise above the wave, kicking as he desperately scrambled towards Evangeline who- much to his shock and pride- was smart enough to do the same. “Evangeline!” he shouted, and she turned to see him reach for her, her own hand raising towards him. No sooner had she done it than the ground beneath her ripped open to reveal the massive cavern beneath; the ground giving way from the weight of the snow. Odin didn’t think, just reacted, and he leaped from his beast towards her, managing to snag her wrist as she fell, and pulling her to a precarious stop. She hung there, staring up at him with wide and fearful eyes and his lips parted to call her name. Before he could even get a word out, the snow beneath him let go, and he and Eva tumbled forward into darkness. As they fell, Odin grabbed her, tucking her beneath him and arms holding tight, willing whatever god or goddess might be listening to protect them. After several long moments they finally slammed into the ground, and Odin grunted as they rolled a few times before stopping. Opening his eyes, his hair loose from his braid he stared down at Evangeline who lay beneath him, chest heaving and eyes wide. For a moment Odin said nothing, simply feeling his pulse thunder through his veins as the relief that she was still alive assailed him. And then he kissed her.
It still hadn’t arrived...
That was the prevailing thought on Eva’s mind as the team made the treacherous descent down the mountain pass. Since that night in the woods Eva had spent her days in rigorous training with Ursula, her meals were taken in brooding silence, and her nights were spent awake; tossing and turning under the sheets of a cold empty bed. Destiny had even made a comment the other night at supper that her brooding nature was far too much like her father’s and it would be wise to ease her brow before her face was stuck that way. Eva wasn’t sure if Destiny was aware or not, and maybe she was, but that was something her mother had always said to Father.
Eva always did have a tendency to brood. Of course it was nothing like her father, but even Aiden had the same tendency, though she was sure he was in full swing managing the kingdom by himself. Hopefully he was smart enough to lean on Holly. She was smart, and Aiden for all his charms could use a smart woman to help him along. Help him stay true to himself and not sway to what the council wanted, and in that regard she hoped Christian was able to keep Aiden true. She was missing home. It was sinking in how long she’d truly been away, and those few short weeks back in those familiar stone halls had not been enough. She hadn’t seen home for nearly two years until her rescue, and it already felt as if another two years had passed since she’d felt her father’s safe embrace. It was the only thing she wanted, the comfort of her parents, but her mother was a stranger to her now and her father was far across a frozen wasteland.
Ursula rode just behind her, filing the space between herself and the dark pair that had taken the rear. Odin and Nox rode just behind her and she dared not look behind her. At times she could feel Odin staring at her, and other times she felt something else... it was faint, and she knew it didn’t belong to her. She felt a sense of guilt and longing, and something else maybe like regret. Eva in her confusion felt something shift against her stomach, and she quickly placed a hand to it, to feel the pendant tucked safely under her warm clothes. Even now she could recall the Yule he had given it to her. It had been a fond memory for her, and at the time she had only seen it as a special gift from a special friend... but now she knew better. Odin had given it to her for a different reason, and even after she had learned about Ta’taran courtship practices she still wore it -despite being engaged to Alexandros.
These days she saw it as a talisman. So long as she wore it, Odin would always be there when she needed him most. It made the temptation to turn around and steal a glance at him all the more difficult to disregard. Thankfully a distraction presented itself to her in the form of Calder. She watched him ride closer to her with a bored expression, but the moment they locked eyes he gave her a smug grin. Eva fought the urge to roll her eyes even as he looped his elk around to ride in step with her own.
“Well you look awfully lonely back here,” he commented removing the scarf from over his face. Eva sighed and removed her own.
“And you look awfully bored.”
“Yeah, so we should keep each other company.”
Eva gave Calder a look, the sort all women give to men when they’re not in the mood to play their games. “I don’t think I’ll make for good company, Calder.”
“Oh, you make fine company.”
“I’m not in the mood to entertain,” Eva tried, but Calder shrugged.
“That’s fine, we don’t have to talk. We can always do other things,” He waggled his brows at her, and Eva had to fight hard not to grin at his obvious flirtations. She didn’t take them seriously, as she was certain he wasn’t serious about it anymore, but now she found it amusing. Slowly a halfhearted smile graced her face
“You are a fool Calder Wryvck,” she commented, but his next words caught her by surprise.
“A Fool that made you smile. You’re less intimidating when you smile.” Eva turned to see him staring at her and Eva could only smile back.
“Intimidating? Now you’re just trying to flatter me.” She bantered with Calder as she might have with anyone else. However in the past few days with Odin’s absence she had come to spend more and more time with Palo and Calder which had allowed a friendship to begin between them.
“Anytime, Princess. So I heard we should be stopping for lunch soon. Will you eat with Palo and I?” Eva gave it a moment of thought, and sensing her uncertainty Calder leaned over to keep his voice down. “I know it’s not the company you prefer, but you’re always welcome.” She finally nodded her head seeing that he was only trying to make her feel included. Thoughtfulness was a good look on him
“Yes. I will eat with you. Thank you.”
The stop was to be a short one. They had found a somewhat spacious area on the narrow path to break lunch. It was nestled up against the mountain with an overhang that allowed them room to sit. Eva volunteered to help Otto with lunch which was bread and salted meats with cheese. As they divided the food up for everyone Eva was struck with an idea. She took the words everyone had said to her over the course of this trip and decided once again she would try to ease the tension between her and Odin. He might have said it was done and over, but Eva was not so willing to give up just yet. Asking for a small piece of parchment, Otto happened to have a roll with a stick of graphite in one of his sacks and brought it to her. Before she wrapped up a ration of food in a cloth napkin she tucked a short note within it and carried two rations over towards Nox. Odin stood by him, and she knew he watched her as she came closer to them. She kept her head high, with her eyes set on her task and approached Nox first. Offering him a small smile she held up the ration of food.
“For you. I wasn’t sure if you were like Ursula and didn’t need food, but I thought I should bring you some just to be on the safe side.” Whether he needed it or not, he accepted it, and then Eva turned towards Odin.
His changes were an adjustment for her. His blue eyes seemed more electric and bright, like nothing would get past him. He stood taller, if possible, and now that she stood so close to him she felt small and insignificant. She felt a flare of nervousness flood her, but she stamped it down and held out the second ration towards Odin. She said not a word, too nervous to do so, and that was the worst part of everything. She was so nervous around him, not certain what to expect around him, and a part of her feared being drawn back in. Not that she could fight it if she even tried. They were mated in a sense, and even though she had no beast and their bond was nothing in comparison to an actual mated shifter, it was there as faint and delicate as a thread of silk. She held his gaze for as long as she could, before tucking her chin to hide the growing blush on her cheeks when he reached out to take it from her.
The moment he had taken the offered food, she spared one last hopeful glance at him through her dark lashes and left. She was still hurt and put out by his words, and while she wasn’t quite ready to talk to him; she hoped that she had at least taken the first step in mending the bridge between them. If nothing else, they had been friends for far too long. When Odin opened up his food the note slipped out to the snow covered ground and inside the careful folds it was written in Eva’s elegant script.
[i If nothing else, you will always be my Champion.]
From there Eva went to collect her own meal as well as meals for Palo and Calder who she joined. Between herself and Palo, Iona was given plenty of meat and cheese to chew on. Palo and Calder did the bulk of the talking, while Eva sat in comfortable silence stroking Iona’s fur who lay curled up in her lap. When the call was made to move out, Eva handed Iona back to Palo who carried her back into the sleigh, and she took to her Elk.
Above them the sun beat down, scattered clouds littered the sky and on occasion a flurry would whip around them, but not even an hour into their after lunch ride was there a sound. It sounded like a heavy groan, and she frowned looking around to wonder where it might have come from. It had gotten warm enough and the wind had died down so that none of them needed to cover their faces any longer. It allowed for Eva to ask what that sound was, but none had heard it. Even Ursula who was riding up near Kyrain and Freja confessed to not having heard anything odd. Eva frowned, she had a sinking feeling something bad was about to happen...
Kolgrim's death wasn't mourned by the villagers. In fact, quite the contrary. Much like the men and women he had hand selected for them to forget by murdering them, his memory fell to the wayside; whisked away by the cold winds that scattered snow in ribbons off the side of the mountains. It had been replaced, however, by a sense of unease and fear. After all, they had spent the last several decades being ruled by the clergy. Vi'ktor had once more taken back Shtravanger's rule, and determined that the best course of action was to follow the same leadership they had once had; such as that back in Stronghold. It would take them time to relearn, but Odin sat with him and aided in appointing a new council of elders, and laying out a new set of laws.
The Master Guard group remained for two more days, feeling rather responsible for the turn of events that had set the village on its ear. While Odin and Kyrian gave their council, the others used the time to rest and replenish their food and supplies. Mira, however, still remained in bed, for although she claimed she was feeling better, it was clear that the "cold" they had thought she had caught, was something more serious. Destiny quieted her arguments with her powers, making her sleep, and rest of them spent their time preparing for the weeks ahead that would mean a dangerous climb back down the mountain. For while the weather would be kinder, the melting snow that would come with spring meant the threat of cave-ins and avalanches; something that Freja claimed she was very good at avoiding.
“Don’t worry!” she told Evangeline and Ursula between bites of stew one day for lunch. “I know what the shelves look like!”
“Shelves?” Eva frowned.
“Sure! Shelves! Like this!” she laid one hand on top of the other, palms down. “It gets all loose and icky when the snow melts and then, if you’re not careful- it goes woosh! Like this!” Eva blinked as the child mimed the motion and glanced at Ursula for confirmation. After all, she may have been engaged to one of the country’s princes, but that didn’t mean she understood its climate. After all, Byadire didn’t have snow. Not like here.
“It’s nothing you need concern yourself with Ursula waived a hand from where she sat behind Freja, braiding the girls’ hair. “You’re a Valkyrie, If the earth moves in the slightest, you’ll know far before it would spell danger for the likes of us. Now hush, [i blomst]! Eat up…” Any worry Eva might have felt was instantly transformed to amusement, and she shook her head at the sight of the woman who gently weaved the butter blonde locks up and around her fingers with great care. If nothing else, the addition of Freja had been good for Ursula, who acted far more like a mother than she’d care to admit. Freja made the surly Valkyrie smile and laugh. Then again… that could have been someone else too. A certain someone who suddenly opened up the door.
“Kyr! Kyr!” Freja exclaimed joyfully as she bounced up from where she sat and ran for the general who entered with Odin in tow. He scooped her up without hesitation and rested her on his good hip. Ursula threw her hands up with a look of annoyance it was clear she did not mean, and snapped something at him in Cruig that made Freja giggle as she wrapped her arms about him.
Eva, however, was not laughing. She had averted her eyes as a certain figure entered after him. Odin had yet to say a single word to her since his transformation. He looked straight at her he took his cloak off. Evangeline merely kept her eyes averted. She couldn’t, however, keep the blush off her cheeks. He said nothing, merely walked past, pausing to stare down at the back of her head. She could feel his blue eyes baring down on her- blue eyes that had turned even bluer, if that were possible, since whatever had happened to him with Nox. And whatever it was, neither he or the old god were talking. Her pulse was so loud in her ears she wouldn’t have been surprised if he himself hadn’t heard it, but after a moment his footsteps thudded on the wood towards one of the back bedrooms. Evangeline let out a sigh of relief.
“You do realize that eventually one of you is going to have to start talking,” Kyrian’s voice suddenly came. Eva blushed even deeper and she turned to glare at him.
“I might have to marry him- but there’s nothing that says I have to speak to him!” she snapped, before turning her nose up at him. Kyrian and Ursula shared a look as Freja giggled some more between them.
They left in the early hours of the morning, when the sun had yet to rise, but the entire village still came out to say goodbye. Waving them off with the bellow of a ram’s horn, the group moved out; two stronger than they had when they started. Nox rode next to Odin at the back of the group, while Freja straddled Kyrian’s elk. The little girl, although having spent her life abused and neglected by the people who stood watching them go, surprised them all at her eagerness to wave goodbye and laugh. She was a bright ray of sunshine in an otherwise frozen world, her newly briaded hair- complements of Ursula- was gathered in a silver clasp that marked her as aermosphera, and hidden beneath the warm wool of a knitted cap; her face half-covered by a thick scarf. She had wanted to ride with Urusla, and had cried when the Valkyrie had told her she couldn’t, but much like her eagerness to mother, Kyrian had been equally willing to parent the child, and his arms kept her safe and close as he eased his elk along the trail with the others. Soon after they’d left the village, she’d fallen asleep; curled against his chest with her one hand clutching her rag doll and the other curled in his cloak.
“How many waylays must we make to find the last clan, general?” Destiny asked, her voice the only sound in the quiet of the early morning, save for the rush of the sleigh over the snow, and bluster of the various animals as they walked on. Lifting a hand, he hooked a finger in the covering that hid his mouth and nose; his breath forming clouds on the frozen air. “Not as many as I’d like…” he admitted. “Once we are down off this mountain, we’ll skirt the forest and head west- out on the [i platingeneau] region. The earth-minders are out on the plains. I have reason to believe we shall find the one we seek amongst one of their clans.”
“They took over what the Zabine left behind,” Otto murmured where he sat, brow furrowed. “Settled on their land after they’d been destroyed.”
“Now, now Cousin,” Yanai said, a surprising smirk on her lips. “They’re just Ta’tarans. You can’t expect them to ready their own land, can you? Someone had to do it for them…” Kyrian glanced over his shoulder at her with a look, and the woman just laughed at him.
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