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[b DESTINY] watched the healer, take a pair of shears and slice open Mira’s tunic revealing a chest of sallow skin and dark splotches. Destiny grimaced, wanting to heal her, but limited at the moment. There was something here muting her powers. Quartz perhaps? But where? She saw none in the hach’e.
[+green “Se’s bleeding internally…”] Destiny could confirm the healer’s assessment.
[+purple “Can you save her?”] The healer rubbed a weathered thumb across his chin in thought. Destiny’s hand tightened on Mira’s.
[+green “You are Destiny, yes?”] Destiny raised her head with a cautious glare, and looked to Yanai. She seemed to trust the healer, and so Destiny would.
[+pink “I am. I have healing powers, but not against illness.”]
[+green “You have the power to heal injury but not illness? Good. “] Good? Destiny felt it would have been better if she could heal illness as well. Why? [+green “Because in order to help her I will have to do something I do not want. But if you can heal as I work, it may be enough…”] Destiny arched a brow, curious. Had he read her mind? Or was he simply that inquisitive? Destiny was already aware there was something off about him, now she was sure of it.
[+pink “I will do what I can.”]
The Healer intended to puncture Mira’s lung and drain the fluid, but to do so Destiny would have to be quick to heal the tissue where the hole would be. Yanai moved to take Mira’s shoulders and hold her still. Not that it was necessary. Even with the tearing of flesh and invasion of body, Mira did not move. The pouch attached to the lengthy needle he used began to fill with fluid from Mira’s lungs. Destiny did everything she could to lessen Mira’s pain. He filled the bag twice before Mira’s breathing began to strengthen. He gave the warning before removing it and the moment he did, Destiny was already working to repair the damaged tissue in Mira’s body. The smell of camphor reached her lungs and no doubt did the same for Mira, who was finally able to breathe, and while it would hurt, it would help, and so Destiny went ahead and healed her fractured rib, and mended the cuts on her skin while the healer set leeches to her abdomen. Destiny stared at them with uncertainty.
[+green “I have other things to attend to. I’ll be back to check on her,”] and with that he left. Yanai sighed and slathering on the paste and wrinkling her nose at the ugly creatures that feasted on the excess blood.
Destiny looked down at Mira and frowned. [+pink “I have not seen her like this in a very long time...”] Destiny looked back on Gwen’s memory of when Mira had died for a brief moment from Taggart’s Fever while trekking to Troth’Lenka when she was but a small child. [+pink “She is as frail now, as she was then, and I still long to take all of her pain as my own -unable to do so.”] Destiny sighed, and soothed a hand over Mira’s hair. [+pink “let’s get her clean, and find her something dry to wear while she rests.”] She stood up, and made her way around the hach’e looking for something to use to clean Mira with, and found a bucket to use which she could melt snow with, and found a clean rag. She had soap in her bag, and set to doing her task knowing it would do her no good to sit at Mira’s side doing nothing at all.
[b EVA] smiled at Freja, pleased that the child was so quick to accept her, but saddened to know Eva was a first. No doubt there would be many more to follow. If all went well, Freja would find herself living in the Palace, able to cultivate a life for herself, and make many friends. Eva wanted to help make that happen for the little girl. Feeling a kindred tie between them. Suddenly there came a splash in the water and a frustrated mew. Eva watched Iona claw her way back out of the water, and shake herself. Eva couldn’t help but giggle, and Freja’s laughter chimed in too. Eva reached out for Iona and smoothed her hands over Iona’s fur. [#b22222 “It’s okay, you needed the bath anyway,”] Eva teased and reached past Iona for her bag. [#B22222 “I might have some Lavender soap in my bag. It’s come all the way from Bayadaire with me.”] Eva said and handed it to Freja. The next thing she produced was a brush, and moved to sit down next to Freja. [#b22222 “I’ll brush your hair out before we wash it, you use my soap to wash up okay? We should do what we came here to do, yeah?”] Eva asked, and eagerly reached out to start gently detangling Freja’s frazzled locks.
[#b22222 “You’re a special person, you know that right? You are. When I met Ursula, she was cold, and she was cruel. She did terrible things to me, was a villain... but she’s changed. I don’t know what initially started it, but you’ve been a major key to her recent improvements. You’ve reached her somehow, so whatever you’re doing? Keep doing it. I think you’re saving her life.”] Eva smiled down at Freja, finally done brushing out her hair and began to wash it for her. [#b22222 “Oh dear, fresh from a bath? Ursula may not recognize you! She might mistake you for a fairy, you’re so cute!” Eva teased pouring water through the child’s hair. To be fair, even Eva hadn’t seen the child, cleaned and groomed. No one had. [#B22222 “We’ll have to go get something to eat first before we go and visit her. Sound good?”]
“It’s okay to be afraid.” Freja looked up from where she’d been peering down at her feet. She’d never seen a body of water before. Shtravanger sat at such a high altitude, the snow never melted, and she’d never really had a proper bath save for once or twice a year at the high holidays. She was mesmerized by the glittering pool, the stones beneath winking at her as the hint of quartz and other stones peeked through. She saw movement too- little shadows darting amidst the edges and she realized that they were tiny animals, though she couldn’t recognize the axolotls for what they were; their albino bodies capped with pink and red frills like flowers.
She looked up at Eva who smiled at her where she paddled about. Freja thought she was beautiful, like Lady was; her long dark hair flowing out behind her; looking almost blue in the low light of the cave. “I am afraid too. I grew up in a castle.”
“A castle?” Freja asked. “Did you like it?”
“Sometimes. But I never got to leave except for lessons and dancing. I lived waking up to a schedule of my day, what I would have to do, wear what I was told to wear, read certain books, excel in all things ladylike, tutoring that prepared me to be a queen... but not of my land... of Soulstice. I was almost your Queen.” Freja frowned. She wasn’t entirely stupid, she knew that there was a king and a queen of Soulstice. She also knew they had died and their son had taken the throne, but that was the pinnacle of her knowledge; and she was lucky to know even that much. In their village it was illegal for women to be taught anything more than homemaking and the few other lifeskills they needed to run a proper home. She couldn’t read, write, or do basic math. She knew so little of the outside world and she was instantly curious if Evangeline came from a place where girls were allowed to attend school.
Eva turned and finally looked at Freja, but she was smiling warmly. “Queen Emmaline is far better suited I think. I’ve seen Alexandros with her... It... it makes me happy. Really happy. You would like Queen Emmaline, and I’m most certain she’ll love you. No doubt Ursula and she shall go to war over you...” Freja just stared and it became instantly apparent she was confused. “Yet, though it made me happy for them... It was nothing compared to how happy it makes me knowing that it is Odin I chose, and it is Odin who I will marry. All because I no longer wanted to be afraid of the consequences of what our love might mean. It’s because of him I gained the courage to finally leave the castle. From there I have been to the ports of Padjua in Troth’lenka, fallen in love, and been spirited away to the Fey world of the Winter Elves. That is where I met Ursula. I’m worried about her too, but she will be alright. You know, when she sees you, she will be so happy -even if she doesn’t show it.”
This time Freja did smile. Ursula had shown her the first bit of unmitigated kindness shed ever experienced. Eva smiled seeing the girl finally relax and held out her hand for the child. When she finally placed her small hand in Eva’s, she gripped it firmly with reassurance and a smile. “We must always face our fears head on. That is how we measure our courage. You will be coming to live in Soulstice. I’d like to be your friend, I image we will be spending a great deal of time together from here on out. What do you say? Friends?”
“Okay,” Freja said. “I like that. I didn’t ever have friends before.” Suddenly her smile faltered ever so slightly. “Do you think Lady will be okay? She looked really sick.” Evangeline assured her Ursula would be okay, that she just needed to eat to feel better and Freja nodded at that. “Oh I know that. I was always really hungry. I didn’t feel very good when I didn’t have any food.” At that very moment they were interrupted by a slight splash and loud meow, and they looked over to find Iona having fallen into the water in an attempt to snatch up one of the salamanders. She climbed out immediately, giving a disdainful mew as she shook her dripping fur out, and both she and Eva laughed at the animal.
As Destiny sang her song, the unnamed healer had set to work at the bench, collecting tools as Yanai looked on expectantly. When the man returned, he laid his wares on the ground, uncorking a bottle with his teeth. Immediately the tent was filled with the unmistakable scent of a camphor tincture. He poured it into a stone pestle and added several sprinklings of various herbs which he then handed her and gave a grunt, which Yanai took to meaning she should grind it and immediately began. The healer, took a worn pair of shears and immediately sliced open Mira’s tunic revealing a chest of sallow skin and dark splotches. His one eye darkened. “Se’s bleeding internally…” Yanai blinked, her heart pounding. She could only vaguely recall that term from something Mathais had taught her. She didn’t quite remember what that meant, but she knew it was bad…
“Can you save her?” The healer rubbed a weathered thumb across his chin in thought.
“You are Destiny, yes?” he suddenly demanded of Gwen. After sharing a glance with Yanai, confirmed it and the man nodded. “You have the power to heal injury but not illness? Good. Because in order to help her I will have to do something I do not want. But if you can heal as I work, it may be enough…”
He reached to his side then and unrolled a sheath of leather on which lay a collection of tools of varying materials; all looking very old, to say the least. Plucking one from the pile, he examined it. It looked like a large hollow needle, and he tested the end on his finger. Without hardly an ounce of pressure, it drew a bead of blood from the pad of his index finger. He looked to Destiny then. “I have to puncture her lung. Force the pressure to level and the liquid to drain. But I’ll need you to heal as I work.” He then got up and returned to the table to gather a few other things. When he was between them once more, he set to work adhering what appeared to be a the dried bladder of a sheep or some other animal, to the end of the needle; wrapping it tight with twine. He tested it a few times, and then gestured to Yanai. “Hold her shoulders, lest she jolt when I do this…” Yanai frowned but did as he bade her, and Destiny helped as well, and suddenly before either of them could question, he plunged the needle directly into her chest.
It pierced the skin with a sickening splat, and sank deeply. Mira didn’t move at all. The healer had been holding the bladder tightly fisted and when he was certain it was in correctly; he released his grip. The bladder began to expand again, but this time instead of filling with air, the pouch sagged with water. When it was full, he pulled it off and emptied the liquid onto the floor, and reattached it, filling it a second time. Finally Mira’s wheezes seemed to lessen. He looked to Destiny then. “I’m going to pull it out. Close the puncture.” When she nodded, he did just that and Mira’s eyelids fluttered but didn’t open as Destiny repaired her. With a sigh, he gave a wave to Yanai. “Put the paste on her chest. The airways are open. The herbs will keep then that way.”
“What about the bleeding?” Yanai questioned.
“I’ve got it, I’ve got it,” he muttered and left for his shelves once more where he rummaged around and finally plucked from it a heavy glass jar filled half way with murky water. Along the bottom lay the dark, sluggish bodies of leeches. He placed six of them on her sides and stomach and let them work, and finally sighed and stood. “I have other things to attend to. I’ll be back to check on her,” and with that he left. Yanai sighed and slathering on the paste and wrinkling her nose at the ugly creatures that feasted on the excess blood.
Odin did not answer Eva’s request, and instead silently drew her closer. The room was tense, and Calder did little to quell it with his outburst. Wendigos, while not numerous, where still not uncommon for the Basin. It was a pack of Wendigos that had felled Raiyla’s carriage causing her illness and eventual death. Destiny was also silent against Calder’s accusations. Eva would have made a response, growing irritated with his words, but never got the chance as the flap to the hut flew open. An older gruff man entered, his one eye covered, and his appearance not all together Ta’taran... why... she was reminded of Vanderhoff.... Whoever he was, he named himself owner of the structure they were currently in and made a quick demand of Palo.
He was the healer and quickly made his way between Mira and Ursula. Poor Palo, with arms full of strange bottled tinctures moved to kneel opposite the old man. A quick assessment of the Valkyrie made it very clear that this man was gifted. A simple hand hovered over Ursula before he informed the room she needed to eat, but his comments and their details were no doubt directed to another in the room. Eva looked curiously over to Kyrain at that, and was intrigued by the subtle blush on his face that he was too tired to hide.
Mira was a different matter. Her lungs were filled with fluid and not working properly. Eva wanted to rush to her sister’s side, but with a single bark from the healer, Eva was dragged towards the flaw by Odin. No one daring to contest the man’s command, but Eva stayed seeing Kyrain could not lift the little Freja into his arms. Eva stilled him with a hand to his arm and when he relented with a step back, she swooped in and lifted Freja up, but not before four soft orange paws jumped upon Freja and into Eva’s arms as well.
[#B22222 “Come along, Freja. Iona and I will keep you company,”] Eva informed and carried the child from the hatch’e. Palo was the last to follow after carefully setting down the man’s bottles to be within reach, and ducked out after the others.
[b DESTINY] remained unmoved from Mira’s side. Her eyes were cold like steel, but full of nothing less than a mother’s concern for her child. Destiny would not move from Mira’s side... Gwen would not allow it. Yanai was incredible, assisting and doing the talk so Destiny would not have to, and Gwen could simply worry over the welfare of her child... The only movement Destiny made was to hold Mira’s hand gently in her own and suddenly began singing when the room had grown quiet in the Healer’s work.
[+pink +i “The world is dark around me,
Only stars shine out, their call is one that sweetly strays into my gaze.
see them as I see you.
Your light is far brighter still.
Carry me across the sea and ocean of stars.
My heart is yours. I’ll draw you close. I long to hold you with mother’s arms.
Your hand in my hand. Your soul in my soul.
You are my destiny- the will that carries me.
Stars are no match. Only you.
[b EVA] kept close to Odin, and Palo kept right on their heels going all the way to the red stained hatch’e. There was no welcome of any kind, and the people seemed content to stare the group of outsiders down until they passed. The unfriendly unwelcome was increased more by the appearance of the woman who occupied the Red Hatch’e: Rufee. Otto managed to find a way of communication and the group was led inside. Eva hefted the quiet Freja up closer in her arms, Iona curled up against her chest.
The hatch’e was warm, the air humid, and Eva was curious where the heat was coming from when all she’d seen was a small cooking fire upon entering. While waiting for Otto and Rufee, Eva looked down at the exhausted Freja in her arms, and then over to Odin. It was in this moment the thought struck her once more... her lady time had not come. It should have. She frowned, knowing she should have said something in the cave, but also glad she hadn’t. She looked up at Odin, her cheeks flushing at the thought of what might be... or at the very least, what would eventually be. Before he could look down and catch her, she looked away. Staring at the small Freja instead of Odin, Eva couldn’t help the thought... a girl might be nice.
Otto returned with a surprise to show them and they all followed down the ladder stairs. Freja moved to Eva’s back and held Iona, while Eva carefully climbed them down. She had refused Odin’s help, knowing he was injured... there was a lot of blood on his shoulder, but he hadn’t let her near it, and had carried Ursula... it didn’t alleviate her concern for him.
When she finally got her feet on the ground and saw what it was that Otto had brought them to, Eva gasped.
[+orange “By the gods! It’s a natural hot spring!”] Odin breathed. Eva looked at him delighted to see that surprised look on his face. [+orange “I knew these existed out here, but I’ve never seen one!”]
[+red “there’s one in Soulstice,”] Kyrian said, and the group looked at him, surprised. Palo was eager to check out the water and was already inching his way over. Eva on the other hand was busy looking around, and only half listening to what was being said around her. She too followed Palo over to the water’s edge, and slowly as she looked around saw that it was a rather open space... not much in the way of privacy.
[+red “They built the palace around it. It was said to have been Isthmus’s chosen pool of healing. I imagine that the Basin has several, and no doubt this clan set up shop here decades ago because of it. Genius actually. But hot water is a luxury and we should definitely make the best of it.”]
[+aqua “Especially here,”] Nereus murmured, Palo looked to his side to see his father had joined him, and reached his hand into the water. [+aqua “I can feel the sheer amount of minerals in it. It will be good for us- especially that leg of yours, General.”] Palo reached his hand into the water as well, to try and feel what his father felt. Palo grinned at the sensation, and already could feel the soothing effects of the water in his hand. It was in this moment Eva had finally finished her assessment of the space and had realized a grave issue.
[#b22222 “Wait a minute! How can we bathe here?! No privacy?”] She grimaced looking in the direction of Calder who seemed to perk at her observation.
[+green “It’s a spring,”] Otto frowned at her and Eva stuttered. Rendered speechless... and horrified.
[+red “Beggars can’t be choosers, Princess,”] Kyrian said, though his expression was compassionate. Odin, however, looped his arm around her shoulders, his eyes shifting towards Calder. Eva looked to him for rescue.
[+orange “I don’t know if I like that idea.”]
[+blue “Come on E, just go to the far end, or... wait?”] Palo shrugged already taking his coat and boots off. Eva flustered once again... honestly it wasn’t what [i they] would see that worried her. It was her. She worried what she’d do with her crazy ass Valkyrie hormones and a very naked Odin within reach.
[+red “You can take Freja and wait topside if you wish.”] Eva was about agree, it was the only other logical option, but Nereus had other plans, and instead of making Eva wait, created a barrier of raised water that would allow Eva, Freja, and Iona to bathe in privacy, but changing would still require some finesse.
[+aqua “There, “Good enough?”] he said and turned to glance at Eva with a smile. Eva adjusted Freja in her arms and gave a reluctant nod, before turning sharply towards the far end of the spring and behind the singular rock at the edge of the water. Eva sat Freja down on her feet first and Iona jumped down to paw at the water, but also peep. Iona might have been a kitten, but it was still Iona.
[#b22222 “Iona, eyes to yourself, Miss.”] she chided, and went back to her task of undressing Freja. Eva put on her best smile and looked to the little girl. [#b22222 “A bath will be good, afterwards I am sure we can find a bed somewhere for you. How does that sound?”]
Soon Eva had bother Freja and herself undressed and she carefully covered herself and moved into the water. She found a little spot on the edge for Freja to sit on that allowed her to be submerged to her shoulders, and Eva moved to a more deeper section and sighed at the way the water felt like silk to her skin and the heat went all the way to her center. She sighed out reaching up to take her hair down and the moment it fell free she slipped under the surface and submerged herself in the water.
It was quiet, she was weightless, it was dark, and the water had a soothing hold of her. She let her body go completely lax, and simply relished in the feeling before finally resurfacing above the water. Her eyes focused in on Freja who had yet to move from her spot, and Eva smiled, her mouth hidden under the water and moved steadily through the water, until she was settled in the water beside her. For a long moment Eva was quiet, taking all of her hair and pinning it back up on the top of her head, Iona behind her swatted at a few rouge curls, but Eva did not stop her. She simply relaxed into the water and looked up. Beside them was the curtain of water, and Eva did her best not to try and sneak a peak at Odin. Though their voices could be heard, if Eva tried hard enough she could eavesdrop on them... she decided against it with a better idea.
[#b22222 “It’s okay to be afraid,”] Eva suddenly said after the two had sat in silence for long enough, and confessed [#b22222 “I am afraid too. I grew up in a castle, I never got to leave except for lessons and dancing. I lived waking up to a schedule of my day, what I would have to do, wear what I was told to wear, read certain books, excell in all things ladylike, tutoring that prepared me to be a queen... but not of my land... of Soulstice. I was almost your Queen.”] Eva turned and finally looked at Freja, but she was smiling warmly. [#b22222 “Queen Emmaline is far better suited I think. I’ve seen Alexandros with her... It... it makes me happy. Really happy. You would like Queen Emmaline, and I’m most certain she’ll love you. No doubt Ursula and she shall go to war over you...”] Eva teased, the little girl [#b22222 “Yet, though it made me happy for them... It was nothing compared to how happy it makes me knowing that it is Odin I chose, and it is Odin who I will marry. All because I no longer wanted to be afraid of the consequences of what our love might mean. It’s because of him I gained the courage to finally leave the castle. From there I have been to the ports of Padjua in Troth’lenka, fallen in love, and been spirited away to the Fey world of the Winter Elves. That is where I met Ursula. I’m worried about her too, but she will be alright. You know, when she sees you, she will be so happy -even if she doesn’t show it.”] Eva smiled over at Freja and held out her hand for the child. When she finally placed her small hand in Eva’s, she gripped it firmly with reassurance and a smile. [#b22222 “We must always face our fears head on. That is how we measure our courage. You will be coming to live in Soulstice. I’d like to be your friend, I image we will be spending a great deal of time together from here on out. What do you say? Friends?”]
“Here we go…” Kyrian let out a slow breath as he helped set the small Freja down on a thick stack of wool and fur hides that had been placed against the curved wall of the large, rotund structure. The floor itself was dirt, tamped down from footsteps and time until it had become solid and cracked, almost like stone. There were no beds, no personal items, and no real furniture to speak of save for a large, low-lying table on one side of the room, a couple of crudely carved stools, and several handcrafted shelves covered with a myriad of bowls and jars. In the center of the single, round room, a pit had been dug, and it was full to the brim of red coals, the scent of peat burning. The maerial filled the air with a slight haze, the majority of which wafted up and out of a hole in the ceiling which was stained black. Over the pit was a collection of metal rods and chains from which was suspended three separate cauldrons, two of which rattled ever so slightly from their boiling contents.
Kyrian reached out and ran a hand over the wall, surprised to feel the solidity of it. It was covered in a tarp of some unknown material, stretched tight and stitched with thick thread in a way that reminded him of a Zabine encampment. And yet, something about the contents of the hut was very un-Zabine in its essence. The unfamiliarity of it all had him wanting to be on guard, but his body wasn’t up for it. The exhaustion from the fight had his muscles trembling ever so slightly and he reached up to pull the strap of his pack off, glancing over at where the others were gathered. While most of them stood talking amongst themselves, no doubt relaying what had happened during separation, his eyes fell on Ursula. She was laid out about a foot away from the equally unconscious Mira, with Yanai working to remove her outer garments and assess damage. Like Mira, she was equally pale with bruised eyelids and lips; but where Mira’s skin glistened from fever, Ursula’s pallor was dull and lifeless. He knew she lived, but his pulse quickened at the sight.
As shis fingers absentmindedly worked a stay, something gripped his arm. He looked down to find Freka staring up at him. She was pale too, but her white skin came from fear, which was all-too evident in her wide eyes and pursed lips. She didn’t seem to want to let go, as if she were afraid he would leave her. He placed his hand on hers. “It’s alright,” he murmured, trying to give her a smile. The child merely stared. “Did you get hurt?” he asked, reaching out to tuck the limp strands that had fallen free from one of her braids behind her ear. Like the rest of them, she was stained with blood, but it appeared to have merely rubbed off on her. Sure enough she shook her head. He patted her hand. “Good. You sit tiht, ok? I’m going to check on Ursula.” For a moment Freja looked like she wanted to cry and her grip tightened. Kryian gave her a look. “You’re a warrior. And you’ve survived. A Ta’taran had no fear. Do you understand?” Freja nodded, even if it looked like she didn’t, and finally released him. She pulled her knees to her chest and kept quiet.
Removing his pack, he made to move towardsDestiny and the others, but immediately regretted it, his leg buckling slightly, and he gripped the wall to steady himself. “Are you fit?” he heard Odin asked and turned to find the prince looking at him, red hair stained with blood and dirt. Eva stood curled in against his chest, a look of equal concern on her face. He raised a hand in a placating gesture.
“I am. Damn beasts made me wrench it,” he patted his leg. “And I’m exhausted.”
“We all are,” Nereus muttered from where he stood, removing his outer cloak. “That was incredibly unexpected.”
“How didn’t we see them coming?” Calder demanded with his hands on his hips. Nereus tippd his head in a half-hearted shrug.
“Wendigos are… difficult to gauge. They have ways of hiding that even we, as Gods, have a hard time tracking. Their numbers though… a bit disconcerting.” From where he stood, Odin gave a nod, his bow furrowed; one arm resting around Evangeline’s shoulder.
“I haven’t seen a pack like that a long time. A lot of us honestly thought they had gone extinct.”
“Nothing stays dead in this place for long,” Kyrian frowned. “And even then, they have ways coming back.”
“Its’ Terinan,” Nox finally spoke, and they all looked to him. Like Nereus, he seemed particularly unscathed, with only a rumpled tunic sleeve to make him look even the tiniest bit out of place. “His hold on Fae is now strong enough that it’s affecting your world; seeping out like an infection, festering where the veil is thin. We’re losing time.”
From where she sat, Ursula’s gave a look, her own brow furrowing even as she dunked a rag in the bowl of steaming water at her feet. She ran it over Ursula’s skin where it was bare from the tunic she’d removed; leaving only the few bindings she had underneath visible. Though Kyrian’s face was unreadable, his eyes were hard. Her skin was still near-perfect, but he saw the shadow of her ribs showing where the hunger had eaten at her strength. “We have to find the last Guardsman. Quickly. And without Mira, I don’t know how we’re going to do it.” Calder blinked.
“Hold up, what do you mean, without her? She brought you here, right?”
“Weren’t you paying attention?” Eva asked, incredulously. “Mira was with us. She’s been like this for days,” she said, voice shaking. Calder’s face turned red, but it didn’t seem to be from embarrassment. Rather from anger.
“You mean, the Guardsman might not even be here?!” he demanded. “What if she doesn’t get better? What’s the back up plan?” Yanai gave the boy a look.
“We’ve never had need of a back up plan. If the Pathfinder fails it is because they are dead. When they die, the gifts are passed on to the next.”
“Didn’t you used to be the Pathfinder? You’re not dead.”
“Yes. I did not fail. I served my purpose. My gifts went on to another.”
“Well she’s not dead,” he snapped, nodding towards the unconscious Mira. “So what do we do?”
“I don’t know. This has never happened before.” Calder scoffed.
“You mean to tell me, that all powerful Amphi, as high and mighty as they are, didn’t think just maybe it might be a good idea to put a back up plan in place? Are you kidding me?!”
“Watch your mouth!” Odin snapped. “The Amphi know what they’re doing. My brother, and Destiny,” he nodded at her, “know what they’re doing.”
“Oh really? Well,” he turned to Destiny and crossed his arms. “So what do we do?”
Except that Destiny couldn’t answer. Even she didn’t know how to locate the next Master Guardsman. Calder scoffed again, wrinkling his nose in disdain. “I knew it. You clerics. You’re all same. Thinking you’re better than the rest of us lowly mortals. And now look where it’s gotten us.” Without warning the flap of hide that made up the door to the hut snapped open and a figure stepped through, and immediately Calder yelled out in pain as his legs were knocked out from under him and he landed sprawled, face-first on the ground, his nose running with blood.
“And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll shut the hell up before you end up someplace worse!” a gruff voice snapped; the tone like gravel. Odin turned, and the others immediately looked to the stranger. It was a man, elderly; his weathered complexion tanned darker than a Ta’taran, yet not quite Zabine. His face was etched deeply from age and the harsh living conditions out here in the middle of nowhere. He stood slightly hunched, one hand grasping at an intricately carved, thick cane- the tool he had so obviously used to knock Calder off his feet. And while it was clear he was Ta’taran, something wasn’t quite right. His hair was to his shoulders, scraggly and unkempt; not at all braided like the rest of the men. It appeared to have been black, once upon a time, and yet now was streaked liberally with grey and white. High cheekbones and full lips confused his ethnicity further, and around his head he wore an old strip of beaded cloth that covered one eye. The other was greyish blue swirled with brown, and it peered down at Calder with disdain.
“How dare you?!” Calder snapped as he shoved up from the ground, his wrist pressed to his nose. “Do you know who I am?”
“Don’t know, don’t care. And if you keep running that smart mouth, I’ll care less and make you stay out in the snow. This is my [i hatch’e], and what I say goes. Got it?” he shoved the tip of gnarled cane into Calder’s chest. The prince was speechless.
“Are you the healer?” Yanai asked from where she sat.
“I am,” the man gruffed and shuffled towards the side of the structure- now called the hatch’e- and set about gathering various items from one of the shelves. “You,” he snapped. “Boy. With the animal.” Palo blinked and pointed to himself, looking at the others as if for confirmation. Odin shrugged. “Yes. You!” the man said again, though he hadn’t even looked at Apollo. “Take these,” he turned, and Palo had enough time to drop Iona before he had several bowls and various bottles of unknown substances shoved into his arms. With that, the man shuffled over to the bedding where Mira and Ursula lay. “Move,” he said to Yanai, who obeyed without question. Something about this man demanded respect.
She and Destiny shared a look as the stranger settled between the two. He passed a hand over Ursula’s prone body, his one eye peering intently. “This one will live. She needs to feed. I suggest you take care of it tonight,” he said. And while he had not looked up from her, his voice made it very clear he was talking directly to Kyrian, and the group all looked at him. Trying not to blush, and grateful for his own exhaustion,” Kyrian nodded, refusing to make eye contact with the curious Evangeline and Odin. “But you’ll be no good to her half-dead yourself. Eat hearty before you do.” He then turned to Mira, and as with Ursula he passed his hand over top her. “Will she live?” Destiny asked. The man stroked his chin for a moment.
“Hard to say. Lungs are closed. Filled up with fluid. Fever’s high. And she’s bleeding on the inside. I can do what I can, but I need space.” Turning, he pointed gestured to Yanai and Destiny. “You two, stay. The rest of you, get out. Go to the hatch’e with the red door. Rufee is there. She’ll feed you. And clean you. Now go.” Nox was the first to leave, and as if taking their cues from him, they gathered their things and filed out. Kyrian went to pick up Freja, but his leg couldn’t hold her weight, so Eva volunteered to scoop up the little girl, who clung wordlessly to her, fists clenched in her cloak.
Outside the wind had died down almost completely, and the sun had just started to set, so it remained light enough to find their way. They were met with the sight of a collection of huts in varying sizes, perhaps fifty or sixty in all. Very few people were out and about, so much so that it was eerie. As they passed one tent, a collection of men could be heard speaking to one another, but Kyrian couldn’t identify the language. It was dialect he wasn’t familiar with, and as soon as the men saw them, they went silence, merely going about the work they’d been conducting. They were tanning hides; a massive cauldron of boiling fluid filled the air with a smoky, tarry scent that made his eyes water. Two men stood stirring it with long polls, while the others stood near, scraping the pelts, and laying them out to die. And while their faces were darkened from the soot of their work, Kyrian immediately realized their skin was the same, dark colour as the healer that had entered the tent. All of them sported some hue of dark black or brown hair, and their eyes were almond in shape, though still possessing the Ta’taran blue. Where had he seen eyes like those? “Come on,” a voice muttered, and he felt a hand pushing him gently forward. Blinking, he glanced to his side, expecting Odin or even Nereus, but he was surprised to see none other than Otto ushering them along. Suddenly it dawned on him, where exactly he’d seen those eyes… Otto’s two daughters. He wanted to question him, but the man had an expression that bade him not to say anything.
Their group moved further down the main line of structures until they reached the end, where a larger one was built, the cloth covering the door was stained deep red with something that Kyrian might have thought was blood if he hadn’t been used to it. Only then did they pause, the wind shifting the thick hide beside them. “Otto,” Kyrian said, his voice low; questioning. Otto who was usually so good natured, looked uncomfortable. Even concerned.
“What do you know?” Nox spoke up, his brow furrowed, and the slight hint of confusion he wore was strange to observe. Usually Nox seemed omnipotent. Otto fidgeted ever so slightly at the attention.
“These people… I would tell you what they’re called, but… I don’t know.”
“They look like-” Kyrian began, but Otto cut him off as if he didn’t want the fact uttered out loud, lest the strangers hear it,
“I know. I’ve always known others were out there. I mean, there used to be a thousand different Zabine clans in the Basin. There were always stories of some members, cast out, mixing with Ta’taran blood. And when out own clan was destroyed, the survivors were like us. They must have gone somewhere. We just… never had a name for them. And I’d never seen any before. This must have been a collective offshoot of survivors.”
“Part Ta’taran… Part Zabine,” Nereus said stroking his chin, rainbow irises flashing in amazement. “Incredible.”
“If they see you’re with us, shouldn’t that mean they’d see us as friends?” Odin asked. Both Otto and Kyrian shook their heads.
“No,” Otto said. “If they are outcasts, or decedents of outcasts, it’s likely that a grudge is passed down as much as their genetics.” Kyrian nodded and looked to the others.
“It’s best we keep our heads down while we’re here. They don’t seem to appreciate outsiders much.”
“Besides,” Evageline spoke up. “We’re not here to visit anyway. We’ve got to find the next Guardsman.”
“Yeah, a Guardsman that might not even be here, and probably isn’t,” Calder said, his nose bruised where he’d fallen. As much as everyone wanted to argue, they couldn’t…
Suddenly, the hatch’e beside them snapped open with a flourish, and a large-breasted woman dressed in linens, her greying hair braided thick and wrapped atop her head, peered out at them. Like the men they’d seen before, she did not seem friendly. She snapped a them, in the same, guttural language, and they looked among themselves in uncertainty at how to proceed.
“Rufee?” Kyrian asked, recalling the name the Healer had mentioned. Her eyes narrowed. After a moment she answered in what could only be assumed was an affirmative, but without a grasp of the language, it was hard to tell. She spoke again, but they didn’t answer, unable to. Then, Otto stepped forward, his brow furrowed in an attempt to concentrate and he raised a hand and twisted his wrist twice; palm snapping closed as he did. He asked her a question in Zabine and for a solid minute the woman stared at him as if simultaneously studying him and daring him to speak.
Finally, she too raised her hand and did the same gesture, answering him, though the language didn’t sound quite the same. Otto’s shoulders slumped in relief. He nodded and gestured to their group as he spoke. Rufee still looked uncertain but she eventually nodded and replied, and then turned on her heel and waved them into the hatch’e.
“I told her who sent us here. She’s not happy, but she’s agreed to do as the Healer said. She says we can clean up inside.”
“She speaks Zabine?” Nereus asked, surprised. Otto shrugged.
“Sort of. It’s a dialect of some sort. I think maybe Zabine was passed down to them. The way she wears her hair… There was a badger tribe once. It sounds kind of like their speak but I don’t know.”
“We can communicate. That’s enough,” Nox said. Otto nodded and stepped forward.
They followed Rufee into the hatch’e at what first seemed like it might be the same as the healer’s place, it became immediately apparent that there was far more to it then met the eye. She lead them passed the main round where her fire pit sat, low flames dancing lazily and filling the place with a delicate warmth, and into some other kind of room. And although the floor here was dirt as well, it unexpectedly sloped upwards like a small hill. In the center of the rise was a double door built into it, that looked exactly like the door of a waylay. Turning, Rufee spoke gruffly to Otto before she turned and bent over, gripping one of the iron rings that acted as a handle. Twisting a pulling, there was a loud creak as she yanked the door open. Immediately they could feel a surge in damp heat. Rufee gestured to it, and then left them. Otto looked confused as he peered into it.
“What is it?” Calder asked, joining him in looking down into the dimness. Otto shook his head.
“I don’t know if I understood her correctly. She said we could wash down there? Stay here…” He left them as he made his way inside, disappearing down the sloping path. After a few moments, he returned, and he looked both amused and… excited? “You are never going to believe this…” he hitched a thumb over his shoulder. “Come on!”
They followed him inside, careful to traverse the near vertical path that bottomed out into a much larger cavern, with several torches that were bolted to the wall. They flickered in the gloom, providing just enough light to reveal a large pool of water; tendrils of steam rising from the glittering surface. Odin;s eyes widened. “By the gods! It’s a natural hot spring!”
“I knew these existed out here, but I’ve never seen one!”
“there’s one in Soulstice,” Kyrian said, and the group looked at him, surprised.
“Really?” Odin asked. “Where?”
“In the palace. They built the palace around it. It was said to have been Isthmus’s chosen pool of healing. I imagine that the Basin has several, and no doubt this clan set up shop here decades ago because of it. Genius actually. But hot water is a luxury and we should definitely make the best of it.”
“Especially here,” Nereus murmured, reaching out to dip his fingers in. “I can feel the sheer amount of minerals in it. It will be good for us- especially that leg of yours, General.”
“Wait a minute!” Evangeline suddenly blurted out, cheeks red. “How can we bathe here?! No privacy?”
“It’s a spring,” Otto frowned, as if he didn’t understand. Communal bathing is common. At least with the Zabine. I suspect they would have continued that habit.”
“Beggars can’t be choosers, Princess,” Kyrian said, though his expression was compassionate. Odin, however, looped his arm around her shoulders, his eyes shifting towards Calder.
“I don’t know if I like that idea.”
“You can take Freja and wait topside if you wish.”
“No need,” Nereus said. He made his way to the waters edge and walked directly into it, moving until he was up to his waist. He glanced about. “The water isn’t very deep. In the center it’s about double my height… But it’s warm. Feels great.” With that he lifted his hand and over on the opposite side the water began to bubble and foam, and there was a loud rushing as suddenly a wall of water shot upwards, acting like a curtain. “There,” he said and turned to glance at Eva with a smile. “Good enough?”
The fight against the Wendigo’s not only made truth to all the stories Odin and Attica had told her during childhood, but proved that Eva was every bit the fighter her father was. Lithe, and fast, Eva had a cunning look to her face, and a rather powerful swing with her spear. She guarded Mira’s invalid body, keeping Mira safe and unharmed… aside from the singular bite she received. There was only one fleeting moment where Eva nearly left Mira’s side, and that was when she heard Odin cry out in pain. She spared a glance his way to see him being jumped upon and bitten by a collection of the Wendigo. She never had a chance to respond or move, when the air shifted and crackled with power. Eva had only a moment to look upwards at the gathering of lighting in the sky and threw her body over Mira to protect her, when it suddenly came crashing down around them. Only two people had this sort of control over lighting. Destiny and Ursula. At this point, Eva would have been happy for either, but she was desperate to know her mother was alright. Alas, as the lightning incinerated the Wendigo around them, Eva could sense its flashing aura as none other than Ursula’s.
[i “Everyone still alive?”] Eva could hear Nox ask the group. There came a collection of hushed murmurs, but Eva was busy looking across the way to find the source of the power, and standing just off to the edge of the group was a very pale, very sick looking Ursula. She had a moment to nod with the knowledge that everyone was okay before her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she fell face first into the snow.
“Ursula!” Eva called, jumping to her feet and rushing Ursula. She was out cold, without so much as a murmur to Eva’s touch. Kyrain was next to join her, followed by Odin who insisted he carry the valkyrie. It was obvious Kyrain wished to do so, but Odin was right: Kyrain was already struggling to walk, and Freja seemed reluctant to let go of him.
So they walked for the next hour towards the pinpricks of the distant village. The flatlands made their trek that much more painful, as their destination was in sight long before they ever reached it. Early in the trek Ursula made a half conscious attempt to tell Odin she could walk, though her eyes never opened, and her body simply twitched from exhaustion. Odin had accomplished a first, he had told Ursula to shut up, and she’d done so by quickly falling back to a dead sleep. Eva didn’t speak, no one really did. She simply marched forward and listened to the strained wheezing of Mira’s breathing. It was a constant mantra of reminding herself that Destiny could help, if they could just reach the village, hopefully Destiny would be waiting for them and she could help Mira. Eva was certain the Amphi had heard her prayers too, because as they neared the village, exhaustion weighing in, Eva spotted two runners coming to greet them. It was Destiny, and Yanai.
“Oh Thank, Delphi!” Eva breathed seeing them.
Destiny’s face was stoic as she ran headlong beside Yanai. When Yanai had spotted them from the village they had both gone running. Their numbers were slow moving, and Destiny smelled charred flesh on the wind that came with the rest of their party.
“Something has happened,” Destiny murmured as they finally came within range of the group. Sure enough they were battle fresh and covered in a mixture of their own blood, and that of something fouler, which made them all stink to the high heavens.
“Ou’wae!” Yanai Gasped as she saw the state they were in, and wasted no time in going to Odin’s side to help collect Ursula. Destiny did the same, assisting Eva with Mira.
“They need help,” Odin murmured, stating the obvious. Yanai nodded quickly.
“There’s a healer here. Quick- come.” Destiny locked eyes with Eva and, Eva tensed feeling Destiny peer into her memory of recent events, and saw everything from the fall into the pit, her reconciliation with Odin, discovering Mira, being rescued, and their fight with the Wendigo’s and joining up with Ursula. It was a disconcerting feeling, but Destiny was now up to speed with what had happened and placed a hand to mira’s chest.
“Pneumonia… there is fluid in her lungs…”
“Can you-“] Eva tried but Destiny cut her off with a pained;
“No. No, there is nothing I can do. Perhaps the healer can. We will stay here until she is well enough to travel. Let us take her to him, and then you find rest.” Eva made no argument and helped Destiny carry Mira into the village.
They were dome-like huts, built into and against the snow and trees. Eva had never seen anything like it, there was a nomadic quality to everything, rather like the Gypsies of Troth’lenka and Eva looked about curiously to see the villagers, but none came out of their huts, only spying through parted fabric were the brave ones. Eva frowned not liking the welcome, but didn’t let it distract her from keeping pace with Destiny and bringing Mira into a large hut filled with jars of assorted dried herbs, roots, and minerals. It looked like an apothecary to Eva, but nothing quite like the sterile display of Mathias’ lab.
“Over here,” Destiny instructed, and Eva followed moving to take Mira’s legs while, Destiny took her arms, and together they laid her down and propped her up with furs and pillows. “Don’t let her lay on her back,” Eva pushed a blanket up to Mira’s chin and stared on nervously as Destiny brushed her fingers over Mira’s temple and Eva watched with some satisfaction as Mira’s superficial wounds began to mend.
Beside Mira was Ursula, still out cold, with jaw slackened and fangs sharp. Her eyes were bruised a deep purple against her porcelain skin which was also bruised from wounds struggling to heal. Her uniform was nearly gone and she was covered head to toe in mud, blood, and ice. Her hair had begun to dread up from the lack of care, and her lips were cracked and dry. Eva could only imagine what she had gone through to get back to the group. To survive the basin alone?! Eva would never… at least… not now. Eva felt a tingle of pride to know Ursula hadn’t left, and with finally knowing their group was reunited and in a safe place, Eva jumped to her feet. She rushed Palo first who stood with Calder contemplating how late the would sleep in tomorrow.
“Palo! Iona, is she?” Eva asked breathlessly and watched with relief as Palo plucked the tiny kitten from the breast pocket of his cloak.
“Yes, kept my kitten close by.” He raised the kitten up and pressed a kiss to her nose before nuzzling her and smiled to Eva who smiled back. She turned that smile to Calder and pressed a hand to his shoulder, glad he was alright as well. The path was finally clear to Odin and Eva hurried to his side and without a word rushed him with an embrace.
“You’re alright! I’m so glad… but you were hurt. I saw the Wendigo’s get you. Let me help treat your wounds,” she whispered quietly to him and reached up to brush his hair from his face, hers an expression full of love and concern.
Wendigos had been part of the Basin since before time began. At one time they had been so prolific that the first kings of the Ta’taran had waged a war to drive them out. They were hideous creatures that served no purpose that Odin could fathom, other than to cause death and destruction. A few centuries ago, they had been hunted to damn near extinction, until they became more legend than reality. In fact, Odin had never seen one until a few years ago, out on a hunting excursion with his father. But more and more, their numbers had been slowly returning, though no one knew why. Wendigos had damn near killed his mother…
It was this thought that made Odin let out a loud roar of his own as he took up his blade, swinging it in an arc that lobbed off the head of one of the beasts. It’s blood splashed across the snow covered ground; coloring the snow a sickening brownish-red, curdled with broiling infection. The stench of them was worse dead than alive. Still, he ignored it, his senses on high alert, and he ducked and swung again, killing another. This was the first real fight he’d had in a while, and the heat and call of the battle branded his brain, the gifts bestowed on him by Delphi herself at birth, bubbling to the surface. It made every fiber of his muscles, every cell in his veins, ripple with power. His senses were on high alert, and he moved faster and plowed through the masses of wendigo. He struck quicker, harder; his blade almost supernatural as he felled any wendigo that crossed his path.
Something struck him broadside, however, slamming into him and forcing him to a knee. Just as he took up his sword to kill it, another came from behind and latched onto his arm; yanking it to the side; its teeth sinking into his arm. He roared again, the pain intense, and immediately he could smell his own blood congealing as it mixed with the wendigo’s. Another one latched onto his shoulder, and he felt the pressure as a group of them piled on, tearing at the thick leather of his armor. Odin yelled, struggling to push them off; adrenaline surging in his chest.
Without warning, there was shift in the air; the smell of burning ozone that cut through the decayed stench of them wendigo horde that had attacked. And without warning there came a horrific crash followed by the screams as the remaining wendigos were shot through with electricity. It set their greasy fur on fire, and Odin managed to push his way through the burning pile of scorched flesh that lay atop him, his red hair singed at the ends. Gasping for breath, he took up his sword from the snow and looked around. Nox had one hand raised; fingers clenched into a tight fist; energy crackling around it. The others staggered to stand, eager to push themselves from the mangled corpses that now lay burning at their feet. Immediately Odin looked for Eva. She stood several feet away, chest heaving and braid tangled and dripping with sweat and blood. On the ground behind her, lay Mira’s unconscious form; bleeding heavily from the bite wound in her shoulder. Seeing her alive, Odin quickly turned to search out Kyrian. The man was also breathing hard, his own hair undone and hanging in his face. Pain laced his expression as he forced himself to stand. On his back, arms wrapped around his throat was Freja, the little girl’s eyes wide; her face spattered in blood. On the opposite side of the circle, Palo and Calder stood, Nereus near by and the only one besides Nox who was seemingly breathing steadily.
Finally, Nox lowered his arm, his eyes scanning the others. “Everyone alive?” he gruffed. Odin swallowed, forcing his breathing to slow,and gave an exhausted nod as they others murmured their agreement. However, no sooner had they spoken up, was there a low ‘thud’, and Odin glanced over towards Eva in time to see Ursula collapse.
“Ursula!” Eva gasped as she dove to keep her mentor from hitting the ground. Immiediately Kyrian released Freja who quickly slid down to her feet, and he limped over to check the Valkyrie who’s sickly pallor and dull hair had him frowning in concern. He touched a hand to her throat, feeling for a pulse, before looking to Eva.
“You carry your sister. I’ll get her. We need to get to the village.” From where he stood, Odin shook his head and sheathed his sword, stepping towards them.
“No. I’ll get her.” Kyrian frowned but Odin gave him a look.
“You can hardly walk yourself. I’ll carry her on my back.” For a moment the general looked like he might argue, but in the end common sense won out and he gave a curt nod.
“Quickly, then.” Odin returned the nod with one of his own, and as their group gathered up what little belongings had survived in the battle, Odin bent to scoop up Ursula from the snow. Dark circles marred the space beneath her eyes, and they fluttered open as he hefted her with a twist onto his back.
“I can walk,” she muttered, her voice strained with exhaustion as she bared her teeth.
“Shut up and be reasonable,” Odin rolled his eyes. The Valkyrie looked like she wanted to argue but she didn’t reply, and Odin immediately began to walk in the direction of the village while the others followed suit. Eva carried Mira on her back, and together they walked side by side, focused on getting their quickly.
The flat land of the planes could be deceiving, and it still took them nearly an hour to make it to the village outskirts. Despite being Ta’taran himself, Odin’s brow furrowed at the realization that this village wasn’t truly a village. The huts were rounded, dome-like structures that, as they came near, he realized were made of thick tarp and hides sewn together, ropes strategically knotted to keep them in place. Smoke curled up from them, swirls of grey breaking the skyline. He himself had never seen anything like this… until he recalled Alexandros’ wedding. He remembered the ancient shaman.. and the clan that had brought him to the lowlands where the wedding had been held. That clan had slept in shelters just like these. “Oh thank god!” he suddenly heard Eva breathe. Blinking out of his thoughts, Odin glanced at her, and then over in the direction she was looking. Sure enough, two figures were jogging towards them. Odin quickly realized it was Destiny and Yanai.
[i “Ou’wae!”] Yanai Gasped as she saw the state they were in, and wasted no time in coming to his side to help collect Ursula. Destiny did the same, assisting Eva with Mira.
“They need help,” Odin murmured, stating the obvious. Yanai nodded quickly.
“There’s a healer here. Quick- come.”
She’d always been an odd child, the memories were so old though, they were as faded as a sun bleached corpse. She was born strong, her mother going into labor mid-battle and giving birth as the blood of their enemies spilled. The Far’rouk had been victorious if not vicious in their conquest, and began to trek towards the place all would come to know as Stronghold: The Capital of the Northern Territories. Her father, King Tormund, had taught her everything she needed to know about war play, hunting, fishing, and tracking by the time she was seven and her baby brother was born. Not long after that her more Valkyrie features began to show, including her claws which had, by accident, cut the flesh of her sweet little brother. Her mother and father turned on her and cast her out.
[i “I have the son I’ve always wanted, and you are a threat to him. You are no daughter of mine, Demon. For now I will spare your life, so leave or you will be destroyed.”]
In the midst of her tumultuous first fifty years of life she had met Eris and Serenity. They found her outside the Zabine village after hearing rumors about the Ta’taran Demoness who would fall in raptures over the Northern lights and could absorb lightning. Who had lived at the edge of the Eagle Tribe for over forty years and had never aged a day past 25. By the time those two had found her, she had already seen to her first set of children and lost her first lover, a Zabine man from the tribe that allowed her to live near their village. From there it was a blur of battles fought, worlds traveled, of wars waged, betrayal, lust, secrecy, and finally what led Ursula to Arethousa. Ursula had always known about Arethousa’s role over the Valkyrie of this world and that of Eris and Serenity, but it wasn’t until their deaths that Ursula found herself at Arethousa’s feet. Hungry for power and for purpose, Ursula had felt she’d lost everything and Arethousa had played the part of compassionate mother, teacher, and friend. Ursula had played into her hand, and for a while served Arethousa faithfully.
Then Valkyrie began to go missing, some fleeing this world entirely, but most just showing up slaughtered -murdered and left for discovery. Hungry for revenge, Ursula had pleaded with Arethousa to grant her greater power to vanquish the threat. Arethousa in her trickery, manipulated Ursula into relieving her soul. She had promised a bond of shared powers, that Ursula would be the extension of herself that Eris had failed to be… but it was not true. Ursula became a slave, a puppet, and a trinket. Ursula became Arethousa’s trophy, kept in a glass coffin and put on display when not in use. She was little more than a tool…. Now she belonged to High King Oberon, and she hadn’t the foggiest idea why he wanted her.
She contemplated what Oberon wanted her for as she sat before a small fire one night. She’d managed to make camp, and lit a fire hoping one of the others might see it. She didn’t care if foe found it, she’d handle it quickly. It had been over a week since she’d fed, and dark circles marred her eyes. The bruises glittered on her flesh as a sign she was putting her energy elsewhere aside from healing herself. She hadn’t slept except a couple of hours here or there. She was hungry, but that wasn’t her main concern… she was worried about the others. She hadn’t seen any lightning from Evangeline, and she had no way of knowing if Kyrain or Freja were safe. She would have worried for Yuger, but she knew deep down he was alright and making his way to where she really needed him to be… with those she cared about. Staring at the fire she thought of Kyrain, and made herself roll her eyes. She’d never been so infatuated with a mortal man before -not even her past husbands. Was this love? Did she even know how to love? Was she even capable of it? She possessed no heart, and no soul… she was a shell. She was incomplete. She realized she had been incomplete for a while, and most of her strife came from trying to fill that void inside her. Would she ever know peace?
She had a good stretch on walking across the basin with no attacks. Her only enemy was the elements, and since this was her homeland, she had the upperhand. Still… the cold could take even the strongest Ta’taran. She had been wandering for days, following her heading and when energy permitted she would phase ahead to a point she could see in the distance. It helped her cover ground, but with a lack of nourishment, it fatigued her greatly. She had three days of sleeping and walking in an endless landscape of white when she finally saw her first sign to let her know she was near the next village. The tracks in the snow made her pause, and think she might be hallucinating. She questioned even entering the mirage ahead of her, but she knew she had no choice. She had to return to her group. She was worried by this point. Worried about Eva, worried about Freja and Kyrain.
Ursula had passed a thicket o evergreens not too long ago, and Wendigos were known to live in colonies around trees. Best for hiding and stalking their prey. Ursula was wise to proceed with caution in pursuit of the tracks towards the village. Her body was still not entirely healed, and she felt like the small child lost in the woods, as she had once been in her youth. Then she had only been armed with a knife, now she had her spear and centuries of knowledge. She would still make a tempting target for any Wendigo, and she knew they were here… she could smell them.
Her spear was gripped tightly in her hand as she stopped, smelling the pack downwind. They were heading her way. Quickly she dropped into the snow and began to cover herself with the cold powder, lay with dead stillness. She even slowed her heartrate. Moments later she felt them running over the top of her in pursuit of fresh game. It was a tense long moment, with no guarantee she had tricked them, as she waited for the group to pass over her. Ursula hated she had resorted to hiding, but she was in survival mode -not fight. She gave it a few extra minutes of stillness, before rising from under her blanket of snow, and shivered violently. Her shredded gear provided little to nothing in the form of warmth or protection. Shaking off how cold she was, and the stress of evading a pack of Wendigos, she was able to observe their direction. They where heading for the village. Cursing, Ursula knew she had to pursue. She couldn’t leave a defenseless village to the mercy of rabid wendigos. Determined, she rose to her feet and followed them towards their destination.
She followed them to the southern outskirts of the village, when she heard the shouts of battle. People shouting to stay close, and finally a very familiar shriek.
Ursula wasted no time and with the very last of her energy hurried towards her.
It had been a rough few nights. Mira was not getting better, she had made of fool of herself before Oberon, and they were dangerously low on rations. Imagine her delight when she saw smoke curling up from a home. The village was close! Her delight was quickly thwarted by a nauseating scent, one she was not unfamiliar with. Regardless, se knew she did not like it, and it smelled like trouble. It was worse than trouble, it was wendigos. Eva knew them instantly from the frightening stories Odin would tell in his letters or late at night when they were children. They were an unavoidable problem in the Basin, and Eva was learning first hand just how bad they are.
Eva had been knocked over when an elk fell into her, and the scene alarmed her. Odin was quick with his blade, Calder as well, even Palo managed some cunning by using the snow and water around him to dodge or trap. She watched Palo trap one, just so Calder could behead it, before it got him. Yet the moment a Wendigo went for Mira, Eva was on her feet and rage coursed through her. She shrieked, her hands fisted at her sides, and the pitch caused more than the Wendigo to cringe. Her mother’s shriek could shatter glass, Eva’s was certainly close to it. Her eyes were now large and luminous silver dollars, and she reached forward, claws extended and ripped the Wendigo off of Mira. She acted on pure instinct, grabbing her spear and elongating it right up and through the Wendigo’s skull. She retracted it just as fast, letting blood splatter across her. Feral, and blinded with rage Eva guarded Miras body as Wendigo came for her. She could not go to Odin, or the others -she knew she was on her own, and she stood her ground, fighting with spear and claw against the Wendigo.
From seemingly nowhere, there came a great blinding light and the white hot heat of lightning shot across the battle field, taking out several Wendigo and dropping their charred remains on the ground. Stunned, Eva looked across the feild. She had not done that.
There standing and heaving for breath, looking like death stood ursula. Eva’s focus was lost as she witnessed Ursula in rare form. Like Eva, her instincts and adrenaline had taken over. Her eyes glowed luminous and frightening, and with her dirty tattered appearance, Ursula looked more like a vile witch, than a proud Valkyrie. She hissed to a group of Wendigo that turned on her, and she made quick work of them, all the while making her way towards Eva. Eva held off the Wendigos to the best of her ability, but she was a fledgeling and still had much to learn. Raw instinct would only take her so far, and the Wendigo swarmed with ravenous hunger. Eva could hear Urusla roar and snarl just as wickedly as the Wendigo -becoming something… less human than she already was. Ursula’s hands dripped with blood as she made her way. The first she impaled on her staff, swung it over knocking back a second, and threw the spear with lethal accuracy into the back of a Wendigo about to take out Calder. The next she grabbed with her bare hands and twisted it’s head clean off with a shout, and that she threw at another Wendigo.
Ursula collected her spear and looked to see Eva was handling and holding her own protecting Mira, and she moved off to help the others. She phased over at Odin’s side, hissing at his near attack and instead plunged her own hand into a wendigo’s chest, ripping it apart. She moved again like smoke. Here, then gone the next, and finally over to a very frightened little girl. Ursula said nothing, simply phased to Freja, grabbed her and carried her to Yuger. The mighty warhorse was stomping and bucking on top of Wendigo’s fighting alongside Nox’s horse. With a single whistle, the horse hurried over and Ursula all but toss Freja into the saddle. “Village! Go! NOW!” Yuge obeyed, making it very clear Ursula had been talking to him and not Freja. With Freja being carried off to safety, Ursula killed another Wendgio that dared to try and follow. It was then she heard a shout of pain -Kyrain, and Ursula rushed to protect and help. Her energy was failing fast, but so long as her adrenaline was kicked in, Ursula would fight until she fell to the ground.
The nights were unfriendly, and the basin was a dangerous place to traverse alone. A bitter wind tore across the hills, the howls of lugarou seemed to always surround her, and her body was sluggish. Most of her energy was going towards healing her broken bones and the lacerations across her body from the fall. It left her in a weakened state, but with no shelter to take refuge... there would be no rest for her. She limped through the first night, using her spear to steady each step, and by dawn she finally collapsed to the snow to lay down.
She woke up several hours later to the sun beating down on her, silence all around, and her more superficial injuries nearly healed. From there she walked following the sun and the stars. Her mind focused on only one thing: Reuniting with her group. She had an idea of where the next village was, but she had to reach high ground first, and that alone took an entire day to climb up the side of a mountain, and reach a point where she could see the land below. It was her first night on the mountain that she was able to not only find her way back to the trail they had been split up from, but she was also attacked.
She had hoped her vantage as well as the hollowed out dune of snow she had fashioned into a shelter would protect her, but in the darkness of night she was roused from her sleep by the ragged sounds of heavy breaths and something like the jingling of chains. They were not human, and there were many of them. Back on the Mountain and alone, she could only hope they were one thing versus the other... unfortunately... they were the other. She would have taken a pack of Wendigos, but she wasn’t that lucky. It wasn’t breathing she’d heard either, but the sound of ancient spirits. The souls of those damned to death on the mountain, and hungry for fresh souls to join them. She did her best to hide from them. She laid up against the back of her makeshift igloo, holding her spear tight in her hands, and staring intently at the dark opening as she waited for them. They wandered about her empty camp, hissing, and shrieking as they searched for the life they knew was up there. They whooshed past her shelter, shrieking into the night. Not much frightened Ursula, but restless spirits were one of those things. Her spear would do her no good against them, as you couldn’t kill something already dead. She couldn’t really use lightning, because then she’d have no energy left over to help her get where she needed to go. She’d be able to ward them off maybe, but they’d just come back, filled with greater vengeance for blood, and in more numbers. These things had a good chance at killing her.
She knew they would find her eventually, and they did... on the second night. The first night they had given up their pursuit and headed back down inside the mountain. She had spent the day trekking downhill as fast as she could using little of her energy as possible. That night she had her heading, and made camp. She dug out a fresh hole in the snow to find relief from the wind, and laid there hoping to gain sleep. They came in the early hours of morning, without warning and with a fearsome rage. They ripped at her from behind her wall of protective snow and tossed her out into the night with an angry shriek. Ursula had gone from the semi warmth of her little igloo, to the frigid cold and went slamming into a nearby rock wall. She tried to hold them off with her spear, slashing out at them, but even with her speed they managed to evade her, and there were so many of them. They were translucent, blue in color with milky white eyes and with no discernible body shape. They did not walk, leaving no prints, and moved as spry as a Frostbite Pixie. They weaved around in the air, buzzing like a hoard of bees around her. She was utterly defenseless against them as they tossed her about like a rag doll. Their talon like claws ripped at her warm gear and the rest of her, causing fresh blood to spill and stain the snow. The sight of her blood seemed to only embolden them. She fought with them to stay on her path, but they quickly overpowered her until they dragged her back up the side of the mountain. They would not let her leave, and desperate, Ursula shrieked. Her entire body came alive with light before lightning struck down from the sky and into her, flowing into them. They burst from all around her, showering her in a mist of fine snow until she slammed into the snow, and sank deep within it weak, and soon unconscious.
She woke up a day later laying in the snow, her clothes soaked and torn, but her spear still at her side, and back to where she had started over four days ago. The only good thing that came out of the Wraith attack, was she had learned her lightning could destroy them. Around her were the littered remains of the Ice Wraiths. She collected their fangs, the three she found, for future use. She realized she needed to abandon her pursuit of the mountain and would have to go around it. At least when she had made it back to a point on the mountain she was able to get the lay of the land and make her heading, now she just had to take her heading around the edge of the mountain, and finished her trek down into the open plains.
The quiet nights and the quiet days left Ursula with plenty of time to think back on her life. She went back to the beginning, hoping to find whatever it was about herself that was redeeming. Was there something about her that Oberon had purchased her soul for a reason? Did Eva see something to give her forgiveness? What did Freja find in her that made the child so willing to trust? Was there anything truly worthy of Kyrain’s affection? Anything worthy of Yanai’s friendship?
Was redemption even in reach for someone like her? Someone without a soul or a heart?
Ursula figured it wasn’t, and if she attempted, she would be spending her life in pursuit of it.
The group continued on until night fell, the darkness almost over powering. Using his powers, Nereus produced another glowing orb, and guided them to a clearing where they made camp as best they could. There were a few woolen blankets that had survived the avalanche and they set them around the fire; pulling their parkas tight against the cold air. Nereus kept Mira in his arms and summoned heat to keep her warm as he huddled against one of the large firs that dotted the edge of the clearing. Odin begged Eva to come sleep in his arms. She was tired- anyone could see it. He knew that her new form stole quite a bit of her energy, and he worried that she was pushing herself too hard. She denied him, however, telling him she would take first watch with Nox. For a moment, Odin almost parted his lips to tell her ‘no’, but their conversation in the cave made him remain silent. She could take care of herself. He finally nodded and took his place among the heap of others who were determined to keep warm by staying close.
Nox took up his watch post on the outer rim of the clearing; standing with arms crossed against his chest. Unlike Evangeline, his posture was strong, his eyes bright and piercing as he surveyed the distant horizon. A light breeze kicked up a few strands of hair, and in the dim fire light behind them, the white colour made them shine. He did not move even as Eva took up her place beside him, her hands curled into gentle fists as she held them to her chest. They trembled ever so slightly in the anxiety and exhaustion she felt.
For a long moment they were silent, and in that silence, the darkness of the wilderness became a pressure that pushed down upon them. Finally Eva’s fists released and he too crossed her arms. “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?” Nox merely glanced at her.
“Speak Valkyrie.” She blinked, as if caught off guard by his response- as if she had expected him to dismiss her.
“You’ve been so helpful to us… to mankind. Yet, we have forgotten you, and you still come to our aid.” Nox turned his head to look at her and saw her eyes catch the firelight. Determination had replaced the exhaustion.
“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.” Nox arched one snowy brow.
“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 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. Nox regarded the girl for a moment before turning to look over the snow where the wind gently coaxed it into small ribbons that dances across the mounds like eels.
“She hasn’t returned yet,” Eva murmured, breaking the silece. “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. Nox closed his eyes for a moment before opening them, He did not move, however, nor look at her. He was like a statue, some long forgotten monolith…
“She is alive,” he stated. Eva sucked in a sharp breath and turned to him, her hands cupped together and pressed against her chest where he could hear her heart thundering. “She- she is?” she asked, voice wavering.
“How do you know?! Where is she?!” she begged, forgetting her respect in her emotions,. Nox finally tried to look at her, and his expression was almost bored.
“She is lost and injured.” For a moment Eva stared with bated breath, and after what seemed like forever she blinked and her hands became fists once more.
“But [i where]?!” Nox merely stared at her. She frowned. “Why won’t you tell me?! Where is she?! Please! I beg of you! If she is injured-”
“She is Valkyrie,” he merely replied, as if that answered everything. Eva couldn’t believe his seeming nonchalance.
“Why won’t you tell me?!”
“Because she is none of my concern.”
“You bought her!”
Eva could hardly breathe, and unable to keep her cool any longer she stepped forward and without thinking her hand moved to touch her spear; as if she might take it and force him to tell. She did not remove it, however, as the next second she reminded herself that he was a god. What did she think she could do against a god? Especially one as powerful s Oberon? Nox’s eyes became dark and cold. Immediately she stepped back and dropped her arms. “If it were not for the fact that you are newly formed, and your emotions are massively heightened by your lack of rest, I would teach you not to speak to me as if you were my equal.” The shadows around him suddenly grew, stretching like a spill of pitch oil that spread around them, and when it touched Eva’s feet it was painfully cold- worse that the mountain snow. She let out a small whimper at the pain, her breath curling in a cloud. “You- young one- are not in a place to make demands of me. I suggest you do not forget that.” She quickly agreed and begged his forgiveness and he responded by pulling back the shadows. Despite the fact she still stood on snow, it became instantly warmer.
“Ursula is alive,” Nox suddenly said, catching her attention, and she could see the darkness fade from his stony gaze. “She is alive and she is on the move, no doubt to meet us as was planned.” Eva swallowed and nodded. Finally Nox let out a sigh and reached out to place his hand atop her head. Instantly Eva was overcome with a sense of nostalgia. His hand… the heaviness… It was as if she was back in the study with her father… Tears glittered in her eyes. “I bought Ursula. I may possess her soul… but I do not own her will. I leave her alone to do as she wishes. That is all you need know. Now go… lay with the others. There is no need for any others to watch tonight. We are out of danger for now.” Eva blinked and finally nodded, and she left him to slip into the group of others by the dying fire.
It was the sun that woke them, and they greeted it like a long lost friend. Finally it would seem they would be allowed a break. There was no food to eat, save for two small rounds of hardtack. A unanimous decision was made and they were given to Kyrian who broke off a piece from one of them and gave it to little Freja. As a child, she was deserving of what little they had to keep them alive. When injured Otto and dying Mira were loaded up atop the two remaining animals, the group began their trek again. Being finally at the base of the mountain, the ground became flat and far easier to manage. Despite walking, they made good time, and crossed the endless, snowy plains. Sometimes there was talking, sometimes singing, and Freja was always laughing. It may have been a hard journey, but the child was too grateful she was no longer abused. However, though she laughed and played about in the snow, even she couldn’t deny the hardship they faced. After the third day of moving, the hardtack was gone, and there was no more food. The desolate landscape also gave no material for fire or shelter, and without Mira or Yanai, they could not locate a waylay and were left to huddle together in the igloos that Calder and Apollo built with their powers. Hungry, weak, and frozen to the bone, they made their way as best they could. And finally- on the seventh day there was a shriek of happiness from Eva as her Valkyrie eyes spotted the distant twirls of smoke from the thatched rooves of cottages. They had finally reached the village.
“Praise the gods!” Apollo cried, stretching his stiff arms towards the sky. The lot of them, expressed their excitement, save for Nox who never seemed to change his silent emotions. Seeing the village, a new found energy seemed to fill the group, and they hurried towards it. It wasn’t easy, however, Nox’s horse, and the two elk pulled back and let their dissidence known in the stamp of their hooves. Eva, who had been holding onto the reins of the elk with Mira atop it, did her best to calm the animal. They were so close they could count the cottage doors! The elk bucked, however, and in his wild movements, the air around her swirled and she froze in place.
It was a smell- a smell on the wind that suddenly whipped through. Like death, the stench of decay was overpowering. Eva suddenbly spun around to see the rest of the group, and for a moment, it seemed she was the only one that caught the scent. When her gaze came to Nox, she saw his own expression, and knew that he had smelled it to. For a split second their eyes locked, and without warning the elk slammed into her, its big body knocking her to the ground. She slammed into it, but whipped her head around in time to see the elk fall a few feet from her, its eyes wide… but cloudy as it made a sound that Eva knew meant it was dying. She looked over to see a figure on top of the elk, and suddenly she couldn’t breathe.
It was big but gangly, its body covered in silver, black, and yellow fur; skin sunken and wrinkled, and pulling from the body as if ready to fall off at any moment. Skeletal and gaunt, its face- dripping in the elk’s blood- was comprised of nearly hollow sockets; its red eyes glittering with hunger. There was no flesh on its nose, the bone protruding, and the skin around its mouth was hanging off; revealing a mouthful of inhuman teeth- long and serrated and set in black, infected gums. It suddenly made a noise, and the sound was so terrifying she jolted back. But that sound… it was as if it were a switch, and it turned on the rest of the world, and Eva suddenly realized that there were about a dozen and a half of these things, spilling throughout their group. The clang of weapons and shouts of their group cut through the cold air. The wendigo ontop of the elk in front of her sunk its hands into the animal, ripping out flesh and organs that it stuffed into its ravenous mouth. And suddenly it reached over and Eva saw it grab for Mira who had been tied to the elk. Grabbing her hair in its spindle fingers. It yanked the unconscious girl free of her bindings and dragged her to its mouth, sinking its teeth deep into her shoulder. Blood spurt and in that instant Eva snapped.
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.”
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