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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.”
The caverns were eerie, or so Odin thought. It wasn’t so much the darkness or the cold; neither of which much bothered him. But rather it was the emptiness. But for a few select stalagtites that hung down from the ceiling, the two of them passed nothing but the odd boulder or two. There was no signs of life, and no sounds but for the distant rush of running water; most likely the snowmelt from the outside weather. Although Odin didn’t feel like coming up against any lifeforms that might have been hiding, he had to admit that the he didn’t like the odds of having no food or water for the however long they might take to find their way out. Eva might have been able to survive on blood, but Odin would have to eat and drink eventually.
“It’s definitely running water I hear…” Eva whispered at one point as he helped her over a protruding boulder from the ground, his hands griping her waist as she set a hand to his shoulder.
“Good. If you can hear it, chances are there some kind of opening that it’s coming from. Depending on where it is, it could be our ticket out of this place.” She giggled in response as he set her on the ground. Odin frowned. “What’s so funny?”
“It’s just like any other walk in the forest with you… helping me over rocks and jumping over streams, and Allhalla forbid if there was a muddy puddle in our path.” She sighed and hugged his arm tight to her as they traversed the path. “You always managed to pick me up and carry me across.” She pressed a kiss to his bicep. “Always protected me during storms too…” she drew him to a stop, and she held his hand tightly. “I’m glad I’m with you…”
“Me too. This place… it’s giving me the creeps. I have to admit I wouldn’t want to be down here alone.”
“The dark it,” Eva suddenly said, her voice growing quiet. “It reminds me of… of the place where I died.”
Odin paused, and looked down at her. She stared straight ahead, and although he knew she couldn’t see, something about her expression was as if she was looking at something in the darkness. He felt her tense. His hand squeezed hers. “Come on,” he urged her forward. “Tell me about it. I was in Fey for such a short time. I only saw a few things. I can’t imagine what it was like for you.”
“It was called… Aditchoria- a dark void where I met the great evil we are to face.” Odin blinked in surprise.
“You met it?” She nodded.
“I was left in there for what felt like months. Alone, cold, unable to see, no sound, and no hope of escape. By the time I went, I didn’t even have the strength to scream or cry. The only thought on my mind was how I had failed Belle, and that I’d never get to see you again. That’s how I saw you in my mind before all the pain ended. Handed extended out with that warm smile of yours to lead me across from the world of the living.” Odin felt a pang in his chest that had his jaw tightening in anger. The thought that his precious Evangeline had been left to die, cold and alone made him want to find Tiernan and run the bastard through- over, and over, and over again.
“I’m sorry you were alone,” he said, his voice rough. “I did everything I could to find you, and when I did, I forced Nox to take me there as soon as he could. He told me I would have to die to do it. In that way… I guess we’re not so different. But you can be sure,” he paused and turned to hold her to him. “I’ll never let you be alone.”
“I missed you,” she whispered, cupping his face. “And now that I have you, I’m never letting you go.” She pulled his lips down to hers and Odin kissed her deeply.
It was during the kiss Eva heard a new sound and she broke the kiss, and slapped a hand over Odin’s puckered lips. “Mph?!” he managed, eyes snapping open in surprise.
“Shh!” she snapped. Her ear twitched as the sound came again. “I hear something… it’s…” He frowned as she released him and stretched her arms out, wandering through the darkness until she found the far wall. When she was quiet for what he thought was far too long, Odin frowned.
“Eva? It was probably just the water-” She cut him off with a gasp.
“I hear coughing!” Odin blinked.
“Like… from a person?” She glanced back at him.
“It’s faint, but it’s coming from that way,” she pointed further down the path. “Maybe it’s one from our group!” He glanced upwards, listening for what she heard, but he couldn’t make out anything more than the stagnant air.
“If you say so,” he said, and made his way to take her hand.
Leading her down the path, they walked for nearly another mile before the path changed, and the ground became covered in the remnants of snow. Glancing up, he half expected to see some kind of crack of light from the outside, but it too was covered, and he was certain the avalanche had seen to that. The coughing Eva had claimed to hear also caught his ears- tiny and faint, and had she not told him about it, he probably wouldn’t of heard it at all. Up ahead, he could make out where the majority of the snow had fallen, piling up in the center of another large, open cavern. In the very center was a large dark mass. Immediately he pulled Eva to a halt. “There’s something up ahead,” he frowned when she asked him why they stopped. Pulling her to the edge of the wall he squeezed her hand. “Stay here. Let me check it out.” Unsheathing his sword, he edged forward, his eyes seeking out shapes in the pile of snow. When he was almost upon it, he finally realized what he was looking at, and sheathed his blade. “It’s one of the reindeer,” he called out to Eva, taking a knee as he brushed the snow away. “Poor thing must have died from the fall…” He sighed, rubbing at his chin as he tried to think of what to do with it. Reindeer meant meat, but he didn’t have the means to start a fire. Could you eat it raw?
“Are you sure it’s dead?” Eva asked. He frowned.
“Pretty sure? Why?”
“It doesn’t sound dead…” He glanced at it once more, and laid a hand upon it. The animal was definitely dead, not even moving when he pressed down against its chest. It took him a moment before he realized what Evangeline was hearing. The sound was faint- so inaudible he hadn’t even noticed it and he was right next to it; a gurgling, wheezing sort of sound that seemed to come from under the deer. Frowning, he dug through the snow, and then pushed the animal to the side, and as he did, his eyes widened. There was a body underneath it. “Holy shit!” he breathed. “There’s someone here.” Evangeline, following his voice, joined him, and together they managed to remove the dead weight. It wasn’t until the reindeer had been moved did Odin recognize the blood-spattered face. “Oh god- it’s Mira!”
He tasted divine! She had missed the feeling of him against her for the past two weeks. She was so happy she felt she could burst. She was instantly wrapped up in the feel and taste of him that she nearly forgot to breathe. The cold damp wall of the cave slammed against her back and from there was it sweet pressure. For a moment they were able to escape the truth that they were trapped in a cave. It didn’t matter to Eva, all that mattered was she had Odin back. Their moment of bliss was broken only by a final rumble and shiver of the cavern. Snow packed down over the top of their only would be exit, and their only source of light. Eva gasped, a cold feeling of dread washing over her. Her hands fisted tighter against Odin’s parka that her claws threatened to puncture holes through the thick furs, and her legs wrapped tighter around his hips. She had to remind herself she was only trapped in a cave, and she was with Odin… This was [i not] the dark room. For a moment she was trapped in the horrific idea that Kaibe and the Uriac-Dhun would emerge from the pitch blackness.
Odin drew breath, and Eva honed in on it, and slowly other sounds began to filter in.
“We’re really trapped now…” her voice was barely a whisper as Odin set her down, she curled closer to him as her vision adjusted. Slowly but surely she could make out faint shadows, but nothing with true clarity. “I can’t see anything,” she managed with a shaky breath. She was trembling the slightest. Horrific flashes of her time in the void made her shake her head in hopes of shaking those memories away. It took Odin tensing beside her for her to pull her mind from caving into fear. “Odin? What is it?” She asked nervously.
She found it funny now that he’d been so worried she wouldn’t need him, and yet here she was clinging to him because she was terrified. Not from the fact they were trapped underground, but from the suffocating darkness surrounding her.
“It’s alright,” he quickly assured her. “It’s just… I can see. Must be Nox’s magic…”
“Oh…” Eva blinked. “I guess that makes us lucky. Do you see a way to go?” She asked, waiting in the hollow echo of the caves as he looked around.
“I’m going to be honest… I have no idea what direction to go…”
Eva frowned, and if Odin couldn’t see their way out, perhaps she might hear something?” With her arms wrapped firmly around Odin’s arm, Eva focused her ears to listen. She heard the dripping of water, and something else. It was a constant sound, never rising or falling in pitch, but rather hollow in tone. Running water? Wind? Maybe if they went that way they would find a way out?
“We need to go that way,” she said confident she had heard wind.
“Huh?” Frowning she lifted a finger and tapped her ears.
“Hyper sensitive hearing remember?” She teased. “These ears aren’t for show… Besides, I can hear something… something like… running water. Or wind. In that direction. Water or air- either way they both lead to the outside. We should follow it. Don’t you think?” She couldn’t make out his face, but she did feel him take her hand in his.
“Well Miss Scarlet, between my eyes and your ears, we should be out of this place in no time. Shall we?” She smiled, she could hear his in his voice.
“Only if you promise not to let go. I can’t see, it’s all dark and even darker shadows.” Odin assured her with a squeeze of her hand he wouldn’t let go.
It wasn’t enough for Eva as they made their way through the tunnel slowly. She was glad she wasn’t separated from Odin after the fall. Without his presence she was sure she would have lost her mind being in this darkness. It was too reminiscent of Aditchoria. Perhaps that event had turned her previous fear of lightning into her strength, but she had unwillingly traded it for a fear of darkness. She kept her ears open though, and she knew they were going the right way because the sound was getting louder.
“It’s definitely running water I hear…” Eva whispered at one point before the reached another split. Odin gave her the layout of their choices, and she listened down each tunnel to find their running water. He was her eyes in the darkness, and one point he helped her over a protruding boulder from the ground and she was reminded of times long ago.
“It’s just like any other walk in the forest with you… helping me over rocks and jumping over streams, and Allhalla forbid if there was a muddy puddle in our path.” She sighed as she jumped down with his help from the boulder she could not see. “You always managed to pick me up and carry me across.” She gave him a kiss to his arm, since she was holding it and knew where it was. “Always protected me during storms too…” she drew him to a stop, and she held his hand tightly. “I’m glad I’m with you… The dark it… it reminds me of… of the place where I died.” She confessed. “Aditchoria was a dark void where I met the great evil we are to face. I was left in there for what felt like months. Alone, cold, unable to see, no sound, and no hope of escape. By the time I went, I didn’t even have the strength to scream or cry. The only thought on my mind was how I had failed Belle, and that I’d never get to see you again. That’s how I saw you in my mind before all the pain ended. Handed extended out with that warm smile of yours to lead me across from the world of the living. I missed you, and now that I have you, I’m never letting you go.” She smiled for him, and felt his hand on her face. She follow his lead and she kissed him.
It was during the kiss Eva heard a new sound and she broke the kiss, and slapped a hand over Odin’s puckered lips. “Shh!” She snapped. Her ear twitched as the sound came again. “I hear something… it’s…” She stepped away from Odin, walking with a hand on the wall towards the sound. The sound had faded, and so she waited in tense silence, hoping it would make itself known again, and it did not a moment later. Eva gasped realizing what it was. “I hear coughing… It’s faint, but it’s coming from that way. “Maybe it’s one from our group!” She held here hand out for Odin to take and lead her the way her ears directed them.
Eva shook her head and forced him back into her arms. “I love you too…” her voice finally broke, but her tears did not last. They fell delicately down her cheeks, but she smiled all the same. Odin smiled too, and for the first time in a month it was a true smile. His old smile.
“My beautiful Valkyrie…” he whispered, sweeping his thumbs across her cheeks to wipe away her tears. She let out a gentle laugh before burying herself in his chest and he held her tightly against him until she stepped back and wiped away her tears.
“Alright,” she finally sighed out. “Odin Attercop, I’m going to tell you something right now, and don’t you dare ever forget it,” she pointed an accusing finger at him with comical cuteness. He smirked and made an ‘x’ motion against his chest.
“Cross my non-existent heart.” She giggled.
“You are more than just my champion,” she said. “You are my everything, and there will never, do you hear me? Never be a time that I will not need you.” That accusing finger reached out and hooked a handful of fabric of his heavy parka drawing him closer, her voice growing softer. “I may not need you in the ways I once did, but there are many more that I need you for. I need my best friend, without you I am lost, and perhaps that makes me weak, but I don’t see how this life is worth living if I can’t live it with you.” She rose to her tip toes to nuzzle her nose against his, and holding him closely to her. “I need you to be my husband because no one else will do. I need you to care for my heart because you’re the only one that can keep it safe, even if you’re also the one who can destroy it. It’s yours because I trust you with all that I am. It’s yours because I love you. I do need you Odin, and not just me… but…” her words trailed away and she frowned.
Odin frowned too, lifting a hand to touch his fingers to her face. “Eva? What is it?” She nibbled her lip for a moment, eyes averted, before finally meeting his gaze; cheeks pinked. “It won’t always be just us. One day… there -there might be three of us.” He blinked, confusion in her gaze before it dawned on him what she meant. A baby. The thought made him blush.
“Ah… that is…” He quickly cleared his throat. “I know.” She reached up and gripped his sleeves tight, her expression determined.
“And if you think I won’t need you, then you’re sorely mistaken.” She brushed his hair from his face.
“We’ve both been through too much to be together for it to fall apart. If Lapsus really thinks he can come between us, he has another thing coming.” Odin’s smile faltered but she was quick to grip his cheeks in her delicate and chilled hands. “I won’t let him have you. I’ll make sure you never forget how much I need and love you, I’ll drive you mad with attention and fill every dark corner with as much happiness as I can, so he can never reach into your heart again!” she proclaimed, and he smiled then and took her hands from his face, pressing a gentle kiss into each of her palms.
“I love you Evangeline.” Her eyes filled with tears again and before he could stop her, she leaped upon him; claiming his lips with hers.
The kiss was incredible. As if to keep her word even then, the taste and heat of it filled every facet of him until it had taken over his brain, and suddenly he was meeting her mouth with his own, in a flurried frenzy that eventually had him falling forward until her back hit the wall and they were tangled up in each other. He did not know how long it was, but they lost themselves In one another, only stopped by another loud rumble, and the sudden snuffing out of the last but of light that came from the opening. Both of them stared upwards through the darkness, and Odin felt her tense against him. He let out a breath, a bit tense himself. “We’re really trapped now…” she breathed softly and he let her slide down, her boots thudding on the stone floor.
“Seems like it,” he answered, just as softly. It was as if the darkness prompted their silence, lest something in the blackness hear them. And it got Odin thinking, these cavers were now doubt eons old… there was bound to be something living in them. Without warning, something seemed to heat just behind his eyes, inside his head, and without warning everything became clear; as if the light had never left them. He sucked in a breath, blinking in surprise. It prompted Eva to grab his sleeve.
“It’s alright,” he quickly assured her. “It’s just… I can see. Must be Nox’s magic…” He gazed around, and his eyes found the four other caves that surrounded them. “I’m going to be honest… I have no idea what direction to go…” Eva was quiet for a moment, glancing around, though it was obvious her sight was hardly compared to his. Without warning she lifted a hand and pointed towards the opening, second from them.
“That way,” she said confidently.
“Huh?” Frowning she lifted a finger and tapped her ears.
“I can hear something… something like… running water. Or wind. In that direction. Water or air- either way they both lead to the outside. We should follow it.” Odin smiled.
“Well Miss Scarlet, between my eyes and your ears, we should be out of this place in no time.” Reaching out he took her hand and brought it to his lips for a quick kiss. “Shall we?” he smiled and together they headed through the darkness.
Eva was caught off guard by the proclamation of that name. She hadn’t thought that possible. She had heard of the creature from her studies with her mother. Afterall, Eva was intended to be the wife to a Prince of the Gods, she had ought to know all there was. Her own confusion was answered in Odin’s explanation of what Nox had told him, and his confession of the darkness in his mind. Her eyes never left him, even as he stood up with his back to her and walked away. She could see how tense his shoulders were, but he spoke plainly and honestly about the effects Eva’s changes had on him. He’d been jealous and afraid of the new friends Eva had made, and his fear that she was leaving him behind. Her brow furrowed in sadness to hear that. She didn’t want to be among the list of those he felt abandoned by.
She stood up slowly, her ears primed to every word he spoke. He said he had been weak, tired and overworked, and that was how Lapsus had managed to make a claim on Odin.
“He whispered all the things I feared. Made me see things that weren’t really there.”
“Like what?” Eva dared to ask.
“Like you… with Calder. Or the priest. Or even Apollo.” Eva blanched, surely Odin could have seen past those lies.. only he hadn’t. It explained so much though, and Eva was reminded of the words Destiny spoke to her.
[i ‘Odin has a parasite…’]
Nox’s words too rang in her head.
[i ‘Your man is not himself…’]
She felt a shiver, for it had all be true. She was suddenly overcome with Guilt for having not seen it. It wasn’t Odin that was pushing her away… it had been Lapsus. Manipulation was done best when one alienated their victim. From where she stood watching him, she could see his hands fisted tightly at his sides.
“And damn it, it makes me so angry… Because I told myself, when I proposed to you I made a promise to love you for every moment of every day. And those days that are gone from my memory… are moments I’ll never get back with you.” She couldn’t stop herself if she tried. Feeling his pain, his guilt and his sorrow, she rushed towards him until she all but slammed against his back. Her hands wrapped around him with a ferocity that promised to never let him go.
“Oh Odin, I wish you had told me…” She whispered against him, her voice ready to break from emotion.
“I was weak Evangeline… and I’m so sorry.”
“It’s all forgiven,” She told him breathlessly, sniffling as he turned to face her. To see his smile again, made her giggled lightly and reach up to cup his face the way he held her own.
“You’re right,” he said, his voice soft. “You can take care of yourself now. I just don’t want to hold you back. So I became distant so that I didn’t interfere. I stayed away… because I love you.” Eva shook her head and forced him back into her arms.
“I love you too…” her voice finally broke, but her tears did not last. They fell delicately down her cheeks, but she smiled all the same.
She held him for a long while, overjoyed to be back in his arms, before finally stepping back to wipe away her tears. She composed herself with one heavy breath, head tipped back and shaking her hands loose. Once calmed down from the flux of emotions raging inside her, she was able to breathe and look up at him with a clear expression of absolute love.
“alright,” She finally sighed out. “Odin Attercop, I’m going to tell you something right now, and don’t you dare ever forget it.” She pointed an accusing finger at him with comical cuteness. “You are more than just my Champion.” She informed him, sounding more like a motivational speaker than his betrothed. “You are my everything, and there will never, do you hear me? [i Never] be a time that I will not need you.” That accusing finger reached out and hooked a handful of fabric of his heavy parka drawing him closer, her voice growing softer. “I may not need you in the ways I once did, but there are many more that I need you for. I need my best friend, without you I am lost, and perhaps that makes me weak, but I don’t see how this life is worth living if I can’t live it with you.” She rose to her tip toes to nuzzle her nose against his, and holding him closely to her. “I need you to be my husband because no one else will do. I need you to care for my heart because you’re the only one that can keep it safe, even if you’re also the one who can destroy it. It’s yours because I trust you with all that I am. It’s yours because I love you. I do need you Odin, and not just me… but…” her words trailed away and she frowned.
To tell him or not? It still hadn’t shown, but she wasn’t even certain herself. However her need to be upfront and honest with Odin prevailed over her desire to keep it hidden. He was waiting for her to finish, and she did so with a feverish blush to her cheeks. “It won’t always be just us. One day… there -there might be three of us.” She had to take a calming breath to hide the fact she was truly concerned that day might be sooner than later. “And if you think I won’t need you, then you’re sorely mistaken.” Finally she smiled and it was tender and sweet. Her eyes roamed over his handsome face, his blood red curls clinging to his cheeks, and his intense blue eyes staring right into her soul. She was overcome with a great urge to kiss him, instead she reached up and brushed his hair from his face. “We’ve both been through too much to be together for it to fall apart. If Lapsus really thinks he can come between us, he has another thing coming. I won’t let him have you. I’ll make sure you never forget how much I need and love you, I’ll drive you mad with attention and fill every dark corner with as much happiness as I can so he can never reach into your heart again!” She proclaimed and finally it was she who jumped up to wrap her arms around his shoulders and meet his lips with hers.
It had been two weeks since he’d kissed her last, and the result was an explosion of pent up lust he hadn’t realized he’d been harboring. It was made worse when he arched into him, lips parting to accept his tongue. His hands clenched around her, delving into her silky hair as he went to take advantage of her open mouth, but before he suddenly found himself across the cavern, sliding with a hard slam into the icy, stone wall behind him. The sudden impact caused a curtain of snow to let loose from the opening high above them and it fell to the floor of the cavern with a loud rumble. Breathing hard he stared at her as she pushed up to her knees, her chest heaving, the fur of her parka clinging to her wet hair around her pointed ears.
For a long time they stared at one another, and Odin felt like an idiot as he watched her eventually crawl to sit against the other end of the wall. Hugging herself as she gazed upwards, waiting- as he was- for the rumbling of the avalanche to die off. Afterwards it became eerily silent, save for the dripping of melting snow. No voices. No calls from the others. His stomach twisted ever so slightly with the wonder of what had happened to their companions, but honestly he was far too relieved that he at least knew Eva was alive and well. He finally took a moment to peer around. Despite the fact that several hundreds of feet above him he could see the hint of sunlight, they had fallen too far for it to make much of a difference. The result was dimly lit cavern bordered by multiple openings in various sizes that lead to branching paths. His mind immediately went to Shtra’vanger and the memory of massive nesting place the people used to escape from the storms. He recalled Nad’ja’s description of the cave systems; carved from the waters of ancient, melting glaciers. The problem was, they had been traveling for almost three days now, and there was no telling how far from the village’s caverns they were… or if the cavern they were in was even connected…
“I think we’re trapped down here until we can find a way out,” Eva muttered softly, her words echoing in the emptiness. He glanced over at her and sighed, pushing up against the wall to stand. He brushed the snow that still clung to him away, happy to find that none of his clothing had torn in the fall and that his sword remained belted faithfully at his side.
“I fear you’re right,” he replied, and looked once more at the distant exit. “Don’t suppose you could… do that thing you can do? Up to there?” He pointed and she followed his gesture with an apologetic frown.
“Phasing.” He blinked.
“That thing? It’s called phasing. Or at least… that’s what Ursula calls it,” she blushed and tucked a lock of hair behind her air.
“Oh,” he murmured, feeling sheepish. “Can you?” She glanced upwards again before solemnly shaking her head.
“No… It’s too far. And the avalanche pushed us… off course. I wouldn’t know where to go. I could end up phasing us into the middle of the mountain. Then we’d both be dead.” He sighed and closed his eyes.
“You’re right. My mistake…”
“Come sit with me?”
Odin’s eyes snapped open and he stared at her in surprise. It was the last thing he thought she’d ask. She patted the stone floor beside her. “Let’s figure this out.” For a moment he couldn’t move, his reply caught in his throat. His hesitation made her expression fade into one of concern and she held out a hand. “Please?” she asked, her tone hushed. He quickly came to sit beside her, and although he was eager to hold her hand… he didn’t. They both stared at their boots.
“Eva… I’m sorry…” he finally said. She didn’t say anything at first, and he was fearing his luck had run out before she finally spoke again. When she did, her tone was flighty- soft and broken. Like she was holding in tears. He hated the sound.
“I don’t want to continue this way. I want things to go back to the way they used to be…” He looked at her and found her blue eyes dark with sadness, and pale cheeks flushed as she bit her lip. “Back when my greatest fear was Sora Johanson.” She let out a half laugh at the thought, her eyes on her hands that fidgeted together in her lap. Tears filled her eyes. “Now it’s… that you don’t trust me, and that you truly don’t want me.” Her voice wavered and he quickly reached out and grabbed her hand. She didn’t pull it back and he held on tight.
“That’s not true!” he exclaimed, ferocity coating the words. “That will never be true.” She lifted her eyes to him, and what little light the cavern could boast was caught in the glistening tears that gathered at her lashes. It made them large and luminous, and although he hated to admit it, he finally understood what it meant when he’d heard the rumor about his sister being beautiful when she cried. Eva was beautiful too… those tears like stars. But if he had a heart it would have broken at the sight of them.
“Eva…” he breathed, and reached out with his free hand to cup her face. She sniffed, holding back the tears even as her lips trembled.
“Something has been bothering you, but you won’t talk to me! I can’t help you if you won’t talk!” Odin’s eyes widened, and his hand twitched as if to pull away, but she was quick to grab it and hold it to her. “What are you so afraid of, Odin?!” she begged. “Have I changed too much? It’s not like I asked for this… All I wanted was to be with you.” Finally, she released him, pressing a clenched fist to her chest as she pulled away, head turned to hide her face behind a curtain of darkness that had grown thicker and more lustrous with her Valkyrie change. “I know you said it was over… but it’s not over for me. It never will be, but I can’t do this game of never knowing when you’ll be content and when you’ll be angry. I don’t know what I did, but…” She lifted her face enough to peer at him, longing in her eyes that cut him to the core. “I’m sorry.” Odin stared at her for a long moment and suddenly the word flew out of his mouth without a chance to stop it.
He swallowed at her confusion, and looked away, eyes shifting across the floor as if looking for something to shield him from what he was convinced would be her disgust. “Lapsus… came to me. I don’t know how or why. I thought… I thought he was just with my brother, but… Nox says that he has the power to travel great distances. To latch onto… shadows in our minds. If we have them. And I had them.” He lifted a hand to scratch at his chin which had grown a shade of stubble in his lack to take care of himself. Ta’tarans didn’t grow facial hair, but his mother’s blood flowed through his veins. After a moment he stood and took a few steps forward, setting his hands on his hips and squaring his shoulders as he finally told her the truth. “When you changed… it was a lot. It wasn’t just your transformation… not just the eyes or ears… You changed… so much. And I worried that you were forgetting about me. I watched you train with Ursula… and she taught you differently then how I taught you. And you stopped asking for my help. You started to laugh and smile at others the way you used to laugh and smile with me. Just me. I didn’t feel special to you anymore, Eva. I didn’t feel like yours. I took care of you for so long, that when you didn’t need caring for… it also felt like you didn’t need me. And you were the last person who ever needed me, Evageline. Alex became king, and the whole country looked to him. Kyrian… Kyrian started to look to him. Your mother would call on just him. Talk to just him. Attica left us for Ryudan, and she fell in love, so she didn’t need her brothers anymore. Even Aiden… he’s… he’s gone too. My best friend. Helping his father rule a kingdom. My father left me… My mother did to. Mathias… Mathias left too…” His shoulders sagged. “I wasn’t… special to anyone any more. I wasn’t… needed.”
He swallowed and lifted his head to stare up at that tiny speck of light. “And then, when I was needed again… it wasn’t because I was Odin. I was just… the prince. They expected me to carry out his orders. All of them. I got… so tired. Exhausted. And Lapsus saw it. He saw I was weak… and he took advantage of me. He whispered all the things I feared. Made me see things that weren’t really there. Like you… with Calder. Or the priest. Or even Apollo. He reminded me of how lonely I was. My anger built and suddenly… I wasn’t me anymore. I stopped wanting to be me. So Lapsus took over. He filtered through my blood like poison. There are nights I don’t remember- days even… where there was just… nothing. I don’t remember them at all.” He clenched his fists. “And damn it, it makes me so angry… Because I told myself, when I proposed to you I made a promise to love you for every moment of every day. And those days that are gone from my memory… are moments I’ll never get back with you.” There was a rush of footsteps, and suddenly her arms were around him, her hands gripping painfully tight in his stomach and chest as her face pressed to his back. He smiled and gently placed his hands over hers. “I was weak Evangeline… and I’m so sorry.” Gently he pried her grip from him and turned to cup her face, smiling down as she stared up at him. “You’re right,” he said, his voice soft. “You can take care of yourself now. I just don’t want to hold you back. So I became distant so that I didn’t interfere. I stayed away… because I love you.”
Sometimes Eva hated when she was right. She heard the cracking of ice and snow once again, right before part of it fell with Mira. It was just one section that broke away. The entire sheet that began to tumble shifted and dropped almost 150 feet above them and just beneath them. “Avalanche!” Ursula shouted. Eva’s heart leapt with panic. All around her chaos ensued. She heard Yuger shout and Ursula do the same, Eva watched in horror as Ursula was quickly caught by a rouge tree that snapped and fell towards them. It struck Ursula clean out of her saddle and carried her down over the side of the mountain. Yuger in his own panic was caught in the snow and carried away like the rest. She couldn’t see her mother or Mira at the front of the line. At first she reached for Calder who rode close by, but a section rushed right beside her taking Calder away. Ahead she saw Kyrain managing to keep his elk above the torrent of snow falling under them. Eva wasn’t as skilled riding an elk, but she was an impressive rider. She used those skills to try and keep her elk up and above the snow as well, determined to survive if she could. She wasn’t about to let this take her down -not when Tiernan still needed destroying.
“Evangeline!” She almost didn’t hear him over the roar of rushing snow, but she had heard him. She felt his own fear, and knew it wasn’t a figment of her imagination. His tossing of her note hadn’t gone unnoticed, and it had broke her heart. Now she could see him trying to urge his elk towards her, with an extended arm. She didn’t think, she reached for him in hopes she might reach him. It didn’t stop the sensation of the ground falling out from under her. She kicked her feet out of the stirrups quickly and tried to jump for Odin. The last thing she saw was Odin vaulting into the air. Things seemed to move in slow motion, the wind whipped past her, and a feeling of weightlessness reigned over her for a moment before Gravity would rip her down and bury her in the snow.
Suddenly she came to a painful stop. Her body yanked to a stop, beneath her was a long drop of dark nothingness, and above her was Odin. She didn’t have a chance to shout his name, she only managed one frightened looked before the snow fell from under him and they both fell into the darkness. Surprisingly she didn’t scream, and she didn’t let go of Odin. He pulled her against him and she clung to him just as the ground came rushing up to greet them. She cringed and buried her face in his chest. At least she would die in his arms.
They landed with a hard thud, tumbling and rolling as the snow dispersed about the area. The air had been knocked clean out of her lungs and left her coughing. The fall hadn’t been as terrible as she thought. She was still alive, but her body hurt and the lightness of day had faded away. She groaned and rolled her head back, opening her eyes and looking around. Slowly her vision came into focus, and the faint light that still reached them, illuminated Odin’s face. She blushed, his body hanging over hers, large and encompassing.
“Od-mmph” He descended on her without warning, his mouth covering hers, and his body pinning her to the ground. Her body flashed with heat, and she arched her body towards him for a single moment. She might have lost herself in his kiss.. if it hadn’t been for the past month and especially the past week. Her feelings of euphoria and lust were stamped out as quickly as they came by a feeling of dreadful uncertainty. Eva reacted, with hands fisting at his shoulders and quickly shoved him off. Hard. She heaved for breath and scooted across the stone and dirt ground to get away from him. For a long moment she stared at him, while the thunderous roar of rushing snow began to die off above them leaving the resounding [i drip, drip], of forming icicles or cavern structures.
She had no idea what to say to him, too confused and too shocked by what had just happened to talk just yet. She looked him over once more before she rose to her feet, and finally walked away from him. She went to inspect where they had fallen in from. The snow had pretty much piled up to block the ceiling of the cave. There was no leaving out of that exit, and it kept them trapped. What light got through was faint and not helpful. She stared up at it, willing for it to break apart and let them climb out, but it wouldn’t. They were trapped for the time being, which meant Eva was trapped alone with Odin. Which meant Odin couldn’t storm away from her. Finally she turned back to look at him, but still with a loss for words she sighed and fell into the snow to sit down.
“I think we’re trapped down here until we can find a way out,” She muttered softly, but the cavernous room echoed her words loud enough to be heard. “Come sit with me? Let’s figure this out,” she suggested and held her hand out to him, but it was very clear she wasn’t talking about figuring a way out. She watched as he walked towards her and moved to sit beside her. Eva looked at him tiredly, but hopeful. “I don’t want to continue this way. I want things to go back to the way they used to be… back when my greatest fear was Sora Johanson.” She let out a half laugh at the thought, her eyes on the hands that fidgeted together in her lap. “Now it’s… that you don’t trust me, and that you truly don’t want me,” Her voice wavered, but she swallowed down any tears from forming and managed to look back at him. “Something has been bothering you, but you won’t talk to me. I can’t help you if you won’t talk, what are you so afraid of, Odin? Have I changed too much? It’s not like I asked for this,” She said reaching up to touch her pointed ears, a look of shame painting her features. “All I wanted was to be with you. I know you said it was over… but it’s not over for me. It never will be, but I can’t do this game of never knowing when you’ll be content and when you’ll be angry. I don’t know what I did, but I’m sorry,” she told him her eyes glittering with unshed tears but a determined sort of hope he would believe her and forgive her for whatever it was she did to lose his trust.
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