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Odin didn’t believe her at first, but boy did she grin ear to ear when Odin finally stopped her a mile later in another cavernous chamber claiming he saw something. She waited as asked, with baited breath at what he might find. She couldn’t see, but she could imagine what was happening, and tried to picture things in her mind. The size of the cave, where Odin’s footsteps were headed, and what he could have possibly drew his sword for. Then again, this was Odin and he never took chances. She felt he was taking too long, but that might have also been in part that Eva was anxious to know as she couldn’t see.
Whatever it was, it must not have been a threat, as Odin sheathed his sword and she peeled away from the wall. She was tempted to disobey and go to his side regardless of what it was.
“What do you see?” She called into the darkness with a whisper.
“It’s one of the reindeer. Poor thing must have died from the fall...” Eva frowned as she began to shuffle her feet towards the sound of Odin’s voice. She strained her ears further to listen for signs of life. She had just heard the coughing not a moment ago!
“Are you certain it’s dead?” She asked, still able to hear something like a heart beating.
“Pretty sure, why?”
“It doesn’t sound dead to me... I hear... a heartbeat...” She frowned not sounding so sure of herself and placed a hand to one of her ears. Maybe she wasn’t hearing correctly?
No it certainly wasn’t that, as not a moment longer came a haggard, wheeze of air. Lungs rattling with the threat of death, and weakness.
“I hear it again, Odin... it can’t be dead,” She tried finally making her way over to him by following her ears to his strong loud heartbeat. She knew he believed her, or maybe he heard it too because she heard him shifting snow around until he gasped. “Wha-“
“What is it?” She asked nervously.
“There’s someone here.” something in Eva fluttered with hope, and pride. She [i had] heard someone! She helped him move the reindeer out of the way and dug out the snow further with him, feeling out for anything firm and unmoving.
“If it’s a reindeer... Odin, only Yanai or Mira were riding the reindeer...” She grew nervous “Who... who is it?” She asked
“Oh God -it’s Mira!” He gasped.
“Mira!” She reached forward hoping to get her hands on her sister and pull her to safety. “Her breath is weak...” Eva said pressing her ear to Mira’s chest. “It sounds... muddled like something is keeping her from breathing... and her heart rate is weak. She needs a healer...” Eva breathed sitting back up and cradling Mira against her in the hopes of warming her up. She had been the first to fall.
“Mira? Mira, it’s Eva, please hang on. We’ll find a way out of here.” She was for the most part unresponsive, but after having the pressure of the reindeer off of her, breathing slowly came easier, but she was nowhere near out of the woods.
Eva was too afraid to move her sister, at least not until she had woken up and could tell them how she was. She looked to Odin with concern over what they could do to survive, and now things were more complicated with Mira. Her mind rushed to find a solution to their problem, but without any light to see it made things that much more difficult.
“We need to start a fire...” She suggested, but without a way to light it how would they do that? She was instantly reminded of how she had burned Odin with her lightning. She’d been better at controlling it, and she’d seen what a bolt of lightning could do to a tree... perhaps she could make a flame if they could only find a bit of wood... “Odin, do you see any bits of wood lying around. I know the avalanche took down trees, perhaps there’s pieces of one here? I think I can, or rather... I want to try and see if I can’t start a fire with my lightning.” She couldn’t see him but she looked to the sound of his steady breathing, her expression hopeful. “She’s ice cold, Odin. If we can’t...” Her voice broke and she curled around Mira and held her closely, desperate to get her warm, and get some sort of response from her other than haggard breathing. She took a deep breath to calm herself and looked into the darkness as if it might have the answer. Sighing she spoke with less vibrato, and more fierce determination. “I did not spend a year in Fey doing all I could to reunite Belle back with her mother, just for her to perish in a cave. If there’s a chance, I’m going to take it.”
The caverns were eerie, or so Odin thought. It wasn’t so much the darkness or the cold; neither of which much bothered him. But rather it was the emptiness. But for a few select stalagtites that hung down from the ceiling, the two of them passed nothing but the odd boulder or two. There was no signs of life, and no sounds but for the distant rush of running water; most likely the snowmelt from the outside weather. Although Odin didn’t feel like coming up against any lifeforms that might have been hiding, he had to admit that the he didn’t like the odds of having no food or water for the however long they might take to find their way out. Eva might have been able to survive on blood, but Odin would have to eat and drink eventually.
“It’s definitely running water I hear…” Eva whispered at one point as he helped her over a protruding boulder from the ground, his hands griping her waist as she set a hand to his shoulder.
“Good. If you can hear it, chances are there some kind of opening that it’s coming from. Depending on where it is, it could be our ticket out of this place.” She giggled in response as he set her on the ground. Odin frowned. “What’s so funny?”
“It’s just like any other walk in the forest with you… helping me over rocks and jumping over streams, and Allhalla forbid if there was a muddy puddle in our path.” She sighed and hugged his arm tight to her as they traversed the path. “You always managed to pick me up and carry me across.” She pressed a kiss to his bicep. “Always protected me during storms too…” she drew him to a stop, and she held his hand tightly. “I’m glad I’m with you…”
“Me too. This place… it’s giving me the creeps. I have to admit I wouldn’t want to be down here alone.”
“The dark it,” Eva suddenly said, her voice growing quiet. “It reminds me of… of the place where I died.”
Odin paused, and looked down at her. She stared straight ahead, and although he knew she couldn’t see, something about her expression was as if she was looking at something in the darkness. He felt her tense. His hand squeezed hers. “Come on,” he urged her forward. “Tell me about it. I was in Fey for such a short time. I only saw a few things. I can’t imagine what it was like for you.”
“It was called… Aditchoria- a dark void where I met the great evil we are to face.” Odin blinked in surprise.
“You met it?” She nodded.
“I was left in there for what felt like months. Alone, cold, unable to see, no sound, and no hope of escape. By the time I went, I didn’t even have the strength to scream or cry. The only thought on my mind was how I had failed Belle, and that I’d never get to see you again. That’s how I saw you in my mind before all the pain ended. Handed extended out with that warm smile of yours to lead me across from the world of the living.” Odin felt a pang in his chest that had his jaw tightening in anger. The thought that his precious Evangeline had been left to die, cold and alone made him want to find Tiernan and run the bastard through- over, and over, and over again.
“I’m sorry you were alone,” he said, his voice rough. “I did everything I could to find you, and when I did, I forced Nox to take me there as soon as he could. He told me I would have to die to do it. In that way… I guess we’re not so different. But you can be sure,” he paused and turned to hold her to him. “I’ll never let you be alone.”
“I missed you,” she whispered, cupping his face. “And now that I have you, I’m never letting you go.” She pulled his lips down to hers and Odin kissed her deeply.
It was during the kiss Eva heard a new sound and she broke the kiss, and slapped a hand over Odin’s puckered lips. “Mph?!” he managed, eyes snapping open in surprise.
“Shh!” she snapped. Her ear twitched as the sound came again. “I hear something… it’s…” He frowned as she released him and stretched her arms out, wandering through the darkness until she found the far wall. When she was quiet for what he thought was far too long, Odin frowned.
“Eva? It was probably just the water-” She cut him off with a gasp.
“I hear coughing!” Odin blinked.
“Like… from a person?” She glanced back at him.
“It’s faint, but it’s coming from that way,” she pointed further down the path. “Maybe it’s one from our group!” He glanced upwards, listening for what she heard, but he couldn’t make out anything more than the stagnant air.
“If you say so,” he said, and made his way to take her hand.
Leading her down the path, they walked for nearly another mile before the path changed, and the ground became covered in the remnants of snow. Glancing up, he half expected to see some kind of crack of light from the outside, but it too was covered, and he was certain the avalanche had seen to that. The coughing Eva had claimed to hear also caught his ears- tiny and faint, and had she not told him about it, he probably wouldn’t of heard it at all. Up ahead, he could make out where the majority of the snow had fallen, piling up in the center of another large, open cavern. In the very center was a large dark mass. Immediately he pulled Eva to a halt. “There’s something up ahead,” he frowned when she asked him why they stopped. Pulling her to the edge of the wall he squeezed her hand. “Stay here. Let me check it out.” Unsheathing his sword, he edged forward, his eyes seeking out shapes in the pile of snow. When he was almost upon it, he finally realized what he was looking at, and sheathed his blade. “It’s one of the reindeer,” he called out to Eva, taking a knee as he brushed the snow away. “Poor thing must have died from the fall…” He sighed, rubbing at his chin as he tried to think of what to do with it. Reindeer meant meat, but he didn’t have the means to start a fire. Could you eat it raw?
“Are you sure it’s dead?” Eva asked. He frowned.
“Pretty sure? Why?”
“It doesn’t sound dead…” He glanced at it once more, and laid a hand upon it. The animal was definitely dead, not even moving when he pressed down against its chest. It took him a moment before he realized what Evangeline was hearing. The sound was faint- so inaudible he hadn’t even noticed it and he was right next to it; a gurgling, wheezing sort of sound that seemed to come from under the deer. Frowning, he dug through the snow, and then pushed the animal to the side, and as he did, his eyes widened. There was a body underneath it. “Holy shit!” he breathed. “There’s someone here.” Evangeline, following his voice, joined him, and together they managed to remove the dead weight. It wasn’t until the reindeer had been moved did Odin recognize the blood-spattered face. “Oh god- it’s Mira!”
He tasted divine! She had missed the feeling of him against her for the past two weeks. She was so happy she felt she could burst. She was instantly wrapped up in the feel and taste of him that she nearly forgot to breathe. The cold damp wall of the cave slammed against her back and from there was it sweet pressure. For a moment they were able to escape the truth that they were trapped in a cave. It didn’t matter to Eva, all that mattered was she had Odin back. Their moment of bliss was broken only by a final rumble and shiver of the cavern. Snow packed down over the top of their only would be exit, and their only source of light. Eva gasped, a cold feeling of dread washing over her. Her hands fisted tighter against Odin’s parka that her claws threatened to puncture holes through the thick furs, and her legs wrapped tighter around his hips. She had to remind herself she was only trapped in a cave, and she was with Odin… This was [i not] the dark room. For a moment she was trapped in the horrific idea that Kaibe and the Uriac-Dhun would emerge from the pitch blackness.
Odin drew breath, and Eva honed in on it, and slowly other sounds began to filter in.
“We’re really trapped now…” her voice was barely a whisper as Odin set her down, she curled closer to him as her vision adjusted. Slowly but surely she could make out faint shadows, but nothing with true clarity. “I can’t see anything,” she managed with a shaky breath. She was trembling the slightest. Horrific flashes of her time in the void made her shake her head in hopes of shaking those memories away. It took Odin tensing beside her for her to pull her mind from caving into fear. “Odin? What is it?” She asked nervously.
She found it funny now that he’d been so worried she wouldn’t need him, and yet here she was clinging to him because she was terrified. Not from the fact they were trapped underground, but from the suffocating darkness surrounding her.
“It’s alright,” he quickly assured her. “It’s just… I can see. Must be Nox’s magic…”
“Oh…” Eva blinked. “I guess that makes us lucky. Do you see a way to go?” She asked, waiting in the hollow echo of the caves as he looked around.
“I’m going to be honest… I have no idea what direction to go…”
Eva frowned, and if Odin couldn’t see their way out, perhaps she might hear something?” With her arms wrapped firmly around Odin’s arm, Eva focused her ears to listen. She heard the dripping of water, and something else. It was a constant sound, never rising or falling in pitch, but rather hollow in tone. Running water? Wind? Maybe if they went that way they would find a way out?
“We need to go that way,” she said confident she had heard wind.
“Huh?” Frowning she lifted a finger and tapped her ears.
“Hyper sensitive hearing remember?” She teased. “These ears aren’t for show… Besides, I can hear something… something like… running water. Or wind. In that direction. Water or air- either way they both lead to the outside. We should follow it. Don’t you think?” She couldn’t make out his face, but she did feel him take her hand in his.
“Well Miss Scarlet, between my eyes and your ears, we should be out of this place in no time. Shall we?” She smiled, she could hear his in his voice.
“Only if you promise not to let go. I can’t see, it’s all dark and even darker shadows.” Odin assured her with a squeeze of her hand he wouldn’t let go.
It wasn’t enough for Eva as they made their way through the tunnel slowly. She was glad she wasn’t separated from Odin after the fall. Without his presence she was sure she would have lost her mind being in this darkness. It was too reminiscent of Aditchoria. Perhaps that event had turned her previous fear of lightning into her strength, but she had unwillingly traded it for a fear of darkness. She kept her ears open though, and she knew they were going the right way because the sound was getting louder.
“It’s definitely running water I hear…” Eva whispered at one point before the reached another split. Odin gave her the layout of their choices, and she listened down each tunnel to find their running water. He was her eyes in the darkness, and one point he helped her over a protruding boulder from the ground and she was reminded of times long ago.
“It’s just like any other walk in the forest with you… helping me over rocks and jumping over streams, and Allhalla forbid if there was a muddy puddle in our path.” She sighed as she jumped down with his help from the boulder she could not see. “You always managed to pick me up and carry me across.” She gave him a kiss to his arm, since she was holding it and knew where it was. “Always protected me during storms too…” she drew him to a stop, and she held his hand tightly. “I’m glad I’m with you… The dark it… it reminds me of… of the place where I died.” She confessed. “Aditchoria was a dark void where I met the great evil we are to face. I was left in there for what felt like months. Alone, cold, unable to see, no sound, and no hope of escape. By the time I went, I didn’t even have the strength to scream or cry. The only thought on my mind was how I had failed Belle, and that I’d never get to see you again. That’s how I saw you in my mind before all the pain ended. Handed extended out with that warm smile of yours to lead me across from the world of the living. I missed you, and now that I have you, I’m never letting you go.” She smiled for him, and felt his hand on her face. She follow his lead and she kissed him.
It was during the kiss Eva heard a new sound and she broke the kiss, and slapped a hand over Odin’s puckered lips. “Shh!” She snapped. Her ear twitched as the sound came again. “I hear something… it’s…” She stepped away from Odin, walking with a hand on the wall towards the sound. The sound had faded, and so she waited in tense silence, hoping it would make itself known again, and it did not a moment later. Eva gasped realizing what it was. “I hear coughing… It’s faint, but it’s coming from that way. “Maybe it’s one from our group!” She held here hand out for Odin to take and lead her the way her ears directed them.
Eva shook her head and forced him back into her arms. “I love you too…” her voice finally broke, but her tears did not last. They fell delicately down her cheeks, but she smiled all the same. Odin smiled too, and for the first time in a month it was a true smile. His old smile.
“My beautiful Valkyrie…” he whispered, sweeping his thumbs across her cheeks to wipe away her tears. She let out a gentle laugh before burying herself in his chest and he held her tightly against him until she stepped back and wiped away her tears.
“Alright,” she finally sighed out. “Odin Attercop, I’m going to tell you something right now, and don’t you dare ever forget it,” she pointed an accusing finger at him with comical cuteness. He smirked and made an ‘x’ motion against his chest.
“Cross my non-existent heart.” She giggled.
“You are more than just my champion,” she said. “You are my everything, and there will never, do you hear me? Never be a time that I will not need you.” That accusing finger reached out and hooked a handful of fabric of his heavy parka drawing him closer, her voice growing softer. “I may not need you in the ways I once did, but there are many more that I need you for. I need my best friend, without you I am lost, and perhaps that makes me weak, but I don’t see how this life is worth living if I can’t live it with you.” She rose to her tip toes to nuzzle her nose against his, and holding him closely to her. “I need you to be my husband because no one else will do. I need you to care for my heart because you’re the only one that can keep it safe, even if you’re also the one who can destroy it. It’s yours because I trust you with all that I am. It’s yours because I love you. I do need you Odin, and not just me… but…” her words trailed away and she frowned.
Odin frowned too, lifting a hand to touch his fingers to her face. “Eva? What is it?” She nibbled her lip for a moment, eyes averted, before finally meeting his gaze; cheeks pinked. “It won’t always be just us. One day… there -there might be three of us.” He blinked, confusion in her gaze before it dawned on him what she meant. A baby. The thought made him blush.
“Ah… that is…” He quickly cleared his throat. “I know.” She reached up and gripped his sleeves tight, her expression determined.
“And if you think I won’t need you, then you’re sorely mistaken.” She brushed his hair from his face.
“We’ve both been through too much to be together for it to fall apart. If Lapsus really thinks he can come between us, he has another thing coming.” Odin’s smile faltered but she was quick to grip his cheeks in her delicate and chilled hands. “I won’t let him have you. I’ll make sure you never forget how much I need and love you, I’ll drive you mad with attention and fill every dark corner with as much happiness as I can, so he can never reach into your heart again!” she proclaimed, and he smiled then and took her hands from his face, pressing a gentle kiss into each of her palms.
“I love you Evangeline.” Her eyes filled with tears again and before he could stop her, she leaped upon him; claiming his lips with hers.
The kiss was incredible. As if to keep her word even then, the taste and heat of it filled every facet of him until it had taken over his brain, and suddenly he was meeting her mouth with his own, in a flurried frenzy that eventually had him falling forward until her back hit the wall and they were tangled up in each other. He did not know how long it was, but they lost themselves In one another, only stopped by another loud rumble, and the sudden snuffing out of the last but of light that came from the opening. Both of them stared upwards through the darkness, and Odin felt her tense against him. He let out a breath, a bit tense himself. “We’re really trapped now…” she breathed softly and he let her slide down, her boots thudding on the stone floor.
“Seems like it,” he answered, just as softly. It was as if the darkness prompted their silence, lest something in the blackness hear them. And it got Odin thinking, these cavers were now doubt eons old… there was bound to be something living in them. Without warning, something seemed to heat just behind his eyes, inside his head, and without warning everything became clear; as if the light had never left them. He sucked in a breath, blinking in surprise. It prompted Eva to grab his sleeve.
“It’s alright,” he quickly assured her. “It’s just… I can see. Must be Nox’s magic…” He gazed around, and his eyes found the four other caves that surrounded them. “I’m going to be honest… I have no idea what direction to go…” Eva was quiet for a moment, glancing around, though it was obvious her sight was hardly compared to his. Without warning she lifted a hand and pointed towards the opening, second from them.
“That way,” she said confidently.
“Huh?” Frowning she lifted a finger and tapped her ears.
“I can hear something… something like… running water. Or wind. In that direction. Water or air- either way they both lead to the outside. We should follow it.” Odin smiled.
“Well Miss Scarlet, between my eyes and your ears, we should be out of this place in no time.” Reaching out he took her hand and brought it to his lips for a quick kiss. “Shall we?” he smiled and together they headed through the darkness.
Eva was caught off guard by the proclamation of that name. She hadn’t thought that possible. She had heard of the creature from her studies with her mother. Afterall, Eva was intended to be the wife to a Prince of the Gods, she had ought to know all there was. Her own confusion was answered in Odin’s explanation of what Nox had told him, and his confession of the darkness in his mind. Her eyes never left him, even as he stood up with his back to her and walked away. She could see how tense his shoulders were, but he spoke plainly and honestly about the effects Eva’s changes had on him. He’d been jealous and afraid of the new friends Eva had made, and his fear that she was leaving him behind. Her brow furrowed in sadness to hear that. She didn’t want to be among the list of those he felt abandoned by.
She stood up slowly, her ears primed to every word he spoke. He said he had been weak, tired and overworked, and that was how Lapsus had managed to make a claim on Odin.
“He whispered all the things I feared. Made me see things that weren’t really there.”
“Like what?” Eva dared to ask.
“Like you… with Calder. Or the priest. Or even Apollo.” Eva blanched, surely Odin could have seen past those lies.. only he hadn’t. It explained so much though, and Eva was reminded of the words Destiny spoke to her.
[i ‘Odin has a parasite…’]
Nox’s words too rang in her head.
[i ‘Your man is not himself…’]
She felt a shiver, for it had all be true. She was suddenly overcome with Guilt for having not seen it. It wasn’t Odin that was pushing her away… it had been Lapsus. Manipulation was done best when one alienated their victim. From where she stood watching him, she could see his hands fisted tightly at his sides.
“And damn it, it makes me so angry… Because I told myself, when I proposed to you I made a promise to love you for every moment of every day. And those days that are gone from my memory… are moments I’ll never get back with you.” She couldn’t stop herself if she tried. Feeling his pain, his guilt and his sorrow, she rushed towards him until she all but slammed against his back. Her hands wrapped around him with a ferocity that promised to never let him go.
“Oh Odin, I wish you had told me…” She whispered against him, her voice ready to break from emotion.
“I was weak Evangeline… and I’m so sorry.”
“It’s all forgiven,” She told him breathlessly, sniffling as he turned to face her. To see his smile again, made her giggled lightly and reach up to cup his face the way he held her own.
“You’re right,” he said, his voice soft. “You can take care of yourself now. I just don’t want to hold you back. So I became distant so that I didn’t interfere. I stayed away… because I love you.” Eva shook her head and forced him back into her arms.
“I love you too…” her voice finally broke, but her tears did not last. They fell delicately down her cheeks, but she smiled all the same.
She held him for a long while, overjoyed to be back in his arms, before finally stepping back to wipe away her tears. She composed herself with one heavy breath, head tipped back and shaking her hands loose. Once calmed down from the flux of emotions raging inside her, she was able to breathe and look up at him with a clear expression of absolute love.
“alright,” She finally sighed out. “Odin Attercop, I’m going to tell you something right now, and don’t you dare ever forget it.” She pointed an accusing finger at him with comical cuteness. “You are more than just my Champion.” She informed him, sounding more like a motivational speaker than his betrothed. “You are my everything, and there will never, do you hear me? [i Never] be a time that I will not need you.” That accusing finger reached out and hooked a handful of fabric of his heavy parka drawing him closer, her voice growing softer. “I may not need you in the ways I once did, but there are many more that I need you for. I need my best friend, without you I am lost, and perhaps that makes me weak, but I don’t see how this life is worth living if I can’t live it with you.” She rose to her tip toes to nuzzle her nose against his, and holding him closely to her. “I need you to be my husband because no one else will do. I need you to care for my heart because you’re the only one that can keep it safe, even if you’re also the one who can destroy it. It’s yours because I trust you with all that I am. It’s yours because I love you. I do need you Odin, and not just me… but…” her words trailed away and she frowned.
To tell him or not? It still hadn’t shown, but she wasn’t even certain herself. However her need to be upfront and honest with Odin prevailed over her desire to keep it hidden. He was waiting for her to finish, and she did so with a feverish blush to her cheeks. “It won’t always be just us. One day… there -there might be three of us.” She had to take a calming breath to hide the fact she was truly concerned that day might be sooner than later. “And if you think I won’t need you, then you’re sorely mistaken.” Finally she smiled and it was tender and sweet. Her eyes roamed over his handsome face, his blood red curls clinging to his cheeks, and his intense blue eyes staring right into her soul. She was overcome with a great urge to kiss him, instead she reached up and brushed his hair from his face. “We’ve both been through too much to be together for it to fall apart. If Lapsus really thinks he can come between us, he has another thing coming. I won’t let him have you. I’ll make sure you never forget how much I need and love you, I’ll drive you mad with attention and fill every dark corner with as much happiness as I can so he can never reach into your heart again!” She proclaimed and finally it was she who jumped up to wrap her arms around his shoulders and meet his lips with hers.
It had been two weeks since he’d kissed her last, and the result was an explosion of pent up lust he hadn’t realized he’d been harboring. It was made worse when he arched into him, lips parting to accept his tongue. His hands clenched around her, delving into her silky hair as he went to take advantage of her open mouth, but before he suddenly found himself across the cavern, sliding with a hard slam into the icy, stone wall behind him. The sudden impact caused a curtain of snow to let loose from the opening high above them and it fell to the floor of the cavern with a loud rumble. Breathing hard he stared at her as she pushed up to her knees, her chest heaving, the fur of her parka clinging to her wet hair around her pointed ears.
For a long time they stared at one another, and Odin felt like an idiot as he watched her eventually crawl to sit against the other end of the wall. Hugging herself as she gazed upwards, waiting- as he was- for the rumbling of the avalanche to die off. Afterwards it became eerily silent, save for the dripping of melting snow. No voices. No calls from the others. His stomach twisted ever so slightly with the wonder of what had happened to their companions, but honestly he was far too relieved that he at least knew Eva was alive and well. He finally took a moment to peer around. Despite the fact that several hundreds of feet above him he could see the hint of sunlight, they had fallen too far for it to make much of a difference. The result was dimly lit cavern bordered by multiple openings in various sizes that lead to branching paths. His mind immediately went to Shtra’vanger and the memory of massive nesting place the people used to escape from the storms. He recalled Nad’ja’s description of the cave systems; carved from the waters of ancient, melting glaciers. The problem was, they had been traveling for almost three days now, and there was no telling how far from the village’s caverns they were… or if the cavern they were in was even connected…
“I think we’re trapped down here until we can find a way out,” Eva muttered softly, her words echoing in the emptiness. He glanced over at her and sighed, pushing up against the wall to stand. He brushed the snow that still clung to him away, happy to find that none of his clothing had torn in the fall and that his sword remained belted faithfully at his side.
“I fear you’re right,” he replied, and looked once more at the distant exit. “Don’t suppose you could… do that thing you can do? Up to there?” He pointed and she followed his gesture with an apologetic frown.
“Phasing.” He blinked.
“That thing? It’s called phasing. Or at least… that’s what Ursula calls it,” she blushed and tucked a lock of hair behind her air.
“Oh,” he murmured, feeling sheepish. “Can you?” She glanced upwards again before solemnly shaking her head.
“No… It’s too far. And the avalanche pushed us… off course. I wouldn’t know where to go. I could end up phasing us into the middle of the mountain. Then we’d both be dead.” He sighed and closed his eyes.
“You’re right. My mistake…”
“Come sit with me?”
Odin’s eyes snapped open and he stared at her in surprise. It was the last thing he thought she’d ask. She patted the stone floor beside her. “Let’s figure this out.” For a moment he couldn’t move, his reply caught in his throat. His hesitation made her expression fade into one of concern and she held out a hand. “Please?” she asked, her tone hushed. He quickly came to sit beside her, and although he was eager to hold her hand… he didn’t. They both stared at their boots.
“Eva… I’m sorry…” he finally said. She didn’t say anything at first, and he was fearing his luck had run out before she finally spoke again. When she did, her tone was flighty- soft and broken. Like she was holding in tears. He hated the sound.
“I don’t want to continue this way. I want things to go back to the way they used to be…” He looked at her and found her blue eyes dark with sadness, and pale cheeks flushed as she bit her lip. “Back when my greatest fear was Sora Johanson.” She let out a half laugh at the thought, her eyes on her hands that fidgeted together in her lap. Tears filled her eyes. “Now it’s… that you don’t trust me, and that you truly don’t want me.” Her voice wavered and he quickly reached out and grabbed her hand. She didn’t pull it back and he held on tight.
“That’s not true!” he exclaimed, ferocity coating the words. “That will never be true.” She lifted her eyes to him, and what little light the cavern could boast was caught in the glistening tears that gathered at her lashes. It made them large and luminous, and although he hated to admit it, he finally understood what it meant when he’d heard the rumor about his sister being beautiful when she cried. Eva was beautiful too… those tears like stars. But if he had a heart it would have broken at the sight of them.
“Eva…” he breathed, and reached out with his free hand to cup her face. She sniffed, holding back the tears even as her lips trembled.
“Something has been bothering you, but you won’t talk to me! I can’t help you if you won’t talk!” Odin’s eyes widened, and his hand twitched as if to pull away, but she was quick to grab it and hold it to her. “What are you so afraid of, Odin?!” she begged. “Have I changed too much? It’s not like I asked for this… All I wanted was to be with you.” Finally, she released him, pressing a clenched fist to her chest as she pulled away, head turned to hide her face behind a curtain of darkness that had grown thicker and more lustrous with her Valkyrie change. “I know you said it was over… but it’s not over for me. It never will be, but I can’t do this game of never knowing when you’ll be content and when you’ll be angry. I don’t know what I did, but…” She lifted her face enough to peer at him, longing in her eyes that cut him to the core. “I’m sorry.” Odin stared at her for a long moment and suddenly the word flew out of his mouth without a chance to stop it.
He swallowed at her confusion, and looked away, eyes shifting across the floor as if looking for something to shield him from what he was convinced would be her disgust. “Lapsus… came to me. I don’t know how or why. I thought… I thought he was just with my brother, but… Nox says that he has the power to travel great distances. To latch onto… shadows in our minds. If we have them. And I had them.” He lifted a hand to scratch at his chin which had grown a shade of stubble in his lack to take care of himself. Ta’tarans didn’t grow facial hair, but his mother’s blood flowed through his veins. After a moment he stood and took a few steps forward, setting his hands on his hips and squaring his shoulders as he finally told her the truth. “When you changed… it was a lot. It wasn’t just your transformation… not just the eyes or ears… You changed… so much. And I worried that you were forgetting about me. I watched you train with Ursula… and she taught you differently then how I taught you. And you stopped asking for my help. You started to laugh and smile at others the way you used to laugh and smile with me. Just me. I didn’t feel special to you anymore, Eva. I didn’t feel like yours. I took care of you for so long, that when you didn’t need caring for… it also felt like you didn’t need me. And you were the last person who ever needed me, Evageline. Alex became king, and the whole country looked to him. Kyrian… Kyrian started to look to him. Your mother would call on just him. Talk to just him. Attica left us for Ryudan, and she fell in love, so she didn’t need her brothers anymore. Even Aiden… he’s… he’s gone too. My best friend. Helping his father rule a kingdom. My father left me… My mother did to. Mathias… Mathias left too…” His shoulders sagged. “I wasn’t… special to anyone any more. I wasn’t… needed.”
He swallowed and lifted his head to stare up at that tiny speck of light. “And then, when I was needed again… it wasn’t because I was Odin. I was just… the prince. They expected me to carry out his orders. All of them. I got… so tired. Exhausted. And Lapsus saw it. He saw I was weak… and he took advantage of me. He whispered all the things I feared. Made me see things that weren’t really there. Like you… with Calder. Or the priest. Or even Apollo. He reminded me of how lonely I was. My anger built and suddenly… I wasn’t me anymore. I stopped wanting to be me. So Lapsus took over. He filtered through my blood like poison. There are nights I don’t remember- days even… where there was just… nothing. I don’t remember them at all.” He clenched his fists. “And damn it, it makes me so angry… Because I told myself, when I proposed to you I made a promise to love you for every moment of every day. And those days that are gone from my memory… are moments I’ll never get back with you.” There was a rush of footsteps, and suddenly her arms were around him, her hands gripping painfully tight in his stomach and chest as her face pressed to his back. He smiled and gently placed his hands over hers. “I was weak Evangeline… and I’m so sorry.” Gently he pried her grip from him and turned to cup her face, smiling down as she stared up at him. “You’re right,” he said, his voice soft. “You can take care of yourself now. I just don’t want to hold you back. So I became distant so that I didn’t interfere. I stayed away… because I love you.”
Sometimes Eva hated when she was right. She heard the cracking of ice and snow once again, right before part of it fell with Mira. It was just one section that broke away. The entire sheet that began to tumble shifted and dropped almost 150 feet above them and just beneath them. “Avalanche!” Ursula shouted. Eva’s heart leapt with panic. All around her chaos ensued. She heard Yuger shout and Ursula do the same, Eva watched in horror as Ursula was quickly caught by a rouge tree that snapped and fell towards them. It struck Ursula clean out of her saddle and carried her down over the side of the mountain. Yuger in his own panic was caught in the snow and carried away like the rest. She couldn’t see her mother or Mira at the front of the line. At first she reached for Calder who rode close by, but a section rushed right beside her taking Calder away. Ahead she saw Kyrain managing to keep his elk above the torrent of snow falling under them. Eva wasn’t as skilled riding an elk, but she was an impressive rider. She used those skills to try and keep her elk up and above the snow as well, determined to survive if she could. She wasn’t about to let this take her down -not when Tiernan still needed destroying.
“Evangeline!” She almost didn’t hear him over the roar of rushing snow, but she had heard him. She felt his own fear, and knew it wasn’t a figment of her imagination. His tossing of her note hadn’t gone unnoticed, and it had broke her heart. Now she could see him trying to urge his elk towards her, with an extended arm. She didn’t think, she reached for him in hopes she might reach him. It didn’t stop the sensation of the ground falling out from under her. She kicked her feet out of the stirrups quickly and tried to jump for Odin. The last thing she saw was Odin vaulting into the air. Things seemed to move in slow motion, the wind whipped past her, and a feeling of weightlessness reigned over her for a moment before Gravity would rip her down and bury her in the snow.
Suddenly she came to a painful stop. Her body yanked to a stop, beneath her was a long drop of dark nothingness, and above her was Odin. She didn’t have a chance to shout his name, she only managed one frightened looked before the snow fell from under him and they both fell into the darkness. Surprisingly she didn’t scream, and she didn’t let go of Odin. He pulled her against him and she clung to him just as the ground came rushing up to greet them. She cringed and buried her face in his chest. At least she would die in his arms.
They landed with a hard thud, tumbling and rolling as the snow dispersed about the area. The air had been knocked clean out of her lungs and left her coughing. The fall hadn’t been as terrible as she thought. She was still alive, but her body hurt and the lightness of day had faded away. She groaned and rolled her head back, opening her eyes and looking around. Slowly her vision came into focus, and the faint light that still reached them, illuminated Odin’s face. She blushed, his body hanging over hers, large and encompassing.
“Od-mmph” He descended on her without warning, his mouth covering hers, and his body pinning her to the ground. Her body flashed with heat, and she arched her body towards him for a single moment. She might have lost herself in his kiss.. if it hadn’t been for the past month and especially the past week. Her feelings of euphoria and lust were stamped out as quickly as they came by a feeling of dreadful uncertainty. Eva reacted, with hands fisting at his shoulders and quickly shoved him off. Hard. She heaved for breath and scooted across the stone and dirt ground to get away from him. For a long moment she stared at him, while the thunderous roar of rushing snow began to die off above them leaving the resounding [i drip, drip], of forming icicles or cavern structures.
She had no idea what to say to him, too confused and too shocked by what had just happened to talk just yet. She looked him over once more before she rose to her feet, and finally walked away from him. She went to inspect where they had fallen in from. The snow had pretty much piled up to block the ceiling of the cave. There was no leaving out of that exit, and it kept them trapped. What light got through was faint and not helpful. She stared up at it, willing for it to break apart and let them climb out, but it wouldn’t. They were trapped for the time being, which meant Eva was trapped alone with Odin. Which meant Odin couldn’t storm away from her. Finally she turned back to look at him, but still with a loss for words she sighed and fell into the snow to sit down.
“I think we’re trapped down here until we can find a way out,” She muttered softly, but the cavernous room echoed her words loud enough to be heard. “Come sit with me? Let’s figure this out,” she suggested and held her hand out to him, but it was very clear she wasn’t talking about figuring a way out. She watched as he walked towards her and moved to sit beside her. Eva looked at him tiredly, but hopeful. “I don’t want to continue this way. I want things to go back to the way they used to be… back when my greatest fear was Sora Johanson.” She let out a half laugh at the thought, her eyes on the hands that fidgeted together in her lap. “Now it’s… that you don’t trust me, and that you truly don’t want me,” Her voice wavered, but she swallowed down any tears from forming and managed to look back at him. “Something has been bothering you, but you won’t talk to me. I can’t help you if you won’t talk, what are you so afraid of, Odin? Have I changed too much? It’s not like I asked for this,” She said reaching up to touch her pointed ears, a look of shame painting her features. “All I wanted was to be with you. I know you said it was over… but it’s not over for me. It never will be, but I can’t do this game of never knowing when you’ll be content and when you’ll be angry. I don’t know what I did, but I’m sorry,” she told him her eyes glittering with unshed tears but a determined sort of hope he would believe her and forgive her for whatever it was she did to lose his trust.
Nox glanced up from where he was examining the something beneath the folds of his cloak, his white hair taking on an odd bluish tint in the sunlight as if it weren’t hair at all, but strands of finely spun ice. Evangeline stood before him, clutching two folds of sackcloth in each of her hands from which emanated the unmistakable scent of dried meat. She held one out towards him with a weak smile, and he noticed the bags beneath her eyes and tried not to roll his own. Despite the transformation, Odin possessed his own telling features of exhaustion. Neither one of them had slept much thanks to their own hotheadedness, and much like the other adults in camp, he himself was wishing the to of them would just go back to fucking. The whole idea of “love” and human emotion in general was tiresome… “I wasn’t sure if you were like Ursula and didn’t need food,” she said sheepishly as he accepted one of the bundles. “But I thought I should bring you some just to be on the safe side.”
“My thanks,” he told her, not bothering to answer her query, and she nodded before turning to Odin.
He sat cross-legged, wrists resting on his knees, and blue eyes electric in the sunlight as they stared up at her with an intensity that brought a quick blush to her cheeks. Quickly, and without a word, she all but thrust the other portion his way. He reached out for it, his gloved hands gripping hers gently but with a firmness that didn’t allow her to pull away right off. It forced her to look back at him, her eyes widened in the slightest. Her eyes were blue too, but her own transformation had darkened the colour to a lustrous cobalt that did nothing to hide the emotion in them. He held them for a moment longer before releasing her and watching her all but run off to join the others. Nox watched them with a keen eye before reaching out and smacking the back of the Prince’s head.
“Hey!” he growled, head snapping in his direction, eyes narrowed as he grabbed the back of his head. Nox let out a huff like a horse, eyes closed; lashes long against his black skin.
“You’re being a fool and I haven’t the time or patience for it.”
“I’m not being a damn thing!” he snapped, quickly unfolding the cloth from around his meal and grabbing at the hunk of dark, rye bread that lay there. In doing so, however, something caught his eye as it fluttered to the ground, and pausing he reached out to pluck the folded bit of parchment from the snow. He unfolded it, eyes scanning the elegant, but quickly scrawled note, and his eyes widened.
[i [b If nothing else, you will always be my Champion.]]
“Your insecurities allowed Lapsus take ahold of your mind,” Nox said, voice deep. Odin clenched the note in his hand, his own blush darkening his pale cheeks as his brow furrowed, a longing in his eyes.
“I know…” he said softly.
“You’re free from his bonds now, while you remain transformed in my presence. But you know the truth of the matter. Once you and I part… I’ll take with me this form. You won’t be safe. If you explain that to her, then I am certain she would but forgive you.” There was a tic in Odin’s jaw as he stared hard at the ground.
“Or she could hate me… find me weak that I have to rely on the likes of you to fight him off. She’d never forgive me knowing that he was able to over take me. I’m supposed to be her Champion. I’m supposed to protect her. I know she’s stronger now… but what would she think if she found out her husband to be… wasn’t as strong? She’d…” He bared his teeth and tossed the crumpled note into the snow. The electricity in his eyes dimmed. A hand suddenly gripped his shoulder and he felt an odd heat fizzle up from the deepest par of his gut. It caused him to close his eyes and fight off the desire to shove Nox away.
“Even now Lapsus fights to break through the barrier I have placed on you. He won’t succeed as long as you keep your strength of will. But if you allow yourself to grow dark, then I cannot keep you. Stop disappointing me. Stop disappointing your mother.”
At that Odin’s eyes snapped open, his hand immediately going to the hilt of his sword, belted at his side. Like the rest of him, it too had changed, transforming into a glorious weapon that rivaled even Buliwyf in its beauty. In her former life, his mother had forged it for him… a gift the way other mothers might have knitted a sweater or sewn a quilt. She had used her gifts to make each of her children something special. For him, his blade, for Attica a beautiful set of jewelry. He’d never found out what she had made Alex. Odin had loved his sword, his most cherished thing- next to Evangeline of course- and in his change, she had blessed it with a new and more powerful look. Around the hilt curled metal vines of a waterlily; watch he had come to know as her new symbol; much like the rose represented Gwendolyn. The blade was angular and embossed with writing in a language lost to men long ago. And when he used it, it glowed with the light of her love. Her protection.
“Your mother wanted you to be happy. To marry the princess and cherish her in a way your father failed to love her.” Odin glanced at Nox who released him, lids lifting to reveal silver eyes that glittered with a look that made Odin wonder if he was missing his wife. “Lapsus is not like the enemies you’ve faced. He is evil- even for the ancient ones. You would never have survived on your own. Accept that. She will accept it to. She loves you.” Odin stared at him a moment longer before turning to glance across the camp where Eva sat next to Apollo, picking at her food with a delicate finger while she rested her chin in her hand and watched the prince practice melting and refreezing a bubble of snow; tongue pinched between his lips and Iona resting on his shoulder.
The call to moveout was made not much long after, and Odin pushed to his feet, taking the cloths that had held their meals to the front of the line where he held them out to Yanai who smiled and accepted them. Before he could leave she reached out, stopping him with a hand to his cheek. “You’re so loved, [i mina ewa]. So loved. Do not wait much longer. I don’t think her heart can take it…” She swept her thumb over his cheek and gave him a look he had not seen in a long time. It was a knowing look. A mother’s look.
“I won’t,” he answered, the words leaving him before he could stop them. It made him blink as he realized he meant them. Her lips curled up in a smile.
“Good,” she said, and suddenly her fingers pinched his cheek hard, and he let out a yelp.
“What the hell?!” he demanded, pulling away.
“That’s for breaking a young girl’s heart. It’s not made of stone, ya know?! Stupid man.” She gave him a slap upside the head that made him glare and tossed the cloths on her shoulder, fists on her hips. “And stop spending so much time with that [i baka’daeio], over there,” she gestured in Nox’s direction. “He’s a bad influence.” Odin watched her walk away, hand pressed to his cheek as he sighed. Taking a step back towards his horse he paused when he heard a faint, distant groan; as if some mighty beast were shuddering. Frowning, he glanced about, searching for the source but when he found none and no one else seemed to hear it, he shrugged and went on his way.
The sun continued to shine as they continued down the down the mountain, following the semi-steep trail that curved around the rocky circumference. On occasion, the wind would kick up bits of powder, but the temperature soon warmed enough by the sun to allow them to remove their masks and face guards. All but Mira, who kept hers tied tight; body hunched as she fought to appear as unshaken as the others. Around the edge of her scarf, the telltale colour of a fever inched ever upwards over her cheeks; and strands of hair clung to her forehead where sweat glittered in the light. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to move. All she wanted was to go home. To be held by Mathias. She coughed again, one had gripping the fabric of her cloak against her chest where her lungs were on absolute fire- which was funny considering she could hardly get a breath past the gurgling liquid that seemed to fill them. Fire. Water. Either way she felt like she was going to die. She didn’t dare say anything however, determined to be the pathfinder they all claimed she was. Everyone else was doing well- Eva, Apollo, even Calder. It wasn’t fair. She was older than them. Why did she have to be weaker?! Without warning the reindeer beneath her stopped and bucked slightly, tossing its head in dismay. She gripped the leather saddle tight in an effort to remain on. In front of her the path was swimming, and she tried to give her head a shake to clear it but that just made it worse. The animal bellowed again and she attempted to lift her head to find the reason, but no more than a moment later did the ground open beneath her and she and animal tumbled into the abyss beneath.
As she fell she found herself staring at the bright light of the sky but it was fleeting, and before long it was replaced by darkness. She could have sworn she heard distant screams and yells, but they too were gone in an instant, covered by the wind that rushed past her and the snow that cascaded overhead. It was like a dream, the sensation of flipping through the air, too weak to fight it. She did not know how long she fell, only that it ended with her slamming into the ground, and a weight collapsing on top of her. She tasted blood and felt the heat of a body and it took her a moment to realize that the reindeer had fallen atop her. She her its breathing, the sound cut off by a gurgle and coughed and it went still. Mira laid there, blinded by a streak of blood in her eye that she was uncertain whether it came from her or the animal who held her to the ground, staring up at the darkness. Was this how she was to die? She tried to draw breath but couldn’t. Her eyes fluttered shut and she found herself oddly thinking of her mother and wondering if she missed her…
It was an avalanche, a wave of heavy snow that broke from the mountain side in a thousand-ton sheet that rushed down upon them with no warning. The group was completely separated, most of them swept away by the thundering tsunami. Odin had done his best, urging his elk to rise above the wave, kicking as he desperately scrambled towards Evangeline who- much to his shock and pride- was smart enough to do the same. “Evangeline!” he shouted, and she turned to see him reach for her, her own hand raising towards him. No sooner had she done it than the ground beneath her ripped open to reveal the massive cavern beneath; the ground giving way from the weight of the snow. Odin didn’t think, just reacted, and he leaped from his beast towards her, managing to snag her wrist as she fell, and pulling her to a precarious stop. She hung there, staring up at him with wide and fearful eyes and his lips parted to call her name. Before he could even get a word out, the snow beneath him let go, and he and Eva tumbled forward into darkness. As they fell, Odin grabbed her, tucking her beneath him and arms holding tight, willing whatever god or goddess might be listening to protect them. After several long moments they finally slammed into the ground, and Odin grunted as they rolled a few times before stopping. Opening his eyes, his hair loose from his braid he stared down at Evangeline who lay beneath him, chest heaving and eyes wide. For a moment Odin said nothing, simply feeling his pulse thunder through his veins as the relief that she was still alive assailed him. And then he kissed her.
It still hadn’t arrived...
That was the prevailing thought on Eva’s mind as the team made the treacherous descent down the mountain pass. Since that night in the woods Eva had spent her days in rigorous training with Ursula, her meals were taken in brooding silence, and her nights were spent awake; tossing and turning under the sheets of a cold empty bed. Destiny had even made a comment the other night at supper that her brooding nature was far too much like her father’s and it would be wise to ease her brow before her face was stuck that way. Eva wasn’t sure if Destiny was aware or not, and maybe she was, but that was something her mother had always said to Father.
Eva always did have a tendency to brood. Of course it was nothing like her father, but even Aiden had the same tendency, though she was sure he was in full swing managing the kingdom by himself. Hopefully he was smart enough to lean on Holly. She was smart, and Aiden for all his charms could use a smart woman to help him along. Help him stay true to himself and not sway to what the council wanted, and in that regard she hoped Christian was able to keep Aiden true. She was missing home. It was sinking in how long she’d truly been away, and those few short weeks back in those familiar stone halls had not been enough. She hadn’t seen home for nearly two years until her rescue, and it already felt as if another two years had passed since she’d felt her father’s safe embrace. It was the only thing she wanted, the comfort of her parents, but her mother was a stranger to her now and her father was far across a frozen wasteland.
Ursula rode just behind her, filing the space between herself and the dark pair that had taken the rear. Odin and Nox rode just behind her and she dared not look behind her. At times she could feel Odin staring at her, and other times she felt something else... it was faint, and she knew it didn’t belong to her. She felt a sense of guilt and longing, and something else maybe like regret. Eva in her confusion felt something shift against her stomach, and she quickly placed a hand to it, to feel the pendant tucked safely under her warm clothes. Even now she could recall the Yule he had given it to her. It had been a fond memory for her, and at the time she had only seen it as a special gift from a special friend... but now she knew better. Odin had given it to her for a different reason, and even after she had learned about Ta’taran courtship practices she still wore it -despite being engaged to Alexandros.
These days she saw it as a talisman. So long as she wore it, Odin would always be there when she needed him most. It made the temptation to turn around and steal a glance at him all the more difficult to disregard. Thankfully a distraction presented itself to her in the form of Calder. She watched him ride closer to her with a bored expression, but the moment they locked eyes he gave her a smug grin. Eva fought the urge to roll her eyes even as he looped his elk around to ride in step with her own.
“Well you look awfully lonely back here,” he commented removing the scarf from over his face. Eva sighed and removed her own.
“And you look awfully bored.”
“Yeah, so we should keep each other company.”
Eva gave Calder a look, the sort all women give to men when they’re not in the mood to play their games. “I don’t think I’ll make for good company, Calder.”
“Oh, you make fine company.”
“I’m not in the mood to entertain,” Eva tried, but Calder shrugged.
“That’s fine, we don’t have to talk. We can always do other things,” He waggled his brows at her, and Eva had to fight hard not to grin at his obvious flirtations. She didn’t take them seriously, as she was certain he wasn’t serious about it anymore, but now she found it amusing. Slowly a halfhearted smile graced her face
“You are a fool Calder Wryvck,” she commented, but his next words caught her by surprise.
“A Fool that made you smile. You’re less intimidating when you smile.” Eva turned to see him staring at her and Eva could only smile back.
“Intimidating? Now you’re just trying to flatter me.” She bantered with Calder as she might have with anyone else. However in the past few days with Odin’s absence she had come to spend more and more time with Palo and Calder which had allowed a friendship to begin between them.
“Anytime, Princess. So I heard we should be stopping for lunch soon. Will you eat with Palo and I?” Eva gave it a moment of thought, and sensing her uncertainty Calder leaned over to keep his voice down. “I know it’s not the company you prefer, but you’re always welcome.” She finally nodded her head seeing that he was only trying to make her feel included. Thoughtfulness was a good look on him
“Yes. I will eat with you. Thank you.”
The stop was to be a short one. They had found a somewhat spacious area on the narrow path to break lunch. It was nestled up against the mountain with an overhang that allowed them room to sit. Eva volunteered to help Otto with lunch which was bread and salted meats with cheese. As they divided the food up for everyone Eva was struck with an idea. She took the words everyone had said to her over the course of this trip and decided once again she would try to ease the tension between her and Odin. He might have said it was done and over, but Eva was not so willing to give up just yet. Asking for a small piece of parchment, Otto happened to have a roll with a stick of graphite in one of his sacks and brought it to her. Before she wrapped up a ration of food in a cloth napkin she tucked a short note within it and carried two rations over towards Nox. Odin stood by him, and she knew he watched her as she came closer to them. She kept her head high, with her eyes set on her task and approached Nox first. Offering him a small smile she held up the ration of food.
“For you. I wasn’t sure if you were like Ursula and didn’t need food, but I thought I should bring you some just to be on the safe side.” Whether he needed it or not, he accepted it, and then Eva turned towards Odin.
His changes were an adjustment for her. His blue eyes seemed more electric and bright, like nothing would get past him. He stood taller, if possible, and now that she stood so close to him she felt small and insignificant. She felt a flare of nervousness flood her, but she stamped it down and held out the second ration towards Odin. She said not a word, too nervous to do so, and that was the worst part of everything. She was so nervous around him, not certain what to expect around him, and a part of her feared being drawn back in. Not that she could fight it if she even tried. They were mated in a sense, and even though she had no beast and their bond was nothing in comparison to an actual mated shifter, it was there as faint and delicate as a thread of silk. She held his gaze for as long as she could, before tucking her chin to hide the growing blush on her cheeks when he reached out to take it from her.
The moment he had taken the offered food, she spared one last hopeful glance at him through her dark lashes and left. She was still hurt and put out by his words, and while she wasn’t quite ready to talk to him; she hoped that she had at least taken the first step in mending the bridge between them. If nothing else, they had been friends for far too long. When Odin opened up his food the note slipped out to the snow covered ground and inside the careful folds it was written in Eva’s elegant script.
[i If nothing else, you will always be my Champion.]
From there Eva went to collect her own meal as well as meals for Palo and Calder who she joined. Between herself and Palo, Iona was given plenty of meat and cheese to chew on. Palo and Calder did the bulk of the talking, while Eva sat in comfortable silence stroking Iona’s fur who lay curled up in her lap. When the call was made to move out, Eva handed Iona back to Palo who carried her back into the sleigh, and she took to her Elk.
Above them the sun beat down, scattered clouds littered the sky and on occasion a flurry would whip around them, but not even an hour into their after lunch ride was there a sound. It sounded like a heavy groan, and she frowned looking around to wonder where it might have come from. It had gotten warm enough and the wind had died down so that none of them needed to cover their faces any longer. It allowed for Eva to ask what that sound was, but none had heard it. Even Ursula who was riding up near Kyrain and Freja confessed to not having heard anything odd. Eva frowned, she had a sinking feeling something bad was about to happen...
Kolgrim's death wasn't mourned by the villagers. In fact, quite the contrary. Much like the men and women he had hand selected for them to forget by murdering them, his memory fell to the wayside; whisked away by the cold winds that scattered snow in ribbons off the side of the mountains. It had been replaced, however, by a sense of unease and fear. After all, they had spent the last several decades being ruled by the clergy. Vi'ktor had once more taken back Shtravanger's rule, and determined that the best course of action was to follow the same leadership they had once had; such as that back in Stronghold. It would take them time to relearn, but Odin sat with him and aided in appointing a new council of elders, and laying out a new set of laws.
The Master Guard group remained for two more days, feeling rather responsible for the turn of events that had set the village on its ear. While Odin and Kyrian gave their council, the others used the time to rest and replenish their food and supplies. Mira, however, still remained in bed, for although she claimed she was feeling better, it was clear that the "cold" they had thought she had caught, was something more serious. Destiny quieted her arguments with her powers, making her sleep, and rest of them spent their time preparing for the weeks ahead that would mean a dangerous climb back down the mountain. For while the weather would be kinder, the melting snow that would come with spring meant the threat of cave-ins and avalanches; something that Freja claimed she was very good at avoiding.
“Don’t worry!” she told Evangeline and Ursula between bites of stew one day for lunch. “I know what the shelves look like!”
“Shelves?” Eva frowned.
“Sure! Shelves! Like this!” she laid one hand on top of the other, palms down. “It gets all loose and icky when the snow melts and then, if you’re not careful- it goes woosh! Like this!” Eva blinked as the child mimed the motion and glanced at Ursula for confirmation. After all, she may have been engaged to one of the country’s princes, but that didn’t mean she understood its climate. After all, Byadire didn’t have snow. Not like here.
“It’s nothing you need concern yourself with Ursula waived a hand from where she sat behind Freja, braiding the girls’ hair. “You’re a Valkyrie, If the earth moves in the slightest, you’ll know far before it would spell danger for the likes of us. Now hush, [i blomst]! Eat up…” Any worry Eva might have felt was instantly transformed to amusement, and she shook her head at the sight of the woman who gently weaved the butter blonde locks up and around her fingers with great care. If nothing else, the addition of Freja had been good for Ursula, who acted far more like a mother than she’d care to admit. Freja made the surly Valkyrie smile and laugh. Then again… that could have been someone else too. A certain someone who suddenly opened up the door.
“Kyr! Kyr!” Freja exclaimed joyfully as she bounced up from where she sat and ran for the general who entered with Odin in tow. He scooped her up without hesitation and rested her on his good hip. Ursula threw her hands up with a look of annoyance it was clear she did not mean, and snapped something at him in Cruig that made Freja giggle as she wrapped her arms about him.
Eva, however, was not laughing. She had averted her eyes as a certain figure entered after him. Odin had yet to say a single word to her since his transformation. He looked straight at her he took his cloak off. Evangeline merely kept her eyes averted. She couldn’t, however, keep the blush off her cheeks. He said nothing, merely walked past, pausing to stare down at the back of her head. She could feel his blue eyes baring down on her- blue eyes that had turned even bluer, if that were possible, since whatever had happened to him with Nox. And whatever it was, neither he or the old god were talking. Her pulse was so loud in her ears she wouldn’t have been surprised if he himself hadn’t heard it, but after a moment his footsteps thudded on the wood towards one of the back bedrooms. Evangeline let out a sigh of relief.
“You do realize that eventually one of you is going to have to start talking,” Kyrian’s voice suddenly came. Eva blushed even deeper and she turned to glare at him.
“I might have to marry him- but there’s nothing that says I have to speak to him!” she snapped, before turning her nose up at him. Kyrian and Ursula shared a look as Freja giggled some more between them.
They left in the early hours of the morning, when the sun had yet to rise, but the entire village still came out to say goodbye. Waving them off with the bellow of a ram’s horn, the group moved out; two stronger than they had when they started. Nox rode next to Odin at the back of the group, while Freja straddled Kyrian’s elk. The little girl, although having spent her life abused and neglected by the people who stood watching them go, surprised them all at her eagerness to wave goodbye and laugh. She was a bright ray of sunshine in an otherwise frozen world, her newly briaded hair- complements of Ursula- was gathered in a silver clasp that marked her as aermosphera, and hidden beneath the warm wool of a knitted cap; her face half-covered by a thick scarf. She had wanted to ride with Urusla, and had cried when the Valkyrie had told her she couldn’t, but much like her eagerness to mother, Kyrian had been equally willing to parent the child, and his arms kept her safe and close as he eased his elk along the trail with the others. Soon after they’d left the village, she’d fallen asleep; curled against his chest with her one hand clutching her rag doll and the other curled in his cloak.
“How many waylays must we make to find the last clan, general?” Destiny asked, her voice the only sound in the quiet of the early morning, save for the rush of the sleigh over the snow, and bluster of the various animals as they walked on. Lifting a hand, he hooked a finger in the covering that hid his mouth and nose; his breath forming clouds on the frozen air. “Not as many as I’d like…” he admitted. “Once we are down off this mountain, we’ll skirt the forest and head west- out on the [i platingeneau] region. The earth-minders are out on the plains. I have reason to believe we shall find the one we seek amongst one of their clans.”
“They took over what the Zabine left behind,” Otto murmured where he sat, brow furrowed. “Settled on their land after they’d been destroyed.”
“Now, now Cousin,” Yanai said, a surprising smirk on her lips. “They’re just Ta’tarans. You can’t expect them to ready their own land, can you? Someone had to do it for them…” Kyrian glanced over his shoulder at her with a look, and the woman just laughed at him.
The next few days were spent seeing to it that the village was able to rebuild itself. Odin had done impressive work leading the villagers. Destiny saw to the new clergy herself weeding out the other traitors, and appointing others to better positions. While Evangeline spent her days training with Ursula. It had been a good couple weeks, and Ursula refused to let Eva’s training slack. The same seemed to go for Palo and Freja. All of them needed work, and War was coming. It was a good distraction for Eva, who had yet spoken to Odin… despite his calmer temperament. She knew he felt bad for what he’d done and said to her, because she had caught him staring at her the other night at supper. Once her eyes had met his, he looked away. She decided it didn’t matter, though it did, and did what she did best -focused on a singular task. Two years ago that would have been perfecting any number of ballet movement, but now it was trying to strike, evade, and block as quickly as possible, and Ursula had begun training Eva in more acrobatic movements. Eva worked to refine her technique against Ursula, and the added anger and frustration from her loss of Odin only fuel her. By the third and final day into the Village’s repairs and restructuring, Eva managed to make Ursula winded. The two of them breathless and likely bruised, but smiling. Ursula wore a teacher’s smile, proud of her student, and Eva because at least she was feeling something other than how lonely she was without Odin.
The few days of constant training had left Eva sore, but feeling strong. She was still as tiny as ever, but as she strapped her bags to her elk, she glanced over her saddle to peer at Odin. He seemed focused in his task, and she knew something was on his mind by the way his brow was furrowed. She hated that she loved him so, she hated that she couldn’t figure out what she had done to lose him. She couldn’t figure out what that darkness in him was, or why it frightened her. She hated how even now, all she wished to do was go to his side and kiss his brow ,and sooth away whatever was troubling him. Before he could catch her staring though, she looked back down at her saddle, and then to her Elk. Gifting him a carrot, she turned to see as Destiny walked to the lineup with Yanai and a sickly looking Mira. It made Eva nervous for her. This cold weather was no place for someone in Mira’s condition, and from the look on Destiny’s face, she was worried too. Eva had to wonder how far away the next Village was. It was the last stop to make and then they would go back to Soulstice. At the thought of the Amphi’s home, Eva thought of her father. Was he lonely without her and mother? She missed her mother too. While she had come to accept Destiny, her father’s words still echoed in her head.
[i -Do not be fooled, Eva. That is not your mother.-]
She sighed with mild frustration. She just wanted to rip Tiernan down from his throne and bring Kaibe home. She wanted for Iona to be whole again, her mother too, and she wanted for Odin to want her back. Though as it was, he had not come to seek her out, but Eva held out hope, though it dwindled a little bit at every missed opportunity.
Towards the front of the line Ursula saw to it that Freja was seated up Kyrain’s elk properly. Yuger was not the sort of horse to put a small child on, or any other person for that matter. Besides, as Kyrain had pointed out, they did not ride horses in Soulstice, they rode Elk, and it would behoove Freja to learn how to sit on an Elk and not a horse. It wasn’t until Mira was on her caribou and Destiny on her Elk was the call given to move out. Eva let Palo and Nereus’ sleigh move ahead of her before she mounted her elk and volunteered the rear with Ursula.
They had been traveling for the better part of the day, taking the treacherous winding path down the mountainside. Thankfully the sun was out and the sky was clear. The weather was far kinder to them going down than it was coming up, but the sun was almost too bright. The snow reflected it with great intensity, that looking out at the horizon left Destiny shielding her eyes.
“How many waylays must we make to the find the last clan, General?” Destiny asked glancing over at him. With Mira’s cough, and her fever it left her powers faltering, and Destiny had to rely on Kyrain’s knowledge of the land to get them to the final Guard.
“Yeah. I’m useful now…” Odin muttered but Destiny could only stare at him. She was trying to work out how much of him had changed and what exactly Nox had done to the boy. She massaged the skin at her neck that was now perfectly healed and glanced back over at Nox. Finally, she grinned at him.
[i ‘You’re fond of him…’] she whispered into Nox’s mind. Nox merely atred her down, lifting one dark’ elegantly arched brow.
[i “I have no idea what you’re talking about,”] he replied sulkily. Destiny only smirked, ignoring the villagers who rushed past, eager to be away from what was left of the smoldering flames.
[i ‘Whatever you’ve done for the boy, you have my thanks, though I know you do not need or want it. You have it.’] She smiled to Odin then and reached out to clasp his shoulder.
“You were always useful, Son of War. Now you have been given an obvious gift, use it well,” she advised and looked him over as if proud of him. Odin blushed and looked to the side, eager to hide it. He had always been taller than her, but something about the new bulk of him dwarfed her. There was an edge to him that he had never possessed; his hair a mix of midnight black ad blood red, tossed by the wind like loving fingers running through it. “Now then, Prince Odin… help me organize the people. We cannot leave this village broken when we are the ones who broke it. Let’s begin repairs, shall we?” Odin glanced at Nox as if looking for permission. The man gave him a look.
“What? She asked you to lead, Prince. So lead,” he gestured with a flick of his fingers; gauntlets clanking.
Odin subtly swallowed before turning to gaze upon the huddled mass of villagers. They stared back at him with fear, confusion… and what might have been desperation. Even Vi’ktor and Nadja seems uncertain. “Return to your homes,” Odin finally spoke, his voice an octave deeper and edged in power. “Chief, you will come with us back to the tralgr. There are changes to be made regarding the clergy here. Of that I’m certain we can agree.”
“Aye,” Vi’ktor said with a nod. “We shall meet you.”
“But what of the temple?” Nadja spoke up, her trembling hands wrapped, white-kuckled in the fabric of his tunic.
“Quiet,” Vi’ktor hushed her sharply, a hand settling on her shoulder. “Our Prince commands us.”
“Have no fear. We shall aide in it’s rebuilding. I promise you,” Odin said. The chief nodded and ushered his wife down the path, following the villagers who scrambled down the mountainside en masse; disappearing into the mist.
From where she stood Ursula said not a word. She cradled Freja to her, the child quiet and clinging to her much as the chief’s wife had done. Soot streaked her pale face, her violet eyes wide as she pressed her body close to Ursula’s. When the men and women had disappeared, leaving the warriors alone, Odin turned back to the them, and it was as if they had all let out a collected breath.
“Holy shit…” Calder managed, falling back to sit in the snow, hands resting on his knees.
“You can say that again,” Apollo agreed, nudging a charred bit of wood with the toe of his boot.
“I should have seen this one coming,” Kyrian frowned from where he was squatting over the Kolgrim’s dead body. Reaching out he plucked the golden, bejeweled cord that marked him as high priest from where it had come undone in the fight. Ursula released Freja then, letting the child slide down and making her way to join him. She gripped his shoulder as he stood, clutching it in his fist.
“No one could have foretold the treason here. This was no more your fault than Vi’ktor’s.” Kyrian eyed her gratefully, but his mouth was drawn into a tight purse. His fist tightened and a spark from his palm engulfed the cord in flame. He dropped it to the snow, and it continued to flicker.
“This does not bode well,” he said, turning to Destiny. “If the high priest here has become poisoned with power, it worries me what we might find in the other kingdoms. Even our own King was not immune.”
“My brother is different,” Odin remarked, all but glaring at him, arms crossed over his muscled chest. “His plague did not come from the work of blasphemers. You know this as well as I.”
“Of course, I do,” Kyrian assured him, his blue eyes glittering with some unknown emotion. “No one is blaming Alexandros for his moment of weakness.”
“But Kyrian is right,” Evangeline suddenly spoke up. Odin immediately turned to stare her down, and the hardness in his gaze was replaced with a breathless sort of longing. She met it with a look of uncertainty. “Mankind is becoming arrogant. And that is the kind arrogance that Tiernan feeds off of. If weakness has seeped this far- all the way to the most remote tops of the mountains… then who knows what we’ll find once we venture into the lowlands.”
“Or worse,” Nereus said from where he stood, capturing their attention. His look was dark; his eyes swirling like storms. “Nicodemus is responsible for convincing his allies o join him this fight. What sort of ideals do the men who sit at power have now?”
They were all of them quiet, only the sound of crackling embers and the distant howl of the wind off the cliff face filling the air between them. After a moment, Destiny turned and looked down at the tiny Freja, reaching out she tucked a lock of hair behind the child’s ear. The girl stared up at her, her gaze full of so much innocence. “Come,” she said softly. “Douse the embers. And we will return to village.” She looked up at the others. “We cannot change the hearts of men, only pave the way for a new generation to make better their choices. We have started with this place. And we will make ripples that will reach the rest.” She began to walk away, and slowly the rest of them followed. Where Freja stood, she stared at the wreckage of the temple. It was a place that had once seemed so powerful and terrible… and now it was nothing but ash. Lifting her hands, tiny fingers outstretched, she closed her eyes and blew a stream of air. Like magic, the wind increased, and blew out what remained of the fire, casting the curling black smoke away to the distant sky. Slowly she opened her eyes again and lowered her hands, and for some unknown reason, she felt two tiny tears drip down either of her cheeks. Turning, she paused, surprised to find Ursula still there, with Kyrian. Without hesitation she ran to them, settling between them as they both took one hand each. And for the first time in her life, she walked off the mountain… and she was not alone.
“Yeah. I’m useful now…” Odin muttered but Destiny could only stare at him. She was trying to work out how much of him had changed and what exactly Nox had done to the boy. She massaged the skin at her neck that was now perfectly healed and glanced back over at Nox. Finally she grinned at him.
[i ‘You’re fond of him…’] she whispered into Nox’s mind. [i ‘Whatever you’ve done for the boy, you have my thanks, though I know you do not need or want it. You have it.’] She did feel partially responsible for him. She smiled to Odin then and reached out to clasp his shoulder.
“You were always useful, Son of War. Now you have been given an obvious gift, use it well,” She advised and looked him over as if proud of him. In truth she could see he was calmer, more at peace with himself, and it made her happy to see him so. That was undoubtedly Gwendolyn who felt a mother’s pride at the sight of him, while Eris admired the warrior he was. Destiny saw a fine young man coming into his own. “Now, Prince Odin… help me organize the people. We cannot leave this village broken when we are the ones who broke it. Let’s begin repairs, shall we?” She offered him the opportunity to lead, to be the Prince and a leader of Soultice, to be the man he man he was meant to be. Even Destiny could see it: Alexandros was King.. but Odin was their leader.
From where she stood Ursula said not a word. She cradled Freja to her, knowing that the first kill was always the hardest, and poor Freja was undoubtedly troubled by it. Ursula would help her cope and move forward. She had to, they had little time. Freja would have to learn quickly that Death is inevitable for mortal men, and she might soon find herself in a position to kill or be killed. Ursula would rather Freja kill, for may the Gods have Mercy on the poor soul who harmed the child. However, Ursula was distracted. The sight of Nox was a constant reminder that she would have to leave soon. The next full moon was weeks away, and they still had one last Guardsman to find. She watched Nox’s every move, still trying to wrap her head around what it was he had bartered for her soul, and why on Earth he wanted her in the first place. Ursula had been asleep in Arethousa’s armory for nearly three hundred years. He hadn’t wanted her then, why want her now?
It was as if the world was running in slow motion around her. She didn’t even feel the heat from the flames or taste the smoke that filled the air. All she could do was stare down at the blank eyes of the man who lay dead only a few feet away. The man she had killed…
[i “He is guilty… this is what he’s always feared… the day you overcome him. He is a liar and a traitor, and a murderer of the Ta’taran people. You are one of The Amphi’s chosen ones. It is your duty to protect the people and to wipe away those that threaten our livelihood. You want to be a Ta’taran warrior, a Valkyrie like me? A Master Guard of Destiny? Then uphold justice. Protect her, save her, and end him.”]
She felt numb. The same kind of numbness she had felt all of those nights in her tattered tent. Alone. Cold. Battered by the wind and the snow. But this time she was battered by a strange sense of confusion and fear. This man… she had killed him. She was torn between horror at what she’d done… and happiness. Relief that he lay dead before her. Had she made the right choice? “Thank you, Freja... for saving me.” Feeling the hand rest atop her head, it drew her out of her focus and Freja blinked, her lavender eyes shifting upwards to find Destiny smiling down at her. Another hand squeezed her shoulder and she looked over to see Ursula giving her the same smirk of approval. For the first time, she didn’t smile back; not making a sound even as the Vlkyrie scooped her up and carried her outside, the rest of their group coming behind them. Nox and Odin met them in the clearing out front; the rest of the villagers rushing to scoop up snow in an effort to put out the fire that blazed about the temple. Calder and Apollo stood together using their powers to shower douse the flames with water. "Old friend, you have impeccable timing, and my thanks."
Nox arched a brow. “Always in trouble,” he muttered. Destiny merely smiled.
"Will you be traveling with us from here? Now that Kolgrim has been exposed and control of the village returned to Vi'Ktor... there is no more need for us to stay here. We leave at first light tomorrow, and would welcome your company."
“I suppose I could stick around for a while. Make sure you all don’t die. Once you have found the last Guardsman I will take my leave. Escort the Valkyrie back to Winterfey,” he nodded in her direction. Destiny nodded, lifting a hand to her throat where deep gouges and blisters patterned her flesh. “You took damage…” he said. She nodded.
“It will heal in time,” she murmured. Though she had the ability to heal herself, it took awhile unlike her ability to heal others. Without warning, however, Odin suddenly reached out and pressed his gloved hand to her shoulder. A ripple of power went through her and suddenly her injuries healed before their very eyes. When Destiny questioned this, Nox set his hand on the prince’s shoulder.
“I think you’ll find that some much needed changes have been made.”
“Yeah. I’m useful now…” Odin muttered and dropped his hand as he rolled his eyes.
Sure enough Kolgrim tried to brush the accusations off and it caused a smirk to grace Destiny’s face. A smirk that only grew when Vi’ktor managed to connect the dots. She saw Kolgrim going to make a run for it, but with a simple wave of her hand the doors slammed shut, and kept him in sight. Within moments, Vi’ktors men acted on his command and seized Kolgrim from getting away even as his threats flew across the room. Destiny remained impassive, allowing Kolgrim and Vi’ktor to have their spat for the whole of the village to see and make their own conclusions. From her seat, Eva watched nervously, and glanced back at Ursula who remained where she stood holding Freja’s hand.
“You’ll be glad if I don’t see you hanged!” Vi’ktor threatened. Suddenly Kolgrim grinned and it was a smile Eva did not particularly care for.
“I’d like to see you try.”
“Watch out!” Eva had just enough time to realize what Kolgrim was to do when he threw off his captors into the walls with a massive gust of air. Destiny’s eyes merely narrowed in irritation, but it was Ursula who hissed menacingly towards the fallen Priest. He threatened little Freja, confessed to her father’s murder and Ursula moved to stand protectively in front of Freja.
“You come near her and I will cut you in half with my bare hands,” Ursula growled. Eva felt a tug on her arm and saw Palo trying to pull her away from Destiny and Ursula. She frowned, but allowed Palo to lead her away to some distance of safety.
“Congratulations. You’ve solved the little mystery.” Kolgrim turned on Destiny who had yet to even react towards him. “And what did it get you?” Destiny said nothing, simply watched as he used his powers to lock the doors and knocked the torches from their mounts on the wall with a single gust of wind. The dry hay on the floor caught immediately, and before long the sanctum began to fill with smoke and screams of the villagers as they panicked and rushed the doors, trying desperately to free themselves. She glared as the smoke began to fill the room and cast it in a flare of orange color. From where she stood beside Palo, Eva and Palo quickly banded together to get away from the spreading flames.
“Mama!” Eva called and caught Destiny’s silver eyes, but before the angel could reach her, Eva spotted Kolgrim. Kyrain had been distracted helping the villagers, and Ursula with the stunned and shocked Freja. “Behind you!” She watched in horror as Destiny barely managed to look over her shoulder before a cord of golden thread and sharp cut quartz burned her skin. Destiny screeched out in pain, causing the rafters to shake from the lightning storm above.
Destiny’s skin was burning, sizzling just like the fires around them, and blood trickled down her chest where the quartz cut into her flesh.
“You will pay for this…” Destiny hissed. Eva was helpless to watch as even Kyrain was stayed by Kolgrim who pressed a knife into Destiny’s side. It was a blatant threat and Eva could feel her blood boiling, and her gums ached to dip her fangs into the man’s flesh and rip his throat out. Eva had no idea what was being whispered into her mother’s ear, but by the look of it, it wasn’t good, and then she laughed.
“You are a damned fool, Kolgrim…” Destiny managed to rasp on a choked chuckle.
“Let her go!” Eva tried ready to spring forward, but Palo grabbed her and pulled her back.
“Eva, no… he’ll kill her!” he tried.
“No, Kolgrim you unhand her!” Eva managed to break away until Kolgrim pressed the blade into Destiny’s side and cause more blood to stain her tunic. Despite all that, Destiny raised a hand towards Eva, halting her in place.
“Shut your mouth, conniving little witch!” he snapped. “Don’t think I didn’t see straight through the game you played with me last night, whore!” His insult caused Eva’s cheeks to flush darkly with embarrassment, and even Palo stepped up to throw his own insult, but neither of them got the chance…
Across the room Ursula stood with Freja, her eyes gleaming a cold and lethal silver that the child could have truly passed for Ursula’s Valkyrie child. Ursula was knelt down beside Freja whispering to her, words Eva could only imagine.
“No Ursula… don’t…” Eva breathed, but even Ursula looked blood thirsty and watched with pride and joy as Freja choked the life out of Kolgrim.
“He is guilty… this is what he’s always feared… the day you overcome him. He is a liar and a traitor, and a murderer of the Ta’taran people. You are one of The Amphi’s chosen ones. It is your duty to protect the people and to wipe away those that threaten our livelihood. You want to be a Ta’taran warrior, a Valkyrie like me? A Master Guard of Destiny? Then uphold justice. Protect her, save her, and end him. If you do not, then I will. By your hand or another, this man will die… and if you do not act soon… he will kill you too.” Sure enough Freja reached out with her powers, and Ursula could taste her anger, her sadness and frustration. Ursula watched Kolgrim rip at his face, trying to pry away the invisible force that confined him to breathing smoke. He dropped Destiny before he fell himself. Only then did Eva rush Destiny, Palo quick at her side to drag her to some semblance of safety and away from the reaching flames. Ursula watched from beside Freja, a glimmer in her eyes and a look of absolute pride when the man finally dropped, and his body twitched before going still. “That’s my little Valkyrie…” Ursula crooned, and wrapped Freja into her arms. For a moment, Ursula and Eva locked eyes and Eva looked worried that Ursula would flee with her prize, Freja, and leave them all behind to burn.
It never came to pass, as the moment Kolgrim finally succumbed to death, and Destiny was able to catch her breath in Eva’s arms, the door exploded open with a burst of power. Eva shielded Destiny with Palo, while Ursula covered Freja. The open door allowed the smoke to be pulled outside, allowing all of them to breathe better, but it didn't take away the fire. The rush of oxygen allowed it to spread faster. Villagers rushed to the doors making a quick exit. Eva lifted her head enough to see Ursula and Freja already gone from the sanctuary, and quickly went to help her mother stand up, with no luck. The fires still moved in on Eva, Palo and Destiny, locking them in the space they were in. Eva did not know how damaging Quartz could be to an angel, and was shocked by how drained of energy Destiny seemed to be.
“Palo help me!” Eva tried, attempting to pull her mother up to her feet.
“Holy shit...it's Odin,” Palo breathed, and Eva finally turned to see none other than Odin standing in the doorway. Or she thought it was Odin. He looked different, and frightening… most certainly darker, and with a glance behind him she saw Nox. Eva knew Nox had something to do with this change and she could only wonder what the Fey God had done now to her precious Odin. How much had he changed again?
“Odin…” She breathed, and reached for him, but a hand grabbed hers and she saw it was Destiny, who had regained consciousness, grabbing both her and Palo.
Eva felt the pressure drown her from all sides and choked in the darkness before reappearing out in the courtyard. Eva blinked at the change of scenery and the change from fire to ice. With the last bit of her strength and a fleeting moment of consciousness, Destiny had phased them from the fires to the snowy courtyard.
“Mother!” She gasped as Destiny fell backwards into the snow.
“Destiny,” Palo called with her and the two of them attempted to wake her. The band of quartz was still around Destiny’s neck, hanging loosely and Palo quickly and carefully removed it from her where it continued to sear her flesh. Palo looked it over, nothing short of stunned and looked to Eva. “I bet he planned to use this the whole time. He knew how to weaken Destiny enough to destroy her.” Eva grit her teeth at that as she cradled her mother’s head in her lap.
“Get it away from her,” Palo nodded and tossed the bloody cord far away into the snow. “Mama… mama? Please wake up,” Eva tried, and sure enough Destiny’s eyes peeled open and looked around.
“I’m not going to die child… Kolgrim was smarter than I anticipated.”
“Mama!” Eva gasped and quickly wrapped Destiny in her arms. Destiny merely laid there and looked up at the sky.
“Welcome back Destiny!” Palo greeted with a grin, and patted his chest to confirm for maybe the hundredth time that Iona was still tucked safely against him.
“Come on, help me up out of this snow…” Eva nodded quickly helping Destiny with Palo’s help to bring the weakened Destiny to her feet.
Villagers still occupied the courtyard, busy listening to Vi’ktor’s orders to put the fire out and save the temple. The other Temple Priests and the Priestess were rounded up and arrested until trials could be preformed, but Kolgrim remained inside, catching fire and burning to ash. Eva, Palo and Destiny were approached then by Ursula and Freja. Ursula said nothing, but simply put Freja’s hand in Eva’s. They weren’t the only ones to approach, because Ursula turned and promptly fell to a knee before Nox, and beside him was Odin. Immediately Eva lowered her eyes and her gaze from Odin. The previous night’s exchange still stung too harshly for Eva, and she had no idea what was up or down with Odin anymore.
In the end though, Eva’s frustrations won out and she glared at her mother. “You underestimated Kolgrim, and you could have gotten yourself killed. What would I have told father then?” Eva demanded. Destiny actually blanched at the severity of Eva’s sweet face.
“He wasn’t going to kill me-”
“Not my point! You allow the half of you that is Eris to be too arrogant, putting my mother in danger. Don’t forget, it’s her body you’re riding around in!” She snapped turning on Ursula who had managed to get back to her feet. “You instigated poor Freja to kill Kolgrim! How could you?” Ursula seemed unphased and shrugged.
“The man was to die no matter what. Freja will have to learn to kill her enemies soon enough. I am ensuring she is capable, something you are still struggling with.”
“I am not a murderer!”
“And you say she is?” Ursula challenged back defensively. “I simply helped a Master Guard save Destiny. I encouraged one of the Amphi’s chosen ones to met out Justice for all of Soulstice. I did not encourage murder, I encouraged the strength to do what is necessary.”
“And what of mercy?” Eva tried.
“Mercy is admirable,” Destiny cut in. “But in times, not possible. Would you show Tierenan mercy?” Eva went silent, as they all knew she wouldn’t. She’d kill him where he stood if given the chance. “I didn’t think so. Return to the cottage, check on your sister and find a method to calm yourself,” Destiny ordered. Eva grit her teeth, once again being treated like a child, and a tool. Without looking at any of them, especially Odin, she turned on her heel and began trekking down the mountainside, but not before she stopped and picked up the cord of quartz….
With Eva gone, Destiny turned to Freja and offered a warm smile. "Thank you, Freja... for saving me," Destiny said and pressed a hand to the top of the child's head before she addressed Nox. "Old friend, you have impeccable timing, and my thanks." She glanced over at Odin, as if appraising him. She sensed greater power in him, and a bond to Nox. "Will you be traveling with us from here? Now that Kolgrim has been exposed and control of the village returned to Vi'Ktor... there is no more need for us to stay here. We leave at first light tomorrow, and would welcome your company."
All posts are either in parody or to be taken as literature. This is a roleplay site. Sexual content is forbidden.