Pain is the only thing Tamsin thinks is real anymore. It's the only thing she's experienced for such a long time that anything else doesn't hold as much meaning. She doesn't know what she's thinking, if anything at all, when she runs the truck into the image of him and causes it to fly off the cliff. Certainly it isn't anything rational because if it was rational, she would've thought about his limitations and how it couldn't have really been him. Instead she drives at him, full of fear and hatred and wanting so very badly to stop what she knows is coming, to somehow protect Bo, and she sends her truck flying off a cliff. He wasn't real, he was a projection sent to trick her, just like so many times before, and really she should fucking know better. But the pain she feels when she wakes up is a tangible thing and is something she's learned to trust.
The smell of gasoline leaking and the spark of a fire is what greets her. Tamsin's broken enough bones to know she has more than a few right now. When she coughs there's a gurgling sound and that, coupled with the constricted feeling in her chest, allows her to recognize that she's punctured a lung. Maybe her time is finally up. She's lived way too long and if it was up to her death would've come decades earlier but it wasn't her choice. Not with him pulling her strings. Hopefully he's too busy to bother with her now. Oaths and contracts are such an awful binding and bothersome thing in the fae world and more than once Tamsin wished they had some mystical version of an divorce lawyer to help her out with that.
She sees him next to her and unbuckling her seat belt, she climbs over him, kicking out the door and removing him from the seat. He's heavy in her arms and she pulls him several feet from the truck and falls onto her back, exhausted from even that small bit of activity. Part of her wants to surrender to the heaviness in her eyelids and the weight in her limbs but she needs him to live through this. Pushing herself up on her hands and knees, she stumbles forward to the wreck of her truck, resting on the smashed roof and pulling open the glove box. The vial falls into her trembling hand and she grips it tightly, trying to ignore the gasping breaths she's taking and the blood falling down her chin.
Toi Invasion. The Crusades. Genpei War. Mongolian Conquests. Great Prussian Uprising. The Peasant revolt in Flanders. Genko War. Hundred Years War. The Fall of Constantinople. Siege of Rhodes. Ottoman Wars. The Great Turkish War. French and Indian War. American Revolution. Napoleonic Wars. War of 1812. American Civil War. Mito Rebellion.
"The fucking Mito Rebellion," Tamsin gasped out with a laugh, curling on her side and falling out of the truck, still holding the vial in a tight grip. "That was it, wasn't it?" she snorted and crawled towards Dyson, keeping him in her sights. "The last great fight before I became his full time serving girl. Well," she snorted, coughing up blood and wiping it away with the back of her hand, "fuck that shit. I'm done here but you," she eyed Dyson, pulling his mouth open and removing the top of the vial, pouring the bright green substance into his mouth. "You need to stick around, buddy, because you're definitely needed." Falling onto her back, she stared up at the sky. "Hopefully Mossimo pulled a Dr. Feel-good with that dose."
Seconds or minutes, she didn't know how much time passed before Dyson gasped for air and shot forward into a sitting position. She saw him out of the corner of her eye and gave him the thumbs up. "Way to go, wolf-man," she drawled and he jerked towards her, taking in her broken and bloody form, the worry shining in his eyes. "It's a TKO for me, I'm afraid."
"Tamsin," Dyson's voice reverberated with sadness and protest and Tamsin laughed, coughing up more blood in the process. He was immediately at her side, touching her carefully, inspecting her injuries. "Don't say that. I can--"
"You can cut off a lock of my hair for luck and then burn my body," interrupted Tamsin, reaching into the last vestiges of strength and grabbing his hands with her own. "I've lived too long and it's time I paid the piper. Just promise me that you'll burn me, Dyson. Burn me until there's nothing left but ash and bone." Another coughing fit and she felt her chest constrict and god she was dizzy and it was everything she remembered from those peaceful deaths he let her have. The ones that weren't an impaling or a firing brigade. The rare moments of respite in the never ending torture that finally broke and bent her to his will. At least, until she met Bo. Fucking Bo. How did she do that anyway? Tamsin tried so hard and kept her distance for so very long but somehow she managed to worm her way into her heart. "Dyson," Tamsin gasped, forcing her eyes open and squeezing his hands tight. "Don't let him bring me back again. Swear there won't be anything left of me."
"Tamsin," Dyson says her name helplessly as her fingernails dig into the palms of his hands. He can see the fear and desperation in her eyes and it truly frightens him. "I promise," he murmured, in grave tones.
"Good," rasped Tamsin and she closed her eyes. It was time. It was far past time to leave this place. She hadn't meant to get close to him. To get close to any of them but in a way she supposed she just couldn't help herself. It had been over a hundred years since she had any significant relationships. Especially with anyone who was decent and caring and of course it was in her fucking nature, that she loathed so much, to get involved because they were brave warriors with a glorious cause and that's who she was meant to champion. That's who she did champion before he got his toxic hands on her her. Tamsin forced her eyes open one last time, offering him a faint version of her trademark smirk. "Thanks."
And then she breathed her last breath and finally, this hellish life cycle was over.
Rebirth was always a fucking bitch and Tamsin knew when she woke up it wouldn't be anywhere good. He wouldn't be pleased when he found out she had Dyson barbecue her so of course she would be punished for that. Unfortunately for him a dead Valkyrie at the end of her long life cycle waiting for rebirth could only be punished in two ways. Tamsin found herself almost relieved when she awoke in the dank and the dark of a prison cell. Curling onto her side, she studied at her surroundings, what little she could discern of it. The cell was little more than a closet, barely able to fit one person, and as she lay curled into herself she wondered how long he would keep her here. He could do it for as long as he liked. There was no one to break her out, after all, and she could hardly be reborn as long as she was trapped in here.
Eventually she moved, her hands digging into the stones of the cell until they start to bleed. She managed to wrest a piece of stone from the wall and she sharpened a corner of it and carved a line into the wall. It's hard to mark the passage of time in the darkness but she'll do her level best to try. The practice has always been a strange comfort to her and she knows doing it now will help her to retain her faculties in this place. Thirteen days pass by her estimate when the large steel plate moves away from the door, revealing a face staring down at her through the bars. She ate six days ago and she wonders if they're going to toss food at her rather than slide it through the small slot at the bottom of the door. When Tamsin sees concerned green eyes gazing down at her and strawberry blonde hair, her brow furrows.
"Bynhild?" Tamsin muttered, pushing herself into a sitting position, forcing her head to rest against the wall.
"Tamsin," Brynhild breathed and her hands grasped the bars as sadness clung to her features. "We didn't know you were here. I came as soon as I heard."
Tamsin snorted and laughed. "Who's we? You and Gudrun?" When Brynhild's face darkens at the mention of the other Valkyrie, Tamsin laughs again. "It's good to know your feud continues on. I like that some things never change."
"You're as pleasant as ever," said Brynhild in droll tones. "I'm glad to see he hasn't completely broken your spirit."
"Was this close," drawled Tamsin, lifting her hand weakly and putting a small space between her index finger and thumb. "He would've done it too, if it wasn't for that fucking succubus and her friends." Her face settles into a serious expression as once again her thoughts return to Bo. "He has her, doesn't he?"
"Yes," said Brynhild quietly. "She arrived the same day as you. He's been with her ever since."
"Who does he have guarding her?" Tamsin demanded, fighting her exhaustion.
"Sigrun," Brynhild replied and there's a relief in her voice and Tamsin wonders at it.
"Tell Sigrun to watch over her," said Tamsin, her hands gripping the crumbling stones at her sides, needing something, anything, to hold onto in this moment. "She's good, Brynhild. She's everything he doesn't want her to be and he's going to change that to make her into what he needs her to be. Tell Sigrun to try and slow the process."
"What are you planning?" asked Brynhild softly.
"I can't tell you," said Tamsin, sliding down to the floor of her prison cell, her back facing to Brynhild.
Silence and she can feel Brynhild's eyes on her, studying her closely, then the clang of metal on metal and the dim light that had filled her cell is gone and she's alone in the darkness once again. Tamsin holds the sharp piece of stone in her hands and rolls over onto her side, ignoring the protest from her still healing ribs and lies on her stomach, crawling over to the door, slowly carving around the metal hinges, working once more to free the nails from its grasp.
There are some fae that lose track of their long lives. The passage of time escapes them and years turn into seconds and decades into minutes and centuries into hours. Tamsin has never been that type of fae. She feels time passing at an almost anguishing pace, every moment carved into her very soul, and she can even recall where she was born. In the Oslofjord on what would become Gressholmen and the village... she remembers the rolling hills and the snow and the rabbits everywhere. Her father was a Ellefolket, one of the alder tree people, strong and proud, and he cared for the land. The fae there were good and honest. Her mother delivered the brave souls to Valhalla and taught Tamsin it was an honor to be with them at the last moments of their lives.
She has only been reborn four times since her birth, an unusually low amount for a Valkyrie. Tamsin knows this is because she hangs on too tightly to her life during each cycle. Drawing it out far longer than she needs and she wonders why she always had this fear inside of her that each time she won't come back. That she'll surrender to the black and there will be no waking on the other side and this will truly be the end of her. Other Valkyries don't feel that way. Her mother didn't and even when she knew it was the end, that she would not seek a return to Midgard, she didn't fear it, instead it was a comfort.
This was the first time that death was welcomed for Tamsin, that she felt relief in its grasp, just because it meant there was a chance, however small, she could escape his clutches. And after hundreds of years of misery and servitude, Tamsin had a driving force behind her actions. A want, a desperation, a need to make sure history did not repeat itself and past mistakes would not haunt her. She would escape from this place and she would be reborn and she would save Bo from him.
Prison is a comforting thing compared to tortures of old. Just the memory of it was enough to weaken her resolve to defy him. Hearing Aife speak of his nasty talent for resurrection brought images to her mind and reactions to her body. As if she could feel the sword running her through, the bullets riddling her body, and the water filling her lungs as she struggled against his superior strength. Again, and again, and again. He killed her and brought her back until Tamsin finally accepted she was his, and he could do with her what he wanted. That was what their contract meant. There was no escaping it. The memory of this, the knowledge of it, made her hesitate in her plans because she thinks what good is she really, what chance does she have of helping Bo? She couldn't even help the one who once mattered most.
Tamsin never believed that there would be someone who could convince her to care again. To trust and to hope but somehow Bo had done it, she had broken through centuries of bitterness and regret, and made her heart beat again. Still, it would be a mistake to allow herself to care too much. Love was what had caused all of this, what had brought her to him, and led to their fall. Her love cursed not only herself but the one who meant the most to her in the world and Tamsin could never allow herself to forget that. If she did, then she would have truly learned nothing. She couldn't let history repeat itself with Bo. And so, Tamsin vowed she would help her but she would also keep her distance, never crossing that line from care into love, ever aware of the dangers such feelings presented.
Besides, even if she did allow herself to forget there was Dyson and Lauren. They had no horrible histories, nothing to restrain them when it came to Bo and her affections, they could give all of themselves to her and Tamsin simply couldn't do that anymore. She wouldn't let herself. "If three is a crowd," Tamsin muttered bitterly, pulling at the nail, loosening it from its grip in the hinge. "Four is a fucking nightmare."
Irony wasn't lost on Tamsin. In fact, she often enjoyed it. No matter how old she got and how many years passed, it was always a source of some amusement to her. There was nothing harrowing in it, much unlike watching history repeat itself, seeing humans and fae never quite learning from mistakes. The irony that the woman who could make her care again belonged to him, was from his seed, and was his daughter didn't bring any sort of joy to Tamsin. It was a painful pill to swallow to know that such a good person could come from him, and Tamsin wants to keep Bo from him, to keep her from changing into what she knows he wants her to be. Only to do that she has to get out of here. And she keeps sharpening her makeshift tool, digging and twisting metal until her fingers bleed, and marking the days by when she sleeps and wakes. Until on the 129th day of her confinement she has something akin to a weapon in her hands when the door to her cell opens.
Sigrun is standing in front of her, long flowing hair tied back in braids, armor covering her body and blue eyes bright and always discerning as they land on Tamsin's figure, locking onto the makeshift weapon. "Tamsin," she said her name very slowly, as if tasting it on her lips, and humor resonates in her tone. "You won't stab me with that, will you?"
Tamsin rolls over onto her back and laughs, the weapon falling from her hands, clattering to the prison floor, and she stares up at Sigrun. "It depends," she replied, eyeing Sigrun as a smirk forms on her features. "What are you here for?"
"The All Father would have words with you," said Sigrun staidly, crouching down and clasping Tamsin's hands in her own. Her touch is gentle and Tamsin relishes it as Sigrun pulls her to her feet, supporting Tamsin with an arm around her waist.
"Really," Tamsin scoffs and she falls into Sigrun, her head resting against her neck. It has been many years since she's seen Sigrun. At least six hundred by her estimate but she smells as Tamsin remembers. The scent of the North Sea clings to her and it is as soothing as it ever had been. "Because I would have words too. The service here sucks."
"I'm pleased to see your wit is as sharp as ever," Sigrun murmured, pressing a kiss to Tamsin's cheek, and Tamsin grimaces despite enjoying the sensation because she can't let herself reveal that. Not even to Sigrun. "Keep your mind sharp as well."
"You're taking me to him," said Tamsin starkly as they leave the prison.
"Yes," said Sigrun, seeing no need to deny or excuse this, it was the horrible reality of their existence, after all.
"Did Brynhild deliver my message to you?" asked Tamsin, desperation starting to take hold, wondering what he could have planned for her. There were only two ways to punish her now and imprisonment was the much preferred option.
"I have been watching over her," assured Sigrun, dipping her head to the guard who opened the door to prison for them. "She has a strong heart," she said after a long moment of pause, "it is good she grew up away from his clutches."
"She's in them now, Sigrun," said Tamsin, biting off every word, anger clear in her pronunciation.
"I've done my best to advise her of the dangers," said Sigrun softly. She meets Tamsin's gaze and her hold tightens, bringing them closer than ever. Her head dips down and there is only a breath between them. Sigrun is the tallest of her sisters. Lean and willowy, her muscles well defined and tempting, she is as she always has been, an impressive figure of a Valkyrie. "But I am not one she cares for and so I do not think my warnings mean as much." Tamsin's features darken and perhaps trying to provide some form of comfort, Sigrun added, "Bo is resisting his influence thus far."
"Right," said Tamsin wearily and they're moving again. "How many of us does he have?"
"Nine Valkyries presently," said Sigrun stiffly. "Not counting yourself."
"Nine too many," said Tamsin resentfully. They're walking through a long hall and Tamsin wonders at the changes made. She had refused to come into his realm for the last few hundred years and was unaware of the alterations in decor. It appeared he was changing with the modern age. Certainly there was a lot less marble than before. "Acacia?"
"Dead," said Sigrun, her gaze sympathetic as she looked to Tamsin.
"It was my fault," said Tamsin, trying to hold back the emotion as she thought about Acacia. Her death was because of Tamsin's weakness and hesitation. She didn't regret her actions in trying to save Bo, to keep Bo from him, but she regretted getting the older Valkyrie involved in her problems. "Are Ingrid and her tribe...?"
"They remain free," Sigrun murmured and her relief was palpable as she said this. "Ingrid visited Valhalla recently."
"Really," said Tamsin, the word was bitter on her lips, and she tried not to think of it. The shining hall, the drinks, the merriment, the goodness and the very joy of the place. It was where she belonged. Where all the Valkyries belonged and he had taken them from it with his scheming and treachery, binding them to his will, until the end of their long life cycles.
"She saw Tomoe," said Sigrun and immediately Tamsin whipped her head around, staring at Sigrun, as if seeing the very depths of her soul and her hands clutched to Sigrun's armor as a drowning woman to a log in the raging river. "Ingrid said she had much returned to her former self in the peace of Valhalla. His corruption cannot follow one into the afterlife it seems."
Her hands slipped away from Sigrun's armor and strength had all but abandoned her, and Sigrun held her up, carrying Tamsin in her arms, holding her upright as they began walking again. "Good," Tamsin's voice was all but a whisper, she was lost in the memories, and suffocating in her regret.
The rest of their journey is enveloped in silence, until they come to a large oak door, elaborately carved with images of a wintery landscape, flanked by two guards. The one on the right opens the door for Sigrun and when they step inside, Tamsin immediately locks onto Bo's figure, sitting in front of a desk, and when she turns to face them, Tamsin almost sobs in relief when she sees Bo's expression shift into one of panic and worry. She couldn't look like that if he had taken hold of her completely, Tamsin knew that for a fact. Bo rushes over to them, displacing Sigrun, holding Tamsin's frail figure in her arms and Tamsin doesn't return the hug that the succubus is giving her, fearing to give too much away as he watches them.
Watching. He was always watching. And Tamsin met his gaze, not allowing fear to overcome her. It was time to end this chapter of her life. To rid herself of him for once and for all. "Odin," his name is strangled on her lips. She avoided saying it for so long because saying it was like giving him more power and Tamsin loathed that prospect. He lifted an eyebrow on hearing his name, as if amused by it. "I invoke the Valkyrie right of rebirth," she said, extracting herself from Bo's arms and staring him down, precariously trying to keep her balance. "I would complete it now, with Bo as my observer."
"Is that so?" Odin replied and his amusement was obvious in his voice. He rose to his feet, grasping the cane at his side, and Tamsin stills herself purposefully, fighting the instinct to retreat as he nears her. His teeth seem to gleam and there's the awful glint in her eyes, the vicious one he gets when someone is suffering at his hands. "You think you're fit for that?"
"I invoke my right," said Tamsin stubbornly, avoiding his question. She could only hope by doing so he would buy into the doubt she was projecting, increasing his belief that she would surely die in the task.
"Avoiding the question," chuckled Odin and he turned his attention to Bo who was behind Tamsin now. "Daughter," he drew the word out lovingly and Tamsin flinched on hearing this. "What about you? Do you agree to be Tamsin's observer?"
"I guess," said Bo uncertainly, obviously not having a clue about what was going on. "What is it, anyway?"
"You observe her," said Odin humorously, tilting his head to one side, watching Tamsin and Bo carefully. "Valkyries must have someone watch them as they go through the journey for rebirth. Someone to chronicle their success or failure." Bo agreed to it the instant he finished speaking and he smiled, seeming pleased at her response. Tamsin knew in that moment he believed it would be impossible for Bo not to interfere, thereby dooming Tamsin's chances. "Very well," he said in silky tones, his gaze lifting to focus on Sigrun. "Bring the necessary items for the journey."
"It will be done," said Sigrun stiffly and Odin beamed at this.
"I'm taking her back to my room," Bo announced, moving back to Tamsin's side, her arm slipping around her waist, taking her from the room before Odin could respond. The air away from him felt different thinks Tamsin as they escape into the hallway. Her body is so heavy and her feet feel like lead and she knows she's a weight on Bo but all the same, she doesn't expect to be picked up and cradled as if she was a child. Tamsin starts to protest and Bo interrupts her. "Shut up," her voice is filled with a quiet fury that Tamsin has never heard from her before and it stills her argument. She walks with Sigrun at her side and Bo looks to her, anger radiating in her gaze as she accused, "You knew she was here, didn't you?"
"Yes," said Sigrun solemnly.
Bo scowls but her expression softens when she looks down at Tamsin who has buried her face in the crook of Bo's neck. There is something simultaneously embarrassing and comforting being held by Bo like this and Tamsin doesn't want to show her emotions, she cannot show them, and so she hides from Bo. Hoping somehow the succubus won't sense them.
"How long have you been here?" asked Bo, her voice was a pained and hushed in its demand, and Tamsin can almost hear the tears. Why, she wonders yet again, does Bo have to care so much? It would be easier if she felt less.
"129 days, give or take a night," Tamsin replied, her words muffled against the soft skin of Bo's neck.
They're inside Bo's room now and she can feel Bo kneeling down, depositing her on the couch, and Tamsin is finally looking in her eyes again. Those dark brown eyes that show so much goddamn feeling and Tamsin offers her best smirk, trying her level best to create the distance she needs to exist between them. "I tried running your pops over and all I got was a wrecked truck and a punctured lung for it," she scoffed. "Where did he snag you from anyway?"
"The Dal," said Bo and her brow furrowed in confusion. "You hit my father with your truck?"
"The image of him, at least," said Tamsin wryly, pushing herself into a sitting position, ignoring Bo's protest. She looked around Bo, focusing on Sigrun. "It's been a few centuries since I last went on this trip. Can I borrow some stuff from you?"
Sigrun dipped her head in agreement and as she moved to the door, she turned to Bo. "She should rest," Sigrun advised. "The journey will not be an easy one."
"I'm still here you know," complained Tamsin, flopping back on the couch, trying to ignore the ache in her bones.
"As if one could forget," Sigrun remarked humorously before exiting the room.
The couch dips under Bo's weight and Tamsin closes her eyes, as if keeping the sight of Bo from her will somehow steel her heart against her. It doesn't work, especially when she feels the feather light touch of Bo's fingertips on her cheek. "I'm sorry," Bo breathed and there's such unbearable sadness in her voice that Tamsin opens her eyes. "I didn't know--"
"It's okay," Tamsin interrupted, holding Bo's hand in her own, drawing it away from her face. "Really."
A strangled laugh, disbelieving and pained, escapes Bo and she stares at Tamsin as if she's not sure she is real. "It's okay," Bo repeated. "My father kept you locked up in a prison for over four months and you're saying it's okay?"
"Dungeon more like and I don't really know how long I was there. It's hard to keep track of time in the dark," said Tamsin, pushing herself up carefully. "I knew the score, succubus. He had to punish me and it was one of only two options. Frankly, I think I got the better deal. And hey," she flicked Bo on her nose, sporting her best grin, "now I get to be reborn, yeah?" She paused, looking away from Bo, gathering her thoughts, trying to find the simplest explanation. "If you want me to make it back, you have to promise you won't interfere, Bo. You're just there to be a fucking creepy voyeur, you got it? You look but you don't touch, you don't try to help me, and you don't save me no matter how much it seems like I need it."
"What happens if I do," said Bo, swallowing hard, apprehension clouding her features.
"Odin gets what he wants and I die, only it'll be for realsies this time," said Tamsin sardonically.
"How am I supposed to ignore it if you need help, Tamsin?" said Bo incredulously, rising her her feet. She waved her hands about in agitation and exclaimed, "I hate stupid fae rules!"
"Technically it's stupid Valkyrie rules, but whatevs," scoffed Tamsin, lying back on the couch, and staring up at the ceiling. "Look," she drawled, turning her attention to Bo, who stilled in her pacing to meet her gaze. "It's not pointlessly cruel. I've gone through this four times before and each time it made me stronger. Each fae has a thing, right?" Tamsin pushed herself up on the couch, her gaze steadily burning into Bo. "You're a succubus, you're a creature of love, of passion, and there's an instinct you have. You know what people need because of who you are and Valkyries... we're all about war, baby," said Tamsin with a sly grin. "We're not born on battlefields but we might as well be. Anyway," Tamsin continued, looking away from Bo, focusing on the ceiling, counting the dots. "Real strength doesn't come from power. It comes from being weak and fighting your way through that weakness, digging down deep and forcing a victory when loss is all but guaranteed."
"Okay," said Bo after a long moment of silence. "So I'm supposed to, what, just follow you around?"
"Basically," Tamsin shrugged. "Sigrun's getting my supplies and she'll bring a journal for you. Just write down what happens or your thoughts or whatever. If I don't make it, they'll stick it in Valhalla as tribute." Bo looked like she wanted to protest the very idea that Tamsin might not make it but the Valkyrie silenced her, reaching out for Bo, pulling the succubus over to her. "I need to know what he's been teaching you," said Tamsin seriously.
"How to control my abilities," said Bo and she seemed almost defensive as she spoke. "He's taught me how to use my charm without touch, to read auras, and that my lack of control comes from not accepting my nature as a succubus."
"Sounds about right," Tamsin muttered and she looked at Bo, her gaze intense, and she couldn't quite stop herself from holding Bo's hands in her own. "That's how it starts," she murmured quietly. "Odin as the wise teacher, helping you when no one else could, understanding you better than anyone in the world, until slowly it becomes less about you and more about him. His wants and his needs and how you could use your abilities to benefit him. Ultimately his teaching isn't teaching, succubus," said Tamsin harshly. "It's grooming and fuck if you're not the perfect little acolyte."
"I'm not under my father's control," Bo protested, pulling her hands from Tamsin's hold.
"I never said you were," said Tamsin, her eyes narrowing. "I just said that's what he's going to turn you into. I've seen him do it a hundred times before." She looked away from Bo, releasing a wild sort of laugh, rubbing her hand on her forehead, trying to fight exhaustion and the migraine building behind her eyes. "It's what he made me into, what he's done to all the Valkyries he's trapped into contracts. We used to deliver the bravest and most worthy warriors to Valhalla but once he gets ahold of us we've got to bring them to him and he changes them, Bo, he changes them every single time and they're never who they used to be. They're this awful shell of who they once were and I won't let him do it to you."
"Hey," Bo's voice is soft and oh so soothing and her hands are light on Tamsin's skin, cupping her face, forcing the Valkyrie to lift her gaze and meet their eyes. Brown eyes are filled with such concern and care that Tamsin can't bear the thought of what she knows they'll come to look like if Odin has his way. She simply can't allow it. Not after Tomoe. "I'm still me."
"For now," said Tamsin severely, covering Bo's hands with her own, drawing them down. She looked at them in her hold and she grimaces as she muttered, "I never wanted you to end up with him. I was trying to stop it." Tamsin snorted and shook her head. "It was stupid, thinking I had a chance against him." She drew her gaze back to Bo and held it steady, her hands rising up to clasp the succubus' neck, her thumb moving in a slow pattern, feeling her pulse and finding comfort in it. "Don't help me in the journey. Let me do it on my own and I promise I'll get you out of here."
"All right," said Bo as she nodded in acceptance. Tamsin drooped her head, she could practically feel the relief to her very bones, and she sunk back in the couch. She could sense Bo tracing over her frame and when she looked at her, the succubus was leaning closer, hands touching her once again, one on her waist, the other moving up her side in a slow caress. "I learned from him but I never trusted him, Tamsin." She deposited a kiss on Tamsin's cheek and pulled away, a glittering smile forming on her features, full of mischief, and Bo rose to her feet. "I just thought you should know that."
Tamsin laughed softly, closing her eyes, needing to sleep if only for a short while. "Good to hear," she mumbled.
When she wakes, it's to the sound of Sigrun and Bo talking quietly, and the clang of weapons being arranged. Tamsin pushes herself up on the couch, and takes in the veritable cornucopia of weapons laid out on the floor. She's immediately drawn to the long range weapons, well aware it would be best to avoid any close combat in her current state. "You brought halberds," said Tamsin, sounding inordinately pleased as she reached for one of them, testing the weight of it. "Nice," she observed, turning it in her hands, practicing a few key maneuvers. When Bo stared at her with surprise, she chuckled and arched an eyebrow. "What's with the face, succubus? You know I didn't exactly grow up using guns, right?"
"How old are you anyway?" asked Bo curiously.
"Don't you know it's rude to ask an ancient fae her age," snarked Tamsin, setting the halberd down. "Sigrun," she drawled. "It's the same rules? You can only carry weapons and survival items?" When the elder Valkyrie nodded in consent, Tamsin grumbled irritably. "Load me up with a crossbow and plenty of bolts then. Maybe I'll get lucky and snag a deer early on." She turned to Bo who was waiting patiently for a response and Tamsin huffed. "I grew up in the Bronze Age, satisfied?"
Bo's eyes became as large as saucers and Tamsin would've been amused by it if it didn't point out the severe differences between the two of them. They were from different eras and though Tamsin had done her best to flow through the years, to adjust to each new century and the changes brought with it, she couldn't leave her past behind. Releasing a sigh, she frowned at the assortment of items Sigrun brought.
"You're such a pack rat," said Tamsin almost affectionately to the other blonde. "How many axes do you own now?"
"I like to be prepared," said Sigrun, appearing offended at Tamsin's remark, "and fifty seven. The exact right amount."
Laughing boisterously, Tamsin reached for a spear, going through similar maneuvers as she had done with the halberd. When she was satisfied with its quality, she deposited it next to the halberd. "There's no point in asking about the location, is there?" muttered Tamsin wryly, picking up a heavy fur coat and wondering if it would be necessary.
"Ingrid said it was a volcanic island for her journey," offered Sigrun.
Snorting at this, Tamsin decided to take the coat anyway. If she didn't need it, she could always dump it somewhere. Turning to Bo, she murmured, "You should pick out some stuff too. You might have to defend yourself."
"Doesn't that go against your dumb rules?" asked Bo with a frown.
"Only if you help Tamsin," Sigrun responded, handing another fur coat to Bo. "If you are acting in your own defense, it doesn't discredit her own skill. You must watch yourself closely though as any aid you lend her will ruin her chances for rebirth."
"Great," said Bo sourly and she looked like she wanted to curse the fae and Valkyrie rules once again.
After two hours of gathering supplies, Tamsin was appropriately dressed, wearing the thick fur coat and heavy boots, leather straps crossing her back to hold the halberd and spear for easy retrieval. The satchel, with crossbow bolts and map inside, hung at her side along with the crossbow. Sigrun shoved bear pelt gloves at the two of them and Tamsin took them with amusement before walking over to Bo and retrieving her trademark knife from it's sheath. Before Bo could say a word, Tamsin cut her palm, letting the blood drip from her hand as she offered the knife back to the succubus. The words came as if by rote, saying them was practically instinct, and as she spoke them the blood pulled apart and separated, transforming itself into a thick cloud, surrounding herself and Bo. She shoved the glove over her bloody hand, well aware of the more unpleasant properties of Bo's own blood, and reached for the brunette's hand. They were enveloped in the red cloud, being pulled from one plane of existence to the other, when she heard Bo say with utmost disdain, "Blood mist? Gross."
"It's the only way to travel," replied Tamsin with amusement as the mist evaporated and they found themselves in a wintery forest. Adjusting her weight from one foot to the other and sinking deeper into the snow, Tamsin closed her coat and said, "Remind me to thank Sigrun for her wardrobe paranoia." Shifting the satchel, Tamsin dug through it and retrieved the map along with her compass. Staring at their surroundings, seeing the mountains in the distance, clearly marked along with the temple, she snorted. "Figures," she muttered, shoving the map back into the satchel and tucking the compass into her pocket. "Come on, succubus," Tamsin drawled, nodding towards the mountains. "That's where we're headed."
"Fantastic," said Bo in dry tones, following after Tamsin.
They had been walking for little over an hour when Bo noticed Tamsin crouching down and studying a set of tracks. Tamsin was contemplating the length and size of them and when Bo stopped behind her, the blonde looked up. "It's a big buck," she said, sounding pleased to know this. "He's going slow too. This had to be in the last hour."
"Okay," Bo said somewhat cluelessly, not sure the point of this conversation.
"We've got to refuel sometime, succulette, that mountain is a few days hike," said Tamsin sardonically. Rising to her feet she opened her satchel and loaded some bolts into the crossbow. "That means I need to find us dinner."
"You are not killing Bambi," said Bo, vaguely horrified.
"Technically I'm killing Bambi's dad or Bambi in the sequel straight to dvd movie," said Tamsin carelessly, pushing past Bo and following the tracks further into the thick tree line. "There's a stream up ahead. I'm betting he's there."
"I'm so not watching this," muttered Bo, shaking her head and following after Tamsin.
"Look," Tamsin turned around, shifting the crossbow, and staring at Bo with an irritated expression. "He's going to hear you with the way you're walking. Just... stay here, okay? I'll be back in an hour or two."
"What? No! What if something happens to you? And I'm supposed to chronicle!" Bo protested, not at all liking the idea of abandoning Tamsin.
"You can't help me if something does happen and just make some shit up," said Tamsin, waving it off and pushing through the trees. Bo scowled and continued to follow after the blonde but at a safe distance. Eventually, Tamsin turned around and rolled her eyes, holding up a finger to her lips and mimicking walking very slow and quiet before turning back around.
Eventually, Tamsin came to the deer bed, and she lay down in the snow, adjusting her sight and keeping still, waiting for the buck to shift to just the right position. It took nearly forty minutes but she finally got her shot, pleased that it was a clean kill. As she rose to her feet, she looked for the succubus, hidden not so well among the tree line. "Stay there! I've got to skin and butcher him, succubus!" Tamsin shouted, smirking when Bo's cries of disgust met her ears in response.
Tamsin had skinned the buck and had just started the butchering process when Bo's shouts met her ears. Jerking her head up, she caught sight of a pack of orthrus, just beyond the tree line. "BO!" Tamsin screamed, cursing the snow, she pulled her feet from it, scrambling away from the buck. The succubus stumbled forward and Tamsin met her halfway, pulling her halberd free as the orthrus slowly surrounded them. It was a small pack. Only three of them and Tamsin shoved her crossbow at the succubus. "Take the one on the left," she muttered. "On three." Bo nodded her head and shifted the crossbow, tracking the two headed wolf as it stalked them, and Tamsin began her count down. When three left her lips, Bo fired and Tamsin swung her halberd, slitting the throat of the largest orthrus, holding back a scream as the second one rushed at her. She flung it to the side and saw it go after Bo, attaching one its jaws to her arm, and Tamsin screamed, rushing forward with her halberd and stabbing it in the heart. Kicking it away from Bo, she slit the creature's throat and neared the trembling succubus. "Shit," she cursed, sheathing her halberd and studying Bo's injuries. The orthrus had bit all the way down to the bone, stripping the flesh and it made for a nasty sight. Lifting her eyes, she held Bo's face in her hands, forcing the brunette to look at her. "Feed from me." Obstinately, Bo shook her head and Tamsin scowled. "We don't have time for this, Bo!" she said harshly. "There might be more of them and I can't have you leaving a blood trail."
"You're weak," said Bo quietly, managing to bite the words out, clutching onto her injury. "I won't make you weaker."
"Bitch," Tamsin laughed incredulously, "don't call me weak when you've got your arm filleted!" Bo continued to look away and Tamsin cursed again then grabbed Bo's chin, forcing their eyes to meet again. "I can't finish this journey without you and if you keep bleeding out you're not going anywhere. If you want me to get my stupid ass reborn you'll feed from me."
The smallest light of concession flared in Bo's brown eyes and then they shifted blue and she leaned forward, capturing Tamsin's lips with her own. When Bo last fed from her it wasn't really a kiss by Tamsin's standards. It was a mere touch of their lips, lasting scarely a few seconds, something an innocent school child would do but this was different. This was an actual kiss, not simply their lips pressing up against one another, Bo's lips were moving against her own in a tender feeding, her tongue seeking entrance that Tamsin allowed before she quite knew what was happening. Bo was kissing her hungrily and her lips were soft and supple but oh so demanding. And somehow, despite all of this, she was still treating Tamsin like she was the most delicate and precious thing in the world and it made Tamsin's heart beat erratically and her head go fuzzy and she knew it wasn't just because of the feeding. When they parted, Bo hid her face in the crook of Tamsin's neck and murmured her thanks and the Valkyrie didn't know what to do. It had been too close, too intimate, too everything she was trying to fight against for her own sanity and so she slowly backed away.
Patting Bo's shoulder awkwardly, Tamsin coughed and muttered, "No problem." She turned away from the succubus and tried to focus on other things. Namely the skinned buck she had abandoned. Tamsin didn't know if it would be worth it or not to retrieve the rest of the buck. Eventually she pushed herself up and retrieved the haunches and loin. Once again grateful for Sigrun's mentality of having everything and being prepared as she shoved the meat into a large carrying satchel and left the hacksaw behind. If they needed more food, she would fish or kill rabbit. It was less problematic.
"Is helping you not fall over or carrying something against your brilliant rules?" asked Bo sarcastically. "Because I'd like us to not be here as soon as possible in case more two headed devil dogs are headed our way."
"Here," Tamsin said, shoving the satchel at the succubus, "Bambi's all yours." She winced and clutched her side, well aware of how heavy her legs now felt. It wasn't the easiest, walking in snow this deep when she was in the best health, but now? As she was at the end of her life cycle? Tamsin thought it was like making a toddler navigate a marsh. It didn't do any good to focus on her exhaustion though. That didn't change their situation or the reality of their need to travel. Bo was right. They had to get away from this place and find somewhere to camp for the night. The sun was getting low in the sky and if it was cold now, it would be a million times worse in the dead of night. "We need to keep moving."
One foot in front of the other. A steady count thrumming on her head is what kept Tamsin moving on. The mechanics of lifting one leg and then the other and setting her goal at the bottom of a cliffside. She wagered there were caves there and it would be an ideal place to make camp. Hopefully at least one was empty. One foot, two foot, left then right, again and again, slowly the cliffside was closer and closer until Tamsin found herself at the entrance of a shallow cave, barely deep enough to fit the two of them but wonderfully useless as a den. Her legs begged for a collapse, to fall and never get up but she knew they had to eat, if they didn't tomorrow would be all the worse, and so she started gathering firewood as Bo sat in the cave. Snapping low branches free of snow, Tamsin deposited the wood by the cave after making a small stone circle. Finally, she allowed herself to sit and when she did, she dug into her pocket, pulling out the one bit of technology Sigrun insisted was fine.
"Fuck yeah, Zippo lighter," Tamsin crowed, smirking as she lit the branches and leaves for kindling.
"With an Iron Maiden logo," said Bo, her teeth chattering, more than a bit entertained on seeing the band name.
"Iron Maiden are the founding fathers of British Heavy Metal and Steve Harris is perfection on the bass," said Tamsin peevishly, glaring at Bo for daring to say anything vaguely negative about the band.
"I'll take your word on that," Bo said wryly, altogether amused by Tamsin's defense of the band. She shivered and scooted closer to Tamsin, who was adding more wood to the fire. She was watching it slowly grow bigger and brighter and thankfully warmer. "How far away is your temple?"
"Five days at least," said Tamsin, adding another piece of wood. She eyed Bo and asked, "You don't deal too well with cold, do you, succubus? You look like you're more of a bikini type of girl."
"Who isn't?" replied Bo sarcastically and her teeth chattered as she shifted in a futile attempt to get comfortable. "No offense to your rules or whatever but I don't know how I'm supposed to be chronicling anything in this weather."
"Eh," Tamsin shrugged, "you can always write it all down when we get to the temple." Once the fire was sufficiently large enough, Tamsin pulled out the deer loin and retrieved the cooking iron, setting it up on the small legs and positioning it over the flame. "Sigrun thinks of everything," she muttered affectionately.
"You like her, don't you?" asked Bo in between her teeth chattering, studying Tamsin curiously. Tamsin looked at Bo sharply but her green eyes grew lidded as she took in the brunette's trembling figure. With a grumble, the Valkyrie moved closer, her body flush against Bo's and the succubus sighed happily at the additional heat this provided. "Thanks."
"Sigrun is like the Valkyrie's Babe Ruth," said Tamsin eventually. "She's our superstar, you know? The one everyone grows up hearing about and then you meet her and fuck if she's not everything you've heard and so much more." Shaking her head and prodding the deer meat with a knife, Tamsin drawled, "Usually that'd make you jealous but she's just so fucking lovable." Tamsin looked at Bo and continued, "I knew he'd have her watch over you so I asked her to keep you safe. Your father has her under contract just like me but Sigrun always does the right thing. That's just who she is."
"And you don't?" said Bo, frowning severely as she looked at Tamsin.
"Not for a long time, succubus," said Tamsin lowly, her eyes fixed on the flame, turning the loin over. "Not until you and the happy sunshine gang got ahold of me, anyway." She could see the protest on Bo's features and watched as it started to leave her lips and she interrupted, "I've been around for a long time and I've done a lot of horrible things for him, Bo. Things that Sigrun never did and never would do and I've got to live with that now. Those are the shitty choices I made."
"I made mistakes too," said Bo and when Tamsin looked at her, she lowered her head and her voice was rough. "When I discovered my powers, I thought I must be a monster, because I killed my boyfriend. I fed from him and..." Tamsin watched her hands clench into fists and the Valkyrie sighed.
"Bo," Tamsin murmured, taking Bo's right hand in her own, pulling the fingers back and giving her hand a gentle squeeze. "You were, what? Sixteen, seventeen?" When Bo nodded, Tamsin cut a piece of the deer loin and handed it to her. "Eat this." When Bo started to eat, Tamsin continued, "You were raised without a tribe, you didn't know what you really were so how do you expect to be able to control something you knew shit about?" When Bo didn't respond and instead kept her head ducked, Tamsin sighed, taking her own slice of the deer and biting into it. Relishing the taste, she muttered, "It's not the same. I've got a couple thousand years on you and my mommy and daddy didn't raise no fool. My shit? It's on me."
"Was your mother a Valkyrie too?" asked Bo curiously, shivering again.
Seeing this, Tamsin shifted closer, leaning against the cave wall and putting an arm around Bo, drawing the succubus closer. With her other hand she reached for the deer meat and brought it close, cutting it in half and sharing the other portion with Bo. She didn't know why the brunette was asking her these things. Maybe she just wanted a distraction from the cold but it put Tamsin on hyper vigilance, ever aware of how much was too much, and reminding herself to not get too close. There was little she could do about physical proximity, not if she didn't want them dying of hypothermia, but that was all she'd allow.
"Yeah, she was," said Tamsin softly and she tried to recall her mother's features but they had blurred over time. Her mother had died relatively early in Tamsin's life. During her first life cycle, when she was just three hundred and fifteen. "She taught me everything she could and then when she died, Acacia..." Tamsin trailed off, Acacia's name was strangled on her lips, and she clenched her jaw, calming herself before she could continue. "Acacia took over my training. Then Sigrun." Tamsin snorted and added, "Sigrun teaches everybody. That's kind of her thing."
"Who's Acacia?" asked Bo gently, noting the difficulty Tamsin had saying her name.
Tamsin clenched her jaw and stared at the meat in her hands. She tore it apart in smaller pieces, chewing on it thoughtfully, until finally, she said, "She was my friend and I got her killed." Tamsin didn't want to talk about Acacia, to think about her and the horrible way she was bound to have died. Instead she stared at the fire, adding more wood, and gazed up at the sky. It was going to be cold tonight and they really needed to sleep in shifts if they were going to be safe. Turning to Bo, she looked at the other woman and murmured, "You sleep first. I'll wake you when it's my turn but remember, don't--"
"Protect you, yeah, yeah," mumbled Bo, her eyes already growing lidded at the suggestion of sleep.
Feeding the fire, Tamsin tried to not focus on Bo's body snuggling into her own, the proximity of her and the sweet scent of her skin. The cold was a welcome distraction and Tamsin kept her attention on that and scanning the perimeter. She couldn't let herself become distracted, not this time, too much depended on it, and she wouldn't let emotions interfere.
They manage to make good time in their journey and five days is shortened down to three. The mountain range grows ever closer and Tamsin manages to make the deer meat stretch but finally, on the third day, as they stop for the night Tamsin goes down to a stream, her gaze on the fish as she snaps a branch from the tree and whittles it down to a point. She left Bo to take care of their makeshift camp, asking her to gather wood and to start the fire. Tamsin had never been the best at fishing, it was a game of patience and Tamsin didn't have an abundance of that. All the same, they had to eat and so she sat on a rock and watched the fish, waiting and timing her attack until finally she had three large trout in her grasp.
Moving carefully through the snow, ever aware of the predators that could be lurking in the trees, Tamsin returned to their camp where Bo had managed to start something resembling a fire. She sighed and placed the fish in the snow, moving over to the succubus and taking over the task. "You never went camping, did you?" muttered Tamsin.
"No," said Bo, making a face at the thought. "I mean, I grew up in a small town, but I sort of hated the outdoors."
"I can tell," said Tamsin in droll tones, building the fire up, and sitting on the log Bo had pushed over. She grabbed the fish and set about scaling and gutting them, ignoring the sound of dismay Bo made at this. "You don't cook either, do you?"
"Yes, actually, I just don't do all that," said Bo, gesturing vaguely to the fish guts. "I'm actually a really good baker. My mom taught me how to make the best pies. Human mom, that is, not Aife mom."
"Right," said Tamsin thoughtfully, finished scaling the first fish and putting it on the fire. "I make it out of here and you owe me a pie, succubus," she drawled, arching an eyebrow at Bo and offering a smirk. "I'm partial to strawberry rhubarb."
"Me too," replied Bo softly and she looked surprised to find they had something in common. They were silent for a moment then Bo moved to sit next to Tamsin, hugging herself for warmth and watching her put the last two fish on the fire. "What will happen when we get to the temple?" she questioned hesitantly.
Staring into the fire, Tamsin replayed her past four experiences, and speared one of the trout on her knife. She offered it to Bo who took it and began eating slowly. "There will be these large doors, completely and unnecessarily intimidating, and I'll be the only one who can open them. I go in alone and you'll wait and see if I make it out. If a day passes and I'm not out of there, I want you use the map to find this place," Tamsin pulled the map from her satchel, gesturing to the a nearby valley. "A crazy powerful sage lives in a run down shack there, she's sort of like a magical unabomber, but she knows her shit, and the bitch owes me one. Just tell her Tamsin sent you and she'll make sure you get back home."
"You're talking like you might not make it out," Bo observed with a frown. "Why is that?"
"Because I might not," said Tamsin harshly. She retrieved her own fish and took a bite, chewing on it until she felt Bo grasp her chin, turning her face so they were looking each other in the eyes. Seeing the determined expression on the other woman's face, Tamsin heaved a sigh. "Fine," she muttered, swallowing her food and rolling her eyes. "Rebirth is like going to confession for Valkyries. We go in the fancy room and we confront everything we did in our life cycle. All the good shit, all the bad shit, and everything in between. Then we're judged worthy of continuing our existence." Tamsin studied the fish, picking at the bones, and trying not to think of all the things she did wrong. All the things she did for him and what her own fear and selfishness had cost not only herself but other people in the end. "I did a lot of bad this time," Tamsin said frankly, returning her attention to Bo. "And there's a good chance the scales are tipped in favor of this being my last call. Which is why," Tamsin drawled, pushing the map back at Bo, "you need to have this on you when I go in there."
"Who's judging you? My father?" asked Bo and to Tamsin it seemed as if she refused to accept the very real possibility that Tamsin simply wouldn't be coming out of this alive. "Because if it's him--"
"It's not Odin," Tamsin interrupted, sighing and looking into the satchel, searching for the flask she knew Sigrun hid in there. Retrieving it, she screwed off the cap and took a long draw from it. Old world mead. It had been too long. It burned her throat and warmed her insides and she offered it to Bo who sniffed it before taking a small sip and coughing.
"What's in that?" Bo demanded, wiping her lips with her gloved hand, and frowning at Tamsin.
"A little of this and a little of that," drawled Tamsin, happy to consume the entire flask herself. "It's Viking era booze, hot pants. Me and Sigrun have a thing for it so I knew she'd pack it for me special. She's cool like that."
"I don't know how you can drink that," said Bo, still hacking a bit, reaching into her own satchel to take a drink of water.
"Mother's milk for any good Nordic warrior," Tamsin declared, taking another swig of the flask. "Anyway, it's not your dear old dad," Tamsin returned to the previous subject, lifting an eyebrow. "If it was him then I'd be d-e-a-d, no questions asked. I burned all my bridges with him when I went all Benedict Arnold and refused to take orders anymore." She waved the flask in a careless gesture and continued, "Our fate is decided by a higher power. Not fae or the gods or any shit like that. It's more... mystic, I guess? I dunno," Tamsin muttered, playing with the lid to the flask, screwing it on then off. "My dad, he was all into that spiritual junk, and the way he explained it... there's this stuff called Eitr, right? And it's the essence of life, the thing that created the spark that made the universe, and that's what is judging us, life itself. Which sucks."
"And you think life will judge you unworthy," said Bo solemnly.
"There's a distinct possibility," said Tamsin humorlessly, finishing off the flask, wishing she had another one in there. "Look," Tamsin sighed heavily, focusing on Bo again. "You can't rewrite the past, you just have to accept it, move on and maybe try to learn from your fuck ups. Which I'll do if my fuck ups don't prevent me from getting that chance. That's just how it is."
The succubus nodded her head, unhappiness marring her features, and Tamsin followed her gaze, looking into the fire and when Bo moved closer, wrapping an arm around her waist and resting her head on Tamsin's shoulder, Tamsin allowed it. Even though she knew she shouldn't because she needed to maintain her distance for Bo's sake as well as her own. The problem was, what Tamsin needed and what she wanted were two very different things.
And Tamsin couldn't deny that she wanted Bo.
At daybreak, Tamsin wakes Bo and gathers their supplies. They're moving through the snow and when they come to the cliff, she studies the river down below and heaves a sigh. She's never been a fan of these sort of journeys. The advent of the car was one of the greatest things for Tamsin, although she did retain some fondness for horses. They were lovely creatures. Of course there were easier ways to get about, dark magic ways Mossimo had suggested more than once, but Tamsin knew to leave well enough alone. The convenience wouldn't be worth the price.
So she grumbles and curses and makes sure her satchels are hanging on tight before she goes running down the cliffside, simply wanting this to be over and done with, ignoring Bo's shouts accusing her of being crazy. When she reaches the bottom she stares up at Bo and puts her hands on her hips, smirking when the succubus follows down at a much slower pace. Tamsin got busy studying the river, trying to find the best way to cross, when Bo finally arrived at her side.
"Are you nuts?" Bo demanded, breathing heavily, and frowning at the blonde.
"It was faster," said Tamsin with a shrug. She pointed up to a ridge where the river crossing was at its smallest. "That's our best bet, succubus. How are you with hopping on rocks?" she asked humorously. When Bo scowled at her Tamsin laughed and began walking towards the ridge. "Come on," she chanted in sing song tones. "It's not that bad. Better than an orthrus bite at least." Pushing her way through the snow, she scurried up the ridge, turning to offer a hand to Bo who took it as she rolled her eyes and mumbled something under her breath. "What was that? A thank you?"
"I think this trip is making you crazy... crazier..." said Bo huffily, repeating her earlier sentiment. "You should be more careful!"
"Why?" asked Tamsin plainly, shrugging her shoulders and turning to study the river. "I'm a day away from the temple and once I get in there there's not shit I can do. It's either you pass or you fail and that's start or end of me."
"Hey," Bo said this in a whisper, moving closer to Tamsin, cupping the blonde's face in her hands. Tamsin found herself stock still at Bo's touch, not expecting it, and she tried to jerk away but Bo held firm. "No," she said firmly, almost angry, as she looked at the other woman. "You don't get to pretend with me. I get that you're scared. I'd be scared too if I had my entire life up for judgment but that doesn't mean you have to start chasing after death."
"I'm not," muttered Tamsin irritably and she looked down and to the left and the right, anywhere but at Bo. When the succubus drew her gaze back, Tamsin shut her eyes and continued, "I'm just trying to deal with the very real chance this is it for me, okay?" Opening her eyes, she stared hard at Bo and said strongly, "And there's nothing you can do about it, Bo, so don't even try. There's some things you can't change."
"You don't know that--" began Bo passionately.
"I do," interrupted Tamsin gravely, pulling away from Bo, and walking over to the river. "In fact, I know a lot of shit you don't because I've been around a lot longer than you, baby fae," she drawled affectionately. "Come on," she flashed a wild grin and moved back several paces to ready herself for a running jump, "let's skip to our loo and get the fuck over the river." Not waiting for a response, she jumped onto the first rock and turned around, taking in Bo's exasperation and laughing. "What? Are you chicken?" Tamsin mocked, flashing her teeth and turning to jump onto the next rock. "Hurry up, succubus!"
"This is very mature behavior," Bo called to her, sarcasm resounding in her words. She followed after Tamsin jump for jump and the blonde was sure if Bo wasn't busy concentrating on the path in front of her that she would be rolling her eyes.
"You act young, you feel young," declared Tamsin, jumping onto the last rock and making the final leap onto land. She turned to face Bo, her hands on her hips, a smirk playing on her lips. "It's the power of thought."
"So you're feeling like a tween right now?" asked Bo, breathing heavily when she landed next to Tamsin.
"Like, totally," Tamsin mocked, flicking her hair over her shoulder, and turning to walk into the forest.
"I think that's more bimbo than tween," chuckled Bo and Tamsin shrugged, her hands on her hips, gazing at the temple which was on top of yet another mountain range. This one was considerably smaller at least.
"There's got to be another entrance," muttered Tamsin, her eyes narrowing as she studied the temple. "There's always another entrance," Tamsin reiterated, turning to Bo, offering her hand and pulling the succubus after her as they entered the forest and headed towards the temple. "It's weird," she muttered more to herself than the other woman. "The landscape changes each time but the temple is always the same and no matter where they stick it, there's always two ways to get in." Tamsin arched an eyebrow at Bo and drawled, "I prefer the secret entrance."
"I'll just ignore the implied dirtiness of that statement," said Bo with amusement.
"Eh," Tamsin shrugged, "I sort of meant it to sound that way." Pushing through the snow, she was well aware they were coming to the end of their journey, and she slipped the satchel off her shoulder. Handing it to Bo, she said, "Remember what I told you. You can find the sage in the shittiest looking shack in the valley. She'll make sure you get out of this place."
"No," Bo was resolute, pushing the satchel back at Tamsin. "I'm not taking it. You're getting out of this alive."
"For fuck's sake, succubus," Tamsin exclaimed in exasperation, shoving the satchel at her now. "I don't have time to argue with you about this! There's a good chance I won't make it out of here alive and you need to know how get away from your father before he gives you more lessons in how to be a megalomaniac."
"He's been teaching me to control my powers!" Bo practically exploded. There was an anger in her, a rage boiling just beneath the surface now brought to the forefront, and it gave Tamsin an eerie sense of foreboding.
The air was already cold, chilling them to the bone, and Tamsin could see her breath but this... this was something different, this was a chill at the very core of her being and she could feel her mood shift and change, from adamant that Bo should get out of here no matter what the cost to herself, to one where they had to leave together. That she had to do whatever it took to make it out of there alive so she could take Bo with her and Tamsin knew... she knew these weren't her thoughts. Because she knew that wasn't the way it worked, she wasn't in control of her fate anymore, all she could do was offer her life up to the universe for judgment and see where the chips fell but there was this voice in her head telling her it could be different. That she could control it and she wanted to control it because she wanted to be with Bo and deep down Tamsin knew that was a secret desire of hers but she also knew she didn't have a choice in this. So these couldn't be her thoughts. They just couldn't be, and if they weren't hers then they had to be Bo's. Was this what he had been teaching her? It was worse than Tamsin could have imagined if so and Tamsin dug deep, squeezed her eyes shut, and gripped her head with her hands, fingers digging into her skull and screamed at the top of her lungs, her voice practically a sonic boom as it resonates in the air.
Bo snapped out of it, blinking and covering her ears, wincing as she stared at Tamsin. "What was that?" she shouted.
"Valkyrie war cry," said Tamsin viciously, grabbing Bo by her collar and snarling at her. "More to the point, what the fuck did you do to me?" She shook the brunette, as if trying to knock sense into her. Tamsin never thought Bo was the type to do something like that. To use her powers for control but she just did, she just did, and Tamsin knew that wasn't really Bo, it couldn't have been. It was too much like him. "You were in my head, Bo, don't try to pretend like you weren't."
"I was," said Bo and her eyes were hard, just as hard and unmoving as her voice, as she stared Tamsin down. "Father taught me how to use my powers without touch. He said they're not based in passion but in emotion and emotions--"
"Are easy to manipulate," Tamsin finished with hysterical laughter, her hands tightening as they gripped Bo's fur coat, and she shook her again. "You don't do that though. You don't do that!" she insisted with an almost manic shout. "Is that who you want to be? Somebody who changes people, who makes everyone agree with them, who fucks with their heads?" She pulled Bo closer, leaving just a breath between them as Tamsin hissed, "Then you'll really be a monster."
Only silence and stillness as Bo's eyes got so very wide and it was if she finally realized what she had done and Tamsin watched horror fill her gaze along with tears. "Tamsin," Bo said her name in a broken rasp and she seemed to collapse in herself and Tamsin caught Bo in her arms. Holding her up, keeping her close, and the succubus buried her face in the crook of Tamsin's neck. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to," she said this desperately, wanting to convince the Valkyrie of this truth. "I only wanted you to stop accepting your death and the next thing I knew I was trying to erase the idea from your mind."
"I know," muttered Tamsin, doing her best to comfort Bo, "that's how it starts with him. Odin probably did the same thing to you and you never even noticed. That's what I've been trying to tell you, Bo. His voice, his thoughts, they get inside of you and they start to drown you out. Don't let him do that, remember who you are."
"I'm sorry," said Bo again, shaking her head, pushing away from Tamsin, holding her head in her hands. "It was like he was in there... encouraging me, telling me it didn't have to be the way you said it was. That I could change it, that I could change you if I just wanted it enough," Bo confessed with wild eyes. "I did that to you, didn't I?"
"For a hot minute, yeah, you did," Tamsin admitted reluctantly, sighing deeply and shoving her hands into her pockets. She was uncomfortable with this line of discussion. It was leading into the emotions territory and she didn't want to talk about those things with Bo. If it was up to Tamsin she'd pretend emotions didn't exist for her when it came to the succubus. It was safer. "Listen," she said quietly, nearing the brunette and pulling a hand from her pocket to reach for Bo. Tamsin squeezed her hand softly, it was a gesture of reassurance, she told herself, nothing more. "I'm not being fatalistic because I'm giving you the map and telling you how to get out of here without me. I'm just being prepared like a good fucking girl scout or whatever, okay? I might not have a choice in how things turn out in there but you can sure as shit bet that I want to come out of this alive. Anyway," Tamsin flashed her very best smirk, gleaming and full of arrogance. "I'm too bad ass to die."
Laughing through her tears, Bo grinned at Tamsin, and replied, "You are pretty bad ass."
"I know," Tamsin preened, clicking her tongue on the roof her mouth, and ruffling Bo's hair as she walked past. "Come on, succubus," she announced, pulling Bo after her and heading towards the temple. "We've got to find a secret entrance."
"Pervert," accused Bo playfully, laughing when Tamsin grumbled and rolled her eyes in response.
Several hours later, they reach the base of the mountain and have located the secret entrance. Tamsin is standing in front of the large door, frowning as she studied the puzzle lock in its center. She's been standing in front of it for nearly a half an hour, moving the parts every which way and muttering to herself, and eventually Bo gave into exhaustion and boredom, sitting down to lean against the door, vaguely watching Tamsin mess with the lock.
"If you get reborn, are you still aligned with the dark?" asked Bo, her nose crinkling up curiously, peering up at the blonde.
"What?" Tamsin muttered distractedly, tilting her head and pushing in one of the slots. Three more brackets came out and she cursed. "This is fucking stupid. Who made this anyway? Probably a giant. I hate those assholes."
"If you're reborn, are you still a dark fae?" repeated Bo, squinting as she looked at the lock. "Push the square one."
"Why not, what the fuck," said Tamsin irritably, doing as Bo suggested, and watching as the lock turned. Crowing in triumph, Tamsin rubbed her hands together and wondered what to do next. "Not necessarily," she said eventually. "It's like a brand new start so I'm not aligned to anyone but I don't see myself pledging to the light. I'm too old to deal with hypocrites. Problem is," she muttered, twisting one of the pieces and grinning when the lock released a series of clicks and turned further clockwise. "I think I pissed off The Morrigan something awful when I refused to bring her your head. There were rumblings about a dark fae coup d'etat though and if that happens I can keep on getting down with my dark aligned self."
"The Morrigan sent you after me?" asked Bo, looking up at Tamsin.
"She has a hard on for putting you in jail," said Tamsin plainly. She moved her head to the left then the right as she considered the puzzle then pushed in the center piece, grinning when the door groaned and released a shuddering sound, scaring Bo and causing her to scurry away from it. Pushing it open, Tamsin continued, "I played along at first but she got pissy when I stopped taking orders." Walking into the mountainside, she fished through her pocket, retrieving the Iron Maiden lighter. Grabbing a nearby torch, Tamsin lit it on fire and turned to face Bo, arching an eyebrow and revealing in an almost bored tone, "I'm not good with orders. Never have been. Your dad hates that about me too. Maybe they can form a club."
Traveling through the tunnel, Tamsin lights another torch, handing it to Bo and there is nothing but the sound of their footsteps and breathing as they wind their way through the mountain, until Bo breaks the silence. "You've worked for my father for a long time," began Bo almost hesitantly.
"Since 1333," Tamsin revealed bitterly. "The Genko War. That's what did it."
"Right," said Bo uncertainly, frowning and staring at the tense line of Tamsin's back. "He put you under contract. Just like he's done with the other Valkyries back there? Brynhild and Sigrun?"
"Yeah, we all signed on the dotted line," said Tamsin, pushing the cobwebs aside, tilting her head thoughtfully and studying the corridor. There was a different smell ahead. It wasn't old and musty, instead it was putrid, reminding Tamsin of death and it surely it meant nothing good. "Your pops offered each of us a deal we couldn't refuse and we wound up his slaves."
"Did he trick you?" asked Bo and when Tamsin turned to her, a severe look on her face, Bo swallowed visibly. "I mean, did he do to you what I did? Get in your head and make you think you needed his help?"
A twisted smile formed on Tamsin's features and she laughed, looking up at the walls of the passageway, her voice echoing through them and she wondered if she was going to call whatever was up ahead to them but suddenly she didn't care. "You know what, succulette? I never really thought about it before," she divulged, sounding incredulous and weary all at the same time. "It'd make sense though, how he managed to get so many of us like he's done, making us think he was the only way out."
"What did he make you think?" asked Bo in a hush, taking in Tamsin's pained features.
"He didn't make me think anything," said Tamsin harshly, whipping her head around to glare at Bo. The brunette looked at her with such sympathy that Tamsin couldn't stand seeing it directed at her. She didn't deserve such emotion. Not anymore. Tamsin shook her head and pushed forward through the tunnel. She didn't want to think about this, she couldn't think about this. Not now. She'd do it later, when it was time for judgment. Now she needed to get to the temple. She would kill whatever was making the tunnel stink like a sewer then offer herself up to the universe and that's when she would dwell in the past. "He promised me something and in his own twisted way, he delivered. It just didn't turn out like I wanted."
The rumbling was quiet at first but then it quickly grew louder and louder until it was something akin to an earthquake, the tunnel was shaking all around them, dirt and rock falling, and Tamsin grimaced, loading the crossbow with bolts and holding it steady. Bo's scream echoed when the lindworm revealed itself, stinking and massive, round mouth full of teeth as it rushed forward and Tamsin shot it in the head, right between where its eyes should have been but they were long gone, it didn't need them here in the dark and the mire. The creature howled and Tamsin continued firing, dodging its body as it thrashed about and when she ran out of bolts she tossed the crossbow aside, removing her spear and charging at the lindworm. Her run gave her enough momentum to sink the spear deep in the monster's belly and it roared in protest before collapsing with a thunderous sound. Tamsin scowled at the smell and pulled a knife from her belt, walking over to the lindworm and stabbing its mouth, twisting and turning until she managed to free one of its largest teeth.
When the tooth was finally removed, she shoved it in the pocket of her pants and turned back to Bo who was watching her with a combination of curiosity and disgust. "What? They come in handy," she said carelessly. "Ugh," she muttered, kicking the creature and shoving it aside to move past it through the tunnel. "I forgot how much these bastards reek."
Winding up and up, through the tunnel, until finally they reached the marble steps to the temple, shining in the darkness and Tamsin sighed. Walking up the steps and into the temple, she shrugged off her weapons and large fur coat, enjoying the warmth that greeted her and she stopped at the unnecessarily large and intimidating doors. Arching an eyebrow, she jerked a thumb at it and turned to Bo with a smirk. "I told you, didn't I?" she drawled sardonically. "It's like we're trying to overcompensate for something."
"Tamsin," Bo seemed to choke on her name, nearing the Valkyrie, who held up her hands in a stop gesture.
"No tears, succubus," commanded Tamsin. "Whatever goes down in there it's the will of the universe and some other cosmic Buddha type shit. Anyway. It's just meant to be, all right? So you," Tamsin pointed at Bo with her brow furrowed, "do your job and scribe down my awesome adventure. You might think it sounds lame but it's sort of tradition and the whole shebang falls through if every little bit of the journey isn't done according to the book."
"Just so you know, my grammar sucks," said Bo, removing the journal from the satchel and retrieving a pen.
Tamsin didn't reply, she just looked at the succubus, as if trying to form an imprint in her mind. The pale skin, brown hair, and warm eyes. Those fucking eyes that let you see how much she cared. Tamsin knew that's what did her in, being able to see for herself how much everyone and everything mattered to Bo. It had been such a long time since she had been around such good people and Bo, she was one of the very best, and she reminded Tamsin so much of Tomoe it was unbearable, the idea of giving her to him. To see it happen all over again, especially when this time she knew the results. She was walking forward before she knew it, standing in front of Bo, and Tamsin reached out to her, wanting to touch her, maybe for the last time. Her skin was soft and warm under Tamsin's fingertips as they trailed down her features. The air seemed to still itself, and Bo swayed towards her, brown eyes locked on Tamsin's lips and fucking hell, Tamsin knew that they were having a moment and she couldn't afford for that to happen, and she forced herself to back away.
Attempting to form her very best devil may care smirk, she said, "Describe how great my ass looks in leather and I'll forgive any incorrect past participles and semicolon vs. comma drama." Turning sharply, Tamsin walked over to the doors, her hands pausing on the ornate handles when she heard Bo wish her good luck. "Thanks," she muttered roughly. "You too."
The lindworm tooth is in her hand and she clenches her fist, feeling it cut into her skin as she opens the door. Tamsin slips inside and the door slams shut, shaking the temple, and she drops the tooth, feeling the slow effect of the poison start to take hold. Walking towards the center of the room, she sits in front of the ceremonial fire, staring at the funeral pyre. The moonlight shines through the roof of the temple and it relaxes her somehow.
Seconds become minutes that turn into hours and the poison flows through her, relaxing her, numbing her as she wanted it to do and Tamsin thinks about everything that went wrong this time. How incredibly fucked this life cycle had been. It had been fine at the start and then it was better than fine, it was fantastic and glorious because she had Tomoe and Tamsin had never been with someone like her before, then there was the fear and the terror of losing her, and Odin with his fucking deals. She had forgotten the most important lesson her mother gave her as a Valkyrie. That life is precious but it always comes to an end and it was their duty to see it through, from start to finish, and to respect the cycle of a warrior's life. To celebrate it, certainly, but to also accept, no matter how difficult, that it must come to an end, as everything does.
Tamsin couldn't do that with Tomoe and it destroyed them both. She destroyed them as surely as Odin did. That was her great failure, the greatest failure of all her lives, and it always would be. She had learned from it though, learned that she couldn't allow her own feelings and selfishness to interfere with the larger plan of the universe and if she had to die now and never come back that was fine. All the same, she didn't want that, she wanted to live, she wanted to help Bo fight the hold Odin already had over her, to make sure the succubus didn't go down the same terrible path as so many other warriors.
That was her job as a Valkyrie, wasn't it? Guiding the best and the brightest to their true potential and she had been so long without this duty that doing it again was a rebirth in itself. She stumbled as she pushed herself to her feet, her body was so heavy, like leaden weights, but she managed to walk forward, towards the funeral pyre.
Extending her hand towards the fire, wincing as it enveloped her, burning her skin, she muttered, "I just want to help her." Squeezing her eyes shut, Tamsin pushed herself up and onto the pyre, lying down and waiting for judgment. "I want to try and make amends."
The heat was excruciating and Tamsin always thought she would get used to it, that one day the fire wouldn't burn quite so much, and she wondered how she would be able to tell when the heat burned her to ashes only to stay that way. Leaving not a spark left for her to rise up again. Would she recognize it when it happened? As always, that remained a mystery. She felt her last breath leave her in the flames, her body stilling and a familiar pain pierces her body, jolting her upwards, making her scream and writhe as the flames burn bright blue. Tamsin gasps, rolling off the pyre, hands on her chest, trying to calm the beating of her brand new heart and she coughs as a necklace emerges in front her. Trembling as she crawls to it, Tamsin grabs the silver-gilt pendant, laughing on seeing her family's crest, clutching it tightly in her grasp. Rolling onto her side, she stares up at the ceiling, looking at the stars shining in the sky, imagining her parents looking down on her.
Her hands slip and fumble as she forces herself to stand and then she staggered towards the doors. Shoving them open with a bang and when Bo turns to face her there's such a look of relief and joy on her face that Tamsin blinks at it. Goddamn this girl. She cares too much. That's all Tamsin can think when Bo drops the journal and rushes towards her, crashing into Tamsin and hugging her tight enough it's a struggle to breath, but Tamsin allows it. Some part of her wants it even and when Bo pulls away from her, she can't force the sarcasm to create a distance.
She can only smile and say, "Time to go home."