Chapter 22.5 ( Spirit World )

[NOTE: This chapter takes place after Chapter 21, Death's Embrace, and during Chapter 22, The Tempest. This was originally supposed to be Chapter 23, but was removed from the story because I wanted Elena's return to be more of a surprise. I am now posting this 'deleted chapter' here at the end of the story, as a bit of a 'flashback', for those who would like to know exactly how Elena managed to return from the dead. There is also a small surprise in the middle of the chapter which shocks Elena, and perhaps some of you readers as well. Enjoy! ]

...

Elena stood once again in the misty glen. The light of the moon shown softly down to illuminate the darkness. How could that be? It was morning? Then she realized where she was. No longer did she stand on the physical plane. She was dead. She was in the Spirit World. The domain of the Goddess. She had been here before. She had died before, and her spirit had come here. Cymric had been here as well, and he had convinced her to return to her body. But he was not here this time. She stood alone in the darkness.

No, not alone. A soft breeze blew her hair from behind. She felt a presence. Turning slowly, she beheld a sight that brought tears to her ghostly eyes. Elena knelt down before the beautiful she-kat that stood before her, bowing her head. Her dark hair fell down to cover her eyes.

"My Queen..."

The Goddess stood before her. Her silver hair blew softly in the breeze. Her fur was as white as virgin snow. She wore a dress of pale green, and her eyes were as blue as the depths of the sea. She looked down upon the kneeling she-kat.

"Elena Kougré, the last time you came here, your body still lived. But you were full of grief, and did not wish to return to it. It was not your time, so I sent Cymric to convince you to return. But now your body lies broken. Your life blood has drained away."

"I know, my Queen. My time has now come. And I accept it."

"Yes, your time has come. But... it seems that you are still needed. You have called to me, asking for me to aid your friends. In your dying breath, it was not your life you prayed for. But for the life of another. For many others. Such selflessness cannot be ignored. Face me, kitten."

Elena slowly lifted her head. She feared to look upon the Goddess of the Night, but knew that she had to obey her queen's commands. For it was She who had given her the power over Shadow magic, not the Stone.

The Goddess' ocean-blue eyes pierced deep within Elena's soul. She shivered, but did not look away. She could not. The Goddess narrowed her eyes.

"Your heart and soul are more pure than any I have witnessed in a long time. You care for others above yourself. You have risked your own life many times for the sake of a world that was not your own. And for the sake of all those who lived within it. Yet your struggle is not yet over."

"My Queen?"

Elena was confused. She had done all she could. She was now dead. Even if she could return, her body was too far destroyed. There was nothing left she could do.

"Your friends now face the Lich on their own. But they have both felt your death. Grief and anguish now fills your warrior's heart. A void now lies within him, that only hatred and pain can fill. As he is now, he cannot hope to defeat the lich. Will not. He will die as well. They all will."

"No... Please, my Queen. There must be something that can be done?"

"There is. You must return. Again. As I have said, you are still needed. But because of your death... because you have crossed over... your connection to the Stone has faded. It should have broken apart again, splitting itself between Sun and Moon, when you died. But it didn't, because you left it in the care of another. You will need it's power soon, though it may drain even your very soul to do so again. But for now, you must return to your body. You must aid your warrior in the destruction of the Lich."

"But how? As you said, my body lies broken?"

"Yes, but as your blood drained away, so did the poison within it. A small trace of the poison remains, but your body's ability to heal will slowly return. You must give yourself a small amount of time to begin the process, but only a few minutes at most. Then you must act."

Elena bowed her head again, closing her eyes. She knew her restored life would only be temporary, but she would do everything in her power to complete her task.

"There is one more thing, Elena."

She looked back up, again meeting her Goddess' gaze.

"I can restore your life, but not the other."

"The other?"

She was confused. What other? Had... had someone else died? Dread suddenly filled her.

"The new life that was beginning to form inside you. The one you did not even know about yet. The spear that was thrust through you has destroyed it. It is gone."

Elena's jaw dropped, her eyes wide. She was a spirit now, with no physical body. Yet even so, she still felt as if all the color had drained from her face. She was with child! Chance's child! Was...

She dropped her head, here eyes closed tightly. Even as a spirit, she felt silver tears form in her eyes, and one even rolled down her cheek.

"I am sorry for your loss, Elena Kougré. The life was so new that it had not even formed it's own spirit yet. But you must remember that your task is not yet over. You must concentrate everything on the Lich's destruction. For if you fail again, all hope is lost."

"I understand..."

"Then go."

The Goddess waved her hand, her claws glistening like pure silver in the moonlight.

Elena gasped, drawing in a deep breath. She then coughed fiercely, forcing the blood out of her lungs so that it could be replaced by the musty air. Her chest burned from the broken ribs that dug into her left lung. She was very weak. Her body did not have nearly enough blood left to support her life. She couldn't even feel her own heartbeat. Yet she was alive. Her spell was successful. The Goddess had answered her prayer, in a way she had never expected. Her queen held her life to her body until it could heal just enough to support her on it's own.

For several long minutes she didn't move. She couldn't. Slowly, her wounds began to close. They still bled, but not nearly as badly. Elena wasn't sure if that was to be attributed to the healing, or the fact that there was so little blood left in her body.

Once she felt that she had just enough strength to do so, she carefully reached her good hand up to her left side. Clenching her teeth from the intense pain, she dug her claws deep into her own flesh. Gripping hold of one of the broken ribs, she jerked. It was everything she could do not to scream. She tasted fresh blood in her mouth. Not from her lungs. She had cut open her own tongue in her fight to keep quiet. But she had pulled the rib from her lung. Now it could heal.

Next, she rolled onto her back, and brought her good hand over to her right arm. A piece of the shattered bone still stuck out through her skin. She gripped her arm over the elbow, so as not to dislocate it. She then pulled with all her strength. Again, she surpressed the scream, but even so a small whimper of pain managed to escape her lips. Not loud enough to be heard though, thankfully. The broken pieces of the bone were now at least somewhat straight beneath her flesh.

She was still weak, and the pain dulled her mind, but she knew she could wait no longer. Rolling back onto her stomach, she forced herself up onto her hands and knees. She had to get up. Had to get out of this pit. But how?

She looked back down to the ground in despair. The walls of the pit were more than twenty feet tall, and covered with slick slime. There was no way she could climb it. but the poles... She looked up to the wooden spikes. They were each twelve feet high, and those she could climb. If she could climb the metal poles of her training room, she could climb these wooden ones!

Elena forced the pain to the back of her mind. Ignored it. She blocked out everything. Nothing mattered, save one single task. Forcing herself up onto her paws, she gripped a pole closest to the wall of the pit. Carefully, hand by hand, paw by paw, she climbed it. It took her another full minute to climb the twelve feet up the wooden pole. But she was still eight feet from the top. Eight feet. Just enough.

She looked to the small silver band on her right hand. Concentrating, she activated it's power. She vanished. An instant later, she reappeared at the top, laying face-down on the cold stone, her legs still partially hanging over the edge of the pit. It had worked.

She was so tired. She wanted nothing more than to sleep. But she couldn't. She could feel her body slowly trying to heal itself. Getting up carefully, she looked around the dungeon. In a few places along the wall were old scraps of cloth. Old clothing and sheets mostly. There were also various other debris, including a wooden spear. Making her way first to where she had been thrown against the pillar, she retrieved her dagger. She then moved to go pick up the spear. Finally, she retrieved one of the old sheets.

Using the dagger, she cut the sheet into strips, each between one and two inches wide. Sitting down, she set the strips in a pile in front of her and laid the spear down beside her. Re-sheathing the dagger, she then opened one of the pouches on her belt, pulling out a canteen and wooden bowl. Pouring some of the clean water into the bowl, she opened two more pouches, retrieving the contents of them. One was a whitish power. The other dried and ground plant leaves. Mixing the two together in the bowl of water, she made a creamy poultice. Elena carefully smeared the poultice over every part of her body that still bled from open wounds. The sheets were old and filthy, but the poultice would kill the bacteria and help keep the wounds clean. The white power was arrowroot, and would also help cleanse the rest of the monkshood from her body.

After applying the poultice, she bandaged the wounds as best she could. As she went to apply the poultice and bandage on the wound in her gut where the spear had pierced her, she hesitated. She placed her hand gently over the wound and a tear rolled down her cheek. Elena remembered what her Goddess had told her. She had been with child, but the spear thrust had killed her unborn kitten. Chance would never know. She couldn't allow him to know. 'Not yet formed it's own spirit,' her Queen had said. Then it must have been only a couple of weeks. Or less. Perhaps even last night, at the lake. She clenched her eyes tight, fighting back the tears. She couldn't dwell on that now. Chance needed her. And Jake. She had to help them. Breaking her trance of despair, she finished applying the poultice and bandage.

Her right arm she saved for last. She couldn't even see the dragon tattoo through the blood, torn flesh, and matted fur. Breaking the spear in several places, she placed three foot-long pieces around her arm and carefully tied them down with the last of the cloth strips, creating a brace to keep the broken bone still. She knew it would heal wrong, and would later have to be re-broken and properly set. If she lived that long, which she doubted.

An explosion caused her to jerk up her head suddenly, her ears pricked. The sound came from some other part of the castle above. She could hear stone crumbling. It sounded as if some of the towers had collapsed. Elena flattened her ears. She had to move. The stairs leading up to the main hall were long, and it would take her a considerable amount of time to climb them in her condition. But she had no more time to waste. Forcing herself back up onto her paws, she made her way slowly to the staircase.