A/N: Finally I got some inspiration to type out this chapter! I'm pretty happy (and psyched) about it! Things came together so nicely I just had to write it out! This chapter isn't very long coz it's basically explains the nitty-gritty things that needed to be explained. Hopefully things are falling together now :) I'd like to thank you everybody who read and actually placed a review on the chapters, it means so much to me! Thanks again!
Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
Summary: A dark fantasy that will never taste the light within a darkened realm, harbored by black hearted beasts. May she be the one to rise above it for freedom all with a blood stained sacrifice.
Chapter 18: Ellinoir
It was neither morning nor night. Swirling around the fallen champion, the warrior barely moved an inch lying belly down on solid cobblestone ground. There was absolute silence surrounding Lightning, unaware of the changes in the tweaked atmosphere. It was only when she heard a faint voice did she come to her senses and twitched a finger in response. An odd sensation it was listening to the sound of a woman, no, girl speaking aloud complimenting by the sounds of tinkering glass. Commanding a finger to curl, the rest followed.
Lightning's blue eyes opened making contact with the grey stoned floor beneath her. Feeling her head throb madly, Lightning grunted then expelled a curse, a trademark word she became ultimately used to. The last thing she recalled was facing the Cie'th explosion; directly in her face. Was she dead? No, not quite. Though in theory she already knew how it felt to be dead. Thinking about it grimly gave no amusement to the warrior. Commanding the other limbs to move, they responded. Lightning soon pushed herself upright while her ears adjusting to the sounds. Upright and responsive, her first action was to get intel on her surroundings.
Strange, Lightning noted. I don't recognize this—
The last word barely rolled off her tongue. An odd sensation swept to her informing Lightning where she was: Paddra.
But how? How was she transported to Paddra unless the Cie'th contained time bending powers strong enough to blast Lightning back in time? No. That was a silly thought. Or perhaps this was the mist maiden's doing? How? She no longer existed. A paradox? It was possible. Before Lightning could speak, someone had spoken for her.
"According to this, I need to add a pinch of dewberry drops followed by a spoon of honey,"
Turning around, Lightning faced Yeul. Beneath the Seeress was a mortar and pestle. Within the stone mortar were crushed purple and amber colored leaves. Yeul paid no attention to Lightning and continued to carefully pour in honey following each step written in the book.
"What are you doing?" Lightning questioned.
Yeul paid no attention to Lightning. It was as if Yeul never heard her in the first place. Placing down the pestle, Yeul moved around the stone table and walked directly to Lightning.
"Hey watch—" Lightning shot and abruptly silenced.
Yeul walked right through her. Looking at her hands, Lightning was semi-transparent. Surely she was not a ghost? No, this was different. Unsure of what to think, Lightning continued to observe Yeul reaching for ochre pots on high shelves. Picking down three pots, she cradled them in her arms then headed back to the table. Resuming her work, her eyes peeled onto the page carefully placing in herbs into the mortar. Crossing her arms, she watched Yeul for another hour until she finally extracted the herbal liquids into a vial.
"It's done!" Yeul announced.
The Seeress hastily exited the room, heading up spiral steps and continued through torch lit hallways. When Lightning was about to follow she paused at the stone table looking at the book. Pictures of herbal plants littered the page along with a plant sample clipped onto each page. Lightning merely grazed over the ingredients spotting an odd ingredient: Witherwood bark. Paying no particular attention to it, Lightning took a step forward prompting the scene to change.
The scene before her dissolved into mist, shrouding Lightning with emptiness. Shielding her eyes from the light, Lightning braced herself for the next thing to come.
The coldness left her extremities prompting Lightning to open her eyes. The scene changed. Focusing her eyes on a seated maiden in white, Lightning's eyes widened. Around the maiden where other maidens including Eliza. Her blue eyes never moved away from the blonde haired maiden whom had a warm smile on her face. She merely turned towards Lightning and revealed her identity.
"Mist maiden..." Lightning mouthed.
This was the mist maiden Lightning wanted to meet; one in human flesh. She was beautiful. Mere intangible words could not describe how beautiful the mist maiden was. On the top of her head she had a sea of blonde hair laced with purple, pink, turquoise and crystal beads. Some strands were even laced with feathers, almost the same feathers adorning Caius's headband. She wore a long, flowy ivory gown with Paddraen imprints telling a tale of the constant motionless sea, shifting with the gentle breeze. Lightning observed the other maidens speak to the mist maiden whom warmly smiled and responded in gentle tones. Rubbing a hand over her belly, she closed her eyes and waited.
"Do you feel the young one kick, Ellinoir?"
Ellinoir. The name echoed in Lightning's mind. This was the mist maiden's name: Ellinoir. The young maiden suddenly lurched forward.
"He kicks," she smiled.
"He has his father's strength," Eliza commented. "He will grow up to be strong like Caius."
Lightning's eyes did not move from Ellinoir's slightly plump belly. Judging from the size of her belly, Ellinoir was at least four and a half months pregnant. Eliza smiled and received a long strand of weaved leaves and beads. Gripping on the strand gently, she pressed it against her lips and chanted a spell. Ellinoir smiled watching Eliza then wrap the leaves strand twice over her belly.
"This strand will protect you from evil spirits, Elly. The leaves represent rejuvenation and the beads are blessed with the priests' holy enchantments. We don't want anything to happen to the first son now do we?"
The first son. Lightning remembered the mist maiden's—Ellinoir's words on the day Lightning returned to Valhalla from the memory. Ellinoir spoke of a miscarriage. Was this it? Was Lightning going to witnessed what truly happened that faithful day?
"I need to know what happened," Lightning spoke. "The truth is here in this memory."
Pausing mid-chatter, the women turned their heads toward the stairs. Yeul appeared through the mass of beaded curtains. The maidens quickly dispersed from Ellinoir giving the girls privacy. Sealing the curtains shut, Yeul turned to her.
"How are you doing? Yeul voiced.
"Well." Ellinoir responded, rubbing her belly. "He kicked today."
"Does it hurt?"
"No," she smiled. "It's a good sign knowing my son is healthy."
Reaching into her pocket, Yeul pulled out a clear vial and gave it to Ellinoir. She tilted the vial examining its contents.
"This is an herbal extract," Yeul spoke sitting by the edge of the couch. "It's for expecting maidens such as yourself. I made it myself."
"Thank you, Yeul. This means a lot to me,"
"Three drops into pure water after every meal." Yeul instructed. "Your son will receive plenty of nourishment."
Lightning carefully listened to the conservation. Lightning believed Yeul would still harbor jealousy against Ellinoir but her actions spoke differently. The Seeress cared for Ellinoir and the unborn child.
How could Yeul be the cause of the miscarriage? Lightning wondered. She cared for them. It makes no sense.
Watching Ellinoir uncap the vial and dropped in three drops into a silver goblet, she swallowed the drink. Yeul quietly observed until the goblet was placed down. Once the goblet was empty, Yeul excused herself to summon the rest of the maidens; Ellinoir must be in her quarters to welcome Caius's triumphant return from a days' long hunt. It was said he left before dawn to hunt two Shaolong Guis for their meat in preparing for winter.
Crossing her arms, Lightning watched the scene around her once again dissolve. Flashing before her eyes were images of Caius and Ellinoir interacting with one another. Lightning could see it in Caius's eyes he loved his wife greeting her and exchanging intimate gestures with her. Through all this, Lightning was unaware her own fingers slipped around her abdomen seeing Caius stroke Ellinoir's belly.
Lightning was at a loss for words watching him get on his knees to kiss Ellinoir's belly then pressing an ear against it.
"My son, can you hear me?" Caius spoke lowly. "I cannot wait to see the moment you are welcomed into this world. Your mother and I wait anxiously for that day."
"As do I, Caius, as do I." Ellinoir laced her fingers through his hair with a warm smile upon her lips.
"Caius..." The name unceremoniously slipped out of Lightning's own lips.
Quickly shaking her head, the scene immediately dissolved. Lightning was unable to bare it any longer. Why? How could she not watch this vision of the past? There were no feelings attached to Caius. No, she was unable to accept the fact she could ever love him, for all the sins he committed against her. He... He ruined her.
The next vision appearing before Lightning was of Ellinoir in a room, perhaps her bed chambers. Ellinoir leaned by the stone window eyes fixed upon a moonless night. It was an ominous night, a night without the moon or wind. Glancing to the side, Ellinoir took a sip out of her goblet. Lightning felt a strange aura swimming within the room. It was a prelude to an impending disaster.
Dropping the goblet, Ellinoir expelled a groan clutching her inflated stomach. Lightning watched Ellinoir try to breathe through the pain coursing through her body.
Lightning watched helplessly as Ellinoir knocked over a candle stick onto the floor allowing darkness to swallow her. The fallen candle flickered in a pool of ivory wax. Ellinoir exhaled and clutched her stomach again. Falling onto her knees, she crawled to the side of the bed and slammed her back against its wooden frame. Ellinoir heaved while sweat beads raced down her face. Releasing another cry, Ellinoir slipped her hands beneath her gown to tear out her cloth bindings. Lightning watched a pool of blood ooze out of Ellinoir's body.
"Ellinoir!" Lightning cried out.
Lightning was powerless to do anything. She was merely a witness to this bloodied tragedy. Ellinoir snapped her head back digging her nails into the Unzi styled rug. Gasping, Ellinoir parted her legs; her nightmare was starting. She shook her head madly at the pain boiling from within. Unable to control the vicious contractions, Ellinoir refused to push.
"My son!" Ellinoir bawled, battling the pain. "My son! Not now!"
She felt another explosion of pain from within prompting her to push. Through her sobs, Ellinoir had no choice but to push.
Minutes dragged on for the expecting mother. Releasing a shriek, everything was over. Lightning's limbs were frozen witnessing the scene before her.
Ellinoir panted and slowly lowered her legs. Opening her eyes, she no longer had an enlarged belly. Shaking madly, Ellinoir choked and slowly moved her legs aside.
Sleeping in a pool of crimson was their son. Caius's son. The body did not move. Ellinoir's hand shook reaching out to her son.
"My son..." Ellinoir cradled the still born against her aching heart. "MY SON!"
It was upon that cruel moment Caius entered with a bouquet of white roses. His eyes were fixed upon the still born body in the arms of his wife.
"Elly...?" Caius spoke, dropping the bouquet.
She sobbed with a broken heart. Dropping onto his knees, Caius questioned what had happened. Ellinoir could barely speak. Lightning watched the roses slowly dye red covering her mouth with her hands. Only one word swirled through her mind: miscarriage. This… This was the miscarriage the mist maiden warned her of.
Caius kissed Ellinoir's cheek to comfort her but she was unresponsive.
"Yeul poisoned Elly." Lightning whispered allowing her body to shake. "Yeul poisoned her... How could… How could she do this?!"
Ellinoir faced Caius eyes constantly releasing tears of anguish.
"Yeul did this," Ellinoir spoke. "Yeul did this!"
"Elly, my love, what are you talking about?"
Ellinoir's frame shook. "Yeul gave me a vial to use! She said it was an herbal extract to nourish the baby!"
Caius remained silent and speechless.
"It was aimed to kill the baby... My son...!"
Ellinoir wailed gripping tightly on the infants' body. Caius was unable to comprehend the words swirling in the depths of his mind; Yeul killed his son? Yeul purposely concocted a poison to kill the fetus? No. His wife must be mistaken. Yeul could do no such thing. Releasing his arms from Ellinoir, Caius stood up and walked to the door where Lightning stood.
"I... I will question Yeul myself. I will give you the answers you deserve,"
Once the door closed, Lightning was left to hear Ellinoir's fading scream into darkness. Falling onto her knees, Lightning was unable to contain the tears streaming down her face. The anguish, pain and the ability to lose something dear echoed deeply in her mind. Lightning never lost a child herself but she understood what it meant to have lost something dear. Picking up pieces that were lost, Lightning was reminded to move on. She had to avenge what was lost. Wiping the tears away, Lightning stood up in a world cloaked in black.
"We finally meet, Claire."
The Valhallian warrior spun around to be greeted with a warm yet sorrow filled smile from Ellinoir. Mist spilled across her feet mixing with her ivory gown. An eerie light was emitted from her, illuminating them.
"Ellinoir?" Lightning voiced. "Is that... You?"
Ellinoir nodded. "It's me. I am the mist maiden."
"Why... How...?" Lightning was perplexed. "You're dead, Caius killed you."
"Indeed he did—twice." Ellinoir lowered her eyes. "I have not moved into the light yet, Claire. I am stuck in purgatory, if you can call it that. My sorrow echoes across thousands of years until today. What happened that night cannot be forgotten."
"Yeul," Lightning whispered the wicked name. "Yeul did this to you."
"She did and she never confessed to it. Caius believed Yeul but he chose not to believe me, the mother of his children. Tragic, is it not?"
Lightning was absorbed in silence. Ellinoir walked around Lightning, gazing upon the warrior. She saw something Lightning failed to notice but she decided not to voice her discovery.
"Claire, I need you to avenge me," Ellinoir spoke with authority. "I need you to help me move on into the light."
"How do I go about doing that?"
"Stop Yeul from being reborn."
How could she? How could she even prevent the next Yeul from being reborn? She had no control over it. Yeul was going to be reborn as long as Caius was still around. Caius…
Looking up at Ellinoir Lightning spoke, "Wait. The only reason why Yeul is reborn is because of Caius."
"That is true."
"And if Caius is killed then—"
"Yeul will no longer exist."
Lightning stepped back at the revelation. Kill… Caius? She always reminded herself she had no problems ending his life for all the things he did to her. There was no doubt about it. Yet, how come she had to think twice about Ellinoir's request? Did Ellinoir not love Caius for all the things he did for her? Granted, he honored the treaty's request and in the same time, continued to protect Yeul regardless of being a married man.
"I want him to feel what it is like to have lost something dear," Ellinoir spoke out of the silence. "I want him to remember the pain of losing something permanently and never getting it back."
Lightning watched Ellinoir's fists tightened remembering that moonless night where blood spilled across the stone floor, filling its grooves with liquid death.
"I want him to feel how I felt when I miscarried twice. On both occasions Yeul was the culprit, I know it is her."
"How… How can you be so sure?"
Ellinoir shot a glare at Lightning. "How? How you ask? The first time, as you saw, she gave me a vial to drop into my water. That 'herbal extract' Yeul claimed to be was actually a fetus killing potion! She forced me to kill my own son!"
"The second time Yeul pushed me down the staircase then she had the nerve to tell me it was the evil spirits whom wanted the second child dead!"
Wiping away her eyes, Lightning witnessed the amount of anger and anguish boiling within Ellinoir.
"On both accounts, Caius never believed me. Not once. Eventually I had to do what had to be done…" Ellinoir trailed off.
"Eliminate the Seeress with your own hands." Lightning concluded.
Ellinoir was not proud of what she had to do but it had to be done: The Seeress must be disposed of. Ellinoir would not admit she did it out of her own grief, no. She did it because Yeul act on her own accord and brought harm to her. However in the end, things did not turn out the way she planned out; she was the one who died and not Yeul. Ellinoir died by the hands of Caius. She remembered it well, being kissed then having Ragnarok plunged through her gut, pinning her into the concrete wall. Ellinoir heard Caius speak his words of apologies before pulling Ragnarok out. Looking into the eyes of her husband, she recalled reaching for his cheek, staining it with her own blood until death whisked her away. Yet, she was unable to move on—to Valhalla where she could finally rest in peace. She could not rest in peace until revenge was served.
"LIGHTNING!" a voice tore through the darkness. "LIGHTNING! CAN YOU HEAR ME?!"
Ellinoir looked toward the direction of the voice. "It seems as if your time here is up, Claire."
Stepping forward, a white arcane symbol exploded beneath Lightning's feet. The symbol grew wider and wider covering Lightning in pristine white light. Looking at Ellinoir, Lightning voiced, "Will I see you again?"
"You will," Ellinoir put on a smile. "We will meet again, Claire."
Ellinoir waved goodbye at Lightning, watching the warrior swallowed in light. Lightning quickly shielded her eyes feeling her body become unnaturally lighter. Feeling a gentle breeze scrap across her clothes, Lightning's eyes snapped open and propelled her to sit up right. Breathing as if she never once tasted air, Lightning woke up in the arms of Hope.
"Light!" Hope exclaimed wrapping his delicate arms around her. "You alright? Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," Lightning responded automatically. In theory, she was not. Her mind reeled from the encounter with Ellinoir—the mist maiden. There were so many questions she wanted to ask her but one thing was for sure: Lightning will meet her again. Looking at Hope, Lightning said, "Take me to your research facility."
"I need to look for something,"
"Light, you should rest and—"
"Now." Lightning stared at him with her trademark glare.
There was absolutely no way in winning this battle. Nodding, Hope carefully guided Lightning up in fear of rupturing something in Lightning. Untangling her arms from him, Hope watched Lightning storm past his personal security without any hiccup in her steps. Hope had to wonder: How did Lightning survive that violent blast? She was directly in its path.
Lightning abruptly paused and turned around, "Well? What are you waiting for? Let's go."
Picking up the pace, Lightning marched down the stairs and away from sight.
"Yes, Alyssa?" Hope responded without looking at the girl.
"If I may suggest, we can review the details of the blast more thoroughly through our CCTV footage."
Alyssa crossed her arms and placed her chin on the palm of her hand in thought. Like Hope, she knew something was off with Lightning and the explosion altogether. Knowing this would be the number one topic on Hope's mind, she would do anything to help him.
"Alright," Hope announced. "Time to head back to the Academy."
Turning to Alyssa, Hope mildly nodded, giving her the approval to check the CCTV footage for any abnormalities and paradoxes. Watching Alyssa being escorted by the head of the security division, the small group headed in the same direction towards the Academy. Crossing his arms in turmoil, Hope was having a feeling something was not right with Lightning.
Tapping his foot on the pavement, Hope mused aloud, "Light, are you hiding something from me? Don't you still trust us—me to help you?"
Tilting his head back, Hope's eyes were fixed on the large clock face reminding the populace of Academia of the time.
"I should meet up with Sazh; he'll give me the answers I need."
Nodding, Hope set forth to locate Sazh who was training underground within a flying simulation. Hope needed answers. He needed answers to help Lightning to prevent her from walking down of inevitable ruin. What that ruin was, he was unable to comprehend yet but he did know Lightning was heading directly for it. Hope wondered, as he walked around a sharp corner if Lightning harbored a deep secret she was too afraid to voice? It would be Lightning to shield secrets from him; he never, truly understood her way of thinking until she had to smack him in the face with it.
"Something isn't right…" Hope said aloud.
It was a thought taking him back to the day Lightning arrived here. That faithful day he discovered Lightning covered in what appeared to be Chaos threads. He had no confirmation they were Chaos but it could not possibly be anything else. He never said it aloud but upon arrival, he swore he saw a figure of a man hovering above Lightning, embracing her with darkness. It was difficult to distinguish what or who it was but Hope was positive it would be someone close to her.
Before Hope could ponder further, Hope's wireless radio cracked to life mildly startling him.
"Hey kid!" Sazh exploded over the radio. "Kid! Do you copy? Kid!"
"Sazh? What's wrong?"
"She's on her way back to the Academy," Hope responded with a hand over his startled heart. "Why?"
"Good god…" Sazh trailed off then continued to ask more questions. "Is she alright? Is she hurt? Got any scratches?"
"Sazh. She's fine." Hope spoke in a reassuring tone. "Lightning is on her way back. She's safe and sound. Actually, she just left here just a couple of minutes ago."
There was a pause. "Just like that?"
"Just like that." Hope repeated. "If you want to talk to her, talk to her in the research facility. She'll be there."
"Alright, that sounds good. Phew, it's good to know she survived that blast…"
"Yeah," Hope smiled. "Okay, I'm gonna head over there now so meet you later then?"
"Sure thing. Before you go Hope… There's somethin' I need to tell ya."
"What is it?"
There was a distinct pause from Sazh's end forcing Hope to question if something terrible was about to be spoken. The transmission cracked back to life again.
"Promise me you won't say a word to Lightning?"
Sazh was hesitant to say the dreaded words but Hope had the right to know. He knew something was suspicious with Lightning; her gestures, behavior or simply the fact he noticed Lightning was eating much more than she should be. To the untrained eye, everybody knew Lightning was eating out of exhaustion but no, it was something entirely different. Sazh's worse suspicions came true from the day Lightning appeared in Academia.