Chapter 31 - Perseverance

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Even from this distance, Michael could see the City of Light was behind help. He steered the soul catcher out of the convoy and directly for the Pavilions of Night.

He saw Jaylina beside the Shadow Queen while the Eater of Souls turned in slow motion behind them and his heart burned for vengeance and of concern for Jaylina. Then he watched the arc of Jaylina's soul as she went over the side, and he doubted his vision. Had the Shadow Queen cast Jaylina into the pit? No, she hadn't been touched. Jaylina jumped. But why?

With a burning rage he studied the Shadow Queen as She turned and left the rotunda without so much as a backward glance at the soul She'd just sacrificed.

He had no time to consider plans. "Bellamy, we're headed for that garden. Hurry!"

"The beast is too slow," Bellamy said.

"Can you fly me there?"

Bellamy's mouth gaped. "You wish me to help you, the Left Hand of Light?"

"Enough! Take me now!"

Bellamy took Michael by his arms and lifted, dragging Michael across the carapace of the soul catcher. "You're too heavy."

"Bellamy, if you don't get me to that garden there will be no story for you to tell!"

Bellamy pulled and carried Michael over the side. Together they half-flew, half-fell into the high garden below. Miraculously, they disturbed none of the deadly flora during their landing.

Michael ran for the edge. He could see Jaylina's silver strand paying out like a fishing line over the moonstone wall of the Shadow Queen's garden. Jaylina had already become a small point of light against the sky-filling backdrop of the entity, and she carried in her arms the light of a small soul.

What is she doing?

"Her tether is fraying," said Michael.

"The strength of her life force is finite," said Bellamy. "The farther her line extends the more of her life force is consumed. Back in our world, she is dying."

Michael grasped Jaylina's silver tether wrapped it around his arm several times while Bellamy watched. He had expected it to burn like a rope but it was smooth and frictionless against his skin.

Jaylina is dying, body and soul. What can I do?

Bellamy seemed to read his mind. "The Eater draws energy to it. In this universe, Jaylina is pure energy and so is pulled in. She requires mass to cloak her energy."

Michael did not understand. "How can she gain mass in this universe?"

"In this universe you have mass, Left Hand of Light."

"You're saying I have to connect Jaylina's essence to my body or she will never escape the pull of the Eater?"

It was counter-intuitive.

"Yes."

"Then I will have to cut her cord."

"Yes, though it will likely kill her, Light Bringer," warned Bellamy.

There was no time to consider consequences.

"What choice to I have?"

Making sure he held her cord tightly in one hand, Michael unsheathed the Sword of the Sun with the other and cut Jaylina's silver cord.

Through Jaylina's soul, the gravity of the Eater now touched him, and he stumbled forward towards the edge. He had not anticipated that in connecting himself to Jaylina, his own essence would also be subject to its pull, however slight. Worse, he'd let go of the other half of Jaylina's cord, the end still connected to her body back in the material world. If he lost it, Jaylina was dead.

He dropped the sword and fumbled for her cord before it got away from him. He grunted in pain, holding fast to both ends. While he held both in his hands, Michael became a conductor of her spiritual energy. Her life force passed through him like an electric current. Michael screamed in pain. All of Jaylina's thoughts, her fears, her memories, her passions were emblazoned on his spirit. The influx of information threatened to overload him, but while he held on she lived. If he fell unconscious, all would be lost.

"Help me pull!" he shouted to Bellamy.

Far below, Jaylina felt the cut and cried out. Her descent slowed to a near-stop. Her cord had been severed; she could feel it. Had the Shadow Queen played a last trick to take away her only hope? She felt a moment of panic, which subsided quickly. Her body must have died. There was only Now.

But why is the Eater not pulling me in like any other soul?

Then she felt a strange sensation, as if she were with Michael. In him. She could see through his eyes. She felt what he felt, knew what he knew. Together, they shared a lifetime of experiences in an instant.

"Michael," she whispered, as all her knowledge, everything she'd learned from her adventures here in Otherworld, passed through him. "I'm so sorry."

Above, Bellamy helped Michael to haul the stranded souls out of danger. With every tug the load got lighter and lighter until Jaylina and Aiden were safely behind the garden wall.

Before Michael could say a word, Jaylina kissed him long and firm on the mouth as the Eater of Souls turned its galactic-slow rotations behind them. With this kiss, she felt somehow material here in Otherworld, a part of Michael. She felt her love move through her lips and simultaneously felt it return to her via the connection she now shared with him. Her love and gratitude for Michael became a reflection of love and gratitude for herself and gave her a new appreciation for both.

When she finished, she opened her eyes and said, "Michael, this is the soul of my son, Aiden."

Michael gave the young soul a bewildered smile. "I know. I have seen much inside you. He is a beautiful soul of our tribe."

Then he looked at her. "I've missed you."

"Pleased to meet you," Bellamy said to Aiden.

Michael brought the two ends of Jaylina's cord together.

Please, oh, please. For once, allow me to remake something I have undone.

Just this once he allowed himself to hope that he was more than the herald of retribution in some twisted game of Immortals. In this woman he found a strength, a trust, a healing that was greater than himself, as great indeed as the lost love he sought to avenge against the Darkness. He hoped that he too, was a healer of sorts, like those he had met along his journey, even if he was a broken one, a Dark Light.

He wound both ends of the silver thread together in his cupped hands and pressed with all his strength. If he whispered a prayer none heard it. He let out a deep breath and opened his hands.

The two ends of Jaylina's silver tether were whole again.

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