Raising the Dead
by Heather Kuehl
part 1 of 2
It was never easy to raise the dead with magick and Kinandrea knew, now that the old magicks themselves were all but dead, it was almost impossible.
The human who had hunted Kinandrea, following her to the very edge of the earth, wanted her for just that reason. His wife had died four years ago, the result of a war between humans and mountain dwarves, and he knew that the only creatures who could bring her back were elves.
The magicks that were used in such a task hadn’t been seen for a century. The human didn’t seem to understand that, nor did he want to. He wanted his wife back and no one was going to stand in his way.
“Come out, elf!”
The human voice echoed over the stone, echoing louder than it actually was. She stayed still in the remains of a small worship hall that was little more than a hole in the ground, waiting for him to pass. He was a skilled hunter and she had gained several scars from his attempts to capture her. He was the predator, like some great serpent, and Kinandrea was a mouse trapped in a corner.
She held her breath, waiting for the human to pass. She didn’t know if human hearing could pick up what hers could. She could hear his soft, even breathing. She could hear his heart rapidly pumping blood throughout his body. He was nervous yet patient, a trait that most humans seemed to lack.
“I know you are near,” he whispered to himself. He poked at the rubble with the tip of his sword, moving aside small rocks and jabbing into open holes. He was trying to spook her into running. Kinandrea took a deep, quiet breath, and convinced her tense body not to do what he wanted. She could run, her long legs able to go farther than the bulky human’s, but her eyes had seen the crossbow on his back. If she ran, he would shoot.
Kinandrea had already gained the misfortune of being shot by one of those arrows and the ragged scar on her right hip was all she needed as a reminder. She knew that, given the opportunity, he wouldn’t miss again. All she had was the knowledge that he wasn’t shooting to kill.
The tip of the blade slid through the rocks and into her hiding place, coming just a hairsbreadth from her face. Kinandrea slapped a hand against her mouth, muffling a cry of surprise, but it was too late. She scrambled further back as the stones began to fall away and the human came into view. She froze as the tip of the sword pressed against her chest, piercing the skin and drawing blood. Kinandrea held back a cry of pain as blood slowly blossomed on her dress.
The human quickly pulled the sword back and sheathed it. He held out a hand, using his eyes and not words to try and coax her to him. Kinandrea stayed where she was, remembering all of the times that this human had made her bleed. Fear fluttered in her chest like a distressed butterfly trying to escape. His eyes never moved from the blood on her dress and, for a moment, she thought she saw remorse in those brown eyes.
“We’ve got to go,” he whispered. It was as though he was trying to talk to a startled deer.
Kinandrea glared at him. “We aren’t going anywhere.”
“You don’t understand,” the human said as he began to move towards her. She slid further back into the ruined building, hoping to find a place where he couldn’t follow. “You’re the only one who can help me.”
“Help you?” Kinandrea’s voice was high pitched and incredulous. “After all that you’ve done to me, why would I want to help you?”
“What have I done to you?”
She pressed a hand against her wound, coating her pale skin with blood. She held out the hand, not to grab his but to make a point. “You’ve hurt me.”
“But I’m not going to kill you,” he growled, his patience growing thin. He lurched forward, grabbing the bloody hand in his and dragging her forward. Kinandrea screamed and struggled, the ragged stone making thin bloody lines on her legs. The human dragged her into the bright daylight, which made him squint as her silvery hair caught the sun. Roughly grabbing both arms, he tied her hands behind her back and shoved her forward.
“We’ve got a bit of a walk ahead of us, elf,” growled the human. “Get moving.”
“My name is not elf,” she spat. He roughly turned her to him and looked into her eyes. The butterflies in her stomach turned into frantic bats.
“Then what is it?”
He pressed his free hand against his chest as he said, “Jackson.”
His hand stayed on Kinandrea’s shoulder as they walked away from the ruins of D’Nevlin. Kinandrea kept her eyes on the ground as they walked. She needed to come up with a plan. She needed to get Jackson to understand that she wasn’t able to bring his wife back. His wife was dead. Gone. But the further they walked, the more Kinandrea realized it wasn’t going to be so easy.
The human had not yet dealt with his grief. Kinandrea could tell he still thought of his wife as being alive. What was he going to do when he realized what Kinandrea already knew? She didn’t want to hang around to find out.
Jackson walked into the forest that was on the edge of D’Nevlin. She had thought that he lived in Navar, a city that was within walking distance of her own. It had never dawned on Kinandrea that he lived an isolated life in a forest that was infamous. People would go in and never come out, that is, unless they knew what they were doing. Her kinsmen had known this forest well, as did she.
“You seem surprised,” Jackson observed, his tone conversational. She looked down at him out of the corner of her eye. For the first time she realized that she was taller than he. His reddish brown hair was pulled back loosely, several strands finding their way out of the tie.
Glancing away from him she said, “I just didn’t realize how foolish you were until now.”
Kinandrea looked around at the dense trees of the soundless forest. “I had often thought that only the dead could live here...”
Jackson interrupted. “I thought your kind was able to converse with the forest?”
“Back when dragons still roamed the skies. As I have told you before, the old magicks are gone from this world.”
Jackson glared at her but didn’t say anything else. Kinandrea shook her head, turning her attention to the forest around them. They weren’t following any discernible path, just making their way around bushes and over fallen trees. It was as though this forest had been left to fend for itself, forgotten by the world. Her heart went out to it. She wanted to touch the trees and listen to their thoughts but, as she told Jackson, she knew she could no longer do that. To attempt it would give the human hope.
The trees slowly started to thin out, allowing a small cabin to come into view. The outside of the stone cabin was quaint, a small garden sitting off to the side. Her nose could pick out the various vegetables that grew in it, as well as the many herbs. Vines climbed up the side of the cabin, wrapping around a chimney. Tendrils of smoke rose from it, like children’s fingers trying to touch the sky.
Jackson led Kinandrea over to the door and pulled out an old bronze key. She didn’t know why he even bothered to lock up his cabin. No one ever entered Death’s Forest with robbing in mind. She watched him as he slid the key into the lock and her ears picked up the metallic click of the door being unlocked.
“By the gods,” she breathed as the door swung open. The inside of his tiny cabin was filled with herbs. Her nose immediately picked up sage, rosemary, and thyme but her eyes could see more. Kinandrea walked into the middle of the room, turning in circles so she could see everything that this human had.
When she turned back to Jackson, he was putting his crossbow away in an oak chest that sat in the far corner of his home. He smiled softly and said, “I wouldn’t have come after you for any other reason.”
He knew that Kinandrea was an herbalist elf. Her magick was one of potions and ritual. While most elves could wield magick in their hands, she could not. However, her kind alone had succeeded in raising the dead.
In the past it had come in handy. Once she had to bring back a king who had died before naming an heir. Others of her kind had done similar things. She had thought that her kin had kept that little fact hidden from the mortals of their world. Obviously, they had slipped up somewhere. She sighed and lowered her eyes to the ground.
“I didn’t know what you would need.” He looked around his home. “So I got a bit of everything.” Jackson stepped behind Kinandrea and she heard him unsheathe his knife. Minutes later her hands were free. She turned to him, rubbing her wrists.
“You’re hurt,” he said, gesturing to her chest.
She glared at him. “Only because you stabbed me,” she snarled.
Jackson started pulling out ointment and bandages. As he cleaned her wound, her mind raced. She needed to think of something to dissuade him from this path. Telling him the truth, that the old magicks were dead, wasn’t going to help. If she tried to bring his wife back, failure would only bring death.
When he started to put the ointment away she glanced down. Kinandrea hadn’t realized he was finished. There was no pain coming from the wound. The only sign that she had been hurt was the rust red blood that stained her dress.
“I can’t do this,” she said, waving her hands around the room. “So much can go wrong.”
Kinandrea caught the hint of worry in his voice. “Oh yes. Not all magick is good magick. I could summon magicks that would bring your wife back, but as nothing more than a shambling corpse. I would never do that, not even to save my own life.”
“Kinandrea...” Jackson’s voice sounded strained. She looked into his eyes and saw the tears forming within their pleading depths. “Kinandrea, please. I need you to help me. I need her back.”
She shook her head, lowering her eyes so that she didn’t have to see the pain within his. His mind knew that his wife was dead but his heart held too much hope. He knew there was a chance he could get her back and, until someone tried, he wasn’t letting that chance go. She heard him take a deep, shuddering breath and her determination broke.
“I’ll try,” Kinandrea said, regretting it as the words left her mouth, “but under one condition.”
“Don’t kill me if it doesn’t work out.”
“Kinandrea,” he growled. Her eyes met his again. Anger replaced the sadness within his eyes. “I was never going to kill you. I just wanted you to try.”
“So be it,” she sighed. Kinandrea told him the herbs she needed and he immediately went to work gathering them up. “You don’t happen to have a copy of N’lan De’Munth?”
“Over on that bookcase,” he said, absently pointing at the bookcase next to the front door. She walked over and pulled the book out. It was an old copy, written in the language of Kinandrea’s people. She wondered if he knew what it said, or if he had just heard that a herbalist elf needed it for the task.
Most humans could never learn the language of elves and the ones who did were either bards or scholars. She slowly flipped through the brittle yellowed pages, smiling to herself as she read the language she hadn’t heard or seen in years.
She had decided to hide out in De’Nevlin because it was all that she had left. She had no home. No friends. No family. They had all moved on, either breeding with humans and diluting their blood or opening portals and moving to places that accepted their kind.
Kinandrea’s silvery hair and jewel-toned eyes were not a trait of the half-breed elves who now inhabited the earth. Those half-breeds were shaped like humans, not lithe and tall like the true elves of the past.
The elven language, once a vast and difficult thing to learn, was now reduced to a handful of common words. Languages are lost when there is no one left to talk to. It had been years since she had seen another of her kind, and the loneliness ate at her every day.
She looked up when she felt Jackson looking at her. He had all of the herbs she had asked for laid out on his dining table and now he was watching her with a peculiar look on his face. She quickly closed the book and walked over to the table.
“You can keep it when you leave,” he said softly as she placed the book next to the herbs.
“Did you need anything else?”
“I’ll need some oils and five candles: four white ones as well as a green one. And...”
“And what?” he asked cautiously.
“I need...” Kinandrea paused, not sure how to phrase it. “I need your wife.”
Copyright © 2008 by Heather Kuehl