Archangel's Prophecy (Page 10)
The construction itself had been done by a mix of human and vampiric firms. The line between mortals, and vampires and angels remained, must remain; but Raphael’s city functioned great deal more cohesively than most. The battle with Lijuan followed by the rebuilding process had forged certain ties of loyalty and cooperation.
“You built in the windows I suggested?”
“Do not worry, Elena, your curious cats will not pay a fatal price.” Smash-proof, the viewing panels had been placed at a number of points around the fence. “Angelic guards will prevent others from overflying the lava.” While the furious burst of unknown energy had pushed Elena out of danger, that could’ve been nothing but luck.
And the idea of her life hanging on such a slim thread was enough to freeze Raphael’s breath in his lungs. “Honor spoke with a number of scholars who study the earth.” Dmitri’s wife was a scholar of growing renown in her own field of ancient cultures and languages. “All agree there should be no lava at that location and depth. It is not a thing of nature.”
Pouring coffee into a mug, Elena knit her brow. “It sounds suspiciously like how Naasir and Andromeda described finding Alexander.”
“Alexander has a gift for metals. He deliberately created a barrier that would protect his Sleeping body.”
After passing him the coffee, Elena began to pluck the browned leaves off one of her plants. “Is there a chance we’ve got a Sleeping archangel or Ancient below your territory?”
“If an Ancient chose to Sleep in this place before it became mine, I would have no way of knowing.” Even the most powerful immortals gave off no energy while they Slept, the reason why they could rest without being interrupted.
Putting the potted plant back in its hanging basket, Elena moved on to the next one on her bench. “It’d be bad, wouldn’t it?” She met him with those eyes of penetrating gray that had become more and more true silver as her immortality advanced. “If another archangel woke up.”
“It would fracture the fragile balance of the world.” Lijuan’s disappearance had alleviated the rising pressure that had resulted from eleven archangels being awake at once. The Cadre of Ten had run at a lower number at times during angelic history, but never at a higher one. The world was not big enough to separate out that many devastating powers.
“If another archangel does wake,” he said, “we cannot guarantee that their demands will be like my mother’s.” Caliane hadn’t insisted on a large territory upon waking, content with a small part of Japan. Alexander, by contrast, had wanted all his former territory.
“Just having that many archangels awake . . .”
“Yes.” Too many archangels too close together led inevitably to war and death and destruction. Even Raphael’s parents had not been able to stay together always. Love, deep and perhaps a touch mad, had softened the edges of Caliane’s and Nadiel’s power against each other, but it hadn’t erased it.
“Catch.” Elena threw him a flower that had gone a spotted brown, its petals crumpled inward.
Plucking it out of the air, he closed his hand around it. When he opened it again, on his palm lay a blush-pink rose with edges of gold.
Elena’s smile made him feel a proud youth who had pleased his equally young lover. “I can’t get over how you do that.” Taking the bloom from his hand, she brought it to her nose and breathed deep, her eyelashes lowering, luxuriant fans far darker than her hair. Then, the scent in her lungs, she tucked the rose behind her ear.
“It is a parlor trick.” Raphael flexed his hand. “I’d be more pleased if my ability to heal had not stagnated since the previous Cascade surge. At times it seems as if it is becoming less potent.”
“What about the other archangels?” Elena bit off part of a homemade energy bar, and he thought her wrist looked too thin. “Do you know if any of them have developed stronger powers over the course of this pause?”
“As far as Jason has been able to confirm, the entire Cadre is stuck in time when it comes to our Cascade-born abilities.” His spymaster had a way of discovering secrets even about the apex predators of the world. “However, Favashi continues to concern.”
Elena carefully showered a newly planted seedling with water, her movements as strong as ever even if she’d lost weight under the force of an incredible and ongoing biological change. “She being difficult again?”
Raphael considered his recent interactions with the Archangel of China—and it felt novel yet to refer to Favashi as that, China a place that was so utterly Lijuan’s. “It’s gone beyond difficult at this point.”
“Delusions of grandeur because she got to take over such a massive territory?” Elena suggested. “Might be enough to go to a ‘new’ archangel’s head—she’s the newest member of the Cadre, right?”
“Yes.” Favashi had only been an archangel for a hundred years in comparison to Raphael’s five hundred, though their ages were not so distant in immortal terms. But his history was unlike that of any other member of the Cadre—the beloved and treasured child of two archangels, one of them an Ancient, his ascension had been written before he was born, his progress tracked by angels all across the world. Still, they had been startled and shocked when the sky shattered to rain gemstone blue when he was a bare thousand years of age.
“I worry your Bluebell will beat my record.”
Elena’s eyes were solemn when they met his. “He’s too young, isn’t he?”
“I barely survived my ascension and I was double his age.”
Swallowing hard, Elena said, “Has an ascension ever failed, an angel unable to handle the storm of archangelic power?”
“Yes.” A hard truth angelkind preferred to forget. “It isn’t simply a case of raw strength, either. Illium doesn’t have the life experience to handle the politics and power plays that come with being one of the Cadre—his heart is . . . vulnerable to bruising in a way it cannot be if he is to survive.”
Of all Raphael’s Seven, it was Illium who was the most human at heart. Raphael would do everything in his power to assist him should the blue-winged angel indeed ascend, but he couldn’t stuff hundreds of years of experience into Illium’s head . . . and he couldn’t protect Illium the archangel as he had once protected Illium the wild little boy who liked to follow him around.
“Raphael, can I fly with you? I brought an apple to share.”
“Raphael! Look, I can do air tumbles now!”
“Raphael, Raphael, Raphael, my wings are growing as big as yours!”
“Do you think it’s certain?” Elena’s voice merging with the remembered tones of a little boy who had not yet suffered the three great tragedies that would shape him. “That Illium will become Cadre one day?”
“Nothing is certain. But Illium, too, has an Ancient for a parent.” His father had been not much younger than Caliane. “And the Hummingbird . . . she is an old and rare being.”
After putting down the empty coffee mug, Raphael began to walk around Elena’s greenhouse; he hadn’t gone far when he reached up to touch a trailing vine that had leaves covered in what felt like fur. “As for Favashi, Elijah agrees with your theory about her being drunk on her newfound power.” The Archangel of South America was Raphael’s closest ally in the Cadre—if you didn’t count his mother.