Archangel's Prophecy (Page 17)
The two headed off to the Tower, while Elena strode to the vines.
The Legion had been alive for eons. Maybe they had an answer for her.
About the heart attack that wasn’t.
About the voice in her head.
About the cut on her forearm that she’d covered with a flesh-colored Band-Aid when it began bleeding again at the end of her morning session.
Pulling on her gloves, she realized she hadn’t brought the ones with grips. But when she checked the vine Trace had used, she saw the vampire’s claws—never visible in company—and boots had scratched the coating of ice just enough that Elena should be able to get to the top without slipping.
It remained a b***h of an ascent. It didn’t help that her wings caused heavy drag on her entire body. “Ellie, you obviously left your brain on pause this morning,” she puffed out a quarter of the way up, and spread her wings.
The drag became more manageable.
Reaching the top with a grunt of satisfaction—though her muscles felt disconcertingly quivery for such a short exertion—she stripped off the gloves, stuffing them into a side pocket of her slimline cargo pants. She gave her heart and her breath time to even out before she made her way to the thick strips of plastic that hung at the entrance to the Legion’s home. She’d used to call out before she entered, but the Primary had made it clear this place was as much hers as it was theirs, and they didn’t understand why she asked for entrance.
Elena walked in.
To be immediately assailed by hundreds of whispering voices in her skull.
Elena. Aeclari. Elena. Aeclari. You come. We are glad.
Having been braced for the avalanche, she managed to push the voices away without being harsh. “Use your mouths!” she called out into the cavernous space with a massive internal core. “Remember what we talked about.”
Every one of the gargoyles in her vision—clinging to the walls or crouching on the parts of the building that jutted out to the center—tilted their heads to the side, looking at her with eyes pale and strange.
“One at a time,” she said, in case the entire Legion decided to speak at once.
What is one?
Elena rubbed her forehead with two fingers. Every time she thought the Legion had begun to understand the concept of individuality, they’d regress and she’d be explaining it to them all over again. It had gotten to the point where she wondered if they were meant to be a unit always, no matter if they slept in the deep or lived in the world. Yet a few of them had indicated a desire to explore the idea of “oneness,” so she kept on trying.
Today, however, she decided to let it go. Taking a deep breath of the humid green air, she jumped into the hollow heart of the building. The distance down was just enough that she got air under her wings and could beat her way up to perch on one of the midpoint outcroppings—the remnant of what had once been the forty-fifth floor, if she had her bearings right.
The outcropping had been planted with exotic blooms since her last visit. “Where did you get this?” She pointed at a bright blue flower she’d been trying to source forever. “Can I have a cutting?”
One of the Legion landed near her. Not the Primary, who most often spoke for them. This one was nearly fully gray, except for an unexpected brush of color on the backs of his hands. A deep mahogany shade quite unlike the rest of his skin or clothing. That clothing formed with the members of the Legion when they fell in battle to rise again, and it was an identical gray to their bodies.
Reaching out to touch the discrete patches of the darker shade with gentle fingers, Elena said, “What’s this?”
“We are becoming,” the member of the Legion said before pausing and adding, “I am becoming. I like this color.”
Startled at the individualistic statement, Elena looked at him with more care. “Do you have a name?” None of the Legion had chosen names that she was aware.
“I am Legion,” he said, the pinprick points of his pupils black against irises so pale they all but merged into the whites. “We made you a plant.” Getting up from his crouch, he moved to one side of the garden and returned with a pot in which grew a smaller version of the plant she’d wanted. “We were waiting for you to come.”
A small sun in her heart, Elena ran her fingers over the frond-like leaves. “I’ll put it by the entrance so I don’t forget to take it with me when I go.”
“I will carry it down for you.” His bat-like wings flared out in readiness. “We have much to show you.”
Elena. Aeclari. Elena. Aeclari. See.
They used that word with such ease, but they still hadn’t explained its meaning.
You are aeclari, and the Legion may only serve aeclari.
Aeclari is you.
That was all she ever got.
At this point, she’d stopped asking for an explanation. The Legion, millennia of information in their collective brain, believed they were being straightforward in their answers. It was simply that they skipped, oh, about six hundred and ninety-seven steps between one statement and the next.
The whispers rose again in the back of Elena’s mind.
Dream. Dream. Blood. Sad.
Shifting to sit with her legs hanging off the edge of this outcropping, Elena looked down at the plants that thrived in this massive and multilevel internal garden. The member of the Legion who’d given her the plant flew back from his errand to crouch next to her while several of his brethren came to crouch on the outcropping facing her. Others flew to cling to the vines that crawled down the walls.
“How do you know my dreams?” she said, somehow not creeped out by the idea.
We are Legion. We are yours.
Actually, technically, they were Raphael’s, the power capable of calling the Legion from the deep archangelic in nature—but the strange and truly immortal beings tended to treat her and Raphael as one.
“My mama,” she said, her hands curling over the edge on which she sat. “I dream of her. She’s gone.” It hurt to say that, to admit she’d never again feel Marguerite’s soft arms around her except in her dreams. “Dead.”
An echo, not a question.
“Do you understand the concept of death?” Cut down in battle, the Legion had arisen over and over again, an army that could not be vanquished.
We know. We die. Eons we die. Then we wake.
How could Elena argue with that? Surely, an endless sleep at the bottom of the ocean would feel like death. “But you hear the world passing by?”
“Not all,” several voices said aloud. “Only the ones who listen. Then we know.”
Working that through, she realized that during their times in the deep, only groups of the Legion were “awake” at a time, but as they shared all knowledge gained, it made no difference long-term. “Why seven hundred and seventy-seven?” Another question she often asked.
It is the number.
And that was the answer she always received.
Laughter bubbling inside her, she said, “Have you grown any new fruit?”
Come. Come. Come. See. See. See.
Following the sweep of a pair of silent gray wings, she rose higher after dropping down to gain momentum and found herself on an outcropping situated near the apex of the skyscraper, underneath a glass cover, which was closed against winter’s frigid kiss. In the summer months and in spring, the Legion often left it open. Sunshine drenched the building then, and the rain fell in, helped quench the thirst of their gardens.