Archangel's Prophecy (Page 18)
Today, beneath the anemic winter sunlight and the yellow glow of heat lamps attached to the walls, she saw a perfect patch of strawberries. When one of the Legion plucked out a strawberry the size of a small plum and handed it to her, she bit into it with relish. The juices flowed onto her tongue and down her palm to her wrist, the trail as thick and darkly crimson as blood. She jerked but didn’t drop the strawberry . . . And when she looked again, the trail was a pale, watery pink as it should be.
“Did you do that?” she demanded of the Legion, a hot ball of lead in her stomach.
You did. You did. You did.
“Stop.” The voices had been rising in volume, mirroring upon one another and threatening to drive her to madness.
Quiet, broken only by the sound of her own breathing. The Legion could be quieter than death, quieter than stone. “I did it?” She stared at the thin stream of juice. “A bad dream brought to life?”
The Primary’s voice reached her from inside the silence. “Yes.”
She wasn’t the least surprised to turn and discover him crouched beside her—with his gray eyes that had a ring as blue as Raphael’s irises, and his hair of black, the Primary was the most individual of all the Legion. But she saw now that the gray had begun to creep through his hair once again.
Backward, he was going backward.
“What’s happening?” She indicated his hair. “Have you stopped becoming?”
He tilted his head to the side, his bat-like wings folded tight to his back and his body otherwise static. “No, this is the second becoming.”
Her heart was a bass drum. “What will be the end result?”
“We do not know. But we feel the spiral of energies, the cataclysm of change.”
The tiny hairs on her arms rising, Elena held out the strawberry. “Why do I see blood? Why won’t my cut heal?”
“Because you are becoming, too.”
The Legion lifted off together without warning, a flock of silence. They’d scattered across the skyscraper in a matter of minutes, and she knew that if she asked more questions on the topic, their answers would be exactly the same.
She finished eating the strawberry with slow, deliberate focus on its ripe sweetness then flew down to look at the other new plantings. By the time she reached the exit again, it held a collection of ten potted plants.
Affection bloomed inside her, a strange thing to feel for these ageless creatures who were so clearly not human. “Thank you,” she said aloud. “I’d appreciate it if you could fly these gifts to my greenhouse.”
We will. We will. We will.
Elena was about to walk out when she remembered another question she’d meant to ask. But agony burst inside her chest before she could speak, red-hot iron pokers searing her organs and perforating her lungs.
She screamed without a voice, would’ve fallen to her knees except that two of the Legion caught her, one on either side. They lowered her gently to a seated position on the ground, her wings spread out behind her on the lush green grass they’d somehow coaxed to grow inside their haven.
The Legion crouched all around her, watching, waiting, eerie but unthreatening.
Hand still clutched to her chest, she clenched her jaw and rode the pain. Scarlet waves, black nothingness, crushing stone in every breath, this attack went on and on.
It was instinct to reach for Raphael, but she held off with grim will. There was no reason to remind him again of the mortality that lingered in her bones. Even now, the pain was fading, the edges softening until she could breathe again without the air slicing her lungs.
Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.
She shook her head at the rising swell of echoes. “It’s all right. It wasn’t you.”
The becoming, the Legion said. The becoming.
Elena rubbed at her chest again. Finding the Primary in the sea of faces, she said, “Have you been through a second becoming before?”
“The Cascade does not always surge.”
Instead of tearing out her hair at the cryptic answer that intimated the “second becoming” only came into play when the Cascade cycled from active to dormant, she asked another question. “Am I in danger of dying from this pain?”
A long pause during which she could hear a million whispers at the back of her head but couldn’t make out the words. The Legion consulting among themselves.
“The pain will not kill you,” the Primary said at last. “We have not seen this in our past wakings, but we have felt the energies. The pain energy will not kill you.”
It was, she realized, a highly specific answer. “What about the reason behind the pain? The root cause? Is that energy dangerous?”
Another wave of background whispers, cresting and falling.
It is not known to us, was the ominous final response.
Gut tight, Elena hooked her arms around her raised knees and stared. The Legion had been around since before vampires; for them to so bluntly say they had no knowledge of what was happening to her, it hit a solid ten on the terror meter. “I guess this Cascade will be one for the books.”
They tilted their heads to the side all at once, a comical row of fairground clowns whose paint had washed off. We do not keep books.
Finding a laugh inside her, Elena said, “If you remember anything about this”—she tapped the internal bruise left behind by the attack—“let me know, okay?”
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Hidden in the echo of their final yes was another voice, old and heavy with sleep: Child of mortals. Vessel unawakened. You step closer to your destiny. For one must die for one to live.
Who are you? Elena said inside her mind.
No answer. No sense of a presence. Just a promise of death.
F**k it, she thought. If death was coming for her, she’d face it with teeth bared and weapons unsheathed.
The pain down to a dull throb, she said her good-byes then left the Legion to transfer the potted plants across the river. At least she didn’t have to climb down the slippery ropes of vine. Flaring out her wings, she floated easily to the ground, but she’d only taken five steps when her phone began to buzz with an incoming call.
Retrieving it, she stared at the name that flashed on the screen. Great, this was exactly what she didn’t need. “Father.”
“Elieanora, I need you at Beth and Harrison’s home,” Jeffrey Deveraux said in a curt tone. “Harrison is badly injured. Do I give him blood?”
Elena was already running toward the Tower. “No, it’s too dangerous.” If Harrison was so badly hurt that Jeffrey was calling Elena, he could fall into a blood fog and drink Jeffrey dry. Elena’s father was strong and in good shape, but Harrison was both younger and a vampire—in a physical fight, he was the one who’d reign supreme. “I’ll bring a healer.” Her bruised lungs fought to keep up with her pace. “Beth and Maggie—”
“Eve has messaged Beth,” Jeffrey interrupted. “Both are safe.”
“Stanch the blood loss as well as you can. I’m on my way.”
Shoving the phone into a pocket, Elena ran full-tilt. Every second that passed felt like an eternity.
After reaching the infirmary floor, she found only Laric in attendance. No one had expected the badly scarred and emotionally wounded young healer to accept Raphael’s invitation to visit his Tower, but eight months after they’d first met, Laric had surprised everyone by coming to New York to visit Aodhan.
And somehow, he’d stayed.