Archangel's Prophecy (Page 59)
“Jessamy and Galen have flown in for a visit. I’m taking Jess to Sara’s for drinks and conversation.”
“Good. Don’t feel guilty for living your life, child.” Rough words, so much unspoken. “Enjoy your friends, enjoy the world.”
Elena thought of the tiny feather she’d picked up an hour ago. A deep black, it had come from where her wings grew out of her back. Wings that had begun to feel heavy again, her back aching under the pressure. “I will,” she said to her grandfather, her heart a knot.
Ten minutes later, she and Jessamy rode through the gaudy and bright and laughing color of Manhattan in back of a converted truck that had no sides to block the view. “How’s Sam?” Elena asked. “I haven’t had a chance to call him this week.” The young angelic boy was one of Elena’s favorite people in the Refuge.
“I had to stand him in the corner last week for throwing pieces of rotten fruit at another boy.” Laughter in Jessamy’s voice. “He planned the whole thing in retaliation for a mud-pushing incident. And of course they are the best of friends who find it all hilarious.”
As Elena grinned, Jessamy looked around, her eyes brilliant with reflected light. “Even when Raphael was a young archangel building his Tower,” the historian said, “there was a life to this place that was both joyful and frenetic.” She watched two angels sweep low through the skyscrapers before swinging back up again. “Now, it burns with energy.”
“I like that it never sleeps,” Elena murmured, her mind on other thoughts of energy. “There’s a discovery on every corner. No restraint, pure heart.”
Jessamy met her gaze across the space between them, her soft brown eyes incisive. “What is wrong, Elena? Will you not tell me?”
Hand clenching on the metal bar above her head, Elena tried to figure out where to begin. In the end, she spoke the dark truth at the heart of it all. “I’m regressing in my immortality.” She told the other woman about no longer being able to speak to Raphael with her mind, about the changes in her eyes, about the feathers she kept losing. “I’m terrified I’ll wake up one day mortal again, my wings lost.”
Distress on Jessamy’s features. “If I had known, I wouldn’t have left the Refuge. When we spoke about the owls and the woman with the lilac hair, I thought it simply a Cascade dream—I was in Amanat then and looking forward to surprising you.” Her wing moved agitatedly under her cloak. “Galen and I must return at once, so I can continue to scour the archives for—”
“Jess.” Elena shook her head. “Andromeda answered the question about the owls and the woman, and from what she said, not much else is known about Cassandra. As for the rest . . . You’ve been digging for years at this point, and all you’ve discovered are mentions of the same legend about ambrosia and an archangel loving true.”
“I’ve never before failed so badly at a research task.”
“You can’t find what’s not there.” Elena knew how hard Jessamy had searched, the countless hours she and Andromeda had spent among the dustiest records. “The last angel-Made was so many eons ago that the Legion can’t recall it. Any records have long since turned to dust.”
A rare frustration in the fine lines of Jessamy’s face. “I am keeping exact records of your transition. No other angel-Made will ever go blind into the future.” Her wing moved again under the cloak. “You’re certain you don’t want me to return to the Refuge?”
“Yes. This is a journey into the unknown. Raphael and I will walk it together.”
Child. The Sleep-heavy whisper fell into her mind.
So, at least one person could still talk to her on the mental plane. Maybe because Cassandra was entering through another part of her mind. The part that dreamed while she slept, only this dream happened while she was awake and conscious.
Yes? She’d made the choice not to antagonize Cassandra—after all, the Ancient only saw as Ash saw; she wasn’t the reason for what was happening to Elena. As for the golden-eyed white owl seated next to Jessamy, it was a hauntingly beautiful creature that lived in an archangel’s dreams.
The second marker in time nears.
Elena straightened. Will someone else die? Can I save them?
Not death. Rebirth. The owl flared its wings. The gift is not yours, child of mortals, and will not give itself to you. The voice was sad and adamant both. Your death is written in the stars. For you must die for the other to live.
Goose bumps broke out over Elena’s skin. How many markers in time are there?
The drinker of blood lost.
The agony of rebirth.
The last feather to fall.
Three markers. The second was about to happen. And she’d just seen one of her feathers float to the truck bed.
This was not looking good for Elena.
Raphael stood with Galen near the edge of the roof, an archangel renewing ties with a member of his Seven. But Galen had things to tell him that had nothing to do with the bond that had tied them together for centuries.
“Sire,” the weapons-master said, “we came through Amanat.”
Raphael had expected as much. His mother’s home was a place out of time. She’d taken an entire town with her into Sleep. When she had arisen, she’d brought it all back, a living city from another land now extant in the depths of Kagoshima, Japan. As a historian, Jessamy couldn’t resist its lure.
“Lady Caliane sends her love.”
“You will go back that way?” At Galen’s nod, Raphael said, “I would ask that you carry a gift for my mother.” It was Raphael’s hunter who had chosen that gift: a finely balanced blade two centuries old.
“There is plenty of room in the metal death trap Jessamy insists on flying.” Galen scowled at the thought of the plane that Jessamy piloted with calm expertise. He flew on the wing beside her, while she controlled the small but sturdy plane that gave her wings of her own.
Amanat itself had no landing strip, but Caliane had ordered her people to create a landing strip not far from the city—a place where Jessamy could land out of sight of other human eyes. In his mother’s home, she could walk in freedom. The people of Amanat were loyal to Caliane beyond anything Raphael had ever seen, would never reveal the secret of Jessamy’s twisted wing.
No, he corrected himself, he’d seen such loyalty with Lijuan, too. Both archangels whose people looked to them as goddesses. The difference was that Caliane did not consume the life force of her people . . . but his mother had sung thousands of souls into slavery, and she’d once executed every adult in two neighboring cities. It had led to hundreds upon hundreds of child-sized graves, the children of the dead struck by a heart-sorrow unknown to immortals.
So perhaps Lijuan and Caliane were more alike than they knew.
Elena, her heart forever bruised from the loss of her own mother, saw Caliane’s rise as a gift. Raphael’s feelings were more complicated. He was glad his mother was sane again, but part of him watched always for the madness.
“It is held together by bolts and screws,” Galen was muttering. “How can that be safe?”
Wrenching his mind back from thoughts of madness and murder, Raphael clapped Galen on the shoulder. “You will have to get used to it one of these days. The people who service the plane which carries my own consort on long journeys have deemed Jessamy’s plane safe.”