Archangel's Prophecy (Page 79)
And his heart . . . his heart was a little bit mortal. Had to stay a little bit mortal for Cassandra’s prophecy to come true when the world faced Lijuan once again. He must remain the archangel kissed by mortality—and it was around his heart with its touch of mortality that the wildfire crackled.
That heart was where his new golden energy was slowly being changed into more wildfire, powered by his will and refusal to be manipulated. His heart was the engine of change filtering the new energy into the most dangerous form possible. But the wildfire would’ve never been born without Elena.
It would be a risk. If he was wrong, Elena would die.
But if he did nothing, she would die.
Tearing off his tunic as her breath got shallower while she fought to the last to hold onto consciousness, he punched his hand through his ribcage with archangelic power to capture his beating heart. The agony was blinding, Elena’s eyes suddenly wide in panic, but Raphael had a task to complete.
He dropped his heart to the bed, where it continued to pulse frantically. He had only moments—even an archangel could not function without a heart. It would take time to regenerate, and he needed to act before this heart was dead. Golden Cascade-born energy rippled through his heart, but hidden within was a near-uncontrollable and radiant white-gold flame . . . with iridescent edges of midnight and dawn.
The earliest, most primal form of wildfire.
Of Raphael and his consort.
“Your body cannot absorb a full archangelic heart,” he managed to say even as his own body began to shut down. “But a small piece of one could give you power enough to resist the tyranny of the Cascade energies.”
Distress in Elena’s eyes, she went to reach out her hand . . . but that was when her chest shuddered in a last, gasping breath. The white filaments began to bloom rapidly over her body, ready to consume her and birth an abomination of his Elena.
Not hesitating, Raphael thrust his hand through her own ribcage and tore out her heart as the weak and failing organ riddled with white filaments gave its last beat. He used his power to incise out as large a piece of his own heart as he thought her body could bear, from the very core—the part with the most wildfire, and thrust it within the bloody cavity.
Wildfire exploded inside her chest, but his vision was fading, his body about to topple. As he fell, his gaze caught on Elena’s vulnerable and soft mortal heart and he couldn’t abandon it. He would protect it. Picking it up, he thrust it inside the hole where his heart should’ve been . . . and fell onto the bed, his wing heavy over Elena’s body and his mouth full of blood.
Sire. You must wake.
The voice nudged at his consciousness again and again until Raphael stirred. Jason? Scents of old blood and absence in his breath, his chest a heavy ache.
Yes, it’s Jason. You must wake.
Jason was not an angel to say such things without reason.
Shrugging off the heaviness of sleep, Raphael opened his eyes. His wing no longer lay over Elena’s body. Where she’d been was an oval chrysalis. White filaments flowed out from the chrysalis like water, falling over the bed and spreading across the carpet.
When he rose, he had to tear himself from the strands that had flowed over him in his sleep. “Fight, hunter-mine,” he said, not knowing if she could hear him . . . if she’d ever hear him again. “You have always written your own history. Now write ours.”
The sharp concern in Jason’s voice got through this time. Reaching out his infinitely more powerful mind to catch the spymaster’s faint whisper, Raphael said, How far away are you? Jason had to be incredibly distant for his voice to be so weak in Raphael’s mind.
I am over the ocean. Perhaps two hours on the wing from Manhattan, his spymaster told him. I took too long to leave—I could not go while there was no news of you or Elena. I intended to fly into Titus’s territory first, pick up any news from there, then fly on to China. Augmented by Raphael’s archangelic strength, his voice came through strong and clear. I have just seen what appears to be an army headed toward New York.
Raphael looked down at his chest. The hole remained, though it was webbed over with wildfire. He hadn’t finished healing, had only half a heart. It seemed appropriate that he would go into battle with only half a heart when he had no Elena by his side.
“I will keep the predators from the door,” he promised her. “Just come back to me.”
Leaving the bed, he washed off any dried blood then dressed in leathers of old and weathered bronze paired with worn-in boots. It wouldn’t do to advertise that he was wounded. That done, he gripped two heavy swords and slid them into crisscrossed sheaths on his back. Archangels rarely fought sword-to-sword when it came to it, but Raphael wanted to be ready for anything.
How long did I sleep? he asked the Primary, for a number of the Legion sat on the balcony, watching through the glass doors.
Four days. We did not allow anyone to interrupt.
Raphael nodded. Protect her. She is your only priority.
He hauled open the doors.
Illium stood on the far edge, swords at the ready and his expression wearing death. When he saw Raphael, he shuddered, his eyes closing for a heartbeat before he raised his lashes again. “Ellie?”
“She fights,” was all he said, and saw Illium’s heart break in front of him. “Come. Jason says an army is heading toward the city.” Chest aching, he lifted up into the air.
Do you believe Lijuan has woken? Raphael asked his spymaster as he and Illium flew seaward.
I cannot see her, but she could be hidden in the mass of the flyers.
I am coming out to you, Jason.
“Sire,” Illium said across the icy winter air between them. “I have alerted the squadrons to join us.”
“Stay with me. Tell the others to follow.”
Illium was one of the fastest angels in the world, could keep pace with Raphael. He didn’t have the endurance of an archangel, but he wouldn’t need it for the distance in question. It still took him effort to stay with Raphael, was one of the few times Raphael had seen the blue-winged angel breathing heavily in flight, beads of sweat rolling down his temples.
They hit the water, New York disappearing rapidly behind them until it wasn’t even a smudge on the horizon, but there was no sign of Jason or of the army he’d warned against.
Jason, where are you?
Heading in your direction. I flew back to see if I could discern anything further.
A risky move, but if anyone could do it, it was Jason. Did you see Lijuan?
No. Favashi is the archangel flying in the center.
Fly toward me as fast as you can, Jason. This is a battle of archangels.
His chest straining from the force of the flight, Raphael told Illium what Jason had shared. The blue-winged angel swung down on an air current, riding it to conserve his energy, then swept back up. His wings glittered in the sunlight. The sluggish cloud cover had finally moved, and though the sea would be a chilling embrace for a fallen angel, no snow fell from the sky.
“Sire,” Illium said aloud, the two of them close enough now that they could exchange words again. “What possible reason could Favashi have for mounting an assault against New York? You’ve always had a good relationship with her.”
“She has no rational reason to come at me—and if her spymaster is even half as good as Jason, he must know that my territory is heavily guarded.” Raphael didn’t sit on his laurels; he’d learned from the last battle and fixed the holes in his defenses.