Archangel's Prophecy (Page 80)
He’d also taken on more warriors. Many of them had been independents to whom he’d had Galen make a personal offer. He’d expected perhaps a quarter to respond—sometimes ennui got to even the best of men, and they felt no impetus to interact with the world. Most eventually slid into Sleep.
The response rate had been seventy-five percent.
It turned out that doing scandalous things like falling in love with a mortal then turning her into an angel, followed by defeating Lijuan in battle, had made New York something of a “fascinating hotspot” to immortals.
That their city also had pretzel bars, coffee stations, even burger carts on rooftops—fly-throughs, as some clever human had nicknamed it—was seen as exotic and outlandish and worthy of a visit.
But if the old vampires and angels had originally come to satisfy their curiosity about Raphael’s territory, they stayed because New York had seduced them. More, Elena had seduced them. She didn’t even know she was doing it, but he’d seen the way the old ones watched her—as if she was a new and prized treasure, surprising and unexpected.
Three weeks before it all began to go wrong, he’d seen her offer to take a five-thousand-year-old female warrior to a dance club on a rooftop after the angel mused about not having danced for centuries. The warrior had returned luminous with a renewed sense of excitement about the world, her gaze holding a whisper of the youth she’d once been.
Elena woke people up with her raw zest for life, reminding them what it was to be alive. And now his hunter battled a foe that sought to erase her . . . and Raphael went into battle with her heart cradled inside his, the fragile light of mortality somehow not extinguished by the violent forces in his body.
I see Illium’s wings.
Raphael spotted Jason at the same time that his spymaster’s voice filled his mind. Jason’s black wings were stark against the winter blue sky, his black clothing the same. How far behind you are they? An army could never move as fast as a strong lone warrior.
At least twenty minutes, Jason told him.
The three of them met above the ocean, nothing beneath them but waves that had begun to crash in a pattern that did not reflect the weather. First, he got numbers from Jason about the size of the army; then he asked if Favashi had brought her senior people. A single skilled and powerful fighter could do the same damage as a hundred unskilled warriors.
“That’s the strange thing,” Jason said. “From what I could see, all of those at the leading edge of the formation are Lijuan’s people who stayed behind and joined Favashi’s court.”
“Impossible.” Illium shook his head, the blue-tipped black strands of his hair whipping wildly in the wind that had begun to rise. “Favashi may have accepted those people into her court, but she wouldn’t trust them, not enough for anything like this.”
“I agree,” Jason said, his power a quiet but potent darkness. “But that’s what I saw.”
None of this made any kind of sense.
“I’ll go ahead,” Raphael said to Jason and Illium. “Flank me, but stay back far enough that she can’t eliminate you both with a single strike.”
The two angels nodded.
And Raphael flew toward the approaching army as his grievously wounded heart struggled to beat.
In the bedroom in the Enclave, the chrysalis lay unmoving. It was too small, the Legion thought, their bodies crouched all over the room. A chrysalis that size could not hold Elena.
There was no room for her wings. Her height.
Will she be born as a child? one part of their mind asked.
Conversation abounded in silence.
We do not know, was the consensus. But the chrysalis is too small.
The rising wind ripped at Raphael’s hair as, ahead of them, a huge army took shape. But holding to archangelic expectation and the “rules” of war, Favashi broke off to fly directly toward him. Two others came with her, an echo of Illium and Jason.
The rest of her forces were too slow to keep up with Favashi and her seconds, and so when they met, it was as an even grouping.
His blood iced. Because that wasn’t Favashi’s voice. It held death and whispers and screams. It was the voice of an archangel who was meant to be lost in Sleep, far from the living world.
As for the rest of her . . . Those weren’t Favashi’s eyes either.
The former Archangel of Persia and current Archangel of China didn’t have black eyes. Her eyes were a deep, rich brown.
“You are changed,” he said to her.
“I am more.” Favashi’s voice was awash with screaming whispers, and when she raised her hand, it crackled out of existence. Not as smooth a shift as with Lijuan, but Favashi shouldn’t have had such a power at all. The ability to go non-corporeal was not hers.
Favashi was rumored to have gained power over the winds during the Cascade—which might explain the howling gale that now surrounded them, but the rest . . . that belonged to the former Archangel of China.
Unless . . . “Did you gain this power in the last Cascade surge?”
Black lightning crackled from Favashi’s fingertips in answer, the bolts screaming over Raphael’s shoulder and past Jason, who’d dropped to avoid the strike. “A demonstration only,” she said in the aftermath, as the black energy that “smelled” of Lijuan smashed into the ocean and disappeared. “I am a power now, and you will bow down before me.”
Raphael missed Elena with a ferocious need at that instant. She would’ve said something about “Her Creepiness” coming back from the dead, and inside, he would’ve found amusement even during the prelude to war.
Sire, can archangels be possessed? Illium’s voice, so different from Elena’s, and yet the question was one Elena might well have asked—there was a reason the two had become such friends.
Raphael thought of how he’d battled to hold Elena’s memories, her essence, inside himself only to fail. And he thought of Holly Chang, who’d been haunted by an energy that should’ve ended with Uram. Lijuan was no ordinary archangel—and we do not know how the Cascade twists the rules of life and death and Sleep.
Ignoring the pain in his chest, his heart with its mortal core straining to support his archangelic body, he coaxed a ball of wildfire to his hand, the colors swirling brilliant white-gold with deep edges of midnight and dawn. His Elena, inside him. “We have had this battle before,” he said softly. “You lost.”
The words should’ve made no sense to Favashi, who had never faced Raphael in battle, but she screeched and unleashed another bolt at him. This time it was aimed directly at his heart—and it seemed to him that Favashi flinched . . . just before he intercepted it with wildfire and it dissipated into nothing.
He had more wildfire inside him, all that had been generated before he tore out his heart, but he was too drained to rule it to his will. If he drew much more, he risked it going wild—his half-regenerated heart with its mortal core couldn’t take the strain of access and control.
To win this battle, he would need to fight with cutting intelligence.
Suddenly Favashi was throwing the black lightning from every fingertip, her assault so vicious that her own guard fell back, unable to break through the hail of black to safely get to Jason or Illium.
Both members of his Seven dropped to a much lower altitude. Raphael meanwhile was avoiding the strikes but not attempting to neutralize all of them. He caught only the ones at risk of hitting his body or his wings. And still, he was nearly at his limit, his heart about to fail.