Archangel's Prophecy (Page 81)
Sire, the squadrons near, Illium informed him. But Favashi’s army will arrive first.
Raphael avoided another bolt—and realized Favashi was wavering, her targets off. As well, because his heart was beginning to miss beats. He avoided Favashi’s last bolts before they fizzled out to nothing.
Across from him, the Archangel of China swayed in the air and her eyes cleared for a second to reveal the deep brown with which he was familiar. “Raphael.” It came out a whisper. “You must not let her take me.”
Streaks of black snaked up her eyes again.
Raphael surged forward. Favashi’s attendants tried to stop him, but Jason and Illium had already intercepted the two. The strike of sword against sword rang out across the air as the four fighters clashed.
“Give the order,” Raphael said to Favashi when they were only a hairsbreadth apart. “Quickly, while you can.”
Favashi curled her fingers into her palms, squeezed her eyes shut, and said nothing. But the two angels who’d been fighting with Illium and Jason fell back. One said, “My lady?”
Whatever message Favashi gave them, they flew off toward the rest of her army . . . Which began to turn as one.
“I am not a mortal to be taken,” Favashi gritted out. “I am not a beast to be broken.” Each word was red with power and anger and rage. “I am an archangel.”
The black crackled over her irises again. As it had once attempted to blind Raphael. “Is it a part of Lijuan?” Uram had left behind an echo of energy, but his victim, Holly, had been young and a multitude of times weaker than Favashi.
“It feels like an infection. A virulent one designed to crawl into archangelic bones.” She shivered hard, streaks of black racing through the aged ivory of her wings before they began to retract, as if she was fighting a battle within.
“I do not think it can take you, Raphael. You beat her. That’s why, when it pushed me to battle madness, I fought to take the battle to you.” Her eyes landed on the wildfire that danced on Raphael’s fingertips. “This death is buried in China. Send no one there. Not one of us. It is made for us.” Her back arched, a scream pouring out of her mouth and it was a scream of violence, of madness.
Raphael placed his hand directly on Favashi’s heart, his palm burning with the last whispers of wildfire he could coax to do his will. Instead of fighting what might be a killing blow, Favashi gripped his wrist, holding him to her.
And the wildfire punched into her.
The black disappeared from her wings under a searing edge of wildfire, the screaming madness stopped, and when she looked at him again, her eyes were that familiar rich brown. “I cannot know if it has been destroyed. I was too long in that place.”
What had Lijuan become that she’d been able to leave behind a virus that attacked an archangel? Even Charisemnon’s disease-causing abilities didn’t dare reach for the Cadre.
“I can’t keep pushing wildfire into you,” he told Favashi. “If you are infected with a death born of Lijuan, the wildfire will eventually kill you.”
Favashi’s head jerked, a sudden faraway look on her face. “There is another kind of fire in your territory. It calls to me.”
In front of Raphael, her face began to lose its softness, until her bones shoved out against her skin, her collarbones appearing as suddenly, her arms no longer smooth but jagged with bones. She was being consumed as Elena had been consumed.
“It has taken all my energy to fight this,” she rasped, no fat on her bones now, her skin holding together bones and muscle and tendon alone. “I feel your wildfire eating away at it, but I must . . .” She crumpled.
Raphael caught her skeletal form and, after confirming her army was fading into the distance, flew directly toward the only fire in his land that could’ve spoken to Favashi. Illium fell in with him, while Jason broke off to take control of the squadrons that had responded to Illium’s command.
As per the plan Raphael had put in place for just such a contingency, New York’s forces would now spread outward, a constant watch on all their borders until Jason’s spies reported that Favashi’s army had landed in China.
The journey to the sinkhole at the foot of the Catskills was again a hard one for Illium. Despite his exhaustion and faltering heart, Raphael gave no quarter, needed to be back with Elena. The blue-winged angel was dripping with sweat by the time they arrived.
Ah, you have come.
“To the edge, Bluebell—this is a matter between an archangel and an Ancient among Ancients.”
Illium’s expression held rebellion, but he gave a curt nod and went to hover at the very edge of the sinkhole.
The lava began to bubble and spread in a pattern that formed a whirlpool at its very center. Elena would’ve found it astonishing, he thought. She’d also have wondered what kind of insanity they’d be facing now.
Zombies, Archangel. Fire-breathing ones.
Yes, she’d have muttered that while staying courageously by his side.
But it wasn’t a zombie that emerged out of the flames. It was a woman formed of fire. When the glowing magma dropped away to rejoin the swirl that was the sinkhole, he saw an angel clad in a long gown of palest green that was like air given form; it both clung and fell away from the lush curves of her body. Her hair was a tumble of lilac and her eyes empty, bleeding orbs. Dark red tears ran down her cheeks, her skin a pitiless white canvas for the brutality of it. Her wings, in contrast, were a violet so deep it was blue.
Reaching Raphael with soft beats of her wings, she looked at him with those sightless eyes. “You have half a heart.” A pause, a frown. “And you have two hearts. Yet you are not whole.”
“I won’t be whole until my Elena wakes.” An absolute truth. “What do you see?”
“The future has warped.” A bloody tear dropping to stain her gown. “I see . . . nothing. I see a million possibilities. I see chaos and horror. I see hope and life. I see everything that could be.”
We battled destiny and changed time, Elena-mine. The future was now theirs to shape.
Cassandra touched his face with fingers that bore nails encrusted with blood. “Ambrosia will flow and a mortal will be made an angel when an archangel loves true.” She spoke the words in a singsong voice. “That is what I saw and that is what I wrote and that was a future born.”
“Elena is the first angel-Made.” That was the answer to why there were no records, no road map to follow; the legend of ambrosia had been born of a prophecy spoken by an angel so old she was legend.
Cassandra held out her arms. “This child of kin bloodline is mine. In this moment, and in this time, she is mine.”
Raphael gave her Favashi because there was no other choice and because Favashi had spoken of this place. “When will she return?”
“Madness is coming. Life is coming. Wonder is coming. Death is coming. The future warps again and again.” Tiredness, such aching tiredness. “I try so hard to Sleep, but even in my Sleep, I dream. I see.” A pause. “I helped your love, this prophecy-of-mine, alter time. A new dawn not yet seen, not yet known.”
She hugged Favashi’s frail body close. “Fire cleanses. I knew fire would be needed. On this day and in this time, fire would be needed. For you alone cannot fight what she has become. The Cadre alone cannot fight the evil that Sleeps.”
Cassandra pressed a kiss to Favashi’s brow. “Archangel of Death. Goddess of Nightmare. Wraith without a shadow. Rise, rise, rise into your Reign of Death. For your end will come. Your end will come. At the hands of the new and of the old. An Archangel kissed by mortality. A silver-winged Sleeper who wakes before his Sleep is done. The broken dream with eyes of fire. Shatter. Shatter. Shatter.”