Archangel's Prophecy (Page 82)
More bloody tears. “This was to be. Death, endless death, followed by victory. But you and the fragile, courageous prophecy-of-mine have rewritten destiny, erased the future to be. Time warps and changes. Only one constant remains. The Sleeper, the Wraith, the Goddess. She will rise and she will be monstrous.”
Cassandra began to lower herself into the lava. She was a being of liquid fire again before she reached the molten core, Favashi invisible against her.
The sinkhole began to close over in front of their eyes.
Two minutes after the encounter with an Ancient out of angelic myth, there was nothing there, no sign a sinkhole had ever existed. The earth was not bare. Grass grew, pebbles rolled around on it, and the wind swirled snow against the barrier of the fence.
Elena would not be pleased to have missed such a sight.
Inside his chest, his heart gave a sluggish beat. Come, Illium. You must watch for my fall today.
The blue-winged angel flew below him all the way home.
But even safely landed, Raphael could not yet rest. First, he must warn the Cadre about China. He called an urgent meeting using a signal that was never to be ignored. Their faces appeared one after the other on the screen in his study, cold and immortal and altered with Cascade-born power.
Only Michaela, strikingly beautiful and deeply manipulative, was different. She appeared . . . faded, tired.
Raphael described only what had happened to Favashi, shared only what Cassandra had said about Lijuan being a monstrous world-destroying force when she next woke. Too big for even the Cadre.
It was Caliane who broke the silence that had fallen after his short, curt report. “I would ask if you dreamed this, my son, but I know you are too practical and pragmatic a warrior to create fantasies—and I saw Favashi’s strangeness firsthand a month earlier, when I flew to offer her counsel.”
Neha was the next to speak. “So did I,” said the Archangel of India, her saree a yellow that made her skin shimmer with light. “I wanted to brush it off as arrogance, but there was a falseness to her presence, as if a shadow lay atop it.”
Raphael conserved his energy and let the ensuing discussion flow at its own pace until Titus said, “China is not safe.”
All the Cadre nodded as one.
Even Charisemnon’s expression was black. Archangels, after all, were not supposed to be prey. Such a line had never before been crossed in their histories.
“It cannot be left unguarded.” Alexander’s silver eyes were a painful echo of the ring of silver around Elena’s irises. “We saw what happened in the short period that Lijuan was missing. We cannot know how long Favashi will be gone.”
“She was adamant that whatever it is that Lijuan left behind in her territory, it affects only archangels,” Raphael pointed out. “Favashi has a number of strong men and women loyal to her who can run things in the interim. There are also enough of us that we can rotate through China to ensure no one in her territory forgets the Cadre exists even if they do not have a resident archangel.”
A cycle of flights was swiftly worked out. None of them would land in China, but an archangel didn’t need to land to make his or her power felt. Raphael, Astaad—Archangel of the Pacific Isles, and a number of others would stay in Japan when it came time for their turn at policing Favashi’s territory in her absence.
Caliane was considered neutral ground. She wasn’t neutral, of course, would always fight in Raphael’s corner. But she also wouldn’t take it amiss if an archangel guested in her territory—perhaps it was because of her love for Nadiel, but Raphael’s mother could tolerate the presence of another archangel close by for relatively long periods.
It was also agreed that none of them would use an archangel’s absence from his or her own territory to attempt to gain a foothold in that territory. The rest of the Cadre would unite against any such attempt, no matter friendships or alliances. This was a thing about controlling vampires; the Cadre would not let the world drown in bloodlust regardless of their other enmities.
Neha volunteered to take extra shifts. “It will be less of a distance for me, and seeing me will remind them that an archangel resides within easy reach.”
Caliane also volunteered to do extra shifts. “Five years,” his mother said afterward. “If Favashi yet Sleeps, then we must make a long-term plan.”
“It is settled,” said the Cadre, and the meeting was over.
His wound bleeding under his leathers, Raphael staggered up the steps. Such a wound needed the deep recovery of anshara, not a battle against another archangel.
Sire. Sire. Sire. The Legion’s voices filled his head as he entered the room. The chrysalis is too small. Dismay in every word. Where will her wings grow?
Hand pressed to his heart, Raphael crashed onto the bed and onto the silken filaments that flowed from the chrysalis that was too small to hold his hunter’s tall body and extraordinary wings. His own wing fell across the chrysalis and his heart, it stopped.
The Primary watched Raphael’s blood seep from his body in a direct line to the chrysalis, where it was absorbed without a trace. The filaments from Elena’s chrysalis spread over him, cocooning him in a delicate blanket.
The Legion sat. They held guard.
Others loyal to the aeclari came to the place where they slept, but they did not disturb the sleeping pair. The one the Legion thought of as the Blade entered only once, to ensure his archangel lived.
He told the Legion that the archangel was not in anshara, the deep healing sleep that also allowed reason. Raphael’s sleep was beyond that. He didn’t breathe. His heart didn’t beat. But he lived, his hair midnight under the filaments of white and his skin cracked with gold.
Of Elena, no one knew. The chrysalis was opaque to the healer who had watched Elena become an angel, and he left with sorrow-deep grooves in his face.
The one she called Bluebell stood often on the balcony, a silent sentinel.
A warrior child came to the house once. She demanded to see her sister, but the Legion knew this Elena would never permit. They were not mortal, but they had been enough in the mortal world to understand what it was to protect a young heart. But they did not have to tell the warrior child she could not see Elena.
The one called Montgomery, who often asked the Legion if they needed food or drink, did the task with a quiet voice, and gentle arms that held the warrior child close when she cried. But it was the Blade who spoke to the others, for they came to the Tower in search of Elena. Sara, the friend of Elena’s heart who spoke for all the other hunter warriors. Jeffrey, the father who was not a father. And Beth, a sister so scared of the Tower, but who came asking after Elena.
Others did not come, but the Legion heard the Storm with black wings talking to the Blade and they knew the Cadre watched New York. Where was Raphael? they asked. Where was his consort? When the one who had sent disease to the aeclari’s city thought to grasp at this land, the archangel who laughed and made women smile massed his forces on the diseased archangel’s border and peace held.
The Mother came. She fought with the Blade to see her son. The Blade would not move. “You are an archangel,” he told her when she threatened his life, “but he is my liege. I cannot allow you to pass.”
The Mother was very strong, but she was not mad. Not in this life. She fought bitterly, but she did not destroy. And she made it clear to the others of the Cadre that if they came for New York, they would come for her. The General who had once been the Mother’s sent his birds of prey and his wild cats to the city in a silent symbol of allegiance.