Archangel's Prophecy (Page 83)
And the peace held.
When the Queen, who mourned her daughter and looked at Raphael with hate but also sometimes with sorrow, told the Blade of the continuing strangeness in the land of the giver of death who Slept, he told her he would tell his sire. He said nothing about when, and she did not ask.
And the peace held.
Quakes ravaged the lands of the archangel who was of water and islands. Such things should not be, but they were. Ice furies hit the lands of the archangel of sunlight and silver. Heat scalded the mountainous territory of the archangel of beauty. And deep inside the territory of the giver of death who Slept, there was a growing hollowness, thousands gone without a trace.
But the peace, it held.
Those of the house of the aeclari accepted the Legion’s right to guard the sleeping place, their activity muted and near-silent. Without the archangel and his consort, they moved like automatons deprived of their reason for being.
The Legion saw all of this. They were seven hundred and seventy-seven, and they could not all stand sentinel while the aeclari slept; they did many tasks and the knowledge was shared. But always, their core watched and held guard. This was their truth. This was their existence.
The chrysalis grew. Too slow. Too small. Still too small.
The Legion did not move.
They listened for the restarting of an archangelic heart.
They waited for the chrysalis to open.
“Shh, my darling, shh.”
Raphael had not stood in this verdant field far from civilization for . . . a long time. He had been a boy when he fell. When his mother crashed him to the earth. His blood had been rubies on the pure green of the grass, each filament so perfectly designed, each dewdrop a diamond.
And his bones, they’d been in so many pieces he could not even crawl.
He’d lain in the field as the seasons turned. He’d watched an insect labor across the earth. And he’d listened to the birds sing. They had brought him berries, those birds, thinking him a fledgling fallen out of the nest. There he’d lain with his broken wings spread out on the grass while it grew around him, over him.
Wildflowers had bloomed in his blood.
He’d been haunted by the memory of his mother’s delicate feet walking away. Her bare soles stepping on the grass bejeweled with his blood while the white of her gown flickered at her ankles.
“Eyes a blue as pure as the heart of the sun. Hair the heart of midnight. My son who is her mirror.”
On this field, he’d been a broken mirror.
Raphael frowned as the birds fell silent. “Mirror,” he spoke aloud into the silence of this field where his mother had left him.
Aeclari are mirrors.
The mirror is not enough.
Sounds clashed into the peace of this place out of time and he knew he dreamed. And he thought of the last time he’d lived this memory. Elena had invaded his dream then. She’d found him in the stygian darkness of the sea, too, when the Legion drew him into their domain.
Sounds shattered the silence once more, sword against sword, a desperate battle.
“A little help here, Archangel.” The voice was faint, but he’d know it even were it soundless.
His consort was invading his dream again.
Though he knew it was only his mind attempting to find hers and filling in the emptiness with illusion, Raphael withdrew his swords from the crisscrossed sheaths on his back and stepped forward out of the grass and into a deep gray nothingness that reminded him of the darkness below the ocean.
He’d lit it with wildfire then, creating a small sun.
Coaxing newborn flickers of wildfire from his body, he threw it up into the gray. It cut light across the world. And he was spinning before he’d consciously processed what he’d seen, his back slamming up hard against Elena’s.
He lifted his swords to block the strike of an assailant that had no face.
“What took you so long, Archangel?” Elena called back.
“I’m growing my heart around yours,” he answered even as he spun to help her block the advance of three bloodlust-driven vampires with hooked claws. “I’ll keep your heart safe, but it’s too mortal for an archangel. I must grow an immortal one around it.”
Breath hard, Elena said, “That’s super-weird, because I have the most ginormous heart inside my chest. I’m getting used to it, though.” Her back slammed against his again, the ridged scars where he’d amputated her wings apparent to him even through her clothing and his. “The Cascade f*****g took my f*****g wings!” Each word accompanied by a throwing blade finding its mark.
Raphael’s body stirred, his blood wildfire. “Am I in your dream, Elena, or are you in mine?” She felt real, not an illusion. When his skin brushed hers, when his wing moved across her body, when her voice reached him, it all felt right.
“No idea.” A possessive kiss when she faced him again, the rawly physical act erasing any notion of dreams and illusions.
Her eyes melted to silver, inhuman in their beauty. “I remember now, Archangel.” Twisting out, she blocked another attack, as he did the same.
When they came together again, she was breathless. “You shouldn’t have given me your heart. You shouldn’t have taken mine—it was fully mortal with a side of Cascade weirdness.”
“A thank-you would be nice.” He beheaded a horde of reborn with rotting limbs. “It’s not every day a man gives you his heart.”
“What did I say about the jokes?” She poked him gently with the hilt of her sword before they were deluged by opponents.
In a small moment of peace: “Raphael, how long can we keep this up?”
“Not long,” he said, able to see the green of the grass beyond the gray. He could step out and be back on that field so brilliant and bright and bloody. “Can you see the field?”
“What field? The one you dream?”
“Then I am in your dream.” If his mortal consort had once invaded his dream, could he not invade hers? She’d anchored him in the dreams, in the bloodstorm that had sought to turn him into a cold, heartless being of pure power.
Hauling Elena against him, he sheathed one sword and gripped the side of her neck. “Elena-mine, as you were my anchor, now I am yours.”
Her hand rose to his cheek, her sword falling to her side even as the wildfire light began to fade and the darkness crept closer, ready to consume her. Behind him, the green of the field grew brighter.
“I’m so tired, Archangel,” said his wild and beautiful Elena who didn’t know the meaning of giving up. “We really need to wake up.”
He resisted. “The chrysalis is too small.”
“No wings? Or are we talking even more missing limbs?” She pressed her fingers to his lips. “We’ll find out soon enough.” A sigh before she came into his arms.
Around them, the gray raged, reaching out grasping tendrils toward her. And he knew . . . he had to wake them up before the Cascade got what it wanted and consumed her. Even Elena could not battle forever. “How do I wake us?”
“Remember the bloodstorm,” she said, her eyes closed and her sword dropping to the floor as her strength deserted her.
His mind bled with thoughts of the sky that had boiled crimson, the rain like shards of ice. He’d given up the dark and old power that wanted to fill him to the brim because that same power would kill Elena with its coldness.