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Archangel's War(2)
Author: Nalini Singh

   The Bluebell said this, but the Legion saw new lines of pain score his face with each day that passed in silence in the room where the Legion kept watch. Their archangel slept unmoving under a spidery blanket of white that came from the chrysalis that had enclosed Elena.

   Elena, who was one half of the aeclari. Elena, who grew things. Elena, who had a house of glass that was always green and warm. Elena, who was a warrior. Elena, who spoke to the Legion in ways no one else had ever spoken to them.

   Elena, who lay silent inside a chrysalis.

   The filaments from that chrysalis had spread rapidly across the room in the past hour, as if feeding on an energy the Legion could not see, could not sense. The midnight of Raphael’s hair was barely visible, the huge width of his wings obscured. The chrysalis that had been too small was no longer visible.

   Does the chrysalis grow?

   We cannot see.

   We cannot know.

   It cannot grow in an hour.

   The filaments grow.

   And grow.

   Snow silk covers the walls.

   We cannot taste energy.

   But the filaments whisper over the room.

   The chrysalis must grow.

   We cannot see.

   It was too small.

   Where will her wings fit?

   The Bluebell made us remember butterflies.

   We forgot butterflies.

   He showed us a too-small chrysalis.

   But Elena is not a butterfly. An angel does not emerge from a chrysalis.

   Why do the filaments spread?

   Does the chrysalis grow?

   We cannot see.

   The voices were him and he was the voices. They were Legion.

   “We watch,” the Primary said. “We protect.”

   But things were altering in front of them, a faint glow emanating from where the aeclari had been before the filaments obscured both Raphael’s body and Elena’s chrysalis.

   Beyond the balcony doors now partially covered with the snow silk of the filaments, the Bluebell turned. His eyes widened at seeing the ocean of filaments, the glow. But before he could open the closed doors, a familiar voice entered all their minds.

   Leave now. It was an order from an archangel. Clear the skies above. Empty the land around. GO.

   The Legion were moving even as the last word echoed in their minds. They were Raphael’s Legion, Elena’s Legion, and they had been given an order. The Bluebell wasn’t Legion. He was one of the Seven. Unique. With his own mind.

   Torment wrenched his features, but he inclined his head, and the Primary saw him form the word “Sire.”

   All of them moved.

   The Bluebell dropped to the grass, then ran inside the house.

   The Legion broke into four parts and swept the area. Winged beings were already flying toward the river at high speed, their faces stark and their jaws determined. The Legion dropped down in front of cars moving on the nearest road. The cars were not so close to the aeclari’s home, but the archangel hadn’t said how far to clear.

   When the first two cars halted with a screech that caused a burning scent to rise to their nostrils, the Legion wrenched the doors open and hauled the startled vampires out. A group of the Legion rose into the air, two to a vampire. Another group found four humans in a third car, a vampire’s cattle heading home. The scared cattle whimpered at being taken by the Legion but didn’t struggle. Neither did the vampires after they saw the angels racing from the Enclave to the water.

   Golden light poured from the windows of the aeclari’s home.

   Many of the angels streaming over the water held vampires or humans in their arms, getting their households out of danger. The Bluebell was one of the last to fly out of the Enclave, and though the Legion did not speak to many outside of the aeclari, they spoke to him: Are the aeclari’s people safe? This was important. The Legion knew. The aeclari had bonds to those who lived in the house.

   Yes, I got them out. The Bluebell, who could fly faster than the Primary and sometimes raced with the cars of the Blade and the Viper, fell off the cliff with his wings licked by a golden light so bright that it was difficult to face. In one hand, he held a large rectangular thing, in his other, items they recognized.

   Several of the Legion flew to him, and took the things. They did not understand things, but these were linked to the aeclari in their mind. We will fly them to the Tower.

   Most of the angels kept on flying toward Manhattan, and those of the Legion that carried vampires or mortals kept going, too. But the Primary turned once he was over the center of the river, as did those of his brethren who flew only their own bodies.

   The Bluebell halted in front of them, the silvery blue of his wings spread and his face awash in the scorching light that had turned the river to gold.

   And the light, it grew, and grew, and grew.

   Until at last, the light was so bright that it became fire and even the Primary couldn’t bear it and threw up his arm in front of his eyes. The last thing he saw was an intense white brilliance.

   The punch of the explosion blew them all back.

 

 

4

 

Raphael came awake with the side of his face on dirt so hot it glowed, his rest prematurely ended, and his new heart not yet ready. It had, he realized, broken under the weight of the violent energy release and exposed the small mortal heart within. That small heart had exploded from the pressure.

   Fragments swam in his blood, weaving their way through his entire system. A system devoid of wildfire. Devoid, too, of the golden lightning. Uncaring of the loss and of the agony in his chest, he opened his eyes . . . and looked into those of liquid silver.

   He held that molten gaze for an eternity.

   She didn’t respond, the silver cloudy and hazy before she lowered her lashes again.

   Dazed, he told himself, she was simply dazed and emerging from a long sleep. She had been wrenched too early out of the chrysalis that would consume her even as it remade her. It’d take her time to awaken fully.

   The world glowed around them, golden fire crackling, a cocoon formed of pure energy.

   He’d last seen her in a shared dream, as they fought the vicious strength of the Cascade to save her mind, her memories, her. In the end, this had been their only choice—for Raphael to release the raw violence of his power and hope it fatally disrupted the chrysalis process, tearing Elena from the grip of the Cascade’s machinations.

   But though he’d punched his power into the earth, it swirled in the air around them, as if there’d been so much that even the earth couldn’t contain it.

   Raphael cared nothing for that. His only focus was Elena.

   The closed fan of her lashes threw shadows onto her skin, her lips soft, and he could almost believe she was simply resting beside him in their bed. But even in sleep, his Elena was never so motionless, never so serene.

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