Archangel's War (Guild Hunter #12)

Archangel's War (Guild Hunter #12)

Nalini Singh


1


    The Blade


Dmitri stood on a high Tower balcony, the wind whipping at his hair with a bite that said fall was coming as it pasted the back of his T-shirt to his body. Winter had ended, and spring as well as most of summer had passed while Raphael and Elena slept; fall hovered on the horizon. “I walked with Raphael through the colors of fall more than once,” he told the woman who stood at his side. “Leaves of orange and crimson and yellow raining down on our heads.”

Honor tugged out the hand he’d fisted in the pocket of his pants. He opened it, allowed her to weave her fingers through his own. “Is there more trouble?”

“Yes, I can feel it building.” He and the rest of the Seven had held off all challengers to date, thanks to the help of those in the Cadre who refused to allow the scavengers to swoop. Even now, huge birds of prey circled the sky and cougars napped in Central Park, while Caliane’s most experienced squadron patrolled the borders of the city.

“Why the quick challenges?” Honor ran her free hand down the bare skin of his arm. “It’s not even been a year.”

“The army that came with Favashi might’ve turned back, but it wasn’t by choice. They’re Lijuan’s people through and through, and they’ve been whispering in the ears of parasites like Charisemnon that this territory is his for the taking.” Lesser angels, too, had attempted to mount a challenge.

Dmitri had decapitated the first.

Illium had burned the second down to the ground with his power.

Venom had used two razor-sharp knives to shred the third to pieces.

No one else had dared in the interim, but they would. “I just got Jason’s latest report—his operatives have confirmed that Lijuan’s people are spreading the rumor that Raphael’s disappearance is connected to Favashi’s—that she infected him with the poison she carried inside her. Bastards are saying he’s either dead or dying and stronger powers must take over his territory before the vampires begin to rise in bloodlust.” Dmitri was also being accused of acting “above his station” in continuing to hold the territory. As if he had intentions to take it over. Fools.

Leaning her head against his shoulder, Honor watched a condor fly to land right beside them. “You’re not letting all the whispers about you being a traitor get to you, are you?” A stern tone. “Because I’ll have to get tough if you are.”

He would’ve smiled if his heart wasn’t so dark with fury at the threats that hung in the air; his wife knew him far too well. “I’ve dealt with it before.” No one outside of Raphael’s inner circle seemed to accept or understand that he was right where he wanted to be. He and Raphael had a relationship of loyalty and trust melded with old pain that the Cadre couldn’t hope to comprehend.

Before being archangel and second, they were friends. That friendship had only deepened after the sire fell in love with Elena. Prior to that, Raphael had been falling into the cold of immortality, becoming distant in a way that had begun to erase the friend who’d fought beside Dmitri in many a battle. “I’m more worried about the vampires.”

“At least bloodlust hasn’t been a problem yet.”

“No.” Dmitri had sent Andreas to deal with the first vampire kiss that had tried to flex its muscle. The warrior angel had put those vampiric heads on pikes and stabbed the bloody pikes in a city square. Dmitri liked Andreas—he knew how to make a point and he was as relentlessly loyal to Raphael as Dmitri.

No other kiss had dared make so much as a peep.

“It won’t last,” he told Honor. “I’ll have to be more and more brutal.” Vampires were driven by bloodlust—that was a fact of life. Dmitri had long ago disciplined his own urges and he’d have helped Honor do the same if her mortal calm and thoughtfulness hadn’t carried over seamlessly during her transition.

It was possible that her constant proximity to him helped, but regardless, his wife was one of the most stable young vampires he knew. Yet she still practiced honing her control with the dedication of a woman who had been a guild hunter before she became a vampire.

Many other vampires, however, were arrogant of the danger and didn’t bother.

Without archangelic control, those vampires would soon begin to forget fear and cause carnage. His only choice then would be a cold and fast wave of death that carved terror into the hearts of mortals and vampires both.

The condor that had been sitting beside them took off in a jagged sweep of wings that hit Honor’s right leg. Circling the air in front of them, it opened its beak and released a grating shriek. Birds flew up from every roof in the city at the same instant. The wind rose, slamming at them like an angry opponent.

Planting her feet wide to maintain her position, the soft ebony of her hair streaming behind her, Honor said, “What’s happening?”

Dmitri didn’t know, but his eyes turned toward the Enclave, where the sire lay as motionless as the dead—and Elena was lost inside a chrysalis that didn’t pulse or show any other indication of life.





2


    The Sleeper


Archangel Cassandra turned restlessly in her Sleep. Peace would not come, her mind flashing with images of a future she did not want to see. But it had never been a choice for her. Eyes open or closed, clawed out or whole, she saw.

The threads of time.

Shining and bright.

Dark and broken.

Tangled and silky.

She saw.

Yeah, well, I’m not convinced on the whole predestination thing.

That voice, so young, so rash, so determined. The child had altered time, torn apart the future glimpsed.

“Prophecy of mine,” Cassandra mumbled in her broken Sleep, her vast mind sensing the energies rising, the future morphing yet again.

An archangel in Sleep gave out no energy, could not affect the world. This was known, had never been questioned. It protected both the Sleeper and the world. For who could predict the dreams or nightmares of an ancient immortal being? What terrible changes might be wrought in the world without intent or thought?

But Cassandra hung on the twilight verge between wakefulness and Sleep, with a gray awareness of the external world. She stretched out her arms and wrapped them around an energy that would burn down the world.





3


    The Legion


The Legion sat watch, their patience endless. Time was a thing that had no meaning to them. The mourning Bluebell spoke to them at times. He told them that six months had passed, then seven. The Legion asked him what this meant.

He said: “A monarch butterfly emerges from its chrysalis in ten days. A child grows in the womb for nine months. The earth completes a revolution around the sun in twelve months. It takes decades for a seed to grow into a mighty oak. An angelic child is not considered an adult until they have lived one hundred years. Seven months is . . . a drop in the well of time.”

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.

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