Lore of the Angels Ch. 12byAlecrire©
First of all, I want to apologize for the long hiatus. I'm really sorry for making all of you wait but I thank you for your support and patience.
As always, credit goes to my editor, Jason Moore for his invaluable help. I will upload a final edited version of this chapter at a later date but for now, I hope you enjoy!
Aria lingered silently in front of the elevator. Part of her wanted to rush downstairs to hug her siblings and let them know about her decision but the other part wanted to crawl back into the arms of her Archangel and cower in fright.
Aria had already made up her mind. She just needed more... time.
Gaia had made it seem so easy to take out the Snow Queen but Aria knew it was more than that. During the first year in the Cartel, Valkyries of all denominations were constantly reminded of their place: below the ranks of even the lowliest Angels. It was a daily mantra drilled into them to enforce obedience, loyalty and detachment from seeking anything more than monetary gain from their client Angels.
Immortality --was the root of all evil. Where wealth had the means to satisfy temporary hunger, the search for immortality was Man's folly; a mortal's quest since the day they lost it. The fountain of youth, the elixir of life and a great deal of other myths were created --legends amongst the mortals to sustain them through the first few centuries after the Fall of Gaia.
Such knowledge was perhaps best kept from the mortals; the closely guarded secrets of the Archangels, so vital it was defended by all angels.
Anarchy would ensue if the mortals knew that slaying and taking the wings of Angel could give them immortality. A feat that was easier said than done. How does one even kill an immortal?
Aria had a blade of grass and a ball of rock and well... herself. She could wield a sword but she doubted that a sword was going to be enough to take down an Archangel. What had the Lore said about Archangels? It wasn't exactly a 'How to kill an Archangel for Dummies' but it was a start.
If Zilarrezko had a copy --which she was sure he did --it would be in the library so that was where she went.
She wasn't procrastinating she told herself. She was researching. Never mind if she had to pore over all six volumes of the Lore to find her answers. There was still time.
Her only surprise was that this particular set was written in embossed Metal. Aria had never seen such a copy before and as she traced each bump on the page, she couldn't help but feel that they had been carefully written. The clean, cursive strokes showed excellent penmanship --a mark of a true scribe.
Though the content of the Lores were the same, every book had its own secret for the reader to unlock. It was an exercise of discovery; to find out which element it was composed of and how to reveal the contents on the seemingly blank parchments.
She had remembered her mother sprinkling salt all over their personal copy; revealing tiny watermarks that faded much too quickly. It was to train an absorbent mind, her mother had said; laughing as she watched her daughter dump the entire bowl of salt on the next page, hoping to keep the words visible long enough for her to read and remember.
Pushing the memories to the back of her mind, she began to look through the first volume, hoping to find something specific about the Archangels. There was still much that she didn't know about them --how were they chosen? How did they know if they have reached Cardinal status and how could an Archangel die?
Aria was about to close the particular volume she was holding when she spotted the heading: The First Archangels.
They were born six sisters in all but blood
Of rivaled beauty, power and pride.
Stella's midnight moonshine of quiet calm
Was greeted by Noor's gentle light breaking dawn,
'Till the noontide sun called forth Calida,
Her warm embrace buoyed Yukiko to play
Amidst the azured skies and roaring waves.
On sands with printless foot, watched Gaia;
Her steady, nurturing gaze over all
Quarries where Sona held fort over the mines.
The six reigned as Matriachs of Angels,
To, ensure eternal peace and concord.
They were the first Cardinal Archangels;
Each born to be the compass of their clans,
To make sacrifices and tough choices;
The pillars of strength in uncertain times.
But they were not perfect.
Like the four directions, an Archangel's
Position measures in relation to
Her Cardinals, Ordinals and Angels.
Acceptance of one's weakness is one's strength.
For amongst them, are those who See beyond
The Limits and understand the balance
Of an Elemental Equilibrium.
Aria frowned. Why did the Lore always speak in such riddles? The subjectivity of the sentences left so much to individual interpretations.
Closing the book, Aria leaned back and sighed. But something nagged at her. What did the Lore mean by limits? And how were they measured? Yuki, with her focus on purity --isolating that aspect within their element was certainly not 'Seeing' according to the Lore.
Contrary to Yuki's beliefs, the oceans were not under her absolute control. The sun constantly warmed the surface currents, its Light illuminating the upper shelves of the sea while Darkness reigned in its abyss. Closer to the Earth's core was the bubbling amalgamation of Fire and Metal --in the form of molten iron-- the source of gravity.
And yet for a Cardinal whose element covered three quarters of the world; sustaining countless lives and ecosystems --all she cared about was death.
And death --a mortal's nemesis --was applicable to immortals too.
Aria frowned and re-read the last two sentences on the page, trying to confirm her hunch. Immortals shouldn't be plagued by death and yet they could die as long as they were trapped within their limits. Then would the reverse be true? Could mortals who saw beyond these limits --whatever they might be --escape death?
Aria wasn't sure. The Lores were after all written during the reign of immortals, back when Gaia had her wings...
"Gaia! Oh my god!" she gasped. Gaia knew what those limits were! She had been mortal for millennia and still hadn't died.
Intending to resume reading later, Aria got up from her seat to search for Gaia. The Cardinal had given her a blade of grass for a reason. She knew something!
Not intending to waste time, Aria tried searching for Gaia on the guest floor but the Cardinal was nowhere to be found. Disappointed, Aria took the elevator to the first floor, hoping to find her there.
Instead, she spotted Lucian and her siblings. It wasn't difficult to spot the lavender winged Angel but it was the sight of her siblings laughing that made her stop to observe from afar. How long has it been since they had been in the company of other people? And when was the last time she saw the twins playing with other children or Angelo interacting with his peers?
Not since their parents died...
Then there was Kissa...experiencing her first crush --a wonderful time in a girl's life --and Aria wasn't going to take that away from her...
Her siblings were safe here.
"Cardinal?" Lucian had seen her. Aria tried to back away but he was faster. "Is there something wrong?"
"Lucian, you don't have to call me Cardinal... I'm just Aria."
Lucian's lips thinned into a straight line. "We need to talk. I... well; I think we'd better go to my floor. The children will be fine."
Aria hesitated, looking worriedly at her siblings.
"Angelo's been training with me. Trust me; that boy has a solid kick. But as always, I am prepared. I've given each of them a communicator bracelet. All they need is to press this distress button and I'll know."
Aria wanted to remind him that he was Zilarrezko's Ordinal and not hers but his initiative at adding an extra protection for her siblings made her shut her mouth --at least until they reached the elevator.
"Why are we going to your residence? Not afraid of getting your wings ripped off?"
"I like to live dangerously," he said with a wink. Aria managed to snort in amusement. Lucian's residence was on the ninety-fourth floor and as expected, it was a splash --of every color imaginable.
"You like? You could move in here you know instead of staying in the boring penthouse," he teased.
Aria tried to remain solemn but she couldn't help but smile. "You are such a flirt. Now out with the truth."
"So that's a no?" He made an exaggerated action of clutching his chest where his heart was.
He flashed her one last grin. "Okay, serious time." Getting to his knees, the Light Angel looked up; lavender irises devoid of playfulness. "Archangel Zilarrezko has relinquished his bond with me... I am no longer his Ordinal..."
Aria's response was to widen her eyes --shock and anger welling in those pools of black and blue. "This is a crucial time! He can't just... I'll go talk to him!"
"No! I mean... no, please wait." Aria narrowed her eyes at him. "I am now yours... your Ordinal... or at least I want to be."
"Oh Lucian..." Aria got down on her knees in front of him. "Don't do this... you're a gifted Angel. You should be with someone worthy of your services. I'm just a..."
"Cardinal," he interrupted. "I am loyal only to you and will do everything in my power to protect you and your siblings."
"Lucian... Is this what you really want? Or did he force this on you? Do you understand that I'm a mortal? I'm not even an Angel! I have no need for this hierarchy..."
"May I... speak freely?"
"Since when have you been restrained?" she arched an eyebrow at him. "Okay, speak."
His lips curled flirtatiously. "You may not notice it but your siblings have been your Ordinals ever since you became a Cardinal --which I'm not sure when. Think about it --an Ordinal cannot go against his Cardinal's direct orders and your siblings have stayed in their home regardless of what they feel because of this bond you have with them."
"Oh really? Then why did Angelo leave the house when I told him not to?"
"Ah, he's a pre-Cardinal isn't he? And I think Kissa is close to that too. So he bends the rules a little. It happens. I mean look at Marcus..." Lucian paused to roll his eyes. "Well let's not go there. He's much too goody to ever disobey his Cardinal."
Ignoring his chuckle, Aria frowned. "Wait... this Ordinal bond thing is not to the Archangel but to the Cardinal? That's... well I mean that's asking for mutiny."
"Well, you can say that. Except that not all Cardinals are Archangels --if they ever survive under the reign of the current one that is. Archangel Iluna and Yuki are known to slaughter their brethren Cardinals... although Archangel Iluna is more lenient in that she allows her pre-Cardinals to live."
"Oh god..." Aria covered her mouth with her hands. Yuki wasn't just coming to kill her but possible annihilate her entire family --the last descendents of the Water Angels...
"Cardinal?" Lucian looked up with worried eyes. "You shouldn't be afraid. I'm here... and Archangel Zilarrezko is too. He loves you, you know."
Aria's eyes flashed completely blue for a second before a warm blush crept up her cheek. Getting to her feet quickly, Aria looked down --trying to appear fearsome --and gave her first instructions. "Very well Lucian my Light Ordinal. Here are the rules. Firstly, I want you to be with my brothers and sisters at all times. They mean the world to me. I need to know that they will be safe."
"I understand Cardinal... but I would feel better if you'd let me protect you too. That is my duty."
"I thought you can't disobey me?"
"I didn't say I can't question you did I?"
Aria rolled her eyes. "Archangel Yuki's going to want to kill us all... and I can't keep an eye on the four of them at the same time."
"Oh..." Lucian wiggled his eyebrows at her. "You should have a time table with him you know so he won't keep you in bed all the time."
"Lucian!" Her effort to stare him down failed because he was grinning like an excited child. "Now second rule... I'm quite ambivalent on this one..."
"Am I too pretty for you? Some Cardinals don't like that."
Aria had to laugh. Lucian was just too adorable. "Well, you are a pretty Angel... but you'll darken with age won't you?"
He made a face at her; sticking his tongue out. His reaction should have made her laugh but instead Aria felt sad. "I probably won't get to see you when that happens... Valkyries don't live past a hundred fifty..."
"I'm sorry... We tried you know..."
"To get you your wings. Archangel Zilarrezko flew to Japan to ask Yuki for you."
"Yes, I know. It didn't turn out well."
"Actually... she came here to take a look at you."
"Wait... are you saying that Archangel Yuki actually came here to help me?"
"I wouldn't say she came to help...She likes to play games and she saw you as Archangel Zilarrezko's weakness and planned to exploit it. I think she would have given you wings eventually but something changed her mind..."
Aria sighed. "She has a low opinion of the Water variety, Lucian. She only allows Snow Angels in her clan... and I am not one of them."
"You created a storm inside the ICU... and you weren't even conscious of it. That speaks of an amazing amount of latent power."
Aria was stunned. "Are you sure?" Zilarrezko had said nothing about this incident! But then again... it shouldn't matter. She had been adamant about remaining a mortal then hadn't she?
"I wouldn't lie to you Cardinal."
Aria beamed at him. "You know Lucian... this thing we have is actually quite good. I mean, apart from the senseless flirting and teasing. I think we could actually be friends." She smiled, gesturing him to get to his feet. "And you know what else?"
"As pretty as those lavender lashes and wings are, I know you're a real warrior beneath the façade and so I trust you with my life..."
"As I trust you with mine."
"Can you please just call me Aria?"
Aria shook her head in amusement. All she needed to do now was to convince Zilarrezko to come to a compromise. But first, she needed to check something in the Lore... What kind of power does a Water Angel wield?
Aria continued to muse until her thoughts were interrupted by violent knocks on Lucian's front door.
Meanwhile, Zilarrezko was standing at the side entrance of his office with arms akimbo . Aria was right --it did look like a hurricane passed right through it. The mahogany desk definitely needed replacing, as well as the drapes, lamps, sofa...
"Hell," he muttered, kicking at some debris on the floor. He could still fix the metal window frames at least but what was the point when the window panes were still shattered? Unlike Marcus, he couldn't manipulate glass. In fact, Zilarrezko had a feeling that his Ordinal had a Human parent --which would explain his uncanny ability to combine Metal and Earth so easily. Marcus hardly spoke of them but Zilarrezko got the impression that the people who raised him found his ability repulsive.
But Zilarrezko hadn't. Instead he had raised Marcus to accept his unique gift. He was still thinking of the younger Angel as he walked over to his communication panel; grateful that it was spared from the destruction.
"Marcus, my office. Five minutes."
"Cardinal, we have a problem."
His first thoughts were of Aria and the children. "Is anyone hurt?"
"No but Archangel Iluna is here... and so are all her Ordinals."
Zilarrezko was about to tell him to bring her to his office when he changed his mind. One look at the state of his office and Iluna would know it was a domestic fight. And he had no doubt that she would use any form of weakness against him. He had no idea what she wanted but he wasn't going to be a rude host and invite her to his messy office.
"Bring her up to the library. I'll call Anthony."
"I suggest you inform Lucian too Cardinal."
"I'll see you Marcus." Then he disconnected the call and dialed for Anthony.
"Anthony, "Iluna is here. Tell Lucian."
"I'm on it." There was no need for explanation. Zilarrezko had faith in his former Ordinal. The Light Angel would no doubt be hurrying the children and Aria to a safe place; away from the prying eyes of Iluna and her consorts. Iluna must not know that Aria was no longer in her prison.
That didn't mean he was going to be civil. The Dark Angel had dared to injure his Aria and for that alone she didn't deserve to live.
Thankful that his injuries were fully healed, Zilarrezko donned his usual Metal armor and flexed his razor sharp wing blades; each feather flawlessly coated with platinum. Then he made his way to the library.
Meanwhile, Aria was exchanging glances with Lucian as the knocks got more persistent. Lucian grinned cheekily as he moved to open it. "I think I'm in trouble."
When the door swung open, Aria was expecting an enraged Archangel demanding to know why she was in the intimate zone of another. However the sight that greeted them surprised her for Anthony was poised in an intimidating fashion --with his fiery wings spread open --and yet his expression was worried and distracted. It was unlike him to express emotions so vividly.
"Lucian, get your Cardinal and her siblings to safety at once." As though expecting a protest from the Light Angel, he sent him a steely stare. "Iluna's here."
The playfulness on Lucian's face was erased instantly and his hand reached out to clasp Aria's wrist, tugging slightly to signal her to follow him. But Aria had other plans.
Pulling her hand away, she jogged after Anthony who was already walking in the opposite direction. Her intent was clear --but Lucian would have none of it.
"Cardinal! You must stay with me!"
"No Lucian. I have to go."
At the warning sound in his voice, Aria raised her head to meet Lucian's gaze.
"I command you to stay with my siblings, Ordinal. Right now."
She could tell that he was miffed that she was pulling rank on him for his lips were set in a grim line as he stormed away. That wasn't how Aria imagined her first command as a Cardinal would be like but she tucked the discomfort away.
From that moment on, Aria knew that she had finally accepted her authority as a Cardinal and she knew that more difficult decisions lay ahead of her --particularly the ones that concern wings and immortality.
"How lovely of you to finally join us Zilarrezko," chirped Iluna. She was clearly happy to be in his presence despite their unpleasant parting previously.
"What do you want?" His tone was crisp, not caring if it insulted her.
"You break my heart Zilarrezko," she pretended to pout. "Perhaps we could talk... in private?"
"Not even if it's about your precious Aria?"
The hair at the back of his nape stood up as a warning but he chose to ignore it. Turning to Marcus and the Dark Ordinals he ordered them to wait outside. He intended to give Iluna ten minutes and nothing more.
Once they were alone, Zilarrezko closed his wings around himself --a warning for her to stay in her spot.
"Zilarrezko..." A plea accompanied by the fluttering of long lashes.
"You have ten minutes. What about Aria?"
"She doesn't love you. I do."
His hands closed around her throat so fast, Iluna wasn't able to step aside in time. "I should have killed you when I had the chance."
She appeared unaffected by his threat. "Your inability to do so flatters me Zilarrezko... but perhaps..." Her fingers dipped to the chain between her breasts. "This should be evident enough."