Lore of the Angels Ch. 05byAlecrire©
Once again, this is an edited version. Credits go to Jason Moore for helping me make the chapter more pleasurable for all.
Noor was smiling. "You are so sure that she belongs to Yuki. Have you considered that she could be mine?"
Zilarrezko arched an eyebrow in interest. Yes, he had forgotten that blue is one of the colors of visible light. However, his instincts were never wrong. Aria is of the Water clan.
"When I look into her eyes, I see whirlpools, not Light."
"Julia tells me that Aria's eyes reminded her of the deepest part of the ocean... where light doesn't reach. I must say that such eyes do incur fear to those who look too deep in them."
"I do not feel fear when I see them," said Zilarrezko.
"Ah, in a mortal maybe but you said she is of Cardinal status."
He sighed. It was then that he realized how talking had relaxed him. Noor, in her wise and tricky ways managed to calm him down to think things rationally. So yes, how did he know Aria is of Cardinal status?
"She has an Archangel's ability of Illusion but it goes beyond just the cloak of invisibility."
Noor nodded. "Yes, Illusion can adapt and evolve... but surely she is too young to achieve such an advanced ability?"
"Has yours evolved?" Zilarrezko knew that out of all the Cardinals alive today, Noor is the oldest. Even Gaia is several centuries younger.
"Ah Zilarrezko... do you think I would share such intimate knowledge with you?" she asked.
Zilarrezko caught her eye and nodded. "My apologies. It will not happen again."
Noor started to rise and linked hands with Ehren. "We should probably make our way home now. When your Aria wakes up, it would be nice if you'd bring her to visit my lands some day."
"We'll see," said Zilarrezko. It was then the question struck him. "Noor, I have one last question. Can I, as an Archangel, restore Aria's wings for her?"
Once more, Noor was surprised. "Zilarrezko, you've asked me many intriguing questions tonight but the short answer to that is yes."
"Ah but there's a catch."
"Naturally," she said with a smile. "There can only be one Cardinal in every clan my dear. If you give Aria your wings then Yuki will declare war on her almost immediately to retain her Water Cardinal status."
"Wait... did you say give Aria my wings? Does that mean my Metal clans get reduced to mortals?"
Noor shook her head. "That can only happen when another Archangel slices off your wings. In this case, you are not her clan's Archangel. If you wish to restore her immortality, you have to give up yours."
Zilarrezko was stunned but he managed to reply, "I will consider it then Noor. I wish you a safe journey home... and my sincerest gratitude for everything..."
"Be well Zilarrezko... heal those wounds and we shall meet again."
The Ordinals were taking turns to keep Zilarrezko company in the Intensive Care Unit. It seems that Aria had survived the surgery but is still recovering. A few times, Zilarrezko had entered the ICU and was shocked at the sight of his beautiful Valkyrie bloated and scarred. But he didn't shy away from her and had sat by her side, holding her hand as he told her stories about his childhood. He wasn't sure if she could hear him but he didn't want her to feel alone in the quiet room.
It had been three days since her surgery but Aria still needed a ventilator to regulate her breathing. Meanwhile, Zilarrezko had already healed; his Metal wings glowing healthily under the light.
"Cardinal, please forgive me... but we have to change her dressings," said a nurse from the doorway.
Zilarrezko gave her a nod of acknowledgement and stepped out of the ICU. Marcus was standing guard outside it today.
"Cardinal," he greeted. "How is she?"
"Still the same," he sighed. "Marcus, we need to talk."
The Ordinal followed his Archangel in silence as they took the elevator up to the rooftop garden, which was empty at the moment.
"Give me your hand." Wordlessly, Marcus extended his palm to his Archangel.
Zilarrezko examined the bronzed skin of his Ordinal very carefully. "Turn it Metal," he ordered. Marcus complied. The soft bronzed skin turned into a hard armor of coppery-gold.
"Another," he ordered and Marcus complied once more. This time, the armor turned cinnabar. The Archangel was clearly impressed. "You've learnt to mix your Metals with Earth?"
Marcus lowered his head humbly at the praise. "I hope to achieve your mastery of the noble Metals some day Cardinal."
"I am sure you will. How far out are you from reaching pre-Cardinal?"
For the first time, Marcus looked up at his Archangel and frowned. "I don't understand the question Cardinal."
"You understand the question perfectly well Marcus. Just tell me the answer."
Marcus looked down once more. "Not too far..." he whispered. "I could only know for certain only if..."
"We duel," said Zilarrezko finishing Marcus's sentence.
"Please Cardinal, it is not my wish to challenge you at all!" Marcus looked horrified.
"I do not doubt that Marcus... but I am just preparing myself for the time to come."
Fear was now plastered all over his face. "What... what are you saying Cardinal?"
Zilarrezko turned his attention away from Marcus and stared out into the night sky. "Someday, you will achieve Cardinal status..."
"I would never usurp your position Cardinal! I am most loyal to you and have no desire for territory or power.
Zilarrezko frowned and looked back at his Ordinal. "Are you actually afraid that I'm going to kill you now Marcus?"
The Ordinal's head remained bowed before he whispered, "Forgive me Cardinal. My life is yours to use as your wish."
Letting out a soft sigh, Zilarrezko relaxed his stature and removed the sheen of platinum coating his wings. When he stretched them out, his feathers were simply a soft grey down; humble and unthreatening.
Marcus's eyes widened at his Archangel's purposeful display of weakness.
"At the base, we are just this," he pointed to himself. "Not as indestructible as we try to make others think. It is important that you remember that Marcus."
The feathers began to coat itself with the Metal sheen once more and Zilarrezko closed his wings tight behind his back. Marcus, it seemed, was not ready to take on his responsibility as an Archangel. Trading his wings for Aria's immortality seems like a distant option at the moment. It would take Marcus at least a few decades to reach pre-Cardinal. To force a succession on him would invite challenges in a heartbeat.
In fact, Iluna herself would take great pleasure in slicing his wings off within seconds of his Archangelship and reduce the Metal clan to mortal beings.
Aria would hate him if he did that.
"Come Marcus. You have my heart to guard."
The Ordinal looked relieved; the taut lines around his eyes relaxing. Yes, guarding what belonged to the Cardinal was his life's mission and he would do anything for him. Zilarrezko had taken him in after the death of his parents; raised him, groomed him and trained him to be the Ordinal that he was now. Even sacrificing his life for his Cardinal would not be enough to repay back the kindness he had given to him.
So Marcus kept watch outside the ICU as his Cardinal went back inside to tend to the mortal that has captured his heart.
Zilarrezko was rubbing her fingers gently. It was now almost a week since she's been in the ICU and still she hasn't come out from her coma. Julia had said that her body must be in complete shutdown in order for any amount of healing to happen. It is the same for Angels, she had said; except that their healing shutdown takes mere hours. It is Julia's turn today to accompany Zilarrezko. The hospital had become used to seeing their Archangel and his Ordinals by now but once in a while, the mortals would come to take a peek at them but were smart enough to only come when it was Lucian's or Julia's turn.
Lucian would clown around with the mortals regardless of gender but it was different for Julia. It was the men who'd usually come to look and she'd feel shy each time one of them gave her a smile. Despite the combined fleets Julia commanded and her vaunted Ordinal status, she was still unused to actual male attention for her affection. Lucian didn't count. He was always seeking attention for everyone's affection.
At that moment, the Archangel opened the door and her string of admirers immediately hid. However, they did not escape his notice for a wry smile tugged at his lips.
"Julia, would you come in for a minute?"
When he closed the door, he crossed his arms and frowned at her. "Before I set you out on your task, I have something to say."
"If you have no desire for those mortals stalking you then you'd better make a move on Anthony soon because he is completely taken by you. I don't want to be responsible for burnt bodies down the hallway."
"Cardinal!" her face burst out in scandalous horror. Zilarrezko couldn't help but laugh. Surely she couldn't be that blind to the Fire Angel's feelings!
"Now for your assignment. I need you to get my Lore of Angels in my office. Get all the volumes and pass it to Anthony when he comes in for the next shift."
She gave him a suspicious look but did not say anything. Instead she bowed and stepped out of the room.
It was many hours later when Anthony came to the ICU carrying a large bag. Whenever it was his turn to keep guard, the ICU ward was almost always empty. The nurses would scurry away and the patients would stay in their rooms.
Zilarrezko couldn't blame them. Anthony stares were the type you could feel through walls.
"Here are the volumes you requested Cardinal," he said as he entered the room. "Julia added some of her own in there because she says yours is incomplete."
The two Angels stared at each other.
"Say it." It was an order.
"Cardinal..." It was a groan. Anthony was a man of few words indeed.
"You see this woman here?" said the Archangel. "Do you know what it's like to not know if she's going to wake up, if she's ever going to say the words that I want to hear? It is the not knowing that keeps me here all the time."
"It is your right to know everything."
Zilarrezko turned to his Ordinal. Fearsome and lethal as he may be, Anthony showed no passion at all for anything --well except for Julia that is. Even that he keeps guarded deep inside him. The Fire Angels were often described as blazing furies or over-passionate lovers and aptly as well for that is what they truly are. Haven't the romance languages all flourished within the Archangel of Fire's territory? And Anthony could speak every one of them. Surely he would know how to court a lady. "You should tell her before it's too late. That's all I'm saying." Then he waved for Anthony to leave them.
Picking up the bag, Zilarrezko rummaged for the first volume of the Lore. This volume was extremely old, leather-bound and hand written --not in ink but using the element native to the scribe. Thus, if he or she was a Fire Angel, the volume would look like words have been scorched onto the paper; its edges smoldering. A similar style would occur amongst the Light scribes except that they had a habit of lasering right through the paper such that in order to read you either had to put the page up against the light or place a black cloth behind the page to read the words.
However, this first volume was written by his mother and she had dripped liquid Metal onto the page, creating embossed ridges of words on the papyrus. Zilarrezko traced his finger over them, remembering his mother's lovely smiles and songs.
He flipped through the volume looking for a description of the Water Angels but instead found a chapter on the Ice Age:
Fire and Light swept across the planet, leaving only destruction in its wake. Jealousy and arrogance transcend the bonds of friendship....
Did they not know that they are but one and the same? Fire gives off heat and light while Light in it's purest form --the Sun --can burn when its rays get too intense.
So Water was created to keep a tight reign on these two elements. Perhaps it was punishment or a lesson for the three elements but when Water was created, it was allowed to spread across the entire globe; flooding every nook and cranny until it crowded out Darkness, Light and Fire completely.
That kept peace on the planet for a while as all the elements were kept in balance. Yin and Yang. Only in this peace was Earth and Metal created to occupy a central location called Pangea.
The first four creations were excited for these new elements and waited to see what Earth and Metal could do. However the two elements were still young and did not know anything. So, for the first time since the first creations, the first four elements worked together to nourish Pangea.
Water helped to regulate the weather and temperature and provided support for the burgeoning life that was starting to bloom on Earth. Light provided warmth during the day and Fire continued during the night where Darkness reigned to provide comfort of sleep and rest.
The Pangean Peace as this period is often called was not to last. Unknown to the other elements, Fire had plans to dominate the rest. Deep within the Earth's crust, Fire bided its time, pouring itself into everything it touched. Earth melted and became lava, imbued with Fire's fury. Still the Fire grew, shattering the supercontinent of Pangea into smaller chunks, that it might snatch a portion for its own selfish ends.
Metals began to melt under the intense heat of Fire and begged Earth to help stop it but there was nothing that Earth could do for Fire was melting even the most inner rocks that held Earth together. So Earth, in desperation asked the other three elements for help but only Water answered
It rained on parts where Fire had devastated by volcanic eruptions and lowered the temperatures on other parts to keep volcanoes dormant. But most importantly, Water learned to evolve parts of itself to become Ice; a snub to Fire for it was a show that Water could create its own territory without the need for Earth. Pure Ice could cover an entire expanse of Water to create land.
Then the first true war started. Fire moved the tectonic plates beneath Earth and caused earthquakes and various craters and valleys. In retaliation, Water would cause tsunamis and hail storms to pour endlessly.
But things were to get even brutal when Light and Darkness finally joined in. Light allied with Water to create frightening thunderstorms and electrified the oceans. Then Darkness allied with Fire, shocking Water with the moon's ability to manipulate its tide and ocean currents.
Water would not be insulted and froze the entire body of ocean and rivers and lakes; sending the world into complete coldness. The world as we know then had entered the Ice Age.
The Ice Age lasted for close to a hundred thousand years and in this time, some of the Water Angels begun to evolve. Their blue-tipped wings gave way to completely white ones and their eyes no longer reflected the depths of the oceans but were hard shards of ice. These were the supreme Angels of the time but at least there were no more fighting.
Pangea was no longer the same for it was slowly breaking into continents, even under the watchful hold of Ice. The Ice Age may have been a period of frigid peace but it was nothing compared to the wars to come --a time that would throw the entire world into the Dark Ages.
Zilarrezko closed the volume. That would be all for now for his Valkyrie had started to stir.
"Aria?" he called out to her, caressing her hands gently with his fingers. "I'm here... can you hear me?"
She made a faint sound like a murmur then slowly moved her fingers. "Water..." she croaked.
"Water? You want water?" he asked, slowly getting to his feet. "Okay I'll get it for you. I'll be right back."
He didn't leave her of course but relayed the message to Anthony who fetched not just water --or ice cubes rather --but also the attending doctor.
"You were supposed to call me the moment she wakes up Cardinal," chided the attending.
"She just stirred less than two minutes ago!"
The doctor simply pursed her lips and began her methodical checks. She flashed her penlight and instructed Aria to follow it --to which she did successfully.
"Water..." she croaked again; her eyes going shut.
"Anthony, where's the damn water?"
"No... no water yet. She's still on the IV drip so she's hydrated. Use the ice on her lips. It'll help."
Zilarrezko wasted no time in taking the ice cubes from Anthony. "Will she be fully recovered now?" he asked.
"Her vitals are stable for now but she needs to be able to be conscious for more than ten minutes for me to be conclusive of anything."
"Thank you," said Anthony, trying to get the doctor out of harm's way. The Archangel's eyes had gone liquid silver and from experience, that meant that he was annoyed.
But the moment he turned to look at Aria, the silver vanished and in its place were soft grey eyes that greeted her.
"The doctor says you can't have water yet... so it's just this for now," he said apologetically as he rubbed the ice cube over her dried, pale lips.
"Yes Aria, I am trying to do my best here..." he pressed the ice cubes between her lips hoping it'd melt fast enough. Then turning his head he said, "Anthony would you mind?" Some heat to melt the ice would be good.
"You heard what the doctor said..."
"Are you defying me?"
"We do not know mortal medicine Cardinal."
Zilarrezko narrowed his eyes at his Ordinal then turned back to face Aria --except that her eyes were wide open and a violent maelstrom was brewing in them.
"Anthony... call the doctor now!"
Aria was seizing; a mortal condition that the Angels had never seen before. For the first time, Zilarrezko and Anthony actually stepped back in fear as a medical team started to administer drugs and stabilize her once more.
"What did you do?" asked the doctor accusingly.
"I gave her the ice cubes like you said!"
"Did you try to choke her with it?"
At that moment, Anthony quickly ushered the doctor away. There was enough chaos in the room as it is.
"She's fine now Cardinal. Your anger might frighten her." Anthony tried to appease his Archangel.
Immediately Zilarrezko relaxed --but not completely. He began to pace the floor in front of the bed, lost in his thoughts, murmuring to himself. Anthony did not interfere until the Archangel had stopped pacing to look at him with steely cold eyes. "I will send Lucian in a while. Stay with her at all times do you understand? I will be back in as soon as I can."
Anthony didn't have time to ask what his Cardinal was up to for the Archangel had already left the room. Not long after that, Lucian came in carrying obnoxiously colorful helium balloons.
"What?" was his first response to Anthony's stare. "Trust me; Aria likes to touch pretty things when she opens her eyes. I'd offer myself but I know you'll singe me."
Anthony didn't say anything and instead got up to resume his position outside the room, leaving Lucian to his antics.
The first thing she saw when she opened her eyes was a rainbow... or at least it looked like one. Blinking her eyelids a few times, Aria managed to open her eyes wider and saw that it was actually balloons --lots and lots of balloons --in every imaginable color.
"Where am I..." she tried to say but there was something obstructing her windpipe. Cringing, her hands absently began to pull at the tubes at her nostrils.