Lore of the Angels Ch. 07byAlecrire©
I'm extremely thankful to my editor, Jason Moore for his invaluable input –without which I wouldn't be a better writer. And thank you to my readers, for those who've commented and sent me feedback. I really appreciate them.
Aria had successfully made her way down to the main lobby and was already out of the building when she felt a pat on her shoulder.
Impossible! She was under Illusion; invisible!
She was about to turn around when she was suddenly plunged into complete darkness as though a blanket had been thrown over her eyes.
Aria might not be able to see but she could still hear and vaguely feel strong hands around her waist, carrying her –first on foot, and then on...
The flapping of strong powerful wings –not Metal –but something softer; wisps of silk in the air. Someone was carrying her and since her experience with flying had not always been pleasant; she kept completely still, afraid that her captor would dump her from a height if she so much as sneezed.
They flew in silence; the only sounds their slow breathing and her pounding heartbeat. She was pressed closed to his chest and yet all she could hear or feel was an endless void beneath the cool and smooth skin of her captor.
At least she knew it was a male angel –or she hoped it was. Not that she had anything against female angels but being pressed to another female's chest was not her desired mode of flight –especially one that seemed to take hours with no actual destination in sight.
It made matters worst that she couldn't tell which direction they were flying in for the Angel was straddling layers of atmosphere that was constantly cold and devoid of much oxygen. That much she could tell because she was having difficulty breathing –as though the Angel hovered between life and death –any higher, and she would suffocate.
It was official. Aria hated Angel flight.
All she wanted was to return home and that thought alone made her want to scream and jump off her captor's arms.
Not a good idea.
He seemed to sense her intentions for he gripped her even tighter, cloaking her in an even darker cloak of blindness –if that was even possible.
Aria was about to lose track of time when she finally felt him begin to descend... at a very controlled speed until he landed on a firm, flat surface.
"Where are we?" she asked, now that they were on land. Struggling against his grip she tried to escape but her captor's hands held her firmly for a few more seconds before he threw her down on the ground. Aria could smell the earth around her and feel the grainy soil beneath her palm. Where the hell was she?
"You will stay here until the Cardinal arrives." So he speaks! But the question begging to be answered...which Cardinal was he referring to?
Aria faintly heard him leaving but the Darkness was still obscuring her vision. Aria crawled to what she sensed was the corner of her... room? Cell? Torture chamber? Curling her knees up to her chest, she began to rock herself back and forth, hoping to calm herself down –for what it was worth.
"What's this?" asked Iluna when her Ordinal walked in carrying a roll of parchment.
"It's a letter Cardinal. A messenger Angel sent it not too long ago from Archangel Yuki."
Iluna did not say anything; her eyes wandering over the ghostly shape of her second in command. Andhera, a Dark Angel of pre-Cardinal level, had always been an excellent substitute for Iluna whenever she wished to have a body double.
Though Andhera's wings were stripes of black and white; her body and facial structure bore striking resemblance to Iluna herself; such that many have mistaken one for the other.
"Read it to me," said Iluna. That was what a body double was for right? Yuki was known to send poison in her letters, turning her enemies' blood into ice and essentially killing them from within. If anyone had to die, it shouldn't be Iluna.
"Yes Cardinal." Andhera began to read out the words on the parchment.
Iluna listened as she thought about how old-fashioned Yuki was; sending scrolls like this. What? Has Japan no internet?
"The Snow-Water Archangel of Asia extends her greetings to the lovely and fair Queen of Darkness, in hopes that she is willing to accept this offer of friendship and alliance. Terrible times are approaching –your northern threat should be annihilated as soon as possible. Let the world shudder once more at the might and strength of history's most fearsome Ice and Dark ages." Andhera paused to look up at her Cardinal.
Iluna was laughing and clapping her hands in glee. "Oh! What has brought that bitch to such desperation? Did Zilarrezko turn her down as well? Surely she didn't think she was ever good enough for him?"
"Shall I continue Cardinal?"
"Yes, yes please do. Ice and Dark ages? Please!"
Andhera nodded and continued to read, "It has come to my attention that the Archangel of North America is harboring a Cardinal leveled Water-Angel. My suspicions are that he plans to use her to annihilate both our clans and take our lands. We must not let this happen!"
Iluna raised her hand to stop Andhera from reading. "Did... did she say her? Who is this Water Angel?!" Iluna was on her feet; pacing about as she muttered curses. "Water Angels... Water Angels! There are no more Water Angels in this world! No... that Yuki is up to something... She's lying. She's lying isn't she Andhera?!"
Andhera raised her eyes humbly to meet Iluna's own gaze but did not say anything. It was not her place to tell her Cardinal what is true and what is not.
"Read on!" Iluna was hysterical now as she continued her pacing.
"If you accept this alliance, I urge you to prepare your troops and attack at the next full moon when your strength is doubled. I will send reinforcements south from Antarctica into Chile and Argentina to be at your disposal. My own troops will invade from Alaska and move south to the heart of Zilarrezko's territory. Do not take my warning lightly Iluna. If you are not with me, you are against me."
Andhera folded the parchment gently and looked up to her Cardinal.
"What! Is that it?" screamed Iluna. "Does she think me her toy?"
Andhera lowered herself to her knees. "If I may so speak Cardinal."
Iluna grunted in response.
"Asia is too big a land for us to go against successfully, Cardinal. After Archangel Cyrus, our territory is the smallest. If Archangel Yuki promises us a share of the North American territories, I advise you to accept her offer."
"But I hate her!"
"The enemy of my enemy is my friend Cardinal."
"She is no friend of mine Andhera and don't mistaken her gentleness for weakness. I'm telling you that she has more up her sleeve than she's willing to say right now. I have no doubt that she wouldn't hesitate to cut off my wings the instant I turn my back to her. Is that what you want?"
Andhera bowed low. "Then I shall take your place during this war."
This time Iluna laughed; hysteria echoing through her halls. "You may be enough to fool the Humans... but Yuki is a Cardinal. She can scent your deception from far and you won't last a second in her presence."
Turning to her other Ordinals, Iluna demanded, "What do the rest of you have to say?"
The other two Dark Ordinals got to their knees before speaking. "There are no more Water Angels in this world Cardinal. She may be using this as a trick to lure us into battle."
The other Ordinal concurred, "She might be planning to weaken us before turning against us when our defenses are down."
"Yes... you're right," said Iluna, suddenly enlightened. "That bitch! I'm going to slice her wings off myself when I see her!"
"What about the Water Angel Cardinal?" asked Andhera, interrupting her delight. "I do not think that Archangel Yuki is willing to fight Zilarrezko if she is not truly threatened."
Iluna slapped her Ordinal with a burst of Dark energy. "There are no Water Angels!"
That wasn't the reason and they both knew it. Andhera had made the mistake of addressing the Metal Archangel by name –a sin in Iluna's court –and thus the slap.
"Yes there is Cardinal. Forgive me for being late." This was said by Yuen; his wings arched out in wisps of smoke. "I have retrieved your Valkyrie for you."
"Oh good news at last!" said Iluna with a loud sigh. "Finally, something I can sink my hands into."
Yuen glided forward with the intention of stopping his Cardinal. "I'm afraid you mustn't do that Cardinal."
"How dare you! She is mine! I want to know why Zilarrezko took her from me!"
"She is the Water Angel Cardinal..."
"She is what?" Iluna's eyes widened for a moment. Then she laughed; clutching her stomach in pure comic relief. "Aria is a Valkyrie. She has no wings!"
"Archangel Zilarrezko flew to Japan for an audience with the Snow Queen. He wished her to restore the Valkyrie's wings Cardinal. I learnt this from the hospital staff who were there when the Valkyrie was nursed to health."
"How did you know where to find her?"
"I shadowed the Archangel's Ordinals. My instincts told me that if Aria was missing, it must be because the enemy had taken her."
Not a sound followed his last words. Iluna settled herself in her seat, speechless for the first time. The betrayal was simply too much for her.
Her Ordinals only dared to exchange looks but no words transpired between them. They were simply waiting...
"Leave me!" she finally screamed; Darkness swirling around her, threatening to drown the entire hall in its poison.
That was their cue. Andhera walked out followed by the other two, leaving Yuen alone in the hall. If anyone could soothe her, it was him.
"Iluna..." The Dark fumes thinned to reveal the ghostly figure of Yuen standing right in front of her. When she refused to calm down, he knelt before her and placed his palms over hers to stop the flow of Darkness out from her hands. "Stop this."
"I can't..." she uttered in a small voice.
"You can work this to your favor Iluna... don't make this about you."
Her eyes snapped up. "This is about me! How can you say that?"
"This is about us! About our clan! The Snow Queen wants Aria but now you have her. You can dictate the terms of this alliance. Do you understand?"
Yuen's words were like a sharp slap to her face. The Cardinal got to her knees and wept. "I just wanted him to want me... is that so hard?" The tears staining her cheeks fell like drops of ink out of the corner of her eyes.
Yuen let go of her hands and stepped back. As an Ordinal, he knew he had already crossed an invisible line. He wouldn't do it again.
Breaking apart the remnants of her Dark cloud, he bowed and whispered, "It is always hard when you can't have what you want." Then straightening his back he spoke out louder, "But you have what two great Cardinals want. Use that to your advantage."
Then he disappeared in a puff of smoke.
When Aria finally opened her eyes, she could see once more as though the blanket around her eyes had been lifted. Slowly blinking her eyes to adjust to the light, Aria noticed that she was in some sort of stable. There was straw and soil but no walls –unless you considered endless depths of darkness as walls.
It looked as though she could walk right into the void but Aria knew it wouldn't be that simple. She experimentally raised her hand, watching as it disappeared into the shadows but screamed out in pain as frost covered her fingers. The sensation burned right through her skin and seemed to numb her entire nervous system.
"I see you're awake."
Aria turned her head to see Archangel Iluna emerging from the darkness. She should have known.
"Was it absolutely necessary to kidnap me like this?" Aria tried not to chatter despite the freezing cold.
Iluna circled her, watching Aria like a vulture looking at carrion. "Has being with Zilarrezko made you forgotten your manners Valkyrie?"
The Archangel was simply looking at her but Aria felt the icy tendrils of fear and doom crawling up her back. It was as if Iluna herself was trailing her long bony fingers over Aria's skin.
Aria looked straight at the Archangel in front of her wondering for the first time if she was really facing death. Sure, she courted death for a living –seducing Zilarrezko was the epitome of that –but never had she felt such intense dread that Iluna was casting over her; draining every ounce of happiness out of her soul...
"It seems you are a very precious item right now". Aria snapped out of her daze. "Archangels are going to war for you."
"What?" Shock was written all over her face. "I... I don't understand."
"Don't play dumb with me Aria!"
Aria stared blankly at the Archangel. Just what in the world was she talking about? What war?
"I've told you that that was the last time Cardinal. I will not offer my services any longer."
Iluna picked Aria up by grabbing fistful of her blue-black hair. "If I needed services, I have four more to pick from don't I? Maybe I'll play with the eldest... what's his name? Right, Angelo. Such a pretty name for a pretty boy..."
Aria was suddenly overcome by an irrational fear that she kicked Iluna's shins causing the Archangel to let go of her.
"You bitch!" screamed Iluna. "I can kill you right now and no one will know! No one will care! You hear me?"
"Leave my siblings alone! What do you want from me?" Aria's scream bordered on hysteria. No one is going to touch her babies. No one!
"Give me Zilarrezko."
"He doesn't want you!" she spat angrily.
"And he wants you?" Iluna laughed. "Do not think for a minute that those... mortal pleasures mean anything Aria Ayn. "Did you expect to be the first mortal he's been with? Please. You're not the first and definitely not the last. What have you got to offer him? Nothing."
Aria kept her eyes on Iluna, not wanting to say anything or betray her emotions. Iluna was right of course but it still hurts to have the truth slapped on her face.
"Someday you're going to die Aria. Don't forget that. But that's not the worst part. You're going to beg to die before that. No Archangel is going to touch you or... want you when you're old and crinkled. He wouldn't even look at you. Heck! Even you won't look at you!"
Oh god that hurt...
Iluna was really taking away every hint of joy that Aria was holding on to... even if they were just illusions.
"Do you love him Cardinal?" she whispered sadly.
"Love? Does an Archangel know what love is? There is only lust, desire and power Aria. Love... is an unstable emotion."
"You love him."
"If you love him then why are you forcing him to do something he doesn't want? Why do you even want to be with someone who will never love you back?"
"I don't care! Give him to me Aria!"
Aria hung her head down sadly. "He is not mine to give away Cardinal... I do not own him."
Iluna's hands clamped brutally over Aria's throat, scalding the flesh with Dark poison. "I want you to tell him that. Tell him that he is not yours. He understands possession... no wait, we understand possession. So you will tell him Aria... or I will hunt those pretty little angels of yours... I know they've left their home in Egypt...where are they now? Oh yes... France."
Aria clutched the soil between her palms and squeezed it tight into a fist. How dare she! How dare she use her siblings in this stupid emotional war!
"Please... please just leave my siblings alone. This has nothing to do with them! I will stay here and do your bidding..."
"Maybe I should just kill you..." She pursed her lips to ponder. "No, that would make me the evil one. You need to be the one to break his heart."
Aria wanted to scream but Iluna's hand was wrapped mercilessly around her throat, choking her. She could feel the Cardinal's fingers tracing the line of her jaw and down her collar bone, leaving burns in its trail.
"A pity I'd have to scar you," she laughed, clearly enjoying maiming what belonged to Zilarrezko. "Don't think he'd even want... what's this?" she demanded, pulling at the feathered pendent. "Did he give this to you?"
Aria tried to answer but Iluna had tightened her grip; cutting off her air supply. Her eyes –complete orbs of black –stared down threateningly into hers. "This is now mine!"
Aria felt the necklace being forcefully tugged from her neck before she was pushed away, lying limp on the ground; chest heaving as her lungs took in the much needed oxygen.
Daring herself to look up, Aria saw Iluna examining the exquisite feather –the necklace now fastened around her own neck. As though sensing Aria's gaze, Iluna turned to flash those haunting eyes at her.
"Now, you can rot here for eternity."
Then she was gone.
Aria was crying now. There was no need to pretend or hide her emotions anymore for every bit of her soul was pouring out through her eyes –her fear for her siblings' lives, the loss of her precious necklace... and the heartbreak at knowing he would never ever know how she felt about him because she was going to die alone in this impossible prison with no way for escape.
No one was coming for her.
Laying her head against the ground, Aria cried until she exhausted herself enough to fall asleep; fists still grabbing the soil beneath her.
The moment he opened his eyes, he knew that she was gone. The bed felt cold and there was no imprint of her body on the mattress. That could only mean that she hadn't been sleeping on it for the past few hours
With a sad sigh, Zilarrezko sat up, stretching his wings open to welcome the morning breeze. It was slightly after dawn but the breeze felt extra chilly that morning. Taking a fresh towel, he wrapped it around his waist and walked out towards the balcony. "Did you have to leave so soon?" he whispered; looking up at the ominous rain clouds, feeling the sharp slap of the wind in his face. The last time this happened, she had returned to him the very next day but this time...
She had nothing to tie her down to New York.
That brought a scowl on his face. It just occurred to him that she might have a family of her own –someone to love... someone who loves her...
He was just an assignment she had to complete.
"Damn it!" He needed to punch something... or someone. Wondering if Anthony would be up for a sparring session, he headed back into the room to leave his Ordinal a message. In his current mood, Zilarrezko didn't feel like holding back his strength and Anthony was the only one who could take his punches –and most importantly, land one on him.
As he walked towards the room, he couldn't help but notice that her armor was laid nicely on top of the bag. If she was gone, surely she would have taken her belongings with her right?
The scowl was immediately replaced by worry. Did she leave on her own free will or did someone snatch her from right under his nose? Was that even possible?
Actually... it was. Zilarrezko had exhausted himself staying by Aria's side for an entire week at the hospital and then flying across the Pacific Ocean and right back again. Even Angels needed rest and he'd probably slept less than forty-eight hours in those seven days.
It must have completely knocked him out after their love making the previous night.
Even then, he would have heard her struggling or screaming at the very least. Zilarrezko didn't think he'd be that oblivious. He was an Archangel after all.
What if she meant to come back?
Zilarrezko felt a glimmer of hope but he didn't want to take his chance –not when it came to the most frustrating woman he had ever met... and cared for.
To hell with the husband or lover –she had no right to leave him without saying a word!
Storming to his office, his only thought was to get his Ordinals down right that instant to find her and bring her safely back to him. Not caring that it was almost six in the morning, he had given them a mere ten minutes to get to his office.