Lore of the Angels Ch. 08byAlecrire©
Once again, credit goes to Jason Moore for editing this piece. This is my favorite chapter so far and I hope you'll enjoy it!
Angelo was the perfect little soldier. He moved when the Cardinal moved and spoke only when spoken to. He might be smaller than the three Angels but he did not skulk or hide behind them. Instead he carried himself with chin held high and senses on alert as the four of them entered the gates of Cyrus's fort.
"Archangel Zilarrezko, we are honored to have you with us," greeted a stunning Fire Ordinal. "My name is Brenna. Please come with me." Her sharp brown eyes lingered over Anthony before they returned to Zilarrezko.
Anthony didn't miss the silent invitation in her eyes. Maybe if he was younger –like Marcus –he would have fallen for it. In fact, Marcus and Angelo who behind him were exchanging looks and he knew why. The Fire Ordinal moved with such seduction; velvet hugging tight over swaying hips. Brenna might look subdued for a Fire Angel but Anthony knew that heat simmered beneath her façade. Those smooth magenta feathered wings would burst into flames when need be.
"Here we are," she finally said, bowing slightly as she ushered the Archangel in. When it was Anthony's turn, she spread her wings out to block the door. "The mortal boy... has no business here." Her eyes stayed focus on Anthony's.
"He is with us."
"Archangel Cyrus does not entertain mortals."
Anthony kept his gaze on Brenna even as he spoke, "Marcus, leave the boy with me. Go inside."
A wing closed to allow Marcus to pass. A few seconds later, Zilarrezko himself came to settle the problem.
"Let them in," he ordered.
"I can't do that Cardinal. It is against the rules of the court."
"Then you should be reminded Brenna... that this court would not even exist without my mother." The words were delivered slowly but the reprimand was a sharp slap on her face.
Both wings retreated shut and she allowed them to pass. This time, Zilarrezko made sure the boy was walking directly behind him.
Cyrus was at the end of the hall, sitting on what looked like a throne. His red hair gleamed against the fiery arch of his wings; a small smile on his lips.
The two Archangels exchanged curt nods of acknowledgement. Then Cyrus turned to Anthony.
"Cyrus," replied Anthony.
The smile on Cyrus's face widened slightly. "Well now, have a seat please. I'm sure the journey here has been exhausting."
"I am sure you know why I'm here Cyrus," said Zilarrezko ignoring his comment.
Cyrus gave a lazy shrug. "Perhaps I do but why is he here?"
"He is mine."
He laid a hand on Angelo's hand as a warning –both to the boy to remain still and to Cyrus so as not to touch him.
"If you insist. I do not wish to be distracted by the matter at hand."
"Alas! My answer is no."
Zilarrezko stood up in protest. Was this how he planned to repay his mother's kindness? Towards the end of the Ice Age, she had conceded more and more European territory to Cyrus –allowing the Fire clan to establish themselves in the world once more. Archangel Sona did not believe in subjugating anybody. The Fire Angels deserved to live without fear or humiliation, she said.
His mother was wrong, obviously.
"Before you argue, let me present my defense," said Cyrus calmly. Zilarrezko narrowed his eyes but sat down once again. "As you know, Yuki's territory spreads all across Russia, right to the borders of Finland and Ukraine. Even Noor has the entire Middle East as a buffer –a region that is almost as big as my territory. Do you really expect me to put myself at the risk of an eastern attack?"
"And do you think she would spare you just because you choose to be a neutral party right now?"
"Of course not. Yuki does not think that way."
"And how does she think?"
Cyrus smiled at the mocking in Zilarrezko's voice. "You see, Yuki is very different from Iluna. If you had asked for my help then as you had asked Noor, I would have readily agreed. But Yuki... she has a mind and a heart as cold as her namesake. The moment she wins over your territory and your wings, she will consider herself indestructible. She will then want more."
Zilarrezko frowned. "So you're just waiting for me to die before you surrender?"
Anthony had to physically restrain his Archangel; sustaining deep cuts in the process for Zilarrezko had bared his sharp blade wings in anger.
"Please Zilarrezko, you are hurting him." His expression was one of smugness.
"I am not listening to another word from you!" he spat angrily.
"Your mother never said that to me," said Cyrus slyly.
"And you walked all over her. You mistook her kindness for weakness."
"Likewise in this situation. Surrendering only at the end is not a weakness Zilarrezko. It is the best protection I can give my people."
Zilarrezko was still standing but his wings were snapped shut. "I'm listening."
"My territory would be insignificant to her global conquest by then. Surrendering it freely would ensure no one is killed unnecessarily. A war requires sacrifices –something that I cannot afford. My Fire clan is the smallest and I do not keep a strong Valkyrie army. My region is one that produces culture; mortal pleasures if you'd like –music, wine, literature..."
The Metal Archangel knew Cyrus would not bend. When he remained silent, Cyrus continued, "I'm really sorry Zilarrezko... if there is anything else that I could provide for you, I would... but not war."
The room fell into a hush as the Cardinals stared at each other. No one dared to say a word much less breathe.
Finally, Cyrus blinked and looked away; his gaze resting on his brother.
"Do you understand Anthony?"
Anthony did not say anything, simply crossing his arms to show disapproval.
"Come on... surely you have something to say?"
Anthony looked over at his Cardinal who nodded his permission to speak.
"Cyrus... You are not one to be unselfish. You feel certain that Zilarrezko will not lose and end up eliminating Yuki as a threat. In other words, you need not participate but reap the rewards."
Cyrus clapped his hands once and tilted back his head to laugh. "Oh how I've missed your dry sense of humor brother. I have been waiting for you to return home for so long."
Anthony's face was expressionless. "This is not my home Cyrus. If it was, I'd fight to keep its freedom."
Cyrus sighed and shook his head. "Ah... always the gloomy one. Well then my dear guests, I hope you would spend the night here before your flight tomorrow. It's the least I can do."
Cyrus, as it turned out, only provided them three rooms. Anthony had volunteered to share his room either with Marcus or Angelo but his Cardinal had taken the child in himself.
"You're expecting female company and Marcus is too young to be left responsible with a child."
Anthony wanted to protest but Zilarrezko had already closed the door gently in his face. He knew exactly whom his Cardinal was referring to and was dreading his encounter with her.
Brenna was already leaning against his room door, waiting for him.
"You shouldn't be here."
Anthony gave her an apologetic look. "I can't give you what you want."
She pouted –soft plump lips that would have sent a younger Angel to his knees.
He tried to open his door but her hand gripped his arm firmly. "I've waited for you for centuries... but you never came home."
Anthony turned to look at Brenna kindly. "I've already built my home with someone else. Good night Brenna."
This time, she let him go –too shocked and disappointed to protest –and Anthony quickly locked the door behind him before sitting on the bed. He had no idea how or why he had uttered that last sentence but now that he had...
"I'll talk to her tomorrow," he groaned before falling backwards onto the soft bed, thinking of the soft white wings of his ebony skinned Light Angel back home.
Meanwhile, Zilarrezko was sitting on the sofa watching the boy battle with the remote control to the television. He had instructed the boy to relax before bedtime; their discussion could take place the next day after a good rest. As such, he had expected Angelo to take a bath or perhaps lie down but the boy immediately switched on the boxed appliance.
Though he kept up with technology, Zilarrezko never took a liking to moving people on screen... but he was born in a time when humans still drew on cave walls so he should be forgiven.
"What's that?" he asked curiously. Two overly muscled men were trying to wring each other's neck. That didn't look much like fighting at all.
Angelo looked at him with disbelief. "You mean you don't know?"
Zilarrezko blinked and straightened his back in silent protest. "Surely it is unbefitting for a Cardinal to watch such... mortal affairs."
Angelo made a face and turned back to the television set. Zilarrezko allowed himself to watch as John something tried to trash a Vince somebody with a chair –or was it a ladder?
He couldn't help but grunt in disapproval.
"You don't like it?" asked Angelo somewhat miffed. "He's the coolest wrestler ever! Come on Cardinal... see? John Cena's totally winning the bragging rights for this one!"
Zilarrezko got to his feet and walked over to the front of the television –wings spread out and hands crossed over his chest.
"That's enough television for you. Now off to bed." He switched if off only to receive a groan in response. This was like dragging Lucian away from theatres and silent films all over again. "Look, if you want to learn how to fight, then watching that... whatever that is will not help you. If you want, I will teach you myself."
The groans stopped immediately. "Like really, really you're going to teach me?"
"Yes, but another time. Get yourself washed up now."
Angelo moved without a moment of hesitation. It was then that Zilarrezko knew he made the right choice not to bunk the boy in with Marcus. God knows those two would spend the entire night watching television instead of sleeping.
From the corner of his eye, he saw a blonde head peeking out from the bathroom.
"Are you really going to teach me?"
He couldn't help smiling. "Yes. Now are you done in there?" Angelo nodded and stepped out; the aquamarine strands looking almost navy against his wet blonde hair.
"Do all your siblings have blue strands in their hair?"
Angelo stilled, glancing at the Archangel with fear in his eyes. "You... you know about us?"
"No I do not. I've only met Aria and you. It was just a logical assumption."
Angelo made a face. He didn't like the fact that he wasn't old enough to join the Valkyrie Cartel for Aria refused to make a second skin for him until he turned twenty-one. That meant everyone could see his true form and he hated it when everyone called him a pretty boy. Angelo was not pretty!
"Archangel... can we have that talk now?" he said, surprising Zilarrezko.
"It is getting late. I do have a long flight home tomorrow."
Angelo moved to the bed and sat down sadly. "You lied then."
It wasn't so much the accusation but the utter disappointment in his face that made Zilarrezko move to sit beside him. "How have I lied?"
"You said you were going to teach me... but you're going home and I know North America is not in Europe."
Understanding registered on his face. "Ah, I see. Well, I could bring you back to New York with me if you'd like."
A flash of excitement –then he slumped his shoulders. "I can't..."
Angelo looked up at him; the truth at the tip of his tongue but he chose silence. Archangel Zilarrezko seemed kind but Aria had always warned him never to trust those in power. He should listen to his sister right?
"You don't have to tell me the reason," said Zilarrezko gently. "Why don't you tell me instead about this meeting you wanted to have with Archangel Cyrus?"
"Oh... that." He looked down at his hands. "I wanted to ask him to make me a Valkyrie..."
Zilarrezko frowned. "Aren't you already one?"
"I'm a born... I mean I cannot be called a Valkyrie until I turn twenty-one."
"How old are you now?"
"And why is it you wish to be inducted earlier than the starting age?"
Angelo brought his legs close to his chest; chin resting on his knees. "I wanted to find Aria... but I don't have any... money or resources. Being a Valkyrie gives me access to those things." He paused and looked up at Zilarrezko. "She's never been missing for this long and I'm... scared."
Any other Archangel would have taken that admission as weakness but not Zilarrezko –especially not one from a child. Standing up, he gestured for Angelo to get on his feet as well.
"Throw me your best punch." It was a command. Angelo's eyes widened –first in surprise then excitement.
He gave his best shot... and landed on his ass within a blink of an eye. "Oww..."
They did it three more times and Angelo found himself kissing the floor every time.
"Get up." Zilarrezko watch the boy pulling himself to his feet. There was no humiliation or even fear in his eyes –just pure desire to learn. "Now, the first thing you need to remember is that a punch is not worth anything if your stance is wrong."
Angelo looked at his feet.
"Stay low, grounded and centered." Zilarrezko demonstrated. "Good, now punch."
This time it took slightly more than a few seconds before Angelo was thrown on the floor.
"Hey! That was great!"
Zilarrezko burst out laughing. The boy had spirit. "You have much to learn. Now watch me."
The Archangel demonstrated a series of punches and kicks to which Angelo tried his best to mimic perfectly.
"Tell me about yourself," said Zilarrezko as he watched the boy move.
"There's nothing much to know..."
"Well, besides wrestling, what else do you like?"
"Xbox? But I don't think you know that either right?"
Zilarrezko grinned. "What else?"
"Well... I don't get to do many things," he said sadly. Aria had told them to stay home so the only time outside had to be under the cloak of Illusion –which was not fun. "I have... three younger siblings to take care of..."
Something tugged at the Archangel's heart. "Are they safe?"
"For now... but I cannot leave them long. I have to return home tomorrow too."
"How... young are they?"
Angelo stopped his kicking and stood still. Aria might not like the Archangel but he did and Angelo was old enough to make his own decisions. "Kissa is one year younger than me then there are the twins, Troy and Leiha. They're nine."
"Will you bring me to them?"
"I can't Cardinal..."
Zilarrezko didn't want to push the boy but he didn't think it was safe for four minors to be left alone to fend for themselves.
"I'll take all of you home with me."
"You can't do that!" Angelo protested. "Aria will be worried if she comes home to an empty house!"
"Angelo," he said gently. "I need you to trust me... I will never hurt you or your siblings."
Angelo bit his lower lips. "Are you going to imprison us like my sister?"
Zilarrezko arched an eyebrow. Exactly what ills had she been saying about him?
"Let's put it this way. I'll give you three entire floors of my home to play around in. You can ask for anything you want and do whatever you like as long as you remain inside at all times. Is that better?"
Angelo pouted. "That's still a prison."
"You're a tough negotiator," he teased. "Well okay. Ten floors and you get to play with Angels. I know just the perfect friend for you."
The prospects of being in contact with others made him widen his eyes.
"Then you'll teach me how to fight?"
Zilarrezko smiled. "Yes. But for now... it's time for bed."
"Do you know where my sister is? Is she at your house too?"
Zilarrezko pulled the blanket to cover the boy's chest and smiled. "I'm sorry Angelo but I don't know where she is right now. But I'll find her so don't you worry okay?"
"Okay..." he yawned. "Good night..."
Zilarrezko kept watch until the boy had fallen asleep before moving to the sofa, intending to catch a few hours of sleep himself.
However, thoughts of Aria kept him awake. It had been more than eighteen hours since he set Julia and Lucian on a hunt for his Valkyrie and still there was no news. Knowing Julia, she would push Lucian and herself to complete the task with little rest until they'd covered the entire North American territory.
He should be there with them looking for her... and yet being this close to someone she loved made him feel like she was really here with him.
At least there was no jealous husband or lover to worry about. Zilarrezko didn't think he could survive the heartbreak of watching her be happy with someone else –not that he was sure she would be happy with him...
But she left him!
His gaze flickered over to Angelo's sleeping form. Yes, she had left him to return home to the children but why couldn't she have said something before leaving? Was she afraid he'd say no?
Zilarrezko rolled his eyes. Even he knew he was going to say no.
He let out a low groan of frustration. He had been a perfect Archangel before she waltzed into his life! Now he was a total wreck – Sending his Ordinals in all directions looking for a single woman while at least two Archangels mobilized against him, and he had essentially begged one of them to restore her wings. Oh, and she'd stopped him from neutralizing the other one, when he had her completely and utterly defeated.
She was his Achilles' heel and he was sure that the other Archangels would be aware of this by now.
With a sigh, he placed his hand under his head and stared up at the ceiling. Being the youngest element in existence, the Metal clan had the least number of Angels reaching even Ordinal levels, much less Cardinals. At the moment, Marcus was the only Ordinal. Zilarrezko knew that his clan would be easily wiped out should anything happen to either or them. Yuki might not extend the same mercy to his clan as she had to Cyrus and his Fire clan.
He needed to be focused; not consumed with emotions that were clearly too much for him to handle... and yet...
Archangel Sona had loved him... and she was the greatest Cardinal in history.
Closing his eyes, he tried to picture her golden eyes... but all he saw were those haunting depths of black and blue.
"Aria, wherever you are... I hope you know that I miss you," he whispered to the empty room.
Maybe, he thought... just maybe an, Archangel could love.
Zilarrezko was thinking of Aria that morning as the four of them made their way out of Cyrus's fort to Bayonne in the south of France. He knew Lucian and Julia were looking for her but deep inside he was hoping that she had really just made her way home where she was safely with her family.
But something gnawed at his gut telling him otherwise –which was why he felt it was necessary to move the children.
"Let me see how you cloak yourself in Illusion," he said, the moment they emerged from the dark cave linking the fort to the outside world.
"It's not very good yet," replied Angelo but Zilarrezko had caught the hint of pride in his voice. He watched as the boy began to fade –but not completely. Flickers of gold and blue would peek out now and then which meant that while Angelo had the potential to reach Cardinal, he wasn't there yet.
"Marcus, are you seeing this?"
Marcus nodded at his Archangel. The ability to wield Illusion was reserved for Cardinals only, although the pre-Cardinals were allowed to practice and experiment with their own strength.
"Okay Angelo, you will fly with me." The boy looked horrified. "Sorry, but you only have the three of us and I'm the only one who can completely cover you in Illusion."