Lore of the Angels Ch. 09byAlecrire©
Credit goes to my editor Jason Moore for his invaluable help with editing and guiding me around the technical details in this chapter.
I had to work hard to perfect this chapter so my apologies for the delay. It's also slightly longer so that's an extra treat! Thank you to those who've commented and sent feedback to encourage me. I really appreciate it.
Zilarrezko would have ripped out Iluna's throat right that moment except his Valkyrie --no, Gaia called her an Ayn --was nestled comfortably in his arms and he wanted to get her home as quickly as he could.
Pressed against his body, her temperature slowly increased; the chills dissipating as she took in his warmth. She would have warmed up much faster in Anthony's arms --which thankfully were still intact because the Ordinal had not dared to make the suggestion.
She was starting to look alive, color slowly returning to her pale blue lips and cheeks. Although she took up most of his attention; the moving troops on the South American grounds did not escape his notice. It wasn't so much the mobilized forces that worried him but the trail of frost that accompanied them. Zilarrezko turned slightly to look at Marcus, making sure the Ordinal understood his silent instruction.
Marcus descended to the ground under the watchful gaze of his Archangel. Even though Marcus was still cloaked under his Illusion, Zilarrezko waited until he had successfully blended into the shadows. Only then did he lift his cover over his Ordinal and resumed flying.
Gaia had said Ice was moving across Earth but he hadn't thought she meant that literally because she had the tendency to be metaphorical at times. He was expecting a single naval assault from the East, not a second attack from below. Given the rate her Ice was spreading, it was clear Illuna was getting the worse deal. The two Archangels might have come to some sort of alliance but there was no question that Yuki Also saw it as an opportunity to garner more lands.
It made him wonder if she was also planning to attack from the West --across the Bering Straits. That would leave his territory completely surrounded. Zilarrezko was still thinking about the problem when they finally landed on the rooftop of the Obelisque. His two senior Ordinals were already at attention; waiting for his instructions. They too had seen the massive number of troops and blankets of Ice and knew that they had to begin preparations for an impending attack.
Turning to them, he let out a thoughtful sigh. "Iluna's going to expect another air strike so we don't have that element of surprise anymore... but with the encroaching Ice, it might be necessary to fire from above rather than across the Gap."
"Our Archers can be mobilized," said Anthony.
"Yes but the Light Angels will be needed on the ground. They are most effective against Iluna's own Dark troops. Plus Yuki's fleet will be coming from the east so we will need to reserve some of our air troops to combat their naval onslaught." The Archangel turned to Julia.
"Yes Cardinal," she replied.
"As for you, coordinate with Noor's second in command, Ehren, as to how many Valkyries and Angels she's prepared to assist us. We also have to expect a western attack from Alaska so some of the land troops have to be diverted there. If possible, I want those fleets taken out before they pass the Cape. We cannot afford to be spread too thin on all fronts."
"But Cardinal... that would mean we're initiating the war, not Yuki," said Anthony.
"You saw the blanket of ice spreading northwards didn't you? If we don't have the first strike, then we might not get a chance to strike at all."
The two Ordinals nodded although their eyes flashed with worry.
"We'll take this one step at a time. Marcus will return with more news for us so in the meantime; this is the best that we can do."
"Yes Cardinal," they replied in unison as Zilarrezko walked away.
It was only when their Archangel had disappeared behind the French doors did Julia speak.
"We're going to be overwhelmed. You know that right?"
Julia looked out into the darkening sky and sighed. "We're still recovering from the damages of the last war. It's only been a week since we've started manufacturing the various replacement parts and our current focus is restoring the E-3 Sentry. Without proper airborne warning and control, everything else is irrelevant."
Anthony moved beside her; his eyes watching the setting sun reflecting light on her wings.
"I take it that the meeting with Archangel Cyrus did not yield the intended result?"
Julia pursed her lips at his curt response. "Will you be flying to Cairo to meet Ehren?"
She cast a sideward glance at him. Must he always be so frustrating to talk to? Flipping her white hair back, she turned to say her parting words.
"I guess we should get on with our duties then. The faster we... Anthony!" His name was a muffled cry for his lips were suddenly crushed possessively over hers. This was a kiss from an Angel who knew what he wanted and had no qualms taking it.
In fact, his hands were already cradling her head; angling it up just the way he wanted it, and eliciting soft moans in her throat just the way he liked it. Julia dared herself to look into his eyes and saw the flames in his irises burning straight into hers --branding her as his own.
Hot... he was so hot...
Julia blinked and pulled back; aware that they were both blazing in their own element.
Lips still swollen, she looked up at him, knowing that if her skin was any fairer, he would probably see the ridiculous blush on her cheeks. When she moved away, he didn't stop her but Julia could see the embers still flickering in his eyes.
"I should go..." she whispered, not daring to say more. Spreading her wings, she leapt off the ledge of the roof and disappeared into the dusk.
Aria was lying on something soft --no, not hay but silk... lots of it and she was so warm and comfortable. Hearing whispers, she tried to open her eyes. Aria recognized those voices...
Her eyelids lifted slowly and she smiled at the sight of Leiha looking deep into her eyes. Aria must still be dreaming. She'd dream of the children all the time... and sometimes of him too --her Archangel.
"Want a sandwich?" asked her dream Leiha.
"Okay," she giggled, taking the very realistic looking bread into her mouth.
Flavor exploded her senses and she sat up in surprise.
Still chewing, she lifted her hand to touch Leiha's cheeks. "Oh my goodness!" Then she looked around and her eyes widened at the sight of her other siblings.
"She's awake!" screamed a very excited Leiha.
"Leiha get off the bed right now!" That was Kissa... the real one. Beside her stood Troy and Angelo and...
"You should finish that sandwich. I'll get more food for you," she heard him say as he moved to her bedside.
This was too surreal.
"Eat," he urged a soft command. Under the watchful gaze of her siblings, Aria obeyed. In fact she didn't think her brain could come up with any response at the moment because she was too stunned at the sight of those she loved.
She hadn't expected to live to see them.
This was real... which meant that she could slap away the hand examining her throat...
He ignored her feeble attempts and instead turned to call out to someone. The Dark burn was spreading where Iluna had choked her.
"Lucian, come here. See what you can do about this."
Aria smiled at the sight of her sugarplum Angel as he sat by her side.
"Don't move," he said sweetly, placing a palm over her throat. "I just hope this won't scar. You're too pretty to have one."
"She is isn't she?" Leiha was climbing on Lucian's lap to take a closer look. "Can you teach me to do that?" she asked eagerly, pointing to Lucian's hands.
"I'm afraid not little one. How about when you're older?"
"But I'm nine years old!" she protested. "Aria says I'm big enough to eat on my own... right Ahizpa?"
Aria could only murmur a response for her throat felt like it was burning.
"You'll grow faster if you stop eating that candy," teased Lucian.
"Really?" Leiha's eyes widened as she looked at the candy bar in her hand and then at the Archangel. Apparently she considered him the one with all the correct answers.
"Uh... yes," said Zilarrezko, picking her up and away from Lucian's concentration. "It also makes your teeth rotten."
"But yours isn't."
"Well... I don't eat candy."
"I'll take her," offered Kissa. "She gets quite hyper on sugar."
Zilarrezko smiled at the comment and passed the child to her sister. Turning to Lucian, he asked, "Can you remove it?"
"Just a bit more... there you go. Good as new," he said, smiling at Aria. Getting up, he turned to the children and said, "I'll be back. So keep your sister entertained and make sure she eats. She'll need it."
The two Angels walked out of the bedroom into the Archangel's office.
"I don't think Illuna was actually trying to poison her. Otherwise, we'd need a Dark Angel to reverse the process," said Lucian the moment they were alone.
"Thank you." Zilarrezko sat at the edge of his desk and studied the Ordinal before him. "Lucian... I thought about asking you to prepare the archers for the upcoming war but I think there is something more important for you to guard here."
The tone in his Archangel's voice made Lucian keep his gaze down. "I've disappointed you."
"The Cardinal is disappointed... but the Angel who raised you isn't. Look at me."
Lucian met the Cardinal's gaze.
"You will guard Aria and the children with your life do you understand me?"
Lucian's lavender lashes fluttered slightly. He knew what his Archangel was about to say...
"Lucian, from this moment on, Aria is your Cardinal and you will take orders only from her. If I or any other Angel try to hurt her, it is your duty to kill us. I expect nothing less from you."
"Cardinal!" Lucian was on his knees. "I'm sorry..."
"Don't be," said Zilarrezko gently. "You're an exceptional Ordinal and you will serve her well."
Lucian didn't answer him. To be suddenly severed from the bond with his Archangel hurt deeply.
"Lucian..." The Light Angel looked up at him. "This is a request, not a command. But could you get the children away for a few hours? I would like to spend some time with your Cardinal."
Lucian got up slowly and gave his final bow to Zilarrezko before he walked out.
When Zilarrezko walked into his bedroom a few minutes later, he saw that Aria was out of the bed and taking off... whatever it was that she was wearing.
"Trying to run away again?" he asked, leaning against the door frame.
"Not when you've kidnapped my family to use as leverage."
"I did no such thing!"
"So you say." Her eyes were narrowed and gleaming with challenge.
He didn't respond immediately but covered the distance between them in three steps; his body towering in front of hers. Leaning forward, he moved his lips to her ear.
"You," he murmured; lethal whispers sending shivers down her spine, "will not be so stubborn with me."
Aria stepped back, one eyebrow arched in defiance. "Or else?"
"Or else..." a gentle nip on her earlobe. "No cock for you."
Her nipples hardened at his words, betraying the protest she had in her eyes. "Oh really..."
"Of course." He pulled away; amusement dancing across his face. "Did you eat enough?"
Aria was taken a back at the sudden change of topic but she played along. "More than enough actually."
"Good. You'll need the energy for later."
She refused to ask him what was later. Instead, she continued peeling off her second skin and folded it neatly on a table. She knew he was watching her but she tried her best to ignore him.
"Where are you going?" he asked when she started to walk away. "You're naked."
"I would like a bath your Archangeliness."
He followed her into the bathroom and watched with interest as she went about preparing a bubble bath. This tub was much smaller compared to the one beside the swimming pool but he was sure it could accommodate both them; her on top of him.
He continued watching as she slipped into the warm water; relief and pleasure evident on her face. Her cheeks had regained its natural hint of red and she looked well rested and... happy.
Her eyes were still closed when she spoke, "Are you going to stand there and watch me?"
"Because I want to," he replied, watching a dimple forming at the side of her cheek as she smiled. "Can I ask a question?"
She was still smiling with her eyes closed when she murmured a yes.
"What's an Ayn?"
Aria didn't seemed as disturbed by the question as he thought she would be. Instead, she calmly replied, "It's one of the denominations of a Valkyrie."
"How come I've never heard of it?"
The dimple became more pronounced as though she was trying not to laugh. "Perhaps you haven't been reading your history books." When he didn't reply, she peeked open an eye and saw his annoyed face. Laughing, she leaned her head against the wall, eyes still closed and continued, "You have no use for Valkyries apart from the Warriors -- and even that you try to limit. I don't suppose you even know how many different denominations we have."
"Valkyries... are mortal," he said slowly. "As much as I can, I try not to involve them in immortal problems."
"You just don't trust them."
This time, he was the one who laughed. "Naturally. I have one in my bath tub right now and I can't even trust her to be alone."
"You just want to see me naked," she laughed.
He grunted as a response but didn't say anything else; simply watching her, then examining the layout of the bathroom.
"I'll probably have an additional sink installed and extend that closet to have yours built in soon. I don't think you'd like using my things all the time."
Aria who had her eyes closed in relaxation suddenly sat up in alarm. "What are you talking about?"
"It's not that I mind you using my things..."
Aria narrowed her eyes and hooked her finger in a come hither signal. When he was close enough, she cupped his chin and whispered. "What are you talking about?"
He smiled --those luscious lips curling invitingly. "I want to see you naked more often... So, stay here... with me."
She took her hand away immediately; flicking her gaze away. "You know this thing... this us; is not possible."
Zilarrezko didn't say anything and instead sat at the edge of the tub; one hand grabbing her jaw to force her to look at him. His eyes moved across her face like a searing torch, lingering over her lips before roaming further down to the curves hidden by the bubbles...
His hand jerked slightly and he snapped his eyes back to look at hers.
"Where's my necklace?" he demanded. He couldn't believe that he hadn't noticed it earlier. When Aria looked away, he knew.
"How could you..." There was no anger to his question which made it even worst. She would argue with him over it if he had sworn or cursed at her. But this... pain in his voice, in his eyes...
"I'm sorry," she whispered; her hand trying to hold his but he pulled away and walked out, leaving her alone in the bath tub.
For a moment, she simply stayed where she was. He had no idea what she'd gone through in that dark prison! She was holding on to her life as every hour passed by --and she knew she was going to die all alone in there with no one to hear her or even know she was alive.
He wasn't the one who had been threatened... he wasn't the one whose siblings' lives were on the line!
Aria curled her knees close to her chest and brought her head down as she wept.
Zilarrezko couldn't believe Aria had given his mother's precious feather to Iluna! How could she? Didn't she know how much he valued that feather? Didn't she understand that she was more than just a lover, a fling in his history? She had been the only one he'd given that feather to!
"Don't come near me." His voice was razor sharp; punctuated by the snap of his wings spreading out with lethal blades.
Aria tried not to let him see that she was intimidated. Instead she moved quietly towards him to gently press her naked, wet flesh on his back; arms clasping around his waist. He stilled, knowing that he could cut her with the slightest wing movement.
He wanted to remain angry at her but she was so lovingly --and nakedly --pressed on his bare back; face nuzzling against his sensitive wing arch.
"You play dirty Valkyrie," he said in a low warning tone. "Don't think I won't cut you."
She called his bluff straight away. "I dare you."
He crossed his arms over his chest in frustration as he was forced to remove the metal sheen over his feathers. He would rather kill himself than hurt her... although he was certain that someday her stubbornness would be the death of him.
He knew what she had said in the bathroom was true. This thing they had with each other was not possible... or at least according to the mortal laws of growing old and dying together.
Sighing to himself, he dropped his hands to close over hers. "Aria... I would make myself mortal for you if I could."
Her hands gripped him tighter. "Don't..."
"Don't what? Don't be a mortal for you?"
"Yes..." she whispered, letting him go slowly. She was looking down on the floor when he turned to face her. "I know sorry is not enough..."
"We'll get it back." Tilting her chin up, he pressed his lips over hers; parting them slowly as he drew her deeper... just enough to let her know he was hers.
Then he pulled away.
Aria blinked, expecting more but her Archangel simply stood looking down at her quietly. He was waiting for her; waiting for her permission. Moving forward, she wound one arm around his neck. "Thank you," she whispered, using the other hand to stroke his cheek lovingly. "And for bringing my siblings here... you don't know how much that means to me."
"Not for saving your life?" he asked; one eyebrow arched.
"Well, that too," she whispered shyly.
"I guess we're even then." He smiled; both hands on her waist pulling her hard against him --skin to skin as his armor melted away.
She stopped stroking him. "What?"
"You for giving away my feather and me for kidnapping your siblings."
"I thought you said you didn't kidnap them!" she hissed, slapping at his chest.
"No, I protested when you said I was using them as leverage. That's not the same thing."
She narrowed her eyes at him. "Do you always have a rebuttal at hand?"
"Always," he replied, nipping her lower lip playfully. "But I keep the best ones for you."
She didn't manage to say anything for his lips were already claiming hers --no soft gentle kisses this time but an audacious demand that made her shiver with anticipation. He pushed her back against the wall; a knee sliding in between her thighs, her hands pushed over her own head. Aria briefly felt something locking over her wrists and immediately frowned.
"Just for a while..." he murmured against her lips; hands fisting the black-blue hair as he rubbed his own naked body against hers. She gasped when she felt his erection pressing against her hip as he started kissing down her jaw line. "What are you thinking about?"
"I can't think right now," she managed to whisper for he chose that moment to begin kissing the column of her neck to the sensitive spot just behind her ear.
"Really?" she heard him tease; his tongue licking at her ear. "Not thinking of this?" He rubbed his cock against her hip, thick and hard.
"No..." she murmured defiantly. Aria refused to be overwhelmed by the sheer sensuality of this Angel --with his broad shoulders blocking everything in her direct line of sight, tempting her to spread her palms over that wide expanse of chest...