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“We watch,” the Primary said. “We protect.”
But things were altering in front of them, a faint glow emanating from where the aeclari had been before the filaments obscured both Raphael’s body and Elena’s chrysalis.
Beyond the balcony doors now partially covered with the snow silk of the filaments, the Bluebell turned. His eyes widened at seeing the ocean of filaments, the glow. But before he could open the closed doors, a familiar voice entered all their minds.
Leave now. It was an order from an archangel. Clear the skies above. Empty the land around. GO.
The Legion were moving even as the last word echoed in their minds. They were Raphael’s Legion, Elena’s Legion, and they had been given an order. The Bluebell wasn’t Legion. He was one of the Seven. Unique. With his own mind.
Torment wrenched his features, but he inclined his head, and the Primary saw him form the word, “Sire.”
All of them moved.
The Bluebell dropped to the grass, then ran inside the house.
The Legion broke into four parts and swept the area. Winged beings were already flying toward the river at high speed, their faces stark and their jaws determined. The Legion dropped down in front of cars moving on the nearest road. The cars were not so close to the aeclari’s home, but the archangel hadn’t said how far to clear.
When the first two cars halted with a screech that caused a burning scent to rise to their nostrils, the Legion wrenched the doors open and hauled the startled vampires out. A group of the Legion rose into the air, two to a vampire. Another group found four humans in a third car, a vampire’s cattle heading home. The scared cattle whimpered at being taken by the Legion but didn’t struggle. Neither did the vampires after they saw the angels racing from the Enclave to the water.
Golden light poured out from the windows of the aeclari’s home.
Many of the angels streaming over the water held vampires or humans in their arms, getting their households out of danger. The Bluebell was one of the last to fly out of the Enclave, and though the Legion did not speak to many outside of the aeclari, they spoke to him: Are the aeclari’s people safe? This was important. The Legion knew. The aeclari had bonds to those who lived in the house.
Yes, I got them out. The Bluebell, who could fly faster than the Primary and sometimes raced with the cars of the Blade and the Viper, fell off the cliff with his wings licked by a golden light so bright that it was difficult to face. In one hand, he held a large rectangular thing, in his other items they recognized.
Several of the Legion flew to him, and took the things. They did not understand things, but these were linked to the aeclari in their mind. We will fly them to the Tower.
Most of the angels kept on flying toward Manhattan, and those of the Legion that carried vampires or mortals kept on going, too. But the Primary turned once he was over the center of the river, as did those of his brethren who flew only their own bodies.
The Bluebell halted in front of them, the silvery blue of his wings spread and his face awash in the burning golden light that had turned the river to gold.
And the light, it grew, and grew, and grew.
Until at last, the light was so bright that it became fire and even the Primary couldn’t bear it and threw up his arm in front of his eyes. The last thing he saw was an intense white brightness.
Raphael came awake with the side of his face on dirt so hot it glowed, his rest prematurely ended, and his new heart not yet ready. It had, he realized, broken under the weight of the violent energy release and exposed the small mortal heart within. That small heart had exploded from the pressure.
Fragments swam in his blood, weaving their way through his entire system. A system devoid of wildfire. Devoid, too, of the golden lightning. Uncaring of the loss and of the agony in his chest, he opened his eyes . . . and looked into those of liquid silver.
He held that molten gaze for an eternity.
She didn’t respond, the silver cloudy and hazy before she lowered her lashes again.
Dazed, he told himself, she was simply dazed and emerging from a long sleep. She had been wrenched too early out of the chrysalis that would consume her even as it remade her. It’d take her time to awaken fully.
The world glowed around them, golden fire crackling, a cocoon formed of pure energy.
He’d last seen her in a shared dream, as they fought the vicious strength of the Cascade to save her mind, her memories, her. In the end, this had been their only choice—for Raphael to release the raw violence of his power and hope it fatally disrupted the chrysalis process, tearing Elena from the grip of the Cascade’s machinations.
But though he’d punched his power into the earth, it swirled in the air around them, as if there’d been so much that even the earth couldn’t contain it.
Raphael cared nothing for that. His only focus was Elena.
The closed fan of her lashes threw shadows onto her skin, her lips soft, and he could almost believe she was simply resting beside him in their bed. But even in sleep, his Elena was never so motionless, never so serene.
A nightmare gnawed at him: that the worst had happened, that the chrysalis had succeeded in its purpose and created a being with Elena’s face, but without her soul, without her memories, without her laughter and her spirit.
His nails dug into the dirt, the grit hard and hot.
He forced himself to take in the rest of her. The chrysalis had been too small. He’d seen that for himself. It could not hold his hunter’s strong, lithe body, didn’t have space for the wings of the warrior who was his consort.
Cracked pieces of the chrysalis lay all around her. The inner surface of the broken pieces swirled with wildfire: white-gold with violent swirls of blue . . . and now, an opalescent shade that morphed from midnight to dawn then back again. Elena’s skin glowed brighter than the wildfire, as if she had a light within. The Cascade had tried to turn her into a repository of power, so that he would have a source of extra fuel when he went into the war on the horizon. It had tried to turn his Elena into nothing but a reservoir.
As if he would trade her for power.
As if he would be alive without her.
As if he wouldn’t give up eternity for her.
Raphael had stopped the horrific unwanted process. But to save his Elena’s soul, her memories, he’d had to do it while the chrysalis was too small. Her body hadn’t had time to grow. It was small, misshapen. She was badly hurt and he was responsible.
His hand fisted on the dirt, his eyes stinging.
He squeezed them shut and when he next opened them, his pupils had adjusted to the piercing golden light that drenched them. He saw his Elena again. Why were her knees . . .
Raphael sucked in a breath.
She was not misshapen, was not wounded in a way that would mean centuries of constant pain. She was whole. At some point, she’d managed to tuck her knees to her chest, curling her body around it. Like a child in the womb . . . but Elena was no child.
As he watched, she sighed and began to uncurl, a butterfly emerging from a too-small chrysalis. It seemed impossible even though he was watching it happen. And then he understood. Her body had made a trade.
Elena was whole—but at a price.
Her legs were long, the legs of his tall hunter who could haul him down for a kiss with a hand on his nape. Her arms were the right size to throw knives and shoot a crossbow and spar with him with skill and humor. Her face had begun to fill out, though her cheekbones still cut like glass against her skin.
Then came the price: she was far too thin from her shoulders down, her rib cage prominent and her collarbones jutting out. Thin didn’t do enough to describe it. She was emaciated, her bones held together by tendons and covered by a translucent layer of skin. That skin continued to glow softly from the inside out, making his tough-as-nails hunter seem some ethereal otherworldly creature dropped into the world before she was ready.
It’d infuriate her, but such a terribly fragile body—nothing but bone and tendon and a luminous inward light—could bend and curve and fit inside a too-small chrysalis without losing pieces of itself.
She had made the right trade because flesh could be nourished. Missing limbs might take an eon to regenerate for an immortal so very young . . . because the Elena in front of him was not mortal. Not with eyes of liquid silver.
Raphael didn’t care if she was mortal or immortal—whatever happened, they would go into it together. That was their promise. He worried about her physical body only to the extent that he couldn’t bear for her to be in pain. All he truly cared about was if she had come back to him; his Elena’s heart, his Elena’s soul, his Elena’s courage.
He’d given her a piece of his heart, but only so she could make it hers.
Never had Raphael been afraid except when it came to his warrior lover. He was an archangel. Beyond fear. But in that moment fear closed its cold hands around his throat. Breath tight in his lungs, he made himself take in the rest of her face. Short strands of near-white hair lying across her cheek. Fine bones under her translucent skin—but that skin was Elena’s dark gold. The glow hadn’t faded.
As if her blood was liquid gold and the light of it shone through.
She blinked, shook her head a tiny fraction. Around her fell the last pieces of the chrysalis as her legs unfurled to their full length. Her eyes opened again and when they met his, they were clear, a pure silver without the gray of humanity. That, however, could mean the worst had happened. That his Elena was immortal but lost to him forever, a container of energy without soul or self.
I would rather die as Elena than live as a shadow.
His hand flexed painfully then fisted again, dirt and grit crushing into his skin. He would do what he had promised. He would end her if she was no longer his Elena. He would not allow an empty shell, a corruption of life, to walk around with his consort’s face. He would not allow the Cascade to degrade his Elena. But first, he would know.
Every muscle in his body locked, he reached out with his mind. Elena-mine.
No response, no sense of a presence inside his head.
He clenched his jaw. It wasn’t over yet. Her ability to speak to him mind-to-mind had been stolen long before the chrysalis. What they’d done together, wrenching her out of the chrysalis, shattering it before it was done consuming her, that might’ve compounded the harm. The piece of his heart that he’d given her held incredible power, but her body might not have known how to utilize it to protect her mind against the forces tearing at it.
She’d been his Elena in the dream where they’d met before he released his power, but he had no idea how much time had passed in the dream. Had it taken him seconds to expend his power? Days? Months? What had happened to his consort’s mind and self during that time?
“Hbeebti.”His voice was raw. And his heart, it was in pieces inside him. A new heart would grow in its place, was already beginning—though it faltered and stuttered, slowed by his lack of power. “Elena.”
Nothing, no response.
He had no weapon, no energy to form angelfire, but he was an archangel. His base strength was enough to break her neck, tear her limb from limb.
Mouth opening in a yawn, she blinked again and gave a harder shake of her head, strands of her hair floating up into the golden energy, and her forehead lined in a frown. His pulse pounded, his regenerating heart sucking energy from his limbs—because arms and legs weren’t a priority when you had a heart to grow.
There wasn’t much that could kill an archangel. Burned to a cinder by an ordinary fire, they would wake—perhaps after years, but wake they would. Blown to pieces by anything but the powers of another archangel, they would eventually regenerate from a single piece and rise again. Only another archangel could kill an archangel.
Some laws of nature were fundamental. Even the Cascade could not alter them.
His growing heart continued to draw energy from other nonessential parts of his body.
Raphael might lose some flesh during the process, might even lose an arm or a leg, but it would not be anything in the scheme of his immortal life. Nothing akin to Elena’s fragility. His hunter, who had never been fragile, would swear a blue streak at becoming conscious of her current state.
He couldn’t wait to feel her ire, fight with her over her stubborn need to quickly regain her strength. She’d probably want to begin lifting weights before she could walk. He’d hand her the damn weights himself if she’d just talk to him, tell him they’d made it, that the Cascade hadn’t won this battle.
Around them the golden energy continued to glow and form small eddies in the air, tiny lightning flashes hidden within it.
He reached once again for her mind. Elena, do you hear me? His chest ached.
If she was gone, this was it for him. He had lived over a thousand five hundred years. It was enough. If Lijuan had risen monstrous while he and Elena slept, he’d do what he could to burn out that scourge because Elena would want him to do that, but he would not live thousands of years without her. He could not live another day without her. Warrior mine, he said with his mind, repeating the words aloud.
His body felt heavy, lethargic, but he lifted his hand to cradle her cheek. Gently, so gently. Her skin felt like the fine rice paper his mother had used to wrap homemade sweets for him when he was a child. It had torn so easily. He would not tear his Elena.
Warm, she was warm. But her eyes, they were closed again. Silver glowed against the diaphanous shell of her lids. Had the chrysalis consumed her from the outside in? Had he stopped the process in time? Or had he taken too long and she’d been consumed down to the merest speck, only to begin again, this time as an empty husk meant to hold energy?
If it was the latter, the woman he loved beyond life, beyond eternity was gone, their love story ended and his immortal existence with it. So be it. But he would know first. He would be certain.“Until you speak, I will wait.” He would know the instant she opened her mouth whether he held a creature of the Cascade or his Elena.
And if she never spoke? That would be an answer in itself.
His hunter was not a woman to hold her silence.
“In the end,” he said, “before I released the power in my body, I spoke to Cassandra. You and I, hbeebti, we changed the prophecy.” He wanted Elena to open her eyes and ask him if Her Evilness was finally going to die, wanted to hear her groan when he told her what Cassandra had said:
The future aligns. Paths are chosen. Death comes. Such death, child of flames.
Goddess of Nightmare.
Wraith without a shadow.
Rising into her Reign of Death.
Wings of silver. Wings of blue.
Mortal heart. Broken dreams.
Shatter. Shatter. Shatter.
A sundering. A grave.
I see the end. I see . . .
“Not exactly an improvement over the last one, Archangel.” That’s what Elena would say were she awake. “Lots of dark portents and shattering, and now there’s a grave, too? Great, just great.”
Had it been his and Elena’s grave that Cassandra had seen? For if death came, they would lie together in the earth. He would not permit a sundering—not in life and not in death. Whatever their future, they would walk into it together. Never divided. But if this wasn’t his hunter, she had already left him. He would have to follow. “Elena, wake for me,” he whispered on the stuttering beat of his broken heart.
A whisper of warm steel in his mind. Umm?A sleepy sound.
His tiny regenerating heart began to pound as loudly as if it was fully formed. Because that sleepy murmur, it had sounded like his Elena. The warm steel? That was her strength tempered with heart. “Guild Hunter?”
She yawned and shifted closer, until her breath kissed his skin. He ran his thumb over her cheek with immeasurable care, afraid to snag it and break the fragile surface. “Elena, wake up.” Please.
Raising a hand that was far too slender, her bones defined against her luminous skin, she rubbed at her face without dislodging his hand from her cheek. When she dropped her hand, she gave him a quizzical look. “Archangel, is your hair on fire?”
© Copyright 2019 by Nalini Singh
“ARCHANGEL’S WAR is one of the most riveting, heart-pounding, emotional reads of the Guild Hunter series so far.”
– Annetta @Fresh Fiction
“Archangel’s War is a tension-filled, intense read. You will cheer and you will cry and it will be everything you hoped it would be…I can’t wait to see what comes next.”
– Ebook Obsessed
“…Nalini Singh doesn’t disappoint and truly delivered a story of edgy suspense, all the feels that tugs at the heartstrings and a story you won’t ever regret picking up!! This author works her delicious magic in every way and its magnificent!!”
– Addicted to Romance
“Singh heightens the tension and the stakes of her Guild Hunter series even as she reintroduces a sprawling cast of friends and allies who are determined to keep each other safe and live their lives in peace. If only the world weren’t such a dangerous place. Singh’s worldbuilding and imagination never disappoint… Another riveting entry in the Guild Hunter series.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“Ms Singh delivers this much anticipated book in a way that will satisfy every reader’s desire including some they never imagined. It is not hyperbole to say that fans will be thrilled and beyond pleased with this very essential Guild Hunter’s book that is not be missed.”
– Outlander Book Club
For the Complete Chronological Reading Order, click here.
1. Angels’ Blood
2. Archangel’s Kiss
3. Archangel’s Consort
4. Archangel’s Blade
5. Archangel’s Storm
6. Archangel’s Legion
7. Archangel’s Shadows
8. Archangel’s Enigma
9. Archangel’s Heart
10. Archangel’s Viper
11. Archangel’s Prophecy
12. Archangel’s War
Guild Hunter Novellas
1. Angels’ Pawn (available as an e-book on its own, and as part of Angels’ Flight)
2. “Angels’ Judgment” in Angels’ Flight (originally part of the Must Love Hellhounds anthology)
3. “Angel’s Wolf” in Angels’ Flight (originally part of the Angels of Darkness anthology)
4. “Angels’ Dance” in Angels’ Flight
Book 12: the Guild Hunter series
Wings of silver. Wings of blue. Mortal heart. Broken dreams. Shatter. Shatter. Shatter. A sundering. A grave. I see the end. I see. . . .
The world is in chaos as the power surge of the Cascade rises to a devastating crescendo. In furiously resisting its attempts to turn Elena into a vessel for Raphael’s power, Elena and her archangel are irrevocably changed. . .far beyond the prophecy of a cursed Ancient.
At the same time, violent and eerie events around the world threaten to wipe out entire populations. And in the Archangel Lijuan’s former territory, an unnatural fog weaves through the land, leaving only a bone-chilling silence in its wake. Soon it becomes clear that even the archangels are not immune to this deadly evil. This time, even the combined power of the Cadre may not be enough. . . .
This war could end them all.