Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(5)

Written By: Nalini Singh



More of the household staff, and a number of unaffected angels from other parts of the Enclave, ran or flew past them as they took the injured angel in through doors that led directly into the central core. The space that a couple of minutes earlier had been all shining wooden floors, an elegant statuette set against the wall, was now a temporary hospital.

A young vampire Montgomery had taken on as his apprentice was throwing down large futons that must’ve come out of storage, and a slender angel—Sivya—who was normally in charge of the kitchens, was snapping open a large black leather bag that looked like an old-fashioned medical kit.

As soon as they laid the angel on a futon, Sivya stabbed a large-bore needle directly into his heart and depressed the plunger. Elena had a thousand questions, but now wasn’t the time to ask them, Montgomery beside her as they raced back out. When she saw wings of silver-blue rising into the air after dropping off a victim, she felt an intense sense of relief . . . mingled with horror as she realized exactly how many winged bodies floated in the murky waters of the Hudson.

Another bird hit her as they ran, the beak carving a line down her face, but she shook it off and kept going. On their second trip inside, she heard a cough, saw the first angel they’d rescued retching on his side. His left wing and legs were mangled—but at least he was alive.

Leaving their current charge in Sivya’s hands, she ran back out with Montgomery at her side. It felt like an eternity, but she would later find out the actual hell of what came to be known as the Falling lasted five short minutes. Then the birds stopped dropping from the skies . . . and so did the angels.

? ? ?


Four hours later and they finally had some real numbers. Eight hundred and eighty-seven angels had gone down over the city in that horrific period no one would ever forget. Eight hundred and two of the fallen had been part of the two-thousand-strong defensive force stationed at the Tower, the remaining eighty-five composed of nonwarrior angels, visitors to the city, and two couriers who’d had the bad luck to come in just as things went horribly wrong.

“All of the injured,” Aodhan told Raphael, as the three of them stood on the railingless balcony outside Raphael’s Tower office, the sky above painted in the fiery palette of an agonizingly stunning sunset, “have been retrieved.”

Raphael, his wings and clothes streaked with blood, glanced at the angel who was made of fractured pieces of light. Each strand of Aodhan’s hair appeared coated with crushed diamonds, his wings so brilliant as to hurt mortal eyes under sunlight, his irises shattered outward from the pupil in splinters of crystalline blue and green.

“You’re certain?”

“Yes. I’ve checked the fallen against the master list we keep of all angels stationed at the Tower or otherwise resident in the area.” Aodhan resettled his wings, light sparking off the faceted filaments of his feathers. “Illium has accounted for all visitors—and we’ve had no reports from the Guild’s network of informants about unrecovered angels.”

“How many did we lose?” Elena didn’t want to ask the question; her hands fisted in rejection. Angels might be immortal in the eyes of humans, but they could be killed . . . the younger they were, the easier they died. A destroyed heart, a broken spine paired with significant internal injuries, decapitation: none of that would kill Raphael, but inflict the same physical insult on a newly adult angel and the outcome would be lethal.

Raphael’s face was stripped of all emotion as he waited for Aodhan’s response.

“Five,” the angel answered. “It was the secondary trauma that caused the deaths, not the inciting incident.”

“Tell me,” Raphael ordered.

Aodhan’s voice was quiet, his words violent. “An impalement on a spire where the heart and spine were both destroyed almost simultaneously—”

“Who?”

“Stavre. He was on his first placement. A bare hundred and fifty.”

Jaw clenched against the injustice of it, Elena made herself listen as Aodhan completed the recitation, his tone without emotion, but she knew the words he spoke must cut like razors.

First, he named the fallen, then said, “Two died as a result of decapitation combined with major heart damage when they fell into traffic in front of vehicles that couldn’t stop in time; another was decapitated after she hit the sharp corner of a building, her body breaking into multiple pieces on impact with the street; and we lost the last when he fell into a rooftop exhaust system.” A pause. “The humans did all they could, but the velocity of his fall into the blades meant there was no hope of survival. His body was sliced into shreds.”

Five out of the nearly three thousand angels in and around the city at any one time. It didn’t sound so bad . . . until you realized that angels didn’t reproduce as humans did. Only a single, cherished child might be born in the space of a decade. A century might go by without any new births. The loss of five angels in the prime of their lives was an unspeakable tragedy.

“They must have an escort home.” At that moment, Raphael was very much the Archangel of New York, a leader icily furious at the loss of his people. “Contact Nimra,” he said, naming an angel Elena knew to be a power within the territory. “She will understand what must be done.”

And her presence, Elena realized, would be a sign of respect and honor from an archangel to his fallen soldiers.