Home > Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(3)

Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(3)
Author: Nalini Singh

But she could be an asset here. “Montgomery!” she cried, running out of the library.

The butler ran out into the central core of the house just as she reached it. “Guild Hunter?” He was dressed in his usual impeccable black suit, but his eyes held the same disbelief that was ice in Elena’s blood.

“We need to set up an infirmary,” she said. “Raphael is closer to this side of the river and likely to bring the fallen here.” She looked around the central core—it was huge by any measure, but angelic wings took up space, and they had no way of knowing the number of injured about to come in. “We’ll start here, but we might also have to rig up something in the yard. It’ll have to be strong enough to block the birds.”

“I’ll get things under way.” The butler disappeared in a startling rush of speed that was a silent reminder that beneath his dignity and plummy British accent, Montgomery was deadlier than any vamp she’d ever hunted.

Her cell phone rang as she was about to make her way to the cliffs—if she could help haul the injured inside, then Raphael could focus on rescue. Glancing at the screen as she ran to the doors, she saw it was her best friend. “Sara?”

“Ellie, we have angels hitting the streets.” Stark shock, but below that was the steely strength that made Sara head of a guild formed of some of the most lethal men and women in the country. “Our people are rendering aid where they can, but I have reports of angels hanging broken off gargoyles on skyscrapers and stuck on church steeples.”

Elena blew out a shuddering breath at the horrendous images. “Call the Tower.” She rattled off a number that’d give Sara direct access to Aodhan. “If he’s out of action”—dear God—“someone else will be there to cover.”

Hanging up without further words, confident Sara would understand, Elena ran across a lawn scattered with bloodied birds, their eyes filmed over with the oblivion of death. However, the tiny corpses were far enough apart that it was clear both the house and the grounds were under the very edge of the affected zone. Fear a metallic taste on her tongue, she hoped the deaths had been caused by the impact, and not by the reason for the fall, because, unlike the birds, an angel could survive countless broken bones.

“I have him!” she called out to Raphael as he came in, an angel in his arms.

“He’s not breathing, his back is broken, and his heart has stopped.” Putting the lithely muscled angel on the clifftop, Raphael swept off, but his mind remained connected to her own. Tell Montgomery to take medical measures—the male is too young to survive otherwise.

I will. Hauling one of the angel’s thankfully unbroken arms over her shoulders—ignoring the conventional teachings about broken backs because this wasn’t a mortal—she gritted her teeth and got to her feet. The victim’s shattered body was soaked from his fall, his wings dead weight. It was as well that as a born hunter, she’d always been stronger than most humans. Her growing immortality had only cemented that strength.

Still, she was glad to see Montgomery race out to take the angel’s weight on the other side, neither one of them flinching as two birds hit their backs hard enough to bruise. “Medical measures,” she managed to get out as they traversed the distance to the house as fast as possible; she hadn’t known until now that there were any medical measures—at least of the ordinary kind—that could be applied to angels.

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.

“Sire.” Aodhan inclined his head, the rain clouds that had begun to creep across the sunset doing nothing to dull the glittering shine of his hair.

“The injured?” Raphael asked.

“We’re moving them all to dedicated floors inside the Tower. The transfer will be complete by midnight.”

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