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

Archangel's Legion (Guild Hunter #6)(5)
Author: Nalini Singh

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.”

Raphael, his wings glowing in a silent testament to his rage, continued to stare at a city that had gone eerily silent. No horns blew, no brakes screeched, no one fought, the events of this day so nightmarish as to erase the petty problems of life.

“Status?” he asked after several minutes.

“Three hundred and fourteen required emergency medical intervention as a result of life-threatening injuries,” Aodhan answered, “and will be down for months. The rest have broken bones, and most will need at least four weeks to recover.”

Despite explanations, Elena didn’t quite understand the drug used today, except that the closest human analog was epinephrine, though the two weren’t identical. According to Montgomery, the drug was a last-ditch option, because while it could kick-start the self-healing process in a badly injured angel—when that angel’s body might otherwise simply shut down—it had one very bad side effect: it extended the normal recovery time by months.

 

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