Stepping into Tymician’s private office, four computers replace the bookshelves along the walls. Where there were antique leather sofas and tables, there are tables full of papers, wires running along the floor and ducktape stretched out across it.
Elder Phil sits in the far back where Tymician used to be. He rests in the same chair, at the same desk, using the same pen. He cleans his glasses with a thin clothe he carries in the pocket of his shirt. He keeps his legs crossed, showing off his fresh leather boots with solid metal tips.
“You found the human well?”
I clear my throat, stuffing down any agitation. “Yes. Thank you for your help.”
“I would like to reiterate that it is unwise to dwell on this issue. There are certainly other matters that need your attention.”
My fingers curl. He wants me to forget that Veronica locked Molly up for the last two weeks. These Elders stick together like mean girls in high school.
Phil slips on his glasses and seizes a paper off his desk, holding it out to me.
“You asked me to keep a close eye on the New York Council. Forgive me, but I did not do what you asked. The New York Council is not the threat. It is Isis herself and thus I have been attempting to locate her out of sincerity for you.”
I point to the document, “What does Fort Dix have to do with anything?”
“It has become the new location for the Angel’s Army, apparently. I heard rumor she was the leader but now this is proof. She showed herself to the world earlier this morning.
“What do you mean, ‘showed herself?’”
He chuckles at my lack of intelligence. “She exposed her Light. For an Erelim, it is illegal for her to use her power unless she is in immediate danger. She nearly killed her entire platoon, wounded dozens, and destroyed two buildings and several aircraft carriers.”
“What?” I reach for a chair, “Why would she do that?”
“Erelims are difficult for even us to understand but as an Elder, to be hiding as we do, it gets challenging. After only a week of staying inside your home, how did it make you feel?”
“Imagine thousands of years. To be so powerful and yet to be completely helpless. Every action has to be mitigated and every step must be calculated. It would eventually wear you down. I find myself having pity.”
I spit, “Pity. Are you kidding me? That bitch is fucking nuts and this proves it. Is the Ruling going to do anything?”
“I believe she’s paying a fine. But she’s an Erelim. She’s allowed these little mishaps. She’s gone to Heaven to seek her forgiveness. It helps that the Supreme Chancellor loves her and makes excuses.” He rises from his desk and comes around to lean against the edge, “In the meantime, I think it’s a good idea to attack.”
My attention flies, “Huh?”
“Her clan is vulnerable. We have all the information on her security, on the layouts and positions of members. We have enough soldiers here to take out the Sofitel. Matthias was in Fort Dix. He was injured and currently rests in Heaven with the surplus of the wounded. They’re leaderless. It’s perfect.”
“What better way to gain attention from your clan than to overrun the NYC? You’ll gain a reputation in moments.”
I gawk at my feet.
He’s brought up all these valid points that make an attack seem viable and yet, all I can think of is ‘no’. I’m not a usurper. Tymician didn’t raise me to kick someone while they’re down. He’s never issued an attack on anyone. In the last sixteen hundred years that I’ve been with him, he’s, not once expanded. He’s had chances. There are always chances to gain territories. People screw up. They make the wrong choices. They say and do horrible things. That was the greatest thing about Tymician. He didn’t care. He was content with what he had.
I’m sure if it was the other way around, Isis would knock me down and pin me there with her foot but that’s her. That isn’t me.
I strengthen my resolve. “I said no.” Tossing the paper back to him, I gesture to the other documents on his desk. “Talk to me about the war. Has anyone reached out to us yet?”
He hesitates, tapping a finger on his arm. Phil shoves a single sheet forward. “A hundred and sixty seven houses wish to know what you plan to do about Lucius’ threat.”
“My plan?” I grasp the sheet. “I don’t have a plan.”
“Let’s not tell them that.”
“Anyone contact us yet?”
“If you are waiting for someone to tell you to prepare for war, I’m right here. War is imminent, Felix. What are you expecting? The news isn’t going to report this. It’s not going to be a city council meeting.”
I sit back and rub my scalp. It’s stupid but I’m waiting for someone from Hell or Heaven to tell me the time, date, and location of Lucius’ war. How can I prepare for something that has no arrival date? What if it’s a game? What if it’s fake?
“A member of the Merci contacted us this morning. I told them we would set up an appointment.”
Eagerness pours forth. “Now. Set it up now.”
“Sir, it is a pathetic and insulting gesture.” He senses my lack of understanding. “The Angels have their army. The humans have their prophets. We will have our own way to fight Lucius. Do you see? There is no partnership with Heaven and to attempt one, is based on your lack of experience.”
“That might not be true. What if they want to combine us? Angels and Fallen fighting together?”
“You may have a household free of prejudices but this world is not your home. Try to keep these childish views to yourself.”
“Eagle One.” A soldier comes through via com link.
Phil continues a hard glare while slamming a finger on the button. “Go ahead.”
“We have an issue here. I think you should come see it.”
“On my way.” He heaves up on his feet and I mimic. With a harsh voice, he inquires, “Where are you going?”
With a chest full of stubbornness, I reply, “It’s my home.”
The subtlety isn’t lost on him. I’m being dominant and displaying my right as king. By denying the destruction of Isis’ hotel, I’m putting a wrench into his private plans. He thinks I’m dumb because I’m young but I won’t be a puppet and led on strings. Tymician taught me well enough to never trust an Elder.
I’m thankful Phil is helping me but I will look over my shoulder every time he steps into the room.
Down the block from the house and at the stop sign, I spot the soldiers that called us out. They hold their guns up, concentrated on a single target with every muscle tight and ready to shoot.
I come to a sudden stop upon finding what has their attention. Her eyes fasten on me and I cannot help but notice the swelling bruise on her face. The young woman is Isis’ ward. She is frightened and nervous, shakes with her arms curled over her chest, flicking her brown eyes from me back to the armored men. Her feet shift in on each other, shy and cautious, shoving backward. She rubs her bangs from her forehead, baring her bright green nail polish. “Umm.” She murmurs on the edge of tears. “I’m sorry.” She spins around attempting to make a run for it.
The guards scream, “Don’t move, don’t move!” They holler. “Move and we shoot.”
Her body trembles, barely capable of standing.
I run, bellowing “Put your guns down! Guns down now!”
The fact that they look to Phil and wait for a signal before they do what I order tells me something I should have known already. Phil brings in more soldiers every day, surrounding me with an army that isn’t mine.
I stand in front of them, meeting their eyes. “You aren’t supposed to have guns. She’s a Newborn Angel, what the fuck is wrong with you!”
Phil attempts to calm my temper, “Felix, they’re doing their job. They have to protect you.”
“From her? Look at her.”
“Anyone can be a threat.”
“Good. Shoot now. Ask questions later. How very human. Thank you for showing me how your system works.”
Fear clenches in my chest. Will he kill me now, with every opportunity available to him? Or is he waiting for something? I search his face for any sign of rage or yearning but he is taciturn and simply orders his soldiers to move on. How can I fight a man who reveals nothing in his countenance?
“I’ll handle it.” I assure and he surrenders, leaving with his army.
I scratch my scalp as I turn to the girl. She trembles so terribly I feel as if she is going to fall to pieces at my feet. The left side of her face is massively swollen. Her eye barely opens. She attempts to keep it hidden with her hair but it’s an impossible feat. “Did they--?” I point to her face and she readily shakes her head.
“Good. I mean not good that you’re—but good that--” I sigh. “I’m Felix.”
I never thought I would see her again.
I look back to the house. I look up at the sun. I feel tongue-tied and stupid. “It’s a nice day. I haven’t really been outside in a while.” I lick my lips, “Would you like to walk with me?”
She studies me and I wonder what she sees. I hope I’m not intimidating. I should have put on a better shirt. I don’t have any hair to brush or facial hair to shave but I’ve been up for four nights straight. In this sunlight, my pale Irish skin looks like snow and my scalp is a dark orange. I look better in the dark. I should step over to the shade.
Tessa shifts, “I shouldn’t have come.”
“Why did you?” I quickly reword my stupidity. “I mean, you’re welcome here. I know it doesn’t seem like it but it’s a complicated issue right now. It’s dangerous for you to just walk in to my town. You don’t know what’s going--”
“You’re like her.” She scowls, tears rushing to her gaze. “I’m not stupid. I know what’s going on. You’re the new king of Kio. I know. We’re at war with each other. The Devil is coming to Earth trying to kill us all. I have eyes! I have ears!”
I put up my hands, “I’m sorry. I don’t know you. I’m just confused. Why did you come here?”
Defeat hangs her head. Tessa sniffs, rubbing the right side of her face, too afraid to touch her left.
“You should go back.”
“I don’t want to go back.”
I recall Phil’s report. Connecting her injury then isn’t so hard. “Isis did that, didn’t she?”
Tessa quickly comes to her defense, “She didn’t see me. She didn’t know I was there.”
“Oh bullshit. She’s an Erelim. She feels everything. My mentor was an Erelim. He could sense people up to a hundred miles away. She knew. She didn’t care.”
I clamp my lips shut as Tessa sits down on the curb, silently crying into her knees. I fling my hands in the air. I’m not very good with women. I tend to make them either very angry or very sad.
Tears are new to me, however. Fallen can’t cry and again I find myself thankful. Raising dozens of wards was hard enough without them breaking off into sobs.
I look back to the house. Meryl is really good at fixing my mistakes. She’s the mother, the loving aunt, the soother.
“Tessa. Why’d you come here?”
“Where else should I go?”
“You have friends. I’m sure you do.”
“Isis will find me. And I don’t want her too.”
It’s adorable, how childish she sounded. I guess no matter if you are a Fallen or an Angel, newborns are newborns. “You think you can stay here?” I question absurdly. “Do you know what I am?” I step out into the street, gaining her eyes. “Do you know what you are? You said you aren’t stupid so don’t act naïve.”
She sniffs, rubbing her nose. She’s cute, I have to admit. If she wasn’t a freaking Angel she might be attractive.
“I know something. But you have to promise to let me stay, if only for a few days until I can find someplace else.”
I’m slightly interested, bargaining with her. What could she possibly have that I need?
I flick a hand and she bursts out. “Kyla’s a hybrid.”
My body stills. Every thought in my mind comes to a halt. I don’t blink. I only manage to stare at her as she breathes in and out, sniffing, wiping away her tears.
I fall beside her, sitting very close, nearly too close, “Where did you hear that?”
Nervousness sets in and she leans back, curling in on herself. “I, uhh, watched Isis torture this man.”
“Who? Do you have a name? What did he look like? Does he have blond hair?” She nods and fear begins to escalate. “Does Isis have Kyla?”
“No. They got away.”
My hand covers my lips, “Thank God.”
“But Felix,” She murmurs, “She’s in danger. Isis is desperate to find her.”
Everyone is after Kyla. Isis, Dion, the Ruling, the Darkness; there is an endless torrent of forces compelled to chase her to the end of the world. For the last two weeks, I’ve simply watched these dominant forces fight each other in desperate, vain attempts, knocking each other down and crawling over bodies to reach her.
Alexander has fought them off. The formidable powers of the Gatekeepers and the Vetalas working hand and hand to help him succeed.
Yet in all this time, I’ve yet to figure out why.
“She wants to heal God.”
Is this the power of a hybrid? Is this why they all vehemently seek her?
Have they forgotten that Kyla is just a simple girl. Do they care that she has a bit of a temper or that she tends to overreact? Does it matter that she likes sweets and that she never eats anything good for her?
Perhaps not. Perhaps it only matters that she’s possibly the most powerful creature ever in creation.
“Come on. I’ll introduce you to everyone.”
“I can stay?”
“Let’s see if you want to after you meet my family.”