War And Peace
Help From Above
Iosefael hovered in the air high above the group of mortals. She stared down with piercing eyes, just as unblinking as Irulon’s. Both of them were focused on Izsha’s body. Or rather, both were focused on Izsha. Irulon couldn’t see souls and Alyssa doubted that Iosefael cared much about bodies.
She had not returned empty-handed. One of Iosefael’s hands was wrapped up in that golden glove that stretched halfway up her arm. Her other hand held a familiar staff. Adrael’s golden staff matched Iosefael’s armor well, but it clearly had not come away unscathed from being knocked away from Izsha. The ruby head of the staff had a long crack running through it. Gold around the opposite end of the staff had deep gouges lining the gold. Almost like a clawed hand had been trying to grasp it. Looking closer, the gold of Iosefael’s armor also had been scuffed up and… Was that blood drying on one of her boots?
Maybe being knocked away hadn’t harmed it at all.
The angel slowly drifted lower to the ground. Alyssa kept an eye on her, making sure that she wasn’t about to try to take Izsha’s soul. But, if anything, she almost appeared afraid of Izsha. Her movement carried her away from the draken until she settled to a stop near the ground just behind Alyssa.
“What did you do?” she hissed after a moment, still without blinking or looking away from the body.
“It wasn’t me this time. Irulon did it.”
Irulon turned her head, eyes flicking to Alyssa for just a moment before a look of understanding crossed her features. As she looked back to Izsha, she spoke. “An attempt at restoring soul-body resonance, Miss Angel. How does it look? I think it’s going quite well, but I suppose you would be an expert in these matters.”
“How does it look? How does it look?” Iosefael covered her mouth with her golden-gloved hand, rubbing at her cheeks before throwing the hand up in the air. “How… How did you do this?”
Alyssa looked back to Irulon, staring for a moment. But the princess made no sign that she was going to answer. She just stared at the now still but still breathing form of Izsha with her hands clasped behind her back.
It took an embarrassingly long moment to realize that Irulon wasn’t simply ignoring the angel. Irulon couldn’t see or hear anything the angel did.
“Just answer the question, Iosefael. How does it look? How is Izsha? Is it… right? Is the soul back to normal?”
“Normal? There’s nothing normal about any of this!” Iosefael tried to take a step closer, but Alyssa clapped a hand on her shoulder, stopping her. The angel finally took her eyes off Izsha to frown at Alyssa. “I’m not… I don’t even think I could take the soul right now. It’s not perfectly synchronized, but it is synchronized enough that, if I didn’t already know what happened, I would have thought that the relic was just having a bad day.”
“That’s… good. Right?”
“I don’t know! This has never happened before. Ever.” Her cross-shaped pupils flicked over to Irulon. “Well, except for that abomination. But that isn’t really that similar at all. Two souls occupying—”
“We’re aware of that problem. Focus on Izsha now, please.”
Iosefael fell silent, staring for a long moment. Again, she tried to get closer. This time, Alyssa allowed her to move forward a few steps, but she kept right up against her, ready to stop her if she tried to take the soul away. “The synchronization is off,” she said eventually. “Like a… Oh! You humans say that your hearts skipped a beat? It’s like that. Every other beat is in time, but the off beats are staggered erroneously.”
“Alright. How do we fix it?”
“I assume destroying the relic again is out of the question?”
Iosefael let out a short harrumph. “Then I don’t know. I don’t have any experience with this. Maybe it will fix itself. Maybe it will fall further out of sync until I can take the soul back like normal.”
“Some help you are,” Alyssa grumbled, rolling her eyes. Though, to be perfectly honest, she didn’t know what she had expected of Iosefael. It was apparently one thing to help by discussing the Astral Authority and miracles. It was another entirely when souls were concerned.
Irulon turned away from Izsha, looking to Alyssa. “What did she say?”
“The synchronization is off. It might fix itself. It might break itself again. Iosefael doesn’t know, nor does she have any suggestions.”
“Does she have a timeframe for either option?”
Not needing to translate from Irulon to Iosefael, Alyssa simply looked toward the angel.
Iosefael just shrugged.
“No. She’s worthless.”
“Well, I might be able to fix it,” Irulon said, looking back to Izsha. “But let’s wait and observe a bit before we do anything.”
Alyssa pressed her lips together, but nodded her head. Irulon was the expert, after all. Apparently even more so than Iosefael. “Can Izsha be moved? We’re still deep within enemy territory. Even if the demons and the Astral Authority are busy with each other, I’d rather not have a stray being get flung from the battle and find us out here.”
“Levitation shouldn’t hurt anything. Just don’t drop Izsha. That probably wouldn’t do the poor draken any favors.”
“Right.” Alyssa looked over to Iosefael and the staff in her hands. “And what about you? Are you going to follow us around like some kind of banshee?”
“There are other people dying. I had to collect a few before coming back here. I have to go collect others shortly. But I’ll probably be back. Something is still off about this soul. And if it does deteriorate, I would hate to not notice because of the strangeness of its situation, leaving it rotting inside the body.”
“If it comes to that, I’ll handle it.”
“Like you handled it last time?” Iosefael snapped. “Would you even notice if something went wrong?”
Alyssa opened her mouth to argue, but hesitated. She honestly wouldn’t notice if something went wrong. That was the whole reason she had asked Iosefael to look at Izsha just a moment ago despite knowing that the angel wanted to take the soul. Looking back to Izsha, Alyssa closed her eyes and just watched for a moment. Iosefael said that the synchronization was off. But, no matter how long she stared, she couldn’t figure out how the angel discovered that. Unless Iosefael was using some other sensory ability that Alyssa either couldn’t access or didn’t know she had, it might just be something innate to angels. Or it came from centuries of practice.
Either way, even if she figured out exactly what to look for regarding the synchronization, there could still be a plethora of things she might miss simply because she was not an angel nor experienced with souls.
When she opened her eyes again, Iosefael was gone. The only evidence of her presence were a few feathers drifting through the air. The staff was nowhere to be seen either. She must have taken it with her.
“She’s gone,” Alyssa said for the benefit of Irulon. “And had nothing useful to offer aside from what I already mentioned.”
“That could be helpful enough for our needs. But you were right earlier. We should leave as soon as possible. I’ll speak with my brother and let him know of the changed situation. Do you need additional Levitation spells?”
“No. I have enough for now.”
“Very well. Keep an eye on Izsha for a few moments,” Irulon said as she started walking off to where Brakkt, Fela, and the draken had set up watch.
Alyssa sighed as she looked down to Izsha. She should have felt some relief. Although the synchronization was skipping a beat, Izsha’s body and soul were in tune enough that Iosefael wasn’t going to try to ferry her off to the Throne. That was a victory all on its own. But Alyssa still had that gnawing feeling in the back of her mind where she worried over just what she was doing. Of whether the was destroying Izsha on a far deeper level than simple death. Then again, even with all she knew now, she still didn’t really know what happened to souls that the angels collected. The non-Tenebrael angels, anyway.
A hand dropped down on her shoulder. Looking back, Alyssa found Kasita offering a comforting smile. For a long moment, neither spoke. Kasita hadn’t said much of anything during the few hours it took to reach Irulon and Brakkt. She alternated between concerned looks, comforting smiles, and having her teeth grit as she stared at nothing at all.
“It’s my fault,” Kasita finally said, voice a mere whisper.
“What? No, if anything—”
“I should have stuck with Izsha instead of being blown away. Maybe I could have cast a spell. Projectile Reflection would have stopped all those flying chunks of earth and rock. Or maybe if I had been able to get those infected off our tail, we could have met up with you. Or if I had been stronger, I could have stopped you from falling in the first place.”
“Kasita… All those apply just as much to me as they do to you.”
“But I can’t control what you do. Only what I do.”
“That’s… true. In a technical sense. But we all could have done things differently that would have affected each other.” Alyssa just shook her head. “It will be fine,” she said, not quite believing her own words. “Izsha is… injured. Nothing more at this point. We’ve got to look on the bright side of things. We got in, accomplished what we came to do, and got out. It was for Tenebrael, but with the demons occupied with the Astral Authority, it should help everyone around the area too. Illuna hopefully won’t have to worry about infected wandering up to their town, killing people and livestock. Maybe the Astral Authority will even beat back that sense of foreboding. Or perhaps Tenebrael’s emblem will hang in the sky for a long time, keeping that feeling from coming back.”
“Oh I doubt that will be the case.”
Alyssa jumped, jerking slightly as she turned to find a certain monochrome angel standing near Izsha’s tail.
Gritting her teeth, she glared at the angel. “Do you have to always appear behind me?”
“I think you said something like that before.”
“And yet you’re still appearing behind me.”
Tenebrael shrugged, turning her gaze to Izsha’s body. “Sorry about your friend.”
“Is there anything you can do? Or anything you can tell me that Iosefael didn’t?”
“Well, no to the first question. The body is already healed. I can’t do anything about the soul unless the body dies, and you wouldn’t like what I would do if that were the case. As for Iosefael, I don’t know what she said, but the body and soul are not quite—”
“In sync, I know. The soul is skipping a beat, or something. Irulon thinks she can fix it, but…”
“Hmm. That girl is truly worthy of emulating my appearance,” Tenebrael said with a small smile.
“Can she actually do it?”
“If she got this far, I don’t see why not.”
“Any insight you can offer? Any tips to point her in the right direction?”
Tenebrael rubbed a finger across her chin as she turned to where Irulon and Brakkt were talking. With his armor on, Alyssa couldn’t see his expression. He had been… silent when Alyssa told him what had happened. Only after she finished had he offered a small nod, thanking her for trying her best. After that, his helmet turned to Irulon and hadn’t left until she said that she was going to look into it.
Now, Irulon gesticulated, waving her hand over and over again. Not in any particular direction, merely moving it as she spoke, perhaps waving her own way on to the next segment of the topic. She wasn’t smiling, but she was much more animated than earlier, maybe trying to be encouraging for her brother.
“Perhaps,” Tenebrael said slowly. “Perhaps there is something I can do. Nothing big, mind you. Don’t expect this to solve all your problems. She already knows a great deal about souls. Perhaps even more than any mortal that has ever existed. But it isn’t everything. I might be able to give her a little flash of Divine Inspiration. Just a little insight into the inner workings of a soul. That might help her out. It might do nothing. I’m really not sure.”
“You can do that?”
“Just who do you think I am?” Tenebrael said, affronted.
“I mean, you’re not going to get into more trouble if you start giving hints to mortals? Or your programming isn’t going to kick in and force you to say something wrong, if you say anything at all?”
“I have a feeling that there aren’t many more people that I could get into trouble with. The Astral Authority is already here.”
“Archangels won’t care?”
Tenebrael shrugged her shoulders. “I’m not too worried about them. Without being assigned to this world, they won’t care that much. Look at Kenziel. She showed up wanting to fix the place but switched her story to wanting to help me at the first sign of resistance.”
“What happens if a few dozen of them show up instead of one lone angel?”
“Then they will understand just what difference in power a Dominion can exert over that of an Archangel.”
Alyssa frowned. It wasn’t that she was trying to talk Tenebrael out of giving Irulon knowledge that might help. Rather, it sounded excellent. Almost too good to be true. Or maybe it was too good to be true and that was where her hesitation was coming from.
A horde of Archangels still didn’t sound like that great of a thing to show up. Considering how long Adrael had operated without even being known about and then how little Tenebrael had done after that point, Alyssa didn’t like the odds of her succeeding against several of them. Besides that, they still had the Astral Authority to worry about. They might be occupied with the demons now, but if Tenebrael started throwing around magic with her name on it, some of them would surely come to take her out.
“And your programming?”
“Will have to be worked around. Already I can feel the mental blocks trying to stop me. But I can see a way. Tell Irulon to pay attention to her dreams tonight.”
“Really?” Alyssa said, giving the angel a flat stare. “Dream inspiration? Isn’t that a bit cliche? Can’t you just tell me and I’ll tell her? Or better yet, just write it all down in a nice easy-to-read tome so that things don’t get lost and forgotten with sleep haze.”
“It’s the easiest way, I think. I can’t tell you. I just tried, but I can’t even imagine myself saying words when I do. Writing it down would be similar. But a dream is a small bit different. Many revelations come through in dreams, partially because elements will be forgotten or changed upon awaking.”
“I hate angels.”
“What about the Astral Authority?”
Tenebrael smiled, looking far more relaxed as she placed a hand on Alyssa’s shoulder. “You did well. Just leave everything else to me.”
Alyssa let out a small sigh, glad she didn’t have to do anything more on that front. She had, over the last few weeks, had enough of those things chasing her down every time they spotted her. Though that did raise a question. “Is it safe to use our connection to manifest miracles? Is the Astral Authority sufficiently distracted?”
“I suppose that depends.”
“Would they come after me if I made just a little temporary portal to Illuna?”
“Possibly. If you got away from the portal fast enough, it might be safe enough. I imagine they are in a bit of disarray so soon after discovering the pit, so it might be that no one at all will show up.”
“That would be nice.”
“I would avoid relying on it too much in the coming weeks, however. Only during emergencies and only when you can escape their pursuit easily.”
“So nothing has changed then.”
“Perhaps on your end, but I am now free to begin removing the Astral Authority from my world on a more permanent basis. Something I’m off to do right now.” Taking her hand off Alyssa’s shoulder, she took two steps back, waving all the while.
“Wait. Can you make the portal?”
Tenebrael tilted her head to one side. “You’ve created a few just fine on your own.”
“Yeah, but I would prefer to be absolutely certain that nothing will go wrong. Not with Izsha like this.”
Besides that, Alyssa thought to herself, maybe the Astral Authority will chase you around instead if they do take notice. Skipping out on that headache would make just about any compromise worth it.
“I would like to do something to thank you for accomplishing my mission, but I am not sure I can manifest such a miracle without proper authorization. Soon. Soon I should be able to ignore many instances of such irritation, but not yet. Is there anything else you would like to ask of me?”
Yes, Alyssa almost said. She was sure that she had other things to talk about. But with most of her mind concerned over Izsha and the rest drained from the adventure, she was drawing a blank. So, after a moment of silence, she simply shook her head. “I suppose all I’d like is for you to answer the phone once in a while.”
“Believe it or not, but that requires quite an expenditure of my power. Enough that the Astral Authority would likely come knocking on both our doors. After they are gone, I promise.”
“I see. In that case, I don’t think I have anything immediately pressing. Just get your information to Irulon, I suppose.”
“Can do. I’ll check in soon. I’d like to know what Irulon does with the information I’m lending her. I’ll prepare it and then begin my operation against the Astral Authority. And any other divine elements that feel like challenging me. Ta-ta for now.”
In a burst of black feathers, Tenebrael vanished. Sighing, Alyssa turned to look at Kasita. The mimic hadn’t said anything during the entire exchange. She usually didn’t when Tenebrael was around, so it wasn’t that much of a surprise. Still, it would be nice for someone, not just Kasita, to be able to turn one-on-one conversations into more of a group discussion. Irulon could do that to an extent. And if she had pulled out her phone, anyone could have seen Tenebrael though the camera, though not with audio.
“I have to make a portal,” Alyssa said after a moment of silence. “Could you let Irulon know that she should be expecting Tenebrael to show up in her dreams tonight?”
“Ufu~ What an honor. She’ll be thrilled.”