As the longboat neared the ship, Lailah’s eyes scanned the ship suspiciously and focused on the black and red flag on the back. She quickly turned to Melisande, “Pirates? That’s who you’ve cast your lot with?”
Melisande looked Lailah in the eye as responded sternly, “They are finer people than any I have ever known. They brought me out here without being asked to, and without any thought of reward.”
The longboat bumped alongside the Black Vengeance as Baltazar guided it to the ladder. He called up to his ship, “Ahoy, Gilles!”
Gilles appeared on the side, “Captain, ye’ve returned and…”
He saw the angel in the boat and nearly fell overboard, “Blessed Mother of God…”
Melisande helped Lailah climb up the side. As she got on deck, Lailah turned to Gilles, “Not Mother, just a servant.”
The rest of the shore party climbed onboard as well. Every eye in the place focused on the angel. They were no strangers to the supernatural after meeting Melisande, but encountering a real flesh and blood angel was a little more than they expected. No matter which way Baltazar looked, he could see curious stares, “I understand this is new and unusual, but you all have work to do, so get to it. I promise that I’ll bring you up to speed later.”
The men quickly responded and returned to their duties. Melisande guided Lailah to the main cabin. Baltazar followed close behind while Papi went below decks.
Baltazar turned to Morgan, “Do the best you can to quell the men’s’ curiosity, and get the ship combat ready. I have a feeling we’re going to need it.”
Morgan saluted, “Aye sir… what should I tell them?”
“The truth.” Baltazar replied in nearly a whisper. “I’m not keeping this from them. They need to know what we’re dealing with.”
Morgan nodded in approval, “Very good, sir.”
Baltazar turned back and entered the cabin. Melisande and Lailah were behind a privacy blinder. When he realized what they were doing, he quickly turned his back and stood near the door.
Melisande peeked out over the top of the blinder, “Just a few more minutes.”
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Melisande and Lailah appeared from behind the blinder. Melisande had helped Lailah clean herself, put her into a white maid’s dress, and combed her hair. The angel was stunning now that she had been cleaned.
A knock came at the door and Papi entered the room carrying a tray, “I thought Lailah might appreciate some decent food.”
Lailah’s eyes lit up at the smell of actual cooked food. When the tray was placed in front of her, she quickly grabbed everything she could and stuffed her mouth. Within minutes, everything that was on the plate was gone with the exception of some of the fat from the salted pork.
Lailah licked her lips, cleaned her hands and looked up. Everyone was staring at her wide eyed. She lowered her eyes, “Forgive my lack of manners, but so many years of eating nothing but what I could forage for or catch left me famished. Too long have I dwelt in that dark cavern.”
Melisande nodded, “It’s okay, I’m just glad you’re doing better now.”
“Yes, thank you.” Lailah replied. “Now I expect you want me to tell you about your past?”
“More than anything.” Melisande insisted.
“Are you sure?” Lailah asked in a serious tone. “I will share with you what I know, but once you hear the truth, there is no way of going back. Once you know who and what you are, your destiny will be forever altered and your life will never be the same. Are you sure this is what you want?”
Melisande looked over at Baltazar as though asking his opinion. Baltazar smiled and nodded to her. She smiled and turned back to Lailah, “The abbey I lived at has been destroyed in an attack. All those people who helped raise me are dead.”
She pointed to Papi and Baltazar, “These two are all that remains of that time.”
Lailah’s eyes widened, “Mont Saint Michel was destroyed? Sister Mary… I can’t believe that…”
“Believe it,” Baltazar replied, “and we’ve been blamed for it. A French warship has been hunting us for over a week.”
“I see…” Lailah said sadly. “I can’t believe he’d be that brazen…”
“Who?” Melisande insisted. “Who would do something like that?”
Lailah hesitated for a moment, “The only being that could… it’s the same being who murdered your family… the same being who did this to me. The one that is many… Legion.”
Lailah showed them her torn and scarred wings, and the burns on her skin, “I was unable to stop him, and now he’s running rampant.”
“Lailah, please speak plainly.” Melisande pleaded. “I need to know!”
Lailah nodded and closed her eyes as though it were painful to remember, “Everything that is happening now, everything currently in play, is the direct result of the Celestial War.”
Baltazar’s eyes narrowed, “Celestial War… you mean a war in Heaven?”
“Exactly.” Lailah replied. “I was there… it was before humankind even walked the Earth. A young revolutionary known as Lucifer sought to free all of us angels from bondage. The lord Most High had spoken of creating a child race in his image. To that race he would give his love, his affection, and his unending forgiveness. Lucifer thought this to be unfair as angels were created first and had served for immeasureable ages, but we received no such care. We were servants and nothing more as far as he was concerned.”
“What happened,” Papi asked.
“Lucifer recruited one of our top strategists and soldiers… Xaphan.” She replied. “Together, with the legions of angels they managed to recruit, they attacked the Celestial Temple and almost completely destroyed it. The attack caused our forces to scatter. We were forced to pull angels back from other duties, including one that was to serve as a guiding light for damned souls. This young angel helped lead a mission that helped end the war after eons of fighting.”
Baltazar’s eyes were wide and he was having trouble believing what he was hearing. Lailah continued on with the story, “After Lucifer and Xaphan were captured, they were exiled… unfortunately something the Most High didn’t count on happened. They found Sheol…”
“What’s Sheol,” Baltazar asked.
Lailah turned to him, “Sheol is a place where the Most High imprisoned the darkest parts of his mind. Like humans, even he had anger and hatred, but he managed to cast them off… something that humans have never been able to do. Those parts formed their own personas over time… one especially wicked part became so powerful that it took over Sheol, that was Legion. He lay in wait to get back at his master for many years… then Lucifer arrived.”
Papi leaned forward attentively like a child listening to an interesting bed time story, “What did Lucifer do?”
“He ruined Sheol.” Lailah said through clenched teeth. “He perverted the land into a wicked place that attracted evil souls after they died. He turned it into his kingdom. Legion was nowhere near powerful enough to stop this perversion and hid in a dark corner of the underworld. He’s laid in wait for a very long time to strike. His mission above all else is to retake the underworld and lay waste to everything else.”
“But what does that have to do with me?” Melisande asked.
“I’m getting to that.” Lailah replied. “Ages passed and things settled down, or so we thought. The truth is that Lucifer was waiting for the opportunity to strike. No one knows how, but he was able to convince Michael, the Most High’s most trusted general, to join his cause. The young angel responsible for helping to end the war uncovered his plot, but was betrayed by Michael, stripped of her powers, and kicked out of the Celestial world. She was sent here to the mortal realm to die.”
“Who was this angel?” Melisande asked.
“Her name was Adaline,” Lailah replied, “and she is your ancestor.”
“How is that possible,” Melisande demanded.
Lailah struggled as she continued the story, “She was blinded and near death when another ancestor of yours, Giovanni Patrisi, found her and cared for her. Eventually, with Giovanni’s help, she was able to uncover Michael’s treason and defeat him, but the cost of victory proved very high.”
Lailah lowered her eyes, “Adaline was murdered and Giovanni was left in a deep state of depression. No one thought he would pull through. However, because of her heroics, the Most High restored her to life and transformed her into a seraph as a reward.”
Lailah smiled, “I’ll never forget her words… ‘The voice of the one I hold most dear cries out to me from beyond our realm…’ She rejected the Most High’s gift and asked instead to trade her wings for a mortal heart. It was… an unusual request to say the least. The Most High granted it, and sent her back to the Mortal Realm. She sought out Giovanni and they lived out a long life together, giving birth to two children, only one of which ever had another child.”
“Those people,” Lailah said as she looked up at Melisande, “are your ancestors. The angel that is reveered as a hero in the Celestial World looks exactly like you. You were named Aralyn Patrisi in her honor.”
“But I don’t understand,” Baltazar cut in, “if Adaline was transformed into a human, how is it that Melisa… I mean Aralyn… or… whatever, how is it she has these powers?”
Lailah shook her head, “That’s not easy to answer. Long after Adaline died, it was discovered that a fraction of her powers had not been removed. They were hidden deep within her soul and were passed on to her children. By the time it was recognized, it was too late to fix. Those powers lay dormant within the Patrisi bloodline for generations, but they needed someone with the right traits in order to access them. They continued to lay dormant, gaining strength for years. We informed the Patrisis and they agreed to allow us to be present for the births of their children.”
She looked Melisande in the eyes, “Then you were born… you have the right combination of your ancestor’s heredity, and you are the only daughter born to the Patrisis. Your are also the only one to bear the make of divinity.”
“My eyes…” Melisande replied, touching her cheek.
Lailah nodded, “Correct.”
“I… I…” Melisande stumbled over her words. “How is this possible? I am nobody…”
“You are the heir to Adaline’s blood line.” Lailah replied. “Like it or not, all of that power is within you and will soon come to light.”
“Is that why Legion wants her so bad?” Baltazar asked.
“It is.” Lailah replied. “Angels aren’t easily manipulated… but a human/angel hybrid… such a thing has never existed before. Aralyn basically has all the powers of an angel… if not more… but she also has the fallibility of a human. So now all three entities are vying to get to her. Our side, the Choirs of Angels wants to protect her, as well as the rest of the mortal world, Lucifer believes that he could manipulate her to defeat Legion and maintain his tenuous hold on the underworld, and Legion wants to steal her powers to gain more for himself and retake what he views as his while laying waste to all of existence…”
Melisande shook her head, “I don’t want this… I can’t deal with this…”
Lailah looked at her sympathetically, “I’m sorry, if I could take it away from you, I would, but that’s not possible. Like it or not, your destiny is yours. You must learn to accept it.”
“No,” she replied, “no, I have to get out of her.”
She jumped up and ran out of the cabin. Lailah stood up, “Aralyn!”
“Don’t call me that!” Melisande replied as she slammed the door behind her. “It’s not my name!”
Papi clasped his hands together, “Little Messy… All these years… I never knew… I cared for her like she was my own daughter.”
Baltazar placed a hand on his shoulder, “There was nothing you could have done to prevent this. It was not in your power.”
He turned and looked at Lailah, “I will talk to her.”
Lailah nodded, “I am sorry to place such a heavy burden on you.”
“Can’t be helped I guess,” Baltazar replied, “But there is one thing that I don’t understand.”
Lailah nodded, “Then ask.”
“Why were you in that cave? Why didn’t your people come for you?” Baltazar asked.
Lailah reached back and touched her wings, “My confrontation with Legion left me horribly scarred as you can see. I was forced to experience pure agony which damaged my mind. My wings were also badly damaged, making prolonged flight impossible. What’s more, an angel’s wings are where most of her power rests. Their removal would mean that she would become mortal… damaging them… “
She paused for a moment to collect her thoughts before continuing, “I… lost my connection to my Kingdom. Given how badly wounded I was, I hid myself from all eyes until I could find a safe haven. Unfortunately, by then, I had no way to contact my people.”
Baltazar nodded, “So you lived in solitude in that cave, hoping against hope that either Melisande or your own people would eventually find you?”
“Yes…” Lailah admitted. “Though I had already resigned myself to an eternity of madness by the time you came along.”
Baltazar lowered his eyes, “I am sorry for you…”
“Thank you,” Lailah replied, “but I don’t need your sympathy… someone else does.”
Baltazar looked at the door and nodded as he turned his attention to Melisande.
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