There was a loud splash and suddenly the world came back into view. Their boat was only a few feet away from the entrance to the cave. Papi and Baltazar rowed the boat back out into open water. Where, to their misfortune, the galleass was waiting.
The Le Terrible’s captain had apparently seen them go into the cave and hidden his ship off to the side in an effort to ambush them when they returned. Baltazar could see a group of men tied up on the deck. He also saw Jaspart standing next to the captain with a malicious grin. It looked like they were the only survivors from the Black Vengeance.
The guns on the Le Terrible let loose a horrible barrage. Large plumes of water formed around the boat as the shots got closer and closer. One hit from their cannons would destroy the boat and kill everyone onboard.
Baltazar turned to Papi, “Come on, get us back into the cave!”
Papi nodded as they rowed. They got within a twenty feet of the cave when a cannonball hit the rocky cliff over them. Rubble poured down next to their boat as they tried to avoid getting hit. One large piece came down right next to Baltazar, cutting up his hand and shattering his oar. Baltazar looked at his friends and shook his head.
Without saying a word, he pulled the pistol from his belt, loaded it with a double charge of powder, took aim at the Le Terrible with his good hand, crossed himself with a silent prayer, and fired the shot. The musket ball flew through the air toward the forecastle of the Le Terrible.
The captain was standing between two gunners and Jaspart as they prepared to fire another round. He was barking out orders until he suddenly fell backwards with a large hole in his chest. This startled Jaspart as he did not think that they were close enough for these ruffians to do them any harm.
Jaspart sneered, “I’m taking command here. Lower the elevation, and pepper them with fire!”
The first mate approached him, “Monsieur, you are not a naval officer, what right do you have to claim command.”
Jaspart pulled a sword from his belt and pointed it at the mate, “If you dare challenge me for command, draw your sword.”
Nervous, the mate stepped back and nodded to the gunners, who promptly lowered the cannons.
Aralyn saw how badly the hand of her love had been damaged. She admired his bravery even if it was a futile effort. Papi looked like he was certain that he was about to die, and Lailah had a look of failure on her face. It was more than Aralyn could stand. She turned, stood up in the boat, and glared into Jaspart’s eyes as he readied their guns, “Stop!”
Jaspart raised his hand as he returned her gaze, “Kill them all… fire!”
The ship disappeared behind a cloud of smoke as all the weapons the ship could bring to bear fired. Aralyn clenched her jaw, “You bastard, no!”
Her insides suddenly felt like a volcano about to erupt and she began to shake violently. Baltazar tried to grab her, but an unseen force prevented him from touching her. Her eyes flashed white and began glowing like a pair of bright stars, just as they had previously.
Once again, the Le Terrible opened fire. Baltazar closed his eyes, expecting the worst. Aralyn thrust her hands forward and screamed just as the cannons fired, “I said, stop!”
A white spectral wall appeared in front of her. The projectiles hit it and turned to dust. Aralyn clenched her teeth together as a harsh breeze from the cannon fire passed through her hair. Baltazar opened his eyes to see Aralyn struggling to stand her ground. He tried again to reach her, but still there was an unseen force blocking his path.
In a panic, Jaspart left the forecastle and ran to the main gun deck, “All guns, fire everything, now!”
As the Le Terrible unleashed its second barrage, the spectral wall began to flicker. Aralyn’s eyes glowed even more fiercely then before as the wall collapsed. A horrified look could be seen on the faces of every man aboard the galleass. The first officer hesitated for a moment before ordering his crews to reload and prepare to fire.
Aralyn brought her hands up to her face while her eyes remained locked on the ship. Her fingers began to vibrate and glow the same colors as her eyes. She screamed as her hands once again thrust forward. This time, instead of a wall, her hands unleashed a massive beam of light. Everyone else on the boat was knocked backward by the force of her power. The beams sliced through the air and struck the forecastle of the Le Terrible.
The entire forward section of the ship burst into flame and splinters, killing all five men standing there. The beam slowly faded, but the glow on her hands got stronger and spread to the rest of her body. The light was almost blinding.
Jaspart’s eyes darted back and forth, desperate to end this quickly, “Come on boys, reload those guns or it will be the death of you!”
Aralyn bent her knees and balled herself up for a moment as the glow began to pulse. A second later she shot up and straightened herself out, causing her skin to glow even brighter. She let out a high-pitched, blood-curdling, scream as her body glowed even brighter and a massive beam of white light shot straight up into the sky.
Baltazar could no longer even make out his love in the light. He called to the other side of the boat, “Lailah, what is going on?”
“Her powers,” Lailah replied, “they’ve being lying dormant for so long that something like this was bound to happen… I just didn’t know she was this powerful! This might not be a good thing…”
“What?” Papi demanded. “What do you mean?”
Lailah looked at her, worried, “If her powers overwhelm her and she can’t regain control of them, she could destroy herself… and everything in the area.”
Before anyone could reply, a pulse shot up the beam of light. Suddenly, the water off what was left of the starboard bow of the Le Terrible began to bubble and churn where the remaining planks and debris from the battle were still floating. A huge plume of water shot high into the air and then dropped like a massive curtain. To everyone’s amazement, the Black Vengeance emerged from the falling water. There was no sign of the damage from the Le Terrible at all.
Baltazar smiled when he saw his ship. His joy was interrupted when an unearthly voice emanated from the light, “No more!”
In France, the damage to Mont Saint Michel slowly became undone and the abbey was restored to its original splendor. The bodies of those who were being gathered up for burial suddenly came back to life as though nothing had happened.
In Venice, the Patrisi house began to repair itself. The rubble began to form back into the foundation of the old house. The ashes turned back into wood and a moment later, the house was once again standing. The shipwreck on the rocks of the harbor also pulled itself back together and moved itself back to the dock. A large crowd of locals looked on in shock as the house that had been destroyed almost two decades ago, stood once again.
Once Aralyn’s work was done, the beam of light began to fade until all that was left was the large orb in the middle of the longboat. The crew of the French warship scrambled to load their cannons as they also fought the fires coming from what was left of the forecastle. None of them knew what was going on, but they could sense that they were in great danger.
Jaspart’s breathing became more rapid as he realized that they now had to worry about two targets, the ship that they had already sunk, and this powerful demonic creature near the cave entrance. He turned to the crew on the port side of the ship, “Guns at the ready, we’re going to need them. Do it you dogs!”
Baltazar got to his feet again and fought hard to try to get through the light to Aralyn, but Lailah put her hand up, “Baltazar, stop, you’ll only hurt yourself.”
At that moment, the orb faded and left Aralyn crouched in the middle of the boat. As she stood up, large white wings appeared on her back and spread as far as they could. Baltazar’s eyes widened, “Aralyn you… you’re…”
“An angel.” Lailah replied with a satisfied smile. “It’s about time too.”
“But how?” Aralyn asked. “I was born of human parents.”
A sudden shout from the Le Terrible prevented Lailah from answering. Jaspart’s men had successfully reloaded the cannons in record time and were preparing fire another broadside. Aralyn had a worried look on her face. She knew that she wasn’t strong enough to defend them against another attack. Her powers were still manifesting themselves and she didn’t have full control over them.
As the cannons were pushed forward, she knew that she had to try. The fate of the world may be resting on her survival. There was no other choice.
The first mate aboard the French warship signaled to Jaspart, “Ready to fire!”
Jaspart nodded and raised his hand, relishing the moment as, with any luck, he would now see the end of Captain La Fuente, “Goodbye, old friend.”
Aralyn stood ready to try one last time to raise the spectral wall, when all of a sudden, each of the galleass’s cannons exploded. Miraculously, no one on the ship was wounded, but their main armaments had been completely destroyed.
Overhead, there was a loud boom and the clouds parted. Three large orbs shot down through the mist and hovered a few feet over the deck of the Le Terrible. They were as bright as Aralyn had been just a few moments ago.
Jaspart looked on as the crew scattered, grabbing muskets, swords, and anything else they could use as weapons. A few of the more startled men opened fire on the orbs, but the musket balls shattered as they struck the pulsing lights.
As the Le Terrible’s crew reloaded, the orbs began to fade, leaving three winged women in their place. Two of them had four glowing red wings on their backs while the one in the middle had a single pair of white ones that shimmered gold as they flapped in the breeze. Lailah’s eyes widened when she saw them.
Papi looked at the angels oddly and turned to Lailah, “Lailah, do you know them? They are unlike any angel I’ve ever read about.”
Lailah nodded and smiled happily, “Yes, I know them very well. The two on the sides are seraphs. They are more powerful than the average angel. The one in the middle… she’s an archangel, one of our strongest.”
The archangel glared at the Le Terrible’s crew as she brushed a strand of her long black hair from her face, “By the eternal grace of the Most High, the next man here who makes an aggressive move will meet his maker a lot sooner than expected.”
Jaspart clenched his jaw and began to growl. His eyes turned a bright red and his face darkened. He spoke in a deep, inhuman, voice that was not his own, “You…”
The archangel looked at him in surprised, “Legion… so you’re here too…”
Jaspart smiled and thrust his hand forward. Black smog shot out of his fingertips and struck the archangel’s arm. She cradled her limb and looked down as the wound quickly disappeared. Once it was gone, she turned her gaze back to Jaspart and smiled, “Not this time, Legion. I’m far more powerful than when last we met!”
The archangel thrust her hand forward, “Begone!”
Beams of lightning shot from her palm and struck Jaspart, disintegrating him instantly. Jaspart screamed in agony as his body turned to ash and blew away in the wind.
Once he was gone, the archangel let out a sigh and turned to the remaining crew of the Le Terrible, “Do you wish to meet your end as well?”
The first officer stepped forward and dropped to his knees, “Forgive us, blessed angels… we didn’t know… We were following our orders!”
She frowned and shook her head, “That excuse is used to justify too many crimes. The Most High commands you to cease your pursuit of these people immediately.”
A shocked look came over the first officer’s face, “Am I to understand that the Most High is condoning acts of wanton destruction and murder, committed by these pirates? They ransacked an abbey filled with the lord God’s servants! Are we to just forget about that?”
“Do you think we haven’t been watching?” She fired back. “Do you think we don’t know what has happened here? Mont Saint Michel was destroyed by the very demonic force you were using as a guide! These pirates, as you call them, were the first on the scene, and the only ones to render any sort of aid. Had you bothered focusing on the preservation of life instead of seeking revenge, you might have noticed that.”
The first officer lowered his eyes, “Forgive us, blessed angel. We are God’s humble servants… we will do as commanded.”
“That’s better.” She repied with a satasfied grin. “The lord Most High demands the release of the people you have captured. Once that is done, you are to return to France, and I promise you, you will be brought to judgment for you crimes.”
The first officer sighed, “As you wish blessed angel…”
Without another word to the Frenchmen, the angel turned back to her comrades. “Ariel, secure the release of the prisoners and see to it they get back to their ship.”
Ariel nodded and snapped her fingers. The shackles on the crewmen’s arms and legs shattered in response. As she went to work, the archangel spoke to the other seraphim, “Roselyn, tend to the longboat, get them back aboard their ship, and tend to anyone there who may need help.”
Roselyn looked over at the boat. Seeing Aralyn standing there, staring at them, she smiled, “Understood, General.”
Ariel approached the captured crewmen, “Is everyone okay? Are there any injured.”
At first, no one spoke. The crew was mesmerized by the beauty of this creature standing in front of them. Her skin had an aura of gold and her eyes were piercing as though when she looked at them, she peered into their souls.
Gilles appeared from behind the group, “We’re okay, but we’ve lost a lot of people.”
Ariel nodded, “You needn’t worry, it is being dealt with.”
She turned to the first officer of the Le Terrible, who was standing off to the side with his own men, “Lower a longboat for these men, and be quick about it.”
He nodded, “As you wish.”
The French crew quickly did as were told and had a longboat ready to go in record time. Ariel helped get the crew of the Black Vengeance into the boat, attached a rope to the bow, and once everyone was onboard, towed it over to their ship.
Roselyn hovered over to the small group near the cave’s entrance. Her long brown hair flowed behind her as she moved and, like Ariel, her skin had a golden aura. She first turned to Baltazar, “Give me your hand.”
Baltazar stood up, looked at his wounded hand, and then back at Roselyn. She nodded, “It’s okay, trust me.”
He put out his hand, covered in blood. She placed her own hand over it and caressed it gently. There was a momentary sting, but when she let go, his hand was totally healed.
Baltazar looked it over in amazement, “Thank you…”
Roselyn nodded as she turned to face Aralyn. The two regarded each other for a few moments before Roselyn spoke, “You look so much like her, it’s almost hard to believe that you’re not. “
“You know Adaline?” Aralyn asked.
Roselyn smiled, “Very well. She is amongst my closest friends. My name is Roselyn, I looked at her as a sister, and I know she is very proud of you.”
Aralyn lowered her eyes with an appreciative smile as Roselyn turned to Lailah, “It has been a while, old friend.”
Lailah looked at her sternly, “Longer for me having been confined to a cave for over ten years.”
“I’m sorry, Lailah,” Roselyn replied, “but your injuries made you difficult to locate. Many of us thought Legion had killed you.”
“No need to apologize,” Lailah said with a smile, “I understand.”
Roselyn placed her hand on Lailah’s chest and closed her eyes. A bright aura surrounded Lailah for a few moments. It pulsed and then faded, leaving behind a fully healed angel. The group looked in awe as once again, Lailah had been restored to her original form, this time permanently.
Once her work was done, Roselyn nodded, “Alright, let’s get you back to your ship.”
The longboat looked as though it was ready to sink, so Roselyn put her hand out to Papi. He looked at her for a moment hesitantly before taking it and being lifted into the air. Papi gasped as he was lifted high of the boat.
Roselyn smiled, “Don’t be alarmed. I won’t let you fall.”
Papi calmed down a little as he looked around, “Lead on, angel.”
Lailah turned to Aralyn, nodded, and took to the air following Roselyn back to the ship. Aralyn looked over at Baltazar with an apologetic expression, “My love, I don’t know what to say. I know this isn’t what you expected. I can’t say I saw it coming either.”
Baltazar stared at her for a few moments, unable to speak. Her eyes now glowed brighter than ever and her white wings added a majestic appeal to her appearance. Other than that, she was still the same person. When he didn’t say anything, tears began to form in her eyes, “I’ll understand if this is more then you can take. I won’t blame you if you decide to take your ship and sail away.”
Baltazar let out a deep sigh as he put his right hand to her cheek, “You are so beautiful… I should have expected something like this. You were always so different from any other woman I’ve ever met. I was drawn to you in ways I couldn’t even understand. It all makes sense now, only an angel could have accomplished such a feat.”
Aralyn gasped as Baltazar’s touch electrified her skin. She placed her hands against his and smiled, “I love you. Neither wings, nor will any celestial army ever change that.”
Baltazar smiled, “And I you… once all of this is over… if you are willing… perhaps we could… ”
“What?” Aralyn asked.
Baltazar lowered his eyes, “Perhaps consider a more permanent relationship?”
“Yes.” Aralyn replied as her heart raced. “Once this is all over, we can definitely try.”
Baltazar grabbed Aralyn and hugged her tightly. She tried to make the moment last as long as possible, but the boat was about to sink out from under them, and they needed to move. Still in the tight embrace, Aralyn quickly reached one hand under Baltazar’s legs and picked him up. Her wings spread and she pushed off as hard as she could.
This surprise startled Baltazar, “Hey wait a minute, what are you doing?”
Before Baltazar knew what was happening, they were airborne. Aralyn flapped her wings and gained altitude quickly as the longboat disappeared below the waves. She pushed her wings with hard thrusts against the wind and climbed even higher into the clouds.
Baltazar looked down and gripped her tightly. Aralyn could sense his nervousness, “Don’t tell me the legendary Captain La Fuente is afraid of heights?”
Baltazar shook his head, “The legendary Captain La Fuente has never flown before! The highest I’ve ever been into the sky is about 4 mast-lengths lower than this, and no I don’t have a fear of heights, just falling from them.”
“Can I tell you a secret?” Aralyn asked with a devious look. “I’ve never flown before either!”
Baltazar nodded, “I know, that’s what troubles me.”
She soared through a cloud, feeling the moisture on her skin, and began to descend towards the Black Vengeance. The ship’s red sails came into view as Aralyn flew lower. Finally, she circled around and touched down on the deck of the ship. The crew applauded and cheered as the two came into view.
Gilles and Morgan stood in front of them. Baltazar turned and hugged them, “Men… you’re alive?”
“Aye,” Morgan replied, “I was certain I had died when the ship went down, but your friends here pulled me back.”
Baltazar had tears in his eyes as he turned to look at his crew. They had all been rescued or revived and were awaiting his orders. Baltazar nodded, “Men, I don’t know what to say… words cannot begin to express my joy to see you all alive and well.”
The men’s cheering got even louder. Aralyn noticed Lailah, Ariel, and Roselyn standing off to the side, both smiling. Off in the distance, the Le Terrible had come about and was heading back to port.
Aralyn noticed what looked like a large bird leave the deck and fly towards them. It let out a shrill cry as it gained altitude. Once it neared the ship, the creature’s features came into view. It was the archangel that had appeared with the two seraphs aboard the Le Terrible. She gracefully flew towards them and touched down on the deck, landing on her left knee.
As her foot touched the deck, she stood up and smiled at Aralyn, “You have done very well. We were worried that you wouldn’t realize your powers or even be able to come to terms with them when you did.”
Aralyn nodded, “I had help… miss…”
“Xaphine Lorenzi,” the archangel replied with a smile, “General Xaphine Lorenzi of the Most High’s Choirs of Angels.”
Aralyn’s eyes narrowed, “I know angels have rather unearthly names; Gabriel, Lailah, Ariel, Roselyn, and Adaline… but Xaphine Lorenzi… that sounds like a human name.”
Xaphine frowned and twisted her lips as though she was nervous, “It would take too long to explain.”
Papi stepped forward, “Forgive me, milady, but I have read about the greatness of the archangels… I have never heard of you.”
“Does the name Xaphan sound familiar?” She asked as she turned to him.
Aralyn gasped, “You… you’re the traitor! How do you now claim the title of general?”
Xaphine lowered her eyes as Roselyn stepped forward, “After Michael was defeated, we were left leaderless. Xaphan was the most skilled leader next to Michael, but she was a revolutionary. However, she later realized the error of her ways, changed her name, and fought to protect one of the Most High’s children by sacrificing herself. She was that man’s…”
“Roselyn, that’s enough.” Xaphine interrupted. “I’ll be happy to explain all of this at a later time. Right now, all I can say is that I spent a long time repenting for my crimes, was forgiven, and have spent the years since in the service to the Most High. He saw fit to make me his general and I have served with honor ever since. Does that quell your fears?”
Aralyn nodded, “I apologize for the outburst, I didn’t hear that much of your story.”
“You were curious.” Xaphine replied. “An apology isn’t necessary. There is no dishonor in asking questions.”
Baltazar stepped forward, “What about Jaspart?”
Xaphine smiled, “That fiend will not bother you again.”
“That’s a relief.” Baltazar said as his voice relaxed. “So I take it now you’re here to help us in this fight?”
“We’re not staying.” Ariel replied. “We need to get back in order to rally the rest of our forces.”
“Might not be a bad idea.” Baltazar replied. “Besides, we’ve got Aralyn and Lailah with us. That should be enough to deal with any situation that arises.”
Xaphine nodded, “And they will remain with you for the time being, until this crisis has passed.”
Xaphine’s words sent a chill down Baltazar’s spine. What did she mean, ‘for the time being?’ Was he going to lose Aralyn at some point? Or was she just referring to Lailah? For the first time ever, Baltazar was too afraid to open his mouth. Instead he shrugged and put it aside for the time being, “Where are we go to now?”
Xaphine shook her head, “We… don’t know. Legion hasn’t been easy to track. Since he gained enough power to shatter the seal I placed on the entrance to the underworld, he’s been running amuck like he did in ancient times.”
“What are we supposed to do?” Baltazar asked. “We have no idea where he is or where is going to be.”
“But we know where he’s been.” Xaphine added. “Legion and I have a… connection. I was the angel who entered his cave… and I was the one he stole enough power from to begin manifesting his own. Since then, I’ve been periodically able to detect his movements. It would appear that he has taken a liking to his old dwelling and has returned to the east. He appears to be trying to suck as much of his old power out of the region as possible.”
Baltazar did not like this idea at all, “Where are we supposed to go?”
“Tyre.” Xaphine replied. “Proceed far east, Lailah will guide you.”
Morgan stepped forward, “General… with all due respect…”
Xaphine nodded, “Please speak your mind, we are all friends here.”
“And most welcome,” Morgan replied with a nod, “but one don’t simply sail to Tyre. The land be the possession of the Ottomans. Matters be even worse, there be corsair ships in that area that would love to pick us off.”
Lailah stepped forward, “That’s why you have us. Aralyn and I are here to help you. Preferably, the Most High would rather us be involved as little as possible and try to keep out of sight, for obvious reasons. That said, if a problem arises that is beyond your ability to handle, then we can intervene.”
“Unacceptable,” Aralyn shot back, “these men are my family, my friends… I won’t stand by and let them fight my battles for me until they’re overwhelmed. I fight side by side with them, as I always have.”
“Aralyn,” Xaphine responded, “you are too important to our cause, it’s a risk…”
“I fight side by side with them, as I always have.” She repeated in an extremely stern tone. “You are going to have to deal with that. These people mean more to me than the rest of the world put together.”
Xaphine crossed her arms, “Such insolence…”
Roselyn smiled, “Yes, but I remember a certain soldier being the same way a long time ago.”
Xaphine glared at Roselyn for a moment. Her angry stare quickly turned into a relaxed smile. Finally she turned back to Aralyn with a sigh, “You know, you are as headstrong as your ancestor, my sister, and I remember it got her into a lot of trouble.”
Aralyn’s expression didn’t change as Xaphine’s smile widened, “Almost as much trouble as I got in when I recklessly followed a revolutionary… I don’t agree with this in the least, but if your personal honor will be satisfied, then stand by this… family of yours.”
Aralyn nodded, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Xaphine replied with a smile, “just remember that the next time you decide to be insubordinate.”
Aralyn smiled, “I will try.”
Xaphine turned to the rest of the ship, “Do your best as you have been. Protect your adopted family member and we will win the day. I promise you that your efforts will not be forgotten.”
She then turned and beckoned to Ariel and Roselyn, “Come, let us depart.”
Ariel and Roselyn stepped forward as the three of them turned back into white orbs. As they began to ascend into the heavens, Ariel called back, “Remember, we will be watching you so do not fear.”
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