Sidereality (falrax) wrote in valariel,
Sidereality
falrax
valariel

Chapter 6: Unveiling of Charades

Chapter 6: Unveiling of Charades

The night shift never is very appealing in Manhattan's hospitals, for the things that like to go bump in the night now also like to bring knives and guns under the cover of night. And that much more patients come in the emergency ward. Tonight happens to be the rotation that Darryl Shanks has landed upon. Between a coffee and a fetch for antihistamines for an asthmatic patient, Darryl stumbles across on a file with the name "Moore, Francis Patrick", under the purview of Dr. Andrew Bacon. Leaving his post for a simple question to Dr. Bacon, Darryl slips into a vacant emergency room where the good doctor is at a desk, filling in papers.
"Ahem... I hope your evening is going smooth.... Huh... I'd like to know what is the condition of Mr. Moore", the young technician asked.
"Hmmm... The writer?"
"No, the criminologist," specifies Darryl.
"He is rather in good condition, though he is sleeping right now. The accident was quite a shock, and his body needs to rest in order to replenish its stores of energy spent to survive and deal with the crash. He's had a nice trauma, but he seems to be coping rather well. This man is sturdier than he looks." The doctor nods slowly as he blabbers on, rubbing his rough chin, never taking his eyes off his various patients' files and tests results on his pad.
"I'm happy to hear it." darryl turns to leave.
"Do you know him personally, Mr. Shanks?"
He stops. "As a matter of fact, I've just been introduced to him. I also read his works. He is quite the insightful professionnal concerning the criminal mind."
"Indeed he is. Though I wonder how he could have been involved in such a accident."
Darryl Shanks felt the doctor holding back from giving too much details, but Lyriel inside him wanted to know more.
"Just exactly what kind of accident was he found in?"
"Well... I don't know details, but rumors has it he was in a single car accident that flipped radically over a fire hydrant in the Financial District of Manhattan. How that came to be, I have no idea... but one of his wounds include a glancing shot from a medium-caliber weapon at point blank range. My opinion is that he's lucky to be alive."
Darryl gasps. "Holy Christ..."
"Indeed. But he is stabilized now. Strangely, his bruises are all but gone. Only the gunshot wound remains, and it isn't half as bad as what is seemed like when they carried him the emergency ward. That man is a tough nut to crack, it seems."
"What do you mean by that?"
The doctor looks up. "Huh? Oh, nevermind."
"Yeah, sure", thought Darryl. "Better keep an eye on Valariel."
And like a shadow, he is gone back in the torrent of humankind cramped in the hospital.

* * * * *


The double doors to the private area of the third floor of the Valkyrie's, the hottest nightclub in Queen's, fly open and reveal the Guardian of the club, Riley, escorting in the leading members of the vampire clans of New York City. The room, filled with august and hoary beings socializing with flawless beauties and horrid mockeries of humanity, instantly snap to attention. In the large modern ballroom lookalike, on every couch and at every table, along the left-hand side of the room, overlooking the second floor's dance floor through the proverbial looking glass, and at the great mahogany table, every vampire present fall silent at the sudden apparition, hanging at the Guardian's lips for a reason for this minor commotion.
"Leave. All of you."
Under the stress of the older vampire's fantastic presence, the smallish crowd rises and leaves slowly, some glaring at the Guardian for disrupting their nice evening, others rolling their eyes for not having the opportunity they were hoping for. When the select vampiric populace of the city has left, the five leaders de facto of their ancient Clans take place at the great table, with the host at the head of the table.
A veiled, robust woman in fashionable and utilitarian clothing speaks up first. "Thank you for this favor of yours, Mr. Riley."
"It is the very least I can do in these troubled times, Katherine. I hope your Council appreciates."
"Indeed we do," answers a classy, finely dressed man with fashionable eyeglasses and an expensive Italian suit. "Now, can we adress the matter at hand? I have other things to attend to this night, and the way things are looking..."
A stinking form hidden in an enormous woolen winter overcoat shrugs. "Your personal concerns are of rather small importance actually, Thomas Arturo. Do not overextend your use at this table."
"My dear Calebros..." Arturo begins, but he is cut short by a massive man in a simple turtleneck and proper black pants. From under his mustache, he says matter-of-factly, "We are being overtaken from the inside, Thomas. Kindred are disappearing, and not from opposition from the dreaded Sabbat vampire packs or from vampire hunters. Not even the racial opposition, the Lupine werewolves, are responsible... for once."
Katherine, the veiled woman, takes initiative. "What are we up against?"
The larger man in the turtleneck resumes. "As of yet, we have precious few indications as to what we are facing. Indeniably, this is a new threat, one we haven't seen before."
"Come now, Mr. Estevez, surely you sorcerous types from Clan Tremere have a glimpse of what it is with your hermetics trappings and encyclopedias and grimoires." The silk-dressed Arturo smirks as he says this.
Estevez, ever the politician, replies in a calm manner. "Unfortunately, no. All we know is that this threat, while having human form, is probably anything but human. And, like us vam- Kindred, my apologies... it feeds, on some obscure way, on humans."
For a moment, all Kindred present are silent. Then the sixth present, a man of obvious French descent named Valentine, speaks up.
"I concur. I have had a mild run-in with something along those lines."
All eyes turn to him. Calebros, of the repulsive Nosferatu clan, speaks through raw and bloody gums chewed by a mouthful of fangs. "Tell us more, my noble Ventrue friend."
Valentine straightens his jacket's collar, straightens up in his chair and announces, "I have lost two servants to such a creature."
"Come again", asks Riley.
"Well..." Valentine resumes, "I wouldn't know exactly how to tell it, but the usual Blood Bond that our blood instills in humans seemed to have weakened in those two humans in recent times. There seems to be a way that those... persons influence those humans that must only instill a deep spiritual longing that rivals our entrancing blood. A week ago, those two left me, on the same night, with some... fervor in their eyes. I haven't seen them since."
Riley interjects. "Wait... Have you tried to summon them to you? Track them, find them since they turned their backs, anything?"
"But of course, Sebastian! These ghouls of mine know almost everything about me! My businesses, my haunts... even my haven's security! I'm not sure I can even afford to sleep there during the day, just in case a new threat is being lead there by them during my daily rest. I'm actually thinking about relocating my haven, just to feel safer."
The vampire named Sebastian Riley perks up. "Now that you mention it... Mostly everyone is present, one from each of the seven Clans. Calebros, of the Nosferatu, Katherine Wiese from the Brujah, Thomas Arturo from the Toreador..."
"As always, Sebastian", comments Arturo.
"... Valentine representing the Ventrue and Eugenio Estevez for the Tremere. We all know how much the Gangrel brood of Jezebelle likes to claim ignorance of our troubles, and I, Sebastian Riley, as a Lasombra refugee and Guardian of this vampiric Elysium, do not count, we can notice that a single clan, the Malkavian, is left remarkably absent from this special session of the Council."
Calebros, the erstwhile head of the Nosferatu, completes Riley's thought. "He has been missing for some time now. Where the hell is Carter Vanderweyden?"

* * * * *


I wake up with a start and sit up. "Where the hell am I?"
"Whoa, friend, take it easy... You've been out for quite some time. Lie back, wouldn't want your wound to open again, huh?" It's a male nurse talking to me.
"Where am I, nurse...?"
"El-Rima." I notice the Middle Eastern shade to his skin. "And you are Francis Moore. You have been brought this early afternoon with several contusions and a gunshot wound to your side, though I am glad to tell you that is is only what they call a 'flesh wound'. A glancing shot, you see."
"I know the term. How long have I been here?"
"Well, as of this hour... it is 1:15 AM... it has been almost twelve hours. I'm actually surprised you are up now, most people sleep for more than a day after a four-hour surgery..."
"Can I go now?" This man is starting to freak me out. When did mankind become so... accustomed to pain and suffering?
"I'm afraid it is not so easy, Mr. Moore. You see," he says as he picks up my file at the head of my bed, "I have directions to keep you here for the time being. There are still a lot of details that need further light to be shed upon."
A little jab of pain flares up in my right side. Meat has been scorched off, but my will and stores of energy have seen to its reparation. Still, this body is not very resistant to damage. But at least, Francis' vivacity of mind lets me pick up that something is not quite right here. "What needs to be cleared, nurse," I ask with all my host's wiles.
Keeping his head bowed, the nurse only lifts his eyes at me, set deep in his skull, and another, forceful and devilish voice that is not the nurse's natural one answers me, "You shall see."
I'm not staying here one second longer.
Between a flare of pain at jumping off the bed and my throwing up the blankets, I sense a spike of unnatural energy very close animate itself - and it is homing on me. The nurse snarls in surprise, but I am already on my feet and racing through the curtain that walls off my bed from the others in the emergency ward. He's dropped the file and is running after me. I have to make good my escape.
Upon turning out of the ward, I feel the presence multiply around the hospital. I feel cramped, closed off, with no access to my natural realm, so I head toward them the best I can. Running barefooted in the hallways in a silly hospital frock, knocking people out of my way and hating myself for it, I dart toward the elevators in a fury.
"Valariel", I hear in my head, "where are you?" It's Lyriel, and he sounds concerned. Boy, that one found a bad timing... or maybe not. Holding back a couple seconds until I reach the silvery doors up ahead, I then yell "Elevator! The roof!"
Everyone looks at me like I'm some crazy in a hospital frock thinking he's Bruce Willis, but I know Lyriel caught on through his evocation of my celestial name. Waiting for the blasted thing to open its doors, I reach out with my senses to feel the demonic energy trails that were following me. They are close, and unless I could melt with the crowd, they are going to spot me very soon.
Ding.
The doors open and I rush in, stepping deliberately in front of everyone as nurse El-Rima shows up in the hallway and shouts, "Stop that man!" His voice carries unnatural power, and two men step forward to try to yank me out of the elevator. Even though I am winded and hurt, I manage to punch one in the face before he crosses the door's threshold and jab the elevator button for the roof. Then I throw back the injured man out of the way and into the other man's path, and keep my thumb on the 'close doors' button until they do. The damned machine starts lifting me up. Then I collapse and breathe out.
Blood is flowing out of the bandage on my right, and it hurts like a bitch. I can shut it out, but not for long. I draw on the meager faith that my old friend Alexander provides me with to close it further, helping me on the way up.
"Lyriel" I say out loud, "I'm in trouble. Someone is onto me."
I realize that. The emergency ward is filled with.... a presence. I will join you on the roof.
"As you wish. But whatever you do, don't tell them what you are. Chances are, they already know."
They are pursuing you, but not me. That gives us an edge.
I'm somewhat amazed by this. "You'd put yourself in danger for me? Then I owe you one."
Get my host out of parole's bindings, then we'll call it quit. See you at the skyline.
As I feel him disconnect, the doors open. That last line of his makes me smile. The winds of New York carry more pollution than the waters of the mythical Deluge, but at heart, they are still my home. I step out and climb the couple of steps to the roof access. I push, but the door won't budge. The damnable thing's locked!
"Wrong way, my friend" a voice calls me from behind. I turn to see Carmelia sitting on a plastic chair. The bitch looks like I feel, with a large bandage across her head and a nice red-stained gauze pad taped to her cheek. I smile from the inside: the fucker deserves that.
"I think your host watched too many bad action movies, Valariel. No one can ever escape from a rooftop. Now, angels could... but that's exactly why I had security put that padlock on the outside. Even in your demonic form, you wouldn't have the strength to break it."
I force my body to relax and turn fully, still on top of the smallish flight of stairs. The room is not the most clean in the hospital, but it is spacious and has a few janitors' tools and maintenance commodities littered around. Naho Seqil rises from his - her faded orange plastic chair and stands straight, glowering. Nobility at its worst.
Being a creature more used to servitude than commanding, I expect Naho Seqil to try and overbear me with autority. So I don't let him and throw him off-balance with my host's wittiness.
"You think you're so high-and-mighty, Carmelia? That since the Fall, you could scrounge up Mankind's efforts and assimilate them to your own success? Try harder, 'your honor'. You're just as Fallen as me or anyone else. You've spent as much time in Hell as any of us, and I'm not ready to let you assume control of anything.
"Besides, what can you control? You can't even control me if you'd like! What can you do, really?"
I see a spark of fire light up in those eyes and I taste a piece of victory. I've put it where it hurts. But then, she opens her mouth and an otherwordly syllabe of a primal litany comes out. It rings into my ears, bounces into my skull and shreds its way into my very essence.
The first syllabe of my True Name. The one thing that could compel me to anything, even to my fundemental, utter destruction. I'm aghast.
She sees my reaction, and smiles. "Do not assume, Valariel. I have made friends in very high places. Do not force me."
"You never were privy to that knowledge before" I retort. "You have surely dealt intensively for that. My guess is, you don't know any of the rest. I call your bluff."
"Well... I do have means to get more of it. If need be. I have a lot of resources. Of course, only the first one is free. But then again, I have been told you are worth it... somehow."
I shrug. What can I do?
"Very well. What do you want?"

* * * * *


"They're everywhere!"
Darryl Shanks notices the demonic energy signatures around the hospital at last and shivers. "Five... six... Is that a seventh...? Eight!" he tells himself. "We're surrounded..."
He enters the elevator reflexively with other patients and employees and jabs quickly the button for the roof. People look at him sideways, but chalk it up to his hospital name tag on a plain loose blue shirt with a large V-neck. He walks two large steps to the back of the elevator and keeps on focusing on his environment.
"Ok, eight signatures, but none I recognize... and none powerful enough to actually be a Fallen. Someone has been sending thralls here en masse for some purpose... but who? And why? Surely Valariel is involved in this, but why him... and not me, who is an employee here?"
Lyriel, in his body, thinks back about his involvement in human affairs. His intimate knowledge of death makes him at ease in the emergency ward, but he still feels strangely oppressed when around that many humans, in such claustrophobic quarters as a simple elevator. In a way, he admires Valariel's affinity, as a Scourge, to deal with humanity so easily. Lyriel, the Angel of Death, never knew humankind, and even worse, never even kew its eventual fate once the threshold between life and death was crossed.
Reaping death always seemed hollow and tasteless, like a mouth full of ashes. The Scourges lost their charges, the Slayers took them away forever, unknowingly. In a way, he feels he owes Valariel and his kind some sort of debt, even though he was bound to create death as a divine duty.
Rubbing his dark brown hair, he notices the middle-aged couple stepping out on the tenth floor. Weird visiting hours, but you never know, with the emergency ward being so active here. He glances around him and notices two more people with him as the elevator continues his climb upward. He looks at one of them, a female, black nurse that looks like she's had one dozen too many coffees this evening, and a white strawberry-blonde man in a work uniform. As he looks at this last one, he feels a flare of the essence he felt earlier.
"Damn. A thrall."
Upon this realization, the man cranes his neck around and looks at Darryl straight in the eyes with a malicious grin. His hand goes deeper into his left pocket and his stare never leaves him. Darryl knows he's bidding his time.
Darryl backs up slowly against the deep right corner of the elevator, leaving the man with the deep left corner, and the nurse up front waiting by the door. "I have to make this quick, or this disillusioned human is going to try and gut me first chance he gets."
The doors open up at the fourteeth floor and let the nurse out. Darryl sweats a bead on the side of his cheek. "Gotta time this right... now!"
The chime of the doors closing is drowned by the scream of rage of the unknown man as he unsheathes a combat knife and viciously lunges at Darryl, but he is already moving toward the elevator doors, dodging the easily expected strike. Eyeing the crazed thrall, Darryl sees nothing remotely human in the man's behavior. "He is running completely on instincts. I can't hope to scare him into submission."
Turning around on himself, Darryl sweeps his left heel low to the ground, hitting his opponent square behind his feet, knocking him down. He trashes around to lift himself up and swipes at Darryl, but drawing upon his celestial knowledge of gravity, he jumps up and concentrates on accelerating his ascent and stopping his descent, hanging suspended only inches from the elevator's roof.
"That's far more than enough."
As the man rises to his feet, reading his blade to slash across Darryl's gut, the elevator buckles and the light blinks. A chill comes over and Lyriel's eyes grow cold, focusing their glare on the floor. The crazed human brings his arm in an upward arc, but Lyriel catches his wrist in time and hold him.
A mask of pure anger and disgust draws itself instead of Darryl serene face and a low growl rumbles in his throat. Clotted blood flashes in his eyes and wrath is made palpable. As the growl rises to a scream, the floor of the elevator rapidly decays and crumbles in, leaving a gaping hole under the assailant, and Lyriel lets him pummel down in the elevator shaft, unsure of his eventual fate.
With a start and a stunned look, Darryl falls down from his erstwhile perch, catching himself on the edge of the decayed carpeting and metal frame, amazed and scared at his actions. He tires to compose himself, but cannot help but feeling the cold satisfaction of the act overweight the guilt at the possible cold-blooded murder of a enthralled human.
Just as his reflection begins to make sense, the doors open on the roof level.

* * * * *


"You know what, Naho Seqil? You can shove it up your ass. You know I will never comply." She looks disappointed. I don't care.
"Now, why did I try the kidnapping scheme? I knew you wouldn't comply. No one would. But I'm not asking you to consider. I don't remember giving you a choice."
My muscles tense at this. Confrontation is inevitable. "You're going to have to bring me." My interlocutor shrugs at this.
"Look, Valariel. I have a dozen persons at my call in this very hospital that were 'lent' me for this very purpose. You have something we want, whether you like it or not, and we will get it."
"I really have no idea of what you are talking about."
"It doesn't matter, I tell you. Help is coming as we are speaking. We will bring you, no matter what."
Right on cue, one of the elevators chimes in, and the others are coming up. I'm in trouble. The door opens to reveal a cloud of dust pushing it's way out in a rush of wind, but Naho Seqil doesn't seem to notice. "About time someone showed up..." 'Carmelia' starts to say, but she is cut quickly by a harsh voice.
"I HAVE COME TO PAY MY DEBT", the voice says purposefully.
A slim, winged man-creature with jet black wings tipped with barbs steps out of the dust cloud and turns to the left towards Naho Seqil. Its skin is smooth alabaster riddled with a few faded clotted bloodlines and its eyes are a black-and-white feeling of the otherworldly abyss. The eyes, set in a perfect, smoothly chiseled face, turn to the Malefactor Knight with malecious intent, leaving a subtle trail of grayish, spiritual smoke in the wake of its head's movement.
"SPEAK, FELL KNIGHT, UNLESS I TAKE YOU FOR MY CHOSEN SENDING." It stamps its nimble foot forward and crouches, ready to launch itself. It feels as if Death itself has entered the room, but Naho Seqil and I are not affected by this feeling. We both recognize a Slayer for what it is, and I feel I'm right telling myself this is Lyriel's formely angelic form.
Just the slightest bit surprised, Naho Seqil takes a step back and brings out a crude-looking blade with a wicked curve to it and brings it forward in a defensive position. Whatever Lyriel can bring to bear, Naho Seqil seems ready to take it on. But what Lyriel ignores is this feeling deep inside of me... a sort of memory of the very same Malefactor as a master sorcerer-artisan, hammering away in the lava-forges of the Iron Legion...
"Lyriel, don't!" I shout, but the battle is already joined. Lyriel swoops his wings down for added momentum, and as he tumbles down on my pursuer, this one lifts up his guard in an offensive position and slashes the Slayer across the chest. the wound seems superficial at best and does nothing to stop Lyriel from crashing down on him like the Reaper's scythe. As they tumble down, I can see Lyriel's talons trying to scratch at the woman's heart, but to no avail; Naho Seqil commands his host to bring up her feet and push Lyriel away with all her strength left. Lyriel goes flying... and stays down, seemingly exhausted. He seems conscious and aware, but doesn't rise up.
"Ah... Thank you, whoever you are. That was just what I needed..."
My attention turns to Carmelia. She is standing straight on her feet, struggling to remove the bandages from her head. Using the crude dagger, she cuts them away to reveal an intact, if only bed-haired head and cheek. In her hands, the dagger shimmers slightly, and then fades back to its previous unelegant grayness.
"VALARIEL... THE DAGGER... IT FEEDS..." Lyriel starts to say, but the words fail him. He seems more shocked than actually hurt, though I can sense his divine spark being slightly weakened, like a slow fire dying out.
"IT FEEDS ON FAITH!" he finally cries out in terror.
"Exactly what I needed to finally heal this nasty... 'bruise' you've inflicted me, Mr. Moore." That last name is said with a tad more spite than what I'd like. "Stand down, Slayer. I have no business with you. Don't make me consume you."
That last line freezes Lyriel in place and shocks me to my core. The gravest threat ever, the cannibalism of angels. The only way one of us can be truly destroyed, and the probable explanation to Naho Seqil's power.
"You've used this... tool to augment your own power, didn't you? You drained helpless Fallen to cannibalize them? Is that how you came to your power here?" I ask, intent on knowing, and on gaining time.
"And what of it, my dear reluctant underling? What is there for us to receive as a condamnation? We have already been damned and exiled to the Abyss for love. An eternity without body, without senses, without any recognition of anyone of anything! What, now, could affect us here? The angels and even the Lord of Hosts Himself are gone, leaving this rock with its incompetent and ungrateful horde of... of apes! I never could understand this idle life of theirs, and I now hate myself for being under the obligation to wear such a flawed skin... Better to wrest the world out of the humans' hands before it comes crashing down, and I will happily devour and use the power of any Fallen who will stand in my way!"
I notice the elevators coming up from the top of the small flight of stairs I am perched on. Lyriel is crouching down on the floor a dozen meters from me and my locked-up exit route. Naho Seqil is opposite him. I take the time to appreciate the irony that we are positioned in an almost-perfect triangle.
Only that the elevator doors are right between Lyriel and Naho Seqil. My Slayer friend will be overpowered when the thralls get here. I have to move fast. I draw once more upon my pact, my connection to my old friend Alexander, and in my mind, I heard his heart grow cold, his breath failing him as I drain the faith out of the spirit that animates his very body.
"I'm so sorry, my old friend." I feel Francis Moore talking inside of me, and I feel torn by my need and my decision, but if I lose here, Lyriel and Valariel will be no more. All my efforts to protect my dear humanity, my sacrifice for Lucifer's cause, will be for naught. I feel the warmth fill me and use it unceremoniously, healing up my wound and forcing the divinity out of my host body.
The dust blows out in a radiant arc as the winds that are mine to be rush out with my grayish owl's wings. My back stretches, granting me a foot again in height, and my hair explodes upward in a storm, its white-and-blue streaks circling my fine features. My hospital robe gives way to an asexual body reminiscent of an avian creature with smooth skin, and I feel my whole posture lean forward with the expectation of flight. Hair bristles on the back of my spine and arms, and the transformation ends with my eyes focusing together a thousandfold, granting me a flawless hawk's vision. I'd like to think I am a majestic manifestation, but my angelic form always looked awkward to me, and I feel that the torment and anger at my many millenias of imprisonment has taken its toll on my appearance. I shrug away the thought and rein in the anger that threatens to warp my body further into a mocking abomination of the Divine.
"I AM NOT FINISHED, NAHO SEQIL. AS LONG AS I DRAW BREATH, I WILL DEFEND HUMANITY, AND AS LONG AS THE BREATH OF GOD IS CONTAINED WITHIN MY BODY, YOU AND YOUR MASTER , WHOEVER THIS COWARDLY OAF IS, WILL NEVER OWN ME." I am amazed by my own words. For a moment, I am back to what I was, and I revel in it. I feel the winds forming a tunnel of air around me, sucking in vapors and dust and little things. My very being distorts the air in the room, too small to contain what I govern. With a flourish, I summon the winds about me and hurl them at Naho Seqil, still in human form, and his host, Carmelia, is hurled backwards in a corner, surprised. However, the dagger stays in his hand. Damn.
"STAY BACK, FELL KNIGHT! LYRIEL, RISE. LET US BEGONE THIS PLACE." My voice is a windy bellow that encourages my ally to stand on his feet and fold his wings behind his back. He glances at me with a sad look and nods slowly as the first elevator chimes in. As the doors begin to open, he turns his back around and unfurl one wings in the air. When he has halfway spun around, I notice him disappearing without a trace. Just like that, Lyriel, the Halaku, Slayer of the Seventh House... is gone from this world.
Three persons step out of the elevator with madness in their eyes, and those same eyes are set on me. I do not feel their unbelief of my form and I appear to inspire no fwear in them. Their faith has been awakened and must be plundered by another Fallen. I cannot fight them, but I also cannot escape.
Or can I?
With a sudden inspiration, I turn and shoulder the door hard. I feel it closed tight, stopped by the lock. Not a single draft of air looks to be seeping in from the door. Closed tighter than it should be.
With a great gesture of my arms, I call the air around me to move forward in a fury. The air in the elevator shaft rushes up to respond, pushing hard against my assaillants' backs and sending them to the floor. The enclosed winds rocket against the door barring my way to the roof. The dminutive window shatters, leaving only its metal mesh in its stead.and I notice the hinges pushing out of their sockets by half an inch. Just what I need.
I feel the floor shake slightly. Naho Seqil must be summoning his power to assault me, but I have no time to devote at checking out that theory. Being the master of the winds that I am, I focus again with minute precision again the upper hinges and order the winds to crush it. Two seconds later, the hinge snaps as I hammer the heavy metal door with my shoulder from a running start. It falls from my way being pushed hard by the fast-moving air and I jump, or rather float on my summoning above it safely.
The night sky is there, heavy with clouds, not a star showing. Instead, the city lights of New York show themselves to me as earthbound stars, lighting my way around. My hawk's vision notices immediately the cityscape of the lower part of Manhattan, and I feel I am somewhat at medium height compared to other buildings. I must be on top of Bellevue Hospital.
"Ironic", I think. "Same hospital I first met Lyriel and Naho Seqil."
Unlike any comic book or pop movie, the rooftop of such buildings is not flat gravel. This being a hospital, it has ladders and other doors, elevated viewpoints, scores of antennas, chute accesses and a general crampy feeling to it. I take no chance and start running to the edge of my roof access platform and jump down to the lower flat that composes the roof. I hear a gunshot as my wide-toed feet touch the cold floor. Obviously, the thralls are armed and have decided -or someone decided for them- that shooting me down would be better after all. Naho Seqil, or however is ordering him, has removed the kiddy gloves.
I look out around me and see the very edge of the roof on my right, about thirty long paces in an open area. Normally, I would summon the winds to take me away from here, being granted the true flight that most of my formely angelic kind lacks, but under this circumstances, I'd give myself as a perfect target for people with handguns. So I opt for another strategy.
One that I know Naho Seqil doesn't expect.
Unfurling my wings, I call the winds to push me from my back, and obedient as ever, they do. Just as they lift me up, I curve my wings upward, bringing my body's momentum down. A couple of potshots fly around me unelegantly, but I do not mind them. A sudden wind appears to lift me up, but in fact, only ammounted to a large jump. A moment later, I hang above the edge of the building.
"Get him, incompetent dregs!"
That's when I fold my wings around me and dive head first into the night sky. I can hear Naho Seqil crying out from afar, and it feels good. Let the idiot disillusion himself with my suicide. I know better than to let him know otherwise.
I fall quickly the many floors of the hospital, hoping no one inside can see me, and three floors before the ground, I lift my head with my arms, rearranging the vectors involved with my fall to twist my body upward. In mid-transition I crash to the pavement, but my crash is turned into a shockwave of air and winds that blow in one short second accross the receiving bay of the hospital. My fall leaves me on my knees on this cold ground, but otherwise unharmed.
I belong to the sky. Earth cannot touch me and hope to hurt me.
If only that was also the case with such a Fallen as Naho Seqil. But that is a thought for another moment. I summon the winds one last time to provide me with leaping power coupled my wings, and I shed my angelic form outside of the hospital's boundaries. Francis Patrick Moore stands instead of Valariel in this street, and I now feel the coldness of the asphalt under his naked feet. The hospital frock is not very reassuring, but at least Francis and I are safe.
I will find you again, Valariel. Naho Seqil swears it. I have a task to accomplish, and a destiny to achieve, and you will help me, no matter what. Even if you return to the Abyss itself.
Safe for now.

* * * * *


The sheriff parks his car beside the road with his lights flashing. He steps out of his vehicule and take a look with his flashlight in the ditch. On a colder Maine night than usual these days, he notices the older Chevy Silverado crashed at medium speeds, but without any breaking tracks. He proceeds then to climb down and check it out.
He finds a lone occupant in the cabin of the truck and opens the door. The man, probably in his early forties, male, balding and graying redhead, mustache and beard, wears a hunting jacket and is unconscious against the steering wheel. A little blood leaks from his nose onto his raised right hand. He almost looks as if he was sleeping, and that remarks makes the sheriff check the man's pulse. He is alive. Weak, but alive.
At a jog, the sheriff returns to his patrol car and signals in his find.
"Yeah, it's Sheriff McCall here. I have a Chevy Silverado in the ditch, possible heart trauma while driving. Checked that, no break tracks. Yeah, I checked that too. Weak, but alive... Send in the ambulance. Yeah, it's on my regular beat. Just give 'em the holler."
The sheriff seats himself and positions his patrol car in an appropriate safe place to make sure incoming cars will see him. The radio gives off half-intelligible barks and the sheriff just nods as he takes out flares to place on the road. He catches a glimpse of the license plate of the Silverado.
"Oh, fuck! Forgot that again..."
He opens the computer and jabs in the numbers of the plate. "Damn friggin' computer thing..." he mumbles under his breath, and he pushes the 'enter' key. information flashes before his eyes and he reads slowly in the light of his car.
"Yeah, awright... Ok... An editor, awright, nice... Westchester? Ok, hunting trip maybe... Poor fucker. Name... Name? Ah, 'k... 'Robertson, Alexander'. Okay, got it."
The sheriff gets out in the chilly night and starts lighting up the safety flares. He looks at his watch. Seven minutes have passed. He looks out to the sight of empty grass fields around him and misses the comfort of his chalet.
"Ok now, where the fuck is that fucking ambulance?"
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