“So,” Apollo said casually as they flew from building to building, landing lightly atop one and running to the far edge to survey the next target. “Will this plan still work with only three people? Because I’m pretty sure this was a four-person plan.”
“We can make it work,” Llandra replied coolly, still slightly irritated by their change of plans.
They had worked out the scheme with all four of them in mind, each with a particular responsibility in order to execute things as efficiently as possible. The Rheigns and Blesmahj were apparently performing things well enough on their end, considering the nonstop commotion taking place on the streets below. They hadn’t heard from or even seen them since entering the city, but they had witnessed the effects of their attacks. The streets were teeming with disorganized soldiers, many of whom were barking commands to troops who paid them no mind. Strange looking white and red demons interspersed with Nephilim, and fights had broken out between the multiple species.
There seemed to be one force, however, that was sweeping the streets and restoring order to the chaos. This legion was comprised entirely of armor-clad Nephilim, who were moving from street to street, ending quarrels and restoring order by any means necessary. In their wake were the remains of all those who had resisted them, all of whom had met a quick demise at their ruthless hands. Those who complied were sent to the city center, a location still unseen by the Kehtayahn, but their destination nonetheless.
“I say we avoid the hit squad,” Angel suggested as he peered over the roof’s edge, surveying the carnage below. “We couldn’t handle four angels, much less six-daggum-thousand of them.”
The trio flew quickly to the next building, checked for spotters, then moved on to the next.
“I’ve got to say,” Apollo said as he flew alongside Llandra. “It is getting pretty difficult to maintain my usual chipper personality considering the odds that seem to be stacking higher and higher against us. Even I have to admit that I don’t see the logical endgame to this whole thing.”
“I know how you feel,” Llandra agreed, taking a moment’s pleasure as the wind whipped her hair back.
Before them, Angel hit the next roof and rolled, more for the fun of it than anything. When he popped up to his feet, he ran to the far end of the building, springing with all of his strength for the opening in the side of the building across the street. He could have flown, but he enjoyed pushing himself, and jumping seventy feet straight forward was a good way of doing such. Angel shot through the window and hit the ground easily, sliding across the floor before halting himself before the far wall. His companions flew through the window behind him and smiled at him.
“And why didn’t you just fly?” his twin asked, continuing through the building to the far side.
“Because this was funner!”
“I’m pretty sure ‘funner’ is not a word,” Llandra corrected him.
Angel stopped at the next window and peered out, then turned back to his sister.
“It is now.”
“There,” Apollo pointed, aiming over the next building to something in the distance. “It’s the Edifice of Elders.”
Through the dusty air, they could just make out the outline of Brone’s tallest structure, which towered over everything around it. None of its neighbors were within ten stories of its height, the Edifice clearly intended to be the tallest structure in the city.
“Well,” Llandra said with a nod. “It’s still standing. At least we have that going for us.”
Angel squinted at the building.
“It kind of makes you wonder how anyone could get a building made out of mud to stand that ridiculously tall.”
“I’m sure it’s more than mud,” Llandra said, then shot over to the next building with the rest of her crew.
“You know,” Angel said, scanning the city streets and seeing nobody. “We’ve been jumping buildings for hours now. All this stealth is just killing me.”
“No,” his sister replied. “All this stealth is keeping you alive. What do you want to do, just go for it?”
“Just a little,” he said with a shrug.
“So we can draw the attention of the hit squad?”
“Well,” Angel said slowly. “Not really.”
Llandra pat him on the back and smiled.
“Then slow and steady it is.”
The trio flew to the next building and shot through the window a few floors from the top.
“Ahh!” came a startled cry as they touched down in the room, and the Kehtayahn produced their weapons instantly.
A thick figure rushed from the room, and the Warriors looked at each other, puzzled.
“I think that was a Carnecian,” Apollo said, then began to run after it.
“Wait!” he called, overtaking the stubby little person quickly. “We’re the good guys!”
The Carnecian, whose one eye was wide in terror, took a step back as Apollo cut him off.
“Hey, man,” Angel said softly, recalling his blade and holding his hands up in a sign of peace. “We’re not Nephilim. We’re humans.”
The grey creature seemed to relax at this, looking him over, then the other two.
“You are the creatures from the Edifice of Elders,” he said slowly. “I have heard of you.”
“Well,” Llandra replied. “We’re not them, but we are with them. My name is Llandra.”
“I am Guili,” the Carnecian said, and put his thick hands in the front pouch of the red robe he was wearing.
“Are you alone up here?” Angel asked, looking around at the empty halls.
“Yes. The rest of us were rounded up by Belial’s forces yesterday, but I managed to stay hidden while the Nephilim kidnapped the rest of them.”
“What did they do with everyone?” Apollo asked, noticing for the first time the evidence of chaos around him.
Objects that looked as though they should be standing upright were lying in the middle of the hallway, and many walls had holes punched through them. Pieces of strange things the humans were unfamiliar with were scattered across the floor, adding to the impression that something hectic had taken place here.
“They have been taken to the City Center,” Guili replied sadly.
“That’s where the Edifice is, right?”
“Yes. I heard some of the Nephilim speaking, telling my friends that they were being taken to the City Center, which is the grounds surrounding the Edifice of Elders. It is usually used for celebrations and gatherings.”
The wheels in Llandra’s head started turning as she began piecing together the facts.
“Is it big enough to hold the entire population of Brone?” the curly-headed girl asked, sounding worried.
“Yes,” the Carnecian replied. “It was designed as such.”
“Why hasn’t Belial conquered Brone by now?”
“Jehovah has not allowed it.”
“No, specifically,” Llandra pressed, shaking her head. “Why hasn’t he just marched through the city before recently?”
Guili looked at her peculiarly.
“The Seraphim have always interceded immediately. Any time the Nephilim have marched on Brone, Jehovah has sent his Seraphim to defend us before they even set foot in the city.”
“Have they done this since we arrived?”
“No. The Seraphim departed the city yesterday shortly after the Rheigns and Blesmahj.”
“Oh, no,” Llandra whispered as the reality of things began to dawn on her.
“What?” her brother demanded.
His twin responded slowly, eyes darting left and right as she spoke.
“This whole thing is about a grudge. The renegade angels have been warring against the Carnecians for years now, but Jehovah’s forces have been keeping them at bay. But since yesterday the city has been unprotected. So Belial invaded the city and, without us here or Jehovah sending aid, he has sacked it. He is rounding up the Carnecians in one place as fast as possible in order to...”
She left it hanging, but Apollo knew where she was going with it.
Guili took a step back as if he had been slapped.
“Impossible,” he said in shock. “Jehovah would never allow that.”
“You can’t blame God for the actions of people,” Llandra replied solemnly. “Sometimes He lets things happen that we wish He wouldn’t.”
“But why didn’t Belial just kill them all,” Angel pondered. “Instead of rounding them up. Killing them would have been much faster.”
“I don’t know,” Llandra said, then turned for the exit and began talking as she walked. “Guili, stay here. Guys, we have to get to the City Center now. Hopefully we get there before Belial kills them all.”
“What if they’re already dead?” Apollo asked grimly.
Llandra stopped at the window and checked the street below.
“We can only pray that they’re not.”