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.Michael stared through netted tree branches that made a stark damp silhouette in the streetlights.Her head was dipped as she watched something at ground level, the line of her neck sloping gracefully, and she didn't seem cognizant of the rain that rolled down her spine and plastered her T-shirt to her bony shoulders.Only her crossed arms gave any hint of discomfort as the rain slid down her face, scattering from her eyelashes each time she blinked.She stood still as a gargoyle, grim and prescient, poised above her prey.She neither turned nor flinched when the swan's wings folded behind her, and Fionnghuala rose from a crouch, her mantle of white leathers clutched tight at her chest in white fingers.The rain soaked her feathers and draggled her hair in ragged spirals down her cheeks, streaming in rivulets over the pale, naked skin underneath.Unlike Michael's, her flesh prickled up in goose pimples, and a shiver rattled her teeth.Cold after Hell," the angel said, with the manner of one offering an observation to an empty room.She didn't turn, and her folded arms dropped to her sides, palms against her thighs, smoothing the jut of her shoulder blades under her soaked shirt."Cold cut Hell, I'd rather say," Fionnghuala answered, and came to stand beside the angel.She might look like a skinny girl in a white tank top with the words IT'S ALL MUSCLE printed on the front, but Nuala knew who wore that form, and no one would notice them here.No one would look up and see, as long as Michael stood beside her.Angels passed unnoticed through the world."Still unsmiling, I see.Is this your storm, then?""It is not serving," Michael said.She extended her right hand, a flick of her fingers, the rain tumbling off them.In the street below, two figures entwined, kissing in the shadows at the edge of a streetlight, oblivious to the rain."Wouldn't you like to jump down there and put your sword through his heart?"Michael sighed."You know the answer to that.""You don't have to obey."She turned to glance at Fionnghuala then, her mouth wrenched sideways by an expression that could have been despair, if despair was not a sin."No one has to obey.Lucifer also was an angel once." Fionnghuala shrugged."And is His love and regard worth so much?""You've been to Hell.You tell me what it's like to live without it." Michael's fingers flicked, significantly, to the street below."The ones who don't believe are such easy prey."Fionnghuala peered down.She recognized the man, but not the woman, and she knew from Michael's words what must be transpiring."Does it matter when they can't be damned?"Michael turned and gave Fionnghuala an eyebrow, frowning."You were.And how is it you are out of Hell now? Or come you on Hell's errand?""Can't you see my heart, angel?""The Lord thy God gave thee free will, creature.""The Lord my God," Fionnghuala said, "came along a bit after I did.The fact that my story was consumed in His doesn't change what I was before that.And don't play the innocent with me; it was always you who walked among humans.You know us well enough to know that too, Prince of the Presence.Isn't it beneath an angel of the Lord to bait an old woman?""Any other old woman, perhaps." Michael never smiled, they said.She hadn't since Lucifer fell.And so Fionnghuala could only call the change in her expression a softening.She turned back to the clinching couple."You didn't answer my question.""She'll catch a chill and die in this," Fionnghuala said, the rain freezing on the ends of her hair."She won't get cold with that one holding her."Fionnghuala frowned, and tucked her chin into her feathers."The answer is no, Michael.No, I'm not damned.Damned is different than sold, and God does not condemn for acts of pity."Michael did not answer.Silently, they watched the lovers kiss and break apart, but not too far.The man pulled the woman inside his embrace, and kissed her again.She laughed out loud and clung to him.Michael raised her eyes to Heaven; a stinging curtain of rain froze on Fionnghuala's feathers and melted on her skin, and pelted the lovers below.Fionnghuala shivered, teeth chattering, huddled under her cloak, and waited.There was more than patience to dealing with angels, but patience was a very good place to start.Ice crackled under her toes as they passed beyond pain and into numbness.Roof gravel bit the soles of her feet.What does Lucifer want?" Michael asked, finally, after five hard minutes of rain.Warmth cupped Fionnghuala's shoulders, living feathers over the frozen feathers of her swanmay's cloak.She leaned into it gratefully, protected by a curve of broad jade-colored plumage, Michael's wing like a heron's.Forgiveness," she said.Michael snorted and drew her under the one arched wing.She was cold and clammy beneath her cloak.It wasn't Lily who needed to worry about catching her death."It's his for the asking."He doesn't think he's the only one at fault." She shrugged, and found herself dry and warm."He has his pride.""And pride goeth before a fall." Michael peeked at the swanmay sideways, and accidentally met her eyes.She didn't flinch.She smiled.The angel's eyes flared warm and green through the tangled briars of her hair."Pride is the one thing He won't contend with," Michael said."His word is law.He doesn't compromise.""I know," Fionnghuala answered.Under the shelter of Michael's wing, she lifted her hair from the collar of her cloak and spread it out to dry in netted tangles.The couple were still kissing in the street, as if they enjoyed the storm and the cold."And the Morningstar has never mastered the art of humility.You know, though —He'd get on better with people if He negotiated once in a while.""That's what the stories are for," Michael said."You may tell the Prince of Lies that his message has been received, and will be considered." Reaching out, she darkened the streetlight over the lovers' heads with a pop and a shatter of glass.Matthew had never seen the Dragon face-to-face.On television, on the news in the days leading up to the Promethean assault on Faerie, he had seen the images over and over until, like an Escher print, they lost their value as representation and only the pattern remained.But by the time the Dragon descended on Times Square, he had been in Faerie.If he had stayed in New York, it would have been different.If he had stayed in New York, with Jane, he would have been in Times Square.He would have seen the Dragon.If he had stayed in New York, Faerie would have fallen, and Wey-land Smith's hammer could have done nothing to prevent it.He watched Morgan walk away—toward the woods rather than toward the Queen—her dogs trotting at her heels, and her raven winging ahead, and he sighed.Geoff waited until the sound of gravel crunching faded, and rubbed his nose with the back of his knuckle."You two've got history, I take it?""No," Matthew said, without looking away from the witch's retreating back."Not as such.Do you hear that?"Whatever it was, Geoff didn't.But he followed Matthew anyway, as the Mage set off in pursuit of Morgan le Fey like a hound on the trail or a rabbit [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]