“You’re Alyssa Meadows?”
Alyssa stared at the angel, wondering how she should act. If she was anything like Tenebrael, a bat wasn’t going to do much good. Neither would a gun. However, Tenebrael was clearly the evil twin of the two, what with her dressing in all black and taking people’s souls. So, deciding to be mildly hospitable, she lowered the bat and nodded her head.
Radiance beamed from the angel’s sudden smile as her wings carried her right in front of Alyssa, definitely breaking the boundaries of personal space. She gripped Alyssa’s hand and held it against her uncomfortably warm chest. “I finally found you! I’ve been searching for you everywhere. Absolutely everywhere! I thought you were still on Earth. But then I saw Tene leave and I followed after her on a hunch. And here you are! You’re not supposed to be here, you know?”
As she spoke, the overexcited angel bounced up and down on her heels. Or maybe that was her wings. Alyssa didn’t pay her much attention. One word in the angel’s exclamation stuck out to her.
“You’re from Earth.”
“Oh yes,” she said, hopping back and releasing Alyssa’s hand to give a slight bow. “Principality Iosefael. I’ve never really introduced myself to a human before. Well, you humans always say that experience is the best teacher! I guess you could say that I’m in charge of—”
“You can take me home?” Alyssa said, completely forgetting about her plans to travel to Lyria, or Teneville, or even Tenebrael. “You’ll take me home, right?”
“Certainly. You’re not supposed to be here. A fish out of water, you are. Your very presence will mess up a whole lot of things. Like Earth! Tenebrael has been going around causing so much havoc. She’s not supposed to be there and look what has happened. I tried to stop her, but then she just—”
Alyssa clapped her hands onto the Iosefael’s shoulders, letting the metal bat fall to the ground with a clatter. “That’s great and all, but take me home. Then you can tell me all your stories about how terrible Tenebrael is.”
She blinked her eyes. Weird eyes, Alyssa noted. While Tenebrael’s eyes glowed a bright white and had no irises or pupils to speak of, this angel’s eyes were green—maybe slightly larger irises than a normal person’s were. But her pupils were in the shape of an equal cross. No black dot in the center, just a dark vertical line crossed with a dark horizontal line.
“Right,” Iosefael said. “Of course. One moment.” She lifted her gloved hand high above her head. It shined with a brilliant light, though not quite as bright as Tenebrael’s halo had been during the ceremony. “I, Principality Iosefael, by the authority granted to me to oversee matters on Earth, hereby send one Alyssa Meadows back to the world in which she belongs! Confirming Earth’s existence. Earth confirmed. Beginning—”
The light of her glove wound all the way up the spiral of gold to her elbow where it flashed and died out.
Alyssa glanced around. Nothing had changed. But the house was from Earth anyway. She took a few quick steps back into her brother’s room and looked out the window.
Green grassy hills stretched all the way to the rings reaching high over the horizon.
“I don’t think it worked,” Alyssa said, trying to keep her tone of voice light. Surely the angel was just a little rusty. How many times did humans get sent to alternate universes anyway? Probably not all that often.
The angel, who had followed her into the room, wasn’t looking quite so radiant anymore. Her smile was barely a sliver of parted lips and her wings had drooped behind her.
“Alyssa Meadows,” Iosefael shouted again, pointing her finger straight up. “Thee, who have been displaced from thine proper existence—”
The light in her glove died off before she had even finished whatever she was trying to say.
As Iosefael stared at her hand in absolute shock, Alyssa felt the last bit of elation die away. She turned and sat down on the bed again. A multi-tool? Yeah, that seemed like a good thing to pack away for her trip. Alyssa pretended not to hear the angel’s continued attempts to send her back. The words changed every time; sometimes a different order, sometimes with entirely new phrases. She mumbled something about calculations and confirming that Earth still existed as well. Yet every time the angel finished—something she only managed a fourth of the time—Alyssa looked up to the window to find the scenery unchanged.
By the twentieth time, Alyssa had enough. She looked up at the angel and just sighed. “You’re really bad at this, aren’t you.”
“That’s not fair. This should work. I don’t understand.” Iosefael leaned in far too close as she stared with her odd eyes. “You are from Earth, right? Not some other Alyssa Meadows.”
“I am Alyssa Meadows and I’m from a place the people of Earth called Earth. Maybe you’re mixed up over which Earths?”
“No, no,” she hummed as she turned away, crossing her arms in a huff. “There’s only one Earth.” Her eyes shifted around the room, scanning over various objects until she came to a rest on the backpack that Alyssa was slowly filling with supplies.
It was about time to change rooms. She wanted to get at least a few changes of clothes from her room. The most rugged clothes she could find. Maybe digging through her mother’s old military gear wouldn’t be a bad idea either. She had to have some Army boots around. It might even be worth it to pack a dress or two. Not to wear, but surely there was some noble in the city willing to pay a fortune for ‘a fanciful dress from a distant land’ or some other nonsense she could make up then.
She would pack those last and only take them if they fit in.
“The house!” the angel half-shouted, snapping her metal gauntlet. “Of course! Tenebrael probably brought it here for a reason. I bet if I send it back—”
Alyssa jumped up and grabbed Iosefael’s hand before she could thrust it into the air. She leaned in close to the startled angel and spoke in a low, dangerous voice. “If you make this house disappear and leave me stranded without any modern equipment, I will be extremely cross. I don’t know if I can hurt an angel, but I will try my best to find a way.”
Iosefael backed away a single step when Alyssa let go of her hand. Her eyes held just a thin glaze of tears.
Yet Alyssa didn’t feel guilty in the slightest. Between having a useless angel happy with her or having modern equipment in a medieval age, she would select the latter every single time. So she simply sat down and continued her work. But only after ensuring that the angel wasn’t about to try sending away the house the moment she turned Alyssa gaze away.
“What are you doing?” Iosefael asked after a few minutes of watching, sitting down on the bed with her legs crossed beneath her.
“Packing. Isn’t it obvious?”
“But for what?”
“I need supplies. There’s a city somewhere to the north and I intend to visit.”
“You what?” She floated to her feet, wings quivering in agitation. “You can’t visit places! You’re lucky you wound up in the middle of nowhere! What if you accidentally interact with someone?”
“Too late,” Alyssa said without looking up. “Already found a town. Worked as an innkeeper for a few days. Talked to a number of people.”
Ignoring the strangled sound from the angel, Alyssa stood and put on the backpack, testing its weight. It was actually fairly light. Her muscles didn’t strain much more than they had while picking up her other backpack, and she had already transfered the contents—save for Aziz’s gear, which she was still not sure what she was going to do with. Part of that was probably not that it weighed the same, but simply because of the straps; The hiking backpack had more of a harness than just the two simple shoulder straps, so more of her body was supporting it.
The tent had come with the backpack and had its own little spot to hang from the bottom, but after walking around the room for three steps, Alyssa had already tired of it slapping her in the butt. An extra strap to tie it to the top of the bag would solve that problem. She’d have to remember to grab a belt and strap it on before she left.
Otherwise satisfied with the current state, she moved down to her parents’ room, skipping over her own clothing for the moment in the hopes of finding decent gear among her mother’s effects.
The closet smelled like bleach—she might have used a bit too much—but that was only a temporary discomfort compared to what the wilderness might be without proper preparation. Before even looking at the clothing, she crossed straight to the far wall and reopened the gun safe. She took every box of ammunition that fit her pistols and didn’t stop there. They had a revolver with a separate caliber of bullets which Alyssa neatly packed into the backpack.
“You’re not going to kill anyone, are you?” The angel, who had floated after her with a far more lethargic air about her than when they had first met, stared at all the equipment she was packing with wary eyes.
“Not planning on it,” Alyssa said as she moved back to the gun safe. “Only if people attack me first.” She stopped, eying the shotguns and the rifles. Both could be useful in different ways. She had never fired either before, only the pistols, but it couldn’t be that difficult. The biggest problem was the ammunition. Just counting what she had packed already, it had nearly doubled the weight of the backpack. Bullets weren’t light. Guns even less so. Taking both could be difficult.
“This seems excessive for self-protection,” the angel said, picking up the revolver with two fingers and an expression on her face like it had personally insulted her mother.
“Apparently this world is filled with beasts, monsters, and harpies.” Alyssa picked up the shotgun, testing its weight. “So far, all the people I’ve met have been friendly. Relatively so. It’s not them I’m worried about.”
“Harpies?” Iosefael scoffed. “This world is old enough to be out of the Age of Legends. I still remember the day it was created and Tenebrael came to tell me about being selected as its Dominion. That was a long time ago. Any monsters left over should all be extinct.” She fluttered over to the window and stared outside.
“That’s just what I heard,” she said, exchanging the shotgun for the rifle and bringing it up to her shoulder to peer down the sight. She kept it aimed away from the angel at the window, watching the digital clock on the bedside table instead. Doing so didn’t really help her much. She couldn’t get a feel for the gun or which was better. Just as she replaced it on the rack, Iosefael turned around with a startled gasp.
“What is going on? This world is all wrong. What have you done, Tene?”
The more she spoke, the less confidence she inspired in Alyssa. It was enough to have Alyssa turning to face her with a deep frown on her face. Though, watching her, an idea started to form.
“Say, Iosefael, what are you planning to do now that you can’t send me home?”
“I…” Her instant response died off as she slumped, mumbling to herself about Tenebrael. But her slump didn’t last long. She squared her shoulders and puffed out her chest—pressing it further against the golden bonds that held it in place. “I can’t stay here. Tene is making a mess on Earth and no one is going to stop her but me. Or, I hope no one is going to stop her. If they do…” Her eyes shifted away from Alyssa as she started rubbing her hands together.
Well there went that idea. She had been considering having the useless angel lessen her ineptitude by a small margin through the selfless act of carrying a duffel bag full of weapons. Alyssa had a whole excuse prepared about how Iosefael needed to follow her around because she might otherwise get into all sorts of trouble. Still, maybe she could get something else out of it. “I don’t suppose you could like… carry me off to the city? Just before you go. As an apology for Tenebrael or something.”
The angel narrowed her eyes. “If you leave, you’re going to interact with things and mess things up.”
“You said it yourself. This world is already messed up.” Alyssa wasn’t really sure about the context behind the world’s status. It almost sounded like they were talking about fate, or something similar. Fate obviously didn’t exist. If it did, she would have been unable to survive her apparent schedule with death. “Besides, the food here won’t last forever. I’ll starve if I never leave.”
Iosefael shifted, moving her weight from foot to foot, suddenly looking distinctly uncomfortable. “You’re not supposed to be alive anyway. I don’t know how you’re alive, but I suspect Tene—”
“Was that it then?” Alyssa said, voice icy cold. “You were going to take me back to my Earth and then kill me? To correct some ledgers?”
“Of-Of course not! An angel cannot directly harm a mortal! It is forbidden!”
“Perhaps indirectly then? Perhaps you were going to have someone suffer from a bout of divine inspiration?” she said, using Tenebrael’s words from the night she had appeared. The useless angel didn’t respond, continuing to look uncomfortable and refusing to look Alyssa in the eyes. “Get out,” she said, voice coming out as a hissed whisper. When the angel looked up with tears in her eyes but didn’t move, Alyss repeated herself, shouting. “Get out!”
“It’s just the way things are,” Iosefael said, crestfallen as she looked to the floor. “The way things have to be. Nothing personal.”
Alyssa leveled the shotgun in her hands at the angel. She doubted it would do much—especially in its current unloaded state—but she was too angry to care. It got results. Nothing to complain about that. While she had expected the angel to disappear in a flurry of molted feathers as Tenebrael had, Iosefael’s slow backing away worked just as well. She walked out of the room, down the hall, paused at the entrance threshold to look up and stare at Alyssa. With a sad shake of her head, she flapped her wings and vanished through the open entrance.
Marching up in her wake, Alyssa slammed the front door shut. A few bits of already broken glass came loose and clattered to the floor. Alyssa just stared at them with a sick feeling in her stomach. Apparently, not only could angels not be relied on to be reliable, but at least one wanted her dead, even if she had been… nice about it. The fact that Tenebrael had not arranged it so that Alyssa would find herself waking up dead might ironically mean that she was the lesser of the evils, though trusting that to hold for any length of time was a foolish idea.
Unfortunately, Alyssa was left back where she had started. It looked like she would have to travel the hard way.