Irulon said something, but Alyssa barely heard a word. All her concentration went toward not panicking at the sight of the angel in front of her. There is no need to panic, she told herself. Angels cannot kill humans.
There are things worse than death, Irulon had said to both Lumen and Kasita. And that was probably true. The angel didn’t need to kill to do harm. Harm could mean a lot of different things. It really depended on whose definition of harm was in use.
What to do? What to do? The angel wasn’t doing anything. Not yet, anyway. She just stared with her red eyes, looking right at Alyssa. Her wings were tucked neatly behind her back, making her barely any wider than her shoulders. Up close, the first thing Alyssa noticed was that this archangel was shorter than both Tenebrael and Iosefael. She didn’t look like a child, clearly having more adult-like features to her face, she was just a short woman and had proportions to match. Yet, even though Alyssa stood taller than her, she couldn’t help but feel intimidated.
Tenebrael had asked to be contacted if she showed up, but what should she do? Just reach for her phone and call up Tenebrael while this angel was watching? It was in Irulon’s hand, but Alyssa could summon it if she wanted. However, drawing attention to it might be a bad idea. Tenebrael said it was invulnerable, but did that include from other angels? Presumably, Tenebrael could break it if she so desired, meaning it wasn’t a perfect invulnerability even if Annihilator couldn’t scratch it.
But if not phone up Tenebrael, what then? Attack her? Iosefael had gotten caught up by Spectral Chains. This angel was supposedly of a lower rank. But what if it didn’t work? Then she would have just made the angel mad for no reason.
Alyssa couldn’t just talk to her. Tenebrael had specifically warned her against that. While Alyssa wasn’t going to blindly follow Tenebrael’s directives like she was one of the angel’s worshipers, her interactions with Iosefael had proved that other angels were not any better. Worse, in fact. At least Tenebrael didn’t want to kill her. The same couldn’t be said for the others. Especially not for an archangel whose duties were apparently to set right what had gone wrong.
Maybe the angel would go away if she was ignored. What was she even doing? Staring like that… Why didn’t she say or do something. The longer it went on with nothing happening, the more antsy Alyssa grew. Turning just enough to catch Irulon in the corner of her eyes, Alyssa checked to see what the princess was doing.
Nothing as well, though she had looked at the now dark screen of the phone. Her eyes were black and white, dancing about in their orbits as she searched. Irulon clearly knew that something was wrong. She might even know that the angel was in front of them. But what was Irulon supposed to do about it? Alyssa at least benefited from being able to see the angel. Given how Oxart had walked right through Tenebrael, it was doubtful that Irulon could even touch this… Adrael.
Irulon’s fingers twitched, moving toward her spell tome. Whether it was that movement or whether enough time had passed for the angel to make a decision, she started moving as well. She held out a hand, forming glowing runes and geometrical shapes in the air.
“Unnatural duality detected. Separation possible, preparing—”
Alyssa didn’t give the angel a chance to find out what the spell did. She stepped forward, grabbed the angel by her outstretched wrist, and wrenched her arm upward.
A part of her expected some laser blast of white light to fly toward the heavens, just in time to save Irulon. But nothing nearly so dramatic happened. The runes and lines in the air faded out and the glow dropped to a faint florescent. Which just made Alyssa realize that the angel didn’t have her halo equipped. Otherwise she would be blindingly bright just standing there.
While her actions had stopped the angel from casting at Irulon, it earned Alyssa the angel’s full attention. Her red eyes were staring hard at Alyssa. After a tense moment, her gaze shifted away to where Alyssa had a hold of the angel’s wrist.
“What has she done?”
Alyssa blinked. “What?”
“You should not be able to perceive divine beings.”
Divine, Alyssa thought with a mental scoff. She was doing just what Tenebrael warned her against, but there was no stopping it now. “I’ve been told that before.”
“Alyssa…” Irulon spoke, voice laced with an uncharacteristic worry. How much could she guess about what just happened? Probably a lot. While Adrael would be invisible to her, Alyssa had clearly grabbed something that had been aimed at Irulon and moved it away from her. At no point had Alyssa tried to disguise her movements.
And she shouldn’t need to. In Alyssa’s opinion, Irulon had every right to know that someone had been about to cast a spell on her, regardless of whether that person was an angel or not.
“What are you? You are mortal, are you not?”
Alyssa clenched her teeth. Why was it always that question? She would accept someone wondering what made her so special, Alyssa wondered the same thing. But surely an angel could tell that she was a regular human. Irulon, Lumen, Tess, and everyone else who had questioned Alyssa’s humanity at least had the excuse that they were not beings from a higher plane of existence, or whatever the Throne was.
“What about you?” Alyssa threw back. “Aren’t you not supposed to meddle in mortal affairs? The people here are trying to commit genocide. How can you support them?”
“Entire worlds have been flooded, burned, or torn asunder. A few million mortals perishing in the name of the Throne is of little concern.” The angel’s lips pressed into a thin line as her eyes flicked over to where Alyssa still had a grip of her wrist. “I request that you relinquish my arm.”
Alyssa shuddered, feeling an uneasy chill wash over her. It wasn’t a physical feeling, but a mental one. This person—This angel spoke so dispassionately about the deaths of millions. It was a bit hypocritical. Back on Earth, how many times had she been flipping through the news and heard about some war in Africa or terrorist bombing in Europe or even a more domestic incident, thought about how tragic it was, then flipped to another channel or browsed to a new web page without a second thought? Probably a lot more than she could count.
But Alyssa had never before been in a position where she could do anything about it. Terrorism was someone else’s problem to deal with. She was just a small-town worker at a home improvement store. What was she supposed to do about some country on the opposite side of the world invading their neighbors?
But here… it was different here. Maybe through coincidence, maybe through fate, maybe through the meddling of angels… however she had ended up in the situation she found herself in, Alyssa had power here. She had just blown away a hill using nothing more than pen scribbles on a piece of paper! Not everyone on this world could do that. Irulon might be able to achieve similar effects with some preparation. But Oz? That wasn’t to say that Oz was useless. He had skills that did not rely on pens and papers. Just being with her the night the trolls and goblins got into the city had probably saved her life. Without him leading her to Tzheitza, she would have been out on the streets alone.
He wouldn’t be reshaping the desert anytime soon, but he was trying to stop this genocide as well. Through killing a community of fairies… which might be genocide in its own right. Even if they were cannibalistic little mind-controlling monsters—Alyssa shook her head. If not for the Society of the Burning Shadow and this angel, the fairies never would have gotten wrapped up in all this in the first place.
What was the phrase? With great power came great responsibility. Alyssa had great power. Maybe she hadn’t known just how great it was until a half hour ago, but she had definitely known that she could cast high ranked spells. So she had power. She was just inexperienced in using it. What she needed now was her own spell tome. To do what she had said she would do before she got her phone back and wound up tangled up in all… this.
“Reiteration: Relinquish my arm, mortal.”
Alyssa opened her mouth, tempted to spit back a ‘make me’ until she realized that the angel probably would take that literally. Even with the power she had compared to someone like Oz, Alyssa needed to do a hell of a lot more research on angels before she would feel remotely confident in standing up against them. Even grabbing Adrael’s arm like she had probably hadn’t been the wisest of actions. She didn’t regret doing so. Letting the angel cast a spell at Irulon was not something a friend would have done. And nothing had come of it… yet.
Not wanting anything to come of it, Alyssa let go, dropping her arm to her side. The angel turned her wrist around, looking at it from all angles before copying the motion. The whole time, Alyssa kept her eyes on the angel. She didn’t trust that Irulon was safe in the slightest. In fact, the angel having her eyes on Irulon at all was a bad situation.
If this angel wanted to, she could just follow them around until Alyssa fell asleep. Even if Irulon stayed awake and alert, she couldn’t do anything against the angel.
Alyssa felt a hazy headache well up. What were they supposed to do against this thing? Maybe Irulon could seal them away in some side world, but there was no guarantee that an angel couldn’t just walk in the same way that they could cross between this world and Earth.
They needed Tenebrael.
Again, Alyssa’s eyes flicked over to her phone. Irulon still had it in her hand. The princess was staring at the blank spot with narrowed eyes as if trying to see what was there. Alyssa found it somewhat surprising that Irulon hadn’t pulled out her tome. Then again, Irulon was surely smart enough to know that taking potentially hostile actions might be met with hostile actions. But the phone… With the screen having gone dark, she would have to spend a second unlocking it, then there was a second or two to get into the contacts list before she could actually call Tenebrael. Would the angel stop her if she grabbed it? Maybe not. At the moment, she was staring at Irulon again. Adrael seemed more concerned with observation for the time being. That might not remain the case if this went on for too long.
Chancing it, Alyssa called the phone to a hand behind her back. It was almost laughable to think that the angel wouldn’t notice. But the angel’s red eyes remained on Irulon’s face even as she felt the hard plastic form in her hand. She quickly pressed her thumb to the fingerprint reader. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the muscle memory required to hit the contacts list from behind her back. Turning slightly to try to keep the phone hidden, Alyssa glanced to her hip. Contacts. A flick of her finger sent the list scrolling all the way to the bottom.
<3 Tene <3
The screen switched to a still picture of the monochromatic angel, this one posed as if she had taken a selfie. It was dialing some number, but the numbers that appeared on screen weren’t regular ones. They were those same runic symbols that filled Tenebrael’s book and covered spell cards.
Now what? Did she have to bring it up to her ear and start talking? That wasn’t going to fly with the angel standing right there. She was lucky she had gotten this far.
Alyssa bit her lip, waiting. Adrael was still staring at Irulon, but she hadn’t tried casting a spell again. It was a little weird. Given that she had met three different angels, all of whom had expressed a degree of surprise at her being able to see them, it was a little strange that Irulon of all people was stealing this angel’s attention. Adrael had mentioned a duality. It had to have something to do with the dragon.
“Is it still there?” Irulon said, voice quiet.
Even if she didn’t have super hearing, the angel would have heard anyway. As it was, the corners of her lips turned downward at the question. She started raising a hand, but hesitated with a glance at Alyssa.
“Yeah. I don’t think she likes your… companion.”
“Two souls inhabiting a single body will not remain stable indefinitely. One will eventually subsume the other. They must be separated immediately lest the record of their existence be corrupted. The Throne will not accept the soul should they merge.”
Alyssa’s eyes widened as she looked over to Irulon. Subsumed? That sounded bad. Did Irulon know about that? Tenebrael probably didn’t care. She ate souls. As far as Alyssa could tell, she avoided interacting with the Throne. Though Alyssa really didn’t know much about it aside from what she could gather from context. Yet another reason to ask for a dossier on angels from Tenebrael.
“Your heart rate has spiked,” Irulon said. “What is it?”
“She uh… said that one of you will eventually absorb the other.”
“Subsume was the word she used.”
The angel raised a hand again. “I do not know why you are able to perceive me, but as long as you can, I will make use of you. Inform her that she should not resist. It will be unpleasant. Already, the duality is bordering on inseparable.”
Alyssa stepped forward again, moving between Irulon and the angel. She tried to grab at Adrael’s wrist, but the angel glided backwards just enough for Alyssa’s fingers to brush against her skin and nothing more. Still, the motion stopped the faint glow that had started to sprout up around Adrael’s hand. Alyssa’s slight sigh caught in her throat as the angel’s red eyes rushed toward her. There was no time to react before Alyssa felt a light touch against her chest.
“Relocating interfering entity to—”
A beam of darkness wrapped in white light encompassed Adrael. Alyssa stumbled backward, knocking into Irulon and sending both to the ground.
The light only lasted a second before it was gone. Alyssa didn’t even have time to wince or squint. Even her backward stumble had barely started when the beam winked out. And when it did wink out, there was nothing left where Adrael had been. No sign of the angel in any direction. Not even a single feather.
At least, not a single white feather.
“I leave you for five minutes and you’re already causing problems?”
Coughing, mouth tasting a bit more like dirt than she was comfortable with, Alyssa glanced up. Tenebrael hovered with gently flapping wings above where Adrael had been standing. The white-winged angel was still nowhere to be seen. It was as if she had never been. There wasn’t even a mark on the ground where that beam of light had struck. Maybe a little disturbed dirt, but it wasn’t like Annihilator at all.
“I felt that,” Irulon said. “I didn’t see anything, but something happened. The dragon is still in my head, whatever it was didn’t remove him.”
“No,” Alyssa said quietly before realizing that there wasn’t much point in keeping quiet. Tenebrael could surely hear and Irulon already knew about the angel’s interest in her. “Tenebrael showed up and… Did you kill her?” Alyssa asked, raising her voice to clarify just who she was speaking to.
The black wings folded themselves behind Tenebrael as she lowered herself to the ground. “She left the plane the instant my attack connected. It wouldn’t have killed her anyway. And now, thanks to you, she knows that I know that she is here.”
“Yeah, well, I didn’t have much choice.” Alyssa brushed herself off as she stood up. The dragon hide was remarkably amazing at keeping dust and dirt off, but enough stuck to it that it looked far from the pristine dark color that it had been when Irulon first pulled it out of her closet. I need to stop being so shocked at every little thing. Granted, a laser blast inches from her wasn’t a little thing, but the fact was that she fell over far too much for her liking. One of these times, someone was going to be in a position to capitalize on her weakness. It was a flaw that she needed to correct. That nobody had done so yet was surprising enough.
Irulon didn’t actually look all that much better. She had yet to get to her feet or brush herself off, but even her armor hadn’t been looking pristine. And… even with Alyssa standing in front of her, waving her hand in front of her face, Irulon didn’t move.
“Princess? Are you alright?”
She jerked, blinking her now violet eyes. “Fine. Fine. Just… having a minor difficulty absorb… taking in the situation. Tenebrael is here?”
Alyssa glanced over to a shrugging angel before nodding her head. “Just right there.”
Irulon did not get to her feet. She turned around, moving from sitting on her butt to pressing her head to the ground in a kneel. The speed at which she moved had Alyssa blinking.
“You should take lessons, Alyssa. That is the proper reaction to meeting an angel of my status and glory.”
Alyssa rolled her eyes. “You don’t have to do that.”
“Did Her Holiness say that?” Irulon said, keeping her face pressed into the ground.
“Uhh…” Alyssa flicked her eyes to the side to find the angel doing nothing more than smirking. “Yes.”
“I do not appreciate your lying to me.”
“Stay there then,” Alyssa said with a sad shake of her head. Turning back to Tenebrael, she sighed. “Can’t you show yourself to her and tell her yourself?”
“No,” she said with a definite note of amusement in her voice.
“No you can’t or no you won’t?”
“It is forbidden for angels to show themselves to mortals except under extremely specific circumstances.”
“You’re the one who complains about your and other angels’ restrictions. Why not break that rule?”
“I—” Tenebrael opened her mouth before clamping it shut. “Now that you’ve attracted Adrael’s attention, it’s going to be quite annoying for me. I don’t have time to deal with tedious things right now. I’ve got preparations to make back on Earth. Big ones.”
She can’t then? Alyssa thought with a mild hum. It was just a bit… pitiful. Could she really not? Was it some restriction that she had an aversion to violating or literally couldn’t do such a thing? Pressing her lips together, she shook her head. “What are we supposed to do about her? She seems to want to attack Irulon because there’s a dragon in her head. The second you leave, she’s just going to be back here again.”
“A problem I have considered and have found a temporary solution to. After a long discussion, I think I’ve brought an old friend around to my way of thinking.” Waving a hand, Tenebrael gestured directly behind Alyssa.
Having a feeling that she knew exactly what she was going to see, Alyssa looked back with a frown. “Is she going to try to kill me?”
“Alyssa Meadows!” Iosefael said with an indignant pout on her round face. “You know that angels cannot harm—”
“Or get me killed?”
“No, no. Principality Iosefael wanted an opportunity to observe a bit more of my world and form her own opinions on what I am doing here. This is merely a convenient situation that works to all of our advantages.”
Iosefael put on a small smile. “The humans call it ‘watching each other’s backs’ I believe. Though it is more of me watching for archangels and attempting to keep them contained until Tenebrael can… isolate them.”
“Don’t you have a job to do on Earth?” Alyssa said to the golden angel.
Tenebrael was the one to respond, crossing her arms with a haughty smile. “Since I am spending much of my time on Earth trying to mend your mistake of not dying, I will be carrying out her duties for the time being.”
“And you better carry them out properly, Tene.”
“Of course I will. We don’t want another Alyssa running around. Maybe one day, but I’m not ready for more yet.”
Something gave Alyssa the impression that she would be having a lot of headaches in the future. The angels were simultaneously her best bet and her greatest obstacle in returning home. But, if Iosefael was following her around, maybe she would use some spells that Alyssa could take pictures of. Getting more angelic magic into Irulon’s analytical hands could only help. Maybe she could find a weakness in their magic or just a way to Earth.
Though she still needed information. Looking up to Tenebrael, Alyssa made a simple request. “I want information on angels, the Throne, magic, and whatever else related that you can provide.”
“I’ll send you an email.”
“Good, then…” Alyssa blinked. “An email?”
“Is there a problem? You have your phone.”
“No. No problem. I just expected some thick manuscript with those large letters filled with illustrations and iconography at the beginning of every page. You know, like religious texts, or whatever. Hearing an angel talk about sending an email is…” Alyssa trailed off with a shrug.
Which just made Tenebrael shrug in return. “Would you rather a big thick book that you have to lug around? Or some digital text on a small device that you’re already carrying everywhere, is invulnerable, and cannot be lost or stolen?”
“An email is perfectly fine.”
“An email it is then. Look forward to it.” Without another word, Tenebrael pulled off her molting trick and vanished in the midst of her feathers.