“So I’ve been wondering…”
“If you are wolves…”
“And wolves are related to dogs, or whatever…”
“Does that make your mother a b-“
The Alpha breathes in, and then lets out an eardrum-shattering roar, literally inches from my face. I’m showered by spit, but it’s better than being hit in the face again. Which is pretty much what I expected for a remark like that.
It’d been like this right from the start. I came quietly. I didn’t want to make a fuss, just to get things sorted out and leave. So I take one step into their camp, greet them with a smile, and they tie me up to the exact same poles they used before. Except with iron chains instead of ropes. And arranging it so I was hanging off the ground. My head must’ve been at about the nine-foot mark - perfect height to make it really uncomfortable for me, and for the Alpha to get in all those rib and jaw shots. Which he loved to do, apparently.
He let loose a few quick punches which knocked the wind out of me, then followed up with a mean uppercut which snapped my head back. The Alpha danced around me like a boxer for a few more seconds, then settled on his feet and grabbed my jaw, pulling me forward to face him.
“I’ll ask you again, you angelic piece of dirt – why did you try to hurt Tobias? Why did you leave a crater in our midst? And why did you summon that… thing to the camp?!” With the last word he lunged in with another punch, which took away all the breath I had just got back.
“Well, I don’t think he’ll be able to answer many questions if you keep doing that to him.” GreyWolf stepped out from behind the Alpha, stepping in between us and looking up at me. “You never thought of, I don’t know, simply asking him these questions before tying him up and using him as a semi-immortal punching bag?”
“The threat he poses is too great,” the Alpha said, washing specks of my blood off his hands with water from a wooden bowl. “I have no time to sit around and play Papa with an angelic being.”
“Shame – back in my days as Alpha, it would be deemed rude not to treat guests with respect”. GreyWolf sat down on a stool to my left. I spat blood out of my mouth – to the right, obviously – and stared down at him.
“Sorry about your coat, Storyteller – it’s not really in any state to be returned. I’ll make sure to repay you for it someday.”
“You could repay him now by answering my questions!” the Alpha growled, coming to stand in front of me again.
“Its his repayment, not yours. And he’s right, I might have been more willing to give you the answers, or at least the ones I know, if you hadn’t trussed me up like a rag doll, you ignorant-“
So what I said next was basically a generic derogatory angelic word. It doesn’t really have a translation; so don’t bother asking me to explain it. In heaven, it might have riled someone’s feathers. But on Earth, it had a much stronger reaction.
It was like a shockwave coming from my mouth. GreyWolf was knocked backwards off his stool, legs up in the air. The Alpha crossed his arms in front of his face and growled. Objects all over the place were knocked around, and all the flames of the torches went out. When it subsided, it was pitch black, and the only thing I could see were the Alpha’s eyes. The shockwave hadn’t even knocked him back a step. But he was pissed off.
He roared, drew his knife and stabbed forward. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel the blade slide into me, between my ribs. It was cold as ice, and the feeling spread through my chest. I coughed, and could taste blood in my mouth.
“Punctured lung” the Alpha said triumphantly, pulling his knife back and wiping the blood – my blood – for it with a cloth. “Now you might actually think about giving me those answers, huh?”
“Oh my poor boy…” GreyWolf was picking himself up from the floor. “You really have never dealt with an angel, have you?”
“What?” the Alpha snapped back. He turned to look at me, and saw the faint silvery-white glow that was building up around me.
“Protection glyph number four broken – immediate assistance necessary. Reconstruction time remaining – eleven hours fifteen minutes remaining. Increasing recovery… Reconstruction complete. Defense protocol three commissioned. Have a nice day.”
I looked up and grinned apologetically. “Sorry about the second crater.”
Both hybrids eyes widened. Then they ran from the hut.
An explosion was what I had been expecting – something that would level this hut and let me walk out of it seeming badass. I didn’t quite get my wish.
The silvery light around me intensified, and I felt my insides healing up. My lung reinflating, the wound sealing together, and surprisingly a tiny bit of my old power coming back. It was a tiny percentage of what I’d had before, but it was comforting.
When the light faded, I dropped to the ground. The light had burnt through the chains, as well as a lot of the items in the room, and part of the ground beneath me. Nothing as major as the crater I had left outside, but I bet it was still going to piss off the Alpha a lot.
Speak of the devil (figuratively), the Alpha reappeared in the doorway, panting heavily. It seemed that he hadn’t got out of the way fast enough – he had shifted, and part of his fur was smoking from where it had been singed off. I was in trouble.
“Defense protocol three decommissioned. Escape protocol one commissioned.”
I was starting to remember what all of these things I kept saying without meaning to actually meant. I smiled.
“Thanks, Cephi.” I waved at the Alpha, who dived at me. I disappeared.
The Alpha howled in anger, while GreyWolf covered his ears.
“Alright, alright. He got away, don’t take it out on my ears.”
The Alpha stopped, and shifted back to human form. He paced around the tiny crater the angel had left in his wake, then stopped when two guards appeared in the doorway, looking very confused.
“Summon Imogen, and that mate of hers. I will have words with them both. You, check on Tobias, and bring him here.” Both the guards ran to attend to their duties.
GreyWolf righted his stool, part of it burned black, and tutted. The Alpha sighed. “What do you have to say now, Storyteller?”
“That you should not have lost your temper. That angel was our only source of information. And if what was summoned on that night he arrived – if what I’m guessing is correct – then we cannot afford to make any more enemies out of possible allies. We’re going to need all the help we can get.”
“Nonsense!” the Alpha laughed. “We are the hybrids. We have survived scorching summers and freezing winters, such events that have driven humanity into hiding while we stood and faced it head on. What help could we possibly need from one angel?”
GreyWolf said nothing for a moment, and then closed his eyes. When he opened them again, the Alpha recognized that look. A story was coming.
“Tell me, Alpha – what do you know of the Apocalypse?”
I reappeared back in the café, but I didn’t need my angel powers to tell me something was wrong. Tables were overturned, and the glass cover for the display case was smashed. The kitchen door hung open on one hinge, and no lights were on. The place was deadly quiet.
“ANNIE!” I shouted, racing up the stairs. I searched the whole place – everywhere was wrecked, and Annie was nowhere to be found. I raced back downstairs, going to check the kitchen.
I took one step into the room and fell flat on my back.
I groaned as I rolled over, checking the back of my head – no blood this time. At least, not mine.
It was in a pool in the middle of the floor. No signs of how it was spilled, just a big pool of it. And some drops and smudges that led to the back door. On the doorframe, an extra smudge in an unmistakable shape. A handprint.
I played it through in my mind. Someone had come in, and attacked Annie. She had fought back, as she would, but couldn’t win. She’d been hurt. The figure had then taken her out the back door – she had grabbed it in an attempt to stop him, or her, but had failed.
She’d been hurt.
SHE’D BEEN HURT.
I was breathing heavily now. Feelings were boiling up inside me now. Feelings that I’d never felt as an angel. These were definitely human feelings, and I knew this ones name.
Rage. But I didn’t care.
I knelt down beside the pool of blood, and got a little on the end of my finger. I closed my eyes, hoping that my tiny bit of power would allow me to do this.
“Cephi, analyze this blood. Tell me who it belongs to.”
“Analyzing” I said in a voice that wasn’t my own. I scowled.
“Cephi, switch from external to internal speakers.” I figured that having a voice in my head would be better than having a second voice. Especially in public.
“Request denied. Power levels insufficient. Blood belongs to the acquaintance you refer to as ‘Annie’. How do you wish to proceed?”
“Damn. Sh-*cough*. Request permission to rescue?”
“Request permission to avenge?”
“Then what can I do?!”
“Anything you want. You are outside of angelic jurisdiction, as you are no longer a full angel. You have lost your Grace, and your weapon. How do you wish to proceed?”
I was shocked by this for a moment. Then I remembered Annie, and the rage came boiling back.
“Fine. I’m going back to the hybrids camp to get Annie back. Disengage all cautionary sigils and glyphs. I need power, and I want them to know I’m coming.”
“Sigils and glyphs disengaged. Warning – at this low level of power, it is likely you will be killed by the hybrids. Do you wish to proceed?”
I scowled. Cephi, the computer-like manager system for all angelic beings on Earth was really useful, but also a pain in the arse.
“Yes, I do.”
“Fine. Your funeral.”
“Human death celebration or party.”
I stepped through the pool of Annie’s blood and walked out through the back door. Annie was the one person on Earth who had actually helped me after I’d fallen.
She’d been taken.
Not to parody Liam Neeson (of whom Annie was a massive fan – she’d already made me watch Phantom Menace, Batman Begins and Taken, twice), but I was going to make those hybrids pay with their pelts for taking her.