Category Archives: MW:ADC

Chapter 2 (rewrite)

Alex

 

At least the food looks okay. I filled my plate with blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, grapes, and a big helping of bacon and eggs.

I surveyed the dining hall, looking for an empty table where I could eat my breakfast alone.

“You can sit here,” someone waved to me from a table right in front of me.

Can’t avoid the other angels forever. I hopped onto the perch opposite her.

“I’m Lilly.” She smiled–as much as it’s possible to smile with a beak.

“Alex.” I took a forkful of eggs.

“I take it you don’t know anyone here?”

I shrugged.

“Me neither. I live right by Saint Williams, so everyone else went there.”

“Why didn’t you?” Saint Williams was halfway across the country, and this wasn’t a very well-known school.

“I just… wanted a little change of scenery, after 22 years in the same place.”

“Yeah… I get that.” After a while, you start to feel trapped. Walls meant to keep danger out start to feel like a cage to keep you in.

I tried the strawberries, skipping my fork and just grabbing them with my beak. Nice and juicy.

Lilly gave me a look of dissapproval and disgust.

I sighed, taking up my fork again. I’d forgotten how much importance angels put on stuff like that. “Sorry.”

“That’s no way for an angel to eat. We’re better than that.”

It took all my effort to refrain from making a snide comment.

“I must have left my manners with my feathers.” I spread my pathetic featherless wings.

My not-making-snide-comments skills could use a bit of work…

She shook her head.

I’d taken care to choose a more-lenient angel academy. One that didn’t make everyone wear chastity belts. But it was still going to be a struggle.

Suddenly, Lilly grabbed half a dozen berries with her beak.

I blinked.

“Can’t be perfect all the time.” She smiled warmly and resumed using her fork again.

“Right.” I smiled back.

Maybe it won’t be so bad, after all.

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Chapter 1 (rewrite)

Alex

 

I’m ashamed to call myself an angel, I thought as I ritualistically plucked out my feathers.

I had to keep reminding myself that angels do a lot of good, too. Feeding the hungry, healing the sick, guiding people towards spiritual fulfillment… committing genocide and acts of terrorism, threatening to rip off my wings if I didn’t train to “fulfill my divine duty”…

I glanced around the chapel, where hundreds of other angels were participating in this plucking ritual alongside me. It was supposed to be a sign of devotion towards the divine, but for me, this mandatory act of self-mutilation–stripping myself of both flight and magic–had a different meaning: impermanence. With time, my feathers would regrow and I’d once more fly, just like my training would end, and I’d once more be free.

The Angelic Church/government insists that angels were created to serve their god, and that any angel who refuses to do so doesn’t deserve to live. Luckily for me, the inter-species Common Government recognized that as slavery, and told the Church that they couldn’t actually force people to serve them. All they can do is make me train to serve them.

Last one. I gripped the base of a secondary flight feather with my pliers and pulled it out quickly. Put it in a large plastic bag with the rest of my plumage (minus what my underwear covers. The Church isn’t too fond of public nudity).

One of the teachers nodded at me approvingly as I left the chapel, into the cool night air.

Instinctively, I spread my wings to fly back to my dorm room. Then sighed, folded up those now-useless chunks of flesh and bone, and started walking.

Most sentient species get by with just two legs and two arms, so they often think of wings as “extra limbs”. They’re wrong. Angels, like most birds, are evolved for flight. It’s how we escape from predators. A survival skill.

Despite the efforts angels made to fit in with humans, we’re not humans. We’re prey, not predators. Birds, sticking together in a flock/church for safety. And hiding our weakness. The weak are kicked out–or even killed–before they put the rest of the flock in danger. For most angels, the “flock” is the Church, and “weakness” means lack of faith. A single angel would stand no chance against a human, or a were-cat, or any other predatory species, but the Church… they brought a technologically and magically-advanced fire-breathing species to (supposed) extinction. It’s no wonder angels find such safety in being a part of that.

But the Church isn’t my flock. My flock was a group of outcasts, willing to accept anyone, even me. With them, I’m safe to be myself. And not worry about hiding my religion (Eclectic Witchcraft, or Wicca) for fear of execution.

The Church was a flock to many, but to me, it was a vicious predator that forced me to pluck myself and walk straight into its mouth.

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Chapter 79

Alex

 

“What!?” My wings did an involuntary half-flap. “Lilly broke your wings?”

Startled, the ‘cubus started running for his life.

I was too shocked to pursue him. Which was probably for the best, since he probably would’ve tried to kill me if I’d caught up.

“Lilly…” I hesitated, not wanting to ask. But I had to. “Did–did you really…?”

“No. That’s crazy. You really think I’d crush someone’s wings? Torture them? What kind of monster would–” She cut herself off abruptly. Looked down. “Oh… Right… The kind that… enjoys slaying dragons.”

As much as I wished I could just disregard the idea of Lilly torturing someone like that, I couldn’t. Not anymore. She has a darker side somewhere within her, one that takes pleasure in taking lives. I had to consider that there might be other activities she hadn’t mentioned.

“I can’t blame you for not trusting me, Alex. But… I didn’t hurt him. I promise. I–I don’t know why he–”

“You only hurt dragons, right?”

She nodded weakly.

“Well… that’s good, I guess.” I paused. “But do you ever… do that kind of thing to dragons?” I had to have answers. Had to know just how bad her dark side was. Otherwise, I’d just keep wondering.

“It’s… not always a quick death,” she admitted, “I… I did break some of their wings…

“Thanks.”

“You believe me?” She finally looked over at me, and it was clear she was crying.

I wrapped my wings around her. “You admitted you enjoy killing–and torturing–the last remaining members of my species. I have faith in your honesty.”

“…I guess that’s one way to look at it, but…”

“We have enough things to worry about right now. Let’s just… try to survive the Academy. When we make it out, then we can worry about all this fucked-up personal stuff. Okay?”

“I suppose this isn’t quite as life-threatening…”

“Yep. Best to put the whole subplot on hold for now.”

I tried not to think about how depressing it is that my serial killer girlfriend, trained to ruthlessly murder my species, was among the least life-threatening concerns in my life.

I did not succeed.

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Chapter 78

Alex

 

As Jack and his goons walked away, I glanced down at the ‘cubus I was healing. Or rather, had healed, and was now basically just increasing the chances that she’d get cancer. Got a bit distracted by the tension with Jack, and… should’ve stopped earlier.

I moved on to the next ‘cubus. Just one crossbow bolt in this one, but it went almost all the way through their chest, and I was sure it must have hit something vital. The pulse felt weak–really weak.

“Any way I can help?” Lilly crouched down next to me.

“I…” I shook my head. “I don’t think I can help here, actually.”

“What? But you can–”

“The bolt is plugging up the wound. I’d need to pull it out in order to heal it, but if I remove the bolt… he’ll likely bleed to death.”

“There’s no way to save him?”

“I…” I hesitated. “That’s the thing. I could save him with magic, but… it would drain me considerably.” I looked around at the other bodies. “I–I can’t save them all.”

“Hospital?” Lilly suggested halfheartedly.

I shook my head. We were in the middle of angel territory. We both knew that no hospital around here would be willing to treat ‘cubi.

We checked another ‘cubus. Already dead; throat slit.

Another. Wings were a tangled mess of feathers and blood, with a piece of bone jutting out of one. But nothing lethal.

He moaned when I put my hand on his wing.

“Don’t worry,” I told him, “I’m here to help you, okay? Your wings are broken. I need to re-align the bones. It’s… going to hurt. A lot.” I grabbed the ends of his humerus and moved them back together, as gently as I could. Not as gentle as I would have liked, judging by his scream.

“There. The painful part is over now.” I channeled some magic into his wing, to get the healing process started.

“Um… Alex?” Lilly touched the incubus’s other wing gently.

“Yeah?”

“These… these wounds don’t look fresh. Most of this blood is dried. And… there are scars.”

I took a closer look. She was right. This damage couldn’t have been from the fight. Which meant… that he’d gone into the fight with a crushed wing. Which was just ridiculous.

“Y–you!” He jerked away, scrambled to his feet.

“Whoa, hold on,” I said, “what’s–”

“I–I’m not going back!” He grabbed a bolt off the floor and held it up as a weapon. His eyes were shifting around, probably expecting someone to try to make a move.

“Back where?” I asked, “Who–who did that to your wing?”

“Her.” He pointed at Lilly.

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Chapter 77

Alex

 

Lilly and I helped the injured girl into the room’s bed, then went rummaging through the closet until we found a white shirt that kind of fit me. Lilly drew some crosses on it with the copious amounts of blood she had on hand (literally). A red cross in a field of white: a universal sign that I’m a medic, a non-combatant, and therefore off-limits.

“Let’s go.” I pulled the shirt on as I rushed to the door. Seven angels–including Lilly, myself, and the wounded girl–against a dozen ‘cubi. And Lilly was by far the best fighter. They didn’t stand a chance without us. They could already be dead.

But when I stepped into the hallway, it was a very different scene. About two dozen heavily-armed angels were picking off the last of the ‘cubi as they tried to run away.

I jumped back as a crossbow bolt whizzed by, narrowly missing me before striking a fleeing ‘cubus in the heart.

“Lilly. Alex. You’re a bit late to the party.” Jack stepped forward from the crowd, smiling.

“The ‘party’?” I glared at him. “Is this seriously your idea of a party? Killing people?

“They’re not people,” one of the other angels said, “They’re ‘cubi.” He shot a ‘cubus that was trying to get up from the floor.

“What a load of crap.” I clenched my fists.

“It’s kill or be killed,” Jack said, “They attacked us, remember?” He took aim at another ‘cubus on the ground, still alive, barely, but clearly not a threat to anyone.

My feathers puffed out in anger.

“Alex…” Lilly put her hand on my shoulder.

I stepped in between Jack and the ‘cubus. Spread my wings out as far as I could, shielding all of the ‘cubi–assuming nobody decides to just shoot through me, which they very well might.

“Get out of the way!!”

I shook my head. “You’ve already won. It’s not ‘life and death’ anymore, it’s… it’s just murder! Killing defenseless people for your own twisted pleasure!

Jack looked over at Lilly. “Talk some sense into him, would you?”

“Alex…” Lilly walked over to me. “You…”

“Come on. You can’t seriously think this is okay.” My wings lowered momentarily. Uncertain. “…Can you?”

She enjoys killing, too, I had to remind myself.

For a long moment, she stood silent.

Finally, she shook her head. “You’re right. This… this is not what God would want.” She extended her wings. “Show them we can be merciful.”

“Thank goodness.” I smiled, tucked in my wings, and went to work healing the nearest ‘cubus, who had two crossbow bolts sticking out their back. The first one went straight through a wing, tearing up the feathers and ripping through the flesh, but stopped before hitting anything else vital. I pulled the bolt out as gently as I could, then started working my magic.

You’re protecting them, too?” Jack asked.

“We’re supposed to be God’s servants,” she said, “Keeping order in the world. Spreading His love and helping those in need. There’s more to it than just killing.”

“And what are you going to do with these ‘cubi? Just let them go?”

“…We can keep them as prisoners for now, I guess.”

“Prisoners?” Jack laughed. “What’s the point? I doubt they’d have any information to give us.”

“Then we set them free,” I suggested, “When ‘cubi attack angels, it’s usually because they know that angels are genocidal assholes. Let them go back home with their wounds healed, and tell people that we’re not all bad. Just most of us.”

“Fair point,” Lilly said, “I’d hate to think what kind of treatment they’d receive as prisoners, so… sounds good.”

Intense silence. (Which is a welcome break from the usual awkward silence we’ve seen so much of lately).

“Fine.” Jack sighed. “But if they come back, it’s on you.”

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Chapter 76

Alex

 

When we rounded the next corner, we found about a dozen more ‘cubi, engaged in battle against a handful of angels.

Lilly ran over to lend some help, but I stayed back. Breathing fire would be kind of a give-away that I’m a dragon. Lighting myself on fire would also be a pretty strange tactic for an angel, and wouldn’t be very effective against anyone who isn’t soaked in kerosene, unless I maintain contact with them for a long time.

Which just left me with my talons, beak, and that knife Lilly gave me. Not very well-trained with any of that.

I saw an angel fall to her knees, clutching her blood-covered side

I make a good medic, though. I rushed over to help her. “Want me to heal that for you?”

She looked up, tried to speak, but just coughed up blood.

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’.”

“I’ll cover you,” Lilly said, moving in closer.

“Thanks.” I pulled the wounded angel’s shirt up and took a look at her wound. Judging by how shallow her breathing was, it seemed to have ruptured an air sac or two. Not good. But I’d dealt with worse.

I placed my hand on her wound. Closed my eyes and channeled healing energy into her, helping the wound to close itself up. After about a minute, I stopped. The bleeding had stopped, her air sacs weren’t leaking. She’d live. There were sure to be others who’d need my help, so I had to make sure not to tire myself out.

“Better?”

“Yeah. Thanks.” Her breathing was still shallow and irregular. “Time to… get some… revenge.” She tried to stand up.

“That’s really not a good idea.” I put my arm out to stop her. “You’re in no condition to fight.”

“I have to fight. I have to… kill these ‘cubi scum.” Another attempt to stand up, and a wince of pain when it didn’t work too well.

“You can’t even stand on your own.” I stood up myself and then helped her to her feet. “If you go back in there, they’ll kill you. I’ll take you somewhere safe where you can lie down.”

“I… I need to…” She kept protesting, but allowed me to guide her into a room nearby. The crowd made way for us, either because they recognized I was a medic, or because they realized if they didn’t get out of the way, Lilly would put a knife through their heart. Hard to tell, but either way, I was grateful.

(And so very glad that Lilly’s on my side, not trying to slay me. Because she has some serious skills with those knives.)

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Chapter 75

Alex

 

“Lilly!” I rushed over to her, ignoring the ‘cubi that had just barged in.

“Lilly!? Are you–” I realized she was unconscious. But alive. So that was–

I felt a knife rip through my wings.

I spun around to face my attacker, letting out a loud growl. In the blink of an eye, I was blazing like a bonfire.

“Whoa!” All three ‘cubi jumped back.

“You picked the wrong room to barge in on.” I let loose a jet of flame.

But it only managed to set one of them alight, and they had the sense to flee.

Another growl as I dropped to all fours and pursued them through the hallway.

I leapt at the closest one, also letting out another burst of fire. I didn’t manage to knock them down, but I could tell by the screams that their blood was beginning to boil from the flames.

One down, two to go. I’d make them pay for hurting Lilly.

“Holy shit!” One of them screamed.

“Is that a fucking dragon?!,” the other yelled.

Within 32 seconds, they were all burning alive.

“Uh… Alex?”

I turned around, saw Lilly staring at me with a mixture of horror and awe.

I quickly extinguished myself and stood up.

“For a pacifist, you seem oddly proficient at fighting.”

“Uh…” was all I could manage.

“Remind me never to cross you.” She smiled and patted me on the back. “Nice work.”

“I–ah…” I looked at the body of one of the ‘cubi. Burnt to a crisp. I’d totally lost control there.

“They were trying to kill us, Alex. Don’t worry about it.”

“They were fleeing, though.”

“Yeah. Okay. You… probably could’ve just let them go. But… I have no right to judge you for that.”

I nodded. “Right.”

“Wait a moment…” Lilly frowned, crouched down and took a closer look at the ‘cubus’ body. “Is that… a collar?”

I crouched next to her, looked at the chunk of metal and leather around the ‘cubus’ neck. “Yeah. Looks like a collar.”

“Why would they–”

“Um… well, some people… like that kind of thing… sexually.” I blushed slightly.

We looked at each other awkwardly.

“‘Cubi thrive on sexual energy,” I said, “I read once that almost all of them try BDSM at some point.”

“Right. Let’s… let’s go.”

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Chapter 74

Lilly

 

The silence was finally broken by a loud siren.

I jumped to my feet and grabbed my bag of hunting supplies from the other room.

After grabbing the bag, I noticed Alex hadn’t moved from the couch. “Huh? What–what’s going on?” he asked.

“An attack! Didn’t you–” I realized that he probably hadn’t ever been through a ‘cubi attack drill. “‘Cubi are attacking the Academy. Those who can fight are supposed to grab weapons and protect those who can’t.”

“Oh. Gotcha.” He glanced at my bag. “I take it you come prepared?”

I brought the bag over to him and opened it up, revealing knives, a crossbow, poisons, and various other dragon-slaying tools.

“Nice collection.”

I grabbed the crossbow and a few knives. “Take whatever you want.”

“Hmmm….”

Quickly.” I strapped a knife to my arm.

“Sorry. Not much of a weapons guy. I usually just light people on fire.”

“Right. Use your fire.” I handed him a knife. “But take this, anyway. Might come in handy.” I closed up the bag and hurried to the door.

Alex didn’t follow.

“Alex? Come on, we need to protect the–”

“Yeah, about that… uh… I’m a lover, not a fighter, so…”

“Oh, come on! We’re under attack, Alex! It doesn’t matter what you–”

“Not everyone likes murder!”

“…!”

“…” He looked away.

“…” I sighed.

BOOM!! The door broke down, knocking me down with it.

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Chapter 73

Lilly

 

About an hour later, Alex sat down on the couch next to me.

“Sleep well?” I closed my book.

“Uh… not really. To be honest–” He glanced at my arm. “Wait, what happened to your arm?”

I looked down at the bloody bandage on my forearm. “Guess you weren’t awake enough to remember that.”

“Oh. Did I do that?” He blushed. “Sorry, I… uh…”

I sighed. “My fault for trying to wake you. I… should have known better, especially after…”

“No. I… let me heal it for you, okay? I…it’s the least I can do.”

I nodded.

He unwrapped the bandages and looked at the cuts his beak made. “I–I didn’t mean to–”

“I deserved a lot worse. I’ve been… killing your own kind. And–” I shook my head. “You have every reason to distrust me.”

“Wha–no. I–” He stopped. “Okay… I guess there may be a little part of me that… isn’t entirely comfortable around a dragon slayer. But I do trust you. It’s just…”

“But it wasn’t enough to stop you from lying awake last night, wondering if I was going to kill you in your sleep.”

“Uh… pretty much… Yeah…” He let go of my arm. “There. Should heal a lot faster now.”

“Thanks.” I tried to force a smile, without much success.

We sat in silence for a while.

Finally, the silence was just too awkward and depressing, and I had to do something to change the mood. “Um… so… I was wondering… when this is all over, and we leave the Academy… you think The Lab would be willing to take me in? Because… I mean, I can’t go back to living with my dad. I–I need to…”

“Of course. You’re a mortal god in need of a place to stay. The Lab would love to have you.”

“As long as I’m worth researching, huh?”

“The Lab isn’t just about research. It’s a safe haven for people like us. A place to learn to control your powers. They offer… a second chance. A chance to belong. If all they cared about was research… they wouldn’t be keeping me around anymore. There’s nothing left to research. But… they know that there’s no other place for me to go. Most people would kick out you after you send them to the burn ward a few times. The Lab just… installs more sprinklers and fire blankets.” Alex paused. Stared at me with an odd look.

“It sounds nice.”

He gave me a weak smile. “Anyway, after all they did for me, I’m going to try to do the same for you, okay? Help you get past all this murder stuff. I have a feeling it’s not going to be easy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you end up killing me at least once, but I’m here for you, okay? And… just because I’m afraid… it doesn’t mean I don’t trust you. I just know it’s not that easy to change who you are.”

“Thanks.”

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Chapter 72: not is_morning_person(Alex)

Lilly

 

I looked down at Alex, who was still asleep. And looking more like a dragon than an angel.

So this is what he really looks like. Alex gave me a brief explanation last night. About phoenixes. How they can use magic to project a sort of false image into people’s minds, so that they seem like a regular dragon or angel if you don’t look too hard. Coupled with some rudimentary shapeshifting, it was enough to fool even me, despite all my training.

But all along, he was more of a dragon than an angel. His scales were a mottled mix of browns, blacks, and reds, not the lighter, human-like skin tone I was used to seeing on him–and every angel. His neck was longer. His face was pointed, aerodynamically-shaped, with no false lips covering his beak. None of the features angels evolved to resemble humans.

He was right to hide it. If anyone at the Academy had seen him like this… he wouldn’t have lasted long. I… I probably would have killed him the first time I saw him if I had seen him like this.

I reached down and stroked one of his wings, ignoring the part of my mind that wanted to grab the nearest knife and–

I shook my head.

Those days are over now. I’m an ex-dragon-slayer. I won’t go back home. Best to cut all ties to my old life. And… then what? Where could I go? And what would I do? Slaying dragons was the only job I’d ever thought about. My only skill. Maybe I could work as a security guard or something? Maybe–maybe for The Lab. They’d probably like to have me. If not to work, then to study. So they can find out more about gods.

I sighed. I was getting ahead of myself. First I had to get through the Academy in one piece. No. First, I had to wake Alex. And then grab some lunch together or something. Try to get over the awkwardness of last night’s revelations, try to get used to seeing him without his mental projection.

“Alex.” I nudged him gently. “Wake up.”

“Nnnnngh.” He turned away from me. “Just… just three more hours.”

“No, uh–Alex.” It felt weird to call him that when he looks so different. “It’s already past noon. I was thinking about making some lunch and–”

“Nnnnnngh. No want wake up. Want stay in bed. Bed is comfy.” He burrowed his head into his pillows.

I smiled. Still the same old Alex.

“Come on.” I tried to nudge his head out from under the pillows.

He growled and resisted a little, but I managed to turn his head to face me.

At which point, he bit down on my arm. Hard.

“Hey!” I cried. “Let go!”

He eased up, but only to let loose a jet of fire right at me.

Instinctively, I jumped back and reached for the place by my side where I usually kept my knife on hunts.

I caught myself, remembering that this was Alex. And realizing that my shirt was quickly burning up. I pulled it off and stamped out the flames.

Then stared at Alex in silence. He was turned away from me again, burrowed back into the pillows, with the covers pulled up over him.

“Okay.” I sighed. “Best to let sleeping dragons lie.”

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