Oh, and an entirely new set of characters.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Autumn, year 20
Aureylian had gotten far too bored of pushing Marque to work. She wasn’t tired of it, but it often got on her nerves.
She strode across to his room, and knocked on the door. She stretched her wings out, all soft pink and dipped in gold glitter, letting them sweep out from her shoulders and back again in a high, fluttering arc.
There was a noise inside his apartment, something akin to a groan, and she knocked again. “I need to talk to you.”
The door swept open with an annoyed-looking Marque slouching behind it. This was not new for him; his brows often knitted close in an irritated snarl, a cigarette hanging loose from the corner of his mouth. The right side of his face was barely visible beneath the cloud of smoke and his sweeping wave of a fringe, dyed brilliant orange at the edge.
He wasn’t wearing a shirt, another sight Aureylian had gotten used to in the presence of Marque. She pressed her mouth and her wings together. “I have a job for you.”
Marque pulled the cigarette from his lip. “Yay.”
“Listen. That cleanup at the city centre, it’s gone on for far too long. The city looks so ugly with it there and the poor Angels working on it have hardly made any progress. Could you please just zap it so we don’t need to worry about that any more?”
“Why can’t they do it themselves?” Marque said. Smoke puffed on his breaths. “We aren’t supposed to help with every tiny little task.”
“It’s not tiny. Please. Ila’s not happy about it--”
“Ah.” A tiny smile spread on Marque’s face. “Ila wants me to do this, huh?”
“Please stop being difficult! All it would take is one round of fire. And yeah. I’ve been talking to Ila about it.”
“Is she going to help them rebuild?”
Aureylian’s wings lifted with her shrug. “I suppose so.”
Marque let out a long breath and rubbed his short beard. “Fine, I’ll do it.” His scruffy, orange wings stayed tucked close behind his shoulders.
“Good on you, Marque!” Aureylian smiled. “Just give the Angels a call first so you don’t scare the shit out of them. I’ll give you the head guy’s number.”
Marque nodded, shifting on his feet. “Sure.”
Aureylian smiled at him, turning before he could close the door, and went back towards Ila’s apartment.
“I did it,” she said. Ila handed her a mug of hot chocolate, motioning for Aureylian to sit in a chair by one of the large windows.
“Thanks Aurey,” Ila said. She had a soft voice like falling snow and was wrapped in a deep blue shawl. Everything about Ila was soft; the way she spoke and moved, the way she looked. “I don’t know why he never listens to me. I try.”
Aureylian nodded, sipping at the hot drink. “I’m sorry he doesn’t respect you. I wish he would just be nicer.”
Ila’s eyes drifted down to the mug cupped in her hands. “I don’t know about that, Aurey. He’s never been nice to me.”
“Yeah…” Aureylian didn’t know what to say. Of the four Archangels, Ila and Marque were the two that clashed the most. Marque clashed with everyone, but at least he listened to Aureylian. Kurt… Aureylian thought Kurt was a little afraid of Marque and so avoided him often.
He wasn’t the easiest to work with, but there was nothing more they could do. Especially not during Autumn, when he was the one to make the final decision on important acts.
Ila finished her drink and stood, shaking her chestnut-coloured wings a little to smooth the feathers before folding them. They had a spectacular barred pattern like a peregrine’s at their edges, and Aureylian often found her eyes drifting to them for a little too long.
She blinked away and turned back to the window. She could see most of Offstreet’s heart from here. The Archangels had always lived a semi-normal life like regular Angels in apartments in the city.
They still stayed inside a lot, and Aureylian knew that there were a lot of rumours and lore surrounding them. A lot was left over from the ancient times, when Archangels lived a radically different life.
When they were seen more like deities, Archangels had a singular form. Terrifying, tall six-winged and six-eyed creatures, Archangels lived in the clouds and were worshipped by Angels, hardly seen during daily life.
This was when Angels still lived in Heithrun, of course. Humans never took on Angel beliefs, one reason there was tension. During the shift to the modern age, Archangels began to spend more time with the common people and took on a regular Angel form to more easily blend in.
With each new generation of Archangels, this form stuck. Now the powerful form was only used when they needed to utilise their powers, and by the time Aureylian became an Archangel, this was needed much less often.
Now, they could just be regular Angels, almost.
Aureylian twirled one of her own dropped feathers in her fingers. They still didn’t leave the apartments often, and didn’t have much interaction with the public. They did most of their work from up here and usually when going out they used cloaking powers to hide themselves. Only when interaction was really required they went down into the city, visible.
Like she was asking Marque to do. She knew he didn’t like interacting with Angels but that wreck of a bomb site had been sitting, rusting in the centre of the city for far too long. It was a painful reminder of what had transpired five years ago and Aureylian didn’t think the Angels needed that any more, particularly those who had lost friends and family in the bombing.
Luckily, Sight didn’t require too much excess of power, and Aureylian didn’t have to transform to use it. She set her mug down, closing her eyes. She cleared her mind and picked as if from a database the form of Nebris Ray.
She already knew a lot about him, so getting his phone number should be easy. Right now, the Angel was leaning against his refrigerator, watching his partner Vechs cook. Aureylian smiled. Sight often gave her glimpses into small moments like this, and despite the vague feeling that she was being invasive, she liked seeing them happy. There was another Angel out the corner of his eye too, one with still-developing wings. Aureylian didn't recognise him.
Right, phone number. Searching in Nebris’ mind she found the digits and held them clear in her head, memorising them before pulling out of Sight and opening her eyes. She scribbled the number down on a piece of paper and tucked it into her pocket.
“Using Sight?” Ila came back into view, leaning against the tall window. The sun was setting and outlined her soft brown form with pink and gold.
Aureylian nodded. “Needed a phone number.” She watched the setting sun for a while.
“Kurt did a great job, doesn’t he?”
Aureylian nodded. The sky in Offstreet was always a beautiful sight, orchestrated by Kurt to keep the days in order.
“Wait!” Aureylian blinked. She wanted to delve back into Sight.
“What’s up?” Ila sounded concerned.
“There was a new Angel in Nebris’ kitchen.” Aureylian frowned. “I thought all the human-level rings were covered up. What’s he doing here?”
“Can you Sight the rings?”
Aureylian closed her eyes again. This time she focused on the glowing red portals peppered around Offstreet. They brightened in her mind and the rest of the city faded out, making a map of the glowing rings. She saw many in the sky, but none on ground level. They must finally all have been hidden or erased.
Aureylian turned in the imaginary space. All ground rings gone, while the many sky ones stayed pulsing high in the clouds, and that other one… Aureylian turned quickly away from it and pushed it from her mind.
Opening her eyes she reassured Ila that there were no ground-level rings left. She knew that Angels had taken on the task of closing Offstreet to humans, after the bombing.
“He must have been one of the last humans to enter Offstreet,” Ila said. “Lucky guy.”
Aureylian nodded, watching the sky as it darkened.
Aureylian went back to her own apartment after some time with Ila, not always talking, mostly just sitting. She was pretty close to the Winter Archangel, and they often spent evenings together over hot chocolate. It was better than feeling alone.
Aureylian sometimes turned the irony over in her mind, the entire fact that she was praised as the Archangel of love and relationships, yet still felt lonely so often. She was glad to have the other Archangels as company but it still felt she was missing something, every night when she returned to her apartment and turned off the lights.
Oh well… Aureylian closed the door, and grabbed her phone to text Marque the number he needed. We don’t have time for family when there’s Archangel duties to be done.
Marque woke, one wing aching. He’d slept on it in a weird position and he groaned as he shook out the cramped muscle, feathers fluttering from the battered edge.
He rubbed his eyes in the light, not bothering to search his floor for a clean shirt. He was supposed to call an Angel, warn him about his visit on Monday. He almost considered not calling, and just showing up without warning.
Marque rubbed his bleary eyes. Aureylian would get on his case about that. So he reached for his phone on the counter. She’d texted him the number and he dialled it, leaning against the counter as the phone rang.
“Hey,” the Angel said after picking up. “How did you get this number?”
“No need to ask.” Marque wanted to keep the call as short as he could.
“So why are you calling me?”
“You’re Nebris Ray, head of the cleanup crew at the tower, right?”
“Mhm. Unofficial head, I guess.” Marque snorted. Not much in Offstreet was what he would call ‘official’. He coughed. “You know who I am, don’t you?”
“You’re Marque, Archangel of Autumn.”
“Yeah. Anyway I know that cleaning up is taking far longer than it should. I’m offering… I’ve been asked to offer you some help. I’ll come down on Monday and clear the whole thing up for you.” Marque didn’t even attempt to sound interested.
“Yeah really. Don’t sound so excited, it’s not like I want to do this. Ila wants the mess gone. Aureylian forced me to help. It’s the usual deal.”
“Okay… see you then, I guess.”
“Mhm. Bye.” Marque mumbled, then hung up and dropped the phone and stepped out to his balcony for a pre-breakfast smoke.
He hadn’t transformed for a long time. Marque’s power wasn’t often needed. Despite how little he wanted to do this, he still had to admit that transforming to his higher form after so long would be interesting. ‘Interesting’ was as far as he would put it. Fire stirred somewhere low in his stomach whenever he thought of power.
The other Archangels knew he had the capability to destroy anything he wanted. Even when other Archangels pushed him, he knew they had a secret respect for what he could do if he so chose.
But Marque wasn’t inclined towards hurting Angels. Humans were another matter, but Angels and Offstreet, Marque had to care about. Even when he felt less than motivated to protect them, his loyalty was with this world.
Humans didn’t often pose a threat these days. Marque wouldn’t mind blasting a few of them but they were currently unconcerned with the Angel world, it seemed. When the bombing had happened, there was nobody for Marque to attack.
Marque glanced out his window. He could see the site from here actually - a block littered with twisted metal and concrete, overgrown with grass and weeds, a scar on a beautiful city. He’d watched approximately nothing happen in the block over five years, a small cleanup happening but most of the larger rubble staying right where it was.
Aureylian and Ila’s apartments on the other side of the building didn’t have this view, and Kurt probably didn’t even look out his window, Marque thought. He was always too busy with an eye glued to his telescope or a book.
Marque considered what he could do now, and nothing seeming appealing, he headed back indoors and collapsed on his bed for a nap.
Kurt woke up and made himself some coffee, watching the sunrise. He’d often worried about the extent of his arrogance when he watched the sky, but Ila was usually the one to reassure him that he was nothing if not humble. The sky was beautiful and Kurt only wanted to help make Offstreet as nice a place as possible.
It had taken him a long time to work out how to do it. Perhaps trying to copy Heithrun so much was a silly idea but the Angels had loved it. At first Offstreet hadn’t had a sun, moon or stars - it was too small and incomplete. What Kurt had created was nothing more than an elaborate illusion. Sometimes with tweaks - Kurt had made stars that would outshine the light of the city, where in Heithrun the real stars would fade out near large cities like Carling.
Kurt finished his coffee and retreated to his observatory for the day.
Ila blinked and rubbed her eyes. Bright spots were dancing across the empty surface of her drafting board. She felt like she’d sat there for hours, staring at a blank page. Her pencil rested loose between her fingers and she pulled her shawl closer around her shoulders.
Now Marque had agreed to clear that block for her, Ila had to begin her plans for the new building, but she’d been too distracted recently to think about it and now it came down to it, she had no idea where to start. Same as the old building? Completely different? Nothing seemed appropriate enough.
Her eyes drifted up to the wall of books behind her desk and then across to the window. She could see half of her city from here, stretching out under a clear blue sky towards the edge of the void.
Ila abandoned the drafting board and went to make herself some hot chocolate instead. She reasoned that there was plenty of time to work on the plan; she’d just have to make sure it was ready by winter.
Winter seemed too far away. It was getting colder already but still too warm for Ila’s liking, still the edge of summer fading away as autumn fully took hold. Ila didn’t mind when Marque was in charge, but she would prefer for him not to be.
Ila tried to keep a fair opinion of the other Archangels, even when they irritated her. Marque was the worst; lazy, contrary, slobbish. Ila wanted to like him but sometimes she had to stop herself worrying too hard about it. Some friendships weren’t salvageable.
Her relationships with Kurt and Aurey were better. Kurt was quiet like Ila, and the two didn’t speak as much, but she had a respect for his intelligence and work.
Ila brushed the fringe of her shawl with a finger, staring out at the city. She liked talking to Aurey in a way that normally tired her out when it was other people. Aurey came over to her apartment slightly more often than necessary, but Ila supposed it was natural, as she did consider her a close friend.
She turned quickly at a knock on the door. Setting her mug down, Ila opened the door to let in Aureylian. Speak of-
“Hi Aurey.” Ila smiled and Aurey smiled back, stepping into the apartment.
“Hey Ila. I was thinking of going out today. Want to come?”
Ila breathed out. “I was thinking of working on my plans for a building today.” She glanced back at her blank drafting board. “I don’t think I’ll go out, sorry Aurey.”
Aurey’s eyes flickered for a second.
“You can stay and chat if you want,” Ila said. “I - I mean, if you decide not to go out. I need ideas for this freaking building. I’ve been trying to sketch all morning.”
The red-haired Archangel brightened. “That actually sounds good. I can try to help?”
Ila smiled and invited Aurey in to sit. She swung on her chair at the drafting board. Talking to Aurey sometimes helped her think of ideas, so she didn’t mind having the other Archangel’s company. Aureylian’s bright voice filled the warm space of her study, sparking inspiration in Ila’s mind.Turning to the blank page again, Ila began to sketch.