Authors Note :: This is a short story based on the following Creative Writing Now story prompt, At a Chinese restaurant, your character opens his fortune cookie and reads the following message: "Your life is in danger. Say nothing to anyone. You must leave the city immediately and never return. Repeat: say nothing." This prompt caused me to come up with this Urban Fantasy short story fic, set in London, England.
"Look, I learned how to kill, before I learned how to crawl".
Aida huddled further into her bomber jacket, as she hunkered down into the corner table booth of the tiny Chinese restaurant. The rolling blackouts had hit the City of London again, the cool autumn dusk outside providing her with a cover of grey shadow that had almost enveloped what little light the small candle at their table struggled to give.
"And to watch you perform your duty for the council is just almost as favourable as to listen to you speak," Nthamus paused as he leaned forward, his solidly wide bulk creaking the table as he folded his arms across it, "truly beautiful."
Aida rolled her eyes, mouth drawn down and nose crinkling in disgust at Nthamus' flirting. "Look, you know what I can do, you've seen it, so I don't know why you are suddenly asking me to give you a CV. Tell me what you want me to do, or leave me alone."
Aida had been summoned, by text message no less, to meet with one of upper echelons of 'The Fallen'. Even though she currently played ignorant, the moment she'd watched the Armani clad form of Nthamus walk into the restaurant, she already had a vague idea what had The Fallen concerned enough to contact her. Between the rumours spreading around the underworld and the increasing news coverage of global warming in the human world, Aida had long since realised that this wasn't going to be a typical assignment. The forces of The Fallen were rallying in preparation for something big and unluckily for her, one of their head generals decided that now would be a good time to seek her out and speak with her privately.
From what Aida had managed to catch from snippets she caught on the TV at her friend Jess' apartment, since Aida refused to have a TV in her home, was that humans strongly believed the world was in the grip of a great ecological shift causing rising sea levels. They were of the opinion that the now thread bare gas and oil supplies, causing the regular blackouts to hit London's overburdened electricity board, were all a result of car emissions and millions of farting cows burning giant invisible holes into the sky.
Aida knew better. As a 'Fariu', or better known amongst humankind as a Fae, Aida was a half human, half angel child, a slight but tall figure of a woman, born into the life long servitude expected of all her kind. 'The Fallen', or rather 'Those Rat Bastards' as they were called by Aida, were the angels that had been cast out from heaven over 6 millennia ago.
Although the Fallen had been banned from ever meddling in man's affairs again, after a few bad apples in their bunch got it into their head early on that man-kind could do with some improvement, that ban didn't extend to their children. So the Fallen made sure to churn out as many bastard minions as they could, many of whom who were only to willing to do their bidding. Most of the Fariu took their lot in life with good grace, grateful for the gifts of enhanced strength, speed and quick healing, that they were given as a result of their blood line.
Some, such as Aida, took their birth right with less grace and disliked being the lifelong errand boy or girl for a psychopathic angel with a chip on their shoulder. Aida especially disliked it when the creepier members of her already very creepy family tree started to take entirely too much interest in her.
"Cousin Nthamus, you know you are now the third member of my family, in as many days, to give me a compliment?," Aida's mouth drew into a nasty grin, as Nthamus leaned back from the table and away from her, "I get not a single positive comment from you lot, for nearly 24 years, then three come along at once".
Aida watched Nthamus lean back, stretching a lazy arm up and draping over the back rest of his seat. As he silently reached for his coffee, a coffee so strong, Aida had almost keeled back at the smell when it'd first arrived at the table, she rolled her eyes as he took a slow appreciative sip before continuing.
"Its the little things about this world that I appreciate the most," Nthamus finally began to speak, staring down into the dark swirl of his black coffee "Over all the millennia spent trapped here on this mud-pit of a planet, you begin to take delight in the small comforts" he raised his eyes and pinned her with a stare, "I guess as a Tainted , you would sort of understand that."
Aida's face tensed with ire at the derogatory term The Fallen gave to their own offspring, turning up their noses at their own mixed race children, even as they sort to make more of them, "I guess its because we have the worst of both worlds." Aida's voice dryly toned in agreement.
Nthamus laughed, nodding. "I guess you inherited your fathers discourtesy".
She bristled at the mention of her oft absentee dad, "I also happen to have inherited his lack of patience. Nthamus," Aida gritted her teeth to clench down her agitation but couldn't stop herself from leaning forward to emphasis each word,"What Do You Want."
Nthamus looked away to the menu on the table, sat upright in its stand, as he breathed an aside, "And apparently you have his temper too." Raising an idle hand, he forestalled her comeback as he continued,"have you heard the rumours about the Watchers?"
Aida exhaled, the wind out of her sails as she sat back, "I've heard the rumours, sure, who hasn't?"
Nthamus eyed her curiously, his interest in the Chinese food menu, forgotten, "What have you heard?"
Raising a single quizzical eyebrow, Aida obliged him, "The rumours vary, but most are saying that The Watchers are trying to break free or that they already got out, that they are the reason why the weathers going all crazy."
Nthamus nodded his head slightly, "Those rumours are kind of true."
Aida's eyes widened, her voice softly low with shock, "They are real? And they are free?" She tried to think back to the lessons she was forced to learn about The Watchers. It was all part of the extensive and oft painful 'Fariu training' she'd endured as a child. Her father and Aunt, another Fallen, had beaten fighting skills, subterfuge and resentment into her.
Of what she could remember of the Watchers, she knew that they were bad news, for both the Fallen and humans. The Watchers were the aforementioned bad apples of the Fallen angels, which was saying something, cause the Fallen were, well, they were no angels themselves.
The Watchers, were a motley band that felt they should do a little house-cleaning amongst man-kind and make them after their own image instead. Last she'd read of them, they'd all been cast down into a black pit called the netherworld, and were to be trapped in that prison until Judgement Day.
"Yes they are real," Nthamus half smiled as he watched her face scrunch up as she tried recalled what she knew of the Watchers, "They were supposed to stay in that pit deep in the ground until the end of days," Nthamus pointed straight up into the air, his voice hushing momentarily, "the Big Man Upstairs made sure of that." he shrugged as he continued, "Its all there in the Book of Enoch. He was a nice guy, that Enoch, couldn't hold a note to save his life, but loved to sing," his voice drifted off for a moment, before he pulled himself back to the present with a brief shake of his head, "anyway, we've checked and they are still in the pit, but all this global warming, it has the hall marks of the watchers 'Kabaiel' and 'Armaros'."
Aida huffed derisively, her voice reeking of scepticism,"The Watchers are causing global warming?"
"No Aida," Nthamus laughed, "no, we believe they are speeding up global warming. Global warming is real, it just shouldn't be happening this fast, even if you factor in those gassy vehicle things. Plus" He waved his hands up into the air indicating the darkness of the restaurant and the blackout across the city, "the resources all drying up? That shouldn't be happening this quickly either." Dropping his gaze to his coffee once again, he grasped the handle of the cup, but didn't drink from it, "We believe they may be using a vessel, a Fariu vessel in all likelihood, to channel their Enchantments."
Aida sat up straight, curious at what she'd learnt. "Even if they were doing all this, " she jutted her chin to indicate the blackout in the restaurant as she leaned forward onto her elbows, "why bother? They can't get out, they can't enjoy the fruits of their chaos. What's the point?"
Nthamus, lifted up his coffee and took another quick sip, eyeing her over the rim of the cup, before he answered her, "The Fallen Council, believe that the Watchers are trying to speed up the end of days. They are trying to start Judgement Day."
Aida paused as she let that knowledge wash over her. Judgement Day. Its the day the immortal Fallen feared the most, when The Big Man Upstairs would make them all pay for their betrayal, in one flail swoop. It made her smile a little, a smile that grew wider as she eyed the mild confusion at her mirth, in Nthamus' eyes.
"What's so bad about that?" Aida looked away to search for the waitress, spotting her and pointing her over to their table, indicating for the cheque, "We all have to die sometime right? Isn't that what Fariu are taught?" She snorted as she began to lift her arms off the table, so that she could search in her jacket for some small change. Only, she suddenly found her right hand grabbed tightly by Nthamus, pressure squeezing down around her wrist.
"Do not forget your place, Aida," Nthamus calmly forced out the words through clenched teeth, as he increased the pressure on her wrist, tugging at her to gain her attention, "I may not be able to interfere with humans, but I doubt you are so naïve as to think that I don't have indirect means of persuasion."
As Aida tried to pull back from his now painful grip, using every ounce of strength to wrest her hand out of his grasp, she watched as his eyes glowed pure white, the pupils in them disappearing for a few brief moments, before returning back to normal.
When he let go, she knew she had only broken free because he'd noticed the waitress arriving at their table. He was right. Every now and then she allowed herself to forget her place, that place between Angels and Man. Mankind, she was taught, was made just a little lower than the Angels, which meant that she was as mortal as she was strong.
The Fariu may be many times more powerful than humans, but The Fallen were infinitely more powerful than even the very elite Fariu. The only thing holding The Fallen back from physically crushing Fariu at every turn, was not their blood kin relation, but rather the blanket ban that stopped them from directly meddling with human beings. Even when that being was classed as only half-human.
Aida watched as the waitress placed a small square plate on the table, receipt held in place by a single small fortune cookie, as Aida clenched and releasing her right hand, trying to get the blood to flow back into it.
"Here you go, your receipt," the wide eyed smile of the waitress caught Aida's attention, as she leaned in slightly to face Aida and away from Nthamus, giving a meaningful look down at the plate that she placed in front her, "and your complimentary fortune cookie."
Aida was about to express just how much she didn't give a crap about the damn fortune cookie, when she caught the waitresses eyes inking to full black, before they quickly cleared and revealed the pupils and the whites of her eyes once again. That particular trick belonged solely to Fariu, a variant of The Fallen's white glowing eyes.
"Um, thanks?" Aida plucked the cookie off the plate, before shoving the plate and its receipt over to Nthamus, who eyed the waitress curiously as she walked away. Aida didn't think he'd caught the waitresses eye trick, but it really didn't matter, there were Fariu everywhere, it made no difference if they were serving food in a restaurant, or running for government.
Once they were alone again, Aida carefully eyed Nthamus, weighing him up before she spoke, "How do you expect me to stop the Watchers?"
"I don't," he reached into the inner pocket of his leather jacket and pulled a wallet out, a couple of five pound notes placed lightly onto the small receipt plate between them, "The Fallen Council have determined that The Watchers vessel must be stopped. Your father recommended you for the assignment," Aida's eyebrows both rose at that, but she stayed silent as he continued, "You are to find the vessel, kill the vessel and bring his head to Forum of The Council within the week."
"What?! How am I supposed to fi..."
"We don't care how its done, so long as it is completed." Nthamus continued talking over Aida's protestations as he began to slide out of his seat, rising to his feet, "you have my number. Call me once you have the head of the Tainted one," his eyes held hers mockingly as he spat out the slur, "if not, I will find you within the week."
And at that, his words thick with warning, Nthamus strode away from the table and right out of the restaurant, not stopping to look back as she called after him.
Stunned, Aida looked down at her hands in a stupor, only to notice the now crushed fortune cookie she'd been holding, its shell broken by the tension in her clenched hands. Unthinkingly, Aida straightened out the small piece of crumpled paper in the palm of her hand, to read what her future held.
She felt her pulse throb in the back of her throat as the words drove past her shock and began to register, 'Your life is in danger. Say nothing to anyone. You must leave the city immediately and never return. Repeat: say nothing.'
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