2.

Allison awoke with a fist in the air. Her last memory had been that of several men bearing chains, rushing towards her all at once. They certainly weren't there now. All Allison could see was the softly painted ceiling of a white room.

"Huh."

Uncurling her fist, Allison swung her feet over the side of the bed. She bounced a bit, testing the mattress and finding it to be rather stiff. The girl squeezed the blankets between her fingers and wrinkled her nose at the coarse fabric. Then she brushed white-blonde hair from her eyes, squinting with new-found sight at the walls, at the floorboards, at the window veiled by gauzy curtains.

Last of all, Allison saw a trail of something...almost like a purpley-blue feather...Just curling around her thigh on the bed.

She touched it, and it flicked away. "Eep!" Allison saw the rest of her butterfly wing. "What the hell? What the bloody, fucking..."

Allison walked in slow circles. She angled her head back and cursed mightily. Her wings poked through slits in a plain white shift made of the same material as the bedspread. Allison could not figure out why she had butterfly wings, or when she had grown them. Nor could she understand where those men with chains had gone. Or how she had ended up in the white room. Hell, there were lots of things that needed explaining, and fast!

A loud knock interrupted Allison's thoughts. The girl sprang behind the bed as the door swung open and two people entered the room. The first was a young, boyish man whose chief characteristics were vampire-pale skin and dark hair, plus navy-blue and grey-red wings sweeping around his knees from his back; the second, a woman with grey hair in a tight bun.

Allison mouthed wordlesslly. She pressed against the wall, butterfly wings and human hands flat.

"Am I...Oh hell, am I dead?" she asked them.

"In a way, yes," sniffed the woman, approaching the bed and scribbling something down on a clipboard, "You are...Allison, correct?"

"Yes," said Allison. "That's my name. Yeah."

The woman fluttered her owl wings. "Come with us."

Allison stared at the slender hand being offered to her, and grasped it. The woman smiled grimly as she pulled the girl from the wall and into a hallway lined with oak doors. The man with navy wings introduced himself, and helped Allison walk.

"I'm Fallow Nighthawk," he said with a quick smile.

"He's SIR Fallow Nighthawk," the woman corrected him while patting her hair bun, "He is the Nighthawk Knight. He is to be your supervisor, and should you perform well under his jurisdiction, you may find your sentence lifted considerably."

"Huh?" Allison blinked.

"Wow, how polite of you, Eva," Sir Nighthawk grinned, "Don't even introduce yourself or anything...just tell her my oh-so-properly proper rank and all."

"Eva Snow-Owl."

"No! That's MISS Eva Snow-Owl," Sir Nighthawk grinned further, "She's MY supervisor, Allison, and I'm to be yours."

"You are fortunate that I take kindly to jokes, you ruffian," MISS Eva Snow-Owl did her best to look grim...but Allison caught a quiver of laughter in her wrinkly throat.

Sir Nighthawk and Miss Snow-Owl brought Allison to a bustling, steaming kitchen. Miss Snow-Owl excused herself to look after the stable boys, and Sir Nighthawk leapt onto a counter.

"Welcome to the kitchen, Allison!" he said, attracting the giggles and stares of the kitchen girls. "We have a place open for you in veggie-washing today, or if you choose, you can prepare artichokes. If you're good at cooking, by all means help with the roast bison steaks."

Allison blushed and shrank. She looked about, and all she saw were prying eyes.

"Well?"

Allison, sweat collecting above her eyebrows, looked at Sir Nighthawk. He had a white, triangular grin, and his thin eyebrows were pressed together. His wings were light in build, as was the rest of his body.

"W-well what?" Allison squeaked, iliciting more giggles from the kitchen crowd.

"Washing vegetables, peeling artichokes, or cooking roast bison. Mmm mm! I'm being nice cause you're new. Choose what you think you'll be best at."

So that was when Allison found herself stationed at a silver basin, holding carrots and peas and eggplants under an elegant waterfall. She worked with a brown-haired, freckle-faced girl. Allison was afraid to ask for her name.

"I'm Danielle," said the brunette after a few minutes of washing the vegetables. "Danielle Dragonfly. Fallow told everyone about you, Allison."

"He did?" Allison squeaked, still unsure about her surroundings. She felt it best to simply wash the vegetables and not put up too much of a fuss about it.

Danielle flicked twin pairs of silvery-transparent insect wings on her back. "Shh, here comes another birdman. Fallow let's us talk...But that's Regent Cormorant, and he's not nice."

A tall, bony man with an arched neck and jet black wings glided past. Allison shrank when one of his dark feathers grazed her shoulder.

As soon as Regent Cormorant was out of earshot, Danielle giggled as she scrubbed a bit of broccoli. "All sorts of foods for the highest-ranking...Then whatever they don't want, the next people get...and whatever they don't want, we get. So it's always best to prepare stuff in a way you'd want to eat it."

Allison squinted at a tomato, trying to decide the best way to go about scrubbing off that brown spot.

"It's a bruise, silly," Danielle told her, taking the tomato away and slicing off the bad part with a handy knife. "Haven't you ever been in a kitchen before? Doesn't look like you have."

"Hell no," Allison said, so suddenly that she surprised both Danielle and herself.