Madison’s beak twisted into a frown as she hopped down a tunnel. The path was pitch black, but she easily maneuvered through the passage while stroking her feathers with her beak. She stopped in front of an entrance that emitted blue light. She raised her head and peered around the corner. “Sollysolsol,” Madison sang. “The angels are charging into the tunnel.”
“Don’t ever call me that again,” Solra’s voice said from within the cave. “What else?”
“Understood, Sollysolsa,” Madison said and giggled before hopping into the cave. Solra sighed. “The centaurs came back and said their chief died while hunting the hunting parties. And the goblins volunteered to stay behind to fight. And the dwarves are playing with their black powder.” Madison’s beak wrinkled. “It smells like rotting eggs.”
“Good,” Solra said and stood up. He had been taking a nap. “I didn’t expect Michael to be so reckless. He should know halflings are stronger than angels when they can’t use their powers. I was hoping…” Soft snores echoed through the cave. Madison’s head was buried under her wing, and her body was squatting on the ground. The old angel blinked and shook his head. “I feel foolish now.”
He picked up an empty cup and rapped the bottom against Madison’s head. “Wake up. We’re leaving.”
Madison blinked twice and rubbed her head. “Are we still, err, tunnels?” She tilted her head.
“Yes,” Solra said. “Lots of tunnels. The dwarves did a lot of digging.”
“Boooo,” Madison said and frowned as she hopped after Solra. “It’s too dark down here. And there’s no sun. And it’s damp and my feathers feel sticky. And I can’t even use my powers. And even worse, I haven’t seen my reflection in so long. I miss myself.” She sighed as Solra completely ignored her. “Alas! This truly is a tragedy. The suns need me to shine. I bet they’re looking for my beautiful face outside right now.”
“If you weren’t an archdemon, I would’ve turned you to stew by now,” Solra muttered as he walked down the dark tunnels with his right hand on the wall.
“I bet I’d taste delicious,” Madison said and blinked. She licked the back of her hand and made a face. “Too salty.” She paused. Her head turned to the side as the sounds of metal clashing against metal rang through the tunnel system.
“Keep moving,” Solra said. Madison shrugged and hopped after the angel. The duo arrived in a chamber that smelled like sulfur. Dozens of dwarves turned their heads to look at the arrivals. Their bodies were pale and wiry due to growing up underground and living off of mushrooms. They were about three-feet tall with yellow eyes and scraggly beards. There were no female dwarves present. Solra looked around the room. “Are they ready?”
A dwarf stepped forward. “Yes. With these, even regular goblins can win against angels,” he said. His voice was squeaky. “But the impact may collapse the tunnel entrance.”
“That’s fine,” Solra said. “What do you call this?”
“A cannon.” The dwarf stuck his chest out and straightened his back. His skin was pressed tight against his bones, outlining his ribs. “You load them up with these balls and fill in this powder. Then you light the powder on fire which creates an explosion inside of the cannon. The force of the explosion propels the ball out towards your enemies.” The dwarf wet his lips with his tongue. “We made wheels for the cannons to make them easier to transport.”
Solra nodded. “And thi—“
“This is ingenious!” Pyre’s voice echoed through the chamber.
Madison’s beak wrinkled as she inched backwards. She muttered, “Oh great. The crazy person.”
“Have you thought of miniaturizing the design?” Pyre asked the dwarf. “Imagine if they were small enough for a person to carry it with him. Or if you shrunk it even further, you could have them hold it in one hand! Granted, their destructive power can’t match up to an archangel’s, but if you caught them off guard … the possibilities are endless.”
“I see you made yourself quite at home with the dwarves,” Solra said and cleared his throat. “I’d like to see a demonstration of your … cannons. The capital’s army is rushing into the tunnels as we speak.”
“Is it okay to show ourselves?” the dwarf asked and furrowed his brow.
“Of course not,” Solra said. “Teach the goblins. I predict we’ll have a few hours or so before the angels even make it close to the entrance.”
Elrith grunted as he slammed his shield into a hobgoblin that was taller than he was. The armored goblin fell backwards and another one stepped forward to take its place. Elrith furrowed his brow. “Pull back!” he shouted. That must have been the twentieth goblin he knocked out, yet more kept on coming. It didn’t help that the tunnels were only wide enough for three men to stand shoulder-to-shoulder. Whenever they killed a goblin, another one would pull the corpse away and strip its armor off, handing it off. It was an unending cycle.
The army began to retreat backwards, keeping their eyes on the goblins at all times. They were using crude clubs made from a chunk of iron, but their weapons were effective on the angels’ armor. Elrith blocked a swing with his tower shield and glanced to his side. Owen was beside him with a lance in his hands. After an extended period of blocking and walking backwards, Elrith felt the suns shine on his back. The goblins stopped at the entrance of the tunnel and jeered at the angels before turning around and retreating back into the cave. A few of them threw feces at the angels before leaving.
The angels fell back to the four buildings they captured earlier, regretting the fact that they took down their camp. “We need the demons up front to pierce through their guard. We’re too weak without our powers,” Elrith said. “The problem is, some of you are too big to fit inside of the tunnels.” He glanced at the wide demon with eight tentacles protruding out of its back. Elrith turned towards Michael. “Do you have any ideas?”
Michael frowned. “No,” he said and glanced over the army. His gaze stopped on Palan and Raea. He snorted. “Why not ask your sister’s demon? He’s always full of ideas.”
The soldiers remained silent as Elrith approached Palan. “Do you have any tricks to break through their guard?”
“You just want to know if they have dwarves, right?” Palan asked.
“I have an idea, but it’ll cost you.”
“What do you want?” Elrith asked and ground his teeth.
“All the merit. I want Raea to qualify for a promotion.”
Elrith turned his head towards Michael. The bald angel nodded. Elrith snorted and glared at Palan. “Fine,” he said. “If it works, we can promote Raea. What’s your plan?”
“Just ask them,” Palan said.
Elrith blinked. “Huh?”
“You know. Open your mouth. Ask the goblins if they have any dwarves down there,” Palan said. “Do I have to teach you how to speak?”
“That’s not going to work,” Elrith said. “Are you messing with me right now?”
“Have you tried?”
“Then beat a goblin over the head, drag him out, and ask,” Palan said and looked at Raea. “I feel like I should apologize to you. I thought only you lacked common sense, but it seems like it’s a shared trait amongst angels.”
Raea’s brow furrowed. “I’m not sure if I should feel happy or insulted.”
Cleo climbed up Raea’s back and rested her chin on her head. “Try feeling happy first. If you don’t like it, then you can try feeling insulted instead.” She clicked her tongue as her tail swished, knocking against Raea’s halberd. “Angels really do lack common sense, huh?”