Madison droned on and on while Palan did his best to filter out her nonsense. Even though he provided zero conversational cues, Madison kept on talking. A lot of it was complaining about her time underground. “And there was this strange angel. Kind of smelly. Nowhere near as handsome as a single feather on my wing. But Solrara really liked him for some reason. He called him an inventing god. Can you believe that? How can a god be so old and so smelly and so not god-like? Only someone as pretty as me can be a god. You agree, right? Right, Pipapo? Pipapo? Hello?” Madison shrugged. “And that smelly angel really likes torturing people: Sometimes he tickles them. Sometimes he cuts them. But he always gets what he wants. He makes them power up his orbs and other shiny things. And—“
“Is his name Pyre?” Palan asked. Somehow, he got the feeling there’d only be one eccentric inventor around these parts.
“Eh? Why are you interrupting me?” Madison asked and tilted her head. “You were such a good listener too. But you knew that smelly old man? You think he’s weird too, right? Right?”
Palan didn’t respond. At least he found out what happened to Pyre. Madison tugged on Danger Noodle, halting Palan’s forward momentum completely. “You’re being really rude, Pipapopo,” Madison said and frowned. “And you didn’t even tell me where you’re going.” She could see bonfires off in the distance in what looked like a fort. The place seemed suspiciously like the camp she just attacked.
“I thought you didn’t care,” Palan said as he released his powers. He began to fall towards the ground, despite Madison’s wings best efforts at keeping them aloft. The harpies began to descend as well.
“You’re so fat,” Madison said and gasped as her wings strained. Her fingers began to slip from Danger Noodle. “Turn on your powers so I can fly away from here. That’s a bad place to go to.”
“What do you mean?” Palan asked and raised an eyebrow. “I thought any place was better than the tunnels.”
“Who told you that?” Madison asked as she gasped. The two were below the treetops now. “Clearly they didn’t know what they were saying. How can a place with two archangels possibly be pleasant? Answer me that, Pipopo.”
“I’m going,” Palan said.
“No. No, no, no,” Madison said and shook her head repeatedly. “I absolutely refuse to go there. And I’m prettier, so you should listen to me. Clearly my life choices are better than yours otherwise you’d be the prettier one.” She glanced at the harpies behind her. They were alighting in the trees. “Don’t you think I’m right?”
“Yes, glorious leader!” the harpies chimed. All of them except Sally. While Madison’s head was turned, Palan twisted his body in the air and lunged towards her exposed neck. His face flattened as he crashed into a transparent shield.
“Eh?” Madison turned her head and looked at Palan. “What happened to your face? It’s hideous.”
“Just let me go,” Palan said and sighed as a trail of blood leaked out of his nostril.
“No!” Madison said. “Why do you even want to go there anyways? Are you friends there?” The two finally landed on the ground. “You have friends? How?”
“Of course I have friends!” Palan said and snarled. “And they’re a thousand times more pretty than you.”
Madison gasped and brought her hands to her mouth, releasing Palan. He scrambled onto his feet and sprinted towards the fortress. He didn’t care if the flock of harpies followed him. Elrith or Michael could take care of them.
“G-glorious leader,” one of the harpies said to Madison. The archdemon was trembling with her hands still held to her mouth. “That can’t be true. Pipapo speaks false words. You’re the prettiest in all the lands.”
Madison didn’t say anything. Her wings fluttered in the wind. Black wisps of smoke began to rise out of her wings. “How dare he!?” Madison screeched towards the sky. “The only reason he’d leave me is if his friends really were prettier! I want to see them for myself.” The wisps of smoke began to circle around her body, covering it in a light layer of dark powder. She leapt into the air and spread her wings to their fullest. The first sun was just beginning to rise, causing the sky to turn blood-red. A translucent hammer appeared in her hands. The sunlight seemed to bounce off of it, giving it a fiery sheen.
The harpies screeched as they flew into the air after the archdemon. One of the older harpy’s eyes widened as she shouted, “The harbinger! The glorious leader is the one we’ve been waiting for!” Even Sally seemed shocked as she gazed at Madison with a strange expression on her face. When she was younger, her mother told her the prophecy of the harbinger.
One day in the distant future, when all the harpy tribes seemed lost and hopeless, when the angels’ might reached their peak, a four-winged messiah would appear: The Harbinger. She’d carve the path to freedom using their oppressors’ own tools against them—a hammer made from the sun itself. The road would be harsh, but glory would come to those who followed the messiah. The legend stemmed from nearly three centuries ago, told by the greatest seer of the harpy tribes. Three hundred years ago, no one believed the angels would be strong enough to subjugate all the harpy tribes, but it had happened. Who was to say that the messiah wasn’t real?
Sally pursed her lips and flew after Madison with her heart pounding. Had she questioned the messiah? But who would’ve possibly believed that the harbinger was a full-on idiot? She had always thought the harbinger would be a harpy. She had even fantasized about being the harbinger herself—all the young harpies had. The older ones always spoke about evolution, but no one had ever seen it happen. There wasn’t much to see when they were always trapped underground eating bitter mushrooms.
Sally let out a sigh as she glanced at Madison. The demon was completely enraged: her eyes were glowing, and the reflections of the sun off her shield made her look as if she were encased in fire. Veins could be seen snaking up her arms which were straining to hold the hammer that expanded with each beat of her wings. Sally shook her head and blinked hard once. Maybe Madison really was the harbinger. Maybe she wasn’t. Only time would tell.