Raea bit her lip as she stood on top of the watchtower in the center of the camp. She stared at the surrounding forest, hoping to catch a glimpse of Palan. The sun was just beginning to rise, and Michael was intent on keeping his word. He wanted the army to march at dawn, and they were already beginning to form their ranks. “I’m sure he’ll catch up,” Cleo said. She was standing on the tips of her toes, barely able to see over the watchtower’s ledge. Her tail swished. “He has to.”
Raea sighed. “I hope so,” she said and frowned. Was it just her or was the sun starting to fly towards them? “Do you see that?” She pointed towards the approaching light. One of the three angels who was on guard duty walked to her side.
“That’s odd,” the soldier said. “It looks like a swarm of bats.” He frowned. “I’m going to report this to the general.” The soldier nodded at Raea before sprinting down the stairs. The remaining soldiers came over and observed the growing light followed by dark figures.
“It’s those blasted harpies again,” a soldier said. “Let’s go down. I don’t want to be the first one struck by lightning.” The angels made themselves scarce before Raea could even open her mouth. Cleo blinked at the puffs of dust they left behind.
Raea sighed and shook her head before squinting off into the distance. The light seemed to resemble a hammer now. “I wonder if this is normal,” she said to Cleo. “I know that the angels subjugated the other species, but was there always this much violence? It just doesn’t seem right.”
Cleo snorted. “There’s always violence,” she said and nodded while crossing her arms over her chest. “You still have much to learn, child. I remember when I was still just a kid; I had to fight for my own food in the streets. When other people have what you want and they won’t give it to you, violence is the best answer.” Cleo sniffed and raised her head into the air. She paused. “Or stealing. Stealing’s a lot easier.” She scratched her cheek.
“Raea!” a voice shouted up at her. “Get down from there!”
Raea peered over the edge of the watchtower and saw Elrith standing below her while Michael began to climb the stairs to the tower. She lifted Cleo up and took one last glance towards the flying hammer. Her eyes widened when she saw a purple figure running amongst the burnt trees. “Is that Palan?” she asked Cleo and lifted the squirming lizardman up into the air.
“That purple thing,” Raea said and pointed, nearly dropping her friend. “Behind that tree. See? It’s running towards the camp.”
“Raea!” Elrith shouted up again.
“That has to be him,” Raea said and ran down the stairs, almost crashing into Michael.
“It’s dangerous,” Elrith said as Raea appeared in his sight. “You”—she ran past him—“should … Ray?” Elrith sighed as the rest of the army stared at him. He furrowed his brow and glared at them. “What are you looking at? Yes, she gets special treatment, but that’s because she’s not part of this army. Is there an issue?”
“No issue, sir!”
Elrith nodded and looked at his sister’s back. She just finished running up the stairs to the fortress walls. Elrith frowned when he saw a blazing red light in the sky. Michael said he’d take care of it, but Elrith had a bad feeling. He stomped on the ground and a column of earth upwards, bringing him on the same level as Michael who was on the watchtower. A glowing green orb of light was forming in front of Michael’s chest. Elrith’s eyes widened. “It’s her!” he shouted. His hands trembled, and the whole fortress seemed to shake.
“Who?” Michael asked. The orb of light was getting brighter with every passing second.
“That narcissistic archdemon who ambushed us with Solra,” Elrith said. Madison was still a decent distance away, but he could recognize that hammer from anywhere. The impact and loss of his men was still heavily imprinted in his mind, haunting him while he slept. “You know what narcissism is, right? She’ll reflect your shot.”
“She’s that strong?” Michael asked and raised an eyebrow. A bead of sweat fell to the floor. “Are you sure you’re not underestimating me?”
“I’m not sure,” Elrith said. “She was able to parry my patience chains.” He ground his teeth together.
“What about your charity?” Michael asked. “Did you cancel her power out?”
“Solra was there. I couldn’t do anything,” Elrith said. The earth rumbled and bulged in front of the two generals’ armies. A massive hand rose out of the ground, loose dirt cascading off of its fingers. “Go ahead and fire,” Elrith said, his breath short. “If she does reflect it, I’ll block it.”
Michael nodded and clapped his hands together in the orb of green light. He spread his arms apart, stretching the orb into a line. For a split second, the surroundings fell completely silent. Then a high-pitched whine rang in the ears of all the angels. A blade of wind shot out of the light and flew towards the harpies in the distance, expanding and growing louder as it traveled through the air.
Sally’s eyes widened as the green wall approached the flock. What started out as a speck in the angel’s hand became an impossibly huge roaring behemoth that threatened to destroy everything in its path. She realized now why her ancestors were forced to flee underground. When faced with something as destructive as this, anyone would want to get as far away as possible. She had thought that following Pipapo towards the angel’s camp was a really bad idea, but no one ever considered what she thought. And she was right. This was a tremendously bad idea. She wouldn’t even be able to tell the rest of them, “I told you so.” They’d all be dead.
“Harbinger!” the older harpy who first deemed Madison as their messiah screeched. “The harbinger will lead us to victory!” But Sally couldn’t see it. The green wind was impossible to escape from. It expanded and expanded with every passing second. Even if she started to fly upwards or downwards right now, she wouldn’t be able to escape its attack range. Sally glanced at Madison to see her reaction. The demon’s face still burned with rage, and the hammer seemed to be so heavy that it hung pointing straight at the forest floor, barely held up by her arms.
Sally sighed as her head drooped. So this is how I die, she thought as her eyes roamed over the landscape. At least she wouldn’t die underground of sickness like her mother had. At least she would die flying like a proper harpy. Her gaze landed on Palan. She wondered what he thought about the approaching winds. Her eyes widened at his actions, and she dove straight to the ground towards Palan. He was digging a hole. She could survive!
Madison didn’t notice the lone harpy leaving her flock. She didn’t notice the screeching of the harpies as they chanted her name. She didn’t even seem to notice the approaching wall of wind as she flew steadily onwards. Her eyes were looking ahead, but she seemed to be staring at something that didn’t exist.
Images of raging sandstorms flashed through her head. She heard screams of “Madison! Madison!” Death wails, dying screams, moaning. Warm blood flew through the air splashing on her face, tinting her vision red. Specks of sand cut her body like razorblades. Her body shook. Her hands felt wet. “-inger. Harbinger!”
Madison’s eyes widened as she was brought back to reality. The wall of wind was almost upon her. “Don’t…,” Madison said and arched her back as she strained to lift her hammer. Its shaft was thicker and longer than a sequoia tree, and its head was like a glowing, red mountain. The hammer rose until it was horizontal, parallel to the ground. She could hear the roaring of the wind, threatening to devour her. Madison swung the hammer while shrieking, “Don’t get in my way!”
The hammer seemed to move in slow motion as its head traveled towards the green wind. The impact was like an oar pulling water. Part of the wind swirled and diverted towards the side before crashing into the distant forest while the rest destroyed the forest floor and parted the clouds in the sky above the flock. The hammer continued on its path and the harpies scrambled to get out of the way as Madison spun it in another full rotation. She released the hammer and watched it fly through the remaining green wind towards the fortress. It crashed into a giant earthen hand which crumbled into dust. The hammer dimmed greatly from the impact, but it still fell on top of the fort with a satisfying thud. Madison nodded and dusted off her hands.