Sally’s eyes fluttered open, revealing an orange lizardman standing over her face. “Hi, Buffalo Legs!” the lizardman said and smiled at her. “I’m Cleo. Nice to meet you.”
Sally frowned and sat up. Someone had dressed her in a white robe while she was sleeping. A metal collar was latched around her neck, and she touched her wing to it. The metal was cold with runes spread along its surface. She hung her head.
“Hey,” Cleo said and pouted. “Don’t look so dejected. You’re the servant of Cleo the Magnificent. I’m the best master you could ever hope for here, you know?” She tapped her own collar.
“A slave can own a slave?” Sally asked and furrowed her brow. She looked around and saw Palan sitting down with his back to a wall. Her body involuntarily shuddered. In front of him was Raea sleeping in her cocoon. The four of them were in a room of sorts that trembled and shook. A small crystal illuminated the small room.
“Apparently,” Cleo said. “I was the one who put the collar on you.” She pretended to whisper and pointed at Palan. “He was going to eat you again. You should be grateful.”
“So you saved me?” Sally asked, her eyes brightening. “Thank you.”
“That’s better,” Cleo said and nodded. “I saved you out of the goodness of my heart.” Palan snorted. When he was about to eat Sally again, Cleo had intervened saying she wanted a flying mount. He didn’t know where Cleo had gotten the slave collar from, but she pulled it out of her invisible pocket and latched it over Sally’s neck before he could do anything.
“I see,” Sally said. “I am in your debt, Cleo the Magnificent. What did you call me earlier? Buffalo Wings?”
“Buffalo Legs,” Cleo said. “You passed out before telling us your name, so I took the liberty of giving you a new one.”
Sally looked at her legs, checking to see if she grew hooves while she was sleeping. She blinked. Her talons were still there. “My name is Sally,” she said, “daughter of the blue-feather tribe’s matriarch.”
“Sally,” Cleo said and wrinkled her nose. “Doesn’t have as much as an impact as Buffalo Legs, but I’ll accept it. Does that mean you’re royalty? You know, since you’re the daughter of a matriarch.”
“Technically,” Sally said and frowned. “But royalty doesn’t mean much when your kind is oppressed. It is just a title in name.” She stood up and walked over to Raea while avoiding Palan’s gaze. “This is the person who saved me?”
“Yup,” Cleo said and walked over as well. She stumbled a bit when the room jolted. “She’s his master.” Cleo pointed at Palan. “And he’s my master. And I’m your master. So she’s like your grand-grandmaster.”
“Is she alright?” Sally asked and crouched down, folding her wings to her side.
“Yeah,” Cleo said. “She just overexerted herself while healing you. Be thankful. Not a lot of angels like people like us.” Her cheeks puffed out.
An elephant trumpeted, and the room ground to a halt. Palan stood up and pushed open a trapdoor on the ceiling and popped his head out. They were in a storage chest which was following after the army. The number of soldiers marching had been greatly reduced, and Elrith had been forced to abandon supplies to transport the wounded. Both Elrith and Michael had managed to reduce casualties by using their powers to mitigate the damage done by Madison’s hammer.
“Why’d we stop?” Cleo asked from within the chest.
“Some angels are leaving their storage chests. I guess they aren’t wounded anymore,” Palan said and climbed back inside. He noticed Sally shying away from him with her feathers bristling. He snorted. “Calm down.”
“Calm down? You ate me!” Sally said, practically screeching as she hid behind Cleo. “I flew into your hole seeking shelter. You hit me over the head and ate me!”
“That was self-defense. I thought you were Madison,” Palan said and shrugged. “But it turned out you weren’t. It was an honest mistake. I couldn’t just waste your body, so I ate you.”
Sally sighed. “So she really wasn’t your best friend, Pipapo,” she said. She was still glaring at Palan. Danger Noodle hissed, causing her to let out a whimper.
“Who’s Madison?” Cleo asked. “You can’t keep picking up women on the side, Palan. Raea will get mad at you. And that includes people like Sally. I know she’s really pretty and all, but you can’t just kidnap people like this.” She shook her head and tutted before yelping when Danger Noodle swallowed her tail.
“I think he really had no intentions of kidnapping me,” Sally said as she watched Cleo hiss and claw at Danger Noodle. She pursed her lips and looked at Palan. “Can you open the ceiling again? It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the suns.”
Palan grunted and threw Cleo at the ceiling with his tail. She yelled before clinging onto a latch. Sunlight poured into the storage chest accompanied by Cleo’s grumbles. The light landed on Sally, causing her to shudder and her feathers to ripple. Raea stirred.
“Oh. She’s waking up,” Cleo said and dropped down from the ceiling. She stood over Raea’s face and smiled at the still-sleeping angel. Sally figured out why the first thing she saw was Cleo when she had awoken. She tilted her head and stared at the excited orange lizardman. There was something about her that opened people up. It had been a long time since Sally had a conversation with anyone. She was usually avoided or picked on back in the caves.
“Cleo?” Raea asked, blinking her eyes. She tried to sit up but winced and spasmed. Her face blanched, and her head turned towards Palan. “Did you use my mana to heal me?”
“Yup,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to do that than to use my own.”
“How badly hurt was I?” Raea asked.
“I thought you died,” Cleo said and nodded. “But you didn’t. So that’s good. You fell from the wall, and then the wall fell on top of you.”
Raea sighed. “My mana’s been overdrafted,” she said. “It hurts to move.”
“You mean like that time you had to carry Palan? And feed him? And bathe him?” Cleo asked. A shiver ran down her spine, and she found Palan glaring at her with glowing red eyes. She cleared her throat and slowly stepped behind Sally.
“Why are you hiding behind me!?” Sally asked and flapped her wings in distress. A few brown feathers fell loose.
“You’re bigger,” Cleo said and crawled up Sally’s back. She peeked over Sally’s wing and blinked at Palan. He was looking at Raea whose face was bright red. She recalled her insistence of cleaning him and wanted to sink into the floor. Cleo whispered in Sally’s ear, “They have a weird kind of relationship. I’m trying to pair them together.”
“You’re very brave,” Sally whispered back. She wanted to thank Raea for saving her, but she didn’t want to approach Palan either. In the end, she chose to stay back and hide in a corner with Cleo.