“Hey, the sun is about to set, you know?” Madison asked as she hopped after Palan. He ignored her and continued to walk ahead. Wings flapped behind him, and he whirled around just in time to see Madison take flight. She hovered in the air, staring at him.
“Are you leaving?” Palan asked, gripping the handle of his dagger.
“Yes,” Madison said. “It’s time for curfew.” As the second sun continued to set, Madison’s feathers gradually darkened from sky-blue to black with a hint of purple. “Let’s go; I’ll carry you.” She dove for Palan with her talons outstretched. His eyes widened as he leapt to the side and twisted his torso. Madison’s claw grazed Palan’s chest, leaving behind a line of blood. “Eh? Why’d you move?” She perched in a tree and tilted her head.
Palan brought his dagger in front of himself and hunched over, readying himself like a sprinter. Madison dove at him again, but Palan managed to avoid her. She frowned. “What are you doing? Solra will be mad if we’re late.”
“I never said I was going with you,” Palan said, preparing to dodge again. Madison’s talons passed by his head.
“Stop dodging!” Madison said and frowned. “Don’t make me take my hammer out.”
“Why do you want me to go with you?” Palan asked as he inched towards a tree.
“I’m a considerate person,” Madison said and placed her hands on her hip. “I wouldn’t want you to get lonely while I’m gone.”
“You don’t have to worry about that,” Palan said. The wound on his chest dripped blood onto the ground. “I’ll be just fine without you, maybe even better off.” Madison stared at Palan who had half his body behind a tree. She looked up at the sky and frowned.
“Fine,” Madison said and sighed. “I can’t dally around here with you any longer. What’s your name? I’m Madison the scatterbrained fool.”
“You already introduced yourself before.”
“I know, but I knew you’d want to hear my name again. So who are you?”
Madison nodded. “I’ll remember your name, new best friend,” she said and flew into the air. “See you tomorrow, Pi—, err, Pe—, no, that’s not it, Pablo? Pablo!” Palan watched her figure disappear into the distance. He exhaled as a smile broke out on his face. The smile turned into a frown as he realized he didn’t accomplish what he wanted today. His face hardened as he made his way back to the outpost. He’d have to find a way to avoid Madison and isolate the wolf-gorilla if he wanted to get a chance at revenge.
Palan stopped walking and turned around, staring in the direction Madison flew towards. He could stalk the wolf-gorilla and wait for the perfect chance. He’d done it many times before in Eljiam. The only problem was Raea. What if the hunt took longer than a month and she did something stupid? No. Pyre would keep her alive. Palan shook his head and took a step away from the outpost. He was tired: tired of her worrying, of her incessant nagging, of depending on her to heal him, of her smile that made him feel strange. He crouched and dashed forwards, running through the forest and startling the mice that were starting to come out. Palan smiled as the wind blew past his face; it was time to shorten his list.
“You are late,” an angel wearing black robes said, staring up at the sky. A hood hung over his head, its shadows covering his face. Madison alighted to the grassy hilltop and tilted her head. Ishim’s army had set camp in a circle surrounding the hill the two were standing on.
“I am?” she asked. “But the sun hasn’t set. See?” She pointed at the still red sky.
“Not you,” the angel said. The last vestige of sunlight disappeared. “Him.” Madison turned around. Crunching sounds echoed out as the wolf-gorilla demon stomped into view. His left arm hung limp at his side, and the bandages on his shoulder were black. “Did I not tell you to get that fixed, Igor?”
“I bandage. Is fixed,” Igor said. “Tomorrow. Heal like new.” Saliva dripped from his mouth onto the ground.
The angel turned towards Madison. “Where did you go today?”
“I played with some angels and fed the trees,” she said and smiled. The angel stared at her, waiting for more. Madison stayed silent.
“Tomorrow,” the angel said after waiting ten seconds, “we engage General Elrith’s army. Both of you will participate. That man’s army is very dependent on its demons. You will identify the demon contractors and kill them.” He nodded at Madison before looking at Igor. “You will kill their elephants and destroy their supplies. They have so much more wealth than you. How does that make you feel?”
“Mad,” Igor said and curled his toes, leaving ten lines in the dirt. “Everything belong to Igor.”
“Good,” the angel said and raised his head. “Go and rest. No one will desert tonight.” The angel stared at the moon as it rose into the sky. Madison and Igor didn’t even look at each other before leaving. “Can you sense it, Meffi, Abaddon? The seeds we planted decades ago are starting to bear fruit.”