Palan stared at the giant earthen spider-cube as it scuttled away into the distance. Cleo’s words sprang into his mind, “How is this even fair?” He could hear her high-pitch voice complaining away and couldn’t help but to agree with her. The gap between him and an archangel ruthlessly pressed down on his pride. He gritted his teeth and sniffed the air. Maybe the gap would shrink after he ate that oversized dog-monkey. He wasn’t counting on it.
Palan had been hidden throughout the fight, watching Igor’s every move while the wolf-gorilla demon hunted down the elephants and fought the angels. He found that, although he couldn’t just bury himself underneath the sand, it was a lot easier to hide within a forest than out in the desert. He was confident that no one had noticed him, and nodded as he turned away from the earthen monstrosity in the distance. As he followed the trail of blood Igor left behind, he couldn’t help but wonder what method Pyre had to kill an archangel.
Labored breaths reached Palan’s ears, and his heartrate quickened. His pupils dilated, and a shiver ran down his spine as his pace increased. The wolf-gorilla was slowing down, the footsteps he left behind becoming shallower with every step. His broad back came into Palan’s view, rivulets of blood trickling out of multiple puncture wounds that decorated the wolf-gorilla’s purple skin. Igor stopped running and whirled around to face Palan. Igor’s nose twitched, and he growled. “You! Not dead?”
Palan didn’t speak as he took a step back, retreating towards a tree while observing Igor’s wounds. His body had been skewered multiple times and entrails dangled from a gash in his lower abdomen. Palan’s nose wrinkled. He asked, “Doesn’t that hurt? What kind of freak are you?”
“Igor stupid! No feel pain,” the wolf-gorilla demon said as he hunched over. He spat in his right hand and used his left hand to stuff his entrails back inside his body. He rubbed his spit on the gash and nodded before standing up straight while pounding his chest. “Good like new!”
“Are you serious?” Palan asked and furrowed his brow. He reached into his bag and sighed. His poison had been expended long ago; the only thing left was a leather pouch containing poisoned stew.
“I always serious,” Igor said and lumbered towards Palan. He stumbled but corrected himself by placing his palms against the ground. Blood continued to drip from his wounds. His tongue drooped as he panted, staring at Palan.
Palan frowned and took out the leather pouch. “Are you hungry?” he asked. “I have stew made out of an archangel that I’m willing to share with you.”
Igor hesitated. “Is trick?” he asked as he eyed the pouch. A kidney fell out of his wound, and he stuffed it back inside his belly after dusting it off.
“No?” Palan asked and raised an eyebrow. He lobbed the pouch towards Igor who caught it with one hand. Igor pierced the skin of the pouch with a claw and sniffed the stew.
“Not fresh,” Igor said and frowned at Palan. His eyes seemed to be drooping as his body wobbled. The spit clearly hadn’t healed him.
“It’s one week old,” Palan said as his right hand crept towards his dagger. He stepped out from behind the tree. “I was saving it for a tough time.”
“Make sense,” Igor said and nodded. “You ally to Solra? Why silent when I ask?” He tore a slit in the pouch and drank the contents in a single gulp. “If speak, then no hurt you, friend.”
Palan furrowed his brow. “What makes you think I’m your friend?” he asked.
“Igor have many friend back home,” the wolf-gorilla said as he pinched the gash in his belly shut. “Always nice to Igor. Give Igor food when hungry. I kill not-friends for friend; they praise Igor. Call Igor stupid. I laugh because joke.”
“So you were taken advantage of,” Palan said and nodded. His expression was strange as he stared at Igor. “I can mend that wound for you.” Palan took a step forward and twirled the dagger in his hand. “This dagger has healing properties. I took it from an archangel.”
Igor’s eyes sparkled. “Give Igor. Friend forever,” he said and extended his palm, dropping the empty leather pouch onto the ground.
“Aren’t you upset that I stabbed you before?” Palan asked.
“Just itch. No problem,” Igor said and grunted. Igor’s wolf-like ears flattened against his head, and he panted. “You friend. Give dagger?” A puddle of blood had formed underneath Igor’s body. His eyes continued to sparkle as he stared at the dagger, but his shoulders began to hunch further.
Palan frowned as he stepped closer and held the blade of his dagger. He offered the hilt towards Igor. He had seen many animals, and every one of his senses was telling him that Igor was completely harmless. “How do you know what I’m saying if you’re so stupid?” Palan asked as Igor grasped the dagger’s hilt with a trembling hand, a smile on his face like a child that had just received a brand new toy.
“Don’t know,” Igor said as he raised the dagger above his head and let the suns shine on it. “Friend speak clear. Easy for Igor. Not many like you.” The rivulets of blood slowed to a trickle. The wolf-gorilla demon’s skin was pale, completely white with the faintest trace of purple. “Igor see light. Very … warm.”
Palan frowned. The wolf-gorilla in front of him was too stupid to realize he was dying. He watched as Igor’s chest heaved up and down, the movement gradually getting slower. Palan crossed his arms over his chest. This wasn’t what he was expecting when he started the hunt. Igor lowered his head to gaze at Palan. His red eyes had dulled. “Igor glad,” he said. “In strange world. Make new friend. Friend … name?” Igor fell to his knees; his head was now level with Palan’s.
“Pal … an,” Igor whispered. He closed his eyes. “Igor sleep … now.” The wolf-gorilla demon fell over onto his face, still clutching Anidun’s dagger as he fell over. Palan’s expression was odd as he pried the dead demon’s fingers off of his dagger. He wrinkled his brow as he stood up and inspected Igor’s body. The hunter had caught up to his prey but found that it was already dying. He felt robbed. There was no release of any of his pent up frustrations.
“Damnit!” Palan shouted and stabbed the dagger into Igor’s back.
Palan whipped his head around and saw Madison sitting in a tree. His head cleared instantly as a shiver ran through his body. How come he hadn’t noticed her? He could sense her heart beating now, but there was no signs of her before.
“Did my beautiful face leave you awestruck?” Madison asked and smiled as she preened her wings. Palan smelled the traces of blood on her feathers and froze as he recalled the carnage that she caused by herself. Madison giggled. “You simply can’t speak! My presence has struck you dumb.” She let out a chirp and ruffled her feathers, rubbing her cheek against them.
“Why are you here?” Palan asked.
“I can’t see my best friend, Picasso?” Madison asked and tilted her head. “I told you I’d see you tomorrow, didn’t I? I saw you at the battlefield, hiding in some bushes.” She flew to the ground and flipped Igor over with her talon. “The ugly lump has died. Solra’s going to be mad. Oh wells.” She shrugged. “Are you going to eat him? Maybe you’ll turn less ugly when you evolve.” She waved her hand and a translucent sword appeared. Palan took a step back as Madison swung her sword, cutting Igor’s body into bite-sized pieces. Madison tilted her head and looked at Palan as her sword vanished. She picked up one of the pieces and threw it into her mouth. “Too dry. Did you exsanguinate him?”
Palan snorted. “He did this to himself,” he said and sat down next to Igor’s dismembered body. He picked up a chunk of bloodless flesh and stared at it. “I wonder if things could’ve worked out differently between us.”
“Getting sentimental?” Madison asked. She nodded and hummed as if she figured something out. “Two ugly people would get along.” Palan wrinkled his brow at Madison before eating the chunk of flesh in his hand. A surge of heat ran through his body, causing his eyes to widen. He hesitated while staring at the corpse on the ground. Madison picked up a piece with her talon and shoved it into Palan’s mouth. “What are you waiting for? Hurry up and change your ugly mug. You have to be semi-presentable even if you’ll never be as stunning as me.”