After forcefully stuffing the remainder of Igor’s body into Palan’s mouth, Madison let out a yawn and sat on the ground with her legs crossed. Palan was twitching in front of her with a belly like a pregnant woman’s. A black puddle of liquid spread out from underneath Palan and rose upwards in strands, trapping his body in a birdcage-like structure. Madison shuddered as the liquid began to fill in the gaps and fully cocoon Palan’s body, forming a black egg at the end. She tilted her head. “My egg was definitely better.”
Raea paced back and forth across her room. Cleo’s head turned back and forth like a pendulum as she watched Raea bite her nails and mutter to herself. Pyre sighed. “Calm down, Miss Raea. You’ll saw through the floor at this rate.” He tapped his pipe against the edge of the seat, causing ashes to fall onto the floor.
Raea whirled around and placed her hands on her hips. “Calm down?” she asked, glaring at the angel who couldn’t see her. “You heard him, right? He said he was going to take a short walk. A short walk! It’s been three days now and he didn’t even leave behind a message. What if he was kidnapped by the person controlling the giant spider-golem that’s heading for the outpost at this very moment?” She clenched her hands, scrunching up the robes by her waist. “And how are you so calm? The controller of that golem could very well be here to destroy us.”
Pyre blew out a cloud of purple smoke. He gestured towards his pipe. “Want some?” he asked.
“Your behavior isn’t very fitting for an angel of patience,” Pyre said and shrugged as he brought the pipe to his mouth. “It’s only been three days. And I have a feeling that the golem commander is friendly. If not, Michael can deal with it. There’s nothing to worry about. And isn’t it your fault for not following after Palan when he left?”
“You were the one who stopped me!” Raea shouted and stomped her foot. She bit her lower lip as her eyes grew wet and turned around before heading for her bed. She threw herself on top of her covers and buried her face into her pillow while gathering the blanket towards her chest with her arms. She inhaled through her nose and smelled traces of mildew. Her mother had always lectured her for sleeping without drying her hair. She sighed as the heat in her chest faded away, replaced by a feeling of loneliness. Cleo seemed to sense something and hopped onto the bed, plopping herself down on top of Raea’s butt.
Raea raised her head and craned her neck to stare at Cleo. After confirming it was the orange lizardman and not the blindfolded angel, she dropped her head back onto the pillow. Cleo didn’t say anything as she stared out the window. Her eyes widened when she saw a giant boulder hurtling towards a building across the street. A loud crashing sound and a shriek echoed through the air. Raea scrambled to her feet, knocking Cleo over. “What was that?” Raea asked and looked out the window. The building across the street was in shambles, and her face paled at the sight of a severed leg.
“Are we under attack?” Pyre asked. He was still leaning back in his chair with the pipe in his mouth. Another crashing sound coming from the outside the room answered his question. Pyre raised an eyebrow. “Trebuchets? There are dwarves out there?”
Boulders fell like rain before a wall of wind rose up. When the boulders collided with the wind, they slowed down and drifted towards the ground, landing gently. Raea exited the building, dragging Pyre along by his forearm. Over the outpost walls, she could see the tops of hundreds of wooden structures surrounding the outpost.
“How did no one notice this?! Where are our scouts?” Michael’s voice boomed through the outpost. The soldiers had stepped into formation; only the initial volley had managed to injure them. “Spread out and eliminate all of them!” The soldiers streamed out of the outpost and headed towards the trebuchets. The boulders stopped flying the instant the soldiers started to move. Raea rushed around the wrecked buildings, searching for any injured angels to heal.
“The dwarves were wiped out decades ago,” Pyre said as he rubbed his chin. “Their old-fashioned weapons couldn’t compete with the power of the angels’ orbs. Interesting.” He drummed his fingers against his thigh as Raea crouched down next to a pale angel whose leg was stuck underneath a boulder. “Maybe Ishim’s army reconstructed their siege weapons, but that wouldn’t explain their sudden appearance.” Pyre chuckled and added more leaves to his pipe. “Unknown variables are always thrilling, don’t you agree?” His voice was directed at Cleo. Before the lizardman could answer, a pair of feet touched down behind her. Michael frowned as gazed at Pyre.
“What do you think?” he asked the blindfolded angel.
“I think I should wait for the soldiers to return before I make any guesses,” Pyre said. “But probably dwarves.”
“General!” a soldier said and approached Michael. “Colonel Simon discovered an underground entrance, but it sealed itself before he could investigate further. All the reports gathered say the trebuchets were abandoned before the soldiers arrived.” Michael nodded at the soldier and turned his gaze over the outpost walls. The tops of the trebuchets were either on fire or no longer visible. He saw the spider-golem steadily approaching from the distance and frowned. Coincidence? Michael frowned before shaking his head. He thought the spider-golem belonged to Elrith, but now, he wasn’t so sure.
Raea sighed as she stood up. The angel she was healing rolled the boulder off of his leg and stood up, thanking her in the process. Michael stared at Raea. “Where’s your demon?” he asked and narrowed his eyes. Raea froze.
“I sent him out on an errand,” Pyre said, stepping in front of Raea. “He’s doing some scouting for me.”
“Is that true?” Michael asked, looking around Pyre to stare at Raea.
She bit her lip and furrowed her brow. “That…,” she said and clutched her chest with one arm. She gasped and hunched over, sweat forming on her brow. Her body burned and glowed with a yellow light. She began to fall forwards.
“What’s happening to her?” Michael asked as he lunged forward and caught Raea before she fell over. The yellow light’s glow increased in intensity until Michael had to close his eyes in fear of being blinded. Pyre retrieved her from Michael’s arms.
“I have a guess,” he said and grinned. “Continue doing your army stuff. So many interesting things are happening today.” He chuckled as he retreated back to Raea’s room with a concerned-looking Cleo following after him.
“What’s going on?” Cleo asked, shielding her eyes with her hand after the three were alone. Pyre had placed Raea on her bed. “Is she dying?”
“Not quite,” Pyre said. Cleo looked up at him expectantly with her tail swishing behind her. The blindfolded angel chuckled at her. “You wouldn’t understand if I explained it. I’m not even sure I’m right.” Cleo pouted and turned her back towards Pyre. The old angel sat down in his chair and slightly raised his blindfold, staring in Raea’s direction. A golden membrane covered her body. “It looks similar to a demon’s evolution, but there are very few instances of it ever happening to angels.” Pyre’s red eyes glinted before he covered them.