As the wind lifted the tails of Marek’s shirt, the sound of his brother’s cackle drifted away on the rising air currents. “Royal lineage?” Marek asked, slowly releasing his grip on Loki’s throat. “What royal lineage?”
“Mmmm,” Loki hummed. “She outranks even you.”
“Why are you saying that? How could you know? This is one of your tricks.”
“But what if I’m not, brother?”
Marek tossed his brother, the serpentine coils slithering through one another, to the ground. “You are in my principality, Loki. You are forbidden to leave.”
The indigo serpent writhed in the dust. It spat venom and hissed. “Unfair…you cannot bind me!”
Marek scoffed and marched to the doorway. He stooped and sqeezed himself through, spreading a small dune across the threshold. Maeve, crouched in a foetal position behind the table, was keening and hammering her fists on the floor. Marek closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Maeve?” His throat was dry. “Maeve.” Marek’s tread was light as he approached her. On one knee, he faced her wild eyes. He held his hands open in front of his face, parallel to the floor, and exhaled softly across his palms. Light began to dance around Maeve’s face, swirling the motes in the air, forming pictures above her head…a gnarled tree on top of a cliff, stars falling through its branches, its roots stretching through infinite realms. Marek’s jaw dropped; he fell back on his haunches. “Jesus,” he whispered. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”
The sound of Loki’s rasping laugh trickled through the air, now still as a church pew.