Asteri settled onto a tiny island in the middle of the Nile. “Safer out here. Someone’s driving wind against us, probably the villain who snatched you away from your parents.”
“I keep forgetting that someone didn’t want me in my mother’s court. Why?” Naida made her hands fold open, stiffly, and after Kurama bounced down off Asteri’s back, managed to straighten her legs and slide down to stand on the grass. This far up the Nile it was green all around. The desert was a thin golden line threading through the green. Beyond that, beyond the palm trees and acacia and thorn trees the sky showed the shimmering blue of the sea. Behind them the storm that had held them in one place broke apart into bluish grey puffs and moved off like a herd of sheep.
Bodhi’s lotus settled him under a tree. He set Syb’s lamp down and then settled back into his cross-legged pose, fingers raised like stylized flames. He smiled serenely, even as Sybaris came boiling out of the lamp, coil after coil of black and green scales, her eyes shining red as the ruby diadem she wore. The tip of ever talon shone red as blood. “How dare you!” She snapped as she threw a coil around Asteri and Naida both. “You IDIOTS!”
“It was a spell we couldn’t break from inside, Syb,” Asteri Snake said, raising up on his long, thing, bright green neck to look her right in the eye, before she could drop down to Naida’s face level. “It might have been Naida’s impulsiveness and moodiness that caused us to just launch into the sky like that, but it was the absolute best thing to do. That spell was designed to enervate us, destroy our spirits, suck all our joy out of us and feed that to the spell caster.”
Sybaris drew in an enormous hiss of breath but then stopped, thinking about what he’d said. “And… even I keep forgetting we have an enemy,” she said, hissing to herself like a steaming hot spring. “Over and over. That’s subtle.”
She dropped down to where Naida stood, surrounded by protective coils, hands clenched, clearly warring between wanting to throw a tantrum and wanting to be grown up. Syb settled eye to eye with her and waited, still as only a serpent could be.
Naida took a long breath. “Syb.” She looked down at her feet and then held her belly while another cramp rippled through her. “I really don’t like this,” she whispered. “It seems like a horrible price to pay for blood and magic.” Sybaris tilted her head to one side but didn’t answer her. “I’m…mad.” Naida said, though not very loudly. “I’m angry and it’s all bubbling away inside me and…” she paused again. She turned away and looked up into Asteri’s six eyes, and down at Kurama who’d wound all three of her tails around Naida’s ankles, panting, a twinkle in her eye.
Bodhi just opened his eyes and smiled at her, turning one hand over as if letting a butterfly go into the sky. She pouted her lip out and then snapped, “I’m sorry! All right? I’m sorry!”
Syb tilted her head the other direction. “I accept your ap---“ And that was the moment that a ferocious haboob roared out of the desert. They could hear the awful roar and Syb snapped “Everyone into the lamp!”
Kurama dove in, her tails disappearing with a snap and Asteri paced over and gingerly put his lion head in, got sucked inside in a moment. Syb grabbed Naida’s wrist but she pulled back “Bodhi…”
“He is untouched by the material world! You aren’t yet! Get IN!” Syb tugged and Naida and she both fell into the lamp’s door, the over stressed brass creation dancing on its feet on the grass as sand began to fall hard.