It came down to the two of them, and Ziral couldn’t bring herself to be surprised.
She pulled at the collar of her cloak to loosen it. The shadow of the dark archway hid her motion from the muffled voices of the crowd on the other side. Ahead, in the center of the throne room, Queen Silth rambled on to the assembled crowd of rats from her throne. She had been putting them under her spell for a while now: the other siblings were out on their own crafty errands, but Queen Silth’s serpentine tongue had ensnared everyone else.
Next to Ziral, Mokkan shifted, tapping his poleaxe staff against the floor and eyeing the queen as she regally swept out an arm to address and demean half of the rat crowd at once.
"She knows how to hold them captive, doesn’t she?" he said. Ziral could see the flecks of admiration in his eyes, glowing in the shade.
"Mayhaps that’ll be you one day; you have her tongue for it," Ziral said. Mokkan missed the slight sarcastic tone in her voice, and he straightened his shoulders, holding himself taller with pride.
Ziral leaned on her poleaxe, watching Silth continue to pick out every drab fiber of being in the rats and give it slightly more purpose since their hides were being used to serve the Marlfoxes.
"You’re her favorite by virtue of bein’ exactly like her, anyway."
Cold rock slammed into the back of Ziral’s head as her poleaxe was swept out from under her, and she froze at the axe blade being pressed against her throat.
"I am not like her,” Mokkan hissed, leaning forward to get nose to nose with his sister, and Ziral swallowed as the axe pressed a cold line into her neck. The flecks of admiration in his eyes turned to reveal the begrudging undersides.
There was a round of applause as Silth finished her speech, and Mokkan pulled his poleaxe away and walked off into the clapping mass of rats as they dispersed to serve their queen. Ziral stood up straight, rubbing her throat. She felt a wet bead smear against her fingers.
Ziral grinned, watching Mokkan stalk away.
"Oh, temper, temper," she said, tasting blood on the back of her teeth.