The windows opened, letting the wind welcome itself in. The curtains blew upwards and outwards, a hairbrush rolled off the dresser and onto the carpeted floor below, next to the cobra drawn tight into a coil of kingdom. Bertha saw the serpent before Benedetta did, her muscles stiff in a concentrated effort not to move haplessly. She knew, judging from the poise of the serpent, that any sudden change in her position, any movement she made had to be done with ardor, with a swiftness of motion she had never before performed least the crown of this poisonous scepter strike her and her sister into permanent evening.
She occupied her mind with thoughts of the Vin Fiz and Carl Rodgerís problems as the serpent inched forward, its shadow growing larger and longer against the moonlight-silhouetted wall. Bertha felt her heart congest. If she could she would bite her own tongue, splitting it in two as the diavolo krept closer and closer to the sisterís bed.
It was only then, her eyes cinching themselves so tight that she saw sparks, that she felt the sudden rush of wind and the sound of a strike. When she opened her eyes Benedetta was sitting up in bed, groggy-eyed and amazed as Parshva stood before them, his dark skin glistening and the serpent seated at the end of his knife point.