Being a nymph and light of feet usually let her escape any pursuers with ease, but having one of the lesser gods at her heels infinitely complicated matters.
She tore through a hedge, wincing as branches caught in her tunic and hair. Jordan’s shouts for her to stop only fuelled her panic. The god’s obsession with her had grown dangerously over their past encounters, and now his control had clearly snapped.
As she ran through a grove of trees, she saw it: a beautiful stone altar placed in the centre of a clearing. With no time to gather a proper offering for the gods, Maia pulled the flower crown from her head and placed it on the top of the altar, sending a desperate prayer for help towards the clouds.
In a marble palace on Mount Olympos, Magnus Bane lowered his golden goblet with a frown, shushing the partying guests closest to him as he listened intently.
“Alexander, my darling,” he said, turning towards the seat at his right, “you didn’t, by any chance, happen to practice with your arrows of love this morning and accidentally hit one of the lesser gods?”
Alec raised a highly unimpressed eyebrow in reply, and Magnus sighed. He rose from his seat and walked out on his balcony, from where he could better see down to the mortal realm.
“That the guy?” Alec asked, coming up to stand next to him and pointing to where Jordan has just chased Maia across a river. “Want me to shoot him?”
“Thank you, darling, but you know we can’t,” Magnus replied. “No killing the lesser deities, I'm afraid. So instead, we’ll need to get… creative. Maybe some metamorphosis to cool his ardor?”
Alec rolled his eyes. “Just don’t transform her into an animal,” he said. “We know how well that tends to turn out.”
“No, I was thinking something a lot more… impenetrable,” Magnus replied, and then raised his arms. In his mind’s eye, the picture of a laurel tree began to form, its bark the perfect armour.
Just as he was about to cast the spell towards Maia, however, a group of party guests stumbled drunkenly onto the balcony and collided with him, sending the magic awry.
Jordan’s impassioned shouts stopped. As did his foot falls behind her.
Maia quickly climbed a tree, hiding in its crown as she looked back towards her would-be attacker.
Joy and gratitude leapt into her chest as she spotted a laurel tree, fully grown on the previously bare river bank. Carefully leaving the tree and moving closer, her suspicions were confirmed when the tree immediately stretched its branches towards her.
“I’ll take these,” she said, plucking the leaves from a branch and braiding them into a crown, “as a reminder to other gods who'd attempt to seize what isn’t theirs.”
She placed the crown on her head, and the tree bowed its branches in defeat.
Maia walked away laughing.