The sky rumbled in the distance as the clouds gathered around the single beam of light emanating from the ground as Chara hurried toward it like a moth, her friends Zak and Greg close behind her. But their destination was not the beam of light, but rather the castle right before it, where even now the Lady Tyriel stood singing the incantation that would finish opening the portal from which the light came.
The great gate to the castle was closed shut and, despite the best efforts of all three of them, it wouldn’t budge in or out. Resigned, Chara took a step back and looked over the rest of the wall.
“There’s got to be another way in.”
“Don’t you worry, darling,” said Zak, “I shall find it for you.”
“No, you won’t,” replied Greg. “I’m going to find it. You see, I’m her romantic interest – not you – so I’m obviously going to help her more.”
“Are you crazy? I’m the one with the belligerent sexual tension. We argue all the time; thus, we’re meant to be together. Isn’t that right, my sweet Chara?”
“Look!” She pointed toward a series of vines creeping up the wall near a window. “Can you two reach that low vine there for me?”
“Of course!” The two boys ran to the spot, pushing and shoving one another as they vied for the vine, which lay just out of their reach.
“You know,” sighed Chara, rubbing her temples in frustration. “You would actually reach it if you two worked together for once.”
Greg turned to Zak. “Yes, why aren’t you working together Zak? She wants someone cooperative, not someone who tries to steal all the glory for himself!”
“You’re one to talk! Why, just yesterday didn’t you—”
“Fine! I’ll do it!” Chara snapped. “Zak, give me a boost.”
Zak grinned at Greg, who looked back distraught, as Zak lifted Chara up to the vine, which she grabbed and began climbing up the wall.
“Don’t worry, my lady!” Zak told her as she left his support. “I shall catch you if you fall!”
“No, you won’t!” said Greg. “I’m going to.”
Chara rolled her eyes as she continued climbing, now reaching the lowest window. As she came near it, however, the vine suddenly came loose. She only barely caught the ledge of the window before the vine tumbled to the ground below.
“You two find another way up!” she shouted, hoisting herself through the window. “I’ll try to slow her down.”
“I’ll be there right when you need me!” replied Greg, shoving past Zak as he began to search the area for another way into the castle.
Chara hurried through the castle. It was completely empty, all its inhabitants (save one) gone, probably fled as soon as the portal began to open. As such, it wasn’t long before Chara came to Lady Tyriel’s chambers. The Lady stood at the far balcony, in the middle of her incantation, which she stopped as she twisted around to face Chara, her close-fitting devious diva dress shimmering slightly with the change in posture.
“Hello, Chara,” said the Lady softly.
“Lady Tyriel, your reign of tyranny has come to an end.”
“But child, it hadn’t even started yet! Shouldn’t you let me have at least a little tyranny before you try to stop me?”
“I can’t let that happen. Now, surely you remember this!” Chara pulled forth a silver dagger from under her jacket, holding it at the ready. “I nearly finished you off with this last time we met – I don’t intend to make that mistake again.”
Tyriel smiled. “Surely you didn’t think I’d let you walk off with an item so dangerous to me, did you? When you weren’t looking, I switched it with a duplicate.” She pulled a silver dagger out of her bosom. “This is the real thing!”
Chara laughed. “Please! I knew you’d try to switch the dagger, which is why I left a duplicate of my own on that table for you to swap.” She tossed aside the first dagger and drew another one from inside her jacket. “This is the real one.”
“Ah, but I knew that you knew that I would switch the dagger, which is why I took it out of your pocket when you passed me to rescue your little boyfriend from the grecklewyrm.” She produced another dagger from the same place as the second. “This is the real dagger.”
“Very nice. But I knew that you knew that I knew that you would switch the dagger, which is why the dagger in my pocket then was a fake. This is the real one!” She took another one out of her jacket.
“Look, now,” sighed Tyriel, tossing aside her fake. “This is getting us nowhere–”
“Just because you don’t have any more daggers….”
“And the portal is just about to open up. You see, I purposely summoned a young gracklewyrm the first time, and I’m sure its parents are just on the other side, ready to destroy the girl that killed their child.”
Chara steeled herself. Behind her, she heard the sound of shoes slapping against the stone floor. Zak and Greg stopped as they entered the room. At the sound of their arrival, Chara grinned.
“You know,” she told Tyriel. “Last time we fought, I wasn’t quite as unsuccessful as you might have guessed. Sure, I didn’t hurt you, but I did manage to get one thing: some of your hair.”
“And while I may not be as good as you when it comes to magic, I can make a decent love potion.”
“Goddess!” exclaimed Zak, rushing forward toward Tyriel. He took her hand and kissed it passionately.
“Goddess? No, so much more!” said Greg, taking Tyriel’s other hand. “Divine, radiant, beautiful….”
“No!” screeched Tyriel. “This cannot be!”
“Like a marble statue brought to life and….”
“No!” Tyriel snatched her hands away from the boys’ grasp and covered her ears. She twisted around and ran, plunging out of the balcony and into the portal, which, with the sound of thunder, closed behind her.