Thirty minutes and forty-three zombies later, Nyx and Sari stagger against the huge doors to the ballroom. They gasp for air while examining the ornate doors that stand between them and freedom from the zombie-infested halls. A collection of silver bones frame the double doors of blood red wood. A petrified ogre skull is embedded in the stone framework above the doors. Nyx is still staring at the skull when its eyeholes and mouth glow a dull green for a few seconds.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Nyx mutters.
“Is that because your phantom friend is still missing?” Sari asks, pushing against the locked doors. She gives up and smacks the door in frustration.
“I just have a bad feeling,” Nyx replies.
“Just open the doors before more zombies find us,” Sari complains with a weak whimper. “A person with hair as long as mine should not be around exploding corpses, especially when she is lacking in basic grooming tools.”
“Have it your way,” the half-elf grumbles. She grunts and heaves while pushing against the heavy doors until she gives up.
“Not surprised,” Sari quietly admits. “It usually takes eight zombies to open this door.”
Nyx angrily glares at the gypsy. “You could have told me that before I tried to open them by myself.”
“I thought you were going to blast them open. It isn’t like we have any element of surprise left,” Sari argues, jabbing a finger at Nyx’s chest. “Do what you do best and blow those doors open, so we can get closer to going home.”
Nyx is about to say something when a feminine whisper leaks through the ballroom doors. The half-elf’s blood freezes and she curses under her breath once she recognizes the voice. She looks at Sari an instant before tendrils of green flame blast the doors open and yank Nyx into the ballroom. She can hear the doors slam shut behind her as she is dragged across the floor. Nyx covers her body in golden fire, which dissolves the tendrils into mist. The half-elf rises to her feet, finding herself in the middle of a mirrored dance floor. A chandelier of skeletons gently sways high above her head, bouncing its candlelight off the floor.
Nyx stares at the familiar figure standing at the edge of the dance floor. “I was wondering when we would meet again, Trinity.”
“It’s been too long. I have been starving to go another round, Nyx,” Trinity swears, hungrily grinning at her enemy.
“So, do you have some evil sorceress speech to give me?” the half-elf asks with an expression of mock boredom.
“Nothing drawn out. Excuse me while I get more comfortable,” Trinity answers, drawing a long knife. The chaos elf queen delicately cuts out the midriff from her tight, leather shirt.
Nyx tries to hide her shock when she sees a pulsing enhancer gem in Trinity’s bellybutton. “You have another enhancer gem? There has to be some kind of law against that.”
Trinity shrugs and rubs at the warm gem. “It was thought that the mortal frame can only handle a single enhancer gem. I already had three, so I decided to try my luck with a fourth. As expected, I was able to handle the increased power and become stronger. This should tell you something, little champion.”
“What’s that?” Nyx nervously asks.
Trinity launches herself into the air and sends a shower of acid at Nyx. The half-elf is barely able to block the spell with a wall of molten metal. She quickly turns the metal into a smooth ball and sends the metal orb soaring toward Trinity. The chaos elf drops to the ground, letting the ball crash through the ceiling. Nyx begins hurling every snare spell that she can imagine, but Trinity proves to be too fast. The chaos elf dives under a cage of fire and flips over a long, electrified rope before landing behind Nyx. Trinity nimbly draws a stiletto from her boot and places it against the half-elf’s throat.
“You aren’t the only magical prodigy in this world,” Trinity whispers, playfully licking Nyx’s cheek. “I earned my first enhancer gem when I was five.”
“I cast my first spell when I was four,” Nyx contends, crossing her arms and letting her body relax.
“The great caster who is destined to combat the coming darkness. Chosen upon birth to defend all of Windemere,” Trinity says mockingly. She slowly draws the blade across Nyx’s skin. “I hate you with every fiber of my being because of those words.”
“I think you need to explain yourself,” Nyx states, hoping to keep Trinity talking until she can think of a way to escape. She feels a trickle of blood run down her neck. She winces every time Trinity makes a small cut on the surface of her skin.
“After our last encounter, I learned the truth. It is because of you that I exist in darkness and obey a dark master. It is because of you that I am unable to lead my people out of slavery,” Trinity rants. She stops making tiny cuts on Nyx’s neck and leans toward Nyx’s ear. “Every scrap of suffering in my life is your fault.”
“You aren’t making any sense, Trinity,” Nyx points out. “We never met before that night in Rodillen.”
Trinity pushes Nyx to the ground and sheaths her stiletto. Nyx rubs her blood-covered throat as Trinity’s hand covers itself in raw, bubbling magic. The putrid green energy grows brighter and brighter with every wiggle of her finger. Nyx is almost on her feet when ten emerald spikes erupt from Trinity’s hand. They skim Nyx’s cheeks, sides, and limbs as they race by. She turns to see them circling around, intended to impale the half-elf from behind. Nyx quickly raises a pillar of stone from the ground in front of her and breaths a sigh of relief when the spikes get stuck in the thick stone. She turns back to Trinity in time to feel the chaos elf deliver a solid kick to her chest. Before Nyx can recover, she finds herself pinned against the stone wall by Trinity’s foot.
“We exist to be each other’s shadow,” Trinity says, grinding her heel against Nyx’s chest. “It took me three days of temporal scrying and praying to the goddess Ambrosine to discover this out. My life became a cesspool of hate and evil because you needed to be balanced!”
“I still don’t understand,” Nyx gasps. She tries to grab Trinity’s leg with hands of fire, but a savage fist of air slams her head against the wall.
“Idiot! You never wondered why there are two female magical prodigies of the same age in Windemere. It never crossed your mind that something was strange about that coincidence?” Trinity angrily rants, occasionally stunning Nyx with a quick stomp to her chest. “Let me make it clear. I could have been you! I could have been the magical prodigy who stood against the darkness! Gabriel chose you because you were born to a safe and nurturing path. Then, he abandoned me to the inevitable, so that I would make his game fair. After all, there was no way that my master would ignore a caster of my potential living under his nose.” She pauses to take a shuddering, angry breath. “All this time I secretly wondered why I was given such power and handed over to a creature of evil. Then, I met you. I sensed our similarities when we first met and thought it was nothing more than me finding a rival. Now, I know that the reason my life was destined to be a nightmare is because you exist.”
Nyx slaps at Trinity’s heel, gasping for air. “You could always join me.”
Trinity’s voice falls to a steady, sullen tone that drips with hateful venom. “No. Without the destiny of a champion, I cannot stand against my master and keep my people safe. The only way for me to become a champion is for you to die. Killing you proves that Gabriel chose the wrong prodigy. Only then can I stand against my master and free my people.”
“Would it help if I said I was sorry,” the half-elf suggests, struggling to clear her mind.
“Well, it couldn’t hurt, but I’d still have to kill you,” Trinity mentions in a surprisingly friendly voice.
“Why haven’t you killed me?” Nyx asks out of sudden curiosity.
“Don’t rush me. Now that I got all of that off my mind, I feel almost at peace. All of that has been kept inside me for weeks and I feel giddy after letting it out,” Trinity admits, easing the pressure on Nyx’s chest. “Then again, it might be light-headedness from barely breathing through those rants.”
Nyx smirks whimsically at the chaos elf. “So, you will let me go?”
“Sadly, I will have to settle for beating you into unconsciousness and handing you over to Kalam,” the grinning chaos elf announces, moving her foot off of Nyx’s chest. “I will kill you after he tortures you. I want you begging for death, my sister.”
“Don’t call me-” starts the half-elf.
Trinity sends Nyx to the glass floor with swift kick to the side of her head. Nyx is about to get up when a strong hand grips her by the hair and heaves her up to her feet. She is able to block another kick and barrels into Trinity like a panicked bull. The casters fall to the floor with Nyx straddling Trinity and repeatedly punching her in the face. With amazing flexibility, Trinity stretches her legs over Nyx’s shoulders and firmly presses her crossed heels against the half-elf’s wind pipe. She continues to choke Nyx who desperately wraps her hands around Trinity’s throat.
“Give up,” Trinity wheezes.
“You first,” Nyx coughs.
“I’d use a spell if we weren’t so close.”
“Fistfights are not going to solve this.”
“Count of three, we push away and start casting.”
“Three!” both casters gasp. They push away from each other and roll to their feet.
“I don’t want to fight you, Trinity. I’m in a hurry,” Nyx admits, her face flushed and warm.
Trinity answers with a sudden burst of flame from her mouth, which is instantly deflected over Nyx by a simple air shield. Nyx uses a gust of hot air to launch her to the skeleton chandelier. She grabs the rusty chain and, magically increasing her strength, pulls it out of the ceiling. The entire chandelier ignites, becoming an enormous flail of bone and fire. Nyx swings it at Trinity who is sent careening into the far wall. Swinging the burning chandelier over her head, the half-elf makes a furious, deadly charge. Trinity is still getting to her feet and casting a protection spell when a blur of motion dives in between her and Nyx.
“Don’t kill her!” Sari screams.
“Crap!” Nyx shouts. She jerks her arms, but the burning chandelier grazes the gypsy’s shoulder.
Ignoring the pain in her shoulder, Sari continues pleading with Nyx. “Don’t kill her, Nyx! Trinity is the reason I’m still alive!”
“Damn it! This fight was awkward enough with Trinity ranting about how she was supposed to be me. Now, Sari is begging me not to kill the woman who wants to kill me,” Nyx complains. Out of frustration, she hurls the chandelier at the far wall where it bursts and crumbles to dust. “You two are really making me regret coming here.”
Trinity gets to her feet and reaches out to Sari. “How’s your shoulder?”
“It’s fine. I’ve been burned before and this is nothing,” Sari casually says. She gently pushes Trinity’s hand away. “I used to make money juggling torches while singing dwarven ballads.”
Nyx walks over to take a look at the small burn on Sari’s shoulder. Convinced that it’s a minor injury that will heal quickly, she looks up at Trinity. “Sari and I have some things to take care of here. How about you let us go on our way and we settle our problems another day? I’m not going to fight you if it means upsetting Sari.”
“I have no interest in upsetting her either,” Trinity mentions with a sigh. The chaos elf pulls a comb out of her back pocket and hands it to Sari. “It’s a shame, though. Our little talk definitely threw off your concentration. I guess I need a new way of ruffling your feathers the next time we meet.”
“Thank you,” the gypsy says. She gladly works on getting the tangles and filth out of her hair.
“So, you made up that story to catch me off-guard,” Nyx scoffs. “I should have known you were lying. It’s too far-fetched.”
“I wasn’t lying to you about our connection. I could have been a champion if it wasn’t for you. Gabriel has been nurturing our bloodline for centuries until one of us appeared. Sadly, you beat me by a day,” Trinity explains with a shark-like grin. “If only I was born first. Then, Gabriel would have devised a way for me to escape my master and for you to fall into evil. Now, because of you, my goal to free my people is infinitely harder to achieve.”
“I still think you can join me,” Nyx awkwardly declares. “You don’t have to kill me to take my place.”
”I may have lied to you about taking your place as champion if I were to kill you. I have no evidence to prove that, but I will find out when I kill you some day,” the chaos elf swears before gesturing toward Sari. “You should thank Sari for saving your life.”
“I will. What did you mean by our bloodline?” Nyx asks curiously.
“Ask Isaiah about it. Well, until we meet again, ladies,” Trinity sings, extending her hand for Nyx to shake.
Nyx refuses to accept the gesture until Sari grabs her hand and jams it into Trinity’s waiting palm. Nyx is about to yell at Sari, but she is quickly knocked out by a surge of electricity coursing through her body. The half-elf collapses to the ground with smoke wafting off her. Sari barely has time to draw one of her daggers before a swift gust of wind hits her chin and sends her flipping backwards. The gypsy is still in the air when Trinity hits her in the stomach with an electrified palm strike. Sari lands on top of Nyx with an echoing thud.
“Great. Now, I have to drag both of them to Kalam,” Trinity grumbles, standing over the barely breathing women.