Jack sat up suddenly. The Great Hall was empty once again. Harold was gone and the fire in the hearth had since gone out, but a candle was placed next to him. He heard the shout that had woken him up before. “Jack!”
He whirled around. Gallan stood behind him, wearing his adventuring gear. His face was solemn. “I’m glad you woke up,” he said. “We need to hurry.”
Jack rubbed his eyes. “What is it?” he said grumpily. “A message from Kaida?” His twin sister, Kaida was at war. She usually sent him messages with birds, but perhaps there was a good reason for Gallan to bring it this time.
Gallan shook his head. “Jack…” he paused. “I’m so sorry.”
Fear clutched Jack’s heart. “She’s not dead, is she?”
Gallan pressed his lips together and shook his head. “I don’t think so. But she is in captivity. We had a battle. We lost the battle. All of our magicians and most of our soldiers have been taken captive. Most of them are injured. I and a small number of soldiers were the only people to escape.”
Jack sighed and put his head in his hands. “So our plan didn’t work?”
Gallan looked down. “Our plan failed. I expect Kaida will be getting a power drain anytime soon.”
Jack forced tears down. As Kaida’s twin, he shared her uncommon ability to use multiple types of magic at once. While most magicians could only use one spell or one charm at a time, Kaida could perform multiple spells at one time and Jack could use multiple charms. Unfortunately, they both drew their magic from the same source, so when one of the twins was using magic, it would take energy and power away from the other twin. He had volunteered to stay behind so that Kaida could use her powers to the greatest extent. He had spent the last month here, waiting for messages from her while she drained all his power and energy. If Kaida got a power drain, there was no telling if it would sever their connection or if his powers would neutralize as well.
“She gave me this,” Gallan said. He held up a locket and a piece of paper.
Jack’s heart thudded in his chest. Could it be? He felt the chain of his own locket around his neck and it seemed to grow heavier as he accepted Kaida’s locket. His stomach clenched. She was only to give him her locket under the most dire circumstances. He had never even seen the inside of it, but he knew what it contained. There were two Gemini stones. He had one and she had the other. Only the two of them knew about it.
He opened the note. Kaida had written the note in the ancient language of Gemini so that only he could read it. Jack squinted at it. She had only written two short phrases.
Unite the stones.
Don't come back for me.
She wanted him to unite the Gemini stones! That was why she had sent her locket. Jack shook his head as he slipped her locket into his pocket. Kaida was usually the calm one of the two of them, the one who always calculated her way through everything. His plans were usually wild and easy to change in case something went wrong. It was unusual for her to choose the craziest plan ever. He would not do it unless he had to. Supposedly uniting the stones would give the one holding the stone unusual power, but they had no idea what would happen to the other twin. Worse case scenario, the other twin would die.
Jack slipped the locket into his pocket and stood up to face Gallan. “How did she get this to you?” he asked.
“I snuck into the enemy camp at night while they were marching her to the fortress. Kaida used a spell to see an hour into the future and she knew that if I freed her, we would lose the war. She wrote down a note and snuck it to me with the necklace.”
Jack paused. “You didn’t…open the locket, did you?”
Gallan shook his head. “She told me not to.”
Jack nodded. “All right. Let’s get going.” He turned toward the stairs to get his adventuring clothes.
“There’s no time,” Gallan said. “I have a cloak and sword outside with the dragons, as well as some of your charms. We have to go now. Kaida’s time might be limited.”
Jack nodded. “All right. Lead on.”
Kaida pulled her knees into her chest in a pitiful effort to keep the cold out. She could hear the roars and shouts from the battlefield and mustered a small smile. Jack must have arrived. She could feel a drain on her powers and energy as he used magic. She had felt no sensation to indicate he had united the Gemini stones yet, which probably meant he either had and it didn’t have an effect on her, or in all his stubbornness, he refused to unite them with the fear that it would leave her vulnerable or dead. Most likely, he had chosen the latter.
She had stopped staring out the window with hope hours ago. The enemy camps were enormous and they all waved the flag of Darthog the Terrible. She could barely see the magical dome that protected her own camp on the other side of Folley Chasm. The Gemini Union was weak, probably too weak to face Darthog if it weren’t for the Gemini stones. None of the soldiers knew about it of course, but they knew that the twins had an amazing source of power.
Her roommate, a dryad named Lana was pacing around the room. Every time there was a new shout from the enemy camp, she glanced toward the open barred window and paused before going back to pacing. “There’s no time,” she muttered. “Why hasn’t your brother done something by now?”
Kaida shrugged. “I think the battle sounds you hear are a sign that he is doing something.”
Lana muttered and went back to her pacing. Kaida picked at the cords around her ankles. She understood why Jack had gotten so grouchy after they left him behind. Waiting for something to happen was agony. Would Jack win the war? Would he unify the Gemini stones to do so? Would he get captured same as her? Darthog had only neglected to give her a power drain because he suspected Jack had her power source. He was so close to the truth that she was starting to get nervous. What if he figured out the Gemini stones? He could use that information to defeat Jack.
Lana stiffened suddenly. “We have an intruder.”
Kaida looked at the trapdoor and struggled to stand. It was hard to do with her wrists and ankles tied, but she managed to get to her feet. She had sworn that Darthog would not see her in her weakness. He knew too much already and seeing her weak might make him suspect that Jack could access her magic and energy as well, which would undoubtedly lead him to take drain her magic.
There was a loud popping noise from behind them. Kaida turned around so fast that she tripped. Jack’s arm shot out and he grabbed her, pulling her upright. He was grinning. “Hey, sis. Long time no see.”
Kaida burst into tears and threw her arms around him as best as she could with tied hands. “Jack,” she sobbed.
Jack patted her on the back with a concerned look on his face. Kaida notice him glance up at Lana. “Is she okay?” he asked.
Kaida pulled her arms back over Jack’s head. “I’m fine,” she said, anger starting to boil up in her chest. “What are you doing here?” she cried. “You’re supposed to be out there, fighting. You’re supposed to be defeating Darthog.”
“Not so loud,” Jack whispered. He glanced up at Lana. “I just came to return something you lost.” His hand came out of his pocket with Kaida’s locket.
Kaida gasped. “Jack,” she said. “You should have…” she paused. “You know.”
Jack fingered a charm on his bracelet. “Sorry, Lana,” he said. “I’ll release you from this in a moment.”
The charm he was playing with shot up in the air and turned into cords, a gag, and earplugs. Before Lana could scream, she was bound, gagged, and there were earplugs in her ears. Jack made a twirling motion with his fingers and the ropes pulled Lana so that she was turned away from them.
“What are you doing?” Kaida hissed. “She’ll be livid when you free her.”
“We need to be able to talk freely,” Jack said. He pressed the locket in Kaida’s hand. “Look, I have an idea that could keep both of us from suffering the consequences of uniting the Gemini stones.”
Kaida stiffened. “Jack, what if the enemies are listening?”
Jack pointed to a glowing symbol on one of his thick bracelets. “I have this room soundproofed for now.”
“Fine,” Kaida said. “What’s your plan?”
Jack pulled his own locket out of his shirt. “You’re going to think I’m crazy,” he warned.
“Puh-leeze, Jack. I’m your sister. I already know you’re crazy.”
Jack smiled. “Okay. My idea is that we both unite the Gemini stones.”
Kaida gawked at him. “What?”
Jack nodded. “I know, crazy, but hear me out. Uniting the Gemini stones is supposed to help whoever has both of them and hurt the one who doesn’t have either of them. If we do it together and hold it in our hands together, we might both get super powerful without either of us suffering the consequences.”
Kaida frowned. “Or we could both die or get magic sickness. Have you thought of that?”
Jack shrugged. “It’s a chance I’m willing to take. If we go out of this, we’re going out together.”
Kaida took a deep breath. “Okay. I’m willing to give it a shot. Give me some of your charms in case it does work and we have to use both charms and spells.”
Jack unclasped one of his bracelets and handed it to her. “Every intricate pattern on there is a charm. Do you have any pointers for casting spells? I’ve never done it before.”
“Use your voice if you can,” Kaida advised. “The words will come to you.”
Jack nodded. “You ready?”
“Wait,” Kaida said. “We should free Lana in case it doesn’t work. She can take the Gemini stones in our place.”
Jack frowned. “You sure we can trust her?”
“I’ve already read her mind,” Kaida said. “It was not easy, but she was willing to let me do it. I think we can trust her.”
Jack reached toward Lana and the bonds loosened. Lana spit out the gag and whirled to face him, her face red with anger. “Lana,” Kaida said. She held up her locket. “This locket holds one of the Gemini stones. Jack has the other. We are going to unite them.”
Lana’s eyes widened. “The Gemini stones are legendary,” she whispered. “Only two people of great power can use them. How long have you had these?”
“Just hear me out,” Kaida said. “We are going to unite them and hold onto the stone together. We don’t know if it will kill us or not, so if we do die from the experience, I want you to take both of them back to Gallan. You can use it to defeat Gorthog if we fail.”
Lana looked concerned. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Kaida nodded. “I’m positive. Stand back a little bit while we do this. I don’t want you to get hurt too.”
Lana nodded and pressed her back against the wall. Jack took out his own locket. With a nod, the twins opened their lockets at the same time and pressed them together. The lockets exploded, sending a shockwave of magic outward. Kaida gasped and tightened her grip on Jack. Neither of them had budged, but the world around them rippled with magic. Lightning forked the sky, stopping just short of the magic shockwave, as if afraid to touch it.
The roof and the walls of the tower blew off. Kaida could feel the floor crumbling beneath them, but the magic kept her and Jack suspended in the air as it fell out beneath them. Lana jumped, using her own magic to float down to the ground below. The fortress was falling apart. Further outside of the fortress, the fighting had paused. The shockwave washed over the enemy camps, freezing everyone in them. Everyone the shockwave touched seemed to purify and heal. Goblins turned into the humans they once were. Spells binding people to Darthog’s service vanished. All the wounds Kaida could see from her position healed immediately. The good dragons and their soldiers flew away from the shockwave and landed in front of their camp. The magical shockwave dissolved the protective layer of magic over the camp, but it also healed all those inside. All fires went out. All poison vanished.
The only thing untouched by the pure magic was a man sitting atop his dragon, flying in the air, wearing the unmistakable armor of Darthog the Terrible. Kaida felt power coursing through her veins. As one, she and Jack reached out toward the man. Jack muttered something and a wave of power shot out of his hand. Leafy vines sprung up from the earth and grabbed Darthog’s dragon.
Kaida activated one of the runes on the bracelet Jack had given her. The dragon shot out from under Darthog and an earthen cage sprung up around him, hardening into iron. Darthog screamed in fury, but Jack sent out another blast of power from one of his charms. Kaida reinforced his power with a muttered spell. The magic hit Darthog and he immediately turned to stone. The cage sank most of the way into the ground and grass raced up to claim it. The magic ended.
Kaida turned to look at her brother, but stars danced across her vision. She gripped Jack’s hand tightly and felt him squeeze hers. A wave of nausea rose up and she felt the unmistakable dizziness that came whenever she used too much magic. The stones had strengthened them, but now they were suffering the consequences. She was falling. Jack was falling. She tightened her grip on his hand, keeping the Gemini stones firmly in between them as her vision started to tunnel. Her senses were fading and she closed her eyes, letting the darkness drag her away.