At first, I thought she was just a girl. She was Karyssa, standing in front of a stage at the other end of the big room, facing us with a menacing smile. The room was dark, with only one window on the left, a dim light shining through it. Karyssa herself wore a turquoise hairband, with neat, straight blue-black hair cascading down her back. Her hazel eyes were mocking, her grin seemingly locked into place by invisible tape.
“Follow the light,” Vinzenz advised in my ear. I glanced up at the window. The ray of light that shone through it was pointing towards somewhere behind the curtains upstage.
“Luell,” Karyssa cooed. “Nice to see you again.” Without delay, the ground rumbled. What seemed like the roots of a century-old tree sprouted toward us, half-buried in the ground. Vikka shoved me forward, and I raced for the stage. The roots extended towards me.
A cloud of bubbles shot out from Candide’s palms at Karyssa. Momentarily distracted, Karyssa reached out with her right arm, which turned into branches, shooting straight for Candide.
“Kid,” Karyssa said, “You can’t defeat me with that.”
“I won’t lose a second time,” Candide replied, clouding Karyssa’s vision with bubbles until Karyssa’s roots or branches tied her up and raised her mid-air.
I kept running among the shadows against the wall.
“Your bubbles are too slow!” Glorea squealed. Along with her high-pitched voice came a gust of wind that shook off some of Karyssa’s leaves, throwing them back at her.
A second branch caught Glorea, covering her mouth. Along the way, Anica got caught as well. She made a face as if complaining that she hadn’t even fought yet.
“Play with us!” cried Pollee, Mollee, and Hollee. All at once, the three were bound together. Their hair extended like Karyssa’s, slithering across the branch that held them, racing toward their captor’s face.
I hadn’t taken notice until then that Marcello was near me. He threw me onto the stage in one quick move. I rolled past the now-parted curtajns. This got us noticed. Karyssa shot a branch at us, and it almost reached Marcello when I caught a glimpse of Vinzenz tossing a lit cigarette at Vikka, who caught it, took a whiff, and blew. Instead of smoke, what came out was fire. It turned Karyssa’s branch to flames. Karyssa was forced to abandon it.
A root wound itself around my ankle and pulled me away from the light. Another slammed Vikka into a wall, knocking the cigarette out of her hand at the same time.
Fidessa flew by like a rocket. Where her arms and legs touched, branches and roots snapped into two. She was like a huge pair of scissors, only much sharper and stronger. Fidessa sliced through Karyssa’s branches and roots like a knife through a cake.
She was like a shooting star, but Karyssa was fast too. New branches replaced old ones in a second. Fidessa bounced from wall to wall, escaping from Karyssa and cutting branches. I crawled towards the light, fighting the roots around my ankles and wrists, speeding up when they were cut or burned, slowing when they caught me again. I couldn’t tell how long it took, but at last, Fidessa and Marcello were both tied with branches.
That left only Vinzenz standing on both feet.