Oboe dug her hooves in the dirt, grunting and screaming, trying to pull her chain free from the tree until she wore herself out. It was no use. Her life was over. She flopped down in the shadow of the thorn wall and bawled her eyes out.
“Hey.” Fife nudged her. She looked to see him glancing in every direction. “You think they’re gone?”
Oboe let out a fresh wail. “Of course they’re gone! They went inside, and they’re gonna eat ghastberry tarts, and ride the griffins, and see the tournament, and everyone will get to meet my grandmother but me!!”
“Good.” Fife said. He grabbed hold of his chain, and it withered back into thread.
Oboe gasped. Fife snapped the thread off his ankle and smirked.
“Dad always forgets I have conjuration magic, just like him. It’s easy to undo his spells.”
“He’s going to be mad if you run off!” Oboe said.
Fife coiled the rest of the thread around his finger. “He doesn’t have to know. I’ll come back and make the chain again.” He stared up at the wall. “I just need to figure out how to get inside when dad took my ticket.”
Oboe tugged at her own chain. “I want to go too! Take me with you!”
He scoffed. “Why should I? You turned me into a slug!”
“I’m sorry! I got mad! Please don’t leave me here all by myself!!”
His face softened, just a little. “Well, I don’t want a useless crybaby following me around all day.”
“I’m not useless!” Oboe said, wiping the tears off her face.
“Oh yeah? Prove it. I bet you can’t even escape without my help!”
Oboe clenched her fists. “I’ll show you! Just watch!” She shut her eyes and concentrated every drop of magic she had on transforming into the biggest, scariest monster she could. A bear, or maybe a bull. Something so strong she could rip the chain straight off.
She opened her eyes, and realized she had turned into a little blue bird.
“I guess that works,” Fife said. Her little bird feet slipped out of the shackles with no problem. “Good job.”
“Don’t make fun of me!” Oboe said, flapping her wings. “I wanted to be something big and scary!”
“Oh.” Fife shrugged. “Your magic is just useless then. Makes sense. No one’s allowed to do transformation enchantments. How are you supposed to get Fates and get strong?”
Oboe wished he would shut up. She didn’t want to be reminded that she’d be a weak little runt forever. “I’m not useless!! Why are you being mean to me?!”
He stepped back, startled. “Hey. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. Your magic’s not useless. It’s just… bad. Evil. Y’know? Not your fault.” He unwound the string from his finger, eyes on the wall again. “And I just thought of something useful you can do.” He offered her the end of the thread. “Can you fly this to the top of the wall?”
She glared at him.
“What?” he said. “I need to sneak inside. Do you want me to come with you or not?”
Oboe reluctantly took the thread in her beak. She took to the air and perched on the tip of the wall of thorn briars, the thread dangling off the edge. Fife grabbed hold of the loose end and it changed into a sturdy rope for him to climb. Together they dropped down into the Inner Circle Gardens and were surprised to find all the tents and booths empty, and everyone gone.
“Oh no!” Oboe said. “The tournament is starting without us!!”
“C’mon!” Fife broke into a sprint. “We need to get good seats!”