A Strange Story About Two Teenage Girls Possessed of a Pair of Sharp, Pointy Objects That Everyone Else Seems to Want and That Rachel Keeps Poking People With (At Which Point Joanna Must Smack Her)

"I have thirty whole dollars!" Rachel announced happily to the world at large. She picked up a handful of loose change from her lap. "And...ten...twenty-five...six...seven...and twenty-seven cents! I am rich!"

"And you'll spend it all today," Joanna commented, sparing a quick glance at her from the road.

"Yep!" Rachel agreed, stuffing her riches back into her wallet. "I shall buy many pretty, but most likely ultimately worthless, things!"

Joanna snorted. "Where should I park?" she asked, looking around. "I've never been here before."

"Up the road a bit is a parking lot. We can walk to all the stores." She spread out her arms, narrowly missing Joanna's nose. "Welcome to Floyd, city of cool artsy stores!"

Joanna pulled into an empty spot under a tree, killed the ignition, and slumped against the steering wheel. "God, I thought we were going to run off the mountain back there."

Rachel got out of the car and stretched. "What, under my expert guidance?"

Joanna sat up with a yelp of laugher. "Expert guidance, my ass! We had to turn around twice because of your so-called "expert guidance"."

Rachel gave her a hurt look. "Even us experts get lost sometimes." She came around to Joanna’s side of the car and tugged impatiently at her arm. "But come! The day is wasting! Where do you want to go first?"

"I don't know. What is there?"

"Well...there's a cool New Age store and then there's a hippie store run by hippies and then there's the fabric store and the antique store and the other antique store and the other antique store and the general store and the-"

"Okay, already! Jeez, how many stores ARE there?"

Rachel grinned. "A lot. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. And the general store and the clothes store and the-"

Joanna waved her arms frantically. "No! Argh! Stop! Too many!" She put her hands to her head. "Just whatever's closest, okay?"

"Okay!" Rachel said brightly and started down the sidewalk. "That would be the New Age store! C'mon!"

Joanna followed more slowly, muttering, "I can't believe I let her talk me into this..."

******

Three stores and twenty-one dollars later (ten of which were Joanna's), they entered the larger of the three antique shops, Rachel prattling happily about her new purchases. The shop owner looked at the two suspiciously, and growled a "Don't break anything," before returning to her romance novel.

"Friendly lady," Joanna murmured.

"Yeah, really," Rachel agreed only to trail off into "Oooh! Look at this!" She moved through the store like a small tornado, picking up things and exclaiming, then moving on to another almost before Joanna got a glimpse of what she was looking at.

That is, until she blew into the back room and found the swords.

"LOOK, Joanna, SWORDS!" She waved the larger one enthusiastically over her head.

"Rachel!" Joanna hissed. "Stop swinging it around! You're going to break something."

"Now you're beginning to sound like that lady," Rachel muttered, but obediently brought the sword down and held it still.

"Thank you. I have you trained well."

"Oh, shut up."

"Haha, laugh at you! Laugh at you!"

Rachel stuck her tongue out at her friend. "Need I remind you that I am the one holding the sharp pointy object which could do quite a bit of damage?"

Joanna snatched up the other sword. "Haha, but now I hold my own sharp, pointy object!"

"But MY sharp, pointy object is bigger!" Rachel examined hers. "Hey, look at the hilt." It was made of copper, worked into the shape of a face - or was it a tree? It seemed to constantly change between the two.

"Cool," Joanna agreed. She looked at her own, noticed for the first time the large blue-green crystal set in the pommel. "But MINE has a pretty jewel."

"Mine's cooler."

"No it's not. Mine is. Hey, there's something written on yours."

"Really?" Rachel turned it, searching. "Where?"

"On the blade. There."

"Oh, you're right. Dude!"

Joanna craned her neck. "Well, what's it say?"

"It's hard to see. It's almost worn away. Um. 'By sword and...and steel, earth and rook...no, rock, open now thy harken...hidden, it's hidden...hidden...lock. Al...gyw...non...a?"

Joanna looked puzzled. "Algywnona? What's an algywnona?"

Rachel shrugged. "No clue. Hmm. I wonder what it means. 'By sword and steel, earth and rock...' You know, it almost sounds like a spell."

"Really?"

Rachel grinned. "Let's see..." She lifted the sword so that the blade pointed skyward and chanted, "By sword and steel, earth and rock, open now thy hidden lock! Algwynona!"

Nothing happened.

Joanna laughed. "Well, don't you feel stupid."

Rachel sighed. "Damn. I was hoping something interesting would happen." She looked at the sword again. "Oh! No wonder! It's not 'algwynonA', after all, it’s 'algwynonE'! Algwynone!"

And, quite suddenly, something interesting DID happen.

There was a tearing sound, as if someone was ripping satin, and everything spun around them. Joanna lost her balance and fell against a shelf, knocking it over. Antique china fell around her like rain and smashed on the concrete floor. Rachel clutched the sword and stared straight ahead at the far wall...only there was no wall anymore.

A swirling vortex of color pulsed like a live thing in front of them. Joanna backed away slowly. "What IS it?"

Rachel's eyes never left the vortex. "A portal," she whispered, and started forward.

"Rachel Kohler, don't you DARE!" Joanna snapped.

But she had already disappeared, gone as if she had never been.

"SHIT!" Joanna swore. She looked around wildly, grabbed the other sword, closed her eyes tightly and jumped...

In the front of the store, the woman at the counter looked up briefly, shook her head, and returned to her book.