WISH FULFILMENT, PART TWO: Nobody Home
“We don’t seem to be, you know, blending in too well.”
Chartreuse decided to simply say that out loud, because it felt like something they should talk about. Yet her companion, Simon Black, didn’t respond. The teenage girl pursed her lips. She pretended to adjust the bright pink bodice she was wearing. She cleared her throat. “I said we don’t–”
“I heard,” he answered her.
“Oh. Because you didn’t, like, say anything.”
“Sorry,” he apologized. “But what was I supposed to say? After all, you can’t blend in to a place where there’s no other people. I’ve been trying to figure out why they’re not around.”
Chartreuse turned her attention back to the area in which they found themselves. They’d been walking towards the distant castle all afternoon, the houses around them becoming more frequent, the streets becoming set with cobblestones, local businesses becoming more evident. They were now in what could definitively be termed part of a city, with the castle at the centre. Yet despite it being late afternoon, they had seen very few actual people about, and the few they had run into had merely looked their way with an uncertain gaze, and hurried off.
“Big tournament at that castle?” Chartreuse hypothesized. “Or maybe it’s vacation time due to the rainy season.” It was becoming a bit overcast.
“Maybe,” Simon said, unconvinced. “But I sense that a number of these homes have people in them, they’re just staying inside. Watching us from behind shuttered windows.” He stopped walking. It took Chartreuse a few more steps to realize this, after which she turned around.
“Is our gear getting too, you know, heavy? Need a hand?”
“No. Well, not really,” the dark haired man yielded, shifting the pack off his back and setting it onto the ground. It contained their tent, some provisions, changes of clothing, and a few personal items. All provided by ‘The Epsilon Project’, the mystery group who had recruited them, and sent them here. “Rather, it occurred to me that perhaps I should try to start up an act. Get people to come outside, draw us a crowd.”
Chartreuse peered at him. “Because… somehow your acting will make it, like, easier to blend in?”
“No. But I don’t think that plan is happening,” Simon sighed. He adjusted the belt of his tunic. “I just thought… no. Forget it. We should track down that inn of yours.”
Chartreuse was not in the habit of letting a subject drop. The pink haired girl crossed her arms. “No. Spill. Whatcha mean act? Are you a mime or something?”
Simon made a face. “Magician,” he retorted. “And when I was putting on these clothes, I noticed that some of the things I use, like a deck of cards, are in with my gear. Maybe I’m meant to perform somehow. Maybe that’s how to draw out the people with the information we’re looking for.”
“Oh!” That made sense. “So, that’s why you asked if I was, you know, a magical girl? Like, you want to know if I do magic tricks? Enough to be your fashionable assistant?”
“No,” Simon said, seemingly becoming irritated. “In your case I meant real magic, transformation or otherwise. And I don’t need an assistant.”
“But if you aren’t going to include me in your act, what am I supposed to do?”
“Observe the crowd? Never mind, it doesn’t matter, I’m not performing.”
“So why bring it up if you’re not going to do it?”
He let out a noise of exasperation. “I thought it might show we’re not a threat. That it might allow people to let down their guards. That it might also give us more money, because we don’t seem to have been given that much! But I’ve changed my mind. Okay? You happy now?”
“Mildly?” Chartreuse mused. She decided that his performance idea was a good one. “I think I’d be happier if you, you know, let me be your assistant! Okay?”
He stared at her with wide eyes before starting to shake his head. “Chartreuse, are you in the habit of interpreting the up side to everything?”
She shook her head back in response. “Nope! Some of the visions I can get are, like, real downers. But you can’t dwell on the darkness forever, right?”
“I… guess not. Wait, visions?”
“Yep. You were given a deck of cards, I have, like, crystals to use in my meditations. To see the future. Works in moderation. I can also get, you know, flashes from people or their auras.”
His eyebrows went up. “And you’re only bringing this up now because…?”
Chartreuse frowned. “Didn’t I mention it before?” Simon shook his head.
She thought back, figuring it might have come up when they were packing up their gear, and she was explaining about the WristWatch devices they had been given. But upon reflection, she supposed it hadn’t. “Oh. Oops?”
Simon briefly rubbed his eyelids with his thumb and index finger. “So, this object we’re supposed to find, do you mean you can meditate your way into finding it?”
She shook her head again, smiling. “Nope! The experience can’t be random, needs to be focussed, and I dunno what to focus on here. Not yet.” She pointed in the direction they had been walking. “That said, there IS something tickling at the edge of my perception. Like a feather brushing at the nape of one’s neck. And it’s that way. I suppose I can, you know, go check it out while you perform here?”
“I said I’m not–” Simon stopped himself and shouldered the pack of their supplies again. “I think splitting up would be a bad idea at this point. Let’s go see if your feather brushing is relevant before I potentially embarrass myself as a magician.”
It wasn’t the town square, but it was an open area, complete with an ornate fountain. Or perhaps it was the town square, yet it was as deserted as the streets had been. “The vibe is strongest around here,” Chartreuse declared. “But I can’t, like, pin it down.”
Simon looked towards the fountain. “You think maybe that’s like a wishing well?” He approached it, Chartreuse following along.
The fountain itself had a central pillar, and either magic or technology was allowing twin jets of water to emerge from opposing sides of it. On top of the pillar there was a statue of what seemed to be a water nymph, or rather a naiad. A rather good looking one at that. With some effort, Chartreuse pulled her gaze away from the curvaceous girl, noticing Simon doing the same.
“We don’t have magic detection devices,” she observed. “This seems like an oversight.”
Simon peered into the fountain. “There are coins there. But I’m not sure I want to throw one of our limited supply in on a hunch.”
“Can’t you just, you know, take the money back out if it doesn’t work?”
“Maybe there’s a magical time delay,” Simon said, shrugging. “Maybe the nymph gets upset if you remove her coins. Who knows?” He reached out to flick a finger against the surface of the liquid. “I wish one of the locals would turn up, we could ask them!” Thunder rumbled in the distance.
“They might tell you the nymph gets upset if you DON’T give her things.”
Chartreuse snapped her gaze back up to the statue, which had just spoken. The water nymph, who was now very much flesh rather than stone, smiled down at them. She then nimbly jumped from her perch to land in the water below. In the process, her clothing, now a gauzy material, fluttered about her, hinting at… at things that Chartreuse decided she really shouldn’t be thinking about right now.
“Simon,” she murmured, reaching out blindly to try and pluck at his sleeve.
“Wow, she’s pretty,” Simon breathed.
With effort, Chartreuse pulled her gaze away from the beautiful nymph to look at him. The best words she could find to describe Simon’s expression would be “star struck”. She quickly reached up to snap her fingers twice in front of his face.
“Yo, Simon! You do NOT want to make me, like, the responsible one here,” she declared. Mainly because it was taking all of her willpower right now not to turn back to gaze upon the buxom water girl. Who had been a blonde, of course she’d been a blonde… just like Carrie, her girlfriend…
“Do you two charming wanderers have some money for me?” the nymph cooed. “I’d be ever so grateful.”
“LA LA LA, WE’RE NOT LISTENING,” Chartreuse shouted.
She immediately started thinking about that annoying song from back home, and closed her eyes. Hooking her arm around Simon’s, she began to march back the way they had come, dragging him along with her and hoping that his stumbling wouldn’t cause them both to fall down onto the ground before they could get away.
“Aw… don’t you want to play with me in the water?”
Chartreuse felt her knees go weak. It was only by mentally conjuring up a disapproving look from Carrie that she managed to maintain her pace. Though the fact that she was striding about with her eyes closed did make it inevitable that she would stumble into something. Or someone.
“Eep!” was the only warning Chartreuse got from the individual in front of her before she was falling down on top of them. Still hooked onto Simon’s arm, she ended up pulling him down too, resulting in a jumble of arms and legs.
“Wait,” Chartreuse gasped. She tried to crawl free. “I’m not, you know, a virgin! You don’t want me… uh, do you?” If the naiad had information, maybe they should stop fighting fate?
“What I want is for you to get your leg off of me,” came an amused female voice. It wasn’t the water spirit. It sounded vaguely like the tinkling of bells.
Chartreuse cracked one eye open. This wasn’t a partially clad nymph that she’d walked into. Rather, it was a girl wearing a rather more practical dress of emerald green. Her hair was silvery in tone, and while it was currently splayed about on the ground, it was easily long enough to reach right down her back. She also seemed to have pointed ears. What was the name of that mythical race again? Vulcans?
“You’re an elf,” Simon said, having apparently found his voice again.
“An elf?” Chartreuse echoed. With Simon now pushing himself up, she managed to squirm free. “Hold up. Aren’t elves the really short folks who help out Santa Claus?” This girl looked to be about the same height as she was.
“Not that sort of elf,” Simon sighed. Now kneeling on the ground, he turned almost apprehensively to look behind him. Chartreuse followed his gaze back to the fountain. The statue of the nymph was back in place on the pillar. Unmoving stone, as she had been before.
“It’s fine, she’s reverted,” the silver-haired girl said, her tone still implying amusement more than anything. “I’m impressed. You spoke with Sirene and came out of it unscathed. From what I saw, I would have bet against you.”
“Sirene? You mean the statue, who is really a water nymph?” Simon asked.
The elf’s smile faded. “In fact, I think she used to be a florist. Before. It’s become a little difficult to keep track of reality, the way it now has a tendency to shift.”
“You mean what with the wish granting?” Chartreuse hypothesized.
She got a nod in response. “Then you do know. I thought as much. Maybe you can help us?”
“Maybe, but we might not know as much as you think,” Simon said guardedly. “Is there some way you could bring us up to speed?”
The girl’s head tilted. “If you mean historical context, we could go to the library. If you mean personally, I could relate my experiences back at my place. Alternatively, I can introduce you to a few other members of the underground who might know more. Did you have a preference?”
FIRSTLY, open to any names for this elf! Tweet or comment. (Warning: She may yet be good or evil. Don’t offer a name that would make you cringe later.)
VOTING WILL CLOSE TUESDAY DEC 16 EST