WISH FULFILMENT, PART THREE: Elf Help
“Let’s go back to your place!” Chartreuse said brightly. The elf girl nodded, and after gesturing, started to move off.
Simon frowned, but didn’t object. For while he wasn’t sure that implicit trust of this silver haired elf was necessarily the best plan, he didn’t have any better ideas. And they probably would learn more from a person than at a library – right? Still, after losing control over his mental faculties with that naiad at the fountain moments ago, he resolved to be more alert as to possible dangers in his surroundings.
“What should we call you?” he asked the elf as he fell into step behind Chartreuse.
“Pelinelneth,” the elf replied, looking over her shoulder. She smiled again.
They reached her place just before the first drops of rain started to fall. Simon noticed that Pelinelneth immediately took them down to the basement, which seemed to consist of two rooms – a walled off bathroom in one corner, and everything else. Kitchen and bedroom included.
“Do you only live down here? Do you ever go upstairs?” he wondered.
“Can’t go up,” she retorted, gesturing to a couple chairs at a table. “Don’t own it.” She shrugged upon seeing his expression. “You take what you can get in this town. Particularly if you’re an elf.”
Something about that didn’t sound right. “But aren’t elves beautiful and beloved and that sort of thing?” Simon questioned.
Pelinelneth laughed. “Seriously? Everybody hates elves.”
“Ooh, yeah, I can understand that,” Chartreuse said, sitting down and crossing her arms. “Particularly if there’s, you know, an elf on a shelf. That’s not unlike drone surveillance.”
Their hostess paused, then shrugged again. “I can see why Sirene had trouble getting a bead on you,” she remarked. “Your manner of thinking isn’t quite like that of our regular visitors.”
Simon decided to seize that possible conversation opener. “Have you met many other visitors then?” he asked. He elected not to sit down, in case he had to make a quick exit. Though he did put down their gear next to the stairs.
Pelinelneth shook her head. “Not really. See, I hang out at the local inn, in hopes that maybe some treasure seekers will come by, who might be of use to me. But for the last month it’s only been locals. Well, not counting folks like the guy visiting his mother, or idiots like the two who got duped at the fountain last week. Pity really. I was hoping that the whole ‘wishes granted’ thing would be more of a draw to the town. After all, I’m guessing that’s why you came?”
“Totally,” Chartreuse agreed, even as Simon hesitated. “Though it’s not so much to get our own wishes granted as to, like, figure out what’s causing your problem.”
“When did the wish granting start?” Simon pressed, not wanting to give Pelinelneth time to probe further. He felt better about asking questions, versus answering them.
Pelinelneth reached up to scratch her head. “Hard to say. We became aware of it a couple of months ago. Joey thinks that’s because someone wished for it. The self-awareness, that is. Another good idea that backfired, because there’s nothing more freaky than seeing reality shift around you, with you having no control over it. That’s part of the reason people have taken to staying indoors.”
“Oh!” Chartreuse gasped. “But then do only bad wishes get, you know, granted?”
“Good, bad, it’s all perspective, right?” the elf girl answered, her tone light and almost playful. “Like, getting a bigger house would be good for me, but sucks if I take your property to do it. Being able to go without sleep might seem like a good idea at first, but it could make a person irritable over the long term. The big problem is that, when you make a wish, you tend to do so in the moment.” She leaned in a little closer to Chartreuse. “For instance, if YOU could wish for anything, right NOW, what would you wish for?” Her eyes brightened slightly.
“Back up,” Simon said, before his companion could speak. “Who was this Joey?”
Chartreuse opened her mouth, then closed it, and looked towards Simon. After a moment, Pelinelneth’s gaze followed, and she resumed a more neutral posture.
“Joey, he’s part of the underground. Meaning a bunch of us who’ve been trying to analyze the whole situation. But you said you didn’t want to meet them,” she reminded, shaking a finger his way. “Too late to change your mind now!”
“We merely wanted to talk to you first,” Simon countered.
“Mmmm. Then you only want to talk?” The elf girl now leaned back against her stove, sliding her hands out to the sides. Simon found his gaze slipping down over her form, and he quickly pulled it back up to her face. He wasn’t going to be caught that way twice!
“Yes, just talk,” Simon reiterated. He glanced at Chartreuse – and discovered she apparently did not have the same reservations he did. “Chartreuse,” he said, coughing. “Our hostess here is probably a hundred years old. Elves are very long lived.”
“Don’t be ageist. Twenty, a hundred, a girl is still free to, like, admire another pretty girl,” the teenager retorted defensively.
Pelinelneth let out another little laugh. “I thank you for the compliment.” She glanced back to Simon. “Interesting thing about my age though. I’m not sure how old I am. Because I have no memory from before the start of this year.”
Simon was caught off guard by the frank statement. “What?”
“You mean, like, a wish removed your memory?” Chartreuse said, gasping again.
“Maybe.” The elf arced an eyebrow, still staring at Simon. “What do YOU think?”
He knew what his first thought had been, and searching her expression, he realized that’s what she was alluding to. He might as well say it. “You believe you could have been wished into existence.”
Pelinelneth pulled an arm back to tap at her nose. “You got it. After all, wishing pretty girls into existence, that’s what you men DO, right?”
“That’s not what I would do,” Simon protested. Though his tone didn’t seem to have the force behind it that he’d hoped for.
“But wait, maybe you’re like that Sirene?” Chartreuse piped up. “It could be you were, you know, someone else? Who got transformed? And, like, don’t remember your old life?”
“Maybe,” Pelinelneth repeated. “Maybe not. I know Joey’s sticking with that as his story.”
Simon made another connection. “Then this underground you spoke of, it’s people with missing memories. Ones who fear their existence could have been wish generated.”
“Maybe.” Frowning now, Pelinelneth pushed off from her stove. “Enough talking. If you don’t want romance, how about we have some dinner,” she proposed, clapping her hands together.
“No, wait,” Chartreuse protested. “If what Simon said is true, and your underground is trying to, like, figure out what’s causing all the wishing, the same way as we are… are you doing it to undo the situation? Or to, you know, ensure you lock your existence in place?”
The elf girl spun back to face Chartreuse so fast that hair cascaded over her shoulder. “Well, which would YOU do?” she demanded.
“I’d do the right thing,” the pink haired girl responded, without hesitation. “As I’m sure you would too.”
They continued to stare at each other for a few more seconds. “You’re more trusting than your male companion, I’ll say that,” Pelinelneth concluded. “But I DON’T want to talk any more. Let’s get back to dinner. What are you two going to make for me?”
Caught off guard again, Simon exchanged a glance with Chartreuse. As she seemed just as confused, he looked back to Pelinelneth. “You invited us here,” he reminded.
“Yes. I’ve offered you shelter from the rain, and answered a lot of your questions,” she countered. “The least you humans could do in return is use the ingredients I have on hand to cook me a nice dinner, hmmm?” A smile played at the corners of her lips. “Besides, if you cook it yourselves, you won’t be worried that I’m trying to poison you.”
Simon was a pretty good cook, partly because of how his mother had died when he was young. Granted, he wasn’t quite sure what some of the tins in Pelinelneth’s cupboards consisted of, but there were enough recognizable spices, enabling him to work reasonably well with the items that Chartreuse opted to randomly open. Plus, even though this was a fantasy world, it seemed to be one with noodles. And a measure of indoor plumbing. As soon as she made THAT discovery, Chartreuse asked if she could use Pelinelneth’s bath – and the elf agreed, provided they first stay the night with her. She then set out some blankets on the floor next to her bed. And yet again, Simon couldn’t think of any better alternative to staying over.
Even though Simon wasn’t sure he’d be able to sleep, all the walking of the day had tired him out more than he’d realized. The next thing he knew, it was morning, and Pelinelneth was lying on her bed, staring over at him and Chartreuse.
Staring intently. Too intently. “Um, what’s wrong?” he asked, pulling the sheet higher, suddenly self-conscious. This despite the fact that he’d elected to wear all his clothing to bed, while the girls had changed into something lighter.
“I was just thinking,” the elf said slowly. “Perhaps you’re something I wished up. Maybe you don’t really exist either. Meaning maybe I shouldn’t let you out of my sight. EVER.”
“Uh…” Simon cleared his throat uncertainly. “For now, perhaps we can just focus on the origin of these wishes? Can we finally talk about that again?”
Pelinelneth had categorically refused to discuss the matter any more the previous evening. Instead, she’d demanded to know where they were from, and while Simon and Chartreuse had managed to avoid any discussion of the Epsilon Project, they’d eventually had to admit to being travellers from a “more science-based region” of the world.
Much to Simon’s chagrin, the concept of a “computer” had fascinated the silver haired girl. Though he had been pleased to learn that Chartreuse wasn’t too fond of technology either, as it could interfere with her “mystic” vibe.
Now that it was the morning though, Pelinelneth didn’t immediately cut Simon off at the question. Instead, after another bit of slightly uncomfortable staring, the girl grabbed her pillow and threw it at Chartreuse.
“Buh? Wha?” the pink haired teenager garbled, voice muffled due to the pillow on her face.
“I need your help to get into the castle grounds,” Pelinelneth stated, now seemingly all business. “The answers are there. But they’ve got guards at every entrance. I’ve had no luck seducing them. We can’t figure out how they decide to change shifts. When they send people into the town for provisions, there’s a special return code that we don’t know.”
As she continued to speak, she sat up straighter on her bed, finally clasping her hands together. “Somehow, you have to get us inside. Can you use one of your computing devices for this?”
“No,” Simon said. “Though I doubt one would work here anyway.” He sat up himself, rubbing the back of his head. Should he ask why the castle? Maybe not yet, lest the elf shut down again. “I also can’t imagine my magic trickery would sway a guard… I MIGHT try hypnosis though? I’ve done some reading on it. But no guarantees. It could go badly.”
“Ah cuh dewf isin tuh eee entu sniq pash?” Chartreuse hadn’t expended the effort to remove the pillow from her face.
“What, Chartreuse?” he asked, holding back a sigh.
The girl moaned, then lifted the pillow up. “I could do a vision to see when to sneak past? Once I’m, you know, actually conscious?”
Simon nodded. “I suppose you have more experience with your abilities than I do with hypnosis,” he yielded. “But what if you don’t see an opportunity for more than twenty four hours?”
“Uhn, I dunno, what timizit now?”
“Time for me to tell you what I’ve decided,” Pelinelneth declared.
VOTING WILL CLOSE TUESDAY DEC 30 EST
You read that right – taking a week off for the holiday.