WISH FULFILMENT, PART FOUR: Pan Handling
Simon was going to die. Or at least be seriously hurt. Chartreuse had received that impression from touching his shoulder, not long after Pelinelneth had decided that the magician would be the one to use his hypnosis to get past the castle guards.
Regrettably, she didn’t know any more than that. Impressions weren’t like her visions, they were random flashes she received, usually through touch. Telling him “Don’t do it,” had been her first reaction.
“The hypnosis will, like, go badly.” She sometimes hated how she couldn’t articulate her concerns.
“How do you know?”
“I just, you know, do,” Chartreuse said, trying to keep her frustration from bleeding into her tone. “But you could, like, take me on as your magic assistant!” Because staying close to Simon, she could react more easily once she recognized the actual danger.
Simon sighed, pulling free of her grip. “That again? I said I work alone.”
“But you could DIE,” she protested.
“Don’t be silly, I’ll be more careful than I was at the fountain,” he countered. He looked towards the silver haired elf girl. “Pelinelneth, am I liable to die merely for approaching the guards?”
“No way! They generally like hearing about what’s happening in town. Moreover, you’re not on a wanted list or anything. Like I am.” She smiled fleetingly.
Simon looked back to Chartreuse. “Satisfied?”
“No,” the pink haired teenager retorted. She found she was unable to keep the pouty expression off her face. “These feelings, when I get them, are rarely, you know, wrong.”
He sighed. “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings. But I’m not accustomed to having an assistant. Let’s just have some breakfast, get changed, and head out. Okay?”
It wasn’t okay, but what else could Chartreuse say about it?
She had at least insisted upon bringing Pelinelneth’s cast iron frying pan along, despite the bizarre looks the others gave her. But she’d seen Rapunzel. She knew what she was doing. Though at present, what she was doing amounted to hiding in the shadow of an alley, a good twenty or thirty paces from the archway and portcullis that barred the way into the castle grounds. The place which Simon was approaching.
Chartreuse looked to the elf. “Why does the castle even have guards? I mean, the palace could, you know, keep that gate with the iron bars down, staying safely locked away.”
Pelinelneth smirked a bit. “First of all, the royalty don’t want to look like they’re distancing themselves, otherwise people will start wishing things against them. Secondly, if there was no external presence at all, we in the underground would have found a way to batter our way inside by now. And finally – this is all an experiment on their part anyway.”
The teenager blinked. “Experiment? What?”
“Well, it has to be, right? Obviously their court magician is running some sort of horrible test on the general populous, demonstrating to the king how granting the wishes of the poor public will destroy society or something.”
The elf girl took a deep breath. “Which is why, for instance, the guards are now giving Simon the benefit of the doubt as he walks up. They want more data. They need the information about how their little experiment is going down in town. And they can’t get it through interrogation alone.” She frowned in irritation as she flicked some strands of silver hair back behind her ear.
Not for the first time, Chartreuse wished Pelinelneth wasn’t so good looking. She couldn’t seem to keep her attention from wandering over the elf’s form when she spoke for long periods of time. Chartreuse bit down on her lip. She wasn’t normally this distractible, was she? No, it was probably something in the water. Or Pelinelneth being an elf. Yes.
That decided, she turned to focus on Simon instead, while lightly spinning the frying pan in her hand. Somehow, she had to keep him out of danger!
“I am here to entertain,” Simon said, in answer to the guard’s question. “By what name shall I call you?”
“Nothing,” the guard said. “Why are you really here?”
“Okay, I’ll call you Nothing, while your partner here is Nobody,” Simon declared. He fanned out the cards in his hand. “Now, pick a card, any card.” Doing a few warm up tricks seemed sensible, otherwise the hypnosis might be too obvious.
Nothing exchanged a glance with his partner. Nobody scratched his head. “Gives us something to report,” he remarked.
“Mmm,” Nothing said, more warily. Even so, he chose a card, and then replaced it when asked. By shuffling carefully, Simon was able to deal the cards back out into Nothing’s hands until he got to the one that had been drawn.
“Pretty good,” Nobody yielded. “You wish for magical powers or something, stranger?”
“More like ‘or something’,” Simon answered, to try to keep them guessing. He didn’t recover his cards, figuring it was better that the guard’s hands were full. “Now, check this out. Small red ball in my right hand. Except now it’s in my left hand. Or not there at all. Look, it’s here in my pocket.” As he spoke, he continued to palm the object and misdirect their attention.
“Don’t gawk. He’s got more than one of those,” Nothing the guard said to Nobody.
“I do,” Simon admitted, revealing two balls. “Or possibly none.” They were gone. “But now, here’s something else, keep your eye on this.”
He held up the pocket watch and began to swing it back and forth. “Watch it carefully, don’t let it disappear like the balls, breathe slowly, deeply…” The difficulty was, while he had Nobody’s attention, Nothing was a bit more cynical. And he only had the one pocket watch. And he was an amateur. Could he pull this off?
“I’m not sure his trick is, like, working,” Chartreuse worried, trying to keep from fidgeting.
“Even if he fails, we should still be able to make a run for it before the guards can get that gate closed,” Pelinelneth observed.
Chartreuse turned to the elf. “What?” she found herself saying again.
“We can run inside while they’re dealing with Simon,” Pelinelneth elaborated. “Arresting him or whatever. Who cares? He’s the more expendable one, right?”
“Your Simon was fooled by Sirene, he doesn’t have special powers, he’s not very outgoing, and he seems to take things WAY too seriously. I know that if I, in fact, wished the two of you up, you’re the one I’d want to keep. Hmm?” She winked, and again flicked at the bangs of her hair.
Chartreuse felt a flush in her cheeks, but the effects of the flattery were quickly overridden by concern. “Simon’s not, like, expendable,” she insisted.
Pelinelneth arced an eyebrow. “No? In talking last night, I got the impression you two didn’t know each other that well.”
“True. I only met him yesterday,” Chartreuse admitted. “But that’s not, you know, the point. We’re a team!”
“A team? He doesn’t let you act as an assistant. He even sticks to his whole ‘I’m a man, I don’t need help from girls’ deal when cooking. Probably only sees us as sex objects!”
“I let him cook last night because I don’t, like, do it well.” Chartreuse clutched harder at the pan in her hands. “I-Is this why you picked Simon to handle the guards? Because you don’t, like, care if he’s injured?”
Pelinelneth didn’t answer, simply looking back towards the gateway. Chartreuse now felt extra anxious. “And why didn’t we wait to get more help here? Why not try this trick along with, you know, more of your friends from the underground?”
Another flicker of a smile. “Because they know me too well.”
Chartreuse swallowed hard. “Pelinelneth,” she began softly, not sure what she could say to guide the elf’s moral compass. But that’s all she had time for.
“It’s not working. Come, NOW,” Pelinelneth hissed. She grabbed for Chartreuse’s arm, pulling the girl along for two steps, before breaking out into a sprint for the castle gate.
Chartreuse knew she wasn’t the most physically fit person in the world, but she desperately tried to keep pace. As she ran, she looked ahead at what Simon was doing. He still had his pocket watch out, and one of the guards before him, the one closer to the interior of the archway, seemed to be in a bit of a daze – perhaps the hypnosis HAD worked? But the other guard was reaching out for his companion. He almost made contact, only to spot Pelinelneth sprinting their way. At which point he rushed to get inside the archway. Inside to where, Chartreuse realized, the mechanisms for lowering the portcullis must be. Something clicked in her mind, and she tried to run faster.
Simon was now sure he couldn’t get both guards under at once. But he nearly had Nobody, so with a subtle suggestion, he could perhaps get the two of them to play against each other… except now Nothing was pushing past, trying to head inside. “Hey, wait!” he objected, reaching out for the guard’s shoulder. “The show’s not–”
He was shoved back HARD against the archway wall, enough to momentarily knock the breath out of him. Which is when he saw Pelinelneth sprinting madly for the entrance, Chartreuse charging up behind. Had their hiding place been discovered? Were they in trouble? He had to run interference. He charged for Nothing again, grabbing the guard’s arm. “Hey, stop, you can’t, ungh–”
Again he was shoved, and this time with no wall, he stumbled back, off balance with his arms pinwheeling through the air. The guard reached the mechanism for the portcullis, releasing the gate. Simon saw Pelinelneth dash past in a blur of silver hair. He stumbled back another foot – and then with a WHANG, something very hard hit him in the ass, causing him to stumble forwards instead, and fall on the ground. The sensation was almost immediately followed by a clatter, and then the sound of the portcullis spikes crashing into their resting place on the ground.
Simon flipped his body over so that he was sitting face up, throwing his arms back as much for stability as to keep his bottom from completely touching the ground.
He saw Chartreuse, still on the other side of the heavy iron gate, in a very similar position. She was breathing hard, the frying pan on the ground next to her. Simon frowned. “Did you just hit me in the–” He stopped, as he realized how close to the gate Chartreuse was. So close as to have the end of her dress caught beneath one of the spikes. Which meant that a few seconds ago, he must have been…
He swallowed, making a mental note to take the pink-haired girl’s feelings more seriously from now on.
She’d managed to save him. She’d even managed to save herself, by allowing the recoil force of her swing to propel herself back onto her own ass – it had seemed more sensible than trusting her tackling abilities. Though it now occurred to her that this put her on the wrong side of the castle gate. The side without Simon and Pelinelneth.
“Simon, go,” she wheezed, reaching out for her frying pan. “Pelin… can’t, like, leave… her alone!”
“GO!” Chartreuse repeated forcefully. The guard beside her, who had seemingly emerged from whatever trace he might have been in, now reached out to grab the teenager. She jabbed back at him with her trusty kitchen implement, while looking pointedly at Simon, trying to get across that she could take care of herself. In fact, the other guard, the one who had lowered the gate, had already dashed off after Pelinelneth – and after what sounded like a mumbled apology, Simon gave chase as well.
Chartreuse let out a long breath of relief… then a few more breaths for good measure. She wondered where Simon would end up.
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