WISH FULFILMENT, PART SIX: Passed Tents
Simon reached out to touch Pelinelneth on the shoulder as they reached a dead end. She flinched, shrugging him off. “Don’t panic,” she said. “There’s a hidden door here.”
“I figured,” Simon answered. “I thought maybe we should have a plan before striding into the dungeon.”
The elf girl briefly pinched the bridge of her nose. “Nothing to plan. On the other side is the end of the corridor housing the cells. There shouldn’t be any guards there. We creep in, get Chartreuse, and creep back out.”
Simon frowned. “How do you know that’s the setup?”
“I DON’T KN–” Pelinelneth caught herself. “I don’t know. Ever since I got inside the castle, I just know things, okay?” She looked back at the blank wall. “Though I guess it’s possible the dungeon’s more heavily guarded right now. Or that some guard is holding the keys.”
Simon wondered if there was a delicate way to ask whether Pelinelneth was starting to remember things that she, herself, had wished forgotten. Because perhaps she had been at the heart of this wish situation since the beginning? But he was pretty sure ANY way of saying that might get him trapped in this corridor. So instead, he said, “Do you know any illusion magic?”
“Nothing convincing, or I’d have been able to get into this castle without your help!”
“It doesn’t need to be convincing, only distracting,” Simon pointed out. “Giving me time to steal the keys or blind a guard with my flashlight.”
“There’s that,” Pelinelneth yielded. “Okay. Give me a moment to rally my mental forces, then we’ll head in.”
As it turned out, she didn’t need to do anything – there wasn’t a visible guard. But there wasn’t a visible keyring hanging on a peg either. “There may be a guard with keys at the main entrance,” Simon reasoned quietly. He looked around. Three cell doors were closed, but there were little windows allowing him to peer into the darkness.
He determined which cell held Chartreuse almost immediately, and not merely because it was the only one where he heard noises. He knew of no one else who spoke that way. “Chartreuse!” he hissed just outside her cell. The voice stopped – he hadn’t been quite sure what she was saying, only hearing the word “like” clearly – and he heard footsteps approach from inside.
“Simon?” the girl responded.
“Yeah, we’re both here.” Simon grinned at Pelinelneth, who simply shrugged and motioned back towards the passage. He double checked that the door was locked. “Ah, any idea where they put the key?”
“Not in here!” the pink haired girl retorted. Simon rolled his yes. “Though what IS in here is, like, a Royal Wizard. So if you, you know, can get us a metal cutter, we can magic our way out.”
“What did she say?” Pelinelneth asked, taking a step back. Simon saw that her entire posture had changed. If he didn’t know better, he’d say she was afraid.
Chartreuse had apparently heard the question. “Well, this guy thinks he’s the Wizard’s apprentice,” she added. “But I, like, caught a flash of his past – unless it was, you know, his future – and he’s actually the top guy.”
“Wait – HE?” Pelinelneth said, as if to clarify the gender. She now didn’t look afraid. She looked annoyed.
“Qifarihm,” Chartreuse clarified.
“Bless you,” Simon said.
“I’m leaving,” Pelinelneth concluded.
“What?” Simon said, turning as Pelinelneth strode away, back towards the secret door. It occurred to Simon that he didn’t yet know how to open it from this direction. “But we agreed that we have to get Char–”
The silver haired elf stopped and pointed back at the cell door. “Qifarihm has to stay locked up. If getting her means getting him out too, no! Now, are you coming with me or not?”
“Go with her!” Chartreuse gasped.
“I can’t keep leaving you!” Simon objected.
Things fell silent after that, leaving Chartreuse to anxiously dance back and forth from one foot to the other. Had Simon left? On the one hand, she was still worried about the elf girl being without some sort of moral conscience. On the other, she really didn’t want to be locked up here for several more months. “Did… did you, like, leave?” she finally called out, feeling torn.
Still silence. Then, “No,” came Simon’s voice. “But I haven’t found anything I can use to force the door. Sounds like there’s only one guard out front though, he’s grumbling about the others being called away to help search. He should have the keys. I think I can blind him with my flashlight, then knock him out. Hold on.”
“Use my, you know, frying pan!” Chartreuse suggested brightly. “That is, if my stuff is still out there!”
There was another extended silence. Finally, the sound of a keyring, and a key being tried in the lock. Chartreuse breathed a sigh of relief, and looked over at Qifarihm, who had resumed his earlier position in the corner, drawing little shapes in the air. “We’re getting out!” she said, smiling at him.
“That’s probably the guard throwing your friend in,” Qifarihm said.
“Have faith!” she countered. More jangling of keys, as a second, and then a third was tried. At which point the door swung open, and Chartreuse saw her companion, standing in the doorway with a partial smile on his own face. Without a second thought, she rushed out and gave him a hug, almost knocking him over as for some reason he hadn’t been expecting it.
“Thanks!” she added. She then looked around the dungeon area, which was pretty much as it had been when they’d tossed her in – except now with an unconscious guard in the entryway. With a familiar kitchen implement sitting on his chest. “Frying pan?” she said, her smile getting wider.
Simon didn’t meet her gaze, shifting it off to the side. “My punches may need work,” was his only remark.
Chartreuse decided not to push the point – she had bigger fish to fry. Not in the frying pan, granted, but since it was there… sure enough, hurrying over to the guard, she found a pouch containing the rest of her crystals, and the WristWatch device for contacting Alice. She immediately switched the device on.
“What are you doing?” Simon asked, following after her. “Shouldn’t we track down Pelinelneth now?”
“Heck yeah,” she agreed. “But first I need a, like, deeper scan of Qifarihm. As I said before, I saw stuff when I read him. But my specialty is, you know, the future, so I need the Epsilon Project to, like, hook me up with an expert on the past.”
Simon blinked. “Who?”
Chartreuse let out a breath. “My sister.”
Azure absently reached out to pick up the phone when it rang, since it was on the table next to her in the living room. But she continued to focus most of her attention on reading her book. “Vermilion residence.”
“Azure! Thank goodness. I, like, need your help.”
“Sure,” the blue haired girl fired back, without missing a beat. “Then I ‘like’ need twenty bucks.”
“Azure, I’m on another planet in another dimension or something and this call is being routed through, I dunno, subspace. I need to, like, do a historical reading on someone! Can you give me some tips here? Please??”
Chartreuse’s younger sister looked up from her book, then over at the phone in her hand. She pulled it back to her ear. “Is Carrie giving you drugs?” she demanded. “Because if so, that’s not a healthy relationship! We covered that kinda thing in PE class.” She smirked.
“Azure, I am being totally serious here! Stop grinning like that!”
Azure’s smile faded, and she set her book aside, switching the phone to her other ear. “Chartreuse, even assuming this isn’t some stupid prank – you read the future, I read the past. That’s how it IS. Have I ever tried to horn in on YOUR territory? No! Besides, you use crystals, I use cards. Incompatible. You’ll simply have to deal.” She frowned, realizing the inadvertent pun. “So to speak.”
“Cards is fine, Simon, like, has some of those! Also, different world, so I think different rules, in that I already picked up on something. So please, at least, you know, tell me what shape would be best for penetrating into a past that’s been, like, walled off by some magical wish granting artifact! Okay?”
Azure resisted the urge to simply hang up the phone, mainly because the question did pose an interesting challenge. Plus hanging up would give her sister the last word. So she mulled it over for a few seconds instead, wondering what sort of geometry could be used to twist over and around a mental block like that. The answer, when it occurred to her, was ridiculously simple. “Phi,” Azure said at last.
She then hung up immediately and reached back for her book. After all, if this was seriously serious, her sister would redial.
Chartreuse sat on the floor of the corridor, in her circle of crystals, with Simon’s cards making a spiral pattern out towards Qifarihm. The spiral probably wasn’t exactly golden, but she’d made a point of dealing an ace, a six, an ace and an eight out first… though she hadn’t been sure what face card to use for zero. For his part, the supposed Wizard merely sat across from her with a bemused look on his face.
“This is highly unconventional,” Qifarihm remarked, and Simon got the impression that he wasn’t entirely convinced he was even free yet. Which, in a sense, he wasn’t, as he still had on a pair of shackles.
“That’s why it will work,” Simon said, with a confidence he didn’t entirely feel.
“I love you both, but please, you know, hush,” Chartreuse interjected, before going back to quiet murmurings of “Ohm, ohm”.
Seconds stretched into minutes, and right when Simon thought maybe he should speak up again, Chartreuse gasped and looked up towards the ceiling, blinking rapidly. Then she began to speak. “Wand, a wand, a wand, ahhhh!”
“A wand?” Simon repeated.
“No, Wanda,” Qifarihm realized, sitting up straighter. “I know a Wanda. I’m her apprentice.” He frowned. “Now wait a second…”
“Wiz… you… she… wish…” Chartreuse babbled.
Simon caught on. “You said Qifarihm is the Palace Wizard. Was Wanda HIS apprentice?” he asked. “Until she wished for their roles to be reversed?” Chartreuse bobbed her head, though it was difficult to tell if she was actually nodding. “Did she create this wishing artifact then?” Simon pressed. “Or did Qifarihm?”
Simon glanced back towards the Wizard, but he seemed to be getting lost in his own recollections. So Simon returned his gaze to Chartreuse, who was now swaying her head around in what looked like a figure eight. “Artifact… unknown… found… pasta… round pasta…”
Simon adjusted her inflection, as the mage had before. “Passed around?”
More head bobbing. “Wanda… no… weevil…”
“She knows evil? Or she’s now evil?”
“She… Pel in hell in elinelinel…”
“Pelinelneth? Is she evil?”
Chartreuse started to get an annoyed look on her face, her breathing coming more rapidly. “Elinelinelinel…”
“Is she Wanda?”
“EL-IN-EL…” Chartreuse coughed, the noise sounding strangled. “First… wish… corrupt… add diction… oaf… ukkk…” And she keeled over.
Simon quickly ran to her side and felt for a pulse – it was present, and she was breathing regularly, though she had fallen unconscious. That determined, he looked back over at Qifarihm. “Could you make sense of that?” Simon demanded.
Qifarihm seemed to be gathering his thoughts before speaking. For the first time, Simon found the torchlight around them was enough to take in the Wizard’s features. Nothing really stood out – the guy was older, but taller, his shoulder length dark hair seeming white in places. He was also thin, probably due to malnourishment, his clothing little more than rags. “I was the Wizard, and Wanda my apprentice,” Qifarihm said then, attempting to rub his chin despite his metal bracelets. “Yes, I’d somehow forgotten that. Not sure why the memory was blocked, when so many other wishes are known.”
“That wish might have been one of the first,” Simon suggested. “It sounds like maybe whatever artifact is causing this, it corrupted your apprentice.” He frowned. “And Pelinelneth is somehow involved. Based on her reactions, she must be afraid of Wanda, yet also dislike you… so she has something against magic? And she’s been in the castle before, so finding her will be difficult.”
“Well, if you break me out of these,” Qifarihm said, holding up his wrists. “With a key off that keyring, I might be able to locate her for you. Of course, my use of magic will alert others who are sensitive to it.” He shrugged.
Simon nodded, glancing around. It had been at least half an hour, probably more, that they’d been down here undisturbed. It wouldn’t last. “We need to get out of here either way.”
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