2.09: Trial and Error

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WISH FULFILMENT, PART NINE: Trial and Error

Chartreuse sensed that Simon was looking at her, probably trying to get a vibe as to which of Wanda’s choices they should select: servitude or banishment. But she didn’t meet his gaze. She couldn’t look away from Wanda. For even as a part of her knew the pain of being denigrated for her gender, another part knew that here, she didn’t really know. “We DO want to help you,” she insisted to the Royal Wizard. “Don’t shut us out.”

Wanda’s lips thinned. “Interesting choice. Lesson time.”

“Whoa! Wait! We pick the servant thing!” Simon broke in. Wanda flicked her wrists, two more cards appearing in each of her hands. “Bring in Pelinelneth! We’ll do whatever she wants!” Symbols began to form on the cards. “We’re not from here! Whatever you’re doing is not a good idea!!”

“Simon,” Chartreuse said quietly, dropping her frying pan in order to discretely slide the book she had taken off the bookshelf under her opposite arm. “Let’s, you know, KNOW.” She finally turned to look at him, reaching to touch his arm.

He turned to look back at her. She saw the card smack him in the forehead a split second before her own gaze went dark, and she felt her body slump down onto the ground. There was a momentary sense of panic, as her spirit no longer seemed to be tethered to anything. Then there was the sound of a great wind rushing by.

Then everything changed.

***

“Wha- What just happened?” Simone gasped. She then blinked, and raised her hands to her throat, then brought them to her chest, then thrust her arms out to the sides as she looked down at herself. “WHAT?! Why am I a woman??”

“Don’t know,” Chartreuse mused, after taking a second to catch her breath. She decided to take stock of herself first. “I don’t seem to be a man. Though I, like, feel rather… etherial.” She glanced around the torchlit corridor they were in, then experimentally reached out to touch the wall. Her hand passed right through the stone. Worse, for a second it felt like her hand didn’t exist at all, until she yanked her arm back. “Okay, that’s not good.”

Simone reached out to touch the same spot, and successfully leaned into it. She then reached out to touch Chartreuse – and her hand passed right through the teenager’s shoulder. “You’re not really here,” Simone deduced. She then reached up to touch her own throat again. “Can I not really be here too? Why do YOU get to keep your clothes and… everything else?!”

Indeed, Chartreuse realized she was still wearing the same white shirt, pink bodice, and skirt as before, though her shoes had graduated to ankle boots. Her hair also flowed long, rather than being done up in bows. Finally shifting attention to her companion, Chartreuse noticed that he – she – was now wearing some sort of dark blouse and skirt ensemble. She also looked younger than Simon had, early twenties at best.

Chartreuse wondered fleetingly whether her own mixup at the very start of the adventure had been due to some tangential future premonition of Simon – Simone? – while attuning her senses to this world. At least Simone wasn’t a blonde, so there was no immediate romantic consideration. As Chartreuse wondered how she might best respond, a boy about her age came around the corner, offering, “You wanna take your clothes off, girlie, be my guest.” He grinned.

Simone turned and attempted a glare.

“Aw, how cute. What are you doing hanging back here anyway, Simone? Talking with that invisible elf girlfriend of yours again?”

Chartreuse blinked, reaching up to touch her ears. She felt them rising to a point. Interesting. In the process, she also realized that she was somehow still holding the book she’d taken off Wanda’s bookshelf. Thank goodness.

“None of your business,” Simone shot back.

The youth made a face. “Hmph. I’ve half a mind not to tell you you’re up next. But seeing as I’m after you, and I’m SURE to look good after whatever YOU do…” He jerked his thumb down the passage. “You’re up next.”

Simone offered another glare, then headed past the boy to see what it was he’d been indicating. Trailing along after, Chartreuse saw the guy reach out and pinch Simone’s bottom. Simone whirled, raising a hand as if to slap back. “Don’t!” Chartreuse blurted. “I have a theory! Do that, we could be, like, screwed!”

Even as the boy flinched away, Simone used her raised hand to rake her fingers through her hair. “Better be a hell of a theory,” she muttered. She turned away again, rounding the corner.

Following after, Chartreuse saw the passage almost immediately widened out into a larger room – a waiting area of sorts, as there were benches out, and five other boys were sitting upon them. Two looked up with interest at Simone’s presence, one looked with disinterest, and the other two boys didn’t look up. One of them seemed to be practicing hand gestures. Chartreuse nodded.

“Theory,” she began. “To learn what Wanda went through, we’ve been put in her past, or, like, a variant thereof. You got her role, I’m likely Pelinelneth. Meaning, we play this right, you become a Wizard’s apprentice, like Wanda did, and maybe we even, you know, learn how she got the artifact.” She cleared her throat. “But we play this wrong, you could end up thrown in a dungeon and/or… or…” She stopped, unable to verbalize the image that had just surfaced.

“Or?” Simone said out of the corner of her mouth.

Chartreuse swallowed. “Hurt and stuff.” Did Simone even realize how attractive she might be?

Chartreuse watched as Simone eyed the closed door across the room from the passage they’d just used. It presumably led to some testing chamber. The boy had said Simone was next, but then was someone else still inside? Simone crossed her arms, electing to wait. “So, you think the real Pelinelneth was some imaginary ghost too?” she mumbled.

“Dunno,” Chartreuse answered. “I’ll see if I can, you know, find out!”

The dark haired girl turned her head. “How?”

Chartreuse held up her book. “Wanda’s diary.”

Simone’s eyes widened. “Her DIARY?”

Six sets of eyes turned towards Simone at the loud exclamation. “Uh, is the girl sane?” one of the guys on the bench said, leaning towards his neighbour.

“‘Course not,” retorted the boy leaning against the wall near the passageway. The one who had pinched her. “She’s trying out to be a Wizard’s Apprentice, she’s gotta be a bit nuts. It’s a hot kinda nuts though, don’t you think?”

Sitting guy seemed about to respond, so Simone interjected, “The WOMAN can hear you, I’m standing right here!” She placed her hands on her hips.

“Oooh, oh no,” the boy on the bench said mockingly, lifting his hands and waving them briefly in the air. Though he then shifted his gaze to the ground rather than verbalizing the earlier remark, and two of the other boys also resumed their own internal thoughts.

“Yeah, Simone, you might not want to talk to me,” Chartreuse observed. “Except by, you know, expressions or hand signals or something. Since they can’t, like, see or hear me.”

“Well, THANK you,” Simone said, nominally to the guys, but she then turned her gaze upon her elf companion. It was an expectant look. Which Chartreuse realized was probably something more than an attempt by Simone to avoid seeing the two guys still leering at her. What had they been talking about? Oh right.

ChartElfLt

CHARTREUSE

“Well, Wanda’s journal at least. The book on the shelf that looked out of place with it’s surroundings. I, like, barely got a chance to start leafing through it, but with further study, I’m sure we can figure out what sort of Wizard trial this is!”

The door at far end of the room opened, another boy slinking through it with his head down. Then an older gentleman poked his head out. “Simone?”

Simone’s look somehow became even more expectant.

“Further FAST study,” Chartreuse realized, quickly flipping through the front of the book.

Simone approached the door. “I’ve got cards,” she realized, as she discovered a pouch on her belt, and pulled it open. She glanced sidelong at Chartreuse as she headed into the testing chamber. “So I can buy some time. But HURRY.”

“Her handwriting is not the neatest,” Chartreuse protested. She didn’t add that she wasn’t the best at speed reading either, tracing her finger down the pages as she walked right through the doorframe. The room with all the Wizards in it was darker too, that didn’t help – they seemed to be trying to cloak themselves in mystery, though you could still see their outlines at a table on a raised dais.

The door closed behind them, as if by magic. “Begin,” came a voice that sounded very much like Qifarihm.

Simone cleared her throat uncertainly. “Right, ah… behold, standard deck of cards…” She attempted to riffle them from one hand to another, but it was card stock, not playing cards, and she spilled some of them. Face flushed, she bent down to retrieve them.

“Okay, looks like Wanda’s recording some early efforts at magic,” Chartreuse said. “Apparently, females need focus objects to control their spells – oh! Hence the cards! Wanda used them, we, you know, saw that.”

“Now, control IS important,” Simone said pointedly, attempting to perform some slight of hand as she readjusted her deck.

“Actually, I wonder why this book, and your cards, are paper. Parchment was, you know, made from animal skins. Wasn’t it?”

“SO important.”

“I’m still looking!” Chartreuse insisted, off the glare. “Seems like Wanda was, um, gunning for an Elemental Power. But I don’t know to, you know, manifest it. Can you, like, identify a symbol for fire on your cards?”

“I said BEGIN,” came the voice from the raised table once again, a bit irritated.

Simone rolled her eyes heavenwards. “And by control, I mean I am going to temporarily control YOU,” she continued, fanning out the cards. “Almost as if I had an invisible assistant. Heading over NOW to manipulate you five.”

Chartreuse frowned. “Euh, no, we’ve seen I can’t, you know, affect any–”

“Try!” Simone hissed. Then, louder, “Pick a card, any card?” The cards were all emblazoned with symbols of some sort, which she kept turned away from herself. She then carefully nudged one of them higher. “You have chosen this!” She pulled it out, and tried to make it vanish up her sleeve, while waving the deck in her other hand.

For her part, Chartreuse closed the book and walked over to the table of Wizards. She waved her hand in front of the nearest, to see if maybe they were more in tune to her presence than the guys in the hall had been. There was no reaction. She tried to tap him on the shoulder. Her hand passed right through him, and he didn’t even flinch.

“Okay, ah, I’m a bit intimidated, that’s all,” Simone said quickly. “But I’m done warming up. So, here WE go.”

Chartreuse looked down at her feet. Which were connected to the floor, not sinking through it. So she lifted her leg, and attempted to plant the sole of her boot against the side of that same Wizard.

And she connected. Quite solidly.

***

Simone hurried out of the room, face red. She didn’t look at the boys still waiting, hurrying back into the far passage, and only stopping at the nearest T-junction to rest her forehead against the wall, pressing her hand to her mouth. She remained that way until she heard Chartreuse remark, “Well, they said we’d hear back tomorrow. So maybe we got in.”

“ALL of them? Did you have to kick ALL of them?”

“Eh, they seemed so, you know, full of themselves and disbelieving of each other. Anyway, you laughed!”

“I know! Then I cried! Then I ran! I’m pretty sure we’re not on script with Wanda’s history any more!”

Chartreuse pursed her lips. “You don’t know that. And now that we have some time, I can cross reference, try to get us back on track.”

“To what end?” Simone protested, turning back to her companion. “I am NOT going to be a successful magical girl here. I’m not even really a girl!! We’ve seen enough. You should look for something in that book to give us a way to break out of this – wherever we are. Before something terrible happens.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

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