WISH FULFILMENT, PART ELEVEN: Hard Truths
“Azure?!” Chartreuse gasped.
“No duh!” the blue haired girl fired back at her sister.
Simon registered what they were saying, but he was rather more preoccupied with patting himself down to verify that yes, he was again back in his more familiar male body. As opposed to the female one he’d inhabited for the duration of Wanda’s spell. Unfortunately, this meant he only registered the presence of the fourth person in the room after the immobilization field hit.
It then took a moment for Simon to realize it wasn’t complete immobilization. While it felt like he couldn’t move in the wash of deep pink (even more pink than the room had been previously), it was possible to counter the effect. But it was slow, and hurt. A lot. Still, he grit his teeth and turned his head to get a better sense of what they were up against.
He was kneeling less than an arm’s length away from Chartreuse, her sister Azure crouched in front of them. Azure was holding two index cards in her hands. All of them were closer to Qifarihm’s statue than Simon remembered – allowing him to realize that the wash of pink came from the magic circle that they were currently inside, the circumference glowing red. Peering out, he recognized the fourth individual. And he realized they had a chance.
“Pelinelneth,” he rasped. “Help us.”
“Help?! She’s doing this!” Azure countered, grimacing with the effort of speaking. “If you two weren’t so slow…”
“How are you here?” Chartreuse demanded.
“Double duh. Your friend Alice,” Azure stated.
“But this circle, it isn’t elf magic,” Simon protested.
“You’re right,” came a voice from somewhere behind him. It took a moment for Simon to place the speaker as Snowball, Qifarihm’s former cat – who had been turned into a small pink unicorn. “But Wanda left Pel with the ability to switch the field on, should anything happen,” the female voice continued. “Which it has. In the form of a young girl appearing out of a blue whirlpool. That was new.”
“Meaning Wanda was right,” Pelinelneth remarked. “Other world people are coming to take the artifact away from her.”
“So maybe they should.”
Simon saw Pelinelneth turn an accusing gaze towards the unicorn’s position. “So you ARE a traitor!”
“This from the elf who left us for town.”
“Azure! You’ve, like, gotta get out of here!” Chartreuse said, aghast.
“Gee, I would, but I’m kind of immobile after SAVING YOUR LIFE,” Azure shot back.
“WHOA!” Simon shouted out, realizing from the cacophony of voices that he was now the only male in the room. An odd reversal. “Let’s all talk for a moment. Maybe without this pain field?”
“I have nothing to say to you,” Pelinelneth shot back.
“Not even about being Wanda’s imaginary friend?” he countered. The elf flinched at the reference, but pursed her lips closed.
“Who is Wanda anyway?” Azure asked.
“Alice didn’t even, you know, EXPLAIN her?!” Chartreuse shrieked.
“Explanations actually sound like a good plan,” Snowball stated. Abruptly Simon felt the ability to move without pain once again – but the blood red circle still surrounded them, glowing menacingly. He cautiously rose to his feet, as Snowball continued with, “So I’m lessening the field. Meaning I get to dictate the rules.”
“Who IS saying th– O. M. G, UNICORN,” Azure gasped, as she also stood up and apparently got her first good look at Snowball.
Chartreuse reached for Azure’s arm, where Simon noticed a communicator watch. “No! It’s not safe! Call Alice back, you’re, like, leaving!”
“Since when has life been SAFE?” Azure retorted. “Also, Alice doesn’t have the power! Also, how dare you run off to Equestria without telling me! I’m the reason you know about the show in the first place!” Chartreuse face palmed.
Pelinelneth crossed her arms, her eyes practically shooting daggers at Snowball. “If they escape, it’s on your head.”
Escape didn’t seem that likely – when Simon edged further from the centre of the circle, he was met with both a force of active resistance, and a burning sensation on his skin. He edged back.
“Here’s the rules,” Snowball continued doggedly, ignoring the outbursts. “Any one of us can ask a question of any of the others. That person then gets to ask something of someone else, which continues in a chain. The chain will break as soon as someone lies, or refuses to answer, meaning they don’t get to ask anything. I’m gambling that we’re all reasonably honourable individuals – with questions. Satisfactory?”
It sounded quite sensible, actually. Simon nodded back towards the small animal. After a momentary hesitation, the Vermilion sisters also nodded. Pelinelneth merely flicked at the bangs of her hair, which Snowball seemed to take as an assent. The unicorn turned to look at Azure. “You, in the weird clothes,” she began, causing Simon to realize that the blue haired girl’s orange T-shirt and pants were rather out of place, “Are people from your world going to keep coming here, no matter what, until you retrieve the artifact?”
Azure glanced sidelong at her sister before raising her shoulders in a shrug. “Probably not?” she answered. “I mean, I wouldn’t have come, except for my sister Clueless being in trouble. Also, the person running the station out there is having power issues, and told me not to expect further backup for a while.”
“Oh, great!” Chartreuse sighed. “THAT knowledge will intimidate our enemies.”
“The unicorn said not to lie!” Azure shot back. “And if there was a cover story, someone shoulda told me!”
“Interesting. I appreciate the candour,” Snowball acknowledged. “Your question next.”
Azure frowned, Simon noticing how her eyes flickered around to everyone else in the room. In the end, they alighted on Chartreuse, and when Azure spoke, her tone was less brash, and more muted. “Why do you say it’s not safe for me here?”
“Because there’s a Royal Wizard out there named Wanda, who, you know, has an evil artifact that can rewrite reality by granting wishes,” Chartreuse explained, now also sounding more subdued. “She’s fighting for women’s rights, which is good, but in her past she killed and injured people, which is not so good. Plus, even without wishing, she, you know, put me and Simon under a spell. After turning the former Royal Wizard into, like, that.” She jerked her thumb over towards the Qifarihm statue.
Azure’s eyes widened. “Holy…” She didn’t complete the statement. She did start to look uncomfortable as she stared at the statue.
Chartreuse looked away from her sister, and back to Simon. He inclined his head slightly towards Pelinelneth, hoping that she would speak to the elf – he doubted that he would have much luck asking the woman a question himself. Chartreuse took the hint.
“Pelinelneth,” she began. “I must say, you’re looking as pretty as I remember. Which makes some sense, if you were originally wished up or transformed by Wanda in some way. And that stands to reason, since then the wish, you know, could turn against her in the form of your desire to go off on your own. To, like, explore the world, learn about romance, and technology, and all that. Leaving her alone.” Chartreuse nodded slowly, as if piecing it all together in her mind. “Then, to twist the knife, as a condition of going, the artifact took away your own past. Which served to bring you back. But not quite as the same person who left. Still, you’re now trapped here once again with Wanda, the only person you inherently trust, even though you’re afraid that–”
“Is there a question in all this?” Pelinelneth snapped.
Chartreuse nodded. “Same question I asked you last night. In the end, do you want Wanda’s artifact to undo everything, or to lock your existence in place?”
Pelinelneth visibly flinched, and turned away from the group, staring towards the bookshelves. Simon slumped at that, figuring they’d lost their chance to learn anything. Until he saw Chartreuse raise her index finger, shaking her head slightly and giving him an expectant look. Simon turned back towards the elf.
When she spoke, her voice was shaky. “I don’t know any more,” the silver haired woman admitted. “My sense of self preservation is now at war with my… my love for Wanda. Seeing her again… this has all been so hard on the poor woman! I want her to finally be at peace, whatever the cost…” She spun back towards them, tears glistening in the corners of her eyes. Her gaze went right to Simon. “Can you guarantee Wanda’s safety, after removing the artifact from her possession??”
Simon felt a lump grow in his throat. He wanted to give her the answer she desired. But he had his own question to consider, and Snowball had called for the truth. “No,” he responded. “In fact, the wishing might be like an addiction, and as such we have no idea how removing the artifact will affect… your friend. But,” he put in, “we WILL do our best to minimize any suffering. I’ll guarantee that much.”
Pelinelneth held his gaze for another moment before turning away again. “Damn,” she whispered. “You should have lied.”
“Okay then. I’m guessing you’re asking me next,” Snowball concluded, flicking her tail back and forth.
Simon nodded. And frowned. It was tempting to ask why the unicorn had thought that people from another world would eventually be coming here. It held the implication that the ‘artifact’, whatever it was, wasn’t native to this place. There was also the fact that Snowball had claimed to be isolated from any changes by wishes, and thus might have some insight into how things could be reset. But none of that knowledge would necessarily help them now.
He cleared his throat. “How can we get out of here, and to someplace that Wanda can’t immediately find us?”
The pony nickered, and Simon had the impression that Snowball was laughing. “I could refuse to answer that,” she said after a moment. “Thus ending the chain. But I won’t. In part because the only way for you to get out, short of us allowing it, is for you to invoke card magic. The thing that trapped you in there originally. It’s also the only way you could remain undetected, since Wanda would be looking for foreign magic, not something of her own type.”
“Oh,” Simon said. Recalling Chartreuse’s efforts in the dungeon, he turned to look at her. Her gaze went to Azure. Azure’s gaze went down to the card stock she was holding in her hands. The same two cards that Wanda had placed on his and Chartreuse’s foreheads, to trap them in the history spell.
“Dispellere!” Azure shouted, whipping one card, edge first, towards the edge of the circle. It embedded itself into empty space, the magical symbols around the circumference briefly flared red – and then the magic light shut off, and the card floated down to the ground. Simon quickly stepped towards where the circle’s glow had been. This time, he felt no resistance or burning sensation… and then he was out.
The unicorn let out a noise that Simon couldn’t identify. “I revise my earlier opinion,” Snowball said. “Maybe you do have a chance of winning.”
“I totes did not think that would work!” Azure gasped, so dumbfounded that Chartreuse had to practically drag her sister out of the danger zone, lest the field re-establish itself.
“Stop!” Pelinelneth shouted. She ran for the weapons chest, pulling out the bow and arrow on top before Simon could move to stop her. With practiced ease, she nocked an arrow, and Simon froze, his arm outstretched towards her.
“Pelinelneth,” Chartreuse murmured. “We might be Wanda’s best chance.”
The bow and arrow shook slightly, making Simon uncomfortable. “Wanda put me in charge of monitoring you,” the elf said, her voice catching. “While she’s off explaining about Qifarihm’s escape. I cannot simply let you walk out.”
The bow string was released, and the arrow flew through the air. Simon felt his breath catch as the weapon whistled past his side, and as he turned his head, he saw the arrow had embedded itself deeply into the pink-purple couch behind him. “I have to at least put up token resistance,” she finished.
“Yeah, well, giving me a heart attack would serve to keep me here,” Simon wheezed.
Another arrow was nocked. “I rarely miss twice.”
“We’re out,” Chartreuse assured, heading for the door. Azure shook free from her sister’s grip to travel under her own power.
Simon grabbed their gear and hurried to catch up. “One last question,” Snowball called out. “What exactly is your motivation for doing this?”
Simon looked back over his shoulder. It occurred to him that there were two answers for that question, so he gave both. “On the small scale, because we’re good people,” he stated. “On a larger scale, you’d have to ask our boss, Alice.”
VOTING WILL CLOSE THURSDAY FEB 26 EST
(Delayed because…. two isn’t enough this time… no? really? no one else?)