WISH FULFILMENT, PART TWELVE: Reversal
“Splitting the party has to be one of the stupidest ideas you’ve ever had.”
“Glad you’re, you know, feeling better.”
Chartreuse sounded tired. Azure frowned. She didn’t sit up again though – that had hurt. Instead, the blue haired girl decided to stop ragging on her sister and actually take stock of what had been happening around them lately. This was surprisingly harder to do than she’d initially anticipated, so she decided to return to her first really solid memories.
She had survived her first year of high school. Yay. It was now – or had been – summer vacation. The Vermilion family hadn’t been called upon to do any summer missions, and to her delight, her parents hadn’t insisted on doing any family bonding exercises in July either. Well, they hadn’t yet.
Then, that afternoon, Chartreuse had phoned for advice about seeing the past. Then, someone named Alice had phoned, saying that Chartreuse was in trouble. Although she’d wondered if it was a prank call, Azure had answered truthfully – she would help her sister, if she was seriously the only one who could.
She’d then found herself in a cylindrical room, feeling dizzy.
“You’ll need to break her out of a spell,” came a woman’s voice. Azure recognized the sound as being ‘Alice’ from the phone, and tracked the noise to a pair of legs sticking out from an open computer panel against the side wall. Alice was wearing jeans and running shoes.
“Who?” Azure wondered, dazedly. She took a step, but nearly fell over, so decided to just stand there and regain her equilibrium.
“Chartreuse. And Simon,” the legs explained. “I’m modifying this up to ‘port you in next to them. I think. Yeah, this should work. But! It means I won’t have the power to do much afterwards. So don’t expect any more backup for a while.”
“Can’t back up, only moving forwards,” Alice countered, finally shoving herself out from underneath the bank of computers. She was a brunette. She stood and hit enter on a keyboard. There was a rumble, the room began to vibrate somehow, and moments later a chevron lit up on the floor. There was a huge ring device there, which Azure hadn’t noticed.
“Wait, what spell?”
“Beats me,” Alice said. “Tenuous mental connection. But breaking it should be obvious. Just be FAST, I don’t know how much time you’ll have.” She walked over and held out some sort of watch device.
A second chevron lit up, then a third. Azure narrowed her eyes. “Did our mom put you up to this?”
Alice’s smile was quirky. “No, Luke. I am not your mother.”
Things got much more jumbled after that. Azure remembered going through the portal, seeing a surprised elf girl, saving her sister and some older guy, seeing a magical pony, learning about a dangerous witch, activating her magic, and nearly throwing up in a corridor. Her stomach gurgled a bit at that last memory.
Except she wasn’t in a corridor now, she was in a bed.
A bed in what had looked like a kitchen. Though Azure granted that she might have misinterpreted the scene when she’d decided to sit up. In fact the only thing about the room that she’d been sure of, is that Chartreuse had been the only other person there. Yet when she’d asked about the other guy, Simon, her sister had said they’d left him behind in the castle.
Seriously, when you’re up against a hostile witch, why would you split the party?
Having decided that this was as much as she’d get from her memories, Azure spoke up again. “How long have I NOT been feeling better?”
Azure sat bolt upright at that, ignoring the pangs in her temples. “Three DAYS?”
“It’s my fault,” Chartreuse said quietly. “I’m sorry.”
Azure squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them again. Okay, they weren’t quite in a kitchen, it was more like an all purpose room of some sort. In, seemingly, a basement. “Don’t be sorry, be… explainy,” Azure requested.
Chartreuse let out a breath, standing up from her chair. “When I first came to this world, it, like, took me a full day to align my aura to… you know, wherever this is. I didn’t try major crystal divinations in that time.” She began to pace, not meeting her sister’s gaze. “Yet within moments of arriving, you had to, like, disrupt powerful magic, then create an image to allow us to hide from Wanda. Your body couldn’t take it.” She sniffled. “I should have realized. I’m–”
“If you say sorry, I WILL slap you,” Azure cut in. She hated when Chartreuse got upset. Not only was it out of character for the older girl, it meant that Azure couldn’t simply snipe at her without feeling guilty. “You’re not psychic, only semi-clairvoyant.”
“Which wasn’t good enough. It’s, you know, why you had to be brought here.”
Azure grabbed her pillow and heaved it at her sister. She smiled as it scored a direct hit on the back of Chartreuse’s head, forcing the other girl to look at her. “Stop it! Explainy. Here is where?”
“I don’t really know. Like, an alternate Earth?”
Azure rolled her eyes. She’d presumed as much. “Here this ROOM is where?”
“Oh. Pelinelneth’s place in town. Didn’t seem like she’d be, you know, using it.”
“Elf girl. Wanda’s imaginary friend, made real by a wish. Shot at Simon with an arrow.”
“Right.” Azure thought back over the last few remarks. It helped that her headache was disappearing. “You said you were on this Earth for a full day to align your aura? But I saw you this morning. That is, the same morning you and Alice phoned me.”
Chartreuse picked up the pillow from the floor and came back to sit in the chair. “Possibly time passes here at a different, you know, rate? All I know is Alice initially told me that I could be back home in time for, like, supper.”
Azure mused again. She decided to be blunt. “If Alice knew you’d need time to adjust, she’d have known it for me. In fact, she told me I’d have to be fast, and in retrospect, I don’t think she said it because of Peleline– Pelnino– the elf’s immobilization field.” She crossed her arms. “I don’t trust this Alice. How long have you known her?”
“Not long. Only since I was, you know, first brought here.”
“She needed help! Our family provides help! Besides, Alice’s, you know, aura seemed a lot better than some of the guys from the Canadian government we’ve dealt with in the past.” She sighed. “Anyway, moot point. We’re here now, and we need Alice’s help to communicate back with Simon.”
“Oh yeah. Remind me why leaving him behind was a good idea?”
“You needed to be cared for. I didn’t, like, think that would be possible in the castle. But we, you know, needed to keep someone on the inside, since we’ll have to get back in. To get the evil artifact away from Wanda.”
“Evil artifact. Check. Did we get an artifact too? Is this like high stakes ‘Capture the Flag’?”
To Azure’s relief, Chartreuse half smiled. “No.”
“Too bad.” The younger Vermilion swung her legs over the edge of the bed. “So what’s happened the last three days?”
“I’ve, like, read through Wanda’s journal.”
“Been very, um, unsettled.”
“You’ve done nothing else??”
“I’ve cared for you. I’ve cooked badly.”
Azure made a dismissive gesture. “No news there. What about from this Simon, what have you heard?”
Chartreuse hesitated. “That’s where things get a bit more, you know, interesting.”
In fleeing from the Wizard’s Sanctuary, Simon recalled that, in the dungeon, three cell doors had been closed – and he’d only investigated the cell with Chartreuse. Whatever the other two cells were being used for, they’d probably make for a good hiding place. After all, he still had the keys to get into them, and it was probably the last place Wanda would look.
Once he’d found his way to the dungeon through conventional corridors, he’d discovered that the first locked room was a storage area of some sort. There were some sacks of flour and other foods – as well as a few bladed weapons. He wondered whether it was smart keeping a small armoury so close to actual prisoners. Then he remembered that Wanda had been removing weapons from the town, so maybe some guards were concealing the items down here. It made him feel better about his choice of hiding places.
The second room contained a person.
It caught Simon by surprise, as with all the noise they’d made in their earlier jailbreak, he’d have thought any other prisoners would have spoken up. But when he swung open the door, there she was, curled up in the corner. Her head rested against the wall, knees drawn in to her chest. Her long, dirty blonde hair was tangled about her shoulders, and she was wearing a faded dress. She seemed to be about his age, maybe older.
She looked up at him with blue eyes. For some reason, she seemed vaguely familiar. “You’re not the usual guard,” she murmured.
“I’m… not a guard,” was all Simon could think to say.
“You look like a guard.”
Simon looked down at his outfit, which definitely did not look like an official uniform – allowing him to spot the card that Azure had pinned onto his chest. The one that had the word ‘Guard’ scribbled onto it.
“Wait, no you don’t. Who are you?” She slightly uncurled. Simon made a mental note to not allow anyone to get more than a brief look at him.
“I’m the nephew of a guard,” Simon hedged, trying to figure out why she seemed familiar. “Who are you?”
She blinked back at him. “Iklius,” she answered. She curled back up. “Or call me Ikky, like the others. I don’t care any more.”
Simon felt like a hand was simultaneously squeezing at his heart while punching him in the gut. For a moment, he couldn’t move. Because her features were JUST similar enough for it to be true. For this to be the same boy who had tried to tear at his clothing, and later punch him in the face. When he’d been in Wanda’s spell. When he’d been a girl. Now Iklius was the girl – woman – while he was the man. Simon frowned. Gender was confusing.
“I… I’ve heard of you,” Simon managed. “Wanda turned you into a woman?”
“I turned MYSELF into one,” Ikky said bitterly. “A few months ago, when I wished I could understand Wanda better. It was supposed to show me how I could come after her, to avenge my friends! Not turn me into this!”
“Oh,” Simon said. His lips pursed. He couldn’t resist asking, “Do you at least understand Wanda better?”
“I’m just glad I can’t be put in the same cell as that Qifarihm any more! And if you’re here asking about his escape, I don’t know anything!”
“I’m not here about his escape. He’s a statue now anyway.”
“Oh. Well good,” Ikky said. There was a pause. “So why ARE you here? You do sound kind of familiar.”
“Just checking on you,” Simon said. And he’d closed the cell door again.
“He left her in JAIL?” Azure said, aghast. “Okay, I don’t think I trust your Simon either.”
“First, he’s not my Simon,” Chartreuse said in mild irritation. “Second, it’s not that simple. You don’t, like, know what this woman did when she was a man – I do. I’ve read the journal. And we promised Pelinelneth that we’d minimize Wanda’s suffering, so, like, releasing someone who’s got a vendetta against her didn’t seem wise.” She paused. “Particularly given how badly that went the first time.”
Well, Azure thought, the final remark saved her from bringing up whatever had happened with Qifarihm. So she decided to drop it. For now. “Has Simon passed on any other info through Alice?”
“He’s mapped out the castle a little better,” Chartreuse said. “And he has a sense of when Wanda’s got, you know, duties and stuff. We think our next step is–”
She didn’t get a chance to complete her thought, because there was the sound of a door being smashed open. Almost immediately there were footsteps, and a boy came into view, running down the stairs. He was a dark haired teenager, and as he saw Azure and her sister, he levelled a crossbow across the room at them. “All right!” he shouted. “You’re going to tell me what you’ve done to Pelinelneth, or my name’s not Joey Frankson!”
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