WISH FULFILMENT, PART THIRTEEN: Out of Frying Pan
Chartreuse exchanged a glance with her younger sister. Then she looked back across the room to Joey Frankson, the teenager who had, moments ago, burst into Pelinelneth’s home. And pointed a crossbow at the two of them.
Chartreuse supposed Joey had cause to do it. After all, Pelinelneth had told them that a “Joey” was part of her town’s underground, a group of individuals with no memory of the time before the wishes had become common knowledge. This had to be the same person, now wondering about the new people in Pelinelneth’s home. But Chartreuse knew she and Simon were juggling enough balls in the air – better to get rid of Joey. But how?
“I’m, you know, Pelinelneth!” Chartreuse called out to him. “Like, put that away!”
The dark haired boy blinked. “You’re no elf!”
“Right, I, you know, got tired of the Santa connection, and accidentally wished I could be more like the pretty new girl who came into town, and so now I look like her.”
He frowned, and his crossbow dipped a little. “Seriously? Then what’s my last name?”
Chartreuse wondered if that was a trick question. “Frankson.”
“And who brought the snacks to our last gathering?”
That question was harder. “Louie the Leprechaun,” Azure stated. Chartreuse turned to look at her sister again, and saw that Azure had grabbed the deck of cards sitting on the floor, and performed what could only be termed as a hasty reading. She seemed to have cut the deck, turned up the jack of clubs, and divined the name from that. Though her shrug implied she wasn’t sure.
Chartreuse looked back at Joey. His crossbow was now pointed at the floor. “Fine,” he said, seemingly convinced. “So is she one of us too?” He motioned at Azure. “And are you bringing her to tonight’s meeting?”
“Like, sure,” Chartreuse said, amiably. “See you there, okay?”
“Okay,” Joey concluded. He turned and walked back up the stairs. Maybe the underground wouldn’t have been too hard to infiltrate.
“Nice work,” Azure said. Then she made a face. “Except now the song ‘Louie Louie’ is stuck in my head! What do these lyrics even MEAN?”
“I don’t know, but we do gotta go,” Chartreuse said. “After I, you know, tell Alice to tell Simon that you’re doing better.”
Simon had been able to consider their next move for a couple of days now. Doing so while hiding out in the dungeon hadn’t even been as bad as he’d thought. True, it wasn’t great for comfort, particularly at night – but there was a small washroom down the hall, presumably for guards, which he’d been able to sneak into. Actually, he’d been surprised to find that, despite the fantasy setting, certain scientific style advances did exist.
For instance, along with the makings of indoor plumbing, the couple times Simon had gone through the kitchen, they’d seemed to have devices capable of mixing that ran on – magical batteries? He hadn’t really been in a position to ask. And as Chartreuse had pointed out at some point, Wanda’s journal had been pencil to paper, not ink to parchment. There had to be a magical reason for these sorts of advancements, right?
Simon had asked Alice, but she seemed to know even less about this world than they did. “You’re there to identify – and ideally recover – an evil artifact,” she had stated yesterday. “Don’t make that more complicated than it needs to be.”
Alice didn’t seem to realize that it was already complicated. If they recovered (or destroyed) the artifact, would all the wishes simply revert? What about things like Qifarihm becoming a statue? That hadn’t been a wish, that had been a spell. So if Wanda’s wish to be the Royal Wizard was undone, who would take her place, if not him? Conversely, if some wishes were not undone, might Wanda remain in a position of power – suffering from withdrawal? What orders might she give in that state?
No, it was no longer a matter of taking the artifact and leaving. Simon was pretty sure a new spell or – dare he consider it – a wish would be necessary to put the town back on track. He said as much to Alice, when she called to tell him that Azure had made a full recovery.
At first, there was only silence on the line. “Look,” Alice finally said. “You may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”
Simon frowned. “What?”
“Oh, right. Seriously, read the book!” Alice accused. “What I mean is, you’re one guy, in one town, on one continent, on one world, in one universe, out of an entire multiverse. Nothing you do there will cause Federations to collapse or galaxies to explode. To be blunt, you’re not that important.”
“I don’t believe that,” Simon fired back. “Otherwise you wouldn’t have sent us down here in the first place!”
Another pause. “Touche. But up here,” Alice said. “THIS is where we’re making a difference. Patching up the cracks, so that one little town can flourish, and not end up getting bombed into oblivion by a neighbour state, scared by the whole wish thing.”
Simon allowed himself a moment to digest that scenario. “Is that seriously what would happen without us?”
“I don’t know. God doesn’t give me all those details.”
Simon did a double take, wondering if he’d misheard. “God?”
Alice’s tone became wistful for a moment. “Well, that’s how I think of her.” She cleared her throat. “My point being, short of staying there on a permanent basis and starting a movement, you can’t put the town on track. We have to trust that it will happen naturally, once we remove the offending element.”
Simon shook his head. “That’s a lot to accept on faith.”
“It is. Would it help if I told you that everything worked out well the last time, after we recovered Lissa Jous?”
“Not really, because I don’t know what that means.”
“Nor do you know what it means when I quote Hitchhikers at you. But on some level, it’s reassuring, right?”
“Uh. I guess?” Simon wondered when he’d lost control of the conversation.
“Awesome sauce. So, any message to send back to Chartreuse?”
Simon thought about that. All of their communications had to be routed through Alice – if there was a way to use his communicator to contact Chartreuse directly, he didn’t know of it. Which meant that their separate discoveries were being transmitted through Alice’s pop culture filter. More to the point, it meant that Alice knew everything they shared. Which is why he hadn’t shared everything. He suspected the same of Chartreuse.
It wasn’t that he felt Alice to be untrustworthy. It was that, even after this latest discussion, he still wasn’t certain about her agenda.
“Tell Chartreuse to arrive before sundown. I’ll be watching,” Simon concluded. Then, once the communication channel had been closed, he left the hiding place of his cell, crossing the dungeon in order to speak with Ikky again.
Chartreuse glanced around the corner. She was in was the same alley that she and Pelinelneth had used for a hiding place, thirty paces away from the castle archway. Now she was here with her sister. And without a frying pan. Chartreuse chewed on her lower lip for a moment.
“Time to storm the castle?” Azure asked.
She couldn’t put it off any longer. “You need to, like, know a few other things first,” Chartreuse said. “In particular, the contents of Wanda’s journal.” She took in a deep breath. “Even the parts I, like, don’t want to tell you about.”
“Finally!” Azure smiled. “Or should I act surprised? It’s just you’ve had that look ever since I woke up.”
Chartreuse frowned. “What look?”
“The one you get after you’ve visioned into the future and seen something you wish you hadn’t seen.”
“Ah. Um, maybe, but this is, like, the past…” A thought struck her. “Do you ever, you know, see something in someone’s past that you wish you hadn’t?”
The side of Azure’s mouth twitched. “Seriously, sis? Only ALL THE DAMN TIME. Why the heck do you think I avoid using my ability? Only to seem ‘normal’?” As she spoke, she did the air quotes. “That said, when I do see something, and it looks bad, I just have to think – someone who’s been through that is still alive! Focus on the positive, you know?” She crossed her arms. “Now hurry up and tell me about this Wanda, or I’ll read your history and get it that way.”
Chartreuse blinked at Azure’s abrupt manner. But then, she’d always been the more direct one, out of the two of them. So, with a nod, Chartreuse told her.
About how Wanda had gone into magic despite her mother’s protests. How constant reading had led to Wanda adopting paper as her focus point. How she’d invented an imaginary elf friend for encouragement. How she’d decided to demonstrate her potential by mastering one of the Elemental Powers – fire. How she’d come to town, to try and become the Wizard’s Apprentice, as soon as she’d heard about the opening. Perhaps too soon in her self-training.
Since that was how she’d killed two people when a bunch of boys had ganged up on her after the trials.
It hadn’t been intentional. She’d lost control. Qifarihm had then taken her in – which Wanda thought was more to keep an eye on her than for her actually winning the competition – which kept her from ending up in prison. And he’d then given her meaningless jobs to perform, to prevent further magical outbursts, while simultaneously trying to convince her that she wasn’t up to the task of doing more.
And after five years of that, Wanda had wondered if jail might have been preferable.
“Or that’s, you know, the vibe I got,” Chartreuse noted. “Her entries became less frequent, and she seemed to be trying to, like, generalize. To figure out how to make people believe in the ability of ALL females to do powerful magic.”
“She didn’t want anyone else to have to go through a history like hers.”
“Essentially.” And then one day, out in the woods, she’d found the artifact. A book. A book that made wishes come true.
“What, you write something in this book and it becomes reality?” Azure asked.
“Probably?” Chartreuse mused. “Except you can’t, like, erase the wish after it’s written. It wasn’t really clear. Maybe Wanda was, you know, losing her grip on reality too. She wrote hardly anything in the journal after that discovery. The last entry was about her becoming, like, Royal Wizard.”
“Huh.” Azure looked towards the castle. “So that’s who I’m up against.”
“Who WE’RE up against.”
“Your magic plan has me in a starring role.”
“I wish it didn’t.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence!”
“You know what I mean,” Chartreuse snapped. She winced at her tone. “Sorry. I’m just worried. Though, I got the vibe that Simon has, like, another possibility, but he didn’t want to say it through Alice. So the first thing we have to do is reunite with him.”
“Meaning NOW we storm the castle?”
“Yeah. Kinda. Put on your cowl and, you know, follow me.” They hadn’t wanted to waste Alice’s power reserves sending in new clothing for Azure; the robe Chartreuse had found in Pelinelneth’s closet helped to hide not only Azure’s outfit, but also her outward appearance.
Chartreuse stepped out of the alleyway. She walked purposefully up to the guards on duty, not attempting to disguise her approach, and only glancing back once to make sure Azure was still following. One of the guards levelled a sword at her as she approached, the other one stepping back, presumably so that he might call for backup.
“Hi!” Chartreuse said brightly. “I’m a mystical girl from a foreign land, come to fix your wishing problem. Can I please speak with your, you know, King?”
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