WISH FULFILMENT, PART FIFTEEN: Future Tents
The fireball flew straight for Azure’s face. And Chartreuse felt her heart jump into her throat. Perversely, the first thought that came to mind was: How exactly does one explain to one’s parents that their youngest daughter got killed on some alternate world? Worse, got killed because of a plan that you came up with?
Even though she was several metres away, hiding behind one of the statues in the castle courtyard, Chartreuse reached out her arm, as if that could pull her sister back out of harm’s way…
The fireball was deflected in Chartreuse’s direction, forcing her to pull back. It exploded on the ground, starting a small fire. The pink haired teenager quickly poked her head out around the other side of her cover.
Azure stood there, right arm outstretched and shaking. She was unhurt. Thank goodness, it had worked. They’d reasoned that the younger Vermilion might be able to deflect Wanda’s attacks using the deck of playing cards. But Azure could only do that another, what, 51 times? Did the deck have Jokers?
“I’ll see if I can get Ikky to shine the light again,” Simon murmured.
“Why did she, you know, stop?!” Chartreuse said, unable to keep the desperation out of her voice. Getting Ikky to channel her cancellation power through the flashlight beam (her focus object) had been the one thing keeping Azure safe. Granted, a fireball had been sent towards Ikky too, but couldn’t she have cancelled it out?
“Startled?” Simon suggested. “Plus, merely because she can cancel, doesn’t mean things around her are naturally immune. A lot’s been thrown at her today, literally and figuratively.”
He had a point. Moreover, Chartreuse had seen inside Ikky the potential for… well, something bad. She shouldn’t push. The teenager’s hands clenched. If only Wanda would move forwards into the field of crystals, instead of standing there, seemingly re-evaluating Azure.
Then, as Chartreuse watched, two more fireballs were produced, both of them flying towards Azure at once. The blue haired girl back-pedalled, hand moving quickly to pull cards from the deck in her left hand, throwing them out to block. One ball of flame flew to the left, the other slammed into the ground in front of her. Had Azure been singed?
And still Wanda stood there, not pressing the advantage. She had to know about the danger area! So what could they do? As Chartreuse watched, the brunette wizard eyed Azure again, then turned to the elf standing next to her. “See if she can do that against an arrow.”
It was then, as Chartreuse was a step away from charging out to stand with her sister, that she realized that she was being an idiot. Simon had given her back her two crystals, in order to do the reading on Ikky. With them, she could realign the perimeter herself.
She dashed out of hiding. She didn’t try to make herself a target, but even with the fading light after sundown, Chartreuse knew she’d be hard to miss. The light from the fires wasn’t helpful either. So, she tried to make it seem like she was running for the gates, trying to get away.
“You MISSED,” Wanda said, sounding shocked.
“I think she deflected it,” Pelinelneth said in a flat tone.
They were ignoring her. Chartreuse dropped a crystal on the ground. She now had to circle back around to Wanda’s other side. She did so, trying to keep from breathing too hard. She could do it in fifteen more steps. Ten. Five. Okay, another five.
That’s when she felt the intense, burning heat coming from her right, and she heard Azure scream, “NO!”
The light nearly blinded her. But almost immediately, she realized that it wasn’t a burning light, it was light from a flashlight – yet there was burning all around her, even if the worst of it was being cancelled out, and it was so hot, and maybe she was going to die, but it didn’t matter, she dropped the crystal and clapped her hands and spun to face their adversary.
“You showed us your past!” Chartreuse screamed out. “Time for us to, you know, show you your future!”
Her crystals lit up, a pulse of rainbow light chaining between all of them, with Wanda caught in the middle.
She could remake the world. She had the power to do it. No one would have to suffer ever again. Not like her. Never like her.
Baby steps, though. For all his misogynist posturing, Qifarihm had been right about a couple of things: Trying to take on too much, too soon, would result in disaster. Wanda had experienced that firsthand. Also, belief had to come from within. Not even facts and arguments could break through a person’s beliefs, no, the individual had to discover the truth for themselves. It had to become personal.
That’s where The Book came in.
Wanda had found it out in the woods, while searching for magical herbs. At first, she hadn’t been aware of what it could do. She’d merely wanted to keep it. She also hadn’t been sure what had compelled her to write, “I wish the King would ask MY opinion for a change, instead of Qifarihm” into it.
The King had consulted with Wanda the very next day. On something she’d had no clue about, so the advice had been terrible, but in no way was that experience mere coincidence. So, Wanda had experimented further. Small scale. On other people, so that she could remain objective.
She had quickly realized that, with The Book, she COULD change people’s beliefs. About themselves, about others – about reality itself! As a bonus, she got a nice little head rush whenever a wish was granted. Finally, she had it. A way to change their world for the better.
Sure, there had been hurdles, and glitches, but she had overcome them. She had even found a spell to miniaturize The Book and wear it as a pendant whenever it wasn’t in use, so that she could keep it safe. Because she knew that once the townspeople realized what she was capable of, and once they really understood the reasoning behind all of her efforts, it could only lead to one inevitable outcome.
A dragon, razing the city, burning it with fire.
“NO!” Wanda screamed. She tried to make a fireball, to shoot it up into the air, to fight back – but she had no cards, she had no magic, and then she realized that the fires burning around her threw off no heat.
“We’re kinda insubstantial,” came a voice. “That’s how my visions work.”
Wanda screamed again, and jumped for the pink haired girl, her hands reaching out for the teenager’s neck. She passed right through, falling onto the ground.
“Um, we’re even, like, insubstantial to each other. Sorry. I’m Chartreuse, by the way.”
Wanda scrambled back to her feet, fingers twitching, lips quivering, lost in a sea of emotion. “Why do you look like an elf? Why do you look like my Pelinelneth?!” she shouted.
Chartreuse reached up to touch her ears, seeming surprised. “Huh. Dunno. Holdover from your spell? Magic on this world is, you know, weird. My future visions don’t tend to be this vivid.”
“This is NOT the future!!”
Chartreuse lowered her arm. “It’s the most probable one. Again, sorry.”
“Then you have to CHANGE it!” Wanda demanded. “Give me more artifacts! Once I have them in other cities, once the people there learn, as we did, that that it’s their own beliefs which hold them back and cause society’s problems, we can fix this!”
The girl sighed. “Even if I could, you know, I wouldn’t.”
“Then this, ALL of this is on YOUR conscience!” Wanda shrieked, gesturing out at the flames surrounding them.
Chartreuse didn’t speak for a moment. When she did, it was only to say quietly, “No, Wanda. You’re the only one who can, like, change this.”
Wanda made a fist, then realized she couldn’t even punch the girl in the face. Seething, the brunette wizard turned her attention back to the images around them. “Do you even know WHY this is happening?” she asked.
“Fear.” This time, the response was immediate. “Can’t you sense it? I don’t know if it’s fear over the wishing in this place, fear over your growing power, fear over women finally being regarded as equals – maybe it’s pieces of all three. But your city is scared, your WORLD is scared, and they’re all fighting back. Innocents are getting hurt.”
Wanda COULD sense it. She’d been trying to block it out. “No. This is not what I wanted. Not like this.”
“Maybe it’s what your book wanted. Wanda, part of you knows it’s evil.”
She spun back to face her companion. “NO! The Book is a thing. Things are not good or evil. The Book can’t want this any more than a slice of bread wants cheese!”
The elf-like girl pursed her lips, and Wanda sensed what she was thinking. “And I am not evil either! I’m not! I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve been working to FIX them! I’m not inhumane! I’ve been selective about the wishes I write, I’ve tried to confiscate people’s weapons, I’ve been working to give the Queen more power – I didn’t even kill Qifarihm! I only need more time! More artifacts! You have to give them to me!!”
“All I was going to say is, you know, this particular book might be more than a mere thing.”
There was a moment, a very brief moment where Wanda felt like blasting away at the scene around her with every fibre of her being, doing whatever she could to escape this hideous lie, so that she could get back to making her world a better, safer place to live in. A place that would ultimately benefit everyone, once they stopped believing that things were inherent to gender, money, magic capability, or lineage.
But she didn’t do it. Instead, she fell to her knees.
“The Book is all I have left,” she stated. “You can’t take it. I’ve killed people, innocent people, and using The Book is the only way I can atone for it.” She felt a wetness slide down her cheek. Disgusted by the show of weakness, she pounded her fist into the ground.
“Oh, like, hell,” Chartreuse shot back. Wanda jerked her gaze back up in surprise. “There’s people out there who dream of having your strength of character! The fact that this book is evil, and magic can corrupt, and yet even after all you’ve experienced, you’re still upset over what’s happening? That’s a sign that bad stuff is, you know, having a hell of a time getting it’s hooks into you!”
Wanda shook her head, awareness dawning. “Yet I’ve changed people, I’ve manipulated them, I’ve–”
“Stop.” Chartreuse crouched down. “It’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason.” She frowned. “Maybe that’s from, like, a fortune cookie. My point is, it’s not too late to, you know, do the right thing!” She took a deep breath. “There is still time to prevent this future. That much I know.”
Wanda cast her gaze up to the sky. A sky filled with cinders and dark smoke, smoke which was billowing out over a land that she now realized wasn’t capable of – or perhaps simply wasn’t ready for – the vision she had in her head.
Not even facts and arguments could break through a person’s beliefs, no, the individual had to discover the truth for themselves. It had to become personal.
“Take The Book away, and help me fix this,” Wanda pleaded, her tears now flowing freely.
Chartreuse snapped back into her body. When her eyes opened, she realized that she was lying on the ground. Right – she’d collapsed upon being pulled into the vision with Wanda. She tried to prop herself up on one arm, and winced. She pulled the arm up to stare at it. Her shirt sleeve had been burned away, and her skin had what looked like a sunburn. Peachy.
“She’s awake!” a female voice called out, and Chartreuse realized it was Ikky. Even as she struggled to sit up again, the blonde woman moved into her field of vision. With a tentative smile, Ikky asked, “Do we get to kill Wanda now?”
VOTING WILL IDEALLY CLOSE TUESDAY MAR 24 EDT