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Tales From Elysian Fields: Good Fortune Tonight


by bug0704

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You're entering a world as real as you make it out to be; there are no limitations to the possible inputs and outputs. But unlike an equation, you can't chart relics of a time yet to come — an opening into the dark matter before us. Free from the shackles of reality, you are about to take a walk in Elysian Fields.

     ———

     Genna only notices the sign because Grosvenor has to pull over to catch his breath; he stops his bike, falls over, and coughs into the tall grass on the side of the beaten path.

     "It's this country air," the blue Lenny explains as he gets up and brushes the dirt off of his gentleman's jacket and trousers.

     "Perhaps you're catching a cold," Genna remarks with a smile.

     "I certainly wouldn't be if I was wearing my cloak," Grosvenor shoots back as he adjusts his glasses.

     "But it matches my feathers quite nicely, wouldn't you say?" the female Lenny replies. She giggles as Grosvenor struggles to reposition himself onto his red bicycle.

     "They are indeed a beautiful shade of brown," he allows. The sun is setting as the sky grows darker. "Now which way to Brightvale?"

     "Look," Genna says, pointing. "See that sign, in between the fork in the road? Only a few kilometres ahead."

     "Yes, but in which direction? Does it say, by chance?"

     "Hmmm. No, I'm afraid it doesn't." Genna looks around. "Ah! Let's ask the Ruki sitting over on the stump, shall we?"

     They both turn their bikes and pull up to a Ruki who has seen his fair share of years. He's wearing worn boots and tattered rags, which dangle from his frail body.

     "Pardon us," Genna says from her bike. "My name is Genna, and this is my brother Grosvenor. Do you happen to know which trail we should follow to get to Brightvale?"

     "We're helping her cousin get set up in her new home," Grosvenor adds.

     "Meredith is your cousin, as well," she says with a frown.

     "Yes, but I'm not fond of admitting it," he replies, crossing his wings.

     The old Ruki pushes himself off the stump with his carved walking stick, clinging to it as he stands to speak to them.

     "Lo has travelled both paths," he croaks, "and each lead to the land of good light. The one on the right cuts through Uni Meadows and is not as dangerous. With the sun setting now, Miss Genna and Mister Grosvenor should be able to get there by nightfall if they ride quickly."

     "And the left?" Grosvenor asks. "How long would that take?"

     "It would take less time," the Ruki admits, "but the road is steep and known to have much hazard. Lo highly recommends the right path. Lo even offers to guide the Lennies, should they choose to wait for him."

     "We'll take our chances, thank you." Grosvenor feels for his replica of Brucy B's lucky coin, which he wears as a necklace under his collar. He then coughs into his jacket sleeve as he puts his bike in gear and sets off for the left path. Genna turns to thank the old Ruki before following close behind her brother on her own bicycle. Lo sheds a single tear as they ride off into dusk.

     ———

     Genna and Grosvenor are two ordinary Lennies with an ordinary goal: a destination. What they don't know, however, is that there's more to the left path than Lo has led them to believe; it's a departure from standard happenstance to one more closely monitored by a gypsy fascinated with fortuity. Tonight, she will offer the pair mere glimpses into the future — one that has been greatly distorted by Elysian Fields.

     ———

     "See?" Grosvenor says at the top of the hill. "That wasn't so bad."

     "Speak for yourself," Genna replies. "You're not riding a standard!"

     "Very true," he says, patting his ride. "Only fifteen of this design were made available!"

     "Yes," she says with a playful smile as he proceeds to enter a coughing fit. "It's hard to forget when you keep reminding me."

     They continue to ride along the edge of the steep hill until they come across upon a couple of makeshift buildings and ramshackle shops lining the right side of the road. They pass by Bone's Outdoor Barbeque, Walking Carpet Home Furnishings, Top Hat Fashions, the Pumpkin Club, a Day 2 Nite Neo-Mart, and advertisements for a heavy metal band known as "the Aggressive Casseroles."

     Genna gulps.

     The last establishment is a gypsy's tent with purple lights strung around its frame, which shine so bright that her eyes begin to hurt from looking at it. As Genna pulls over, Grosvenor squints to read the large sign:

THE AMAZING LADY FORTUNE

SEE WHAT THE FUTURE HAS IN STORE FOR YOU

     "Lady Fortune, eh?" Grosvenor absentmindedly touches his lucky coin. Genna notices.

     "Oh, no no no no no no no!" she says to him, waving a finger. "We don't have the time nor the money to stop and browse for souvenirs, and you — hey! Grosvenor, stop! Meredith is expecting us!" Her raised voice is to no avail, as Grosvenor has already abandoned his rare bike for the tent.

     "Let us at the very least look around, Genna!" he pleads to her. She sighs and brings both bicycles with them; she knows better than to trust the outskirts of the Werelupe Woods and doesn't want their only modes of transportation being lifted by a mischievous passerby.

     ~

     The gypsy's tent is in fact a restaurant, with a dozen or so tables in the middle of it. Many cabinets line the sides of the tent, and the strong smell of cooking steak and fish come from behind a rice paper wall screen that divides the eating area from what Genna and Grosvenor surmise to be the kitchen.

     A large and purple Elephante emerges. She is wearing many earrings, a violet vest and skirt trimmed with gold, and a head scarf to match. In her hoof, she carries a large, sharp knife curved like the crescent moon. She smiles with her waxy lips. Grosvenor almost faints.

     "Greetings, sir and madam!" the Elephante says to them. "Much wealth and prosperity to you!"

     "Why... why, thank you!" Grosvenor is able to manage. "My name is—"

     "Grosvenor," the gypsy answers for him. "And she is Genna."

     "That is correct," Genna says, though she is frowning. "And you are Miss...?"

     "Fortune," she replies. "Lady Fortune. I know all and see — and you, too, could be so lucky!"

     The Elephante saunters past them and towards one of the cabinets, beckoning the Lennies to follow. Genna means to look over at Grosvenor and shake her head no, but he is struggling to keep up with the fortune teller and has left Genna by the tables. She walks over to them reluctantly.

     "Take a look around, loves," Lady Fortune begins. "You are bound to find something that interests you! For example—" She pulls from the shelf a brown and orange piece of pottery with yellow eyes painted on the sides. "—this All Seeing Urn is said to bring good luck and ward off evil things. Or perhaps you would prefer this cherry wish stick, cut from a secret grove of cherry trees by an island shaman. These wish sticks bring good luck to the bearer, you know. Or even this genuine Volcano Run II lava rock good luck charm — an exclusive, I might add!"

     "Genuine, you say?" Grosvenor asks, intrigued.

     "How is that even lucky?" Genna mutters under her breath.

     Lady Fortune gives her a cold look.

     "Are you looking for a description?" she asks. "It's a shop, love. You buy things. That's all anyone needs to know — just items for sale and plenty of them."

     "Oh, but we really must be going," Genna replies, nudging her brother.

     "How about something warm for the road?" Grosvenor suggests. "I mean, it is a restaurant." Genna gives him an elbow to the ribcage, but Lady Fortune beams instantly.

     "Yes, of course!" she cries, producing a menu seemingly out of thin air. "See anything you like? I know you do. We have dishes from all over Neopia, you know."

     "I believe I will have... the spicy tofu satay with hot mustard," Grosvenor declares, satisfied. "And you, dear sister?"

     "I'm fine, thank you."

     "Very well." Lady Fortune shrugs and leaves for the kitchen. The Lennies take a seat at one of the tables and wait for her return.

     ~

     "Your spicy tofu satay," Lady Fortune says, setting a plate of food in front of Grosvenor, "and jug juice for you both, on the house."

     "How kind of you," Genna replies, taking a sip. "Ick. Look! It's almost solid—"

     "Oh!" the gypsy exclaims. "I almost forgot." She places a single fortune cookie in front of Grosvenor and eagerly watches as he opens it and reads the tiny slip of paper. "Perhaps you will have good fortune tonight. See what the future has in store for you, yes?"

     "It says... 'Save me, I'm stuck in a crazy fortune cookie factor—'"

     Lady Fortune snatches the paper out of his wing and replaces it with another cookie. He looks at her, confused, then opens it.

     "'You will come across a gold bike in the Wishing Well,'" he reads. "'Lucky numbers: 5, 11, 16, 24, 27, 30.'" He smiles wide. "This is wonderful! I'm an avid collector of bicycles, and only thirty of the golden editions were ever made!" He looks at Genna. "How splendid!"

     "Yes, truly magnificent." Genna rolls her eyes. "May we go now?"

     "How much does a fortune cookie cost, Lady Fortune?" he asks. "If, say, I wanted to buy another?"

     "Two hundred Neopoints," she answers with a sly smile, "on top of the thirteen-hundred you already owe."

     "Grosvenor!" Genna shouts, throwing him a much sharper elbow than before. "That money is for Meredith and her new manor, not your superstitions!"

     "One more, all right?" he asks of her. Lady Fortune brings him another, which he opens to much anticipation. "'You will be attacked by countless invisible Zafaras.' Huh."

     "You're utterly ridiculous, and we're leaving," Genna declares.

     Grosvenor pays Lady Fortune the fifteen-hundred Neopoints, and she waves them good-bye with a grin on her face. The Lennies mount their bicycles and ride off into the night, barely making a good fifty metres before Grosvenor's bike swivels and swerves and crashes into a tree.

     Genna stops her bicycle.

     "Dear Fyora!" she cries out. "Are you hurt?!"

     "Just dandy, thanks!" he calls out to her. "Gaah. A tyre must have popped. Some luck I have, ey?"

     "At least you have a golden bike waiting for you in the Wishing Well," she jokes, but Grosvenor fails to pick up on her sarcasm.

     "You're right!" he exclaims. "No, wait a minute. Lady Fortune was right; I was attacked by invisible Zafaras just then, don't you see? And now I need a new bike, which is conveniently at the Wishing Well in Neopia Central!"

     "..."

     "..."

     "You can't be serious."

     "Quick — your bike!" He rushes over to her white bicycle and frantically gets on. "Hurry! Hurry!" Genna sighs as she reluctantly turns around and pedals them in the direction of the amazing Lady Fortune.

     ~

     "Welcome back," she says from the opening to Grosvenor, who is obviously out of breath.

     "We need," he pants, "another cookie. Bike. Attacked. Countless Zafaras."

     "Invisible, too," Genna adds.

     "My, my," Lady Fortune says, shaking her head. "The customer's always right, they say."

     She tosses them another cookie. Grosvenor crushes it and pulls out the slip.

     "'Your confidence will cease in a strange way.'" He pauses. "We need another."

     Lady Fortune brings out a basket of Royal Pandaphant fortune cookies and gives Grosvenor another one. He doesn't even attempt with the cookie this time.

     "'Your ability to sing will alter without your noticing.' Huh. What could that possibly mean?"

     "I don't—" Genna begins before coughing violently in the face of Lady Fortune, who is not amused. Her coughing continues, sending green mucus flying from her open mouth.

     "What's wrong?!" Grosvenor asks her, then to Lady Fortune: "What's the matter with her?!"

     "Try another cookie!" she suggests. Grosvenor grabs a wingful and opens the first.

     "'You will quickly make a decision to gargle with bananas.' Bananas?!" He tries to calm Genna down, but she is shaking at this point. "Do you... Do you need bananas?! We'll get you some bananas, dear sister, don't you worry. They sell some in Neopia Central, not too far from—" He stops. "Unless..."

     Grosvenor takes a different one and opens it, desperate for answers.

     "'You will have nasty fortune in Neopia Central.' Drat!" He tries another cookie. "'You will have nasty fortune at Kiko Lake.'" Again. "'You will have nasty fortune in the...'" He pauses with disbelief. "'... in the Smoothie Shop?!' We don't even want a smoothie!"

     "There is a Day 2 Nite Neo-Mart down the road," Lady Fortune suggests, "if you really do need those bananas."

     "Why, you're right!" Grosvenor tosses some Neopoints onto the table, lifts Genna over his shoulders, and dashes out of the tent. Lady Fortune doesn't bother to pocket the change.

     She knows they'll be back.

     ~

     Grosvenor carries Genna to the small and cramped Neo-Mart. Inside is a small and sickly-looking Techo who has seen better days. He strokes at his stubble as they rush inside.

     "Greetings, brother," the Techo says, revealing a handful of neglected teeth. "Got some nice Petpetpet-B-Gone on sale this week, as well as this adorable little hex doll — only slightly waterlogged, yah?" He sees the perplexed expression on Grosvenor's face. "OK, you caught me. I just want to get rid of the lousy thing!"

     Grosvenor ignores this.

     "We need some bananas," he says, "or banana-like products, or... anything!"

     "You're in luck, brother." The Techo searches under the counter for something. "A shipment from Mynci Banana Imports came by this morning!" He pulls out a bag overflowing with long yellow and brown-striped rods. "These here are banana and chocolate-flavoured rock sticks. They're sweet and sticky, as well as one of the more popular choices for the young ones at Kiko Lake. I can even slice 'em for ya!"

     "Kiko Lake, you say?" Grosvenor frowns, remembering one of the fortunes. Genna continues to cough.

     "What's wrong with her?" the Techo asks. "And what's wrong with Kiko Lake?!"

     "Nevermind that!" Grosvenor says, squinting at the Techo's nametag. "Do you have anything else, Barry?"

     He considers this.

     "Frozen banana and kiwi pizza?" Barry suggests.

     "Oh, gross."

     "A plate of banana biscuits?"

     "No, she has to gargle it."

     "A banana hot dog, erm, banana dog?"

     "Really now?"

     "What about some hot banana soup, yah?"

     "Yes!" Grosvenor exclaims. "That would be wonderful!"

     "Should darn well fix that coughs of hers," he says, then adds: "Have you ever heard of the Songray, brother?"

     "This truly isn't the time!"

     Barry bends down and takes a red root with purple stripes out of a jar from under the counter.

     "This here's relative of the Cornupepper," he notes. "It'll warm your throat and help if you've lost your voice."

     "Oh!" Grosvenor exclaims. "Oh, good, yes, wonderful! Mix it in with the soup!"

     "Grab one of those green blenders off the second aisle, yah?"

     Grosvenor nods his head, lies Genna down — still coughing — and does so. Barry blends the Songray banana soup and gives it to Grosvenor, who tilts it for Genna to drink.

     She swallows, then coughs again — this time with much more force. Then again, and once again, until she produces a wingful of sludge from her mouth and onto the tiled floor.

     "That's disgusting, brother," Barry observes, though Grosvenor takes no notice, as he's merely happy to have ceased Genna's coughing fit.

     "Thank you," she says to Grosvenor.

     "Of course," he assures her. "I know you would do the same."

     "Well, that's all lovey-dovey," Barry notes, "but you still have to pay for everything."

     "How much do we owe you?" Grosvenor asks.

     "I'd say a thousand-one-hundred for the hot banana soup, five-thousand for the blender, and... ten thousand for the Songray."

     "Ten thousand?!"

     "It's gourmet!" Barry shouts at him. "That's fifteen-thousand, one-hundred."

     "Neopoints?"

     "No, dubloons. Yes, Neopoints!"

     Grosvenor looks shamefaced at Genna. She throws up her wings and walks outside the store. He pays Barry the money, thanks him, and leaves to find his sister.

     "You saved me," she tells him when he finally catches up to her, "and for that, I am grateful. But seriously, Grosvenor — how are we going to inform Meredith that you spent our small fortune for her on Shenkuuvian treats and a blender?!"

     "There's only one way to find out," he says.

     "NO!" she screams. "You must stop letting your fear of the uncertain rule your life! Yes, that's right. I see how you wear those awful argyle socks and carry around that fake Cybunny's foot in your back pocket. It's absurd, unnecessary, uncalled for, and really, really gross!"

     They stand in silence. A soft wind rustles through the leaves on the trees.

     "I left my bike at Lady Fortune's," Grosvenor admits. "We can sell it for money, or fix the tyre and—"

     "Fine," Genna says. "Whatever. I don't care anymore. Let's just go."

     ~

     "I see you were able to cure your sister," Lady Fortune notes as Grosvenor retrieves his bike. "I brought some more cookies in case you—"

     "No," Genna says, "thank you."

     "I'll take one more," Grosvenor states as he gives her two-hundred Neopoints.

     "ONE MORE?!" Genna screams at him. "WERE YOU LISTENING TO A THING I SAID?! First it's 'one more,' then two, then four, then next thing you know, you're investing it all into a single stock as you decide to invade Altador simply because of what a cookie suggested, and I will not stand for that!"

     Her rant is no use, as Grosvenor has opened his cookie and eaten it.

     "'You will suddenly realise that you must play Cheat.'"

     Lady Fortune smiles.

     "I have some cards inside," she starts, "if you—"

     "Cheat," Genna repeats. "Don't you see, brother? You can't take it literally! It means to takes chances — to tempt fate! You've been scared for so long, but you don't have to be!" She takes his wings in her own. "You're trying too hard to find meaning where there is none. You need to live your life."

     "You're right," he says softly. "I can do this now." He takes off his necklace. "Lady Fortune, how much will you give us for this replica lucky coin?"

     She squints her eyes, then asks to hold it. He obliges, and she closely examines it.

     "A wonderful collector's item," she notes. "Twelve-thousand."

     "Fifteen-thousand!" Grosvenor exclaims.

     "Twelve-thousand is fine," Genna says to her, then to Grosvenor: "That's still enough to give to Meredith, plus it pays for our meals and Meredith's new blender."

     Lady Fortune hands them a sack of money, which Grosvenor carries over his shoulder. They walk with their bikes and the blender and head back the way they came; they have decided they're taking the right path this time around.

     ~

     "A fake coin?!" Barry shouts at Lady Fortune. "You traded in their money for a fake coin?!"

     "It's still worth something!" Lady Fortune shouts back, defending herself.

     "Don't you remember what that bingo caller Brucy B said in his biography?! 'The coin? Magic? Ha ha, no. I'm just naturally good at cards!'"

     "It doesn't matter," she says. "They weren't who we thought they were. There will be other travellers to scam, anyway."

     "I sure hope so — for both our sakes!"

     Barry reaches into the basket and pulls out a fortune cookie. He removes the wrapper, takes out the slip, and eats it in one bite.

     "So, how'd you do it?" he asks. "How'd you get him to keep buying 'em cookies?"

     "We naturally try to find structure where there is none," she explains. "Some are more obsessive about it than others... although the toxic sludge in her drink did seem to help." She looks over at him. "What does it say?"

     "'Your luck will change unexpectedly,'" he reads aloud, then laughs. "You did this on purpose, yah?"

     "I have no affiliation with what was the Lucky Pandaphant!" she says, giggling. "Poor Kan. Comic Ray, too. It's a shame they were removed, but oh well. Have another cookie, free of charge!"

     "It better be," Barry says, then cracks open his second. "'You will come across most of your Neopoints at the Bank.'"

     "Most?" Lady Fortune asks.

     "That's what it says."

     He quickly frowns.

     "You don't think—"

     "They couldn't have—"

     "But I wouldn't doubt it if—"

     "..."

     "..."

     They both rush out of the tent, knocking over a table as they do so. They run past the Day 2 Nite Neo-Mart and the notorious fork in the road, setting themselves as the new counterbalance in terms of correctly predicting the unpredictable.

     ———

     On the horizon are two siblings, one of whom has freed the other of his own superstition. Opposite to them are two con artists who have surprisingly conned themselves, fleeing the scene in the process. Their fate was by their own doing, yet the doubt remains: The scared will naturally try to find structure where there is none, and those who accept the absurdity in life will be ultimately happier in the end. That's why Genna and Grosvenor are following the path of least resistance — one that has fortunately led them out... of Elysian Fields.

The End

For Bryna, my muse.

 
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