Wishing wells are semi-sentient supernatural objects that serve to provide small wishes and desires to wishers in exchange for a minor price.
Wishing wells have a long history in faerie tales as a catalyst for stories. Most often, they play in stories for women wishing for love or children; in these stories they often can talk, in order to explain to the wisher the terms of the deal. They are often replaced by witches or wise women in later tales.
Traits and Behavior
Wishing wells develop naturally, growing within wells that were dug and maintained long enough to be seen as a landmark for any local residents. They do not appear in every well, but it is unclear exactly what is needed to cause the complete change. Some theories include the need for prior belief in the well’s power, or when a powerful wish/ offered price is completed in the well’s vicinity.
Wishing wells can vary in design and appearance, but will always have certain traits. They will have a roof or lid that will always cover the well even if nobody is currently maintaining it. They may be aged or have plant life growing over them, but will never be degraded to the point of falling apart. While they are usually seen as important landmarks in the towns they are near, they are rarely if ever still used for water. Despite this, there will also be a proper bucket and rope available.
The ground around a wishing well will be clear and flat, though it can be overgrown with flowers. No trees or larger plants will grow too closely, and animals will generally avoid the clearings they develop in.
The main trait of a wishing well is, obviously, the aspect of the wish. Wishing wells operate on simple logic: one may make a wish and provide an offering to add to their request. Should their offering be sufficient, their wish will be granted. If their wish is larger than their price, there is no effect. The person wishing faces no repercussions for not giving the necessary price, no matter how short they were in the price. The tradition of tossing coins into a well or fountain stems from these offerings, but the offering does not have to be a coin or even currency. Items of sentimental value are often worth more, but stolen items are worth nothing.
There is no known limit on the wish itself, only on the amount needed to complete it. In theory, if one was able to provide something of enough value, any wish could be granted. There is also no limit to the number of wishes one can make, so long as every wish was paid for. However, there are consequences for making many wishes, which can be dire.
First, wishes made to the well will be granted literally, so phrasing must be both clear and with minimal loopholes. The well seems to have some awareness of when wishes are more immoral, such as murder, and these wishes are more likely to backfire on the wisher or fail in their goals.
The more concerning trait, however, is that the more wishes a person makes, the more they seem to obsess over the well, often becoming possessive and paranoid about anyone else approaching the well or realizing they have made a wish. They are likely to move near the well and chase off other wishers, or stalk them afterwards to confirm what their wish was and ensure it would not effect them. Many of these individuals waste away leaning against the well; their body will vanish, and some believe that the body or soul is used to grant one last wish, but what that last wish was, and what value a soul has is not known.
To make a wish, if you dare to do so, the wish must be stated aloud, without anyone overhearing, and then the offering tossed into the well. There will be no indication if the wish was granted or not at the time, which leads many to believe that the well is merely a placebo effect and the wish did nothing. Wishing wells are not effected by belief, and therefore are in no way bothered if everyone that visits them comes to believe the well has no power. They do not degrade over time once established, and seem to operate fine regardless of if they have wishes made on them or not.
Some tales indicate the well can speak, and advise what price a wish may be worth. This has not been documented, but as wishes must be made in private, and many believe speaking the details to another will keep it from being granted, this rumor has not been confirmed. It may be possible another creature is speaking from inside the well to get their own treasures and offerings; even if the well is a true wishing well, one can safely climb inside so long as they are not making a wish.
Wishing wells will take the wish literally, so ensuring your phrasing is clear and has no loopholes is key to keeping it from backfiring. Wishes for small things, or kindnesses, are more likely to go correctly. You will have no way of knowing if your offering was accepted or not, but as a wishing well wish tends to be granted quickly, one can assume that if nothing has happened within a week or two, the offering was insufficient.
If a wish was made to harm you, and the offering was accepted, there will be no way of knowing the fate is coming, and it will occur. Wishing well magic only comes up for the moment of need, so it cannot be countered, and will continue coming back unless someone makes a new wish and a much larger offering to cover both the original wish and the new one at once. It is unknown how many times a wishing well will be willing to allow this back and forth to go on, and may depend on one party being unable to cover the escalating cost of offerings.