The Witch Must Burn Page 14

His gaze sharpened and he pulled me in again. “What do you know about the Wizard?”

“He’s here. I saw him. In the garden with Glinda.” He looked around, his eyes wide, as if checking to see if the Wizard were standing behind us, but the hallway was empty.

“Tell me everything,” he said. “But not here. It’s not safe. Meet me—” He stopped, thinking. “Meet me in the garden. At sunset.”

“Why should I trust you? Why do you even want to know?”

He laughed. “You shouldn’t trust me. You shouldn’t trust anyone in this palace. But I give you my word that I’m on your side. You’ll have to decide for yourself if that’s enough. I can tell you more tonight.”

The tiny bird clipped to my dress let loose with a piercing shriek and we jumped apart. “Jellia!” Glinda cooed, her voice so loud I wanted to clap my hands over my ears. “I need you at once, Jellia!” I stared at Nox, my heart beating hard.

“You’d better go,” he said, his face worried.

“Do you think she—”

“I don’t know. You have to be careful, Jellia. Promise me you’ll be careful.”

“I’ll try.”

“Do better than that.” The concern in his voice was genuine, I was sure of it.

“No promises,” I said, and then Glinda’s magic yanked me away from the hallway. The last I saw of him was his handsome features twisted into a mask of worry.


Glinda was in her chambers, in a terrible temper—I could only guess because of the way things had gone that morning with the Wizard. She’d torn through her closet in a fit of pique, and the floor of her room was strewn with ball gowns and high-heeled shoes and gem-studded necklaces. “Pick that up,” she said as soon as I materialized in her room, dizzy and nauseous from the spell she’d used to transport me through the palace. She sat on her bed huffily and watched as I obediently collected the dresses off the floor and hung them carefully in her huge closet.

She was wearing a revealing gown that plunged deeply, showing a considerable amount of cleavage, and her soft strawberry-blond hair hung loose around her shoulders. Her pretty features had a childish set to them, and she looked more like a sulky teenager than a terrifying witch.

I wondered what it was like being Glinda. She had outlasted all of Oz’s other witches, and from what she’d told the Wizard in the garden, she was the real power behind Oz. When I was growing up in Oz, she’d always had a reputation for being the Good Witch, but I had a more than sneaking suspicion that she was responsible for whatever had transformed Ozma from our regal, powerful, beloved princess to the vacant shell she was now. But in a strange way, as much as I hated Glinda, I also felt sorry for her. There was something deep in those blue eyes that looked almost like loneliness.

“You know,” she said conversationally, “we’ll be having another guest soon, Jellia.” My back was to her; I could feel her eyes boring into me as I gathered up her scattered jewelry.

“Is that so, Your Eminence,” I said politely.

“An old friend of yours, I believe. The Scarecrow.”

“The Scarecrow is coming here?” I couldn’t keep the surprise out of my voice, and I could tell Glinda was pleased to have caught me off guard.

“Of course, Jellia. Who do you think invented the magic-mining machine?” I flinched involuntarily, remembering the nightmare of my journey to her palace. She examined her nails, a tiny frown marring her perfect features. “I really don’t think magic makes for the best manicures,” she mused. “Why don’t you try, Jellia?”

“As you wish, Your Eminence,” I said. She summoned a tray of nail polish out of the air with a snap of her fingers and leaned back against her pillows.

“You pick,” she said. “I don’t care anymore.” There was something in her voice that was so genuine and vulnerable that I looked up at her in surprise. I examined the bottles of polish—all pink, of course—and selected a vibrant coral. She held out one delicate hand and closed her eyes, and I went to work. The repetitive motion of brushing on the polish was almost soothing, and Glinda’s silence was a relief. My mind wandered, taking me back to the Emerald City, to the days when Ozma ruled Oz and my life had been much less complicated—and filled with much more joy. Ozma had taken me once to the Rainbow Falls, and I remembered now the feel of the spray on my face as we stood on a rocky promontory overlooking the majestic, vibrant colors of the falls. The air had been cool and gentle, the breeze scented with Ozma’s heady perfume of bergamot and sandalwood; the cobalt and crimson and deepest emerald of the falls glowing vividly underneath a clear blue sky.

“My goodness, Jellia,” Glinda murmured, her words snapping me back to myself. “What a talent you have.” I looked down at her nails and saw that somehow, without realizing it, I’d painted a perfectly detailed series of tiny pictures on each nail: Ozma looking out over the Rainbow Falls, the Lion bounding across a field, his heavy golden mane so perfectly rendered that I could almost see it moving as he leapt; the periwinkle field where Glinda had set up her terrible machine . . . Each image was impossibly lifelike. My hands tingled. Glinda was regarding me with an expression I couldn’t quite read: triumph, but something else, too, something sadder. “You have real power, Jellia,” she said quietly. “You have the very magic of Oz itself moving through you. Did you really never know?”

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