The Witch Must Burn Page 15

“I don’t—I don’t understand,” I said, dazed. What had I just done?

“You will,” Glinda said. “When the time is right, Jellia, you will.” Her tone was gentle, but her words sent a chill all the way through me. I couldn’t meet her eyes.

“You’ve done very well, Jellia,” she said. “You may go back to the kitchen for now. But I think perhaps it’s time for you to take on more . . . responsibility. The Scarecrow and I have much to discuss.” I couldn’t control my shudder, and Glinda chuckled, all trace of her vulnerability gone. “Sleep well tonight, Jellia,” she murmured.


That evening, I could barely finish my dinner. My stomach was knotted in fear, and my head was a jumble of conflicting thoughts. Finally, the meal was mercifully over. When I was sure no one was paying attention, I slipped out a side door into the gardens. There was Nox under the same tree I’d hid behind to eavesdrop on the Wizard and Glinda that morning. His back was to me as he scanned the garden, on the lookout for anyone who might see us.

He heard my footsteps and turned as I approached the tree. “We have to be quick,” he said in a low voice. “If we’re both gone for too long at the same time, someone will put two and two together. It’s not safe for us to be seen together like this.”

“Why would Glinda suspect you of anything? What exactly is going on here? Who are you?”

He raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

“You know who I am. You seem to know more about my magic than I do. You know more than you should about what Glinda’s doing. You haven’t told me the truth about anything since the moment I came here. And if Glinda has some plan for me, and you know what it is—”

He cut me off. “Jellia, I know how difficult this must be for you. And believe me, I’m not trying to lie to you—it’s just that the less you know about some things, the better. For your own safety.”

“What do you mean, ‘about some things’?” I asked, my fear and confusion turning to anger. “Nox, what are you talking about?”

He took a deep breath. “I’m talking about defeating Glinda,” he said quietly. “About sending Dorothy back to the Other Place. About restoring Oz to what it once was—and what it should be.”

Defeat Glinda. Get rid of Dorothy. I couldn’t believe he’d said it out loud. We weren’t just meeting to swap secrets—Nox was openly talking treason. But if Nox was serious, he couldn’t be acting on his own.

“Nox, what are you planning? And how does it involve me?”

He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Jellia. There’s so much I can’t tell you—not yet. Glinda brought you here because she knows your magic is special. And she wants to keep an eye on you because she knows we’ll reach out to you—and she can use you to find us.”

“Who’s ‘we’?” I asked. “What aren’t you telling me?”

“You’ll find out when it’s time,” he said. “But not now. I’m sorry. I know it’s a lot to ask of you, but it’s for your own safety.”

I shook my head. “A lot to ask doesn’t begin to cover it.” But for some reason, I was willing to give him a chance. And if he truly knew of a way to bring the real Ozma back, I would do whatever it took to help him.

I thought again of being at the falls with Ozma. Of what my life had been like when she ruled Oz. Of how everything had been different—and better. “Promise me you’ll tell me everything,” I said. “Not now—fine. I understand that. But soon.”

“I promise,” he said instantly. “When the time is right, you’ll know. Now tell me everything you saw this morning in the garden. If the Wizard is back—if he’s allied with Glinda—we have to know.”

“I’m not sure, but I don’t think they’re working together,” I said. I quickly told him everything I’d overheard of Glinda and the Wizard’s conversation. Nox’s frown deepened as I talked, and when I was done he let out his breath in a deep sigh.

“I wish I knew what it all meant,” he mused. “But it sounds like the Wizard is refusing to forge an alliance with Glinda. At least for now. And that’s good news, I think.”

“What do you know about the Wizard?”

“Nobody knows anything about the Wizard, except that he’s from the Other Place. Dorothy’s world.”

“And he can send Dorothy back?”

“I don’t know for sure. If Glinda brought her here, she might be the only one with the power to return her. But if he isn’t helping Glinda, he might be willing to help us—and that could make all the difference.” He paused, thinking. “Just keep doing what you’re doing,” he said finally. “Glinda wants you close to her for now, and I don’t think she’ll do anything to hurt you until she knows more about your magic.”

That wasn’t exactly comforting. “And then what?”

“For now, you’ll have to wait. Listen, we have to go back inside. They’ll miss us soon. Wait a few minutes before you follow me.” And with that, he turned around and walked off through the twilit garden.

I sighed and watched him go, my head spinning. Revolutionary conspiracies, bargains with wizards, all these secrets—it was going to be hard to find my way through all of this to the truth. But Nox was right—I didn’t have much of a choice. If he was willing to tell me that he was part of some secret group planning to send Dorothy back to the Other Place, that meant he was putting his life in my hands. I had no other option but to return the favor.

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