The Witch Must Burn Page 6

“If the girl has enough magic to power the device,” he said. The Scarecrow only spoke rarely, and his dry, straw-like voice always sent chills through me. What girl was he talking about? Did he mean me? What magic could I possibly have?

“Oh, I’m confident of that,” Glinda said gaily. “I believe in the power of positive thinking, don’t you? If everything’s ready, I think it’s time we were going.” She rapped sharply on the roof of the carriage, and the driver snapped to life with a whirr of clockwork. “Good-bye, Dorothy!” Glinda sang merrily. “Good-bye, Emerald City! Say good-bye, Jellia! We’ve got such adventures ahead of us!”

I did not like the sound of that at all. I waved out the window as the servants shrank behind us in the distance, and I didn’t turn back to face the road until they were nothing more than tiny dots against the glittering green of the Emerald Palace. Whatever happened next, I was on my own now.


I had only been outside the Emerald City a handful of times in my life, and despite my anxiety about what lay ahead of me, I couldn’t help a surge of excitement as the carriage passed through the immense gates of the city and onto the Road of Yellow Brick. Next to me, Glinda lay back against her seat with her eyes closed, looking for all the world like a pretty young girl taking a nap. If I’d hoped she would give me some clue as to what she wanted with me, I clearly wasn’t going to get it. I used the brief respite from her razor-sharp attention to look out the carriage window at the countryside. Once we were out of the gates, the radiant green aura of the city dissipated. Hills gave way to rolling farmland; cornstalks bobbed in the wind, and neatly tended orchards stretched toward the horizon in even rows. The trees didn’t talk anymore—that had been one of Dorothy’s first decrees, she said they gave her a headache—but their silence didn’t affect the views. We’d been traveling for an hour or so when Glinda opened her eyes next to me and sat up, rapping on the roof of the carriage with her knuckles. We drew to a halt, and she stepped out of the carriage. I stayed where I was, confused, until I heard her call sweetly, “Jellia! What on earth are you waiting for? Surely you’re not shirking your duties already?” I got out hastily.

We’d stopped next to a broad meadow of periwinkle grass, bordered on one edge by a thick, lush forest. The second carriage had followed us, and I only now saw that a large contingent of the Tin Woodman’s soldiers had ridden along in the carriage. Glinda was directing them to unload the Scarecrow’s machinery from the other carriage—a bewildering array of pipes and wires and instruments. The unloading took some time, and I could sense Glinda’s impatience, although her face remained unnaturally serene. When the soldiers had finished they stood expectantly, staring at her.

“Now put it together,” she said. This time there was no mistaking the irritation in her voice, and the soldiers got busy at once, assembling the pieces in the middle of the field. Glinda didn’t seem to expect me to do anything, so I stood awkwardly at her side as she surveyed the construction.

The soldiers were moving with sharp, jerky motions, like sped-up windup toys, and soon a structure began to take shape. It was a giant contraption that looked almost like a complicated windmill with a long, flat piece that stretched out from the main body of the structure and balanced on another, smaller structure, like a seesaw. What on earth? I wondered.

“It’s a drill, of course,” Glinda said, as if she could read my mind.

“A drill, Your Eminence?”

“For magic,” she said. I looked up at her. The rubies in her crown dazzled in the afternoon sun. “It’s simply everywhere in Oz, as you know, going to waste. It’s high time we put all those natural resources to work, don’t you think?”

“You’re drilling magic out of the ground?” I stared at her in surprise and she raised one eyebrow. “Your Eminence,” I added quickly.

“Of course. Now that we have the technology to extract it, there’s no reason not to. Think of how much that power will improve the lives of your fellow citizens!” I wasn’t fooled by her sugary rhetoric; I was pretty sure that the only citizens whose lives would be improved by Glinda’s crazy plan were Glinda herself, and Dorothy.

“But Your Eminence, doesn’t Oz depend on that magic to survive?”

She waved a hand dismissively. “Jellia, I thought I saw something special in you in the palace, but now you sound positively old-fashioned. There’s plenty of magic to go around. Oz won’t feel a thing.”

I shut my mouth. The months ahead would be hard enough without starting out on Glinda’s bad side. We watched as the soldiers finished tightening the last nuts and bolts on Glinda’s drilling machine, and then she pushed me forward. “Now, Jellia, it’s time to do your duty for your country.”

“Me?” I blurted in surprise as two soldiers grabbed me by the arms and dragged me toward the machine. “But—”

“I need magic to power the drill,” Glinda cooed. She floated delicately after us, her heels sparkling silver several inches off the ground. “You certainly don’t expect me to use mine, do you?” Now that we were closer to the machine, I could see a leather harness and silver helmet attached to one end of the giant seesaw. I struggled desperately, but the soldiers strapped me in and jammed the helmet down on my head. What was happening? Glinda looked me over with an assessing gaze, and then nodded.

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