The Wicked Will Rise Page 1


The Emerald City was burning.

As I zoomed away from the smoking chaos and into the moonlit night, carried in the furry, twig-like arms of a monkey, the skyline crackled over my shoulder in a fury of glitter and flames. It looked like a little kid’s birthday party gone horribly wrong, the formerly majestic towers and skyscrapers collapsing in on themselves in confetti-bursts of jewel and glass. It could have been beautiful, except for the dense, black mushroom cloud of smoke that hovered ominously over the skyline.

I was a long-ass way from Kansas.

My feelings about that might surprise you. Unlike some people, I had never been particularly eager to go back there. When it comes to clichés, there’s one that I’m starting to believe might actually be worth repeating. You can’t go home again.

Exhibit A: Dorothy. She tried to go home twice, and see how that turned out?

Exhibit B: the Wizard. He couldn’t even manage to make it home once. (Okay, maybe that had something to do with the fact that he was traveling in a janky old hot air balloon, but still.)

Then there’s me, Amy Gumm, trailer trash nobody from Flat Hill, Kansas. While I liked to think of myself as about as different as you could get from people like them, it was hard to ignore that we had certain things in common.

For one thing, we had all been carried here from the real world by some unknown force, and while I don’t think anyone had yet figured out what that force was, I had my own theories about why we were the ones who had been chosen.

It’s just a theory, remember. Nothing proven, or even close. But I sometimes wondered if the thing that linked me, Dorothy, and the Wizard was the fact that, back where we’d come from, none of us had ever fit in. Whether we knew it or not. Maybe all three of us had been born in a place we didn’t belong to, and had been waiting to be found by a home that we could really call our own.

Look, I can’t speak for anyone except myself. I don’t even know the first thing about the Wizard, and only a little more about Dorothy. So maybe I’m wrong. It’s just something I’ve thought about. But here’s the thing: once you’ve traveled to the dark side of the rainbow, you’ve reached the end of the line. If you can’t make Oz home, you’re pretty much out of luck.

As far as homes went, Oz wasn’t exactly the most hospitable, but at least I could call it mine. And now it was burning.

My rescuer was Ollie, the monkey I’d once saved from Dorothy’s clutches. Flying at our side, his sister Maude was carrying my unlikely companion: Ozma, Oz’s mystery princess with mush for brains, whose many secrets were only now starting to become clear to me.

Even as we sped into the clouds, the ground blurring below us, I was puzzling out the details of how we were flying at all. You’ve heard of winged monkeys, right? Well, Maude and Ollie were not exactly those—or at least they weren’t supposed to be. Not anymore. Although they’d been born with wings, they had both had them removed.

Ollie had cut his own wings off, to free himself from Dorothy’s enslavement. As for Maude—I still shuddered when I thought about how she had lost hers. I hadn’t just seen it happen. I had been the one to do it, sawing them from her back myself using only a small dagger.

Now this was a new Oz, not the pleasant, magical kingdom you’ve heard about. That was a long time ago; long before I’d shown up.

In Dorothy’s Oz, you did what you had to do. You made hard choices. You traded flight for freedom, if you had to, even if it meant losing a part of yourself. Sometimes, in Dorothy’s Oz, you had to get your hands a little bloodied. Okay, maybe a lot bloodied.

But even in Dorothy’s Oz, there was still magic, which meant that what was removed could sometimes be replaced when you had the right spell, which was how the monkeys were now flying with paper wings that were buzzing like dragonflies’, vibrating so fast they were just a blur.

The wings didn’t look like much. They were just two pairs of glued-together newsprint and scraps that barely looked like they should be able to support the weight of Ollie and Maude themselves, much less a sixteen-year-old girl like me. But here we were, a thousand feet above the ground and going higher by the second. That was magic for you.

Yes I know it all sounds completely insane. To me, these days, it was just life. It’s funny how quickly you adjust to insanity.

And if you think all that’s insane, try this on for size: in the past several hours, I had tried (and failed) to assassinate Dorothy Gale, the Crown Royal Bitch of the Magical Land of Oz. I’d cut the Tin Woodman open and ripped out his heart with my bare hands. It was still beating with a mechanical ticktock in the bag I had strapped across the bodice of my torn, bloody servant’s costume, where I’d stuffed it for safekeeping.

I had done all that. I was still getting used to it. But there was one thing I knew for sure that I hadn’t done. I hadn’t set the city on fire.

But someone sure had, and now, as I watched the flaming city disappear behind me, I thought I knew who. I suddenly understood that everything I’d been doing back in the palace had made me only a small piece in a much more complicated machine. While I hid in the palace, the Emerald City had been under attack by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, the secret cell of terrorist witches for whom I had become a trained operative. While I had been infiltrating the palace ball, disguised as a servant as I tried to kill Dorothy, they had been laying the city to waste.

I could only trust that they had their reasons. In a world turned upside down like this, where sweet little Dorothy Gale was evil, Glinda the Good was eviler, and most everyone else was either scheming or scrambling to stay out of the way, there were crazier things you could do than putting your trust in people who called themselves wicked.

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