The Wicked Will Rise Page 13

“Well,” she mused. “It’s true that I try to keep up with the latest news. The Order isn’t the only one with spies. Even up here, it does pay to have the scoop—and I am the queen.”

“Please,” I pushed. “I just want to know—I need to know where they are.”

Lulu just sighed. “Sorry, toots,” she said. “Only thing I know is that your hag Mombi worked her old abracadabra and went right up in smoke. Took her pals with her. Poof! All I’ve heard since are the sweetest nothings.”

“What about . . . ,” I started.

She put a hand up to stop me and checked an imaginary watch at her wrist. “I believe my next appointment is coming up,” she said irritably. “Now shoo. I’m a very busy monarch. If you want someone who can sit around making small talk, I’d try the Duchess of Tree People. She’s the biggest blabbermouth you’ll ever find.”

When I still didn’t move to leave, Lulu’s patience finally decided she was over it. “Begone!” she yelled, picking up a banana and hurling it across the room like a boomerang, aiming right for my face. I ducked just in time for it to bounce off my head.

I was done. I’d heard about the types of things monkeys liked to fling, and I was pretty sure I was getting off easy with just a banana. This was my cue to leave.

But as I was heading out into the night, ready to make my way back down into the jungle, I heard a rustling in the trees, and then the low chirping of monkey voices. The queen’s council. I couldn’t quite hear what they were saying, but from the tone of their whispers, it sounded important.

I knew I had promised, but I couldn’t help myself. It came so easily this time that I barely even thought about what I was doing: I felt myself sinking into the shadows. As four monkeys approached the queen’s chambers, I slithered after them. They let the door slam shut behind them, and didn’t even notice when I passed right through it.

Everything was different in my shadow world—wherever it was. It was sort of like back home when we tried to steal cable from the trailer next door and everything came out kind of staticky and garbled and sometimes upside down, but you could make it out if you kind of squinted and moved your face really close to the screen.

The queen’s throne room flickered and wavered, but I saw four monkeys clustered around at her feet. At first it sounded like they were all speaking some other language, but the longer I listened the more I was able to catch snatches of the conversation until finally I managed to make some sense of it.

“We cannot have her here,” a monkey in green corduroy overalls and a propeller beanie was saying. “You didn’t see her . . .”

Lulu waved him off. “I wish I had,” she said. “You want the truth, I wish she’d finished him right off. The Lion can rot. See if I care.”

“You don’t understand. She was . . . she was not human. Something overtook her—a darkness unlike anything I have ever encountered.”

I jolted. They were talking about me. Even though I had some idea of how I’d looked when I’d been fighting the Lion, I didn’t like to hear it described like this.

But it was true. I had touched the dark, and I had liked it. And as much as I wanted to think that it was just a case of getting carried away in the fight, it wasn’t so simple. How could it be, when I was watching them through this cold, eerie veil of shadows?

“I must agree, Queen Lulu,” said a monkey in a curly red wig. “Princess Ozma is one thing, but the presence of the other one puts all of us in danger.”

“She is a—”

“Enough!” Lulu snapped. “I’m the boss, applesauce, and the boss-lady has made up her mind. The little witch stays. The princess stays. I have my reasons. Now tell me what you hear of the rest of Oz. Has Dorothy been found?”

A monkey wearing a pink velour sweat suit rose to her feet. “We believe that Princess Dorothy has fled the city, along with the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman. No one has seen them since last night.”


“Glinda was gravely wounded in battle and is thought to have returned to her fortress.”

“Oh, of course,” Lulu sniffed. “That witch talks a big game, but she couldn’t be a bigger candy-ass if she dropped her pink little undies and sat on a pile of gumdrops. Now what about the rest of the witches—what about the Order?”

I held my breath, and then realized I had no breath to hold. When I was a shadow, I didn’t have a body.

The monkey council exchanged a look amongst themselves. “We . . . ,” the one in the sweat suit began. “We don’t know. They may be dead. Or they may be alive. We simply—”

Lulu screeched and gnashed her teeth, waving her fan wildly. “If I wanted a load of baloney, I would’ve had a cold cut platter brought in!” she screamed. “Are any of you going to tell me something useful?”

Finally the smallest of the monkeys, a tiny marmoset in a fez and a red bolero who had been silent until now, spoke up. “Funny things are afoot across the land, Your Highness,” she said carefully.

Queen Lulu raised an eyebrow, which was strange because until that moment I hadn’t even realized that she had eyebrows. “Funny . . . ha-ha?” she asked hopefully.

“Not exactly. Funny strange. As we suspected, the magic that Glinda and Dorothy had been siphoning off seems to be coming back—we believe it has something to do with the actions of the Order. They must have destroyed some mechanism that was piping it into the city. It’s having some odd effects. We need to be aware of it in case it causes any disruptions to our home.”

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