The Wicked Will Rise Page 19

“The point is that basically no one was in charge. So when the Wizard showed up from god knows where, well—let’s just say the people of Oz were ready for some real leadership. Didn’t even really matter that he wasn’t a wizard at all. So he sets himself up in the palace, takes the baby Ozma, sells her to Mombi, and—”

“Hold up,” I interjected. This story was getting more confusing by the second. “He just takes the baby?”

Pete raised his eyebrows in consternation. “If I have to give you every little detail it’s going to take all day.”

“But what about Lulu?” I asked. “If she was supposed to be taking care of Ozma, why didn’t she stop him?”

Pete shook his head sadly. “He found this magic hat thing. If you have the hat, you control the monkeys. This was a long time ago, remember—Dorothy must still have the hat lying around somewhere nowadays. Anyway, the Wizard gave the magic hat to the Wicked Witch of the West in exchange for her help, and she made all the monkeys into her slaves. So that got rid of Lulu, and then the Wizard could do what he wanted.”

“I never realized the Wizard was such a total dick,” I said. “Although, I guess by now I should know better.” Pete just gave me a look, annoyed.

I settled back in my seat and willed myself to shut up. I was sort of glad I did, because it was a good story. Crazy, but good. This is what he told me:

Once upon a time and long ago (but not that long ago), in the land that may by now be familiar to you, there lived a fairy princess who, like every fairy queen before her, had been born from a flower that grew from the center of an ancient fountain that sat in the center of a maze where the land’s magic was at its strongest. Because of certain unbendable principles of this very magic, the kingdom was the girl’s to protect and rule.

Her name was Ozma, and, the fact is, she was far too small to be much of a leader.

Despite this deficit, the princess was beloved by all, and most of all by her loyal nanny, a flying monkey by the name of Lulu. Lulu doted on Ozma and cared for her fiercely in the absence of parents, governing Oz herself as Ozma’s proxy until the day that the little princess was old enough to take over the job.

Lulu was pragmatic and fair, and although all was not perfect, all should have at least been well. But it was not, for there were other forces at work. Yes, there were witches involved—if there’s something to be involved in, you can be sure that witches will always be lurking nearby. But in this case, the witches were not the real problem. The real problem was a newcomer to the kingdom who had arrived in a strange, colorful flying machine and took to falsely calling himself a wizard.

At first, this false Wizard went unnoticed as he traveled through the wondrous kingdom, exploring its customs, its outlands, and, naturally, its magic. And when he had decided that the time was right, he journeyed to a city made of emeralds to seek an audience with the queen.

It wasn’t until he saw Ozma that he realized she wasn’t much of a queen at all. He had heard she was young, but this, he thought, was ridiculous.

The Wizard could see that Oz was in desperate need of a true leader. With no one minding the shop except a monkey and an infant, he was certain that the kingdom would quickly fall into disrepair. So he considered it his solemn duty—perhaps his destiny?—to save this strange and beautiful fairyland from itself.

Why shouldn’t he be king? he wondered. (Never mind that, in all its history, Oz had only had queens. The Wizard was from a place called America, and to him, a female ruler was a strange and unsettling notion.) Other than the witches, who were too consumed with squabbling with each other to be in charge of anything, no one seemed much interested in leadership, least of all baby Ozma.

So the Wizard hatched a scheme.

Before we get to that scheme, let us return, for a moment, to the witches. There were four of them. Two were evil, two were good (supposedly), and all of them were silly and petty, if fearsome. The wickedest of them, the Western Witch, was also somewhat less silly than the rest, and so it was she with whom the Wizard chose to conspire. Through this conspiracy, the Wizard snatched Princess Ozma from the monkey Lulu, and conscripted the poor beast, along with her winged brothers and sisters, into the Western Witch’s enslavement.

Then, because the Wizard knew that the people of Oz would never accept him as their king so long as they believed the princess was alive, and because the Old Magic that courses through everything in the land would not allow him to kill the princess outright, he sent her north, to the hag Mombi, who had her own motives for taking the baby in. To ensure that Ozma would remain safely hidden, it was decided that old Mombi would enchant the child and keep her far away from the eyes of the world.

And so many years passed. Meanwhile, changes were afoot in Oz, brought on once again by a visitor from the Other Place: not the Wizard, this time, but a plucky and plainspoken farm girl named Dorothy Gale. Within weeks of her arrival, Dorothy made short work of killing two witches and, finally, exposing the Wizard himself and banishing him.

With the Wizard deposed, Dorothy could have held the crown herself. But being of sentimental and truly generous spirit, Dorothy was of the belief that there was No Place Like Home. Thus, she chose to forgo a seat on the emerald throne in order to return to the place your people call Kansas. So again, there was a vacuum of power.

This time it was filled by Dorothy’s companion the Scarecrow—who, even having been blessed by the Wizard with a set of artificial brains, was a few bales short of a haystack and was not much up to the task of kingship. Chaos ran rampant.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies