The Wicked Will Rise Page 20

During all these goings-on, Tippetarius, the princess formerly known as Ozma, who by now had come to be known simply as Tip, was in Gillikin Country, far away from the tumult and intrigue of the Emerald City.

Tip had grown weary of his lot in life. And so he left Mombi, and set out to seek his fortune.

Remember this: Old Magic runs deep. It finds a way to prevail. Perhaps it was Old Magic that compelled Tip to leave the only home he’d ever known. Either way, Tip wound his way down a strange and treacherous path through Oz, surviving trial after trial, until he finally found himself in the Emerald City.

There, Tip came face-to-face with the sorceress Glinda, who was easily able to see through Mombi’s shoddy enchantment. Tippetarius was revealed as Ozma, and with that, the rightful queen was restored to her throne, and for the first time in many years, Oz was a truly happy place.

But with all the turmoil in the land, Glinda’s hold on power had been dwindling, and she had thought that young and inexperienced Ozma would make a suitable pawn. She was incorrect. And so, being unable to rid herself of the princess, Glinda arranged for Dorothy’s return.

At first, the kingdom was overjoyed to have their beloved heroine back, and Ozma welcomed the girl into the palace. Soon, though, the princess discovered that Dorothy was no longer the bright-eyed, kindhearted girl that she had been on her first voyage. Something had changed. Like the Wizard before her, she lusted for power, fame, and, above all, magic. Soon, Ozma decided that it would be better for all if Dorothy returned to Kansas.

This displeased Dorothy greatly. In fact, it drove her into a wild fury. In a fit of rage, Dorothy—who had great power but little experience with magic—cast a wild and unpredictable spell on Ozma that left the princess in the dim-witted state in which she can now be found. And Dorothy got the thing that she had come to desire most: Oz.

Which, of course, brings us to the moment in Oz’s history in which you find yourself, save for one final detail that very few people know, including Dorothy herself. And this is where it gets weird:

When Mombi transformed the baby Ozma into Tippetarius, she was out of her depth. Remember this was many years ago. Mombi was a bit second-rate as a spell caster in those days, and not even skilled enough to call herself a true witch. She had meant to simply disguise Ozma’s physical form. Instead, in creating Tip, she split Ozma’s soul. Tippetarius was not just a new name for a made-over Ozma. He was an entirely different person, with his own thoughts, feelings, and personality. And although Dorothy’s spell had erased Ozma’s mind—or, at least, turned it off—it had not erased Tip’s.

Which is why, in certain moments, Tip, who had been in Ozma somewhere, all along, was able to emerge, both in body and in spirit. In those moments, Tip was able to carve out a certain kind of half-life for himself. Now that he finally knew who he was, he was able to understand everything that he wasn’t—everything that had been taken away from him, and everything that he had never been allowed to be.

He no longer felt like Tip. So he decided to call himself Pete.

With that, Pete looked up at me, his dark, messy hair falling in front of his eyes, a self-conscious half smile on his lips. In that moment, he looked vulnerable and unsure of himself. I wanted to get up and give him a hug, or something, but I wasn’t sure if that would be weird. I had a million things I wanted to ask him—my head was spinning with them—but it seemed like now wasn’t the right time. So I didn’t say anything for a minute.

And then, when the silence just started being awkward, I said, “Let’s go for a walk. I could use some air, I think.”

Pete looked relieved. “You think you could use some fresh air. Think about me,” he laughed. “I’ve been cooped up in a teeny tiny little corner of a fairy princess’s brain for god knows how long.” He paused. “How long have I been cooped up in there, this time?”

“Not that long, actually,” I said. “Just like a couple of days. But it felt like a lot longer.”

“Well, it’s Oz,” he said. “The whole concept of time lost its meaning ages ago.”

“You’re telling me,” I said. “Now let’s go. I think I know a good spot.” With that, Pete grabbed my hand, hoisted me up, and we headed out into the sun.

It was a perfect day out, and the whole world looked gilded in golden-green. Monkeys were everywhere, out strolling, bounding through the tree branches, and frolicking in the pools under the waterfall, just enjoying the weather.

“Wow,” Pete said, watching them playing. “At least someone in Oz is having fun these days.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Lucky them.”

Pete gave me a sly glance. “You know,” he said. “We could take an hour off ourselves. Wanna go for a swim?”

It took me a second to agree, but in the end, it was too tempting to resist. “Sounds like a plan,” I said.

So we made our way across a rope bridge and down a set of wooden stairs to the entrance of the monkey baths. From here, they looked even more impressive—it was like the world’s most exotic water park, complete with a giant waterslide that started at the top pool and spiraled to the bottom in a series of death-defying drops and hairpin turns that made me shudder.

We found a smallish pool that was mostly hidden from sight by leaves but was still sunny enough to be warm. Pete stripped off his shirt and his loose-fitting pants, then jumped into the water in just his undershorts.

A few seconds later, he emerged, grinning. He climbed back up onto the edge of the pool and shook himself off like a dog, flexing every muscle in his white, slender torso. I tried not to stare.

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