The Wicked Will Rise Page 27

I didn’t tell her I was pretty sure I could turn Ozma back into Pete whenever I wanted to. A girl’s got to have a few secrets here and there.

“You’re in no shape to travel,” I said.

“Me?” Mombi laughed. “Who said anything about me? We both know I’m no good to anyone right now. I’m going to stay right where I am until I’m feeling better.”

“I’m not going to just leave you like this,” I said.

Mombi gave a wry, weak chuckle. “Oh, yes you are,” she said. “And don’t think I’m not going to enjoy myself. I deserve a little R & R. If I do say so myself. You’ve got work to do, though. I want you to seek out Polychrome, the Daughter of the Rainbow. She’s never been much of a joiner, but she’s helped the Order before and she’ll help us again. She wants Dorothy gone as much as anyone, and she has power. Wouldn’t be surprised if other members of the Order were on their way to find her, too.”

I considered it. I had decided a while back that I was done taking orders from Mombi, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave the comfort and relative safety of the monkeys quite yet. On the other hand, if Nox was headed to find this rainbow lady, that was where I wanted to be, too. “How do I get there?” I finally asked. I hadn’t made up my mind, but I would hear her out.

“Ahh, now there’s the rub. The Rainbow Citadel is no easy place to find. The way it usually works, Polychrome only opens up a door when she wants you there. Unfortunately, I don’t have a way to get in touch with her at the moment. So you’ll have to find the back way in.”

“Okay, fine. So how do I do it?”

“It moves around,” Mombi explained. “That’s what makes the Rainbow Citadel so safe—and it’s how Polychrome gets away with having as much power as she does. Only way to get in uninvited is to find the back door. And no one finds the back door. Dorothy spent a year looking for it a while back. Tore apart half the kingdom, offered up a reward to anyone who could give her a clue, but no cigar. Eventually she gave up—wasn’t worth the hassle, I guess.”

“If Dorothy can’t find it after all that, then how am I going to?” I asked.

“You won’t,” Mombi said. “But I have a feeling she can.”

The witch crooked a finger at Ozma. “Come to dear old Mombi,” she cooed sweetly. When Ozma kept her distance, Mombi rolled her eyes. “Bring the little darling over here,” she snapped.

I gingerly took the reluctant princess’s hand, eyeing Mombi warily. Ozma didn’t look pleased, but she didn’t resist.

“You’re not going to hurt her, are you?” I asked.

“No, no, no. We need her,” Mombi said, looking Ozma up and down wolfishly. “As stupid as she looks, there’s still power in there. Somewhere. She’s a fairy, you know. She’s connected to Oz’s lifeblood in a way that none of the rest of us ever could be. If anyone can find the Rainbow Citadel, it’s her. It’s magic, she’s magic, it’s the way these things work. She just has to want to find it.”

“Yeah, good luck with that,” I said. “I don’t think Ozma wants anything. Except maybe to play patty-cake.”

Mombi ignored me and placed her hands on Ozma’s cheeks. Ozma looked like she was going to run away, but the witch held her firm. “Don’t be afraid,” she said. “I’m just an old woman. Wouldn’t hurt a fly, would I?”

Mombi stared deep into Ozma’s eyes and bit her lip in a look of mild concentration. A small, purple dot of light began to form in the center of the witch’s forehead. Mombi plucked it off like she was removing a piece of dirt and placed it in her palm, closing a tight fist around it.

“Just hold still and close your eyes, my darling.” As if in a trance, Ozma obeyed.

I watched the whole scene with a slightly sick feeling in my stomach. “Ozma’s shielded from most magic,” Mombi explained nonchalantly. “But when you’re dumb as a brick like she is, certain spells can get through well enough.”

She opened her hand, revealing that the pinprick of energy had taken the form of a glowing indigo spider the size of a nickel. She plucked its wriggling body up and placed it on Ozma’s temple, where it sat for a second and then crawled down, across her cheekbone and onto her earlobe, finally skittering into her ear canal and disappearing.

“Yuck.” I shuddered.

“Oh, don’t be a ninny,” Mombi scoffed. “It’s just a little spell of intention. She won’t even feel it. Barely does anything except give her a little push in the right direction. Think of it like this: if I whispered I want doughnuts in your ear while you were asleep, you’d wake up craving doughnuts, isn’t that so? This isn’t much different, except that I’m too old a woman to stay up all night muttering in Ozma’s ear, especially with those enormous flower earmuffs she loves to wear. Just wait—she’ll be able to guide you to the Rainbow Citadel now. Just follow where she leads, and keep an eye on her along the way. Make sure she doesn’t walk off any cliffs or into any glass doors. And for god’s sake don’t let her get captured. She’s more important than she looks, you know.”

I folded my arms across my chest. “So let’s say I agree to go looking for this Polly character?” I asked. “What do I do once I find her?” I asked.

“You ask her to help you find Nox and Glamora, not to mention any other stray Order members she can get a line on. You show her those little trinkets you’ve got in your goody bag, and see what she makes of them. You have her point you in the direction of Dorothy, who, may I remind you, still needs to be disposed of. You ask her to return the shawl she borrowed from me last time she paid me a visit. Oh, and have her take a look at Princess Dumbbell. Polychrome knows a fair bit of fairy magic. Now that we’ve finally got Ozma out from Dorothy’s watch, maybe we can fix whatever spell Dorothy used to turn our beloved monarch’s brains into royal scrambled eggs.”

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