The Wicked Will Rise Page 35

As soon as his name entered my mind, an idea came to me. Pete. I hoped that wherever he was, he was paying attention right now. I hoped he was ready to think on his feet.

I let my knife vanish from my hand and stood up, just to see how Glinda would react. I felt her eyes following me, sizing me up as I walked casually to the breakfast table. She didn’t move from her seat.

I took my time as I poured myself a cup of coffee and took a sip. I won’t lie: even under these circumstances, it tasted pretty incredible.

“See?” Glinda said, registering my obvious pleasure. “Don’t you feel better now? Finest coffee in all of Oz.”

How dumb did this witch think I was? Did she really think that she was going to win me over with some coffee and this Little Miss Sunshine routine? Was she trying to win me over, or was she just messing with me? As crazy as it sounded, I actually got the feeling that she thought she was a lot slicker than she was—that she was so used to people falling for her bullshit that she seriously thought I would fall for it, too.

I filed that away as a potential weak point I might be able to use against her someday.

For now, I just had to keep her talking. “How’d you find me?” I asked. I had already figured out the answer to that question, but I figured she didn’t know that.

Glinda gave a lilting, melodic laugh.

“Oh, Amy,” she said. “This tent belongs to me. I may not know exactly where it is, even now, but I can tell when it’s being used. That silly monkey who stole it from me has no idea that I can see everything that goes on inside it. And, my word, she does have some horrifying personal habits. Still, I try to check up when I see that someone’s in here, and as soon as I sensed that you and Little Miss Ozma had set up camp, I figured it was high time I pay you both a visit. It seemed like it might be good for us to talk woman-to-woman without Dorothy listening in. She can be so meddlesome, you know.”

Glinda prattled on while I was busy attuning my consciousness to the magical web that glimmered just under the surface of reality. It came easily now, and I realized that, in this state, I didn’t even need to be facing Ozma to see her. I just had to shift my mental perspective until I found where she was standing, behind the plant.

When I looked carefully, I could see Pete’s energy-form, too, hovering somewhere just behind her. I had an idea of what to do.

“Can you even fathom the nerve of her?” Glinda was babbling, enchanted by the sound of her own voice. “I said, ‘My dear, you simply must have an audience with the Nome King. It’s only proper.’ But does she listen to me? Of course not. She”—oh, shut up, I thought, tuning her out and focusing back on the web of magic around me.

Without wasting any more time, I reached out toward Ozma with a magical hand and yanked hard, and in one quick burst, Pete emerged from the princess’s body like a snake shedding its skin. I was getting good at this.

Glinda’s neck snapped toward him like an owl’s, seemingly disconnected from her body. Her eyebrows shot up into a confused arch; her lips formed a tiny O. Pete didn’t miss a beat. He handled it as perfectly as if we’d planned it out together ahead of time, and I knew that I’d gotten lucky—while Ozma had been standing there half catatonic, he must have been paying attention. He knew exactly what he had to do.

Without even the slightest hesitation, he dove forward and grabbed a glass bottle of water from the breakfast spread, then slammed it against the edge of the table with a crack. The bottle shattered, water spilling everywhere, and Pete spun around with more hatred in his eyes than I was prepared for. He leapt for Glinda, who hadn’t moved in her chair.

I only had a split second to act while he had her distracted. I called my knife back to my hand, blinked myself behind her, and as Pete came dashing forward brandishing a giant shard of jagged glass, I drew my blade—now slick with the darkest magic—across her throat.

Instead of slitting her throat open, all I did was ruin the upholstery of the chair. My knife slipped past the witch like she wasn’t there at all.

A look of surprise crossed Pete’s face, and he hurled the broken glass across the room. It whipped neatly through the air toward Glinda’s face in what should have been a perfect shot to take out her left eye.

No dice. The glass bounced easily off the back of the chair while she just sat there, completely unharmed.

“Oh, you two,” she said in a chiding tone. “There’s really no need to get so hot under the collar. Amy, I have to say I’m surprised at you. All that time at that little witch academy Mombi runs, and they didn’t even teach you to recognize astral projection when you see it?”

I moved slowly back around to face her. She raised an eyebrow and pressed her hand to her cheek in mock surprise. “You do know what astral projection is, don’t you?”

I didn’t answer the question. I felt dumb for not knowing what she was talking about and double-dumb that I had given her the opportunity to lecture me like a disappointing pupil rather than treating me as her most-feared enemy.

“My word. Well, I just don’t know where to begin. No, my physical body is not with you right now. Currently, my corporeal form is comfortably back in Quadling Country, deep in a mystical trance in my own lovely four-poster bed, where I am being carefully protected by my most trusted bodyguard. You, on the other hand, are speaking to my spirit form. In other words”—she gave me a look of incredulous disapproval as she swiped her hand back and forth to demonstrate that her fingers could pass right through her skull—“put the knife away, Amy. It’s not going to do you a lick of good.”

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