The Wicked Will Rise Page 36

I was pretty sure she was telling the truth, for once, but I kept the knife out anyway, just to get on her nerves.

Glinda rolled her eyes. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, Amy, don’t be a child. I came here to give you a simple message. A nice message. I don’t want to be your enemy. I’m done with Dorothy. I believe your goals and mine are more similar than you might think, and that we can work together. If nothing else, perhaps I might be able to teach you some actual sorcery rather than the bargain basement hoodoo that Mombi’s apparently been tutoring you in.”

“She was busy teaching me other things. Like how to kill witches,” I said.

“Well, how perfectly violent! As for you—” She pointed to Pete. “Remind me of your name again?”

“None of your business,” I said at the same time that Pete replied, “Pete.”

“Yes, of course. Pete. Imagine my surprise when I saw the Wizard transform you the other night. I spent a good several hours puzzling that out. A real head scratcher! I had a good laugh when I untangled it all. How could I have forgotten that I’d met you before, when you were an enchanted little boy with a little princess inside just bursting to get out. Of course, I thought I’d gotten rid of you when I disenchanted you all those years ago—didn’t imagine that you would hang around like this.” She tossed her hair. “No one’s perfect, even me. I think we can all agree on one thing at least: mistakes were made.”

“Get to the point, Glinda,” I said. She paid me no attention.

“And now, Pete, take a look at yourself. A handsome, virile young man with all the promise in the world, forced to live out his days trapped inside the thick skull of a nincompoop princess, while with every passing moment the delicate flower of your youth is losing its petals one by one. It’s just plain tragic. To grow old without ever getting to live?

“Rest assured now that Amy’s witch friends have been reminded of your existence, they won’t let it continue for much longer. Trust me. They’ll be looking to do away with you lickety-split, and won’t that be a disappointment for everyone?”

“The witches would never hurt Pete,” I said. “Mombi raised him.”

“You go ahead and think that, Amy,” Glinda said. “It’s sweet, really, the way you trust them. Never lose that sense of innocence, dear, it is so charming.” She stood and smoothed out her suit. “At any rate, I can see I’m getting absolutely nowhere with you two at the moment. My offer of peace stands, though. If either of you would ever have a yen to speak to me in the future—even if you just find yourself with a hankering for some company and a fine cup of coffee—you know where to find me.”

Her body—her “astral form,” I guess—flickered into transparency and then she was gone.

Pete and I just stood there. We looked at each other. It was obvious we were both thinking the same thing: what the hell was that about?


“She’s getting more powerful,” Pete said.

We were sitting in the grass in the field, next to Glinda’s tent, chowing down on scrambled eggs and bacon. With the likelihood that she could hear everything that we said in the tent, it seemed safer to eat outside. So we were having a nice little picnic while everything else went to hell.

“Who?” I asked. “Glinda? She was pretty powerful to start with. I didn’t notice anything different today.”

“Not Glinda,” Pete said grimly. “Her. Ozma.”

I paused. What good is all the magical prowess in the world if you can’t—or won’t—actually use it? So far, I hadn’t seen much evidence at all of Ozma’s so-called power. But from the expression on Pete’s face, I could see that, whatever he was talking about, he wasn’t happy. “What do you mean?” I asked.

Pete scarfed his last piece of bacon and set his plate aside in the grass. As soon as he did, it disappeared in a poof of glitter.

“I mean that, like, I’m not going to be able to stick around much longer,” he said. He stood and stared wistfully off at the mountain range in the distance. “It used to be that when I took the wheel from Ozma, I had a good six hours at least—sometimes even longer—before she came back out. I never quite knew why it sometimes lasted longer than other times, but I think it had something to do with Dorothy. She never knew about me, but for some reason, when she was distracted, or not nearby, it made things easier. But now Dorothy’s gone and Ozma seems stronger than ever. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

I didn’t say it, but it actually made some sense to me. If Oz was getting stronger since the witches had broken down the pipelines that were sucking the magic from the land, it stood to reason that Ozma would be getting stronger, too. That would explain why, lately, she had also seemed more present.

“I wish we didn’t have to worry about her,” I said, trying to lighten the mood. “You’re not as much of a pain in the ass as she is. Plus, you come in handy in a fight. Ozma just kinda stands there, you know?”

What I didn’t mention was that it was probably for the best if Ozma came popping back in soon. In fact, if she didn’t, I would probably have to make it happen myself, like it or not. It was Ozma, not Pete, who was supposedly locked on to the scent that Mombi had given her and was going to take me to Polychrome.

It was Ozma who I needed, not him. But this was nice. I could wait a few minutes.

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