The Wicked Will Rise Page 53

Heathcliff gave a placating rumble of a purr as Polychrome ran her fingers through his fur.

“Does he grant wishes?” Nox asked. “Like a real unicorn?”

The fairy stiffened, and she sat up very straight. “He’s extremely sensitive about that. I would appreciate it if you didn’t mention the subject in his presence again. Or mine. Now, please, let’s move on.”

“He doesn’t grant wishes,” Bright said, blowing a smoke ring and looking amused.

“Shut up, consort,” Polychrome shot back at him. “I’ll remind you that you are allowed to stay here at my pleasure. Now”—she turned back to us—“what in the world has brought you to my kingdom? You’re not the conquering types, are you? I would hate to have to fling you off the side of the Sunset Balustrade. I’m so not in the mood for a conquering today.”

“We’re not here to conquer. At least, we’re not here to conquer you. We’re with the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked,” Nox said. “Mombi sent us. She thought you might be able to help.”

“So you said. I wish I could be of more help—I do so love that old hag. Such a wit she has about her! I hope she’s doing well. But as I’ve told you, I have been utterly alone up here, save for my sprites, for quite some time now. If Mombi thought her revolutionary friends would seek refuge here, she was mistaken.”

I looked from Nox to Ozma to Bright, who seemed extremely bored by the whole conversation, and then back to Polychrome.

“Maybe I could speak to you alone,” I said.

Nox gave me a sharp look, and I shrugged apologetically. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust him. At this point, of course I trusted him. It was just that there were still a few things I wanted to keep to myself as much as possible.

“Fine,” Polychrome said. “Bright, show the others to the parlor.”

Bright stood, looking disgruntled. “The work of a Royal Consort is never over,” he said.

When they were gone, Polychrome walked to the bar and sat down on a high, glossy stool. “Now I’m intrigued,” she said, patting the stool next to her for me to sit. “Mombi wouldn’t have sent you to all the trouble of coming here if she didn’t have good reason. What news can you give me of the world below?”

“Oz is at war,” I said simply.

Polychrome sighed and ate another wasp.

“I can’t say I’m surprised,” she admitted. “It’s been a terrible time for us. These last few turns of the sun, I’ve often wondered if the Rainbow Falls would survive at all. The wild unicorns all took off for god knows where; the sprites seem antsy. Several of my handmaidens have developed very destructive habits; I’ve had to let a few of them go.”

I nodded.

“When Dorothy came back, you could just feel the color draining from this whole place. We’ve been hanging on, but black and white isn’t a good look for anyone here at Rainbow Falls, as I’m sure you can imagine.”

“It’s Dorothy,” I said. “She and Glinda have been draining Oz’s magic.”

“Precisely,” Polychrome said. “Or, at least, she was. But is she still? I’m Ozma’s distant cousin, you know—fairy genealogy gets complicated considering that none of us have parents, but we are cousins of a sort. We share the royal blood of Oz, and as the mistress of the falls, I am intimately attuned with Oz’s mystical rhythms. It’s easy to see that there have been recent changes afoot. The magic is returning; the falls are suddenly looking healthier than they have in ages. Dare I hope that Dorothy has been defeated?”

I shook my head. “No. But she’s been driven out of the Emerald City. And I think there’s something going on between her and Glinda. I’m not sure if they’re quite the bosom buddies they were before.”

“Well, that’s an interesting development,” she mused. “There have long been complicated political forces at work here in Oz, and Glinda has usually been at the center of them. With the witches of the East and South killed, it became easier for a while, but other factions have developed. Both Glinda and the Wizard have always been wild cards. No one has ever been able to tell quite where their loyalties lie, or what their goals are. And Dorothy is a problem. She’s quite mad, you know.”

“I know,” I said. “I’m going to kill her. Things will be a lot simpler when she’s dead.”

Polychrome scanned me carefully.

“You’re from the Other Place, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“I see. Who brought you here?”

A change had come over her. She was no longer the airy, slightly dippy fairy who had greeted us at the door. Now she seemed older, more thoughtful. Her caftan had taken on a darker tone, and there was a glare in her eyes that was honestly a little frightening. I wondered if that earlier version had been an act. Maybe there was a steeliness to Polychrome that I was only beginning to see.

Heathcliff was pacing the room, and I could see that he was different, too. His white fur was glowing with an electrical sheen, and his horn was glittering. It looked like it was an actual part of him rather than just a stupid hat.

“I was brought here on a cyclone,” I said. Before she could comment on the obvious, I said it myself: “From Kansas. Like Dorothy.”

The new shift in Polychrome made me nervous. Suddenly I wondered how much I wanted to tell her. “Mombi thought I might find other members of the Order here,” I said, choosing to go with the easiest part first. “Have you heard any word of Glamora?”

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