The Wicked Will Rise Page 54

Polychrome shook her head. “In the past months, my scrying pools have been clouded. I’ve been able to see very little of the goings-on in the rest of Oz. All I know is what I feel. And while I feel great changes are afoot, you know better than I as to what has brought those changes about.”

“I know some,” I said. “But not everything.”

I made a decision. I picked up my bag and emptied it onto the bar, displaying the trophies of my battles.

The Tin Woodman’s heart. The Lion’s tail.

“Where did you get these?” Polychrome asked, her voice quiet and surprised.

“I took them,” I said. “From their owners. I know they’re important, but Mombi thought you might be able to tell me more about them, and what they do.”

The Daughter of the Rainbow was already on her feet. “Come,” she said. “I need to examine these further in my Lumatorium.”


Polychrome’s so-called Lumatorium was a dim, windowless chamber hidden deep in the castle’s interior behind a revolving bookshelf. It was crowded with mysterious, vaguely scientific-looking instruments, long laboratory tables and beakers and flasks full of colorful liquids and powders.

Looking around the room, I was struck by how many different types of magic there were in Oz, and how many different ways there were of practicing it. For some people, like Mombi—and me, come to think of it—magic was something you just kind of did. It was all instinct, a power that came directly from within. For other people, it was a practice closer to science.

The first style seemed a lot more convenient to me, but, on the other hand, Mombi had sent me here because she thought Polychrome would uncover things that she hadn’t been able to. So I guess there was something to all this junk.

Polychrome moved around the room efficiently, gathering up her materials, while Heathcliff curled up in the corner, observing her lazily. When she had everything she deemed necessary, she gestured for me to empty my bag again.

“Let’s take a look at those,” Polychrome said, and I set the objects I’d taken from the Lion and the Tin Woodman on a table. Polychrome in turn placed each of them on either end of an old-fashioned scale, which indicated, improbably, that they were perfectly balanced with each other.

The metal heart thumped robotically; the tail continued to twitch as if attached to an invisible owner. Polychrome sprinkled them with a dusting of acrid-smelling powder, causing them to halt in their motion. She fastened a thick, old-fashioned set of goggles to her face and knelt to examine them.

“Just as I suspected,” she said after a bit. She lit a candle and then, after some consideration, picked up a long, hollow glass rod tipped with a tiny, red orb. She touched the orb gently to the Tin Woodman’s heart and held it there. The rod began to change colors, filling with a sort of pink liquid, which she emptied into a beaker before repeating the same process with the tail.

She held the beaker over the candle and we both watched as it began to heat up and bubble.

“What are you doing to it?” I asked.

“Just running a few magical tests,” she said. “My methods are somewhat different from those used by the witches. I’m isolating the mystic elements of the objects to determine their origin, as well as—hopefully—to divine their purpose. It seems strange, of course, that they have any enchantment on them at all; when the Wizard granted them to their owners, he had no facility with magic to speak of. So one wonders that they should now be imbued with such energies. But indeed they are. Is it something that Dorothy did? Or is there another explanation?”

The liquid in the beaker boiled quickly over the flame, until all that was left of it was a thick, red syrup resembling blood. Polychrome selected a wide, shallow silver bowl from a shelf, placed it next to the scale, and poured the strange substance into it. She crouched and peered at it carefully through her goggles, swirling it around a little with her finger.

Next, she waved her palm across the surface and mumbled a few quick words that I didn’t understand.

The liquid began to change color until it was transparent. Polychrome nodded to herself. “Look,” she said, and when I gazed into the bowl with her, I saw that there was now an image in it.

In the bowl, as clear as if I was looking out through a window, was a flat, dusty prairie under a gray sky, tall grass blowing in the wind.

I recognized it immediately—maybe not the exact, specific location, but the idea of it. Back home, the prairie was everywhere. Even when you were standing in a strip mall, or walking along a busy highway, it was always still there, just out of sight. The flat, flat everything, the gray, dusty nothing seeping into your pores. So I had no doubt of exactly what I was looking at.

“Kansas,” I said.

“Indeed,” Polychrome said quietly. “And yet. Is it?”

I looked closer. It was Kansas, but it wasn’t. It was like one of those games in the back of a celebrity magazine, where you look at two pictures of Jennifer Aniston, and in the second one, everything is just a little off. Except in this version, the difference wasn’t that Jennifer Aniston was wearing a pink bracelet instead of a blue one. It was something harder to put your finger on than that.

It was something about the way the wind was blowing, something about the thick clouds that were rolling in. It didn’t just look lonely. It looked sick. It looked evil. It sent a chill down my spine.

“What does it mean?” I asked quietly.

Polychrome was silent. Heathcliff padded over to where she stood and she peeled her goggles off, then knelt and touched her forehead to the cat’s horn, staring into his eyes. She seemed to be consulting with him in a silent conversation.

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