The Wicked Will Rise Page 55

Eventually she turned back to me, still kneeling.

“It could mean several things,” she said. “I still have many questions about these items. But, certainly, it means that they bear a deep connection with the Other Place. Your home. The Wizard’s home. Dorothy’s home. I also sense something not quite right about them. Something evil, I suppose. There was something about these things that was corrupting their owners.”

It was time to stop holding back, I knew. “The Wizard told me that until I gathered them, I wouldn’t be able to kill Dorothy.”

Polychrome twisted a lock of hair around her finger. She chewed on her lip. “It makes a certain sense,” she said. “If these items were somehow holding a piece of Dorothy’s essence, it could explain this connection to the Other Place. It might also explain the evil about them. And yet”—she dipped a finger into the pool—“I don’t know. I sense nothing of Dorothy in the tincture. You would think . . .”

She crossed her arms and looked up at the ceiling, confounded. “I just don’t know,” she sighed. “Here in Oz, we understand so very little of the Other Place, or of how Oz is connected to it. We never have. It’s a shame that the one person who does have knowledge of it is the one person we can’t ask.”


“No. Nor do I believe the Wizard has much expertise when it comes to matters of the Other Place, despite hailing from there. But Glinda has made a study of your world. Of Oz’s magic practitioners, she is the only one who has demonstrated an ability to summon visitors from the outside—though many have tried.”

“Do you think she’s the one who brought me here?” I asked. I was still struggling to put all the pieces together. Things were beginning to add up, but in a way I couldn’t quite see an order to. It was like being halfway through a calculus problem, knowing you’re on the right track, and having no idea of the answer or how the hell you’re supposed to get there. This time, I didn’t think I would get points for showing my work.

“It’s possible. But part of me doubts it. What reason would she have had? And why would she have made an enemy out of you so quickly, if she had been the one to bring you here?”

She was right. It didn’t really make sense.

“I’m sorry I could not have been more help,” Polychrome said. “Perhaps if we had the third item—the Scarecrow’s brain—it would complete the puzzle.”

“I’m already on it,” I said.

“And Amy? Do me a favor?”

“What?” I asked.

“When you cut him open, make it hurt.”

I smiled. “It’s a promise,” I said.

With that, some of the girlishness returned to Polychrome’s face. She gave me a conspiratorial look. “Even before Dorothy came back and turned everyone evil,” she said in a stage whisper, cupping her palm to her mouth, “the Scarecrow was always a bit of a dick.”

She giggled and tossed her hair, and some of the tension left the room.

“Now,” she said. “Before we retire for the evening, I wanted to look into one more thing.” She turned to her giant unicorn-cat. “Heathcliff,” she said. “Fetch me our friend the queen.”

Heathcliff stood up on command, took a powerful leap across the room, and, like a ghost, passed right through the wall.

When Polychrome saw my look of surprise, she pursed her lips. “Everyone doubts my unicorn,” she said tartly. “Just because he doesn’t grant wishes doesn’t mean he’s useless.”

“I can see that now,” I said. “But why do you need Ozma again?”

Polychrome pressed a finger to her chin. “When we were in my rumpus room, I noticed a disturbance in the princess’s aura,” she said. “Something that made me suspect there might be more to her . . . condition than I previously suspected. I would like to examine her. Is there anything about her that you would like to tell me?”

I couldn’t tell if I was being tested. Is it possible she knew about Pete? Or knew that I knew? So I decided to hedge for the time being. “Mombi was hoping you would be able to . . . fix her. Make her more like how she used to be,” I said, feeling guilty both for telling only half the truth and also for saying even that much. I’d been hoping to totally avoid the subject of Ozma. After my conversation with Pete yesterday, I was worried about what would happen if anyone started messing around with whatever magic was binding him to the princess. What if they were fused forever? What if Pete just . . . disappeared?

He had made good on his promise to help me find Nox, and I didn’t want to betray him now.

A few minutes later, Heathcliff came padding back into the room with Ozma at his side. The princess looked sleepy and listless, like she’d just been woken from a nap.

“Hello, cousin,” Polychrome greeted her. Ozma looked up with an open and curious face, and Polychrome gently removed her scepter from her hand. For a second, Ozma looked reluctant to part with it, but she didn’t put up a fight.

“Stand over here, just for a moment.” The rainbow fairy led Ozma to a small footstool, and helped the princess climb onto it. As Ozma stood there dutifully, Polychrome began to bustle around the room, pulling ingredients from the shelves in a way that looked random and combining them haphazardly into a small cauldron that she suspended from a small stand over an eldritch flame.

“What’s that?” I asked, watching her suspiciously.

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