The Wicked Will Rise Page 57

“Please,” I said. “You can’t. It’s not a crush. He’s a good person. I don’t want him to die.”

“Amy, sweetie. Listen to me. It can’t die when it’s not alive in the first place. And it’s not a person at all—just a little bad witchery that got out of hand. No matter what happens, you’ll always have your perfectly lovely memories of it, now won’t you? And a memory is worth a lot, especially when Ozma’s return will do so much for Oz. So you lose yourself a plaything. There are more fish in the sea!”

I didn’t like the way she was talking to me. As if I was some dumb little girl and she was my big sister who had come back from college and thought she knew everything because she’d had sex a couple of times and had read some French novels.

But while people like me had been fighting for Oz, Polychrome had just been locked up here in her castle, doing practically no good to anyone while she played tonsil hockey with her vapid, rainbow-smoking boy toy. And now she was trying to lecture me about the good of Oz? Some people had a lot of nerve.

On the other hand, she had a point. Having Ozma back for real would change the game in a serious way. Was the risk of losing Pete worth it? And even if it wasn’t, could I stop it from happening?

At this moment, the only thing I could be sure of was that Polychrome was annoying. “Would you like a hug?” she asked.

“No, thank you,” I said.

She snapped her fingers, and the floating images of Pete and Ozma were instantly sucked back into the body of the real princess, who doubled over at the shock of having all of her parts returned to her. She stumbled from the stool on which she’d been standing and landed on her hands and knees on the stone floor of the Lumatorium, and promptly began to retch.

Instead of vomit pouring from her mouth, a flurry of tiny rainbows came out, and pooled on the ground in a sick puddle of jumbled-up colors.

Polychrome ignored the fairy princess’s distress, and instead directed her attention to me.

“Don’t you fret over all this, at least not for now. The Ritual of Restoration will be difficult, and before I can perform it, I must ask my sprites to gather the necessary ingredients. Also, I need my rest—I can practically feel the dark circles forming under my eyes as we speak. And, not to be a bitch, but you look like you could use a little beauty sleep, too. I’ll let Heathcliff take you to your room, and tomorrow, we’ll get everything all settled, okay?”

“I’ll take my stuff, first, thanks,” I said. The things I’d taken from the Lion and the Tin Woodman seemed even more important than ever now, even if I didn’t know why, and I didn’t want to let them out of my sight.

“Of course,” Polychrome said, and I gathered them quickly into my bag, wondering what to do next.


“We need to get out of here,” I told Nox. After leaving Ozma in the room Polychrome had given us—this whole huge castle, and that dumb fairy couldn’t even give me my own room!—I hadn’t been able to sleep, and so I had gone to find Nox. Now he was leaning against the wall in thought, staring out the window at the rainbows that swirled outside in the dark, and I was sitting on the edge of his bed as I related everything that had just happened.

“Get out of here and go where?” he asked.

“Back to the jungle to find Mombi,” I said. “Or to find Glamora. I don’t know. Anywhere.”

“Well that sounds like a plan.” Nox shifted his weight and crossed his arms at his chest. There was something else bugging him.

“What?” I asked. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

Nox took his time answering. “Why didn’t you want me in there with you?” he finally asked. “What were you telling her that you couldn’t tell me?”

“I . . .” I started. “I don’t know. Nothing. It’s just . . .”

“That you still don’t trust me? Even now?”

At first I was hurt, and then I was angry. “Of course I trust you,” I said. “I want to trust you. And I do. But there’s only so much trust in a place like this, and I didn’t come here to find a boyfriend. So get over it. I just wasn’t sure. And I’m telling you everything now, aren’t I?”

He looked surprised at my outburst, but then he just nodded. “Sorry,” he said. “I get it. And you’re right. I think I went soft when I was lost. I sort of—I don’t know. Maybe I started to lose perspective. It’s just . . .”

I waved him off. “Never mind,” I said. “Just help me figure out how to get out of here. Whatever she’s about to do to Ozma, I don’t like the sound of it.”

“Really?” he asked. “Or is it that you don’t like the sound of what she’s going to do to Pete?”

“What difference does it make?”

“It makes all the difference,” he said.

“I don’t want her to hurt either of them,” I said. “We have no idea what kind of voodoo she’s cooking up, or what could go wrong. For all we know, she wants to stick Ozma in a box and saw her in half.”

“I kind of doubt that,” Nox said. “But I’ll tell you what I know. I know that Ozma’s important. And I know that she’s already acting different. More powerful. If there’s something we can do to help her, we have to.”

“Pete’s my friend,” I said quietly.

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