The Wicked Will Rise Page 59

“Pete,” I said. “He hit me. There’s something . . .”

I stopped as my gaze landed on the giant, panoramic window on the other side of the room. The stars were still out but the sky was bright. In every direction I looked, all I saw were flames.

All across the horizon, the islands that made up Rainbow Falls were awash in a sea of fire—and not just any fire. The flames that licked the sky were every possible color of the spectrum, from pastel pinks to deep, royal indigo and sick, toxic green.

The sky was burning. It wasn’t just the islands. The rainbows themselves were on fire. If you’ve never seen a rainbow burn, consider yourself lucky. It might sound pretty, but it’s not. It’s horrifying.

This was where the smell was coming from.

“Did Pete do this?” I demanded.

“I don’t know,” Nox said. “But we have to get out of here. Now.”

But before we could figure out where exactly we were supposed to be going, Polychrome burst through my door, with Heathcliff at her side and Bright, clad only in a pair of hot-pink underpants, right behind her.

“We’ve been betrayed,” Polychrome said.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean . . .”

“They never mean to, do they?” she asked a shell-shocked-looking Bright.

He shook his head sadly. “This is it, huh, babe?” he asked, without emotion.

“This is it,” she said. “We couldn’t stay above the fray forever. We knew this day would come. I just wish you didn’t have to be here to see it. If you’ve ever been good for anything, try to make yourself useful for once in your useless life. If you kill someone, I promise I’ll give you a surprise later.”

She flung the window open. “There,” she said, pointing to the largest and most distant of the floating islands in the burning sky. “They’re waiting for us. They want us to come to them.”

“Who?” I asked. “Who’s they? How did they find us?”

Polychrome looked at me in disgust. “Oh, don’t be stupid,” she said. “Your little friend got scared and went running to the only people he could think of. Don’t tell me it didn’t occur to you that this might happen.”

The fact that it hadn’t occurred to me made me feel even more foolish than I had before. But when I searched my pockets for the handkerchief that Queen Lulu had given me back in the forest and couldn’t find it, I knew exactly what had happened.

Pete. He’d taken it. He’d used it to contact Glinda. He’d fallen for her trap—he’d gone to her for help, just like she’d tempted him to, and had brought her right to us.

Polychrome was right. How stupid could I have been? For that matter, how stupid could Pete have been? Did he think Glinda had even the slightest selfless intention in her entire body? Why hadn’t he been able to see this would happen?

I guess sometimes things get bad enough and you just don’t care anymore.

“Shit,” I said under my breath.

“Yes,” Polychrome spat. “Shit. We’re all buried in it now. For years, the Rainbow Falls have stood protected by Old Magic, free of Dorothy’s influence and incursion. It was charmed, protected from the outside, from those who wanted to find us. We were hidden. Now you’ve brought her to my doorstep, and all of Oz will suffer because of your idiocy.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I . . .”

Polychrome waved me off. “Forget it. There’s nothing left to do but fight.”

She began to glow. In the distance, out the window, a lone rainbow crept toward us, winding in and out of the flames.

“I can get there faster,” I said.

“No!” Nox shouted. Too late. I was already slipping into shadow, moving through the nothingness toward an enemy that I could feel at the edge of it.

I felt my way through the dark. All I had to do was let myself become one with the shadows. I didn’t know exactly where I was heading or what I would find, but there was a power out there, and it was calling to me.

Then I felt heat on my face, and sweat forming on my brow as it got hotter. I opened my eyes and saw that the shadows had brought me right to the center of an inferno: I was standing on one of the floating islands, and it was engulfed in flames of every color imaginable.

Anything else that distinguished it was impossible to say now. All that was left of it was smoke and fire.

Then, from out of the flames, stepped Glinda. She had undergone a costume change since I’d last spotted her: now she was dressed for battle in a skintight, magenta bodysuit, complete with a gleaming armored bodice. Her strawberry-blond hair was pulled back into a neat, severe bun.

“Well, lookie loo,” she said in greeting. “Amy Gumm is here! I think we just about have a quorum for a tea party!”

With a wave of her hand, the flames immediately surrounding her subsided enough to leave a ring of burned-out rock—revealing that it wasn’t just the two of us.

To Glinda’s right was Pete. He was wrapped in chains—and from the scarlet aura around them, I could tell they weren’t ordinary chains binding him, but magical ones. In addition to being tied up, he was gagged. I tried to meet his gaze, but he looked away, and I instantly knew my suspicion about what he had done was the right one.

I didn’t even bother being disgusted. Pete, and the way he had betrayed me, were the least of my concerns. Because standing to Glinda’s left was none other than Dorothy Gale herself. She wore a menacing, self-satisfied grin, like the cat who had just eaten the canary.

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