The Wicked Will Rise Page 67

I had torn it down. The whole damn thing was obsidian dust in my hands, and I was kneeling on top of it.

Still, I didn’t stop. Even when it was all gone, I kept slamming my fists into the dirt. I felt more powerful than ever, like I had taken its magic for my own, and I liked it.

“Amy,” I heard Nox saying. I ignored him until I felt his touch on my shoulder, and then I turned around to face him, and I growled.

Growled. Like an animal.

“Amy,” Nox said. “It’s okay.”

He knelt down next to me, wrapped his arm around my shoulder, and pulled me into his chest. I was still shaking, and I nestled into his body, which suddenly felt very small.

“It’s just too much,” I said. I felt like I would cry at any second. I wanted to cry, and at the same time, I couldn’t. I was in a place past crying.

“I know,” Nox said. “I know. But it will be over soon. It has to be.”

I began to melt into him. There in his arms, I felt so secure—for the first time in maybe my whole life—that if I could have, I would have let myself become part of him. Just so I could feel that safe forever.

But then I looked into his eyes, and I saw how haunted they were, and suddenly I realized that he was afraid of me. At first, I thought it was only because of what he had just seen me do, but then, I caught a glimpse of myself—just a glinting image reflected in his pale gray irises—and I realized that it wasn’t what I had done that had frightened him.

It was what I had become.

Startled, I wrenched myself from his grip and stared down at my own body.

Was this really me? My hands, my arms, and even my legs—all of me—were rippling with muscle and bulging veins, and were covered with a fine dusting of something like fur, a deep emerald green and the texture of velvet. Each of my fingers was tipped with a blood-red, razor-sharp claw.

Beginning to panic, I pressed an open palm to my forehead, hoping that what I had just seen had only been my imagination. It wasn’t. At my temples, just below my hairline, two hard, curling nubs protruded. They weren’t big, but they were there.

I had grown horns.

“Amy,” Nox repeated. I jumped to my feet, but he grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me back toward him. I was so ashamed of myself that I just wanted to run away. And I could have. I was so much stronger than him now, and bigger, too—his body had seemed small because he was small now, at least compared to me. Because as I had been tearing down the road of yellow bricks, I had grown into something new. Something huge and terrifying. The very thing I had been afraid of turning into.

I had become a monster.

I didn’t want Nox to see me like this, and still, I stopped myself from pulling away from him and hiding. I didn’t want to hurt him by accident either. I didn’t know my own strength. So I let him hold me.

“I didn’t mean to . . .”

“I know,” he said. “I know.”

We stayed like that for a long time, me shaking in his arms while he held me and told me everything was going to be okay. As he said it over and over again, I felt myself calming down, and the thing that was inhabiting me began to slip away, leaving my body.

The most messed-up part is that I wanted to hold on to it. I didn’t want it to go. But I forced myself to relinquish it, and soon I felt my horns shrinking away, my claws pull back into my fingers, and my skin return to normal. I was myself again.

“What happened?” I asked when I finally felt able to really speak.

“You got carried away,” he said. “It was the magic. You let it take over. That wasn’t you.”

I wanted to believe him, but I wasn’t sure that I did. What if it was me?

Then I let my gaze move past him, and all my thoughts of myself stopped as I realized where we were. In my temporary insanity, I had lost track of what I had been doing; I had forgotten why I had wanted to get through the wall in the first place. Now I turned and saw what it had been protecting.

We were sitting on the edge of the Emerald City. Or, I guess, what used to be the Emerald City. It was hard to say if you could still call it that—because it was different now.

It looked like it had been hit by a nuclear bomb. The once glittering, bustling thoroughfare was now empty, piled with trash and debris. The buildings that hadn’t been destroyed were empty shells, with charred facades and shattered windows. The lavish, stately gardens that Dorothy had spent her time lounging in had been mostly destroyed, the fountains shattered, the flowers dead and covered over with vines.

But all over the place, when you looked a little more closely, traces of the city’s former grandeur remained. Amidst all the wreckage, the streets had a sheen that I realized was coming from millions of scattered jewels—emeralds, obviously, but diamonds and rubies and amethysts, too. Here and there, pools of gold melted and then hardened again, like puddles lingering after a thunderstorm.

At the center of it all, the Emerald Palace rose up, its majestic towers replaced by a dense tangle of twisting, almost tentacle-like spires that stretched so high into the sky that the tops of them were obscured by a cover of dark clouds. The whole structure was covered in grime and dust and a thick forest of ivy, but at the same time, there was something about it that took my breath away. In the still silence of everything, it looked less like a palace now and more like a cathedral; like a monument to some ancient, long-forgotten god.

As I stared up at it, something jogged my memory, and I remembered something I was pretty sure I’d heard someone say. One of the monkeys on Queen Lulu’s council.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies