The Wicked Will Rise Page 72

I glanced at Dorothy, feeling a strange camaraderie with her. She looked as confused as I was.

“Look, just forget Oogaboo for now—that’s a long and extremely boring story that I barely remember myself. It’s something to do with tariffs and Winkie bylaws, if memory serves. In any case, it’s not important. Here’s the important question: why do you suppose that Oz and Kansas are so similar, geographically speaking?”

The answer came to me out of the blue. “Because they’re the same place,” I said.

I hadn’t even really thought about it; it was just sort of there, something that seemed obvious and familiar, even if it was absurd. Sort of like the concept of pi, I guess.

“Or something like that,” I hedged quickly, embarrassed at how stupid it sounded.

But the Wizard was looking at me with something like respect.

“Indeed, Miss Gumm. They are, in a way, the same place. Oz and Kansas occupy the exact same physical space, but on two separate vibrational planes.

“You see, when the fairies created this fountain, and called forth the Old Magic that would be Oz’s lifeblood, they weren’t just pulling it from out of nowhere. They were pulling it from Kansas.”

He gave me a meaningful look. “Explains why Kansas is so very dull, doesn’t it? The fact is, it used to be a place of power. Dark power. All this time, it’s been feeding Oz. Giving up all its magic so that this place could live. And yet, the balance has never been perfect. It’s always been a bit inefficient. I’m going to change that. I’m going to finally open up the door between here and there—merge them into one glorious place. And, of course, I’m going to put myself in charge.”

I was trying to piece together everything he was saying, but I still felt too muddle-headed.

The Wizard continued. “Now,” he said, “let’s have ourselves a little ritual. Well, not so little actually. You have no idea how complicated it was to arrange all this. Dorothy, may I have the items?”

Dorothy didn’t resist—she unstrapped her satchel and handed it over to the Wizard, who opened it and glanced inside, nodding with approval when he saw what he was looking for.

“Wonderful,” he said, first pulling out the heart. “I thought Amy here would be able to gather these for me, but when she became too much of a loose cannon, I decided that I needed some insurance. I’m glad I did. You did such a good job bringing me what I needed.”

The heart was pulsing with a strange golden energy, and the Wizard held it out and placed it in front of him, at the level of his chest. Instead of falling to the ground when he took his hand away, it stayed planted in the air, vibrating.

Next, he did the same with the Lion’s tail and the Scarecrow’s plush brains, which were glowing purple and blue, respectively.

“I had no idea when I gave these silly things to your friends that I was unwittingly working in the service of the fairies,” he said. “Creating the key that would unlock Oz’s true potential. Now, Dorothy, I believe it’s time for you to do your part.”

“Yes,” she said, zombie-like. She stood and took her place, standing next to the glowing objects. She suddenly looked uncomfortable, and the Wizard snapped his fingers in front of her face, freezing her like a statue where she stood. “Just in case she gets squirmy,” he said. “Are you ready, Amy?”

I stood up from my seat, ready to obey him. But I wasn’t sure what he wanted.

“Yellow, blue, and purple. What’s missing?” the Wizard asked.

“Red,” I replied. “The color of the Quadlings.”

“That’s right. And what’s red?”

Then I understood.

“Blood,” I said. It came out in a whisper.

“Good girl. It’s your big moment. Isn’t this what you’ve been waiting for?”

“I . . . ,” I started to say. But even in my blissful, hypnotized state, I knew this wasn’t how it was supposed to go. It didn’t feel right.

The Wizard noted my hesitation. “You’ve always been so strong-willed,” he said. “It’s what makes you so special, and I respect that. But it’s your choice, Amy. This is what I promised could happen, if you brought me everything I needed. And you’ve succeeded—after a fashion, I suppose. So go ahead, take your prize. Everything’s in place, so fetch yourself a weapon.”

My blade appeared in my hand of its own accord, and I held it out in front of me.

“Just a moment,” the Wizard said. “Before you get carried away. Just one more piece of business. In order for me to draw upon the Old Magic that comes from Kansas and rule over Oz as its rightful king, I’ll need a queen. A real queen.” He turned his attention to Ozma, took her hand, and kissed it in a way I guess was supposed to be gentlemanly. It made my skin crawl.

“How would you like to reclaim your throne?” he asked her. “Would you like to be yourself again? Would you like to be my bride, and sit at my side as Oz’s fairy queen?”

Ozma looked confused. But she was already beginning to change. A pair of huge, shimmering, golden butterfly wings—fairy wings—had unfolded from her back. Her green eyes were glowing, and her black hair was whipping wildly in every direction. She began to hover a few inches from the ground.

“Ah, yes,” the Wizard mused, looking admiringly at her. “I’ve always wanted to see the true aspect of a fairy. Even in my past dealings with them, I knew that they were only revealing themselves in a form that masked their true selves. I can’t wait to see what you blossom into once the Old Magic is truly unleashed.”

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