It’s funny how much time you have to think when you’re plunging to your inevitable death from the top of a tower. You’d think it would be over in an instant, but it’s actually just the opposite. It’s like everything slows down.
At least, that’s how it felt for me. I still had Dorothy in my grip, and she was clicking her heels together wildly as we fell. I knew it was a lost cause. Their magic was gone.
Unfortunately, so was mine.
Locked together in a crazy death spiral, my eyes met hers, and for a second - just for a second, it was like I understood her. A smile crept onto both of our faces. We were both from the same place, and we had both ended up here.
I thought it was funny she thought she could use the same trick twice. And, of course, she probably thought I didn’t notice.
Just a second ago, she’d lured me into this nostalgic bonding. I had thought she was coming to her senses.
But I wasn’t going to let her fool me this time.
My arm moved in a desperate attempt to finish what (according to everyone around me) I came here to do. My mind cascaded through images of those I’d met along my journey, like my own personal magic picture: Indigo, the woman who introduced me to this whole mess; Ollie, who taught me there were still people trying to stop it; And Nox, my most significant and most confusing ally.
The witches, Mombi, Gert, and Glamora. My only friend, if I could even call him that, Nox. For some reason, a tear came to my eye.
I knew I wasn’t supposed to trust anyone. Still, I felt like I’d grown attached to these people. And to this world.
Suddenly, I felt something warm and tingly running through Dorothy’s body. I felt a burning sensation in my legs, coming from the vicinity of Dorothy’s shoes. Her eyes lit up.
I wasn’t sure whether it was because the spell the witches cast had been broken or because we had passed beyond its bounds, but Dorothy’s magic was back. She was more alive than ever.
But my training had prepared me for this.
Even if I didn’t succeed, I somehow knew this was my last chance. So, with all my might, I stabbed the knife straight into her heart.
Before she even began to bleed, she knocked her heels together and was gone in a burst of swirling pink smoke.
And I was hurtling toward the ground.
But if Dorothy’s magic worked now, that meant mine might, too. I could try to travel, but the way I was flipping and twisting, I was too disoriented—I would have just sent myself crashing headfirst into the ground even faster than I already was.
I closed my eyes, trying to concentrate. I knew that flight spells were some of the most complicated and difficult magic that there was, but if I could just come up with something to at least slow myself down, maybe I’d have a chance of survival. I tried to focus on everything Gert had taught me.
I pictured the energy running through my body, twisting and reshaping itself until it was pulling me upward, back into the sky.
And then I was floating.
Seriously. It had worked. I hadn’t expected it to do anything, and now I was actually flying.
My eyes sprung open.
That’s when I realized I hadn’t done it at all. Four furry hands had hooked themselves around me, a pair under each of my armpits.
Monkeys. The kind with wings. They were soaring up into the sky, and they were taking me with them. The buildings beneath us began to shrink. The lights receded.
“Amy,” a familiar voice chirped. “We’ve come to save you.” It was Ollie. He was flying again.
“Ollie!” I exclaimed, still too confused from the last few minutes of insanity to form any coherent thought. “How . . .”
I craned my neck over my shoulder. It was Ollie all right— with one big difference. He’d been given wings.
“You can do a lot with magic,” he said mischievously. “The problem is getting ahold of it.”
Then I saw that his wings weren’t your ordinary feathery white monkey wings. They appeared to be made from old newspaper and coat hangers, held together with little bits of tape.
“They could be more fashionable, but I was in a rush,” the other monkey said. It was a girl’s voice, smooth and soothing in contrast to Ollie’s excitable chirp. Familiar, even though the last time I’d heard her speak, she’d been hoarse and half delirious. “Anyway, they do the trick, as you can see.”
I craned my neck to look at Maude, a huge smile spreading across my face despite my confusion.
“Maude!” I shouted through the rushing air. “You’re okay!”
“Thanks to you,” she replied. “Figured I owed you a save.” “How did you find me? Where are we going?”
“Oh,” Ollie replied. “It wasn’t hard. The talisman I gave you when you rescued Maude—it doesn’t just lead you to us. We can also use it to keep tabs on you.”
“Looks like we came just in the nick of time,” Maude said drily.
I let out a deep breath. We were sailing above the Emerald City, toward the western gates. The air was cool and refreshing against my face and the moon loomed huge above us. We were zipping along, the landscape sliding by. I hadn’t realized monkeys could fly this fast.
Under different circumstances, it would have been fun. But once I’d had a chance to catch my breath, I was able to review the events of the evening. Also known as the complete disaster that had been entirely my fault.
The plan had gone into effect. The witches had done their part, but I’d botched mine in almost every possible way. I’d let Dorothy get away not once but twice tonight, and I’d come this close to getting myself killed in the process.
“Take me back to her,” I said, having no doubt the monkeys would know who I meant. “I can’t leave the job unfinished.”
“Um, no,” Maude said. “We didn’t save you just so you could rush off and commit suicide.”
“Yeah,” Ollie added, “we’ve got a better plan.”
I turned my head as much as I could, watching the palace disappear on the horizon. I’d failed. Dorothy was still breathing, which meant someone was still suffering.
“What is this plan?” I asked, resigning myself to the monkeys’ clutches.
“We’re off to see the Wizard,” Ollie replied.
A few minutes later, Ollie, Maude, and I landed in a field just outside the city walls. A few paces off, a ramshackle building—maybe an old guard tower, the only structure in sight—looked like it might collapse in on itself at any moment.
The Wizard was waiting for us.
And so was Pete. They were standing in the field, side by side, the moon glowing on their faces. The Wizard tipped his hat at me as I stumbled out of Ollie’s arms and onto the grass. Pete gave me an awkward little half wave.
There was a part of me that was so relieved to see him that I wanted to throw myself into his arms. But a bigger part of me was exhausted, wary, and above all, confused . I reached down to gingerly press the cut on my stomach, but it wasn’t so bad. Just a flesh wound.
“Amy,” the Wizard said, all businesslike. “We have a lot to talk about and not much time.”
“Hold up,” I said. “How do you know . . . ?”
“I’ve been following your adventures closely since your arrival in Oz,” the Wizard replied before I could even get the question out. “As best as I’ve been able to, at least. It’s not every day that someone from the Other Place arrives here. When it happens, it has a way of shaking things up. For better or for worse. Of course I take an interest. I’m from there, too, you’ll remember.”
I looked at Pete. “And you? Have you been spying on me for the Wizard all this time?”
“Amy . . . ,” he said. But, as usual, he didn’t answer. The silence hung in the air.
“I assure you that everything will be answered in time,” the Wizard said. “You’ve escaped for now, but Glinda is surely looking for you at this very moment. You may need to fight again before the night is through.”
“Good,” I replied, ignoring the ache from my abdomen and actually feeling a rush of energy. “I’m ready now. Send me back to Dorothy and let’s finish this.”
The Wizard paused, as if considering his words carefully. But the look on his face was almost hopeful. “...I’ve learned a bit of magic, here and there, since I returned to Oz, but let’s face it—I’ll always be a bit of a humbug when it comes to that sort of thing. My real wizardry has nothing to do with spells at all. It has to do with knowledge. I knew about you the moment you arrived here, didn’t I? It’s the knowing things part that just so happens to be my specialty.”
This was getting very annoying. “Look. You obviously want to tell me something,” I said, checking my imaginary wristwatch. “So just stop screwing around and let’s hear it.” I looked around nervously, knowing Glinda could come magicking around the corner at any second.
“Dorothy isn’t dead,” he said impishly.
I was so confused. “I know .”
The Wizard smirked, then added, “but she may be soon … You stabbed her heart , Amy. Though her magic is keeping her form how it is, you can’t simply heal a wound of the heart.”
“But what about the Tin Woodman?” I asked, letting my excitement get ahead of me. “He had his heart replaced!”
The Wizard nodded with a twinkle in his eye. “He didn’t have one to begin with. You should know how complicated it can be to replace a human heart, Amy. Even if the Scarecrow replaces her heart, she would never be the same. It all depends on Dorothy now, whether she lives or dies.”
My mind raced. I stared at the Wizard, remembering what Nox had said about him being a manipulator.
But a big part of me ached with hope that he was telling the truth.
The Wizard sighed theatrically, placing a hand on my shoulder like he was about to deliver me an incredibly sage piece of knowledge. “Killing Dorothy can only be done by a certain kind of person, and some people think that person is you. It’s only a blip in the vast sea of time before we find out if they’re right.”
The grass around us rustled, blown by a gentle wind. I glanced at Pete and found him staring up into the night sky. Suddenly he flinched, and put one hand on the Wizard’s shoulder.
“She sees us,” he said. “She knows where we are.”
The Wizard nodded, as if he understood Pete’s typically cryptic words. “We have to move. There’s still a battle at the palace, but it won’t last long. If she—”
“She who?” I interrupted, more than tired of being in the dark.
“Glinda,” the Wizard said. “Gazing at us through the damn painting I should’ve destroyed years ago—”
The night flashed suddenly white, the air around us forcefully displaced and filling with the smell of motor oil. Startled, Maude and Ollie took to the air. I shielded my eyes from the bright light as the Tin Woodman materialized in front of me, still shimmering with a pale pink glow from the spell that had sent him here. Glinda. It had to be. I was beginning to see by now that she liked to rely on other people to do her dirty work for her. Instead of facing me on her own, she had sent someone else to deal with me.
His ax was raised, as if he’d just been plucked from the middle of a fight and transplanted here. He looked around, his eyes still adjusting to the darkness. He lowered the ax a fraction, but then spotted the Wizard. “You!” he snarled.
“Hello, old friend,” the Wizard replied sadly. “I’m sorry to see that Glinda’s using you as her little errand boy. It’s really not very dignified, is it?”
“You,” the Tin Woodman cried in outrage. I’d never heard so much raw emotion in his hollow, metallic voice before. “I should have known you were part of this.”
He rounded on me next, that all-too-familiar ax poised to strike.
“And you. What have you done with my princess? Where is she? If you’ve harmed even a hair on her head . . .”
“Whoa,” I replied. Had Dorothy gone missing after she’d teleported away from me? “I don’t have her.”
Obviously, the Tin Woodman didn’t believe me. He pulled his ax from his shoulder and took a lumbering swing at me, but I moved backward easily, feeling stronger and more confident than I had all night, and pulled my knife out. I felt my magic coursing through my body, charging the knife with energy.
The Tin Woodman was alone without his soldiers, without Dorothy and her magic. And he looked weakened: his metal body was battered; several of the frightening instruments that had once tipped his fingers had been snapped off. He had a huge dent in the side of his face, stretching from his cheek to his forehead.
The Order had only charged me with killing Dorothy— there’d been no discussion of the Tin Woodman or any of her other cohorts. But they were all just as evil, weren’t they? If I’d been able to kill Dorothy, wouldn’t doing away with the Tin Woodman be much easier?
Yeah, I could totally do this.
“Kill him, Amy,” the Wizard urged me. A wounded, betrayed look scrunched the Tin Woodman’s features at the Wizard’s words.
I glanced over at the Wizard and saw him weaving his hands through the air—but not to help me. Instead, he was building what looked like a glowing green force field around himself and Pete. Thanks, guys. Very chivalrous.
The Tin Woodman, though, was focused only on me. He put his head down and charged, his ax extended in front of him. As he plowed forward, the ax transformed into a long, gleaming sword that almost seemed to be an extension of his body.
I was ready for him. Just before he reached me, I blinked myself behind him and he kept going, his momentum carrying him forward. He stumbled for a moment, almost falling, but then he recovered, pivoted, and—in one swift motion—hurled his sword straight for me. As it flew through the air, it transformed again: this time into a flurry of knives.
With a few lightning-fast flicks of my wrist, I was able to deflect most of them, but I felt one graze my cheek. Another plunged into my thigh.
Without slowing down, I pulled it out, feeling the warm blood seep down my leg, and tossed it aside. With that and the wound across my abdomen, I was steadily turning into a real mess. My whole body was shooting with a throbbing pain, but I didn’t care.
I didn’t feel weaker, I felt changed. Like I really had become something else—a warrior like Jellia had been when she’d confronted Dorothy—someone capable of taking the worst these assholes had to offer and then dishing it right back to them.
The Tin Woodman was unarmed now. From his posture, it didn’t look like he had much fight left in him.
I launched myself into the air and leaned into a spinning kick that connected with his midsection. The Tin Woodman toppled into the grass and I leapt on top of him.
I lifted my knife into the air, letting it fill with heat until the blade glowed white-hot. The magic was rich in this place —I felt supercharged, more powerful than I ever had before, Oz’s natural, mercurial energy flowing like water from the grass and the air and the earth and into my body. Into my knife.
The pain from my injuries was still there, but it was easy to ignore.
“Please!” the Tin Woodman wheezed. He was powerless now—his weapons gone, his arms pinned to his sides. His metal face looked frightened and pathetic. “Please,” he repeated. “I know what I’ve done. I know I’ve betrayed the people of Oz. I only did it for her.”
A single tear rolled down his cheek.
The Tin Woodman’s love had been twisted and perverted. It had turned into something ugly and evil. That doesn’t just happen. Something had done it to him.
Dorothy had tricked me before. Made me think we were friends. What if she was able to do that with others? What if she’d taken the Tin Woodman’s heart and cursed it somehow?
My knife crackled with blue energy as I plunged it down. But I paused before it really punctured. The tip of my knife sank softly through the tin as if gravity was forcing it towards his heart.
His face collapsed in agony. The Tin Woodman started to cry in earnest—sobbing really, his body heaving in pain. He began to look strangely human.
“Please,” he managed to spit out. “Please take pity on me.”
I immediately pulled the knife away and threw it on the grass. Its power wasn’t my own. The air in Oz was supercharging it, but it was too much for me to control.
“Oh sweetheart, you should have killed him,” a voice said. “Don’t you worry. Everything will be all right as long as you let me finish what you were trying to do.”
I spun my head around in surprise and saw Glinda standing right behind me in her frilly pink gown.
Her locked permasmile stretched manically across her face while the rest of her features contorted in an all-consuming disgust. Smeared crimson around her mouth—it could’ve been messily applied lipstick, but it looked an awful lot like blood.
“You murderer!” She screeched. And feeling kind of like a sociopath, I smiled. That was two people now who’d confirmed I’d done some damage. Both fighting on opposite sides. What’s the chance they were both fighting?
Realizing there was still someone in front of me who wanted me dead, I jumped to my feet, prepared to fight. The Tin Woodman ran and hid. Well he wasn’t going to be much help.
I didn’t want to summon my blade, because something was obviously wrong with it. I’d decided on going old school - hands and fists - but before I could attack, a bolt of green lightning snapped through the air and hit Glinda right in the stomach. As she lurched backward, she pulled a wand tipped with a glowing star from her bodice.
“Amy!” the Wizard shouted. “I’ll hold off Glinda. Take Pete! Ollie and Maude will take you to the rest of the monkeys.” I whirled around.
The green bubble that the Wizard had built around Pete to protect him was dissolving. I grabbed his arm and we moved as quickly as we could away from the fight.
“Duck!” the Wizard screamed, and I reflexively followed his instructions just as a neon-pink beam of magical energy crackled above my head, just as Ollie swooped down from out of the sky and scooped me into his arms, carrying me up and away. I looked over my shoulder and saw Maude, carrying Pete, right behind us.
On the ground, the Wizard was locked in battle with Glinda. In the distance, the Emerald Palace was burning, alight with flames.
I wondered if Nox was still in there. I wondered where Mombi and Glamora were.
But what I really wanted to know as we soared into the clouds, the jeweled city burning below us, was what I was going to do next. I knew one thing: this wasn’t over. Even if I had succeeded tonight, I was only one step closer. I suddenly came to a realization: this was my home now, and I wanted to protect it at all costs. No matter how long it took—no matter what lengths I had to go to — I was going to bring peace to Oz.