Sample Chapter – Crown of the Dreamer
Chapter 1 – Schemes and Things
“If you all control yourselves, we will have the Wizard exactly where we want him.” Glinda said. She addressed her Fighting Girls and all the maidens of her court. “The Sky Wizard’s Ball is two days away. Everything will be perfect.”
Glinda’s definition of perfect didn’t match exactly what the other girls thought, but Glinda was in charge. It was her castle, her sorcery, and her party. She controlled what happened in the South country in the Land of Oz. She had been here nearly two years, and the land had blossomed under her watchful eye. She felt confident sharing her scheme with the girls—they could be trusted.
Glinda’s right-hand girl, Wickrie-Kells, the captain of the Fighting Girls, listened half-intently to Glinda’s speech. Mostly she was focused on the carrot in her hand. She heard only about every third word from Glinda’s mouth.
‘Control…will…Wizard…exactly…Ball…days…perfect.’ Exactly. That was all she needed to know. If there was anything else, Glinda would tell her.
“Wickrie, any thoughts you wish to share around that carrot?” Glinda asked. She tossed her red hair over her shoulder and raised an eyebrow.
“Truth? Good carrot. Good plan. I’ll follow your lead.” Wickrie-Kells smiled at Glinda’s acceptance. That’s what best friends were for. Wickrie already had her hands full with all of the new girls that had come to South Castle.
Glinda prided herself on attracting the best and brightest girls in all the Land of Oz to her court. Some of them were fine warriors, and they composed the Fighting Girls—Glinda’s elite fighting force, led by Glinda’s best friend, Wickrie-Kells. Some of them were singers, like Ola Griffin, who also served as Glinda’s herald. Others served in research and experimentation. There were still others that stayed behind the scenes, maintaining the wondrous palace and tending the exotic gardens all around the castle. Glinda addressed them all today. Everyone was a part of this plan.
Ola Griffin closed her eyes and wrote with her bare fingers on the table. In her mind she divided her attention between Glinda’s speech and the song she was composing.
Lost in the absence of doubt,
I know there’s no easy way out.
Outside of this life,
Romance like a knife…
“Ola Griffin, paying attention, are we?” Glinda said. “Your lips are moving, but your eyes are not paying attention. Please share with us, if you will, what I just said?” Glinda folded her arms and narrowed her eyes at the blonde girl.
Ola Griffin ran her fingers through her hair and smiled. This was the easy part, quoting Glinda, “We all know that Oscar Diggs, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, arrived in our land two years ago this week. The Sky Wizard’s Ball is to honor him, but more importantly, it is to bring him to me. You all have your assignments. There are those of you who are assigned to accompany the Wizard at various points during the Ball.”
It was exactly as Glinda had said it. The girls applauded.
Glinda narrowed her gaze, but then the smile drove the stubborn glare out of her eyes. It was quite a display of memory and elocution. She even paused correctly saying Oscar’s name. That drew some giggles from the younger girls.
Ola Griffin had the best memory of any of them. Her talents were very nearly a match for Glinda’s keen mind.
The red-haired sorceress continued, “You know your roles and I expect that you will be suitably beautiful for the occasion. The rest of you—I am warning you now—the Wizard does not like to see anyone disappointed or let down. He will do whatever it takes to make you happy and smiling. On top of that, he likes pretty faces. Do not encourage him. Be polite and smile when he tells a joke or tells a story, but do not do anything—and I mean anything—that might interfere with our little scheme.
“Some of you will be leaving right after the ball for a joint training exercise with the Emerald Guardsmen. Let me express my gratitude right now for your exemplary efforts. You make me proud to call you friends.”
Near the back of the hall a young teenage girl hung on Glinda’s every word. She wasn’t even supposed to be in here. Her parents were most recently from Munchkin Country, having left quickly after the harsh new laws were implemented. Eyve was too young to join the Fighting Girls, but she wanted to so badly. That desire drove her to break the rules and just follow the group into the hall. There was Wickrie-Kells, the Captain of the Fighting Girls—she was even taller in person. And there was Rala, and Corabinth, and Elka and Decla—she knew them from back home; both sisters wore their hair in side braids. These were names she had only heard of before, now she was right here, breathing the same air as they were. It was good air. It was good to be here. And Glinda had a good plan. The Wizard was important—too important to not let him know how wonderful he was. It was very absolutely clear that Glinda loved the Wizard. They were meant to be together.
When Glinda spoke, it was as if she was speaking directly to Eyve. The young girl’s wide brown eyes took in every detail of the hall. This moment would be sealed into her mind and heart forever.
“There will be no additional smiling at the Wizard, batting of eyes, blowing kisses, or flirting in any way. The Wizard—Oscar—is mine, and I want him to realize in no uncertain terms, just how lucky he is to have me.”
* * * * *
Far to the east and north of Glinda’s palace, Kalinya, the Wicked Witch of the East, knocked on a door on the back side of Mount Munch. For nearly two years she had been waiting for this moment. If such a creature as she could drool in anticipation, she would, but she was very sensitive to water of any type. In addition to her water aversion, every last bit of blood and spit in her dried up two years ago, during the creation of her blood-sand armies in the Battle of Munchkin Fields.
Kalinya looked down on those faraway fields from her vantage point atop the mountain. These intervening months and years had been hard. Though she was the Wicked Witch of the East, and ruled over the Munchkins completely, she was a ghastly spectre of her former self. Where she had once been beautiful, the years of magic had taken their toll. The magic lines she had drawn on her skin to remember the spells marked her as a powerful witch once. Now, after the draining loss of all her blood, her face was sunken and aged. The magic lines crossed each other now, rendering their magic useless. What she lacked, though, in magic, she made up for in power.
Just this month she had enacted a law that forbade any Munchkin in the land from being taller than she was. It was a flattering rule, but a necessary one. It kept the Munchkins in line and fearful. So long as they feared her power, they were easy to control.
Two years—the endless months did not seem so awful now, here at the threshold of success. The terrible price she paid to create her blood-sand armies two years ago had aged her. Beauty was a thing of the past. She was a hideous shadow that ruled the Munchkins with flashing golden eyes. All of that would change today.
She knocked on the door of the small house on Mount Munch. This round dwelling served as the laboratory for the alchemist, Pipton Nikidik. Few knew of him. In fact, Kalinya had only met him two years ago, when she was on her way to an appointment with death. Glinda had created a cloud and bound Kalinya with sandy vines so she could not escape. Kalinya was unceremoniously tossed on top of the cloud and sent northeast into the sky. After almost a full day, the cloud had thinned out as it approached Mount Munch. Her terrified screams had drawn the attention of a singular Munchkin high up on the mountain.
He stood up a ladder against the cloud and retrieved her from her floating prison, thereby earning the witch’s gratitude. After learning her story, the Munchkin shared his. He was working on a concept that would peel back the years of time—it was one of his many projects under development. For such a promise of youth, Kalinya swore she would pay any price.
That price now rested in her pocket. Today marked the end of her journey. For two days she had traveled slowly through the forest to arrive at this point. The line-of-sight was not clear enough through the forest, so the magic of the Silver Slippers, as far as Kalinya knew, was useless.
Pipton Nikidik, the alchemist, answered the door. He stared at the Witch for several moments.
Kalinya could not be bothered with formalities. “Two years I have been waiting for this. You have finished?”
“I have finished the ointment. Remember, Witch, when you came down from the cloud, you promised to pay any price? Have you the pearl?”
Kalinya narrowed her amber eyes at the alchemist. “I have it. But I require proof before payment.”
“Fair enough.” He said. He opened the door and Kalinya followed him into a small laboratory.
The alchemist pulled the cloak up over his head and covered his face with a protective mask. “Stand back, please.” He measured the volatile ingredients into a small vial.
“I hear you have taken the title of Professor.” Kalinya forced the pleasantries as she waited.
Professor Nikidik carefully measured the liquid into a small dish. “Beware of the burning. Keep it out of your blood.”
“What are you adding to the potion?”
“Ointment. It is a topical cream. You want to look younger to catch a man—a specific man, I assume, based on the price. Keep it out of your blood.”
“I have no blood.” Kalinya confessed.
The man paused and glanced up. His dark eyes studied the twisted magic lines etched deeply into the Witch’s face. “Interesting. And yet you live. Where did it spill?”
“I spent it battling my sis—my enemies.”
Professor Nikidik held out a small dish containing the ointment. “Your sample as proof.”
Kalinya rubbed the ointment into her gnarled hands and gasped in pain as the magic infused her parchment skin and peeled back the years. Her claw-like hands unclenched to become young again. The skin filled out to become smooth and unwrinkled. She laughed in astonishment.
She stepped behind a privacy screen and applied the ointment to her neck and shoulders. She gasped and laughed in pain as the magic in the ointment burned back the years.
She held out the pearl over the top of the screen, and Professor Nikidik snatched it from her fingers. He passed in the vial of ointment. Kalinya applied the ointment liberally and screamed and laughed in pain as the beauty of her youth returned to her.
She pulled on her robes and shook out her dark hair. She cinched her belt around her narrow waist and laughed in glee. She stepped out, younger than she had been in half a lifetime.
Kalinya put her hands on her hips. She laughed and swiveled her hips back and forth in front of Professor Nikidik. “What would your wife say if she could see you now?”
Professor Nikidik held the pearl up to the light, examining it. He gestured back over his shoulder and turned the light on a statue behind him. It was a round-featured woman, pleasantly plump with a pretty face. The statue was carved exquisitely in marble. The likeness in stone was uncanny. Upon closer inspection, Kalinya recognized the fear in the statue’s eyes. That could not be carved, no matter how skilled the artisan.
“Ask her.” Nikidik said.
Kalinya stopped in shock. She gulped. Then she smiled and shook her finger at Nikidik. “You almost had me. I believed for a minute that she was real.”
“Margolotte, this lovely young lady does not believe that you are real.” He reached back and stroked the statue’s cheek. “For a witch, you lack a great deal of understanding. How old did you say you were?”
“I’m…older than I look.”
Nikidik frowned. “You look young now, but your voice sounds raspy. Do you sing?”
“I haven’t in years.”
“Start. It will clear your voice and help you sound young again. A spoonful of honey twice a day will help.”
“How did Margolotte…?“
“She interrupted me while I was working. I am working on an Unguent of Animation. It will bring the inanimate to life. Things that are of a form, but have no life, can be brought into activity and being. I tire of cooking dinner for one.”
“How much of this Unguent of Animation are you mixing?”
“I have sufficient ingredients to make a full flask.”
“How much will it take to bring Margolotte back?”
“Only a single drop.”
“I wish to purchase this unguent from you. I’m looking for an army.”
Nikidik stuck the pearl in his pocket, and rubbed his hands together. “An army. Hmm. That is a large request, but I believe I can help you. It will cost you five pearls.”
Kalinya smiled tightly. That was her last pearl that she had paid. “It will take some time.”
“Fine. Margolotte isn’t going anywhere. I will be here when you call again.”
Kalinya turned to leave. As her young hand wrapped around the door handle, she stopped and looked back over her shoulder. Nikidik was watching her.
She tossed her hair and flashed her amber eyes at him. “Professor Nikidik, you rogue. What would your wife think?”
“Next time. I am certain I will see her face-to-face. But now, I have some diabolical schemes to unleash upon an unsuspecting populace.” She flashed a dazzling smile. “Wish me luck.”
Professor Nikidik pulled out the pearl again and examined it. He looked over the top of the pearl at the beautiful young witch. “Tell me—this man you are spending a fortune to entice—is he worth it?”
“I have been told that he likes pretty faces. As it was long ago, so it is again today, there are none prettier than mine. I have a stop or two to make to visit my rivals in this burgeoning love triangle, and then…I’m off to see the Wizard.”
* * * * *
In the center of the Land of Oz, the Emerald City rose as a shining beacon of protection and liberty. It was a city built on freedom and liberty. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Oscar Diggs—from the far away territory of Nebraska, in the western frontier of the United States of America—ruled the people kindly and fairly. He established laws based on the principles of equality, justice, and personal responsibility. He encouraged trade and welcomed all who were willing to abide by the laws of the city. Everyone knew the Wizard and loved him. He was powerful beyond their wildest imaginings, but he kept himself so approachable and affable that the people thanked him every moment they could get his attention.
In truth, the power that Oscar wielded was not of his choosing. The Land of Oz was powered by human dreams, and Oscar was a human dreamer. This close to the source of magic, his powerful dreams had an astounding effect on the city—new structures and designs appeared every night. This impressed the people greatly.
With all of the people coming into the Emerald City, a precautionary police force was established. The Emerald Guardsmen were the brave and skilled soldiers that kept the peace and patrolled the land around the Emerald City. They were led by Ombrosius Ambrosius—Omby-Amby to his friends—the Soldier with Green Whiskers. He was Oscar’s best friend, and his right-hand man.
Oscar and Omby-Amby looked out over the Emerald Lands from Oscar’s tower in the city. Oscar turned to look south.
“She’s expecting me in two days. This is really a big deal to her.”
“I know it is. Wickrie-Kells is looking forward to this. All of us together again. How long has it been?”
“Nine months for everybody. You’ve been down once. Wickrie has been up here twice. And I’ve gone down once. Then Glinda came back with me six months ago.” He sighed. “Has it really been six months?” He forced a smile. “That’s a long time.”
“Both of you have been busy. The Emerald City is growing faster than either of us thought possible. Glinda is doing some amazing things in the South. She is becoming a powerful sorceress. You two are bringing peace to the land.”
“Yes, peace, but not freedom—not liberty like I hoped.” Oscar replied. He yawned and kept his eyes closed for a long second.
“How much sleep did you get?”
Oscar shrugged. “Enough.”
“It’s barely the middle of the morning. You should not be yawning. You’ve got to get more sleep. All of these dreams you dream change things—they are wearing you out.”
“I have to go to my meetings. The people depend on me.”
“The bureaucrats can run their own meetings. They don’t need you in there to supervise.”
“There is nobody else but me. I have to be there. And in the meetings with the architects, and the daily tours. They are doing amazing things in this city.”
“It is you, the Wizard, that is doing these things. Every night you dream them. They only point them out.”
Oscar shook his head and chuckled. “No, no, no. It is not me. Dreams just entertain me in the nighttime hours. They can’t become real.”
Now it was Omby-Amby’s turn to sigh. His friend was wrong. He was powerful, and he was changing the Emerald City nightly with his dreams. Nobody in Oz dreamed, except the Wizard. The people did not know what dreams were, but they knew the Wizard had power, and that was enough.
“You have to get more sleep. Emerald City would not be happy with a dead wizard. You need sleep. You need to take a break. Let the people live their own lives for a day.”
“They need me. I make them happy. You see their faces. They smile. They laugh. They like to be with me.”
“You cannot make everybody happy all of the time. You can’t make them so happy that they just accept liberty and freedom. Liberty is a personal choice and people have to choose it. They have to want it. Right now, many of them don’t.”
“I don’t understand that.” Oscar said, leaning his elbows down on the railing. He stared into the streets far below.
Omby-Amby joined him down on the rail. “Neither do I, Brud. Neither do I.” He clapped a hand on Oscar’s back and stood up. “You need to get some rest today. Glinda expects you down there bright-eyed in two days. Let the meetings go today. Let the people be happy and entertain themselves today. Take a day for you.”
Oscar shook his head and smiled. “I am the Wizard. Like it or not, the humbug they believe is why I am in the tower. If they give me so much, how can I do less for them? Failure is not an option, Omby. I have to keep going.”
“You are killing yourself.”
“I know, but I have to keep going.” He closed his eyes and leaned his head down on his arms. “I am so tired.”
* * * * *
Kalinya admired herself in a small mirror for the fourth time since leaving the front door of Professor Nikidik. She saw all of her magic lines again. She was a beauty of probably twenty-four. Oh, those were marvelous years. The lads from miles around knew her and looked her way. Now they would again, but there was only one lad with the power to make her stay—that was the Wizard of Oz.
There still remained the matter of that red-haired brat, Glinda. The little princess was throwing a ball in honor of the Wizard. It probably meant a great deal to her to have it perfect. It certainly would be a shame to spoil such a well-planned occasion as that. A little chaos in the mix would upset the little apple’s cart and maybe, just possibly, reveal the bad within. If she was anything like her mother—and Kalinya was sure that she was—Glinda would rage and destroy something. That would be a spectacle worth watching.
The question remained—how to spoil Glinda’s day to the greatest possible degree? Kalinya turned west, toward the morning sun. Her sister was there, with the captive peoples of the Winkies and the Winged Monkeys. A slow smile spread on Kalinya’s face. Actually, she should think of herself as Kally now. She was a younger woman, and her name Kalinya did not inspire love.
Kally looked west to search the sky for the distant Winged Monkeys that would be a wonderful addition to the Sky Wizard’s Ball.
She wiggled her toes in the Silver Slippers and sighted a high point on the distant horizon. She too one, two, three steps and she was gone.
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