Yellow Brick War (Dorothy Must Die, #3)

Yellow Brick War (Dorothy Must Die, #3)

Danielle Paige




ONE


The witches were waiting.

The fire blazed behind the three cloaked figures like a scene from Macbeth—if Macbeth had been set in a bombed-out trailer park. Shadows flickered eerily across the uneven ground. A chilly wind whipped dry dust into tiny cyclones and sent a shiver down my spine. I was standing in the Dusty Acres trailer park—or what was left of Dusty Acres anyway. A fire blazed in the concrete barbecue, the only thing that remained of the place I’d once called home.

Home was nowhere now.

A trio of women faced me, each of them wearing a heavy cloak in a different color: red, gold, and blue. A purple cloak lay on the ground at their feet, glittering with rich gold embroidery. The witch in red was Glamora. The witch in blue was Mombi. And the witch in the gold cloak was hooded so that I couldn’t see her features.

“Rise, little witch,” Glamora said, picking up the purple cloak. “Take your place among us.” I stepped forward. The witches were right. It was time for me to fulfill my destiny. To defeat Dorothy once and for all—with the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked at my back. I took another step forward and reached for the cloak Glamora held out to me.

“You’ve been training for this your whole life,” she said. “You knew we’d ask you to join us. It’s time.” A second later, her words registered. What did she mean, I’d been training my whole life? I’d spent my whole life in this exact trailer park in Kansas, right up until the moment a tornado airlifted me out of Dusty Acres and into a world I thought only existed in books. Then, I’d trained with the Order, learning to fight in the underground network of caves where they housed new recruits, but I’d hardly spent any time at all with them before I’d jumped right into battling Dorothy. Now I realized—Glamora wasn’t looking at me—she was looking past me. At someone else.

“I know,” a familiar voice said behind me, and Nox stepped forward. “I was hoping it wouldn’t be for a while.” He met my startled look with a weary smile.

His face was tired and his eyes were sad. He looked exactly as he had when I’d left him, what felt like a thousand years ago. I’d followed Dorothy into the maze behind the Emerald Palace, leaving him behind. I’d found Dorothy—and the Wizard. And then the Wizard had opened a portal to Kansas, and Dorothy had killed him and pulled both of us through. Dorothy, I thought with a flash of fear. Where was she? If Nox and I had come through the Wizard’s portal, she had to be close by. I closed my eyes, reaching for my magic. And . . . nothing. It was gone, like something had scrubbed it out of me.

“You’re ready,” Mombi said to Nox firmly. She wasn’t looking at me either. What was going on?

“I’ll never be ready,” he said in a low voice. Slowly, painfully, he reached forward and took the cape out of Glamora’s outstretched arms, wrapping it around his shoulders. He looked at me. “I’m sorry, Amy,” he said.

I opened my mouth to ask him what he was sorry for, and then I realized. The witches didn’t want me to take my place among them. They wanted Nox. After everything I’d been through, all my training, they were pushing me aside. “Why did—” I began, but I never got the chance to finish my question.

A huge, booming noise sounded across the gray landscape, and a crackling fork of blue lightning split the sky, landing in the earth in front of Nox with a sizzling noise. Another boom of thunder cracked and echoed, and the cloak began to glow as it swirled around Nox’s shoulders. His face was lit with eerie blue light, and magic crackled and sparked around his body. I could feel the charge in the air, like an electric haze radiating from his lean, muscular form. His back stiffened and his mouth fell open. His face twisted as if in pain. “Nox!” I screamed, but the buzz of the magic swirling around him swallowed up his name. The third witch held out a hand to stop me as I lunged toward him.

“He’ll be all right,” she said. “Stay back until it’s done, Amy.” Crackling lines of power, like glowing ropes, unfurled from Nox’s body, wrapping themselves around each of the other three witches. I jumped back just in time as power slammed into each of the witches. All four of them rose slowly into the air as magic spun a golden net around them, binding them tightly together. I had no idea what was happening, but it was clearly something big. Something I’d never seen before. Something I didn’t even come close to understanding. For one single, shimmering second, the four witches’ bodies seemed almost to merge into one huge, flowing form. In the vortex of magic, I could somehow see all the way through to gleaming emerald streets and clear blue skies, and I knew I was looking at Oz. And then with a final, terrifying crack of lightning, the witches split apart and tumbled to the ground. The lines of power snapped back into their bodies like tape zipping back into a tape measure. Nox lay stunned at my feet, wrapped in the purple cloak and gasping for breath. And then I saw the crumpled form lying in the dirt on the far side of the witches. I didn’t have to guess who it was: the red shoes, pulsing with a dull throbbing light that hurt my eyes, gave her away. It was Dorothy. Her checked dress was torn and dirty, and her arms and legs were covered in dirt and bloody scratches. But her shoes still glowed with a sickly red light.

“Quickly, now,” the hooded witch said urgently. “While she’s still weak.” She threw back her hood and my jaw dropped.

“Gert?” I gasped. “But you’re dead!” I had watched her die. I had mourned for her. And now here she was, alive, in front of me.

“No time to explain right now! We’ll never have a chance to destroy Dorothy like this again!”

Glamora, Gert, and Mombi joined hands and began to chant, and I recognized the shimmer of magic in the air over their heads. Nox reached for Mombi’s free hand, and she took it without interrupting her chant. His voice joined the other witches’.

I tried again to summon my own magic. I was sure this time: there was nothing there. I flexed my fingers, panicking. The magic was gone. My power—all of it. Dorothy was sitting up and looking at her hands in confusion as if she was discovering the same thing. Something had happened to us in that journey through the Wizard’s portal—something that hadn’t affected Nox and the other witches. And then I knew. Dorothy and I were both from Kansas. I’d never cast a spell in my life before I came to Oz—because whatever magic Kansas supposedly contained, I had no idea how to tap into it—or if I even could. The Wizard had insisted Oz was pulling its magic out of the very dirt of Kansas, but Dorothy and I were out of luck. We were back in a world where we didn’t have magic. And if Dorothy was completely powerless, so was I.

“Help us, Amy!” Nox yelled over the other witches’ chant.

“I can’t!” I said desperately, and his eyes widened in surprise. Dorothy’s body was beginning to glow with a pale light that slowly overwhelmed the pulsing from her shoes. But realization suddenly dawned in her eyes.

“We’re in Kansas,” she said, her voice hoarse and weak. “You brought me back to Kansas. And I hate Kansas.” She struggled to her feet and the witches’ spell dimmed as her shoes began to glow even more fiercely. She flicked her fingers at us and scowled when her magic failed to appear. “I want my palace back,” she hissed. “And my power. And my dresses.” She looked down at the red shoes and they blazed with a brilliant crimson light.

“No!” Gert cried. “Stop her!” But the pale glow of the witches’ spell dissolved into a puff of iridescent glitter as Dorothy’s shoes radiated light and power. She wobbled a little, clearly exhausted. Her eyes were sunk deep in her skull. Her skin looked dry and stretched over the bones of her face. Her hair was lank and bedraggled.

“Take me home,” she whispered feebly. “Please, shoes, take me home.” Mombi lunged forward, her own hands radiating the light of a spell, but it was too late. With a flash of red and a sharp pop like a champagne cork shooting out of a bottle, Dorothy vanished.

Dorothy had gone home. And we were stuck in Kansas. For good.





TWO
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