The Witch Must Burn
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Packing for the journey to Glinda’s was simple. I told myself that Glinda was telling the truth, no matter how much she’d scared me the night before: this would just be for the summer. There was no need to clean out my room in the Emerald Palace. Just a few dresses and pairs of shoes. Glinda would probably have her own servants’ uniforms, but I added my work dress just in case. I looked over my tidy little room and neatly arranged possessions, wondering if I’d ever see them again, and quickly squashed that thought. Of course I’d be back. Dorothy would insist on it, and Dorothy was in charge now. I had made myself indispensable to her. I tried not to think about how easily Glinda had overruled Dorothy the night before, or just how powerless Dorothy had been when confronted with Glinda’s magic. Or to wonder what Glinda wanted me for.
I snapped my fingers, and an image of all the other servants wavered into life before me, transparent and iridescent as a soap bubble. I could summon up their images whenever I wanted, I told myself. I could probably even send them messages, though I’d never tried to use my magic over long distances before. This summer I would learn how much I was capable of doing.
The hardest part was saying good-bye. Astrid had already burst into my room first thing that morning, her face wet with tears. “Jellia!” she wailed, flinging her arms around me and almost knocking me over onto my bed. “You can’t go! It’s all my f-f-fault,” she sobbed into my shoulder. “Who will look after us when you’re gone? Who will protect us?”
“It’s just for the summer,” I said firmly, gently moving her head off my shoulder before she blew snot all over me. “You’ll have to be strong, Astrid. You can’t always rely on other people to fight your battles for you. This summer will be your chance to grow up.” She’s just a kid, I thought, patting her back awkwardly. How can she stand up to Dorothy? What will they do without me? Technically, I was just a kid, but I’d always had a good head on my shoulders and a lot of responsibility. I felt about a million years older than Astrid, even though we were nearly the same age. And though I tried not to let her see it, inside I was almost as upset as she was. Glinda was seriously scary—and I had no idea what lay in store for me.
Despite our hasty departure, word had spread fast around the palace, and all the servants were assembled in the courtyard to see me off. I took a deep breath, determined not to cry. I looked around for Ozma but wasn’t totally surprised by her absence. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen her walking around in the palace, and it made me worry even more about Dorothy’s plans.
Glinda hovered a few feet away—literally, her glittery heels floating a few inches off the cobblestones. She had dressed for the journey as if she were headed to a ball. Her pale pink dress was embroidered with glittering gold thread and the bodice was studded with clear gemstones that caught the sunlight and refracted it into a blinding dazzle. Her hair was piled on top of her head and secured with more gems. A small squad of the Tin Woodman’s soldiers stood at attention behind her mechanical carriage, their metallic bodies gleaming in the bright courtyard as the automaton horses—wired together out of tin and wood and gems—stamped their feet mechanically, their tinny neighing breaking the still air. Glinda beamed benevolently while the other servants came forward one by one to say good-bye. It wasn’t like Dorothy to allow the servants a moment’s respite, but Glinda’s departure seemed to have put her in a good mood. She stood a few feet away from the witch, decked out in a tiny-waisted leather dress pieced together out of blue and white squares. As always, her red shoes emitted a rosy halo of light.
Astrid was still sobbing like the sweet little idiot she was; I had to resist the urge to pat her on the head like a dog. Hannah, the maid who was closest to me in age—and the closest thing I had to a best friend—came up to hug me. The Munchkin cooks surrounded me, flinging their arms around my knees and crying “Jellia! Jellia! Don’t go!” in unison. I was touched, even if they made walking a little awkward.
“It’s just for a few months,” I reassured them, hugging them one by one. “I promise. You’ll barely notice I was gone. Take good care of Dorothy—don’t forget about the bacon—”
“—and color code her dresses,” Hannah finished. “We know, J. It’ll be okay.” Astrid wailed aloud, and Hannah rolled her eyes. I laughed. She always knew how to cheer me up.
“Jellia,” Glinda cooed, “we really must be going. You’ll see all your little friends again before you even know it! I need your help at my palace now.”
I gave everyone one last wave before I climbed reluctantly into Glinda’s carriage. To my surprise, I saw the Scarecrow stumble out of the palace, carrying an enormous satchel. Behind him stretched a line of the Tin Woodman’s soldiers, carrying various pieces of mechanical equipment and machine parts. Another carriage drew up behind Glinda’s, and the soldiers busied themselves loading it with their burdens while the Scarecrow supervised.
“He’s always late,” Glinda said, and sighed. Gone was the terrifying witch of the night before; in the afternoon sunlight, she looked radiant and gentle, although her voice had a peevish tone that belied her sweet expression. Finally, the second carriage was loaded to the Scarecrow’s satisfaction, and he gave Glinda a jaunty wave.
“Everything will work as we discussed?” she called in a honeyed voice. He nodded jerkily, his black button eyes flashing in the sun.