This is no kind of life, but it's all I have. Sneaking around like a criminal, a felon in the eyes of Oz. Hissing irritably under my breath, I once again challenge myself to find strength and patience and focus. There is still much to be done and I won't back down from my convictions.
But the memories won't leave me alone.
My life has been a hard one; from odd and unwanted child born unexplainably grass green, to loathed student, to hopeful sorceress in the Emerald City. The truth of what's happening to the Animals is worse than anything I could have imagined. And then that bastard tricked me into transforming those poor Monkeys!
A shattering crack and dust raining down in the soft glare of my oil lamp alerts me to my stress. The wooden quill is split clean along its grain and the cave trembles in sympathy to my raging emotions.
Chistery is the only one who can tolerate me for long periods of time, even now peering at me in customary adoration and fear. "Mistress green," he mumbles softly in his broken way. "Okay, okay?"
No, I am not at all okay, but my companion can't help and I force a weak smile. "The memories are particularly sharp today. It will pass."
It always passes.
The lie is necessary for my sanity and my loyalty to the cause. The life of a fugitive is hard, cold and lonely, but I embrace it as my due. Despite my stoicism, the spark of warmth in my chest won't go away, much as I try to ignore it and snuff it out. Deep in my heart lies the flame of adoration to the one person who first accepted me for exactly what I am.
Just thinking her name hurts. I haven't been able to say it since leaving her behind. Oh, I bravely cackled at all of the Emerald City that they were never gonna bring me down, but the reality is that I'm tired and hungry and disheartened.
"Miss Elphaba?" Grateful for the distraction, I turn to look at Hurgle, my Rhinoceros lieutenant. "There are new refugees. They've brought supplies."
Hanging from his great horn is a net bag of fruit and a loaf of crumbling bread that makes my mouth water. The last two seasons have shown me that the basics are often the hardest to come by; food, shelter, fresh water. As our numbers swell, these things will be harder and harder to find. "Oh, Hurgle," I breathe in sincere gratitude. "I will thank them for this myself. And thank you for bringing this to me."
Hurgle only ducks his enormous head and backs out with surprisingly dexterity for such a big Animal.
"Come eat, Chistery," I invite my companion and he launches himself across the cave to eagerly grab the slightly squishy orange and sink his teeth into it. I pause with the ripe apple halfway to my mouth, caught by the way the shining green skin of the fruit echoes the color of my cradling palm. With this hard life, it's rare that I dwell on something as mundane as my coloring anymore.
The apple vanishes quickly, my ragged nails picking out the seeds so that I can consume everything, even the rough core. A girl can't be picky when she's flirting with starvation. Both of us get a good mouthful of bread before I reluctantly stash the loaf for safekeeping and wait for my stomach to settle.
"Scrabble, rabble, fruits, roots, grubs," Chistery mutters and flashes me a pleading look. I've gotten resigned to his looking to me for permission to do just about anything. His mind and will are too damaged by the Wizard's bad treatment. All I can do is treat this strange friend with kindness and respect. With my gentle nod, he scrambles away to forage.
Only, the afternoon is suddenly changed with a great blast of sound and darkness. A storm? This suddenly? I fear this must be magic and scramble for hat, cloak and broom before racing for the cave entrance.
The sky roils black and violent where there had been a thinly sunny sky moments ago. A great, swirling mass of clouds spirals above us, lightning crackling and thunder growling. Chistery is pressed to the ground, his voice screaming monkey threats at this invader to our peaceful corner of the Gillikin Forest.
What do I do? The Animals look to me as the only source of sorcery in their tenuous existence, but I have no idea what to do against this threat. My short training period at Shiz is absolutely not up to this and all my experimenting since then is even less help.
Abruptly, a figure is spat from the violent whirl of storm, enormous bat-like wings open to the air currents. The figure seems human, but one can never be certain. Like a broken bird, the figure is whirled about, headed for a crash landing that makes me cringe in sympathy. The storm crescendos before vanishing in a roar of fog and noise that leaves the forest ringing with silence.
The ruckus of the figure crashing through the trees is loud in the sudden quiet, the body eventually slumping from the lowest branches to land in an ungainly pile.
No one can move for long heartbeats, too stunned by the moments of unexpected violence and sound. But I was brave once and I can be brave again, hesitantly approaching the still body in the grass. It's a woman, dressed in sturdy traveler's clothes: a black cloak, dark purple trousers and well worn boots. A halo of inky curls splays over the browned winter grass.
A rustle of movement beneath the cloak makes me jump back, Chistery shrieking threats behind me, causing me to jump again. We are mutually stunned by a small Flying Monkey popping up, shrieking back, his clothing askew and wings fully unfurled. I know instantly that he is not one of the poor creatures that I was tricked into changing. He is smaller, better proportioned, his wings far more natural looking on his slender body.
"Mimi, Mimi," he squeaks softly, but excitedly, crouching protectively on the fallen woman from the clouds. "Help poor Fae? Please, please?"
Despite his pleading, I pause a moment, clutching the broom as though it's a weapon. Then the woman groans, a low, pained sound that I can't resist. The little monkey leaps, gorgeous wings unfurled, to land expertly on my shoulder, ignoring my flinch. His hard little body presses to my neck as though he has done this a thousand times, and I have to wonder at the odd familiarity. Kneeling at the side of the stranger, I rake my eyes over her frame to check for any obvious damage.
The outstretched hands twitch among the torn grass stems and I feel like reality has slowed around me.
Her skin… is the color of new spring leaves.
"Okay, not fun," an unknown female voice groans and the strange woman gets her elbows under her shoulders to painstakingly lever herself up. Her voice isn't exactly the timbre of mine, and it's not girlish either, but an intriguing combination of both.
When she raises her head and her pale eyes round in shock, I am stunned again by what I see in the girl's face. The eyes are a familiar summery blue, set in a strong boned face softened with lovely, gentle curves. Her skin is the color of my apple, now heavy in my stomach, framed by the wild mane of midnight curls.
"Mimi," she breathes softly, almost reverently, the pale jade hand reaching for me. Then her jeweled gaze shifts to my shoulder. "Janen! I told you to stay home. Your clan is going to kill me." Then she returns her eyes to me and cringes. "Yeah, annoyed parentals are definitely in my future."
"Explain," I growl as the initial shock fades. The girl flinches, though her expression is sheepish rather than terrified. Nodding, she tries to stand, collapsing with a pained hiss to grab her left knee.
"Ouch. Bad landing."
"Any landing walk away from," Janen chuckles near my ear and I fire the small Monkey a sharp glance that makes him sheepishly cringe exactly like the girl. "Is good landing. Yes Miss Mimi?" To my astonishment, he rubs his little head against my cheek and makes a happy noise.
Acceptance is not an easy or familiar feeling for me, but somehow this small Animal warms my heart with his touch. "Mimi?" I finally have the sense to ask even as Hurgle lumbers up with Chackle the Cheetah medic. "Why are you calling me by such a ridiculous name?"
A mysterious wind ruffles the winter-dead grass, swirling around the girl as she hunches over her leg. Long moments pass before she takes a deep breath and flexes the leg easily. Smiling respectfully at the pair of Animals, she nods and stands up with a bounce, miraculously healed. But the sober look in her eye belies the happy body language. "It's a nickname. My name is… ummm. You call me Fae."
"I call you Fae?"
The Animals are gathering now and there is electricity in the air that has nothing to do with the dissipated magical storm. There is threat building like lightning as I still haven't caught up with the situation.
"I need you to save us," the girl says simply and clearly, absolute seriousness in her tone. No one knows how to respond to that, least of all me.
I wish my voice were steadier. I wish that I were more in control. I wish that I knew what was going on.
"Mama," Fae adds quietly, her bright blue eyes reflecting the scared teenager that she obviously is beneath all the power and flash. "And yourself… and me."
My confusion is becoming anger and I feel the change in my expression, feel the crackle of sorcerous power build. Fae is not cowed, instead looking at me with soulful eyes.
"You really don't recognize me, do you? I knew this was going to be hard, but I thought the spells would be the worst of it," she rambles more to herself than me. "You tried to tell me, Mimi." Defeated, she pushes rough fingers through her curls and my anger once more vanishes. "But I've never been good with no."
Recognize her? I've never met this girl!
But there is something about her, something I know. She smiles almost shyly, flashing the diamond-blue eyes that pierce my heart with an altogether familiar, sweet pain. Taking a deep breath, she braces herself mentally and I'm struck again with how familiar she seems. "Very recently, you found a magical emerald, deep in that cave of yours." As much as I wish I didn't look shocked, I can feel the expression clearly. "It glows and radiates very powerful magic." It takes a real effort not to move my hand over the tiny lump in the purse at my belt. I still don't have a clue why I kept it, except that I was drawn to the thing. "I know about it," Fae continues, her paler green hand reaching up to a chunky and beautifully wrought silver chain at her neck, pulling on it. "Because I have it."
It makes no sense… but here is the proof. The small emerald is a distinctive, six-spined collection of bird-quill thin shafts, grown together, glowing with sorcerous power. Only, Fae has an identical stone, floating in a small sphere that glistens in the sunlight like a soap bubble of all the weird things, delicate silver filigree holding it to the chain.
"This is how I knew when to find you."
Again, Fae shrugs and I'm once again completely baffled at how familiar she seems! This is going to make me crazy and my face must show that, because Fae gets even more serious.
"I'm part of your future."