Part 6 :: The Clock Is Ticking…

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They are so much alike in so many respects. Not just the distinctive coloring and some facial features, but subtler things too; body language, the caliber of humor, the goofy cackling laugh, the enticing smirk. Delia moves like her other mother, a strange combination of graceful and awkward, not quite grown into their taller frames.

We only have a few more hours before we force a confrontation with the Wizard and the deadline is stressing all of us. Yes, I'm terrified beyond rational thought, but I will lay down my life for my family. That instinct is as clear as day to me now. In the purity of love, my selfishness has been burned away.

"Here Mama, I have a present for you," Delia suddenly announces and pulls a mass of gorgeous fabric from a cabinet. Creamy, heavy wool, surprisingly soft when I take one of the garments, is trimmed in a graduation of green from deepest woodland to the first faint flush of spring.

"Oh Delia," I admire, holding up what I realize is a heavy winter cape/jacket combination and the girl holds matching, voluminous skirts. "They're beautiful."

"There's matching boots and gloves too. This way, you don't have to worry about something as mundane as the cold."

"Thoughtful," I compliment and pat her cheek. "And I have just the blouse to go with it."

"I knew you would. I've got a match for you, Mimi." Startled, Elphie sits up from where she's been slouched in her chair, watching us with a faint, unconscious smile. It's another of the jackets with a heavy cape, in all the colors of a winter wood: browns and deep greens, heavy grays, trimmed in a dusky white. "Try it on for me."

"Oh Elphie," I whisper breathlessly at how magnificent my lover looks well-dressed like this. The green woman has never cared much for her appearance, wearing only the darkest and plainest of colors and that dreadful hat that I gave her. But in the traveling clothes and warm jacket, designed carefully for her body and coloring, she looks impossibly regal.

Pushing back her mimi's expansive raven hair, Delia expertly tweaks the high collar a bit to find a better angle to the commanding jawline and buttons up part of the front before she nods decisively. "I know you think it's ridiculous, but sometimes clothing really can help make the woman. The citizens of Oz need to see you at your best today."

Not certain how to respond, Elphie smiles thinly and settles on a joke. "So, no pointy black hat then?"

"Oz no," our daughter groans and runs her hands over Elphie's shoulders and arms, tugging at the fabric. "I wish I'd known how thin you are right now. I would have had this tailored a bit closer. Well, nothing to be done it about now. You look great, by the way."

That is my cue to sidle into my lover's side and take her left hand in both of mine, smiling adoringly into the uncertain dark eyes. "No, darling, you look better than great. You look magnificently regal. Truthfully, you do." That shy smile warms me through and through. Her kiss makes the surroundings vanish for what could be moments or an eternity and it's the Monkeys' chortling that finally brings me back from the sensual haze. Ignoring them for one more long moment, I hold Elphie's gaze, black in the dim lighting, my heart in my eyes. "Love you."

Clearing her throat roughly, my love smiles luminously. "I love you, too." Then she fires a sly look at where Delia is again seated at the table, studiously ignoring us. "No comment, Fae?"

"I figured my childish gagging noises would be inappropriate," the girl quips back primly and then shrieks as Elphie pokes her in the ribs.

"Ah, something else you have in common with your mother."

The petulant scowl makes Delia look like she's ten years old and I can't help but laugh in delight.

It's a short lived delight as Chistery pipes up suddenly, "Bells, rolling, tolling."

"It's time," I say quietly, feeling the impact of this moment settle heavily in my guts. Delia swallows hard and goes one more time to the cabinet she's been raiding. From it comes a long, slender shaft of gleaming silver topped with a sparkling starburst as well as a largish circular ribbon of gold.

"I almost didn't bring this," she explains, holding out the ridiculous pole-arm, for lack of a better description. "You've never liked it. It's long and it's heavy, but there's a reason for both. I know the reasons, but I'm not telling you. It'll make sense in time."

Not taking the thing, I eyeball it warily. "What is it?"

"Your wand, sorceress."

Now I really am shocked. The thing is nearly as long as I am tall! But, I've taken this much on trust, what's one more thing? The pulse of power in the ostentatious wand ripples up my arm to make my brain and spine buzz. Dizzy, I grip it tighter, alarmed and reassured by the odd familiarity that I feel for its energies.

"It knows most of the spells from the Grimmerie," Delia is continuing, gesturing at the oversized wand. "It's got them stored magically and all you have to do it call them by name. It's a remarkably effective tool." With that, Delia turns to speak quietly to Elphie, tugging the long raven tresses into a simple ponytail before holding up the gold circle on her fingertips. "Once again, I'm not going to explain the whole story behind this, but it will help you focus."

The moment the girl reaches up, I understand what the narrow, oddly shaped band is. A perfect fit, the beautifully simple circlet glitters against the black and green of Elphie's rich coloring. It comes to a point on her forehead, where a small, perfect sapphire teardrop sparkles. A sharp shudder runs though my lover's long body and I know exactly how she feels.

Delia steps back and the two Monkeys come over to stand with her. They look grave and almost awed. "Now," Delia intones somberly, "you look like the future of Oz."

In somewhat of a daze, I follow Elphie from the cave and back into my closet. Delia and the boys follow, dragging my new clothes and some other things I don't recognize and don't care to ask after. Elphie comes last, cinching up the bag to silently hand it to Delia and shooing her off. To my relief, Elphie doesn't rush me, or even ask questions, just gathers me to her slender body and walks me back until we can sprawl out on the bed for a much needed break.

With my head pressed to my lover's chest, listening intently the steady beat of her heart, calmness settles. Destiny is at our doorstep, but we will prevail.

"What do you think she meant, 'the future of Oz'?"

"Well, it makes sense that we have something to do with picking up the pieces after the Wizard is gone, right? After all, since we're going to stop him and can help things keep running smoothly until a real government can be set up and things like that. And all this damage done to the Animals has to be fixed."

"And you're just the revolutionary to do it," I tease affectionately, kissing her jaw and her arms squeeze me tighter for a moment. More minutes pass as we soak up our togetherness and the lovely memories of our night in this bed. Then, with well-honed social instincts, I know that the moment has come. Our entrance must be perfectly timed. This will be an epic case of being fashionably late.

In the fading sunlight of gathered dusk, the gold circlet does magnificent things to Elphie's dark eyes, making them sparkle like mica in wet, mossy river stones. And the sapphire makes me blush with pleasure as I recognize the color from a lifetime of mirrors. The warm clothes Delia brought me are as perfect as I thought they would be as well as being blissfully warm.

As though summoned, Delia shows that my perfect timing has been passed on when she appears in the doorway. "It's time."

"Yes," I agree and Elphie nods shortly. Delia's raven curls are tamed back into a short braid and a snug dark blue knit cap has been pulled tight over her head. A dark, laced tunic with a long stormy gray cloak now covers her snugly, but it's the cap that intrigues me. Touching the ratty old article of clothing, I recognize it and giggle in delight. "Is this what I think it is?"

"Yes," she smiles shyly. "Mimi's old school cap. It's for good luck." Then she sees the emerald cluster sitting on my bedstand and gestures to it with her head. "Take it. We'll need all the help we can get."

Bells once more peel through the Emerald City and we all still.

The ceremony for the Winter Solstice has begun in the courtyard outside the Wizard's palace. The eyes of all of Oz are there now, recordings being sent magically to all corners of our land. Darkness is rapidly approaching, the longest night of the year.

"History is waiting," Elphie says wisely and we head for the living room. Chistery is holding the broom, dancing agitatedly from foot to foot. He and Janen are both dressed as warmly as we, including insulating gloves for both hands and feet, as well a nice sleeve for their tails. Only the wings are exposed, the leathery membranes half unfurled with readiness.

"Thank you, my friend," Elphie greets the larger Monkey, placing a warm hand on his shoulder and he beams adoration at her. "You stick close so that we can all protect one another, okay?"

"Okay, okay," he nods eagerly and she flashes a grin at Janen, perched on the table nearby.

"That goes for you too, young man."

"Yes, yes," he squeaks and leaps to land expertly on Delia's shoulder. "Will stay close. Promise, promise."

"This is it then," Elphaba hums to herself and I make her jump with a surprise hug. All of us crowd this beloved, misunderstood, misaligned and simply wonderful woman. When I kiss her lips, the others press kisses to her cheeks, making her smile and much of her tension to flow away.

"Right behind you, Mimi," Delia smiles and steps back, wind already beginning to gather about her, lifting the edges of her cloak and pushing it away.

"My love?" Elphie invites me with an open hand, her body already perched comfortably on the broom's narrow length. "I once asked you to defy gravity itself with me. Care to try it now?"

As fearful as the prospect of flying is, I trust her implicitly and take the offered green hand to settle myself behind her. The broom feels odd pressed sideways across my buttocks, but will be tolerable for a time. With seeming no effort at all, this common object enchanted into something wonderful, drifts away from the floor and I watch Chistery scramble to the great glass doors that lead to the balcony. As he throws them open and the winter chill floods in, I giggle, "Impress me, darling."

And the broom takes off like a shot.

Clinging to Elphie like a burr, I scream in shock of the rush of flight. The balcony flashes past and the yawning canyons of the Emerald City wink by as we spiral upward with the icy air unmerciful in our faces. There is a flicker of movement that resolves itself into the darkly-dressed Delia and her stormy wings coming up alongside us as the frantic pace slows.

"Look, my sweet," Elphie cackles in unfettered delight, arms outstretched, as the broom stills. "The grandest view of the Emerald City." It is no exaggeration and I gawk at the magnificence of the gleaming green towers and bridges, the darkening lands beyond the city's borders.

"Oh Elphie! It's wonderful! Promise that we'll do this again someday!"

"With pleasure, my sweet! With pleasure! Now, hold on!"

Delia and the two Flying Monkeys are already deep into a steep dive towards the bright heart of the city. Fog trails our girl like vapor trails and I sense the building power clearly, gripping the long wand more tightly to my side. My brain cannot decide if terror or exhilaration makes my heart pound so hard, but I hang onto Elphie's waist and force myself to watch the architecture of the Emerald City rush up at us.

The crowd at the Central Courtyard is exactly what I hoped, packed in like sweets in a lovely box. The screaming starts up almost immediately as Delia swoops in, already chanting ponderously. Her voice carries over the crowd, carrying unnaturally far, crescendoing as I spot our quarry, poking at Elphie to get her to change direction.

"Firearm!" Delia roars and there is a blast of heat like opening a furnace door that races out from her levitating body. The guards swarming towards the building chaos beginning shouting and screaming as their weapons glow as though just pulled from the smith's forge.

There is a storm brewing, literally, as I spot Morrible chanting beside the confused Wizard. When he recognizes the stony green visage, he whirls and ducks behind the guards closing in. They're rattled by the abrupt loss of their weapons, but not backing down. Now it's my turn to draw on my limited skills and the power in this scepter that my daughter brought me.

"Ice!" I call clearly, waving the crystal encrusted starburst at the ground at the guardsmen's feet. Immediately, the marble surface freezes solid and the men topple like children's toys, helpless to find their footing. Elphie grunts in pain as a rock strikes her in the shoulder and the broom gains some altitude.

"Now what?" she calls out as we realize that the guards aren't panicking as much as we hoped and the crowd is panicking worse. Shaking back my concealing hood, I expertly toss back my loose gold curls and draw on a lifetime of portraying myself as exactly what people want me to be. Cool calm settles over me and I give Elphie a squeeze.

"Bring us down over the crowd, where the recorders can see us. And keep an eye out for trouble."

Worried, Elphie nonetheless does as I instruct and the crowd tries its best to scatter. Someone is going to get hurt in the crush and I raise the hand grasping the wand. "People of Oz," I enunciate in my clearest voice, pouring my heart, soul and convictions into the words that will save or damn us. "You have been deceived. This woman is no monster, no wicked witch. She is a victim of a terrible crime and I can prove it! Elphaba Thropp has been maligned and misrepresented to you, people of Oz! When she uncovered evidence of the Wizard's lies, we turned on her, simply for the color of her skin and the untrue words of deceitful people."

The crowd is still now, listening to me, their eyes on the woman frozen still and strangely unthreatening on the broom with me. Gentling, I catch every eye I can, impressing the weight of my words as best I can.

"How do we know the truth? Simply because one man says that it is so? We have no proof, nor have we ever asked for it. Just like you, I took the words of accusation as truth and turned on someone I adored. This woman is not capable of evil. She is the kindest, if not the prickliest personality I know."

"Morrible!" Delia screams shrilly and I now see that the storm I felt threatening has born down on the heart of Oz like a hungry animal on easy prey.

"Everybody get down!" I scream with every ounce of power I have at my disposal and will marvel later that every soul in sight does as ordered.

Violent intent builds, and it takes on a truly terrifying visage. Morrible, the woman who was supposed to teach and protect us, has summoned a monster. Her ugly face is twisted with rage and misplaced power, her hands and voice stretched out to Delia, still hovering above her, chanting back. The girl's concealing scarf is ripped away by the building violence of wind and Morrible's eyes widen in shock, her magics faltering.

In that moment, the battle shifts again.

The monster is loose.

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