I feel overwhelmed, my voice paralyzed in my throat from fear and inexperience. All those accusing, probing eyes…
Delia's screaming pulls at something deep inside of me, a subconscious, primitive part that recognizes that my adored offspring is in danger. The winds have grown massive, sucking down the cavernous gaps between buildings like a vortex.
Then… then it rounds the corner and everything becomes terrifyingly clear.
Morrible, that idiotic, power-hungry imbecile specialist in the art of weather… has called up a tornado.
Like a great hungry predator, it bears down on the square, chewing up everything in its path. This is it; this is the moment where my future reaches its most important crossroads to date. Failure in this first task leads where I have long believed my destiny lay. Down that path lies darkness, ostracism and certain, ugly death…
But there's a second path now, brighter and more hopeful, brought to me in the love of these adored young women and their matching, sparkling blue eyes. If we can stop this thing, then we just might be… heroes.
I could have never imagined it.
Crouching in determination over the broom, I reach back to grip Glinda's body to mine and press for speed. The gale screams over the terror of the populace, trapped in the square with too few exits. Crashing roughly into Delia, I grab her to me, shouting in her ear. "Fae! Listen to me; you have to call that thing off! You can do it! I know you can! You traveled through time, for Oz's sake! One little twister should be a piece of cake!"
Power builds, as sure as water behind a dam. As the skies darken completely into the longest night of the year, great forces come together. Glinda is chanting something, her high, clear voice carrying over the storm and I find myself echoing the words without thinking. Shimmering ethereally, there is a barrier of some kind appearing between us and the approaching twister, looming to fill our whole vision.
The sudden quiet is almost deafening as we are completely enclosed in a nearly transparent, shimmering and, to my annoyed amusement, faintly pink… bubble.
"Do it," Glinda grates out with effort, the strain stark in her voice as she fights the force of the storm. Hugging Delia to me, feeling her trembling, I coax her gently, having no idea where the words come from.
"Come on, Fae, this is what you've been preparing for your whole life. I've always believed in you. Always. We both have. My good, extraordinary girl."
The soothing patter works, Delia's arms rising as though to hold back that monstrous thing with just her two small hands. Feeling the power focus in Glinda, Delia, me, I slide my hands down my child's arms and add my strength to hers.
For an instant, the storm seems to slow, to stop, to hover there impossibly for a timeless moment. It is the most terrifyingly beautiful thing I have ever seen.
Then, it simply dissolves into wisps of fog, as though it never existed at all.
"Drop the bubble, Mama," Delia growls and the instant it does so, she drops like a stone to land lightly on the marble far below. "How dare you!" she screams wildly at Morrible, who recoils as though slapped. "People could have been killed! Are you insane?! It's not enough that you would ruin innocent lives through deceit, but flat-out violence too? Wizard!!!"
That last word echoes like cannon fire through the city, making all parties cringe and cover their ears.
"You can't hide forever, you deceitful bastard! I came back through time to find you! And I will find you!" When Morrible makes a move, Delia growls something and the old woman is wrapped up in a long ribbon of fog like a snake, her eyes bugging out in terror. Truly worked up now, Delia is chanting again and I'm worried that this will once again get out of control. Landing, I reach for her as she shouts a last word. "Doordust!"
And every door in sight disintegrates into sparkling powder.
Wrenching Delia around, I see the panic that has her eyes fully dilated, only the faintest ring of blue around the black, black pupils. "Delia!" My shout seems to have no effect, her muttering bringing up that ozone buzz of magic yet again. "Fae!"
There she is, her bright personality surfacing from beneath the panic, and her voice falters uncertainly.
"Delia," I soothe, holding her shoulders and her gaze. "Calm down, darling. We're right here, okay?" A battered but whole Janen comes out of nowhere to land on her shoulder, clearly exhausted. That finally gets through to her, the blue eyes returning to normal, blinking sleepily.
"Mimi," she whimpers in a childlike voice and I gather her into a hug. The fog snake choking Morrible dissolves and I glower coldly at the gasping woman.
"Don't try anything funny, Morrible," I warn and direct my voice to the missing doors of the Wizard's palace. "Wizard, come speak with me. You can't hide anymore."
No one seems capable of moving, the crowd, the fallen guards, even the stormy sky itself is strangely quiet and still. Willing the old man to appear, I stare into the darkness of the hall until a shadow appears there, resolving into the very man in question. He looks old and defeated, knowing that his reckoning has come.
"This is your chance to do good," I tell him quietly and clearly, knowing that every eye and ear in Oz is on this encounter. The great and Wonderful Wizard versus the woman he has villainized as the Wicked Witch. "Tell them the truth."
Delia turns in my hold to face him and Glinda steps to my side to take my free hand, the broom falling, forgotten.
"You came here, to Oz, from the Other Land," I say clearly, fighting acute stage fright, but reassured by my family. "You did some wonderful things, but you've also done some horrible things. That's why I confronted you and turned against you, to protect the Animals. My dream to learn at your side was dashed when I realized the whole truth."
"The persecution and lies," Glinda adds.
"The green elixir," Delia growls hatefully and shrugs off my arm to stalk over and loom threateningly over the cringing Wizard. "You are directly responsible for the abuse my Mimi suffered so horribly her whole life! You slipped that stuff into her mother's drink during your travels. You took advantage of the poor woman, leaving behind a child distorted by your damned potion!"
A stunned silence hangs over the square and my brain frantically tries to catch up with these new revelations.
"Because of you," Delia rages at the Wizard, now nearly on his knees, and the surroundings begin to tremble again. "She's been hated and vilified for her beautiful green skin! Because of you, there are almost no Animals in my time! Because of you!"
Once again, I leap forward to grab her hands, tear her away from the building violence; hold her sobbing body to mine. "Is it true?" I ask softly. "Is that what that green bottle is that I've carried with me all my life until I was forced to leave it behind at Shiz? Is this one more sin to add to what you've already done?"
Finally falling to his knees, the Wizard nods silently, reduced to no more than a pathetic, broken old man. I'm numb, my brain full of a buzz like a lightning strike. The oily green residue in that old bottle I've always been so attached to, matching the exact grassy tone of my skin.
"You know," I continue just as softly, just as cuttingly. "All I wanted originally was for the Animals to stop being persecuted. I had no idea how deep this corruption went. I was thrilled just to meet you, just like anyone else in Oz would be. The idea of actually maybe working with you made me happier than I had ever been. Then you tricked me into transforming those poor Monkeys. I will never forget how they writhed in pain, I will never forgive myself for doing that to them. You have to leave this place, now. Forever. Don't look back. Get in your balloon and leave the same way you arrived. Go."
With a great flutter of sound, I am suddenly surrounded by the very Flying Monkeys I was tricked into transforming. They watch me soberly for a moment, even Chistery in their midst, before nodding in acceptance and turning away one by one. They gather up the Wizard and vanish into the depths of the temple of falsity and decadence at the heart of this city that calls up such mixed feelings.
All that fades away at the feeling of these two adored females pressed into my narrow frame. Even Janen gets in on the cuddle, rubbing his furry face against my cheeks and nose. The Gale Guards are on their feet, completely at a loss of what to do. Shivering with fear, I pick out the one that obviously heads up this squad and hold his dazed eyes. "The populace will need you, sir. I'll stay right here so that there will be no potential trouble."
The look in his eye is very telling. The conflict there in his sharp gaze is a microcosm of the population around me. I have been the enemy for a long time now and no one is going to move beyond that easily. Despite the crimes of the Wizard, I have just sent him away in disgrace and we of Oz are suddenly bereft of leadership.
Then, this soldier blows my mind away, stepping forward, pulling off his right glove, extending it towards me. For an insane moment, I really think he might do something to me, hit me, grab me, I don't know. Instead, he waits until I come to my senses and ever so hesitantly release my girls and pull off my own glove.
This dangerous stranger's hand is warm and strong. I watch his calloused fingers close about mine, the weathered skin sharp contrast to the verdant green I have stared at my whole life. Clearing his throat gets my gaze to snap up to meet serious gray eyes. "Welcome home, Miss Elphaba."
I am at a complete loss of how to react, only squeezing his hand helplessly and blinking through the burning tears in my eyes.
The soldier orders several of his squad to stay and guard both us and Morrible, who has barely taken a deep breath, she's that fearful. She knows she's in trouble.
"Did we do it?" Delia asks tentatively and I feel laughter tickle its way from belly to throat to escape into the chilly winter air. Something in the sound releases the crowd, their voices rising in distress and confusion.
"I got it," Glinda tells me, planting quick kisses on Delia and I before she strides to the edge of the high point of the square where all this has taken place. Beneath her commandingly raised hands, the crowd quiets again and I can almost hear the magical recording devices whirring away as they focus in on her. "People of Oz, this has been an historic day. The chaos that has occurred here was never the intention of myself nor my family, but desperate times call for desperate measures. We have all been fooled by who we thought was our benign, fatherly leader, but the truth has led us to realize that he is a flawed man who has made bad choices. Today must begin a new era of better communication in Oz, where all citizens can live in peace, no matter if they are rich or poor, human or Animal." A sweet smile makes me smile helplessly back, tightening my arm around Delia's neck for a moment. "Or even green. Ladies and gentlemen of Oz, may I present to you the woman brave enough to risk her very life to free us from a tyranny we were not even aware of, Miss Elphaba Thropp."
I hope she doesn't want me to speak, because right now, there is no way that I will be anything remotely resembling coherent. However, I force myself to step to her side and take her hand, gripping tightly.
"We must rebuild our society now," Glinda continues, unselfconsciously tugging my head down to bury my nose in her silky hair, caressing the back of my neck. "This kind of persecution can never happen again, for it harms all of us. There will need to be elections for some kind of leadership and permanent solutions to this new problem, but for tonight, the future is laid bare to us, full of endless possibilities. This is Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, but the sun will return tomorrow as it always does."
A longing trill of music makes me look over to see that the orchestra has managed to regain some of their sanity and has started up a haunting melody. A small figure breaks from the still crowd, sending up a ripple of alarm and making the guards tense.
She can't be more than seven years old, with frizzy red hair and clear blue eyes, a few shades darker than my girls. "So, you aren't wicked?" she asks bluntly in a sweet, clear voice. Letting Glinda go, I kneel to eye the child where she stands a few feet away.
"No. I'm sorry for scaring everybody, I really am. It just seemed like there was no other way. Until Delia here showed up."
Curious now, the girl steps in, actually touching my half-raised hand while watching me with those piercing eyes. "Who is Delia? I know Miss Glinda from the recordings."
"She's right behind me. Do you want to know a secret?"
"Oh yes!" she squeals happily and dances on her tip toes.
"Delia is my daughter. Mine and Miss Glinda's. She came back through time to make sure that I was going to be okay."
There's a ripple of reaction in the crowd, but I ignore them. If I can make this one child understand, then they might too. Confused, but still curious, the girl cocks her head at me. "How? You are both girls."
"Magic," I shrug and Delia finally decides to jump in.
"We've never been able to figure out how it happened, but it did. Well, it does, anyway. In your future and my past. This is really confusing, isn't it?"
"Yes," I shrug and smile up at her. "But we’re managing so far."
The little girl tugging my fingers brings my attention around to her again and I'm startled to see that some of the crowd has pressed in. "Happy Solstice, everyone," I say quietly, not standing, but feeling the quiver of fear quite clearly. There are so many of them…
The gamut of emotions runs over the faces of the pressing crowd, fear and curiosity and a hundred things mixed in with the confusion. The threat is not gone with the Wizard, it has merely shifted. In these few, long minutes, these people's lives have been completely turned upside-down.
I know exactly how that feels.
"How did you know that the Wizard was a bad man?"
More children have come to me. This time a matched set of even younger kids, twins by their stature and coloring. They have curls identical to Delia's, with adorable swarthy faces and obsidian dark eyes. Definitely some Winkie blood here. Sure enough, they have a man with them, his coloring like Fiyero's. There is neutrality in the man's fathomless gaze, no accusation, no fear, nothing. It's a little unnerving.
"He…" my voice cracks and I clear my throat, noting that the crowd has settled now that it has a spokesman of sorts in the Winkie man and his children. "Well, he tricked me. See, there's a magical book of spells and magical things."
"The Grimmerie," the boy says somberly, startling me, his father nodding along, hands on his children's shoulders.
"Yes, exactly. He tricked me into casting a spell from it and I created the Flying Monkeys. I didn't even know that they were there, so many of them in those horrible cages." Those memories will never stop hurting.
"All is be fine in the end," Janen speaks up, drawing the children's eye and I feel his weight settle on my bowed shoulders. "Oh Miss Mimi. My clan comes out okay. Did, do, will."
"Miss Elphaba," the Winkie man says gently and I'm shocked to see his dark hands extended in invitation. "You are exhausted and quite probably in some kind of shock. Most of us are. This has been a far more exciting evening than anyone had planned." A waggle of those extended fingers and the smile of the children gives me the courage to lay my green hands in his earthy ones, noting the way the colors compliment one another. Gently, he draws me to my feet and smiles thinly into my nervous gaze. "We all have things to reevaluate now. Many things. But you do have allies here, unexpected hero. Happy Solstice."
And, to my utter astonishment, he leans in to gently press a kiss to my cheek in the traditional holiday gesture. His children tug my skirt until I bend to do the same, then insisting that I return the butterfly kisses. Warm and soft, they hug me and follow their father back into the crowd that has started to return to its business finally.
Once more, there are small hands on mine, the little red head, now with a woman of sunset hair and emerald eyes. Delia stands close, while Glinda is nearby, talking to the reporters with social skills I simply don't have. "Happy Sol'cise," the youngster grins and I wrap her up in a hug, surprised at how much I enjoy the innocent contact. "Miss Fabala."
The childhood nickname has an unexpected effect, tears pooling in my eyes and choking my throat, gripping her little body tightly for a moment. "Thank you, sweetheart," I finally manage to choke out and force myself to release her, stroking the wild red hair. "You have a lovely holiday with your family, won't you?"
"You too!" And with that, she kisses my cheek and scampers back to the strikingly colored woman, who smiles shyly at me, earning the same in return.
Wearily straightening up, I feel Delia's arm curl around my waist as I scrub my hands over my face for a moment to gather myself. "Not at all the way I expected the evening to go," I confess quietly and the younger teen chuckles throatily.
"Funny, it's almost exactly what I expected, Mimi."