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The Next Few Steps
Still stinging and raw from Delia's departure, a very blurry two days have passed in the rebel Animal encampment. While I continue to attend to mundane things like healing, Glinda soothes less obvious hurts. These people are frightened and downtrodden by what has happened to them and my beautiful lover is good medicine for that.
The events in the Emerald City seem surreal to me now, but there is no denying that they happened. All I have to do is look at my fine clothing or Glinda's magnificence, now tarnished by the rough surroundings. Though she didn’t have a peep of objection to two nights in that cave, I'll give her full credit for that.
But it's time to go back now.
I don't know if it's some kind of instinctual knowledge I'm picking up from Glinda or what, but it's time to go. Good thing she persuaded me into that long nap and cuddle this afternoon…
Multiple pairs of eyes snap up as I approach to set the tip of the broom firmly into the cold earth beside my lover's feet. Her blue eyes trail somberly up the wooden shaft to meet my eyes, barely nodding. The children clustered around her are wide-eyed and I force a tired smile. "Sorry to take her away kids, but it's time we return to the Emerald City. There are a lot of confused and frightened people there."
Glinda chimes in with a smile, "And large groups of confused and frightened people can be very stupid." Each of the assembled young Animals gets a pat or a hug, several of them even pressing into my knees where I can caress their silky soft fur.
I miss my own cub.
As though sensing my train of thought, Glinda clings tight to my ribs, sighing heavily into my neck. Both our gazes go to the place at the cliff face where the grass has been torn away by an outward blast and shards of bubble and emerald glitter in the fading evening light.
It's a quiet, melancholic flight back to the Emerald City.
Thankfully, it's the middle of the night when we arrive and gracefully drift down to land on Glinda's balcony. Unfortunately, the doors have been shut and we share a wry glance. Typical that someone locked up behind us.
As Glinda reaches out to test the handle, we both jump back in shock as the door is flung open from inside. Heart pounding, head buzzing, I'm fully prepared to throw both of us over the edge and make a run for it.
Oh, thank Oz….
To my astonishment, Chistery throws his arms around me, his feet dancing happily to a tune only he can hear. Sensing no more movement in the apartment beyond, I set the broom aside and return the hug.
"Oh Chistery! I'm so glad to see you. I was worried."
"Me too! Come inside, it's warm."
Glinda calms the Flying Monkey by taking his hands in hers and praising his taking care of things while we've been gone. The apartment is spotless and toasty with the fire crackling merrily away in the fireplace. Despite our mutual exhaustion, a bath is in order and we retreat to strip off our filthy clothing and happily get warmed and clean.
Lounging in the porcelain-lined tub, I relish Glinda curled up against me, her fingers tracing lazy circles on my shoulder.
"It's been so busy," I murmur quietly, still feeling shy despite everything. "I haven't had time to say I love you."
For such a small woman, Glinda Upland can hug with the strength of a hardened warrior. Not to mention the power of her kisses, turning my brain and body to pudding. The sapphire eyes glitter hotly when she leans back a bit and I can suck in a deep lungful of air.
"I love you too, Elphaba Thropp. Too bad we need sleep so badly. All those healing spells have worn you out and I'm not cut out for this roughing it nonsense."
"You did great, Glinda."
"Necessity, my dear and nothing else. I won't be making a habit of it."
My chuckling makes her smile and snuggle close again. Our naked bodies feel amazingly wonderful together and it's still a bit of a shock at how easy I am with this bareness. Heat that has nothing to do with the bath floods from my groin and outward. After what Glinda did to my body those few nights ago, self-consciousness would be a bit silly and I settle into our embrace.
When I doze off for the third time, Glinda decides imperiously that the bed is out next step. I barely have the energy to pat off the water from my skin and toss down the towel to protect the pillow from my wet mane before collapsing.
With more grace, no surprise there, Glinda finishes whatever things she's doing before curling up along my lanky body and resting her head between my shoulderblades.
The darkness at last feels welcoming and we sleep.
Verdant In Winter
Utterly at peace and completely comfortable, I rouse gradually to a waking world every bit as wonderful as my dreams. Not that dreadful, drafty cave where we cuddled for warmth more than pleasure, but my big, lovely bed instead. After what the poor Animals have been through, I feel guilty at this indulgence, but I can't help it. My style of revolution is m
ore suited to this city and everyone knows it. Luckily, the Animals seemed to like me well enough anyway.
In the dull grey of the late morning, Elphie's lovely skin is shadowy and mysterious, my paleness contrasting pleasantly. We haven't moved in the night and I trace my fingertips over her arm and back, outlining the slender muscles and hard bones beneath the warm silk of her skin. Even these innocent touches stir me deeply, the shivers of love and lust shaking me.
Making a sleepy sound, Elphie squirms and rolls to her back, arms tossed above her head, her whole body open to me. I manage to scramble away, waiting with baited breath to see if she'll settle back into sleep. Long moments pass and she remains still and quiet, her breathing even.
This is a freedom I know that no other being has ever been granted. Naked and utterly unselfconscious in sleep, Elphaba sprawls in my bed with the sheets crumpled around her knees. This is an opportunity I cannot pass up!
Stealthily, I force calm on my anxious body and carefully get up on hands and knees, slowly straddling the lanky body of my lover, careful not to get close enough to let my hair tickle her beautiful skin. Only once does she stir lazily, making me freeze and wait patiently for her to settle once more.
After the wait, I lower my mouth to her flat belly, tracing my tongue over the slender muscles and around the dimple of her navel. Unlike me, this is not a spot that will make her squirm ticklishly, but she certainly likes it for more sensual reasons! Even in sleep, Elphie squirms and moans low in her throat and I only have moments where she is at my mercy like this. So I trail open-mouthed kisses over her abdomen, feeling the muscles dance, before moving lower.
By the time Elphie wakes with a start, I've got a death grip around her hips while I indulge in a fantasy that's been running roughshod over my mind since I knew we would be lovers. Combing through the silky dark pelt at her groin, I find my prize and lean in for a taste.
Elphie comes alive with a startled squeaking of my name and I have to hold on with most of my strength to keep my spot. Suckling rather harder than I'd intended for a moment makes her voice rush up to the highest register I've heard yet, before she twines her hands into my hair and hangs on for dear life. Everything that made her crazy with my hand is even more effective and intimate like this and I relish it.
This is fun.
Despite Elphie pulling painfully hard at my hair and trying to suffocate me, I gamely press on, determined to wring all the pleasure from her that I can. It's worth the delightful effort as she hits the peak with that now familiar series of strangled cries. Winded and overheated, she relaxes into the bed while I nuzzle gently, intrigued with the changes in her taste and heat.
Chortling with pleasure at my success, I climb up Elphie's limp body and imperiously sprawl atop her to snuggle in happily. "Good morning," I chirp cheerfully as her arms wind loosely around my back. All I get is an incoherent mumble that makes my ego fluff up with pride.
"What was that?" Elphie finally breathes against my scalp and I have to laugh.
"I've wanted to do that for some time, dearest." Propping myself up on my elbows I bat my eyelashes at her. "Did you like?"
"Oh yes," she sighs in complete relaxation and hugs me properly. "You never cease to amaze me."
"Good. I should hate to be predictable."
"Not since we actually got to know one another, my dear."
For the moment, we have nowhere to be, nothing presses us for time, nothing is more urgent then this fine carnal energy between us. It won't last long, but we have right now. As Elphie gets her strength back and rolls over to pin me to the bed, kissing me with single-minded intensity…
The Palace of Shame
It's evening now and our stomachs have finally driven us from the bed and into clothing enough for warmth and modesty. There's little to eat in the apartment, but we've managed to scrape together a meal that mostly consists of pancakes and the four remaining apples.
"We'll have to go out there tomorrow," Glinda comments with obvious mixed feelings, prodding at what's left of her dinner. "We need a decent meal and foodstuffs and you need clothes. Not to mention that the citizens must be wondering what's happened to us."
As much as I like this cozy little haven, I know she's right and nod in agreement. A kiss that tastes of maple syrup and apples makes me smile. "Together."
As it has every time I've heard it, a knock at the door makes my heart race in fear.
"Miss Glinda?" an unknown female voice calls from the other side. "This is Lieutenant Kayen of the Gale Guard." Glinda and I stare at one another in fear. When the voice speaks again, there's a hint of humor there. "I come in peace."
Once more we're at a crossroads. My eyes jerk from the door to the glass doors of the balcony where the broom rests. The need to escape is like a noose around my throat…
But I have to trust sometime.
Shaking with nerves, I force myself to stand and go to the door. My hand trembles as I unlock the knob and twist it to face my fate. Open-mouthed, I stare up the great height of the soldier standing there. Taller than many men, she makes me feel like the small people of my native land. But there is a smile beneath the gleaming brow of the helmet and some part of me registers the expression.
"Miss Elphaba. This is a pleasant surprise. May I come in? The neighbors are perhaps overly curious."
Numbly, I nod and step aside to allow the soldier to do what she will. Addressing the two heavily dressed figures with her, she says, "Stay at the door. I'll be out when I'm done. Come in, Bikky."
"Yes ma'am," they both say in masculine voices and the smaller figure follows her past me.
The long pole-arm with its great curved blade that she rests against the wall terrifies me, but I can't help but stare. "It's a halberd," Lieutenant Kayen offers kindly and I jerk my gaze up to hers, startled to find a pair of gleaming gemstone eyes only a shade darker than my skin. "I mean you no harm, Miss Elphaba. Quite the opposite in fact."
The great green-striped winter coat comes off with a shrug to reveal the familiar uniform and she carefully hangs it on the halberd before pulling off the helmet. Her hair is the color of fire and longer than even mine. The helm is negligently slung over the deadly point of the pole-arm, its heavy metal skin in no fear of the blade. The man with her has also removed his heavy coat to reveal a dark, studious-looking fellow.
"This is Master Bikky," Kayen introduces him and he nods as nervously as I feel. "He's one of the Palace Scribes and the one we felt as though we could trust the most." He is as brown and ordinary as she is colorful and striking.
"Please, come in and sit," Glinda suddenly speaks up, her voice strained and Kayen smiles warmly.
"Thank you, Miss Glinda. We have things to discuss."
The uniformed soldier sinks to the couch with the nervous scribe and I force myself to retrieve two chairs from the breakfast table and drag them to the low table at the couch. Nervously, we sit and give the strange woman our attention.
"The Wizard is gone," she says flatly, "Took off in that ridiculous balloon contraption of his with the Flying Monkeys overseeing the whole operation. But he left behind some very interesting documents. Go on Bikky."
From the man's bulky satchel come several papers, one of which is held out to me. It's a hastily scrawled document on a parchment so new it crackles. The words jump out at me and I stare at them, murmuring, "I, Oscar Zoraster Diggs, known as the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, do hereby renounce all of my rights and titles in the lands of Oz. All of my powers and holdings are to be passed on to my only known heir, Elphaba Thropp."
Under less important and shocking circumstances, the look on Elphie's face would be amusing. But I'm quite certain that my mouth is hanging open same as hers. The reality sinks in and I can't help the delighted squeal and a pounce that rocks Elphie back into her chair.
"Do you know what this means?!" I breathe in her face, my voice squeaky with my heightened emotions. "You're the Wizard's heir, Elphie! You inherit everything of his!" Ignoring our company, I hug my lover close, stroking her dark hair until she wraps her arms around me to cling. "Dreams the way we planned them."
A strangled scoff of stress and humor is muffled in my shoulder and throat. "Not quite as planned."
"You have the influence to do anything now," I soothe lovingly, utterly ignoring our silent company. "You're unlimited."
A shaky breath seems to anchor Elphie a bit, even if her arms don't loosen their hold around my smaller body, curled up on her lap. This is a startling shift from her lonely childhood and the ostracism she's forever had to deal with.
"Lieutenant Kayen," Elphie says quietly, her tone questioning and vulnerable.
"Yes Miss Elphaba?" The tone is exquisitely gentle and my heart warms to the soldier.
"I think that perhaps any more revelations may need to wait until tomorrow. I'm afraid I won't be able to handle much more."
Looking at the soldier, the emerald green eyes are kind and sweetly amused. If this woman is not a parent, then that would be a real shame. Nodding, she prods her wide-eyed companion and looks significantly at the papers. After a startled moment, he gathers them and shoves them back into the satchel. Quietly, they pull on their winter garb and Kayen shoves Bikky out the door before pausing to regard the two of us.
"We've been cleaning the palace up a bit, in preparation for the Animals." Both of us are rigid with shock and the tall woman smiles gently again. "After all, that's your primary cause, correct? Chistery was a great help the last few days to fill in what we didn’t know about you. Smart fellow, that Monkey. I'll be leaving a guard outside the door to ensure your privacy and I'll return in the morning to collect you and get your things packed."
"Packed?" I echo faintly, quite overwhelmed.
"Yes. After all, the palace is yours now, Miss Elphaba. Goodnight."
Once they've retreated, Chistery reappears to lock the door and regards the two of us with quiet, wise eyes. "Good soldier," he says gently. "Good heart. Listens she does, with more than just ears."
Elphie has hardly moved, her eyes wide and dilated. Honestly, I'm feeling a little concerned, bringing that vacant gaze around with a hand on her chin. "I always did want to live in a palace."
It takes a moment for my lame stab at humor to get through, the dark lips turning up and healthy color returning beneath the beloved green. A shaky chuckle bubbles up, erupting into cleansing laughter, her arms crushing tight around me.
"Oh, oh, Glinda, my love," she giggles helplessly. "Thank you so much for that. This really has been an insane few days."
The Royal Clean Up
Too shocked to be functional, I'd willingly left myself in Glinda's care. There are hazy memories of toast and tea, a hot bath and cuddling in the big bed. As much as I'd feared not sleeping, it had eventually happened and we'd been once again startled awake by a heavy knock on the apartment door.
As promised, Lieutenant Kayen returned and with an entire crew in tow: three soldiers, four girls to pack up and one hatchet-faced old biddy to oversee the whole operation. Our drowsy door guard brought up the rear while Kayen led us to an enclosed carriage. That's where we huddle now, with warm, heavy blankets tossed over our legs to protect from the sneaky cold.
The Emerald City is subdued. Few people wander the streets without express purpose and the traffic is light. Recent events and the chill have brought this on and I can't help but feel the nausea of fear chewing on my guts. Sure, I'm here and full of potential and good intentions…
But what do I do now?
Suddenly, we're entering the Central Courtyard, the very heart of the city. Snow still stacks messily in piles and banks, shoveled away from the poorly used walkways and traffic patterns. The spoiled snow makes my throat ache, remembering Delia calling down the glorious flakes from a clear sky.
Glinda's nuzzling into the nape of my neck speaks volumes.
As our trip continues, we're faced with further reminders of Delia. The massive doors of the Emerald Palace are still gone, turned to dust by whatever spell the girl cast. A full half-dozen armed guards stand vigil over the massive hallway beyond. Their presence scares me, despite Lieutenant Kayen's reassurances and the inheritance document I've witnessed with my own eyes.
Many doors all along the Central Courtyard are also conspicuously absent and over my shoulder Glinda sighs sadly, "she's going to be difficult to forget about, hmm?"
Turning away from the view, I hug my dearest and whisper into her hair, "Not forgotten, love. Just kept from knowledge she'll obviously figure out in time."
Passing up the missing main doors, we head east to make a left down a side at the far side of the palace. More Guards stand aside as the horses canter past where massive gates once stood. The nausea hasn't subsided and I'm glad once more that breakfast had been no more than tea. The carriage slows at a massive flight of green marble stairs where a group of people await me.
Before the vehicle has stopped, Lieutenant Kayen startles me by swinging down from the driver's bench to yank open the door with a friendly grin. "Come on then, my liege," she chortles in delight, hanging off the door and expertly kicking down the step in one smooth motion. I like this woman and am unutterably grateful to her solid, calm presence. For a moment I hesitate to take the offered hand, wrapped in a heavy leather and steel gauntlet.
"It'll be okay, Elphie," Glinda purrs softly, her hand slipping into mine. "You're not doing this alone."
Once again, she gives me the strength to step into the unknown, gripping her with one hand and placing my other in Kayen's gentle grip. She expertly transfers me from one hand to the other in order to help Glinda down as well. Then we're standing side by side, hands gripped tight and I feel that same gauntleted hand heavy on the back of my neck. Only days ago I would have been terrified at the touch, but now find it strangely grounding. "This is the household staff, Miss Elphaba, but I think we'll keep the introductions to the handful that should matter most in the immediate sense."
A snarl of hunger echoes up from my belly, echoed by Glinda's, and we giggle shyly like little girls. A round, matronly woman separates from the crowd with a smile. "That sound is my cue, I think."
When Lieutenant Kayen ducks down to chuckle in my ear, I fight the urge to flinch away from the intimacy. "This is Missus Pew, head of the kitchen and dining room. She'll take care of those snarling beasts while I check in on your things."
Even as she turns away, I feel something like panic at the loss of her small familiarity. "You're leaving?"
I don't like this vulnerability, but my old ways of coping are no longer appropriate. To snark and snarl at these people would accomplish nothing, not even to make me feel better. Kayen smiles that almost motherly smile once again and pauses in jumping back onto the carriage. "If you wish me to stay, Highness, you've only to ask. I am at your disposal."
She means it…
All of them are looking to me now.
Panic is becoming a close companion of mine.
My poor Elphie! She looks about ready to burst into tears. Now, I'm used to a certain level of luxury certainly, after all, I am from a well to do family, but this is way out of my league. The green fingers are crushing mine, but I can only imagine that my grip is just as tight. The cook smiles again, offering her two hands to us. "Come along then, young Mistresses. First let's tend to those hungry bellies and things will seem easier from there."
Thankfully, we are steered past an opulent dining room that probably would have made Elphie run screaming from the building and are led to an enormous but completely homey kitchen that smells heavenly. Inhaling deeply, I coo in appreciation for the scents, ecstatic when a smiling man hands me a cup of tea. "Thank you."
We're pressed to sit at a long wooden table near the hearth and Elphie nearly sobs in relief when Chistery bounds in with a toothy grin. "Mistress!"
They hug while Missus Pew and the nice man hustle to place food and drink on the table. There is fruit and hard-boiled eggs and a lovely hot stew from a cauldron over the fire. A sparkling bottle of wine is set out with simple goblets that Kayen expertly uncorks and pours into four goblets. "Park it, Pew," she chuckles at the matronly woman who huffs in mock outrage.
"Cheeky young thing! Next you'll be resting those filthy soldier boots on my clean table!"
"Never Missus! I know better."
Elphie and I sit touching at hip and shoulder and indulge in the good, simple food while the two older women banter to relax us. They are going to great lengths to do so, particularly as I caught the tension in Missus Pew at Chistery's presence. She's fought it off admirably, even pushing a bowl of stew over to him.
"Terrible things that happened to you, Miss," says the cook to Elphie, who swallows a mouthful of orange pulp and smiles weakly. "But we'll take good care of you now."
Kayen nods along and takes a sip of her wine. "Just give it some time, heir-ling."
I can't help the giggles and lean in to press a kiss behind Elphie's ear, making her jump. If the employees are shocked, they hide it well. I appreciate that. "Thank you," Elphie whispers to the table in general. During the meal, we are given little snippets of information and a half-dozen household employees venture through the kitchen. None of them stay long enough to talk, which suits us just fine.
"I need to find shelter for the Animals I've been working with," Elphie finally pipes and we're surprised that Missus Pew only nods sagely.
"Terrible thing the old Master had a hand in regarding the Animals. Plenty of space right here in the palace is already being readied for them. All you have to do is make sure that your friends are safe and willing to come."
"Easier said than done," Elphie sighs expressively.
Blast From the Past
The tour of the palace is sobering; this sprawling edifice to opulence and ego that vaguely makes me ill with it all. Thankfully, much of the spaces have started being stripped down and modified in preparation for their new four-legged inhabitants. As overwhelming as all of this is, Glinda's hand in mine, her steady presence, brings to calm to me again and again.
The lieutenant doesn't leave our side, acting as guide and body guard. Periodically, she introduces us to a member of the household, but for the most part, all parties are waved off.
I know I should enquire after Doctor Dillamond and what has become of Madame Morrible, but right now I'm tired and getting numb. It will wait until tomorrow once I've rested and can handle things better.
Something catches my eye as we walk and I pause to stare.
Uncaring that Glinda and Kayen have continued walking, I step through a double set of plain doors, left standing open as though waiting for someone's return. It's as though I'm compelled to enter by some magical force.
It's a stand-alone wheeled platform of strange technology, some of which I recognize from the industrial revolution that has so changed Gillikin this last decade or so. Wires and tubes and lights spread over a rough metal superstructure. Scattered about it are strange devices full of levers, gears and switches that I somehow know are from the Other Lands.
I know where I am suddenly.
The main audience chamber is smaller than I'd have thought. It's closed in and nearly claustrophobic with the great mechanical head taking up so much space. It sits lifeless now, a marionette with its strings cut. Even as I walk around it, touching the cold metal, my memories crowd my mind. It had been such a thrill to be here, to be meeting the Great and Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Too bad he turned out to be as fake as this 'wonderful' chamber.
Smoke tubes, mirrors and strange technologies no one understands choke the entire room, like veins just under skin.
"Elphie?" Glinda asks softly, not stirring me from my contemplation of the mechanical head that symbolizes so much of what the Wizard was.
"It's not so scary now," I muse, holding open my hand for hers to slip into.
"Much like its former owner," she agrees.
Lieutenant Kayen seems taken aback at my harshly-barked order to strip the room to the walls, but pitches in, as well as volunteering others in the uniform of the Gale and Palace Guard.
It is a long afternoon.
"People are going to want to come see you for advice and leadership," Kayen notes calmly as darkness falls outside the ornate windows. She has been a rock of calm and I have made real effort to let her into my confidence.
"I have nothing useful for Oz," I spit out, startled at my vehemence.
"Sure you do, Witchling," the red-head teases, her bright eyes dancing with affectionate mirth. "You're the best shake up we've had in generations! You're passionate, driven, smart and have good taste in women. What more do you need?"
"Just a week ago you were trying to kill me," I grump, crossing my arms and sulking. A heavy sigh signals the tall woman coming over to sit beside me, bumping shoulders with me like a friendly dog.
"Those were orders. As a soldier I am obligated to follow those, you know. But our true calling should be the best interest of Oz and her citizens. You've got leadership in your blood, girl. Not just because of that Wizard either. I've been a soldier since I was far younger than you and I know leadership when I see it." I don't believe her, but part of me really wants to and I feel vulnerable all over again. Chucking me affectionately under the chin, this woman is so affectionate, she chortles in that deep voice. "Until you get the hang of being the head loaf of bread around here, you've got Lady Glinda and me and Missus Pew and others that advise you. I'll deal with the soldiers and keep you abreast of what's going on with them. Lady Glinda can keep track of the mood of the city and Missus Pew knows every gossip in town. She'll get you the juicy stuff people don't like to discuss in public." Affecting a snooty air that squeezes a giggle of me, Kayen poses like a society matron, nose in the air. "One must keep appearances you know!"
The Green Eyed Monster
Listening to Elphie giggle girlishly like that makes something burn fierce and hot in my guts and heart. For someone with stunted social skills, she has certainly learned to flirt well enough!
I know I'm being ridiculous, but the feeling doesn't go away…
Feeling very small and young and unsure of myself, it takes real effort to step into view around the enormous metal head. They look very cozy, perched at the edge of the platform side by side.
Then my beloved smiles that smile at me and my knees get weak. "Glinda, my sweet, there you are. And with dinner! This good food will spoil me."
As though sensing my conflict, the lieutenant is on her feet and speaking. "You two eat and I'll go check on your things. There is a small suite of rooms that we hoped you'll like. Your things can be moved if they don't suit you. Oh, and Miss Elphaba, there will be a tailor in tomorrow to get you kitted up for your new life."
The look of sheer disgusted panic on Elphie's face sets me off into such giggles that Kayen has to grab the tray and set it down.
"Hazards of the job, Witchling," the woman teases and saunters from the room while Elphie glowers.
"I hope you're happy now," she grouses and I collapse with laughter.
"My poor Elphie," I splutter, "at last forced to dress like a lady!"
Thankfully, she appreciates my humor and chuckles a bit, poking me in the side to tickle before we settle into the business of eating. In these good, strong lights, her fear abated for the moment and a day of good food in her, my Elphie is particularly lovely.
Luckily, I no longer have to fight how she makes me feel and we kiss sweetly, there in the same room where our lives started to fall apart. Rubbing her lower lip with my thumb, I smile into the earthy dark eyes. "Love you." It's so sweet that she's still shy, nuzzling into my hair that has fallen into its natural loose curls. I no longer have the will to keep them shaped into something more elaborate. "I hate to pressure you darling, but tomorrow we really need to address your new public." Once again, panic changes the color of her eyes, the irises seeming to lighten as her pupils contract. "Oh, my dearest, darlingest Elphie, you won't be doing this alone. You have me and the lieutenant now. And tomorrow we'll get you dressed properly, but in a way that suits you. Trust me."
Nodding, her breath harsh, Elphie buries her face in my neck and pants heavily for a moment.
It takes a long moment or few to notice that the lieutenant has returned and is waiting a respectful distance away. Meeting her emerald eyes, we reach a silent understanding that the care of this unique woman is the most important task we have. My connection to this unexpected and very welcome vassal and champion has been solidified. Something in my body language alerts Elphie that we aren't alone and she snuffles back her tears to look over.
"Your rooms are ready," Kayen says softly and gestures to the back door of the audience chamber.
On cue, Elphie yawns and I stand with a chuckle and tug her to her feet. "Time for bed, dear."
"Mmmm hmmm," Elphie yawns again and follows my tug on her hand. There is a flight of stairs leading to a second floor where ornate doors line a broad hallway. Missus Pew bustles out of one of the open doors and she smiles warmly.
"There you are poppets! Come see if the arrangements are to your liking."
The room is sprawling and well-appointed, but not ostentatiously so. Thick drapes are drawn against the winter chill and the furniture is heavy and dark. Most of the colors are darker and rich, with more textures than patterns. I'm thrilled to see that more grown-up shades of pink have been worked into the scheme. Colors like sunsets and roses instead of little-girl pastels.
"I like it," Elphie smiles at Missus Pew, who looks thrilled to pieces.
"I'm so glad! Now, your bedroom is through there and Master Chistery has a room behind that door over there. What time would you like to be woken?"
That's a good question and Elphie and I share a curious look. "We haven't been on a schedule in some time, Missus," Elphie shrugs helplessly and the matron smiles gently.
"Well the household is as curious as the city and the lands beyond, Mistress, but I'll hazard a guess that anything public can wait until after breakfast."
"So, nine o'clock then?" I offer and the woman nods.
And with nods and farewells, the older women are gone, the door clicking shut behind them. We are alone again, my lover and I, and I wrap her up in a bone-creaking hug.
First Night of the Future
Once again, this woman of delicate appearance and great strength is my rock, hugging me tightly enough to make me squeak before imperiously herding me off to bed.
"Oh my…" Glinda whispers at the bedchamber and I can only nod in agreement. The room is elegantly luxurious in fabrics and colors of a lighter hue than the central room; blues and soft yellows with a bit of purple here and there. The only green bleeds in from the now familiar stained glass windows that seem to be in nearly every room of this building.
"These people are either better than I give them credit for," I muse, "or I am painfully transparent."
Chuckling, Glinda goes to a twin set of double doors and yanks one set open to reveal an enormous closet that's larger than our old room back at Shiz. There are only a few things there, but I'll bet that it's meant for me. Glinda's opening the other set reveals that I am correct and she squeals in delight. "Look! They even hung everything exactly as it was! How delightful."
I only chuckle at her and wearily begin stripping to my skin. Sleeping naked is a luxury that I've grown to like with this lover of mine. Not just for carnal reasons, though I certainly appreciate that, but the feel of her bare body against mine is comforting and loving.
The sheets are soft and cool on my skin and I shiver delightfully, watching sleepily as Glinda flounces to what must be the water closet and coos over the amenities there. Water runs and there are the faint sounds of her hairbrush taming down the loose ringlets. The familiarity of these little noises takes me back to school where we first bonded.
It feels so very long ago.
Darkness is close when I feel the bed dip beneath Glinda's small weight and she straddles my hips. "My poor Elphie," she murmurs and nuzzles my ear, making me smile. "You're exhausted by all of this, aren't you? You'll get more accustomed to it with time, darling."
I can only muster enough energy to hum in acknowledgement but cannot relax into sleep until my love crawls beneath the covers to spoon up close to my back.
Then we can sleep in peace.
My dreams are fragmented and sometimes frightening. Images of twisters and Delia's teary face, of the Monkeys writhing in agony as the wings sprouted from their backs like malevolent weeds. But there is hope too, more benign influences tempering the evil that has spread so slyly through Oz. Doctor Dillamond's sad face peering through the bars of a pen is the last thing in my mind's eye as a knock wakes us.
Fear blasts through my nerves and I'm halfway out of the bed before I remember my change in circumstances and pause. Sure enough, this is the lovely room in the Emerald Palace, not the apartment, not the cave, not room 22 at Shiz.
"Miss Elphaba? Miss Glinda?" Kayen's voice carries through the heavy wooden door and I sag with relief. "I have your breakfast, ladies."
Still half-asleep in the bed, Glinda echoes my expression of relief and we grin ruefully at one another. "In a moment," I call back.
In this moment I couldn't care less that this loyal vassal of Oz is waiting on me. I'll be selfish for a moment and pounce on my blonde lover to kiss her soundly. Even as her hands wind into my hair in welcome, I lean my head back and smile. "Good morning."
"I like this wakeup call," Glinda giggles and strokes my cheek and hair. "How are you feeling today?"
"Better, actually. Some of the shock is wearing off I think. Ready to accomplish great things today?"
"Every day, darling," she murmurs and distracts me for long moments with more kisses before we go in search of modesty. Luckily, the staff has left a few basic articles of clothing that look to fit me: a nightgown and warm robe, soft boots and a fitted skirt and shirt combo that look like riding gear of all the incongruous things. For now, the nightgown and robe will be fine. With Glinda dressed similarly from her own things, we brave our new pal and breakfast.
Kayen is seated on the couch, casually chatting with Chistery, who's attacking his breakfast with gusto. When the tall woman moves to stand, I glower her into stillness. Really, I'm feeling much steadier today and I need to set some ground rules. "Don't you dare go get all formal on me, lieutenant," I growl and she blinks in shock, freezing for a moment before sinking back to the couch with a grin.
"Then you'd best call me Kayen or Kay if you prefer. We can save the lieutenant stuff for official business."
"Agreed. Drop the Miss."
Chuckling, Kayen pours us each a cup of the fragrant tea and sits back as we attack the tray. Scrambled eggs and steamed vegetables hide beneath silver domes along with toast and other paraphernalia to go with it all. It's all wonderfully delicious and I notice the utter lack of any meat products. A questioning glance at Glinda earns only a mysterious, knowing smile.
How I adore this woman.
The Lady of the House
It was easy to slip off to the kitchen yesterday and speak to Missus Pew about keeping the menu vegetarian. Sagely, the woman had nodded and reassured me that it would be all taken care of. True to her word, breakfast is perfect and Elphie is comforted in the knowledge that her choices in food will not compromise her principles. If the worst thing I have to do is give up meat for this new life, I have won the best lottery in all of Oz.
While Elphie finishes off the toast, I tease Kayen about her uniform. It's a formal-looking thing, with the heavy striped pants and jacket, the great furry Palace Guard helmet resting on the table beside the main door. This will be one of the things I think I will take on; making the palace feel more accessible to the populace by reducing the formality a bit. Ideas already stirring my mind, I eyeball the uniform until it's time to clean up and change.
Time to get my darling into real clothes.
I've been waiting for this practically since meeting the strange green girl in her drab garb.
Some hanky-panky in the fancy shower relaxes Elphie, as does my imperiously planting her naked form at the edge of the bed and attacking her luxurious mane with my brush. Sodden and silky-soft, despite the abuses it's suffered, I tend the dark mass with adoration. "The ends need trimming, love," I tell her and she nods with that quirky smile that appears reserved only for me. Loosely gathering the strands at the base of Elphie's skull, I tie them with a blood red ribbon and let the ends trail amidst the dark. "There, that will let your hair dry properly for now."
Sighing with loving tolerance, Elphie dresses in the clothes that Delia left behind and helps me with my own dress.
"We're so opposite," I giggle as I straighten the rather severe collar on my dearest and she grins at my pale yellow business suit.
"We're complimentary," she flatters and earns a long kiss before I flounce out into the main room once again and bask in Chistery and Kayen's approval of how we look.
"Ready to be fussed over?" Kayen teases Elphie, who only groans.
To my surprise, there is only a single dressmaker and a pair of assistants, all female. The dressmaker is dressed much as would look good on Elphie and she imperiously drags my lover to one of the enormous windows to hold the green face in one elegant hand. Humming and clucking, she examines Elphie closely as one would examine a fine bolt of fabric to get the feel for its color and texture.
"You are a much richer color than I had thought, Heiress," the woman notes matter-of-factly. "And have the most striking eyes. Yes, you will make a fine statement, my dear."
And with that, the dressmaker is a flurry of activity that her assistants are hard pressed to keep up with. There is a sea of large upright trunks on wheels that I hadn't even noticed are yanked open and rifled through. Some of the cloth is flat out rejected, some set on a long table and others brought over to be set against Elphie's lovely skin to be either accepted or sent away in disgrace.
Resigned and mildly amused, my lover keeps her seat and just tolerates it all.
I'm struck suddenly that Elphaba Thropp is a natural at all of this. Even this short period of time in these new circumstances has wrought incredible changes in her. She is calm and steady, her eyes alert, her posture relaxed but not sloppy. Despite all that life has foisted on her, she is powerful and elegant and gorgeous.
It's hard to swallow the happy tears.
Leaning in close, I whisper in her ear, stroking my nose on her warm skin. "I know you don't believe me, my love, but you're a natural at this."
She only smiles shyly and squeezes my hand.
Just as boredom sets in, the dressmaker gestures to the table with a flourish. "Your colors, Mistress Elphaba."
It's a fascinating collection of colors, shades and textures on the table. Most of them are dark and rich and heavy, but a few surprises have crept into the pile. There are a few yellows and eggshells and even some pale greens that are lovely against Elphie's skin as she trails a hand over them.
"They're lovely," she comments to the dressmakers, who nod in satisfaction and once again blur into motion.
"There are a few things for you now as well."
Sure enough, there are several dresses and a pair of business suits not unlike mine. In the space of another hour, each has been tailored to Elphie's slender frame and even she seems pleased. The youngest dressmaker has carefully folded underthings and several creamy-colored blouses into a box and the ordeal appears to be over.
With a bow of her head, the elegant head of the team addresses both of us. "It has been a pleasure, Mistresses. I shall return soon with a more extensive wardrobe. Please contact me if you need anything in the meantime. Good day."
"Thank you," Elphie smiles and shakes the offered hand, her green in lovely contrast to the woman's pale. Only then does the severe dressmaker smile.
Family Is What You Make It
Without asking, Kayen scoops up the loose clothing while I grab the box the dressmakers packed. That was a draining experience, but not nearly the trial I had thought it would be. That woman, whose name I didn’t get, knew how to handle me and set me at ease. In the sprawling hallway, I'm in for another surprise.
"Miss F'bala, miss Fabala!" A chorus of small children's voices pulls my attention around to see two small, darkly colored toddlers headed for my knees. With reflexes I didn't even know I had, I set the box down and kneel to catch them both. "We found you!"
It only takes a moment and a long glance into their happy little faces to recognize them. "Hey! I know you two. How was your solstice?"
"Wunnerful!" They chorus. "Papa brough' us to visit you."
Sure enough, with them is the kind-eyed Winkie man that approached me on solstice night. "Good day, Miss Elphaba," he greets softly. "They were quite insistent about checking up on you. My apologies if I've inconvenienced you."
"No, no," I wave him off somewhat shyly as something about this man makes me a little uncomfortable, though not in a bad way. "I'm happy to see all of you again. I never got your names though."
The twin's words fumble over one another until I have to laugh, but they calm at the press of their father's hands on their curly manes. "Being so young, they still have their baby names of Fawn and Cubby. I am Arymeyus."
"But he goes by Ary," breaks in Kayen's amused voice and we all look to her in surprise. "Mistress, may I introduce you to your royal ambassador to the Animals."
Now I really am shocked and accept his hand to help me stand in this long skirt. "Ambassador to the Animals?" There was no mistaking the sentient emphasis on that last word from Kayen nor how I parrot the words. Still cradling my green hand in both of his, Arymeyus smiles again.
"A position that has been sadly abused in recent times. But my old friend Kay here thought that I might be of use to the Emerald Palace once again." I'm thrilled to pieces and can only nod wordlessly. Then he releases me and turns his attention to the twins. "Think we can help Kay here?"
While they get underfoot with the tall soldier, Ary nods to my love and addresses her quietly, "Good to see you well, Lady Glinda." The box is hoisted and I shake off my surprise enough to lead them to our rooms.
"I need both of your help," I address the Palace employees after they leave my new things with Glinda and I have both of their undivided attention. "My need to save the Animals was cemented by my school professor, Doctor Dillamond, being dragged from Shiz like some common criminal. I need to find…"
But the expression on Kayen's face tells me all I need to know.
"You knew," I whisper, feeling betrayed by this new companion, perhaps even friend. Rage builds in a roar of power inside me and the rooms tremble as I shout. "You knew! And you didn't tell me!"
Later I will be impressed at how the soldier flinches away from my wrath.
"Mistress please! I didn't know how to bring it up! He's already lost his powers of speech completely! I'm sorry!"
Something bad is happening in Oz, Dillamond told me what feels like so impossibly long ago. As quickly as the magical storm brewed, it snuffs off, the threat dissipating. I ache at the twins staring in fear at me, clinging to their father as I deflate, letting my hands barely catch my fall to the carpet. In an instant, Glinda is there to once more be my strength, her small body wrapped around mine, her voice cooing in my ear.
"Oh Glin…" I weep. "I wanted so badly to save him. He was my hero."
At last I can mourn my teacher, the man who inspired me to focus my passion for change.
Even if I can do nothing to save him.
Move Past the Pain
The oration to the recorders and the crowd is a blur. Elphie's voice is hoarse and strained as she renounces the bans on Animal rights and encourages changes in the populace. Only a few questions are asked and answered before I know Elphie is far too close to emotional breakdown and I steer her away with polite apologies. Kayen covers us, gesturing members of her squad to close ranks behind our retreat.
Honestly and deliberately facing this new level of power and prestige scared the sense from me and I'm theoretically better prepared for it. All those eyes on us both…
Luckily, Missus Pew has the kitchen quiet and dim, only a single lamp and the great hearth fire illuminating the comforting space. There are simple comfort foods and a lovely rose wine to soothe our bodies. The older woman sits in a rocking chair by the hearth and darns clothing in companionable quiet while Elphie broods and I fret silently.
The roaring firelight washes out the colors of the room, turning Elphie's skin to bronze and her hair and eyes to obsidian. Like a statue, she rests her chin on her crossed arms and stares at the fire. Fighting the urge to fidget takes a lot out of me and I force myself to relax and stay close to my tortured love. Draping my arms around her stiff body, I rest my face against her tense shoulders and breathe in the smells of her and the kitchen.
I'm nearly asleep by the time her breathing changes, relaxes and smoothes out. Without a sound, Missus Pew is on her feet and Kayen melts out of the shadows. Effortlessly, the tall soldier scoops Elphie up like a child and Missus Pew gets me to unsteady feet to follow them.
Sad and exhausted, I curl along Elphie's somnolent body and let a few tears escape before dizzy black sweeps me away. My poor, sweet love…
To Be Continued…