Iskinaary said, “Well, Chistery is too old to fly anyplace.”
“Speak for yourself,” replied the flying monkey, but admitted he had obligations to Nanny that would keep him from leaving his highland home.
“Are we to break up into groups? One to the Emerald City, one to Colwen Grounds, and try to intercept the Grimmerie somehow?” asked Iskinaary. “I’m sorry, Rain, but I’m not quite getting your drift.”
“I don’t have a plan yet. We’re working on it together.”
“I am not going back to Munchkinland, thank you very much,” said Dorothy. “Don’t forget there’s an order of execution on my head.”
“My countryfolk were beastly to you,” agreed Little Daffy. “But don’t be harsh on them, dear. They’re under so much stress, invaded by Loyal Oz. Now, as to schemes. Personally, I have precious little interest in ever visiting the Emerald City again. Who would ever give me the time of day there, if the sons of the EC and Gillikin are dying in battle against my countrymen?”
“Against the Animals,” corrected the Lion. “But point taken. Sentiment is fine over a round table, but once you decide to come down from this high peak, you have to make a choice one way or the other. That’s the human condition.
“I know,” he added. “And I’m a Lion. Same difference.”
“We’ll sleep on it,” said Rain.
Once again she was asleep and then she heard a voice, but she could hardly tell what it was saying. She half-woke, and rolled over in the moonlight to see if there was a mole, or maybe a goldfish come up from the fishwell in the basements. The only thing she saw was the iridescent shell, its usual gleam even brighter against the gloom of a mountain night in late summer.
She picked her way over Tip, careful not to disturb him, and hardly knowing what she intended, she retraced the steps she’d taken earlier in the day and walked up the stairs to Elphaba’s chamber.
Snaggle-toothed autumn was loping in. A jackal moon was assembling its features in the sky. Rain had heard that the constellation appeared only once in a generation or so. It didn’t last long, but while it lasted, peasants and mill laborers alike considered it a time of peril and possibility.
Without Tip to watch her, she had a different kind of courage. She creaked open the shutters of the Witch’s great window, both sides, and the moon stepped through spiderweb fretwork into the chamber.
A patter at her heels made her turn. Tay had appeared from nowhere. It must have sensed her moving at night. She smiled at it—and almost could have sworn it smiled back. Though a creature of the wild has no smile we can recognize.
“Look in the glass,” said Tay.
“You can’t talk,” she said, not alarmed; she realized she was sleep-walking.
“I know,” said Tay. “I’m sorry. Look in the glass.”
Because this was not a nightmare, and because a calm had lit upon her, she wasn’t scared to look. She rubbed the surface of the globe and huffed upon it to make it shiny. The moonlight helped, one sphere to another. Tay leapt to the table and entwined, almost snakelike, around the carved legs of the stand.
The initial sense was of flatness—more like peering through a porthole than into a fishbowl. She remembered staring at a page in the Grimmerie once, when a glassy circlet had shown an unidentified figure gesturing at her. Trying to make a landfall of some message or other. She left that memory behind, and leaned closer.
At first she saw nothing, just shifting smudges. Clouds seen from below the surface of a lake, as if you were a fish. Or it might be clouds seen from above, she thought, if you were a kind of creature who wasn’t tethered by gravity to the time and place in which you were born, and if you could approach from anywhere, see anything.
It took a moment to realize she was examining something of what Dorothy had been warbling about. The mountains of Oz stood up first—not as in a map, flattened out and drawn, but built up in miniature, as if in pastry-dough. From a great distance mountains show earliest; they are the first face of a world. She could see Oz the way Dorothy had said to see it in a song, all at once: Mount Runcible to the north, poking up like a king-hill, uncrowded and pompous; and the Great Kells in their scimitar curve, bending to the left and then angling to the right, toward the south, softening. She could see that the Quadling Kells and the Wend Hardings were just smaller cousins of the Great Kells, and that the Madeleines and the Cloth Hills were second cousins who had moved out of town to get a little room. And the Scalps, up in the Glikkus, were the high bishops of the whole affair, in their emerald crowns, although of course she couldn’t see the emeralds.
The picture shifted. An angle of moonlight picked up the silver that shines on water, and then she could see the eight or ten queenly lakes of Oz drawn out as neatly as Madame Chortlebush could have done on a map. The long silvered leaf of Restwater at the center, the birthing pool of all of Oz; and bootblack deadly Kellswater not far off. Spottily, here and there, the turquoise lakes that depended on mountain runoff for their bounty: Lake Chorge in Gillikin, Mossmere and Illswater in Munchkinland, and a shifting lake in the Thousand Year Grasslands at the far west of the Kells. The moving lake that she’d heard came and went at its own choice, drawing thousands of prairie beasts like magnets back and forth to its iron will.
Another shift of the snout of the jackal moon, pointing out the forests of Oz. A lot of Oz was woods, from the snarl of northern wilderness, the Great Gillikin Forest, to virtually every slope and vale in regions mountainous or gentle. And see, the rustling abundance of the eastern Corn Basket, a neatly governed patchwork cousin to the wild grasses of the west. Look how the marshes of Quadling Country are the damp wet footing for the tall pines of the Great Gillikin Forest fifteen hundred miles to the north.
She peered for the slopes below Kiamo Ko, to see if the Five Lakes around Nether How came to view. Reluctantly, like shy fish, they winked up at her. But this was a dream, and like all dreams it had some conditions. One of them is that she couldn’t push for more than it would give. She couldn’t screw her focus tighter, or by force of desire pull the world into greater resolution. Though she thought she could even find the kindly hillock of Nether How itself, she couldn’t make it any clearer. She couldn’t see the house. She couldn’t see her mother. She just couldn’t see her mother.
Neither could she see anyone, she realized, not human or Animal or animal. From the height of an angel, there seemed to be no sign of occupation of this vast textured complexity. Not even a city—not even the Emerald City, which she might have expected to spy blooming in the center of Oz like a big throbbing bee stinging the living organism, or sucking the bloom of its sweetness.
Then, even in her dreaminess, her mind remembered the map she and Tip had found in the shop in Shiz on that rainy afternoon. She remembered the story of Tip and his trip to Ev, out of Oz across the deadly sands, and of the stamp of the shell on the left edge of the map, beyond the Outer Vinkus. She rose on tiptoe to see beyond the sands north of Mount Runcible, and south of Quadling Country. She torqued her face to try to peer beyond the sands west of the Thousand Year Grasslands. But the jackal moon wouldn’t loan its light through the glass at so oblique an angle. She could only see what it would show her.
As if she had done the world wrong by being curious, the picture of Oz began to shrink, sinking deeper in. But then she realized the dioramic glimpse was no less particular, just smaller, just sized differently. It took up a modest segment of the globed glass, like no more than a scrap of colored apple peel plastered on an ornament from Lurlinemas, leaving the rest unknown, unfounded. So much unknown.
The clouds began to move in. She guessed her dream was about over, and she wondered if she needed to walk back downstairs or if she could just drift, too, like the clouds, and let the dream wake her in her bed when it wanted. But the clouds swirled some, and cleared, and she looked again just in case.
sp; All she saw was her own face. That face she hardly ever dared scrutinize. She identified the Quadling cheekbones from Candle, the stiff, thick, flowing dark hair from Liir. Oh, what a dream this was! For she saw herself green, green, if you could believe it.
She laughed at the gifts of sight and blindness, and turned to go.
“Did you see?” asked the crocodrilos, rolling its eyes into a pair of sixes.
“Oh, I saw.”
“What did you see?” asked the ghosts of bees, crawling out of the hive and standing in a ceremonial line as if she were the new Lord Mayor of Kiamo Ko.
“I saw the hills and waters of Oz, the growth and wetness and dryness of it.”
“What else did you see?” asked the smile of the wolf teeth.
“I saw no sign of any crying child smacked too often by a tired mother, or any old Dame Beaver wanting release from her daughter-in-law. I saw no kidnapped father, and no mother gone AWOL.”
“Just because you didn’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there,” said the phantom of a dog named Killyjoy, who had been sniffing at something dirty and interesting in a bottom drawer that he couldn’t scratch open.
“What else didn’t you see?” asked the spiders in a chorus of shrill, pinched voices.
“I didn’t see the edge beyond Oz.”
“Just because you didn’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there,” said Killyjoy.
“I know,” said Rain. “That’s one thing I know.”
“What else didn’t you see?” asked the drawer of bat skeletons, in an uncoordinated recitation that took Rain a while to decipher.
“I didn’t see the woman who brought you all here,” said Rain.
“Just because you don’t see her doesn’t mean she isn’t there,” said Killyjoy, wagging his ghost tail and panting over his extended ghost tongue.
“What else didn’t you see?” asked any number of crows—she couldn’t tell if they were ghosts or maybe living crows, not in this light—who appeared to perch on the top of the wardrobe and crowd each other, so that every now and then one would tumble off the near edge and then flap back and shove till someone else tumbled off the far edge.
“I didn’t see you when I was here earlier,” said Rain. “You’d have scared me off, I think.”
“Oh, we’re nice enough,” said the crows, but then they all flew away.
“Is there anything else you saw, or didn’t see?” asked Tay, who now seemed to be the master of ceremonies of this dream.
“No,” said Rain. “Not that I can name tonight.”
“Well, then, I guess we’re done.”
“Oh, there is one thing,” she said to Tay, as the room settled, the wolf teeth stopped chattering, the crocodrilos stopped its swaying, the phantom dog and bees dissolved and the spiders curled up into little circles, like handbags for lady mice attending a mouse opera. “I didn’t see if you are male or female. I have never known.”
“Does it matter?” asked Tay.
She didn’t answer. They left the room and walked downstairs. This was still a dream. The dwarf was asleep at the kitchen table with the end of his beard in a round of soft cheese Chistery had been saving for breakfast, and the Lion seemed to be knitting in his sleep, making his paws go back and forth. Little Daffy was nowhere to be seen, though there was a smell of baking in the air. Tip was invisible too, but she stepped over where she knew he would be in the morning when she awoke, and settled down with her back to him, looking at the shell. Tay went instantly to sleep.
She thought the dream was over, and maybe it was. Maybe she was awake now. She picked up the shell and remembered what someone had said to her. She couldn’t remember who it was. That insane birdwoman in the tree, that’s who it was. No? Doesn’t matter.
Listen to what it is telling you.
She put it to her ear for the thousandth time and tried to make out a sound beyond the hush. It was fruitless, as usual, after such a noisy night of cryptic dream messages. She fell asleep that way, and when the shell dropped from her cheek an hour later and another fragment of its tip snipped off, she didn’t even hear it.
In the morning there was a note from Tip on the table, pinned in place under the shell.
La Mombey may not be the one to have taken the Grimmerie, and your father. Then again, she might be. I will find out. I know we can’t bring Dorothy back to Munchkinland. I am the only one who can get in safely. Mombey will punish me but not torment me—though I am not her son, I am her only family. She will forgive me and I will learn what is to be learned.
Don’t worry about my leaving by night. The jackal moon has lit up the path like torches. I will be safe.
And I will come back to you.
They had beaten him at first, chained him naked and whipped him in the hot sunlight filtering through the canopy of a dunderhead pine. Riverines of blood drained down his calves and made carmine socks over his heels and arches. The dripping resin from sap stung in his wounds. They weren’t as merciless as they might have been. When he loosed his bowels upon his calves they realized that they’d gone too far, and then someone had the sloppy job of cleaning him up because he couldn’t move his spine. They were gentler after that. Apparently they didn’t want him to die en route.
They were careful to conceal their destination.
Five of them. Men of few words, quick movements, each one of them athletically taut—sleek and trained. Professional abductors. Once they reached the base of the Kells they slaughtered the skark, for target practice as far as Liir could tell, or to alarm him. They continued on horseback. Liir had never been much of a rider; with his hands tied behind his back he was in constant danger of falling off and being dragged to death. Clever, one of them figured out a way to harness Liir’s shoulders loosely to the horse’s bridle, so he would have to fall forward if he blacked out from loss of blood.
“Just waiting to bleed, weren’t you,” was the only phrase he heard at first. “Just saving it up for us to wring it out of you. Some are like that.” But the speaker was hushed, perhaps so as not to give away an accent of origin.
They avoided farmsteads. If they had to venture into villages they waited until dusk, when they stuffed Liir’s mouth with rags and hooded his head so he couldn’t see where they were going. But in the open country, night or day, they left his head bare, and he could tell they were continuing east, picking their way into Gillikin. But how far? If to the Emerald City, they’d need to turn south soon enough. If all the way to Munchkinland, sooner or later they’d meet up with the battle lines of the soldiers of Loyal Oz. They’d have to find a way to break through somehow. Any chance to escape would come in a moment of panic and confusion.
But his kidnappers were seasoned soldiers.
Not any older than Liir was, but hardened in a different way. How can I feel that I belong to a different species, he wondered, not for the first time in his life.
He could intuit no chink of friendship, imagine no possibility of cozening up to his captors. They steeled themselves against that. They didn’t drink. They didn’t joke with one another, even. Most of their days were spent in silence.
Though he’d never been one to consider weeping a weakness, Liir didn’t weep. The contusion on his brow from when he had slipped and fallen against a boulder, unable to stop himself because of his yoked arms—that was a badge of honor. The ache in his thighs from riding, the split lip from that mailed hand across his face—he could taste the blood two or three times a day, as the wound kept reopening with the jolting in the saddle—he treasured these, in a way. Tokens, medallions of his love for his daughter. If the soldiers had him, they might soften their hunt for her. His job since the day Rain had been born had been to keep her as safe as he could.
In some ways, though, he wasn’t functioning well. He couldn’t eat much because of his lip, not to mention the lost teeth in the back. (They’d pulled a couple for fun, to see if he would read the Grimmerie for them, and
there had been so much pus and pain he couldn’t talk for two days. At least the sacrificed teeth were in the back, so if he ever had to bite a hand he could at least try. And he still had his beautiful smile, ha-ha.)
His grip on now and then began to soften. The heat brought on mild slips of focus. At times he thought he was being captured by Cherrystone’s men, following that time he’d been stationed in Quadling Country, in Qhoyre. After he’d helped torch the bridge at Bengda, with Ansonby and Burny and the other fellows. After he’d seen the Quadling parents, their own backs sporting wings of fire, slinging their daughter into the water, hoping she might clear the burning oil on the river, hoping she might survive somehow. He wept for that little girl now. He would never know if she had made it, or if he had succeeded in fulfilling his military mission and murdering her and her parents. He deserved to be caught at last, though Cherrystone would be clapping him on the back, rum chap, for a campaign carried out successfully. Liir would make Prime Menacier if he could be forgiven for skedaddling.
Daughters. The girl should have been able to fly above the flaming waters. But who could teach daughters to fly? Parents were by definition earthbound, grub eaters, feet in their own coffins, by dint of being parents.
He once thought he was crossing the Disappointments on horseback, Trism on a mount just behind him. It was dawn, a rimefrost was on the ground, but however Liir twisted, he couldn’t catch sight of his lover.
Other times Liir thought he’d reached the sanctuary of Nether How. The men on horseback around him seemed to shimmer and disappear, and the horses too, and Liir, the scourge of Oz, was continuing alone, on foot. He wanted to sleep against a hill, he wanted to fall into the falling leaves. To melt away the soil as he might melt away a snowbank. To sink into a grave he had burned for himself. But as he lay there in the dappled grass among the sheep droppings, he began to elevate out of his body—maybe he was dying—and he saw an old codger materialize in the trees and look about with a curious or perhaps a guilty expression. He carried the Grimmerie with him. He consulted the book for a moment, closed it decisively, and headed north.