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X. A New Path

 

Saguaro told Ie’ello everything. She shared what it had been like to grow up as the Ordinary Child of Cascadia and how she knew nothing about her parents’ lives in Oz. She even explained to him how she had turned herself green and the terrible fight she had had with her mother just before she ran away.

 

“I’m sorry I wasn’t honest with you from the start,” Saguaro said in conclusion. Ie’ello’s expression was completely neutral, giving her no hint at what he was thinking. “But after I had to convince the Crows to help me, I decided to rethink what I would tell people. I don’t want anyone dragging me back home or misinterpreting the reason I ran away. I never would have lied if I’d known you’d be so nice to me.”

 

Ie’ello stood up and walked across the room. His back was turned towards her, so she could not see his face. “Do you have any idea,” he said finally, “how much danger you’re in right now?”

 

Saguaro was startled by the harshness in his tone. “But I thought you said only Fycity was suspicious. You told them that I’d managed to get away.”

 

“I did, but that’s not what I’m talking about. You’re going to be wanted by a lot more people than just my gang. I was worried when you said you had relatives here, but I’m even more worried now that I know you’re completely alone. It’s great that you’re determined to learn more about your parents, but they probably had important reasons for hiding things from you.”

 

Ie’ello sat down at the foot of his bed and patted the place next to him. She sat down, marveling at how short her legs looked compared to his.

 

“How much do you know about the history of Oz?” Ie’ello said. “Do you know anything about our religions?”

 

Saguaro shook her head, a bit confused by what Ie’ello was asking. “I’ve tried to research it, but there aren’t many books about Oz in Cascadia. I wasn’t raised as a believer, and while there are Cascadians who believe in the Unnamed God, I don’t know anyone who follows a specific religion.”

 

“Here in Oz, we have many religions,” Ie’ello said, “but most people are either Unionists, who believe in the Unknown God, or Lurlinists, who believe that Oz was created by a fairy named Lurline.”

 

“Is Lurline the person Lurlinemas was named after?” Saguaro asked. “I heard my parents mention the holiday before. I think my dad wanted to celebrate it, but my mom wasn’t comfortable celebrating a fairy she didn’t believe in, and she never observed the holiday growing up.”

 

Ie’ello nodded. “It’s a winter holiday, probably the biggest in Oz. The Unionists protest against it, since they think that the holiday is pagan. A few of them even petitioned Glinda a few years back, asking her to abolish it. It didn’t work…there’s so much support for Lurlinemas, Glinda could never have done away with it…but it did make the tension between Unionists and Lurlinists even worse.”

 

Saguaro shook her head, grateful that Cascadia did not have such religious conflicts. She had read about other religious disputes in history, and they all seemed very ugly.

 

“So, what is the main religion in your town, then?” Saguaro said. “Is there one? Or is it more of an even split?”

 

“Lurlinism, mostly,” Ie’ello said. “That was the religion my mother was raised in. We always celebrate Lurlinemas, but we’ve never been very religious one way or the other.”

 

“But what does this have to do with me?” said Saguaro. She attempted a joke. “Are Lurline and the Unnamed God against people with green skin?”

 

Ie’ello stood up again and went over to his bookcase. When he returned, he was holding a thick book with the words, A Lurlinist History of Oz, on its spine. He opened the book to reveal an illustration of two beautiful fairies. One had gold, flowing hair and blue eyes, and the other fairy’s hair was dark and curled to the middle of her back.

 

Saguaro read the text on the opposite page.

 

Once there were twin fairies, born in the heavens above. The older twin was named Lurline, and the younger one was named Zurline. They were opposites in appearance as well as in temperament. It was Lurline who was blessed with their mother’s golden hair and ringing laugh, while Zurline had their father’s dark eyes and strong ambition.

 

When Lurline was grown, she flew from the heavens to the world below. Her attention was drawn to a great wasteland. Being a kind and generous fairy, Lurline decided to share her powers. She waved her wand, and the land began to sparkle and glimmer, evidence that a fairy had blessed it.

 

Saguaro turned the page. In this illustration, a fair-haired girl sat on a throne.

 

Since she was unable to rule the land herself, Lurline left behind her beautiful daughter, Ozma, to become the country’s leader. Despite her young age, Ozma ruled with love and grace. The entire country of Oz, which was named after Ozma, became captivated by the princess’s charm.

 

In the first few years of Ozma’s rule, the Ozians were universally happy. Like her mother, Ozma had been blessed with the gift of magic, and she was eager to share her gift with the world. Ozians traveled far and wide to see the young princess, who healed their children and restored youth to the elderly. Ozma refused no one, as she believed that each Ozian was worthy in his or her own special way.

 

The next drawing showed Zurline watching from the heavens as Ozma healed a young girl. Her dark eyes were filled with fiery anger, and her arms were folded across her chest.

 

But all would not remain peaceful in the Land of Oz. Zurline was envious of Lurline’s success. Some say that Zurline had also been in love with Lurline’s husband, a handsome man who did not return her feelings. Whatever the reason, Zurline decided that it was up to her to destroy her sister’s influence.

 

She waved her wand, just as her sister had before her. Since she could not undo her sister’s spell, she cast another spell that introduced evil into the world. When the next set of parents brought their child to Ozma to be healed, young Ozma found that her powers were lost. Some things, such as sickness and death, could no longer be charmed away.

 

 In time, Ozians learned to live with these limitations. Ozma tried her best to spread happiness and magic whenever she could, and when she grew too old to rule, a new Ozma, her daughter, assumed the throne. Although good magic would continue to exist, Zurline’s curse had ensured that bad magic would forever plague the world. For these reasons, the Land of Oz was never fully healed.

 

Saguaro looked up. Her head was spinning from the tale.

 

“Are you telling me that Lurlinists still consider Zurline responsible for all the evil in the world?”

 

Ie’ello nodded. “They blame her for a lot. But now I want to talk to you about the Wicked Witch of the West.”

 

Saguaro leaned forward. “The Wicked Witch of the West. I heard someone mention her last night.”

 

Ie’ello looked grim. “I’m not surprised. You see”-and here he hesitated, as if not sure whether or not to continue-“the Wicked Witch of the West was also green.”

 

Saguaro stared at him, open-mouthed. But Ie’ello was already talking, giving her no time to process this startling revelation.

 

“Before Glinda became the leader of  Oz, she was known as the Good Witch of the North. Glinda was one of four witches, who were each based in a different Land of Oz, along with the Wizard, who ruled Oz as a whole. Besides Glinda, there was a Good Witch in the South and the Wicked Witch of the West and her sister, the Wicked Witch of the East. The four witches ruled until West and East were defeated and Glinda took over from the Wizard. That’s the reason why some people call her the Good Witch of the Compass.”

 

Saguaro struggled to comprehend this explanation. “You’re saying that there used to be a so-called Wicked Witch, who ruled over Winkie Country? And that she had green skin, just like me?”

 

“I’m afraid so,” Ie’ello said. “A lot of people think that Glinda and the Witch of the South got their powers of goodness directly from Lurline, and East and West got their evil powers from Zurline. That’s why people sometimes ask women who possess sorcery powers whether they’re a good witch or a bad witch.”

 

“But how were the Wicked Witches defeated?” Saguaro said. “Were they put into prison or were they killed?” This last possibility scared her more than she cared to admit.

 

“Actually, it was all thanks to a girl named Dorothy Gale. She was from a Land beyond Oz called Kansas and was only about our age when it happened, about sixteen years ago. A tornado blew her house to Munchkinland, and it fell on the Wicked Witch of the East. Dorothy traveled to the Wizard and asked him to send her home, and in exchange, he ordered her to kill the Wicked Witch of the West. She was helped by a few eager Ozians who traveled with her to the Witch’s castle, where she threw a bucket of water over the Witch and melted her. West was allergic to water, you see.”

 

“There’s no such thing as being allergic to water,” Saguaro said. “There are some legends that associate water allergies with certain sorcerers, but according to my mother, they’re all nonsense. I’m not denying that she’s dead, but she must have been killed some other way.”

 

Ie’ello shook his head. “You see, that’s exactly what I was talking about earlier. You can’t go around sharing your opinions so openly. You’ll end up in even more trouble than you’re already in.”

 

Saguaro shot him a look. “Are you saying that you actually believe this Witch was melted by a bucket of water? I know you believe in cursed mechanical dragons, but this is even more absurd!”

 

“That’s not my point. I know it might be difficult for you to understand, since you’re not from Oz, but people here are still haunted by her memory. Most people don’t even like to mention her name. With your green skin, people are bound to make connections. I can only imagine how they’ll react if they find out that you can do sorcery, too.”

 

“You’re saying that I’m in danger just because I’m green and a sorceress,” said Saguaro. “That when people look at me, they’ll see the Wicked Witch of the West?”

 

“I don’t like it, but that’s exactly what I’m saying. You should try not to mention your other theories, either. No matter how foolish things might sound, saying so is only going to draw attention, and attention isn’t something you need right now.”

 

That was when it came to her. Saguaro found herself envisioning the one person in the world who had even more trouble biting her tongue than she did. The pieces of the puzzle were finally coming together.

 

Her parents had lived in Oz during the reign of the Wicked Witch of the West. This did not take a genius to figure out. Ie’ello had mentioned that the Wicked Witch of the West had been killed about sixteen years ago, about the same time her parents had left Oz. Since her mother was green and a sorceress, she would have faced the same prejudice as Saguaro.

 

It was quite possible that the Ozians had been so afraid that they had done terrible things to people with sorcery powers. So afraid, that their fears and actions had forced her parents to flee.

 

In her mind’s eye, Saguaro saw herself standing in the Emerald City for the first time, liberated by the truth. It was possible. Definitely possible. For one thing, her parents had never mentioned the Wicked Witches before.

 

“That’s it,” she whispered. She felt her face splitting into a grin. “That’s it!”

 

Ie’ello had put the book back on the shelf and was now facing her. “What’s it? What are you talking about?”

 

“I think the reason my parents left Oz is because of the Wicked Witch of the West,” said Saguaro. “Maybe if I find out more about her, I’ll be able to find out what happened to my parents.”

 

“So you’re going to go around Oz, asking people questions about the Wicked Witch, when they’ll already be connecting you with her?” Ie’ello said in disbelief.

 

“I wouldn’t go about it exactly that way,” said Saguaro. “I know better than to ask every person I meet. But I need to find out about my parents. Whatever happened to them because of the Witch must have been horrible. There’s no way I’m going home until I find out exactly what it was.”

 

She thought of a promise she had made when she was seven-years-old to help her mother. Despite Saguaro’s current anger, that promise was still very important to her. Saguaro would never be able to help her mother unless she found out what had happened before she left Oz. Perhaps by doing so, Saguaro would be able to make up for the terrible things she had said just before running away.

 

Ie’ello spoke again, interrupting her train of thought. “If you’re serious, then I know who you should talk to. It’s a pretty well known fact that before West became Wicked, she and Glinda were friends.”

 

Saguaro wondered if these startling revelations about Oz would ever end. “Glinda was friends with the Wicked Witch of the West?”

 

“I know, it sounds as implausible as being allergic to water, doesn’t it?” Ie’ello said, grinning. “I promise, though, that this is true. Glinda confirmed it shortly after the melting. Apparently, they went to school together. If anyone knows about the Witch of the West, it’s Glinda. Even if she can’t help you, she lives in the Emerald City, and it’s a big enough place that she’ll be able to refer you to someone else.”

 

Saguaro’s stomach was reeling exactly as it had in the hot-air balloon. Just as she sensed that the Wicked Witch of the West was important, she knew that going to Glinda was the right thing to do. She felt this knowledge vibrating in her bones.

 

Glancing at Ie’ello, Saguaro found herself overwhelmed by a strong urge to express her gratitude. She stood up and gave Ie’ello an awkward, one-armed hug. She had never hugged anyone besides her parents before and was not good at expressing physical affection.

 

Ie’ello, however, did not seem to notice her awkwardness. He extended the hug by placing both arms around her and squeezing tightly. She was overcome with a warmth and dizziness that she had never before experienced.

 

When he finally released her, Ie’ello took her hands. They were surprisingly soft and twice the size of her own. “I know you probably won’t like this idea, but I want to come with you. I don’t feel comfortable letting you go alone.”

 

“I can’t let you do that,” Saguaro said, forcing herself to meet his eyes.

 

“Sleep on it,” said Ie’ello. He gave her hands a reassuring squeeze. “We can talk about it in the morning.”

 

Saguaro was surprised by the expression on Ie’ello’s face. It was if he were looking past her outer appearance and straight into her very being. She found herself remembering the way her father used to look at her mother before their relationship became so tense.

 

A part of Saguaro wanted this moment to last. Still, she knew that this was unrealistic.

 

She removed her hands. Instantly, Saguaro found herself flooded with relief, gravity beneath her feet once again.

 

“I’m getting really tired,” she said, forcing a yawn. “I think I’ll get to bed. See you in the morning.”

 

*****

A few hours later, Saguaro still had not fallen asleep. She tossed and turned on the couch, listening as a wolf howled in the distance.

 

She knew that she could not let Ie’ello come with her. Judging from what he had told her, the rest of her journey would be very dangerous, and she could not inflict such danger on anyone else. Ie’ello’s reputation would also be permanently damaged if he were seen with her.

 

Besides, she had only just met him. For as much as she liked Ie’ello, she was not about to run away with a boy she barely knew.

 

Saguaro was struck by another concern. Although Ie’ello had told her to think about it, she had a feeling that in the morning, he would insist on accompanying her. This would be her only chance to get away.

 

She scribbled a note and left it on the sofa, grabbed her satchel and Ie’ello’s map, which she had brought downstairs, and tiptoed out of the house. Then she started running and didn’t stop until Ie’ello’s town was no longer visible behind her.

 

It was not until two days later, just before Saguaro lost consciousness from an allergic reaction to wild berries, that she began to rethink her decision.

 

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1 Comments ↓

One Response to “X. A New Path”

  1. avatar
    Auntie Ann September 22, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    Just had time to sit down and catch up on all the new chapters. I am really enjoying reading this intriguing book. I love the connection to one of my favorites, The Wizard of Oz. Can’t wait for the new chapters to come

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