They fled from the sheer power of the former Witch of the North. The desert approached.

"No... Not the sands..."

The stench of death rose from the sands of the Deadly Desert as the invading armies sizzled away into dust.

Her breath quickened.

A creature of gold rose from the sands. Screams filled the air as massive jaws closed around the demons and crushed their bones and rent their flesh. And with a full belly, the creature let out a massive and triumphant roar...


Ozma's eyes shot open and she looked around the darkness. She tried to slow her breathing with little success and wiped the sweat from her forehead. Sitting up slowly, she let a tear fall down her cheek.

"Lights on," she said in a low voice, "ruby." The room lit up in a dark red light coming from the triangular fixtures on the wall. Right now, she couldn't bear the harshness of white light.

She swung her legs around and pressed the bare soles of her feet to the floor and stood with a sigh. She approached the mirror backing her dresser and gazed into her reflection. A part of her just didn't like looking at herself, so she bowed her head.

For the third night in a row, the dreams haunted her. Everything had happened so fast. She knew the adrenaline was high in everyone, including Locasta as the witch had chased back the Phanfasms, the Growlywogs, the Whimsies and the Mimics.

Chased to their doom.

She looked up again at the Ozma that stared back at her. Dark rings circled her eyes, visible even in the crimson light. Perhaps, she mused, the light was appropriately chosen. Having done nothing, the blood was on her hands.

Nothing she could do now. Right now, the invaders were so much dust and the demons were most likely in one the lower intestines of the See-plus-plus. Nothing...

Or was there...?

"Lights, diamond," Ozma commanded, and the room filled with bright, white light. She blinked and rubbed her eyes. Perhaps she should have asked for a slow fade...

She padded over to the magic picture. Right now, it looked upon a farm scene during the day. "Picture," she said softly, "show me the place where the invaders died."

The picture went black for a moment, then faded up to an image of the desert, with the palms and grasses of the Quadling country in the background. A light wind blew some of the sand around, eliciting a wince from the princess. What, she wondered, were the sands, and what were the dust particles of her former enemies? Her eyes scanned the scene, memorizing everything.

"Picture," she requested, "pull back to the place where the demons were destroyed." The picture obeyed, and swept back over the desert to the requested location. The overturned boat of Old Pascalabes was still there, along with pieces of...

No, Ozma told herself. Better to focus on just memorizing where everything was, and not to dwell on the bad things. Ever since she ceased to be the boy Tip, and she had been rescued from the Ugu the Shoemaker's peach pit, she had always tried to focus on good things.

Perhaps what she was planning now wasn't much, but it, too, would be a good thing. At least, she hoped.

Noon found Ozma using her wand to sculpt a cloud she had pulled from the sky. She wished that Glinda would get the potion she has asked for to her. Every time she stopped using the wand, the cloud's shape would start to drift.

As she started to form the chair in the center yet again, Jellia, maid of Oz, sprinted up to her. "Ozma," she said, out of breath, "here's the potion you asked me to bring to you right away." She held the small bottle, with an atomizer on it, out to her. Ozma smiled and took it from her.

"This doesn't seem to be much," the princess observed. "Glinda thinks that it'll be enough."

"Glinda not only thinks so," Jellia confirmed, "but had to make it herself, or so her messenger said when she gave it to me. Apparently, while cotton is a common ingredient to have about," she smirked, "butterfly breaths are a little more difficult to come by, otherwise, you would have gotten it sooner, and you wouldn't have a frustrated Witch of the South uttering curses at you. What are you doing?"

Ozma had turned back to the cloud and was reforming the chair yet again. "That's for me to know, Jellia, I'm sorry." Now. It was perfect. She pointed the atomizer at it and sprayed. The liquid, little amounts though it was, covered the seat and froze it there, like that. "Very nice." She went back to it and formed the base of the cloud into a round shape.

Jellia, meanwhile, said, "If you insist. Have fun. Oh -" she looked noticeably over Ozma's shoulder, "and have fun!" She giggled and sprinted off.

Have fun and have fun? Ozma thought, then felt a presence behind her. She spun around, and looked into the face of Prince Dan. "Eep!"

"Ah!" he yelped, then said, "Uh, hi there, Ozma."

"Danny! Uh..." She swallowed and blushed slightly. "I wasn't expecting to see you just now."

"Well, I was just getting ready to leave for Flathead Mountain with the Adepts and, um..." The girl ruler stifled a smile at his continued shyness. She thought that the recent adventures he had would of cleared up some of that, but she supposed that being a hero was far easier than trying to talk to someone of the opposite sex.

"Already?" She blushed a little more at how that sounded. It was bad enough that she'd failed to mask her attraction by calling him "Danny," but now she sounded almost disappointed to see him go. All of her emotion-masking royal training seemed to vanish whenever he was around.

"I suppose there's only so much celebrating a guy can do," he admitted, scratching the back of his head, "but I have a new life to begin, and while I love the Emerald City, I think I'll appreciate it more if I didn't see it so much... or as often... you know, it would be..."

"I know, Danny," she interrupted, "The Adepts have invited you, and I don't see how you could pass up the charms of three beautiful ladies." It occurred to her that she had never extended an invitation for him to stay. And now, off he was. Just as well. Perhaps she wasn't ready for this kind of thing, if at all.

"I'll be back," he said.

"Just find Jellia and have her find me when you are," she told him. "Since I normally am busy during the day."

"Yes, I..." He looked at the cloud hovering nearby, which was dissipating around the edges. "I see that. Is it supposed to do that?"

Ozma spun. "No!" She pointed her wand again and collected the edges and pushed them in again, then grabbed the atomizer and quickly began spraying around the thing's base. "I hope it's not too late." She found it difficult to use her wand and the atomizer at the same time, but all the same, she was able to finish the cloud chair.

"There, what do you think, Danny?"

Dan looked at the construction, remembering the brief period of time he made things like that in 3D computer programs. But this was different. This was real. "It's beautiful," he told her, getting a smile out of her.


Both of them stood there for a short time, staring at one another. He had to leave, and a part of her wanted to ask him not to go, but she never asked him to stay, and it would be rude now to pull him away from his new home.

He didn't take his eyes from her, but he slowly said, "Um... Look I do have to go. The Adepts were getting ready to go... I just wanted to say good bye."

"Well, don't say 'good bye,' Danny. That's too final for me. But -" she took his hand, "take care."

"Take care," he replied and backed away slowly, still looking at her, until he rounded a corner.

Ozma stood there for a long time. She remembered briefly being angry when the demons had abused him. Is that what caused her to stay her hand?

She shook her head to clear the question and approached the new vehicle.

She climbed on and sat, then mentally commanded the chair forward. It obeyed and moved at a slow pace, which was perfect for her since she was just getting to know the thing. She was pleased at her project being a success. Tonight, she would take it out.


Swiftly, it glided across the country of the Quadlings, making no sound, except the grasses and trees bending in its wake and the occasional deer running to escape being hit. The journey lasted through the night.

When she finally reached the Desert, it was the darkest period, right before dawn's first light. Ozma slowly blinked as she recognized the place from what she saw in the magic picture. She took a deep breath to center herself, and then picked up a flower garland she had made.

"I have always taught love and forgiveness," she said, "and would have preferred another way to... this." She stood on the cloud, which didn't give way, but still made her slightly nervous, and held the garland out. "You were souls of this world, and now you are souls of the next. Go in peace." She kissed each flower in thanks for each one's sacrifice and dropped the flower chain onto the desert sands. Almost immediately, wisps of smoke began to come from it as it turned to dust.

She sat once more and directed the craft farther out. It was just like she saw it.

Ozma's mind wandered to her other failures. Why did they have to happen with this kind of magnitude? Most people just drop dishes or things like that. Hers included being captured and imprisoned in a peach pit and being turned into an ornament, among other things.

Not to mention poor Mombi...

Ozma brought herself to the present before she found herself crying again over that matter, and watched the smashed boat grow closer. She felt a slight squeezing in her chest as the emotion hit her, but she didn't move until the cloud glided to a stop next to the boat.

She stood and held out another flower garland, but before she could speak, the sands shifted, and the familiar head of the dreaded See-plus-plus rose, its golden scales and pearlescent teeth glimmering in the moon light. It roared as it looked down at the fairy princess.

Ozma reached out with her mind and touched the creature's. There are other creatures that live in this desert for you to feed from, she told it. Please... Leave me in peace.

It looked at her only for a few moments, completely still. She sensed its intentions were not malevolent towards her, despite her words, and likewise, it could feel a desire in her to be alone. At that, it dove into the ocean of sand and swam away.

She sat shaking for a little while, trying to control her breathing. Telepathy not being something she did often, Ozma wasn't even sure it would work.

Once she centered herself again, she rose and held out the garland again.

"I have always taught love and forgiveness," she repeated, "and would have preferred another solution to what happened here." She kissed each flower, like she did with the other one. "You were souls of this world, and now you are souls of the next. Go in peace." She dropped it next to the boat and closed her eyes. A part of her almost felt the passing of all that had been destroyed, and she sat for a long time, until the sun began to peak over the horizon.

The Girl Ruler of Oz didn't even attempt to stop the tears from rolling down her cheeks as she opened her eyes once more. She watched the sun rise, then, with a command, turned her cloud around and floated back to the Emerald City.