Prologue

Glinda pressed her tome to her chest and watched as she drew ever nearer to the Emerald City. Her heart was pounding against her chest and her breath came in uneasy shudders; she knew what lay ahead. She was truly alone now. And the people of Oz were waiting for her--their Glinda--to bring them the good news.

She reviewed the speech she had planned, just a few words to tide over the eager ears she knew she would find upon arriving at the center square. The people wanted news and she thought she was ready to give it to them but, as the city loomed, growing closer, the words she had planned were stuffed down to the pit of her trembling stomach. She took a deep breath as her bubble passed over the front gates of the city and prepared herself for what would be one of the hardest moments of her life.

"Fellow Ozians," belted Glinda from high above the heads of the people of the Emerald City, "I bring you good news!"

"Look," someone shouted, pointing to the sky, "It's Glinda the Good!"

"Hey, everyone, hurry! Glinda has news!"

"What is it, Glinda?" she heard from the crowd. And, in the several other voices, "What news do you bring us? Have you found the Wicked Witch?"

Glinda clutched the book ever more tightly and forced her face into the best and sweetest of smiles.

"No, dear ones," she said, allowing two men to lower her from her bubble as soon a she was near the ground. Once alighted, Glinda felt the heat of the people pressing in on her, the individuals hearing of her arrival and rushing to the square. "Even better still," she said, a twinge in her voice going unnoticed. The crowd only pushed in closer to better hear her. Bracing herself, she rose her light voice over the growing throng.

"THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST IS DEAD!"

A collective gasp escaped the people gathered around Glinda. Those who hadn't heard her or who had just arrived were hurriedly informed in low, excited voices, and the masses positively began to hum. Glinda hastily tried to retreat to her bubble but was caught in the sway of the crowd, which was pushing her toward the platform at the center of the square.

"Who killed her, Glinda?"

"Is she really dead?"

"How did it happen?"

"Please, PLEASE!" she shouted, but she was being forcibly carried to the podium and no one seemed to hear her plea to be released. Before she could wrench herself free from the grasp of the people, she was thrust onto the tiny stage.

"But what of the Wizard?"

"How do we know she's really dead?"

"FELLOW OZIANS!"

Glinda had seized the advantage of the microphone and put all of the considerable power behind her voice into the little metal frame. The effect was immediate and drastic.

"Fellow Ozians," she repeated more quietly to the hushed crowd, "All of your questions will be answered in due time."

"Glinda, can you-"

"HUSH! Silly..." she giggled nervously and swallowed as though she were keeping down her very fears.

"Now, I know that so many of you fear that such... wonderful news cannot be true. But I assure you," she said, silencing the impatient questions with her hands, "that the Wicked Witch is completely, absolutely, and most certainly..."

Glinda looked around at the many eager faces that she had expected to see and yet she was unable to speak. It just couldn't be real. Now, Glinda, the voice inside her said. Do it now or you'll never do it at all.

"DEAD. SHE'S DEAD!"

Her voice was drowned out by the whoops and cries of the crowd which had just let loose the energy that had begun building since Glinda had arrived. No one could believe it-she was dead! But Galinda had told them it was true-and she would never lie to them-so it had to be true! Many of the people started dancing, embracing each other, bursting into song. They were delighted and they all believed that it was Galinda they had to thank for their joy.

"But Glinda, Ms. Glinda!"

An older man was pushing his way through the crowd to the front, his cane prodding people out of his way. Who would be trying to question Galinda now? Hadn't she just given them all they really needed to know?

"Glinda, is it true?"

The crowd fell silent; everyone was watching the odd exchange.

"True?" Glinda turned to face the man, looking a little less cheerful than she should have with a single tear running down her pale cheek. "I just told you-"

"No, no, I believe that she is dead. What I want to know concerns a troubling rumor, a rumor claiming that you were her friend."

The crowd gasped so indignantly, so offended for Glinda, that no one took notice of the tear or Glinda's look of dismay and distress.

"How dare you say such things about Glinda," a woman next to the old man said, "when she brings us news of the Witch's demise?"

Apparently the woman's statement reflected the feeling of the entire crowd because the man was immediately pushed back through the waves of people, far from their revered Galinda's sight. The new leader of the Royal Guard stepped forward as his soldiers filed through the crowd, surrounding the stage lest someone else try and disturb the new heiress apparent to the throne of the Wizard.

"You should go now, your highness," the man said, extending his well tanned hand to her. She gratefully accepted it, desperate to leave the pulsating crowd and the demanding questions she knew would be put to her if she stayed.

"Go to the castle," he said. Glinda was taken aback a little.

"It rightfully belongs to you now, Glinda."

She smiled, a bitter sweet realization washing over her. She was the sole governing body of Oz and the people would look to her for guidance now. In truth, she had not the slightest idea where to begin in that respect, but she did know that she was eager to get to the castle, to be left alone for awhile. The kindly man carrying her, single handedly lifting her back into her bubble, would make sure that she had her privacy. She would deal with the reality, the politics and facets of her new life another time.

"Are you alright, your highness?"

Glinda's attention was pulled back to the present. She nodded to the Royal Guard distractedly.

"To the castle," she said with a smile that was tragically beautiful.

As the ground disappeared once more, she stared through the people on the ground who were vanishing in every direction to spread the "good news" throughout Oz.

------

The castle at the northern end of the Emerald City was the most magnificent (if not flamboyant) dwelling in all of Oz. There were more rooms than could house all of the people of Munchkinland and it was worth nearly all the gold in all of Oz. It wasn't a castle; it was a palace, one that every person in the Emerald City wanted to live in.

Everyone, that is, but Glinda.

Hidden away in one of the three master bedrooms, Glinda tried desperately to calm her rapidly beating heart. But it was a difficult task and she frequently clutched at her chest through her periwinkle gown as though fearing that her heart would burst from her at any moment. She blinked furiously, not bothering to otherwise rid herself of the tears streaming down her face, cascading onto her sob-wrecked neck.

Dead. She was really dead. And he...

What did she have left in life, seeing what she had seen, knowing what she knew?

Her lashes fluttered and the tears dripped onto the coverlet. She choked on a cry, gripping the bed with one hand, her chest with the other.

"Oh, Elphie," she whispered. "Why did it have to turn out this way?"

Looking back on things, she wondered if, somehow, things could have turned out differently.