Chapter 23: The Birth of Darkness
Moonlight stared down on them as Elphaba's dress fluttered around her, the brim of her hat streaming in waves. She tried to put her thoughts forward, but she saw nothing in her future that made her feel any better about what had happened, what was happening.
Where was she to go? What could she do? The Wizard probably knew the palace up and down, inside and out, all of the secret passage ways. She had nowhere to run. They would find her, eventually, unless the monkeys just kept flying forever.
The other monkeys had long since let go of her, the heat too much for them to bear, but Chistery, he had remained, ever as determined and unaffected. Elphaba could see his pain, though. How he had recovered enough to fly was beyond Elphaba's powers of deduction, but she tried not to think about it too much. She certainly wasn't complaining. There was no doubt in her mind that the others would not have hesitated to do as the Wizard commanded had Chistery not intervened.
Elphaba had managed to minimize the heat emanating from her body to a nearly nonexistent level, but Chistery's hands were no doubt damaged, badly, from his drawn out contact with her, but hopefully it was nothing permanent and the burns would heal. Still he held on as best he could, not hurting Elphaba, but leaving no fear that she might fall.
Elphaba swallowed, searching for words to thank him, but they were nearing the ceiling and Chistery was squawking orders to the others, who were beside and below Elphaba. Galinda, a bit further beneath them, was staring straight downward, looking paralyzed.
Slowly, the group arched in a semicircle, curving toward an opening in the wall to the left of them. It was more than wide enough to fit them, but Elphaba could not stop herself from pulling her legs up as they swooped through the round entrance to only Chistery knew where. The darkness immediately engulfed them, suddenly and completely just like plunging into black water. Very soon, Elphaba found herself being lowered, her feet eventually coming to rest on what felt like stable ground.
"Safe," she heard Chistery said, as he handed Elphaba something in the dark. "Safe." Elphaba took the heavy object and felt it blindly. When she realized what it was, she sneered and shook her head.
"Not that he could use it anyway, but maybe if I can use it to stop him…" She thought for a moment, then nodded, placing that thought in the back of her mind for the time being. Right at the second, she had other things to worry about.
"Thank you, Chistery," she said, reaching out to pat his head in the premature night. Chistery's head bobbed and Elphaba heard the sudden sound of a dozen wings slowly descending around her.
"Go," Elphaba said, placing her hand resolutely on Chistery's chest and pushing him back gently, but with a seriousness that he could feel. "I'll be alright."
Chistery hesitated for a moment, but Elphaba squeezed his arm firmly.
"I don't want anyone to get hurt."
Chistery nodded, though she couldn't see him, and called sharply to his companions. In an instant, there was the throbbing sound of wings all about, and they were gone.
"Now," Elphaba muttered to herself, "Let's see if we can't get some light in here."
She sat down right where she stood and the grimmerie seemed to magically open, settling in front of her. Her blind eyes searched the pages, her hands wandering across now familiar, worn edges, and somehow she knew exactly what she was "seeing". She smiled in the darkness and allowed her fingers to be led by the unseen, her mind oddly clear and focused.
A single, heavy sigh of breath faded into nothing as Elphaba's fingers stopped, splayed out over the proper incantation.
"Here," she said aloud, though less for Galinda than for her own satisfaction in hearing it, knowing it. She could never describe this feeling, but it was so true, down to her bones, that there was nothing in her mind that could deny it. Logic, it seemed, had lost all of its hold on her as Elphaba traced the words of the old world, inexplicably sensing the words through the pads of her fingertips. The heavy, dried ink rose out of the page like Braille, and she deciphered the patterns of scratches and lines into words, words that opened Elphaba's mouth and streamed out in the speech of times gone by, thrumming in song-like measure.
"Hateh ne la neh ah neh, Hateh nel uleh ah neh…"
Galinda's skin prickled as she stared at the blackness from which the eerie song came, her body sensing what she could not see and filling the gaps of her comprehension. How could Elphaba know this? How could she read something so ancient, something she had only just laid eyes on and now was reading in pitch black darkness? She knew Elphaba was gifted, but to know that which no other had been able to understand, she suspected since the time it had been written?
Though Galinda had not doubt, she was still surprised when a soft glow flickered on the floor just a few meters away, illuminating a sharply contoured face.
"It's powerful," Galinda said. She reconsidered her thought. "You're powerful."
Elphaba sighed, rising. She seemed to ignore Galinda's comment. Her light appeared attached to her, a visible aura of sorts. It grew as she walked further away from Galinda, trying to get a better picture of the room Chistery had felt was "safe" to leave them in.
As she searched, Elphaba lit up the dark crevices like a living lantern, prodding the night away from the corners as she unceremoniously turned over boxes, loose papers, and other odds and ends.
"I think we're in an attic," Elphaba said at length. Galinda nodded, unmoving. She stayed lazily in the same spot the monkeys had dropped her and was not inclined to move just yet.
"Well, they did take us pretty high, didn't they? It makes sense."
Again, a nod was the only sign that Galinda had heard what Elphaba had said. She was, in essence, talking to herself.
Elphaba sat down on a strange looking chest and brushed off skirt mindlessly. Dust floated up in plumes around her from the chest as she adjusted, trying to gain a bit of comfort in the less-than-ideal position on the less-than-suitable piece of furniture.
They sat like that for a considerable amount of time, neither saying anything, Galinda staring at the floor where Elphaba had been kneeling, Elphaba uncomfortably seated, swishing her feet back and forth along the line of the chest like a bored child out shopping with her mother.
"Why didn't you say anything."
Galinda's eyes alone moved. She watched Elphaba, her face turned aside, clutching her one arm nervously. Galinda didn't' know what to make of that "statement".
"What was I supposed to say Elphaba? He's the Wizard." She sighed, speaking in an oddly calm and logical way. "Nothing I could have said would have changed anything."
Elphaba worried at her lower lip, fearing what Galinda said to be right. Though that thought might have been just below the surface, she refused to acknowledge it, and instead acted quite childishly.
"You could have said something, Galinda! You left me to hang!"
Galinda, surprisingly, did not react to the anger in Elphaba's voice. She had expected her to; she had wanted to start a fight. She needed some sort of release after what had just happened, after having all control taken away. Her life was literally in shambles! She needed to have some way of grabbing hold of the edge before she fell off completely.
"You're just in this for yourself, aren't you? That's why you came, isn't it?" Elphaba shook her head, slipping off of the chest. "I was just… a way in for you!"
Galinda's brow furrowed slightly at this, but she refrained from acting just then. As Elphaba began to pace, Galinda knew that she might as well wait until her dark green tirade was complete before responding.
Elphaba, who was quickly going from one side of the room to the other, seemed content to carry on with both sides of the conversation entirely on her own.
"Everything, from the moment you started being nice to me, has been a lie, hasn't it!" She didn't wait for an answer. "Of course! Why didn't I see it before? Getting into the magic class, getting Fiyero, getting here…you wouldn't have had any of it without me! Sweet Oz..." She paused at the opposite side of the room from Galinda, her hand resting on a low, dusty shelf full of odd looking bits and bobs. Elphaba pressed her palms into the thin wood, shaking the platform slightly, dust falling of like a dark waterfall to the ground around her. She laughed darkly to herself.
"I can't believe you would get me to fall in love with you…" She turned then, and Galinda noticed a few righteous tears falling down her dirty cheeks. Her eyes looked reddened around the green irises.
Elphaba's chest was rising and falling rapidly; Galinda waited for the final arrow.
"And you even made me believe…that you loved me, too."
"Are you finished?"
Elphaba's eyes widened slightly, confused, but she narrowed them quickly again, squelching the look of uncertainty beneath a bitter looking glare. Galinda, still, did not retaliate. She waited.
"I'm finished," Elphaba spat, "Finished with you!"
She turned in a huff, throwing her arms around herself, shivering.
"Oh, Elphie, you're shaking…"
Galinda broke from her spot with a bit of effort and flung open the trunk Elphaba had been sitting on. She rummaged through the old clothing until she found a thick, black cloak. Turning to Elphaba, Galinda flung the cloak upward, shaking it free of the years of disuse. It would suit her.
Elphaba did not turn, even as she heard the footsteps coming toward her. They halted just behind her, then a silent movement made her flinch as the black cloak was brought up around her shoulders.
Galinda leaned over and around Elphaba's right side, her arms coming around to tie the cloak at the nape of Elphaba's neck. Elphaba shook, out of anger, chill, and a little bit of fear. Eventually, Galinda stepped back. Elphaba turned, wanting to find some sort of answer in Galinda's usually betraying eyes, but found nothing in the pale pupils. Galinda reached up to straighten Elphaba's hat and Elphaba caught sight of her reflection in a glass jar to her left. She looked… haunted.
"There," Galinda spoke in satisfaction. She looked Elphaba over once more, but did not make to touch her again.
"Now. Are you ready to listen to me?"
Elphaba looped at Galinda suspiciously but nodded.
"You're smart, Elphie?"
She nodded again, still dubious as to where Galinda was headed with this. It unnerved her to see Galinda so… calm.
"Then you already know that everything you just said was a lie?"
Elphaba bit the bottom of her lip sharply.
"Of course it's a lie, Elphie! I never would have done any of the things you just accused me of! It's ridiculous! OZ!" Galinda turned away from Elphaba as though finished, but she rounded on her suddenly and Elphaba had to keep herself from gasping.
"And you! How dare you accuse me of these things when you nearly got yourself killed down there before my very eyes!"
"I nearly got myself killed? Galinda, are you insane? The Wizard was--"
"I don't care what he was going to Elphaba! Once again, the great Elphaba Thropp lost thinks she's got it all figured out! Well, I hope you're happy, Miss Smarty Pants, because you've completely ruined your chances of EVER becoming the Wizard's Magic Grand Vizier!"
The fury was suddenly returned to Elphaba's eyes and she all but snarled. "You hope I'm happy? Well, I hope you're happy, Miss Know It All! Because you've just made yourself look absolutely splendid in that monster's eyes! Why, I wouldn't be surprised if they gave you the spot right now! Well, what are you waiting for!"
Galinda stared at her, nostrils flared. "Waiting for what, Elphaba?"
"Turn me in! Go on! Scream! Call after them! You might as well, since I'm apparently already damned!"
Galinda made to retort, but a sound crept into her ear, dashing through her brain and hitting her like icy water in her heated anger. She watched in terror as Elphaba, too, registered the thumping sound of feet coming up quickly beneath them.
"Quick, Elphaba, find the door!"
Galinda immediately busied herself with finding a way in alternate to their unorthodox flight, but came up with nothing right away. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that Elphaba had not moved. IN fact, she wasn't even looking around; she was staring back into the dark side of the room, her eyes on a very particular patch of blackness.
"Elphaba, hurry," Galinda shouted, fear in her voice. She didn't care if they hated each other right now, she wasn't going to let that get in the way of making sure Elphaba escaped from this place. Galinda had a chance, if caught, to explain herself, but Galinda knew now, after seeing poor Chistery suffer, what the Wizard was probably capable of, and that was unallowable to Galinda, where Elphie was involved.
When Elphaba did not move, Galinda tried again. "Please, Elphaba, don't give up. Not yet."
Elphaba suddenly broke the spell the darkness held her in, and Galinda sighed with relief until she realized where Elphaba was headed.
Elphaba lit up the ground around the Grimmerie as she knelt before it. Her hands nervously found the cover and pulled it open. Galinda shook with fear as she heard the pounding of a hand against a space beneath the floor not a meter away from her, a stern voice following in not a millisecond after.
"BY COMMAND OF HIS MAGESTY THE WIZARD, OPEN UP!"
Galinda immediately sat down on the offending space of the floor, feeling it shake beneath her. "Elphabaaaaaaa…." She bounced, feeling the force of several soldiers trying to force it open. Oh, why had she ever tried to lose weight!
"Elphaba, hurry up!"
"…atey... aveh tateh aven...ahnooteh..."
"Elphie?" Galinda blinked, realizing what she was doing. Elphaba spoke the words without hurry, without fear in her voice. Galinda could not believe Elphaba was trying to use a spell at a time like this!
"Elphaba! What are you doing?!? This is no time to be fooling around!"
Elphaba's mouth sat open slightly, and her eyes shut as she leaned back. But no wings sprouted from her back. In fact, nothing seemed to have changed at all to Galinda, but still Elphaba shut the Grimmerie, a smile now on her lips.
"Elphie? Have you lost your mind! You're not powerful enough to do this! You should be afraid, Elphaba!"
Galinda tried not to cry, but the soldiers beneath her were making headway in dislodging her and Galinda could not stop the tears from coming. So this is how it would end! Galinda crying like a fool while Elphaba sat, grinning like a bigger fool, the Grimmerie in her lap.
Suddenly, Elphaba's eyes snapped open. She turned to look at Galinda and she was taken aback by the fire in her eyes. She grinned at Galinda, widely and in a way that Galinda could only describe as wicked. When she turned away from her, Galinda was struck by the feeling of silence and calm, like the whole world had slowed down. Elphaba rose up, her cloak rising like magic around her, rippling as Elphaba's right hand slipped over the ground, just her fingertips propelling her up and the momentum shooting her across the room the moment her legs extended fully. She reached out, her light spreading like white fire, and Galinda turned just in time to see something rising up and out of that odd little trunk, floating just above the pile of clothes that had spilled out on the floor, and then the soldiers broke through.
"NO! ELPHABA, RUN!"
The soldiers flung the door up and out, flinging Galinda to the floor, her wrists smarting as she tried to break her fall with her hands. They were on her to quickly for any sort of resistance to be anything but futile, but Galinda continued to shout at Elphaba in panicked hope that something she said would save her, though in her heart she knew Elphaba and she were doomed. So this is how it ends, the voice said to her again. This is how it ends.
The soldiers seized Galinda and she thrashed about as they forced her to stand, but nothing she did so much as phased the two men holding her upright. She looked up through her tears, expecting to see Elphaba in the same position as she, perhaps trying valiantly to fight back before inevitably succumbing. But Galinda's eyes fought in the darkness and found no flash of green.
"Elphie? Where… where are you?" she whispered to herself. The soldiers seemed just as confused.
Then she saw her, and before the soldiers could even know what was happening, Elphaba rich, angry voice fell down on them with like hail and fiery stone.
"It's not her you want… IT'S ME! IT'S ME! AND NO ONE, NOT EVEN THE WIZARD, IS GOING TO BRING ME DOWN!"
The soldiers looked up frantically, and when they finally realized where the perpetrator was they were no more calmed. There, above their heads, floated the menacing green girl, holding fiercely to a battered old broom. She was clothed in the blackness of night, fluttering about her as though seeping out of her very soul. They would report the next day to all of Oz that her eyes had flashed the red of a demon and her voice had pierced them like a thousand flaming arrows to justify the fear that brought them to their knees before a mere child. Elphaba glared down upon them like a great dark goddess, her words as fierce as if they had been those frightful arrows of which the soldier's would speak.
"IF YOU KNOW WHAT'S GOOD FOR YOU, YOU'LL STAY OUT OF MY WAY! BECAUSE I'M NOT GOING TO REST UNTIL THE WIZARD IS BROUGHT TO JUSTICE!"
The light coming from Elphaba suddenly engulfed the darkness, and the soldiers shielded their eyes, some crying out in fear, others whimpering in cowardly fright. Galinda looked on, though nearly blinded, and watched as Elphaba looked down to her. She mouthed three simple words, a spell all their own, and then she was gone, spiraling into the dark tunnel, the end straws of her broom tail disappearing into the night.
"Oh, Elphaba," Galinda whispered after her, "I love you, too."