The Beginning of the End
Kristian Marvel was sitting at his wife's desk, files and rolls of parchment were spread haphazardly across its surface and over the floor. He hadn't gone to bed once Fiyero had taken Elphaba and his family through the portal, instead he'd come to Glinda's office hoping to catch up on all that he'd missed in the half a year that he'd been gone. Though he'd read enough newspapers during his time in Morrible's lair he realized that there was much going on behind the scenes and out of the shrewd, if slightly biased, eye of the press. He wasn't disappointed, Glinda –or more likely Aliira- had kept thorough records of press statements and the more detailed reports behind them.
He'd made it through those after several hours and then had pulled much older files from the large archive that connected his office to Glinda's. He'd asked his own assistant Gerome to head to the Wizard's old archive and pull everything regarding The Wicked Witch of the West. Though they'd agreed to keep the capture and subsequent "release" of the Witch secret, it was up to Kris to start planting the idea that the She might still be at large and rallying an attack against Madame Morrible. So he wanted to brush up on the Witch's history as best he could before he had to start sending the press statements about Morrible.
"Sir?" A voice interrupted his research from the doorway. Kris looked up to see one of the few office aides who had already returned from the holiday standing at the door. "The Prime Minister is here to see you. He says it's urgent."
Kris glanced at the mess on Glinda's desk and decided he'd rather not have Klondika in her office at the moment.
"Send him to my office, tell him I'll be with him shortly," Kris said.
"That won't be necessary Your Grace," Klondika interrupted before the aide could respond and brushed passed the younger man. "I'm afraid what I have to say can't be held up by protocol."
Kristian leaned back into his chair, trying to project an attitude of nonchalance even as he noticed that Klondika was trying a little too hard to do the same thing.
"By all means then Prime Minister," he gestured for the older man to take seat and nodded to the aide, "Thank you Gerome I think that will be all."
Garrett gave a curt bow and ducked out of the door, pulling it shut behind him.
"Klondika I can think of very few things that warrant you barging into my wife's office on a holiday and none of them are particularly pleasant so I'd suggest you start talking," Kristian said, dropping his pretense of graciousness and leveling a cold gaze at the double agent who sat before him.
"I'd like to remind everyone that I think this is a very bad idea," Fiyero announced darkly as he followed Glinda and Elphaba into the armory where the portal to Kiamo Ko was located.
"I'd like to remind you that I don't particularly care," Glinda shot back more sharply than she might have if she had gotten more rest and hadn't been so worried.
Fiyero opened his mouth to fire off a retort but Elphaba quickly interjected, "Kris has to have the necklace as soon as possible, the whole plan rests on our ability to keep tabs on him and the Emerald City."
"I'm just saying," Fiyero said petulantly.
"Your concerns have been noted, but I'm going back," Glinda said.
"Be careful," Elphaba warned her though it was unnecessary. "The less people who see you back at the palace the better. If you need me say the incantation I taught you and then my name; we won't be able to communicate through the necklace but it will focus the orb on you and I'll come as fast as I can."
"You won't need too," Glinda insisted, and turned to kiss Valin who was sleeping comfortably in Elphaba's arms. "I'll be back before he wakes up and wants lunch."
With that she stepped through the false tapestry that depicted the village of Red Windmill with Kiamo Ko lording over it from the craggy backs of the Kells.
"Shouldn't she be on bed rest or something?" Fiyero -who was still a little cross at not having been consulted about the blonde's present mission before she was already on her way- asked.
"Probably," Elphaba said dryly, and watched Valin sleep so she wouldn't have to meet her husband's eyes, knowing he would see through her blithe mask immediately if she did. "But somebody had to get the damn necklace back and she wasn't going to calm down until she'd done it."
"I still don't like it."
"Me neither," she admitted, and turned to the door.
"Where are you going?"
He should have guessed; he was beginning to think the two witches knew something they weren't telling him. The thought was not particularly comforting but he decided it would be best not to dwell and hurried to follow his wife.
"I need you to protect my family."
After nearly ten minutes of sitting in silence leveling stubborn gazes at one another, the last thing Kris expected Klondika to start with were these words.
Klondika swallowed at the painful lump that rose in his throat as soon as the words were out. He'd been agonizing over the choices laid before him since he'd left for Morrible's fortress nearly a day before. Truthfully, he hadn't expected her to control her temper as well as she had when he'd delivered his news, and forty-eight hours were forty-eight too many to debate over which side he really wanted to be on in this war. Which side did he want to die on?
"All my life I have worked for stability," he began to elaborate with a distant tone, knowing very well where the path he was now embarking on would lead. "When the Wizard's reign began to falter I strengthened ties with the one who seemed certain to remain in power at the time. I stood with Madame Morrible instead of Glinda the Good and that choice is going to cost me my life –Rightfully so perhaps but I will not bring those in my care down with me. Do you understand?"
"You're going against Morrible," Kris stated, trying to conceal his shock.
"I've come to the same impasse I believe you have my boy, and I've made a similar choice. Glinda's reformed Oz is not the place for an Old Wizard's boy like me. But I think I ought to help usher in the new era."
"She'll kill you."
"Perhaps," Klondika replied with a mirthless smile. "But I'm more concerned with what she will do to appease her need for vengeance. So I need your promise that you will protect my family. I've sent a trusted man to my estate to take my wife and son into hiding. I want your word that a safe way for them to return to their home will be made when the time comes."
"I'll do everything in my power, but you're presuming that I'll have any should I live through the war."
"That's the other thing I'm here to discuss. It's high time you told Glinda the truth."
"I really don't think that's wise," Kris countered. "If there's any chance of fixing this I need her to trust me in order to do it."
"No, Morrible is expecting you to cover up your involvement and she'll use it to break Glinda as soon as she has the chance. You must beat her to the punch. Tell Glinda the truth on your terms while there's a chance that the damage can be contained."
Kris looked downcast as the truth of Klondika's words settled upon him like a death shroud; there was no chance that he would be able to atone for his treachery without accepting the guilt for it first.
"Now, the way I see it you have a pretty good chance of winning this fight," Klondika continued. "So listen to me now."
"How do I know you're telling me the truth? That this isn't some scheme of Morrible's and you're not going to go running back to her as soon as I start doing what you tell me to?"
"I'll leave you with ample assurance in good time, now listen: Her scheme rests on being able to capture Glinda and getting that spell book from her. She'll do away with you as soon as she gets a chance so don't give her one because you're the last line of defense. Without you in the Emerald City to lead the fight against her army she'll be able to sweep in and blow any rebellion away."
"She's planning to use the portals you've been finding for her," Kris remembered.
"Yes," Klondika pulled a piece of parchment from his breast pocket and spread it out over the papers on Glinda's desk. Kris quickly recognized it as a map of Oz with particular detail in the central metropolitan areas. "These blue doors are the portals she knows about so far. The three in the red she doesn't know about, my agent only just found them and I hadn't gotten a chance to report them yet."
"What about your agent, she'll be able to track him down and get the information from him."
"No, I'm afraid she won't," Klondika said bleakly. "He won't be spilling any secrets to her or anyone else for that matter. Now, this portal, and then this one," he pointed to two blue doors that were a considerable distance apart from one another according to the scale, "will take you to her fortress, in this canyon."
"Well that's perfect, we can beat her to the punch as you say and take her before she can even think of mobilizing her army to find Glinda."
"No. She'll flood the canyon before you can get anyone to the lair. Her weather magic will be your biggest worry, but provided she doesn't get her hands on your wife or the Grimmerie then Glinda should be able to counter the spells before any lasting damage can be done."
"So we just have to fight until she makes herself vulnerable?"
"It won't take nearly as long as you'll wish it will," Klondika said with grim certainty. "As long as Glinda stays well hidden she'll waste much of her army searching for her. You'll be able to pick the goons off one by one, but eventually she'll pull them back and then you'll have to wait. At that point the Ozians will be your biggest contender. They'll begin to distrust you when she starts drying or drowning out their food supply and makes the travel routes impassable. So you'll need to show them you're fighting her without sending your army into that ravine."
"We've started on a way to do that."
"Good. If Glinda can hold off her weather spells then it will only be a matter of time before Morrible loses patience and comes out to get you herself. It won't be easy. But you'll be able to take her down once she's out of that fortress."
Kris sat back in his chair, staring pensively at the papers strewn across the cherry-wood desk.
"What else can you tell me that I don't already know about Morrible's plans?"
Glinda stumbled out of the portal and over the brazier into the throne room. It was dark except for the cords of daylight spilling through the gaps in the curtains; luckily it was an open room and not hard to navigate even without the luxury of sight. When she got to the door she cracked it open, peering out to see if any guards were posted in this hall. They should still have been focused in the royal apartments but she didn't want to run into any unnecessarily. When she was certain that there were none in the corridor she stepped into the hall, shutting the door silently behind her. Then, clutching the charmed necklace tightly in her left hand she headed for one of the secret passages that led to her family's apartment.
The hidden passageway ended in a two-way mirror, as many of the others did, and through it she could see her mother perched on the sofa with a faraway look in her eyes. She felt a little guilty for having left Amnestria without a word as to where she had taken Valin but knew it had been for the best, and in any case she supposed she could tell her now, and arrange to get her well away from the Emerald City for a while. She thumbed the opening mechanism on the mirror and it slid away with a hiss just loud enough to catch Amnestria's attention.
"Galinda Soleil Upland! You scared me half to death!" The older blonde shrieked and lunged from the couch to gather her daughter into her arms.
Glinda returned the hug fiercely and tried to think of the best thing to tell her mother.
"Where in Oz have you been?" Amnestria demanded before she could even imagine her explanation. "Disappearing in the middle of the night with no trace and taking my grandson to boot! I thought that horrible Morrible person had finally caught you. I thought of the most awful things and then Kris finally came in and-
"Mom, stop!" Glinda said loudly, grasping her mother's arm and leading her to the sofa to calm down. "It's not safe here in the Emerald City anymore. You need to go home; I'm going to arrange an escort and they're going to take you straight back to the manor."
"Oh, Kris has already arranged it. We're leaving an hour after nightfall "and not stopping till dawn"."
"Good, then I want you to take daddy and Arcelus and his family to one of the summer homes and stay there until this blows over."
"Glinda, surely that's not-
"It is necessary Mom," Glinda insisted, pulling away from her mother's embrace so she could draw herself to her full height (though that still didn't bring her eye to eye with her mother even). "Most of your escort will stay there with you except the one that's going to come back and tell Kris where you are so we can get word to you. Please."
"And what about you then? You're going to stay here on the front lines and fight? How can you do that? To your son, to your family, to your people? None of us can afford to lose you."
"I know. I'll be hiding myself for a little while; until we have an advantage at least."
"Oh, Galinda," Amnestria wrapped her in a crushing hug once more, but not before Glinda caught the glimmer of tears in her eyes.
"It's going to turn out alright in the end Mom, you'll see."
"Oh my darling, I know that. I do know that."
"Stay safe. Send everyone my love."
"You're leaving so soon?"
Glinda nodded, "I need to get back to Valin; I just came to set things in order."
Their eyes met in solidarity; they embraced once more.
"Oz speed my darling."
"Oz speed Mom, I love you."
Amnestria blew her a kiss as she turned on her heel and left the room at a brisk pace, wiping tears from her eyes as she wondered if this was the last time she would see her mother. She violently pushed the thought from her mind, knowing that dwelling on the idea would only make it worse.
Since Kris had not been in the apartments she guessed he would be in his office or the kitchens. Since Mork and Calpurnia were on the list of people she didn't want to run into and waste time explaining things she decided to check the office first, though there would almost certainly be a guard there, it would be easier to wave him off than one of her friends. To her surprise the guard standing duty outside the antechamber of the office was the Captain himself.
"My Lady?" He questioned, surprised to see her. "I was not aware you were in residence."
"I'm not. What's going on? Who's in the office?"
"Prime Minister Klondika requested that I escort him to his carriage, Lord Marvel signed the request and asked that I wait here until they finished their meeting."
"I wasn't aware that the Prime Minster had returned from his holiday."
The door swung open and Kristian and Klondika stepped out. For a beat the four of them stood staring dumbly at one another, each trying to decide their next move based on the other three.
Finally Klondika bowed to Glinda and spoke, "My Lady."
"I beg you'll pardon me, there is a matter of security I must attend to immediately." He turned to Kris, "Beat her to the punch boy."
Glinda caught the suspicious glare that Kris leveled at Klondika but he seemed appeased when the aging politician requested that Captain Donelin accompany him on attending to the "matter".
"Glinda, what's going on?"
"I could ask you the same," Glinda retorted, her attention still focused on Klondika and Donelin, who were heading for a staircase that would take them to the back entrance of the palace, near the kitchens.
"He stopped by quite abruptly this morning for a discussion. I'm glad you're here, we need to talk; but why are you here?"
"We need to talk," Glinda agreed.
Kris lay a hand on her back to usher her back towards their offices, he opened the heavy door for her and gui- CRACK!
Glinda found herself pressed between Kris and the wall before the gunshot stopped echoing off the stone. She could feel Kris's heart pounding wildly in his chest and was acutely aware of his labored breathing. As the ringing in her ears subsided she found a gap between his arms and his body that she could peer through and saw guards fill the corridor as if they'd seeped out of the paintings and the stonework. For a moment the whole world seemed to stand still as they waited for something else to happen. When nothing did they all realized where the sound had come from: the staircase where Donelin and Klondika had disappeared. Glinda caught Kris's gaze and held it for a split second before they both took off for the stairs.
Three twisting flights of steps later the two, plus the seven guards they'd left in their wake, spilled out of the kitchen entrance. Glinda gagged and covered her mouth, pivoting away from the scene before her to bury her face in Kris's shirt. He grunted against the image and the sudden pressure against his chest but clutched his wife close as he stared somberly at the body, lying in gravel wet with melting snow and the steadily growing puddle of ruby fluid.
I'll leave you with ample assurance. So that's what he meant.
Donelin, the normally unflappable captain of the guard, was thunderstruck.
"He declared himself a traitor as soon as we came out and...and..." He couldn't finish the sentence, the gruesome scene said it all.
Kristian pulled the sobbing Glinda back through the entrance, away from the horror that sealed what Klondika had told him as the truth.
"Darling, we need to talk."
Author's note: Thanks for reading, especially to everyone has been around since the beginning. I really appreciate your patience and your comments.