"I think we've waited long enough. Vindio, get her on the horse," Baraq ordered.
Glinda was still aching and she mildly resisted, but Vindio was able to maneuver her upwards and into the horse's saddle without too much difficulty. He climbed up behind her and held out his hand to take the cloak that Baraq had pulled from his saddlebag. Vindio confiscated the offered covering and put it around Glinda's shoulders before putting up the hood to cover her head. All of her features were now thoroughly concealed.
"We haven't gagged you… yet," Vindio whispered to her, "and I truly hope for your sake that you don't make it necessary."
Baraq climbed up on his horse and started slowly down the road leading past the palace and out of the Emerald City. In his mind it was best to appear unhurried which should bring less attention to them as they made their way through the city.
Elphaba rode her horse as fast as she could until she was nearly at the Emerald City gates. She had no cloak, no covering, and nothing to conceal herself with. Her long hair could hide her face, but her short sleeved turtleneck was sure to give her away as she couldn't hide her green arms. She couldn't very well ride past the guards and into the Emerald City undetected so she needed to figure out another way.
She rode up as close as she could, still tired and drained, but feeling her energy returning to her. In the pine trees, just before the city gates she dismounted and continued the rest of the way on foot.
Slowly, steadily, she made her way to the walls of the Emerald City. This wasn't the first time she'd wished she had a repertoire of magic available to her. If she made it out of this mess alive it was a topic she would definitely revisit.
Silently she crept up to the gates to have a look at the guards. She felt a letdown as she noted that the guards were highly alert. On the one hand, she felt she should be grateful as it would be more difficult for Baraq to leave the city. On the other hand, she was feeling frustrated as her options began to diminish.
Elphaba needed a distraction. She just had to figure out what it would be.
"Everyone gather 'round," Phanica yelled to her group as she and Mikko entered the encampment.
Her followers, noticeably void of women, gathered around her as instructed while she took her place on top of a flat surfaced rock which raised her above the assemblage. She eyed the men as the compliant group silently looked on in anticipation of her announcement.
"We started this campaign a long time ago with nothing more than a hope, a belief and a conviction," she said. "We are all here together right now because we were fed up with the status quo in our very merry land of Oz. We hoped to make a change in the government structure. We believed we were the ones to bring about that change, and we damn well had the conviction to see our hopes through."
Mutterings of approval could be heard throughout the camp.
"Now I know we've had a rough go of it lately. I know it's been difficult for you to stand by me when it's been one setback after another," Phanica continued. "However, I'm here to tell you that your patience, your trust and your faith in me is finally paying off."
Phanica looked over the group and saw looks that were a confluence of perplexity and anticipation.
"While our goals have remained the same, our means have changed, and as you know, you have to be fluid and adapt to your situation. I came across information about some magical stones that would change everything for us. These stones, called The Duplex Stones, give the user the power of mind control, the power to assume the appearance of any person dead or alive you can vividly imagine. Rumor also has it that the stones, when placed in a specific spot at a specific time will unleash a powerful army that will do the bidding of the stone's possessor. You can see why acquiring these stones would be vitally important to our cause. Well, I'm here to tell you; today we have just come one giant leap forward in our quest for the stones."
The gathering was quietly excited, anticipating more information. Phanica could feel it emanating from the group.
"Today, I have absolute proof that these stones are not just ancient Ozian lore. They are real, and we now have the roadmap to their whereabouts."
"There are papers that contain years of research on the stones. Research commissioned by Baraq of The Glikkus. Some of you may know of Renegade, his right hand man. Those papers were in his possession until today. Now they're in ours."
Phanica pulled out the papers she'd confiscated from Veloc and raised them above her head. The men roared with approval.
"Once we have our hands on the stones I promise all of you that your loyalty will be rewarded. Get your things together men. Tonight we ride North, towards the stones and the eventual control over all of Oz."
Once again the camp erupted with roars, whoops and laughter. The men were in a good mood for the first time since they left Gillikin.
Mikko watched the whole scene from his horse. Despite his anger towards Phanica for not taking care of Elphaba when she had the chance, he had to admit he was quite impressed with what she had accomplished so far. It was his hope that once Phanica had the stones Elphaba would be an afterthought and he would be able to insert himself into Phanica's life. That was the hope anyway.
Elphaba pressed her back against the wall, partially concealed by an evergreen bush that was positioned between her and the guards at the gate. She was contemplating her options when a rumbling sound distracted her. It was the first contingent of guards returning to the Emerald City after the land shakes hand changed their priorities.
Elphaba crouched down, eyeing the guards intently. As the troops approached the sentry closest to her moved forward from his position. Soon the other one followed. The guard rode up to the gate where the sentries and the captain became engaged in conversation, no doubt discussing the status of the city behind the walls. Elphaba thought this would be her best chance to pass through the gate unnoticed.
She continued silently along the wall in her crouched position. The sentries and the captain finished their conversation with a head nod. The captain blew his whistle, waved his arm forward and started to move through the gates. The sentries, as Elphaba had hoped, stayed where they were as the troops quickly rode past them.
The horses kick up some dust and Elphaba quickly turned the corner, unseen, into and through the gates as the riders flew past her at a hurried pace. Once inside she turned the corner again and pressed herself against the inside wall, hiding behind more evergreens.
Once the troops were through the gates the sentries returned to their position, watching intently for any outsiders that may try to get into the city unauthorized. They never knew how easily Elphaba had slipped past them.
Baraq, Vindio and Glinda rode silently through the streets of the Emerald City. As they rode their horses, the first group of guards hastily rode past them. The commotion spooked their horses as they were still fidgety from the land shakes, and almost caused them to rear up, but Baraq and Vindio gained control before the animals got too out of hand. Once the guards passed, they continued towards the gates.
Elphaba stayed in her spot for a few moments until she was sure it was safe to move. The streets of the city were eerily vacant as the inhabitants took cover indoors. Elphaba looked around and saw nobody who might impede her progress on the sparsely populated roads. She then turned her eyes to a building in the distance. It was the Wizard's Palace. That's where she would need to start. Without another second's hesitation she moved out, darting in and out of the shadows trying to remain hidden. The remaining sunlight was her enemy right now, but if it was her enemy, it was also Baraq's enemy. That thought gave her hope that she might find Glinda before Baraq could take her and move her out of the city.
Stealthily and swiftly Elphaba began to wind her way down the streets of the city, past shops and restaurants once bustling with customers, but now nothing more than hollow buildings. This allowed her to move more quickly down the quadlingstone streets, but she still needed to proceed with caution as there were scattered groups of people here and there hurrying through the streets.
As she made her way down the road she saw a wagon on the side of the road. The two people next to the wagon were infinitely familiar to her. It was Fiyero and Falia. Elphaba smiled broadly and hurried to where they were.
"Fiyero," Elphaba yelled out.
Fiyero and Falia looked surprised to hear Elphaba's voice and even more surprised to see her.
"Elphaba, what are you doing here? You'll be seen," Fiyero warned.
"You know I had to come," Elphaba said. "Glinda's here and I can't just sit back when I know she's in danger.
As Elphaba, Fiyero and Falia talked around the wagon two horses with three riders casually strode down the street.
"Don't... say... a word," Vindio warned while pressing a knife to her side.
The trio slowly made their way past Elphaba, Fiyero and Falia. Glinda looked at Elphaba, wanting desperately to call out to her as they silently continued past the group.
A distracted Elphaba didn't notice the riders at first, but an overwhelming feeling washed over her, much like the feeling she got when she and Glinda were in the Gillikin Forest hiding from Phanica. Elphaba knew better than to ignore that feeling. She looked around and spotted the riders who were now a ways past her.
"Fiyero," she said, tugging on Fiyero's sleeve and squinting in the direction of the riders who were nearing the gates.
"You don't think..." Fiyero began.
"I don't know," Elphaba responded before he could finish his sentence. She moved out from around the wagon and continued to try to get a fix on the riders in the distance.
At that moment another group of guards rode through the gates at breakneck speed. This time Baraq's and Vindio's horses where sufficiently spooked. They whinnied and reared up, dumping their passengers onto the ground.
Glinda quickly got to her feet.
"ELPHIIIIIEEEE," she yelled as loud as she could.
Elphaba's eyes widened. "LET'S GO," she yelled as she started running in Glinda's direction.
Baraq got to his feet. The horses had run off and he was left standing there with a hysterical Glinda and Vindio who looked confused and lost. Baraq secured his book bag containing the Grimmerie, grabbed Glinda's arm and pulled her in the direction of some large buildings. The commotion caught the guard's attention and they turned around to see what was going on. Recognizing the situation, the captain of the regiment ordered his men after Baraq and Glinda, but just as they were set to pursue them Recrudesce crashed through the Emerald City gates with his group, intercepting the guard, cutting them off from Baraq and engaging them in combat. Baraq smiled to himself when he realized his group had come to his rescue.
Getting through the gates at this time was going to be impossible. He needed a position where he could defend himself and have time to conjure up a spell that would get him past the gates. As he pulled Glinda towards the center of the city, he spotted a 10 story building that looked perfect for his needs. Glinda tried to resist, but with her hands tied behind her back there wasn't much she could do. He was stronger than she was and he was able to pull her through the streets despite her resistance. When they came to the building, Baraq tried to door to the stairwell that would take him to the rooftop. It was locked. He said a quick spell which unlocked the door then he quickly opened it and pulled Glinda inside.
Elphaba and Fiyero hurried through the streets doing their best to keep their eyes on Baraq. They reached the same building Baraq had disappeared into. Elphaba flung open the door to the stairwell and started ascending when Fiyero grabbed her arm.
"What a tick tock Elphaba," he said. "We don't know what we're getting into up there. We're too vulnerable. We need to wait for help."
"Fiyero, we don't have time for that," Elphaba said desperately. "I have to go after her."
"Fiyero look," Elphaba looked down and put her palms up. "I know you're right, and you know I can't wait for that help. What I need you to do is go find Alderbaran and let him know where we are."
Fiyero shook his head. "I'm not leaving you to face him alone."
"You won't be if you go find Alderbaran. He has some magical abilities and right now I think that's what it's going to take to get Glinda away from Baraq. I need you to find him and bring him here."
"He has some magic, yes, but from the looks of things he's suppressed his magical abilities as much as you have," Fiyero tried to reason.
"We're wasting time," Elphaba said. "I'm going up there. If you really want to help me, go find him. Find him and bring him here. Please."
Elphaba could see the conflict in Fiyero's eyes.
"Please Fiyero, it may be our only chance."
Fiyero took in a deep breath and nodded his head. "Promise me you'll be careful."
"I'll do my best," Elphaba said.
Fiyero grabbed her and hugged her then he turned and ran back the way he came.
Elphaba looked up. Ten flights of stairs was a lot, especially considering how drained she was from her previous encounter with Veloc and Madame Morrible. She took a deep breath, steeled herself inside and began the long climb up the steps.
"I'm coming Glinda. Just hold on. I'm coming"