A/N: Why hello there :). For those of you who remember this story, thank you so much for the nomination/votes in Wolfie's Wicked Awards thing xD! I was so happy that I decided to bring this back :o. Here's a few things you should know:
One. This is definitely more thought out than last time. Two. I have a beta this time (Jelly :D). Three. I definitely plan to try and keep the time between updates shorter. Four. This will be long.
For all of you who've read this before, it's quite different now, I'm pleased to say. For those of you who haven't, welcome! Please note I have set up an FFN forum specifically related to this story. If you go there, you can vote on things to come. Kay, so I'm done now. Enjoy!
Who can say if I've been changed for the better but because I knew you, I have been changed...
ֺUpdated 1/10/09 for formatting.
Book I: Good...
The creature known as Glinda the Good was a pathetic one. Her life was a masquerade, a cheap manifestation of the root of politics: smiling on the outside, writhing on the inside.
It had been a year since her best friend died. A year with no one who really understood her had taken its toll on the public figure: the once-bouncy golden curls were now limp, framing an ashy, prematurely aged face. And now, with public figures arriving from all over Oz to gather for the anniversary celebration of the Witch's melting, Glinda felt as if she was drowning.
She was sick of this.
She was sick of the lies, sick of the expectations, sick of the false smiles plastered on peoples' faces as they chatted aimlessly about things no more important than someone's social standing.
Galinda Upland, the flouncing debutante who, at Shiz, had always been surrounded by chatty, self-absorbed girls, was perfect for the political world. It was becoming more and more apparent that, despite her original desires, Glinda was not.
Mouth open in an 'o', hands steady, Glinda finished applying the last bit of mascara to her eyelashes and gave her reflection a final glimpse. She allowed a small, nostalgic sigh to escape her lips before forcing a smile and stepping outside.
"Ready, miss?" her aide asked, greeting her briefly.
She nodded as she stepped into the accursed bubble and began to rise above the City of Emeralds. Such an appropriate name, she thought sardonically. It's as jaded as its citizens.
"Fellow Ozians," she proclaimed once the bubble was high enough to see the swarms of people on the ground. "Today, we celebrate. I am quite happy to say that it has been a year since the death of the Wicked Witch!"
She fought back the instinctual cringe at the sound of the deliriously happy cheers below her.
And they sang. They sang in the same mocking tune, the sound that brought a twinge to her heart with each word and threatened to bring tears to her eyes once more.
"Ding dong, a year has passed! Sing it loud: the peace has last. Ding dong! Our fear is in the past! ..."
Glinda was proud of herself for keeping her plastered expression unwavering for the entire time she stood in the bubble like a figurine, smiling and waving. When the contraption finally started lowering itself down, she let out a breath of relief, allowing her smile to falter.
Her aide was there once she reached the bottom again. Her distress must have showed, though, for at once the aide asked, "Are you all right, Miss Glinda?"
Glinda laughed and nodded. "Of course, why wouldn't I be? This is a wonderful day, is it not?"
The 'wonderful day' was nearly unbearable. Countless brainless fools came up to her to shake her hand and told her how fantastic of a job she had been doing while the Wizard was away (obviously, they had not received the memo that he was gone for good yet). Ozians paraded, drank, feasted, and sang. Everywhere there were countless reminders of her friend's death. It was enough to make anyone go crazy.
The first, brief reprieve came late in the afternoon.
"Lady Glinda?" A former high-ranking official in the Gale Force tapped her on the shoulder as she was chatting with a noble from the Glikkus.
Glinda turned around, trying to convey her gratitude through her expression as she nodded.
He must've understood, for a small smile formed as he bowed. It was gone as he straightened, all business once more. "A message for you from Southstairs."
Glinda's legs went numb as she processed the meaning. "Yes, thank you," she said, taking the proffered note. "Did they say which prisoner it was from?"
"Cell 5132A, I believe." When she remained silent, he smiled at her encouragingly. "Don't worry, Lady Glinda. They had it checked for curses and the like."
Glinda smiled at the man, hoping her nervousness did not show. "Thank you," she said again, tucking the note into her sash; she had memorised that cell number a while ago.
Excusing herself, she left the duchess she had been talking with, promising to catch up at another time, and half-heartedly headed back to the Emerald Palace once more. With each step, her forged expression seemed to fade, the worry lines reappearing under the thick coat of makeup.
Whatever small amount of calm she had left fled upon setting foot in Southstairs. The prison was dark and damp, a harsh contradiction to the balmy environment outside. Where the sunlight did shine through barred windows, the imprint was filthy and sickly, casting eerie shadows along the walls. The cheers and songs from outside faded, replaced with moans from the prisoners. Once her eyes adjusted to the lack of light, Glinda saw they were reaching towards her.
"Look what you've done to me!" one cried. "Look at what I've become!"
"Glinda, dear," another called out. "You're so good. Be a doll and help me get out of here?"
She ignored the catcalls and jeers, instead focusing on the steady footsteps of the guards surrounding her. She looked down, watching her shoes sparkle dully in the dank light, trying to pretend she was back in Shiz, where her only worries were what clothes matched, who was dating whom, and what the latest fashions were. It worked, for the most part, until she reached cell 5132A.
The prisoner was hunched in the corner farthest from Glinda, huddled so her face was cloaked in shadow, completely out of sight. Though she was clothed, the prisoner looked worse-for-wear, as though she could drop dead any moment.
"Leave us," Glinda heard herself say to the guards.
"But Lady Glinda-" they started to dissent.
She raised her hand calmly, amazed that it wasn't shaking, quieting their protests. "I can handle her," she asserted, dismissing them.
The woman in the cell cackled shrilly, the eerie noise sending shivers down Glinda's spine. "Handle me, can you, dearie?" The inhabitants in the cells nearby laughed sycophantically- this was the most amusement they had seen for a while.
"Silence," Glinda hissed. "What was it you wanted to talk to me about, Morrible?" She spat the name out like a curse.
Madame Morrible, ex-headmistress of Shiz University, simpered. "What happened to the nice, polite 'Madame' I used to get from you, dearie?"
"Galinda decided she didn't like submission."
Morrible laughed, a terrible, wheezing, hacking laugh that sounded like she was on her deathbed.
Glinda folded her arms over her chest to both hide her goosebumps and to depict defiance.
"Oh, excuse me for laughing at you, Glinda dear," Morrible said, a mocking edge to her voice still apparent. "You reminded me of another student I used to have just then. Surely you remember Miss Thropp?"
Glinda's blood ran cold. "Don't you dare speak about Elphaba."
Morrible's eyebrows shot up before an understanding expression took over. "Oh, you must forgive me. I forgot today was the anniversary of the Witch's death! Isn't today a joyous day? Thank goodness we have Glinda dear here to remind us of such things!"
All of the prison within earshot burst out laughing. One cried, "No one mourns the wicked!"
"Shut up," Glinda whispered, her voice cracking.
Morrible ignored her. "Didn't they sing? I thought I heard them earlier. What was it now? Ding dong, the Witch is dead?"
What little resolve Glinda had left shattered. "Shut up!" she cried, banging on the metal bars that separated her from Morrible, a few tears slipping down her cheeks. "Stop it!"
Her tears only fuelled the inmates' glee, prompting them to start singing joyfully. "Ding dong, the Witch is dead! Which old witch? The Wicked Witch! Ding dong, the Wicked Witch is dead!"
When Morrible finally stopped her cronies, Glinda looked at her murderously. "You have your little fun," she said, "but you're still in that cell and I'm still out here. She won. She beat you, and you're destroying her memory because you're jealous of everything she was."
"She won?" Morrible repeated, chuckling incredulously. "She's dead. I destroyed her hopes and dreams, one by one, until she finally surrendered herself to put an end to it all. She lost, and you're the only one who still cares about her. Take a look at yourself, Glinda. You're pathetic. You're miserable."
"She won," Glinda said again, her voice stronger than before. "The Wizard's gone; you're imprisoned; and there's someone on the throne who knows the truth, someone who'll do everything she can to start securing Animal rights. She got everything she wanted, and she'll be remembered, even if for the wrong things. People will remember the Witch of the West. Who'll remember Madame Morrible in twenty years, besides you and your sycophants?"
Morrible grinned, her toothy smile predatory in the murky light. "You will, dearie. You'll remember me."
Glinda smoothed out her dress, attempting to regain her composure. "Have a good day, Morrible," she murmured, turning to leave.
"You were there, when she died?" Morrible asked, her tone more declarative than interrogative.
Glinda clenched her fists, trying to drown out the sudden onslaught of recollection. The scene replayed in her mind's eye… Dorothy whimpering, the wretched dog yapping, Elphaba's screams… "Yes," she murmured, her throat tight.
"And yet you let her go to her doom?" For the first time in recent memory, Morrible sounded truly surprised.
Glinda swallowed hard, her guilt rising again. "Please," she whispered. "I don't expect you to understand my reasoning. We may have our differences – we may hate each other- but don't torment me."
"Fine," Morrible said shortly. When Glinda looked up at her in surprise, she said simply, "But answer me this: If you could do it all again, would you let it happen the same way? Would you sacrifice your friend to stop the Wizard?"
She didn't even have to think. "Absolutely not."
Morrible snorted. "Pathetic, how selfish people get when they care."
Glinda raised her chin to look down her nose at her former headmistress. "And would you do it the same, Madame? Would you choose Elphaba even though she has a fiery will?"
"Yes," Morrible answered, not missing a beat. "One of a politician's most beloved tools is a scapegoat, Glinda. You'll soon learn that."
"I'll never be like you," Glinda retorted.
Morrible chuckled. "Don't be so sure, Glinda dear. I've taught you well. You're blooming into a lovely little politician."
Glinda broke the reigning silence a few moments later when she bobbed her head to the woman, said her goodbyes, and hurried out of the prison as fast as her heeled feet would carry her.
Oz, she hated this day.
With dinner came another meeting, this time with the Tin Man. The only sociable remaining member of the Witch Hunters (for the Scarecrow had disappeared all but immediately after Elphaba had died and the Lion had retired to being 'king of the forest', as he had put it), he spent the better part of an hour chatting about how they killed her and the numerous merits he had received because of it.
When it finally became apparent that she was not enjoying herself despite her best efforts to appear as though she was, the Tin Man stopped babbling. "Are you all right, Miss Glinda?" he asked, a small hint of concern showing in his voice.
That made her snap out of her daze. "Beg pardon? I'm sorry; I'm having a terrible day."
The ghost of something flitted across the Tin Man's face before he repeated, "I just was wondering if you were all right. You seem a little upset."
She smiled. "Thank you for your concern but I assure you, I am quite fine, Master Tin Man. I… It's just, I received news that a friend of mine died."
"Oh? Was it a recent death?" The metal face still reflected a strange, unreadable expression.
"No," Glinda said, forcing any bitterness out of her voice. "It was- actually, it was about a year ago."
"I see. I'm sorry to hear that," the Tin Man replied. "Surely you're experiencing conflicting emotions right about now, then. Happiness for Oz and your citizens, since it's the Witch's death day, and sadness for your… friend."
Glinda's eyebrow raised a notch. She paused for a moment before she said, "Yes, well, you know how these things are, Master Tin Man."
He snorted- an odd, raspy metallic sound. "I'm sure I do." There was a long pause in which he gazed at her calculatingly. "You miss her."
"You miss her," he repeated, an odd smile forming on his face.
Glinda laughed. "My friend? Of course I do, what sort of a question is that?"
"You know who I'm talking about, Miss Glinda," the Tin Man said.
Glinda blinked owlishly before hastening to change the subject. "Why do you call me that- Miss Glinda?"
Now it was the Tin Man's turn to laugh, though his laugh had a noticeably larger amount of bitterness infused in it. "You're not very subtle, you know." He sighed before answering her. "I call you that because I'm used to it." An odd, strained smile formed on his face as he continued, "Old habits die hard, right?"
"Do I know you?" she asked incredulously, straining to place him with something other than the Witch Hunters and Elphaba's death.
He'd lost patience, obviously. "No, Glinda. You never knew me. You never bothered to take the time to even learn my name. You thought I was irritating, not good enough for sweet, perfect Galinda, so you stuck me on the first person you saw! You ruined my life, Glinda, and hers. She and her wicked sister are the reason I'm like this!"
Glinda stood up, horrified. "Biq?" she asked, frightened of the twisted creature the sweet Munchkin she knew at Shiz had turned out to be.
"Boq, dammit, it's Boq! For Oz's sake, Glinda!" He too was now on his feet, though she couldn't quite remember when he had gotten up.
"What happened to you?" she asked, agape.
Apparently it was the wrong thing to say, for he slammed his metal fist on the table furiously. "Your friend happened to me. Oz! Why do you mourn her, Glinda?" he asked, magicked eyes lighting up in fury as he advanced on her menacingly. "Why do you mourn her? She was as wicked as everyone thought and you believed her to the bitter end. Hell, you still believe her!"
She ignored him. "How could you?" she asked, cold fury seeping into her voice. "I might have been able to forgive you if you were just a heartless Tin Man- someone who was indifferent about her, someone who never knew her, who never knew the kind of person that she was. Lurlina, Boq! You knew her! You knew she wasn't a murderer and-"
"And she still betrayed me same as she did everyone else," he interrupted feverishly.
"You're despicable," Glinda murmured, shaking her head in disbelief. "Nyanna?" she called.
Her maid appeared several seconds later. "Yes, ma'am?"
"Please escort our guest to the door." Her smile didn't quite reach her eyes.
Nyanna curtsied. "Yes, ma'am."
The Tin Man- Boq, she now knew- sneered. "Thank you for the lovely dinner, Lady Glinda," he said mockingly. "I can show myself to the door, thank you," he hissed at Nyanna when she tried to guide him, startling the younger woman. He exited the room with a loud slam of the door, causing a nearby vase to fall off its pedestal and shatter.
Glinda promptly burst into tears.
"Don't worry, Lady Glinda. It's just a little vase," Nyanna murmured, trying to be consoling as she started to pick up the broken shards of glass.
Glinda shook her head fiercely. "Oh, it's not that. Just leave it; I'll get it."
"If milady's sure?"
"Positive," Glinda replied, smiling weakly at the eager maid.
Her mind raced as she picked up the remaining pieces of glass and cleared the table. What had happened to Boq to make him this bitter? How in the world had he gone from sweet, shy Munchkin to remorseless killer?
She wept herself to sleep that night. She wept for the past, for herself and her inability to do anything good, for Nessarose and Boq, whose lives she had ruined, for the inhumane thing Boq had become, and for Elphaba, the only one of them who had done the right thing.
Clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack.
Glinda awoke feeling exhausted as one does after a long, restless sleep. What in the world was that clacking noise? She sat up and rubbed her eyes tiredly. One glimpse of her surroundings caused her to sit bolt upright in confusion.
What in Oz…? She had awoken on a train. And she certainly didn't remember falling asleep on one.
This was not good.
A quick overview of her surroundings confirmed that she was indeed alone. Had she somehow sleepwalked onto a train? Did someone bring her here? Was she just going insane?
"Next stop, Shiz University!" came the call from the conductor, clear as day.
Oh, no, she was definitely past insane.
Rubbing at her temples, Glinda stood up and began searching in the cabinet above the train bench. Several large, heavy parcels rolled under her fingers. The majority of them felt as though they were Gillikinese leather (made from cows, of course; there were strict laws against tanning Cow hides), though some were of a less costly material. She felt around until her fingers clutched a metal handle. She gripped it firmly with two hands and tugged. It came down fast, landing on her toe- Lurline, that hurt. She rubbed her toe as she turned the trunk over, immediately recoiling in horror. The imprinted letters read, in a fancy, golden script: Galinda A. Upland.
How in the world…?
Oh Oz, she thought as the situation sunk in, I'm back at Shiz.
This certainly was not good.