Hi everybody! Guess who's back? Me! :D And your fave Oz friends! I haven't written in over a year because I was having issues with college and it made me lose interest in writing for a while. Then recently, my family moved to another state and things were just crazy. Even now we're still settling into our new house.
It took me a while to figure out how the 2nd half of this chapter was gonna turn out, but it finally just came to me and my fingers got busy :).
I also have a surprise for all you readers. Since this site now allows our stories to have "book covers," I made one just for this fanfic :D. You can't see it very well on here, so I put a copy on my page at Deviant Art. It's here: lady aquanine 73551 .deviantart art /Eldan -s-Mage -Story- Cover- 334037732?q= gallery%3 Aladyaquanine 73551% 2 F30621443& qo=0
Let's see what's gonna happen next, after waiting so long…
Dena heard the iron door open and glanced over to see the Black Norn standing in the entryway. She had been expecting some new form of torture or execution for the witch to use on her. Instead, the girl was very surprised to see the Norn holding Tahoe in her arms and petting him a very deliberate fashion. Dena remained silent, staring as the Black Norn entered the room. Tahoe seemed okay, though he too was very quiet and nervous, especially with the witch's long, white, clawed hand stroking ever so carefully over his fur. Nothing the Norn had done so far had proved to be nice, and this visit was probably not an exception. Plus, Dena felt a growing flame of anger licking the edges of her resolve at seeing her beloved Tahoe in the hands of that horrible woman.
"What a lovely little pet you have here," the Black Norn commented, stroking Tahoe's furry head. She then snapped her fingers and a whiff of black smoke suddenly rose up from her worktable, materializing into a wrought-iron cage; to which she abruptly stuffed the pup into. Tahoe squealed in pain and fright.
"Don't you dare hurt him!" Dena cried out, her fear and anger rising. She fought with her iron restraints, wishing she had just a little magic to get out of this mess. The Norn took up her staff and fixed her black gaze on the girl.
"That all depends on you, Dena." She spat the teen's name like an insult.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Dena demanded.
"It means that if you don't give me those anklets, I'll have your dog swimming in lava faster than scat through a goose!" Reddish-orange flames began forming a ghostly glow around the Norn, and Dena had a feeling things would get ugly real fast.
"Gilda advised me against it, thank you, and now I'm starting to see why," the girl replied.
"Hah!" the witch spat, making Dena jump.
"You listen to the feeble words of a raving lunatic like her! You really are a fool." The Black Norn instantly turned and barked,
"Picks! Throw him into the lava pool!"
Dena happened to notice little brown creatures resembling tiny winged gremlins on the witch's worktable. Two had immediately grabbed the cage with Tahoe inside and were already headed towards the balcony. The girl's pulse skyrocketed in terror.
"No!" she screamed. The Picks froze, their mistress looking at Dena with a pleased, if creepy-looking smile.
"A change of heart, perhaps?"
Dena's mouth became a hard line as she bit her lip and glanced back and forth between Tahoe and the Norn. A lump formed in her throat, for she couldn't bear to see her beloved puppy killed, but neither could she bear the idea of giving the Norn her Anklets. Who knows what she would do once she had them? But the girl had no choice and hung her head in shame. The witch saw her decision immediately and signaled the Picks to back off.
"So, you're willing to hand them over now?" she asked in a soft, quiet, dangerous tone. Dena didn't look up, but merely nodded and murmured,
"Yeah, go ahead." However, as the Black Norn kneeled down to unhook the ruby strands, Dena then said,
"But I wanta know one thing."
The witch looked up with an annoyed expression.
"Why do you want these stupid things so badly anyway? They don't seem to really do anything."
Dena immediately got a hard slap in the face, and it took a few moments for her to realize she had thin streaks of blood coming out of her cheek from the Black Norn's nails. The whole left half of her face now stung.
"Fool! How dare you blaspheme these Anklets!" the Norn hissed, her frighteningly beautiful face twisted in anger,
"If you had any idea what kind of power you possessed, you wouldn't talk like the undeserving little chit you are!" Dena braced herself for another slap, but it didn't come. The Norn merely whirled away from her and then froze, as if something had occurred to her.
She then cocked her head in a smug fashion and foisted the staff onto her shoulder as if it were a parasol.
"I suppose, since you're pathetically short life will be snuffed out soon enough, that I could shed a little light on the subject," the witch said as she turned towards Dena. She began to pace back and forth in front of Dena while slowly, idly twirling the staff in her hands. The girl was inwardly grateful to still have Tahoe and herself alive at that moment, as well as possibly stalling the Black Norn before help might arrive. Though that shred of hope was failing at best. A small part of Dena was relieved at finally getting a possible explanation out of all this.
"Most of us witches learned of the Ruby Anklets in our early schooling, though nobody was willing to speak of their ability. For a long time, rumor had it that they did nothing, and were merely a first attempt by the Nomes to harness magic all those millennia ago. I even accused my twin of being a fool for stealing such paltry gems from the Golden Sorceress.
"But I made a discovery very recently about them, and was furious that my sister had made fools out of everyone, including herself. In all that time of owning them, she never figured out what they could do, and I wasn't about to let her waste any more time wearing them. That storm would have been one of the most brilliant ideas I had ever conceived, but then you showed up."
Dena's attention snapped into focus.
"Wait, what? What storm? The one that brought me here?" She stared wide-eyed at the Norn, not believing what she was hearing. The witch narrowed her eyes at the girl.
"Yes," she said finally, "that one."
"—Most witches are too spineless to create magic-induced storms," the Norn broke in, "They love their bright sunshine and gentle rain-showers." She let out a disgusted noise.
"Makes me sick," she spat. But she continued in her explanation.
"They were all worried about bringing things over from the Other Side, but so what? So we sometimes have strange things raining out of the sky afterwards, but it gets the job done. The professors and Elders used to forbid us, saying that any time we created a storm, another one would form on the Other Side, inducing great whirlwinds equal or greater to ours, and things would cross over from their world to ours and vice versa. But now I see that perhaps they had a good reason for the ban."
"Oh my God…" Dena let out, now feeling absolutely floored, "You're the one who got me into this mess! You're the one who created that storm that tore my house to pieces!"
"Yes," the Norn said, now starting to enjoy the girl's outrage, "though thankfully it's a mistake I won't make a second time." She stopped pacing and approached Dena with a malicious look of satisfaction in her blazing black eyes, as if she were a triumphant cat ready to deliver the killing blow to the mouse.
Dena then briefly saw something that gave her an idea, but she quickly locked her eyes back on the witch.
"Wait!" she cried out.
"Now what?" the woman snarled, banging her staff into the stone floor. A small tremor could be heard outside. Dena kept eye contact, much as it frightened her to stare into the face of her executioner and adversary.
"What about the Witch War?"
Now the Black Norn was caught off-guard, a nasty frown forming on her face.
"What does that have to do with anything?" she demanded harshly.
"You were there, you were one of the last witches left after it was all over," Dena spoke quickly, hoping to distract the Norn just a few minutes more,
"What caused it?"
The dark witch suddenly had Dena by the throat, her long nails digging into her neck and jaw.
"How do you know that? How in antiquity's name did you hear about all that?" the witch hissed, outraged now, though it puzzled Dena that she wasn't choking her and acting like she'd just spilled a state secret.
"Gilda told me," the girl answered, "and the people in this place talk about the Witch War all the time. I even saw paintings. But nobody will tell me what really happened. Maybe you could." Something changed in the Norn's expression, and she shoved the girl away.
"So it appears Gilda still remembers that whole incident. But then again, it was one of my most successful schemes."
"Huh?" Dena said, not understanding. The Norn began to laugh maliciously as she backed away.
"You simpleton—I started that war!"
"What?!" Dena's mouth fell open. The witch was now cackling with delight, and it was in that moment that she truly seemed like a woman of her profession—all she would have needed was a pointy hat and a broom. But she remained the frightening, white-skinned, armored, scantily clad she-demon Dena had come to fear and hate.
The girl fought to keep a straight face and carefully asked,
"Competition!" the Black Norn exclaimed, "It's hard to make a name for yourself in this place when you've got dozens of other dark witches doing the exact same thing, always squabbling for power and their own little kingdoms; and undermining you in the process! It's nearly impossible to take over this rotten, goody two-shoes place when other witches start working your side of the realm. I knew the only way to cut off the competition was to cut off the source. But the school wouldn't have been enough, though I took great pleasure in seeing it and all the professors burn later."
Dena started feeling sick at this. She'd known plenty of kids that hated school back at home, but none of them had ever actually carried out their threats or desires to burn down the schools she attended, and she knew none of them had ever been serious about it.
You are one sick bitch, she thought venomously.
Thankfully, the Black Norn couldn't read minds, and continued to pace and gloat, all the while turning her staff over in her hands and idly admiring it.
"Who would have thought that stupid Nome King had never passed on the great knowledge he possessed. It was so easy, eliminating him from the scene. The Nomes haven't been the same since, and neither have witches or warlocks. It didn't take much to get the actual fighting started. A little underhanded goading here, a faulty anklet there, a few juicy rumors to boot, and that was all it took. And no one could match me in battle. I live for blood-sport, especially if it's the blood of my enemies."
She licked her lips with delight. Bile began to well up in the back of Dena's throat, and she shut out the images the Norn was implying as fast as she could from her mind.
"The war almost destroyed Eldan," the girl said in a small voice.
"Oh, no, no, no, no," the Black Norn disagreed, "Eldan is far too valuable for that. What good is a war when one cannot enjoy the spoils of it? But then those three pips had to survive and defeat my sister and me. We had little choice but to retreat to the lands we'd gained in the war, and then my twin had to get too big for her britches and try stealing my lands and magic. I taught her a lesson, and she's paid for it, all the way up until your infernal house gored her."
Dena saw the source of her rising hope again, and had to ask one more question.
"But why would you want to take over Eldan anyway? It's not exactly heaven, or in your case, hell on earth." The witch gave her a very strange look, but kept on going, her enthusiasm growing with each revelation.
"Even back in the days of my schooling, I knew Eldan had become less than what it should have been. It would have been easier in early times when wars were common and kingdoms were everywhere, but I was not born in such a time. Eldan had become…united," she spat the word, "a land of spineless fools ruled by cowards that couldn't face war. Rulers who favored peace, when peace is but a dream forged by sheep-brained idiots. I knew someone would have to change it, make it the glorious empire it once was; where the people feared their betters and obeyed without question, where Eldan would see its potential as a war-machine. And when I learned the secrets and great power behind the dark arts, I knew I would be the ruler that would bring Eldan back to glory.
"But there were problems, and I had eliminated all but one. The City of Jade was key to everything, but that infernal Green Warlock was unfortunately smart enough to put up that shield around the capital. I have been unable to penetrate it for centuries, though I have worked during those centuries to build the greatest army Eldan has ever seen, one large enough to make conquest easy, if I could find a way around that shield." She then turned to Dena once more, her peculiarly nasty grin back.
"And then I found an obscure source by accident, a mere scrap of parchment hidden in a dusty forgotten corner of the world that gave away Eldan's most prized secret. With those Ruby Anklets, I can now penetrate Jaden's shield and raise it to the ground, and the Mage of Eldan will be powerless to stop me!"
In all the time the Norn had been talking, Tahoe had been sniffing around his cage and pawing at the latch, and Dena happened to notice that it was loose. She'd been hoping and praying he would be smart enough to jiggle it open, and now the pup had done so with his nose. The German Shepherd exploded out of his cage and shot across the room like a streak of brown and black lightning.
"Run Tahoe! Get out of here!" Dena screamed.
The Black Norn snapped out of her reverie and roared,
"Catch him you idiots!" But the little gremlin-like creatures weren't fast enough, and the witch sent a tongue of fire after the pup, who managed to outrun the attack and zip right out the door. The Norn screamed out into the hall to her guards,
"Catch that dog! Don't let him out alive!" She stormed back into the room and stomped over to Dena. She grabbed the girl roughly by the face, digging her sharp nails into the girl's skin and drawing blood. Dena cried out in pain.
"I should have known you were trying to trick me, chit!" the witch snarled,
"Damn you and your mutt! You two have been more trouble than you're both worth, and it's time we ended it. I have other ways of making you give up those Anklets, and I will give you one more chance to think it over while your dog burns."
She went back to her worktable and slammed down a red, wrought-iron hourglass decorated with demonic serpents and filled with black sand.
"You have this long to live," the Black Norn said, placing a finger on the hourglass,
"When this thing empties, so will the life from your body. Enjoy your last hour while you can. I'm not going to wait any longer for those Anklets!" With that, she flew out of the tower room like a hurricane.
The moment the door slammed shut, Dena collapsed, her body limp in the cold iron grip of her restraints. Tears spilled from her eyes unrestrained, their salt burning her already stinging cuts. Poor Tahoe! The girl could only imagine what would become of her beloved friend if he didn't make it out of this horrible place alive, and there was no way to tell if he ever would. Misery weighed down and nearly suffocated her already-battered soul.
"Oh Tahoe," she cried, choking on the tears that dripped down onto the cold stone floor.
Little did Dena know just what sort of adventure Tahoe had. Although the guards attempted to spear and cleave Tahoe with their weapons, they were too slow for him. He was a fast little pup, weaving through their legs and running through the crowded, black stone hallways faster than a rabbit. He even found cracks in the walls to squeeze through, and unwittingly happened to run into a room where some Wik guards were using a portal. The little Shepherd pup ended up getting teleported while on his way through the room.
The small squad of Wiks had been an errand to inspect trouble at one of the training camps out on the rocky plain below the Black Norn's fortress. It was quite a surprise when something small, furry, and brown went darting out from around their ankles when they teleported into the camp. The squad had been unaware of Tahoe, or his escape from the Norn, but they knew lunch when they saw it. The entire camp erupted in Wiks, both armed and unarmed, trying to catch the fast-moving puppy. But even they were no match for the little guy's speed. One Wik actually did catch Tahoe, but was unprepared for the scratching and biting that ensued, letting him go almost immediately.
As Tahoe ran on, his little black nose picked up some familiar scents, and he instantly headed in that direction, for he knew the source of those smells to be friendly in this dark land with its noxious odors.
"Great hoobersnorts!" Syrvic exclaimed, "Look!"
Tahoe came bounding up to the odd trio. Unfortunately, a group of three guards was following the little furball as well.
"Oh crap," Themen moaned before ducking behind the nearby rocks. Syrvic and Quen quickly followed, and all three stayed as quiet as mice when Tahoe stopped at the great, dark boulders, sniffing about for his friends. The three Wiks stopped as well and quickly debated on how they were going to catch "the little brute" as they called him, and how they were going to cook him. Syrvic, Quen, and Themen's eyes widened in outrage at what they heard. The robot was the first to act.
He let out a war cry and leaped out at the guards, smashing into the nearest one like a wrecking ball. The other two Wiks were surprised at first, but immediately rushed to help their comrade. Quen managed to wrestle another pistol out of his belt, though he was a lousy shot when trying to attack the Wiks. Most of his bullets either didn't hit the guards at all, or bounced off their black and red armor. Themen continued to cower behind the rocks, terrified at what the Wiks might do to him if his buddies didn't win the fight. It didn't take long for the soldiers to realize Quen was attacking them. However, as they readied their spears, a pair of green lasers appeared and slashed them both in half at the same time, causing both Wiks to fall to the ground in a double crash of metal. The third Wik didn't rise, due to the fact that Syrvic had bashed his skull in with his metal fist.
When all was quiet, Quen and Themen joined their robot friend at the pile of bodies. The scarecrow picked up Tahoe and petted him, laughing when the pup licked his burlap face.
"Now how did you get here?" he asked the little Shepherd.
"I thought he was snatched along with Dena," Syrvic said.
"He must have gotten out somehow," Themen guessed. The trio glanced up at the giant floating stone fortress, now feeling very confused. They knew nothing of the Black Norn's teleportation system, so the mystery was very mind-boggling to them.
"However he got out, we gotta find some way in there," Quen declared, glancing up at the stone witch's hat.
"And how do you propose we do that?" Syrvic demanded, "It's not like we got Caddy here with a taxi, all ready to go."
"Taxi…" the scarecrow repeated thoughtfully. He then gasped.
"That's it! We fly up!"
"How?" Syrvic wanted to know.
"Themen!" Quen leaped with delight, "He can get us all up there." The griffin immediately backed off.
"Uh-uh! No way!" he protested, "There's no way I'm going up into that scary place!"
"But Themen," Quen pointed out, "didn't you say you loved flying before?"
"Um…well…" the beast was somewhat at a loss for words.
"It's the only way we're gonna be able to save Dena," Syrvic told Themen, "you're gonna have to get over your fear of heights, if only for her." Fear and guilt warred with the griffin's features, for he was unable to decide which was worse; flying up to a really high fortress, or one of his only real friends dying at the hands of a horrible witch.
The threesome then heard a horrible roaring noise and looked upwards. They saw what looked like flying black clouds, darker than the dark sky, flying about the great stone hat. Syrvic used his single green eye to magnify what he saw, and was taken aback. The clouds were even more disturbing up close, for Wiks rode on them, and each had a terrible, toothy maw in front. The robot could only conclude one thing.
"Well, that's the end of our plan," he said unhappily.
"What?" Quen asked as Themen breathed a sigh of relief.
"It looks like the witch has flying monsters on air patrol. Even if we got Themen airborne, those things would catch us, and we'd be mincemeat."
"Oh great," the scarecrow said with defeat.
"We gotta find some other way in," Syrvic said, though he didn't really feel all that enthusiastic right now.
Quen sat down on a rock and gazed down into the rocky plain at the vast army camps. His friends joined him, and Tahoe whined and pawed at his leg, unable to understand what was wrong. There was nothing the scarecrow wanted more than to rescue the girl he loved. But he and his friends were powerless at the moment. The scarecrow hadn't felt this overwhelmed since the time the Black Norn had set her fire dogs on him and his friends.
It was then that Quen noticed big columns of smoke coming from various parts of the great plain beyond. They were much too big for campfires, and much too dark to be smoke coming from wood fires.
"What's making those big smoke clouds?" the scarecrow asked, pointing. Syrvic magnified his vision to where Quen was pointing. He studied the source for a moment before answering.
"Those are smelters. They're processing metal to be made into armor and weapons for the Wiks," he said as he observed. The robot's eye then widened in shock.
"Jiminy Horcromps!" he shot up from his seat.
"What?" Quen and Themen asked in surprise."
"Those rotten Wiks are making cannons!" the robot cried out, "Not only are they gonna invade Jaden soon, they plan on blasting her to bits! They got enough gunpowder to fill a lake!"
"Wait a minute…" Quen murmured, the parts all coming together. His blue eyes grew wide with excitement.
"Guys! I got an idea!"
A few hours later, Quen and Syrvic, clad in the Wik armor of the dead soldiers, sat upon a very dark and sooty Themen, with Tahoe securely in the scarecrow's lap.
"Are you sure this is necessary?" Quen remembered Themen saying as he and the robot had smeared volcanic ash into his fur and feathers.
"It'll make you harder to see, I hope," the scarecrow remembered explaining.
"Let's just hope that armor doesn't weigh you down," the robot told Quen as they worked. Themen was much too big and the wrong shape to wear any of the armor, so they had not put any on him.
The scarecrow and Syrvic had snuck into the camp where the nearest smelter and gunpowder cache was. Despite their disguises, the robot had warned that they might still look suspicious, so they'd kept out of sight anyway. They managed to sneak over and take a couple of barrels of gunpowder from the stacked pyramid without any guards noticing, and carefully worked their way back to Themen's hiding place, leaving a trail of dark powder behind as they moved.
"Ready?" Quen asked as they stood on the nearest rock outcropping.
"Yes," Syrvic replied.
"No!" Themen protested.
Tahoe let out an eager yip.
Ignoring the griffin, Quen gave the signal.
"Go!" he said. With a quick zap of one of Syrvic's lasers, a spark leaped from the nearby powder and shot off down the rocky slope. The Wiks sharpening weapons in one of the camps heard a strange noise and saw sparks flashing by, unsure of what to make of it. The Wiks working in the foundry didn't hear anything due to the noise of their work, and the men guarding the cache didn't see the spark until the last minute.
A tremendous and ear-splitting explosion blasted into the night sky, lighting up the whole western half of the great plain. It blinded nearby Wiks that hadn't been blown up as well, and caused a small firestorm to spread out among the various foundries and camps.
The Black Norn happened to have been in one of her courtyards, watching her men training as she waited for her guards to retrieve Tahoe, when she heard the explosion. She and her bodyguards rushed over to the nearest ramparts and stared in shock at the huge column of fire rising up out of the western camps.
"What the hell is going on over there?!" the witch demanded to no one in particular. She immediately ordered several Night-catchers over.
"Slade!" she barked at her right-hand man, "Watch the fortress!" With that, she and several Wiks flew down to investigate the vast fire that now burned.
"Now!" Quen yelled when he saw the black clouds flying away from the stone witch's hat.
"But guys—ahh!" Themen's protest was cut off when Syrvic pinched him in the rear, causing the griffin to howl in pain as he practically fell off the bluff.
"Spread your wings, Themen!" the scarecrow yelled. The griffin managed to open his wings enough to catch an updraft before they all crashed to the ground. Syrvic and Quen held on tight to the beast, for fear of falling off. Quen had Tahoe in a pouch he'd found on one of the guards, so he could keep his hands free, though the pup was now terrified at the wild ride the four of them were on.
"Remember," Quen shouted over the wind, "this is for Dena! Climb!" Themen did his best, not really sure what he was doing as he flapped his darkened wings. He could barely feel his heart beating at top speed, his breathing labored as his big lungs sucked in cold, ashy air.
"Don't worry, I'm doing this for her too," the griffin replied, "Even if we don't survive, I'm going in there and tearing those guards and that witch a new one! Even if they tear me apart, I'll die knowing we at least tried to save Dena. I just want you guys to do one thing for me when we get up there."
"What's that?" Syrvic and Quen asked.
"Tell me this was all a dream; a very bad dream."
The pair groaned and each slapped the griffin in annoyance.
It seemed to take forever, and after several close calls, they managed to climb the thermals to reach the central tower of the fortress, all of them fearful that they'd been spotted by guards. There wasn't any real sign of pursuit from the air, thankfully, seeing as most of the scary-looking clouds had come down to inspect the explosion. Themen aimed for the nearest terrace outside the main tower, but it soon became clear that they weren't going to land softly.
"Themen, you're going too fast!" Syrvic warned, but it was too late. The threesome landed almost as hard as they had when escaping the exploding airship. Thankfully, this time, Themen was still right-side up, despite the pain he felt in his paws and legs. Quen and Syrvic got up and noted they'd lost some of their disguise armor, but aside from some dents and such, all three were okay. Even Tahoe was doing fine, though he whined and leaped from the pouch Quen had carried him in.
"We made it," the scarecrow whispered with delight. He and Syrvic helped Themen to his feet and quickly took in their surroundings. The robot took on a determined stance.
"And now, to find Dena."
So now we finally learn some of Eldan's darkest secrets, including how Dena got there in the first place.
It never made much sense to me how some random tornado just sucks up Dorothy's house and tosses her to the Land of Oz. There had to be something that caused it not to drop her in a nearby county or another state in our world, something supernatural. So there you go.
I was five when I first saw "Wizard of Oz," and more than once dad made me laugh when we got to the part where Dorothy's friends were watching the Winkii Guards at the front entrance to the Wicked Witch's castle. He would sing, "Or-ee-oh! Oreo cookie! Or-ee-oh! Oreo cookie!" Lol xD. I recently went to see Disney/Pixar's "Wreck-It Ralph" with my dad and brother, and I almost died laughing when they did a parody on that scene. They had actual Oreo cookies guarding the entrance to a castle in the Sugar Rush game, doing that same chant! Rofl!
The biggest challenge was doing the 2nd half of this chapter, because I couldn't quite figure out how Dena's friends were going to get into a floating fortress, especially since it was heavily guarded, and Themen couldn't disguise himself as one of the guards like the Lion could in the original story. So once again, I had to find alternate ways for them to get in.