The compass flew fast over the land, as Richard and Dorothy still clung tight to the chain, even as it was cutting off the blood flow through their hands. It had been several moments now since they had evaded the Winged Monkeys, and Dorothy was calmly hanging beside Richard. Toto was sticking his little head from her basket, peeking around every once in a while, as if to be sure that his mistress was safe.
Dorothy looked up at the compass, blinking in wonder at the flying instrument. "I don't know what we would have done if we didn't have the compass," she remarked. "I just hope that Mr. Wogglebug and Jack are all right."
"Even if they aren't, we are still going to rescue them," said Richard. "And then, right after that, I think we should send you home."
"You mean we will go back to the Wizard," said Dorothy.
"Not exactly," replied Richard. "It's your shoes, Dorothy. If you click your heels three times, then they will take you back. You just have to think 'there's no place like home'."
Dorothy looked down for an instant at her feet, jerking her head back up so as not to be frightened from the height at which they were flying. But when she met Richard's eyes, she smiled.
"I'm glad you're with me, Richard," she said sweetly, and Toto gave a little bark.
Richard grinned back to her for a moment, proud that he could help. They were so close to the end, he could already see the compass's magic light returning him back home.
His happy thoughts were heightened when he looked ahead, and spotted a grim-looking structure sticking out into the dawn rising in front of it. Some dark mountains jutted out on either side of the castle, looking like a pair of jaws ready to snap shut on the happy light coming into the world.
"Oh, goodness, there it is," said Dorothy, pointing to the castle. "Is there anyone there?"
Richard peered at the castle, searching for any sign of movement while they were carried closer and closer to the outside gate. He braced himself for the landing, as did Dorothy, plopping down on the ground near the gate the moment the compass released Richard from its tight grip. It felt good to stand on solid earth, but when they focused their eyes upon the black castle, the tension of their situation rested heavily on them.
"Where do you suppose we could find the Witch, if we are to destroy her?" Dorothy wanted to know, clutching her basket against her chest.
"I'm scared to say," said Richard. He was afraid to step towards the door, even though the compass was already floating towards it. It started to wrap its chain around the handles, but then it lifted it away to beckon Richard and Dorothy to come to it. Dorothy was the first to step towards it, as the compass pulled the doors open.
The inside was, surprisingly, very normal looking. There were doors all across the hallways that looked to be made of the finest wood in the land, and gave no indication that anyone wicked lived within their walls. Dorothy gasped slightly upon observing these surroundings, craning her head to look for anything that seemed to belong to a wicked witch.
"If I didn't know any better," she said, "I would very well believe that this was the castle of a dark king, and not a witch."
Richard was perplexed as well. Not only was he amazed that this place was ridden in darkness, but he didn't know where they could begin to find the Witch. The place was quiet enough that they could not tell right away whether anyone was watching them, or if they weren't around at all. Still, he didn't dare beckon into the open space; it was time to find the Witch, and then destroy her.
He took one step forward, hoping to find the Witch soon…
Almost the instant Richard moved, he heard a scream from behind, and a lot of Toto's squeaky barking. Whirling around, Richard yelled out too, but not before his mouth was strapped shut by a couple of furry hands. He struggled against his attackers, thrashing his arms and trying to yell through his trapped lips, but then, a green face full of wicked glee closed on him in less time than he could try to breathe.
"Good to see you, little children," said the Witch. She turned from Richard to Dorothy, who froze when she found the Witch's eyes. "It's lucky you happened upon my place, since I was looking for a couple of ripe, young people to work in my kitchen."
Dorothy looked at the Witch with as much courage as she could muster. "Do you have our friends as well?" she said.
The Witch widened her grin. "Your friends don't matter, little child," she told her. "You are here, and so I shall have some good company." She gestured down one hallway, eyeing the Winged Monkey that had trapped Richard. "Take these children to my kitchen straight away."
Richard felt a hard nudge in his back as the Winged Monkey shoved him down the hallway. Behind him, the Witch gave Dorothy a little push, but she never grabbed her, nor scratched her threateningly with her long green nails. Richard watched as the Witch followed her servant down the hall, with Dorothy in front of her. Again, she never touched Dorothy, and neither did the Winged Monkey.
Richard pondered why no one would try to grapple with Dorothy, until the Winged Monkey shoved open a door, and tossed Richard inside. He landed hard on the floor, while Dorothy was merely ushered inside. He barely registered the sound of a door banging shut, until he got up and realized that he and Dorothy were locked inside the kitchen. It was large and spacey, but it was also dim and hot.
"Richard, are you all right?" Dorothy asked, helping him to his feet and swatting away a large insect that had crawled onto his shoulder.
He didn't answer. Richard went to the door, and pulled hard, shaking the knob until his whole body was moving with his yanking. Dorothy pulled him back.
"It's no use," she said.
Richard's frustration rose to his face, and he glared at Dorothy. "Oh, yeah?" he said. "That's coming from someone who hasn't been laid on by a finger since she came here. Why is it that you have been treated like a princess and I get tossed around?"
Dorothy drew back at Richard's rising voice, but she shook her head. "I don't know," she answered. I'm sorry if you're hurt, Richard, but now we are stuck. What do we do?" Toto whined, as if he were asking the very same question.
Richard looked around the kitchen, noticing the sink full of dirty dishes, the soot in the stove, the rats in the corners, and finally drew his eyes back to the locked door. "This could actually be very easy," he said.
"What do you mean?" Dorothy questioned.
"Our very best weapon is right in this kitchen," he answered. "When the Witch comes back, we will just toss a bucket full of water on her. It'll be as easy as that." He snapped his fingers while a smile grew on his face.
It took some explaining, but Dorothy felt more inclined to join Richard's plan, although she was still astounded that it could be so simple.
As the two of them washed and dried the dishes in the sink, she kept asking how on earth water could melt a witch, and she was a little more than scared about having to get up close to the Witch again, but Richard did not seem too frightened. And that amazed Dorothy. He appeared so ordinary, and yet he knew so much about Oz, and somehow knew how to dispose of witches in the simplest ways.
No one came to fetch them for more chores, so Richard and Dorothy helped themselves to some food from the pantry, using some raggedy rugs as mattresses when the day passed, and it was time to sleep.
"Water?" Dorothy asked. "That is really all it takes?"
"Well I don't think I can get away from it," Richard said. "Everyone knows about Oz, and what water does to wicked witches."
Dorothy grinned, sighing as she stroked Toto next to her. "Perhaps, one day, I can go to your world, and I can learn everything about the people and the cities, just like I am seeing so much of Oz."
Richard laughed. "I don't know how much of an adventure it will be. Because we would just be going back to the world you come from, and everything will be the same."
"But it can't be the same if you came across your compass," said Dorothy, pointing to the compass floating in midair. "There has to be something extraordinary out there for your world to be different from mine."
Richard sighed, and leaned back to stare at the cold ceiling of the kitchen; no moonlight came through the little window above the sink, so the room was almost totally dark.
"I think there's another reason why our worlds are so alike," he said. "There are actually ways for us to get to magic places. You know, you had the twister, and I have the compass that came from a magic library." Richard laughed a little as he observed his floating compass. "I'll bet my life could be like a book too, since there is magic and unexpected surprises every time I go into the library."
"You're lucky that way," said Dorothy. "I always wished I could have some way of going to another place, but twisters do not come around every single day in Kansas."
Richard thought this over for a moment, before he got up and leaned on his elbow to look at Dorothy. "Well, it's not like you have to be stuck in Kansas. I could probably take you back to my world, and we could go on adventures through other stories."
Dorothy's eyes gleamed, and she pulled in a sharp breath. "Would you do that?" she asked.
"Yeah, I could," replied Richard. The compass glowed a soft pink, and it gently wrapped its chain around Dorothy's wrist, as if to say it would be more than happy to take her anywhere she liked.
Dorothy laid back down, with the compass still holding onto her, and she yawned, while the pink light turned her skin rosy. "Richard," she said.
"Yeah?" he asked.
"Thank you," she said. "For everything that you and your compass have done for me, and our friends. I don't know what we would have done without you."
As he turned onto his side to sleep, Richard felt a smile curl across his face. It felt good to be needed, like he had actually done something good for a friend. It was still a relatively new word for him, which made Dorothy's words glow tenfold more in him.
He thought about Jack Pumpkinhead and the Wogglebug. He would not think of this adventure without first remembering them. They were characters that he had not read about, nor seen, for that matter, and honestly, he liked them quite a bit. Wogglebug was smart, so Richard could see himself talking with him for long hours about the most obscure things. And though Jack was wobbly and could not stand upright, Richard couldn't help but admire his determination to protect Dorothy.
And besides, Richard felt he had a duty to help Jack. Dorothy did not have to stop at the Wizard to go home, but Jack still did, if he still wanted his colorful vision.
Richard laughed a little. He could talk with a giant insect who happened to be the highest educated in Oz. He was becoming friends with a person made of fabric scraps and a pumpkin. And soon, he would be dumping water on a witch, and she would afterwards be dead. If he did take another adventure after leaving Oz, this would not be one to forget.