Updated version. Thanks to ElphabaROCKS for her knowledge.
Disclaimer: Only My character and the plot belong to me. The rest belongs to... (pause) someone else. (offstage) seriously, who does it belong to, the author or the director...?
Anything for a Story…
When you're a top investigative journalist, you learn a few things about reporting. In my case, these formed a set of strict rules that I always attempted to adhere by:
1) Never touch a story until you've verified the source
2) There is no such thing as sleep, only tactical rejuvenation
3) The public is always right
4) Stay away from freaky castles.
The last one was self imposed. I had a natural dislike of forbidding buildings full of suits of armour and paintings that follow you. This was puzzling, really, considering my location
As I looked up at the grim façade of Kiamo Ko castle, I once again, nervously, reached for a cigar. The Gilikinese fumes washed over me, pungent amid the nature that flourished around me. A dreadful habit, which would kill me soon enough, but the disgust helped me focus, and calmed my nerves. I slowly walked up to the front steps.
The door to the castle still bore scars from the victory two weeks previous. A large burn mark scored the midpoint of the door. A frog croaked nearby, and I wondered if this was some previous victim. Another poor soul who wandered, foolishly, into places where he did not belong.
With some mild trepidation, I pushed against the door, hoping that the wood would jam, that some hidden lock would prevent my entrance and I could return to the safety of a sofa and a good book by an open fire. To my consternation, the door did not merely swing open. The rotting and weakened wood broke off from the hinges, and fell to the ground with a great thump, sending a billowing cloud of dust flowing around the empty hallway, and sending me back two paces and to the left, behind the door frame, in a pose not unlike that of a small child trying to hide behind a tree that is simply too small for it.
My weight was not an issue when I came to talking to politicians. For acrobatics such as this, however, a different man was needed. These were my thoughts as I poked my head, like a turtle emerging from the confines of its shell, around the door frame. The empty hallway rallied me, and, slowly, I creeped round the door frame, and entered the darkness.
Climbing up the steps to the North Tower was exhausting. My gasps of breath came out in great chunks, heaving my gut like a bowl of jelly. I staggered up the last two, and forced my bulk against a wall, regaining what little composure I had left. My Cigar had long since dropped out, lying abandoned on the stairs below. I would reclaim it on my way back down. I regretted, again, my decision to come alone. A journalist's pride, I reflected, could be his downfall. Looking back down the winding steps, I wondered how deadly a fall could be.
This door looked far sturdier. I regained my breath, and reached for the handle. Forcing the door inward, I peered through, hoping that any last remnants of evil had vanished
It had. The room was sunlit through a hole in the wall- a last shot of magic from an angered witch, perhaps. The streaming light fell, almost as if in a movie set, upon a battered black hat, lying on its side, next to…
I blinked. My eyes took in the rest of the room- the faded dust, the wondrous machines, the desk, broken in two, the bucket- but they remained locked on the impossibility in front of me. The truth that stained my eyes, and crushed the strong disbelief I had felt when embarking on this quest.
I walked slowly over to the open trapdoor. The floorboards creaked ominously, but my feet refused to pause. A greater force than self-preservation was dragging me towards this story. Some would call it curiosity. I preferred to think of it as journalist's instinct. Curiosity got people killed.
It could get me killed.
That thought pulled me up short, and I halted, a good two feet from the hole. My eyes took everything in again- was this some sort of trap? Would a great weight fall on me if I walked any nearer? Some kind of blade, perhaps? Maybe the witch herself would jump out and turn me into an amphibian to serve as a familiar, or maybe an ingredient in some horrific potion. That idea made me shiver. I creeped closer: I could hardly stop myself. I looked inside, already tensing to leap away
The hole was empty. I let out a sigh of relief, and then took it in again as I pulled my head back, away from any knives or poison darts. None came. Still, I was tense. If danger came running, I was hardly in the position to get away. The tower had one exit, and I was no sprinter (or indeed, prepared to exert myself in any way.) I had brought no means to defend myself, and the last time I had fought bare- fisted, I spent 7 days in a coma.
The chamber I was looking into was small- barely enough room to turn around. It went down for around 7 feet, before terminating with a wooden floor. The walls of the chamber also appeared to be wooden, which puzzled me- stone would surely have been a safer bet.
I suddenly collected my wits, and sat down on the edge of the pit. My heart was pounding; I reached for my notebook, and began to write notes.
Trapdoor WAS there. Proof of survival?
I looked down at the floor, and blinked twice, before crouching down slowly (the only speed I could crouch) and looking closer. The dust resting on the floor was shallow, and yet even me, a 30 year old journalist who wore glasses to read, could see faint footprints leading away from the trapdoor. They mingled with mine at the door, and were lost. My pencil started up again.
Two sets of footprints leading away from trapdoor. Possible proof of survival.
I looked back down into the pit, and shuddered, imagining the poor soul that had been forced to assist in the escape of… I halted my thoughts there, too overcome with fear to continue. I decided that anymore inspection should be performed by an expert, and decided to retire.
As I left the room, moving quickly to avoid staying in this dangerous place for too long, I failed to notice the small green bead that left the top of the door frame, and flew out of a gap in the castle walls. I failed to notice it again, shooting overhead as I walked briskly out of the castle gates, back to civilisation, fame and, hopefully, a good lunch courtesy of a local pub.
New doubts have risen about the death of The Wicked Witch of the West, writes Brock Kentman. After investigations into the Witches lair, conducted by this very reporter, have found evidence of the Witch possibly escaping death. The Good Witch Glinda has so far declined to comment on the matter in previous interviews on the subject, leading to suspicion as to...
My fingers paused on the typewriter. I leaned back and sighed out. The lamb shank had done me in, and I got the terrible feeling that the apple pie that followed was a lethal blow. The things I do for journalism. I smiled at that, and stood up slowly, leaving my work incomplete, and moved to the window.
The forbidding landscape outside was testament to the courage of the local villagers. Kiamo Ko stood menacingly, a good 40 minute walk from my current residence. The surrounding area was mostly dense, dark forest and marshland- hardly a top tourist destination. But the food was good, the locals friendly, and the thrill of the death of the Wicked Witch of the West still rang through the town like a trumpet call.
I turned back to my sparsely filled room- a bed, dresser and separate toilet and shower room respectively- and moved over to the bed, closing the window behind me. I had changed out of my earlier garb, (a cream suit I had had tailored especially for me by Gilikinese stylists) and was now in a full length silk set of purple pyjamas that, unfortunately, did nothing to hide the great protrusion that was my stomach. I breathed out, casually, and reached for another cigar. Putting the end to the gas flame, I inhaled the fumes, reached for my reading glasses, and sat down to read my choice of fiction tonight-ARendezvouswithaWinkie, a romantic thriller by an old friend of mine from university.
I had already started the book earlier, on the carriage ride into Winkie territory, and was soon deeply engaged in the political backstabbing of the antagonist threatening the brave heroine's life. Perhaps it was this plot, filled with establishment intrigue and smoke-and-mirrors, where nothing was as it seems, which would explain my later attitude. At any rate, the climax was nearing when my light blew out. Cursing myself for forgetting to place the cover over it, I turned to it to attempt a relighting- and found the cover already in place. There was no conceivable way for the candle to blow out. While marvelling at the impossibility, a loud bang and a curse drew my attention to the window shutters which, no longer locked, swung back and forth like reeds in the wind.
By now, I was half out of bed. I had clearly heard a feminine voice swear grumpily, and was intrigued as to what manner of being had decided to run into my window at this time of night. It may surprise you that at this point I was not scared in the slightest, nor had I even entertained the possibility that the noise may have occurred via a high speed collision on a broomstick with a window. I certainly didn't stop to think of how the only thing that could have opened a locked window and put out a sheathed gas light would be magic. I was merely curious as to the female I presumed to be below, and irritated that they had interrupted my reading.
Sticking my head out of a window, I looked down, fully prepared for almost any combination of possibilities. What I found, however, was what I had seen before- a dark night, a gloomy castle and trees and swamp as far as the eye could see. I sought vainly to find any hint of disturbance. None were forthcoming. I retreated my head, shut the bar, and turned in to face a decent length sword pointed at my face.
"Don't move!" a Man's voice came out of the darkness- presumably the same man who was holding the sword, although my eyes were still unused to the light, and I could only see a leather gloved hand clasping the hilt of the weapon. My cigar dropped out again, and for a second of daftness I bemoaned the continued loss of my rare cigars (I had never recovered the one I had dropped in the castle.) The sharp point pressing insistently against my cheek brought me back to the present. I froze.
"Now…" The man said- "…errm."
Errm? Errm is the sound of uncertainty. My brain refused to comprehend this data, and instead, threw it to my tongue to come out with some method of saving myself.
"Cigar?" I said.
"What?" The man replied, confused.
"Cigar. They're Gilikinese. Quite rare. Do you want one, I mean." I continued, trying desperately to adjust to the ridiculousness of my suggestion. The man's sword started to waver
"Err… no thanks. Don't smoke. Elphaba wouldn't…"
"Oh for Oz's sake, give me that!" an angry female voice interrupted; the same voice I had heard cursing moments before. The sword moved away from my head quickly, a muffled "oof!" came from the darkness, and the sword returned, pointed this time at my lower regions. I froze again.
"Right then." The new voice continued, "Who are you?"
I was no longer in any doubt that continued antics would lead to immediate misappropriation of my genitalia. "Brock Kentman," I squeaked back, amazed that I wasn't stuttering. I could hear my heart pounding, and was certain that, if it didn't burst, it would at least result in the sort of mild heart attack only really experienced in low rate horror movies.
"And what, pray tell, were you doing in Kiamo Ko castle this afternoon, hmm?" The voice asked, laced with arsenic.
I wondered as to her source for this information, before remembering my predicament, hastily reminded by a sharp prod at my inner thigh. "N-nothing" I said, my composure starting to break, "Just… l-looking around." I could have, of course, have protested against these questions- a journalist was allowed to investigate abandoned castles, and why on earth had they interrupted my reading to ask questions they could wait for next week's The Inquisitor to come out? My brain, however, had frozen in panic, for my eyes had just fallen to the hilt of the sword. Was that… green skin?
My assailants must have seen my eyes move, because suddenly, the man stepped out from the shadows. I got a brief glimpse of a tall, blonde man, of the startlingly good looking variety, before a sudden shove had twisted me round, my body pressed against the bed frame. A brief second of confusion sounded: was that a feminine gasp? And what was that ripping noise? Then my vision was plunged into darkness- I had been blindfolded, it appears, by a piece of torn fabric. At this point, in the absence of any form of weapon pointing at me, a great indignity rose within me, and I shouted, rather brusquely at the man.
"Now see here! I am a top investigative journalist, and I demand some dignity!"
The woman responded. "Care to explain yourself, husband?"
Husband? A married couple, waylaying reporters and threatening them with swords? Something was adding up in my brain. The night's events, the women's questions- the green skin. A horrifying picture was forming. But husband?
The man responded, patiently, almost gently. "He saw your hand."
"As much as I know you're possessive of me, hero, I don't think my hand is a reason for assault…"
"Your hand which is what colour?" The man responded, slightly more irritated.
A pause. The women drew up short. Stumped. My thoughts wavered in the face of her confusion, her slight oversight- her lack of the near omnipotence we had been promised by the loudspeakers. The all powerful witch, at a loss for words? And who in Oz would fall in love with her? Certainly not the handsome young man I had glimpsed before. This must be an imposter, I decided, and settled back to fears of death, and not transfiguration.
"Well, for heavens sake, don't rip any more bits off this dress. It's already torn from the magic earlier."
"Elphie! Don't say…"
"I think he's got the idea now. It just makes things easier anyway. And stop calling me that! It makes my skin crawl…"
I had listened to this as if in a daze. These imposters were doing their very best to convince me of their impersonation. But the return of my senses coincided with another dizzying revolution, and the return of my sight. I blinked, and looked upon my attackers, who had appeared in the light.
The man's hair was cropped back, I could see now. He was the epitome of what I had heard referred to as a "Dreamboat" by several young female colleagues of mine- the all brawn and no brain variety, I thought privately, when viewing previous incarnations of the term. My attention switched to person two, who, at this time, was far more interesting and, if my suspicions were correct, dangerous to me.
My first thought, as I imagine most peoples' thoughts were previously, was a mild revulsion- a feeling that was alien to me. A lifetime of working with politicians had eroded any sense of disgust I felt to the world- until this unnaturally coloured girl appeared before me. Then, the fear started. A great vicious panic rose within me, and I made no attempt to push it down. How could I? Here she was, the incarnation of a thousand children's nightmares, the personification of evil itself, the… woman with half a bush in her hair.
"What?" she demanded, furiously, at my stare. "Didn't suspect I was really her? Didn't think I was still alive? Well, my little mortal, I am quite alive, quite angry, and quite ready to turn you into a…"
"Tree." I said, without thinking.
She paused. "Well, I don't usually do requests, but…"
"No! In your hair. There's a lot of… leaves and… tree-ey stuff in your hair" I babbled. At this rate, I was going for the award for greatest idiot in all of Oz. The Wicked Witch of the West blinked, twice, and, holding the sword in her right hand, ran her left hand through her hair.
The man sniggered, and while the woman whirled upon him, a venomous look upon her face (which the young man returned with an expression of innocence) I took it upon myself to examine closer the hated enemy. With great surprise, I realised that the woman before me, despite her sickly shade and her less than flattering dress (which, I thought, reminded me of how my niece looked when she found an old dressing gown of mine, except today's intruder appeared to have been through several miles worth of marsh and gorse), was actually attractive- in a sort of fierce, animalistic way. Her figure was near perfection- no amount of fabric swamping could hide that- and her face was not, as I had heard, warty. Her nose was regulation length (though, of course, I had suspected that that part of her profile had been exaggerated- who on Oz had a 5 inch long nose?). Her features were harsh- brutal even, but not ugly: more warrior than hag. What was more, her hair, absent from the confines of a pointed hat, looked silky soft, and flowed in the night air like black satin. My romanticism of the scene may seem silly to you, but this is in retrospect. At the time, all I got to think was that she was pretty, and that my colleagues had exaggerated (which, for a journalist, brings a sense of glee) before the witch had once again focused back on me.
"So! You want to play games, huh, Mr Kentman!" she replied, and the sword returned to my crotch. "Well, here is a new one. It is called 'count the seconds you have left to live, if you do not answer my questions and stop being a twat."
Her husband (it was still a foreign feeling for me to regard him as such), snorted at this. "Snappy," he jibed, as he walked over to the woman. "I don't think he's going to resist much more."
"Oh?" the woman replied, riled now. "And why is that, exactly?"
"Because Brock Kentman is the political correspondent for The Inquisitor." He returned grinning, "And a journalist will do anything for a story."
There was silence within the room. My curiosity hit full peak at this point. The young man had, practically, hit the needle on the head. Aside from my aforementioned rules, stories put caviar on my plate- and, as I had (albeit reluctantly) proven, my rules could be broken. That may seem cavalier to you, ladies and gentlemen, but trust me, at the time, looking bit greedy was better than looking a bit dead. The Witch seemed to consider this, before, reluctantly, lowering her sword. I breathed out a sigh of relief, and sat down at the edge of my bed- my legs felt like jelly.
"Explain." She cautiously asked.
The young man grinned, knowing she had his full attention now, and turned to me. "If I gave you a story, would you stop looking into Fae's disappearance?"
I was puzzled. "Fae?"
"Again with the pet names…" the woman muttered.
The man gave her a pleading look, and she turned, huffing, to flop down into the chair. The man returned to me. "Elphaba's disappearance?"
Again, my expression betrayed me. I was confused. Why would a female, possibly of aristocratic descent, be of a worry to The Wicked Witch of the West and her consort (I still could not say husband). Some kind of scandal, perhaps? One of their victims?
The male breathed out through his teeth. "You don't even know her real name?" he spoke, sounding more antagonised now. Desperately, I racked my brains for the name 'Elphaba'. Then, I remembered something. A vague article, written while I was studying journalism in Kings, describing the birth of…
This threw me more, but I had a mildly annoyed husband bearing over me, and so I voiced my knowledge. "Elphaba Thropp? Daughter of the ex governor of Munchkinland? What on Oz has she got to do with anything?"
There was a long pause. Then, a snicker. A snigger. And then my assailants burst out into outrageous laughter. I was really perturbed now. Had they gone mad? Their brittle sanity's snapped by the memories of torture- For that is what must have twisted this poor young man. Her first victim, perhaps? I was filled with fear, wondering if now, now they would not hesitate to turn me into all manner of small animals. The couple tried to compose themselves.
"They don't even know who I am!" The witch giggled. "All their intelligence, all their abilities and they can't even work out the Wicked Witch of the West's name!"
"Why doesn't Glinda tell them?" the man asked, slightly more composed than the woman, though a stray chuckle punctuated his question.
The green skinned girl sniffed, raising her nose. "She's doing what I told her, of course. Making me the evil bogeyman and keeping Oz faithful to its morals." Her grin began to shrink, wither away, and she sighed, looking out the window. The man missed this, however, and turned back to me. Having been ignored, my mind had been working overtime, and had pieced together the evidence. I now looked upon this marvel- this supposed tyrant, this despot of magical destruction, in a new light.
"May I introduce Elphaba Thropp, formerly known as The Wicked Witch of the West, now Mrs Elphaba Tiggular." He performed a deep bow, and knelt beside his wife, bowing his head in mock deference. In response, she swatted his head, scowling, and stood up.
"Shut up, hero." She growled under her breath.
This part of the tale can only be told in reminiscence. At the time, my brain had crashed.
This was it.
This was the story that could keep me in silk dressing gowns and rare cigars until I was dribbling to death.
The origins of the Wicked Witch of the West.
I reached for my notebook, a headline flashing through my head.
"Elphaba Thropp-The Real Witch of the West!"
My pencil was nearing the paper when, suddenly, the notebook flew into the corner. I looked up, distressed, to see the young woman shaking her head.
"Not a chance. I don't need that kind of publicity." She smirked. "But there is something which you can report."
With some petulance, I replied, "But a story about your origins? What could possibly beat that?"
The flash of rage that crossed her face caused me to scurry backwards.
"How about survival?" she growled, before a calming hand from her husband on her shoulder prevented any violence on my being. I resigned myself to simply answering and writing, and nodded my head. Her hand stretched out and my notebook returned to me. I returned pencil to paper, and looked back at the witch.
"Well, what am I writing?"
"Don't look at me," The women replied, before looking pointedly at the man beside her. "This was his idea."
The man didn't respond. He didn't look as entertained by the situation anymore. He had a rather grim look upon his face as he turned to look at me. I looked upon that visage- the dusty blonde hair, the pinched nose, the intense eyes- and I realised where I had seen him before.
Fiyero Tiggular. Prince of the Winkies. Betrothed to Glinda the good fairy of the, now considered dead by the Wicked Witch's hand. I had done an interview with his parents once, fairly early on in my career. Fiyero had been a young child, a confident lad who had strolled up to me in the middle of the interview and asked whether I knew Albert Runtsly, a famous author at the time. When I assured him that I had had dinner with him last week, he had attempted to engage me in a conversation on the key themes of his book, only to be asked, politely but firmly, by his father to wait until after the interview, to which he replied, "But I want to know now!"
He had certainly grown up a fair amount since then, and perhaps lost some of his arrogance- though it appeared to have been replaced by sarcasm and quick wit. He must have recognised my expression, for he nodded. He walked over to me and looked me straight in the eyes, before issuing his command.
"You can write," He said to me, "That Fiyero Tiggular, prince of the fiefdom of Royal Vinkus, was the secret lover and agent of the Wicked Witch of the West."
My eyes widened at this, but even my shock was eclipsed by the Witch's. She leapt from the chair and strode to her husband.
"ARE YOU COMPLETELY OFF OF YOUR ROCKER?" she bellowed at her somewhat flushed husband. Any further bellowing was stopped by a pair of lips that enveloped her mouth and prevented any resistance (his lips, not mine). She appeared to relax for a few seconds, but then struggled out of the embrace and gave him a pointed look.
"Your family won't be able to cope with this! They'll be destitute, ruined." She continued, slightly quieter (a relief, as I was certain any more loud noise would have roused the innkeepers.).
The prince's expression cooled further at this. "I'm sure my parents will be perfectly fine with it." He answered.
"Oh, and how do you suppose that?" She probed further.
"Ask him." He pointed at me, against my wistful and ferocious mental protests. The witch whirled on me.
"Well!" she demanded.
I picked my words carefully here. An irate prince was not much better than a furious witch, and I now knew better than to irritate either.
"The King and Queen of Vinkus, as of last week… officially, at any rate… have disowned Prince Fiyero. On grounds of… political embarrassment."
Silence. The woman's eyes bugged out. She appeared lost for words. Her face was darkening into an almost black colour, or certainly a very dark green. Her face tightened, hardened, and I could sense an imminent explosion. Fiyero must have sensed it too, for he quickly took her hand and whispered something to her. She flared up at this, but it was a hissed whisper as opposed to a bellow now, and I did not catch her words. I respected their privacy (out of self preservation more than any moral feeling) and instead returned to scribbling out the beginning of my new article.
A few minutes went by, and I had finished the headline ("Scandal for Vinkus Royals!"Pun's at this point, I felt, would have detracted from the shock,) when the lack of any explosions lead me to wonder whether they had left. My curiosity and pre- emptive relief over rid any concerns I had, and I took a peek at the chair. The discussion had calmed down, but to my amazement, the prince had begun to weep. The witch, meanwhile, had taken his head and placed it to the crook of his neck, softly soothing him. This flash of humanity was startling, and I returned to my writing, troubled by the loss of a viewpoint and the need for change of view.
"You'll never tell anybody about this. Understand?" I looked up to see the witch looking me straight in the eye. It was unnerving- paralysing, even. I nodded frantically, and she snorted under her breath. She looked at me with something akin to disdain in her eyes, before grabbing the hand of her lover and walked to the window, grabbing what looked like a fairly dirty old broomstick from where it had lain unseen throughout the evenings excitements, beside the window frame. She turned back to me.
In that moment, I realised the appeal. The full moon behind her made her look magical- otherworldly. She smiled, and in that moment, the handsome boy beside her, the future ahead of her, and the past left far behind, I could see the dream which she embodied. The need for freedom and peace. To escape persecution, and live life.
I had to ask. I would not be a reporter, if I did not know an important question or two, and the correct time to ask them.
The smile turned sad. Her eyes changed, to a view of pity, and suddenly she seemed thousands of years older.
"Because the world needs a villain as much as a hero."
And with that, she was gone. Out the window, out of the region and out of an old journalists life. No cackle. No parting shot. No transfiguration. Just a mildly overweight man sitting in abject shock, wearing a pair of silk pyjamas and clutching a notepad like the pages held the key to eternity.
Slowly, I lay back on my bed, the springs groaning with the stress, and I reached for my cigars. This time, hopefully, I would finish one.
The article has kept me in cigars for a very long time. I am now a great grandfather, and proudly remember my time in The Inquisitor. However, I have never forgotten that evening: my meeting with the most infamous woman in the land.
The official version of events remains the same for the history of the Wicked Witch of the West; yet I will never be able to forget the love that I saw in her eyes that night. And so, here, in my memoirs, I write these final words. They are to be released twenty years after my death, in accordance with my will. I hope that it will be sufficient time to prevent Elphaba Thropp's plan, whatever it was, from failing.
This is Brock Kentman, ex- Head Journalist, The Inquisitor.