CHAPTER ONE - Winkies
Flavus Obeus was the emperor of Winkie Country. He was not a very bright man, but all of the Winkies loved him. Flavus had a problem, though. He never stopped eating, and his round belly was as soft as the mattress he slept on. His wife, Pulchera, was the most beautiful woman in all of Winkie Country. She'd previously been married to a man with the surname Umbr. When Pulchera married Flavus, she brought her three children to live with them in the castle.
The eldest of her children was eighteen-year-old Sora Umbr. She was just as beautiful as her mother, tall and slender. Her hair was perfectly straight and the same straw color as everyone else in Winkie Country. Her eyes were not amber, the normal color of Winkie eyes, but dark brown. The brown was in fact so dark that it appeared to be black to the sight of others. Sora's most prized possession was the Magic ring her father had given her. She knew not its power, but she did know that it was beautiful.
The middle child was named Shathana Umbr. She was sixteen years old. Shathana was nowhere near as beautiful as Pulchera or Sora, but she had a sort of hidden beauty. Her hair was straw-colored, but it was extremely frizzy and untidy. A pair of huge square spectacles were set in front of her shiny amber eyes. These spectacles magnified Shathana's eyes to such a degree that it looked as if they filled up half the space of her face. Shathana's most prized possession was a gleaming silver whistle given to her by her father. It apparently had some sort of magic power, too, but she knew not what it was, but Shathana wore the whistle around her neck proudly.
Pulchera's youngest child was a boy named Fratero Umbr. Fratero resembled Flavus more than his actual father, though he and Flavus were not at all blood-related. Fratero was only twelve years old, and he was not very tall, but he was extremely round. He spent more time with Flavus than his sisters thought was wise. Pulchera didn't seem to mind Fratero's size. Fratero resented his sisters, because their father had not made him anything Magical, saying that boys earned what they were to be given, and Fratero was far too lazy.
Though Flavus was a kind man, he made the girls to do constant work. Sora and Shathana would do the laundry, cook the meals, and clean up after everyone. Shathana's allergy to water would not allow her to do half of these things, however, so she was in charge of folding the clothing, chopping up the vegetables, and dusting and sweeping. Pulchera didn't seem to notice exactly how much work the girls did, for she was too infatuated with her husband.
One day, Flavus and Fratero were out hunting and Pulchera was napping. Shathana dusted while Sora scrubbed the floor. Sora sighed. "Shathy, why do you think Mother married Flavus?"
"I believe she fell in love with him," answered Shathana completely truthfully. She saw how her mother looked at Flavus. It was definitely love. Shathana removed cobwebs from a corner and turned to look at Sora. "Why else would she have married him?"
Sora left the brush on the floor and stood up. Her white dress was dirty from all the cleaning she'd been doing. "Shathy, you're sixteen years old. You have to believe in something other than love. I think Mother engaged in wedlock with Flavus because he is the emperor of Winkie Country. I think she married him for power and money."
Both Shathana's jaw and the rag she'd been dusting with fell to the floor. Shathana closed her mouth and crossed her arms across her chest. She did not pick up the rag. Sora and Shathana looked at each other for a few moments. Shathana finally looked away. "I suppose that makes sense. She has to notice the way he treats us. He just chooses to stay with him because she loves not him, but the power and the wealth."
"Exactly," said Sora. She kneeled down on the floor again, pushing the wet brush in big circles. Shathana watched her. Sora stopped what she was doing and looked back, sitting down on the small dry portion of the floor. "Shathy, I think we need to get rid of him."
Shathana's eyes widened, making them look impossibly huge to Sora. Why would Sora say such a thing? Was it because he made them work all the time? Or was it something different? Whichever it was, Shathana began to shake her head slowly from side to side. "No. No, Sora. We can't kill our stepfather. He's the emperor of Winkie Country. The Wizard will come around wondering what happened to him, and he will find out the truth. Besides, killing is evil."
"But he can't do this to Mother," said Sora, bringing herself to her feet. "He's making her obsessive. She's obsessing over the power and the money and the gold and the jewels. We need to end this, and the only way to ensure that it happens is if he goes away forever. Don't you see? We wouldn't have to work anymore, and we would have our mother back."
"Sora, no." Shathana stayed completely calm. If she didn't stay calm, Sora wouldn't stay calm, and they would end up screaming at each other and accidentally waking Pulchera. Shathana took a step closer to her elder sister. "Flavus has thousands of Winkies on his side, along with Mother and Fratero. Imagine how Mother would feel if Flavus died. She would be extremely sad, because it would mean the end of her power. Anyways, who would rule Winkie Country if he was gone? We would be without a ruler until someone could replace Flavus. No, Sora, I think what we need to do is protest. We won't do any work until our stepfather finds someone else to do it."
Sora sat down in a chair and nodded her head. "I suppose that will have to do."
So, starting the next day, Sora and Shathana refused to do anything. Flavus quickly noticed this when they did not fix his breakfast for them. He, Fratero, and Pulchera sat at the dining table. Pulchera was sipping tea like a lady, but Fratero and Flavus were yelling about not getting fed. Flavus looked at his wife with a desperate look on his face. "Dear Pulchera, your daughters will not do what I am asking them to do. They will not make our breakfast."
Fratero made a sad face at his mother. "Mother, I need to be fed or I will soon wither away to nothingness. You need to have a son. You can't have me dying."
Pulchera turned to look at her daughters. A smile spread across her face. "Girls, why do you refuse to cook breakfast for your stepfather and your brother?"
Sora stepped forward with confidence. Her chin was held high, and her face was completely serious. "Mother, Shathana and I feel that we do every chore there is to be done for Flavus. We are dreadfully tired all the time. Our clothes become dirty. Most frustrating of all, no one ever thanks us for all the cooking and cleaning we do. My sister and I refuse to do anything for your husband until he hires someone else. Perhaps a servant."
Pulchera looked at Flavus. He looked thoughtful. Flavus looked up at Shathana. He didn't say anything, but waited for her to speak. Shathana cleared her throat and wrought her hands nervously. "Sora and I hear that there are many Winkies down in Hotchinpotch who are unemployed and excell at cooking and cleaning."
Flavus turned his gaze back to Sora and nodded slowly. "Very well. I will hire four servants from Hotchinpotch, and you girls will not have to do anything. I will send for them right away."
Flavus immediately exited the dining room. Sora and Shathana smiled at each other. Pulchera did not look at them. She instead looked at Fratero. "Son, if you are hungry, there's a full loaf of bread in the cupboard beside the wine rack in the kitchen."
A week had passed, and a letter arrived for the three Umbr children. It was from their father, who lived a few miles southeast in the town of Herbertha. Shathana unfolded the paper quickly, excited to be hearing from their father. She read the first line. Her smile faltered and faded as she read the rest of the letter. Shathana sat down on a chair and handed the note to Sora. Sora read it aloud. "'My Dear Children, It brings me great sorrow to tell you that I am not well. The doctors here nor anywhere else know why I am ill. However, they have all told me that I will be dead soon. I wish to see the three of you one last time. If that could be arranged, it would mean the world to me. Love, Your Father.'"
Sora slumped onto the ground. She'd always been very close to their father. Sora did something Shathana could not do: she cried. Pulchera entered the room and picked up the letter, which Sora had dropped. She gasped and put her hand over her mouth. "Oh, Pateri."
A carriage was prepared instantly. Only Sora, Shathana, and Fratero were going to Herbertha. It would not be conventional for Pulchera to go with them, since Pateri Umbr was her former husband. Sora was going to be in charge of Sora and Fratero, and one of the Winkie servants from Hotchinpotch was going to guide the carriage to Herbertha.
There were two types of terrain in Winkie Country. The first, and most common, type of terrain was desert terrain. It was dry and sandy, and not very good for traveling in. There was only desert in the places nearest the border between Winkie Country and the Deadly Desert. Everywhere else, the terrain was grassy. It was only dead grass, since live grass was not anywhere near the color yellow, but dead grass was.
The Umbr children traveled through Hotchinpotch. After Hotchinpotch, there were no towns for a few miles. The next town was Ice Town, then Book Ville, and then finally Herbertha. Herbertha was nearly on the road of yellow brick. That's why Pateri lived there, because he often traveled to the Emerald City. Pateri's house was much smaller than the castle. His house resembled a basket, because yellow rushes had been woven together to make the walls. Sora took a deep breath and knocked on the door. It opened immediately.
A dark-skinned woman dressed in a purple nurse's uniform said, "Oh. You must be Zora, Zathana, and Vatero. Please, come in."
The children knew from her dark skin, the color of her uniform, and the way she pronounced their names that she was from Gillikin Country. Gillikins were famous for being part of either the medical or educational fields. The nurse led the way into Pateri's bedroom, where he lay in his bed. He smiled at his children. The nurse said, "I'll give you some time alone."
The nurse left Pateri's bedroom, and Sora and Shathana ran to Pateri's bedside. Pateri looked at Fratero, who just stood in the doorway. Sora snapped her fingers. "Fratero, you come here to Father's bedside right now."
Fratero approached the bed slowly. Pateri put a hand on his arm. "Fratero, my boy. You've gotten so big. Guess that's what happens when you live in a castle with the emperor of Winkie Country. Do you like him well enough?"
The boy nodded his head. Shathana sighed. "Well, Frat likes him, but Sora and I don't. He used to make us do work, before he got actual servants. Flavus is a slob, too. He's gotten Mother obsessed with power and money. No, I don't like him at all."
"I'm sorry, my daughters," murmured Pateri. He breathed more heavily all the time, and he was worrying Sora. Pateri reached behind his neck and unclasped his most prized possession. It was merely just a golden chain, or so thought the children. Pateri set the chain in Fratero's hand. "You've finally deserved it, my son. It has Magic, just like the rest of your gifts."
"What type of Magic?" asked Fratero.
Pateri shook his head. "That is for you to determine. For all of you to determine. I love you all, my children. I am sorry I cannot stay with you longer."
Pateri Umbr closed his eyes. His life had ended. Sora began crying hysterically. Shathana embraced her in a tight, comforting hug. Fratero stood off to the side, clasping the golden chain around his fat neck. It barely fit, looking like it was going to cut off his circulation. As soon as it was clasped, however, the chain grew so much that the end of it touched Fratero's rounded waist.
A few hours later, the Umbr children were back at Flavus's castle.
Weeks passed, and soon Pulchera left for the Emerald City. She was going to visit with friends there for five whole days. Sora and Shathana were greatly worried with how Flavus would act in the absence of their mother. They had never been left alone with him before. Shathana awoke in the middle of the night. She pulled her frizzy hair into a sloppy ponytail and put her glasses on. Shathana stood up and walked down the corridor of the third story. She walked the stairs all the way down to the first story. Shathana buttered a slice of bread and ate it. She headed back upstairs.
When Shathana passed Flavus's bedroom, she heard say, "Shathana, come here."
Shathana didn't know what to do. She was worried even further. Still, the girl slowly pushed open the door of her stepfather's bedroom. The bed filled more than half the room. Flavus laid on top of it, his huge bare body gleaming with sweat. Shathana looked away. "What do you want?"
"Come closer to me. I can't make you out in the dark," ordered Flavus. Shathana hesitantly took a step closer. Flavus reached out a hand and grabbed her nightgown. He pulled her down on the bed. Shathana tried to fight against him, but Flavus was too strong. He ran his meaty hands up and down her body. Shathana suddenly felt her whistle fall into her mouth. It happened at exactly the right time. Shathana blew on the whistle with all her might. However, no sound came.
As Flavus slapped her, Shathana heard howling and then growling. A sound like a stampede reached the ears of Shathana and the man on top of her. He suddenly stood up and opened his door. Shathana watched as an entire pack of wolves jumped on top of him. They tore right through his flesh, scratching him and biting him until there was nothing left but a mass of bloody tissue. Emperor Flavus Obeus was dead, and it was all Shathana Umbr's fault.
After the wolves left, Shathana called a servant. He came to her, and she said, "Travel to the Emerald City with swift feet. Ask for Pulchera Obeus and let her know that a horrible accident has occurred, and her husband the Emperor has been killed by a pack of wolves. Go."
Pulchera was back at the castle by morning. She had the servants clean up the remnants of Flavus. No one cried, although Pulchera and Fratero were extremely disappointed that Flavus was dead. A letter arrived from the Wizard of Oz. Pulchera unfolded it. She quickly read it and then folded it back up. "The Wizard of Oz has named me Empress of Winkie Country. That means you, my children, are Winkie Prince and Princesses."