Prologue

A solemn series of buildings stood just outside of the palace walls on the east side of the city. These buildings contained the offices and workrooms of the multitude of officials required to oversee the running of the O.Z. From accounting to warfare, all branches and levels of government worked within these buildings save the Royal family and their Guard. Deep within the maze of hallways, offices, workrooms, conference rooms and records sat a small office dedicated to the history of the O.Z. Here the official Court Archivist kept the official copy of the histories of the realm.

Notes from the Archivist…

I shall have to review these for the official publication of course, but let's get the story down first.

Seven years ago today, the youngest daughter of our fair Queen returned from the Other Side and heralded the end of the reign of the Evil Witch. That evil creature who had once threatened the O.Z. in times long past had to be expelled from the mind and body of her elder sister. With their final victory at the Eclipse, we were released from our long reign of terror.

As the euphoria of freedom passed, the hard work of reconstruction began. The Royal family, once again four members strong, threw themselves into the work. Each of them gave their full attention to some area of work. Our Queen focused on the court and areas of state, working to renew old alliances and create new ones. Her Consort, the Outlander Ahamo, turned his attention to devising new ways to improve the yields for farmers, and to heal the land that had been damaged. He was assisted by the hero of the Eclipse, now called Glitch (formerly Ambrose, adviser to the Queen). Their eldest daughter, the Princess Akzadelia worked to heal some of the damage done by the foe using her body and her magic. Despite the weight of much suspicion and anger, she persevered in working with the healers to help those who had been harmed. Another hero of the Eclipse, the Reader Raw worked with her to bring this about and help to allay the suspicions of many.

Perhaps no one's actions were so carefully watched and monitored as those of the youngest of the Royal House. Princess Dorothy Gale, commonly called "DG" and named for the original heroine of that name, devoted her time to the working classes of Central City. Each day usually found her with the small merchants and working people in the city, or among the common soldiers and Resistance fighters. Despite the complaints of members from the ranks of nobility, she insisted on pursuing her choice of venues. Only a handful attempted to make her see "reason" as they put it, but after these few came under the suspicious watch and potentially deadly attention of her main bodyguard, such attempts died away. By special dispensation of the Queen, Princess Dorothy was permitted to choose her own chief bodyguard. Again over the objections of the court, she chose the hero of the Eclipse, Wyatt Cain.

Wyatt Cain, a former Tin Man, had been instrumental in assisting the princess on her journey through the O.Z. after her return as well as shutting down the machine that had nearly covered everything in darkness. Despite his hero status, he remained a shadowy figure to many due to his reserved personality, and suspicious nature. Perhaps no one other than his three companions during the quest for the Emerald will ever be fully accepted by this man. Still, it must be noted that his devotion to the health and well-being of the youngest princess of the O.Z. is without question and beyond reproach. He has assisted in uncovering multiple plots against the Royal family, personally rescued his charge half a dozen times and helped to convince the Resistance leader, his son, Jeb Cain to take leadership of the Royal Guards.

Jeb Cain has surpassed all expectations as the head of the Royal Guard. His dedication, hard work, and determination have routed out many enemies, and set to flight almost all of the remaining Longcoats and traitors who served the Evil Witch. His reputation as a dangerous foe of the Longcoats certainly helped him in reaching such a high office despite the low caste family from which he came. While the Queen generally attempts to compromise with her court and the noble families of the O.Z., in this instance she dictated the course she would take. There was to be no compromise with the safety of her family at stake.

"Our family has been separated for almost the entirety of the Princess Dorothy's lifetime. We will do what we deem necessary to keep our family safe – even if we must accept the displeasure of our noble friends and allies. We expect that some unhappiness will result, but we trust that such concerns will be mild. Surely after such a long period of anxiety and distrust, this one small pleasure might be allowed us – to know our household is safe."

With such a comment, our fair Queen managed to quiet all rumblings against her chosen Guard Commander. Commander Cain's efforts have kept the Royal family safe for seven years now, for which the O.Z. can only express its deepest gratitude. In addition, his work with the Princess Azkadelia has further helped to calm the concern of the populace in regards to her culpability in the actions of the Evil Witch. If the man who had been so fierce in opposition to the evil reign of the Witch can not only work with but accept the role of counselor and protector to the princess, then the people have felt safe in opening their hearts to trusting her once more.

Three years ago, Princess Dorothy and her three companions set out on to travel through the outer reaches of the O.Z. to determine how well reconstruction was going outside of Central City. Despite the attempt to keep such matters secret, it had become obvious that the four of them could never fit comfortably into the life of the city. They had been changed by their experiences in ways that no one else could share or understand. Many of the nobles were quite upset – even insisting that Princess Dorothy be brought into a proper form of behavior. They felt she had been adventurous enough and needed to settle down to be a proper princess.

However, having spent the majority of her life on the Other Side as a farm girl, and the short time here struggling against the darkness, there was little chance for her to become a "proper" princess. Her priorities lay with the commoners, not the nobility. She felt more at home among those who worked with their hands then those who gave the orders. Her insistence on meeting with the ordinary citizenry led to foul rumors of betrayal. The poisonous whispers and honey-laced smirks grew worse as she spent so much time with her three closest friends, the men who had accompanied her through the O.Z. They found it especially interesting to note and discuss her relationship with Wyatt Cain.

It is of little surprise then that the princess felt compelled to leave the city that had become more a prison than a home to her. Those citizens loyal to the Royal family have supported her decision and are grateful she has chosen to remain in the O.Z. rather than return to her home on the Other Side in the realm known as Kansas. While we continue to hope that she will find her way back to Central City often, we also are grateful for her continued concern for all of the people of the O.Z.

Despite all of this intrigue, only one shadow truly haunts the O.Z., hanging over its people like a specter of death seeking new prey. There has been a marked increase in Longcoat activity over the past six months. Years after we had hoped the remaining traitors were gone or grown weary of the struggle, a new flame of rebellion has sparked. We are unsure as to what has caused this new fervor, but we fear for the safety of our beloved leaders. Even now, the Royal Guard deals with a marked increase of rumors and people have begun to vanish, never to be found. We wait with baited breath as the Commander of the Royal Guard and his faithful lieutenants struggle to deal with this new and deadly danger that hovers on the horizon.

Long live the Queen and the royal lineage of Ozma!

Court Archivist Aquila Augustus

Even as the official Court Archivist prepared the formal history of the realm, the one that would be taught to school children in years to come, another much less pompous history could be found in the hastily written personal notes of the Commander of the Royal Guards. Jeb Cain, former leader of the Resistance, had worked long and hard alongside the other leaders of the O.Z. to bring a sense of peace, safety, and stability to the realm. Few people outside of the palace knew how many hours he had invested personally into the recovery of the Royal family as well as the country.

From Jeb's personal files

Damn, I'm tired. I feel like I'm standing on the edge of a storm, but my eyes have been blinded and I can't see where it will strike! Every report we have coming in talks about how well everything is going, but…each of them mentions something small. The little problems are so minute, they could almost be lost in the river of good tidings. And yet…

A murdered family in the Quadling districts…a handful of scientists gone from the Gillikins…two Munchkin farms left empty without a sign of what happened to the people there…a well-known Winkie herbalist killed in a hit-and-run accident…and these are only a few. Each one by itself may or may not be a problem. Some of my officers suggest it's a coincidence. I don't believe in coincidences. Something is not right.

Ozma, but I wish Dad were here. I don't know that he'd be able to do any more than we are already doing, but I'd feel better knowing he was watching my back. I'd feel better about Az too. Between her and DG, there's not much they can't do. Az has the greater power, but DG has more grit – and both of them are stubborn as hell. They would both fight tooth and nail to protect one another.

That's what worries me the most I think. Something's happening; I don't know what it is; I don't know if I can protect Az. I don't know what else to do. I've got the Guard on a watchful alert, but we can't maintain this kind of focus long. They need a break and yet every instinct in my body is yelling at me to be wary. My gut is screaming out a warning…a little voice in the back of my head is repeating the same thing over and over again: Az is in danger…Az is in danger.

No one else seems to feel the same way. Even Az has not had a nightmare in weeks. I'm grateful, really, I am. I just wish I knew why I hate it whenever she is out of sight. It's like I expect to never see her again.

And yes, I know part of that is the continuous parade of suitors she has to deal with. I'd love to toss some of them out on their ear, but I don't actually have that right until they prove to be a danger to her. I hate it when they come in, expecting a princess with such a 'questionable' background to be thankful for their attentions. They are not worthy of her.

The Court has been pressing, and pressing hard, for her to select a suitor and be married off. The Queen has held firm, wanting more for Az, but they are getting more and more insistent. It worries me that one or the other of them will give in to the pressure, but so far they are both holding out. While the Queen does so for different reasons, Az is scared. The number of people she truly trusts can be counted on two hands.

If there were a way to resurrect that Witch so I could kill her again…

Anyway, despite everyone's words, I can't shake the feeling that my princess is in grave danger. I would be happy if I could just get one scrap of proof, one tiny piece of evidence of a conspiracy occurring in the O.Z.

I can feel the storm building…but where, where is it going to strike?