The Scarecrow's Brain
By D.B. Boardman
Chapter One: The Thieves of Otherland
It sat in a closet in the home of Ratty Pordoo for nearly forty years after the rebellion of the mites. The rebellion changed everything. Even the color of the sky over the entire land that once was Oz was different. It was darker.
The thieves of Otherland stole it. They wouldn't have even known what it was, or that it had any significance, had someone not made it known. There were only a few who did know until the night that the Tin Man returned. The Tin Man would never have divulged the information to anyone had he known what the consequences would be. He simply missed his old friend, and wanted to visit what was left of his remains. He also never lost hope that he might find a way to bring the Scarecrow back.
It wasn't that Ratty didn't know what the brain was. He understood that part. And it wasn't that he was normally untrustworthy; indeed the brain had been entrusted to him because he usually was. But even in Otherland – which had been called Oz back in the old days – the drink can have disturbing effects.
Ratty had been packing for a trip to New Munchkinland to visit his family when the Tin Man arrived. Like all of the other munchkins, Ratty and his family had been driven from Munchkinland and dispersed during the rebellion. But most of them had settled together in the area now known as New Munchkinland. Ratty was one of the few who had not.
The front door was wide open when the Tin Man arrived because Ratty was taking his bags from his house out to the carriage outside. The Tin Man stooped down and looked through the door. He didn't see anyone because Ratty was busy rummaging through a closet.
"Hello," the Tin Man called, "Ratty? Are you there?"
To say that Ratty was surprised to see the Tin Man would not be an exaggeration in the least. The Tin Man had gone missing shortly after the rebellion had ended, and most believed he had been destroyed.
"Tin Man, my friend!" Ratty exclaimed. "Wherever have you been? We have all suspected your demise!"
The Tin Man, who was still crouching at the door because he could not fit through it, lowered his eyes to the ground and responded:
"I had to go into hiding." He said.
"Whatever for?" Ratty queried. "The rebellion was over. There was no need to hide."
"No," said the Tin Man, "the rebellion was not over. It still isn't over."
A deeply confused look flashed across Ratty's face. He was flustered, but did his best to regain his composure.
"Well," he said to the Tin Man, "I would invite you in, but..."
"Where is it, Ratty?" The Tin man opted to get straight to the point.
"Ah, yes..." Ratty didn't need to wonder as to what the Tin Man referred. "It's been in my closet. But tell me my old friend, how could you have hidden? Every inch of Otherland is accounted for, and you... well... being a man made of tin and all..."
"I've spent the last thirty-eight years hiding in a barn in Kansas" said the Tin Man.
Ratty stepped backwards in his surprise and nearly tripped over a stool. "Kansas?" he said. Of course he had heard of Kansas. Everyone knew of the great witch-killer Dorothy Gale, and how she purportedly came from a strange land that was from another world – another dimension, perhaps. But nobody really believed that any such place really existed – least of all Ratty.
"Yes," said the Tin Man. "Dorothy has had me hidden in a barn on her farm. But she's old and frail now. She's likely to lose her farm. I couldn't stay there any longer. She asked me to take Toto and come back to Oz."
Ratty flinched a bit at the Tin Man's fax paux of referring to Otherland as Oz. But he considered that the Tin Man had been away for several years, after all. He decided to ignore it and continue with the conversation as though it had not been said.
"Toto?" Ratty asked. "The little dog? He yet lives?"
"Yes," the Tin Man responded, gesturing behind himself to Toto who sat obediently on the path leading to Ratty's door. "His long life is a mystery to be sure. Dorothy believes that something magical happened to him during his time in Oz. It seems he doesn't age, and he doesn't die."
Ratty stood staring incredulously at the little dog for what seemed like quite a while, until his semi-trance was finally broken by the Tin Man's inquiring voice:
"You do still have the brain then, do you? It is in tact?"
"Oh yes," Ratty responded reassuringly, "it is in tact as always."
"Good." said the Tin Man, and he breathed a deep sigh of relief.
"Ah, but," Ratty stammered, looking for the right words. "If it were not in tact – but it is – but if it were not, what would it matter?"
"Ratty," the Tin Man retorted quickly, "do you understand why it is that you were called upon to be the keeper of the brain?"
Ratty smiled and began to nod his head in affirmation. But then after a moment he realized that he had no idea why anyone, least of all him, should keep the Scarecrow's brain. "Uh, well... no" he admitted finally.
"That is why" the Tin Man said smiling.
"What is why?" Ratty was confused. "Did I miss a part of our conversation?"
"No," said the Tin Man, "you didn't miss a thing. The truth is that you, Ratty Pordoo, were chosen because you did not understand or believe... and yet you are a trustworthy munchkin." Again Ratty was visibly confused so the Tin Man merely said, "It will all make sense in time."
"What will?" Ratty asked. He didn't want to wait for things to make sense. He hated waiting.
"Do you know why the Scarecrow could not be brought back with new straw?" the Tin Man asked.
"Ah," said Ratty, feeling that finally there was something that he understood, "It was because the magical straw was needed."
"That's right," said the Tin Man, "The magic straw from the field of the Magician Morov that gave the Scarecrow life. When the Scarecrow was destroyed in the rebellion, the field of Morov was also burned, and all of the magic straw perished from Oz."
"Yes," said Ratty smiling and nodding, happy to finally know about what was being discussed. "Yes that is correct."
"But you see," said the Tin Man, "it was not the magical straw that accounted for the essence of the Scarecrow. All the straw did was animate his body. It was his brain that made him who he was."
Ratty was puzzled again. "But..." he began to stammer "I had always heard that the Scarecrow had lived without a brain, and that he did not receive his brain until he had visited the Wizard."
"For whatever reason," responded the Tin Man, "we don't know why – but Morov wanted the Scarecrow to believe that he did not possess his brain. But he did. It was there in his head all along. Right from the very first day that Morov created him. The irony was that he went seeking the Wizard to gain what he didn't know that he already had."
"Ah yes, but still" said Ratty, "We cannot bring the Scarecrow back without the magic straw, and we cannot make the straw without knowledge of Morov's secrets. All of those things were destroyed."
The Tin Man looked down at the ground again and was silent for a moment. "No," he said finally. "Not all of them."
"What?" Ratty asked incredulously.
"Ratty," said the Tin Man sternly, "what I am about to tell you, you must repeat to no one. Is that understood?"
"Ah... uh... yes" said Ratty nervously.
"Swear it" said the Tin Man.
"I swear it," said Ratty, "I will repeat it to no one."
The Tin Man glanced around as though there could be someone listening, then he looked Ratty straight in the eye as he spoke. "The secrets of Morov lie within the brain itself."
Both were silent for a moment, and then Ratty asked, "So how do we retrieve them?"
"I don't know," the Tin Man admitted. "We can't activate the brain without a body made of the magic straw, and we can't make magic straw without the secrets hidden within the brain."
"So the brain is of little consequence" said Ratty with a defeated tone.
"There is always hope" said the Tin Man. "There is one who would be the new Wizard. He doesn't know the power he possesses or the purpose that lies upon him. But I go now to seek him out, and I must make him understand."
"Who is he?" Ratty queried.
The Tin Man began to speak, but then stopped. Then he began to speak again. "I may have already told you too much" he said.
"Oh no," Ratty reassured him. "Your secret is safe with me."
"Farewell," said the Tin Man. "I will return soon, and by then I hope to have an answer."
Ratty watched as the Tin Man and Toto disappeared into the distance. He was so overcome by what had just taken place that he decided that he must visit the tavern and sort all of these things out in his head.
Ironically, Ratty always had been trustworthy. But then, he never thought much of the brain before. Now that he knew the significance of it, it was very hard not to share his little secret with at least one good friend; particularly after a few mugs of drink. But it wasn't Ratty's friend who was treacherous. There were listening ears – and Ratty, bless his soul, never realized how loud he tended to become after a few mugs.
Blitt Gorga held the small box tightly against his chest as he stumbled carelessly along Thicket-Laden Way towards the Palace of the Thieves of Otherland. It was dark and hardly visible; but Blitt knew his way through the forest well. And the Palace – which stood in the heart of what had once been the Emerald City – was never difficult for him to find.
The path was called Thicket-Laden way for obvious reasons. But though covered in thickets, most of them had been trampled down, and the majority of the path was now relatively smooth. No one would ever suspect that buried deep underneath it all was a road made of golden bricks. If they had, they would most likely have dug holes in the path and stolen the valuable bricks from the ground.
Blitt had been with the Thieves of Otherland for almost a decade now. He had preferred to work alone; but it wasn't allowed anymore. Not that it was ever allowed to be a thief in the strictest sense – but the Thieves of Otherland were more treacherous and cruel than the rulers of the land. And the penalties for thievery if you were not one of them were far more unbearable than anything that the Otherland Law Enforcement imposed.
Those who knew Blitt (other thieves, mostly) called him Monkeyschkin, because he appeared to be half flying-monkey, half munchkin. Since he didn't know either of his parents he couldn't be sure. There were no other known persons who came from such a strange union. But he had the body of a munchkin and the facial features of a monkey. And he also had wings – what appeared to be half-grown wings. But he couldn't fly; and the wings only served to make him clumsier. Given his profession, the wings seemed to be a curse.
He stopped and looked again inside the box. He hoped it really was the Scarecrow's brain. I looked like a piece of burlap tied into a tight, heavy knot with pieces of straw sticking out of it. He had heard Ratty Pordoo talk about it at the Tavern, and he knew that it must be something very important. But if Ratty had not carelessly marked the box, "the Scarecrow's Brain", Blitt would never have known that this was in fact the item that he was looking for.
It filled Blitt with a certain amount of anxiety when he considered that he would have to present his treasure to Mortrow, the leader of the Thieves, and convince him that it was actually something of value. He hoped that Mortrow was already familiar with it. He knew that his chances were slim; but it was a gamble that he had to take since he had not produced a take of any significance in quite some time, and his position with the Thieves was on shaky ground. If he could not be a thief anymore, he would not have an occupation. And now that the Thieves knew him, they would watch him if he were exiled from the group. They would almost certainly catch him if he tried to continue in a life of thievery. Blitt shuddered at the thought of it.
By the time he finally arrived at the Palace of the Thieves, Blitt's heart was beating fast. He took a deep breath as he crawled through the hole leading to the Thieves secret entrance (anyone who came knocking on the main door was known to be an unwelcome guest). As usual, he went and stated his business to the one who guarded Mortrow's Hall before being granted access.
As he made his way down the long stretch of carpet toward the seat of Mortrow, Mortrow challenged him:
"Alright Monkeyschkin" Mortrow said. "It had better be good. Because if its not – you leave here tonight."
"I believe that if you understand the significance of the contents of this box," Blitt responded – his voice trembling, "I believe you will know that this is the most valuable prize ever to be presented to you."
Mortrow laughed heartily. "A bold statement" he said. "Let me see it."
Blitt handed the box to Mortrow who quickly ripped it open without any regard for the handwriting on the box itself. As he gazed upon the contents, his eyes grew large and his mouth opened wide.
"It's the Scarecrow's brain" Mortrow said in a tone of shock and disbelief.
"Yes!" Blitt cried. "Yes it is!" Suddenly his fears vanished, and his thoughts of exile were replaced by a hope of great reward and promotion within the ranks of the Thieves. Now those thieves who had teased and persecuted him for so long would finally get their comeuppance.
Mortrow continued to gaze upon the brain, and as he did, his look of surprise gradually grew to one of disdain and disgust.
"Gather your things and get out of here," he said to Blitt. "You are no longer welcome among the Thieves of Otherland."
Blitt stumbled backward. Now it was his that was a look of shock and surprise.
"But… but…" He stammered. "But it's the Scarecrow's brain."
"Yes it is," Mortrow replied. "And it is worthless."