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The Emerald City wasburning.As I zoomed away fromthe smoking chaos and intothe moonlit night, carried inthe furry, twig-like arms of amonkey, the skyline crackledover my shoulder in a fury ofglitter and flames. It lookedlike a little kid’s birthdayparty gone horribly wrong,the formerly majestic towersand skyscrapers collapsing in

on themselves in confettibursts of jewel and glass. Itcould have been beautiful,except for the dense, blackmushroom cloud of smokethat hovered ominously overthe skyline.I was a long-ass way fromKansas.My feelings about thatmight surprise you. Unlikesome people, I had neverbeen particularly eager to go

back there. When it comes toclichés, there’s one that I’mstarting to believe mightactually be worth repeating.You can’t go home again.Exhibit A: Dorothy. Shetried to go home twice, andsee how that turned out?Exhibit B: the Wizard. Hecouldn’t even manage tomake it home once. (Okay,maybe that had something todo with the fact that he was

traveling in a janky old hotair balloon, but still.)Then there’s me, AmyGumm, trailer trash nobodyfrom Flat Hill, Kansas. WhileI liked to think of myself asabout as different as youcould get from people likethem, it was hard to ignorethat we had certain things incommon.For one thing, we had allbeen carried here from the

real world by some unknownforce, and while I don’t thinkanyone had yet figured outwhat that force was, I had myown theories about why wewere the ones who had beenchosen.It’sjustatheory,remember. Nothing proven,or even close. But Isometimes wondered if thethingthatlinkedme,Dorothy, and the Wizard was

the fact that, back where we’dcome from, none of us hadever fit in. Whether we knewit or not. Maybe all three ofus had been born in a placewe didn’t belong to, and hadbeen waiting to be found by ahome that we could really callour own.Look, I can’t speak foranyone except myself. I don’teven know the first thingabout the Wizard, and only a

little more about Dorothy. Somaybe I’m wrong. It’s justsomething I’ve thought about.But here’s the thing: onceyou’ve traveled to the darkside of the rainbow, you’vereached the end of the line. Ifyou can’t make Oz home,you’re pretty much out ofluck.As far as homes went, Ozwasn’t exactly the mosthospitable, but at least I could

call it mine. And now it wasburning.My rescuer was Ollie, themonkey I’d once saved fromDorothy’s clutches. Flying atour side, his sister Maude wascarryingmyunlikelycompanion: Ozma, Oz’smystery princess with mushfor brains, whose manysecrets were only nowstarting to become clear tome.

Even as we sped into theclouds, the ground blurringbelow us, I was puzzling outthe details of how we wereflying at all. You’ve heard ofwinged monkeys, right? Well,Maude and Ollie were notexactly those—or at leastthey weren’t supposed to be.Notanymore.Althoughthey’d been born with wings,they had both had themremoved.

Ollie had cut his ownwings off, to free himselffrom Dorothy’s enslavement.As for Maude—I stillshuddered when I thoughtabout how she had lost hers. Ihadn’t just seen it happen. Ihad been the one to do it,sawing them from her backmyself using only a smalldagger.Now this was a new Oz,not the pleasant, magical

kingdom you’ve heard about.That was a long time ago;long before I’d shown up.In Dorothy’s Oz, you didwhat you had to do. Youmade hard choices. Youtraded flight for freedom, ifyou had to, even if it meantlosing a part of yourself.Sometimes, in Dorothy’s Oz,you had to get your hands alittle bloodied. Okay, maybea lot bloodied.

But even in Dorothy’s Oz,there was still magic, whichmeant that what was removedcould sometimes be replacedwhen you had the right spell,which was how the monkeyswere now flying with paperwings that were buzzing likedragonflies’, vibrating so fastthey were just a blur.The wings didn’t looklike much. They were justtwo pairs of glued-together

newsprint and scraps thatbarely looked like theyshould be able to support theweight of Ollie and Maudethemselves, much less asixteen-year-old girl like me.But here we were, a thousandfeet above the ground andgoing higher by the second.That was magic for you.Yes I know it all soundscompletely insane. To me,these days, it was just life.

It’s funny how quickly youadjust to insanity.And if you think all that’sinsane, try this on for size: inthe past several hours, I hadtried(andfailed)toassassinate Dorothy Gale, theCrown Royal Bitch of theMagical Land of Oz. I’d cutthe Tin Woodman open andripped out his heart with mybare hands. It was stillbeating with a mechanical

ticktock in the bag I hadstrapped across the bodice ofmy torn, bloody servant’scostume, where I’d stuffed itfor safekeeping.I had done all that. I wasstill getting used to it. Butthere was one thing I knewfor sure that I hadn’t done. Ihadn’t set the city on fire.But someone sure had,and now, as I watched theflaming city disappear behind

me, I thought I knew who. Isuddenly understood thateverything I’d been doingback in the palace had mademe only a small piece in amuch more complicatedmachine. While I hid in thepalace, the Emerald City hadbeen under attack by theRevolutionary Order of theWicked, the secret cell ofterrorist witches for whom Ihad become a trained

operative. While I had beeninfiltrating the palace ball,disguised as a servant as Itried to kill Dorothy, they hadbeen laying the city to waste.I could only trust that theyhad their reasons. In a worldturned upside down like this,where sweet little DorothyGale was evil, Glinda theGood was eviler, and mosteveryone else was eitherscheming or scrambling to

stay out of the way, therewere crazier things you coulddo than putting your trust inpeople who called themselveswicked.Not that I really did trustthe Order entirely. But trustwas almost beside the point. Iwas one of them, whether Iliked it or not. And while Itrusted some of them morethan others, I had left all ofthem back there.

Mombi. Glamora.The people who hadsaved me, who had taught meto fight; to be strong.Nox. The person who hadforced me to become who Iwas now.They were still back therein the flames, and I wasflyingaway.Itwasimpossible not to feel like Ihad failed them. I’d had onejob to do, and I’d messed it

up completely.“We can’t leave,” I saidto Ollie for the fifth timesince we’d left the ground,my voice hoarse and tired,my legs sore from where hewas clutching me tight. I wasgripping his fur even tighter.(I’m not afraid of a lot, butI’ve never liked heights. Atleast it was better going upthan down.) “We have to goback to the city.”

I had to say it, evenknowing it was no use—thatthere was no turning around.“I told you,” Ollie said inthe same weary tone ofresigned finality he’d had thefirst four times.“I can’t just let them die,”I pleaded. “They’re myfriends.”Once upon a time—howlong ago had it even been?—Ollie had owed me his life.

But there were lots of onceupon a times in this place,and he and I were even now. Ithink.“You can’t die,” Ollie saidfirmly. “And that’s what willhappen if we go back there.You’ll die. They’ll die. Ozwill die. This is the onlyway.”“Your friends know howtoprotectthemselves,”Maude said. “They’ll find us

in the North where it’s safer.”“North, south, east, andwest,”Ozmaburbleduselessly in a tuneless warble.“No such thing as backward.”I sighed, ignoring her. Iknew that Ollie and Maudewere right. But my lastglimpse of Nox back in thecity kept flashing through mymind: his dark, always-messyhair, his broad shoulders andskinny, sinewy arms. The

determined tilt of his jaw, andthat look of almost arrogantpride. The anger that wasalways coiled deep in hischest finally ready to burstoutandstrikedowneverything that stood in hisway, all of it to save Oz, thehome that he loved.No, not just that. To saveme, too.I had learned so muchfrom him. He’d taught me

who I was. Now I might notever see him again, and therewas nothing I could do aboutit.“Where are we going?” Iasked flatly. Now the burningcity was just a tiny orange dotin the vast blackness belowus, and then it was gone as ifit had never existed.“To the North,” Olliegrunted. “To the Queendomof the Wingless Ones. Now

don’t you think you shouldtry to get some rest?”I didn’t really blame himfor not wanting to talk. It hadbeen a long and confusingnight. But I had so manyquestions that I barely knewwhere to start.Among the biggest of allof those questions was s arms where she was

singing a little song toherself, the only one whodidn’t seem bothered byanything that had happenedtonight. As a gust of cool airhit us and carried us sailinghigher into the sky, her hairwhipped around her face andshe gave a squeal of delight,like this was just a ride on theTilt-A-Whirl at the countyfair. Her green eyes were sobright that it almost seemed

like they were lighting ourway.Ozmawhooped,wriggling happily as Maudestruggled to keep hold of her.“Holdstill,YourHighness,” Maude grumbled.“I can’t go dropping thedaughter of Lurline, can I?Queen Lulu would never letme hear the end of it.”Ozma frowned at thename. “I’m the queen,” she

said with an edge ofannoyance.My eyes widened a littlein surprise when she said it.Technically it was true—shewas the queen. Technically.But Ozma had never quitebeen all there, and this wasone of the first times I’dheard her say anything thatactually sounded half-lucid. Istudied her face, looking forsigns of intelligent life,

searching for any trace thatremained of the kind,majestic ruler that I’d heardshe’d been before DorothyGale of Kansas had workedher magic and wiped herbrain.As she blinked back atme, I only saw more puzzles.Who was she?Was she the dim-wittedqueen who I’d seen back inthe palace, wandering the

halls like someone’s senilegreat-aunt? Was she thepowerfuldescendantoffairies who had supposedlyonce been the best ruler Ozhad ever had?Or was she really Pete,the emerald-eyed strangerwho had been the first personto greet me when I’d crashlanded in Oz; the kind-facedgardener who had riskedhimself to keep me company

when I’d been a captive inDorothy’sdungeon;themystery boy who, at the waveof the Wizard’s hand, hadtransformed before my eyesinto the dizzy, birdbrainedprincess babbling at my side?Pete had been all of thosepeople, somehow, and I’d justdiscovered that he and Ozmawere one and the same. Whatdid it all mean?“Pete?” I asked. I had to

believe that he was still inthere somewhere. But Ozmasimply looked at me sadly.“Come on,” I said. “If youcan hear me, Pete, talk tome.”Ozma furrowed her browat the name, and for a secondI thought I saw a glimmer ofrecognition flickering behindher eyes. Was that him inthere trying to get out?“Pete,” I said again. “It’s me.

Amy Gumm. Remember?”“I once knew a girl namedAmy,” Ozma said, her eyesglazing over again. With that,her jaw slackened back intoan expression of placidboredom. She blinked twiceand covered her perfect redmouth with a delicate hand,laughing at a private joke.“There’smagicallaround!” she said. “Oh my.The fairies know! I’m a fairy,

too!”I rolled my eyes and gaveup, holding on for dear life aswe flew higher and higherinto the sky. When we passedthrough a thick cover of dampcotton-ball clouds, the blacksky opened up like it was astage and the curtain had justbeen raised.Thestarsrevealedthemselves.I already knew that the

stars were different in Ozfrom the stars I’d known onearth, but from this vantagethey were really different.They took my breath away.For one thing, theyweren’t a million miles awayin space. They were righthereandtheywereeverywhere around us, closeenough to reach out andtouch. They were flat andfive-pointed, none of them

bigger than a dime; theyreminded me of the glow-inthe-dark stickers I’d taped tothe ceiling of my bedroomwhen I was just a little kid,before my dad had left andbefore my mom and I hadmoved to the trailer park.Almost, but not quite: thesestars were brighter andsparklier and cold to thetouch. Rather than beingfixed in the sky, they were

moving in a pattern that Icouldn’t get a handle on—they were configuring andreconfiguring themselves intobrand-newconstellationsright before my eyes.“They never get old,”Maude said, sensing my awe.“As many times as you seethem like this, they’re alwaysa surprise. This is probablythe last time I’ll see them,”she said sadly.

When I glanced intoOllie’s eyes, I saw that theywere wide and filling withtears.I looked at his paperwings, and wondered againhow he had come to wearthem. I know it soundsstrange, but he had alwaysbeenproudofbeingWingless, proud that he’dbeen able to sacrifice thething he loved most about

himself in order to keep hisfreedom.I decided to broach thesubject as gently as I could.“Are you ever going toexplain where exactly you gotthose?” I asked him.“I told you,” he saidtersely. “The Wizard gavethem to us. They’re onlytemporary. But they werenecessary.”“But why?” I asked. “And

—”Ollie cut me off. “Ipromised I would protect you.I needed the wings to get thejob done. And they’ll be gonesoon enough.”“But the Wizard . . .”Ollie squeezed my arm.“Later,” he muttered. “Fornow, no talking. It’s good tofly again. It feels like being akid. Just let me enjoy thestars.”

I don’t know if it was themention of her name or what,but suddenly I felt awriggling in my pocket andremembered what—who—Iwas still carrying: Star, mypet rat. Star had come herewith me all the way fromKansas, and somehow, she’dstuckbymethrougheverything. There were times—like when I’d been trappedinDorothy’shorrible

dungeon far below theEmerald Palace—when I waspretty sure I wo