Get a sneak peek at YELLOW BRICK WAR with the first four chapters
Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige doesn’t come out until tomorrow, but you can read the first four chapters right now! It’s the third book in the Dorothy Must Die series, so if you need a recap, you can refresh your memory here.
And check out the “Dorothy Caught on Tape” video after the sneak peek!
The witches were waiting.
The fire blazed behind the three cloaked figures like a scene from Macbeth—if Macbeth had been set in a bombed-out trailer park. Shadows flickered eerily across the uneven ground. A chilly wind whipped dry dust into tiny cyclones and sent a shiver down my spine. I was standing in the Dusty Acres trailer park—or what was left of Dusty Acres anyway. A fire blazed in the concrete barbecue, the only thing that remained of the place I’d once called home.
Home was nowhere now.
A trio of women faced me, each of them wearing a heavy cloak in a different color: red, gold, and blue. A purple cloak lay on the ground at their feet, glittering with rich gold embroidery. The witch in red was Glamora. The witch in blue was Mombi. And the witch in the gold cloak was hooded so that I couldn’t see her features.
“Rise, little witch,” Glamora said, picking up the purple cloak. “Take your place among us.” I stepped forward. The witches were right. It was time for me to fulfill my destiny. To defeat Dorothy once and for all—with the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked at my back. I took another step forward and reached for the cloak Glamora held out to me.
“You’ve been training for this your whole life,” she said. “You knew we’d ask you to join us. It’s time.” A second later, her words registered. What did she mean, I’d been training my wholelife? I’d spent my whole life in this exact trailer park in Kansas, right up until the moment a tornado airlifted me out of Dusty Acres and into a world I thought only existed in books. Then, I’d trained with the Order, learning to fight in the underground network of caves where they housed new recruits, but I’d hardly spent any time at all with them before I’d jumped right into battling Dorothy. Now I realized—Glamora wasn’t looking at me—she was looking past me. At someone else.
“I know,” a familiar voice said behind me, and Nox stepped forward. “I was hoping it wouldn’t be for a while.” He met my startled look with a weary smile.
His face was tired and his eyes were sad. He looked exactly as he had when I’d left him, what felt like a thousand years ago. I’d followed Dorothy into the maze behind the Emerald Palace, leaving him behind. I’d found Dorothy—and the Wizard. And then the Wizard had opened a portal to Kansas, and Dorothy had killed him and pulled both of us through. Dorothy, I thought with a flash of fear. Where was she? If Nox and I had come through the Wizard’s portal, she had to be close by. I closed my eyes, reaching for my magic. And . . . nothing. It was gone, like something had scrubbed it out of me.
“You’re ready,” Mombi said to Nox firmly. She wasn’t looking at me either. What was going on?
“I’ll never be ready,” he said in a low voice. Slowly, painfully, he reached forward and took the cape out of Glamora’s outstretched arms, wrapping it around his shoulders. He looked at me. “I’m sorry, Amy,” he said.
I opened my mouth to ask him what he was sorry for, and then I realized. The witches didn’t want me to take my place among them. They wanted Nox. After everything I’d been through, all my training, they were pushing me aside. “Why did—” I began, but I never got the chance to finish my question.
A huge, booming noise sounded across the gray landscape, and a crackling fork of blue lightning split the sky, landing in the earth in front of Nox with a sizzling noise. Another boom of thunder cracked and echoed, and the cloak began to glow as it swirled around Nox’s shoulders. His face was lit with eerie blue light, and magic crackled and sparked around his body. I could feel the charge in the air, like an electric haze radiating from his lean, muscular form. His back stiffened and his mouth fell open. His face twisted as if in pain. “Nox!” I screamed, but the buzz of the magic swirling around him swallowed up his name. The third witch held out a hand to stop me as I lunged toward him.
“He’ll be all right,” she said. “Stay back until it’s done, Amy.” Crackling lines of power, like glowing ropes, unfurled from Nox’s body, wrapping themselves around each of the other three witches. I jumped back just in time as power slammed into each of the witches. All four of them rose slowly into the air as magic spun a golden net around them, binding them tightly together. I had no idea what was happening, but it was clearly something big. Something I’d never seen before. Something I didn’t even come close to understanding. For one single, shimmering second, the four witches’ bodies seemed almost to merge into one huge, flowing form. In the vortex of magic, I could somehow see all the way through to gleaming emerald streets and clear blue skies, and I knew I was looking at Oz. And then with a final, terrifying crack of lightning, the witches split apart and tumbled to the ground. The lines of power snapped back into their bodies like tape zipping back into a tape measure. Nox lay stunned at my feet, wrapped in the purple cloak and gasping for breath. And then I saw the crumpled form lying in the dirt on the far side of the witches. I didn’t have to guess who it was: the red shoes, pulsing with a dull throbbing light that hurt my eyes, gave her away. It was Dorothy. Her checked dress was torn and dirty, and her arms and legs were covered in dirt and bloody scratches. But her shoes still glowed with a sickly red light.
“Quickly, now,” the hooded witch said urgently. “While she’s still weak.” She threw back her hood and my jaw dropped.
“Gert?” I gasped. “But you’re dead!” I had watched her die. I had mourned for her. And now here she was, alive, in front of me.
“No time to explain right now! We’ll never have a chance to destroy Dorothy like this again!”
Glamora, Gert, and Mombi joined hands and began to chant, and I recognized the shimmer of magic in the air over their heads. Nox reached for Mombi’s free hand, and she took it without interrupting her chant. His voice joined the other witches’.
I tried again to summon my own magic. I was sure this time: there was nothing there. I flexed my fingers, panicking. The magic was gone. My power—all of it. Dorothy was sitting up and looking at her hands in confusion as if she was discovering the same thing. Something had happened to us in that journey through the Wizard’s portal—something that hadn’t affected Nox and the other witches. And then I knew. Dorothy and I were both from Kansas. I’d never cast a spell in my life before I came to Oz—because whatever magic Kansas supposedly contained, I had no idea how to tap into it—or if I even could. The Wizard had insisted Oz was pulling its magic out of the very dirt of Kansas, but Dorothy and I were out of luck. We were back in a world where we didn’t have magic. And if Dorothy was completely powerless, so was I.
“Help us, Amy!” Nox yelled over the other witches’ chant.
“I can’t!” I said desperately, and his eyes widened in surprise. Dorothy’s body was beginning to glow with a pale light that slowly overwhelmed the pulsing from her shoes. But realization suddenly dawned in her eyes.
“We’re in Kansas,” she said, her voice hoarse and weak. “You brought me back to Kansas. And Ihate Kansas.” She struggled to her feet and the witches’ spell dimmed as her shoes began to glow even more fiercely. She flicked her fingers at us and scowled when her magic failed to appear. “I want my palace back,” she hissed. “And my power. And my dresses.” She looked down at the red shoes and they blazed with a brilliant crimson light.
“No!” Gert cried. “Stop her!” But the pale glow of the witches’ spell dissolved into a puff of iridescent glitter as Dorothy’s shoes radiated light and power. She wobbled a little, clearly exhausted. Her eyes were sunk deep in her skull. Her skin looked dry and stretched over the bones of her face. Her hair was lank and bedraggled.
“Take me home,” she whispered feebly. “Please, shoes, take me home.” Mombi lunged forward, her own hands radiating the light of a spell, but it was too late. With a flash of red and a sharp pop like a champagne cork shooting out of a bottle, Dorothy vanished.
Dorothy had gone home. And we were stuck in Kansas. For good.
Mombi and Glamora quickly conjured up a silk tent that, fragile as it looked, kept out the dust and the relentless Kansas wind. I hadn’t seen much of Glamora lately, and her resemblance to her sister Glinda startled me all over again when I first saw her in the gentle glow of the strands of lights she strung up inside the tent. In a flash, the memory of the time I’d spent with her in the Order’s underground caverns came flooding back: her lessons on the art of glamour, her love of beautiful things, and the intense determination in her face when she told me about what Glinda had done to her. She’d nearly lost that first battle with her sister, and I knew how badly she wanted to bring Glinda down. But it still shocked me how close to impossible it was to tell the sisters apart. I’d seen more than enough of Glinda in action for her sister’s face to creep me out a little, no matter how much I knew Glamora was on the side of the Wicked. The thing I needed to figure out now, I was realizing, was how much the Wicked were on the side of me.
I tried getting Mombi, Glamora, and Gert to answer my frantic questions, but they ignored me as they bustled around our temporary home plumping cushions and pulling dishes and silverware out of thin air. “What just happened?” I hissed at Nox. He gave me a helpless look, and I wanted to smack him.
“There was too much to tell you, Amy. You know the Order has always had to keep secrets to survive.” I shook my head in disgust. When had anyone ever told me the whole truth? I’d thought I could trust Nox at least. Clearly, I’d been wrong. I was furious. More than that, I was hurt. Nox and I weren’t just soldiers who fought together anymore. My feelings for him were way more complicated than that—and I’d thought he cared about me.
“Amy, talk to me,” he said. “Please.”
“Forget it,” I snapped.
Glamora being Glamora, she’d also summoned a Pottery Barn’s worth of beautiful, soft carpets, heavy throw pillows, decorative tapestries, and a big antique-looking wooden table where the witches were conjuring up a meal. I remembered the handkerchief that Lulu had given me—the one that had created Glinda’s version of the same tent. In some ways, the sisters were uncannily alike. Glamora’s special touches even included the same votive candles and arrangements of flowers as Glinda’s. I wondered, not for the first time, how two people so alike could have possibly turned out so different. Were there other ways the sisters were similar? I’d thought foolishly that I’d been safe in Glinda’s tent. Maybe Glamora’s was just as dangerous.
“Amy,” Glamora said gently, “why don’t you come get something to eat?” I ignored the expression on Nox’s face as I turned my back on him and followed her to the table. What did he expect from me? The silk of the tent rustled and I knew he’d slipped outside, which made me even angrier. It was bad enough that he hadn’t told me what was going on. But refusing to face me afterward? That was worse.
Mombi, Gert, and Glamora were already sitting around the table over plates of food. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d eaten, but I wasn’t hungry.
“How can you just sit there?” I exploded. “How is Gert still alive? What just happened back there? What are we doing in Kansas, and how do we get back to Oz? This is Kansas, right? Is that why I can’t use magic?” Mombi put down her fork and looked at me.
“You can’t use magic?”
“No,” I said. “Not here. It’s just . . . gone, somehow. But that’s not the point. You owe me answers.”
Gert sighed. “You’re right, it’s probably time.”
“It’s way past time,” I said.
Gert chuckled. “That’s my girl. No beating around the bush, our Amy.”
“I’m not anybody’s girl,” I said. “I’m tired of being jerked around. You obviously know a lot more than I do about what’s going on here.”
“That’s not entirely true,” Gert said. “But I do understand your confusion, and I’m sorry you feel hurt. I know all this has been difficult for you.”
“It would be a lot less difficult for me if you would just tell me what the hell is going on!” I yelled. I’d been through so much, and still hadn’t managed to kill Dorothy. Tears started to fall and I cried. I cried because Nox, possibly my only friend, probably wasn’t such a great friend after all. I cried for poor Polychrome, who’d I’d watched die trying to fight Glinda, and I cried for her dead unicorn. I cried for Star, my mom’s pet rat, who the Lion had swallowed whole in front of me. I cried for all the friends I’d lost already in this stupid, senseless, never-ending yellow brick war. And maybe, just maybe, I cried a little for myself, too. When I was done I lifted my tearstained face to find Gert, Glamora, and Mombi looking at me with eyes full of concern. I’d doubted them all, and for good reason. I was more than tired of doing other people’s dirty work. But maybe they really did care about me.
“You done?” Mombi asked, gruffly but not unkindly. “Because we have work to do, kid.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, embarrassment already beginning to replace my outburst of emotion.
Mombi waved a hand at Gert. “Tell her what she wants to know so we can get on with it,” she said.
Gert looked at me questioningly, and I nodded. “Okay, let’s start with the easy question first. You asked how I’m still alive,” she said. “The truth is, I never died.”
If that was the easy question, I couldn’t wait for the hard ones. “But I saw you,” I said. “I saw you when you died, right in the middle of the first battle I ever fought.” I pushed back the gruesome memory of my first meeting with the Lion and his awful animal army. Like a lot of things that had happened to me in Oz, it was something I never wanted to think about again. “I saw you fight the Lion, and lose. It happened right in front of me.”
“You did see that,” she agreed. “And I did lose, there’s no doubt about that either.” She shuddered briefly and closed her eyes as if in pain. I wasn’t in a mood to be sympathetic to the Order, but it was hard to stay mad at Gert. It was like holding a grudge against your grandmother for accidentally burning your favorite cookies. “But witches are very, very difficult to kill,” she went on, opening her eyes again. “Even in a battle like that one. I’m honestly not entirely sure what happened to me when the Lion defeated me. The best guess I can come up with is that Dorothy’s magic is weakening the boundaries between your world and ours. When the Lion won, everything went dark for me for a long time. It was as though I was wandering through some kind of shadow country.”
“The Darklands?” I interrupted, and Gert looked surprised. I realized that the first time I’d used my magic to find my way into that spooky, desolate parallel universe was after Gert died—or didn’t die. Whatever. Gert didn’t know I knew about the Darklands.
“She can get there, too,” Mombi explained curtly. Gert nodded.
“Your magic has grown considerably since last I saw you, Amy,” Gert said. “Anyway, no—I wasn’t in the Darklands, I don’t think. There’s a lot we don’t know about that place. As far as I know I was here, in this clearing, the whole time.”
It took me a second to realize she meant Dusty Acres. “You were in the trailer park?” I asked.
Gert looked confused. “I don’t know what that is,” she said. “But I couldn’t leave this area, no. I’d start out in one direction and somehow, without even realizing it, I’d be exactly back where I began, no matter how far I walked. I couldn’t touch anything—no matter how far I stretched, everything was just out of reach. I didn’t see any other people—not so much as a bird or a beetle.” She looked sad and incredibly old. “It was awful,” she said gruffly. “It took me a long time to regain any strength, and I’m still much weaker than I was before. But eventually, my magic was strong enough for me to get a message to Mombi and Glamora. They used the breakdown between the worlds to join me here. We had some idea the Wizard would try to use you to open a portal back to Kansas, and we knew the doorway would be in this place, so we came here to wait for you.”
“You knew the Wizard wanted to kill me—to use me to open a portal back to Kansas—and you didn’t stop him?” I asked angrily.
“Gert was next to useless,” Mombi said bluntly. “I’m pretty weak myself. The three of us weren’t strong enough to stop the Wizard outright. But we knew if Nox joined us and completed the circle, we’d be powerful enough to defeat him and Dorothy.”
“Wait, back up,” I said. “What circle? Does this have to do with what happened out there?” And if they were powerful enough to defeat the Wizard and Dorothy with Nox helping them, why had they ever needed me in the first place?
“You already know about the balance of power in Oz,” Gert said, and I remembered her uncanny trick of reading minds. “Oz depends on magic to survive, and no one person can tap too heavily into it without harming Oz. That balance is part of what the Order was trying to maintain. There have always been four witches—one each in the North, the South, the East, and the West. But that balance has been out of whack since Dorothy’s first visit to Oz, and it’s even more out of line now. When Dorothy’s house killed the Wicked Witch of the East, she opened up a vacuum that no one was strong enough to fill.”
“I still don’t understand,” I said.
“We’ve been trying to defeat Dorothy by fighting one battle at a time, but that’s like trying to put out a forest fire by hauling water in a bucket,” Mombi said. “The Order has been scattered across Oz. Half the soldiers you trained with back in the caverns are dead. Others . . .” She shrugged. “We know where some of them are, but we’re too spread out to do any good anymore. What we did out there”—she waved vaguely at the ruins of the place where I’d lived since my mom slid into her downward spiral of addiction—“was make Nox into one of us. The Wicked Witch of the East, essentially.”
“By restoring the Quadrant, we’re finally strong enough to kill Dorothy,” Glamora said. “We had all our hopes pinned on you—”
“But I can’t kill Dorothy,” I said slowly. “Because we’re linked somehow. So you have to do it yourselves.”
“Not to mention the fact that Dorothy just teleported herself back to Oz and we’re stuck here.”
Mombi nodded again.
I sighed and put my head in my hands. I was getting really sick of witches. “If you knew all along that you could make Nox into one of you, why didn’t you do it sooner? Why didn’t youtell me?”
“Because once Nox is bound to the Quadrant, he’s in for life,” Gert said. “There’s no hope for him to ever be anything else. We didn’t tell you—he didn’t tell you—because we hoped it would never come to this. We’re older than you can imagine, Amy, and for us the sacrifice is—well, it’s done. There’s no going back for any of us. But this is a terrible fate to wish on someone as young as Nox.”
“He can never live a normal life,” Glamora said quietly. “Like us, he’s responsible now for the future of Oz. He can never have a family. Grow old like an ordinary person.”
“Fall in love,” Mombi added, with a significant look at me.
“He can fall in love,” Gert corrected. “He just can’t do anything about it.” She paused. “Of course you still have a place with us, if you want it. But we’re in Kansas, Amy. We’ll find a way to get back to Oz. And once we’re there, we can defeat Dorothy without you. You can go home.”
Home. I could go home. It struck me suddenly that I was in Kansas—and I could stay here.
Home was something I hadn’t thought about in a long time. I didn’t know what Oz was to me anymore. When I first got there, I had thought it was a place where I could finally belong. A place where I had found friends. Then it had become something else entirely.
But had Kansas ever been home either? What was I going to go back to? My mom was gone—who knew if she was even alive. I hadn’t exactly been Miss Popularity at Dwight D. Eisenhower Senior High. The trailer where I’d lived with my mom wasn’t a place I ever wanted to see again—and even if I did, it was long gone. Home might not be Oz, but it sure wasn’t the empty, ruined landscape outside the tent the witches had conjured up. And I’d been through so much in Oz, seen so much, that I couldn’t even imagine going back to a normal life. I’d learned how to do things I hadn’t even known were possible in a completely new world I hadn’t known was real. I’d battled some of the most terrifying enemies imaginable. I’d flown with monkeys, hung out with royalty, killed Dorothy’s baddest minions. What was I going to do next, get a job at the mall?
“It’s up to you, Amy,” Gert said, reading my mind again and pulling me back into the moment. “You don’t have to decide right now. But you do need to decide if you want to help us get back to Oz.”
“Okay,” I said slowly. “So we’re not stuck here forever? What’s your plan?”
Gert sighed. “It’s not going to be easy,” she said. “Even with Nox as part of the circle now, we’re not powerful enough to open a portal back to Oz. The Wizard was only able to do it because he had the magical gifts he’d given to the Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Woodman.” I tried not to think about that last, awful glimpse of the Wizard exploding into blood confetti as Dorothy twisted his spell. “But we do have an idea.”
Of course they did—yet another top-secret plan they only decided to clue me in on when they felt like it? I sighed, and Gert gave me a sympathetic smile. “Okay, let’s hear it,” I said, settling back into a pile of Glamora’s cushions. They even smelled heavenly—like the way the makeup counter at a mall smells, kind of glamorous and relaxing all at once.
“You remember Dorothy’s shoes,” Glamora began.
“Yeah, not likely to forget those,” I said.
“Not the shoes she has now,” Gert said. “Dorothy’s original shoes.”
I stared at them. “Wait, what do you mean her original shoes? Like, the ‘no place like home’ ones? Those are real, too?” I almost started laughing. What was I thinking? Of course they were real. If Oz was real, why not Dorothy’s magic silver shoes?
“The first time Dorothy came to Oz,” Glamora explained, “she didn’t want to stay for good.”
“If only she’d never returned,” Gert sighed.
“My sister, Glinda, sent her home with a pair of enchanted silver shoes—the predecessors to the pair that brought her back here a second time. Dorothy always assumed they’d been lost when she crossed the Deadly Desert, and though she tried to find them again, she was never able to.” I wasn’t sure how to explain to Glamora that all this Ozian history was a series of classic books—not to mention a hit movie—in Kansas, so I didn’t bother trying. “But what if the shoes are still here?”
“Here, like Kansas?”
“She means here here,” Mombi said. “Where Dorothy’s farm used to be.”
“Dorothy’s farm used to be in Dusty Acres?” I asked.
“Not exactly,” Glamora said. “Dorothy’s farm used to be in the exact spot where your school is sitting right now.”
“High school,” Gert prompted. She looked at me with her eyebrows raised. “Barbaric system, really. Oz’s method of apprenticeship is vastly superior.”
Were they serious? Dwight D. Eisenhower Senior High had somehow been sheltering the long-lost magic silver shoes of Oz this whole time? It was almost too much. If only Madison Pen-dleton had known that when she’d done her book report on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Not that she’d have needed anything extra to get her A+. Everybody loved Madison already. Everyone, that is, except for me. “How do you even know the shoes are still magic?” I asked. “What if they don’t work anymore? What if they only go one way, from Oz back to the Other—um, back to Kansas?”
Mombi sighed. “You’re right. It’s a long shot. But it’s the only shot we have. We have to take the chance.”
“Okay,” I said, “so you guys find the shoes. Then what?”
“Amy,” Glamora said, “we’re not going to find the shoes. If you agree to help us, you are.”
“But I don’t understand how,” I argued. “I mean, my magic doesn’t work here any better than yours does. Why can’t you find them without me?”
“Because they’re in your high school,” Gert said. “It would look a little funny if three old ladies and a teenage boy showed up for class in the middle of the school year, don’t you think? Consider it an undercover mission.” She beamed. “To tell you the truth, you’re our only hope at this point. If you want to help us get back to Oz, you have to go back to high school.”