The long ride to Sapphire City had given me some time to think. I didn’t like the distance that my sisters and I had allowed to come between us—especially with myself and El.
I vowed that once I got back to Munchkin Land, I was going to call them. Just because we had been separated by location didn’t mean we shouldn’t be just as close as we always had been.
Dorothy had also taken up a lot of my thoughts. I couldn’t understand the motives behind the violence. What did she hope to gain from all of this? It stood to reason that if I could just figure that out, I would be one step closer to finding her.
We didn’t get many visitors in Oz. And those of us that were born here never left. Some might say that is small minded thinking, but if you lived in wonderland, why would you ever leave?
Besides the fact that there were horrible fates that awaited travelers on every border. The Impassable Desert resided above Gillikin Country, my sister Mombi’s territory in the North. To the east of Munchkin Country was the Shifting Sands—nobody had ever made it out of there alive.
Underneath Quadling Country, where my youngest sister Glenda reigned, was the Great Sandy Waste. Beyond Winkle County to the west of El’s area, was the Deadly Desert.
I needed to ask Scarecrow how he came to Oz. I knew the reason—my father—but not the route.
I also couldn’t help but worry about Scarecrow’s inability to age. Could we have a future together if I grew old, but he didn’t? Would my father still help him if he knew we were dating? My father had wanted us to marry into royal families.
It was one of the biggest reasons he continued to let a twat like Prince Gregory to be familiar with me and my sisters.
Being able to change into the beast meant that he was a shifter of some sort, but not in the traditional sense of the word.
We had shifters in Oz. There was a pride of Lions that roamed part of Mombi’s lands. But he didn’t turn into an animal, just a heightened, scary version of himself.
There was also the magic that was only present when he was in beast form. Scarecrow wasn’t a witch. I felt that in my bones, and we witches can usually tell if there's another within ten miles, give or take a few.
But then, I hadn’t felt Dorothy either, and she had to be some type of witch.
All of these questions kept plaguing me as the countryside passed, virtually unnoticed by me. It wasn’t until we reached the walls of Sapphire City that I realized we had been riding for hours.
My legs were stiff, but I was getting used to the bike.
Scarecrow wrapped his arms around me as soon as he had deposited his helmet.
“Are you doing okay, Princess?”
His concerned toned washed over me as I melted against his large frame.
But he could sense that I wasn’t telling the complete truth. His finger tipped my chin up so that I could look into his eyes.
“What is this all about?”
The lines between my brows deepened, “It's nothing. Just worried about things that I can’t change, which I know is stupid.”
“We are going to catch Dorothy,” he promised and then after a slight pause added, “Are you worried about us?”
I flushed guiltily.
“Indy, I don’t have eyes for anyone but you,” Scarecrow said wearily.
“It’s not that,” I sighed. “I worry about what happens when I grow ugly and old and you remain,” I motioned to his sexy body, “perfect.”
I knew that he wanted to argue with me.
“Don’t tell me that you will love me no matter what because that will only make me mad,” I warned.
He laughed, “Okay, I will drop your ass the moment it gets soggy.”
I playfully punched at his chest, “That is a terrible thing to say!”
Scarecrow smirked, “How about we just tell people that I am into cougars?”
“Scarecrow!” I laughed smacking him once again.
“They say that women reach their prime later in life,” his eyes danced.
“Right,” I mocked, “Here Scarecrow, can you hold my walker while I grab the lube?”
He threw his head back and laughed, his face impossibly handsome in his amusement.
“I will just be happy that you are still allowing me access to all of this amazingness,” his hands squeezed my ass as he pulled me tighter against his muscular frame.
I sighed, “Will you be serious?”
He paused before answering in a normal tone, “I am serious, Indy. You are it for me. I don’t know how this is going to work out. I don’t know if your dad will shit bricks once he realizes I am boning his daughter. Nor do I know if something will take me out tomorrow. But I do know how I feel about you, and that isn’t changing.”
“Is this where the credits roll, and a sappy love song rings out across the audience as the lights come up?” the slightly sardonic tone washed over me.
I whipped out of Scarecrow’s arms to face him. He looked more like a hardened cowboy than a prince. His sandy curls had been bleached out by the sun, and his skin held a deep tan despite the almost chill in the air.
Gregory was seated upon his favorite horse. He was the only one that Indy knew still rode horseback.
“Just the royal we wished to see,” I muttered.
“It’s a pleasure to have you here,” his tone related the opposite. “Which twin do I have the honor of addressing?”
“If my sister were here, you would already be covered in boils or something equally charming to fit your lovely personality.”
“Ah,” his eyes brightened, “Bastinda, it has been too long. Might I escort you and Scarecrow inside of my beautiful city for some rest and refreshment? Once we are comfortable, we can discuss what brings you here.”
I hated to take anything from the wanker, but I was hungry.
“That is very kind of you,” I bit off.
Gregory’s eyes danced as if he knew how much those words had cost me.
“I am nothing but kindness,” he replied innocently.
“Yes,” I conceded, “Much like a scorpion or a viper?”
Scarecrow choked while smothering his laugh.
Gregory’s smile widened, “Always such a funny little thing. It’s a shame your magic never really settled in.”
And that is how Prince Gregory ended up with a severe case of gushing hemorrhoids while Scarecrow and I were tossed into the palace dungeon.
I have to admit that I was honestly shocked that my spell had worked. So, a part of me was thrilled when his skin started erupting.
Of course, this was not the way to engender peace, nor a way to get help out of the beggar.
But I did enjoy the horror in Gregory’s screams, so sue me.
Scarecrow and I had been placed in adjacent cells. I could hear him if I called out, but I hated not seeing him.
“So,” he said conversationally, “What now?”
A small smile formed on my face. I loved how Scarecrow took everything in stride, even my crazy, which was on full display today.
“Can you just ‘beast’ up and break out of here?” I asked hopefully.
His barked laugh was quick, “No, Indy, I can’t just—beast up.”
“How does it work?”
I heard him sigh and wondered if I had pressed too much.
“You don’t have to tell me,” I rapidly replied, “I'm just being a nosy bitch.”
“I don’t know how it works,” Scarecrow’s voice drifted over to me. “I have to be feeling extreme emotion, usually the darker, the better. The power must have come from my father, but since he never stuck around, I don’t know what it's called or even what species I could call myself. I've never met anyone remotely like myself, and I have been around for a long time.”
“How did my father find you?” I whispered back to him.
“That’s something that you will have to ask him, Princess.”
“How did you get to Oz?” I blurted out.
There was more silence.
Had I angered him?
“Scarecrow?” I asked hesitantly.
“Yeah,” he responded.
“Is it something that I shouldn’t know?”
“I would tell you anything you wanted to know about me, Indy. But some secrets aren't mine to share.”