XVII - No Place Like Home…and Oz
Princess Dorothy’s eyebrow quirked in curiosity. “Two rituals?”
Glinda nodded, smiling as she sipped from a cup of tea in the beautiful personal quarters of her own Royal Palace in the southern Quadling Country. “One was performed by the Princess Ozma to reverse the Yookoohoo enchantment laid upon you, Dorothy. Your bunny form has been conferred upon Plummage Bratprince, who is currently being trained in the duties of a seamstress in Bunnybury.”
Dorothy blinked in surprise. “Wow!”
“Least he’s not in Byzantia.” Wendy mused.
Glinda turned to the Texas girl, who was now wearing a comfortable green blouse, and black slacks. “I personally attended to your restoration, Wendy. The nature of powerful Yookoohoo enchantments is such that any form anyone is changed into cannot be undone through most means of magical restoration. One would need to be very, very powerful in the use of sorcery to be able to pass one’s transformation unto another, while restoring the form the affected person previously held. After everything you had done for Bunnybury…a domain I deeply care for, I might add…I felt you deserved the effort.”
Wendy smiled meekly, remembering what Ozma had told her days before. “Thank you, Glinda.”
“Serves that mean ol’ Yookoohoo right t’ become th’ mouse maid you used t’ be, Wendy!” Dorothy remarked.
“What about Malvagia’s magic, Glinda?” Wendy asked.
“If a Yookoohoo becomes the recipient of an alteration inflicted by another, that Yookoohoo permanently loses his or her transformation powers.” Glinda answered. “I assure you that Malvagia will cause no further trouble, and I hope she learns a valuable lesson in humility through her current situation.” Glinda then placed a hand upon the shoulder of the young princess from Kansas. “The Sawhorse is waiting for you outside, Dorothy. I believe you had wanted to return home? Ozma is ready to see to that.”
Dorothy nodded, smiling. She then turned to Wendy, stepping up to her. “Thanks so much for rescuin’ me, Wendy.” The two girls once again hugged tightly. “Are you goin’ back home too?” She then asked.
“Well…there’s someone I need t’ see first.” Wendy replied. She then kissed the younger girl’s forehead. “I hope I see you again sometime!”
“I hope so too!” Dorothy responded as she stepped towards the room’s exit. “G’bye, Wendy! G’bye, Glinda!”
Wendy and Glinda waved sweetly to the Kansas girl as Dorothy made her way back outside, where the Red Wagon…pulled by a single wooden steed called the Sawhorse, who closely resembled his namesake save for his equine features…waited for her.
Glinda then turned to Wendy Wylie. “Perhaps you can wait until the morning to say your goodbyes to Minerva, Wendy? We can easily arrange to have you stay here for the evening.”
After a moment of thought, Wendy nodded. “I’d like that, Glinda. Thank you.”
Glinda smiled. “Your room has already been prepared. The handmaiden outside my quarters will guide you to it.”
Wendy nodded again and began walking towards the exit. A thought occurred to her, and she stopped before reaching the door, turning back to the Good Witch of the South.
“Glinda…” Wendy hesitantly began. “…is Minerva in any trouble? I mean…has she done anythin’ wrong?”
Glinda looked puzzled. “Why would you think this, dear?”
“Well…after what she did t’ me. Her makin’ me a bunny girl an’ all.” Wendy answered.
“Ahh, yes…well, I’m sure you were told how I feel about unwanted alterations.” Glinda explained. “More often than not, such magic is used out of malice or to wicked ends, as Malvagia and Plummage had attempted. Minerva, on the other hand…well, she doesn’t cause too much trouble, and as much as she likes to think I don’t know about her, shall we say, questionable habits, ways, and means, she is certainly not as wicked as a certain pair of ambitiously evil witches our mutual friend from Kansas had dealt with not too long ago.”
“I like her, though.” Wendy softly admitted. “I…like workin’ for her.”
Glinda smiled. “I suppose, then, you would fit right in with the people of Oz, Wendy, most of whom work quite willingly without any conscious desire for compensation. Assuming, of course, that you wished to remain with us, rather than go back home?”
Wendy couldn’t answer that particular question. She just lowered her head quietly.
“Do you miss your foster parents, Wendy?”
The Texas girl remained silent.
“Do you think they miss you?” Glinda tenderly added.
Wendy knew that Glinda’s heart was in the right place when she asked, but she just didn’t have the words for people who were essentially good, but at the same time, neglectful. Caring more for the farm business than Wendy herself. Often leaving Wendy alone to watch over the farm, as they had done before Wendy chased the bunny thief who had led her to the sinkhole that took her to this perilous, but amazing realm.
Glinda gently placed a hand upon the Texas girl’s right cheek as she raised her head up. “If these are subjects you do not wish to discuss, I’ll completely understand, Wendy.”
“I’m sorry, Glinda.” Wendy finally replied. “I guess…I jus’ need t’ get some sleep.”
A smile once again appeared on Glinda’s lips. “Of course, dear.” She then rose to her feet. “In answer to your question, though? I think I should not have to worry about her, but that would be dependent on one thing.”
Wendy rose from her seat, looking curiously to Glinda. “What?”
Glinda was about to reply to this, but she stopped herself and shook her head. “Please…leave that for me to consider. We can talk about it again in the morning, if you wish.”
The Good Witch of the South then led a yawning Wendy to the waiting handmaiden outside, who guided the Texas girl to a very beautiful guest bedroom, within which was a very comfortable-looking bed with red and white silk sheets covering the soft mattresses and the plush pillow. A red and white quilt comforter was perfectly arranged upon the upper mattress. The entire room looked well-kept and brand new, as if Wendy was its very first guest.
Changing into the red silk nightclothes that had been left out for her, which fit perfectly, Wendy slipped under the comforters and pulled it over her, settling her head unto the pillow and taking a the deep, relaxing breath that preceded her quick lapse into a long and restful sleep.
It was admittedly difficult for her to dream of wondrous and mystical places, though, seeing as how she was actually in one.
Wendy nevertheless had a dreamless, but invigorating sleep.
Her eyes opened, her body fully rested, at around 6 a.m. the following morning.
There was only one thing on her mind as she dressed in the green outfit she was given at the Emerald City following her restoration. She wanted to return to Minerva Mulch. Even if she was still sleeping, she wanted to at least be there to surprise her when she rose from her slumber.
At the same time, however, she didn’t want to rouse anyone in Glinda’s palace that might still be sleeping.
As quietly as she could, she left her provided quarters and made her way to the palace entrance. Guards, who were among Glinda’s fifty handmaidens, said nothing as Wendy approached the entrance doors.
In fact, they courteously opened the doors to the palace as she neared them. Strange smiles were on both of their faces as Wendy passed them.
The doors slowly swung shut once the Texas girl was outside. Distancing herself from Glinda’s palace, she headed south, remembering that her home was near the edge of a forest.
Penetrating the edge of an expanse of forest she had found, she saw little in the way of active wildlife, and the action she did see was accompanied by voices that were not the sounds of monkeys or squirrels, but of entirely understandable human speech. They seemed to conduct business and personal concerns in much the same way humans did, and one of the foxes in the forest did stop to offer a passing greeting to Wendy, who smiled and nodded back in reply.
Her progress, however, was halted by the presence of a large, hungry-looking black-striped tiger that had spotted her. Wendy remembered that Dorothy was with a similar tiger during Ozma’s birthday celebration.
She had no way of knowing, however, if this was the same one. She did remember that that particular tiger…the Hungry Tiger, as he was called by Dorothy and her friends…had a red bow tied at his tail.
Much to Wendy’s relief, this tiger…who now padded over to her…had that same red bow on his tail.
“You smell familiar.” The Hungry Tiger noted as he stopped in front of Wendy and looked up to her.
“Huh?” Wendy then remembered that she had met the Tiger while she was still a bunny girl. “Oh! Uh…this is what I really look like.”
The Tiger nodded. “Wendy, right?”
“Yup, that’s me.” Wendy replied. “I’m tryin’ t’ find Minerva Mulch’s place. I…I wanna visit her.”
“Touchy witch, that one.” The Tiger remarked. “I’ll have Skitters guide you over.”
Skitters turned out to be a nervous, but well-traveled young squirrel. He agreed to the Tiger’s request, but noted that he did not want to get too close to the cottage, fearing the retribution of its occupant, who he knew to be a witch that did not like to be disturbed.
The journey lasted fifteen uneventful minutes, and the surroundings began to look familiar to the Texas girl, who now seemed entirely anxious to reunite with the witch she had enjoyed serving.
The hardest part, however, would be where she needed to say goodbye. No doubt Ozma wanted to send Wendy back home, after all…and if not Ozma, then certainly Glinda.
“There it is! There it is!” The jumpy squirrel indicated, gesturing towards the entirely familiar cottage, next to which a fresh patch of carrots were ripe and ready to be picked.
“Gotta go! Seeya!” Skitters then disappeared into the woods.
Wendy had to giggle over how cute the little squirrel sounded as he spoke his words, and once he had disappeared from sight, she turned to the cottage and began to approach it.
She figured she could take her time in visiting Minerva, perhaps spend the rest of the morning with her, and then make her way back to the Emerald City after lunch. She already dreaded the notion of having to go back and face the reality of returning to the Texas farmhouse, perhaps to deal with a thorough scolding from her foster parents over her disappearance.
When she was a few feet from the cottage door, it opened wide, and Minerva Mulch stepped out. Her eyes immediately fell on Wendy, who stopped in her tracks. The Texas girl noticed that the bunny witch had a wicker basket in one hand, the empty area of which had a white towel placed flat against the surface.
Wendy offered a meek smile, but Minerva’s face remained neutral as she stared back at the Texas girl who once served her.
A brief moment of silence followed.
Minerva then held the basket out to Wendy.
“They’re ready.” Minerva finally remarked, glancing to the ripe carrots. “Gather them up.”
Wendy hesitantly came forward, taking the basket. Her own expression remained neutral, but deep down inside, she couldn’t help but feel a little excited. “Yes, Miss Minerva.” She softly responded.
Wendy’s attention was entirely on the carrots she carefully pulled from the patch and placed upon the cloth surface of the basket, and so she did not see the slight smile on Minerva’s face as she pulled the door to her cottage shut behind her.
Once Wendy had them all, she went right for the cottage door without any sense of hesitation, going right to the water pump in the kitchen to rinse the soil residue from each and every one of the carrots. She made sure each of the carrots were completely clean, placing them back in the basket once she was done cleaning them, placing the carrots next to each other in a neat arrangement.
“Very good job, Wily Wendy.”
Wendy smiled as she turned to Minerva, who was now standing at the entrance to the kitchen, a slight smile upon her own bunny muzzle.
And one of her hands was behind her back.
Minerva’s free hand took the basket Wendy offered. “So…” Minerva began. “…you obviously missed me enough to want to say goodbye, didn’t you? Before you ran back home?”
Wendy couldn’t help but feel ashamed of herself, lowering her head a little. As much as she didn’t want to say goodbye, she was certain that neither Ozma, nor Glinda, would give her a choice.
“Well?” Minerva firmly added. “Is this what you were intending, Wily Wendy?”
With a sigh, she rose her head back up. “Yeth, Mith Minerva.”
Wendy blinked when she realized that her two front teeth had once again grown large. Her eyes went wide in her comprehension, her now furry hands going to her mouth.
Minerva widened her smile. “I can’t let you go, servant. I honestly can’t. I think both you and I know you’d be so much happier here. Even Ozma…and I suspect even Glinda…understood this.”
Wendy’s eyebrows raised high as her ears began growing long once again, gradually beginning their move to the top of her head. “Y…you talked t’ them?”
“Well, I had to do something while you were away in Bunnybury, yes?” Minerva replied, watching brown and white bunny fur cover Wendy’s skin once more. “Ozma came to see me personally. We talked about you for a good long time before we came to an agreement. I didn’t dare see Glinda, though…I prefer to stay clear of her if at all possible. But, I think if she really felt that you’d be happier back home, you would have risen from your bed in that Texas farmhouse this morning, rather than rise in a bed in the Emerald City.”
“Well, I…mmmh…” Wendy had to pause a moment, as her face was gradually pushing out to the small bunny muzzle she once had, her nose mutating its shape to the manner of anthropomorphic creature she was becoming, and already beginning its habitual bunny wiggle. “…I…came fromm…mmh…came f…from Glinda’th Palath.”
“Oh, really? She must have had more than a few gripes for what I did to you when you first arrived here.” Minerva mused, quickly moving forward to steady her beloved servant as she began to lose balance from the painless alterations her legs were magically going through. In so doing, the bunny witch pulled the rear waistline of her slacks down enough to allow the fluff of her white bunny tail to wiggle out unrestricted, brown fur blooming thickly around it, replacing the bare skin. “Did she say anything much about me, servant? Am I to expect some kind of punishment for what I did?”
Wendy’s ears were now full and fluffy…and floppy…on top of her head, her legs and feet fully digitigrade and her hands padded and furry, as she responded. “She told me that y’ needed one thing b’fore she’d thtop worryin’ ‘bout you.”
“Indeed, Wily Wendy.” Minerva nodded, stepping close enough to her bunny servant to wrap her own furry arms around her, looking tenderly into Wendy’s eyes. “And here you are. The one thing I needed.” The bunny witch tightened her hug, feeling a happy tear fall from her left eye. “Welcome home, Wily Wendy.”
Happy tears welled up in Wendy’s own eyes as she comfortably squeezed Minerva’s own furry torso.
The two furry occupants of Minerva’s cottage lingered the hug for nearly an hour, both of them happy to share the space of the humble cottage on the edge of the Quadling forest once more.
Later that evening, when Wendy once again settled into the bed that had been conjured for her, the bunny servant very much looking forward to the next day’s responsibilities, Minerva decided to sit at her comfortable seat by the inactive fireplace and contemplate the contentment fate had so unexpectedly brought her.
But at the same time, she had to revisit a previously-pondered mystery.
How was it that Minerva deserved Wendy?
Her mind drifted back to a past confrontation with Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, following the tragedy that followed her banishment from Bunnybury. She figured she would never again revisit the circumstances arising from that banishment.
In this moment…and just this once…she did.
During the respective tyrannies of the wicked witches in the east and the west lands, Minerva Mulch had a young daughter, who for the fact that she raised her in the southern lands and therefore benefitting from the protection of Glinda the Good, Minerva never imagined Lindsey Mulch would ever find herself in mortal danger.
Minerva, however, eventually accepted Lindsey’s repeated requests to teach her witchcraft, not realizing why.
Plummage was, of course, the reason both Minerva and Lindsey were exposed and banished, but it was Lindsey who realized that Plummage was in collusion with the Wicked Witch of the East.
However, the headstrong Lindsey’s well-meaning…and quite insistent…efforts to try and challenge the East Witch, in defiant response to their banishment, were tragically short-lived.
Although ultimately, Dorothy’s unexpected defeat of the East Witch denied Minerva the vengeance she never thought she had enough power to even attempt, Glinda made no secret of her sympathy towards Minerva for the void in the bunny witch’s soul inflicted by Lindsey’s passing.
And like Wendy, Lindsey enjoyed attending to her mother’s comforts. Enjoyed waiting on her hand and foot. Lindsey had no shame in being called her mother’s servant, even if Minerva would never dare call her own daughter such.
Glinda, however, had hinted at what fate eventually brought her. Truly, Wendy was the “one thing” the Good Witch of the South had cryptically mentioned.
And this one thing…Wily Wendy…had been essentially instrumental in avenging Lindsey’s death through the failure of Plummage’s conspiracy. The now former Chamberlain who had arranged for not only Minerva’s banishment, but Lindsey’s as well. The King had lifted the banishment out of sympathy for the grieving bunny witch when he learned of her daughter’s demise, but by then, Minerva chose never to return as a permanent resident of Bunnybury.
Rising from her chair, Minerva slowly and silently walked over to the room she had given Wendy, and lingered her gaze upon her bunny servant as she soundly slept.
A smile slowly formed on Minerva’s face as she continued to watch her sleep.
Before she retired to her own bed, however, she silently spoke to Wendy, the statements coming straight from her mended heart.
“Sweet dreams, Wily Wendy.” She gently remarked. “I love you.”
She feared those last three words would be difficult to openly admit, but the words came forth all too easily.
And she meant every word of it.
* * *
Glinda, entirely aware that Wendy slipped out of her palace on her own, consulted the Great Book of Records. Ozma went to the Magic Picture that morning, purely out of curiosity.
They both learned that Wendy was quick to resume the work Minerva had been tasking her bunny girl servant with, and they enjoyed a delicious breakfast Wendy had cooked up. Afterwards, Wendy sat with Minerva and shared all her adventures since the bunny witch had left her in the Emerald City, telling Minerva about the conspiracy, about the Yookoohoo, and about the thankfully short time she spent serving Malvagia. Logically, she went into her efforts to help restore the King to his rightful place at the throne, and the rescue of Dorothy Gale from her ‘puppet’ predicament.
“See?” Minerva mused, once her servant finished the story. “I knew there was a reason I called you Wily Wendy!”
Smiling with content over these occurrences, and relieved to see that everyone was happy once more, Glinda closed the Great Book of Records, and the princess Ozma neutralized the image in the Magic Picture.
And though it might seem odd to some, Minerva Mulch and Wily Wendy were themselves very much content from that point on. Minerva had her servant…and, in her own way, a daughter, for she considered her acceptance of Wendy as much an adoption as the real world would see it…and Wendy, who was now back in the servant’s outfit Minerva had given her when she first changed the Texas girl, found happiness living with someone she was entirely happy to serve. They had their own adventures in and around the land of Oz from time to time, and those only served to strengthen the bond of love and affection between them.
Both Glinda and Ozma were also curious, however, to find out how Wendy’s foster parents had reacted to her disappearance, and so consulted their respective means of scrying upon them.
Glinda read of how the Waldens had assumed that Wendy had run away, and neither of them found any trace of the sinkhole that had swallowed her up. Beyond this rationale, they made no effort to find out where Wendy had gone.
They had quite simply moved on with their lives in spite of Wendy’s departure.
Although both Glinda and Ozma found this somewhat casual disregard for the life of a young girl they had been entrusted to raising quite outrageous, they were at least content that Wendy Wylie was happy in her new life alongside Minerva Mulch…
…who, for the fact that she had a heroine of Bunnybury and a savior of Princess Dorothy Gale willingly and happily serving her, could now truly be considered the Proud Witch of Oz.
~ T H E E N D ~