Savage Land of Oz Part 6. The Wicked WitchPosted: September 2, 2012
Will the Land of Oz survive the return of the Wicked Witch of the West? Overnight, Oz’ most terrible foe has cast her spell over the land, conquering the Emerald City and leaving the rest to the tender mercies of her brutal allies. Last week, the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Lion and Prince Ozra entered the catacombs underneath the Emerald City, confronting the mysterious Iron Maiden. In the next part of this chronicle of a Savage Worlds RPG campaign played out over several weeks, the champions of Oz must overcome their greatest fear — or be enslaved to the Witch’s power.
The champions of Oz ventured deeper into the tunnels underneath the Emerald City. The Lion led the way, following the foul scent of Flying Monkeys and one other olfactory marker that was at once strange and familiar: the Wicked Witch of the West. As an instinctive reaction to counter his own fear, the Lion let his more aggressive, bestial nature dominate; he sniffed the air while moving forward on all fours, his tail wagging with nervous energy.
“How close are we?” the Tin Man asked.
“The Witch is near,” the Lion growled. “And those stinking monkeys.”
The group was startled by a loud and anguished shriek. They couldn’t make out the words. Maybe there weren’t any. Just a cry of pain and fear. When it sounded again, it was no less shocking.
“That’s my sister!” Prince Ozra exclaimed. “Queen Ozra! We are coming for you!” He rushed down the tunnel as quickly as his pudgy legs would carry him, soon getting ahead of the Lion.
“Wait up, you fool!” Scarecrow shouted after him. “We’ll lose the advantage of surprise.”
The Tin Man shrugged with a gentle grinding of his shoulder joints. “The Wicked Witch surely already knows we are here. It will make no difference whether we charge in or knock. Let us follow the brave Prince to the Witch’s lair.”
It didn’t take long for them to get to the source of the anguished cries. They entered a stone-walled dungeon with all manner of curious implements. This was no forge or factory.
“Torture chamber,” Scarecrow said. “Why is there a torture chamber in the palace?”
“I don’t know,” Prince Ozra said. “This isn’t supposed to be here. It must be the Witch’s creation.” They entered the main part of the chamber and encountered that which they simultaneously hunted and feared.
“Ah, the heroes of Oz have arrived,” the Wicked Witch said, punctuating her welcome with a cackle. “Lord Protector. The Wizard. The Lion. And even that fat, flatulent Prince. I expected you sooner. My clumsy ‘friends’ couldn’t have given you that much trouble.”
The sight of her gave them all a fright. She was precisely as they remembered her: sickly green skin and ugly elongated features, clothed in a billowy black dress and tall black hat. The Witch held a long wooden broom that they all knew could focus her power with deadly effect. She smiled at them… wickedly.
She stood next to a wall where Queen Ozra was chained. The monarch was barely conscious, bleeding from where a whip had cut into her body, bleeding through her silken white dress from court. At least she was still connected to all of her limbs. Perhaps the group had intervened before permanent damage was done.
Three Flying Monkeys crept about the chamber, smirking and gibbering at the rescuers. One held a whip — the one used to torment the Queen. The others bared their sharp fangs and claws.
“Foul witch!” Prince Ozra shouted. “You will die for this!”
The Tin Man had caught up and held the Prince back. Prince Ozra struggled, shouting at his friend. But the Tin Man knew it would be foolhardy to run at the Witch no bucket of water in sight. Having already subdued the rest of the city, the Witch’s magic would make short work of the doughy hero if he rushed in without thinking.
“You do well to fear my power,” the Witch said to them. “Indeed, this is the place where the ruling power of Ozra was first forged. Here in this stale dungeon, among the tools whose sole purpose is to instill pain and fear, is where your dynasty was begun. Their ghosts still cry out if you would listen.”
“Liar!” Prince Ozra roared. “You did this!”
The Witch nodded. “I have made use of these tools to show my power over your sister and her kingdom,” she said. “But the whips and chains and cruel traps you see about you were not my invention. Queen Ozra is much older than you, Prince; older than you know. Her claim to rule this land is founded on a mound of atrocities and a river of blood, whose memory was wiped clean by her enchantments. It is by this right of naked power that I claim this kingdom for my own. I rule here now.”
“The people of Oz will rise against you,” Prince Ozra said.
“They will get used to me, as they got used to their bloody Queen,” the Witch retorted. “Or not. If the Queen and I were to disappear, what new ruler would fill the void? Yes… all kingdoms need a ruler.”
“You want to bribe me with a crown already held by our royal dynasty?” Prince Ozra asked. “You would have me sit there, with my sister’s murderer wielding true power from behind the throne?”
“No, Prince,” the Witch said. “There is no need for the line of Ozra to continue, just as there is no need for me to disguise my true self anymore. I shall rule with a different face.” With that, the Witch tapped her broom upon the floor, causing an instant eruption of purple-black smoke around her. When the smoke dissipated, a surprising and familiar figure was left in her place.
“Dorothy!?” the Tin Man just barely choked out. The group was stunned into silence. The Flying Monkeys pounded the floor with glee, shrieking their delight.
“What the Dickens is going on here?” Scarecrow demanded. He looked on this apparition from their past with suspicion and horror. It looked like Dorothy, but different. Older, perhaps in her twenties? More beautiful than he remembered, but also more harsh. Her eyes had a mature worldliness and self-assurance that were unsettling. “You may have taken her form, but you cannot fool us.”
“I assure you that I am the Dorothy you knew,” she said, in a voice that was as alluring as it was unnerving. “Don’t you remember me at all?”
“But how?” the Tin Man blurted out. “Why?”
“The world beyond this one is a wicked and soul-destroying place,” Dorothy replied, looking into his eyes with purpose. “Dust and drought came to our little farm in Kansas. Our family fled to Chicago, but we could not escape the misery of the country in the hell of the city. I was powerless. Helpless. Forced to do terrible things to keep us all from sleeping in the streets in the dead of winter. I learned then what monsters ordinary men can be — so different from you magical beings of Oz.
“I was broken by the darkness of that time. I had begun to question the mere existence of this other world. I thought it a dream. But I met a man; a scientist, mocked and ostracized by his peers. A genius who had discovered a gateway between worlds, and much more. The man’s ingenuity rivaled that of the old Wizard of this land. He built wonders. He built living things out of scraps of metal…”
“My creator?” the Tin Man asked. “You met him?”
Dorothy nodded. “I’m afraid his heart was as corrupted as his mind was gifted. I used him to learn his secrets melding magic and science, to have power to rival the Wicked Witch of the West; power to never live in fear again. But I’m afraid this man outlived his usefulness.”
“So you killed him,” Scarecrow said.
Dorothy hesitated. “As I said, his heart was corrupted. It is better for your world that he is gone. As bloody as my return has been, he would have merely replicated the horrors of my world in yours.”
“You’ve brought horrors,” Scarecrow said. “A tyrant bear. A genocidal elemental. Death. Torture. And now you want us to just turn the keys to the kingdom over to you?”
“As far as the Winkies know, the Emerald City was attacked by the Wicked Witch of the West,” Dorothy said. “But they have fond memories of me. And of you. No one needs to know what truly happened here. All they need to know is that their Queen and descendants are dead, that the heroic Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow have avenged their deaths by defeating the Wicked Witch — and that out of this time of grief and mourning will come a new age: the Kingdom of Dorothy, vouched for by the decorated heroes who she loves with all her heart.”
“And if we don’t go along with this plot?” Scarecrow asked.
“Then only the Wicked Witch remains,” Dorothy answered. “It would be sad if you heroes could not play a part in the new regime.”
“I think we know what our choice is, then,” Scarecrow said. “We all loved you, Dorothy. But you’ve really grown up to be an awful bitch.”
Dorothy seemed truly struck by the Scarecrow’s words. But her face hardened again. “That’s ‘Witch’, you talking bag of straw,” she replied. “Besides, I think you’ll find that your friends have different ideas about where their hearts should lead them.”
Scarecrow looked to Prince Ozra, who looked back at him with apprehension. Now they noticed that the Tin Man and the Lion seemed to be stuck like statues. In the next moment, they looked on their comrades with hollow, mad eyes.
“Sneaky woman,” Scarecrow said to his fat friend. “Prince, she made them her Puppets while she was giving that nice little speech. I hope you’ve got some magic puke left, because I don’t see any plants in here I can turn into killer vines.”
Prince Ozra shrugged. “I don’t think so. But I wonder if the Witch and our Flying Monkey friends would like to hear more about the history of the crest of the Ozra family that goes back 768 years to the era of…”
The Slumber spell took full effect on two of the advancing creatures. They promptly fell to the floor, cradling their heads in their hands and snoozing like cats on a sunny patch of carpet. Dorothy seemed stunned by the enchantment, but stayed on her feet. A magical circle of protection must have blunted the spell around her and the third beast, Scarecrow realized.
Unfortunately, that left their two possessed friends to contend with. Scarecrow squeaked out a cry for mercy as the Tin Man’s axe sliced part of his shirt open. Straw spilled out on the floor. Scarecrow was more surprised than hurt, but he knew he wouldn’t last long in a fight against the the Lord Protector. Prince Ozra was similarly dismayed to find the Lion’s claws shredding him like a defenseless pillow.
“Damnit, you bucket of bolts!” Scarecrow shouted at the Tin Man as he tried to find off more blows with the sword he’d purloined from the Iron Maiden. “Stop killing me! I’m your friend! Remember? ‘We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of…'”
“For Dorothy!” the Tin Man shouted, his voice a robotic perversion of its normal style. “My heart… my heart… Oh!”
Just as the Tin Man was about to deliver a killing blow to the Scarecrow, who had run out of running room, he paused. For a moment, his eyes seemed to gain clarity, before blurring once again. Clearly, he was fighting Dorothy’s control. His body contorted and froze as if he’d neglected his oil can for months.
Meanwhile, Prince Ozra was faring not so well against the Lion. The third Winged Monkey had joined in on the action, biting at his head while the Lion kept slashing away with swipes that could tear an ordinary Winkie to bits. “Don’t you remember me at all, Lion?” the Prince said while fending off an odd slash or two with a swish of the Iron Maiden’s other sword. “We have fought against evil together! You must remember!”
In response, the Lion roared and bit deeply into the Prince’s arm. Blood sprayed, driving the Monkey into a further frenzy.
The Prince gasped from the pain as a pocket of bad air in his guts released involuntarily. The Lion released his grip and stopped in his tracks, disgusted, yet awakened from his hypnotic trance.
The Lion felt the Flying Monkey try to climb over him to get at Prince Ozra. He whacked the creature with one of its powerful paws, causing it to fall off balance, right into the spot where the Prince had balanced his sword upon the ground.
The last of the Flying Monkeys was dealt with. Prince Ozra scraped himself up off the ground to behold their main opponent as Scarecrow jumped around the frozen Tin Man to the center of the room.
“Give up this pointless fight,” Dorothy cried to them. “Let us rule Oz together! Don’t you know that I love you?”
The Lion leapt at her.
A ball of fire erupted from her broom as he was in mid-flight, but her aim was off; it careened off to the back of the room, only causing Scarecrow to dodge in horror. The flames licked at his head — he madly slapped at his own scalp to put out any lingering sparks.
She hadn’t expected the Lion’s betrayal, or known that he could move so fast if put to the test. The beast ignored the flame and brought his terrible claws to bear. Only Dorothy’s automatic magical defenses prevented him from tearing her to bits right there. Her eyes glowed red now. Her hands lit up with magical flame…
The Tin Man could only watch in anguish and horror as the Lion and Dorothy were locked in combat. “My heart! My heart…”
Prince Ozra staggered over to him, barely able to stay on his feet. “Lord Protector! You must do something. This isn’t the Dorothy you knew! She is the Wicked Witch!”
The Lion bit and clawed at the woman without effect. He roared with anger — but when Dorothy let her flame singe his mane, he roared in panic. He bounded back, surprised by the deadly look in her eye. She saw the heroes group together, the Tin Man finally taking his first steps towards Dorothy, the axe held in a battle stance. His face was contorted with emotions he could not understand. Tears fell as he raised his axe.
Dorothy backed away from the Tin Man, understanding his intent. She saw the pain and fear she had caused the Lion and Scarecrow. Her eyes narrowed to furious slits. “You have rejected me. I see now. So be it. I’ll get you, my pretties… next time.”
As the Tin Man closed with his axe, there was another burst of purple-black smoke. When the dark cloud dissipated in the next instant, Dorothy was gone.
The Tin Man seemed to collapse, barely staying up on one knee. More tears streamed from him. Meanwhile, Prince Ozra went to his sister and freed her from the chains that bound her. She was conscious, barely. “Brother, you have saved me,” she said.
“Not I alone,” Prince Ozra said. “The true champions of Oz were beside me.”
“Your Queen acknowledges your… heroism.” She fainted in his arms.
With the Witch gone, her power that controlled the guardsmen vanished. A full search of the palace for her or any more of her allies was undertaken, but no one found a scrap of a clue to her whereabouts.
As a time of normalcy returned to the Emerald City, the Queen undertook to award the heroes honors for their great bravery and quick action in a time of national emergency. The celebration was drawing to a close when the Scarecrow took Prince Ozra aside. “I see your sister has seen fit to keep most disclosure of our recent emergency to a minimum.”
“She says the truth would frighten and confuse them,” Prince Ozra said. “All they need to know is that the Witch came back… and she was defeated. We don’t want to spread doom and gloom among the people.”
“With no mention of Dorothy or the rest of it,” Scarecrow said.
“I don’t always know what she’s thinking,” Prince Ozra said. “But she’s always been smarter than me.”
“Don’t be so sure, Prince,” Scarecrow said, looking on his Queen. “Some of us might just be too smart for our own good.”