If he knew any better, Kaliko would most likely suspect his co-conspirator
had turned double agent. That is, Sirenna was purposely thwarting the invasion
scheme. Well, that was true, but since Kaliko was a greedy, grasping sort, and
rather dull sort, he bought wholeheartedly the bear's explanation as to his
mistress' lengthy absence.
The former Chief Steward to the Nome King once known as Roquat the Red and now since renamed Ruggedo, Kaliko, a tall, lanky fellow, paced the floor of the secret compound's command center. He was worried, and justifiably so. Sirenna had been gone several days, and Kaliko was getting quite nervous.
He fathomed many reasons he ever agreed to go team up with Sirenna, a minor sorceress whose powers were no where near those of Ozma or Glinda. Oh yes, to gain a plum position in the New Oz Order for himself, at least that is what the shadowy "boss" of the invasion plot promised. Too many times Kaliko's dreams of taking over Oz for himself were dashed, and he blamed Dorothy, the Wizard, and Ozma for these failures. To him, they were reason enough to crush Oz once and for all. Oh, he could have been content to continue as King of the Nomes, but he wanted more. So he agreed to assist Sirenna in the Great Oz Coup.
Kaliko still paced nervously, sweeping his long bony fingers through a great
shock of dark hair. The army was complete but had yet to be activated; the only
thing to do was wait until she gave the order to attack. Like Sirenna, Kaliko
wondered why this woman wanted to wait so long, and it worried him the longer the
invasion is put off, the more difficult it may be to secure victory.
Now, Kaliko, as Sirenna, knew killing Ozites was next to impossible. The citizens of Oz do not die, though some can sustain serious injury, and Kaliko pondered if the Dark One even knew this fact. All he and his co-conspirator heard from the Dark One was, "Level Oz to the ground. Leave nothing standing. Take as many prisoners as necessary, then wait for further orders."
"This is insane," Kaliko said out loud to the empty chamber. "No, not the invasion itself, but the reasons behind it. No one has yet to reveal why this woman wants Oz blasted to oblivion. My guess is Sirenna knows, but she has yet to share with me. Drat that bear! Surely he knows his mistress' whereabouts, and she's definitely not gone to the Kingdom of Gargoyles or Ev or anywhere within Nonestica, for my own spies have confirmed such. So where is she? And where is that bear?"
As if right on cue, the Holonet receiver beeped. Ah, so the lady finally communicates. Perhaps she has more information from our leader...
No, much to Kaliko's chagrin, the image emanated was not Sirenna's; it was her. The Nome could tell as this woman always appeared in the shadows, never to show her face.
"Kaliko," she said, a tall woman whose face and figure was hidden by a heavy cloak, "our time is nearly at hand. You and Sirenna have done well. Now, dear friend, I need another favor from you, and you alone."
Kaliko gulped, saying nervously, his voice quavering, "From me? Wouldn't be best to ask Sirenna?"
The woman shook her shrouded head, replying, "No, not this time. I understand
you are a sorcerer of sorts, and I need this favor done now."
How long had it been since Kaliko performed the simplest of spells? Too long, and it pleased him that she so kindly asks.
"Whatever you request, I can fulfill," he answered loftily, his pride and
swagger returning full force. However, once he heard her out, he blanched. Is that
right? She wants me to perform that kind of spell? On her? Why?
She laughed weakly, saying, "Days ago, I felt a strange rumble in the Force. The one who could be our plot's undoing has begun training. If she succeeds, actually fulfills the ancient prophecy, our plans will be for naught. I don't want her harmed now; I will do that myself, when the time is right. But, I need to get inside Oz itself as soon as possible, mingle with those near to her. This is the reason for the spell. There are more, personal, reasons, but..."
The woman stopped talking, then, just before reaching to remove her hood,
continued more pointedly, "Call it revenge, Kaliko. I, like you, blame others for
failures. I didn't fulfill my mission as given to me by the Emperor himself. He
trusted me to turn more the dark side, and I continued that mission long after
Anakin Skywalker ended Palpatine's life thus killing the Empire. I had it all,
Kaliko, and had one Jedi right where I wanted him. But it was not to be."
Then, slowly lowering the hood, she said in couched anger, "Once I was very beautiful, a woman no man could resist. That's how I lured so many to the dark side, by charming then seducing all those hapless, unfortunate...Like young Kirel Tasou. But Luke Skywalker took away my beauty. See the damage he inflicted."
If he knew any better, Kaliko would have turned away, not gazing upon the ruined face, but one look took his breath away. After hearing her out, he agreed, "I will do this, Parva, but the spell will last so long. It will wear off the moment...Well, if it means that much to our plan..."
When night falls on Oz, the entire realm takes on a quiet calm, unless there is something special happening in Emerald City. Since the arrival of so many people from the Great Outside World, each bringing their own brand of fun and entertainment, Emerald City had taken on an atmosphere almost equal to the outside world's great urban centers, but without the usual troubles of those cities. On most nights, there was much to do: Dining out, theater, concerts, or just calling on friends for a pleasant evening. However, on this night, the city was calm; not too many people out and about as there was really not much to do, other than spend a quiet evening with family and friends, and listening to Radio OZ or watching WOZ-TV. Tonight, Oz's sole radio station played a special program of recorded music, and the TV – Well, in Oz, the TV station plays whatever programs the viewer wishes to see.
Alone in her private chambers, Princess Ozma preferred to spend her evening
listening to the radio and watching whatever was going on within her realm via the
Magic Picture. She was particularly interested in how Madeline was faring in her
Jedi training. It had been many weeks since the lady from Bloomington departed for
Quadling Country, to the Force Masters' compound, and Ozma wondered when the lady
would be ready to make the journey to the Jurassic Period, to the Great Valley to
reconnect with her dinosaurian family and convince those ancient beasts to relocate.
So much weighed on Ozma's mind such as more information transmitted via Major Spikeblade's spy droid. The grand army built by Kaliko and Sirenna was complete, but there was no more information on when and where the invasion would take place. As Queen Zixi intimated to Ozma the morning after the concert, said invasion may very well occur once the dinosaurs relocate. Another, more puzzling bit of information passed Ozma's way. The sorceress Sirenna had unexpectedly and inexplicably left Ix, and the bear Varan could not, would not, reveal the girl's whereabouts. All Varan could tell Zixi was Sirenna had a change of heart and had to leave Ix to, as she put it, "End this nonsense once and for all, and to put my family back together."
Varan also relayed that Sirenna was playing double agent, that is she appeared to cooperate with the Dark One but at the same time passing along vital information to Madeline. One piece of that information was on it's way to the Force Masters' compound: Fantine Brück's diary. Ozma knew very well Fantine née Talia Eldin was a Jedi Knight who, in wake of Order 66 and the Great Jedi Purge, fled to Earth, to Strasbourg circa February 1836. There she became involved in the music scene, met and married Robert Mendel two years later, then became a widow in less than two years of the wedding. In December 1840 Fantine married Helmut Brück née Bruno Dibon of the Naboo, another displaced Jedi Knight.
Ozma also learned, from Professor Wogglebug, that it was Fantine who deduced
how that space breach was opened by Dooku. Sound, pure sound, a series of six notes
played in reverse. Upon this discovery, and that there were more Jedi on Earth,
Fantine urged her husband to compose Auf der Sternen who in turn gave the
completed score to Elzire and Blanche Mendel.
Why them? From Wogglebug's research, some of the Mendels' distant ancestors had contact with the Earthbound Jedi. Those ancestors, Greek Jews to be more precise, had direct ties to an ancient priestess who also had ties to the first Earthbound Jedi to make contact with human civilization. Said priestess was also an ancestor of those young men Charlie spoke of earlier, the very youths who so mysteriously disappeared shortly after Maddie's best friend died in that car crash.
"I wonder why," Ozma ruminated, "if Eli or Zelda haven't divulged that part of their history. Surely, if that information could be used to help thwart the invasion...No, it can't be, for the first Jedi to make human contact was not even human. She was a Twi'lek, Ardana Zian of Ryloth. That priestess, the first human to behold Ardana, most certainly, by the Twi'lek's physical appearance, regarded Ardana as a goddess."
Shaking her head, Ozma returned her attention to the Magic Picture. Ah, what
is this? One of the dragons who reside in the nearby swamp brings things for Maddie.
The Force User Mariah gives Maddie those items, much to Deke's dismay. Madeline has
trained well, but Mariah sees the lady has been missing something of value. Ah, the
dragon brings one of her cellos, sheet music, and Fantine's diary. Apparently Mariah
and Rath, more intuited with the Force than the more dour Deke, noticed it, too. For
the moment Maddie plays, Rath senses the presence and asks, "He is standing next to
you, isn't he? And the Jedi are there as well."
Madeline glances to her right and beholds the Force Ghost of one the composers, one who became the displaced Jedi Helmut Brück's great friend. She looks at the Jedi and smiles...
Now that's funny. No one other than...How did she know to use that wondrous communicator? Again, Ozma shook her head in disbelief when the image of her caller took shape. To be sure, it was a dinosaur, an animal of tremendous size, elderly, stately in carriage and manner. At once, the fairy princess recognized this lady.
"Baylene?," she asked, "What has happened? You seldom use the communicator..."
The grande dame of the Nesting Grounds seemed worried, and rightly so, for what she relayed to Ozma was quite pertinent to the very situation weighing on the princess' mind.
"It is not myself, but another of our Herd. Ozma, how soon can Dorothy and Ojo escort us to Oz?" Baylene quite perturbed and beside herself, and Ozma worried about the old girl; it's not like Baylene to fret so.
"My dear Baylene," said Ozma in reassured tones, "Your Herd shall make the move within the next few days. Why the rush, dear?"
The old sauropod glanced at a still-sleeping Aladar and Eema. She was near tears upon saying, "It is the Herd as a whole, Ozma, but one of us...My dear, I only wanted to ask him about his family, that is all. I even persuaded him to glance into the mystic pool, something he swore he'd never do again. Ozma, I saw it. I saw what he beheld that day the Tasous left. And I think I've figured out what has perplexed this boy and why he won't divulge a thing about his family."Ozma nodded, replying, "I feel you are right, but may I show you something?"
No sooner had those words passed from Baylene's lips that an unusual hush
fell over Oz, the Nesting Grounds, and the Great Valley. It fell over neighborhoods
far and wide, from an elegant Westchester County estate to a subterranean hideaway
in Paris to the ruins of a temple somewhere near Mount Olympus. That hush was felt
as far away as Coruscant, in the Jedi Temple.
Not so silent, though, because, the music began to play again. By way of the airwaves, quite magically, those melodies wafted across time portals and into hearts and minds. If only the major's spy droid could have recorded those pertinent events in various places.
"One of my favorite arias. Nessun Dorma," the Wizard said to Wogglebug as
they listened to the program.
"Ah yes," said the highly magnified, thoroughly educated wogglebug, "It means "No one Sleeps'. Good Wizard, I believe not too many will sleep tonight, not as those in the story, but a most unsettling fog surrounds our near and dear."
The Wizard of Oz, fully comprehending the professor's metaphor, nodded in
agreement. In his mind's eye he could see the stage set, the various players. As
the tenor sings of a cold-hearted princess who must guess his name, and hopes she
will come to love him, several scenes unfold.
At the Force Masters' compound, Madeline Tasou makes the most of her training, despite Deke's unwarranted coldness and contempt. She reads Fantine's diary and realizes how much the Earthbound Jedi sacrificed for sheer survival.
In those ancient valleys, the dinosaurs come to grips with an uncertain future. Cera still questions those odd sleep stories, and Grandpa Longneck finally reveals to Bron his own troubling dreams. Is it possible Bren is still alive and will soon come home? Baylene and Eema peer into the pool, beholding once more the image that shocked the Herd's second-in-command. They see two figures approaching: one a young farm girl turned princess, the other a Munchkin prince. The Great Migration is at hand.
In the upscale New York suburbs, in an elegant mansion, the mistress of the house receives a late night visitor, one who divulges the exact location of something stolen then saved. At the same time, in Paris, in a basement hideaway, the last of a long lineage trains in ways of the Force, not knowing his fate has been foretold millions of years ago.
Then, a shadowy figure removes something from the ruined temple of Athena, an item that remained concealed beneath the altar for thousands of years, until now.
Luke Skywalker, meditating in the Jedi Temple, felt all these events, but one
stood out. One that deeply disturbed and confounded him. He senses a most unholy
alliance between the woman he supposedly defeated and one who only wants power and
glory for himself. That one does not fathom the consequences of his latest action.
He raises his wand and casts the spell...
Luke opens his eyes as a deep sense of dread comes over him. He now feels his father's presence.
"As it was foretold," says Anakin Skywalker, "all the evil will die in the desert, but at a price. Luke, you must make haste to Oz. The Earthbound Jedi's future – and sheer existence – hangs in the balance."
Copyright©2007-2009 by PRP