Chapter 40: Oz’s True Goal
Read all the chapters here. Enjoy!
Previously: After learning the location of one of the devastating spell’s crystals, Madnes and the group with him entered the forest and found the crowv village where it must be hiding. But in the midst of investigating, a new mystery arose: a mysterious illness that has been following crowv villages for years. They call it “bad luck” if you venture outside the village perimeters where it lurks. But what is it, and how does it follow the crowv? Madnes Hatter and the prince must find out. But the two former friends can’t stop fighting, and now they’ve fallen through a sinkhole opening in the ground beneath them…
Everything was black. Air rushing…falling…impact with ground driving air out his lungs. The crumbling of a waterfall of dirt filled his ears, and what must be rocks and soil pelted his back. Using the brim of his hat to shield his eyes, he tried to adjust to the encompassing darkness. From a faint glow of light opened by the sinkhole above, he could make out what looked like a tunnel stretching away into the dark. He crawled towards it, gaining his bearings that he’d fallen through the collapsed portion of an underground tunnel—man-made, by the tall, rectangular contour of it.
A dark shape crawled up beside him. Oz shook off dirt from his wings before folding them into his back—gone as if magic. “What is a tunnel doing here?” he surveyed.
“My question exactly.” Madnes pushed up on his feet, and coughed in a cloud of dirt as he did. “Time to go exploring!” he said, and started into a jog down the dark tunnel. Not to be outdone, Oz rushed after him, dust wafting.
It was difficult but soon his night vision kicked in—perhaps another gift from being the Madness Solver. The dirt soon gave way to a hard, metallic surface, and their shoes clinked off it with every step. The quiet walk alone with Oz was a chance to finish what he’d been meaning to say. “I’m angry with you, Oz, and I won’t forgive the things you did,” Madnes said, “But I’m also worried about you.”
“Here you go again,” Oz sighed irritably. “Can’t we walk in silence?”
“Has some form of darkness taken hold of you, Oz? Is that why you’ve changed, and seek power?” Madnes persisted.
“Darkness? You mean that syn fairytale?” Oz laughed coldly. “Typical Madnes Hatter. Blame it on some mysterious force, because it can’t possibly be anything else.”
“Then what did change you? And don’t say it was just my fault.”
“…I don’t think I changed so much as I learned,” said Oz. “Learned the cold ways of cruel worlds. You can’t count on others, especially friends. They act like they’ll always be there for you, but when the time comes that you need them most, they vanish, walk away, leave you behind.”
Madnes rolled his eyes. “So you are blaming me.”
“No. I was able to grow up independent, become someone who doesn’t need to rely on others, thanks to you. What I do blame you for is not helping me find my real mother the day she went missing.”
“But I saw her! She was right there with you, looking and acting the same, except ill. You expected me to believe she was some fake robot, some replica?” Madnes stuffed his hands in his pockets.
“She was a fake, pretending to be ill and die. I know it wasn’t her…” Oz murmured harshly.
“Then what’s that got to do with seeking the Madness Solver power? Hurting my friends to get to me? You must realize that your father only wanted you to become the next Madness Solver so he could have that power—you—under his control, and not have someone like me out here ruining his plans.” Madnes tried to make him see sense.
“I have my own reasons for wanting it. It has nothing to do with the king.” Oz countered, raising his chin. “As for hurting your friends, it was the quickest way to make you use up your power. I know your secret; I know all about what will happen once the clock on your wrist turns full circle.”
“And you want that for yourself?” Madnes stared at him, incredulous. “You want to die young, like I will?”
“The end result is worth it,” Oz stated, marching on as Madnes’ steps faltered and slowed.
“That’s it…” Madnes halted, staring after the crowv prince with sudden realization. “That’s what you’ve been doing, all this time.”
Oz paused, and turned half way to look back at him, gaze icy but with a hint of wariness beneath the surface.
“You’re still looking for her.” Madnes voiced. “You believe your mother is still alive, somewhere. That’s why you want this power.” Oz’s mouth opened, jaw going slack, the whites of his eyes wide, and Madnes knew he’d hit the mark.
A frosty mask made Oz expressionless once more, and the prince marched on.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Madnes exclaimed; this was unbelievable. “Instead of hurting friends, damaging a child for life, just to get my power, why didn’t you ask for my help?” He marched after him. “Did you think I wouldn’t listen or care?”
“As if I would,” barked Oz. “You didn’t believe me when I first told you my mother had been replaced by a fake. Why would you believe me years later? No, I don’t need help from others. I can solve my own problems.”
“You idiot.” Madnes caught up with him, rushing from behind and catching him with an arm hooked around the neck. Oz fought to get free, jabbing elbows back, but Madnes ignored the pain, holding him. “You cave-blind lollipop-headed idiot!” he growled. “If you had told me, back when we reunited, I would have believed you and been willing to help!”
“Yes, now that you’ve seen Wonderland, seen the impossible, you’re willing to believe your ex-best friend,” Oz spat.
“I’m sorry I was afraid, I’m sorry I chose not to believe you…I can’t change the past.” He admitted. “But I can do something now.” He suddenly let go, and Oz stumbled forward rubbing his collar. “I’m going to find your mother,” Madnes passed him by, “With or without you.”
He bolted into a run, shoes gliding soundlessly down the metallic tunnel, and Oz, breathless with shock, started after him. “What—wait! You can’t just—Madnesss!”
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This is my entry for this week’s #BlogBattle challenge by the wonderful author Rachael Ritchey, where the challenge is to write a short story based on that week’s chosen word. This week’s word was: “Lollipop.” Check out the link, read other great stories there, and VOTE for your favorite 3 to win!
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