CCC #114 - Voting Thread

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Follow the Red Brick Road!
Follow the Red Brick Road!

Okay, peeps, Wildvine asked me to do the voting thread. So, the theme this time the Red Brick Road- that other string of bricks that spirals alongside the Yellow Brick Road in The Wizard of Oz. We had to write a tale of it, and include at least one OC (Original Character, if you're new here [and welcome!]).

This one was a lot of fun. We've got four entries this time around, so let's get to it!

The voting rules:

  • READ the stories, PICK your favorite one, and CAST your VOTE!
  • If you wrote, you should vote! (It's just sporting)
  • No voting for yourself. (Also sporting)
  • The voting deadline is Sunday, December 12, 2021 at 11:59pm Greenwich Mean Time (click the link if you're unsure). That's 5 hours AHEAD OF New York time, so be aware! (Note for myself: 6:59am, Dec 12, NY time)
  • Remember: All are welcome to vote - writer or reader, and the winner gets to pick the next contest.

The stories:

Wildvine - Sister Goose in Oz

Sister Goose in Oz

In a faraway place called Oz by some, and the Fairylands by others, there was a mean wind a'blowing. It picked up dust to throw into people's eyes. It pushed bees off course just to spite them. It shooed away the clouds lest any respite from the heavy heat be found. It was not a tornado wind or anything near so dramatic and grand, but a hot wind that blew away contented thoughts and just made one sigh with the discomforting temperature.

Not many days long after this came- blown in with this wild tempest- a young woman riding an enormous flying-animal. It would later become identified as a 'goose,' albeit one of such remarkable dimensions. To my translation it was a goose through and through for all that. Just not a native creature to this Oz place. The young woman and her prize-winning bird came to a rather hard landing on the road of red bricks, missing all the semi-cushioning grass and meeting a less forgiving option. I confess for a moment my heart sank. I have a tender fondness for all manner of beasts, even those known to be irritable or pesty, and I knew next I would bear witness of this magnificent specimen becoming a broken bag of feathers- of the harsh landing. But of course I was not controlling or directing this vision, so I watched on.

Rest assured (if you are found to be like-minded) that fair goose was winded and bruised, the worst of it being a pained wing, hardly a trifle, but surely a mercy given the sheer degree of possibility in the theatrical dance of physics and delicate anatomy. The lady also took a heavy tumble, though she took it both more and less gracefully than her ridden companion. Better in that she immediately sprang to her boots, seemingly unhurt and ready to continue. Less so in that where the goose had taken the worst of it, they held a bit of dignity, whereas the woman apparently muttered several mysterious and short syllabled phrases beneath her breath. What precisely she said may be lost to the muses, but what she said next was much more clear.

"Good-ness! It is nice to have solid ground under me again!" Sister Goose stretched and bounced on her toes, attempting to get the tingles out of her legs. "I was afraid to think we would become some creepy bones in the dessert, hey Ozymandias?"

"Hauh-honk," *cough* "How," Ozymandias paused, and tried again. "where in Nonestica do we find ourselves now?"

"Certainly not the Kingdom of Dreams." Sister Goose removed her bent witch hat, and shook her head, her bright blue hair shimmering in the sun. "How is the wing? Not too journey-hindering I assume."

"Well, snide comments aside, it could be worse. We aren't flying out of here for a while though." Ozymandias attempted to brush road dust from his vest, then winced and gingerly folded his wing back into place. "Indeed this will be home for a little while."

Though not particularly pleased with this tumble of events, Ozymandias held his head high as the duo began to follow the red brick road, for want of nothing better to accomplish. Sister Goose chose to pout, her arms crossed over her small frame as her boots ka-lomp-ed down on the road. That was until she heard a small scream nearby her person. So close she thought momentarily it had came from herself, and paused mid-step.

"Mighty giant! Mercy on me and I will be your humblest servant!"

Moving her boot to the side she saw a beetle standing on its hind four legs, leaning on the tiniest cane, on the bricks before her. Sister Goose briefly entertained the cruel idea of stepping on the helpless creature just so someone would have a worse day than her. Perhaps sensing the moment slipping away, the bug quickly continued. "Hello, strange ambassadors! My kind call me Goway Fabulist. Allow me to be your loyal servant and guide in this mystery land, in trade for my tiny life."

The Insect wore a positively miniscule bowtie, granting it a regal look. "I am not known for my charity towards your sort," Sister Goose was always forward in conversation, 'but you are a curiosity to my eyes. I have not seen pests with wardrobe or malady. Tell me something of more entertainment than your bones 'neath my boot."

"Oh. Well, you know," Goway seemed to fumble for the best of words, "I've have only these four legs, so a cane helps." After a moment of inflection he hastily added "N-n-not that there's anything wrong with two legs! Seems very ineleg- ah- incomplex, I say. very streamlined, ma'am."

"Would it not be faster to use all your legs for scurrying?" Sister Goose said.

"You mean touch the road with my hands? I would be sick at the thought, if nature had granted me such an ability."

"Pardon our intrusion." The Goose interrupted before an argument could come about. "I am Ozymandias. This is Sister Goose, my master. Now your master if you are honoring your agreement." The giant bird lowered his generous neck, tilting his head to peek at the Beetle with one gold-ringed eye. "We are indeed strangers to this place. Is there a place you know which we may find lodge and comfort?"

"Not hardly," Goway said with heavy regret. "good strangers, you find yourself in the wild country, and a bad corner of the world at that. Where shadows draw blood and the screams echo for too long. You will find neither helping hands or friends on this road. Except myself, of course. I am a fellow sojourner on this road, you see."

"How wild?" Sister Goose demanded. "Are you meaning pagan rituals to the rainbow god, or the people of this land haven't discover handkerchiefs yet?"

"There were civil parts to be sure, once." The Beetle amended, "but fate has brought you to the Red Brick Road, a place that traveling ranks slightly more desirable than catching the plague, I'd say"

"And why would this place inspire such horror?" Sister Goose was skeptical.

"Because," Goway began to sound a bit impatient, "the Deathfather has cast an enchantment over the land, draining away color and magic over time, leaving people and Animals tired and washed out. But the strongest and most determined to survive are drawn to the Primary Roads of Yellow and Red. The strong magic of these roads holds off the power of the Deathfather."

"Well-"

"Also the Red Road was always a path beloved of bandits, so there's that as well."

"Is no one doing naught to oppose this 'Deathfather' person?"

"There was. The witches knew of his coming somehow, and a plan to build three primary icons that would banish the Deathfather. Three roads of red, yellow and blue. But people did not work with urgency, the Deathfather arrived, and now the Blue Brick Road will never be finished."

This was rather a lot of information for Sister Goose to take into her head in short order. "So, we find ourselves in a country beset by sorcery, which will eventually take any meaning or pleasure of life."

"But we landed in one of the least effected zones." Ozymandias added.

"Which will serve helpfully to prolong our eventual destruction." Sister Goose countered. "So we need to escape this doomed country."

"However we can't at present, so we must focus on survival for the long term-"

"I doubt the roads will last long past Christmas." Goway said sadly. "And I did so hope to be on the nice list this year, I've hardly been myself, even."

Sister Goose and Ozymandias paused mid-bicker. "Santa?" The girl said. "He comes here?"

"Yes. I was going to ask him for a better name. I don't care for this one." The Beetle replied.

"I could ask him to heal my wing." Ozymandias said.

"I doubt he has healing magic, and I wouldn't know if he has name magic. But you know what he does have?" Her eyes glinted with naughtiness. "A flying sleigh."

"What you are suggesting would surely put us on the naughty list forever." Ozymandias said.

"Better than the dead forever list." Sister Goose said.

"What? What's being connived here?" Goway sounded tried not to sound excited.

"We're going to survive until Christmas, then we're stealing Santa's sleigh and escape."

Mrmonster - The Witch of Brujaville: A Story of the Red Brick Road

The Witch of Brujaville: A Story of the Red Brick Road

By MrMonster

I came home from school hoping today would be the day, just like I always did.

Everyday, I went to school before my little sister Soarea even got up, and everyday, I’d come home hoping today was the day she’d finally be healed, that her body has finally defeated the venom coursing through her veins.

But on that day, the day my adventure began, I got the opposite of the good news I always hoped for; I came home to her looking more pale and sickly than ever.

“Hey sis.” I said as I came up to her bed to give her a hug. The only good part of her sickness was that it wasn’t contagious. If she were sick with some kind of disease, I couldn't even touch her, but you can’t catch venom.

My dad pulled me aside and said “James, I hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but I think it has. I need you and your little brother to pack your things, you’re both leaving as soon as possible.”

“What?” I asked.

“I’ve already explained to him, he’s already packing. There’s a town about two days walk from here, in the deserts on the outskirts of Oz, a town you can get to by following the Red Brick Road. There’s a witch, The Witch of Brujaville. You’ll know her when you see her, she’s over a hundred years old. Anyway, tell her your sister has been bitten by a donka-dribble spider, she’ll have medicine for that.”

“Father, are you really telling me that my sister’s illness has been treatable this whole time?” I asked angrily.

“Yes.” My father said. “But not easily, I’m afraid. The path down the red brick road is dangerous, and I can’t guarantee the witch will give you the cure. And even if she does, well, I’m not sure she’ll give it to you without a price.”

“Then I’ll bring money.” I said.

“Not that kind of price.” My dad replied. “If it were you or your brother, this quest wouldn’t be happening at all. But she’s the youngest; no younger child should ever have to die before their eldest siblings. Let alone a daughter.” My father explained. My father was usually direct when it came to important matters. He was very traditional; even from an early age, he gave me by far the most responsibility (both for myself and for my siblings) because I was the oldest, and because I was a male.

“Take my crossbow.” Father said. Now this was when I knew the mission truly was dangerous; my father depended on his crossbow, both for unicorn hunting and protection against the occasional backyard burglar out to steal from our potato trees or our dairy turkeys.

“How much do I need to pack?” I asked.

“Enough for two days.” He said. “It’ll take you two at least a day to get there, and another to make it back. Now what are you waiting for, get packing.”

It took me just twenty minutes to pack enough clothes and supplies for our journey. The one thing my dad kept stressing was to take water; not just for ourselves, but to barter with if we had to.

“Out there, water is worth its weight in gold.” My father explained to us. “And I do mean that literally.”

The more Phillip and I walked, the hotter and dryer the air became. It seemed like almost every hour, the heat rose by about ten degrees. By the time the sun started setting around six o’clock, it must’ve been in the nineties.

“We should setup camp for the night.” I said to Phillip. “We’ll continue in the morning.”

We found a nice, flat piece of desert ground to start pitching our tent. But while we did, something came over a hill and started walking towards us.

It was a giant lizard, about five feet tall and eight feet long. It was covered in orange and black scales. The most worrisome part was the look on its face, a look of hunger.

“Phillip, distract it for a second.” I said as I started loading the crossbow.

“Um, hey there.” Phillip shouted. Then he started running and doing a little dance to get it’s attention.

The beast then started coming towards him even faster, and Phillip said “Are you almost ready?”

“Yeah, just another second.” I said as I pulled back the levers. Now, I had a loaded and ready to fire crossbow. But I only had one shot, so I needed to aim.

I slowed my breath, took a second to aim, and right before the monster was about to kill Phillip, I fired. It was a bullseye, I took out the monster with a single shot.

“Okay, we are definitely sleeping in shifts.” Phillip said. “And since my heart is racing like a hummingbird’s right now, I guess I’ll take the first shift.”

While I was up for my watch shift, I made breakfast. That way, once Phillip woke up with the sunrise, we could have our beans, and be on our way.

After a few more hours of watching under the intense desert sun in the morning, we finally reached our destination, Brujaville, which was totally unlike any other town I’d ever seen before.

It was a dry, desert town with only a handful of buildings, each looking like it was built out of a barn. The residents walked around wearing blue pants and hats that covered most of their heads. They even had these small, metal things strapped to their sides.

A man rode into town on the back of a giant scorpion. He tied it to a post like a horse, and stepped towards us.

“Y’all boys don’t look like you’re from ‘round here.” He said, in an accent that was very difficult for us to understand.

“Um, we’re not.” Philip said. “We’re here looking for…”

He then took the metal thing out from his side, pointed it at the ground, and squeezed it. It created the loudest sound I’ve ever heard, and must’ve sent something flying towards the ground, because it kicked up a small cloud of dust. Only then could I tell that these objects were some kind of weapon.

“I wasn’t asking no question, just making a comment.” He said, before pointing his weapon at us. “Now how ‘bout you…”

“Boys, so glad to have you’ve arrived.” An old woman said. We turned to see an elderly lady coming towards us.

“My beautiful nephews, I’m so glad you made it in time for my birthday.” She said. At first, I honestly couldn’t tell if she was lying to help us or if she genuinely believed we were her nephews.

She then turned to the man, and said “Well, thanks for giving them a warm invitation to our town, that’s always a big help. In fact, I think it would be even more helpful if you were to take their case. Take their case.”

“I will take their case.” The man said, with all the emotion of a desperate street puppeteer. Even his face seemed to convey nothingness at that point.

“And follow us to my house.”

“I’ll follow you to your house.” He said.

“Good.” The Witch said. “Shame on cowboys like you, always shooting your guns out here like the world is one big shooting range.”

As they took a few steps, the woman said “Aren’t you boys coming along?”

I said. “Miss, thank you for helping us, but I’m afraid we’re not your…”

“Oh honey, I know you’re not really my nephews.” She said. “I may be old, but I’ve still got some sight left in these eyes. So, what's a pair of handsome young boys like yourselves doing out here in Brujaville.”

“We’re here to see the Witch of Brujaville.” I said.

“Interesting.” She said The old woman then started levitating ten feet above us and threw a fireball into the sky.

“Congratulations, you’ve found her.” She continued.. “Now come inside, I’ll put on a pot of coffee.”

“Coffee?” Philip asked. “What’s that?”

“You boys like tea?” She asked.

“Of course.” I said.

“Well, coffee is like tea, but with the correct amount of caffeine.” She said.

A few minutes later, we were in the Witch’s ranch house, sipping hot coffee. It was a perfectly normal house, except for one detail; the entire house was filled with dolls. Practically everywhere you looked, they were dolls looking back at you.

While the witch was making our coffee, she accidentally spilled a little bit of water on her hand, and then howled in pain.

“Are you alright?” I asked.

“I’ll be fine.” She answered. “It’s not good for witches to get water on themselves.”

After giving us our coffee, she got straight to the point. “So, why did you come here?” She asked.

“Our sister is dying.” Philip explained. “She’s been bitten by a dingle-donka spider.”

“And our dad sent us here; told us you could cure her.”

“He was wise to send you here.” She said. “I don’t do business with adults, much too boring. And yes, I can make a cure for that. I can even have a flying monkey deliver it straight to their house, the flight should only take a few hours or so.”

“Terrific.” I said. “Thank you very, very much.”

“Oh no, don’t sing my praises so soon.” She said. “I don’t just give away favors, not even to handsome youngsters like yourselves.”

“Alright, what do you want?” I asked.

“One of you to be added to my collection.” She said as she approached her case of dolls.

“I love children more than anything else in the world.” She explained. “So much so that I never let my own kids grow up, I let them reach just the right age, and then added them to my collection.”

“They were the only ones I ever forced though. The others you see here all chose this; the other children chose to trade themselves for spells and potions that I could give to their families and such.”

“You really don’t have to worry; the transformation is quick and painless. It’s a bit like going to sleep, really. Before you even feel anything, you’ll join my collection.”

“Fine.” I said.

“Jason, are you…” Philip started to say.

“Yes, I am.” I said. “Like dad always says, I’m the oldest. If doing this will save Soarea, I’ll do it.”

“Alright.” Phillip said. “I’ll tell the family what you did.’

He left the house, and the witch opened her medicine cabinet. She handed a vial to her flying monkey, told me to it our address, and then it flew off.

“Alright, that’s done. Your sister will live.” The witch said. Then, she came up to me. “Now, this is a very simple spell. It’ll only take…”

And then, from outside the house, a crossbow bolt came flying through, hitting the Witch right in the head. And then, I reached over to the cowboy, grabbed his gun, and pointed it at her. I’m still not sure what a gun actually is, but I got the idea just from watching the cowboy. I fired it three times at her, but still, in spite of everything Phillip and I shot at her, nothing happened.

“You boys really think killing a witch would be that easy?” She asked. “I’ve lived longer than the both of you combined, many times over. I’ve had all kinds of weapons pointed at me, yet I’m still here.”

“And in that time, I’ve accumulated a lot of dolls.” She continued. “And I think that today, I’ll add not one, but two more to my collection.”

I fired the gun again, but this time, not at her. This time, I fired at the case of water she used to make our coffee.

Some of it splashed out and landed on the left side of her face and body. She screamed in pain, and fell to the ground, where she appeared to start melting.

“Philip, come help me.” I said as I ran up to the barrel. Together, we tipped it over her, and watched as she disappeared.

We breathed a sigh of relief, thinking we were free. Until the cowboy shook his head a few times, appearing to regain control of himself.

“Why you little…” He said as he started coming towards us.

Philip quickly loaded a second crossbow bolt and fired at him, but in his haste, he didn’t aim properly, and only ended up hitting him in the leg.

“RUN!” I said as we started running.

Even with his injured leg, he was still making good pace. I could tell our lead wasn’t going to stay forever. And then, I saw the scorpion he rode into town on.

“This way, Phillip. We’re stealing his animal.”

“Can you ride that thing?” He asked.

“Let’s hope so.” I answered. “Because if not, we’re dead anyway.”

We untied the scorpion, quickly boarded it, and then slapped down hard on the reigns. It took off, and with a little steering, I was able to get it onto the red brick road, where we rode it straight in the direction of home.

It only took us a few hours to get home. When we got there, my dad said “Oh, thank goodness, you both made it back. I was sure at least one of you wasn’t going to make it.” Like I said, my dad was always very direct.

“Did the cure come?” I asked.

“Yes. A flying monkey was here just an hour or so ago, dropped it off and then flew away.” My dad explained. “Soarea already appears to be doing better.”

“Did you bring back my crossbow?” He then asked.

“No, sorry.” Phillip said. “I had to drop it when we were escaping. I’ll tell you more about that later.”

“But I think I might’ve got something better.” I said as I showed him what I stole from the cowboy.

“What’s that?” My father asked.

“I’m not quite sure.” I said. But then, I opened the cowboy’s saddle pack, and found a box labeled “.38 special.” I opened it and saw that it was filled with small bits of metal that looked just big enough to fit in the gun.

“But I think we can figure it out.”

Batkevin74 - Follow the Red Brick Road

Follow the Red Brick Road

Sarah Baum slowly emerged from rickety wooden house that had been in Oklahoma but now, well she wasn’t too sure. Clinging to her arms was her petrified cat, Otto, whose ginger hair was on end. Gathering around her were a crowd of little people emerging from forests of candy and gumdrop shaped houses.

“I don’t think we’re in Oklahoma any more, Otto.” She whispered to the cat as she took a few tentative steps towards them. They looked like children but weren’t. More like the odd people she once saw at a freak show that passed through town a few years back.

“Hello? Hi. I’m Sarah.”

One stepped forward and spoke in an oddly melodic fashion. “Welcome to Oz.”

“Oz? Where’s that?”

“Where you are now,” he replied. “This is Munchkin Land. In Oz.”

“I’ve got to get home! Back to Aunty Bea and Uncle Harry.”

The little man went to speak when a glistening ball in the sky caught his eye. He smiled and pointed up. “It’s Locasta!”

The shimmering pinky-purple bubble descended and touched down in front of the confused little girl. “Hello. My name is Locasta, the Good Witch of the North.”

“Pleased to meet up you, I’m Sarah,” Sarah said with a slight curtsey with her white dress. “I thought witches were bad.”

“Not all witches, my dear.” She smiled. “Now, Sarah, would you like to go home?”

“Oh yes, please! I mean you all seem nice, but I miss my family.”

“Well Sarah, all you have to do is follow the red brick road.”

“The red brick road?” Sarah looked down at the road below her. It was a spiral of red and yellow bricks. Spontaneously the little people broke into song about the road. Sarah smiled and started to skip her way along the red brock road, cat under her arm and off towards her home. The munchkins suddenly gasped as some green smoke erupted and a black cloaked figure emerged from the cloud.

“AH! THE WICKED WITCH OF THE EAST!” they screamed and scattered like cockroaches. Locasta looked at her with disdain.

“She’s on her way home,” Locasta said. “You missed your chance.”

The Wicked Witch sneered. “I’ll get her on the road to the Sapphire City. My winged frogs will track her down.”

Locasta shook her head. “I think you have more pressing matters to attend to.”

The Witch looked down at the puddle of mud she was standing in, coating her ruby slippers. “You horrible little diabetic half monkeys! Whoever did this will feel my wrath!”

“I wasn’t talking about that, you silly green cow.” Locasta turned into a bubble and floated away.

The Wicked Witch of the East waved her hands using a spell to clean her shoes when she heard a whistling sound. “What is that racket? Are you little lolly gobblers doing this?”

And suddenly splat!

No Caption Provided

A house landed on her.

The End

Cbishop - Swingy-Dingy of Oz

Swingy-Dingy of Oz

The denizens of Munchkinland watched in awe as a large, luminescent ball descended towards them as gentle as a soap bubble on a still day. Touching the ground just before Princess Ozma, the glow faded until the ball was gone completely, and in its place stood a tall, bald man with a mustache, and a woman with beautiful blond hair.

"Heironymous," Princess Ozma said with a sweet smile. "And you must be Crystal? Thank you so much for coming."

"Thank you for getting us here, Princess," said Crystal.

"That was the power of the Magic Belt," she said, her finger brushing the belt around her waist. "It's one of the easier ways to cross the Deadly Desert."

"It was quite a ride," said Heironymous. "How can we help the ruler of Oz?"

"Always so direct," Ozma said with a smile. "Very well. Heironymous, Crystal, this is Princess Emma," she said, pointing to a young girl standing next to her, "and the monkey holding her hand is named Swingy-Dingy."

"Swingy-Dingy?" asked Crystal. "Ooookay."

"I like my name," said the orange-haired monkey. "It makes Princess Emma laugh."

Crystal was quite surprised to hear the monkey talk. "Uh, sure, it's great. Good to meet you, Swingy-Dingy."

The spider monkey curtsied.

"Swingy-Dingy is why you're here," Ozma said sweetly. "She is a Fire Monkey."

Crystal was surprised. "Fire Monkey? Like the ones in the Yucatan?"

Ozma smiled big, and said, "The very same!"

Crystal felt oddly reassured by her smile.

"We have a new Wicked Witch in the West," said Ozma, "and she brought the Fire Monkeys with her."

One of the Munchkins stepped in, and shaking a fist, declared, "They've burned half of the Fighting Trees!"

"Yeah!" agreed the rest of the gathered Munchkins.

"What can you tell us about this witch?" asked Heironymous.

"She is named Cali, and she has taken over the Volcanic Flats. But there's someone with her who is worse, and seems to be controlling her somehow. He calls Cali his 'Flaming Angel.' A very mean red bird with four yellow eyes named--"

"--Toucan the Terrible?" Crystal interrupted. "Ah, mannn."

"Problem?" asked Heironymous.

"What? No, no. It's just another giant animal," Crystal sighed. "Could be worse. We could be here for the Laughing Dragon of Oz."

"If we could find the Laughing Dragon," said Ozma, "we would not have had to ask for your help. For it is a dragon that we need."

"Go on?" said Heironymous.

"Toucan has threatened to flood the Volcanic Flats with the Dark Waters of Wy," answered Ozma.

Heironymous suddenly looked very pale. "No."

"Yes, it's true," said Princess Emma.

Holding up a finger, Crystal said, "Uh, fill me in?"

"Flooding the Volcanic Flats would put an end to the Phoenixes," said Heironymous, "and it would bring whatever lives in the Dark Waters of Wy that much closer to Oz."

Crystal hesitated, but decided to go ahead and ask, "What lives in--"

"--No one knows," says Heironymous. "So, you can see the problem."

Crystal looked perplexed. "Um, actually... Well, nevermind. Why does this problem need a dragon?"

"The only way to stop Toucan is to defeat him. But he is very powerful. He has offered us another option though," she said.

"He wants the Princess of the Flats to marry a dragon," said Emma.

Heironymous was taken aback. "You want me to get married?"

"To a princess?" added Crystal. "Who's the Princess of the Flats? Cali?"

Ozma's normal smile was gone, and she sounded a little nervous when she said, "No. It's not Cali. It's... it's..." she looked towards the young princess Emma.

A little embarrassed with everybody looking at her, Emma hunched her shoulders slightly, and chuckled nervously.

"A girl?" asked Heironymous, partly indignant, and partly horrified.

Emma laughed, "Ha! No, not me!" She swung her body side-to-side for a moment, and then looked at the monkey still holding her hand.

Swingy-Dingy stood with one hand in Emma's, and a finger of her other hand hanging on her lip as she looked at all the people looking at her. She finally just smiled, and gave a small wave. "I was the first Fire Monkey to talk when we arrived in the Volcanic Flats," she said. "So, they made me their princess."

Crystal busted up laughing. "Oh, that's rich! The Service is going to go ape over this one, partner! Bwah-ha-ha-hahahaaaa!"

Heironymous' mustache twitched, followed by his eye. "No."

"Wh-what?" asked Ozma.

"No. I'm sorry, Your Highness, but I am not marrying a monkey."

Ozma started, "But--"

"--Why not?" asked Swingy-Dingy. "I'd marry you."

Crystal laughed louder, and all turned to look at her. She stood bent over, hands on her knees, and weakly, she said, "Stop!" She laughed some more, and managed, "I can't..."

Heironymous looked back at Ozma and said, "It's not happening. You said the other option was to defeat Toucan the Terrible? Then that's what we're going to do. How do I get to the Volcanic Flats from here?"

Ozma was a little shocked, but finally said, "You have to follow the red brick road."

"Follow the red brick road!" said the Munchkins.

"Of course," said Heironymous. "Who can you send with us?"

"I can send the Royal Army of Oz with you," Ozma said, having regained her sweet smile.

"That'll be fine," said Heironymous.

A tall man stepped forward. He wore robes of green and gold, and had a long green beard. Ozma waved a hand at him, and then smiled back to Heironymous.

Heironymous stared blankly.

"This is Wantowin Battles- the Royal Army of Oz," Ozma said with pride. "He will be of great help to you."

Heironymous continued to stare blankly.

From behind him, Crystal laughed some more. "Heironymous! Marry the monkey, and let's go home!" Then she giggled, realizing how silly what she said sounded.

Heironymous breathed deeply, puffs of smoke coming from his nostrils as he exhaled. "I am not marrying the monkey."

"Either way," said Ozma, "I'm sending Swingy-Dingy with you as well. She lives in the Volcanic Flats, so she can show you how to get there, and you can escort her home." Waving her hand back-and-forth lightly, a belt like the one she wore appeared in her hand, and she handed it to Crystal. "This belt will help keep you from harm, and when you're ready to go home, you have but to say it, and it will take you back across the Deadly Desert to where you came from."

"Thank you," said Crystal as she strapped the belt around her waist.

"A word of advice, dear Crystal," warned the Princess. "Be careful what you wish for while wearing this belt, for it has the power to grant one wish per day."

"O-okay," said Crystal, thinking that it would have been nice if she'd been told that before she put it on.

"Now, off you go," said Ozma.

"Follow the red brick road!" said the Munchkins. "Follow the red brick road!"

Heironymous, Crystal, Wantowin, and Swing-Dingy started down the red brick road. Slowly at first, and then at a brisk walk. Then, Swingy-Dingy started skipping. As she got ahead of them a little, Wantowin said, "Ah, very good!" and started skipping after her.

Heironymous and Crystal stared blankly for a few seconds, then looked at each other. Crystal shrugged, and said, "Hey, when in Oz," and laughing, she skipped after them.

Heironymous stared. "Oh, for the luvva... I am not skipping!" Then, unbidden, his foot shuffled forward a bit. "Wh-what?"

Just then, Emma skipped by, and grabbed his hand as she went. "Come on, Heironymous! I'm going too!"

Heironymous stumbled behind her, and then found himself skipping against his will. The five of them skipped for a few minutes, until they were well clear of the Munchkin village. As they finally slowed to a walk, they all had the vague feeling that if they hadn't been putting so much energy into skipping, they would have been singing as well.

***

The red brick road turned out to be a strange thing. Swingy-Dingy had been this way before, and Princess Emma and Wantowin had always lived in Oz. To Crystal's surprise, Heironymous also seemed to know what to expect. "I am very old," he told her.

The road was not one continuous path. As long as they stayed on the path, they were fine, but around them, things faded in and out of view. "Isn't that the Palacio de Peligro?" asked Crystal. "Doesn't Danger Man live there?"

"Yes," answered Emma. "He duels dragons daily."

"Dude sounds demented," said Crystal.

"Decidedly," deadpanned Heironymous. "Let's keep moving."

***

As the scenery around them shifted, a fog would roll across the landscape, then clear to reveal the new location the road had brought them to. This time, as it did so, little pops of light flitted to-and-fro just off the road. The biggest mass of them were gathered around a building that had "Great Hall" carved in stone over the doors.

Emma was ecstatic, pointing first here, then there at the flitting lights.

Crystal too was delighted, and made the mistake of stepping off of the red brick road to follow them. "I haven't seen fireflies in ages," she said with glee. "I just want to get a closer look. I'll be right back," she said as she followed a mass of the flitting lights.

As she went, the doors of the Great Hall opened, and the lights started to swarm inside. Crystal followed them in, and Heironymous suddenly said, "Crystal, no! They're not fireflies! They're--"

"--No, my friend," said Wantowin, putting a hand on Heironymous' shoulder to keep him from stepping off of the road. The fog had already started to roll in again, and Wantowin just shook his head slowly, and told Heironymous, "She belongs to the fairies now."

Then the fog swallowed everything.

***

The fog cleared, and the red brick road was now going through a jungle. Behind them there were massive roots the size of tree trunks along the ground. In the distance, somewhat ahead, there was a tremendous stone wall and gate. It had a series of waterfalls cascading over its sides into the deep gorge between them and the wall. They could see a grand white castle beyond the wall, and Emma said, "Ooo, what's that?"

"The Alabaster Castle," said Heironymous. "Home of the King of the Dragons."

"Really," she said?

"I'm pretty certain," Heironymous said with a smile, as the fog rolled in.

***

Clearing again, they found themselves finally at the Volcanic Flats. They also found themselves attacked by an army of Fire Monkeys. Heironymous was a dragon in human form, and almost nothing could harm him, so the monkeys weren't really bothering him as he fought. Wantowin too was faring well. He had an axe with a long handle that he'd captured from one of the monkeys, and he was fighting well. The one that surprised Heironymous was the Princess Emma. It appeared she knew karate. As she did a flip and kicked a monkey away from her, he wondered where she had learned it.

Finally, Cali, the Flaming Angel, dropped into the fight, and let off a fiery blast in all directions that laid everyone out for a few moments, including her own Fire Monkeys. "What is the meaning of this?" she demanded. "If you are really here to invade my lands, Toucan the Terrible will destroy it all with the Dark Waters of Wy! Is that what you want?"

Off behind the Flaming Angel, there was a great black castle made of obsidian, volcanic glass. A great, black mountain stood behind the castle, and a lavafall poured off of it, pooling around the castle in a moat. Flying towards them from the castle were even more Fire Monkeys.

As brave as he was, Wantowin Battles looked at Heironymous sadly, and said, "Heironymous, my friend, we will not beat all of them."

The dragon in human form sighed heavily, blowing smoke as he did so. Looking at the Princess Emma for a couple of seconds, he finally said, "I know." Then, looking at Cali, he said, "No, we didn't come to invade." Shaking his head, he said quietly, "We're here to accept Toucan's offer."

"What?" she said.

"I..." he started, then growled in frustration. "I'll marry the monkey." The fog rolled in as he said it.

***

As the fog rolled out, they were now in a green meadow, and Heironymous and Swingy-Dingy were married.

"What now?" asked Heironymous.

"Now, we have an alliance with the Dragons, and they have an alliance with Oz. So, we will live in peace with them."

"Yes," said Ozma, coming forward, "and that means you can go home."

"Home? Just like that?" he asked.

"Just like that," she said with a smile and the wave of her wand.

And in a ball of luminescent light, Heironymous was gone again, back across the Deadly Desert, and once again in Washington, D.C.

***

NOTES: Story and original characters copyright Chris Bishop, 2021.

Remember: Votes due by Sunday, December 12, 2021 at 11:59pm Greenwich Mean Time (click the link if you're unsure).

Oh, and in case you're still in the mood for Wizard of Oz, here's a link to a playlist on YouTube that will show you the whole movie (in bite-size chunks): Wizard of Oz. Enjoy. I'm glad you're here. Thanks for reading, thanks for voting, and see you on the 12th, when you follow the red brick road back here to see who won! In the meantime, stay safe, everyone! :^D

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#1  Edited By cbishop

Voting Table

Writer:Votes:
Wildvine
  1. cbishop
  2. amazing_webhead
Mrmonster
  • -
Batkevin74
  1. wildvine
Cbishop
  1. batkevin74
  2. mrmonster
  3. Oscuro

I'll add 'em as I see 'em.

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@wildvine: If you would do the pin/unpin honors, ma'am, it would be much appreciated. :)

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Mrmonster -- Much like me they kinda steered away from cannon. With that in mind I can ignore a town of people living in the Deadly Desert. The witch was a very Ozian character with the devil's-deal doll trade.

Bats -- Initially I thought you were doing an inversion thing with the cat, and the green Witch of the East, and the Sapphire City. I confess the witch threw me off. I know the shoes should have made it obvious but I was still trying to make the inversion theory work. And imagine my surprise to learn there is a Sapphire City. That ending though, *finger kiss* magnifique!

CB -- You make me think of the classic writers who also incorporated their own characters and locations into Oz. You also did the classic gimmick of the hero collecting a small party of sidekicks.

Having said all of this, I had a feeling I would be voting BK. His story just slides into the movie canon nearly seamlessly. It just gave me such a geeky mental thrill. I was caught between trying to find a glaring flaw, and imagining how it could continue. I so want Sarah to meet like, Jack Pumpkinhead, Tik-Tok and the Hungry Tiger. It would mirror the main story so delightfully.

Great entries all around

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#4  Edited By cbishop
@wildvine said:

CB -- You make me think of the classic writers who also incorporated their own characters and locations into Oz. You also did the classic gimmick of the hero collecting a small party of sidekicks.

Well, Heironymous has his partner with him, Princess Emma was the OC, Swingy-Dingy was necessary from the other contest, and the Soldier with the Green Whiskers (Wantowin Battles) sounded like Deathstroke in Oz, so I had to use him. I've always liked the way Baum's descriptions imply to the reader so much more to the characters, but he kept it lowkey for a children's story. Wantowin was literally a one man army, and a master of weapons. Deathstroke. lol

As for the other locations, that was intentional, but also down to me waiting so close to the deadline (yet again) to write. A good part of my procrastination had to do with me fretting over a map of Oz on the Oz wiki:

No Caption Provided

It's so thorough, there wasn't really anywhere to convincingly squeeze in new locations except the deserts, but if anything touches the desert (even by accident, says the wiki) it turns to sand, so we couldn't go there. So, I went with the road going where it wanted to, fading in-and-out of places. I had really gotten down to the wire though, so the Danger Man/ Palacio de Peligro scene (pulled from the Danger Man contest) was a whim to add another location.

The others were from my City of Dragons story, because I knew I wanted them to end up at the Volcanic Flats (the one location I couldn't fit a MartaNael pic in for in the original story. I meant to put it in here, but was literally last second posting, so I didn't have time for pics lol). I might have abandoned that for the existing Obsidian City, but I didn't have time to read up on it more. I guess I could have just done it, and not worried about whether it fit the stories, but I like to keep the existing elements as close as possible.

I had fun with this one. Good choice of contest. Fitting in the Swingy-Dingy contest on top of it was just bonus. Cheers. :)

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Well, Heironymous has his partner with him, Princess Emma was the OC, Swingy-Dingy was necessary from the other contest, and the Soldier with the Green Whiskers (Wantowin Battles) sounded like Deathstroke in Oz, so I had to use him

Your characters have organic reasons to be present for story events. I just think it's become trope-y for resolving whatever issue in Oz with a team effort. whether the group makes sense to band together or whether it's a stretch. I indulged in this trope myself, much less organically. On top of that I had other characters planned, but the word count was getting out of hand.

It's so thorough, there wasn't really anywhere to convincingly squeeze in new locations except the deserts, but if anything touches the desert (even by accident, says the wiki) it turns to sand, so we couldn't go there.

Its little consolation for you now, but thanks to the aforementioned public domain status of the core Oz characters/locations/themes cannon is basically whatever you want it to be. Granted some people do prefer a patchwork fan structure of ideas like the Deadly Desert turning things to sand, but you can make an immune character or an immunity spell, or a patch 10 feet wide of normal sand through the desert. Or the desert becomes inert on the 23rd of November for exactly 24 hours. This is why I love the Oz-verse. You can play within someone's rules, or just make your own. or mix and match and retcon until your eyes spin lol.

Funny thing. Apparently, there are several roads and locations in Oz that just.... move themselves as they fancy. So the Red Brick Road taking your characters wherever is perfectly within, ahem "canon"

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#6  Edited By cbishop
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A very clever @cbishop gets my vote for using my daughter and a previous contest in this new contest

I did like the other stories, if I had time I’d suggest a Ozverse

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<pumps fist> Yes! :)

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#10  Edited By cbishop

Batkev': You've done this before, and you got me with it again: you rewrote an existing scene basically beat-for-beat, but then gave it a twist at the end that made it fit the existing story seamlessly. Bah humbug, and well done! lol

'Monster: I almost voted for your story... allllmost... so close. I loved the giant scorpion and rider. The turning kids to dolls thing was creepy cool (altho' it brought to mind Michael Jackson's hidden staircase lined with dolls that led to a playroom, but that's just how my mind works). The extra element of danger with the crossbows and guns at the end was interesting. It almost got the vote. Your stories are getting better-and-better- I enjoy competing against you. :)

Wv: I gotta be honest: I just love it that you're back writing stories! I liked the way you wrote it in the more verbose style of Oz stories. I think you overdid it just the tiniest touch, but you'd be unlikely to find me even attempting it, so I have to give you your props. Really loved Sister Goose. Liked the goose being named Ozymandias too. And while they were nothing like each other, Goway Fabulist reminded me of H. M. Woggle-Bug, T.E., and that gave me a warm smile.

Vote goes to @wildvine. :)

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#11  Edited By wildvine

@cbishop:

I liked the way you wrote it in the more verbose style of Oz stories. I think you overdid it just the tiniest touch,

Fair criticism. I actually pulled it back a lot. It was worse. Originally it was told in the third person by someone who saw this in a dream, and the narrator was very commentative on events. Finally, I had to pull the whole beginning and mute the narrator to a dull roar of their former self. Definitely wordy and needs some editing before reposting. Edit: Oh dear lord I thought I rewrote the beginning. Wow. Okay. Still tamer than the original, but sheesh. Out of place narration is out of place

And while they were nothing like each other, Goway Fabulist reminded me of H. M. Woggle-Bug, T.E., and that gave me a warm smile.

I have not read as far as to encounter the Wogggle-Bug, but I am familiar with the name. You can't google too far into canon or fanon without a mention of this character. Having said that, I am glad you enjoyed my bug character. He was fun to write

Also, thanks for the vote. Probably should have led with that

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@cbishop said:

'Monster: I almost voted for your story... allllmost... so close. I loved the giant scorpion and rider. The turning kids to dolls thing was creepy cool (altho' it brought to mind Michael Jackson's hidden staircase lined with dolls that led to a playroom, but that's just how my mind works). The extra element of danger with the crossbows and guns at the end was interesting. It almost got the vote. Your stories are getting better-and-better- I enjoy competing against you. :)

Thank you, I honestly appreciate hearing that.

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Thank you, I honestly appreciate hearing that.

No problem. :)

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We-need-some-voters-bump.

Come one! Come all! Cast a vote! Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! (Yes, this means you. And thanks.) :}

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My vote: Wildvine - Sister Goose in Oz

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Two-days-to-go bump.

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#17  Edited By cbishop

2hrs, 40mins to cast a vote, peeps! Break the tie between Wildvine and I, or vote someone else ahead of both of us! :)

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#20  Edited By cbishop

We're just a little past time. I'll have a new contest up soon.

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Woo hoo, rack'em up let's go again

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Woo hoo, rack'em up let's go again

About to post - two or three minutes. :)