TO DO ONE'S DUTY
Art by Aly Fell (www.darkisrising.co.uk)
At first, she didn't notice. With her coronation, and all the planning that needed to be done, and repairs carried out from Jinjur and her girl army's occupation, she was too busy to really think about it.
Surprisingly enough, it wasn't being a girl that bothered her. Almost as soon as she'd been transformed, it felt natural, like sliding into clothes made especially for her.
And that was the real problem, wasn't it. Being Tip, she'd never had clothes made for her. Never had silk sheets to slide between at night, never had servants to cater to her every whim, never had food served to her in a big banquet every night—some nights, she felt she might burst with all the delicious food they had! It was unlike everything she was used to, and that's what bothered her.
Some days, she wished for her old life back. Not that she really wanted to work for old Mombi again, but as Tip she hadn't really done much work anyway. She'd spent all day out in the fields, doing just enough work to get by, but mostly running through the fields, finding new ways to scare Mombi, and just laying back on the grass and watching the clouds pass by. It felt like a whole lifetime since she'd done that.
In some ways, maybe it was. Once Jack came to life and they had to flee, there was no time for watching clouds. Everything happened too fast.
Now she was a princess, and in charge of a kingdom, and there was so much resting on her shoulders, that sometimes she felt buried under it.
It was at the party that night it all came to a head. It had been a long day, greeting guests, resolving small disputes, and solving problems amongst the populace, and this feast, intended to celebrate one full month since her coronation, was the final part of it. She stepped out of her palace doors, made her way to the head of the table, looked at all the people with trust and admiration shining from their faces who had gathered here to celebrate her—and froze.
Suddenly, it was all too much, and she sunk to the ground, silken dress falling around her like a spotlight, shining gold and drawing all attention to her. She buried her head in her hands and started to cry. Overhead, there were voices, but she couldn't hear what they were saying over the sound of her own sobs.
Someone touched her, gentle and meant to reassure, but it did the opposite. Even when she was making a fool of herself, wailing like a child, they still loved her! How could they care so much for her? What could she possibly do to deserve it? Her sobs grew louder.
She could feel the weight of their gazes, and it just made things worse. All those expectations, the love, the hope, the pride—they weighed so much, and it sat on her shoulders like a cloak. Only a cloak can be taken off, and this couldn't. She knew she shouldn't be doing this, that she needed to be strong, to be brave, not weep here like a child. These were her people, the ones she was meant to reassure and comfort, not the ones who should be comforting her! How could they trust her to rule this land if she couldn't even hold herself together through a dinner party?
No matter how much she told herself to just get up, she couldn't do it. This had been coming from the moment Glinda helped her up from her own royal couch and she had seen her friends' familiar faces look at her in such an unfamiliar way.
She scrambled to her feet, tearing away from the loving hands. Glinda! Glinda would know what to do. Glinda knew just what to do to find Mombi, won against Jinjur and her army, surely she could solve this too.
She ran to the stables and her faithful Sawhorse, then raced towards Glinda's palace as fast as she could. She was tired of feeling lost and unsure. If Glinda couldn't help, then nobody could.
She arrived at Glinda's palace, racing up those golden steps and through the doors, pushing them wide open. It was only when she saw Glinda waiting for her on the other side, surrounded by her beautiful maids, that she was overcome with nerves. Would Glinda really help her? Deep down, she still felt like she belonged back in Mombi's fields, and Glinda would never belong there. How would she know what it felt like that you were letting all your friends down, that you could never be good enough?
"Princess Ozma." Glinda bowed. Behind her, all her maids bowed as well. "I saw you coming in my Magic Book." As if in response to a silent command, the maids disappeared. "Princess, tell me, what is wrong?"
She fell to her knees. "Glinda, this is not for me. I'm not a Princess. I don't know how to rule a kingdom. I just know how to play tricks and chop wood. Please, Glinda, can't you pick someone else?"
"I did not choose you, Princess, and therefore cannot choose a replacement," Glinda said calmly.
"Isn't there anyone else?" she pleaded. Even lower, she confessed, "I'm afraid I'll get it wrong."
Glinda smiled down at her, compassion shining from her like a star. "My child, you don't need to be afraid. Your friends, they love you. They will understand if you aren't always perfect, the perfect queen, the perfect lady. They will still love you."
"But what if I can't do it?" she whispered. "What if I fail, and the whole kingdom falls?"
"You won't," Glinda gently reassured. "You have more courage than you know, and more compassion too. You come from a line of queens, and you can rule this kingdom fairly and gracefully. Stand, Ozma of Oz, and take up your birthright."
Her spine stiffened with resolve. This was her choice to make, her kingdom to rule, and she would not regret it. Princess Ozma stood.
For plot synopsis and continuity notes, go here