A Dark Descent

Created by Gabriel Gale / Illustrated by Sebastian Giacobino
(Part of Ages of Oz)
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About The Book

After the defeat of one Wicked, the other Witches of Oz prepare for vengeance in this second book of the Ages of Oz series!

Glinda and her friends have successfully vanquished Aphidina, the first of the four Wicked Witches. But her task is far from over.

With the fate of all of Oz hanging in the balance, Glinda struggles to locate a mysterious teacher called Mythra, who is the only one who can guide her in reaching her mystic potential and becoming the powerful Sorceress she is destined to be. While Glinda searches far and wide for her mentor, the fiery-spirited Locasta finds herself undertaking an equally important search—for the Elemental Fairy of Lurl, and the means by which to destroy the second Witch, Marada, Wicked Warrior of the North.

Surprising discoveries await both Glinda and Locasta. Great dangers threaten, formidable enemies lurk, and startling secrets abound. Glinda, Locasta, Ben, and Shade bravely continue their mission teaming up with some very welcome—and very unexpected—allies along the way. Together they prove that there is no hope for the future if one is not willing to learn from the past.

Excerpt
A Dark Descent 1

WICKED LANDING
The tumult overhead was nothing short of Wicked.

Clatter and motion, fury and speed. Dark Magic seemed bent on tearing the sky to pieces in its desperate race to the south. Underfoot, the solidness of Oz felt close to crumbling.

The Witches are coming.

Miss Gage’s warning rang in Glinda’s ears, colliding with the sound of the enemy’s approach: croaking and hissing from the West; a droning buzz from the East, and a deep lowing groan from the North.

Where moments ago the air had sparkled with the pure emerald light of King Oz’s final thought, there was now a vicious melee of stingers and wings. The ground shuddered under a violent stampede of trampling hooves and swiftly slithering things. Billows of scarlet dust rolled forth as the menacing armies of the Witches advanced.

“Why are they coming?” Locasta asked, her violet eyes focused on the fracas above their heads, her fingers fidgeting nervously with the new gold bracelets on her wrists.

“To see for themselves that their rival in the South has been vanquished,” said Miss Gage.

“Will they attempt to avenge her?” Ben rasped, his face pale.

Gage shook her head. “More likely they’ve come to celebrate her defeat.”

As the commotion drew nearer, Clumsy Bear whimpered and covered his face with his paws. Glinda and the others watched as Ava Munch, the Royal Tyrant of the East, touched down. She was riding an insect of uncommon proportions—a weevil as large as a lion, with jagged legs and waving antennae. Swarming around Ava was a platoon of bulging-eyed creepy-crawlies: oversize wisp-wasps, mosquitoes and fruit flies, beetles and tumble-bumbles with iridescent wings. Out of the din they swooped, stirring up a small cyclone of dead leaves as they landed. Dressed in a sheath of blue satin, Ava hid her face behind her Silver Mask, as though she were ashamed to be seen in the hideous company of her own army.

Daspina the Wild Dancer of the West arrived next, gracefully astride a spiny-tailed skink lizard. Flanking her was a legion of warty toads and scaly snakes, all of inordinate size. Draped in yellow scarves, the Wild Dancer shimmied in her saddle, her Silver Shoes catching the sunlight.

Finally, from the North roared Marada, the Wicked Warrior; her army was a careening herd of draft animals, each ridden by a Gillikin soldier armed to the hilt. The beasts—yakityaks, buffalopes, oxen, and bulls—came snorting and bellowing. The Witch used her Silver Gauntlets to yank back on the reins of her mount, and the gigantic yakityak skidded to a halt. Its pointy horns missed impaling Ava’s weevil by less than an inch.

“Watch it!” Ava warned, removing her Silver Mask.

Marada growled and raised a gloved fist in a warning of her own.

Glinda spied a small, white-faced monkey scampering about. His presence among these creatures was inexplicable to her, and his wide eyes surveyed the scene, as if he, too, wondered what ugly twist of fate had brought him here. What Glinda found most stunning was that he had wings.

Sliding down from the skink, Daspina sashayed on dainty silver heels—first a few steps to her left, then a skip back to her right. “The Harvester is quite vanquished,” she declared, as if there had been any doubt. “Gone to seed, one might say!” At this, she laughed and turned a pirouette.

“She was worthless,” Marada spat. When she leaped from her yak, the spurs of her heavy sandals left deep gashes in the dirt. “Ruling by delusion and trickery is not ruling. It is merely deceiving. She was as weak as the flowers she grew! I could have crushed her with one blow.”

“And she was a terrible hostess,” Daspina observed with distaste. “She never once threw a ball or cotillion, not even a pitiful little tea party.”

“Still, her Magic was potent,” Ava admitted in a grudging tone. “And there was an elegance about her. Handsome features. Good bones—”

“Good bones are the best kind to crush,” Marada noted.

“—but she was more vain than she had any right to be.”

At this, Marada whirled on Ava with raised brows. “You dare to call another vain?”

“My vanity is warranted,” Ava insisted. “Aphidina was merely pretty. I stun.”

“In more ways than one,” Daspina conceded with a nervous giggle, eyeing Ava’s mask.

Marada grunted; it might have been laughter. The sound made Glinda queasy.

Now the three Wickeds fell silent, looking out over the ravaged castle grounds, each with a glint of longing in her eyes. The monkey, who as far as Glinda could tell had no particular connection to any one of them, sped anxiously from steer to insect to amphibian, none of which paid him any mind.

“Surely I could collect immense amounts of taxes were I to lease this land to the Quadling farmers.” Ava’s fingers twitched as if she could feel the gilt coins being pressed into her hands.

“And I could erect dance halls and bowling greens and gaming fields,” Daspina twittered. “There would be garden parties and carnivals every day and every night if this were mine.”

“The lists for training would go there,” Marada planned aloud, pointing to where the Grande Allée of Symmetrees had stood just that morning, before Aphidina’s defeat. “And there, rows of sturdy barracks for my soldiers.”

“Don’t you mean ‘barns’?” scoffed Ava, gesturing to Marada’s cattle grazing on what was left of the Haunting Harvester’s grass.

“I would put my herd up against your pests in any battle!”

“Oh, would you?” Ava’s eyes burned. “One well-placed sting on the rump would have your mount galloping back to Gillikin with his tail between his shaggy legs.”

“My soldiers have fangs,” Daspina boasted, her hips swaying with pride, “and venom.”

For a moment, the three harridans stood motionless, hurling lethal glances at one another. Glinda shivered at the nearness of the Wickeds, thankful for the protection of the Road of Red Cobble beneath her feet; she was close enough to reach out and pull the mask from Ava’s hand.

“This is a little too close for comfort,” Locasta whispered. “I know they can’t see or hear us, but I wish they’d just go back to where they came from.”

“So do I,” said Glinda, ducking back from the whipping hem of one of Daspina’s scarves.

It was then that she felt the tickle—a soft, fuzzy graze against her trembling hand.

Startled, she looked down and saw that the monkey had crept to the edge of the Road of Red Cobble. The fluffy top of his head, swiveling from side to side as he took in the patch of road with great curiosity, was brushing against the tips of Glinda’s fingers. Tilting his face upward, he met her green eyes with his enormous round ones. He blinked, as if trying to determine what her purpose was, there upon that patch of road.

Then he turned to Marada, and Glinda held her breath.

The monkey’s wings fluttered slightly as he snapped his gaze to Ava, then Daspina. Glinda knew it would take no more than a single screech for him to alert this rancorous triad to her invisible presence, and she sensed he knew it too. But after a moment of eyeing the Witches, he seemed to decide against raising the alarm and returned his attention to the cobblestones.

Expelling her breath in a grateful sigh, Glinda watched the monkey tap his slender toes onto the red bricks, holding there a moment as if waiting to experience some sensation. But when nothing occurred, he simply shook his head in disappointment and trotted off. Glinda’s eyebrows furrowed. The road had accepted him. But weren’t these cobbles only welcoming—not to mention visible—to those who were worthy to travel them?

Her thoughts were interrupted by the words of the Royal Tyrant: “Perhaps I shall claim the South as my own so it will belong to me now and evermore.”

“That simple, eh?” Marada let out an inelegant snort. “You think just because your lineage is noble you can claim lands at will?”

“You are quite the saucy former princess, aren’t you?” Daspina snipped, gliding toward Ava. “Why should such a bountiful country as Quadling be yours for the taking?”

“Because,” Ava drawled, returning the Silver Mask to her face, “I can do this!” A bolt of blue fury burned through the slit eyes of the mask, heading straight for the Witch of the West. But the Dancer was keen and graceful, and Glinda watched in horrified awe as Daspina quickly knocked her heels together. Three quick clicks of those Silver Shoes and she’d moved faster than sight or sound to the far side of the Tyrant.

“What was that?” Locasta asked.

“Those stolen shoes,” Gage replied with a foreboding look. “It seems they allow the Dancer to skip from place to place without the bothersome inconvenience of utilizing the moments it would ordinarily take to do so.”

“Well, they did belong to King Oz once,” said Ben, who was still holding Aphidina’s Chainmail. “No wonder they carry such power.”
About The Author

Lisa Fiedler is the author of many novels for children and young adults. She divides her time between Connecticut and the Rhode Island seashore, where she lives happily with her very patient husband, her brilliant and beloved daughter, and their two incredibly spoiled golden retrievers.

Product Details
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (May 2018)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781481469746
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 890L ? The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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"Highly recommended for those with a keen interest and passion for Oz."

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