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Robert Bose. Kevin Rau. Kenneth Guthrie. Dangerous Red. Mehitobel Wilson. House Sitter. Dan Absalonson. Broken Shells. Michael Patrick Hicks. Nightmare Fuel: Volume 1. Andrea Trask. Tunnel Rats. Michael Boatman. Shadow Cave Shadows 1. Angie West. Bardic Tales and Sage Advice Volume 3. Bards and Sages Publishing. Angel Eyes. William Vitka. Into the Dust. Ren Cummins. RyFT Brand. The Last Mile. Tim Waggoner. Deviant-Hunter's Sabbath. Harambee K. The Miles. Ken Hinckley. Corruption at the Crossroad. Raymond Benson.

The Legacy of Darkness. Valerie Brook. Dead Ends. Joshua Winters. The Devil's Spot. Bri Maxwell. The Ghost of Christmas Last. Sean Hayden. Five Christmas Season Horror Tales. Gary L Morton. Chris Thompson. Shadows of the Jungle. Cody D. Sam Alexander. Monsters: A Dismal Awakening. Avery Morales. Friends of a Warrior. Russ Crossley. They were both soaked, sweat pouring down their faces and bodies. Ozma looked at Dorothy and, shocked to see her there, screamed again, which in turn brought out another scream in Dorothy.

Finally, they were able to calm down enough to compose themselves, although they still breathed incredibly hard. Ozma tried orienting herself. Where was she? This wasn't her bedroom in the Emerald City palace, so where? After a moment of thought, she remembered: She was in the city of the Skeezers, following the end of the war between them and the Flatheads, and they had been rescued from the Skeezer city, which sunk beneath the surrounding lake, by Glinda the Good.

They were safe now, but the dream she just started from I tried to cuddle with you to make it better, but then She couldn't remember. I don 't know. I'm sure it'll come back to me, but Fear still stirred in Ozma as she swung her feet around and stood up. She was still tired, and felt like clouds were filling her skull. If you do remember, you should write it down. That's what Uncle Henry always told me.

Think of something, write it down. You do have a pencil, don't you? Maybe you can get dressed like this, all sweaty, but I need a bath. Dust was common in the Land of Oz these days. While Ozma and Dorothy and all of their friends finished their activities in the Skeezers' domed city, Oz had been undergoing a drought.

The hot sun bearing down on the people of Oz was unrelenting, and, since the water was a little more scarce, it was a dry heat. Not that this really bothered the people of Oz. They'd been through quite a lot over the years, and this was just another spell that would soon go away. However, nobody complained when storm clouds gathered overhead and let loose the torrents of rain that they'd held inside. Today was a particularly heavy rain, and soaked the better parts of the Winkie and Gillikin countries. The ground soaked it up quite readily, and people even set out barrels and bowls and anything else that could hold water so that they could collect it, in case there was another length between storms.

Of course, it couldn't last forever, and soon the clouds parted to make way for the real show: The Rainbow, decorating the sky in all his glory. And he wasn't alone in celebrating the damp world below. Light, in the worlds of the fairies, could be solid sometimes, especially in the case of the Rainbow. This was good, because he never liked to travel alone, choosing to take his daughters with him. His daughters were as light as air, really, so that made carrying them easier. They did, however make themselves lighter still by dancing about while he moved from place to place, moving their bodies and throwing their long hair around.

The Rainbow's daughters were sky fairies, like their father below their feet. There were eight of them, all wearing translucent dresses that looked like they were made of cobweb, and long golden tresses fell to their waist. It was easy to tell who was who, for the tips of their hair were different colors, one color per girl.

Except for one: Polychrome's hair wasn't tipped with color. It was light gold, and her dress, unlike the white fabric of her sisters, was all the colors together in vertical stripes. Sometimes, she even wore a cap on top of her head, which she was doing today. Why not? She felt like it. Dancing was Polychrome's favorite thing to do. It was her life. She danced with her sisters on the top of the rainbow, and they also liked to play games and sometimes even would sit and chatter on about the gossip going on in the cloud castles where they lived.

The gossip didn't interest Polly as much as it did her sisters. She didn't really care what people did as long as they were happy. This was her philosophy on life. She didn't like the thought of it being more complicated. Sooner or later, they would all catch sight of the Rain King's clouds ahead, and then they would gather at the Rainbow's edge and watch with rapt attention. They loved watching the lighting and the ever changing forms of the black clouds. Once the Rain King moved on, it was time for the Rainbow to make his appearance.

Once the Rainbow was fully stopped, then girls would slide, walk, or dance down the colors of their father and land on the earth. There, they began to dance and play on the grass. They didn't really like the stiff, dry grass below their bare feet this time, but they made due. It was still fun. If I leave and you're not on me, I won't know it until I'm back home, and I may not be back for some time.

Please return to me with the rest of your sisters this time. His warning was valid, since she had a habit of dancing off the Rainbow, losing track of everything else and then getting left behind. However, she'd always been fortunate enough to find friends where she had landed. Please be careful. At that, Polly danced off to play with the rest of her sisters.

She was happy to be on Earth again. The cloud kingdoms were fine, but these vacations were heaven to her. And what awaited her this time? Weightless, or so it seemed to anybody that might be watching, were the ladies of the Rainbow. Their feet seemed to not quite touch the ground. The girls crowded around their red-tipped sister, who was looking at a patch of flowers. This place has flowers and other kinds of plants that you won't find anywhere else.

There's more to be seen around here. He smiled to himself, watching them. This was another fairy, but not quite like them. This one was excited at seeing the beautiful girls prancing before him. His name was Na'iya. He tried to keep himself hidden from them, and he seemed, at least to himself, to be doing a pretty good job of it.

Not one of them noticed him behind the shrubbery at all. He moved a little bit to get comfortable and to keep up with the moving girls. He wasn't about to lose sight of them. Maybe one of them might like him, he reasoned. His breath caught in his throat when he was Polychrome. She was easily the most beautiful in the bunch.

He didn't know who she was, however. This will need to be remedied , he thought. Maybe I can catch her alone. He watched her run away and take her sisters with her. He couldn't just run into the clearing; that would give away his position. What to do? He ran behind the bushes to see if he could get a better angle of them.

Nope, not here. He moved on. Here, neither. He cursed softly to himself. Where were they?

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Pleasant sighs came from the girls as the looked at the deer. Polychrome stepped forward and threw her arms around the doe, which the girls liked, so they did the same. Well, Ms. We're the daughters of the Rainbow. Timing, timing , Na'iya thought as he scaled a tree that he found that offered a perfect view of the ladies. I have to time this just right. At least, I think so.

He looked down at the scene. No, in spite of his experience being a flirt, the number of girls below was intimidating him. She didn't like being shy like this, but he'd rather be able to talk to Polly one-on-one. The girls continued to talk to the deer. He tapped his bare foot on the branch and frowned. Come on, just a few minutes But the girls never parted ways. This was getting frustrating for him. Maybe he should just jump over to another tree and drop down right into the middle of all of them.

Heck, maybe even drop down onto the deer. He wasn't that heavy, since he was a sky fairy himself. Still, though, the golden-haired one in the rainbow slip was beautiful. He'd hate to miss this chance. The girls soon started to spread out in different direction. They all took off running to him.

We still want to go along. The girls, one by one, started getting on and running to the top. They never needed to worry about falling off. They didn't know how, but they knew their dad protected them from stumbling over the edge. It was hard for him to really notice, even with all his years doing this, how many pairs of feet were running on top of him. The girls were so light that he couldn't tell. He'd just have to trust them. From the highest point on the Rainbow, they could see the ground moving below. From the ground, however, The Rainbow's movement went unseen.

Rather, people only perceived it as fading out. But that was an illusion, since the Rainbow was merely pursuing the clouds as they went away from him. The problem here was twofold: Neither the Rainbow nor Polly could hear what the girls were yelling. The Rainbow was too involved in his journey, and from on the ground, no one could ever hear what was being said on The Rainbow's back.

The sound just didn't carry. They have rain spirits inside, millions of them. The clouds are how the rain spirits travel in groups, and when they get in the clouds, they spread out and get ready to go diving to the earth. That's how they get light enough to jump back to the clouds. And then, over time, they regrow the water.

Rain fairies are the common folk of the sky kindred. I'm a princess, and the royalty and the commoners don't mingle. It seems that since you're all fairies, you'd all be able to get along. I never really liked it myself, especially since coming here to Earth, I've been around both common people and princesses and queens. I've even met the Great Jinjin, Tititihoochoo. Polly giggled at the animals. I'd like to meet one, myself. I bet they're nice. A crow suddenly spoke up. Eventually, they get fed up enough that they have to shake it off, so they collect it and give to a girl named Electra, who stores it.

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She's a servant of Erma, the Lady of Light. When it's Electra's turn to light up the earth, she gathers the electricity up and uses it to light the Earth. Polychrome laughed again.

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How could clouds produce electricity by rubbing together? So they can't spend a lot of time around people that aren't their type of fairy. Dropping to a lower branch, the boy fairy caught himself from falling. Not now, he thought. The animals are still keeping her company. A stiff wind almost send him off the branch, but he held tight. Come on now, he prayed, leave the girl alone. He didn't understand why he felt so shy. He'd been able to flirt with women in social situations before.

Why would this be any different? Was there something about her that would just make her special, so he had to be alone? Not that he ever trusted his intuition. More often than not, it got him into trouble, like with that witch when her husband found out. He was amazed that he ever escaped. As he leaped from the branch with practiced skill, she ran away.

He landed and watched her go. Was she She had a brief thought, wondering why none of her sisters ever got stuck with her. At least then, she'd have some company. She knew he couldn't, but she felt anything was worth trying. Numb, she stumbled over to a tree, pressed a hand to it, and started crying. She collapsed to her knees, then turned and rested her back against it and cried. Machines filled the workroom of the former Queen of the Skeezers, Coo-ee-oh. Glinda the Good and the Adepts searched through all the components of the machines that made the city rise and fall, and tried to find any hidden manuals or spell books.

There had to be more to Coo-ee-oh's magic than just powders and magic words. All this knowledge can't just be contained in one person's head. The silver-haired Aujah found a book called History of the Krumbic Tradition. Glinda took the book from her and browsed through the pages.

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Looking at this, there might not be any truth to Coo-ee-oh's claim that she was the only one. Our main interest is keeping Oz safe, and we're going to continue to focus on that. She looked through the book further, and saw all manner of magic-powered devices, from devices to toast bread to human-shaped carriages to fully-armed battle fortresses. She idly wondered how much more there was to the city than just raising and lowering it.

Her head shot up as Audah yelped and jumped back for a rapidly-opening hole in the wall. Metal creaked and groaned as the wall opened into a room filled with books. Once the wall was stilled, Glinda and Audah stepped in to look. Glinda's eyes settled onto an open book laying on a desk. She saw design schematics and magic incantations. She gasped softly to herself, and closed the book to look at the cover. This was indeed the book she was looking for. Glinda considered it, then agreed, and they started to gather any and all literature they could find.

Breakfast held no joy for Ozma as she stared at her eggs and toast. She was still dazed from the restless sheep and was even shaking slightly. If she ever had a dream like that again, it would be too soon. I'd hate to put you out. At least this time, it'll be under more hospitable circumstances. Only yesterday, Ozma and Dorothy had been prisoners of the former queen of the city, being held in their room and forced to watch the city sink beneath the surface of the lake, and having no way out.

The city was certainly more hospitable with Lady-turned-Queen Aurex, who had treated them like gold since they'd arrived. I've never heard of it. Walking would clear my head, and theater would certainly cheer me up, but shopping? They don't need to always buy goods to just get by like me and Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, but they could take their time and buy luxuries, even stuff from from across the ocean! Why, there was this one man in South Dakota who opened a store I outlawed it. We have for as long as we've known. Are you sure we can't Smiling to herself, Ozma looked at the open and bright city that stood before her.

While she had been visiting all this time, she hadn't taken the time to really look, as she'd had her mind on the Skeezer-Flathead war that was happening, as well as her worry over the sunken city. And there's another place that's We can go from place to place. We just need to pick one.

The store they went into was filled with masks of all kinds. Some were grand, and some were hideous. There were even a few that looked like Flatheads, only gross caricatures of them. After taking a quick look around, they left the shop. Ozma was clearly offended at the man. Perhaps Dorothy had been right, and this was just what she needed. This was a very exciting comedy, the likes of which she'd never seen before. It involved a unicorn, a parakeet and their human caretaker. The human seemed to be down on his luck, as well as lacking in intelligence. Yet, Ozma liked him, and found his jokes and mannerisms delightful.

The experience was also new to Ozma. In her years as a boy, he'd never been to a theater, and as the ruler of Oz, she had always had people come to her to put on shows. Taking herself was something she now decided she wanted to do more often. Why, I bet the theaters in the Emerald City would love to have you visit them! I don't have money. No one in this whole country uses it. Glinda dropped the necklace she'd been looking at on the counter.

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Then again, I have nothing to give the man. Anyone with the right amount of coins is welcome here. Until then, no loitering. The three ladies left the store, Glinda shaking her fists at her sides. Already people were beginning to pile in, ready to party in style. Those that had invitations were no doubt happy to enter and not see Coo-ee-oh sitting on the throne, but rather, the lovely Aurex. Ozma, Dorothy and Glinda had never seen anything like it, even with Glinda's hundreds of years of life behind her.

Glinda always enjoyed new experiences, and while she had always seen patterns emerge in styles, individual tastes and creativity always made for an interesting variety. As I stand here before you, I say that we have have been under the yoke of oppression for too long, both from the former queen, whose name we'll not speak again, as well as the oppression of war, which we now know has been ended.

We've never, as citizens, held the Flatheads in low regard She wondered if the mask maker was here to hear that. Never again will the cloud of violence or slavery float over us. Following the speech, most of the people left the floor for refreshments, to talk, or to do other things.

Some stayed and got into the mood when the live band took the stage. Jazz was still mostly new to people in America, but it was even newer in Oz. Dorothy knew the music, and went out on the dance floor to do a little bit of impromptu dancing. Ozma watched the girl with wonder. She certainly had more energy than anyone she knew. But having talked to Aunt Em quite a few times, she knew that Dorothy had always been that way, even when she was a little girl. Ozma knew how to have fun. At least, she thought she did. She did play with Dorothy when there wasn't a line outside the throne room door full of people that couldn't be bothered to talk out their own problems amongst themselves.

Dance, on the other hand, was an entirely new animal to her. Perhaps this was a pastime she should learn once they were home. The city nobles seemed to do it flawlessly. Which meant they were doing something the Princess of Oz couldn't. That didn't sit well with Ozma. Smiling as the music slowed, she walked out to the dance floor and took Dorothy's hand. Her hidden motivation was to show herself that she could do this. Dorothy put her arms around Ozma's neck and they swayed to the music. Dorothy smiled at her friend.

It was now that Ozma first looked at her. Really looked at her. Dorothy, physically speaking, was the same age as Ozma, about She had a growing body which stopped aging when she was here, and she looked at Dorothy every day. But now, she noticed the high cheekbones, the thin upper lip and full bottom one.

The slight crow's feet on the sides of her eyes from all the laughing she did. She also noticed how Dorothy's body felt against her, so soft despite the years on the farm. The feeling of her closeness made Ozma's face hot. What was she feeling? This was a new sensation. Ozma looked and saw the new Skeezer Prime Minister, Ervic. May I have yours? Ozma recognized this. Still, she should lead by example. Ervic put a hand at Dorothy's waist and took her other hand and held it out. Dorothy reluctantly followed him in her first box waltz. Oh, you're good, Ozma thought.

Take my Dorothy away from me like that. If I wasn't a nice princess She looked at Dorothy again, then back to Aurex.

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Maybe this was time for rulers to be together, she reasoned. She strode across the room, holding her head high. She knew she was a princess. There was no denying it. So she made sure she acted the part. Sadly, Ozma plopped down in the seat and put her elbow firmly on the arm and rested her chin on her hand.

Dorothy was laughing with him, and getting on quite well. Ozma frowned. What, is this going to be Dorothy's lover? Might was well be, for as well as they're getting along. I know the feeling. Who does he think he is, anyway? If I had her first, then I should be able to dance with her until the song ended. You'll be together again soon. For now, might I ask you something? I don't understand how we can, and when I make that announcement, I know the emotions it'll raise. Not everyone knew the story of how she was turned into a boy as a baby, then raised as a boy, then turned back into a girl when she was older.

But from the time I was a youth, I noticed that money bought not only possessions, but also good will, and when you didn't have it, people regarded you ill. I hated it. Yes, there was a period of adjustment from the people, but then they found that worth was not in what they collected from each other, but in the work that they did and the happiness it brought others. True wealth comes in the people we make happy. It would help so much. She turned to a squirrel. And I'm with them. I'd rather stick to living in the animal kingdom than the human one. You always go back to that form eventually, no matter how often you take an animal form.

But that would never be natural to me.

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Maybe then you can come back to us and enjoy our company once it is out of your system. I am in agreement! A city like the Skeezers' city never sleeps. Maybe I'll even run into the Adepts and the Skeezer who had me restore them.

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That would be something, wouldn't it? Tears poured down Polychrome's cheeks , threatening in their numbers to stop Oz's drought if she carried on long enough. She felt so stupid. Last time should have been the last time she got lost. She thought she learned her lesson, but no. Now she was stuck here again, and who knew how long her father would be gone this time? She pressed her eyes and huddled into a ball, drawing her knees up to her chest.

How could I be so foolish? She thought. As soon as the raindrops lightened up like they did, I should have been running for Daddy, like I always do. Well, maybe not always. She sighed, her breath shaking as it left her. As much as she loved Oz, she didn't want to be trapped again.

But she knew that sooner or later she'd be able to cheer up and find her friends. Perhaps they'd be out adventuring again, and she'd just run into them and have wonderful times with them again. The tears stopped coming finally. Yes, finding her friends would be a good thing. Their friendship and their adventures always helped her feel warm.

Sure, not as warm as it was closer to the sun like in the clouds, but it was better than when she just sat around moping. She stayed still and controlled her breathing. Yes, she was going to find Dorothy or someone else. Maybe the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow? She smiled. She wouldn't mind seeing the Woodman again.

Autumn Minor is light on her feet and a bare memory for most people she meets. Neither of them are made for the long haul when it comes to love and romance. Sometimes there was nothing better than a well-worn pair of jeans. Okay, perhaps it would be more accurate to say there was nothing better than a well-worn pair of jeans encasing a very tight butt. Especially as the owner of said butt worked around a construction site.

Autumn Minor leaned against the side of the truck and crossed her arms over her chest, appreciating the view before she had to start work. At least five different men worked around her, bending over and lifting heavy things, using their large thighs and flexing nice butts. She really needed to stop by the Montgomery Inc. Autumn stretched from the truck, her back a little tight, and pulled her long auburn hair back into a ponytail.

Got a problem with that? Well, I just love him in general. Not over Luc, of course, but of the idea that someone could love another with that much emotion and not be scared by it. Her friend was well and truly loved. She preferred more temperate weather.

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She held in a sigh. She liked Denver, even if the weather never made sense or stayed the same throughout the day. She also liked the Montgomerys. Hence the firm butts in tight jeans and their need for appreciation. Autumn shook her head then winced. Shaking her head where there was more than one question involved usually led to misunderstandings. Considering she spent her life studying situations and people, she was usually better at that.

There was just something about Denver—or maybe it was the Montgomerys—that made her feel…off-kilter. Meghan folded her arms over her chest, presumably to stay warm. Meghan rolled her eyes. Autumn lowered her brows. You work with landscapes. The Montgomery family had their hands in many pots when it came to professions, but a large part of them worked at either Montgomery Inc. Now, Autumn worked with the other arm of the family business.

But there is always planning, upkeep, and other things I can do. He nodded at two of the other guys he had been working with and strolled over to Meghan and Autumn. She held out a hand, and Luc took it before tugging and bringing her to his chest. Luc lowered his mouth to hers and gently brushed a kiss across her lips. The man was built, bearded, and did that sexy chin tilt thing just right.

Of course, all the Montgomerys were damn sexy. Maybe she should number them or something. Wes and Storm were twins, and two of the eldest Montgomerys. They owned and operated Montgomery Inc. Apparently, they even hired sexy. When Autumn had first started hanging out with them, she thought Tabby and Wes might have had a thing going on, but now that she knew them better, she rethought that. Decker, their lead contractor, tilted his head at the loving couple in front of them.

Luc and Meghan each held a hand out, flipping the group off even as they kept their eyes on each other. Decker had recently married the youngest Montgomery, Miranda. Each of the Montgomerys and their loved ones had ink—some more than others—and Autumn was pretty sure the two tattoo artists in the family, Austin and Maya, were the ones who had done it.