A time is sure to come when every mortal who has grown old and lived his life is required to leave this world for another; so it is no wonder that, in May of 1919, after Mr. Baum had written many and many a tale, he put down his pen for the last time.
Then all the Forest of Burzee became sad and all the Land of Oz was hushed. Father Goose ceased his quacking, and Merryland was downright despairing; for they knew that their stories had come to an end.
Princess Ozma was still young and strong and beautiful, and it seemed to her but a short time since she had first been put to paper.
In this is shown the difference between a writer and his works.
And though their lands were disparate and lay far afield, in different volumes, on different ends of the bookshelf, the Master Woodsman, the Great Ak went to Ozma, for he was troubled by the loss of their beloved writer as well.
He said to her, "Bring all your subjects to the Forest of Burzee tonight, and I will summon my Council of Immortals, as I did once before. And tell Queen Zixi of Ix, John Dough, and the Sea Fairies. Bring Molly Oodle, and the Magical Monarch of Mo."
And so Ozma did. There had never been such a great crowd in Burzee, nor such a diverse and colorful array of characters, and for one night, the immortals lifted their law that no humans could enter their forest. There were witches and fairies, munchkins and flying monkeys. There were Nomes alongside the Knooks and Wheelers alongside Wind Demons.
And for one night, Claus, the human child who had been raised in the Forest of Burzee so long ago was permitted to re-enter. He was the first who spoke.
"I think," said Claus,"that we all know why we have been called together here. And I have been the happy owner of the Mantle of Immortality for many years. The Great Ak said at the time that there could be no better use for such a thing, and it stirs my heart to think that my simple gift-giving has been held in such high regard my so many of you. But if there were ever a better use, I think it would be fitting to bestow it upon the man who created the mantle in the first place, who wove it from his own imagination."
There was not a single voice of dissent in the crowd.
"But who will go?" asked Jack Pumpkinhead, a few seeds falling from his poor brain. Ozma made a note to herself that it was time for her to carve a replacement for him.
"There is one," said the Great Ak. "One of us who can travel between the worlds, for she knew him in that life as well as she knows the lands of his imagination. I have already sent her ahead."
The graveyard was empty at twilight, and the lovely plot on the grassy hill had been filled in, the fine tall tree that overlooked it full and lush with leaves. The man who sat atop the hill of earth that covered over the fresh grave was a newcomer to the cemetery, dressed in his funeral best, half-there and half-not-quite-there. A little butterfly darted to and fro, blissfully unaware of its somber surroundings.
And a plump yellow Hamburg waddled forth from a gleaming yellow road that seemed to unfurl beneath her little chicken-feet.
She cleared her throat. Which, you ought to know, is not something that just any hen can do. So the man looked up, surprised.
"Billina," he said, recognizing her immediately.
"Lyman," she replied.
He grimaced at his given name. "Must you call me that?" he asked. "Please, some respect for the dead."
The chicken clucked. "But it's so much more dignified than Frank," she answered.
"Do you want me to call you 'William?'" Frank retorted.
Billina certainly did not want to be reminded of that terrible uncertain time in her life when people labored under the erroneous belief that she might one day be a horrid rooster. "Oh, very well," she replied, with a fluff of her feathers.
Frank crouched down to give her a pat on the head. "I'm glad to see you," he told his feathery friend. "I wasn't sure if--"
"If what? If chickens had an afterlife?" asked Billina. She began to strut away down the yellow brick road.
"Well, er. Yes," Frank replied, a little bit sheepish over the admission.
"Silly man," said Billina. "You of all people should know better. We all have souls! Every one of us!"
The little butterfly, as if to make a point, darted over.
"Even butterflies?" asked Frank, lamenting the fact that one cannot make corrections to one's fiction from the Great Beyond.
"Especially butterflies," replied Billina.
The two walked together, still following the winding road of yellow brick, into a dark and tangled wood.
The Great Ak wa waiting for them there, delighted to finally meet his literary progenitor. "Hello, Frank," he said.
Frank was quite bowled over by the appearance of so great a being, for even if he had written the Great Ak into existence, the difference between a human man and the great protector of all the forests is a vast one. He dropped to one knee out of deference. "Master Woodsman!" he exclaimed.
The butterfly, which had been following them, hovered a bit above Frank's head.
"Oh, for Burzee's sake," said the Great Ak. "Get up, man. There's no need for that. You created me."
It was then that the others-- big and small, narrow and wide, pink and blue and purple with green stripes-- all wandered into the clearing, eager and curious to meet their maker.
"And me," said the Scarecrow, waving a well-stuffed hand in the air.
"Me, too," added the Tin Woodman, his joints squeaking just a little.
The Cowardly Lion was about to add his own agreement, but was frightened away by the butterfly.
Frank stared in wonder at all his creations, standing around him in the flesh-- or in the clockwork, as it were with some of them.
"But," he asked. "How is it you're all here?"
"Ack-shu-al-ly," said Tik-Tok.
But Claus stepped in, holding up the gleaming Mantle of Immortality. "Years ago, you gave this to me so that I could keep doing good for the children of my world."
Now Ozma came forward, hands folded over her head. "Now we'd like to give it to you, Mr. Baum," she explained.
"The Mantle of Immortality?" asked Frank. "But...I'm already dead."
"Dead, shmead," replied Billina, as she scratched at the ground, always practical.
"Only in your world," said the Scarecrow.
"Not in this one," Ozma agreed. "We've been waiting for you to come back for a long time."
"Back?" Frank asked, puzzled.
"Of course," replied Bellina. "Now, come along. And do remember your glasses." The yellow hen herself was wearing a rather garish set of green spectacles.
Ozma handed a pair to Frank. "After all," she said. "Where would we be without our Wizard?"
And Frank put on his spectacles, and turned to see the resplendent green walls of the Emerald city shimmering at the end of the road.
This post was written for LJ Idol Week 30: Return to Oz