A Distant Echo (the sky now is begging for notice)Fandom:
Elphaba, with appearances by various othersWord Count:
There are various spoilers for the musical and some for the book.Disclaimer:
None of it belongs to me, including the two lines I stole directly from the musical. “A distant echo” is from the song “The Lightning Strike” by Snow Patrol; “the sky now is begging for notice” and “still she has her silent say” is from the poem “The Swim” by Karen Chase.Summary: Still she has her silent say.
History is there for learning. Future is there for change.Author’s Notes:
This is not at all what I’m supposed to be writing. Blame the musical, blame the soundtrack (especially blame the soundtrack), blame the book. And, okay, a little of the blame goes to Alice in Wonderland
and it’s strange way of inspiring me too. This is primarily
canon-compliant with the musical, but I’ve blended in book canon to construct my own backstory for Elphaba.
And, um, possibly expect a similar fic to follow for Glinda at some point.A Distant Echo
(the sky now is begging for notice)
When Elphaba is two, her nanny says to her, “Fabala, History is set. There is no changing it; you can only learn from it.”
Elphaba doesn’t look up from the big red ball she has treasured since birth, and tosses it in the air. She watches, giggles when it lands in a patch of grass, and claps her hands in childish glee. “History,” she says, her very first word.*
Her sister is damaged, like she is (except differently), and Mama is gone. Elphaba nods when Nanny tells her, understanding even if she’s not quite sure what she means.
It does not matter either way, because Mama was never around much anyway, and now Elphaba has a companion to play with. Father only occasionally allowed Nanny to take her out to play with a few of the other children in Munchkinland. Even at her young age, Elphaba understood he was ashamed of her, even if she didn’t know the words to express it.
She cannot play with Nessarose the way she plays with the other children, a fact Nanny has to drill into her. Elphaba can be hard-headed (something she got from her mother, Nanny often says), but she’s usually a quick learner, and Nanny does not understand why she can’t grasp the concept of Nessa’s disability.
“Elphaba, stop taunting your sister,” Nanny chastises when Elphaba darts around her one year old sister. Nessa’s lips are pouted and curled downward, brown eyes wide and bright with tears.
Elphaba does not understand why Nessa can’t walk like she can, and she keeps pointing at Nessa’s feet. “Shoes,” she says, still preferring to speak sentences comprised of one word. “Walk!”
“No, Elphaba,” Nanny sighs, weary of having this conversation again. “Nessa can’t walk like you can, Fabala. She’s damaged.”
Elphaba is damaged, too, but she walks just fine, and she knows her sister could walk if she’d only try. She’s seen it.*
By the time Elphaba is ten, strange things have gained a tendency of happening around her. When she loses her temper, as rare an occasion as that is, things simply… occur, with little warning beyond Elphaba’s flushing skin and clenched fists. She is too young to know what this means, and Nanny knows much, but she knows little about such phenomena other than she wants it to stop occurring. So Elphaba is scolded and chastised and punished for things like exploding tea cups, without truly knowing what to do about it besides sit down and be quiet.
It only gets worse when Frex deigns to see his children during the day, in a rare free moment of time. He greets Nessa with a great big hug, and barely acknowledges Elphaba. As she is used to this, she continues playing with her ball, undisturbed as her father makes small talk with Nanny and beams over Nessarose. Then:
“No, stop! No!”
Elphaba has been her sister’s caretaker alongside Nanny since her sister was deemed old enough to play. She is her protector, because her sister can’t protect herself, not with her damaged legs. As far as she is concerned, her father is a danger to Nessa for he does not take care or play with her, and to hear her sister shout now, and knowing who must be the cause, Elphaba reacts in the logical way.
“Nessa said stop it!” she shouts, dropping her ball and thrusting a hand out toward her father and sister. Nessa stops laughing as a gust of wind kicks up, pushing at Frex. It is not powerful enough to knock him down, but the surprise of it makes him stumble away from his youngest daughter.
“Elphaba!” Nanny exclaims, moving as fast as her old legs will carry her to block the child’s view, in the vague hope that will settle her down.
It works, or maybe she is simply drained from the expense of energy, and Elphaba drops her hand, breathing hard. “Nessa wanted him to stop,” she says simply, turning back around and picking her ball up. “Let’s play catch.”*
It gets better as she gets older, as she learns that having a tantrum achieves her nothing but a punishment and bits of sandwiches scattered everywhere. When she is older, she knows that causing a gust of wind upsets Nanny, and Nanny is getting up there and mustn’t be disturbed. When she is older, she takes over primary care for Nessarose, because Nanny is old and tired.
When she is older, she understands more fully what being green-skinned means, and that the results of her tantrums mark her as even more different. She knows now to stay calm, because she has been called “devil” more times than she can count, and displaying such an ability would only hurt her in the long-run.*
Elphaba leaves for Shiz with Nessa in tow, because Nanny needs more taking care of than her sister, and she makes sure to promise Nanny that she will take care of her, as she has since she was little. It is the way of things, and despite what others would call her devilish appearance, Elphaba has a good, strong heart.
With age, she has largely managed to put aside any strangeness beyond her greenness, and though she dreads being subjected to new peers unaware of her damage, she is unable to mask excitement about academia. She already plans to dedicate herself to Life Sciences, even if at the end of her time at university, she will go back to Munchkinland and stay in the Governor’s Mansion, awaiting the time for her father to hand over the key to the land and name her Governor, so to speak. It is a boring future, but an inevitable one.
With age, she has largely left behind the strange tantrums of her youth, and it’s been some time since any phenomenon has happened by her own hand.
Watching her sister be taken from her, even if there was no ill intent, makes her blood boil. She has made a promise, to Nanny and to Father, and it is the one thing her father trusts her to do properly. Acting impulsively, as is always the case with these moments, Elphaba thrusts out her hand:
An uncontrolled burst of energy explodes out from her, knocking the students off their feet, and coils around Nessa’s chair, pulling her back to Elphaba. She stares in awe, the first time she has drawn something to her instead of pushing it away. It is an unexpected development.
It is at Shiz when Elphaba first learns that the future is not always inevitable.*
At the end of her second year, Madame Morrible announces to her that she has been invited to the Emerald City to see the Wizard.
“You have learned a great many things here at Shiz, Miss Elphaba,” Morrible says, clad in varying shades of deep purple, even up to her hair, streaked with the color as if someone had flung berries at her and the juice had stained and set. “The Wizard thinks you are ready to undergo tutelage with him. I have taught you all I can here.”
Elphaba smiles, keenly aware of a talent she had shied away from since she was a little girl. No longer; she has honed the power inside of her, and she is eager to use it. She already has plans on how to better Animal Rights, the memory of Doctor Dillamond still bright despite his death a year ago. She is going to the Emerald City, and she is going to be an advisor to the Wizard, and she is going to do great things.
She leaves Nessa behind for the first time since Nessa’s birth, and she feels like a part of her heart is missing. It seems to beat weaker now that her sister is no longer near, but Elphaba forces herself to trust in Boq. He is a good Munchkin, and he will take great care of her, she thinks, even if it is only because Glinda asked him to.
The Emerald City is exactly how she pictured it, and it is the one place where she feels – well, not normal, because normal is a loaded word, she feels, and does not properly express her feelings. It’s more of a camaraderie she feels with the sparkling green around her, winking at her in welcome, telling her she has always belonged here, and her entire miserable life before has been building to this.
She remembers her vision from two years ago, of the celebration thrown in her honor, and she thrills, not noticing the way the citizens of the Emerald City wear feathers and fur.*
“Why couldn’t you have stayed calm for once
, instead of flying off the handle?” Glinda barks, anger marring her beautiful features. Elphaba would have normally been quick to point out she is always
calm, and that at least the one time she did lose her temper it didn’t result in a catastrophe of wind, but she is too distraught to even think of a witty response.
You think I wanted this, Elphaba wants to say to her friend. You think I wanted my dreams to be crushed?
“I can’t do this, Glinda,” she says instead, forcing back the urge to cry. “He lied
to me! To all of us!”
Glinda pleads for her to stop, to rethink what she’s doing – what is she doing? She truly doesn’t know, not until she hears Madame Morrible’s announcement about the green-skinned witch – wicked, she says, and Elphaba only hears devil and the laughter of cruel-faced children.
Wicked. The word repeats like a mantra, and Elphaba braces herself as she looks to her friend. Glinda’s face has softened now, any anger at her antics dissipated by concern. Poor sweet Glinda, she thinks, shaking her head. She means so well, but she’s so innocent. Naïve.
She begs Glinda to come with her, because she’s certainly not returning to the Wizard’s castle and she can’t go back to Munchkinland, not after this. But she already knows the other witch’s answer before she even asks, no vision necessary.
“Goodbye,” she whispers, pressing a kiss to Glinda’s cheek, and grasping her broom tightly in her hands. Anger surges through her as she surges upward, releasing only a modicum of her power on the unsuspecting guards to throw them back. She could do more.
“If you care to find me,” she shouts to them, taunting, daring them to try to follow, “look to the Western sky!”*
Elphaba learned long ago that History could not be changed. She thought the same principle applied to Future.
Now, she knows it is there to manipulate, that she sees it because it is malleable.
The future is this: A castle, dark and foreboding, familiar in an unfamiliar way. A little girl wearing a dress of blue and white checks and Nessa’s shoes, and carrying a yapping dog that tries even Elphaba’s patience and strict intolerance for cruelty to animals or Animals. A wave of water, a cloud of green smoke, her own voice screaming out.
She knows how it works. If Future says she dies, so be it.
She says, “Witches always come back.”