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Fanfic / The Land of What Might-Have-Been

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The Land of What Might-Have-Been by Straightjacketed is an alternate version of Wicked, starting during Glinda and Elphaba's final conversation in Kamino Kor and progressing from there as a dimensional rift caused by Elphaba's unstable magic sends the two witches, Dorothy, Toto, Chistrey and Dorothy's companions into an alternate universe, fifty years in their future. With Dorothy's companions lost in the wilderness, Elphaba is stuck with Dorothy in the "Deviant Nations" ruled by Glinda's counterpart, while Glinda finds herself taken to the kingdom of Unbridled Radiance, a kingdom focused on the idea that beauty equals goodness to the point of forcing that view on everyone... ruled by the now-insane Elphaba Thropp, the "Radiant Empress", given a normal complexion and virtual immortality at the cost of being driven utterly insane. As Glinda is captured by the Empress, Elphaba and Dorothy find themselves in the "custody" of the Great Mentor — Glinda's own counterpart, leading to Elphaba being dragged into the war against her other self.


The Land of What Might-Have-Been provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Badass: Glinda and Dorothy go from a ditz and a screaming damsel in distress to actually taking a stand for their friends, ranging from Glinda beating a would-be captor to death to Dorothy hitting an invading soldier with the burning arm of a dummy and sacrificing herself to the Hellion to save Elphaba and the Lion.
  • Adipose Rex: Rostov Branderstove, the richest and most powerful of all the industrialists visiting the Wizard's palace during the backstory, is morbidly obese and absolutely gargantuan. In the present, he's the commander of a mercenary company known as the Strangling Coils, and thanks to mutations induced by the Plague of Transformations, he's even bigger - to the point that his men call him "The Leviathan."
  • All Your Powers Combined: The process that gave the alternate Elphaba normal skin (and, indirectly, immortality) involved merging a spell to drain pigmentation, a spell for chameleonic mimicry, a spell to remove skin (likely originally used as a means of torture) and a spell to create an antibiotic protection until her skin is restored.
  • Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome: All over the place.
    • Played darkly in the case of alternate Elphaba, the Radiant Empress: an immensely powerful witch with powers almost akin to that of a demigod, she's carved out her own empire from the ruins of Oz and now serves as the single biggest threat in the entire story.
    • The alternate Glinda is now the Great Mentor, the leader of a resistance movement that's essentially become a global superpower in its own right, and has learned enough magic to take on an entire enemy fleet and come out on top - despite her numerous illnesses.
    • The alternate Boq is Dr Kiln, the Mentor's personal physician; on top of being an an incredibly skilled mage-surgeon and scientist, he's also quite the powerhouse in battle.
    • The alternate Nessa is the Mistress of Mirrors, an information broker with the power to see the world through mirrors and shadows.
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  • Arbitrary Skepticism: The Radiant Empress spent much of the backstory refusing to believe in Dr Lintel's theory of the multiverse, even after all the weird and wonderful magical phenomena she's witnessed. As such, she believes that Elphaba is an impostor created by the Great Mentor for some reason and continues to fixate on that even when fighting (by proxy) with Elphaba; ultimately, she drops the skepticism after Elphaba starts revealing a few too many personal details during the battle.
  • Assimilation Plot: This is essentially the feared final goal of Unbridled Radiance; to make everyone 'perfect' while essentially eliminating individuality and freedom of choice.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: All the major players in the war are led by spectacular powerhouses on the battlefield - the Radiant Empress for Unbridled Radiance, the Great Mentor for the Deviant Nations, the Leviathan for the Strangling Coils; even the Mayor of Loamlark and the head of the militia aren't afraid to take the fight to the enemy.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Considering that the flashbacks depict the events that will end with Elphaba becoming the Empress and taking control of Oz, it's hard not to concede that the villain will win in that scenario.
  • Badass and Child Duo: In a sense, Elphaba and Dorothy end up in this position, as the circumstances of their arrival in the Deviant Nations result in the two of them being the only company the other has from their original reality for a time.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: The primary philosophy of Unbridled Radiance, but taken to a very twisted degree, to the point that the Empress will make people "beautiful" to the point of twisting their minds.
  • Berserk Button: Elphaba still dislikes being used, but she controls it because she has to concede that the Mentor is right that there's nothing else they can do but help her against the Empress.
    • After spending time with Dorothy, the knowledge that Dorothy has handed herself over to the Hellion prompts Elphaba to immediately fly into a rage and resolve to find the Hellion to rescue Dorothy, with the rest of the displaced Ozians joining her (with the exception of the still-injured Lion).
  • Birds of a Feather: For the first few days in the Deviant Nations, Elphaba forms this kind of bond with Dorothy of all people, as the only two people from Oz to stick together and arrive somewhere comparatively safe.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The Empress might consider herself a benevolent ruler bringing beauty to all, but in the end she's a psychopath willing to destroy everything who disagrees with her philosophy.
  • Bloody Handprint: Given that she doesn't have skin, the Hellion tends to leave gory handprints on everything she touches, at one point driving Dorothy to a panic attack by magically smearing bloody handprints all over her without even being in the same room.
  • Body Horror:
    • Both sides subject themselves to various gruesome experiments to make their bodies match their philosophies, but at least everything done to the subjects of the Deviant Nations is done with the full consent of the relevant parties; Unbridled Radiance forces their surgery onto people even if they don't actually want it, to the point of surgically changing their brains while the procedure is taking place, and one constant element of the process involves literally tearing off the subject's skin.
    • Also applies to the Hellion; her precise origin was not revealed until Chapter 52, but she was always shown to be dangerous and twisted, to the point of being completely skinless and sporting tusks for teeth, a voice that seems to change as she speaks, and with arms in place of legs while she hovers through the air.
    • The Plague of Transformations, a case of a Baleful Polymorph turned viral by the Radiant Empress, results in several unfortunate cases of this. In one case, Shenshen and Pfanee end up getting merged together into a writhing ball of flesh, and in another, Rostov Branderstove is permanently transformed into a giant octopus/human hybrid.
    • It's revealed that one of the many reasons why the Tin Man is so irrational is that his brains are starting to corrode.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: To various degrees for the residents of Unbridled Radiance, but particularly in the case of the Empress's champion, revealed after his death to be this world's version of Fiyero, who was subjected to a complex spell to ensure his love for Glinda by mixing it with his feelings for Elphaba that seriously damaged his mind.
  • Cain and Abel: Essentially applies to 'Alphaba' and the alternate version of Nessarose, who was generally against Unbridled Radiance's policies but never took explicit action herself because she didn't want to have to kill her sister.
  • The Chessmaster: Flashbacks show how Elphaba/the Empress manoeuvred herself into a position of greater power while eliminating those who might threaten her authority or ensuring that she could recruit the appropriate allies to her cause.
  • Chew Toy: Glinda basically fills this role during her initial time in Unbridled Radiance, witnessing such horror and taking such a beating (particularly from a spell cast on her by the Radiant Empress) that she actually wonders at one point if she's legitimately died and gone to Hell.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Strangling Coils and an angry mob of Loamlark's citizens team up to publicly torture some captured soldiers from Unbridled Radiance, the method of choice being pitch-capping.
  • Corrupt Politician: The original government of Oz wasn't great, but even Morrible doesn't deserve what Elphaba did to her as she gained power, and they certainly never explicitly mutilated people to achieve their goals like Elphaba resorts to here (even if she argues it's "for their own good").
  • The Corrupter: Back when she was still Elphaba, the Radiant Empress managed to recruit Boq by successfully convincing him that Glinda would never love him, then exploiting his grief and loss of purpose to seduce him with the possibility of a new life; as a result, Boq becomes Mr Heart, one of her magical researchers - and a key conspirator in the Wizard's downfall.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Suggested; alternate Morrible mentions at one point that she's concerned that her attempts to influence Elphaba's moods are causing mental instability, and while Glinda dismisses it at the time as Morrible just trying to cover up her own plans, it becomes chillingly more plausible when looking at scenes from Elphaba's perspective set around this time...
  • Crying Wolf: alternate Morrible of all people; she may have actually been telling Glinda the truth when she tried to warn Glinda that Elphaba was becoming unstable due to spells Morrible had performed to try and control Elphaba, but thanks to both Elphaba's deceptions (which Morrible couldn't have known about) and Morrible's own past actions, Glinda is thoroughly disinclined to believe a word of it.
  • Deal with the Devil: It could be argued that the Elphaba who became the Empress did this when she agreed to the surgery that would make her beautiful to earn "forgiveness" from the citizens of Oz.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Elphaba hits this at various points;
    • In the alternate history, Elphaba hit a particularly low point after she was captured by the Wizard's forces, feeling as though everything she's ever done has been for nothing as she accomplished so little in her campaign against the Wizard.
    • Elphaba has a particularly depressing breakdown when she kills the Empress's champion and only learns after he's dead that she just killed Fiyero's brainwashed counterpart, but her mood picks up when she learns the Scarecrow's true identity.
    • Dorothy appears to hit this after it's discovered that the Hellion has captured the Cowardly Lion, and will kill him if Elphaba doesn't hand over Dorothy; among other things, she pretty much gives up all hope of ever escaping the Hellion, and asks to be handed over.
  • Doppelgänger Gets Same Sentiment: Elphaba coming to this reality is the reason the Mistress of Mirrors- the alternate version of Nessa- chooses to end her neutrality, as she would rather the monster that her sister has become be defeated by the woman she once was if anyone has to do it.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Radiant Empress and the Great Mentor to Elphaba and Glinda respectively; even if the Mentor is technically on their side, she's still far more manipulative and ruthless than Glinda would ever want to be.
    • Chapter 52 identifies the Hellion as the twisted counterpart of Dorothy.
  • Fan Disservice: Chapter 23 features a sex-scene between alternate Fiyero and alternate Glinda; however, alternate Elphaba is using this as an opportunity to rid Fiyero of his infatuation with her, and casts a spell that causes him to perceive Glinda as Elphaba - to the point that Glinda appears to shapeshift into Elphaba and back again numerous times during their tryst. Already the effect is more bizarre rather than titillating, but add to the fact that Elphaba is clearly mind-raping Fiyero, and the scene appears more disturbing than anything else.
  • Fantastic Nuke: The Slamming Door, a weapon of mass destruction used by Alphaba in her attempts to eliminate Glinda's forces in the last days of Oz; essentially made by creating a portal to another world and collapsing it, the resulting shockwave not only ruined the Emerald City, but presumably helped create the No-Man's Land that separates Unbridled Radiation from the Deviant Nations to this day. Worse still, said portal actually lead to Kansas, resulting in Alternate Dorothy's agonizing transformation into the Hellion.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Even with the Empress's propaganda campaign, certain individuals in Unbridled Radiance still recognise that being 'Purified' essentially destroys who the person was originally, with a father noting that the authorities might as well kill his son instead of taking him away for Purification.
  • Finger in the Mail: Hellion cuts off the Cowardly Lion's tail and sends it to Elphaba in order to persuade her into handing over Dorothy.
  • Flaying Alive: As part of her transformation into the Hellion, Alternate Dorothy ends up getting the skin torn off her body in a magical cataclysm - and then actually seeing the flayed skin tumbling away like "an oversized stocking."
  • Fountain of Youth: Morrible and a group of like-minded researchers have been stuck in a permanent state of age oscillation, in which they regress - sometimes all the way back to infancy - before aging back to normal. It's a particularly humiliating condition, especially given that it's resulted in Unbridled Radiance keeping them under lock and key until they can be cured. Worse still, after decades of being intermittently stuck as children, many of them have started mentally regressing as well, forgetting all details of their past lives except for their magical knowledge.
  • Fright-Induced Bunkmate: Badly traumatized following her ordeal in Unbridled Radiance and unable to stop thinking about her first two kills, Glinda asks to be allowed to sleep in Elphaba's bed. Elphaba obliges.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: The Hellion. Turns out she used to be Dorothy's alternate universe counterpart, and every bit as unassuming... up until she ended up on the receiving end of Alphaba's Fantastic Nuke and being transformed into a monster.
  • Future Me Scares Me: Technically not completely accurate, as it's soon established that the Empress and the Mentor are alternate versions of Elphaba and Glinda whose histories diverged a few months before their present, but it's close enough as they're both versions of the witches with fifty years' more experience.
    • With the revelation that the Hellion was Dorothy's counterpart in chapter 52, it's hard to argue that this applies in their case as well.
  • Gambit Pileup: Flashbacks show Elphaba playing a complex political game to ascend to power in Oz as the Radiant Empress, resulting in her colliding head-on with several dozen different agendas, including the Wizard's attempts to redeem himself in her eyes, Morrible's efforts to seize immortality, and Glinda's investigation into the ongoing crisis.
  • Gilded Cage: For their own safety, Morrible and the other Childlike Researchers are kept in a luxurious underground complex known as the Creche. Here, they can live in comfort regardless of what age they've stabilized at, and - more importantly - continue their work on behalf of Unbridled Radiance. However, they are still very much prisoners: none of them are allowed to leave unsupervised, and anyone misbehaving can be packed off to a holding cell at short notice. Plus, there's a whole block of sealed chambers at the back of the complex where Researchers who have committed offences too heinous for the Empress to tolerate have been imprisoned - indefinitely.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Demonstrated by the Mentor of all people; she might have been Glinda once upon a time, but now she's resorting to increasingly desperate measures to win a war she's aware she's going to lose without some major coup.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: From outside perspectives, there is a great deal of concern that the Deviant Nations and Unbridled Radiance are this, as neutral cities such as Loamlark worry that the Irredeemables will forcibly convert others to their ranks just as Unbridled Radiance subject their subjects to purification against their will, and lack any means to reliably confirm that one way or the other.
  • Handicapped Badass: The Great Mentor. Old, infirm, missing one arm and only able to stand upright with the aid of a mechanical frame... and yet when she finally goes into battle, she ends up bringing down a huge chunk of the oncoming enemy fleet through sheer magical firepower.
  • The Heartless: The Hate-Creature, a physical manifestation of Frexspar Thropp's hatred, given form by the Empress and sent into the field to eliminate Elphaba.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: When Elphaba is left mortally wounded and stranded on the battlefield at the Hate-Creature's mercy, Dorothy offers herself to the Hellion in exchange for saving Elphaba's life - a deal the Hellion gleefully accepts.
  • Hidden Depths: As well as Glinda showing greater strength, Dorothy has a few moments where she demonstrates surprising courage and insight, even making a particularly relevant observation about the problem of her house being in No Man's Land in this new world that even Elphaba hadn't realized was an anomaly.
  • I Shall Taunt You: At one point, Elphaba ends up doing this to the Empress, albeit when communicating with her foe through a proxy.
    • Following alternate Fiyero's death, the Empress returns the favour with a massive "The Reason You Suck" Speech; plus, just to make sure Elphaba loses all composure, she also spams her with audio footage of Fiyero's purification.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Alternate Nessa does not hold back when having sex with Dr Kiln, to the point that Elphaba initially assumes that she's being assaulted - resulting in mutual embarrassment when she bursts in on the two of them.
  • Immortality Seeker: Morrible attempts this in flashbacks, after she realises that something about the procedures performed on Elphaba have halted the aging process. It ends up with her being trapped in a continuous state of regression and progression.
  • Ironic Echo: In a chilling sense; Glinda's idea that she has actually gone to Hell is reinforced when she learns that the psychological elements of Purification are referred to as 'Personality Dialysis', reminding her of that long-ago conversation with Elphaba...
  • Kick the Dog: Dorothy gets a few of these, starting with her being rendered temporarily paralysed from the waist down by the Hellion and progressing from there as she's dragged into a war on a scale she can't imagine.
  • Knowledge Broker: The Mistress of Mirror; a powerful witch with the ability to spy on her enemies via mirrors, shadows and echoes, she uses these powers to trade tactical information to the highest bidder. For some reason, she appears to have taken Elphaba's arrival as a cue to side with the Deviant Nations.
  • Kryptonite Factor: Elphaba is vulnerable to the anti-Irredeemable gas weapon, Purity, but is nevertheless essentially immune to a tracking system that reads her as the Empress despite her green skin.
  • Logical Weakness: In a sense; the semi-robotic Eyes used by Unbridled Radiance to track deviants and Irredeemables read Elphaba as the Empress when they scan her, so they actually leave her alone when they detect her presence
  • Love Triangle: Elphaba, Glinda and Fiyero, albeit mainly in flashbacks and understated due to the Empress's focus on her own ideas of perfection leaving her disinclined to pursue such a relationship.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Used in the flashbacks when the Wizard tells alternate-Elphaba about her real parentage; for her part, the future Radiant Empress is so numb that she barely even cares - whereas Elphaba is completely shellshocked after seeing this within her other self's memories.
  • Modest Royalty: In a sense, as the Empress's attire is just a simple thin crown and a pure white dress, demonstrating her authority without being ostentatious.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Elphaba's rant in chapter 52 includes variations of this, as she bemoans how she spent so long back in Oz blaming Dorothy for Nessa's death and never really apologised for it when the girl was just the unwitting pawn of Morrible and the Wizard.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In a sense; Glinda convinced Elphaba to go along with the process that made her normal, which turned her into the Empress.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: The Empress casts a few spells, such as when hunting Glinda or fighting Elphaba via proxy, but generally leaves the actual fighting to her forces.
  • Obliviously Evil: The Radiant Empress genuinely has no idea that her actions might be perceived as 'evil' by anyone; as far as she's concerned, she's doing everyone a favour by making them beautiful to reflect their enforced 'goodness'.
  • One Steve Limit: Despite dealing with various alternate versions of the same person, to date there have been no issues with both versions demanding to be addressed by the same name, as the residents of Unbridled Radiance and the Deviant Nations have each moved on from their original identities for assorted reasons.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Both the Mentor and the Radiant Empress stay off the field of battle - the former because she's in poor health, the latter because she's trying not to waste her magical energy on something an army could accomplish. As such, it's considered a very, very big deal when the Mentor decides to head off the air attack on the Deviant Nations... and when the Empress shows up leading an army, she's all but unstoppable.
  • Out, Damned Spot!: Dorothy has a meltdown in the aftermath of the Cowardly Lion's maiming, when a spell allows the Hellion to smear bloody handprints all over her.
  • Pet the Dog: A literal example; after enduring weeks of varying kinds of horror while stuck in a city at war in a parallel universe, Dorothy is joyfully reunited with Toto.
  • Private Military Contractor: The Strangling Coils, an elite mercenary company initially hired by the people of Loamloark and then by the Deviant Nations; they're ruthless and not all that trustworthy, and only considered allies of convenience. They gleefully take part in the torture and execution of captured troops, and their second-in-command is apparently in the business of collecting trophies from corpses; their commander-in-chief is an Ozian industrialist-turned-mutant outcast, currently hoping for a chance at revenge against the Empress for ruining his life.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: The Hellion, with her love of "dolls" and her psychotic temper-tantrums, is a pretty clear case of this. At one point, she goes so far as to play "she loves me, she loves me not"... with a struggling captive's limbs, finishing up by ripping his heart out.
  • A Rare Sentence; Acknowledged in Chapter 52;
    Elphaba: [Dorothy] ended up having to save me from the personification of my father's rampaging anger issues!
    Mentor: And here I was, thinking I'd already found the weirdest sentence ever spoken in recent memory.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Elphaba gives one to Dorothy regarding the way she easily accepted everything she was told about the 'Wicked Witches' and the Wizard.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Seems to define the final act of Harnley, AKA Harker; guilty over his own memories of shooting down 'Alphaba' and starting her transformation into the Empress, along with his counterpart's memories of 'killing' Fiyero, he allows himself to be killed by the Champion rather than try to fight him.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Technically a roaring rampage of rescue, as Elphaba dives into Unbridled Radiance and tears through several soldiers to rescue Glinda before anyone in that kingdom has done anything to her directly.
  • Sanity Slippage: The dream flashbacks explore how the future "Radiant Empress" goes from being Elphaba to taking such a twisted view of the world and her own past.
    • Chapter 19 includes diary entries written by one of the Hellion's dolls that actually records the mental degeneration he suffered as the Hellion corrupted his mind.
  • Secret Test of Character: The Mentor gives Elphaba the materials needed to either rescue Glinda or try and kill the Mentor, while taking precautions to prevent the second working if Elphaba tried to take that route.
  • Situational Damage Attack: In a roundabout sense; at one point the Deviant Nations are bombed with "Purity", a gas weapon that causes any Irredeemables to be temporarily driven insane and turn against their unnatural appearance but does absolutely nothing to anyone normal. When Elphaba is exposed to it, she starts using her own nails to try and tear her skin off before she is found by Dorothy, who deliberately dived back into the gas-filled room to find the Witch once assured that it couldn't do anything to her, and is knocked out in time to get over her exposure.
  • Stop, or I Shoot Myself!: On realizing that the Hellion will do anything to capture her, Dorothy manages to save the day by putting a knife to her own throat and threatening to kill herself unless the Hellion saves Elphaba from the Hate-Creature.
  • That Man Is Dead: Played with; the Radiant Empress still essentially considers herself Elphaba, but the Great Mentor has spent years convincing herself that the Elphaba she knew is basically dead and subsumed by something else, and the Mentor even states at one point that she considers Glinda dead even though she is Glinda.
  • Too Good to Be True: When she first talks directly to one of the Purified, Glinda finds his perfect skin too smooth to be real, which unnerves her even before she learns what is truly involved in Purification.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Glinda and Dorothy both get a chance at this, starting with moments such as Glinda's efforts to escape from Unbridled Radiance or Dorothy deliberately diving into a potentially toxic gas cloud (albeit after confirming she probably won't be affected by it) to save Elphaba.
  • Undying Loyalty: Many of the members of Unbridled Radiance, albeit because they've been brainwashed through indoctrination or surgery.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: For the most part in the case of the Empress; some people outside Unbridled Radiance know what she does to select subjects, but the citizens of Unbridled Radiance itself just act like nothing is wrong and her mutilations are justified in the name of purity.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: In a warped sense, considering that the Empress now genuinely believes that beauty equals goodness.
  • Why Can't I Hate You?: Once she starts spending time with Dorothy after the Ruby Slippers are taken by the Hellion, Elphaba grudgingly acknowledges that it's hard to actually hate the girl whose only crime was relative naiveté rather than genuine malice.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Obviously for the Radiant Empress, as her immortality and new appearance have gradually driven her completely insane.
  • Yandere: The Hellion is insanely fixated on Dorothy, and will do just about anything to claim her as her own.


Example of: