Word count before editing: 3,776
Song I listened to for this chapter: Letters from the Sky by Civil Twilight.
The sky is heavy with clouds full of rain; the general feeling of the air is thick as a Papay sack. A lone rider is on the Old Brick Road, on a horse that once was all white, but now has mud splatters up to its hocks. The man on the horse is a born horseman, hidden in the gloom but every so often his ice cold blue eyes are seen below the fedora he wears as a shield.
The man looks up as he passes a familiar landmark; although Cain is looking upward, his mind is lost in his memories. Memories of when they had taken this route on the way to Central City to see his former employer. To a time before he had given into his feelings for the woman who had freed him from his prison, before he stopped fighting what he was feeling at the time. After what seemed to be too long to the blonde man, Cain is riding back into Central City, after spending time helping his son put down the last of the large gatherings of Longcoats. He is sore and weary, but nothing will stop him from at least putting his eyes, at long last, on DG.
Cain shifts minutely in the saddle, making as little noise as possible out of habit. He frowns as he makes his way into the city, remembering the last annual. DG woke up from her magical drain quiet. He and Glitch had tried at length to get her to talk about what was going on in that stubborn pretty head of hers. Sadly nothing ever came from their attempts, neither he nor any of their friends seemed able to get through to her. And gods know they tried everything. He and Glitch ended up sleeping on the chairs outside her room to make sure she didn’t try anything. Or more hopefully, that she’d decide to open up to them both. Shoot, they would accept if she only spoke with one of them, anything had to be better than the robot she was becoming.
After that had gone on for a month, Az had finally dragged both Glitch and Cain to her parents. She reminded Glitch that he had already sued for the right to court DG and that Cain needed to. The whole family just gaped at her, shocked; Cain more than anyone else, him court a Royal? But that ended really quickly once Az asked if Cain was giving up on DG and willing to let Glitch marry her. Cain had straightened up, and immediately asked for the right to court DG. He loves that little princess too much to give her up without a fight. Once an agreement had been given from the Queen and her Consort, a ripple spread from Cain and Glitch.
Then the day turned odder as Az sagged, relieved. She explained that as a Royal Princess of the OZ, suitors that are earnest in their feelings towards the Royal in question, and sue successfully to be a Suitor, gain a tie to the person in question and a tie to each other. Basically letting everyone but DG know where everyone else is, including both Cain and Glitch knowing where DG is.
Then Az dropped the final ball, she held out a locket that Glitch recognized. “Hey that is DG’s! She was really upset when the ankle biters took it from her and dropped it.” Then his eyes widened and he clamped both hands over his mouth, realizing he was in the presence of the parents of the woman he loved. The very ones who he wanted to make a good impression on. Funny though, he didn’t feel as though he needed to try too hard.
Az waited patiently for Glitch’s eyes to return to hers and then she nodded as she looked up into her mother’s eyes. “The Emerald has rejected me. It has made known to me its wishes of being reunited with its correct owner. Because DG rejected it when I tried to give it to her, it has come up with a sneaky way of being with her. It has merged itself with the locket, and with my help, we will make sure it will not be coming off of her easily. It added an emerald heart on the front, I need your help with this, Mother.”
Lavender looked down at the locket and back up to her daughter, asking, “What am I going to do with it?”
Cain laughed as he realized. When they all looked at him, he told them, “You are going to do something magical in nature to it, saying the emerald heart is from you.”
Az smiled at one who could be her brother-in-law. “He has it.” She went on to explain that the Emerald has hidden itself, but due to its power, it always leaves a physical presence. By Lavender explaining she added an emerald to it, and making it where the photos inside will never fade as a gift to DG, they all hope this will help.
Lavender smiled down at them all and they expanded on the plans to make sure DG will accept it. The Emerald had promised to sneak in lessons and will try to protect her by acting as a shield to keep her from killing herself, in return for being returned to its rightful owner.
The following day DG was called in, and given the necklace that was just found. Cain watched her with anxious eyes, noting the weariness in her body. His eyes shot over to meet Glitch’s equally worried dark eyes. There is something wrong with DG! She should not be this exhausted. But both Az and Lavender say they haven’t felt her working her magic outside of her lessons with Tutor. Tutor promised all he was working on was basic instructions, hoping to trigger the memories locked inside her brain.
That was the last day they had all been together. Raw had left soon after, escorting Kalm back to his tribe, promising to come back to help with DG, Kalm was having problems being in the same area with DG and her guilt.
Shortly afterwards, Jeb had been promoted to Commander of the Forces and was sent to try to round up the last of the Longcoats. He had deserved the promotion, and had a very proud father handing his commendations and new insignia to his son.
Cain had refused any titles, but he was given one anyways. The short stick of the deal was that he needed to be a Lord in order to handle any disciplinary actions. This was part of the plan to help DG, and allowed for both of them to remain close to her. He and Glitch were to work together in helping DG and Lavender heal the OZ, in a more controlled manner, not as DG had tried to do.
But with his title, events quickly escalated to the point that he needed to go out to his son with the full authority of the Gales behind him. He was needed to help sort through who needed to be tried for their crimes by the Gales, and who he can deal with himself. Being a former Tin Man helped a lot. Jeb and the rest of the troops helped when they could tell all that he wanted, was to be back in Central City.
It didn’t help that Zero had somehow escaped his Tin Suit and the Sorceress’ right hand man had gone missing. Everyone with even a minute amount of magical foresight had a multitude of visions of how that pairing would be nothing but trouble. As if they needed any additional trouble with everything else they are dealing with.
Cain looks up to see how much closer he is to Central City and where both ends of this odd bond he had with Glitch and DG are located. When he saw it will be no more than a half a mark later, he gave back into his musings, and of course, his favorite subject, his princess.
When Cain gave his heart to someone, he gave it 100%. He knew he would never be good enough for the princess who had captured his heart, but he will do anything for her. It’s the Cain curse. And he chuckles under his breath, remembering when he realized that he saw the same signs in his son.
Jeb may be fighting it, but he has asked one too many times about another princess to escape his father’s notice. Cain may be love struck, but he is not blind. No, his ability to keep his Princess of Light in one piece accounted for his ability to remain aware, even when he is besotted with the same person. He will never allow another of his loved ones to be hurt on his watch.
Thunder rumbled overhead, bringing Cain back to the reason why he is pushing through the night and actually has been for the last few nights. Glitch should be having his surgery right now according to the letter Cain had received from Azkadellia and Glitch. Glitch is worried, very worried about DG, and he could not postpone the surgery any longer. He felt bad, knowing that if he had been connected to his brain all this time that he may have been able to put the pieces together by now. That guilt he was feeling had been enough to give in to his fear and to his mind; he feared that this surgery would make him lose the love he had for DG. But, as he had written to Cain, he knows that she is more than worth it.
Cain reached in and fingered the last missive from Glitch and Az. Besides those two, Lavender and Ahamo had to make a progression through the Kingdom to show she was not still imprisoned. Az was supposed to go with her, and from what they had written, it had been a full out fight to keep her from going. She finally pointed out that unless something happened to DG, she would never take the throne. She then stared hard at DG, and commented, “Mother, remember to have a heart.” And that had ended the argument.
Other than Glitch and Az, the only other friend from their group that had remained at the Palace was Tutor, to help the Princess get ready for her new role. If Cain had been aware of this earlier, he would have tried to return earlier. Something in him still didn’t trust the mutt.
As the thunder rolls came closer together, Cain sighs in relief as he sees the Royal Stable in front of him. He rides into the stable, swinging down from his horse and leans against the horse for some strength. He may have a young body, but his mind tells him all the time he is 31. He chuckles to himself, remembering that at 16, Adora had come up to him, and casually mentioned they should get married. When he just stared at her, she told him it was normal when two people were going to be parents.
He had been so happy then, it had been hard for them, but he had passed the Tin Man academy quickly, working as diligently as possible. He left behind records that had remained unbroken until the Academy was disbanded. His dedication to his work had quickly helped him make a name for himself, and then brought him to the attention of the Mystic Man. He had worked for the Mystic Man until the day he had been thrown into the Tin Suit. The Mystic Man and Cain had been in charge of leading the Resistance.
Cain took off his hat, and wiped his forehead, clearing away the memories from his sight. It did no good to bring up the past when he had already said goodbye to it. As much as it had shamed him at the beginning, he felt more for DG than he had ever felt for Adora. It had taken Jeb a long time to talk his father out of feeling guilty for something that was out of his control. You just can’t control how your heart feels about another.
He pushes himself away from his horse and greets the servant who appeared at his side. “Good evening, Rialto. Can you please make sure Silver gets a warm mash before you put him away for the night?” A smile crosses his face, as it always does when he mentions the name of his horse, Silver. He still remembers DG naming the horse as he rode with her in front of him on the way back from the mausoleum. Something about how every good cowboy needed a horse named Silver. He had kept the name and the horse since it had made her so ridiculously happy every time she had seen the horse.
Realizing how exhausted he must be since he couldn’t keep his mind current, he shook his head, bringing himself to the present. After receiving Rialto’s agreement, he turns and makes the trek into the City, his thoughts once again filled with worry for DG. He snorts to himself on how much his thoughts revolve around a woman, one he barely knows. He has no idea what her favorite color is, or even what her favorite flower is, allowing him to surprise her with a bouquet. He wants to know what her hobbies are, and what it had been like for her, growing up on the Other Side.
Then his face frowns as he remembers each and every time any of them tried to talk to her even about such trivial items. She had quietly, and gently rebuffed them so subtly that they had only realized it later. It is almost as though DG is pushing them all away. And he, for one, refuses to allow it to continue.
Cain makes his way through the city, barely making it inside before the skies break open with the rain they had been heavy with. Central City is cleaner, but the rain matches Cain’s mood so well that he doesn’t even register that the city is much darker than it should be now that the Gales are back in power. The walls and buildings reflect the mood of the ruler, and they should be almost back to the emerald green they used to be before the Sorceress’ coup d’état had taken place.
It finally registers with him, what he is feeling, instead of the pain of the bond, he feels just the clean feeling of both Glitch and DG in the building in front of him. He cannot help but remember when he had first felt the bond to both Glitch and DG after he had asked to be DG’s suitor. After a while, he had accepted, then learned to use it. It had made him feel…relieved that he would always know where DG is, and to some extent Glitch. Between the worry the two of them shared for DG, and the times they had bonded throughout the journey here, the two of them feel more like brothers than competitors.
However, no one had warned either of them about the pain they would feel from being away from DG for too long. They didn’t know if it had anything to do with each other, but Great Gilma, the pain gave a huge indication that it did have to do with each other also! They had both mentioned how much it had hurt, but both Glitch and Cain could still feel where the other was, along with DG. Not for the first time, Cain wondered why the magic is affecting them both in this way.
Cain separates DG from Glitch in the shared bond, and moves in the direction in which he could feel the pull to her. However, there is a guard at the door who is new, and foolishly wants to make a name for himself. He just picked the wrong person and night to do so. “Halt!”
Cain’s head lifted enough for his eyes to not be hidden from his fedora, and he pins the man in front of him with his ice blue eyes. He is not in the mood to be messed with, he needs to see both Glitch and Az to see why they frantically called him back, and he really needs to see DG. No man will stop the former Tin Man from his goals, much less a guard.
The guard in question backs up a step in response to the pure determination visible in the eyes in the man in front of him. He gapes, never imagining in his wildest dreams that he would find one of the Four trying to just walk into the gates of the Palace. After all, there is no question who the man in front of him is.
Luckily, the Fates stepped in for the poor guard. For as Cain can feel Glitch, Glitch, who is now once again Ambrose, can also feel his brother. He raises his head, still weary from the surgery that had occurred only this morning, and looks into the eyes of his love’s sister. He smiles, telling her, “No worries, Az. I remember everything. More than Glitch in fact, I remember and know why I became what I did after DG’s death. I believed same as you that DG was dead. And I refused to rescind the Courtship, leaving myself voluntarily tied to her, dead. The depression I was in helped form the man you and the rest of the world knew as Lord Ambrose. However, right before the Sorceress took Lavender away, she told me never to fall away. I think that memory is what allowed Glitch to follow and be with DG. Thanks to the gods, I don’t know what I would have done to know that I had met her and not helped her.”
Ambrose remembers the despair he had been in, but he had adamantly refused to release the Courtship Bond. He couldn’t, for the love he had felt for the little princess, even then, had been all encompassing. He had never met someone that is a complete match for him. She understood him in ways no one else had ever seemed to. She even loved to dance with him, and gave him a chance when no one would let a no-known lord from the outskirts of the OZ to even look upon on him. If nothing else, that one moment in time was probably when he tumbled, falling head over heels in love with the adventurous princess.
He smiles slowly as he remembers all the times with her in his workshop, Azkadellia sitting in the chair he had brought in for her. Az told them both that they were crazy for always wanting to be around all this mechanical stuff when there are abundant mysteries in magic. He remembers fondly DG sticking up for them telling her, “Hopefully in the future, you can help us design something that combines our magic with Ambrose’s inventions.” She had giggled and Az looked upon her sister with such love.
The smile fell off his face as he remembered that was the day before the witch had taken over Az. He looked over at Az and told her, “I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but thank you.”
Az looks up into his eyes and nods. “I used to be jealous of the love I could see that you had for her. Then as I grew older, I realized it was a meeting of like minds. You both are so compatible with each other it boggles my mind.” Her face grew sad and she asks, “How is this going to work out between you three?”
Shifting in the hospital bed, Ambrose sighs. “I love her so much, but so does he. And we both feel as though the other is a brother. I don’t know how this is going to end, but for now, we both love her to the best of our abilities. And figure out what is wrong. Once everything is fine, then we will work on figuring out this complex relationship.”
Ambrose’s eyes close as he feels Cain close and he tells Az, “I am so sorry, Az. But, you need to get to the front gate as soon as possible. Cain has made his way home, and he needs to talk to us before he sees DG.”
Gasping, knowing that Cain will rock the Palace to its grounds if he sees DG without any warning, Az nods. She lays her hand on Ambrose’s and tells him softly, “Now that you are whole and Cain is back, we will find out what is going on. We have to, before DG gives up.” She turns and runs down the halls, determination in every line, not caring that she is not acting as a princess. Her sister needs her and she will do anything for her.
She runs down the stairs, only stopping for a second in relief seeing the familiar fedora and duster in front of her. Just as suddenly, Az realizes that something is wrong, the guard is backing away from him and Cain’s whole body is tense.
She hurries down the stairs and calls softly, “Cain?”
Cain’s head turns towards her, and he relaxes minutely, recognizing the object of his son’s affections. He takes his hat off to her, and she moves quickly to his side.
Az tells him quietly so that the guard does not hear, “Ambrose needs to see you before you see DG. He says he is sorry, he knows of your pain, but you really do need to see him.”
Cain closes his eyes to even out his feelings. So close, and yet so far away. He nods, and glaring at the Guardsman while promising to himself to come back later to give the man what he deserves. He follows the Princess up the stairs, noticing she is heading towards the medical ward. He frowns, knowing Glitch had been fighting everyone on being reunited with his brain, desperate to not lose DG. Cain never blamed him; in fact, he helped him every chance he could, understanding this feeling. But while he knew from the letter that Glitch was going to have the surgery, he had thought he would at least have waited for him to get home.
Az saw his look, and explains, “It is getting bad, Cain. But, I think you will be surprised. He has lost nothing, the fact you can still feel him should prove that. Remember, only those who have true feelings and have declared themselves for a Royal are gifted with the Bond.”
Cain moves past Az, a little upset no one is guarding Glitch, for as Royal Suitors, they both are supposed to be guarded. However, within minutes of being told that, they both declared that they had no need for guards, unless they are unconscious. This definitely qualified as one of the times he should be guarded.
Ambrose looks up as his brother enters the room, his face showing relief. “Cain! Oh thank Glenda! Something is really wrong.”
Cain looks over Glitch, and comments offhandedly, hiding his feelings as normal, “Must be for you to agree to have the surgery, much less have it without me around. What’s up Head-case?”
A smile ghosts Ambrose’s face as he replies, “I’ve missed your stellar wit, Cain. First, let’s get out the questions that I am sure you have. I am reunited with whom you call Glitch. His fears were completely unfounded I am the one who asked to court DG when she came of age; I tied myself to her so very long ago and never gave up my feelings or the Bond. Which reminds me, I do need to ask the Queen how she managed to hide the fact that DG was alive…”
Cain couldn’t help it, he has to smile. Yes, the man he knew is still there. “Glitch!”
Ambrose starts and then sheepishly smiles. “It seems as though there is still quite a bit of Glitch in me. But please call me Ambrose, Cain. Glitch decided to have the surgery when he and Az could no longer take it anymore. And we had no idea when you would be back.” He is trying to relay what Glitch was thinking, knowing from Cain’s face that he was hurt by them not waiting.
Cain cocks his head to the side and he just states flatly, “You didn’t think I would come as fast as possible when I get a letter telling me that there is something wrong with DG? That you are worried?”
Az laughs, “I didn’t think you would pause for a second, but Glitch was out of his head with concern. But, Cain, I don’t blame him. There is something really wrong with DG. Just keep a level head when you see her; you know Ambrose would do anything for her. So would I. We just can’t get to her anymore.” Tears threaten to flow over.
Cain sighs, and collapses into a chair by Ambrose’s bed. He removes his fedora, dropping it on his knee as he scrubs his face with his hands. At that moment, it sinks into Ambrose and Az how weary Cain is. He must have pushed himself to the wall and then some to have made the return this fast.
Making sure DG has not moved, he opens his eyes and asks, “Tell me everything, please.”
Nodding his head, Ambrose starts. “Az was a little suspicious when she realized that the only people left were Tutor, me and herself. She started to check into everything. Raw had to leave, but so much has come up, legitimate reasons, to keep him away. Then Jeb was promoted and sent away. Even though you fought it so much, even you were sent away.” He had to take a breath. Cain needs to know it all, but bugger that he returned on the same day as the surgery!
Here Az takes over the telling, seeing that Ambrose is still not fully recovered from his surgery. “Then our parents were sent away, as you know I was supposed to be there, but I defied it. What no one knew at the time, was that Ambrose was supposed to go along with them. But our parents said that, though DG did need the practice of ruling, she needed a trusted adviser more.”
To give Cain credit, he had just ridden half of the OZ to be here, and had not had time to rest. He could not be blamed for not putting the pieces together instantly, but when he did, he sat up straight. He chokes out, “DG sent us away?”
Nodding unhappily, Ambrose comments, “And that is the reason we need you back and why I needed to have my brain back. It took us a couple of days with the facts to come to that conclusion.” I should have known that right away!
Az quickly inserts, knowing that Ambrose is still blaming himself for not seeing it right away, “Of course, neither of us can understand why she did it, or could even fathom that she did it to all of us to even consider it. Especially after you see her, you will understand.”
Just staring at them, Cain is blown away. DG sent him away? Why?
Ambrose leans forward and grabs Cain by the forearm. He knows how Cain is feeling, he felt the same way. He quietly suggests, “Cain, I need you to be able to think. Go see her, get some rest. We will meet back here and try to get to the bottom of this. I will be back on my feet soon.”
Cain nods, his blue eyes locked on Ambrose’s brown ones. He tells him, “We will get to the bottom of this.” He holds Ambrose’s eyes until he agrees.
Az quickly interjects, “Your rooms are beside DG’s, Ambrose is across the hall. The only other room next to hers is mine. Get some rest Cain. Please don’t…just take a deep breath when you see her.” She hurts, knowing that he will be in pain seeing her like that. It hurts both Ambrose and her every time they see her, and they have had time to get used to it. Cain will be seeing it all at once.
Nodding, Cain settles his hat on his head and heads to his heart. Apprehension encases him, but if you are not close to the Tin Man, you never would know it. He makes his way up to the Royal Wing, and to DG’s room. When he stops outside her room, his hand pauses on the knob. She sent me away! is the prevalent thought in his head. He finally takes Az’s advice and opens the door quietly.
He moves quietly through her outer rooms, making his way to her bedroom. He stops in the doorway; his first look of her is a punch in his stomach. He grabs the doorway to help keep himself upright, shocked.
DG is lost in the bed; she has always been tiny, but now, she is wasting away. There are deep circles under her eyes, and her thick hair looks lifeless. Cain had never been so glad that she is asleep, there is no hiding his reaction, and he also has a bad feeling that her eyes will be another shock. What has happened to you, Sweetheart?
Cain closes his eyes, vowing to get to the bottom of whatever is doing this to her. He opens his eyes, seeing a flash of green. He then realizes that her necklace is still on and the Emerald of the Eclipse is still trying. He nods his head in its direction and looking at her one last time, he makes his way to her outer room. He cannot travel any longer and collapses into an armchair, staring into the flames. His brain is overwhelmed and the last thought before he falls asleep is, DG, I don’t know what is wrong, but darlin’ we will find out and fix this.
Word count: after editing. 5,068