Word count before editing: 3,384
Song I listened to for this chapter: Search Party by Wintersleep.
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.
The following morning dawns slowly. The second sun rises fifteen minutes after the other, bestowing its light across all of the O.Z. The rain from the previous night has cleared the air and washed the world clean. The light crept across the land and finally reaches Central City. The light hits the land and starts trying to banish the darkness from the walls, making them glisten as they are supposed to, but nothing less than the O.Z.’s chosen ruler can do that.
The morning light didn’t have the chance to enter the window of the Tower where the Royal Family’s rooms are before Cain is violently awoken by the pain of separation. He springs up fully awake and he looks around, the habits of an annual on the hunt for the rogue Longcoats serving him well now.
Reflexively he glances around the room, but he already know what really has awakened him. Cain moves quickly to DG’s bedchamber, when he looks in, he sees nothing but an indention on the bed where her tiny body had rested just hours before. He feels the bed and can still feel the warmth from her body. His eyes darken as he looks over the room. Where could she have gone? Knowing she was gone does not stop the Tin Man from looking everywhere in the room. Before he gets very far, he feels Ambrose moving quickly towards him and just as he lifts his head, Ambrose is charging into the room.
Holding his chest as he slides into the room, Ambrose looks frantically from the bed to Cain, and demands, “Where is she?” He could remember the pain as Cain had been sent away, but this is nothing like it. Oh DG, where have you gone?
Looking over at Ambrose as he comes back in from looking in her closet, he answers him, “I have no idea. I was sleeping in her antechamber. I couldn’t be any further away from her once I’d seen her. Ambrose, what happened?” His words are clipped, short. His rage is barely being kept in check by his knowing that Ambrose is in the same pain he is.
Someone came running down the hall moving steadily closer causing both Ambrose and Cain to step into the archway, moving as one. They both relax as Az ran into the room, glaring at the two of them. “Ambrose just got cleared out of the Recovery Rooms when he took off running. What in Ozma’s good graces is going on? And where is DG?” She glares at both of them, but Cain and Ambrose can see the fear in her eyes as the realization strikes her that her sister is missing.
Cain is turning back to the rooms, his eyes roving over everything, desperate to see how DG disappeared. As he does this he can’t quite contain the sarcasm as he retorts, “Well, she ain’t here, princess. And I had nothing to do with Ambrose’s exit from the Recovery Rooms. I am, however, willing to bet that he is here because of the pain of separation. You know, that Bond you have both of us in?”
His voice is heavy with scorn and anger. Anger that the two of them didn’t warn him better about DG; anger that he hadn’t been here to take care of her. Anger at DG for letting herself get to that state. And lastly, anger that she somehow disappeared and that she did it right after he appeared back in her life. Did it have something to do with that? Is he the reason she left?
Ambrose takes in Cain, seeing the blue eyes get even harder, and shivers. He takes a breath, and tells Azkadellia, “Cain is right. I felt as though my soul was torn in half, and knew it had something to do with DG. This is so much worse than when Cain left. That, at least, was bearable since it worsened as he went farther away. This time it was sudden, and I had to be here. And you know just as much as Cain and I about where DG is.” His voice drops, as he himself begins to feel the anger that he knows Cain is feeling as he warns the woman that he’s come to think of as a sister, “And Az, if I were you, I would take a deep breath. Look at Cain before you even think of saying a single word.”
During Ambrose’s speech, Cain has managed to get his temper under control, and he states, “We need a safe spot to talk. Since I don’t think DG is just going to appear back here, we need to discuss what the hell happened to her. In detail. I have a feeling whatever made her disappear has a root in what caused her to deteriorate like that.” His eyes rake over both of them as he gathers his duster and fedora from where he laid them last night. His gun belt had been fastened subconsciously as he had searched for DG earlier.
Az swallows nervously. She is used to Ambrose’s almost franticness when it comes to DG, but Cain is a brand new level for her. She has known that the Lord Cain is in love with her sister. She had seen it when she was locked inside the Witch; then later she could see his love for her with her own eyes as soon as she was free. She was the one to suggest the Suitor’s bond to him. While she loves Ambrose like a brother, and the memories of their times in his labs with DG were some of her most treasured ones, even back then she knew that Ambrose had loved her sister; and that had made it easy to recognize in Cain. And Glitch too of course, but Glitch is Ambrose, so it was never an issue, even if the two stubborn men in front of her wouldn’t listen. It was the love she observed from these two men for her sister that made her promise to herself, to never accept anything less than that emotion for herself.
Later on when the Witch killed her sister, she had cackled in glee that she had in fact destroyed so many lives in that one moment. She had left Ambrose alone until she had no other choice; she had enjoyed watching him turn from the bright loving Lord that held such promise for the O.Z., into an embittered, cold, lonely man. All from the death of a useless little girl. And hearing Azkadellia’s silent screams for not only the death of her sister, or the devastation of her parents, but watching the man she considered her brother fall into a deep depression, had amused the Witch to no end. So much in fact that she would replay those particular memories often for her own entertainment.
Only the need for the Sun Seeder had somewhat ended Ambrose’s agony. Even then, he had fought so hard to keep it from the Witch, protecting the last good memory he had of him and his DG working on it. When the Witch had found that, she opted to torture his brain with that information. That his precious Sun Seeder was going to bring about the permanent darkness to the O.Z., his DG’s precious Outer Zone, all while using the invention she helped to bring about. Oh yes, the Witch would go into the brain room to gloat as often as she could. She positively gloated to Ambrose’s brain until the technicians complained about the repeated power loss.
But this, watching Cain’s pain over what has happened to DG, it completely blows Azkadellia away. For the first time ever, she entertains the thought that there is a man out there that does, in fact, love DG more than Ambrose. And that alone, to her, is amazing.
Subdued, she tells the men in front of her, “We would be less interrupted in your office, Lord Cain. No one really knows that you are due back; much less that you are actually back already. Adding in the fact you stayed here in her rooms will only serve to hide your presence from everyone.” She has kept quiet that only Cain could have stayed in DG’s rooms like this, considering that when he was home, he refused to leave her side. This had not been the first time that he has stayed the night here. Cain really does not trust anyone with her safety. She truly believes that that is what tore him up then, and even more now believing that DG had sent him away. Leaving no one here to protect her when she obviously needed it the most.
Cain nods and makes his way to his office, expecting the others to follow behind him. It is on the floor below, connected to both Ambrose’s and DG’s offices by doors on either side. He had all three rooms arranged in a particular arrangement when they had been moved into them. This way he could keep an eye on both of them as he worked. The first time Azkadellia saw him laugh was when he had stated what was to happen and DG glared at him. They had argued about dust and such from the construction that would have been needed to do it Cain’s way. DG was all for leaving it like it has been for centuries. Az couldn’t take it and once she was sure what Cain was wanting, added the doors into the walls, solving the problem. The only thing that DG hated was that the only door to exit her offices was through his doors. Glitch had his own door out to the halls, but he more often than not just used Cain’s.
Cain unlocks the double doors with a key in his vest, and enters the room. He takes off his fedora and tosses it to the hat stand as he shrugs off his duster. He drops it on the chair as he moves through the room, and stops behind his desk. He is staring out the windows, trying to get his mind on the here and now, to find out what has been happening to his DG while he was sent away to deal with Longcoats, sent away by the woman who owns his heart. His mind shudders away from that thought, hoping that the two people behind him can explain this. He refuses to believe she did it as a result of having no feelings for him. Something happened that night of the Eclipse, and the woman that Cain fell in love seems to be pushed away. The DG he saw that night was not the same one he had fought with, protected with his life, and eventually fallen in love with.
Ambrose frowns in the direction of his office, knowing the mess that Glitch had left behind for him. But nothing is worse than the mess with the one person he was supposed to keep safe. The person he loves, the person his brother in every way but blood, trusted him with keeping safe. Glitch’s inability, even with Az’s help, in figuring out what is happening to her led him to rejoin his brain. Even though he feared the loss of that love, he was willing to sacrifice it just to know what was happening.
And now, here he is, whole once again in body and mind, and his DG is gone; gone before he could question her, gone before he even had gotten to see her. Cain at least got to see her last night…
Standing tall at the windows, the light making a halo around his pale features, as the man stares down at the light from the suns brightening the ground below, Cain finally asks, “When did it all start?” I need to get the facts together so that I can go after her. And to be truthful to himself, to find out why she sent him away.
Not being able to take the pressure from the two men in front of her, Az sank into one of the armchairs that were in front of his desk. She lays her head back and bluntly tells them, “We need to lay everything all out on the table. Everything we know, suspect. And to do this, there is no blaming each other, nothing but getting to the bottom of this. I can see us all doing it now, blaming the other for not taking caring of her, and it won’t get much done but a lot of finger pointing. I suggest we send for Raw. He is the first one that went away, maybe he knows something.” Az can see both of the men staring at her like she has grown a second head.
Az suddenly remembers that Cain wanted no one but the three of them to know what they are talking about. Thinking of a spell her sister had come up to keep the conversations in the workrooms as secretive as the three of them could have them, she sits up, concentrates, and then they see a ripple of white light around the perimeter of the room. She sags back in the chair, and the two men give her a moment to gather herself.
Finally Ambrose asks, “Wait, was that what DG used to do in the labs?” They had made a game of it with the colors.
Waving her hand in thanks as Cain hands her a glass of water, Az answers him, “Just making sure no information is given out. I don’t want anyone to know DG is gone; maybe it will let us know something when the information of her missing has gotten out. It will give us a place to start if nothing else.”
Cain nods, and he asks again, his voice harder, “When did it all start?” He needs to find out what he can from his contacts outside of the Royal family. But they may not be able to help if DG had been wrapped up in things here in the Royal Palace as he suspects. First, they need to find out if she left or was taken.
Ambrose sits down as he says, “I don’t know if it stopped.” He raises his head to Cain’s. The two stare at each other.
Cain just glares at the couple in front of him, not wanting to play a riddle game with them. He meets Ambrose’s eyes, figuring he will get the most answers from him. He is getting to the point that he is starting to lose that temper of his. And DG is not here to lay a hand on his arm to cool him off.
Seeing the look, Az hurriedly tells him, “Remember the night of the Eclipse?” At Cain’s short nod she continues, “DG was draining herself trying to heal all of the O.Z. We stopped her, you broke the last tie of concentration with the slap.”
Cain winces, still hurting inside for having harmed her. The sound of that slap has echoed more than a few times in his memory. Especially after he found out that she had sent him away. He had never purposely hurt DG until that night.
Az saw the wince and tells him, “Don’t, Cain. It was the only way to save her life. She would have drained herself dry; and because DG is linked so closely to her magic, she would have killed herself.” She suspects something about the fact that their mother gave so much of her Light to save DG’s life is what made her so linked and as one with her magic.
Ambrose nods. He then frowns as there is something there, on the tip of his tongue, bothering him. When he sees Cain glance at him, he nods his head, telling him that he needs more time in order to put it all together.
Not seeing the silent communication between the two men, Az continues her story, “Remember the reason the Emerald hid itself in her locket?”
Thinking back, Cain answers, “To shield her and to train her.” He frowns, remembering that the Emerald had made itself known to him last night. Was it trying to warn him?
Ambrose’s forehead wrinkles in frustration, the pieces are falling together, but it just won’t solidify! Ambrose knows he is only hours out of the Recovery Rooms, but he needs to get the two halves of his brain firing together, and fast!
The two are still reminiscing about the early days, not noticing Ambrose’s silence. Well, Az is not noticing, but Cain is, hoping against hope that the legendary intelligence of Ambrose can help them.
Nodding her head in agreement with Cain’s statement, Az tells him, “DG was still draining herself trying to heal the O.Z. The Emerald was helping for a period of time, but then, after all of you left, it seemed as if it started to falter in its shielding of her.” She frowned, remembering it had been so odd, but neither she nor her mother could find anything wrong with the Emerald. Then Lavender was sent out, and that just left Az trying to figure from afar what exactly was going on.
Frowning in thought, Cain asks, “What was so different about us being here and being gone?”
Ambrose’s mind is still turning over, but he answers absently, “You were gone.” Why won’t the two pieces of his brain work?
Cain and Az turn to stare at him. Ambrose looks up and seeing their eyes on him, he asks, “What?” The look is one of bafflement of not knowing why they were looking at him, anger that they were expecting too much of him, and resentment at himself for not being able to solve it right away.
Cain carefully asks him, “Why did it matter that I was gone? You were here, her parents were here, Az was still here, shoot, even the damn mutt was still here. What made me any different?” He is staring at Ambrose, knowing that he knows, and using his talents as a Tin Man and now as a Lord to coax it out of him.
Ambrose’s eyes light up. He jumps up and he shouts, “That’s it!” Oh how could he not have seen it all this time? Even Glitch should have seen this!
Az and Cain look at each other, waiting for the lightning bolt to hit them. When it doesn’t, Cain drawls out, “Well, sweetheart, are you going to tell the rest of the class or keep it yourself?”
Ambrose stammers and blushes. He gives them a sheepish look as he tells them. “In answer to why you are any different from the rest of us, Cain, is that you never left DG alone. Even when we were working here in the offices, you kept the double doors between our offices open, and your desk is where you could watch her from here.” He knew Cain also kept an eye on him, but only a blind man would not see why the offices are lined up that all Cain has to do is look up and be able to check on DG. He would have to turn his head for Ambrose’s.
Cain’s eyes swept up to the doors in question, nodding. “I nominated myself her body guard while I was here. I refused to allow anyone but you and me to be with her at all times.” He could not trust anyone else with someone so precious to him.
Ambrose nods, continuing, “Now answer me this. How does DG, with no memory of her past, and probably no magical training of the level needed to know how to heal the O.Z., manage to start doing exactly that?” He stares at them, his own anger starting to form. How could he?
Az gasps, realizing what he is saying. It is a magical feat that she knows how to do thanks to many years of dedicated magical training. Magical training that her sister had none of.
Before any of them can continue, there is a knock on Cain’s door. Cain quickly draws his gun and moves to the door. Az’s hands begin to glow and she nods to him along with Ambrose. Cain quickly opens the door and is pointing the gun at the knocker’s face in one smooth move.
Jeb’s face is surprised, but he comments calmly, “Well, if you don’t want me here, I will go. But, next time Dad, just tell me, you don’t need to pull your gun on me.” The legendary calm of Cain has definitely been passed on to the next generation.
Cain just growls at his son and yanks him into the room. Then he turns and stares at Az as he waits for her to nod, letting him know that the room is protected again.
Jeb looks at his father, waiting patiently as he is still on the back of the door, held there by his father. Jeb has gotten to know his father during the annual away. The look on his face worries him, but he trusts his father.
Releasing his son as he holsters his gun, Cain just stares at his son. He comments dryly, “Made good time I can see. Some reason to that?” He stares at his son expectantly.
Jeb flushes lightly, his eyes flickering to the Princess.
Shaking his head and muttering under his breath about young love, Cain makes his way back to his desk. This time, he collapses in his chair, holding his face in his hands.
Jeb is watching his father, noticing the little things that tell him his father is not only in pain, worse than when he was gone, but that something has happened to make him angry.
Realizing his father isn’t going to speak anytime soon, he turns and looks at Lord Ambrose.
Ambrose sighs, how odd that the son has the same look as the father, with having not grown up with the man. “DG is missing. Your father was sleeping in her antechamber, not able to make it to his rooms after seeing her. Somehow she disappeared. But we are also beginning to figure out some things that had been overlooked by all of us.” Then Ambrose’s normally warm expressive eyes turn hard as he remember exactly who they think has made DG into who she is now.
Cain mutters, “I should have shot him when DG didn’t trust him.” He cannot believe that the one time DG had trouble trusting someone didn’t send a huge wave of caution through him. No matter that the mutt had shown her that he was from her past. The truth is that DG didn’t trust him at first. And she had trusted so blindly so many other people she had not met before. Well, Glitch didn’t count since neither knew each other at that point.
Jeb sharply glances over at his father, never thinking he would have ever heard those words from his father, his law-abiding father that he still holds as his ideals.
Ambrose shocks the Commander even more, when he softly says, “If it is true, I wish you would have also. But again, this is all just a hypothesis.” Even though he is very sure of his facts, he needs to leave it out there.
Az quietly inserts, “I would take your hypothesis over anyone’s facts, Ambrose.” She is still shocked that her childhood Tutor is the one that has done this to DG. But it fits everything, he is the one man that everyone had no problems leaving alone with DG. Except Cain. Cain had never left DG alone with the exception very few people. And Tutor was NOT on that list of people he trusted with his DG.
Jeb held back a flash of jealousy. He is trying to remember what his father had told him, Ambrose was completely in love with DG and has been since they were young. He was like an older brother to Azkadellia, and nothing else. But it is hard when the person you love looks as though she is in love with someone else. He is not sure how his father manages to even be friends with Ambrose.
Looking into her eyes, Ambrose rebukes her, “Your sister would argue with me.” His mind goes back to those memories, bringing a slight smile to his lips as he remembers some of their telling arguments.
Azkadellia laughs, a startlingly light sound with what is being discussed just minutes prior, “Ambrose, DG would argue with you that the sky was blue if you had a hypothesis on it.” She can’t help it, if Ambrose needs to laugh, to remember DG as he loves her. Besides she is right, DG loved to argue with Ambrose because he would never state anything, just tell his hypothesis. DG made Ambrose a much stronger person.
A light shines from Ambrose’s eyes that have been long lost. “She would challenge me on the very grounds that it was a hypothesis.” Then that light fades as he murmurs, “But she never argued with me the entire time we were together.”
Cain is the one that answers him, as the others stare at him in sympathy, “Because DG doesn’t remember you that way. She grew up away from here, with her memories locked away.” He also doesn’t like seeing the man before him sad, he has spent way too much time being sad in that tank. Glitch is the happy go lucky side of Ambrose. It will take a while for the two halves to merge fully back into the man he was before.
Jeb quietly asks, “So where were you guys at in figuring out what happened to her?”
Ambrose tells him, “We just figured out that DG was draining herself healing the O.Z., and someone had to teach her how. Since, as your father just reminded us, she grew up with no memory of this place, or even that she had magic.” Ambrose eyes are still dark, and the undercurrent of anger is making its presence known. The happiness of prior minutes is completely gone, and the man who is angry that someone had purposely harmed the woman he loves is becoming much more prominent.
No less angry, Cain continues to answer his son as he grinds out, “How she had to send us all away, because we were all too close, especially me who wouldn’t leave her alone, not even in her magic lessons.” His hands are clenching in his anger. He needs to get a handle on this.
Azkadellia’s hands are spitting white sparks as she spit out, “One of the few people left here in the Palace, who has been preempting all her free time?” And who they trusted her with. How could he?
Gasping as the pieces all fall together Jeb just stares at them as he asks and states, “Tutor? But why?”
Az told him, still angry she never noticed how well the pieces fit together, “And the follow up question is How? Jeb, the Emerald was supposed to be shielding her.”
Jeb is still putting the pieces in his head together, to wrap his brain around it. He stutters out, “B-b-but he is one of the heroes!”
The three people in the room glare at him, Ambrose angrily asking, “Who told you that? He was never one of us! He tried to betray us, and it was only DG’s plea that allowed him to stay!” He is glaring, this is the Ambrose no one in the Outer Zone had met.
Cain had started to say something, but then stopped, remembering. Ice-cold blue eyes that are promising a cold hell for whoever has messed with his DG meets the dark angry one of Ambrose and neither flinches from the promise in the other’s gaze. They are both in complete agreement with the fate of whoever has hurt her. Cain quietly states, “Ambrose, DG didn’t trust him at the beginning. So tell me why, when we found out that he was betraying us, did she advocate a second chance for him?”
Ambrose stares back at him, thinking it over. “I have no idea. Probably the same way he convinced her to give up her life for the O.Z.”
Jeb quietly inserts, “To think about it, you guys were all honored. You, Dad, became a Lord and a Suitor, Lord Ambrose here along with you are permanent peerage and Raw’s village is now protected under the crown and in fact they, for the first time, own their own land, which is situated between the two of yours to protect it. But nothing was ever done about Tutor. And I can’t tell you when Tutor’s name was added to the hero’s list.” He is putting out all the puzzle pieces as he thinks of them, hoping that something he says will trigger something for them.
Az quietly answers from her own memories of the man, “He never liked being in the background, and he spoke out against the Witch quite often. That is why he was thrown into the dungeon for such a long time. The Witch promised him revenge on the one who released her, if he would do as she asked. She tortured him with the knowledge that she was the Wicked Witch of the West once Ambrose figured it out.” She closes her eyes, trying to block out the memory of tortures the Witch had put her and others through.
Cain took a deep breath and then told the three of them in front of him, “We need to get Raw back. And the Queen and her Consort. Once they are all back, we will figure out how to get DG back.” Plus he knows that Ambrose will not be staying here, and no Royal Command will make him do so. His status as a Suitor to DG will overrule everything. Cain knows this since he will be the same way.
The three start to plan while Jeb sits there, wrapping his head around everything. Something catches his attention, something he was going to ask Ambrose when the chance arose. “Ambrose, I have another puzzle for you, and I think they are tied together.”
Turning to the young man beside him, Ambrose gives him his full attention. Unfortunately, so did his father and the Princess.
Here goes nothing, Jeb thought. “I seem to remember that the walls of the Central City reflect the mood of the ruler of the O.Z.”
Ambrose nods, “The Grey Gale loved the Emerald Walls, to the point she spelled them that way, that way no one could take away the wonder of the Emerald City. The city walls remained as bright as emeralds until the day she died. They darkened and many were upset, thinking they had lost one of the more memorable of the Grey Gale’s magics. However, they brightened back up when the new ruler of the O.Z., the Grey Gale’s daughter, became cheerful and it has been that way ever since then, the walls reflect the deep feelings of who it recognizes as Queen.”
Then his brain catches up with what he is saying and he gapes.
Az’s hands are raised to her face in shock and she is saying “How can it be? Mother is here!”
Everyone is shocked. Finally Cain took pity on his son and tells him, “The walls reflect the deep feelings of the true Queen of the O.Z. And it thinks DG is that ruler.”
Jeb is staring at his father and he asks, “And if DG can’t be found?”
Az answers softly, “The O.Z. will start to deteriorate even faster. The magic of the O.Z. demands a ruler. And somehow it has chosen DG as its Queen.”
Cain states, “We will find her, before the O.Z. gets any worse. Even more importantly, we will find her to bring her back home to where she is loved.”
Then a thought crosses his mind and he stares at Ambrose with a mischievous look in his eyes. When Ambrose raises his eyebrow in questions, Cain states, “Plus she still needs to decide on a Consort.”
Final count: 5,505