Word count before editing: 3,120
Song I listened to for this chapter: All This Time by OneRepublic.
Everyone is shocked. Finally Cain takes 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 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 question, Cain states, “Plus, she still needs to decide on a Consort.”
The two suns have made their way across the sky, not caring that some of the denizens of the land below are worried, and trying with all their wishing to make them go slower. They march to their own cosmic timing that is heedless of the wishes of the world below them.
On the highest towers, the last of the sunlight is glinting off the walls and windows of Central City. In one of those windows, Cain is looking out, his back to the maps on his desk and slumped in the chair behind the desk. Cain just stands there, his jaw clenched in complete fury as he runs through everything in his head on how this situation just keeps getting worse and worse. The only thing preventing him from venting said frustration is that he knows Ambrose is just as frustrated as he is.
Somehow, even with all the attempts to keep quiet, Tutor has gone missing. This one fact has frustrated Cain to no end. He had looked forward to arresting the man who had somehow tortured DG right under his very nose. He thought back on their trip and can remember one particular time when DG had given a hint of a spell. The spell that Az has figured must be the way he kept control over her even when she was away from them. Cain had not picked up it up at the time, and it is slowly driving him mad that he could have prevented so much if he had. It is one of the things that when he finally gets his hands on DG he will discuss with her. Right after he tells her how much he loves and adores her of course.
Going back through all the plans and discussions that they have made, he tries to see if they have missed anything. Lavender and Ahamo are on their way back by travel storm and should be arriving any time now. The last member of their party, Raw, had walked into the city late last night as they finished their talk, saying he had felt the need for him to be here. As soon as Lavender had arrived, Cain and the rest of them had originally planned to leave. Now however, they are so frustrated that they have no idea where DG could have gone, and whether she had gone of her own will or not.
The City walls have slowly been getting darker over the past annual. Now that Jeb has pointed it out to them, they had looked into it, asking questions of the newly reformed Tin Man Headquarters as well as the Royal Guards. They had been shocked to find out that over the past few months they have darkened, not enough that anyone who casually observes the world around them has really noticed, but if you knew what to look for, you can see it. It is another manifestation that there had indeed been signs all around them telling them that all was not well in the O.Z. or with DG, and further confirmation that the two were connected.
Az has been in the libraries all day looking for signs on how Tutor had influenced DG during the journey to find the Emerald. It is really bothering her since both Cain and Ambrose have stated that they could not remember ever leaving her with the man alone. In fact, they both specifically remember making an effort to never leave her alone without one of them, or if for some reason they were not there, they had made sure that at least Raw had been with her on the entire journey. Raw is as loyal and loving of DG as the rest of them, and they knew he would never do anything or allow anything to harm DG. But when Tutor showed up, and DG’s original instinct to distrust him, well, Cain never forgot that and made sure to keep an eye on her. She may have trusted Toto after she remembered him, but the fact that she had distrusted anyone at first sight, well, as confused as he had been at the time with his feelings for her, he still paid attention.
Originally Jeb had tried to help his dad and Ambrose, but soon left to go help Az. Cain had no patience and Jeb soon found that as bad he had been when he had been with him, nothing compared to now. Realizing that his father was not upset with him per se, he decided to leave him to the only other person that could deal with him right now. Besides DG, of course.
When Jeb had left the office, Ambrose had looked after him then looked at Cain with his eyebrow raised. Cain had just shaken his head and gone back to trying to find DG. Ambrose knew he was as frantic to find her as Cain was, but the steel in Cain’s eyes told Ambrose that what he had tried to do all those months ago is complete. Cain had totally committed himself to DG.
Right now everyone is looking for her, but in a waiting pattern. They truthfully have no idea where she is, but Cain just wants to be doing something. Ambrose understands, and tries to help, but there are just no leads. There are just not many places they can think she would be that she thinks are safe. DG hadn’t been here long enough nor has enough of her memories surfaced for her to have fond feelings for anywhere in the O.Z. unfortunately.
This feeling of failure has led to where none of the staff in the Palace wants to be close to the Lords, nor to any of the original Heroes and Az. Even Raw had been on edge, feeling the O.Z.’s need for DG. Food is left on the outside of the doors, only a knock outside the two locations to let the individuals inside know it is there.
Not being able to help himself, Cain turns to Ambrose and lets out some of his frustration, by growling out, “Why is it so hard to find one Princess of the O.Z.? What use are these Bonds of ours if we cannot use them to find her?” He cannot help it; there is something inside just driving him to find her, the same something that has always driven him to her side since he first saw her blue eyes.
Staring at first at the Tin Man, Ambrose then closes his eyes in defeat. He wearily answers, “I have no idea. I still have no idea how Lavender had blocked my Bond with DG where I had actually thought she was dead. Cain, I am just as frustrated as you are. But what can we really do?” He feels as though he is being pulled apart slowly. He needs to find DG, but he also needs the man in front of him, his brother, to be calm. Well, as calm as Cain can be with DG in danger.
At that moment, Cain’s doors flew open. Az and Jeb both rush in, Az’s face looks worried but triumphant. Jeb, however, never looks his father in the eye, choosing to turn and close the doors; once he has made sure there is no one close. The only reason he doesn’t lock them is due to the Royal Couple’s impending arrival.
Cain looks up at them, hoping for any news. Anything to end this waiting game.
Az looks at him and tells him, “I know how he did it. And right now, if I find him, I will destroy him. He put a Whisper Spell on her.” The anger she has is causing her to lose control, it shows briefly, and is enough to have a lesser man than Wyatt Cain retreating before her.
At the name of the spell, Ambrose’s face drains and he collapses in his chair. He asks, his voice disbelieving, “A Whisper Spell? I thought they were banned!” This is just getting worse and worse… Ambrose thinks to himself.
Fighting for control, Azkadellia takes a deep breath. Once she can at least talk, Az nods, confirming Ambrose’s question. She expands on it, commenting, “The witch didn’t even use them. They have a bad habit of driving the person insane, depending on the whisper. You have to have a very delicate touch to be able to have someone not lose their sanity.” Her eyes flash as she remembers the descriptions she read in the books. That spell was thought to be lost and for good reason!
While the two are staring at each other, Cain looks at them, trying to figure out what they are talking about. He finally asks, “Whisper Spell?”
Jeb looks at his dad. He knows that once he finds out he will be at least as mad as Az, but he will not collapse as Ambrose did. No, his father will need to do something.
DG is to Jeb the sister of the woman he loves, the love of his father’s life as well as the person most like a sister to him. He remembers her as joking lightly with him once they had joined on the way to the Tower. She had been slightly withdrawn from everyone, but he remembers his shock in her being in front of his father on the horse. Cain had refused to let her go, and kept his arm around her until they reached the Tower. He had only said, “Guess you found her.”
She had laughed and told him, “More like I found him. He came charging up on his horse, only to find me outside my prison. At least this time he was happier.” Her eyes had been sad, but as they talked, they became more alive.
His father had tightened his arm around her as he replied, “I wasn’t about to shoot you this time.” DG had been looking down, but Jeb had seen the love in his father’s eyes as well as the conflict he was dealing with present as well.
DG had glibly answered him, “Only because no one hit anyone else.” She had grinned at Jeb.
That had started it and the rest of the way he had teased the story out of them both. Then he and DG had picked on his father the rest of the way there. It had relieved the stress of the suicide mission they all thought they were on.
Bringing his mind back to the present, Jeb remembers that after Az told him what the spell did, he wanted to hurt someone, anyone responsible. In fact, there is a large hole in one of the library’s walls in the shape of his fist. No one should ever have that done to them.
Azkadellia looks at Cain and tells him, “It is a spell that starts an insidious little whisper in the ear of the receiver that sounds like their inner voice. It tells them whatever the spell caster wants them to believe until the victim believes it completely. It is one of the smart spells, which means every little thing that can back up the whisper, it will pounce and use it to help further its cause.” Her temper flares, her magic flaring with it.
Cain just stares at Az, processing what she is telling him.
Rubbing his face, Ambrose explains in detail, remembering what he had read, “If you tell the spell that you want the person to think that everyone is against them, it will take every instance that someone tells them no, every look is interpreted to be a look of hate. It will not be constant, but near enough to sound like your own thoughts.” His DG is under this spell? Ambrose’s heart aches for the woman he loves. How could someone do this to her? What has she ever done to deserve this?
Unnoticed by the group, a slight emerald haze is surrounding the Tin Man as his understanding dawns. His eyes are growing icier as he realizes what was done to the woman who is the center of his universe.
Startling the group inside the room, Lavender’s voice sounds out from the doorway from which she has overheard everything, “If you told the spell that everything is your fault, every single thing that is wrong with the O.Z., it will feed on all those instances to help its victim believe it. For example, it would use the fact that she set the Witch free; that I gave her my life force and magic to bring her back, but it left me too weak to defend against the Witch.” She and Ahamo had stopped in shock when they heard what spell was cast on their daughter.
Ambrose’s voice is more stricken as he realizes that he is being used as a reason to cause DG pain. He expounds on his Queen’s explanation, “That my brain was removed for a device to help the Witch.”
Ahamo guides his frozen wife into the room, his face as stricken as his wife’s. He remembers DG’s comments in the balloon and throws it in the conversation, “That we were separated for the 15 annuals. That the Mystic Man, her uncle, lost his life.”
All eyes flick to Cain as his voice finally speaks. His jaw is almost locked as he grinds out, “That I was locked in a Tin Suit, and that I lost my wife.” His face and posture tells them that he understood, and he is enraged that this spell is using him to hurt her.
Lavender glides to a stop in front of him, looking into his eyes, her own full of misery. “Every single thing wrong in the O.Z. would be used to make her think that the only way to fix it all is to kill herself. It would have probably been a relief to the constant guilt she would have been feeling by then.” Her eyes are sad as she finally had an answer to why DG had tried to kill herself.
Ambrose softly states, “Oh, what misery she had to feel when we stopped her…”
Not completely understanding Ambrose’s comment, Cain is having problems believing that this spell was on his DG. He quickly asks, challenging them, “How could any of us not see it?”
The green glow is brightening, but through the grief in the room, no one notices.
The last of the original Companions enters the room, locking the door behind him. Raw reminds Cain, “DG say goodbye before battle. DG being serious. DG going to get Az back. She not expect to survive.” The truth he had hidden in confusion all this time finally comes out. It finally makes sense.
Cain closes his eyes remembering the pep talks. His shoulders drop as he remembers that the words spoken did sound like a goodbye now that he thought back to it. He tells them, despair evident in his voice, “I told her she had to make it though. It wasn’t a choice.” His eyes are open and they can see the misery in them as he tries to understand what happened.
Ambrose lifts his eyes to meet his brother’s, stating to him, “And that may have saved her life.” He loves DG. No one could question it; he refused to lose the Bond with her, giving up his chance for love later in life. But he is watching the man in front of him, the only other man that he would even consider the thought, that this man would be the one for his DG. That Wyatt Cain may be the one who will make the person he loves happier than he could.
Not knowing of the conclusion that her friend is reluctantly coming to, Az loyally sticks up for Ambrose, “All of you, and your obvious care for her, are probably what allow her to remain sane.” She has always respected Ambrose and the pure love he has had for her sister. She knows Cain loves DG, but the fact Ambrose sacrificed so much for her could not and should not be forgotten.
This time, it does not slip by. Cain picks up on a fact that, if true, would infuriate him. Toto will not be able to escape his wrath when Cain finds him. Cain’s eyes blaze as he repeats, “Remain? You mean that Ozma forsaken spell is on her still?” If he is right, there is no place the mutt can hide from him.
Flinching as he realizes he has never seen Cain so enraged, Ambrose nods, “There would be no reason for Tutor to remove it.” He makes himself a promise to never incur this man’s wrath. Though his brain told him that as long as he never hurts someone Cain loves, he wouldn’t be subjected to it.
Cain’s jaw sets and his eyes are ice cold; his body is rigid with his rage. He grinds out, “How do you break it?” He needs to save DG first. Then, after he is sure she is safe, he will declare open season on the shape shifter.
The only person who could answer him, Ambrose, looks at him. Az may have figured it out, but Ambrose had researched it in depth when he first arrived at the palace. He answers him in a dead voice, “The reason I know about the spell is that I knew the last person it was cast on. Mercifully, the person died shortly afterwards and while the spell was for a beneficial reason, or at least that was what the spell caster had intended, at the end it had totally driven him insane. The spell caster had been so very careful in his casting, it being the last resort for healing the man.” His eyes told Cain that Ambrose had witnessed the whole thing, including the end.
Ambrose could not help but think, How could DG have survived this long? Ambrose will never tell Cain that it had taken less than 2 months to drive the man insane under the spell. DG has been under the spell for so much longer.
Making everyone jump, Cain’s fist hits the top of his desk as he tells them in a voice not to be questioned, “I refuse to believe that.” He will never give up on his DG. Ever.
Everyone stares at the enraged man in front of them. Cain has been pushed again and again over the past few days. The woman he loves is falling apart, believing that everything is her fault. He can’t do anything to the person who did it to her since he had run away, nor can he find DG to fix her. Everything in the man is screaming at him to protect her, and he has no idea where she is.
Ambrose is just staring at Cain, knowing how he feels. He wants nothing more than to tear into something or more accurately someone. His DG has been hurt by so much, in such a short time. Her time in the O.Z. has revealed pain and betrayal from everyone but her three companions. Her parents sent her away, her memories wiped. She had to deal with the fact that her sister wanted her dead, and in fact did kill her, before she found out about the witch possessing her. She was raised by robots, and now, her own teacher, who is one of the few individuals she remembers from her childhood, has been telling her that she is the reason the O.Z. is a mess. Knowing the girl, and then later the woman she has become, it would not take much from the spell to make her believe.
On the same thought process as Ambrose, Cain is breathing heavy and he mutters, “What else can this world do to her? Doesn’t she deserve some happiness?” He is shaking as he realizes how much this world has caused his DG so much pain, and he cannot find her to try to help comfort her, be with her.
The heartfelt grief and rage mixed together from the man who loves DG more than anything else is enough for the Emerald and Grey Gale to appear. Everyone gapes at the woman who is one of the most revered of the Queens of the O.Z.
She is standing there, looking at both Ambrose and Cain, sorrow on her face. She tells both of them honestly, “You both care and love her so much. Because of this, you have helped power the Emerald in its attempts to block the spell. However, it will take the love of someone who holds her very life above his own to break it. You will need to convince her that she is loved. So simple, yet this will be the largest challenge. My namesake is stubborn.” A rueful smile graces her beautiful face.
Cain and Ambrose can’t help but smile in answer. It is truthful, and one of the reasons both these men love her.
Dorothy looks upon her namesake’s suitors and finds both worthy. One has loved and waited for her. He has sacrificed much for the love he bears her, but he has never lost his devotion to the girl he loved and even without a brain, he fell in love with her all over again as she is now. The other loves her fiercely and devotedly. He, too, has sacrificed much to love her and right now fights for her. He had fought against the love at the beginning, denying the Bond he had felt when he met her eyes, thinking it had betrayed his previous love, but that fight ended up making him love her even more as she accepted her fate, and helped in his grief. Either of them will be able to break the spell, but one was destined to do so. It will take them and the rest to heal her; they just had to get through to her.
Dorothy looks at her descendants and the Companions and told them, “The O.Z. has acknowledged her as the next Queen, and as such, it is demanding her return, or else everything my descendants and I have worked for will be lost. To get her back, the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man will need to journey again. Because of the betrayal of Toto, joining them instead will be the Host and the Griffon. This party, and no other, will be the one to bring her back to you healed. You will need to journey along the Yellow Brick Road to visit the place where she left here. It is the easiest path to her, being one that was used in the past. This is only the beginning of the quest. Once you journey back over the rainbow, your biggest challenge will await you all.”
She looks at them all, sorrow in her eyes. “I truly hope you can achieve the first step. She unknowingly traveled my path, and now you need to go back in a straight line back to her. Unfortunately it is now a crooked path.” She turns to Ambrose and Cain. “You both have my blessings on your Courtship of my great-granddaughter and well wishes on you being able to heal her.” With that, she leaves in a blast of emerald light.
Lavender sits down heavily in one of the chairs in the room, Ahamo coming up to support her. “Oh, my poor Angel.” This is nothing she had wanted for her angel. She had wanted her to relax and just be herself. Lavender had even tried to talk to her to find out what was the best way to have DG learn what she needed, though that conversation had not been fruitful, she at least now knew why. She just wants for her daughters to be happy, and she has failed completely with one.
However, Ambrose sits up. He is the first to realize that the Grey Gale has given them what they have needed. He looks over at Cain and sees the same hope in his eyes. He grins as he tells Cain, “Well, here is what you wanted. A direction.” His eyes come alive.
Ahamo looks over them, and asks, “What do you mean?” He is confused and hating this. He normally can think on his feet, but this is taking too much from him.
Looking down at the maps in front of him with renewed vigor, Cain answers the Consort, “The Grey Gale told us who needed to go and where. At least a starting point.” A way to save his DG, that being his main priority, truthfully it is his only priority.
Az is smiling, catching on to what the two Suitors have realized. “The Yellow Brick Road. I haven’t heard it called that except in the legends.”
Jeb straightens out and muses, “The Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man. I never put it together before, however it fits. But who is the Host?”
Az grins at him. “Well, I think one of them is me. Tell me who else could be called the Host.” She recognizes the name, Griffon from the Witch’s memory. She is trying to figure out who it had been; the man had been a military genius.
Jeb’s face darkens as he retorts, “Unwilling.”
Lavender looks over at him and then glances at Cain. She is watching them, waiting for them to realize who the Griffon is. He had revealed himself when she had taken back the throne in secret. There are too many Longcoats who hunted the Griffon for the man to feel easy in admitting in public who he is.
Thinking on it, remembering all the missives and intelligence on the man, Ambrose figures it out, but like Lavender, is waiting for the rest of them to figure it out also.
Jeb looks over at his father, asking, “Do you want me to gather supplies and get everything ready for you?”
Cain just nods, as he stares at his son. He too has read the intelligence reports.
Jeb looks over at Az and sighs. He bows to Lavender and her Consort, moving to the doors, already working to figure out what they will need.
Cain finally tells his son, “Make sure you provide for the Griffon.” His voice is full of pride as he watches his son.
Jeb stops in his tracks. He nods his head, but before he can go any farther, Az explodes. “For the Sake of Ozma! Who is the Griffon? You all know.”
Jeb turns around and his eyes first go to Az then to his father’s. He grins as he asks his father, “How long ago did you figure it out?”
Az sputters as Cain answers him, “Just now, but I did have other things to think about. I dismissed it when the intelligence report came across my desk, having DG to worry about. But now that I think on it, you are the only one it could be.”
Jeb just grins and tells him, “You should have realized it. You are the one who taught me.”
Cain just shakes his head and comments, “Well, it only took countless hours to teach you the difference between a knight and a rook. I had given up on you ever realizing that strategy was good for anything. ”
Chuckling, Jeb nods and hurries out of the room, to get them ready. Knowing his father and Ambrose, they will want to be on the road as soon as possible.
Az is just staring at his back, shocked that the man who had been by her side all day is the man who had kept the Resistance going all those years. She then cocks her head to the side with a small smile as she thinks.
Laughing at the princess’ expression, Ambrose turns back to Cain. His amusement is evident as he comments, “So we need to retrace our tracks along the Old Brick Road.”
Cain nods, and not being able to help himself, teases him, “And again, I will be the one guiding. We all know that the Scarecrow had no sense of direction.” Just knowing where they need to go is enough to stop the pain from whatever has driven him all this time. He will find his love.
Ambrose grins at him, more than able to hold his own now. “But they also say the Tin Man had no heart. So tell me which will be better on this journey?” He can’t help it, he too feels lighter knowing that a Cain is in charge. Especially the Griffon in charge of supplies, the man had kept his people fed in a time when food was hard to come by.
Raw came up, looking down at the map tells them both absently; “Lion had heart. So Raw is one to heal DG.” One look at his eyes and you can see the same relief that is in his companion’s eyes. And also mirrored is the mirth he is having in picking on them.
Cain and Ambrose look at him shocked. Az and the rest of the room erupt in laughter.
Az is laughing then she tells them both, “You know, I think you are the first ones to ever be approved by the Grey Gale herself as Suitors to the Royal House. I wonder if that will help you two any.”
The relief of having a direction is quickly relieving the grief in the room, as well as knowing that there is a way to save DG. That hope infuses the group with a sense of purpose. They will heal her and whatever is next on their plate, they will handle together.
Still joking as they look over the map and prepare themselves, Ambrose just answers back, “Azkadee honey, all that means is that she recognizes that we are the only two men who could measure up to DG.” He chuckles as he realizes that the history that is all but lost to the O.Z is going to lead them. A bunch of legends really.
Shocking them all, Ahamo dryly remarks, “I am not too sure that will help me sleep at night. My daughter is being courted by a Scarecrow and a Tin Man. How low can she get?” He smirks at the two men as the rest of them chuckle.
Cain is smiling, his nature a little more relaxed now that he is going to be working towards DG. “At least she isn’t being courted by a flying monkey.” He stands up folding the map, looking to see if they may need another one. Hope is a powerful tool in the hands of a Tin Man who will stop at nothing to save the woman he loves.
Ahamo laughs, but he comments, “Make sure you take along extra oil and stuffing, I think you two will need all the help you can get.” The group all laughs, not knowing that this comment reveals more of their pasts than any of them realize.
Final count: 5,328 Words