Pre Edit Count – 3,384 Words
Song I listened to for this chapter: Love Song Requiem by Trading Yesterday.
Az and Cain both answer, “The Emerald,” and both look at each other.
Cain tells them, “It flashed in the room when I was standing there. If you said it was trying to protect her, then it probably removed her from there. But where could it go, to stop her from doing that?”
They all look at each other, trying to think.
Cain has a large suspicion and he can see Ambrose is thinking the same thing.
Shortly he confirms it by saying, “Over the Rainbow.”
Cain sits back in his seat, his eyes looking over his companions. The revelation of where DG is had been a relief for them, until Az had told them the bad news.
Az breathed out a soft denial, “No.”
Cain looked back at the woman his son loves and asked, “What’s wrong, Az?”
Az looked up at all of them. “There are only two places in this world that can lead back to where DG is. And one of them may be blocked off.”
Cain just raised an eyebrow. He is slowly coming to the end of his patience. He really needs to get to his DG. The pain of their separation is getting worse, and his ability to hide it is getting harder to get away with.
Ambrose had been silent and then said, “The Guilds. That is the only place we can cross.”
Jeb glanced at him and just blurted, “What? Why?”
Cain closed his eyes and answered for them all, “Because our journey is to mirror hers. The Grey Gale came to the O.Z. in the land of the Guilds. And that is where we will leave to find her.”
That had been earlier today. They had managed to make their way through the Papay fields and made their way to just outside Milltown. It had just gotten too late and Cain couldn’t push the horses anymore tonight, just to make it there.
His mind keeps going over the legends and his sense of unease keeps bothering him. There is more at stake than them just getting DG back. He knows there has to be more. Yes, the O.Z. will continue to fall apart, getting worse until its chosen Queen is back. But there were times, in the past, the chosen Queen couldn’t take the throne…right?
But what really solidifies the sense of unease for him is that the Grey Gale herself had sent them on this trip. In addition, her one comment, the journey reflects her own, has already come up to guide them more than once. Moreover, that worries Cain. Nothing in the O.Z. is that easy. Not that he will find it easy to convince DG to come back with them. To convince her that he loves her. He knows this will not be easy. However, the time spent away from her has taught him that he needs to be with her.
He stares at the fire, thinking of what he needs to do. His eyes gleam in the dark, the pale blue catching the firelight as he plans and dreams for his future.
The fire slowly dies down and the companions drift off to sleep each with their own thoughts of what the future is to bring. Only to be awoken with a scream of pure fear.
Jeb is by Az’s side before the scream has ended, trying frantically to wake her; his face reflects the worry he has for, the one he is hoping will someday love him back.
Cain and Ambrose jerk up and Cain had his gun, at the ready, in his hand. Both are looking for the source of the scream and who could have caused it.
Raw woke up, and actually shrank away for a second from the pain he is feeling from the Princess. Then tells them, “Az had a visitor.” In a low voice, as he fights with his secondhand pain coming from Az.
Jeb growls at the thought of someone invading the dreams of his princess and looks down at Az, “Princess, what happened?” His eyes are roving over her face, trying to find if anything had happened to her physically.
Az is gasping. She closes her eyes and tries to center herself, she can feel her magic trying to raise a shield and she can feel the mobats as they move, wanting to confront whatever had frightened their mistress. They move so much that it is becoming painful and she arches in Jeb’s arms as she barely holds back a scream from the pain.
Before any of them can react to her, Raw is beside her, pulling her cloak to the side as he pulls down the back of the shirt she is wearing. He knows what needs to happen, to help relieve the pain she is feeling.
Jeb curses and tries to stop the view, but he gasps as he watches the tattoo on Az’s back spasm and then sparkle. Raw jumps back and Az lurches from Jeb’s arms to her hands and knees as the mobats explode from her back.
Cain jumps up, but before he can do anything, Raw has his hand on his gun, telling him, “They be protecting her.” He is watching as they fly into the air, waiting for them to come back to their mistress.
Sure enough, the flying monkeys take up defensive positions all around Az. They hiss at Jeb as they move cover Az with their wings, trying to protect and comfort her. They make chirping noises to her, as they themselves talk to each other and two take off to scout, coming back to tell them there is nothing around. They stay in the air to better guard her and their brethren.
Jeb is not about to admit defeat. He is a Cain, and Cains are devoted to the women they love. He moves towards the mobats, and tells them in a voice that will make his father proud when he thinks back to this, “Out of my way.”
Az is quietly crying and turns into Jeb’s chest when she feels his arms around her. She can feel the strength that he has and is more than willing to use, or give for her to use. He quietly soothes her, his eyes meeting the others from across the backs of the mobats surrounding her.
When she calms down, she hears Ambrose quietly ask her, “What happened, Az?” He, as well as the rest of them, are concerned for her and need some answers.
She sags in Jeb’s arms, relief coursing through her body that they are not condemning her. Then Cain’s voice came to her, “That is why Deeg was working to find out more about them. Because they remained with you, even after I saw you release them.” He had remembered the time DG had spent in the libraries trying to find any information she could about them.
Az nods, “They wanted to stay with me. Mother and DG both agreed that it would save me from any outcry from the public if they were in the original tattoo on my back. They all agreed and have remained there.” She remembers that discussion as the mobats have been used by the Wicked Witch of the West as far back as any could find records. It’s not the mobats fault…
One mystery solved, the Tin Man then asks Ambrose’s question again, “What happened?” He is sitting in front of her, ignoring the mobats as only a Cain could.
Az shudders and the mobats grew agitated. Jeb rubs his hands on her arms, supporting her. She looks up into the blue crystal eyes of the elder Cain. “I received a warning to stop what we are doing, and what happened to the last Witch who had disregarded it.” She stares into Cain’s eyes as she said, “It is another Witch, Cain.”
Ambrose frowns. “The only Witches are the original four.” He had studied this in detail, wanting to know everything there is to know about DG.
Az nods. “Deeg and I took care of one for good.” She shudders, remembering the two of them facing down the Witch.
Jeb comments, “Ozma gave her power to the Grey Gale, her friend, and passed on.” He too had brushed up on as much history as he could before they left.
Cain frowns. “We were taught that the Grey Gale defeated two Witches.” He is pleading with his eyes for them not to say what he is thinking…
Ambrose is staring at Az, realizing what she knew. “But she didn’t really. One was the Wicked Witch of the West, and that is who took over Az. So we know she was not really defeated. The other was the Wicked Witch of the East, who was defeated by the Gale’s house falling on her.” His voice trails off as he realizes who the adversary may be.
Cain sucks in his breath. Knowing what he does now, no simple house falling on a Witch would truly destroy her. So what was done with her? West was sealed in a cave, so where had the Wicked Witch of the East been and is she out now?
Az answers the last of it, “And no one knows what happened to the Good Witch of the North. The North Isle is rumored to be her domain; the Gales only hold it for her return.” Though it had been a home of hers, she remembers her mother’s teachings that the North is there for them to take care of for the return of Glenda.
Jeb looks down at her and states, “And you saw that Glenda had disregarded the last warning.” There is nothing else he can think of that the Witch could use to scare Az this badly.
Az nods. Her eyes fill as she realized that they are not only there for DG. They are to rescue one of the four cardinal Witches that help form the O.Z. If she can be brought low, how could they ever hope to succeed?
Cain’s eyes grow hard as he states, “’She follows in my path’, not that we follow her path. Dorothy only meant DG. That is why we are being told to get her, the O.Z. needs DG to defeat another Witch, one who had been rumored to be more powerful than her sister.” His voice is growling out the last as he realizes exactly what the O.Z. needs of his beloved and he is, quite frankly, upset.
Ambrose jerks and his eyes look dark as he says what is on the mind of all of the Companions, “How much more does she need to do? Has she not done enough?” DG is in pain and the O.Z. wants her to come back and battle the strongest Witch, the one that Ozma herself could not get rid of?
And there is a flash of emerald light as Dorothy stands in front of them, her Toto in her arms. “She really has. This was never to be, but the Witch of the West planned that in case what she had considered impossible did, in fact, happen, her sister would be revived. In fact, she had partially revived her and had her by her side at all times.” She looks so sad in front of them, not liking that her descendant would be the one who would be forced to suffer because the bonds they had put on the Witches were overcome so easily.
Az murmurs, “Visor.” The only person that the Witch had trusted with everything. There are portions even hidden from her that Visor knows.
Dorothy nods. “Not even I knew that she was back completely. But the O.Z. screamed out in protest when she invaded your dreams. She made a mistake, one that allows me to help more.” Dorothy can’t help but smirk as she is getting to help her descendants more because the Witch made a mistake…
Cain jumps up and towers over the namesake of the woman he loves. “Help more? What is this, some sort of game?” He is pissed. This is just not what he wants DG to think is the reason he has gone after her. No, he is going to bring her back because she is his everything. But how could she not doubt with all this going on?
Dorothy looks up at him and softly tells him, “Tin Man, know that I love my great- granddaughter much. She is the most like me, knowing as I do my own world and this world, finding the same awe and wonder for the O.Z. that has been gone for so long in the general population. Look what she did for the Papays. That type of love is to be treasured and kept safe, not used like the Witch of the East wishes to do.”
Cain stares down at her. His eyes are waiting for more. He is not going to his DG with news of doom and gloom without some of hope.
Dorothy sighs, “I cannot tell you too much, or it will loosen the few bonds on the Witch. She is looking for DG also. But, by mine and the O.Z.’s magic, she cannot do anything at this time against her. Her mistake is allowing me to help at all, but even then, I know you will not be happy.” Her eyes reflect the sorrow she is feeling, and the wish that he would take the moment to understand her position in this.
Ambrose chuckles, “Cain is never happy when DG is in danger.” The smile on his face tells it all. He is slowly becoming accustomed to Cain’s love for DG. He loves her so much, but he can see that Cain’s love for her is much more than his own. However that doesn’t mean he will give his years of loving her for nothing. He is going down to the wire for the love of DG. She will choose.
Dorothy stares across at him and then looks back in the face of the Tin Man. “You both worry, and I am sad to say she will choose one of you. But the other will find the same love waiting for him. This is no more than what you both deserve. However, unless you both love her and make her choose, the alternative is that the O.Z. will no longer exist.” Her eyes look down and then back up to meet both of theirs, “I am sorry. No one deserves the heartbreak that will come upon her decision. Just remember, that someday the love you need, will be there.” She hates to tell them this, but they need to understand there must be a decision made.
Cain and Ambrose look at each other and nod. They are aware of what may happen, and decided long ago that not only is she worth it, but that they will abide by her decision.
Dorothy squares her shoulders. She looks around at all of them and tells them, “DG is the first step. After her return, you will need to find the original seekers and free the first person to help me in this world. Only then will you be able to face the last sister.” She then smiles, her Light showing through, “And please, do better than I, for no house will stop her this time.” The teasing tone in her voice makes them all smile.
Jeb can’t help himself, “No worries, Grey Gale, I don’t think my father will allow anything less than completing the job for Deeg to be safe.” He is grinning, enjoying the fact that the Grey Gale actually has a sense of humor.
Dorothy laughs. “Oh, you are well suited for your Life Mate.” Her eyes look over them all and tells them, “I hate to dangle rewards, but you all deserve to know that you are all to be Life Mated. Nothing but that type of love will serve the O.Z.” With that she glances at them all once more and fades away.
Cain just stares at her spot. He repeats, “Life Mates. There has not been a Life Mate since Ozma’s time.” They are rumors… only tales of Life Mates.
Ambrose nods, “To have that sort of bond, a need for that type of bond, is not a good sign. And to find out that all of us will have it? Oh my.” He is looking as shocked as Cain is. Life Mates are so rare. They are sacred in fact…
Raw, out of all of them, is relieved. DG’s choice will be hard, but there is still love for the one not chosen. He will need to make sure that she is aware of that at one point. It will ease her guilt that she is sure to have. But as the thought crosses his mind, he makes the connection, “Life Mate bond will break Whisper Spell.” The awe for the solution being so neat, so tidy, is obvious in his voice.
Cain and Ambrose both straighten. Cain slowly smiles, “Now that, Furball, is the best news I have heard. Are you sure?”
The entire group relaxes. The fact that the Whisper Spell can be broken is good news.
Cain then shakes his head. “Nothing is easy for her is it?”
Ambrose grins, “No, but then do you think she really would want easy?”
The two grin at each other, both knowing the answer: not the DG that they had traveled with for the first couple of days, before Tutor had interrupted the happy group. None of them will forget that happy time.
Jeb hugs Az closer, leaning his head down to hers, “Can you either have your friends return home, or if they do not wish to return, will they at least allow us to move?” Not that he minds having her here in his arms, where he has dreamed of her being, but he is not sure if she returns his affections and doesn’t want to make her at all uncomfortable.
Az looks up and smiles. She had caught her Ancestor’s comment and had put one and one together. And she now realizes that he is what she needs. But she will wait until he realizes that same thing and then they will talk. Calling her friends with her magic, all but one descends back into her tattoo. She gazes on the last one. “Cain?”
Cain had started to break down the camp, knowing that they need to hurry to DG. His head comes up and he looks across to the Princess. “Yes?”
Looking at him, “Lars wishes to help. He asks if he can scout ahead for us.”
Cain quickly looks over at the mobat staring into Az’s eyes and then back at her. He remembers that DG was trying to help and that makes his decision. “Sure.” He always will trust DG no matter if she chooses him or not. Her gut feelings have been more right than anything else he has seen in the world.
Az glances at him and sees that he is not hiding anything; he sincerely has no problem with this. She smiles and nods to the mobat. He squawks and after reaching a paw to her face and rubbing it affectionately, takes off.
Jeb lets go of his breath. “Well, that will be something to get used to.” He asks the woman in his arms, “You okay?” His eyes making sure she is as he waits for her answer.
She nods and he helps her up. They all break down their camp, knowing that Cain’s need to be with DG is his warning senses serving him.
Once they are back on the road, they make their way into Milltown. They need to know if DG’s nurture units are here, or if they are taking care of her back in her world. It will give them some direction and an idea of what all could be waiting for them back in her world.
When they ride up to the town, they notice that there is a shimmering bubble overlaying the entire town. Everyone looks first at each other, then looks at Az.
Az is grinning, feeling DG’s mischievousness running through the shield. She feels the others’ stares on her and tells them, “We can enter. But be prepared. This must have been done much earlier.” Then she laughs. Her sister’s mischievousness is something she has missed since she had met the older DG. She is thrilled that she hasn’t changed and it had been the Whisper Spell wearing on her.
Cain looks at her, then the bubble in front of him. He sighs, but if you look closely at his face, you can see his amusement. “Well, I guess this is why we haven’t heard from the Mayor.” And with that, he dismounts Silver, and holding the reins firmly, walks through the bubble.
The bubble recognizes him, and he is caught for a moment as he hears his DG in his head.
He gasps softly, hope spreading through him. The feelings, of pure hope he finds in that one word gives him some much needed encouragement. Determination is also present, which has always been there, as well as his love for her. He will give his everything for her. But hope, and encouragement that she will return his feelings? He has not dared to have that.
Cain then feels the laughter in the bubble and feels it as it passes over him. Enter, my Tin Man, you and anyone you feel is safe to be here, are allowed. Then the voice in his head changes for a second and he hears a faint whisper of the voice she had left for him, Hurry, Cain. Find me.
The pain of her voice echoes in him. Cain closes his eyes and tells her, I am coming, DG. I will always come for you.
He feels a whisper of a hug and then is released. He makes it through the bubble, with none of his Companions aware of what had transpired. He feels slightly guilty for it, having a connection that Ambrose may not have, but the memory of the pain in her voice is enough to steel him.
The rest of the group follow Cain through the bubble. He watches their faces, but sees nothing that makes him think that there was a message in the bubble for them. Looking away from them, Cain tries to tell himself not to read too much into it. Who knows how long that message had been waiting?
Soon the group is making their way through the streets and they can see that Milltown is quickly healing. Instead of the damaged automatons that had been here before, most of them have been repaired. The buildings are cleaned up and everything looks as though it is well on the way to returning to normal.
Oddly, the group is feeling hopeful that they had not run into DG’s nurture units. When they ask around, they found the Mayor is undergoing repairs and that no one has seen DG’s nurture units.
Carol, one of the ladies they have asked questions of tells them of the bubble. “It was about eight months ago it appeared. The Mayor came out and told us it was a thank you from the one we had helped, that she is protecting us from anyone attempting to erase us again.”
Ambrose thinks and then asks, “Did anything odd happen the last couple of days?” He has learned to ask direct questions of them. It works better. Some of them can handle higher thought processes, but it is easier to think them all simpler. They never minded.
Carol thinks, and tells them, “The whole town lit with a green glow.” She smiles. It must be programmed to smile when she gives an answer. It has happened every time she answers. It was getting mildly creepy.
Jeb has constantly moved with Az, making sure she is within his reach the entire time. Raw and Ambrose had grinned to each other, remembering how his father had been, even before he had admitted his feelings for DG, he had been, if anything, even more protective of her.
Jeb quickly asks, “Have you seen Emily or Hank since then?” His eyes tracking Az as she looks around.
You could see the gears whirring in her eyes, then the audible click as they came to a conclusion, “No.” And she smiles again.
Cain shifts on his feet. They have the answer they are looking for. “That’s it then. They are with her. We need to get moving, folks.” He is feeling more anxious after DG’s communication with him. He has an ominous feeling that they are running out of time.
Ambrose looks over at Cain, and asks, “Is there something wrong?” The way he is acting is getting to Ambrose. It feels as though something is going to happen, and not in the way that makes you think it will be a good thing.
Cain looks at the man who loves DG just as much as he does, and cannot hold it in. “DG left a message in the bubble for me. She asks that we hurry.” He hates to tell him this, but Ambrose will also know why he is pushing them.
Ambrose feels something die inside him. But before all hope dies, Cain tells him, “Ambrose. Why would she think you would come here? The message was her teasing me, telling me that any with me that I thought was trustworthy was allowed in the town. She means for Milltown to be protected from everyone. Why would you need to enter it? Remember, she sent me away.” The pain he is feeling from the fact that DG did send him away is evident in his voice.
Az is watching Cain try to give his competition hope. But she can see that there is more than what he is saying. And, because of Ambrose’s reaction, he is keeping it to himself. She sighs to herself. She really has held out hope, but she has known, for a while, in her heart of hearts that DG has already chosen…
Keeping it to herself, they quickly gather additional supplies and continue on the trail. They had gone out of their way to be here, but all had agreed that they needed to find out about DG’s roboparents. Plus Cain wanted to make sure they hit it since it was a big part of why they came this way in the first place.
That night when all had gone to sleep, Az moves beside Cain. They sit staring at the fire and soon hear Ambrose’s nightly rambling.
Cain chuckles. “He was the same way the first time. Thank goodness this time he doesn’t talk as much while awake.” He shakes his head at the rambling as he starts talking technical stuff.
Az laughs lightly. She can just imagine how bad Ambrose had been as Glitch. But then she remembers why she is sitting beside the elder Cain. “Cain, what else did DG tell you?”
Cain doesn’t even glance at her. He stares into the flames, his jaw tightens as his eyes turn a brilliant blue, but he doesn’t say anything.
Az puts her hand on his arm, and softly tells him, “She was more broken after you left. Even Glitch noticed for brief moments, and for a few of those times, he told her that you would be back. Cain, I know you are trying to save Ambrose’s feelings, but wouldn’t it help to have someone helping?”
Cain closes his eyes briefly, then sighs. “She needs me. She told me to hurry and there was such pain in her voice.” His head drops as he admits it.
Az straightens, then she tells him, “You have it bad, don’t you. I thought Ambrose was bad, but while he was bad when he thought she was dead, I would hate to see you.” Her eyes are searching his, as she realizes just how in love the man in front of her is with her sister.
Cain clenches his jaw, and finally tells her, “I wouldn’t survive it. But as long as she is happy, if she wants Ambrose, I will be fine.” He is steadily staring at the fire, not able to face her.
Az looks away, for the first time fully aware of the love the man has for her sister. She chuckles to herself. When Cain glances at her out of the corner of his eye, she tells him, “If she chooses you, I think you two will be the stuff of legends.”
He shakes his head. “I think you be thinking of one of your fairy tales, Princess, maybe that one of that Oyster and her King.” Then his face softens. “She belongs to and deserves those fairy tales, not a man who is broken.” His voice trails off at the end.
Az just stares at the man beside her and realizes it won’t just be him healing DG, but her healing him. She just informs him, “You know, DG told me that there is a fairy tale in that other world of the Grey Gale’s journey. Who knows what other fairy tales are real, Cain. Or who knows which ones are beginning?” Her voice is soft, as she truly is beginning to believe that in front of her might very well be half of a legendary couple, one that she is sure will drive their own legends.
With that Az moves to her bedroll, noting with a smile that Jeb had placed his on the other side and made sure she will be close enough to the fire to stay warm tonight. She settles down quickly and looks into the fire, her eyes raise up and she can see Cain’s as he sits there thinking. She hopes he listens to her, then settles down thinking of the same tale that Cain had brought up, wishing that it was true as she falls asleep. There was no one more deserving of life never ending as the promised King and Queen of Knights.
Final count: 5,063 words.