Tin Man: Dragons and Ninjas

Chapter Thirteen

Glitch didn't often wish to lose his marbles again. But when he only had half a brain and got stuck on a loop, he forgot what it was. Now with all his marbles, he couldn't! He couldn't escape the fact that the Queen withheld the throne from DG.

Raw knew it, but Glitch hadn't asked him how the rest of the Viewer community felt. The Fae knew, and were bypassing Queen Galinda for DG. That only left the humans and the Munchkins to declare themselves. Cripes, what do they do now?

Honestly, it was DG's decision. But since she and Cain had remained silent about it since leaving the meeting place, Glitch tried to use the time until they made camp to plan various strategies. But he couldn't plan anything because he couldn't move past the fact that Queen Galinda had betrayed her entire realm. For what reason? The deep magic of the O.Z. justified anything; to go against it risked the existence of everything. Galinda knew this.

Cain called for making camp after two hours of travel from their meeting with the Fae. Flopping against a convenient tree didn't break the loop. Watching Zack try to teach DG self-defense didn't break the loop.

"Damnit, focus!" Zack pulled DG to her feet in their sparring area.

"If you follow that with 'let your light flow through you,' I'm going to hurt you, Mr. Miyagi!" DG crossed her arms.

Glitch glanced at Cain. The Tin Man focused on the meal he cooked over the fire, but he could see the exchange between the two youngest members of the group if he looked up.

"The only way you're going to hurt me at this rate is tripping over me in the middle of the night." DG sputtered a denial, but the boy overrode her. "Your mind is everywhere but now. You can't multi-task. You just steal energy from everything you need to do."

"I have a lot on my mind, okay!"

"And it'll still be there for you to think about when we're done!"

DG started to walk out of the sparring area. "You don't understand." She didn't get very far before Zack had her held up in the air. "Put me down!"

"I don't understand." He dropped DG on her backside. She glared up at him but he continued before she could say anything. "I was eleven years old when ninjas killed my brother. He didn't even know about the shit that happened half a century ago in Japan. My sister found true love that she can't reproduce with, so that leaves me to lead my clan. I have to go to Japan, I have to fight the Oroku clan's champion because those people really can't let anything go, and if I survive all that, I get to lead a ninja clan and convince them to become a law abiding dojo once again. Not to mention get married and have a kid to leave it all to." He stalked toward his black bag and opened one of the outer pockets. "Maybe after all that's done, I can go to Disney World." He took out a set of strange keys, pulled something off the small ring, and tossed the coin-like object at DG who caught it. "At eleven, I wanted to be a professional video game player!" He slung his bag over his shoulder. "When you're ready to focus, come get me. Till then, I'm going to study chemistry."

DG headed to Cain, who looked up at her with a half smirk. "You think that's funny?" she demanded.

"The only thing hurt is your pride. Otherwise, you'd be heading to Raw."

She sat next to him with a huff. "You think I had that coming."

"What job did you give him?"

"Talking sense to well-meaning idiots."

Cain grinned. "Are you going to listen to him too? Or is he just for everybody else?"

She stared at the coin-like object that she turned over in her hands. "I don't know what he expects of me."

He grunted, but changed the subject, pointing to what she held. "What is that?"

"It's a yin-yang symbol. It was always popular with the kids who liked anything Asian in school." DG glanced over her shoulder at Zack, who had seated himself against a tree away from the group with a thick book. "I don't get it."

Glitch focused on the material covering his knees. Galinda was the only queen he had ever known; her reign started two annuals before he was born. He didn't like to count the Sorceress's reign as one. He had been welcomed into the Palace and the Royal Family as a child prodigy in his teens. She wasn't his mother, more like favorite aunt. Losing Azkadellia to the witch had hurt, seeing Galinda lose to the witch inside Azkadellia, being thrust to DG's side when trying to be fair to both had hurt. Gods, this hurt worse than all that.

Raw squeezed his shoulder. "Glitch confused and hurt."

"I don't think you need to be a Viewer to see that. I can't believe the Queen would do this. Not with how fragile the peace is." Glitch shook his head. "How do you find trust once it has been broken?"

"Depends on the reason why the trust was broken." Raw crouched next to Glitch.

"I could accept her not telling me about the ruse with DG's death and Ahamo's abandonment. I had lost Az; I understood her need to save them both." He clenched his coat in his fists. "This I cannot understand."

"Glitch was right to be loyal. Shouldn't question that." Glitch was about to correct the Viewer on what was under question when Raw continued in a softer voice. "DG scared. She thinks she has endangered us."

"Cripes." He steeled himself and nodded at Raw, who followed him to the camp fire. Glitch sat next to her, and she looked up with a tight smile before looking at the item in her hands. The coin had a small chain attached to it, to keep it hooked to the rest of the keys probably. A misshapen S divided the enamel coating into a black half and a white half. A black dot was in the middle of the largest area of white space and a white dot did the same in the black. "What does that mean?"

"I'm not sure." DG glanced at Zack, who still studied his book. "And I don't think I'm ready to ask."

"Zack not angry with DG." Raw took the bowl of stew Cain offered him before sitting. "Lost patience."

"I seem to have that effect on everyone." DG muttered, passing a bowl to Glitch before taking her own.

"Zack, food." The boy followed Cain's voice to the campfire and accepted the bowl.

Glitch decided it was now or never. "What are your plans, DG?"

She tilted her head at him. "Go find the guy leading a revolution with a dragon and Longcoats. Why? Was that supposed to change?"

"For your mother." DG looked at her food bowl to avoid Glitch's face.

Cain scooted beside DG with his bowl. "I was hoping to squeeze in a real honeymoon before telling her she has to retire, Zipperhead."

"Sorry, but when Ozma's pact is invoked, the safety of the O.Z. is at stake."

"The safety of the O.Z. has been at stake ever since I got here," DG said. "Makes me wonder how it survived before I was born. So what happens if Ozma's pact is broken? And what the hell is it?"

Before Glitch had been teasing DG about the state of her education, knowing how much she detested the lessons. Now he was incensed. She was a daughter of the House of Gale and the Royal House, and she wasn't even given the rudimentary basics of her heritage. "I'm putting that mutt on a choke chain!"

"I'll help," Cain offered. DG turned from Glitch to her husband. "What? I've never trusted Tutor. And considering that you kept me from shooting him, he owes you a lot more than he has paid."

"I know who Ozma is, the queen over the O.Z.'s golden age. And the first Dorothy Gale helped her gain the throne. But nothing was said about a pact."

Glitch took a deep breath. "She united all the lands, all the people, all the magic of the Zone under a single ruler. And like Az said, the Zone gives the Queen what she needs in return for good stewardship. She is one of your ancestors too. Her daughter married Dorothy Gale's son, starting the House of Gale."

"That makes more sense. I always wondered how a Slipper had any magic. Ahamo doesn't."

"Who is that?" Zack asked.

"My father, a carnie from Nebraska. So what happens if there is no good stewardship?"

"The Zone will die."

Cain glared. "That's not funny, Zipperhead."

"It's already starting! Galinda has sent wizards and witches to the Fields of the Papay. No one has duplicated DG's cure. The farms are still suffering. The only reason it's not worse is because DG is here in the Zone."

DG set aside her bowl, the stew barely touched. "Geez, Glitch, what am I supposed to do? Hi Mom, your daughter of the darkness wants the crown now."

"Why do you call yourself that?" Zack's dark eyes stared at DG from across the fire. "Because you killed a witch?"

"No, melting her was unexpected. Az's light was always stronger and the prophecy."

"That poem Adsaluta recited?"

"One to darkness she be drawn, one to the light she be shown."

"And that line means you're chaotic evil?" Zack shook his head. "It says drawn, DG, not succumbs."

"But I let the witch out."

Cain wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "You were a kid, and the witch took advantage."

"Cain's right, Doll." Glitch squeezed her hand. "No one blames you. You saved the O.Z. from her."

"What is dark magic that DG fears so?"

Praise to the Viewer for asking a question to make DG think. "Everyone pushes me to use my light. I figured it is bad, like death."

Zack snorted. "Death is just change. Plenty of dark gods aren't evil. Winter is darkness, and so is yin."

She held out the symbol. "I thought it was light versus dark, good versus evil."

"Everything is either or, the trap of binary thinking. Reality is both."

Glitch stared at the symbol in DG's palm. "How can something be both?"

"Yin is the black representing the dark, the calm of a deep lake. Yang is the white representing the light, the hustle of a city. But each exists within the other. The lake is full of fish and energy under the surface. The city has homes with oases of calm. You must have both to have balance." Zack grinned. "You have light and dark, just like everybody else. What are you afraid of?"

DG stared into the fire. "I couldn't even keep my life straight in Kansas. I always screwed up. What do I know about running a country? I'm not getting trained for it. I don't want to be another Sorceress."

"Why would you think you'd become another Sorceress?" Glitch pulled on one of his dreads. "How could you think that? What do you think a Queen does for her people?"

DG shrugged as much as she could with Cain's arm still tight around her. "I don't know. I grew up with a president. Someone to look out for them, to be fair, to put on balls?"

"Yeah, all your instincts point to another Hitler," Zack chuckled.

"This isn't funny," Cain growled.

"Oh come on, the very fact she's worried about going evil means she won't." Zack shook his head. "Boy, I owe Mike a huge Christmas gift for dealing with Allie when she got like this and I was unconscious."

"DG cares about others," Raw said. "Evil ones do not."

"Exactly," Zack said.

"Will you listen to Raw?" Cain said to DG in a low voice.

"I'm a crazy mess." Her hands covered her face.

"No, you're not." Cain hugged her closer. "This isn't what you thought your life would be, and you haven't had time to adjust. But you can do this; you're the strongest damn force in the whole Zone." He kissed her forehead after DG uncovered her face.

"I'm not ready for the Queen stuff yet."

"DG, you are the Queen. You have been since you were seven. This is as ready as you get, Honey."

"Way to make her feel better, Zipperhead."

"No, he's right. I can't stay in denial about this. I just wished I hadn't trapped you."

"You didn't trap me, Darlin', you freed me. We're in this together." DG didn't say anything, but she squeezed Cain's hand.

"What do we do now?" Raw asked.

"Get some sleep, find a dragon, and then get the Queen Mother to retire." Cain released DG to clean up the cooking remains.

"Nothing like having a plan, is there?" Glitch grinned at the group. DG had saved him, saved each of them; she would save the O.Z. again.