Disclaimer: I do not own Tin Man and I make no money off this work.
The characters DG, Wyatt Cain, Glitch, Raw, Longcoats, Jeb Cain, Azkadellia, Zero, Queen Galinda, Ahamo, Kalm, Betsy Bobbins, Hank Jenkins, Inge Spencer, Roquat the Nome King, Kaliko, Dorothy Gale, and Ozma as used in this novel come from Tin Man and L. Frank Baum's classic Wizard of Oz series.
The characters Sprite, Hodges, Nick Pyrite, Thomas Slate, Prince Aedan of Aurissau, Quincy, Mrs. McGrath, The Shaman, Dani, Commander Neptunite, Corporal Ryan Carroll, Miriam Jason, Honorea, Lord Langwidere of Ev, Malachite Granite, Treasure Granite, and the crew of the You and What Navy? were created for my Tin Man fanfics. Please don't use them in your stories. But feel free to draw them and send me a copy.
The lyrics from "One Year of Love" by Queen, "Message in a Bottle" by Sting, "Into the West" by Annie Lennox, and the "Pirates Song" by Disney are used without permission.
The songs "Queen of Argyle," "Dark Lady," "Johnny Jump Up," "Haul on the Bowline," "Roll the Old Chariot Along," "Drunken Sailor," "Fire Maringo," "Whiskey in the Jar," and "Leave Her Johnny" are traditional sea shanties in public domain. But the audio files are the Bedlam Bards and the Bilge Pumps versions.
This story contains cussing, graphic depictions of violence, drinking of alcoholic beverages, and sexual situations. If you're not mature enough to handle it, go read something else.
This story takes after Tin Man: What Memories Can Bring and the Tin Man miniseries.
Wyatt Cain cantered through the gates into the Royal Palace's compound. The Royal Army hadn't finished renovating the former Longcoat headquarters, but the Palace next to the barracks gleamed in the suns. He wondered which tower housed DG before shaking his head. A lowly Tin Man--even if he was a hero of the realm--shouldn't be concerned about such matters. He cast one more glare at the Palace before stopping his horse in front of the guard on duty. He tilted his fedora as he looked down at the uniformed young man. "Commander Wyatt Cain to see Captain Cain."
The guard saluted. "Sorry, sir, he's not in."
Of course Jeb had his own duties. "Just tell him I'm in Central City early and I'll be back after I get lodgings." The summons to the ball celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of the Eclipse promised guest rooms in the Palace, but Cain still had his pride. Then he had to survive the ball, survive seeing her again happy without him, before escaping to his post in the Great Kells.
"Sir, I don't know when I can deliver that message." The guard jerked his head at the Palace doors. "He got summoned to the Palace early this morning. The Royal Family was in a snit."
Cain felt his insides go very still; something was off about this whole situation. "You haven't been stationed here long, have you? First thing to learn is the Royals are always in a snit about something." Cain turned the horse's head.
The guard grabbed the bridle. "Sir, it was something about the youngest Princess. They probably need your help."
Cain glared at the soldier but the young man didn't release the bridle. He wasn't in the mood to scold DG into doing whatever they wanted her to do now. He dismounted with a sigh. Hell, he was annoyed if supporting DG's mayhem sounded good. But why call Jeb in? He had hoped Jeb had been more discreet than his old man had been, and icy fear spiked inside him that Jeb hadn't. He pictured a couple of young lovebirds in tears and rage melted the fear. If she was happy and safe, why did they feel compelled to mess with it? He strode across the parade grounds between the two buildings.
The doors opened into the long main hall, cool and dim compared to the suns lit outside. He had convinced the guard that yes, he was Commander Wyatt Cain, Savior of the O.Z., when a familiar but panicked voice called out, "Cain, is she with you?" Glitch stopped his run before colliding with Cain and the guard.
"Hello, Zipperhead, nice to see you again too. Now who is supposed to be with me?"
"My sister," Princess Azkadellia skidded to a stop and leaned against Glitch.
Cain felt his stomach knot. Great Gale, she shouldn't still have this affect on me, not with knowing she has moved on. "I haven't had any contact with Princess DG for nearly an annual."
"That settles it. She has bolted."
"We still don't know…" Glitch began.
Azkadellia stomped her foot. "She found a way out and she didn't take me!"
"What the hell are you two talking about?" Cain ignored how icy the knot in his stomach turned.
"Can't say that I blame her for bolting. Not listening to Princesses is becoming an art form around here." Azkadellia grabbed and dragged Cain down the hall. "I hope they taught you more than just how to take a bullet for the Mystic Man in Tin Man training." They climbed a set of private stairs with Glitch bringing up the rear. "Though on the bright side, maybe all this will knock Mother off her smug little dais."
"She could make you marry Prince Aedan," Glitch said.
"He won't have me. I told him I still remembered the Sorceress' trick of sucking out souls."
"Do you?" Cain's eyes widened at the woman pulling him out of the staircase and into a hallway.
"No, but his Highness doesn't know that and decided DG was the safer conquest."
"Which just proves how mentally unfit the man is to ever consider siring issue for the House of Gale."
Cain looked over his shoulder. "DG's getting married?"
"No," the Princess and Royal Advisor answered in unison, and Glitch continued. "The Queen wants an alliance with Aurissau. Prince Aedan wants a wife."
"DG laughed and offered to put out a classified ad for him." Azkadellia chuckled. "Then she wanted to help Ambrose invent something called internet dating to help Aedan."
"The Queen didn't find DG's ideas humorous or helpful. I don't know who was more livid: the Queen because DG wouldn't obey or DG because the Queen wanted to marry her to that asinine imbecile."
Cain turned his attention back to Azkadellia. "DG ran away to get out of this arranged marriage?"
"There is no arranged marriage, Commander Cain. No member of the Royal House can be married without consent. And DG was not consenting to marry that toad." Azkadellia stopped in the gray-marbled hall and dropped Cain's arm when the Consort turned from a set of doors. "Father! I thought you were still with Mother."
Ahamo met them with a wry smile. "I wasn't being helpful, insisting her baby girl is old enough and expects to do what she pleases."
"The O.Z. isn't safe enough for DG to do as she pleases!" Glitch exclaimed.
"And that's a valid excuse to keep her locked up, Ambrose? Since Galinda isn't listening, I thought I'd try playing Sam Spade. But you found Commander Cain, so I'll hand things over to the professionals." Ahamo nodded at the former Tin Man.
Cain's lips twitched as he returned the nod. It gave him time to remember Academy lessons he hadn't used in annuals. "Who has been in DG's rooms?"
"The maid who reported her missing, and I went in to sense if any magic was used," Azkadellia answered. "There wasn't."
"Did you touch anything?" She shook her head.
"A couple of guards went in looking for DG or signs of a break in." Ahamo held his hands behind his back. "They reported finding neither."
Cain opened the door instead of commenting. The only traces that DG inhabited the sitting room were the painted canvases propped along all the walls. "She didn't have those out when I visited her last night before dinner." Azkadellia pressed her lips together.
A painting of a white cottage sheltered by green trees and surrounded by a golden grass field sat on the mantle of the room's fireplace. Circling the room toward the outer doors, he saw a painting of a blue-green house with red awnings extending over the doors and windows. A large sign saying "Hilltop Café Home of Famous Pies" hung from its roof. A street scene that resembled Milltown made of brick and stone came next. The sequence changed to familiar Zone scenes: the campsite after rescuing Raw from the Papay, her nurture units standing on a dilapidated porch in Milltown, the broken Brick Route, the Crack across the O.Z., and the Fields of the Papay. The focus was on the healed tree laden with fruit, but the blurred figures standing under it were recognizable.
"Is that Kansas?" Azkadellia pointed to the cottage painting.
"Yes," Ahamo leaned in for a closer look.
"When did she find time to paint all of these?" Glitch tugged on one of his dreads as he turned in the center of the sitting room. "With how busy her schedule has been with lessons and meetings?"
Cain filed their responses in his mind as he continued around the display. He felt the pain radiating from the paintings leaning against her bedroom wall. A pair of delicate hands pushed out of green-tinted darkness on the first one. The next was a copy of the Crack but with a black-haired girl on her knees, stretching her arms to the group on the other side of the chasm. Cain's lips twitched. One of the indistinct figures wore a fedora and duster.
He passed the bedroom doors to look at the last three canvases. The ball from hell was propped up next to the doors into her bedroom. A black-haired girl huddled in the center of a mocking crowd and hid her face. Some of the inhuman figures surrounding her held pieces of blue cloth from her tattered ball gown and others held black locks from her ruined hairdo. The ringleader of the crowd reached for her. The man and woman in glittering clothes on the dais in the background looked at each other and ignored her plight.
A self-portrait came next. DG wore an ivory ball gown with her black hair piled on top of her head with a glittering tiara. She reached for the gold-framed, full-length mirror in front of her. Instead of DG the princess, the mirror showed DG the Slipper looking the same as she had when she released him from the iron suit.
The last one was an altered silhouette of the Central City Palace. The towers' heights had been shrunk so the center widest tower was the tallest in the painting. The round window near its roof had a girl beating against the glass, but you had to be almost nose to paint to see her. Stepping back, you could see that DG had turned the Palace into an iron suit. Cain clenched his fists. DG was supposed to be safe here with her family.
Glitch moved to his side and gasped. "Raw told me to keep a better eye on her."
Cain kept his fists at his sides. Knowing Glitch and Jeb were here to watch DG was the only thing that had made leaving bearable. "Why didn't you help her?"
His toffee-brown eyes glistened as he met Cain's glare. "Do you think you were the only one to get a speech, Tin Man? Do you think you were the only one forced to make a choice?"
"Choice? What choice?" Azkadellia touched Glitch's arm. "What are you talking about, Ambrose?"
Glitch patted her hand. "Ironically, the one who left of his own accord is the one she couldn't stop from returning. Any Viewers that came to the Palace, Raw and Kalm were in the group."
Azkadellia's brown eyes darted between Glitch and Cain's faces. "Tell me Mother did not order you from DG's side."
Cain turned away from her grip on Glitch. Ahamo stared at the mirror portrait. The Consort met his gaze, and seeing DG's compassionate blue eyes on a strange face startled him. "I should've given DG a broom to take to her mother." Ahamo clasped his hands behind his back again as he glanced away. "At least, I had Airofday's thugs as an excuse."
The man was her father; he had a right to keep her safe, but he didn't wake up from the nightmares of DG's screams and not being able to reach her. Cain opened the bedroom doors.
"How could you pick me over DG?" Azkadellia's voice dropped lower. "She saved you, after I…."
"After the witch," Glitch said, "did those torturous things to me. We've been over that, Azkadee. And we'll cover why later. Right now is about DG."
Cain turned on the bedroom lights. The huge room had to be at least the size of his cabin. Two windows faced the lake Central City perched on. DG had set up a painting easel close to one and her desk was close enough to the second one to look out at the view while seated at it. The large bed almost as wide as the room to the left had been stripped to the bare mattress. The blankets and uncased pillows were stacked against the headboard. And the Queen thinks a kidnapper stripped the bed while running off with DG?
He headed to the closed wardrobe as the others trailed into the room. It was filled with frilly day dresses. "And she always complained she never had anything to wear." Azkadellia peered over his shoulder.
"Do you honestly see your sister wearing," Cain took in the lacy, pale yellow gown she wore, "never mind."
Her puzzled expression didn't clear. "But they're lovely. I don't know why she kept digging up trousers to wear all the time."
"And how many fights were there about that?" Cain moved to a cabinet next to the wardrobe. It opened up like a puzzle box, revealing an interior lined in red velvet and molded to hold more jewelry than it currently held. The diamond-covered tiara rested at the center.
"They finally compromised on dresses for state functions and meeting anyone who would be scandalized. Oh!" Her jaw dropped before she closed it audibly. "So that's what that conversation was about."
She waved a slim hand at the jewelry display. "Last month, DG asked what jewelry was hers, opposed to family heirlooms given to her. She left the heirlooms."
"Comforting to know she won't run out of money soon." Ahamo looked over DG's art supplies.
"How long has the little sneak been planning this?" Azkadellia stomped her foot again, but the carpet muffled the effect.
"What ball did she wear the blue gown to?"
"The Winter Festival."
Glitch jerked forward. "Something else happened. DG left the ball early and Raw was livid. But neither of them would talk about it."
"At least six months, Azkadellia. That was the tipping point."
Cain moved to DG's spotless desk. The Consort continued flipping through the sketch book. "You're positive, your Highness?"
"DG didn't confide in her dear old dad, Commander. But she drew the most sketches for that painting and the mirror one." Ahamo held up the sketch book. "She wanted them perfect before she painted them."
Cain didn't understand art, though he didn't have anything against a picture of something he recognized. He had kept the sketch of their group DG had given him when they said goodbye. At least she had smiled in that drawing. If she had given him one of those paintings in the sitting room, his nightmares would have gotten worse.
No mementos rested on the surface of the desk, just a calendar and a gold clock. He frowned; it seemed too neat for DG. Had she cleaned up everything, leaving the paintings behind as the only proof she was even here? Were they her I've-ran-away note? He hoped not as he opened the top left drawer.
The drawer was empty except for a short stack of legal parchment with a time loop projector set on top like a paperweight. He set the projector on the desk while he thumbed through the legal papers. It was a contract, but it was hard to read its purpose underneath what DG had written in block letters of green ink that sparkled. "Princess, has magic been worked on these?"
Azkadellia stretched her arm around him and brushed against the parchment while she looked over his shoulder. "DG made the green ink glow, and they'll combust after Mother and Prince Aedan reads them."
"Why would she do that?" Glitch looked over Cain's left shoulder and his mouth made a silent oh before he continued. "It's the wedding contract between the O.Z. and Aurissau."
Ahamo slammed the sketch book down on a stool. "When she says she'd rather be eaten by rabid Papays, how much more of a hint does Galinda need?"
"That's the first thing DG wrote too," Glitch said cheerfully. The next green sentence wiped the cheer away. "Does that word mean what I think it means?"
Cain didn't recognize the word either, but considering that the rest of the sentence said if DG wanted to sell it, she would do so honestly as a Sin District whore, the context was damn clear. "Yeah, I think it does." He folded the pages to hide the green writing. "Get this thing working." He thrust the time loop projector into Glitch's hands before handing the pages to the Consort. "You and the Queen probably want to read that privately."
Ahamo opened the sheets. "And the court thought I had trouble being diplomatic."
"Got it working."