Tin Man: Pirates of the Nonestic

Chapter Thirty-four

DG's shriek contained no words. Stone pressed against her golden shield as she fell. This was worse than the marble sarcophagus. Her shield created the only light and it faltered the more the ground moved against it. Cain couldn't save her. There were no screws to loosen. Cain would never forgive himself.

Her shield flickered more, and DG felt her power slipping away. She pressed a hand against her stomach. "I'm sorry, Junior." Her voice cracked as she cried. "I should've been more careful for your sake." It was so hard to breathe, without Cain telling her how to. "I'm sorry you won't know your father."

"Who is she speaking to?"

"She is with child. Topsiders speak to their unborn as if the life form can hear them."

"Pathetic. She should be fighting back. She is much stronger than the King."

DG thought it would take longer before the hallucinations from lack of air started. Maybe the voices were the O.Z.'s version of angels? No, that would be too normal. She flashed back to a fantasy movie she had always enjoyed. "Hello? Who's there? Are you helping hands? I want to go up, please."

"She asks us to move against the King of the Mountain? What kind of witch is she?"

"The King is wrong. The Royal Family of the Outer Zone has never asked for anything. Not with the magic they wield."

"Maybe this one is defective. All that power and she's not even saving herself."

DG's anger spiked through her fear. If she was about to die, the least whatever deity was in charge could do was spare her from hearing how pathetic she was again. "Why do I bother being nice on this fucked-up world? Nobody appreciates it! Tell me who the hell you are or just shut up!"

"That's the attitude of an Outer Zone witch," one of the disembodied voices said approvingly.

"We are the Mountain of the Gnomes, and few curious gnomes who have never seen a Topsider before. We meant no harm."

"No harm?" DG echoed. "Your king dropped me down here to die!" Her movement through rock had stopped and she would keep talking as long as that held true.

"Roquat is lost to us. We cannot choose a new King of the Mountain until he dies."

"I'm not a killer," she whispered.

"True, and more will suffer because of it."

"Roquat will kill all the Topsiders inside the mountain."

"Then he will unleash the troops upon all Topsiders for the invasion of his dominions. So many will die."

Her throat closed up. The O.Z. hadn't yet recovered from the last war that was her fault. And they would have no warning about this one. "What can I do?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing!" DG gritted her teeth. "Then why bother telling me?"

"You won't fight."

"You won't use your power."

"No one else can stop Roquat."

The golden shield was fading, leaving her drained. "I have no power." She stared at the light receding from her hands.

"Because you believe you are weak. Power does not respect that."

"The girl with the silver shoes understood that."

"No one could shake that witch's convictions."

"She didn't let Roquat continue hurting the country that adopted her."

"HOW?" DG screamed.

The voices fell silent. A patient tone finally broke it, as if explaining to a child, "By using her fury and turning it to justice."

"Let the witch be. We can watch the general kill the Topsiders in the throne room before she breathes her last."

Cain was in the throne room. Roquat was going to kill Cain because she couldn't protect him. Dani said all she had to do was visualize what she wanted and use her power to make it happen. She just had to want it bad enough. How badly did she want to save Cain? How badly did she want to let loose the fury inside of her for something good?

Something turned cold inside her. Her Tin Man had suffered enough; he would not lose her and their baby and his life. A pulsing blue light reemerged from her hands, and brightened the dark pocket she was trapped in. The power rolled over her skin, flowing more easily than her light ever had. The voices of the Mountain fell silent. Her shield reformed in the same swirling blue color. "Send me back or I will blast my way up."

None of the voices commented, but DG moved through the rock again. Red light poured in when the ceiling parted, pushing her egg-shaped shield onto the floor of the throne room. DG rolled to her hands and knees and looked up.

Roquat locked his blue-flamed eyes with hers. He squeezed his fists, and the floor undulated.

"Just let us go!" She sent a freezing blue blast across the floor and halfway up the walls, turning the stone unresponsive to Roquat's commands.

His eyes narrowed but gleamed blue. "Dorothy," growled out from every corner of the cavern. She stood as he sat on the throne. He shook his head, but never took his eyes off her. "Not Dorothy. She never went anywhere without those talismans attached to her feet. Yet the magic is unmistakable."

She pulled up her chin. "I am DG of the House of Gale, descendant of both Dorothy Gale and Ozma the Great, youngest Princess of the Outer Zone."

Malachite turned to Betsy, silently asking for confirmation. His wife nodded. "Not the brightest idea you've ever had, Captain," he said.

"I had to work with what I had. And the whole expedition was your bright idea, remember?"

Roquat bared his teeth. "You dare to invade my dominion?"

"There is no invasion, sand for brains!" DG's hands flew into the air. "We came to free Betsy's family, and now we're leaving."

"Seize her!"

"Don't you dare, rock boys!" Dani squawked and flew into the faces of the pair of soldier gnomes rushing toward DG. They braked, unprepared for a mass of feathers in their faces, and DG rolled a ball of energy at them. It knocked them over like bowling pins.

DG jerked her attention back to Roquat. "We want to preserve the peace!"

"I gave you Topsiders the peace you claimed to want, and still you torment me! There will be no recourse!"

Kaliko stepped forward. "Your Majesty, please! This is unnecessary. They only played your game."

"The Royal Family of the Outer Zone never comes to play!" Yellow spittle foamed in Roquat's mouth. "If separation is no guarantee of freedom, their annihilation must be!"

A quake shook the island, throwing both humans and gnomes off their feet. DG landed against a flesh body and his strong arms wrapped around her. "That worked 'bout as well as any other plan we've followed," Cain grunted.

She twisted to look at his face. "Are you okay?"

"Fine, sweetheart, now that you're back."

Spencer found hand-holds on the wall and pulled himself up to the window. "The island is moving!"

Kaliko picked himself off the floor. His headlamp had smashed to pieces against the stone. "The Nome King is returning to the mainland!"

Morgan picked up his head. "What about the Archipelago?"

"All the islands will rejoin as well."

DG rolled off Cain. "But people live on the islands! Moving them around will cause tsunamis!"

"Will cause what?" Malachite asked as Roquat's laughter filled the cavern like a rock slide.

"An obliteration wave," Betsy snapped. "We have to stop him!" She jerked a grenade off her belt and hurled it at the throne.

The explosion rocked the whole cavern as rock bits flew through the air. Cain sheltered DG and she noticed Sprite doing the same for the red-headed little girl. Roquat's laughter didn't stop with the empty space where his head and chest used to be. As everyone in the cavern stared, that hole began to fill in, and reformed his face, and then his chest. "If it was that simple to kill me, Captain, don't you think someone else would have succeeded by now?" His laughter continued as Betsy and the rest of the Topsiders gaped.

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