Tin Man: Pirates of the Nonestic

Chapter Thirty-nine

"I can't do anything with this stupid hair."

Cain straightened his dark blue frock coat as he turned toward DG's voice. They were about an hour away from Mount Cove and had retired to their cabin to change. DG sat on their bunk and released the hairbrush, which remained tangled in her dark hair, with such an aggrieved sigh that he had to laugh. "How did you manage that?" he asked.

She glared. "If I knew how, I'd stop doing it. See if you can get it out, so I don't reenact my graduation disaster."

"What happened?" He bent over the bristles to see what she had done.

"Mom had to cut my hair the morning of the ceremony because we couldn't get the hairbrush out and I had burned off a hunk with the curling iron."

"So you don't like maids hovering, but you need a hairdresser," he chuckled. "Are you that nervous?"

She remained still as he pulled the strands free. "This is it. We're never going to sleep in this bed again."

Cain pulled the hairbrush free and kissed her forehead. "No turning back now."

"I know." She glared at the hairbrush. "I better use my magic."

"As long as you don't make it another color." Someone knocked on the door, and he swept his eyes over her emerald green tailcoat and silver pants. They were both dressed enough for visitors.

Spencer wore a purple doublet and pants with a gold coronet holding three great pearls around his head. The freshwater pearls Cain had seen in the O.Z. were the same white color, while Spencer had one tinted blue, one tinted rose, and the center one was pure white. Dani perched on his shoulder, spoiling his royal image.

Kaliko followed Spencer inside. "I hope we're not disturbing you."

"Not at all, we're almost ready to head up." Cain leaned against the wall. This many in the cabin made it impossible to move.

Spencer looked sheepish. "Dani pointed out a detail we forgot about."

"You would find it," DG muttered. "What has to be rewritten now?"

The chicken's russet feathers ruffled. "Nothing that I know of. But you two don't have any wedding presents for the wedding we're all pretending to have attended." She clucked. "And your vows were so touching too."

"So we decided to rectify that situation," Kaliko interjected.

DG smiled. "You didn't need to after everything else you've given us."

The Nome King shook his head. "The treasures and title you earned, and the treaty is for both our peoples. This is just for celebrating your future." He tucked his hands into his grey-brown robe and pulled out a pair of silver hair combs studded with emerald chips in a sweeping design to crown the sides of her head.

DG took them, blinking. "They're beautiful. Thank you." Her black hair twisted into a knot without using her hands. She anchored the mass against her head with the combs.

Spencer grinned as he passed a clamshell box to Cain. "A Pingareen pearl. No other island has pearls like we do. I didn't know if you'd want to put it on something to wear." He shrugged as Cain opened the box and marveled at the green-tinted pearl slightly smaller than the ones in Spencer's coronet.

"Thank you both." DG kissed both Kaliko and Spencer's cheeks. "But you will be invited to whatever we have in the O.Z."

"But we don't know if we'll be able to come," Spencer said. "Duty first."

"Speaking of duty, we better be on deck when we dock." Dani's clucks shooed them up the forehatch stairs.

"You could come with us, Dani," Cain said.

She clucked as she resettled on Spencer's shoulder. "Thank you kindly for the offer, but I don't think I'd survive meeting your wife's mother hen. Besides, the rooster here needs someone to keep an eye out." Her wing brushed Spencer's head.

The suns drenched every inch of the deck. Sprite, dressed in a white shirt and breeches, twirled Treasure. "Pirate song, pirate song, pirate song," the human girl in the green and gold dress chanted.

"Captain," Sprite cried. "Sing her the song, please!"

Betsy handed the wheel over to Bonnet before she headed down to the spinning girls. She wore a gold satin doublet with a pair of knee-length breeches made of stripes of the same golden satin and green brocade embroidered with gold that matched Treasure's dress. They blurred together as mother grabbed daughter and they spun. Sprite sat on the deck with a sigh. "You want the pirate song, Treasure?"

"Pirate song!"

Betsy stopped spinning and set Treasure back on her feet, holding her hands and swinging their arms.

"A Pirate' Life for Me" by the Pirates of the Caribbean
Download the Tin Man: Pirates of the Nonestic Soundtrack here

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me
We pillage, we plunder, we rifle, and loot
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho
We kidnap and ravage and don't give a hoot
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho

DG's jaw dropped open. "What the hell?" She whirled until she found Jenkins standing near the railing singing along with gusto, and marched to him. "Crazy like Captain Jack Sparrow!"

Jenkins burst into hearty guffaws. "You didn't know? I thought we'd given ourselves away a hundred times. Your husband figured it out."

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me
We extort, we pilfer, we filch, and sack
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho
Maraud and embezzle, and even high-jack
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho

"And you didn't tell me!"

Cain stepped back from DG's shriek. "Betsy says 'years' and she understood what came out of your mouth when no else did."

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me
We kindle and char, inflame and ignite
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho
We burn up the city, we're really a fright
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho

DG spluttered. "This world has two suns, three moons, flying monkey bats, living rocks, talking chickens, and lunch pails that grow on trees! Can you blame me for thinking the pirates are real and not Disney pirates!"

"Now I object." Jenkins grinned. "We are real pirates. We only worked for Disney."

We're rascals, scoundrels, villains, and knaves
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho
We're devils and black sheep, really bad eggs
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho

"What's Disney?" Spencer leaned closer to Cain.

"I have no idea."

Betsy scooped her daughter up in her arms and rubbed noses with her.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me
We're beggars and blighters, ne'er-do-well cads
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho
Aye, but we're loved by our mommies and dads
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho

She turned back to the spluttering DG. "What's wrong?"

"She just found out you're Slippers," Cain answered.

"You didn't tell her?"

"I thought she knew!"

Betsy laughed. "There's no secret handshake, Lord Wyatt. We were all trying to blend in."

Jenkins snorted. "Not singing ballads from Queen and Sting would help."

"The whole crew knew!" DG wailed.

"I didn't," Spencer said.

"Don't freak out," Betsy said. "The only Slippers here besides you are me, Jenkins, and the ship."

Cain's eyes widened as he stared over the You and What Navy?. "How did you get a ship through a travel storm?"

"Is that what you call it? We were sailing to the Caribbean to film the sequel and got caught in the worst weather I have ever experienced. I don't know how the old girl didn't sink. Betsy and I were the only ones to survive. Limped into Mount Cove, and well, everyone else was pirates," Jenkins shrugged.

"And we had working cannons." Betsy smirked.

"Lady Washington and the Interceptor," DG muttered, hands on her hips. "But they blew up the Interceptor in the first movie?"

"What's a movie?" Spencer asked Cain.

"Entertainment on the Other Side, like a play."

"What is a play?" Kaliko asked.

Betsy continued before Cain answered the Nome King. "She would have been a different ship. What ship, no clue; they were still working on the scripts when we crossed over. So they actually released them?"

DG nodded. "Pretty good box office too. Disney added Jack, Barbossa, and Davy Jones to the ride."

"I bet Johnny and Geoffrey both got a kick out of that." Betsy set Treasure down and the child took off across the deck. "Did they ever get Keith Richards on film?"

"Yeah, he showed up as Captain Jack's father in the third one." DG tilted her head. "So you were extras or crew?"

Betsy leaned her elbows on the railing. "Crew. Jenkins was off camera telling Johnny how to steer and I was Keira Knightly's stunt double. Dive off the cliff in the dress? All me. Underwater, stunt diver. Manhandled and semi-stripped by Johnny Depp, all Keira." She made a face and shook her head. "Look lively, men! We're coming into the harbor. Let's make a good impression!" She and Jenkins bustled off to get the crew in line.

The entire harbor was empty of ships, and the shanty town between it and the Market warehouse looked deserted. A tent city had been set up next to the warehouse, where you could keep an eye on both the desert and the ocean. Malachite leaned his gold doublet covered chest and arms against the railing next to Cain. "When pirates clear out, they clear out."

"I'd skip the comparison to rats," Cain said.

"Good idea." Malachite straightened. "Here comes the welcoming party." A trio of green clad soldiers rushed across the piers to meet the You and What Navy?'s gangplank. "Time to act regal."

The young soldiers took up position to bar access to the land. "State your business."

Malachite paused at the top of the gangplank. "The Nome King demands an audience with your leader, Outer Zone soldier."

Whatever response Malachite was expecting, what he got wasn't it. The soldiers' mouths fell open, though the speaker recovered first. "The Nome King, are you crazy? You must be crazy; you're not a gnome."

"Not exactly a credit to our reputation," DG whispered to Cain.

He winced. "Worse, I know that kid." He leaned over the railing so he could be seen. "Corporal Carroll?"

"Commander Cain!" the young soldier jumped.

"Let us ashore, I vouch for them."

Carroll gestured for them to disembark with a grin on his face that even real gnomes didn't dampen. "The Captain will be so glad to see you, Commander. And the Princess, too!" He saluted as DG joined Cain's side. The other two soldiers saluted, but focused their dismayed expressions on Kaliko and his two protection detail gnomes. DG smiled and gave Carroll an at-ease gesture. Carroll opened his mouth as his hand dropped. "He's been worried sick since your trail went cold here and then the Ambassador from Ev showed up, thinking we can hand over this area to them."

Kaliko turned to Malachite. "Some things have not changed, I see."

Carroll's grin waned when he focused on the gnomes, but Cain wasn't losing this source of information. "What are you doing here, Corporal?"

"Half a dozen of us volunteered when we heard you were in trouble, sir. And Base Commander Leblanc let us join the troop from Central City for this mission. But the Captain will want to explain that. This way."

"Progress," Malachite said as they followed the trio off the piers and up the path to the tents.

"Which Captain was sent to find us?" DG kept her voice even, but the hand gripping Cain's tightened.

"I didn't say, your Highness? I'm sorry. It's Captain Cain's mission."

Cain grinned, "Well, that's a bit of luck." DG looked relieved before returning his grin.

"A relative?" Betsy asked.

"My son."

Eyebrows rose over brown eyes, but Betsy didn't any anything as they reached the headquarters tent. Voices carried through the canvas. Jeb sounded like he was barely keeping his temper. "Lord Ambassador, I don't have the authority to assent, and even if I did, I do not like the potential consequences it could have on my mission here."

"Captain, all the Land of Ev requires from you is contact with your superiors, who would be able to give the assurances you are unable to provide. It would be a shame for the long alliance between the O.Z. and Ev to end over a simple misunderstanding of territorial boundaries."

DG made a face like she had swallowed something rotten. "That's Lord Langwidere," she said.

"So you had the misfortune too." Malachite smiled. "Shall we rescue Lord Wyatt's son?"

Carroll gasped as he observed Cain's clothing style and connected it with the title. Cain grabbed his shoulder and turned him back to the flaps. "Tell them we're here, Corporal."

He stumbled but recovered as he stepped inside the tent. "Excuse me, Captain, but the delegation of the Nome King wants to see you."

"And you brought them right into your camp!" Lord Langwidere yelped.

Malachite entered the tent on the Corporal's heels. "Is there any reason he shouldn't, considering Mount Cove is part of the Dominions of the Nome King?"

Langwidere's fat, wrinkled face reddened in splotches. "Malachite Granite, what kind of stunt…." His oily voice strangled when Kaliko entered the tent.

Jeb's pinched, worried expression broke into a grin. "DAD!" Heedless of military protocol, he crossed the tent of stools and flung his arms around Cain.

Cain returned the enthusiastic hug. "We're fine, son, just fine. Sorry we worried you."

Jeb pulled back, searching Cain's face to make sure his father wasn't lying. The young man turned to DG with an equally wide grin as he wrapped his arms around her. "This adventure's been good for you, DG. You're practically glowing."

Betsy made a strangled noise that sounded like contained laughter. Langwidere's strangled noise sounded more judgmental. Jeb sprang back from DG, which left her free to glare at the Ambassador. "Yes, Lord Langwidere, the common shows through enough that I hug friends and family when I see them, no matter what the circumstances."

Langwidere's blue eyes widened. "Your Highness, I would never presume to slight your heritage--"

"Stow it," DG snapped. "And I suggest the next time you want to sneer at the hosts of a ball, check the potted plant behind you for princesses hiding from pompous assholes like you."

"With guests like that, I can see why you don't like balls." Betsy's hand closed around her sword hilt. Langwidere shut his mouth with a snap.

"Jeb, what has he been pestering you to do?" DG asked.

"To let Ev move in since we ran the slavers out."

DG smirked at Langwidere. "That's not going to happen. The treaty the O.Z. has with King Kaliko recognizes his sovereignty over his territory, including Mount Cove."

"Treaty with King Kaliko!"

"Right, introductions," Malachite clapped his hands. "Your Majesty, this is Lord Langwidere, Ambassador for the Land of Ev. Ambassador, Kaliko the Painite, Nome King and Monarch of the Archipelago." Langwidere blinked at both the human and the tall gnome. "There has been a dynasty change."

"We hope to develop an alliance with the Land of Ev like we have with the Outer Zone," Kaliko said.

"Does your mother know about this?" Langwidere turned to DG.

Whatever demure wallflower the Ambassador had met at a ball was gone. The woman Cain had first met, the one he had tried to leave behind until she lashed back, the one who had never stopped no matter what she learned, faced Langwidere now. Her power pulsed with the fire in her eyes. "What are you trying to imply, Lord Langwidere? That I cannot be trusted with the welfare of my realm? After I helped save it and the whole world from eternal darkness?" He gaped like a fish, opening and closing his mouth. DG waved her hand, and he and his stool moved across the tent next to the door. "Steward Granite has messages for the King of Ev. Take them to him and never assume upon the friendship you have with the House of Gale or the Outer Zone when dealing with me."

"This is outrageous!" He lurched off the stool. "The Land of Ev will never acknowledge a Nome King!"

Betsy grabbed the man's thick neck. "With no respect, Lord Ambassador, that's not your call to make. And you don't want to be the reason I return to Evna."

"Are you threatening me, woman!"

She smiled at Malachite. "I told you dressing up would ruin my effectiveness."

"But we wanted to make a good impression." He shook his head with a tsk. "Lord Langwidere, meet my wife, Captain Blood-rage Bobbins."

Langwidere twisted to look at Betsy, who hadn't released him. "Blood-rage? Sacker of Evna?"

"And the Commandant of the Island Navy," Malachite continued. "Now come get your messages." They escorted the Ambassador out.

Jeb leaned closer to Cain. "That's really the Nome King?"

Cain nodded and pulled him forward. "King Kaliko, I would like to present my son, Captain Jeb Cain."

Kaliko nodded as Jeb bowed. "We are pleased to meet other Topsiders with your same qualities, Lord Wyatt. Greetings, Captain Cain."

"And this is King Inge Spencer of Pingaree."

Jeb bowed again. "Greetings, Majesties." His wide eyes turned to his father. "Lord Wyatt?"

DG giggled as she sank into a seat. "Your father got a promotion, Jeb."

"So I see." Jeb smirked. "You clean up good, Dad."

Cain matched it. "Enjoy the teasing. I made sure it's an inherited title."

"DG!" Spencer's shout shoved their attention to her. Stone blocks shot up from the ground, surrounding her and turning her stool into an armchair in time to catch her toppling body.

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