DG felt Cain grip the sofa back. He didn't need to do anything else; everyone else stared at the Queen like she had turned into a mobat. Azkadellia found her tongue first. "Mother, the Outer Zone doesn't need Aurissau. The only thing they can give us in an alliance is Prince Aedan, and we don't want him!"
"You have the luxury of choice, Azkadellia. Dorothy Gale has given herself a timetable."
Ahamo shifted into the Seeker of the Realm of the Unwanted. "I don't care what alliance is on the table. That crowned scumbag hurt my daughter and he'll be lucky to cross the border intact."
"This is politics, darling. Alliances are fragile things. You must forgive little incidents."
"Little incidents?" DG's voice had gone as cold as that night seared into her memory. "He came out to the balcony sloshed, wondering why I hadn't had sex with him, since the court rumor mill had me fucking Wyatt and Glitch while we were running for your little scavenger hunt. He slapped me, tore my gown, threw me over the railing so I thought I would fall to my death, and tore my panties off before threatening everyone I care about. That's what set my magic off to get him away from me. That's your little incident, an aborted rape attempt." She spat that last sentence out and was rewarded with her mother's recoil. "I don't need your alliance, I made a better one."
That got Glitch's attention. "With who, DG?"
"The Nome King."
Three combined voices shouting "What!" shook the room.
Ahamo blinked. "I thought he was an immortal enemy of the O.Z.?"
"Roquat was." DG opened the leather portfolio. "Kaliko isn't. Worked out trading details and for the gnomes to help us with mining and building projects. We acknowledge their sovereignty over the Archipelago and Mount Cove, which should make the other countries fall in line." Glitch snatched the papers out of her hands and started skimming through them. "Ev already knows about it."
"How does Ev already know?" Azkadellia looked at the pages over Glitch's shoulder.
"We ran into Lord Langwidere when we met with Jeb's troop. They wanted to take over Mount Cove and we had to stop that."
"You see your duty with that, but you refuse to marry Prince Aedan," the Queen fumed. "Dorothy Gale, you cannot keep the baby if you refuse to get married."
Azkadellia giggled. "I wish I could have seen Langwidere's face. Ev has always counted on us to side with them against the Nome King with our treaties and marriage alliances."
DG smirked. "Oh, he was barely holding back his fit. But it's time for our politics to catch up to the Other Side. You can make a treaty that both sides agree on without selling your kids into marriage. I got an alliance with the Dominions of the Nome King without screwing anyone."
Cain spoke with humor tinting his voice. "No, you only helped overthrow a tyrant and smash a few islands together."
"You're the one who threw the egg down his gullet. I'm so teaching you baseball. You're a natural pitcher." She grinned up at him before looking back at Glitch and Az. "Roquat was on a rampage and Wyatt killed him, sparing us all from genocide. Gnome Mountain chose Kaliko to be the King, and he made Wyatt Lord Platinum! The gnomes have never had any nobility before and they made Wyatt Cain their first." She couldn't help beaming over that development. "He even got his own island."
"We have to decide Dorothy Gale's future, not discuss what she has been doing the last cycle."
DG moved to the next point she wanted to cover. "I didn't put a note in there about it, Glitch, but I want Kiamoko."
"To live in?" He tore his brown eyes from the treaty. "The place is a wreck."
"Dorothy Gale, are you listening to me?"
"We passed it and I think I can fix it like I did Finaqua. And what I can't do with magic, hard work can handle. I'm not afraid of doing renovation work."
"We have to make decisions about the baby, Dorothy Gale! And you cannot move out until you are married!"
Ahamo changed his laugh into a passable cough. "DG?"
"Yes?" She blinked innocently at him.
"I think your mother has something to say to you," Ahamo said.
"Really? I thought she was talking to someone else." Cain snorted behind her. "What is it, Mother?"
Other than the Queen's narrowed eyes, the only thing that gave her temper away was the bright red flush to her cheeks. "You are marrying Prince Aedan to give your daughter proper standing!"
DG's anger rose. "Will you stop pushing Prince Aedan down my throat?"
"There is no one else! I vetted all the eligible bachelors in the O.Z. and allied realms. And judging by your previous experience on the Other Side, whoever the father is must be completely unsuitable as a potential consort to the crown. Prince Aedan is all that is left!"
DG surged to her feet, keeping her magic leashed, instead of using her anger. "What does the bastard have to do to prove he is not a nice guy, eat my baby? Since trying to rape me isn't enough!"
"By your own admission, he was drunk. And you should have considered that before you opened your legs one more time." The Queen whirled to the bell pull on the wall. The bell froze with a blue flash.
DG turned to Ahamo. "Yeah, that's the way to set an example. Make the princess a bigamist with a rapist."
The Queen jerked around from the nonfunctional bell pull. "This is for your own good, Dorothy Gale! Now fix this bell so I can fix your life!"
"Galinda," Ahamo said.
"And you're no help at all!" Tears filled the lavender eyes. "You are perfectly happy to see her ruin her potential and the realm because the people will side with their precious Savior no matter that she is only an irresponsible child!"
DG pointed at the bell pull rope and it severed at the ceiling. The braided silk cord as thick as an arm hit the Queen once as it fell to the floor. "Don't hold back, Mother." Her voice was as unemotional as she could make it. "Please, I want to know what mistakes not to make with my child."
"All I have done is try to keep you safe and you have fought me over everything!"
"You did not want me safe. You wanted a little tiktok princess who would follow orders! You don't care about how I feel or what I want. And you're scared shitless I will take the throne out from under you, so you jerked away all my friends, my support, so no one would plant the idea in my head."
The Queen stepped forward. "Your family is the only support you need!"
Cain moved to DG's side. "The family who didn't do anything to gain her trust so she would tell you she was attacked? The family who manipulated her schedule and servants so she couldn't make any personal decisions about her life? The family who never told her she would never be abandoned again and that getting married didn't mean she was being banished?" His nostrils flared. "What support did you ever offer your daughter?"
"This is none of your concern, Mr. Cain!"
Azkadellia inserted herself between the Queen and DG and Cain. "You got married!" She waved the wedding certificate.
"Yes Az, I married the father of my child."
"What?" The Queen snatched the wedding certificate from Azkadellia. Her lavender eyes narrowed as she focused on Cain. "How dare you!"
"DG wanted me. Your opinion wasn't necessary, your Majesty," he said.
"Opinion," DG repeated. "Wyatt Cain is not good enough for me. But I'm not good enough for you. So we're going to be not good enough but happy together."
"You married without my permission." The Queen's chin jutted higher. "I will not recognize this union as valid."
DG clenched her fists. "We'll just move to where it is recognized!"
"The Queen's decree is law in the Outer Zone."
"We'll move to Dominions of the Nome King, then."
And Ahamo said at the same time, "They can go to the Other Side."
DG blinked. Ahamo radiated the Seeker vibe again, but toward the Queen. She looked at Cain. "I didn't think of that one. Guess you have the tie breaking vote, Lord Wyatt?"
"Let's go to the Isle of Patrippaxy. I know you had your heart set on Kiamoko and you miss Kansas, but it'll be easier for visitors to get there."
"I'll get over it, especially if you let me introduce Daiquiris to the Archipelago. I promise not to have any until after the baby is born."
"We'll have to discuss that. Now we better get our things before the servants mistakenly unpack them." Cain guided her around the parlor's seating.
"You are going to abandon us, Dorothy Gale?" The pain in the Queen's voice made DG turn before they opened the door. "Leave the realm never to return?"
"What choice are you giving me, Mother? And how can I trust your options when you've done nothing but lie and order me around?"
"I had to protectů." The Queen shook her head as the words escaped her.
"Protect me? Or yourself? Everything I've experienced has been shoving DG the embarrassment as far away as possible." The Queen shook her head. DG tightened her grip on Cain. "You know what, I'm through. Why the hell you had me raised the way I was in Kansas is beyond me when you clearly despise the result. But for the last time, I have always been DG; your memory wipe didn't erase that. I'm so sorry I didn't remain seven, but time marches on."
The Queen turned to Ahamo as her tears spilled. "You're letting our daughter leave us? Encouraging her to go?"
"When it is in her best interest to get away from you, yes, she has my blessing and encouragement."
"How could you think that? I gave her second life; I love her! She would have had only the best on the Other Side, only you decided having her raised a peasant was better."
"It was good enough for me, Galinda. And I was good enough for you."
"You tried to fit in!"
Ahamo bristled. "You never gave DG a chance to fit in. You acted like every idea she had was going to destroy the Zone until she proved it would work and then you yanked it away for someone else to manage. You took her friends away, denied that she should even teach the kitchen staff how to make foods she missed from the Other Side, wouldn't even allow her to dress like she wanted, and shoved an asshole she didn't want down her throat. I'm not surprised DG ran away; I'm surprised she lasted a year."
"Aedan would have made things easier for her with the court! You don't think I haven't noticed how they treat my daughter? With him at her side, they wouldn't dare snicker at her. What can the Tin Man do, glower them into submission?"
"Aedan wasn't DG's choice!" Ahamo threw up his hands. "What the hell is wrong with you? The promises we made when they were born; do you even remember those? How they would be free to make the choices in love without the political rigmarole we had to go through?"
"Ahamo, she needs someone to explain the O.Z. to her."
"Why do you think he hasn't? DG trusts him, more than she trusts us, her own parents. And Wyatt Cain is a noble man and has been recognized for that; something DG and I told you to do after the Eclipse." He wrapped his arms around his wife. "Trust our daughter, Galinda."
She blotted her face on Ahamo's vest before turning to Cain and DG. "Please don't leave. Not like this."
"I'm not staying where the man I love is not welcome and I'm miserable." DG didn't move.
The Queen stepped forward and held out her arms. "Give me a chance to make it right, Dorů DG. Give me a chance to honor you with the wedding you deserve."
DG inhaled. "I have my conditions. We are moving to Kiamoko, and I will interact with court on my terms. You get a dress for the balls we attend and I'll never hear another word about my wardrobe. Reparations will be made to the Viewer community today for how you insulted them for Aedan's benefit. And you can have the spectacle wedding, but who Wyatt and I put on the guest list stays on it no matter how you feel about it or think other people will feel about it."
"Yes, of course. And I wouldn't dream of keeping your Viewer friend from it when you would want him there."
DG smirked. "That's true." She wrapped her mother in a hug. "It will be okay, Mother."
The Queen nodded. "Now, you two must be exhausted after all your traveling. Go settle in and you can tell us about your adventure at supper."
They managed to escape without more tears. "Are you okay?" DG asked Cain. "I didn't expect her to tear into you like that."
"I did." He squeezed her arm as they headed to the stairs. "Are you okay?"
"I'm a little awed all that managed to come out without the help of a licensed psychiatrist."
"Speaking of admitting things." His lips twitched. "You want to invite the pirates to the ceremony."
He was trying not to smirk, so she grinned. "Hey, we Slippers have to stick together."