Disclaimer: See first chapter
Note: I may have poached DG's last line from Pretty Woman. It wasn't intentional and fits beautifully. I don't own that movie either.
Note 2 : When I was writing Sam Gerard's character I kept picturing Tommy Lee Jones, that's why I chose the name.
Previous Chapters: Ch 1 - Aftermath; Ch 2 - Whispers Of A Legend; Ch 3 - Stretched To The Limits; Ch 4 - Cariad; Ch 5 - Puzzle Pieces; Ch 6 - Falling Into Place; Ch 7 - Holding On
Ch 8 - Break On Through
And there'll be a new day
Comin' your way – Making Memories Of Us by Keith Urban
Cain woke DG before dawn. He was anxious to leave Tillie Makepiece’s homestead and be on the road. They ate a quick breakfast and after a hasty good-bye, mounted up and headed out. The world around them was wet with rain and in the distance the first sun was peeking over the trees creating cascades of rainbows in all directions.
“We couldn’t have stayed until the storm was over?” Deeg huddled deeper into her wet weather gear and glared at her companion.
“Tillie knows who you are. I didn’t confirm it one way or the other, but she knows.” He frowned.
“How? I was careful.” She thought back to the conversation she’d had with the elderly woman when they were fixing dinner. “I didn’t say anything that would give us away.”
“Yes, you did. When you told her you’d freed me from the suit.” His voice ground to a halt at the memory. “Somehow she’d heard about it.”
“It’s only been about two weeks. How can anyone know?” she sighed in aggravation. “Everyone who was involved has been a bit busy.”
“It’s worse than just one old woman knowing. From what Tillie said, it’s taken on the proportions of a legend.” He wasn’t going to go into detail with her about it, though he knew she’d hear it eventually. They needed time alone together. He didn’t want her to know that people were already speaking of them in the same breath.
“Great, just great, now I’m a legend.”
“Princess, you were already a legend, you just didn’t know it.” He gave her a sideways glance to gauge her reaction.
“I’m sorry I said anything, I was trying to help.” DG refused to think about how terrified she’d been when that shotgun had been aimed at her Tin Man. “There’s a saying on the Other Side. A lie seasoned with truth is easier to digest.”
“Truth or lie, it doesn’t seem to matter, people are hungry for any information about The Princess of Light. Who knows what other rumors are out there.”
“There goes any privacy I might have had.” She mourned the loss of her old life. “If Tillie recognized me from that story, it seems I’ve pulled you in along side of me.”
“We need to be careful.” He knew was being cranky that morning, but he’d spent the night worrying.
“Did you get any sleep at all?” She wished they weren’t on horseback, so that she could touch him. He was looking raw around the edges.
“Not a whole lot.” He’d spent the long hours holding her and listening for odd sounds, his weapon within easy reach.
“You should have said something. We could have taken turns standing guard.” Deeg patted the pistol at her side and smiled.
“No, that’s my job,” his voice was clipped and cool. He was going to protect her and she had to learn to live with that fact.
“But I can help, I’m supposed to help. Don’t you trust me, Wyatt?” The thought was like a punch to her stomach. Did he still think she was an inept kid? What more did she need to do to prove that this was an equal partnership?
“Ah hell, of course I do!” He gripped her reins and pulled her horse closer to his, bringing them to a standstill. “I may not have slept, but I did get some rest. I couldn’t have done that if I hadn’t been holding…if I hadn’t known exactly where you were. When I have doubts about the security of our position, I need to know that you’re where I can get to you quickly.” He felt silly talking like that. He wasn’t the kind of man who spoke of his feelings. Though he was beginning to realize she was a woman who needed to hear them.
“That’s why you think it’s so important for me to learn both guns.” She saw pain reflected back at her in his crystal blue eyes, pain and something else that she didn’t recognize.
“Yeah, pretty much.” He didn’t like having this conversation on the trail, but it needed to be taken care of. He had to be sure she could defend herself if he wasn’t around to do it.
“All right, I’ll learn to use your damn pistol, but you’ve got to promise me that no matter how good I get with it, I won’t have to use it.” She glared at him, his words from before they went off to battle the Witch ringing loud in her ears. “Promise me that you’ll try to get out of what ever we run into, alive. There will be none of that taking a bullet for the Princess shit!”
“No!” she cut him off, refusing to let him go on. “There is only so much I can be asked to live with. Look around. I’m part of the reason the Outer Zone was almost destroyed. Thousands of people lost their lives and there wasn’t anything clean about the way they went. Too many of them died screaming or were forced into a living death in those damn metal suits!” She gripped his hand needing to touch him. “I can’t…I…Please don’t ask me to live with the knowledge that you…that one more person died because of me.”
He wanted to pull away, her pain was too great and he felt her absorbing his where their hands were joined. “You saw too much,” he whispered. He knew what he’d looked like and how dead he’d been when she’d released the latch and let light into his world for the first time in eight annuals.
“No, I saw what I needed to see so I’d understand. All my memories up until that time were lies. I need…” She smiled, but it was brittle and hard, not her usual infectious grin. “I need to make new ones, but they have to be based on truth.”
“Didn’t we have this conversation yesterday morning?”
“Yes, but you were being stubborn then too.” Worried sapphire eyes met cool crystal blue ones. “And we may have it again tomorrow and the day after that, and then the one after that, until you understand.” She had to make him realize how important this was to her.
“Deeg…” He wanted to argue, but something in her demeanor stopped him. He took a moment and tried to imagine what it would be like if she were dead but he wasn’t. His mind wouldn’t go there. It wasn’t like it was with Adora. There was no deep sorrow but acceptance that life would go on. Without DG there was no life for him. For the first time he hoped that the Legend of the Cariad was true. He could picture that, both of them dead or both of them alive, but always together.
“Wyatt, you have to promise me.” Her eyes were wide and she was filled with resolve.
“All right,” he sighed. “But I want your word that you’ll do everything in your power to save yourself.”
“It’s a deal, Mr. Cain.” She held out her hand to seal their bargain. “We both do everything we can to stay alive.”
“Yeah,” his voice broke as he refused her hand and pulled her close. He wasn’t happy with their deal, but he knew there were some things not even he could get her to budge on.
The target practice was as hard on DG as she’d anticipated, but she did her best to hide it from him. She’d discovered that a tiny pull on her inner light could even out almost any emotional response. A little voice in her head told her she shouldn’t use magic indiscriminately, and if he knew, he’d be pissed, but she did it anyway.
By the time they were through she was confident in her use of the small weapon she now carried strapped to her hip. She’d hated every moment she’d spent leaning to use his larger pistol. It felt heavy and awkward in her hand and just plain wrong, but she was resolved to master it. It was her way of being sure he kept his side of their deal.
Cain used resistance codes that Jeb had given him to get them past the guards. The ‘blue smoke’ identifier he’d used when on their travels to find the emerald was eight annuals old and not everyone trusted or recognized it anymore. Everything went smoothly until they rode into the clearing, where the camp was located, and three tiny men began raising a ruckus
“The spy! It’s the spy!” a Munchkin with red paint on his head cried out.
“Kill her. She brought Longcoats down on our camp,” his blue painted companion added and shook his spear at DG.
“Fellas, I tried to explain before, I’m not a spy.” She glared at them. “And what did you do with my locket? I want it back.”
“Witch, witch,” the third small man, wearing purple paint on his face and head shouted.
“I see you’ve had dealings with the Eastern Guild.” Cain shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Why is nothing ever simple with you, Princess?” The wary looks and muttering that ran through camp made him uneasy.
“I told you about them. Those are the turkeys who held Glitch and me prisoner.” She turned back to the Munchkins, but could only hear their shouts, not see them. The small warriors were lost among the crowd of taller, normal-size resistance fighters. She refused to let these strange men with their tiny minds control the opinion of these people. “I’m not a witch or a spy, I am Princess DG and I’ve come as an emissary of the Queen. The war is over, the Witch dead.”
“’Fraid you’ll have to do a bit better than that.” A tall, rangy dark-haired, older man moved through the men and women who had surrounded them. “We’ve been hearing rumors. You could be anybody. ‘Sides Red Hat and his boys have made an accusation. What do ya have to say for yourself ‘bout that?” He made the mistake of reaching for Deeg’s bridle to take control of her reins.
“Stay back.” The Tin Man moved his coat aside, his hand almost to his weapon, but froze when the clearing was filled with the distinctive click of cocking rifles.
“Everybody take it easy.” DG raised one hand and placed the other, cautiously, on his arm. “Please, Cain, guns won’t settle this.”
“Cain…hmmm…any relation to Jeb and Adora Cain?” The man who was still standing next to the Princess’s horse asked with a frown.
“Jeb is my son and Adora was my wife. Who would you be?”
“Name’s Sam Gerard and I’m the one askin’ the questions,” he answered. “You two get down off them animals, and hand over them shooters, we need ta talk.” Once he’d disarmed them, he motioned them to logs that were used for seating around the campfire.
“I’ve got a letter from the Queen, but it’s in the inside pocket of my jacket.” DG looked over her shoulder at Gerard. “I’d like to get it, but don’t want to get shot in the process.”
“Reach for it nice and slow but remember we got weapons pointed at your head and his.” Sam jammed the barrel of his pistol into Wyatt’s neck. He disliked the blonde man on sight and would take pleasure in killing him, but the rebellion was more important than personal grudges. If there was the smallest chance the girl was telling the truth, he had to listen.
“That’s not necessary. You’re hurting him!” DG jumped to her feet and turned around, glaring at the resistance leader who was taking delight in tormenting her Tin Man.
“Anymore sudden moves like that, honey and I’m gonna blow his head off!”
“I thought you were supposed to be the good guys.” Her chin rose in defiance and she automatically reached for Wyatt’s hand.
“Deeg,” Cain muttered a warning between clenched teeth. “Give him the damn letter.” He intertwined his fingers with hers and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.
“Lady, I’m losing patience with you fast. You got something for me or not?” By the stars, Gerard wanted to pull the trigger. He hadn’t missed the Cariad rings the couple wore. This man, this absent husband, had stood between him and his Cariad. Sam hated him for it.
“Kill the witch,” the Munchkins chanted off in the distance, but everyone seemed to be concentrating on the drama that was unfolding at the center of camp and ignoring the tiny men. “Kill the spy before she brings Longcoats down on us.”
“Here,” she reached carefully into her inner pocket and pulled out the official document. She was careful to hand it to him so the Seal of the Queen of the Outer Zone, was clear for all to see. “Now step back. You don’t need to harm him.”
“Cal,” Gerard called to his second-in-command, as he pulled a pair of reading spectacles out of his pocket. “Keep an eye on these two, whilst I take a gander at this thing.”
“Sit back down beside your man,” Calvin Winterburn advised. He was a huge bear of a man who, unlike Sam, was born and raised in the mountains where they where hiding.
Once he no longer had gunmetal pressing into his skin, Cain took a good look around “You’ve got a strange mix of people here.” The group was made up of men and women from all over the Zone. “I’ve never known Eastern Guild Fighters to join with mountain or lowland folk.”
“These are dangerous times.” Gerard took a last look at the letter before handing it to his second-in-command. “Those Fighters are the only three to survive a Longcoats attack on their village, a bit over a week ago. What do you got to say for yourselves on that issue?” He nodded to DG to begin talking.
“Back off first. Give us some breathing room.” She glared into Gerard’s cold brown eyes. “You’ve got enough firepower to kill us ten times over.”
The older man raised an eyebrow, but finally stepped back a few paces. The part of him that craved piece, hoped the girl was telling the truth. She was gutsy and strong and would make a hell of a Queen, but the part of him that had loved Adora Cain, wanted any excuse to kill the man who’s specter had stood between him and his love for annuals.
It took over an hour to tell their story. Cain sat by DG, his shoulder pressed into hers to give her support, but he let go of her hand in preparation to spring into action, if necessary. Rationally he knew that they were surrounded and there was nothing he could do to save her if shooting started; but a little voice inside of him kept screaming at him to throw her to the ground and cover her body with his.
“That document looks official enough, and that’s some story you told, but I’m gonna need more proof. It all just seems a bit too good to be true. The Princess Dorothy Gale, back from the dead. Her presence ushered in by the Rainbows of Glinda.” Gerard kept telling himself that he was digging for more information because he was worried about his people, it had nothing to do with the intense dislike he had for Wyatt Cain.
“I told you I wasn’t dead, well I was for a while, but then the Queen used her magic to bring me back.”
“You’re telling us we should follow a Monarch who traded the lives of thousands of her people for one of her children?” Someone deep in the crowd yelled.
“It wasn’t like that! She had a terrible decision to make and didn’t make it lightly. The easy thing for her to do would have been to challenge the Witch to win back Azkadellia. It was what her mother’s heart was telling her to do. But she knew the risk was too great, the Evil One too strong. If Queen Lavender had fought and lost, the Outer Zone would have been under the power of the Sorceress for all time. Instead she used her powers to bring me back to life and send me to the Other Side with hidden knowledge that would help me when I was old enough to return. She knew what she was asking of her people, but she didn’t ask any less of herself. She’s spent ten of the last fifteen annuals locked in a magic prison. She lost one daughter to darkness and the other to a life in a different world. She sent her beloved husband away and blackened his name so he could help when the time came.”
“You tellin’ us you’re more powerful than the Queen?” Gerard’s eyes swept DG. “You look like a strong breeze would knock ya over.”
Sitting beside her, Cain smothered a laugh. “She’s a hell of a lot stronger than she looks.”
The Princess glared at the two men on either side of her. “This has nothing to do with brute strength, but strength of magic. It took the combined powers of two women with mature magic to kill the Witch.” Her eyes flashed fire, daring anyone to say differently. “The Sorceress was stronger than any one of us. She drew on ancient magic that has long since passed from this world.”
“Easy there, Princess.” Cain covered her hand and linked their fingers.
She’d needed his touch, but didn’t realize it until his skin came into contact with hers. He relaxed her and gave her focused calm.
“There might be some truth to your words, then again, there is only one way to find out.” Sam looked around the crowd that had gathered. “Is Stom in camp?”
As his name was called, an old Viewer moved out of the trees and joined his commander. Two men went to the supply tent and brought back a large sheet of metal. Its surface was dented in places, but had a dull sheen.
“You’re story gonna stand up to a Viewer’s scrutiny, Princess?” Gerard spat out her title.
“Don’t subject her to that.” Cain situated his muscular body between DG’s slight frame and the Viewer’s. “Use me, look into my memories.” He remembered the pain Glitch had been in when Raw looked for information about the invention the Sorceress had built.
“It’s has to be me. You weren’t on the balcony when we defeated the Witch. That’s what they need to see.” Raw had warned her this was a possibility before they left and had done his best to prepare her for it.
Wyatt’s eyes turned to blue ice. He knew she was right and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. He would have to sit quietly beside her while they pried the assurances they needed out of her brain. His lips tightened when he realized that the Queen had sent DG for this very reason. “I don’t like it.”
“I’m not wild about it myself, but I don’t see any other way to convince them.” Her eyes met his, trying to give him reassurance. “I’ll be all right. I’ve…ah…ah…done this once before.”
“Mr. Stom,” Deeg addressed an older rougher version of Raw. “You need to be careful. Fifteen annuals ago the Queen put a lock on my memories. It was to protect me while I grew up on the Other Side and hide certain facts from the Sorceress when I returned. The Witch attempted to force her Viewer to dig past the magic. It was too much for him. He died.”
“Stom careful, but if girl lying, girl die.” The shaggy man reached a partially gloved hand for her head. His message was clear. He had no qualms about tearing her brain apart if she wasn’t what she claimed to be.
The Tin Man did the one thing he could do to help; he tightened his grip on his Princess’s hand. The tiny squeeze of her fingers in return told him it was what she needed.
“Wait,” Gerard called out. “Cain, you were a tin man, put her in a security hold. I don’t want her fighting Stom.”
“You son of a bitch.” He glared at the dark haired man. “I won’t hold her down while you hurt her.”
“Have it your own way.” Sam shrugged. “Doyle, secure the princess.”
“My pleasure, boss.” A large unkempt man ogled DG as he stepped forward.
“No, get back. Do. Not. Touch. Her!” Wyatt’s voice was low and deadly. He’d seen an odd glint in the resistance leader’s eyes. It was almost as if the dark haired man enjoyed the idea of forcing Cain to help them cause Deeg pain. “Kiddo…I’m sorry,” he whispered.”
“It’s okay. If…well…I’d rather it be you.” The hand she rested on the sleeve of his coat shook slightly. She gave him a quick brittle smile to hide the creeping feeling of impending claustrophobia. All the while telling herself that it was no different than sleeping in his arms at night, but it was and she knew it.
“I won’t hurt you, Princess.” He swung a leg over the log until he was straddling it. “Turn around with your back to me.” He slowly reached around her with his right hand and held onto her left wrist and then did the same with his left hand and her right wrist. “Ya doing okay?” He felt her tremble as he crossed her arms in front of her and tucked her tightly against his chest.
“Yeah, just great.” She had a blurry memory of rough hands digging into her wrists and keeping her from moving in her chair as the Sorceress had questioned her. She’d been helpless then as she was now. “Talk to me Tin Man,” she whispered, needing to hear his voice, needing to know he was the one holding her down.
“Put your head on my shoulder with your face against my neck.” Cain knew she was fighting panic with everything in her and glared at the Sam Gerard. When this was over, they were going to have words.
Out of the corner of her eye, Deeg saw Stom’s paw descending and buried her nose in Wyatt’s neck. She had one quick moment of peace as his reassuring scent filled her. Then the pain began.
“Ahhh!” DG gasped, as the Viewer covered her temple with his palm. She tried to arch against Cain’s body, to get away from the intense throbbing, but she couldn’t move. She felt the Viewer’s fingers reaching deep into her brain, searing, burning, and cutting until they hit the wall Lavender had placed long ago.
“Girl blocked by old magic,” he muttered. He had one hand on the exposed side of her face and the other on the large sheet of metal two men were holding up behind them. All that was reflected back was fog.
“Try to get past it.” Gerard urged. “We need to see what she’s hidin’, not just what she wants us to see.”
“Hard, girl filled with much emotion. Strong. True.” Stom was overwhelmed by intense feelings that she carried with her. There was sorrow, pain and love, all mixed in with the scent of man, gun smoke, leather and a tang of metal.
“But what’s hidden behind that spell? Don’t let her distract you.” Sam insisted.
The Viewer pushed deeper again, attempting to follow his commander’s orders, but when he hit against Lavender’s magic, both he and Deeg cried out in pain. Her body went limp and she lost consciousness. Cain tipped his head until his cheek rested against hers. In doing so, his forehead brushed against the back of the paw on her face.
“Man of tin tied to girl,” the old empath whispered, knowing he’d found one of the reasons for the girl’s deep emotions. The thoughts and feelings created by the blonde man’s accidental touch startled the Viewer and pushed him away from the locked memories into clearer stronger ones from almost two weeks ago.
Gerard gasped when he saw the sheet metal filled with a picture of Adora being beaten by a Longcoat, as she tried to protect her husband. Then the image vanished into smoke, as a familiar, dark-haired, girl ran in, attacking the brutal men with nothing but a stick.
Shocked whispers filled the air as the crowd watched DG hammer open an iron maiden. The only recognizable feature of the man inside was the crystal blue of his pain filled eyes.
Clear pictures skipped by in quick succession. Cain knew they were from their trip across the Zone. He held onto her tighter as she shivered in his arms, reacting to memories of the Northern Island. He buried his lips in her hair, as the metal filled with a picture of an old house with a green roof. Flat farmland had wheat waving in the breeze and the older couple that he’d met at Milltown was talking with DG on a large porch.
The woman in his arms moaned in sorrow. Her mouth worked, but no words came out. “Hushhh,” he breathed into her hair. It would only complicate things if the resistance heard her calling her nurture units mom and dad. She was a princess of the O.Z. The lost youngest daughter of the Queen and the Prince Consort. Her identity was hard enough to prove without her mixed emotions clouding the issue.
“Tin Man,” fell from her lips, as soft as a breath. Whatever demons she’d been fighting vanished and Stom grunted in response and moved her memories onward.
The metal sheet filled with a clear picture of Finaqua and the hologram of Lavender Eyes as she sent Deeg on her search for Ahamo. Many people in the crowd stared in awe at the first image they’d had of their ruler in annuals. Gone was their young vivacious Queen and in her place was a tired sad woman.
There were quicker, but much duller flashes of DG and Azkadellia as children. Most of them dealt with Deeg trying to gain control over her magic. Cain was struck anew by how tiny and young she’d been at the time. Like any of the older people in attendance, he remembered the pictures of the Princess that had been broadcast during the official day of mourning when her death had been announced.
Even Az looked young and fragile. It wasn’t until after her possession that she became hard and old beyond her years. Seeing these images made him realize how truly unprepared both girls had been to deal with the Witch in that cave.
If the people had been impressed when they saw the Queen, they gasped in wonder as the Gray Gale gave the emerald to Deeg. The original Dorothy was a legend that had been handed down over the years.
“That’s enough!” A woman called out from the crowd. “Stop torturing the Princess. She is who she says she is!”
“This is powerful information especially since the Rainbows have returned, but we need to see it through.” Gerard insisted and the seasoned fighters agreed. “All of the O.Z. is at stake.”
DG’s voice cried out Cain’s name in fear. He looked in confusion at the woman in his arms, until he realized it was a reflection calling to him. Her cries came from information the Viewer was showing on the metal and wasn’t happening in real time. He’d been paying attention to the power struggle among the resistance fighters and ignoring what Stom was showing them.
“Tin Man, help me!” the panicked words tore from her, as she struggled in a tiny dark space. This was the coffin she’d been locked in and it made his stomach tighten to be seeing it happen. No wonder she was haunted by claustrophobia. He held onto her tighter than before and it calmed her and the image of her. She used her magic to free herself, all the while muttering his name. As he watched, he realized she hadn’t been aware that she was calling to him.
People gasped when the Black Tower appeared on the metal. Then the picture took them to the high balcony. The Sorceress was standing in a shaft of powerful green light. With a flick of her wrist she knocked DG over the side. But the girl fought her way back until she was reaching for her sister, begging Az to help defeat the Witch.
Suddenly two princesses stood side-by-side, gripping hands and the Wicked Witch towered over them. They never let go, as the Evil One threatened and tried to fight them. The girls simply held on tighter, until the green light vanished and the horror that had been destroying the Outer Zone for fifteen annuals was melted by the power of the House of Gale.
The picture that filled the metal was of the field hospital set up on the ground floor of the Tower. DG was working frantically on a young man who was covered in blood. No one watching recognized that she was attempting CPR as blood oozed around her fingers on his chest.
“No, you can’t die,” her voice echoed back from the image. “I don’t even know your name.”
“His name was Tommy Winsmore, Missy.” Cora Nightingale joined DG’s reflection in the metal.
“No, no,” a woman from the crowd cried out. “Glinda help me, my boy is dead.”
At Tommy’s mom’s outburst, Stom’s hand slipped from the side of DG’s face and he slid to the ground exhausted. “Princess not lie.” He met Sam Gerard’s eyes and nodded his head. “Witch dead. All must find peace.”
Cain ignored questions that were coming from the people around him. Everyone either knew or was related to someone who was purported to have been in the final battle at the Tower.
“Get back, all of you,” he shouted. His attention was on the pale-faced woman cradled in his arms. “You’ve already done enough.”
“Tin Man?” Her eyes fluttered open and she blinked at her surroundings.
“Right here, Kiddo.” He picked her up and sat her on the ground with her back leaning against the log they’d been sitting on.
“Is the Viewer all right?” She rubbed her eyes trying to get them to focus.
“Stom fine.” He knelt beside Cain. “Princess cold.”
The tin man shrugged out of his duster and wrapped it around her shoulders. “You’re hands are like ice.”
“Give her some of this.” Gerard knelt beside the group, holding out a flask. “Her lips ‘er blue.”
“Thanks.” Cain accepted the whisky container and wrapped both of DG’s hands around it. Still crouched beside her, he turned on the balls of his feet, brought back his right arm and punched Sam Gerard in the jaw.
“What are you going?” Deeg leaned forward and pulled him back. One look and she could see he was furious. “We just convinced them we don’t mean any harm.”
The two men snarled at each other, but Cal Winterburn subdued his immediate superior and DG kept her hand on her Tin Man’s shoulder.
“He hurt you, Princess, and made sure I was part of it.” Wyatt unscrewed the top of the flask. “Now drink this. It’ll warm you up some.” He recognized the signs, she’d been using large portions of her magic, but he wasn’t sure when or why. “There’s a price for harming a member of the Royal family and it is long past time that people were reminded of it.”
“Tin Man right. Must reestablish order. Peace must come to world or all will die.” Stom patted her head gently.
“Ick, that tastes terrible!” Deeg coughed as the homemade liquor burned all the way down her throat.
“Take another swallow.” He guided the flask back to her lips. “It’s getting dark, the rain will be starting soon. Will you be all right while I get our tent set up?”
“I’m fine.” She huddled deeper into his coat. She wasn’t fine and they both knew it, but they also knew she was determined not to let it show.
“We’ll stay with the Princess, while you see to things, Mr. Cain.” Tommy Winsmore’s mother and a short slim man offered. “We’ve got Stom here. No harm will come to her.”
“I’d appreciate that.” He gave Sam Gerard a warning glare. His message said loud and clear, ‘stay away or I’ll hit you again.’ “These nice folks have offered to keep you company.” He held DG’s hands and tried to warm them with his own. “You gonna be all right.”
“Of course I am. I don’t need anyone watching…”
“I do,” he whispered. “You didn’t see what you went through while he was searching your memories, I did.”
“I’ll be fine, Wyatt.” There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do for him when he had that shattered look in his eyes.
Deeg watched as her Tin Man strode away before turning a tentative smile on the couple beside her.
“Your Highness, I’m Sarah Winsmore-Turner and this is Harold Turner, my husband.”
“Would you get Sam Gerard for me. I need to speak with him.” DG did her best to sound like a princess of the O.Z. She saw the resistance leader at the med tent having his split lip attended to.
“Sure thing, Ma’am.” Harold took off and returned moments later with Sam.
“What can I do for you, Princess?” The dark-haired man held a cold wet cloth to his mouth. The Turners had backed off to give them privacy.
“You are never to hurt Wyatt Cain again.” She glared. “Be as angry at me and my family as you like, but leave him out of your need for revenge. He’s been through enough. He spent eight annuals in a tin suit watching a memory loop of his family being tortured. You go after him again and you’ll have me to deal with. Do I make myself clear?”
“We all suffered under the Witch…”
“Do I make myself clear, Mr. Gerard?”
“Good. We’ll talk again in the morning. The Queen requests the aid of any who are loyal to the House of Gale. The Witch is gone, but there is still much to do to rebuild the Outer Zone.” For the first time DG felt as if she were part of this unreal world she’d been hurtled into.
“Your Highness,” Sarah spoke softly after the resistance leader had left. “Don’t be too hard on Sam. He’s a good man…there are things…they aren’t mine to talk about.”
“You’re Tommy Winsmore’s mother?” Deeg remembered the boy she’d tried to save in the field hospital after the fight for the Tower.
“Yes I am.” She blinked quickly to keep from crying. “One of the memories Stom showed us was of you trying to save him.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more. I’m not a healer and he’d been hurt badly. All I could do was hold his hand while he died.” DG shivered at the memory.
“Thank you, Your Highness,” the older woman cried. “He wasn’t alone, that’s something.”
“What about Becca Turner?” Harold asked. “They were promised to one another and went off to fight together. Did she survive the battle?”
“I’m sorry, no.” DG blinked at tears that filled her eyes. “Old Cora told me Becca died in the assault on the Tower. Tommy wanted me to tell her ‘that she was right, the legend was true, that she was his Cariad’. I couldn’t tell her, so I’ll tell you instead.”
“Oh thank, Glinda.” Sarah gripped her husband’s hand. “He finally believed. He finally had faith in something more than a gun. If they had lived, they could have been married by the priests.”
“I don’t understand.” The lost princess of the O.Z. looked from one to the other.
“You’ve been gone a long time, there’s lots ya gotta relearn, but you and your man wear Cariad rings so I suspect you understand about that.” Harold held out his own hand that had a plane silver band on the third finger of his left hand. “There was many who didn’t believe in the old legends. They didn’t want to wait ‘till they met their true one. Tommy felt that way, but Becca was convinced that he was her Cariad. Sarah and I thought she was right, so we let them be promised to one another. It must have eased his mind some to finally believe that she’d be waiting for him.”
“Viewer way easy.” Stom declared. “What is seen with heart, not hidden, always there to know.”
“Harold you’re confusing the girl and Stom, you’re not much help either.” The older woman saw the way the princess was staring at their rings. “My Karl died early on as did his Stella. We had young kids to raise with war breaking out all around us so we banded together. We married. As much as I love Harold, it isn’t like it was with Karl and I know that when he dies, it’ll be Stella he meets on the Other Road.”
“We did what was practical.”
“Spoken like a man,” Sarah snorted and then whispered to DG, “Besides a body has needs to be met.”
“Princess, I’ve got things all set up.” Cain had kept a careful eye on Deeg and the others in the camp. It had been a relief when, Cal Winterburn, the second-in-command had returned his weapons. He wasn’t a trusting soul by nature and what had happened in the last two hours didn’t do anything to improve his attitude.
The Viewer looked up as Wyatt approached. “Stom sorry hurt Princess, needed to know. Truth needed to be seen.”
“I’m glad you survived it.” She smiled at him as Cain helped her to her feet.
“Sorceress used force. Used pain. That kill Viewer, not Princess memories.”
“Let’s go,” Wyatt urged. “There’s a hot meal waiting for us.” He nodded at the small group of resistance fighters and glaring Easter Guild members in the distance. He put his left arm around DG and supported her weight as they headed toward the tent he’d put up.
Gerard joined Stom as the couple walked slowly away. “She threatened me if I gave Cain a difficult time. Should I be worried?” It was hard for him to believe the small slim girl had the powers he’d seen demonstrated by way of the Viewer.
“Princess looked throughout the East for love. Found it locked in tin suit. Not what she seeking, but what she find.” The Viewer turned sad eyes on his commander. “She protect what is hers. Sam must forgive. Adora wait on Other Road for Sam not Wyatt.”
“What the hell was so important that you depleted your magic?” Cain settled DG on her bedroll before he handed her a cup of hot coffee and a covered plate. He recognized the symptoms from the first night.
“I had to protect Stom. One Viewer already died trying to get past the magic that has locked out my memories.” She sipped the dark liquid with her hands wrapped around the cup absorbing warmth from the metal.
“You take too many chances.”
“The hell I do.” Deeg put her plate aside and turned toward him. “If something had happened to Stom while he was searching for answers, Gerard would have shot us, no questions asked. I had to help the only way I knew how. Please Cain, you have to trust me about when and where to use magic.”
“It’s hard when I see what it does to you. When I saw what happened to you when I had my back turned.” He cupped the side of her face and rubbed one large thumb over the slope of her cheek.”
“I can’t do anything about what has already happened, but I can give you some reassurance about my power.” She leaned into his hand enjoying his touch. “Somehow I’ve learned to direct it, but I can’t properly gauge the intensity needed for a task. When something is vital, I err on the side of too much. That’s why I end up with the shivers when the day is done.”
“That’s something I can do something about.” He took off his vest and put it at the head of his bedroll with his holster and then unfastened his duster that she was still wearing. “Come on lay down.” He pulled her into his arms with both blankets over them and his coat on top of her.
“Wyatt, you’ve not going to get any sleep this way and you were awake most of last night.” Even as she said it, she snuggled closer to his warmth. It felt so wonderful to have him pressed along the length of her body.
“Sure it’s not that I frightened you this afternoon?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She turned over and caught traces of worry on his face.
“When I held you in a security hold,” his words were bitter and angry.
“No, of course not.” She caressed his cheek to sooth away any signs of concern. “I was so thankful it was you. When Stom came near me that first time, I was about a second away from throwing myself into your arms. The only reason I didn’t was because I was afraid it would give Gerard something to use against us.”
“I’ve got ya now.” He pulled her closer running his hand up and down her back. He didn’t know if it was exhaustion or his fierce need to protect her, but tonight, all he wanted was to have her close and never let her go. The necessity to know she was beside him and warm took precedence over the raging desires that had plagued him recently.
“That feels good,” she moaned softly as he massaged away her tense muscles. She lay in his arms as he breathing became deep and heavy and the hand on her back stopped moving.
“He sleeps,” she whispered and kissed his neck. When that didn’t waken him she felt safe enough to add, “I love you Tin Man.” Then as the rains started to beat a steady staccato on the canvas above them, her eyes flutter closed and she slept too.
To Ch 9 - Conviction Of Things Not Seen