Author's Note: Insert generic quippy disclaimer here. Do not own.
- Central City -
The Queen of the O.Z. wandered a fitful path at night.
Unaccustomed to the physical aspects of life outside her barren prison, a body that required food and sleep, her life had become routineless, and she felt a slave to her body's desires, like an infant. She ate what food was put before her by her staff, and she slept when fatigue overcame her. But at night, when her husband slept peacefully, she would leave her bedchamber and walk the halls of the restored palace at Finaqua.
The week following the Eclipse, the Witch's Tower, she'd shifted constantly between boundless energy and debilitating exhaustion. The regime of Azkadellia's tyranny crumbled as word leaked down the floors that the witch had been killed, and proof in the sky that their plans had failed. Hundreds of Longcoats had been captured by Resistance fighters, and imprisoned within their own fortress.
As that historic day (had it only been a month before?) came to a close, as the suns set on their celestial path and natural darkness fell over the land, the Royal Family and their accompaniment moved quietly to an abandoned embassy within the walls of the Central City. The Queen and her Royal Consort had made a public announcement the next day, from the platform in Central City Square, that the Sorceress Azkadellia had been overthrown, and made known for the first time to the lands of the O.Z. of their daughter's possession, of the Dark Witch who had lived within her body and taken over the country. They spoke of the survival of their youngest daughter, the Princess DG, though both young women remained sequestered within the protective walls of the embassy.
In her selfishness, restoring the lakeside palace had been one of the first projects. The servants of the Witch's Tower were sent to Finaqua, a welcome relief to the terror-filled men and women who had been under enslavement to the Sorceress for so long. DG had laughed, seeing the servants off with a company of men spared by the Resistance army. She'd volunteered to the task. "It will be my first royal duty, Mother," she'd said. Coming back from the docking bay where she'd witnessed the departure, she was still grinning. "You'd think that you were sending them on vacation, instead of back to work."
The Queen had said nothing. DG, though her guilt for past events permeated most everything she did, had no real idea of the pain and mistreatment the people of the O.Z. - HER people - had suffered for so long under the Sorceress' reign. Tin suits, dead orchards, and tense Resistance fighters did little to convey to the young princess the terror of nine annuals of Azkadellia's rule.
When the palace was suitable for the Royal family to move in, they had done so without delay. While DG had kept up conversation, speaking to Glitch mostly about the Other Side, telling him things of thirteen year school systems ("Really? They keep them there that long?") and her motorcycle, quiet Azkadellia had stared out the window, watching as they slowly passed dense forest, one tree bleeding into the next. Her oldest daughter had barely blinked as the army truck jolted over ruts and tree roots that had overtaken the untended road. Out of the corner of her eye, The Queen kept a watchful gaze on her elder daughter, constantly aware of the sweet mouth that had poured threats and death.
"Will we be at Finaqua soon?" DG asked her mother. The Queen, brought back to her reality, nodded. DG sighed, and reached over to take her sister's hand. Azkadellia's pale fingers gripped DG's, but her eyes did not leave the scenery bouncing past outside.
- Finaqua -
The first night within the walls of her beloved family home, her sleeplessness had surprised her. Thinking herself as free for the first time, truly free, since her imprisonment nine annuals before, she'd made love to her husband in her grand bedroom suite. The ghosts of the past, fifteen annuals of separation, had left them clinging to each other in a way that had both taken her aback and fulfilled her. But as Ahamo fell asleep beside her, relaxed and drained, her lavender eyes had stayed open, watching shadows fall across the room. Darkness, it always captured fear in her, deep somewhere inside. Her prison had never been dark, only one long endless day of rolling white sky.
On that night began her journeys through the halls of Finaqua. Roaming through rooms yet unfinished, ghosts of furniture looming up from corners, windows so dirty she couldn't see outside. She'd rushed the staff, moved in as soon as the palace had been considered "inhabitable". Almost everything was still incomplete, some rooms still closed, locked. Every mirror she passed, she refused to look into. Demons seemed to lurk up behind her, and in the reflective glass, she could see them. Demons of past mistakes, of a blundering future none of them could predict. Ahamo had suggested consulting a viewer, perhaps DG's friend and guardian, Raw. Would she consider it? No, never, of course not.
Days were spent seeking moments of reprieve, of rest. Endless stacks of documents, reinstating one parliament official or the next, "erased" towns seeking aid to rebuild, bringing peace and order back to the melting pot of the Central City, redeeming the Tin Men. The Army of Resistance, a title bestowed by The Queen to her official force, were pushing her to pursue Longcoats that, rumor whispered, were gathering en masse near the borders of the desert to the West. Personal issues were put aside in those first weeks, when the paperwork would not cease. Azkadellia's refusal to speak, DG's restlessness at being couped up in the palace, the reinsertion of Ambrose's brain... every matter close to her heart had to wait. A sundered country needed her more.
At first, she hadn't worried about the girls. Thought, a little foolishly perhaps, that their friendship and love would overcome the barrier around Azkadellia. She would often find them in the only parlour that was clean and ordered, clasping hands on the window seat, staring out at the lake. No light shone between them, it was just the holding of hands, the comforting touch of skin. DG watched her sister, seeking redemption, but Az had none to give; none for her sister and none for herself.
During her wanderings, she had discovered both of her daughters, her beautiful dark-haired girls, were sharing her unrest. Though both young women slept, their slumber was fitful. DG thrashed in her bed, shifting her weight back and forth, flailing arms; she muttered, words The Queen had to creep close to hear. She did not fear for DG, as the girl whispered in her sleep memories that were leaking through the broken magical barriers; very few memories remained, but DG was beginning to remember them.
Azkadellia's sleep was plagued by pain. Watching from the doorway, scared to go any closer, she saw Az's head roll from side to side on the pillows; she heard whimpers of terror escape from her daughter's throat, raw and haunted. Azkadellia, a prisoner in her own right, faced the guilt of survival, the evil taint left by the Witch.
"They have much to overcome," Ahamo reassured her, when she'd spoken of her concerns, of the nighttime path she cut between the two bedrooms. She'd lowered her own head to the pillow for three hours of unrest before being awoken with much fanfare, much to-do, and many a bright "Good morning, your Majesty!" Her eyes burned, but her sense of purpose for the day had already taken over her mind.
"My darling, what they have to overcome stretches far beyond the horror of the Tower. She still refuses to speak, trapping herself in her own misery and guilt."
"Well," Ahamo said, thoughtfully. "What would you have her say? Do you want her to apologize to you, like a reprimanded child? To stand before the country, and be punished for her crimes?" His words were harsh, but his tone soft.
The Queen shook her head. "No, of course not. But a word, just one! Or a smile, something to let us know that our daughter is still within that shell of a body."
"The remorse she shows is enough to let us know that she truly is." Ahamo sipped his coffee, watching his wife over the steaming cup. "I'm a little surprised she hasn't collapsed yet, carrying around the weight that she does. Helping you lay the emerald to rest once again will help bring her to her senses. And DG... DG is doing a wonderful job trying to bring her sister out into the light."
He laughed, watching as his wife shook her head and tried to suppress a roll of her eyes. "DG is another matter that worries me."
He put a hand over hers. "I think DG is the least of our worries."