Before The Worst
DG woke to the sound of screams. She sat up with a gasp and it took her a minute to realise where she was. Your bedroom – the spire – screams…?
"Azkadellia…" A terrifying foreboding settled in her chest.
She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and ran to the door, pulling her thin cotton robe over her pyjamas. As she threw open the door several guards ran past in the corridor, heading for the room at the end of passageway, where ear splitting screams were piercing the air. DG ran after them and fought her way through to the door, where Lavender and Ahamo were desperately trying to force it open. A calloused hand dropped onto DG's shoulder and her eyes met ice blue ones.
"What's going on?" For some reason Cain was still dressed and his gun was in his other hand. DG turned back to the door as Cain's hand dropped to his side.
"We can't get in! She's locked the door magically." Ahamo grunted, throwing his shoulder into the solid door. DG stepped forward and hammered on the door with her fist.
"Az! Az, it's me, DG. Lemme in!" She shouted, but the screams continued without hesitation. Lavender's eyes were filling with tears as she brought her hands to her mouth, the culmination of so many sleepless nights becoming more than she could bear. DG looked around at the crowd of guards and servants before glancing at Cain.
"Can you get them out of here?" She asked quietly.
Instantly he began to push the small crowd away, just as Glitch arrived. A pink scar gleamed in the moonlight, the only remnants of the operation that had taken place three months previously, two weeks after the defeat of the witch.
The screaming had started almost nightly just two days after the incident on the top of the spire.
DG knelt and placed her hand on lock. Closing her eyes, she imagined the mechanism clicking and whirring, the hinges swinging the heavy door open. A moment later it happened and DG stood, staring at the writhing figure of her sister, entangled in the bed sheets. Glitch made to enter the room but Ahamo held him back. DG stepped towards her Azkadellia, whose mouth was open, still sending out those heart breaking shrieks.
Lavender ran to her eldest child but Azkadellia's flailing limbs kept her embrace at bay. A howl joined the screams and they span around to see Raw crouched in the doorway, tears streaming down in his face as he dragged his hands over his ears.
"Stop… too much pain!" He begged. DG leaned forward over the bed, only to get a smack in the eye for her efforts. She swore, grabbed Azkadellia's wrist and stooped over her sister, pressing her forehead to the still sleeping woman's.
"C'mon, Az… wake up…"
She'd done this so many times. She let the magic seep through into her sister's mind, pushing the blackness that was invading her head away, cooling and calming her.
As they all knew it would, it worked. A moment later DG sat up and Azkadellia's screams faded into quiet whimpers, her eyelids fluttering open. Wild eyed, she stared at the people gathered in her bedchamber and then sat up quickly, tears still spilling as she wrapped her arms around her sister.
"Deej….Deej…" She wept and DG hugged her sister tightly, pressing her lips to the cold, damp forehead.
"It's OK, Az. It's over." She murmured, rubbing a hand up and down her sister's back.
"Why won't she leave me alone?" Azkadellia wept.
"Something has to be done." Ahamo said at breakfast the next morning. Azkadellia was taking the meal in her room, which meant the tray would be sent back practically uneaten to the kitchen. The shadows under the elder princess' eyes were getting darker and everyone in the spire was starting to feel the strain, as well as the lack of sleep.
Lavender glanced at her husband, tapping her fingers lightly against her teacup.
"I don't see what can be done. She went through a terrible ordeal. These… nightmares cannot simply be fixed." She looked down at her fruit, picking at seeds. DG didn't speak, but drank her second cup of coffee and forced her eyelids to stay open.
The door opened and Glitch came in, bowing to the royal family.
"Your Majesties, your highness." He nodded to DG with a smile. A sort of unspoken agreement had come into place – in company she was 'your highness', in private she was DG.
"You have news, Ambrose?" Lavender reached out a pale hand for the telegraph messages. She split them between herself and her husband, waving at Ambrose to join them at the table. He obliged, sliding in the seat beside DG and pouring some fresh juice. His eyes slid to DG's unused plate.
"You're not hungry?"
"I'm barely even conscious." She muttered. Glitch patted her arm sympathetically and looked up as Ahamo spoke.
"Ambrose, would you ask Mr Cain and Mr Raw to join us in the sitting room after breakfast? And yourself, of course. We need to sort out something to help Azkadellia."
"Of course, your Majesty." Glitch leapt to his feet and vanished. Lavender stood and walked around to DG, stroking her face with a cool hand.
"My angel… are you unwell?"
"Just tired." DG forced a smile. "I'll take a nap this afternoon. Any news?"
"The usual political rubbish." Ahamo chuckled. "Nothing out of the ordinary."
"There's an ambassador from the Munchkin region, we have an audience this afternoon." Lavender mentioned, "Nothing you need to bother with. Just make sure you get some sleep. The last thing we need is you getting ill."
The Eastern Guild of the Munchkin region had been one of the most resilient when the Royal Family had been reinstated. In their opinion, the fact they had been overthrown once made them incapable of ruling again. Many regions had gathered together in the days following the fall of the witch and an unwilling Raw had displayed DG's memories for them to see, the unwitting release of the witch, the possession of Azkadellia and the subsequent need to send DG away. Questions had been asked and answers given, protests had been made and, in most cases, quelled by the supporters of the family. Azkadellia had been kept out of the public eye to avoid threats, whilst DG, Lavender and Ahamo had worked tirelessly to heal the wounds left by the witch.
In their midst, the woman injured most by the witch was falling apart.
DG, Raw, Ambrose and Cain waited in the sitting room for Ahamo and Lavender to finish with their secretary. Cain waited by the window, eyes constantly darting around the room, watching for danger. Ambrose was mumbling to himself as he went over a legal document Lavender had asked him to approve.
DG sat on a sofa, watching a couple of logs burning in the fire and avoiding Raw's eyes. He had been watching her with a sorrowful expression since she'd entered but she'd shaken her head at him, a warning not to comment. Cain had noticed though. He noticed everything. It was useful in a guard, but irritating in a friend.
Eventually the royal parents entered the room and they all stood until Lavender waved at them to resume their seats. Cain stood behind DG as Ahamo moved to stand in front of the fireplace.
"Thank you for coming, gentlemen. I've asked you here to help us come up with a solution to the, er… nightly disturbances." They all nodded and DG stared down at her hands, twisting her fingers tightly.
"It's become clear that the nightmares are not getting any better."
"Worse, I'd say. She's never magically locked the door before." Glitch piped in. Lavender nodded.
"I agree. She's becoming a danger to herself, and that could soon move to becoming a danger to others."
DG squeezed her eyes shut, praying that no one would look to her. But Raw reached across and tentatively brushed his fingertips along her arm.
"DG… feels her pain." He murmured. They all looked at her and she glanced around at them all before bending forward, putting her head to her knees and wrapping her arms over her head, a shell forming.
"Don't, Raw…" She begged and for the first time, her voice cracked. Cain frowned and put a hand on her back.
"Kid… what's wrong?"
"Did something happen when you helped to stop her nightmare?" Lavender asked softly, kneeling before her daughter. For a moment no one spoke and then DG lifted her face to look into her mother's eyes. Lavender almost shivered at the intense pain she saw there.
"I… I can't stop the nightmares…" She whispered, her throat constricted. Everyone except Raw looked confused.
"But… isn't that what you've been doing all this time?" Glitch asked, puzzled. DG's head fell back to her knees, shaking her head.
"DG doesn't stop them." Raw spoke softly, sadly. "DG takes nightmares."
It took a moment for them to take in what this meant. Ahamo was the first to speak and he sounded on the edge of tears.
"DG…" She got to her feet and moved over to the window and they saw how heavily the situation weighed on her shoulders.
"I didn't know what else to do. These nightmares…" she squeezed her eyes shut as she leant on the wall by the window for support, facing them all.
"She sees herself going into the cave… the cave where we found the witch. Only it's more real than a dream, it's almost physical. She… I can smell it, the dank and the dirt and something else, it's like fear. And she… I… we. We're so afraid because we know what's in there, but we can't get away, we can't run because the magic doesn't work and it's so dark."
A sob rose in her throat and escaped before she could swallow it down. She opened her eyes and saw them watching her, her mother's tears and looked away, knowing that if she stopped she would not be able to continue.
"We try to get out, but the door has gone. We're trapped. And without her speaking, we know the witch is behind us. We turn and it's not… instead of the witch, it's…"
Another sob and DG forced her eyes to Glitch.
"It's you, Glitch. And Cain, and Raw and Mother and Father. All dead, lying at our feet. Only, because it's Azkadellia's dream, it's me as well. We're all dead and she's so afraid because she knows that it's her hands that did it, they're dripping with our blood. Then the witch appears and she makes the corpses stand…"
DG's breath was shallow and they could barely hear her final words.
"The corpses walk… towards her. And they reach for her, trying to hurt her… so she runs but it doesn't matter how far she runs, because they never stop… they never stop chasing her! And that's when I wake up, trying to get away but it's no good because the next time I close my eyes they're still there, waiting for me!"
Another sob. DG's hands went up into her hair and Lavender rushed to her daughter, gathering her into her arms.
"My darling…" No one else could speak. Cain couldn't stand to look at the terrified girl in her mother's embrace, couldn't even imagine what she had experienced. It was worse then being trapped in a tin suit, because this was in her head, somewhere she could never escape from.
Eventually DG pulled back and looked around at her friends and parents.
"We need to help her. We have to find a way to stop this, because I don't know how much longer I can keep taking the nightmares without going mad."
Azkadellia jolted in her seat, as there came a light tap on the door. She attempted to straighten her clothes and de-muss her hair but it made little difference. The door opened and DG slid in, yawning but she smiled with excessive brightness at her sister.
"Hey Az. How're you feeling?"
"I'm fine." Azkadellia forced a smile but DG's eyes had gone to the untouched breakfast. She sighed and sat on the window seat beside the elder princess.
"Az, you've gotta eat something. You look awful."
"Thank you for that."
"No need to get snippy. C'mon." DG began to slather a piece of lukewarm toast with butter and jam before waving it wildly towards her sister. "Here comes the aeroplane!"
"The what?" She asked, too tired to hide her confusion.
"… Just eat it." DG handed her the toast and Azkadellia took an obliging bite, crumbs and stickiness clinging to the corners of her mouth. DG leaned back, pulling her knees up under her chin.
"Mother and Father are deciding what to do." She said.
"About… me?" Azkadellia lowered the toast again, looking drawn.
"Yeah. Let's face it, we need to do something or none of us are gonna get a decent nights sleep ever again." DG picked up a satsuma and began to peel it, the tangy fragrance permeating the air. She passed a segment to Azkadellia who bit into it, savouring the sweetness.
They sat in silence and eventually DG got to her feet.
"Come on. Let's get some fresh air." She said, folding the peel around the rest of the satsuma.
"Deej, I can't."
"Why not? You got legs, don'tcha?" DG tugged playfully at Azkadellia's skirt. "Besides, sitting in this room is making me depressed. Did you want a little more black with that black?" Azkadellia's mouth twitched into a smile and she allowed herself to be pulled to her feet.
The garden around the spire had been planted on Lavender's orders. Not much had grown yet but tiny green leaves were beginning to poke their way through the earth and the smell of fresh dirt and sunshine was enough to improve the moods of the two princesses. They strolled down the freshly paved paths, walking around the ponds filled with multicoloured fish and one could not have imagined two people more opposite in looks. Dressed in a demure russet gown, her hair simply braided down her back, Azkadellia kept her eyes lowered, wanting as little attention as she could get away with. In contrast, DG strolled along in black trousers and cashmere top in bright blue, the same shade as her eyes, her hair loose and wild as she kept up a flow of conversation. Lavender would have preferred DG to wear dresses, but accepted that this was just another part of her daughter's life she did not quite understand. Therefore dresses were reserved for formal dinners and other occasions. DG had deigned to wear the occasional skirt in return.
They eventually settled on a stone bench by one of the smaller ponds and had only been sat a few minutes when heavy footsteps heralded Cain's arrival. He nodded respectfully to them both.
"They finally let you out?" DG grinned, offering him a piece of fruit. He took the small segment but didn't eat it.
"Yeah. They've kinda sorted it out."
"What's the plan, Tin Man?" DG asked and he shot her a look at the little rhyme.
"The plan is to get you away from here. Both of you. We figured that living in the building where it all happened isn't helping and perhaps going somewhere a little quieter will do some good."
Azkadellia didn't say anything but waited. DG popped another piece of fruit into her mouth.
"Where are we going?" She asked, chewing.
"Pacalisaqua. It's about fifty clicks south of Finaqua, the queen said there is a house there." Cain finally lifted the segment to his mouth and bit into it. Azkadellia nodded.
"I think I remember it."
"Pacalisaqua… what does that mean?" DG asked curiously.
"Peaceful water." Azkadellia said.
A/N: Hello! This is my first multi-chapter Tin Man fic, so please leave some reviews!
…That was not subtle, huh? Hmm. I'll improve. It's been a while since I wrote anything and this story has been eating me up for the past few months. Darn plot bunny got out, so most of this story is already written. Be nice and I'll post the rest quickly! I've got two other one shots posted in this category, feel free to check them out!
Again, some subtlety there. Expect more where that came from!