Title: 'Til Kingdom Come, Part One
Author: Rissy James
Index: Table of Contents here.
Characters: Everyone ever. Major and minor series characters. OCs, some new, some appearing from my Emerald 'verse.
Pairings: It's complicated. Past Cain/Adora, eventual Cain/DG, canon Lavender/Ahamo.
Summary: Being a somewhat fabricated, but mostly accurate, history of the Outer Zone, therein concerning the aftermath of the Emerald War and the restoration of the House of Gale.
Author's Note: All right, my pretties, I'm back. What's more, I bring plot-filled chapters and future OC name-drops with me. This completes laying the foundation for the direction of the story. I hope you enjoy, and thank you for waiting so patiently.
'Til Kingdom Come
Glitch could remember a lot. No one ever gave him credit for it, but there it was. The truth. Cold and hard and truth-like. His memory was to be commended. It probably had been, lauded with a ceremony and a fancy diploma tied with a ribbon, he was certain of it. Certain of it.
If only he could remember.
Still, otherwise, steel trap. Really.
For instance, he could remember his way around the palace. Some might scoff, but it was no mean feat. Alta Torretta was the heart of the Outer Zone, the central spire of the Central City, a delicate spindled marvel of plated bronze and emerald glass, a beacon of beauty in these dark times.
At least from afar, or so it seemed. Near to a hundred floors separated the grand entry hall from the rooftop arboretum under its crystal dome, and all but a handful of them had been abandoned to the annuals, filled with nothing but dust and decay and terrible, terrible memories.
But when it came to that handful of floors and the several dozen rooms that made them up, he could find his way around well enough. Call it talent, instinct, or residual memory –
There, another thing. He could remember a lot of big words, and what was more, he could often remember what they meant, and the looks he got never ceased to amuse him, whether it was a roll of the eyes from Cain, or that impish grin of DG's that he liked so much, or even that gentle fluttering at the corner of the Queen's mouth that almost counted as a smile.
Not that she was Queen yet, not without the support of the guilds. Lady Lavender, people were calling her, though even that was more a courtesy of respect.
Lavender. Of all that he remembered, she was at the fore. Fleeting wisps of image or sound, a touch or a whisper, so many lines drawn on so many papers, and through all of it, her. Books and quills and little brass gadgets, bits of string and polished stone, chestnut curls and the tarnish of silver, her hand on his sleeve, always her hand on his sleeve, but whenever he looked down, there was no soft touch, no pale tapered fingers, only the blush in his cheeks and the babble of his tongue.
He could remember a lot, and he couldn't say he cared for it, not at all.
Still, it kept him afloat in this strange place. He didn't get lost, and no one had to go looking for him, and that was something. Getting distracted was different from getting lost, of course, but he worked very hard to avoid that. And by very hard he meant very hard, but sometimes it was unavoidable. Like when a maid would smile sweetly and ask for his help, or he'd hear a note of soft music drifting from down the corridor, or DG would catch up to him and tug him in the opposite direction, whisking him off to he knew not where.
DG was good at that.
Sometimes, he managed to return the favour. Together, they'd explored what seemed like miles upon miles of corridor, and dozens upon dozens of lonely cave-dark rooms.
He very much wished he were with her now, elbow deep in curiosity, helping him to pick up memories as he went like pebbles along a riverbank, but when Glitch glanced at the clock, his heart sank. It was past midnight. DG was in her room asleep, and he was stuck where he was, no friend, no hope of escape, and no pocket full of stones.
"Are we certain that we can trust him?"
It was Lady Lavender's voice that cut into his thoughts, descending featherlight into the muddle that was his mind to disperse the fog with sweet, bright clarity.
"He seems loyal to Azkadellia if nothing else. The council he has given so far has been sound," Tutor said. "As for his plan to bring Zero into this mess, well –"
"Vysor wouldn't suggest anything that would harm Azkadellia," Glitch said, glancing nervously to the queen – no, the lady, his lady. "He'll stand by her side so long as she's standing."
Lavender turned her head ever so slightly toward him, and the corner of her mouth fluttered. He cleared his throat – loudly, too loudly – and looked away.
It still boggled the noggin, her decision to include him in these private meetings. Did his presence offer her some sort of comfort, or did she truly believe that he could in some way redeem himself? Unlike DG, whose guilt was written so plain on her face that it broke the heart, he did not feel he had failed his queen. The mirror had shown him true, he'd fought bravely and suffered for it.
Memories like that don't slip through the seams. Memories like that are a forever brand.
Still, forever branded or not, he was there to help and to do what he could. He owed it to Lavender and he owed it to DG. Truth be told, maybe he owed it to himself, too. It was a whole lot of owing, but he was up to the task. He had to be.
"Cain and Lindsey are likely to attract the attention of the southern guild on their return trip," he said, because it was the only thing he could think to say. "What with their valuable cargo and all."
"Let them," said Tutor. "I can't see an easier way to coax Bowen Reid out of hiding."
"Reid won't move until Andrus does," Lavender said with no small amount of distaste in her voice. Glitch couldn't remember the southern general Bowen Reid, couldn't put a face to the name, but a similar feeling arose in him, and he wrinkled his nose in sympathy.
"Andrus just needs convincing," Glitch said, but it was hopeful, so very hopeful, and it made him sound all the less certain. Which was fine, he supposed, because he was uncertain, because he didn't remember Andrus either, but the respect he garnered with just name alone was quite impressive.
And they were all in need of a little impressive.
"I think Andrus will need more than a little convincing, but all that will keep for now," Tutor said, and ran his big hand heavily down his face. The weariness was showing. It had always shown, Tutor and all his frayed edges, that paper-thin determination holding all the rest together, but there seemed to be more grey in his black hair of late, and his eyes had lost their shine. "Your Majesty," he continued, shoulders sagging, "with all due respect –"
"You are wondering if I have given any thought to your proposal," Lavender said, and the smile on her face was gentle as she regarded the old teacher. "And the answer is yes, I have, though it troubles me greatly. I have no wish to declare the kingdom's vulnerability to the rest of the world."
"I don't believe that will be the case," Tutor said. "News of the battle at the tower will travel fast. It's only a matter of time before it makes it across the sandsea to Evonny, and from there – well, there is no knowing."
Lavender's reply was cautious. "We have no reason to believe Evonny will honour the old alliance, let alone strike a new one."
From his seat, Glitch squirmed and raised a single finger in point. "Evonny needs our moretanium. Couldn't hurt to offer a renegotiation of terms."
Lavender levelled him with those haunting pale eyes. A chill went through him, and he was about to start stammering an apology when she smiled, teeth and everything, and all the breath and empty words went out of him.
"Does Evmund still sit the throne?" she asked.
Tutor nodded. "He does, Your Grace."
"I cannot think beyond our borders when our own house is in such disarray," she said, and sighed. "I cannot leave Andrus to his silence. Nor Reid to his biding."
"Or Bluesire to his hiding," Glitch piped up, and chuckled. Lavender's brow knit as she looked at him, and he sunk down a little further into his seat, clearing his throat and trying to look for all the world like he wasn't as foolish as he was making himself out to be.
"Uniting the guilds and seeking Evonny's aid may not be mutually exclusive," Tutor said. "There is no denying that you must remain here to bring Andrus and the others to the council table. They have no reason to refuse you the throne – nine annuals of fighting in your name can't be forgotten that easily."
"I had begun to wonder," she said, so solemn that it almost frightened Glitch and he didn't know why. It happened so often now but it never failed to overwhelm him, that sudden surge of emotion, a rising swell in his throat and his heart thundering so loud he could hear it echoing in his head.
Instinct with no memory to justify it was a bitch.
So thankfully oblivious to his rambling thoughts and swelling surges, Lavender sighed and rose from her chair to pace the undressed windows. From his seat on the sofa, Glitch saw nothing but the light of the lamps, the glass awash with a golden glow and the city beyond it lost. Nervously, he tapped his fingers on the tops of his legs, some unfamiliar staccato rhythm. The urge to do something, or say something, was creeping up on him, a spark in his nerve-endings that could only be ignored so long.
Tutor raised an eyebrow at him, but he could only tuck in the corners of his mouth and shrug.
The minutes ticked by in silence, and it gnawed at him, over and over, say something say something say something. There were words, he'd always had the words and the words had meant something, and he'd helped, he'd always been there to help. He knew that and had been told that and had seen it in the foggy, dirty glass, but now he was powerless and mindless and wordless and he really was no help at all.
Lavender still paced, and he was quiet and small, and Tutor was old and weary. They were the three meant to bind the world together while the rest trickled in over the lines drawn in the sand near a decade ago, held back by their anger or suspicion or obstinacy.
Maybe the kingdom was doomed. Maybe the House of Gale would never rise again.
Or maybe there was hope yet.
"You mean DG, don't you?" Glitch asked, his own unsure voice the one to finally break the silence, but hope could not be contained with silence. "You want to send DG."
"I do," Tutor said, but there was no pride in him as he said it, no confidence, no joy. "I mean your husband as well, Your Grace, and there are a few council members who could also be considered."
"Our council is small enough as it is, and now it dwindles by the day," Lavender said. "Above all else, I must bring the generals to the table. I fear we are stretching ourselves far too thin."
"Well, it's good to know all our options, right?" Glitch asked, partly because he always endeavoured to be optimistic, and partly because he wasn't sure if knowing the options made the choice any easier. His decisions had never affected others on any level, not before finding DG anyway. To have the weight of responsibility Lavender shouldered – she might not be queen, but she was still looking out for the people of the Outer Zone... no matter what she had to sacrifice along the way.
Mournfully sad, really. He swallowed hard against the next rising tide within him, and stayed quiet.
"We shall see what choices are left us before the end," Lavender said, and she turned away from the window. She seemed to have paled, her lips drawn tight, and the circles beneath her eyes showed all the more. In a sudden flash of clarity, he remembered the lady ten annuals past, chestnut curls and glowing smile, clad in silk and leather, and then it was gone again, just one more image to sort through when he closed his eyes at night, before the dreams came and jumbled him anew.
"I am grateful for your council, gentlemen," she said, and the smile she gave was all wisp and shadow. "I will consider heavily all you have said, but I can think no more tonight. We will wait before we bring this before the council. It is no decision to be taken lightly."
"Sleep well, Your Grace," Tutor said.
Glitch only bowed his head deeply, afraid to open his mouth to break the spell he still found himself in, that vision of Lavender as she was.
He left the room with his new-old friend, checking his long-legged gait to match the teacher's slower one. It wasn't until they'd left the queenless queen's residence and were well away from the ears of the red-scarfed guards who patrolled the corridor that Tutor spoke up with an aggrieved sigh.
"Well, that could have gone better."
Glitch gave his friend a wobbly smile. "I thought it was my job to state the obvious."
"DG can be of great help," Tutor said firmly. "Azkadellia is in no condition. It's all still too soon for her. The poor girl can barely face her own reflection."
"We'll make Lavender see that," Glitch said, cheered by his own optimism. "DG would jump at the chance to help."
"I worry this may be a little out of her league," Tutor said, and he gave an indulgent smile. "I thought the worse thing I'd have to deal with when it came to that girl was making sure she didn't accidentally blow herself up. Guess I was wrong."
Glitch walked beside Tutor in silence. He thought about his young friend, her determination and her strength, her wit and her compassion. He thought about the impact she could make. She could change the world, really, if she set her mind to it.
No one could deny that the world could do with a little changing.
That, there, was reason enough. Now, all he had to do was just convince her of that.