CHAPTER 27: Prison Visit
Drail Palace wasn’t nearly the same size as the Darrex one, but it was impressively large nonetheless. It needed to be, as Lusi had gathered that the Daoine who had been trapped in Darx amounted to many thousands.
As they approached closer to the palace walls (there was no garden, so there were no outside walls) she could sense a most unpleasant magic barrier which felt stronger than anything she had come across before. Drail got them to hover while he created a small gap in it for them to pass through. She tried desperately to sense how he was going about opening it and, when they were through, sealing it again. Only a vague glimmering came through.
When the princesses landed with him outside the palace entrance, Drail simply said, ‘Work out some sensible plans so that you and the staff don’t trip over one another, and use these message stones to give your reports and the names.’
With that, he gave each a tiny round pebble from a bag he was carrying.
Then, just before he flew away and simply left them to it, he added casually, ‘Oh, and young Tuza here will be in charge.’
Lusi looked at her stone rather blankly, and it looked even more blankly back at her.
‘Maybe we test?’ she said to her nearest companion.
‘Why? This is such simple magic I’ve never known it go wrong,’ the girl responded. ‘Still, no harm in it …’
She held the stone before her and said, ’Take this, for my command:
The Cause is our beginning
But shall not be our end
Our followers are winning,
The Cause success shall send …
Stop. Now say back.’
From somewhere in the air rather than from the stone came an exact repeat of the song she had sung, flat notes and all.
Lusi and the others all tested theirs, and they also worked. A couple also did a test by swapping theirs, where one addressed as Tinga gave wording as, ‘Take this for the command of Trenna.’ When handed to Trenna, all the latter uttered was, ‘Trenna: say back.’
Lusi wondered why the Rings didn’t appear to have bothered with such useful magic. Or, maybe they had, but she simply hadn’t come across it? Was it even magic? Or was it on the same principle as the box things she had seen humans carrying on Terra?
The other princesses looked at her expectantly, and she hastily herded her wandering thoughts back into the flock and said, ‘We worry about where eat and sleep later. For now, we have good look. First from air.’
With that, she took off and led a circuit of the palace. Only a few odd Darxem were in the area outside the building walls. Apparently, this part was out of limits to Daoine. By the same token, the outside balconies had only Darxem appearing on them.
When they flew over the roof, to a wide inner courtyard, it was a different story. There, the courtyard itself had crowds of defiantly colourful Daoine - looking even brighter than they did in their home Rings – and the balconies overlooking the courtyard were also swarming with them. There were only a scattering of princes and princesses, and Lusi could not see any over the rank of High. Most were unranked Faie.
Here and there, she noted with surprise, were a few groups of Ring goblins, cobleys, imps, and even one of elves. All of these had struck her as being in such short supply in Darx, in favour of nastier-by-far creatures, that they came as a shock.
‘Look,’ Trenna called to Lusi. ‘One wonders why we are even needed. They are sorted by colour already.’
It was true: groups of the ones with brilliant shades had all gravitated to the centre, and had ones of slightly lesser brightness near them, and these toned down progressively until, on the outskirts, there were only groups of relatively drab and dingy Daoine.
‘No, I can see why they want us,’ one the other side of Tinga said. ‘There are so many variations. Where are we going to draw the line?’
Lusi reached a decision. ‘We all go find some of the Darxem in charge here, and speak to them. Then, after that, maybe we see if progress it can be made with less rebellious ones. We meet outside front door hour from now.’ She was sure they would be able to sense time, as she could, but found herself hoping that Darx hours were the same as those in The Rings or in Terra. It was likely, because a twelve-hour day had arisen from the most logical measurement of the sun’s progress, and the same sun, in changed form, was common to all the lands.
There were only a few Darxem in the courtyard, mainly being shunned and isolated.. Ignoring those, Lusi flew into the palace from the inside, and went in search of some conversation.
She found a room where a group of Darxds were taking their ease and some afternoon refreshment. They glared at her, and she left hastily. Down the corridor was another room with Darxtas doing the same. She landed, and walked in with a confident, ‘Triumph the Cause!’
Everyone responded, and then she said, ‘I am one of a group, they are recruited by Higher Prince Drail, to help sort out which of the Ring people they might be suitable for to adopt The Cause,’ she announced.
‘None of them, in my opinion,’ snapped one woman. ‘It’ll save a lot of trouble if we just get rid of the lot of them.’
‘I don’t agree,’ said another. ‘You only have to look at the raiment to see that progress is being made with some.’
‘A lot of them have just become cunning, is all,’ objected the first. ‘They have learnt that they can give an illusion that they are submersing Self by simply toning down their colours by an effort of will.’
‘That can only be done so far and no further, as you know,’ another said. ‘Quite a few of the ones I have been speaking to are really becoming convinced that The Cause is right for all.’
Lusi had seated herself, but now she rose to her feet again to attract attention. She got it. ‘Why you leave ones they getting different ideas with ones they still have old ideas? Better to break up into groups so the ones they now think new way can be together.’
There were indignant splutters from several. ‘Far too much bother,’ said the one who had the ‘get rid of’ philosophy.
‘It would make a lot of work to try and keep them sorted into different communities, We don’t have time for that,’ put in another.
‘Just be wasted effort,’ said a third.
‘I think the Higher Prince he be interested in what you say for this plan that I thinking it may help,’ Lusi said dreamily. ‘It is “too much bother” and “lot of work” and “don’t have time” and “wasted effort” you are saying. I get all that right?’
A great deal of agitated twittering started, and it suddenly emerged that they thought it was a great idea and that it wouldn’t be too difficult to try and implement.
‘Also,’ said one eagerly, ‘I keep saying we should lock up that High Princess Chenia. She’s a bad influence on the rest.’
‘Could be a good idea for later,’ nodded Lusi, and the previous speaker gave a triumphant ‘told-you-so’ look at her fellows.
‘I now go to speak to some of the prisoners, and to this princess,’ Lusi added, and left.
Not surprisingly, most of the toned-down of the Daoine were male. She chose a gloomy group which did have some women in it.
‘Hello,’ she greeted them.
‘Triumph the Cause,’ a few of them immediately came back with, including one of the woman.
Lusi addressed her. ‘You think it should?’ she asked.
The woman nodded emphatically. ‘The Cause provides for the natural order of things. I like men to take the decisions and do the ruling and stuff and leave it to us women to get on with what we are here for. We shouldn’t even be away from the children to carry out our tasks with living things in Breena or in Terra. We should be making the home.’
Now, Lusi turned to one of the men and looked questioningly at him. He immediately said, ‘It is ridiculous for women to think they can rule a country. Look at the mess Aiennea, and our Higher Queen Rheia of Glim Ring, have led us into. Men would never have let it get to the stage where Darxem have found it necessary to move towards bringing proper order.’
Another man stepped forward. ‘We can see that The Cause is the right way to go towards bringing down this pride and selfishness which gets some to think they are better than others, and makes them compete with one another instead of working towards the good of all.’
‘But The Cause, which Darxem they make, it will let them be ruling the Daoine?’ Lusi asked, starting to feel bewildered.
‘They are the stronger, and naturally suited to it,’ the second man said. ‘Besides, they have always been led by a man, while we have been weakened by generations of queen rule. But, of course, because the Darxem are driven by The Cause, which eliminates all thoughts of self, their rule will still make us all equal.’
Lusi blinked for a moment, and then said, ‘Do all who now show in their raiment less colour feel same as you feel?’
‘No,’ snapped the woman. ‘A lot of them, and particularly the more stupid among the women, are forcing themselves into showing such outward appearances out of selfish fear. Then, as you can see,’ and she gestured contemptuously towards some of the brighter bunches, ‘most are glorying in their stupidity and showing outward defiance.’\
‘Well, you listen:’ Lusi said, ‘we now want all the Daoine they have truly accepted The Cause to come away from all those they not do it. Then those they come away be shown how to work with Darxem for The Cause. You can all give to me names of the men and women they truly believe?’
There was a lot of nodding. A third man said, ‘We can also speak to as many of the other groups as possible and sort out the ones who will be worth having, if you like.’
‘I like,’ said Lusi, ‘and I ask the others they working with me to speak to many more.’
She was as good as her word as soon as she met with her group of helpers again outside the palace at the appointed time – an hour was the same here. Most of them, including Trenna and Tinga, had shown enough initiative to have gone through largely similar interviews with both Darxem and Daoine as she had, and to have reached similar conclusions, if not similar powers of persuasion. It only remained for them to return to the Darxem and tell them the agreed policy, and then to help with the sorting.
‘My guards didn’t like any idea of trying to segregate the ones who look promising candidates for The Cause, but this time,’ Tinga said maliciously, ‘based on what Tuza has done, I’ll invite them to voice their objections into my message stone.’
‘Is good idea,’ Lusi laughed. ‘All do this. Then go try find out if any chance the ones they keep colour change their minds.’
The first group of colourful characters Lusi approached looked at her with the sorts of expressions normally reserved for rotten fish. They softened only slightly after Lusi had told them that she had lived in the Rings and proved to them how familiar she was with all things Daoine, but at least sufficiently to talk to her.
When she suggested that it might make their lives easier if they toned down their attitudes and their apparel, she was met with fury.
’I’m never going to sink to looking like one of those,’ said one girl, pointing at some ‘converted’ and stamping her foot.
There was a chorus of, ‘Me, too,’ or ‘Nor I,’ from other females there – and apparently the foot-stamping was a necessary part of such speech.
‘You Crows and your Cause,’ said one of the men, ‘are quite ridiculous. It would be funny how stupid all of it is, if it wasn’t for how ghastly the consequences of these ideas will be, put into practice. You look like an intelligent youngster. How can you think for a minute that all this “His Greatestness” nonsense makes any sense?’ Lusi nearly applauded, but remembered in the nick of time which side she was supposed to look like being on.
This summed up the opinions of most of the others, more or less.
Next, Lusi had some chats to a few ‘borderline’ cases, and she reached the conclusion that, in essence, those were more inclined towards the old ideas than the new.
Finally, she went on a High Princess hunt. She expected to find her with a group of princesses, but this turned out not to be the case. The few princesses were, in fact, all well-scattered amongst the ordinary folk. A particularly large and brightly-coloured group of Daoine which included a couple of elves and a number of goblins eventually caught her eye, though, and there, seated in the midst of them, was a definite High Princess.
Lusi flew down to land among them, and they shied away as if she had the plague – except for the High Princess, who showed she was of good standing. She stood up, and then she stood her ground. She had the skill of giving a particularly good ‘rotten fish’ look.
‘High Princess Chenia?’ Lusi said. The other didn’t even nod.
Lusi decided not to mess about. ‘You now come inside with me; we talk about why you not be locked up,’ she said matter-of-factly.
‘And if I won’t, girl?’ snapped the princess.
‘Then I get enough helpers they drag you there,’ Lusi responded. ‘Now come.’
Without even waiting for a reply, she took off and headed towards the palace. What amounted to an extremely colourful thundercloud followed in her wake.
Inside, Lusi found one of the guards she had already met, and asked to be shown to a room where an ‘interrogation’ would not be disturbed. ‘You’ll need quite a bit of help,’ the guard said eagerly. ‘This one tries to protect herself, and she has high magic. But then,’ she added regretfully, ‘she has been too stubborn even to scream.’
‘Me, I manage alone,’ said Lusi, suppressing a shudder. The guard shrugged, and conducted them to a windowless room at some basement level. It had a few chairs in it, but nothing else.
Lusi closed the door, and then put a locking and warning ward on it. Then she gave a sigh of relief, and looked long and hard at Chenia. She liked what she saw. The High Princess was what in Breena would be a honey blonde, with a pleasant expression even when cross, and with startling green eyes. Her bearing was proud and fearless.
With her best dazzling smile, Lusi said, ‘I know that you I can trust. I known here as Tuza, but not real name. Not Princess, either.’
Chenia’s jaw dropped and her eyes widened as Lusi promoted herself through High to Higher, and when the stage of Highest was reached the bewildered Daoine had to clutch the back of a chair to steady herself.
‘Not even Darxta,’ Lusi said, and tried to convert herself to her original form. That didn’t seem to work here, though. She flickered for a while, giving glimpses of her Daoine identity, but that was the best she could manage.
‘I wonder if I able Adapt back when in Rings?’ she muttered worriedly, and then saw that she wasn’t really being fair to the shell-shocked High Princess. ‘Sit down; I explain,’ she said, and seated herself as comfortably as the basic furniture would allow.
When Lusi had finished her tale, and Chenia had recovered a bit, Lusi said, ‘So you see, all those who not like Crow ways they must escape soon or be “done away with” as Crows they so charmingly say. There are many-many here able to put magic together. How it is that you not overcome guards?’
’Don’t worry, we’ve been discussing escape ever since we were put in this place, and gathering odd bits of information which we hoped might help. The Darxem don’t mind telling us everything they know, actually, because they are confident there is nothing we can do to free ourselves.
‘Firstly, the barrier round this palace is of a kind and strength that even thousands of us working together can’t overcome.’ She pulled a face. ’We were taunted to try by Drail himself, and all the Darxem laughed themselves sick when we couldn’t even make a dent in it.
‘Then, the Interfaces are blocked, as you know, and that magic doesn’t only work one way to keep Daoine out. It stops us leaving, too. Those barriers appear to have been put in place by this His Greatestness himself, whom we gather to be some sort of super-wizard. They can only be lifted if he allows it. It is said that King Darrex himself tried one of them and failed to budge it. So even if we escape from Drail Palace, we are still trapped and ready to be picked off by the Darxem.’
‘Is a problem,’ Lusi said glumly.
‘Of course,’ Chenia went on, ‘a further difficulty has been that it is difficult to do much planning without the Crow fanciers among us getting wind of it and telling the guards.’
‘That one, I think we have solved,’ Lusi laughed, and explained about the segregation which was about to occur. ‘Must still be careful afterwards, though, because we give benefit of doubt to some they may go either way for own best interests.’
Chenia smiled, but then said in a serious tone, ‘It shows up the paradox, though. Most usually turn to The Cause, which goes on about being unselfish, simply because of selfish motives. These Crows are crazy.’
‘And, they evil,’ Lusi agreed.