Darx Circle

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CHAPTER 32: Planning an Exodus, and Hot or Cold

As best they could on the way, Dengana and Cudew tried to give Tergina an outline of what they had been up to, why it should be felt that The Cause was wrong and evil, and particularly regarding the rescue they were hoping, by some miracle, to effect at Drail Palace.

‘Is strange,’ said Dengana, ‘Hugh he say you must choose, but now Hugh he act like you choose already.’

Tergina was silent for a long time. Then, in a tone almost too low for him to catch over the wind of their flight she said, ‘It is a massive adjustment for me, but yes, I believe I have indeed chosen to go wholeheartedly with you. I don’t know why.’

After another long silence, she spoke again, ‘Actually I think I do know why, after all. It is because I can tell that all of you really, truly do care for one another and for others generally.’

‘Did I hear you deciding you were on our side?’ Cudew flew nearer to say. Of course, he had dog hearing, and particularly large dog hearing, at that. ‘If so, it is going to make our task quite a lot easier. The paramount part of freeing the prisoners, anyway,’ and he gave his doggy grin, ‘will have a Paramount solution. You are still, as far as everyone is concerned, one of the ten or so absolute top princesses in Darx. One of only three, locally.’

‘That is true,’ Tergina said. ‘Where men may pay little attention even to Highest Princesses, the knowledge that the Paramount Princesses have the backing of His Greatestness himself carries a lot of weight. It was found to be most useful in what we were doing.’

Dengana had moved closer, too, and that part of the sky was becoming rather cluttered. ‘From minds, there,’ he said, ‘I think they different things what you think you do and what you really do.’

‘Yes,’ agreed Tergina. ‘I’m sure that both Tyria and myself believed we were simply fighting the male domination, but it is now clear that there was far more to it than that. In her case, of course, it wasn’t just the domination she wanted to fight. Deep down, she simply hates all males.’

When they reached the barrier at Drail Palace, Dengana remarked casually, ‘Easy get through this.’

‘Yes,’ Tergina agreed, ‘it is Higher Prince level with, I think, a couple of simple refinements. Well, shall we go through?’

Dengana got a mischievous look. ‘Can we take barrier it down completely?’ he asked.

Tergina looked doubtful. ‘It would probably take a minimum of three using Highest level to turn it in on itself,’ she said.

‘Fine,’ grinned Cudew. ‘Let’s go for it.’

She laughed. ‘I should have known you are one of those cu who could do magic to match that of your companion,’ she said. ‘Good. Shall I guide?’

Of course, the wolfhound could not resist remarks about a Cudew being a cu who, given a ‘due cue’, ‘cu do’ magic …

Not long after, under her directions, they had the barrier looping round until it swallowed itself with a gulp, and they flew through to find scenes of consternation. Dingy Darxem had noticed instantly that the prison suddenly didn’t have any bars left, so to speak, and this obviously worried them.

They were even more amazed when Tuza, who had somehow taken effective control of Drail Palace without anyone quite knowing how, flew with squeals of delight to hug the visiting Highest Prince the instant he landed in front of the gate.

Then Lusi’s common sense returned, and she eyed the imposing princess who was with him rather worriedly.

This worry was greatly increased when Dengana introduced her as the Paramount Princess Tergina, sister of His Highest Majesty King Darrex. Many of the throng now gathering had recognised her already, and her name had been whispered all over the place. There was no opportunity for Dengana to assure Lusi that everything was OK, and that she hadn’t blown anything.

Tergina took control, cutting short a spate of ‘Triumph’ greetings from a couple of High Princes downwards. ‘Higher Prince Drail has been successful with a request to the king,’ she said, ‘and we are here to take all Daoine away who do not espouse The Cause.’

It was a moment Tinga and Trenna had been waiting for, and they stepped forward eagerly. ‘In the service of The Cause,’ Trenna announced smugly, ‘we have been working to plan the construction and coordination of a moving magic barrier to contain the prisoners while …’

‘Oh, we won’t need anything like that,’ Tergina said.

‘Why not?’ asked a High Prince abruptly, and then decided it was safer to add, ’Your Highestne… er, Paramountedness?

‘Because, of course,’ Tergina said with a smile, ‘they will be told that they are being led to freedom.’

‘Is so easy,’ grinned Dengana, thinking that Tergina shared a lot of Hugh’s creative talent in using the truth.

Lusi didn’t know quite what was going on, but there was one opportunity here which was far too good to miss. ‘You now take with you all Daoine they adopt The Cause, and you all go inside barrier you make until the other Daoine they go away,’ she commanded ‘her’ staff.

‘Wonderful idea, that,’ said Cudew. ‘In fact, everyone must seal themselves into a strongly-protected area at least until sundown – preferably until tomorrow morning. You’d better be setting about it right away. Well, come on, don’t dawdle!’

Tergina smiled as she saw the resultant stampede, but then said seriously, ‘There you have an example of what these stupid men and their absurd Cause-following ideas have done to people. Although they have nothing which says they should accept orders from a cu, if such orders are given with enough assurance they don’t even question them.’

Then she saw that Lusi was looking at her with her mouth wide open, and added, ‘Don’t worry, Tuza, I’m on your side for two good reasons. The first is that I’m becoming convinced that it is the right one. The other is that the wrong one, including my dear brother, is eager to have me killed slowly in front of a lot of spectators.’

Spontaneously, Lusi leapt forward to give her a hug, and she looked startled but pleased. Then Lusi said, ‘Come on; there are many-many-many Daoine they will be happy at news we bring.’ She showed some flickers of brilliant colour for a second, and then decided regretfully that she had better stay as a Crow, just in case, until they were all well clear.

Chenia and the thousands of others thronging the courtyard had, by now, realised that Something Really Important was Going On, and all faces were turned towards them as they flew down into it. Lusi led the others straight towards where the Daoine Higher Princess was standing, and there was some hasty scuttling out of the way to permit Cudew to land.

Any concern Chenia may have felt was immediately taken away by the fact that Lusi was grinning so broadly it seemed likely that the section of her head above her mouth might become detached. ‘We now fly away!’ she announced.

Then her grin dimmed, and she glanced from Dengana to Tergina. ‘Where we go?’ she asked.

It was a good question, and one there hadn’t been time to go into properly before. First, though, Lusi had to explain as briefly as possible who was whom and what, so far, was what.

Then Dengana said, ‘I have idea. We go first to Dallent Island Palace. Even for so many of people, room there on island and they have good shield. Maybe is Interface nearby? If we can find way to open, then just need to fight through Darxem waiting there.’

‘Idea it is good,’ Lusi said. ‘Chenia, you get everybody to take all provisions from here is possible for them to carry with long flying? And make sling-things for carry all ones cannot fly?’

Chenia nodded, and went to give instructions to those who could give instructions for more instructions to be given.

‘I know where this palace is,’ Tergina said. ‘The nearest Interface to it is the one near Lookout Ford, and it goes to Ding Ring, alternating with Dong Ring. It is a lot closer than the one at The Rhino near the Southern Rift. I’ll go and do an “inspection of whether there is enough dedication to The Cause” there, and test whether the special bits of magic learnt from Terblia may help to break down that barrier. Then I’ll join you at the island.’

‘And I shall return to Hugh and tell him and, perhaps, that Tyria if she survives – which I doubt – where to go,’ Cudew said. He and Tergina took off simultaneously, and seconds later had vanished over the roofs of the palace.

Hugh was now kneeling at the edge of the pool, still holding Tye’s face out of the water. He had, with some contortions, managed to get out of his clothes and wring them one-handed, and Pip was flying them back and forth to dry. The sun was weak here, but was giving enough heat for him to have stopped his shivering.

‘Dad taught me about hyperthermia and hypothermia, once,’ he said to the sprite. The “per” is when you get too hot, like Tye, and the fever can kill you, and the “po” is when the body gets too cold, and that can kill you. With hyperthermia, he said you shouldn’t put a person in cold water, but I don’t know what else to do. I can’t do what he said, of putting ice packs under the arms or high between the legs. Or, I wonder if I could try and make some, with magic …?’

‘Meep, meep!’ Pip said strongly.

‘You think what I’m doing is right?’

‘Yip,’ Pip responded, then somehow sent an image of doing magic to Hugh, and said, ‘Meep!’ again.

Hugh thought for a moment. ‘So you mean that if this spell is to be cured, it has to be done without magic?’ he asked.

‘Yip, yip, yip, yip, yip!’ was a quite definite enough response.

There was no way of finding a comfortable method of holding Tye like that while staying dry, and Hugh started suffering from awful cramps no matter how much he tried to change his position. To make matters worse, it was now clouding over, and a chill breeze was coming up.

Pip delivered his clothes, now dry, but even with the magic of their fastenings he couldn’t put them on without leaving go of Tye. Pip gave an irritated squeak, went to fetch the blanket from where it was lying, and with some difficulty lifted it enough to drape over Hugh’s shoulders. After the boy had pulled it round himself one-handed he felt a lot better.

Some while later, Hugh thought he heard Tye say something, and sure enough her eyelids were fluttering. At the same time he became aware that she was definitely cooler. He placed his free hand on her forehead, and could feel she was now only slightly warm – and then, within seconds, she felt cold. All heat went out of her, like switching off a light.

‘Hugh,’ she said, looking back at him disbelievingly as his blanket slipped off and fell behind him. ‘Wha…?’

‘It isn’t how it looks,’ he said, with wild elation coming up in him. ‘Oh, how wonderful to hear you sp…’

Then, all elation was replaced by feelings of panic. A cry of distress came from Pip, while Tye’s eyes rolled up and she began to shiver uncontrollably.

‘She’s used up all the heat, and has none left!’ he said despairingly. ’Now, it’s hypothermia!’

With enormous effort, he forced himself to be calm and to remember what his father had told him. ‘Gentle movements,’ he muttered, and slid her carefully up out of the water and onto the edge. ‘Wet clothes off, but only if dry ones are available. That is no good, there aren’t any ... wait … Pip! Bring my clothes!’

Frantically, he ran his finger down the front of her dress and slid it out from under her when it fell open. He wrung it out with desperate strength, and used it to mop what water he could from her. Then, using only the bottom part of the blanket, he dried her properly all over. Now, he spread his clothes flat on the ground, lifted her onto them, and used the ‘fastening’ movements. He had expected them to be baggy on her, but they adapted neatly to her body.

Next, he ripped at any grasses or shrubs he could get hold of nearby, and laid them out to form a mattress on the flattest part of ground he could find, just beyond the rocks edging the pool. Pip joined in, and it was amazing how much help the little creature was able to give. It had now clouded over completely, and the rising breeze felt icy against his bare body.

Hugh spread the blanket over the layer of grass and twigs and lifted Tye onto it. She had stopped shivering and simply lay limply. Cold as he himself felt, she was still icy to his touch. He started giving instructions to Pip, but discovered that the sprite was some way above his head, busy giving an impression of a whirling dervish on fast-forward with Tye’s dress. Amazingly, the dress felt dry when Pip dropped it on top of his head. ‘Meep!’ came as soon as he moved to take his own clothes from Tye, so he shrugged and tried the dress on. It promptly adapted to fit him, and Pip uttered a series of giggle-like squeaks.

Quickly, Hugh turned Tye onto her side, and said to Pip, ‘Snuggle up to her front, particularly the chest and neck,’ He wrapped the blanket over both of them, noting with relief that he could cover her head while still leaving the wet end-part clear of her feet. Finally, he lay down behind her, pressed his body against her back, and closed the other side of the blanket over them, covering his head as well, and creating a rather fat mummy.

‘Don’t warm arms or legs,’ he reminded himself. ‘Don’t rub anywhere. Warm under arms.’ He slipped his own into her armpits while placing her arms out of the way. ‘Warm high up between legs … how … knee?’ His father had insisted that, like the armpits, it was a key area for warming. ‘Keep neck warm.’ He hoped Pip, and his own breathing from near the top of her head, would do that.

‘I don’t feel as if I could provide any sort of heat at the moment, but I suppose if Tye feels like a slab of ice to us, then we must feel warm to her,’ he said.

‘Yip,’ said Pip, sounding hopeful.

Gradually, the parts of him not up against Tye became more comfortable, and after that the front parts didn’t feel too frozen either and he felt sleepy, and then he started wondering whether he should disturb his father when he was so busy with bees, and why Ingwe the leopard was grinning at him and flying in circles round and round Cudew …

‘Are you alright?’ came the voice of Cudew.

‘Yip. Yip-yip.’ This was from a sprite, crawling out of the ```now open top of the blanket bundle from behind Tye.


Yes, Tye was actually facing and hugging him. As he looked at her, her eyes fluttered open and she stared at him uncomprehendingly. She sat up with an effort, and shook off the blanket. ‘What … where are we …’ she looked down at herself, … why am I in theshe …’ she blinked at him, ‘… why are you now in thoshe?’ Then she fell back again.

‘We need to get her down to warmer parts,’ Hugh said, jumping up. That is, he tried to jump up, but cramp and sore muscles all over his body caused him to make a poor job of it.

The dog let out a barking laugh. ‘You do look sweet,’ he said. ’A fair exchange, one might say?’ Pip also started some giggle-squeaks afresh.

‘Oh, shut up, both of you. At least it’s surprisingly warm. Now, d’you think you could carry her?’ and he made another bundle.

Cudew took the knotted part in his teeth. ‘Eashily,’ he said.

‘Why’s everyone talking funny?’ Hugh smiled. Then he sobered. ‘She’s still got after-effects. I should have thought of getting you to carry her before, and made a different plan at Darrex Palace. I wasn’t thinking too straight, though. Shall we go? At least my wings still work and don’t ache like all the rest of me. You lead. Anywhere warm and sheltered will do.’

‘You really like her, don’t you?’ mouthed the dog carefully round the blanket.

‘Now that I understand her, yes, I do. A lot.’

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