CHAPTER 44: Home
’I don’t know how you knew, but you were right,’ was the first thing they heard, in Donald’s voice, as they came through.
’What on earth is that with them?’ came in Raine’s.
The first thing they saw was a mother and a father, both of whom were doing amazingly good jobs of combining expressions of fury and relief as they came towards them from the direction of the house.
Various things got in the way of the mother and father starting, straight away, on stored-up speeches like, ’Where have you been?’ and ‘Have you any idea how worried you made us?’ and, ‘What have you been up to?’ and ‘How could you betray the trust we put in you?’ and blocked them completely.
The first of these had been the sight of Cudew at Hugh’s side with Pip perched on his back. Then it was taking in that Hugh and Tye had arms around one another’s waists. The next, and definitely effective one, was the feeling that these were not quite the same youngsters they had said goodbye to a couple of days ago. Something about them was deeply impressive.
The most conclusive reason was when they both gave cries of joy and ran forward, Hugh to hug Donald, and Tye to hug Raine. Nothing much could have provided more of a shock, though, than when the two, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, swopped over and Hugh hugged Raine while Tye hugged Donald Pip had come onto her shoulder for this exercise, and gave each a little kiss.
It was clear that Raine, in particular, simply couldn’t believe her eyes.
‘Now,’ said Hugh, ‘before you start yelling, we are truly sorry that we have caused you both worry. As excuses, we could start with one that we have been busy becoming Paramount Princes and Princesses …’
‘… or helping to save this world and two others …’ put in Tye.
‘… or learning about The Power of Two …’ Hugh continued,
‘… but, for now, please let us tell you rather a long story – in fact, a very long story - and promise to hear us out completely before you react,’ Tye concluded.
Donald opened his mouth, but speech hadn’t come out of it yet when Hugh added, ‘Oh, and if you’re about to ask if I’ve taken my meds, no I haven’t for some time, and I won’t be ever again. I’m afraid I have to tell you that they were a mistake. Shall we go in?’
In complete puzzlement, Donald and Raine followed. Seeing their clothing reminded Donald of something. ‘Where are your bikes?’ he asked sharply.
‘Up at Rhino Valley, in the Henderson’s house,’ Hugh replied.
‘The Two Old Frogs are both dead, I’m afraid,’ Tye put in. ‘Before we start, I think we both need a shower and a change.’
‘Where are we going to put the dog? Where did you get him?’ Raine asked, trying to pretend to herself that she hadn’t heard the Rhino Valley remarks.
‘Oh, sorry, the “dog”’ is a Darx Cu, and a cu is an Irish Wolfhound. We have accepted one another as companions, and he is no stranger to homes – or palaces, mostly.’ Hugh said, walking in and entering the sitting room. Cudew followed and sat upright next to the chair Hugh threw himself into. ‘Let me introduce you: this is Cudew,’ and he spelt it. Cudew grinned, lifted a paw, and waved – from side to side rather than up and down.
‘That’s my Dad, Donald,’ Hugh said, and now Cudew went over, sniffed him, and gave his hand a brief lick before waiting expectantly. ‘And that’s Tye’s mom, Raine.’ Cudew repeated the exercise on her before returning to Hugh.
‘How do you do,’ Donald and Raine chorused, both feeling ridiculous. The dog stood up, wagged his tail vigorously a few times, and sat down again.
The cu occupied himself by exploring the house in a leisurely but methodical manner while Hugh and Tye were away, and by totally disconcerting Donald and Raine when nodding or shaking his head at various points of the gabble of speculation they directed at one another.
When the younger two re-emerged from respective bathrooms, they lost no time in commencing the story.
‘I suppose the real start,’ Hugh began, ‘needs to be to say that the strange things I have seen all these years have been real, but I simply didn’t know how to handle them. Tye has always had the same ability, but was a lot more sensible about it.’
‘I didn’t doubt my senses, and I avoided letting them distract me,’ Tye explained.
‘Anyway,’ continued Hugh, looking at his father, ‘do you remember when the bees attacked?’ Donald hardly needed to nod. ‘Well, a lot more was happening than either of us knew, but some of it was coming through to me. I had sensed what we now know as the id of the bees, and also a creature communicator, or crecord, deliberately inciting them to attack. By some miracle, I managed to get it right in stopping the rage, and in chasing the crecord away.’
By now he could sense a well of disbelief building up in his father in particular, and he held up a hand. ‘Please, just keep listening.’
‘Constantly tell yourselves it’s only a fairy tale,’ Tye told them with a slight smile.
The story continued with Hugh and Tye taking turns in relating or adding to it, or putting in comments, in no planned order. It still carried on while all of them participated in preparing supper - Happiness had retreated to her quarters long before they had even arrived. Then they went on with only the occasional break for coffee and biscuits. It was accepted without saying that there would be no going to bed before the whole story had been told.
Tye cried, and Hugh sniffled, when they got to the part about Avinia. Raine shed some tears, too.
Much further on, Tye did not mince words when describing the “compliance” test. Raine went nearly hysterical, and Donald was clutching the arm of his chair with white knuckles.
Later still, when they took turns to tell about Hugh staying with Tye to rid her of the glarespell locked in by the feverspell, she chose that she would be the one to relate the part where she had finally been able to start healing her mind. ‘I slowly realised from everything that had happened that I could trust and rely on Hugh without any reservation whatsoever. He had come to know through the mind-meld what my father had tried to do to me, and that he had then simply walked out on us. Hugh forced me to confront that memory, and then convinced me that most men are not like that but are naturally good, like his own dad. He said that he himself simply tried to follow his dad’s example. Then I just howled, and it washed most of the evil away.’
At this, Raine got up and hugged Hugh and Donald fiercely in turn, saying, ‘Thank you, both of you, for being what you are.’
It was the not-so-early hours of the morning when they skimmed over the return journey, pausing only to laugh about the surprise new Highest Queen Glorianne, and could finally rest their hoarse voices.
‘I know this is all true,’ Raine said. ‘You are still desperately fighting against it, though, Donald darling?’
Donald had a trapped look. ‘It is quite preposterous,’ he said. ‘Such things cannot be. They fly in the face of Science …’
At this, Cudew gave a couple of ‘Woofs’, and Hugh grinned. ‘He says that it is quite true that fairies fly in the face of Science, and of Magic, too.’
’No, said Donald. ‘It must be some hallucination … but such amazing detail? … or … something. It simply cannot be true.’
Raine went over to him and put a hand on his shoulder. ‘Remember that Sherlock Holmes quote, “… when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,”? It seems to me you are trying to eliminate the improbable in favour of the impossible.’
‘No; yes; oh … maybe,’ said Donald.
‘Let us say,’ said Raine, tears coming into her eyes, ‘that you had absolute proof that it was all true. Where would you want Hugh and Tye, and us, to go from there?’
Donald was silent for a long time. Then he said, ‘There would be a choice between them simply returning to a school routine tomorrow … today, that is … and picking up their ordinary lives as if none of this had ever happened …’
There was an even longer silence before he went on slowly, ‘… or, they could go back with the incredible powers they have gained, and once more be at the forefront of striving to bring this Darx and this Breena into the wonderful balance as foreseen in this concept of The Power of Two.’
‘And from there, eventually into Terra,’ Tye murmured.
‘It is hardly a choice at all,’ Donald said.
By now, Raine was weeping steadily. ‘Yes,’ she choked, ‘and never mind, even, which of the two seems the most important. If they remain here now, wouldn’t it be rather like taking an eagle which has mastered flying and forcing it to return to its nest and stay there?’
‘It would that,’ said Donald. ‘I really … don’t want to lose a son, but …’
‘We’ll still be in touch whenever we can,’ Hugh said.
‘And that is a promise,’ nodded Tye, going over to hug her mother.
‘They mustn’t be seen here, which means they need to leave almost immediately.’ Raine said, trying to control her sobs.
‘You’ll have to report us missing as soon as you can,’ said Hugh. ‘Perhaps you can say we gave hints of wanting to go to Rhino Valley, so as to reduce the time spent on a wasted search. I doubt if there will be much of a fuss after the bikes are found.’
‘We’ll have no trouble at all in showing sorrow,’ choked Raine, ‘and nobody will guess that our worry isn’t about not knowing what has happened to you, but about what new dangers you will be facing in going back to such terrifying challenges.’
There were more tears all round at the farewell, and also while all of them trooped to the Interface. After the final kisses had been exchanged, Hugh said to Cudew, ‘I must do this while I can get my arms round you,’ and gave the great hound some fond hugs.
‘Me, too,’ said Tye, and hugged in her turn.
Embracing one another closely, Donald and Raine watched as Hugh and Tye, arm-in-arm, alongside Cudew with Pip on his back, moved into the ring of flowers.
They reached the centre, boy and girl turned to wave once, and all four vanished.
t was late afternoon when Dengana came wandering casually down the hill towards Sisebenzela. Most of the villagers had returned from such temporary work as they had been able to find. Herders were bringing the cattle down from the hills, including the one he was on, and those called out greetings which he returned cheerfully.
Sound travelled well in the area, and some villagers had poked noses out to see if there was anything to be curious about. They decided that there was, and soon quite a number were moving to intercept him.
There was something about him, though, that put them in awe, even his own brothers, and so it was a fairly silent procession that accompanied him into the actual village.
First, he vanished into the home of his parents.
When they had greeted him, his father said, ‘You have been involved in great matters in the land of the small ones.’
‘It is so,’ Dengana said.
‘You are leaving us,’ his mother said sadly.
‘It is so,’ Dengana said again, ‘but I will return when I am able. Sometimes I may be here, but you will not see me.’
This did not cause any unease. Then his mother exclaimed in surprise, ‘I see the small one with you!’
‘Then you will be able to see me when I have this form,’ said Dengana. ‘This she be Lusi.’ Lusi waved, Dengana’s mother waved back, and his father gaped.
‘I now need that I speak to the sangoma and the headman,’ he said. Normally an almost-demand like this from one so young would have earned a brief and painful response, but now there was no argument.
The headman led them to a large space to the side of the buildings. ‘We shall all hear you,’ he said. ‘Fundani, has the sangoma been called?’
‘She says we must go to her,’ Fundani said nervously.
‘Tell her Dengana is here to speak to us,’ the headman said, and within a remarkably short time the sangoma arrived, almost running.
Dengana addressed her directly. ‘You have seen that I have been given favour by small people for great things the Hugh and his sister, and I with my sister, have been able to do. We are all now the princes and princesses in that place, and so is Lusi here.’
‘I have seen you before, and I see you now, small one who is now sister of Dengana’ said the sangoma.
There was an even mixture of those who said ‘Where?’ and those saying, ‘There!’
‘I come with the news it is good,’ said Dengana. ‘Our valley it is now safe again.’
‘The ancestors have not told me where they have gone,’ said the sangoma.
‘There is now no reason for them not to return,’ said Dengana. ’A great impi of tokeloshes and devils has been killed before they could swarm into that place. ‘One thing I must tell you: a special Ingwe lives there who has helped us, and he must be honoured and protected as I will tell him to honour and protect you.’
‘This cannot be,’ said the headman. ‘The leopards killed all at Old Frogs.’
‘This is one of the leopards who did this thing,’ admitted Dengana, ‘but his mind it was made bad by evil tokoloshe which we have killed.’
The sangoma clapped her hands once, and said, ‘We will honour him.’
‘I still say this must not be,’ the headman insisted.
’It must be so,’ said the sangoma, and they glared at one another.
‘Have you felt something move, in the all-that-is?’ Dengana asked abruptly.
‘There was … something …’ the headman responded.
‘This, it was a great happening,’ the sangoma agreed.
Dengana paused for effect, and then said solemnly, ‘The thing that we have brought about, it is The Power of Two. We must try that all things they now weigh as equal. In everyone that rules, there must be this balance. The headman and the sangoma, they must speak with the one voice.’
After some thought, the main feeling seemed to be that this would be a good idea.
‘You will honour Ingwe?’ he challenged the headman. The headman hesitated for a while, and then nodded.
‘In the home, the man and the wife, they must speak with the one voice,’ Dengana went on.
After hardly any thought, the main feeling - particularly among the men - was that this would be a very bad idea.
‘Keep thinking on this,’ Dengana said. ‘If it is not made so, the balance we must have, it will not come. And now, my sister and I, we go back to the other land. You come, that you see us go, and those they do not see her now will also know that I speak truly.’
The whole village trooped up the hill in the gathering dusk, and all the women set up a spontaneous ululation of celebration and respect as about half of them watched a tiny girl and a normal-sized boy abruptly disappear from sight after reaching the centre of a ring of flowers, while the rest only saw it happening to the boy.
The leopard was well away from the houses in the valley when Dengana’s call came.
*Bat-human-that-was-human-cub?* he guessed.
‘Yes. Wait. We come,’ sent Dengana.
They found the leopard in a group of trees lining one of the steep mountain streams, spread out across an ideal lounging-branch. Part of the carcase of a baboon was lodged nearby. He looked at them lazily as they landed on another branch which was out of squinting (and swatting, just in case of an unfortunate reflex action) distance. *Bat-human-with-purrs-for-human-cub has found human cub now bat-human, but she is now small-shiny again* he observed, seeming quite relaxed about all these changes, and then sent, *Other human cubs did not come back.*
Lusi sent the picture this time, of the others being driven to take another way.
‘Now, humans come back soon,’ sent Dengana, ‘but no more bad bat-humans.’
*Happy when humans not here,* Ingwe responded, managing to put a bit of a growl in it.
‘Humans from village now have purrs for Ingwe. They will protect Ingwe and Ingwe must protect them as a mother does cubs,’ Dengana transmitted.
*Cubs grow up; must be chased away.*
‘These cubs stay young,’ earned a response on the lines of, *Oh well, okay then,* from Ingwe.
‘There is power in twos,’ Dengana went on with missionary zeal. ‘You need a female to share your territory,’
*Leopards hunt alone; not share territory.*
‘Some leopard females do have territory inside male ones. Better to share, though. Better hunting and better protection.’
*Are you like bad bat-humans and want to tell me what to do that is not-leopard?*
‘No, this will make Ingwe stronger and happier.’
Now it suddenly occurred to Lusi and Dengana that out of force of habit they were still working separately, even towards the same end. They reminded themselves that in order to practise what they were preaching they needed to merge.
Doing so took them only an instant, and then they opened their own little id to the leopard and revealed the unity of purpose, and focus of thinking as one, which they had thus achieved.
Now they showed images of two leopards going in opposite directions and having unsuccessful hunts. They showed the same two working as a successful team. They showed a territory enforced by two in concert. They showed the companionship and the friendship and the sharing which would no longer be a thing only connected to mating urges. They gave a glimpse of the surge in strength and goodness of natural forces and of magic which took place when such balance had been attained.
Ingwe blinked a number of times. Then he yawned and stretched.
*This is happiness, indeed,* he projected. *I will seek a leopardess where there are feelings in both of us which can carry us together towards The Power of Two.*
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Leslie NobleWrite a Review