Disclaimer: I still don't own the fairytale or the Tin Man miniseries. If anyone knows how this state of affairs can be remedied I am all ears.
Author's Note: Exams are over, I'm freeeeeeee. This be just one more brain break before I get back to the nitty gritty. Last chance for anyone who wants to respond to my 'Otherside Encounter' poll before I make my decision. Muwhahaha.
Well, thought DG as they broke through the storm at last, it's not exactly where we wanted to be but it is close enough.
There had been some misgivings about this journey from the outset. The Northern Island, some advisors had insisted, was not a place you visited in the dead of winter. It would seem they had a least one valid reason besides their dislike of the cold, that blizzard had sprung up out of nowhere. As far as she could tell the rest of the royal entourage was still lost in it somewhere. Only the Tin Man had managed to navigate his way through to the right general location. Through sheer force of will, the princess figured. Even Cain, however, couldn't convince the vehicle to negotiate these drifts.
"Looks like we're walking," he said.
DG stifled a giggle. It's déjà vu all over again, she quipped to herself as Cain went to rouse the rest of the passengers.
Much grumbling was to be heard as the seven representatives of the Eastern Guild piled out of the back of the truck. Most of it was coming from the one DG privately called Red Turkey. Perhaps it wasn't the kindest nickname but no one could blame the princess for not being entirely thrilled with the 'welcoming party' that had greeted her when she had first arrived in the O.Z. She might call him something else if he'd tell her his name and stop insisting she already knew it. At least the rest of the munchkins were a little friendlier.
"I'll go first and break a trail, the rest of you follow single file, it will make things easier," the Tin Man dictated.
It was a sensible plan. Some of the drifts were deeper than the munchkins were tall and there was no way they'd get anywhere on their own. This being so, DG became trailblazer number two, which worked just fine for her as Cain made for an excellent windbreak to walk behind. The munchkins still swam as much as they walked but at least they could make some progress. It was a hard slog but on the bright side it kept them warm, and hey, it was mostly downhill.
Sometime later DG's optimism was beginning to change its mind about the upsides when they hit shallower snow. The wind seemed have blown most of the snowfall clear to drift elsewhere and as an added bonus the ground was surprisingly level. This probably should have set off a few warnings in DG's brain but she was distracted by an amusing thought as she looked back to check on the Eastern Guildsmen.
Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go, she sang to herself as she watched them trudge along.
The going was much easier now, enough so that the party members felt capable of holding a conversation. Actually it was more of an argument. The princess had no idea what they were talking about but she was of the opinion that all munchkin discussions were fated to become quarrels and therefore ignored them. Right up until the moment the Eastern Guilder behind her emphasized his point by slamming his spear into the ground that is.
It was about this instant that DG's idle observations regarding the current terrain coalesced in her brain. Windblown, surprisingly flat...we're on the lake!
"DG!" the Tin Man bellowed.
In the strange little dream world life seem to have become, she saw Cain whip around and reach out just as the ground gave way beneath her and she was plunged into the icy darkness of the Northern Lake.
DG didn't know you could panic and keep your head at one and the same time but she did. Fighting desperately, she struggled to rid herself of her now waterlogged and heavy jacket while simultaneously trying to figure out which way was up. It was so cold and her limbs felt so heavy but the princess refused to surrender. Her lungs were burning but that didn't seem to keep out the cold and things were starting to get really dark...
She floated back into consciousness to the feeling of the Tin Man's lips on hers, which would have been wonderful if not for the uncomfortable sensation of air being forced into her lungs.
"Come on DG breath," Cain commanded desperately as he started pounding on her ribcage.
Ow, thought DG. She wanted to ask him to stop that, instead she choked. Next thing knew she'd been rolled onto her side and she was vomiting up an impressive amount of lake water. Ow, ow, ow. The princess lay there for a minute gasping in ragged, painful breaths of sweet, sweet air. She was exhausted and disorientated but she was definitely aware of Cain when he crushed her to his chest a moment later.
"Thank the deities," he muttered into her ear, "I'm so sorry DG, I thought the ice would be thick enough. You," the Tin Man continued fiercely, looking up.
DG heard someone eep in alarm then another voice broke in.
"There's no time for that now," whoever it was said authoritatively, "both of you need to get inside. You're soaking wet which means you are losing heat at an extraordinary rate. Unless we get you guys somewhere warm fast hypothermia is going to finish what the near-drowning started."
The eeper sighed in relief as the princess found herself being swaddled in Cain's surprisingly dry duster and scooped up into the Tin Man's arms. DG was having trouble thinking straight but she did wonder momentarily where he was getting all the energy from. She was exhausted. A minute later her brain decided to check out of the proceedings.
At some indeterminate point in the future, the near-drowning victim woke to the sound of someone having a sneezing fit. Her brain continued in its reluctance to function properly and she was having extreme difficulty making sense of her surroundings. She wondered what was going on. Opening her eyes blearily, DG discovered Cain's bare chest. After staring at it for a few minutes she determined it wasn't going to tell her anything and reluctantly turned her head in search of further clues. A munchkin met her wandering gaze, blushed scarlet then hid himself beneath the sheets. DG blinked. Continuing her exploration she discovered another munchkin near her feet. He smiled at her and waved. DG blinked again. She seemed to be tucked in a bed with the Tin Man wrapped securely around her and there was most definitely a lot of skin contact going on here. Her cloudy thoughts pointed out that this could be all kinds of fun if it weren't for the fact that the seven dwarves seemed to have joined them. Another moment's fair consideration pointed out that that could be decidedly entertaining, too, but it just wasn't for her. Perhaps someone would care to enlighten her as to how this all came about.
"You fell in the lake," a vaguely familiar voice chimed in as if in answer to her mental inquiry, "It was necessary to remove your wet clothing and get you warm. As the fire was unable to immediately warm the room body heat was the best available solution."
Craning her head, DG sighted yet another munchkin leaning over top of the Tin Man. Straining her foggy mental capacities, the princess vaguely recalled some of the aforementioned events. Well that explained a lot, no wonder it hurt to breath. Peering at her saviour she noticed he appeared to be dead to the world despite the conversation taking place right by his ear. It was not surprising considering he had also gone for a swim in a freezing lake and then proceeded to haul her unconscious butt the rest of the way to the palace. Cain had to be exhausted.
Taking further stock of the present state of affairs, DG wondered if she should be embarrassed by her current situation. She was, after all, for all intents and purposes, in bed with eight men while clothed in nothing but her underwear. The image of what this would like to an outsider crossed her mind and she giggled. Cain's arms tightened around her reflexively. To heck with embarrassment, she thought sleepily. Her limbs were so heavy, lassitude had crept into every fibre of her being, and she was so comfortable. Unconsciousness was rising and she was absolutely delighted to meet it.
"What the hell is going on in here?!" an unpleasantly loud voice demanded.
Reluctantly, the weary princess pried her eyes open once more. Ahamo was standing in the doorway with a look of utter, horrified shock on his face. Apparently the rest of the royal party had made their way out of the storm and caught up. Oh good, thought DG as her eyes drifted closed again.
"Would someone care to explain this? DG?" Ahamo insistently tried again. His first response, however, was from another of the munchkins in the form of a loud snore. The Consort gazed at the scene before him with bemused astonishment which morphed into confused rage as he watched the Tin Man shift in the bed to further engulf DG in his embrace. "What...?" he started.
"This was necessary," DG's informant explained at last, "Her Royal Highness fell in the lake and the Tin Man had to dive in after her. Hypothermia was a concern and we didn't have any other alternatives," he continued reasonably.
"Oh," said Ahamo, slightly mollified, "well she looks warm now so perhaps you gentlemen would be so good as to remove yourselves?"
"Th' dwarvesh ca' go bu' th' Tin Man shtays," DG slurred sleepily. She didn't mind if the munchkins left but she was keeping her giant hot water bottle.
"I second that opinion," Cain said thickly, joining the conversation.
"Now see here," Ahamo snarled, his blood pressure rising.
"Ugh, too loud," his daughter protested, "Aren't you supposed to kill the wicked queen before running off with the princess?" she asked the Tin Man fuzzily.
"Do you want me to shoot him?" Cain inquired wearily.
"Please do," DG replied, "I'm so tired."
Ahamo watched in bewildered alarm as the Tin Man produced his revolver from somewhere amongst the bedding and, despite his barely semi-conscious state, pointed it unerringly at the Consort. "Fine," DG's father capitulated hastily, "I'll just let you guys rest then." Exiting the room with more hast then grace, he left his daughter to her strange bedfellows.