Domhan Fuar was a contrast to the worlds they had visited up to now. Most of them had temperate climates and a few were exotically hot – like the lovely Apiath Traga that Marion and Kristoph had left only reluctantly after reminding themselves of the lesson of the Lotus Eaters. It WAS possible to be too comfortable in their leisure there.

Fuar meant cold, and by cold, they meant a world that was almost eighty-percent ice cap. Only a hundred mile wide zone around the equator was free of deep, impenetrable permafrost covered in layers of hard packed snow. This zone was mostly ocean, though there were a few miles of tundra before the first glaciers began.

It was there that the population of Domhan Fuar lived above ground. They were a hardy race, the men tall and broad-shouldered like Cossacks, the women equally tall but slender. In pre-industrial times the men had been hunters who roamed the tundra stalking huge beasts that provided meat and fur. There had been more ice-free land then, a thousand, two thousand years ago. The planet was at its furthest from its sun now in a long, elliptical orbit that made it far colder.

But the semi-telepathic people had technology now to compensate for the cold. The mere strips of land were not their only homes. They had huge complexes running under the ice, some as much as fifty or a hundred miles across. They contained the hydroponic centres for growing food, workshops and laboratories where the people worked, and warm, comfortable homes. They came to the ‘straits’ as they called the unfrozen area for their leisure activities.

Those leisure activities included something equivalent to the Winter Olympics, and the visit of the Gallifreyan Lords High President and his First Lady and foster daughter coincided nicely with the Féile Oighir – loosely translated to English or Gallifreyan as Ice Festival.

Most of the sports took place in the open air. People who lived under an ice cap much of their lives wanted to see the sky over their heads when they emerged.

The Presidential party had VIP places in the grandstand for the traditional sports such as Ghuffle, which was very much like the Earth sport of curling. Marion understood what was going on perfectly having seen it in the Olympics and explained it to Kristoph who admitted he was perplexed by the idea.

He understood their version of ice hockey better, and followed what he judged to be the best team through their knock out rounds until the final. When they lifted the trophy he applauded them enthusiastically.

Marion and Rodan both preferred the more creative sports like the ice dancing that took place on the third afternoon of the festival. They watched with rapt attention the beautiful movements of the competitors. Only women competed in ice dance. It was not considered a suitable sport for men. As well as the singles competitions there were groups of four judged on the close synchronisation of their moves. But there was no equivalent of the pairs dancing that was so popular on Earth.

“Do they think it unmanly in some way?” Marion wondered as they ate a hot-spiced stew in a marquee where visitors to the festival came to replenish themselves before the next events.

“Yes, I think they do,” Kristoph answered. “Dancing is strictly for the females in all forms except the Kathaki, which is something like a choreographed sword fight performed to a martial drum beat. It is in remembrance of a time when the tribes of Domhan fought battles for supremacy over each other.”

Marion looked worried about that.

“They are at peace now, though the old tribal names remain. They are reflected in the names of the teams competing, here. That is the point of the games – remembrance of the old rivalries, but subsumed into sporting achievements. No sword fighting except as an exhibition of agility.”

“I’m glad to hear it. I know humans are no great example to others – we fight all the time. But it really is terrible when people war against each other for the sake of old rivalries that should be forgotten.”

“There was a dark time when we were as divided on Gallifrey,” Kristoph said. “Before Rassilon, before we realised our real power lay in unity. There were terrible battles fought on the southern plains.”

“I’ve never heard of that. And I’ve taught Gallifreyan history to the youngsters in the estate school.”

“You wouldn’t. We buried our past. We pretend that we have always been a civilised, sophisticated people who are above caving each other’s heads in with lumps of cold metal.”

“You say that as if it is a bad thing.”

“I think it is. At least fighting is an honest outlet for resentments. All the old rivalries exist on Gallifrey, as well as many new ones. But our gladiatorial arena is the Panopticon. We argue politics instead of fighting with our fists and feet. It’s far more difficult to achieve a clean and decisive victory.”

“You can’t possibly want the old ways back.”

“No, of course not. Imagine what would happen if we men were fighting each other to the death while our wives were taking tea in the Conservatory. It would not do. But we should be more honest in remembering WHY some of our Oldblood families are rivals.”

Marion wasn’t sure she liked knowing that teams like the Western Warriors and the Northern Battlers, who met in the arena for a sport that was a mixture of polo and lacrosse, were doing so because their ancestors had once rode across the tundra wielding swords and axes rather than poles with baskets on the end.

Of course, the modern Olympics on Earth involved countries that had often warred between each other, and far more recently than those tribal battles. Football matches between Scotland and England were reminiscent of the many times the border between those two nations were fought over. It wasn’t so different, really.

Rodan liked the sport of Akhaoi because it was done on horseback. These were magnificently agile horses which could turn and run in what was a relatively confined space very well.

There was another breed of horse on Domhan which Rodan had already observed. They were more like the men of this world, broad-shouldered and hardy, bred for endurance rather than grace.

These horses were used in the biggest event of the festival, the three hundred kilometre snow race. It was something like the dog sled races of Alaska, but with much bigger sleds pulled by two horses each. The race went on from sunrise until sunset, with those reaching the finish line before then receiving a prize but those who arrive afterwards being classed as unfinished.

Rodan was fascinated, of course. She insisted on an early night so that she could be up in time to see the start of the race, and was fully determined to see it through to the end. Kristoph reminded her that there were thirteen daylight hours on the equator of Domhan Fuar. She insisted that she would do it.

She managed to be up in time, anyway. She was breakfasted and dressed a full two hours before dawn. Her foster parents were ready at the same time. They escorted her to the grandstand at the start line well before the race began. She watched avidly as the horses and sleds lined up, twenty of them in all arranged much like the cars on a grid at the beginning of a Grand Prix race.

“The horses don’t run for the whole twelve hours,” Rodan pointed out as the excitement grew. “The pairs are changed every four hours. Every team has six horses in all.”

Kristoph smiled. She had read all about the endurance race instead of a bedtime story last night. She was ready to explain that the team on ‘pole position’ was the winner on the last four occasions that the race was run. They were from the northern tribe who lived in a habitat underneath the pole itself.

“I think they will win again,” she added. “They have good drivers and fine horses. They train them on the snow-covered pole, though they are stabled below in the warmth of the habitat along with the people.”

“Not… in the same rooms, I hope?” Marion questioned. Rodan laughed.

“Of course, not. They have special stables. The people live in their own places.”

Her description of the polar habitat very much focussed on the care of horses. It was quite possible that the people had far simpler quarters than their animals.

The race started with all the excitement that any such event involves. The team Rodan favoured started well and were in the lead as they passed the grandstand and sped out of view, but the others were not so far behind.

Once they were gone, it would seem as if there was nothing to see, but the race was followed by a series of automatic hover cameras that relayed the progress of all the competitors to giant holo-screens in front of the grandstand as well as smaller ones around the festival grounds. When Rodan went with her foster parents to eat lunch, she brought a portable viewer and kept a close watch on the race.

The competitors had already changed their horses once by then. It was an operation worthy of the pit managers in the motor racing Marion had mentally compared it to earlier. The old horses were unfastened from the traces in less than a minute and the fresh new ones fixed in place while the driver and his companion were handed hot pasties and soup in spill proof cups to keep them going on the gruelling round trip.

“Four teams have dropped out because of problems with their sleds,” Rodan reported. “Three are lagging very far behind. Even with the change of horses they havn’t managed to catch up on the rest. They might not finish within the time.”

Marion and Kristoph were interested, but not quite so much as Rodan. They spent some of the afternoon strolling among the sideshows and exhibitions that entertained the crowds. Besides, if they wanted to know more they only had to ask their fosterling and she would give them a fully detailed commentary.

“Perhaps that’s her future job,” Marion remarked. “As a sports commentator.”

“On Ventura, where they really appreciate horses,” Kristoph added. “We don’t even have sports on our broadcast channels on Gallifrey. And we are the poorer for it, I believe!”

“Well, you’re the president. You could encourage it.”

“I think not. At least not in this half century. Enough boats have been rocked for now.”

Rodan was more excited as the race progressed. Her prediction for the winner was looking more of a certainty.

“Nothing is absolutely sure until they cross the finishing line,” Kristoph warned. A horse could lose a shoe, the sled might fail as so many others have on this race. Don’t count any chickens, my dear.”

Rodan didn’t know what chickens had to do with horse sled races, but she was convinced she was right, even when her favoured team were delayed at the last change of horses by a tangled set of reins. It held them up by a whole minute and the second placed sled was bearing down towards the weigh-station.

But as the sun dropped low in the sky and it began to be much colder even in the grandstand, it really did look as if Rodan’s faith was firmly placed in the right team.

“You weren’t cheating by using precognition?” Kristoph asked suspiciously. “You know that isn’t permitted in sports, whether competing or as a spectator. It spoils the fun.”

“No, papa,” Rodan answered with an expression of total innocence on her face. “I just know that those drivers are such very good horsemen, and their steeds are the best.”

“Is it really only a year since this young lady learnt to ride? And now she is an expert on horses.” Kristoph laughed proudly and ruffled her hair.

“You should have believed her from the start and put money on her selection,” Marion told him.

“Certainly not. Profiting from a child’s words? That would be quite unbecoming of an Oldblood Time Lord.”

“They are coming,” Rodan told her foster father. “My team is winning.”

And so they were. Rodan jumped up and down in excitement as two teams of horse drawn sleds came into view for the first time without technological aids and raced to the finish line. Her choice were winning by a sled’s length as they reached the finish line.

“Well done,” Kristoph said to her. “Come along. We’ll go and congratulate the winners.”

Rodan was delighted by that idea. Marion was less enthusiastic.

“I’m tired,” she said. “And cold after such a long day. I will go back to our accommodation within the habitat. I shall see you later.”

“Very well.” Kristoph kissed her and arranged for one of his Presidential Guard who were present throughout the day to go with her in case the crowds swarming back to their under-ice home might be too much.

Rodan was thrilled to meet the triumphant sled team and more importantly, the two horses who had won the race who she patted and petted sweetly. It was a little while before she was persuaded to leave them. The promise of food and drink and a warm bed was the only thing that brought her from the horses.

But when they reached the quarters where the Gallifreyan guests had been made comfortable the idea of food went out of their thoughts.

“Sir….” The man he had sent with Marion rushed to meet him. “Her Ladyship is ill. You had better go to her at once.”