Julia performed her Firebird ballet in front of the invited guests of the Crown prince of Ryemym Ceti. She had been thrilled to be asked to perform it, wondering at first how the Prince KNEW she was a dancer. That mystery was solved when she discovered that the King and Queen of Adano-Ambrado – Penne and Cirena – were friends of the Prince and honoured guests at his Coming of Age party, too.

“You are becoming a favourite at royal courts across the galaxy,” Camilla told her as she helped her change from the firebird costume to her Gallifreyan-made ball gown afterwards. “And now, if you can hold your excitement in long enough for me to finish your eye make up you are ready to dance with your own Prince Charming. At least until midnight, that is.”

“Do I turn back into a pumpkin then?” she asked with a giggle that nearly ruined Camilla’s efforts with the eye-lash curler.

“You turn into a sleepy girl who needs to go to bed. But Chrístõ has promised not to dance with anyone more beautiful than you. Which, since he DID promise to dance with me at least once, I can’t say I’m altogether happy with.”

“Does he really think I’m more beautiful than you?” Julia asked. “But YOU are stunning, Camilla. I think you’re lovely as Cam, but when you dress up as Camilla you’re utterly stunning.”

“Chrístõ is in love with you. So in his eyes there is no woman more lovely. Ask my darling Kohb what he thinks and he will be terribly upset because as Chrístõ’s Aide he is devoted to both of you, but he is so much in love with me, and having to choose between duty and heart will split him in two.”

“I won’t ask him then,” she said. “But I hope you love him as much as he loves you.”

“I do, indeed. Even though it is a strange concept in my species to feel such devotion to one person. Especially one not of my own race.”

“I’m glad for you both,” Julia told her. Camilla finished her make up and took her by the hand to the full length mirror. They stood together, hand in hand. Camilla was dressed in a sheer, figure hugging dress of shimmering bronze satin with a deep plunging neckline and her make up and jewellery all continuing the bronze theme – including a bronze star painted on her forehead. She looked like a beautiful statue of a Greek goddess that had come to life.

Beside her, Julia was in a salmon pink gown with a wide, multi-layered long skirt like a principal ballet dancer and a shaped bodice that emphasised that she WAS a young woman while still recognising that she was also a young girl. It had spaghetti straps and bare arms that she demurely covered with a shawl of sheer silk and her hair was fixed in a shimmering metallic salmon-pink Madden that denoted her maidenhood.

Camilla Dey Greiballa, who had conquered every man she set her eyes on apart from Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow, took her maidenly hand and smiled.

“You ARE the most beautiful woman here tonight,” she assured her.

“I’ll be a pumpkin next week, though.” Julia admitted. “When I go back to school in that horrible uniform. I wonder if I can get a photograph. So that my friends will believe this is me. Or maybe I won’t tell them. This is my secret life. My wonderful boyfriend who is a Time Lord and a friend to royalty and my grand ball gowns. No, I won’t tell them any of this. It IS best if I am just an ordinary schoolgirl with ordinary friends and ordinary things to think about. My lessons, ballet, gym, meeting the other girls at the Mall at the weekend and bowling and drinking orange juice.”

“It’s the life Chrístõ thinks you should have. And I think he is right. Enjoy it while you can. You’ll be his Lady when you are ready.”

“I’m ready to be his Lady now, at least until midnight,” she answered. She held Camilla’s hand, even so. She still felt a little nervous about these grand functions. She always felt that everyone knew she was the youngest person there and that she really WAS a little girl allowed to stay up late.

Although that wasn’t, in fact, true this time. Coming of Age on Ryemym Ceti was actually thirteen years old. The Prince, who had been the ruler of the planet since he was five, was actually seven months younger than she was. And he was accompanied by a girl of twelve who had been chosen to be his principal bride when she was two years old. They wouldn’t be officially married for another five years, but she was already used to accompanying him on official occasions.

“She is just like me,” Julia said as she danced with Chrístõ. “Waiting to grow up to be with the man she is destined for. Do you know, she was chosen by a seer who could predict that in the future she and the Prince would love each other very much.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ said. “I heard that, too. Though I can’t help wondering if it is true about the prediction. I imagine any two young people put together as they were, and raised with that expectation, were bound to love each other, or think they do, at least. If you’re told something often enough you start to believe it.”

“Oh, Chrístõ!” Julia was a little shocked. “It’s not like you not to believe in love.”

“I was talking to the Prince when you were getting ready to join us at the ball. He asked me if I would be prepared to give you to him as his second principal wife.”

“He never did!” She was astonished by the thought, as well as shocked. She glanced around to where the Prince was sitting with his Chosen One, apparently happily engaged in conversation.

“He did. And he offered me a genuine king’s ransom for you. Would you like to know how much?”

“No,” she answered. “I want to know how long you considered his offer for before refusing.”

“Not even for a microsecond,” he answered. “You are far too precious to me. The Prince was disappointed but accepting of my decision. As for whether he loves his Chosen Princess, I don’t know. I think at the moment he is too young to really know.”

“I know I love you,” Julia said and he conceded that much. “Will he really have more than one wife eventually?”

“His culture allows him to do that, although I do think the phrase ‘second principal’ is impossible both grammatically and realistically. I don’t know. I think there is a sort of love there, between the two of them. But it’s not exactly how I would define it.”

“We’re lucky then,” Julia told him. “We KNOW we love each other.”

“Yes, we are,” he agreed.

He FELT lucky as he danced with Julia. He still felt it after he took her to her suite at midnight and left her in the care of the Gallifreyan Embassy staff. He was happy as he danced with Camilla several times, and with Cirena, the Queen of Adano Ambrado while his doppelganger danced with Camilla. Chrístõ and Cirena watched and laughed knowingly as the two flirted with each other shamelessly. Penne and Camilla both knew that they were spoken for legally, morally and emotionally. But old habits died hard and both were inveterate flirts for whom monogamous love had been a surprise.

Chrístõ was not interested in any other partners in the ball room, so when Kohb claimed Camilla back and Penne and Cirena were busy at royal duties with the Crown Prince he found his way quietly to the balcony outside the ballroom. He stood and looked out over the great capital city of Ryemym Ceti. Like Gallifrey they had no particular name for their capital but it was a very beautiful place. It looked a little like Baghdad in the golden age of Persia. There were spires and domes everywhere, many of them gilded and covered in turquoise and other semi-precious substances. Even the humblest worker’s homes were decorated with silk hangings. And it seemed to be a prosperous place, in so far as he had been shown it. He recognised well enough that Ambassadors tended to be shown the best faces of the places they visited. He was half inclined to look for the slum area where the golden age of Ryemym Ceti was not benefiting anyone.

And he was more than a little curious about the Great Dome. Built on the very top of the hill the city was founded upon, it stood higher even than this palace, which was built by the river at the foot of the hill in order to enjoy the water gardens and pleasure barges. The Dome overshadowed everything, and maybe it was his imagination, seeing it at night like that, but he felt as if it cast a foreboding shadow.

The door behind him opened, letting out sounds of the party briefly. He really wanted to be alone, but when he saw that it was Camilla who had joined him he didn’t mind so much as he thought he might. He didn’t mind at all when she kissed him on the cheek.

“You used to be a lot more passionate about it,” he teased. “I seem to have been abandoned in your affections of late.”

“You were never going to be mine. Kohb…”

“Yes. I know,” he assured her. “I don’t mind. But where is he? Shouldn’t you be dancing with him?”

“We’re taking an early night,” she answered. “Together.”

“Oh.” Chrístõ was puzzled. “But aren’t you missing the point? ‘Together’ needs both of you. I rather thought YOU of all people knew that.”

“He is preparing the Ritual of Shil,” she said. “It is a custom here on Ryemym. It involves the drinking of specially spiced wines and sharing of a food made from a shellfish. There are alleged to be pleasure enhancing qualities to them which makes what follows much more…” She smiled. Chrístõ’s blush proved that he had understood. “In truth I think it’s probably just the very strong wine. Nothing sinister about it. But the ritual sounds fun….”

Again she didn’t need to go on.

“You realise the pleasure enhancing properties, even if they are just old fashioned alcohol, don’t work on Gallifreyans. Still, I hope you have a wonderful night. I am pleased for you.”

“Kohb still thinks he has disappointed you by becoming my lover. He has broken the Gallifreyan tradition of celibacy outside of marriage.”

“According to Gallifreyan tradition Kohb should be a house-servant who couldn’t even dream of being anything higher than the one who cleans your shoes. He has my blessing on any Gallifreyan tradition he chooses to break. I am happy for the both of you. Though I do wonder… How does he cope with Cam?”

“He loves Cam as deeply and fully as he loves Camilla,” Camilla answered. She smiled and shimmered and turned to Cam in a suit of glittering bronze, with the bronze star and a touch of bronze eyeliner that made him look even more handsome. If he went back into the ballroom now, Chrístõ thought the Crown Prince might be looking for a new principal wife and Penne would have a hard time reminding himself that he was both monogamous and heterosexual.

“I think that blows EVERY Gallifreyan custom and tradition out of the water,” Chrístõ noted with a wry smile. “We aren’t taught about people like you where Kohb and I come from.”

“I know,” Cam told him. “But you learnt to kiss me without fainting from the shock of it. And Kohb adores me. Maybe there’s hope for your world, yet.”

“Maybe,” Chrístõ answered philosophically. Cam transformed to Camilla again. They both looked out across the city again. Chrístõ deliberately switched his thoughts from the kind of night Kohb, Camilla AND Cam were going to have and wondered instead if the sleeping city really WAS as calm and tranquil as it looked.

“Come here,” he said to Camilla. “I want to let my mind wander over the city for a bit. And since The Ritual of Shil involves an hour of purifying meditation on Kohb’s part before you join him, I’d love you to pass the time sharing this with me.”

It didn’t have to be a kiss. He could have simply held his hands around her face and made contact that way. But he had a feeling that after this night Kohb and Camilla were going to be more firmly a done deal than they already were, and he might not get a chance to kiss her again. He wanted it to be a good one.

Camilla thought her natural pheromones were something powerful. But sharing Chrístõ’s mind as he let it reach out over the city was an experience that she would find hard to beat – unless the Ritual of Shil really did involve something phenomenally mind-enhancing. She felt with him the emotions of the people in the houses spread far and wide before them. Most were asleep and dreaming, and most of the dreams were good ones. People DID seem happy here. Some people were awake. Some in love, and making love. She felt Chrístõ move quickly past them and thought he was a spoilsport. They found a guilty mind somewhere in the district where the silversmiths and jewellers were, getting ready to do a robbery. Chrístõ paused there and concentrated a little more deeply. There was no violence planned. Only a theft of jewels. And she felt Chrístõ laugh softly when he moved on and noted that the Night Watch were not far away and the luckless thief was probably not going to get far.

There were a few other signs of guilt to be found. But they were the sort that come from stealing hearts rather than property. And that, too, Chrístõ passed on by.

“Will the jewel thief be all right?” Camilla asked as he brought his mind back and released his mental and physical hold on her. “They don’t have any nasty punishments like chopping off hands or…”

“They have an overnight jail called the “Shush” where he’ll have to sleep on straw that very probably has lice in it and a bigger one for convicted criminals with a treadmill that pumps the water from the river into the fountains that decorate the city parks. I think that’s fair enough.”

“Perfectly fair,” Camilla agreed. “That was a very nice thing you did. It was interesting to feel what it is to be you.”

“I’m glad I could share it with you,” he answered. “You’d better get on to your room now and enjoy your sweet night with Kohb.” He kissed her again on the lips very gently and then let her go. He smiled as he watched her, but when he turned to the balcony rail again his smile faded. He closed his eyes and concentrated again. He had caught the edge of something else, but he didn’t want Camilla to feel it. It was a jarring, wrong note in the symphony of mostly pleasant night time emotions.

Somebody was afraid. Very afraid. He found the mind again that was giving out such emotions easily. It stood out from the others. He couldn’t probe any further, though. The mind seemed fuzzy, as if drugged or semi-conscious and he kept getting the Great Dome intruding on his head, as if something kept wanting to push his thoughts towards it.

A voice called to him and he brought himself out of the semi-trance and looked around. This time it was the Prince. And Chrístõ couldn’t help thinking he looked worried.

“Your highness…” he said with a formal bow as taught to him by his father as the proper diplomatic gesture.

“Ambassador de Lœngbærrow,” he answered with a nod of his head. “Has your Lady retired to her bed?”

“Yes,” he said. “Has yours?”

“Just now.”

“What about you?” Chrístõ asked him. “You may be a Prince, your Highness, but you are a young one, if I may be permitted to say so…”

“I am accustomed to late nights,” he said. “The royal duties…”

“Of course,” Chrístõ nodded in understanding. His eyes met the Prince’s and they recognised in each other something of a kindred spirit. Not merely because their dancing partners had retired early from the party. They were both young by the definition of their worlds, yet expected to carry the responsibilities of men far older than they. He had been irritated by the Prince earlier when he was trying to buy Julia as if she was a piece of property. But now he felt sympathy with a thirteen year old boy who seemed out of his depth.

“May I speak to you informally? Privately?”

Chrístõ reached and closed the door they had both come out through. That made it as private as possible.

“If we are informal, then my friends call me Chrístõ,” he said.

“My name is Siad Bijan Ame’Deo,” the Crown Prince answered. “When I was very young my nursemaid called me Syd. She said that was a long enough name for somebody so small. Just now I FEEL that small again. The name would not be inappropriate.”

“There is a problem?”

“There is something very wrong in this city and I don’t know who to trust. His Majesty, the Emperor of Adano Ambrado told me that you are skilled in solving problems…”

Chrístõ recalled that Penne had been talking with the Prince for a long time earlier in the evening. They, too, had something in common. They both had to rule their worlds at an early age after the death of their parents. And both WANTED to rule well. For once, he thought, the Prince had been given the right advice.

“It’s something to do with the Great Dome, isn’t it?”

The Prince let out a sigh of relief.

“Yes. I did not know how to raise the question, even. But if you, a stranger to our world, also feel…”

“It’s no more than a feeling right now,” Chrístõ hastened to add. “But my feelings are usually right.” He looked into the darkness and the black shape of the Dome. He was sure the source of the trouble that worried the Prince was there.

“But what can I do to help?” Chrístõ asked. “There is nothing to be done in the night. And we are leaving in the morning.”

“I want to ask you to stay a few more days. The official reason might be that I wish Princess Riassa to enjoy the company of your Lady Julia, they being of close age.”

“A good cover story. I don’t think Julia will mind, since she is due back at school as soon as we leave.”

“Then you will do it?”

“I will, your Highness,” Chrístõ answered.

“Thank you,” the Prince said. And in those two words, which as a Crown Prince he was so rarely accustomed to using, Chrístõ detected genuine gratitude.

Julia was perfectly happy with the arrangement that bought her several more days away from school. Kohb and Camilla didn’t look as if they cared WHERE they were as long as they were together.

Penne wasn’t surprised when he had a few words with him after breakfast, before he and Cirena left for other royal duties.

“It is the official opening of the Tirregnian parliament,” he said. “It’s important that we are there. I wish it wasn’t. I’m not sure I should leave you here on your own.”

“YOU think there’s a real problem?” Chrístõ asked.

“Syd has a good heart. Only the one of them, unlike us, but a good one. But he’s a boy king. And that’s ALWAYS trouble. He’s got a whole collection of advisors, and I wouldn’t trust any of them. The Finance Minister is almost certainly swindling him. His army need a collective kick up the backside. Bo could fight them all with one hand behind her back. As for his religious advisor… well, the universe is full of folk tales about young princes with wicked uncles pulling the strings…”

“Ah,” Chrístõ said. “An Eminence Gris behind the throne.”

“You saw him briefly yesterday. The one who wears the black robes and looks like a monk. He didn’t stay for the party. Apparently he eschews frivolity. Frankly he gave me the creeps.”

Chrístõ recalled the man. And recalled some Earth folklore that had a grounding in history.

“Cardinal Richelieu,” he murmured, though he knew Penne was not likely to be familiar with the cultural reference.

“Just you take care of yourself,” Penne told him. “I may have your face, but I could never fill your shoes. And the universe needs you more than it needs me.”

They hugged like brothers as they always did and then Penne and Cirena went to the car that would take them to the spaceport. A cavalcade of their own Guardia Real flanked them. Chrístõ felt a little lonely as he watched them go. He rather wished Penne HAD been able to stay with him. A few of the trustworthy and well trained Guardia might have been handy, too.

He returned to the palace, where he seemed to have been given freedom to go where he pleased without question from the guards. Or perhaps they made the usual mistake of thinking he was the Emperor of Adano Ambrado and didn’t dare challenge him.

He looked in briefly at Julia and the Princess. The room where she spent her days was part a study where she was taught such academic education as a future queen would need as well as the etiquette and duties of her rank, and part playroom. There were more beautifully dressed dolls than Chrístõ had seen in his life. Julia and the Princess were playing with them now, dressing one in something like the Firebird costume of that beautiful ballet. Thirteen and a half was a curious age. She was old enough to wear a young woman’s dress at a grown up ball, but still enjoyed sitting with the young Princess and her dolls.

Kohb and Cam, in the smart suit he wore for diplomatic affairs, met him on the way to the Cabinet Room where they had been asked to sit in with the Prince on his morning’s session with his government. The Boy King, as Penne had called him, was dressed in a black robe and gown trimmed with silver that was similar to how Penne dressed for such work on Adano Ambrado. He was far from ostentatious, and for his age, far from naïve about affairs of state. Chrístõ found himself admiring one who, for so few years, could manage to keep his head above water. But he only did so as long as his rank outweighed his real, physical impotence. He was vulnerable.

Yet, by all appearances his rank DID outweigh his disadvantages. Chrístõ watched as he dealt firmly with that Minister of Finance that Penne said was probably on the take.

“No,” he said. “We will not raise taxes on the incomes of our people. We have no need for the extra funds. If the Winter Palace has less gilding on it than the Great Dome then so be it. People will just say it has ‘understated beauty’. Besides, I was in conference with the King Emperor of Adano-Ambrado yesterday. His finance minister will be in contact in the near future about a trade agreement which will benefit all of our people and provide all the gilding we need.”

The Minister for Finance’s eyes shone greedily at mention of such a trade agreement. Chrístõ thought he might think again when he met Penne’s ministers. There would be clauses in the contract that would prevent any skimming off of profits by any unauthorised individual. Penne had learnt about contracts from the best legal mind in the galaxy – Ambassador de Lœngbærrow of Gallifrey, Chrístõ noted proudly.

“That is enough for today,” the Prince announced after one other matter of state had been settled. “I feel the need to stretch my legs beyond the palace corridors. And I want to take my guests to visit the Great Dome. Send word to my uncle, the Prelature. We shall be attending the midday devotions.”

“At once, sire,” a lackey said and the ministers all took their leave. The Prince remained at his place and so did his three guests.

“Two things,” he said. “First, yes, I know that Minister Kahal is untrustworthy. There is an expression that I am told has variations on other planets. Give him enough water to drown himself in.”

“Rope to hang with is the one I know,” Chrístõ answered. “But I take the point.”

“Second,” The Prince looked at Cam. “I don’t know how it is done. But keep doing it until we are done there, if you please. I don’t think it is necessarily blasphemous to do transformations of the body in the Dome, but some might feel it is so.”

“I will conduct myself accordingly,” he promised with a smile to Kohb that the Prince was far too young to interpret.

A car and escort took them through the city to the Great Dome. The Prince insisted on being unaccompanied except by his guests and he was able to voice his concern a little more freely with the communication to the driver switched off.

“I have been worried about what happens in the Dome at night,” he said. “I believe there are secret rituals. I have seen lights from the window of my chamber when there should not be lights. And…” He hushed his voice, even though there was nobody to hear. “I fear that the Cult of An’AdaraC’hak might be revived. There have been disappearances that coincide with the dates on which the Cult used to make sacrifices.”

“What does your uncle think of this? The Prelature as you called him?”

“That is the title of the chief priest of the Dome,” he explained. “My uncle is a very pious man. I do not believe he would be involved in such things. They go on without his knowledge, I am sure.”

And the Prince DID seem sure of that, Chrístõ thought. But Penne had been sure that there was something about him.

When they reached the Dome the Pelature himself, Bijan Elden, greeted them at the door. He was again dressed in a black robe but with a stole of heavily embroidered silk and a tall, pointed headdress that, since he was stick thin and long in the face, made him look like a black pencil with arms and legs.

“Uncle,” the Prince said. “These are my friends who wish to join us for the midday devotions. And afterwards, we would like to see the Dome fully and my friends would wish to learn some of its history.”

“I should be honoured and humbled to do your bidding, Highness,” the Prelature answered and the pencil bent almost exactly in the middle to bow formally. When he was much younger, Chrístõ was sure he would have burst out laughing at the sight. But he was an Ambassador representing the dignity of his race and he couldn’t do such things now. Besides, this was the man Penne had warned him about. He watched him carefully.

Funnily enough, he didn’t appear to be the Wicked Uncle/Grand Vizier type that Chrístõ had expected. He truly DID seem a genuinely pious man. Before he showed the Prince and his guests to their place he bent low in front of the altar at the centre of the cathedral like hall and murmured several invocations and blessings. And he seemed genuinely attentive to the Prince as he brought them to what in cathedrals and churches on Earth and some other planets was called a chantry. It was a semi-enclosed mini-chapel with a half a dozen seats and a small altar at the back for private devotions. The two sides were stained glass and gilding and they looked out onto the main arena where the ordinary seats were quietly filling with devotees.

“Forgive my haste, Highness,” he said when he had ensured their comfort. “I have two new young acolytes serving at the altar today and I must ensure they know what they are doing.” He bowed low to the Prince and made a nodding gesture of respect to his guests.

Chrístõ shook his head. All he could sense from the man when he spoke to the Prince was loving respect.

What followed was a service of devotion not unlike that to be found in the Christian sects of Earth in which prayers were said and blessings bestowed and some beautiful and inspirational choral singing filled the huge domed building. One of the central rituals was the procession of a huge lit candle up and down the aisles, from which individual candles held by the congregation were lit. When this was returned to the altar it in turn lit a great metal bowl full of some kind of oil which flared up dramatically and then settled down to a glowing flame. The bowl must have been made of some insulated material, because the prelature was able to lift it in his hands and walk twice around the altar, blessing the four cardinal points of the compass and then place it back on the altar before bowing before it. The gist of the ceremony was the sharing of light, representing life, among the people, before returning it to the god they worshipped. A sun god, represented by the bowl of fire.

Chrístõ let his mind reach out around the Dome and touch on the minds of the people. They all seemed like people who attend a church service ought to be. Penitent and pious, believing in their god, hoping He would grant them the favours they asked in their prayers; health, a good marriage for their children, the annual rains to be plentiful and food to be abundant.

He focussed on the Prelature. And he, too, seemed a devoted servant of the sun god being worshipped. He believed in what he was doing wholeheartedly.

And yet there was something else.

He was nervous. He was scared. And he was concealing something mentally. Chrístõ concentrated and tried to break through the wall. But it was too strong.

WHY did he put up walls? His race weren’t telepathic. Who was he keeping secrets from?

And why?

Chrístõ didn’t know the answers to those questions. But one thing he did know. Prelature Elden, the Prince’s uncle, was the mind he had picked up last night. The one who was afraid for his own life.

And that could only mean one thing.

Penne was wrong. The Prelature was not the source of the evil. He was a victim of it.

The ceremony ended and the people quickly left the Dome. The Prelature came to his honoured guests again, bowing to the Prince. They all stood and followed him as he showed them around the Dome, showing them the centuries old altar that was the centrepiece of the worship. The bowl of fire still glowed in the centre. Chrístõ noted that there were two big daggers of something like obsidian placed either side of it and that the altar had grooves carved into the granite that would drain liquid from it into a great stone receptacle at one end.

“This is used for blood sacrifices?” he asked.

“Not any more,” Prelature Elden assured him quickly. “The Dome was originally built as the temple of An’AdaraC’hak, eight centuries ago. Sacrifices were made to the god of Living Blood.”

“Animal sacrifices?” Cam asked.

“Mostly,” Elden replied. “But…. Yes, shamefully it was believed that the sacrifice of men and women was of greater worth than animal. The followers of An’AdaraC’hak were defeated in a great battle three centuries ago. The practice was banned by law and the Dome was re-dedicated to the glory of the True God of Light. The altar was blessed with fire and water and the stain of the past erased.”

“I am glad to hear that,” Chrístõ said. “But these relics of the past remain? Interesting.”

“The altar is not the only relic,” the Prince said. “Uncle, let us see the gallery.”

“As you wish, Highness,” he replied. “Come this way.”

The Prelature led them to a small door near the main entrance to the Dome. It was cleverly concealed in the wall, the gilded relief mouldings depicting scenes from the holy book of the True God of Light continued unbroken and it was difficult to see the lock of the door unless you knew it was there. The Prelature passed the key to Chrístõ and showed him where the keyhole was. He inserted it and turned the lock. The door sprang open neatly and they stepped inside.

A steep, narrow staircase with walls only a matter of feet apart lay inside. The Prelature took the lead and the Prince followed. Chrístõ put the key in his pocket and followed, his hands touching the sides as he climbed. There was a faint light from a skylight high above from which he got the impression of some kind of frescoes on the wall, but he could not make out the detail.

“Here,” the Prelature said as he pushed open another door at last and they followed him out onto a balcony high above the ground floor. They looked down at the altar and the mosaic floor that, from this height, they could see clearly as a representation of the sun, radiating out around the altar. It was very beautiful. But even Chrístõ, with a good head for heights, found it disturbing to look at it for too long.

Though if he thought THAT was disturbing, the friezes around this balcony near the very top of the Dome, were even more so. They walked slowly around the whole circumference of the Dome, and the blood-thirsty history of that long defunct religion was revealed to them in graphic detail. They learnt how victims to be sacrificed to An’AdaraC’hak were first drugged to make them docile, then laid on the altar and their hearts cut out of their living bodies. The heart, while still pumping, was then thrown into the sacrificial fire and the blood drained from the victim before the body, too, was burnt.

“Sweet Mother of Chaos,” Kohb murmured. Chrístõ and Cam were both more philosophical. They had both travelled in the universe for much longer than he had and they had seen cultures that would have made this seem almost acceptable.

“I really am quite surprised this is allowed to remain in the Dome, though,” Cam said. “Does it not bother the people below when they are at their worship?”

“This gallery is so high up it is impossible for them to see what the friezes show. Only a few people are even aware of their existence. His Highness is a student of our history and of course when he requested a viewing I could not refuse him. But mostly people do not see them. They are one of the great secrets of the Dome.”

“One?” Chrístõ queried.

“A building as old as this has many secrets,” the Prelature answered him. “But if you have seen enough…”

“Indeed,” the Prince said. “We shall return to the palace and see if the ladies wish to join us for a walk in the pleasure gardens?”

“That sounds an excellent idea,” the Prelature said as he escorted them back down the steps and out into the brilliant sunshine of a warm afternoon. “I hope you will grace us with your presence again soon, Highness.”

“I will,” The Prince answered.

They were in the car when Chrístõ remembered he still had the key to the hidden door. He reached in his pocket and found it. He found also a piece of crumpled paper. It was the thin sort of paper used in printing holy books and seemed to have been torn from the fly leaf.

“Come before midnight,” was written in a hasty scribble. And Chrístõ understood why he had not been asked to return the key.

“He wants me to see something he could not tell me of openly,” Chrístõ said.

“It sounds like a trap,” Cam observed.

“You are a diplomat,” Chrístõ told him. “The traps you know of are with clever words. I know there’s a risk. But I can handle it.”

“Not alone,” Kohb said. And Cam echoed his assurance.

He looked at his friends. They looked back with determined expressions. For choice he would have left them both safe in the palace. But they were not going to let him do that.

“Neither of the young ladies must know,” The Prince said. And Chrístõ was in full agreement about that. He went along with the afternoon entertainment in the garden and tea floating on a barge along the river. Julia and the Princess enjoyed the company of their promised men, and Camilla, in a dress of blue floaty material gave Kohb plenty of genuine distraction. Chrístõ did a very good impression of a man with nothing on his mind but cuddling his girl as they watched the world sail leisurely by. But his mind was on darker things, some of them depicted in lurid colour on the friezes on that high gallery of the Great Dome.

There were enough clues now to indicate that the trouble in question involved the Cult of An’AdaraC’hak and his thirst for blood. But what more was involved, and what he could do to stop it, he didn’t know.

He had wondered how he was going to avoid Julia knowing something sinister was going on. Although she was not one to shrink from danger, either, he certainly wasn’t going to bring her to what might be a ritual sacrifice in the Dome. And he didn’t want her fretting for him while he was gone. He wanted her memories of this visit to Ryemym Ceti to be of ball gowns and ballet and playing dolls with the Princess.

But both girls made it easy for them. They were stifling yawns before sunset, and the suggestion that they had warm baths and an early night was readily accepted.

Chrístõ stepped briefly into Julia’s room to kiss her goodnight as he always did. She smiled warmly and told him that she always slept soundly knowing he was near. He felt a little guilty about the fact that he WOULDN’T be near her. But he had to find out what was going on here.

Actually, he didn’t, he thought as a discreet car drove the three of them to a place a few streets away from the Dome. He could just go away and let whatever problems there were here sort themselves out.

But he knew he never would do that. Curiosity, a thirst for adventure, a desire for justice, a combination of all those things, meant he could never just walk away.

They were all dressed in dark cloaks and they moved swiftly and quietly through the lamplit streets. The Dome was quiet externally as they approached the main door and slipped inside. Within, Prelature Elden was prostrate in front of the altar making fervent and sincere prayers to his True God. They were prayers for forgiveness and Chrístõ felt the torture and conflict in his soul as he and his companions quietly unlocked the door to the almost secret gallery and shut it behind themselves.

If this was the only key, then they were probably safe from harm, but even so their hearts raced with anticipation as they climbed the steps by the penlight of Chrístõ’s sonic screwdriver. He shut it off as they reached the gallery and concealed themselves in the darkness to await what it was that they were meant to witness.

The Prelature had some preparations to do, it seemed. After a while he stopped his prayers and went to light huge, four inch thick, tall candles all around the altar. Their glow spread until the whole of the circular area of the mosaic floor was bathed in a flickering but adequate light. The Prelature turned away and sat in a seat beyond the light where he could be seen continuing his prayers.

It all began at midnight, of course. The Dome filled with dark cloaked men and women. They formed a ring around the altar and began chanting and circling it. In the glow of the candlelight Chrístõ could see that the Prelature took no part in the ceremony. He remained in his seat, his hands over his ears and his head bowed, praying silently. Chrístõ wondered what hold there was on him that made him allow this to happen when he so clearly hated it.

The ritual being performed was an invocation of the physical manifestation of An’AdaraC’hak. Cam looked around nervously at the icon of An’AdaraC’hak on the wall behind him. He was a humanoid creature some seven feet tall if the frieze was lifesize. He had a long robe of blood red and a golden helmet and a mask that had a face moulded onto it that was fearsome to behold. The eyes were mad with fury, the nostrils flared, the mouth was open in a scream of anger. Even the golden beard seemed ominous.

Cam didn’t have telepathy, but Kohb and Chrístõ were both sure they knew what he was thinking.

WERE they about to see An’AdaraC’hak in the flesh?

As the ritual chant continued it was clear there were some key players in the scene. One of the acolytes stepped forward and laid himself down on the stone altar. Another stepped forward and seemed to be taking on the role of chief priest. He raised his hands and uttered a louder invocation that was echoed by the ring. As it reached a crescendo the priest raised the two daggers. Chrístõ noted the Prelature put his hands right over his head and bent as low as he could to avoid seeing any of this macabre climax.

But the knives weren’t used. Chrístõ and his companions watched in astonishment as the victim began to glow with an orange light that he and Kohb found strangely familiar.

“Artron energy?” Kohb asked telepathically.

“It looks like it,” Chrístõ answered. “I’ve seen it like that in regenerations, manipulating the molecules.”

“But he isn’t a Time Lord. He’s just some poor soul from the city below.”

“I know, but…”

But as they watched the glow increased and then slowly decreased and when it was done the victim was gone, and in his place…


Cam turned and glanced at the lurid figure behind him and then down at the masked and helmeted figure below. It wasn’t QUITE seven foot tall, but it was very clearly An’AdaraC’hak, or somebody in the costume, and it had appeared where the victim had been.

“An’AdaraC’hak speaks,” said the manifestation as it rose from the altar and stood in the middle of the awe-struck ring. “Kneel before An’AdaraC’hak.”

At once, they knelt. An’AdaraC’hak chuckled malevolently.

“Obedience. Yes, that is good. But I have no need of acolytes. GO now.” He raised his hand high and slowly brought it forward. “Any remaining when my hand is lowered fully will be smitten.”

Nobody wanted to be smitten. The acolytes broke formation and ran. Soon An’AdaraC’hak stood alone.

“Come forward,” he said in the same sonorous voice. “Stop skulking in the shadows.”

Prelature Elden stood and moved towards him. He seemed to be walking as if he didn’t want to do it. As if half of him was compelled to do so by An’AdaraC’hak and the other half was resisting.

“You are stronger than these other fools,” An’AdaraC’hak said. “My hypnotism only partially works on you. Enough to command your obedience, but not your willing obedience. No matter. I have other ways to compel you. I…”

An’AdaraC’hak seemed to falter. He clutched at the Mask and helmet and pulled it off. Underneath he had the features of the victim. But the features seemed fluid and unstable. An’AdaraC’hak gave a scream of rage and pain and before the horrified Prelate and the curious onlookers above the face became a burnt, scarred, unrecognisable mass of blackened flesh and suppurating wounds with one eye totally blinded and the other without eyelids.

“The puny bodies of these commoners sustain my life, but I cannot hold the form. I need noble blood.”

“I cannot…” the Prelate stammered. “I cannot…”

“You will, or I will smite this city. Men, women and children will die at my hand. If I absorb enough of their lifeforce, maybe even the commoners will do to give me a whole body for more than a few minutes.”

“I cannot give you the Prince. He is my sovereign to whom I am loyal and my dead sister’s child whom I love as if he were my own child. I will not be party to any harm done to him.”

“Give me the Prince. Or give me the Gallifreyan Ambassador.”

“What?” The Prelature was astonished. “But why… Why him? He is a stranger to this world. How could he be of use to you…”

“You dare question me? You question your god?”

“You are NOT my god. I do not worship An’AdaraC’hak. I have sinned against the True God out of fear of you and your power, allowing these willing sacrifices even though the idea repulses me. But I do not worship An’AdaraC’hak. And I do not believe you ARE An’AdaraC’hak even if I did.”

“You think too much,” An’AdaraC’hak replied. “True, I am not your demon god. It has proved useful to me these past years to take on the identity of An’AdaraC’hak. I needed to mend my body. And when that failed I needed bodies I could use. But I don’t come from your world at all. I come from the same world as the young Gallifreyan Ambassador. I am of his kind. HIS body is fresh and unscathed by the years. With it I can be near immortal. And I will have my revenge on him and his father and all his infernal family into the bargain.”

“I don’t understand,” the Prelature said.

“You don’t have to understand. Just bring me the Gallifreyan and I will free you of your serfdom to me.”

“And if that proves impossible?”

“Then the boy, the Prince, will be mine. And this world he rules will be mine, also. I shall have his form and who will not bow to me?”

“I would not. For you would NOT be my nephew whom I adore as my own blood and give fealty to as my Sovereign Prince.”

“Then you will be executed as a traitor when I have the power. Bring me the Gallifreyan and you and your Prince and your miserable people will be free.”

“I cannot help you murder an innocent man, a stranger to our world…. I cannot…”

The Prelature was crying piteously. Chrístõ looked at him and felt deeply for his grief. He had a vested interest in the terrible choice the man made, of course. He didn’t want to be used in that horrible way. But neither was he going to give up the Prince and his people to save his own skin.

His choice was nearly as hard as the Prelature’s.

“Bring the Gallifreyan to me, tomorrow at midnight, or bring the Prince. It is up to you.”

With those last words, the faux An’AdaraC’hak vanished. Chrístõ recognised a transmat when he saw one. He also recognised that it was a localised one. He wasn’t far away. Hidden in the Dome somewhere.

The Prelature sighed and stood up. Tears still stung his face as he turned and walked out of the Dome.

“Come on,” Chrístõ said. The first words out loud he had risked for the length of the drama below. The three of them made their way down the stairs quickly. The main door, Chrístõ noted, was unlocked. He closed it firmly behind them and looked around.

“Cam, go and get the car,” he said. “We’re going to catch up with the Prelature.”

He wasn’t hard to find. Chrístõ could feel his tortured, conflicted mind a mile away. He and Kohb flanked him as he walked down a long, quiet street of slumbering citizens. The car drew up beside them and without a word they pushed him inside.

“Don’t talk yet,” Chrístõ said. “Let’s get to the palace. We’ll go to my room.”

Nobody said a word. Silently, Chrístõ walked with the Prelature to his quarters while Kohb and Cam went at his instruction to fetch the Prince.

Prince Syd was very surprised when he was escorted through what he thought was a gilded door in one of the apartments of his own palace to find himself inside Chrístõ’s TARDIS.

“It is my ship. I moved it here from the space port after you voiced your concerns to me,” Chrístõ explained. “Within its walls we are ALL safe from telepathic interference. Prelature Elden, you may speak freely. Tell your Prince all that has happened. Your Highness, when he is done, I beg you to have it in you to forgive him. In his defence, I would like to say that he has shown courage and devotion to you despite allowing himself to be used in a way that would otherwise be deemed traitorous.”

The Prelature sighed and began his tale. It was a year ago, nearly, that An’AdaraC’hak had manifested himself in the Dome. He had put a strong influence on the Prelature that made him unable to tell what had happened, and to do the bidding of the ancient god of blood.

“He made me find acolytes who would worship him according to the old rites. There are, I regret to say, some foolish people who think of it as an amusement to dabble in the darkness. They were easy to persuade to form a cult. He put the same influence on them, and every full moon he would select one to make a sacrifice. He needed the body and the lifeforce to sustain his corporeal form, he said. But even with the life force of strong men, he remained in the broken form of one who had been in a terrible accident. His face burnt, his hands… like blackened talons. What the rest of his body was like beneath the robe I scarcely dared to imagine. You saw… this night…”

“I saw,” Chrístõ said. “He made a new request of you. He demanded the sacrifice of noble blood.”


“You guessed right, Highness,” Chrístõ continued. “He demanded your life… or mine.”

“Yours? Why….” The Prince looked justifiably puzzled. “Are you of noble blood?”

“Well, let’s clear something up right now,” Chrístõ said. “There is no such thing as noble blood and common blood. Your blood, Highness, is the same as the blood of any of your subjects. My blood, as an aristocrat of my world, is no different than the blood of Kohb, there, who was born of the humblest class of all. Your body has no quality about it that this fiend can use to extend his body any more than he did with the ordinary citizens he killed. He demanded your sacrifice because he knew this good man would not hand ME over unless he was forced to do so. He made him choose between my life and yours.”

“Sir, Highness,” The Prelature interrupted desperately. “I have not made such a choice. I intended to sacrifice myself by thrusting one of the stone daggers of the altar into HIS heart and one into mine.”

“Uncle!” The Prince was appalled. “No. You must not. I forgive you for what you have done so far. I understand you were not doing it of your own will. That is true, isn’t it?” He looked to Chrístõ for confirmation.”

“It is true. It takes a strong will and a deep loyalty to withstand the hypnotic suggestion he was subjected to. He was not able to help himself. But he fought against that which was most abhorrent to him.”

“But WHY does the false god want YOUR blood, Sir,” The Prelate asked.

“Because he is a Time Lord and so am I. And he CAN use my body to regenerate himself.”

“THAT is a Time Lord?” Cam was astonished.

“Who?” Kohb asked.

“I have a suspicion,” Chrístõ said. He moved to the communications console and connected with his home on Gallifrey. His father answered the call.

“My son? Are you well?” he asked.

“I am well,” he answered. “Though there is an urgent matter that must come before such niceties. Father… how did Rõgæn Koschei Oakdaene Senior die?”

“That’s an urgent question? It was a century and a half ago.”

“It’s urgent now. Was his body recovered?”

“No,” Ambassador de Lœngbærrow said. “He was killed by the unscrupulous arms dealers he had double-crossed for money. They put a bomb in the personal shuttle he was piloting.”

“So there was no body?”


“Could he have had time to get out? An escape pod?”

“I wasn’t there,” The Ambassador admitted. “I don’t know. Why are you asking this question, Chrístõ?”

“Because there is a Time Lord here on Ryemym Ceti, who hates me and you, whose body is very badly damaged and is using the life force of others to sustain himself. It WAS a long time ago. But if he could have reached his TARDIS, put his body in stasis…”

“A damaged body in stasis would repair very slowly,” The Ambassador said. “But if that’s true…” He shook his head. “It can’t be.”

“I don’t know,” Chrístõ said. “But I can’t think of anyone else it could be. I must go. There is much to do here. If you learn anything, father, please contact me.”

He broke off the transmission after only a brief farewell and turned to his companions. He walked back to where the Prelature sat, talking quietly, and humbly, to his very forgiving nephew. He knelt in front of him and put his hands on the man’s temples and closed his eyes. The Prelature gasped in astonishment. After a few minutes Chrístõ released him and stood up.

“If he probes your mind, he won’t find anything of this conversation. I, too, can put up walls in other people’s heads. Go now. Tomorrow, before midnight, he will have his chosen victim. I will let myself be captured.”

“WHAT!” Kohb, Cam and the Prince both shouted at once. “No. You can’t. You must not…”

Chrístõ looked at them and smiled inscrutably.

“It is late, especially for you, Highness, with affairs of State to attend to in the morning, and you, Prelature, with the Dawn Offices to be said. We’ll all be going to our beds now. Tomorrow, for myself, I am going to spend a little more time with my girl than I have today.” He winked at Cam and Kohb. “I am sure you two can amuse yourselves. The rest can wait until nightfall.”

Nobody could think of anything to say. Chrístõ had something of an hypnotic influence when he chose.

“Ambassador,” The Prince said as he bid him goodnight. “Could you try to recall that I AM the crowned head of state here. I seem to be taking orders from you, for some reason.”

“The King of Adano Ambrado often complains of the same thing,” Chrístõ answered with a grin. “Goodnight, Highness.”

He didn’t sleep. Tonight he had seen too much to risk the nightmares that overwhelmed him and robbed him of his courage when he let himself sleep. Instead he put himself into a deep meditative trance for several hours.

When he roused himself, he felt mentally and physically refreshed and as it was still an hour before dawn he spent the quiet time in the TARDIS workshop. The inventor of the Dimensional Recognition Device when he was but 150 years old, who had submitted thirty further temporal and thermodynamic engineering patents before he was 180, had no trouble building something that would help ensure that he came out of the adventure tonight alive and in possession of his own mind. When it was done he showered and dressed in clean clothes and made his way to the royal breakfast room.

Julia and the Princess were still thick as thieves together, and it was easy enough to make sure neither of them noticed that the men had something on their minds as they spent a pleasant day on the river once again. The Prince arranged for musicians to play in one barge while they sat in another tethered alongside it, the two boats towed by a third at a leisurely pace. It was a lazy way to spend the day. Chrístõ tried very hard to not think about what would happen after nightfall. He gave himself up to enjoyment of a slow barge on a river and soft music and Julia coming to his side every so often to chat and cuddle up to him and listen to the music and the lapping water with him.

Again, it was made easier by Julia choosing to go to bed early. He sat with her as she settled down to sleep, chatting with him.

“Where did Cam and Kohb go after supper?” she asked. “I didn’t see them.”

“Cam and Kohb have their own agenda these days,” Chrístõ answered. It was a lie, but she didn’t question him.

He lingered as long as he could before kissing her goodnight and leaving the room. He made his way down to the palace gardens, as if he was going for a walk on his own. He did it conspicuously. He knew that he would be grabbed. He didn’t know who would grab him, but he expected it to happen. He hoped they wouldn’t hurt him too much. He wasn’t a coward, but he just didn’t want to be hurt any more than he had to be.

He saw the two men in the shadows. They were very badly concealed and if he wasn’t TRYING hard to be captured he could have left them whimpering on the floor. As it was, he walked into their inept trap.

They hooded him and pulled his hands behind his back, fastening them with a rope. Then he felt himself bundled into the boot of a car. It drove a short way, then stopped and there were voices that sounded like Palace Guards at the gate. Penne was right about the army. Pretty much useless.

The car drove through the city. He felt the cobbled roads of the old district as they got higher. Then it stopped and he was dragged out. He knew where he was. He could smell the candles and incense of the Dome, and he could hear the chanting of the acolytes.

The hood was removed from his head. He was in the middle of the circle of acolytes, beside the altar.

“Prepare the victim!” the high priest ordered and Chrístõ was manhandled onto the altar and tied by ropes.

That he hadn’t expected. A quick getaway from the altar had been part of his plan. Ropes were not absolutely impossible. He had broken free from them before. But they did make it that little more tricky.

He just had to hope that Cam and Kohb were doing their part.

The ritual reached the crescendo as it did the previous night and the impostor pretending to be An’AdaraC’hak manifested himself, with some help from a localised transmat beam. Chrístõ heard his malevolent laugh when he saw him lying there on the altar, his victim ready to be consumed.

“At last!” he murmured. “I have a body that will sustain me indefinitely. And what a body. The fresh young heir to the House that has been my bane all my life. Curse you and your moral exactitude.”

“I don’t think so,” Chrístõ replied. “It is the House of Oakdaene that is cursed. “It IS you, isn’t it? Was I right? You made it to your TARDIS and put yourself in stasis, wounded and unable to regenerate.”

“Such a clever mind. I can use it for my own purposes.”

“Again, I don’t think so,” Chrístõ said. And he smiled as he caught a moving shadow high in the roof momentarily. Then there was a sound that only he, and perhaps the impostor could hear, if his Time Lord hearing was still as acute as it should be. He braced himself for what he knew was going to be painful.

Cam ran down the steps blindly, without the slightest concern for himself. He had to get to Chrístõ quickly. That’s what Kohb had told him. The device he was powering up dissipated Artron energy, which was what the wounded Time Lord was using to take over the bodies of his victim. But Chrístõ had Artron energy within his own body and if he was in the direct path of the beam when Kohb fired he would be hurt. Terribly hurt.

He reached the bottom of the steps and raced across the Dome. He simply smashed through the ring of acolytes, pushing them aside. He could hear the device powering up. A static hum that echoed around the Great Dome. He could see the murdering fiend beginning his foul procedure.

Cam leapt onto the altar, covering Chrístõ’s body with his own. He hugged him around the neck and held him as the dissipating beam enveloped them, the altar, and the faux An’AdaraC’hak.

Cam didn’t feel anything, but he knew the beam must have been passing through his body. It partially shielded him, but Chrístõ let out a groan of agony all the same as the Artron particles in his body burned.

He knew something was happening to An’AdaraC’hak. He could hear his screams of agony. He moved his head slightly and saw the false god burning. The energy he had surrounded himself with in preparation for the body transfer was like dousing himself with combustible fuel. He was burning alive.

Soon he was just burning. Cam could see the blackened flesh falling off the body within the flames, the skeleton crumbling.

Chrístõ was not groaning any more though. His body was still and quiet beneath him. Cam turned his head and looked at him. He was alive. He could feel his double heartbeats next to his own. But he was unconscious. He had taken a knockout blow from the energy.

“Brave man,” Cam whispered as he embraced him in his arms. “So brave.”

For a long moment, in the midst of the chaos, Cam just held Chrístõ tightly. As a woman he adored him. As a man he admired him. As both he loved him as a friend and if he didn’t know what his next move ought to be, he at least knew that Chrístõ could come to no further harm as long as he was holding him.

Then, on the edge of his hearing, beyond the screams of the acolytes as they witnessed the death of their god, Cam heard something else.

A sound he had come to welcome.

The sound of a TARDIS materialising.

He dared to look around again and he saw soldiers of the Prince’s royal guard pouring out of the arched doorway that had appeared out of nowhere. They may be useless toy soldiers but they were at least capable of this mopping up exercise. They began to round up the acolytes and put them under arrest. Behind them came the Prince himself and a man Cam had not expected to see, Chrístõ’s father, Lord de Lœngbærrow. He ran straight through the struggling acolytes and soldiers to reach the altar. Cam felt him gently lifting him aside and then he broke the ropes that held his son down and lifted him into his arms.

“I don’t know how bad it is,” Cam said, feeling helpless.

“Not so bad as it would have been if you hadn’t shielded him,” The Ambassador answered. “Love is defined differently on your planet, Cam Dey Greibella, but you have it in abundance, still. You risked your life for love of my son.”

“I just… It doesn’t matter. Will HE be all right? That’s the main thing.”

“He will be in a little while,” The Ambassador answered. He looked around and saw Kohb pushing through the melee as the soldiers dragged the acolytes away. “Yes, two of us will be enough.”

“Enough for what?” Cam asked.

“All the Artron particles in his body have been destroyed. We need to replace them. Think of it like a blood transfusion. My body, and Kohb’s. Even though he is not a Time Lord, he IS Gallifreyan. His body began to build up a stock of Artron energy from birth. He has it to spare.”

Kohb said nothing. He let The Ambassador take his hands as they stood either side of the altar and began to do something that looked almost as sinister as the ritual they had stopped. Cam stepped back as the Prince and the Prelature, a shaken and confused but very relieved man, joined him. They all watched as the two Gallifreyans put their hands over Chrístõ’s hearts and the same glowing orange light emanated from their bodies and enveloped him.

“But…” the Prelature protested. “That’s what the other one did.”

“No,” Cam whispered. “I think… HE used it to destroy life. They can use it to do the opposite. To save his life.”

“May the True God be praised if it is so,” the Prelate said.

Chrístõ opened his eyes and looked up. The last thing he remembered was Cam lying on top of him and the feeling that his blood was boiling in his veins. Now he looked and saw his father.

“You were right,” his father told him. “I checked. Oakdaene’s TARDIS was never recovered. Nor was any positive proof that he was dead.”

“Is he dead now?” Chrístõ asked as he stood up groggily.

The Ambassador took out his own sonic screwdriver and aimed it at the pile of blackened matter that stained the beautiful mosaic floor.

“Yes,” he said. “The cells are all completely dead.” He looked around and then aimed the screwdriver at an apparently innocuous pillar from which a votive lamp hung. The pillar shimmered and resolved into a TARDIS in default shape of a rectangular grey box. “We’ll deal with THAT later. Meanwhile, you need to spend the night in a zero room. Your own TARDIS is in the Palace?”

“Yes,” Chrístõ managed to say.

“Good. We’ll take mine back there. You can rest. And in the morning we’ll tell Julia that I decided to pay a surprise visit to my young friend the Prince of Ryemym Ceti and spend a few days with my son into the bargain.”

“So that’s where he gets his talent for telling bare faced lies!” Kohb observed with a smile as he watched The Ambassador lift his son to his feet and walk with him the few steps to the TARDIS. He reached out and took Cam’s hand. He smiled at his lover. “You’d do the same for me? Throw yourself on a sacrificial altar?”

“Any day,” he answered.

When he woke, hours later, Chrístõ was aware of two things only. First, that he was levitating in empty air, something he knew he could do, but rarely did. Second, a smell of rose petals after summer rain when the scent hung in the moisture of the air.

Except the air was dry. He opened his eyes and recognised the peculiar rose-pink-grey walls of the zero room. He had only very rarely used that room since he took over the TARDIS but when he did he always found himself renewed, spiritually, mentally and physically.

And he WAS. He felt wonderful. He turned himself upright with practised ease and ran through the TARDIS corridors. It was only when he ran into – or rather through – Humphrey, that he realised he was naked. He made a detour to the wardrobe before emerging into his chamber in the royal palace and from there making his way to the royal breakfast room where everyone else was already seated.

“Chrístõ,” Julia admonished him. “You’re late. And look, your father came here during the night. He has some business to discuss with the Prince.”

“Hello, father,” Chrístõ said with a warm smile. “It is good to see you.”

“It is good to see you looking so well,” his father said and invited him to sit next to him. “The business should not take more than an hour or so, and then I can spend some time with my son and his friends.”

The business took very little time at all. The Prince was glad of his advice about how to proceed with the Cult of An’AdaraC’hak.

“They were mesmerised by this man, this dark Time Lord?” he said. “They were not of their own minds?”

“That is correct, Highness,” The Ambassador said. “The power we Time Lords have to influence other people’s minds is one we, most of us, use with care. The unscrupulous few abuse that power.”

“They were all held in the Shush overnight. I shall give instruction to the magistrate to have them charged with being drunk and disorderly and bound over to keep the peace. Will that do, do you think?”

“That will do, your Highness.”

“The Prelature, is going to spend a little time in Retreat at a monastery in the mountains to recover from the shock of his experiences,” the Prince added. “When he returns I hope he will resume his duties as a good, devout and loyal man. The small amount of physical damage caused to the Dome by this night of wanton destruction will be repaired by then.”

“I will have the rogue Time Lord’s TARDIS removed later today,” The Ambassador promised. “I have already had his remains gathered up and put into a suitable receptacle. Rogue and traitor, murderer that he was, I shall see that his family are allowed a dignified funeral for the little that was left. That is our way and tradition.”

“Father,” Chrístõ said. “Epsilon… his son…”

“He is still in prison on the planet where he was captured awaiting the final phase of his extradition.”

“As bad as he is, as much as I hate him, I don’t want him to be hurt by this any more than he must be. He thinks his father is already long dead. Will you find a way to break this to him gently?”

“I will speak to him myself when he arrives back on our homeworld.”

“Sir,” Kohb spoke up as they settled other minor matters. “I was wondering. Was it Oakdaene who ordered the abortive attack on us at the Lodge when we were home on Gallifrey?”

“I wondered about that,” Chrístõ said. “The Prelature said he had been here for a year, with his body slowly recovering. But he had his TARDIS. He could have communicated with loyal servants. He would have heard about his son’s arrest, and my part in it and ordered the attempt. My coming here… that was a coincidence, I think.”

“But a gift to him in his thirst for revenge,” Cam said. “I almost feel sorry for anyone filled with that much rage. But he paid for it with his life.”

“Yes.” Chrístõ half smiled and put his hands together in that way that had become a noticeable habit in recent months. “My old friend, Mai Li Tuo would remind us right now of an old Earth Chinese proverb. ‘The man who seeks revenge should first dig two graves.’