Kristoph woke feeling as if he had just regenerated. He groaned heavily and tried to focus his eyes. All he could see at first was a heavily gilded ceiling with cherubs looking down on him in a rather smug way.

Then the face of his younger brother filled his vision. And that puzzled him even more.

“Why are you here?” he asked. “What… happened? Where am I?”

“You’re in the palace at Darinda X, still,” Remonte told him. “You’ve been unconscious for nearly a whole day.”


“Do you remember what happened in the garden, during the royal ball?”

“No… I don’t….” he began. “Yes… I think… I was with Marion. There were some men… They had weapons… I challenged them…”

“They used a strong neural inhibitor on you. It almost killed you. Your hearts stopped three times during the night. Good job the Darinda medics are smart. They kept you going with double CPR when it was necessary, made sure you were comfortable, and just let the inhibitor work through your system. I came as soon as I could. You’re going to be all right, Kristoph.”

“What about…” His eyes opened wide. They felt dry. The neural inhibitor prevented the nictating membrane from washing his eyes, of course. It affected all involuntary and voluntary muscle reflexes of the body, of course. He blinked several times before they felt normal. But nothing could shift the dread in his two hearts. “Remonte… where is Marion? Is she…”

“I’m sorry, Kristoph,” Remonte said to him. “She’s… missing. We don’t know. There’s a massive search going on already. But so far…”

“Missing?” He struggled to sit up in the bed. “What do you mean… missing…”

“When you were found in the garden, she was gone. Both her shoes were on the lawn. She must have lost them. But there was no trace. The Darindan police have searched nearly every home in the province. The space port was closed. No ship has been allowed to leave without a thorough check. There’s no trace of her.”

“No!” Kristoph succeeded in sitting up. He was shirtless but was wearing some loose cotton pants below the waist. He pushed back the covers and tried to stand. He swayed dizzily and his brother reached out to steady him.

“You’re not fit, yet,” Remonte insisted. “Lie down and rest.”

“How can I possibly rest when my wife has been taken by… by goodness knows who or what. And for what purpose… There has been no ransom demand? No contact from her abductors?”

“None,” Remonte answered. “Kristoph, please… the Darindan authorities are doing everything possible. They won’t stop until they find her.”

“Yes, they will,” Kristoph replied as he found his feet and broke away from his brother’s grasp. “You said they’d stopped traffic from the space port. How long do you think they will keep that up for? They need to let freight liners leave or their economy will suffer. They need to let private craft go or they will be sued. And if they find no evidence they will have to scale down the investigation… And Marion will be gone from me… Where are my clothes?”

“In the dresser, here,” Remonte said. “But what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to find my wife,” Kristoph replied. “What do you think? Would you stand by for a minute if it was Rika?”

“I… wouldn’t want to,” Remonte answered. “But… I wouldn’t know how to start. I’m…”

“You’re a good politician, my brother. And a sound businessman. But I have some skills of my own.”

There was a look in his eyes when he said that – a steel that glittered sharply. Remonte only ever had a very vague idea about what his brother had done for many years when he was a Celestial Intervention Agency operative. But in the few seconds when he caught that look, he knew that anyone who got in Kristoph’s way was going to regret it.

He certainly wasn’t going to be one of them. He searched in the cupboard and found Kristoph’s clothes and watched him dress before he went to the door. There was a guard, but to keep unauthorised visitors out, not to keep Kristoph in the room. “You may go now,” Remonte said in an imperious tone. “You are relieved of this duty.”

The guard nodded courteously to the two men and went on his way. Kristoph looked around and got his bearings, then he strode confidently along the palatial corridor. Remonte was caught unawares and had to run to catch up with him before matching his stride. Incredible to think he had been unconscious a few minutes before.

“Where are you going?” Remonte asked.

“To my TARDIS,” Kristoph answered. “It’s in the ornamental garden on the east side of the palace disguised as a statue of the Darindan Emperor on horseback.”

“You didn’t leave it in the space port?”

“Just as well, really. Or I would be in breach of the lockdown, and that would never do.”

Remonte had a feeling that would not have stopped his brother. He followed him down the stairs to the ground floor of the Ambassadorial wing of the Darindan royal palace and out into the ornamental garden. There were several sculptures of the Emperor in various regal poses, so the one of him on horseback looking like a conquering hero was not remarkable, at least not until a door opened in the side of it and the two of them stepped in.

“What do you intend to do?” Remonte asked as he watched his brother at the TARDIS console and wondered what he might do to prove useful in this situation. He was feeling a little surplus to requirements now.

When he heard that Kristoph was hurt he had come at once. Sitting by his brother’s bedside had been a bitter reminder of when he was little more than a boy and his parents had both rejoiced and grieved to have their eldest son returned to them.

He had done his share of sitting at his bedside, waiting for him to recover from the coma. Then, he didn’t even know his brother. He had been born when Kristoph was presumed dead. He had been raised as a new first born son, though always with the knowledge that the one who was born before him was dearly loved and as dearly missed.

Occasionally, people had asked him if he resented being supplanted as heir when Kristoph returned. He always answered, truthfully, that he did not. But what nobody ever realised was that Remonte was relieved rather than disappointed. With Kristoph restored to his rightful place there was no longer a hole in the lives of his parents. There was no longer any pressure on him to replace his brother, to live up to his high standards. He was able to be himself at last.

When Kristoph woke and saw the new world around him, where the woman he loved had married another man, where the war he had fought was an embarrassment that nobody wanted to talk about, and he had a brother who had grown from childhood in his absence, it was that brother who had helped him adjust to his new life. Remonte had done so at first out of duty, for the honour of his family. But later, out of love. And Kristoph had acknowledged that filial love and returned it. They had formed a bond, against all odds, that had never been broken even if they were sometimes at odds with each other.

“I intend to find my wife,” Kristoph replied to his question.

“Tell me what I can do to help.”

“Go to the armoury and fetch me a strong sword,” Kristoph answered. “I am not playing politics today. Anyone who stands in my way will learn why I was known as The Executioner.”

“I’m not sure that will help,” Remonte told him. “You are no use to anyone dead, least of all Marion.”

Kristoph turned that steely gaze on him again.

“It isn’t I who will die if I am opposed,” he replied. “Do as I ask, brother.”

Remonte did as he asked. His earlier thoughts about love and loyalty remained unchanged. He went to fetch the sword. While he was doing that, Kristoph had set the TARDIS in motion.

“Their lockdown wasn’t up to much,” Kristoph said with a hoarse sound in his voice. “A shuttle left, five minutes after they should have been prevented from taking off. The Darindan port authorities ordered it to return, but there was no reply. I’ve checked the logs. The shuttle belonged to Prince Kalle.”

“I’m new to the diplomatic circuit,” Remonte admitted. “I’ve not had the pleasure.”

“It’s no pleasure, believe me,” Kristoph growled. “The man is vile. He is the heir apparent to the Etodoma System. He is rich beyond avarice. But that very sin stains his soul. He is believed to have at least a hundred wives, all of whom travel aboard his ship as he roams the galaxy looking for easy pleasures and adding more unfortunate women to his seraglio.”

“Sweet mother of chaos!” Remonte swore. “Do you think he has Marion?”

“I believe he does,” Kristoph answered. “Can there be any other explanation? A man who considers women to be his playthings left in a hurry…. What else?”

“It could be a difficult diplomatic situation,” Remonte pointed out. “You can’t just accuse him.”

“Yes, I can,” Kristoph responded. “And if he stands in my way, I’ll kill him. Etodoma can get a new heir.”

“Brother,” Remonte said calmly. “I am with you every step of the way. But please think about that. You are not being rational. You cannot kill the Prince. You are not the Executioner now. You are a diplomat. If you kill him… Gallifrey kills him. And that would be an act of war.”

Kristoph made a disgusted sound in his throat and took the sword Remonte had brought. He buckled it around his waist. Remonte shivered at the sight. He had never used a weapon in anger. He learnt fencing because it was something young aristocrats of Gallifrey learnt. He knew his brother had probably used one many times to kill his enemies and the enemies of Gallifrey.

“Kalle’s ship left a distinct signature in the hyperdrive field. We will have caught up with him in a very short time. I will take Marion back from him. And if he has laid a hand on her….”

Remonte sighed. He was worried. Kristoph was not being rational, and he was not being professional. As a CIA man he would have had to approach this situation much more delicately. His concern for Marion was overriding everything else.


Marion had been dressed in the gold and jewel covered dress. Her hair had been twisted into an elaborate headdress, and the women of the seraglio had put gold make up on her face. She looked like a Prince’s bride. But she didn’t feel like one. She didn’t want to be one.

“You would do well to smile in his presence,” the woman in purple said to her as she was brought out of the seraglio between two of the guards. “The Prince expects his women to please him.”

“The Prince can rot in hell,” Marion replied. “I do not intend to please him. I don’t care if he starves me, or those silly women back there… or if he beats you. I don’t care if he beats me. I won’t do what he wants. Not willingly, at least. If he forces himself on me, then that just proves what kind of a monster he is. But I will never be his wife… not ever.”

The woman in purple said nothing more. The guards said nothing at all. Marion wondered if they might be mutes. The Prince sounded mad enough to cut out the tongues of his servants. Marion steeled herself for a tawdry and distressing experience that she dreaded more than anything she had ever experienced before

Then she heard a noise that gave her reason to smile. She saw the air shimmer and the corridor was suddenly blocked by a door that wasn’t there before. The woman in purple gaped in surprise. Marion pushed her aside and ran towards it before the two guards could regain their composure. The door opened and closed again as she stepped over the threshold. Moments later, it disappeared.

“Kristoph!” Marion ran to her husband’s arms. He held her tightly and kissed her lovingly. “Oh, I am so glad to see you.”

“I am very glad to see you,” he answered. “I’m sorry I took so long. Were you frightened?”

“Very,” she told him. “But I’m all right now. Only….”

Kristoph brought her to the sofa and sat her down while Remonte took over piloting the TARDIS back to Darinda X. He carefully unpinned her hair from the headdress and removed the make up from her face with a moist wipe before kissing her again. Slowly, Marion told him about the women in the seraglio, and how they had forced her to go to the Prince because they would all be punished if she didn’t.

“They were cowardly, and stupid,” Marion said. “But… I hate to think what will happen to them when the Prince finds out I’m gone. The woman in purple, too. He’ll probably do something dreadful to her.”

“Marion,” Kristoph told her. “Don’t worry. The Prince will never punish any of those women, ever again. I promise you.”

Remonte shivered as he heard his brother make that promise. Because he knew what Kristoph had done a few minutes BEFORE he materialised the TARDIS in the corridor and rescued Marion. He remembered the look in his eyes when he stepped out of the TARDIS into the Prince’s private room. He remembered the cool, calm way he had crossed the floor to where the Prince was lying on his bed, without any courtiers in attendance as he awaited the woman who was to please him tonight. The Prince didn’t have time to utter an exclamation of surprise before Kristoph ran the sword through his heart and pulled it out again. It was so fast there was barely a drop of blood on the blade. Then he turned and walked back into the TARDIS and gave the sword to his brother, telling him to clean it and put it back in the armoury. Remonte had done so without a word. He was too stunned by what he had seen.

“I did what The Executioner would have done, brother,” Kristoph told him telepathically as he held his wife in his arms and urged her to sleep and forget her experience. “That is how we dealt with men like him in the CIA. He could never be brought to account, never punished for his actions. His social position assured him immunity. With Marion safe, he would only kidnap another woman and force her into his bed. And even if some of them are too dim-witted to realise they are being forced, it doesn’t make it right. This way he will never harm any woman, ever again. Don’t worry, brother, about diplomacy. No trace of the assassin will ever be found. No finger can point at Gallifrey or anywhere else. It is over.”

“I’ve never seen you like that before,” Remonte said. “I knew that you could… and had… but seeing you kill a man in cold blood… The Executioner…”

“The Executioner is a part of me, always will be,” Kristoph said. “I would rather be The Peacemaker. But if he is needed, the Executioner will rise to the occasion.”

And that was the only answer Remonte had from him. It was the only one he could possibly give. And though the violence of it had appalled him, the more Remonte thought about it, the more he realised that Kristoph was right. Sometimes the Executioner’s sword had to be unsheathed. It wasn’t neat. It wasn’t pleasant. But it had to be done.