“And some one shall some day say even of men that are yet to be, as he saileth in his many-benched ship over the wine-dark sea….”

Kristoph whispered the lines from Homer’s Iliad in Marion’s ear, reminding her, among other things, that she fell in love with him when she thought he was an English literature professor.

The phrase from the funeral of Patroclus was easily evoked when they were sitting in a solar barque travelling over the western ocean of Gaabr-Isyo. The sky of Gaabr-Isyo was red. During the day it was coral pink around the horizons deepening to carnelian at the zenith, but at night it was the deeper hues of claret wine while the ocean was a vintage port.

“I could almost taste the grapes,” Marion said with a deep sigh. “I think I could like a wine dark night sky almost as much as I like a burnt orange one.”

“The burnt orange one used to seem alien to you,” Kristoph reminded her.

“Yes, but that was before Gallifrey became home to me.”

“Does that mean you’re feeling homesick? This is only the second planet of our tour.”

“I’m having a wonderful time,” Marion assured her. “Especially here. I think this is a beautiful planet. How can it be that there are so many different worlds in the galaxy?”

“Infinite diversity,” Kristoph answered. “Wondrous, universal diversity.”

“And yet the people look just like us,” Marion pointed out. “Almost all the people on Gallifrey’s dominion planets do.” She glanced around at the sailors who were manning the solar barque, manoeuvring the sails so that they caught the fullest rays of the red Gaabr sun and steering the boat towards its destination for this evening. In all outward appearances they were Human. In the balmy warmth of the summer evening they were stripped to the waist and their broad chests were healthily tanned. If she chose to examine them closely, which she certainly did not, then she would find a ribcage with one pair of ribs more than her own race and if she had the means to measure such a thing she would find that the breast bones were a few millimetres thicker than those of Humans. An examination of the internal organs would show other slight differences, like three kidneys rather than only one.

And, of course, in common with all the Gallifreyan dominion worlds, the Gaabrans were mildly telepathic, able to communicate with each other by the power of their minds if they touch fingertips to foreheads.

But in all else, the Gaabrans were just like humans, and humans were just like Time Lords in outward appearances, at least.

“The biped shape commonly known as humanoid is the one that millennia of evolution on all of our planets produced as the most easily adaptable to the most varied environments,” Kristoph said.

“Walking upright and using two arms with hands that have opposable thumbs is the best pattern for life,” Marion interpreted.

“Exactly so. But that is all so very scientific and matter of fact. I would far rather think of the Iliad with this ‘wine dark sea’ to inspire me.”

Marion sighed with joy as Kristoph spoke in ancient Greek, a language which she knew nothing of when she first met him in her first year as a literature student at Liverpool university. Now she knew that Greek was actually based on Ancient Gallifreyan and having attended many of the rituals of the Time Lords she even recognised some of the words without needing them translating for her.

Only some of them. She smiled as she replayed the words in her mind.

wrath aeide view Piliiadeo Achilios...
oulomenin, or a myriad Achaiois ethike algae,
Many souls eternal d ifthimous proiapsen
heroes, and this issue eloria kynessin
oionoisi all things tech, Zeus d eteleieto parliament,
Hence public proto diastitin erisante.

“It loses something in translation,” she said with a soft laugh.

“See the wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus, who brought myriad griefs upon the Achaeans,” Kristoph said in the ordinary Low Gallifreyan spoken by the people of his world in their everyday lives. “Many fearless souls were sent swiftly to eternal torment, and countless heroes fed to the carrion beasts. For so were the deliberations of Zeus’ congress fulfilled henceforth from when high-born but mortal Atrius and immortal Achilles fell to dissent.”

All of that sounded right to Marion’s ears. She understood Low Gallifreyan perfectly well without any translation after living on the planet for so many years.

“Eternal torment,” she said. “In the version I read in my first year module, ‘Introduction to Literature’ I think they were sent to Hades.”

“Yes,” Kristoph agreed. “But we have no concept of either ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’ in our culture and no word for either in our language.”

“Yes, of course,” Marion noted.

“You would, of course, have used Samuel Butler’s 1900 translation when you studied the Iliad in Liverpool?”

“Er… I suppose so.” Marion tried to recall the small print on the inside page of her undergraduate text book. A lot had happened since that first year of her studies – the year before she met her Time Lord.

“It’s the standard translation used by students on your world,” Kristoph told her. Butler didn’t try to keep to the rhyme scheme of the original Greek, but to be faithful to the sense of the words.”

“Sing goddess, of the anger of Achilles….” Marion tried, dragging a remnant of memory up from somewhere.

“Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another.”

Of course, Kristoph could do that. If he read a book, he would consign every line to his memory and recall it at will.

“Rage: Sing, Goddess, Achilles' rage, Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks Incalculable pain pitched countless souls Of heroes into Hades' dark, And let their bodies rot as feasts For dogs and birds, as Zeus' will was done. Begin with the clash between Agamemnon -The Greek Warlord - and godlike Achilles."

“What?” Marion looked around as a small sweet voice spoke those darkly tragic words. Rodan had been asleep on the seat beside them. The journey across the mostly calm and featureless ocean had been quite long and she had got bored. But now she woke up and quoted the same epic poem in yet another version.

“Stanley Lombardo’s translation,” Kristoph said in a matter of fact way as if he was having a discussion with a group of academics who took such knowledge for granted. “That’s interesting. I didn’t know your tutors had been using that text, little one.”

“I didn’t know you were reading Greek Literature, Rodan,” Marion said to her.

“I haven’t been reading it,” she answered. “I learnt to recite it.”

“Of course,” Kristoph nodded. “Lombardo chose a vernacular style best suited to oral performance rather than dry reading in a classroom. Very appropriate for a child of her age.”

Marion laughed. Rodan was just coming up to eight years old. Only on Gallifrey would the Iliad be considered appropriate to her age.

“Notice, of course,” Kristoph added. “In the Low Gallifreyan we don’t have words for dogs and vultures, two animals not native to our world. The heroes were thrown to the carrion beasts in our version.”

Marion HAD noticed that, but she hadn’t commented. Something pricked her memory, though, that she felt was relevant to the conversation.

“I remember when we were studying the Iliad, being told that the Greeks of Homer’s time didn’t have a word for blue, as such. They were surrounded by blue – the sky, the sea around the Mediterranean, which made it too common to be worth commenting on. Later generations had ‘kyanos’ – from which the blue shade cyan comes from, but in Homer there is no such word. That’s why his sea was ‘wine-dark’. He didn’t have any word for the colour of the sea.”

“That’s a commonly held theory,” Kristoph agreed. “We ought to take a trip to Homer’s time and find out if it’s true, some time.”

“Yes,” Marion said. “That would be nice. In the meantime, I think I shall teach Rodan something a bit simpler in the way of poetry.”

She lifted the child onto her knee and whispered to her a much easier rhyme than anything Homer ever produced.

“Red sky at night, Sailor's delight;
Red sky at morning, Sailor's warning.”

Rodan repeated the rhyme easily, looking out across the ‘wine dark sea’ to the hemisphere of red sun that had not yet fully set and a moon that was almost fully risen above the horizon, reflecting the sunlight in a warm shade of crimson.

Of course, the rhyme was meaningless on Gaabr. The sky was always red.

“Besides,” Kristoph told her. “There is more to that simple rhyme than meets the eye. The original text comes from the Bible. Would you like to hear the Greek version since we were discussing that language already?”

Marion didn’t answer. She just smiled as he recited the verses, first in Greek then English.

“He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.

And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”

Kristoph finished his translation and added that it was from the Gospel according to Matthew, specifically, Chapter sixteen, verses two and three.

“I confess I did not know about that,” Marion said. “Which proves two things. Nursery rhymes are not as simple as they seem and I am not as familiar with the Bible as I thought I was. Nor, I imagine are very many people on my world, which says something about our adherence to religion when a man from another world knows it better than we do.”

“Never mind, my dear,” Kristoph told her. “Apart from anything else, it is time to leave poetry and verse. We are almost at the place of the sky lights.”

The fact that something new was happening was born out by the sailors. They were drawing in the solar sails and making them into a kind of translucent roof over their heads. It was, in fact, as Rodan could explain at length, being tutored in more than just literature, a form of Joraxan Canopy, or as Marion would know it, a Faraday Cage.

This was what the journey was all about. The VIP visitors were invited to witness a measurable phenomena that occurred just after sunset in this part of the ocean. From a clear, cloudless sky lightning bolts began to ground themselves in the water all around the barque. There was no accompanying thunder, so Marion wondered if it was lightning in the same sense she understood, but it certainly behaved that way in all other respects. There was the same exciting electrical feeling in the air, the sort of thing that might set her hair on end if it hadn’t been carefully done using anti-static lacquer when she dressed for this evening.

Rodan loved it on many levels. Knowing that she was fully protected and there was nothing to be frightened of, she laughed with excitement when the bolts grounded close to the barque and watched joyfully when a dozen streaks of actinic white light charged towards the same point in the middle distance.

“There are magnetic rocks on the ocean bed around here,” Kristoph said. “They draw the natural electrical energy from the atmosphere in the form of lightning.”

“I’m sure that is the scientific explanation,” Marion told him. “But I think Homer would definitely think it was a manifestation of Achilles’ rage against the Achaeans – or Greeks, depending on who’s translation you’re using.”

“I think he would, indeed,” Kristoph answered. “There is certainly something of the wrath of the gods about this. The Gaabrans, unfortunately, were never much into epic poetry. They preferred to paint scenes like this. There are some rather marvellous paintings in their national gallery that we should see tomorrow. I should warn you, though, that the Gaabrans, like the ancient Greeks, don’t have a word for blue, or such a pigment in their paintboxes, either. Wine Dark Sea predominates.”

“I can live with that,” Marion said.