Supplicants hoping to join the Brotherhood of Mount Lœng had traditionally been expected to prove themselves worthy by climbing the eponymous mountain, including a near vertical section that proved too much to the faint of hearts. Those who made it past that point were almost always accepted into the Contemplative Order having proved that their ambition was true and their perseverance and stamina equal to the task ahead.

Kristoph de Lœngbærrow had climbed that mountain many times, though he had never been more than a visitor to the Brothers. Anyone who knew of his past assumed that his predilection for violence made a life of Contemplation impossible. That was not so. He understood fully, just like the Shaolin monks of Chin who perfected the martial art of Gung Fu alongside the discipline of prayer that the one extreme of existence balanced the other. He had come to the Brotherhood when he felt his life needed that balance. But his busy mind lacked the patience to devote himself wholly to Contemplation.

He admired and respected the Brothers. They welcomed him as a friend of their Order and did him the courtesy of forgetting that he actually owned the mountain they lived upon.

In respect of his age and worldly wisdom, they also permitted him to land his TARDIS outside the Door of Reconciliation rather than taking that slow journey up the mountain. It blended with the granite outer walls of the monastery and did not disturb the aura of calm and serenity that those ancient stones had been saturated with for millennia.

The Door of Reconciliation was the place to leave behind all enmities and anxieties of the outside world and adopt a peaceful mental attitude. Kristoph did so easily these days. Once he would have taken a long time to unburden his mind of the activities of a Celestial Intervention Agency assassin. Later it was the worries of a diplomat, a magister, a Lord High President. Now his work as a teacher was much less to leave behind at the door to a place of peace.

There was a physical unburdening, too. He went into the disrobing room and left off all his worldly clothes before stepping into a warm, fragrant bath that cleansed his body. Afterwards he dressed in a simple robe of pale orange denoting an uninitiated visitor to the Order and finally went through an inner door to the sanctuary itself where the Brothers led their quiet, untroubled existence.

He was met there by one of the Elders of the Order dressed in a black robe with a hood covering his head. A millennia ago in the outer world he had been a second son of a Newblood family who made their fortune in offworld banking. Here he had no use for money and luxurious living, instead eating groundfruit and unleavened bread while spending his days in deep meditations.

“Brother Endan,” Kristoph said in greeting.

“Son of Lœngbærrow,” replied the Brother who, despite a relatively youthful regeneration was somewhere around eight thousand years old, proving that a simple life has its merits. “You are here to visit the novice?”

“I am.”

“He has completed the month of silence and solitude,” Brother Endan informed him. “And has shown dedication to the disciplines of our daily life.”

“You mean he has not complained about being given a broom and told to sweep the cloisters?”

Brother Endan smiled.

“Novitiates who come from high born and privileged home lives often find that a major hurdle to the Contemplative life – some find giving up their aristocratic pride as hard as climbing the mountain to us in the first place.”

Kristoph nodded. Brother Endan came from such privilege. He may have been speaking from personal experience.

“Your newest initiate has been educated already to accept hardships. I would not expect him to have such problems.”

“Indeed, he has proved himself so.”

They came to the Great Hall of Contemplation and stopped talking as they passed between Brothers in various states of deep meditation as they knelt upon the obsidian floor. Here, at any time, day or night, in all seasons of the year, an unbroken aura of peaceful contemplation was maintained. Brothers could, and did, go into deep trances by themselves in their cells, and gained much enlightenment from doing so, but the communal meditation was the heartbeat and lifeblood of the work.

It was to one of the cells that Kristoph was escorted. Within the simple room containing a narrow bed and a stand with a basin of water upon it a youth with his rope belt tied at his slim waist knelt quietly on the thin mat set upon a rough stone floor. He was only in a light trance in preparation for deeper explorations of the mind freed from bodily restraint. When his visitor arrived he opened his eyes but remained kneeling.

“My Lord,” he murmured, bowing his head.

“No need for such obeisance towards me, young Dúccesci,” Kristoph told him. He knelt before him to make eye contact. “I am not Lord High President anymore and besides, within these walls even the presidency has no authority except with the permission of the Elders. I am here as a friend to see how you are faring and to bring good wishes from your family. Your former classmates also send their best regards to you. Apparently you are missed in the multidimensional chess games.”

“I thank you for those good wishes and please tell my family and friends that I hold them in my hearts, but I am happy with the path I have chosen.”

“Even when required to sweep the cloisters?”

“Every Brother except the old and infirm sweeps the cloisters in turn,” Dúccesci replied. “Besides, there is an even more humbling work. We keep domesticated plains fowl for their eggs, and cleaning the pen is a task which even the proudest man learns to endure with self-effacing grace.”

Kristoph smiled. There was no response that would not seem to mock the dedication of the young novice so he made none.

“Next week, I am to take the next step towards my full initiation into the Order,” the boy added without prompting. “To symbolise my leaving behind of my worldly life I shall be given a new name. Henceforth I will be Brother Lunas.”

“Lunas as in the moon? I did not know you were an astronomer?”

“No more than any of our race who looks up at the night sky,” Gynnell Dúccesci replied. “I learnt to appreciate the wonders of the stars above while living in the Desert, of course. You were among several teachers who introduced me to celestial navigation. But since I have been here on the mountain I have spent a lot of time on the roof at night, looking at the moon. I found concentrating my gaze upon her light, whether silver or bronze most helpful in calming my mind and reaching the point of meditation.”

“Some people on Earth, the planet my wife comes from, call that method of attaining meditation ‘Savikalpa Samadhi’. Many followers of meditative cults reach great levels of mental bliss and subsequent enlightenment by it.”

“I did not know that,” the soon to be Brother Lunas said. “I thank you for one more piece of wisdom after so much I have learnt from you. I must thank you also for your recommendation that allowed me to leave the Camp School and the precincts of the Arcadian Academy and start my novitiate far earlier than most supplicants.”

“You were ready. Even the disciplines of life in the Red Desert were starting to pall for you. Once you had decided that you wanted a life of Contemplation nothing else would be good enough. There was no point in holding you back from hour chosen goal.”

“I fervently hope nobody thinks I have been given such a special privilege because my uncle is now Lord High President. That was one reason why I was glad it was you who made the recommendation. Nobody could accuse you of favouring me… given past events.”

Kristoph felt a flash of emotion as the young novitiate remembered his darkest moment when he had been brainwashed into becoming a would-be presidential assassin.

“You need not think of or speak of that ever again. Though there is honour, still, in the name of Gynnell Dúccesci, becoming Brother Lunas is a new start with a clean slate. May you face the future well under that chosen name.”

“Thank you, My Lord,” he answered despite not needing to use such an address.

“I understand you are receiving lessons in the academic subjects so that you may still graduate when you are of age,” Kristoph added. “That is good. A young man should have options. Should Brother Lunas wish to be Gynnell Dúccesci once again, worldly qualifications are desirable.”

“I do not think that will happen, but the discipline of maintaining academic excellence goes hand in hand with my spiritual learning and my physical duties here – even the irksome ones. I work hard. I am happy. You may assure my family of that should they be concerned.”

“I shall do so. But remember, you are still a boy. You are permitted to have fun when your duties are done. Should you wish to join one of my hang gliding tutorials I am sure the Elders would allow you a temporary dispensation.”

“I will consider that.”

“Good. I believe your Aunt Talitha would like you to visit for the Mid¬-Winter festival, too. Again, a young man who is still in the first year of many within these walls may be permitted to visit his former home once in a while. Don’t give up everything all at once.”

“I will remember that, but this is no schoolboy whim. I am ready to become just like those Brothers in the Contemplation Hall, dedicated to seeing the universe through their minds, and striving to spread peace through the same mental power.”

“Indeed, you will,” Kristoph assured him. As yet, Brother Lunas had not begun to carve his own future, but a trained mind could see it clearly. In the, as yet distant, future, an Elder Brother Lunas, with a lifetime of dedication to the disciplines of the Order, would be ready to teach a new generation of acolytes how to reach a state of mental ‘bliss’ through concentration on either the silver or the bronze aspect of the beautiful Gallifreyan moon. Within the Brotherhood of Mount Lœng, the followers of Lunas’s meditations would be regarded as the most enlightened of them all and revered by their fellow Brothers.

Yes, Gynnell Dúccesci, whose life had once been in such disarray, would yet be a teacher of those who came after him. As the man who helped set him on that righteous path, Kristoph had reason to be proud, but since pride was rewarded in this place by the task of cleaning out the fowl pens he curbed his satisfaction and asked the young man if he had any special messages to deliver to his family before he left him to his private meditations.

He stopped a while in the Great Hall, kneeling and joining the meditators. It was a profoundly soul renewing experience. He roused himself before it became an indulgence and moved quietly away from the tranquil Brothers. He returned to the robing room and left the pale orange robe before another purifying bath and redressing in his worldly clothes. He said a farewell to Brother Endan and made his way out onto the plateau high above the Southern Plain upon which the monastery had stood for tens of thousands of years. It was twilight and the moon in her silver aspect shone down upon the scene. The peace of the Brotherhood remained with him as he stood there for a while looking across the land his family had owned since before the first stone was placed here. He recalled a legend that the first Brothers had climbed the mountain each with a dressed foundation stone on their backs. A further legend said that Rassilon himself had sped the work by finishing some of the courses of the great walls while the hard working devotees slept. Kristoph fully believed the first story and was willing to believe that anything was possible where Rassilon was concerned. Standing there in such a place he certainly didn’t dismiss anything.

He sighed deeply and turned back to his TARDIS. His worldly life included a wife who loved him and that was enough of a draw away from the tranquillity of Mount Lœng.

And he was very glad not to need to climb down the mountain to get home to Marion.