Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

It was a balmy night on SangClune. The two beautiful moons hung in the sky like jewels and there was a blissful silence over the village where most of the people lived.

Chris Campbell was awake in the silk covered bed in the Great Hall. Beside him, Carya was asleep. In a woven basket next to the bed Tilo was sleeping peacefully, too. The gentle people had welcomed the visit of one of their living gods and his wife and child. The evening ritual known as Daygone had been as beautiful as ever. Several babies had been born in the community since his last visit and they were brought to him for his blessing. The mothers presented their babies to Carya, too, as she sat beside him with Tilo in her arms. There was a curious analogy with Human religion in that, but he didn’t think it was in any way blasphemous. Carya was a mother goddess to them. That Tilo hadn’t come to be her child in the usual way wasn’t known to the people of SangClune, but even if it were, it would just have added to the wonder.

Afterwards, when the attendants left them and they were alone, they had enjoyed the intimacy of a man and wife in a way that was only possible on this planet. The background psyche made every moment of their lovemaking a sublime experience, just like the first time they had known each other in that way.

He loved her deeply. It was still something that kept him awake in wonder. He watched her as she slept, her soft breathing, the sheen of perspiration on her dusky skin, the way her hair fell around her face. Sometimes it still seemed incredible to him that she was his and that he could love her as he did.

There was a soft sound that made him sit up and look around. He checked on their child, but he was still quietly sleeping.

The sound was from outside. That was unusual. The SangClune people never needed a night watch. After dark they slept, ready for another day’s honest toil. Nobody should be around at this time.

Chris got out of the bed, pulling a silk robe around his body. He stepped out onto the veranda and sighed with relief as he recognised the man who stood there, glowing with a silvery light that made him look like an archangel of Earth mythology. He was wearing a simple white robe that had a luminescence of its own and his face was serene.

“Davõreen,” he said. “You pick your moments. How are you? Or is that a silly question? You’re Lord Rassilon’s eternal squire. Why would you be anything but fantastic?”

“Lord Rassilon bid me ask you to come to Gallifrey,” Davõreen told him. “He has a task for you.”

“Not like last time?” Chris asked, remembering the dangerous mission he and his brother had fulfilled at Rassilon’s request.

“Nothing like that,” Davõreen assured him. “His Lordship asks only for your time and your splendid spirit.”

“My splendid spirit he can have any time. I have pledged myself to Gallifrey in the oath of allegiance. But my time….” He glanced back into the hall. “Davõreen, things have changed since I saw you last. I have a wife and a son. I can’t just leave them in the night.”

“You know I can bring you back here within minutes of leaving, no matter how long you are gone. Your gracious lady will never know unless you choose to share with her your experiences. Will you come?”

Chris hesitated. He WANTED to go, of course. He often thought of Gallifrey, and the chance to visit there again, the third time in his life, was tempting. He was unique among the Earth-born Time Lords in being given such opportunities. If he refused, he would regret it.

“Yes,” he said. “As long as I can be back here before they wake.”

“You will be,” Davõreen promised him. “Let us go, now.”

He reached out his hand. Chris reached back. He felt the ground beneath his feet dissolve away and he was surrounded by a swirling mist that closely resembled his own dreams. He thought he had a corporeal body within it, but it was impossible to be entirely sure.

When he felt his feet touch solid ground again he looked up at the yellow-orange sky where a sun was setting towards the east and a copper coloured moon was rising in the darkening south-west. He was standing on a mountain overlooking a wide plain.

“I know this place,” he said. “Even though I have never been here before in my life. I know it from instinct… from the shared memory of my ancestors. It’s Mount Lœng, the mountain that rises on the southern plain of Gallifrey. The River Bærrow springs from it and wends across the plain where my forebears were born and were masters of all they could see in every direction.”

He took a deep, slow breath and smiled.

“I am home.”

He looked around at the mountain itself. They were near the summit. He studied it for a few moments before he realised that there was something missing.

“There was a building here. A monastery… except not in the way I mean that word. It wasn’t a religious order… more a brotherhood of contemplation. The building had stood for thousands upon thousands of years even when my great grandfather was a boy who climbed the mountain to seek answers here.”

Davõreen said nothing. He didn’t need to. It was all there in Chris’s soul.

“You’ve brought me here before the monastery was built. That was before your own time, even. Weren’t the Brothers here when you asked to be Lord Rassilon’s servant? You wanted to join them, but his Lordship offered you a better way of serving him.”

“It is a thousand years before my birth,” Davõreen said. “But my ancestors are already lords of the demesne below. This is the land of Lœngbærrow. Rassilon himself put the idea to the Patriarch of this time to give the mountain over as a place of contemplation. The work is begun.”

“It is?” Chris looked around at the flat place where he knew the monastery would be built. There was nothing there.

“Indeed, it is,” Davõreen told him. “Look below.”

Immediately below where they stood was a precipitous rockface. It was the last obstacle for anyone who wanted to climb Mount Lœng. Those hopeful souls who wanted to find out if they had it in them to join the Brotherhood had to climb up there by their own strength and will. Those without the courage to tackle that final challenge were not worthy. For those who made it, that was the only test they needed to prove they belonged with the Brotherhood of Mount Lœng.

There were men climbing it, now. Chris saw them slowly edging up the rockface, finding handholds where it seemed incredible that there should be any. He counted at least ten – no, nearer twenty men. They were all young, fit. That was to be expected. They were wearing loose pants and jerkins rather than robes. That was only sensible for climbing a mountain. They all had something bulky on their backs. Of course, they had brought provisions, extra clothing. Nobody climbed a mountain without such essentials. But there was something else, too. Each man looked as if he had an angular shell on his back like a curiously shaped tortoise.

Davõreen gave no explanations. When he was a hopeful youth trying to prove himself in the face of his Creator, he had plenty to say for himself, but now he was Rassilon’s right hand man he understood the value of silence. All would become clear without needless exposition.

The first men to reach the top of the rockface were startled to see anyone there to greet them, especially anyone who looked as fresh and relaxed as Chris and Davõreen both did. They were suspicious at first, thinking that they had cheated. Then they looked closer and saw that aura that surrounded Davõreen. They saw Chris with his long curling hair framing his face, his deep brown eyes and the gentle smile on his lips. They were young Time Lords and they easily recognised another Time Lord. But when their minds touched Chris’s they saw something more in him.

When he was eighteen, and newly transcended, when he had told his great grandfather of his plans for the Sanctuary, The Doctor had touched his mind and seen what was there.

“Oh, my child, if you went to the Brothers, they would kneel before you in reverence after they glimpsed even one moment of what is in your mind.”

The Doctor had said that, and whether he meant it as a prophecy or not that was exactly what happened. The young Time Lords when they reached the plateau at the end of their arduous journey looked at Chris and knelt before him, heads bowed in supplication.

“Don’t,” he told them. “You’re tired. You need food and rest. You need to… what ARE you all carrying on your backs, anyway?”

They all shrugged the packs from their shoulders and opened them to reveal large rectangular blocks of grey building stone, probably granite. Chris opened his mouth to ask why when the answer presented itself to him.

“They’re to build the monastery,” he said. “But you’ll need a lot more than twenty blocks. Did you intend to go back down and collect another load?”

“These are but the foundation stones, Master,” one of the men told him. “Lord Rassilon told each of us to bring his load to the summit. But he said the rest would be provided.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Chris replied. He looked at the setting sun. It would be getting dark soon. How cold did it get on a mountain like this at night? “What else did he say he would provide? Do you have tents, food?”

“Chris,” Davõreen said in a quiet, assured tone. He touched him on the shoulder. He turned and saw the flat summit of the mountain lit by the glow of a campfire. He turned and walked towards it. Beside the fire were baskets of food, cheese and bread, fruit, flagons of wine. There were blankets on the ground, enough to make beds of a sort for a clear night with no expectation of rain.

“Good old Rassilon,” he said in hushed tones, not wishing to sound disrespectful in front of the others. “Well, let us eat and talk and then sleep. The morning will bring new challenges, I have no doubt.”

These young men had a lot in common with Davõreen when he went on his great trek. They thought they could do it all on the dry bread and rice in their packs. But when they saw the fresh food they were relieved, all the same. They sat and ate, quietly at first, but as their flagging spirits rose they talked. Mostly they talked about their ‘calling’. Chris listened to their stories. They all came from Time Lord families. Most of them were second sons, and in a society where primogeniture was the rule those second sons generally either went into the military service or depended upon their older brothers for a living.

But these twenty had all received a vision. Rassilon had judged their hearts right for his purpose. He bid them come to the mountain with their foundation stones ready cut.

Chris looked across the darkening plain. In the far distance were the lights of Athenica, the capital city of the southern continent. Even further away, across the straits, was a faint glow that was the Capitol itself, on the northern continent at the edge of the Red Desert. Chris wasn’t sure how far it was from either of those cities, or from the country homes some of these men had set out from, but he realised that they had all walked across the plains that stretched below. All of them had travelled hundreds of miles, on foot, carrying those stones.

“Nice one, your Lordship,” Chris thought. “That would certainly whittle down any half-hearted ones.”

In his mind’s eye he thought he could see Lord Rassilon smile. He might even have winked, if the Creator of the Time Lords was ever known to do such a thing.

These twenty really were determined to serve Rassilon by a life of seclusion and contemplation.

And they knelt before him, who had come here the easy way.

“Master,” one of them said to him.

“I’m not sure I’m comfortable being called that,” he said. “Why did you think you should?”

“Rassilon told us… that we would have a teacher, to show us the way… and when we looked at you…. We knew you were the one. We saw your mind… and we knew.”

“I’m younger than all of you,” he said. “You’re all transcended Time Lords. So you must be at least two hundred. I’m….”

“You are ageless,” he was told. “You are beyond the mere count of years. You are the One.”

“I’m not,” he said to himself, feeling utterly inadequate and a little frightened.

“Rassilon has faith in you, Chris,” Davõreen told him.

“Yes, but….”

He shook his head. It was no use fighting it. Rassilon had a purpose for him, too. He would just have to go with it.

“Look,” he told them. “I can’t be called ‘Master’. That won’t work for me on several levels. My name is Chris, just call me that. And… please, tell me your names. Your first names, at least. I’m not sure that family names, those great Houses everyone sets such store by down there mean anything at all up here on the mountain.”

Of course, they only had to learn his name once. He had to remember twenty names. Twenty Gallifreyan names, at that. The two he had spoken to first, who had told him about carrying the foundation stones, were Olin and Konye. There was also a Dante, which made Chris smile. Dante, meaning steadfast in High Gallifreyan, was his brother Davie’s suffix on his formal Gallifreyan name. After Tyron and Peteir, he decided he would get to know the rest as they went along.

If he was going along with them.

When they talked about building their monastery, he found himself talking about it with them, imagining the day when the last stone was in place, and they moved in to the halls of meditation and the refectory, the learning places, the sleeping chambers. He shared the dream.

Then he thought about Carya and Tilo. They didn’t even know he was gone from their side. He couldn’t stay here and watch a monastery being raised up stone by stone.

“Chris,” Davõreen told him. “I promised, didn’t I? They won’t even know that you’re gone. They won’t miss you, no matter how long you stay.”

“I’ll miss them. I love them. You can’t understand that kind of love. You’ve never known it. None of these men do, either. I’m different from all of you in that respect. I… They look upon me as some kind of head monk… But not more than half an hour before you came for me… I was making love to my wife. I’m not sure… I don’t know if I can put my real life on hold indefinitely, no matter what Rassilon wants.”

“Knowing worldly pleasures has not changed who you are inside, Chris,” Davõreen told him. “You are still the wellspring of wisdom that they seek.”

“What if I’m not? I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want to let Rassilon down, either.”

“You mustn’t think yourself unworthy,” Davõreen told him. “I know it’s daunting. But Lord Rassilon has seen what you have done in your Sanctuary. He knows you can do the same here.”

“Will you be here with me?”

“No,” Davõreen answered. “I will be gone by morning. But you won’t need me. You have strength in your hearts, Chris. It will carry you through every trial to come.”

“I hoped you would. Doing this together… it would be just like when we completed Rassilon’s test. We were like brothers.”

“We’ll always be that, Chris,” Davõreen said. “But so will these men. They’ll all be your brothers here on your mountain.”

That was a comforting idea. He felt a little better about the future prospect. As the fire burnt low, he laid himself down on one of the blankets with another over him. It was far from a comfortable bed, but he didn’t mind that. He looked up at the stars in the sky of southern Gallifrey. He knew those stars as well as he knew the constellations of Earth, or of SangClune. They were part of that race memory that made him feel as if he was where he belonged, even though he knew he didn’t.

“Chris.” He felt the blanket pulled aside, then Davõreen’s warm body next to his own. Around him, most of the men had done the same, sharing body heat. He and Davõreen had first done it when they slept in the cave at the foot of the Mountains of Solace and Solitude. It seemed right to do it again.

“But you’ll be gone when I wake up,” Chris noted.

“I’ll always be with you in spirit,” Davõreen promised. “So will Lord Rassilon. Trust in us both.”

But he was gone in the morning. Chris woke alone in his makeshift bed as dawn’s first rays fell on his face and on the faces of the young Time Lords who had come to the mountain to be with him. He didn’t have time to miss Davõreen. There were practical considerations for twenty-one men camping on a mountain. They needed, in no particular order, a latrine, a source of fresh water and breakfast and though Rassilon certainly did provide, he wasn’t going to make any of those things appear out of thin air. They had to start working from here on.

“How do people living on top of a mountain get food?” Chris wondered aloud as his followers broke into work parties to see to those basic needs. “Is that something anyone has thought through at all?”

He was surprised when the men returned to the camp with the wine flagons from last night filled with cool clear water and the cheese baskets filled with what looked like misshapen bread rolls but on closer inspection were a sort of fungus. He tried eating a piece and found that it had the chewy texture of bread but a taste rather like mild cheddar. He analysed the morsel in his mouth and discovered that it contained more than enough protein and carbohydrates for a man to do a day’s manual work on.

“They’re called ground fruits,” said the young man called Peteir. “Though of course they are not a fruit in the true sense. They grow overnight on damp soil near running water. We can gather enough each day for our needs.”

“Well, if we don’t get fed up of the taste, we’ll be all right,” Chris admitted. They made a breakfast of ground fruits and then it was time to start the work of building. That was where the young man called Dante came into his own. He was an architect, and he had considered all of the problems of building a place for them to live and work at the top of a mountain. It was he who marked the outer walls before he set them all to work digging the foundations. Chris worked with them at the back-breaking work. Digging was not the word for it, exactly. For the most part, it involved breaking through the rock that the mountain was made of. And after all it was a mountain that had stood for countless millennia. It was solid stuff.

But these were Time Lords. They had more than the sweat of their brow at their disposal. Chris watched them mark out sections of the rock with hand tools and then use the power of their mind to break it apart. They lifted up huge chunks of the mountain by telekinesis. That, too, was exhausting, but they were full of enthusiasm for the work. Indeed, Chris had to remind some of them to rest and take food and water. They would have willingly kept on going through the heat of midday if he hadn’t gently compelled them all to take a break.

“You’re not just here to build the walls of the monastery,” he told them as they ate ground fruits and drank cool water. “You’re the beginning of a contemplative community here. So I think we should take some time out to contemplate. I want you to reach out to me. Touch my mind… and follow me.”

He had done that many times at the Sanctuary. He had taught young Gallifreyans, Tiborans, Humans, and any combination of species to reach a level of contemplative trance that enhanced their mind and body. These were young Time Lords. They had all transcended. They already knew the basics of meditation. Showing them his particular way was easier in many respects.

When they emerged from the abstract clouds of his dreams an hour later they looked about them in astonishment. They looked at Chris in awe. That wasn’t quite what he meant them to do. He really wanted to be equal with them as far as possible. But he was teaching them to temper their fervour with his own quiet patience.

Patience was something they were going to need in abundance, he thought as he looked at the half made foundations in the long shadows of the setting sun. He wondered exactly what time of year it was and how far away winter might be. How long before they could raise a roof up here to protect them from the elements? Or were they meant to abandon their camp until spring?

Either way, he had easily imagined that he was going to be a part of the decision. He would see out the winter with them either here or elsewhere.

But that was impossible. He had to go back to his wife and child. He could help them get started - maybe a few weeks. Davie spent as long as that practicing for his endurance races and was gone no more than an afternoon. He could do that. But any longer than that was impossible, surely.

“Chris, teach us more of your meditation,” Dante asked him. They had a fire again, but this time they had built it themselves. They ate more ground fruit, and they looked at the stars over their heads.

“We’ll do that again tomorrow,” he promised. “We’ve worked hard all day. Even Rassilon won’t mind if we relax a bit, now. We’ve got a campfire… why don’t we have a sing a long?”

In his head, the idea sounded all right. But the way they all looked at him he started to wonder. He was sure Time Lords had music. His mother liked to sing. Granted most of the songs she sang were by Cliff Richard and came from Earth in the 1960s. Perhaps it was something only Gallifreyans who had travelled away from Gallifrey really appreciated.

“We sing,” Konye told him. “We have the Great Choruses. We have the Pazzione Gallifreya and Lord Azzulan’s Oratorio.”

“That’s not exactly what I had in mind,” Chris admitted. “I just mean something everyone can join in with. Like….”

He thought of the songs he liked best. But he wasn't about to teach the lyrics of ‘Man, I Feel Like a Woman’ to a group of Time Lords. It made sense to him. He understood the context. And he knew it wasn’t the one he remembered from when Spenser and Stuart performed it at his and Davie’s twenty-third birthday party.

He definitely wasn’t going to try to explain that to them.

“There’s a song my brother always sings,” he said. “He says it’s about us… Time Lords… the Princes of the Universe.”

He began to sing. He knew the words. He had heard his brother sing it often enough. And they did fit the hopes and ideals of their ancestors. He was here, now, with those ancestors and he taught them the song.

“What is it about?” Olin asked when they had finished singing. “A world with the darkest power…. What world, what power? Is it something that threatens Gallifrey?”

“It’s not any particular historical event,” Chris answered. “But as Time Lords we have a duty to resist the forces of darkness wherever we might find them, according to our talents. My brother is a warrior. He fights the darkness with a sword. I’ve always fought it by spreading the light instead. At least I hope I have. Davie’s sort of victory is easier to measure. But I suppose that’s why I’m here, helping you all to spread the light with me.”

“That should be our name for you, Chris,” Tyron said to him. “Lúzio – the giver of light.”

He wondered if they knew that Lúzio was the suffix to his Gallifreyan name. He had not told them his full name, mainly because the ancestors whose names he bore by tradition still hadn’t been born in this time. His name was anachronistic.

But it was also, he realised for the first time, prophetic. They all understood what he was saying. There were plenty of warriors for Gallifrey in their time. But they were men who wanted to spread the light. And, yes, he was here to help them do that.

They settled down to sleep on their second night on the mountain. Chris expected to sleep alone this time, even though the others paired off under their blankets to share bodily warmth. He was surprised but not displeased when the young Time Lord called Orin slipped beside him. He was glad of his company. When there were no sounds around him but the soft breathing of sleeping men he might easily have felt lonely. He might have missed Carya more than he had during the day when he had so much else to occupy his mind.

“I’m not ready to go back, yet,” he thought. “They need me here for a little while longer.”

Warm rays of sunshine woke them all again the next morning. They set about their necessary tasks then they got ready to work again on the foundations of the building.

They looked in amazement at the site. The foundation was finished. The twenty foundation stones waited to be put into place. Beside them were a hundred more stones ready to build the walls.

“Rassilon has provided,” Chris said. He wondered why he was even surprised by that.

They worked hard all day, except for the rest breaks when Chris again led them in deep, soul-cleansing meditations. By the time the sun was setting on that third evening the Brotherhood of Mount Lœng had a wall, one course of it, at least, to show for it. They were justifiably proud of their efforts.

“Lúzio!” Chris turned to the voice of Dante calling him by the name they had chosen for him last night. A few of them had called him that during the day, others still called him Chris, one or two were inclined to call him ‘Master’ but the fact that he had hauled stones into place with them dispelled that. He had a feeling Lúzio was going to catch on.

“There are men coming up the rockface.” Chris looked where Dante was pointing. There were at least ten of them, all with angular tortoiseshell packs on their backs.

They had new recruits.

“All we have to offer them is ground fruit and water,” he mused. Then Dante laughed and pointed. In the place where they ate and slept, the baskets they had gathered ground fruits in were full of choice foods such as they had eaten the night before. Chris looked at the flagons and knew without looking that the water had turned to wine.

“It might be churlish to point out that water to wine as a miracle isn’t entirely original,” he said. But nobody knew what he meant by that. They got ready to greet the new men with an al fresco feast. After they had eaten, Chris was prevailed upon to spend time drawing all of them, old and new, into another meditative period. But afterwards, in the light of the campfire, he also taught them songs from his Human life that seemed long ago and far away now. He still didn’t think this all male group were ready for Shania Twain, but he introduced them to one of the few songs his mother brought from the 1960s that wasn’t from Cliff Richard’s Greatest Hits. It fitted their situation exactly.

“When you walk through the storm, Hold your head up high, And don't be afraid of the dark. At the end of the storm, There's a golden sky, And the sweet silver song of the lark…”

“Walk on, through the wind, Walk on, through the rain. Though your dreams be tossed and blown, Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart, And you'll never walk alone…”

He had probably known that song for as long as he remembered, probably before he COULD walk. When he did, he did so with Davie by his side, so the words were literally true for him. Later, he understood the meaning from a Human faith viewpoint. But when he sang it this time, here on the mountain, under the Gallifreyan stars, he knew that somebody else was walking beside him.

“Rassilon,” he said. “He’s with us all the way. We know that because of the way he’s helped us with the work, matching our toil with his generosity, providing a change from ground fruits for our meal tonight. He’s always going to be with us. I have no doubt. But I don’t think he’s always going to be so demonstrative about it. In the long term, we need to find our own way of supplementing the supply of ground fruit with other food. And….” he looked up at the cloudless sky and the bright stars shining down. “We will have storms. Literal ones and figurative, I expect. We cannot expect him to protect us every time. We need to do that for ourselves.”

They had no literal storms as the first few days turned to weeks, at least. They worked in good weather and slept under the stars. The walls of the monastery rose a little each day, and considerably more each night, by the generosity of Rassilon. The ranks were swelled twice more by men who climbed the rockface with stones on their backs. One of them brought the solution to the food problem, the title deeds to a farm, orchard and vineyard on the plain below. There were enough men now for them to take turns back down the mountain working on the land. They brought back milk and cheese, bread and cúl nuts that could be processed into nutritional food, new wine that could be laid down in the cellar, just as soon as they had a cellar, for a future time.

Sometimes when he lay on his blanket, Chris remembered that he did have another life, and that he would return to it soon. He thought fondly of his wife and child. Then he slept with one or other of the young Time Lords by his side. They all did that, for shared warmth, for company. It had nothing to do with the reasons why he slept beside his wife in that other life. It had nothing to do with the reasons why men on the planet he was born on sometimes slept beside other men. He didn’t think any of his Brothers on Mount Lœng even realised such reasons existed. Chris didn’t worry about it.

The weeks slipped by and the work progressed, by day by the slow toil of them all, by night by Rassilon’s miraculous doing. The shell of the building was filled with inner walls forming the rooms within. Windows took shape. One evening when the day’s work was done a dozen new brothers climbed the rockface with strangely shaped packs. They didn’t bring stones this time, but panes of glass. Rassilon had called them as he called the others and bid them bring glass.

Not one single pane was cracked during the long, hard journey.

A few weeks later another new group climbed the mountain with roof tiles.

“They’re the last,” Chris noted to the closest of his Brothers, Dante and Orin, who most often shared their bodily warmth with him at night. “The summer is almost over. Can you feel the change in the air? Nobody else will come up the mountain until spring. We’re here together until then.”

At the back of his mind, he knew that he didn’t have to be. When he was ready, he could go back home, to Carya and Tilo and his family, his Sanctuary with solar-powered central heating.

He didn’t have to stay on a mountain struggling to get a roof on a building before the first rains of autumn – a building that had no heating, no water, no furniture, nothing but bare stone floors, stone walls, bare panes of glass in the windows. It would keep out the wind and rain, and the snow and ice in their turn. But he wasn’t sure how comfortable they were going to be.

It was a race to get the roof on before the rains came. They had started to sleep within the walls before then because the autumn winds were starting to blow across the plain and it was cold at night. Even more so, the comfort of each other when they slept was welcome.

It was while they rushed to finish that job that they lost Dante, the talented young architect whose design even Rassilon had followed when he assisted in the building of the walls. It was an accident. Somehow he slipped while working on the very highest part of the building. He fell a long way down the steep west side of the mountain. Chris went with two others to find his broken body and carry it back up. There was nothing to be done for him. He was a Time Lord, but less than three hundred years old, not mature enough to regenerate. They wrapped his body and built a funeral pyre according to their tradition. On a black, stormy night with rain clouds on the horizon they held the funeral on top of the mountain. They sang one of the songs Chris had taught them, because Dante had believed as strongly as any of them that Rassilon walked with them all in their endeavour.

Chris fully believed that was true. But he didn’t waste any bitter thoughts on asking why Rassilon had let a good man die. Such things were part of the fabric of life, even for Time Lords. Dante Dvoratre was the first name to be carved into one of the foundation stones. He would not be the last. Death would come to the Brotherhood as it came to all men.

But with Rassilon’s help they had made sure it didn’t come through exposure to the bitter elements as the winter drew closer. The rains came that same night, washing away the ashes of the funeral pyre. That night they found out how strong their roof and walls were as wind and rain lashed at it. The next day they repaired the damage and began the work of making the bare stone walls of the halls they had built into a home they could live and work in. Plaster was smoothed over the stone. That in turn was painted and decorated by the patient hands of the most talented among them with symbols of peace and inner tranquillity. Within their benign protection, they learnt not to listen to the sound of the howling wind and the relentless rain and meditate together for hours at a time, learning to have the inner peace that Lúzio, the giver of light, came to show them.

The wind and rain gave way to extreme cold. The plain below turned white overnight. The mountain froze. Now they were cut off from the rest of their world completely. Knowing there was no way down the mountain even if they chose might have demoralised some of them. They had homes and families somewhere, after all. Warm hearths, soft beds, good food, were tempting thoughts.

Chris could have thought of those things, and he had Davõreen’s promise. He could go home to those comforts whenever he chose.

He alone chose the hardship of a long winter on the mountain. He showed his Brothers how to free themselves from the confines of their bodies and let their minds fly freely across the plain. That homesickness was dispelled when men were able to reach out and see loved ones many hundreds of miles away and know they were well and happy.

The winter really did bite hard, though. They still had no way of heating their now beautified halls. They shivered in the corridors. For more than a month they lived almost continuously within the room designated as a refectory. They ate and slept and meditated there and wondered if they would ever feel warm again.

“Of course we will,” Chris assured them. “This winter was always going to be a hard one, our first in a building that isn’t quite finished, yet. In spring we will be able to bring supplies up and complete the work. Next winter will be easier.”

They believed him.

He believed himself. In quiet moments he thought, sometimes, of his other life, back on Earth, of Carya and Tilo, who he loved dearly. He remembered the physical passion of his marriage.

But he didn’t miss them. He knew they were there when he was ready to return to them. He would know when that time was. But it wasn’t yet. And it wouldn’t be in the spring when there would be so much work to do. It wouldn’t be in the summer or autumn when he intended to show them how to fit solar panels over the ordinary roof tiles that would shine their reflected light across the plains like a beacon, showing the people of Gallifrey that they were there on the mountain, while storing energy to heat and light the monastery. He knew ways to tap into the springs beneath the mountain rock and ensure that clean water could be piped inside. They would have water to drink, to fill a reflecting pool in the meditation room, to fill a purification bath that they could use before the deepest and most serious rituals.

They could finally dispense with the necessity to dig latrines outside the walls for that even more basic and inescapable need.

With the monastery nearly completed and less energy expended on it, he was able to start teaching them the martial arts that he learnt from his great-grandfather as a physical complement to the mental disciplines of meditation. He was a master of Gung Fu that came from a monastery not unlike this one in the high mountains of China, and Sun Ko Du that came from yet another place of peace and learning in the even higher mountains of Malvoria millions of light years away from there. He taught both to the Brothers of Mount Lœng.

The summer days were filled with work and meditation. In the hours of leisure they sometimes sang the songs that Chris had taught them, but more often there were new songs that they made for themselves. The nights were calm and quiet. When he wasn’t in the meditation hall Chris spent those nights in the warm company of his Brothers. Orin was his most constant companion. He was the second son of a good family of Athenica. His father and brother were both magisters in the Hall of Justice in that city. He was the daydreamer who his family had despaired of.

“They don’t really understand what I do here,” he confided in Chris one night. He had been away from the Brotherhood to visit his people. They all did that from time to time. It was never meant to be a prison or an order so closed that they were dead to their families. “But I think they’re proud of me in their way. I didn’t feel as if I really belonged there anymore. My hearts are calmer here on the mountain. It’s my true home, now.”

“Then it always will be,” Chris promised. “You’re a lot like me, I think. Your daydreams that caused such despair to your practical-minded father and brother… they’re like mine. I think I should train you to take over from me when I’m ready to go home.”

That wasn’t quite the right thing to say. Orin was alarmed at both ideas.

“I’m not going anywhere, yet,” he assured him. “I won’t leave any of you until you’re ready to carry on without me.”

“We all need you, Chris,” Orin said. “You’re our light.”

“That was never Lord Rassilon’s intention. You’re not meant to depend on me. I must leave one day, when I’ve taught you everything I can teach you. Don’t any of you be afraid of that day, especially not you, Orin, my friend. I think you do have what it takes to lead them. You’ll be the light giver after me.”

He told him that as they lay together on the sleeping mat they shared in one of the narrow cubicles built for that purpose. He knew Orin was a little scared by the destiny being marked out for him. But he would rise to that destiny. He could feel it in him.

But Orin had plenty of time to get used to that destiny being thrust upon him. Chris had no plans to leave, yet. He had a purpose here. He was needed.

Of course, he was needed at home, too. He had his students there. Some of the young Gallifreyans were transcending this year. They needed his special attention. Then there was the plan to build a second Sanctuary on SangClune. He had plenty of volunteers to build it, but they needed guidance. There were other responsibilities, too. He had a son who would grow up to be a Time Lord. He needed a father’s special attention. He had a little sister who was almost a young woman, now, and her boyfriend who needed reminding occasionally of what ‘almost a young woman’ meant.

“You’re a father, Lúzio?” Orin looked at him in surprise. “I didn’t know.”

“That’s why I have to go home one day,” Chris told him. “I have Lord Rassilon’s word that I will. But not yet.”

Through another long, cold winter that they were a little better prepared for this time, Chris continued to teach his methods of meditation, his philosophy of peaceful harmony with each other. He spent many nights, not sharing a sleeping mat with Orin, but a private meditation room where his special training progressed.

In the spring, when they were able to descend the mountain and bring back provisions, the Brothers brought back grave news. Gallifrey was going to war. The enemy threatened the peace and freedom of the entire galaxy.

“Some of us will be needed,” Tyron said. “We are young and fit… fitter even than many of our worldly brothers. The life we have here, the meditation and hard work… makes us better candidates for the army than those without such discipline.”

“It’s not what I prepared you for,” Chris pointed out. “But I can’t stop those who choose to go. When the war is over… whichever way it goes… you will be welcome to return to the mountain.”

At least half of them chose to go. They went with the blessing of their Brothers and their good wishes, and nothing was heard of them through the summer. Nothing much was known of the war at all. The men who had left them were often in the thoughts of those who remained, but there was nothing they could do for them.

Just before the weather made it impossible, a small group of men made it up the mountain to the monastery. Seven of them – out of forty who had left. Tyron who had encouraged them to go wasn’t among them. He was one of the war dead.

The ones who came home were given food and rest and when they were ready they spoke of the war, of the victory that was won at such a terrible cost of good men’s lives. Then they didn’t speak of it again. As the winter set in, Chris spent many long hours with those seven, teaching them to have calm minds again, to sleep without nightmares, and to wake without guilt about living while so many others died. He had a measure of success. But he couldn’t help feeling that these seven would always be set apart from the others. Their experiences had coloured their souls differently.

Even so, they resumed their work of quiet contemplation interspersed with the necessary labour to ensure they had food and other supplies on their mountain. The depleted ranks were swelled again during the summer by new men who wanted to live their way. They climbed the mountain with weaving looms and spinning wheels on their backs, and bags of cotton and wool to be made into robes for the Brothers to wear or curtains for the windows, wall hangings woven with symbols of inner tranquillity. They taught themselves the skills in the winter months when they were confined to the monastery by ice and snow. Their leader became surprisingly adept at a weaving loom. He found the work just as cathartic as the hours of deep meditation that he and the Brothers practiced daily.

Whether in meditation or at the loom, or at night resting on his sleep mat, he was quite content with himself. He was where he wanted to be, where he was needed. Yes, he had another life and he would go back to it one day. But not yet. There was still much to be done.

They were not without troubles as the years turned one after the other. There came a disastrous summer when the plains were devastated by floods. The crops that they depended on for food failed. When the harvest season came there was barely enough gathered in the store for three-quarters of the Brotherhood. Chris thought about sending some of the newest recruits back to their homes until spring, but food was scarce everywhere. Even, it was said, some of the Oldblood Houses were struggling. They would just be sending back more mouths to feed. Besides, after a wet summer the bitter winter rains came sooner than expected and it was obvious that nobody was going up or down the mountain until spring.

The food they had was rationed severely. To that end Chris taught them all the very deepest meditations of all. For much of the winter the monastery was as silent as the surrounding countryside. The Brothers were ‘hibernating’. They knelt in the meditation hall with their bodies slowed down, their hearts beating only once every hour, their breathing even rarer, their internal organs stilled, brains at rest. When they rose from that deep state they were surprised to find that they weren’t hungry as they were when they simply slept. Their bodies were refreshed and renewed.

They were all, it had to be said, thinner by the time spring came and it was possible to find ground fruits by gently running streams to feast upon, but they came through it without losing a single man to starvation.

Nobody asked the obvious question. Why didn’t Rassilon fill their food stores with the good things he had provided when they first came to the mountain? They knew that wasn’t going to happen. Rassilon was, they all knew, with them in spirit every step of the way, just as he was in the song Lúzio gave to them. But he expected them to solve their problems, be it food or anything else, by their own wits.

And they did. They overcame every hardship, every struggle. As the seasons turned, summer to autumn, winter to spring, they worked and learnt. Some men left after a while. They felt they had learnt enough and it was time to return to the world beyond the mountain. Others came, eager to discover what was so wonderful up there that men would struggle up that rockface to get there. Few of them were disappointed.

Their greatest trial came when the monastery had stood for two hundred winters. A rare and terrible thing happened – an earthquake shook the mountain and broke open the plain below along what came to be known in future years as Omega’s Fault. When the aftershocks subsided five of the brothers lay dead, crushed when a section of wall in the east wing collapsed. Among them were gentle Petier who had been one of the first to climb the mountain carrying the very stones that had been their bane.

The five funeral pyres lit the night sky and were a beacon across the plain. The Brothers mourned the loss of their friends. Then some went down the mountain to help where others had been affected by the disaster. Others stayed to repair the damage to their home. The pain of loss was shared by them all.

Their leader, Luzio, the light give, led them through these tribulations. Nobody knew him as Chris, now. The youngest and newest of the Brothers didn’t know he had any other name.

The only exception was Orin, his closest companion. He called him Chris when they lay together on their sleeping mat at night. It was then that he remembered his other life. Orin was the only one of the Brothers who knew the names of Chris’s loved ones, his wife, Carya, with skin a colour most Gallifreyans had never seen before, his baby son, Tilo, and all the rest of his family.

“You left them so long ago,” Orin said to him. “It’s nearly three hundred years, now, since the first day we all came to the mountain.”

“I know,” Chris answered. “But Davõreen promised me. When I go back, they won’t even know I’ve been away.”

“I think they might,” Orin told him with a soft laugh. Chris felt his hand on his face. He knew what he meant. They didn’t have very many mirrors in the monastery, but he knew his features had changed over the years. He had worked under the sun so often he was tanned deeply, and his face had aged slowly. Like most of the older Brothers he had a beard, and his hair was even longer than it was when he deliberately grew it that way.

“I think Rassilon has some plan about that,” he said. “Though I don’t know what. All I know is, I have no need to leave just yet. I know they’re safe. No harm will come to them.”

“Good, because I need you, Chris,” Orin told him.

“No, you don’t,” Chris assured him. “You of all of them, don’t, not really. If I were to leave tomorrow, you’re ready to carry on the work.”

“I’m not,” he protested.

“You ARE,” Chris insisted. “What you don’t want to give up is this, you and I lying together as we do. I don’t want to give it up, either. But I sometimes wonder if I should have allowed it to continue. When we were sleeping outside, and through that first winter when we were all so cold, there was a practical reason for it. But now… it’s just a habit.”

“Is that wrong?”

“I don’t know,” Chris admitted. Orin was the only person who ever heard him say those words. Before the Brothers he was Lúzio, the light giver, the one who always knew what was right, who always did the right thing and led them in the right way of living. The others didn’t know how many times he doubted himself.

“It’s a harmless habit,” he admitted after a while. “It’s not… I don’t sleep with you in the same way as I sleep with my wife. We’ve never… nor have any of the Brothers… given way to carnal pleasures. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with it. It doesn’t stop us from being the best we can. It doesn’t distract from our meditations or make us lazy in our work.”

“Then you’re not going to send me away from you?” Orin asked.

“No, I won’t do that. My comforter, you stay right here by my side.”

Nobody ever criticised him for keeping Orin by his side. He tried not to have favourites as such. Orin was among the most senior of the Brothers simply because he was one of the first to be called to the Mountain. Except that he was the one who slept beside him at night, he had no duty or rank above the others.

There came a time, in fact, when he was needed to be Orin’s comforter, not the other way around. His friend was the first of the Brothers to pass his five hundredth year and not long after that it was obvious that he was ready to regenerate.

It came quite suddenly even though it was expected. Orin stood from a long meditation and then collapsed. Chris knelt by his side, holding his hand while his first body died and the Artron energy within him was released. He watched along with the other Brothers as Orin’s body glowed orange and white like metal heating until it was malleable, and then slowly his features changed. The white hair turned to golden blonde. The lines on his face softened. His eyes changed from deep brown to sapphire blue. When it was over, he was young again, in body at least. His blue eyes had depths that told of his true age and wisdom.

“Welcome back,” Chris said to him. He hugged him fondly and kissed his soft, newly reborn cheek.

“Thank you for being here for me,” Orin told him.

He was with all of them when their time came. Some of them managed easily enough. They just wanted to know they weren’t going through it alone. Others struggled, painfully, to complete the regeneration. They needed him all the way, keeping in close telepathic connection right up to the moment when their first life was over and the new one beginning. It was an amazing sensation being there in close connection when that new life began, feeling the consciousness of the Time Lord flooding into the mind, his soul inhabiting the new body. Chris felt privileged to have shared the experience with them.

Eventually he was the only one who hadn’t regenerated. He looked like the elder of their community, now. The rigours of age told even on his Time Lord constitution. When the winters bit hard Orin truly lived up to being his Comforter, and he was grateful to him for it.

“I was younger than all of you when I began,” Chris told him when asked why he hadn’t yet regenerated. “It wasn’t my time. But I don’t think it will be time while I’m with you. I think it is going to be different for me.”

“Has Lord Rassilon told you so?” Orin asked.

“Not in words,” Chris answered. “But I have felt it. I’m not meant to go through it in the same way.”

“Are you going to die?”

“No, I don’t think so. All I know is that it will be different for me.”

“Whatever happens, I’ll be with you through it,” Orin promised him.

“Then I’ll be fine,” Chris said with absolute certainty.

The years went by – decades. Chris continued to lead the Brothers, new and old, in their life of contemplation and work. But without regenerating his health began to tell upon him. He was six hundred and forty-six when he lost the sight in both of his eyes. He used telepathy as a substitute for that ordinary sense. It didn’t slow him down.

The paralysis of his legs when he was seven hundred and sixty did. He was able to do so much less every day. His Brothers took care of him. Orin especially devoted his waking hours to him. He fed him and clothed him, bathed him, kept him warm and safe.

Then there came a day when he knew it was almost over. It was a dark day, with low clouds over the mountain. It was dark in the hearts of the Brothers, too. They knelt in meditation hour after hour, but they found no comfort for their souls. They knew that the source of their light was going from them.

Orin knelt by the sleeping mat where Chris lay. He held his frail hand gently.

“It’s nothing to be frightened of,” he told him. “Regeneration… I was afraid of it. But look at me, I did it. We all have. And you were there to look after us when we did. You’re ready now, and we’re here for you.”

“But I told you long ago, it’s different for me,” Chris answered. “I’m not going to regenerate the way you did, or any of the others. I’m leaving you, my friends. I’m sorry to go. I’ll miss you all. But I’ve stayed longer than I ever meant to stay. I have to go home, now.”

“To your family?” Orin asked. “Your wife and son.”


“Go in peace, Chris. Remember us as we will remember you.”

“I hope I will,” he answered. “Orin, you are the light giver, now.”

“I am ready.”


It looked like death. Orin felt his hand go limp. His eyes were glazed and staring. He wasn’t breathing and his two hearts were still. As he reached to close his eyes Orin was aware that he was not alone in the room. He only vaguely remembered the face of the man who had been there beside Chris on the first day that he climbed the mountain, but he knew who he was, and who he spoke for.

“My Lord,” he said, kneeling in supplication.

“Rise, my friend,” Davõreen told him. “Go to your Brothers and tell them not to grieve.”

“You’re here to take him home?”


Orin nodded. He turned away. He knew when he came back to the room later, it would be empty. They would not need to mourn, only to miss the man who had led them for so long and who he had loved more than any of them.

Chris opened his eyes and looked up at unfamiliar stars and two moons, one red, one silver.

No, not unfamiliar. It was just a long time since he had seen them.

It was a long time since he’d seen anything.

“My eyes…” he said. He held his hands up to his face and blinked. His hands were young. His face was young. He sat up, realising that he had been lying on a smooth wooden veranda. “Davõreen… I… I DID regenerate?”

“No,” Davõreen told him. “You…. Rewound is the easiest word for it. You gave all those years to Lord Rassilon’s service… and he gave them back to you. I brought you home, to the very night you left.”

“And the same age I was. He can do that? Isn’t it cheating?”

“Lord Rassilon created us. He gave us the twelve regenerations and no more because he thought immortality was too dangerous. But if he chooses to break his own rules now and again, on special occasions, that’s his prerogative.”

Chris reached into his own body and saw his own internal clock. It was a dual clock now. On the one hand it told him that he was still only in his early twenties. On the other, he was hundreds of years old. He had been seven hundred and sixty five on the last day.

“He kept his promise, anyway.” Chris stood and looked into the Great Hall. Carya was asleep, still. In the basket by her side, so was Tilo. He resisted the urge to wake them both and hug them as if he hadn’t seen them for three quarters of a millennia. He sat down again on the veranda.

“I can still remember it all. Seven hundred years and more as one of the Brothers of Mount Lœng. I remember all of their names… all their faces.”

“And so you will. It wasn’t a dream. You lived it all. It was what you wanted to do when you first envisaged your Sanctuary.”

“Including the bit about celibacy. I didn’t manage it with my Earth students. I didn’t even manage to stick to that vow myself. But on the mountain…” He laughed softly. “Rassilon thought I should find out what it would have been like to stick to my original plan?”

“Something like that.”

“I sometimes wondered if having Orin sleeping beside me was bending that rule a bit. Nothing physical ever happened between us, but there was love there. For him… and for all of them.”

“And there always will be. Without love you could not have led them as you did, especially in the times of trouble, when you knew grief.”

“I remember the ones we lost. Dante… right at the start… Tyron who went to war… and the others…. But that was all a part of it, too. Most of it was amazing. I was happy. I’ll miss them a lot. Even when I’m teaching my own students back on Earth, I’ll think of them.”

“I’m glad it was a useful experience for you, Chris.”

“It was. Funny thing… I learnt about the Brotherhood of Mount Lœng from The Doctor. He went there when he was a boy. He climbed the mountain and proved himself worthy to study with them. Then he taught me and Davie everything he learnt from the Brothers. And now… I went back to the very beginning and taught the Brothers everything that The Doctor would learn from them.” He laughed. “After seven hundred years on Gallifrey I’m still not qualified to work out a paradox like that.”

“Nor I,” Davõreen agreed. “I’ll leave you now. It is almost dawn here.”

“Do you ever REALLY leave me? I think maybe you’re around in some form most of the time.”

“I don’t think you’ll want me to be for a little while,” Davõreen answered with a knowing smile. “It HAS been over seven hundred years since you made love to your wife. But Lord Rassilon and I have your welfare in our hearts. We are with you when you need us. Be assured of that.”

Chris blinked. He was gone. He turned and looked at the SangClune sun rising over the village. Then he heard a movement behind him and saw Carya standing there.

“I thought I heard voices,” she said.

“No, there’s just me,” he answered her. “Come and sit with me. The sunrise is beautiful.”

She sat with him. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and pressed his face against her long, soft hair. He had been celibate and in the company of men for over seven hundred years, but the reasons why he loved her and loved being near her were coming back to him. He moved his hands to a slightly different position and enjoyed her response. He thought it might not be long before he took her back to the silk covered bed.

He had all those years to catch up on, after all.