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

The dark haired, dark-eyed, dusky-skinned handmaiden of Artemis finished making her last offering of the day just after sundown. The temple was a place of deep shadows where the torches did not illuminate, but usually she felt no fear of the darkness. This holy place literally was a sanctuary. No harm could come to her here.

At least, she had thought so until now. She turned from the altar, wide eyed and fearful at the unusual sounds on the edge of her hearing – the harsh noise of a boot on the marble floor, the chilling grate of a sword being drawn from its scabbard.

“Alestro?” She called out the name of the priest who was, in some sense, her guardian, as she began to back away into the shadows in hope of being invisible to the intruders in the dark. Too late she saw the elderly eunuch restrained at sword point by a man in the uniform of a Roman centurion. Too late she realised that she was surrounded by soldiers who had invaded the sanctuary against all precepts.

There was nowhere to run. They were closing in on her. She screamed, but nobody would hear her scream – or if they did, there was nothing they could do to help.

As she backed away towards the altar, praying for a miracle, she got one. Suddenly a new sound drowned out the shouts of the soldiers – a sound like an animal in agony and a wind that blew from nowhere. The dark temple melted away in front of her eyes to be replaced by a bright but terrifyingly different place. She saw stone walls around her, to be sure, and a paved floor, but the lights came directly out of the floor and ceiling as well as the huge lamp shaped object in the middle of the hexagonal room.

There were two people there. They weren’t soldiers. The young man was wearing a short white jerkin with a strange symbol upon it and the young woman was wearing a gown that came to her knees. She was dark haired and dusky-skinned like the handmaiden, and the frightened woman turned to her as an almost familiar figure in this terrifyingly unfamiliar place.

“Help me,” she said. “They want to kill me.”

“Who do?” Carya asked. “Who are you?” She turned to her husband. “What happened? How did she get here?”

“There was a micro-second spike in the vortex when we set off from home,” Chris answered. “It threw us back to Earth in a random time and space. She must have been in the spot where we partially rematerialised.”

He moved closer, but the young woman backed away in fear.

“It’s all right,” he said. “You’re perfectly safe. neither of us will do you any harm. I’m Chris Campbell. This is my wife, Carya. You’re in our ship.”

“Ship? How can this be a ship? I was in the temple….”

“Yes, I know,” Chris told her. “I know this looks frightening, but there is no safer place to be than my TARDIS. Can you tell me your name?”

“I am….” She spoke in a timid voice at first, then drew herself up, mustering the courage from deep within herself.

“I am Arsinoë, daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes, queen of Egypt.”

“Good heavens, really?” Chris was surprised, which was a rare event in itself. Then he recalled where and when the TARDIS had materialised. “Oh… I see. You… were in the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.”

“Yes. The soldiers….”

The moment of royal pride failed again and she was a terrified young woman. She didn’t notice or object to a commoner’s touch when Carya reached to comfort her.

“They were going to kill me,” she sobbed.

“Who were?” Carya asked.

“Roman soldiers,” Chris explained. “On the orders of their leader, Mark Anthony, who was doing the bidding of the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra... her sister.”

“What?” Carya was appalled. “Chris… that’s dreadful.”

“Yes, it is. And it’s a matter of historical record. It has been since around AD 60 when Cassius Dio compiled his Historia Romana. It’s a Fixed Point in time. She was MEANT to die several minutes ago on the steps of the Temple of Artemis.”

“Chris!” Carya had learnt fast since she left her non-advanced world to be Chris Campbell’s wife and companion. She understood what a Fixed Point was.

She understood that interfering in such a thing was against natural law and that terrible things could happen as a result of such interference.

But she also knew that her husband was a kind man, and he would not send a young woman, barely older than his own sister, to her death.

“I should go back,” he said. “This wasn’t supposed to happen. The consequences could be catastrophic.”

“You CAN’T,” Carya argued. “Chris, you can’t.”

“Well, of course I’m not going to do that. But I don’t know what else I should do.”

“Please, help me,” Arsinoë begged, though clearly begging was not something she was accustomed to doing and it hurt her pride to have to ask.

“I think you should make sure we’re on course for Cíeló,” Carya decided. “I’ll take Queen Arsinoë to change out of that robe and wash her face. When we’re done, I’ll wake Tilo from his nap.”

Practical answers to the problem. Chris let his wife take over the care of the confused girl who history recorded as a tragic victim of political machinations. He set their course for Carya’s home world and considered his options. It looked as if they were taking Arsinoë to Cíeló right now. But what could he do after that? Taking her back to her fate wasn’t something he considered even for a moment, even though it was what he knew he ought to do.

How could he? She had asked for his help.

But what were the alternatives? They seemed precious few just now.

He checked the historical record while he was thinking. Apart from Cassius Dio’s lurid description of her murder there actually wasn’t much about her until the early twenty-first century when her bones were found within the tomb in the ruins of Ephesus and identified with the state of the art forensic testing of the time.

If her murder was prevented, would that be the only consequence – one less archaeological discovery? Her sister wanted her out of the way, and that was done. Nobody was going to miss her in either Ephesus or Egypt.

Maybe it was possible. Just maybe….

At least he didn’t have to think about it yet. They were on their way to Carya’s homeworld. It would be a respite for them all. The decision didn’t need to be made, yet.

The sound of Tilo’s toddler voice as he ran into the console room distracted him from his thoughts, anyway. The two women came behind him. Carya had changed into the sort of silk dress worn by the women of her tribe. Arsinoë was dressed the same. She had washed off the heavy cosmetics she was accustomed to wearing and her complexion was as clear and fresh as any girl of her age. Carya had fixed her hair with two narrow plaits woven together to make a headband holding the rest back. She wore her own hair that way when she went home, too.

In short, Arsinoë now looked just like a young woman of Cíeló.

“Noë is pretty,” Tilo announced, and with those three words the Egyptian Queen gained a new name to fit her new station.

“Yes, she is. But not more pretty than your mother. We can’t go saying things like that.”

“I had brothers,” Noë said. “I remember when they were little and they called me Noë… and my sister was Patra.”

There was a sad tone in her voice. And small wonder. Once four children had played and learnt together while their father ruled Egypt. On his death, when the eldest sister was still only just eighteen, the burden of kingship fell upon them equally. Politics divided them with fatal consequences. Her eldest brother, King Ptolemy XIII had already drowned trying to escape from the Roman soldiers. The youngest would be killed before long so that her sister could rule unopposed.

Once Cleopatra’s scheme fell apart and she was forced to kill herself, Noë would now be the only sibling left – effectively the queen of Egypt.

But that option would certainly change the course of history. Chris dismissed it almost as soon as the idea entered his head.

Carya’s tribe greeted her return joyfully, though it was not exactly the sort of royal procession Noë had been accustomed to and the house where Tilo senior and his wife lived was no palace. Even so, the welcome was warm and the little Chris told them of Noë’s circumstances earned her their sympathy and kindness. She was offered food and drink which she accepted with gratitude. She had been raised, of course, not to have to thank anyone for such things, but her time as a prisoner of the Romans and then as an exile in Ephesus had taught her to appreciate any comforts that were offered.

“I didn’t know there were people from Chris’s world who looked like us,” Carya’s mother said. “He and his friends are all fair skinned. It was a surprise to us when he first visited us.”

“There are people of all complexions on Earth,” Chris explained. “Even among the students at my Sanctuary there are different skin colours and ethnicities. It was entirely by chance that the group I brought when I first visited Cíeló were all fair complexioned. Noë comes from a place called Egypt, on the continent of Africa where most people are dark, but even there some people are darker or lighter than others.”

“And they are born that way?” It was a surprise to the people of Cíeló that skin and hair and eye colour were determined at birth. The females of their race were all born fair and blue eyed. The ‘darkening’ began when they were married and had spent their honeymoon night with their husband.

Chris had some theories about why that happened, but he kept them to himself.

What signified, was that Noë looked like a young married woman of Cíeló.

This actually caused some confusion later when Carya’s family and their guests met with the rest of the village in the square for a ritual intended to make young Tilo a son of Cíeló. He was nearly three years old, now, and ready to be recognised as the male heir of Tilo, Keeper of the Rites.

“You have taken a new wife?” asked one of the men of the village, Ankhan, a master glassmaker. “Is that a custom on your world?”

“Noë isn’t my wife,” Chris assured him. “She is a troubled woman who I have promised to protect until I can find a safe place for her.”

“She has no home?” Ankhan asked.

“None where she would be safe,” Chris answered.

“She would be safe here, among the people of Cíeló. Is she a widow?”

Again Chris explained about the cultural diversity of Earth. The Cíeló people were not backwards despite their non-industrial way of life. The young glassmaker understood what he was being told about a world far away from his own.

“One as beautiful as she is, yet still a maiden, would be a fine bride for a man of Cíeló,” Ankhan said. “Perhaps….”

He didn’t say anything else. There was no need. There was a look in his eyes as he turned his gaze upon the young stranger. Noë did not look his way. She was a queen and unaccustomed to looking anyone in the eye. To Ankhan it just looked like a haughty disdain that made him all the more intrigued.

Chris wondered if that was the solution to her problem. If the former Queen of Egypt would accept a glassmaker as a suitor, that is. Had her time as a handmaiden of Artemis given her enough humility to accept a life among the ordinary people of Cíeló?

Noë paid close attention to the ceremony by the totem in which Tilo received the Marks of Recognition – lines drawn on his face and hands by the Keeper of Rites in reddish-brown paint. She came from a society, of course, that worshipped many gods and had elaborate rituals for every part of life from birth to death. This was different, but not so different that she couldn’t fully understand what it was all about.

Any questions she did have, Ankhan was pleased to answer. She sat next to him through the ceremony, listening with her head close to his as he explained all that was going on, telling her the history of their totem carved out of a living tree in the place where it grew, and their devotion to the sky god which was why they lived in houses made of glass.

Noë, in turn, told him about the gods of Egypt - Osiris and Horus, Bast and others, and the desert land made fertile by the great Nile running through it. She described the houses made of mud bricks, and the pyramids and mastaba carved from rock in dedication to the dead.

Chris listened in telepathically to the conversation and noted that she did not mention that she had been a queen who lived in a sumptuous palace. She only described the ordinary homes of Egyptian people.

She understood that declaring herself as royalty would be meaningless here. Or perhaps she feared betrayal. She didn’t quite understand yet that this was a different planet, even though there were several moons in the sky above her. How could she possibly grasp that? In her culture the stars and planets were patterns in the fabric of night put there by the gods.

By tradition that is what the people of Cíeló thought, too, so perhaps that wasn’t such a bad thing. All she had to do was get used to multiple moons and realise that her enemies would NEVER come to this place for her.

That just left the hole in the historical record back on Earth to close, somehow.

The food of Cíeló suited her well. The people grew several exotic kinds of fruit and baked them in pies and tarts as well as crushing them into cool drinks. There was meat in joints and in pies. The feast that followed the ceremony was in little Tilo’s honour, but Noë, as a friend of Chris and Carya’s, was an exalted guest, too. She was offered the best of the food.

Most often it was Ankhan who brought the food to her. He took pleasure in showing her the variety of good foods that were available.

“Don’t worry,” Carya whispered to her husband. “The betrothal rites involving food only apply when a woman offers them to a man.”

“That’s good,” Chris answered. “We don’t want any misunderstandings of that sort.”

“Do you really think Noë could stay here with my people?” Carya asked later when the feast was starting to wind down and couples were seeking quiet places to walk by themselves.

“Why not? She wouldn’t be a queen, but at least she would be equal to everyone else, not a prisoner or an exile, or a hostage to her sister’s whims. And if she could find a good husband here….”

“You mean Ankhan, don’t you?” Carya smiled. “He’s a good man. He would care for her.”

“There we are, then. Problem solved. We just have to leave them to work it out between themselves.”

It seemed as if it was going to work. Chris lay down to sleep in a glass room with the stars visible over his head and felt as if he had done something good. After all, the death of Arsinoë was one of the great tragedies of Human history – one of those terrible events he was forbidden to interfere with. It had been a monumental chance that brought him accidentally between her and the soldiers. He was absolved of the deliberate breaking of the Laws of Time. But in the accident was a chance to make a little less of a tragedy out of it all.

And again he wondered who would be wronged other than a Roman chronicler called Cassius Dio and a group of twenty-first century archaeologists.

He slept without worry, certain that he could handle Noë’s integration into Cíeló society.

But in the morning he became aware of a complication.

The morning after the ceremony to introduce Tilo to the tribe there was a community breakfast. Again, Ankhan found a way to sit next to Noë as they ate cheese, oatbread and a cured meat a little like a cross between bacon and pressed tongue, all washed down with the milk of their dairy animal, the Kepie.

Noë was explaining to Ankhan that the first part of his name was meaningful in her own language. The Ankh was a symbol of life.

“I am pleased to know that it… pleases you,” Ankhan answered. Somehow that revelation felt to him like a term of deep affection. He smiled warmly at her.

Then a woman of his tribe knelt before him – a maiden with the fair hair and blue eyes of an unmarried female of the Cíeló. The darkening that made the women look like dusky, exotic Egyptians came with the consummation of their relationship had not occurred, yet.

The maiden brought a plate of food to offer to Ankhan. He shook his head and refused it. The maiden looked at him angrily and spoke sharply. She positively scowled at Noë before she turned away.

“Oh….” Carya noted the altercation and bit her lip anxiously as she explained to her husband.

“Briza made the offering of food to Ankhan… the first step towards betrothal… as I did to you, my love.”

“Yes,” Chris smiled wryly as he remembered. “It might have been helpful if you had EXPLAINED the significance of the offering,” he added. “I hadn’t actually planned to be betrothed that day.”

“Ankhan understands what it means,” Carya told him. “That is why it is a problem. He refused the food – refused her suit.”

“Ah.” Chris knew how extremely the Cielonians took matters of betrothal. He was almost executed for not consummating his ‘marriage’ to Carya. What happened to a man who refused a betrothal?

“She must accept his refusal with good grace,” Carya said “But Ankhan must take his own chosen wife before sunrise tomorrow or be cast out of the tribe.”

“Oh dear,” Chris groaned. “I thought I had found a place for one exile among your people. But now there is another one to look after.”

“Not if….” Carya looked at Ankhan and saw the way he was holding Noë’s hand, and the way she was smiling warmly at him. “I don’t think choosing a wife would be a problem.”

Chris would have found it problematic. For him love and marriage was a choice he made only after a lot of thought and a certain amount of fait accompli about his situation. His brother had been betrothed to Brenda for several years before their wedding. His little sister was keeping Earl Gregory on a long leash until she reached the age of consent. Everyone in his family understood about long engagements.

But Noë had only arrived on the planet yesterday and met Ankhan at the sunset ceremony.

Then again, in her own culture she could easily have been betrothed to a man she had never even met at all, or to her own brother at the other extreme of familiarity. At least she had an element of choice about this relationship.

Or she did as long as Briza didn’t make trouble for her. Chris was powerless to influence the matter. He watched from a distance throughout the day as Ankhan and Noë found every opportunity to be together. She even mixed the dyes that coloured the glass he was making and watched as he made sheets of window glass by first blowing long tubes of hot, pliable material and then rolling it in a hand press until it was flat and cooled. She was fascinated as he blew globes that he fashioned into coloured glasses and cups and even a vase which he let her hand paint in bright colours. She painted Egyptian symbols and figures, of course, but nobody minded that, least of all Ankhan.

But Briza was watching, too, and she was angry at being slighted by Ankhan in favour of the newcomer. Chris heard from Carya who had asked her friends, that nothing had been decided about Briza and Ankhan, but it had been thought that they might get together. Briza certainly had ambitions about being the glassmaker’s wife.

But in the evening there was an announcement that was almost inevitable by now. Ankhan and Noë were to be married at midnight according to custom.

“Will both of them take part in the ceremony?” Chris asked, referring to his own ‘marriage’ in which he had been, not only a non-participant, but perfectly innocent of what was happening.

“They will,” his father-in-law told him. “This will be a traditional Cíeló wedding. Then Ankhan will go to the marriage bed and his wife will follow. After that, no man can separate them.”

“Good,” Chris said. “That will settle the matter to everyone’s satisfaction.”

“Except Briza,” Carya said quietly. “She is very upset. She has said some terrible things about Noë.”

“She will come to her senses once they are married,” her father assured her. “It is our way, as you know, child.”

“Yes, father,” Carya answered. She said nothing more about marriage rites. Her own marriage to Chris had not begun quite as it should, but they were devoted to each other now, and had a son to delight their lives. She wished Ankhan and Noë the very best, and fervently hoped that another man would catch Briza’s eye soon.

The ceremony was simple by any standards – especially those of Chris’s heritage. Even an ordinary Human wedding ceremony lasted at least an hour. His brother’s Gallifreyan ceremony had been twelve hours. It took only twenty minutes to bind Ankhan and Noë in lifelong matrimony – though the feast afterwards took quite a bit longer.

Shortly before midnight Ankhan departed from the feast. He went to the honeymoon chamber first. Noë was taken by the maidens of the village to be prepared – in other words bathed in scented water and dressed in very flimsy and nearly see through silk. She would then go alone to join her husband.

Everyone else went to bed, certain that all was well and that the newly married couple would be blissfully happy.

But just after dawn the next morning the whole village was roused by an anguished cry. Chris was among the first to reach the place where the bride had been prepared. He stood back, though, while Carya and her mother went in. This was a place for women. He was puzzled when they emerged with Noë and two of the maidens, all of them looking as if they had severe hangovers.

“What happened?” he asked. “Why are you here, Noë? Why aren’t you with Ankhan?”

“I don’t know,” she answered mournfully. “Something happened….”

“The wine,” said one of the maidens. “Briza came in with wine for us all. She bid us drink. And then….”

“She poisoned the wine?” Chris looked around. The cry that awoke them all came from here as the three women woke and wondered what had happened to them. But now another cry broke through the morning. This one was a cry of anger.

Chris turned and ran in time to see a slender figure in see-through silk run from the chamber. She was followed by Ankhan, shirtless but wearing a pair of knee length silk breeches. Chris reached out and caught the woman. A wig of long dark hair slid from her head. Beneath it, her own hair was dark. Her skin was dusky and her eyes deep brown. She was a woman of the tribe of Cíeló, though at a glance she might pass for an Egyptian princess.

“Briza!” he exclaimed. “What….”

“Oh Briza!” Carya gasped with horror as she realised what the girl had done. She looked at Ankhan, who was turning his face away from his true bride.

Noë was grasping the hands of the two maidens and trying not to break down in tears.

“I am betrayed,” she said. “On my wedding night.”

So it seemed. Chris later examined the flagon of wine left in the honeymoon chamber. It, too, had been laced with a drug that would have made Ankhan less aware than he ought to have been. The dark wig in the dim room fooled him into thinking it was Noë who laid herself beside him.

Briza had tricked everyone in order to be the woman Ankhan consummated his marriage with. Now the darkening had occurred and she was a married woman in the eyes of the Cíeló people.

“No!”Ankhan insisted. “She is NOT my wife. I was betrothed to Noë. She is the one. I reject this deceiving Jezo.”

Jezo was a bad word for a woman of Cíeló. Many of those within hearing gasped at his use of the word, but harsh as it was, it was also perfectly true. She had deceived him.

“But which of them is his wife?” Chris asked. Nobody seemed sure. The marriage ceremony was binding. But the consummation was an essential part of it, too. Ankhan was not properly married to Noë until he had spent the night with her. Briza was his wife in practice if not in ceremony.

“I AM his wife,” Briza insisted. “The outsider is not.”

“I will NOT accept her,” Ankhan insisted equally firmly. “Noë is the woman I chose. She is my wife.”

But Chris’s confusion was shared by the elders of the village. Through the day Briza was kept under close watch by three of the women of the village. Noë stayed with Carya and her mother. The young men waited with Ankhan for the judgement that must be made.

Chris was a part of the deliberations. He was recognised as a wise and learned friend of Cíeló. He joined in choosing a fair way out of the problem.

The elders were, it had to be said, in favour of Ankhan’s claim that Noë was his true wife, his choice, the one he had made his vows to.

After much discussion, they declared his marriage to Noë as the valid one. That was a huge relief to Chris. Noë had been distraught. She had faced betrayal at every side in the palace of her birth. Her sister had tried to have her killed. Now, when she thought she could be happy and safe, more betrayal, a deception worthy of Cleopatra herself, had threatened her future once more.

Yes, it was good news for the true lovers.

But then the elders went on to discuss Briza’s fate. Chris knew that the usually gentle and hospitable Cíeló people had some extreme punishments for those who broke their rules. When they started to call her an adulterer, he began to be concerned.

She WAS an adulterer, of course. Ankhan had been married to Noë before her deception took place. Technically, so was Ankhan, but Chris’s confirmation of the drug in the wine absolved him.

The punishment for adultery was death by exposure to the sun within a glass room that gave no shade from dawn to dusk. Chris knew what that was like. He knew it would be a lonely, painful death for the girl.

“Please,” he said. “Be merciful. I beg you. Do not do that. She was foolish. She was hurt and resentful after Ankhan chose Noë instead of her. She did a desperate thing in the heat of anger. But please don’t kill her for it. Tilo, on the soul of your grandson, who you love dearly, grant me this.”

“Why do you care for this deceitful woman?” Tilo asked.

“Because on Earth, my home, compassion goes with all things, even the punishment of law breakers. On my world, the desperation in Briza’s mind would be a cause for mitigation, for mercy.”

“You are not on your world now,” said Garn, the Keeper of Records, second elder to Tilo, Keeper of Rites. “And what she has done deeply offends our way of life.”

“I understand that,” Chris said. “But please, do not kill this young woman for loving a man she should not have loved. Temper your judgement with mercy. That is all I ask. Banish her, keep her imprisoned and alone for as long as you determine – beat her publically if you choose. But let her live.”

“Death would be kinder than living in shame,” Han, the lesser of the three elders said. “Are you sure what you ask is the merciful thing?”

“I am sure,” Chris insisted.

The three elders talked for a long time, considering Chris’s words very carefully. He waited anxiously, wondering what he would do if they chose the death sentence. Could he bear to let them go ahead, or would he risk alienating Carya’s people by intervening on behalf of a woman who had hurt his friends so deeply?

He was saved that moral dilemma. The Elders decided to be merciful. She would be banished from the tribe of Cíeló.

“Then I will take her away when we leave,” Chris promised. “I shall take her to another place. Until then, let her have food and water and let my wife speak kind words to her while she is confined out of the view of all others of your tribe. There is no need to torture her mind any further.”

“That will be done,” Tilo assured him. Chris went from the debate feeling that he had done his best for everyone. Tonight, Noë and Ankhan would have their interrupted honeymoon and their future was sealed….

“Chris!” Carya ran to him, her eyes glistening with tears. “Briza… she is dead.”

“What?” His hearts froze. He had just fought to save her life. How could she be dead?

She had taken her own life. That much was obvious. Her dead hands still clutched the long knife she had plunged into her own chest. It wouldn’t take much probing to find out who had brought her the knife. Everyone expected her to be condemned. Somebody thought they were being compassionate. The irony was not lost on him.

“You shed tears for her,” Carya said. “You are a good man, Chris. As I knew the first time I looked at you.”

“I said I would take her away,” he answered, wiping the tears from his eyes. “I shall do that, still.”

He took his sonic screwdriver from within his robe and aimed it at the lifeless body of Briza of the Cíeló. He surrounded her with a stasis field that would keep her corpse from decaying. Then he left Carya with her while he went to fetch his TARDIS to the place where she had died.

Her body lay in stasis within the peace of the Gothic TARDIS’s cloister room for five days while Chris and Carya stayed with the Cíeló and helped them over the shock of these tragic events. Ankhan and Noë had their honeymoon night. They were happy despite the terrible cost of their love. Tilo went on his first fishing trip with his grandfather and was proud to have caught his first small fish with his own spear. Whatever else he might grow up to be, with his mixture of heritage, he was a child of Cíeló. Carya was proud of him. So was Chris.

Finally, they said goodbye. There were tears of parting softened by the knowledge that they would return often.

Chris set a detour before they returned to twenty-third century London. He timed it carefully so that the TARDIS, in the discreet mode his brother had installed when he refitted the old capsule, materialised above the steps of the Temple of Artemis. He used another of Davie’s modifications, the transmat beam, to place Briza’s body on the steps. She was clothed as a handmaiden of Artemis, her long dark hair brushed until it shone and her eyes made up with kohl like an Egyptian queen even in exile. To the Roman soldiers who poured out of the Temple moments later, she was Arsinoë IV, murdered by an unknown hand, but fully in line with the orders they had been given.

Chris moved the TARDIS in time but not space. He and Carya, with Tilo beside them, stepped out into a sun-drenched ruin of the Greek city of Ephesus in Northern Turkey. Like many tourists they had come to see the remains of the Temple of Artemis and the Street of Heroes where archaeologists had uncovered many elaborate tombs with intact sarcophagi.

One of these was a hexagon shape, mirroring the top of the Library of Alexandria, the place where Arsinoë IV had once held out against the Roman legions with her followers. Archaeologists had determined that this was her tomb and the slender bones of a young woman, barely more than a teenager, were those of the murdered Queen Arsinoë.

“We know better,” Carya whispered. “She is Briza of Cíeló. Noë is alive and well and married to Ankhan.”

“The hole in the narrative of causality is closed,” Chris said. “I am sorry it happened that way. I wish it had not. But poor Briza got a queen’s burial. She was honoured by the Ephesans. They built her a magnificent tomb. She has rested here in peace for these thousands of years.”

“May the God of the Sky bless her,” Carya whispered according to her tradition, and that, Chris thought, settled that.