Cassie sat at an incongruously old-fashioned writing bureaux typing into a word processor that would not be invented on her planet until some twenty years after she left it in 1969. She had got the hang of the technology quite well, and regretted that she would have to return to using an ordinary typewriter when she returned to her own time. It was SO much easier to think and write onto a screen where mistakes could be deleted at the press of a button.

"It will be SO frustrating waiting for all these things to happen in our world," Cassie said with a sigh as she put the finishing touches to a chapter of her thesis about the religious customs of ancient Egypt. Several weeks close study of those customs in various places that Chrístõ had brought them, none quite so terrifying as Abu Simbel, had given her a unique view and she was now writing it down into a paper which, she knew, would be ground-breaking. Of course, she had presented it as a 1969 student would present it, without many wonderful but unprovable facts that she knew she never could use.

"Maybe we could ask Chrístõ to drop us off in 2005 or something," Terry suggested. "We could go to university in the era of computers and credit cards."“Well, I suppose I could,” Chrístõ said. “But it might be a bit of a culture shock for you. It's not all fun in 2005.”

“It wasn’t all rock festivals in 1969, either,” Cassie reminded him.

“Well, we’re not going anywhere YET,” Terry pointed out. “You’re stuck with us, Chrístõ.”

“Happy to be,” he answered with a grin. “As long as you want to be here. You’re the first real friends I’ve ever had. You will always be wanted. But I know, sooner or later, you will have to move on.”

“If you make friends from earth always, I think they’ll always be moving on,” Cassie observed. “You can live to 7,000. We don’t last anywhere NEAR that long.”

Chrístõ looked at her and felt suddenly sad. That obvious truth had never occurred to him before. Even 1,000 was barely middle aged for him. His friends would be long dead by then. They would live only in his memory. Then he smiled at them.

"We're together now," he said. "Besides, when I'm 1,000 I can still use my time machine to come see you when you're 25."

"I hope you will," Cassie said. "I will miss you when we do leave. My beautiful alien and his wonderful TARDIS. I will miss you both."

“Hey,” Terry reminded her. “Like Chrístõ said, we’re here now. And we have the universe to explore.”

“Starting with a quiet trip to a pre-industrial world in the Beta quadrant,” Chrístõ announced, examining the co-ordinates he had set. “One of the ‘must sees’ programmed in for me. Apparently this place has the most spectacular sunsets with no industrial pollution to distort it. Also a friendly population who consider hospitality to the stranger as a matter of personal honour.”

“The people of Abu Simbel were very hospitable right up until they poisoned us,” Cassie pointed out.

“That’s true!” Chrístõ laughed. “But if we never eat or drink anything outside the TARDIS we’ll run out of food after a few months. So…shall we give Grepharia III the benefit of the doubt?” Terry and Cassie both consented enthusiastically. Chrístõ looked around to see why Bo had not spoken up. He saw her lying on the cabin bed where she slept at night, and became aware for the first time that she was crying quietly

“Bo, precious,” he said, going to her. “What is it?”

"You will send me away from you," she sobbed. "Terry and Cassie know they will not be with you forever. And… and I too will have to leave you..."

"Not until you want to, my precious. All of you, I promise. You belong here with me, in the TARDIS until you WANT to leave."

"Where would I go?" she asked. "I have nothing to go back to. I… I don't want to go back to… to the time I lived in and the life there."

“Never,” Chrístõ assured her. “I don’t know your future. I can do it for strangers, but I can’t tell the future of anyone who has been in the TARDIS with me. All its strange fields and resonances block it. But I know I am never going to let you go unless you want to go, and then it will be to a time and a place of your choosing. Don't ever worry about that."

It was a promise he should not have made. Taking people from their timeline had consequences. If Terry and Cassie really DID decide to go back to Earth in 2005 instead of 1969, there were thirty-six years in which they ought to have lived, interacting with other people, making their own mark on the world, and he wasn't sure what that would mean if they didn't.

Bo, on the other hand, had no place in her own time. Marley would almost certainly have murdered her eventually. Even if he had not, her role would have been to be abused by whatever man he sold her onto for a few more years until the strain of it killed her anyway. HIS future told him that she would not stay with him forever, but would go to another man eventually, who would love her. But where that man would come from, or when, he did not know. For all he did know, it could be on the pre-industrial world of Grepharia III. For that matter, the woman he WAS destined to marry might be there.

"Come on, my precious Bo," He kissed her tenderly as he dried her tears. "This is your first visit to another planet. I want you to enjoy it."

It was Cassie and Terry's first visit to another planet, too. And so, when they landed in what looked like an ordinary deciduous forest with the TARDIS disguised as a wood-cutters hut - apart from the discreetly carved into the door - they were a little disappointed.

"Seems just like Earth," Terry said. "I thought the sky might be a different colour at least."

"Planets with the sort of atmosphere you and I can breathe all tend to have blue skies and green grass," Chrístõ said. "That's a constant of the universe. The only exception I know of is my own planet, Gallifrey. The sky there is yellowy-orange by day and a burnt orange-black by night."

"And the grass?" Cassie asked. "Do you have grass?"

“Yes, that’s green. Apart from the Red Grass Valleys where it is carmine red.” He tightened his hold on Bo’s hand. She still seemed quiet. He wished he knew a way to reassure her.

“So who are we today?” Terry asked as he looked around at their ‘pre-industrial’ costumes. Chrístõ, as usual, looked aristocratic in a velvet hooded cloak edged in silver over a black jerkin and leggings, all also edged in silver. The jerkin and cloak both bore his symbol in silver thread and it was on the silver clasp that fastened his cloak. Terry himself was in a burgundy cloak of a less ostentatious fabric with jerkin and leggings in deep brown. Their ladies were beautiful as ever, Cassie in a dark red gown and Bo in midnight blue, both cloaked in black with scarlet lining. “The Marquess de Lœngbærrow and company?”

"I think we'll just be rich merchants today. We don't want to overawe the locals. Chrístõ of Lœngbærrow, Terrence of Guildford and our lovely wives."

Bo, he noticed, gave a soft gasp at the idea of being his 'wife' and smiled for the first time. Of course that was the one way he could reassure her that he would never let her down. But he couldn't do that if Li Tuo's reading of their future was correct.

They came to the village presently. It was a typical pre-industrial village of any society the universe over, with a village green in the centre, where the town well had prominent position. Around it was the commercial heart of the village, the blacksmith, baker, tanner, candlemaker, apothecary, and most prominently, a large inn. They all looked at each other and headed towards it.

The landlord of the inn was most hospitable to the four well-dressed strangers who came into his hostelry and they were soon enjoying a meal of cheese and meat and bread washed down with the finest ale. They talked together cheerfully, taking care not to say anything anachronistic in front of the locals.

"Well, well, Thete, of all the people in the universe to bump into." They all stopped talking and looked in surprise at the young man in a black cloak almost identical to Chrístõ's who sat down in a spare chair at their table propping his chin with one hand. Chrístõ looked the most disconcerted.

"Eps," he said. "What are you doing here?"

"Field trip, same as you, obviously." He said. "I do love these primitive planets. The people are so easy to manage, don't you think?"

"I wouldn't know. I don't manage people. We're supposed to observe their cultures, not manipulate them. How long have you been here?"

"About as long as you. I spotted the resonance of another TARDIS in the vortex and followed. Wondered who it might be. And here we are, old pals together."

"We're not 'pals' Eps. We're second cousins at BEST. You were never my friend. You hung around with the same gang that regularly beat me up for being a half-blood."

"Yeah, but I never did that," Eps replied.

"Only because my father is executor of your trust fund and he'd have cut you off without a penny if you had."

Eps looked darkly at his cousin. He was a dark looking character anyway, Terry thought. He had short spiky black hair and green eyes that seemed sharp and unsmiling even when he did smile with colourless thin lips. He was half shaven, and the dark stubble around his chin made him look older and somehow contributed to an unpleasant feel about him.

"Ah, come on, Thete," he said brightly, though again his smile was only on his lips, not in his eyes. Cassie mentally compared him with Chrístõ, whose smile began with his eyes. She looked at Chrístõ now. He looked angry and annoyed.

Chrístõ WAS angry and annoyed, and he was worried, too. Eps was not the WORST person in the universe he could meet. But he couldn't think of very many more people that would come into that category. He didn't hate him as such, but they had always been rivals at the Academy and as Chrístõ had beaten him in every discipline except telekinesis there was reason for him to be jealous. And he knew Eps could be spiteful and mean when crossed. He remembered the girl in their Emotional Detachment class whose hair had mysteriously caught fire in the middle of the lesson. A girl who had spurned Eps' advances on her. And his hand caught hold of Bo's under the table.

"So, are you going to introduce me to your friends," Eps said. Clearly he had not taken the hints Chrístõ was giving him, both in his body language and his telepathic messages that he was not wanted there.

"This," Chrístõ said with an emphasis on the word that sounded like a hiss. "This is Rõgæn Koschei Oakdaene - obviously of Gallifrey. Sometimes known as Epsilon, or Eps." He paused. "Rõgæn, these are my friends who are travelling with me in my TARDIS - Terry Phillips, Cassie Jameson and Hui Ying Bo Juan."

"Humans?" Epsilon looked at them as if they had a strange smell. "Don't tell me, from that miserable little planet your mother came from."

"Earth," Chrístõ said, feeling more and more angry at Epsilon for his lack of even a pretence of tact.

"That's the one," he said. "Where they're descended from apes and the culture never advanced much beyond the treeline."

"If our culture is so rubbish, how come you all have nicknames from ancient Greek? That's Earth culture." Cassie snapped.

“Shows how much you know,” Epsilon replied looking down his nose at her. "The Greek 'gods' were people from OUR galaxy who tried to teach the ape-life some culture. The so-called alphabet Earth people use is just a remnant. I bet you don't even know what the words mean. Like why our Thete is Theta Sigma."

"It means the Outcast One," Cassie answered.

"Epsilon means The exalted one, or the Master." Epsilon said. "Thete, you really ARE a wonder. You take a nickname that is meant as an insult and wear it proudly." He poked him rather painfully over the breast of his jerkin where the silver was embroidered. "Still, at least you have taste in women. For ape-types these two are not bad. Which of these is yours? Or do you have both?"

"You should watch your tongue," Terry said, rising to his feet. "Cassie is my fiancée."

"Sit down, Terry," Chrístõ told him. "Eps is just going, aren't you, Eps…" He gave him a cold hard stare that would have withered most people. But Epsilon laughed.

"I'm in no hurry. I thought I might see if this little creature would kiss me." And he reached to try to kiss Bo, his hand roughly holding her under her chin. She slapped him away and retreated towards Chrístõ who put his arm around her protectively. If he could have helped it, he would rather Epsilon didn't know he had feelings for her. It was just the reason he needed to press an unwelcome advance on her - to spite him. But Bo's movement towards him had given it away.

"Thete, how DID you pass Emotional Detachment class?" Epsilon asked him with a sneer.

"Eps, just go," he said out loud. "Don't make me angry."

"You put these ape-lifeforms before your own blood kin?" Epsilon stood up and for a moment looked as if he was going to challenge Chrístõ to some kind of duel, but he laughed, coldly, and like his smile, only with his mouth, not with his eyes. Then he turned on his heels and left the inn.

"What a creep," Cassie said as soon as he was gone. Chrístõ… he's RELATED to you?"

“My father’s sister was married to his mother’s brother,” Chrístõ said. “And they both died long before either Eps or I were born. It's a pretty loose relationship. We’re not even from the same House. He is from Oakdaene. I am from Lœngbærrow. Lœngbærrow is one of the oldest Houses of all, sired by Rassilon himself. Oakdaene, while still Oldblood, are a newer House and less prestigious. His family are wealthy, but they have no political power. Which really irks Eps. He isn’t happy about having to ask my father for HIS money, either. But that was the terms of his father’s will. He can’t claim his inheritance in full until he is 300.”

"His father died?" Terry asked. "Why didn't he regenerate or whatever it is?"

"I don't know," Chrístõ said. "But there are SOME things that kill us outright no matter what. Yes, it was tough on Eps being an orphan. But he wasn't the one who got kicked in the ribs every night going home from school. Eps is a pureblood."

"Well, you know, never would have guessed that from his tolerant and friendly attitude to other species!" Terry said sarcastically. And they laughed at that and it relieved the tension. Bo, though, never left Chrístõ's close side all evening after that. He wasn't sure if she was seeking his protection or if she was protecting him, but her nearness was nice either way.

After they had eaten and freshened up in the bedchambers to which the landlord conducted them, they did, indeed, go out for a walk to view the spectacular sunset that they had been advised to see. And it WAS spectacular. The atmosphere of the planet was free of pollution, but it must have had some kind of ionised layer that reflected light in the way the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis both did on Earth - only brighter and bigger and more wonderful. They all felt inspired by seeing it and came back to the inn happy and contented. They drank some more ale with the local people who were friendly towards them, and then went to their chambers.

Chrístõ undressed behind a dressing screen into a nightshirt and came out to where Bo was sitting on the bed looking very pretty in a long white nightgown of satin. She was brushing her hair and Chrístõ took over from her. Her hair was so fine and beautiful and he loved to touch it. He kissed her gently on the neck and shoulders as he did so. If anyone had seen them they would have said they were a young married couple getting ready for bed.

But of course they were not married. Chrístõ meant to spend the night with her, but not in the way anyone would expect. It was difficult, it had to be said. Looking as lovely as she did, any man would be tempted. But Chrístõ was no ordinary man.

"Come to bed, my Chrístõ," she said as she slipped between the sheets. He stayed sitting on the top of the bed for a while.

"I will, Precious," he said, looking at the way her hair spread out across the pillow. He touched a strand of it and curled it around his finger. "But you must understand, on the world I come from, men and women don't ever make love before they are legally married. And I know I am a long way from home, but I must behave as I have been taught. All I want is to hold you. To feel you close by me. That is enough for me."

"It's enough for me if you are happy, my Chrístõ," she said.

"All right then, my precious Bo." And he slipped into the bed beside her. The sheets were coarse but not uncomfortably so, and they were clean. Chrístõ reached for her and she gave a soft sigh as he embraced her. But true to his word they did no more than kiss and hold each other until sweet, untroubled sleep overcame them both. For Chrístõ it was unusual to sleep in that way, like a Human, but for once, he wanted to.

It was some time after dawn when he woke to a disturbance out in the street. He thought he heard the word 'murder' shouted. He tried to gently move Bo's arms from around him so that he could get out of the bed without waking her, but as he did he heard heavy footsteps on the stairs and the door burst open. Bo woke with a start at the sound. Chrístõ was out of the bed and grasping his sword in a moment, but there were too many men, all armed with axes and clubs - he guessed they were what passed for a local militia and police force.

He could have fought them, possibly, but by the sounds of things there was a mob outside anyway. Better, he thought, to let himself be taken by them and sort out what was going on when things were calmer. The sound of Bo screaming as the militia held her back from him was heartbreaking, though. He saw Terry and Cassie at the door of their room, alerted by the noise. He tried to tell them not to worry but his captors forced a gag into his mouth and bound his hands before dragging him roughly down the stairs.

The mob outside was so enraged by now that Chrístõ actually feared for his life when he was brought out, blinking in the early sunlight. But the militia obviously had orders to take him alive. Those who came too close were as roughly treated as he was.

The village jail was a dark, foreboding building behind the tannery yard. Chrístõ was glad he had already slowed his breathing so as not to choke on the gag, as it was a foul place inside and out. Its one cell was a dark, noisome place with one tiny barred window too high to see through and a hard packed Earth floor covered in dirty straw. The gag and the bindings on his hands were taken off before he was thrust inside and the thick oak door slammed shut.

He was not especially claustrophobic, but as the door slammed his hearts sank dismally. It would help if he at least knew why he had been taken. His captors had said nothing. But the word 'murderer' had been shouted and spat and muttered as he was brought through the village and he could put that much together. Somebody had been killed and HE had been blamed. Why? He didn't know.

He knelt on the filthy floor, trying to keep as little of his body from touching it as possible. He hated dirty places and he could think of few places dirtier than this. He calmed his hearts and put himself into a light meditation. He would have liked to go into a full, deep state, where he could forget his awful circumstances, but he had a feeling he would need to keep his wits about him. At least, he was able to calm his thoughts and prepare for whatever was to come.

It must have been about an hour later when the door opened again. He was still kneeling. He looked up to see Epsilon grinning at him.

"You seem to be in a bit of trouble, Thete," Epsilon said. "Luckily I persuaded the guards to let me come and see you. You'll be needing a lawyer, of course… and I came second to you in our law studies."

"What use is Gallifreyan law here?" Chrístõ retorted. "Where are my friends? Are they all right?"

"The ape people you mean? They're outside. I might be able to persuade the guards to let you see one of them. Which is your favourite? The lovely dusky one or the petite yellow-skinned one? Or is it the male who takes your fancy, Thete? You always did have strange tastes."

"Go away, Eps," Chrístõ responded wearily. "If you have any real friendship for me, persuade the guards to let me see THEM."

"You're hopeless, Thete. You're looking at a death sentence and you'd rather spend your last hours with ape-descended inferiors. I wash my hands of you." Epsilon turned and left and the door was slammed shut again. A few minutes later, though, it opened and he was pleased to see Bo and Cassie there. They brought clothes and a basin of water.

"We're allowed to prepare you to be brought to the court for trial," Cassie said, remarkably calmly. Bo seemed unable to speak at all. She knelt and began to wash his hands and face with the water. Then the two of them dressed him. He didn't need them to do it, and he felt a little embarrassed by it. But they seemed to want to do it for him and their gentle hands upon him were a comfort. As Bo fastened the cloak around his shoulders she embraced him tearfully. He felt her heartbreak as an unbroken wave that overwhelmed his telepathic functions. He held her tightly for as long as he dared. Cassie, too, put her arms about his shoulders and they both kissed him lovingly.

It was a sweet relief from his unhappy situation, but all too soon the guards ordered them to leave. Bo tried to hang onto him, but Cassie put her arms about her and told her quietly not to break down in font of the guards, to keep her dignity. Finally, after one last kiss the two of them walked out, hand in hand, with their heads held high. Chrístõ was proud of them, but he felt all the more lonely after. Though not for long, for soon the guards came to take him to the court.

His friends were in the courtroom. So was Epsilon, he noticed. So was almost the whole village, it seemed. When Chrístõ was brought in and put into the 'dock' there was a wave of murmuring among them which was quietened by the magistrate who sat at a high desk facing the crowd.

"The prisoner will state his name to the court," an official demanded when silence was called for.

"Oh, you asked for it," Chrístõ said and with a half smile he took a breath and told them his name. Chrístõdavõreendiamõndhærtmallõupdracœfiredelunmiancuimhne de Lœngbærrow."

The magistrate looked at him with narrowed eyes. The court clerk looked to the magistrate in something like despair.

"Just put 'the accused'," the magistrate told the clerk. "How do you plead?" He demanded of Chrístõ.

"Not guilty, of course," he answered. "Since I do not even know what I am accused of."

"You are accused of murder," the magistrate replied coldly. "And if you cannot give a better account of yourself you will die for it." And he turned to the lawyers' bench. "Let the prosecution state its case."

"Your worshipful honour…" A man dressed in black stood up and addressed the magistrate before turning to the court in general. "Last night, a dreadful double murder occurred. Mistress Jennet Marsh and her husband Martell were both cruelly and heartlessly killed by a murderer who left his own mark upon them in his arrogance. A stranger in a dark cloak was seen following Mistress Jennet at the eighth hour. This morning at the hour before dawn her brother called to bring Martell with him to the fields to begin the harvest and found their mutilated bodies in a pool of blood." The crowd murmured and women sobbed. "The evidence points to THAT man - that stranger - as the murderer of our two townspeople." He pointed to Chrístõ with a venomous look on his face. Chrístõ stood tall and tried not to worry. He knew he was innocent, and surely he could prove it. But when Epsilon stood up, evidently preparing to defend him, he wasn't at all sure if things just got better or worse.

"Your worshipful honour…" he began in an oily voice that did not sound natural to him and set Chrístõ's teeth on edge. "The 'evidence' such as it is cannot possibly be used to convict the accused without corroboration. It is circumstantial at the best…."

He went on at length about the nature of circumstantial evidence and even Chrístõ stopped listening. It was text book theory and not at all what he needed.

"I call my first witness," the prosecutor said and a townsman with a nervous expression was brought to the front of the court. He haltingly gave an account of having seen a man in a black hooded cloak leave the inn at about the eighth hour, following mistress Jennet who had been to buy a jug of ale for her husband's supper. Epsilon challenged him to identify the man he had seen and his eyes flickered to Chrístõ, the only man in the court wearing a black cloak, but he was an honest man and admitted he could not be sure. The eighth hour was dusky and faces were hard to distinguish.

Terry frowned and looked at Epsilon. Last night HE had been wearing a black cloak. Today he was cloakless and dressed in tan coloured leather jerkin and light green leggings, a ridiculous combination, but as far away from black as possible - to take the heat off himself? But then why was he defending Chrístõ?

Another witness swore that he had seen a man in a black cloak go into the Martell home. Again it could not be said that it was Chrístõ.

"But we have the most compelling evidence here…" the prosecutor said. And he gave a signal to the back of the courtroom. Two of the militia came forward carrying wooden boxes. At the front of the courtroom they opened the boxes and lifted out the decapitated heads of the two victims, male and female. Women in the crowded room screamed in shock, the men gasped. Chrístõ looked and saw Cassie being actually physically sick at the sight and Bo taking her out for fresh air. Terry moved his seat up a little bit away from where Cassie had been ill and stayed put. He gave a weak smile at Chrístõ as if to tell him he would stay there for him.

But the 'evidence' the prosecutor said was compelling certainly was. Everyone could see clearly that the symbols had been cut into the foreheads of the two victims with a sharp instrument. The prosecutor showed the ghastly symbols and then drew attention to the silver motif on Chrístõ's cloak.

"These symbols are not known among our people. Nobody from the village did this. And what is the meaning of this symbol? I charge this man, not only with murder, but with witchcraft, for what else could such things mean?"

"I protest," Epsilon shouted. "The use of these symbols only proves that somebody wanted to implicate the accused. There is no evidence that he DID these murders."

"Witchcraft is a capital crime," the magistrate said. "More heinous than simple murder. But the evidence indeed IS compelling." He looked at the two severed heads. "Remove those dread remains and let them be decently buried." He turned to Epsilon. "Present your case for the defence. Let it be brief and to the point, unlike your opening remarks."

“Your honour, I shall call witnesses to prove the accused was nowhere near the house of horror at the time mentioned.” And he called, one by one, Terry, Cassie, who looked weak eyed and sick when she came back into the courtroom, and finally Bo, who was close to breaking point. They were each asked to confirm that they were with Chrístõ up to the very latest hour when they went to their chambers at the inn.

Bo cried as she spoke and the townspeople seemed taken by her sweet honesty and almost in sympathy, but the prosecutor had some words more.

"And what," he asked, "Is your relationship with the accused?"

"We are… he is my friend and I love him," Bo said.

"And you spent the night in his bed."

"Yes… but…"

"Even though you are not joined in wedlock you sleep beside this man." The scorn in his voice was evident. The simple and innocent love they shared was being twisted about, and the sympathy that she had engendered melted away. "You are clearly not a fit witness."

Bo came away from giving her evidence crying piteously. Cassie and Terry both embraced her and tried to comfort her. But her tears were nothing yet. There was worse to come. The prosecution repeated the 'evidence' of a black cloaked stranger who followed Mistress Jennet from the inn and reminded everyone of the sinister symbols on the bodies. It was thin evidence, but it seemed to point to Chrístõ, and all he had was the testimony of his friends, who were strangers to the townspeople, and Epsilon's useless blather about the unreliability of circumstantial evidence. Still, he at least hoped that sense would prevail.

"Let the people decide," the magistrate said. "All who believe this man to be guilty, raise your voices now." And a cry of 'guilty' echoed dishearteningly through the courtroom.

"And does anyone say otherwise." Terry, Bo and Cassie were joined by a very few people of the village who said "not guilty," but the majority had clearly spoken. Chrístõ knew there was nothing more to be said or done. It took a great effort to stay calm and composed as he heard the sentence passed upon him.

Tomorrow, at dawn, he would be executed by burning at the stake in the town square. Unless he confessed to his crimes, in which case he would be executed swiftly by beheading instead. There was something more said, but he didn't hear it above Bo's screams and Cassie's tears. He looked at his friends as he was dragged away by the militia. He wished he could give them some comfort. But there was none he could give them. He looked around and saw Epsilon standing alone in an empty space in the middle of the courtroom and his thin-lipped smile filled Chrístõ with more fear and dread even than the execution that awaited him at dawn the next day.

The landlord of the inn was kind to the three friends when they returned there, having nowhere else to go. The main room was full of townspeople still muttering angrily and anticipating the dawn execution, so he brought them to a private room and brought food and ale to them.

"I believe your friend is innocent," the landlord said. "I saw the other man leave after Mistress Jennet. There was something very wrong with that trial. And I am heartily sorry for you all."

"Thank you for that," Terry said on behalf of them all. The landlord nodded and left them to their own devices.

"Oh, it's too horrible," Cassie said. "What are we going to do? Can we rescue him?"

"How?" Terry asked. "The prison is guarded."

"My Chrístõ cannot die," Bo said. "He cannot."

"I'm afraid he can," Terry said. "I know he has that neat trick with bullets and stuff, but he CAN die. He told me. If his body is damaged enough he WILL die. And being burnt alive… that would do it. There is a point where his body will not be able to take any more punishment."

"How will we get home without him?" Cassie asked. "We can't even get into the TARDIS."

"Eps has a TARDIS. I suppose we could ask…" Terry stopped. "No chance. He wouldn't do us any favours."

"He's the real killer, isn't he," Cassie said. "It's obvious."

"Yes. And if these people had stopped for five minutes to check the facts they would have realised. What a trial! What a travesty."

"What they did with the heads…" Bo groaned sickly at the thought. Cassie put her arms around her. "Bo," she said. "Come on, don't cry. It WILL work out. I know it will. Chrístõ will have a plan. He won't just submit. He's made of tougher stuff than that."

"Of course he is." Despite what he had said about Chrístõ's ultimate mortality, Terry was thinking of when he watched him pull a bullet from his own chest and then repair his body. He had some special powers that would help him and he had his quick wit and intelligence. He was sure Chrístõ intended to do something. All they could do was wait and hold onto each other until it all worked out.

Later, they brought some of the good food the landlord gave them to the prison hoping to be able to see Chrístõ. At first the guards refused, but then Terry gave them each one of the smallest of the diamonds in the bag Chrístõ had given him several weeks back - as a currency should they ever be separated, he had said. Well now was the time. They WERE separated. But the diamonds bought them a few hours visiting time with him.

"My Chrístõ," Bo cried as she was let into the cell. She threw herself upon him and as he held her tightly she kissed him frantically. "Oh, my Chrístõ," she said again and again. Cassie and Terry came to him as well, their arms about his shoulders. He was enfolded in all their arms for a long, long bittersweet time before they all were persuaded that even a Time Lord needs to be able to breathe once in a while.

The straw had been changed while the trial was on. A condemned man, it seemed, was entitled not to be eaten by lice on his last night. So it was at least less unpleasant to sit. They all did, in a circle, the two girls either side of Chrístõ, Bo never letting go of his arm except when they gave him the food.

"They seem to have forgotten to feed me," he said. "So this is appreciated."

"You…" Cassie began but she could not go on.

“You’ve got a plan, surely?” Terry asked. “You’re not going to give in are you?”

“Well, there’s no escaping from here. Guards all around. But yes, I have a plan. So don’t cry, my precious Bo…” Chrístõ put his hand under her chin and kissed her lovingly. “I will be all right. I promise you.”

"I'm afraid," she said. "So afraid to lose you." In her grief she launched into a frantic gabble of Mandarin that Chrístõ barely kept up with.

“I’m NOT going to die,” he assured her. “Not here, and not now, anyway. Have faith in so much.”

“I will try.” But her tears betrayed the faith he was asking her to have in him. There was little he could do to comfort her. Her presence, at least, was a comfort to HIM.

For a long time nobody said anything. They just sat there with him in the cell, just keeping him company as the time passed by. It got dark outside. One of the guards brought in a stub of candle to light the cell and told them that the payment made only bought them the time up to midnight. After that new guards were on watch who had not been paid.

"I dare say they can be paid, too," Terry said. "We'll stick with you, Chrístõ."

"Thank you," he said. And he was grateful to them. Epsilon had sneered at their friendship. But it was a truer and more precious thing than he had ever known in his life except for the love of his own father. He loved all three of them for their devotion to him.

They were sad hours, and they passed slowly, but not slowly enough. At midnight, indeed, the watch was changed, and there was an expectant greed in the eyes of the new guards which was satiated by Terry. After that they were left alone again. They joined hands and sat quietly as the time ticked by. Finally, a short time before dawn, Chrístõ told them they should go.

"I don't want you to be here in the town when they bring me out there," he said. "Go back to the TARDIS. You're safe there." He gave Terry the key. "You know how to open the door. Have faith. Wait for me. And I'll be with you all soon. I promise you."

"I don't want to leave you," Terry protested. "And the girls don't."

"Terry, you have to look after the girls, get them away from here, back to the TARDIS." He took Terry's hand and squeezed it. Terry reached and hugged him.

"Take care of yourself, Chrístõ," he said. "For all our sakes." Then he stood aside and let the girls say their farewells. As much as Cassie was his sweetheart, he knew how much she had come to love Chrístõ and he never begrudged her affection for him. This night, of all times, he would willingly give her up to him if it gave him a moment of comfort in this terrible time. He watched her hug and kiss him lovingly before she stood aside and let Bo have a few minutes more in his arms. They both felt deeply her pain. Chrístõ had saved her from a terrible life and possibly from being murdered. And now she faced losing him. It was so awful for her, more than any of them.

Chrístõ held onto Bo and kissed her lovingly until the very last moment. Even then, when they left the cell, when the door slammed shut, she put her hand to the grill.

"I love you, my Chrístõ," she called to him. "I love you."

"I love you, too, my precious Bo," he said, blinking back tears and trying to sound brave. He reached his hand up and their fingertips touched before she had to go. "Goodbye, my friends," he called. "Don't stay any longer here. The TARDIS is the safe place for you all." He heard their footsteps receding then and he was alone. Even if it was only for another hour, and even though he had a plan, he felt the loneliness and he wept sorrowfully.


Terry held both girls tightly as he walked through the silent, dark streets. He felt sick in his heart and only half believed that Chrístõ WAS going to be all right. He knew Chrístõ would not die meekly and if he could save himself he would. But it was not easy to see how that would happen.

"Hello, ape-people!" Epsilon leapt in front of them as they walked down the path by the village green trying not to look at the pyre that was being built around a stout stake in one corner.

"What do you want?" Terry asked.

"Just to offer my condolences to you all. It's a damn shame. It's going to break his poor father's heart. Chrístõ, a murderer!"

"You know very well Chrístõ didn't murder anyone," Cassie answered.

“Not what the jury decided, though, is it. It was so easy to fool them.”

“Chrístõ is innocent,” Terry said. “You know he is. He is innocent. YOU are the guilty one.”

“Well of course I am!” he sneered. “But Chrístõ is the one who will burn for it.”

“No,” Bo cried through her tears. “No, he can’t die. He can’t. Not for YOUR crime.”

“Ah, the little lover! I expect he gave you a good time. But that’s all over now. So why don’t you come along and be my soul-mate for a while. At least until your novelty value has worn off.”

He took hold of Bo by the arm and tried to kiss her. The next moment, though, he found himself flat on the floor and the girl walking away from him. He was humiliated and nobody humiliated him, least of all a slip of a girl. He stood up again and lunged towards her. He barely saw her move this time before he was flying over her shoulder and flat on his back again.

"Go away," Bo said. "Leave us alone." But Epsilon was angry now and the gloves were off as far as he was concerned. The girl was going to DIE along with her lover. He called her a word he knew she would never walk away from and adopted the opening stance of Malvorian Sun Ko Du as she turned on him in the stance of Shaolin Gung Fu. He smiled. Sun Ko Du was by far the superior form of unarmed fighting. But he stopped smiling when her first move was, in fact, a high legged flying kick from Sun Ko Du.

"He taught YOU the secrets of our galaxy?" Epsilon snarled, squaring up to her again.

"Chrístõ taught me many things," Bo said, and she attacked him again, though this time he anticipated her move and blocked it. His sheer weight against hers allowed him to lunge back at her, but she blocked easily. For a while the fight was even like that. They fought through the streets of the town, and the guards on patrol seemed to have no reason to break it up. Rather they seemed to be enjoying the spectacle, and one or two were placing bets - on Bo winning. Epsilon scowled at them menacingly as he squared up to her next move. But it did not come. Instead he saw her perform the near impossible leap that took her vertically up the side wall of a house and up to its roof. Epsilon followed a little more clumsily. She stood perfectly still on the very apex of the roof, an even thinner surface than the six inch planks the masters of the Sun Ko Du discipline trained upon. He leapt towards her and she blocked him expertly. He had to adjust his footing or risk falling. He looked at her and almost admired her technique. But she was a Human….

"An ape-form taught the secrets of Sun Ko Du…. Only a pure blood Time Lord should even begin to learn, let alone master it. Even Thete, the half-blood should not have been allowed. And now he is giving away the secrets to inferiors."

"Chrístõ is a good man."

"He's a dead man as soon as the sun comes up. And you will be dead before then. Or my slave."

"I will never be anyone's slave again!" Bo cried and leapt at him. He anticipated her move and blocked it. She equally skilfully anticipated his move which, had it made contact with her body would have sent her over the edge of the house. They fought on like that, moving down the line of the buildings. Bo was backing up all the time, but not in retreat, rather to get to the end of the line of buildings where a gable end rose sheer. There, as she blocked another of the set piece moves of Sun Ko Du she bent low and came back with a move that was part the Sun Ko Du discipline Chrístõ had taught her in the TARDIS's dojo and part the Shaolin Way that she had learnt in her native China in what seemed like another lifetime. It confused him into blocking in the wrong direction and she connected with his head hard. He slipped and fell down over the gable. He screamed for help and clutched at the guttering. Bo, kind-hearted as she was, tried to help. She reached to grasp his hand but he would have none of it. Even then he called her by that wicked name that burned in her heart. She watched as he fell to the ground below. She saw his body as a darker shadow in the dark alley beside the house and she saw Terry and Cassie running to the sound of his scream. She swung down in a controlled way to the ground just as they reached the alley.

But where was he? The alley was empty.

"He couldn't have survived a fall from up there," Cassie said.

“Yes, he could,” Terry replied slowly. “He is the same race as Chrístõ, remember. They can do stuff like that.”

“I will kill him next time,” Bo declared fiercely. Cassie and Terry both turned to her, a little shocked by such a vow from such a sweet, lovely girl.

“No, you won’t,” Terry told her. “Chrístõ would not want you to do that.” There were voices raised near by in consternation and Terry knew they should not be there. "Come on, let's do what he wanted. Get back to the TARDIS quickly." And he took both girls by the hand and ran with them as fast as he could as the dark night turned to a grey pre-dawn. If Epsilon got in their way again, he thought he might just kill him himself.


Chrístõ knelt in light meditation, calming himself and gathering his strength for the ordeal to come. He was aware of the night turning to day and when they came for him he was ready.

His hands were bound tightly and he was led out into the town square. As he looked at the hostile crowd he almost wished his friends were there. A friendly face would have been nice. The sight of the stake with kindling already piled around it made his hearts quail. He was pushed forward as the crowd moved aside. Some hissed and jeered at him. He was spat at by some. Their hatred was a near palpable thing and it hurt him. His only comfort was the knowledge that he did not mean to put up with it for much longer. But he had to make it look effective, so he humbly submitted as he was tied to the stake.

"Do you have anything to say?" the magistrate asked. "Before your execution for a heinous crime?"

"Only this," he said. "I am an innocent man and you will not this day execute an innocent man. I will walk away from your flames."

"Blasphemer," the magistrate cried and one of the guards struck him across the face. Even though he had already mentally blocked his pain receptors in anticipation of what was to come he reeled backwards from the force of the blow and hit his head against the stake. He lost consciousness for a few minutes and as he came to he was disorientated at first until a grim realisation jolted him awake.

The fire was lit around him and was spreading quickly. He felt the soles of his shoes burning away and his feet and ankles scorching . He felt no pain because he was blocking it but he had lost precious time. He had intended to get away long before the flames reached him.

He began unfastening his bonds using a technique taught to him by the Malvorian monks. Another less urgent time he might have wondered WHY simple monks living on a peaceful mountain needed to know these things. He slowed his breathing so that he wasn't overcome by the smoke that was rising up around him, although none of his Time Lord powers could stop his eyes watering uncomfortably, and nothing could stop the flames that licked around his legs burning his flesh.

At last he felt the bonds slacken. Now, he closed his eyes and slowed time and he leapt over the fire with a standing start jump that would have impressed the monks of Malvoria. His legs hurt when he landed, blocked pain receptors notwithstanding, and he knew he was burnt more badly than he had expected to be, but he had no time to worry about it. There was an absolute maximum of time that you could spend in a slow time envelope. Any longer and you could begin to pull your own cells apart as time fought back. He had to get clear of the village square before he came back to real time.

It wasn't quite enough time. He looked back as he came out of the envelope. There was already a murmur of consternation as the crowds saw their victim disappear from the pyre. A cry went up as they spotted him. And sooner than he expected he heard running feet behind him. He ran as fast as he could, which was not as fast as he should have been able, because he was hurting. He didn't dare look how badly he was burnt. But he knew he was and he knew he couldn't even begin to heal himself yet.

He reached the treeline. He could see the TARDIS. He saw the door open and Terry ran to help him. He could see the girls at the door. He heard the villagers behind him, crashing through the woods and felt an arrow whisk by not more than a few inches from his head. He didn't want to die within yards of freedom. With a final effort they reached the door. Cassie slammed it behind them.

Chrístõ collapsed onto the floor. Both girls screamed as they saw him. His legs were burnt as far as the thighbone. Blackened burnt flesh and red, raw, suppurating patches covered them entirely. Terry looked in astonishment and wondered how he could have walked, let alone run all that way. Time Lord stamina was one thing, but this was impossible.

He felt like hell. He couldn't hold back the tears of pain and he breathed in odd, short gasps. But he smiled, too. He had made it. He looked up into Bo's tear-streaked face and reached his hand towards her.

"Bo, precious," he said and she knelt beside him and kissed him. The nearness of her calmed his racing hearts and his breathing steadied. He was able to begin the tissue regeneration that would make him whole again.

The villagers, meanwhile had reached the TARDIS. They hammered at the door in rage and beat against the sides of what they thought was a wooden hut, dismayed to find they could not break it down.

Inside, the noise was tremendous.

"They're going to get in," Cassie sobbed as she, too, knelt by Chrístõ's side, holding his free hand while Bo held him the other side and kissed him tearfully. They knew he was mending himself. They both knew he could do that. But it still felt heart-sickeningly awful and they both knew that they couldn't leave this place without Chrístõ well enough to pilot the TARDIS. Cassie and Terry knew a few simple things about the navigation panels, but that was all.

"They… can't… get in…" Chrístõ said slowly and clearly in pain. "My TARDIS won't… let anyone in… who would harm us… It… protects us…"

The effort to speak was almost too much. He felt himself losing consciousness. He couldn't do that. He held Bo around the shoulder and pulled himself up into a sitting position. He tried not to look at himself. He could smell the sickening smell of his own burnt flesh and he didn't need to look. But he wanted to be sitting up.

It was a long process and all the time the villagers hammered on the door. Terry flipped on the viewscreen and they all saw the crowd outside. They saw them bringing bales of wood and piling them around the 'hut'. Cassie gave a cry of fright. "They're going to burn the TARDIS." But Chrístõ shook his head and smiled slightly.

"They can't do that either." Then he stretched his long legs and stood up. He was renewed. He still looked like hell, his face streaked with smoke and dust and tears and his clothes burnt rags, but he was whole. Bo looked at him in wonder. It was still amazing to her that the man she loved was so much more than a man. In her culture, he would be regarded as at least semi-divine. For an ordinary woman to love such a man seemed almost blasphemous. For him to return that love, as he did, was a miracle she did not dare question.

He went to the console and put them into temporal orbit. They all wondered what the villagers would think when they saw the hut disappear but they didn't care too much. They were safe. They were together. He checked the drive engines then he went to where his friends still stood, awestruck and glad to see him walking about. He embraced them all at once and held them for a long, long time.

"My dear, faithful friends," he said. "Thank you, all of you, for your faith and your love." Then he told them he was going to shower and change his clothes. When he returned, wearing his usual black ensemble with the leather jacket that seemed so completely a part of him, the nightmare seemed truly over.

“Epsilon got away,” Terry noted. “He must have escaped in his own TARDIS.”

“Yes, I expect so,” Chrístõ agreed.

“Epsilon did the murders,” Bo said. “He was so…. He wanted to hurt me…. He…”

“He sure is an odd friend, Chrístõ.” Terry observed

"He's not my friend," Chrístõ insisted. "You guys are FRIENDS. He's just somebody who knows my name. And yes, I am sure he is the murderer. And that's…. For a student Time Lord to commit a murder while on field trip…That's something that would shock our society to the core. I can't tell anyone. I'm not sure if Epsilon knows that. I think he probably thinks I'm dead anyway. But I've got to keep his dirty secret for the sake of our people."

“I’m not sure I care as long as we never meet him again,” Cassie said.

“I hope we don’t,” Chrístõ answered with feeling. “But I have a feeling he won’t just fade away. I think we shall encounter Rõgæn Koschei Oakdaene again yet. The universe is not THAT big a place that we can hope to lose him.”

“Well, if I see him again, he’ll be sorry,” Cassie added. “And Chrístõ… what I said after Abu Simbel – about next time it's your turn to be rescued…. I take it back. I’ll be happy to be the one in trouble – as long as we never have to go through that again.”

“There are millions of planets where people don’t want to do us harm,” Chrístõ promised her. “I’m sure we can find some of them.” And he smiled because he was, above all, glad to be alive and among his friends.