Chrístõ woke suddenly. He sat up in the dark bedroom and felt disorientated. He stared at the luminous hands of the digital alarm clock on the bedside cabinet. It told him it was four o’clock local time, an hour and a bit before dawn. He double checked his own internal body clock and confirmed that was correct. It was strange in itself for him to need to do that. He was usually fully aware of time. Something had confused his senses.

His eyes adjusted to the dark, processing the faint glimmer of light from the clock to allow him to make out shapes in the room: the built in wardrobe where he kept his clothes, a dressing table with a full length mirror beside it, a chair. The bulk of another wardrobe was, in fact, his TARDIS in a sensible domestic disguise. He was aware of a low snoring sound under the bed, but that was nothing to worry about. It was Humphrey, in his usual night time place. Everything was as it should be in his own bedroom, in his own house.

Everything was quite normal so why did he feel so strange? What had he been dreaming about? It wasn’t a nightmare. He didn’t have the sense of shock and horror he got when waking from those, but it was a very intense dream.

He had dreamt it before, he thought. Every night this week, in fact. But it had been vaguer before, and he had passed into untroubled sleep and forgotten about it. This time, it woke him. Even so, he couldn’t remember what the dream was about, and trying to remember was disturbing in an undefined way. It worried him and he wasn’t even sure why.

All he knew was that this dream seemed important, and he ought to remember it.

“Chrístõ!” He felt the voice in his head, and it was comforting to him. He reached out mentally to it.

“Father! Where are you? Are you close?”

“I'm afraid not,” he answered. “I'm on Gallifrey, at home. I’m in my meditation room. It makes it easier to reach you across such a distance. Where are you?”

“I’m in bed,” he answered. “It’s night time here. I just woke up. Did you wake me?”

“No, but I felt your dreams. It’s night here, too. Chrístõ, go to your own meditation room. Take yourself to a level three trance. We can talk better with all worldly distractions filtered out and your mind clear.

Chrístõ rose from his bed. He went to his wardrobe and took out a long, white meditation robe. He slipped out of his pyjamas and into the robe. He went to his meditation room. He knelt in the middle of the Seal of Rassilon on the floor. Surrounded by the symbols of his home world he felt at ease already. He cleared his head and dropped into the level three trance, his body rigid, his heart and lungs and other organs slowed. Only his brain was active, and that was fully concentrated on reaching out to his father.

“Are you there?” he whispered. “Father…”

“I am here,” his father answered. “Are you all right, my boy?”

“Yes,” Chrístõ replied. “Except… I had some kind of dream, and woke up… woke up confused… disturbed, as if I have something missing from my soul.”

“You’re entering the Time of Being,” his father told him. “It’s a little early. Neither of us expected it until you were at least 200. I thought you’d be home on Gallifrey when it came upon you. But it doesn’t matter. You have your place of contemplation there. Can you be sure of an uninterrupted period of at least thirteen hours?”

“It’s Sunday and Julia is away with the school gym team. Inter school competition. I was supposed to mark a batch of class projects, and Hext sent me some outstanding warrant files to study. And I am supposed to read the agenda for the Bess Tallica IV Trade Conference. Holding down three different jobs at once can be quite hectic.”

“All the more reason for you to be fulfilled by the rituals of manhood.”

“Those things could all wait. Yes, I can be sure of not being interrupted.”

“Good. We’ll start at dawn. Go and have a light breakfast of protein and carbohydrates and prepare yourself. I will talk to you when it is time to begin the rite.”

“Very well, father.” The long distance connection closed and he felt relieved of a burden. It was hard work connecting telepathically over distance.

His mouth felt dry and he was glad he was allowed to eat before the ritual. He felt a craving for coffee, cereal, scrambled eggs, toast. He went to the kitchen and made the food. He sat at the table and ate. He thought about what had come so suddenly upon him . It was one of the Rites of Passage of a young Time Lord. A less arduous one than facing the Untempered Schism, or Transcendence. It wasn't even compulsory, although most Time Lords did it.

The Time of Being was simply a meditative ritual in which he reached out mentally to his ancestors, the men whose names were a part of his own name, or before that, even, if he could project his mind far enough back. He wasn’t sure how many generations of Lœngbærrow sons there were before the first Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow, the founder of the scion he was born into. Before him there might have been dozens of sons before the one who was sired by Lord Rassilon, who was one of the Twelve ons and the founding father of the House of Lœngbærrow.

“No,” he thought. That was going too far. If he could reach back to that first man with whom he shared a name, that would be enough. He could consider the ritual complete.

He was looking forward to it. It felt exciting. The prospect of making mental contact with the ancestors whose blood coursed in his veins was a pleasurable one. He wasn't sure why it had begun so early for him. He was at least ten years off the usual time. But he was ready, all the same.

He finished his breakfast, including three cups of coffee, one before, one during, and one after the scrambled eggs and toast, then he went to the bathroom and took a long, cool shower that woke him up fully. He put on a clean robe and went back to the meditation room.

This time he laid himself down across the Seal of Rassilon. Thirteen hours kneeling was too much. Of course, he told himself, there were monks at Shaolin, and the Malvorian monastery, and even the Brotherhood of Mount Lœng who would chide him for his lack of stamina. But, he told himself, they didn’t have all that marking to do later.

“Poor excuse,” he replied to himself.

“Are you there, father?” he asked as he began to drop down into his meditative trance, clearing his mind and reaching out.

“I am for the first part of the rite,” he said. “Then I will leave you in the capable hands of your ancestors. They will guide you the rest of the way. Are you ready?”

“Yes, I am,” he replied quickly. Perhaps a little too quickly. He felt a note of censure from his father.

“You are a young man, not a boy full of impatience to run before he can walk. That felt more like Garrick than you. Calm yourself. Compose your mind. This ritual is as serious as Transcension even if it is less physically arduous. We’ll begin when I think you are ready.”

Chrístõ accepted the criticism. He was impatient, he was excited. Neither emotion was conducive to the meditative concentration he needed for this to work. He steeled himself against his own impulses and got ready to meet his ancestors as a sober, stoic, respectable Gallifreyan son.

His first reaction when it happened almost undid the effort. He looked up in astonishment at the yellow sky of Gallifrey and smelt the pure air of the Southern Continent. There was a hint of wild pallis flowers somewhere near and wyrse grass. He was on Gallifrey. It wasn't like a dream, where only the images of the world passed through his mind. This was real in every possible sense. He turned happily and reached out to touch the cool stones of the marble archway that marked the entrance to Athenica, the elegant capital city of the Southern Continent. It felt real, solid as something that had stood for ten Gallifreyan generations should be.

“I never expected it to feel so complete,” he said. “My… body… is still in the meditation room in my home on Beta Delta IV? I’m… this is just my consciousness?”

“It is,” his father said. “But remember, the senses, touch, smell, hearing, taste, sight, even your sixth sense – all of these are controlled by your mind. And that is free of your corporeal body. This experience will be far, far more than a dream or a vision. So… perhaps you should get used to the feel of cold marble and prepare yourself for less esoteric but far more fulfilling experiences.”

He turned and saw his father smiling faintly. He smiled back. Then he stepped through the archway. His father was at his side, still, but he had the feeling he was going to leave him soon. He tried not to feel like he did on his first day at the Prydonian Academy. This wasn’t meant to be that sort of parting, but it felt like it was.

They passed along the quiet, beautiful streets of Athenica. There was no traffic there. Athenicans went on foot. Most wore light coloured robes. Conversation was telepathic. The only sounds were of soft sandals on marble and the tinkle of fountains in the plazas. Around him were grand buildings like the Gallery Gallifreya, the Library of Arcadia, the Hall of Records, the High Court of Southern Gallifrey, the Forum, where the philosophers of Gallifrey came to discuss their learned theses.

One of the grandest of the grand buildings was the Great Observatory of Omega. The imposing name had rather scared Chrístõ when he was a young boy. But the fear had been tempered with the knowledge that it was it was presided over by his own grandfather, Chrístõ de Lún, the foremost astronomer of his generation. He knew his grandfather as an old man who sat in the garden of the Dower house with his wife, the gentle Aineytta. He would sit on his knee and be enthralled by mental projections of stars and planets, nebulae and meteor clusters. So when he came to the Observatory and was greeted by the same old man dressed in the robe and gown of the Chief Astronomer, it was not so daunting as it was for his fellow tyros who came to lectures here.

He felt a little daunted now, though.

“Father,” he whispered. “This… I’m not afraid. But… I’m not sure how I will feel about this. Meeting Grandfather De Lún,… You remember how cut up I was when he died.”

“You were eighty-five… still an intermediate at the Academy. His death was quite sudden. Only a few months after your grandmother died. I’ve often thought… that he left himself go to be with her.”

“Suicide?” Chrístõ was shocked at the suggestion.

“Not exactly. But he had lived well beyond his years. So had she. I think it was my fault. I took so long to return to the fold and undertake my responsibilities as patriarch. But without her by his side he was ready to rest with our ancestors. He welcomed the peace of the grave. It will be strange for me, too, seeing him. My father…”

Chrístõ looked at his own father and felt like a selfish child. The lump of grief in his own hearts when he thought of his grandfather was nothing to what his father felt about the man who had loved and cherished him from birth.

“We will meet him with dignity and pride,” his father said. “As befits the blood kin of such a great man.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ agreed. He and his father walked up the wide steps to the porticoed entrance to the observatory. Inside was a cool, beautiful foyer with a graceful, wide staircase leading, as he knew, to the great planetarium where he had so often come to hear one of his grandfather’s lectures about the cosmos.

“Hello, my boy,” said a gentle voice as they reached the top of the stairs. Chrístõ was startled to realise he was not the one being addressed that way. Behind him, his father bowed reverently to his own father. He stood before them robed as Chrístõ remembered him in the gold and blue of the Chief Astronomer with the embroidered images of Pazithi Gallifreya in her bronze and silver aspects over his two hearts.

Chrístõ bowed, too. The venerable old man nodded in acknowledgement and bid them rise.

“I was ever proud of you, Chrístõ Mian,” he said. “But the day you brought your son and heir to receive my blessing was one of my proudest moments. And now, here he is, a man, come to meet the ghosts of his ancestors. He is ready?”

“He is,” Chrístõ Mian replied. “Father, I leave him in your care.”

Chrístõ felt the pressure of his father’s hand on his shoulder. Then it was gone. There was no goodbye of any kind, but he knew instinctively that he wasn’t there any more. He had no reason to grieve over that loss, though. He was in his grandfather’s company now.

“Granda Mooney,” Chrístõ said out of the blue. The elaborately robed man smiled at the pet name his grandson had for him when he was very young.

“That’s… not quite appropriate now, is it?” Chrístõ added. “Sire… I... I am in your hands. Guide me.”

“It is my honour to do so, Chrístõ Cuimhne,” he answered. “Come up to the gallery. We will observe an excerpt from my long, and, I hope, fruitful life.”

That was how it was meant to be, of course. This was a subconscious projection of his grandfather, and he was here to be his guide as he was given a glimpse of his family history.

They were the only men in the gallery. The rest of the audience seated in the tiered rows were either boys dressed in the uniforms of the various academies or women. Membership of the Astronomical Society was only open to male Time Lords. But women could observe the lectures quietly from the gallery.

Chrístõ’s eye was drawn to two of the women sitting down at the front by the parapet. He smiled and swallowed an emotional lump in his throat.

“My sister, Thedera,” said Chrístõ de Lún. “Your great aunt. And with her, my bride-to-be, Aineytta Mitabrev.”

Chrístõ had known them as old ladies when he was a boy. But he recognised the younger versions, too. There were portraits in Mount Lœng House of Aineytta when she was a young beauty, and of Thedera as a proud and elegant young Lady of Gallifrey. In their day, they had been the belles of every society ball.

But on this occasion both had eyes for only one man. Chrístõ and his grandfather took seats in the far corner of the gallery and gave their attention to the lecture going on below.

Chrístõ was gripped by it immediately. It was a detailed presentation, with projections thrown onto the great domed ceiling and three dimensional holograms psychically created in the air itself, of a twenty year study of the properties of black holes, particularly the Black Hole Omega, which was the closest such phenomena to the Kasterborus system.

Chrístõ knew some of it already. It was in the text books when he was a student. Here and now, it was new and startling to Gallifreyans. For all their mastery of time and space, no Time Lord had ever been able to penetrate a black hole and live. Legends abounded about why Black Hole Omega was named after the great astronomer and astrophysicist who was a contemporary of Lord Rassilon himself. One of them was that Omega had actually found a way to travel to the other side of the phenomena.

Which would have been fine if the legend had mentioned him coming back again.

Chrístõ de Lún had not attempted to go into a Black Hole himself. He had, in fact, never left the Gallifreyan solar system, in common with many Time Lords of his generation. But he had arranged for probes to be sent in, monitored by a series of radio satellites. The probes had stopped transmitting after a few hours, but the data that was collected gave him enough information to formulate a theory about black holes being portals from the universe of matter to the universe of anti-matter.

It was something taken for granted by Time Lords in Chrístõ’s own time, just as people on Earth in his mother’s time accepted that gravity was not constant and that the world was not flat, and not at the centre of the universe, and that humans were descended from apes. Chrístõ de Lún’s findings as presented here on this occasion were as ground breaking and extraordinary as when Newton announced his theory of Gravity at Greenwich Observatory, and he was met with equal measures of scepticism and acceptance. At the end of his presentation there were testing questions, many intended to debunk his work. Chrístõ Cuimhne watched and listened and burned with anger towards the sceptics and with admiration for his grandfather who conducted himself with cool self assurance as he answered his critics.

“They’re fools,” he whispered. “Can’t they see the truth in front of their eyes?”

“They’re not fools,” his grandfather assured him. “They’re men of vision and intelligence. My findings are very, very radical. If they had accepted them without question they would be failing in their duty. The theory needed to be tested to destruction. It had to be dashed against the rocks of doubt and scepticism. Only if it survived such an onslaught can any theory be said to be sound.”

“Any theory is just that unless somebody proves it to be fact,” Chrístõ responded. “Even in my day… nearly 6,000 years after this, no Time Lord has dared prove you right.”

“None could,” Chrístõ de Lún answered. “To enter the anti-matter universe would means instant death – too instant even for it to be painful. Even assuming the craft used to travel into the black hole could withstand the forces exerted upon it.”

Chrístõ must have looked far too eager. His grandfather turned a stern gaze on him.

“Don’t even think about it. You are not going to throw your life away trying. You are destined for greatness, child of Rassilon. But not posthumously. On your mother’s soul, do not entertain the idea.”

“And yet… it would be amazing… to find a way…” Chrístõ stopped. His grandfather’s expression was too painful for him to go on. “I’m sorry, grandfather. I… give you my word, I won’t try to do that.”

“We are ambitious, the Lœngbærrow sons. But we must learn to temper that ambition and to know when we have reached the limit of our own capabilities, and rest on our laurels. But you… And my own son... your ambitions are different to mine. I have never travelled further than the research station on Kasterborus, on the edge of our solar system. But you and your father… you take after my own father… for you the universe itself is barely big enough for your dreams.”

“Your father… Chrístõ Dracœfire….” Chrístõ couldn’t help smiling. “I learnt of his exploits as a boy. You told me some of them. My father also told me stories. As an adult… I did wonder how many of them were true, or if time had lent a glamour to the tales.”

“If anything, I think we toned it down for you,” Chrístõ de Lún answered. “We wanted to keep your feet on the ground at least until you had graduated from the Academy and had the key to your own TARDIS. But you shall see for yourself very soon. First, I want to show you one thing about this day that I remember vividly.”

Chrístõ followed his grandfather as they left the gallery and made their way down to the cool foyer. It was very busy now, though still silent as conversations went on telepathically. Chrístõ tuned them out and enjoyed the quiet until it was broken by an excited woman’s voice.

“Moony,” called Thedera de Lœngbærrow to her brother. He turned from the dark clad and severe men he was with and smiled widely as his sister kissed him on the cheek, then his sister watched with a satisfied expression on her face as he embraced his bride to be and daringly kissed her on the lips in front of everyone.

Not a word was said out loud, but Chrístõ couldn’t blank out the sudden rise in telepathic conversation and he heard some words expressed about his grandmother that made his blood boil again.

“Did you hear?” he asked his grandfather. “Witch…”

“I heard,” Chrístõ de Lún answered. “Then and now. I scandalised our society by marrying a servant. The idea that she had bewitched me with a love potion was actually entertained by these men of learning. The simple truth that I loved her made no sense to them. But no matter. We shall be married in three weeks, in the Panopticon, in front of the Lord High President, as befits the heir of an Oldblood House. As will your father when he causes a new scandal by marrying a foreigner.”

“And so will I,” Chrístõ said. “In a few years time.”

“You, also, are in love with an Earth Child?”


“Well, well. I wonder what will come of that? Perhaps a rude awakening for the pureblood snobs. For you, at least, every happiness, dear boy. And my congratulations on continuing a family tradition of not conforming to the expected norm. But come along, now. Let’s leave this scene. It is time for me to conduct you to the next part of your journey into our family history.”

Chrístõ had expected that, of course. He was going to meet the ghost of his great grandfather, Chrístõ Dracœfire. And that was an exciting prospect, but a daunting one, too. This was the first of his ancestors who was already dead when he was born. He had never known him.

“He was my father,” Chrístõ de Lún told him. “How terrible do you think he could be?”

That made him laugh, and he hardly noticed that he was no longer standing in the foyer of the Great Observatory. He looked up at an alien sky. It was a deep purple colour and had no less than five moons hanging over it even in broad daylight.

“I haven’t gone anywhere,” he told himself “This is all an illusion. I am lying on the floor of my Meditation room on Beta Delta IV. I have not moved from there. This is a very vivid and detailed illusion that is part of my Rite of Being.”

For a moment he could feel the smooth wood beneath his back, then he was on that alien world again. He looked around and saw a man approaching. He was tall and slender, wearing a robe of black and silver. His hair was silver to match. He looked like an Earth man of about fifty five, grown grey prematurely. As he came closer, Chrístõ noted that the silver part of his robe was a long vertical band from neck to hem on which was a finely embroidered image of a fire breathing dragon whose tail curled around his collar while the head plunged towards his feet.

He stopped a few paces away from Chrístõ and his grandfather and bowed reverently. They did likewise.

“Father, this is the youngest heir to our noble House,” said Chrístõ de Lún. “I leave him in your care.”

“Go in peace, my son,” Dracœfire told him. “Come, boy. Walk with me.”

He felt rather than saw his grandfather leave his side. He stepped forward and kept pace with Dracœfire as he strode away.

“You are allowed to speak,” he was told.

“I’m… not sure what to say,” Chrístõ admitted. “I’m… I probably should have prepared better for this. You are a legend. I have heard stories of your greatness… your adventures…. But....”

“But you think most of them are made up, or exaggerated,” Dracœfire said. “You are afraid you are going to find out I am less than you imagined me to be?”

“No,” he answered. “Yes. I mean…. No…. Yes….”

“Are you usually so indecisive, boy?” Dracœfire asked. “It’s not a trait of our family line.”

“No, I’m not,” he answered. “At least, usually I’m not. Usually I know what I am doing. Usually I am in charge. I'm not being over-awed by my ancestors. And… yes… you have it right. I am a little bit afraid that my illusions will be shattered. I remember my father’s TARDIS when I was a boy. It had wooden panels with pictures etched into them, telling the story of you fighting a dragon. When I was very young I was proud that I had such a heroic ancestor. Then, later, when I had learnt about allegory and metaphor, I came to assume that the dragon was a representation… a political opponent you defeated or something of that sort.”

Dracœfire smiled ironically as a roar filled the air. Chrístõ turned, reaching for his sonic screwdriver, only to remember he didn’t have it. He was clothed only in his meditation robe. It didn’t have pockets.

“Does that sound like an allegory?” Dracœfire asked him.

“No. But… really…. It really is a dragon?”


Chrístõ followed him. They climbed a slight rise and he was surprised to find himself standing on the edge of a cliff. Below was a rocky foreshore with waves crashing dramatically against it.

There was a strong stake set into the rocks and a woman was tied to it. She was wearing silk robes that were billowing around her in the sea breeze. She was a long way down, but Chrístõ could plainly see that she was scared. And no wonder. Being tied up on a seashore, with that dreadful roar splitting the air, could hardly be something the lady was enjoying.

“That’s not an allegory. That’s just cheesy. Damsel in distress?”

“The damsel in question is my wife,” Dracœfire replied. “She is not usually helpless. The villagers drugged her and brought her here as a sacrifice to the great god of the sky. Kierinia thought I was dead. They all did. I had been away for days, seeking the lair of the beast and hadn’t come back. That’s why they took her as a sacrifice… believing I had failed in my quest and that they had to appease their angered god. My poor lady. She was ready to die with me. But she was afraid, all the same. Who wouldn’t be, knowing what was coming.”

Another roar filled the air. Dracœfire pointed out to sea. Chrístõ was surprised to see how far away the great creature that had made that noise actually was. It still looked no bigger than a bird.

“Its roar was always heard far in advance of its arrival. There is a technical reason to do with the way sounds waves at a certain frequency travel, sub-harmonics, that sort of thing. But it hardly matters right now.”

The creature was approaching fast. The beat of its wings sent another eerie sound ahead of it and as it came closer Chrístõ began to get an idea of how big it really was. He actually trembled as he realised that the head of the dragon was taller than he was.

“Where are you?” he asked. “You have to be here, don’t you? This is a scene from your life. You’ve got to be here to help her You have to rescue her. She’s my great-grandmother. She can’t die here.”

He stared again at the creature. The head had a great horned crown above a ridged forehead. The body was as long as a bus and the wings each at least five meters wide. It had four great clawed legs that could surely kill with a single blow.

“Kieeeerrrrrra!” A man’s voice called out as a TARDIS materialised above the creature in the shape of an old fashioned hover copter. Chrístõ gasped as he saw the younger version of Chrístõ Dracœfire actually jump onto the dragon’s back. Below, Kierinia pulled against the chains that bound her. The sight of her husband, alive and well, and battling the dragon gave her fresh hope. But she was unable to free herself and he was too busy to help her.

He looked like a dragon slayer out of some piece of lurid fiction, Chrístõ noted. He wore a chain mail jerkin and leather trousers and a black cloak over it that billowed in the wind. He had a sword of the sort called a claidheamh mòr by Scots and Irish warriors in Earth history, and by a similar word in the military history of Gallifrey. It was longer and more slender than a broadsword, far lighter, too. But if this was of Gallifreyan make he knew it would have all the strength of a heavier weapon. It would be capable of cutting through the thick hide of the dragon if he could only get into position to deal it a death blow.

He was trying, anyway. He had landed on its back and actually walked up to the head. He held onto the horns and pulled hard, forcing the head to turn, making the dragon change direction, away from the foreshore and the helpless victim there. The dragon couldn’t just turn back. It had to rise up into the air again and bank around. And meanwhile, he was plunging his sword deep into the dragon’s flesh. He stabbed twice at the neck. Then he pulled himself forward, past the horns, and pierced the dragon’s eyes. Its roar of pain was almost too loud to bear. Chrístõ put his hands over his ears and watched in fascinated horror, frustrated that he was forced to be a mere onlooker in this drama. He looked down at his future grandmother as she still struggled to free herself and be of help to her lover. If he could reach her at least…

“You can’t do anything,” Dracœfire reminded him. “This is a vision. You’re not really here.”

He was right, of course. This was an echo of events that had happened long ago. All the same, it was hard to be passive as such drama unfolded.

“You notice, of course, it doesn’t actually breathe fire,” Dracœfire said. “That’s physically impossible. Fortunately for me. I had enough to deal with.”

“Oh no!” Chrístõ gasped aloud as the injured dragon bucked and shook and Dracœfire slipped from his position on top of its head. He stabbed his sword into the dragon’s haunch as he fell and held on by the hilt. Chrístõ was doubly sure now that it was a Gallifreyan sword. Even a fine Celtic one would have broken. For a while he hung on, but the sword slid out of the flesh little by little. If the dragon was still high above he would have been killed. But it was descending, blindly heading towards the foreshore. Dracœfire screamed all the same as he fell ten, maybe fifteen feet. The scream was echoed by Kierinia’s as he hit the hard, jagged rocks. Chrístõ cried out, too, but his voice wasn’t heard by either of them.

Dracœfire struggled to his feet. He was wounded. His left arm was clearly broken. He breathed raggedly as if his chest hurt and when blood appeared on his lips Chrístõ knew that his ribs must have cracked and at least one of them had punctured his lungs. But he stood. He stumbled towards Kierinia and used a sharp knife that he pulled from his belt to cut through her bonds. She tried to embrace him, but it hurt too much. He told her to run and hide. She protested at first. She wanted to help him. But he insisted that she save herself, if only to take up his sword when he was dead and finish the job.

“She would have, too,” Dracœfire told Chrístõ. “As beautiful as she was, she was no delicate bloom. She would have avenged me if she had to.”

“But the legend in the wooden panels showed you killing the dragon, not her,” Chrístõ said. He watched as Kierinia kissed him once on the cheek and then ran across the rocky foreshore to the cliffs. She was out of his line of sight there, but Dracœfire explained that there was a small cave, a mere cleft in the rock, where she was able to conceal herself as her husband forced himself to hold his sword in both hands, as painful as that was and to get ready as the blinded, but still dangerous dragon came towards him once again. He ducked as the creature’s mouth opened as if to swallow him and then stood, driving his sword into the dragon’s torso. It gave an agonised roar, a death cry. He had stabbed it in the heart. He withdrew his sword and thrust again. The dragon faltered. Its wings stopped beating against the air. It was dead, and gravity was asserting itself against that great bulk.

Kierinia screamed out a warning to him. Dracœfire was fully aware of the danger. If he had been fit, he could have run easily. But he was breathing with increasing difficulty and he almost seemed to be moving in slow motion as he tried to get away from the falling dragon.

He almost made it. He evaded the huge body that would have crushed him to death on the rocks. He was caught by one of the wings as it crashed to the ground. He jerked as if his back had been broken and managed two further steps that brought him clear before he collapsed and lay like a broken doll upon the rocks.

This was the scene Chrístõ remembered most vividly from the panels in his father’s TARDIS. He watched as Kierinia screamed again and ran to his side from her hiding place. He was obviously dying. His wounds were too great to mend. She lifted his head and kissed him once, then let him lie down again. She straightened his limbs as if laying him out in death. But he was a Time Lord. Death wasn’t ready for him yet. She knelt with his sword laid over her knee and watched as his body stiffened and turned white like a wax model of a man. It began to glow with the Artron energy radiating from him. He looked as if he was on fire. Beneath the cold flames his body was being consumed. But it was being remade, too. Slowly the flames died away and the glow faded. A new man lay there on the rocks. His hair was straw coloured, his eyes a piercing blue as he opened them and smiled up at the woman he loved. He reached out his arms to her and they clutched hands joyfully. Then she helped him to stand. He took his sword from her and cleaned it before replacing it in the scabbard. He looked up at the sky and saw his TARDIS still hovering above. Chrístõ saw him use something – it looked like an early version of his sonic screwdriver – to make it come down towards him on the foreshore. Meanwhile, he turned to his lover and kissed her for the first time with new lips, enfolding her in new arms. She accepted both without question. He was still her husband, Chrístõ Dracœfire, the dragon slayer.

“We didn’t bother to return to the village,” Dracœfire said as his earlier self and his young wife stepped into the TARDIS and it dematerialised. “They would probably be angry at us for destroying their ‘god’ even though the creature had killed so many of them. How they chose to live in their new freedom from fear was their problem. I was just glad that I was alive – and that Kierinia was, too. She was a singular woman, for a high born Gallifreyan. She enjoyed the thrill of the chase as much as I did. She shared my adventurous life to the full. She saved my life as often as I saved hers. But we come from a misogynist society. They wrote all the poems, etched the wood panels, for Dracœfire the Dragon Slayer. They forgot her.”

“You never did,” Chrístõ said. “You…” He paused. He wasn't sure if he ought to say what he was thinking. But Dracœfire laughed at him and shook his head.

“Say it. I have been dead for millennia in your time. There is nothing you can say that can hurt me.”

“In the family memorial garden, your stone… her name is inscribed as well. You wanted her to be honoured and remembered along with you. All our ancestors… they must have had wives. And I suppose their ashes are buried in the same place. But you were the only one who loved your wife enough to want her name to live on alongside yours.”

“I am sure they all loved their wives as much as I loved Kierinia, but they didn’t think of them as equals, as partners in the adventure of life. She gave me a son and a daughter when we had given up travelling the stars and came home.”

“She was a daughter of the Ravenswode House, wasn’t she?” Chrístõ asked.

“She was. I take it from your tone that the feud between our two houses has never been mended? Kierinia went against them to be my bride. They cut her off, never speaking to her again. She didn’t care. Or she never showed she cared. Her tie to me was stronger than the tie of blood.”

“Has every Lœngbærrow heir chosen to marry for love, not expedience?” Chrístõ asked. “We are singular in that, I think.”

“We are. But our House is as strong as any other. Letting our hearts rule our heads has caused us no lasting harm.”

“That’s not what people said when I was born,” Chrístõ told him. “I’m… I don’t know if you realise… I’m a half-blood. My mother was not Gallifreyan.”

“You’re a Lœngbærrow,” Dracœfire assured him, lying his hand on his shoulder. He felt his mind touch his own. “You’re like me, a restless spirit who could not be content to live your life in one constellation. You’ve been out there, following your hearts. The thrill of the chase excites you, too. You crave the adrenaline pumping in your veins.”

“Yes. Yes, I have. I’ve never fought a dragon, though. Space vampires were the worst. There was a damsel in distress that time, come to think of it, though. Am I really like you?”

“Very much so. It’s hard to believe that there are two generations between us. I would be proud to call you my son.”

“To accept that would be to dishonour my own father,” Chrístõ answered cautiously. “But thank you, sir, all the same.”

He sighed deeply as he looked at the older version of Dracœfire, for whom the adventures were a long time ago, but who had never lost the fire from his heart. He knew his time with the ancestor with whom he had so much in common was ending. Now he really was entering new territory. He didn’t know the man known as Chrístõ Mal Loup at all. He knew no stories, even exaggerated ones, about him. He didn’t even fully understand the suffix that was given to his name. Mal Loup… Bad Wolf. What did that mean?

“I am as much in the dark as you are,” Dacœfire told him. “He married late in life when his deeds were done. I only remember him as an old man, and he didn’t talk about his past. But I am sure there is nothing to fear from him.

“I am sure,” Chrístõ agreed. But even so, he felt uncertain about this next stage of his journey into his Being.