Garrick de Lœngbærrow ran into the console room where his brother was carefully calibrating the final stages of their journey, followed by Julia who had been helping him in the wardrobe. Both of them were wearing bulky jackets over warm, winter clothes. The jackets were thermal lined, but they had a secondary purpose.

“The ADJ’s - Atmospheric Density Jackets – are necessary for both of you,” he said. “We are going to be very high up in the Malvorian mountains - higher than Everest on Earth. Also, the gravity is lower on Malvoria than you are accustomed to. You can take them off after the first thirty-six hours when your bodies are adjusted.”

“And the Respiratory Compensator?” Julia asked, touching the rather clumsy looking contraption attached to the front of the jacket. It wasn’t heavy, but it was the size and shape of a wall-mounted barometer. She felt as if she had been awarded an extra sized Olympic medal and compelled to wear it.

“That, too. It will make walking at that altitude less troublesome. I’m going to use one myself. It is many years since I visited Malvoria. Even my body is not used to the conditions.”

Garrick stood up on a step and looked at the control panel his brother was skilfully working at. He smiled widely. Chrístõ smiled back. He was pleased that his parents wanted him to spend time with his half-brother, taking him on ‘educational’ excursions of this kind. Neither he nor Julia were expected back on Beta Delta IV until just before Christmas when the rest of the Olympic team returned on the SS Harlan Ellison. He had a full programme of interesting places and people he wanted his brother to know.

“Malvoria is an odd choice,” Julia said. “Surely a monastery where monks practice meditations and the most complicated martial arts in the universe isn’t a suitable place for a little boy.”

“It’s a very suitable place for a Gallifreyan boy, and one approaching the age when he faces the Temporal Schism. It will do him good to learn the first principles of meditation, and even the very basics of Malvorian Sun Ko Du. Incidentally, it ISN’T the most complicated martial art in the universe. That would be Venusian Aikido.”

“Venusian Aikido?” Julia queried. “Nobody lives on Venus. It is a baking, inhospitable planet. Nobody could ever live there. How can there possibly be a form of martial arts that comes from there?”

“The word Venusian doesn’t refer to Venus in the Earth solar system, my love,” Chrístõ answered. “It refers to Venusia in the Isop Quadrant.”

“Oh….” Julia got ready to ask if Chrístõ actually KNEW Venusian Aikido, but just then the TARDIS lurched and she found herself flat on her back on the cold, hard floor. Garrick fell on top of her, giggling with glee because he hadn’t suffered any harm at all. She was thoroughly winded and had sustained a nasty bang on the back of her head.

“Let me deal with that,” Chrístõ said, setting his sonic screwdriver to tissue repair mode. She felt a cooling balm on her skull and the pain went away. He turned from her to Garrick, but he wasn’t hurt at all. He was looking very contrite now that the fit of giggles had passed. Chrístõ looked once at the drive console then at his half-brother.

“What did you touch, Garrick?” he asked. Garrick shook his head and shrugged helplessly. “It’s all right. I’m not mad at you. I know you just wanted to copy me. You’re a little boy who wants to be a big boy and do all the things I do. But you’ve still got a lot of learning ahead before you can operate a TARDIS, and randomly pressing buttons when we’re in the middle of a materialisation can be dangerous.”

If he was a Human child he might have cried. Garrick was a pure-blood Gallifreyan with no tear ducts. Even so, he felt keenly even the gentle censure from his brother who he so wanted to impress.

“I’m really NOT mad at you,” Chrístõ repeated again. He knelt and hugged the boy, then produced a sweet from his pocket. It was a butterscotch, made on Earth. There was no taste in the universe quite like an old fashioned Earth-made boiled sweet and it was just the thing to cheer Garrick up.

“We’ve landed, haven’t we?” Julia asked. The time rotor was still and so were many of the lights that blinked constantly when the TARDIS was in flight.

“Yes, but I’m not sure exactly where,” Chrístõ answered. “I’m pretty sure we’re on the right planet. We were already in a materialisation pattern when he touched the controls. But you have to bear in mind that Malvoria is a planet of mountains. It has more surface area on the near vertical plane than it does in anything approximating level ground.”

He was keeping things light as he checked their position. Yes, they were on Malvoria and they were only a few degrees out from his programmed landing position – a mere thirty miles as the crow flies from the monastery.

“Two minutes by TARDIS,” he said, getting ready to initialise a dematerialisation.

The time rotor moved up and down once and then there was a groaning sound and a small explosion inside the navigation console, followed by a yelp as Humphrey shot out from his usual nest underneath. Then the TARDIS ground to a halt again. Chrístõ tried to dematerialise again, twice, but nothing happened.

“Oh dear,” Julia said in a very understated way.

“‘Oh dear’ doesn’t begin to describe it,” Chrístõ answered. There was still full power. It wasn’t a terminal problem. But there was something stopping the TARDIS from moving away from that spot. Even hover mode wasn’t operating. The thirty miles would have taken a little longer than two minutes that way, but at least they would have got there.

He ran a diagnostic programme and then sighed miserably.

“The Helmic regulator is physically broken,” he said. “Snapped in half.”

“Can it be fixed?”

“Not here. It will need a temporal mechanic… on Gallifrey.”

“So we’re stranded on Malvoria?”

“No. But we’re stranded on a ledge a long way from the monastery. And to add to our troubles I can’t communicate with anyone.”

“The communications are broken? But Garrick didn’t touch those.”

“No, it’s Malvoria. The bedrock of the planet has properties like lead, the one thing guaranteed to block just about any kind of transmission. And all these mountains pushed up from the bedrock by the mighty seismic forces that created them just make it worse. That’s why the monks find it so perfect, of course. They have absolute peace. Not even radio waves can disturb their contemplations. And when we, Time Lords, visit them, we are shielded even from telepathic influences. We can enjoy the peace and contemplation, too.”

“But the downside is we can’t send an SOS out,” Julia reminded him.

“Yes, I know. It means that our trip here is going to turn into an outward bound adventure. Thirty miles isn’t a lot. We’ve walked much further in the past. The territory we’ve got to traverse is troublesome, but we’ll be all right. Just give me time to pack supplies and equipment.”

“Garrick can’t….” Julia began. Then she saw the boy. His eyes were bright with anticipation of the unplanned journey. While Chrístõ went to find the supplies he opened a cupboard under the console and found the waterproof backpack that Humphrey sometimes travelled in when they went outside in daylight. The darkness creature trilled and settled himself inside the pack and Garrick fixed it on his own shoulders. Julia adjusted the straps for him. Humphrey, of course, was no weight at all, but Garrick was doing his bit for their journey.

“You’ve got our food supplies,” Chrístõ said to Julia when he returned to the console room already shouldering a large pack and holding out a smaller one to her. It didn’t seem especially heavy. “Dehydrated food discs. Not the best flavours in the universe, but nutritious and easy to transport.”

Chrístõ stepped out of the TARDIS first. Julia came after him holding Garrick’s hand. She was glad she was holding onto somebody. Not only did the thin air make her breathless before the Respiratory Compensator adjusted to her needs, but she was immediately aware that she was standing on a ledge with a sheer cliff of rock on one side and a dizzy drop of at least a thousand feet on the other. She didn’t really want to look at either.

But the view when she looked straight along the valley, rather than down, was absolutely marvellous. She must have been looking at as much as a hundred miles of rugged, snow-covered peaks, vertical planes of bare rock and deep, deep, valley covered in tall green pines that were dwarfed by distance.

And all of it clearly defined under the clear pearl-white sky. She felt as if she could reach out and touch the mountain tops.

“It’s fantastic,” she said. “And so peaceful. Not just quiet because it’s countryside, but I really feel peaceful. I don’t even feel worried about a thirty mile hike or the fact that the TARDIS is broken.”

“That’s because of those rocks blocking all kinds of outside influences. Your mind is free of all sorts of subliminal signals that can reach it anywhere else.”

Garrick looked around and smiled appreciatively, then giggled as Humphrey responded to his mood by trilling and wobbling around in his backpack.

“This way,” Chrístõ said. “I can’t quite see the monastery from here. It’s obscured by outcrops. But we’re uphill from it, so the downward path brings us closer.”

The downward path would have been worrying if that benign influence wasn’t calming any possible fears. It was only about six feet wide and that dizzying drop was still on one side of them all the way. Chrístõ walked in front with Garrick behind him and Julia keeping a close eye on him. It was cold, being just below the snowline, but not icy underfoot. The thermal clothes kept them warm. Garrick found childish fun in the way his breath condensed into white vapour in front of him. The Respiratory Compensators were working fully now and they all had enough breath to spare for making personal clouds.

It was a pleasant enough journey through what continued to be remarkable scenery. Julia gradually got over her fear of what was below and noted that there was a river at the very bottom of the valley.

“This isn’t a glacial valley, is it?” she asked. “It doesn’t have the ‘U-shaped’ characteristics.”

“No,” Chrístõ told her. “This is a rift between two fault lines. The mountains either side rose as two continental plates crashed together but the valley remained between them. Barring a certain amount of wind erosion these rocks are unchanged since the mountains were formed.”

“It’s rather frightening to imagine it. Of course, it took thousands of years to happen, but the idea of mountains this high being pushed up from underground….”

“It makes me feel quite small,” Chrístõ admitted. “Here I am, a mere two hundred years old, barely six-foot one, and surrounded by such ancient giants.”

“If you feel small, what about me and Garrick?” Julia asked. Garrick didn’t mind very much. The one telepathic signal he could still pick up was from Chrístõ. He was happy to be here with the big brother he adored, doing something his mother would never let him do.

“We won’t tell your mother about this bit,” Chrístõ told him. “She probably won’t be too pleased with me for it.”

Garrick was quiet apart from his telepathic communications. That was one thing that these trips were meant to help. He COULD talk. But he rarely did unless a question was addressed to him directly. He lived in his own thoughts much of the time. It was beginning to worry his father and Valena. They were even considering holding him back from the Schism for another year, thinking that he wasn’t ready.

“You’ve done tectonics in geography,” he said out loud to the boy. “Tell Julia all about it. I’m sure she will be interested. No, in words, sweetheart. Julia doesn’t do telepathy.”

That did the trick. All of the information that the brain-buffing sessions had put into his mind tumbled out. Julia asked questions from time to time, prompting him, and it was enough to keep him going for a good five miles of their journey.

“We’ll rest a bit,” Chrístõ said as they reached a wider plateau with an overhang that shielded them from any wind. He put a groundsheet down from his pack and took three small silver foil discs from Julia’s burden. He pushed each disc in the centre and it opened out into a cone shape that steamed and gave out a smell a little like cocoa. They could tell it was synthesised, but it was hot and close enough to the taste of chocolate to appeal to their taste buds. After they had drunk the cocoa Chrístõ folded the foils into a small ball of foil and put it into his pocket. They would leave no trace of their refreshment break to spoil this place.

“How does it work?” Julia asked. “Rehydrating where there isn’t any water?”

“An enzyme within the foil attracts oxygen and hydrogen from the air around us. There are enough of both in any breathable atmosphere. Another causes kinetic heat to warm up the liquid.”


“Impressive. But all the same, after a couple of days on rehydrated meals I will be glad to eat a real meal at the monastery.”

“A couple of days?” Julia frowned. “You said it was only thirty miles. We could hike that in one day.”

“WE could. Garrick can’t, as hard as he tries. Besides, thirty miles of rolling grassland is one thing. Thirty miles of this kind of territory is another. Assuming it is ONLY that far. We might actually have to go further in order to find crossing points. Plus we don’t HAVE a full day. It is already past noon and it will get dark by about the sixth hour. We’ll be camping overnight.”

“Oh.” Julia looked around and felt a little less enchanted with the scenery if it offered so many obstacles as that.

“We’ll be fine. I’ve got all my camping badges from the Prydonian outward bound society.”

He reached into one of the side pockets of Julia’s pack and pulled out a wrapped slab of something that was not synthesised and rehydrated food. She recognised it as Kendal Mint Cake, a delicacy of the English Lake District.

“Nobody in the galaxy has ever come up with anything better than this as a treat for a long journey on foot,” Chrístõ said. “My father made sure I had several blocks of it whenever I went on any school camping trip. It was amazing how my pureblood, Gallifreyan born, superior friends clamoured for a taste of something made by inferior humans when the evenings were drawing in and they were feeling weary.”

Julia laughed and accepted a thick piece of the minty sweet. Garrick liked the taste very much. He asked for more. Chrístõ shook his head.

“A little at a time goes a very long way.”

They packed up and went on with their walk, sucking on Kendal Mint Cake until it dissolved in their mouths. They made another four miles before they came to a complication in Chrístõ’s plan.

“We can’t climb over that, can we” Julia asked, looking critically at the debris that blocked the path. Some of the slabs of rock that had come away from the cliff-face were taller than she was and it was clear that the blockage went on a long way.

“No, we can’t,” Chrístõ admitted.

“We’ll have to go back to the TARDIS. There’s no other path.”

“There’s one directly below. It’s a bit narrower, but it’s no steeper than this one.”

Julia glanced down. About fifty metres below there WAS a ledge much like the one they had been walking along.

Fifty metres of smooth white rock.

Chrístõ was already pulling lengths of rope and complicated pieces of metal fastenings out of his pack.

“You know how to climb down ropes,” he reminded her. “You learnt for our cave trip a couple of years ago.”

“Did I ever say I LIKED doing it?” Julia asked.

“You go down first,” he continued, hammering steel mooring pegs into the rock and attaching the lines. “Then I’ll send down my pack with the tent, then Garrick can come on my back.”

The thought of going first was terrifying. Julia looked down again and noted how much further it was if she were to miss the ledge.

“Why would you miss the ledge?” Chrístõ asked her. “Somebody who can do the things you do with your body on those asymmetric bars should have no trouble sliding down a rope. Go on. It’s ready.”

It was far more dangerous than it was when they abseiled down rock faces in the caves. This wasn’t a complete abseiling kit. Neither of them were wearing the harnesses for connecting the lines. He attacked a safety rope around Julia’s waist. If she slipped it would take her weight. But she had to free climb down, holding the rope and walking her feet against the rockface. It was nowhere near as fast as abseiling and far more dangerous even without the terminal drop.

But she was a fit and agile girl, and if rock climbing wasn’t her preferred sport, the gymnastics she excelled in gave her body the dexterity for it.

Even so, Chrístõ had to remind himself to breathe when he saw her reach the ledge and detach herself from the safety line. He pulled the ropes back up and attached the backpack with the tent and other camping equipment in it. He lowered it down carefully until Julia could reach to untie it.

“Ready, kiddo?” he asked Garrick. His half-brother looked at him with a quizzical expression, but there was absolute trust in his eyes.

“Of course you’ll be all right. Would I let you fall?”

He didn’t trust to luck, of course. He used a length of rope to fashion a sling that held Garrick safely on his back. The boy put his arms around his neck and pressed his head against his shoulder.

“A little less tightly, sunshine,” Chrístõ said. “I need to breathe while I do this.”

If his step-mother had seen this, she would be having palpitations in both hearts, he thought as he carefully swung out over the edge and began making his way down the rope slowly and carefully. Garrick wasn’t especially heavy – no more so than the backpack, but he was far more precious to everyone. Valena absolutely doted on him. Chrístõ slightly suspected that her motherly attention was one reason why he wasn’t quite ready for the Schism. Her apprehensions were being projected onto him. It was exactly why his father thought the boy needed to spend some time away from home, in the company of his vastly experienced half-brother.

But he doubted this was exactly what his father had in mind, either!

Garrick was a little frightened. How could he not be? But he was reassured by the closeness of his brother and his confident words to him.

“We’ll have some more Kendal Mint Cake at the bottom,” he promised. Garrick forgot his fear for the sake of a tasty treat, though he could not, in truth, say he enjoyed the experience.

“When you’re a LOT older, I’ll teach you climbing,” Chrístõ told him. “And we’ll tackle the Great Escarpment in the Red Desert together. You’ll enjoy it.”

Garrick’s unconscious mind expressed doubt about ‘enjoying’ a sport like that, but the idea of doing it with Chrístõ appealed to him. Doing anything with Chrístõ formed a lot of his childhood ambitions.

“We’ll do all of it, I promise,” he said. “Just think of the start you’ve already made today.”

He reached the bottom at last and made sure his feet were firmly planted before he unfastened the harness and let Garrick down. Julia hugged him and praised his bravery while Chrístõ closed his eyes and concentrated on those firmly fixed pins at the top. Telekinesis was not his strong point, but he didn’t know if he was going to need those ropes again. He worked the knots loose before gently pulling and stepping out of the way of the coils that piled at his feet.

“Show off,” Julia told him as he carefully stored the rope and then found some of the Mint Cake to keep his promise to Garrick.

“Onward and downwards,” he said. “We can get another hour in before I need to find a camp site.”

He knew he had to find a place before the light was lost. In the valley it would become dark very quickly once the sun went down behind the mountains. After that walking these paths would be too dangerous.

There didn’t seem to be anywhere. They rested for a few minutes under a slight overhang, but there was nowhere wide enough or sheltered enough to pitch the tent.

“This path is getting narrower,” Julia pointed out. She wasn’t scared, exactly, but the beauty of the valley at sunset would have been easier to appreciate if she wasn’t worried about what would happen in an hour or less when it was dark.

“It’s wider down there,” Chrístõ pointed out, looking over the edge at another lower path. “And I think there might be a plateau where we can camp.”

“Oh no,” Julia protested. “Oh no, we are NOT doing that again. Not this late in the day.”

“It’s easier the second time,” her fiancée told her with a grin.

“No. At least, not until there really is no other option. Please, Chrístõ.”

“All right. But if we don’t find somewhere very soon, we might have no other choice.”

“Stairs,” Garrick said out of the blue.

“What?” Chrístõ looked at his half-brother and smiled affectionately. “Stairs would be really useful. A turbo lift would be even better. But we’re not going to find any.”

“Er… Chrístõ, I think he might mean THOSE,” Julia told him. She pointed to a feature running down the cliff face from high above and continuing down for further than she entirely cared to look. It WAS steps, precisely cut steps in the rock. The staircase was terrifyingly steep. Chrístõ wasn’t entirely sure he wouldn’t have preferred a rope.

He compromised by pinning a rope near the top so that there was something to hold onto as they descended.

“WHY are there steps?” Julia asked when they were about halfway.

“The monks must have cut them.” He risked a glimpse upwards. “I think there’s a small cave up there. It’s a place of contemplation. A monk might go up there and sit in meditation with a small bowl of rice to sustain him and a cup of water, free of any distraction. More than likely the cave would just about be big enough for him to sit in it.”

“That….” Julia shook her head. “I understand the monastery. But that sort of solitude - what do they get out of it?”

“Enlightenment,” Chrístõ answered. “Free from all worldly concerns, the mind can be truly separate from the corporeal body and reach a state of perfect peace and understanding.”

She didn’t quite get it. Chrístõ knew there was no point in trying to explain it in terms of universal oneness.

“Da Mo,” he said. “He meditated in a cave for nine years and developed ways of moving his body to prevent atrophy that mirrored those of animals. In the process he invented Gung Fu – the purest form of martial arts on planet Earth – based on the movements of animals.”

Garrick took in that story, but Julia still needed some convincing.

“You train your body for gymnastics, with dedication and regular, unstinting practice. Think of the monks as doing the same with their minds. They’re the gold medallists of sitting still and quiet. And that’s enough dumbing down of a beautiful and pure way of life for now. I think there IS a place we can pitch the tent down here.”

They weren’t at the bottom of the stairs, but they had come to a wide plateau with an outcrop that sheltered it. Chrístõ shrugged off his pack and pulled out the tent. It was a self-opening one that just needed pegging down. He did that with steel pins driven into the rock. As the last light of the day faded from the valley they had a safe, thermal lined place to sleep. Chrístõ lit a tennis ball sized gravity globe that hung beneath the roof of the tent while Julia unrolled the sleeping bag and Garrick let Humphrey out of his daytime nest. The darkness creature hunkered by the tent door trilling contentedly at the stars.

“One bag… for the three of us?” she asked doubtfully.

“Shared warmth,” Chrístõ assured her as he prepared their rehydrated meal. “Believe me it works.”

“Who have you shared warmth with in a sleeping bag before?” Julia queried. Chrístõ noted the edge to the question and the very possessive expression on her face.

“My father, when I was a boy and he took me on trips across the plains, Cal and Maestro, the Malcannan boys - Penne on one occasion. Don’t ask, really don’t.”

“Oh, that’s all right, then. I thought you might have been cuddling up to other women.”

“As IF!” Chrístõ laughed and passed her a rehydrated plate that the product code designated as steak and kidney pie, mashed potato and peas. Garrick tucked into his plate enthusiastically. Chrístõ’s taste buds were more than a little critical of the definition of ‘steak’ in the synthesised food, but it was hot and filling and very welcome at the end of their day’s trek.

The dessert was cherry pie and custard.

“I do believe they have put rehydrated cherry stones in to make it seem authentic,” Chrístõ joked. Garrick laughed with him and Julia.

Rehydrated malted milk completed their supper and they drank it inside the big sleeping bag. Garrick lay in the middle, happy to be close to Chrístõ and Julia at the same time. When his drink was over he folded the cup into a ball and turned to his half-brother with a request.

“A story?” Chrístõ asked. “Does your mama tell you stories at bedtime?”

“Papa, too,” he confirmed.

“What about?”

“You,” Garrick answered, much to his half-brother’s surprise. “Tell me about… when you met Julia.”

“That’s not a bedtime story,” Chrístõ told him. “And it’s not one that Julia likes. But I can tell you about… let me see… how about the time I went to Tibet and battled a demon?”

The story was new to Julia, too. She and Garrick lay in the dark and let him colour their imagination with the dancing sands of the possessed Mandala that he had laid to rest. Garrick’s imagination was easy to fill, of course, because he could see his brother’s thoughts as he retold the story. Chrístõ did his best not to make it sound too dangerous. He didn’t want Garrick to have nightmares about it. But he hoped he had made him realise that it was a serious thing, as well as a story to send him to sleep. He didn’t want Garrick to think that the risks he took sometimes were something he should try to emulate.

He was the last to go to sleep. He listened carefully to be sure their camp site was safe. There were some wild animals that lived in the mountains, but he hadn’t seen any tracks or heard any sounds even after dark. He thought they would be all right if he let his guard down and slept for a while.

He woke when it was still half dark in the morning. Julia and Garrick were still fast asleep. He crawled carefully out of the bag without disturbing them and stood outside, looking at the valley in the deep shadows. In the far distance was a light that had to be the monastery. It was still a dishearteningly long way off, but they would surely make good time after a night’s rest.

Humphrey came out and trilled by his side. He smiled at his darkness friend.

“You’ll have to go back in the bag when we move on again,” he said. “The light will be far too bright for you, soon.”

Humphrey didn’t mind. Like Garrick, he enjoyed being included in the adventure one way or another.

He trilled loudly and the sound echoed around the valley.

“Frie….nds,” he said enthusiastically.

“No,” Chrístõ assured him. “It was your voice repeating back at you.”

“Frie…nds near,” Humphrey insisted. Chrístõ wondered how to explain to him what an echo was. Then he realised that Humphrey must know that. His natural environment was cave systems that included natural echo chambers.

Did that mean he sensed the presence of others of his kind somewhere in the valley? There were caves in the cliffs, of course. He had seen some of them along with his fellow students when he came here to train with the monks in his last years as a Prydonian. He had never seen darkness creatures in them before. But that didn’t mean there weren’t any.

“We really need to get to the monastery today, old thing,” Chrístõ replied. “But we’ll come and have a look another day. That’s a promise.”

Humphrey was happy with the promise. He slipped back into the tent as the dawn spread over the valley. Chrístõ watched it before going to make breakfast – rehydrated scrambled eggs and bacon with coffee – while Julia went out on the wide ledge and did some stretching exercises and Garrick sat by his side chattering happily in words and telepathic conversation.

Julia came back to breakfast with something interesting to report.

“I thought I saw somebody on the other side of the valley,” she said. “One of your monk friends, perhaps?”

“It’s possible. They come up the mountain for meditations. We will be crossing the valley later today when we find a bridge, so there is a good chance of meeting some of the brethren.”

He was feeling cheerful. They still had a trek ahead of them, but everyone was enthusiastic for the adventure, and by the end of today they would reach the monastery. Real food, convivial company and warm beds would be thoroughly welcome.