Chrístõ stepped out onto the six inch wide spar that spanned the deep valley. He didn’t look down, or to the left or right, but he was aware in his peripheral vision of the fellow Gallifreyan who kept pace with him as he walked to the middle point.

Cal was becoming a Master of Sun Ko Du in his own right. He had learnt fast as he had done in all of the lessons taught to him by his uncle, the man known as Maestro to the boys of the Prydonian Academy, and to a few as Leagh Koschei Oakdaene and to an even more exclusive few as Wong-tchouk nGgo-dhup. He was catching up on the years he had missed in every possible way.

But Chrístõ couldn’t watch him perform Sun Ko Du right now. He was up against an opponent of his own who stepped onto the spar from the opposite end.

These were not fights to the death. These were Masters and aspiring Masters of the most complex martial art in the known galaxies testing themselves against each other to the limits of their abilities.

Chrístõ fought hard, tested himself to the limit and beyond. He had to. His opponent had trained much harder and more regularly than he had. The monks spent all their time in meditation, study and the practice of Sun Ko Du. He had a hundred other things to do and to think about. He hadn’t even spent very much time in meditation until his arrival at the monastery. He was too busy being a chaperone for an Olympics team, a Crown Prince of Adano Ambrado, an Ambassador of his own world and a spy for the Celestial Intervention Agency.

Reaching the monastery had certainly been a blessed relief. He didn’t even realise how busy he had been until he got there and felt the peace and tranquillity enfold him and the stresses and worries of his life strip away until his soul could be calm for the first time in a long, long while.

He won. His opponent conceded the match after a long fought hour. Everyone else had stopped. They were all watching as the monk bowed in submission and Chrístõ bowed in return, respecting a man who had come close to besting him before both returned to the safety of the solid ground.

“Good work, my friend,” Cal told him telepathically as he joined his small group of supporters. Julia hugged him fondly. So did Garrick who had watched in admiration of his older brother’s skills.

“Not good enough,” he answered. “You beat your opponent much more easily. I am out of practice, and it should be a lesson to me.”

“You’re too hard on yourself,” Julia told him. “The man you fought was the best of all the Masters here – and you beat him.”

That was true, but Chrístõ still felt dissatisfied with his performance.

“You have nobody but yourself to blame for that,” said Maestro’s voice in his head. His teacher and mentor wasn’t even in the crowd that now made their way into the refectory, but he had been present in spirit. “You have gone so long without practicing the skills. What do you expect?”

“Point taken, Master,” Chrístõ answered. “I shall try harder in future.”

Maestro was waiting for them in the refectory. He sat with them at the long, low table with no hierarchical arrangement where novices and masters ate together. The evening meal was served by those whose duty it was this day. Again, novices and masters shared the work equally. Delicately flavoured rice and a stew made of pulses and vegetables made a satisfying and wholesome meal. There was fresh fruit to eat afterwards and cool milk to drink.

Garrick ate hungrily. His day had been busy, too. He was at the very lowest level of training in Sun Ko Du, doing very basic moves on a spar placed only a few feet above the ground, but he had practiced very hard and was justifiably proud of himself.

“Will I be able to go on the really high one when I am older?” Garrick asked when they were resting from their meal and listening to music played by the monks on upturned brass bowls that produced sweet notes when hit with wooden sticks.

“Yes, you will,” Chrístõ told him. “If you carry on practicing like that, you will be a Master long before any of your peers. When you come here in your senior decades at the Academy with you will already be ahead of everyone in your class.”

That pleased the boy. He was struggling to keep up in most of his private tutorials and had been told that he needed to work harder in all of his academic subjects. Knowing that he was likely to shine at one thing, at least, was a huge boost to his confidence.

“There’s nothing wrong with you, Garrick. You missed a lot of the early preparation for your education because of the Mallus invasion. You’ll not only catch up, but you’ll pass everyone given a little more time.”

“He shouldn’t be under so much pressure,” Julia said. “He’s only eight years old and already worrying about entrance exams for the Prydonian Academy and whether he’s good enough at temporal mechanics. He should have more time to be a little boy.”

But that was the problem. There was no more time for that. Garrick was eight, and next year he would be facing the Temporal Schism, something much harder to deal with than a written examination in any academic subject. After that, he wouldn’t BE a child in so many ways. He would have seen the whole of creation - terrifying, glorious, fantastic, devastating and mind-altering. After that, childhood was over for Gallifreyan children.

Chrístõ had thought about the Schism behind a carefully constructed mental wall, but that didn’t stop both Garrick and Cal knowing what he was thinking. Both of them looked at him apprehensively.

“I will be going to the Schism next year, too,” Cal told him. “Maestro says I am more than ready. He will be my mentor.”

“Father was mine,” Chrístõ said. “He will do that duty for Garrick, too.”

Garrick was pleased by that idea. He loved and awed his father in equal measure and looked forward at least to that aspect of the Schism. Cal’s expression, and a telepathic jolt, reminded him that it was different for his friend. Chrístõ and Garrick were both proud of their patriarchal ancestry, but Cal had never even met his father, and all he had heard of him was that he was a liar and a criminal as well as an adulterer. He had little to be proud of.

“Living up to our forefathers is a burden in itself,” Chrístõ told him. “You have nothing to prove to anyone.”

“I have to prove that I am better than my father,” Cal answered. “And I shall do so.”

After supper, Chrístõ had no other plans than a quiet walk in the moonlight with Julia and then an early night. The monks rose early and so did their guests.

On his way out of the refectory, though, he was met by the young monk he had fought with on the spar earlier. He bowed politely to him.

“Will you allow me a rematch?” he asked. “For honour.”

“Now?” Chrístõ was surprised. “Where?”

“We are both Masters. There is only one place.”

He was suggesting a match on the spars across the valley in the dark. It was the ultimate test of their abilities because the spar would be almost impossible to see against the black depths below. It would be dangerous to them both.

“Chrístõ, no!” Julia told him. “You can’t.”

“I will meet you there in ten minutes,” Chrístõ assured his opponent. They bowed to each other and the monk left.

“No!” Julia again insisted.

“I can’t refuse. I would look like a coward. I WOULD be a coward. He has asked for a rematch because we are near equals in skills and he wishes to prove it. Losing to him in a fair competition would be honourable, but to refuse the match would not.”

“Honour!” Julia replied sharply. “You mean your pride – your uppity Time Lord pride in yourself. It’s not honourable, Chrístõ. It’s conceited, and in a place like THIS, you ought to know better.”

“Honour,” he insisted. “You needn’t watch if it bothers you. None of you have to. It would be far better if we were alone, without any distractions. Take Garrick to my room and get him ready for bed. I’ll be back when I am done.”

“You’ll kill yourself out of vanity,” Julia told him bitterly.

“Don’t,” he said to her. “There is always a risk when we step onto the spars, even in daylight. If I should…. Don’t let your last words to me be so bitter.”

“I’m sorry,” Julia answered. “But I am annoyed with you. I don’t think you need to do this. But….”

She hugged him and let him kiss her tenderly. That felt better. He tried not to take her censure to heart, or the fact that they had almost quarrelled over this. He turned and headed away from her and Garrick. Cal had already gone with Maestro for a private meditation session or he would probably have added his voice to the censure. Without the heritage of a Time Lord he didn’t fully understand what it meant to stand upon honour in this way. Cal would only see an unnecessary risk, too.

The monk was already waiting in the centre of the spar when he came out onto the wide ledge before the sheer precipice. There was moonlight and whole constellations of stars in the sky, so it was far from pitch dark, but as he expected the valley itself was in deep shadow. The spar was nearly invisible against it. He sensed it beneath his feet as he stepped onto it barefoot, having kicked off the soft chamois leather shoes that he wore in the monastery. His eyes had adjusted fully and he could see as much as he expected to see. The rest would be instinct.

His instincts were good. He WAS a Master of Sun Ko Du. He fought skilfully against his opponent. As before, they were well matched. Neither got the upper hand over the other. Again, Chrístõ felt that he ought to have been better if he had practiced more often in recent months. He would have finished the match quickly in that case. As it was, an hour passed. The moon dropped lower in the sky. By the time another half hour had elapsed it had set behind the mountains. The light was dimmer, but neither man needed light. They continued for another long hour.

Then Chrístõ faltered. One foot missed the spar when he landed from an otherwise perfectly executed Ba-No-Mi move – Julia would have called it a scissor jump if it was in her balance beam routine. He wobbled on the one foot that was safely planted on the narrow wood and knew he was going to fall. He suppressed the natural instinct to panic and reached out for the spar. He caught it with one hand and swung in the empty air, his other hand reaching, trying to catch hold so that he could pull himself up.

He felt a hand grip it instead. His opponent hauled him up until he could get a foothold and stand safely again. He remembered to bow.

“The match is yours,” he said. “You bested me.”

“Let us call it a draw,” the monk answered. “I do not think it was anything I did that made you falter. There was a movement in the aura – something touched us both, I think.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ admitted. “Yes – for a brief moment, there was something. I don’t know what....”

“Something evil,” the monk said. It might have sounded melodramatic, an exaggeration, from anyone else in any other place. To speak of evil in the midst of a teeming city or even among convivial company in the refectory here, would seem foolish. But standing as they were, in the dark, above certain death, they both felt that a thing devoid of all light had brushed their souls.

“It is gone now,” Chrístõ confirmed. “For good, I hope. Let us go inside. Honour is satisfied.”

By the time he reached the sleeping quarters Chrístõ had firmly quashed any concerns about that moment. He was puzzled about it, but he didn’t want to worry anyone else, least of all Garrick, who was becoming good at picking up on the subtleties of his mood in the rarefied atmosphere of a place of meditation and contemplation on a planet with a low level of background psychic energy. Even Julia might know something was wrong if he let it occupy his mind.

He would look into it tomorrow, he promised himself.

Julia was waiting in his room, sitting on the end of the low sleeping pallet. Garrick was lying down there. A smaller pallet was beside it, but Garrick refused to sleep on it. He settled beside his older brother every night. Humphrey was huddled beside him, making pretend snoring noises. He was a curiously darker patch in the shadows of a room lit by a single wax candle.

“I’m ok,” he told Julia. “I didn’t plunge to my death in the dark.”

“Well, obviously,” she responded. “Oh, come here, you stubborn, silly, Time Lord.” She reached to hug him and they shared a long, lingering, very satisfactory kiss that swept away the last remnants of pique that had come between them. “I love you, Chrístõ.”

“I love you, too, sweetheart,” he answered. He claimed another kiss and then reluctantly drew back. “You’d better get to your own room, now. I’ll see you in the morning.”

The monastery was, as the name implied, a male dominated establishment. Women could visit as guests. Julia was doing that, now. But of course, it was expected that she would sleep in her own bed, in her own room, observing the very strictest definition of chastity. She didn’t mind it so much here as she did on Hydra IV where it was enforced as a means of oppression and control. She rose from the bed and went out of the room, closing the door behind her.

Chrístõ got undressed and put on the loose cotton shift that the monks wore at night. He stretched himself on the simple bed. Garrick snuggled close to him. The boy was sleepy. His thoughts were a soft jumble of mixed up ideas including images of Sun Ko Du spars, snow, and for some reason, rabbits.

“Goodnight, little half-brother,” he whispered and closed his own eyes. Images of Sun Ko Du in the sunshine and in the moonlight coloured his own imagination as he let himself drop into calm, untroubled sleep.

He woke just after dawn aware of a disturbance in the aura around him. Something was wrong within the monastery. There was distress and grief as well as anger. All of these were alien to this place.

Then Julia came into the room. She looked as if she had dressed hurriedly and tied her hair into a pony tail without brushing it first. She reached to wake Garrick.

“Come with me,” she said to him. “I’ll get you some breakfast.”

Garrick rose from the bed, rubbing sleep from his eyes. He looked at his half-brother in a puzzled way.

“Go with Julia,” he said. “I’ll join you in a while.”

“I hope so,” Julia told him. She took Garrick’s hand and led him out of the room. Chrístõ rose from the bed and splashed cold water on his face from a basin left on a ledge for that purpose. When he turned from that very basic ablution there were four people in the small room. Two of them were monks who looked at him with impenetrable expressions. Cal and Maestro were with them. Their expressions were anything but impenetrable. Cal looked angry and obstinate. Maestro’s face was deeply concerned.

“Chrístõ,” he said. “Last night after you left the refectory, did you challenge Do-Rep Soon to a rematch?”

It took him a moment to remember that Do-Rep Soon was the name of the monk he had fought yesterday. The qualified monks rarely addressed each other by name. They simply used the term ‘Master’.

“No, he challenged me,” he answered. “I answered that challenge. The match was a draw. We are equals in the discipline.”

“Not any more,” Cal told him. “Soon is dead.”

“What?” The last vestiges of sleep left Chrístõ’s mind. He was jolted fully awake by that devastating news. “How?”

“He was murdered,” said Do-Re Han, the Abbot of the Monastery. The very word sounded alien on his tongue. Indeed, it was. There was no word for murder in Malvorian. He had actually said ‘taken from the living world by the hand of another’. Chrístõ heard the word for ‘murder’ automatically translated into Low Gallifreyan, the only form of his own language that had such a word. It did not exist in either High or Ancient Gallifreyan, even though he was perfectly sure murder occurred in Ancient Gallifrey.

It occurred everywhere except among the Monks of Malvoria who lived in peace and harmony and enjoyed long, fulfilling lives unless they were careless in their practice on the high spars.

“How did he die?” Chrístõ asked.

“His body was found by the men who went to milk the goats before dawn,” said the other monk whose name Chrístõ didn’t know. “He was lying in a position of unnatural death upon a ledge below the entrance to the monastery. His neck had been broken.”

“By a fall? Was he practicing again in the early morning? Was he that obsessed with the fact that he couldn’t beat me in the discipline?”

“He was dead before the fall,” the Abbot said. “He was obviously placed there to make it seem as if he fell, but the signs are there for all to see.”

“Let me look,” Chrístõ answered him. “I’ll be able to make a better judgement of that.”

“Chrístõ, they think you did it,” Cal told him. “That’s why we’re here - to tell you that you’re a suspect – THE suspect. You have to remain here, in your room. There will be men outside the door to prevent you from leaving. Julia will be permitted to bring you food in a little while, but that is all. You are to be kept in isolation. We are not even allowed to communicate with you telepathically.”

“How can anyone believe I would do that?” Chrístõ protested, but he did so in a resigned tone. Of course he was the main suspect. He WAS the last person to see Soon alive, at least as far as he was aware.

“Very well, I will not make any protest,” he said. “I will remain here in my room, meditating. You will not have any trouble from me. But please look closer into this. There is a killer in this place and it is not me.”

The Abbot didn’t say anything. He turned and walked out of the room. His assistant followed him. So did Maestro. Cal hung back, clearly wanting to say something, but the Abbot turned and ordered him to leave.

“Go,” Chrístõ told him telepathically. “I will be all right.”

He was far from all right. Even when he closed his mind off from the turmoil outside, he still had to deal with the turmoil within his own head. Do-Rep Soon was dead. It was not an accident, and all the circumstantial evidence pointed to him. There was a rivalry between them. Everyone had seen that. And now one rival was dead.

He didn’t kill him, but he might well be blamed all the sane. The injustice burned in him and made it difficult to find the inner calm he needed to meditate as the Abbot had suggested he should do.

He tried harder.

“He’s all right,” Maestro said at last. “He’s entered a third level trance. His mind is clear and calm.”

“But what are we going to do?” Cal demanded. His mind was anything but clear and calm. “We know Chrístõ didn’t kill anyone.”

“Do we?” Maestro asked. “We know he is ambitious and proud. We know he was bothered by his performance yesterday evening. We know that he and Soon fought a rematch in the dark. Isn’t it possible that it ended with a deliberate act of malice?”

“No,” Cal insisted. “Chrístõ would NEVER do that. He is an honourable man. He is a good man. He would NEVER commit such a low, cowardly crime, and you know it, uncle.”

“Yes, I do,” Maestro answered him. “I am glad that you do, also.”

“This is no time for your tests of faith,” Cal told him. “Chrístõ is in grave trouble. I owe him my life. I owe him everything. I was a displaced nobody with a bitter and wrongful vendetta in my hearts until he helped me. Now… even without any heritage to speak of… I am a Gallifreyan. I own an estate, even if I don’t want to set eyes on it. I can hold my head high. I cannot let him down.”

“Then what will we do about this?”

“First, I want to see the body,” Cal answered. “Do you think they will permit us? We are his blood kin, after all. They might believe us complicit. But if we insist….”

Maestro smiled. Cal was thinking logically despite the emotiveness of the situation.

“Let us do that.”

Julia stayed in the refectory with Garrick. The monks came for their morning meal and left again. They nodded to her politely, but said nothing. She didn’t think they bore her any resentment, but the death of one of their brotherhood had affected them all. They were at a loss to know how to deal with such a thing. They didn’t even HAVE a word for murder, after all.

Garrick was shocked and bewildered by it all. He DID know what the word meant, but he had never experienced it in his own short life. He could not understand why his own brother was accused of it.

His faith in Chrístõ never wavered. He had no doubt that he was innocent.

“Yes, he is,” Julia agreed. “There is NO doubt about that. I just hope everyone else realises that.”

“It is a terrible thing for them,” Maestro told Cal as they walked along the quiet corridor to the place where the body had been taken. “Violent death is not a normal part of their existence. They do not know what to do. Even punishment for such a thing is not within their understanding. They do not know what to do with Chrístõ.”

“They don’t seem to want to consider the possibility of his innocence,” Cal complained bitterly.

“Don’t resent them for that, either. They have no understanding of subtle malice. Minds like your own half-brother has, that can twist and squeeze all goodness out of people, don’t exist here. Evil has no place within their hearts.”

“Are you sure of that, uncle?” Cal asked. “After all, one of them killed Soon. We know that Chrístõ didn’t, so it must be one of them.”

That was logical, of course. But could it be as simple as that?

“I think it is,” Cal insisted. “They SAY that they have no envy or jealousy, that all are equal, even the Abbot. But they DO compete against each other to be Masters, and it is perfectly possible that one of them harbours a grudge against Soon because he was the champion of them all.”

Maestro nodded. He didn’t need to add any words. Cal was thinking beyond the narrow framework of the monastery life. He was even thinking beyond Time Lord justice would go. On Gallifrey, an obvious suspect like Chrístõ would be in the hands of the Castellan by now, being subjected to tortures to obtain a confession. They would not look for subtleties, either. Cal’s half-Human blood gave him a deeper perspective of the universe than any of his pureblood kind.

The body was not in a mortuary or any place where it might be preserved for forensic examination. It was in a side room of the meditation hall. Later it would be prepared for cremation. There would be a day of vigil, first, then at sundown the funeral would take place. The ashes of Soon would be placed in an urn and cemented into the outer wall of the monastery alongside generations of his brothers who had died of old age or long falls from great heights, the two most usual deaths to occur here.

That meant that any evidence on the body had to be found now or it would be too late.

“Yes, the neck was broken,” Maestro confirmed. “It was not quick. Look at his eyes, the way they bulge, and the broken cappiliaries and blue lips that suggest oxygen was cut off from his face. And now, look at the neck itself. See the bruising. Hands squeezed the life out of him before the vertebrae snapped.”

“If it took time, didn’t he fight back?” Cal asked. “He was the champion. He was not helpless.”

“He did,” Maestro answered. “See his hands. They are bruised, too. He fought, but he was overpowered by brute strength.”

Maestro examined the hands carefully. Soon’s fingernails were short, of course. Scratching an opponent was unworthy of a Master of Sun Ko Du. But this man had been close to death and he had scratched his killer. If he was on Gallifrey, or indeed any other place in the galaxy, Maestro might have ordered samples taken from beneath the nails. They would give vital DNA evidence. Here, it was not possible. Even so, it WAS a clue.

The killer was scratched.

There was something else. Maestro drew Cal’s attention to the detail. There was a deeper impression on one part of the bruising. Maestro demonstrated with his own hands. A man who was wearing a ring on his left hand would leave that impression. Maestro had no rings, nor did Cal.

“Chrístõ wears a ring,” Cal pointed out. “It is his father’s wedding ring from his first marriage, to Chrístõ’s mother. His father gave it to him as a remembrance of her.”

“Yes,” Maestro agreed. “But that is a plain gold band. The ring that made this impression was more like a Ring of Eternity, a band covered in jewels.”

Cal looked again at his uncle’s hands. He didn’t wear rings because part of his life he was a teacher at the Prydonian Academy and the other part he was a Brother of the contemplative community on Mount Lœng. The Brothers eschewed all symbols of hierarchy. A Ring of Eternity was a symbol of an Oldblood Time Lord. His ring was locked in a box among his personal possessions in his sparse and ascetic room in the Mount Lœng monastery.

Cal didn’t have such a ring, yet. He was not a transcended Time Lord.

“Chrístõ doesn’t have a Ring of Eternity. He gave his to Penne Dúre.”

“Yes, he has suffered a lot of teasing from those of us who know he gave a token of that sort to a man he regularly bathes with,” Maestro confirmed. “Fortunately for his reputation we also know that his inclinations are towards petite young ladies – one such lady in particular.”

Cal smiled through his anxiety at the small joke. But the salient point didn’t escape him.

“Chrístõ is NOT the killer. But the evidence points to a Time Lord.”

“Yes,” Maestro agreed. “But you and I, and Chrístõ, are the only Time Lords here at present.”

At other times of year there would be students here from all of the Time Lord Academies, along with their tutors. But now it was close to the winter solstice and the end of term, so they were at home on Gallifrey.

“It’s a Time Lord,” Cal insisted. “We know it isn’t one of us… so there is a Time Lord here in the monastery who has not made himself known.”

“That doesn’t sound at all likely,” Maestro told his nephew. “But I am not going to discount it. It is a vile thought, nonetheless. A Time Lord… one of our own… here on this planet, among these people who have always gladly welcomed us, who has committed a heinous crime. It makes the blood run cold.”

“Who would do such a thing?” Cal asked.

“One name springs to mind,” Maestro said with a deep sigh. “Rõgæn.”

“Epsilon?” Cal used the nickname that Chrístõ generally used for his legitimate half brother. “But he’s in Shada… isn’t he?”

“I hope so,” Maestro answered. “We’ve been out of contact with Gallifrey since we arrived here. But unless there has been a rebellion amongst the robot guards, there is no way he isn’t still under cryogenic sentence. It is not Rõgæn.”

“It would make sense if it was Epsilon,” Cal pointed out. “He is the only Time Lord who bears that kind of ill will against Chrístõ.”

“Many Time Lords bear ill will against Chrístõ. He is a successful half blood who makes nonsense of their ideals of species purity. But that isn’t necessarily the reason why Soon was killed. Come, we need to do much more than speculate.”

Cal was on the point of asking where they were going, but knew better than to ask. He followed his uncle willingly, knowing that he was wiser and more experienced than anyone he knew.

Julia brought food to Chrístõ’s room. Garrick came with her. He wouldn’t leave her side. Julia was glad in a way. She didn’t want to be left alone. Garrick’s presence was a very small comfort.

The men guarding the door were polite to her. They didn’t know how to be anything else. They opened the door straight away. Julia noted that it was not locked. If he had chosen to, Chrístõ could have overpowered them both and escaped.

But he wouldn’t do that.

He was honourable.

He would stay there, a voluntary prisoner, until his name was cleared or the Abbot decided how a peaceful people with no word for murder, still less a punishment for it, might deal with him.

He was sitting in the middle of the floor in the formal position he adopted when meditating. He was awake, though, and when Garrick ran to him he hugged his half-brother fondly. Julia knelt and let him draw her into the same hug.

“I’m glad to see you both,” he said. “It has only been a few hours, but I have felt so lonely, even when in a trance. I felt as if I was so completely cut off from everyone I know and love.”

“It’s all going to be fine, Chrístõ,” Julia promised him. “I know you didn’t kill that man. You could never do a thing like that. The Abbot and his people will surely realise that?”

“Not without the facts put in front of them,” Chrístõ answered. “They are good people. But like any other people, the idea that one of them is a criminal jars in their minds. They would rather it was me, an outsider. That fits so much better.”

“But that isn’t right,” Julia protested. “It isn’t fair.”

“Life sometimes isn’t fair. We just have to accept some things.”

“Not this. Chrístõ, you have to fight it. You have to prove your innocence. You….”

She paused. She looked around. Something felt different about the room, about the whole building. Something even she could sense without any psychic abilities at all.

“What just happened?”

“I’m not… entirely sure….” Chrístõ answered. “But….”

He rose to his feet, still holding Garrick and Julia, but in a protective way rather than taking comfort from them. He turned to the door as the Abbot and his assistant entered.

“We have deliberated,” the Abbot said in a calm but sad tone. “And there is only one conclusion we can reach. It must be an eye for an eye. For the terrible crime of taking the life of Do-Rep Soon, your life must be forfeit. You will be taken to the place where you killed Soon in a fit of shameful envy and you will leap over the edge.”

“I will leap over?” Chrístõ asked. “I won’t be pushed?”

“Nobody will be responsible for your death but yourself,” the Abbot told him. “You will leap off the mountain of your own volition and thus cleanse this place of the evil you brought to it.”

“No!” Julia cried out. “No. He’s innocent. But even if he wasn’t… that is a horrible punishment. You can’t do that to him.”

“The Abbot has spoken, girl,” his assistant told her. “He must be obeyed.”

“No!” she insisted. “It’s wrong, completely wrong. Listen to me. Chrístõ didn’t kill that man. He didn’t.”

“Julia, please don’t shout,” Chrístõ told her. “It is unbecoming of a lady. I accept the Abbot’s decision. I will die in order to rid this place of the evil that has come to it.”

“What?” Julia stopped shouting in utter surprise. How could he accept such a terrible injustice so easily? He didn’t even look scared.

“I must have a few minutes alone with my fiancée and my brother,” he said. “Then I will be ready.”

“No,” the assistant protested. “The cleansing must take place at once.”

“It can wait a few minutes,” the Abbot contradicted. “Say your last words to your loved ones, and then make yourself ready.”

“Master Abbot, do not delay,” the assistant remonstrated, but the Abbot turned and left the room. He had no choice but to follow him.

“Did he seem a little too anxious to have me executed?” Chrístõ asked when they were alone.

“You said ‘brother’ not ‘half-brother’,” Julia answered, ignoring his question. She threw her arms around him and kissed his lips urgently. “Chrístõ, you can’t go along with this. You can’t. Please tell me you have a plan.”

“I don’t have any plan,” he told her. “But I think it is possible that Maestro and Cal have one. That sudden change you felt was their doing. I think it will be all right.”

“You think? If it isn’t… you’ll die.”

“That is the risk I have to take. Julia, bear up. Hold onto the hope. Both of you, hold on. Garrick, let me feel your utterly unconditional kiss on my cheek. Julia, don’t cry, don’t fight any of this. Just keep the faith that it will all work out.”

He hugged them both and kissed them until the minutes were up and the Abbot’s assistant came back into the room.

“I am ready,” Chrístõ told him. “Though I really don’t know why you’re so anxious to do this. It goes against everything that this place stands for.”

The assistant monk didn’t answer. He turned and stepped out of the room. Chrístõ lifted Garrick into his arms and followed. Julia held his arm as they walked.

“Garrick shouldn’t be there,” she told him.

“I know. But I don’t think he’ll go anywhere else. You’ll have to take care of him when it comes to it.”

“Chrístõ… do you KNOW what Maestro’s plan is?” she whispered.


“Do you know if there IS a plan? Do you know for certain?”

“No, but I am sure of it.”

“You’re risking your life on a hunch.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time,” he told her.

“How can you be so calm about it?”

He had no answer. He felt in his soul that his friends would not let him down, but he didn’t know what was going to happen. He had to trust them.

The one thing he knew for certain was that it wouldn’t be a rescue bid before they reached the cliff where the spars crossed the impossibly deep valley. It would do no good to take him away from there without clearing his name, without clearing the name of Gallifrey for every student who would come to the monastery after them to learn the noble art of Sun Ko Du from the Masters of Malvoria.

He just knew that Maestro was going to do SOMETHING.

The slow walk seemed interminably long and yet all too quick. They reached the door that led out to the cliffside. The Abbot was already there. Nobody else was going to witness what happened here.

“Garrick, you should stay inside,” Julia told him, but the boy shook his head. He at least allowed Julia to hold him instead of his brother. He kissed them both one more time then walked ahead. Julia stepped out into the daylight and looked around at the high mountain peaks, so starkly outlined against the sky that they might have been cardboard cut outs.

Except that she knew they weren’t. They really were thousands of feet high. The valley was thousands of feet deep. Anyone who fell from there would be dead before they hit the ground. There was something called terminal velocity that was reached before then. She wasn’t exactly sure how it worked, but she knew that people who fell from high places like towers and bridges were dead before their bodies reached the ground.

She held back her tears. She swallowed the hard lump in her throat that made breathing so difficult.

“Have you anything at all to say?” the Abbot asked Chrístõ as he stepped towards the edge.

“Only that I am an honourable man, true to my Time Lord oath,” he answered.

Then he jumped. Julia screamed. Garrick grasped her around the neck and held on tightly. She felt him shudder but he said nothing.

Then he whispered something in her ear.

“He’s not dead.”


She stepped forward and dared to look over the edge. She was astonished by what she saw. There was no deep chasm, only a floor made of some kind of steel mesh with a green light glowing beneath it.

She looked at the mountains and thought again that they might not be entirely real.

Then the air shimmered briefly and the mountains flickered for a moment. She looked down into a deep, deep drop to the valley below where a narrow, meandering line was the river running through it.

She turned to hear a familiar noise – a TARDIS materialising. It took on the appearance of a door in the monastery wall where there hadn’t been one before. The door opened and Cal stepped out. He pointed a sonic screwdriver at the Abbot’s assistant.

“Show yourself,” he said. “Show your TRUE self, traitor, murderer.”

“What?” Julia exclaimed in surprise, then forgot all about Cal’s mysterious demand when Chrístõ and Maestro both stepped out of the TARDIS. Chrístõ came to her side and hugged her briefly before turning to watch what unfolded.

“What?” Julia exclaimed again as the assistant’s body shimmered and flickered and then changed. The man who stood before them now was a stranger to the Abbot, but Maestro and Chrístõ both recognised him.

“Anisol Desal,” Chrístõ said. “What is this about?”

“Don’t move,” Cal ordered the man identified thus. “There is an electronic restraint around you. If you TRY to move a disabling charge of electricity will rip through your body, so just stay where you are.”

“I didn’t know sonic screwdrivers did that,” Julia pointed out, though it was probably not the most important question right now.

“Who is this man?” the Abbot demanded – the real question to be asked. “Where is Do-Rep Anka, my assistant?”

“I’m afraid he is almost certainly dead,” Maestro answered. “This man killed him. I am sorry to say he is one of us. Notice that he is wearing a ring encrusted with jewels – the Ring of Eternity given to all Transcended Time Lords. That ring will have left an impression on the neck of Do-Rep Anka when he strangled him and broke his neck many days ago before taking on his appearance.”

Desal said nothing, but his expression implied that he would gladly leave the same mark on Maestro’s neck – if he could.

“There are two men dead?” Julia asked. “Do-Rep Anka AND Do-Rep Soon last night?”

“As it happens, no,” Maestro answered her. He nodded and gave a very subtle wave of his hand. Another man stepped out of his TARDIS. It was Do-Rep Soon.

“I am Veros Chárr, in fact,” Soon answered in Low Gallifreyan. “But these good people know me as Soon and I am getting quite attached to the name.”

“Soon is the Malvorian name he has used since he came to the monastery several years ago,” Maestro explained. “He was a Celestial Intervention Agency man who was stranded here when the Mallus invasion of Gallifrey occurred. He used a shimmer cloak similar to the one Desal used to appear to have one heart and be a native of Malvoria. After the war, he remained here as Paracell Hext’s undercover man in case any of the traitors who worked with the Mallus found their way to Malvoria. None of them did. Perhaps such traitors have enough honour left in them to stay away from a place like this. But Anasol Desal came, instead.”

“Why?” Chrístõ asked. “Anasol… I remember you. When we were students, you were here the same time I was. You were a Cerulean. You were the best of your academy, almost as good as....”

He paused. It seemed a little arrogant to say that Anasol had been almost as good as himself, though it was true. When he and Epsilon fought each other in the final match, Anasol had been the runner up he had beaten in the semi-final of the knock out tournament.

“Is that what it was about? School rivalry? You killed a man and framed me for his murder because I beat you at Sun Ko Du thirty years ago?”

“No,” he answered. “I killed Anka because I wanted to stay here back then, and he told the Abbot I did not belong, because I was too ambitious and too ruthless. The Abbot refused to let me become one of the Brotherhood on his word.”

“Sounds as if he was right,” Julia said. “This place is about peace and brotherhood, not murder.”

“Exactly so,” Maestro agreed. “Chárr, take him into custody. Cal, drop the restraint so that he can put the electronic cuffs on the prisoner.”

Cal did as he said as Chárr, aka Do-Rep Soon. moved forwards. There was less than a second when the restraint was off, but Desal took advantage of that second. He sprang forward using Sun Ko Du moves that proved he WAS one of the best students as he evaded his captors. Julia screamed as he grabbed Garrick away from her, holding him in front of him like a shield and backing away.

“Give him back!” Chrístõ demanded. He blocked the door back into the monastery. Maestro blocked the way into the TARDIS. Desal had nowhere to go. The ledge stretched only a few metres either side of the door.

He stepped back, instead, towards the edge, feeling with his feet for one of the spars that crosse the valley.

“Try to follow me and I’ll jump,” he said. “Taking the child with me.”

“No, you won’t,” Chrístõ answered. “Put him down, now, and give it up.”

“If I’m taken back to Gallifrey, They’ll execute me. I might as well die here.”

“I don’t think so,” Julia said. While Desal had been talking to Chrístõ she had moved around until she was only feet away from him. She rose up on her toes and then down on her heels, rocking once, then she jumped, grabbing Garrick back from Desal and somersaulting high above him before landing on the spar behind him. Desal gave an angry cry and turned, but he misjudged his step. He wobbled and then slipped off the spar. His hand brushed against it but he failed to grasp hold. Julia stood stock still on the spar, clinging to Garrick as the Doppler sound of his cry died away.

“Julia,” Chrístõ said to her. He had stepped onto the spar and moved close to her. “Julia, that was amazing. You can open your eyes now and give Garrick to me.”

Julia opened her eyes, then she dared to look down. She was puzzled to note that she was not standing above a deep chasm, but a drop of only about ten feet onto a mesh floor with green light below it. The body of Anasol Desal was lying there.

“But he couldn’t have died from falling just that far,” she said as she followed Chrístõ back onto the solid cliff edge. “And besides….”

Chárr pulled up the sleeve of his monk’s habit and pressed a button on a wrist device concealed beneath. The floor shimmered and vanished along with the body. A deep chasm that absolutely DID look real this time replaced it. Another TARDIS materialised beside the first one.

“I’ll check the body later,” Chárr said. “But the reading on my device here says that he died of heart failure, believing that he was falling from a great height. Anyway, he saved Gallifrey a trial. That is the best that could be said for all this. Master Abbot, I am sorry for the long deception, and for the trouble that was caused last night. Desal tried to kill me because he had recognised me for what I am and knew I could unmask him. He failed. I pretended that he had succeeded and he placed my body to make it appear as if my fellow Time Lord, Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow, had done the dreadful deed, but of course he is innocent.”

“Whose body is in the preparation room?” The Abbott asked.

“Your assistant, Do-Rep Anka,” Chárr answered. “With my shimmer cloak around him to disguise his face, though not the cause of his death. Desal had kept his body in stasis since he killed him. There was no decay, and the signs of strangulation are still clear, should any proof be needed of his unnatural murder.”

“His killer has paid the price. Let Anka’s body be prepared with oils and we will keep vigil. He shall be cremated with full honour at nightfall.”

“We will join you in the vigil,” Maestro said. “Let it be known that we men of Gallifrey are – most of us, at least – honourable men. We will pay our respects with you.”

“Yes,” the Abbott agreed. “You will be welcome. Let no bitterness stay between us.”

The Abbott turned and went inside. The others followed.

“Your TARDIS,” Julia said to Maestro. “You materialised it around the whole monastery. That’s why Chrístõ was safe when he jumped.”

“Not his TARDIS,” Veros Charr corrected her. “Mine. Maestro and his apprentice combined their thoughts in meditation and found two unknown Time Lord minds among the good brothers of Malvoria. One was close to the Abbot. That was Desal in disguise. The other – myself - was hidden in a room below the meditation hall. They found me and heard the full story. Then we used his TARDIS inside mine - it’s an up to date Type Fifty-Five with a holo-room that can replicate any environment – brand new technology as yet only available to members of the Celestial Intervention Agency on covert missions. Yes, we surrounded the whole monastery. The hope was to expose Desal and take him into custody while he was still within the Celestial Intervention Agency ship, but we had to intervene to save Chrístõ, and that meant revising the plan just a little.”

“It worked in the end,” Julia conceded. “Except for Desal trying to use Garrick as a hostage.”

“I’m sorry about that,” Cal said. “I didn’t mean to let him escape.”

“You’re forgiven, Cal,” Chrístõ told him. “But Maestro will be giving you extra practice to maximise your reaction times in future.”

“Speaking of reactions, I was impressed by you, Miss Julia,” Chárr added. “What sort of martial arts did you use to outsmart Desal?”

“That wasn’t any sort of martial arts,” Julia answered. “That was Rhythmic gymnastics. I’ve got a gold medal for being the best in the Earth Federation, but small boys are not likely to be included as apparatus in future events. That was a one off.”

“I should think so, too,” Chrístõ told her. “But I think before we leave here we should get you on the intermediate level practice spar. I think a gold-medal winning gymnast ought to be able to master the basics of Sun-Ko-Du before Christmas.”