"According to the guide book this is the most impressive Anglo-Norman fortress in Ireland," Terry said consulting the book and looking at the ruined castle in front of them. It was very clearly Norman, with the remains of its square keep surrounded by curtain walls with defensive towers and battlements.

"Well, it is kind of pretty," Cassie said. "But it's a REAL ruin." She tried to imagine what the castle looked like when it was still solidly build, in the 1240s, when it was the home of the Fitzgeralds, the Earls of Kildare - according to the guide-book.

"Adare Castle, what a beautiful name," Bo said. Sammie didn't say anything, but Chrístõ knew his mind was full of the defensive capabilities of the fortifications. Once a soldier, always a soldier.

"We're going to lend a hand with the excavations," Chrístõ said in explanation of why they were there. "This is educational, children!" He grinned and stepped forward towards the Castle entrance where a security guard was checking identification. The castle was in a very ruinous condition and dangerous to the general public, so only those with authorisation were allowed inside the perimeter fence. Chrístõ's psychic paper identified them as an archaeological team from Liverpool come to join the excavation.

They arrived just in time for tea and were sitting chatting to the main group of archaeologists, a mixed bag of Limerick and Dublin University and American exchange students, when a shout of excitement animated everyone. Chrístõ and his friends followed everyone else to the main excavation area where an important discovery had clearly been made.

"Look at this," the young man down in the trench said to his colleagues. They looked down at what was, even at the early stages of discovery, clearly a Human skeleton. "Just inside the 1240 curtain wall."

"Have we discovered the secret of where the household were buried?" somebody asked with excitement, and it was agreed that the body seemed to have been buried with care, the limbs straightened before being laid into the ground by the outer curtain wall of the castle.

Chrístõ moved forward and dropped down into the trench before anyone could stop him. Nobody in fact even thought of stopping him. All of them felt as soon as he stepped forward that he was fully in charge of the situation. Though none of them, when they thought about it later, understood why they thought that. He appeared to look at the skeleton with the dispassion of an archaeologist, knowing that the soul that once inhabited that shell was long gone to wherever it might have gone, and the remains were just historical interest now. He knelt and ran his hand gently across the skull and torso that was still partially buried in the sand, carefully moving some of the Earth with his fingers and uncovering more of the ribcage. Then he stopped and stared at the grinning skull. He touched it again gently and his lips moved as if he was speaking, but nobody heard his words. Nor did they see the sleight of hand that transferred a piece of evidence the archaeologists would have found VERY interesting into his pocket. He stood up and looked around.

"I think this IS a major find. But much more excavation needs to be done. We need all hands on the job this afternoon."

And though nobody knew why Chrístõ appeared to have taken charge of the dig, all hands WERE on the job. They worked through the afternoon and through the evening until loss of natural light forced them to quit. As the night drew in on the scene, the archaeologists took to their portable showers in their tent city by the lovely River Maigue and then decamped to the village pub. Chrístõ and his companions did the same, except they had far more comfortable showers inside the tent with the logo on its front, that would have bewildered anyone not party to its secrets.

The topic of conversation around the tables as they drank away the dust of the trenches with "traditional" Guinness and feasted on not so traditional lasagne was exactly what had happened to cause not one, but nineteen people to be buried by the curtain wall of Adare Castle some time after 1240 when they knew the wall to have been built.

"The legend is well known," Professor Darragh Curtin of University College, Dublin said. "The Fitzgerald family of Maynooth came to Adare to reside at their West of Ireland demesne for the summer, and in one night all in the Castle were massacred. The local people buried the bodies of the family in the nearby Priory, but nobody knew where the rest of the household were buried - the servants, the castle guards that the assailants killed to get to the family."

"Well, we know now," Máire O'Neachtain of Limerick University said. "It's a major historical find."

"What I don't understand is that there are no indications that they were killed violently," Darragh Curtin added. "There are no chips on the ribcages indicating sword or knife attack and the skulls are intact. No blunt force trauma. But so many all buried at once…"

"And they WERE all buried at once," Máire went on. "The strata where they were found is completely untouched and we've found provenanced artefacts in the two levels above them dating from 1260 onwards. That means they were buried between 1240 and 1260."

"Poison? Plague?" The two possibilities were discussed for a while. Nobody could think of any other reason for the sudden death of so many without signs of murder.

"And what about those first four bodies?" The leader of the American team, Gavin Carr of Boston University, brought them back to a topic that had been argued about and dismissed, picked up again, argued about, dismissed and rehashed for several hours already. "The evidence is irrefutable. Those four are NOT Anglo-Normans. Look at the bone structure. No evidence of the lack of vitamins that we see in bones of that period. The two males had never ridden a horse in their lives. There would be evidence of wear on the thigh bones. The two females, they look to be at least eighteen years old, and never born children. And the teeth - all four have perfect teeth. When did you ever find a body from any pre-20th century era with perfect teeth? I think we've got a modern murder scene here."

"No," Máire insisted. "It's impossible. The strata were undisturbed."

"Even so," Darragh answered her. "Gavin is right. Those four don't belong. I want to get the bones carbon tested. And I think the Gardai ought to be informed. Anything less than 100 years old isn't archaeology, its pathology"

"The STRATA," Máire emphasised again. "You know the stratification of artefacts is a virtually infallible method of dating finds. Besides, come on. Those bones have been buried for centuries. We all know the difference between something thats been in the ground since 1240 and something that was put there in 1940."

"Carbon testing will prove the case," Darragh said. He looked at the fourth member of their group around that table. The one who had drunk only a glass of soda water rather than the Guinness and ate little of the food, and who had listened to the conversation with his eyes hidden under half closed lashes, and yet seemed to be taking it all in. "Doctor Lungburrow, what do you think?"

Doctor? Professor Curtin looked at the young man. He could not be more than twenty years of age, yet nobody had questioned his qualifications. His knowledge of archaeology and historical anthropology had been so spot on during the day's dig that all three of them, with their years of experience, had started looking to him for confirmation of almost every conclusion they had reached. And yet….

"Lœngbærrow," he corrected him languidly. "de Lœngbærrow, in fact."

"Anglo-Norman," Máire said with a laugh. "You're in the perfect place at Adare Castle."

"Perhaps," he said.

"But I asked you what you thought of all this," Darragh repeated.

"Gavin, have you ever heard of a man called John Fitzgerald Kennedy?" Chrístõ asked, his question apparently irrelevant to the topic of conversation. "An American of Irish descent," he added.

"No," Gavin said. "Should I have? I am afraid I am a bit of a duffer at anything outside of my own field of interest. Even my wife says if something hasn't been buried at least ten centuries I don't know it exists."

"No, it was just a thought," Chrístõ said. He turned to Darragh. "Remind me would you, what year did Doctor Garrett Fitzgerald first become Taoiseach?"

"Who?" Darragh looked at him. "I think your modern history is a bit confused, Doctor Lœngbærrow. I think you SHOULD stick to things that have been buried for at least ten centuries too."

"My mistake," Chrístõ said with a half smile. "But to return to our mysterious bodies - How do YOU explain the modern appearance of them?"

None of the three experts realised that Chrístõ had turned the question back onto them instead of answering it himself.

"I don't know," Gavin said, then laughed. "Time travellers?"

They all laughed at such an outlandish idea.

"All very well if we were from Hollywood looking to make a science fiction movie in scenic Ireland," Darragh said. "But let's stick in the realms of reality here!"

"Reality is not always simple and straightforward," Chrístõ said cryptically. But before he could expand on that comment Sammie touched him on the shoulder. He looked around to him.

"I think we ought to get back," he said. "The girls are feeling ill, and Terry and I don't feel so good either."

Chrístõ looked at Sammie and noted that his face WAS pale and he had beads of sweat on his brow as if fighting nausea. He turned in his seat to the table where the other three were sitting with some of the student archaeologists while he talked with the professors. Bo and Cassie were looking very ill. So was Terry. Some of the students were trying to help them and there were murmurs about the lasagne that were already getting back to the landlord of the pub. Chrístõ made his apologies and came to his friends.

"I've got a car outside," one of the students offered. "I'm designated driver. Been on orange juice all night."

"That's all right, I have my own transport," Chrístõ told her as he lifted Bo from her seat and held her as she took a few tentative steps. At the door she fainted and he lifted her in his arms as they stepped out into the main street of Adare village in the sultry dark of a summer's evening. He reached in his pocket for his TARDIS key and summoned it to them. Neither of the girls were capable of taking another step. His hand touched something else in his pocket, and he knew it was not the lasagne making them ill.

Even Sammie looked close to collapse as they crossed the road to the Éirecom phone box that had appeared next to a row of three similar boxes, none of the others bearing Greek letters beside the Irish ones and needing a key to unlock. Christo helped Bo inside and sat her down on the sofa in the console room and made sure Terry and Cassie were also comfortable before he went back for the fourth member of their group.

"What's wrong with us?" Sammie asked as he clung sickly to the doorframe. "It CAN'T be the food. Cassie and Bo both had the vegetarian lasagne instead of the meat one and I had the quarter pounder grilled steak."

"That was sensitive of you," Chrístõ grinned as he helped his friend over the threshold and closed the door. "Eating steak in front of two girls who chose the vegetarian option!" But he only said that to distract him from the important question. "What's wrong with us."

Because Chrístõ knew the answer. It was confirmed when he looked around the TARDIS and saw that everyone felt a lot better now they were within its protective confines. He set the co-ordinates to return them to the camp site by Adare Castle and then told his friends to go to bed and try to get some rest, assuring them it was just 'something and nothing'. He wasn't happy with his explanation. He knew they weren't either. But they had learnt to trust him. And he took advantage of that trust now.

He sat with Bo until she was asleep in her cabin bed in the corner of the console room then he went to the computer databank and confirmed his suspicions. Something was VERY wrong with the timeline here. History had been changed in a big way. And it began with this massacre of the Fitzgeralds in 1241.

Which NEVER happened. Chrístõ was an expert on Earth history. He had devoured it. He knew all about the Fitzgeralds, the Earls of Kildare. He knew that their descendents were among the most significant people in 20th century Earth history - John Fitzgerald Kennedy, president of the USA, was one of them. Doctor Garrett Fitzgerald, renowned historian and former Taoiseach - prime minister - of the Irish Republic, was another.

But in this timeline neither existed. Because their common ancestor, John FitzThomas FitzGerald, died in 1241, along with his wife and children. He never became the 1st Earl of Kildare. The Tenth Earl would never exist to lead a rebellion against Henry VIII's rule in Ireland. Those famous 20th century Fitzgerald's would never be born.

And that's why, though he didn't want to, he knew he had to go back to 1241 after all.

He slipped out of the TARDIS and made his way to the trench by the curtain wall. It was in darkness now, and the trench had been covered to keep off the early morning dew. But Chrístõ, with his Time Lord eyesight that could process even the small amount of light from the stars above him and see well enough found his way easily to where the four disputed skeletons were found. He used his sonic screwdriver as he had done earlier in the day to double check the age of the remains. 1241. Accurate to the very year.

He sighed and stood quietly for a moment beside the four - two males and two females. Gavin, the American professor, had been right. They clearly were NOT Anglo-Normans. Their bones were straight. Their teeth were perfect. They were all taller than the average even for the strong, well-built Norman conquerors of Europe. They were twentieth century people.

At least three were. One was from the nineteenth century. Chrístõ stroked the skull of the smaller of the two females and blinked back tears. He reached in his pocket and took out the thing he had taken from the first skeleton that afternoon. If it had been found, Gavin would have had the proof he needed that Máire's stratification theory WAS fallible, or that Darragh's flippant comment about time travel was not so silly after all.

"Chrístõ?" He looked up from the trench to see Sammie standing there. It gave him a start as he had been thinking about him. He pocketed the artefact again and climbed up out of the trench.

"Are you ok?" He asked Sammie.

"I thought I was until I came out here," he said. "Now I'm not so sure. I feel sick again." He sighed. "In the desert, there was talk among the men. Some were saying that the cocktail of vaccinations they gave us before we went out there were making us ill. I thought nothing of it until now….. But that wouldn't explain Terry and the girls, would it."

"No," Chrístõ said. "Let's get back to the TARDIS."

Sammie looked progressively more tired and weary as they crossed the field to where the TARDIS was disguised as a tent again. By the time they were there Chrístõ had to give him his arm. But again once across the threshold he was ok. Chrístõ told him to get to bed and not worry.

He had worry enough for them all.

He sat on the sofa and looked at Bo sleeping soundly on the other side of the console and again blinked back tears. He took the artefact from his pocket again and looked at it. It was covered in encrusted dirt and verdigris, but these were meant to be readable even after the body had been incinerated. They were even meant to be able to withstand a nuclear blast, though Chrístõ wondered who they thought would be attempting to collect army dog tags in the aftermath of such a blast. He rubbed some of the dirt away and he could easily read the name and army number and blood type of the owner of the tags.

"Thomlinson, Samuel, Lieutenant, 55918756, Blood type AB."

That's why his friends were all feeling ill. Because time was trying to catch up with the fact that all four of them had died in 1241. In the TARDIS they were outside of linear time and safe. Outside it, eventually, they would die.

But they hadn't BEEN to 1241 yet. It was going to be their next stop. It was one of the presets his tutors had programmed into his onboard computer. It recommended visiting Adare Castle, seat of the Fitzgeralds as an example of Anglo-Norman feudalism in Ireland. Chrístõ wanted to show his friends the modern ruins first and the restoration work being done there. He knew Terry and Cassie would love the archaeological work being done before they saw the castle as it USED to look.

But if they went, not only would these events take place, but his friends would be caught up in them. And if they didn't, the paradox would catch up with them sooner or later. They would still die. And history would still be wrong.

They would have to go there. And he would have to do what he could to stop it happening. Change the events. Set the timeline right and make sure his friends didn't die.

Changing history was not allowed.

But history had ALREADY been changed. He knew it had, even if nobody else did. The fact that he was a time traveller, outside of time, meant that he knew the alternative realities, the crossed timelines. He knew both versions of history, and he knew which the correct one was.

And he knew he had to change it back, because nobody else could.

And since his friends were not part of history, he COULD stop them dying. He was allowed to do that.

Well not exactly ALLOWED.

They just hadn't made a rule about it, because nobody had thought of the circumstances arising.

He put the dog tags in his pocket again and went and knelt beside where Bo was sleeping. He put himself into a relaxing, mind-slowed meditative state. He needed to refresh his body and mind before the morning.

He woke himself just after dawn and roused his friends. Over a hasty breakfast he told them about the altered history and his plan to go back and sort it out.

"But…. Kennedy existed," Terry said, frowning. "The assassination - I remember it at school. We said prayers in assembly."

"Garrett Fitzgerald signed the Anglo-Irish agreement in 1985 with Margaret Thatcher to get peace in Northern Ireland," Sammie said.

"1985?" Cassie looked at Sammie and at Chrístõ. "The trouble in Northern Ireland was in OUR time. It had to be sorted out by 1985."

"It wasn't," Chrístõ said. "And no, it's not one of the things that righting this historical anomaly will change. Some things get messed up in every timeline and that's one of them."

"But if we can put everything else back in place," Bo said. "Then we have to go, don't we."

"Norman lords and ladies." Cassie smiled. "That could be fun for a while."

"Yes." Chrístõ went to set the co-ordinates while Terry and Sammie washed the dishes and the girls went to the wardrobe to find suitable dresses for an Anglo-Norman household.

Power of suggestion had a lot to do with it, Chrístõ knew. Otherwise there might have been questions as to why the Lord de Lœngbærrow and his party arrived on foot, not by horseback as might be usual. As it was, no questions were asked as they were ushered to the great hall to meet the lord of the manor, John FitzThomas FitzGerald, his wife, Lady Blanche De la Roche, and their two children, Joan FitzThomas and Thomas FitzJohn. Chrístõ bowed respectfully to the ladies and introduced himself as an emissary of the king, paying respect to his lordships in Ireland.

He introduced Terry as his personal priest and spiritual advisor, and Terry stepped forward in the habit and hooded robe of a priest. Sammie was dressed as a young knight of his company and the girls in beautiful embroidered gowns were brought forward and introduced as the Princess Bo Juan of Cathay who he had rescued from Saracens in the East and taken as his ward, and the Lady Cassandra who was her travelling companion.

Lady Blanche looked at the Princess and Lady curiously. Bo's Chinese features and Cassie's dark skin were new to her. But she behaved perfectly ladylike towards them both, inviting them to join her and her daughter in the solar. Chrístõ, meanwhile was taken on a tour of the castle by Thomas Fitzgerald and his priest and his knight naturally followed along.

"Ah," Fitzgerald said as they came to his private library. "Here is my closest confidant and friend, John of Maynooth."

Not, Chrístõ thought, unless Maynooth was somewhere in the Gamma Cobalt quadrant. His Time Lord senses immediately went into overdrive as he looked at John of Maynooth. He could almost smell the copper-based life-form and his psychic nerves were screaming at him that all was not what it appeared to be.

"Honoured to make your acquaintance," Maynooth said in an oily voice. "I understand you are newly come to Ireland."

"Indeed, I am," Chrístõ said and wondered if there was a flicker in Maynooth's eyes that questioned how and when and from where he had come to Ireland. "And yourself? You are a native of this isle?"

"I have been my lord's loyal servant these past ten years," he replied, still oily and inscrutable. Chrístõ was working out if this alien was something else beneath a clever Human-like skin or a shape-shifter who could take on Human form. Either way, he knew for sure its normal appearance was not one that would have induced Fitzgerald to trust him.

"Your Lord is fortunate to have such a loyal man by his side," Chrístõ said in reply. Then he addressed Fitzgerald and asked him about his tenantry and the extent of his lands, and he talked at length of the rents paid by the peasantry of the demesne. Maynooth fell in step behind them, and Chrístõ wished he had among his powers some means of seeing through the back of his head, for he felt he wanted to keep Maynooth in his line of sight at all times. He didn't know why an alien from a galaxy the other side of the universe wished to pose as a servant to a medieval Irish lord but he doubted it was a desire to live in peace and harmony with Humanity. He knew many aliens did so. Earth had long been a place of refuge for the universe's lost and dispossessed. He, himself enjoyed living in different places and times on this planet that was his mother's home. But some gut instinct made him distrust Maynooth.

And distrust led him naturally to suspect that Maynooth was the catalyst for the change in the historical timeline. He was, after all, the one thing that was not natural and normal to this time.

He was glad when Fitzgerald suggested to him that he might wish to retire to his quarters for a few hours before the evening banquet. A servitor of the house escorted him to the rooms made available to him and his party. Bo and Cassie had a room adjoining Chrístõ's, and a smaller adjoining room was clearly meant to be the manservant's room, for Sammie and Terry.

"How come I didn't get to be a titled man this time?" Terry complained as he compared his low, narrow palette bed to the great wooden framed four poster bed that Chrístõ had to himself.

"You're a holy man," Chrístõ told him. "Highly honoured and respected. Besides, you can have the big bed if you like. I don't need it. I intend to spend tonight in meditation."

"Do we know what caused the change in the timeline, yet? Cassie asked returning to the main issue.

"Yes," Chrístõ said and told them about Maynooth.

"He's an alien?" Sammie looked appalled.

"Well, don't sound so shocked," Chrístõ said. "It happens. I'M an alien, remember."

"I know but you're…. you know… Human…"

"No I'm not," Chrístõ insisted. "I'm half Human. But only in my blood. I am a Gallifreyan. This is not my world. But it is a world I love and care for very much. I have no evidence, but I feel strongly that Maynooth, or whatever his true name is, whatever his true species, is the reason things are wrong - or will go wrong. I have good reason to think the change has not yet occurred."

The reason was that his friends were still alive. He knew their deaths were connected to those time-changing events. He knew it must all happen soon.

But he didn't know what would happen and he didn't know when. And his nerves were screaming every minute, wondering when and how the axe was going to fall.

His friends enjoyed the banquet in the evening. Cassie and Terry were fascinated. For them it was exactly what they had come with him to experience - life as it used to be lived in the history of their world. He could see they were enjoying it immensely. Sammie looked a little bewildered but he, too, seemed to be enjoying the experience. As for Bo, he was always glad to see her happy. She had so many bad memories that he was glad to see her being treated as a lady, treated as a princess. She deserved that.

He didn't enjoy it. He was too acutely aware that something bad was going to happen. He didn't eat the food, or drink the wine, he TESTED it to be sure it wasn't poisoned. None of it was, but still he worried. He watched everyone, especially Maynooth. The fact that the Lord's advisor sat on his right side during the meal made it easy to do that. And when his attention was distracted elsewhere he switched drinking goblets and concealed it beneath his robe. He wanted to know exactly WHAT Maynooth was. A DNA test would give him the answer.

Terry did sleep in a soft bed of course, in the lady's room with Cassie. Bo slept in the Lord's bed chamber given over to Chrístõ. He turned to Sammie.

"No soft bed for you, my friend," he said. "I need you as protector to them."

"You think there is need of it?" Sammie asked catching his mood.

"I do."

"Then you won't find me wanting. I don't need a soft bed. I will do my duty to you and to them. I wish you'd let me bring at least a handgun though. If you think there is as much danger as that…."

"A gun in the thirteenth century? No. It would be an anachronism. That's so very dangerous. But I trust in you. I must be gone for maybe an hour. I will take the watch from you when I return."

His TARDIS was not only an anachronism but it was not even of Earth, but at least that could hide itself. He slipped out of the castle and made his way to the woods where they had left his ship, disguised as an abandoned peasant cottage. He stepped inside and brought the goblet to the console. He opened a panel and put the goblet inside the hollow box beneath and pressed several buttons. He knew it would take a while before the DNA of the creature calling itself Maynooth could be identified from the merest trace of saliva on the goblet, but the information was vital.

"Grivbnax!" As Chrístõ pronounced the word his hearts froze. He read the characteristics of that race on the screen purely to refresh his memory. Shape-shifting was one. They could disguise themselves as any other life-form. And if physical contact is made they can take on the memories and personality and thus perfectly take on a new identity. The only giveaway was a slight metallic odour, but only higher races such as Time Lords were ever able to detect that without mechanical aids. What chilled him most was the ability of these creatures to generate and store electricity which could be used to kill upon contact any Humanoid or other carbon-based life that had no means of safely conducting a current through the body. He noted also their reputation as ruthless opportunists.

The only good thing was that there were so few of them left. Their planet was destroyed in a cataclysmic civil war between factions and only a few escaped in space craft. But these few became the scourge of the universe in their attempts to conquer inhabited worlds rather than colonise empty ones.

That's the plan here, Chrístõ thought as he made his way back to the castle. If he killed Fitzgerald and took on his persona he would be the richest and most powerful 'man' in Ireland. And with his alien abilities he would surely not stop there. It would be an even more extreme shift in the timeline if Ireland became the dominant nation of Earth through the Grivbnax's conquering ambitions.

That hadn't happened in the changed history he had witnessed at Adare in 2006. So the plan must not completely succeed. Small comfort. It still cost the lives of so many.

Thinking so deeply he was not giving the attention he should to his path through the pitch dark woods. He strayed slightly from the path and tripped. Reaching for his sonic screwdriver and using its blue light he almost fainted in shock when he saw that it was a body - Maynooth's body.

He jumped to his feet and adjusted his sonic screwdriver to examine the body closer. It was the Human Maynooth, who must have been dead maybe twenty hours. The Grivbnax must have taken him unawares in the woods, killed him and taken his identity in order to be close to Fitzgerald.

Chrístõ closed the man's staring eyes. There was no more he could do for him. Then he turned back on his path and hurried as fast as he could to the edge of the woods. Once in clear ground he ran back to the castle. At the gate the guards were alarmed by his hasty approach and challenged him, but when they saw he was their master's honoured guest they stepped aside. Chrístõ turned to them.

"The enemy is within, not without. Bar and secure the gate and then follow me. Your master and his family and all the household are in danger."

As he ran up the stairs from the great hall Chrístõ was in a quandary. Should he go to his friends first or try to protect Fitzgerald and his family. Later he wondered if he made the right decision, but his instinct was to go to his friends.

It was already too late. He knew as soon as he opened the door to the first room. He found Terry and Cassie in the bed together, clearly dead. They must not have woken. In the second room his hearts broke still further when he saw Bo lying across the bed and Sammie across her as if he had sought to protect her. He lifted the young soldier's body and held him in his arms. On his face were the scorch-marks that showed how the Grivbnax had put its hand on him and sent a deadly current straight to his brain.

"You were a good soldier," Chrístõ whispered to him as he cradled him in his arms. "I should have let you have the gun you wanted to defend us with." If he had, Chrístõ knew, things might be different. The Grivbnax needed to make physical contact. If he could be kept at a distance there was a fighting chance.

Chrístõ laid him down gently and took Bo's still body in his arms. She had the same marks on her face and there were still traces of tears that she had cried before she died, knowing, perhaps, that she was the last of the friends to die. He kissed her tenderly and laid her down beside Sammie and put their hands together. They had been destined to be together in life. Instead, they had died together.

"Sire," one of the guards approached. "Sire there are many more dead - the young master and mistress and their chamber servants. And I fear…."

"Your Lord's chamber," Chrístõ said, suddenly animated. "Quickly." He ran ahead, the guards following. And Chrístõ knew then he should have gone to Fitzgerald's chamber first. He might have saved him. It was already too late for his friends, but he might have prevented the timeline being altered. That at least would have been a small victory.

But it was too late. He crashed through the door just in time to witness the transformation of the shape-shifter from the form of John of Maynooth to John FitzThomas FitzGerald. The guards behind him murmured about witchcraft.

“Not witchcraft,” Chrístõ said. “But certainly evil.” He faced the Grivbnax and spoke to it in its own tongue. The creature looked at him and responded in kind, the voice sounding like organic metal. Chrístõ replied in an angry voice and reached for the sword in the scabbard by his side. In the same movement he threw it like a javelin. The Grivbnax gave a startled cry as the sword went through its neck and electrical sparks seemed to emanate from the wound rather than blood. Its cry became shriller and more desperate as a blue electrified glow surrounded it. Chrístõ backed out of the chamber, signalling to the guards to do the same. They watched from the door in fascination as the creature regressed through the shapes it had taken on, from Fitzgerald back to Maynooth, to a man dressed as a peasant - another body that would be found before long, Chrístõ guessed - and finally to its original form as a thin sallow-skinned, hairless creature with snakelike eyes and no nose, only nostrils in the centre of the flat face and a mouth that was, again, snake-like and malevolent. The creature looked at Chrístõ for one moment and then burst into flames, as if it had ignited from inside. It burnt fiercely for a few seconds before the blackened skeleton collapsed into charcoaled fragments on the stone floor of the chamber.

"Witchcraft," the guard said again. "But you have saved us."

"I didn't save the Fitzgerald family though," Chrístõ said in a broken voice. "Nor did I save my friends." He turned to the guard. "Please can you order a detail to bury the dead. There are nineteen altogether - including the REAL Maynooth whose body is in the woods. Dig a pit inside the curtain wall. Lay them with honour. Not the family, of course. They have their own crypt within the priory. Just make their bodies decent. But bury the servants and guards who fell in the path of this evil, and my four friends who were innocent of all connection with this deed."

The guards nodded and bowed to him respectfully and went to do that bidding. Chrístõ meanwhile climbed to the top of the Castle tower. He came out on the battlement and sent the guard that was there down to join the burial party. When they were gone he summoned the TARDIS to the place. It disguised itself as a small stone tower with crenulations and battlements as if another piece had just been added to the castle. He stepped inside.

There was something he meant to do in the TARDIS, but as he entered it, when he found himself alone in a place that had been a real home for so many months with his friends around him, his hearts tore and he broke down in tears. He sank to his knees on the console room floor and cried hot tears of grief and pain for a long, long time.

When he heard his father's voice he thought for a moment he was hearing things. He looked up at the videophone transmission on the viewscreen and listened at last to what he was saying.

"Chrístõ, my son, are you hurt? Are you in pain?" His father's concern for his well-being was clear in his eyes but there was more. And as he answered him Chrístõ saw that his father was dressed in the robes of office that he wore for a meeting of the High Council.

"I am in grief," Chrístõ said. "But…."

"Can you compose yourself to address the High Council?" His father asked. "There is a grave matter to answer."

"The time anomaly?" Chrístõ's hearts sank. "The Council have observed it."

"They have. And your involvement in the affair has now been noted too. Son, tell me truthfully - were you the cause of it?"

"No," he answered. "I observed the anomaly and took steps to prevent it, but I failed."

"Wait a few minutes, my son." His father turned and seemed to be addressing a large crowd. Then he turned again to him and told him that the Council would take his deposition as a witness, not as the accused in this matter. There was relief in his eyes as he said that. Chrístõ had not, until that moment, realised he WAS accused of it. He stood straight and gathered his black velvet gown with silver fastening about him. He swallowed hard and looked up as the view resolved into the Council Chamber with the whole of the High Council turned to look at him. He took a deep breath and told what he knew. He told of how he had seen the anomaly in the later time period of Earth history and knew that he and his friends were already a part of it because of the preset in his TARDIS databanks that meant he had to go there even knowing there was danger. He told of identifying the changeling from Grivbnaxia. There was a murmur around the table when he said that. Then they listened again as he related how he had returned too late to save any of the Grivbnax's victims, but had killed the creature and prevented it taking control of the Fitzgerald lands and family line and altering history still further.

"That is something at least," one of the Councillors said. "If events are as you say, then you acted commendably, if tardily."

"IF," somebody else said. Then he heard his father telling the whole Council that his son was a truthful and loyal Gallifreyan, and one, moreover with the Mark of Rassilon. Chrístõ was not even sure what the Mark of Rassilon WAS, but the Council all seemed to take it as an important proof that he was telling the truth. He heard some remarks about his half-blood but they were countered with words like 'high-born nonetheless', 'academic achievements', and much mention of that Mark of Rassilon again. Then Chrístõ almost froze in awe as the Lord High President himself addressed him.

"Chrístõdavõreendiamõndhærtmallõupdracœfiredelunmiancuimhne de Lœngbærrow," he said, speaking his long formal name in sombre tones. "The planet Earth is the first affected by this anomaly, but not the only one. Descendents of the Fitzgerald family of Earth were the architects of peace in distant galaxies. Those galaxies are now at war because this one incident in Earth's past was allowed to change things. The timeline must be reset. The Grivbnax must not be allowed to infiltrate that world. And you, though you ARE a half-blood, though you are a minor with no experience, are the only one who can do this work. You….." An uproar broke out. The Lord High President looked aside to where some of his advisors were again arguing that Chrístõ was unfit to carry out what was necessary. The same words again flew around the Chamber. Then he heard his own father.

"Let the boy speak," he said. "Let him tell us if he thinks he is capable."

"I agree with Magister de Lœngbærrow," the Lord High President said. Then he turned back to Chrístõ. "Son of Lœngbærrow, you have the Mark of Rassilon. That in itself cancels out your weak blood and other disadvantages. But I ask you, ARE you capable of carrying out this work, on behalf of the Time Lords of Gallifrey?

"Though I do not know what the work is you ask me to carry out," Chrístõ said in as strong a voice as he could. "But as a Time Lord of Gallifrey, and for the sake of other loyalties, for the sake of my friends who have been innocently caught up in this work of evil, I shall do what I must do. Simply tell me what that is."

They told him. He thanked them for the extra information he needed to rectify the damage to the timeline. Then he bowed to the Lord High President and closed the transmission to Gallifrey.

"WHY didn't you tell me before?" He screamed at the blank screen. "My friends need not have suffered." Then he turned to the console and keyed in the space time co-ordinates they had given him.

He stepped out of the TARDIS into the woods again, but it was very early in the day. It was only just dawn on a summer morning, making it as early as 3 o'clock. The sun was risen, but not yet high enough to warm the land. Chrístõ gathered his cloak around himself as he left the abandoned peasant hut with the symbol upon its broken door and stepped along the path towards Adare village.

He recognised the peasant who had been the first victim of the Grivbnax. He was gathering firewood. Chrístõ stepped closer and hailed him. The man almost dropped his wood in his effort to make obeisance to a lordly figure who addressed him.

"You are in danger," Chrístõ told him. "An evil is in these woods this day. Before noon it will be gone. I am here to vanquish it, but I pray you now, go to your home, protect your loved ones from the evil."

The man did not understand, but he looked into Chrístõ's deep brown eyes and saw his sincerity. He nodded and ran, dropping sticks from his pile of wood every few feet. Chrístõ nodded as he watched him, satisfied that he had begun to break the chain of events that would lead to cataclysm.

As he stood on the edge of the woods, though, he saw the beginning of the trouble. The Grivbnax spacecraft was cloaked. Only a low hum and a slight shimmer in the air gave away that it was there, and a depression in the soft grass when it landed. Chrístõ watched as the creature emerged from the craft and began to scan the area for life-forms. It hissed with anger as it saw that the only life-sign to be detected in the immediate area was not a puny and easily defeated Human but a…..

"Time Lord!" The creature growled as it turned its eyes towards Chrístõ. Until then it had not seen him watching quiet and still.

"Leave this planet," Chrístõ said. "You have no right to be here."

"Nor have you, Time Lord!" the creature replied. "This planet will be mine by conquest."

"No, it will not," Chrístõ argued, never once breaking eye contact with the creature. "I give you one more chance to depart peacefully."

"You will die," the Grivbnax snarled and rushed towards Chrístõ. Still he maintained eye-contact as he brought out from beneath his cloak a broad Shaolin sword. He swung it once around his head then let it go. This time he aimed not for the neck but for the skull and he tried not to look too satisfied when the razor sharp sword sliced through the forehead just above the eyes like a knife cutting the top off a boiled egg. He watched as the creature screamed its death scream and burned up then he retrieved his sword and put it into its sheath on his belt. He took out his sonic screwdriver then and pointed it in the general direction in which the cloaked ship was. The air shimmered and it decloaked. Chrístõ opened it up and examined the controls for a few minutes then climbed out again and watched as it rose up in the air on remote control. He had set it to clear Earth's atmosphere and then self-destruct. Those who watched the skies might see portents in the unexpected meteor shower as fragments burnt up in the atmosphere, but there would be no long term harm in that.

"The High Council thank you," Chrístõ's father told him when he returned to his TARDIS and contacted his home planet.

"But not in person," he said with a grim smile. "Now I have done their work, I am just the half-blood again."

"A half-blood with the Mark of Rassilon," his father said.

"What EXACTLY does that mean?" Chrístõ asked. And he saw his father smile.

"Oh, my son," he said. "The Mark of Rassilon is found on one in ten thousand boy children born on our world. It is the mark that predestines greatness. When you were born, a half-blood, with the mark, with the birthmark that is a perfect Seal of Rassilon, you threw our society into disarray. They could not dismiss you as a half-Human reject that ought not to have been born. They had to accept that you were destined to be a Time Lord, and, moreover, a great Time Lord, one who would be greater than all others."

"Lord High President?" Chrístõ laughed hollowly. "I know that is your ambition for me, father. And I shall endeavour to make you proud of me. But…"

"My son, we have had countless Lord High Presidents who did not have the Mark of Rassilon. It has always been my belief that you would be greater even than our petty political hierarchy. But I do not dare speculate how. And you should not dwell on it, I think. That's why you weren't told of the mark. It faded as you grew, so that people did not remark upon it so much."

"I have no birthmark, father," Chrístõ said. "Faded or otherwise."

“You did,” his father said. “On the nape of your neck.” Chrístõ gasped and his hand went to the patch of rough scar tissue just below his hairline. His father nodded. “Yes, my boy. I remember, too. You were just twenty years old, a young tyro at the Prydonian Academy, skinny and weak looking and frightened of everything. And the bullies held you down and burned that shameful name into your flesh. Your regenerative ability was not fully formed at that point and it never completely repaired. You have the scar still. Their shameful brand obliterated the mark of honour. That was their purpose. Not mere random cruelty but a deliberate attempt to hide the proof that you are one of Rassilon’s chosen sons. But erasing the Mark does not erase your destiny. You will live out that destiny, my son. You proved it today with your courage and your loyalty to Gallifrey and the Time Lords.”

"Father, you know I did not do that for Gallifrey, or for the Time Lords. I did it for Earth - my mother's planet, and I did it for my friends who that creature murdered." His voice broke as he said that and tears pricked his eyes again. For the past few hours he had been driven by a purpose but now that purpose was done and the pain and grief returned.

"Chrístõ, you ARE destined for greatness but you have much to learn yet. You have undone those events. You prevented the Grivbnax from causing a single death upon planet Earth. Not even the apparently insignificant peasant whose descendents, too, were erased from history. When you and your friends arrived at the Castle later in the day you met the REAL John of Maynooth, who was no more than a talented man who worked his way up to the highest rank of servitude in the Fitzgerald household. Your friends enjoyed the banquet and slept soundly in their beds. When you return from your mission, all will be well."

Of course it would, Chrístõ realised. In his excitement he almost forgot to say goodbye to his father.

It was just after dawn again when he materialised the TARDIS in the woods. He walked quickly but tried not to look urgent about it as he passed the castle guards. He ran up the stairs though, and into the bed chamber. He skilfully blocked the blow aimed at him by Sammie who reacted to the sudden intrusion into the room before recognising him.

"You ARE a good soldier," Chrístõ told him. "But you can stand easy now. The trouble is over. All is well." He touched Sammie on the shoulder and thanked him for his faithful duty and watched as he went to the side room. Then he took off his cloak and his outdoor shoes and he climbed into the bed beside Bo as she slept. He put his arms about her and felt her change her position in her sleep and press close to him.

He lay there as the sun came up and looked forward to a day of Anglo-Norman life in the West of Ireland. Fitzgerald had talked of taking his falcons out the next day. He was not keen on any form of hunting, but it was the sort of historical life that Cassie and Terry would love, and the thought of Bo riding pillion behind him on horseback on a fine summer morning had much to commend it. A few days sojourn in 1241, then back to 2006 to see if Gavin and Darragh and Máire were not too disappointed that their excavations of Adare Castle held no great archaeological surprises, and then he had all of time and space at his fingertips and good friends to share the experience with. He wondered briefly, before he allowed himself to sleep in the arms of his sweet, precious girl, whether the Mark of Rassilon that he knew nothing about until this moment, could bring him any better destiny than he had already.