The Glen of Contemplation was a wide glacial valley carpeted with red grass that ran parallel to the Valley of Preparation, which, in its turn, ran parallel to the Valley of Eternal Night. This was a picturesque place, especially in high summer when the red grass blossomed with crimson flowers and more than a hundred thousand species of insects flew or crawled among them. Fifty species of bird, seventy different mammals and eight reptiles could be observed either by day or night roaming the grasslands or coming down to the river that wound through the valley to drink or to catch the fish that swam in the clear waters.

The Servant of Oakdaene cared nothing for such beauty. He cared only about the distant figures of Celestial Intervention Agency men patrolling the Glen. He was dressed as they were in a dark cloak. If any approached he would be able to pass for a fellow agent until it was too late. Killing an agent would be a complication, but it was one he had no qualms about.

Chrístõ sat by the entrance to the tent and looked up into the orange sky of a Gallifreyan summer evening. Even with superior Gallifreyan eyesight he couldn’t see the array of satellites up there that meant there was scarcely a spot on the planet’s surface from which communication wasn’t possible. Nevertheless, he was glad of them as the portable videophone connected with the one in the drawing room at Mount Lœng House: four hundred miles, two rivers, a plain and two mountains away from where he was right now.

Julia was there at the other end of the communication. She was wearing an evening gown for dinner. She and Valena were playing host to an all female company whose husbands, sweethearts and fiancés were all gathering in the Mountains of Solace and Solitude for the presentation of the Candidates to the Untempered Schism.

Chrístõ’s father, Lord de Lœngbærrow, was already at the place of preparation along with many other senior Time Lords. Chrístõ was bringing two of the Candidates via a long, circuitous route. It was traditional to make the journey something of an adventure. He had chosen a trip by hover trike that took in many of the most spectacular natural landmarks of the southern plain.

But today’s trek was over. They were settling down for a night under canvas.

“The advantage of a hover trike,” he told Julia. “Is that we don’t have to bring rehydrated food. We’ve got cold roast woodfowl and sweet potatoes which I am roasting on an open campfire, and treacle tart for dessert.”

“It’s hot woodfowl here with moonfruit sauce,” Julia confirmed. “I hope your father has something tasty at the preparation camp. He’s missing out on one of his favourite dishes.”

“They have a refectory tent with the finest chefs to provide for them,” Chrístõ assured her. “We’ll make for the valley tomorrow, arriving mid-morning. Garrick and Cal will begin their preparations after midday and be ready to go to the Schism by about two o’clock. The whole thing will be over by tea time. We’ll come home with my father in his TARDIS, but we’ll contact you again before then. I know Valena will be fretting, and maybe Glenda, too.”

“I’m not sure she really comprehends what this is all about,” Julia said. “She’s rationalised it as something like Confirmation.”

“It’s far more than that,” Chrístõ said. “But if it helps her to think of it that way, then there are only Valena’s nerves to worry about.”

“She’s sunk all her thoughts into this dinner party for now. But I think she’s going to be climbing the walls tomorrow.”

“She has the two of you for company. Look after her. And promise her I’ll look after her little boy for her.”

“I’m sure she knows that,” Julia assured him. “But I will remind her. She trusts you, Chrístõ. That’s the only thing keeping her calm just now.”

They talked a little more, than he called Cal into the tent. He would want to talk to Glenda, his sweetheart. He had seen so very little of her in the past year while he was closeted with the Brothers of Mount Lœng and they had only had a few days together since the girls arrived on Gallifrey to be there for the midsummer ceremony in which Cal took his first step towards becoming a transcended Time Lord.

He went to find his half brother who was lying on his stomach on a groundsheet outside the tent watching the insects busily using the red grass of the mountain valley for food or shelter, for fighting each other or even mating. Most of them were a subtle reddish shade since that camouflaged them in the grass.

“You can talk to your mama when Cal is done,” Chrístõ told him. The boy sat up. His older brother reached out his arms and he climbed into his lap.

“You’re getting a bit old for this,” Chrístõ said. “Eight years old, and almost a Candidate. But that’s all right. Besides, your mother won’t stop wanting you to sit on her knee just because you’ve seen eternity with your own eyes.”

“Mama is worried,” Garrick told him.

“Yes, I know. Women always worry about these things. Are you worried?”

“I’m not a woman,” the boy pointed out with perfect logic.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I’m a bit scared of doing it wrong. What if I fall over?”

“You won’t. Nobody ever does anything like that.”

“What if I’m sick?”

“You won’t be. You’re going to be just fine. You’ll do me and your papa and your mama proud and live up to the two great Houses you are born of.”

He wondered if that was all a bit too much for an eight year old. But he certainly remembered carrying the Honour of the House of Lœngbærrow with him when he walked the last steps to the foot of the Untempered Schism as a very nervous, desperately scared, eight year old who would have sooner run a mile in the other direction if it had been possible to do so.

“Don’t think about it tonight,” he told his half-brother. “Think of roast sweet potatoes and cold woodfowl and treacle tart, and watching the sun go down and the stars come out.

Garrick was fond of treacle tart, made with brown beet sugar syrup. So was Chrístõ. This was a special treat from the cook at Mount Lœng House for the two sons of his Lordship. They both anticipated it fondly while they prepared a clearing and put stones around their makeshift hearth and kindling in the middle. Garrick went to talk to his mother on the videophone while Cal came out to help get the campfire started.

“An old-fashioned fire and an ultramodern anti-transmat field extending a quarter mile around us,” Cal commented. “And Paracell Hext’s men keeping a low profile beyond that point. We’re not exactly alone here, are we?”

“Until that lunatic who attacked us on the mountain is caught we can’t be too careful,” Chrístõ answered. “You’re the prime target, Cal. He hates you as the usurper of his Master’s lands.”

“He can have the bloody lands,” Cal replied. “I don’t even want to live there. Nor does Glenda. She has no ambitions to be mistress of a Lordly Demesne like Julia will be. Besides, Mount Lœng House is a bright, cheerful home. I’ve seen the Oakdaene mansion. It’s dark, miserable and cold.”

“That’s because it has been empty for a while, now,” Chrístõ pointed out. “It could be made bright. But if that life doesn’t suit either of you, then nobody is pressing you.”

“Not in words, or deeds, but I know your father wishes I would be the Patriarch of the House of Oakdaene living on the land.”

“Father believes in the continuity of the Oldblood Houses. He likes the idea of an Oakdaene living there again. The old Lord is long dead, and his wife a few years ago, now. Epsilon is NEVER going to inherit. He will certainly not have an heir of his own. You and Glenda and your issue continue the line.”

“Our ISSUE?” Cal grimaced at the term.

“Any children you may have,” Chrístõ corrected himself. “I’m talking like a Gallifreyan family lawyer!”

“Glenda and I are going to be absentee Lord and Lady, at least for the foreseeable future. We’re going to live a normal Human life.”

Chrístõ knew what he meant by ‘foreseeable future’. He meant for Glenda’s lifetime. After that, the young Time Lord with his future ahead of him might well return to Gallifrey and take charge of the lands and titles that were his right.

It was his choice, as it was Chrístõ’s choice, and Julia’s, to give up living that ‘ordinary’ Human life and be full members of Gallifreyan society.

“We’ll both have the women we love at our side in the lives we have chosen,” Chrístõ confirmed. “That’s the important thing.”

“Yes,” Cal agreed. He sighed happily. “Glenda has been patient in these past two years. She has waited for me.”

“Julia did her share of waiting when she was younger. They’ll both make good wives. We’re very lucky men.”

“Yes….” Cal began to say something else, then his attention was distracted. He stood and looked into the distance. “I thought I saw something… about where the transmat shield ends.”

“It could be an animal, or one of Hext’s people. There’s no need to assume the worst. All the same, we should both sit where we have a clear view while we eat, without the firelight dazzling our eyes.”

“After dark, there’s precious little to do except hope Hext’s men do their job.”

“I know,” Chrístõ admitted. “I hate being dependent on others for my safety, especially when it is Garrick’s safety, too. But we have no choice.”

“I suppose we could have gone directly to the Valley of Preparation, instead of taking this overland trip.”

“The journey is important. It is what Candidates remember most about the experience. The actual moment of facing the Schism is like… I don’t know… the last drink before you pass out when you wake the next day with the hangover.”

“You’ve only been drunk once in your entire life.”

“Yes, and I don’t remember the last drink, or the embarrassing things I did before I actually passed out. But the hangover was enough to last me a lifetime. The Schism is like that, but in a good way. But remembering the journey, in company with a friend or a loved one, is what matters in the later years.”

“Your father went with you?”

“Yes. Epsilon and I. His father was already dead. My father was his guardian. At eight years old he wasn’t the small-minded bully he was by the time we both went to the Academy. He might even have qualified as a friend. We both enjoyed the trip. We watched a meteor shower on the evening before. The next day… I know Epsilon was ahead of me with my father. Lord Azmael accompanied me on the last part of the journey. I’m not sure what happened to him. I’ve sometimes wondered if the beginning of his troubles was at the Schism – maybe he saw something nobody else did. But he WAS still only eight years old. Whatever it was took a long time to fester and twist him into the monster he became.”

Cal had never even met his half-brother. He only knew of his criminal activities from others. He said nothing about him in defence or recrimination.

“What do you think I’ll see?”

“If you mean, will it twist you into a monster, too, then I don’t think so,” Chrístõ replied. “It’s different for everyone. Though almost nobody talks about it, so it’s hard to say. We won’t talk about after. I won’t even talk to Garrick about it, and he won’t want to tell me anything. It’s the most insular thing any of us ever do.”

Cal might have said something else, but Garrick came from the tent and found his place beside his brother again. The sweet potatoes were crackling in the fire. Chrístõ opened the packets containing the cold roast woodfowl and the crisp mixed salad to accompany it. At Mount Lœng House the women were dining on fine china with crystal glassware and silver cutlery. Here, they were eating off tin plates with plastic cutlery, but the meal was celebrated just as much. The youngest son of the House of Lœngbærrow enjoyed the fact that table manners were relaxed without an actual table and he could eat his share of the woodfowl with his fingers instead of a confusing array of knives and forks. The same was true of the treacle tart. Afterwards it was easy enough to rinse sticky fingers in a little water and dry them on the grass itself.

Garrick had moonfruit juice to wash his supper down with. Chrístõ and Cal had a bottle of finely aged red wine. They enjoyed its warm, mellow taste as the sun began to set behind the mountains of Solace and Solitude, that tall range of peaks thrust up by the meeting of two major fault lines then shaped still further by the glacial action of a long forgotten ice age that further created the great southern plain and the lakes that were dotted around it.

“It gets darker faster here in the valley, of course,” Cal noted. “I’ve been used to long twilights at the top of Mount Lœng.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ commented. “When I spent time there as a boy I loved that about it.”

As the sky darkened he laid himself flat on the grass and watched the moon come up. Garrick lay beside him and impressed both of his grown up companions by identifying many of the constellations by name.

“That’s Iri the Giant,” he said pointing to a configuration of stars that Chrístõ had known all of his life. When he lived on Earth he would often look up at Orion, which was a similar abstract of a man with his arms outstretched. On Beta Delta, he lived among the stars of the Orion quadrant and had entirely different constellations to look at. Lying here and viewing the stars of his own world’s canopy of sky was a pleasant and nostalgic treat for him.

“Keappa, the Sage,” Garrick added. “And the Great Leonate. Dreffon the Gyre Eagle.”

Chrístõ remembered learning those names from his grandfather, Chrístõ de Lún. Garrick had learnt them from their own father, who had also learnt them from the venerable old man. These stars were a part of their family heritage as much as the name they shared and the house and lands they possessed.

He felt his half-brother’s small hand in his and fully appreciated what it was to have a family. Then he reached out and grasped Cal’s hand as all three of them lay star-gazing this way.

“Your heritage is just as great,” he promised him. “Never forget that.”

“I’ll try,” Cal answered. That was the best he could do. The comfort of family had been denied him. So had the life of an Oldblood heir. He didn’t share the certainty about his past and future that Chrístõ and Garrick both did.

“Look!” It was Cal’s voice that drew his attention to the southern quarter of the sky where the moon, Pazithi Gallifreya was in her bronze aspect and half full. Across that quarter a spectacular display of meteorites was visible. They were coloured by the super-charged particles in the upper thermosphere, the same elements that made the sky yellow rather than blue. They were fiery red and hot yellow, electric green, ice blue and a magnificent violet-purple as well as silver and gold.

“Fantastic,” Cal whispered. “I love to watch the Adrades shower.”

“I haven’t seen it for years,” Chrístõ admitted. It was a regular phenomena in the Gallifreyan sky, but being away so much he often missed it.

Garrick was seeing it for the first time. Usually he would be in bed before now – another rule that was relaxed when he was camping with his brother.

“I saw them on the night before I went to the Schism,” Chrístõ told him. “It’s a good omen.”

“We’re Gallifreyans,” Garrick reminded him. “We don’t believe in omens.”

“We’re Gallifreyans of the Southern Plain,” Chrístõ contradicted him. “We do things differently to that stiff lot in the Capitol. We can believe in omens if we like.”

“I will then,” Garrick answered.

The boy drifted to sleep watching the meteorite shower. Chrístõ reluctantly stirred from his own comfortable place to bring him into the tent and settle him in the sleeping bag. Cal stayed outside for a little while, watching the fire die down.

Chrístõ came back out to an urgent whisper from him. He was standing, looking into the dark beyond the red embers of the fire. Chrístõ’s vision wasn’t impaired by the firelight. He looked more clearly and spotted the movement of a man in the middle distance.

“It might be one of Hext’s people,” he said. “He said they would keep a closer watch after dark.”

“THAT close?” Cal asked.

“Stay here and watch the tent,” Chrístõ told him. “I’ll go and check him out.”

He moved quickly and silently as the Shaolin monks he had spent some time with moved, taking a circular path away from the campfire so that he would be almost invisible in the darkness. He closed in on the man and caught him completely unawares.

“Identify yourself,” he demanded as he held the stranger down on the ground and pinned his arms behind his back.

“Baros Verdan,” the man replied. “I’m from the Tower. Director Hext sent me to keep a close watch on your camp.”

“What’s the password?” Chrístõ asked.

“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” Verdan responded.

“Fine.” Chrístõ let him up. “You need to practice concealment. We spotted you even with the firelight to distract us. Has there been any cause for concern?”

“Nothing, yet, sir,” Verdan assured him. “But the Director is taking no chances.”

“Good. Carry on.”

Chrístõ walked back to the camp. He told Cal everything was all right. They made the dying fire safe for the night and went into the tent where they both settled to sleep with Garrick between them for protection.

What neither of them knew was that Baros Verdan was being watched as he watched over the camp. The servant of Oakdaene didn’t make his move yet. He waited until it was nearly dawn before he crept forward and strangled the Celestial Intervention Agency man. He pushed the body into a crevice where it would be found by scavenging animals and devoured before it was ever spotted by any man.

The servant looked at the silent camp where his enemy slept, believing himself safe.

For now he was. The time was not yet.

The sun rose early in the morning on the campsite in the Glen of Contemplation. The occupants slept for two more hours before they roused themselves. Cal revived the fire and put a frying pan on it to cook a peculiarly Human breakfast of sausages, eggs and mushrooms while Chrístõ and Garrick went to the river to get water for the kettle. This was the last of their fresh food, from the bottom of the cool box fixed to one of the hover trikes, but they would be in the Preparation camp by lunchtime, so it didn’t matter.

Garrick returned far wetter than he needed to be. Chrístõ was damp, too. Both were laughing.

“Garrick went paddling and slipped on a stone that turned out to be a thoroughly disgruntled river turtle,” the older of the two brothers explained. “Nothing harmed but his dignity and my slacks. He’s going to dry off and change while I get the kettle going and then we’ll enjoy this very fine breakfast.”

“I haven’t had sausages for over two years,” Cal admitted as he turned the fragrant links in the pan. “This is a treat. Of course, the Brothers don’t really approve of ‘treats’ and their food is all nourishing but ascetic.”

“You’re not actually one of the Brothers,” Chrístõ reminded him. “And you’re coming back to Beta Delta at the end of summer. There are plenty of sausages there.”

“I have become so used to that life I’ll probably feel out of my depth among irrational and emotional humans again. But in so many ways I can’t wait. Glenda and I are going to take a flat together, of course, while she finishes her university studies. I will continue my preparation for Transcension with remote help from your father and from my uncle, The Maestro. He’s teaching me to play the flute, too.”

“He tried to teach me, but I don’t have the patience,” Chrístõ said. Garrick came from the tent in clean, dry clothes and sat near the fire, not so much for warmth on an already hot morning, but for the smell of the food. Cal put portions onto three plates while Chrístõ brewed coffee. They ate hungrily, knowing that the day was going to be eventful. This breakfast was the first such event and one to be savoured.

Afterwards they struck camp, putting everything away on the back of the hovertrikes. Garrick took up his own place behind his brother and held on tight as the fast but near silent machine rose up nearly two feet above the ground and sped away from the flattened rectangle of grass where the tent had been pitched overnight.

The hovertrikes could go as fast as a hundred and fifty miles per hour. Chrístõ had driven them that fast. But with Garrick aboard he kept to a maximum speed of seventy. Even that seemed amazingly swift as they crossed the valley and rode along at the foot of the long hump of the mountain called Meditation Ridge. They were heading for the place where the Ridge sloped down into a much lower ‘shoulder’. That was the pass into the Valley of Preparation. They rode up and over it and began to descend on the other side.

Then Chrístõ felt his trike falter. It felt like a ground vehicle hitting a rock and he knew both he and Garrick were going to fall. He rolled, grasping his half-brother in his arms as he hit the rough, stony ground. When they came to rest up against an outcrop they were both still conscious. There were no broken bones.

But both of them were bruised and scraped. Chrístõ lay still for a moment while new constellations of stars danced in front of his eyes then he slowly stood, lifting his half-brother with him.

“Are you all right, kiddo?” he asked. Garrick nodded. He wasn’t really. The accident had shaken him and there was a very large bruise on his forehead that had to be hurting, but he was on his way to face the Untempered Schism. Mere physical hurts were nothing to him.

“I’m all right. Why did the trike do that?”

“I don’t know,” Chrístõ answered. “It felt as if I hit a brick wall.”

“Whatever happened, the trike is a mess,” Cal told him. “It’s not going to run again without some serious maintenance.”

“We don’t have time for that,” Chrístõ answered. “We’d better leave the camping equipment and all three of us use your trike to get to the Preparation Camp. We can pick everything up later.”

That was the immediate practical solution. They were only half an hour away from their destination if they made that compromise. Otherwise it was a long walk downhill. Cal stowed the abandoned kit under an overhanging rock while Chrístõ used his sonic screwdriver in tissue repair mode on the worst of Garrick’s cuts and bruises before they set off again on the one trike.

Lord de Lœngbærrow was waiting for his sons and their friend to arrive in the Preparation Camp. When he saw the nature of their arrival he was immediately concerned. The explanation of what happened didn’t satisfy him at all.

“You’re an experienced hover-trike rider,” he told his elder son as the younger boy and Cal went to the Preparation tent. “You didn’t just fall off. What happened exactly?”

Chrístõ explained carefully, including his sense of hitting an invisible wall, or some obstacle on the ground.

“Is it possible something was used to interfere with your trike – a long range disrupter beam, for example?”

“It’s… possible.” Chrístõ didn’t like what was being suggested – that it was not an accident but an act of sabotage. “I don’t know… maybe. I didn’t see anybody. But… I wasn’t especially looking. I thought we’d be safe while we were moving.”

“There was no way to maintain the protective shield while you were travelling,” his father reminded him. “You were vulnerable.”

“We won’t speak of this to Cal,” Chrístõ decided. “This day is important to him. He doesn’t need to know anything is amiss. Garrick certainly doesn’t need to know anything. Falling off the trike is just another part of the adventure to him. Let’s keep it that way.”

“That is your decision, son,” Lord de Lœngbærrow said to him. “I will abide by it. It is unlikely any further attempt will be made while you are within the camp, and once we set off from here the foolish man will have no opportunity to try anything.”

There was no special security about the defile that led to the Valley of Eternal Night, but nobody entered it who had no business there. It was not a place where a traitor would attempt an ambush.

Satisfied by that thought, Chrístõ gave his full attention to the preparations his half-brother and his friend were making. He and his father who were to be Mentors prepared their own minds with peaceful meditation while they waited for the two candidates to be ready.

Cal and Garrick came to them dressed in the simple but striking black and white robes that all the Candidates wore. Chrístõ and his father had changed into the far more elaborate red and gold embroidered robes of Mentors. Garrick expressed surprise at Chrístõ’s transformation.

“I’m hardly going to accompany you to the Valley of Eternal Night in my old leather jacket,” he pointed out.

“You’re taking me?” Garrick glanced at his father doubtfully. “I thought….”

“You are my pride and joy, Garrick, my boy,” Lord de Lœngbærrow said. “And nothing would please me more than being your Mentor on this important day. But your brother asked me to give him the honour instead. I shall accompany Cal.”

“You honour me,” Cal said. “I thank you.”

Garrick was pleased. His older brother was as much a hero in his eyes as his father.

“Are these two Candidates ready?” Lord Azmael in the even more elaborate robes of a Guardian and the Seal of Prydonia in a gold medallion on his chest came to them with the question that tied the two Candidate’s stomachs in knots. But there were no excuses. They WERE ready.

A procession of Candidates and their Mentors was already making its slow progress towards the narrow defile that ran through the great mountain separating the two valleys. By the time Chrístõ and his father with their charges walked between the high, sheer cliffs the gap between each party had stretched. Lord Cerulian with his nephew was far ahead and Gya Ussian and his son were lagging behind. Even though the great faultline that separated the two halves of the mountain looked straight to the naked eye it curved very gradually and it was possible to lose sight of the others in places.

“My geology tutor told me how the mountain came to be split,” Garrick said. “In the same ancient earthquake that formed the sheer cliff on the west side of Omega Bluff.”

“I learnt that, too,” Chrístõ told him. “Many thousands of years ago our world had some very dramatic tectonics.”

“My philosophy tutor told me that these walls would close upon an unworthy soul,” Garrick added. “But that is just a legend. It could not be true. Cliffs of granite have no way of judging a soul.”

“Quite right,” his father told him. “Legends colour the imagination, but it is never wise to let them take hold of you.”

Cal looked up. The cliff faces were so tall only a sliver of daylight could be seen directly above. It wasn’t hard to imagine the great and terrible grinding sound of them closing in on an unfortunate wretch judged unworthy.

“Hard luck on the worthy souls caught with the unworthy,” he said. Garrick laughed, then stopped laughing, wondering if it was permitted to do so on such a portentous occasion.

“Laughter is not against the rules,” his father told him. “Goodness knows there is enough solemnity in our Time Lord society. Let the honest laughter of children ring through these ancient rocks.”

For a while that honest laughter did prevail and it was a happy party for a while.

Then Chrístõ called out a warning and reached to stop his half-brother from walking forward. Cal stopped, too, looking up and around to see what was different.

“Down!” Lord de Lœngbærrow called out. He pushed Garrick to the ground and reached to grab his older son and his friend. Cal let him protect him, but Chrístõ was already crouching, not defensively, but ready to pounce as soon as he identified a target.

The disrupter ray missed him by a fraction. He followed the laser track and spotted the figure hidden in a crevice part way up the cliff. He recognised him as Baros Verdan - Hext’s agent who was supposed to be protecting them.

Or at least he thought he did. For a fraction of a second he thought he saw somebody else.

Either way, he was a one man ambush and as soon as the disrupter ray powered up again they were all sitting ducks, trapped in the defile. His father was protecting Cal and Garrick with his own body. He would be killed first.

With all his strength Chrístõ leapt at the cliff, gripping a hand hold and pulling himself up to the very narrow, very precarious ledge where the man who appeared to be Baros Verdan had the high ground advantage. He reached out and grabbed at his foot, unbalancing him. The disrupter ray was knocked from his hands and fell. Chrístõ grappled Verdan hand to hand. The ledge was no place for such a fight, though. He lost his footing very quickly and had to grab for handholds again while Verdan grabbed a piece of loose stone and raised it to smash down on his exposed head.

Then Verdan screamed in agony as the disrupter beam enveloped him. Chrístõ held on tight as the body tumbled past him, then he let go. The body broke his fall. Stunned, nonetheless, it was a moment before he looked around and saw his father smash the disrupter ray gun against the cliff wall, destroying it.

“To bring a weapon into this place is against every precept,” he said. “What sort of madman has so much hate for us?”

Chrístõ looked at the body beneath him and knew exactly what sort of madman he was.

“It’s the one who attacked us in the cavern,” he said. “The Servant of Oakdaene. He was using a shimmer cloak. He’s NOT Paracell Hext’s man.”

“I know, we found the body,” Paracell Hext said. He reached Chrístõ’s side as his trusted men held back the following parties of Candidates and secured the area. “I’m sorry I didn’t get here faster.”

“I’m sorry one of your men died,” Chrístõ told him. “I should be sorry for this one’s death, too, but I’m having a hard time mustering the emotion. He caused us so much trouble… all because of loyalty to Oakdaene and misplaced hatred of Cal.”

Paracell Hext nodded and knelt to examine the body. He turned to look at Lord de Lœngbærrow, to congratulate him on a clean kill, but this was not the time. The former Celestial Intervention Agency assassin was hugging his youngest son tightly. His first bon son went to embrace them both.

“I never thought that you would see me kill a man, Garrick,” Lord de Lœngbærrow said. “I thought that part of my life was over long ago. I am so very sorry, my boy.”

“It’s… all right, father,” Garrick said as the shock slowly wore off. “You… did it… for Chrístõ.”

“Yes, yes I did,” he admitted. “I would do far more to protect either of you. But I wish I didn’t have to.”

“You don’t have to, sir,” Paracell Hext told him. “I’m sorry we failed up to now, but the Agency is here to protect you. When you’re ready, you can continue on to the Valley of Eternal Night.”

“Yes.” Lord de Lœngbærrow stood up proudly, his formal robes glinting in the little sunlight that penetrated this narrow place. Chrístõ did the same. Garrick and Cal both fixed their minds on what lay before them and put out of their thoughts the unfathomable hatred that had driven a man to try to kill them both.

The way to the Valley of Eternal Night was lined with Celestial Intervention Agency men, now. The Candidates walked in perfect safety to the place where the stars shone endlessly because the light and heat of the sun were drained by the mere presence of the Untempered Schism. The sight of the great circle made of an unknown metal, within which a fraction of eternity was contained drove everything else from their minds.

“Ten steps,” Chrístõ told his half brother gently. “Ten steps by yourself.”

Garrick left his half-brother’s side and walked those ten steps. Chrístõ watched and remembered clearly what it had been like when he was eight years old and he had been in Garrick’s place. He had forgotten for all of these years, but standing here now, he knew exactly what it was that the boy was going to see and feel.

“I can’t describe it,” Cal said. They were in Lord de Lœngbærrow’s TARDIS, on the way back to Mount Lœng House. The heir to the House of Oakdaene was pacing around the console room, animated and impatient, frustrated by the four walls. “I just can’t describe it, except that it was the most amazing thing that ever happened to me.”

Garrick didn’t even try to describe it. He was lying on a couch with his head in his brother’s lap. He wasn’t asleep, but he wasn’t quite fully awake, either.

“Nobody can quite describe it afterwards,” Lord de Lœngbærrow said. “But it stays with you all your life.”

Chrístõ nodded. He had forgotten again what had been so crystal clear as he watched Garrick approach the Schism. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t remember, though. It was all there within him. He was a Lord of Time with all knowledge of everything deep inside his soul.

“We’ll be home in two minutes,” Lord de Lœngbærrow added. “Cal, hug your girlfriend and promise her that you love her as much as you did before you saw all of time and space in an instant. Garrick, my child, try to look more awake. Your mother will think there is something wrong and blame me for it.”

Garrick laughed and roused himself. He had faced adventure and danger and deadly enemies today. Then he had faced the Untempered Schism.

He thought he could handle facing his mother!