Chrístõ looked at the large viewscreen and smiled. The planet below looked all it was promised to be - a peaceful paradise of meditation and contemplation.

He had to admit he needed a bit of peace, as well as contemplation and meditation. The past couple of months had been anything but peaceful, meditative or contemplative. Those old presets in his TARDIS database had brought him into two civil wars where he had sided with the historically oppressed against an obvious tyrant as well as an accusation of witchcraft due to missed communications on one highly superstitious world and a boiling cooking pot on another.

He was ready for a bit of a rest.

Marasja was a small planet with an evenly sub-tropical climate except at two small poles and a narrow equatorial band. The million inhabitants were spread across two well watered and fertile continents.

The people were humanoid, but not descended in any way from the humans of planet Earth, which meant that their dominant culture was one of those coincidences that the universe abounded with. The architecture, clothes, music, art, poetry, the half-religion, half-philosophy called Hádú which was adhered to by the majority of the people was all distinctly reminiscent of life on the Indian subcontinent if it had not been interfered with in so many ways by European influences. The people were dark skinned and slender-limbed, adapted to a hot, dry climate. They were noted for their artistic and creative imaginations and their hospitality towards visitors from other worlds.

This much the Gallifreyan Diplomatic Corps’ database informed Chrístõ as he admired one of the great centres of art and creativity that had drawn his interest. From a low orbit the six mile wide complex of gardens and artificial lakes looked like an elaborate lattice of white and blue, with green and subtle pink hues coming into focus as he drew closer. soon he could identify the Kawanbagh - the garden of the ladies - and the great cascades where water fell from a high aquaduct into four levels of descending pools. The garden of meditations and the bathing pool for men were also visible before he programmed his arrival on the planet.

He left his TARDIS disguised as a roadside shrine to Chdú, one of the benevolent gods of Hádú. he was dressed in a simple cotton salwar kameez, the loose shirt and pants combination worn by rich and poor alike, for work and leisure in hot, dry climates such as he encountered once outside the TARDIS's ambience. A pair of sandals covered his feet and protected them from the loose gravel road.

He brought with him a small chest of delicately inlaid wood, trimmed with gold. It contained a single ingfot of the same metal, precious on every world he had ever visited.

The road he was walking was on a raised stretch of land between huge fields irrigated by channels between rows of crops. He guessed it was some kind of corn. People could be seen tending the crops with hand tools. It looked like back breaking, hot work under the relentless sun.

The fields stretched to the horizon on either side and when he looked back there was nothing else to see, but aheaed of him was a long, high wall inset with a magnificent gate arch. As he drew closer he could see details of plaster mouldings on the walls depicting the glory of Hádú and the fine carvings around the archway, as well as the iron gate within the porch barring the way to the great walled retreat of Maclio Bagh.

He stepped under the gateway into a welcome shade. A man dressed in a pale blue salwar kameez greeted him with a bow of the head. Chrístõ returned the gesture and held out the chest.

“My offering to Hádú,” he said. The man took it from him and placed it on a crowded table in front of a gilded shrine to Hádú. Other offerings were as rich as his own. There were ingots and jewellery, purses of coins. There were valuable pieces of sculpted jade, ebony and marble. There were also poorer gifts – single coins, wooden cups and plates, even bunches of wild flowers.

He wasn’t sure what those humble gifts were worth, but his ingot entitled him to stay for an indefinite time as a guest of Hádú. The greeter bowed again and waved him towards the ablution pool in front of the gate. He took off his sandals and stepped into the cool water, bending to wash his feet thoroughly.

When he was done, he stepped out the other side. The gate opened and he entered the retreat.

The first thing that struck him was how cool it was within the walls of Maclio Bagh. The same bright sun shone down from a cloudless azure sky, but a hundred water fountains falling into fifty artificial lakes cooled and moisturised the air. It was marvellously refreshing even after a relatively short walk and for a few minutes he was content to stay at the side of the welcoming pool into which three fountains spilled their clear water.

After a while the urge to explore the gardens was too much to remain in one place. He walked along the edge of the first pool until he came to a bridge across it. This brought him into an orchard where fig palms and almond trees were in fruit.

He wondered about two thing – first, whether figs and almonds naturally ripened at the same time of year and second, whether picking them to eat was permitted. These might well be sacred figs and eating them a blasphemy. He didn’t want to be thrown out so soon after arriving.

A little further into the orchard he encountered a group of young men wearing no shirts and pants cut off at the knees. They were climbing the trees and picking the fruits which were collected into baskets.

Clearly they worked within the gardens. But were visitors allowed to pick fruit for themselves? he asked one of the basket carriers.

“It is permitted, Sirree,” he was told. Sirree was a word used by lower classes and women to address s man of status. “But there is no need for you to do so. You will find all the fruits you desire if you continue on this path.”

Chrístõ thanked the young man for the information and continued walking in the shade of the trees until the orchard gave way to a structure consisting of a slate roof held up by stone archways. He could hear voices from within, and soft music.

He stepped through and arch to see a dozen men dressed in salwar kameez of silk or cotton in various pastel shades. They were lying on palettes covered in silk throws and plump pillows around a low table that was covered in plates of food and flagons of drink. Shirtless servants replenished the table regularly.

“Come, join us, stranger,” Chrístõ was told by a young man who wore gold salwar kameez and had an emerald embedded in his forehead above the bridge of his nose. “You are pale of complexion, friend. You must be new-come to our world.”

“I am,” Chrístõ answered as he found a place on a palette. He regarded the table carefully. Figs, fresh, dried and candied were on offer, as were almonds in forms he had never imagined. There were plates of pale, blanched almonds and smoked and salted ones, as well as cakes, breads and biscuits both sweet and savoury. There were dishes of fish and meat in piquant sauces with flaked almonds sprinkled over them and crystal dishes full of what proved to be almond butter.

The flagons contained refreshingly cold fruit juices. There was no consumption of alcohol within the gardens. Chrístõ enoyed a goblet of what might have been fig and cranberry juice and sampled several of the almond-based dishes as he talked with the young man in gold.

He was Dietir Amoz, Chrístõ learnt. He was the living embodiment of the god, Amozi, bringer of bounty. In the women’s quarter, a female embodiment of Emozi, bringer of fertility was his counterpart. They had both lived since they were five years old within the garden, educated and nurtured, enjoying a life that was at once luxurious and privileged, but at the same time, curiously lonely and restricted.

Amoz rejected the idea that he was a prisoner, but having never set foot outside the garden for twenty years he couldn’t quite explain why the term did not apply to him.

“I enjoy the company of many friends who come to stay for a time,” he said, indicating the group of young men around the table with him. “I hope you will be such a friend.”

“I hope I will be,” Chrístõ assured him. He reached for a savoury almond biscuit and bit into it as a shirtless man sitting cross-legged with a triangular shaped stringed instrument played softly and told a half-singing, half spoken story about how Amozi and Emozi had vanquished countless evil spirits in many hideous forms before they finally became a god and goddess and made Maclio Bagh their resting place among mortals.

Chrístõ thought it a charming story. Even if he had not, his training in diplomatic ways would have forbad any criticism. But it was a charming story, and maybe one with a ring of truth about it. Some of the tales about vanquishing evil spirits might even have a ring of truth. Perhaps some young heroes in the distant past had fought aliens with malicious intentions and the legends of their feats become Holy Writ to the people.

Or perhaps it was all literally true. It wasn’t for him to dispute the religious beliefs of other races. Especially not beliefs that were as harmless as these.

Even if they weren’t harmless, he had no right to dispute them. That was the first rule of Time Lord relations with the universe – or pretty close to the first. No interference. Not even if the local custom was to eat their own young or something equally gruesome.

He smiled to himself. He had never encountered any race that did that and why was he thinking of such things while he was amidst something as close to paradise as he had ever encountered?

He knew why. He had been enjoying himself for at least three hours, and he was starting to look for the catch, the fly in the ointment, the sinister dark side of Maclio Bagh.

STOP looking, he told himself. There isn’t one. This place is fantastic.

He remained another two hours with Amoz and his friends, eating, drinking, listening to stories. The only odd thing he noticed was that the servants bringing the food and playing the music were different.

“Of course,” he was told when he remarked. “No servant works more than a few hours before returning to their own Bagh, where they can bathe in cooling pools and relax in the shade of their own dining room where they have their full share of the delicacies we enjoy.”

“That is a concept of work I have rarely come across in my travels,” Chrístõ admitted. The working classes of his own race certainly didn’t have it so easy.

The thing that made him leave the easy restfulness of Amoz’s table was the thought of bathing pools. It was mid-afternoon and well past the sun’s zenith, but still hot outside of the shaded places. Swimming was a tempting idea. He asked for directions and set off in search of the men’s pool where, he was assured, he would get some sun on his pale flesh.

“Why do people worry about my complexion?” he wondered aloud as he crossed an arched bridge over an ornamental pool with huge lily pads floating on the surface of the water and a glittering mosaic on the bed.

Beyond the ornamental pool the ground level dropped by a dozen metres. A wide marble terrace dropped through gentle steps until it reached the water in a huge bathing pool. Clothes were left in neat piles. The men already bathing were doing so naked.

Chrístõ was startled, even a tiny bit shocked at first, then he reasoned that there was nobody around to be offended by their nakedness. The usual bare-chested servants brought towels and lotions to those who had finished their exercise. There were no women around.

He stripped and walked down into the cool, clean water and began to swim with strong, confident strokes. He completed a dozen vigorous lengths of the pool before relaxing and swimming more gently, enjoying the cold water under the hot sun.

When he climbed out of the water, one of the servants stepped forward with towels. He dried his skin and laid down on a step and closed his eyes. He let the sounds all around wash over him like a wave as he relaxed fully, letting exercised limbs and muscles rest. Unlike the aftermath of bathing in a chlorinated pool or in salt water there was no residue on his body. He just felt thoroughly cleansed.

He let himself drowse with the sounds around him. It was a pleasant thing to do, knowing that he was perfectly safe from any kind of harm. He had no possessions to steal and nobody bore him any ill will.

It was a unique situation for him in that sense.

He slept, unaware of the passage of time for some hours. When he woke, the sun had dropped much lower in the sky. Most of the bathers were drying and getting dressed. He slipped back into the water to wake himself and cool his sun warmed body and then quickly dried and dressed and followed where the others were going.

The male visitors from all over Maclio Bagh were all converging on a part of the complex Chrístõ had not yet visited. There was a high wall of white stone carved into open latticework of delicate design. Beside the wall rose a tower with a platform at the top reached by a winding stairway. Chrístõ looked up to see Amoz at the top of the tower, sitting in a position of contemplation.

A matching tower rose up on the other side of the wall. At the top sat a women in flowing silk robes. A shawl covered her head, but her face was open to be looked upon by all. She was the first woman Chrístõ had seen since entering the Retreat, so she held his attention for that reason.

She was, he guessed, Emoz, the female embodiment of Emozi, goddess of fertility and harvests, and beyond the wall was the women’s quarter. If he squinted through the lattice he thought there was a hint of movement and colour – women in light, flowing silks coming to a meditation garden that was a duplicate of the male one.

Watching them was not banned, he knew, but it was not good manners, either. He turned his attention to the men around him and copied their way of sitting, with muscles relaxed but limbs held straight. He had learnt similar positions in the monastery of Sun Ko Du and the temple at Shaolin. It was easy to join with them in the quiet meditation.

When everyone was settled in their places of contemplation, a bell somewhere near the top of the tower rang out deep and sonorous. A lighter one rang from the goddess tower. As the sound died away it was replaced by the clear voices of Amoz and Emoz chanting words too ancient and mysterious even for a Time Lord who had studied languages and language structures for over a century. Their meaning as language didn’t matter. The calming, meditative effect was obvious. Chrístõ felt himself carried away from the conscious plain by the sound. He found himself responding without ever learning how to do so. It just felt natural and very, very wonderful even for a Time Lord.

Time passed in the deep levels of meditation. The sun dropped lower. The sky darkened and stars twinkled while a huge moon rose above the walls of the Maclio Bagh. The meditation continued until the sun had set and that moon fully risen. Then the voices stopped. The bells tolled again. Amoz and Emoz rose from their respective places and descended their towers. Their followers rose and gathered around them.

“What next?” Chrístõ wondered as he mingled with the crowd, knowing that it would be nothing unpleasant, at least.

What next turned out to be an evening meal served in a garden that smelt of jasmine and was illuminated by candles in glass globes placed all around. The diners sat on cushions and were served plates of food by the shirtless servants who moved among them.

The meal was a delicately flavoured dahl curry with chunks of flat bread toasted on a stone oven. There were bowls of stewed fruit to follow – not just figs, but lighter flavours, too, though toasted almonds featured as a garnish. Goblets of cool fruit juice washed the food down before the servants retreated, presumably to their own dining places.

Now, it seemed, the guests were at their leisure to wander the gardens again. Chrístõ watched groups and pairs as well as solitary figures go their separate ways. Amoz announced his intention to return to the meditation garden for a private session. Several young men volunteered to join him. Chrístõ declined when he was asked.

“Perhaps another night,” he answered. “I think I would like to walk under the moonlight for a while.”

He had a place in mind where he wanted to walk. It didn’t take him long to find the long wall that divided the male and female quarters of the Maclio Bagh. The path alongside it was lit with candles. He wondered briefly whose job it was to collect them all in the morning and replace them before sunset. The effect was certainly beautiful.

The scent of night flowers was heady, and the air was filled with birdsong, too. A pure white peacock displayed itself to a peahen with iridescent white feathers even without the show off plumage. In the moonlight they both had a wonderfully surreal quality that Chrístõ appreciated fully.

He turned from the peacocks to look through the lattice wall. He could not see anything in detail, but he did catch a glimpse of blue silk and a flash of movement.

“Is there anyone there?” he said in a low voice.

“Yes,” came the soft, feminine reply. “I am Saara. What is your name?”

“Chrístõ,” he answered. “I am… a visitor here. Is it the same with you?”

“No,” Saara responded. “I live here. I read and play music, make lace and embroidery, and meditate daily.”

“You live here? All your life?”

“No.” The young woman laughed gently. “Let us walk as we converse. It is the appropriate way. The paths are set each side of the wall for that purpose.”

Chrístõ walked as Saara explained that she was nineteen years old and betrothed to a young man of business who was currently offworld. She was here to learn to be a more complete wife for her future husband.

“Like a finishing school?” Chrístõ queried. Saara had never heard the phrase before, but she seemed to understand, all the same. “I wanted my fiancée to go to one of those, but she refused, point blank.”

Saara laughed again. Her laugh was sweet, the sort that a finishing school would approve of, the sort that would fit into any social occasion in the diplomatic corps.

“My eldest sister refused to be closeted until marriage. She went to medical school instead and became a doctor. She married a doctor. They are both very happy.”

“So there ARE choices? You don’t have to learn to be a good wife?”

“Oh, of course,” Saara assured him. “Indeed, even when I am married I will continue with my music. I wish to be a concert harpist. My fiancé is happy for me to do that as well as keeping a home.”

“I’m glad to hear it. My fiancée has some terms of her own, too. Some of them come close to upsetting the tradition of patriarchy in the Gallifreyan home, but I am happy to accede to her wishes.”

“Gallifrey? Is that your world?” Saara asked. “Tell me about it. Are all the people there are fair skinned as you?”

“Why does everyone around here worry about my complexion?” Chrístõ asked. “I’ll try to get a tan tomorrow. Will everyone be happy, then?”

“I like fair skin,” Saara told him. “But please, are there stories and songs from your world? Would you tell me some of them? That is what I like best when visitors come here, to hear the songs of other worlds.”

“It doesn’t make you regret being closeted in such a small place?” Chrístõ asked.

“The imagination is bigger than the whole universe,” Saara pointed out, and he could not argue with such an assertion.

“The songs and stories of Gallifrey are too long. We would reach the end of the wall before I have finished the prologue. But there is another world I know which has many stories, many songs, all different kinds. I will tell you about Earth.”

He began by singing his mother’s favourite song. It was a song he had known since he was a baby. She might have sung it to him while he was in his cradle with a mobile of Earth and Gallifrey glowing above it.

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup

They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe

Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind

Possessing and caressing me

Jai Guru Deva OM

Nothing's gonna change my world…

“A great poet must have composed that,” Saara told him when he finished. “It speaks of mysteries in the stars themselves.”

“I agree,” Chrístõ said, his mind reaching out for another song to sing. The randomness of half-buried thoughts dug out a folk song about a girl in a ‘Galway Shawl’. After that, he recited the ‘Jabberwocky’ and then, as they reached the end of the dividing wall and turned around, he sang the Skye Boat Song, told an abridged version of the story of Robin Hood and finished with the sad tale of Molly Malone.

Saara was satisfied with his efforts to widen her knowledge of the universe. Before they reach the far end of the wall she sang him a traditional song of this world in a clear, bell-like voice.

“Very beautiful,” he told her. “Your fiancé is a lucky man.”

“Thank you. I must go now. but will you walk with me again tomorrow night and share stories? I will bring my hand-harp and play for you.”

“I will try to remember more stories,” he promised in return. “Goodnight, Saara.”

He parted from the lady behind the wall happily. Strange, but he had not even seen her properly, only heard her voice, but he felt touched by beauty and grace.

He hoped he had made as good an impression on her.

As he settled to sleep on a special mat placed on the floor of one of an open-sided shelter and watched the moonlight dancing off a waterfall into the pool beside this sleeping place, he wondered why it mattered to him that she was impressed. He wasn’t courting her. Both of them were happily betrothed.

But he felt he wanted to be impressive to the gracious lady with the delightful voice who only wanted stories from him.

He closed his eyes and listened to the waterfall as he considered what stories he might have for her tomorrow night.

The next day followed a similar pattern as his first, with meditations and bathing, meals shared with his fellow retreaters, and pleasant walks among almond trees and beside cooling fountains.

He enjoyed it all, but at the same time he was impatient and a little anxious for the quiet time after dark when he had promised to meet Saara again. He had planned out the stories he would share with her this time and was looking forward to it.

He was anxious in case she wasn’t there. It was strange that he should feel that way. After all, she was not special to him. He didn’t even know what she looked like. She was betrothed to another man. He was utterly and exclusively in love with Julia.

It wasn’t like that, of course. He wasn’t in love with Saara. He wasn’t betraying any trust on his or her part. But meeting her had been an unexpected and inexplicable pleasure and he felt more anxious than a young man on his first date as he waited for the sun to set.

But it wasn’t really that, either. He couldn’t explain it if he tried, which was unusual for him. He had never had feelings he couldn’t analyse and understand perfectly from a scientific point of view.

As soon as the communal evening meal was over he made his way to the wall. At first he thought there was nobody there, and he felt disappointed. Then he spotted a movement on the other side of the trellis – a flash of blue silk.

“Saara?” he whispered, though he didn’t know why he felt he had to.

“Yes,” she answered. “Also….” She hesitated for a moment before going on. “I have brought my cousin, Faaya. I told her of your Earth stories. She wanted to hear them.”

“Oh!” Chrístõ felt a momentary sensation something like disappointment, then he realised that there was no good reason why he shouldn’t enjoy talking with two young women as much as one. After all this WASN’T a date. Besides, it was flattering to think that she had WANTED to hear him talk.

“Delighted to meet you, Faaya,” he said. “I hope I won’t disappoint you.”

He clearly didn’t. They walked the length of the wall four times as he sang and recited poetry from his vast knowledge of Human culture. The poetry was the sort that told a story rather than the symbol laden stuff that needed hours of critical analysis. The Lady of Shallot evinced sighs of appreciation from the two ladies and they listened with rapture to D.H. Lawrence’s Whales Weep Not!

“You understand that story?” he queried when he was done. He had debated it with himself during his swimming session. Would it make any sense on a hot, dry planet without any oceans, let alone great mammals living in it.

“Yes, we understood,” Saara assured him. “We could see the pictures in our heads as you spoke. These are great beasts, indeed, yet not frightening – gentle mothers and protective fathers with their young, just as it ought to be.”

“Yes.” Chrístõ was surprised. He had been visualising it all as he recited the poem but he hadn’t realised he was projecting the visualisation telepathically, or that the ladies were receptive to such projections. But if that were so, then it opened up a whole range of stories he could tell that might otherwise puzzle them. He had to stop ideas crowding his head and bring himself back to the song he wanted them to hear next.

He went to his sleeping place afterwards happy and content, if in need of a cool drink to soothe his throat after his performance.

Again his thoughts during the course of the next day turned to how he could entertain and enthral the ladies after dark. He made himself put his plans out of his mind during the meditation sessions – they were too distracting – but the rest of his time was spent in happy contemplation of the literature and culture of his mother’s homeworld.

He was startled to find, this night when he came to the wall, that Saara and Faaya were joined by six of their friends. They all wanted to hear his stories.

The next night the number had doubled.

“I’m glad to meet all of you,” he said. “But… promise me one thing. My stories… of another world, of cultures beyond your imagining… they are not making any of you dissatisfied with your life here in the Bagh? I never meant to upset anyone, or… create a revolution.”

“We are not dissatisfied with our lives,” he was assured. “But your stories enrich us. Please, please tell us of the whales again… and the song of the Ferryman.”

Chrístõ laughed softly. He was getting requests, now!

The time passed easily. He lost count of how often he walked the wall. The sky was beginning to lighten in the south, where the sun rose on this world, when he told his audience he must stop. He promised them that he would be there the next night and that satisfied them.

He returned as promised to an even bigger audience than before. again he wondered if he was doing some subtle harm by showing these women of limited experiences that there was so very much beyond the walls of their retreat, but they hastened to ensure him that the stories he told only enriched their closeted lives. They were not discontent.

Nor was he. Their company enhanced his time at the Retreat. He looked forward to the hours he spent waking by the wall that divided the male and female gardens and the stories he told to his rapt audience.

He lost track of the days, almost. He was so happy with the simple life of quiet contemplation and utter peace. Sometimes he reminded himself that this was merely a temporary retreat from the realities of his life, but his planned departure was still far enough away for him to put it to the back of his mind while looking forward to the next peaceful day at Maclio Bagh.

But out of the blue he found something that changed everything for him, and for Maclio Bagh. He had come early to the meditation square and wandered away towards the promenade wall, wondering if any of his friends might be there already.

He was surprised to see Amoz there, pressed close to the wall, his slender hand reaching through the lattice to reach the even more delicate hand of one of the ladies. He was talking softly and clearly intimately. Chrístõ concealed himself behind an almond tree where he listened to one side of what clearly was an intimate conversation.

He knew he really ought to have moved away and left them alone. This was an invasion of their privacy. But the nature of the conversation piqued his curiosity and aroused his desire to offer assistance to those in desperation.

Amoz concluded his tryst and turned to go back to the tower where he would lead the nightly meditation. As he did so, Chrístõ revealed himself. Amoz looked startled and worried rather than angry at the eavesdropper.

“There is no time, now,” Chrístõ told him. “But let us speak in confidence after the ceremony.”

Amoz nodded wordlessly and went on his way. Chrístõ found a place among the devotees and cleared his busy mind in preparation for the meditation. It would have been easy enough to be distracted by these new revelations, but he was a Time Lord, after all. Mental discipline was something he had learnt and perfected from an early age. Besides, he suspected he would need every ounce of physical and cerebral effort to solve the Amoz’s problem, and refreshing his body and mind first would be beneficial.

After the ceremony, Chrístõ went to the tower. The servants had obviously been told to expect him and he was allowed to climb up to an upper room where Amoz waited. Food and drink was provided and the servants dismissed so that they could talk privately.

“When I first talked to you, on my first day,” Chrístõ said, opening on the most vital point. “You told me that you were happy here, and in particular, that you were not a prisoner. Yet what I overheard earlier suggests that you are exactly that.”

“Emoz and I were brought here as infants, as you know,” Amoz answered. “We were nurtured and educated, trained in the customs and rituals required of us as the living embodiments of the gods. We knew no other life and were content. But those who set us here did not prepare us for one thing – love.”

“You love each other. Though you have never been together without a wall separating you.”

“We do.”

“I’ve been telling stories to the ladies... Lancelot and Guinevere, Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde….” The names meant nothing to Amoz. Chrístõ smiled. “Great and mostly tragic love stories. But yours knocks them all into a cocked hat – whatever one of those is. A love that can never, ever be consummated even by the most innocent kiss.”

Amoz nodded.

“From our towers we can see the fields beyond Maclio Bagh. We see the workers in their daily toil. We came from such people. If we were among them again nothing could keep us from being together. We could be married, have children, grow old together….”

“But your exalted position keeps you apart.”

“I am the embodiment of Amozi for life,” Amoz explained. “Only in death will I be released from my duty, when my body and soul ascend into the heavens and I join the gods. The same is true for Emoz. There is no other hope for us. We must accept our fate and do our duty without complaint.”

“You do the duty well,” Chrístõ told him. “What happens, by the way, when you ascend to the gods. Are you replaced?”

“Yes,” Amoz answered. “A new infant boy will be selected to be the embodiment of Amozi.”

“I see.” Chrístõ gave a deep, long sigh. “It’s a difficult situation. But let me think about it. Perhaps I can find a way.”

“Why should you do such a thing?” Amoz asked. “What are our troubles to you?”

“I am… a galactic busybody,” Chrístõ admitted. “I try to help people in trouble. Not so long ago it was a planet in turmoil. This time it is two people in love. If I didn’t help the last time, millions would have died. I could not, in all consciousness, turn my back on them. This time, only hearts are at stake, but it would weigh upon me if I did not try.”

“It is your sacred duty to help others,” Amoz said. “May the gods bless you in that effort. But if my own plight cannot be resolved I will not bear you any ill will. I am resigned to my fate, as is my beloved. We ARE happy except that we cannot love as ordinary men and women love.”

“Leave it with me,” Chrístõ promised.

He left Amoz and made his way to his usual rendezvous with the ladies of Maclio Bagh. His stories tonight amazed and thrilled them, particularly his digest version of The Wizard of Oz with its flying houses, good and wicked witches, and a whole lot of smoke and mirrors from the wizard himself.

“Smoke and mirrors!” As he strolled beside the wall, explaining exactly what a tornado was to his avid audience, he smiled to himself. He had an idea that just might help the two people who were not here in the garden by choice.

He put his plan into action two days later, after thinking through the details and discussing them with Amoz. That evening he was absent from the sunset meditation. He had already left Maclio Bagh and walked back to where he had left his TARDIS so many weeks ago.

“Hello, old girl,” he said cheerfully as the lights came on in the console room after all that time in low power mode. “Hello, Humphrey, did you miss me?”

His strange, shadowy friend came from the darkness under the console to greet him like a pet dog.

“It is far too sunny out there for you,” he told Humphrey. “You’re better off snoozing here in the dark. But how about we make a bit of magic tonight?”

Humphrey trilled happily. He had no idea what Chrístõ meant, but he caught his conspiratorial mood and bowled around the walls as the fine adjustments to the TARDIS were made and the plan put into action.

From the meditation garden what happened looked spectacular. A bright light appeared in the sky above the two towers before two beams split off from it and enveloped Amoz and Emoz respectively. As visitors, monks and servants all stood up nervously, expectantly, some of them moving towards the tower, others moving away in fear, the living god and goddess were both lifted into the air. There were cries of consternation, but those were drowned out by exultations to the gods as the living embodiments of Amozi and Emozi unexpectedly ascended to the heavens. It was as it was written in the holy books of Hádú. The devout fully accepted it. The sceptical reluctantly concluded that it had to be a miracle having ruled out any other explanation.

Chrístõ opened the TARDIS doors and waited until Amoz reached the threshold on the gravity lift he had created. He reached to pull him inside, then the two of them reached out for Emoz. She looked around the TARDIS in bemusement and straightened her flowing robes. Her only fear during her ascendency had been for modesty as the silk billowed around her. Now she forgot all of that as she shared her first embrace with her lover.

“I’m taking you to a village a couple of hundred miles from here,” Chrístõ told them as he closed the TARDIS door and crossed to the console. He assumed that they were listening even while they were kissing so very passionately. “The harvest is abundant and they need workers. You can both easily earn your keep. Should you need extra money, those jewels you are wearing could be sold in a town only twenty miles from there.”

“Our jewels?” Amoz touched his forehead and withdrew the emerald fixed to his skin. It left a pale mark, but working in the sunshine would soon tan his face and obliterate the signs that he had once been a living god. Emoz removed several valuable rings from her fingers.

“My dowry,” she said.

“Our future happiness,” Amoz responded. “May the gods be praised.”

“I can find you a box to keep your nest egg in,” Chrístõ promised. “And my wardrobe will provide clothes suitable to your new station in life.”

In a short time, Amoz and Emoz, having chosen less exalted names for themselves and changed into simpler and less conspicuous clothes, carrying their worldly goods in a leather bag, stepped into a wayside inn near the village. They turned to wave goodbye to the man who had given them the chance they had wished for, but he was gone. A strange noise and a sudden breeze that caught the plain blue dress Emoz was wearing now was the last they knew of him.

Chrístõ went back to Maclio Bagh and ate supper with the men, sharing their speculation about the miracle they had witnessed and what would happen in the near future. He spent a pleasant time telling stories to the ladies and then slept peacefully, knowing that he had righted a small wrong, one that would not save a planet, but had made two people happy.

He stayed at Maclio Bagh long enough to see two new embodiments of the gods installed in the two towers. They were desperately young and a little frightened of the awesome responsibilities ahead of them, but they would be nurtured and educated and live a life of luxury and adulation, and unless they fell in love with each other there was no reason why they shouldn’t be happy.

Chrístõ spent one more night telling stories to his friends and then said a final goodnight to them. In the morning light he left Maclio Bagh for the second and last time.

“Time for adventure,” he said as he powered up the TARDIS’s time-space engines and browsed the preset locations in the navigation computer for somewhere interesting to go.