“I notice that we’re not travelling as rich merchants, this time,” Riley Davenport said as he and Chrístõ moved through the streets of ancient Olympia.

“I thought, on this occasion, it might be more useful to be artisans. This is a city where craftsmen are valued highly, after all.”

“So I see,” Riley noted as they passed a forge where two strongly built men, stripped to the waist and glistening with sweat, beat at a sheet of iron, their hammers striking the metal one after the other in an unbroken rhythm.

“And if you’re interested in their skills with metal I’m a Dutchman,” Chrístõ remarked with a knowing smile. Riley blushed and turned his gaze away from the forge. “Come on, the workshop we want to see is south of here.”

They crossed an open plaza in front of a high, wide structure with Doric columns all around its walls. The building was incomplete. There was no roof above the columns and no door yet set in place at the entrance. Chrístõ turned aside from his planned path and mounted the steps. Riley followed.

“Oh, my lord!” the young archaeologist exclaimed out loud as he saw the half-finished structure within the new building. Burnished gold, glittering stained glass and smooth, cream-coloured ivory was bright in the sunlight that penetrated the roofless temple. Soon enough it would be enclosed and then the illumination would come from yellow rushlights around the walls, but for now the unfinished statue was bathed in natural light.

No archaeologist had ever seen the Statue of Zeus at Olympia in ANY light. It was lost forever thousands of years before the study of ancient artefacts was even considered a science. Riley was well aware of just how honoured he was to be there looking at the work in progress.

“Impressive, isn’t it,” Chrístõ remarked. “I mean, there ARE bigger sculptures in the cosmos. The great statue of Zodia the Magnificus on Xanith X is nearly five hundred feet high, and the Genexian Modonni, reclining on her bed of pure white Quárbél stone is a thousand feet long. But both of those were built with the help of advanced technology. They used gravity lifts to raise the stones of the Zodia statue and the Modonni was carved by computer-controlled drones. Zeus here is being hand crafted by Human hands. That’s far more impressive.”

“I’m glad you think so,” Riley told him, smiling in amusement. His imagination refused to picture a thousand-foot long reclining figure. It had never quite managed to encompass how vast and magnificent the Statue of Zeus at Olympia was. There were dozens of drawings and paintings imagining what it might be like, but none of those could really do justice to a statue that, even seated on its throne, was still over forty-foot tall from sandals to crown and another two feet to the top of its sceptre.

There was still room for wonderment. Part of the statue was still nothing more than a wooden scaffold or skeleton upon which the plates of gold and ivory and the glass decorations were laid. Even so, the often over-used phrase ‘awesome’ might still be applied to it.

The statue was guarded by two broad-backed men with swords who prevented anyone without authority to cross the unfinished mosaic floor. Chrístõ, of course, could have given himself that authority in an eyeblink, or he might have used the perception filter that had proved useful on other occasions in order to reach the statue and leave the golden node of the Guardians at its mighty feet, but he had already decided he wanted to do things another way.

“That’s why we need to find the workshop,” he explained. “Pheidias needs a couple of assistants.”

The great sculptor, Pheidias, was already famous for his work on the Parthenon on Athens, including the panels that would one day be known as the Elgin Marbles. His temporary workshop here in Olympia was, in keeping with his fame, a huge building with a wide door so that any size piece of his great statue could be carried out of it. There was a sound and smell of hot metal even from the entrance, and the interior was illuminated by the glow of a forge fire.

Here, though, to Riley’s disappointment, were no well-muscled metal-workers. Pheidias himself was standing over the forge as they entered, watching a vat of metal melting to the right pouring consistency. He looked tired and disillusioned with his task. His age, according to historical record, should have been forty-five. He looked at least ten years older than that. His hair. moustache and beard were both prematurely iron-grey and his eyes were sunken into his face. They seemed on the verge of tears – though that might well have been from being too close to the forge.

“Master,” Chrístõ called out above the noise of the fire. “We are here to assist you.”

The great man looked up at the two eager faces and managed a smile that only accentuated the frown lines.

“Neither of you look as if you have done very much manual labour, but I cannot afford to be choosy. Do you at least promise not to run away like yellow-hearted cowards?”

“I have never run away in any colour,” Chrístõ responded. “Has that been the case with other assistants?”

Pheidias realised he had said too much, already. He sighed and shrugged.

“You should know that a dozen men have come and gone in the past twenty days, all complaining that they are pestered by dark spirits who want to prevent the work being done.”

“Dark spirits?” Riley queried. Pheidias glanced at him anxiously, as if he might change his mind and leave.

“We’re here to work, master,” Chrístõ intervened. “Just show us what needs to be done.”

“Those moulds need to be made ready,” Pheidias answered, pointing to a stack of clay shapes. Chrístõ looked closer and saw that they were ridged on the inside, no two alike, but fitting a sort of whole pattern. He ran his hand over the ridges and then realised that what he was looking at was the inverse shape of a piece of solid gold drapery – parts of Zeus’s cloak.

With Riley’s help, he set the moulds into a wooden box filled with sand. This steadied the moulds before the molten gold was poured in. The two new assistants stood well back as the master performed that highly dangerous procedure. Riley winced as he imagined what being scalded with molten gold might feel like. His imagination shut down before he started to contemplate the burns going right down to the bone and the accompanying agony.

The moulds were filled. Chrístõ noted that the amount of molten gold was exactly enough for the job – none left over, no moulds left partially filled. Pheidias was expert at calculating what he needed for the job.

“Now I need these pieces of ivory polished,” he told Riley, trusting him with a more sophisticated job. “They must have the lustre of a god’s own skin.”

Riley had not even realised that the creamy white panels, each no more than a half inch thick, were made of ivory. He had assumed they were a kind of ceramic.

Chrístõ was set the task of preparing more ivory. This involved sawing sections of the raw tusks into rough oblongs and soaking them in boiling vinegar until they were soft enough to flatten in a press.

It was nasty work. The smell of hot vinegar was foul, and even more so when the ivory was steeped in it. Apart from anything else, Chrístõ was well aware of the ethical issues of using ivory as an artistic material. He knew that at least two dozen animals must have been killed to provide the ivory stored in this workshop, and it was only a fraction of the material needed to complete the sculpture. The thought of the slaughter that had been necessary in order to produce this one of the Seven Wonders made him uneasy, and combined with the noxious smell from the vat it made for a less than happy afternoon’s work. He told himself he was contributing to the construction of something magnificent, legendary and very beautiful, but a part of him wasn’t completely convinced by that.

It was hard work, using muscles that academics generally were unaccustomed to using. But neither Chrístõ nor Riley were just academics of the library reading room. Chrístõ trained every day in his favourite martial arts, and Riley used the same facility within the TARDIS to practice boxing against a hologram opponent. They were both capable of manual tasks that worked those muscles and made them sweat profusely within the forge-heated workshop.

They worked long hours with a small meal of bread and goats-cheese in the mid-afternoon before several more hours of dedicated work as evening set in and the shadows lengthened. Pheidias lit oil lamps in the workshop as the natural light failed and continued carving the ivory platelets that Chrístõ had prepared into the ‘flesh’ of the great Zeus before handing them to Riley for polishing.

Finally, he called a halt to the work for the night and told his two assistants that food was to be had at the Hotel. The idea that hotels existed for the comfort of visitors in fourth century BC was something of a surprise to both of Pheidias’s assistants until they remembered that this WAS Olympia, the world’s first tourist spot with thousands of visitors coming to see the Olympic Games. Provision for people who needed the essentials of daily life was an established fact in this city.

The hotel in question lay just behind the workshop. Close to it were dozens of tents made of strong canvas. These were for those who could afford to partake of the hot meal inside, but not the beds.

The meal was a stew served from a large vat into bowls and eaten with a spoon and chunks of bread on shared platters in the middle of the long communal table. Riley, on the vague pretext of historical research, became firm friends with a pair of broad-shouldered athletes while Chrístõ found himself the butt of a lot of jokes about his pale complexion. Anyone would think, he was told, that he had not been working hard. There was no sign of tanning from exposure to the sunshine or even from close quarters with the forge.

“I have worked as hard as any man,” Chrístõ assured his mockers. “I simply have pale skin. There is nothing I can do about it.”

Of course, he could not explain that his body saw tanning of the skin as damage – which it was, of course – and instantly repaired the cells. He simply had to take the teasing in the non-malicious spirit in which it was intended.

One man did not find it amusing that Pheidias had acquired two new assistants. He was tall and thin, with a swarthy complexion that suggested he spent plenty of time outdoors. He spoke darkly with the Parthenon Sculptor.

“His work is blasphemy,” the man said. “The face of the great Zeus should not be fashioned by the hands of mortal men.”

“Nonsense,” Chrístõ replied. “Pheidias is a great artist and the statue of Zeus will be the pinnacle of his career.”

This was the opinion shared by most of the diners. It seemed that he had made the same accusation before and they were tired of hearing it.

“Leave them alone, Phaelos,” said one of the men Riley had seen working in the forge. “Your complaint is a tedious one.”

Phaelos had no intention of fighting somebody who swung hammers all day, but he wasn’t giving up his argument, either.

“You should leave this place,” he said to Chrístõ and Riley as if putting an end to the argument. “Woe to those who aid in the blasphemy of this man.”

“We’re going nowhere,” Chrístõ answered, meeting the dark glower with a steely and steady look. For a moment Phaelos appeared cowed by the authority of a Time Lord whose experience of the universe was greater than any man in Olympia could begin to comprehend. Then he turned abruptly from them and walked away.

“What was THAT about?” Riley asked.

“Phaelos believes that it is blasphemy to build an image of Zeus here in Olympia,” said the forge worker, though they had already guessed that much.

“Why should he believe that?” Chrístõ asked. “There are images of the gods everywhere in Greece. Why should he make a big deal about this one?”

“Perhaps because Pheidias claims to have seen visions of the gods and creates their true faces in stone,” another diner explained.

“Do you think he really did see visions?” Riley asked.

“It would be blasphemy to say so if it were not true,” said the forge man, and that was so completely logical that it settled the discussion until the meal was over and the working men of Olympia sought their beds for the night. Some of the skilled artisans stayed in the hotel, but most went to tents pitched between the hotel and the workshops. As Chrístõ and Riley said goodnight to new found friends they noticed one tent set apart from the others as if it belonged to one who disdained company. They were not entirely surprised to see Phaelos heading towards that tent.

Pheidias’s assistants were afforded a meal at their master’s expense, but they didn’t sleep at the hotel or in a tent. Pheidias himself slept in a side room by the workshop and he made the same provision for them. The beds were narrow but good, with clean covers. Besides, the forge fire was kept smouldering and it warmed the whole building once it was fully night and the warmth of the day had dissipated. They could count themselves pretty much in the lap of luxury.

“Do you think Pheidias really had visions of the gods?” Riley asked as they lay in the quiet warmth waiting for sleep.

“Legend says that he did,” Chrístõ answered. “And he certainly believes it. It’s not for us to question him about that. What puzzles me is why Phaelos objects to him creating statues depicting them. Greek theology has never contained any issue about showing the faces of gods. It’s not like Islam where any depiction of the Prophet in art is highly blasphemous. I really don’t get that man’s problem. If he was complaining about the use of all that ivory I could understand. It’s vile stuff altogether, but that’s the only part of the project that’s in any way objectionable.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Riley answered. “I did spend a good part of the afternoon polishing a god’s left nipple.”

Chrístõ laughed softly and reminded himself that protests about the use of ivory as an ornamental material were much later in the twentieth century than Riley’s nineteen-twenties. Technically, he might even excuse their work today as historical. Even after the international ban on killing animals for ivory antique examples of the material were considered acceptable. And they didn’t get much more antique than this.

Well, it wasn’t a very good excuse, but he made it do.

“There’s another story about Pheidias that I always liked,” he added. “The great Pericles held a competition in Athens to find the greatest artist in the country. Pheidias and another sculptor were competing against each other. The other man sculpted a beautiful basket of fruit set upon a marble plinth. It was so fine that the very birds were fooled into trying to eat the cherries. Pericles himself declared it to be magnificent, then turned to Pheidias’s effort. He saw what looked like a cloth draped over the plinth and asked the sculptor to remove it to reveal his work. Pheidias stood back and waited. After Pericles repeated his request twice, he revealed his secret – he had sculpted a cloth draped over a plinth. The great Pericles laughed heartily and said that fooling the eyes of birds was a great achievement, but Pheidias had fooled the eyes of men and he was the greatest sculptor, the greatest artist in all of Greece.”

“That is very clever,” Riley agreed before turning in his bed and settling to sleep. Chrístõ found a comfortable position and tried not to let his relaxed mind stray too close to Riley’s dreams about burnished and athletic Greek men.

He woke a little later to the sound of Riley shouting out in a tone that had nothing to do with his feelings for Greek manhood. Something was frightening him. Chrístõ reached for his sonic screwdriver to illuminate the pitch dark of the room with its penlight mode. He tried not to use his future technology in historical settings, but this was an emergency.

The blue-white light picked out a strange sight. Something shaped like a small Human but completely dark from head to foot was sitting on Riley’s chest and whispering sinisterly at him. Chrístõ leapt from his bed and reached for the demon, but it escaped his grasp and scuttled across the floor, melding into the darkness in the corner. He shone the penlight around and up the walls, but the creature had vanished.

“What is that strange light?” asked the voice of Pheidias who stood in the doorway looking like a minor Greek deity himself in his white sleeping robe.

“It is a kind of phosphor mix used to provide light in dark places,” Chrístõ answered. “We had a strange and possibly unnatural visitation that doesn’t seem to like having a torch shone in its face.”

“You mean….” Pheidias was crestfallen. “I am sorry if the demons have frightened you. I will understand if you wish to leave.”

“Leave? I’m just getting started,” Chrístõ replied. “I don’t think it is a coincidence that this happened after we tangled with Phaelos at dinner. I think it’s time we ruined his sleep the way he’s ruined ours. Riley and me, that is, not you, Master. You should stay out of this.”

Pheidias opened his mouth to protest, but then his tired eyes met Christo's and he saw something in them that was almost akin to seeing the faces of his gods.

"My lord," he whispered. "That you should call ME, Master...."

"In this workshop, you most certainly are," Christo assured him. “And we are your assistants, ready to do as you command.”

“Then I command that you let me accompany you. I should know why Phaelos sends demons to my workshop, if, as you think, it is he who is responsible.”

“Very well,” Chrístõ conceded. He strongly suspected that Phaelos was dabbling with something not of this time and place, and he wanted to avoid exposing the great artist to it. On the other hand, he had the right to know what was going on, and why he was being singled out for this sinister harassment.

The matter decided, Chrístõ led Riley and Pheidias towards the tent village and the one canvas set apart from the others.

Perhaps if the proud and disdainful Phaelos had kept company with others in the night he might have been forewarned. As it was, he knew nothing of the invasion of his tent until Chrístõ yanked him out of his bed with one hand around his neck.

“What is your game?” he demanded. “Why have you been persecuting Pheidias and his assistants? What is it all about? And how did you manage to get a creature of darkness to do your bidding?”

“The…. creature… I captured it in the Thrasyllos Cave near Athens. I bound it to do my bidding.”

“Call it here,” Chrístõ demanded. “Call it to you, right now.”

Phaelos glanced past Chrístõ and saw Riley Davenport and Pheidias of Athens, neither of whom looked especially threatening. He may have considered for a moment the possibility of making a dash for it. But Chrístõ was still holding him by the neck, not quite tight enough to restrict his breathing, but enough to make it clear that he COULD squeeze harder.

He gave up on the idea. Instead he whistled shrilly.

“It is here,” he said. Chrístõ didn’t turn to see. He heard both Riley and Pheidias gasp as the darkness creature passed between them. As it drew beside its ‘Master’ he noted that it was, as he had suspected, the same species as his friend, Humphrey, evolved in the darkness of a cave system.

The difference was that Humphrey was a friend who stayed with him for that reason. He wasn’t ‘bound’ in any way.

“Now free him,” Chrístõ said in a flat, even tone that brooked no defiance.

“You are free,” Phaelos said to the creature. “I no longer bind you to do my bidding.”

The creature looked at him with big eyes made of pure darkness, then turned and scampered out of the tent. Olympia had plenty of cellars and dark places where it might nest happily.

“Now explain why you hate Pheidias and want to stop him from completing his statue, and don’t give me any nonsense about blasphemy.”

“I think I know,” Pheidias said before Phaelos could speak. “I did not recognise him before this. I saw him in the streets, among the other workers, but I never had cause to speak with him. But now I see that he has disguised his face and changed his name. He used to be known as Aelos of Athens.”

“Aelos?” Chrístõ frowned. The name rang a bell in his mind. “Yes… of course. He was the man who carved the basket of fruit”

“The one who came second in the competition?” Riley queried.

“He was disappointed,” Pheidias confirmed. “But I never dreamt he would remain bitter for so many years.”

“Is that it?” Chrístõ turned to the man who now called himself Phaelos. “All the dark talk at dinner, all those assistants scared off – so that Pheidias wouldn’t finish his commission on time - so that he would be discredited in the eyes of Pericles, perhaps even imprisoned or exiled for his failure. This was just plain jealousy.”

“You should have run away like the others,” Phaelos answered.

“I don’t run from anything,” Chrístõ answered. “But you… should start running, now. Leave Olympia. Stay away from Pheidias.”

“You cannot make me do that.”

“Yes, I can. Look into my eyes and believe me when I tell you that, should I choose, I can make you fear your own shadow, make you cringe at the sound of another man’s voice, turn you into a mouse of a man who hides from the world.”

He COULD do it. He didn’t want to, because it would feel like a terrible violation of the free will of another man. To do a thing like that would cost a little of his soul.

But he didn’t have to. He just had to make Phaelos believe he could.

And he did. Before his steely gaze the Athenian withered visibly. Any last vestige of defiance faded from his eyes. Chrístõ let go of him and he collapsed onto his bed, shaking with fear.

“By dawn, I want you on the road out of Olympia,” Chrístõ said, then he turned away. Riley and Pheidias followed him.

“You ARE one of the gods,” Pheidias said to Chrístõ as he walked back to the workshop. “You must be to have such command over men.”

“No, I’m not,” Chrístõ assured him. “I assure you I am not. I just don’t like sore losers or bullies. Let’s get a little more sleep and tomorrow we get on with that statue. I want to see it finished.”

It took another three months to finish. By then there wasn’t much Riley didn’t know about polishing ivory and setting up moulds for gold. Chrístõ became expert at cutting and shaping coloured glass. He never quite got to like preparing ivory sheets and he still felt there was an ethical question about that part of the work.

Finally, Pheidias’s two assistants stood with him at the official unveiling of the Statue. There were prayers and offerings and great ceremony. Pheidias received praise from all who came to see his magnificent work.

“Nobody praises the assistants,” Riley noted as he watched Chrístõ place the Guardian’s node at the giant feet of the completed statue.

“They never do,” he answered. “The Pharaohs took credit for the pyramids though none of them lifted so much as a shovelful of sand. Michelangelo never mentioned the people who helped him complete the Sistine Chapel. Isambard Kingdom Brunel ‘built’ bridges, tunnels, railway lines, steamships and never got a single callous on his hands. I won’t even mention how many people actually worked on the Statue of Zodia the Magnificus without their names being inscribed anywhere. It’s always the way.”

“I couldn’t exactly tell anyone I helped, anyway,” Riley admitted. “I… suppose we’ll be leaving soon, now that you’ve completed your mission?”

Chrístõ smiled knowingly.

“I suppose you have to say your goodbyes to a couple of sun-bronzed manual workers of your acquaintance?”

“Yes,” Riley admitted with an endearing blush.

“We can stay another couple of days. I’ve heard rumours that one of the treasure houses of Olympia contains Gallifreyan gold. I think I’d like to find out if the rumour is true… just for the sake of curiosity.”

Riley wasn’t sure if Chrístõ was being serious or if he was just offering a few more precious days among a surprisingly enlightened and liberal people, but either way he was grateful.