Chrístõ was awake three hours before dawn. He expected to be up and dressed in another hour’s time. Everyone would be. They would all be gathered as the sun rose for the official naming of Hext and Savang’s baby daughter. But he had a quiet hour before all that activity and he savoured it. The Gallifreyan moon was in silver aspect, shining through the open window and he could smell the blossom of the Cúl nut grove below. It was almost like being at home except there it was the scent of roses that drifted up.

Well, no, not this early in the season, but still it was an eidetic memory that could so easily be resurrected.

His peaceful reminiscences were disturbed by a scream. It was a woman, somewhere in the house, and her scream was heavy with grief and terror.

He leapt from the bed, grabbing his trousers and rushing out onto the landing in almost the one movement. Cal and Riley, from other rooms in the guest wing, were only seconds behind him. He sent Riley back to put trousers on, reminding him that the women of the house would not be far behind and rushed towards the source of the screaming.

The woman making the noise was the night nursemaid, charged with the care of baby Hélène during the quiet hours. Savang, by contrast, was struck dumb with shock as she stood at the door to the nursery. Julia and Glenda, wrapped in dressing gowns, reached her as Chrístõ stepped into the room.

“Hext,” he whispered loudly to his friend who stood over the crib in a frozen tableaux of dismay. “Hext, what happened?”

“She’s gone,” he answered in a numb voice, devoid of the emotions he was holding back. “My daughter… my baby… is gone.”

The crib was empty. Chrístõ stepped closer. He reached to touch the indentation where the infant’s head had lain. It was cold. This terrible thing had happened at least half an hour before.

He reached for a hard ridge in his pocket that was his sonic screwdriver and began to scan the room. Hext looked at him disdainfully.

“Must you?”

“Yes, I must,” he answered. “If a transmat was used then there may be ion traces, but you know how fast those decay.”

Hext didn’t respond. Chrístõ called his name, twice, then abandoned what was a fruitless scan to put a reassuring arm around his friend’s shoulders.

“Emotional detachment flies out of the window at times like this,” he said. He turned again to look at the huddle on the landing. Savang’s parents were there, now, and Hext’s father. All were shocked beyond all reason.

“Lord Hadandrox,” he said, addressing the patriarch of the house rather than the Lord High President. In his own home, the patriarch was superior. “Take your family to the drawing room, sir. Hext, go with them. I’m standing you down as director of the Celestial Intervention Agency. I’m in charge, now. Julia, Glenda, take the nursemaid to the library. Look after her. I will need to talk to her when she is more composed.”

The girls did as he said. He turned to Cal and Riley.

“Rouse every servant in the house. Confine them all to one place. Check if any of them are missing. I will be talking to ALL of them in time.”

His two faithful lieutenants went to do their bidding. Chrístõ was alone in the nursery. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He let his mind turn back, trying to read the room and what had happened here. Sometimes, if there had been a lot of disturbance, it was possible to see almost every movement that had been made for hours.

But not this time. What happened here was quiet and quick. The child was taken in an instant without disturbing the nursemaid in the adjacent room. He looked in there. It wasn’t a bedroom. She was not meant to sleep, and there was no evidence that she had. There was a cup of herbal tea still warm by the armchair and a reading tablet set aside when she went to check on the sleeping child and discovered the terrible truth.

It all pointed to a transmat, but there were no ion particle traces. A time ring or a TARDIS in stealth mode was even less likely. Besides, The Lord High President was staying in the house. His own protection detail would be monitoring artron activity.

Somebody had got past the Presidential Guard into the home of the Celestial Intervention Agency Director’s father-in-law and kidnapped a baby from under the nose of her nursemaid. Not only was that so fantastic it was almost impossible to believe, but it was audacious and clearly well-planned.

And it was impossible to ignore the idea that there had been inside information. The kidnappers knew where, in a huge house, the nursery was. They knew that the maid would be in the room next door. They knew where the house might be vulnerable even with the extra security that came with a Lord High President staying the night.

Lord Hadandrox had a spy in his camp.

First things first. He was still only partially dressed. He went back to his room. Formal robes were laid out for the naming ceremony but he left them where they were and put on his familiar shirt and black leather jacket, the outfit he felt defined him best. He felt he might need to hold onto that much today.

Now it was time to question the staff.

He went to the library to talk to the nursemaid, but he was met by Julia and Glenda who very sternly told him to leave her alone.

“She is asleep, now,” Julia explained. “Thank goodness. There is no sound in the universe worse than somebody with no tear ducts crying hysterically.”

Chrístõ could think of many things that were worse, but it was certainly true that the keen of a Gallifreyan woman in distress was painful to the ear and to the heartstrings.

“She doesn’t know anything,” Glenda added. Chrístõ looked surprised. “I can read minds, remember,” she chided him. “It’s even easier here on your planet. There’s a sort of background psyche thing going on. Anyway, I saw everything in her mind. She changed the baby at three and gave her a feed and everything was fine, then. You know she’s a wet nurse, not just a maid. HER baby died three months ago and she’s employed to give milk to a rich man’s child in the middle of the night.”

Chrístõ nodded. Wet nurses were not unusual in his aristocratic society. He was almost certain he had one as a baby, when his mother was unwell.

“So now another baby is gone and she feels like hell,” Glenda continued. “So leave her alone.”

He left her alone. He went to the formal dining room to find that Cal was interrogating the rest of the servants with Riley serving as an able clerk, writing down anything relevant. It didn’t amount to a lot. Most of the staff were awake before the alarm was raised. This WAS the morning of the naming ceremony. There was work to be done before dawn. But nobody saw or heard anything out of the ordinary.

“Keep talking to them,” Chrístõ told Cal. “Broaden the field. Ask about visitors to the house over the past few weeks. Anything… personal acquaintances, tradesmen, travellers selling clothes pegs….”

“Do you HAVE people who do that on Gallifrey?” Riley asked. “Don’t you wash clothes in some sort of machine that sends them out ready pressed?”

“No, on both counts,” Chrístõ answered. “But any sort of casual visitor….”

“I understand,” Cal assured him. “Are you going to bring in more of Hext’s own people, or do we carry on this way?”

“I’m going to do that before I talk to the family. But I think I’ll get them working in a wider field… intelligence, perimeter searches… watching the space ports. I’ll get somebody in the Transduction Barrier monitoring station. But we’ll keep this house between us. The last thing the family need is a Celestial Intervention Agency circus.”

“Then you can count on us,” Cal said very solemnly. Riley nodded his agreement.

He contacted the Tower immediately after leaving the servants. His cousin Remy was the one who received his call and was ready to mobilise every man they had. He listened to Chrístõ’s plan and agreed to do as he said.

“But it does sound as if you’re keeping the Agency on a long leash,” he pointed out. “Are you sure you don’t need more men at the house?”

“What for? The Presidential Guard were here and the kidnappers got past them. It’s too late to lock down the house. I can handle things here. Just you cover the rest of the planet.”

Remy agreed to the plan, though with reservations. Chrístõ knew what some of them were. His taking over command must look dubious to the full time agents. He had never been more than a casual field agent as far as they knew.

But he had helped Paracell Hext put the Agency back together after the War. For a while the two of them WERE the Agency. And now Hext needed him far more than he needed the agents he had trained in the years since then. He WAS the most experienced man they had.

His inner demons taunted him with accusations of arrogance, but he silenced them.

The drawing room was a strangely quiet place. Lord and Lady Hadandrox sat together clutching hands anxiously. Savang was lying down with Hext sitting at her side. His father was slightly apart from them all with one of his Guards in purple cloak over gold breastplate standing ramrod straight on personal protection duty. Chrístõ glanced at the window as one of his colleagues past by on guard outside.

It was past dawn, he noted grimly. Too late for the naming ceremony now.

Hext stood and came to him. Saving looked up from the sofa with a pale face and pleading eyes.

“She wants to talk to you.”

Chrístõ sat beside the bereft mother. Once, Savang had caused him a lot of trouble. He had actually feared the power she had gained from her former membership of the shadowy and proscribed Sisterhood of Karn. But now she was a woman whose baby had been stolen in the night. He took her hand, gently, remembering that she had once held a deeply jealous flame for him. Again, all of that was in the past. Now she was just a very fragile and vulnerable creature whose nerves were on the edge of breaking altogether.

“Trust me,” he told her. “I WILL get her back for you.”

“I trust you,” she answered. “But it might not be so easy for you to keep that promise. Chrístõ, I think it was them.”

“Them?” For a moment he wondered what she meant. Then he knew. “The Sisterhood?”

“What?” Hext exclaimed in surprise and drew close to his wife. “No, sweetheart. You must be mistaken. The last of the Sisterhood were exiled for their collaboration with the enemy during the War. Their organisation was broken. It can’t be them.”

“Ever since our child was born, I have had terrible dreams,” Savang told them both. “I have felt them closing in like a spider closes on its prey. I could not reach their minds. They shut me out when I betrayed them by my Alliance to you, my husband. But I have felt their malevolence. I thought it was me they wanted, though. If I had known it was my child, my baby….”

She broke down into a low, back of the throat keen that was easier on the ear than the full voiced one of the nursemaid but no less distressing. Chrístõ blinked back empathic tears as her grief came in uncontrolled telepathic waves. He was the closest receptor and felt it as deeply as if it were his own flesh and blood that had been taken. He barely felt Hext’s touch on his shoulder.

“That’s my burden to shoulder,” he said quietly. “You do what you can to find my daughter.”

It was an emotional relief to relinquish the place by Savang’s side to her husband. Through the shared grief Hext looked up at Chrístõ and managed a few coherent words.

“We both trust you.”

He went out of the drawing room and looked around the empty hallway. Usually a butler would appear to ask what he needed. That was how it worked in these houses. But the servants were still confined.

He opened the front door himself. He felt a breath of fresh air might help dispel the depression that being in close contact with Savang’s fathomless grief had brought down on him. As he descended the steps of the Palladian mansion, though, he saw a new arrival who raised his spirits considerably.

“Father!” he exclaimed. “How did you… were you meant to be at the naming ceremony?”

His father smiled grimly. He was certainly not dressed for high ceremonial rites.

“Remy sent out an alert to all agents. It woke this former agent from his justified slumbers. What’s happening, so far?”

Chrístõ told his father everything in as few words as necessary.

“It’s not much, really,” he admitted.

“It’s enough. Clear your mind. That poor young woman’s grief has overwhelmed your senses. You’ve been too long among Humans. You have forgotten how all-encompassing it is when one of our own kind loses control of their emotions.”

He knew his father was right. He breathed deeply several times and cleared away the fog that enveloped his mind.

“The Sisterhood. Could Savang be right?”

“I would wager my fortune on it,” Lord de Lœngbærrow answered his son. “First, her dreams. We are a people who value logic and scientific process, but we shouldn’t overlook instincts, especially those of the female of our species. Second, the nature of the kidnapping. The Sisterhood long ago developed a method of personal transportation that leaves no ion trace or disturbances of any sort. Third, if they have been secretly reforming, then one of their old haunts is only about fifty miles from here, just beyond the Hadandrox demesne.”

“So… you think….”

“By the way, I think you’re right about there being a spy in the house, but that can wait. Let’s check out their hideout.”

“You mean… you’re going to join me?”

“I’m the most experienced agent on this planet who still has all his limbs. Your mother, bless her soul, would be appalled at the idea, but I think we’re the best team for this.”

“I agree,” Chrístõ admitted. He wondered if he was still in charge, but somehow that didn’t matter at all. He watched as his father drew a time ring from his pocket. He had arrived by a hover car still parked on the drive because the valet who would usually take it to the garage was still being interrogated by Cal and Riley. He had obviously anticipated the need to travel by more surreptitious means.

“Take hold of my arm and clear your mind so that I can concentrate on our destination,” His Lordship said. Chrístõ held on and felt the world dissolve nauseatingly.

It resolved again in darkness. Chrístõ swayed sickly for several seconds.

“That was rough.”

“We had to break through a strong telepathic shield,” his father said. He was breathing deeply as if he, too, was suffering from the journey. “I never liked time rings. But a TARDIS would be a huge give away. As it is, they will have felt a disturbance. I’m hoping they’re too busy to investigate closely.”

“So we’re in the Sisterhood’s secret lair?” Chrístõ found his sonic screwdriver and put it into penlight mode. He shone it around the room. It seemed to be a cloakroom of some sort.

“I hope so. If we’ve turned up in the basement of the Panopticon it will be embarrassing.”

Chrístõ wasn’t sure if his father was being serious or not, but he held up one of the garments hung on a peg.

“Not Prydonian scarlet,” he said of the hooded robe.

“Excellent. Find one in your size.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I’m an Oldblood patriarch. I don’t kid. Perception filters don’t work with the Sisterhood. They can see straight through such deceit - such is their mental power. If you want to get close enough to find out what they’re up to, then a simple disguise is better than technology. They don’t have x-ray vision.

“Are you sure?” Chrístõ found a gown that was long enough for his six-foot height and swapped it for his leather jacket. slipped it on. He pulled up the hood and admitted that he could pass for a female at a glance. “Did you ever want a daughter?” he joked.

“If I did, I wouldn’t want her to be dressed like that,” his father admitted. “There don’t seem to be any I could fit. It is a while since I was a slender youth. I will do my best to keep to the shadows.”

“We don’t have much choice. I’ll see what’s outside.”

Beyond the robing room was a passageway. Chrístõ noted that it appeared carved out of the basalt that lay beneath the southern plain. It was a hard, igneous rock that didn’t form natural cave systems. This must have been a long, laborious and secret work.

The passageway was clear. He slipped outside, his father following, hugging the shadows. That wasn’t difficult since the passage was lit by rushlights that left large patches of darkness. After a while they noted that the passage was going downhill gradually, deeper into the bedrock. At the same time, they began to be aware of a far off sound that could have been a lot of people chanting rhythmically. They determined that they were on the right path if it brought them closer to the source of that sound.

There were alcoves, sometimes rooms leading from the passageway. Some had doors. Others were hung with red curtains.

Only once did they come close to an encounter with one of the Sisterhood. She came sweeping out of one of the curtained off rooms and turned into the passageway, coming towards them. For a heart stopping moment they feared discovery, but the woman seemed too busy to notice anything. Chrístõ nodded silently beneath his hood and received a bob of a covered head in return. His father was pressed into a dark alcove hoping not to be seen.

He wasn’t, but something about the urgent way the woman had walked made both of them curious about what was in the room. They slipped inside.

For a moment they thought they had found what they came for.

“No,” Chrístõ said, looking at the baby sleeping in a woven basket. “This is a child of about three or four months, not a newborn.”

“What is this child doing here? There has been no other reported missing.”

“Then this one didn’t go missing,” Chrístõ surmised. “Or its mother didn’t care that it was gone. Just what are they up to?”

They left the makeshift nursery and went on along the passageway. The sounds of chanting were louder. They were surely coming close to the source, and to answers to their questions.

The chanting was loud enough to hear the words when Chrístõ felt his father touch him on the shoulder.

“I don’t think I can go much further without being spotted. Can you go on alone?”

“I think so,” Chrístõ answered. “As long as I keep the hood up I think I can get away with the disguise. What will you do?”

“I’m going back to find out about that child, for a start. After that, I’m winging it as much as you are. But I think we both excel in that.”

“Something else mama would not be happy about?”

“I rather think so. She wouldn’t care for what I’m about to say, either. Son, yqou’ve been taught to be a gentleman, with a chivalrous regard to womanhood. But if your life is in danger, don’t hold back against these women. They will use that as a weakness to strike against you. Do you understand?”

“Yes, father,” Chrístõ answered.

“Rassilon guide you, then.”

Chrístõ watched his father slip away in the shadows then turned towards the sound of many women chanting together. Soon he could see flickering lights, too, and he emerged into a cavern that was all the more remarkable because it was not made by natural forces over millennia.

Two concentric circles of women were moving around a central altar in opposite directions. The inner circle carried golden bowls containing a silvery liquid. The outer one was doing the chanting. Chrístõ insinuated himself between two women who were nearly as tall and slender as he was. He felt less conspicuous that way.

There was a ‘high priestess’ - if that was the term for the leader of the Sisterhood standing beside the altar. She was reciting an incantation in a high-pitched but slightly cracked voice that suggested old age, though it was hard to tell under the anonymous hoods. The words were invoking some kind of renewal of the body and spirit. It sounded like a regeneration ritual.

Except the Sisterhood couldn’t regenerate. None of them had undergone the Rite of Transcension that changed their double- helix DNA to the triple helix of a Time Lord. They didn’t have the crucial mechanism within their bodies.

So what did the words mean, unless….

The two circles stopped and a gap opened leading from the corridor. A hooded figure entered bearing a baby in her arms. Chrístõ caught his breath as he recognised that this WAS a week old baby girl, Hélène Hadandrox-Hext. She was awake, and the flickering lights captured her little eyes and kept her calm, but until she was in the arms of her mother, she would not be safe.

And he had just worked out what the ritual was about.

“Wait!” The High Priestess was about to take the baby and place her on the altar when something made her freeze. She threw back her hood revealing a mass of long white hair and a face lined with extreme age. “There is a disturbance in the collective. Somebody here is not wholly at one with us.”

Chrístõ’s two hearts pounded so loudly that they throbbed in his ears. His mouth felt dry. He desperately closed his mind as he felt the High Priestess searching for the traitor in their midst.

“You!” The High Priestess’s voice rose in pitch as she pointed an accusing finger at a figure in the inner circle who dropped her golden bowl in shock. The silvery substance swirled around the floor giving off vapours like dry ice as she was dragged before the High Priestess.

“I am sorry, Achira,” she cried out with fear in every syllable. “I am true to the Sisterhood, I promise I am. But killing a child….”

“Fool, the child will not die. She will simply absorb my essence, allowing me to be renewed, to be young again and lead the Sisterhood in full vigour.”

That was death in every definition Chrístõ knew. He looked at the woman who had expressed qualms about the action. She was being forced to her knees while the High Priestess stood over her menacingly. All eyes were on that fearful tableaux, waiting for the punishment that was surely coming. The woman holding baby Hélène had stepped back.

As the High Priestess laid her bony hands on the traitor amongst the Sisterhood and the woman screamed in agony, Chrístõ breathed deeply and folded time. It was a dangerous thing to do in a confined space. He could easily smash himself painfully against the very solid walls. But while the Sisterhood had their formidable mind powers, he was a Time Lord and time itself was his tool. He used it to reach the baby before anyone even realised he had moved. He snatched her from the woman’s arms and turned, still within the time fold.

He was through the outer ring before he felt the power of the Sisterhood slam into his retreating back like a Roadmaster bus. He barely had time to wonder why such a simile coloured the painful experience before he felt another onslaught coming.

But this time it didn’t reach him. Somebody had blocked the mental attack. He heard a voice within his mind telling him to run and to protect the baby at all costs.

He didn’t know who it was, and he didn’t dare look back to see who it might be. He kept running along the passageway, the only way out of the underground lair as far as he knew.

After a while, he thought he heard somebody running after him. He didn’t dare fold time again with an infant in his arms and solid rock so close all around him. He relied on the stamina that had made him the Prydonian lacrosse team captain and which had saved his life in many other scrapes and kept running.

“Chrístõ, in here!” A red-robed figure stepped into his path and called his name. He trusted the voice that knew his name and darted into the curtained room. He was surprised to note that it was the one where the other baby had been sleeping. His father was there and he was holding the older child.

Running feet behind him turned and followed him before he could catch his breath and ask any questions. Two robed figures flanked him, throwing off their hoods. He recognised two of Hext’s youngest agents. The one who had called him into the room was a little older, but still a surprise to him.

“No time for explanations,” said Remy’s wife and fellow agent, Rodan Mielles de Lœngbærrow. “We have two time rings between us and two infants to carry. Chrístõ, you come with me. Agents Gyes and Santon will go with your father.”

Chrístõ remembered that he had put himself in charge earlier, but right now holding onto a baby while making physical contact with the wearer of a time ring was more important than arguing the point.

A few nauseating moments later he was standing on an indistinguishable section of the southern plain with silver stars floating in front of his eyes and baby Hélène crying tearlessly in his arms. The other child was crying, too. Chrístõ saw his father, the man once known as the Executioner, soothe the baby by putting his little finger in its mouth. He copied the action for Hélène and she quietened at once.

“The salt and sugars our bodies exude in our perspiration taste like candy to babies,” his father explained. “I used to rock you to sleep at night this way. Garrick, too.”

“I’m not sure I needed to know that,” Chrístõ replied. He turned to his cousin by marriage and saw her wave her hand in the air. Behind her a troupe of Celestial Intervention Agency men in anti-telepath helmets and battledress appeared from behind a wide range perception filter. She gave them a complicated co-ordinate and they programmed their personal time rings before disappearing. Chrístõ noted that there were several sleek personnel carriers left behind on the plain now the perception filter was down.

“Slower but rather less stomach-churning transport back to the Hadandrox mansion,” Agent Marran Gyes said. “While the men go in and arrest the coven.”

Chrístõ looked at Agent Gyes and Agent Ellian Santon, still dressed in the Sisterhood’s robes and remembered meeting them a year or two back wearing, for complex reasons, very small bikinis.

“I hardly recognised you two with your clothes on,” he said. They smiled but were too well trained now to blush girlishly. They escorted Chrístõ and his father with their precious charges to the personnel carrier and saw them both safely settled in the passenger seats before Agent Gyes took the driver’s seat.

“So… how come you were already in there when we arrived?” Chrístõ asked as the hover vehicle sped across the plain smoothly and almost soundlessly.

“Director Hext has been busy for a while. He didn’t that we had intelligence about the Sisterhood a week ago. We didn’t know his own family were threatened or we would have kept him informed. As it was….” Rodan glanced at Lord de Lœngbærrow who nodded to her. “For reasons I’m not going into right now, I’ve had dealings with the Sisterhood before. As soon as we heard about the baby I KNEW it had to be them. Remy told me that you had it under control, but you didn’t know where their lair was, and, after all, you’re a MAN.”

Chrístõ was still dressed as one of the Sisterhood and laughed softly. He wondered aloud if he might get his far more manly leather jacket back when the mopping up was over.

“Anyway, I thought this was a job for FEMALE agents,” Rodan continued. “We slipped in easily enough. We’ve all trained endlessly in mind-blocking and projecting false thoughts. We passed easily as Sisters. We weren’t entirely sure what we could do beyond observing the ritual. Then you two showed up. I found your father in the ‘crèche’. You and the girls did the rest. As soon as the children were clear I could send in the troops.”

“Observing the ritual wouldn’t have been enough. Do you know what they intended to do? Hélène’s lifeforce was going to be taken over by that hag. She was going to create a new, younger body for herself from a new born baby’s flesh.”

Rodan nodded.

“We didn’t find that out until the same time you did. It’s just as well we were able to work together. I’m not sure we’d have succeeded without you.”

Chrístõ didn’t take too much satisfaction from that. He had equally needed them to facilitate his escape. On reflection, a properly co-ordinated plan might have been better than leaving the Celestial Intervention Agency out of his considerations.

“What I still don’t understand, is who the other baby is,” Rodan added.

“I do,” Lord de Lœngbærrow said. He explained his theory. Chrístõ felt even more deflated about his original handling of the situation.

“Nobody could have expected this,” his father assured him. “We’ll deal with it at the Hadandrox house, once Hélène is back with Savang.”

Hext and his wife were waiting on the driveway when the personnel carrier crunched down on the gravel. Savang ran to Chrístõ as he stepped out first and almost snatched the baby from him. He was happy to relinquish the tiny burden.

“Come inside and show me to the nursemaid,” Lord de Lœngbærrow said to him as Hext and Savang hugged each other joyfully. He handed the older baby to Rodan and told her to wait in the hallway until she was called.

The nursemaid was awake now and looking as relieved as the rest of the household. Glenda and Julia were still keeping her company. They moved aside as Lord de Lœngbærrow sat by her side.

“There’s nothing wrong with your mind reading, Glenda,” he said. “But you’ve never been trained to spot false memory implants.”

“Spot what?” Glenda was not the only one who watched in amazement as the vastly experienced man touched the nursemaid gently but firmly on the temples. “I’m sorry if this is distressing, Maya,” he said, calling her by a first name nobody else in the household had ever used. “But the truth will be better than this terrible lie, I promise.”

“Ohhh!” she cried out and collapsed into his Lordship’s comforting arms. “Oh no. My baby. What did they…”

Lord de Lœngbærrow looked around at puzzled faces.

“This was planned a long time back. Before Maya had her own baby girl. The Sisterhood took her child and planted the idea that she had died instead. They did it to make a wet nurse who would come to this house, somebody whose mind they already had control of and who would unwittingly show them where the baby slept. Maya is the spy, though she did not know it.”

“They’ll dismiss me, all the same,” she said plaintively.

“They won’t,” Lord de Lœngbærrow promised. “Hext is a fair man and he will know you were innocent. But you may not want to keep working as a wet nurse, anyway.” He beckoned to the door and Rodan came in with the mystery child, a mystery no more. With the gentleness of a mother, herself, she put the baby in Maya’s arms and stood back. The young woman gave an audible gasp and cuddled her own baby for the first time.

Lord de Lœngbærrow swept everyone from the room leaving mother and child alone.

“You girls can goggle over another baby in the house, later,” he said to Julia and Glenda. “For now, give them peace. Let’s get the servants back on their toes and while we’re waiting for news that the coven is broken and the Sisterhood all under lock and key we might get some breakfast.”

That news came through just as a hastily prepared meal was over. The High Priestess had killed herself rather than be taken along with her adherents. Nobody felt especially sorry for that.

“The rest will be questioned and then exiled,” Paracell Hext declared. “That is the punishment laid down the last time a scion caused trouble. I won’t inflict anything harsher upon them. But if they raise their heads again in my lifetime I will forget they are women and unleash a fury upon them that makes electronic whips seem tame.”

“I believe you will,” Lord de Lœngbærrow told him approvingly. “But today, take it easy with your wife and daughter, and get an early night. Tomorrow you’re going to have to take another stab at this naming ceremony.”

Before dawn the next day, the household rose once more, this time in far less agitation. After hot coffee they gathered on the western patio surrounded by fragrant flowers as the sun began to rise above the horizon. Lord Hadandrox and Lord Hext, maternal and paternal grandfathers, conducted the brief but lovely rite that officially welcomed Hélène into the world.

“A new life, a new day. May the sun’s light always shine on her. May she walk in the good, pure light all her life. May she know love and give love.” He held the baby closer to him and with his finger traced the Seal of Rassilon on her forehead. “You are Hélène Rodan Marran Ellian Hadandrox de Hext. You are a child of Gallifrey. May you carry the blessing of Rassilon upon his children in your heart your whole life long. I name you, Hélène Rodan Marran Ellian Hadandrox de Hext in the light of this blessed dawn. I acknowledge your soul. I acknowledge your life.”

With that the newly named child was passed back to her mother who eagerly took her from the men.

Then Lord de Lœngbærrow stepped forward. He held Maya’s child in his arms. He repeated the naming rite for Maya Courage Christina Brevin as the sun’s rays burst fully upon the scene.

“Christina?” Chrístõ queried as they all went inside for a proper breakfast. His father laughed.

“You DID have a hand in her rescue and you DID make me think what you might have looked like if you were a girl.”

Chrístõ grimaced and decided he was man enough to cope with that as long as the joke stayed between him and his father.