Chrístõ was alone in the TARDIS. It felt strangely quiet. He had become so used to it being full of people in the past months. Now he was spending some time without them. His four companions were on separate honeymoons. Sammie and Bo on a WORKING one, on Adano Gran, organising and training the new army of Adano-Ambrado, Penne’s new three planet Empire. Cassie and Terry were having a much gentler time on Aquaria, basking in warm water with their dolphin friends. He had stayed a few days there, talking with the elders and enjoying the peace and quiet himself, but really Cassie and Terry needed some time alone and he decided to try out a couple of his presets by himself.

But it had to be admitted the console room was TOO quiet now.

“Humphrey?” Chrístõ whispered. “Are you around?” He smiled as the dark entity shimmered in the dimly lit corner. He adjusted the lights down so that he could see him more clearly and Humphrey drifted towards him.

“Friend Chrístõ,” he said.

“Friend Humphrey,” Chrístõ replied. “I know, you miss the girls, don’t you. So do I.” He sighed. “You know, one day they’ll all leave. Cassie will want a proper home for the baby, and Bo and Sammie… well I don’t know where they will go, but really they don’t need me around them. And if I’m going to find MY true love, well having my old love and her husband on board isn’t the best way.” He looked at Humphrey. “Do you know what I am even talking about? Do you understand these kind of feelings?”

“Understand,” Humphrey said. “Friend Chrístõ is lonely.”

“I’ve always got you, Humprey,” he said with a smile. “You’re not much good for a cuddle though.”

Humphrey moved closer and enveloped him in his dark matter. Chrístõ gasped as he felt all his senses, including his extra psychic ones, overwhelmed by Humphrey’s own emotions. He could never figure how a creature like Humphrey had emotions, but he DID. And the one he passed on to him now was loving friendship. It was like the love of a loyal pet, a dog, but enhanced and concentrated a thousand times. And he felt so good for feeling it.

“That was nearly as good as a cuddle,” he said with a smile. “Tell you what, Humphrey, let’s see if those presets have some place we could both enjoy.”

He scanned the list of interesting places and selected one he knew Humphrey would like. The planet was called Phyrantia, and it orbited a star of the constellation of Cassiopeia – as it was known from the Earth perspective anyway. His tutors just called it Sector 20424X4W4. He knew which he preferred.

The surface of the planet was home to the Phyrantians. In fact, they were a humanoid people, colonists who had initially settled in two different continents with two different technological ideologies. On one continent the colonists had abandoned advanced technology and lived something like Earth in the late eighteenth century, mostly agrarian and with only basic technology, drawing water from wells and power from waterwheels and windmills. A simple, unpolluted and uncomplicated life. On the other continent they lived much like Earth in the early twenty-fourth century. How it should have happened that way, and how the advanced society managed not to interfere with or influence the non-advanced one was a puzzle to Chrístõ, but he wasn’t really interested in that on this trip. Beneath the surface, largely unexplored by the Phyrantians, was a honeycomb of caves and caverns and tunnels that was home to another race of people who lived separate from, and unknown to, the Phyrantians. They were called Periaions.

And that was all the detail his database had about them. Chrístõ wondered why that was, and formed one theory – that the Periaions were Humphrey’s species.

He couldn’t have been more wrong. He and Humphrey were BOTH surprised when they followed one of the subterranean passages and came out into a vast cavern.

Chrístõ didn’t have the sort of childhood in which fairy tales featured heavily. He had begun learning temporal physics and quantum mechanics at the age of nine. But his mother had encouraged his creative imagination when he was very young with a big illustrated book about faery creatures. He had learnt to read from it when he was about three. Gallifreyans usually learnt to read by a method called brain-buffing, in which the skills for life were psychically transferred to the mind of the child. But Chrístõ’s mother had insisted on teaching him ‘the way it was done on Earth’ and had sat for long hours with him in her arms, the big book propped up against the arm of the chair, while she taught him to read. He remembered the joy of recognising words, whole sentences, paragraphs, and knowing he could read. He remembered reading the stories aloud to his mother’s delight and drifting to sleep in her arms while she read them to him. It had been a wonderful time, when he was too young yet to begin the disciplines of preparation for the Time Lord Academy, when he was close to his mother almost every moment of every day from his waking till going to sleep at night.

He remembered almost every word of those little faery stories still.

He remembered every one of the finely drawn and detailed pictures of the faery world.

And this cavern looked as if it had either been the inspiration for the illustrator or the book had been the blueprint for the cavern’s creation.

The ‘sky’ caught his attention first. He looked up at the high, dark roof of the cavern and was startled to find it really looked like a starry sky. Some natural phosphorescent substance formed patterns of light on a velvet background that he could easily believe was an open night sky full of constellations, even if he could recognise none of them.

And beneath that sky was a small town of little houses made of terra-cotta bricks and neatly tiled roofs, arranged in streets that radiated out from a castle straight from the faery book, with white walls and turrets and spires. It was the kind of castle that belonged either to a faery princess whose love blessed the whole kingdom or to a wicked witch queen who ruled by force. Chrístõ could hardly believe it WAS real, but he hoped that the ruler of this little kingdom was the first sort.

The people definitely fell into the category of ‘faeries’. Male and female alike were slender, beautiful creatures. Both wore a sort of body suit of an open-woven fabric that showed their pale pink skin through, and over that the females had dresses of a near see-through silk-fabric. The females had long hair, as far as their waists or longer. The males had curling hair to their shoulders. And all of them had wings sprouting from their backs, delicate, gauzy, see-through wings that folded flat against their bodies when they were at rest.

But they weren’t tiny things, like the faeries of the stories. They were the same size as humanoids.

Humphrey murmured by his side. Chrístõ nodded.

“Yes, they DO all seem sad.” He looked at the nearest of the – Periaions? Yes, he supposed these must be them. He couldn’t get over the temptation to call them Faeries, but that must be their proper name. As he walked along the street, the Periaions looked at him with mild disinterest. Most of them sat languidly outside their houses, their wings folded and their heads bowed as if it was an effort to lift them. And they truly did look sad. He tried to connect mentally with them, and all he felt when he did was sadness. A deep, terrible grief enveloped all of these beautiful creatures.

Humphrey wailed sadly in empathy. Chrístõ felt like doing the same.

“We must help them,” he said. “We must.”

But first he had to find out what was wrong with them.

The streets all radiated out from where the castle rose up in the centre. The widest one, where he walked, went to the great main door. Two of the male Periaions were on duty as a sort of guard, but they didn’t seem to have any weapons of any kind, unless they had some kind of psychic defence mechanism. Perhaps they were simply ceremonial. They, too, seemed sad.

“I am Chrístõdavõreendiam?ndh?rtmallõupdracœfiredelunmiancuimhne de Lœngbærrow. Time Lord of Gallifrey,” he said in a less imperious tone than he usually adopted when he presented himself at castle gates. “I bring greetings from my world to the leader of the Periaions. May I be permitted to enter?”

“Are you a healer?” one of the guards asked. “The Princess Pelia needs a healer to make her well.”

“Is that why everyone is so sad? Your princess is ill?” Chrístõ thought he understood. “I would like to try to help.” He was, after all, NEARLY a doctor. That possibly qualified as a healer.

“Please…” The guards bowed their heads to him and the door was opened. Chrístõ stepped inside. He wondered at their simple acceptance of his word. EITHER they had some kind of telepathy that was able to judge his sincerity, or they were trusting innocents with no concept of evil.

The thought of the damage somebody like Epsilon could bring to their world saddened him. Sooner or later he would escape from the trap he had sprung for him and be loose in the universe again and heaven help gentle people such as these.

Two female Periaions came towards him as he stepped inside. They floated an inch or so off the ground rather than walking, but they seemed to do so with effort, as if gravity was fighting against them. He had the feeling they SHOULD be much more graceful than that. Their emotional state was affecting their physical movement – or the other way around.

“You are a healer?” they asked him. Their voices were in harmony with each other. The sound was sweet like the sound of somebody running a finger around the rim of a glass, but without setting the teeth on edge.

“I am,” he said.

“Come with us.” They reached out their hands to touch his. Their touch was like static electricity, but not painful with it. He let them guide him up the wide, sweeping staircase and presently to the bed chamber of the Princess Pelia.

The princess lay on a bed shaped like a half moon. She was on her side, her wings folding against her back. She should have been very, very beautiful. The beauty could still be recognised, but it was marred by her illness. Her skin was pale and in places it seemed to be flaking off like fish scales. Her eyes as she looked up at him were a bright green like emeralds, but they were eyes that betrayed suffering and pain.

“I am a healer,” he said. “I came to try to help you.”

“My thanks,” she whispered. She seemed unable to speak louder than that.

“How long have you been sick?” he asked her. Then he wondered if it was possible in a place that was always night time to measure time in a way that meant anything to him.

“Twenty days as you count them,” she said, and Chrístõ felt the sharpness of silver slipping through his mind as the Periaion princess probed him telepathically. “You have an empathic soul, my friend from far away. But I do not know if you can help me. I think I am dying. And if I die, all my people die, too.”

“Why?” he asked. And yet he knew even as he asked. The princess was the heart of the people. They were all symbiotically connected to her. If she died, it was as if the heart of all of them was stopped.

That is why they are all so sad, he realised.

“I must help you,” he said. “I will, if it is in my power.” He reached and touched her cheek with his hand. She was burning with a fever. He touched her shoulders and gently caressed those gossamer wings. She sighed as if his touch was soothing to her.

He tried to make a mental contact within her body. That would be his usual way of detecting a poison or virus or other cause of sickness. But he couldn’t do it. These gentle creatures were impervious to his mental powers. He could pick up enough of their brain wavelengths to gauge their mood – that was how he saw the sadness. But he could not read their actual thoughts. Knowing she could read his was disturbing. But then, that was the case with every human whose mind he explored - he could hardly complain about the intrusion on his own mind.

“I don’t know why that is,” she whispered to him. “Perhaps our species are just too dissimilar.”

“Your species is beautiful,” Chrístõ said. “You are beautiful, my princess. And I will make you well. I will have to do it the old-fashioned way, though.”

He still had the power in him to relieve pain, though. The power that he had used so often in the Free Hospital in London in the 1860s to bring blessed relief to people who could not afford the expensive pain-relieving drugs that they had too little supplies of.

He used that power now. He put his hands upon the princess’s forehead, radiating calm and willing the pain to leave her. She sighed again as his healing hands drove the pain from her body if only temporarily. She closed her eyes and he let his hands move slowly around her face, her slender neck, her white shoulders, marred by her illness but still beautiful, and around her back where he tenderly stroked her wings as she fell into a soft sleep. Untroubled and painless sleep was always half a cure for any patient. He felt as if his job was part done.

But not quite. He still had to find out what was killing her. He stood up and reached for his TARDIS key. He pressed it and the ship materialised in the room disguised as an elaborately carved wardrobe. He opened the door and slipped inside, going to his medical centre for the equipment he hoped would help him determine what exactly was wrong with the princess.

She woke when he inserted the syringe into her arm. She looked up at him in alarm.

“I’m sorry if that hurt,” he said to her gently as he drew a little of her blood from the vein. “I just want to look at your blood, to see what is poisoning you, and how I can get rid of it.” He lifted the syringe and noted without surprise that the blood was bright green. Humans always assumed that blood must be red. His own orange blood was a surprise enough to them, but they would be amazed to discover how many other colours it was possible to find across a universe of infinite variety.

“I trust you, Chrístõ,” she told him.

“I don’t remember telling you my name,” he said as he brought the blood sample to the dressing table where he prepared a slide to examine under the old-fashioned brass microscope he had brought from his TARDIS. It came from London in the 1860s, and he kept it purely out of sentimentality. But he found a use for it now. “But you’re telepathic, of course. That’s how you know.”

“I know you are a good man, Chrístõ. I saw in your mind your kindness to the weak and the hurt. The people who live under the sea – you were good to them. And the dark creatures of that other underground place. As well as those that look like you, but are not.” Her eyes focussed on Humphrey who was hovering at Chrístõ’s side, a faithful companion to the last. “The darkness creature trusts you.”

“Yes, he does.”

Humphrey purred in satisfaction as the princess reached out her hand to him. He hovered near her and she put her hand up to him. It went straight through his unsubstantial form, of course, but both she and he seemed to get something from the contact.

“His species and the Periaion have something in common. We belong in the Underworld places. And those of the Overworld would fear us if they knew we existed.”

“Fear and seek to harm you,” Chrístõ said. “But I am not one of those, even though I am from the Overworld.”

“This I know,” the princess told him. Then paused and frowned. “But not all of your kind are like you?” As he felt her probe his thoughts more deeply she looked at him with fearful eyes. “Oh, that other one with the same blood as you... He is NOT a good man.”

“No,” Chrístõ agreed. “He is not. My people… We have free will. That is something that is valued by most of the creatures of the universe. But it comes at a price. People like him, who use their free will to hurt others. One day, it is to be hoped that justice will be served upon him and he will pay for his evil acts.”

Chrístõ thought about the death penalty that existed on Gallifrey. The penalty that Rõgæn Koschei Oakdaene had already earned in his short life. It was called the atomising chamber. The convicted criminal was placed inside the chamber and somebody representing the victim of his crime – the parent, child, husband, wife of the one murdered by him – was given the ‘honour’ of pulling the switch that initiated the execution. The body was then ripped apart within the chamber – the first 20 seconds or so were said to be agonising. The crowds that came to such public spectacles would speak of the terrible screams. Within a few minutes, though, the entire body had been reduced to its component atoms, and they were then transmatted into deep space where they quickly ceased to exist in any form at all.

Chrístõ had never seen it done. A public execution had occurred twice in his young lifetime, but he was not allowed to either. His father, as an important member of government HAD attended, but not willingly. There were those who supported the death penalty, calling it the ultimate deterrent, and the fact that it was used so rarely would appear to prove them right, but Chrístõ’s father was one who opposed it vehemently, and he, himself, shared his father’s view. There had to be a better way of dispensing justice than an ‘eye for an eye’.

Besides, as much as he hated his cousin, with every fibre of his being, he didn’t really want to see that happen. And worse, as the one most affected by his crimes – he didn’t want to be the one to pull that switch – to be the one killing him.

No, if justice be done to Epsilon, let it be a multiple life sentence on the penal planet of Shada. A place spoken of in whispers, a terrible place, but better than atomisation.

“We have no such concept here,” Princess Pelia said. “Crime… it does not happen here. My people are content. They have no need to steal or to covet what is not theirs. We give love to each other freely. We have no need to cause harm to each other in its name. Hate… I cannot even comprehend…. I don’t even know what that is. It does not exist here.”

“My friends who I left behind on this journey would find your world a sweet refreshment,” Chrístõ told her. “I know I do. I just wish your world was a happy one right now. Why is it that all will die when you do?”

“Because we are – symbiotic? Yes, yes. That is the closest word in your understanding. I am the – hub – of our wheel of life. If I die the wheel is broken.”

“But won’t you die one day anyway? Are you immortal?”

“No I am not. Yes. I will die of natural cause in time. But by then I would have taken a husband and we would have a child to become the hub in my place. This comes too soon. I have no husband yet, no child.”

“I see.” He turned from examining her blood and returned to her side. “You are suffering from lead poisoning,” he told her. “Huge concentrations of it are in your blood. You are, indeed, a very different species to those of the Overworld, but lead is a poison common to almost every species I know. On the Overworld, my first thought would be to check the water supply. Do you have a spring or a well where water is drawn?”

“Beside the castle,” she said. “My servants can show you. Does that mean you can help?”

“It does,” he said. “I can begin treating you right away. I have the compounds to make a chelating agent that will bind to the lead in your body and remove it. But I must find the source and put a stop to it otherwise all your people will begin to have the same symptoms.”

He made her lie quietly again before slipping back into his TARDIS. In the medical room, indeed, he did have all the compounds needed to treat her for this common poison. The basis of the chelating agent was calcium and sodium, though since that, too, was poisonous in large and prolonged doses there were other elements to be added to the pills he made up. He learned to make pills when he lived in the 1860s. He had thought he had told a lie when they asked him if he was a healer. But he hadn’t, really. All he lacked was a piece of paper telling him that he had a medical degree. He had all the skills, all the knowledge. He WAS a healer, and he was glad he was. Because he didn’t think he had EVER wanted to make any creature well so much as he wanted to make Princess Pelia well.

Why is that? Because she is beautiful? But he had treated people at the Free Hospital whether they were beautiful or not. Quite often they were far from it. How many cracked skulls from bar brawls between people who were both physically and mentally ugly had he treated? Thugs and drunken bullies. But he had given them his attention equally with the waif-like children for whom a good meal and warm clothes would have been his first prescription if it was in his power. He didn’t differentiate between old and young, innocent and guilty, beautiful and ugly when he healed the sick. He never had.

Love given freely, Pelia had said. Did they give it so freely that he was affected by it too? Was he attracted to her in that way? If so, was he really so shallow? He had sworn his undying love for Elizabeth not so long ago, and knowing she was unattainable he had forced himself to forget her. And then Bo had filled his life and he had hardly thought of Elizabeth. Now Bo belonged to another, and….

….and in Pelia’s presence he had barely thought of her. He had been entranced by the princess. Touching her had been as much a pleasure to him as it had been soothing and palliative to her.

Pheromones, he thought. The Periaions must exude pheromones. Simple chemical attraction.

But knowing that’s all it was did not make him feel any less entranced by her when he returned to her chamber.

“Where did you go?” she asked him when he slipped back out of the ‘wardrobe’.

“To bring you medicine,” he said. “Lie back. I am going to give you the first dose by injection. That will begin the process quickly. I am sorry to cause you pain. It is the last thing I would wish to do to one so lovely as you, but it is necessary.”

“I trust you, Chrístõ,” she said simply. And she bore the injection of the chelating agent into her blood bravely. He bent over her and kissed her forehead and found himself wondering why he had done that. He certainly never kissed any of his patients at the Free Hospital.

“Pelia,” he said, suddenly thinking of something. “Is this your true form that I am seeing? Or can you appear as something pleasing to my eyes in order to gain my sympathy. Because…. If that is the case, I think you should know that I would help any creature in distress, regardless of physical appearance. You have my word on that.”

“I believe you, Chrístõ,” Pelia answered him. “But yes, this is our true form. I know what you are thinking. That we may have used your precious childhood memory of those pictures of beautiful creatures. You thought them the most lovely things. You dreamt of visiting their world. You thought you might find such creatures on your mother’s world where the book came from. But that was just a dream. The world in reality was much less perfect.”

Chrístõ found it disturbing to have his thoughts so easily read by one he could not read in return.

“Come closer,” Pelia told him. He drew nearer and she put her arm about his shoulder and kissed him on the lips. It was only a brief kiss, over in an instant, but in that instant the veil that kept him from her mind was lifted and he was able to see into her thoughts, see that she truly was, inside and out, the beautiful creature he saw with his eyes. She was a gentle and kind ruler of a happy people who lived a quiet, unobtrusive and inoffensive life unknown to the Overworlders. And she had not a single selfish or dark thought in her head. Was it any wonder he felt as if he loved her.

“That is just a chemical reaction,” she told him. “When you go from here, you WILL forget those feelings.”

“I don’t feel as if I want to go from here,” he said. “I would stay with you forever, Pelia.”

“No. Your kind cannot live here in the Underworld. You can visit here for a while, but if you stayed too long you would begin to fade and die. You belong in the Overworld. You belong in the stars, Chrístõ. And when you are among them again you will know that this feeling IS just a glamour cast upon you.”

“At least I can be of service to you while I AM here,” he said. He looked at his watch. “You will need the first of the pills in five hours. Sleep until then, and I will go and look at that water source.” He sat with her and again gently caressed her until she slept. He kissed her cheek before he left the chamber. Pheromones – chemical stimulant – or not, it was a pleasant feeling, and he was not ashamed of his desire to kiss her.

The servants took him to the spring. It was, as she said, beside the castle. It bubbled up from the ground and ran into a crystal clear pool, the excess running off into a rivulet that continued downhill a little way before disappearing into a hole in the ground that, he supposed, led to another level of caves. He scooped some of the water up in his hand and tasted it. His body could be, if he chose, an analytic chamber that could tell him instantly what was in a food or liquid. It easily detected massive amounts of lead.

“Is this spring only used for the Castle’s needs?” he asked. “Where is the spring the people use?” The servants looked confused. This was the only spring they had. It was used by all the people.

But that didn’t make sense. None of the people had the symptoms the princess had. They were sad and sorrowful but they were not suffering from lead poison. Then he realised – the symbiosis that meant that the people would die when the princess died was a two way process.

“The princess takes into her own body all the illnesses your people suffer,” he said, understanding without being told. “You all enjoy perfect health and she suffers your pain and your sickness. But this time it is too much. She has absorbed all of the poison that is in this water.”

The two servants looked at each other then at Chrístõ. They clearly understood but they said nothing.

“None of you must use this water,” he said. “At least not until I can do something about the problem. I am giving the princess medicine to make her better, but if you keep drinking the water she cannot improve.” They nodded. One of them went to fetch a guard to watch over the water supply. “Can you show me where the water comes from before it reaches here?” The other servant nodded and took his hand. Again he felt the slight feeling like static electricity.

He let himself be guided by the gentle, graceful creature. The journey took him uphill. He could hear the sound of running water and knew that there must be an underground stream that fed the spring. But there was another sound that got louder the further they walked. Humphrey made a frightened sound.

“What could possibly scare you?” Chrístõ laughed at him gently. “You’re a darkness entity who held off a mercenary army for us a while back. Nothing for you to fear.”

It was an eerie noise, though. And it became louder and louder. A thundering, roaring sound that echoed and re-echoed.

And then he realised what it was, and he kicked himself for not realising in the first place. It was a waterfall. And a big, powerful one at that. Humphrey and the servant Periaion hung back from it, but Chrístõ covered his ears and approached.

The water came from high above. And there was daylight there. He could get up to the ‘Overland’ through it if he could climb the wall. He studied it carefully. There were cracks and crevices for footholds. No harder than the South Face of Mount Lœng that he learnt to climb as a boy.

“Go back to the princess, both of you, he said to the Periaion and to Humphrey. “Neither of you belong up there. I will be back as soon as I possibly can. If the princess wakes, tell her that she can count on me.”

The Periaion servant nodded again and she and Humphrey gladly turned and went away from the noisy waterfall and the bright, alien sunlight far above. Chrístõ reached for the first handhold and began to climb.

It was hard work. His back started to ache first, then his arms and legs. The stones were slippery from the spray of the waterfall, and before very long he was wet everywhere his leather jacket didn’t cover. He wore it because it looked ‘cool’ but for once it actually served a useful purpose. It kept him partially dry and it protected his elbows from the worst knocks as he slowly climbed. It might not look quite so shiny and new by the time he was finished, but he didn’t exactly feel shiny and new himself right now, with his hair sticking to his scalp and his face dripping with both cold spray and hot perspiration from the effort.

He reached the high ceiling of the cavern without mishap, at least. He pulled himself through the narrow hole and emerged, blinking, into sunlight. He had become so accustomed to the dim twilight of the world of the Periaions that it took even him a little while to be able to adjust his eyesight.

When he did, the first thing he saw was a dead donkey lying by the fast flowing stream that disappeared into the ground where he had emerged. It had been dead for a long time, and he made a guess at what had killed it.

He was in a hilly area that reminded him of the Peak district of England where his old friend, Freddie, lived. He walked upstream and found, presently, that it was a branch off from a wider river. He knelt by the river, upstream from the branch, and tasted the water. This was, definitely, the source of the lead. He kept on walking upstream from there. Sooner or later he would find the source of the problem, when he found a place where the water was no longer contaminated.

First, he found the village. And it did not take him long to realise that here a disaster as terrible as below in the Periaion world had already taken place. The village had been abandoned by those who were left after a sickness swept through it that had resulted in several dozen new graves in the cemetery. He drew water from the pump in the main street and was unsurprised to find it also contaminated. The water was drawn from the river, and the river was contaminated further upstream.

He walked on. And came presently to a place where the river was joined by a small tributary stream. He tested the water again at this point. Upstream from here the water was clear and good. The tributary was the problem. He turned and walked along it.

Very soon he found the cause of the whole problem. There was an old silver mine here. Long, long ago played out and abandoned. But silver ore, as he knew perfectly well, was found in strata that also contained lead. This was a fact he had known since he was about nine years old. He had been taken to see the mines his family owned. And in the silver mine he had been told of the precautions taken to prevent the miners becoming ill, and the further precautions that prevented contaminated water from being allowed to poison the water table around the mine.

No such precautions had been taken here. A rivulet of water ran from the open mine entrance, and he knew just by looking at it – he had no desire to TASTE this water – that it was contaminated.

But why had it only now begun to poison people? Clearly this mine had been around for a long time, and the water was a natural part of the underground system. He went into the mine shaft, letting his eyes adjust once more to the darkness. He followed the rivulet along the passage. Although abandoned for many years the props were still strong and he wasn’t too worried about it. The air was still good, too.

He didn’t have to go far before he came to the source of the problem. The rivulet had originally run as far as a natural fissure in the ground, probably forming another underground waterfall like the one the Periaions drew their water from, though this one a dark, unpalatable, undrinkable water that any creature would avoid. But there had been a small roof fall and the fissure was blocked. The rivulet had been diverted out through the main shaft, joining the river, poisoning the village below, and in turn, the gentle Periaions in their Underworld.

A simple problem, and, if there was the means left behind in the buildings by the mine entrance, a simple, if hazardous solution. He made his way back outside and found the building he needed. The sonic screwdriver made short work of the door and he went inside quietly and carefully. Because if there were any explosives left they had been there for as much as 20 years and they would not be in a good condition.

They weren’t. Sticks of explosives were stacked in boxes. On Earth they called it Dynamite. On Gallifrey it was called ±?????. Here it was apparently called C-20X. In all three places, when it was old and sweating as this was, it was unstable and unpredictable stuff.

Half a dozen sticks would be enough to clear the fissure of debris, he knew. One stick would be enough to blow his body into bloody chunks of unidentifiable meat. He selected fuse wire and detonators and a bundle of the least corroded sticks and walked carefully back into the mine.

Thank goodness, he thought, he was NOT human, and was not likely to need to sneeze or hiccup or make any sudden movement. He moved slowly, cautiously. The journey took him a little longer than the first time. But he made it intact. He carefully fixed the dynamite strategically among the rubble and attached the ignition caps to the sticks before he connected the fuse wire. He ran it out all the way to the mine entrance. There, behind a strong and immovable boulder to the side of the entrance he connected the wires to the detonator and pressed the plunger.

The explosion didn’t seem as loud as he thought it might be. It was a dull, muted sound. But he waited behind the boulder as the blowback thundered through the tunnel and debris and dusty air was forced out. As the dust settled he looked with satisfaction. The rivulet quickly dried up. He cautiously went back into the mine to check that his plan was completely successful. It was. He heard the sound of water falling deep, deep down. Deeper, he judged, than the Periaions lived. This contaminated water would flow away safely below where their little community was.

He walked back down the slope beside the rapidly drying up rivulet. By the time he reached where it joined the river it was almost entirely stopped. The river would take some time to become clean again. But it would get no worse. And each day that the clean water flowed down from the high snow covered peaks would improve the quality of the water. In time the water in the underground spring would be clean, too.

He hurried back. It would soon be time to give Princess Pelia the first of the course of pills he had made up for her. She and her people had no concept of hours in a day. He had to give her the pills at a regular time. It would be a week or more of regulating that medication before she would be well again.

The thought pleased him. She was right, outside of the cave, away from her glamour, he knew he was NOT in love with her, and did not want to live his life as her acolyte. But he did want to stay a little while longer and see that she was recovered.

Besides, he thought, as he climbed down the hole and slowly descended the rock face by the waterfall, there were other things he had to do.

Pills for the princess. That was his first priority. She was awake when he returned to her room. She smiled when she saw him, though as he drew close she grew concerned.

“Why are you wet?” she asked.

“I have been finding things out. I know why you are sick and I have fixed it. With my pills and my care, you will be well again soon. Your people will be happy again.”

He gave her the pills with a bottle of mineral water from, of all places, Ireland. She found the idea of water in a bottle surprising, but trusted her saviour from the stars. After she had taken them he told her he must do something else and left her to lie quietly and rest. He went into his TARDIS for a while and then he went to the spring and carefully fitted the filtration system he had made. It would not last more than a few days, but it only needed a few days before the water ran clean again. Meantime – he tested the water himself and was satisfied. The people could drink the water safely now.

For seven days he lived in the Periaions world. When he needed rest he lay beside the princess’s bed on a mat and put himself into his meditative state for a few hours. Never any longer than that, for he spent as much time as he could by her side, tending to her needs, even if that simply meant soothing her to sleep by caressing her gossamer wings until she almost purred with contentment. Humphrey kept close to the princess, too. He seemed as fond of her, and as worried for her, as he was. When Chrístõ went out to check the water supply and to look at the people of the Periaion village Humphrey stayed with the princess, her faithful guard.

Slowly she recovered, and with her, the people recovered. And even before then, he was pleased to be able to remove the temporary filter from the spring and let clean, pure water flow as it did before.

Finally the day came when he knew he could stay no longer without it being for his own gratification, and Pelia told him he must not do that. He must go back to his own life.

Before he did, the Periaions feted their saviour with a carnival. The village he had entered as a silent, sad place was turned into a place of music and dancing and singing, and…

…Flying. At last the Periaions found their wings again and flitted about around his head as they partied joyfully. Chrístõ and Humphrey at his side laughed to see them so happy. The Princess didn’t fly. Because she kept him company, holding his arm as they walked among her people. Her green eyes were beautiful now that the pain was gone from them and her skin was smooth and the colour of buttermilk. Her face was radiant and she smiled at him and at her people that she loved as much as they loved her.

“How can we ever repay you?” Pelia said to him as they danced together in the village square. “You have saved me from death and my people from oblivion.”

“I ask no reward, except the joy of seeing you well again.” Chrístõ said.

“Yet, perhaps there is something I can do for you.” Pelia put her arms around his neck and he put his hands on her slender, delicate waist. He gasped as he saw her gossamer wings unfold. All the time he had gently caressed them he never realised just how much bigger and more beautiful they were than those of the ordinary Periaions. They spanned nearly ten feet each and they fluttered and shimmered like a hummingbird wings as he felt his feet leave the floor. He felt weightless. As long as she held him he defied gravity. He looked down and saw that he was flying high above the floor of the cavern. He looked into her eyes and was startled by the depth of them. They were not like eyes at all, but emerald gems glittering brightly.

“I feel your sadness, your loneliness, my gentle Chrístõ from the stars,” she said. “Let me give you a moment of bliss. Let that be your reward for your kindness to me and to my people.” Chrístõ gasped as a shimmering silver light enveloped them both. With the light the sweetest, most euphoric feeling overwhelmed him. It was like the feeling he had when Humphrey ‘hugged’ him but 1,000 times more intense, and it drove out of his mind all his sad, lonely thoughts since he had left 1860 and his dreams of loving Elizabeth; since he had given up Bo to Sammie. He pressed his lips against those of the beautiful ethereal creature that held him and it was a sweet, beautiful kiss, but he felt not as if he was kissing her, but that he was kissing the woman he was destined to fall in love with, whom he had yet to meet, but who, for a fleeting moment, he felt he already knew. He felt he knew her face. The moment passed, so did the face, and he could not recall it afterwards, but he felt refreshed and renewed by the experience. He smiled brightly as his feet touched the ground again.

Humphrey hummed joyfully as Chrístõ prepared to take the TARDIS into temporal orbit. He felt as if he had enjoyed a holiday. The first for a very long time. A holiday from himself. Time now, though, to find his friends. He would bring them to visit next time he came to the Underworld of Phyrantia. Cassie and Terry would love to see a place where love was freely given. Sammie would be surprised by a place where his fighting skills were quite redundant. And he knew Bo would love the gentle Periaions as much as he did. Yes, they must come back here.