Chrístõ looked at his friends sitting happily together on the sofas in the corner of his TARDIS. Cassie and Bo were chatting with Julia, Sammie and Terry had their own conversation. Humphrey was in his element with all of his ladies present. They were aware of his purr even when he wandered into the brighter parts of the room where they couldn’t see him.

“Do you guys fancy a bit of a detour?” Chrístõ asked. “Before I bring you all back to Liverpool.”

“Oh, yes, please,” Julia said. “I like having everyone here. I don’t want them to go home yet.”

“Not too long, though,” Bo told him. “I don’t like to leave Li Tuo for long. Chrístõ…” He looked at her and went to her side. “I didn’t want to spoil the wedding for you and everything. But really, Li Tuo isn’t as well as he pretended to be when you picked us up. He’s had several bouts of illness. He’s very weak.”

“He is old. The end is not so far away. I know that,” Chrístõ said. “It is kind of you to look after him.”

“He’s a very sweet man. I have come to love him very much. But… He has shown me a signal he wants me to send if… when the time comes. He wants you there.”

“He wants me to… not my father… an experienced Time Lord? I thought… But…”

“I don’t know why,” Bo said. “But it that’s what he wants… well, you won’t refuse him?”

“Of course not. It just seems a bit strange.”

“He has spoken often of Gallifrey lately – of his home.” Bo looked at Chrístõ. He knew what she was thinking.

“No, he cannot return, even in extremis. Our rules are hard and unbending. And it isn’t fair. He will die in exile. On Earth. And we who are his friends will do what we can for him.” He touched her cheek gently. “I’m glad you’re there to look after him. And I will get you back the day after you left. He won’t be without your care for long. Meanwhile, there is a beautiful place I would love you all to see.” He smiled as Julia came to his side. “I’m taking you to see another princess,” he said to her.

“How many princesses do you know?” Julia asked him.

“Quite a few,” he said. “My father is a diplomat. And he HAS been Lord High President of Gallifrey in his time. I grew up with crowned heads and presidents visiting our home.”

“That’s why you always look like an aristocrat when you walk into any roomful of people, ” Cassie told him. “But yet you are our friend, too. Ordinary people like us.”

“I just do my best,” Chrístõ said. “We’re nearly there. You’ll like this place.”

“I’ll get baby Chrístõ ready to go out,” Cassie said and went to do just that.


He landed the TARDIS in the centre of the subterranean village of the Periaions. They knew him and his ship and would not be frightened by it, he thought. And he was right. When he and his friends emerged from the TARDIS, disguised as it was as one of the simple single storey houses of the village, with his symbol on the door, the Periaions fluttered around them excitedly.

“Faeries!” Julia exclaimed. “Oh, but they can’t be. It’s not possible.”

“What’s not to believe?” Sammie asked as he watched the Periaions hovering around him like people sized humming birds. He laughed. Could there be a place more removed from the hard, dark life he once lived than this underground village of gossamer winged creatures dressed in shimmering gauze.

They were no more difficult to believe than anything else he had seen in his travels in the TARDIS, including the darkness entity otherwise known as Humphrey Boggart, who zoomed past him, pin-wheeling around, diving straight through the dancing faery people, who seemed delighted by his presence.

Yes, I believe in faeries,” he said with a broad smile.

“So do I!” Cassie laughed. They all crowded around her as she walked with baby Chrístõ in a sling fastened at her front. They all seemed to want to touch her and the baby and when they did their touch was like being touched by sheer joy.

“They are all pale coloured,” Terry noted. “That’s why they’re so fascinated by you and the baby.”

“Oh!” Cassie looked around at them. Terry was right. She thought about the too many times when her father’s Jamaican ancestry had meant that she stood out from those around her. On her first day at primary school, or the time at ballet class when she was told she could not be in the chorus line because she was ‘too ethnic’. She hated standing out because she was ‘ethnic’ – a stupid euphemism at the best of times. One thing she loved about being with Chrístõ was that she was simply categorised as HUMAN.

But this was nice. These faery people – Chrístõ had said what they should be called but she had not yet grasped how to say it – didn’t point to her as ‘different’ in a cruel way. They were simply fascinated by her and wanted to touch her to see if she was ‘real’ in the same way as she wanted to reach out and touch them.

Bo and Julia ran joyfully with them. They felt a little like Humphrey, who was still bouncing around. It was as if every hardship they had known had become insignificant beside the joy of just being with the beautiful creatures that Chrístõ seemed to know as old friends.

“This way to the palace,” Chrístõ said as he moved through the crowd. They greeted him as if he was a returning hero. As he walked they came up to him and kissed his hands and his cheeks and it was quite difficult to make headway towards the palace. At the entrance the guards simply bowed to him and his friends.

“Who do they think you are?” Terry asked him as they entered the palace and found everyone within bowing to him.

“I am the one who saved the life of their princess,” he said. “That’s why we have the special treatment. As a rule overworlders are not encouraged. They don’t want the ones who live above knowing about their world.”

“I can understand that,” Sammie said. “Though why anyone should want to harm them…”

“There are people in this universe who would see beauty and happiness and only want to destroy it,” Chrístõ answered. It was a gloomy thought, but only too true.

But gloomy thoughts were banished when they came in sight of the princess. All of the men gasped when they came near her. Chrístõ knew it was a chemical thing. The princess exuded pheromones that made the males of any species fall a little bit in love with her. Or a lot, he supposed, depending on their willpower. Humphrey was besotted with her. Chrístõ knew if he had not spent so many hours in dull classes learning logic and reason he would be pretty much gone himself.

“But you have a love of your own now,” Princess Pelia said to him. “All three of you, do. That protects you from becoming so much enamoured that you would forget about the overworld.”

“That happens?” Cassie asked her.

“When overworld men come here, as they do from time to time, when they come before me, yes, I am afraid it happens. I cannot help it. But you are all friends of my dear Chrístõ. You are all welcome. We shall have feasting and joy to celebrate you being here among us.”

And as she said that, music began to play. The throne room became a party room with the faery people dancing and flying about. Chrístõ watched as his friends joined in with it enthusiastically. Julia was in her element. She let two of the Periaions lift her so that she was flying with them. As long as she was in contact with them she was as weightless as they and she danced in the air. The next time she was practicing in the studio, he thought, she would have some new ideas to work with.

He turned to Pelia. She sat on her elaborate golden throne, the most beautiful, flawless creature in the universe. Or was that the glamour cast by her, he wondered. But he was willing to concede there were few to contest her claim.

At her feet were a gaggle of little faery children, about the size of a two year old of his planet or of Earth. They were all beautiful, with golden hair and eyes that were either sparkling green or dark brown. Some even seemed a mixture of both, brown with speckles of green, or green with dark brown specks. There were fifteen of them in all, at least as far as he could count them.

“Pelia,” he said. “When did you get married?”

“I didn’t,” she told him. “Chrístõ, you don’t understand how children are born in our world. We need only to FEEL the pure love of a man, a kiss given freely, is enough. The pheromones do the rest.”

“You…. You only have to kiss a man and you can become pregnant?” He laughed. “My dear Pelia, that would be very dangerous on a lot of worlds I know.” He looked at the children again. “So… who did you kiss?” he asked. “He must have loved you very much.”

“Yes,” Pelia said with a smile. “You DID.”

It took a moment for her words to sink in. When it did, he almost fainted in shock.

“No!” he protested as he looked at the little faery children, sitting and standing, and flying on their baby wings. “NO! Pelia… it can’t be. No. I cannot be their….” He looked at her in bewilderment. “When I kissed you… that was not…. You had no right… if I had known I would not. You….”

The joy of this world seemed to drain from him as hurt and confusion replaced it. He turned away. Pelia called out his name but he did not answer. He didn’t know how to explain to her his indignation, his anger. He felt used. He felt… violated.

“Chrístõ,” Pelia’s hand touched his shoulder. The feeling was beautiful. Her touch was like being touched by pure love in a solid, corporeal form. And if he was not feeling so upset he would have surrendered to it.

“Leave me alone,” he snapped. “You can’t… You can’t use people that way.”

“Chrístõ… how have I wronged you?” she asked. But he shrugged her hand away from him and ran from the throne room. His friends, enjoying the company of the faery people, stared in astonishment as he swept past them, but he hardly saw them. He didn’t see any of the palace entourage or the people of the village outside as he ran to the TARDIS. He didn’t notice the sea-change in their mood. He was oblivious to everything but his own distress.

He felt relieved, though, when he reached the TARDIS, his familiar, constant friend. He felt safe within its walls.

He sank down on the cabin bed that used to be Bo’s sleeping place at night and was now used sometimes by Julia if she felt weary on long journeys. He cried softly. His hearts felt torn apart. He had so wanted to return here, to this beautiful place where love and joy abounded. In a universe where those two things were too often subjugated by ambition and greed the underworld of Phyrantia was a rare gem. But for him it had lost its shine and he wasn’t sure he could ever get it back.

The door opened and Bo and Sammie came in. Bo sat on the bed beside him and stroked his hair gently. He felt soothed by her, but the source of his unhappiness still remained. He explained it to them both. Sammie resisted an urge to smile at his predicament.

“No,” he insisted. “It is not a laughing matter. I never intended such a thing. She had no right to use me that way. I feel…. I feel… I feel as if I have been…. Raped.”

“No you don’t,” Bo told him quietly. “You have no idea what that is like. What went on between you and Princess Pelia was a sweet and beautiful thing. It was not a painful nightmare that you were forced into against your will.”

“I am a father of fifteen baby faery children against my will.”

“If you had known that was the consequence of kissing her, would you have refused to do it? Would you have refused her kiss?”

Chrístõ thought about that. He thought about how he had felt when she kissed him. He could not have refused that in a million years. And Bo was right. It was not a terrible hurtful thing. He was not forced to do anything. But he still felt wronged.

Bo looked at her husband with pleading eyes.

He nodded to her as he sat next to his friend. “Chrístõ… look… I talked to Pelia. I think I understand. But…. Is it SO bad? Not many people get to be dads with so little effort. And they are the cutest little creatures I ever saw.”

“You DON’T understand,” Chrístõ told him. “On Earth, nobody cares much about these things. People get married or they don’t, depending on how they feel. Cassie and Terry were lovers in the fullest sense since they were seventeen. You and Bo… you didn’t wait to be married. And… well, I’m guessing she wasn’t the first woman you’ve ever been with…”

“I was a soldier. When soldiers get off duty and off camp… you know…”

“I’m not judging you,” he said. “In your world those things are acceptable. But not in mine. Where I come from we never…. Not until our wedding night. Male and female... it is accepted, expected, that our first time…”

“Chrístõ…” Sammie looked at him. “Are you telling me you’re a virgin?”

“YES!” he said. “And…” Sammie was laughing at him, though not cruelly.

“You’re nearly two hundred years old, and you’ve never been tempted?”

“It’s different where I come from,” Chrístõ said. “I only became an adult by our law ten years ago. Before then the question never even arose. I was technically a CHILD. And our official coming of age is not until about two hundred and ten. That’s when I will inherit the land and titles from my father. When he will officially retire and I will be head of the family. I expect I will be married to Julia by then. But meanwhile… I am not Human. I am a Time Lord of Gallifrey. And we don’t have sex before marriage. Temptation doesn’t come into it. We just don’t. It's the way we are. I have lived on Earth… lived as a Human for so many years. Most of my friends ARE Human. But I am STILL a Gallifreyan. And I have lived by the social standards of my world. And that’s why I feel…. That Pelia has taken something from me.”

“See, that’s what you don’t get,” Sammie told him. “That’s why you should have listened to Pelia. She told me. And it makes sense. Chrístõ… I hear what you’re saying about sticking it out until your wedding night. But that hasn’t changed. Because the way they have babies here… it’s not actually sex as we know it. On EITHER of our planets. Pelia doesn’t need a man’s genes to have babies. Only his pheromones. The babies aren’t part of you and her the way little Chrístõ is a part of Terry and Cassie. They’re ALL her. Your pheromones were just the catalyst that started the process. They’re NOT your babies, Chrístõ. You were just… I don’t know… you lit the blue touchpaper, basically. But that’s all.”

Chrístõ looked at his Earth friends. He had no reason to doubt they were telling him the truth. It made a sort of sense

Catalyst. A chemical or substance that causes a change or reaction in others but remains unchanged itself. He was unchanged. His vow of celibacy had not been compromised.

He ought to have understood. He realised that now. He was an explorer, studying the infinite variety of life in the universe. He should have realised that infinite life had infinite ways of propagating itself. This was just one of the more incredible of those ways.

“Go back to her,” Bo told him. “Tell her you understand. And that you don’t blame her for anything. Do it quickly. These people… they seem to be linked to their princess’s moods. When she is sad, they are, too.”

“Yes, I know,” Chrístõ said. “She is the hub of their lives. If she is hurt they hurt. If they’re sick, she gets very sick.”

“Well, right now, they’re all crying because SHE is crying.” Chrístõ looked up as Julia stood at the door. How long had she been there? How much had she heard of what was said? “Come on, Chrístõ,” she told him. “Make it up with her.”

He sat up and brushed his own tears away. He reached out his arms to Julia and she ran to him. He held her tightly as he felt the resentments and anger melt away. He took her hand as they walked back to the throne room. He felt very sorry as he saw the people around him. They were all of them crying softly. And he knew it was his fault for upsetting the princess.

She sat on the throne, her face hidden by her hands, crying inconsolably. Her little children lay at her feet, curled up like kittens, they too, crying. At the side of the throne Humphrey was wailing in empathy. And the look he gave Chrístõ was pleading, and also slightly accusing, as if he knew whose fault it was and that he was the only one who could sort out this problem.

“Pelia,” he said gently, putting his hand on her shoulder. She looked at him through her fingers. “Pelia, my princess, don’t cry. I am sorry. Forgive me.” He knelt before her and put his hands in hers. “Please forgive me for not understanding what I should have understood. Forgive me for rejecting your love.”

“Chrístõ…” She smiled then and it felt as if the sun had come out. “Chrístõ, Of course I forgive you. You are my saviour. My life is in your hands. Stand up, my prince from the overworld. You need not bow before me.”

She stood, too. And reached to embrace him. He drew back hesitantly.

“If I kiss you… this time… promise me there are no consequences,” he said.

“This is just for friendship,” she told him and kissed him. As she did so he felt his feet leave the ground, but they rose together only a few feet this time, not high up in the air as she did when he shared that incredible kiss with her that resulted in the mixing of his pheromones with hers. “Besides, you have found your true love since you were last here.”

“Yes,” he said. “Yes, I have.”

“May you be blessed, both of you” Pelia told him. He felt his feet touch the ground again and Julia reclaimed him with the touch of her hand on his. He closed his fingers around hers and looked at her with a smile. Around them the Periaions stopped crying and began dancing again as if the sad interlude had never occurred.

The party feeling continued hour after hour. In fact, nobody was entirely sure how many hours. And nobody cared. They were having too much fun. Chrístõ reflected that this could be a trap for the unwary. How long COULD you lose yourself in the joy of Periaion life? Did men who were caught up in the chemically induced love for Princess Pelia suddenly wake up and realise that years had passed?

“Yes,” Pelia said and he found himself disconcerted to find his thoughts had been read by her. Since he often disconcerted his Human friends the same way he had no complaint to make. But her answer was a discomforting one.

“Yes,” she said again. “The joy which is our natural state IS dangerous. Yes, men have been enchanted to their doom. My mother had many lovers. So did my grandmother and her mother before her. Men who came exploring the caves and forgot they had a life in the overworld. This glamour we are able to cast over the overworlders… it is not deliberate, Chrístõ. Please be sure of that. We do not seek to destroy men by our charms. But its effect on the weaker of mind is devastating. In my own lifetime I remember at least a dozen such men come and for a while they lived in joy here, besotted by my mother. Adoring her to the detriment of their own bodies and souls. I told you before, I think, that overworlders cannot survive here. They fade away and die. My mother was not a cruel woman. But she never thought anything amiss when it happened. She mourned their passing, but she thought it a natural thing. And she never warned them that this would be their fate. When I became princess in my turn, I determined I would NOT let men doom themselves without knowing full well what would come of them. Then you came. And your will was so much stronger. And you knew without me having to tell you that you could not stay, that you should not stay. And that was why I felt it would be all right for you to be the one… Because you would not be harmed by it.”

“I am not harmed,” he assured her. “Not now that I understand. You said that my friends are protected because they have deep love already. So it is only if a man comes here who has no deep emotional ties that he would become enticed by your world.”

“Yes. Or one with a deeper will, like yourself.”

That was the darker side of the joy and light of Pelia’s world, he thought. Though fading away from excess of love was perhaps not the worst way to die. Young as he was by the measure of his species, he had seen plenty of deaths that were far worse.

Even with such hidden dangers, the underworld of Phyrantia was still as close to paradise as he had found so far, and he was glad to spend a short time in it. He watched as Julia played with the babies. His babies? No, it was definitely better not to think along those lines. But he turned to Pelia and held out his hand.

“Dance with me,” he said. And she came to his arms and danced. Her subjects cleared a space where the two of them danced together. He didn’t notice when their feet left the ground but he was aware of being high in the air when she kissed him again.

He was filled with joy as he had been the last time they shared a deep, mid-air kiss. But it did not feel as if she was taking anything from him. It was just a very beautiful moment that lifted his hearts and made him forget his doubts and his distress earlier.

“Shall I give you back to your own love now?” she whispered to him.

“Yes, I think you had better,” he told her.

But before they could descend the joyful noise of their endless party was disrupted by the sound of an explosion somewhere beyond the palace walls. Chrístõ saw a look of fear in her eyes and she clung to him as they descended quickly, landing abruptly and jarringly. Immediately, though, he ran in the direction of the intrusive sound. Sammie was alongside him and Terry trying to keep up.

“That was dynamite,” Sammie said. “Somebody is blasting their way in here.”

“Overlanders.” Chrístõ used the word the Periaions used. And he used it in a tone that meant ‘invaders’.

Sammie was correct. It WAS dynamite. And it had opened up a whole section of the cavern wall in what he thought was the east side of the village – though directions were hard to gauge. The ground was strewn with rubble and four men equipped for underground exploration stood staring at what they had found when they removed the wall between one cavern and the next.

“What the hell do you think you are doing?” Sammie yelled at them. His anger seemed even greater than Chrístõ’s. “What is this?”

“Oh no!” Terry murmured and grabbed Chrístõ’s sleeve as he pointed. In the rubble of the destroyed wall there was a Periaion man, clearly dead, his wings broken, his body twisted unnaturally.

“That was bloody murder!” Sammie yelled as Chrístõ bent and lifted the body from the rubble. Behind the three of them Periaions were moving in to see what had happened, and when they saw the dead man they began to wail in grief. Some of the males came forward and took hold of the potholers. They protested loudly, but found that the Periaions had a strong grip, despite their apparently ephemeral appearance.

“To the princess,” the crowd said. They parted to allow Chrístõ to go ahead, carrying the dead man. His Human friends flanked him, and the prisoners were brought behind. He could feel the anger and grief of the first witnesses rippling out among the rest even before they were in sight. By the time he reached the palace everyone knew what had happened. They looked at the victim with grief and sorrow and at the prisoners who had caused the death with hate and loathing and, he thought, fear.

The princess sat on her throne. Again her gaggle of children huddled around her. Chrístõ saw Julia sitting with them, cuddling them. Cassie and Bo sat on the steps below the throne waiting sadly to see what would happen.

The princess rose and came down the steps as Chrístõ laid the dead man at her feet. She knelt and touched him gently. He guessed she had some powers of healing, and there was a sense of hope. But he knew, also, that this man was beyond even faery magic. His injuries were too terrible. She cried as she folded his broken wings and straightened his body into a dignified manner. Two of her palace guards came and lifted him. She told them to make preparations for a funeral and they nodded. There were no words to be said.

“Bring them forward,” she said, as she stepped back, partway up the steps. Her face was set now as Chrístõ had seen his own father’s face, or Penne’s when either was called upon to act with authority and with decisiveness. Grief and sudden death had come to Pelia’s happy world, and he wondered how she would deal with those responsible for it.

Did they have a death penalty? If so, then as much as he loved Pelia and her people, as much as he felt angry and disgusted with the ones who had done this, he would have to oppose it.

“Death penalty?” Pelia mouthed the words silently and looked at him with puzzled eyes. “I do not even understand those words.” Automatically his thoughts flew to the method of punishing the worst criminals of his world and her eyes opened in shock. “No,” she told him telepathically. We have no such thing here. But… I feel the grief and anger of my people. They are demanding, expecting punishment. What must I do?”

“You must punish them,” he told her. “But punish justly. Not with malice, not with vengeance.”

“Father,” he thought. “Did I do right? Is that what YOU would have told her?” He had a strong feeling he would have done.

He looked at the overworlders who stood before the princess, shocked by the consequences of their own actions. They were affected emotionally by the pervading aura of grief that the Periaions were all emitting like a sort of radiation. Chrístõ was having a hard time shutting it out. His honed telepathic synapses were picking it up so strongly it was hurting. He knew the princess, with her symbiotic connection to all her people, was suffering dreadfully.

“Take them to the west tower. There is a room there… guard it…” Pelia decided. “Let them not be harmed. Let them have food and a place to rest themselves. But let them be in no doubt that they are prisoners.”

That was good, Chrístõ thought. A show of both strength and mercy. And a breathing space to decide what to do next, with the culprits out of sight of those they had wronged.

“My people,” Pelia said with a strength in her voice that belied her inner turmoil. “Please go to your homes, be about your work and your play. And be not dismayed. Our world will be right again before long.”

She sent the message telepathically, too. Her people all heard her and obeyed out of love for her and for each other.

But what a contrast in the mood of the people from the party feeling before. Even Chrístõ’s misunderstanding had not caused such deep grief. The hurt that caused was easily resolved by understanding each other. But this was deeper. This was like a wound in the collective soul of the people.

“Sit with me,” Pelia said as she sank down on the steps by the throne and folded her wings sadly. Her children gathered around her. Chrístõ and his friends likewise sat around her. A strange kind of counsel, but this was as good a place to talk as a polished table in a Cabinet room.

“It’s not murder,” Terry said. “They didn’t come with the intention of killing. They didn’t expect to find people down here.”

“He’s right,” Sammie added. “On our planet they would call it manslaughter.”

“On mine, too,” Chrístõ said. But Pelia did not understand. The idea of death at the hands of another being was almost inconceivable to her peaceful people who had no concept of hate, no inequalities that caused envy, and who even shared love so equally and unconditionally that there were no jealousies through it. Somehow, between them, they managed to explain to her, and through her, to the whole of the community, that important difference between premeditated murder, of motive, of malice aforethought, and the accidental death through carelessness, through lack of thought or attention which was what had happened here.

“We have no punishment for manslaughter either,” Pelia said. “We have no prison.”

“I don’t think keeping them in prison is a good idea anyway,” Chrístõ said. “Pelia, these overlanders may have friends above. They may come looking for them. They may bring weapons…”


Chrístõ sighed. Pelia had no concept of THAT word either. He and Sammie between them explained. Pelia read the pictures in Sammie’s mind and was shocked.

“You… have used these…. Weapons?”

“Only against those who would do wrong otherwise,” Sammie said. “Against the enemy.”

It was hard to explain to Pelia the difference between Sammie with a gun in his hand and an Iraqi soldier with a gun in his hand, and what made one right and the other wrong. And it was Sammie who conceded in the end that guns were not good things and that deciding who had the right in a war was not a question of black and white.

“You seem a good person,” Pelia told him. “Your soul is good. Despite what you may have done in that terrible world you come from. But… you are right. We do not want those things here. Chrístõ… you really think more men would come looking for these ones?”

“Yes, I do,” he said. “They may even have friends above now who are wondering. I think I should talk to them and find out.”

Sammie went with him and one of the palace servants as a guide to a part of the castle he had not gone to before. They climbed up a winding staircase to the room at the top of the fairy-tale castle tower where the prisoners had been taken. The room had no lock. The guards simply stood outside. They looked sad to be doing such a duty.

“Thank God!” one of the men said when Chrístõ and Sammie came in. “You’re Humans!”

“He is, I’m not,” Chrístõ said in a cold voice. “I’ve just had to explain the words “murder”, “manslaughter”, “weapon” and “enemy” to a gentle people who until you came along had no definition of any of those words. Would you care to tell me what made your intrusion into their lives necessary?”

“Lutanium,” One of the men identified himself as being called Bryn. And that one word was his explanation for prospecting in the abandoned silver mines on this side of Phyrantia.

Chrístõ didn’t need any further explanation. Lutanium was the rarest and most valuable element in the universe. And men had committed murder over it before now. Earth in the period his friends came from had never even heard of it. It was one of those gaps in the periodic table that scientists dreamt of completing. But as it didn’t occur naturally on Earth that wouldn’t happen until they discovered deep space travel.

But when they did the desire to find it would blind many to all reason. These men were not that sort he thought. When he reached into their minds he didn’t find that all-encompassing obsession that on Earth in Bo’s era was called ‘gold fever’. And these men WERE genuinely shocked and disturbed at what had transpired.

“The man… thing… the… whatever it was…” one of them stammered. “Is it really dead?”

“Yes HE is,” Chrístõ told him. “And you are responsible for that death, accidental though it was.”

“What ARE these things….”

“Things?” Chrístõ’s voice hardened again. “You are Humans?” he asked. “Your ancestry is on Earth?”

“Yes. But…”

“Earth is 260 million light years from this planet. Between here and there are a billion stars with planets orbiting them on which there is life of some kind or another. And you dismiss them all as THINGS?”

“They’re faeries!” The youngest of the group, who looked no older than twenty-five, looked the most nervous. But he had wide eyes as if he had seen something utterly wonderful.

“They’re Periaions,” Chrístõ told them. “They are the native and indigenous species of this planet. It was deemed uninhabited by the original colonists because they could not imagine people living below ground. But as you see, they were wrong. The Periaions have lived here for millennia, peaceful, harmless creatures. You have lived above for a much shorter time, and were never meant to come into contact with them.”

“What will they do to us?” the youngest asked.

“Shut up, Gregson,” Bryn hissed. “They have no right to do anything to us.”

“Yes, they have,” Chrístõ said. “They have the right to exact the severest penalty from you. You KILLED one of their own.”

“Severest…” All four men went pale as they imagined being executed in some exotic way while the Periaions watched. Chrístõ decided to let them carry on imagining that for a while. It wouldn’t hurt them to understand the consequences of their actions.

Their fear made them co-operative. Although at the back of his mind Bryn, the leader, was aware that he was being questioned by what appeared to be a Human teenager, he nevertheless found himself answering the boy’s questions as if he was being interrogated under torture.

“Very well,” Chrístõ said. That’s what I needed to know.” He turned and signalled to Sammie that they were done.

“Wait,” Bryn called to him. “What will happen to us?”

“Your fate is in the hands of the princess,” he told them. And again the pictures in their heads were graphic. Chrístõ sighed. They REALLY didn’t understand what the Periaions were if they imagined them capable of that kind of cruelty. He wondered exactly what kind of criminal justice system the overworld Phyrantians had if this was what they feared would be their fate.


“There are just the four of them,” Chrístõ told the princess. “They have a craft above that they used to travel to this part of the overworld. They were exploring for a company in their main city which lies the other side of a large sea. The company is expecting them to report back to them. If they do not, if they are considered to be missing, then others WILL come to look for them. And I don’t know what will happen, but I don’t think it will be a good thing if the overlanders know of your existence here. Even if they leave you in peace… they have already brought grief to your people this time. They have brought anger and hate. They will change your people from what they are - beautiful peaceful, loving people – to ones who are frightened and suspicious of strangers and who will learn all those traits like jealousy and envy that you don’t have now.”

“But what can they do?” Cassie asked. “If they let them go… they will tell people about this place.”

“I could wipe their memories of it,” Chrístõ said. “The sonic screwdriver has a setting that erases short term memory in Humans. I’m not sure why. It seems a strange thing for one of my kind to want to do. But it CAN do that. I could wipe their memory, send them to sleep and take their craft and leave it somewhere.”

Everyone looked at each other. It was a solution. It protected the Periaions from the outside world.

“It doesn’t punish them for what they did,” Terry pointed out.

“They’re punishing themselves. They’re imagining the worst kind of hells up there. They expect the Periaions to torture and kill them, and they’re torturing themselves. Wiping their memory of what happened would actually be a kindness to them.”

“What about the hole they made?” Cassie asked. “What is to stop more people coming that way again?”

“I think we need a couple of cave-ins to seal the area,” Sammie said. “I’ve still got some high explosive grenades in the TARDIS. You could leave that to me.”

Pelia looked at him in alarm. He smiled apologetically at her.

“That’s one GOOD use I can put my weapons to,” he promised.

“I think Chrístõ’s plan is the best for us all,” Pelia said. “I do not want to hurt these overlanders. That is not in our nature. And I do not want their friends seeking to hurt my people.”

“Let’s go and get them then, and take them back where they belong.”


Pelia came with him this time. So did Sammie and Terry and Bo. They left Cassie and Julia and baby Chrístõ with the Periaion children.

But when they reached the top floor of the tower there was a shock in store. Bo knelt to examine the two guards who lay by the door. She reported that they were just knocked out in their attempt to stop the fight that had taken place between the four men.

But they were all dead.

Chrístõ looked around and his eyes took in what a crime scene investigator would have taken in. One man had his throat cut. Two others were stabbed through the chest or stomach. The last had cut his own wrists.

“Oh bloody hell,” Terry swore and turned away. The princess stood in the doorway, in a state of shock.

“This is my fault,” Chrístõ said.

“How is it your fault?” Sammie asked.

“The older one killed the others,” Pelia said. “I feel the resonance of the anger… of what went on before their lives were extinguished. Murder….” She spoke the word as if it was new to her. “And…. sui… suicide?” Another word that was not known to her before. “No… wait…”

Chrístõ felt it, too. Or at least he felt an echo of what she was sensing, augmented by her mind.

“One of them is alive,” he said and looked about. He bent over the youngest man, Gregson. He chided himself for not checking the bodies before. The stab wound had been made by one too blinded by terror to aim true, and no vital organs were damaged. He had lost a lot of blood, but he would recover if he got immediate aid. Chrístõ turned to ask Sammie and Terry to run to the TARDIS for bandages and sutures, but he felt a hand on his shoulder. Pelia knelt by his side. She touched the forehead of the injured man and drove away his pain. He opened his eyes in wonder and watched as she then moved her hands over the wound in his stomach. Even Chrístõ, who could do a few miracles himself, was astonished as he watched the wound close up and disappear.

“You are so beautiful!” Gregson whispered. “Thank you.” Then he fainted from the shock and trauma of it all, even though he was no longer in any pain.

“He is a good man,” Pelia said of him. “He had no part in the blasting. It was his job to… to do something with the rocks they found. Ass…ay…? IS that a word in the Overland?”

“It means to test the rocks for the metals they consider precious,” Chrístõ explained. He could see it all, too. Pelia’s touch on the young man’s forehead had let them both enter his mind. He saw all of his thoughts. He had seen clearly the madness that had overtaken Bryn. He saw Gregson stabbed first, lying, half conscious, watching his leader, the one who ought to have been strongest, killing the others and then himself.

“Oh!” he groaned. “It’s my fault.”

“How is it your fault?” Terry asked.

“Bryn was so afraid of what he THOUGHT was going to happen to him that he killed the others and then himself,” Chrístõ explained. “THAT’S my fault. I made them THINK they were going to be punished severely. I frightened that man into doing what he did.”

“I wouldn’t lose any sleep over that, if I were you, Chrístõ,” Sammie told him. “Seriously, I wouldn’t. He must have been bit tapped to start with.”

“That’s easy for you to say, Sammie. But…”

“Let us come from this place of death,” Pelia said. “Bring the one who lives to the palace. Then we shall consider what will happen next.”

“Yes,” Chrístõ said. “Yes, we’ll do that.” He lifted Gregson in his arms. Pelia walked by his side, his hand on the unconscious man’s face as they descended the tower and came to the steps outside the palace once more. Chrístõ laid Gregson on the steps beside Pelia. It seemed a strange place to put a man who needed to recover from a near fatal wound. And yet, at the same time, he could see no reason why not. In Pelia’s care he could come to no harm.

Pelia was relieved by the life she had saved, but it was still a sad counsel that gathered again.

“So many deaths….” She said. “Four people in such a short time… Our own, and then those three. Death comes to our people only at the end of long life. Not like this.” She shook her head. “Is this the overlander world?” She looked at Sammie. “Your guns, and bombs. These men with their explosives and their knives. Fear.”

“There is good in the overland world, too,” Sammie told her. “There is love. Look at Cassie and Terry and their baby. Me and Bo… Chrístõ and Julia. And we all care for each other the same way you care for your people. It’s not all bad.”

“But the Overland way is not theirs,” Bo told him. “We must make sure that they are safe from this. It must not happen again.”

“I can take the men from here, as I said I would do,” Chrístõ said. “For the three there is no need to wipe their memories now. They have taken the secret of the underworld to their death. But I still need to make sure nobody looks for them here. And there is the question of the one who is still alive.”

They all turned to look at that man. He was stirring from his faint. He looked up at Pelia and sighed.

“You are beautiful,” he said. “So very beautiful.”

Chrístõ felt the pheromone rush touch his own soul. Terry and Sammie obviously felt it, too. It was a feeling that any male of any species would recognise.

Gregson looked like a man who had not seen the sun shine for a long time. He was literally bathing in Pelia’s lovelight. Enthralled was the apt word.

“Pelia, NO!” Chrístõ said. “No, you can’t. He has to go back to his own kind.”

“I don’t want to go back,” Gregson answered. “I want to stay here. With her. My queen.”

“No,” Chrístõ insisted. “You’ll die. Pelia… We need to protect your people from interference, but not that way. Not by keeping him here against his will. And if he was not under your spell he WOULD want to go back.”

“If this is a spell, it is one I don’t want broken,” Gregson insisted. “I want to stay here.”

“But you will fade away,” Bo told him. “Humans cannot survive here. They fade away. She said so.”

“It is true,” Pelia admitted. “My dear Gregson, if you stay by me, I can offer you only a fleeting life. A mere century at the most. Then you will be no more.”

“What?” Cassie was the one who put it into words. “You mean… he will live as much as a hundred years. But that’s not…”

“Ah!” Chrístõ understood now what he had not understood before. “Ah, I see. Your people are like mine. A fleeting life for us is a full one for a Human.” He glanced at Julia as he said that. The difference in their concept of life was a problem they were only gradually coming to terms with.

“A hundred years in paradise!” Gregson said. “Yes, I would accept that.”

“You’re under her influence,” Chrístõ told him. You wouldn’t say it if you were speaking of your own free will.”

“No,” he answered. “I’m not.”

“He’s not,” Terry said. “I can’t feel that ‘tingle’ any more. She ‘switched it off’.”

“It was so important for you that he chose for himself,” Pelia told him.

“I have no family,” Gregson continued. “And I don’t want to go back… the only survivor – I don’t want people thinking I killed the others. And… And this place IS beautiful. In my wildest dreams… I never imagined. Please let me stay.”

“If its what you want,” Chrístõ answered. “Yes, all right. If it IS your own free choice then I have no objection. It makes the rest easier.”

He had the guards take the three bodies to the TARDIS. Then he told Pelia he would return as soon as possible. He promised that when he did the darkness that had touched their lives would be finally over.

Could it really be over though? The whole of Pelia’s people have been touched by the tragedy. Even the little ones had felt the sadness. The symbiosis meant that every one of them laughed together and cried together. And all had been touched by the negative emotions that the arrival of the four men had brought.

If he could, he would use that strange function of his sonic screwdriver to wipe this day from the memories of all the Periaions and let them return to their innocence, to not knowing what the words murder, manslaughter and suicide meant. To say nothing of weapon and enemy.

Chrístõ easily found the craft they had travelled in. It was a hover van that operated much like the car his father drove when he was at home on Gallifrey. His father had taught him to drive it when he was at the Academy but the TARDIS had been the craft he had his heart set on owning. He parked the TARDIS in its cargo section and sat the three bodies in the passenger seats then he took the driving seat and drove a short way before taking off in hover mode.

While it was crossing the sea in automatic cruise control, he contacted the company by radio. He carefully imitated the accent of Bryn, the leader of the group, telling his superior that the geophysical data had been misleading, that there were no traces of Lutanium in the old silver mines or in the surrounding area, and that in any case the whole underground system was dangerously unstable. He sent a data stream that showed live seismic reports of subterranean rockfalls taking place even as he spoke. They would not know they were caused by Sammie and his grenade launcher. The superior sounded very disappointed and said he would expect a more detailed report in the morning. He asked to speak to one of the other men. Chrístõ told him they were all asleep. They’d had a long day and were just DEAD. He felt a little ashamed of such a dreadful play on words afterwards, though.

He still felt guilty about his own part in their deaths. Sammie was right in a way. He shouldn’t lose sleep over people whose will power was not as strong as their imagination. But it was a tragedy. They WERE innocent men when all was said and done. They had made one tragic mistake, and had paid a penalty no justice system he knew of would exact for that mistake.

As the coastline of the more heavily populated continent of Phyrantia came in sight he got ready. He brought the van lower down, not too close to the sea, but not quite high enough to account for the great granite cliffs that were a feature of this coastline. He moved out of the seat and stepped into the TARDIS. As it dematerialised the van smashed into the top of the cliff. It flipped over and landed with a crunch followed by an explosion from the fuel tanks. What would be found strewn across the beach below would contain enough Human remains for the investigators to assume that all four men died on the return from their disappointing expedition to find Lutanium mines. Their loved ones would mourn them but nobody was likely to find any reason to believe their deaths were anything but a grim accident.

He returned to the Periaion village. The people still looked sad. Of course they had a dead friend to mourn and there was a process to be gone through. Time would heal that wound for them as for any other beings.

“Chrístõ!” Julia ran to his arms as he entered the throne room. She hugged him tightly. “I’m glad you’re back,” she said. “Please come and talk to the princess. She is so very sad. And I know you can make her happy.”

“She is sad because sad things have happened,” Chrístõ said. “I don’t think I CAN do very much this time. But I will try.” He stepped up to her as she sat on the steps where she had been before, her little faery babies at her feet and her courtiers standing around, their wings drooping, their eyes downcast. She looked up as he approached and managed a weak smile. He knelt by her side and reached to touch her, stroking her gossamer wings gently with one hand while the other reached to touch her face.

“Chrístõ,” she whispered. “You have so much love in your hearts. You are a good, pure soul. You could be one of us.”

“But I am from the overworld. I am from beyond the overworld,” he said. “I cannot be one of you.”

“I want you to know that we do not blame all overworlders for the sorrow that came to us. You and your friends will always be welcome among us.”

“I am glad of that, because my friends love your world. Even Sammie has learnt from it. And Julia…” They both looked at Julia cuddling the little faery children. Like a little girl with her dolls. One day, he thought, she and Julia would have children of their own. He would bring them here. They would come to love the faery world of the Periaions.

“Chrístõ… when you said that you can wipe memories…” Pelia said. “If you took away my memory of what happened… it would take it from the others as well. I can… they would remember only that there was an accident. A roof fall. A tragic death. And Gregson coming among us, a Human who has chosen to stay. But not that anybody from beyond our world was responsible for the death.”

“You want me to do that?”

“Yes,” she said. “Please, Chrístõ. Those words you told me of. Those acts of cruelty that do not happen here. I do not wish to know about them. I wish you WOULD take away the memory.”

“All right,” he said. And he took out his sonic screwdriver. He adjusted the setting to one he had never yet used though he knew it was there. He took her in his arms as he shone the blue beam of light on her golden head. As he wiped away the last sad hours she fell into a deep sleep. He carried her to her room. He noticed that the babies had fallen asleep, too. So had the courtiers. Sammie reported that the people in the streets were also asleep. That wasn’t the sonic screwdriver. SHE must have done it through that symbiosis she had with her people.

She slept for an hour. Chrístõ stayed at her side, caressing her wings lovingly. When she woke she looked up at him with a slightly puzzled look.

“Why did I fall asleep?” she asked. “I remember we were dancing. You let me kiss you.”

“I’m going to kiss you again in a bit,” he promised. “As long as you don’t take advantage of me. You fainted when you heard the rockfall. The accident. The death of one of your people.”

“Oh,” she said. “I remember. Yes. My poor people are so sad for that.”

“It is right to be sad when a sad thing happens. You will all grieve the loss of your friend. But then you will go on happily as you ever were. When I and my friends come to see you again you WILL be happy again, I am sure.”

“I will always be happy to see you, Chrístõ, my saviour.”

“Now I am going to kiss you,” he said. And he caressed her wings as he leaned forward and kissed her tenderly. She didn’t try to take advantage of him, but she purred almost like Humphrey with the satisfaction of his kiss on her lips.

“I feel the love you have for your chosen one,” she said. “You are blessed, Chrístõ.”

“I know I am,” he told her. “So are you, Pelia. But come now, lead your people through this small tragedy that has occurred. Mourn with them and grow strong from it and be happy again. We are leaving a friend who will help you do that. Gregson is already a little in love with you. Remember… the man who came when the roof fell. He will be happy with you all.”

“Yes, Gregson,” she said, and she smiled brightly. “A good-hearted man. Just like you.”

“But one who CAN stay with you, unlike me.”


“They will be all right, won’t they?” Julia asked as they stepped into the TARDIS and prepared to head back to Liverpool, Earth, in 2007.

“They will be fine,” Chrístõ said. “They are a people who don’t know the meaning of murder and manslaughter and suicide.”

“Or weapon and enemy,” Sammie added. “I envy them.” His friends all looked at him. He smiled. “Yes, EVEN me,” he said. “I am sure… certain… that the side I fought for was the right one. But somehow Pelia’s world makes me ashamed ever to have fought at all.

“Well,” Terry said with a wry smile. “The trip wasn’t a total waste then. We’ll make a peacenik of you, yet. Chrístõ, How about we take him to Woodstock and make a Flower Child of him?”

“Nice idea,” Chrístõ said. “But another trip. Bo wants to get back to Li Tuo. She would fret if we took any more detours.”