Chapter Twenty-One – Arming Up

Damn you, Florestan –

Danik tried desperately to keep his breathing under control, as twin old-man's hearts threatened to hammer their way out through his breast. He'd almost fallen in the first moments of his flight, betrayed by unfamiliar stiffness and pain. Florestan's limits were far lower than his own.

He'd seen the Doctor go into healing trance, once. He prayed, with everything he'd got, that this Time Lord wasn't about to shut down on him. Scholar be hanged – couldn't the man have kept himself in better condition?

Whatever f'hanuier were – some kind of police, at a guess – there seemed to be an awful lot of them. All over eight feet tall.

Danik cursed again, watching them boil out from under the arch below. This was a complication he could have done without. Trust that slimy trader not to have warned him he was handing over a 'hot' item...

One thing – it didn't seem to have occurred to any of them to look up yet. Just as well. Right now, he was in no shape for a dramatic roof-top pursuit and escape; slipping away quickly and quietly down the back was going to have to do. He straightened up, wincing.

The group made its way to the courtyard. Marcus and Jason were there, milling about aimlessly.

"We've got the key to shut the thing down," Jason said, "but for some reason, we can't get any closer than this. There seems to be some sort of force field up"

Magnus rolled his eyes. "You don't say."

Eloise squinted, trying to see it. The force field was invisible when she looked at it straight on; But when she looked out of the corner of her eye, she saw a ripple n the air, such as that created by heat.

Sweetheart pulled back the arrow and let fly. An ear piercing chime was heard, briefly, and then there was silence.

{Once again, Typhon paused in his descent upon the Worldlet, as he felt the shield he had put up shatter. He let loose another round of Demon obscenities}

"There." Sweetheart said. "The field is down."

She turned to Jason and Marcus. "Stay where you are."

"But – "

"Do what she says." Third advised.

Sweetheart laid her hands upon the SKoLD.

"Listen, and listen well." she said to it. "I know your origin, and I know your nature.

"Zaqqum's tools are at my command, to do battle against demons – and your function summons them forth into my world.

"The magics that can be worked on them can be worked on you.

"So I ask of you: Go to standby.

"Maintain your gates, but return this His world to me."

The SKoLD's humming faded, and it sank to the ground.

The grey stain that had bruised the castle's walls dissipated like mist in the morning sun, leaving the castle unmarked.

Sweetheart sighed, and stepped back.

"Done and done."

"You can do that?!" Jason blurted.

"Zaqqum's functions allow me a certain limited control over the SKoLD." Sweetheart said. "For some reason, they seem to think it's demonic technology..."

Jason and Marcus looked at each other, and ahemmed.

The seventh Doctor came to, eyes fluttering open, slowly, he sat up and rubbed his temples. "Ugh!" he groaned. "I haven't had a headache this bad since my tutor in Venusian Karate taught me the art of the body throw."

"Yea, that was rather difficult, wasn't it, old man?" Third agreed, helping his future self up.

Sweetheart raised her eyebrows, and smiled tiredly.

"Sweetheart?" Eloise asked, worried, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Maid Tardis reassured her. "Before, it was the SKoLD that forced me bring forth this world from my mind. Now, I do it by choice. There is a great battle ahead for us – one in which we will need all the strengths this worldlet provides.

She glanced at the SKoLD. "That still pains me – like a toothache, I think – but it will not rip my mind open. Not any time soon."

Outside, in the cul-de-sac...

Typhon smiled a hideous smile. Oh, he understood what game the trickster had played.

Zaqqum had quit the scene... but she had gifted the Hoedowners with her weapons beforehand.

Well and well. Perhaps a frontal assault wouldn't work...

...but he had a body within the worldlet, and it was time to bring it to use.

And he was gone from that place, and unto another.

"Hey guys, we miss anything?" Embericles said cheerily, buttoning up her shirt, as she and Nyssaias strolled casually back into the room, looking innocent.

Or as innocent as you can, when your clothes are rumpled and you have a massive grin on your face.

"Not much..." Allie said drily. "We're getting hold of the myth-engine, we've got the SKoLD under control, so all we have to do is get Elec—"

Her face drained.

"Psyche?" Sandra said. "What is it?"

Allie turned to her, her eyes blank, her voice inhuman.


"And the Universe shall be delivered to mindless entropy." Varne whispered. "To the terrible music of that which attends the Idiot Chaos – for the Crawling Chaos is their mind and soul, and cannot be destroyed."

"Crawling Chaos? That doesn't sound good," Paul observed to Donald.

"I don't suppose," said Donald, "that there's any chance of this turning out to be just Eris having a game, like last time we faced the Forces of Chaos?"

Paul considered this prospect hopefully for a moment, then shook his head. "For an ending like that, you need foreshadowing," he said, "or at least something that can be made to resemble foreshadowing in hindsight. And we don't have that here, unfortunately. There hasn't been the slightest hint that the Goddess of Discord is involved in this."

"Apart from the unusually high number of Agents of Chaos wandering about the place, you mean?"

"Well, there's Chaos and then there's Chaos. Remember what Eris said that time about how her type of Chaos was different to the type of Chaos the Black Guardian was tied up in?"

Donald remembered, and remembered also all the times when the Doctor had faced the Black Guardian without it all turning out to be just Eris having a game, and sighed, for the Crawling Chaos that was e'en now approaching clearly had more in common with the Black Guardian than with Eris.


"Typhon?" Dominic breathed. "Typhon?!"

"The Sampo awaits, and he shall claim it. And should he fail, another prize awaits... 'Ware he who made Set's name a curse, who claims Thoth's titles for his own. 'Ware he of the Thousand Forms, for he will take his prize, will we or no."

"Then let us fight."

Electra stepped forth from an archway.

"Let us fight him – as yours and mine did once before, when to us he came, seeking that which would give him victory.

"And we brought him down, laid him low.

"This I tell you now.

"He can be defeated."

Her gaze fell on Dominic.

"Will you take up the weapons your forebears bore, historian? Will you and yours stand with me against that which even the gods fled from? Against that which destroys, child of the primordial chaos? Against Typhon Himself?"

"Yes." he said quietly.

She regarded him more deeply then.

And then turned.

And for an instant, they saw the fear, the courage, the love and dedication, plain across his face.

"Milady," he said then. "Tell me true. Did he kill your sisters?"

"Two he killed in the flight from Gallifrey." she said quietly, not facing him. "But the others did not fall by his hand.

"And this you know full well: A god may kill a god."

Once more, Eloise saw that terrible grief in her eyes, that grief which seemed to encompass the darkest space, the depths of time.

"But I know now," Electra whispered. "I know who whispered in Rassilon's ear, who smoothed the path to our fall.

"And Rassilon listened, for did he not understand his people's rage? Did he not see what scourging the Pythia's influence would do? Had he not lost to her Curse himself?

"Oh, he had. And he would lose so much more. Lose it all.

"And what can I take from a man who lost all that he loved?

"No. I cannot punish him more. There is nothing I can do to him...

"But there is another whose account is still to be paid..."

They heard it, they all heard it, as the castle trembled around them.

"...and he comes even now."

Somewhere a long way away – or possibly, according to how you looked at it, only a few hundred feet away – Bokman looked up from his sketching in the lounge.

"Ummm, guys..."

His voice trailed away as he realised there seemed to be no-one else left in the barn.

"I think I've worked out the myth-engine – what the 'Sampo' really was. But you're not going to like it..."


Bokman bit his lip, listening. Still silence. He was beginning to have a bad feeling about this.

He got up and made his way cautiously to the door, knocking over a pile of 'SANDMAN' volumes and a Hawkwind double LP. Stuck his head out into the corridor and listened. Nothing. It was as if the TARDIS were completely deserted – or as if the entire party had been sealed off behind a sound-proofed wall.

"Oh-oh. Mary Celeste alert..." He hoped that didn't mean the Daleks were about to turn up.

Bokman took a few steps down the passage, trying to keep the sound of his own footsteps quiet. The TARDIS seemed to have reconfigured herself while he wasn't looking. He could have sworn there had been a door to a lounge somewhere just around the corner...

It occurred to him that he'd been reading altogether too much myth and meta-fiction over the course of the last hour. But he couldn't help remembering that when one member of the party gets cut off in an isolated corridor, Something Nasty tends to pop up immediately behind him –

– there was a soft sound just behind his back.

Bokman span around and caught a glimpse of a pale figure like the drowned Ophelia emerging from the wall, arms reaching zombie-like before it. "AARRGGHH!!"

Cameron's Muse opened cornflower eyes and looked at him reproachfully. "My name is Cassie... I'm a friend..."

Her voice trailed off dreamily as she resumed her sleep-walker's progress, and she had already disappeared up to the elbows into the opposite wall before Bokman managed to pluck at her sleeve.

"Wait a minute! I'm awake – I can't walk through real walls. How do I get back to the Hoedown?"

Cassie glided back out of the wall before opening her eyes again. They were unfocused, and he got the impression she was looking right through him. She turned, slowly, to point back the way he had come. "Your road lies yonder... quest for Camelot..."

Bokman's jaw dropped. "What?!"

But she was gone.

His sense of direction hadn't played him false, at least. Once back in the spaceport, where every second individual seemed to be casting shifty looks from pillar to post, he finally felt as if he had a chance to blend into the crowd.

Time Lord robes didn't show blood easily, either. That was another good thing. Not, he thought, that his shoulder had been bleeding that much anyway; the fact that it felt as if it had just emerged from an Iron Maiden was beside the point.

The question, however, remained, of how exactly he was supposed to find another man's TARDIS. A fully-functioning TARDIS, moreover – finding the familiar blue sentry-box would have been at least slightly easier.

Danik backed into a doorway, and shut his eyes, frowning in recollection. Somewhere on this street, he'd popped into existence. He was sure of that. The signs weren't exactly of a nature you'd mistake easily. He had a vague but persistent memory of walking down here in the other direction – and something about double doors...

It was a TARDIS that he knew, if that helped; even if she didn't know him, yet. He sighed. "Hang it all, Sweetheart, where are you?"

For a moment, he could have sworn the doors behind him trembled. The double doors.

"Sweetheart – "

And then the doorway was suddenly, magically, swinging open, before he could turn or even stumble to his feet... and Danik of Ruritania found himself sprawling full-length on the floor of what could only be described as a wizard's study – as the Sweetheart welcomed her pilot home.

Danik groaned a little, in spite of himself, for that jarring fall was less than comfortable (to say the least) after all that that old body had been through. Still, a wry grin spread across his face, and a chuckle bubbled up from his chest for the sheer absurdity of his entrance – a contrast indeed to the studious dignity that a Time Lord's formal attire was intended to convey.

It was then that he felt it: an almost physical sensation just inside the base of his skull – a tingling buzz unlike anything Danik had felt before. It took only half a breath, however, for him to realize what he was feeling: Florestan's telepathic link to his TARDIS. And Sweetheart laughing, too. Such humor, it seemed, had been habitual between them, even if it felt as though the broad grins and belly laughs that Danik and Osman shared would have been foreign territory to the old scholar.

The verb tense and subject of that thought snapped Danik back to himself, and to the urgency of his current mission, and he made a move to roll onto his knees and up to his feet.

:::Stop that.::: came the thought from the TARDIS, almost as clearly as if it had been spoken out loud. :::Lie still. You're hurt. You should know better. It's a wonder I can care for you at all, with all your barging about.:::

Danik protested, briefly (even though the thought was not as sharply defined as Florestan's would have been, if he had been himself) that she didn't understand how little time they had. But then he realized that a TARDIS probably understood that better than anyone. So he lay back, and Sweetheart set to work.

It started as a sensation of heat, of energy, rising up through the floor beneath him. Then it turned to a tingling sensation not unlike that of the telepathic link, focused in a knot at the wound in his shoulder. As the sensation grew stronger, Danik could feel the punctured skin, torn muscle and insulted nerves knit together and realign themselves. He half remembered, then, the Doctor saying something about the TARDIS helping his regeneration, and wondered briefly if this is what regeneration felt like – before hoping earnestly that he would never discover the answer to that himself. The healing of the shoulder complete, the energy spread, tentacle-like, through the rest of his body: to the old knees that had taken too hard a pounding in his run from the police, and to the blisters inside his soaking boots.

Danik distracted himself from the process after a while (for it reminded him uncomfortably of just how much danger he had actually been in, and that was something he never liked to dwell on, after the fight was over) by studying the ceiling above him. It was high and domed – a deep cobalt blue, luminescent as a skylight. Against this backdrop was a detailed star chart, such as any sailor like himself would recognize, except it was far more detailed than any chart he had seen before. And the stars themselves were no mere symbols, but actual spheres of glowing light, suspended in the intervening space like bubbles caught in glass (Eloise would have recognized it, though Danik could not have known this, as the seed from which Sweetheart's all-encompassing Zero Room had sprung).

The threads of energy finally spread beyond the soles of his feet and the tips of his fingers, receding back into the floor like an ebbing tide, and Danik found he could rise to his feet with his accustomed agility. He wondered if Sweetheart noticed the change in her Pilot, and thought surely she had to – he could only hope for her sake that she didn't realize what it meant: that these were the last moments they would ever spend together.

He quickly banished such bathos from his mind by turning all his attention to the console before him, and how he could ever get it open to replace the mapping circuit.

At first glance that, in itself, seemed patently impossible. In the place where the Doctor's console would have been stood a stone column – it was indeed hexagonal, and its top surface was at about the same height. But there, the similarity ended. Unlike the console in the Doctor's TARDIS, there were no removable panels, not a bolt or screw or hinge to be seen – not even a lever, button, or switch. Instead, the top was covered with deeply carved glyphs. They were clearly Gallifreyan in nature – in shape and form – but unlike either the modern or Old High language the Doctor had tried to teach him. After a moment of staring blankly, Danik realized that he was looking at the equivalent of the various Runic scripts of Earth – probably the ancient, pre-Rassilon alphabet that Electra preferred.

Danik reached out and touched one – and drew his hand back in shock, for the surface was numbingly cold. He reached out again, and this time, he felt the chill rising from its surface before he even touched it.

Another slow, wry smile spread across his face when he realized what Sweetheart was doing. She was playing the old children's game of "hot and cold" – literally. So Danik walked slowly around the console, both hands spread a few inches above its surface, like someone conducting a seance, until he felt the now familiar tingle in his fingertips. After that, it only took a moment for him to pinpoint which glyph gave off the sensation most strongly. He ran his finger along that one, and a panel in the wall behind him slid open with a hydraulic whoosh.

"Bingo!" he said, quietly (but still with an air of triumph), and went over to investigate.

Unlike other parts of the TARDIS, the space beyond the panel was not bigger on the inside (though it was well illuminated with its own ambient light), and Danik found that, like mechanics the cosmos over, he had to get down on his back again, and crawl half inside to see what was there. At first, he despaired at the sight of all the wires and tubes that looked more like a jumble drawer than anything actually engineered to do something. As he looked closer, however, he realized that no two tubes or wires were alike, and the only tube shaped exactly like the mapping circuit he had gotten from the trader was literally right before his nose. He hesitated only a moment before replacing the old tube with the new one. As soon as it clicked into place, he heard the familiar "tha-wump, tha-wump, tha-wump" of dematerialization.

Whatever lay ahead, there was no turning back.

If truth be told, there was a relief in that thought.

It wasn't quite the same thing as leaving port in the still hours of the morning with unknown foes ahead, perils to overcome, and the banner of Ruritania carried bravely at the masthead – there was no lift to the deck beneath his feet, no mist-scent from the water betokening a brassy haze of sun to follow – but his heart had lightened instinctively, as it always did at the start of a voyage. He was committed now. Unknown landfall lay ahead, to an uncertain ending, but the die was finally cast.

No more evasion. No more confusion. A task to be done, a risk to take, a battle to win.

He smiled then, with a flash of humour. Laid a hand on the warm stone of Sweetheart's console in a gesture that was not his own, but that fell into place as naturally as a caress. Sensed the sudden warm tingle in his hand, as if the stone itself were purring, and knew with a pang how deep the bonds of affection ran between this pilot and this TARDIS – how long the ages of loneliness would seem which she had still to live, bereft in one blow of master, of soulmate, and of friend.

He could take Florestan's place, in the flesh, for as long as was needed to play out the quest and gain the knowledge of which they stood in such desperate want. But in that telepathic bond, Danik himself could be no more than a guest – nor would ever have wished to do so.

Three bonds there were which no man might with honour set asunder; between a hound and his master, a lover and his lady, and a captain and his Ship.

He let Florestan's hand lie lightly on the console a moment longer, then straightened unconsciously into a posture that was very much his own, balanced forward on his toes, hands clasped, head cocked slightly like some inquisitive bird. One thing about TARDIS travel he did remember was that once the novelty had worn off, it rapidly became excessively dull. Travelling between dimensions in time and space was all very well, but so far as human perceptions went, it was not called the Void for nothing. He might as well engage in some exploration while they were waiting to arrive.

Magnus: "I hate doing this... Varne, you know what you may have to do."

Varne: "Yes."

[ Darkness and shadow coalesced about Magnus, until where he stood was a man shaped hole in the air. Ice started to form around it's feet. Visible strands of darkness reached out to the party. ]

Allie: "What?"

Electra: "He is calling on what is left of his progenitor's power. Somewhat risky if he wants to stay himself."

Magnus: "I am the hunter, not the hound;
I am the sounder, not the sound.
I am the master of death's despair
I am the lord of earth and air."

[ The form stabilised, the shadow strands dissipating. Varne returned a peculiar looking gun to the saddle bags, with a look of vast relief. ]

Varne: "You did it Lord."

Magnus: " This time, but it gets harder the closer to human I become. Next time may be when you pull the trigger. Varne, hand out weapons to anybody who wants them. "

[ Varne started rummaging through the bags, pulling out various hand weapons. The forms differed but they all looked fairly lethal. ]

Varne: "We have everything from projectile weapons to freezers, take your pick."

[ A tendril of shadow whipped out from Magnus into the landscape. When it returned it was holding a staff. Magnus turned to Charley. ]

Magnus: "Yours, I believe."

Xeffy: "Varne, what was that gun you put away? You haven't got it out with the others...?"

Varne: "Something I prefer not to talk about. Put it this way: if he had failed the binding, someone would have to stop him."

"Ah," said Paul approvingly, "time to bring out the big gnus."

From behind him came the sound of hooves. Turning, he beheld a herd of blue wildebeest, each with a typo gremlin perched on its head.

"Cute," he said sourly. "But I was thinking more along the lines of a GREP Gun."

"And a broadsword for me, if you have one," said Donald.

When Lancelot stepped up he asked, "Have you got an aser blade from my universe?" Varne rummaged around in the bag, and came out with a STAR WARS lightsabre. Lancelot ignited it – its beam was green – took a few experimental swipes, and pursed his lips. "I suppose it'll do ..." he said, dousing it.

"May I?" the Maiden said, stepping forward.

She laid her hands on the gnus and the weapons, one by one, and they shimmered with blue lightning.

The Maiden nodded, and stepped back.

"There. That should serve to distract him – and to deal with any of his servants."

"Distract...?" Cameron said, his stomach sinking.

The castle trembled again.

"In myth," Dominic said, his voice quiet, "Zeus had to drop a mountain on Typhon to stop him – and even that did not kill him. If he can withstand a mountain, he can withstand our weapons. The Fates' fruit, the zaqqum-fruit, condemned him to certain death... but he did not die."

"A mountain?! Where the Hell are we going to get a mountain?"

The Trader poked Lancelot. "If we get one, we'll have to be especially careful not to drop it on you."

Lancelot regarded him, nonplussed. "I appreciate the consideration, but why especially not on me?"

"Then it'd be the Mountain on the Sir."

"We do not need one." the Maiden answered. "We require the strengths we and this world possess. For dream and story are on our side now, with this world returned to me – and for all his power, he does not command them as well as he thinks he does."

Her eyes sparkled.

"And the Fates spoke true, when first he came to Earth. The zaqqum-fruit shall be Typhon's doom. He knows this, knows we command them – and will move to avoid it.

"He expects weaponry, to attack him. He expects fruit, to tempt him. He expects the unpredictable, for he is no fool.

"Be yourselves, the Shining One said, and she spoke truth. He can be defeated, the First told you, and she spoke truth in that. We have skills and talents at our command that he laughs at – but in that laughter shall be his downfall..."

Fastolf's crests expanded and fluttered. The harlequin-scaled reptile loomed thoughtfully up to Magnus's cache of hexed weapons. With one claw he picked up a small, transparent tube which appeared to contain loose wire barbs; with the other, a curious yellowy longsword-like affair, whose blade made a heavy, sickle-like hook at the end. It had flashy, spiky fantasy quillons.

Varne whistled. "You're comfortable with that?"

"Small glory's in't, I grant; but an' it be Melissa-37 compliant as I guess, shall supply our need in this our present emergency."

"It is," said Magnus. "That is an original tactic in the circumstances, but I believe Varne meant the Atlantean khopesh."

"But surely; ne'er have I willingly missed a single episode of Forlorn Troops of the Ocean Sea yet; and 'twere pity indeed should I stray into Captain Nerissa's ficton and give poor account of myself in duel... Nay, in earnest, here we have to do with demon-gods of primal myth, and here I'll count on naught new-fangled for my main force. Bullets won't stop 'em; but older stories are truer, and spell-forged orichalc of eldest Atlantis shall kiss demon-flesh more bitterly than iron, lead, or dureum, else call me poor hack and set me a-scriptwriting Titus Andronicus II: Gothic Payback!!!"

There wasn't much else to do, really. She'd given him a direction at least. Bokman headed down the corridor, wondering what on earth had been going on while he'd been doing his research. He passed the library door, hesitated a moment before dashing back in to grab up an armful of the papers he'd been working on – not that he really needed them, he could have summed the whole thing up in a couple of sentences if he'd only been able to get hold of Eloise to warn her – and set off further into the depths of the TARDIS. Or, at any rate, in a direction that had led further into the depths of the TARDIS the last time he'd been certain where anything was.

It was a very long, straight corridor, and he didn't remember its being there before. He counted about five hundred roundels until the first corner, and lost count after that somewhere around six hundred and thirty-six. It was somewhere quite a long way beyond that when he heard the first faint welcome sounds.

Someone was singing 'The Keel Row' up ahead, without much talent but with great enthusiasm. What sounded like a small orchestra was playing a lively and syncopated accompaniment. And – judging by the sound of laughter and stamping feet – a considerable number of dancers were engaged in rowing the keel very vigorously indeed.

  "Oh, weel may the keel row,
(the keel row, the keel row)
Oh, weel may the keel row,
The ship my laddie's – "

The music faded abruptly, as if a door had closed somewhere. Bokman began to run. But he soon skidded to a halt, looking all round helplessly. There were still no doors to be seen. And wherever the party had got to, it had to be somewhere close by.

He groaned, and thumped the wall in frustration – then jumped back as a small window-like opening suddenly appeared at head height. A pair of level eyes met his own with a slightly surprised expression.

"Oh hello," said Space Guenevere.

She stuck her hand through the opening and Bokman reflexively shook it. "We haven't met. I'm Guenevere of Time and Space."

"Hello. This may be a silly question, but have I missed anything?"

"You're missing a hell of a party," said Guenevere helpfully. This seemed to be true, from what Bokman could see through the small opening and past her. The band was playing a different song now though. In fact it sounded like a different band.

"I have important information about the SKoLD," said Bokman. "Where's Eloise?"

Guenevere grimaced. "If she's gotten involved with the SKoLD too, odds are she's in the fantasy worldlet."

"The what?" Oh, the myth-dimension the SKoLD had created.

"Let's see if I can get you out of the wall safe first." Rather than explain this non sequitur, she shouted back over her shoulder: "Merlin! Front and center!"

She was joined at the corridor window, or whatever it was, by an old man in a beard and Fourth's scarf. Crowding Guenevere in the window, Merlin peered at Bokman and past him into the corridor with amusement. "Bigger on the – "

"He needs to catch up with Eloise and the others," Guenevere explained. "Can you and Ninth do that voodoo you've been doing, and get him out of there?"

"Shouldn't be too much trouble," came a calm dry voice from behind Merlin. To Bokman's occluded view, a disembodied black-sleeved arm seemed to be grabbing for some kind of small device from Merlin, who avoided its sallies only with difficulty while working the settings on the device.

"I can do better than that," Merlin said, distractedly. "With what I've learned – "

"We've learned," said Ninth.

" – about this thing in the past half hour, I ought to be able to send him straight to Fantasyland ..." A final twist, and "There!" The old man addressed Bokman, "Second door on the right. Well, go on!"

Bokman obediently continued down the roundelled corridor under further called encouragement from Merlin. When he came to the second door on the right he opened it, discovering a landscape that looked a lot like that of the animated sequence from 'Mary Poppins'. "This looks like it," he called back. "Thank you!"

He entered, shutting the door behind him. On the other side it seemed to be a free-standing wooden door leading nowhere, like the door into the Platonic ideal of Narnia. Bokman let it distract him only a moment; he had an important message to deliver. But further examination of the landscape once in it didn't reveal any clue which way to find anyone, nor even anyone who might give directions.

Bokman set off in the direction the door faced, saying to himself, "Second door on the right ... and straight on till morning?"

Maid TARDIS tipped her head.

"Someone... Someone has just entered this world."

"Not one of Typhon's...?"

The Maiden shook her head. "No. No. Human. Bokman's mindprint – Bokman!"

"What?! Why?"

"We can ask him later." Sandra said. "Right now, he's out there... along with Typhon."

"Oh no..." Eloise breathed. "Oh no. We've got to get to him... Where is he?"

The Maiden pointed east. "That way."

"Okay. Okay." Eloise thought. "Charley, Fastolf, Silence – can you get out there, get him inside before Typhon gets to him – and if you meet Typhon, don't fight him."

~What about his minions?~ Silence inquired.

"His minions, yes, fight them if you meet any, but don't fight him. Run. Get back here pronto. If those rumbles are anything to go by..."

"Y'know..." Gordon said. "If he is that big, you'd think we'd have seen him by now – it's not that tall a forest..."

Eloise froze as the castle trembled once more. "Oh... dear."


"Milady..." Eloise said quietly. "how big is Typhon?"

"As big as he wishes to be. Were he the size I knew... we would have seen him, have no doubt. He would have towered over this world." Electra said, her voice equally low. "But needs must he enter the castle... so I believe he will choose a size more manageable for that purpose."

"Just outta curiosity," Gordon said. "Y'know, just curious... how big would you say those trees were? At the tallest?"

"About fifty... maybe even a hundred... feet tall?" Ruthie said nervously.

"Joy. Attack of the Fifty-Foot Outer God."

"Then we've still got time – but only a little." Eloise said decisively. "Fastolf – "

The Terileptil nodded. "Shall we make all haste then, for such a beast I have no desire to meet, 'cept within this castle's firm walls.

"Onwards! Onwards to Bokman, stout comrades!"

"Well, Eloise should be easy to pick out of a crowd," Bokman thought to himself as he began to traverse the surreal landscape. The heft of the musty, possibly forbidden book he carried – along with his pages of notes on the myth-engine– was at first a bit much, but something about the air seemed invigorating. Still, he hoped that next year most of the guests would manage to stay in one place.

As he crested the top of a hill, he stopped for breath and looked around. As far as he could tell one feature dominated the skyline – a large castle that glistened in the sunlight.

Castles equal habitation, equalling people, Bok thought to himself, as he started towards the landmark.

Sweetheart's console room – upholstered (or rather not) in what he had irreverently categorised to himself as 'Ascetic Alchemist' mode – proved to offer none of the comfortable easy-chairs favoured by the Doctor. Danik located a distinctly angular couch and sank onto it, forced to admit, to his indignation, that he was more than a little footsore.

If there was one thing of which one could be certain, it was that no two TARDISes were alike. He flattered himself he had at least a passing knowledge of the interior geography of the Doctor's old machine, even if certain rooms did have a habit of getting mysteriously mislaid without explanation. Eloise's Sweetheart, from what little he'd seen of her, favoured a simple, straightforward architecture with all her important rooms out at the front – much like the honesty of the little avocado troll herself.

Florestan's TARDIS, on the other hand – well, if it hadn't been for the beauty of the few rooms he had managed to find, he'd have concluded the Timelord was either scared stiff of outsiders, or else, having somewhere encountered the phrase "a maze of twisty passages, all alike", had taken it all too literally.

In fact, Danik realised with a rueful grin, the ship's layout reminded him of nothing so much as a scholar's study stacked high with papers. Doubtless the owner could lay his hand instantly on anything he wanted; but woe betide the visitor who should seek to disturb the sanctity of those tottering piles in the name of curiosity... He'd found a few gems, anyway.

Not the library he'd been hoping for, and not the vestige of a clue as to what the final piece of the myth-engine might actually be. Florestan might have known, and might not; but he certainly hadn't left himself any helpful hints for posterity.

No, Danik's discoveries had been fruitful on a more purely personal level.

The door that had opened, unexpectedly, onto a little arbour shaded by vast scented plants of a kind he'd never seen before. The vaulted corridor he'd found himself walking down, its floor carpeted with a living moss whose colours glowed jewel-bright in the fading tracks of his boots. The room with walls sheeted entirely with water; or something that looked like water over stone but divided seamlessly at his touch, betraying no resistance save a faint warmth that lingered along the length of his sleeve where he had tried to fathom its depths. A small and niche-lined chamber where lights burned beneath exquisite statues, akin enough to a chapel that he'd almost made the sign of the cross without thinking.

He'd been hoping for some clue as to the Time Lord's personality. He still wasn't sure what, if anything, he had really found out; but his explorer's soul thoroughly approved.

Wincing at the hardness of the couch, Danik stretched out one booted foot. He was even prepared – almost – to forgive Florestan for the ignominy of getting himself lost inside a TARDIS... and for the lack of stamina of this body.

While he hadn't managed to find a mirror either, the speed with which his wanderings had tired him out warned him that however long Timelords normally lived – a question as to which he frankly had no idea – Sweetheart's Pilot had to be fairly close, at least, to regeneration. The choice to set out on this quest could not have been lightly made.

:::For once in your long life, will you learn to take some rest?::: Sweetheart's thoughts were scolding him gently. :::All your roaming around won't make a minute's difference to where we need to go, and you know it. Why can't you just sit quiet for a while, like anyone with sense?:::

Danik wanted to protest that he wasn't used to sitting quiet, and that in any case since arriving at the Hoedown he'd had enough hanging around and waiting for things to happen to last him a lifetime already; but before he could come up with any way to formulate that thought in Florestan's terms, perhaps fortunately, his body betrayed him. The next sound to emerge from the Timelord's direction was nothing more coherent than a gentle snore.

With two or three parts of what humans (for the want of any better term) might have called her vast 'consciousness', Sweetheart watched over her pilot's slumbers. With other parts, spread into such distant dimensions that even she was barely aware of their existence, she was navigating through the vortex in a series of lightning calculations that exceeded the capacity of even her original designer to comprehend. A few stray shreds of consciousness were busy monitoring the mapping circuit that was at once guide and destination, aware to the nearest [indecipherable symbol] of exactly how far/long she had to go, though the actual meaning of that measurement remained completely inexpressible in terms of any of the dimensions in existence outside the Vortex.

Sweetheart, however, was a TARDIS. She knew precisely what it meant.

She would wake Florestan when it was time.

Chapter Twenty-Two – Awakening The Muse

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