Love and War
by Paul Cornell
They came to the Great Wheel, in the middle of the glade. The Wheel was a huge wooden table which continually rotated on a pivot. In its centre was imbedded a sword, and the shadow of the sword turned around the table depending on what time it was in Puterspace.
They had made their way there through their individual battles. Jan had faced the Trickster again, who'd asked what he knew about card games. Christopher had been scared by the Mother Goddess, who taunted him about being neither a man nor a woman, and Maire and Roisa had to fare the Whole Inhumanity Of Humanity, for the twentieth time.
"It is time for us to look at the future..." Christopher, in his long robes, sat slowly down in his seat. He was finely-chiselled, bald and tatooed, his face not quite of either sex. "Join me, Maire"
Maire, who had sat down, reached across to touch palms with Christopher. Her mass of hair was bound in dreadlocks, and she wore a simple black robe. She was the Priestess of the Travellers, as Christopher was their Priest. "We spin the possibilities, and see what the Goddess knows about us, beyond what we are. Let the first god appear."
It was Eros, in a male form: a golden waistcoat and centre-parted fair hair. "You're getting complex, aren't you?" he sighed. "Love all over the place. A new lover for Jan..."
"What a surprise!" muttered Roisa, frowning. fan looked down at his boots.
"Nobody will remain quite together. Things will get stirred up and shattered. Listen, if I tell you more, you'd avoid it, and you really don't want to. That's the nice thing about me, I'm always tight!"
Maire nodded to Roisa as the god vanished. "He certainly is..." she smiled.
The second god appeared on the centre of the table. It was Diana, the goddess of women and wild places. Maire, Roisa, Fiona and the other female Travellers instantly knelt. "We welcome you, Protector Of Women," Maire whispered.
"Oh, do get up, please!" Diana snapped. "We haven't time for pleasantries. I'm just in front of Her, and I have to tell you, someone is going to be terribly hurt. When he arrives, don't let him be involved with you, don't let his steward near you. Jan, you do have a choice, you can -"
And Diana was swept away in a flutter vf owls' wings. A sudden shadow burst across the table, and a coldness. The Travellers looked up, and there was Death.
Death looked around them all with an indulgent smile. She was wrapped in vast robes, but wore red hair that day. "My children..." she told them. "Three quarters of you shall join me soon."
There was a gasp from the assembled Travellers in their colourful Puterspace forms.
Jan jumped up, pulling his sword from its sheath. "Shall I?!" he yelled. "Is that me you're talking about?!"
"Hush!" Maire raised her hand.
"That's not allowed. You know that."
"So how shall I know, then?!"
"You won't.. " Death grinned directly at Jan, and the warrior slowly sat down. "Time's Champion is on his way. My old friend, who has danced with me on the surface of Earth's moon, and bargained with me so many times. He brings his steward, also, as a sacrifice. He will change all your lives, indeed, most lives on this world. Be kind to him, won't you?"
And then Death was gone.
"What did she mean?" Roisa asked, hugging herself.
Christopher turned his head slightly. "So high a number... Perhaps we should leave this place"
"No," Roisa ran a hand back over her cropped hair. "No, we need to stay in one place a while, let the children grow a bit. You know how unreliable Death is. And besides, how can we avoid what she has for us?"
"This is a matter for greater debate," Christopher decided. "We must let all the tribe have their say, and see where the group-will takes us. We should not have any part in another war"
Far away in the virtual reality of Puterspace, something was watching the Travellers at their table. It was an ancient thing, powerful and plotting. And it knew that its moment was fast approaching. When the Travellers had grown content and unworried again, in a few months time, then would be the time to strike.
Professor Bernice Summerfield swung her satchel low across the grass,
cutting the heads off several mushrooms. One hand was stuffed into the
pocket of her chinos, the other was spinning and toying with the bag.
Elsewhere, Operative James Miller stared at the trooper who stood in
front of him at attention. "Are you having me on, lad?" he growled.
Far away in time and space, deep in the butterfly tunnel of the spacetime
vortex, a police box that was not a police box flew past time and space.
Source: Doctor Who Magazine #192