To be honest, I’ve always thought that eight years old was a bit young. True, they do say you don’t figure out what it means until later. And, well, yes, but the Untempered Schism? That’s powerful stuff. To anyone. But to a child of eight years? No wonder we all went mad.
My brother, Luris, said it was going to be fine and I trusted him - I could always trust him, far more than my father or anyone else for that matter, ‘til I met Koschei, I guess, though, having said that…anyway, anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. I trusted Luris, but I was scared. He said it was the beginning of my life as a Lord of Time - it would help me to find my Path, my place in the Pattern. Still not entirely sure what he meant.
But he was right. It was a beginning. That was when I met Koschei. Name me a bigger beginning than that. I actually remember our first conversation. He doesn’t - barely. This is a pity because the next time we met, we fought. Still…
I, daydreaming as per usual, had missed the call - everyone else was standing in line, waiting apprehensively to be taken out into the night, to where the Schism leapt, waiting too. Feeling slightly panicky, away from my home and my brother for the first time in my life and head filled with all sorts of horror stories about what would happen if I missed it, I ran down the corridors and half-fell down the stairs to the Hall - and slammed straight into a tall dark-haired boy.
Taken aback by being nearly knocked to the floor by a small, blond hurricane about a head shorter than him, he responded automatically. “S’ok.”
Out of breath, I surveyed the Hall. There was nothing to worry about after all - this year there were sixty-odd children from all around Gallifrey, and realising that lining up was pointless as names were called according to House, they had split off into nervous-looking huddles. But the boy I had just run into was alone.
Feeling his eyes on my back, I turned to apologise again, but he shook his head. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah. Fine. Sorry.” Glancing up at his face - I had to glance *up* - I saw the telltale redness around his eyes. He had been crying. “I’m Theta.” It wasn’t my real name, but my brother - who was a Sage - had told me never, never to tell anyone my real name; he said one day I would understand why - always called me Theta Sigma.
“Koschei,” he replied, eyes furious because he knew I knew he’d been crying and he dared me, dared me to mention it. I felt the strangest tingle down my back, as if he was lying to me. I understand why, now: because it wasn’t his real name either.
I nodded and sat down - just on the floor - and crossed my legs. He kept looking at me as though everything I did was strange to him, so I patted the floor next to me. He sat down; knees up, back leant against the wall. “What do you reckon happens,” he asked after a moment, “in the Schism?”
“Not sure. S’pose it’s a sort of test.”
He looked nervous. “What happens if you fail?”
“You have to go home. And never be a Time Lord.” I had no idea, of course, but I liked to sound sure.
His face crumpled with worry and I instantly felt bad. “My brother says it tells you things.”
“I dunno, your Path or something.”
He paused, frowning. “Sounds like Sage talk.”
“Yeah, yeah, he is a Sage. What did your lot tell you?”
“Not much. Just… not much. Mother was just happy I was going to Initiate.”
“I don’t have a mother.”
Again, that look as if I was the strangest thing he’d ever seen. “Come on, everyone nowadays has a mother. Not Loom-born, are you?” No one was Loom-born any more. Not since the Revolution. Even the supremely authoritarian backlash from the Senate hadn’t reinstated that.
“No. But she had to go away. And Father’s always at the Senate. He’s the Minister for Lungbarrow, you know.” I was the sort of eight-year-old who had no trouble recounting his entire life story to a complete stranger. “So I’ve just got my brother, Luris.”
“Not really. Who’d want someone telling you what to do all the time?” He laughed at that, but the idea stuck. Then they called me - “Lungbarrow!” - and I had to go.
There is nothing more awesome, more terrifying, more powerful, more evil, more beautiful than eternity. Transfixed…no, too small a word…hypnotised, again, too small…
At first all that came was terror. Pure terror. I wanted to turn and run and run and run and never ever stop. But I couldn’t. I was trapped; trapped in that terror, caught in the stare of eternity.
And it showed me such … wonders. My name and what it meant. My soul, the light and the darkness. It gave me the Sight. The Sight of a Time Lord - to see the past, the present, future possibilities - what is fixed and what is not, what must happen, what could, happen, what must not come to pass. The raw power and majesty of it.
And, yes, in that moment, they tried to choose me. In that moment, I did hear the drums. I did feel that glory. I did taste that mastery. All of it, before me. And I knew I could have it, that power. It filled me up and caught in my hearts. It could be mine. All I had to do was reach out my hand…
And I turned. And I ran.