right of passage

'Listen, younglings, and listen well – for I am Leela, warrior of the Sevateem, and I have a tale to tell you. A tale of death and pain and sorrow, of wrath and bitter terror. A tale so harrowing, so hung with horror and blood and fear, that you may quake in your cots as you sleep this sundown, lest the night spirits take you and rend you from the protection of your fathers’ spears and the comfort of your mothers’ dugs. 

'For this is a tale of the Evil One!'

'Yes, the Evil One! I have met him, younglings, I have met him! He came in the night and took me into his realm! Showed me wonders and horrors and monsters and ghouls! Made me eat babies with him! Yes, quake, younglings, quake! For the Evil One may one day take you too! The height of two men, with fangs that drip venom and claws caked with the blood of the innocent, with eyes like red coals, burning evil in the dark, with…. ow! Ow! Ow! Let go! Ow!' 


I entered the Tardis’s console room, towelling my hair. The Doctor was standing over the console, staring intently at one of the demons that he had imprisoned within it. He looked up. 

'Hallo,' he said, grinning. For a moment, I tensed. His face was that of the Evil One, with maddened eyes and enough hair for three men, and he was baring his teeth. At any moment he might eat me! Before I could remind myself that he was actually the Doctor and now my friend, my knife was out and I had coiled myself ready to spring at his throat. 

'Ah,' he continued, his grin not dropping for a moment. 'Put that away, Leela, there’s a good girl. You could scratch the hat-stand. Who’d want a scratched hat-stand? Someone with a scratched hat, I suppose…' 

I straightened, and tried to regain my dignity. 'I have taken,' I said, 'a… a ba… a ba…' 

'A bath,' he finished for me. 'Well done!' 

'I do not approve,' I said. 'My ears have water in them. And my scent has changed. I smell like the flower of the Joplin tree. Disgusting! And my tunic…' 

'What about your tunic?' 

'It is heavy now. And it squelches. How can I hunt an enemy in a tunic that squelches?' 

'Squelches?!' he said, his grin at last vanishing. 'You mean, you didn’t take it off?' And then the grin returned. 'Never mind,' he said. 'It’ll save on laundry, at least. And it won’t squelch for long.' 

Suddenly, on the console, one of the captive demons started to shout. Meep!it said. Meep! Meep! Meeeeeeep! And as it shouted, it made fire beneath the small glass dome that roofed its prison. On, off. On, off. On, off. 

The Doctor turned back to study it. 'Now, that shouldn’t be happening,' he said. 

'What is it?' I asked. 'Is the demon still sad?' 

The Doctor turned back to me, confused. 'The demon? What demon?' 

'The one that you have captured and caged there. The one that is shouting and lighting fires.' 

'It’s a warning light, Leela, not a demon. Accompanied by a warning beep.' He looked at me curiously. 'Why do you think it’s sad?' 

'Because you have imprisoned it in the console. To console it, I supposed.' 

'Ah! Of course!' 

I smiled, pleased with myself. 'So I am right?' 

'Right?' the Doctor demanded, as he turned his back on me and concentrated on the console. 'No, of course you’re not right. You’re a tech-3 savage from a primitive jungle planet, and you’ve just worn your tunic in the bath. What would you know about warning lights?' 

He looked back at me again. 'But you’re making a terribly clever job of guessing,' he said. 'I’d much rather be clever than right, any day of the week.' And his eyes sparkled. I liked it when his eyes sparkled. 

'So, this… warning light,' I asked. 'What does it mean?' 

'I’m not sure,' the Doctor replied, turning back. 'But there’s something wrong. Something happening not quite the way that time thinks it should. A temporal inversion?' 

He stood up straight, and gazed, silent and stock still, into the middle distance for a moment. Another moment. And another. I was about to take his shoulder and shake him, when he suddenly whirled around towards me and stared, very intently, into my eyes. 

'And I think it may have something to do with you, Leela,' he said. 

The house-mother does not let go of my ear, no matter how much I struggle and hit at her. She simply pulls me along by it, away from the cowering younglings sitting cross-legged and terrified on the child-house floor, and over to the corner of the room. 

'Let go!' I shout. 'Leave me alone! I am Leela, warrior of the Sevateem, and…' 

'You are not, young lady!' the house-mother hisses at me grimly. 'You are Leela, very naughty girl of the Sevateem, and I shall tan your hide for you if there’s any more nonsense!' 

'I am a warrior! I am of age!' 

'Tomorrow,' the house-mother replies. 'Tomorrow is your twelfth planet-cycle, and you shall achieve menarche like your mother before you and her mother before that. Tomorrow, you’ll be an adult. Today? Today you’re in my care, and you’re scaring the younglings with your stories.' 

'I’m going to be a warrior!' I shout again, hitting out at her. But she holds tight onto my ear at arm’s length, and I cannot reach her. 

'That’s as maybe,' she says. 'If you survive the Rite and Xoanon deems it to be. Or you could win the big prize and be made a house-mother.' 

I stick my tongue out at her. She ignores me and continues. 'Today, you’re a child, and you’re telling tall stories, and you’re going to need this mop.' 

She holds out a mop. I snatch it from her angrily, and look at it with doubtful eyes. 'Why does a warrior need a mop?' 

The house-mother smiles. It is a mean little smile and I do not like it. 'Most of us, Leela, fill the latrines from our backsides. But your warrior’s words sound like they live there too, so you can spend the afternoon slopping out.'


'Why are you doing this?' I asked impatiently, as the Doctor waved his wand, his sonic screwdriver, in front of my face. Its noise rasped at my ears. 

'I’m scanning you,' he replied. 'I need to find out what’s wrong.' He stopped, and scrutinised the screwdriver. 'Fascinating!' 

'What is fascinating?' I demanded. 

'There’s a temporal inversion focused around you, Leela,' the Doctor replied. 

'Something in your past that cannot – or can only – happen because you’re here in the Tardis with me. A paradox – but what?' He saw the confusion on my face. 'Like a storm. A storm in time and space, with you at its eye. I wonder…' 

I craned around to take a look at the wand, but all I saw was the same as the rest of the Doctor’s Tardis: a nonsense of flashes and beeps. I sighed. The Evil One could take the Doctor’s talk of storms: I was beginning to regret stealing on board. It had seemed exciting at the time, but that was three days past, and we still hadn’t done anything other than sit around here. It was almost as if he were waiting for me to do something. Testing me. I sighed again. 'Can’t we go somewhere?'

'Hm?' the Doctor replied, absently. 'Go somewhere? Oh, all right then. Where would you like to go?' 

I smiled, excited. 'Just… somewhere! Somewhere different! Somewhere new! Take me to… a city! I should like to see a city!' 

The Doctor straightened up, and pulled a lever on the console. Immediately, the large, coloured column in its centre ceased rising and falling, and the groan of the machine receded. 

'Here we are then,' the Doctor said. 'We’ve landed. Somewhere.' 

I gasped. 'Just like that?' 

'Just like that.' 

'Then… why have you not performed that landing ritual before?!' 

'Well, you’ve never asked before.' 

It was my intention at that point to strangle him. Just a little. But before I could he swiftly performed another ritual with the console which caused the doors to open wide. He knew it would distract me. 

Laughing, I ran through them. To somewhere! 

As quietly as I can, I push the furs back from my cot, and slowly, so slowly, swing my legs out. I have feigned sleep quite successfully, and now the house-mother herself is snoring on the other side of the room, oblivious to my scheme. It is safe for me to leave. 

The night is half done and thus at its darkest, and in the child-house there is no light at all. I have to navigate by memory – here a youngling’s cot to avoid, there a food basket, over by the wall a sleeping Spine weasel – but this I manage with ease. I tried to tell her, the house-mother: I am a warrior of the Sevateem! And a warrior needs no sense other than her own cunning. 

I’ll show her! 

Silently I pull back the door hanging, and slip out into the gloom. Outside the going is easier. Despite the lateness of the hour, the moons are high and their light makes shadows of the plants and huts, defining at least in part the edges of the forest paths. I pull the kitchen knife I had hidden in my tunic from its hiding place, and heft it. Lower myself to the ground a little, so that the shadows hide me that much better, and silently move forward. Away from the settlement, and out into the jungle. 

Tomorrow is due to be my Rite, my journey to adulthood. To slay a Bemmoth beast and become a warrior, should Xoanon will it. But everyone knows, the Bemmoth beasts hunt at night – and if Xoanon is otherwise distracted tomorrow, and no beast awakes at the sound of the hunting drums, my chance will be over for another year. Far better I take the Rite now, when the beasts are abroad, than suffer a planet-cycle's further humiliation at the house-mother's hand. I am a warrior of the Sevateem, I am of age, I choose when I hunt! And I choose now! 

I take a deep breath, and grip the knife tighter. My hand is shaking a little. Excitement. Not fear: excitement! My first hunt! I steel myself, and set off into the unknown forest.
I’ll show all of them!


I turned, furious, towards the Doctor, as he came out of the Tardis and closed its doors behind him. 

'This is not a city!' I shouted. 'This is not somewhere!' 

The Doctor looked around. 'Well…' he said, the word long and drawn out, '…it is somewhere. Just not a somewhere you wanted, you see.' 

Indeed it was not. Rather than a city, teeming with people, he had brought us to the darkest night hour of a sleeping jungle. A jungle thick and undiscovered, to look at it: in every direction were trees, vines, plants; and in no direction a path or even a gap in the undergrowth, let alone a person or a road or these starbucks of which he had told me. 

My eyes had accustomed to the gloom now, and I realised that in fact there was more light than I should have expected. I looked up to the forest canopy, and spied through the leaves the source of the light. A moon. No, wait… 

Three! Three moons! Which could only mean… 

'You have brought me home!' I seethed again, my anger pushing the words from my mouth in a furious hiss. 'This is not somewhere! I am home! Twenty planet-cycles it took me to escape, and you have brought me straight back! Why would you do that?!' 

'Not quite home,' the Doctor said, 'but it is your planet, yes. This is where and when the temporal inversion originates, you see. Don’t you want to find out what’s going…?' 

'Quiet!' I hissed, clamping my hand over his mouth, and cocking my head in order to better hear the voice of the jungle. I had sensed something. The hunter’s ear is always alert, and there had been a noise. Almost inaudible, but a noise nonetheless. 

There it was again! In the distance, but getting closer. Something was coming this way.

'Mmmph!' the Doctor protested from beneath my palm, but it simply made me tighten my grip all the more. 

'Quiet!' I hissed again. 'Something is approaching. And it is dangerous this deep in the jungle at night. The Bemmoth beasts hunt at this time!' 

He protested more, but this was my domain and I was not about to relinquish control to him. I roughly pushed him down to the ground, my hand still clamped across his mouth, and crouched down beside him. 

A minute passed. Another. The thing drew closer. Throughout I could hear the sound of twigs cracking underfoot, branches being pushed to one side, as it made its way. It was either a dumb prey-beast of the forest that was too stupid to keep itself hidden at night, or the youngest, clumsiest of hunters on his first foray into the jungle. And probably his last. 

Suddenly, branches to our side rustled violently and a figure burst into the clearing. A girl dressed in animal skins, no more than eleven or twelve planet-cycles in age, wielding a toy knife. She smelt a little of latrines. 

The girl stopped and stared at the Tardis, and then at me and the Doctor, dumbfounded. And it took me a moment to realise who I was looking at. My hand fell away from the Doctor’s mouth, and I stood up in shock. 'That’s… that’s…' 

'Yes,' the Doctor said. 'Yes, she is. I’ve been trying to tell you: we’re a bit early.' 


The hunt has not been going well, though I have no idea why. I have been as stealthy as a Spine weasel, and twice as quiet. There is no way that a prey-beast could have heard me coming. And yet, none were to be found – not a baby Groat has crossed my path, let alone a Bemmoth beast. 

But all of a sudden something happens to drive all thought of the hunt from my mind. One moment I am pushing – silently! – through the undergrowth, the next I find that I have broken through into a small clearing. And there in front of me, on the far side, is the strangest thing I have ever seen: a tall, blue box, made of some kind of wood and sporting characters like those used by the cursed Tesh in their arcanery. I stop and examine it for a moment: a thing of wonder and beauty, and like nothing I have ever seen before. 

Suddenly there is a movement, and to my surprise I realise that there are people crouching in the undergrowth before it. 

One is a woman dressed in hunter’s leathers. She rises, and stares at me. She is beautiful, and her scent is most strange, like the Joplin tree. For some reason, though, her leathers squelch as she moves. She is obviously not a warrior, wearing squelchy leathers.