Marion felt nervous and uncomfortable, and not a little afraid.

Uncomfortable in the heavy Gallifreyan gown in deep red fabric. It was very beautiful, but it felt like a costume, not clothes for everyday wear and she could not imagine wearing it to meet Kristoph’s mother in their home on Gallifrey.

She was nervous and afraid because she was going to Gallifrey.

“It’s all right, Marion,” Kristoph assured her. He took her hand in his as they came out of the vortex in orbit above a reddish looking planet with two huge continents, one of which seemed to be all desert.

“Immigration control wants to know how many non-Gallifreyans are aboard,” Remonte told Kristoph.

He sighed and went to the communications console.

“One non-Gallifreyan. My fiancée. She will not be going through the usual channels. This TARDIS capsule is scheduled to land at our home on the Southern Continent where I am urgently needed. The normal formalities will be by-passed. Please raise the Transduction Barrier and let us through.”

“What was that about?” Marion asked as he returned to her side and Remonte completed the landing.

“Pettifogging officialdom. I am not waiting all day at the space port at the Capitol to get the right visas approved for you. My father’s health is more important.”

“I didn’t realise I needed a passport to come here.”

“You don’t. As my fiancée you are welcome to Gallifrey. You ARE a citizen in all but a few formalities.”

“It helps to have a High Council member in the family,” Remonte pointed out. “Otherwise we would ALL be waiting in immigration control.”


The TARDIS materialised and Marion prepared to step out onto the soil of Kristoph’s home world. The home of the Time Lords.

It wasn’t TOO bad, she thought as they walked down the driveway that was a tunnel of tall trees whose branches met in the middle. Trees were something she understood. Even if the branches and leaves looked silver.

And the house that came into view at the end of the tunnel was beautiful. It looked like a Georgian mansion with great sweeping steps leading up to an arched doorway under an ionic portico.

What threw her was the realisation that this was no historic mansion open to the public, but Kristoph’s actual family home. He actually lived in a house where a butler opened the door and housemaids curtseyed to him in the hallway.

Where a butler bowed his head to her and called her madam and the maids bobbed into a curtsey again for her before coming to take the cloak she wore over the gown.

“Chrístõ Mian!” At the top of the elegant staircase a woman appeared. Marion recognised her as Aineytta, Kristoph’s mother. He stepped forward as she descended the stairs and embraced her lovingly. “Oh, my dear son.”

“Mama,” Kristoph said in a voice filled with emotion.

“You must go to your father presently,” she said to him. “But first…” She looked at Marion. “You brought her to us, at last.”

“Yes, I did,” Kristoph said. “Mama, please meet my fiancée, Marion.”

“My dear child,” Aineytta said, reaching to embrace Marion. “I have so longed for the day that you would be here in this house. I am sorry that the circumstances are so…” She stopped speaking and her eyes blinked rapidly and became glassy.

“I am sorry to hear that your husband is ill,” Marion told her. “I hope he will get better soon.”

“We all do, my dear,” she said. She turned to her two sons. “Go to him. I will take care of Marion.”

At that, Kristoph and Remonte hurried up the stairs, looking like men who would run if they were not required to keep a certain dignity about them. Aineytta took Marion by the hand through to a huge, beautifully appointed drawing room with a real log fire burning in the fireplace.

“We live in a traditional way here,” Aineytta said. “In the Capitol thermic heat warms the apartments and offices. But here in the countryside, we can enjoy the majesty of a real fire and the comforts of civilised life.”

“It… is very nice,” Marion said. “I didn’t realise JUST how rich Kristoph is.”

“He is the heir of our noble Oldblood House,” Aineytta answered her as the butler appeared with a pot of a very delicious herbal brew that served the same function as tea such as Marion knew it, but didn’t taste quite the same. For a while they said nothing more. On the videophone, Marion had no difficulty talking to Aineytta. But face to face she felt tongue-tied and awkward.

“It’s all right, my dear,” the lady of the house said at last. “You’re allowed to feel a little bewildered. This is all so new to you. And this was not how I imagined you coming to us. In the midst of a crisis.”

“How did you…” she began.

“I thought to welcome you as my son’s bride, with all honour bestowed on you as you take your place as mistress of this house and I able, at last, to retire to the Dower House and devote my time to caring for my beloved husband and his needs.”

“Oh,” Marion wasn’t sure what to say in reply to that. “You mean if Kristoph and I were married, you and your husband would not be…”

“My son should have inherited centuries ago by rights,” Aineytta told her. “The nature of his work made it impossible for him to take on the burden of patriarchy. He was away so often and in dangerous situations. But if he is to take a wife, then there is no question. He will be the Lord de Lœngbærrow, and you his Lady de Lœngbærrow. And all this would be yours.”

“Mine?” Marion laughed hysterically. “This house… I was born in a terraced house with only two bedrooms and a backyard no bigger than this room as its only ‘garden’.”

“So was I,” Aineytta told her. “I was a housemaid like those girls fluttering around here now. Chrístõ Dé Luan fell in love with me and before I knew it I was the Lady wearing fine silk and satin and running the household.”

“But…” Marion began. She didn’t know what to say. “Oh…”

“It will all be just fine,” Aineytta assured her. “Marion, at least understand that you ARE an honoured guest in this house and you have all of our love. If there is anything I can do for you…”

“Oh, please. Don’t worry about me,” Marion protested. “You must think of your husband right now. He is ill and we’re talking about… about things that really DON’T matter at all.”

“They WILL matter in the future,” Aineytta told her. “If my husband does not recover from this illness the future will be very much closer than any of us planned.”

Marion started to ask what she meant, but the drawing room door opened and the butler begged Aineytta’s pardon and told her she was needed upstairs.

“I’m sorry, me dear,” she said to Marion. “Caolin, please see that our honoured guest is comfortable.”

At that, she swept out of the room. Caolin stood very formally like Marion always imagined a butler would stand and seemed waiting for her to speak.

“Is…” she began and then stopped. “I mean… can you…”

“I am at your service, madam,” Caolin told her. “Anything you require…”

“I require… I mean… I need something that feels NORMAL. I feel so…” She sighed. “Is it possible to get an ordinary cup of tea?” she asked.

“Tea, madam?”

“It’s….” she looked at the pot on the table. It was just the same as an Earth teapot. They obviously understood the idea. But tea as she understood it didn’t grow on this planet. “What happened to our luggage when we arrived?” she asked.

“The footman and I had them brought upstairs,” he answered. “Your bags are in the guest suite, madam.”

“Could you… or the footman or… I don’t know whose job it is… Could somebody look in the blue bag. There’s a small paper package… it’s red and green with a picture of a woman picking leaves from a plant. You put three or four spoonfuls of it in the pot and add hot water and let it brew for a few minutes.”

“I will see to it personally, madam,” he said and he bowed to her and backed out of the room. Marion sat quietly, aware of the quiet noises of the room. The fire crackling, a big clock over the mantle ticking. She looked at the clock. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon.

She looked away and then she looked back at the clock. She stood up and looked at it closer.

She wasn’t imagining it.

There were thirteen hours on the clock.

She went to the window and looked out. It all looked fairly normal out there. There was a formal garden with a fountain in the middle and flower beds. Beyond it there seemed to be meadows, and beyond that trees. A tall mountain rose up beyond the trees. It WAS very much countryside as Aineytta had said. Very beautiful. The sky was a sort of greyish yellow and it was raining softly. That meant she couldn’t see the sun to see what it was like. But she knew it rose in the west and set in the east because Kristoph had said so.

She was on an alien planet where people had never heard of tea, and where there were 26 hours in the day and the sun came up the wrong way.

But at least it rained in the ordinary way, she thought.

“Madam.” She turned from the window, realising as she glanced at the strange clock that she had been standing there, day dreaming, for a full fifteen minutes. She hadn’t even heard the butler come back into the room with a silver tray.

“Your tea, madam.”

Caolin placed a fresh pot on the low table and took away the old pot. She sat down and poured out a cup. There was, to her surprise, a jug of milk and sugar. It was a brownish sugar not the white she was more used to, but it WAS sugar. There was also a plate of biscuits of some sort.

“I understand that is correct,” Caolin told her. “If there is anything else…”

“The tea is fine,” she said. “But… I don’t know if it is your place to say… please forgive me if I get the etiquette wrong. But… Kristoph’s father… His Lordship… Is that right? How ill is he? Will he be all right?”

“His Lordship is suffering a poison of the blood, madam,” Caolin told her.

“He was poisoned?” She was rather alarmed at the idea.

“Not on purpose, madam,” Caolin assured her. “He suffered an injury while out inspecting the mines and because of his great age the repair of the flesh was less successful than in a younger man. Septic poison set in and made him ill. But his physicians are doing all they can and now his two sons are both present there is much hope.”

“Thank you for explaining it to me,” Marion said.

“If you need anything more,” Caolin told her. “Ring the bell.”

“Yes,” she said. Though she knew in a million years she could not ring a bell and summon a servant. Caolin backed out of the room again. She wished he could have stayed and talked to her, but she supposed he had other work to do. She poured a cup of tea and drank it. The taste was reassuring. She tried the biscuits and found them very tasty and remarkably filling. She felt a little better for the small home comfort.

But even so, it was a lonely evening for her. Caolin replenished the teapot several times, but otherwise nobody else came near her. She heard the butler or the footman go to the front door twice and from what she could overhear it seemed to be more physicians. But she was left to her own devices in the quiet drawing room.

The sun had set and night was drawing in when a last visitor arrived. And she heard Kristoph’s voice greeting this one. Then the drawing room door opened. Kristoph came in with an elegant woman of about sixty years of age by Earth measure, dressed in a long white gown that shone with silvery threads woven into the fabric. She had silver hair, too, and the effect, even though she WAS elderly, was beautiful. In her presence, Marion felt as if she had reverted to the graceless, mousy girl she had been when she first met Kristoph.

“Marion, my dear,” Kristoph said, kissing her on the cheek lovingly. “I am sorry you have been abandoned these past hours.”

“That’s all right,” she told him. “I understand. Your father must come first.”

“My father has to have an operation,” he told her. “All of his blood must be replaced by fresh, clean blood. Remonte and I, as his sons, have the same blood. We will give half each to him.”

“Oh, Kristoph,” Marion gasped. “But… isn’t it dangerous? Half…”

“A healthy Gallifreyan can replace lost blood in minutes, remember,” he said. “But my father cannot. It is the only thing that will save him.”

“Then you must, of course,” Marion said. “Oh, but… I will be so worried.”

“You must not worry,” Kristoph told her. “That is why Lily is here. Marion…” He took her hand and placed it in the hand of the graceful lady. “This is Lady Lilliana D’Alba D’Argenlunna. Lady Lily to those who know her, Lily to those of us who love her. She is a very dear friend of mine and I know she will be yours, too. I have asked her if she would take you to her house for the night, where you will find brighter company than here.”

“Oh,” Marion was surprised by that idea, but not wholly displeased. There was so much anxiety in this house and she had felt all along that she was in the way.

“You will be most welcome,” Lily told her with a warm smile.

“There now,” Kristoph said. He gathered her in his arms and kissed her lingeringly. “That will keep me warm this night,” he told her. “I shall see you tomorrow, when there is news, one way or another.”

And then he was gone back to his father’s sick room. Lily smiled again and took her by the arm. A footman appeared with her luggage and she was swept out of the house and into a car that Marion knew had to be the Gallifreyan equivalent of a Rolls Royce.