Marion’s driving lessons progressed very much at the same pace as her introduction into Gallifreyan society. The early attempts at mastering the hover controls caused a certain amount of devastation to Lily’s garden. A long stretch of lawn, several hedges and something very much like a weeping willow tree needed emergency attention by the head gardener and Lily and Thedera swore their nerves needed the same.

But she got the hang of it eventually and Thedera sat in the passenger seat as she learnt to negotiate the airlanes in the regulated areas, driving – or should she call it flying, she never quite worked that out – among other vehicles. She managed to do enough of that to satisfy Thedera she COULD do it. But she never really liked it. What she loved was being able to go anywhere she chose in the unregulated air space of the countryside. She gained confidence in her own capabilities and saw more of the beautiful countryside of the Southern Continent.

Finally, Thedera declared that she COULD drive competently and she spent a day in the testing centre on the Northern Continent before being rewarded with her own Gallifreyan driving licence, and with her own car which was delivered to Maison D’Alba the next day.

It was pale blue and looked a little bit like a Saab. And it was HER car. True, Kristoph paid for it. But it was HERS. She actually OWNED something here on Gallifrey. There was a document to prove it. And it was something that gave her a freedom she had never had in her life before.

“Saturday morning, we’ll test it thoroughly,” she said to Kristoph. “I mean Stón morning. I MUST remember to use the Gallifreyan days. But anyway, you be ready. I’m going to come and pick you up and we’re going out for the day. Me and you, together.”

Kristoph smiled. She had NEVER given him an order before. The ownership of a car seemed to confer a power upon her. But he was willing to acquiesce to her.

“Apart from anything else,” she added as she kissed him goodnight that evening. “It will be NICE to be together alone for a whole day. You know, we HAVEN’T really done that since we returned to Gallifrey.”

Early on what was still Saturday morning in one part of her mind, and Stón – pronounced stone – in another, Marion did as she had said. She arrived at Mount Lœng House. Kristoph was ready, dressed casually as he used to dress when they went out at weekends on Earth and sat in the passenger seat. He fastened his seatbelt and smiled as he watched her start the car and smoothly take off into hover mode before the end of the driveway.

“You know, if Lily wanted to be formal about it, she could have insisted on coming with us as chaperone,” he said as she settled the car into cruise mode on the heading she had programmed into the automatic navigation system. “In my grandparent’s time it would be compulsory.”

“Well, we ARE married by Earth law,” she pointed out. “Surely that counts for something?”

“Not in the slightest, I’m afraid. Our laws and customs override all other laws. And yes, that is arrogant of us. We need MORE Gallifreyans travelling beyond Gallifrey and meeting other people, seeing other points of view.

“Why don’t they?”

“We’ve always been an isolationist lot. Once we didn’t allow travel offworld at ALL. This past ten millennia we have been reaching out a little more. The diplomatic work I did was unheard of before then, and the CIA were even more active, because simply LEAVING Gallifrey without permission was a criminal act.”

“That would be when marrying other species was ALSO illegal I suppose?”


“I don’t think I would like this planet then.”

“No,” Kristoph said with a sigh. “You wouldn’t. How do you feel about it now?”

“I’m…” she sighed and didn’t answer his question. He decided it was probably better not to pursue that line.

“I am sorry I haven’t had more time in recent weeks,” he said. “I have been rather busy, starting my work as Magister, and with the management of the estate. It has been strange getting back into Lord of the Manor mode after being Professor de Leon for so long. Coming home has been an adjustment for me, too.”

“I never thought of it like that. But… you’re happy to be home?”

“Yes, I am,” he said. “Are you? Marion? Are you truly happy to be here?”

“Yes,” she said. “Most of the time. And I am very busy, too, with all the social activities.”

“Yes, Lily mentioned that you have a rather full diary.”



“I think that some of the luncheon invitations are to see if I will fall into any more ponds. And a lot of them just want to know if I’ve had any more fights with Idell. I don’t know that I want to be that sort of novelty guest. Lily and I have been turning down almost as many invitations as I have received.”

“That is your privilege, Marion,” he told her. “Choose your circle of genuine friends and don’t worry about the rest. As for Idell… She is much more the laughing stock than you are, and she is not being invited anywhere. Just talked about behind her back.”

“I know. I almost feel sorry for her.”

“Do one thing,” Kristoph said. “Try not to be drawn into the gossip. In the end you will be respected for not indulging in schadenfreude.”

“I am trying to do that,” she answered. Then she fell silent again as she gave attention to her driving. Kristoph watched her proudly. She HAD taken to it well.

They were in the red valleys. Marion drove the car along the course of the slow, meandering river that had, millennia ago, carved out the valley.

“I love this area,” Kristoph said. “The Red Valleys. I used to come here as a youngster, on a hover bike. Me and Jules and Li and Maestro. The four of us daredevils, pushing to the limit of the speed so that the red grass was just a blur in the corner of our eyes as we streaked away.”

“Jules was Lily’s husband? He’s dead, of course. Maestro… another of your friends.”

“Yes. He’s not dead. He’s one of the Brotherhood of Mount Lœng. Another of the contemplative orders, like Renita’s Sisterhood – only for brothers, obviously.”

“Only you left of them, then?” Marion noted. “You don’t have any of your friends with you?”

“I’ve got you now,” he answered, and if Marion had looked around at him she would have seen his smile was one with hidden depths of regret for what could not be changed.

“I like it here in the valleys,” Marion said after another long pause. “It reminds me that I am on another planet.”

“Really? I thought you would rather NOT be reminded of that.”

“At first, I did. I wanted things to feel ‘normal’. I hated to look at the sky. But… I LIKE meeting the ladies of Gallifrey for luncheons and soirées and afternoons and all that. But it feels just a bit TOO normal. It’s a bit dismaying to find that 250 million light years from Earth women STILL gossip about clothes and hats and each other in the same way. The only difference is they don’t have so many glossy magazines and celebrities to talk about. So… YES, it is good to get out here and feel I am no longer on Earth. And it IS so very beautiful here.”

They stopped for rests, and to walk by the river, or sit on the red grass and then travelled much further than the red valleys. Beyond those gentle hills there was a mountain range that had been a purple shadow on the yellow sky all along. By midday, with the sun at its zenith the mountains began to take on depth and texture, even more so as the sun passed the zenith and shadows began to lengthen again. There was snow on the very highest of them, even though it was still only autumn.

“The Mountains of Solace and Solitude,” Marion said. “That’s what the map said they were called. I want to see them close up. They look so beautiful.”

Kristoph looked at the mountains and began to speak, then changed his mind. He reached and pressed a button on the navigation panel of the car and looked at the route she had planned out. Then he began to enter in new co-ordinates.

“What are you doing?” Marion asked. “I set that. I planned out the route with the interactive map.”

“Yes, but there is something you didn’t know. I don’t know why the navigator accepted the route. See that section of it in red. You can’t go there. It’s restricted.”

“What?” Marion glanced at the schematic on the navigation screen. Part of her route through the highest passes between peaks was coloured red, not the green of the rest of the route, but she hadn’t thought anything of it. “What do you mean RESTRICTED?”

“You can’t go through that pass. Neither can I without authorisation. Here, let me change it. There’s a spectacular all year ice cascade you would really enjoy in this section, well away from the restricted zone.”

“I thought…” Marion began. “I mean… its JUST mountains.”

“It’s nothing to worry about,” he assured her. “I’ll tell you about it when we stop for tea. But trust me. We can’t go that way. Remind me later to have a look at the navigator. Its programming is wrong. If you’re going to explore more of the countryside you need to know about these things. I don’t want you getting hurt, or in trouble with the authorities. Or worse.”

Marion was disturbed by the things Kristoph was saying, but she accepted it. After all, she reasoned. There were places on Earth where people weren’t allowed to go. Military bases, prisons, that sort of thing. It was probably nothing more sinister than that.

They came, via the new route that Kristoph inputted, to a valley even deeper and more angular than the soft Red Valleys were. Here it looked as if the ice age had not long ago ended. And there WAS, as Kristoph said, a magnificent ice cascade. It was like a waterfall that was frozen solid except for the very last ten feet or so where it melted into a torrent of cold water that filled a rushing stream.

“Beautiful,” Marion said as she walked by it with Kristoph’s arm around her shoulders. It wasn’t cold, except near the cascade where it chilled the air. There was grass growing and the sun was warm.

“The other place… the restricted one…” Kristoph began.

“You don’t have to tell me. If it’s a secret.”

“No, it’s not a secret as such. But it is dangerous. The portal to eternity is there.”


“That wouldn’t be in any of the books you have read. It’s one of those things we Time Lords know about but we don’t talk about. Because it is a traumatic time of our lives and we’re most of us glad not to think about it.”

“I’m sorry. If it is painful…”

“MOST Time Lords that is the ONLY traumatic time in their lives. I’ve lived a lot more in my lifetimes than most of our dusty senators. What happened when I was eight years old hardly worries me any more.”

“Eight years old…”

“At the age of eight, we are selected for the academies. We don’t JOIN them until later, about twenty or twenty-five depending on family circumstances. But at eight we are tested. By then our psychic abilities are fully formed and we are judged emotionally ready for the test. We are brought up to the valley, one boy – or girl – and one mentor. And we are shown the Untempered Schism. It is a great circle made of metal, as big as a house, inside which a gap in the fabric of reality is harnessed. The child who hopes to be a Time Lord must stand before it and look into eternity…. See the universe from outside, see all of time at once. It’s… terrifying. Some fail. They can’t bear to look. Others find a space in their heads to encompass it. Some… a very few… are badly affected by it. They never get to the Academy. Never become Time Lords. A very rare few are SO affected that their minds are skewed… damaged. It’s… Well, I don’t know what happens to them. There is a rumour that they go to the Academy too, and become politicians. Because here as on Earth it IS said that you have to be mad to do that job!”

Marion laughed at his joke. But she was still trying to imagine what he had described.

“You went through that?”


“What was it like?”

“I felt as if my hearts were on fire. And my head, too. I felt… as if I wanted to reach out and touch the universe, run from the beginning of time to the end. I was inspired. Most of us are, I think. Though I have never really ASKED any other Time Lord, not even my friends. The ones it affects the other way…. I don’t know. But I pity the ones who look and see only darkness. Because the light that I saw was… like Heaven is supposed to be for your species, only 100 times greater than that.”

“Wow.” Marion was silent for a while, thinking about it. Then she thought of something else.

“Kristoph… when we have a child… will he… or she… Our child will be part Human. Will he be able…”

“Our child will be a Time Lord, Marion. Yes.”

“You’re certain of that?”

“Yes,” he answered. “I am sure. You will be the mother of a Time Lord. Maybe more than one. Take no notice of the mean things that people say about mixed race marriages. You and I will be proud of our children in the fullness of time. And yes, they will face the Schism and see the light, see the joy of it, as I did. I promise you. And you KNOW I always keep my promises.”

Marion nodded. He DID keep his promises as long as it was possible for him to do so. But she did wonder if that WAS a thing he COULD promise.

She put it in the back of her mind and tried not to let it spoil her day. She looked up at the ice cascade. On Earth there was no way it could still be frozen in a valley that was warm and temperate. This WAS another planet, after all.

“I promised we would be home before midnight,” she said. “Lily will start worrying if I don’t. So… let’s have tea and then we can go a little bit further before we turn around and head back.”

A picnic tea on red grass by an ice cascade in a mountain range that contained a place where reality schismed!

On a a planet that she was starting to call home.