Marion and Rosanda wandered around the silk merchants of the great market of Xiang Xien feeling cloths and testing their quality. Rosanda could tell almost at a glance the best quality fabrics, but she would always run a length through her fingers to be certain it was good.

“This one looks very nice,” she told Marion. “But it’s poor quality silk. Look at the weft threads. This would fall apart after wearing it once.”

“I very rarely wear a gown more than once, anyway,” Marion pointed out. “You make me so many nice new ones. But I wouldn’t want to buy shoddy goods. Shall we try another stall?”

“Yes, we should do that,” Rosanda said. “I would like to find a really good blue silk satin. Something with strong colour dyed deep into the threads before they were woven. I have in mind a gown that would suit you perfectly.”

Rosanda outlined the vision she had in mind for the gown Marion would wear to the first summer garden party of the season – at Lady Lily’s house. It sounded perfect for the occasion. If only they could find the right fabric. And surely, here in this market full of beautiful colours and different kinds of silk they would find what they wanted.

They did, at last, and Rosanda showed another skill of hers as she fell to haggling for the best price. Marion freely admitted she couldn’t do that. It wasn’t that she had no confidence in herself, but she really found the whole process of beating down a stall holder over the price of a silk poplin just a little frightening.

When Rosanda and the stallholder got down to a fair price, she opened her handbag and took out money to pay for the goods. One of her manservants stepped forward to take the heavy bolt of cloth wrapped in tissue paper. Marion told him to take it to the TARDIS and he could enjoy the market place for himself after that. They were going to spend some time in the spice and perfume sections and then go for tea. They would not need a servant with them.

“I can never get used to having a servant to carry things for me,” Marion said. “I don’t bother when I go to Liverpool in the Portal. People would think it odd if I wandered around Tescos with a liveried footman walking behind me. But Kristoph insisted that I have somebody with me for doing the heavy carrying here on Xiang Xien.”

There was another man not far away from them at all times, too. The two women had been told not to look at him directly, or to acknowledge that he was there. But they knew he was around at all times. He was a Celestial Intervention Agency man, protecting them.

Protecting them against what, Marion had asked.

“White slavers and kidnappers,” Kristoph had answered. “It goes on a lot on this planet. So if you want to see the sights, you take an experienced man with you. Close protection. If I wasn’t busy I would be right by your side. But I am ties up all day negotiating with the Mandarin to establish the first Gallifreyan consulate on Xiang Xien. The first consulate of any kind. It has been a closed community ever since the people first broke contact with the Earth Federation. This is important for Gallifrey. It could be good for Xiang Xien, too. But if you get kidnapped in the spice market….”

“I won’t be,” she had assured him. And she did as he asked, making sure the CPO was in sight of her at all times, not doing anything deliberately to lose him, and keeping the panic alarm he gave her in her pocket where she could reach it at all times.

The spice market was a busy place, but she managed to do as Kristoph asked of her. She and Rosanda made full sure that the man was there at all times. They also did something else he asked of them, though. They tried not to worry about his presence and to enjoy themselves. Afterwards, they went to a bright, well-lit restaurant where a kindly-faced oriental man brought them to their table and gave them menus to choose from.

Rosanda enjoyed it very much. It was only her third ever trip offworld from Gallifrey, and the other times had only been to Karn and Polafrey. And in addition to that excitement, she was travelling as a ‘lady’. Here on the Human colony planet of Xiang Xien, she was Marion’s equal. They were two ladies of money and position and they were given all due respect from everyone they met.

“Nobody here thinks I am a Caretaker,” she commented. “The waiter… he actually bowed to me, just as if I was an Oldblood.”

“They don’t know I’m from 20th century Earth,” Marion added. “We’re both ladies of Gallifrey.”

“If this was the Conservatory, we could not say that,” Rosanda pointed out. “The REAL Ladies of Gallifrey would be upset.”

“The Conservatory is not just open to people of aristocratic birth,” Marion said. “One of these days, we should lunch there. I will introduce you to some of my friends…. Lady Haddandrox, for instance, and Isolatta Braxietel. They wouldn’t look down at you, Rosanda.”

Rosanda shook her head.

“No, it would be too much,” she said. “I would feel….”

She couldn’t really describe how she felt, but Marion thought she understood. She had felt that way herself, at first. But for her acceptance came eventually. She WAS, whether some people liked it or not, Lady de Lœngbærrow. Rosanda was the wife of their butler. She was a bright, intelligent and talented woman, but her social status could never change, no matter what she did.

“Well, what if you lunched with us one day at Mount Lœng House,” Marion suggested. “There would be no need for anyone to be nervous. You would be enjoying lunch in what is your own home as much as it is mine.”

“Perhaps,” Rosanda managed to say. “I enjoy lunching with you when we talk about the gowns I am making. Maybe it wouldn’t be so difficult to talk to your friends there. But… let’s not think of it now. I am enjoying being away from Gallifrey. This planet is very beautiful. And it has so many people in it. The market was almost frightening. So many people. I have never seen such a crowd before.”

“Xiang Xien has a smaller population than Gallifrey, actually,” Marion said to her. “So Kristoph told me. But most of them live in this one city. If you really want huge populations, you should visit Earth. Some of our cities… even Liverpool, my home… the shopping streets and the markets are always busy.”

For a moment Marion looked almost homesick for the bustle of St. John’s Market or the crowds in Lord Street. She even thought briefly of China. Xiang Xien was a Human colony descended from people who set out from that overpopulated country to make a new life for themselves. The cities they left were some of the busiest places Marion had ever been to.

“I think I like the peace of the southern continent,” she said eventually. “I love living there. It’s nice to visit other places, but that’s home to me now.”

That was a remarkable thing for her to admit. For a long time when she first came to live on Gallifrey it was alien. It was a place she felt as if she was just visiting. She always expected to return to Liverpool eventually. Even after her Alliance, when Mount Lœng House became hers by right, when she began to enjoy being Lady Marion, at home to her friends for luncheon and tea and evening soirees, at the back of her mind she still felt that her real home was on Earth. She felt that the yellow sky of Gallifrey was alien to her and that blue skies were the proper thing.

But somewhere in the past year or so, that had changed. Gallifrey was her home now just as if she had been born there. She enjoyed days out in Liverpool, using the Portal, but mostly because she got to see Li, the only person she truly missed from Earth. She was a Gallifreyan Lady and she was happy with that life.

She sighed contentedly as the waiter brought the second course of their Xiang Xien style luncheon and she showed Rosanda how to use a pair of chopsticks to eat in the traditional way. Her friend, with nimble fingers, used to manipulating fine fabrics and needles, got the hang of it easily and they enjoyed their meal together.

Afterwards they explored the market a little more, and purchased a few trinkets to bring home with them. They both fell in love with some screen printed silk hangings with beautiful Chinese lettering on them. Marion had learnt some Chinese characters from Li over the years, and she knew that they were little prayers that were meant to ward off evil and discontent and allow a room with such hangings displayed to be a place of peace and calm.

“I think they would look nice in the White Drawing Room,” Marion said as Rosanda again bargained for the best and fairest price. “I certainly want that to be a place of peace and calm. It quite often isn’t when Rodan is racing around it on her tricycle. But when she’s having her afternoon nap, at least, we can achieve that ideal.”

Rosanda laughed. She was often there in the drawing room when Marion’s little fosterling was exercising her limbs. When there were no ladies visiting for lunch she was often invited to keep her company. Marion treated her as if she was the second mistress of the house at those times. She even gave orders to the maids occasionally. The only strange thing was when Caolin, her own husband, attended Lady Marion. He was always perfectly proper, and correct, of course. And he smiled graciously at her. Later, when they were together in their own rooms near the kitchens, he would gently tease her, calling her Lady Rosanda. But he was happy that she was such good friends with the lady of the house he was proud to serve in. The arrangement worked for them all.

They bought the silk hangings together, to put in what they thought of as THEIR drawing room. Then they walked away from the market, heading back towards the Mandarin’s Palace where Kristoph and his entourage from the diplomatic corps were in the course of their negotiations right now. They could have gone right up to the gate and asked to be admitted, and the guards would have sent for a highly coloured jiao chair with four strong men to carry them up to the palace in honour.

Instead, they mingled with the crowds. There always were people outside the gates. They came to watch the colourful guards with their butterfly swords that they swung expertly and must surely have made any attacker think twice. They watched the Xiang Xien equivalent of the changing of the guards, with beautifully choreographed marching and swordsmanship and the arrival of a party of mounted guards with horses and men lavishly decorated with leather and silver.

“Marion…” Rosanda whispered urgently in the midst of the spectacle. “I don’t see him… the man who was meant to be with us all the time. Do you think…”

Marion looked around. She almost panicked for a few seconds. Then she spotted him, the only other ‘western’ face among the crowd of Orientals. He deliberately looked away from her. They were not supposed to meet or exchange glances even. But as long as he was there, she felt perfectly safe.

So safe, in fact, that she really wondered if he had been necessary, after all. Perhaps Kristoph had been worrying over nothing. But it was sweet of him to go to such trouble to protect her and Rosanda and she loved him all the more for it.

After the mounted guards had passed through the gate she and Rosanda crossed and announced themselves. The guards bowed to them and the jiao was summoned to take them to the palace where they would be royally treated.


As soon as they were safely inside the gate, the young man who had been charged with their protection breathed a sigh of relief. He stepped back into the quiet, echoing alleyway where he had briefly vanished from sight of his protectees earlier. He made doubly sure that the two slavers who had been following them since they left the market were quite dead. Then he cleaned the blood off the thin stiletto knife and slid it back into the hidden pouch inside his sleeve. Later, he would tell Lord de Lœngbærrow. He would want to know. But he would doubtless consider this nothing more than routine. Nothing to worry his wife and her friend about.