Aineytta de Lœngbærrow smiled at her daughter in law and poured another cup of herbal infusion. Marion drank it happily.

“I know you prefer your ‘English tea’,” she said. “But this is one of my own mixtures. It has invigorating properties.”

“Kristoph says you say that about all your infusions,” Marion answered with a wry smile.

“Not at all,” Aineytta answered. “I also prepare brews that are calming and aid sleep. My first born son is being disrespectful to his mother, I think. But he is far too old for me to chastise, now.” She laughed as she said that. “When he was young, he was never disrespectful to me. But I did chastise him many times for mischief of some sort or another.”

She glanced at Rodan as she spoke. The child was playing on the lawn nearby, carefully watched over by a maid in crisp linen who had one simple task this afternoon – ensuring that the curious toddler did not stray too close to the meandering River Bærrow that was such a charming feature of the Dower House garden.

“He was always getting into scrapes when he was small. As soon as he could walk he was trying to walk as far as he could go. And climbing on everything. I was always fearful of the fountains in the garden. Like a flutterwing to a candle he was when any water was to be found. Except his bathwater.”

Marion laughed as she tried to imagine Kristoph when he was a child a little older than Rodan, scraping his knees and getting his clothes dirty and running to his mother for comfort, but resenting the attempts to get him clean and fresh later. It was hard to reconcile that image with the mature, dignified man he was now.

“Oh, that little boy is still there,” Aineytta said. “You know, I was only married to Lord de Lœngbærrow a few months when I became pregnant. I was a very young mother. And I was so afraid of getting it wrong. He was the heir to one of the great Ancient Houses, with a noble destiny ahead of him. And I felt quite overawed by all of that, as if he wasn't my baby who I had given birth to, but a precious being that I was responsible for. But I soon got used to him, and just loved him more and more every day and treasured every little things he did.”

“I feel like that about Rodan, when I see her growing up in front of my eyes every day. I want to fix every moment of her life in my memory, for when she isn’t with me any more.”

“Rodan is a lovely child. I hope we shall always be able to see how she is getting on. But when you have your own son and heir, Marion, you will be so proud of him.”

“I know I will,” she answered. “But, please, tell me more about Kristoph when he was young. I would like to know what he was like.”

“He was an adventurer,” Aineytta remembered. “Oh, he was a studious boy when he had to be. When he was set at a desk and made to learn his lessons. But as soon as his tutors let him go he was off out, playing in the woods at the south end of the formal gardens. He would make believe he was in other places, offworld, fantastic planets peopled by exotic species. He dreamed of travelling from an early age. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on a TARDIS of his own. He would sit with his father looking at distant stars through the telescope. My dear husband, he has never set foot out of our solar system. He thinks of other stars in terms of magnitude and luminosity and such. Our son thought of them as suns that warmed other worlds and wanted to explore them. And until he was old enough he travelled in his imagination. Every evening mealtime I would send one of the footmen to search him out and remind him to come and eat. And he would be astonished to find that so much time had passed while he was at his play.”

“That’s not him, now,” Marion said with a laugh. “He is always totally aware of the passage of time. He says it is his internal body clock. As a Time Lord time is always with him and he is in tune with it.”

“That is so. Though I think he is much more aware than most of us. That is probably something to do with his training in the….”

Aineytta stopped mid-sentence. She was obviously going to mention Kristoph’s work in the Celestial Intervention Agency. But the thought of it pained her.

“I didn’t know you disapproved so very much,” Marion said to her. “He… did his duty for Gallifrey. I don’t like the idea of him being an assassin, either. But I am glad that he did his duty.”

“Oh, I have always been proud of him,” Aineytta assured her daughter in law. “But it was hard, sometimes. When he was away for long years. When you met him, on Earth, my dear, he hadn’t been home to his family for ten years. Even for us, that’s a long time – at least it is for a mother who needs more than rare videophone messages from her son. I missed him so, and I was often afraid for him. The missions they sent him on… in pursuit of desperate people…. I feared for his life. And every time… every time he fell victim to some awful fate…. I felt it, you know. I knew when he had regenerated. I felt his death deep in my soul. My child… my boy dying in agony. His father knew, also. But I felt it so much more keenly. And I always felt so very bitter and angry at those who had sent him into such danger.”

“He chose that career, though,” Marion reminded her.

“Yes, he did. But others influenced him, when he was young and could be influenced. He had only just completed his studies at the Prydonian Academy, only just transcended, when he was recruited into the army and sent to fight in that terrible war. I blamed the generals. They went to the schools, persuading our sons to join their cause. And Kristoph, young and naïve and full of high ideals, saw it as his chance to see those other worlds he dreamt of. Even now, I can’t look Lady Borusa in the eye when we meet. Her husband, General Borusa, he was the one who gave my boy his commission, put him in charge of a company of soldiers, and he hardly any better trained than they were. And then sent them to fight a terrifying enemy.”

“Mama,” Kristoph came to her side, hugging her tenderly and kissing her on the cheek. “I am quite sure that Marion asked to hear of my exploits when I was a boy, not for you to dwell on what could not be helped or changed.” He kissed Marion, too, and sat by her side. “Never mind those dark times. Why don’t you tell her about the time when I was seventy and I climbed the east face of Melcus Bluff without gravity pads.”

“If I had known you were doing that, I would have been as fearful as I was when you were at war,” his mother told him. “Nobody has ever climbed the east face of Melcus without gravity pads.”

“I have,” Kristoph pointed out. “Only I wasn't given official recognition of the achievement.”

“Why not?” Marion asked.

“Because I was only seventy years old, and the Gallifreyan Mountaineering Society only allows members over one hundred years old. They refused to accept that I had done it. And father refused to allow me to do it again to prove it to them.”

“That is completely unfair,” Marion said.

“It was very unfair,” Aineytta agreed. “But at least it put him off climbing as a hobby for a decade or so. Though that didn’t keep him out of trouble. The next I heard, he and his cohorts were breaking speed records solar sailing on the Red Desert in their free time after classes at the Prydonian Academy.”

“We founded the Solar Association,” Kristoph explained. “So there was no age bar. My cohorts, of course, were Lee and Laegan Oakdaene and Jules D’Alba. Four young adventurers. We probably should have thought about how our exploits might worry our poor mothers, but we were young and ambitious and we wanted to do everything. We didn’t think about how many limbs we might break, either. We lived for the speed of the solar sail boards, the challenge of going faster.…”

“And look what happened,” Aineytta reminded him. “Jules D’Alba broke his back in three places and was confined to the sick bay for eight weeks while he mended.”

“That was an unforeseen accident,” Kristoph said. “Nobody expected the sail to rip as he was approaching two hundred miles per hour.”

Aineytta just shook her head, smiling indulgently at Kristoph. He looked at Marion and laughed softly.

“Marion is thinking about Jules’ mother, wondering how she felt about it. And yes, she was upset. She was also very angry at the four of us for being so reckless. That’s what mothers do. They worry about us. Especially mothers like mine. Aineytta the Gentle, you always wondered why it was that you and my father, a quiet, studious man who studied the stars through a telescope and wrote long, academic books, could possibly have produced such a child, always thirsty for adventure.”

“You get it from your grandfather,” Aineytta answered. “Dracœfire. By the time you were born he had retired from fighting dragons on far off planets and all his other exploits of legend. But his blood is in your veins. He and all the other Lœngbærrow men in your lineage. Your dear father was the odd one out, the one who found excitement enough in seeing a new planet through a lens. The rest of them were adventurers, warriors, men of action.”

“You see,” Kristoph said. “You knew even before I was born that I was likely to be a restless soul like my ancestors. You didn’t expect me to go against my nature?”

“No,” she admitted. “No, my dear, I didn’t. I always knew you would live up to your heritage. Chrístõ Mian… ambition and desire. That’s what your name means. You were always going to pursue both. But knowing that didn’t make it easier on me.”

“I am sorry, mama,” Kristoph said, reaching again to kiss her cheek. “For all the heartsache I have caused you.”

“You’ve brought me joy, too, my dear,” she assured him. “And when you and Marion are parents yourselves, I will know even greater joy. As I do now, when you bring your little fosterling to see us.”

They all looked around at Rodan, and saw the maid doing her job, preventing the child from getting close to the edge of the water. If she had imagined her chore for the afternoon was an easy one, she knew better now. The toddler was keeping her busy. Aineytta called to her to bring the child to her and she sat her on her knee where an iced cake and a cup of milk distracted her from her wanderings.

“Later,” Aineytta said. “I shall ask his Lordship to take the launch out on the river. We can all enjoy a little pleasure trip on the Bærrow. But it is quite clear that a little of the adventurous spirit of Lœngbærrow has rubbed off on this one while she has been in your care, Kristoph, dear boy.”

“DNA does not work that way, mama,” Kristoph answered. “It may be that her own blood is an adventurous sort. After all, her grandfather is in the space fleet. He, in his own way, has the yen to travel that I have always had. Who knows what this child may yearn to do when she is older. Perhaps she will be the first official climber to ascend the east side of Melcus. Or maybe she will captain one of our space freighters and see distant worlds for herself.”

“That sounds like a wonderful future for Rodan,” Marion said. “And I am sure her grandfather would be satisfied with it. But I think I would be happier if our son took after his own grandfather and preferred to read books quietly in the library. I’m not sure if I could cope with being the mother of another Lœngbærrow adventurer.”

“So would I,” Aineytta agreed. “So you just be careful, Kristoph, how you raise my future grandchild. Don’t let him think war is a glorious adventure and that assassination is a career choice. Let him follow your footsteps into the diplomatic corps, instead, and do his duty to Gallifrey that way.”

“Mama,” Kristoph assured her. “If it is in my power, my son will never even hear the words Celestial Intervention Agency, let alone wish to join it. And I hope fervently no more generations of Gallifreyan manhood are ever sent to fight a war such as I fought in my youth. May we all live in peace from hereon.”