Marion woke with the memory of music in her immediate thoughts - the orchestra that had been playing last night at the ball she had been attending. But she didn’t feel happy as she usually did after attending a function like that. She felt strange. Her head was heavy as if she had drunk too much. Except she knew very well that she hadn’t.

She lay still for a little while and gradually became aware of strange sounds around her. There was a faint hum and a vibration. She was used to both when she slept in the TARDIS, but this time the hum and the vibration were wrong. She wasn’t aboard the TARDIS.

Nor was she in the Gallifreyan ambassador’s residence on the planet of Darinda X, because that was on solid ground and didn’t vibrate.

She opened her eyes and saw a metal ceiling about ten feet above her, the sort she would have expected in the cargo hold of a space ship, not a bedroom. She sat up, pushing away the blanket that covered her and looked around. She was in a large room with another dozen or so beds like the one she was sleeping in and a long table on which food was available.

There were other women in the room. They were all dressed in very fine gauzy dresses that barely disguised their figures beneath. Some were eating, others were sitting on the beds or lying on them.

Marion realised she was wearing the same kind of clothes.

“Where am I?” she asked. “And what am I doing here?”

“You are in the Seraglio,” answered a fair haired woman with blue eyes who was fixing her make up in a hand held mirror.

“The… what…” Marion knew what the word meant, and she didn’t like it. “Why? How did I get here?”

“You must have come aboard with Prince Kalle at Darinda X. He must have purchased you there.”

“Purchased?” Marion really was worried now. “I am not for sale. I have a husband… Kristoph… he will be looking for me…”

“He must have offered you to the Prince,” the woman said. “Was he dissatisfied with you?”

“What? No. Of course he wasn’t. Kristoph loves me. And he never offered me to anyone. I’m not… this is a big mistake. I need to go back… we’re on a space ship, aren’t we? Turn it around. I have to go back.”

“That isn’t possible. You are the Prince’s woman now. You had better just get used to it.”

“I will not,” Marion replied. “I am not his woman. I have been kidnapped, taken against my will. I don’t even know how I got here. So… so… somebody stop this ship and turn it around, right now. Take me back to Darinda X.”

She stood up and looked around. There was no obvious door out of the ‘seraglio’.

“We’re prisoners here. He keeps women as prisoners in a cargo hold.”

“This is our home,” the woman said. “We are well treated. We have food and clothes. We have nothing to worry about.”

“Nothing to worry about?” Marion repeated. “But we’re prisoners. What does the Prince want so many women for anyway?”

That was a stupid question, of course. It was obvious what he wanted.

“This isn’t the dress I was wearing last night. Who put me in this?”

She tried to remember. Her head still felt heavy, and it was hard to think at all. But she remembered being at the ball. It was a very grand affair. A great many crowned heads of state were in attendance. And she had danced with a lot of them. She couldn’t remember if she had danced with Prince Kalle. She wasn’t even sure who he was. Or why he had decided that she was available to join his seraglio.

She remembered walking with Kristoph in the gardens of the Darinda X presidential palace. They had both enjoyed the brightness of the twin moons that shone down on the garden making it almost as bright as day. Kristoph had complimented her on the way her hair looked and the dress that she had been wearing. He had told her she was beautiful, as he always did, and she had been longing for the formal ball to be over so that they could be alone in the suite they were staying in.

She couldn’t remember leaving the garden. She had no recollection of going back into the ball, of it finishing with the formal playing of the Darindan National Anthem and the formal presentations to the President.

Had she been kidnapped from the garden? If so, how? Why had Kristoph not fought back? He would never let her be taken without a fight, no matter how many assailants there were, no matter how they were armed. He would have fought.

An icy thought gripped her heart.

Kristoph would not have allowed her to be taken from him as long as he was alive.

So was he dead? Had he been murdered by the Prince’s men in order to take her from him?

“Kristoph!” she whispered sadly. “Oh, no. Oh, my love. It can’t be so.”

She didn’t want to cry. She hadn’t done so until now, even though she was frightened and uncertain about her immediate future. But the thought of Kristoph left for dead while she was taken away from him broke her. She sank back down on the bed and cried.

“There is no need to be upset,” the woman with the blonde hair insisted. “Life in the seraglio is good. We want for nothing. And the Prince doesn’t even ask for our services very often. He has his chief wives in his royal apartment. Of course, since you are new he will probably wish you to attend him tonight.”

“I… would rather die,” Marion replied tearfully. “Kristoph de Lœngbærrow is my husband, the ambassador from Gallifrey. I will have no other man touch me. I... I would die first.”

“You must. If any woman refuses, then the others are punished with her.”

“I thought you said that you want for nothing here, and are treated well.”

“We must give obedience to the Prince,” said the woman. “If we do not, then of course we are punished.”

Marion looked around at the dozens of young women who seemed to so willingly accept their fate. She felt sorry for them. But she was clear in her own mind.

“If you get punished, then so be it,” she said. “But I will not submit to a murderer and a kidnapper. So you had all better get used to it.”

She walked away from the woman. She looked at the food on the table. It appeared to be all right. It was mostly fruit, bread and cheese. Healthy enough. She was hungry, so she took some of it and ate. Then she went back to the bed where she had been lying and pretended to be asleep.

She listened to the voices around her. The women had very little to talk about. Mostly they preened each other’s hair and make up. That was all they did. Marion wondered how they managed not to get fat and useless with such a pointless daily routine. But she didn’t care enough. She was only listening to try to find out a way that she might get out of the seraglio and find some way of contacting Darinda X or Gallifrey, or anybody who could help her.

But there was nothing in the conversations the women were having that could help her. They really were the most annoying, insipid bunch she had ever met.

“So…” she said as she sat up on the bed in frustration. “You spend all day, every day, in here. You never go to a party with the prince? You never see any planets that he visits?”

“Why should we?” asked the same blue eyed woman she had spoken to before. “What would we do?”

“Escape,” Marion suggested.

“Escape?” All the women around her looked puzzled, as if the very word was new to them.

“Where did you come from, before you belonged to the Prince?” Marion asked, trying another tactic.

“I was the third wife of the Duke of Vassilla II,” she answered. “The Prince bought me from him. I didn’t mind. I hated the Duke’s second wife. I was glad to get away from her.”

“I was given to the Prince by my brother, the High Lord of Ballis,” said another woman. “I was a gift to him on his visit to the palace.”

Marion was appalled as she listened to their different, yet similar stories. Almost all of the women were born into some sort of royalty, but in their societies women were of no value except as trinkets to be given away to men like the Prince. Some preferred their life here because they were better treated than they were in their own homes. One of them described how she used to wear a leather collar with a silver chain on it, by which she would be led. Whenever her Lord kept court, she was required to kneel at his feet. When she was given away to the Prince, she felt relieved that she would not need to wear a collar any more.

“But it is still ridiculous,” she protested “None of you have the slightest bit of pride, no dignity. You’re just THINGS. You were things before. You’re still things. You’re here to be used by a man. It’s ridiculous. Stand up for yourselves. Don’t put up with it. Free yourselves.”

But the women just shook their heads and turned away from her. They didn’t understand why she wasn’t happy to live as the plaything of Prince Kalle.

“Kristoph, please come and get me,” she whispered as she buried her head in the silk pillow and tried to block out their inane chatter. “Please, my love. Please come and get me.”

But Kristoph didn’t come. The hours passed slowly and Marion lay there on the bed, her heart heavy with dread of what might happen, or worse, what might not happen. How far were they from Darinda? Was this a ship with hyperspace capability? Had it crossed a whole galaxy while she was asleep? Or were they still within reach of the place where she was taken? Was a chase still possible? Could the ship be stopped?

The longer she lay there, the less likely it seemed that anyone was trying to reach her.

And then, many hours later, but still, she thought, the same day that she had first woken up, a door slid open in the apparently solid wall. A woman dressed in deep purple silks from head to foot entered. Behind her were two guards dressed in leather and polished brass. They had curved swords slung in their belts.

“Prepare the new woman for the Prince,” the woman commanded.

“No!” Marion groaned. She tried to keep still and quiet. Maybe they wouldn’t know which one she was. Perhaps she could get away with being unnoticed among so many other women.

But that wasn’t possible. The other women pointed her out. They named her as the Prince’s new wife. When she tried to run, one of them stopped her. They surrounded her and pushed her back. Two of them began to pull away the clothes she had been wearing while others brought the gown she would wear for the Prince. It was gold with jewels sewn into it, but Marion didn’t care if it was a plastic bag. She didn’t want to dress for the Prince. She struggled still.

“Enough!” the woman in purple snapped. “Make her ready or you will all starve for a day. The Prince will receive her in his private quarters in an hour.”

Marion knew there was no more use in struggling. She had nowhere to go and nobody to help her.

“Kristoph!” she whispered. “I am sorry.”