In all the years she had lived on Gallifrey now, Marion only rarely bothered to watch the public broadcast channel on the video screen in the main drawing room or her own private drawing room. Just occasionally she would watch a debate in the Panopticon, usually if the issue was one of interest to her or somebody she knew was making a major speech. And then only if she didn’t want to go all the way to the Capitol to watch from the public gallery in the Panopticon itself.

She would have liked to have gone today. In fact, she had fully intended to be there. She had been looking forward to it. But yesterday, walking in the garden, she had slipped on a patch of ice that still hung around by the lea of the orchard wall and twisted her ankle. It was still very painful and she had slept badly because of it. Kristoph agreed that travelling to the Capitol was not a good idea.

She wasn’t alone. She had Rika with her. She had come from Ventura with Remonte. This was an occasion when the senior ambassadors of Gallifrey all returned to attend at the Panopticon. Technically, Remonte was still Vice-Consul, but he was almost certainly going to be announced as the Ambassador to Ventura IV when the present Ambassador, Lord Stillhaeven, was almost certainly announced as the next Lord High President of Gallifrey.

Lily was there, too, keeping her company. And so was Rosanda, whose interest in the ceremony taking place was nothing to do with politics. She had designed and made several of the gowns that female members of the High Council were wearing on this occasion and she wanted to see her creations in full glory.

“It’s funny, but I don’t miss television at all,” Marion said as she idly watched the screen. It wasn’t an especially exciting piece of broadcasting. Mostly it was just the Panopticon filling up with Time Lords in their regalia. A rather monotone voice kept naming the Lords and their ‘Chapters’ – Prydonian, Arcalian, Dromeian, Cerulean, Patrexean. All were identified, of course, by the colours of their gowns. Prydonian were scarlet and gold. Arcalian were blue, Cerulian heliotrope and so on. It was all very spectacular but for the last half hour the pictures had been the same.

“I’m hardly surprised,” Lily commented. “I’ve seen the Earth idea of broadcasting. It’s terrible stuff. These ‘soap operas’ and…”

Marion laughed softly.

“Yes, I’m afraid some of it is rather poor stuff,” she admitted. “And sometimes people spend too long watching it and forget about real life. That’s why I’ve not really missed it. I have so much else to do.”

“On Ventura they have something similar,” Rika said. “But it is only used for cultural events – concerts and ballet, operas and festivals. It allows those who could not travel to the city to enjoy such amenities.”

“I think that’s what television was meant to do on Earth originally,” Marion pointed out. “But it got too big. All the same, it would be nice if they did that on Gallifrey. Especially just now when I really don’t feel like travelling to the theatre or anywhere else.”

“Poor Marion,” Rika sympathised. “But you must not become a hermit here in the house. When you’re feeling better, of course you can go to the theatre and opera again. You must come to Ventura for the ballet season.”

“Good heavens,” Marion said to her. “We have both changed so much. I never went to a ballet or an opera before I knew Kristoph. And I am sure you never did, either, Rika, before you were betrothed to Remonte. We are completely different people.”

“Better people, surely,” Lily said.

“No,” Rika told her. “Not better. Just different. Going to opera and ballet doesn’t make anyone better than those who don’t. It just makes us richer. Marion and I have both been lucky in that way. But I don’t think being rich makes me a different person than the one I was when I served as a maid in this house.”

“I hope not,” Rosanda told her. “People should always be who they are.”

“I think I am different in some ways,” Marion admitted. “I have become a person who gives orders to others. I don’t feel afraid to ring a bell and ask Caolin to bring me tea and sandwiches. And when I go out, I wait until Gallis opens the car door for me.”

“But you are still kind and gracious and you treat people equally,” Rosanda assured her. “You’re not like the high born ladies of Gallifrey who behave as if a Caretaker is beneath them.”

“If she were, you would not be permitted to say that, Rosanda,” Lily pointed out.

“If she were, I would not be here in the drawing room to say it,” Rosanda added.

“I don’t think I would, either,” Rika reminded them. “It was only because of Marion’s kindness that my affair with Remonte did not lead to my dismissal and shame.”

“Marion, dear, you have had a profound effect on everyone you have met since you came to Gallifrey,” Lily told her.

Marion blushed and sought for a way to change the subject from her own accomplishments. Fortunately, the videoscreen provided it. The Time Lords had stopped milling around aimlessly and were now taking their appointed places in the Panopticon. The Chancellery Guard in their red with shining brass breastplates and the President’s own Guard in deep blue lined the outer chamber. There was a grand fanfare and the President himself appeared accompanied by the senior official of the Panotpicon, Gold Usher, in his magnificent robes and the Chancellor and Premier Cardinal in their finery. They were all very grand and stately men. The Guards presented arms and they acknowledged that honour with a slight nod of the head.

The great door was opened and Gold Usher went first, then the two senior High Councillors, then the President himself. More fanfares ensued and every man and woman in the Panopticon rose to their feet, even those at the highest level of the galleries above. There was a short burst of dramatic music which was the Presidential Anthem, and then the stirring notes of the Gallifreyan National Anthem began.

And even in the drawing room of Mount Lœng House, the women stood proudly. They sang the proud words of the anthem, praising Gallifrey and hoping that its honour should last for millennia to come.

As she stood, as proudly as any native born Gallifreyan lady, Marion wondered briefly why she felt such patriotism. She had stood for the English national anthem occasionally, at events where it was played, but she did so out of convention, politeness, because it was what people did. She never really felt any special pride in it.

But right now she felt very proud to be a citizen of Gallifrey on this auspicious day. The words of the anthem meant everything to her.

Yes, some things had changed since she came to be a Lady of Gallifrey. She had a sense of belonging such as she never had before.

When it was over, she sat down again. She was surprised when Rodan ran to her. She looked around and saw Caolin, the butler, and Argis Mielles, Rodan’s grandfather, waiting at the door. They had obviously been there throughout the anthem. They, too, observed proper pride in their world’s customs.

“Come, both of you,” Marion said. “Join us. This is important to all Gallifreyans. You should share in the occasion.”

Rosanda held out her hand to her husband, who set down the pot of tea and sandwiches he had brought before sitting beside her on the long sofa. Argis Mielles was a little less certain but he came and sat on a straight backed chair where he could see the viewscreen.

The ceremony on screen followed a traditional pattern that had not been changed for many centuries. The President took his seat and groups of the High Councillors, Councillors, Ambassadors, Magisters and Inquisitors came to pay homage to him.

Marion was proud when she saw Kristoph step forward as Magister of the southern continent. He looked so tall and dignified and wonderfully handsome as he paid tribute to the outgoing President.

Rosanda was proud when the representatives of the Inquisitory came forward. Both the High Inquisitor herself and the newest of that office, Madam Arpexia, were wearing gowns that she had designed. And they were beautiful gowns. The heavy fabrics of traditional formal robes were abandoned. The two women wore high collars made of crisp white lace almost like the Elizabethan ladies of Earth history, far less cumbersome than the ones the men wore. The gowns were of satin and the robes of voile that moved with their bodies as they walked.

“Rosanda, you are going to be the most acclaimed seamstress on Gallifrey soon,” Lily told her. “Well done.”

She smiled happily as the other ladies agreed. Caolin looked proud of her, too. His young wife had a talent that allowed her to stand almost as an equal with the high born ladies of Gallifrey and he was glad for her. He, himself, was content to serve, as all his family had served before, but he had no wish to curtail her ambitions.

But fine gowns were not the principal reason for this assembly of Time Lords in the Panopticon. It was Presidential Resignation Day. In a very short time, the Lord High President would give formal notice of his intention to resign his position after the customary 100 days of grace, when his nominated successor would be inaugurated.

The nominated successor was, in theory, a secret. But the names of the most likely contenders had been talked about for months. Among a very small circle it was known that Kristoph de Lœngbærrow WASN’T on the shortlist, having removed himself. But Marion was intrigued to hear the commentator on the public broadcast say that he was the favourite candidate.

“That’s nice to hear,” she said. “But I’m glad Kristoph isn’t the one. It would mean so much upheaval in our lives. Besides, he is happy as the Southern Magister. He enjoys the work. He deals fair and firm justice to those who deserve it and mercy and understanding to those who deserve that, too. And I am proud of him for that. The Presidency… No. It’s too much.”

She had said so many times. And she meant it. Even so, she liked that fact that so many people WANTED Kristoph to be chosen. It meant that he was held in very high regard by his peers, despite the criticism he had taken over the past years for his ‘foreign wife’.

It was a relief to know that their love for each other had not cost him politically.

A hush came over both the Panopticon and the drawing room of Mount Lœng House as the President stood on the podium with the Seal of Rassilon etched onto it in silver leaf. Gold Usher banged his staff on the floor four times and then the President began his Resignation speech.

Finally, he came to the part everyone wanted to hear. Lord Attis Gyes, the outgoing President, spoke strong and clear. He was resigning only because he felt it was time to move on and enjoy a more private and quieter life, not because of any illness or impediment to him. He stood tall and proud as he announced that his nominated successor was Lord Stillhaeven, the present Ambassador to Ventura IV.

There was a silence for a few seconds, and then cheering and uproar in the Panopticon. The public broadcasting cameras picked out Almanzo Stillhaeven in the assembly of Ambassadors. Remonte de Lœngbærrow was next to him, and was shaking his hand warmly at that moment. The cameras found Lady Stillhaeven in the public gallery, too. Lady Gyes, the wife of the outgoing President was hugging her and both women were smiling.

When the camera panned across the assembled Magisters and Inquisitors, pausing to look at Lord de Lœngbærrow, the imagined loser in the race for nomination, he was simply smiling as if he thoroughly approved of the Presidential choice.

Which of course, he did.

“I’m pleased,” Marion said. “Almonzo Stillhaeven will be an excellent President. Lady Stillhaeven will enjoy being First Lady.”

Her thoughts turned to the dinner party she already had planned for tomorrow night. Lord and Lady Gyes and Lord and Lady Stillhaeven were the guests, along with Remonte and Rika. By then her brother-in-law would be confirmed as the new Ambassador to Ventura and they would celebrate that, as well as the nomination of the very best man for the job of ruling all of Gallifrey and her dominions.

Some people might think it an odd coincidence that she had invited the President Elect to dinner before he was chosen. But if so, then they were very naïve about the power of whispers and rumour in Gallifreyan politics.