Marion held a large bag herself, despite Gallis Limmon offering to carry it for her.

“It’s all right,” she said. “I’ll look after this.” She accepted his help to put the bag into the car, at least. Kristoph carried Rodan and fastened her safely into her own seat before sitting beside Marion. He grasped her hand tightly.

“This is a special day for Rodan,” he said. “We’re going to be happy for her.”

“Yes,” she answered. “Yes, I’ll try, at least.”

“Good girl.” Kristoph leaned over and kissed her tenderly. Gallis Limmon got into the driver’s seat and moved the limousine slowly across the driveway before it hovered several feet from the ground. Marion leant back into the seat and watched the scenery pass by. The Southern continent was still in the grip of winter, yet. Snow still covered the ground. Great drifts of it obliterated familiar landmarks. But Marion knew they were going south-west from Mount Lœng House. They were still within the Lœngbærrow demesne, of course. That stretched for more than two hundred square miles of the wide southern plains, including Mount Lœng itself, the high, beautiful mountain and most of the course of the river B?rrow.

They crossed the B?rrow a few miles south of the Dower House, at a place that in English was called Wolf’s Ford, but in Gallifreyan was a little harder to pronounce. It was a place where the river was shallower and had traditionally been used as a crossing place. The hover limousine’s engine changed in tempo as it skimmed a few feet above the water. Ordinary hover cars couldn’t do that. They could only hover over solid land. But the executive models had multi-environmental adaptors.

“In your own car, you will have to travel another ten miles upriver to the next bridge,” Kristoph said. “Whatever you do, don’t try this.”

“I won’t,” Marion promised. She remembered the very close shave she had when her car accidentally drove into the Calderon which lay a few hundred miles to the south-west of here. She would take no chances with a fast flowing river like the B?rrow. “Is the house close to the river? I hope Rodan will be safe.”

“It’s well back from the river,” Kristoph answered her. “And there is a good fence around the property. She will be able to play in safety.”

Marion was reassured of that. She looked out for the house she had heard so much about over evening meals for the past few weeks. Kristoph had been there almost every afternoon, taking time out from his duties at the Magistry, but neither she nor Rodan had yet seen it. Kristoph said it would be a surprise for them both.

And it was a surprise. Marion looked at the log built house as the limousine touched down and drove through the front gate on the frost covered but clean yellow gravel

“It has red grass,” she exclaimed. The snow had been brushed away into piles within the garden and beneath it was, indeed, the rare indigenous red grass of Gallifrey. It wasn’t at its best, but it was clearly red.

“Argis had it planted some years ago,” Kristoph explained. “He spends so long away from Gallifrey, when he returns, he likes to see what is unique to our world outside his window. I have often thought of doing that within our formal garden, but I know you find the green grass more comforting.”

“I don’t mind if you plant red grass in the garden,” Marion told him. “I suppose, when I first came to Gallifrey it would have been daunting. But I am used to it, now. But this is Argis’s own home, then?”

It was a substantial house, as log built houses went. It had an upper floor under the sloping eaves of the roof made of overlapping wooden tiles, and a single storey extension at the side which was clearly new. The logs were a different shade to the older, weathered ones.

As the car halted before the front door, Argis came outside. Rodan gave a happy exclamation to see him, and Kristoph unfastened her seat belt so that she could jump out as soon as Gallis opened the door. She ran to her grandfather, who picked her up in his arms joyfully.

“He’s only been away from her for two days, finishing off the preparations,” Marion commented. “And yet she greets him as if he were gone for months.”

“There is a deep bond between them,” Kristoph said. “Blood tells among Gallifreyans. Even when he has to go away again, that bond will be there.”

“It’s as if she doesn’t need us any more, though,” Marion added.

“She doesn’t,” Kristoph replied. “You might as well get used to that, my dear. Rodan has come home.”

And it was a very pleasant home. Marion had to concede as much. The main room inside was spacious. It was warmed by a huge log fire in an old fashioned hearth with a huge stone mantelpiece around. Rugs covered the polished wood floor and old but comfortable furniture graced it.

“I built this house when I was a young man,” Argis said. “With my own two hands. I brought my young wife here. We were happy. Later, our daughter brought us even greater joy. It became a darker place when my wife died. I spent less time here. But now… it will be a home again.”

He brought them to the new part of the house. Marion smiled to see the spacious bedroom and playroom that had been made ready for Rodan. There was a new bed for her, not a cot as she was used to sleeping in. Marion recognised the covers as ones she had bought on Earth, and all Rodan’s favourite toys and books were on the shelves. In the playroom were more of her favourite things transported from Mount Lœng House to make her feel at home.

There were new toys, too. Chief among them were a finely made wooden rocking horse and a doll’s house that stood higher than Rodan herself. Marion looked at them both with interest. The rocking horse was unusual for Gallifrey, because they didn’t have horses here.

“I saw one like it on Bessia IV,” Argis said. “And the play house. I thought that my little girl would enjoy playing with them. So I carved them from the spare wood from the building work.”

“You made those yourself?” Marion was impressed. “They’re lovely.”

The playroom had a big window that opened onto a veranda. Marion stepped out onto it and looked around. She was struck, first of all, by how peaceful it was. The southern plain stretched away on three sides. Behind the house was a dark coppice of trees from which the wood to build the house and most of the furniture within it came.

And something more. She looked at the structure that graced the garden and recognised it as something else that only a man who had travelled away from Gallifrey might think of. It was a complicated arrangement of swing, climbing frame, slide, the sort of thing that a good children’s playground on Earth might have, but all made of sturdy wood and ropes and made safe for a little girl to play on once the weather warmed up a little.

“I was going to buy a swing set,” Marion commented. “I saw one at the Early Learning Centre…”

“But this one was built by her grandfather, especially for her,” Kristoph commented. “That’s how it should be. What do you think of Rodan’s new home?”

“It’s….” Marion laughed softly. “It’s… the Little House on the Prairie!”

Kristoph had spent ten years as a professor of English literature, but he took a few seconds to recognise the allusion.

“I… mean it in a good way,” she added. “I read those books when I was a little girl. They’re basically about a family who were never especially rich, but they worked hard and had a good life and always had lots of love for each other. When I was being passed from one foster home to another, the idea of a little house that I could call home was a good thing. I longed for that kind of life. Even the bits that were hard work. But I’d forgotten… you spoiled me, Kristoph, by giving me a BIG house to live in. I forgot that it is possible to be happy in a little house that has love in it.”

Kristoph didn’t say anything. He just hugged her tightly.

“We’re invited to lunch,” he said. “Then we’ll leave them to settle down.”


Marion kept cheerful as they sat at the polished cúl nut wood table and ate a pleasant meal together. Rodan sat on a chair that had been specially raised for her to reach the table and eat with the grown ups. She looked proud to be sitting that way, and chatted with her grandfather and with Marion and Kristoph. She was pleased with her new bedroom, and said so often.

Then it was time to go. There was no sense in putting it off any longer. Marion hugged Rodan and kissed her fondly. Kristoph hugged her, too, and shook hands with Argis, wishing him good fortune. Then they turned and walked out of the house. Argis held Rodan’s hand and waved as the car moved off. Marion watched until she couldn’t see them at all.

Then she began to cry. Kristoph hugged her and said nothing until she stopped crying.

“You did well,” he told her. “You didn’t cry in front of Rodan. She’s happy with her grandfather and she isn’t upset by thinking that you’re sad.”

She nodded and smiled weakly, but despite his praise she still felt hollow and sad inside. The journey home seemed long and cheerless for her. She wondered how she would feel when she looked into the now empty room that had been Rodan’s nursery for so long, or when she came across the big box of clothes she had grown out of that she didn’t know what to do with. The house was full of memories that would haunt her for a long time to come.

She was surprised when they reached home to find they had visitors. She hugged Rika fondly as Kristoph greeted his brother.

“I didn’t know you were coming,” she said. “It’s a lovely surprise.”

“Everything is ready,” Remonte said to Kristoph. “Whenever you are.”

“What’s ready?” Marion asked. “What’s going on?”

“I arranged a little offworld trip. Something to make you smile, and maybe give you something else to think about apart from how much you miss Rodan.”

Marion asked what it was all about, but Kristoph wouldn’t tell her. Neither would Remonte. Rika just smiled widely and told her she would like it.

Rika travelled with her in the TARDIS. Remonte piloted his own craft, travelling alongside in the time vortex. The two time and space ships arrived together at the chosen location.

“It’s Ventura IV, isn’t it?” Marion said as she stepped out onto a frost-covered but green lawn under a clear blue sky of a wintery day. “It feels like Ventura. It’s a lot like Earth, but the air has that scent of the mountains… pine trees and snow.”

“We’re on the outskirts of the Venturan capital,” Remonte told her. “And this is why you’re here. The Royal Venturan Children’s Hospice.”

Marion looked at the modern smoked glass and steel front of the huge building. The name was etched into the glass in Venturan calligraphy. Kristoph took Marion’s arm as they stepped inside the building.

They were met by the director of the facility and two nurses who bowed respectfully to the Gallifreyan Ambassador and his aristocrat brother and their two ladies before inviting them to come and see the new wing which their generosity had paid for.

“It did?” Marion was surprised. Despite visiting Ventura often she had never been to the Hospice before.

“I used the diamonds from my wedding gown to pay for the building work,” Rika said.

“Oh.” Marion thought of the diamonds she, herself, still owned and had no practical use for and wondered why she hadn’t thought of such a thing herself.

“Because Gallifrey has no such facility,” Rika told her. “There are very few sick children and little need for orphanages or residential facilities for destitute mothers and babies. Our population is much smaller than Ventura and we have very few illnesses. We live long lives and orphans like Rodan are rare, and usually they are cared for in the community. As for destitute mothers – that doesn’t happen very often, either. But Ventura has a large population, especially in the cities, and there is need for such a place as this.”

Marion understood. She was pleased that Rika had been so generous. She wondered if there was anything she could do to match her generosity.

“There is a lot you can do, Marion,” Rika told her. “That’s why you’re here. We want to show you something, first.”

They came to a special part of the new wing. Marion looked up at the name above the door to a bright, airy and well equipped ward. She swallowed a lump in her throat. Kristoph’s arm tightened around her shoulder.

“The Anna de Lœngbærrow Premature Baby Room,” she whispered hoarsely. “Oh… Kristoph.”

“I should have done it sooner,” he answered. “But it took me a while to be able to say her name without choking, let alone see it written down. And…”

Inside the door was a mural painted on the wall. It was of a small baby wrapped in woollen cloth. Marion knew her face at once. It was an image imprinted on her mind.

“Anna?” she said. “But how?”

“I worked with the artist, from memory,” he said. “To capture how she would have looked if…”

“It’s beautiful,” Marion told him. “Do you think… I would like a copy of the picture… a small one.”

“It could probably be arranged. But come and look. The ward is equipped with the most modern technology. The incubators are the best money can buy.”

The mothers of the premature babies sat up in their beds and looked curiously at the VIP visitors being shown around. Marion smiled warmly at them and looked at the tiny babies who were given that special chance of life because of the technology. Some of them were even smaller than Anna had been, but they were alive. They would grow in a few weeks until they could come out of the incubators and be held and hugged by their mothers.

She was glad of that. She only got to hug her baby once before they had to take her away, but she was glad that other women could look forward to being able to hug their babies whenever they wanted.

“Now, come and see this section,” Rika told her when they quietly left the premature baby ward. “It’s even nicer.”

There was a special name for this section of the hospice, too. It was called The Rodan Mielles Mother and Baby and Orphan Home. It was more than just a single ward. It was a nursery and a room where small children slept at night as well as a big playroom and a classroom where they learnt the same sort of lessons that Marion taught her kindergarten class. There were individual rooms for the mothers and babies who would have no home otherwise, and a huge outdoor play area and garden for them to enjoy when the weather was warmer than it was now.

Marion noticed that the playroom had a lot of familiar toys in it. They were the ones that Rodan had grown out of, and which had not been taken to her new house.

“And all the clothes she has no further use for were distributed among the resident mothers,” Rika told her. “We packed it all up while you were away. Kristoph said it would be a nice surprise for you.”

“Yes, it is,” she said. “But…”

“In a couple of days I should have the authorisation to add a new destination to the Portal,” Kristoph told her. “You’ll be able to come and visit here any time you like. No doubt you will want to use my credit card at Mothercare in Lord Street, first. The hospice needs all the help it can get.”

Marion smiled warmly, as Kristoph had hoped she would, and started to talk to the head of the Mother and Baby unit about what they needed most and thought about how much of it she could buy in Liverpool at any one time.

“The Portal won’t do for some of it,” she said. “You’ll have to take me in the TARDIS sometimes.”

“I think that might be arranged,” Kristoph answered. “It’s not the purpose TARDIS travel was envisaged for, but it shouldn’t be a problem.”