Rosanda had so many orders for gowns in the weeks leading up to the presidential inauguration that Marion released all but one of her personal maids to help her with the sewing. The results were there to be seen both below on the floor of the Panopticon where the High Councillors and ordinary Councillors and the Magisters, Inquisitors and Ambassadors gathered in the public gallery.

The gallery was by far a feminine preserve where the wives, fiancées, mothers and sisters of the Great Lords of Gallifrey gathered.

Marion was in one of Rosanda’s gowns, of course. She felt excited for more than that reason, though. This was, after all, the only Presidential inauguration she was likely to see. The term of office of a President of Gallifrey was measured in decades, sometimes centuries. So she was determined to enjoy every moment of this one.

Beside her, Lady Gyes, the former First Lady looked relaxed and peaceful. From this day her husband would be free of his duties and the two of them could retire to their country estate and enjoy their choice of leisure activities.

Lady Stillhaeven was in the gallery, too. The inauguration had no particular role for the wife of the President. In fact, quite often the President didn’t have a wife. It was coincidence that the outgoing and incoming man were both married. Before then for many centuries the chosen leader of the people of Gallifrey had been a single-minded and dedicated politician with little social life beyond the Citadel. These more ‘domesticated’ presidents were a new breed.

Lady Stillhaeven didn’t seem to mind being left out of the ceremonies below. She looked proud. Whether she was also excited was another matter. Gallifreyans were good at hiding their depths of emotions beneath the surface.

It was safe, at least, to say that there was an air of expectation in the Panopticon. Everyone from the commentator for the public service broadcast to the choir and orchestra getting ready to greet the new President in choral majesty was preparing for the imminent moment when Lord Stillhaeven would make his triumphant entrance.

There was no particular signal, but all at once the assembled Time Lords and Ladies stood proudly. So did everyone watching in the gallery. A soloist in the choir began a simple, unaccompanied song that was gradually taken up by other voices and by the orchestra. It reached a loud crescendo and stopped. There was a hush throughout the Panopticon and then four loud knocks on the great door. It was opened ceremoniously by two Presidential Guards in blue and silver. Gold Usher stepped into the great chamber first, in his ceremonial robes, followed by Lord Stillhaeven dressed in a simple white robe. Marion had read about the ceremony and knew that it was customary for the President Elect to be dressed that way. The inauguration ceremony was rather like a coronation. It involved the donning of a gown and cloak and more as the trappings of the presidency were accepted.

Lord Stillhaeven mounted the hexagonal dais raised in the middle of the floor. He put his right hand over his left heart as the Gallifreyan National Anthem began. Everyone present did the same. Marion, the only person in attendance there who was not born on Gallifrey was proud to join in that mark of loyalty as the stirring tune continued.

When it was over, Gold Usher stepped forward again, his staff in his hand. He tapped twice on the floor to command attention then he turned to the assembled Time Lords as he began the words of the ceremony.

“Honoured members of the supreme council. Cardinals, Time Lords, Gallifreyans, we are here today to honour the will and the wisdom of Rassilon in investing as Lord High President of the Supreme High Council Almanzo Gris of the House of Stillhaeven.”

Lady Stillhaeven allowed herself a smile as she heard her husband’s name spoken in that context. Then Gold Usher turned to address the assembly again in the prescribed fashion.

“Is there anyone here to contest the candidate’s right to the Sash of Rassilon?”

He paused for the required time.

“Is there anyone here to contest the candidate’s right to the Rod of Rassilon?”

Again a pause.

“Is there anyone here to contest the candidate’s right to the Great Key of Rassilon?”

Another pause before he spoke again.

“By custom, with wisdom and for honour, I shall strike three times. Should no voice be heard by the third stroke, I will, duty bound, invest the Candidate as Lord President of the Supreme Council of the Time Lords of Gallifrey.”

He struck the floor with his staff three times in slow succession. There was not a murmur from the assembled Time Lords. Gold Usher smiled and turned to the President Elect.

“It is my duty and privilege, having the consent of the Time Lords of Gallifrey, to invest you as President of the Supreme Council.”

As he spoke, a black gown embroidered with golden symbols of Gallifrey and of Rassilon, Creator of the Time Lord race, was put onto the President Elect over his simple robe. On top of that a gold cloak was fastened. Then three Guards approached bearing velvet cushions on which the ceremonial and sacred symbols of the Presidency lay.

On two of them, at least.

“Accept, therefore, the Sash of Rassilon,” Gold Usher said and placed the heavy sash of gold plates around the neck of the Candidate.

“Accept, therefore, the Rod of Rassilon,” he said as he gave the black and gold sceptre into the Candidate’s hands.

“Seek, therefore, to find the Great Key Sash of Rassilon.”

The Candidate reached out towards the final, empty cushion as was the tradition. The Great Key was lost long ago. Nobody was even entirely sure what it was and why it was significant. This strange empty gesture had been part of the Investiture ceremony for so long it had ceased to matter.

“Do you swear to uphold the laws of Gallifrey?” Gold Usher asked the Candidate.

“I swear!” he replied.

“Do you swear to follow in the wisdom of Rassilon?”

“I swear.”

“Do you swear to protect the laws and the wisdom of Rassilon?”

“I swear.”

“I invest you Lord President of the Supreme Council. I wish you good fortune and strength. I give you the Matrix.”

Lord President Almanzo Gris Stillhaeven knelt as Gold Usher placed the Coronet of Rassilon on his head. A descant version of the National Anthem played on strings with a single solo voice filled the air as he rose up again and everyone else knelt in reverence.

Then a hush came upon the whole assembly as the President began his inaugural speech. He spoke of the honour, privilege and burden of the greatest Office in all of Gallifrey. He spoke of tradition and history, of the pride of Time Lords for generations past, of unchanging and unending tradition.

That was something every Time Lord, every wife and sister and mother of Time Lords could agree on. Tradition counted for so much in Gallifreyan society.

But then President Stillhaeven began to speak of something else. He reminded the assembly that he had been an offworld Ambassador for more than a century. He had far more contact with other races and other worlds than most Time Lords. He had seen so very much more of the galaxy, of the universe.

And under his Presidency, he hoped that Gallifrey may come to play a greater part in the universe. He hoped to end the millennia of insularity that brought Gallifrey to a point of social stagnation. Tradition, he said, must go with progress.

Nobody argued. This was the President’s inaugural speech, after all, not a debate. But Marion, looking around the Gallery, looking at the assembled Councillors, especially on a screen showing the public broadcast, could guess what many of them were thinking. She knew which ones were the traditionalist who would think this a bad idea. She knew which ones would support that idea. She saw Kristoph in his formal regalia, among the Magisters and Inquisitors. He, of course, would be fully behind this idea. He had a faint smile on his face as he listened to Lord Stillhaeven’s words.

But she couldn’t help thinking the supporters of this radical new policy were in the minority.

And later, at the reception that followed the formal ceremony, she heard enough remarks passed around to know she was right. Only a few hardliners really wanted Gallifrey to withdraw behind the Transduction Barrier altogether. Most saw the value of diplomatic ties with friendly governments. They saw galactic trade as advantageous to Gallifrey as a whole. And a presence at important conferences and treaties was essential. But Lord Stillhaeven was obviously advocating far more than that, and it shook them.

“It’s what I’d expect from the likes of Lœngbærrow and his sort,” Marion heard Lord Kocieda comment. He had not noticed her standing with Lord and Lady Haddandrox, but even if he had, she thought he probably would have said the same thing. “We all know that tradition counts for nothing in THAT House. But Stillhaeven ought to know better.”

Marion said nothing. She knew there was no point. She knew that Lord Kocieda and his sort would scarcely listen to the political opinions of women anyway. She didn’t need to find out what he would think of a ‘foreign’ woman.

It was late when the reception ended. Marion was feeling quite tired and she relaxed gratefully in the back of the limousine that was taking them to the Haddandrox town house. Marion and Kristoph were staying there overnight before travelling back to the southern continent in the morning. The prospect of getting to bed very soon cheered her. She hardly listened to Kristoph and Lord Haddandrox talking about the President’s speech, and when Lady Haddandrox spoke to her, she responded sleepily.

Then something happened that roused her from her stupor. The videophone built into the limousine roof beeped indicating an incoming communication. Lord Haddandrox answered it since it was his car, but immediately handed the receiver to Kristoph. He listened to the message and then instructed the driver to return to the Citadel at once.

“What’s happening?” Marion asked. She could see by the expression on Kristoph’s face that it was something important – something disturbing. But he shook his head. He couldn’t tell her anything.

Marion reached out to hold her husband’s hand and was surprised and shocked to find that he was trembling.