Marion watched Kristoph piloting the small, personal shuttle craft over the water. He seemed to be enjoying himself. The little craft wasn’t anything like as sophisticated as a TARDIS. It was more like a hover car that was designed to cross open sea. But it was very fast and very manoeuvrable and he liked being in control of it.

“It seems a very long time since I drove anything for myself,” he said as if in answer to a question she hadn’t asked. “I don’t even drive my own car any more. And it is a very long time since I went anywhere in the TARDIS. Too long. This is the first time I’ve taken control of anything with an engine since…”

“Since you became President,” Marion pointed out. “I’ve hardly ever been alone with you outside the house. There are always chauffeurs and bodyguards around. I know they have to take precautions. But it does get tiresome.”

“I think we ought to try to get a holiday offworld, soon,” Kristoph told her. “But… even though this is a duty of a kind, I don’t think you’ll find it unpleasant. I’m glad you’re coming with me.”

“It’s a strange kind of duty,” she admitted. “Kind of sad. This man…”


“It’s cruel, making him live that way. It really is. Can’t you… I mean, you’re Lord High President now. Couldn’t you do something for him?”

“No, I can’t,” Kristoph answered. He frowned deeply. Marion bit her lip. She knew she had said something he wished she hadn’t said. He wasn’t angry with her. He was never angry with her. No matter how tired and frustrated he was from his work, he never raised his voice to her and he never criticised anything she did. But she knew she really shouldn’t have asked that question.

“If it was up to me, yes, I would. But too many other High Councillors believe simply letting him live in solitude is too kind. If I tried to do anything unilaterally, there would be uproar in the Panopticon. And they would be right. It would be an abuse of my power as Lord High President. Besides, there is no question about it. Understand that much, Marion. Destri is a convicted traitor. His actions caused thousands of young Gallifreyans to suffer torture and death at the hands of our enemies. I was one of them. This is not like your friend Silis who was wrongfully convicted. Or even Li... We both know his actions were misunderstood. But Destri was spared a death sentence he richly deserved.”

“I do understand that,” Marion told him. “And yet… to leave a man stranded on a tiny island… alone… for so many years…”

“That is why it falls to the Magisters to visit him from time to time and make sure he is safe and well. I have been doing that duty ever since I took up my post as Southern Magister. And I found it far less onerous than I expected. I ought to hate him with every fibre of my body. But I don’t. He has repented his deeds over and over again. He has had millennia to do so, after all. Now, he simply lives out his life in enforced solitude and welcomes the chance to receive those visitors who occasionally come to his prison.”

“And he asked to see me?” Marion still found that surprising.

“He has asked every time since I first spoke to him. I refused at first because you had enough trouble adjusting to life here on Gallifrey. Then because the journey would be too much for you when you were pregnant. Then these last couple of years you have been so pre-occupied with caring for Rodan. I didn’t think you would want to do this. But I am starting to feel guilty about making so many excuses.”

“WHY does he want to see me?” she asked.

“Because I have talked about you. The topics of conversation soon run dry. There are some things I am not permitted to talk to him about. My domestic life is a safe subject. He was intrigued to learn that I married a foreigner. Traitor though he may be, he is a son of a high Oldblood family. And knowing that I am patriarch of one of the Twelve Ancient Oldbloods it struck him as odd that I married outside the blood. I think he is intrigued to learn what sort of woman you are that I should set aside so much tradition for love of you.”

“I hope I measure up to his expectations, then,” Marion said. “But… where is this island, anyway? Shouldn’t we be close by now? We’ve been flying over empty sea for over an hour.”

“It’s very close,” Kristoph answered. He reached and touched a button on the shuttle’s control panel. Marion gasped as something appeared ahead of them. It was an island, surrounded by a shimmering force field.

“There’s a perception filter on the whole island… as well as a force field. They really don’t want him to have uninvited guests.”

“They don’t want the vast majority of Gallifreyans to even remember he exists. There have been generations born since his betrayal who wouldn’t know his name even if it was spoken. Destri is NOT his real name. He lost that along with his freedom. His own father disowned him in the court. I’m really not sure where that name comes from. He chose it himself. It was one of the few things he was allowed to choose, so far be it that we should question the choice.”

He fell silent again as the shuttle approached the force field. He pressed another button and a gap appeared in the shimmering wall just large enough for the shuttle to pass through. Marion looked back to see it close again. For the duration of the visit, they, too, were prisoners.

That might have bothered her if the island didn’t look so enchanting. It wasn’t a tropical island such as Robinson Crusoe’s exile took place on. It was more like one of the islands off the coast of Scotland or Ireland. There was a beach of soft sand at one part, but then high cliffs rose up and looked as if they continued around the whole island except for that one quiet cove. From the air Marion could see what looked like ancient ruins on the edge of the cliffs. There were trees growing on the island, and there were signs of some kind of agriculture. And a small house whitewashed like the cottages of those Scots and Irish islands. As prisons went, it wasn’t so terrible to look at.

It was just the fact that this man, Destri, lived here alone that was the terrible thing. She remembered reading that book – Robinson Crusoe – that had come to mind as they approached the island. It was the solitude that troubled the marooned man more than anything else.

“Yes, but when he was finally rescued, and returned to civilisation, he decided he preferred his solitude,” Kristoph reminded her. “I’m not sure whether that would be true of Destri. And we’re not likely to find out, since he is sentenced to die here on his island.”

Kristoph brought the shuttle to a stop at the top of the cliff just above the sandy cove and not far from the little whitewashed house. Marion stepped out and breathed deeply, thinking that the air had a good feel to it. A different feel. Of course, Mount Lœng House was deep in rural southern Gallifrey. But it was on the edge of the great plain. The air that came across that expanse was warm and dry. Marion was used to being close to the sea. New Brighton was only a short bus ride from where she had grown up. She liked the smell of sea air. She associated it with the few good memories she had of her childhood.

The island felt like a good place to live, at least.

Kristoph took her arm and shouldered a large leather bag with things he was bringing to the prisoner. They headed towards the little house. Before they were close, the door opened and a man stepped out. Marion watched him curiously as they drew near. She had wondered just what a man who had been a prisoner for more than three thousand years might look like. She half expected him to be ragged with a long white beard and wizened face. In fact, he had only a small, neat beard. He was dark haired, tall and thin but not emaciated. As they drew closer she saw that he was tanned and well muscled. He obviously spent a lot of time outdoors in manual labour. He had soft green eyes. They fixed on her as they approached, and he smiled warmly.

Marion decided she liked his smile.

“You came,” he said in what Marion knew as a southern Gallifreyan accent. “Both of you. I am glad. I thought you might be put off. There is a storm on the horizon.”

“If there is, then our weather bureaux has been lax. The forecast was for light breeze and sunshine.”

“I look at that horizon every day,” Destri pointed out. “There will be a storm later.”

“I believe you. But never mind that, now. May I introduce my wife, Lady Marion de Lœngbærrow. Marion… this is Destri.”

Marion held out her hand to him. He shook it politely.

“Thank you for coming, dear Lady. It is a long time since a woman looked at me with anything but coldness in her eyes. Thank you for the warmth in yours.”

Marion didn’t know what to say about that. Kristoph passed no comment. Nor did his expression give a clue whether those compliments to her from a man such as Destri bothered him or not.

“Come,” Destri said. “Let me offer you both the hospitality of my home.”

He stood aside as Marion entered the little cottage. She was surprised to find it very neat and tidy and furnished simply but comfortably. The main room had a long sofa covered in a woven linen throw and two wooden chairs with woven covers that were placed either side of a wide, old fashioned fireplace with an oven on one side and a spit across the fire for hanging a kettle or a pot for cooking food. There was a kettle hanging there now. Destri took it down with an iron hook and prepared cups of herbal tea. Marion sat on the sofa, but Kristoph took one of the chairs by the fire. When he had served the tea to his guests, Destri took the other chair.

“I have brought some comforts for you,” Kristoph said, indicating the bag that he had left on the wooden table by the back of the room. “There are cheeses and fresh butter, and a ham, and watermelons. I know those don’t grow so well in the soil you have here. And some bars of chocolate.”

“Kristoph brings you food?” Marion asked Destri. “Are you short of such things?”

“No,” he quickly assured her. “I grow vegetables and catch fish. There are cúl nuts to be gathered, too. I have the means of preparing them as a nourishing meal. I’ve even got a field of grain from which to make bread. But cheese… that is a luxury I do not have. It is a kindness to bring me something to relieve the monotony of my diet.”

“I do not begrudge you such a small thing,” Kristoph answered him. “Are you keeping well?”

“I am.”

“Good,” Kristoph said. The conversation continued like that for a while. Marion wondered about it. It seemed to her that there was a mutual respect of a kind between them. And she thought they must have more to say to each other than that. But breaking the ice was obviously difficult.

“Is everyone well?” Destri asked next. Marion thought that ‘everyone’ was a code of sorts for somebody specific. She remembered what Kristoph had said about his family disowning him. Were there people he thought of fondly even if they no longer thought of him?

“Yes,” Kristoph answered him. “Should that not be the case, I give you my word you will be informed straight away. I will not leave it until a scheduled visit. But be aware, even if your last living relative was in extremis there is no parole for you. I can do no more than inform you of the fact.”

“I understand, fully,” Destri acknowledged. “As long as she is in good health and happiness, it is enough for me. But…” He turned to Marion. “You are a Lady of Gallifrey, now, even if you were born far away. Would you indulge me… tell me what is the latest gossip on the luncheon circuit? Are there any scandals worthy of note?”

“None, I am afraid,” Marion answered. “Gallifreyan society is quite scandal free at present. We have nothing to talk about except the latest fashions.”

“Marion is a gracious soul, anyway,” Kristoph said. “Even if she knew a juicy titbit she would not pass it on. Gossip dies quietly at her luncheons.”

“Good,” Destri said. “Perhaps the habit may catch on. But if there is no society news, we have nothing left to talk about but politics. What news from the Capitol are you permitted to tell me? My last visitor mentioned that there was a Presidential Resignation due. That must have come and gone. Who is the new man? My visitor thought it might be Lord Stillhaeven.”

Marion glanced at Kristoph and thought he hesitated before answering.

“It WAS Lord Stillhaeven,” he said. “But he had to retire because of sudden illness and name a new successor. I am permitted to tell you that I am no longer the Southern Magister. I am, for the foreseeable future, Lord High President of Gallifrey.”

Destri’s expression wavered. Then he nodded and smiled.

“Congratulations,” he said. “Well deserved. And… that being so… I am even more deeply humbled that you came to see me.”

“I promised to before I accepted these new duties. I would not break a promise, even to you, Destri.”

“Thank you,” he replied. “And… to you, dear lady… for gracing my home with your presence.” He turned to Marion and his smile was just for her. “We have beaten around the bush, mindful of your gentle presence. I expect you know the reason for my peculiar circumstances. But, please… don’t be afraid of me.”

“I’m not afraid of you,” Marion assured him. “And… I don’t really know the whole story. Kristoph said you were convicted of treason… and the death sentence was commuted to… internal exile, I think it is called. But I don’t know what you did. And… you don’t have to tell me. Kristoph said that you have repented your crime. And… it seems as if you have paid for it by now.”

“I won’t have begun to pay for it even on my dying day,” Destri answered. “I did a terrible thing and I deserved to suffer for it. And I do. I suffer when I look at this man… your husband… who was one of those I betrayed. Knowing that he is a better man than me… one who brings me comforts and speaks to me kindly when he would have a right to plunge a dagger into my hearts… that kindness rends my soul. His forgiveness…”

“I have never forgiven you, Destri,” Kristoph told him. “Your crime against me, and so many thousands more, was too great. But I see no reason to hold a grudge. The ‘comforts’ are a small enough thing. They cost me nothing. You are welcome to them. Forgiveness… that’s much harder. But we need not speak of it.”

“Your lady is burning with curiosity,” Destri answered. “She tries to hide it. She knows that the story is a sordid, shocking one. But she wants to know it, all the same.”

Kristoph looked at Marion. He shook his head sadly.

“Of course you do,” he said. “Bringing you here, the half story you have had already… you are bound to wonder. But I would not be so cruel as to make him tell it to you. I will explain it to you when we are on our way home.”

“No,” Destri said quietly. “I… I have so rarely spoken of it. Most of the visitors I see know the story well enough. They have no need to ask. But if you would permit it…” He looked up at the small cottage window. The light from outside had dimmed. “I was right. There is a storm coming. We might as well have a tale to tell by the fireside that will last it out.”

“This is no fairy story,” Kristoph warned. “Marion… do you really wish to hear this?”

“I think it’s probably too late now,” she replied. “I may as well hear the whole thing.”