Marion came out of the school at the end of the morning. Gallis Limmon was ready with her car. He opened the back door and she slid into her seat.

“Are you well, madam?” Gallis asked, noting that she seemed unusually quiet.

“I am...” she began to answer. “No, not really. I...”

“I shall take you home at once,” her chauffeur said, settling himself in the driver’s seat.

“No,” she decided. “Take me to the Dower House. I need to see Aineytta.”

She leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes. Gallis asked her if she wanted him to play some of her music, but she said no. She just wanted to get to the Dower House as soon as possible.

Gallis glanced at her in his rear view mirror then he took the car to the maximum hover height and increased the speed. Marion felt the acceleration but she kept her eyes closed. She didn’t want to look out of the window at the scenery as she usually did when she was being chauffeured in her car. She just wanted this journey to be over.

She only opened her eyes when the car stopped. She waited until Gallis got out and opened the car door before she began to climb out. He was there when she stumbled and almost fainted. He grasped her firmly and called for help. The Dower House butler, Caolin senior, came running to help her inside. Aineytta de Lœngbærrow, mistress of the Dower House took one look at her and ordered her butler to take her straight to the master bedroom.

After that, everything felt slightly unreal for Marion. It was partly because of the herbal potion that Aineytta made her drink. It dulled her senses as well as the pain she had been in since partway through the morning. She was only vaguely aware of what else Aineytta was doing to help nature take its inevitable course.

“Sleep now,” her mother in law told her at last, giving her an even stronger potion. “And don’t worry about anything else.”

She slept for several hours. When she woke, she didn’t feel any pain at all, but she did feel a deep, deep sense of loss.

“Aineytta,” she murmured. “Aineytta... why does this keep happening?”

“It’s just one of those things, my dear,” Aineytta answered. “Don’t worry. It will be right one day. This just wasn’t the time.”

“We thought Venice would be lucky for us. Kristoph will be so upset. Does he know? Has anyone told him?”

“He has been in closed session all afternoon,” Ainetta said. “But a message was sent. He’s on his way.”

“I don’t know what to say to him.”

“You don’t have to say anything. Kristoph will understand. He loves you, Marion. That’s the only thing that matters.”

“I knew... midway through the morning... while I was teaching. I suddenly felt... there was such a dull, terrible ache in my stomach. And I knew what it was. But... I didn’t want the children to be scared or upset. I kept on going to the end of class. Aineytta... was that wrong? If I’d sought help straight away, would it have been all right?”

“No, my dear,” Aineytta assured her. “It was probably already going wrong hours before then. Nobody could have known, and nothing could have made any difference. We just have to accept it.”

“We didn’t tell anyone,” Marion said. “Not even you. We didn’t want to until it was certain... in case...” She sighed and blinked back the tears that threatened to spill out. “In case this happened again. We hardly had chance to get used to the idea. And now it’s over.”

“I am sorry,” Aineytta said again. “But don’t fret. Rest a little while. I’ll have some food brought up to you.”

“I don’t want to eat.”

“I know you don’t. But you must. Your health is more important than anything else. You have to gather your strength after this setback.”

“Aineytta, don’t you think... doesn’t it bother you that... that I can’t... that I haven’t... I know how important it is for there to be an heir...”

“And there will be,” Aineytta assured her. “I know there will be. So do you. Remember when you went to the Ring of Foretelling. You saw him, then, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” Marion admitted. “Yes, I did. That memory... it always made me so happy. But... I thought... I hoped... this child...”

“This wasn’t the time. But it will still happen. I know. Because I have seen visions like that, too.”

“You have?”

“I long for a grandson as much as you long for your own child in your arms, Marion. It DOES grieve me that it has been such a struggle for you. When I go to the Capitol, and I see Shiony Malthis with her sister’s child... sired by my own son... I should have been able to call him my grandson. But Idell...” Aineytta shook her head. “I will not speak ill of the dead. What is done is done. And it may well be that Remonte and Rika will bless this family, yet. But the Lœngbærrow heir will be your son, Marion. I know it. I have seen it.”

“You’ve been to the Ring of Foretelling?”

Aineytta smiled and shook her head.

“They used to call me a witch because of my skills with herbs,” she said. “There are still those who believe I charmed his Lordship into marrying me. That much is nonsense. But I am a natural seer. I could do, untrained, what it takes the Time Lords in the great academies centuries to learn to do. Some would call that witchcraft. I think they would do so on your world, too.”

“People say a lot of silly things, everywhere,” Marion replied. “But do you mean...”

“I have the gift of sight. Let me show you. It won’t make the grief of this day any less. But share a revelation with me... a presage of the future when this sorrow will be eclipsed by joy.”

Aineytta reached and pressed her hand against Marion’s forehead. She sighed deeply as she felt the touch of a wise, old, telepathic mind upon her own aching, disappointed mind. She felt her troubled thoughts melting away like early morning mist as they were replaced by something else.

Marion and Aineytta were in the garden of the Dower House. It was summer and the yellow sky was almost uncomfortably bright. A large canvas canopy gave them shade as they sat drinking iced fruit drinks and watching a small child who had only just learnt to walk but was already too fast for his nursemaid who was constantly trying to keep him away from the river’s edge.

“Bring him to me,” Aineytta said, and the woman lifted the child and brought her to the mistress of the house. She sat him on her knee and gave him a piece of fruit to eat. She brushed back a fringe of dark brown hair and smiled as he looked at her with wide eyes that were also dark brown.

“He has his father’s eyes,” Marion said happily.

“He has his father’s unbounded energy,” Aineytta added. “I remember when he was this age. There was no holding him back. There never was. When he was older he was always in some mischief. This little one is the same. It won’t be very many years before he’s climbing trees and getting himself covered in mud in some undiscovered part of the garden. He’s a fine, strong boy, Marion. A worthy heir to our great House.”

“I don’t care about that,” Marion told her mother in law. “All that matters is that he’s healthy and happy. Being the Heir of Lœngbærrow can wait. And all the other great deeds he has to do... his solemn destiny and all that. I’m teaching him to ride a tricycle and sing Old MacDonald. And that’s enough.”

“More than enough,” Aineytta agreed. “Although I think he may be a little puzzled by that song. Perhaps you should take a little trip to the Earth countryside and show him what sheep and pigs look like?”

“He... told you?”

“He’s singing me the song in his head. But I don’t think cows really go ‘baah’, do they?”

“He’s got the sounds mixed up. But never mind. At least he’s trying. He’s such a clever little boy. But he couldn’t really be anything else. He’s Kristoph’s son.”

“He’s your son, too.”

“Biologically, only a little. His DNA is almost entirely Gallifreyan. Only his eyes... he cries tears like a Human child. But the rest.... I’m glad of it. I worried that he might be too Human... and not able to do all the things he should do... like becoming a Time Lord. But he’s his father’s son, and he’s wonderful. And I love him so much.”

“We all do,” Aineytta said. “His grandfather talks about him all the time. He thinks he might grow up to be a scientist, like him.”

“That would be a good ambition for him,” Marion said. “But I don’t care about the future. I bless every day I have with him... my own little boy... My Chrístõ.”

She reached out her arms and Aineytta passed the child to her. She held him on her knee, smoothing out the little cotton shirt with pictures of yachts in full sail all over it. She had bought it on Earth. She bought most of his clothes on Earth. Later, when he was ready to be a young Gallifreyan, studying with tutors and preparing to go to Time Lord academy, he would wear Gallifreyan clothes, the tunic and loose pants that the young boys wore for casual dress or a robe like his father on formal occasions. One day he would wear elaborate layers of robes and gowns of rich fabric and a high collar and be a young Time Lord of Gallifrey. But for now he wore a cotton shirt from Mothercare and shoes from Clarks and rode a tricycle that came from the Early Learning Centre. She read to him at night from a book of fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson. He was her little boy, now.

Marion stirred on the bed and the real memories flooded back. But the sorrow of the day was eased a little by that brief respite. She cried, but not as grievously as before.

The bedroom door opened quietly. Kristoph came in. He was still dressed in his robes, though without the high collar. He had come straight from the Panoption as soon as he had his mother’s message.

“My love,” he said to Marion, embracing her in his arms. “Oh, my love, I am so sorry.”

“It’s all right,” she whispered to him. “It’s all right. This just wasn’t the right time. But the time will come. I know it will.”

He held her tightly and something like a choked sob came from deep within him. He was a Time Lord. He couldn’t cry, even when his hearts were breaking. But he could still grieve. And he did so. Aineytta stood and stepped from the room, leaving her son and daughter in law to deal with this latest setback in their lives together. Outside the room her own husband quietly took her hand. He was upset, too. But he was an elderly Time Lord who had almost forgotten what it was to be young and passionate. It was harder for him to express his grief than it was for his son. Holding his wife’s hand silently was the best he could do.