This was Marion’s first time attending the summer open day at the Prydonian Academy, and she was very interested in everything that was going on. She was there, of course, at Kristoph’s side, as the wife of the Lord High President, who for the first time in several centuries was a Prydonian, a reason for pride among the students and faculty alike.

The day had begun with a tour of the Academy, including the great library and the planetarium. They had lunched in the dining room, which resembled a Greek temple in its architectural style. Marion had felt a little daunted by it as they were shown to their seats at the high table by the Chancellor of the Academy, Lord Arun. The students, mostly boys, although there were a few girls to be seen among the ranks, filed into their seats, arranged by age. The tyros, aged between twenty and sixty, wore scarlet tunics and loose gold coloured leggings. The juniors, up to a hundred and twenty, had a tunic of a darker red and the sophomores, up to one hundred and fifty, had maroon tunics. The seniors, wore robes of scarlet with gowns of gold in a simpler style but similar to those worn by the faculty. The tyros mostly looked like skinny, undeveloped fourteen year olds of Earth measure, but the seniors were young men, and they exuded self-assurance. These were their last days in which they would have to wear a uniform of any kind. In only a week’s time they would have finished their formal education. They then had a ten year period in which they could either stay on at the Academy and do private research or take advantage of the opportunity to travel on extended field trips in their own student TARDISes. When that decade was over, they would all graduate and then go on to their chosen careers.

After lunch, they were conducted to the playing fields. There, several sporting exhibitions and competitions had been arranged. There was a display of Gallifreyan wrestling, which Marion didn’t care for very much, but which she was assured was a popular sport among the students. Then there was the final of the inter-house Lacrosse championship, between a team from Arina House against Quintus, named after two of the stars of the Kasterborus system, of course. The teams were a mixture of senior and sophomore boys and they all looked athletic and healthy, one team in gold shirts and scarlet shorts and the other in the opposite colours, as they marched onto the field and stood in two lines to be presented to the Lord High President and his First Lady. Marion tried not to think of the Queen on FA Cup Final day as she shook hands with each boy in turn before returning to the grandstand. Everyone stood while the Gallifreyan Anthem was played, and then the game got underway.

“I always thought of Lacrosse as a girls’ game,” Marion said. “I used to read about it when I was a girl... in Enid Blyton books about girls’ boarding school life.”

“Everywhere but English girls’ schools it is a man’s game,” Kristoph answered. “And please don’t ask me why it is that it is such a popular game here on Gallifrey, or why we have the same name for it. It is one of the monumental coincidences of the universe.”

“Did you play it when you were a boy?” Marion asked.

“I did, indeed,” Kristoph answered. “I was captain of the Prydonian team that beat the Arcalians ten years in a row. But my preferred sport was fencing.”

“That is just like my Parry,” said the lady who sat beside Marion in the grandstand. “Oh, I do beg your pardon, Excellency, for talking out of turn. But I couldn’t help overhearing.”

“No apology necessary, Lady Hext,” Kristoph responded. “From what I have heard you have every right to be proud of your son. He beat me by five years as the youngest captain of the lacrosse team.”

“Is he playing in this game?” Marion asked. “Which is he?”

“There, in the scarlet top with the gold armband,” Lady Hext answered. “Captain of Arina House.”

Marion looked at the boy. He was tall, slender, with bright, clear blue eyes in a handsome face. His eyes matched his mother’s, Marion thought. She was clearly proud of him. And it seemed she had a right to be. As the game progressed it was obvious that the Arina captain was an experienced player. He scored several times himself and when he was not in the best position to do so he passed the small round ball to a team member who had a clearer sight of the goal. He was the glue that bound the ten young men in scarlet tops into a team who worked towards their eventual triumph.

“Oh, I am glad he won,” Marion said enthusiastically. “That is... his team won.” Lady Hext didn’t say anything. She was too overwhelmed with motherly pride to speak.

It fell to Marion to present the trophy to the winning captain, and she smiled warmly at him as he went up to receive it. She was a little disappointed when the boy didn’t reciprocate. After collecting his individual medal from Kristoph he accepted the trophy almost reluctantly and immediately passed it to his team mates. He didn’t even seem to hear her congratulate him on his performance.

His mother didn’t notice anything wrong with him. She was so full of pride that she wouldn’t notice anything. Marion walked with her and listened to her chat about how her Parry had won so many awards for his academic and sporting achievements, even though he was only one hundred and thirty.

“He is a fine boy,” Marion said. “I hope... when I have a son of my own... he might be half as successful. Kristoph tells me it is certain he will be a Prydonian. But your son will have left the Academy by the time he does.... even if we have a child in the next few years...”

“Perhaps not,” Lady Hext said. “Parry still has another fifty years as a student. He’ll be a senior by the time your son is a tyro. He can be his mentor and guide.”

“I forgot,” Marion softly laughed. “On my world we only go to school for about ten years... fifteen for those who go on to higher education.”

“You must be very clever people,” Lady Hext said. “To learn in such a short time all that it takes our children a hundred and sixty years to learn.”

Of course, that wasn’t quite right. But Marion wasn’t sure how to explain herself. She smiled politely as Lady Hext sat beside her at the fencing court. Her son, Parry, was competing in this discipline, too. He was in the last pair to fight in the first round, allowing him time to rest after his lacrosse triumph. Then he went on through the knockout stages until he fought a long, brave final round. Kristoph was impressed watching him and remarked that the boy might make a good recruit for the Celestial Intervention Agency. His mother didn’t hear him say that. Marion thought it was just as well. It might be a proud thing to serve Gallifrey that way, but she had an idea that mothers wouldn’t think so.

Kristoph awarded the trophy for individual effort to the Hext heir and Marion presented him with the team trophy since his win also gained Arina House that prize. Again the boy seemed underwhelmed and didn’t say very much when he was congratulated by both the President and First Lady.

“Is he always so shy?” Marion asked his mother when they took afternoon tea in the quadrangle surrounded by the elegant buildings of the Academy.

“Not usually,” Lady Hext answered. “But he’s never been presented trophies by the Lord High President before. Perhaps he is a bit over-awed. I will try to get him to sit with the two of us later. Perhaps he will talk more freely then. He is a good boy. His father and I are very proud of him. It’s a pity he can’t be with us today. He’s on a diplomatic mission.”

“I know all about those,” Marion said. “I’ve been with Kristoph on many such trips.”

“This one isn’t the social kind. He’s trying to make peace between two warring factions... something called Sontarans and... oh, I forget the other ones. But not very pleasant people, anyway. If they can be called people. I understand neither race is... like us.”

Lady Hext didn’t mean it rudely, and Marion knew full well that it WAS difficult meeting non-humanoid species in diplomatic circles. She fully sympathised with her confusion. But it was something the wives of ambassadors and consuls got used to, and she knew Lady Hext would come to terms with it in her own way.

After tea, was the final prize giving of the day, when the awards for academic achievements at all levels of the Academy, and the House Cup for the best group effort were presented. Again, Marion and Kristoph were guests of honour, but this time Lady Hext sat in the gallery with the other parents. The students came into the grand hall of the Prydonian Academy in procession and stood in their places to sing the Gallifreyan Anthem before sitting and waiting to hear the names of those to be honoured this year. The prizes started with the year prizes for the tyros and worked up until the grandest honours were given to those seniors who would be ending their formal education this year.

The prize for academic excellence among the sophomores went to Lady Hext’s son. He mounted the stage and accepted his award but he didn’t look especially happy about it. Again Marion wondered why a boy with such talents, who came from a good loving home, should be so unhappy. She wished she knew what was bothering him.

After the prize-giving, there was an informal time when staff and students and invited guests mingled. Marion found Lady Hext and talked to her again, but was surprised to find her son wasn’t around.

Kristoph wasn’t surprised. He slipped away from the women and gave the impression of mingling with the senior Prydonians, but when he saw the Hext heir going out to the quadrangle with a group of his friends, he followed them quietly and unobtrusively. They were unaware of his presence as they talked among themselves.

“How did you feel getting your prizes from the foreigner?” one of his friends asked him. “Must have made your skin crawl.”

“Yes, it did,” young Hext said. “Spoilt the whole damn day for me. I should have been able to celebrate. Instead, I feel like melting down every trophy and selling them as scrap silver. They’re just... tainted.”

“I would have refused to take them from the alien woman,” one of the other boys said. “I’d have stood up in front of the whole Academy and told them how I feel about trash like that. Rassilon’s Beard! How our society came to such a low. A feeble, low-born foreigner as First Lady. De Lœngbærrow should never have been allowed to be President with her as his wife.”

Kristoph listened to a little more of the same kind of talk, then he deliberately made a loud footstep. The crowd of boys turned and he had the satisfaction of seeing their faces change. All of them bowed to him, as etiquette demanded, but as soon as they raised themselves up again most made excuses about having to be elsewhere. Kristoph granted them leave to go.

“Your friends are gone, Paracell Hext,” Kristoph said. “So... I wonder... will I hear the truth from you, now? Do you really subscribe to that pureblood nonsense they were all spouting?”

“Yes,” he replied with his head held high and a firm set to his mouth. “Yes, I do.”

“Well, that is a honest answer, at least. And a brave one, to my face like this. I wouldn’t have expected it from one who hasn’t the courage to stand up to his friends and voice a better opinion than theirs.”

“I do not fear you. There is no LAW against expressing such opinions. Gallifrey is not a dictatorship. Free thought, free speech, is our right as Gallifreyans.”

“Indeed it is. And I would die to defend that freedom. One day, perhaps you will. When you’re an adult and you know something more of the ways of the universe than you do now. But I wonder... if you DO subscribe wholly to this pureblood philosophy... I wonder where it comes from? Your father is a known liberal and your mother, Rassilon bless her, hasn’t a political bone in her body. Your prejudices aren’t simply the learnt behaviour of the child of bigots. So who taught you to think so perversely?”

“I think for myself,” Paracell Hext responded. “I am a free Gallifreyan. One day I will be a Time Lord like my ancestors. I will be patriarch of a proud Oldblood House. A pureblood House. What will your weak, half-blood child be?”

“That remains to be seen. Even Time Lords are not masters of the future. Perhaps my weak, half-blood child will surprise you. But right now, you are going to set aside your bile. My wife was impressed by you. She thinks you’re a fine example of Gallifreyan youth. She also thinks you’re a little under the weather and feels sorry for you because you haven’t enjoyed the prize giving. You’re going to come back inside now, and present yourself to Lady de Lœngbærrow and your mother with a smile and a friendly word. You will not give either of them the slightest hint that these filthy ideas are fomenting in your head. Because if you do, it will get back to your father one way or another, and I know that he will find a way to punish you for your insolence.”

Paracell Hext opened his mouth to protest, but there was no protest he could make. Besides, he WAS talking to the Lord High President, no matter what he thought of him. Any truly insolent answer could have dangerous repercussions for him.

He walked beside the President into the hall and smiled graciously when he was introduced to the First Lady. He talked to her civilly and his mother beamed happily at him.

Kristoph watched the boy thoughtfully. There were a lot of bad ideas in his head and the ticking off he had this day wouldn’t shift them entirely. Kristoph had enough prescience about the future to know that his half-blood son was not going to find a friend in Paracell Hext when the one was a tyro and the other a senior of the Prydonian Academy.

And yet, there was something stronger than political bile in the hearts of the heir to the House of Hext. And the same prescience told him that the hot headed foolishness of the school boy would one day cool and a better man than anyone expected might emerge.

And in the future not yet written, but which the Lords of Time could predict with some accuracy, that man would be a loyal friend to the future heir of the House of Lœngbærrow.