It was autumn, and the roses were past their best in the formal garden of the Gallifreyan Ambassador’s residence on Ventura IV. Even so, Marion, wife of the visiting Lord High President of Gallifrey and Rika, the Ambassador’s wife, who was still sometimes surprised to be addressed as ‘Madam’ by the staff, domestic and diplomatic, walked happily in the warm late afternoon.

“My grandmother used to know a recipe for rose hip syrup,” Marion said as she looked at the red and purple fruits on some of the rose bushes. Most were dead-headed as soon as the blooms were past their best by conscientious gardeners, but Rika was glad a few of them were allowed to fruit in the natural way. She liked the colours the hips turned after the blooms were over.

“Rosehip syrup?” she queried.

“She took out the seeds and mashed the flesh and cooked it with sugar in some way,” Marion explained. “Then she would bottle it. It made a pale pink syrup, very sweet with a hint of flowers in the taste. It was nice on top of ice cream, or mixed with a bit of orange juice and hot water for my bedtime drink. I’ve never had it since she died. I’ve never known anyone else who had the recipe.

“It sounds very nice,” Rika told her. “It must be possible to find out how it was made. We have three head chefs, nineteen cooks and I don’t know how many other servants in the kitchens, here. I’m sure one of them could try to make it.

Marion considered how many professional cooks there were at Mount Lœng House who might be able to make rose hip syrup if she asked. But somehow it didn’t seem the same.

“It probably wouldn’t be the same as my gran’s home made stuff,” she admitted. “Nothing ever is quite the same as they were when you remember the from childhood.”

Rika sighed with Marion at the universal truth of that.

“Some things are better than they used to be, though,” she pointed out.

“Yes, they are,” Marion agreed. She looked beyond the garden to the Venturan Alps that rose up to the north of the capital city, cutting it off from the Great Interior Plain. “They were green when I was last here in the high summer. Now they’re that dusky plum colour. Very beautiful, especially at this time of day with the sun low in the southern sky.”

“It’s a sort of gorse that grows on the mountains,” Rika explained to her. “It looks that wonderful purple colour in early autumn, then golden brown just before winter sets in and the snow covers the mountains. Then in spring when the snow melts, it’s a delightful pale pink that looks blue at sunset. I’ve lived here long enough to see it happen three times, now. I love it. I don’t think I ever want to leave Ventura. It feels more like home than Gallifrey to me, now. And certainly more than Polafrey. That place is so dark and grey compared to anywhere else.”

“I hope you will always stay here, then,” Marion told her.

“Ambassadors usually stay in one place for a long time,” Rika added. “But sometimes they are re-assigned. I hope not. Even if we went somewhere wonderful I think I would miss Ventura very much.”

“I can’t imagine living anywhere else but Gallifrey, now,” Marion admitted. “It is nice to visit Earth. I do that all the time with the Portal. But I belong under a yellow-orange sky now.”

The Venturan sky was blue. The climate here was a perfect temperate one like Oregan in the North-West of the USA. Marion enjoyed visiting Ventura. She always liked it when Lady Stillh?ven tended the roses in the garden. It was even more of a joy to visit now that Rika was the Ambassador’s wife. Ventura was a place where she could relax from the responsibilities of being First Lady of Gallifrey.

“Isn’t it amazing, though,” Rika said. “The two of us. You came to Gallifrey as a stranger, despised by all the snobs, and not sure if you really could like living there. And now you’re the wife of the President and even the snobs have to like you. As for me... I was a servant. And now, I’m the Ambassador’s wife, living in this lovely house as the mistress of all. We’re both so lucky.”

“I sometimes think I’m going to wake up and find it’s all a dream,” Marion admitted. “I wanted to be a teacher, you know. And I am sure I would have loved that job. I love teaching part time on Gallifrey. But, I suppose, if I woke up and found myself with that life... after all of this... I would be disappointed.”

“I was happy working as a personal maid for Lady Lily, and even more so for you,” Rika said. “But to find this was all a dream... I should be devastated. Not because of the great house and servants at my own command, and fine clothes, balls and banquets. But because I love Remonte so very much. HE is my world. If this was all gone and we lived in a servant’s house together I would be happy. But without him I would be wretched.”

“Kristoph often says he’d be happy living as a literature professor in Liverpool with me at his side,” Marion confirmed. “He always says it after a meeting with the Premier Cardinal. That man always seems to have so many concerns about everything. Kristoph says a pile of essays about Virginia Woolf’s Lighthouse would be heaven in contrast. But I know he wouldn’t be happy to carry on being the professor on his own. And I wouldn’t let him do so. I’d be at his side no matter what.”

They walked on in silence for a while after such contemplations, leaving the formal garden behind and walking through the copse of trees that bordered the northern edge of the Residence gardens. They were out of sight of the house here, where their two men were drinking brandy in the drawing room and talking about politics. There was nobody to disturb their enjoyment of this Venturan autumn afternoon. They enjoyed the sight of the leaves turning golden and the occasional glimpses of birds and woodland wildlife. They savoured the sounds of the tinkling stream that wound its way through that corner of the property untamed by gardeners or landscapesmiths.

The only sign of any deliberate influence on this piece of nature was just at the place where the stream dropped down a natural waterfall of some six feet or so into a small pool of deeper water. A tree had fallen during a winter storm some years before, and the trunk had been carved into a double seat and varnished to protect it against the elements. Marion and Rika sat at this providential resting place, now and quietly watched the tumbling water for a little while before Rika came to a subject she had been gathering the courage to approach.

“Marion, there is something very important I have to tell you,” she said. She paused again and stared at the waterfall intently before going on. Marion waited patiently, knowing she would get there in the end.

“Its going to be announced formally this evening at the reception,” she said. “But I wanted you to know first. Marion, I’m going to have a baby.”

“Oh!” Marion grasped her sister in law’s hand tightly. “Oh, Rika, I am so pleased. That’s wonderful news. Remonte must be so very happy. It’s a wonder he could keep quiet when we arrived.”

“Oh, he is, absolutely delighted. It means so much to him. The chance to be a father again. He never speaks of the child Idell bore. He has never even seen him. I don’t think he even knows the name she chose to give the child. He still pays a generous sum each month for his needs. He wouldn’t let the boy grow up in poverty. But he has nothing to do with him. He doesn’t even think of him as his son.”

“I know,” Marion said. “It’s a sad aspect of Gallifreyan life. I can’t imagine how he manages not to feel very upset about it. Or how he can keep his distance. On Earth, usually, estranged fathers do have some kind of contact with their children. Well... mine never did. But usually they want to.”

“He set Idell aside before the child was born. If it had been after, he could legally have sent her away from him and kept his son with him. It would have been terribly cruel to her, but he would have had his heir. You know how important that is to Oldbloods of Gallifrey, even second sons. Remonte is a clever businessman. His shares in the Lœngbærrow mines, and in the consortiums on Polarfrey and Karn make him a very good income. He will never be Lord de Lœngbærrow with the land and titles, the Patriarchy, but he is a wealthy man in his own right and he has a fine legacy to pass on to his rightful heir.”

“And so he should,” Marion acknowledged. “And so he will. Is it a boy or a girl?”

“It is a boy,” Rika said. “Though I would have been just a delighted to have a daughter, and I know Remonte would love a little girl. But it is what we both hoped for – a boy. His rightful heir, and his first born son as far as the law of Gallifrey is concerned.”

“I’m glad for both of you,” Marion said again.

“Thank you,” Rika replied sincerely. “But, Marion, I think you might be seeing this as an Earth Child would see it, not as a Lady of Gallifrey – and especially not the wife of an Oldblood patriarch. You don’t realise what implications there are for you.”

“What implications?” Marion asked, though she was beginning to realise just what they were.

“If Remonte and I have a son before you and Kristoph do, then our child could be considered.... there was a phrase the Earth Ambassador’s wife mentioned yesterday... Heir Presumptive...”

Marion laughed despite herself.

“On Earth we usually only use that term about the children of royalty. None of us are that.”

But the traditions of Gallifreyan aristocracy meant that the phrase DID apply to them. Marion knew it, even if it seemed so ludicrous to be talking about it.

“If you and Kristoph do not have a son to be the Lœngbærrow heir by absolute right, then our son becomes his heir by default. He has to formally confer the right upon our child, of course. It isn’t automatic. But there would be pressure upon him to do so. And if, Rassilon forbid, Kristoph should die without issue, then there would be no question about it. Remonte’s son, his closest kin, would inherit the titles and property.”

Marion knew all of that, of course. It had been the reason why Idell had been so bitter towards her from the moment she first set foot on Gallifrey. She had seen the threat to her own son’s succession. And now it was Rika who was going to bear the second son of the House of Lœngbærrow a male heir.

“Have you been worrying about all this?” she asked her. “About how I might feel about you having a baby.

“Yes, I have,” Rika admitted. “Especially when Remonte told me you and Kristoph had lost another baby... and that a boy, too. I am sorry for that, not only because your child would have been older than mine and the whole question would not arise. I don’t want to lose you as a friend, Marion. But you have a right to feel aggrieved. Your own flesh and blood should be heir. I don’t want you to feel my baby is a threat in some way...”

“Stop worrying,” Marion told her. “You’re pregnant. You shouldn’t worry about anything except using bio-oil every day to prevent stretch marks. Tell Remonte to order some at once, by the way. But I don’t feel jealous or aggrieved. I am sad that I lost our baby. I know Kristoph wants a son very, very much, but he won’t think of us trying again yet. If he wants to accept his brother’s son as his heir, I won’t think badly of it. He loves Remonte and he loves you, and he would be proud to confer the inheritance on your child. The House of Lœngbærrow would be in good hands.”

She paused and watched a fish swimming in the pool beneath the waterfall before she went on.

“As long as we have a son one day, no matter how much younger he is, he is still Kristoph’s heir.”


“Then there is no need to worry. I know that Kristoph and I will have a son.” She smiled softly and told Rika a bout the many reasons why she knew her dearest wish would come true. There was the vision in the Pool of Foretelling, and Aineytta’s prophecies of the future. Then there was a Human called Captain Harkness who sought her out because she was the mother of the man who had saved his life and his soul many times. And most decisive of all, there was Jox Fol, when a strange set of circumstances meant that she met her future son in the flesh.

Rika was astonished by those revelations, and also relieved.

“Do you know when he will be born?” she asked.

“No, only that he will. I thought the last time... but it didn’t happen. But the point is, I am not worried at all. If it suits silly people to talk about these things, and to speculate on the future, then let them. But you and I know better. So do our husbands. So enough of this kind of talk. I am looking forward to being an aunt for the first time. And you will love being a mother. That is all that matters.”

“I think I will,” Rika agreed. “But... tell me about this bio-oil.”