In the late summer of the Gallifreyan year the roses in the garden of Mount Lœng House were in full bloom, but there was a hint that the first blooms would soon be fading and losing their lovely petals.

Two things came to Marion’s thoughts as she looked at the flowers. The first was perfume making. She had visited the perfumeries in her favourite Cote D’Azur town of Nice and the huge complex on Haollstrom, which was also famous for taking the ephemeral petals of flowers and preserving their scent in bottles. Hillary and Jean-Claude had given her an exquisitely shaped crystal atomiser with a perfume designed especially for her called ‘Marion’. The scent was a blend of summer roses and citrus that reminded her of warm days like this.

She also thought of the red and yellow hips that would form if the gardeners didn’t dead head the blooms. Rose hip syrup was something she remembered from much further back, from her own childhood. It was something to give to babies.

Sleeping in his paternal grandmother’s lap, Remy de Lœngbærrow, on his first official visit to his ancestral homeworld with his parents, didn’t look as if he needed anything like that. At a little over a month old he had his mother’s milk and unlimited love and that was enough for him.

Aineytta de Lœngbærrow, a woman whose skill with extracts from plants was legendary on the southern continent of Gallifrey smiled as she caught Marion’s thoughts.

“I know of a recipe very like that,” she said. “I shall prepare a batch when Remy is ready to be weaned. I have ensured that a whole bush full of roses in the Dower House garden remain unmolested by the gardeners so that there will be fruits to pick in a little while.”

“Good,” Marion told her. “Remy should have every advantage possible. He is a lovely child.”

“I will be preparing a special tonic for you, later,” Aineytta added with a meaningful glance at her daughter in law.

“I…” Marion was startled then wondered why she thought she needed to be.

“Yes, I know. You haven’t told anyone, yet. It is still too early. Quite right, too. Motherhood brings out the superstitious in us all. But if you start taking the tonic right away, I am sure all will be well.”

“Don’t tell anyone else, yet,” Marion said. “Just in case. I haven’t even told Rika, though I think she might have guessed.”

“My son knows, of course. There is a smile in his eyes since you returned from your holiday on Haollstrom that is unmistakeable. The conception took place there, I presume?”

“Yes, it did,” Marion answered. “On a beach beside a campfire, under the stars. It was… a perfect moment. It… was probably one that would shock people on Gallifrey, I think. It was… practically an orgy.”

Aineytta looked at her with a gentle smile. The word ‘orgy’ was not one that translated in any way into Gallifreyan, but she was a woman who had born her husband four children and still enjoyed a healthy love life with him, even if an invigorating Pellis flower tonic was put into a water jug on the dining table some nights. She understood about such matters.

“I mean… we were… not alone. Hillary and Jean-Claude were there, too. They were… enjoying each other thoroughly. It’s something in the air on those islands, I think. It heightens those Haolstromnian pheromones in some way and makes us want to….”

“You don’t have to justify your feelings, my dear,” Aineytta told her. “I remember when Moony and I were young. Kristoph was not conceived in our marital bed. Nor was Oriana. By the time Renita and Remonte came along we were learning to be a little more circumspect, but in those early years….”

“Still, I don’t suppose it’s what Gallifreyans expect of their Lord High President.”

“Hillary is a diplomat of her world,” Aineytta noted.

“Yes, but Haolstromnians DO expect their political leaders to be adventurous in their love lives.”

“Haolstrom has some things to commend it as a society,” Aineytta said. “Your child was conceived in an unashamed act of love. Whatever else happens, you will always remember that, a special secret between the two of you to look back upon, and nothing will ever sour that memory for you.”

“I don’t think anything could,” Marion answered wondering why Aineytta had said that. But she didn’t get a chance to ask her about it. Kristoph and his brother were coming, along with their father. Rika came from another direction. She had been talking to her old friends in the kitchen who wanted to congratulate her on the birth of her baby. She sat down and took Remy from Aineytta with the pride and joy of a young mother.

“Marion,” Remonte said, reaching to kiss her on the cheek. “I am pleased for you, my dear sister in law.”

“How did you know?” she asked.

“I know my brother and though we are both practised in keeping state secrets, personal ones are easily shared.”

“I’m glad,” Rika added. “When your child is born, we won’t have to worry about Remy being Kristoph’s heir. He can just be the son of the Ambassador. That’s good enough.”

“It is, indeed,” Remonte agreed. He reached to kiss his wife as she tended to their baby. He looked up at the yellow sky of a Gallifreyan afternoon and smiled. “It’s nice to be home for a little while. I am looking forward to the ceremony this afternoon. Presenting Remy at the Vernal Equinox is something I have looked forward to ever since his conception.”

Rika blushed as he said that. Marion was the only one of the family who was not telepathic, of course, but she guessed what that meant. Baby Remy wasn’t conceived in the marital bed, either, but in some special place and time the two of them cherished the memory of.

“There is only one thing wrong with that ceremony,” Kristoph commented. “I have to put on that ridiculous collar even though I am going no further than my own garden. I don’t mind so much in the Panopticon, where such things belong, but it looks out of place here in the countryside.”

The women all laughed. They knew Kristoph’s complaints about the formal robes and headdresses worn for ceremonial occasions were only half hearted. He was proud to continue traditions like the Vernal Equinox ceremony, and no more so than today when his nephew was being dedicated.

“I do wish your sisters could be here,” his father said with a slight note of regret. Renita was not able to attend because she was preparing a group of novitiates to the Sisters of Contemplation and part of the preparation was a month of seclusion for her and the new Sisters. That was accepted and understood. Everyone in the family was proud of her achievements, even if she, herself, eschewed emotions like pride.

Oriana was another matter. She wasn’t attending because she didn’t approve of her younger brother’s marriage to a Caretaker and had refused to have anything to do with the child of that union. It puzzled Aineytta that her daughter, who was, herself, the child of exactly the same kind of union of Oldblood and Caretaker, should hold such opinions. She didn’t learn to be such a snob growing up at Mount Lœng House. But she had made her choice about that.

Marion thought it was a shame that a family should feel so divided. She wondered if the elder Lord de Lœngbærrow and his wife minded more than they were letting on. But if it was so, they hid their feelings well and were proud grandparents at the ceremony.

As well as her own secret joy, Marion was proud to see her fosterling, Rodan, now a pretty little girl with keen and intelligent eyes attending the Equinox ceremony. Her grandfather was with her, and he talked with Marion of the achievements his child had made in the past year. She was a keen reader and made regular use of the Free Library to expand her imagination and her knowledge of the universe. Argis Mielles expressed the opinion that Rodan would want to travel when she was older. Gallifrey would be too small a place for her. Marion wondered if that was her grandfather’s influence, he having retired from the Freight Service that took him to so many far off worlds, or if it was the adventures she and Kristoph had shown her when she had been their child for a while.

There was another child in attendance at the ceremony, whose presence was not resented, but nor, perhaps, was it welcomed. Marion noticed that Remonte didn’t look towards Shiony Malthis, the sister of his first wife, but he did once or twice glance at the smartly dressed little boy she had brought with her. He was not his son legally. He had set his mother aside even before she died. Remonte still paid a yearly sum of money to ensure that the boy was properly looked after and would be educated in an appropriate way, but he did not acknowledge him as his first born son. That was Remy, the baby that Rika proudly carried to be blessed in the name of Rassilon by his grandfather, the former Lord de Lœngbærrow and his uncle, the Lord High President, the most important man on the planet. When the young children went up to be presented to him, Kristoph gave the same blessing to the boy that he gave to Rodan and all the youngsters from Marion’s infant class, but the fact that he, too, had a blood connection to the child was not recognised especially.

Marion didn’t see Shiony or the boy at the party afterwards. She saw many of the other children, including Rodan, who came to sit with her for a while and tell her about the books she had recently read, and of course she held Remy on her knee as often as she could.

“I don’t think I ever knew what the boy’s name was,” she said to Aineytta when the subject briefly came up.

“Nor I,” her mother in law answered. “That is the way of things in such circumstances. I shall not speak ill of the dead. It is a closed matter. The boy is provided for. Of that I am glad. But my joy is in the child my son made with the woman he truly loves.”

And that was the end of it. If Shiony had meant to make some kind of stand by attending the ceremony with her young Ward she failed completely. Remonte and Rika danced together while Remy was held by people who loved him just as much as his parents. Kristoph, once he had divested himself of the cumbersome headdress and seen the Sash of Rassilon put away safely and securely, danced with Marion and he was happy, too.

Later, though, when the party was over and three generations of the House of Lœngbærrow were at peace under the strong roof of their Ancestral home, his mother had a warning note for him.

“I don’t want to see that light of joy extinguished in your eyes, my dear,” she said when she was alone in the drawing room with her eldest son. “But I am concerned. The child is a boy, is it not?”

“Yes, it is, mama,” Kristoph replied.

“Yet I did not feel…. Chrístõ Mian, I know you will be blessed with an heir in time to come. But I am not sure this is the time. I wasn’t sure at first, but as this day has gone on and I have been longer in Marion’s presence… My son, I am sorry, but I sense grief to follow the joy.”

“What grief?” Kristoph asked, only too aware that his mother’s powers of precognition were strong and rarely misdirected.

“When I hold your brother’s child, I feel the bond of blood that makes him your heir. But I don’t feel it when I sense the child growing in Marion’s womb.”

“Mama….” Kristoph grasped his mother’s hand tightly. “It is my child. I felt its conception in the midst of our love-making. There is no question…. On Haollstrom it is possible to forget the constraints of Gallifreyan life, but I would never forget the bonds of Alliance, no matter how strong the pheromones are, and nor would Marion.”

“My dear, I certainly didn’t mean that,” she assured him. “What concerns me is… the same trouble that has come three times to you and Marion already.”

“Oh no, Mama,” Kristoph answered her, his face paling. “Oh, do not say that.”

“I am going to make every effort to prevent it,” she promised him. “I will be visiting often and every medicine I know that aids such things will be employed. Perhaps the future is not yet written. There may be hope. There is ALWAYS hope. But be prepared to be strong, my son, should the joy be short-lived.”


It had often been noted that Kristoph, Aineytta’s first born son and heir, was actually older than her by a thousand years due to the time he had spent offworld in other times and other places. But he was also the child she had conceived in love as a young wife. She reached out to him now as she had so often reached out to him when he was a boy, to comfort him in times of trouble, and Kristoph, the former soldier, the assassin, the renowned diplomat and peacemaker, and now the most powerful man on the planet, needed her in that way.

“You won’t be alone, my son,” she promised him. “No matter what happens, I will be there for you both.”

Kristoph knew that, and he was comforted by it. Marion and Rika came from the nursery where Remy was now sleeping peacefully with a nursemaid’s careful watch over him. His brother and father joined them to rejoice in an Equinox celebration that had gone well. He didn’t give any sign that he had received such a dark warning about the future. He held onto his mother’s promise that the future was not yet written and they might yet prevent the darkness from coming over them.