The stormy days of Septima melded into the wet days of Samavan with low grey-yellow cloud cover and leafless trees that dripped even when it stopped raining for a while.

Marion saw most of the weather from her day room where she rested quietly most days. Lily was her most frequent visitor. Once, at Kristoph’s instigation they had talked frankly about the ‘indiscretion’ he had almost committed in desperation, and later Marion and her husband talked it over again in a spirit of forgiveness and understanding. They put that incident behind them and promised never to speak of it again or let it change either their love for each other or their friendship with Lily.

Aineytta visited often, too, but she had no other visitors. Her social calendar was as empty as the dull autumn days. She had little inclination to try to fill it. She had no desire to go to dinner parties and even less to hold any at Mount Lœng House.

Kristoph gave her as much support as he could muster. He felt the loss of their son as keenly as she did, and understood her reluctance to come out of mourning and be a part of the social life of the Southern Plain again.

“I think you need a holiday,” he suggested once. “Let’s get away from Gallifrey for a while.”

“I would still be thinking of what we’re missing if we did,” she told him. “Kristoph, I am sorry, but I cannot be distracted by entertainments. I feel so very hollow inside. I feel….”

“I know,” he told her. “I feel all of that, too. And also… guilt. So often, I wished… I hoped… if I faced losing you or the child.… I needed you more, Marion. And now… I feel as if I abandoned him… as if I didn’t love him enough.”

“I didn’t have time to love him enough,” Marion admitted. “That’s what I regret.”

“I know,” Kristoph said. “That’s why we must both get over this and let our lives go on. We ARE allowed to be happy again. I want you to be happy, Marion. It grieves me doubly to see you so sad. I waited a long year to see you smile again. And now….”

Gallifreyans don’t cry. That fact is universally known, and leads to the idea that they don’t feel emotion. Marion knew better, of course. But even she had forgotten just how much Kristoph was hurting. He had suffered so much heartbreak in the year that she was oblivious to it all.

“I am sorry, my love,” she told him. “I will try to be more… cheerful. But really, I don’t think the time is right for a carefree holiday. I would rather… try to get back to a normal way of life here on Gallifrey. I need to see people… I have so few engagements.”

“I thought you had refused most of them.”

“No,” she answered. “I have not received very many. It’s as if people have forgotten about me.”

“They haven’t, I am sure. But it has been a difficult year for everyone. We are not the only ones who suffered grief. It has been hard all round. But the opera season has resumed in the Capitol and I understand it is well received.”

“I don’t think I’m quite ready for Gallifreyan opera, yet,” Marion admitted.

“Nor I,” Kristoph confirmed. Then he took her hands in his and paused before he spoke very seriously to her. “Marion… I have been urged to revoke the Eighty-Fifth Clause and resume my duties as President.”


He knew she was thinking about that seriously. She simply said ‘oh’ because there was nothing more to say until the implications had fully set in.

“There is something else I want to suggest,” he added. “I would very much like to resume my duties. There is much to be done. Dúccesci and the Premier Cardinal have done good work between them, but both need to be relieved of the burden, now. Dúccesci especially. He has his own personal grief to deal with, still. But I don’t want to be away from you so much as I have been in the past when political obligations were upon me. So I would like to suggest that we both stay in the Capitol at least until the Winter Solstice.” He glanced at the rain pouring down the floor length window of the Day Room. In summer that window was rarely shut. In autumn it just seemed to be a reminder of how uninviting it was outside. “Life under the enviro-dome might be more pleasant just now, anyway. And you can begin to fill that social calendar at your own pace.”

“Live in the Capitol? Where?”

“Lily has put her town house at our disposal. We can take a small household staff. Caolin and Rosanda, of course. The cook and housekeeper, a couple of kitchen maids, your personal maid, Gallis Limmon and a footman… young Seogham, I think. Since he is betrothed to your maid, it would be fair to them both. The rest may have a paid holiday with their own families. They deserve as much. Not a single servant left his or her duties through this long, hard time. They have all been loyal to me and to the House of Lœngbærrow.”

“You seem to have thought it through thoroughly,” Marion pointed out.

“Not really,” he assured her. “Lily suggested the idea to me and offered the town house for our use. The rest… I was winging it just now.”

Marion looked at the rain-swept garden and sighed. She loved Mount Lœng House. It was her home. But Kristoph was right. She needed to get away from it for a while. She thought of the number of friends she had in the city, ones who would join her for quiet lunches and not expect too much of her at first. She thought about the warm water of the bath houses, saunas and steam rooms. A fresh barrage of heavy rain against the window made that a thoroughly tempting idea.

“You and Rosanda might visit the couturiers, too,” Kristoph suggested. “The winter collections are beginning to appear.” Marion looked doubtful about that. She wasn’t ready for putting on new clothes. “They lost nearly six months of business through the quarantine,” he reminded her. “They need the patronage. Many of the ladies follow your lead on fashion. You would be doing a service to the seamstresses.”

Put like that, she could hardly refuse.

“When would we go?” she asked.

“Tomorrow, if it can be arranged. I shall have to break it to Mistress Callitha that she has to relocate the household. She may be troublesome.”

Marion laughed. She actually laughed. Mistress Callitha was very much mistress of the kitchen. She ruled the servants and occasionally over-ruled the master of the house on domestic matters. Marion took a very long time to get used to giving her instructions, always feeling that she should be taking them from her instead.

“I am sure you will persuade her,” Marion said.

“Indeed. Meanwhile, I would like you to put on a warm dress and coat and come out for a short afternoon trip with me. There is one social engagement that is well overdue.”

She would have refused, but there was a gentle persuasion in Kristoph’s tone. She summoned her maid and went to the master bedroom where she chose a dress that would fit comfortably. Her body was still recovering from the birth and she didn’t want anything with a tight waistband, yet, or anything that would feel close around her chest. But her wardrobe was extensive, even if it was overdue for a new season’s collection and in a short time she was respectably clothed in russet brown with a lapin-lined cloak around her and gloves and hat to match.

Gallis Limmon drove them. He seemed particularly delighted to do so. Marion knew full well, of course, that her chauffer had given great service to Kristoph when he was sick. Quite how he should be rewarded for that service she did not know. Would he even accept a reward? He was pleased enough to be their driver on this autumn day. Perhaps the best reward any of them could have was the chance to go on living and working as they did before the plague crisis undid everything.

She hadn’t paid very much attention at first to where they were going. Now she looked out of the car at the dull, dripping countryside and recognised familiar parts of the southern plain. They were close to the village where she taught school and where her first free library had been built. She noticed that there was another new building there. She looked at Kristoph questioningly.

“Yes, the new school was completed during the spring and summer. And indeed, there is a great hope that you will resume your work with the youngsters. They miss you.”

“Were any of them… did we lose any of them in the plague?”

“No,” Kristoph answered. “The quarantine was tight. Those who were away from home at the beginning stayed away. The village survived intact. There are homes that mourned a loved one who succumbed elsewhere, but that is true of all of us. The children are fine, and when you are ready, you can teach them again.”

“I’m glad.” Marion sighed deeply. “I was so afraid that there would be empty places… faces I remember and would never see again.”

She didn’t say if she would resume her teaching, but Kristoph was confident that she would in time. Especially after the afternoon he had organised.

They didn’t go to the village, but to a house on the plain that Marion was equally familiar with.

“Rodan… and her grandfather. Are they….”

“They are well,” Kristoph assured her. “They, too, escaped the plague. They were utterly isolated here, though. It was a lonely time for them both. All is well, now, though.”

And that was clear enough when they entered the small but comfortable house. There was a children’s party going on. Most of the village children that Marion knew were there. So was Rodan, of course. She left the game she was playing and ran to her one time foster mother gleefully. Marion hugged her happily. She was a strong-limbed five year old now, with dark hair tied back from her face and bright, intelligent eyes.

“I’m so glad to see you, my dear,” Marion said. “So very glad. Have you read many books lately?”

She had, and she proceeded to tell Marion exactly which ones. They were far more advanced than a Human five year old would read, and even for a Gallifreyan child they covered a broad and colourful range of literature. Her favourites were still the Narnia Chronicles that Marion had first read to her, but she had also read the Passione Gallifreya in the full iambic metre version and a whole collection of Venturan folk tales as well as most of the Earth-written books Marion could remember reading when she was a girl. She was eager for more and Marion promised she would get more.

Kristoph was in close talk with her grandfather, Argis Mielles. Marion didn’t know what it was about until the children gathered at the table for the party tea that was arranged. Then the adults sat together by the fire, drinking a warmly spiced herbal infusion and eating cúl nut biscuits.

“Argis is thinking of signing up for a long range freight voyage again,” Kristoph told Marion. “An eighteen month journey there and back. He has, as you know, saved wisely for his retirement, and he and Rodan are comfortably off. But he wishes to earn the bonus offered for this journey – as an investment for Rodan’s future. The money he can earn, placed in an offworld account, would pay for her tuition when she is ready to enter one of the Academies. I rather hope that she might be a Prydonian. I should be glad to recommend her.”

“You mean she would not have to seek one of the scholarships? She could enter the Academy as an equal with the other fee-paying students?”

“That is my hope,” Argis Mielles said. “Rodan is a very clever girl. I want her to have the best of chances. I can do that for her if I take this voyage. But….”

“Rodan can come to stay with us,” Marion said at once. “We would be glad to have her.”

“Exactly my thought,” Kristoph said. “Though of course, we must remember this time that she is not a baby. She will be aware of her surroundings, and of her status. She must not become so accustomed to life in an Oldblood house that she will not want to return to her proper family home at the end of the time.”

“Of course, not,” Marion agreed. “But she will be our little girl for that time. She is hardly going to live in the servant’s quarters!”

“She will be our foster child as before. She can attend the village school with her peers. On the days when you are not teaching there, Gallis Limmon can take her and pick her up at the end of the day. We will have plenty of time in the evening to enjoy her company.”

“When?” Marion asked next.

“The voyage begins the day after New Year,” Kristoph said. “I have suggested to Argis that he and Rodan join us for the Christmas festival, allowing her time to settle with us before he departs.”

Christmas! Marion hadn’t even dared to think about that. She had missed one Christmas, of course, and she had felt too sad to begin to think about the one that was only a little over seven weeks away.

A month in the city, then returning to their country home in time for a Christmas that she knew would be joyous, now. The future was looking a little happier than she had expected.

She smiled. Kristoph saw the smile, one that began in her eyes and was genuine. He met her smile with one that started in his eyes, too.