Kristoph didn’t have to be involved in the search for the Reidluum heir, of course. He was Lord High President. He could have simply directed the Castellan to take all measures to find the child and inform him of any new developments.

But Kristoph was not that sort of man, let alone that sort of President.

And Marion was not the sort of woman who would wait at home while he was leading the investigation. She insisted on being taken to the Reidluum home. Talitha Dúccesci had obviously had the same idea. So had Isolatta Braxietel.

“Who is taking care of your child?” Talitha asked the wife of the Castellan. “Is he safe?”

“He is,” Isolatta assured her friends. “Pól had two of the Chancellery Guard come to guard our home while he is busy. We will look after Mia. She needs us.”

That much was true. Mia Reidluum was close to hysteria. She sat in a chair in the day room keening softly to herself, a low, endless cry of grief.

“Mia,” Talitha said to her, grasping her hands firmly. “Don’t do that. Jari isn’t dead. You’ll get him back. The Castellan has every spare man searching the Capitol. The Presidential Guard have been detailed, too. They will find him, and the one who took him will pay dearly.”

“My husband won’t rest until your baby is back in your arms,” Isolatta assured her.

“Nor mine,” Marion added. “And you know, surely, of Kristoph’s reputation as a Celestial Intervention Agency investigator.”

Mia didn’t know, in fact. Such things were not usually spoken of between the Ladies of Gallifrey.”

“Well, believe me, he will bring the kidnapper to justice,” Marion conceded. “Was there any kind of note, any ransom demand?”

“No,” Mia answered. “Nothing like that at all. We just came home and found his crib empty and the nursemaid in her room next to the nursery in a drugged stupor. Jarrow forced her to wake up, but she can’t remember anything.”

“Can’t?” Isolatta wondered suspiciously. Perhaps being married to the Castellan rubbed off on her in some ways. “Is it possible the girl was….”

Mia shook her head.

“Jarrow was so angry, I thought he would hit her. She couldn’t possibly have hidden anything from him. I’ve never seen him in such a rage. You don’t know how much Jari means to him. I don’t think I quite realised until I saw his face when he turned from the crib. I… didn’t know until this… how much I loved him.”

“Trust in our men,” Talitha said. “They will find him. You will have him back in your arms before long.”

Marion watched her two friends comfort Mia. She did her share of reassuring her, too. But she felt there ought to be more she could do. When the maid brought calming herbal infusions for the mistress and her guests, Marion slipped out of the day room. She quietly went up the stairs to the nursery and looked around.

The first thing that occurred to her was that the baby was taken without haste. The crib was neat, the blanket folded down. She looked in the drawers of the chest and noticed that there were clothes missing. Whoever took Jari expected to look after him in the ordinary way.

And how had the abductor come into the room? She looked at the windows. They didn’t open. This was a modern town house, not an ancient mansion like Mount Lœng House. It had air conditioning. None of the windows opened.

The abductor must have come into the house by the ordinary way – through a door.

Somebody let him or her into the house.

The servants knew more than they were telling.

She went back downstairs and then down the narrower stairs that in any house of ‘quality’ led to the kitchen. As she expected, the servants were all gathered there, talking in whispers about the missing Reidluum heir.

“Who has been to this house today?” Marion asked directly and in a tone that demanded an answer. She surprised herself a little. Commanding servants was still something she rarely did. But this wasn’t about social divisions. It was about a missing child and distraught parents.

“Two of Lord Reidluum’s friends visited,” answered the butler. “Lord Arun and Lord Hedin, and their wives, of course. The ladies lunched in the day room with Madam Reidluum while the gentleman discussed business affairs in the study.”

“Who else visited?” Marion insisted. “Which of you received visitors today?”

This was a matter of social division. When she asked who had visited, the butler assumed that she meant who had visited the master and mistress of the house. But that wasn’t what she wanted to know.

“Nobody received visitors, madam,” said the cook. “But… Kiana Brossia asked to see the baby this afternoon.”

“And she is….”

“The former wet nurse,” explained the butler. “She was employed when her Ladyship was unwell after the birth. But her services were dispensed with last week. She was well paid by Lord Reidluum. She has no cause for complaint.”

“Did she see the baby?” Marion asked.

“No,” replied a young woman in a dark gown who sat quietly at one end of the table with a cup of infusion and a very contrite expression. “The child was asleep. I told her it would not do to wake him.”

“You’re the nurse who was drugged by the abductor?”

The young woman nodded.


“I don’t remember,” she answered. “My head… feels… I don’t remember anything at all after I bathed the little one and put him to bed for the night. I fed him from a bottle. He would sleep until after midnight. His mother expected to be home by then. After he was asleep I must have sat in my room with the nursery door open. I would have a cup of milk and some food… I usually do….”

Marion nodded. She didn’t need to know any more than that just now.

She went back up to the day room. Mia still looked distressed. Was it any wonder? She knew she would feel the same way if it was her child.

“Mia,” she said. “Was Kiana Brossia fond of Jari?”

The question surprised her.

“Well… yes… I suppose she was. I never really talked to her. I was ill… And I could not go to the nursery without help. I didn’t see her very much. Jarrow always brought Jari to me to hold.”

“She was dismissed last week. Who did that?”

“Jarrow did. I wanted to feed Jari myself now I am stronger. She was not needed any more. He gave her a generous severance bonus. He was pleased with the help she had given when we had need.”

“Yes. But….” Marion was thinking quickly. “I never gave it a thought. We don’t really do that where I come from. But… a wet nurse… what happened to her own baby?”


The question stunned all three of her high born friends. They weren’t unthinking or thoughtless generally. But they had none of them really considered a question like that before.

“If she was a wet nurse, then she must have given birth to a child herself in order to have milk to feed Jari. But what about her own child?”

Mia didn’t know. The woman had been engaged when she was too ill to notice what was happening and had been dismissed before she really began to take any active part in the running of the household again.

Marion went back downstairs and asked the question of the servants, then back upstairs again. She waited in the hall. The butler came to answer the front door. Kristoph was there with Pól Braxietel.

“Is there news?” she asked hopefully.

“No,” Kristoph answered. “Pól and I thought we should look more closely at the nursery.”

“You need to look for a woman called Kiana Brossia,” Marion told him. “She was the wet nurse. Her own son was stillborn the same week Mia gave birth to Jari. I think….”

“Sweet Mother of Chaos!” Kristoph swore. “Could it be so simple… and yet so tragic?”

Pól Braxietel had no answer to the rhetorical question except to say that Brossia was a common surname among the Caretakers of Karn.

“If she had family there… the shuttle takes only a few hours. The crime wasn’t even discovered until midnight. She could be there by now, among her own kind in the mining community.”

“Marion, say nothing to Mia. I don’t want to raise her hopes. More than that, I don’t want Jarrow to know until we’re sure. He mustn’t do anything precipitous.”

Kristoph kissed her gently and told her she was a clever woman to have found out so much when the men of learning and cunning had nothing to go on. Then he and Pól left the house again. Marion returned to the day room and sat with her friend, reassuring her that the Castellan had some leads, but not what those leads might be.

Kristoph and Pól wasted no time. They knew that a shuttle to Karn had already reached the planet before the search for Jari Reidluum was even fully under way. They went straight to the Citadel where a small group of hand-picked Chancellery and Presidential Guards joined them in the Castellan’s TARDIS.

“Lord President,” Pól said before he touched the drive control. “It is in your power.… I must ask you….”

“Yes,” he said. “Do it.”

What Pól was asking for was permission to break one of the cardinal rules of TARDIS travel within the Gallifreyan system. He was asking to go back in time, crossing the line of events that had already occurred.

“It could not be allowed on Gallifrey itself,” Kristoph reminded him. “We could not simply use time travel to lie in wait for the woman and prevent her taking the child. That would be a paradox that would cause convulsions within the matrix itself. It could destabilise the foundation of our power.”

Pól understood that. He would not have asked for that to be done. But this much of an inversion could be allowed with the Lord High President’s leave.

The Castellan’s TARDIS arrived in the space port on Karn a short time before the shuttle from Gallifrey was due to dock. The Guards in their distinctive uniforms were told to conceal themselves. Kristoph himself waited in the VIP lounge. His presence was causing something of a stir among the passengers waiting for the return shuttle. He watched a video screen tuned to the security system as Pól Braxietel waited quietly and calmly for the arrival.

And they were right. Kristoph breathed in deeply as he approached a woman who came through the door from the shuttle bay. She was carrying a large bag and a wrapped bundle that she handled preciously. When Pól approached her she screamed and struggled, but the Guards closed in, making it clear that she could not escape.

She was brought to the lounge where Kristoph waited. When she saw the Lord High President she threw herself to her knees and begged for mercy. Kristoph looked at the child Pól himself was holding. He was awake but calm. He knew he was in safe hands. Pól had been a father long enough himself to know how to ensure that.

“Mercy?” Kristoph said in a calm, quiet voice that could be worse than angry words because it told of a pent up rage that might yet be unleashed. “Give me just one good reason why I should offer mercy to one who would steal a child from his parents?”

“They didn’t deserve him,” she answered. “They… had no time for him. He was in the care of nurses always. He was… he was mine from an hour after his birth. I fed him from my own body. He was nurtured. He thrived in my care. And then I was cast aside because his mother wanted him back.”

“That is the way of it. You were employed for a short period while the child’s mother was ill.”

“He is mine.”

“He is not. Your child died. For that I am truly sorry. It is a terrible thing to grieve for a baby. I know that full well. But you must accept your loss. You cannot take another woman’s child.”

“He is mine,” she repeated in a broken voice. She tried to reach for the baby, but Pól held him well out of her grasp. Two Chancellery Guards took hold of her.

“She must be restrained,” Kristoph said. “She must be taken to the Citadel and held prisoner until morning. I will hold an emergency court under my Presidential discretion and decide her sentence then.”

She was taken to the Castellan’s TARDIS and secured in the brig. Kristoph took the baby from Pól as they travelled back to Gallifrey. He looked at Jari Reidluum, the son and heir of a good man and a loving woman. His own loss was still recent enough to make holding another man’s child a bittersweet experience. But the idea of trying to take him as his own was unthinkable.

Kristoph brought the child home to his parents while Pól Braxietel took charge of the prisoner. Jarrow was with Mia in the day room, having been told to go home and be with his wife. Both of them cried out in relief and joy when Kristoph placed the child in his mother’s arms. They thanked him profusely.

“Jarrow, Mia,” Kristoph said when they were calmer. “I need to ask you… for your leave… to deal mercifully with the woman.”

“Merciful!” Jarrow Reidluum’s face darkened. “Are you mad? After all she has done.”

“She didn’t do it out of malice, or with any intention to harm your baby. She didn’t want a ransom. She would not have harmed a hair on his head. She is an unhappy woman who suffered a stillbirth only a few months after her husband died from the plague that afflicted so many of us. She wanted her own child. She wanted Jari to be that child. After nursing him for so long, she felt a bond with him.”

“She had no right to feel any such thing. I employed her to look after our child because my wife was too weak to do so. It was a business arrangement, nothing more.”

“But to her it was far more.”

“Jarrow.” Mia’s hand reached out to her husband. She spoke quietly. “We have our baby back. He is not harmed. We can be merciful.”

“I want that women put where she can never come near my home, my family, ever again,” Jarrow said. “How you do it, I do not care. Be merciful if you will. My wife asks for it. I would grant her anything, even that.”

“Thank you,” Kristoph said. He bowed his head to his friends. “Rassilon’s blessing on you and your child.” Then he and Marion as well as Talitha and Isolatta left them to look after their baby together.

“What will you do with her?” Marion asked when they were in their own bedroom preparing to sleep for what was left of the night.

“I am thinking of the Royal Hospital on Ventura. It has a secure section for unfortunates inflicted in the mind. Not exactly a prison, but a place of safety for those incapable of making the right judgements for themselves.”

“The hospital we are patrons of… with the huge wing for orphaned children?”

“The very one.”

“Couldn’t she….”

“Not yet. She really is suffering from a sickness of the mind. Her actions and her words prove that. She was convinced in her mind that Jarrow and Mia really didn’t deserve to be parents and she did. When she has rested, and had treatment, and understands that she was wrong, then, yes, I think spending time in that wing would be therapeutic. But that will be at my discretion.”

“Good,” Marion answered. “I’m glad you are President again. And I am sure Kiana Brossia will be when she is in her right mind again and realises what a merciful man you are.”