Princess Allia was seven days old, and looking and acting like a seven year old child by the time the gurdet approached the capital city. She sat between her two foster parents on the wooden seat, her face sun-tanned from the long days of travel. Her hair still grew long every morning and had to be shaved to make her look like a Risan boy, but the deeper yellow of daily exposure to the sun stayed on her scalp.

Kristoph halted the gurdet when they were still a few miles away from the city. An outcrop of grey rock concealed them from view in the early morning light. He looked at the tall towers beyond the city gates. When they had set out from there fifteen days ago they had thought of it as a place of refuge from the wilderness beyond, much as the Capitol on Gallifrey was a climate controlled haven from the heat of the desert. But now he looked at a place where enemies lay in wait, men who would murder the princess in a heartbeat if she was discovered.

“The nightly curfew is over,” Lee noted. “But we should wait an hour until there is a more regular traffic flow in and out of the gates. We won’t attract as much attention as we would this early in the day.”

“I agree,” Kristoph answered. “They must not pay too much attention to Allia.”

“Alec,” the girl said. “You said I was to answer to Alec.”

“Quite right,” Lee told her. “Good lad. Let’s not be caught out by such a simple mistake. We’re smarter than that.”

Allia – or Alec – looked at the shining city in the distance nervously. She had known nothing but the desert for as long as she could remember. She understood that this was her real home, but it was utterly unfamiliar to her.

“It’s all right, child,” Kristoph assured her. “Nobody will harm you as long as we’re with you.”

“I hope you can keep that promise,” Lee told him telepathically. “We’re going to come across a lot of soldiers in the next few hours. They won’t be easy to fool.”

“I know,” Kristoph said. “But she shouldn’t be worried about it.”

A line of traffic, mostly ponnets and gurdets, but some mechanical vehicles that had come along the coast and a few sturdier beasts hauling heavier loads, was starting to build up in front of the entrance to the city. Lee set the ponnets off at a steady walk and they soon joined the line. As they moved forward slowly they knew that soldiers were searching every vehicle.

“They are looking for the princess, still,” Lee confirmed after scanning the minds of both soldiers and civilians for a time. “They EXPECT an attempt to smuggle her into the city.”

“Why?” Kristoph asked. “Surely her safety depends on getting her as far away from there as possible. It’s what I intended to do. Once we reach the TARDIS, we can take her to a safe place. There are worlds Gallifrey has diplomatic links with where she will be granted asylum. Any of the monarchies like Ventura or Mineas Lumnea, Casta IX…. She would be welcomed into the royal households as a guest.”

“That was my first idea,” Lee said. “But there’s something else happening here. They seem certain that the princess will be brought to the city. They’ve been watching ever since the uprising began.”

Kristoph knew he was right. He could feel the thoughts of the Risans around them just as easily as Lee could. There was something more happening here - something that depended on Allia.

Something that the soldiers were prepared to commit horrible injustices over. As they drew closer to the gate the sounds of terror, of crying women and screaming children, was louder. It was coming from within the gates of the city.

“Have you ever visited Earth?” Kristoph asked his friend as the gurdet moved closer to the checkpoint through which they would have to pass in order to reach their TARDIS.

“Earth?” Lee queried.

“Sol 3 in the Mutter Spiral. The homeworld of the Human race.”

“Ah,” Lee answered. “Yes, I visited a region of it called China once. I found it interesting. Not that I was there long. My mission was accomplished very swiftly. I assume your question was not merely to pass the time?”

“One of the most tragic fixed points in the history of that world involved a deranged and paranoid king who ordered his soldiers to kill every boy child under two years old in one small and relatively unimportant town because he feared a newborn baby that might have a better claim to call himself King,”

“Sweet Mother of Chaos, do you think an act so vile is happening here?” Li asked. His telepathic voice was laden with horror. His usually inscrutable face bore an expression that matched his inner emotions. “And we are bringing the child into such a thing?”

“We have no choice. We must get to the TARDIS. We can only hope to get past the guards….”

There really was no other way. There was one public gate into the city. They had to go through it. They had to get past those guards.

“I’ve got my sword,” Kristoph pointed out. “But even I’m not quick enough to take out eight of them at once. Besides, it would be better to try to avoid violence.”

Wishing to avoid violence was easier said than done. Violence came to them. They were close to the gate when a family in a gurdet ahead of them was ordered to dismount. The mother and father clung to their son and tried to prevent the soldiers from snatching him away and pulling his clothes off to check if he really was a boy. Kristoph’s hold on Allia’s hand tightened as he watched the soldiers thrust the half-naked child back into his mother’s arms. She clung to her little boy, but the soldiers still weren’t satisfied. They were pushing their swords through the canvas cover of the gurdet until a shrill cry came from within. The soldiers cut the fabric away altogether and dragged out a second child who was lying on the wooden floor of the exposed wagon interior. This was clearly a girl aged about nine or ten. Her hair was deep yellow coloured and long enough to cover her body when she was stripped to search for the royal birthmark. None was found, but the soldiers were angry that the family had tried to hide the girl. The mother protested that the girl wasn’t hiding, she was just sleeping because she was tired, but the soldiers weren’t interested. They killed the two ponnets and pushed the gurdet off the road before setting it alight. Meanwhile the man of the family was arrested for concealing the girl and the mother and children told to move on. They did so. They had no other choice.

“Sweet mother of Chaos,” Kristoph said, echoing the old Gallifreyan curse Lee had used earlier. He protected Allia from the sight of the dead ponnets, but the grief-stricken screams of the mother and children couldn’t be blocked out.

“We’ll never do it,” Lee murmured. “Power of Suggestion won’t work with that lot. We should get out of here.”

But it was too late. The traffic was being ordered to move on past the terrible scene. They couldn’t get out of the line. The load of wool carried by the merchant in front of them was stabbed to pieces by the soldiers, making sure nobody was hiding within the packs.

“How old is that child?” the captain of the guard demanded as he approached the left side of the gurdet and looked hard at Allia.

“Six days,” Kristoph replied. “He was born during the journey from the western escarpment. His mother died before the hatching. I am taking him to live with my sister in the city. She has sons of her own. It is a better life.”

“Stand down from there,” the captain ordered. Kristoph lifted Allia down onto the ground. He and Li stood with her while the soldiers searched the gurdet. They found nothing, of course. Then the captain ordered his men to strip Allia.

“That won’t be necessary,” Kristoph said to the captain in a cool, quiet voice. “This is not the child you seek.”

It shouldn’t have worked. Power of Suggestion should have been impossible in that tense situation. Kristoph knew that. He knew they were all inches away from death. He wondered how many of the soldiers he and Lee could kill before they themselves were cut down along with the little princess they had tried to protect.

Then the captain drew back. He told them to mount the gurdet and carry on into the city without delay.

“I can’t believe it worked, even with us both trying to hypnotise him at once,” Lee said when they were through the gate.

“Are we sure it did work?” Kristoph asked. “Perhaps they’re just giving us enough rope to hang ourselves with.”

“It cannot last long even if we did succeed,” Lee added. “Let us not waste any time. We must get to the space station quickly.”

He drove to the nearest place where the ponnets could be stabled and a mechanised car hired. Allia kept close to them while the transaction was completed.

“That’s a fine child,” said the manager of the car hire office. “A very pretty girl.”

“Girl?” Lee met his gaze carefully. “Do you need your eyes testing? That is a boy.”

“Yes, of course,” the manager said. “A very pretty BOY.”

This time Power of Suggestion failed completely. The man knew their secret. Lee finished paying him and bundled Allia into the back seat of the mechanical vehicle. Kristoph sat with her.

“He’s going to be running for the guards any moment,” Lee said. “We’ll NEVER get past the checkpoint at the space port. I’m going to get us as close as possible then you and Allia wait. I’ll get the TARDIS and come for you.”

Kristoph agreed to that plan. As soon as it was safe to do so he and Allia got out of the car and walked down an alleyway behind one of the grand, tall buildings of the city. He found an open door leading to a storeroom where vegetables were kept for a restaurant. He spread some sacks and sat quietly with the girl in her arms.

“This is no palace for you, child,” he said. “But it won’t be long now. You will be safe, very soon.”

That was almost a promise he could not keep. As they crouched in the half dark he heard shouted orders in the streets. The soldiers were searching all of the back alleyways. They would be discovered if something didn’t happen soon.

“Don’t be scared,” he told Allia. But he knew they were trapped. They would be discovered any moment.

Then as the door to the storeroom was wrenched open the soldier’s shouts of anger became less distinct. The storeroom melded into the console room of the TARDIS. Lee hit the dematerialisation switch straight away and the soldiers were left staring at a vegetable store from which two people had just vanished – possibly the two they were looking for.

“I have news,” Lee said. “The military junta isn’t popular. There is a counter-revolution on the verge of happening. The General knows that if the rightful heir can take her place the people will gather around her. It’s even possible some of the soldiers will desert to the royalist cause if there is a legal heir on the throne.”

“She’s just a little girl. How can a whole people’s future government rest on her little shoulders?”

“In eight days time, she will reach her maturity. If she can stay alive that long, and then present herself in the throne room of the royal palace to receive the anointing then she will be Crown Princess and she will be the legal and rightful ruler.”

“Eight days. We can hide her for eight days easily enough. We could have a camping holiday on the Eye of Orion - peace, quiet, lush green grass and not a Risan groundfruit in sight. We could bring her back to claim her heritage. That’s easy enough.”

“But….” Lee questioned. The way Kristoph paused, it was obvious there was a ‘but’ to be added.

“Eight days of soldiers rampaging across the country, grabbing innocent people and subjecting them to the sort of humiliation and cruelty we’ve seen already. Who knows, maybe the General will get impatient and decide to emulate King Herod after all. Anyway, the people here don’t need another eight days of this.”

“But she can’t be proclaimed yet. She’s too young.”

“I’ve got a plan,” Kristoph said. “One only a couple of Time Lords could put into action. Let’s start by taking that trip to the Eye of Orion. It sounds the very place for a holiday.”

Marion woke up to see the cold morning sunlight of the first day of the Chinese New Year coming through the window. She turned to see Li sitting by the bed.

“I was dreaming,” she said. “About you and Kristoph and the princess….”

“I put the story into your head as you slept.”

“But what happened afterwards? What WAS Kristoph’s plan?”

“We took Allia to the Eye of Orion. She had a delightful time there, growing a little more every day until she was at the age of maturity. After that, the Risan metabolism slows. They age at much the same rate as humans. But childhood is a mere fifteen days. Everything she needed to know was in her head. Each morning when she transformed the knowledge came with the physical growth. She knew, above all else, that she had a duty to her people, and she listened to her mentors, Kristoph and I, when we told her how we planned to restore the monarchy without letting her people suffer one more day of harm.”

“I think I know how,” Marion said. “I’d have done the same, if it was allowed. There’s probably some Laws of Time preventing it.”

“There is, but Celestial Intervention Agency men are known to break those Laws when it suits them. We returned to Risa on the morning of the day we left with the seven day old Allia. We brought the fifteen year old Crown Princess straight to the Throne Room in the palace. Of course, there were guards all around the palace. If she had arrived any other way she would have been slaughtered. But we bypassed all of that. She was anointed and crowned, and by her first royal proclamation the General was arrested while all the prisoners taken by the soldiers were released and compensation paid for their trauma. Of course, she was still a young princess, but she was a clever, kind girl who remembered the trouble we two aliens went to in order to ensure her safety.”

“Did you find out what the man who kidnapped her intended?”

“The General confessed to having paid him to destroy the incubating egg. Instead, Laqizole Tuqisuvi intended to blackmail the General by holding onto her. He could restore her to the throne as we did, if the General didn’t offer him power, money, everything he demanded. We put a stop to that, of course. But the General knew that the princess was alive and he had to act. Doubtless she would have been killed if we hadn’t intervened. So would many more honest people who resisted the Junta.”

“So you two were heroes to the loyalists of Risa.”

“We were. Both of us received medals and the Freedom of Ocean City. Back on Gallifrey we were less well rewarded. We took too long over our assignment. We were censured by the Director of the Agency. But it was worth it knowing that Allia was safe. Risa has become a happy, stable society, since then. Her great, great, great granddaughter is Crown Princess now. They are members of the Galactic Federation and have trade links with many of our allies. We have both taken pride in the fact that we set that all in motion when we drove across the Shrow with our little fosterling.”

“No wonder Kristoph is so fond of having Rodan around. She must remind him of that time. And I know he WILL be a wonderful father when we have a child of our own.”

“Indeed, he will,” Li answered. Then his smile faded. Marion had heard the noise, too. A TARDIS had materialised somewhere outside in the street. Kristoph would have come straight into the house. Li went to the window and looked out. He frowned.

“It is your brother-in-law, the Ambassador to Ventura,” he said. “Why would he be here?”

“Something must be wrong,” Marion answered. “Li….”

“I will go and welcome him to my humble home,” Li told her. “Dress yourself and meet him in a dignified manner as befits the wife of an Oldblood Heir.”

Li went from the room. As she dressed, Marion heard the door opening below and Remonte de Lœngbærrow’s urgent voice asking for her. She was worried. What could have happened that Remonte should come for her and not Kristoph?