The trial will be restarting,” Gallis Limmon said. Marion allowed him to take her arm again. They stepped back into the court building. The corridors were silent. Their feet were loud walking along the floor.

Then Marion heard another pair of feet behind her. She half turned to see who had just come from the stairwell leading up from the cells in the basement.

“Aineytta!” she gasped as she recognised her mother-in-law.

“No,” Gallis told her. “You’re not supposed to be here, remember.”


“Come along, madam,” he insisted. “We should take our places again.”

Marion did as he said. She was in her seat in the public gallery to await the resumption of the case. She was surprised when it did not, in fact, do so for more than a half hour more. There was all manner of speculation among the spectators about the delay, but Marion didn’t venture any opinion of her own. She had her own puzzle.

The one person not among the crowd watching the case was her mother in law. Of course, there were other trials in other courtrooms in the building. But since this one was of such personal interest to the de Lœngbærrow family, Marion thought it unlikely that Aineytta was attending any other proceeding. She had no special interest in legal matters, and now that Kristoph wasn’t a Magister she had no social reason to visit the court.

Marion was still thinking about that when the bailiff called for silence and announced Inquisitor D’Arpexia. She came from her chambers and sat in her high seat. The defendant was brought back to the dock. Gia looked calmer and more composed than before, though she was still sad and worried and obviously scared of what might come of her if she was to be found guilty.

Valena began, not by resuming the questioning of the defendant, but by asking the two lawyers to come forward for an in camera discussion. There was a ripple of speculative comment around the public gallery. It was an unusual thing to happen, but permitted when there was evidence that was not to be made public.

On Earth, as Marion knew from television courtroom dramas, an in camera discussion had to be taken in the judge’s chamber. Here on Gallifrey it was done a little differently. A special compartment with smoked glass walls was lowered from the ceiling, surrounding the Inquisitor and the two lawyers. The glass was sound-proofed. The officials and spectators in the court could see the conversation going on, but what was said stayed secret.

Finally the compartment was raised again. The two lawyers went back to their places. Valena stood to make an announcement.

“The evidence of the glass phial alleged to be in the possession of the defendant is withdrawn. The Prosecutor has agreed not to pursue any line of questioning in relation to this evidence.”

Lord Gant gave an angry exclamation, but the bailiff ordered him to be silent.

“My lady,” the Prosecutor said. “I have no further questions for the defendant and no further evidence to present at this time.”

“Very well,” Valena told him. “We shall hear the evidence presented by the Defence Counsel.”

“Thank you, Madam,” the Defence lawyer said. “I would like to call Rassilon Gant, heir to the House of Gant.”

Marion was surprised by the name of the young man who came to the witness stand. She always thought that the name ‘Rassilon’ was something almost sacred on Gallifrey. She couldn’t imagine anyone choosing it as a name for their son.

He didn’t look like somebody worthy of such a noble name, Marion thought as the Gant Heir took his place and swore to tell the truth in the name of Rassilon the Creator of Time Lord society. He was thin of body and face, with limbs that seemed too long for him. He had a sour, brooding disposition and he spoke the words of the oath in a begrudging tone.

Sour, brooding, begrudging… and also worried. Marion noted that in his expression as his eyes darted from his father to the inquisitor then to the defendant.

What was he scared of?

“You like fishing, I believe,” the Defence Lawyer said to him. “The river that runs through the Gant property is particularly well stocked, I understand.”

Did the boy looked relieved by such a line of questioning? Marion looked at his close up image on the big screen. Yes, he did. What was he expecting to be asked about, then?

A possibility crossed her mind, before she gave her attention to what seemed to be a particularly irrelevant line of questioning.

“You often go fishing in the river, I understand. What sort of fish to you catch?”

“Carro, Poeission, Solda, Roe Eels.”

“And what happens to the fish that you catch during this sport of yours?”

“I generally have them taken to the kitchen to be prepared for the table.”

“Is the Gant household so poor that you have to catch your dinner?” the Defence lawyer asked.

“Certainly not,” the boy answered with all the contempt he could muster for a social inferior who had insulted his House. “We live by the old traditions of Southern Gallifrey. Father also hunts on our land. Game birds and freshly caught meat are far better than the processed pap eaten by those without the stomach to digest real protein.”

That was a slur on much of the population of the planet where almost all food was synthesised from the versatile Cúl nut. The defence lawyer let it pass.

“The lemon solda eaten on the night that your family became ill were caught by you, in the river passing through your estate?”


“That is all, thank you.”

The Prosecutor was caught unawares as the witness was dismissed. He stood hurriedly and said that he had no questions to ask the witness at this time. Rassilon Gant was dismissed from the witness stand.

Again, Marion thought he looked very relieved. What HAD he expected to answer questions about?

But she forgot all about the Gant heir when she heard the defence lawyer call Lady de Lœngbærrow to the stand. For a moment Marion wondered why she had been called. What could she say that could have any bearing on the matter?

“Lady Aineytta Mitabrev de Lœngbærrow,” he added in clarification.

There was a ripple of surprise around the gallery. Marion, however, found herself wondering why she had not expected this development. After all, who knew more about the properties of poisons and potions than Aineytta?

“My Lady,” the lawyer for the defence said, bowing politely to her once she had sworn the oath. “You are here as an expert witness. Your skills as an apothecress are well known….”

“There is no such word as apothecress,” Aineytta corrected him. “An apothecary is a person skilled in the properties of plants regardless of gender. I am, as you say, one of those with such skills.”

“I stand corrected madam. As such an expert, will you describe to me the symptoms of acute poisoning by the substance commonly known as Lady’s Bane?”

“Severe stomach cramps, nausea, pale and clammy skin that is cold to the touch, muscle pain. If these symptoms are not recognised and treatment begun within an hour of the first symptoms, paralysis and coma are inevitable and death may well occur very shortly afterwards.”

“Indeed, and if this was the poison which Lord Gant and his family were affected by then they were very lucky to receive early treatment.”

“Absolutely,” Aineytta agreed. “Though I think if you look at the transcripts of the physician’s notes you will find that it was gone midnight before the treatment was begun. This was five hours after dinner. If, indeed, the family had ingested Lady’s Bane with their food, it would already be too late. In fact, although Lord Gant was severely ill and his wife and son even more so, none of them experienced the paralysis or coma, and all three are here to tell the tale.”

“Do you mean to imply that they were NOT poisoned by Lady’s Bane, madam?”

“I do, indeed,” Aineytta replied. “The very same symptoms I mentioned, the symptoms that Lord Gant and his loved ones experienced, can also occur when solda fish are baked in early spring without being encased in mud.”

“In mud, madam?” the defence lawyer asked, expressing the surprise of just about everyone in the courtoom.

“In mud,” Aineytta continued. “Solda fish produce an enzyme under their skin that has a taste like lemon – hence the dish lemon solda, a delicacy enjoyed in many households of Southern Gallifrey as an alternative to the usual synthesised food. But in spring the enzyme is over-produced – I believe it has something to do with mating. Any experienced cook would encase the fish in mud before baking. It draws out the excess enzyme. When the mud is broken away the fish is perfectly cooked and safe to eat.”

“I see,” the defence lawyer remarked. “I think we have all learnt something interesting about the preparation of fish today. I have no further questions.”

The prosecutor rose.

“I have no questions for this witness,” he said. “However, I think we all know of Aineytta de Lœngbærrow’s background and her reputation.”

“I imagine you mean that Lady de Lœngbærrow is a highly respected member of Gallifreyan society, wife of a former Lord High President and mother of the present incumbent of that high office?” Valena commented.

“Indeed, madam,” The Prosecutor quickly confirmed, though the look in his eyes confirmed that he meant otherwise. Valena had dismissed the wild charge about witchcraft early in the hearing, but he had just reminded everyone in the court that such beliefs were still held even among the most intelligent Gallifreyan people.

The Defence Lawyer stood and called Gia to the witness stand again. She did so calmly, though still with a worried expression on her face.

“Mistress Medanich,” he said. “You are a junior cook in the Gant household, but I trust you are a well trained one. Were you aware of the special care needed to be taken in cooking lemon solda at this time of year?”

“I was, sir,” she answered. “I was taught to cook fish by my mother who was chief cook in the household of Lord de Lœngbærrow until she married my father.”

“Then can you tell me why you didn’t take those precautions on the day in question?”

“I meant to,” Gia replied. “I was preparing the mud when Lady Gant came into the kitchen. She saw what I was doing and told me that it was a disgusting Caretaker habit and that she would not have it. She ordered me to bake the fish in the ordinary way. I… had no choice but to obey. I used a breadcrumb casing which I hoped would work as effectively, but… but… it did not. I am sorry for that. When I heard that there was sickness in the household, I knew what must have happened. I tried to tell the physician, but he would not listen to a… a servant. And then… then my room was searched and the phial was found… and after that nobody would listen to anything I said. They accused me of witchcraft and poisoning and… and….”

“That will be all, Mistress,” the defence lawyer said. Indeed, it was the most she had said since being brought to the courtroom. “Madam,” he added, addressing Valena D’Arpexia directly. “I should like to ask Lady Gant a simple question requiring a yes or no answer. It would save the court a great deal of time if we dispensed with the procedure of calling her to the witness box and swearing her in and I just got on with it. After all, a Lady of such high birth might be trusted to tell the truth, surely?”

“On this occasion, please, proceed,” Valena answered. “But let us not set a precedent.”

The Defence Lawyer turned to Lady Gant, sitting next to her husband and son and asked her to stand up. She did so slowly. The eyes of the whole court were upon her and the ‘simple question’ had been anticipated already. It was an uncomfortable moment for her as the truth of what had happened began to become clear.

“Lady Gant, did you forbid your junior cook from using a mud casing in the cooking of the lemon solda that your son caught on the day in question? You need not say anything other than yes or no.”

“Yes,” she replied in a quiet tone that was, nevertheless, heard all over the court since there was perfect silence in anticipation of her answer.

“Madam inquisitor, I think we all understand now that there was no malicious intent to poison anyone in the Gant household. Mistress Medanich simply obeyed her Ladyship as any good servant should. Lady Gant, for her part, was unaware that she was doing harm by giving that order. I am sure nobody thinks otherwise. After all, why should she wish to poison her husband and son, as well as herself?”

The Prosecutor rose, then sat, then rose again, his mouth moving but no words coming out for a long time. He turned and looked at Lord Gant. He stared back with a thunderous expression on his face. Lady Gant, beside him, was hiding her face in shame. His son looked perturbed.

The Prosecutor sat once more, then stood for a final time and cleared his throat.

“The Prosecution withdraws the charges against Gia Medanich,” he said very simply. There were voices raised from the public gallery in the wake of his pronouncement before the Bailiff called for silence. Then Valena D’Arpexia rose.

“The charges are dismissed. Mistress Medanich you are free to go from this court with no blemish upon your character.”

There was a spontaneous outburst of cheering and applause. In the midst of it a court official led Gia out through the public door. Marion, accompanied by Gallis left quietly, too. She was not at all surprised to see the acquitted woman speaking with Aineytta de Lœngbærrow in the corridor outside. She lowered her hood and went to speak to her mother-in-law.

“Marion, my dear,” Aineytta said. “I wonder if you could use an accomplished junior cook in your household? With all of those Presidential dinners you host I am sure there is more than enough work to be done.”

“Yes,” Marion said. “I… take it that Mistress Medanich will not be returning to the Gant household?”

“She will not,” Aineytta replied. At that exact moment Lord Gant and his wife and son came out of the courtroom. Lady Gant averted her eyes. Lord Gant looked coldly at the three women. His son’s expression was quite hard to gauge, but Marion thought she didn’t like it one little bit. “Gallis, Marion can accompany me in my car. Why don’t you escort Gia to the Gant Manor and help her collect her possessions. She can be settled in her new position by suppertime.”

“I will do that,” Gallis said. He gave his arm to the much happier and relieved young woman. Aineytta walked with Marion to her limousine. They didn’t talk until the car had left Athenica far behind.

“That was a distasteful affair,” Aineytta said, opening the conversation. “I am glad it is over.”

“So am I,” Marion agreed. “Aineytta…. The phial…. Lady’s Bane…. I know one of the uses it is put to. You told me that day when we were making up potions in your kitchen. Did she….”

“She used it as an abortifacient, yes,” Aineytta answered. “That is the reason it is called Lady’s Bane. It has been used for that purpose for millennia by ladies in desperate need, but it is a secret known only to women. That is why I advised Gia to tell her lawyer in private and for her to pass the facts to Valena in camera. That such things are necessary is bad enough. That it should be a matter of public gossip when it has no bearing on the case is intolerable.”

“Who was… responsible?” Marion asked.

Aineytta made a disgusted sound in her throat and then answered quite indirectly.

“I was once a young servant who caught the eye of my Lordship’s heir. But that heir was an honourable man who took no liberties with me and made me his Lady and his equal. I am quite well aware, however, that my happy story is a rare one. There are, and always will be, sons of noble houses who act without nobility, and young girls who seek out apothecaries in desperation.

Marion nodded. She didn’t need anything more clarification than that. She remembered the young heir to the House of Gant and his behaviour during the trial, and could guess the rest, as unpleasant as it was, for herself.

“I will be glad to have Gia in my kitchen,” she said. “And if we have fresh lemon solda on our dinner menu, I will ask her to cook it in the traditional manner.”