Several slabs of paving on Lady Lily’s garden terrace had been marked out with chalk for a hopscotch grid. Rodan was playing the game by herself. She was counting the numbers as she hopped and jumped in French. She was still learning the language that had so intrigued her when she was on her holiday. She chattered to the maids at mealtimes in French and read aloud from the set of ‘Martine’ books that Kristoph had purchased in Paris for her.

“She speaks Mandarin and Cantonese, too,” Marion noted. “Li taught her.”

“She is very clever,” Lily said to Marion. “I hadn’t even begun to master languages at her age. I don’t even really make the effort, now. The TARDIS translation function allows me to understand the languages when I travel to China with Li.”

“I try to do it when it is languages I know, like French,” Marion admitted. “But when it comes to really obscure tongues like Queesaattiin, with all those double vowels I give up. Not that it matters. The Queesaatiians are so misogynistic hardly anyone spoke directly to me when Kristoph and I visited that planet.”

Lily nodded and smiled. She didn’t have a lot of experience of other worlds apart from Earth, of which she had mainly seen Liverpool and its environs and Ming Dynasty China.

“Are you all right, Lily?” Marion asked, noting that she had been doing most of the talking through this lunchtime visit to Maison D’Alba.

“I am a little tired,” she admitted. “Perhaps I have been overdoing it a little. Li and I….”

“You were away with him while we were in France, of course,” Marion said. “And I suppose it was for much longer than a fortnight. Li took you to China, of course?”

“Yes. We stayed a year in Henan province, the part of China Li loves the most. It saddens him to know that Communism destroyed so much of the culture of China, a way of life that had lasted for millennia was swept away in a few years by a political system he bitterly hates.”

“Yes.” Marion had heard Li talk of Communist China many times. He had as little love for its leaders as he had for those among the Time Lord hierarchy who would not let him return to his home world. She understood exactly what his feelings were.

But Chinese communists were not her primary concern just now. Lily really didn’t look well, despite sitting in bright sunshine and entertaining her guest. She tried to hide it. Twice Marion caught her sighing as if she was in pain and trying to hide it.

“Perhaps we ought to go inside,” Marion suggested. “I think it is a little too warm out here. The drawing room will be cooler.”

“Yes, perhaps you are right,” Lily agreed. She stood and then clung to the table for balance. “No, don’t worry,” she assured Marion. “I just stood up too quickly. I will be all right.”

But she hadn’t stood up quickly. She had been quite slow about it, as if that was the best she could do. Now it took her a half a minute steadying herself before she could turn and walk into the drawing room from the terrace. Rodan paused in her game, but a maid came out to watch her as Lily and Marion went inside. The sound of her feet on the flags and her counting – une, deux, trois… could still be heard through the open doors. Lily smiled to hear her as she settled on the sofa.

“Perhaps your physician should be sent for,” Marion suggested. “You really do not look well.”

“No,” Lily insisted. “It is nothing. I did not sleep well last night. That is one of the problems with travelling for any length of time – adjusting to my own bed afterwards. And… to sleeping alone. I miss the comfort of his presence beside me at night.”

“If only you two didn’t have to be secret lovers,” Marion said to her. “It really is unfair that Li is forced to remain an exile when it is known at the highest level that he is innocent.”

“He won’t allow Kristoph to risk his own reputation to fight the issue any further,” Lily said. “Besides, he is a proud man. Asking the High Council for his freedom is too much like begging. He would not do that.”

“His pride – and Kristoph’s - brought them both to a fight to the death,” Marion remembered. “But it his will. We cannot change it.”

“Indeed, not,” Lily acknowledged. “And yet.…”

But this much conversation had been too much for her. She swooned sickly, her face paling to alabaster. Marion stopped her from falling from the sofa and rang for the butler.

“Robaert,” she said when the faithful head servant came to the room. “Lady Lily is ill. I think her physician should be called at once.”

Robaert stepped closer, looking at his lady as she started to come around but swooned once more.

“Not a physician,” he said. “Madam if you would call your Lordship’s mother, I think her wisdom would be more suitable.”

“Aineytta?” Marion was surprised by that. Aineytta was known to supply some of the high born ladies of the Southern Plain with ‘tonics’ that pepped up their love lives, but she was rarely called upon to treat more serious problems for those who could afford a physician.

“Yes, Madam,” Robaert insisted. “Lady Aineyetta is the best physician on this occasion.”

Marion didn’t question his judgement further. She went to the videophone and immediately called her mother in law. Aineytta promised to be with her as soon as possible and in the meantime, Lily should be taken to her bed chamber.

Robaert had already sent a maid to make the bed ready. He, himself, carried his Lady up the wide stairs and along the landing to her chamber. The maid loosened her mistresses clothes and laid her gently in the bed. They were all faithful to Lady Lily, just as Caolin and the servants at Mount Lœng House were faithful to Marion and Lord de Lœngbærrow. They none of them speculated about the nature of her illness. Cool fruit juice in a carafe was brought, warm water in a bowl to bathe her face. The servants did all that was needed. Marion waited in the drawing room watching Rodan still playing outside, unaware of the drama. There was no reason why she should need to know. Her game was disturbing nobody.

She heard the hover car arrive on the driveway and reached the hall as the footman reached the door and opened it for Aineytta. She had brought a basket full of herbs and the mortar and pestle and mixing bowls for making up medicines. Robaert came down stairs to take those things from her and escort her to his Lady’d bed chamber.

“Can I do anything?” Marion asked, feeling quite surplus to requirements.

“Call my son,” Aineytta answered. “He is the dearest to Lily’s heart still living on this world. He will want to be here.”

“Yes, of course,” Marion answered. She went to put a call through to the President’s chambers in the Citadel, hoping that Kristoph was not in the Panopticon just now.

He wasn’t, but he was in a Committee meeting. His aide went to fetch, him, even so, after Marion impressed upon him the urgency. A few minutes later Kristoph came to the videophone dressed in a black and silver robe and a close fitting cap as worn by the members of the High Council when not in full session in the Panopticon. When he heard Marion’s news he was visibly upset. He promised to come at once, all the way from the Capitol.

“Kristoph, what do you think this is?” Marion asked him. “She said she was just tired, but she looked so very pale, and the servants are far too worried for something so simple. Your mother is concerned, too.”

“If mama is there, she is in good hands. She brought our whole household safely through the plague. Don’t you fret, my dear. And don’t let our fosterling be distressed, either.”

Marion sat in the drawing room watching Rodan play outside. She was showing the maid who was watching her how to play hopscotch, as well as how to count to ten in French.

Robaert, released from his duties in the bed chamber now that Aineytta was here, came to see if she needed anything. She told him not to worry, but he brought a pot of herbal tea and some sandwiches, as well as fruit juice and cakes for Rodan when she was tired of her game.

“The Lord High President is on his way,” Marion told the butler. “But I don’t think he will want anyone to stand on ceremony for him. He is coming as Lady Lily’s oldest and dearest friend, that is all.”

“Of course, madam,” Robaert answered. “There is a bottle of his Lordship’s preferred liquor in the cabinet. I will pour him a glass when he arrives.”

If it were any household but Lily’s, and any relationship but hers and Kristoph’s, Marion might have thought keeping a bottle of his favourite single malt whiskey for him would be suspicious. But she knew all about the loving friendship they shared and did not begrudge either of them, especially now, with Lily suffering an unknown but worrying ailment.

When he arrived, Kristoph greeted Marion with a warm and reassuring hug, but his mother summoned him upstairs as quickly as possible. Lily had asked to speak to him.

When he came down to the drawing room again his face was grave. He sat and took the glass of whiskey that Robaert offered him. He took a long gulp then sipped the rest slowly. The butler left the room. Marion didn’t say anything, but her eyes pleaded with him for news.

“Lily will be all right in a little while,” Kristoph assured her at once. “My mother will make sure of that.”

“I am glad,” Marion answered, sighing a deep sigh of relief. “But what is wrong with her?”

“She didn’t say anything to you?” Kristoph asked. “You two share all your secrets, usually. I am surprised. But then again....” Kristoph stopped and shook his head. “My dear, Lily has suffered a miscarriage.”

“What?” Marion reeled in shock. “But that isn’t possible, surely? She can’t….”

“Exactly. The pregnancy was not viable. It was already too late before mother was summoned. The only thing she can do is make her comfortable now. She is grieving, of course. But we, her closest friends, will take care of her.”

“Of course, we will,” Marion answered. “Oh, poor Lily. She must be so upset.”

Marion knew exactly how she felt. She had lost four babies of her own, two so early she hardly had a chance to get used to being pregnant before it was over, and two that she had carried full term only to lose them in the end. She knew how miserable Lily must be feeling, now.

“It… was Li, of course?” she said after a few quiet minutes. “It must be. Though I thought he was unable….”

“Their love affair is an intense one. I suppose in the midst of that intensity a chance neither of them expected happened. But sadly it was not to be.”

“I suppose… there would have been an awful lot of gossip,” Marion said. “People would have speculated dreadfully.”

“I think Lily would have borne the gossip and speculation to have brought a child into the light,” Kristoph answered. He shook his head sadly. Marion fought back tears for Lily and her loss, for Li who she loved as a friend, and would grieve alone in Liverpool, and for all the sad memories of her own that this brought back.

“He won’t be alone,” Kristoph assured her. “Lily asked me to break the news to him. When mama tells me there is no danger and Lily is at rest, I will go straight there and offer him what comfort one stoic Time Lord can offer another stoic Time Lord at a time like this.”

“Neither of you have ever been much good at being stoic,” Marion answered. “I will stay with Lily until you return.”

“As I knew you would,” Kristoph told her.

“Lily was my first friend on Gallifrey,” Marion reminded him. “I could not let her down when she needs me.”

Rodan came in from her game, hot and dusty. The maid took her to wash her hands and face before she had her juice and cakes. Afterwards she curled up on one of the big, soft sofas of Lily’s elegant drawing room for her afternoon nap.

Aineytta came down after two hours in Lily’s chamber. Her face was carefully composed as she came to her son and daughter in law.

“Marion, go and sit with her now. She should sleep soon, but she will appreciate your company until she does. My son, you know your duty?”

“I do, mama. It is a heavy one, but I will not shirk it.” He embraced his mother briefly, then Marion for a rather longer time.

Then he was gone.

“They were always as close as brothers when they were young,” Aineytta said. “The burden will be shared, as it will be here, too.”

“Yes,” Marion said before she walked up the stairs to Lily’s bed chamber to be whatever help she could be in this sorrowful time.