It was a fine, crisp day in mid-Janus. For Rodan that meant a morning in the paddock riding her horse, Alex, coming in for lunch with a frost-reddened nose and cheeks and an appetite for her food.

For the rest of the de Lœngbærrow household this particular day was a busy one. In the evening there was an important dinner party. The Lord High President of Gallifrey was entertaining the President of the Earth Federation.

It had to be said that relations between the Federation and Gallifrey were not as amicable as they ought to be. The problem mainly lay with Gallifrey, as the Lord High President had frequently commented to the High Council, causing them to complain long and vociferously about his viewpoint. But that viewpoint remained unchanged. Gallifrey’s superior attitude to other humanoid species was met with disdain by the Human race. With their empire of hundreds of far flung colonies, their population in the thousands of billions, their dominions with their rich mineral interests, their freight routes across the galaxy, outposts and space ports, their military might protecting all of their wealth, they could afford to disregard one small, relatively insular planet like Gallifrey. The fact that the Time Lords regarded themselves as intellectually superior was of precious little interest to them.

In fact, Gallifrey probably needed the Earth Federation far more than the Earth Federation needed Gallifrey. With the Sontarans ever waging their war with the Rutans with no consideration for any planet standing in their way and the Draconian Empire becoming a force to be reckoned with in the twelve Galaxies, the small military force Gallifrey maintained was likely to be ineffective should any real threat to the sector occur. They needed assurances that the ‘inferior’ Human forces were on their side.

That had come as a real shock to the High Council.

After arguing about it for several days they had been forced to concede that the best way of dealing with the problem was to invite the Earth President to Gallifrey for a series of discussions leading to a Treaty between the two governments.

And the best way to get things off to a good start was for the Lord High President and his Human wife, who both understood Earth politics and the Human psychology better than anyone else on the planet, to entertain the Earth President at their home.

The idea didn’t displease Marion as such. She was just a little surprised at the way the High Council discussed the proposal and voted for her to be hostess at a crucial diplomatic event. She would have minded a little less if they had asked her first.

But it was settled. The Earth President and his entire entourage of secretaries and aides, and two shadowy men who were his personal protection arrived for a light lunch then an afternoon viewing the estate. It was an all male affair. Marion wasn’t needed, which suited her fine. There were bound to be domestic matters to settle before the dinner took place.

Besides, she had taken an instant dislike to the arrogant Spanish born Earth President, Alonzo Martine and was happy to have him out of the way for as long as possible.

Kristoph didn’t think much of Signor Martine, either. The man was too fond of his own voice and had no interest in any other subject than his own family history. The subject lasted the whole time as the convoy of hover-cars containing the two Presidents, their aides and personal protection, as well as four de Lœngbærrow outdoor servants travelled to the lake at the foot of Mount Lœng where a view of southern Roan in winter coats had been promised. By the time they arrived, Kristoph was sick of hearing about how the Martine family, who were among the five richest families in the Federation, were descended from Spanish nobility and had made several fortunes over the centuries from mineral mining, first in Spain, then the Americas, and eventually on the Earth colony planets.

Alonzo Martine demonstrated his wealth with huge diamonds in an ostentatious ring and a tie pin the size of a plover’s egg. He bragged about his holdings in diamond mines across the Federation.

“I saw that diamond you keep in your senate building,” he said. “The Tear of Omega. It’s a fine looking thing, but not a patch on the Star of Madrid, mined on Orion III just last year. That’s a diamond fit for royalty.”

“So I believe,” Kristoph lied diplomatically. He could, in fact, have pointed out that the diamond called the Star of Madrid was flawed and discoloured inside and judged nearly worthless on the intergalactic diamond market, but he decided not to join in the one-upmanship. It was beneath his dignity, and besides, there WERE serious negotiations to do in the next few days. Scoring points off each other over the size of diamonds was never going to help.

“Quiet,” called out one of Kristoph’s outdoor men. “The herd is coming.” The Earth President looked surprised to be given a direct order from a servant. Kristoph made a mental note to raise his man’s pay just because it finally shut Martine up.

The Roan herd was magnificent. The lead buck with its sixteen pronged antlers stood higher than a tall man. The younger bucks were smaller and the does even more so, but they were all breathtaking to look at. Their winter coats were silvery white, camouflaging them against the hungry leonates that roamed the snow-covered plain in search of food.

The lake was one of the few places not frozen over in mid-winter. The waterfall that tumbled over the precipice halfway up the mountain was too fast to freeze and it kept the lake constantly churning. The noise, close up, was tremendous, but the Roan didn’t worry. They were going to drink.

Even Martine was impressed by the size of the lead buck, but the nature of his awe was disturbing.

“If I had a rifle.…” he said. “What a trophy.”

“If you had a rifle, President or not, my men would have you face down in the snow with your hands behind your back and your legs pinioned,” he responded. “No civilian is allowed to carry weapons in my presence.”

“What a waste,” Martine continued, oblivious of the put down. “Those antlers… that head….”

“Belong on the body of that fine beast, alive and well on my property,” Kristoph pointed out. “Hunting for sport is frowned upon here on Gallifrey. We are satisfied to look at an animal of that stature and admire it.”

He thought briefly of Lord Ravenswode, who didn’t care that blood sports were frowned upon and had a hall full of trophies. That was why low level sensors on the border of the de Lœngbærrow lands triggered when the herds came close and turned them back from straying further. He didn’t want the Buck to be added to Ravenswode’s collection any more than he would want to see it shot for sport by his guests.

“My great-great grandfather was the son of the finest and noblest matador in Madrid,” Martine pointed out. “Nobody is afraid of spilling animal blood in my family.”

Again, if Kristoph had been interested in countering Martine, he could have mentioned his ancestor who fought dragons, but he still felt there was nothing to prove. Besides, this Earth born man probably wouldn’t know that dragons really existed on some worlds and would scoff at the idea.

The buck moved closer to the group. Its eyes were fixed upon them but it showed little fear of the men. Kristoph barely breathed. He knew that there was a fine herd on the stretch of the plain that came under his ownership, but he so rarely had time to look at them, he thoroughly appreciated this opportunity.

Then the moment was tragically destroyed. A sharp crack of a gunshot made the buck rear and roar angrily before turning and galloping away. The herd ran after him, all but one doe that had fallen to a stray bullet.

One of his men ran to examine the creature as Kristoph turned to see who had fired. He was partially amused, partially aghast, to see two of the Presidential Guard holding Alonzo Martine face down in the deep snow, his arms behind his back and his legs pinioned – exactly as promised. The service pistol he had snatched from one of his personal guards was lying on the ground. One of his Presidential Guards held a gun close to Martine’s head while the others were in what was universally known as a Mexican stand off with the Earth President’s people.

“Lower your weapons,” Kristoph commanded. His own men did so at once. “You, too. I will have no weapons pointed at my men when they have obeyed my orders.”

The Human security agents hesitated briefly before realising that they were in an untenable situation and lowering their guns.

“Disarm them,” Kristoph told his men.

“Sir, you have no right to do that,” said Martine’s personal secretary. “Those men have diplomatic privilege. And I must protest about the way Signor Martine has been treated. This is….”

But the men were already disarmed. The Presidential Guard had a ridiculously old-fashioned uniform, but they were still sharp thinking and loyal men.

“Let him up,” he added, nodding towards Martine. He was allowed to stand, but the Guards flanked him. Kristoph drew close. Martine flinched as if he expected to be hit, but as angry as he was, the Gallifreyan Lord High President held back from physical blows.

“You blithering idiot,” he thundered. “You can’t take a shot like that with a side arm. It needs a sighted rifle. All you’ve done is cause injury to an innocent creature.”

He turned back to look at the doe. His man was wrapping it in a blanket and lifting it gently.

“It’s alive, sir, but the bullet is still in its side.”

“Put it in the car and take it to the Dower House,” Kristoph ordered. “My mother will tend to it. She is as good with animals as she is with people.”

His outdoor servant and one of the drivers quickly accomplished that task. Meanwhile Kristoph turned back to the far more serious diplomatic situation.

“Get him into the second car,” he said to his Presidential Guards. “His staff, too. I’ll travel separately. I have nothing to say to him.”

Martine protested loudly about his treatment, so did his aides, who reminded the Presidential Guards that they all had diplomatic immunity.

Kristoph knew that. He knew also that this was going to cause trouble. His men were right to disarm Martine using necessary force, but by the time the story reached Earth it would appear that the President of Gallifrey had allowed the Federation President to be assaulted, and then forcibly removed him in a car.

When the cars returned to Mount Lœng House, Kristoph went in first, the door opened to him by Caolin, as always. He told his faithful butler to inform the housekeeper that the dinner with guests tonight was cancelled then he sought out his wife in her white drawing room where she was quietly doing embroidery with Rosanda.

“My dear, would you please let me have these rooms for a little while. I need somewhere to put the Earth President and his contingent until I decide what to do with them.”

“Decide what to do with them?” Marion was surprised by that. She looked at her husband’s face and was even more startled by the seething anger in his eyes. “What has happened?”

“I will explain, soon,” he answered. “For now… I am going to my study. I need to think.”

“Kristoph….” Marion wanted to ask him so many questions, but he shook his head meaningfully. She and Rosanda took their embroidery boxes and moved to the master drawing room. As they did so Signor Martine was escorted into the house by two Presidential Guards. Kristoph ordered all of the Earth visitors to be confined to the white suite until he was ready and then headed to his study. Marion looked at the dark expression on the face of the Federation President and turned away.

Kristoph sat in the chair behind his desk in the study and sighed deeply. The problems that lay ahead of him were almost too numerous to count. The consequences of his actions and the actions of people he commanded could be extremely far reaching.

He was mulling over those consequences when the videophone signalled an incoming transmission. He expected to be speaking to the Premier Cardinal or the Chancellor, who would surely have heard something by now. He was far happier to see his mother’s face on the screen.

“Mama,” he said. “I am always pleased to see you. But… the news… is it….”

“The news is good,” Ainyetta de Lœngbærrow answered. “The doe is going to survive. She is resting in the scullery. In a few days she will be fit to return to the herd.”

“I am pleased to hear that, mama,” Kristoph replied. “Really pleased.”

“You do not look it, my son,” Aineytta said. “You are troubled.”

“Yes, mama,” he admitted. “I am glad that the doe is recovering. But I may have plunged Gallifrey into a Cold War for her sake, and I may have a hard time convincing the High Council that she was worth it.”