Kristoph woke in the early hours of the morning wondering what had disturbed him. The bed chamber was quiet, the soft breathing of his wife in her sleep the only sound. Yet there was something not right in the house.

“Marion,” he whispered. He hardly expected her to respond, but she did. She reached out her hand to him and he clung to it.

“What is wrong?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he answered. “But something is… very wrong.”

Marion sat up and listened carefully then she got out of bed, finding her robe and slippers.

“Where are you going?” Kristoph asked.

“To check on Rodan,” she answered. “Just in case.”

A mother’s instinct, of course. Kristoph, too, rose from his bed and put on a robe and slippers. He went to the window and looked out. The gardens and the trees beyond were still covered in deep snow. In the light of the moon in its silver aspect he could see all the way across the plains to the very distant hills that were distinctly silhouetted against the deep brown sky.

Everything looked calm and peaceful, but the disquiet in his hearts was growing.

He looked closer to the house and spotted a light that didn’t come from the moon. It wasn’t an ordinary light spilling from an uncovered window, either. There was a disturbing flicker and on the periphery of his hearing a sound that boded ill.

“Marion!” he cried, turning quickly from the window. He rushed down the passage to Rodan’s bedroom. “Marion, the house is on fire. Wake the child. Wrap her up and get out quickly.”

Marion’s face paled, but she did not panic. She woke Rodan gently and put a warm coat over her nightdress. Kristoph roused her night nurse sleeping in the side-room and then hurried to alert the rest of the household. His voice brought the servants running. By the time Marion reached the ground floor with Rodan by her side they were all heading out into the snow covered garden with her. Most of them were in nightclothes, roused from their beds. They had grabbed blankets and coats and shoes to protect their feet, but that was all.

At least the women were there. The men, including Caolin and the senior footmen, moved through the house, checking that nobody was missed.

“Mama, what about Alex?” Rodan asked. “And Gypsy and Bron.”

For a moment, Marion didn’t realise who she meant. Of course, they were the three horses that the child spent so much of her waking days with.

“I am sure they are all right,” Marion assured her. “Their stable is separate from the house.”

That was true, but the stable was at the back of the house, across the courtyard from the garages, and adjacent to the east wing. The main part of house was still blissfully intact, but the glow of huge flames and the smell of smoke from the side and back was unmistakable.

“Mama!” Rodan cried out. “I think they’re frightened.”

She was so insistent that Marion thought it best to take her to see, but she was stopped by Mistress Calitha.

“It is too dangerous, Madam,” the housekeeper said. “The flames have taken hold in the east wing.”

“The horses,” Rodan insisted.

“It is all right, little one,” said her Venturan riding instructor, dressed in a pair of trousers and a coat but no shirt or jacket. He lived in a comfortable apartment above the stable which he had obviously evacuated in a hurry. “I turned them out into the paddock where they can run from what frightens them.”

That partially reassured Rodan. She really wanted to see for herself, but it was clearly not safe for her to go to the back of the house. Marion told the instructor to keep a watch on the horses in case they were distressed further.

“Is everyone here?” she asked now that Rodan was calmer. “Is everyone out of the house?” She looked around and tried to count the members of the household. She tried to remember all the names of the indoor staff, and at any other time she could have done so, but just now she felt too bewildered.

There was a hoot of horns as three cars and a hover bus came around from the garages. The chauffeurs had been ordered to move them out onto the front drive to stop them being damaged.

“Madam!” Gallis Limmon called out to her. “Please come and sit in the car. You will be warmer.”

There was wisdom in that. She urged Rodan and her night nurse to sit in the back of the spacious limousine, but she didn’t take her own place, yet. She urged her personal maid and Rosanda into the car, instead. She put Mistress Calitha and the kitchen staff into the hover-bus that was used when Marion took her caretaker school children on fieldtrips. She urged the other female staff into the vehicles where they could sit in warmth and comfort.

“Madam,” the housekeeper protested. “You should look after yourself, first.”

“No,” Marion insisted. “I need to make sure everyone is safe. I can count you all better sitting down in the cars.”

The fleet of vehicles safely contained all of the female house staff. The men were all either moving cars or manning water pumps to try to control the fire. But Marion was sure somebody else was still missing.

“Oh!” she exclaimed. “Anya!”

Her heart thudded with dismay. How could she have forgotten about Anya, Seogham’s wife? She had been replaced as senior chambermaid when her pregnancy made work impossible and so wasn’t counted among the employees. She would have been sleeping alone while her husband was night butler on duty tonight.

Seogham didn’t know that his wife hadn’t been roused. She must be trapped in the servant’s quarters.

Gallis Limmon climbed out of the last of the cars rescued from the garage. Marion ran to him.

“Find my husband,” she said. “Tell him that Anya Munn is still inside.”

“At once, madam,” her loyal and always courageous chauffer replied. “But will you please get into the car with little Rodan. You must take care of yourself.”

She took his advice at last. Everyone else was accounted for. There was nothing more she could do. She sat in the car and let Rodan climb onto her knee. Sereta, her personal maid, and Rosanda, were clutching each other’s hands, fretting for their friend who was still missing. When something exploded and flames shot up over the house, they squealed in fright. Marion felt like sharing their fear, but she knew she had to keep calm.

“It’s the garage,” the night nurse explained looking at the glow of fire above the east wing roof. “There’s oil and fuel in there. The flames must have reached them.”

“I hope all the chauffeurs were out of there,” Marion said. She thought they must be since all of the cars, even her own private one that she drove by herself, was on the front lawn. But it was quite impossible to know where any of the men were. They were all playing their part in the efforts to control the fire.

“There ought to be a proper fire service on this planet,” she added. “Are we just supposed to let the house burn to the ground while footmen and valets, gardeners and chauffeurs risk their lives? There should be trained fire-fighters.”

Rosanda was the only one among those she spoke to who understood what she meant. She had travelled offworld with her. She had once seen the Xian Xien fire service deal with a huge fire at the fireworks wholesale market. The others had no concept of a trained force whose job was to put out fires.

Why had such thing NEVER been thought of on Gallifrey? The homes of Time Lords could burn just as easily as any others.

Then she saw Gallis Limmon run out of the house. He reached the car and climbed into the driver’s seat. He started the engine just as Kristoph emerged, carrying a woman wrapped in blankets. Caolin and Seogham ran after him as he approached the car.

“Go to the Dower House,” Kristoph told Gallis as he placed Anya in the seat beside Rosanda. “My mother will take care of her. Seogham, get in the front seat. You’re going with them. You’ve done enough here for now. Stay with your wife and mine.”

Caolin called out to his wife, warning her not to worry. Kristoph reached and held Marion’s hand briefly then he slammed the door shut and urged Gallis to drive away. Marion turned in her seat and saw him urging the other drivers to do the same, bearing all the female staff and those men who had exhausted themselves in the effort to save Mount Lœng House. Most of them were going to Maison D’Alba where Lady Lily could give them comfort. It was the closest residence to Mount Lœng House. The Dower House was further.

Anya’s anguished cry distracted Marion from her own distress. She looked at her and knew just why they were being sent to the care of Ainyetta de Lœngbærrow.

“But she’s only ten months gone, isn’t she?” the night nurse exclaimed. “She can’t be in labour.”

“Twelve months,” Rosanda corrected her. Everyone in the household knew that the under-butler and the housemaid had been married a little over ten months ago, but it wasn’t common knowledge that the marriage was a necessary one. Anya was already with child when they asked Kristoph to marry them. He had chastised them both for their carelessness before giving them his blessing and conducting a simple but legally binding ceremony in his own study with Caolin and Rosanda as chief witnesses. That had been the end of the matter as far as he was concerned, and gossip about any impropriety had been kept to the minimum within the household.

But now, a full three months sooner than expected even by those who did know the secret, on the very worst possible night, Anya was ready to have her baby.

“Gallis, drive as quickly as you feel safe,” Marion told her favourite chauffer. “Don’t delay.”

“I’m already doing that, madam,” Gallis responded. “The car is much fuller than usual. I can’t hover much higher than three feet above the snow level, and I’m concerned about the fuel. But I will do my best. Please try not to worry.”

He said it in a calm voice that almost helped except that Anya was clearly in distress. Rosanda gripped her hand and spoke calmly to her. Marion did her best, but she was also calming Rodan who was frightened and still worried about her horses despite every reassurance.

It was the most anxious journey she had ever made. Anya’s troubles were paramount, but she was also dreadfully worried still about what was happening back at the house. Kristoph was in the midst of the fire-fighting effort and he was first in her thoughts, but she didn’t want anyone else to be hurt trying to put out the fire.

And though it was the least important thing, she didn’t want the house destroyed, either. She knew it had been the de Lœngbærrow family home for generations. Kristoph himself was born there. So was his father and his father before him.

“I don’t mind losing the house if nobody loses their life,” Marion said under her breath. She felt Rosanda close her hand over hers. She had heard her words, or perhaps felt her emotion as she spoke, and was silently indicating that she agreed with that feeling.

“We’re going to be all right,” she whispered. But Marion wasn’t the one who needed telling about that. Anya was increasingly distressed. She was experiencing labour pains every few minutes and was certain that the baby was going to die.

“We’ll be at the Dower House soon,” Marion promised her. “Aineytta is the best midwife on the southern plain. She will look after you and your baby.”

That reassured Anya for a few minutes, but as the next contraction overwhelmed her, the car came to an alarming stop, dropping out of the hover mode into the three foot of snow that covered the plain. The car drifted through it for a dozen yards before coming to a stop.

“What happened, Gallis?” Marion asked.

“We’re out of fuel, madam,” he answered gloomily. “The tank wasn’t filled up after the trip to Lady Lily’s yesterday morning.”

That was nobody’s fault, of course. The bio-fuel used in the fleet of cars was stored in the garage. Ordinarily refuelling would be done before a car was taken out. But in the emergency tonight there was no time to think of anything but getting out of reach of the spreading flames that eventually engulfed the garages and so dramatically blew up the fuel store.