“Sir, her Ladyship is ill. You had better go to her at once.”

The words chilled Kristoph more than the cold of Domhan Fuar, the ice world that had been their benign host for this past week. He literally froze mid-step. Rodan gave a cry of distress.

“Maman!” she exclaimed mournfully, reverting to French, her favourite language outside of Gallifreyan or English.

“No, my dear, you shouldn’t go to her, yet,” Kristoph told her as his mind began to race ahead in compensation for the moment of inaction. “Go to your room and ask your maid to get you food. Eat something nice, and wait until I come for you, my little love.”

Rodan did as he said. Kristoph hurried to the bedroom he had shared with his wife, not knowing what to expect. Was it her heart again, or something else, something equally distressing to them all?

Another possibility thrust itself into his mind before he reached the bedroom door.

No, he told himself as he stood with his hand upon the door knob. It couldn’t be that. It would be too cruel.

Marion’s personal maid was with her in the room. She was gently mopping her brow with a cool cloth.

“She has a very high temperature, while shivering as if cold, and she is delirious,” the maid told him. “Her breathing is ragged, and she has been coughing up fluid.”

“Marion is Human. Her normal temperature is higher than ours anyway,” Kristoph reminded her. But when he touched her forehead he had to agree that she was in a dangerous fever even for her species.

“How did she get so sick, so quickly?” he wondered aloud.

“I don’t know, sir,” the maid admitted. “She just collapsed when she came into the habitat. We brought her to her bed, but we didn’t know what else to do.”

Of course, Kristoph thought. Illness is so rare among Gallifreyans. They hadn’t even thought of calling for medical help.

“Send for a doctor,” he demanded. “The people of this planet are closer to Human than we are. Their physicians will better understand her condition.”

One of his aides went at once to pass the message. Kristoph sat at his wife’s side and grasped her hand tenderly.

“The first week I knew you, I had to look after you,” he whispered. “You caught flu coming to lunch with me. I dosed you for five days with a mixture of herbs that I learnt of from my mother. But I’m not sure I can do that, this time, my love. This doesn’t look like flu and the sort of herbs I need don’t grow in tundra.”

Marion stirred and murmured something. Even with his superior Gallifreyan hearing he didn’t quite catch the words, but he felt that she was forgiving him for not being able to do anything to make her better.

The doctor who arrived was, to his surprise, one of the tall, slender Domhan women. Medicine was the province of the female gender on this planet. She at once banished Kristoph from the bedside and made him wait by the door as she made her careful and thorough examination.

At last she called Kristoph back to the bedside. He watched as the physician injected medicine into Marion’s arm.

“She has a very severe case of a bacterial infection we call niúmóine,” the physician said.

“Pneumonia,” Kristoph translated. Again his hearts felt cold. “You said… severe. Is she going to die?”

“Now that I have begun treatment, I hope not,” the physician replied. “But this coming night will be telling. She needs to be kept warm and hydrated. I am sending for equipment to set up a saline drip and an oxygen canopy around her to prevent further infection.”

The physician’s orders were quickly followed up. The comfortable bedroom became an intensive care ward in a matter of minutes. Kristoph went to talk to Rodan while it was being done.

“You can see your mama soon,” he promised. “But she is still asleep and she won’t be able to talk to you. After you have seen her, I want you to go to bed and sleep well, and don’t worry. I am sure she will be feeling better in the morning.”

Rodan was reassured by that, though the sight of the drip and oxygen canopy over the bed upset her. She hated that she couldn’t touch Marion at all. She said goodnight, though, and went to her own bed as she promised.

Kristoph sat beside the bed and prepared for a night’s vigil. It was far from the first time he had done that. When the plague hit Gallifrey and Marion was so desperately affected he had stayed with her through the worst nights. He had been with her through the awful end of those failed pregnancies she had suffered.

“I’ll never leave you, my dear,” he promised. “Never.”

The worst thing was not being able to touch her. He desperately wanted to hold her hand, but the physician had strictly forbidden it. He could only look at her through the clear plastic cover under which fresh oxygen was being circulated. He could see that her breathing was still troubled, but she was holding her own.

Hope. The Human legend was well founded. All the troubles that escaped from Pandora’s Box were accompanied by hope, the thing that gave men reason to struggle against adversity. Time Lords needed it, too. They didn’t have a legend about a curious woman with an inability to follow rules, but they did have hope. Too often it was channelled into ambition, hope for political or social advancement, but they had hope, all the same.

He hoped that Marion would come through this illness. At the same time he went over and over everything in his mind. Did she show any sign of sickening for anything this morning when they rose early to watch the sled race? Had she been all right when they were sitting in the grandstand? He thought she was well, though he had to admit he hadn’t been looking at her. He had been paying attention to the race.

“Why didn’t you tell me, sweetheart?” he asked, hardly expecting an answer.

“Didn’t want… to spoil… Rodan’s day….”

This time he heard the words clearly, but when he looked she was unconscious again. It was a hopeful sign, though. That had been an answer to his question. For a few minutes, at least, she had been with him.

But there were very few other signs as the evening turned to a long night. He was sitting for long hours in the half dark with one night light beside the bed illuminating Marion’s pale face. Every so often a nurse changed the saline pack and at regular interviews the physician herself checked Marion’s vital signs and declared that she was not worsening, though as yet there was little sign of improvement, either.

“These first hours are crucial,” the physician told him. “If she has the strength to fight against the infection when it is at its worst, then every hour after that will count in her favour.”

“I will fight for her,” Kristoph promised. The physician was puzzled. She obviously thought he meant some kind of prayer, and the people of Domhan Fuar knew well that the Time Lords of Gallifrey had no gods – they WERE the gods of many other planets.

But that wasn’t what he meant, of course. He meant that he would use his abilities as a strong, highly trained telepath to reach into her body and find the source of the illness. The serum the physician had injected into her blood and which she renewed every two hours, had attacked the bacteria. It was almost gone from her body, but the inflammation of the alveoli – the microscopic airsacs within her lungs – was still severe. With the space within them restricted, breathing was painful and every breath provided less oxygenated blood for her body.

There was nothing even he could do about the inflammation, but he could at least bring down the fever, drawing the heat from her body into his own and regulating his temperature by force of will. Bringing her temperature to near normal stopped the shivering chills and the cold sweat, too. They were a by-product of the fever as the body tried to compensate for the dangerous heat.

He did that every time her temperature rose. It left him with aching bones and a headache that almost blinded him for several minutes each time, but it was the very least he would be prepared to suffer for Marion’s sake.

Slowly the long night went by. They were deep under the ice, of course, and it was impossible to know if it was daylight outside, but Kristoph felt the difference in his soul. It was the change in atmosphere that Bram Stoker had noted in his novel that even a Time Lord had appreciated.

“…but I could not help experiencing that chill which comes over one at the coming of the dawn, which is like, in its way, the turn of the tide. They say that people who are near death die generally at the change to dawn or at the turn of the tide. Anyone who has when tired, and tied as it were to his post, experienced this change in the atmosphere can well believe it.”

The one thing Kristoph did not believe was that people near death were more likely to die at the change to dawn. That was sheer superstition. Even so, he was more awake and alert at that time than at any other time during the night, willing Marion to fight against the illness that afflicted her.

The new day had lit the ice fields and the glaciers, and the slightly warmer tundra by the straits for three hours when there was a change for the better. Marion still coughed painfully, and the nurse came to draw off the fluids that might choke her if they were not removed from her oesophagus, but her fever was broken and she shivered less. Her skin was less clammy and unnatural. She murmured in her sleep even more and Kristoph caught his own name whispered more than once.

“We can remove the canopy,” the physician said. “But I will have an oxygen tank and mask on stand-by in case it is needed.”

At last, with that barrier removed, he could physically touch her. Kristoph grasped his wife’s hand and was pleased when he felt her fingers tighten around his.

“Marion,” he whispered. “I’m here for you, my love. I will always be here for you.”

“I know,” she whispered back hoarsely. “I felt you there.”

“Don’t try to talk,” he said, putting his hand on her forehead. “I can feel your thoughts and save you the trouble.”

“You should sleep,” she told him mentally. “You will be tired.”

“As you perfectly well know, I am a Time Lord. I don’t need sleep as much as others do. Besides, how could I sleep when you were in such distress. My dear, why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t know,” she answered. “I felt cold and tired all day… even inside all the furs I was chilled. But I didn’t want to complain. I didn’t want to seem weak. The people here on this world….”

“The people of Domhan Fuar have bodies that are adapted to their environment. Their blood is thicker and redder and contains more oxygen than anyone other than the Inuits of your own world. Even the slender women have fat layers just beneath the skin that protect them from the cold. My species can regulate their body heat by the power of thought. You, alone, were vulnerable, and you should have spoken up, sweetheart. Nobody would have thought badly of you. Nobody would have thought you weak, least of all, me.”

“I was silly, wasn’t I?”

“Yes, but you’re forgiven. Besides, it was my fault for not noticing that you were uncomfortable.”

“I forgive you for that,” Marion replied.

“You already did,” Kristoph assured her. “Now, can you manage to swallow a little honey mixture that will soothe your throat, and then go back to sleep for a few more hours. There will be a worried child awake in a bit, who will insist on seeing for herself that you are on the mend.”

She took some of the soothing drink and then relaxed into a much more normal sleep than at any time of the night. Yes, she was on the mend, though it would be some days before she was ready to get up from her bed, and some time after that before she was completely well.

As predicted, Rodan insisted on seeing Marion as soon as she was washed and dressed, and before her breakfast. Her foster mother was awake and sitting up, taking some oxygen through the face mask that she set aside in order to hug the child.

“I’ll be in bed for a few days,” she said. “But after that I’ll be all right. You’re not to worry. Aren’t you going for a sled ride yourself today? You’ll enjoy that. And you can tell me all about it when you get back.”

As soon as Rodan had gone from the room Marion reached for the oxygen again, then had to set it aside as she coughed painfully. She was far from well, yet. That audience with the child had exhausted her. When the coughing fit was over, Kristoph made her lie down with the mask on and rest. He talked to her telepathically, relieving her from the struggle to speak as she fell into a deep sleep.

When she woke again a few hours later, she drank some more honey mixture and had some soup. Then a little more honey mixture and a dose of medicine. Kristoph meanwhile explained to her the revised plans he had discussed with his aides during the morning.

“I have cancelled all but one of the last four places we were meant to visit,” he said. “I would bring us all home to Gallifrey straight away except that the one exception is a place that is very therapeutic and will do you good. It is also important for another reason, and it has taken a lot of planning to visit that world at all. Can you bear another week of bedrest and then a visit to a place that I have heard is NEVER cold before we go home to Gallifrey?”

“Home to Gallifrey!” Marion smiled beneath the oxygen mask. “That sounds good. But I can wait a little bit longer for a visit to a planet where it is never cold. Especially if it is important to you.”

Kristoph smiled, too, though he felt a sudden pang of homesickness himself. Home to Gallifrey almost did seem the more tempting idea. But going to the sacred Time Lord planet of SangC'lune first WAS important.