Mid-Janus brought one of the fiercest winters on the southern plain of Gallifrey for more than three thousand years. Only the very oldest Time Lords in their latter regenerations could remember a year when it had snowed so hard and so long.

The meadow where Rodan exercised her horses every morning was not covered in snow. Kristoph had installed a very expensive enviro-dome over it with access directly from the stables.

He watched from the stable entrance as Rodan put the horses through their paces. She looked confident and happy mounted high on her favourite gelding, Alex.

When she was done, she dismounted and led the horse to the stable where, despite a servant being available to help, she, herself, rubbed down Alex and fed him.

“Now that your chores are done, your maid has an outfit for you to change into so that you can come with me to a special breakfast in Athenica.”

“I’ve already had breakfast,” she pointed out. “I ate before I came out to ride.”

Kristoph laughed. It was a perfectly logical answer.

“I’ve had mine, too. This breakfast is actually more like lunch. It will be nearly thirteen of the clock when we get there. The title is used in a traditional sense.”

The idea of joining her foster father in an official capacity appealed to Rodan. She ran joyfully back to the house. A half an hour later she came down to the hall dressed in a velvet gown very much like a grown up Gallifreyan lady’s day gown. Her hair was in a high pony tail with an ornament on top made of embroidered gold thread. She walked beside Kristoph out to the waiting Presidential limousine and sat with him as it set off, hovering vertically and then moving forward, the downdraft leaving a track in the fresh and untouched snow.

The landscape was beautiful yet stark, covered in white, all contours and landmarks disguised by a blanket that was up to six foot deep in some places. The sky was a yellow-grey with snow-heavy clouds and they fully expected a fresh fall before dark, but the Presidential limousine and its escort all had satellite tracking and even if they were in a blizzard there was little danger.

“Why isn’t mama coming with us?” Rodan asked after looking at the featureless snow field began to bore her. “Is she sick?”

“Not at all,” Kristoph assured their foster child. “But it is very cold and after she was so ill on Domhan Fuar last year I don’t want her to come out on a day like this.”

“Poor mama. She won’t see the snow.”

“She can see plenty of the snow from the solar,” Kristoph replied. “There is a view all the way across the plain from there.”

There wasn’t very much to see for at least an hour. Even then, it was difficult to make out much on the horizon.

“Strange,” Kristoph said. “Unless we have actually become lost despite the technology, we ought to be in sight of Athenica by now.”

“We can’t find the city?” Rodan asked with a worried frown.

“Of course we’ll find it,” Kristoph assured her. He leaned forward and spoke to the driver.

“No, sir. We’re on the right course. The satellite tracking is working. But I can’t see any landmarks – not even the spire of the Forum. I don’t understand it, either. But the only thing we can do is keep on going… or turn back.”

“I should have travelled by TARDIS,” Kristoph said. “But using the vortex just to cross the southern plain really IS a frivolous use of its power.”

He sat back and took Rodan’s hand gently in his. He tried not to think worried thoughts because she would pick them up easily.

Rodan looked at him and then began to sing, softly. He smiled as he remembered her learning the song on Earth before Christmas.

“Outside the Snow is falling and friends are calling yoo hoo..... Come on its lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you….”

Kristoph laughed and joined in with the song. He had been trying to keep her spirits up, but she was helping to cheer him. The song didn’t quite fit. A hover limousine was far from a sleigh ride, and it was well past Christmas.

The limousine was warmer than a sleigh, at least.

They were on the third chorus of “Sleigh bells’ when Kristoph felt a sudden telepathic surge. It was the limousine driver expressing his relief. The city of Athenica was directly ahead, its white buildings stark against the grey-yellow sky.

“We were on the proper course all along, sir,” the driver told him. “But the snow field is so bright it camouflaged the white city until we were almost upon it.”

“I have never heard of such a thing,” Kristoph declared. “But it is a simple, natural explanation for what had seemed so much more sinister. We shall be at the Forum in time for breakfast, after all.”

The pure white city of Athenica actually looked quite beautiful rising up out of the snow, its spires and domes against the sky making it look like the citadel of an ice god or some such mythical being. Kristoph allowed himself a few moments imagining that before bringing his thoughts around to the reason for his official visit to the city.

The Athenican Breakfast was partly ceremonial, partly an informal meeting with those of the High Councillors who either lived on the southern continent or who were prepared to cross the straits for the occasion. It was one of the more enjoyable dates on the Lord High President’s calendar. Marion had joined him in the past, but he was determined that she should stay at home today.

Besides, Rodan was pleased and excited to come with him. She held herself proudly as she walked at his side from the limousine to the great portal of the Forum – the magnificent arched doorway to the building that effectively served as a regional council for the southern continent, subject only to the High Council in the Panopticon itself.

In the marble Hall of Whispers, so-called because even the slightest murmur resounded loudly around the domed ceiling, they were met by a silent phalanx of Presidential Guards with soft fabric covers on their boots so that they made no noise when they snapped to attention. The Lord High President and his party walked upon a soft-pile red carpet to the middle of the hall where they were formally met by the Prefect of Athenica and his lieutenants.

The greetings were made telepathically, a series of nods, hand gestures and facial expressions the only outward sign that anything was happening.

To anyone without psychic faculties the greetings looked thoroughly absurd. Marion always found it ludicrous and had to practice keeping a straight face. Rodan had no such difficulties. She followed the proceedings easily and played her own part, bowing her head when the Prefect greeted her as the President’s companion for the morning.

These formalities over, they passed beyond the hall to where normal conversation was possible without it becoming an endlessly echoing cacophony. The Prefect escorted his VIP guests to the grand banqueting hall where the lesser guests were waiting.

The long, wide table was set with fine silver and china and sparkling drinking glasses. The Seal of Rassilon and the Great Flag of Gallifrey – red and black with the seal in gold in the centre - hung from the ceiling above the Lord High President’s seat at the head of the table.

Rodan’s place was at his left hand side. A cushion had been placed on the chair to raise her up a little, but she stood behind it first while her foster father and his fellow Time Lords recited the Oath of Rassilon, the sacred vow all loyal men and women of Gallifrey knew by heart.

“I swear to protect the ancient law of Gallifrey, with all my might and main, and will to the end of my days, with justice and honour, tender my actions and my thoughts.”

That done, they sat, and the breakfast was brought to the table by staff wearing the Seal of Rassilon on their white serving robes. They began with a dish of saffron rice and kidneys in a piquant sauce followed by plate sized ham steaks and Eggs Benedict. This was rounded off with coffee and toasted barley bread with butter and snow honey.

Snow honey was a delicacy that was only produced in a small area near Athenica where honey trees grew. The sap was collected only when snow was on the ground and the trees dormant. A little refining turned it into a thick, golden, sweet honey that tasted just like the kind produced in the summer months by bees, but was far more expensive and exclusive.

Rodan thought barley bread and honey was delicious, and well worth the trouble of listening to some thoroughly boring political talk throughout the breakfast. The Prefect was commanding the Lord High President’s attention for much of the time with a proposal to give the southern continent some limited political autonomy – the power to levy taxes separate from the northern continent and other ideas.

“There is no need,” Kristoph answered. “The southern continent does not lack anything that the land across the straits has. Indeed, the owners of the larger demesnes already pay the highest taxes since many of them are the wealthiest Oldbloods….”

“Which begs the question, are we land-owners of the southern continent paying disproportionately into the central taxation,” said Lord Ravenswode, his voice carrying from the other end of the table where he had been deliberately seated far from the Lord High President. “Perhaps we ought to be allowed a rebate.”

“Not at all,” replied Lord Dúccesci who owned property in the Capitol and along the southern edge of the northern continent as well as mining interests in the Red Desert. “Taxation is based on gross income, not location. I don’t believe there is a society in the known galaxies that bases their system on where people live.”

There was a ripple of laughter and general agreement with Lord Dúccesci. Lord Ravenswode didn’t look pleased. The Prefect wasn’t happy, either. Kristoph placated him.

“An Assembly with some kind of executive power based in Athenica is an idea worth looking seriously at. We should have a commission take deputations and make a recommendation. I will appoint councillors to do just that. We must ensure complete impartiality, though. Some of them must be from the northern continent, and there should be Newbloods, businessmen, as well as old-established landowners.”

“That is a wise decision, Excellency,” the Prefect said. Lord Ravenswode again looked disgruntled, but said nothing, except to complain that the snow honey was too sweet.

“Ravenswode, how is that young wife of yours, lately?” asked Lord Gyes, loud enough for everyone to hear all the way at the top end of the table.

Lord Ravenswode scowled angrily and threw down the spoon with which he was putting honey on his bread before standing up from the table. He stormed out of the room. There was a long, silent pause, then almost everyone burst into laughter. The only exceptions were Kristoph and Rodan. He maintained his composure and dignity as Lord High President while Rodan just didn’t understand the joke.

Now that the business was over, the breakfast took on a more relaxed air. There were more jokes and friendly discussion of more personal matters such as the progress of sons through school or the marriage prospects of daughters.

“I don’t think I will get married,” Rodan announced on the subject. The senior Time Lords all looked at her, surprised that she had joined in the conversation, and surprised again at her contribution to it. “I think I should like to be captain of a freight ship, like the one my grandfather works on. I can’t be married and travel all of the time.”

“You could always marry a pilot,” suggested Lord Amycus good-naturedly. “Then you could travel together.”

“Perhaps,” Rodan answered, putting the idea aside for further thought as the conversation drifted to other topics and the coffee cups were refilled.

Kristoph enjoyed the breakfast. He liked the food – especially snow honey and barley bread. He liked being able to spend some informal time with people he worked with. He was proud of the way Rodan had managed to make her mark on the occasion in so many ways. Many of his colleagues commented on how well-brought up she was, how much of a young lady she already was, and how bright and intelligent. They all seemed to have forgotten that she was a Caretaker child, merely fostered by Lord de Lœngbærrow and his wife – or if they remembered they were too polite to mention it.

“I don’t know about freight ships,” Kristoph said telepathically as they crossed the Hall of Whispers afterwards. “But you could certainly have a career in politics.”

“I think I would prefer the freighter,” Rodan insisted. “I like to travel.”

That was a good answer and a worthy ambition. Kristoph intended to talk to her more about it on the way home.

But he quickly discovered that they could not go home just yet.

There was a blizzard raging outside the Forum.

“The envirodome has failed,” said the Prefect, urging the Lord High President and his young guest to return to the dining hall. “We will have to remain in the building until the storm is over.”

“Very well,” Kristoph decided. “It is a fine, strong building. We won’t suffer any hardship.”

“More to the point,” Lord Dúccesci added. “Ravenswode is out in it. He’s left already.”

Kristoph frowned. He disliked Ravenswode for many reasons, personal and political, but he didn’t want the man to freeze to death.

On the other hand he wasn’t going to risk anyone else’s life looking for him.

“He will have to look after himself until the storm is over,” he decided. “Meanwhile, I think the rest of us should have some more coffee.”