Kristoph divested himself of the formal robes he wore in the Panopticon and let his aide put the Sash of Rassilon back into its box. He sat at his desk and sighed wearily. It was true that Time Lords had more strength and stamina than most humanoid races, but eight hours of debate about the fiscal powers of the proposed devolved Athenica Forum was more than anyone could take.

And he still had three personal appointments to see before he could go home to Marion and Rodan and a glass of single malt before dinner and a quiet evening in his own drawing room. He pushed the domestic thoughts from his mind as Lord Adycus was shown into the chamber to put his petition to the Lord High President.

Lord Adycus and then Lord Drogban were both easily dealt with. Both men went away satisfied that their matters were resolved. The third appointment in his diary was marked as ‘Arcalian’. Kristoph was expecting the Patriarch of that House, an elder statesman of Gallifreyan politics and somebody whose opinion Kristoph respected even if he didn’t always agree with it.

He was surprised to see Lord Arcalian’s younger half-brother, Auconia, instead. He wondered what that gentleman wanted of the President. He had a modest estate south of the D’Alba demesne, the land gifted to him by his brother. It included one silver mine that gave him a respectable income and allowed him to count himself among Gallifreyan aristocracy as a man of means.

It was his son who was Rodan’s playmate. The boy was visiting Mount Lœng House again today, learning to ride her second favourite gelding, Romi.

“Sit down,” he said politely to the gentleman of the southern plains. “Would you like a drink? I have a very good single malt imported from the Earth Federation. It is an acquired taste... but very few of my fellow High Councillors have managed to acquire it.”

“No, thank you, Excellency,” Arcalian answered. “I find foreign tastes not to my… taste.”

He was clearly ill at ease even before the bad grammar of that last comment. Kristoph wondered what he could do to make him feel more comfortable.

“What can I help you with?” he asked, deciding that getting down to business might help.

“The child whom you and your wife have brought up as your own….” Arcalian began. Kristoph raised an eyebrow in surprise. Of all the topics to be discussed privately, this was not one he had expected.


“Yes… Rodan. Excellency, might I ask if you intend to make provision for her.”

“Provision? I have talked with her grandfather about her education. We are both agreed on her becoming a Prydonian student when she is old enough. Beyond that….”

“I mean have you considered a marriage settlement?”

“She is eight years old,” Kristoph pointed out. He was starting to realise where this conversation was going, but he wasn’t giving anything away just yet. “And besides, I am only her foster-father. Her grandfather is her proper legal guardian. It would be up to him to provide a portion for her.”

It was one of the peculiar things about Gallifreyan society. When a marriage contract was made for an Oldbood or Newblood girl, her fiancé paid a sum of money to her parents to seal the Bond of Intent. But in the Caretaker community the father of a girl provided a ‘portion’ or dowry to pay to her future husband.

Rodan was in the fortunate position of already having her own portion. The treasure she found at Olympia a few years ago was enough to pay for her tuition at the Prydonian Academy and for a respectable dowry should that be her wish when she came of age.

But she WAS still eight years old and the money was safely invested for that far future.

“Excellency, I don’t think you understand. I wish to arrange a Bond of Intent, formally linking my son Breissal with your foster child. That is… if you… if her connection with your family is to be a permanent one.”

Kristoph noted the embarrassment Auconia Arcalian suffered when he asked, in a roundabout way, if Rodan was to be regarded as a daughter of an Oldblood family. He wanted to make the Bond only if it meant linking the House of Arcalian with the House of de Lœngbærrow, not to a Caretaker family of no account.

Of course that was a reasonable ambition, especially for a second son who had to cement his own son’s future in the high echelons of Gallifreyan society. Kristoph’s own sister, Orianna, had married under just such circumstances. She was a daughter of an Oldblood House and Lord Lessage a younger son of his House who advanced his position through the union.

But did he want that for Rodan?

Of course he fully intended to make every provision necessary for her. That could well include formal recognition of her as his daughter and accepting offers of this sort on her behalf.

But not yet.

“Auconia,” he said. “What made you think this was the right time for such a proposal?”

“The children are clearly interested in each other. My son spends more of his free time at your house than his own, and when he is home he talks constantly of Rodan and her accomplishments.”

“Interesting,” Kristoph noted. Rodan had mentioned Briessal, but not constantly. Either she was better at keeping her personal feelings to herself or those feelings did not run quite so deep.

“Then you will consider the match, Excellency?”

“No,” Kristoph answered.

“I…..” Auconia was astonished by the abruptness of the answer. Kristoph could see the questions forming behind his eyes.

“It is no slight upon your House. I respect you and your brother. But the young people we are talking about are TOO young. They are friends, playmates. That is all. They have only just faced the Untempered Schism. They have many years of preparation yet before they go to their chosen Academies. There, they will meet so many other people and experience so many other friendships. And after graduation they will choose careers for themselves. Neither of them can be free to make those choices if they are bound by contracts signed by their parents when they were too young to even know what a lifelong commitment to each other really is. No, I cannot allow it, not at this time.”

“Not at this time?” Auconia Arcalian queried, seizing on the possibility that was left open.

“If your son and my foster daughter choose that path when they are old enough to choose it, then you may approach me. I will not close that path to them just because it is too soon for them to embark upon it now.”

“I see.” Arcalian sighed. That was a very small consolation for him, but there was nothing more to say. He stood and bowed his head respectfully to the Lord High President, his near neighbour on the southern plains and father-figure to the child he had thought of as his son’s future wife, then he took his leave.

Kristoph sat for a while, re-running the conversation in his head, but he knew there could have been no other outcome. He sighed and shook his head, then stood and put his outer cloak on before heading to the rooftop place where his presidential car waited.

The conversation occupied his mind as he travelled home, too. But by the time he reached Mount Lœng House he still had no doubt that he had made the right decision.


There were gravity globes lighting the paddock even though it was dark now on this short winter day. Rodan was having a last ride on her horse before dinner. Kristoph went to watch her for a little while, noting how confident she was as a rider, and how very grown up she looked for her age.

That was the trouble. From the time of the Untempered Schism Gallifreyan children hardly had a chance to be children. It was all about the future, and not their present, not about valuing every moment of play and unfettered enjoyment.

Yes, he made the right decision.


He left Rodan at her favourite outdoor pastime and found his wife, waiting in the drawing room to greet him with a kiss. Caolin poured him a glass of his favourite imported liquor and he sat down in his own chair as the butler made himself invisible in the room.

“Difficult day?” Marion asked.

“No more than usual,” he answered. “But some interesting developments.”

He related the conversation with Auconia Arcalian to her. She was surprised on many levels.

“He made an appointment to see you in your Presidential Chambers to talk about such a thing?” she queried first. “Wouldn’t it have been better if he came to dinner and we discussed it as friends and neighbours?”

“Time Lords think differently,” Kristoph reminded her. “Especially about these kind of matters. To him it was something to be negotiated within the confines of my office. Besides, my answer would have been just the same whether he had asked me over pre-dinner cocktails or if he had tabled a motion in the Panopticon.”

Marion laughed at the idea, but the laugh was hollow. This was a serious subject.

“If she had been older… ready to be engaged to a man… it would be a perfect offer. She is, after all, a Caretaker. Marriage into a family of substance would ensure her future.”

Marion thought about what she had said and then shook her head. “Now I’m thinking like a Gallifreyan. It would still be wrong unless she loved the man, and when the time comes, you had better not make any decision for her that doesn’t include a life filled with love and devotion of the sort you and I take for granted.”

Kristoph nodded. He knew that Marion was thinking of a time in the far future when she would be long dead even if she lived to a very old age. She was making him give his word now that he would do right by Rodan.

“My dear, our beloved foster-child will marry for love, be it to an Oldblood, Newblood or a Caretaker of her choosing – or a commercial traveller from Stol if that be her choice. That is why I would not have agreed to a Bond of Intent even if she and Briessal were certain right now that they were in love.”

“They’re not old enough to know what that sort of love is.”

“Of course, not. That’s why they cannot be bound by any contract that will chafe at their hearts in future. Auconia Arcalian is disappointed, but he will just have to get over it.”

“He thought he was ensuring his son’s future by a marriage into a great Oldblood family. That’s an odd way of looking at it.”

Kristoph smiled and took a sip of his single malt whiskey.

“It’s much sooner than I expected, but I knew something of the sort would happen eventually. Arcalian is not going to be the only father of sons I shall have to disappoint. Rodan is already an accomplished child and she will be more beautiful every year. Besides, I fully intend to give her the financial status of an Oldblood daughter. There will be many a House where that will be a tempting prospect.”

“Just so long as you turn those down flat,” Marion warned, again speaking of what might happen in the future that she would have no part of. “That’s the worst possible reason for marriage.”

“You have my word, my dear,” Kristoph assured her. Then he refilled his glass and told her about Lord Ravenswode’s latest absurd idea for the Athenican forum and the record time it took to vote it down in the Panopticon. While she was laughing about that, Caolin announced that dinner was ready.

“I hope Rodan has come in from the paddock,” Marion remarked. “I haven’t seen her since tea. She was so determined to get in another few hours riding.”

“Indeed, she has, madam,” Caolin assured her. “The young lady went to her room to shower and change half an hour ago. She is already in the dining room.”

What Caolin didn’t know was that after changing from her riding clothes Rodan had gone, first, to the drawing room, intending to say good evening to her foster-father. She had been at the door when Kristoph had spoken to his wife about the Bond of Intent proposed by Auconia Arcalian on behalf of his son.

She hadn’t stayed to hear what Kristoph had to say about the matter, and since the subject was not brought up at dinner she didn’t know that her future was still in her own hands.

Her foster parents took her quietness at dinner as an indication that she was spending a bit too much time in the paddock and was overtired. They didn’t know that she was worried about the decisions being taken about her future.

They didn’t know that she wasn’t sleeping soundly when they retired to bed, but was fretting about the idea of being betrothed at the age of eight to a boy who was less than a month older than she was but wasn’t yet able to jump fences on a horse – an important sign of maturity in her eyes.