Marion looked up at what was advertised as 'the tallest tree in the Macadenin forest.'

It was certainly a very tall, very thick, very ancient tree. The crown of huge red yellow leaves was over a thousand feet above the twenty foot wide base of the trunk. The platform where the most unique hotel and restaurant imaginable was situated was eight hundred feet up the great central trunk at a point where four branches, each as thick as the trunks of most ordinary trees, spread like mighty arms holding up leaf canopies of their own.

"How do we get up there?" she asked. Her gaze turned to the vast trunk and she imagined a door opening in it and some sort of lift inside, or perhaps spiral stairs leading up.

"The Faraway Tree," she said with a smile. "It was one of the first books I ever read for myself when I was very young. It was about a magic tree so tall that the top was in the clouds and different worlds supported by those clouds visited it every week."

Kristoph smiled indulgently at her gentle reminiscence.

"The TARDIS takes me to different worlds now, but it is amazing to find a Faraway Tree in one of them."

"The Macadeni call it the Aki Dadenrei," Kristoph told her. "The tree that touches heaven."

"Beautiful," Marion agreed. "And we ascend to the restaurant in the sky how?”

“By the strangest elevator in Creation,” Kristoph answered with a chuckle. He pointed to a rushing stream that went through the forest close to the tree. A charmingly rustic water wheel was turned in the racing water and that, via a series of huge wooden cogs, turned something that looked like it had been designed for a fairground. It was far from Marion’s concept of an elevator. It looked more like a ski lift that rose vertically up into the branches of Aki Dadenrei.

“Sir, Madam….” A very small man emerged from a small niche in the great trunk and bowed at the waist. Forgotten memories stirred in Marion’s head and an unbidden smile came to her lips. Kristoph felt the thought she would not speak aloud in front of the solemn little man.

“Moonface! That was one of the people who lived in the Faraway Tree!”

It was an accurate description of the native people of Macadeni. This representative of them had a round, bald head and features that were inset into the lower half of his face, leaving a large hemisphere of forehead. He was dressed in red velvet and was the ‘greeter’ at Aki Dadenrei.

“Welcome to the tree that touches heaven,” he said. “Come with good grace and leave with that grace re-affirmed.”

Marion thought that was a thoroughly charming way to greet visitors.

Kristoph agreed. He was happy to have his grace re-affirmed by dinner close to heaven.

The greeter led the two VIP guests to the elevator. It was halted, briefly, by means of a pair of wooden blocks, and they took their seats. A wooden bar came across their waists in case of accidents and they slowly rose up from the forest floor. Marion saw the moon-face turned upwards as they were waved on their upward journey.

At first it was fascinating. The branches of the main tree as well as those surrounding it had been carefully trained around so that they didn’t interfere with the smooth running of the elevator. In parts they were so thick they formed a woven wall just like a lift shaft. Elsewhere dappled sunshine broke through and once they had cleared the ordinary sized trees there was a glorious panoramic view across the green swathes, broken only by the Mar Dadenrei, the great river that rivalled the Amazon for length and width and volume of water flowing down from its source in the distant mountains.

But before they were even halfway to the restaurant platform Marion gave a soft sigh and gripped Kristoph’s hand. He noticed how clammy her palm was and turned to look at her carefully. She had her eyes closed tightly and was sitting back in the strange seat.

“What is it, sweetheart?” he asked anxiously. “I have never known you to be afraid of heights.”

“It’s not that,” she assured him. “I just feel strangely faint.”

“I have rarely known you to be faint, either,” he said. “Except when you were with child, and we know that is not the case.”

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I just… wish we could get off this thing. I don’t want to open my eyes until we are there.”

Kristoph held her hand tightly and let her lean against his shoulder. He truly was puzzled. They had travelled to many high buildings and ridden stranger modes of transport without any ill effects at all. Marion never suffered unduly from either vertigo or travel sickness. It was curious that she should feel like this now.

He felt disappointed as well as worried. This was an amazingly romantic and unique experience and he had wanted her to enjoy it.

When the elevator finally reached the restaurant level he opened the safety bar himself and led Marion onto the solid, level wooden floor without waiting for any assistance. He called for iced water and a shaded table.

“Come this way, sir,” said one of the moon-faced little men. “The east side of the Great Tree has cooler breezes. Madam will surely feel better sitting there.”

It was a long way from the elevator. Marion was glad of that, though it meant further to walk while her legs still felt wobbly and her head was spinning. When, at last, she was helped into a chair the iced water was already on the table. Kristoph poured a glass and she drank it slowly.

“Are you feeling better now?” he asked after a few minutes.

“A little,” she admitted. “I really don’t know what came over me. I really wanted to enjoy the ride, but I just felt terrible.”

“Sit back and relax,” Kristoph said. “I won’t order food until you feel up to it and nobody will mind us taking our time.”

“They know you’re important,” Marion reminded him. “They wouldn’t dare.”

“There was no way to get a reservation here without pulling strings,” Kristoph admitted. “It will be a full house in another half hour or so. Some other guests will get the noisy table by the elevator because we needed the quiet corner. And don’t you start feeling guilty about that. All’s fair in love, war and dining.”

“I already feel guilty about being sick and spoiling the evening.”

“Not another word about that,” Kristoph told his wife. “Nothing is spoilt, only slightly delayed. We will enjoy it to the full in a little while.”

Marion smiled gratefully. Kristoph was always so attentive to her needs. She had hardly sneezed in the course of these winter months without him being on hand with tissues and hot drinks. He was always asking about her health. He planned these trips away from the cold of the southern plain for her benefit, and he took care not to let her get tired wherever they went.

She got tired all too easily lately. She had taken to napping in the long dull afternoons, avoiding any kind of appointments before four o’clock. She felt as if she couldn’t get through a whole day without a rest. Kristoph didn’t know that. By the time he got home in the early evening from the Capitol she was awake and refreshed and able to talk to him in a lively fashion over their evening meal.

Kristoph knew fully how tired Marion had been of late. He knew about the afternoon naps. Quite apart from Caolin and two of the maids coming to him with quiet information, he felt the secret nestling in her mind every evening when he asked her how her day had been. He knew that she shouldn’t be feeling so tired every afternoon. He hoped it was nothing worse than a little ‘winter blues’ stuck as she was on the snow-covered and often dark and dreary southern plain in mid-winter. He hoped that these weekly trips to warm, exciting places would help.

All the same, he intended to have a word with his mother at the earliest chance. Perhaps she could recommend a tonic. Perhaps she could identify some problem known only to women with a simple and uncomplicated remedy.

“There is a pleasant smell from somewhere,” Marion noticed presently. “When we first came into the restaurant I could hardly bear the smells of cooking and it all just seemed one awful odour, but now I can tell that there are different flavours – something very fruity, and some spices.”

“You’re feeling better, then,” Kristoph observed happily. “We’ll call the waiter in a few minutes and order some hors d'œuvre. The Macadenin chefs specialise in mixing delicate savouries with exotic fruit flavours. I think they will tempt your palate after such an unpromising beginning.”

Marion thought so, too. When the waiter brought the menu she chose a dish called seafood fraische. This was a cocktail of delicately pink shellfish and quarters of a fruit something like strawberries except that they came in five different shades of red and yellow with increasing degrees of sweetness.

It was cool and pleasant and made her feel hungry for more substantial food. When they chose their main course and their own personal chef seasoned and cooked the meat over a portable flame grill she enjoyed the whole process. She also had time while they waited to look around properly at the restaurant. It was almost entirely made of wood, painted and natural. There were no windows, only waist height wooden balustrades. At four places around the circular restaurant the huge sub branches came through the floor at an angle. The wine bar was hollowed out of the living wood of the great trunk itself and a spiral staircase went up through the wooden ceiling to the floors above and the luxury bedroom suites for overnight guests.

“How DID this tree get to be so much taller than the others?” Marion asked the waiter as he prepared their dessert of fruit filled crepes by their table.

“It depends which story you hear, madam,” he replied. “In the Dadenrei holy texts it is said that God raised the tree above the others in order to come down it and walk among His people. The scientific view is that this tree was established on an otherwise empty plain, and the other trees in the forest grew from the seeds that fell from it, but none of them able to grow as large because of the competition for nutrients and sunlight.”

Marion smiled warmly at him.

“On the whole, I think I prefer the first idea,” she said.

“Many of us do, madam,” the waiter replied, returning her smile. He was obviously used to offworlders scoffing at the mythology, but she had been respectful and earned the smile.

Kristoph was relieved to see her bright and interested in her surroundings. The bout of illness before seemed forgotten. Perhaps the fact that they didn’t have to go back down in the elevator until tomorrow helped. She could enjoy the splendour of the restaurant in the heavens and look forward to a safe, peaceful night’s sleep.

They lingered over their meal, watching the sun drop lower in the huge sky, turning the tops of the trees below to shades of deep purple. When they were ready a moon-faced concierge showed them to their en-suite room.

Naturally, wood featured heavily in the décor of the luxury bedroom. The bed frame was wooden, and the window shutters. A wooden rocking chair was placed where the best view of the sunrise could be enjoyed by an early riser. The bathroom was very much like a Swedish sauna suite except that a wide branch from the Great Tree grew through it. A seat had been carved into it. Marion sat there as she took off her make up and combed her hair before putting on her nightdress. She got into the bed and told Kristoph not to close the shutters over the windows.

“You realise there isn’t any glass in them,” he pointed out.

“Yes, but there’s only a very gentle breeze. We’re above the level where the wind really blows strongly. The maid who turned down the bed, told me the tree never sways at all because so much of it is above the weather. It will be lovely to sleep like this, in a real bed, but in a tree, with the SMELL of wood and the warm,

fresh air.” Kristoph left the shutters open. He lay beside Marion and breathed in the clean air of a world that had never been polluted by industry. The scent of the wood reminded him of a mission he and Lí once carried out on a similarly forest covered planet. He told Marion the story of sleeping in tree hollows as they waited for the Renegade they were stalking. She fell asleep before he got to the end of the tale. He lay listening to her soft breathing for a long time before he felt he could rest easy, looking forward to waking to a bright morning and breakfast with Marion before they returned to their snow-bound home on the southern plain of Gallifrey.