In the little kitchen of the apartment above Mai Lí Tuo’s Chinese herbalist shop, Rodan Mielles carefully measured out the batter for a sticky sweet steamed nian gao cake. At the doorway her grandfather watched with interest.

"That is a very big cake. I thought Lady Marion was the only guest joining us this evening."

"The nian gao is not just for visitors to the home," Rodan answered. "It is for cutting up into slices to give to friends and family elsewhere. Mama will take it back to give to Caolin and the other servants."

Arges considered that concept carefully. It WAS, indeed, a part of the tradition of Chinese New Year to give tokens of that kind to people who could not attend the reunion dinner. It was a good, generous tradition and he was pleased that Rodan had thought of it by herself. But there were other considerations.

"As long as distributing this cake does not alert those infernal Women to your location here on Earth."

"There are none of them among papa's household. His servants are all loyal to him."

"I hope it is so," Arges said. "Besides, the matter should be resolved soon and we will be able to return to Gallifrey in peace and safety."

"I hope so," Rodan answered. "I miss the horses."

"Only the horses?" Arges asked with a wry smile.

"I have you here, and mama visits often. I have nothing else to miss."

she finished preparing the cake and set it in the electronic steamer.

"Come, child," Arges said when she was done. He brought her to the small room Lí kept for meditation. For the New Year it had been swept with a new brush and turned into a small shrine for honouring family members who had passed away. There was a portrait of a sombre looking man in High Council robes and headdress. He was Lí’s father who had died several centuries ago. He had also invited Arges to place two photographs there amid the floating candles and bowls of incense. They were of Arges' daughter and son in law - Rodan's parents.

She nodded quietly and knelt in front of the shrine to light joss sticks and place more candles. She remained kneeling for a little while before standing and going to her grandfather's side.

"I know you don't remember them," he said. "And you have grown up calling Lord and Lady de Lœngbærrow mama and papa."

"I still think of them," Rodan promised. "And I will always honour their memory."

"You are a good daughter and they would be proud."

Grandfather and granddaughter turned from the shrine of remembrance to the drawing room where looking to the future was the theme. Windows and doors were framed with red cut-out paper decorations representing prosperity and happiness while the walls were adorned by red and gold tapestries that Lí had brought from China on one of his visits. They were old and quite valuable, and only brought out for New Year.

Lí was there, wearing a red silk Mandarin shirt for the occasion. Rodan hugged him and thanked him for the opportunity to pay honour to the memory of her parents.

"Remembrance of the dead is a custom my birth and my adopted people hold dear," he answered. "But the duty done you are ready to greet the future with a welcoming smile."

The food for the dinner was already prepared. Special sweet treats were in glass bowls all around the room. Everything was ready for the guests at the Nian Ye Fan – reunion dinner of friends and family for the New Years’ Eve.

Everything except Rodan. She ordered Lí to keep an eye on the steamer while she went to her room. She returned presently wearing a red silk-satin qipao dress with stylised tigers in gold thread embroidered around the neckline.

“Very beautiful,” Lí told her. “And appropriate as we enter the Year of the Earth Tiger.”

Rodan knew it was such. She had bought the dress in plain red and added the tigers herself during an afternoon at the community centre.

Her grandfather nodded and agreed that she looked beautiful. A Caretaker child wearing red satin with gold embroidery was an extraordinary idea, but Rodan had her own money from investments Lord de Lœngbærrow had made for her and this was a small and rare indulgence from the fund that would allow her to go to the Academy without reliance on bursaries and charities and to make her own choices in the future about marriage and a career. The happiness and prosperity wished for at this festival were assured for her.

A sound that was familiar to both men and the girl came from the landing. Rodan, caught between childish joy and the restrictions of a dress designed for a demure young lady, walked rather than ran, but reached the TARDIS as the doors opened. She hugged Marion as soon as she stepped out. She, too, was wearing a red satin qipao, but hers was hand made by a senior couturier and the stylised tiger wrapped around the bodice was made with real gold spun so thin it could be threaded onto an embroidery needle.

Beside her, Lily D’Alba D’Argenlunna was in her usual white, but with red tigers chasing each other around the neck, hem and cuffs of her gown. Lí took her hand in his and kissed her on the cheek. Closer affection could wait until they were in a quieter and less crowded place than the landing with a TARDIS disguised as a large Chinese cabinet taking up a lot of space within it.

“I didn’t expect you, my dear,” he said.

“Marion told me that the dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve is about reunion of friends and family, and so how could I not be here?”

“And for that very same reason, here is another visitor,” Kristoph said, stepping aside for his friend, the teacher known to his students at the Prydonian Academy as Maestro and to a few people who still remembered his name as Legæn Koschei Oakdaene. Few less knew Mai Lí Tuo, the elder of the Chinese community in Liverpool, as Lee Koschei Oakdaene, his elder brother. With one in exile and the other spending much of his time in the Contemplative company of the Brotherhood of Mount Lœng, it was rare enough for them to call each other by any name. This truly WAS a reunion of family members.

“Dinner is ready,” Lí announced after his initial emotional greeting to his brother was over. “Come, my friends.”

“Is there enough for everyone?” Rodan asked. “I thought mama was the only one coming.”

“I had word that there would be extra guests,” Lí answered. “There will be more than enough food. Did you prepare enough envelopes?”

“I made lots of envelopes," Rodan assured him. "Some of my friends may visit tomorrow, so there is a whole basket of them."

“That’s all right, then. Come along, everyone.”

The dining table had been set for seven people. Rodan wondered why she had not noticed that before. She was pleased that they had so many guests. It was going to be a very good evening. She smiled happily as they all sat and Lí served the first course of the sumptuous meal.

There was no particular set menu for Chinese New Years’ Eve. The only ‘rule’ was that the meal should be as rich and varied as possible within the budget of any household. Different meats, duck, chicken, pork, beef, in spiced sauces were the mainstay, along with noodles and rice dishes, dumplings with savoury fillings, and lots of sticky, sweet pastries. It was a meal to linger over, chatting about pleasant subjects, avoiding at all costs any mention of the Sisterhood of Karn. Lí and his brother also carefully avoided mention of their third brother, the one ‘entrusted’ as Patriarch of the House of Oakdaene. Rõgæn Koschei Oakdaene’s exact whereabouts had been uncertain for the best part of the past year, the suspicion being that he had got into a shady business deal somewhere out of reach of Gallifreyan consulate services, but the two people in the galaxy who didn’t have any interest in speculating about him were his two brothers. Maestro talked of the winter he had just spent with the Brotherhood on Mount Lœng, the snow-covered plain below the mountain lending a special serenity to their contemplation. Lí spoke of his visits to the Shaolin monastery in China where he went when he felt the need for that kind of solitude. Rodan talked about the lantern parade and the dragon dance tomorrow and the costumes she and her friends had made for the event.

“It’s going to be on television, you know,” she added. For a moment the adults around her looked at each other with various levels of puzzlement and concern.

“Television?” Lily queried.

“It’s what they call televid on Earth,” Rodan explained.

“Yes, I know, dear. Earth people watch far more of it than we do. But what do you mean about it being on the television.”

“A news team is coming to film the lantern parade. It will be on the television later – on the news.”

“But you can’t,” Marion told her. “Rodan, we sent you here to Earth to be safe from harm. The idea is that nobody knows you’re here. Kristoph and I have been telling everybody we meet, every waiter and nail technician in the Capitol, all of our friends, that we were going to Xian Xian, the Chinese colony planet, just to put any spies off the scent. And all of it for nothing because a news programme is going to film the lantern festival.”

“Marion….” Lí put his hand over hers gently. “First of all, the regional news programme broadcasts over a few hundred miles of the North-West of England. It is unlikely that the Sisterhood of Karn are going to be monitoring their output. Second, have you seen the costumes the children are going to be wearing? Rodan and her friends will all have their faces hidden by papier mache tiger masks. Nobody will even realise that she isn’t Chinese, let alone that she isn’t of this world.”

Marion looked at her friend in bewilderment for a moment before she realised that Lí was right. She was thoroughly overestimating even the Sisterhood’s powers. Rodan was safe here on Earth to enjoy simple, ordinary things like joining in a street festival with her Human friends.

“I was being silly,” she admitted. “The festival is going to be wonderful, and it will be amazing to see it on television later. All the years I lived here in Merseyside I NEVER got to do anything that Granada Reports wanted to film. You enjoy yourself, and don’t worry about a thing.”

“And when you go home, don’t forget about the naon gao cake for everyone," Rodan toks her. "And the red envelopes.”

“From Xian Xian, of course,” Lí reminded them all.

“Of course.”

None of them were sure if the Xian Xian story would work. Even if it did, very soon, the conspiracy of the Sisterhood would be coming to its dangerous conclusion. A counter plot authorised by Lord High President Dúccesci would be launched and the very future of the High Council seated on the outcome of these dark machinations.

But for this night firecrackers driving away evil spirits in the street outside were the only possible disturbance to the peace and contentment of the company of friends and family in the apartment above Mai Lí Tuo's Chinese herbalist shop.