Marion looked beyond the busy meadow to Croxteth Hall, the sprawling house of several architectural styles marking the whim of each particular member of the Molyneaux family who held the title of Earl of Sefton and the house and its gardens as his stately home. She remembered it first as the subject of many school trips, either to the house or some event going on in the grounds. Later, Kristoph had shown her it in other aspects – as an Elizabethan manor house where they wore the stiff but elegant clothes of the period, as a Victorian mansion with sumptuous dinners and a toast to the Queen every night and in the nineteen twenties, when Josephine, Countess of Sefton threw very glamorous ‘flapper’ parties on balmy summer evenings.

She smiled as she remembered those trips when she and Kristoph had their home in Liverpool then she pulled her mind back to the present and her gaze back to the meadow. It had been set out for a junior horse show, and a number of girls and boys were ‘walking the course’ deciding the order in which to take the jumps in order to be the fastest and pick up the least faults that would be deducted from their score.

Rodan was among them, of course. She had only been attending the riding centre on the outskirts of the city for a few weeks, but her skill was recognised and she had been entered in the competition.

Another woman came to stand next to her at the fence. She was elegantly dressed in a manner that would have made Marion feel inadequate in the past – before Kristoph had taught her to see her own worth and then given her the social status to fully enjoy her new confidence.

“Is that your girl, there?” said the woman to Marion. “In the crimson riding jacket?”

“Yes, that’s my Rodan,” Marion answered. “Do you have a child entered, too?”

“Cynthia,” the woman answered, pointing towards a girl in a deep green riding habit that had the look of being tailored even from a distance. Of course, so did Rodan’s. The difference was that hers was made for her on Ventura, the planet where horses were revered.

“Angela Patterson-Waterson,” the woman added, holding out her hand to Marion in a way that somehow emphasised the double-barrelled name and her assurance of her place on society’s complex ladder.

“Marion De Lœngbærrow,” she replied. “Lady de Lœngbærrow, in fact, but we don’t stand on ceremony.”

She didn’t often pull rank that way. On Gallifrey she didn’t have to. Everyone knew who she was. On Earth she preferred not to be so conspicuous. But Mrs Patterson-Waterson was just the sort of person who would look down on her if she did not give her a reason to look up instead.

Mrs Patterson-Waterson was visibly shaken for several seconds to discover that she was in the presence of her social superior, then she rallied with a new topic.

“Cynthia has been with the Ormskirk Hunt for two years, already. Has Rodan begun riding to the hounds, yet?”

“Certainly not,” Marion replied. “There is nothing more barbaric. The very idea of a child taking part in blood sports is disgraceful. You ought to be ashamed of yourself."

She hadn't even thought about it. She spoke from the heart. Granted, her closest personal connection with fox hunting was seeing the film The Belstone Fox several times in her childhood, but that was enough for her to know there was no middle ground on that subject."

Mrs Patterson -Waterson was astonished. She had obviously known that people opposed hunting, but she had been able to dismiss them as unwashed lower classes of no breeding. She didn't know what to say to somebody like Marion.

"Of course," she managed after a few puzzled minutes. "You must have married above your rank. You cannot have fully grasped the traditions of the British aristocracy."

"I have grasped many things," Marion answered. "Including how to recognise a snob when I see one."

She might have said more, but there was no need. Just at that moment a man wearing a steward's coat approached.

"Your Ladyship," he said to Marion. "Your husband and the Lord Mayor are waiting for you at the VIP grandstand. The show will get underway once you are seated."

"Yes, of course, I will come at once. I am so sorry to have kept everyone waiting."

"Not at all," the steward assured her. He glanced at Mrs Patterson-Waterson. "Is your friend part of the VIP party?"

"No," Marion answered. "Unfortunately not."

"If you don't want to miss the opening ceremony, you'd better hurry over to the viewing area," the Steward said to Mrs Patterson-Waterson. Marion glanced at the roped off area of grass with fold out wooden chairs for those not invited to sit with the Lord Mayor of Liverpool and other dignitaries.

The Gallifreyan aristocrat now known as Mai Li Tuo and the First Mate of one of Gallifrey's galaxy crossing freight ships were sitting beside the Lady Mayoress, who was obviously something of an equestrian woman herself and was happily explaining to Arges Mielles how speed and accuracy determined the winners in show jumping with points deducted for hitting the top of a fence or for a refusal to jump. Arges listened with interest to this explanation of his granddaughter's most passionate hobby. He completely forgot that on Gallifrey he was one of the artisan class who would never sit in the same place as his social 'betters'.

Marion was beside Kristoph who was deep in conversation with the Lord Mayor. She wondered how he had actually got these seats in the grandstand, since none of them WERE upstanding citizens of Liverpool. She suspected that he had used some kind of Power of Suggestion to impress her.

Not that he needed to do that.

“Not at all,” he whispered to her as the Lord Mayor stood and made a little speech opening the event. “I just can’t abide wooden folding seats. I AM over five thousand years old. I may be allowed a small indulgence.”

Marion giggled and glanced around at the public enclosure. She wasn’t really looking for her, but she recognised Mrs Patterson-Waterson in the crowd. She did her best to avoid a little schadenfreude.

“What’s the story there?” Kristoph asked. She was surprised, then not so surprised. Of course he must have sensed her heightened emotions. She ran through the conversation in her head while Kristoph touched her mind and read the story in full colour.

He laughed.

“The Lady Mayoress is anti-hunting,” he whispered. “And SHE is a distaff and distant relation of the Seftons who once owned this lovely place. You are on the right side of that controversy. As for the lady with the double-barrelled name, she is NOT an aristocrat of any kind. You may recall a Liverpool saying that begins “All fur coat….!”

Marion laughed this time, then they sat back to watch the equestrianism on display from young riders aged between twelve and seventeen. She didn’t know a lot about the technical details. Horse riding, even in Liverpool, home of the Grand National, was something out of reach for a working class girl like herself. The closest she got at Rodan’s age was the aspirational characters in weekly magazines like the Bunty. Still, she could see that the youngsters at this event were good at their favourite sport. There were a lot of clear rounds, including Cynthia Patterson-Waterson who set the best time in her age group early on.

Then it was Rodan's turn. Marion sat up straight and watched carefully. She knew instinctively that her foster child was fast and was jumping well. She was surprised to sense a voice in her head describing each of the obstacles – a double fence with the top poles of equal height was called a ‘Boxed Oxer’. A Ramped Oxer had the front pole lower than the one behind, and Offset Oxer was the opposite configuration. A Triple Bar, one of the jumps that had defeated several competitors, was three fences of graduating heights. A Swedish Oxer had two slanting poles going in either direction. A ‘Liverpool’ was a single oxer with a ditch of water beneath it, and an open ditch was a wide, water filled obstacle. Mounted upon her beloved Alex, Rodan took each of these and more with confidence.

"She's holding back," Kristoph said in a low voice and Marion realised he had been talking to her subconsciously. "She COULD ride much faster than that and with much more precision. She has competed against Venturans who are virtually born in the saddle. She is holding back so she doesn't look so much more advanced than the Human children."

"But she will win," Marion asked.

"She ought to. Her Gallifreyan instincts and Alex's Venturan bloodline make both rider and horse superior to anything else here. If she makes no mistakes she will win."

She made no mistakes and her time was identical to Cynthia's and another girl called Cassie.

"Now they jump off against each other," Kristoph explained. "Until one of them is eliminated through a mistake or one is clearly faster."

Marion understood that, of course. She watched as the three girls mounted their horses and got ready to ride again.

Cynthia went first on her horse 'Andrew'. She again had a clear round and her time was a whole second faster than her first round. She looked pleased with herself. Her mother was exultant. Marion just happened to look her way to see her reaction before Cassie and 'Barnaby' started their round.

Cassie had a clear round, too, and her time matched Cynthia's. She dismounted and patted her horse lovingly as she made way for Rodan.

"Oh, I hope she does well," Marion whispered. She watched tentatively as Alex jumped the fences one by one. Rodan made slight variations on her first round of the course that gave her a precious second. She finished on equal terms with Cynthia and Cassie.

They would ride again after a few minutes to catch their breath and consider any new tactic for going around the course.

Cynthia went first. She rode smoothly and confidently and matched her previous speed. Then Cassie completed a clear round a second faster, putting her in the lead with Rodan left to ride.

She patted Alex on the neck and set off again.

"Don't hold back, this time," Marion whispered as she approached the first jump. “Show them all what you can do."

But as she approached the last fence, Rodan was still matching Cassie and when her time was finally announced it was half a second slower. Marion felt a twinge of disappointment for her. She was second.

Then a hubbub of voices distracted attention from the three girls who had all dismounted and were standing with their horses.

"Your favourite double-barreled lady is protesting to the stewards," Kristoph said. "She is demanding that Carrie and Rodan both missed the open ditch and should be disqualified.”

"What?" Marion was surprised. "No, surely not."

But it had all happened so fast and she knew so little about show jumping she really wasn't sure.

"Look." She felt Kristoph's touch on her mind again and she saw all three girls ride their last round. Cassie and Rodan crossed the open ditch before taking the ‘Liverpool’ from the left. Cynthia did the ‘Liverpool’ first then took it from the right. Cassie and Rodan had both identified that the left approach after the open ditch was a second faster than the opposite.

The stewards saw the same by means of video replay. Mrs Patterson-Waterson's objection was dismissed. Cynthia was still third.

Rodan was still second. That disappointment remained and could not be undone. Marion applauded all the same when her foster child received her second place trophy from the Lady Mayoress, and equally applauded Cassie for a fine performance.

"It’s all right, mama," Rodan told her later when the horses were groomed and safely accommodated in their loose boxes and the competitors and their parents were enjoying refreshments. "Yes, Alex and I could have won by showing off that we are both superior species. But we would have been so much faster we would have looked like we were cheating. I didn't want that. I kept pace with my friends. I was so busy doing that I went TOO slowly on the open ditch approach and Cassie was faster. Besides, I don't NEED to win trophies. Cassie lives in a Doctor Barnardo’s home. She only gets to ride at all because of a charity that helps orphans do sports and activities that would cost too much otherwise. She loves it all and the trophies mean a lot more to her because she worked so hard for them."

"Oh, my dear!" Marion hugged her foster child fondly. Then both of them turned - as did many people - to see and hear a row erupting between Cynthia and her mother.

"No," Cynthia insisted after a lot of hard words. "By accusing people who were better than me of cheating you embarrassed yourself and made me look like a bad loser. Cassie and Rodan beat me fair and square. I ned to work harder next time."

Mrs Patterson-Waterson began to speak but Cynthia was not finished.

And another thing, mother. Stop telling people I hunt. All the other girls think I like to hurt wild animals. I don't. I hate it. I'm not doing it any more. Now I'm going to talk to Cassie about how great she was."

"I think I'll do that, too," Rodan said and followed Cynthia out of the refreshment tent.

"We have taught our child well," Arges Mielles said in approval as the conversation resumed and Mrs Patterson-Waterson stood alone in a widening space amongst the crowds.

"I'm an orphan," Marion commented a little later as she accepted a glass of champagne from her husband. "I've never heard of a charity that helps orphans do things they can't afford.

"Yes," Kristoph answered her. "I think i might need to go back ten or twenty years and set it up. Excellent idea of mine.”

Marion laughed. Then her laughter died. Mrs Patterson-Waterson was making a fuss again, but this time with good reason. Her daughter was missing.

So was Cassie. Her house parent from the children’s home was trying to make her own voice heard to a policeman who was summoning extra help as soon as he realised there was a problem.

It took only a moment to realise that Rodan was gone, too.

Marion turned, but Kristoph was already hurrying away, followed by Li and Arges.

A worry far greater than whether one girl was a faster show-jumper than the other gripped her stomach.