Kristoph drove her on her first day. He was going to see the manager of the mine as part of his new responsibilities as patriarch of the Lœngbærrow House. In future, she insisted, she would drive herself, but she really didn’t mind travelling with him this once.

She felt just a little nervous. It WAS her first day as a teacher, after all, even if she was not earning her living by it. She was still worried about getting it wrong.

“You will be fantastic,” Kristoph assured her as he stopped the hover car by the front door of the school. If she had any ideas at all about running away, it was too late at that point, because the headmistress appeared at the door, along with a representative sample of the students. Kristoph kissed her and squeezed her hand and wished her luck. He watched from the car as she walked towards the reception committee and had to cope with being curtseyed to by the headmistress and presented with a bouquet of flowers by the students. Not at all the way it would have happened if she had taken a job at any school in Liverpool.

“Oh, please don’t do that,” Marion begged as the headmistress curtseyed to her again. You’re the boss here in the school. I’m only here to take a few classes a week.”

“We’re honoured that you are here, Ladyship,” the headmistress, Madam Malcuss told her. “And indebted. We have need of teachers.”

She was escorted to the kindergarten classroom. The children must have been tutored to expect her, because they all stood and curtseyed and bowed as she was presented to them. It really was getting embarrassing. She felt like she was on a royal visit, not preparing to teach them. But at last the headmistress left her to get to know her pupils for herself.

“First of all,” she said. “You don’t need to bow to me. Just sit quietly when I’m talking and that will be enough. Secondly…” She looked around and saw a big vase on the windowsill and there was a tap with water in the corner. She filled the vase and put the bouquet of flowers in it and put them on her desk. They looked nice. Then she turned to the children, who were sitting quietly even though she WASN’T talking. It was up to her now to teach them. Everything she knew about teaching kindergarten or reception class was useless, though. These children already knew how to read and write and do advanced mathematics. Those skills were taught by what she thought a very unpleasantly named process, ‘brain bursting’ in which all of the necessary information and skills were put into their heads telepathically. Her job was not to teach them to read and write and count, but to encourage their minds to grow with stimulating lessons that would teach them to think and to use the skills they already had.

She was prepared to stimulate them with a little of her own culture. She took a book from her bag and went to the window where there was a padded seat she could sit on comfortably. There was a panoramic view of the great plain beyond and a range of mountains in the far distance. The plain and the mountains were covered in snow and that seemed completely appropriate as she began to read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to them.

They had little trouble understanding the story. Although they were four and five year olds they were far in advance of Human four and five year olds mentally. The books they read still had pictures on each page and less words per page than an adult book, but they were real stories that stretched the imagination. They needed a short explanation of the Human setting, the war and the idea of evacuation, but then they identified fully with the characters and listened intently. It was only when Lucy went through the wardrobe and met her first faun that the clash of cultures really became a problem. Marion found herself utterly unable to describe a faun to them. She looked at the fifteen pairs of wide and interested eyes and wondered what to do about it.

Then a little girl with long hair tied in a pony tail and big brown eyes stood up and came to sit on the seat next to her. Marion was surprised when the girl touched her forehead and she felt the same feeling that she got when Kristoph touched her mind. Only this was much gentler. It felt more like a freshwater spring trickling through her immediate thoughts. The girl, whose name she knew as Rowetta, took her hand away but the feeling was still there. She put out her hands in front of her. Marion read again about the faun and Rowetta created a tiny hologramlike, three dimensional image that stood on her palm. The other children put out their hands and did the same.

“It’s all right, Madam,” said a little boy called Callim. “We can all see the pictures now.”

She carried on reading and as the story was peopled with beavers and wolves, snow queens and dwarves and much more, all she had to do was visualise them in her mind and the children could create them for themselves.

“Is it a real place?” she was asked when she put aside the story mid-morning and the children drank a cúl nut protein drink that Marion thought tasted like malted milk.

“A real place?” That was a tough question. She had always liked to think it was when she was a child. As an adult, logic told her it wasn’t. But then she had stepped aboard the TARDIS and its doors had opened into worlds even more fantastic than Narnia. “Yes, I think it might be,” she said. “Somewhere in the universe it must be.”

In the second half of the morning the children used what they had learnt creatively. They created pictures and models of the creatures they never knew existed before this day. And of course they weren’t just stick figures and blobs of paint. Tiny fingers took up pencils and paint brushes or modelling clay and produced realistic and detailed representations of Narnia and its people.

Marion walked around the classroom watching them work and wondered if the children of Gallifrey lost out in any way by not beginning simply, with stories about whether Spot Can Run and painting blobs that didn’t look anything like mummy and daddy except perhaps to get the colour of mummy’s dress about right. There was a whole module she had learnt at teacher training college about the way the child’s mind sees the world and represents it in those blobs of colour, an entire psychology theory based around the way those blobs evolve into more meaningful stick figures with the right number of limbs and increasingly more detail to the faces as their minds grow and their understanding of the world widens.

But Gallifreyan children already had a wide view of their world. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? Did anyone but her wonder about it?


She asked Kristoph about it when he met her at midday to take her to lunch with his brother at the boathouse, his new home next to the Dower House where the former Lord and Lady de Lœngbærrow had retired to. She had expected him to dismiss the idea out of hand, but he didn’t. He considered it carefully. So did Remonte when he mentioned it as they ate lunch.

“I’m not sure Marion isn’t right,” Remonte admitted. “We do rush the little ones through their learning curve. But it is necessary. They have a lot they have to learn in a very short time. They must be equipped.”

“Equipped for what?” Marion asked. Then she remembered what Kristoph had told her a while ago, about a ritual that takes place with children as young as eight years old. Facing the Untempered Schism, a window into the whole of the universe and all of time. A test to determine which of the children of Gallifrey are fitted to enter the great Time Lord academies. She thought of the little ones she had been teaching this morning, wide eyed with wonder as they learnt about beavers and fauns for the first time and let their imaginations envelop an imaginary world of fantasy. In as little as four years time they would have the entire universe pressed into their minds. It hardly seemed possible that they could take it.

“It’s cruel,” she whispered.

“Yes,” Remonte agreed. “It IS. It is… it is something I could not begin to describe to you, Marion. YOUR mind would burn out in the attempt. It is shocking, frightening beyond words. It is the end of childhood innocence in so many ways. In an instant, just for that instant, we know everything that ever was and is and ever will be. It goes again in a moment, but afterwards, we are changed. Of course we ARE still children. We don’t even enter the academy until we’re twenty-five. But the selection is made early. Our destinies are set from then on.”

“Our destinies are set long before then,” Kristoph answered. “But facing the Untempered Schism is the defining moment.”

“I fainted,” Remonte said. “Not facing it, not at the moment. Afterwards, when my head felt my own again, I fainted. I woke up at home, in my own bed, and I was certain I had failed. I thought I would never be Time Lord, never match up to my brother who was talked of in such hushed tones in the house. We thought you were dead, of course, brother. I was born for the sole purpose of fulfilling YOUR destiny and I thought I had failed at the first hurdle.”

“Fainting is permitted, I think,” Kristoph said. “You came out of it with your mind intact and knew who you were, still. And you have your OWN destiny to fulfil. I have mine.”

Marion thought of those youngsters she had been teaching. Destiny seemed a big word to apply to a little girl with her hair in a pony tail and eyes like saucers, or a little boy who delighted in making an exact scale model of a centaur in clay. The thought of any of them being mentally destroyed by this strange, terrifying ritual they had to face in a few short years saddened her.

“It is their right to do so,” Kristoph assured her. “They have the right to be tested and stand with the Oldbloods and Newbloods, those who are born and bred with the sole purpose of being Time Lords. Yes, it will be an ordeal for them. But you are helping fit them for it.”

“Am I?” Marion asked. “I was wondering that, too. I spent the morning reading them a fantasy story. How does that help?”

“It widens their imagination. They have already taken a glimpse outside the universe. If I recall the story, Narnia is beyond the Created Universe, is it not? Beyond the eternity the Schism shows us. And you’ve taught them what beavers and fauns look like. That’s an achievement in itself. You showed them something they had never encountered before in Gallifreyan legends or in the flora and fauna of our world. And they all managed to create an image with their minds?”

“Yes, they did,” she answered.

“Then that was a powerful exercise in the use of their telepathic skills, too. Creating an image of something previously unknown to them. Yes, Marion, you are fitting your little ones for the day when they face Eternity. You’re doing them proud.”

Marion sighed happily. She was relieved to know that she was doing it right, after all. Her first morning as a teacher had been a success.

“If you’ve had enough of teaching,” Kristoph said to her. “I thought we might drive to the Lodge after lunch. An afternoon in the pool and sauna?”

“Mmmm,” Marion agreed. “A lovely idea. But I haven’t got my swimming costume with me.”

“Neither have I,” Kristoph answered. “But I rather thought that wouldn’t matter. We didn’t need them when we were on our honeymoon.”

Marion sighed again. But a different kind of sigh. She had been a teacher all morning. Now Kristoph wanted her as his newly married bride again. Later, as she reminded him, they would have to go home and get ready for dinner at the home of the High Inquisitor and she would be Lady de Lœngbærrow, immaculately dressed and observing all the protocols of a formal dinner in High Gallifreyan Society. Adapting to each of those roles was the truly exhausting part of this new life of hers.