The one thing her hover car didn’t come equipped with was a music player, but Kristoph had installed one that played music on small wafer like memory chips. Marion was listening now to some light jazz she had brought from Earth on CD. She was humming to the tunes and feeling quite content with herself.

It had been a pleasant morning at the school. She had read Watership Down with the infants and was discussing the works of Shakespeare with the older class who were soon to be taking their examinations. They had all claimed that iambic pentameter was invented by the writers of the ancient Gallifreyan sagas and that a Time Lord must have helped Shakespeare to write his plays. They detected, they said, references in his work that an Earth man before the era of space travel from that planet could not have used otherwise. She listened to their discussion and would have dismissed it as an example of Gallifreyan superiority over other races even among the Caretaker class. But then she recalled Kristoph telling her that the Greek Alphabet and much of its mythology were a prank by some Gallifreyan students on a field trip.

And after all, she knew that Shakespeare HAD met ONE Time Lord. Because she and Kristoph had visited the Globe Theatre many times during her student years. She had talked to him more than once. Maybe another of Kristoph's kind had done more than talk to him. Perhaps one of them had even told him the word Sycorax, which she understood to be the name of the mother of Caliban in The Tempest, but her students told her was a rather ugly and aggressive humanoid species known to scavenge the universe, conquering weaker races.

She had made up her mind to ask Kristoph tonight at supper. It would amuse him and take his mind off his day, which was far less pleasant than hers. A trial had finished and it was his duty as Magister to escort the convicted man to Shada, the Time Lord prison planet which she knew nothing of except that Kristoph and Remonte talked about it with grim expressions and hushed voices.

Since he would be gone all day and she had no engagements this afternoon, she had ordered a picnic lunch and tea to be packed into a basket and programmed a cross-country drive into the route-planner. She intended to spend the afternoon enjoying a drive in the late spring sunshine.

So far it had been just that. An absolutely delightful drive. She loved the Southern Continent. Kristoph had shown her the Red Desert of the Northern Continent, travelling on a small, personal hovercraft vehicle, and that had been amazing in its own way. But she much preferred the Southern Continent with its hills and valleys and grassy plains. And as much as she loved to travel with Kristoph, who could tell her everything about the topography, she quite liked exploring by herself, applying what she had learnt from books of Gallifreyan flora and fauna and from the atlases in her library.

This route was to bring her further south than she had yet travelled, to a natural landmark called Melcus Bluff, a mountain rising up in the midst of the plain rather like Ayres Rock in Australia. It was home to many of the rarest and most beautiful birds on Gallifrey and when she mentioned her plans last night Kristoph had told her it would be a good place for a picnic tea and regretted he couldn’t come with her.

The scenery on the way was beautiful and she had been perfectly content. Driving a hover car with an automated route planner wasn’t especially hard, and she was able to enjoy the view without having to concentrate TOO much on the driving. She knew that was cheating, slightly, and she ought to drive manually and use the route planner simply as a guide, but she really just wanted to enjoy herself today.

It was getting on towards tea time – about three thirty in the afternoon – and she was a little puzzled. She looked at her route planner carefully. According to where it said she was, Melcus Bluff should be directly in front of her, only a few miles away. And it WAS a huge, wide mountain ridge. Yet there was nothing ahead but more plain and what might, possibly, be a lake. She thought she saw the glassiness of water somewhere ahead. But there WAS no lake near the Bluff. The nearest body of water was to the south-east, a lake called The Calderon, which Kristoph had advised her not to go to, although he had not explained why and she could see no particularly hazardous territory around it. Nor was there anything to indicate that it was a protected area like the valley where the Untempered Schism was.

If she was heading towards The Calderon, then the Route Planner was faulty. She reached and switched it to manual, and the display flickered and then went out altogether. She felt the difference as the wheel came fully under her control again. She slowed her speed and tried to decide whether to keep on going towards The Calderon or to turn around.

Keep going, she told herself. It IS a landmark and from there, you can work out your direction home.

Yes, that made sense. She didn’t panic. She knew she had real paper maps in the boot of the car. She could reach the Calderon and park up. She could eat her picnic tea and have a drink while working out the route home the old fashioned way. She would be fine. The car would have to go to the depot to be checked out. Which meant she would have to use the chauffer car to go to school for the rest of the week. But that wasn’t SO terrible. She just felt a little self-conscious being DRIVEN to her work.

That was the plan. And as she drew close to The Calderon it certainly looked a beautiful place for a picnic. It wasn’t so much one lake as two, joined by a channel that might, once, have been a spur of land before erosion ate it away. There were no trees or any kind of shade around it, but the banks were of scrubby grass and deep red sand.

She hovered by the edge of the lake, looking for a good place to set down. Close up, it wasn’t as even as it appeared and she had to pick the right spot.

But then things started to go wrong. The engine made a noise best described as a ‘chunk’ and failed. She tried to turn the steering wheel, but it didn’t feel as if it was controlling the direction of the car at all as its own momentum carried it forward a few more yards without engine power.

And she was heading towards the lake.

When she first learnt to drive the hover car, Thedera had warned her that the anti-gravity force that allowed the car to hover didn’t work over water. It had to have solid ground under it to function. She remembered that as the car started to plunge downwards and grappled with her seatbelt. She pushed open the door and jumped out, landing roughly on the loose sandy lake edge. She watched in dismay as her car plunged into the water and slowly sank. The water was deep even close to shore. The car sank in a few minutes leaving nothing but a few bubbles that rose to the surface from time to time as she caught her breath and considered her situation.

How far was she from home? Or from anywhere that she could call help from? It must be at least twenty miles, she thought, from the closest village, and that was just a little place with a few houses.

She was in trouble.

She looked around and froze.

There was some kind of animal there, standing over her at the top of the slope down to the water. It reminded her of a Fo Lion, the mythical creatures that guard the entrances to temples in old China. Li had a small pair made of jade on the mantle in his living room. They had fierce faces, even made of pottery or jade. This one was real. It had a coat of light brown, almost blonde, fur, with a thick mane all around its face. Its eyes were green and they were watching her. She knew she dare not move.

Then somebody called out.

“Hecate, what have you found there, old girl?” And the lion – if that was what it was – lay down like a pet dog. Marion wondered if she dared to call out. What kind of person had a lion as a pet? Would they be the sort of person who would help her or…

She had no psychic powers of any kind, but in that moment she felt herself overwhelmed by the strongest sensation of exactly how very far away she was from everyone she knew and loved. She could feel how very small she was in the landscape of Gallifrey. She could feel how far away Kristoph was right now, on that mysterious planet that lay light years beyond Gallifrey’s solar system. She felt so very alone and vulnerable, at the mercy of whoever had called out to the animal that still watched her with fierce eyes.

“You’ve probably scared all the fish,” said the man who appeared above her. She looked up. He was tall, as almost every Gallifreyan man she had met was. He seemed taller because he was wearing a robe of black with a silver strip down the front that seemed to accentuate his height, especially from her low angled view of him. He looked about Kristoph’s age, but that didn’t mean a thing on Gallifrey.

“I didn’t mean to,” she answered. “My car…. It crashed…”

“It would,” he said. “There are minerals in the ground around here that emit a kind of magnetism. It would easily neutralise an unshielded engine such as an ordinary hover car has. Even a TARDIS would have trouble materialising. But surely you knew that? What possessed you to come here alone?”

“Can you help me up?” she asked. “I thought Gallifreyan men were supposed to be GENTLEMEN!”

He laughed, though not unkindly, and reached to help her up.

“Did your car have an automatic emergency transponder?”

“Yes,” she answered. “But if the engine wasn’t working… and besides, it’s under water.”

“The transponder will still work. Somebody will come looking for you. But you’re very exposed out here. You’ll probably get bitten by a sand scorpion or a blood snake.”

“Those things don’t… they’re desert creatures,” she said. “I read about them in the bestiary. You’re just trying to scare me even more than I am already.”

“Are you scared?”

“I’m miles from civilisation with a stranger who keeps a lion as a pet… Of COURSE I’m scared.”

“Truth. That’s good,” he said. “I can’t bear false bravado.” Then he walked away, the lion standing and stretching itself before walking to heel. She watched him for a half a minute before he stopped and turned. “Well, you’d better come with me, then. Or do you WANT to sit around waiting for something to kill you?”

She ran to catch up with him. He wasn’t exactly inviting her back to his house for tea, and anyway she couldn’t SEE a house. But she wasn’t entirely certain of her facts about blood snakes and sand scorpions and the food she brought with her went into the lake with the car. So did her coat and her phone, everything she could possibly need. She would have to stick with him and hope he WAS all right.

“Where do you live?” she asked. “I don’t see any building around here.”

“You’re not meant to,” he answered. “I value my privacy.”

“Your lion is called Hecate….”

“Lion?” the man turned over the word. “She is a leonate. Where do you get a word like… lion…”

“From my own planet,” she answered. “Where Hecate is the ancient Greek goddess of wilderness and childbirth.”

“You are not Gallifreyan?”

“I am now. I am married to a Time Lord.” She didn’t say which one. She wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to reveal who she was. Kristoph had many friends, but many enemies, too. Perhaps this man would be even less friendly to her if he knew she was married into the de Lœngbærrow House.

He didn’t ask. She didn’t tell. She followed him as they walked around the lake and then she gasped in astonishment as she saw a building looming in front of them. It was not there before. Even when she was in the car, approaching the lake, there was no sign of a building. Certainly not a TOWER like this.

It was shaped something like a space rocket, or a church spire, wide at the bottom, tapering to a long thin point at the top. There were no obvious windows or doors in the bottom of it. Near the very top, which was, she guessed, as high as the Eiffel Tower, there were some windows and a sort of balcony around the outside.

“You really ARE an alien,” he said. “The strange images in your head.”

“It’s bad manners to read a person’s mind without their permission,” Marion answered him.

“Manners!” he laughed. “I have never been known for my manners. Even before...”

“Before what?”

He shook his head and then reached under the sleeve of his robe. He pressed something on his wrist and a door opened up in the tower. He stepped forward, the ‘leonate’ and Marion both following him. She felt as if she was a stray animal he had decided to take home.

Inside, the walls of the tower seemed to glow as if they had an inner light of their own. There was a staircase winding up the dizzy height of what she realised was just a huge tapering tube. She looked at them nervously but her strange host laughed.

“We’d be here all day. There’s a quicker way. And he took her towards a raised stone set into the floor. The leonate sat patiently beside him as he pulled her close and pressed another button on a sort of miniature control panel on his wrist. The stone began to rise up. She wondered what it was rising on and decided she wasn’t going to try to look. She was just glad when, after several minutes, they passed through a ceiling that became a floor on the other side and stopped.

There was a warm, comfortable, living area with a pair of couches in white leather-look fabric as well as a table and high-backed chairs and some other furniture she was too bewildered to take in at once. He motioned to her to sit at the table and went into an annex where he returned presently with a tray. He gave her a cup of herbal tea not unlike the sort Aineytta served at the Dower House and a plate with cheese, bread and roasted cúl nuts. He put a bowl of meat on the floor for the leonate and ate from a plate of cheese himself.

“What is your name?” he asked as he watched her carefully.

“Marion,” she answered.

“Marion what?”

She took a deep breath. She could hardly lie. But this was the moment when she found out what sort of man he was.

“Marion Natalie de Lœngbærrow,” she answered. “I am married to the present Lord de Lœngbærrow, Chrístõ Mian…”

His expression didn’t change. Either he had no opinion at all about the House of Lœngbærrow, which would make him unique among Time Lords, she thought. OR, he was very good at controlling his emotions.

“What is your name?”

“Silis Bonnoenfant,” he answered. And he seemed to be watching her face for some sign that his name meant anything to her.

“That’s…. one of the Oldblood names,” she said. “Not one of the Twelve, but an Oldblood… I have studied Gallifreyan history. Your name - It’s very like Earth French… It would mean Beautiful child in French.”

“Would it, indeed?” Silis answered with an ironic laugh. “Chrístõ Mian? He is Lord de Lœngbærrow now? Is his father alive, still? I remember him…”

“Yes, he is. But… don’t you know anything about what is happening in Gallifreyan society? Our Alliance of Unity was a big event in the Capitol. Everyone was talking about it.”

“I have not been to the Capitol for many years,” he answered. “Many THOUSANDS of years. I live a quiet life here. I intend to do so until I die. I have no need for Gallifreyan society or its gossip. I have no need for anyone or anything. Hecate is company for me. I found her as a kittling, half drowned in the lake. I don’t know where her mother or others of the pride were. Perhaps she wandered away or was left behind accidentally. But she thinks of me as her pride leader, and obeys me. If somebody came here who would be hostile to me, she would attack on my order.”

“I’m not hostile to you,” she said. “I don’t think Kristoph would be, either. My husband… Chrístõ Mian… I call him Kristoph.”

“I have no quarrel with the de Lœngbærrow family. Chrístõ DracœFire spoke up for me at… at my trial.”

Marion looked at him with a puzzled expression. She knew that DracœFire was Kristoph’s grandfather, who must have been dead for many years. Of course, she reminded herself, apparent age meant nothing to Time Lords who could renew their bodies. This man looked about Kristoph’s age, but he was clearly old enough to have known his ancestors.


He sighed.

“You might as well know. I am a criminal. I have spent eight thousand years in prison.”

“Eight thousand years in prison?” She was startled. “How?”

“Do you know of Shada?”

“It is the Time Lord prison. Kristoph… he is there today. He is Magister of the Southern Continent. It is his duty… taking a prisoner who has just been convicted. He says it’s a terrible place. You were… a prisoner there?”

“I was. And it IS a terrible place. Your husband is only visiting there. He is lucky. Do you know what they do to prisoners of Shada?”

“No,” she answered.

“We are frozen,” he said. “In cryogenic sleep. When the process was first invented the scientists said that the subjects would not know anything about the passing of the years. But they discovered later that it is not true. Our bodies are frozen. No physical time ages us. But we are well aware of the passage of time. We are aware of every moment of it. Some… most… go mad. If they ARE ever released they don’t live long.”

“But you…”

“One of the lucky ones? Or unlucky, depending on how you look at it. When I wake in the night screaming with the nightmare horror I think I would be better off dead or so addled I know nothing of it. Other times…”

“What did you do to be put in jail?” Marion asked.

“You assume that I did something? You don’t consider I might be innocent.”

“Eight thousand years… If you were innocent, wouldn’t they have found out and released you?”

“That’s logical. But Gallifreyan justice doesn’t always work logically.”

“Are you telling me you WERE innocent?”

“I was charged with murdering my father,” he said. “Evidence was presented that pointed to my guilt. I was convicted and sentenced.”

“Did you? Murder your father, I mean?”

“The trial records say that I did,” he answered. “If you were to go to the Panopticon and look it up, there is a full transcript of all that was said by witnesses, all the evidence presented to the court. It was enough to prove me guilty.”


“Eight thousand years of living hell. I came out of it sane, and with my own memory of what happened. I know the truth. I don’t need anyone to believe me. I don’t need to be pardoned or acquitted. They can’t GIVE me those years back. I intend to live my life… my interrupted life… in peace, here in this place. I don’t care if people think me innocent or guilty. Most people don’t even know I exist. They leave me alone. And that’s good enough for me.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “Even if you ARE guilty, you shouldn’t be so lonely.”

“I’m not lonely. I am simply alone. I choose my solitude.”

She understood, in a way. Gallifreyan Society had punished him. He rejected that society. And yet….

She looked at him carefully. A convicted murderer. She ought to be afraid of him. He could murder her, too. Nobody knew she was there. If there WAS a transponder in her car, sending a signal, it would bring rescuers to the lake, where they would find a sunken car. Would they look for her body? Would they find it in a different part of the lake after he was done with her.

“You have a very vivid imagination,” he told her.

“It is RUDE to read minds,” she reminded him.

“And as I said before, I’m not known for my manners. When do you expect your Lordship to be home?”

“Not till at least seven,” she answered, truthfully. Was there any point in lying? He could see her thoughts easily enough.

“Will anyone know you are missing before then?”

“The servants might start to wonder a few hours before that time. They would expect me to be back home to choose the menu and bathe and dress for supper.”

“Then it is unlikely that anyone will start looking for the transponder signal until then?”

She hesitated before replying. What if he wanted to know how long he had to dispose of her.

“In the name of Rassilon,” he said irritably. “I am NOT going to murder you. What would be the point of that?”

“So that people wouldn’t come here and find you hiding.”

“I am not hiding. I am living in peace. Or I was until you got lost. How did you manage to do that anyway? Doesn’t your car have a route planner?”

“Yes, but it was faulty. It somehow got south-east and south-west mixed up. And I didn’t realise, because I forgot… on my planet the sun rises in the east, not the west. So I forgot that the sun was in the wrong position. And I trusted the machine, anyway. I didn’t think it could go wrong.”

“It shouldn’t have. Pity it’s under water. I should have liked to have examined it. Somebody must have tampered with it for it to be THAT badly mis-synchronised.”

“Do you think so?” she asked. “That’s not the first time I’ve had problems. I nearly programmed a journey into a restricted zone in the mountains once because it didn’t warn me I couldn’t go there. Kristoph sent it to be re-calibrated.”

“Does anyone bear you ill will?”

“Only about half of Gallifreyan high society,” she answered. “I’m a foreigner, married into an Ancient, Oldblood House.”

“Ah, good point.” He looked at her for a long, quiet moment before speaking again. “It’s not me you should be afraid of, in that case. Your husband needs to look for a traitor in his household. If you had not jumped from the car you would be dead now. And that might well have been intentional.”

“We chose all of our staff personally,” she said. “It can’t be any of them.”

“I hope you are right. But it is where I would start looking. If your husband cares for your life he should, too. That’s all I am saying. Now, I suggest you lie down for a while. That sofa is perfectly comfortable. I will wake you if there is any movement by the lake.”

She DID feel tired. More so than she would have been leisurely driving. The accident had been stressful but so was being in the presence of this stranger with the harrowing history.

“I won’t harm you. I have no reason to. I haven’t harmed you yet, have I? I have given you food and drink and the safety of my home. I’m not accustomed to entertaining, especially not the wives of Magisters. So you can either lie down and sleep or sit here in silence.”

She chose to sleep. She took off her shoes and lay down on the sofa. It WAS comfortable, and she tried to let herself relax. Hecate stretched herself on the floor in front of the sofa. She could hear the animal breathing quietly. She reached out and touched the soft fur. It didn’t seem like a wild creature now. She wondered why she was so scared of it before. Why was she afraid of its owner? He had a strange manner, barely civil, barely friendly, as if he wanted to prevent the possibility of anyone being his friend. But was there really anything to fear about him?

She fell asleep despite herself. She woke from time to time to see the leonate still stretched in front of her, and her strange host moving about the room, sitting at a computer terminal, clearing the dishes from the table, working at what looked like an artist’s easel, or just reading a book from the shelf.

When she woke fully, she was startled to see him standing above her.

“There are people by the lake. They seem to be looking for you.”

“Who?” she asked. But he shrugged and waved towards the computer terminal. She looked at the monitor and saw a greenish nightsight view of the lake. Her heart leapt when she saw Kristoph and Remonte with several of their male servants examining the place where her car had crashed.

“I must go to him,” she said.

“Of course you must,” Silis Bonnoenfant answered.

“He will want to know where I have been. What should I tell him?”

“The truth,” Silis answered. “I don’t need anyone to lie for me. If your husband wishes to disturb my peace, that is up to him. I can’t prevent him.”

“How do I get down to him?” she asked as she put her shoes back on. “Do I take the lift?”

“Do you get sick in transmat beams?”

“I don’t know,” she answered. “I’ve never used one.”

“Well, no better time to find out. Stand over there.”

“I want to thank you,” she said, realising that he meant to send her on her way very quickly. “For your kindness.”

He said nothing in response. He simply tapped several keys on the computer then pressed a large button. She felt a tingling sensation and the room fading out of focus.

The next moment she was standing on the lakeside in the dark, only a few yards away from where the search party was looking for her. She felt sick and dizzy, but the fresh air blowing in her face roused her. She called out to Kristoph. He turned and saw her and a moment later he was hugging her tightly.

“What happened?” he asked. “Where WERE you? Are you…”

“I’m fine,” she answered. “I’ll tell you where I was on the way home. I just want to get away from this place. I think we ALL should go soon.”

She looked back, and for a moment she thought she could see a tower with a balcony near the top and a figure standing there, watching her. Then it was gone. She got into the back of the chauffeured car parked near by. Kristoph sat beside her, his hand clutched in hers. Remonte sat the other side of her. The house servants followed in a second car.

She told him everything about the Route Planner going wrong, the car stalling and crashing into the lake, about Silis Bonnoenfant and his hidden tower, and the story he had told.

“I remember him,” Kristoph said. “He was released from Shada about fifty years ago. Nobody was entirely sure where he went. But he’s not the reason I told you not to come here. Everyone knows about the minerals that cause cars to fail near The Calderon. I knew you would get into difficulties.” He paused and squeezed her hand. “Silis was right. The Route Planner must have been tampered with. And it MUST be somebody with access to your car. Tomorrow, I’ll look into the matter.”

“He was kind to me,” she said. “Kristoph… do you think… WAS he innocent, do you think?”

“I don’t know,” Kristoph answered. “It was in my grandfather’s time. I doubt if even my father would remember much. I thank Rassilon that he was as unscathed by his punishment as that. He IS remarkable in that respect. And I wish I could thank him for his kindness to you. But I think he would resent any attempt to do so. The best we could do is leave him be, and think kindly of him from time to time.”