“So… what are the Eve of New Year customs on Earth?” Hesthor Lundar asked Marion as they waited to be admitted to the Ring of Foretelling in the Southern Plain. Her other friends, Isolatta Braxietel and Calliope Patriclian, soon to be Lady Hadandrox, both paid attention as she explained about Hogmany in Edinburgh and firework displays on the River Mersey, people in the streets, fountains boarded up in Trafalgar Square, Big Ben chiming the hour, canons firing, people joining hands and singing Auld Lang Syne.

The Gallifreyan ladies all looked at each other in astonishment and searched for something to say.

“It all seems rather… noisy,” Calliope said. “And rather unruly.”

“I'm afraid you’re right,” Marion answered apologetically. “I really don’t like it. I usually stayed well clear of all of it. Kristoph and I usually had a few friends around for dinner and played card games or listened to music until near midnight… and then we marked the New Year together, and that’s it, really.”

“Well, you’ll enjoy the Ring of Foretelling,” Isolatta assured her. “I haven’t been for a decade. But some people come every year. It’s really exciting.”

“Foretelling?” Marion still didn’t know what to expect when they were admitted to the circle of magnificently high stones that blocked the view of what was within from casual passers by – should there be any on the snowy plain, anyway. Her friends had been vague, only telling her to wear her lapin lined boots and coat and gloves because it was cold waiting around outside. She guessed it was some sort of fortune telling. She had never believed in that sort of thing on Earth. But on Gallifrey, just about anything was possible, and she was being as open minded as possible as they waited to be called forth, through the portal.

They were called, at last, from the waiting area. Marion felt curiously nervous as she followed a woman in a long silk robe and headdress in deep red who said she was a Handmaiden of the Pool of Foretelling. That left her none the wiser. A ‘pool’ could be anything from a means of betting on football to a heated swimming bath. And it was unlikely to be either of those things.

“Oh, how pretty,” she said as she came through the stone archway called the ‘portal’ into a place where there was no snow on the ground and it actually felt quite warm, though not enough to take off boots and coats. In the middle of the outer circle of stones was a round pool of water with a low wall around it where people were sitting. They were all sitting and looking into the water, and apparently entranced by what they saw there, because very few of them were talking.

They were brought to a place where there was room for them all to sit together. The Handmaiden wished them good Foretellings and left them. Marion looked at other ‘Foretellers’ and noticed that they all had their hands trailing in the water.

“Is that what we do then?” she asked. “What happens next?”

“It depends,” Calliope replied. “Sometimes the foretellings are quite ordinary and mundane. Other times they are quite spectacular and exciting. It depends on the individual and how much they want to see of their future.”

“It probably won’t work at all with me,” Marion said in a resigned tone. “I expect it only works with Gallifreyans.”

“We’ll see,” her friends said. “Who knows.”

Marion looked into the pool and was surprised to find that she couldn’t see the bottom even though the water was crystal clear. It seemed to go on forever.

“It… is just water?” she asked.

“Yes, and no,” Hesthor told her. “If you were to drink it, it would taste like pure, clean water. But it has psychic properties that would be very disturbing. You would start to see visions of the future. Drinking the water is strictly forbidden. The long term effects of inheriting the Foretelling are uncertain.”

“Has anyone ever fallen in?” Marion asked. The others laughed, though not unkindly.

“Only you would think to ask that, Marion. It’s such a Human thing to say.”

“Well, yes, but what if… Oh, never mind. What happens now?”

“We take it in turns to see our future in the waters,” Calliope answered. “Let me go first, please. I want to see my Alliance. I want to see Jarod….”

“Go ahead, Cal,” everyone said. They watched as Calliope reached and put her hand into the water, creating ripples. Inside the ripples, the water changed from clear to opaque like quicksilver, though still clearly water, and images formed on it, like watching a plasma TV screen.

The images were of Calliope’s Alliance, as she hoped. The day had been put off originally because she and her fiancé were upset by the tragedy that happened to Marion at their betrothal party. And in the meantime Jarod was called offworld with the space fleet. But he was coming back soon, having resigned his commission, and the Alliance was going ahead on the first day of Melchus. They all watched that future event in the water. Calliope looked beautiful in her diamond covered dress. Jarod was magnificent in his officer’s uniform, sporting the medals and ribbons he had won for his service. The Lord High President conducted the ceremony in the flower bedecked Panopticon.

Later, there was the reception. They saw glimpses of that, including Calliope and Jarod dancing together. Then the scene changed to their wedding night and Calliope blushed as they all watched her and her new husband sharing their longed for intimacies.

“You wanton woman,” Hesthor teased her. But Calliope smiled despite her blushes. She was in love with Jarod Hadandrox and she had been anxious about that part of the day. But now she knew it would be all she had hoped.

“Your turn, Hesthor,” she said as she withdrew her hand and the new ripples swept away the images.

Hesthor Lundar put her hand in the water nervously. She smiled as she saw herself and her husband, Bolar, boarding a space ship with the livery of the Gallifreyan Diplomatic Corps. They saw the two of them in their luxurious cabin for the three day journey, and then arriving on the planet of Minas Luimnea where they were greeted by officers of the Diplomatic Guard who bowed to their new Vice Consul and his wife before escorting them to their residence.

“Hesthor!” Calliope exclaimed as she withdrew and the images faded. “I didn’t even know Bolar had applied for a promotion.”

“Nobody does, yet. The position has not been confirmed. But I had really hoped. I’ve never been further than Karn before. Marion is the most travelled of us all. I don’t mean I’m jealous, but when I hear of the places she has been, I suppose I long for a little excitement. Minas Luimnea is a fine place, I’m told. The ice mountains that rise above the capital city are renowned, and the people are absolutely charming.”

“This is a true picture of the future, isn’t it?” Marion asked. “Not just wishful thinking?”

“Oh, yes,” Calliope assured her. “It has been proven again and again. Bolar will get the position and Hesthor will be in her element organising diplomatic balls.”

“Watch out for the Denassians,” Marion told her friend. “Those spare pairs of arms get everywhere when you’re dancing.”

“I’ll remember that,” Hesthor said. “You and Kristoph will have to come to the first ball I organise, anyway. You can show me how to handle those sort of aliens.”

Isolatta was next to try the water. The images that resolved were of a birthing room. Isolatta was in the last stages of childbirth, tired and clearly in pain, but smiling all the same as she held onto Pol’s hand. Then she laughed out loud when the child was placed in her arms, newborn and wrapped in a soft cloth. It was a boy, an heir to the Braxietel House. She gave the child to her husband for a little while and he whispered the name the child should have before she fed him for the first time.

“Isolatta,” Calliope gasped. “Oh, my dear. Do you mean to tell us…”

“Two weeks only, yet,” she said. “It happened at the Winter Solstice. But I’ve been disappointed so many times, I wanted to be sure this time. Now I know all will be well. Our child will be born safely.”

“Marion could do with that sort of reassurance, too,” Hesthor said. “I wonder…”

“I still don’t know if it will work for me,” she said. “I’m Human. I’m not even a little bit psychic.”

“I don’t think that will matter,” Calliope told her. “It’s about what we would most like to see in the future. So… just go ahead and try it.”

Everyone expected Marion’s vision to be much the same as Isolatta’s. They all knew that she was desperate to have a baby of her own, too. They were surprised when the image resolved into the Panopticon again. Not for an Alliance, this time, but for another kind of ceremony. The Great Seal of Rassilon in the middle of the Panopticon floor had twelve low palettes, covered in silk, arranged around it. The silk was in the colours of the great Academies, Prydonian scarlet, Arcalian blue among them.

“It’s a Transcension ceremony,” Hesthor whispered. “Twelve young graduates from the Academies are going to become Time Lords.”

Actually, two of the young people in white robes who very shortly entered the Panopticon in procession were girls. One of them was accompanied by Lord Lessage, who was married to Orianna de Lœngbærrow. The other, to everyone’s surprise, was standing next to Bolar Lundar. Hesthor was the most astonished, because everyone knew that the Time Lord candidates were usually mentored by their fathers, and that meant that the pretty girl they were looking at was Hesthor’s future daughter.

Kristoph de Lœngbærrow was there, too, beside a boy. Marion made a sound somewhere between a sob and an exclamation of joy as she looked at him.

“He’s very handsome,” Calliope said. “I hope Bolar has approached Kristoph about a marriage bond. That would be a very fine union.”

“Hush,” Hesthor told her, not just because the idea of their as yet unborn children being paired off was strange, but because they weren’t really supposed to talk during foretellings. Nobody disagreed with Calliope’s assessment of what had to be Marion and Kristoph’s future son. He was a fine looking young man. He was tall, at least six foot, slender without being skinny. He had dark, curling hair framing his slightly pale complexioned face. His eyes were dark, too, like his father’s. His features were finely made.

“My child,” Marion whispered, trembling with joy. “My son.”

She felt Hesthor’s arm supporting her. She was grateful for it. She might be the first to find out what would happen if she fell in if somebody didn’t hold her up.

They all continued to watch as the fathers and their young sons and daughters stood by the palettes. The Lord High President stood in the centre of the seal and made a very short speech before going to his seat on the table of the High Council. For the time being he and his fellow rulers of Gallifrey were unimportant.

The twelve young people before them laid themselves down on the palettes. Their fathers knelt by their sides, their hands resting on their foreheads. Marion watched as her future son slowly dropped into a deep trance. Frost formed on his lips and on his long eyelashes and his pale complexion looked even paler.

“I know what it’s about,” she said quietly. “His DNA is rewritten and he becomes a Time Lord, not just an ordinary Gallifreyan. I’ve read about it. But… do you think it hurts them?”

“Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t,” Isolatta told her. “Sometimes they say it hurt terribly. Others will say they remember nothing at all.”

“I think he might be hurting,” Marion said.

“You can’t tell,” Hesthor told her. “Don’t think of it that way. He’ll be all right. After all, he is an Oldblood son, one of the twelve ancient families descended from Rassilon himself. The Great Lord’s blood is in him.”

“Yes, but so is mine… Human blood. What if…”

“He’s fine,” Calliope assured her. “Look… the image has moved on. He’s starting to wake up. The process is complete.”

Marion watched. The boy’s face was looking warmer now. In fact, he flushed a little before his eyes opened and he smiled up at his father. His lips moved soundlessly, and then he pulled himself upright and stood up beside the palette. Others were waking and standing up, too. But he was the only one who was hugged by his father.

Attendants came forward and they took off the white robes and new ones were put on them, scarlet, blue, purple, according to their Academies. Marion’s son was dressed in scarlet and gold with a heavily embroidered collar that made him look even taller and more magnificent. She sighed with joy to see him arrayed like a young prince before he and the other eleven new Time Lords went in procession to present themselves to the Lord High President and the High Council.

The image changed. Now the boy, dressed in simple black and silver, came out of the great Citadel where the Panopticon was housed and walked down the steps with his father. Both looked proud and happy.

“How do you feel?” Kristoph asked his son.

“Like I’m on fire,” he answered. “My head is spinning. I feel like the whole universe is inside my brain. I feel as if I know everything there is to know. I feel I could touch the stars. I feel… everything and everywhere at the same time.”

“It gets easier to cope with,” Kristoph assured him. “I know how I feel right now. I am proud of you, my son. You are a Time Lord. You’re on the way to fulfilling your destiny, my boy. I only wish… Oh, if your mother could see you now, she would be overjoyed.”

The young man looked at his father.

“She knows. I am sure. She’s with us somehow.”

“Yes, she is.” Kristoph hugged him again, on the steps of the Citadel, before they continued down to where a limousine waited to take them both home to where friends and family waited to celebrate the momentous occasion.

“Marion, I think you’d better let it go now,” Hesthor told her gently. Marion knew that. She withdrew her hand from the water and watched it turn clear again. Then she looked at her friends.

“Marion,” Calliope said to her. “Are you all right? What we saw there… I mean… you do realise…”

“That it won’t happen for so many years. Nearly two hundred. And I can’t expect to live that long. I won’t be there with them. Yes. I understand that. I accept it. But I have so often wondered what it would be like, watching my own child become a Time Lord. And this strange place made it possible. I am happy. I really am. I know that he will be all his father and I had hoped he would be. I’m so proud of him.”

“Oh, Marion.” Calliope hugged her. So did the others. They had felt sad for Marion, worried how she would feel. They never expected her to be happy about seeing that future she couldn’t be a part of. They were relieved.

On the journey back from the snow-covered Southern Plain, Marion wondered about one thing. Would she tell Kristoph what she had seen? She didn’t want to keep secrets from him. But she felt, all the same, as if that was her experience only. He would be there, when the time came, to share the wonderful occasion with their son. This was just for her.

But there was one thing she wanted to ask him. She left it until later, after their Eve of New Year dinner party. She checked that Rodan was asleep in her nursery and then showered and came to bed. Kristoph wanted to make love to her, of course, and she surrendered to his passions joyfully. Afterwards, as they lay together, warm and comfortable, she found a way of asking the question that remained unanswered.

“Kristoph,” she said. “When we have a son…”

“Don’t worry about that,” he answered her. “There is plenty of time.”

“Yes, I know,” she replied. “But… I was wondering. What will we call him?”

“Our first born son?”


“The first son of an Oldblood House is always named after his father’s line. He will have my name, but with a new suffix that reflects his character. He’ll be called Chrístõ, as I am.”

“Chrístõ.” She said the name and smiled. “It’s a nice name. I always thought Martin was a good name for a boy. But Chrístõ… that’s a good name. A very good name.”

Marion hugged her husband and closed her eyes. She sighed as she focussed her mind on the memory of that young man with the long eyelashes and dark eyes, with his curling hair around his face. She remembered that face. She knew she would never forget it. “Goodnight, Chrístõ, my son,” she breathed softly. “I love you.”