“What exactly is the difference between our Alliance and this one?” Marion asked as she finished her hair and make up and put on the hat she had chosen to wear with her gown for this social event.

“The Alliance ceremony that the Caretaker class have traditionally preferred is considerably shorter than the one we of the higher castes adhere to,” Kristoph replied. “And in this case, I am called upon to conduct the ceremony. One of my pleasanter duties as patriarch of the Lœngbærrow House.”

“You look fantastic,” Marion told him. She stood and smoothed down the front of the gold robe adorned with embroidery. The collar was not quite so elaborate as the one he wore when he presided over Remonte and Rika’s Alliance, but that was not because he thought this ceremony less important. He took his responsibility very seriously.

“Two people of the Lœngbærrow Estate are being joined in Alliance. That is very important. Besides, Caolin is a good, faithful servant to us. I am glad to do this for him.”

“He never even told us he was thinking of getting married. It was a surprise to me.”

“It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing,” Kristoph assured her. “The young lady was bonded to him fifteen years ago. They always planned to be joined when she came of age.”

“He talked to you about her?” Marion was puzzled. “Caolin has always been friendly to me. I have talked about many things to him. But he never…”

“Caolin is an old fashioned man. He would not discuss his personal life with his Lord and Lady. He only brought the matter to me because he sought my permission for the Alliance.”

“Kristoph…. Are you telling me that all our servants have to ask your permission to get married?”

“No, they don’t. That’s a very old tradition. But, as I said, Caolin is old-fashioned. His family have been butlers in our house for generations and he believes in tradition. Besides, I was glad to do it.”

“I am looking forward to watching you do your duty, though I am most looking forward to seeing Caolin’s bride. Do you know what she looks like? Is she pretty?”

“I'm not sure,” Kristoph admitted. “My fault, of course. I have been away from Gallifrey for so many years. I don’t know her family, even though they live on the Estate. But from what I managed to coax from him, she is very pretty, and very clever.” He smiled at his wife and kissed her lips gently. “Not as pretty or clever as you, though.”

“Well, that isn’t right. The bride should be the most beautiful woman of the day. I felt that way on our Alliance. I was so happy. And Rika was so radiant when she was joined with Remonte.”

“We shall have to take that risk.” Kristoph took her arm and they went downstairs. He waited a few minutes while Marion went to make sure that Rodan was happy in the dayroom. She was not alone this morning. The children of several of the wedding guests were sharing her toys under the supervision of the nursemaid and she was enjoying their company. Marion hugged her fondly and kissed her and promised there would be cake later. Then she returned to Kristoph. They stepped out of the house together and walked to the place in the garden where the Alliance was to take place.

It was a rather smaller and simpler wedding bower than the one erected for Rika and Remonte’s Alliance. But it was still beautiful. The Enviro-Dome kept the winter weather away from the two rows of seats surrounded by half pillars with flowers bursting from urns on top of them. It was Kristoph’s gift to them, a beautiful bower for their ceremony.

Marion took her seat near the front beside Caolin’s father, the old butler who now served the former Lord and Lady de Lœngbærrow at the Dower House. They were there, too, of course, happy to attend the Alliance of two people who were born on their family estate.

“It is good to see you again,” she said to the senior man. “Especially on such a special day. You must be so proud of your son.”

“I always have been,” he replied. “But today I am especially glad that he is making a good Alliance to a woman he loves very much. And I thank you and his Lordship for your patronage this day.”

Both father and son talked that way, of course. They were always polite and correct when they addressed her and Kristoph. Only occasionally had either let their guard down and spoken freely to her. But Marion liked them both.

The groom, dressed in a black robe with a cloak lined with red, took his place before the huge silver Seal of Rassilon. Kristoph stood before it, ready to begin the ceremony. There was a delightful air of expectation and excitement. Then a murmur spread from the back of the bower as the maids of honour stepped forward, looking very fine in dresses made of several layers of pastel coloured gauze adorned with artificial flowers. The fabric was nowhere near as expensive as that used in her own bridesmaid’s dresses, but Marion thought they looked lovely, anyway.

Then everyone stood to greet the bride herself. And she was a very beautiful girl. She had dark hair, left loose except for a band of artificial flowers around her forehead. She had deep green eyes and a complexion like smooth, latte coffee which contrasted beautifully with the dress of pure white lace with more of the artificial flowers sewn onto it. She smiled nervously as she moved down the aisle on her father’s arm. Then she caught sight of her groom and the smile broadened just for him. When she was presented to him and they both bowed before Kristoph they were radiantly happy. Kristoph passed his hands over their heads in blessing and began the words of the formal ceremony of Alliance.

It was a very beautiful ceremony, even this shorter version. It was still full of poetry and beautiful promises and vows to each other, and music and celebration of love. Marion thought there was more emphasis on love in this ceremony than in the twelve hour version that the Oldbloods used. That was much more about duty and responsibility. She thought Caretakers probably married for love more often. After all, they had no property and wealth to worry about.

There was one nearly imperfect moment. It came near the end of the ceremony when Kristoph said the words that were a legal necessity of the Alliance.

“I am bound to ask the company present, if any one among them has a doubt as to whether this Alliance of Unity should be made?”

At the back of the bower there was movement and somebody called out something that seemed cut off half-finished. From where she was sitting, Marion couldn’t see the faces of the bride and groom, but she thought they tensed nervously and she saw Kristoph frown. This was a very crucial moment. If anyone did raise an objection, the ceremony had to be halted. The Alliance could not be completed.

Kristoph looked directly at the people at the back, some of whom had risen from their seats. Then he looked at Caolin and his bride and touched them gently on the shoulders, as if reassuring them.

“Is there a doubt about the Alliance?” he asked in an authoritative tone. “If there is, let it be known, now.”

“No,” replied a man dressed in a grey robe who stepped forward in the middle of the aisle. “No, sir. There is no doubt, no impediment. Please continue.”

Kristoph nodded and asked Caolin and his bride to make their final and binding vows. They did so. They exchanged rings and they signed the register together. Then at last Kristoph put their two hands together and said the words that bound them forever in Alliance before turning to the assembled guests.

“I present to you, Pasqual Marko Seon Caolin and Rosanda Cayla Laurenna Caolin of the Demesne of Lœngbærrow on the Southern Continent of Gallifrey.”

Everyone stood to applaud as they turned to each other and kissed lovingly. Kristoph again touched their shoulders and smiled as he said something to Caolin. He said something in reply to him. Then the newly joined couple walked down the aisle. Marion stood and joined Kristoph as he walked behind them. Caolin’s parents and Rosanda’s followed them and then Kristoph’s parents. As they reached the back of the wedding bower, Marion noticed the young man in grey with three others. One of them looked as if he was being restrained in his seat. He looked at the newly married couple and they glanced at him briefly before walking on.

The Alliance reception was at Mount Lœng House, in the ballroom. Again, Kristoph had been generous. He and his father before him and his grandfather in his turn, had held to a tradition that the servants and the tenants of the Estate were family in a wider definition of the word. He was always concerned for their welfare and happiness. That, of course, was why he stepped in to take care of Rodan when she was in need, and why he had thrown open his house to the friends and family of Caolin and Rosanda, providing a sumptuous meal to celebrate the occasion.

Marion just wanted a chance to talk to the new bride. She got that after the formal meal was over and everyone was mingling and chatting before the dancing began. She sat next to the girl who blushed at first when Marion introduced herself, but then managed to talk to her easily. At first she talked about the wedding and how nice it had been, but then Marion glanced at Kristoph. He was talking to Caolin, and they both looked serious.

“They’re talking about the disturbance, madam,” Rosanda said. “His Lordship is asking what it was about.”

“You don’t have to call me madam.” Marion assured her. “You’re not my servant. And it is your wedding day. Marion is just fine.”

Rosanda blushed and tried again. “Marion… I am sorry… that incident… the one who caused the trouble…. His name is Aron. When I was at the age of bonding, he asked my father for my hand. But I loved Pasqual and my father knew that. He refused him. He has never been able to accept it. He thinks Pasqual is beneath me. I am a craftswoman and he is a domestic servant.”

“I never knew Caolin had a first name before. Pasqual… it suits him, somehow. But he is more than just a ‘domestic’ to us. Kristoph trusts him implicitly. So do I. He is a valued member of our household.”

“And he is proud to be. But Aron… he is a goldsmith. A master craftsman. He… “ Rosanda looked at the necklace and other jewellery that Marion was wearing. “He probably set most of those stones you wear, Madam… I mean… Marion. He isn’t a bad man. He is loyal to your family – as we all are – and to Gallifrey. But he let jealousy get the better of him. Oh, I know there are some who think I should have married Aron. But I… I…”

“You followed your heart. And so you should. I hope Aron learns to accept that. But don’t you worry about it. You should be happy with Caolin… sorry… Pasqual. I really can’t get used to him having a first name. I actually thought it WAS Caolin. I should have realised. The female servants are called by their first names, but the men are always addressed by their surname. As you can tell, I’m not always very good at being a Lady!”

“You… are….” Rosanda smiled. She didn’t know what to say in response to that. Marion decided to move on from there and asked her what sort of craftswoman she was.

“I am a couturiere,” she answered. “At least, I was. I worked in the Capitol, at the Fashion House. Now, I will reside with Pasqual, in his quarters, here. I have given up that work.”

“Did you make your own gown?” Marion asked and she said that she did. “It’s very beautiful. Perhaps you could make some gowns for me. It would save me going to the city to be measured.”

“I should be delighted,” she answered. Then Kristoph and Caolin came to find them. Caolin reached for his bride and she stood and went to dance the first dance of the night with him. All anxieties were forgotten as the couple danced close together.

“They’re a beautiful couple,” Marion said as she watched them. “So happy. Just like we were on our Alliance.”

“We still are,” Kristoph reminded her as he took her hand and they stepped onto the dance floor.

“Yes,” Marion answered as she leaned close to her magnificent Time Lord. “Oh, yes, we are.”