Marion was enjoying her morning teaching the infant class at the Estate School. She always enjoyed those mornings. The youngsters were so receptive to everything she taught them. They had spent the first half of the morning building a model of the Dawn Treader from the story she was reading to them. Sailing ships with rigging and masts and canvas had never been a part of Gallifreyan history, but such was their ability to take in new images and new concepts that they created a beautiful replica of the ship from cardboard and paper and pieces of stick and placed it on a blue paper sea.

“How can that world be flat?” a boy called Callen asked her. “Planets have to be spheres. There is no other logical way for them to be.”

“Narnia is magical,” Marion answered. “Magic is stronger than logic.” The boy was puzzled. Marion knew he was trying to decide if he believed in magic. At that age she would have been having trouble with words like ‘sphere’ and ‘logic’. But Gallifreyan children were different in that way.

She probably knew at the age of seven that the world was round and that the stars were other suns a long way off. She must have seen pictures of Earth from space on television. But all the same, she had no trouble believing in Narnia. She still believed in it, even though she had a wardrobe of her own that took her to other worlds. She hoped the children, with their heads filled with logical facts could also believe in it. They needed something to colour in their imagination, otherwise they would be nothing more than little organic computers full of data.

Anyway, they all seemed happy creating their cardboard ship on its paper sea. After that they had a maths lesson in which they were calculating the volumes of spheres, cones and other solids. Marion knew for sure she didn’t do that when she was seven. And even when she did, she didn’t do it in her head as rapidly as these children wrote the answers to the problems on their electronic writing tablets. They got through hundreds of difficult sums in the hour set aside for that discipline. Marion didn’t have to mark them. The tablets automatically registered a right or wrong answer with a distinctive bleep. The air filled with the sound of ‘right’ answers as she planned what they would do in the last hour before lunchtime.

Except she never got to teach that last hour. Just as the children were putting away their tablets at the end of the maths lesson the door opened. The headmistress came in, followed by Gallis Limmon, her personal chauffer when she didn’t drive herself, and with him, a dozen Chancellery Guards in their absurd uniforms. All were carrying weapons. Even Gallis was wearing a sidearm in a hip holster.

“Guns in a schoolroom?” Marion protested as the Guards spread out, some of them taking up positions by the window. “Really, what is the meaning of this?”

“Your Ladyship,” The sergeant in charge of the Guards bowed to her reverently. “I apologise for the unseemly interruption. But we have orders to escort you to your home. You must come at once. There have been… developments. Your husband, Lord de Lœngbærrow has requested that you are made safe.”

“Made safe?” Marion laughed nervously. “I am not a bomb about to go off. What is happening?”

“Madam…” the headmistress stepped forward. “I think it would be better for the children if you went with them now, without any fuss. I will take over the lessons.”

Marion looked around. She didn’t want to leave the children like this. They didn’t want her to go. One of the girls, Rowetta, left her seat, despite the presence of the headmistress and of so many strangers, and came to hug her. Some of the others did the same. Marion held them all tightly and tried to hold back her tears.

“I will see you all next time,” she promised. “Do your lessons nice and quietly for Madam Malcuss. I’ll finish the story with you when I come back.” She stood and looked around. Gallis had picked up her coat and hat. She put a few things into her handbag and then she was ready. Gallis took her arm as the Chancellery Guards closed around her protectively. They kept close as she walked out of the school and saw her car already parked outside, with Chancellery Guard cars before and behind it, ready to give escort. Gallis saw her settled in the back seat, with her seatbelt properly fastened and then took up position in the driver’s seat. He wasn’t allowed to set off, though, until he had a signal from the Guards. He drove forward slowly until they began to hover at about six feet above the ground. Then he increased speed rapidly. Marion had never driven her car as fast as this before and she felt a little nervous about that, as well as the fact that they needed an armed escort.

“Gallis, what is happening?” she asked wearily. “What is this all about?”

“There has been an incident,” he answered. “That is all I can say. His Lordship expressly forbade me to say anything more. He didn’t wish you to worry, madam.”

“Kristoph knows perfectly well I would worry less if I knew what was happening.”

“Not in this case, madam,” Gallis told her. “Please, try not to be anxious. Highly charged emotions from a non-telepath can be a hazard to driving. It makes it hard for me to concentrate.”

“I’m sorry,” she said to him. She wasn’t sure if that was true or not, but she tried to be calm. She closed her eyes and tried not to feel how fast they were going, or to speculate about what was happening at home.

She was relieved, anyway, when they finally stopped in front of Mount Lœng House. The Guards again took up positions, but Kristoph was there, coming down the steps to greet her. He hugged her very briefly and then brought her quickly inside the house. Gallis followed with her coat and hat. Marion thanked him for his help. So did Kristoph before he told him he may go to the kitchen and get himself some food and drink.

“Come to the drawing room,” Kristoph said to his wife. “I’ve ordered tea for everyone. And you must be ready for something to eat, too.”

“I just want to know what’s going on,” Marion answered. “And what do you mean by ‘everyone’?”

She stepped into the drawing room and saw that it was busy. The anxious conversations ceased as they all turned to look at her. Aineytta and her husband, the former Lord de Lœngbærrow were there. So was his sister, Thedera, Kristoph’s aunt. And Oriana, his sister, who sat primly on an armchair and sipped a glass of sherry. Even Renita was there, in her robe and veil. The veil was partly raised since she was in the presence of her family. Her usually serene face was anxious.

Thedera had Rodan on her knee, but the child struggled to stand and toddle towards Marion when she saw her. Marion lifted her into her arms and cuddled her. She seemed to have enjoyed the attention from all of the women - except Oriana, of course. But she was pleased to have her foster mother’s hugs, now. Marion sat down with her. A maid brought food for her and she ate a little of it, sharing it with Rodan. But she didn’t feel very hungry. She really needed to know what was happening.

“What is going on?” she asked. “Please, will somebody tell me?”

“There has been a murder,” Kristoph said. Everyone else in the room obviously knew that already. They flinched at the word ‘murder’ but it wasn’t an immediate shock to them as it was to her.

“Who was murdered?” she asked. “And… how…why?”

“Lady Ravenswode,” Aineytta told her. “In the garden of her home. Early this morning. Her personal maid found her… She…” Aineytta stopped. She swallowed hard. She clearly didn’t want to go into any further detail about how the deed was done. Marion looked around the room. Nobody wanted to say any more. She decided she didn’t need to know.

“But who would….” She had never liked Lady Ravenswode. Lady Ravenswode didn’t like her. But to hear that she was dead was shocking, still. “She was… an old woman… well… quite old… who would do something like that?”

“We don’t know for sure,” Kristoph told her. “She was found dead… and there was a message left by the killer. He has threatened the life of another woman of an Oldblood family if his demands are not met.”

“Oh… my…” Marion looked at her husband in horror.

“Now you see why I had to bring you home from the school. You were vulnerable there. So were the children as long as you were there with them.”

“Yes… but…”

“It was hardly necessary,” Oriana said in a cold voice. “The threat is against women of Oldblood birth. Not an outsider with no true blood in her.”

“That is not true,” Thedera replied. “The threat was against all women of Oldblood family. Marion is Kristoph’s wife, legally and morally. As such she is threatened just like any of us. I wish it were not so…”

“I would wish that none of you were at risk,” Kristoph said. “Oriana, for all your pettiness, you are my sister, and my thoughts were for your safety, too. Your husband, feckless as he is, agreed with me that you could best be protected here. But do not add to the difficulties by giving offence to my wife. Conduct yourself as a Lady of Gallifrey, with dignity and fortitude at this time.”

Oriana said nothing. She sat all the more primly and turned her eyes towards the fireplace, avoiding everyone’s gaze.

Marion didn’t care about Oriana’s meanness. She was used to that. Her thoughts turned to just how many of her friends were affected by that threat. Lady Arpexia and her daughter, Valena, Calliope Patriclian, Lady Dúccesci and Madam Artexian, who she often met in the Conservatory. Hesthor and Isolatta were of ‘Newblood’ Houses. Did that mean they were safe?”

“Isolatta is married into a Newblood house,” Kristoph said quietly as he saw her thoughts. “But she is the youngest daughter of Lord Borrusilan. Pól has had her escorted to her family home, to be with her mother and sister. Others have taken the same precautions.”

“What about….” Marion felt slightly ashamed of herself for not thinking of her dearest friend, first. “Lily… is she…”

“Lily is safe,” Kristoph assured her. He said it in such a way that Marion understood that she was in Liverpool with Li. He couldn’t say any more in front of the others who did not know of the Portal. “I have warned Remonte, too. He has ensured the residence on Ventura is secured. But I think the threat is confined to Gallifrey… for now.”

“But what is it all about?” Marion asked. “Why would…”

“He calls himself A Son of Gellovia,” the elder Lord de Lœngbærrow said with a note of distaste in his tone. Everyone visibly shuddered.

“Gellovia?” Marion wondered why that name was so upsetting to them all. “It’s… one of the Newblood names, isn’t it? I saw it in one of the history books. With the family crests.”

“It’s an expunged name, a disgrace to Gallifrey.” To Marion’s surprise, it was Oriana who spoke. “Nobody has borne that name since…”

“It’s been thousands of years,” Thedera said. “I remember… The trial of Lissandro Harpaindrix Gellovia was one of the darkest times in living memory. I remember my mother being particularly grieved because her brother was the chief Inquisitor who passed sentence.”

“Sweet Mother of Chaos!” Lord de Lœngbærrow exclaimed. “We thought this was a random attack – that Milla Ravenswode was simply unfortunate to be caught unawares. But…”

Everyone looked at each other. Marion felt there was something she didn’t know.

“My mother,” Thedera said. “Was Kierinia Ravenswode. She was the eldest daughter of that House when she married my father, Chrístõ Dracœfire. Her brother, the then Ravenswode Heir… prosecuted Gellovia. And now one of his followers has killed the wife of the Ravenswode patriarch. It cannot be coincidence.”

“And if this fool has studied the family lines closely,” Lord de Lœngbærrow added. “He will realise that, through the line of Chrístõ Dracœfire and Kierinia, I and my sons and daughters are all blood related to Ravenswode.”

Marion shook her head. It seemed to her that all of the Oldblood Houses were related to each other somewhere. If this man’s grudge went so deep he would want them all dead.

“I was a young Celestial Intervention Agency operative back then,” Kristoph said. “I was with the party of agents who arrested Gellovia and his followers on Bellaris IV. They had raped and murdered and committed atrocities that civilised men should not be able to stomach. He was brought back for trial, along with those of his adherents who survived the fight to bring him into custody. The trial… the filthy deeds that were revealed… A Gallifreyan, with all the power of a Time Lord, committing acts of savagery against lesser races… It shocked our society to the core. It took a month of daily sessions just to hear the evidence. Of course, he was sentenced to Shada. By Rassilon, I wish he had been executed instead. It would be over and done with. As long as his miserable carcass remains frozen in his cryo-cell, his evil hangs over us. And this is the result. A cult of mindless fools who admire his savagery and wish to emulate him. Milla Ravenswode… was made to suffer before she was killed.”

“In what way?” Marion asked. But Kristoph shook his head. He wasn’t going to tell her.

“His demands are unthinkable,” he did say. “Absolutely unthinkable. He wants Gellovia released from Shada and restored to his position in our society. Impossible. But he has promised to kill another woman before dawn tomorrow unless it is done.”

Marion cuddled Rodan close to her as she listened to this dreadful, chilling tale. Again she thought of her friends who might well be the next target of this madman. She glanced out of the window and saw Chancellery Guards patrolling in the garden. She felt reassured that she was safe within her own home. But what an effort had to be made to ensure that safety. And how long could they be expected to live like this.

“I want you all to stay here tonight,” Kristoph told his family. “Tomorrow… depending on developments… I don’t know. There is a manhunt going on such as we have not seen in generations. If the one responsible is caught, then we can all sleep easy tonight. But for now… Oriana, your luncheon in the city, your afternoon with Lady Arcalian, dinner with the Chancellor, they are all cancelled. And if missing a dinner party is the worst that happens to you…”

“The worst thing is that somebody we all know has been killed,” Aineytta pointed out. “I don’t think I could go to a dinner party with anyone with that thought in my mind.”

“We are all frightened,” said Renita, the first words she had said. “Let us take a few minutes in quiet contemplation… let us refresh our souls.”

She stood and held out her hands as if enveloping them all in her arms. She chanted softly, hypnotically. Marion closed her eyes and felt the warm, quiet, calmness of it wash over her. She felt the anxiety and the horror easing. The feelings didn’t quite go away, but she at least felt she had the strength to cope with them now.