Kristoph insisted that Marion had at least a week of bed rest when they returned to Gallifrey. She needed it. She was tired and weary from the trauma of the miscarriage. Her body needed the time to recover.

So did her mind. She was sad about that setback to her life as a wife of a Time Lord of Gallifrey. She grieved for the lost child that could have been such a joy to her and Kristoph.

After a week she was at least able to get up from her bed and sit in her day room. But even though she accepted flowers and cards and good wishes from people who knew she was ill, she refused all visitors. She spent her days in quiet solitude drinking herbal remedies made up by Aineytta and reading and listening to music just as she did before - but perhaps a little less blissfully.

On the morning of Lunar in the third week of her seclusion, however, Caolin, the butler, announced that she had visitors.

“No,” she told him firmly. “Please thank them, but tell them I can not entertain anyone just now.”

“I…I apologise, your Ladyship,” Caolin answered as Hesthor Lundar and Isolatta Braxiatel followed him into the room. “Ladies, please. Lady de Lœngbærrow does not want to receive anyone.”

“LORD de Lœngbærrow told us not to take no for an answer,” Hesthor replied.

“It’s all right,” Marion said to the butler. “Please bring refreshments for my guests.”

“Yes, Ladyship,” he said and bowed to her and to her guests before leaving the room. Hesthor and Isolatta sat down opposite her.

“Did Kristoph REALLY tell you to come?” Marion asked.

“Yes, he did,” Hesthor told her. “He’s worried about you being alone so long while he’s tied up with work.”

“There’s a trial going on,” Marion said. “He didn’t want to be involved with it. He wanted to look after me. But they said he was the only man who could do it. It’s a very important case, apparently.”

“Yes, it is,” Isolatta told her. “But don’t worry about that. You’re the one we came to see. You’ve been ill and we’ve missed you.”

“Kristoph didn’t tell you…” Marion began. “About WHY I’ve been ill? I hope he didn’t. I don’t want it known all over Gallifrey.”

“You’ve got the wrong guests for THAT,” Hesthor assured her. “You should have had your sister-in-law, Orianna. She’s the greatest gossip on the Southern Continent.”

“If Orianna knew I’d be so…” Marion shuddered. “She would say it was to be expected. A weak Human. And as for Idell!”

Hesthor and Isolatta looked at each other, then at Marion, and they both understood.

“Oh, my dear,” Hesthor exclaimed, reaching to hold her hands. “Oh, I am so sorry.”

“I didn’t want you to think I’m just a weak Human, either.”

“You think it only happens to Humans?” Isolatta asked. “I’ve had it happen five times in the first century of marriage to Lord Braxiatel.”

“Twice,” Hesthor admitted,

“But you’re both pure Gallifreyans.”

“Yes. It’s one thing our advanced civilisation can’t prevent. Nature going astray.”

“Maybe it would if more women became physicians,” Hesthor pointed out. “We live on a planet run by men, for men.”

“I don’t have a hundred years to wait to give Kristoph the son he wants,” Marion reminded them. “I can’t afford this to happen again.”

“Yes, but you can’t let yourself be sad and anxious about it. And you CAN’T stay here in this room alone. We’ll drink ‘tea’ with you. And then we’re going to go out for a drive. We came in my car. The chauffer is sitting out there with nothing else to do.”

Marion accepted that idea, and after the morning tea she put on her travel coat and hat and sat in the back of Isolatta’s chauffeured car with her friends as they drove out across country.

 

“The snow has gone!” she said in surprise. “I’ve hardly noticed. It’s SPRINGTIME.”

“It comes quickly in this part of Gallifrey,” Isolatta told her.

Marion looked out of the car window and saw the plain that she had seen so far as a dry place with scrubby grass and blanketed with crisp snow. Now it was green and verdant with wild flowers growing among the grass. Isolatta leaned forward and spoke to her chauffer and he pressed a button that opened the roof. They let the sun warm their faces and the smells of the new, sweet grass and the flowers assail them as the car hovered a few feet above the plain.

“That’s like lilac,” Marion said as she breathed in a smell that came from a wide patch of maroon coloured plants.

“Palis flowers,” Hesthor told her. “It’s one of the ones I can recognise easily. Aineytta uses it in some of her remedies. It has interesting properties. Mind you, she has competition. Look.”

Marion looked. Amongst the Palis flowers were small animals with maroon coloured fur that made them almost indistinguishable from the plants they were grazing. As the car approached, even though it was almost silent, the movement disturbed them. They rose up on their back legs like meerkats and then ducked down and disappeared.

“They live in holes?” Marion queried. “Like rabbits?”

“You’ll have to show me a book about Earth animals,” Hesthor told her. “I’ve never seen a rabbit. Or a meerkat, either.”

“Come to school with me when I start back,” Marion answered. “I’m going to read Watership Down to the little ones. I think they’ll love it.”

“So you DO intend to go back to teaching?” Isolatta asked her.

“Yes,” she replied. “I should have done before now, but I felt so… I felt as if I couldn’t step out of the house without feeling daunted. And I wasn’t sure how I would feel, seeing the children. Especially the little girls. But I think, yes, I think I might be ready by next week. The only thing I’m not sure about is… Kristoph. He has been so very patient with me. So kind and loving. But I know he misses…”

She didn’t have to go on. Her friends were telepathic, after all.

“Aineytta has a special recipe that can help with that,” Isolatta told her. “If it’s REALLY a problem.”

Marion laughed softly, the first time she had laughed in a long time.

“It’s not that,” she told them. “Kristoph loves me. I love him. But I am a little worried about getting pregnant again TOO soon. We really must wait. Yet I DO want it to be right between us again. Kristoph was always so passionate…”

Again her two friends didn’t need her to go on. But something puzzled them.

“Wait,” Hesthor said. “Explain… how do people avoid pregnancy on Earth? Humans... I suppose they DO, don’t they?”

Marion explained the various ways in which contraception worked on her home planet. Hesthor and Isolatta thought they all sounded either unhealthy or barbaric.

“So… how does it work here then?” she asked. “I probably should have talked about this to Lily or Aineytta before the Alliance, but I wasn’t sure how to bring it up.”

“You’re married to a Time Lord,” Hesthor told her. “They have command of time and space, of the whole of eternity. They can control their own body temperature, heartsrate, breathing, repair themselves when injured, put themselves into such a deep meditative trance that they freeze rigid..”

“Yes, I saw Kristoph do that once,” Marion assured her. “But what does that have to do with…!

“When a Time Lord makes love to his wife,” Isolatta explained. “Unless they have decided they WANT to have a baby, he has a way of controlling his own body so that….” She searched for a way of explaining the biological function without being unladylike.

“He holds back the ‘active ingredient’,” Hesthor supplied as Isolatta gave up and blushed deeply, despite being a married woman for a century.

Marion thought about it for a moment.

“Oh. Oh, I see. But…”

Yet again, they were ahead of her.

“Yes,” Hesthor told her. “Yes, he DID know what he was doing. And he SHOULD have told you. That was very wrong of him. He IS so very much in love with you and you’re newly joined. I suppose that is his excuse. But it WAS wrong of him not to tell you.”

“I’ve already forgiven him,” Marion said. “I just didn’t realise… Oh, it doesn’t matter. He promised he would not keep anything from me again. I believe him. Besides, it means… it means that he is just waiting for me to be ready.”

“Are you ready?” Hesthor asked. The question was harder to answer than it ought to have been.

“I don’t know. I want to be. I want it to be like before. But…”

“I know who she should talk to,” Isolatta said. She leaned forward and spoke to her driver. “We’ll go to lunch at the House of Contemplation.”

Marion had no idea what the House of Contemplation was, and couldn’t even begin to guess. But she trusted her friends and enjoyed the journey across the Baerrow River and then across country again until they reached their destination.

It was more than a house. It was a tower of glowing white material like marble that shone in the sunlight as they drew closer. The car stopped outside a high white wall made of the same smooth stone. The walls seemed plain white until close up when symbols in bas relief could be seen. They were abstract symbols, but as she looked at them Marion felt very calm, as if they seemed to have some beneficial properties in themselves.

They went on foot from there. Technology was not allowed beyond the wall. Besides, there seemed to be no gate. Marion was surprised when they stepped closer to see that the continuous wall was not continuous. It was an optical illusion. There was an alcove set back into the wall, with an opening on one side.

They stepped into a very beautiful garden. There were colourful flower beds and smooth lawns, fountains, abstract sculptures, arches and ateliers of white stone like the wall and the towering house itself. The gardens were attended by women dressed from head to toe in pastel coloured silk robes.

“Oh,” Marion exclaimed, though softly. To speak aloud in this place seemed sacrilegious. “Oh, is this where Renita lives?”

“It is,” Hesthor told her. “I am hoping they will grant you a little time with her.”

A woman dressed in the same robes, her face hidden behind a veil, met them at the door, welcoming them with a smile in the eyes that were the only visible part of her. They stepped into a cool, hexagonal shaped room with walls of the same white, marble-like substance as the outside walls and more of the restful, reassuring, scrolling symbols. Marion looked around happily. She thought this was the most splendid room she had ever been in and the most peaceful. Yet it was completely empty. The decorations on the wall, floor and ceiling were the only features of the room.

“The symbols are Ancient Gallifreyan,” the Sister explained. “That is why you do not know what is written. It is a language known only to the scholars of this world. That is why you do not find it translated in your head as other forms of our language are.”

“Oh,” Marion looked surprised. “You know that I am not…”

“Do not fear,” the Sister told her. “This is a place where fear does not exist. Nor any other anxiety. Those you bring from outside are shed here in the hexagon. The six-sided figure is powerful. It is used in many ways. Here, we use it to create a room of perfect balance and calm so that those who come seeking peace are better able to find it. And yes, we know who you are.” The Sister took Marion’s hand “You are an Earth Child. From a green and blue planet that is so very far away. But now you are the wife of a Time Lord and you are a Lady of Gallifrey.”

“Yes, I am,” Marion said.

“You are welcome to the House of Contemplation, as are all who come seeking its healing. Go now, to the preparation room.”

“How?” She looked around and saw no doors. The Sister smiled and pointed to one of the inner walls. She stepped towards it and found the same optical illusion as they did at the outer wall. She saw her two friends walking towards the two walls either side of her and stepped through to the ‘preparation room’.

She was not entirely surprised to find that this was a small room with a sunken bath in it, filled with warm water that smelled like the Palis flowers she had enjoyed on the journey here. She took off her clothes and bathed long enough to feel some more of the cares of that outside world fall off her before she dressed again in a silk robe like the sisters wore but without a veil, only a shawl that covered her hair.

Through a second concealed door she met with her friends again and another smiling Sister brought them to a pleasant room with a frosted glass roof that let in sunlight but diffused it so that it did not glare. It was a refectory and they joined the Sisters in a meal of cheese and bread with cúl nuts and a sort of maroon coloured rice with a hint of Palis flower flavouring. There was fruit, too, and to drink, crystal jugs of ice cold water that tasted very slightly effervescent and with a hint of citrus.

“They don’t do anything to it,” Hesthor told her. “There is a spring within the grounds. The water originates in the Mountains of Solitude and is as pure as it is possible to be and always refreshingly cold.”

After the meal together Hesthor and Isolatta told her that they were going to join an advanced meditation session but that she would be taken care of. One of the Sisters led her away up several flights of steps to a hexagonal balcony that ran around the inside of the whole building. She looked down and saw the roof of the refectory which was literally the centre of their community and then up to see that there were three more levels with balconies like this. All seemed to have no doors or windows, but she knew by now not to take what her eyes saw for granted.

And she was right not to as she was conducted through another of those optical illusion doors into a room that was as empty as all the other rooms except for a chair set before an old fashioned spinning wheel and a basket of raw material to be spun. It wasn’t gloomy, though. A large frosted window let in natural light.

The Sister who was sitting at the wheel stood up to greet her as the one who had brought her left the room quietly. Marion recognised her at once. She was not wearing the veil as it might be caught up in the spinning mechanism.

“Renita,” she said happily. “I am so pleased to see you.”

“And you, dear sister,” Renita answered. “There are no comforts here, as you perceive. But kneel on the floor with me.” She let Renita take her by the hand.

They knelt and for a long time Renita said nothing. Marion expected that. A woman who devoted her life to contemplation was hardly going to be a chatterbox. She felt the touch of Renita’s mind on hers, though, feeling her memories and her emotions.

“You have been very happy as my brother’s wife,” she said at last. “But there is a sadness there, too. Oh, my dear, a terrible sadness. But you have come here to find healing and a way forward from that sadness.”

“Yes,” Marion answered her. “Yes, I have.”

“Trust in me,” Renita told her. Marion did. She let her gently press her down until she was lying on the cool floor. Then Renita raised her hands over her and began to chant a sort of mantra. The words were more of that Ancient Gallifreyan, and Marion did not know the meaning of them, but they seemed to be words with power. They lifted her spirits. They calmed her mind so that she was almost in a trance herself, her mind filled with calm, kaleidoscope coloured mists.

And they literally lifted her, too. As she concentrated on those mists that filled her mind she felt herself rising from the ground, levitating. She felt Renita’s hands just barely touching her body, not exerting any pressure, certainly not supporting her. It was an extraordinary feeling of complete contentment where no anxiety could possibly invade her mind. And each perfectly contented moment led to another just the same. She was aware of time passing in the fibre of her being, just as Time Lords did, but she didn’t worry that it was passing. As seconds became minutes she let the clouds enfold her and even time ceased to matter.

When the clouds cleared once more and she felt herself touching the ground again, she looked up and saw that the diffused sunlight was in a different position. Many blissful hours had passed.

“You are healed,” Renita told her.

“Yes,” Marion replied. “Yes, I am. I feel…” She stood up. “Oh, Renita… May I… are there any rules to prevent me from hugging you?”

“None at all,” she replied and Marion embraced her thankfully.

“Now,” Renita said. “Go home to my brother’s love with my blessing on you both.”

Marion did so. Though she asked Isolatta’s chauffer to make one detour. There was something she wanted, though she didn’t necessarily NEED it, and nor did Kristoph.

 

Kristoph did not get home until near suppertime. The work he was doing this week kept him late. He was weary when he came into the house, but the weariness fell from him as he saw his wife, wearing a fine silk gown with diamonds sewn onto it from her wedding dress. When his manservant had taken his outdoor cloak she smiled and took his hand and led him to their private dining room where supper was waiting. There was a bottle of red wine already uncorked and, he noticed, a jug of maroon coloured liquid.

Marion poured two glasses of it to drink with their dessert once the main part of the meal and the good wine had mellowed them both.

“You’ve visited my mother today?” he said as he tasted the ‘potion’. “This is one of her special recipes. I know she makes it for my father at least once a week. Do you really think I need it?”

“No, but I think I do,” she answered. “Even if I don’t, it can do no harm. But I am ready.”

Kristoph smiled. The cares of his arduous day fell away completely. He didn’t think it was anything to do with his mother’s love-enhancing brew. It was just the look in his wife’s eyes, a look he had missed more than he realised in the difficult weeks.

Yes, she was healed.