Rose Tyler was not happy by any means as she rode the train to the Citadel at the heart of Gallifrey. She had no idea why, but she’d been hand-chosen to be the new Instructor of Human Studies at the Academy, completely against her will, but what King Theta Sigma of Gallifrey demanded, the king received.
Thus, she did as she was told and packed her belongings. She kissed her mother on the cheek on the platform to the train, resenting the bloody King for all he was worth. She’d never seen him before. Not many people had, in fact, but they sure did know his policies, and he was stricter than any king in his dynasty within recent memory.
After all, humans were much shorter-lived than Time Lords. They didn’t possess the ability to regenerate. Time Lords, however, could live for millennia with their multiple lives, twelve in all. The current king was in the tenth among his dynasty.
And unlike the other kingdoms on Earth, Gallifrey was the only one ruled by the Time Lords. Britannia and Gallifrey had existed side-by-side once upon a time, but Rassilon had unlocked the secrets of near-immortality and telepathy for his people. His arrogance led him to overthrow the first king, Pandak, an act easily accepted by the citizens at the promise of receiving his gift of extended lifespans and enhanced mental capabilities. Their cunning and superiority naturally led to the merging of the two kingdoms, with the Time Lords assuming rule over the lesser humans. The humans had accepted their rule without any resistance, mostly in an effort to keep the peace.
Rassilon was nearly a tyrant over the humans. Once his lives were spent, his first-loomed offspring, Pandora, continued his legacy as Queen. King Morbius briefly reigned before he was assassinated, secretly at the order of the High Council. Greyjan the Sane was handpicked as his replacement to bring the kingdom of Gallifrey to peace. He had managed as much by the time his son, Theta Sigma, had been loomed. He also had been the one to establish the Academy to train up Time Lords in the way of peace. No longer would science and literature and the arts be used as weapons of war.
The current King wasn’t always so strict, Rose had been told. In another life of his, he might have been a kinder monarch. He had been, in fact. He was the only king in the history of Gallifrey to integrate humans into Citadel life and service. As such, he’d instituted Human Studies courses at the Academy and appointed a few humans he’d favored through the years as its instructors and, much to the chagrin of the High Council, occasional traveling companions. He loved adventuring out into the world, always had as a Prince, and kept it up when he assumed the throne. He loved seeing all that it had to offer and giving help where it was needed with his friends, and his human subjects loved him for it. The Time Lords had referred to him as the Human King, which was mostly spoken with an air of contempt.
Perhaps that’s what created all the trouble with Skaro. Theta had several run-ins with the King Davros and the Kaleds, defending the oppressed Thals against their dictator, and already-high tensions from the legacies of the past dynasties between the kingdoms erupted into the Great War. His Eighth and Ninth incarnations had been the ones to lead the fight, and the tragedy that ended it had regenerated him into his current self. Some sort of explosion, they’d all been told. It had been an accident. None of the human soldiers had made it out alive.
All in all, Gallifrey was no longer a joyful place to live. They’d rebuilt the land and infrastructure, but not the sense of hope that King Theta had brought to its citizens when he assumed the crown. They all feared the kingdom would return to the dark days before Greyjan.
And Rose was destined for the heart of it, doomed to live out the rest of her days in the service of the wretched King Theta Sigma. From what she’d heard, she was replacing the former Human Studies Instructor. Jeanne Poisson, she’d been told, had tried to earn the King’s good graces and assert herself as queen. He’d ultimately banished her from the kingdom.
Whatever. She had one comfort, at least. She’d been promised an apartment outside of the walls of the Citadel, in the surrounding city of Arcadia. She assumed this was because the King wanted to prevent the same mistakes made with that Poisson woman. At the very least, she’d have a small sense of freedom.
The train halted at Arcadia Station, and Rose stepped onto the platform, glancing around for some sort of sign with her name. Finally, she spotted a man in brown velvet robes and a gold skullcap, the only one dressed as he was, indicating that he held status among the Time Lords. She tentatively made her way to him. “Are you here to escort me to the Citadel?”
“Miss Tyler, I presume?” His face bore no emotion.
So much for a warm welcome, she thought. “That’s me.”
“Castellan Kelner. If you’ll follow me to the transport.” He turned.
“Are we stopping at my apartment first so I can drop off my luggage?”
Kelner turned to face her again. “Apartment?”
“Yes. My contract includes an apartment in Arcadia, outside of the Citadel.”
“I have no instructions to take you to an apartment. Your quarters are within the Citadel.”
Rose’s heart pounded. “No. That’s incorrect. I was told I’d be living in the city.”
He rolled his eyes. “The King told me this morning that I was to escort you to the Citadel so you could meet him. After that, you’ll be allowed to go to your quarters to settle in. Your chamber maid is preparing your room as we speak.”
“But there must be some mistake.”
“There’s not. The King gave me specific orders this morning, and if he’s ordered for you to stay in the Citadel, then in the Citadel you shall stay. The word of the King is law. Follow me, Miss Tyler.” He turned again.
She scoffed. “Good thing we’re going to meet him because I’m going to give him a piece of my mind.”
“I wish you luck in your endeavor. At best, he’ll dismiss you.”
“Then I’ll get to go back home. All the more reason to speak up.”
“At worst, you’ll be banished. Worst for you, anyway.” He smirked.
Rose narrowed her eyes at him. “Do you have a problem with me? I’ve only just met you.”
“Not you in particular. I’m not sure why he insists on forcing our students into Human Studies courses after all that’s happened. His love for lesser species is what got us into the war trouble in the first place, though I’ll concede that wasn’t entirely his fault. In addition, the last instructor was a complete bust. I’d much rather he sent all the humans in the Citadel packing. I’ve never been fond of you lot.”
Rose had half a mind to stay in her position just to prove him wrong.
Her eyes grew wide and she smiled as they departed in small car through the enormous city of Arcadia. She loved the tiny shops on the outskirts, as it reminded her of home, and she marveled as the architecture became grander as they neared the city’s center. The various skyscrapers were beautiful from a distance and up close. Towering in the center of it all was the shining Citadel, the home of the King. Encased in an enormous transparent dome were a number of tall, golden spires, enough to be a city in itself.
Their car stopped at the edge of the Citadel walls. Rose saw that the palace itself was suspended over a deep pit. Twelve spokes connected the Citadel to its outer walls. Kelner directed Rose to a train that would take them into the palace. A short ride later, she followed Castellan Kelner down a corridor.
“My orders are to bring you directly to the throne room. I presume you’ll be escorted to your room after that.”
Rose nodded. She steeled herself to confront the King.
They walked for some ways in silence until they reached an ornate archway.
She glanced around the room to see a group of Time Lords over to the side, standing in an arc around a throne. They must be speaking to the King, she figured, so she marched over to the group.
Castellan Kelner’s first instinct was to correct her. She was supposed to wait for the King’s permission to approach. Then again, he thought, this might be the most interesting thing to watch in years, aside from the banishing of that Reinette, as they’d so condescendingly nicknamed the former companion to the King, “Little Queen.” They’d all been appalled at the idea of a human queen and were relieved to see that perhaps the King refused the notion as well. The High Council had often wondered if his love for humans might spur him into selecting one of them as his bondmate. And now, Kelner could hardly wait to witness him put another human in her place. Perhaps Miss Tyler’s insubordination would lead to a separation of the two races again.
Rose stood just behind the arc of Time Lords and Ladies.
The King was seated on his throne. He looked bored out of his mind, his eyes fixed on the ceiling and his chin propped up in his hand.
By the looks of him, she figured he wouldn’t mind if she interrupted their conversation, something about important traditions and how he had duties to fulfill to continue the royal line of Gallifrey. It sounded terribly boring. She could hardly blame him for his disinterest. After a moment, she put her hands on her hips and cleared her throat. “Excuse me.”
The group fell silent as they turned to stare at her.
The enthroned Time Lord looked at her and lifted his head from his hand. “Yes?”
“You must be the King?”
“What gives you that idea?”
“You’re sitting on a big throne. I can’t think of anyone else who’d do that.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You’re astute, aren’t you?”
Rose wasn’t sure how he felt upon seeing her. He’d come straight to attention, like maybe he was grateful for the distraction, but he didn’t speak too kindly. Rather rude, she had a mind to tell him.
The Time Lord next to her looked her up and down. “My Lord, who is this...girl?”
Her jaw dropped.
He stood and clasped his hands behind his back before she could respond. “Lord Chancellor Socra, this woman, I believe, is Miss Tyler, my new Instructor of Human Studies.”
“Miss Tyler, you should not have approached His Majesty in such a manner. It is customary to wait until you are acknowledged. You are to address him as your Lord. Impertinence such as this in the future will not be tolerated. Honestly, you humans and your lack of respect–”
The King held up his hand, keeping his eyes fixed on her. “No, it’s fine, Socra. But he’s right. You should address me correctly. It’s only professional. You’ve just arrived, I take it?”
“Yes, and I was surprised to learn that the terms of my contract have already been violated. Forgive my impertinence,” she said, glancing at Chancellor Socra, “but I thought I’d been provided an apartment in Arcadia, out in the city. I’m not staying in the Citadel.”
He shrugged. “I changed my mind. I am the King of Gallifrey, and what I say goes. I snap my fingers and whatever I wish is accomplished. You would do well to keep this in mind, Miss Tyler.”
“Well, I’ll not be confined to the palace. You can’t force me to stay inside. There’s a whole city out there I’d like to explore.”
“Oh, is that so?”
She raised her chin and shifted her weight. “Yes.”
He stood taller himself. “Yes, what?”
She glared at him. “My Lord.”
He smirked. “Very well. I’ll allow it. You heard of the last lecturer, I presume?”
“I’ll have none of that. Do you understand?”
She crossed her arms. “No worries from me. I’m not sure I’d want to try anything like that anyway.”
He peered at her, and then turned to face the Seal of Rassilon behind him. “Now, then, Miss Tyler, the Castellan will show you to your room so you can get settled.”
Kelner spoke up from the archway. “But, my Lord, I was not assigned this duty as we made preparations for today–”
The King raised his hand to silence him. “As I said, the Castellan will show you to your room. I presume you have no further matters to be addressed?”
He sighed and bowed. “No, my Lord.”
“I was speaking to Miss Tyler.”
“No, my Lord,” she replied.
“The Castellan will return with you in one hour, whereupon I will give you a tour of the Citadel and the Academy.”
“An hour is hardly enough time to settle in–”
He turned suddenly, his eyes dark with irritation. “One hour, Miss Tyler. You’ve just wasted two seconds out of three thousand six hundred. Except for myself, time stops for nobody, so I suggest you start moving if it’s so precious to you.”
She clenched her jaw.
“Miss Tyler,” called the Castellan.
She turned and walked away without a word.
The King cleared his throat.
Rose continued walking down the carpet runner.
She turned and addressed him with strained politeness. “Yes, my Lord?”
“You’re new, so I’ll excuse your oversight. When you leave my presence, you will bow and address me. The same goes for when you enter my presence. It is unnecessary in passing.”
“You won’t have to worry about seeing me in passing anyway.” She bowed sharply. “My lord.”
“Prat,” she muttered as she stood. She glared at him for a moment before she turned and joined the Castellan.
“I heard that.”
An hour later, Rose appeared in the archway of the throne room. Nobody else was present in the room this time, she noticed.
The King rose from his throne. “You may approach.”
She crossed her arms and leaned on the doorframe. “I’d rather not.”
He sighed audibly through his nose and pursed his lips. “I won’t bite.”
She examined her fingernails. “I'd much rather stay here. We'll be leaving the room anyway, so why not save myself the steps?”
“Economical, I suppose.” He strode towards the archway. “I’ll show you to the school. You’ll need to meet Headmaster Borusa, and I’ll show you your classroom. Then we’ll view the canteen, where you’ll eat lunch. You will eat dinner at my table. Breakfast will be delivered to your room each morning.”
She followed him out of the room.
They made small talk. Rose kept herself mostly tight-lipped. He made an effort to keep the conversation civil until things turned south at the end of their tour.
“And now, interestingly enough, we are back to the throne room.” He looked up at the ceiling. “Well, technically, underneath it. Not sure how we ended up here, though. We shouldn’t be on this floor. Stairs are just around the corner, though. Just a quick trip up and you can be off to your room. You may have the day off tomorrow, but your lecture is due to start the day after.” He quickened his pace.
Rose also sped up, but slowed when she passed a set of large, wooded double doors. She glanced at the ornate floral carvings in the woodwork. She traced one of the roses. And, if she wasn’t mistaken, she heard ethereal music coming from inside. “What’s in here, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I do mind. That is none of your concern.”
She turned at the sound of his voice behind her. “But you’ve shown me pretty much all the other rooms. Why not this one?”
“Blimey, I know humans are less superior, but surely even your hearing is up to snuff? This room is forbidden.”
She crossed her arms. “My hearing is just fine, thank you.”
He tilted his head and peered at her. “You are a curious thing, Miss Tyler.”
“How so, my Lord?”
“You are not afraid of me.”
“Irritated’s more like it.”
“You’re a prat, for starters.”
“Yes. No need for redundancy. Why else?”
She furrowed her brows. “You took me from my mum. And it’s not like you have any intention of letting me leave. I’ll probably never see her again.”
“Until you prove you’re not capable of fulfilling the duties of your position, yes, you are to remain here.” He pointed at her. “And I will know if you’re trying to sabotage your work, so no funny business.”
“And how do you know that?”
“Because I’ve seen you work first hand.”
“You...you were never in my classroom.”
“I never saw you.”
“I was there for a day.” He shrugged. “I used a perception filter, so you wouldn’t have seen me.”
“You came into my classroom? Without my notification?”
“I have to know who will be working in the Citadel. It is my duty.”
“You can’t just come into my classroom without me knowing!”
“Of course I can. I’m the King. And, I have to say, your work is very good. From the moment you greeted the children in the morning–”
“I can’t believe you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You think just because you’re a Time Lord and you’re the King that you’re so far above anyone else, but that doesn’t make you above acting with decency and respect. You violated my privacy!”
“It’s hardly private when you’re teaching in a public space, now is it? Especially when teachers are in service of the kingdom anyway. Technically, I’ve always been your boss.”
“That is not the point. You spied on me without my knowledge. You called me here without allowing me to make a decision for myself. Perhaps if I had been requested, I might have accepted your invitation anyway, but you forced me. And if there’s one thing you need to know about me, it’s that I will not stand for having my freedom stripped from me!”
“You really couldn’t expect me, the King, to be out and about with people’s knowledge, could you?”
“Oh, it’s not like the people like you anyway!”
“Ever since the war, ever since you’ve regenerated, the people can’t stand you. You’re nearly a tyrant, they say. Dictating everything for us. We have a curfew. We can’t even eat pears anymore.”
“Pears are disgusting, and I can’t stand them. Can’t stand the sight, the smell, the taste, or the texture. All grainy and it gets your chin wet. I won’t have my kingdom endure them any longer.”
“Your staff doesn’t even like working for you. They’re terrified of you. I saw how they avoided you as we walked through the halls.”
“Are they now? Do you think you could do this better than me?”
“Yeah, I probably could.”
“And how’s that, eh?”
“A good king inspires love. He earns respect by giving it, not by lording his position over others. He doesn’t rule through fear and intimidation. That makes you no better than Davros.”
“Fear and intimidation, hm? You can talk to me about those when you’ve fought on the front lines of the war. When you’ve stared down the barrel of a Dalek cannon. When you’ve seen your soldiers dropping like flies around you. When you’ve faced Davros himself–talk to me about it then. When you’ve had to hide in a shed and detonate the Moment because you knew it was the only way to stop the madness, killing not just the enemy, but your own men as well, and myself, by the way, knowing that it was the only solution to keeping the kingdom safe. You think I don’t love my kingdom? I died to save it. Good night, Miss Tyler.” He stormed off.
Rose stood stunned. She hadn’t heard that part of the story, that he’d made that decision. Nobody had.
How agonizing that decision must have been for him, she thought.
Maybe there was some good in him after all, hidden beneath the prat.