163AD (916 Ab Urbe Condita) and snow lay deep and crisp and even across the flat valley floor, where the Army Camp was spread out and shouted commands echoed back from the surrounding hills to disappear muffled in the snow; Christiane looked out and shivered, it would be cold outside and she was dependent upon the generosity of her hosts for everything, from the simple dresses, not unlike saris, which draped from the shoulders, to the sandals which shod her feet over rough woollen socks and the fur-lined cape she had been loaned; the clothes she had worn when she arrived had been either bloodstained or muddy, torn and ripped by the broom she had woken up in and had been disposed of, except for her knickers and brassiere which had been the source of considerable amusement among the officers' wives, until Christiane demonstrated how the wired bra provided support and uplift and that had provoked intense and detailed discussion on how they could each obtain one: a seamstress had been summoned, measurements of the original taken, the availability of whalebone considered (Christiane had decided that was more politic than explaining the existence of plastic at this early date) and the seamstress sent off to work on a prototype; but now she awaited Marcus for their walk down to the river: OMG the changes which rewinding Time wreaks - no red sandstone viaduct soaring high above the rippling Tweed, no Wade bridge across the span, no modern bridge which carried traffic up the A68 to Edinburgh; Christiane still found it difficult to rationalise her new life in the second century AD with her old life, so near in miles upon a map, yet so far in almost two thousand years! she still couldn't work out how this had come to be: she had a vague memory of addressing the men who ruled her life, of challenging them, of threatening them. but none of it was real. nor was the vague thought that someone had struck her from behind, sending her into a spiral descent until she had - literally - landed with a thump on the hillside above Melrose. except that Melrose wasn't there any more, or yet! That was the weirdest thing, to realise that she was now in the same landscape which had been such an integral part of her life, yet almost two thousand years before she would be born, and there was absolutely no-one she could tell this to - neither her new friends, the wives and daughters of the Roman Officers, nor the few British (Scottish?) slaves who served them; she might as well be on the Moon or Mars, she was absolutely, utterly alone, with no direction Home; but here came Marcus, and she rose to greet him, playing the part that had been assigned to her: and her gratitude, her pleasure in his company, they were genuine; this was a far cry from the years with Knickers, with Uncle Ralphy and latterly, the brief time with the resurrected Sir Parlane MacFarlane; that was a life chosen not by her, but by them, in which she had felt herself sullied by her connivance with their depravity and perversions, a guilt that had grown with every passing day, month and year; she hated them, and she hated herself for going along with them, oh how she despised her own weakness, her own culpability! but now - whether this world was real or in her head, whether she would be here for the rest of her days or if it was merely sine die, until she woke up and found herself back in the familiar, bleak reality of her past life - she just wanted to be able to experience it for herself; even that knowledge that she was truly a woman in her own right had shocked and scared her as much as she was delighted and gratified by it; she was no longer playing a part, acting a role, pretending; somehow, she had been transformed and that almost prompted her to give thanks to the God she hadn't thought of in 15 years or more and certainly didn't believe in; if this was real, then something very special had happened to her and she wanted to give thanks, but her circumstances, if this truly was real, and not just happening in her head, made a necessity of keeping shtum, holding her natural volubility in check, keeping her counsel and letting others define her, just like this blossoming friendship with Marcus; and so they walked slowly through the Camp, past the Arena and down towards the River, flowing fast through the narrow gorge above which, in the future, three bridges would span the narrow and carry road and rail traffic with a roar that would overlay the rushing and bubbling of water, but now, right now, she heard only the water, and the distant cry of birds and caught the occasional glimpse of a heron; she re-focussed on what Marcus was saying: "we are building a new bridge here, there was one but it was wooden and the wood had rotted in the river and so it was washed away in a flood, a couple of years ago, the new one will be more solidly constructed, of stone, with good foundations, it'll be higher and able to withstand such an event," he smiled, "or at least, that is what the engineers tell me, and I am no engineer," and she looked him in the eye: "will you be staying here while it is built?" she surprised herself, for had not intended to be so bold; he laughed, "there is no pressing business for me to travel south just now, so until I receive orders I expect to remain, I would like to explore this land - it is different from my own family home south of Rome, the weather is much worse, but I believe some of the people are friendly, and I might find someone to accompany me on my explorations," he took her hand in his, the action surprising her, but she gave his fingers a slight squeeze and entwined hers with his, "I admit to being pleased to hear that," she said, "you found me at my lowest ebb and I do believe there was some meaning in that," she was astonished at herself, having long learned to keep her true feelings well-hidden, through her teens regularly finding herself the dumpee in her early romantic attachments, then the years with Larry, and the growing sense of her own unease as she learned more of The Ring of Gold and it had all boiled over on the day her life changed utterly, hearing the hissed words, "a fucking Benedict Arnold," just before she lost consciousness, and now here, in this familiar spot, which she had known since childhood, it was as if she had been given a new life, a second chance to find happiness, a happiness that she had thought never possible for her, and her growing sense of connection with this man, the Emperor's Paladin, and although she had no idea where it might lead, she allowed him to kiss her, the gentlest. sweetest, most honest kiss she had ever received, and she felt it sweep over her, like a wave washing the rocks clean, and she returned the kiss as he held her in his arms and for the first time in half a life-time, she felt the first intimations of a possible happiness, which was when they both heard the excited voices of the children from the Camp: "look, they're kissing, I told you so!" and the kiss dissolved into a happy laughter and Marcus held her pressed tight against him!