Doctor

Who

The

Principality

of

Prome

By

Ian Shimwell

Copyright for the original TV series

DOCTOR WHO and all characters from the series:

Copyright © the BBC and respective license holders.

No attempt to infringe this copyright is intended.

The Principality of Prome is Copyright © Ian Shimwell 2005 & 2017.

This story is published only as a piece of free fan fiction by Ian's Fan Fiction

as part of the TV Classics range..

Please visit The Armchair Detective Website on Moonfruit for more.

ALSO AVAILABLE IN TV CLASSICS:

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PART ONE

The darkness was absolute, that was until a tiny light appeared - a faint flicker from an old rusty lantern. It grudgingly revealed very little of the cave system. The walls glistened ever so slightly as the man, holding the lantern, walked by.

With sadness, Digger surveyed his excavation; his mine; his sheer hard work. His

ragged hands touched the side of the cavern and his thickset fingers scrambled some

soot-like substance from the wall.

"Coal," Digger proudly nodded to himself. He was the one who had found the

caves; surveyed and discovered that it was rich in coal. He had organised the Provants -

an ungrateful lot who are supposed to work for a living. He was a Promord, a notch

above the peasant riffraff. Despite this, he had not been afraid to dirty his hands. Looking at his rough-skinned fingers, he knew they told a story of hard work - of mining coal.

Slowly his trusty lamp became redundant, as Digger emerged into the sunlight of Prome. He wasn't quite as tall as his contemporaries. In fact his long, greying, soot-filled beard made him look more like a Provant. His heavily wrinkled face squinted in the sunlight and he turned round and looked back into the darkness. Most of his life was down there. He had achieved an awful lot and had gathered an awful lot of coal - all for Prince Prome. He was not sorry in the slightest.

Melancholy deadening his weight, Digger moved towards the stone wall that surrounded the Coal Caves. The gate creaked open, and with a heavy heart, Digger closed it for what he knew would be the very last time. Try as he might, that was one thing that he still could not understand. The mine was in its prime. Coal was virtually the only fuel used on Prome. Properly managed, the Coal Caves would have would have provided Prince Prome's Principality with this valuable resource for generations to come.

With a sigh, Digger finally clinked the old padlock into place, locking the wooden gate solidly. A black cloud enveloped the sun causing it to be suddenly quite dark. Ironically it was precisely then a cloud was inexplicably lifted from his mind. He remembered something. The closing of the mine. Could it have anything to do with..? Repressing a shiver, Digger sensed that there was something behind him. A glimpse of irrational fear entered the old man's eyes. He turned round slowly, but immediately relaxed. His wrinkled face smiled with kindness.

"Why dear friend, what in Prome are you doing here? Come to make sure the old fool really has closed the mine the mine this time?" The creature's eyes though were uncharacteristically cold. Its expression odd. Quite suddenly, Digger knew what was about to happen but still could not believe it. His eyes stared in horror.

The creature's mouth opened wide. Dozens of razor sharp teeth sprang from its gums. With sickening speed, the creature lurched forward and tore the petrified miner to pieces.

The tall blue box was almost hidden by the undergrowth. The Doctor looked back at it, unable to hide his affection. He wore an elegant, long frock coat and fancy stripped trousers. A fresh stick of celery sprouted from his lapel. His fair hair framed a youthful and alert face. He had take-in-everything blue eyes.

Adric looked at the Doctor curiously. He was much more than what he seemed or was he less? The Doctor was surely an enigma, he decided. The bright sunlight caught Adric's eyes and he shielded them with his hand. He surveyed the beautiful forest around him. It reminded him so much of his home planet.

"So what are we going to do Doctor, just have a walk in the woods? Adric was feeling a little bit fed up and he wasn't attempting to hide it.

The Doctor strode forward purposefully. "Why not? It's a beautiful day after all." He looked back at Adric. A young boy close to manhood. His shoulders were slumped depressingly. "Oh come on Adric, at least make an effort or even pretend you're enjoying yourself."

The young Alzarian took a deep breath to try and breathe some enthusiasm into him. He attempted a smile.

The Doctor beamed. "That's better Adric. Anyway you should be pleased. This time it's going to be just you and me. We'll be able to have some quality time together - as Tegan puts it. Do some male-bonding, that sort of thing."

"That's what worries me." The Doctor's face immediately dropped so Adric smiled to convey that he only teasing. "But why aren't the girls joining us?"

"As you well know, Nyssa and Tegan picked up a nasty dose of influenza on our last trip. George Cranleigh has a lot to answer for. They'll be in bed for at least a week." The Doctor said as he began to examine a nearby tree.

Adric shook his head of thick black hair and said with exasperation: "I do actually know that Doctor, but the TARDIS must contain a variety of advanced medicines. You probably have them on their feet in a couple of hours."

The Doctor scratched the surface of the tree trunk with his fingernails. It seemed perfectly normal. Stubbornly, he moved on to the next tree. "That's as maybe Adric," he called back. "But sometimes it is best to let nature take its course. Builds up the bodies' defences and so on."

"Tegan's going to kill you," smiled Adric.

The Doctor had disappeared from sight but could still be heard. "She probably will and even Nyssa may be a bit cross too," the Doctor grinned delightfully, " but, as I said, this will give us a chance to…"

There was a loud snapping noise, a thud and the Doctor cried out in pain.

"Doctor," Adric cried, concerned - and rushed behind a leafy shrub. The Doctor was sat on the ground and guiltily holding an enormous branch. Why did he look like a naughty schoolboy?

Dropping the branch, the Doctor stood up and rubbed his behind tenderly. "At least those twigs broke my fall."

"Doctor, what were you doing up there, trying to steal the local riverfruit?" Wasn't he the one who was supposed to be immature? Not that he was, of course.

Looking as dignified as he could muster, the Doctor said rather stubbornly, as he dusted himself down: "Scientific experimentation. The gravity on this planet is roughly similar to Earth - or Alzarius for that matter."

"Yes very interesting." Adric looked around him. He still could only see the luscious forest enlightened and bedazzled by the sun. "And which planet are we on? Where exactly are we?"

Side by side, the two companions began to walk, venturing deeper into the alien forest.

"For once I'm not quite sure. I've rarely visited the outer galaxies before and have certainly never been remotely near this solar system. I couldn't even find any star- chart references in the TARDIS. We are exploring uncharted territories," the Doctor added grandly.

"Yes and straight into danger - and the usual terrifying adventure."

"Come now Adric, that's not fair. This 'adventure' will be perfectly peaceful." Catching Adric's doubting expression, the Doctor continued, "All right - for a change." He had now stopped walking in a small area free from trees. His hand flashed out to halt Adric.

"Behind you Adric, the Doctor said just a bit too carefully.

Adric looked, caught his breath and edged nearer to the Doctor's side. "I knew it," he groaned.

A pack of fearsome wolves slowly advanced upon the travellers. Their jaws stretched revealing huge and deadly fangs. They seemed poised for the kill. Ready to pounce at any second…

The long velvet blood-red curtain was drawn aside. The darkened figure entered his sanctuary. Shining from an unknown source was an ethereal moving picture. The figure looked through it. He witnessed a group of wolves - and beyond them a frightened pair who's dress was not of this land.

"The Stranger and his Knave, how very interesting…" the sickly voice chuckled softly.

The huge Throne Room was a magnificent spectacle. Glorious, extravagant tapestries adorned the stone walls and a richly woven carpet covered the cold floor. The grandiose throne itself dominated the chamber. The brass and gold exquisitely, yet terrifyingly entwined in the shape of wolves' heads.

The room was empty until the great double doors burst open and a young woman swept inside, whose long, flowing dark hair, that almost reached her waste, glided behind. Her dark hair contrasted stunningly with her soft, pale complexion and her luminant white full-length dress.

Princess Prome was very upset. She ran up to the vacant throne and collapsed melodramatically on the few steps before it. Her hand covered her brow but the tears flowed freely - and with a passion.

The red-cloaked Prince waltzed silently into his chamber. "Oh sister, do compose yourself. Your beloved will be with you soon," he smiled slyly, "and besides you are wetting the carpet!"

"Never, never, never, never," sobbed the Princess with ever increasing force. "I will never marry that animal, the King's so called champion."

"You are quite wrong, my lady." A huge monster of a man strode into view. Dressed in black furs, his garments were studded with gleaming metal. Together with his bushy black beard and determined expression he was truly an imposing figure. His name was Swordhawk, he was the King's Champion - and knew it. He gestured to the Prince. "His Majesty has kindly ordered our betrothal. You must accept the fact that we are to be wed. It is Prome law."

The Princess rubbed her reddening eyes. "Swordhawk, you are an ugly beast. I should not even touch, never mind marry you. And you are far too old, ancient I believe."

"Silence," shrieked the Prince, "you will show no disrespect to Prome's glorious Champion."

The weeping girl lifted herself to her feet and stood face to face, barely inches from the Prince. Her furious expression almost growled at him. If looks could kill... "Then, dear brother, I disrespect you." She spat on his cheek and angrily stormed out of the room.

Swordhawk laughed thunderously - a great big belly laugh. "Do not worry your Majesty. I will bend her to my will." He suddenly stopped laughing. His huge rough-skinned hands reared up to simulate some kind of strangulation. "If not, I will break her."

A sudden cloud of worry passed over the Prince. Clearing the cloud away he said, "You will marry my sister. She will share your bed - you have my word."

Swordhawk nodded, satisfied. "Then I will lead my - I mean your - men to victory," he shouted that loud the very Palace almost shook.

Prince Prome slowly sat down on his throne. "Then we are agreed, Swordhawk." Leaning forward he said, "I command you to take a group of your best men and take the land by the southern mountains."

The King's Champion grandly bowed before the Prince. "Your Majesty commands, your loyal servant obeys."

As Swordhawk began to leave, the Prince said quietly, "One more matter. Pass by the Coal Caves on your way."

"Why?" questioned Swordhawk as he rubbed his mighty beard.

"Because, because…" For the royal life of him, Prome could not think of a reason. "To make sure old Digger really has locked up the mine," he added lamely.

"As you wish." The swordsman swept round to reach the door but fell over something beneath his feet. He landed embarrassingly on all fours.

A very small man scuttled from beneath him. His deformed face wasn't helped by his humped back. He wore the clothes of a joker; complete with a bright pointed red and yellow hat with tiny bells on each tip. He was a midget.

"Me very sorry, you good sir," whimpered the Jester.

"Oh, don't be," cried the Prince laughing, "for once, you pathetic miserable creature, you have amused me."

The hungry-looking wolves had now completely encircled the Doctor and Adric.

"When I say run," the Doctor whispered urgently, "we must run in opposite directions - at least create some confusion."

"They're not confused, Doctor. Unfortunately they know exactly what they are going to do," Adric shivered.

The slavering wolves' jaws roared but then, strangely, instead of attacking they simply howled - and whimpered. Then they ran off like frightened puppies.

A relieved Doctor said, "They must have been put off by your aftershave, Adric."

Adric's pained smile didn't hide his annoyance, but then cried out in shock as a huge creature lumbered behind the Doctor.

The Time Lord span round. "How absolutely fascinating - a super-gigantic tortoise."

"A super-gigantic tortoise?" repeated Adric in wonder. He studied this unusual new life form. It almost reached his height and was at least twice as long. A huge thick crusty shell covered most of its body. Adric could see only its spur-thighed claw-like 'legs' and its thick-skinned head with big bulbous black eyes. Perhaps attracted by yellow, the tortoise walked towards Adric.

"I said super," continued the Doctor, "because this dear fellows carapace is much larger than the ones found on the Gallipoli Islands on Earth."

The tortoises' head extended out further nearer to Adric. He recoiled.

"Don't be afraid boy - try stroking the dear old thing's chin," he suggested.

Tentatively Adric did and the tortoise responded by making a contented purring sound - and the corner of its mouth twitched upwards.

"He likes it," declared Adric joyously, "and he's even smiling.

The tortoise moved away slightly and tried to reach a branch. Adric joined him and pulled the branch down. The reptile swiftly devoured the leaves from it. "Do you think these are the dominant life-forms on this planet Doctor?"

"An enchanting thought but I don't think so." The Doctor pointed to the far side of the clearing. "As clever as tortoises undoubtedly are, I suggest they are not yet capable of chopping down trees."

Adric saw the tree stump and sighed. Why couldn't he sometimes look and think before speaking?

Becoming restless, the Doctor marched forward and encouraged Adric to join him. Adric caught up and turned round. The tortoises' head had slumped. He appeared to be sulking.

"Come on then Smiler - join us," shouted Adric.

Head and long neck now erect, Smiler smiled and eagerly raced after his two new friends.

"Smiler" the Doctor said to himself, shaking his head in exasperation.

After a while, the forest was thinning out. The strange threesome stopped as the Doctor surveyed the landscape. On one side he could just make out a wall; on the other, the shores of a nearby lake - and beyond that a mountain range.

Taking the initiative, the gigantic tortoise lurched towards the water.

"I think Smiler wants a drink," suggested Adric happily. "I'd better make sure he's all right." He began to follow the tortoise.

"I'm just going to investigate something further ahead. I'll join you at the lake in a short while."

They went their separate ways and the Doctor looked back at the unlikely figures of Adric and 'Smiler'. He was becoming quite attached to his new-found friend.

After several minutes or so, the Doctor had made it to the wall, which mainly consisted of huge blocks of stone placed on top of each other. He could only see the top of various rock formations behind the barrier. A cave system perhaps, valuable minerals? Turning a corner, the Doctor saw a locked and bolted gate - and something on the ground before it. He bent down to examine the huddled form and with sadness discovered, amongst the dirt and mud, the remains of a body that had been horrifically savaged.

"Take him!" a thunderous voice shouted.

Two black-clad guards hauled the Doctor to his feet, hurting his arms.

Holding a long, gleaming, brass and steel broadsword before him; his black furs and beard heaved menacingly as he approached the Doctor.

"Oh come now - you can't think that I have anything to do with that," the Doctor said reasonably.

"I am the King's Champion, Swordhawk. Outside the Palace, my word is law. You are not one of us, therefore you must be of enemy kin."

Impeccable logic thought the Doctor.

"And you have slain a faithful servant of the Prince."

"I did no such thing," the Doctor said indignantly." "Anyway how could I possibly cause such wounds?"

"Maybe the Death Demon helped you," said one of the guards helpfully.

"No such matter," shrieked Swordhawk. "You will die for your terrible crimes. Execution immediate."

"Now old chap, let's not do anything too hasty."

The Doctor's only answer was seeing Swordhawk's manic, unreasoning eyes as the great sword came crashing down upon him.

PART TWO

With Smiler by his side, Adric approached the shores of the lake. The bright sunshine echoed through the reflective waters. The mountainous region, beyond the far side of the lake, was surrounded by a magical mist. Despite himself, Adric was enjoying himself. He patted his adoring companion on the shell. No doubt the Doctor would join him soon. His contented gaze drifted back to the shores. His smile turned into a frown.

A girl by the lake was shaking terribly. Captured by her spell, a trance-like Adric walked closer. He put a finger to his lips to silence Smiler. She had her back to him, staring out towards the mountains. Now she was almost close enough to touch, Adric could tell the shaking was due to her violent sobbing. So intense was her weeping, Adric was sure she didn't even know that he was there.

She was not a girl, more of a young woman. Her luscious long, dark hair seemed to go on forever.

Adric placed a hand on her slender shoulder and said, "Anything I can do to help?"

The girl screamed. Turning round in shock, she lost her balance and fell into the water. Being surprisingly deep - she was wet through. "How dare you," she shrieked.

"Sorry," was all Adric could muster. He offered her a helping hand but she impolitely slapped it away.

"How dare a Provant fool attempt to touch the Princess of all Prome" She then stopped for a moment, actually seeing Adric for the first time. "What strange manner of a man are you?"

The Princess was about to fall again, but this time Adric did grab her and despite her protestations, hauled her to dry land.

"Remove yourself from me!" she stormed, shaking herself free.

Adric could now see the Princess properly. Despite her snarling expression, her face was classically beautiful - her skin soft and pure. Her long wet dress afforded a see-through quality to her shapely body. Adric could not deny her attractiveness. Her temper though - she made Tegan look like an angel!

"Well that's gratitude for you," Adric said sulkily. He turned to the waiting tortoise. "Go on then Smiler, have a drink, then we'll join the Doctor." Eagerly, Smiler shifted.

"Smiler," repeated the Princess incredulously. "The creature is a Tortoid - a benign servant of the Palace."

"Whatever," Adric tried to say as if he wasn't interested. Smiler had now seemed to have finished gulping large quantities of water so he continued, "Right, let's go Smiler."

The Princess stood right in front of Adric, blocking his way. "You are in the presence of royalty, Knave. You will take your leave - only when I dismiss you."

"Oh will I?" laughed Adric, now clearly amused. He bowed forward in a display of mock servitude. "Princess of all Prome, may I leave your royal side?"

Princess Prome smiled. "No, you may not. First I demand to know who you are."

"Adric," said Adric.

"What strange land are you from?" Dramatically, she pointed to his shining badge. "Why are you wearing a brass, star-shaped broach?"

Adric toughed his star. "This is made of gold. It was awarded to me for mathematical excellence on my home planet."

The Princess' permanently fiery expression gradually softened but only slightly. "I understand not you strange words but their meaning. You have been honoured by your king."

Adric nodded in agreement. He decided it was easier that way.

"And where is this 'Doctor' you spoke of? Is he your servant?"

"An amusing thought. Come on, I'll show you and in return you can tell me why you were crying."

"Agreed - you may escort me," the Princess said trying to regain some of her rightful authority.

The great and splendid doors at the grand entrance of Prome Palace crashed open and the larger-than-life figure of Swordhawk stormed in. The on-duty guard shrank away, not even daring to speak. Abruptly, Swordhawk halted and looked down at his boots - there, right in front if them, was the insignificant form of the Jester.

"The Courtyard cretin, trying to trip up the King's Champion again, were you?" The great man was attempting calmness but anger was seething through his yellow teeth.

"Me very sorry, you good sir," the Jester attempted a crooked smile.

Swordhawk's huge hand grabbed the little man and pulled him up in the air to his own considerable height. "If for one tiny moment, I think you are trying to mock me - I will do Prince Prome a favour and end your misshapen existence," he bellowed that loud the Jester covered his ears.

"Me just do walk." Trying to humour the big fellow, the Jester shook his little stick. The top of it had a very small jester's face completes with its many-pointed hat with tiny bells.

Swordhawk did not find it amusing. He tightened his grip on the midget's collar, effectively choking him. In fright, the Jester dropped his stick and the pointed end stuck in Swordhawk's foot. Crying out in pain, the swordsman let the Jester go.

The little man painfully pulled the stick out of Swordhawk's boot as he landed, and then scurried away hastily.

"I will kill the ugly…" He stopped as the Prince suddenly appeared from nowhere.

"Swordhawk, what in Prome are you doing here? I ordered you to invade enemy villages. You are usually very keen on rape and pillaging," Prome added bitingly.

He bowed extravagantly. "Your Majesty," he exuded - and then responded: "My men will be more than capable of taking a few villages - I trained them." The 'hawk lent closer to his Prince. "Whilst journeying past the Coal Caves, I discovered the dead body of the old miner - and the killer. An enemy lord known as Stranger…"

A while later, skulking inside a hidden corner, a shadowy figure was intently watching a moving light source. He could see two young people approaching the Palace. His stare, penetrating. His desires, unholy.

"The Princess and her Knave, how utterly delicious…" the manic voice whispered in devilish anticipation.

The following morning in a particularly dank, dark and dusty dungeon, the Doctor slowly awoke, rubbed his sore head and groaned. Facing him across the straw covered floor was a sturdy set of iron bars. "Wonderful," he moaned as he groggily struggled to his feet and then rattled the bars to test their strength. No, he decided, brute force would not make his escape - not that he was particularly fond of that course of action anyway. His hand, instinctively, dipped into one of spacious pockets for the sonic screwdriver but pulled out a half-eaten apple instead. Sighing with frustration, the Doctor painfully mourned the recent loss of his 'get-out-of-jail card' and promptly took a great big bite of the apple.

"Good morning Stranger," came a voice from the darkness.

The apple returned to its home - the Doctor's pocket. "I'm the Doctor actually," he said as his eyes tried to reach through the dark. "And you are?"

The figure moved into what little light there was. His round face was more than matched by his generous waste. A piece of string held his light leather jerkin together and kept a ring of rusty keys to hand. "I am the Jailer, Stranger."

"How functional," offered the Doctor, "but what is your actual name?"

"Are you deaf as well as daft Stranger - as I have just said, the Jailer."

The Doctor held his hands up. "All right, all right. Just tell me your Christ… your first name then."

"My first name is 'The'," the Jailer said rather dumbly.

"That's ridiculous."

The Jailer thought for a moment. This person in some kind of fancy dress was introducing him to a new concept. "Tell me your first name then."

"The Doctor," said the Doctor.

"The…" the Jailer slowly. "So your first name is 'The' too. We have something in common, Stranger."

The Jailer seemed delighted at this new revelation. Breathing a wary sigh, the Doctor rolled his eyes. He was having that sinking feeling. "Yes 'The', very good." The Doctor's most reasonable expression switched on. "I have been travelling for some time now, could you tell me where I am?"

"In a dungeon," smiled the Jailer through the bars.

The Doctor held his hands apart. "This place, kingdom."

The Jailer eyed the Stranger suspiciously. "You are of the enemy, you must know this is Prome."

"I am so glad," enthused the Doctor. "Prome, sweet Prome. Who is the enemy?"

"You are," the rotund fellow sighed impatiently. "I must go now and attend to my other duties."

He turned to go but the time traveller called urgently, "Wait - I have an important message for the, for the… Prince," he suddenly remembered. The Jailer just stood there, as if waiting for a bus, the Doctor reflected.

"I am waiting."

The Doctor beckoned him closer. "The message is of the most secretive nature. Only a vitally important person such as your good self could be trusted with such a message."

Flattered, the Jailer leaned closer eager to learn the secret.

The Doctor began whispering something in his ear - as one hand began fiddling with the Jailer's string…

The Princess swept across her bedchamber. She almost seemed to float, so long was her nightdress. Reaching a door to an adjoining bedroom, she gave it a polite knock. The door opened and a fully dressed Adric walked inside.

"In future you will wait for permission to enter my private quarters," the Princess snapped.

Adric rubbed the sleep from his eyes to try and wake himself up. "Oh good morning. Had a good nights sleep? Very well thank-you." He was in no mood for games.

Hands on her hips, the Princess was unknowingly displaying her most striking pose. "Such insolence - and to think all I need to do is click my fingers to have you executed at any second."

"Go ahead, but first tell me where's my friend, the Doctor? You said he would be here," accused Adric. He was very annoyed indeed but didn't really understand why.

Princess Prome's fingers shot through her flowing hair in a temper. Starting to shriek, she stormed: "Do you really imagine this Stranger of yours would be in this chamber, sharing my bed? The fool has probably been thrown in the dungeon - and that's where you will heading too." She sat in her sumptuous four-poster bed and held a golden, silk drape in her dainty hand - ready to pull it and summon the guards.

Adric was dumbstruck. His attempts at being aggressive had backfired. He didn't really know anything about this new world - or about the Princess herself. He did know she was strikingly beautiful, but oh, she so had an attitude.

Suddenly there was a thundering knock at the door. This had a startling effect on the Princess - she froze. "No and woe," she cried. "Swordhawk, I would know that ape's knock anywhere. He must not find you here, Adric - he will kill you."

Adric's eyes darted around the bedchamber furiously, like a frightened rabbit. For the life of him, he couldn't find a hiding place. Adric, he thought. Quite illogically he realised that this was the first time the Princess had called him by his name. For some reason he flat quite touched but this didn't help his current predicament. The gap underneath the bed was too large and he would easily be seen. "Of course, the servant's room." Adric wondered how he'd been so stupid - he had slept there all night and had just come from there! He ran to the door but inwardly groaned when he discovered it to be locked.

This time the main door was hammered that loudly, it nearly came off its hinges.

"Wait I have a better idea," the Princess illuminated, as if a light inside her head had suddenly been switched on. "The King's Champion, Swordhawk you may enter," she announced grandly.

Adric looked at her as if she'd gone mad.

As the door opened, the Princess of Prome flung herself around a startled Adric and kissed him passionately, full on the lips.

"What is this?" thundered Swordhawk. The guard behind him had already covered his ears in anticipation. "You Knave, dare to besmirch the honour of my Princess."

The kiss ended. Adric seemed dazed. The Princess swung round. "For your information and education, Swordhawk," she said spitting out the words with dramatic venom. "My honour is not tainted in the slightest. The knave and I are to be betrothed."

The 'hawk heaved in heavy laughter. The guard behind him steadied himself. Was it is imagination or was the whole Palace shaking?

The Champion's eyes narrowed. "And what you say Knave."

Adric cleared his throat nervously. It's news to me."

Forcing himself to stop laughing and to quell the rising anger that was building up inside of him, Swordhawk actually thought or a moment. The giant of a man stood opposite the slight figure of his rival. "By ancient Prome tradition, I challenge you Knave to a duel by death. The victor shall win the hand of the Princess."

Adric looked up at the great bearded brute and audibly gulped.

Purposefully, Prince Prome strode into his Throne Room. Halting his regal stride, he turned round slowly. The long red curtain that covered the whole of the back wall shuffled suspiciously. "You may come out now, Stranger," he smiled.

Guiltily, the Doctor stepped out from beyond the curtain. "Exquisite workmanship," he commented. "I was just checking the quality of the linings. Impeccable, best I've seen since…"

"Fascinating Stranger," the Prince said dismissively.

"Oh do call me Doctor." The Time Lord held out his hand. "Prince Prome I presume."

Looking a touch bewildered, the Prince just stared at him. "Yes - and you Stranger are supposed to be my guest, safely locked up in the Palace dungeon."

"Stranger," the Doctor repeated to himself. "I give up!"

"Indulge me as to how you escaped."

The Doctor raised his hands innocently. "Oh I just pulled a few strings, that's all."

The Prince walked to his glorious throne and sat down. "You will address me as 'Your Majesty'." The Stranger nodded so he continued. "Explain this then - why did you kill my loyal servant, Digger?"

Approaching the Prince, the Doctor said, "Begging Your Majesty's pardon, the poor unfortunate victim whom I discovered was killed by horrific wounds. Wounds that I would be physically incapable of causing."

The Prince's eyes glazed over sadly. "Are you saying that old Digger was taken by the Death Demon? The dark legend that ended my father's life all those years ago - King Prome."

The Doctor rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I could try and find out - with Your Majesty's permission.

The Prince nodded in acknowledgement. "Yes, I have come to a decision, you shall be my Royal Investigator."

"Most honoured, Your Majesty," the Doctor bowed - and then held his hand out flat to his shoulder's height. "I don't suppose you've seen my little helper, about this high. He wears a yellow top, usually ends up in some sort of trouble and answers to the name of Adric?"

The Prince not only seemed to stare at the Doctor but through him. "The Knave has incurred the wrath of my champion, Swordhawk. Who has exercised an almost forgotten Prome tradition: duel by death. The two will fight shortly."

"I don't like the sound of that," muttered the Doctor.

Prince Prome rose from his throne. "Anyway you should thank Swordhawk, Stranger."

"Why exactly is that?" the Doctor asked, genuinely curious.

"It was he whom decided to knock you out instead of executing you - for questioning."

The Doctor rubbed his still-sore head. "Yes, I must really thank him for this lump at the next opportunity."

The Prince ruffled his short black hair. "I must take your leave Stranger, I have a duel to arrange - there hasn't been one since the time of King Prome. I am really quite excited by the prospect of a honourable contest to the death now."

"Herbs!" the Doctor suddenly shouted, quite astonishing the Prince.

"I beg your pardon," the royal brow was raised.

"On my way sneaking about, I mean coming here to see you, Your Majesty - I noticed some wonderful herbs and a quite beautiful floral display in the Courtyard. May I beg your royal indulgence and take a look around it?" the Doctor asked all wide-eyed and innocent.

"If it amuses you, Stranger - be my guest," the Prince said generously and then abruptly left the Throne Room.

In the grand Royal Council Chamber, the scene was surely set. Dignitaries, self-important Promords and some dishevelled-looking Provants surrounded the great square, which the Doctor decided, looked like a gigantic chessboard. Some people obviously were attendant, believing it to be their duty while others, the Doctor observed, were there to see a really good fight - and some blood. The Doctor could also just see several Tortoids by the entrance. He guessed that Smiler would not be there. He probably couldn't bear to watch.

On a raised platform at the head of the chamber sat Prince Prome on another one of his thrones and next to him, the sobbing Princess.

"Why, oh why brother, must I marry the beastly Swordhawk anyway," the Princess cried desperately.

Her brother spoke with urgency in his voice. "Our father's Champion commands great respect in Promords and Provants alike. Outside the Palace, his power alone rivals mine. Swordhawk must remain on our side - and to do that he must marry you."

"Thank-you, Your Majesty," spat his sister sarcastically.

The Doctor approached the royal enclosure. "The goblets you asked for, Your Majesty." The Doctor placed the two golden cups on the table before the Prince. "Majesty, I implore you this contest will be no contest at all. Adric is only a young lad. He could not hope to match as someone as mighty as your Champion. You must abandon this nonsense."

"Stranger, you are dismissed," was all the Prince would say.

The Doctor retreated to the edge of the royal party. For the first time he noticed an odd-looking midget in a jester's outfit not far from him. The fellow was shaking his little jester's stick, obviously quite excited.

The Prince clicked his fingers and a Provant hurried forward with a jug of wine. He poured the drink into the two goblets. Dismissing the servant, the Prince then clapped his hands once. A hushed silence descended over the chamber, as a solemn-faced Adric and an expectant Swordhawk entered. They both approached the Prince, and according to tradition, drank their wine in one gulp.

The Doctor nodded to Adric, smiling slightly to try to give him some support. Adric just looked back nervously.

From the chessboard floor, the combatants picked up their heavy shield and sword.

"Begin" shouted the Prince.

It was all over terribly quickly. One mighty swing from the Champion's sword robbed Adric of his shield. Another swing and his sword went flying. Trying to run, Adric fell and was at the mercy of the great figure of Swordhawk who was now stood over him, sword ready to strike.

"No!" screamed the Princess.

The Doctor ran to the royal table. "Your majesty, please I implore you. Victor and vanquished have been clearly established. Is there need for blood to be spilt?"

The Prince rose. "Prome tradition demands blood. He shouted to his champion, "Proceed."

The Jester jingled as he ran up to the Doctor.

The sword was thrust towards Adric's prone chest. The Doctor watched helplessly.

"Me very happy," said the Jester.

PART THREE

Somehow, the sword stopped inches away from Adric's chest - and then clattered to the floor. Adric looked at Swordhawk curiously. His eyes were slowly closing and the big man started swaying like a plastic footballer in a children's game Tegan had once described.

The great Swordhawk fell unceremoniously flat on his face, which created quite a gust of wind. Adric slowly climbed to his feet and picked up his sword. Incredibly it was now he who was stood over the Champion, his sword in both hands…

The Prince could not believe the astonishing turn of events. Would he lose Prome's legendary Champion this way? The Doctor and the Princess were lost too, in the suspense of the situation - each having opposing views of the outcome.

Instead of striking his fallen enemy, Adric let his sword drop to the floor.

"The duel by death is hearby abandoned," announced the Prince with some relief.

Quite murmurings of conversation began again in the crowd. A Tortoid had forced his way through the disappointed people of Prome, walked up to his dear friend and started to lick his face excitedly.

"Oh Smiler," laughed Adric, "I am glad to see you."

The Doctor patted Smiler's shell who took the hint and climbed down from Adric. "Happy to see you made it," he smiled.

"Yes Doctor, but how did I make it? What happened to Swordhawk?"

The Doctor's eyes twinkled mischievously. "That would probably be my fault." He drew Adric closer so nobody else could hear. "I made a particular strong sleeping draft from the herbs in the courtyard, I slipped it into Swordhawk's goblet. He lasted though for a worrying length of time - it should have knocked him out straight away."

An anxious frown penetrated his often-optimistic face. "How did you know that Swordhawk would take the right goblet?" asked Adric knowing that the Doctor would come up with an awfully clever reply.

The Doctor smiled. "Why do you think that I had my fingers crossed so tightly?"

A mighty noise turned their attention to the sleeping figure of Swordhawk. He was snoring loudly, like a very big baby.

The Princess turned to her brother eagerly. "I must go to Adric, he is the victor not Swordhawk."

"You will not go anywhere near the Knave," hissed the Prince with surprising venom. "The duel was abandoned - there was no victor. As far as I am concerned your marriage to the King's Champion will still go ahead."

The Princess burst into a fresh flood of tears.

The Jester limped up to the Princess and rattled his little stick to try and cheer her up. "Be happy, sun up."

The smile on the Jester's distorted face looked more like a sneer to the Princess. She pushed him away savagely. The little man fell off the platform and bumped his head. "Fool!" she screamed.

Amused at the Jester's misfortune, the Prince began to think for a moment. What if today's surprising events turn Swordhawk against? What if his Champion decides not to marry his sister? Such action could tear Prome apart. Swordhawk's following, especially outside the Palace was immense. He needed to something to ensure Prome remained united - and carry a momentum that would destroy the enemy once and for all.

With the spectacle of the duel clearly over, the audience were slowly starting to drift away. Although what happened next, stopped them all in their tracks.

"I have an important Royal announcement," reverberated Prince Prome with undeniable power. "I have ruled too long as Prince. It is now time for a stronger Prome to utterly vanquish our enemy. I must, at last, accept my birthright. The Principality of Prome will be no more - I shall be King!"

The audience roared in spontaneous applause.

"Tomorrow will be my Coronation. Prome will be a kingdom once more." Almost exhausted, the Prince sat down as his adoring people cheered ever more loudly.

"I suppose we could now simply slip back to the TARDIS," suggested the Doctor.

"What about the Princess though?" Adric said instinctively, suddenly knowing that he did not want to leave.

"And I did promise to investigate the killing of a miner known as Digger in my official as Royal Investigator," the Doctor stated with mock pride.

Adric smiled. The Doctor would never leave if there were a mystery to be solved - and, Adric decided, he secretly loved all this 'Royal Investigator' lark. He turned round to see a smiling Smiler right in his face and realised that there was another reason to stay in the Principality of Prome.

Later on in the day, the Prince found himself alone, back in the Throne Room. He was staring at the long dark red curtains that covered most of the back wall. Could he detect some movement or was he staring that hard, mesmerising illusory patterns were forming within his eyes? The opening of the door shook him out of his spell and the one man entered who out of all his subjects never bothered to even knock.

"Your Majesty," bowed the super figure of Swordhawk.

The Prince of Prome nodded his approval. "Enjoy your sleep?" enquired the Prince a touch too prickly. Swordhawk's eyes darkened like thunderous clouds so he quickly added, "Apologies dear Swordhawk. On which subject do you wish to see me about? Have no concern about the Princess, she will do as I…"

"The Stranger," spat out the 'hawk in an irritated grunt. "Why has he been given full reign to wander around the Palace as he pleases?"

The Prince looked at his champion coolly in the eyes. "You question my wisdom?"

Swordhawk withdrew from the almost paralysing eye contact. "I am merely doing my duty: to protect the Prince of Prome. The Stranger was caught with blood on his hands."

"Yes but the wounds that both you - and he described suggest the actions of something more…" the Prince argued.

Swordhawk's beard blew in apprehension. "Surely you're not imagining the… Death Demon?"

Prome rubbed his royal brow restlessly. "I do not know, that is why I have commissioned the Stranger to be my Royal Investigator - and find out."

"Even if he didn't slay the miner, then surely he must be an enemy lord," Swordhawk implored with all the reason he could muster.

The Prince smiled a knowing smile. "Have you ever heard the phrase: 'Keep a friend close, but an enemy closer still'?"

Finally the sword dropped and a faint smile appeared from beneath his dark beard.

"Give the Stranger enough rope - and he will surely hang." The Prince chuckled at his own cleverness. Swordhawk now looked more relaxed so he decided to press home his advantage. "And as I was trying to say earlier, the Princess is still yours for the asking, or the demanding - whichever you prefer."

Swordhawk considered for a moment. He still wasn't over the humiliation of that unthinkable defeat at the hands of that wily Knave. "I appreciate Your Majesty's intention. My thoughts now though are for only for your forthcoming crowning glory, tomorrow - the Coronation! You will be King."

"Yes, we must have wine to celebrate, good Swordhawk."

The 'hawk turned to go and bully a serving wench into supplying them with some wine but his face dropped slightly when he thought about the last time he had drank wine. Suddenly he came to an abrupt halt and looked towards his suede-like boots, fully expecting the Jester to be underneath his feet again. For once the scarred simpleton was not there - and, just a bit too cautiously for a warrior in his position, walked away.

The early evening sunshine was beginning to fade. The varied and delightful floral display was still ever hungry for the retiring sun. The grass was very short, Adric thought as he was strolling through the Courtyard Gardens. He briefly wondered how they actually cut the grass. Did they use a lawnmower? His eyes grazed across several herbal plants. He felt his neck, making sure his head was still attached to it. He was still grateful at the Doctor's timely intervention. Although despite - or because of the dangers, he could feel a buzz of excitement about himself. He had not felt this way since he first stowed away on board the TARDIS - but this felt somehow slightly different. Maybe it was something to do with his companion who was walking gracefully by his side. The most beautiful woman he had ever met - the Princess of Prome.

"Should we be seen together in such a public place?" enquired Adric.

The Princess smiled in the remaining sunshine. "Does my companionship displease you, good Knave?"

"No, it's not that. I was just under the impression that the Prince forbade us from seeing each other." Adric stopped walking.

"Well this is what I think of my brother's stupid orders." Her hand slipped into Adric's. She looked at her Knave closely. "You are not from enemy land, are you? You are not even a knave. Where are you from, Adric?"

Their gaze inevitably drifted to the sky. The sun was setting and the first of the evening stars began to twinkle into life romantically. All that was missing was a moon. ""I come from there," said Adric pointing upwards. "A magical kingdom in the stars, if you like."

For a moment the Princess was lost in her own fairy-tale world of star-crossed lovers, handsome strangers and a wicked, hidden evil… Her concern for Adric snapped her back to reality. She pulled his arm down gently. "Be careful, you will harm yourself. Your arm must still be badly bruised from the duel."

Adric rolled back his sleeve, revealing an arm free from any marks at all. "We heal very quickly in my kingdom," spoke the Alzarian. He then held the heiress of Prome by the shoulders and looked earnestly into her eyes. He could see two stars of his own. "I have a question for you, Princess."

The Princess' eyes fluttered expectantly.

"Did you mean it when you said we were to be betrothed?" Adric said awkwardly. He was more than a little embarrassed, now he'd said it.

"Of course I did not mean it," the Princess laughed insensitively as her long, flowing hair filtered through her hands.

"I knew that, of course," said Adric, crestfallen, his shoulders starting to slump.

"I would do anything to be rid of that ignorant beast, Swordhawk. It was a pity you did not slay him when you had the chance."

The Princess' expression froze into anger. "But Swordhawk will be my lot, or any other creep my brother wishes to impress. And when he is King, his authority will be greater than ever."

"Can he be stopped, or deposed - or something?" asked Adric, horrified at the thought of that bearded brute with his - the Princess.

"Yes, that's it!" The Princess gestured in a glorious dramatic stance. "There may be a way to prevent my brother from even being crowned." Her voice rose as her optimism grew. "And we shall find out presently." She grabbed a startled Adric by the hand, and they ran off - towards the Palace.

Smiler had been watching the events from a respectful distance. His eyes followed the departing couple with something beyond curiosity. Moving round, the great tortoise lumbered slowly back towards the forest.

Inside the Champion's private chamber, Swordhawk sat in complete silence. The curtains had been all but drawn affording the dwellings little light. The dark, brooding figure breathed slowly, but heavily. His manner was clandestine. He was waiting…

The door creaked open and a very little man shuffled into the room.

Swordhawk looked at the obscene figure with contempt. His distorted teeth were even worse than his own. "I suppose you are wondering why I summoned you here." Far from shouting, Swordhawk's deep resonance approached a whisper.

"Me play game?" wondered the Jester.

The ageing warrior let out a seething sigh. "Fool! What in Demon's teeth do you do Jester? You do not amuse the Prince, myself or anyone in the whole of the Principality, for that matter. You are as funny as a Tortoid's tail. You are useless. And you're even uglier as that dead old miner," laughed Swordhawk heartily, clearly enjoying his taunting.

"Boo!" the Jester said as he rattled his little stick in Swordhawk's face.

This excuse for a person from Prome understood little and knew nothing. A Provant simpleton could at least speak properly. Swordhawk's large hand immediately stopped the rattling. "You are here fool, because I seek you advice on important matters." His hand covered his eyes. From what he had just said, for the great life of him, he could not understand why he was asking the jester this - or indeed anything. He asked anyway. "Should I marry the Princess, to pledge my full support to the throne?"

"Me hide," said the Jester.

Thoughtfully, the Doctor had circumnavigated most of the Palace of Prome. He was taking his role as Royal Investigator very seriously indeed. The Prince had forbade him access to the upper levels, claiming that they were private. For once, he had honoured the Prince's wishes. He wanted to keep just on the right side of Royalty to find out more. There was something very wrong on this mysterious planet of Prome but, as yet, he couldn't quite put his finger on exactly what.

The Doctor began climbing from the lower levels. He had already revisited the dungeons and had exchanged pleasantries with a wary Provant known as the Jailer - he couldn't understand why he seemed distrustful of him. His mind wandered back to the Great Hall and the enormous but equally stunning portrait of the almost legendary figure of King Prome. There was something disturbingly familiar about the face…

The Doctor's finger touched a flaming torch that hung from a stone wall as he attempted to prise it away. He was a little surprised and literally moved when a section of the wall slid inwards.

"A secret passageway, how exciting," the Doctor declared as he picked up the torch and ventured into the darkness. Instinctively he looked round for Adric, before remembering he hadn't seemed that interested in his official investigation. The boy seemed preoccupied with a certain Princess at the moment.

The flickering flames illuminated little of the enveloping blackness. Cautiously, the Doctor carried on through the long tunnel. Eventually he came out the other side. He climbed from behind the bushes that hid the secret entrance. The lack of wear on the grass suggested that the tunnel was rarely, if ever, used. Maybe smugglers from long ago used the passageway, or was it a secret escape for fleeing Royals? The Doctor was wrapped up in these important thoughts when a hand was placed over his mouth. He was dragged back towards the tunnel.

In the semi-darkness, the Doctor realised he had been abducted by four men - who seemed desperate. Mind you these types were generally desperate, he reflected desperately! "You are 'the Enemy,' I presume." The Doctor held out his hand. "Pleased to meet you."

The torch was thrust towards the leading figure revealing his startling identity. The Doctor gasped in genuine surprise.

"Prince Prome," he asked uncertainly.

"Lord Prome, the mistake is understandable. I have the misfortune to be the Prince's identical twin brother." Prome indicated to his three fellows. "These men are members of my council. Who say you, Stranger?"

"The Doctor actually. My name is Doctor not Stranger." He was becoming fed up with all this 'Stranger' nonsense but was relieved that all the introductions were finally out of the way.

A sword flashed from nowhere. "And are you loyal to your Prince, Stranger?" The steel in the sword was more than matched by Lord Prome's fiery manner.

The Doctor's hand carefully moved the sword away from him. "I am merely a traveller. I have only agreed to help the Prince find out how a miner named Digger died - and who was responsible."

The sword returned. "Surely Stranger, you are not suggesting my people have anything to do with that?"

Shaking his head, the Doctor said, "Of course not, perish the thought."

"We don't slay the innocent like my so-called brother and his bloodthirsty wolf: Swordhawk," enraged Lord Prome.

With careful questions and gentle prodding, the Doctor learnt a great deal about Lord Prome and his people. Lord Prome had left the Palace many years ago, just after his father had died, in acrimonious circumstances. Each brother had claimed they were heirs to the throne. Unable to agree, the then Prince fled with followers whom were loyal to him. They settled on land on the other side of the mountains. Abandoning the rule of monarchy, the now Lord Prome held votes, albeit only amongst the new landowners. Unsurprisingly Lord Prome was elected as leader. The villages flourished - that was until regular raids by Swordhawk and his men reduced many of his dwellings to ash.

"Maybe things will settle down a bit once the Prince is crowned," the Doctor said optimistically. "He will be King tomorrow." Looking at Prome's ever-reddening face, the Doctor belatedly buttoned his month. He wondered he should have let that slip. Maybe, for once, he had said too much.

The Lord Prome almost shook in uncontrollable anger. "I am the eldest - I should be King!"

"Who am I to argue?" the Doctor said meekly. He held his hands out to attempt to pacify the enraged monarch - it did not work.

Lord Prome stared into the flames of the torch. The flames firing up his anger. "As King my brother would have absolute power. He would sweep all before him. Even my own people would follow a King - remembering the great work of my father." Lord Prome's eyes shifted from the heat of the flames to the cold steel of his sword. "Our original mission was to make the Prince see sense and stop the mindless raids - but now, now everything has changed."

The Doctor looked at the sword worriedly. "Really?"

Lord Prome grasped the sword's point until blood seeped from his hand. "My brother must now die - before he is King."

The mysterious figure hummed softly as he searched through different scenes from the flickering light source. Eventually one aroused his interest. The hazy picture showed one of the Princess's maidens approaching a velvet curtain. The figure swung round as the curtain was drawn back.

"You," said the girl, not understanding. "What are you doing here? And what in Prome is that?" The maiden pointed to the light source. To her it was a magical moving picture - of herself. She could only see the back of her - as if from a back-to-front mirror. She actually sensed something behind her and then let out a blood-curdling scream. The creature devoured her.

"Curiosity can be a dangerous thing, sweet maiden," chuckled the darkened figure with devilish delight.

Carefully avoiding inquisitive guards and prying eyes, the Princess and her escort ventured through the Palace in an upwards direction. They passed by the Princess's bedchamber and reached the Prince's private rooms. The door was slightly ajar and they could see the Prince intently working. He was writing on various documents with a feathered quill, only stopping to dip the nib in an inkwell from time to time. He was obviously preparing for the Coronation - maybe putting the final touches to his acceptance speech, Adric considered. The Princess put a finger to her beautiful lips to encourage absolute quite. Silently they crept past the open doorway. They turned a corner into a long, narrow corridor. The walls were hidden by dark red curtains that hung from the ceiling and touched the floor. They carried on and eventually reached what looked like a dead end. There was a clear movement behind the curtain at the end of the corridor. Furiously they both tried to usher each other behind the side-curtains but only succeeded bumping into one another. They froze as a hand emerged.

The manservant, carrying a tray of half-eaten food walked obliviously by, along the corridor.

The Princess and the boy slipped from behind the curtains.

"That was close," shivered the Princess.

"Too close for com…" A line of puzzlement dew a question mark on Adric's forehead. "But you are the Princess of Prome - surely you are allowed to go anywhere you please."

"Nobody is allowed where we are venturing, Adric, only the Prince himself and that particular Provant." She held his hand again and whispered urgently: "Come on."

Delving through the curtains the manservant had appeared from, they were at the well of a twisting staircase. Slowly, they crept upwards.

They reached a candle-lit room. Night was falling fast through the dust-covered windows. A large white four-poster bed dominated the room. The Princess removed the covering lily-white drapes, revealing a wizened old woman. Only several shocking white strands of hair attempted to cover her balding head. She appeared to be dozing.

"My mother - Queen Prome," the Princess disclosed, her voice quivering.

"And the Prince has forbidden you to visit here - to see your own mother," Adric said disbelievingly. What more dark secrets did Prome have to reveal?

"My brother claims that madness has consumed her. I have not even seen her since my father's burial all those years ago." The princess gently moved the shoulder of the frail old lady, trying to wake her. Slowly, very slowly, her eyes flickered open. "Mother, it is me - your daughter. Now listen very carefully - this is very important. Who is the eldest brother?" She pointed to her forehead and then her ear. She quickly explained to a puzzled Adric that this was the only way to tell the Prome twins apart - Prince Prome had a birthmark behind his left ear.

Queen Prome's voice was that distant and ghostly, it seemed to come from beyond the grave.

"Out of conflict, the world is torn,

the brethren are an unwitting pawn.

Look to the shadows at the Palace of Prome,

For disaster is to strike at the heart of our home.

And glory, glory to the very first born."

"Her mind is broken," the Princess conceded sadly.

The Queen then choked in shock. Her bloodshot eyes turned pure red. Her face, a mask of terror. A withered hand pointed to something behind her two visitors.

The Princess turned, and cried with dread, "The Death Demon."

Adric swung round. A great horned beast screamed towards them.

PART FOUR

Coming Soon…

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