His hearts were racing. Jumping over obstacles and dodging trees, his feet couldn't carry him fast enough. He pushed through the tall field of wild red grass, ignoring the sweeping branches of thorn-bushes that stung his hands and face. Although it had been lifetimes ago, he still remembered the exact location of the derelict Tardis that he had discovered together with the Doctor when they were still in the Academy.
And the Doctor's scent was leading him right to it.
He stopped running when he was only a few meters away from the Doctor's Tardis. The time machine had been lovingly restored and was almost unrecognizable. Had the original camouflage unit once made it appear like a grandfather's clock, complete with a rusted clockface and a tiny doorway through which you could barely squeeze inside, now it had been converted into a blue wooden Police box. The Master recognized the strange human artefact that was a familiar sight in the streets in a country called England on the Doctor's favourite pet planet. The two small glass panels in the door glowed with the light of the working Tardis core inside.
The Master, realizing that the Doctor had activated it for a reason, darted forward and pulled on the door handles. The door was locked.
"Doctor!" He screamed. "Open the door. We must talk!"
He slammed his fists on the Tardis, but the Doctor didn't answer him.
"Please! Open it! Let me in! Doctor! Let me explain! It's different now. Everything is different. Doctor, please, open the door!"
A shadow appeared in front of the two tiny windows and he stopped banging. His fists were getting painful and swollen.
Placing his hands flat on the surface, he leaned his head forward till it touched the wood. He could sense his friend's presence at the other side. In his hearts he could feel his grief.
"Doctor! Let me in!" He cried, his eyes stinging with tears. "I've changed my mind. I don't care about my father's seat in the House of Lords. I don't care what they think anymore! Please. I want to go with you! Take me with you to Earth or whatever stupid backwater place you want to go. Just…don't leave me here on my own..."
When the Doctor finally answered him it was with a voice that was filled with regret.
"I can't. If I do, I would just keep on making excuses…because you'll never…"
A pause. He could hear the Doctor swallow his tears away as he continued.
"Master, for my own sanity's sake, I just can't. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry, but I'm not strong enough."
"Please, don't." The Master breathed. "Don't leave. I'll go mad…"
"Master, I'm so sorry."
With a whizzing sound the Tardis activated, creating a private whirlwind that sucked up dead leaves and stalks of dry grass into the sky. The Master clenched his hands and started once again bashing his fists on the wooden panels. "Doctor!" He yelled hard as he tried to carry his voice above the noise of the vanishing machine.
But it was of no avail. The Tardis dematerialized in front of his eyes, leaving behind only a vacant spot where the grass was flattened. When the Tardis had completely disappeared, the dead leaves and grass blades gently drifted back down again, falling onto the Master and the square pattern in the grass.
Then the sound of the engine finally faded away into silence.
The Doctor was gone.
The Master was alone.
"YOU COWARD!" He yelled, as his reason was swept away by the rage that seeped back into his bones. "You bloody COWARD!!!"
Throwing back his head, he screamed all of his pain into the sky, as if his cries could be carried all the way up for the Doctor to hear.
He screamed till his voice was raw, and his tears had finally dried up in the wind. He sunk through his knees and sat down in the grass, lost and frightened, he buried his face behind his hands.
He gazed up with tired, red-rimmed eyes. Someone was calling him.
Before he could turn to look, something sharp and heavy hit him at the back of his head. The impact knocked him forward and sent his head spinning. He grasped the wet patch of hair on the back of skull. His fingers returned red and sticky with his own blood.
Another rock hit him on his shoulder, sending out a shock of pain into his system. He crawled up and looked back over the fields. Two lonely figures that he recognized as Ravenius and Bardson were approaching over the hill. They were throwing rocks at him, but this was not one of their ordinary bully exercise, the two of them were picking up large stones and were aiming at his head to do some serious damage.
"Oakdown, you freak!" Ravenius yelled, cupping his mouth with both his hands. "We know what you did to Redgrave! You were messing with the panels! We know it was you, even if the headmaster doesn't believe us. You killed him, you FREAK!"
The Master glared angrily at the two brutes. Raising his chin and cracking his knuckles in anticipation, he awaited them, as if somehow retaliation on these two could appease his anger and sorrow.
"I don't know what you two idiots are babbling about." The Master's voice sounded low and dangerous. "Redgrave wanted to have a first row seat. It wasn't my fault that he got barbequed." A cruel smile appeared on his face, his eyes darted from one bully to the other. "Good riddance, though. That arrogant twat didn't deserve any better than what happened to him. And you should have seen the look on your faces. It was hilarious. Pure yellow chicken."
"You little shit!" Bardson roared, and swung his fists at him, but instead of making contact with the other student's cheekbones, the bully hit nothing but air as the Master ducked down and bashed his head into the larger pupil's stomach, sending him falling backwards. Having straddled Bardson with his weight, the Master spat in his face and hit him hard at the side of his head to send his ears ringing and leaving him too disorientated to crawl back up. Then he aimed for the liver to do the real damage. Everything went satisfactory, till the Master experienced a sudden explosion of pain, red and searing, cutting through his right shoulder blade. He gasped. From the corner of his eyesight he saw a blast of light going off from a small object that Ravenius held in his hand.
Time to run.
He rolled away from Bardson and into the cover of grass and thorn-bushes. It was only a second later that the second blast exploded in front of his feet.
He started running.
"Run you yellow piece of shit!" Ravenius shouted after him. "Run as far as you can! We're still gonna find you!"
He didn't know where he was going, stumbling over his own feet, he headed for the thick woodland that he saw at his right. It wasn't that he was too afraid to fight. This was an entire different ballgame. What Ravenius held in his hand was a weapon, something created with the purpose to kill, which was a concept that was still beyond the comprehension of a Timelord at that time, but wasn't such a difficult thing to grasp for the Master. So the kid hated him so much that he had created the first handheld-weapon in Timelord history to dispose of him.
How fucking charming.
And the most frightening part was that the bloody thing seemed to work as well. He didn't need to inspect his wounds to know that a red angry slash of burnt flesh ran from the back of his shoulder to the front, and that two of his tendons were severed. He certainly didn't want to wait till Ravenius had done some much-needed practice and had developed a better aim.
Another blast hit the ground at his right. He ducked his head and dived into the shrubs at the edge of the woods. He ran into the thick forest. His feet slipping over the wet layer of decaying leaves that were no longer silver or red, but black and slick like oil. An army of twigs snapped back in his face as he pushed through the undergrowth.
"Oakdown! Where are you! Come out you coward!"
"Oakdown, you freak! Come and get what you deserve!"
He stumbled over a tangle of roots and slipped into a ditch, his body sliding down beyond his control till he splashed into a muddy stream at the bottom. The plunge made enough noise to alarm his persecutors.
Panting of exhaustion, he pressed his face flat against the dirt. His hearts rattled loudly in his ears.
"Where are you, you freak?!"
Footsteps and the sound of breaking twigs. His eyes followed the shadows, they were standing right above him.
"Shit! Where the hell did that freak go now?" He recognized Ravenius' voice.
"I don't know. I was hardly looking, I was just following you." Bardson babbled.
"Brilliant. Now what?"
"Hang on. What's that?" There was a pause, followed by footsteps coming closer to the edge of the ditch. "It shimmers. Wait, that looks like…"
The Master's hearts skipped a beat. Frantically, he inspected his pockets, but found that they were empty.
"That's a white point star!" Bardson gasped.
The Master closed his eyes and dug his nails inside the palm of his hand till they drew blood. How could he be so bloody stupid and so clumsy?!
"That shape. It's cut to fit the biopads in the transmission room." A longer pause followed as Ravenius thought it all through. "That's it." He mumbled. "The sick bastard must have switched this for a defunct one on Redgrave's seat!"
"And he dropped it when he was running away from us. But, then we finally have evidence!" Bradson remarked.
"Oh yeah, my friend, we certainly do. Enough to nail that sucker to the wall and watch him bleed. Come, we have go back and show it to the headmaster immediately."
"What about Oakdown? He's still somewhere in the woods."
"Let the elders deal with him later. They can hurt him in more ways than we can."
That message certainly shook the Master awake. Fear and anxiety rushed through his body, urging him to act. He looked up at the shadows of the two fiends. The bulky one must the Bardson. He needed to take down the other first. Like a scorpion in its hole, he waited till Ravenius was close enough to the edge before he grabbed his boot and pulled him down into the ditch with all his might. Ravenius slid down on his back into the mud stream, where the Master was just waiting to give him a bloody welcome. He hit the other boy on the side of his head, swirled him around and banged his forehead repeatedly against the exposed root system of a giant tree till his arms and legs went limb.
"Ravenius!" Bardson yelled down, and tried to find his friend in the darkness of the ditch. He caught sight of the Master. "Oakdown!" He roared. "Let him go!"
The Master ignored his threats. He had been searching for the incriminating diamond, but couldn't find it on Ravenius. However, he found the weapon the bully had used to injure him. It was a gun of some sort, shaped like the Doctor's sonic screwdriver. How original, the Master thought not without sarcasm. He had always known that Ravenius wasn't really the genius inventor that his teachers claimed him to be. The bastard was an idea-stealing fraud, whose motto was that it always was easier to copy than to create. However, one short sweep over the controls made it clear to the Master that instead of affecting sound, Ravenius' device was using the properties of light to inflict the damage. He activated the laserscrewdriver, and pointed it at the boy's head.
"Where is the star?" He hissed with a savage look on his face.
Ravenius' eyes widened in fear.
"Where is it?" He pressed the tip of the laserscrewdriver on his left eyeball, making his squirm.
"Bardson has it." He yelped.
Bardson had jumped down into the ditch and was suddenly standing behind the Master. He clutched a handful of the Master's hair and pulled back his head, and quickly followed with a tree trunk-like arm that he wrapped around his victim's throat.
Choking to death, the Master struggled to free himself. Meanwhile, Bardson's meaty left hand let go of his hair and went for the laserscrewdriver. The master lifted it up, and clumsily, he managed to press in the fire-button. The red blast that erupted burnt off a section of his left eyebrow and incinerated Bradson's eye with a distinctive popping sound as the eyechamber cooked and burst under the intense heat. The bully let go of him and the Master staggered back, clutching onto his throat as he tried to refill his lungs with much-needed oxygen.
Watching Bradson as he rolled over the muddy forest floor in pain while he cried over his ruined eye with as much interest as he would have for observing his laundry entering the spin-cycle, the Master wiped the blood from the head wound at the back of his neck, and sat down besides the cowering Ravenius.
He clapped his hands. "So, where were we?" As if he was just continuing a friendly, casual conversation. "Ah, I know, I was aiming this at your eyeballs, and I wanted to know where my star was, before I was so rudely interrupted. You said Cyclops over there has it?" A demented smile crept over his face.
"You are a monster." Ravenius whispered fearfully. "You are truly insa-"
The Master whacked him on the head savagely.
He strode over to his wallowing mate. Crouching down beside him, he grab hold of his hair to stop his head from turning away and aimed the laserpoint at his one remaining good eye. The smile appeared again, emotionless and crazy.
"Now, tell me. Do you want to know how it feels to stagger around in darkness for the rest of your life, or do you want to enlighten me about where I can find my precious star?"
Bradson immediately took it out of his pocket and handed it over to him. His hand was trembling.
"Good boy." He muttered. For a moment his attention was caught by the little star that he slowly turned between his fingers.
"That so much grief could be caused by such a small little thing." He sighed bitterly. "We are but the stars' tennisballs, struck and bounded, which way they please them."
"You know, when I first came here I thought this was part of the program. The Doctor has his curious ways of trying to cure me." He turned and gazed at Ravenius. "Not the one that you know, the nerdy Doctor who was too much of a coward to deal with me and who ran away. He's probably twirling around his pet planet right now, farting rainbows and holding hands with vulgar female Earthlings as he goes. No I mean the Doctor who takes care of me, the one with the numbers and calculations." He frowned, getting confused by his own words. "It didn't exactly go as expected. To be honest. I think I went crazy again and screwed it up for him massively. I think I might have burnt a fuse or two." He laughed almost apologetically.
Ravenius looked at the Master as if he was facing a madman holding a gun, which was of course not far from true.
"It's those pesky drums!" He pointed at his head with his index fingers. "Those cursed, unreliable drums! They are the ones to blame! I can't hear them. Everywhere I go, it stays so awfully quiet. I thought I could find them if just I listen. I followed it all the way back here, to my final days on Gallifrey." He bit on his lower lip, sweeping angrily with his arms. "And what do I find? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Not even a tiny little tap for trying! The only things I found were these bothersome memories that were better forgotten than remembered." He snorted. "Redgrave, and that human stain of a tramp I ate for Christmas." He shook his head. "And every time it goes wrong, he's there, in one form or another. He's there, all righteous and noble and judging." He glanced over at Ravenius, the corners of his mouth turned down in misery.
"He's a hypocrite, you know. The Doctor. He really is. He thinks I'm mad like the rest of you, but he never says it. He never calls me mad right into my face. He doesn't have the heart to do so." He glanced down at the laserscrewdriver that he held in his hand, fiddling with it absentmindedly. "Come to think of it, that actually makes him worse than the whole lot of you. I hate hypocrites."
"Uhm…Maybe you two should get together and talk." Ravenius tried, sensing that perhaps the Doctor was the only one who could still talk some sense into him.
"You weren't exactly listening, were you?" The Master snorted. "He's gone. Took his sanctimonious-self right off the face of this stinking planet in a second hand Tardis. There is no-one left here to stop me." He paused. Ravenius noticed that the star had suddenly disappeared. The only thing left in the Master's hands was the laserscrewdriver. The tip of the laserpoint looked different, strangely bulky.
"But maybe there was a purpose in all of this." The Master mused.
"Please, you don't need to do this." Ravenius pleaded.
"Hush! Let me think….Oh what if…What if I was suppose to create my own drums?"
Ravenius shook his head in confusion.
The Master's mad smile returned, and it brought cold shivers down Ravenius' spine.
"The drums, they were like the absolute opposite of my conscience, the flipside of my remorse. They rang so loud, that I couldn't hear anything-else. But if you dissect them, those sounds, that repetitive four beat rhythm that silenced my reason so efficiently, what were they more than rage, a sense of self-preservation, and bloodlust." He shivered, exhilarated by the idea, he stared at the terrified pupil who immediately understood where he was going to.
"No! Please! Don't!"
"Everyone can count to four. I don't think I need the drums to remind me of what I can do." He laughed. "Let me see. One was the tramp in the desolated wasteland, back on Earth." He rose slowly and twisted the weapon, the now improved laserscrewdriver in which the transmission star was incorporated at the tip. The device came back to life and made a low threatening humming noise as high volts of electricity charged through the wires.
"Two was of course, the headmaster's insufferable son."
He strode forward, aiming the laserpoint at Ravenius who crawled away from him while he kept weeping and begging for his life.
"Please. Please. I won't tell anyone. Please don't!"
"That's not the point." He shook his head in disappointed, and stared at the frightened young man with a determined and angry look in his eyes. "Don't you get it?! You are number three. There is always a number three!"
He fired. A blast of pure energy hit Ravenius between the eyes. The boy had just enough time to open his mouth in shock, but before he could even utter a scream, he combusted into a cloud of ashes. The Master closed his eyes for a moment, and breathed in the tiny particles of Ravenius that still drifted in the air.
Then he turned around. His face was cold and expressionless.
"Which makes you number four." Aiming the laserscrewdriver at the next victim.
But there was no-one there facing him on the forestfloor of the muddy riverbank. Bardson was gone. A trail of clumsy footprints showed where he struggled up the side to get out of the ditch. The Master closed his eyes again and sniffed the air like a bloodhound. He eyes flew open when he picked up the scent, and climbed out of the trench in pursuit of the last member of Redgrave's gang.
Standing where the Doctor considered to be a safe distance from the diamond-lake, the group of young scientists looked down and watched how the amplified vibrations created a shockwave over the surface of the lake. It started from the centre, as if someone had dropped a giant pebble in the middle, and spread in concentric rings to the side, becoming bigger and bigger as they reached the shores, before slamming onto the black beach in violent waves.
Neil whistled between his teeth. "Damn, a diamond tsunami. Now I've seen everything."
"Hardly." The Doctor sighed. "Look, let's head back to the cruiser. Shall we?"
"Why?" Aurelia asked. "It seems like the worst is over. If we wait a little longer it would probably be safe to go back down again."
"We're not going back down! There's nothing to go back for, especially for you!" He pointed accusingly at her.
"Speak for yourself. You don't want me to touch the diamonds, that's fine, but we still got data to collect." Aurelia responded agitatedly.
"Well that's tough, but we are leaving, right now!"
"I'm sorry, Doctor, but Aurelia has a point." Neil tried. "We can't leave without taking some samples. I'm sorry for your lost, I really am. But I don't think you're reacting rationally. There is no harm in staying on Pevo-" He corrected himself. " I mean Gallifrey, if we keep in mind not to disturb the lake that is. We want to gather enough data on the planet before we return, or this entire expedition would be futile."
The Doctor shook his head and rubbed his eyes. "Oh Neil, not you! Aurelia I could quite understand, but you should be more sensible!"
He gazed up and looked for Will who stood away separated from the group.
"How about you Will, do you want to stay?" The Doctor walked over to the young scientist. His attention was seemingly caught by something that he had spotted in the lake.
"Will?" The Doctor snapped his fingers right in front of his eyes. "Station one calling station two, anyone home? Or did you just leave the lights on?"
"Huh, oh I am sorry Doctor." Will turned to him, but his eyes darted from the Timelord back down on the lake again.
"Will, do you know what they say about staring too long in the sun?" The Doctor asked, slightly worried. "It is supposedly bad for you. The same is true for a diamond lake. Don't look at it too long. It could cause dessert blindness, ever heard of that?"
"It's not that." Will shielded his eyes from the blinding light from the twin suns. "There's something down there. Right in the middle of the lake where the ripples first appeared. It's something dark and tall. There, can you see it Doctor?" He pointed it out. The Doctor squinted his eyes against the light and followed Will's index finger. There, right in the centre of the lake stood a black tower. The roof of the strange building stuck like a mummified hand out of the dessert of diamonds.
Will turned to the Doctor. "It's real isn't it? It's not one of those Fata Morganas, right?"
"You didn't dream it up. It's real alright." The Doctor answered, a puzzled look on his face.
"But it wasn't there when we were down at the beach." Neil commented. "At least I didn't notice it."
"It must have been raised up from the beneath the surface of the lake by the vibrations." The Doctor explained. He did what Will had done just before and covered his eyes from the blinding twin suns to take a better look.
The Doctor's hearts suddenly picked up pace. He recognized the symbol in the spandrels above the entrance of the tower. It was a succession of intersecting rings, representing the orbits of the planets that crossed their paths with Gallifrey.
The symbol of the Timelords.
"Change of plans." The Doctor yelled back as he rushed down the dunes in long impatient strides. "We're going back down!"
"And now it's suddenly okay to go run right back to the lake!" Aurelia nagged. "Really, how selfish can that man be!"
"Just be glad he wants to stay! With the Doctor around, I got a feeling that we're gonna see even more mind-boggling stuff." Neil smiled, and ran after the Doctor.
They actually had to wait till the last of the waves had died down. Meanwhile, the Doctor decided to use the mini-terrain cruiser that was onboard of the ship to carry them across. The thing looked like a rubber raft that hovered 30 to 40 centimetres above the ground, which was good enough for the short trip as long as the Doctor steered them away from the highest ripples left behind by the diamond tsunami. The only drawback was that the original design was too noisy, and would trigger yet another storm over the lake. To solve this, the Doctor silenced the exhaust system using Aurelia's hairdryer (under loud protest), and put a noise-dampener in the pipes using Aurelia's panties (handed over to him in much discontent). The Timelord didn't care much about the girl's constant nagging for the entire duration of the trip, but was still relieved that it luckily proved to be mercifully short.
Closer by, the tower looked like a folly, one of those strange architectural structures that were created pure for aesthetics but had no function, commonly commissioned by rich humans with too much money and too little common sense. It was a black octagon of only two stories in height. The roof was pointed and sharp as if it was designed to pierce a hole in the sky. Four sentinels adorned the upper level, each of them looking like a miniature version of the tower itself. The entrance of two massive wooden doors were completely blown out of portion, and covered the entire west wall from top to bottom. There were no windows. The Doctor steered the raft drift just in front of the closed doors.
"What is this?" Neil asked, noticing the strange symbols carved in the wood.
"It's a language, an ancient one, brought to Galligrey by the first Timelords in existence." The Doctor said, amazed. "The druids and soothsayers on my home-planet used it for conducting ceremonies and for casting their predictions. The rest of us barely used it. Most of us couldn't even read it."
"How about you Doctor. Can you read it?"
The Doctor licked his lips and put his black-rimmed glasses on. Starting from the top, he deciphered the ancient scribbles and translated them to his human companions. "Inside these labyrinth walls. Here sleeps the nightmare child who lies alone. When the darkness falls, his dreams draw monsters out of these cursed stones."
"Very nice." Will gulped.
"There is more." The Doctor continued. Fascinated by the inscription, his mind was turning fast to process the information. "For we have made his prison be, every step away from the. This child they would destroy, if you tried to set him free."
"What does this mean?" Neil furrowed his brows and looked at the Doctor for an explanation. It was happening quite a lot ever since they met him.
"I'm not sure."
"You don't know?"
The Doctor pinched his nose bridge. "It sounds like the tower is some sort of prison. One created by the elders. Hence these soothsayers' scribbles on the doors. The inscriptions function as a warning for those who want to enter."
"Oh! Like those you find in the entrance of the tombs of the Pharaohs." Will said.
"Yeah, well. A bit like that." The Doctor scratched the back of his neck. "Only this isn't a tomb, and the thing kept inside this tower isn't dead."
"The nightmare child." Neil opted.
The Doctor nodded solemnly.
"But who is the nightmare child?"
"Well, I've got a vague inkling who it could be." He muttered. He considered the possibility, but quickly dispatched of the idea. To his rational mind, it seemed just too downright ridiculous, too impossible to be possible. And yet…there was still this tiny bit of hope that he refused to let go.
"But if this tower is cursed by your people, is it safe enough to enter?"
"Nah, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Despite of our enlightenment and profound knowledge of science, space and time, about anything really, the Timelords were in fact, quite a superstitious bunch. Although they would never admit it of course. What I mean to say is that you don't need to worry about a curse. Actually, there are no such things as curses."
"What about the one who killed lord Carnarvon who discovered the tomb of Tutankahmun?" Will opted.
"Blood poisoning after an insect bite." The Doctor answered. He took out his sonic screwdriver and went with it over the hinges and the lock of the double doors.
"Arthur Simmons who excavated the secret burial grounds of the Judoons?"
"Killed by a Judoon who didn't like it that the man was digging up his grandpa." He didn't look up from his work. The locks that sealed the double doors were very old, and had suffered of extreme corrosion with the mechanism inside rusted into one solid clump of metal. He needed to re-adjust the wavelength of his sonicscrewdriver to get it to turn.
"Lady Morgiana la Fey."
"Stepped on a booby trap."
"Doctor Wellington the third."
"Opened a grave that was covered by flower garlands, and the man happened to be extremely allergic to pollen grains."
"He sneezed to death?" Will asked I disbelief.
"Swollen air-pipe. I mean massive. Wasn't exactly a nice way to go." He whizzed the sonicscrewdriver over the lock for a moment till a heavy click of the mechanism inside could be heard. Then heavy doors slowly opened to the outside.
The Doctor steered the graft in front of the short flight of stairs that lead up to the entrance. Then he hoped on the stone steps and entered without so much as a moment of hesitation. The rest of the gang peered anxiously into the darkness behind the doorway, then they decided, what the heck, and followed the Timelord inside.
The first thing that the Doctor noticed was something-else entirely than what draw the attention of his human companions. He heard the others gasp, but he was used to buildings that were bigger in the inside. In fact he would had been very disappointed if it had turned out that it wasn't, considering that the architects of the tower were his people. The second thing the eye was drawn to, was the staircase that winded close to the walls, spiralling up towards to the sky like a giant stone snake reaching out to infinity. The ceiling itself was so far away, that it was almost invisible, disappearing in a haze that could be a gathering of clouds, or just dust that was trapped in the stagnant air. The first thing he noticed was the giant clockwork in the middle of the tower that was incorporated into the marble floor in a large circle. The system of rotating gears turned the two rusty handles that found their way in jolted motions, like two ancient grannies trying to remember how to walk. Time had not been kind to them.
"It's a lock." The Doctor said.
"What do you mean, a lock? It's a clock, right?" Will asked, but before the Doctor could answer him, the two old handles pointed out 12 o' clock and activated a mechanism that was hidden underneath the floor. The gang was startled by a loud bang when the doors swept shut behind their backs.
Will turned to the Doctor, his face pale.
"Like I said. It's a lock." The Doctor answered. "The real one. The one that was created to keep the prisoner in the tower. The other one on the doors was just a trap for meddling nosy buggers like us who happen to pass by."
"Oh my God! How do we get out?" Aurelia's voice was close to panic-mode.
"We don't. Not until we find the nightmare child and free him from his prison. At least, that is what the inscription says."
"But that's just a whole bunch of superstitious gibberish." Aurelia objected. "You said so yourself!"
"Only the concept of a curse is absolute nonsense. You could still make a very handsome and rather effective booby trap with everything that modern science has to offer, I can assure you that."
"So, if we do have to follow the inscriptions, where do we find this nightmare child?" Neil asked.
The Doctor gazed up at the endless staircase. "I think we are suppose to go up, don't you? There's hardly any other option."
After a short consideration, Neil and the others agreed.
"Up it is then." The Doctor grinned and put his hands inside his pockets as he stared up at where the ceiling disappeared into perpetuity.
"But the question is, how far do we need to go up?"
The suns had already set well behind the horizon, leaving the woodlands to be swallowed by the tall shadows of the trees. Open patches in the roof of dark branches revealed a moonless, darkblue sky.
Stalking like a cat in this night-version of the forest, the Master was still hunting.
Up his prey went, crashing through the bushes that covered most of the hillside where the woods became denser and the trees older. Still the Master could track him down without much effort. To him, the stench of fear was so easily to detect.
"Oh Bardson." He called in a sing-song voice. "Where are you, you mindless brute?! Come and meet your Master."
A branch swept back at his right. He turned and just saw a shadow disappear behind the row of pine trees. He smirked and lazily flipped the laserscrewdriver in the air before catching it in his hand.
"One!" He shot the laser at the pine closest to his target, letting it burst into flames. A scream came from Bardson, who appeared from behind his cover in panic.
"Two!" The Master laughed manically, and shot the pine tree at Bardson's right, sending the terrified young man fleeing in the opposite direction.
"And three!" He aimed at a thorn-bush at his left, and the frantic Timelord ran to the right again where he tripped over an upturned root. He fell against the burning tree trunk where his coat immediately caught fire.
"Fou- Oh no, that no good!" The Master said in a disappointed voice. "You were supposed to zig-zag, not set yourself on fire, you clumsy ape. What's the bloody fun in that?!"
The burning fabric of the coat was sticking on Bardson's arms and chest, roasting his skin. "HELP ME!" He yelled. "HELP ME, PLEASE!!"
The Master strode calmly towards him. He gazed at the struggling pupil with an air of indifference. "Oh… don't say anything…I remember this." He bit on the tip of the laserscrewdriver. "Oh yeah, miss Leuvenzahn's first-aid classes." He grinned sadistically, and made a circular motion with his index finger. "In a situation like this, you're supposed to roll over the ground to put out the flames."
Bardson screamed in pain and frustration and lashed out to the Master, eager to take him down with him. But the Master's reflex were quicker than a ray of light, and he simply jumped out of Bardson's reach. Unmoved by the assault, he rolled his head over his shoulder, making his neck crack.
"Here, let me help." He said coldly, and kicked Bardson hard in his back, sending him rolling down the hillside. He burst in maniacal laughter as he watched how the pupil whirled down like a wriggling, flaming ball, leaving behind a trail of burning weed, till it crashed into a tree trunk and came to an abrupt halt.
His laughter slowly died away. Enough of this tedious cat and mouse game. Time to make a proper killing.
He went down the hillside, throwing the laserscrewdriver up in the air and catching it with his left, than his right hand. A cruel, ferocious glint burned in his eyes.
He aimed the laser at Bardson's head, ready to take him out of his misery. In some twisted way, he actually thought he was doing the damned fool a favour.
Startled, the Master look further down and saw a large group of men appearing out of the shadows of the woods. The long robes and the wands they carried indentified them as the elders from the Academy. A large number of students had also joined the search-party. They carried torches to light their paths, and their loud voices uttered cries of disbelief and outrage when they saw what was happening to their fellow student.
Worst of all, in front the large group strode headmaster Redgrave.
"Oakdown!" His voice carried like thunder over the hillside. "How could you?! He's one of your own kind!"
The Master took a tentative step back.
The headmaster rushed towards Bardson, who was still consumed by fire. He removed his cape and used it to cover the boy and smother the worst of the flames, while the others helped. When the flames were finally put out, the horrific injuries it had inflicted on Bardson's face and body was finally visible. His skin and flesh was a flaking mess of black and red.
"H-headmaster." Delirious of the pain, he was still eager to take his revenge on the one who had done this to him.
"S-sir. It w-was him..."
Redgrave leaned closer to his pupil to pick up his laboured whispers, his grey eyes widened.
"S-star…H-he s-swapped t-the s-star."
Headmaster Redgrave's face turning to one of realization and horror. He looked up at the Master, who suddenly found it difficult to keep his aim at Bardson or anyone else. Under the hateful gaze of the father whose son he had murdered, the anger that fuelled his bloodlust froze like a placid lake in the depths of winter. He lowered the laserscrewdriver, suddenly staring at the others with large, fearful eyes.
There was a stunned silence from the rest of the group as the horror of Bardson's words sunk in.
Fury and pain cut through the headmaster's voice. "You foul, depraved soul! You MURDERER!"
The crowd became a mob as the whisperers rose into cries for retribution. As if joined into one angry avenging beast, they climbed the hill.
The Master backed further away, still holding the laserscrewdriver in his hand, he made a half-hearted attempt to keep the others at bay. But his resolve to kill seemed to have vanished with his rage, leaving him powerless.
You MONSTER!" The beastlike mob roared. "You stone-cold KILLER!"
Terrified, the Master turned and fled.
Go to my author's page for a bit of musical fun. You'll find explanation and links under the heading "on His silent Mind".
Meanwhile, please review and comment on the story sofar, it helps me to keep my interest in writing the whole thing down.