Title: A Murderous Feast
Spoilers: post The End of Time, non-canon
Part of Series: A Murderous Feast is part of a series called A Timelord and his Madman, but can be read as a stand-alone. The series include: (1) His Silent Mind, starting from the events of the End of Time, but with an alternative twist that the 10th Doctor was not forced to regenerate. (2) Judoon Justice. The links to these stories can be found on my author's page.
Characters: The 10th Doctor, The Master (John Simm), Wilfred Mott.
Synopsis: The 10th Doctor and the recently revived Master arrived in an ancient Roman town where they are invited to a dinner party where the guests tend to disappear even before the first course is served.
The crow sitting in the tree behind the shrine of the Ducatus family was observing the furry creature lying at the roots. The unfortunate animal was trambled by a horse, and had deteriorated to the point of being unidentifiable as a species. Only the skull was still intact, and its beady right eye stared up at the branches. The crow jumped down, flapping its wings as it landed next to one of the first road-kill victims in history, and picked hesitantly at the carcass. It didn't fight back. Over the years, the bird had acquired a taste for soft meat, and it immediately stabbed its beak into the clouded eye till it burst and released its gooey content. Just when it was about to let it slide down into its hungry stomach, a strange sound cut through the silent valley, like a horn blazing. A blue box appeared out of thin air and crashed into the trees, scaring the crow and forcing it to abandon its easy meal. It took off into the sky, crowing angrily. The box spun like a mad Ferris wheel, bumping against tree trunks and slashing through the lower growth, till it hit the ground and slipped over the swamp-like forest floor, dragging a deep channel into the mud. It finally came to a standstill against the trunk of a large oak tree.
The door of the Tardis swung wide open and a very dazed but happy Timelord stuck his head around the corner.
"And? How did I park?" The Master stumbled outside. His bare feet sunk away in the muddy ground.
"Like a crazy maniac." The Doctor answered disapprovingly, stepping out of the Tardis on wobbly legs.
"Oh come on, I hardly scratched the paint!" The Master glanced around with an excited glint in his eyes.
"Now let's see. Where are we?" He put his hands on his sides, and stared at the sky in contemplation. "Ah! There are clouds, and I can definitely see a blue sky!"
He sucked in a deep breath and let the taste of the air roll over his tongue as if he was savouring wine. "Nitrogen and oxygen based atmosphere, with a touch of carbon dioxide and a hint of argon, if I'm not mistaken. Could be Jonas." He opted, but then he noticed the white blossom on the tree. Slowly, he turned. A green landscape of hills lay in the far distance, shrouded by a thin layer of mist that hung low over the valley.
"Or it could be Ntullaksa in the Orion galaxy with its forests of flowers." He grinned and gazed back at the Doctor. "Not quite then." He mumbled when he observed the lack of response. He looked down at his feet, and tried again. "Okay, there is mud between my toes." He pointed out, and then sniffed the air before wrinkling up his nose. "And there is a horrible putrid smell of rotten eggs." He turned back to the Doctor with ill-concealed disappointment. "Oh, it's not Clum is it? Who the hell wants to go to Clum?" He asked, irritated. "I wouldn't even want to be found dead on Clum!"
"Not a very popular destination, I give you that." The Doctor answered, rubbing the back of his neck. He wasn't quite sure how to tell the Master, but they weren't exactly on Clum. The Master might have preferred he was, once he found out on which planet that the Tardis had landed. Before the Doctor could even try to bring it to him gently, the clouds parted and revealed a single yellow disk sitting in the sky. Sunlight split through the mist and revealed a large seaside city resting between the hills. The architecture of the settlement with its red brick houses, marble public buildings, and wooden docks, looked very familiar.
"Oh no." The Master groaned.
"I know. I know. It's not what you want, but trust me, it's the safest place I could think of." The Doctor tried.
"We're on Earth!" The Master spat, disgusted.
"There is really nothing wrong with Earth."
"There is everything wrong with this stinking, human-infested planet. How the hell did we end up here? I've set the navigator on random with a clear exclusion of this shithole of a place!"
The Doctor held up his sonicscrewdriver and gave the Master a meaningful look.
"Oh you bloody cheat." The Master narrowed his eyes. "I should have taken that from you while I still had the chance." Extremely displeased, he rushed back inside and almost knocked down poor Wilf, who was still shuffling towards the exit on shaky legs like a new born calf.
"If I had allowed you to have it your way, we would have crashed with a 99.99% chance to hit a uninhabitable planet." The Doctor sighed as he dashed after him.
The Master wasn't listening. He was far too busy fiddling with the controls, and after a few seconds behind the onboard computer, he was already able to restart the Tardis. At first, the engines awoke, producing a very promising powerful drone, but quickly it deteriorated till it made a sad little noise like a drowning kitten, before it gave up completely. Even the lights in the console room shut down.
"It's dead." The Master exclaimed, raising his hands in disbelief.
"Off course it's dead. You burnt down half of the units." Doctor said. "We can't go anywhere until the core units are repaired."
"I won't stay here for a second longer." The Master ranted, and stabbed his finger at the Doctor. "I order you to fix it and get me off this planet, right now!"
"Excuse me?" The Doctor blinked his eyes, baffled by the Master's attitude. "Maybe I didn't catch it right, but did you say order? What ever happened to could you please?"
"If you're not gonna fix it, I'm gonna fix it." The Master picked up a screwdriver and started smashing down the handle on the console with a pissed off expression on his face.
While the Doctor was busy trying to convince the Master to stop wrecking the Tardis, Wilf was standing outside, and was observing the strange landscape around him. The most remarkable landmark was the middle-sized city in the distance. The style in which the larger buildings were constructed reminded him of Italy. They had Hellenistic columns supporting huge, triangle shaped facades, with large wooden entrances and narrow rows of windows. At the same time, the smaller buildings reminded him of the Roman villas and the three storey apartments that he had seen displayed in museums in matchbox-sized reproductions. Wilf sucked in a deep breath of air as it slowly dawned on him where they exactly were. Although he knew that the Tardis could travel in both time and space, he had never dreamt that he would actually experience time-travel the way Donna had. The Tardis had brought them back to Roman times.
"Oh my God." Wilf covered his mouth with his hand. He stumbled back inside. "We did it. We really did it! We've travelled back in time!" He exclaimed.
"Master, listen to me!" The Doctor tried, ignoring Wilf's euphoria. "You're not clear in your head yet! Calm down and stop trying to do something complicated or the Tardis will end up as useless scrap in the junkyard."
"Oh would you please stop telling me that there is still something wrong in my head?" The Master shouted back at the Doctor. "I'm fine. I've never been better! It's driving me nuts that you keep telling me that I'm mad."
"I didn't say that you're mad. You have to understand, that lethal dose of radiation that you've received kick-started your recovery, but it has also triggered some over-active neural growth. Your neurons are making new connections at a most unhealthy speed. I'm only trying to tell you to calm down or you'll burn up just like the Tardis!"
"Oh Doctor! This is absolutely wonderful!" Wilf uttered, overtaken by joy. "There is an entire ancient Roman city, just outside of the Tardis! And I thought that being up with you in space was amazing. But this…"
The Master rolled his eyes in dismay. "Great, not only are we stranded on Earth, but we're stuck in BC instead of AD. How on Gallifrey are we going to get the parts that are needed for repair!"
"I've got a few spare bolts and pieces on board, don't you worry." The Doctor quickly turned to Wilf. "I know it's amazing Wilf, but could that just wait for a sec? We're kinda in the middle of something."
"I should have known you better." The Master muttered, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Congratulations Doctor, you've made me fall for it yet again. I was an idiot to belief that you would ever treat me like an equal. And now I find myself once again imprisoned with you as my bloody guard."
"Oh come on! That's not fair. Since when is asking someone to say please a sign of abuse? It's a bit melodramatic, even for you." The Doctor objected.
"I'm not being melodramatic." The Master sneered, getting more and more overdramatic as their quarrel continued. "Try rotting away in a rusty metal cage for the last two thousand years, then tell me that it's fine to be stuck on the same planet where they have just tried to execute you!"
"Doctor, you have to come out and take a look. I'm not sure which Roman town it is. Maybe you could tell." Wilf pressed on, blinded by excitement, he somehow managed to remain blissfully unaware of the rising tension between the two.
"Oh, wait a minute. I bet you had this all planned, didn't you?" The Master continued, his old friend paranoia kicking in. "Rescue me from the black planet and then shut the Tardis doors to keep me locked up for as long as your righteous, pompous self believes to be necessary." He contorted his face. "You're no better than those Judoon goons or those hypocrites of the Timelord high counsel. I won't let this happen. You hear me?" He shouted, and he tapped a finger on his chest. "I'm no ones prisoner, and certainly not yours!"
"Right." The Doctor huffed and held up his hands as if to say no more. He was getting tired of this conversation that only seemed be getting more ridiculous by the minute. "Stop your insane ramblings. You are splitting my head."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be such a bother." Wilf apologized.
"No, not you." The Doctor nodded at the Master. "Him!"
"Oh boohoo." The Master pouted, reviving a trace of Harold Saxon. "Shall I humour you and reverse back to my catatonic state to make it easier?" The Master grinned. "What now Doctor? Are you going to chain me up to the Tardis? Drug me till I pass out or turn back into that shuffling, dribbling loon? I bet you think that would be quite convenient. You're such a sick hypocritical bastard."
"Hey! You can't speak to the Doctor like that!" Wilf said, finally picking up the bad vibes. "He got you out, you ungrateful dog!"
"I have quite enough of this." The Doctor murmured. It had only been ten minutes since he started dealing with the fully conscious Master and already he felt exhausted. The recently revived Master was absolutely exhausting, like one of those small annoying dogs that keep bouncing around and yapping at their own tails. He took in a deep breath and pointed at Wilf. "Wilf, just give us a moment to sort things out, will you? I'll get you home as quickly as possible. And you." He pointed at the Master, giving him a decisive look. "Stop ranting like an idiot or I swear, I'll put you on a leash!"
A silence followed. Both men were staring at each other. The Doctor tried to appear firm and unyielding, while the Master responded with defiance and arrogance.
"I see." Muttered the Master, finally breaking the silence. He calmly turned away from the Doctor.
"Where are you going?" The Doctor asked when he saw the Master run out of the Tardis and into the Roman countryside.
"Master, come back!"
No matter how much the Doctor would yell and plead, there was no chance that the Master was going back to the Tardis. He knew that the Doctor was right. The Tardis wouldn't fly until some major parts of the core unites were replaced, and that would take days. That is, when the idiot indeed had all the necessary pieces onboard, which he seriously doubted. From all those years he had known the Doctor, he didn't exactly strike him as the well-prepared type, which meant that they were probably stranded here for at least a week.
Plenty of time to think of a plan to get rid of the Doctor and Wilf, and get his hands on the Tardis after he had let the Doctor do the necessary repairs.
"Oh yes that's exactly what I should do." He murmured to himself, keeping his speed as he made his way through what appeared to be a march-land with scattered islands of crooked trees. Taking the Doctor along for the ride had proved to be such a mistake.
"Let's see if he still thinks this prehistoric wasteland is such a wonderful place when he's marooned here without his precious Tardis." He hissed with petty vindictiveness. As soon as he got himself more settled, he would get rid of those annoying manacles and that humiliating dog collar around his neck. He wanted to remove every last trace of what reminded him of the Judoon trials and the black tower from his existence.
The sun appeared once again from behind the clouds and bright beams of sunlight came through, warming his face. He shut his eyes, cherishing this rare moment of freedom, of movement and awareness, of just the wind brushing over his skin as he crossed the march. To be able to use his legs again, to run, to feel, and to act, made him dizzy with happiness. He had almost forgotten how it was. He had not felt this free ever since he was a child.
There was no way that he would let the Doctor treat him like his prisoner.
He never wanted to see the inside of a cage again.
The ground beneath his feet became solid, and the march made way for a stretch of grassland littered with rocks. A road slithered through the scenery. Even without looking back, he could sense that the Doctor was coming after him. The Master headed down towards the Roman road to hide in the crowd that was heading towards the unknown Roman town in the valley. As soon as he reached the proximity of the flagstone road, a scent…no not a scent, a stench hit him, like an unyielding brick wall. The Master had an excellent sense of smell. Although he had been forced to spent centuries in a neglected, unwashed state, and would have reeked like a piece of French cheese that had dropped into an open sewer by the end of his 2000 year long imprisonment, a fact that the Doctor could actually concur if it was ever asked, the Master couldn't stomach this pure putrid nastiness that came wafting by on the soft spring breeze. It was one of the main reasons why he personally disliked Clum so much.
Curious and revolted at the same time, the Master searched the travelling crowd for the source. He realized that the very sight of this gathering of humans would probably make Wilf tear up with silly happiness. These were proper Romans, dressed in tunics, all shuffling over the stony road on ill-fitting sandals. He had never quite understood how a great civilization as ambitious and innovative as the Romans could fail so miserably in developing better footwear.
There were men, lean and muscular, tanned by the sun with leathery skin, pulling handcarts with fresh vegetables and fruit that grew on the fertile fields surrounding the valley. There were women in colourful robes, carrying baskets filled with exotic spices, fragrant perfumes and brightly coloured cones of incense. There were carts pulled by oxen and donkeys, loaded with sealed amphorae filled with wine and olive oil, while others were stacked high with blocks of wood for cooking and heating. The Master followed the peculiar stench to a cart pulled by a grey mule. It was stacked with big ceramic pots sealed off with wax lids.
"Excuse me, can I help you?" The Roman merchant asked, studying the strangely dressed man who was eying at his merchandise with suspicion.
Standing so close, the horrific stink made the Master's eyes tear-up as if he had just rubbed his tear-ducts with a slice of onion. He pinched his nose shut between his fingers and breathed through his mouth while he spoke.
"What's inside those pots?"
"That is top quality garum in process." The merchant answered, and tapped on the large pots with a proud smile on his face. "It still needs refining, but the final product could rival that of Cartagena and Gades in the Spanish colonies."
"It smells like something horrible has died and crawled inside to rot in the hot sun." The Master muttered.
"Well if you mean with something horrible, thirty buckets filled with putrefying fish-guts, you're about right." A turnip farmer pulling a handcart with root vegetables who had overheard the conversation opted.
"Would you just stop talking down my merchandise Agricola Lunius?" The merchant snapped back at the man. "That's going to be prime quality garum. I don't see your turnips being considered an important ingredient for a gourmet meal!"
"It's rotting fish-guts, that's what it is." The other man answered.
"Oh that explains a lot." The Master murmured, still breathing through his mouth, although he feared he would have to wash his tongue afterwards to ever be able to get rid of the taste. "Tell me, what's that city you're all heading for?"
"You mean that? That's Ephesus off course." The merchant answered, pointing at the gate in the distance where the entire crowd tried to squeeze through.
"Ah, the once Roman capital of Asia Minor. That's not too bad. Considering that I could have ended up in some backwater town in Gaul." The Master muttered.
The garum merchant clearly didn't want to waste more time talking, and pulled on the reins to get his donkey pick up pace.
"Just one more question." The Master opted as he noticed that the merchant was trying to get rid of him. Actually, the feelings were quite mutual. "What year is it?"
"Have you just crawled out from beneath a rock? It's the 12th year of the reign of our good emperor Tiberius of course." The merchant answered, beginning to suspect that he's dealing with a halfwit.
"12th year of Tib- that's around 26AD." Master said after a quick calculation. He raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Well well well, I stand corrected, it's not BC after all. Still, not exactly space-age."
"Where are you from?" The garum merchant asked, narrowing his eyes as he glared at him.
"Why do you care?"
"Really shitty attitude you've got. I've answered all of your questions."
"That will teach you not to be too friendly to strangers." The Master grinned. He saw the Doctor's head sticking above the crowd and he immediately ducked down behind the garum cart to hide.
The merchant had enough of this insolent stranger. He stuck two fingers in his mouth and whistled hard to attract the attention of a man riding on horseback.
"Hey! Hey! Stop that you idiot!" The Master hissed. "I order you to stop!'
The merchant gave him a look of incredulity and continued to beckon the man, who came over, just before the Doctor spotted the Master.
The man on the horse turned out to be a hardy looking Roman soldier complete with ornate moulded breastplate and crested helmet shining in the sun. "What's going on?" He enquired without so much as a smile.
"Officer, it's this man over here. I think he's a runaway. I spoke to him and he doesn't seem to be from around this area. Me, being a good Roman citizen and all, thought I should warn someone from the authorities. You don't want the likes of him wandering in our great city and messing up the streets."
The soldier gave the filthy creature that the merchant had pointed out a long hard look. "Who is your master?" He finally asked, figuring by the sight of him that the young man was probably a slave.
"What are you babbling about? I have no master. I'm the Master." The Master replied, insulted by the man's insolence.
Both the merchant and the soldier burst out laughing. "Yeah, right, and I'm a bloody Vestal Virgin!" The merchant ridiculed.
"You don't look like a master to me." The smile faded and the joy drained out of the Roman soldier's voice just as sudden as it came. With one fluid movement that could only be gained with years of practice in bloody battle, he took his javelin and stuck the point through one of the links of the chains that were still dangling from the Master's wrists.
"You look more like a runaway slave." He hissed, and whirled the javelin around, spinning the chains around the wooden pole, and drawing the Master in like a flapping fish on the hook.
"You cannot do this!" The Master protested. Pure dread rose from the pit of his stomach when he saw the Doctor approaching, followed by Wilf. Of all people.
"I'm not a slave, you stupid human. I am really called the Master."
"Oh look. He's also an entertainer." The soldier snorted. "Let's see if you're still making those silly jokes when your master fails to collect you and we throw you out in the arena to feed the lions."
The Master dug his heels between the flagstones and yanked on the chains, only to find that his struggles secured the tangle of knots tighter around the pole. The soldier reached over and slapped him hard.
"Hey stop that!" The Doctor shouted over the heads of the small crowd that had gathered around the scene.
"Is he always like this?" Wilf asked, amazed by the absurd speed and ease with which the Master could stir up trouble.
"You mean is he always this quick in making himself a nuisance?" The Doctor said, glancing back at Wilf as he elbowed through the masses to get to the front. "Yep, as soon as he sets foot on a place, that's pretty much how he is. I really do have my work cut out for me for the next hundred years."
The soldier raised his hand and was about to strike the Master again, and the Doctor being the Doctor, was about to do something about it, when a large black horse carrying a figure with a sweeping red robe galloped down the road.
"Make way! Make way! Quickly! Make way for my master!' The young man shouted, as he drove the horse through the crowd. Women screamed in panic. The sea of people split in two, fleeing to the opposite sides of the road. The horseback soldier remained where he was, unyielding like a good Roman officer, and looking mightily pissed that yet another clown had showed up to complicate his shift. He pulled hard on his horse's reins to keep him from rearing up.
"Get out of the way!" The servant on the horseback shouted at the garum merchant who was pulling and pushing, trying everything to get his mule to pull the cart to the side.
"Can't." He huffed. "Stupid beast won't budge an inch!"
The Doctor assessed the situation with a growing sense of alarm when out of nowhere, a large burning wheel came rolling down at an incredible speed and smashed into the side of the garum cart where it exploded like Chinese firework in the sky. The mule, spooked by the fiery display, kicked his hind legs against the cart, and the whole freight of carefully stacked pots toppled down in a massive landslide over the Roman soldier, burying both him and his horse under a mount of pots. The Master, who found cover under a nearby abandoned vegetable cart, crawled out from his hiding place and starting pulling on the chains. It was of no use. The javelin was lodged beneath the soldier's unconscious body, stuck underneath the heavy pile.
Much to the Master's dismay, the Doctor rushed over to his aid.
"No, don't need your help. I'm just doing fine." The Master murmured, trying to salvage of what remained of his dignity before the Doctor came over to stamp on it. Breaking to a sweat, he kept tugging, pulling on the chains with his whole body weight, and could almost see one end of the javelin appear from underneath the heavy bastard's arm, when his effort brought down another load of pots.
A black chariot rushed down the hill. It's three remaining wheels wobbled unsteadily over the flagstones as if they were about to fall off. Just like the first wheel, all three of them appeared to be burning and gave the chariot the appearance as being driven on golden disks. The chariot had no driver, and no horses. The reddened face of a middle-aged man appeared from behind the closed curtains from the cabin, his eyes wide with fear as he waved his large arm in panic to get the people off the road. "Get out of the way! I can't stop! I can't stop!"
Of course you cannot. The Master thought in the split second that he could indulge himself into sarcasm. By the way things were turning out for him lately, this was only to be expected.
"Master! Watch out!" The Doctor yelled and pulling one of his compassionate but hardly helpful faces as he dashed forward in what appeared to be an attempt to throw himself in front of the carriage. It wasn't that the Master didn't appreciate the Doctor's dedication, but he had a better idea. He reached for the soldier's helmet, the slack in the chains just allowed him to grab hold of it, and aimed for the remaining front wheel. With his hearts beating wildly in his chest, for he was mediocre at ballgames at the best of times, he flung the soldier's helmet at the chariot that came charging down at him.
To the Master's own amazement, it actually hit the right wheel in the spokes and knocked it right off from the axle. The whole front of the carriage dropped down on the flagstones with a loud bang, splitting the wood and digging its nose into the ground. It slowed down considerably but was still moving at a speed that was more acceptable for the 21st century than the first century AD. The Master stared at the incoming projectile and made his calculations. 300 km per hour, 150 km per hour, 80 km per hour, 30…20…10…
The chariot stopped right in front of his nose, less than one third of a meter away.
The Master let out a deep breath of air, and slumped back against a pile of turnips that had fallen off the cart.
"Oh merciful Gods!" A large man stepped out the now defunct chariot. Dressed like a Roman noble, his face was pleasant and round, with a large, bulbous nose. He spoke with his hands raised up at the sky. "Oh wonderful Diana, fierce Apollo and gracious Athena! Thank you! Thank you for saving the life of senator Magnus Pompous!" He dropped on his knees and kissed the flagstones.
"Excuse me, but that wasn't exactly the Gods."
Magnus Pompous rose back up and turned to observe the grimy slave sitting on the ground, still locked in chains.
"I was the one who saved you." The Master said, looking up at the Roman with a disdainful look in his eyes. "I knocked off the wheel from your out of control vehicle and stopped it. Since you're a senator, you might as well show me some gratitude and get me out of these." He gave the chains an angry pull to illustrate his frustration. Better to be set free by this superstitious Roman than to allow the Doctor to beg for his release.
"Well, have I ever." Senator Pompous muttered, bothered by the slave's boldness. Luckily for the Master, Magnus Pompous was a righteous man, and he did realize that this young man had saved his and his daughter's life. He also knew how much Dea disliked to see him mistreat the slaves. He glanced back at the chariot and saw her pale, heart-shaped face shine through the silk curtains. Her blue eyes were watching him expectantly.
"Well then." The senator said. "Tell me, what is your name? And what is your supposed crime?"
"My name is the Master, and I've certainly not committed any crimes." He noticed the frown on the Doctor's face. "At least not in the short time that I've been here." He muttered inaudibly under his breath.
"You're a master?" Senator Pompous's face morphed from condescending to amused. "I'm sorry but I find that very hard to believe." The Master frowned when he saw how the senator giggled at the preposterous idea. "Now tell me, truthfully, who is your master? Perhaps I could convince him to be lenient with you."
"I am!" The Doctor stuck up his hand and ran forward. The Master groaned as if he had been punched in the stomach. "I'm his master!" The Doctor ignored the vicious look that the Master was giving him.
"You're the rightful owner?" Pompous asked.
"Oh yes! Bought him for an apple and an egg at the bazaar in Alexandria. I've all the official documents, right here." He waved the slightly psychic paper in the senator's face for a very brief moment before putting it away. The senator observed the Doctor from head to toes and found him nearly as odd looking as the slave sitting at his feet. He narrowed his eyes. "And you are?"
"I'm the Doctor. Just the Doctor. I'm a traveler." The Doctor nodded at Wilf who appeared by his side. "And this is my great great-uncle Wilf. Wilf Mott-tus." He added, wincing.
"Did the fountain of inspiration dry up on you, Doctor?" The Master scorned. "Wilf Mottus? I'm practically feeling sorry for your dad."
"Ah, a travelling physician, how novel." The senator mused. "Salve Doctor. I'm senator Magnus Pompous. What's your slave's name by the way?"
"Mas-Marcellus." The Doctor muttered. Not bad actually, he thought. "His name is Marcellus."
"Marcellus?" The Master spat, pulling a face.
"He's quite loud, this one. And very disrespectful." The senator commented.
"Oh yes he is. I do apologize for his behaviour. He can't help it. Most of what he says doesn't make any sense. His previous owner used to hit him on the head with a mallet whenever he got rude. And that's quite a lot of times, no surprise there. Still. Poor sod. He is little off if you get what I mean." The Doctor accentuated his words by twirling his finger near his temple.
"I see." The Senator replied, raising his eyebrows a little. "Still, I'm very grateful that you saved my life and that of my beloved daughter Dea." He gestured at the girl who was still sitting behind the closed curtains in the carriage. "I want to show you my gratitude. Let me return your runaway to you." He snapped his fingers at his servant who immediately took out his sword and cut through the Master's chains with one well-aimed slash.
The senator waited with his hands on his back. Surely Marcellus would now express his gratitude for his release, but the Master didn't say a word. He calmly rose to his feet, and took his time to brush off the dirt from his clothes as if he was wearing an expensive suit rather than a grimy prison outfit.
"Uhm, like I said, he's not entirely right in the head." The Doctor apologized for his friend.
"Right." The senator huffed, hardly concealing his indignation. Luckily the senator's servant showed up. He had just bought a fine looking horse from the merchants on the road and was saddling it up for his master.
"Ah, fresh horses, good work Gaius." The senator stepped on the servant's back as if he was a footstool and climbed on top of his newly purchased horse. A large man balancing unsteadily on the saddle like a graceless bag of potatoes, he was in stark contrast with his daughter who finally appeared out of the carriage. A thin, rose-cheeked beauty with blue, haunting eyes, she climbed on the servant's horse without aid.
"Can we go now father? We're running late." She asked him in slightly demanding voice.
"Yes, almost my little cherub." The senator beckoned the Doctor to come closer. "Doctor, I would like to invite you and your great-uncle Wilf to a dinner party tonight."
"Oh I love dinner-parties." The Doctor answered, hopping on the balls of his feet. "That's very kind of you senator."
"Come to my villa after sunset. It's the largest house on top of the Artemis hill on the west side facing the sea. If you don't know the way, ask someone in town for directions. Tell them that you're looking for the house of Magnus Pompous. Everybody in Ephesus knows who I am and where I live."
"Yes, and there are probably not a lot of houses in Ephesus with wide enough doors to fit through the honourable senator's extra-ordinary bloated head." The Master murmured quietly, inaudible for all but the Doctor to hear.
"I'm sure we'll manage to find it." The Doctor grinned awkwardly.
"Oh, and maybe I could offer you some well-meant advice." The senator continued, lowering his voice, unaware that the Master still could hear every word of their conversation. "I know that being a physician requires a certain… extent of compassion, but take it from me Doctor. Like a good father, a good dominus should dispatch discipline from time to time, or the slaves in your household would just run wild." He nodded his head at the Master. "You might not want to spare the rod on this one. Trust me. I've been in the slave business for twenty odd years, and I recognize that look. He's like a wild horse who still needs breaking before he's good enough for pulling the carts."
"I'll keep that in mind. Thank you." Doctor continued to grin politely, but his smile was starting to become rather forced.
"Send someone to pick up the chariot, Gaius." Pompous ordered, talking sternly to the slave to show his new acquaintance the right example. "I want it brought back to the workshop. Especially the wheels!" He greeted the Doctor and Wilf, before he dug the spurs deep in the horse's side.
"Master?" The Doctor stretched out his hand after the senator and his daughter had left. It was a sign of reconciliation, but the Master brushed it aside. He turned around and headed into the direction of the crowd without so much as acknowledging the Doctor's presence.
"Master where you going?"
"Away." He murmured to no-one in particular. "Far, far away."
The Doctor stuck his hands inside his pockets. "Mind if Wilf and I tag along?" He asked with a hopeful smile.
A miserable groan came from the Master. He clenched and unclenched his hands, and slowly he turned. "Doctor, does your cruelty to me truly know no bounds?" He asked.
"What do you mean? I'm hardly ever cruel. Certainly not to you." The Doctor answered with sincere puzzlement.
"You had your fun." He sighed. "Now let me go. If you're really that pathetically lonely and in need of a companion, go ask your dad over there to give you a hug. I'm not going back to the Tardis with you."
"You're leaving?" The Doctor said, baffled. "But you can't just leave."
"Watch." The Master whirled around and without looking back he raised his hand up and waved. "This is me, saying tah!"
He ignored the Doctor, shut out his voice all together. He didn't notice the sudden change in the Doctor's pleads, going from concerned to alarmed as he came near the pile of broken pots underneath which the Roman soldier and his horse were still buried. Just when the Master wondered how long it would take for an army as efficient as the Romans to come down here to clean up the mess, the horse of the soldier woke up. Flaring his nostrils, the steed quickly decided that he disliked garum almost as much as the Master did. The animal flung to his side and rose in a tumble of swaying legs and a clatter of pottery breaking over the flagstones.
The Master had sustained many injuries over the years. Some of them were lethal, most of them weren't. He had never been kicked in the head by a horse before, and he would certainly recommend it to the worst of his enemies, because it was absolutely, bloody painful. There was a sickening crack of the skull, followed by a splitting headache before the entire world turned black.
His head felt heavy, not because it still hurt but rather because of the ridiculous amount of bandages that were wrapped around his skull. He looked like an Indian fakir. If he would lower his chin too much his head would drop and he wouldn't be able to lift it up again.
The Doctor came in, balancing a tray with two steaming mugs. He had a blush on his cheeks and was smiling from ear to ear. The Master, propped up in the Doctor's bed, silently wondered if he really needed to resolve to murder to get rid of him.
"How are you feeling?" The Doctor asked. Placing the tray on the side-table, he handed him a mug of tea. The fruity scent that rose up from the warm liquid was familiar and very comforting.
"Like I've been kicked in the head by a horse." The Master deadpanned, and shrugged at the foolishness of the question while he slowly took a sip.
"This tastes like robinberries." He murmured, lifting his eyebrows in pleasant surprise.
"I added a good teaspoon of robinberry jam. There is more in the small pot over there on the tray if you want."
"Where did you get this?" The Master asked. There was only one planet where the robinberry bush was found, but that planet, of course, no longer existed.
"Secret stash." The Doctor answered, noticing the glint of nostalgia in the Master's eyes. "I still have a couple of pots in the larder. This stuff keeps forever. At least I had it for over what? 60 years, now." He dipped his finger in the pot and licked the sweet jam from his fingertip. "What do you think?"
The Master took a spoonful into his mouth. "It's not as good as my grandmother's." He pondered, smacking his lips.
"You can't compare it with that. Countess Oakdown had her own secret recipe, and I'm sure that there was more in it than only robinberries and sugar. Still, it's the closest thing I could get my hands on. A taste of home." The Doctor glanced back at him expectantly.
"Why are you doing this?" The Master asked, after a short silence.
"What do you mean?"
"You're not going to get anything out of this. You're not going to gain anything by being kind to me."
"Oh I don't know…You'll never find out if you don't try. The drums are gone now, aren't they?"
The Master rolled his eyes and stared down into his mug just to avoid that hopeful gaze in the Doctor's eyes. Noticing something odd, he raised his hands, and saw that the manacles were missing. He checked for the collar around his neck. It was also gone.
"I got them off while you were still unconscious. The collar with the tracking device in particular needed to be removed. You don't want the Judoons to find out that you're still alive." The Doctor said. "There are no more chains to bind you. You're free."
"You mean I can just leave?" The Master snorted.
"Actually, yes, as soon as you are feeling better, you can." The Doctor answered, before continuing in a more gentle voice. "Master, you don't have to fight me. There is no need for it. Not anymore. So of course you can leave. If you want to."
The Master swallowed. The sweet taste of the robinberry jam still clung to his throat. "I wouldn't know where to go." The Master said quietly, and regretted to have said it as soon as he had finished the sentence.
"Then…stay." The Doctor replied. There was that flicker of hope again. "I don't know if you can still remember this, but you were actually the first person who I've ever asked to come travel with me. I couldn't persuade you then, but maybe, now that everything has changed.…" The Doctor's voice trailed off. It pained him to think of how things could have turned out differently, if he could have just convinced the Master to leave Gallifrey with him, so many years ago.
"Yet another cohort for the well-travelled Doctor." The Master crossed his arms over his chest. If he had noticed something of the Doctor's regret, he did not want to act on it. "To be wined and dined and entertained, is that what you want me to be?" He laughed.
"Oh no." The Doctor shook his head, remaining serious. "You'll be my Timelord companion. My friend and equal. Nothing less. It would be my honour." The Doctor said with such a deep-felt sincerity that it finally breached through the master's resolve.
"I could." The Master murmured after a moment of contemplation. He couldn't help but to feel genuinely touched. However brilliant, stubborn and proud, even he wasn't immune to the Doctor's kindness. "At least until the Tardis is repaired to get us out of Ephesus." He added quickly.
A radiant smile appeared on the Doctor's face. The Master had no idea how happy he had made him with this decision. "Oh that reminds me." The Doctor said. "We're invited for dinner at the senator Pompous's house tonight." The smile changed into a wide, enthusiastic grin. "We could all go together!"
It was amazing how quickly a situation with the Doctor could turn out in such a way that the Master was made to regret his own words in a matter of seconds. Shutting his eyes in silent suffering, the Master banged his head on the sideboard and slowly counted back from four.
Next chapter will be posted on Saturday the 24th of April. (Yes I know, it is postponed, I'm sorry for this, but the next chapter still needs some serious work before it can be posted, please be patient). As always, please review and comment if the story pleases you. It motivates me to continue.