Dea was surprised to see the Master appear on the landing, forced by her two sisters to climb the narrow staircase spiraling up from the lower prison chambers. "Why did you bring him up here?" She asked, scowling at her siblings. "We needed someone for the pot. Any one of those useless slaves would do."
"I thought you should see this pet freak of yours. He's getting stranger by the minute." Balcuba shoved the prisoner further into the dark room. The Master took a moment to glance around. They were inside yet another vaulted chamber with no windows. A huge cast iron cauldron, the size of four roman bathtubs, was sitting in the middle of the room on top of a burning pit. Flames and smoke rose from the side. Inside the pot, a liquid was bubbling away. He could pick up the familiar aroma of wild herbs mixed with the sweet sickening scent of cooking human flesh.
"Smell something familiar?" Dea commented coldly.
"The taste of human flesh is rather difficult to forget." He replied calmly. He glanced down at the wooden block on the floor. An axe lay in a large pool of crimson next to it. "So this is where it happens? This is where you slaughter all those humans?"
"This is where you are going to lose your head." Balcuba said threateningly, and picked up the blood-smeared cleaver.
"Not so fast, sister." Dea's eyes darted from the Master back to Balcuba. "What happened? Why are you suddenly so keen on getting rid of him?"
"He said he was a Timelord." Balcuba answered.
"A Timelord?" Dea blurted. She raised her eyebrows and giggled. "And you believed him? That's preposterous Balcuba! Our creators, the ancient Krillitanes, have once known those cruel Godlike beings, but like them, the Timelords have passed on. They no longer exist except for in the realm of fairytales and ghost-stories."
"Which must make me really special." The Master grinned.
"It makes you a liar." Dea said sarcastically.
"It's true sister." Balcuba said with nervousness in her voice. She turned to the Master. "You." She ordered. "Show her your hand!"
The Master did just that.
"Where are your wounds?" Dea took his hand and studied it. Her eyes grew wide. "And your neck, there is not even a sign of a scar!"
"They've healed." The Master said. "Every nasty cut that your slash-happy sister has inflicted on me. It's all gone."
Dea breathed in anxiously. "That doesn't prove anything." She said firmly.
From the corners of his eyes, the Master saw that Coda was moving slowly closer to him, a little she-wolf waiting for the kill.
"Better safe than sorry sister." Balcuba encouraged Coda's action with a slight nod. "If he really is who he claims to be, he's too dangerous to keep alive. You know those bogeyman stories about the Timelords that our elders used to whisper to us in the dark? We can't trust him."
Dea kept her watchful eyes fixed on the Master. "If you truly are a Timelord, why are you still here? Why did you not try to escape?"
"My dear lady, I don't know how far your knowledge reach about our race." The Master responded. "Although I must agree that we're quite remarkable, I can't exactly bend iron bars or walk straight through your prison walls." He shot a look of anxious honesty at Bulcuba and her murderous sister. "And although I am immortal, I'm still very afraid, to suffer."
"Then you shouldn't have meddled with our affairs in the first place." Dea replied. "It's too late for you to repent. You're gonna end up like all the others." She dipped a large spoon into the bubbling soup and lifted out a pale human bone, boiled clean from its flesh. "As a nutritious broth for my starving sisters." She said mercilessly.
"My lady, that's a fate worse than death." The Master replied, looking shocked.
"Cowering now, are you?" Balcuba ridiculed, gaining confidence as she recognized the fear on the Master's face. "And I though you were so brave, sacrificing yourself to save the others."
"Why would I care about a bunch of miserable little humans?" The Master snapped, his voice tight. "Once the axe comes down on their necks, it's all over for them. But for me…what does your punishments hold for someone who cannot die?"
"You're really afraid." Dea opted, her mouth dropped open in surprise. "You fear torture and an excruciating pain that would last an eternity." A smile curled the corners of Dea's lips as she realized what was going on in her prisoner's mind. "Oh this actually makes me quite curious, what does happen to you, say if w put you in the pot and boil you alive? Would you keep screaming endlessly?"
The Master, looking fearful, swallowed hard. "I want to make you and your sisters a proposition."
"You're not in the position to bargain with us, Timelord." Dea said in a mocking voice.
"Please. I beg you. If you must destroy me, I would prefer not be boiled and fed to your siblings. Take me as your host. I would willingly let one of you take over my mind and body as long as I will be spared from that most horrible fate."
"So you prefer a coward's way out." Dea scoffed. "Why should we do you any favors?"
The Master looked sharply at her. "I know that the Timewarps do not care about their own existence. But what I don't understand is why you devote your whole life to the next generation of your race, while neglecting your own?"
"The survival of the colony is more important than any of our selfish needs." Dea answered.
"Indeed, your species as a whole benefits of such a selfless, and most admirable strategy." The Master concurred. "But meanwhile, you're all emaciated because your instincts order you to work and not feed, and the only reward that you and your diligent sisters could hope for is to die of exertion after you've fulfilled your strenuous tasks. That would have been perhaps, acceptable, if you had occupied any other species in the universe, but not these human hosts. Part of their DNA is now incorporated into yours, and knowing the nature of these selfish, laissez-faire creatures, it is only expected that some of their rebellious spirit has rubbed off on you."
"We have our host's egocentric nature fully under control." Dea commented icily.
"But why would you? Think! These humans didn't get it all wrong. A strong sense of self-preservation, an drive to survive against all odds, isn't that the very essence of being alive? Take that away from any creature, and you're nothing but a sacrificial member of a mindless slave-race."
"How dare you!" Balcuba snapped. Coda responded immediately by pushing the blunted end of the axe under the Master's chin.
"Wait!" The Master yelled, fixing his eyes on Dea. "Don't you get it? You're no longer true Timewarps! You've become something-else! After so many years, so many generations, your species have mutated, evolved into something better. You don't need to listen to your instincts. What good will it do to sacrifice your life for those faceless worms that you call your siblings?" He paused for a frightening moment when he felt the sting of the sharp end of the cleaver brush over his skin, so very close to his pulsating jugular. "Please. I'm offering you an eternal life." He pleaded with Dea. "A chance to be set free from the primitive genetic doctrine of your species, a chance to be free of death."
"Don't listen to her sister." Balcuba hissed. "He's trying to seduce you with his pretty tales." She eyed at her Coda who was about to slit the Master's throat. "I say we cut him up before he's spewing out more of this nonsense."
"No! Wait." Dea said sternly, seizing Coda's wrist to stop her.
"Sister?" Balcuba en Coda stared at Dea, both angrily questioning her intentions.
"Maybe he's got a point." Dea said softly.
"How could you agree with him? His ideas are sacrilegious!" Balcuba replied furiously.
"But why indeed should we sacrifice ourselves? Why do we keep serving our siblings while ignoring the vital needs of our own?"
"Because from the moment of our creation, the Timewarps have always watched over their own kind!" Balcuba answered strictly.
"But it's only common sense to take care of ourselves first." Dea gave the others a defiant look. "Think about this, sisters. Who made these rules? Who wrote this obedient behavior into our DNA? It was our Krillitan lords who would benefit the most if we turned out docile and predictable, easy to manipulate. It wasn't in our interest. But they're gone, destroyed by the Timelords, and we can finally take our lives into our own hands." She paused, and gazed at the others. "I don't want to die." She said truthfully. "Not for my species. Not for anyone of you." She smiled bravely, relieved that she finally had the courage to speak her mind. "I want to live."
Shocked by Dea's revelation, Coda let go of the Master, and marched up to her, pointing the cleaver threateningly at her heaving bosom.
"Wait Coda." Balcuba said hesitantly. Although she wasn't the most rebellious of the three, she too had become intrigued by the tempting prospect that was offered to her. "What do you have in mind?" She asked not without skepticism. "Even if we would consider this, there's only one Timelord, and there are three of us."
"True. But I'm sure that you're part right about our prisoner." Dea answered. "The other one, the one called the Doctor, he might have been clever, but this one is cunning. Shrewd like a desert fox. He cannot be trusted on his words." She paced calmly around her prisoner. "My guess is that he's only pretending to be afraid." She continued, smiling knowingly. "I bet he had it all planned. How he would like to see the three of us, arguing about who gets to take his physical form, fighting amongst ourselves. Meanwhile, he's taking his chance to look for an opportunity to escape." She halted, facing the Master. When she gazed deep into his eyes, all of his hope that she was still ignorant of his mad plan completely evaporated.
"Not us, Timelord. Me and my dear sisters won't be that easily tricked." She smiled devilishly, granting the Timelord a look that was all together evil. "If there is a chance for immortality, than surely, the three of us will share it equally."
The Doctor went over the courtyard like a whirlwind, lifting all the lids from the pots that contained the fermenting garum, and finally knelt beside the last one. Peering into the pool of the dark, foul smelling substance beneath, he took out the phial with the pink liquid and removed the cork with his mouth. He gazed at senator Pompous with a mad and excited glint in his eyes. "Ready?"
"Ready for what?" The senator asked.
"This." The Doctor raised his eyebrows and with a silly little grin, tilted the phial. A shimmering drop of the antidote disappeared into the darkness. As soon as it hit the dark, honey-color fish-sauce, it turned it into a luminous pink, which spread quickly over the surface in widening circles. Under their feet, the earth started to rumble dangerously.
"Ammàzzete! What's going on?" Pompous yelled. His eyes grew wide in shock when he saw a creature emerge. An enormous monster with an elongated worm-like form broke through the pink surface. Limbless and eyeless, its head consisted mostly out of a large frightening maul with six rows of razor-sharp teeth. It raised itself up towards the rim of the container, and spread its mouth wide open. For a terrifying moment, the senator was looking right into the pale, slimy tissues of its churning gut.
"By Pluto's gates of hell! What nightmare creature is this?" The senator stammered. "What beast of hell?"
And then he saw the piles of bones that stirred up from the deep with the motion of the beast. A rotting human skull, split open from the cranium to the side, drifted to the surface and stared at the senator with its dark, empty eye-sockets.
The senator, struck speechless with fear, scrambled quickly away from the pot.
"They've been feeding on humans." The Doctor said, trying to stay calm, but inside, his anger was rising. "Growing fat on the flesh of your slaves and servants! Give this lot another month, and they will crawl out of their nurseries and start cannibalizing the whole of Ephesus." He jumped up, looking even more determined than before. "Not any more."
The Doctor moved to the next buried jar and dropped a dash of the antidote into it, summoning the wormlike Timewarp larvea by doing so. He rushed from pot to pot, till he had treated all 13 of them. The ground underneath the courtyard was now trembling violently as if struck by a minor earthquake, and the slimy heads of the Timewarps larvae were sticking out of each hole, roaring and spitting a blue sticky mucus at anything that came nearby. The Doctor leaped over the ceramic jars, dodged the snarling beasts, and dived into the arcade next to the senator, who had been cowering behind a statue of his late wife with a handful of his servants.
"Gods save us Doctor!" The senator pleaded. "What should we do? We can't get back inside the villa without crossing the courtyard and risking the wrath of these beasts!"
"No we won't." The Doctor huffed, trying to catch breath. "Give it a little time, ten seconds tops. Their skin is thick but also quite porous. It should be able to absorb the antidote."
"What's happening to them? Its like they're bloating up!" One of the slaves said fearfully.
"The antidote was made to treat infected humans. It works by selectively destroying the parasite's DNA in the DNA helix of the human host. On the pure form of the Timewarps however, it seems mainly to give them a hell of an indigestion." The Doctor explained, and shot a worried glance around the column. He furrowed his brows when he noticed that the Timewarps, despite of their massive swollen bodies were starting to crawl out of the garum pots. Maybe they've been closer to fledging than he thought. "On a second thought, give it a minute or two longer." He reassured the senator and the others. "Just to be sure."
"Stop struggling." Balbuca ordered as she continued to tighten the ropes around the Master's chest and legs. "Or else I'll let Coda severe your tendons before we feast on you."
The Master was tied down on a large kitchen table with the three homicidal bitches standing around him in a semi-circle. He didn't like to admit it, but genuine fear was gripping onto his hearts.
"Ladies, are you sure that this is wise?" He tried, breathing raggedly, and forcing himself to appear as composed and confident as possible. "There is no guarantee that eating me would transfer my capacities to you. You may just waste all of your chances in one pointless bloodbath."
"Oh, but if it doesn't work out the way we like, we could just try your suggestion later on." Dea smiled cruelly. "You said you were immortal. Let's see if your heart grows back when we take it out."
"I want the heart!" Balcuba snapped.
Coda shook her head fervently in an effort to claim it for at herself.
"Heart, liver, kidney…Do you two honestly think that it matters which part of him we consume?" Dea scoffed. "All we need is his DNA so we can let it be incorporated into our genome. As long as we eat enough of him, it should work." Her delicate hand slipped over the wooden handle of a butcher knife, and traced the sharp edge with her fingers till it cut a crimson line over the tips.
"No, no." The Master struggled against his bonds, eyes widening. "No you're making a mistake here. It wouldn't you any good. Don't do this!"
"Maybe I should cut out your tongue first." Dea teased wickedly, and with one angry tug, ripped his tunic apart all the way down to expose his stomach. "A bit of peace and quiet at dinner time is ever so appreciated."
Dea leaned over him. Her long cascade of chestnut locks caressing his chest, the silver of the blade shimmered dangerously in the dark.
"No." pleaded the Master softly, remembering the cruel agony of the previous cuts all too well.
"I don't know about you my dear sisters." Dea whispered, slipping her tongue over her ruby lips. "But I'm starving."
The blade plunged into his flesh and the Master uttered an agonized cry when she started to draw open his belly, pulling his flesh apart like she was gutting a slaughtered animal.
"Look at that!" She said, while her sisters held down his shaking arms and legs. "I can see your innards, all pick and pretty." She shoved a bloodred apple into his mouth to gag his pitiful screams. "Now let's see if we can find your liver."
She was about to cut all the way down when an explosion rocked the vaulted walls and send sand and dust falling down from the ceiling.
What's happening?" Dea yelled, distracted, she drew the bloodstained knife out of him.
"It's coming from the courtyard." Balcuba replied.
"Go see what's going on!" Dea ordered, getting alarmed. A second explosion shook the chamber, sending a pile of root vegetables rolling off the table and onto the kitchen-floor. Coda complied, and immediate rushed out, carefully hiding the cleaver in the folds of her skirt. Dea stared angrily at the Master, who breathed heavily through his gag, and was shivering of agony with his blood pooling around him. Nevertheless, he managed to return a defiant look to her.
"If you have anything to do with this!" She hissed.
But of course, he did.
He knew that the Doctor was finally coming.
Coda blasted into the courtyard to find it to be turned into a minefield, with bits of earth and potshards mixed with unidentifiable pieces of her treasured siblings spread rather thinly over the entire space. Her instincts, all caught up in a vindictive response, pushed her to search for the ones responsible for the massacre. She found them, huddled together in the arcade to shield themselves from the ongoing blasts. Not too far away, she could distinguish their faces clearly. That man that was hiding behind the column next to the senator, she recognized him all too well.
She breathed in deeply, her mind guided by nothing but rage, and with the cleaver raised, stormed out to get him.
When the Doctor saw her coming, his eyes grew wide, and he jumped out of his shelter to shout and wave at her.
"Stop! Go back!"
Coda ignored the Timelord's warnings, and stepped too close to one of the remaining pots. The Timewarp larvea, driven mad by the agony of the poison coursing through their system, grabbed hold of her by twisting its body around her ankle. Coda glanced down, suddenly frightened, and tried to free herself from its grip, but as she struggled, a second Timewarp wrapped itself around her chest, slowly tightening the coil like a giant anaconda snake.
The Doctor came rushing over, determined to save her, but before he could get close enough, the two wormlike creatures started swelling up till their bodies were hideously gray skins stretched so thin that they were almost translucent. Coda stared fearfully at her horrifically deformed siblings. She could see the working of their organs, the churning of the guts and the pumping of the primitive single valve heart. A bright, pink light swirled inside the condemned creatures like an angry destructive fire.
The last thing she saw was that pink light flaring up into a blinding blaze, and then the Timewarp larvae exploded, killing her instantly.
"Why does it take her so long?" Dea paced around impatiently, her hands resting on her hips. "She should be back by now."
Another blast shook their underground hideout. A line of amphorae tumbled from the shelves and broke their oily content over the floor. The Master was coughing violently as blood started to gurgle up his throat from his gullet. Dea removed the gag, allowing him to recover and breathe more freely.
"Maybe we should get on with it." Balcuba opted nervously. "You know, before…"
"Before what?" Dea asked, stabbing the knife into the table. She saw the look in her sister's eyes. "You're not serious." She laughed bitterly. "You really think that he's doing all that?" pointing at the crack in the ceiling.
"I'm only urging you to be careful. Remember what happened to our Krillitan lords." Balcuba warned. "It took only one of them to destroy them all."
"There is no such thing as a Timelord curse!" Dea shouted back. "This is exactly why our race has weakened into such a pathetic state! If the last of our kind consist of a group of desperate fishwives who are too dumb to distinguish superstition from reason than perhaps we really should become extinct, for evolution's sake!"
Balcuba shot an anxious look at the Master. "You may mock me sister, but I still think we should kill him." She opted in a tight, determined voice.
"Don't be daft, he's immortal." Dea answered, covering her face with a slightly shaking hand.
"He said he was." Balcuba moved closer to the table and studied the Master's pale and sweat-drenched face. "We don't know for sure, do we? Like they say, the prove is in the pudding."
"No." Dea said sternly.
"Dead or alive, it shouldn't matter. His flesh would still taste the same."
"I said no!"
"Why do you keep protecting him?" Balcuba, angered by her sister's stubbornness. "Don't you remember what happened to one of our precious sibling in the temple of Artemis? Keeping him alive is dangerous!"
"I didn't." Dea muttered. She paused. Shutting her eyes, she leaned on the table for support.
Pain-struck as he was, the Master still noticed the strange vacant expression that came over his tormentor.
"I'm not protecting him." She added. "At least not on purpose."
"Not on purpose, but perhaps unwillingly." The Master whispered, swallowing blood. "Tell me, how did you end up on Earth?" He asked, trying hard to focus his mind and ignore the burning pain. He knew that the planet wasn't in the usual trading route of the Naskuls. Besides that, they've also showed up 54 centuries too early.
"The Naskuls were pirates." Dea answered truthfully after a long silence. "They captured a Vollitian spaceship, and couldn't believe their luck when they discovered that three of the crew members were infected with us. They raided the ship, murdered the rest of the crew, and took us as their prisoners. Eager to make a quick fortune, they were trying to ship us to an arms-dealer in the Orion galaxy, but unfortunately for them, they were intercepted."
"The Shadow Proclamation?" The Master opted.
"No." Dea slowly shook her head, her eyes hazed with that far-away look. "They received a strange signal, all the way from the furthest boundaries of the known galaxies. It sounded like a distress call, only it wasn't."
"Sister, be careful what you are telling him!" Balcuba urged.
"It has to be said." Dea muttered awkwardly, her mind was wandering. It was filled with that strange, alien rhythm. "It's….it's why we're here." She glanced at the Master. "There's no such thing as coincidence."
"What kind of sound?" The Master asked, swallowing hard.
"Tapping.' She replied, her voice cold and flat. "Four simple beats. Repeating itself across the universe. It interfered with the Naskuls navigation system and hijacked their ship, hauled them all the way through space and time, locking it into a collision course with Earth. The Naskuls tried everything they could to avoid disaster, but there was no way of escape." She shut her eyes, and listened. "I can still hear them sometimes. That eerie sound, traveling out there in the cold vast emptiness of space. Four knocks. The Grimm Reaper waiting at the door."
Dea's eyes opened. Slowly, they returned to full alertness, the veil of absentmindedness evaporated as she picked up her knife.
"My sisters and I only survived because we retreated back into our true form, and hid inside the capsule with our unborn siblings. After the space ship crashed on Earth, and our original hosts and captors perished in the unforgiving flames, we sought out new hosts among the planet's dominant species. My chance came when Dea Pompous arrived to the temple to pray to the Goddess for her father's good health. After I took over her mind and body, it wasn't too difficult for the senator's daughter to obtain the human slaves that were needed to provide my sisters with the necessary vessels of their own."
"It can't be." The Master shook his head slowly, losing his nerves. "It's impossible. You cannot have heard them."
Dea's lips widened into a grotesque smile, and with the back of the knife, she tapped four times on the table, imitating the frightening rhythm of the cursed drums that had robbed him of his sanity for so many years.
The raw power of the explosion sent the Doctor flying backwards. He could have broken his neck if he smashed into the pillars, but luckily, he crashed into the senator and his servants, who had rushed forward to break his fall. Quickly, they dragged the Timelord back to the relative safety of the arcade.
"I'm sorry." The Doctor said solemnly.
"It's not your fault." The senator responded with compassion.
"I had to give them the antidote." The Doctor justified, but his conscience was weighing heavily on his hearts. "If they were allowed to fully mature, they would have wiped out the entire human population in town. There was no other way, and no more time. I had to destroy them now while they're not yet conscious."
"You did your best. You tried to save her." The senator responded. "And as for these monsters, they only have themselves to blame. They're foul, murderous beasts!" He snapped, remembering the gruesome human remains. "What have they done with my beloved Dea? Did they…kill her?" The senator asked, his voice was weak and his eyes were close to tears.
"Oh no, no no no senator." The Doctor returned an encouraging smile to him. "No, she's all right. Except for she's now doing the biddings of a murderous parasite that is tunneling inside her head. Believe me, I've seen much worse." The Doctor nodded, remembering how the Master used to be when those balmy drums were still doing their destructive bit. Another explosion followed, sending a rain of dark earth and pale red pieces of larvae into the air. The Doctor stared sternly over the devastated courtyard.
"13 in total. That's the last one." He rose to his feet. "Let's go and find your daughter." The Doctor said, and headed into the direction of the kitchen where Coda had appeared.
Entering the kitchen, the Doctor saw that the place was deserted, except for two very frightened slaves who were hiding under the kitchen table. Doctor grab hold of a young man who looked particularly spooked.
"Did you see where Coda came from?"
The young man pointed at the door that led into the courtyard.
"No! Not where she went. Where she came from." The Doctor asked, impatiently. "Where was she before she rushed outside?"
"In the flesh larder." The slave answered, pointing out the door at the other end of the large kitchen.
The Doctor ran across the kitchen and entered the room at the back.
The room was dark and cool, with the thick smell of blood, mixed with the musky smell of meat lingering in the air. Butchered animals, ducks, pheasants, geese, pigs, a half slaughtered sheep, together with a collection of more exotic animals, some skinned, some still covered in fur, hung upside down from the ceiling.
"Looks like the zoo of death in here. Ever considered of becoming a vegetarian my dear senator?" Doctor asked, eying with much disapproval at a severed rhinoceros head draining from its blood above a copper plate. Then the Doctor spotted something peculiar and he moved closer to investigate.
The skin was exceptionally hairless, and his hearts shuddered when he realized what it was. Dangling between two quartered pigs, suspended from a rusty iron hook that went into the back of her neck, was the olive-skinned servant girl Appia. Her arms and legs were cut off, and her torso was slashed open and her internal organs removed, leaving her like appear like a rump of meat that was prepared by the butcher.
The senator turned away, clamping a shivering hand over his mouth, he wretched violently.
"Oh…" The Doctor whispered, remembering how kindly she had treated him and the Master. "I'm so, so sorry."
Appia stared back at him with cold accusing eyes. Behind her was a dark wall, half-hidden by high stacks of logs for the kitchen fire. A cool draft brushed over the Doctor's face. He went behind the wood stack, and discovered a secret doorway. It was no more than a small hole in the wall, but it was large enough for a grown man to just squeeze through.
"Senator, we need a light." The Doctor said, gazing into it anxiously.
Soon, one of the slaves returned from the kitchen with an oil-lamp. The Doctor checked the space behind the entrance. The flickering light revealed a tunnel that descended with stone steps into the darkness below.
"What's down there?" Pompous asked.
They were all startled when a mad scream echoed through the narrow claustrophobic space. The familiarity of the voice cut right into Doctor's hearts. Immediately, he climbed through the doorway into the tunnel, closely followed by the senator and two of his bravest slaves.
The tunnel became wider at the end, and came out into a dark chamber with a high vaulted ceiling. A single wooden door sat in the wall. The Doctor tried it. Surprisingly it wasn't locked and he entered, walking straight into narrow chamber with two rows of prison cells. From inside one of those cells, Wilf looked up. A smile of relief washing over his troubled face as he realized who had come to his rescue.
"Doctor! Oh I'm so glad you're here! You have to stop those wenches. They are murdering people!"
Without halting his pace, the Doctor picked up an axe that had been left behind by Corda.
"Stand back!" He shouted and slammed the axe down on the locks. After a second blow, the metal gave and the locks broke off. The Doctor handed the axe over to one of Pompous men. "Free the others." He ordered, and swung the door wide open to let the prisoners escape.
"Wilf are you all right?" The Doctor asked worriedly.
Wilf nodded. "They got the Master. They took him. They went through there." Wilf said, and pointed at the second door at the other end of the room.
Without hesitation, the Doctor ran out of the prison chamber with his hearts thudding in his chest.
The second door opened to a helix of stairs that brought the Doctor up to a larger room, also with vaulted walls. A huge cauldron was boiling above an open pit of fire. A human arm floated up in the thick soup, the skin already splitting on the top of the fingers. The Doctor was still staring at the grotesque scene just when Wilf came rushing up the staircase together with the senator.
"Oh my God." The old man muttered when he saw what was cooking in the pot. He turned to the Doctor. "They didn't boil him up, did they?"
"No." The Doctor shook his head sternly and gazed around in the hope to find a clue on the whereabouts of the Master. There was a chopping block with frightening stains on the floor, and on the kitchen table was a knife drowning in a pool of fresh blood, but there was no sign of the Master or the women.
"Timewarps." The Doctor yelled angrily while standing tall. "Children of the Krillitans. Don't hide like cowards. Show yourself!"
A shadow shifted at the back. Before the Doctor could react, Balcuda appeared and grabbed hold of the senator.
"Balcuba, what are you doing?" The senator snapped, recognizing his kitchen maid. "Let go of me at once! Have you gone completely mad?"
Instead of complying her master's wishes she just laughed at him, screeching like an old witch. Her black nails suddenly elongated into five knife-sharp talons, each of them went into the senator's neck till pinprick dots of crimson rose on his skin. The shock of what was happening to him immediately shut the senator up.
"One step closer Timelord, and this lardy bastard is done for." Balcuba sneered.
A sound of footsteps came from behind his back, and the Doctor turned to see Dea standing in front of the boiling cauldron, holding on to the Master, whose wrists were still bound on his back. The Doctor breathed in anxiously when he saw the hideous wound that was starting heal on the Master's stomach. Dea followed the Doctor's horrified gaze and with a malicious grin, ran her knife over the fresh wound, reopening the skin and extracting a cry from the Master.
"Stop it! Don't hurt them!" The Doctor yelled, bolting forward, he halted abruptly when he saw that the knife was only disappearing deeper inside the Master. "Don't. Please Don't." The Doctor pleaded.
"Dea! What are you doing? Why are you helping this murderous harpy?" The senator exclaimed.
"You can't reach her." The Doctor explained, keeping an eye on them both. "They're infected with the parasites. You can try to talk to her, but it won't be your beloved daughter Dea who answers."
"Like I thought. He's clever, this one." Dea smiled. "Still, not clever enough to save his friends."
"Let go of them! I'm warning you!" The Doctor raged.
"I can't do that, Timelord." Dea answered, smiling knowingly. "Your friend here has just promised us immortality. I can't let him go before we get what we want, what we deserve." She glanced triumphantly at her sister, who flashed a murderous grin back at the Doctor and Wilf.
"There are two of them now. Surely there is now enough Timelord for the three of us to share." Balcuba said confidently.
"The two of you." The Doctor corrected. His hand slipped inside the pouch of his tunic to take out the phial. He removed the cork and hid the phial in the palm of his hand.
"What do you mean?" Dea snapped, becoming suspicious. "What happened to Coda?"
The Doctor remained silent, but the mournful expression on his face told her everything.
"You…you murdered her?"
"I didn't." The Doctor shook his head. "It was an accident."
"Oh you mean just like the one in the Artemis temple?" Dea pressed on, anger and sorrow quickly boiling up. "By heavens! Those stories we heard about you are all true! The Timelords are indeed cold-hearted, calculative and merciless."
"It's not what you think what happened." The Doctor tried, but Dea had already stopped listening.
"You murdered our sister!" She raged, and glanced sideways at the Master, then at the senator. "You'll pay for this. Balcuba, slash that fat git's throat!"
"No!" The Doctor ran forward, and threw the content of the phial over Balcuba. The glass vial slipped out of his hand but a good splash of the pink liquid hit her face, boiling away her skin. She screamed in agony, and let go of the senator. One of the slaves, fearing for his master's life and that of his own, used the moment of distraction to pick up the bloody knife from the table.
"No!" The Doctor yelled. "She's saved! She's turning back to her human form!"
But the slave was too frightened to recognize any changes in the wild, screeching woman. With one stoke, he stabbed the Timewarp in her neck. A mist of aortic crimson sprayed onto the walls and Balcuba sank through her knees.
"Sister!" Dea cried, her eyes ablaze with rage. She caught the Doctor reaching out for the antidote that had rolled underneath the table. Although most of it had spilled out, a good quarter of the volume was still left inside the glass container. Fearful that she might be expelled from her host, she let go of the Master and dived after it. She was quicker than the Doctor, and was about to wrap her grasping fingers around the phial when Magnus got hold of it first. With a determined expression on his face, he splashed the remaining liquid over Dea, who turned her face away but could not prevent a few drops from landing on the skin of her hand. It immediately started to smoke, and Dea screamed.
"Dea!" The senator dropped the empty phial, and struck by his child's distress, he rushed over to her aid.
Enraged with pain, the Timewarp protected herself on instinct, and drove the knife that she still carried into the senator's side.
Pompous dropped down on his knees. His shivering fingers grasped his lethal wound. "Dea." He uttered in disbelief before he fell down.
"I'm not." Dea murmured, her head was burning, and the world was turning red in front of her eyes. "I'm not your daughter." But as she spoke these words, she felt the first stings of grief and remorse enter her heart. The Timewarp was finally retreating out of her system. She scrambled back to the Master, remembering that she still had her prisoner, and held on to him like a human shield. Her world was falling apart. She was Dea Pompous, the daughter of the now dying senator, and she was one of the last Timewarps in existence, clamping onto life, while her beloved sisters had perished before her eyes.
The Master had loosened the knots enough to free his hands. He threw off his bonds, and stared into the face of the sadistic creature at whose hands he had suffered so much. The confusion and fear in her eyes was evident, as they were slowly drained from the cobalt blue, revealing the natural chestnut colorization.
"What?" She whispered, struck by an incredibly grief, tears started to sting her eyes and stream down her cheeks. She looked down at her hands, stained crimson by her father's blood. Oh, if only she could stop remembering and forget all about her crime, but fate was merciless and cruel.
"You did this." She raged, letting the last traces of the Timewarp speak through her grief. "You lured us to his planet and brought us to ruin. You and those cursed drums!"
"Master! NO!" The Doctor shouted.
Her hand was still wrapped around the handle of the knife when the Master took it and drove it deep into her heart. She stared at him, eyes wide in shock as the last of the blue disappeared from her pupils. Raggedly, she drew a long breath, gazing across the chamber at the lifeless form of her father. A final tear slipped down her cheek, then the light in her eyes faded.
The Master let go of her. Her body had suddenly turned limp and heavy, and slipped on the floor like a boneless bag of skin. Just like Dea before, he stared at the blood of his victim. It stained his trembling, guilty hands crimson.
"There was no need." The Doctor said ruefully, shaken by anger. "There was no need to kill her!"
"I-" The Master hesitated, and looked up at the Doctor. He wanted to explain, tell him what he had discovered in the last dying words of the young girl that had scared and enraged him so much that it drove him to this madness, but he couldn't.
There were no words.
Only burdened silence.
The funeral of the honorable Magnus Pompous and his beloved daughter Dea that followed was a bleak affair. In life, the senator had not much family left, but he had a large number of what he thought of loyal friends. But now in death, his funeral pyre was only surrounded by a handful of people, most of them slaves who the Doctor had set free in honor of the senator. Grateful for their new-found freedom, they came to show the final respect to their generous master and mistress. Still, very little tears were shed, except by the professional mourners that were hired by the senator's most loyal servants, and Wilf, who couldn't keep his eyes dry when he saw the bodies of both father and daughter laid out on the stacks, ready to be carried together to the gates of the underworld.
When the Doctor lit the fire, the Timelord couldn't hold back the tears that stung in his eyes. Only the Master appeared to be emotionless and unaffected throughout the whole ceremony, staring silently at the two while the flames consumed them.
It wasn't before long that even the small group of the senator's so-called friends left the funeral for the forum to attend the auction of the late senator's lands and estates. It wasn't that they were mean-spirited, but life as it was should continue in Ephesus, despite of what had happened, and life in this provincial Roman port, simply meant business.
When the last of the amber in the ashes had died down, the Doctor and his companions left in the newly restored Tardis, heading back for present day London.
"There you are, safe and sound, delivered right at your front door." The Doctor grinned. "Not bad, if I can say so myself."
"When did we leave again?" Wilf asked, gazing on his watch and staring around the street for some clues. It was a gloomy winter day. A stark contrast with the almost dazzling summer-like heat he had experienced in the ancient Roman town. "Or should I say, when will we leave?" Wilf said, confused already. "I won't be getting those Judoons knocking on my door again, will I?"
The Doctor also checked his watch. "It's exactly 2 seconds after we were beamed up by the Judoon brigade to their ship on the platform of Balham station." He reported with a grin. "After that – well you know what happened after that, you were there. So you know you won't be seeing mister Foks and his crew any time soon."
"I better call Donna." Wilf remembered, and started looking for his mobile phone. "She's gonna be worried sick."
"Uh Wilf. You might want to wait a bit before you do that." The Doctor smiled wisely. "She saw you being arrested by a group of officers just seconds ago. It would be majorly weird for her to receive a call directly after that."
"Oh, right." Wilf muttered, realizing. He put his mobile away. "What about you Doctor? Are you still going to travel, with him?" He gestured at the Master, who was standing away from them, and was pretending to be studying the clouds in the sky.
"Yes." The Doctor's voice suddenly turned stern. "I am."
"Even after what happened?"
"It's exactly because of what happened. I will be keeping him close." He relaxed a little. "You're gonna advise against it?"
Wilf shook his head and smiled back at the Doctor. "I don't get you two. I really don't. But I do get that he needs you, as much as you need him." He took the Doctor's hand and gave a slight squeeze. "Just try to keep out of trouble."
The Doctor smiled warmly at him, and nodded before he walked back to the Tardis. The Master was about to follow, when Wilf came rushing over to him.
The Master turned, surprised that the old man was speaking to him. They had hardly exchanged any words after the deaths of the senator and his daughter. Actually, he had hardly spoken to anyone at all, including the Doctor.
"Here." Wilf pushed his mobile phone into his hand. "Take this. I got a new one for Christmas. Wouldn't know what to to do with two mobiles."
"And what am I supposed to do with it?" The Master asked, cocking an eyebrow.
"You give me a call. Next time you find yourself in trouble."
"You want me to call you?" The Master asked, astonished.
"Yes, and don't use it for anything else! No prank-calls or anything to scare off my family, or my friends! I won't have it!"
"What are you trying to do?" The Master replied with an amused look in his eyes. "I know you just love to play the Doctor's dad, but you can't adopt us all."
"I figured you might need some help. One day. When the Doctor is not around."
Wilf stared at the Master, his old eyes shining with sympathy. "I know. It can't be easy for you. Not after what happened."
"Don't pity me old man." The Master replied in a soft voice. "I've killed before. More times then you could ever imagine."
"Yes, I know. But none of that ever mattered to you. Until now." Wilf paused. "You saved my life." He finally said. "I saw the look on your face when you…you killed her. I've seen that look before. Back in the war. In the army. Bright young lads, full of life, who went to the continent to fight, but came back hollow, aged into old men." Wilf said. "It must be hard, trying to live with it."
The Master looked away, for Wilf's words had affected him more than he wanted to admit. "I didn't-" He hesitated, after all this time, the words still didn't want to come. "She said something to me, and I just, I couldn't…" He stared back at Wilf, who waited patiently.
The Master shook his head.
"Can't find the words, hey?" Wilf said, staring at him compassionately. "That's alright. At least you've reassured me now that the Doctor won't be traveling with some remorseless monster."
"Yeah. Right." The Master muttered with a sad smile.
"Keep the phone." Wilf repeated.
"You're one annoying old man." The Master told Wilf, but he looked grateful, and slipped the mobile inside his pockets.
"Ha! You can't scare me off." Wilf smiled kindly at him. "I've seen you lick milk from a bowl like a weak kitten. I'm not afraid of you, sir!"*1
"And surely I would rather not be reminded of that." The Master replied with a grin that for once, was truly sincere.
The Doctor was standing near the console in the hart of the Tardis. His mind was occupied by dark thoughts when it happened. Static flashed over the small monitor of the dashboard, three-four times. Then a text started to appear in green letters on the black screen. It was a message.
A message to the Doctor.
The Doctor read it in silence. When he was finished, he kept staring on screen, a horrified expression on his face.
The Master was about to head back to the Tardis when he thought of something. He turned back.
"Wilf, did you mean those things you said to me, about your granddaughter? What was her name again? That fiery redhead, Dena, Dina?"
"Donna. Her name is Donna."
"Donna!" The Master snapped his fingers. "That's right. Do you really want her to remember everything that she had done with Doctor?"
"Oh, that would be the most amazing thing that I could wish for." Wilf said with a bleeding heart. "Only, that's impossible, right? Even the Doctor couldn't help her."
"The Doctor doesn't always have the answer." The Master took out a small object out of his pocket. It was Dea's silver earring. The one that had once carried the white sphere. He handed it over to Wilf.
"Give this to her."
"What is it?"
"It's a third generation chameleon device. Not a very good one I must say, but I know that the Timewarps have used it at least once to help them return to their original form. I had such a device, disguised as a seal ring, and it had saved my life. This one, I wanted to keep for myself, just in case my guarantee on my immortality ran out. You never know when it comes in handy." He smirked. "But perhaps your granddaughter has more use for it. This little trinket will protect her and help restore her memory."
"Thank you." Wilf said, lost for words.
"Thank yourself, old man." The Master said. Almost embarrassed by his sudden act of kindness, he quickly headed back to the Tardis.
Wilf studied the earring lying in the palm of his hand. "Hang on." He muttered. "How does this thing work? Does it mean that I can tell her about the Doctor now?" But his voice hardly carried above the rising sound of the Tardis engine. Wilf raised his head and saw the blue box dematerialize in front of his eyes.
"So." The Master said.
"So." The Doctor echoed in his reply, while he was adjusting the coordinates. The Tardis console-room seemed a much emptier and colder place now that they were traveling without Wilf.
"Where are we going?"
"We're going somewhere far away and isolated. Somewhere where there are no humans or any other creatures for you to harm." The Doctor replied.
"I thought you trusted me." The Master said with a smug light-hearted grin.
"You knew about the Timewarps, but didn't say a thing." The Doctor replied more sternly to let him know that he was not in a bright mood. "You let me cannibalize human flesh." He added accusingly.
"Well, technically, it wasn't cannibalism, considering we're a different species and all." The Master replied, mocking the Doctor's seriousness.
The Doctor shot him a nasty look. "Someone died."
The smile vanished from the Master's face.
"She tortured me." He said in a matter of fact voice, as if that would instantly distance him from his crime. "She and her sisters got what they deserved."
"That wasn't Dea Pompous, and you know it."
"So what are you trying to say, that I'm a killer? What about you? Who killed off all of her poor baby sisters, 13 in one go?"
"They were not cognisant beings." The Doctor mumbled, stooping his head over the console.
"And that makes it less worse? Who are you to judge me?" The Master asked resentfully.
"I'm not saying that I'm innocent, of course not. Believe me, I have my own moral burden to carry, but you, you're out of control."
"I want to leave." The Master announced, leaning on the dashboards and looking bitter.
The Doctor shot a glance at him. "You can't."
"Land the Tardis somewhere. Anywhere. Right now!"
"I said you can't leave. I won't let you."
The Master bit on his lower lip and started messing with the controls.
"It's bio-locked." The Doctor said strictly. "You won't be able to do anything with it."
"You said that I wasn't your prisoner!" The Master hissed. "You lied to me, Doctor!"
"I can't set you loose out there. I thought you've changed after the drums were gone, but I was wrong. You're still the deranged murderous idiot who cannot be trusted around anyone or anything!" The Doctor shouted back in fury.
Is that how you see me?" The Master replied, laughing at him angrily. "A lunatic criminal? Unfit for your Utopian vision of a harmonious universe? Whatever happened to considering me as your equal?"
"You had my trust. You've lost it." The Doctor answered in a flat voice.
The Master stared back at him. By the sight of the angry, determined look on the Doctor's face, he immediately knew that the Doctor was holding him fully accountable for Dea Pompous death, and that he had not been forgiven for the crime, nor would he receive leniency.
"You can't keep me here forever." The Master said. His reply was now more demure, but still resentful.
"No, you're right, but I can keep you here long enough." The Doctor murmured, turning his attention back to the screen.
A long silence followed in which the Master, knowing that he couldn't win from the Doctor, tried hard to compose himself.
"So, tell me then, my jailer, where are we going?" The Master finally repeated, his voice tight.
The Doctor didn't answer him. Silently, he finished feeding in the coordinates, and with a pull of the lever, set the course for their new destination.
The foreboding message that had appeared on the screen still burned in the back of the Doctor's mind.
Beware of the nightmare child.*2
*1:Wilf was referring to how he found the Master in Minnie's cellar in "Judoon Justice".
*2: In "His silent mind", the Master was referred to as the nightmare child by the mysterious inscriptions that was marked above the doors of the Master's prison.
Phew, that was it people for a murderous feast. I wrote this final chapter in one sitting and I am exhausted. Please review and comment on the story. Expect the next "episode" (since it was commented by some of the reviewers that this series was starting to read like full Doctor Who episodes) to appear by the end of July, called "Shattered Worlds." Once again, thank you all for your wonderful reviews, your tireless support and your addictive enthusiasm. For as long as people keep reading my work, I'll keep writing!