Chapter 4

1.

In the Doctor's experience, he had not known River for such a long time as she had apparently known him. However, he knew she cared for him, and although she was at the very moment, threatening him with a weapon aimed at both his hearts, he knew that she would never be able to pull the trigger. So instead of letting Death come to collect the Master, he sprung forward and grabbed her hand that held the up-graded sonic, wheeled around and fired it at the Grim Reaper. The laser collided with the blade of Death's scythe and the impact sent the deadly tool slightly off course, granting the Master just enough time to dive away from it's cut-throat path. So far so good. What wasn't so good was that Death then swung back his scythe, and hit the beam like a professional golfer, sending it straight back to the Doctor. He just had a fraction of a second left to push River out of harm's way before he was zapped in the chest and fell to the ground.

"Doctor!" The Master shot a menacing look at River. "Look at what you've done, you crazy bitch!"

Horrified, River ran towards the injured Timelord. He was gasping and completely paralyzed by the pain. "The Master." The Doctor groaned. "Please. Please help him." He tried to get up but was too weak to move.

River looked at him with a guilt-ridden face, but did nothing.

Meanwhile, Death calmly strode forward, following the Master's footsteps as he made a mad dash over the beach. He may not be able to shake him off, but at least he was leading him away from the others.

THERE IS NO USE TIMELORD. YOU CANNOT OUTRUN DEATH.

The Grim Reaper kept moving over the sand, using his scythe like an old man would use his staff, but he was cutting down the distance between them at nightmarish speed. The way Death's voice entered the Master's mind, tunneling inside like a worm in the cold damp earth, made both his hearts tremble with fear. Although the Master saw himself as a man cursed with immortality, his dread that one day he might run out of it had yet to disappear. The truth was that he still feared death, and this became even more painfully clear when he made the wrong turn and found himself cornered on a thin strip of land that ended abruptly into the swelling waves of the sea.

"Why are you chasing me?" He yelled as he was forced to face his greatest nightmare turned to flesh. "What have I ever done to you?"

YOU HAVE CREATED ME.

"I didn't create you." He spat. "I'm sure that if I've ever created such an abomination I would have clearly remembered."

YOU HAVE CHANGED THE FUTURE. IT IS STILL BEING CHANGED BY YOUR EXISTENCE AT THIS VERY MOMENT. IT HAS TORN GREAT WOUNDS INTO THE FABRIC OF TIME AND SPACE. I AM HERE TO HEAL THEM.

"So what kind of creature are you, a Morterian? A Timereaper?"

THE TIMEREAPERS HAVE CREATED ME FROM THE TEARS, BLOOD AND ASHES OF THAT DOOMED FUTURE WORLD THAT YOU HAVE CREATED. IN THEIR WISDOM THEY HAVE BURDENED ME WITH YOUR NAME. I WAS BROUGHT TO EXISTENCE FOR ONLY ONE PURPOSE.

"You're here to remove me from time to prevent further damage." The Master muttered, finally realizing what this was all about. "Is that all you are?" He scoffed. "Just plain ordinary Damage Control? Am I supposed to be intimidated by you?"

WHY ARE YOU SO RELUCTANT TO GO, TIMELORD. HAVE YOU NOT BEEN GRANTED AN EXCEPTIONALLY LONG LIFE? HAVE YOU NOT BEEN GIVEN MORE TIME THAN ANYONE ELSE?

"Oh, even far more than I actually deserve." A mad smile crossed the Master's face. "I've been burned, executed, and shot, I've died so often, have stared death in the eyes so many times that it has become a bad habit, but from all those horrible things that have ever happened to me, I've at least learned one thing."

AND THAT IS?

"I always survive." He grinned from ear to ear. "Ariel!" He called out. "Spirit of the air! Now would be a very good time to show your use to your master!"

The helpful spirit appeared before him in semi-translucent form. "I am at your command great sir!" He answered, riding on the waves that broke down on the coastal rocks.

"Drown him!" He ordered, although he was not even sure if this Frankenstein version of a Deathreaper could actually be drowned.

Ariel took to the sky. "I shall do your biddings, great Master. By the most mighty Neptune's forces, the bold waves shall strike him and make his old bones rattle!" He dived into the sea. Where his body hit the water a huge wave was formed that charged onto the thin strip of coast with a thunderous roar. It struck down the Grim Reaper with such a force that it could have split the stone cliffs in half. The undertow pulled the Master beneath the waves and soon he found himself swept up by toiling currents. Coming short of air and his sense of direction lost, the Master's chances were slim, but then a cold hand grabbed him by his waist and hoisted him quickly to the surface. He eagerly gulped mouthfuls of salt seawater with sweet breaths of air.

"Swim safely to shore my great master. I shall keep your nemesis underwater till the waves have broken the very last of his bones." Ariel told him before he disappeared again under the bold waves.

The Master swam back to the island and struggled on shore. There he found Lucy and that hateful River Song tending to the Doctor. His Timelord companion could hardly stand on his feet by his own and needed both humans for support.

"Get away from him!" The Master yelled, pointing at River. "Have you not done enough?" He sneered.

"I was only trying to save him." She said, but she could not hold his accusing stare.

"Please. Don't argue. Not here." The Doctor groaned, still feeling the effects of the blow. "We need to get out of here before Death returns. Master, take my sonic screwdriver. Use it to track down another portal. Get us away from the beach. Quickly."

The Master took the sonic from the Doctor and switched it back on. Almost immediately it received a new signal that pointed towards the forest-covered inlands.

"Let's get moving." The Master told the others. He carefully folded the Doctor's arm over his shoulder and half-carried him up a dried up mudflow.

2.

The onslaught of waves continued, pushing Death under each time he made an effort to resurface. The sharp rocks on the bottom of the shallow sea shredded his cloak, and the relentless pounding by the immense volumes of water ground his bones over the seabed. If he had been human he would have perished, but since this was Death himself, all the efforts the diligent airspirit was making on his master's behalf was only biding him time. When Ariel finally grew tired, and his powers weakened to a state that he could no longer hold his opponent under, Death simply used his scythe to split the sea in two. Slowly he emerged, rising triumphant from the sea floor.

"What creature are you?" Ariel asked, daunted his powers. "How could you take such merciless assaults and emerge from your bad fortune, visible unharmed?"

I AM DEATH.

"Death?" Ariel backed away in terror. "You mean Hades? Thanatos? The Angel of death?" He made a frightened spin in the air. "Oh great lord! Forgive me! I did not know!"

SILENCE, I HAVE NO TIME FOR YOUR FOLLIES. WHERE IS YOUR MASTER?

"That I cannot tell you my grand lord, even if you would send me down to face the sulfurous breath of the pits of hell itself. I am bound by my purpose, which is to serve my lord and let no harm come to him."

THEN LET ME GIVE YOU A NEW PURPOSE.

Death raised and clenched his skeletal hand, and the airspirit jerked and convulsed like a string puppet mangled by an angry puppeteer.

SERVE ME AS YOUR LORD AND MASTER. The Grim Reaper told him. LET ME BE…YOUR PROSPERO.

For Ariel, there was no choice left but to obey.

3.

It didn't take them long to find the next portal. Although there was perhaps a hundred to one chance that the doorway would indeed lead them back to their own world, facing the grim alternative, the Master just decided to go through it. As they went passed, they found a lush valley on the other side, where the trees wore their green summer crowns. The surrounding fields were gold and adorned with the vibrant heads of poppies, primroses and tall spears of foxgloves. A crystal stream ran between a bedding of cobblestones. Gently, the Master lowered the Doctor on a patch of cleared ground beneath a willow tree, resting his back against the trunk, before he went back to check on the portal. It wasn't until it had fully disappeared that he dared to breathe with ease.

"Is he going to be all right?" Lucy asked River, noticing that the Doctor had shut his eyes and appeared to be unconscious.

"He has to be. You have to believe me. That laser wasn't made to hurt anyone. I was only trying to frighten him." A sad smile appeared on River's lips. "I should have known him better really."

"Why did you do this?" Lucy gazed at the Doctor's future companion. "I thought you were the Doctor's friend?"

"I am! I am his friend, and I love him more than he will probably ever know." River said, her eyes rimming with tears of remorse. "That's why I did this. I did it for him." A tear spilled down her cheek and dripped onto the Doctor's face. "He's the most wonderful man you'll ever meet." She told Lucy with a bitter smile. "The wisest and the kindest. But he won't forgive me."

"I am sure that when he sees how remorseful you are, he would forgive you." Lucy said, trying to comfort her.

River shook her head. "No, not for what I am about to do." She brought out the second bottle that Drazek had given her, the one with the green liquid inside. The Freedonians had a specific name for this potion. It was called "zadina", and was hard to translate into any human language, because it stood for something that could only be described by two separate English words. It meant "to be forgotten" as much as it meant "to be forgiven".

"What is that?" Lucy asked warily.

River did not answer her, but removed the stopper from the bottle and placed the rim on his lips. The dose should be strong enough to wipe out the memories of the last 20 years of the Doctor's long life, removing all traces of his recently restored friendship with the Master with it. Next time the Doctor wakes up, he will only remember the Master as his centuries-old enemy, and he will no longer see the need to protect him once the Grim Reaper reappears to collect what is long since due.

At least, that was the plan.

It was River's last option.

But before she could pour the liquid into the Doctor's mouth, she was flung with her back against the tree-trunk while a firm grip tightened around her throat. She struggled against the Master, who stared back at her with a murderous look in his eyes.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO THE DOCTOR?" He hissed. Then he noticed the bottle of green liquid in her trembling hand.

"What is this? POISON?" He spat.

River gasped while she kept struggling for air.

"Please, let go of her. Can't you see? She can't breathe!" Lucy begged.

"This bitch is trying to murder him in his sleep!" The Master replied, enraged.

"No, no. It's not…" River wheezed. Her lungs started to burn.

"How do you know it's poison?" Lucy tried. "She didn't say it was poison. Maybe it's harmless."

"For grief's sake could you just stop being so incredibly naive all the time?" The Master snapped back at Lucy. "She had him at the other end of a laser weapon, does that still not make her intentions clear to you?"

"She said she was sorry!" Lucy shouted, watching with growing panic how the color drained from River's face. "Stop it! She's choking to death!"

The Master seized the bottle from River's weakened grip. "If it's really that harmless, why don't you swallow it all?" He told her with a vindictive sneer, and forced the bottle on her lips. Knowing what this dosage would do to a human, she fought against it with the very last of her strength, shaking her head violently to prevent the Master from forcing the liquid down her throat.

"I said stop it! Stop it you crazy maniac!" Close to being hysteric, Lucy grabbed hold of a heavy rock lying nearby and brought it down on the Master's shoulder. The Timelord cried out in pain, and acting on reflex, he wheeled around and struck Lucy hard in the face, propelling the frail girl backwards till she fell into the muddy bank of the nearby stream.

"Lucy." Realizing what he had done, he finally let go of River Song and went over to his future wife. Lucy struggled back up and scrambled away from him while shielding her bruised face. The lingering look in her eyes was one of hurt and utter horror.

"Lucy!" The Master shouted, watching her vanish into the reeds. "Lucy! I'm sorry! Come back! You're not safe on your own!" He wanted to run after her, but hesitated when he realized that he was leaving the Doctor behind with River Song. Frustrated, he came back.

"Your sonic, hand it over to me!" He barked.

Reluctantly, River gave him the device. The Master pulled her up by her bouncy golden curls and forced her to walk in front of him. "I'm not leaving you alone with the Doctor. You're coming with me!" He told her, sticking the sonic in her back.

"You can't threaten me. The laser on that thing is not even strong enough to cook an egg. The Grim Reaper's scythe must have amplified the signal, but you can't hurt me with that little twinkle light!" River replied defiantly.

The Master twisted the metal ring at the tip to adjust the lens, and yanked a seemingly random handful of wiring out of the aluminum core. He then fired a laser beam that went straight pass River Song and hit a big fat farm duck that was peddling in the stream. The bird exploded in a cloud of feathers and bits of messy poultry.

River's mouth dropped open in shock.

"Your little twinkle light just got upgraded."

"I- can't believe this! You…you just shot Donald!" She rambled.

"I'll let you in on a little secret." The Master leaned in so close to her that she felt the tiny hairs on the back of her neck rise.

"I didn't really want to hit that stupid bird. If it wasn't for the Doctor, I swear I would have killed you by now. In fact, I would have torn you limb from limb." He added with a mad malicious smile. "And if anything happens to the Doctor or Lucy..." He didn't finish his sentence, but the murderous look in his eyes told her more than enough.

"Now, I said MOVE!"

4.

Lucy didn't know where she was going, as long as she was getting as far away as possible from the man she knew as Harold Saxon, she didn't care. Ever since she had been dragged down into this nightmare, all the warning signs had been constantly flashing. She had just refused to see them. Now she knew that River Song was right, the man she had regarded as her savior, was a monster. The fresh bruises on her skin and the tang of copper in her mouth confirmed it. She felt guilty that she had left River on her own with that violent madman, but she was too frightened to go back. So she kept pushing through the riverbank, her long red dress soaking up murky river water, the delicate fabric torn by the sturdy stalks, while her boots sank deeper and deeper into the muddy underground.

When she heard him call his name over the valley, she sank through her knees and hid in the lower growth. Her heart was leaping like a little rabbit as she held her breath and waited for him to pass by. She listened carefully, but the only sound that could be heard was the slow trickling of water and the lonely call of a heron, hunting between the reeds for frogs.

It was because of this unusual silence that she could hear a second voice, calling out to her. It had a broken quality to it, and it sang her name with a childlike sing-song tune.

"Kate?" Recognizing her best friend's voice, she moved away from the shore and deeper into the river. "Kate? Is that you?"

In the middle of the stream where the water reached as far as the waistline, stood a frail figure dressed in a mud stained white dress. She cradled a bundle of wild flowers in her arms, cherishing as if it was an infant, while out of her wild mane of auburn hair, stuck a chaotic bush of flowers, twigs and leaves. One look at Katherine's appearance, and it became clear to Lucy what was going on. They had wandered into the drowning scene of Ophelia, whose father was murdered by the very prince she loved, and was driven mad by the cruel hand that fate had dealt her.

"Kate!" Lucy waded through the water to get to her. The pebble floor of the river was slippery, covered by a thick layer of sediment and algae, and she was at great risk of being swept downstream by the forceful current.

"Kate, it's me, Lucy. Look at me, please." She begged, fearing that her friend would act out the entire scene and actually drown herself. "Give me your hand." She reached out to her.

Kate just gazed at her outstretched hand with a vacant look in her eyes, and slowly, she shook her head.

"Please! Let me help you. I know how impossible and ludicrous this sounds but we're inside one of my father's paintings. Whatever you may think, you are not Ophelia! There is no reason to kill yourself. Give me your hand. Let me bring you back to dry land."

Kate dropped the bundle of flowers in the water, and silently submerged herself in the river.

Shouting her name, Lucy splashed towards her in a desperate attempt to save her life, but as she reached the spot where Kate had disappeared, a cold hand snatched her leg and pulled her under. A string of bubbles rose up from her mouth and nostrils as the water closed above her head. She struggled against her invisible captor, and sprawled her limbs to push herself back to the surface, but instead of coming any closer to the bright, silvery disk, she was dragged deeper and deeper down into the darkness below. Feeling the last of the air escape her lungs, her struggling grew weaker, till eventually the shimmering light that came from the surface dimmed before her eyes.

5.

"Lucy!" The Master pushed through the reeds, dragging River song behind him to the place in the middle of the river where he had heard Lucy's voice. Where she just had been was now an almost placid mirror of water that was only broken by a few bubbles rising to the surface.

"Lucy! Where are you!" He spun around, looking between the thick growth at the side of the stream. "Lucy!"

"She is not here you maniac!" River told him, frightened by his frantic behavior.

"She was here! I know what I heard!" He took his rapier from his belt and swept through the reed. "Lucy!"

"Careful with that! If she is hiding in there you're bound to decapitate her."

"Shut up or I'll cut out your evil tongue and let you chew on it!"

"I wonder what they both see in you. The Doctor told me you've changed, but I just can't see it. The Judoon records described you as a dangerous murdering psychopath, so I wouldn't know where the improvement are." River said, regaining her defiance after the initial fright.

"Oh that's rich! Coming from someone who tried to poison her lover." He sneered back.

"That wasn't poison! I would never hurt the Doctor."

"If it wasn't poison, then what was it? What were you trying to force-feed down his throat?" A thought hit him, he stopped searching and took out the small bottle, gazing at her in suspicion. River, realizing that she had said too much, glanced back at him nervously.

He removed the stopper and sniffed the content.

"Something musky and woody, with perhaps…a touch of cyanide." He returned her a knowing grin. "The bark of a Judas Tree. Oh you were trying to mess with his head."

River shook her head fervently.

"Oh come on, don't insult me. I do know what Judas bark is good for. I've been using it to death in the old days. You want to erase the Doctor's memory, but to what purpose exactly?"

"The Doctor should forget about you." River said sharply, realizing that that the game was up. "If I could remove the last decades of his life from his mind, he wouldn't give a damn if the Grim Reaper takes you or not."

"You do really hate me, don't you?" he grinned dangerously. "I sensed it the moment you appeared by his side. You detest me." He came closer to her, looking her straight in the eyes, his expression turned dark. "You are afraid of me. Now why is that?"

"That's a rather silly question." She replied bravely, trying hard to keep her promise to the Doctor and not tell him anything about the prophecies. "Now why would anyone sane be afraid of you?"

Luckily for her, the surface of the stream parted in big splashing waves as Ariel emerged and took to the air. He nervously circled around the two of them a number of times before he presented himself to the Master with a courteous bow.

"My brave master, hail to you. I fear that I am the bearer of bad news."

"Ariel, good that you are here. I need to find Lucy. Help me to find her." The Master ordered.

"I can't sir. I am no longer bound to you."

"What do you mean? I thought you said you were my servant till the day I decide to release you?"

"Death severed my links to your service and bound me with shackles of his own. I am his servant now. The message I bear is from my new master. He has taken your bride to his underground realm underneath the waves."

"What has he done to her? Speak!"

"She is unharmed, but she is his prisoner. If you wish to reclaim her you must follow her into this netherworld."

"And you would lead us the way?"

"My dark lord has instructed me to guide you there." Ariel answered with visible reservation. "I must warn you good sir, he does not wish you well."

"Oh that must be one of the greatest understatement ever made in a Shakespeare play." The Master mocked. "He wants me dead you mean."

"If only it was that straightforward, milord." Ariel sadly shook his head. "You may enter his realm with me, but you are not allowed to return to the surface. If my lord's plan fail, I am meant to keep you submerged in the watery in-between."

"You cannot drown me you fairy queen. I am immortal." The Master replied in annoyance.

"You will not perish, but you'll be kept down there, forever." The airspirit warned him.

"Is that a threat?" The Master asked warily.

"It is not a warning, nor a promise good sir. It is a fact." Ariel answered in his great wisdom.

River glanced over at her captor, uncertain how he would now decide. The Master remained silent for a moment. Ever since he was released from the tower, his freedom had been his solace, and he had learned to cherish it after all that he had lived through with the Doctor. But this was Lucy. Her life was at stake.

He owed her so much.

"Take us to her." He finally said.

"Your wish is my command." Ariel replied. Before the Master could take in another breath, he was pulled down into the river, descending with the airspirit into the deep abyss towards Death's kingdom.

6.

Lucy woke underground in a white cave that resembled a cathedral, with strange rock formations that rose into the air like pillars while from high above the ceiling, translucent crystals hung like icicles. They illuminate the white rocks below, scattering the light that came from deep inside the cave, fracturing it into a hundred brilliant colors.

She rose to her feet. Still dazed from the sudden chance of environment, she moved through this strange landscape like she was wandering in a dream, placing her warm hand on the cool rock surfaces, and tracing the track of light that guided her further into these underground vaults.

She found the source of all this light when she entered an enormous bell-shaped space. The walls were lined with iron scaffolds stacked on top of each other. They went all the way up till they vanished from sight. Lucy blinked her eyes with amazement. Burning candles were placed on the narrow shelves. There were millions of them, tiny pinpoints that twinkled like the stars in the evening sky, burning in countless rows. Some of them were large, others were medium-sized, while some were burnt down to mere stump. Every instance, some of these candles extinguished with a little hiss and a dark fume of smoke, others lit up brightly in a radiant flame before burning up, creating a scene of constant change in which the small lights seemed to dance and leap from candle to candle.

Lucy's heart stood still when she spotted the morbid figure standing in the center of this sea of light. Death had been waiting for her.

COME FURTHER HUMAN CHILD. YOUR DESTINY AWAITS.

"Did you drag me down here?" Lucy asked, finally coming out of her dream-like state. "Where is Kate? What did you do to her?"

I DID NOTHING. THESE PICTURES HAVE A WAY OF ABSORBING THE HUMAN SPIRIT. SHE BECAME ONE WITH THE PAINTING.

"You…murdered her?"

I DO NOT MURDER. I AM BUT A COLLECTOR OF SOULS. I CANNOT TAKE A LIFE ON MY OWN.

"Poor Kate." Lucy whispered, fighting her tears. "This is all my fault."

YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HER LIFE.

"How can you say that? If it wasn't for me, she wouldn't have been dragged in here. She wouldn't have drowned herself! How could I not feel responsible?"

LIFE IS CONSTANTLY SHAPED BY THE LIVING. YOU ARE IN CONTROL OF YOUR OWN DESTINY. YOUR LIGHT CAN ONLY BE EXTINGUISHED BY YOUR OWN HANDS.

Lucy took in a long ragged breath. "What is this place?"

LOOK AROUND YOU. THESE ARE THE LIGHTS OF THE LIVING. THE LARGE ONES BELONG TO THOSE WHO ARE YOUNG AND VITAL, THE SMALLER ONES TO HUMANS IN THEIR PRIME, AND THE SMALLEST ONES BELONG TO THE OLD. BUT EVEN CHILDREN AND THE YOUNG MAY ONLY HAVE TINY CANDLES WHEN NO MORE TIME IS GRANTED TO THEM.

"I know this." Lucy muttered. "There is a small painting in my mother's sewing room. It's called Godfather death. It was a gift from my granny. I remember sitting on her lap as a little girl while she told me that story. The young physician who fell in love with the princess and refused to obey his godfather's wishes to let her die." An anxious, most fragile smile crossed her lips. "I used to cheer for him, hoping that he would be able to outsmart Death. He never did of course." She stared back at the dark hooded figure. The fast-paced rhythm of her heart was slowly calming down. Now that she was finally facing him, a strange sense of acceptance had come over her. "I suppose, I should ask you now what the physician asked his godfather."

Death nodded knowingly, but let her continue.

"Please, show me my candle." Lucy said in a soft voice.

Death pointed out a little end of a candle that was struggling to stay alight.

Lucy shut her eyes. A single tear glided down her cheek. "Tell me, why is so short?"

YOU KNOW THE ANSWER.

"What? Because I became Lucy Saxon? Is that why I only have such a short time left?" Her voice carried a hint of resentment. This wasn't fair. She had never hurt a soul in her entire life. When she imagined her future, she saw herself finding love and happiness. She saw a long-lasting marriage with a caring husband. She saw family picnics on the lawn in the summer and warm, cozy nights with her loved-ones huddled together around the fireplace in the winter, but not this. Not death.

What have I done to deserve this? She thought bitterly. All I wanted in life was a little happiness, a family of my own, is that so much to ask?

"What's going to happen? Show me! If you're really such a big magician, messing around with people's lives and dragging them in and out of make-belief worlds, than surely you would know my future?"

Death bowed his head, and with a solemn sweep of his scythe, he cut a small wound in the fabric of time and space to let the future come to her.

7.

The airspirit burst to the surface of the underground river, carrying the Master with him on his back. He gently lay down his lord on the lime-rock shore where he could slowly awake from his dreamless sleep.

"Remember good sir." Ariel whispered into his ears, before he went back to the world above. "You are not to return to the water or you will be bound to it, cursed to followed the course of the river for eternity."

Just a moment later, the Master awoke with Lucy's name on his lips. Dazed by the transition, he gazed around, searching for Ariel and River Song. Both were absent. Realizing that he was left on his own, and worried about what that vicious Earth woman might do to the Doctor while he was away, he checked his pockets and was relieved to find that he was still carrying River's sonic and the bottle with the green potion with him. At least she wouldn't be able to poison the Doctor's mind.

But perhaps, he contemplated, he could actually put the potion to a better use?

He recalled how Lucy had seen him acting out on River Song. That look of utter horror and disgust in her young innocent eyes haunted him. He had not wanted her to see him like this, and he wished he could undo it. He also began to realize that his own existence might be altered now that she had experienced the real Harold Saxon. Her fear might even cause him to disappear from the time-stream, and his last few years with the Doctor would be erased from history. Not without dread, he finally began to realize that he himself was actually in great danger.

With his instincts keen on survival, he poured out the liquid, leaving only a single drop behind on the bottom of the glass. He then refilled the phial with the water from the subterranean stream, diluting the potent potion till it was about the right dose for a human. After capping it with the stopper and putting it away, he hastened to venture into the underground dwelling, following the faint trail of Lucy's scent.

8.

Within an instance, Lucy saw and came to know everything. Her future life with the infamous Harold Saxon flew by in little but seconds, every minute of devoted love, every heartbreak and paralyzing terror that she would experience as his most unfortunate wife, every murder in which she had aided him on his behalf, she went through it as if she had already lived and died by his hands.

It broke her heart.

WHY ARE YOU WEEPING?

"Because it isn't right." Lucy whispered, her faced streaked with tears. "When I first met him, I've never thought it would be like this…You are a heartless creature to show me this, knowing that nothing can be changed."

BUT IT CAN BE CHANGED. IF YOU WISH IT SO.

"You mean…you could light another candle for me?"

I TOLD YOU, LIFE IS SHAPED BY THE LIVING. MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION, AND YOUR LIGHT SHALL NOT EXTINGUISH, HUMAN CHILD.

"But…how?" She asked weakly. "I don't want to die. Tell me, what should I do?"

JUST…MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE. Death told her, and raised his head to meet the Timelord who was about to enter the hall of light.

"Mr. bones!" The Master grabbed the sonic and aimed it at the Grim Reaper. "I was looking for you. Now, pay attention, because I am only going to ask you nicely this once. Let her go."

TOO LATE TIMELORD. TOO LATE.

The Master noticed how upset Lucy was. "What have you done to her?"

I DID NOTHING COMPARED TO WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO HER.

"He showed me my future." Lucy answered, her voice frail. "I saw everything. The death of the universe, the winged castle in the air where you were king. Those awful crimes and horrible murders." She bit on her lower lip while her salted tears dripped down her chin and splashed on her crimson dress. "I helped you. I stood by your side and watched while the earth burnt. You made me fall in love with a monster. How could you be so cruel?"

The Master slowly lowered the sonic. There were a thousand words that he wanted to speak, a thousand ways to justify his deeds and plead for forgiveness and express his greatest remorse, but none of it could pass his lips. "I am sorry." He finally said, staring at the broken girl.

"I really loved you." Lucy whispered. "I did. Once."

PERHAPS YOU NOW WISH YOU NEVER HAD.

"What do you mean?" Lucy asked.

THIS FALLEN TIMELORD DID NOT COME HERE WITHOUT A PLAN. A GLASS PHIAL IS IN HIS POSSESSION WITH INSIDE A MOST POTENT POTION THAT CAN ROB A MAN'S MIND FROM HIS MEMORIES. THE POTION IS INTENDED FOR YOU.

"Is that true?" Lucy asked the Master.

"Lucy, what you know is going to destroy your soul." The Master tried to explain. "All those awful things that I've shown you, it's going to haunt you day and night." He took out the bottle. "Take the potion." He offered it to her. "Take it! When you wake up again, all of this will just be a bad dream."

"You want me forget that this has ever happened?"

FALLEN TIMELORD, YOU'VE MADE ME BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE TRULY REMORSEFUL FOR YOUR DEEDS. WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL HER?

"I'm not killing her, I'm trying to save her!" The Master answered stubbornly. "You've poisoned her mind with that horrific knowledge of the future. She will be much better off when she forgets."

OH BUT YOU ARE KILLING HER. DON'T YOU SEE WHAT YOU ARE DOING? DON'T YOU REALIZE WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN SHE KEEPS THIS MEMORY WITH HER, OR ARE YOU TOO BLINDED BY YOUR OWN SELFISHNESS AND FEAR TO SEE?

A light entered his mind, a bright flash that shielded his eyes from everything around him, and brought him to a time not far away in the future. He was in a big bookstore in Oxford Street where a popular author was busy signing his work for a long line of queuing fans. Moving closer, he recognized himself sitting behind the desk. Harold Saxon, the successful businessman turned up-coming politician, was exposing the general public to his infections 100 megawatt smile that never quite reached the eyes.

"And for whom is this for?" Saxon asked, holding his pen ready.

"Joanna, my friends call me Joan." The giggly brunette answered, pouting her lips into a nervous smile.

"To sweet pouty Joan." He scribbled the message down on the first page while he held the young girl's eyes with a charming if not somewhat predatory grin. "With love, Harry. Here you go my sweet." He handed it back to her. "You know, a pretty girl like you really shouldn't be reading this filth."

The girl blushed from head to toes. "I have to say, I find your description of your affairs with a certain previous secretary of state quite…thrilling."

"If you like what you read, maybe you would also like to be filled in on the details." He told her with a sly smile.

The girl left the line, blushing even more than before.

"Next, please." Saxon grinned. A copy of his book was thrown carelessly on the table right in front of his nose. He arched his eyebrows and gazed up, and looked right into the eyes of Lucy Cole.

"Is there a problem miss…?"

Lucy looked nothing like the Master could remember her. Her beautiful eyes were red-rimmed and her long hair had streaks of grey and was kept in an untidy braid. She looked frail and ill.

"You wrote this, word for word?" She asked.

Harold Saxon smirked and leaned back in his chair. "Of course I did. I am the author. Maybe you forgot that you are presently at the promotion of my book?"

"I don't believe anything you wrote." She said, shaking her head. "It's all lies." Saxon moved away when she suddenly flung herself over the table and swept the pile of copies to the floor. She grabbed his book and started tearing out the pages. "Don't listen to him!" She shouted, scaring off the spectators with her mad behavior. "He is not who you think he is. His name is not even Harold Saxon!"

"Security!" Saxon shouted. "Remove her NOW!"

Two strong men with plug-in earphones and wearing very dark sunglasses appeared out of nowhere to restrain her.

"Listen to me!" She tried, still desperate to be heard. "He is not even human! He's deceiving you! He's deceiving us all!"

"Get this woman out of here!" Saxon ordered.

Lucy spat in his face. "Liar! Liar!" She gazed at him, her eyes glistening with tears. "You lied to me. You said you loved me." She whispered in a broken little voice.

"Now why would I ever do that, you crazy bitch?" Saxon told her coldly, wiping the spit from his cheek with much resentment. Luckily for her he was keen on keeping up a respectful appearance. "Throw her out. She's a menace to the public order."

The Master followed her while the men dragged her outside. "Liar!" She kept shouting over her shoulders. "Harold Saxon, you are a liar!"

"That's exactly why we need someone like me in Downing street." He overheard his future-self inform the crowd. "Not one of the other parties, not even the Tories know how to get rid of these of feeble minded individuals. I would say, pick them all up from the streets and institutionalize them. Keep those people under lock and key so that they can no longer be a threat to public safety."

His stomach turned when he heard the people behind him applaud. Meanwhile Saxon's men shoved Lucy through the glass doors. She tripped over the threshold and landed on the pavement where she huddled up in a bundle of misery. The very sight of her cut into the Master's hearts, and he was about to come to her aid when a man stopped on his way to the nearby bus station and checked on Lucy.

"Excuse me miss, but are you all right?" He asked with concern.

Still shaking from her ordeal, she glanced up at him. In front of her stood a handsome young man in his early thirties with a pleasant smile and kind, caring eyes. Becoming conscious of the shameful state she was in, she quickly swallowed the last of her tears and wiped them from her cheeks.

"What's your name?" He asked her.

"It's Lucy." She said softly. "Lucy Cole."

"Lucy Cole." He repeated. "My name is Jack Winston. I was on my way to work, but since you seem to be in dire need of someone who can take you home safely, would you mind to have me as your chaperon?"

For a moment, Lucy just gazed at him without response.

"You do have a home to go to. Don't you?" Jack asked with a little smile.

"Yes. Yes I do."

"Now then." He said, as he helped her up. "Let me get us ride."

"It's all right. I can go home by my own. You shouldn't bother."

"Don't be silly. Of course I should bother. It's not every day that I find a beautiful young woman lying on the street." He told her before he walked down the road and stopped an empty cab.

"What is going to happen to her?" The Master asked as he watched Jack Winston help Lucy inside the car.

WHAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF YOU HAD NOT INTERVENED WITH HER LIFE. LUCY COLE WOULD HAVE BECOME LUCY WINSTON. GIVEN THE CHANCE, TIME IS VERY CAPABLE TO MEND ITSELF.

The light flashed before his eyes again to reveal a spacious London flat. The floor was littered with colorful toys. A young mother was sitting with her little boy on the couch with a book opened on her lap. She was reading a story to him.

"Lucy?" The Master whispered. He looked amazed. "She's going to have a son?"

"The young man fell on his knees and begged godfather Death to save his life and exchange his short candle with a longer one." Lucy read in a clear voice. "Please Godfather, He asked. Let me live so I can marry the princes and become king. You have to do this for me. But Death still remembered his betrayal and wouldn't listen."

The Master gazed over the framed photos that were displayed on the small wooden cabinet behind her. Being family snapshots, he could only see smiling facing on everyone. His eyes fell on Lucy's wedding picture. He had never seen her smile like that.

"She…She looks happy."

SHE IS. SHE HAS EVERYTHING SHE WANTS. SHE WILL HAVE A LONG, HEALTHY LIFE TO SHARE WITH THOSE SHE LOVES AND LOVE HER IN RETURN.

"What about me?" He sucked in a deep breath air, for he felt numb and dead inside. "What will happen to me?"

Death waved his robe in front of his eyes, casting him into darkness.

YOU KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN TIMELORD. Death whispered to him.

Flashes of images appeared in his mind's eye. He was on board of the Valliant, handcuffed and taken prisoner and about to be shot down by his wife, but now, it wasn't Lucy who held the gun. With unsteady hand, Joan Saxon fired and Harold Saxon fell to the ground. He died in the Doctor's arms.

YOU KNOW.

He re-entered the world on Christmas Eve in the dreary cellar of Broadfell prison, a mad spirit slowly materializing in the eye of a blue energy vortex. His mind was consumed by vengeance and rage.

"Never dying. Never dying! Never! Never!" The Master stretched out his hands to his wife Joan, who was on her knees and looked absolutely terrified.

"Oh, my sweet Joan! My ever faithful, did the widow's kiss bring me back to life?"

"Please…Don't hurt me. I didn't want to shoot you. I really didn't!" Joan shrieked.

"Oh but I know. I even ordered you to shoot me. Your brain is so deliciously light. It's like a sponge. It absorbs almost anything I pour in it." He laughed spitefully. Around him the wards started to shudder like fish on hooks.

"What's happening to them?" Joan asked.

"Oh didn't they tell you? They are dying, you idiot! I'm sucking every last drop of life-force out of them."

"But…they were loyal! They were working for you!"

"They should sacrifice themselves for their Master. Mark my words, they are just the first to die! The whole stupid stinking human disgrace can disappear into a deep black pit!"

Joan scrambled up and staggered back while the others around her fell down to the floor. Their bodies were still twitching in post-mortem spasm. The Master, his transformation complete, calmly stepped out of the blue vortex, and slowly, he approached her.

"Please. Don't." Joan wept, fearing what was to come. "I was faithful to you. You said so yourself."

"Ssst." The Master hushed as he placed his hands on her cheeks, forcing her to look at him. "Now my sweet pouty little Joan, you know that is not completely true." A mean glint appeared in his eyes. "I did hear you call for the Doctor." He whispered into her ear.

Before she could defend herself, he savagely twisted her head and broke her neck. Joan eyes went dark and her body fell limp against him. Heartlessly, he let her tumble to the ground.

Once again the darkness was shifting, composing the next scene out of the shadows of a possible future.

"The drums." The Master noticed. "They were quieter this time. I remember them much louder."

WITHOUT LUCY TO STOP YOU, YOUR RESURRECTION WAS FULLY COMPLETED. YOUR BODY WASN'T RIPPED APART BY THE FORCES OF ALTERATION, WHICH HAD ONCE LEFT YOU RECEPTIVE FOR THE DRUMS. IN THIS FUTURE, YOU DID NOT BRING BACK THE TIMELORDS OF OLD TO TERRORIZE EARTH, BUT YOUR GREED FOR POWER AND RELENTLESS HUNGER FOR REVENGE DID DRIVE YOU TO THE IMMORTALITY GATE...

He was back in the main hall of the Naysmith mansion on Christmas day, surrounded by his army of clones. They were changing. Their heads were spinning as they rejected his DNA blueprint from their bodies like a disease.

Once again, the Doctor had found a way to undo his evil.

"No! No! No! Stop it! Stop it!" He shouted in despair, but he could only stand there and watch how his wonderful creations were reversed and turned back into those filthy little apes.

"Master." The Doctor said as he approached him slowly. "It's over."

"No! It's only over when I say it is!" The Master replied disdainfully, shooting an anxious glance at the gate that was still switched on.

"Don't do something stupid." The Doctor warned him. The soldiers around him started to regain control over their bodies, and one of them cocked his gun and aimed it at the Master. The Master swirled around and made a mad dash for the Immortality Gate, his last chance for retribution.

"Master!" The Doctor yelled. "Don't do this!"

He wasn't listening, and leapt into the gate with a loud roar.

"Deactivate it! Turn the whole thing off NOW!" The Doctor shouted at an engineer who rushed over to the console and tried the switches. "We can't." He told the Doctor. "The core is burning up. It has turned the entire system into a one-way energy surge. The entire gate is now flooded with radiation."

The Master stood triumphant. "Now let's see what more fun can be had with this device."

"Don't shoot!" The Doctor held back the soldiers as he ran forward. "Master, get out of there. The gate is getting dangerously unstable!"

"If I can't turn everyone into me then these Earthling are useless!" The Master sneered back. "It's better to get rid of this pathetic pet race of yours once and for all!"

The Doctor stared at him in horror. "Don't do anything! Don't try anything! Whatever you have cooked up in that mad brain of yours, it's not gonna work!"

The warning lights are starting to flash, bathing the entire room in a red foreboding glow.

"Master! Listen to me! That portal is corrupted! Don't start it up! You can't control it!"

A blood-red pulse of radioactive energy cracked over the surface of the gate. The Master gazed up, his jaw tensed. From the corner of his eyes, he saw the human soldiers moving closer to him with their weapons ready and aimed to kill.

The Doctor froze, realizing the dangerous position he had put him in. "Please…Don't." He turned to the militants. "Lower your guns! All of you! Stop threatening him!"

"We can't let him go sir." Replied a senior commander while keeping his target. "You've seen what he can do. He's too dangerous!"

The Master laughed madly. "Why is it Doctor, that every time we meet we must play this same tedious game, but none of us ever seems to win it?" The Master asked, his faked confident smile turning into grimace.

"Life isn't a game." The Doctor replied. He was desperate to reach him and this was his final chance. "Don't throw it away with the roll of a dice."

The Master stared back at him for moment. Although he feared the Doctor was right about the gate, the Master had no choice left. After all that had happened, he knew these humans were not going to let him live. He threw his head back and laughed bitterly.

"Oh, Doctor. I'll take that chance."

He activated the gate and the crimson energy exploded into a blinding flame. It incinerated everything in its path and shattered the glass in the windows as the heat wave pushed out of the main hall. The last thing the Master heard before left this world, was the Doctor, screaming his name when the gate was destroyed.

When the brightness finally faded, he opened his eyes. Slowly, they adjusted to the countless tiny dots of light that came from the burning candles.

He was back inside the cave.

"So this why you brought us here." He told the Grim Reaper. "You're forcing me to make a choice. Either I give the potion to Lucy, and she will forget she has ever met me. She'll die as my wife. Or I don't give her the potion, and let her keep her memories, but then…I will die."

THAT IS CORRECT.

"You bloody coward!" The Master hissed, anger boiling in his guts. "If you're so eager to get rid of me, why don't you just kill me yourself?"

I AM ONLY A COLLECTOR OF SOULS. I HAVE NO MY RIGHT TO TAKE A LIFE.

"So you're forcing me to take my own?" A bitter grin crossed the Master's face. "And hers? How do you think that's going to work?" He grabbed Lucy's arm and dragged her in front of the Grim Reaper. "What if I choose not to play your little game? What if all that sentimental twaddle you've shown me is not going to save her?" Determined, he took out the bottle and popped off the stopper. Lucy gazed at him with tearful eyes. He pushed the bottle onto her lips. "I could do this! Force it all down her throat till the very last drop. You wouldn't be able to stop me!"

THAT IS CORRECT. I CAN DO NOTHING.

"Because if it is a choice between her life and mine…There is no doubt in my mind which one I will pick." The Master said angrily, holding on to the bottle for dear life.

Death looked at him and Lucy, but did not act.

"You can't stop me." The Master repeated, forcing himself to be resolute, but in his hearts he knew that his resolve was crumbling.

"Please…"

He gazed at Lucy. There was no hate or resentment for his weakness in her eyes. There was only fear.

"Please…" He whispered. "Stop me…"

But Death remained silent and still.

TBC

SORRY FOR THE DELAY! The next and final chapter will be up this Tuesday, the 18th of January. Meanwhile, please review or leave a comment if you have the time.