The House of Mirrors
Author's Note: This is my first fanfiction, so any comments/critiques would be brilliant. Enjoy!
Summary: The Doctor and Rory find themselves in a dark forest, chased by an ancient enemy. Glowy fungi, bow ties, and timey-wimeyness abound.
Chapter 1: A Shortcut to Mushrooms
Mentally, Rory sulked. He consoled himself with the fact that his sulking was perfectly justifiable. Amy's flu made Rory irritated enough, but the Doctor, either overcome with concern for her health or once again in the throes of his impatient wanderlust, had placed her in the care of an Earth nurse for a few days. This left Rory wifeless and stuck in the TARDIS with quite possibly the world's—no, the universe's—most eccentric personality. The Doctor.
"Cheer up, Pond," came a voice from behind the machine's console. "She's in good hands."
"Good hands?" snapped Rory. "We had to go underground to see the nurse. Actually, we don't know if she is a nurse!"
"Nah, she isn't. But that doesn't matter."
"Doesn't matter? Doctor, Amy's sick. You should've just let me take care of her! Does that woman even have medical training?"
"Mrs. Smith-Jones," the Doctor quipped, poking his head around the console.
"Her name's Mrs. Smith-Jones. Nice girl. Smart. Good in a crisis. Mind you, though, she's got odd taste in blokes. And yes, she's got medical training."
Rory wasn't quite sure what to say. The Doctor generally had that effect on people. The Time Lord was impulsive, sure, but he wouldn't put Amy in harm's way. Well, not intentionally.
"Well…then…where're we off to next?" Rory finally stammered.
"The past!" announced the Doctor. "Need to nip over to the 16th century. There's a species of mushroom that died out 'round then. Devil's Tail, they call it. Exclusive to the forests of central Europe. Glows an amazing shade of blue on dark nights. And" –he paused for effect— "it's quite efficient at curing influenza."
Rory's mood instantly cleared. "But couldn't we have brought Amy?"
"Better not. Wild forests in the 1500's contain more things than glowing fungi, and some of them aren't quite as pleasant."
To say the midnight woods were dark would be a massive understatement. If it weren't for the light emanating from the police box, Rory wouldn't have been able to see to the end of his own nose. Beyond the reach of the TARDIS lamp, a suffocating, oppressive blackness enveloped the woods, and Rory found it far too easy to imagine malevolent creatures lurking within its depths. Arriving here, he could understand why the Doctor refused to bring Amy along. These woods were ominous enough to make anyone question their own sanity. Even as he watched, Rory swore he could see a dark shape flitting by at the edge of his vision.
Then the lamps went out.
"D…Doctor?" called Rory, trying not to topple over. "I can't see."
"Sorry, I've doused the lights," announced a voice to his left.
"What on Earth for!" Rory's voice cracked involuntarily.
"Well, the most efficient way to locate the mushrooms is by tracking their bioluminescent signatures, and in order to do that, I need no interference from other light sources." The Doctor's voice sounded closer now. And the darkness seemed more oppressive. Rory suppressed a shiver.
"What?" he asked.
ON HIS SHOULDER! Rory yelped.
"Shhh, that's my hand, you silly. Feel? Hand. My hand. There." The Doctor patted his shoulder. "Better? All right, good. Just go where I steer you and we'll be fine."
"Steer me? Where're we going? How can you see anything?"
"Yes; to the mushrooms; and I can't see any more than you can." Yet the Doctor unerringly led Rory through the forest, navigating around the trees.
"Wait, then how do you know where to go? Don't tell me you're smelling your way around."
"Yeah, how'd you guess?"
"You're kidding me."
"Nope, I'm a veritable bloodhound. Mind your next step—there's a root."
"Doctor," said Rory, wincing slightly, "I still don't understand why we're doing this in total blackness and how we're going to find the mushrooms."
"You can't find glow-in-the-dark fungi by waving a light around, can you? We need things dark so we can see the glow."
"All right, then! Mind you, I'm not sure I like this, though. Sort of creepy."
"Yes," the Doctor agreed. "Doesn't sit well with me either. Hope there aren't any Vashta Nerada lurking nearby."
"Vashta Nerada. They're living shadows, with an insatiable appetite for human fle—"
"That's not helping," Rory interrupted.
"No, I suppose not," admitted the Doctor. "Of course, if there were Vashta Nerada here, they'd have stripped our skeletons bare by now. So, I'd say that we're safe."
"Well, great," muttered Rory sarcastically. Then he stopped walking. "Doctor? Did you say the mushrooms glowed blue?"
"Yes, Rory—why d'you ask?"
There, between two dark shapes that must've been Rory's feet, stood a cluster of wide-capped, electric blue fungi. He heard a sharp intake of breath that must have been the Doctor sniffing.
"Yep, they've got that light nutty scent, with just a hint of apricot. I'd say we found what we came for. Thank you, Rory Pond!" With that, the Doctor plucked two of the mushrooms and stuffed them in a pocket. "And now we can risk a light in this intolerable darkness."
Suddenly, in the Doctor's torchlight, Rory could make out the massive mossy tree-trunks like giants' legs, and in between the brambles and detritus littering the forest floor, and beside him, the tall, tweedy, floppy-haired form of the Doctor.
"That's better, eh? Here's a torch for you"—the Doctor tossed one to Rory—"and let's go back before anything bad can happen." He began traipsing back the way they'd come.
"Like what?" Rory tried not to sound apprehensive.
The Doctor stopped and sniffed at the wind. He seemed to be doing that a lot recently. "Like that."
"What? Doctor, I don't—"
"Shhh," the Doctor warned, pulling Rory behind a tree. He leaned closer and whispered. "Someone—or something—is between us and the TARDIS. I can smell it."
"Who? Someone friendly, maybe?" Rory sounded hopeful.
"Maybe. Let's find out!" announced the Doctor. "I have a plan."
"A good one?" asked Rory.
"Not really." And before Rory could open his mouth, the Doctor had leapt out from behind the trunk.
"Hello! I'm the Doctor," announced the Time Lord. "I bring peace…and Rory. Say hello, Rory!"
Rory poked his head around the tree. The Doctor's silly gamble had paid off, for the "someone" between them and the TARDIS looked like a friend—or, at least, wouldn't make a particularly formidable enemy. Wearing clothes little better than rags, with wild salt-and-pepper hair and a beard to match, and wielding an actual flaming torch, the man facing them would have looked more animal than man had it not been for the expression on his face—he looked bemusedly interested, possessed by an almost professorial curiosity. He, Rory decided, was an intellectual.
"Uh, hello." Rory raised his free hand in a none-too-confident gesture of friendship.
"You're the strangest spirits I've ever seen," said the man.
"What? Spirits?" asked the Doctor. Then he saw the torches both he and Rory were carrying. "Oh, these? No, no, they're just funny-looking tools, see? We're not ghosts. We're people." Rory noted the Doctor's careful avoidance of the word human.
The man eyed them closely. "Hmm, well, I'll take your word for it, I suppose," he answered. "But, then, what is a Doctor and his assistant doing in this dark forest during the witching hour?"
"I'm not his assistant," Rory huffed.
"We're…exploring," The Doctor half-lied. "Doing some midnight botany, you know?"
"I see," said the man disbelievingly. "I don't suppose you know anything about that blue wooden box yonder." He pointed over his shoulder.
"Oh, actually, yes," said the Doctor cheerfully. "That's my, ah, equipment."
"So how did you transport it here? I didn't see any wagon tracks. No tracks except yours, actually. Do you mean to say it fell from the sky?"
"That's not the point," evaded the Doctor. "You know who we are, but I don't believe I know your name."
"Martin," answered the man gruffly.
"Well, Martin, I don't know about you, but Rory and I could use a hot drink. Do you live nearby?"
Martin looked like he was about to refuse, but then, slowly, a smile spread across his face, strained at first, but then startling in its authenticity. "Within a quarter kilometer" –here Rory knew the TARDIS was translating the distances for him—"to the west. I don't have much, since I live alone, but I do have some tea leaves and some water to boil."
"Great!" said the Doctor. "Let's go!"
As they meandered westward through the trees, Rory muttered to the Doctor under his breath. "Didn't you say the TARDIS has a Perception Filter? Why did that man notice the TARDIS, then? That's a bit odd, isn't it?"
The Doctor shifted uncomfortably. "That's the problem with the Perception Filter. I think I accidentally switched it off along with the TARDIS lamps. That'll be a wiring problem. I've been meaning to check."
"You made a mistake?" asked Rory, grinning.
"Turning off the Filter? I've done far worse," commented the Doctor. "Now, take that oil spill. Sometime back in the 21st century. Now, that was a mistake. This, on the other hand, is just a slight misstep."
"You caused an oil spill?"
"Me? No, not exactly. It was more the result of a discarded Warp Star, an unexpected island, and an enraged Great White. And whatever you might hear to the contrary, I did not feed the shark jalapeno peppers."
Rory chose to move on with the conversation. "So, wait, tell me…why are we going to this Martin man's house?"
"Something's off about this forest. Something's off about him," remarked the Doctor, nodding towards Martin's fire-lit silhouette. "And I need to find out what."
Author's Note: TBC!