Once again, a big thanks to everyone who has reviewed the previous chapters!
The very sight of the white point star wiped the smile from the Master's face and plunged him in a state of fear and irrationality. Meanwhile, the Watcher was struggling to breathe, clawing her hands at the Timelord's ever tightening grip while her bulging eyes stared at him, but the Master had just lost his last trace of compassion that he might have had for the old woman.
"Where did you get this?" He sneered. "This is a star of Gallifrey. Why has it fallen into the hands of a mad old witch? What will you do with it? Speak!"
He loosened his grip to let her talk, but instead of using her hard gained breath to answer any of his questions, she turned to her subordinates and started to scream.
"Help me you bunch of incompetent weaklings!" She gasped. "Get back the white point star and kill him!"
The monks swarmed up the stage in compliance, and launched themselves recklessly on the Master who tightened the ropes around their mistress neck in defense. From underneath their robes, they produced knives, swords and metal maces, making the Master wonder where they had kept these things hidden all the time, and why the hell he couldn't find any weapons on the monk he had to dispatch earlier.
"Idiots!" Hissed the Watcher. "What are you waiting for? Free me!" She could only half-finish her sentence, for the Master choked the last breath of air out of her.
"No." Donna mumbled, following the threatening situation with growing anxiety. "Don't do it."
"Come on my love." Anne whispered under her breath. "Kill that old witch and set me free."
The Master stared down into the crowd and found Anne, looking at him with great anticipation. It was all the encouragement he needed. Just when he was about to pull the ropes, a shot was fired from the other side of chapel. The Master felt a hot sting explode in his shoulder. The impact swirled him around and forced him to let go of the Watcher. As he propelled backwards, the star slipped from his fingers. It rolled over the floor till it disappeared in a crack between the floorboards.
Antoine strode towards the platform with a determined look on his face while he prepared his aim for a second shot. Coming up so close to his target while the Master was still dazed and struggling to get up, it was going to be hard for the gunman to miss the Timelord's head.
"No!" Anne shouted, and was about to rush forward to stop Antoine, when two of the monks suddenly ran forwards and threw themselves on the gunman's back, making him collapse under their weight. The shot was still fired at the platform, and wooden splinters exploded in a cloud of smoke while the rest of the monks scrambled over each-other to get out of range, causing complete chaos.
"Get off me, you buffoons!" Antoine yelled, and cursed loudly when his gun was kicked out of his hand by a fleeing monk and slid away underneath the podium, far away from his reach.
While still half-hanging from Antoine's neck, Donna stuck her head above the podium, and searched for the Master. She found him crawling unsteadily on his hands and knees, trying to regain his focus after being flung against the wall.
"Right, about time to get the heck out of here, don't you think?" She told him, pointing in the direction of the doors. She leaped off the gunman's back and kicked Antoine in the stomach before she helped Wilf up and vanished into the crowd before he could get a good look at them both.
The Master didn't need to be told twice.
He jumped back on his feet and leaped off the platform while the Watcher was still coughing her lungs out.
"Go after him!" She screeched, baring her graveyard row of teeth. "Catch him alive! I'll flay him! I'll rip the skin from his aching flesh! I'll tear him apart from limp to limp, that miserable little rat!" She carefully removed the ropes from her neck, and winced when strips of her skin came off with it. "The star." She breathed, struggling hard to refill her old lungs with air. "Where is my star!"
Somehow the Master managed to flee out of the chapel, but his wound kept oozing blood, leaving a trail behind for his enemies to follow. He dived into the different rooms, trying to shake off the monks by throwing whatever came in his way in their path, but although they looked old and frail, those ugly buggers were still amazingly fast on foot, and dodge all of the obstacles with ease. He finally reached what he thought of as the kitchen. Eager to arm himself, he pulled an entire rack of knives from the wall and started throwing them at his enemies. The first one hit the closest monk in the shoulder and swept him down to the floor.
"One." The Master said to himself, and flung another one. The blade rotated in the air and cut the nose right off the second monk.
"Two." He added, and wondered why the hell he was counting these acts of bloody violence as if he was keeping track with his winning shots at a funfair game. I really need to find the Doctor fast, he thought with growing concern. First the puppets, and now this. Maybe I am truly losing my final grips on my sanity.
He glanced over his shoulder, and saw two trailing monks who were raising their short knives, ready to throw them at him.
The Master spun around and launched two cleavers at the same time. Each of them went for the brethrens hands and with one turn around the axis of the blades, cut them clean off by the wrists.
"Three and four." The Master added with a malicious smirk, and watched not without glee how the deformed men screamed and held on to their raw stumps, while a fountain of crimson sprayed in their faces. Half-slipping over their own blood, they ran away from the vengeful Timelord as fast as their feet could carry them.
But of course, there were still plenty of the Watcher's minions left who didn't get the bloody message.
The Master slowly backed away, keeping his eyes on the group of the remaining monks. He knew that they would only be briefly intimidated by the grisly fate of their brethren, and that they soon would realize that he was running out of ways to defend himself. The situation indeed looked grim. There were still at least 16 of them, each yielding a real weapon, while all he had left for himself was a short potato knife. Cursing under his breath, his mind turned quickly to think of a way out, while his enemies tightened the circle.
He bumped his back against the base cabins and heard the rattling of metal inside. With a shimmer of hope, he turned around and pulled a drawer open to reveal a whole set of fresh steak knives. It would supply him with plenty ammunition. Quickly, he grabbed a handful.
"Oh look what you've made me do. I just lost count." The Master said in a low, dark voice, staring each of the men straight in the eyes. He fanned out the blades, and showed them a perfect semicircle of razor sharp talons.
"Better start over again." The Master added with a cold murderous grin.
And he so did.
"Where's is he?" Donna asked. She rushed through the rooms with Wilf by her side in a search-party of monks. "He can't be far. Not with that bullet wound."
She stopped dead in her track when she noticed a trail of crimson dots on the otherwise spotless blue carpet, and hurriedly pulled back her granddad.
"What? What's going on?" Wilf muttered.
Donna lifted her feet and showed Wilf the bloodstains.
"It goes that way." She whispered. They headed to the back of the group and let the monks run pass till the very last of them disappeared into the next room. Left on their own, Donna and Wilf followed the trail into the study, through the library, and out into the next corridor into a large kitchen complex, where Donna suddenly stopped again.
"Oh gramps, please tell me that's just a bit of sausage in tomato sauce." She said in a thin voice while she stared down at the bloody lump lying on the tiles.
"No. No that's a real human nose." Wilf replied, equally shocked by the gruesome finding.
Donna shut her eyes and stepped over it, only to be unpleasantly surprised a few meters further down where she almost slipped over a severed hand lying in a wet smear of blood.
"What is this? The haunted mansion? Where do all these body parts come from?"
Donna tried hard not to throw up. Warily, they ventured further into the kitchen, following their trail of bloody breadcrumbs, till they reached the very back.
Even after all the gruesome sights, Donna was still not prepared for what she found there.
It was like a wild animal had been set lose on the monks. Donna gazed in silent shock as she stepped over the heavily mutilated bodies. Everywhere she looked, there was blood. Blood smeared over the cabins. Blood dripping from the table and forming pools on the kitchen floor. Blood on the dead men's faces, streaming from their numerous wounds and blooming in large dark stains on their robes like macabre flowers.
Blood on the Master's hands and trickling down his face.
He sat on the kitchen table between the bowls of fruit and baskets of bread, kicking his feet over the side while he was busy prying a long filet-knife out of a dead monk's eye socket. Donna had to clinch when she heard the crunch that the blade made as it dislodged from the bone.
"Master." She whispered, her eyes widening in disbelief. "What have you done?"
The Master glared up at her and just grinned, his wild eyes, filled with insanity. And for a moment, Donna could actually believe that the Master could as easily kill her like he had butchered the monks, just to know the color of her insides. She jumped back frightened when the Master flung his legs over the edge of the table, and stabbed the last remaining knife into the wooden surface while he landed his feet on the floor.
"And where have you two been?" He asked, wiping his hands clean over his shirt as if he had just filleted a chicken. "I've been waiting here for ages. Do you have any idea how bored I am?"
"We…We couldn't find you." Donna stuttered, glancing back at Wilf for help.
Wilf came a little closer to him. "Master?" He asked, studying his face. "Are you all right son?"
"Splendid! Marvelous! Most excellently spectacular! Never been better." The Master snapped. He clapped in his hands and laughed, glancing around at the disemboweled bodies like a mad butcher enjoying his achievements.
"Have you completely lost your mind?" Donna told him, genuinely disturbed by the way the Master reacted. "How can you just laugh? All these people, you've just butchered them and you act like it's nothing!" She stared at the Master with a look of complete incomprehension in her eyes, while he just kept giggling insanely, showing not even a glimpse of normal human emotion or whatsoever.
Wilf pinched her hand and shook his head. "Don't provoke him." He whispered, having experienced the Master's insanity before, he recognized that darkness in his eyes all too well.
"I can't…" Donna turned around, and pressed her hand against her mouth to stop herself from screaming.
"Oh now wait minute. Don't tell me." The Master grinned. "You're all upset again about what I did." He gazed at Donna with a look of boldness on his face. "So I got rid of these men who tried to murder me, big deal! How does that topple your moral scale?" Suddenly angered, he plucked the filet-knife from the tabletop and flung it against the wall.
"These men are the enemy, not me!" He pointed out while he shouted into Wilf's pale face. "Why don't you both finally get it in your thick monkey skulls! Grow a brain instead of looking at me with those condemning little eyes! All judgmental, and compassionate, and patronizing and so fucking righteous!" He stormed over to Donna and pulled her over to a corpse lying on the table.
"Oh no! Don't do that! Let her go!" Wilf yelled, but the Master would not listen to him. At this moment, he wouldn't listen to anyone except for the mad screaming voices inside his head.
"Look at him!" He yelled, and almost pushed Donna's face into the gaping wound that he had inflicted in the monk's chest. "This is what they deserve! Anyone who opposes me, anyone who stands in my way, this is how they all should end up!"
"Master!" Wilf's voice was trembling as he begged silently to him to release his granddaughter. The Master held the old man's gaze for a while. Then the dark storm inside his mind finally passed over into that strange tranquil place and both anger and reason abandoned him.
"You're all like the Doctor." He muttered, and let go of Donna. As soon as she felt his grip loosen, she struggled free and rushed back into her granddad's arms.
"All of you." The Master muttered. "Every one who has ever traveled with him. You act like you're him. Copying his ways, willing to fight the virtuous fight. He has changed you forever. Made you all want to be like him." The Master leaned back on the table and gazed down miserably. "Why can't you just understand. We can never be him." He said softly. "I can never be him." He studied his blood-soaked hands as if he had just noticed them.
"I've seen enough." Donna muttered, and pulled her granddad away from the Master. "We're going." She turned around resolutely, her mind made up to leave all of this insanity behind.
"Wait. Donna, we can't just leave him here like this." Wilf tried.
"I don't care if he's a Timelord or a friend of the Doctor, but that was the deed of a MONSTER!" Donna pointed out. "We are gong to find the Doctor and we're getting out of here."
"Blood." The Master whispered, a hint of despair in his voice. "There is so much blood. I can't…I can't get my hands clean." Slowly, he began to wipe them over the table top in long sweeping motions, smearing his victim's blood into the wood nerves. He gazed helplessly at Wilf. "It's on my shirt and in my hair and on my face. It's everywhere."
"Donna, he's not well." Wilf told her. "We can't leave him. Not after what he has done for us."
Donna took in a deep breath and glanced back at the wretched Timelord, who had stumbled to the sink and was trying to scrape his hands clean under the running tap with his fingernails. A flashback came to her, and she recalled how confused and scared the Master had been when they were fleeing from the Judoon soldiers. His current condition reminded her of the fragile young man that had needed her protection.
"Alright." She sighed. "We going to drag his bloody ass away from here. But no more killing or I swear we'll just leave him to those mad monks."
"I don't think the monks are going to survive that." Wilf added wisely, and helped Donna to stop the Master from scrubbing his skin off his hands.
"What are you doing? I need to wash." The Master objected weakly when she turned off the tap.
"They're clean." Donna told him. As if she was explaining things to a six year old, she took his hands and turned them around to show it to him. "See? You can stop now."
They dragged him away from the sink. "Come on you crazy spaceman." Donna said as they guided him out of the kitchen. "We need to find you a hiding place."
"Hide? What are you talking about? Don't be so stupid. I don't need to hide." The Master said, digging his heels in the floor. "I deliberately want them to find me, that's the whole plan."
Donna gazed at her granddad mouthing a silent but urgent What the fuck? at him, but Wilf waved her worries away. "Don't listen to him. He's just rambling." He whispered, hoping that the Master wouldn't hear.
"I am not rambling!" The Master yelled back, taking true offence that they were treating him like a bloody imbecile, and swept his arms back to get his hands free. "The Doctor rambles like a an idiot, but not me. Look, we had a plan, remember? And we're going to stick to it."
"Actually, we don't remember because you've never bothered to tell us." Donna answered, getting so irritated that she forgot to be nice to him again.
The Master looked quite perplexed. "I didn't?" He asked Wilf, who shrugged and shook his head at him. "Well better late than never." The Master grinned, and wet his lips. "Listen." He whispered, and leaned forward as if he was sharing some important tactics with them. "The plan is this, you two sound alarm, and I am going to get caught."
"You what?" Wilf muttered.
"Right, now it's definitely time for the white nurses and the funny-farm car to come around." Donna muttered under her breath. "Gramps, are you still sure that we want to drag him along? He has gone completely bonkers."
Luckily, the Master seemed not to have heard her. "It's going to work." He said with complete confidence. He patted down his pockets and retrieved both the Doctor's sonic and his own laserscrewdriver. "Here." He said and tossed them over at Wilf and Donna, who each caught one of the devices.
"You want us to laser-fight our way out for you." Donna said. "What do you think we are? Jedi warriors? I can't even do a split without tearing up a muscle."
"Don't be ridiculous. They're perfectly locked. You won't be able to fire one single shot. Frankly I won't trust any of you near a functional weapon even if it was specially designed for the left-handed and proved to be as blunt and dull as one of the Doctor's dreadful monologues." He added, gaining a nasty look from Donna. "By the way, you're holding it upside down." He commented with a grin, just to put the finishing touches to her utterly annoyed look.
"If they're locked and we can't use them, then what are we supposed to do with them?" Wilf asked, glancing down at the Doctor's sonic.
"Put them away. I only give them to you for safekeeping. So hide them well." The Master glanced over Wilf's shoulder into the kitchen. Footsteps could be heard, mixed with loud voices that border-lined on panic. "They're coming." He muttered. "Quick, grab a knife and aim it at me." He stuck his hands in the air in the pretence that he was surrendering himself. "Do it!" He urged. Donna and Wilf grabbed whatever was closest available and pointed it at the Master.
"Are you sure about this?" Wilf asked worriedly.
The Master took in a deep breath and nodded. "Just keep your eyes and ears open. And don't let me be removed from your sight."
"Brothers Mathieu and Alphonse!" Antoine exclaimed, as he approached with his gang of monks. "You've caught our villain." He said, staring down at the bodies sprawled over the floor with a look of alarm on his face.
He gazed up at the two monks with great perplexity. "What happened here?"
"Oh, it was a genuine bloodbath sir!" Wilf answered. "Our brethren fought like lions to get this monster down, but in the end, a lot of them paid for that extraordinary courage with their lives."
"Yes. I can see that." Antoine stepped over the bodies to get to the prisoner. "He certainly has a murderous and deranged look in his eyes." He muttered after studying the Master up close. He turned around, taking in the two monks. "How come you two are the only ones left alive?"
"Well, someone always has to be lucky." Wilf responded, short of a better explanation.
The Master couldn't keep himself from rolling his eyes for such a sorry excuse, but Antoine though it through for a moment. "I suppose your right." He finally shrugged. "Anyway, lady Fortuna is often with the dumb." He gestured to his gang to grab hold of the prisoner. "Don't just stand there. Search him for weapons!" He told them.
"No Need to sir. We've already done that." Donna answered. She hastily stepped forward and grabbed hold of the Master's wrist, while Wilf did the same on the other side. The Master winced when she twisted his injured arm on his back and held it there.
"Thank you brother Alphonse." Antoine said with a glint of suspicion in his scarred eye. "That was surprisingly efficiency." He held out his hand to which Donna responded with a blank stare.
"What did he have on him?" Antoine asked, trying to keep his patience.
"Oh…He didn't carry any." Donna replied.
Antoine gave her a most unconvinced look. "He did all this with his bare hands?" He asked, gesturing at the bloodbath.
Donna swallowed hard. "He used the knives in the kitchen. Anything that was sharp enough actually." She made up quickly, unaware that what she was telling Antoine was not far from the truth.
A sly smile crept over the gunman's lips. "And you two apprehended him, using a fish knife and a spatula?"
Donna began to sweat when Antoine held her eyes for a moment.
"Let's get him to down to the vaults." He finally ordered, turning around and beckoning to Donna and Wilf to follow him with the prisoner.
"And let someone please clean up this bloody mess!" He told the others.
Anne had slipped out of the chaos of the chapel unnoticed and hurried back to her chambers. As soon as she had slammed the door shut behind her she turned the lock, and went looking.
"Master!" She whispered urgently. She had hoped that the injured Timelord had run back to her quarters for refuge. "Master are you here?" She searched through her room but found no sign of him. Worried about his safety, she was about to head out when her eyes caught a fleeting shadow crossing the large mirror in front of her wardrobe. Her heart skipped a beat.
"Koshei." She called weakly. "Is that you?" A dark shadow stretched over the surface of the mirror, and the room became dark and cold, like midnight in the depths of the forest. A robed figure emerged, his frame frightful to the human instinct because it was so unnaturally long and thin. A branchlike arm separated from the surface while the traces of the mirror clung onto it like a thick transparent membrane. The hooded entity waded through this bulging window with his skeletal hand extended towards her.
"Why do you keep haunting me?" Anne shouted at him, her fear robbing her from her will over her own body, leaving her unable to flee. "I did nothing wrong in life! It wasn't my choice! I never had any choice!"
DEATH looked down on her with neither pity nor malice in his two brilliant blue orbs that burnt inside his skull, and from between the folds of his dark robe, he produced his trusted scythe.
"Oh no!" Anne backed away from him, and almost stumbled over her own feet. "No! Please! Don't take me! I don't want to go!"
You have already been granted more than you were destined to receive. Death replied, and slowly raised his scythe.
"But that's not fair! I had been given hardly any time. I was not even allowed to see my little girl grow up." She cried. "I had to abandon her before her fourth birthday."
Such is your fate. written down in THE pages of history. fixed in time.
"But what if I can bargain with you?" Anne begged, her instinct for self-preservation kicking in. "What if I could offer you something in exchange for my own life?"
there is nothing you could offer me.
"Oh but there is! That man you showed me when you took me to glimpse into time on that world of snow and ice. The Timelord who called himself the Master. I can lead you to him. He's the one who has caused all this. He's the reason why all of this is happening. Why are you so determined to take my life, if you can stop that horrible future from unfolding just by removing its creator here and now? Is that not why you're here? Isn't that your purpose?"
DEATH lowered his blade and regarded her silently. The wretched Tudor queen didn't realize it yet, but DEATH does not bargain with anyone, but nor can he lie.
"What do you say? One life for one other?" Anne asked, anxiously clinging onto this one last chance. "Do you take my offer?"
BRING HIM TO ME. DEATH answered, and slowly faded back into the mirror.
The ancient walls of the underground shaft were briefly illuminated when the concession passed on their long descend into the underground world. The Master peered down into the darkness as he descended the slippery stone steps. He was guarded by the monk-shimmers of Wilf and Donna on both sides, and was led by Antoine and a dwarf-sized monk holding a burning torch up front as they ventured down into the vast Roman vaults. The Master kept listening to his own footsteps to calculate the size of the crypts, and in his mind, he was already drawing up an escape route.
If only he could find the Doctor soon, the Master thought, than he could get the hell out of this overwhelming stink of human waste that seemed to grow thicker and more pungent as they came closer to their destination. Antoine led him to a corner of the vault where a metal slate sat in the floor. There he took over the torch from the dwarf-monk.
"Open it." Antoine ordered.
The dwarf-monk did what was asked of him, and with strained muscles and an arched back, managed to remove the lid, revealing a dark hole underneath. The stale stench that came drifting up was absolutely nauseating.
Antoine smirked maliciously at his prisoner. He took out his musket and waved it in the Master's face.
"What?" The Master replied, once again fully in control. "You came all the way down here to show me the human cesspit you came from?" He joked, and his lips curled into a most nasty smile that defied Antoine's own.
The Frenchman came forward and stared at the prisoner. His eyes narrowed. "It's funny, yes?" He hissed, replacing his gun with a short hand knife. "You're such a comic. Maybe I should give you something to really laugh about."
Donna's breath stalled when she watched Antoine jab his knife into the Master's stomach, but withheld the pointy dagger from piercing skin at the very last moment.
"I shall enjoy killing you, slowly." Antoine rasped. "I've kept a prisoner alive for 81 days once. Each day, I came down here to cut something off of him, but the sad bastard kept clinging to life. You should give me a chance to break my own record."
The Master looked back at him without even a trace of fear in his cold dark eyes. "So, you have it then." He told him. "You have the star?"
Antoine acted really surprised. "What do you mean?"
"Well you're not exactly interrogating me about it. Considering what it's worth to your mistress, you might expect that you would do anything to get it back. I should be sprawled out on a rack, being tortured to death by now while you extract the necessary information out of me with a lot of physical motivation, but instead you brought me here and are chatting me up about your perverted sadomasochistic hobbies. That's not the reaction you would expect from a loyal dog who's desperate to retrieve the ball to please his mistress." The Master cleverly concluded. "Unless, the dog isn't that loyal after all." He added knowingly, and produced a most confident smile that further infuriated Antoine.
"You are just speculating." The Frenchman replied, making sure that his entourage could hear. "Don't listen to him. Of course I don't have it."
"It dropped beneath the platform. Didn't you just happen to be crawling there like the pathetic little worm that you are, looking for your gun?" The Master replied accusingly.
"That's preposterous! I would never be disloyal to the Watcher!"
"Of course not, and you know what, you've got me completely convinced with that look of pure honesty in your eyes." The Master mocked, and the smile faded from his face. "Listen to me, you two-faced dog, I know greed when I see it. I've played my own parts in the infamous game of double-crossing and deceit and I can smell a traitor from a mile away. You are ripe with the stench of a true Judas."
Antoine's thin mask of confidence just melted away. "Who are you? And how come you know about the star?"
"Finally! Now you're asking the right questions!" The Master grinned, crossing his arms over his chest, he leaned towards his captor, his face darkening while his eyes shimmered with an ancient wisdom.
"I am one of the last of an ancient race so evolved and superior that the life's light of each and every one them is worth more than a thousand lives of your own miserable stunted species. My bloodline runs back deep into the rivers of time, all way to the beginning of the universe itself. And I know about the star, because that star and I came from the same impossible place where the twin suns of Justice and Perseverance once burnt in a crimson sky. A magnificent world that yields to the complete and utter will of my people who could decide over the color of the grass, the songs of the birds, or even the heights of the mountains. It came from my lost home, the red planet of Gallifrey." The Master paused and pointed at Antoine. "That diamond you're trying to hide is one of Gallifrey's most precious white point star."
Antoine's face had drained of color, but his eyes suddenly lit up when he heard the Master speak out the name. "W-what did you say?"
"The star of Gallifrey." The Master hissed. "You have it. What do you want to do with it?"
Donna felt a chill run down her spine when a cold, calculative smile split Antoine's lips. The way the man reacted, it didn't seem right.
"Oh, you have no idea how long I've been waiting to hear someone speak those words to me." Antoine grinned, and before Donna or Wilf could do anything to stop him, he stabbed his dagger in the Master in the side. The Master slumped forward while his attacker grabbed him by his shoulder. "Welcome Timelord." Antoine whispered into his ear. "Glad you're here to join us." He turned the blade and pulled back, and warm blood came rushing out of the flesh wound in a cascade of crimson.
"Oh no!" Donna gasped, pressing her hand onto her mouth when Antoine let go of the Master and shoved him off in the direction of the pit. Weakened and his balance lost, the Master slipped over the side and tumbled through the deep dark abyss into the wet waste below.
Wilf pinched her hand and shook his head, meaning that she should keep quiet, but Donna could hardly control herself from shaking.
Antoine peered over the edge and smiled broadly. "Doctor! It's not exactly dinner that I'm dropping on you, but I hope you will not mind the company of a fellow Timelord." He called down into the dark. "Keep an eye on him for me will you? Don't let him bleed to death, although I'm almost sure he cannot."
"Did…Did he just say Doctor?" Donna whispered. Wilf nodded and watched with worried eyes how the dwarf-monk pushed the heavy metal slate back in position, locking both Timelords away from the outside world. "He did." Wilf muttered. "I can't believe it. That crazy son of a bitch! His plan actually worked. He really brought us to the Doctor."
"Yes, but how do they get out again?" Donna panicked.
"The Master wanted to keep us by his side, because he needed us to know where that mad Frenchman kept the Doctor." Wilf answered. "We'll have to come back later, and then help them out of the pit."
Donna nodded, a headstrong determination burnt inside her guts. Whatever risk they needed to take, they will rescue the two Timelords. She just hoped that the Master was all right.
"Don't worry. He can't die." Wilf told her, noticing the look in her eyes. "Well, sort of can't. At least he told me so."
"Why are you two still here?" Antoine told them both. "Don't tell me you expect a reward for catching him?"
"Oh no milord." Wilf answered quickly. "After what he did to our brethren, we only regard it as our sacred duty to apprehend him."
"Indeed, and don't expect anything else." Antoine replied coldly. "Now don't just stand there. The time of our Lord's return is almost upon us. Return to the chapel and help the others in the preparation."
"Yes milord." Donna and Wilf replied, and followed the dwarf-monk back to the staircase. Just when she walked by Antoine, Donna caught a glimpse of something small and shimmering, kept hidden in the palm of his hand.
The Doctor was just staring up at the bright yellow disk in the ceiling when he caught sight of a dark figure falling over the edge. It dissolved in the darkness for a second before it hit the foul wastewater below. Then he heard Antoine's voice, yelling down at him loud and clear.
"Don't let him bleed to death. Although I am almost sure he cannot."
The Doctor dived through the muddy water, heading straight for the direction where he had heard the splash. Above his head, the circle of light was quickly disappearing again.
"Master!" He screamed. "Say something! Let me know where you are!" His hearts were racing. Even through the thick stench of decay and waste, he could smell the faint coppery scent of his companion's blood.
"Oh shut up." Came the soft but annoyed reply, followed by a miserable groan.
"Master!" The Doctor waded through the disorientating darkness till he bumped right into him. "Are you all right? Not hurt?" He asked with concern in his voice.
"I've just been stabbed in the side a minute ago, what do you think?" The Master replied, but the Doctor could hear clearly that the Master's pride was more harmed than himself, which was a relief. He helped his fellow Timelord to the brim of the cesspit pool, and pushed him up the elevation to get him on dry land.
"Here, let me help you." The Doctor ripped off a sleeve from his wet shirt and tried to wrap it around the Master's waist to stop the bleeding, but the Master refused to let him touch the wound. "Oh no." He rasped, still clenching his teeth from the pain. "You re not going to bandage me with that piece of cloth drenched in human shit."
"Don't be so difficult. An open wound can get infected."
"Oh and you think it won't if you press the germs right into it?" The Master ridiculed. "What kind of a Doctor are you?"
He eventually allowed the Doctor tend his wounds. Then the two of them sat in the darkness for a while, just listening to the quiet but steady drips of water coming from the ceiling.
"So…this is how it is to travel with the Doctor." The Master mused while looking up. He was feeling better already, and needed a good sneer at his fellow companion to take his mind from the pain. "Your human pets do keep telling me that you take them to the most wonderful places."
"Oh yes. I do tend to take the people I like to the nice places. The not so nice ones are more for the difficult relationships, just to keep it interesting." The Doctor joked back. He stared in the direction of where the Master sat. "You've come to get me. How did you know where I was?"
"It wasn't that hard. I went after your captor's horse carriage till it disappeared through the time gap. I just followed the trail left by the time-dust using the Tardis. Of course with my wit I should have found you earlier, but I was a delayed. I was forced to rescue that most annoying redhead companion of yours from getting her thick neck cut off by the French mob."
"Hang on, you've found Donna?" The Doctor said, pleasantly surprised.
The Master sighed. "I wish I didn't. Does that woman ever shut the hell up?"
"Who? Donna? Oh no, not Donna, she just keeps talking and not listening at all. On and on she goes. She is absolutely marvelous." The Doctor cheered, feeling a great sense of relief wash over him again after hearing the good news.
"She remembers you. Her memory is fully restored." The Master could not see the Doctor in the complete darkness, but he could actually imagine that look of foolish gratitude and stupendous happiness brightening his face.
"I can't wait to see her." The Doctor blurted.
"I simply cannot relate to that." The Master replied dryly. "Although I must admit that I would be immensely disappointed by the sheer limitedness of her mental capacity if she didn't show up in time to get us out."
"You…You what? You dragged her all the way here? Right in the stronghold of a crazy cult of star worshippers?"
"She's not alone. Wilf is with her."
"Wilf? Why did you bring Wilf here?" The Doctor replied, even more alarmed.
"Oh don't blame me. He wanted to come himself. Besides, they're both quite safe. I used a shimmer to make them look like those potato-faced monks. The disguise was perfect. No-one noticed, not even that stinking Frenchman." He paused for a moment. Oh how he would love to repay him for his cruelty. He would repay him by spilling his warm guts all over the expensive carpets of the main hall.
"So you want to rely on them to get us out?" The Doctor asked, still blissfully unaware of these very dark thoughts that now frequently occupied the Master's mind.
"Relying is not the right word here." The Master replied, and shook his head slowly to get rid of these blood-drenched fantasies of revenge. "hoping might be a better description." He shrugged. "But then again, they're idiots. Who am I to assume that they won't muck it up."
"Don't talk about them like that. They are amazing, both of Donna and Wilf, and I for one have faith in them."
"Faith." The Master sniggered. "Oh you always had such blind trust in humankind Doctor." He said with a deep sigh of boredom. "And look where it has got you, imprisoned in a stinking cesspit six meters underground with human excrement up to your waist line."
"Didn't you ever have anyone who you could trust? One of your own companions?" The Doctor asked, genuinely curious.
The Master fell silent for a moment. Not that he was still pondering on the answer, but he felt quite hesitant to share this with the Doctor. "When I was wandering around looking for you, I met this girl." He finally murmured. "A human. She's imprisoned by the Watcher's Order and longs for escape. She…she looks like Anne. Actually, she is Anne."
"She can't be." The Doctor replied softly, really worried by the fact that the Master had spoken to her already. He didn't want the Master to know about Rassilon, not yet at least. "I know about her. I've met her too. She is not your wife Anne. In fact she's King Henri the 8th's wife Anne Boleyn. The Watcher must have kidnapped her from her timeframe and brought her here for her own purpose. Don't get confused by how familiar she looks. That world that was created on board of the Infinity was never real. So she can't be your wife."
"I shared my mind with her. She now knows and remembers everything that has once passed between us."
"You shared your mind…" The Doctor needed to take in a deep breath to stop him from succumbing to a complete state of panic. "That's absolutely reckless, even for you!" He pointed out sternly.
"Doctor." The Master continued undisturbed. "If the world around us is only real when it is perceived in here." And he pointed at the side of his skull. "How can you call something that is created in the same place not real? If an idea can be true, if your belief in humanity can be true, why not an entire world that is created in my mind?"
"Oh don't get philosophical with me. This is neither the place nor the time. Master, Anne is here for a reason. She is linked to the Watcher's Order and therefore serves the goals of the Infinity Corporation. Everything that we went through, all those changes and disturbances in time that we have encountered ever since we came in contact with the Infinity spaceship, are linked to her. You have to keep seeing things in perspective. I am not saying that she is dangerous, but –"
"I want to take her away from this place." The Master said, indifferent of the Doctor's arguments. "She could come with us as a human companion."
"You…what?" Blurted the Doctor. "No she can't! Haven't you even heard one word that I've said? She's Anne Boleyn the Tudor queen and like Rachel, she was abducted from her timeframe. What is happening here should never have happened to her, and you want to make it worse by taking her along on a holiday trip on the Tardis?"
"Well, you let me save Rachel, didn't you?" The Master continued relentlessly. "You let me change her fate, why not Anne's?"
"Because Anne Boleyn is a fixed point in time!" The Doctor yelled back, desperate to make this clear to him. In his head, River's warnings ran in an endless loop. He could not allow the Master to alter Anne's fate, for it was in the solitude of the pristine Duncan forests that River Song had revealed her knowledge of the future to him.
The light of the stars started to fade. Dawn was soon to arrive. As they ventured through woodlands, and made their way between barren trunks and prickly undergrowth, they were greeted by the frail birdsongs of the very first morning birds.
"Listen. Beautiful, isn't it?" River whispered. "It's like the ancient forests of Shadunshi." She glanced back at him, hopeful to see a sign of recognition on his face. But this was a much younger Doctor, one who had not known her for so long to remember the good times they had on the little dwarf planet.
"What did the Ood elders exactly tell you?" The Doctor asked. He had been so caught up in his own troubled thoughts that he had not even heard River's remarks.
"Not much. You know how they are. Oh come sit with the elders of the Ood. Come share the dreaming. Don't sit too close to the flames, your hair might catch fire, that sort of stuff. When it comes to the interpretations of what was shown, they could explain very little themselves."
"Well, they've always been a race of very few words." The Doctor answered, remembering his own dream session went quite vividly. "What did they show you? Can you recall any of it?"
"It was all a bit hazy really. " River shut her eyes for a moment, trying to dig deep inside her memories. "I saw the symbol of three, marked as a merging between the Greek letters alpha and omega in a triangle shape. It has started showing up everywhere. Not only here on earth in the 21st century, but also in space, throughout the entire history of the human race. It hasn't been there before."
"That's exactly the same symbol as on the Infinity." The Doctor muttered. The Infinity Corporation, does it have anything to do with that?"
"I…I don't know. All I saw was a spaceship, apparently abandoned except for a little girl. A human girl."
"That's Rachel." The Doctor told her. His hearts were sinking as he realized that the prophecy of the Ood elders had already begun to shape their time stream. "What else, what else did you see?"
"A woman, red hair, feisty attitude, a bit too noisy for my taste. She is going to get married, and on her wedding day, she's wearing a pearl earring. Only, it's not really a pearl. It's something else."
"Wait a minute. Red hair, loud mouth, Donna! I could be Donna! But why? Why Donna?" The Doctor muttered to himself. He racked his brains but couldn't figure it out right away. "Alright, go on, tell me more!"
"A young man, a scientist perhaps. Certainly a bit nerdy looking, dark rimmed glassed, a pale complexion as if he hardly ever sees daylight. I saw him sitting behind a microscope, conducting some kind of experiment. Outside the lab, there is a marble slate mounted on the walls commemorating the founder. He's working in the Rachel Boekbinder's Institute for neurological science..."
By allowing the Master to save Rachel, the Doctor had created the beginning of a chain-reaction that was going to lead to a dark and disastrous future, unless he could stop it right here and now, starting with Anne. For once he wished that the Master could be less involved with the people they meet on the way. He knew about his feelings for Anne, he had witnessed how his friend had sacrificed his own life for her. He truly loved her. To him they had been husband and wife for decades before the Doctor showed up to shatter their perfect little world. Even the Master's final acceptance of reality had not extinguished that love.
"I trust her Doctor." The Master told him with a heart-felt sincerity. "I trust her with my own life."
Before the Doctor could try to change his mind, the glow of the circular disk reappeared in the ceiling. Someone had shifted the lid.
"Master?" A gentle woman's voice called. "Are you down there?"
"It's Anne." The Master breathed.
"Anne? What is she doing here?" The Doctor panicked.
A rope was flung over the side of the hole and landed with a splash in the water nearby.
"Well, she is here to rescue us, apparently." The Master remarked dryly, and jumped back into the pool.
"Wait! Didn't you say that the plan was to have Donna and Wilf to get us out?" The Doctor objected. "Shouldn't we stay here and wait for them?"
The Master turned around with a most of incredulous look on his face. "Yeah right." He chuckled, and grabbed the rope firmly before he pulled himself up.
"Master!" The Doctor yelled after him, he could feel his stomach tighten into a little ball.
"If you want to stay down here and wait for team redhead and company to pick you up, that's fine, but don't expect me to hang around with you in this cesspit." The Master answered.
"Quickly! Before someone comes to check on you both." Anne urged, and helped the Master to climb over the edge of the hole.
"Are you coming or what?" The Master yelled down to the Doctor.
The Doctor considered his options, and realized he didn't have much choice. He couldn't leave Anne alone with the Master. He didn't trust her and needed to keep an eye on the two of them. So grudgingly, he took the rope and started to clamber up to the light.
"There you go." The Master commented, pulling his friend up when he finally reached the edge of the pit. "Now that wasn't so hard, was it?"
"We meet again Doctor." Anne said with a timid little smile, her green cat eyes gleaming with intelligence.
"Yes, and unfortunately, you're still here." The Doctor commented, straightening his back.
"As I understand it after I've walked through the Master's memories, time is rather an adaptable creation for a time traveler like yourself. In your world, nothing is set in stone." Anne replied calmly.
"And that's where he is wrong." The Doctor said, his eyes burning with determination. "There are things that shouldn't be changed. I've learned that at great costs, a long time ago. He didn't. At least not yet."
"Then let me prove you wrong and my beloved Master right." Anne replied defiantly. She raised the torch above her shoulder to reveal a tunnel in the nearby vault heading out in eastern direction. "This goes to the oldest part of these underground catacombs. Follow me and I will lead you to a safe place to hide."
"Yes, thank you very much Anne, but the Master and I really can't go into hiding right now. We need to go find our friends, don't we Master?" The Doctor urged, looking him straight in the eyes. He had expected at least some loyalty, but the Master just rolled his eyes at him. "We can go with Anne and look for them later. They're perfectly safe in their shimmer disguise. Besides, there are more urgent matters at hand than the whereabouts of your human pets."
"Oh really." The Doctor crossed his arms. "And what in your opinion is more important than the lives of our friends?"
The Master gazed back at the Doctor. The hard sheen in his eyes hazed over with an alarming darkness. "The Watcher, she is in possession of a white point star, and she's going to use it to bring her invisible Lordship back to life."
And with that, the righteous resentment just vanished from the Doctor's face.
NB: Verse Naberrie made some amazing trailers for my previous stories in the series. Go check them out. You'll find the links to her vids on my profile page.