The peace was already somewhat restored when Wilf and Donna finally returned to the chapel. They found the Watcher sitting in her chair on the ruined platform with her minions rushing around to carry out her commands. Others checked for damage to the great telescope. They reminded Donna of a colony of ants swarming around their demanding queen.
The old woman raised herself up when she saw Antoine approach. "Did you find him?" She rasped, her voice still raw from the injury that the Master had inflicted on her.
"I praise or Lord's guidance mistress, for I've successfully captured him." Antoine responded with a deep bow.
"Did he have my star?" It was all that really mattered to her.
Antoine shook his head. "No mistress. I fear it is no longer in his possession."
The Watcher ran her skeletal hand over the red patch on her neck and let out a disturbing cry. "We are doomed!" She screeched. "Ohh, bring him to me! That swine! I'll make him talk! I'll burn him. I'll torture him. Pull him apart from limb to limb! He will tell!"
"No! Don't!" Donna blurted out, gaining a frightened look from Wilf.
The Watcher looked at her with narrowing eyes at who appeared to be one of her many cowering minions. "What did you say?" She whispered dangerously.
"The prisoner doesn't have it." Donna stepped forward. Her heart was racing inside her chest, but this was not the time to be a coward. She pointed at Antoine. "He has the star. I saw him hiding it when he was interrogating him."
"Is that true?" The Watched asked, turning her suspicious look on her right hand man.
Antoine lips curled into a nervous smile. He was about to deny everything when the dwarf-monk who had accompanied them down into the cellar suddenly came forward.
"It is true Watcher." The imp testified. "Antoine didn't need to take it from the prisoner. He already had it in his hand."
"Yes yes, he has it!" Wilf added quickly to back them up. "I saw it with my own eyes. They're both telling the truth."
Antoine hurried to change his tactics. "I can assure you my mistress, I was going to offer it to you." He rushed up the stairs to kneel down in front of the old woman. "There was absolutely no doubt in my heart that the star should be brought back to our most revered high priestess." He added hastily, and leaned forward to kiss her hand, but the monks who stood guard behind her raised their swords and forced him back.
"Please…I am our Lord's loyal servant." Antoine cowered.
Watcher only regarded him with contempt.
"Hand it to me." She ordered.
After a short moment of hesitation, Antoine produced the white point star from a small compartment hidden inside his jacket. He dropped the diamond into her waiting hand.
"At last." The Watcher whispered in relief, and closed her boney fingers around the precious artifact. "Oh, so close. So very close." She murmured. Antoine's betrayal slipping from her mind like water from a rock. With the aid of her loyal monks, she strode over to the great telescope where she placed the white diamond inside the metal cylinder, taking great care to align it in the path of the lenses.
A sudden flash of light brightened the stained glass window behind the wooden platform, followed by the electric clap of thunder.
"Listen!" The Watcher called out. "A storm is coming our way. Our Lord's arrival is well prepared. The heavens will now supply us with all the energy we need to fuel the device." With her eyes shining with anticipation, she turned to her minions. "Quickly!" She barked. "Get outside! All of you! Prepare to harvest the lightening. The hour of our master's awakening is upon us! So it has been foretold! So it will come to pass!"
Pretending to be following her orders, Donna and Wilf rushed to leave the chapel with the others. When they crossed the courtyard, they separated from the monks who headed out for the lightening catcher, and sneaked into the stables with the aim to find a rope. The Nobles were so occupied trying to escape the attention of the Watcher's minions that they failed to notice that they were being followed.
"So this is it? This your plan?" The Doctor asked not without a hint of sarcasm. "You want to sit here in the dark and wait for the monks to get to our friends while we're hiding out the worst of the storm, like bloody cowards?"
The Master, who sat with his back against a crumbling pillar and had watched his companion walk up and down the vault with ever growing irritation, tightened his jaw and silently counted back from ten before he bothered to answer him. "We're waiting for Anne." He explained with a sigh. "I've promised her that we stay here and wait for her return. You wanted to get to the Watcher. She's only trying to help us."
"What about Wilf and Donna?" The Doctor asked skeptically.
"I don't owe them anything." The Master muttered.
"They have risked their lives to help you."
"Well I didn't bloody ask them, did I?" The Master said sharply, his angered voice bouncing back from the cold walls of the catacomb.
"This is wrong." The Doctor shook his head and continued to stride around nervously. "I can feel it in my bones. We should get back. If Wilf and Donna are discovered they will be in real danger after Antoine find out that the prisoners are missing. He will blame them for everything."
"If you're so eager to get your human pets out, why don't you just go and stop pestering me with your tedious arguments?"
"Because you won't come with me. You'll be here alone with Anne when she returns."
"And that worries you?" The Master laughed. "What do think is going to happen? Is she going to poison my mind? Use her womanly charms to turn me back into a murderous madman?"
"Well, she just might." The Doctor answered. He just didn't understand that from all the people on this planet, the Master had to pick her to trust. The Doctor rested his hands on his hips and stared at his friend. "Why are you shaking your head at me?"
"Because you are a blind optimistic idiot." The Master replied, his voice bitter. "You really think I need her to corrupt me?" He leaned over to the Doctor and for the first time in months, he allowed him to take a glimpse inside his dark and troubled mind. "Madness is always just a whisper away inside my head. I need no encouragement."
The Doctor's hearts froze. "You…You've killed." He was in shock as the Master's crimes were revealed to him through their connection of minds. "To get to me…you've butchered those monks."
"And before you start. I know." The Master sneered, giving him a long look. "I know how you see this world. So don't waste your breath. I've been rid of the drums long enough to know what I have done." He paused for a moment, shutting his eyes. "Still, I have to admit… it came back so easy, like it was second to my nature, and it was so full-filling. It felt good. An instant satisfaction of my rage."
The Doctor remained silent, but slowly shook his head in painful disapproval.
"I used to think that the drums were to blame for everything, but they are not." The Master said. "I know that now Doctor. It had nothing to do with the drums. It never had. I hate because I cannot forgive. I kill because my hearts lust for retribution. I just…don't know anything else." The Master paused when he realize the truth, and glanced up at his startled friend. During his travels with the Doctor, he had talked, mocked, and argued with him continuously, but it seemed that he had never really told him anything that mattered. Today would be the first time.
"Ever since you brought me back from the other side, you've been my mentor." He finally admitted. "You taught me to see the world through your eyes. It never stopped to amaze me how stubborn you are in your belief that you can still, somehow make right what has already grown twisted. You are and always have been my only true friend, but the truth is…" He paused and looked away. "After all these long years…this windswept tree cannot unbend its branches. I lost you for only two days, one short moment without the righteous Doctor by my side and I reverted back into the very beast that you've tried to tame." He looked the Doctor straight in the eyes, his face nothing but painful honesty. "I've enjoyed killing those men." He confessed. "But as I now look back on it. Catch my reflection and see what I can become without your moral chains to bind me… I can tell you, truthfully, that it frightens me..."
"I won't leave you." The Doctor replied determinedly. "I won't let you out of my sight, ever! Not now that I know all this."
"You can't always be there to keep me in line. You promise you will, but you can't. What if one of your human pets needs you? Or most likely, what if you finally get sick of me and decide to leave me to my own misery? What if you disappear again? I need someone by my side Doctor! Someone who can take care of me when you're not around."
"Wait a minute, is this about Anne?"
"She was there after you abandoned me on Gallifrey. Back, in that other reality. She was my wife, my most loyal companion and my moral compass. She had kept me sane during the long nights of the Dalek wars. I need her."
"No! I am not listening to this. You're not yourself right now. You don't know what you want."
"I know exactly what I want. I want Anne. I need her to come with us. I need someone by my side who I can trust to keep me sane!"
"This is twisted logic. Listen to yourself. She is not your insurance against your insanity!"
"The way I see it Doctor, she has been a more reliable companion to me than you have ever been."
The Doctor looked at him for a long moment, his unkind words had stabbed him right through his hearts. If he wanted to, the Master still knew how to hurt him cruelly.
A light cut through the darkness of the vault and Anne appeared, sliding through the tunnel like a ghost. Her pale face was illuminated by the glow of the torch she carried, while her green cat-eyes shone in the dark.
"I've checked the passages upstairs." She told them. "There is a storm coming. The Watcher sent everyone away to collect the lightening, so the way is clear. If you still want to go to the chapel and retrieve the white point star, follow me."
The Doctor remained suspicious, but the Master followed the Tudor queen without a moment of hesitation. He ventured into the next passageway, leaving the Doctor very little choice but to go after him.
Remember what I've told you. The Doctor told him through his mind. Don't let your heart cloud your judgments. You may not believe me, but on my word, I know there is good in you.
I won't abandon you my old friend, whatever horrible crimes you may commit.
I won't leave you.
But I will stop you.
The Master returned him a long hard look before he turned away.
"Do you think this rope is long enough?" Donna glanced back at Wilf. They were making their way down into the Roman catacombs with Donna leading the way with a lit torch, while Wilf carried a coil of rope over his shoulder.
"It's sure heavy enough. Should be a meter or eight in here." Wilf answered.
Feeling jitterish, Donna kept looking back over her shoulder to make sure that no-one was following them. She couldn't help it. These underground spaces kept playing tricks on her. She heard her own footsteps falling closely behind as the echoes bounced back from the curved walls.
"Here." Wilf handed her one end of the rope while he rolled out the rest and let it fall down by his feet like a long lazy serpent. "Get this to the pit. I am going to tie up the other end." He disappeared out of the circle of light for a moment, while Donna struggled to keep hold of the torch while removing the heavy lid with her free hand. She had it half shifted from the pit when the echoes of footsteps returned, cutting through the silence like a knife.
"Granddad, is that you?" She called out. Her heart stopped for a moment when she picked up the sound of heavy breathing in the back of her neck. Slowly, she turned around.
Antoine greeted at her with a wicked grin. "You little rat. I knew you were trying to do something behind my back." Before Donna could flee, Antoine grabbed her by her hood and hit her so hard that she fell down.
"You dirty snitch! Why did you tell the Watcher that I had the star? Are you working for the Timelords now?" He kicked her in the stomach, attacking her without any restrain in strength. Never in her life had Donna experienced such brutality. Fear and agony took hold of her as she rolled over the floor with her arms crossed over her face, trying to dodge his vicious blows. With her vision blurred, she just saw Wilf was about to come out of hiding to come to her aid. Crawling over the wet flagstone floor, she shook her head at her granddad, trying to make him stay where he was. Then she heard the metal lid scrape over the stones and she was picked up by Antoine and dragged over the pit till she dangled with her head and shoulders over the edge.
"Doctor!" Antoine yelled down almost triumphantly. "I've found one of your accomplices. One of our own brethren nonetheless!" His voice turned dangerous. "Why is he helping you? Did you brainwash this termite?"
He waited futilely for a response. Then he grabbed his knife.
"Doctor! Speak or I am going to cut a third breathing hole into this ugly face. Do you hear?" But down the well, it remained silent.
His suspicion roused, Antoine picked up the torch that Donna had dropped on the floor. It was still burning. Sweeping the light over the bottom of the pit below, it revealed the murky sewage water of the cesspit, but it no longer contained the prisoners.
"The bastard sons of whores! They've escaped!" With a rough hand, he picked up the wounded monk from the floor and flung him against the wall. "Where are they?" Too weak to speak, Donna just shook her head at him while the gunman kept shaking her like a ragdoll. "Where are the prisoners? Who set them free? Tell me!"
In the shadows, she caught the tortured look in Wilf's eyes. Don't. Please don't come for me. She begged him in silence. Don't put yourself in danger. Go and find the Doctor. Go!
"If you don't want to talk to me, you might want to explain this to the Watcher." Antoine hissed, and with a vicious blow on the side of her head, Donna was propelled into unconsciousness.
"Quickly, this way!" Anne led the two Timelords through the corridors, passing through countless rooms as they made they way to the chapel. They arrived in the hall of mirrors. The long hallway was lit by a row of chandeliers, while the mirrors that lined the wall reflected the dark windows at the opposite side. Outside, the night had fallen, and in the starless sky, a storm was brewing. The first fat drops of rain splattered against the glass.
Anne's conscience suddenly called out to her, and she shot a fleeting glance at the Master, but he failed to notice her hesitation. It allowed her to regain her strength, and the Tudor queen went into the chamber with both Timelords by her side. Her heart rattled when a lightening bolt cracked the ink-black sky, followed by the roar of thunder and the downpour of rain clattering on the windows.
As she went by the row of mirrors, her reflection grew long and slender, transforming into a hooded figure with thin skeletal limbs and two burning blue orbs for eyes. She stopped in her tracks when Death stepped into the grand chamber through a ring of shockwaves that rippled the mirror surfaces.
His shadow loomed over the two Timelords like a dark hand stretching out from beyond the grave.
Recognizing their foe, the Doctor stepped protectively in front of the Master.
"No. You cannot do this." The Master muttered, as he realized who he was facing. "You cannot come to claim me. This is not fair. We had an agreement!"
I know nothing about such an agreement. Death answered, his solemn voice joined by the crack of thunder.
"Are you getting so ancient that your wits have deserted you? You've made me sacrifice Lucy in exchange of my own wretched life! Do I still not have not paid you enough?" He cried out, his eyes blazing.
I DO NOT LIE. Death stated.
The Doctor pulled the Master back by his sleeve. "I don't think he's lying either." He whispered. "This guy must have been trying to catch up with you for centuries. He has not done anything to Lucy yet."
"But he still wants me dead."
"Yeah, well a lot of people want you dead in this place. Nothing new here, but talk about bad timing." The Doctor muttered.
I'VE COME TO REMOVE THE TIMELORD CALLED THE MASTER FROM THE TIMESTREAM. I HAVE ALSO COME TO COLLECT THE SOUL OF THE TUDOR QUEEN.
"You want to take the Tudor queen as well?" The Doctor raised a surprised eyebrow at him. "Well, I suppose she is indeed long pass her storage life. So I can get that." The Doctor faked a smile, earning him a most anxious look from Anne. It is a tactic he had learned in all those years of stumbling into danger. When threatened, face death with a smile and you might survive to tell the tale.
"And I do get why you want him." He pointed with his thumb at the Master who kept glaring at the creature with aggressive resentment and a lack of fear that the Doctor found most worrying. "What I don't understand is why the ex-queen Anne Boleyn is so important. People keep moving her around the time-stream like she's some vital piece in a game of chess." The silly grin disappeared from his face. "Why did your masters order her to be removed?"
SHE IS HIS VESSEL.
"What the bloody hell does that mean?" The Master sneered. "A vessel for what?"
A VESSEL FOR HIS SOUL. Death turned his head and gazed with his cobalt eyes at the Master. A sensation of a cold knife scraping over his backbone washed over him and his body froze. In the Grim Reaper's eyes he caught a glimpse of the future, the war-torn world from which this creature was born. He saw the outcome of a horrendous battle. Thousands of men lay dying in agony in fields that had turned red with their blood. Their cries rang inside his ears as the crows descend on their corpses to feast.
Look Timelord. Look at this broken world of death and decay. REMEMBER IT. this will be your LEGACY.
Frantic, the Master pushed the blood-drenched images out of his mind. For his sanity's sake, he did not want to see more. Certainly this cannot be true…How I can I ever be responsible for that carnage?
"You're lying! I have changed. I am not that man anymore. I have nothing to do with that future!"
YOU HAVE MEND, Brought back from the dead and nurtured TO GROW by the good doctor. BUT HE WILL BREAK YOU AGAIN. INSIDE HIS COLD TOMB, SLEEPING AMIDS THE DEAD STARS FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS, HE HAS BEEN WAITING. SOON HE WILL RISE from his grave, AND WHEN HE DOES, YOU WILL FALL.
"No." His hearts ran cold with fear when he realized what the reaper was trying to tell him. That man is dead. He has sealed himself inside his tomb the day the sky above Gallifrey burned. He cannot return. He cannot…Please let it not be so…
Death turned to Anne who was backing away into the mirror wall.
YOUR MERCY TO HER WILL BE YOUR DOWNFALL.
The Master shook his head fervently. "Anne will not betray me."
OUR PATHS WOULD NOT HAVE CROSSED TODAY IF IT WAS NOT FOR THE TUDOR QUEEN.
The Master gazed at Anne who averted her eyes from him. "I'm sorry my love." She admitted. "Please forgive me, I had to bring you to him. I had no choice, it was either my life or yours."
SHE HAS ALREADY BETRAYED YOU ONCE. SHE WILL BETRAY YOU AGAIN.
"Enough!" The Master shouted. "A life for a life, is that your only trick in the book?" Rage was taking control over fear, while Anne's betrayal stung like a fresh wound in his hearts. "You can't control me. Not with your cheap mindtricks." He shot an accusing glance at Anne. My most loyal companion. He thought bitterly. That is what you get for trusting a woman. Have you learned nothing from Chanto's and Lucy's bullets, you stupid old fool?
"I am afraid I have to disappoint you Anne." His voice was cold as ice. "This creature won't keep his promise. Your life is still in danger."
"What?" Anne snapped, her voice shrill. "But he gave me his word?"
A most spiteful smile crossed the Master's lips. "Isn't that true, skeleton man? Am I not right to assume you won't allow anyone of us to walk away from this alive?"
Death shook his head slowly. THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE QUEEN'S EXISTENCE ARE TOO GREAT. I CANNOT ALLOW IT.
"There is your truth." The Master scolded. "You're as good as dead, my darling wife."
Anne swirled around and fled. The reaper didn't go after her, but raised his scythe and thumped the back of the wooden handle on the floor. The impact split the marble and the cracks spread towards the sides. It crept up the mirror walls, breaking the reflective surface into a hundred webs. The silver lines that made up the breaks then began to budge and bulge till they seemed swollen, pregnant with dark shadows. Monsters were caught inside the glass webs and were struggling to get out. She screamed when one of the mirrors split apart and an insectoid claw came through. It lashed out at her like a cat's paw. When she raised her arm to defend herself, it slashed straight through her sleeve and skin.
"Anne!" The Master cried out. "Get away from those mirrors!" His resentment towards her was quickly forgotten when he realized that her life was in real danger. She looked at the red bloom on her sleeve with horror, but was too scared to move away. All those frightful creatures, those monsters from beyond the stars that she had seen inside the Master's mind, have suddenly come to life.
The Master tried to rush to her when he found his own path blocked by a giant black spider crawling out of the mirror. Thin threads of liquid glass still clung to the black and hairy head. The spider rised up, and from the back of her abdomen, she shot a line of glue-like silk at the Master that wrapped around his ankle. With one powerful sweep, the creature pulled him to the floor and dragged him to her. He clawed at the floorboards, trying to grab hold to whatever came within his reach. His fingers just closed around the leg of a heavy wooden table, when he saw a giant mantis emerge from the second mirror nearest to Anne. The monstrous stick-like insect launched itself at the terrified Tudor queen.
"Doctor! Don't just stand there, help her!" The Master yelled. To his confusion, the Doctor grabbed a chair and raced to the mirror wall, away from Anne. "What the hell are you doing?"
"The mirrors! That's what stabilizing his physical form. Just like the paintings in lord Cole's mansion, the Reaper can only exist in this world because he does not dwell too far away from his own. Destroy the mirrors, and the link is broken!" The Doctor ran towards the mirrors, ready to smash them in, but before he could throw the chair, the cracked web bugled outward and a scorpion the size of a minivan emerged. He headed straight for the Doctor, swinging its tail. The Doctor dived, and only just missed the creature's poisonous sting. He rolled over the floor while the monster scorpion kept attacking, stabbing angry holes into the wooden boards till he was trapped in a corner. When the sting came down for him, he raised the chair like a shield, and the nasty hook remained stuck in the wood. Enraged, the scorpion pulled the chair out of his hands and smashed it to pieces, leaving the Doctor defenseless for its next assault.
It was just then that the Doctor heard someone call out to his name. He turned his head and saw one of the pox-marked monks run up to his aid. "Doctor! Catch!" Wilf yelled and threw the sonic screwdriver. "You need to unlock it first!"
That didn't pose a challenge. He caught his trusted sonic in mid air and with a quick twist he rebooted it before taking an aim at the mirror that gave birth to the nightmare scorpion. A shrill, eardrum splitting sound came from the tip. It shattered the spiderweb and tore the mirror down in a blizzard of shards.
When the tail of the nightmare scorpion struck down at his chest, it too splintered into a thousand glass fragments that rained down over the Timelord.
"Right." The Doctor jumped back up, brushing the tiny shards from his shirt. "One down, two more to go." He rushed in the direction of the Master.
No not me. Why do you come for me? Help her first! His hearts jittered when the wooden leg slipped between his sweaty fingers and the pull on his limb made him slide over the floor on his back. From the corner of his eyes, he caught Anne backing further away into the wall, the insect's claw only inches away from her face, ready to rip it to bloody ribbons.
"Cover your ears!" The Doctor warned and pointed the sonic at the mirrors behind the spider.
The sound that came from the sonic was like the screech of a high-strung violin or the scratching of nails over a blackboard, but then amplified by a million times in volume. Anne and Wilf covered their ears, fearing that their eardrums might split, while the Master grimaced, but kept his eyes on the nightmare creatures, who trembled and shrieked as the sound shattered all of the mirrors in the great hall. Seconds later, the creatures themselves followed, combusting into glittering clouds of shards.
The Doctor shut down the sonic. "Oh I do hope that eerie ring in my ears will soon clear up." He helped the Master back on his feet. "Still, when traveling with you, there ought to be times when being deaf is an advantage." He half-joked, and noticed the change in the Master's face. Words came tumbling from his mouth but the Doctor could not hear him clearly. "What? What is it?"
Anne's cry came through muffled, but the Doctor's instinct had already kicked. He spun around and saw how the Grim Reaper swept over the terrified queen, his dark robe fluttering behind him like a raven's wings. He ran to her, but as he raised his sonic screwdriver, the Reaper disappeared inside a portrait of king Louis the 15th. As soon as the Reaper touched the canvas it turned dark. The flesh melted away from the bones of the old ruler, while the colorful velvet and lace in the royal outfit transformed into a black cloak. The last to change were the eyes, the brown in the irises fading till they were blue and it was DEATH, who stared into the great hall with two icey orbs of fire.
The Doctor immediately whirred the sonic over the edges of the canvas, sealing the Reaper inside. It was only when the job was finished and had time to took a few steps back that he recognized the painting.
"Lord Cole's painting of the Reaper." He muttered. So this is how it came to be. It looked exactly like when he had first set eyes on it in the London art gallery, centuries later.
A queasy feeling fought in his stomach, just when he saw the Master approach with angry strides. He picked up a burning candle from a side table and waved it at the gilded frame.
"Stop it! What are you doing?" He grabbed him before the wood could catch fire.
"Let go!" The Master's snarled. "I am going to stop this! Don't you see? Everything that happened to Lucy won't happen if I destroy him now."
"Have you learned nothing? You can't change your own timeline! The Reaper is now part of your past as much as your dead wife."
"He killed her!" The Master spat.
The Doctor gazed at him, his eyes unflinching. "I am sorry my friend, but you know that is not true."
The Master bit his lips together till they were but a thin white line. No. Of course it wasn't true. His mind had not yet deteriorated to such a state that he had forgotten this. Slowly, he lowered the candle, the rage subsiding. The Doctor's words of reason had leached it out of him like some black poison from his bloodstream. So this is how it felt to have a conscience. He thought bitterly. This is what the Doctor had to suffer, day and night. It was enough to drive a weaker man insane.
"Anne." He suddenly remembered he still had his living wife to take care of. "Where is Anne?" It did not took him long to realize that she had fled.
She must still be frightened, not of the Reaper, but of him. How could she ever think that he was capable to harm her? She knows you. The answer came to him bluntly. She looked inside your head and saw all the ugly things that you've done. She knows you better than you know yourself. Of course she ran. Run away from the monster while you still can.
"She is not safe on her own. I have to find her." He told the Doctor.
"No don't! We shouldn't split up." He was about to come after him, when Wilf appeared. "Doctor! Oh Doctor! I am so glad to find you."
"Wilf!" He exclaimed, happy to see his comrade again. "It's been a long time I've seen a shimmer that good."
"You recognize me?" The old man let a sigh of relief.
"Of course I do! You're wearing a physical alteration cloak. Function 28 on the sonic. One of my favorites! But here, let me help you un-shimmer."
The Doctor whirred the sonic over Wilf and within a blink of an eye, restored him to his own form. He was immediately alarmed when he saw the anguished expression on Wilfred's face and finally realized that Donna was not with him. "What's going on?" He looked around for the redhead. "Where is Donna?"
"She's taken by that fiend, that French bloke who stabbed the Master. He found us after we sneaked back to the dungeon to get you guys out. Only you weren't there anymore. That bastard kicked and hit my granddaughter! I saw her lying on the ground. He kicked her so hard, she couldn't move." Wilf was trembling all over when he recalled Antoine's brutal attack. "I couldn't save her. I wanted to, but she wanted me to find you…you have to help her Doctor."
"Wilf! Calm down. Tell where he went with her."
The old man pressed his fist on his lower lip. "He said he was going to bring her to the Watcher. In the old chapel."
"The Watcher, the Watcher in the chapel." The Doctor realized that the Master had vanished. That impatient idiot! I told him to stay together. This is not good. Not good at all. Things are falling apart. A dark ominous feeling crept up on him, and River's warning threw dark shadows over his strength and resolve, but he could not let the old man know. To him, the Doctor still had all the answers. He was his only hope. "Right, we're going to get Donna." He told him with determination burning in his eyes. "Show me the way Wilf, quickly."
The rain had turned into a full-blown storm. Endless drops clattered down from the hole in the ceiling onto the marble floor, which had turned shiny and wet, while damp patches crept over the cold walls of the cathedral. The priestess of the secret order raised herself out of her chair with the aid of her servants. Only a handful of the Watcher's minions had remained by her side, the rest of them had been sent out to harvest lightening. There was no shortage of that for sure. Every minute or so a flash of lightening could be seen that brightened the sky.
Down on bended knees in front of her and absolutely terrified, was Donna still in her shimmer disguise. Antoine had marked her as a traitor, responsible for the disappearance of the two prisoners. She was now left at old woman's mercy while the French gunman held a dagger at her throat.
"I am going to ask you one last time." The trembling carcass of a woman hissed impatiently. "Where is the Timelord?"
Donna didn't know, nor was she going to tell her anything. Her silence further enraged the Watcher, who screamed out her frustrations, spittle flying from her parched lips.
"Shall I slit his throat?" Antoine offered, and Donna felt the tip of the dagger break her skin, drawing a thin trickle of blood.
"What good is taking this wretch's life? It's the Timelord I need. Without him, our Lord's prophecy will go unfulfilled. We cannot perform the sacred ritual without my Lord's last surviving blood." She licked her cracked lips and stared up at the circle of sky that was visible through the opening in the ceiling. "Oh, there is not much time." She croaked. "Soon the storm will pass and the clouds will part to reveal the alignment of constellations. You must find the Doctor, before I can sit on my throne and receive my Lord's light. GO! Turn every stone in this cursed castle if you must, but bring him to me! Or else bring back your own useless head on a tray!"
"Don't worry. I shall return with the Timelord." Antoine lifted the blade. "What shall be done with the traitor?"
"That lowly worm! Fetter him in chains. He might still talk with enough persuasion. If not, once the ritual is over and my Lord and I are one, I could use some nourishment. The life source of many are needed to restore me to the fair bride who is truly worthy of my Lord's majesty."
Who is she kidding? No human sacrifice could ever make her into a beauty queen. Your heart is rotten, and so are your looks. Donna thought, and she would have said it, if it wasn't for the fresh memory of Antoine's blade on her throat. Two of the Watcher's armed monks came for her and dragged her to the side. She was tied up with chains to a pillar, her hands locked behind her back.
What if I die here? What if that crazy bitch really kills me while I am still wearing this stupid shimmer? Will the Doctor be able to recognize me? Will he even ever find out that I was murdered? She shivered, her head still spun from the beating she had received from Antoine, the blood from her wounds mixing with the rain. Now you're being crazy. Don't be so stupid. You're not going to die. Gramps will find him first.
The Doctor will get her out and get rid of the monsters. He always did.
When has that crazy spaceman ever failed her?
Anne was running again, fleeing from the man who, in another world and time, she had once called husband. She was always running it seems, trying to save herself from yet another man's wrath. She must be cursed to constantly provoke the fury of her lords, but then, she was never smart enough to make a wise choice in marriage. Henry was a merciless king to those who betrayed him, but he still was noble enough to grand to her a clean death by the sword. The Master however, had in his long blood-drenched past, never shown such grace to those at his mercy. Her Lord of Time was a mad sadistic tyrant, who will hunt down the ones who have wronged him, even if he has to descend into the seven pits of hell himself. She had seen what he did to his enemies. I should not expect a quick and merciful death from him.
Guards, she was looking for guards. Where was everyone? The two Timelords were still prisoners of the secret order, she just had to find the Watcher's minions and they will protect her from her avenging Lord. Mad with fear, she ignored the calls of the Master who was closing in on her quickly. She tripped over her own satin slippers and almost fell when a hand, strong and callous, grabbed her by the arm and brought her back in balance. She gazed up and looked right in the gunman's scarred face.
"Antoine, oh thank the high Lord, it's you!" She blurted, seizing him like she was a woman lost at sea and drowning. "The prisoner has escaped. He's after me. You have to protect me, please!"
Antoine lips twisted into a grim imitation of a smile. "As you wish, my lady." He took his dagger out from his sheath.
"No, oh no, that will not be enough." She said, half in panic. "You don't understand. He is dangerous. You don't know what he can do. You need a gun or…or a longsword."
"Now why would I need those? Why exhaust myself in an armed battle with a man who cannot die, if all I need to do to control him, is this?" His hand moved as fast as lightening, and the blade was on her throat. She looked down on it, eyes wide with disbelief, and saw that the crusted edge was smeared with blood.
"But you have sworn to protect me. Why are you doing this?"
"I have sworn to serve my Lord. I am only following the path that he has set out for me." He answered, and yanked her golden hair back to bear more neck. "Don't come any closer Timelord." He told the Master, who approached him with fury burning in his dark eyes. "Or else watch me make a pretty red smile on her virgin skin."
"Let her go. It's me you want. You don't need her." The Master whispered.
"Au contraire. I need you both." Antoine replied, walking backwards slowly with his hostage. "My Lord's arrival is almost upon us, and we are short of a Timelord and a Tudor queen." He backed away through the doorway into the next chamber. "Follow me lord Master, and you may reclaim your wife." Swift and agile as a cat, he turned the corner and disappeared with Anne, leaving the Master little choice but to go after him.
When they reached the entrance of the chapel the gunman stopped right in front of the threshold. The massive oak doors were closed, but the Master could hear the rain pour down on the other side from the open roof that left the chamber open to the elements.
One slip in his guard, that's all it takes. I will be on him, twist his hand and break the rat's wrist. I'll plunge his own dagger into his fat French neck. The Master kept his eyes on Anne's face that had become white with fear. Why did you have to run back to your false guarddog for protection? I would never hurt you. I can't.
"Give her up now." The Master told Antoine, his voice a dangerous low whisper. "And I might leave enough of your corpse intact for a decent burial, if not…you've seen how I made that red mess out of your miserable minions."
"Most threatening words, but that's all they are, just words. As long as I have her, I know I am safe." Antoine smiled slyly. "You still don't understand, do you? You don't see the grand scheme, the brilliance in my Lord's plans. You're not in control here Timelord. My master is, and he's been playing with you a very very long time."
"Who is your master?" His heartbeat quickened.
But Antoine just grinned and pushed backwards. One of the heavy doors opened to a thin gap.
"My lady!" Antoine screamed into the chapel. "I've found him! I've apprehended the Timelord! You can now proceed with the ritual!"
Inside the wet hall, seated on her throne on the raised podium directly under the telescope contraption, the priestess of the sacred order twisted her lips into a most hideous smile.
"Finally the time is upon us! We can receive our Lord!" Exhilarated, she waved her skeletal hand at the four remaining monks. "Activate the device! Use all the power we've reaped from the storm! Align the crystals with the stars of the Hydra constellation, and let the white point star guide him to me."
The contraption roared to life. The rain had finally ceased and the clouds were parting, to reveal a pitch-black blanket, scattered with icy constellations. The huge barrel of lenses of the inverted telescope captured the light of the stars in the western sky and projected it into a golden beam that engulfed the Watcher. Her body tightened, and she dug her claw-like hands into the wooden arms of her seat when the intense light hit her.
"What's happening?" Anne squeaked, still forced by her captor to stay with her back turned to the opening, she couldn't see what was going on inside.
Bolts of energy shot like frosted silver arms from the center and collided with the wet walls where it crept inside the stones. Angry blue flashes slivered around the cathedral, turning it into a giant electrified cage.
The heel of Antoine's boots just brushed over the wood of the door and it was enough to ignite a huge spark that made the gunman flinch.
"Stop moving! You're gonna get her killed!" The Master warned him. The whole system was overflowing with excess energy. One wrong step and that idiot will be electrocuted, taking Anne with to a horrific death. His hearts fluttered madly when the Frenchman pushed Anne closer to the high doors.
"Wait! Wait! Harm her and I swear I will cut to shreds!"
"Oh I am not going to hurt your precious wife. My Lord has a higher purpose for her, just like he has for you." He gave the Master a telltale smile. "Since you are so clever, let me amuse you with a riddle. What is beastly and dangerous, but easy to fool?"
The grin widened into a loathsome smirk. "A nasty mongrel…going after his bone." Antoine answered, and gave Anne a short sharp shove.
The Master barely had time to act. When he saw Anne disappear through the narrow gap he dived after her. His left arm grazed the electrified wooden surface, and he cried out when a freezing burn stung through his elbow and ran down his limb like a river of ice. A moment later, he was rolling over the wet floor in the cathedral, paralyzed by pain. Anne was nearby, lying face down and breathing hard, but luckily, she seemed otherwise unharmed.
"What is this?"
The Master gazed up the wooden platform where the ancient priestess was engulfed in a bright golden glow.
"YOU IDIOT!" Her eyes were bulging out as she screamed. "You incompetent fool! You brought me the wrong man!"
"I didn't make a mistake, my lady." Antoine replied mockingly through the opening.
"This is not the Timelord! This is that thieving rat! He stole my precious star!"
"Oh but he is. He is the Timelord called the Master. Now everything is complete for our Lord's return."
"Antoine, I order you, remove him! He will to ruin everything! Antoine! Antoine! What are you doing?"
With all of his strength, the gunman hurtled his shoulder against the heavy wooden panel. Daggers of ice slit through his muscles and he let out a scream of pure agony, but he succeeded in creating enough momentum, and the high door slam shut with a loud bang.
We're trapped. The Master thought. That son of bitch locked us in with his bat-shit crazy mistress.
"Kill him!" The Watcher screamed with eyes wild with bloodlust. "Him and the Tudor queen. Kill them both!"
The four remaining monks hurried down the steps of the platform with daggers and longswords in their hands. A blade flashed over the Master's head, aimed to cut through his shoulder. He caught it flat between his hands instead. The blade kept going forward, slicing his palms till his fingers closed around the hilt of the weapon. He then pulled the sword out of the monk's hand, turned it around in his own blood-drenched hands, and stabbed it under the man's chin. The point emerged at the back of the man's head, and the monk fell down with a fountain of crimson spurting out of his skull.
Blood. There is so much blood. My hands shall never be clean again.
The ghost of the Reaper filled his head with the terrifying visions of the future battlefields under a bloodred sky.
There was no hope for him. No redemption. The crimson that tainted his skin was there to stay.
His hearts were beating fast, but he felt strangely calm when he pulled out the blood-smeared blade. Wielded the sword in his bloody hand, he cut and sliced and hacked through his remaining opponents until the very last of them had fallen.
Rivers of blood. A world turned red.
Like in a dream, he stepped over the corpses drowning in still pools of precious crimson, and made his way to the Watcher, grinning madly at her as he climbed up the steps.
"Your dogs are dead." He whispered. "It's time for the mistress to follow."
"NO! No!" The Watcher screamed, more enraged than fearful, but helpless nonetheless. "No! Not now! This is not what was supposed to happen. My lord has foretold…"
The Master raised the sword, ready to plunge it into the back of her neck.
How dare you to raise a sword at me?
The voice entered his head, low and threatening and cold, like the wind sweeping over a graveyard at midnight. He halted, his grip on the hilt turning to stone. His breath stalled in his lungs.
How dare you to raise a sword at the lord of Time?
The visions tore through him like a red-hot blaze. He was back inside the tower of the Lord President, locked in the cage that was engulfed by fire. It was the final days of Gallifrey, the end of the time of the Timelords, and he was to become the last victim of Rassilon's tyranny.
"Burn with me." Rassilon's voice was like cruel cold steel. "Burn like your betters. Suffer the searing of flesh and the blackening of skin. BURN!"
He rolled inside the metal prison, his tormented body wriggling and twisting, mad to escape the horrific pain while the sickening sweet stench of his own cooked flesh filled his nostrils, and all the time he was gazing down greedily at him through the bars, his grey eyes unblinking, forever condemning. Forever without mercy.
BURN My Lord Master. BURN with me!
The sword fell through his fingers. He clutched his head and staggered back, absolutely horrified.
"Get out! Get out! Get out of my head!" The Master roared. His whole body was trembling as if he was submerged in an icy river. Someone was calling out his name, but he was hardly aware of it. All he saw was Rassilon's face. Those cruel eyes looking at him, while his flesh melting away from his bones.
"Oh my good Lord, my good vengeful Lord!" The Watcher laughed as she watched her nemesis recoil in fear. "Punish this insolent fool who dares to raise his hand on us! Let him suffer your fury! Let him burn!" She raised her claw-like hand and a blast of raw energy hit the Master in the chest and sent him rolling down the steps. "Burn him!" The Watcher laughed, her old wrinkled face glowed feverishly red. The mouth that moved was that of the old woman, but it were Rassilon's words that came pouring out. "Burn! Lord Master! BURN!"
"It can't be." The Master muttered, crawling back up. "It can't be you. You've sealed yourself inside your tomb on the final day of reckoning. You BURNT! Your remains are scattered among the dust of Gallifrey!"
"What is dead may never die. Surely a man like you would know the true meaning of our blessing and curse." Rassilon and the Watcher replied. Her eyes were two black lumps of burning coal, but it were his eyes that gazed right into his frightened and tormented soul.
"I've risen again Lord Master, harder and stronger than before!"
Following Wilf meant that the Doctor only arrived at the entrance of the chapel after a chaotic detour. The high doors were shut and the old man was about to rush forward and pull them wide open when the Doctor stopped him abruptly.
"Don't touch the door handles!" The Timelord warned. He tasted a strong metallic tang in the air that alarmed him. "Get back, don't touch anything!"
"But Donna is inside." Wilf reached out for the door handle when a bolt of energy bridged the short distance between the metal and his fingers and gave him a nasty shock. Wilf shrieked as the Doctor pulled him back to a safer distance.
"What the bloody heck is going on here?" Wilf asked.
"Someone must have released all of that energy that the monks have caught during the thunder storm. It's leaking from inside the chapel. The whole wall is crackling. One touch and you'll get electrocuted." The Doctor noticed the dark figure sitting in the corner on the floor. It had the shape of a man, but the skin was a broken surface of black and red, his face a mess with a lipless hole for a mouth and a black bulbous stump for a nose, while smoke still rose from his scorched scalp. The only features that were still intact were the eyes, and they looked at the Doctor with a resentful anger that only a dying man would have for the living.
"Who is that poor creature?" Wilf asked, shocked by the man's horrific appearance.
"That is your granddaughter's captor. Or was. That man is dying, and it's not an easy death." He went over to Antoine and crouched down by his side. "What happened? Who did this?" He asked, although he dreaded to hear the truth. Don't let it be the Master. He begged. Please don't let it be him.
"Doctor." The burnt man whispered in recognition, and he returned him a lipless smile that cracked the corners of his mouth. "Oh you're late. Far too late."
"Tell me who did this to you."
"That mad old witch who called herself the high priestess of our order, she was not the only one to whom our Lord spoke. I've been listening to him since I was a child and was blessed with his true prophecy. I knew that his return would require a sacrifice. I was more than willing to give my life to him."
The Doctor's eyebrows rose in bafflement. "You did this to yourself?"
"I fulfilled my duty to my Lord. The ceremony required the Tudor queen, I brought her to him, together with the last of his blood."
"The last of his bl…" The Doctor's eyes turned large and white. "Anne and the Master. You're like this because it was you who shut the doors and trapped them both inside with the mad Watcher."
The Doctor's breath stalled when he watched how Antoine's horrific face turned into a grinning black skull. "The Tudor queen is our Lord's true bride." He whispered. "And the Master shall be her salvation."
It was not until the mad laughter of the Watcher suddenly turned into a long hideous scream that the Master finally realized what was happening. The old woman was clawing at her face, her nails working like talons and flaying strips of skin from her cheeks till streams of blood flowed through her fingers, crawling like red worms down her hands and wrists and into her sleeves.
"I am burning!" She screamed in both her Lord's and her own voice. "Oh my lord! I am burning! That sound! Oh that horrible sound. Get it out! Get it out! GET IT OUT!"
But Rassilon was not going leave her alone. He had waited so long, lying in his cold grave among the dead stars, he had traveled so far on the sound of the corruptive drums, now that the white point star had finally guided him to his resurrection, he was not going to let a miserable old wench ruin everything. Not now he could almost taste the sweet fruit of life on his cold dead lips. He continued to pour all of the wisdom of the universe into her head, the knowledge of all that once was, all that is, and all that shall be. He penetrated her frail and brittle body the very essence of a Timelord…and was destroying her.
"A Timelord metacrisis…" The Master whispered, his eyes shining with hope. "You're ancient bride can't handle this. Oh you're making a huge mistake! You can't force the entire universe into a puny human brain!"
The Watcher screamed and wept, pleading to her Lord for mercy. "I am boiling! Stop! Please STOP!" She retched violently and spat out a bubbling mass of concealed blood. Desperate and mad with fear, she turned to the Master. "Help! Help me! Help me please!"
"And why would I?" The Master laughed, madness taking over from sanity. "I rather watch you burn old witch! Die! Die, and take our vainglorious lordship with you!"
"You can't…please…The prophecy…It was foretold….The Doctor….the last of his blood will save us…"
"I am not the Doctor." He told her with steel in his voice as he watched greedily how the old woman suffered. "I am the Master, and I swear on my life I will never let you live to bring Rassilon back."
"NO! NO!" The skin on the Watcher's hands and face blistered like the skin of a fat goose roasting in the oven. Steam began to rise up from her head while the far too familiar sickening stench of roasting human flesh assailed the Master's nose. When her bursting veins and arteries caused her dreadful agony, he could feel his lips turn into a cruel grin, and her dying howls when her internal organs cooked sounded like heaven's music in his ears. To him it was sweet vengeance that Rassilon suffered this horrific demise, and oh how he wished he could prolong his agony. Die Rassilon. He thought with black poison in his hearts. Die, and take your ugly corpse bride with you. Rot with her in the deepest, hottest hell.
Still screaming, the Watcher fell down on her knees. Her eyes popped open from the heat and ran like fat tears of bubbling jelly down her racked cheeks. Her jaw dropped and a bright silver light left her tortured body. When her heart burst, she finally fell silent and toppled over on the floor. The light that had escaped circled around her corpse a few times before it soared down the platform and entered the Tudor queen, a ribbon of silver smoke that crawled into her lungs. She absorbed it with a bright eye stare of surprise and fear.
The Master's flesh turned cold when he met her gaze.
"My lord, what is happening to me?" She clutched her head in agony. She could hear the drums, pounding inside her. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. On and on it went, sullen and ceaseless. Boom. Boom. Doom. Doom.
"I know everything. I can see the beginning of time and the end of time. There is so much to know. It's all cramped up inside my head, and I can't, I can't breathe! It hurts! Oh my sweet lord, it hurts so much!"
The Master rushed towards her, cursing Rassilon on the way. He took her in his arms. Although she was terrified, she was too dazed to coil away from him.
"Look at me Anne." He begged.
"I can't." She cried. "I can't see. There is so much inside my head that shields my view from you, all the stars, the planets and the moons…the complete darkness of the universe…I can't see."
Why? Why was this happening? Why was fate so cruel to him? Of all the creatures of the universe, why did it have to take her? With a trembling hand, he stroked her tear-streaked face, a face that he had once kissed every morning, when the first beams of sunlight shone on her soft skin, while yellow spots danced in her loving green eyes.
"Ignore all that." He told her, his heart breaking. He can't let her suffer the Watcher's same fate. NOT her. "Follow my voice. I am here. Come back to me. Look at me my love. Look at me."
A light gradually replaced the vacant stare in her green cat-eyes, and for the first time since Rassilon took refuse inside her mind, she truly looked, and saw the grief engraved on his face. "Master." She whispered. "Oh I am so sorry, my love."
"It's all right." His lips curled into a desperate smile. "You're going to be all right. He won't harm you. I won't let it happen. I won't let him take you away from me. You're mine. You're my beautiful, beloved bride."
He swallowed, fighting his tears. "Close your eyes." He whispered, and softly he placed his fingers on her temples.
"There's got to be a way to get in!" The Doctor was pacing up and down in front of the locked entrance like a caged lion. "I can hear the machine running. It won't take long before the Watcher has absorbed all of Rassilon's essence. There is no time, we have to stop him!"
"But how? Your screwdriver didn't work." Wilf noted worriedly.
The Doctor rolled the sonic in his hand. He was nervous and frightened. Oh so very frightened.
Antoine was still not finished with dying and gazed with blood shot eyes at the struggling Timelord with cruel amusement. "Give up Doctor. What is happening right now has been foretold. It was written in the stars before any of us were even born. You cannot stop it."
But if there is still one breath left in me, I will try. He ignored Antoine snide remark and turned to the high doors where deadly bolts of energy continued to wave over the surface. The sonic was of no use. He needed something stronger to disrupt the energy field.
"You know. He still has the Master's screwdriver." Wilf suddenly realized. "Would that help?"
Immediately Doctor swirled around on his heels and searched through the dying man's scorched clothes, or what was left of it. It didn't take long for the Doctor to retrieve the Master's laser screwdriver. Miraculously, it still looked all right, although the outer casing was slightly damaged.
"Wilf you're life-saver!" The Doctor said with a radiant smile. "Remind me later to kiss you silly when this is all over."
"What are you doing? It won't help your cause. That device is broken." Antoine objected weakly.
"It's not broken. It's locked to prevent people like you from abusing it. You just need to know how to switch it back on." A few clicks and he had the Master's laser unlocked. "Tell me, does anyone of you know what happens when you hold a laser against a sonic screwdriver?" He stared at the perplexed humans with an excited glint in his eyes.
"What happens?" Wilf asked.
"I have absolutely no idea." The Doctor grinned and fired both the sonic and the laser screwdriver, letting the red and the blue beam collide on the target.
As the Master reached inside Anne's mind and forced back the consciousness of the more powerful Timelord, he vividly experienced their memories. He saw Anne's glorious day of crowning and the creation of Gallifrey. He witnessed it all: The first time when the blushing queen held her newborn daughter Elizabeth in her arms. Rassilon, at the declaration of the Timewar. The last lonely night Anne spent in her cell in the tower of London. The last light of a dying world as the tomb was closed above Rassilon's head, and the darkness that followed. A darkness that was cold and complete, and would have lasted for an eternity, if it were not for the drums. The drums were everywhere, beating relentlessly from every far corner of the universe, his old and most faithful companions. Guided by the lights of the stars, they've searched the galaxies for the last descendents of Gallifrey. Here on this tiny blue speck of a planet they have found them, the Doctor and the Master, the lord president Rassilon's last living blood, and it was here where he would find a way to return and breathe back life in the dust of his bones.
The past was bright and frightening, and it hurt. It hurt so much.
You cannot fight me. Rassilon whispered. I have created you. I gave you this immortal life and I can take it away. Your life is mine! MINE!
He was blasted with horrific experiences, a tortuous succession of fire and blood that left the Master paralyzed in both body and mind. He let go of Anne and tumbled backwards, her cries smothered by the merciless drums. As the darkness took him, the last thing he saw was one of Rassilon's memories, when he was gazing through the blackened bar of his cage to watch the Master burn in sea of flames.
The red and blue beams of the laser and the sonic screwdriver melted into one, and finally broke through the dense wall of static energy. The Doctor had half a heart beat to react before it would seal itself again. He rushed forward and smashed his shoulder against the high door, forced it to open and crashed into the other side. Inside the cathedral the machine was still running, and a bright bundle of light shone from the conic contraption down on the blackened seat. In front of it, he discovered the dead Watcher with black smoke rising from her scorched remains.
"Doctor! Doctor! I am here!"
He quickly turned around and found Donna tied up to a column with a thick chain around her middle. She was still wearing her shimmer disguise, but the Doctor had no trouble recognizing her. A quick whirr with the sonic and he had returned her to her old self. When he unchained her, he shocked by the sight of her wounds, but they did not seem to harm her, for as soon as she was released she flew around his neck in a tight embrace.
"It's you! It's really you!" She cried.
Overwhelmed by emotions, he hardly had time to enjoy this rare moment of happiness, when her hand flew out and slapped him hard. "And that's for making me forget you!" She told him, scowling.
"I –I am sorry." He stuttered, a bit baffled by her response. "I had no choice. I really didn't want to leave you behind. Please Donna, you have to believe me."
He just kept looking at her with his kind and caring eyes. This wasn't fair, how could she ever keep being angry with him if he looked at her like that? Finally she sucked in a deep breath and buried her face in his chest, crying tears of joy and relief.
"Doctor!" It was her granddad's voice, coming from the other side of the hall. "Over here!"
He gently pushed her away and rushed over to Wilf. The Master was lying on the floor, wounded, bleeding and unconscious.
"Master. Master can you hear me?" His eyes flickered when he called him by his name. "Master? Master!"
He struggled back to consciousness. A pair of dazed brown eyes stared up at him.
"What happened?" The Doctor asked worriedly.
"Rassilon." The name tasted like bitter bile in the Master's mouth. "He came back, together with the drums. He needed a vessel to survive. He took Anne. He took my wife… She absorbed his essence, a Timelord metacrisis turned flesh. She was burning up."
"You tried to wipe her mind." A chill ran down the Doctor's spine when he realized what the Master had done. "You wanted to save her so you tried to seal Rassilon's recollections away from her consciousness."
"I tried." He swallowed hard. "I tried, I really did, but he was too strong. Oh I had wished so hard to watch him burn, but…I couldn't…I couldn't allow Anne to burn with him."
"You stopped her from burning up, kept her alive…and by doing so you kept Rassilon alive." The Doctor muttered. What was it that the Antoine told him about the prophecy? The Tudor queen is our Lord's true bride. And the Master shall be her salvation. Oh wasn't that clever of our lord president! Anger rose like bile in his throat when he realized what Rassilon had done. Just when he thought he could bring the Master back to the light, Rassilon was there to rob him from his side and fling him back down into the deepest darkest pit.
"He controls her now, body and soul." The Master whispered, his eyes damp with frustration. "He won Doctor. He always wins…I failed her."
"You didn't fail me, my love."
The Tudor queen was a ghostly figure drifting in front of the great church window, her feet hovering a few meters above the ground. Her beautiful blond hair had turned snow white and framed her pale, heart shaped face, waving gently in invisible currents. Her eyes had turned the color of precious emerald, and stared vacantly into the distance. Her gown was white as well, and there was no color on her face except for the pale pink on her lips. She looked like an angel without wings.
"Anne." He whispered, his voice filled with regret.
"I can't see you. I am blind now to your time and world. My Lord and Master has seen to that, and yet, I can still see so much. Don't blame yourself my love. It's not your fault. What happened was meant to happen. No one could have changed it, not even you."
"What did he do to you?"
"My Lord and Master made me his bride. I follow him now. Don't be sad. We shall meet again. I promise. For the last and final time, and then you'll never be lost and lonely again. Just like me now." She paused. Her blind eyes flickered. "Oh my love. I wish you could hear what I can hear."
She returned a smile to him that was all sweetness and serenity. "The most glorious sound of creation. They're calling out for you, longing to come home. The drums my love! The never-ending drums. The heart beat of the universe."
He cried out his wife's name when she disappeared in a flash of bright white light.
The journey back to Donna's wedding day did not take long, but to the Master, it seemed that the Tardis took forever to find the right gap in the timevortex to slip back to 21st century of London. He sat on the lower steps of the cylindrical staircase, away from the others. Heartbroken, all he wished for was to be left alone with his thoughts. The very idea of companionship made him feel ill.
"Who was she?"
He looked up, scowling at the nosy redhead who stared at him with the most sickening amount of compassion in her eyes. The Doctor knew better than to try to talk to him at this time, and even her granddad knew when to be silent. Why does this annoying wench never know when to shut her mouth?
"She must be someone important to you." She added hesitantly, the words came tumbling out clumsily. "I saw what you tried to do to save her. The Doctor told me it was a metacrisis…"
"Oh please, what do you know about a Timelord metacrisis?" He scoffed.
"Hang on, I know what a metacrisis is. The Doctor wiped my mind to protect me from one. You see, we were fighting Davros, and a part of the Doctor accidently went into me." She realized she must sound like a complete idiot to him. Her cheeks flushed crimson. "All I was trying to say is…I know how it is to lose someone….Someone you truly care about, because you have to make her forget…"
"She didn't forget." He sounded angry, and bitter. "She remembered." She said her farewell to me, and told me that I was forgiven. That was the worst part.
"Who was she?" She dared to ask again.
He gazed at her while the sound of the Tardis gradually died down and the light in the control room dimmed. "A ghost of my past." He told her coldly, and getting up. "One of many."
She opened her mouth to say something, but he felt he had obliged her long enough in meaningless conversation.
"This is your stop I believe." He said, wishing now very hard to get rid of her.
The sun was still shining and the sky was radiant blue when Donna stepped out of the blue box and walked down the gravel path that led through the small rose garden at the back of the church.
"I never get use to this." She mumbled. "I swear, my head still is somewhere in 18th century France, but here I am, back on my own wedding day…and looking like a smelly bag-lady in a potato-sack." She added with discontent.
"I told you, you could pick out something out of my wardrobe to wear." The Doctor said, strolling out with his hands in his pockets. "I've got all sorts of dresses, and some of them are quite nice. People tend to leave a lot of their stuff behind in the Tardis." He added quickly when he noticed Wilf lifting a quirky eyebrow.
"If it's makes you feel any better, I don't look much like a proper gent myself." Wilf added with a smile.
Donna heard familiar voices chatting nearby. She looked around the corner and saw some of her friends and relatives gathered outside of the chapel. Shaun was on the phone, and her mother was talking to her uncle Bertie and her great-aunt Violet. Suddenly, she had a déjà vu of the last time she popped up unexpectedly on her own wedding party, and her stomach tightened into a knot. "Maybe I shouldn't get married." Donna muttered. "I mean…not never, just…not today." She added hastily when she saw the look on her granddad's face. "I still want to marry Shaun. But after everything that has happened…" It all seems so insignificant. She thought. Who cares what kind of flowers she got for her bridal bouquet, and how the table arrangements for the guests were set up, or even that they are probably behind schedule right now and she can forget about serving up the oxtail soup hot. She had found the Doctor. She got her memory back. She had traveled back in time and it had been truly amazing. She wanted to shout it out to the entire world to hear, but couldn't because they would only think that she was gone absolutely mad.
"You want to travel with the Doctor again?" Wilf asked, knowing his granddaughter better than anyone else.
She glanced over her shoulder at Shaun who was still busy talking on the phone. She wondered if he was arguing with the police to get them to find her. He's such a sweet boy. It wasn't that she didn't love him anymore, now that she remembered her former life with her silly spaceman. But before the Doctor wiped her mind, all she had wanted was to stay with the Timelord, the Doctor-Donna, traveling in the Tardis, forever. Shaun was Donna's love of her life, but it had been another Donna, one who had never heard the Ood's songs echo over the valleys of their world of ice and snow, had never faced the wrath of a Racnosqueen, or had ever seen the stars go out in the sky one by one. It wasn't her.
She gazed up at the Doctor, but even if he truly wanted her to come with him, he was not going show it. It had to be her own choice.
"Just one trip. For old time's sake." She finally admitted.
The smile that appeared on his lips was like the sun breaking through the clouds. She had no idea how much he needed her right now. "One trip!" The Doctor beamed. "I'll make sure you're be back on time for your wedding, not a minute late. I swear! Well, maybe a minute. Well, maybe two. It' hard to time these sort of things exactly on the second, but you'll definitely be back before they cut the wedding cake." He crossed his fingers.
"I certainly need to be there by then, since I am the bleeping bride." Donna smiled. She turned to her granddad. "Is that all right?" She asked, feeling a little guilty. "I mean, with the Tardis, we can just come back when we want to. They won't notice."
"Oh my sweet, you've no idea how hard I've wished for this. You and the Doctor, back together again." Wilf smiled, his old eyes were gleaming with tears of joy. "Go on then. Off you go. I'll take care of your mother and Shaun for you."
Donna kissed Wilf on his stubbly cheeks. "Tell Shaun I love him, and that I'll be back soon. Don't let him talk to Nerys. I just saw her, she looks like she's been sipping too much from the fruit-punch and you know how she's like."
"Don't you worry. I'll make sure he behaves himself. Now, go you two. Go have a wonderful adventure and make sure you remember everything, so you can tell me all about it when you return."
Donna gave him one last peck on his cheek. It was followed by a friendly nod from the Doctor, and then they both disappeared inside the blue box. Wilf straightened his back and saluted while the Tardis engines came to life, making such a racket that he wondered why no-one else ever seemed to notice it. It was only when the box and the magical sound had vanished that he suddenly remembered that he had not said his goodbye to the Master.
"This is much better." Donna bounced down the staircase like an overexcited puppy. She was wearing a large green sweater and a pair of white jeans. It wasn't exactly a dress, but it was hers. Like the Doctor said, most of his companions had left their belongings behind, and she was thrilled to find her own suitcases tucked away in the corner behind a row of the Doctor's suits. "It's a good thing that I went on that coleslaw diet before my wedding day or I would have never fitted into this. This is like what, three years old?"
"Two and a half." The Doctor answered with a grin. "At least from your perspective. From my perspective, I guess it's more like 25 odd years? 25 years out of fashion, that ensemble you're wearing should be considered retro by now."
"Well at least there are no moth holes in it." She jumped down the last two steps and joined the Doctor next to the Tardis console. "Right then partner in space, where are we going?" She cheered.
"Are you sure that this is a wise decision?"
Donna saw the Master glaring at her from a dark corner of the console room. She had not noticed him until now. He doesn't want me to come along. She suddenly realized. It used to be just him and the Doctor. He might have wanted a third travel companion, but it wasn't me that he had in mind.
"Donna has traveled with me before. I know that we can rely on her." The Doctor replied in her defense.
"Even when we're going to face real dangers?" The Master turned her. "I don't know what you're thinking, that is if you're thinking at all, but this isn't one of the Doctor's cozy little adventures where we'll have a bit of a tumble with the monster of the week before we bring you back for sweet biscuits and tea. We're going after Rassilon. Do you have any idea what that man is capable of?"
"Master, stop scaring her." The Doctor tried.
"I am warning her!" He snapped back. "I have no time to babysit your human pet! Not when we're dealing with Rassilon!"
"I'll look after her." The Doctor answered.
"I don't want to be looked after! I am very capable to babysit myself!" Donna spoke sharply, angered by his mocking attitude towards her. "I mean…I am not…I am not stupid. I saw what happened inside that chapel. I was there. I know it's dangerous, but I want to help. Both you and the Doctor."
There was a short, most awkward moment of silence. The Master kept looking at her, searching for any sign of doubt or weakness in her eyes. I know I am not the one you wanted. She thought. I know you're angry and sad that Anne was taken from you, but the Doctor needs me. Please, please, for the love you bear the Doctor, let me stay.
Finally, the Master took his eyes from her. "Don't expect me lift a finger when she get's herself into trouble again." He growled, and went up the staircase to retreat in his chamber.
"He doesn't like me." Donna muttered.
"Oh I am absolutely positive that he doesn't. But he will learn to like you. Just give him a bit more time. This is not easy for him." The Doctor consoled her, and went back to tinkle with the controls. He had taken the white point star from the Watcher's lightening machine, and had wired it up to the Tardis. A faint blue light shone in the heart of the gem. It pulsed with the regularity of a Timelord's double heartbeat.
"Is this going to lead us to him?" She asked, staring in the blue glow.
"It helps us to track down the drums. If we follow the drums, we will find Rassilon." He pulled over a lever and the Tardis started to reel from side to side like a ship on a stormy sea.
Once again, my apologies for taking so long to complete this. The Master, the Doctor and Donna are to return in the next installment, called "This reflection of me." I will try to complete a couple of chapters before posting the first one on the net, so you guys don't get stuck on a chapter for too long. The next one is going to be a heartbreaker…for the Doctor that is…As always, please review and comment, it keeps me writing.