The village that Martha and Rory were staying in was nearly empty. Only a few dozen people, all adults, were living there. Rory's contact, an old man named Arduino Calligaris, explained that the children had been killed in the first few attacks.
Arduino was a pleasant, gentle man. Although he was a bit caught up in his grief, Martha understood entirely. He spent a great deal of time reminiscing about his deceased wife, children, and grandchildren. Rory was bored with this surprisingly quickly and stopped bothering to translate the stories. Instead, he seemed to have an endless list of word salads and nonsense phrases. Martha thought that was a shame; she didn't mind a distraction every so often. Still, some of what Rory said was pretty funny.
Despite the small population, supplies were running low. The village made some of the smaller, simpler parts of whatever the Master was building, so it wasn't as critical that they were kept well fed. However, even the local enforcer, the man responsible for ensuring the Master's will was carried out, felt the effects of near starvation, and turned a blind eye to their presence. The fact that the enforcer, Gregorio Donati, was Arduino's nephew also helped.
Martha told her story as she always had, stopping every few sentences to let Rory translate. His voice had taken on that tone she had heard in the Tomb; its power transfixed the people more surely than her words alone ever could have. They stared at him in open awe.
When she had finished her story, Arduino offered them a place to sleep.
"We have little," Rory translated, "but it would be our pleasure to share what we have with you."
"Thank him," Martha told Rory, "and tell him that we will take him up on his offer."
Rory relayed the message. Arduino smiled pleasantly and showed them to two empty cots tucked away in a niche. The only real bed left went to Gregorio, of course. Enforcers always got preferential treatment, but the cots were far enough out of the way that Martha and Rory could sleep through the day without being noticed. Hopefully.
Rory said something in Italian and waved Arduino away.
"What did you say?" Martha asked.
"I told him I didn't need a cot."
"Yes, you do."
"No, I don't."
Martha refused to be dragged into an argument this time. "You're human, remember?"
Rory blushed and called Arduino back, speaking in unmistakably sheepish tones. Arduino looked as annoyed as Martha felt. Still, Martha fell into a light sleep easily enough.
At around noon she was shaken awake. She reacted on instinct, throwing the person off her and shoving him into a wall, her arm pressed against his throat. She blinked a couple times to focus and looked at her captive. It was Gregorio. His eyes were bloodshot and he looked pale and terrified.
Behind her, Rory woke up far more slowly and walked over to them.
"What are you doing here?" Martha demanded of Gregorio. Rory repeated it tonelessly.
Gregorio choked out a reply. "You have to get out of here. They are coming for you."
Rory struggled with the translation for a few moments. "I believe he is referring to the Toclofane."
"How did they find us?"
Gregorio hesitated a few moments before he answered. "Uncle Arduino betrayed you. He thinks he can bring us prosperity if you die."
"You're lying," Martha accused. Rory didn't translate that.
"I'm fairly certain he is not lying."
"How do I know you aren't working with your uncle? You are the enforcer here."
Gregorio swallowed. "I never wanted to be the enforcer. Uncle made me. He thought I would be safer, but I'm not. If there is any dissent at all, I am blamed. I am always afraid that I will be the next to die. Now that you are here..." He made a sound dangerously close to a sob, and Rory's voice wasn't quite steady when he continued his translation. "Now that you are here, he is coming and he will find out that I helped hide you. We will be punished. No matter what happens, I die. I would not die betraying our last hope."
Martha released him. She didn't want to believe that Arduino was an enemy, but she was used to being betrayed by now. Gregorio took a few moments to steady himself and catch his breath. He really did look pitiful.
"We must leave at once. Follow me."
Martha followed, but she eased her pistol out of its holster and clicked the safety off, making sure to do it quietly enough that he wouldn't hear. Rory walked three paces behind her and to her right; she could just see him in the corner of her eye.
Gregorio led them out into the main hall. It was deserted. The rest of the village was at work.
"We should be safe for a bit," Gregorio explained. "We are a small enough village that the Toclofane rarely come by."
Clearly, he had never heard of tempting fate because at that moment the door opened and Arduino entered brandishing a revolver. He said something that was probably along the lines of "try anything and I'll blow your brains out." Martha wasn't sure because that wasn't what Rory translated.
What Rory said was "He only has two shots. I'm willing to bet he's pretty good with that thing."
Martha made a split second decision. She grabbed Gregorio and held her own pistol to his head, clicking the safety back on then off again to make sure Arduino got the message. This elicited a raised eyebrow from Rory, but Arduino also went deathly pale.
She could feel Gregorio shaking, and felt a bit guilty, but she had more important things to worry about. Namely Arduino, who was now pointing the gun directly at Rory's head. He made some demand that caused Rory to laugh out loud, startling everyone.
"What did he say?" Martha asked.
"Let my nephew go or I shoot your friend."
"No one's getting shot if I have anything to say about it," Martha said firmly. "But if that gun fires, so does this one, and I think I'm a bit more likely to make the shot."
Rory couldn't keep the contempt out of his voice when he translated Arduino's reply. "Do you not care if I kill your friend?"
"Do you not care if you kill the Last Centurion?" Martha questioned.
"The Last Centurion is a myth. He is merely an impersonator." Rory switched to his own words. "And he got used to talking about himself in third person surprisingly quickly."
Martha spared a quick glance at him. "Really not the time."
Rory grinned smugly.
Martha turned her attention back to Arduino. "I don't really care if you shoot Rory; he's only with me to find a good time to die. On the other hand, you care if I shoot your nephew. So, the way I see it, you get out of my way and I let Gregorio go. Everyone wins. Or you could stay where you are, I shoot Gregorio, and Rory kills you before you can shoot me. I know he can. Choose wisely."
Arduino smirked. "Your choice. Choose quickly."
A terribly familiar whirring sounded somewhere in the distance. Arduino laughed madly. "Time's up."
Martha had been bluffing when she had said Rory would kill Arduino. She never imagined that someone, even the Doctor, could move as fast as Rory did then. In an instant he had crossed over to her side and snatched the gun out of her hand. Before she could blink, a shot rang out and Arduino lay dead, a bullet hole precisely between his eyes.
"Let's go," Rory said, giving the gun back to her and stalking off.
"Aspetti!" Gregorio called. Rory stopped and looked back. Gregorio pulled a rosary out of his pocket and handed it to Martha. He turned to Rory and said something in Italian. She really needed to learn the language. Rory replied in a slightly friendlier tone than he usually used with people other than Martha.
The whirring in the distance was louder, closer. Gregorio went even paler than before and his next words were barely above a whisper, but he looked determined. Martha knew she was looking at a man who knew he was about to die. Rory's face became grim and hard.
"Vale amicus," he said. "Habeas faciles pax vestra."
A flicker of confusion passed over Gregorio's face, but he nodded solemnly. The whirring was nearly on top of them now.
"Time to go," Rory said.
"What about Gregorio?" It was a token protest, and they both knew it.
"It's his time to die." Rory looked pensive. "That's not a bad way to go, protecting the last hope this world has." He glanced at her. "No pressure or anything." An odd cheerfulness came over him, belying his next words. "I'd rather like to die like that. A good death, one that will be remembered." He nodded to himself.
"Let's focus on the here and now instead," Martha suggested, speaking as much to herself as to Rory. They didn't speak again until they were a mile from the village and they were sure the Toclofane had lost their trail.
"Where to now?" Martha asked.
Rory took out the rosary and turned it over in his hands a few times. Then he held it out to her, pointing out an inscription.
"At a guess, I'd say we look for Favianna Donati."
A/N: I am currently experiencing a dilemma. Until now, I've posted chapters pretty much once I finished them because I like to know what you guys think as soon as I can. But, of course, RL likes to get in the way of the wonderful world of fanfic. I don't foresee any problems in the near future, but just in case, I'm considering taking a hiatus from posting of maybe two or three weeks to build a backlog so that I can keep posting if RL interferes. What do you guys think I should do? I'm definitely continuing this fic, by the way, so don't think I hiatus would mean no more updates ever.