Lyra stood in the doorway for a moment, seemingly confused. "I am able to understand Rose again without linking to her mind - you must be feeling better now," she said, looking at the Doctor. "For that, I am glad."
Rose watched as the Doctor tugged at his ear, obviously embarrassed. "Lyra, please - we need to see Sister Ohica."
Lyra crossed to the bed and deposited the pile of folded clothing on top, separating it into two distinct piles. "I will have to return for your footwear," she said, doubt registering in her bright green eyes.
"Lyra," Rose said, grabbing the Sister's arm. "Please listen - you have to believe me. Sister Melina is planning to kill Ohica and take over. We have to warn her!"
Lyra looked dubiously at Rose. "I have not sensed anything amiss with Sister Melina or her recent behavior. She would not be able to hide such an intent from the rest of us."
"But she has," Rose replied. "She's been getting extra artron from the Time Lords you've captured and has been using it to boost her mental powers!"
"I'm afraid it's true," the Doctor interjected while pulling on his pinstriped trousers. "She's put a bond on me," he continued as he dressed in record time. "It's almost worn off now, but had she been here while my mental barriers were down - has anyone seen my tie?"
Rose rolled her eyes. "Not now!" she growled over her shoulder. She turned back to Lyra. "Please - just take us to Sister Ohica."
"I can sense that you believe that you are telling the truth. I will do as you ask, Rose Tyler, but I am having a difficult time believing what you say about my Sister," Lyra said as she moved to the door. "I will warn you that Sister Ohica asked not to be disturbed while she and Sister Valna dilute and test the new substitute elixir. Sister Melina will be there as well. She has been apprenticing with Sister Valna for the last twenty years."
Rose turned back to the bed, grabbing up her clothes. "Great - just let me get dressed -"
"Rose, we need to hurry. Besides, that robe might help keep you from being noticed for a little while longer," the Doctor said, grabbing her elbow and making her drop her clothing. He ushered her to the door to follow Lyra into the hallway.
Lyra brought them to a small chamber that resembled an apothecary, the walls lined with wooden shelves holding numerous glass jars and stoppered bottles filled with various and sundry concoctions. One large shelving unit stood mostly empty, with a single, large earthen vessel filled with unstoppered, empty glass flasks resting on the bottom shelf. A single similar flask stood on the center shelf, a clear liquid contained within. Rose watched as the Doctor snatched it up and swirled it, producing a golden glow shot through with glimmering sparkles. He carefully placed it back on the shelf and ran a hand through his hair to muss it further.
"Is this Valna's lab?" Rose asked, watching the Doctor pace the room, sans trainers.
"Yes," the Doctor responded. "Sister Ohica showed me what some of these are for - that one over there is the last of their substitute elixir," he said, waving a hand at the flask he had just held. "That bench over there is Melina's."
Rose went to the smaller working surface, which appeared to have been recently used. Crushed ash-green stems littered the wooden bench, along with small chopped fragments of brown leaves. A small ornate knife also lay on the surface, the blade unwashed and stained at the tip. Two abandoned small stoppered vials filled with a rusty-colored fluid caught her attention. "Lyra?" she asked. "What's in these?"
Lyra picked up one of the vials and the Doctor stopped his pacing to join them. "I am not sure, Rose Tyler. Sister Melina was last here to observe the reformulation of the soporific, but she did have several projects of her own. It is likely that this is one of them, as I do not recognize it."
"Are you sure that Melina said that she hadn't done the dilutions correctly? She didn't say she was going to poison it?" the Doctor inquired.
"I'm sure - I mean, I don't think so," Rose replied.
"Well, only one way to find out what she was working on then."
Rose watched as the Doctor unstoppered the vial and poured a small amount of the orange-colored fluid into the palm of his hand, taking a cautious sniff. He stared into space, blinking and before Rose could stop him, he'd raised his palm to his mouth and licked it.
"It tastes very much like your soporific," he told Lyra while smacking his lips. "It's missing something though, I'm not sure what, but... oh."
"Doctor?" Rose quickly took the vial from him and looked for something to wipe his hand with other than her robe.
"My mental barriers... it's affecting them. Not that they were very good, I could only manage some rudimentary ones. I'd guess it's part of the reformulated soporific, except it doesn't appear to be having any effect on my artron," he said as he inched away from Rose, a look of discomfort briefly crossing his features. After wiping his hand on his trousers, he resumed his pacing of the room, more slowly than before. "We need to find where they're preparing the elixir, Lyra."
"Only the early preparations are done in this room. They must have completed that portion of the process already," Lyra replied. "The raw fluid is diluted with the medicinal waters that are present in the Chamber of Candles. After the final dilutions are made, Sister Valna adds the powdered rhineweed." She picked up a glass jar half-filled with a powdery green substance. "There were four such containers here before - they must have taken them to the Chamber of Candles and are most likely close to testing."
The Doctor stopped pacing to regard Lyra. "Just how do they do the testing?"
"One of the Sisters usually volunteers. Either that or Sister Valna will ingest it herself - "
"C'mon, quickly," the Doctor said, moving toward the door. "Lyra, which way to the Chamber of Candles?"
Rose exited Valna's laboratory behind Lyra and the Doctor but fell behind rapidly, cursing her lack of trainers with every step. The Doctor seemed not to notice his lack of footwear, picking his way along the tunnel with apparent ease.
"C'mon, Rose - keep up!" he called back to her.
"Sorry, it's just - I could really use my trainers, you know?" Rose grimaced as she stepped on a particularly sharp rock.
"Quiet!" Lyra hissed. They had reached the large, ornate wooden door that marked the entrance to the Chamber of Candles. "We may enter here, but our presence will more than likely be immediately detected."
"Another entrance, then," the Doctor suggested. "I'd rather we had the element of surprise on our side - we might need it, depending on the extent of Melina's powers."
"And Sister Ohica's willingness to believe you, Doctor," Lyra added as Rose caught up to them. "There is a limited amount of time in which the substitute elixir can be diluted and stabilized, and she will be focused on doing so. This way, please."
Lyra led them down another passage that opened into a small rocky chamber that Rose thought she recognized from their previous attempt to return to the TARDIS.
"Doctor, you said your mental defenses were rudimentary," Lyra said in a whisper as they entered the chamber. "Rose has none. Now that our powers have been restored, you will risk detection unless you are able to clear your minds."
The Doctor turned to Rose, looking deeply into her eyes. "Maybe you should stay here," he murmured.
"Not a chance!" Rose exclaimed quietly. "'M not letting you go in there by yourself."
"All right then," the Doctor sighed. "You'll have to try to keep your mind blank, at least until we can warn Sister Ohica about the substitute elixir. I'm not sure how enhanced Melina's powers are, and I've no intention of finding out."
"How do you do that? Just not think?"
"I can help you... if you want," the Doctor said, gazing into her eyes, his voice low.
Rose squeezed his hand, returning his gaze. "Yes," she said, mesmerized by the darkness of his eyes in the dim light of the chamber.
"Just relax." Rose felt the Doctor's fingers at her temples and closed her eyes....
Rose was in her meadow again, but it was blurred and almost colorless, her surroundings taking on a sepia-hued cast. As she watched, the indistinct borders of the field began to shimmer and solid walls made of gold appeared out of nowhere to circumscribe the area. She blinked in amazement as a wave of distortion approached her....
Rose opened her eyes to see the Doctor stumbling back from where she stood. "Doctor!" she hissed in alarm.
He steadied himself with a hand against the wall, panting with exertion. "That... s-should help," he said, grinning weakly at her.
"That wasn't wise, Doctor," Lyra admonished. "I can barely perceive your mental barriers now."
"I'll be better able to keep my mind clear than Rose," he panted. "I want her protected."
"You shouldn't have done it at your own expense," Rose whispered angrily.
"I'll recover quickly - you wouldn't." The Doctor pushed away from the wall, straightening up with some difficulty. "Are you able to sense her now, Lyra?"
Lyra closed her eyes, frowning. "No. I cannot sense you either, Doctor."
"Good. Time we were off, then."
Rose gritted her teeth and moved to follow Lyra and the Doctor as they began to silently traverse the small chamber.
It wasn't long before they reached another wooden door that marked the back entrance to the Chamber of Candles, and Rose began to recognize various rock formations and the rocky outcropping where she had previously hidden with Lyra. As she and Lyra crawled into the narrow fissure, she almost felt like she was meeting an old friend. There was barely enough room for the Doctor to squeeze in behind them and Rose felt her heart flutter at the close contact.
Rose peered through the stalactites that blocked the second opening, quickly locating Ohica, Valna and Melina on the opposite side of the turquoise pool from them, not far from where the Doctor's extraction had taken place. Valna was stirring the fluid contained in one of the three earthen crocks, pausing while Melina added a carefully measured bit of grey powder.
"That's the rhineweed," Lyra whispered. "It's the final step. Doctor?"
Rose turned to see that the Doctor was missing - where had he gone? She heard a gasp and looked back through the opening to see Valna dip an ornate goblet into the liquid contained within the container. As Ohica gave her a curt nod, she raised it to her lips to sip.
Rose's eyes widened as the Doctor rushed into her view and startled Valna as she had begun to drink. Valna sputtered as she dropped the goblet, clutching at her throat.
"What is the meaning of this intrusion!" Ohica's eyes were blazing with fury as she regarded the Doctor, who had moved to catch Valna's slumping form in his arms.
"Sister Valna - " Lyra whispered. "She is dying! You were correct, but why would Sister Melina do such a thing...."
"I've got to help the Doctor, Lyra," Rose made to turn around to crawl out of the fissure, but stopped as she heard the Doctor's shout.
"Don't drink it - it will kill you all! Sister Melina - AH!"
Rose watched in horror as the Doctor dropped Sister Valna's limp form, clutching at his head and grimacing in pain. His cry of agony echoed through the chamber as he slumped to the ground.
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