"Doctor!" Rose scrambled awkwardly to the entrance of the fissure that she and Lyra were hiding in, but was brought up short - Lyra had grasped her borrowed robe from behind, leaving Rose flailing briefly before landing on her bottom. "Lyra, let me go!" she whimpered.
"Quiet!" Lyra hissed. "If what you have told me is true, Sister Melina won't hurt him - he is too valuable to her ambitions. You, however, would be expendable. If she can overwhelm his mind with the little effort that I felt, then she could kill you with a glance. Be still!"
"But - " Rose was cut off by a hand clamping down over her mouth.
"Shhhhhhh! You will not help him by getting yourself captured or killed!"
After Rose stopped struggling, Lyra released her hold on her and she was able to scoot over to where the stalactites partially hid the second opening of the fissure she and Lyra were hiding in. The Doctor hadn't stirred, but Ohica was now kneeling beside Valna's body and checking for signs of life. After a moment, she bowed her head.
"Sister Valna is dead," Ohica sadly proclaimed. "I do not understand. She assured me that she would be able to compensate for the large amount of artron that was extracted. This should not be!"
Melina moved over to where Ohica knelt, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Perhaps the Doctor was correct and his high artron level overly changed the composition of the elixir. He should be extracted again before he is allowed to depart - his artron should be down to a more normal level now." Rose's eyes widened on hearing Melina's suggestion.
"Oh, yes, the Doctor," Ohica murmured, turning to the Doctor's crumpled, unconscious form. "Why did you strike him down?"
"I... I feared that he would harm either you or Sister Valna, High One. I am afraid I may have acted rashly," Melina said.
Rose could hear the veiled sarcasm dripping from the Sister's voice and scowled. "She is so full of crap," she whispered, ignoring Lyra's inquisitive glance.
"It is all right, Sister Melina, I might have done the same," Ohica replied, standing and brushing off her robe. "Our Sister is dead, though, and we should attempt to discern what went wrong with the substitute elixir so that her death will not have been in vain. With the Doctor's artron level being what it is, perhaps we should at this point simply allow him to attempt to restore the Sacred Flame - "
"With all respect, I must disagree, High One," Melina interrupted, eyeing the Doctor's still form. "We have no guarantee that he will be able to restore the Flame and even if he does, we do not know if the resulting Elixir of Life will be the same as it was before the ground shook." She knelt down where the Doctor lay motionless. "Now that his artron has been reduced, he should be extracted again as soon as possible, before he is able to actively resist," she said, tracing a fingertip along his cheek.
Ohica seemed to consider this, tapping at her chin while gazing down at Valna's body, her eyes shining with unshed tears. "There are a few considerations to be made, Sister Melina," she said, a contemplative tone in her voice. "The Time Lord has already had three doses of the soporific. Even in a difficult extraction with a mated Time Lord, we have never given a fourth dose. It could put him in danger and I am not willing to do that."
"I have already prepared for this eventuality, High One. I have a different formulation of the soporific that Sister Valna helped me to prepare. It will be completely safe to use on the Time Lord."
Rose snorted. Lyra was more thoughtful. "Why is Sister Melina so insistent on another extraction - unless," she whispered as she turned to Rose, "she thought that Sister Ohica would be the one to test the substitute elixir. She doesn't have the mental power to overcome her yet."
Rose considered this for a moment. "You mean, she's not actually going to do another extraction - she's going to try to take his artron like she did in that room with the other Time Lords? By forcing him?"
"Exactly," Lyra said quietly. "Direct exposure to a large release of artron such as that obtained with extraction would be dangerous for any one of us. She only needs a small amount to boost her mental powers in order to harm Sister Ohica. I would hazard a guess that Melina's version of the soporific would facilitate... things without mobilizing any excess artron."
"Then we've got to stop her, now!"
"She may not be able to overcome Sister Ohica, but we would make easy targets for her, Rose Tyler. We will have to wait for an opportunity," Lyra whispered. Rose nodded glumly.
Ohica was speaking again. "If you are confident that you have learned Sister Valna's craft," she said, "then I suppose I will consent. We will have to find the human female and bring her here."
"What?" Rose said softly as she turned to Lyra, confused. "Why?"
"Didn't you realize?" Lyra whispered. "During the previous extraction, when his mental barriers were down, he could feel your proximity within the chamber before his Time Lord senses were blocked. That's why Sister Melina had such trouble getting him to respond to her."
"Oh," Rose said, her cheeks flushing. She turned from Lyra in time to see Melina scowl.
"With all due respect, High One, the different formulation would ease the extraction process even if the Time Lord were currently mated. The human female will not be necessary." Melina ran a hand through the Doctor's mussed hair before standing with a slight bow to Ohica. "I will summon Sister Riza to assist."
"But, Sister Melina," Ohica remarked. "You must admit, it would be much easier on the Time Lord if we use his bonded partner - "
"She will not be necessary."
Rose was finding it more and more difficult to try to keep her mind blank as her anger grew. Clenching her fists, she watched as another Sister entered her field of view. It was Sister Riza, but how? Melina hadn't left the room - had she been able to summon her using her mind? Rose's eyes narrowed as she saw that Riza held several lengths of twisted cording in one hand - and that her face was completely devoid of any emotion. "Lyra? What's wrong with Riza?" Rose whispered, confused.
"I am not sure," Lyra replied quietly, an uneasy tone in her voice. "I see her, but I do not feel her presence."
"Why do you bind him?" Ohica was asking as the blank-faced Riza helped Melina drag the Doctor's unconscious form over to the large flat rock adjacent to the turquoise pool. Riza then assisted Melina in looping the cords over his body and through gaps between the rock and the floor of the chamber several times before tying each of them securely.
"Sister Riza?" Ohica frowned as Riza again did not respond.
"It is merely a precaution, High One. We would not want him to harm himself if he struggles." Melina's response was as smooth as glass, Rose thought, but it apparently wasn't having the desired effect on Sister Ohica.
"I grow suspicious of your motives, Sister Melina," Ohica said, a troubled expression on her face. "I do not know what you have done to Sister Riza, but I wish to see this altered soporific that you and Sister Valna have created, but did not see fit to inform me of."
Melina was already unstoppering the small flask that she had withdrawn from a pouch at her waist, but paused to look up at Ohica, an innocent expression painted over her features. "I was about to administer it to the Time Lord, High One. Before he wakes."
"Give it to me. And you will release Sister Riza immediately from whatever hold you have on her."
For a moment, Rose entertained the thought that Sister Ohica would miraculously be able to put a stop to Melina's plans right then and there. It didn't look good, though, as Melina drew herself up to her full height and crossed her wrists over her chest, the fingers of her hands splayed upward. She fixed Ohica with a cold, glittering stare.
"You do not need to examine the soporific," Melina intoned flatly. "Sister Riza, remove Sister Valna's body from the chamber and await further orders." Rose flinched at the coldness of the Sister's voice and watched as Riza lifted Valna from underneath her shoulders and began to drag her body from the room.
"You have possessed Sister Riza's mind and you are now trying to influence my thoughts," Ohica said incredulously. "You have been... using the captured Time Lords to gain power. You have abused the trust I have put in you, Sister Melina. This ends now."
Ohica folded her hands in front of her in a similar fashion to Melina, and Rose could see a large, ornately-crafted silver ring on her left hand, with a flat, dull coral-colored stone set in the center. Behind the two Sisters, she saw that the Doctor was beginning to stir, his head lolling to one side while his eyes remained shut.
"You may be the oldest among the Sisters, but the time of your leadership is at an end." Melina's voice was low and dangerous, and Rose gritted her teeth.
"You have become soft in your old age, Ohica. We have hidden under the rock of Karn for too long. I will succeed you and the Sisterhood will return to dominance. With the Time Lord's assistance, we will no longer be dependent on the elixir produced by the rock of this planet for our immortality. We will be able to travel and conquer, using the Time Lord's TARDIS, and we will take back our rightful place in the universe!" Melina exclaimed.
"You would subjugate the Time Lord and enslave your own Sisters? Your ambitions are greater than I thought, Sister Melina." Rose's eyes widened as Ohica raised her left hand, turning it so that the stone faced where Melina stood defiantly.
"Your energy will be depleted and you will be cast out from our number," Ohica said calmly as a bright beam of blue light shot out from the surface of the stone toward Melina. Melina raised one of her hands, her palm shimmering and golden as she blocked the ray with ease.
"You are weak, Ohica. I may have enough power to bring you down after all." The air between the two Sisters shimmered with a wavy distortion, and Ohica gasped, falling to her knees.
"The Time Lord is bonded - you will fail if you attempt to hold him in thrall," Ohica rasped, raising her hand to fire another beam of bright blue energy at Melina.
"That problem is easily solved," Melina spat as she blocked the beam, reversing its course. It hit Ohica square in the chest as she struggled to rise and she again fell to her knees.
In the darkness of the crevice, Lyra touched Rose's shoulder, startling her. "Rose," she whispered as she pressed a cool metallic handle into her palm. Rose looked down - it was the ornamental knife they had seen in Valna's laboratory. "You must free the Doctor while Melina is occupied. She would be unstoppable if she were to obtain any more artron. You must return to your TARDIS and leave Karn at once."
"But... but you'll all die without elixir - "
"We will die free. Our time has passed, along with that of our brethren, the Time Lords. I will attempt to buy you time enough to free the Doctor and escape. And remember, you must try keep your mind as free of emotion as possible - the barriers that are in place will only hide so much."
"But - "
"Go." Lyra hissed. "I must assist Sister Ohica!"
The two women silently exited the crevice, and Rose hurried to the shadows at the periphery of the large chamber, moving as quickly as she could while trying to keep as quiet as possible. She managed to avoid stepping on any sharp rocks with her bare feet and crept toward the flat rock on which the Doctor lay, looking up to see both Ohica and now Lyra engaging Melina. The chamber was intermittently lit up by golden sparks and the occasional blue ray, and Rose knelt behind the flat rock and tried to clear her mind of her fear. Taking a deep breath, she began to cut at the rope that bound the Doctor. A low, familiar moan distracted her, and she poked her head cautiously up to see the Doctor blinking blearily at her.
"Shhhhhhh," she whispered as she ducked back down, trying to simultaneously soothe him and saw at his bonds with the knife. "Lyra said we've got to get out of here - she's holding off Melina...." Rose couldn't finish as her eyes began to well up at the thought of Lyra's more than likely imminent demise at Melina's hand. She blinked away the tears and sawed faster, snapping one of the loops of rope that bound the Doctor's upper body to the rock. She was starting in on the loop that bound his midsection when his hand drifted down to catch her wrist.
"Rose, stop," the Doctor ordered in a low, strained tone. "We're part of events. If by some miracle we did manage to escape without Melina realizing it, they'll die without their elixir. I can still fix their flame, if they'll let me."
She watched as he shrugged his upper body free of the bindings and leaned toward her as much as the ropes still around his waist and legs would allow. "Your barriers are still intact," he breathed, his exhalation caressing her cheek. "Melina shouldn't be able to sense you. As long as you can keep your mind as clear as possible, and not give yourself away, I have a plan that might work." Rose shivered as his lips brushed her ear.
A loud scream echoed through the chamber and she peered over the Doctor's body in time to see Lyra crumple to the floor. She quickly ducked back down, heart racing. "What do I have to do?"
"You have to hurt me, Rose - badly enough to make me regenerate."
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