"Confess, confess, confess to thy crimes, thy terrible sins..." the chanting continued ad nauseum but the old man stood upright, bare and defiant on the dais before them all. Ian admired the Doctor's stamina under such grueling, well, annoyances, really. Being shackled nude in front of the Margtig Cult was bad but after that shock had worn off the dullness became worse. Apparently the Margtig blathered their enemies into submission. Ian was fairly sure the Doctor, captive between two droning 'confessors,' had fallen asleep standing up.
Ian shivered, his own exposed flesh rising into goosebumps as another chill wind blew through the cave. He heard Susan try her chains again and Barbara gently telling the girl to stop before she hurt herself. Then Barbara sighed and Ian stretched out as far as he could to tap her bare shoulder with his fingertips in what he hoped was a comforting way. He kept his eyes down, though.
The woman turned as far as she could in his direction. "He's not dangly the way most old men are," she clinically observed under her breath.
"Barbara!" Ian exclaimed and stifled a bark of laughter. It would not do, it really would not, to twig (hah!) the Doctor now. Fortunately the old man was too far away to have heard, Ian hoped, but there was a jingle of nearby chains as Susan turned to look at Barbara curiously.
"Dangly?" Susan asked.
"Nevermind," Barbara mumbled as a red tinge crept over her face. But her lips twitched.
Suddenly one of the confessors brought out a pair of goggles from his chest harness (the only thing he wore) and carefully slid them over his apple-sized eyes. The other did the same and the remaining Margtig standing around the cavern backed nervously away. An important looking custodian stepped onto the dais with some ceremony. He was bearing a silver tube roughly the size of a can of aerosol. He aimed it at the Doctor's face. Ian's heart stopped and Barbara gasped as he thumbed a switch. "NO!" Susan cried.
The tube shone a bright light into the Doctor's face. Then it went out. Then it came on again as the guard clicked the switch on and off, on and off. The Doctor squinted at it irritably and Ian sagged with relief. Bright light would be torture to their subterranean captors, of course. click click click Ian shook his head in disgust as the solemn yakkety-yak started up again.
"Confess, confess, confess for thou has set BARRIERS between thee and the Mighty Ones, the Council of the Margtig, and that is an abomination and a sin and a wickedness in the eyes of the Mighty Ones, the Council of the Margtig, confess, confess, confess..."
Barriers being clothing. The Gods can't rule what they can't see. Still, the Margtig were civilized. They were giving the interlopers a chance to apologize before they were executed. The Doctor's refusal to do so was the only thing keeping the four of them alive. The Chasm itself, a dusty pit, was directly to Ian's left. He began to count the bones at the bottom of it. Hours of grueling boredom broken by moments of sheer terror. Death was damn near preferable to this. Twenty, twenty one, twenty two...but the really horrifying thing about the Pit was how deep it wasn't. Death wasn't guaranteed if you hit the bottom of it. No, there's a chance you'd linger down there for a long, long time. Ian stopped counting.
Susan shifted and Ian could hear her mental gears recover from her alarm and begin to turn again. "Barbara? You were momentarily embarrassed earlier so I'm assuming you were speaking of sexual functions. Old human males dangle?" Susan asked, not bothering to keep her voice low. Barbara nodded. "But Ian is dangling and he's not old." Ian dropped his chin onto his chest. Oh, this was not the education he had signed up to provide at Coal Hill School. Still, Barbara, ever the teacher, and perhaps as a way of diverting the young alien from their situation, began to very quietly explain. Ian overheard loss of elasticity and something something something erectile function and blah blah something leading to sometimes phenomenal droop before he cracked and began to silently laugh again. "Oh, I see," Susan finally said.
"We ALL see," Ian whispered and Barbara's chains rattled again.
From the dais the monotonous chanting and the blinking lights continued. "Confess, confess, confess to these most terrible transgressions before the Mighty Ones, the Council of the Margtig, and submit thee to a clean death, a correct death, in the Chasm of Righteousness..."
"Naturally, however," Susan began in imitation of Barbara's own lecturing style (because the girl believed it was only polite to repay knowledge with knowledge) "Grandfather is not human, nor is he very old, he's only 400 or thereabouts, so his reproductive organs would not suffer the same..."
"Enough, pleeeease!" Ian begged.
"I agree," the Doctor snapped. Every eye in the cavern turned towards him. "Enough. I confess! I confess everything! I did it!" The custodian put his light device into his chest holster and brought out an odd egg-shaped instrument. It made a clicking noise and the Doctor's chains fell away. "Throw me in! I'm too ashamed to live!" More guards loosed Ian, Barbara and Susan and they were all herded towards the lip of the pit. Ian and Barbara were stiff and slow but Susan and her grandfather were as fluid as ever in their motions. Ian envied them. As if to rub it in the Doctor wildly threw his arms up and his volume increased. "I APOLOGIZE! I'LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN! AND NEITHER WILL MY PEOPLE!" The look he threw Barbara was so quick that Ian almost missed it.
Before he could wonder what it meant, Barbara started shouting, too. And jumping?! "I'M SO SORRY! THAT DRESS SUIT WAS HORRIBLE! IT OFFENDED MORE THAN THE GODS, BELIEVE ME!" She began to do some calisthenics, stretching her weary body, and Ian's eyes boggled. "SORRY!" bounce "SORRY!" bounce "SORRY!" bounce
"WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS MAN!" Susan cried, stamping her feet. "QUINTESSENCE OF DUST! RAH! RAH! RAH!" She made an impressive leap.
Well, when in Rome. Ian tore his eyes off Barbara and set to work, too. "IT'S GREAT TO FEEL A DRAFT!" He did some jumping jacks and his spine popped. "OW JESUS YOU BASTARDS! I mean...SORRY!"
"WE"RE SO SORRY!"
"FORGIVE US, O MIGHTY ONES, THE COUNCIL OF THE MATTIG!"
The Margtig stared, amazed, at this strange liturgical dance. Then, "Oho, look what I have here," the Doctor said. The guards, the Council and the three penitents turned to see the custodian's silver light tube in his hand. Ian had just enough time to be impressed with the old man's sneakiness before he threw it to the floor. It hit with an almighty BANG! and a terrible burst of light.
The Margtig screamed and clawed at their faces. Ian rubbed his watering eyes and groped around for his friends. He hit soft flesh. "Oh, sorry, whoever that was."
"It was me," Barbara answered and Ian quickly squelched a smile. She took his hand.
"Hurry! This way!" The Doctor's voice sounded and all four visitors pelted out of the cavern, their bare fleet slapping the stone. "Dangly? Hmmp!" was the last thing the blinded Margtig heard of them.
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