The world outside the TARDIS doors is dark and silent, and Donna glances at the Doctor to see him frowning.
“Something’s missing — wait, time’s missing!”
Donna’s eyes widen. “How can it be, Doctor?” she demands. “I mean, I know planets are all different, and what’s on one isn’t necessarily on another — but how can time possibly not be, well, wherever we are now?”
The Doctor’s voice is solemn. “There’s only two times where that’s possible, Donna — at the beginning of a planet’s life, and at the end of it. And,” excitement creeps into his tones and he bounces on the balls of his feet, “judging by the readings the TARDIS gave us, this planet is only just about to begin. Shall we go and see what it looks like?”
She’s been a lot of places now, with the Doctor, but Donna can’t help feeling that her usual thrill of arrival on a new planet is just a bit more special than usual this time. After all, the only other plant she has seen being born was the Earth, and she wasn’t really in the mood to appreciate it fully back then.
Once the Doctor closes the TARDIS doors after them, they are surrounded by an impenetrable blackness. There is solid ground beneath their feet, but Donna can’t tell what it’s made of. The thick, deafening dark spreads in every direction.
“The start of a new world,” the Doctor breathes, and she can hear the thrill in his voice. “Oh, Donna, you’re going to love this!”
“But which world is it?” she demands impatiently, and the man beside her chuckles.
“Right now — none. As for which one it will be, we’ll only know once it begins.”
“Once what begins?”
He hesitates for a moment, and then Donna hears the same thing that he clearly had just before he spoke — a very faint song. “That,” he says simply.
Even as Donna listens to the music, the first Voice seems to be joined by others of differing pitches, echoing the notes coming from that initial Voice.
“Ah, yes, here we go,” the Doctor continues in a low murmur, and then suddenly the sky around them is full of points of light, a massive sheet of stars, twinkling gaily in numbers far greater than Donna has ever seen from the top of Gramps’ hill. The sudden light is so bright that Donna can easily make out the Doctor’s face, and he beams at her.
“Sun should be up any minute,” he goes on, “and then we’ll be able to get a proper idea of our whereabouts.”
“You mean you don’t know?” she teases.
“Oh, I’ve got an inkling.” He grins. “And here’s the newborn sun at last!”
The sky lightens in what Donna presumes is the east and, when the sun appears over the horizon, it glows and beams in such a way that she believes it is almost happy to be in existence.
And then, for the first time, Donna sees the source of the Voice who is singing, whose singing has called the stars and the sun into being, and her heart nearly stops.
“Narnia!” the Doctor declares in satisfaction. “I thought so.”
“Are you sure?” Donna asks, not willing to let him go unchallenged.
“Donna, I’ve been there for a lot of worlds’ creations, and I can’t think of any others that begin with a lion singing,” he says smugly. “Believe me, that’s where we are.”
Donna thinks back to the time when, as a little girl, her father had read her The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, as well as all of the others in the series, and then she looks around.
“So where are Polly and Digory and the others — oh, and Jadis?” she demands, not really wanting to meet that last lady.
“They could be anywhere,” admits the Doctor, even as the lion continues to approach them, grass springing from beneath his feet and spreading out in a wave until it’s all around them. “We’ll find them soon enough, but for now, let’s just enjoy watching the creation of the world.”
Donna silently agrees with this and turns to watch the ground around them as the grass changes to heather and ferns and all manner of greenery. Flowers follow, springing out of their buds, heads nodding in the cool breeze that wafts around them. Trees burst out in clusters, spreading arms towards the sky, shooting up so that they soon tower over the TARDIS, which is nestled in a newly grown grove of elms.
Then the music is broken by the sound of raised voices that carry clearly on the breeze, and the Doctor nods away to their left.
“We have company,” he murmurs, drawing Donna back against the TARDIS. There is a rush nearby, and then Donna sees the figure of a tall woman running past them and off towards the west, away from the rising sun. They wait in silence for a moment and then the Doctor releases his hold on Donna’s hand. “Well, that’s her gone. Let’s find the others.”
The lamp-post is already standing tall by the time they spot the four humans. Donna sees the boy — Digory — striding off in the direction of the lion, who has not ceased to pace or sing. And now the song has begun to change, becoming full of energy and emotion and a power and life that had been lacking before. At once the ground around them begins to bubble and boil, with hills and mounds rising and falling, each one opening to reveal a different animal.
Sounds fill the air, almost drowning out the Voice. The cacophony is full of squeaks and squawks and chirps and barking and whining as the newly formed animals give voice for the first time. Donna is rather startled as a pair of leopards rush over and rub against her like giant cats, and the Doctor chuckles as he rescues her, shooing them away.
“No need to worry,” he says cheerfully. “Nothing will hurt you as long as Aslan’s about. Besides, he’s calling them away.”
“Still, not exactly comforting,” she says rather drily, but she is pleased when the leopards who had been so familiar are the two chosen to speak. Perhaps later she can persuade them that she would not make a particularly delicious meal. In the meantime, she watches the animals who have been given the gift of language rejoice, and smiles at the jackdaw’s joke. Then, as Aslan calls his select group of the Council away, she watches the other animals in their treatment of Uncle Andrew. “Should we stop them?” she asks the Doctor, who is leaning against a newly born tree, his hands deep in the pockets of his jacket.
“Do you remember reading about two new arrivals interrupting their fun?” he retorts, his dark eyes dancing. “From my memory of the story, he’s an ignorant twit with far too much self-importance anyway, so it’s a good lesson for him.”
“I could argue that the second half of that description sounds a bit like someone I know,” she shoots back, smiling when he nudges her instead of replying — and after all, what can he say in his own defence?
“Rupert!” a furry voice exclaims from nearby, preventing her from continuing to tease the Doctor. “Henry! Where’s your sister?”
Donna looks down to find a cat — one of the two she remembers being summoned by Aslan — peering around at the other animals who have gathered to watch the encirclement of Uncle Andrew in the makeshift cage they have created.
“Is anything the matter?” the Doctor asks, and the cat looks up, rather startled.
“Oh, hello,” she says politely. “Sorry, I didn’t see you up there. Actually — I don’t suppose you’ve seen a kitten anywhere, have you? My daughter does have a terrible habit of running off as soon as I turn my back. I mean, we’ve only been here a few minutes and she’s vanished three times already. Her brothers aren’t nearly this much trouble, and...”
The arrival of two other kittens cuts off what Donna suspects from her long experience with the Doctor will be an endless babble.
“No sign of her, Mum,” declares the larger of the two. “What should we do now?”
The female cat sighs — Donna can’t help smiling at the sight, which looks oddly human and yet not quite human at the same moment — and gestures to the Doctor and Donna with her paw. “Well, these two have kindly volunteered to help find her, at least,” she adds, looking up, “I think you have, haven’t you?”
“We’d be delighted to help,” says the Doctor immediately.
“Ooh, can I go with them?” squeaks the younger kitten, only to receive a tap on the back of his head from his brother.
“’Course you can’t,” he spits. “Don’t you think we’re in enough trouble with Tibby going missing without you being taken away by a giant?”
Donna is about to protest that she isn’t a giant — in fact, she’s rather indignant at the thought! — when the Doctor nudges her to keep her quiet. “We’ll certainly do our best to find her,” he promises the anxious mother. “You keep looking around here and we’ll see if she’s managed to get further afield.”
“Oh, thank you!” the cat is beginning when she is distracted by the pitched battle between her two sons as a result of the younger one trying to bite the paw that struck him. Donna and the Doctor take advantage of the moment and move away to avoid another long speech.
“You go that way,” Donna suggests, pointing off towards a grove of trees. “I’ll go and see if the fuss around Uncle Andrew has got Tibby’s attention.”
The Doctor grins and heads for the trees while she turns to the lively group of animals around the interwoven branches that make up the cage in which Uncle Andrew is interred.
The sight of a small, ginger bundle of fur trying to squirm its way through the ‘walls’ tells Donna she has found her target.
“Tibby!” she exclaims, diving forward and scooping up the small bundle of fur, which protests vigorously at being manhandled.
“I want to see the Neevil!” squeaks the kitten, wriggling furiously against Donna’s hold. “I’ve never seen a Neevil!”
“You really don’t,” laughs Donna. “Trust me, I’ve seen plenty of ‘Neevil’ and none of it was nice.”
The kitten stops squirming and stares up at Donna out of big, blue eyes. “Have you really?” she asks in breathlessly awed tones. “Was it scary?”
“It certainly was,” agrees Donna, beginning to carry the small thing back to where her mother is waiting. “But I can promise you,” she adds, nodding back at the cage, “that that isn’t the Neevil. She’s a long way away by now.”
“Oh.” This seems to calm the kitten, who thinks for a moment before looking up again. “I’m Tibby,” she says at last.
“I’m Donna,” that lady says in reply, “and this is the Doctor,” she adds as he comes to join them. “Doctor, this is Tibby.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” says the Time Lord, smiling at the small creature. “And,” he goes on, “here’s someone else who will be very pleased to see you.”
The mother cat rushes up to them, her sons rushing and tumbling along behind her, and Tibby leaps lightly out of the hand Donna lowers to the ground.
“You bad girl,” scolds her mother, licking her daughter between each word. “What *lick* did *lick* I *lick* say *lick* about *lick* running *lick* away *lick*?”
“But Mum, I just wanted to see what the world was like,” protests Tibby, wriggling uncomfortably and trying to retreat against Donna’s legs.
The Doctor chuckles. “You have the whole of this brand new world to explore, and lots of time to do it,” he reminds the little animal. “What’s the hurry?”
“You can talk!” Donna mocks. “Staying in one place for any length of time wouldn’t satisfy you, so why should it be enough for Tibby?”
There is a low, throaty chuckle from behind them, and the group turns to find the great lion standing a short distance away. He nods at them regally.
And the Doctor, who Donna has never seen pay anyone respect, tugs at his forelock and ducks his head a little as he returns the greeting. “Aslan.”
“I have not invited you to our Council,” says Aslan, and his voice is just as Donna has always imagined it would be: a soft, deep leonine rumble that she can feel right through her. “This world is not yet ready for the knowledge of your people.”
“I had not expected it would be,” agrees the Doctor. “All the same, when you have dealt with immediate matters, it would be a pleasure to speak with you again, as we have done so often in my lifetime.”
“And not yet in mine.” Donna can’t help feeling that Aslan is smiling, but since she has never seen a lion smile before, she can’t be certain. “It will be my honour, Doctor.” Then he turns his beautiful golden eyes on Donna, and his voice is a low purr. “Daughter.”
For an instant Donna has to fight an almost unconquerable urge to throw her arms around the neck of the lion, whose tone reminds her so much of her late father. She manages to keep herself from doing so, but the expression in the golden eyes facing her suggests that Aslan is all too aware of her feelings. Even as she meets his gaze, however, the worst of the pain ebbs away, and she manages to smile, although she feels unable to speak. Clearly understanding this, Aslan returns his gaze to the Doctor.
“The Daughter of Eve is correct, Time Lord,” he says in teasing tones. “Even the entirety of the Universe does not satisfy you.”
The Doctor looks sheepish and runs a hand through this hair, but before he can reply, and despite the efforts of her mother to restrain her, Tibby darts across the grass, coming to a stop at the lion’s feet.
“Please, Aslan,” she says eagerly, “is it wrong to want to see more, to see everything out there?”
“Curiosity is never wrong, small one,” replies the great cat. “And bravery is to be lauded, but one must also be obedient to one’s parents.”
“Oh,” says Tibby softly, and sidles back to her mother, looking rather crest-fallen.
Donna can’t help feeling sorry for the little thing, and glances at the man beside her. “You know, Doctor,” she says, “there’s lots of room in the TARDIS.”
“There is,” agrees the Doctor, grinning understandingly at her.
“And,” Donna adds, glancing at Tibby out of the corner of her eye, “we don’t have any pets.”
“No,” admits the Doctor. “That we don’t.”
“The TARDIS wouldn’t mind,” Donna goes on, seeing that Tibby is now watching them eagerly.
“She probably wouldn’t,” he allows.
“And, if others were willing...” is all she gets out before Tibby flings herself at her mother and begins pleading to be allowed to go.
“Would you really want her?” asks the mother cat in obvious surprise.
“Only if you are willing to let her go,” replies the Doctor at once.
“We’ll take very good care of her,” promises Donna, but realises that she has spoken at the same instant as Tibby, who says proudly, “I’ll take very good care of them.”
Aslan’s rumbling chuckle breaks the air again and he turns to the female cat. “One cannot hope to keep one’s children forever,” he remarks, and Donna sees that another cat, whom she guesses to be the father of the three kittens, has come over and is rubbing his head against his mate as a form of comfort.
“Well,” says the mother slowly, “I suppose...”
Tibby doesn’t even wait for the end of the sentence. Instead she flings herself at the Doctor and uses her tiny claws to clamber up the length of his body, finally arriving on his shoulder and rubbing her small head against his cheek before batting gently at his sideburn.
“Hey, mind the hair,” the Doctor protests laughingly. “And aren’t you going to say goodbye to your family?”
“Bye!” Tibby says cheerfully, waving a paw.
“No.” The Doctor lifts her down and puts her in front of her family. “Your parents and brothers will miss you, and goodness knows when you’ll see them again. Say it properly.”
Donna watches the farewells, which are tearful on the part of Tibby’s parents — she hadn’t even known cats could cry before! — while the Doctor has a chance to speak with Aslan. Tibby promises to behave, to do as she’s told, to be a good girl, but Donna can almost see her trembling with excitement and has the feeling she isn’t really listening to what her parents are saying. She can’t help seeing the similarities with her own eagerness to travel with the Doctor.
At length, the Doctor returns, and Aslan goes back to join the Council. Tibby breaks away from her family and runs to join them, her tail held high and twitching eagerly. Donna takes one more look around Narnia and then she, Tibby and the Doctor head for the TARDIS.
“Well, that was brilliant,” beams the Doctor as the doors close behind them and the engines fire up.
“So,” Donna gazes eagerly at the Doctor over the console as Tibby begins an investigation of the jumpseat, “what about that visit to Noddy?”
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