The Silent Land by AJK
Summary: A lost tomb, an archaeological dig, a near death experience and reality starts to slip.
Rating: All Ages
Categories: First Doctor
Characters: Barbara Wright, Ian Chesterton, The Doctor (1st)
Genres: Drama, General
Chapter 1: One
Chapter 2: Two
Chapter 3: Three
Chapter 4: Four
Chapter 5: five
Chapter 1: One The sun beat down on the yellow desert sands. A few hours ago the heat would have been almost unbearable, forcing all but the most hardy inside. Now, in the early evening, the temperature had dropped, taking the ferocity out of the star's rays.
The air may have been cooler, but the sand itself was still warm enough to be uncomfortable on any unprotected feet foolish enough to venture out.
Winding their way through the landscape was a small procession: six men, each carrying a small part of a simple wooden coffin. Following at a short distance, was an elderly man. The unusual natural white of his hair glinting in the daylight, behind him a small, grey coated feline. As the short procession came to a halt outside a tomb, the animal lowered itself into the warm sands.
The newly completed structure nestled in a small hollow in the surrounding ground, the top slabs still baring the yellow tinge of freshly quarried stones, the sun having not yet had time to bleach them.
The cat watched as the old man, pulling something loose from around his neck, stepped forward. He placed the object on the coffin lid, laying his hand over it and bowing his head briefly, before stepping back.
As the wooden box was taken through the doorway and down the steps into the dark interior, the object slid from the coffin lid. No one noticed but the cat. Its green eyes followed the small, black, carved stone as it tumbled to the ground. It watched as a sandal shod foot trod on the tiny impact crater, removing all trace of the amulet except for a small piece of the leather thong. The cat blinked, studying the people before it, its gaze rose steadily to the blinding light of the late evening sun.
As a slight mewing noise rose in the silent air, the old man turned. He thought for a moment that he could see a small grey feline standing to one side of the tomb, but as he blinked the shape was gone.
It was the work of a few minutes to seal the tomb door. The slaves backed away, then scattered to their own homes. Only the old man stayed, staring sightlessly at the stone slab closing the entrance.
A slight breeze lifted tiny grains of the desert, shifting them towards the structure. As the breeze turned into a wind and the impact of the sand began to sting the man was forced to flee towards the near by oasis, its palm trees already receiving a battering from the rapidly strengthening wind.
It took only a matter of hours before the tomb had all but disappeared below the yellow grit.
A large temple complex stood proud on a rock outcrop, its heavy wooden doors already half buried by the storm. It would be many years before any one attempted to open those portals - even then it would only be to wreck and steal, destroying the doors, leaving the interior to the ravages of the desert.
The tomb would disappear below the mountainous sand.
The tomb would never be found.......
Ian, a very tanned, very warm Ian, glanced across to the woman at his side. She too was very tanned and very excited.
“Ian, look.” He pulled his eyes away from her face and followed her finger down to the monitor screen. “It’s working.”
Gradually a series of black lines were appearing, easily standing out against the lighter greys surrounding it. A large, oblong like shape was being revealed, as lifting sea mist might reveal a ship at anchor.
All this meant, if Ian had learnt anything in these last few weeks, that they had found what they were looking for. He reached for Barbara, embracing her excitedly.
“Doctor!” he called over his shoulder, “Doctor, come and look at this.”
The white haired, elderly looking gentleman replaced the small, carved, black stone jackal he’d been examining, unwrapping its black leather lace from his fingers.
“What, my boy?” With a flourish of his walking stick, he made his way over to the school teachers.
“Look.” Barbara again pointed at the wonder on the screen.
“It’s definitely a mastaba.” The man sitting in front of the monitor spoke for the first time. “Geoffrey!” he shouted over his shoulder. “We’re getting the results, they look good.”
“They look fantastic,” Ian enthused, watching as the grid of lines stopped and a scale started appearing at the bottom of the picture.
A big, burly man appeared in the doorway, blocking out the bright, blinding sunlight. He wiped at the back of his neck with a wet rag. Removing a rather battered black cap, he performed the same ceremony for his forehead.
Ian studied him as he walked into the room, more surged into the room really, Ian corrected, like a tidal wave, sweeping all clear before him.
“Gus, what have we got?” he bellowed, not deliberately being loud, that was just his voice.
“I think we’ve hit pay dirt!” came the reply. Gus finally turned from his study of the screen. “It’s beautiful man!” He enthused.
Barbara, Ian and the Doctor stepped back as the large man barrelled forward to peer over Gus’s shoulder.
“Oh, yes!” His fist pounded the air. “Can we get a print out of that?” he asked, slapping the seated man heartily on the back.
“Not if you break my shoulder, no.”
Geoff laughed, a laugh that would have rocked the roof timbers, if the room had had any. He turned and lifted Barbara from her feet, spinning around, causing a squeak of surprise from her, and a very loud laugh from Ian: this was soon replaced by an ‘oooffff!’ of out rushing air as he found himself the subject of a bear hug, the strength of which, he was quite sure, a grizzly would have been hard pressed to match.
Geoff span to face the Doctor. The old man side stepped the repeated attempt at a hug, a benign smile on his lips.
“Your hand, sir.” He proffered his right hand, left one gripping his lapel.
Another laugh ripped out of the giant and with great enthusiasm, and both hands, he shook the elderly man’s hand. The Doctor was quite sure that he felt his feet lift off the ground on the upwards stroke.
Celebrations temporarily dispensed with, Geoff turned back to the seated man.
“Hey, any sign of...?” The questioned petered out as a single sheet of paper was thrust into his hands. “Oh baby, you know what I like!” The large face wrinkled in concentration as he pondered the results. “How far down would say, Gus?”
“Not more than 3 meters,” Gus replied, as he pulled another copy of the picture from the printer.
“How about the G.P.S.?”
“Katie and Jim should be setting up now. We’ll have the site plotted in a couple of hours.”
“Mmmm,” the big man muttered, peering at his watch, “not worth starting anything now, wouldn’t be able to shift more than a sneeze full of sand. Ah, well, tomorrow it is.” He waved the sheet of paper at Gus. “Can I keep this, show the others?”
With a hoot so loud Barbara actually felt it through the soles of her shoes, the giant of a man disappeared back out into the harsh desert sunlight where he could be heard bellowing to the other members of the expedition.
With a shake of the head, Gus started to pick up his equipment. It didn’t do to keep computer terminals out too long in this environment, one piece of sand in the wrong place and he’d never play Tomb Raider III again.
The evening sun, while being reflected by the expedition’s off road vehicles, was being eaten by the limestone and sandstone ruins surrounding the camp, tingeing the air itself red.
Ian emerged from the tent that he and the Doctor had been assigned. Stretching, he stood for a few minutes surveying the landscape trying to spot the Time Lord. However since he was no where to be seen, the science teacher assumed that he was off tinkering in the TARDIS. The ship was quietly secreted in a nearby half ruined temple, itself barely visible beneath the wind blown desert sands.
Most of the archaeologists stood around the nearby catering truck, sounds of excited chatter reaching the watching man’s ears. News of the discovery had spread quickly through the camp, each new voice depleting the previous peace of the dig.
Continuing his scan of the horizon, Ian spotted a lone figure standing in the nearby oasis. Sheltering in the growing shade of a palm tree, she stared up at a surprisingly well preserved statue, which stood at least twelve feet high. It depicted some god or king that the teacher had received a full lecture on from his former colleague, but had immediately forgotten all details of. With a smile he started off in the woman’s direction.
Barbara jumped slightly as she turned to find Ian peering over her shoulder.
“Penny for them?” he asked, a smile splitting his features.
“More like a pound,” she corrected, raising her eyebrows. “Prices must have gone up by now.”
The man tugged at his forelock. ”Oh, yes, m’lady,” he replied, affecting his best ‘gardener’s’ voice. “I stand corrected.”
“I should think so,” the woman finished, with a giggle. “Where’s the Doctor?”
“Haven’t seen him since Gus packed up. I think his hiding in the ship.”
“Oh, Ian." Barbara turned to face him, fully, “you don’t think he’s going to drag us away, do you? Not now we’re within a few feet of the tomb.”
“That would really upset you, wouldn’t it?”
“Of course it would,” Barbara snapped, immediately regretting her tone. “Archaeology, it’s like living history, Ian. Being able to hold something in your hand and knowing your the first person to touch it since it was dropped hundreds, perhaps thousands of years ago.” Ian watched as his companion’s face lit up, her eyes dancing with excitement.
“It’s the closest most people get to time travel.”
Barbara took hold of Ian's hand, clasping it tightly, trying to transmit her enthusiasm into him.
“Something like this, it’s been a dream of mine since I was a child. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to come to Egypt though. I thought the best I could hope for would be some where in the north of Scotland.”
“There’s nothing wrong with the north of Scotland,” came the offended reply.
“I never said.....” Looking into his, eyes she saw the boyish mischief glinting there. With a broad smile she slapped him lightly across the arm. “Ian!”
He snaked an arm about her shoulders. “I admit, it does have a certain romantic appeal, all this digging around in the sand for lost tombs. A person could get quiet carried away.”
They both turned as they heard their names called, and saw Geoff waving them over to the gathering group.
The moment was broken and with a sigh, Ian slipped his hands into his trouser pockets.
“Come on,” he stated, “we’d better find out what he wants before he comes to get us.”
The teachers had collected their evening meals from Khufu, whose mother, judging by the name, had obviously wanted more from her son than a ‘roach coach’ as Gus had so charmingly phrased it.
Ian now sat trying to listen to Geoff as he strode around the centre of a circle of people. Occasionally the big man gestured elaborately with a smouldering stick, as he outlined the plans for tomorrow’s excavation. However, the strong sucking noise that rose from Ian’s plate each time he lifted his fork from the loving embrace of the chunky brown liquid, was making concentrating on the man’s words very hard and he found himself longing for Coal Hill school dinners.
In honour of the discovery of the mastaba, Khufu had, apparently, whipped up this little treat from an ancient recipe discovered in a tomb inscription. As a lump of something wobbly fell from his fork to land with not even a ripple back on his plate, Ian couldn’t help wondering if perhaps the Rosette stone had contained a spelling mistake. Once more he forced his mind to concentrate on the words being spoken.
“Well.... any questions?” A pause “No? Right, well, I’ll see you all bright and early then.”
With a sigh, Ian dropped the fork onto the plate and sat, elbow on knee, chin in hand. He just hoped that Barbara had been taking notes.
An hour and a half later, and the gathering had broken up. Individuals were gradually breaking away and making their way back to their accommodations.
“It’s just amazing to think that in the thirty something years since our time, archaeology has developed so much that they don’t even have to dig to know almost everything about what they’ve found,” Barbara was enthusing.
Nothing surprised her more than the march of technology. Alien cultures could never really take you by surprise, she had discovered. It was difficult to be surprised when you had no idea what to expect, nothing to relate the experience to, but returning to Earth was always a shock.
Journeying back into the past could be a humbling experience when you realised that some long held opinion or belief had been completely wrong. It could also be very painful when you knew the fate of some new found friend but could do nothing to stop it happening. She always told herself that this time would be different, this time she wouldn’t get involved, she would remain aloof, detached, much like the Doctor and each time she would fail.
Barbara glanced quickly at the man she was walking with. When they had started their journeys together, she had thought that Ian had shared the old man’s gift of being able to shake situations off, but as time had passed and Ian had learnt to trust her more, he had started to let the protective, unaffected front slip. Instead of just being a sounding board for her worries and fears, he now felt secure enough to share his own concerns. There had only been one exception to this recently, which was when they had returned to their own time and place but in somewhat reduced circumstances. Due to a TARDIS malfunction, they found themselves in a garden soaked in insecticide, eye to eye with ants and in danger of being eaten by the local cat. When curiosity had nearly killed her instead of the cat, the whole experience seemed to have affected him more than it had her; he still refused to discuss it.
A small snort of laughter interrupted her thoughts. “What?” She asked with a small frown.
“Oh, nothing. I was just thinking that nothing surprises me more than coming back to Earth.”
Barbara smiled. “Yes, I know.”
The two people drew to a halt in front of a tent.
“I mean,” Ian continued, “equipment and techniques that our military were barely dreaming about thirty years ago, are today being used by college pupils to locate and map a five thousand year old tomb.”
“It’s going to be hard when we get back, trying to act surprised when all these innovations come along.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Ian shrugged. “Maybe I’ll invent a few.”
“I’m quite sure the Doctor wouldn’t approve of that,” Barbara stated with her best schoolteacher face on.
“Don’t worry, I’ll cut him in.”
Barbara laughed. “Well, thank you for seeing me home, kind sir.”
Ian bowed slightly. “Always a pleasure. Sleep well,” he called as she disappeared inside. He rubbed gently at his stomach. “I wonder if I can scare up some food.” With that he wandered off to the catering truck.
One packet of dry biscuits and a lump of cheese that had quite clearly seen better days was all that the school master had managed to liberate. He was just about to start a search of a very interesting looking box he’d just spotted under the driver’s seat, when his attention was diverted by the sudden guttering of the camp fire flames. The air had been stirred, not by any gentle night breeze, but the passing of someone or something. Glancing about he saw no one; all but two of the tents’ lights were out. Whatever had just passed had done so very fast.
A shadow moving between the shelters started Chesterton running. He didn’t know what was wrong, why he should be suspicious, but over the course of his adventures he had developed an instinct for trouble.
Barbara was just preparing for bed. She knew she would regret staying up so late when it came time to rise in the morning, but she had been so excited by the prospect of actually getting into the mastaba that she wouldn’t have slept anyway.
Forcing a brush through her hair, she looked critically at herself in the mirror. She would have to find some time to check the ship to see if there was anything to restore some life into the sun damaged mop.
With a sigh, she replaced the brush on the small wash table and turned to pull down the top of the sleeping bag. The movement halted as her eyes fell on a solid black shadow being cast over the side of the tent.
It stood about six foot, toe to shoulder, and then there was the head, no ordinary head; long upright ears, a long snout, viscous teeth outlined in the elongated open mouth. The scream that was wretched from her lungs was soon obliterated by the soulless howling of the jackal.
The interrupted scream injected new speed into Chesterton’s legs.
“Barbara!” he called as his feet pounded across the sand.
The sound had started his heart thumping in his chest. He sped past the open flap of his own tent causing it to slip closed. Checking the small gap between the two canvas shelters, he found it was clear. At the last moment, he managed to register something lying in his path, blocking the tent’s entrance, forcing him to leap over it and inside.
“Barbara?” he called to her as she stood frozen against the back of the tent, staring fixedly over his shoulder. “Barbara,” he called again, grasping her upper arms in his hands, “it’s gone, whatever it was, is gone.”
“Anubis,” Barbara stuttered, at last looking at him. “It looked like an Anubis.”
Ian tried not to let his doubt show. “Well, it’s gone now.” He studied her closely, making sure she was okay. “What interests me,” he started, turning back to the tent flap, “is what I almost fell over.”
He opened up the canvas flap, the lantern light falling on a blacked body lying in the sand. Ian bent down to check for a pulse, the skin feeling thick and leathery under his fingers. He stood up at the sound of the gasp behind him, automatically trying to protect Barbara from the sight filling his vision. He felt the pressure of her head on his shoulder, felt her hands resting on his arms.
“Is he dead?” her shocked voice asked.
“He’s very nearly desiccated,” he replied, turning his back on the body.
The fear in the woman’s eyes touched his heart. Barbara had had more than her fair share of shocks on their travels, it wasn’t very often that she showed how much she was affected by things, something was very wrong.
“What is it?” he asked gently.
“Anubis is the funerary god.” She could see this meant nothing. “The god of mummification.”
A look of realisation swept across his face as he glanced back at the body.
It was now, as the voices of the others could be heard approaching, that Barbara’s body betrayed her and she felt an uncontrollable shaking taking over.
She reached out for Ian. Feeling her touch, he turned his attention back to her. Taking in the woman’s distress, he wrapped his arms about her, holding her close until the shaking stopped.
Back to index
Chapter 2: Two
The sun was just greeting the horizon, preparing for its long trip across the sky, when Barbara’s head finally hit the pillow. She closed her eyes but images of the night before chased across her vision.
The body had been ‘identified’ by one of the students as ‘Mohammed’, a local trinket seller. He’d last been seen when the supply party had gone into ‘town’, a small village some forty miles away. He had apparently been bothering some tourists.
Ian had asked what Mohammed had been doing this far away from the usual tourist traps. As he had expected, no one had known the answer.
The camp doctor had been more than a little puzzled. He could find no outward signs of injury, no obvious reason for this death. Silence greeted Barbara’s own suggestion that from the expression on his face, Mohammed might very well have been scared to death.
The doctor’s reply to suggestions that he perform an autopsy was short and to the point: he wasn’t qualified and no instrument he possessed would cut through the skin anyway. Desiccation of a body normally took years, even in the right conditions, he could think of no way that any man could have ended up in this state within just a few days. It had been agreed that the local police and coroner would be sent for first thing in the morning.
The body had been taken into one of the nearby ruins and, a little unwillingly, everyone had returned to their tents, an uneasy muttering settling over the camp.
Barbara had reluctantly left Ian at his tent and carried on to her own, pausing only slightly at the entrance, before going inside.
She only realised she’d actually been asleep when she awoke with a start. Someone was in the tent with her.
Moving the cover as quietly as she could, she reached down beside the makeshift bed. After a few moments of desperation her hands curved around the cool, and more importantly, heavy body of the torch. As she sat up, she raised the light above her head. The sight that greeted her made her bite her lip to stop from giggling with relief.
Sometime during the last few hours, Ian had come in and was now resting in a canvas chair; head to one side, eyes closed. His hands were clasped across his chest, his feet resting in another chair pulled up to make himself as comfortable as he could.
With a sigh she dropped the torch soundlessly onto the sleeping bag, catching it before it rolled onto the floor.
Ian had once told her that she could always rely on him and she’d never had any reason to doubt that. He had always been there when she needed him. Sometimes outside forces had delayed his presence but he had always got there.
With a smile she started to rise. It seemed a shame to wake him, but she really needed to get the day started. She wanted to have a wash, get dressed and to do that she needed privacy. From the things she’d witnessed over the last few weeks, privacy for certain daily activities wasn’t as important in the nineties, but she was an old fashioned girl.
Gently she laid a hand on the man’s chest, shaking him slightly.
The school master started to stir, then came fully awake with a snap. “What’s the matter?”
“It’s morning,” Barbara explained, taking a seat in the chair recently vacated by the man’s feet.
“Oh,” tired hands rubbed over tired eyes, “yes.”
It was as he tried to stretch that the sudden, very painful reality of sleeping in a chair hit him. With a yelp he grabbed at his shoulder.
“Cramp?” the woman asked, rising to her feet.
Ian would have nodded his agreement, but at that moment he was unable to move his neck.
The voice was accompanied by hands kneading his shoulders; the relief was bliss as the muscles stopped screaming.
“Mmmm? Yes much, thank you.”
“That’s good.” Barbara’s head appeared over his shoulder as she bent to place her mouth close to his ear. “Because I’d like to get dressed.”
“What?” The message took a little while to register in the newly relaxed brain. “Oh, sorry.” He climbed to his feet and with one more stretch headed out of the tent.
“Ian,” Barbara watched the puzzled expression cross her friend’s face as he turned back, “thank you.” She was pleased to see the happy smile lighten his features.
“You’re welcome,” he replied, then returned to his own tent and some clean clothes.
Barbara faced her own pile of clothes with a smile. Ian was an old fashioned guy.
She left her tent some fifteen minutes later to discover a small gathering around the ashy remains of the previous night’s fire. She had just finished talking to one of the students when a voice behind her made her spin.
“What’s going on here?”
Ian stood, studying the group as they muttered quietly among themselves.
“Jenny said that Geoff has called a meeting to discuss what happens next.”
“What happens next?” Ian repeated.
“If we want to go on digging presumably.”
At that moment, a loud clapping came from the centre of the crowd as Geoff called the meeting to order. Barbara couldn’t help the small smile that tweaked at the corners of her mouth. It was nice to know there were some things about the teaching profession that had not changed in the future. They might have to deal with larger classes from all accounts, they certainly had more technology, but the basic way to attract attention hadn’t changed.
“Well,” Geoff started, “I wanted us all to be together, because I have a few things that I need to tell you, and then we have some decisions to make.”
He scanned the faces, making sure he had their undivided attention.
“Now, as you will no doubt remember, last night we elected not to send for the local police until this morning. Our plan was to use the short wave radio.” Again the man paused, wiping his face with a handkerchief. “Unfortunately when Nathan went to use it he found we can’t get a signal through, there’s nothing but static, same with a mobile phone.”
The tutor lifted his hands, calming the worried whispers that had started circulating around. “
Now, he’s checked it thoroughly and there’s nothing wrong with the equipment itself, so he reckons there could be a storm on its way.”
The whispering stopped, the diggers deciding that it sounded like a nice, reasonable, natural explanation. Once again all became attentive as the man started to speak.
“Shortly after this, we, that is: myself, Nathan and Gus, decided the best thing to do would be to send Julie and Steven off to town in a jeep. It’s probably going to take them most of today to get there and back, so we have a decision to make.” A pause for good effect, “I want a show of hands please. The question is: Do we go on digging?” Another pause. “Okay, the nays first then.”
Only one or two hands went up, the owner’s looking nervous. Ian wasn’t sure if that was because of the vote or last night’s activities.
Geoff already knew the result but to be fair he finished the vote. “And the yea’s.”
A vast majority of the hands went up, including those of Ian and Barbara.
“Well,” Geoff concluded. “The yea’s have it.” There was a general murmur of agreement. “So,” he reached into his back pocket and removed the print out that Gus had given him yesterday, “all we have to decide now is where to dig and how many trenches.”
The group gathered closer, as another more positive murmur broke the quite morning air.
The morning had gradually melted into midday and even the most enthusiastic digger had to admit defeat in the face of soaring temperatures. After ensuring that the barriers they had erected in the trenches to stop the sand trickling back in were firm the archaeologist themselves started trickling away. Ordinarily they would have tried to battle on, taking shifts to dig at the sand, but anxiety and lack of sleep had taken their toll, forcing the diggers to retire to their tents and rest through the worst of the day’s heat.
Barbara had removed the sleeping bag from her cot bed and was just lying on the canvas below, but still the back of her cotton blouse clung uncomfortably to her skin. She was now trying to cool herself using a damp flannel, but since the water she’d used was warm, it was proving to have limited effect.
“Knock, knock,” came a familiar voice from outside the tent flap, “everyone decent in there?”
“Yes,” Barbara called, sitting up.
“Pity. I’m coming in anyway.” Ian appeared through the gap, a preoccupied expression clouding his features.
“Have you seen the Doctor recently?” he asked.
It suddenly dawned on her that she hadn’t. “Not since we discussed the geophysics results with Gus and Geoff.”
“That’s what I thought. I haven’t seen him either, but with everything that’s happened, it didn’t really register.”
“What do you think’s happened to him?” Barbara rose to her feet. If anything had happened to the Doctor then they had no chance of ever getting back to their own time.
“I think we should go and find out,” Ian stated, leading the way out of the tent. “We’ll start with the ship.”
As Ian had said, the most obvious and logical place to look for the Doctor was in the TARDIS - inside the temple.
Entering the dimness of the half ruined building, they were immediately struck by how cool it was inside; a pleasant contrast to the searing heat outside. Barbara paused on the threshold, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the low light level.
“Doctor?” Ian called stepping carefully in the general direction of the distant corner, the last place he had seen the TARDIS.
“Ian, wait for your eyes to get use to the light,” the woman warned.
“It’s an empty temple,” he rationalised. “What am I going to trip over?”
Barbara frowned. There were times when Ian could be very irritating she told herself. “What’s that noise?” She asked.
Chesterton closed his mouth, stopping the call for the Time Lord before it had started.
“What noise?” he asked, his voice echoing around the limestone walls.
“It’s a sort of rattling noise.” Barbara too stepped further into the building, her eyes now able to pick out the form of her friend, a few feet away. “It sounds like a rattlesnake.”
Ian choked off his amusement, another annoying habit he had when he doubted what someone was saying.
“This is Africa, Barbara,” he explained turning to face her. “They don’t have rattlesnakes in Africa.”
With that he took one step back towards the TARDIS, then fell to the ground, a scream of pain splitting the cool, quite interior of the temple.
“Ian!” Barbara yelled panicked, she rushed forward; her eyes searching the ground for the reptile she knew had struck.
“There,” the man stuttered from the floor, pointing to a slithering body, disappearing under a stone propped against the far wall. “Looked like some kind of viper,” he explained through gritted teeth.
“Let me see.”
The woman pushed away the hands covering his lower leg. The skin around the double puncture marks was already red and swollen, the colour seeming to move up the leg before her eyes.
“Ian, I need to get some help.”
When she received no reply she looked up into the man’s face. His skin was pallid, sweat formed rivulets chasing across his cheeks and forehead, his eyelids were sliding shut.
“Ian,” she shook the man’s head violently, “Ian wake up.”
The eyes slid open, fighting to focus on the woman’s face. “Barbara?” He asked, his voice quiet, unsure.
“Ian, you must stay awake. Stay with me.”
“I’m trying,” came the shaky answer.
“I need to get help.” Barbara repeated, staring into his eyes, willing him to stay awake. “I’m going to the ship, alright?”
Ian nodded, a supreme effort of will. It was only shock he told himself, there hadn’t been time for the toxin to start affecting his brain yet. ‘What would you know,’ the more cynical side of his mind stated, ‘you’ve never been bitten by a snake before.’
He heard Barbara hammering on the TARDIS door, heard her yelling for the Doctor to open up, and then another noise intruded into his crowded consciousness; a hiss.
At first he feared the snake was returning, but turning his head he found the source of the noise to be a solid ball of light, like the sun descended to Earth, rolling towards him, approaching through the half blocked door way. He thought he could make out forms within the light, figures moving.
He thought he heard Barbara scream out his name, her voice full of fear. He should get up he told himself, she might be in danger, she might need help. ‘I have to help’ he told himself. It was the last thought he had, as his eyes slid shut and his mind went black.
Barbara thought she heard her name called and turned away from her attempts to gain access to the ship. She saw Ian, facing away from her, slump sideways down the wall, unconscious. She bit down on her lip and blinked away the tears in her eyes. She had to make the Doctor hear.
“Doctor!” She shouted as loud as she could. “Doctor, you’ve got to help!” She accompanied each word with a thump on the blue painted door. “Please open the door!”
The door opened so suddenly that she nearly fell inside, barely managing to stop her next blow from hitting the white haired man as he came out.
The Time Lord took in the highly agitated state of his companion, the quivering in her voice and the tears on her cheeks. So unlike Miss Wright.
“My dear what’s wrong?”
“It’s Ian,” she started, all but pulling the old man behind her, “he’s been bitten by a snake.”
“What!?” The Time Lord sped up, covering the distance between the ship and his downed companion at a pace that the woman would not have thought him capable of.
“Yes, see.” Barbara indicated the rapidly swelling bite marks. “He’s unconscious.”
“Where is the snake now?” the Doctor asked, leaning heavily on his stick to inspect the school master’s condition.
“It disappeared behind a rock.” She pointed to the slab of stone propped against the opposite wall.
“And you weren’t bitten?” The Time Lord looked into her face.
“What? No, of course not.” Why did he always waste time? He didn’t seem to understand that Ian was dying! “Oh Doctor, what about Ian?”
“You stay with him my dear,” he stated, pushing himself into an upright position. “I’ll go and get some help.” With that he disappeared into the bright sunlight outside.
Barbara turned her attention back to her fallen friend.
“Ian,” she called, not expecting an answer. She dabbed at his damp, glistening face with her handkerchief, “Ian you must hang on.” There was still no reaction and she pushed her hand gently through the man’s hair. “Just hang on; the Doctor’s gone for help.” Fear overwhelmed her. “Ian!”
The man’s eyes snapped open. The last thing he remembered was Barbara calling to him, the fear in her voice still echoed in his ears.
“We thought you might never wake.” A voice sounded from the floor beside him.
He sat up so quickly that his head span. Must be the effects of the venom, although he could no longer feel the pain from the bite - that must be numb by now, he rationalised.
“We would know this man’s name.” Another voice came from just above him.
“Barbara?” The smile of relief froze on his face as he looked up.
He saw, not his friend, but a stranger, not the woman he had come to care about but a harsh, cold, face that stared challengingly back at him.
She stood approximately the same height as Barbara Wright, but where as the school teacher wore her hair in a sensible short bob, this woman had braided hair that hung just below the shoulder. It was surmounted by an ornate head dress, topped by a single orb of gold.
Her skin glowed with deep golden tones, but it was her eyes where the biggest difference showed. There was no friendly sparkle that Ian had grown used to seeing, indeed there was no recognition at all, nothing but a cold, calculating stare.
“What is your name?” Came the gentle voice at his side.
The long white hair was the same, but the pale skin was gone, the face and hands tanned a deep honey colour. A cloak covered most of the body, and another head dress complete with golden orb adorned the head of a stranger with a friend’s face. The Doctor’s own expression was always alive with quick intelligence, a face full of emotion - the one before Ian now, was calculating and, although not as cold as the woman’s, it was as unacknowledging.
Ian shook his head. “It must be the effects of that snake bite.”
He rubbed his hands over his face and was surprised to find them come away dry. He distinctly remembered sweating before passing out.
“You were bitten?” the woman demanded.
“Yes,” the school teacher frowned, “you know I was.”
She merely raised her eyebrows.
“Where?” Came the male voice.
The puzzled frowned turned on the Doctor. “In the leg, look.” The young man rolled up the leg of his jeans; the flesh was unbroken, no swelling deformed the skin, no redness coloured it.
“Be careful.” Barbara called to the men as they rolled Ian’s unconscious body on to the stretcher.
“Right ma’am.” Geoff wrapped a meaty arm around her shoulders. “Don’t you worry none, we’ll put him in the doc’s tent.”
The two familiar strangers stood apart from Ian and, but for the occasional look in his general direction before going back to their muttering, they seemed to have chosen to ignore him. Fine, the school teacher decided, because what he needed just at the moment was a chance to get his thoughts organised. For the third time he listed the facts he had at his disposal, this time in a different order to see if that would help.
Fact: he was on an archaeological dig in Egypt, the year 1999.
Fact: they had almost certainly located a lost mastaba - rumoured to be in the area but never before located.
Fact: when he and Barbara had gone looking for the Doctor in the ruined temple, he had been bitten by a snake and had past out.
Fact: he had come round in a large building, faced with Barbara who wasn’t Barbara and the Doctor who clearly wasn’t the Doctor.
Fact: the snake bite had disappeared.
He thought it through for a few moments, no, it didn’t make any more sense in that order either.
With a mental shrug he gave up trying to think, it was giving him a headache anyway. He would have to settle for observation instead.
The building he was in was certainly grand; stone pillars supported a decorated ceiling that was at least sixteen feet high, painted a midnight blue and covered with highly stylised gold stars. The tops of the pillars were carved with what Barbara had called Lotus leaves. At one end of the large open room was a step, leading up to a yellow stone altar, magnificent paintings covered the wall behind. Ian had seen hieroglyphs before; many a school trip to the British museum should have prepared him for how impressive they could be, he thought, but the sheer scale of the work, the vibrant colours of it all was breath taking.
The whole room was lined with huge statues, reaching floor to ceiling. Some seemed to represent a god; a well muscled human male body topped by the head of a hawk. Ian thought hard. He knew Barbara had told him who this was, and slowly the answer filtered into his mind - Aman Ra - the sun deity. Interspersed with these stood a normal human male. Ian couldn’t decide if this represented the god in purely human form or the present pharaoh. From what he knew of Egyptian history either was likely. Since the ancient Egyptians thought of their leaders as divine, he didn’t suppose it mattered much.
His eyes were drawn to the equally large statue at the end of the room. It stood to one side of the altar, facing the main door. He felt a chill as he recognised the figure of Anubis. A guarding and protecting deity he may have been, but it still brought back memories of his gruesome discovery in the desert.
He turned his head to study the wall beside him. His eyes took in a detail showing the figure of a man, with a jackal’s head, sitting in a chair. Another figure with a stylised, elongated, crocodile head and a lion’s paws sat at its feet. A baboon holding a reed pen, balanced on top of a pair of scales - one side of which held a feather, the other a jar, and standing before the three of them, a human form.
He remembered pointing this out to Barbara as one of the few battered, but still recognisable pieces of art work in the temple when they had first left the TARDIS. She had explained to him that it represented the judgement hall of Osiris, where the dead came to have their hearts weighed before continuing on their journey to the after life.
The seated figure represented Osiris - judge of the dead, the crocodile figure was Ammit - eater of the dead - the fate of the soul if the ceremony did not go in their favour. Thoth was the baboon, god of wisdom, recording the verdict.
The heart of the dead would be placed on one side of the scales, a feather - the truth on the other. If the soul’s journey was to continue on to the Duat the scales must balance, if not the soul belonged to Ammit.
It took him a while to realise what had just gone through his mind: ‘pointing this out to Barbara when they had first left the TARDIS.’ He looked around the room more closely. The high ceiling, in the nineties most of the paint had gone but blue flecks clung to the plaster. The tall pillars - only one of which still existed. Ian would have gulped if he had had any saliva left to do so. He hadn’t moved an inch since the snake had bitten him; he was still in the same temple.
“You think he is sent here?” the woman asked her companion.
The elderly gentleman glanced across to the stranger, still sitting on the floor. “He was certainly not here when we left,” he reasoned, tapping a finger on his bottom lip. “There is no sign that he forced his way in and I searched his clothes when he was asleep, he has no key.” He peered into the woman’s face. “He can not have come in any other way.”
“So,” the woman circled the white haired man, “he was sent.” She stopped walking, peering directly at their visitor. “To aid us, you think?”
“Or sent by chaos to stop us?”
“Excuse me,” interrupted the stranger.
Both Egyptians turned to stare at him. They could see by his expression that it made him uncomfortable, but he continued.
“Could you tell me where I am?”
The woman came closer, each step filled with grace and poise. A person who had obviously received training to make an impression, the school master thought. He watched as her long musty orange dress stretched to it fullest width with each step, the heavy bead over dress rustling with each movement. She had had a really good trainer, Ian concluded.
“What are you called?” she asked, stopping about two feet away.
The woman raised an eyebrow then turned away, starting back across the floor.
“Where am I?” Ian repeated the question. There was no reply, the woman kept walking. “Damn!”
He ran across the short distance between them and stopped directly in front of her. Her eyes flared, she was clearly not used to such treatment.
“Look, at least tell me who you are.”
The woman continued to stare, she obviously expected him to back down. Well, she was in for disappointment.
“My name is Sham,” came the gentle voice from behind him.
Reluctantly, the science teacher broke eye contact, to turn to the aged man.
“Sham,” Ian repeated, bowing his head in acknowledgement.
His eyes followed the now named man as he moved gracefully across the floor to join his colleague.
“She is named Sennu.”
“Sennu.” Again the same ritual.
“She is priestess of the temple you now stand in. I,” Sham bowed lowly over a hand placed on his chest, “am scribe to Sennu.”
This meant, if Ian had remembered Barbara’s lectures correctly, they were of about equal power - despite Sham’s obvious fawning towards her.
“I am a teacher.” Ian wasn’t quite sure what kind of standing this gave him, and from their reactions, or lack there of, he would never know.
Sham merely cocked his head to one side. “As you wish,” was the cryptic reply.
“Sham,” the woman snapped. Her voice, like her face, was more severe than Barbara Wright’s, slightly deeper in tone and with an air of superiority.
With another slight bow towards the teacher, the scribe led the way to the main temple doors. Ian stood, waiting to see what would happen next. After a brief jangle of keys, Ian was blinded by the sunlight pouring through the now open door. Then the entrance slammed shut, leaving him alone in the dim torch light. He ran forward, wiping at damp sore eyes still smarting from the punishing effects of the desert sun. He tried the door, locked. Frustrated he slammed his fist into the large wooden barricade, succeeding only in hurting his hand.
Pain! All other thoughts were washed away by the roaring tsunami of pain. Despite his efforts, a groan escaped through clenched teeth as he felt the muscles in his body knot. His limbs shook with tremors, his head felt as if some one had lit a fire behind his eyes.
He fought to bring the misty figure before him into focus. A woman, her back to him, clad in a white cotton shirt and blue jeans. A figure he recognised, trusted, needed to know was really there.
His throat tighten on another, louder, groan.
The woman turned. Seeing the open eyes peering in her direction, she squeezed out the cloth in her hand and raced to his side.
Her lips moved soundlessly, her face anxious, afraid.
The name sounded so loud in his mind that he had to turn his head away, as all the noise that had been withheld from him crashed into existence. Even the almost silent whispering of water dripping from the cloth to impact on the tiny particles of warm sand below, sounded like a tropical storm on a hollow tin roof. Then came the shock of ice cold liquid touching his forehead, a cool hand turning his head.
“Ian, can you hear me?” The woman’s voice had returned to a more comfortable level.
“Barbara?” He questioned, a frown causing rivers of perspiration to run into his eyes.
“Yes, it’s me.” She continued to dab at his face.
“Barbara?” He stammered again, hand reaching up towards her face.
The woman caught the hand, grasping it firmly as another set of tremors past through his body.
“The Doctor’s gone to find some anti-venom in the ship,” she explained, as Ian became quiet again. “Do you understand?”
He thought he detected a catch in her voice, thought he saw fear in her eyes. It was so hard to tell, sound was fading again, the light dimming, her face fading from view.
He pushed himself up from the waist. “Barbara!” He called, hands reaching blindly.
By the time the woman had clasped the shaking hands, her friend was already unconscious.
“You are sure of these plans?”
The air was cooler; it was the first thing he noticed after hearing the voice. He opened his eyes again.
The flicking torch light still cast an eerie orange glow over the people in the temple. They seemed to be unaware of him, or perhaps they had decided that he didn’t matter anymore.
He heard a trill at his feet and looked down to see a grey cat, staring hard at him. The skin of the animal seemed baggy on its long feline body, just like it had stretched in the wash, Ian thought with the one part of his brain that still had a sense of humour. Piercing yellow eyes seemed to bore into his soul. With another trill it rose slowly to its feet and swaggered over to the two people talking in the torch light. It rubbed itself around Sham’s legs, then mewed at Sennu.
“What is it?” the woman asked, staring down at the cat.
The animal sat at her feet, wrapping its tail around its body. With another mew it turned its head to stare directly at Ian, as he stood sheltered in the shadow of a near by statue.
“You are still with us then?” Sham addressed the darkness.
Ian stepped out into view, eyeing the cat disbelievingly. “Not by choice,” he replied.
“Then why?” The priestess asked, lowering the paper that the two Egyptians had been studying.
The school master wiped a hand across his face. “I wish I knew,” he answered with a shrug, “I’m not even sure how.”
“You claim to have been bitten by a serpent,” she continued moving towards the teacher.
“But no trace of sickness colours your face, no bite can be found.” The man made no reply. “Can you explain this?”
“No,” Ian replied on a tight sigh.
“We left you here.”
The woman drew level and began to circle him slowly, studying every inch of him as he struggled not to squirm under her gaze. Now he knew exactly what a specimen felt like under a microscope.
“We left a guard at the door. You did not leave but were not here when we returned.” She stopped behind him, “Where did you go?”
“That’s hard to explain.”
“Try,” she whispered, leaning close to his ear.
With a sigh he glanced over his shoulder. “I returned to where I came from.” He hoped that would suffice. It didn’t.
“I don’t know! I just woke up back in my own time.”
Ian bit down on his bottom lip, closing his eyes briefly as he realised that his slip had been picked up on.
“Sennu,” Sham stepped into the conversation, “clearly the stranger is unstable. He does not know what he says.”
“I think he does.” Sennu was again standing before the teacher. “And what were you doing in your ‘own time’?”
“I want to know!” The priestess snapped, turning on the old man, who staggered back, obviously unaccustomed to receiving the sharp end of her temper. With the scribe subdued she returned her attention to the teacher. “Well?”
Ian remained silent as his mind tried to work out what was the best course of action. If he told the truth could he really interfere with future history as the Doctor was always saying? Could telling an ancient Egyptian priestess about an archaeologically dig in 1999 really prevent his own birth, Barbara’s birth?
Sennu was moving away from him, the beads of her dress catching the light from the torches, causing the glass to flare with colour briefly, and then die as her movements took them out of the range of the flames’ influence.
“As a priestess,” she started, turning back to face her stubborn prey, “I can dictate all manner of punishments for an uncooperative or runaway slave.” She left the threat hanging a moment. “What were you doing before you came here?”
Ian decided to give up, since all of this was probably a venom induced delusion anyway, it hardly seemed to matter what he did or said. As his old granny used to say ‘it’ll all be the same in a hundred years time’ or in this case several thousand years.
“We were digging in the desert.” No reaction. “I was searching for a lost tomb.” He saw a nervous look pass between the two Egyptians. “Then I was bitten by a snake and woke up here.”
“Woke up?” the old man repeated.
“A dream.” The priestess looked pale. “A dream of digging in the desert.”
The flames flared as she strode over to Ian, staring intensely into his eyes.
“What else?” She shook her head impatiently at his puzzled expression. “Your eyes tell me of a vision.”
“A golden orb,” Ian stuttered. It was as if the answer had been pulled from his mind; he didn’t even remember thinking about it before voicing his reply.
With a gasp the priestess staggered back, Ian catching her arm to prevent her falling.
“Sennu.” The old man rushed to her side.
The woman stared down at Ian’s hand resting on her arm, a look of wonder filling her face.
“Are you alright?” Ian asked.
The priestess gave the faintest of nods, before stepping away from him: one pace, two paces, then staring at him.
“Sennu.” Sham stood beside the woman, stretching up on his toes to speak covertly. “This means nothing, proves nothing.”
“You would deny the existence of divine magic?”
The woman had been a priestess for most of her life and before, she had been in the service of the temple. Never had her faith been so greatly rewarded as now.
“A serpent and a golden globe,” she repeated, “a dream of digging in the desert for something lost.” She turned on the scribe. “A dream, Sham, the most powerful heka of them all.”
“I’m sorry.” Ian stepped forward, more than a little confused about his change in circumstances. He stopped in front of the two Egyptians. “Heka? What does that mean?”
“It means, my lord,” Sennu started, tracing Ian’s cheek bone with the back of one finger, “that you were sent. Your dream tells us that our quest will be successful. Your vision tells us that you are a messenger from the one who gives us life.” The woman clutched at Ian’s hand, placing the back of it to her forehead, before kissing it briefly. “Our lord, Ra.”
Ian was too stunned to say anything, his eyes were locked with the almost venerating gaze of the priestess, and so he missed the disgusted, almost loathing look that crossed Sham’s face.
Slowly the scribe edged from the temple, taking the paper plans with him. The stranger could not, would not be allowed to interfere now. He had arrangements to make.
The silence in the temple was broken by a slight mewing, as with a loud purr the cat raised itself from its place of rest and began to rub itself around the teacher’s legs. He glanced down at it, even the feline liked him now, that was when Ian knew he was in trouble.
It was a few minutes before Sham’s absence had been noticed. As soon as it was, the priestess had excused herself. This time the door was not only left unlocked but open.
Peering through the gap, cautiously at first, Ian had stepped out into the fading day light, sheltering his eyes from the setting sun which was disappearing behind a rock outcrop, where in five thousand years time his tent would be pitched.
Stone blocks were scattered to his left, large limestone blocks. Piles of the same material were already in place in a small dip in the landscape, wooden lifting gear was standing by ready to complete the construction.
Ian felt his head swim. This was the tomb that, just a few short hours ago, he had been ready to dig up. Gus had been right, it was exactly where geophysics said it would be. Feeling slightly light headed, he made his way over the sand, pausing at his future camp site.
He span at the sudden sound of Barbara’s voice, it had been Barbara rather than Sennu, unmistakably.
“Barbara?” He spoke to the air about him.
Again his vision filled with a glowing golden orb. He threw his hands up to protect his face, only lowering them when the light level had returned to normal. The world span as he found himself in his own tent, standing behind a seated Barbara. He looked at the body on the canvas bed, it was himself; a flushed, sweating image of the Ian who stood aghast, watching as Barbara clung desperately to the hand of the man on the bed.
“Ian,” she spoke, trying to sound calm, reasonable, “the Doctor is still looking for the anti venom. He said he has some, but you know what the ship is like.” She gave a small, forced laugh. “I think you gave him a scare, he keeps saying that you’re supposed to be the sensible one. Apparently I’m the one that’s supposed to get into trouble.”
Ian felt himself smiling, he could just image how that conversation went.
“I told him that was very old fashioned,” she continued, the school master doubted that it had been put quite that politely.
At that moment the tent flap was pushed aside and the camp’s own doctor appeared in the gap.
“How’s he doing?” he asked, approaching the patient and ‘nurse’.
“He’s not regained consciousness again,” Barbara answered, returning her attention to her friend’s face.
She sat back slightly as the medical man checked the unconscious Ian’s pulse and reflexes. The ethereal teacher taking note of each mutter and tut.
“Well, at least he’s resting quietly,” the man put in.
“That’s what scares me,” the woman stated. She gave a little shrug knowing it probably sounded odd. “Will he be alright Chris?”
The young physician looked at his questioner. “I’m not going to lie to you. The venom has started breaking down your friend’s blood. Its touch and go, but as long as he gets the antidote and soon he should be okay. It’ll take a long time for him to recover fully though. He’ll need a lot of looking after.”
Barbara smiled. “If he’ll let me.” The smile widen slightly at the quizzical look. “He usually insists on doing the looking after.”
The healer smiled too. “Be firm Babs!”
Both tutors winced at that. “Barbara!” they muttered together as the young man left the tent.
The young woman lent close to Ian’s ‘body’ again. “You heard what the doctor said; you’re going to be fine.” The disembodied school master detected a catch in her voice. “Ian, please wake up.” She placed her free hand on the man’s forehead, once more brushing at his hair. “You have to be alright,” she continued firmly, “because you can’t leave me.”
The ethereal Ian crouched on his non-existent legs, looking into the woman’s eyes. He reached up a ghostly hand, could almost feel the flesh of her face beneath his fingers.
“I won’t ever leave you Barbara.”
“My lord?” The question came from behind him, shattering the vision before him.
He span about, expecting to see Sennu standing behind him, but as he turned he realised the words were not being spoken to him. They came from some distance away, near the tomb.
“What news do you bring?” Sham was speaking to a young man clad in a simple loin cloth.
“My lord, the last two digs have been successful. The treasure is placed in your private vaults as you requested.”
Ian, still a little unsteady on his feet from his rapid return to the present or was it the past, staggered over to listen from the shelter of a half built wall.
“You do well. Here is the next target, the plan is as usual.” The scribe handed over the paper that he and Sennu had been pouring over.
“The priestess suspects nothing then?” the boy asked.
Sham laughed. “No, she still believes we dig to save our peoples’ eternal souls.”
“And if she should discover the truth?”
“Well,” the old man patted one of the blocks already placed in the construction, “let us say that her tomb would need to be finished very rapidly.” Again, that scornful laugh. “Now go about your work.” He dismissed his underling.
It was as the boy bowed and turned to go that Ian got his first clear look at the face. It was Khufu, the camp caterer.
Ian paced inside the temple. He had paced outside for a good hour, but the temperature had dropped quite dramatically forcing him to retreat to the interior.
Barbara always looked on in amusement when ever he paced, she tried to hide it from him but he had caught her smiling a few times.
He wished he could speak with her now. He had always found her advice sound. On the few occasions that he hadn’t taken it he usually ended up regretting the decision.
The longer he stayed here, the more he felt sure that this was real. The people and things he was experiencing no longer seemed like poison induced imaginings. If the people and situations were real, what should he do with the information he had over heard? Should he keep it to himself? Maintain his
neutrality until he could find a way back to his friends. Should he tell Sennu? Her life, after all, had been threatened. He drew to a halt rubbing a hand over the nape of his neck.
“I don’t know,” he muttered quietly. “I don’t know.”
“What troubles you my lord?”
The woman’s voice took him by surprise and he span about. Sennu stood in the doorway, a small tray in her hands.
“Oh, nothing.” Ian covered his confusion quickly. “What do you have there?” he asked, waving the woman forward.
“Food,” she stated simply. ”I did not know if you would need sustenance, but I have not seen you eat.”
The mere mention of food started Chesterton’s stomach growling, sounding embarrassingly loud in the stone building.
“Sorry,” he shrugged apologetically.
“I see even messengers of the gods get hungry.” The priestess tried to keep a straight face, but the battle was lost when she looked into the man’s reddened face.
“Mmmm.” The school teacher raised his eyebrows and reached for the tray.
From what he could see, meat seemed to be the main constituent of the meal, although there were a few vegetables, some less than appetising looking bread and a thick soup in large cups. Taking a sip he was surprised by the yeasty flavour, it was beer he realised, but not like any served in his local. The taste was very bitter.
“Here,” the woman must have seen his expression, she leant across and gentle dropped a pasty substance into the liquid, “crushed dates,” she explained, “that will sweeten.”
Another sip proved this to be true. Carefully Ian replaced the cup on the tray, then lowered the whole thing to the floor, sitting himself, cross legged, beside it. He indicated the priestess to join him.
“Please, eat with me.”
With a tilt of the head, she too seated herself on the floor, curling her legs to one side.
After a brief moment’s silence as they each made a selection and started eating, the school master decided that he needed all the facts before he could act, or not, on Sham’s words.
“Sennu,” he started.
The woman lowered her food, watching the man attentively. With a sigh, all this adoration was beginning to unnerve him, the school master pressed ahead.
“What is the quest that you and Sham are involved in?”
“The peoples of the local community are falling away from their gods, from our gods,” the priestess started. “We have had much hardship, many disasters, the people think the gods have left them. Sham and I aim to reawaken their belief.”
“We seek the original gift from the sky, the Benben stone.”
Ian searched his memory frantically. In all the lectures he’d received from both the Doctor and Barbara since arriving in Egypt had either of them mentioned this stone? He reluctantly came to the conclusion that they hadn’t, which meant he was none the wiser.
“Benben stone?” he questioned, pretending to study a piece of meat, while watching the woman from below his brows.
“You don’t know what that is my lord?”
The school master heard doubt in her voice, felt her attitude changing to one of distrust.
“I find the ‘transfer’ has left me confused.” Ian heaved a huge mental sigh at this particular piece of quick thinking. “I could wait for the clouds to clear but if I am to help then I want to start as soon as possible.”
The woman relaxed again. “Of course my lord, some confusion is understandable. I will get the official records.” She went to rise, but stopped when the school teacher placed a hand on her arm.
“I don’t want to interrupt your food, Sennu, just tell me yourself.”
“I will tell you the story as my father told me, if it pleases you,” she started searching the man’s face for approval.
Ian nodded, taking another sip of his soupy beer.
‘Night had fallen, removing the people of the desert from the benevolent gaze of their god. He had began his long journey through the netherworld, to rise once again, his people hoped, triumphant over the beasts and demons, to cast warmth and light over the blessed lands.
This night was to be different.
The small child had been watching as his father studied the stars, the souls of his ancestors, keeping pace with each other in the heavens. Bored with this, although he would never tell his father, he turned his back on the preoccupied parent. The boy’s attention was immediately stolen by a brilliant light hanging in the sky, seemingly motionless. It did nothing but grow in brightness and intensity.
“Father!” the child called.
The parent, who was fully occupied with his own observations, chose to ignore the call. The child was probably bored; he usually was by this time.
“Father!” The cry was more persistent. Much more than the feeble whining of a boy wanting release from a tedious task.
Turning on him, the man didn’t need the pointing finger to see the cause of the excitement.
“What is it father?” the son asked. He had seen many streaks of light in the sky but nothing this bright. He squinted up at the sound of his father’s gasp.
“I know not my son.” The words were all but obliterated as twin explosions rocked the air. A wind blew the two observers from their feet, the heat of it warming chilled fingers and toes. The father pushed the child’s face into the cold desert sands as the light passed over head causing hair to singe.
A third explosion rent the air as the light came to rest some miles distance.
The man climbed to his feet to study the glow rising from the ground. Aware of his son’s intense study he frowned. His head told him to flee, his heart almost agreeing, but he had spent a life time studying the stars and if one had fallen to Earth he needed to know why and how, and what it looked like.
He took the small hand of his son, surrounding it with the rough skin of his own.
“Come,” was the only word he spoke, pulling the boy lightly in the direction of the sky glow.
It took hours to reach their destination, the father now carrying the child, who slept in his arms.
He pulled up sharply. Revealed before him was a massive hole in the desert sands. It was an eerie sight blackened in the half light generated by the sun, still below the horizon but sending its beams ahead to bring hope to the people.
The man lowered the boy to the sand, waking him in the process.
Just visible by the ever brightening sky, was an object in the centre of the crater. A small, charred blob, a smooth dome shape.
For some reason, he could not name, the man ventured no further, he merely stood and waited for the sun to rise, waited for his god’s illumination.
As the golden orb broke through a gap in two distance mountains, a lone arm of light reached towards man and boy, striking the crater and its contents on the way.
Suddenly the dark hole was bathed in reflected silver light, the sun’s ray broken and refracted.
Again the man gasped, falling to his knees.
Truly this was a star come to Earth, truly a sign from his god.’
“And so, the symbolic stone was removed from the desert and placed in a temple, one constructed for this purpose.” The woman was finishing the story, as Ian finished the last of his very gritty bread. His dentist would hate him.
“Its likeness has since topped all obelisks, indeed it is said that the first obelisk was built as a tribute to the Benben stone.”
Chesterton nodded thoughtfully, assimilating all the new information. The priestess finished her meal in silence, not wanting to disturb him.
There were still moments when she doubted this man’s veracity, doubted her own interpretations of his mysterious arrival, even as she studied him now.
The torch light highlighted his deep, thoughtful expression. His hair was short, very short, even for a male but not unattractively so, and there was no doubting his handsome features, but that was not what drew her to him, there were many beautiful Egyptian males. Her eyes wandered to the man’s clothes. Strange indeed, blue dominated - a light blue cotton shirt - open at the neck, rolled up at the sleeves. A deep blue heavy material made up the leg covering, a curious design. The feet completely encased in what looked like heavy brown boots, she imagined they were very hot. Certainly the clothes were not of Egypt or of any other country she had seen represented at court, either on diplomats or prisoners.
It was not just the outer coverings that made her believe he was not of this reality. His attitude was strange, the way he talked about how he came to be here, the fact that he thought he had recognised Sham and herself, calling them strange names. ‘Barbara’ he had called her when he first awoke. The look that accompanied that name made her wish very much that she was this woman. To hold this man’s affection would be interesting, almost desirable in her lonely position, but no, those feelings he had reserved for someone else.
Her thoughts were disturbed by the feline at her side stretching. Realising that the meal was over, that no more titbits would be coming its way, it decided to hunt pastures new.
It rose to its feet, pausing only once on its slink to the temple doorway, to scratch vigorously behind its right ear. That done it stared at the figure of Sham concealed behind one of the pillars.
He had arrived mid way through the story, and decided to stay concealed. He didn’t trust this stranger or the influence he had over the priestess. The scribe was use to being able to control the woman; he didn’t believe the new arrival would be so easily manipulated.
Spotting the cat looking at him he hissed quietly at it, until, losing interest in the game, it seemed to rise an eyebrow and move on to curl up in a corner by the doors.
“If the stone was placed in its own temple,” Sham turned his attention back to the diners at the sound of the man’s voice, “why are you searching for it?”
“It was removed from the temple at the father’s request and placed in his son’s tomb. The stone was a symbol of renewal; he hoped it would speed his child’s soul to the Duat.”
“And that tomb is lost, I take it”
The priestess nodded, placing the last crumbs of beef back on the tray. “Its location was lost soon after the burial, a deliberate plan by the father we now believe. He did not want his son’s rest disturbed.”
“Understandably,” Ian answered, concealing a small burp with the back of his hand.
“Indeed, but we are in desperate need. Our people need their faith. A people without belief are a people without hope.”
“There must be hundreds of tombs, thousands. How will you know when you have the right one?”
“We know the area of the burial,” the priestess explained. “We know its design and we also know it to be one of the most ornately decorated tombs in existence.” She noticed Ian’s raised eyebrows. “He was the son of the man who watched Ra deliver this gift,” she reasoned, “he demanded such treatment.”
“Forgive me Sennu, but what you are doing would surely be regarded as tomb robbing if people knew of the activity.”
The reaction was immediate, the woman jumped to her feet, her eyes flaring.
“No!” she denied hotly. “We steal nothing, each tomb we have opened we have treated with respect. We investigate quickly then reseal it, leaving it exactly as it was before.”
Ian struggled to his feet. He felt heavy and awkward after his meal. “I mean no insult priestess, but have you been to these sites yourself?”
She shook her head. “Temple business keeps me here, but this is how I order the work to be carried out.” That was enough, or so she thought.
Chesterton’s next question made the scribe flinch, his lips rolling back, baring his teeth.
“But if you’ve never seen, how do you know that it is carried out?” Ian asked quietly.
The priestess seemed to be about to answer, but then turned and stormed from the temple. Unseen by the remaining human occupant, but studied closely by feline eyes, Sham exited behind her.
Back to index
Chapter 3: Three Barbara glanced at her watch in frustration. It had been hours since the Doctor had gone for the anti-venom. She knew the TARDIS was massive, but this was ridiculous.
She looked back at the unconscious man lying on the bed. Occasionally the pain the venom was causing as it coursed through his system, attacking everything in its path, would break through his coma and he would buck and cry out. Sometimes he would lay moaning and muttering to himself, the words always unintelligible, but when exhaustion took over from these fits, as now, he lay quietly. It was at these times that Barbara felt her nerves shredding. At least when he was moving she knew he was alive. Disgusted with herself for wishing more pain on her friend, she threw down the cloth she had been using to dab at the man’s damp flesh. Rising to her feet she strode across to the tent flap and peered out.
Why did things have to go badly all the time? Ever since joining the Doctor, they seemed to move from one crisis to another. It was beginning to get old.
The school teacher was beginning to think it might be better to leave, just stay here, in this time. Okay, it was over thirty years after their time; most of their friends would be middle aged and older. They, themselves, would be younger than some of the pupils they had taught. It would also mean that they wouldn’t be able to live too close to the old neighbourhood, but was that such a great sacrifice? At least it was the right planet and it was the closest they had come to the right decade, at least while they were the proper size anyway.
She glanced back at the man as he groaned quietly.
Now she began to get an insight into what Ian had gone through on that particular ‘adventure’, all the result of the TARDIS doors opening at the moment of materialisation. She would never forget the expression she’d seen on his face when she had come round, the insecticide having caused another blackout. She realised at that moment that he had worked out what had happened to her, why she had been so insistent on finding a cure. That expression also told her she was dying. She had known anyway, but the pain behind his eyes, the pain he tried to hide, had just confirmed her fears.
Of course they’d scrapped through by the skin of their teeth, as usual. They had been restored to their normal size and the poison dose became so small that it no longer devastated her system. The whole thing had just left her feeling very tired and very thirsty.
Susan and Ian had helped her through to her sleeping quarters, Susan being recalled to the console room, to help repair the scanner screen.
Barbara had lay on the bed and allowed her eyes to slide close, to open a few moments later when she had realised that Ian was still in the room. She had struggled back into a sitting position.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” He asked, coming to sit next to her.
She shrugged. “I tried to several times, but I......”
“What?” he asked gently.
“I didn’t want to worry you,” she stated lamely.
“Oh, Barbara.” The man had laughed, putting his arm around her shoulders, squeezing her tightly. “If something like that ever happens again,” he had lectured, looking straight at her, “worry me.”
Barbara had nodded and with a kiss to her cheek he had left her to change and get some rest.
The woman’s attention returned to the present as one of the archaeological students past the tent.
“Rupert!” She called to the ginger haired teenager.
“Yes, Barbara?” he replied coming towards the tent.
“Could you sit with Ian for a few minutes? I’m going to find out what’s taking so long.”
“Sure.” Rupert placed himself in the chair beside the bed.
“If he wakes up, call me.” With this instruction and one more glance at the man on the bed, the school teacher left the tent and headed for the doctor’s abode.
She heard the two men talking before she reached the tent and the sound made her angry. They didn’t have time to be standing around having deep and meaningfuls! Her strides lengthen and she entered the canvas shelter with some force. Both occupants looked up in surprise.
“My dear Barbara,” the elder of the two started, “has something happened? How’s Chesterton?”
“Dying!” she snapped before considering her words. “Do you have the antidote?” she asked, taking a deep breath.
“Yes, Doctor Patrick is looking at it now,” the old man explained, taking the woman’s hands in one of his own and patting them gently with his other.
“Why can’t we just give it to Ian now?” she demanded.
“Look,” the young physician started, “I’ve got to make sure it’s the right sort of antidote. If I pump the wrong stuff into him I could end up killing him quicker than the snake. Plus of course like everything else, medicines have use by dates. I’ve got to ensure this stuff’s not too old or it’ll be worse than useless.”
Barbara tried to calm herself down. They were sensible arguments, but it just meant more waiting. “Well, when will you be ready?”
“Just about,” the medic snapped the cap back on the bottle, “now.” He picked up a hypodermic kit and made his way out of the tent, before sticking his head back through the flap. “Are you coming to see a genius at work?” He withdrew his head as the Doctor, blustering, waved the woman out.
Once more Ian pushed open the heavy temple doors, he rubbed his hands together as he re-entered the structure. The temperature had dropped again; it must be near freezing now.
He’d searched for half an hour but could find no sign of Sennu. He’d known she would take the implication badly, but he also knew he had to break the news gently. At least now the seed of doubt was in her mind, telling her what he had over heard might be easier.
He jumped round as his thoughts were interrupted, violently, by the thunderous slamming of the doors behind him. Standing with his back against them was Sham, a sneer spreading across his features, the expression suggesting he had a really bad taste in his mouth.
“So, master Ian,” he started scornfully, “you know what I am doing?”
“I believe so.” The school teacher nodded, keeping his expression neutral, but being careful to watch the smaller man as he moved away from the doors and deeper into the building.
“So the priestess was right, you were sent by the gods,” Chesterton remained silent, “but not to help her perhaps.”
Sham stared at the younger man, his gaze as penetrating as any look the Time Lord himself could produce.
“No. More likely to stop me!” He laughed maniacally. “That can not be done. I am already a master magician, but when I find the book of Thoth, no one will be able to stop me.”
“Book of Thoth?” Now Ian was completely lost, he thought it was a simple case of tomb robbing for gold, but what on earth was the book of Thoth?
Both men turned to face the opening door, this time the priestess stepped in. Chesterton turned again at a gasp from his side, to find Sham removing a knife from his own arm.
“My lady,” the scribe stumbled over to the woman he pretended to serve, “you must leave at once.”
Sennu took in the blood flowing from the deep wound, noticed the knife lying at the school teacher’s feet.
Her eyes lit up, shocked. “What goes on?”
“He tries to kill me, because I know his true nature,” the scribe declared, pointing a red finger at the younger man. “I saw him in communion with his master.”
“Sennu,” Chesterton started forward, hands spread wide.
The scribe scuttled theatrically away, taking shelter behind one of the woman’s shoulders, stemming the blood with the edge of his cape.
“You see, he fears for his true identity,” the old man muttered.
Ian stopped his forward motion as the priestess raised a hand, suspicion clouding her gaze; had she been wrong after all?
“Tell me what you know, old man,” she stated, her eyes never leaving Ian’s face.
A gleam of triumph showed in Sham’s eyes as he began his story. “My lady, he did not come here because of a snake bite, he came here as a snake. As we suspected at first, he is an agent of chaos, sent to disrupt our efforts.”
The woman’s eyes narrowed, and the school teacher was very much afraid that she was falling for the story.
“He stabbed me,” the old man continued, “because I saw him communing with Apophis.”
Ian snorted. “That is ridiculous.”
Sham leaned in closer to Sennu, making sure his words were heard. “See how he wriggles to escape the truth, like the serpent he is!”
Chesterton could see the words having the desired effect.
“My name is Ian Chesterton,” he stated. “I am a man, not a serpent or any other ‘agent of chaos’.” He waved his hand dismissively. “I don’t even know who Apophis is.”
He felt the air in the temple turn cold. Glancing up at the two Egyptians he realised, too late, that he had just said the wrong thing.
“How can you say you work for the almighty Ra and yet have no knowledge of a god of the underworld, particularly when that god is Apophis?” the woman asked coldly.
The school teacher stared at them both, not sure how to answer the charge. Finally a glimmer of hope reached his mind. “I explained earlier my lady,” he decided to adopt Sham’s fawning term, “that the transference had clouded my mind. These questions and challenges have come before I am fully restored.” He saw uncertainty in her eyes, felt his case growing stronger. So did Sham.
“I can prove to you what he is,” the old man snapped.
Both Ian and the priestess looked on, the same question in both their minds, as the scribe staggered exaggeratedly over to a shadow strewn corner. Bending down he retrieved what looked like a dirt sculpture. With an effected groan, he lifted the item level with the woman’s eyes as he drew up to her shoulder.
“I have infused this with his life essence.”
Ian stared at the small model of a striking snake, but where as the light of realisation had filled Sennu’s eyes, puzzlement still clouded his mind.
“What’s that suppose to be?” he half laughed. He knew he shouldn’t ask, but he had a feeling that no matter what he did he had lost this round.
“You see,” the scribe again pointed that blood covered finger towards the teacher, “he is ignorant of the ways of divine heka. Well, servant of Apophis, watch as your master’s likeness is smote and your life force is drained away.” With maniacal laughter the old man threw the statuette to the floor where it smashed, the pieces all but disappearing in the dirt.
For a moment all three people stared down at the remnants as the echo of the event rumbled about the cavernous building.
Slowly, Ian became aware of a slight tingling in his fingers, working its way into his hands, then his arms. The pain, when it came, was sudden and intense, like receiving a long drawn out electric shock. Gripping his head to try to force the ache out, he fell to his knees, a groan escaping his lips.
“You see,” the old man was almost hysterical, “you see!”
“There we go Babs,” the medic withdrew the needle from Chesterton’s arm, “told you there was no need to panic.”
The words were barely out of the man’s mouth before the patient began to buck.
“What’s happening?” the Doctor demanded.
“I don’t know,” the physician was attempting to take the writhing man’s pulse, “the reaction shouldn’t be this violent.”
“Are you sure it’s the right antidote?” Barbara asked, coming to kneel beside her friend.
Both the priestess and scribe looked on, shocked as the man kneeling before them started fading, then reappearing.
Ian was returning to his own time, he knew, but he needed to stop Sennu’s murder. He glanced up planning to warn her, his throat contracted as he drew breath to speak. The last things he saw, before this world faded out of existence, were the maniacal smile of the scribe and the crying eyes of the priestess.
The violent reaction stopped as quickly as it had started. It left not only the patient but everyone in the tent breathing heavily. Slowly Chesterton’s eyes flickered open.
“What took you so long?” he croaked.
The laughter made Ian jump, the kiss planted briefly on his lips by Barbara made him smile.
“Mmmm, must try this again sometime, I like the welcome home.” The slap he received across the arm, made him smile wider.
“Well, I think that’s more than enough excitement for the poor man,” smiled Doctor Patrick. “I think we should leave him to rest.”
“I’ll stay here,” Barbara insisted, stepping away from her embrace with the Doctor.
“I think you need as much sleep as he does,” the medic stated, casting a critical eye over the woman.
“I’ll rest here,” she insisted.
“He’s right Barbara.” All turned their attention to the man in the bed. “You need to get some proper rest. You’ve been sitting in that chair all this time.”
All three observers raised eyebrows, surprised by this unexpected knowledge. With a puzzled frown the woman nodded, saying she would be back in an hour to check on him.
Once the tent was empty, Ian found his mind wandering back to the situation he had left behind. If he was right and what happened were real events, then he had left Sennu to be either completely discredited or killed. Either choice didn’t make him feel very good. He tried to tell himself that Sham and the priestess had now been dead for over five thousand years, but when you’d time travelled as much as he had, that made little difference. They were still real people, whom he’d met and interacted with.
Closing his eyes he tried to put the thoughts out of his mind. The doctor had been right, he did need to sleep, let the antidote work its magic. He turned on his side, as that one word started the whole thought process again. It took a long time but eventually fatigue won the day and Ian slept.
It had been three days since Ian’s ‘return’ and Barbara was beginning to feel like she was back at school. Every time she had gone to his tent, he was doing something he shouldn’t be.
Doctor Patrick had told him to take it easy, but the two school teacher’s seemed to have very different ideas what that phrase meant. Well, Barbara was determined that Ian would see it her way, even if she had to give him detention and make him write lines: ‘I will not go for long walks around my tent, until told I can by a qualified physician.’
She smiled. She had to admit she wouldn’t have it any other way; they both seemed to enjoy the challenge - whose teacher’s look was better. So far she had won every time.
Just this morning, when she had taken his breakfast in, she’d found him searching for some archaeological book or other. She’d given him her look, and he’d climbed back on to the canvas bed with a muttered ‘no wonder all the pupils were scared of you.’
He’d refused to elaborate on the remark when pressed, just smiled knowingly, content to score a few cheap points. She had let him, he was still ill.
Another evening was drawing in and Barbara was taking Chesterton his dinner, another interesting concoction from Khufu’s truck. Pushing the tent flap aside she found him sitting up in bed, a wide smile lighting his pale features highlighting the darken circles around his eyes. If she didn’t know better, she'd swear that his pyjamas had been freshly pressed.
“Good evening Barbara.”
The woman eyed him suspiciously, looking about the tent for the booby trap. Luckily there were no doors to suspend buckets of water from.
“What have you been up?”
He pointed at his chest innocently, “Me Miss?”
Barbara grunted and laid the tray of food down on the bed. The school master looked down at it, a grimace fleeing across his face.
“Yet another dubious offering,” he muttered. “To tell the truth I’m not that hungry.”
He waited for the normal reproach, when none came he looked up. The woman still stood there. In her right hand, held at shoulder level, a wondrous sight: a chocolate bar! His eyes lit up.
“Is that for me?” he asked hopefully.
“Yes,” he held his hand out, “after you’ve eaten your dinner.”
His face fell, and she had to stop herself from laughing. He looked like a five year old who’d just been told his birthday party had been cancelled.
“Yes, matron,” he muttered sulkily.
Barbara filed that one away with all the other things she’d need to remind him of when he was better.
“I’ll bring it back later.” She was just about to leave when she was called back.
“Can we talk?” he asked, patting the chair next to him, “I need something to take my mind off this.”
He lifted the spoon and watched, distressed, as the gloop didn’t so much as fall from the utensil as stretch gently down from it until it hit the plate, where it was sucked back with unnatural speed.
Barbara watched, feeling very bad for the man, but it was for his own good.
“Yes, I think you probably do,” she agreed.
She watched as he took his first mouthful, a shuddering running through his body, both eyes closed, his face as creased as a week old newspaper abandoned on the London underground.
She couldn’t resist - “Is it nice?”
The expression she received in reply would have killed most mortals but she just laughed. “I’m sorry.”
“What’s been happening in my absence?” Ian asked, trying to drag a few reluctant remnants from his teeth with his tongue.
“They decided to keep digging,” Barbara started, hoping he wouldn’t be offended. “We thought it was best to keep everyone busy.”
He nodded, lifted the spoon, studied the contents then allowed it to fall to the plate.
“What about the body?”
“Well, when the police and coroner arrived, the only things they could tell us straight away was that it was definitely a dead body and that it wasn’t Mohammed. Apparently they had arrested him for pick pocketing in the local market, so he was in jail when the body was found. They are going to get back to us when they know anything definite, which should be soon actually.”
“How are communications now?”
“Fine. We had a huge electrical storm while you were unconscious, cleared the static completely.” She eyed the man, her teacher mask slipping back into place. “And if you think I haven’t noticed that you’re not eating, then you’re wrong.”
She hadn’t said it, but even so Ian had heard the ‘young man’ on the end of that sentence. Reluctantly he lifted the spoon again. With a muttered ‘that chocolate better be worth it.’ He closed his eyes and shovelled the ‘food’ in.
The ‘meal’ was over and Ian had devoured his somewhat melted treat. He lay on his side along the canvas bed, watching as Barbara returned with more drinking water. She poured out a cup each.
“Barbara,” he ventured, taking a sip from the cool water, “have you ever heard of priestess called Sennu?”
“No, I don’t think so,” she replied, after a moment’s thought.
“Or a scribe called Sham?”
Another moment, “No, why?”
A sip of water. “Just names I heard somewhere.” He didn’t quite lie. He looked up; his companion hadn’t bought it, but left it there.
“What about ‘the book of Thoth’?”
“Why the sudden interest?” she wanted to know. “You usually fade out when I start on one of my ‘lectures’.”
“I do not!” Ian exclaimed, scandalised. Okay it was true, but he was admitting to nothing.
“Mmmm!” Barbara commented, disbelievingly.
“Thoth was the moon god of writing and knowledge,” she began on a sigh. “Usually shown as a baboon or an ibis headed man.” She studied her pupil to ensure he was still awake. Eerily he was paying rapt attention. “He would record the results at the weighing of the heart ceremonies.”
“Like the hieroglyph you shown me in the temple?”
“Yes.” She took a breath and sip of water. “Some cults believed he held secret knowledge of magic and immortality. In fact the book of Thoth was a legendary book of magic, said to be buried in a tomb somewhere.”
“Has it ever been found?”
“Not before we left home, but since then,” she shrugged, “I don’t know. You have to remember it may not even have existed.”
“So, it would have increased someone’s magical power, is that the general idea?”
“I would image so.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “Why the sudden thirst for knowledge?” He opened his mouth to reply. “And don’t tell me you just read about it somewhere.”
Ian considered his options. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Barbara, there had been occasions when he had trusted her with his life, and if those situations arouse again he would be more than willing to do the same. If he was honest with himself, he wasn’t sure why he was reluctant to tell her.
“It’s something that happened while I was unconscious......”
The moment was broken by the Doctor bursting through the tent flap.
“My dear young lady, there you are.”
“What’s the matter Doctor?” Barbara asked helping the elderly man to a chair.
“Oh, I’m quite pooped,” the Time Lord stated, fanning himself with a handkerchief.
“Well Doctor?” the school master asked.
“The archaeologists have just stopped digging for the day. Geoffrey wanted me to let you know that they expect to be down to the tomb tomorrow. He wants to discuss the plans with everyone.”
Barbara looked across to Ian. “Oh, I see.” She looked back at the Doctor. “Ian and I wanted to talk,” she explained, “could you tell me what happens.”
Ian felt the Doctor’s eyes turn on him. “Oh, of course my dear. I’m sorry Chesterton, I should have realised.”
“No, that’s fine Doctor. Look Barbara, why don’t you go?” The mention of the tomb had cast a grey cloud across his mood.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, go on,” he said with forced cheerfulness. “You don’t want to be in the dark for the best bit.”
“Why don’t you come to? I could help you.”
“No, no.” He stretched theatrically, not even fooling himself. “I’m exhausted; I think I’m going to turn in.”
She studied him closely, an expression that reminded him of the priestess. “If you’re sure.”
He nodded. “See you in the morning.” He pulled the covers over his head, turning his back on his two friends.
After a short time he heard them leave the tent, and he rolled onto his back.
Barbara paused outside. The Doctor had preceded a few paces before noticing.
“What’s the matter?” He asked, coming back to join her.
“It’s Ian.” She turned to face the tent, now in darkness. “He’s got something on his mind, something he doesn’t know how to express.”
“Well, surely that’s to be expected isn’t it?” the Time Lord pointed out gently. “He nearly died you know.”
“I was aware of that!” She snapped irritably.
“I’m sorry Barbara,” the Doctor patted the woman gently on the arm, “but you know what I mean. An experience like that can change a life. I’ve known people who have returned from the brink of death completely changed, sometimes for the good, sometimes not so.” He sighed. “We should be glad that Ian is just feeling a little subdued, it could have been much worse.”
“Yes, I know.” Barbara sighed too. “I just don’t like to see him like this.”
“I know, my dear.” The Doctor steered her slowly forwards, towards the others he could see gathering.
He had seen many relationships grow, on many planets and in many times during his travels, and he wondered how long it would take for his two companions to realise the depth to which their own friendship had developed.
“We must give him time to sort through his own feelings. Then I’m sure he’ll be ready to talk to you about them.”
“You think so?”
“Barbara! Do you really doubt it?”
“No, no I suppose not.” Her face brightened a little.
She studied the stars, just beginning to reveal themselves in all their glory. So many of them. More than she’d ever seen in her life before.
“He’s been asking some very strange, very specific questions in the last few days.”
“Oh, what about?” The Time Lord’s interest was piqued.
“Egyptian mythology mostly. He’s never been all that interested before. I know he just tolerates me talking about it all the time since we’ve been here.”
“I’m sure that’s not true.”
Barbara waved away his platitudes. “When I pressed him about it just now, he started telling me that something happened when he was unconscious.”
“Something?” The Doctor stopped, staring, bright eyed, into the woman’s face. “Like what?”
“Well, I don’t know, that’s when you came in and then he just shut me out again,” she replied, sharper than she had intended - frustration colouring her tone.
“Well, I’m sure it’s nothing to be worried about. The human mind is a wonderful piece of machinery. It doesn’t stop until the last possible moment.” He started walking again, holding onto her arm so she was forced forwards with him. “Yes it grabs onto any shred of information to keep itself going. People have reported seeing and hearing all kinds of things.”
“I know. This just seems different.”
“Oh no, I wouldn’t think so.” White hair stirred, as head was shaken. “Still,” he lifted a hand to place the index finger on his lower lip, “I think we should keep a close eye on our friend tomorrow when that tomb is opened.”
“Why?” Barbara was completely mystified by the Doctor’s words. “Doctor?”
“Ah, it looks like we’re the last to arrive my dear,” he stated, as if completely forgetting the previous conversation. “Hurry and find a seat, we can’t keep them waiting any longer.”
With a deep sigh and a wish that just once she could understand the Time Lord, Barbara sat in the sand, legs curled to one side of her body.
The camp was up early the next day. Not only was this day for ‘the archaeological find of the decade, possibly the century’ as Geoff had put it last night, but apparently the police and coroner would be returning with news of the body. They didn’t want to broadcast what they had found over the radio, they insisted on coming out to the camp. It all sounded a bit dubious.
Ian was just slipping into his shirt when Barbara entered the tent carrying his breakfast.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Because modesty forbids me from going out naked,” he said, tucking the newly fasten shirt into light fawn trousers.
Barbara tutted. “What are you doing out of bed? Again,” she added after a brief pause.
“I’m going down to the dig.”
“Has Doctor Patrick said it would be alright?”
He studied the contents of the tray before replying. “I didn’t ask.”
Barbara was just about to leave the tent in search of the medic, when Ian caught her arm.
“I just want to go down and see what they’ve found. Please.”
He tried his best ‘cow eyes’, and despite her better judgement she felt it working. “Alright, but I’m staying with you. I want to make sure you behave yourself.”
“But of course.” His face was split by a smile.
“Why are you so keen?” she questioned, watching as he slipped on some light canvas shoes.
“Look, I know I’ve not been around for most of the digging.” Ian explained, sipping his breakfast juice, “but I was here when all this started.” He made his way over to the tent flap. “Besides, I want to see what the tomb looks like now it’s finished.”
“What do you mean ‘now it’s finished’?” Barbara frowned.
“The digging, of course.” The pause had been just long enough for the woman to pick up on. With the frown set in place, she followed him out of the tent.
The students were working down what was a very substantial hole, the front of the tomb already visible. It wasn’t very glamorous looking but it was impressive. Large stones shaped precisely, all the more impressive when you realised that everything had been made without the aid of modern machines.
“Professor,” Jenny, one of the older students called, pointing to a small conical piece of pottery that had just been uncovered.
Geoffrey bounded over, taking the newly recovered artefact from the ground, carefully noting where it had come from.
“It’s a funerary cone isn’t it?” Barbara asked, stepping carefully down into the hole, checking to make sure that Ian was down safely.
“That’s right,” the professor said, turning the item round in his hands.
“What’s that?” Ian asked, as Geoff passed the item back to the school teachers, while he began rooting around the tombs facing.
“It’s like a head stone,” Barbara explained. “It would be left in front of the tomb, or sometimes there was hole over the entrance and this,” she hefted the pottery before passing it to Ian for closer inspection, “would be placed inside. It’s to let people know who’s in there, what they did and, in some cases, who they’re related to.”
Chesterton was always nervous about handling things of any antiquity. It would be just his luck for something that had survived floods, fires and hurricanes, to suddenly find itself in a thousand bits at his feet. He couldn’t resist, however, touching something that to him, just a few days ago hadn’t even been made, but that was now thousands of years old. He had discovered early on in his travels that if you thought about it too much it made your head spin.
“How old would you say it was Geoff?” Barbara was asking, still studying the object now in Ian’s hands.
“Oh, about five and a half thousand years, I’d say. Looking at the style, and from what we know of the surrounding area, it won’t be much younger than that. Ah!” The exclamation came as his fingers disappeared into a small hole in the wall in front of them. It was just above head height and was large enough for him to fit three fingers in.
“This,” he started, carefully taking the cone from Chesterton’s hands, “would have fitted here.”
He carefully slipped it into place, the thin end of the cone slipping easily into the hole. The fatter, flat end looked out at them.
“Can I have a brush please, Jenny?”
The required tool was handed up and all in the trench looked as Geoff lightly brushed at the exposed end of the stone.
Slowly, like melting snow, the dust was swept away and small perfectly executed hieroglyphs were revealed.
“Can you read it?” Ian asked, not so much excited as anxious, he didn’t know why. The priestess would be dead by now, whether by fair means or foul.
Geoff slipped the cone back out. There were a few anxious moments as it looked as though the stone had become wedged, there were a few nervous laughs as it came free so quickly it was nearly dropped.
“Well, let’s see.”
The professor removed his glasses from their case and placed them on the bridge of his nose, from where they started a slow descent, to be pushed back up, moments before they could fall.
“Well roughly speaking,” he started, after a moments muttering, “Scribe and master magician Sham, favoured of the gods, lord of the people, defeater of evil.”
Barbara turned to look at Ian, who just stood staring ahead, the sun glinting off suddenly pale skin.
“Are you okay?” Jenny asked, noticing the pale man, his hands shaking, a look of shock on his face.
“I think he needs to rest,” Barbara stated quickly, taking hold of one of his hands. “Could you help me please?”
“Is he okay?” Geoff asked, as he watched the school teacher being pulled from the trench.
“He’ll be fine, he just needs to sit down,” Barbara explained, leading the man to the eating area.
Geoff watched them go, and then turned back to the work at hand. He placed the funeral cone back where it had been found. “Right, let’s get this section cleaned up, recorded then we move on to......” a pause for drama, “.......the tomb.” He affected his best hammer horror laugh, and was under whelmed by the response. “Please yourselves,” he muttered, climbing back out.
He had spotted a cloud of dust heading across the desert, straight for them. Their visitors would be arriving sooner rather than later, he felt.
Ian drunk thirstily from the bottle of chilled water. He hadn’t spoken since the hieroglyphs had been translated, and apart from the occasional ‘watch that rock’, ‘sit here’ kind of thing, Barbara too had been silent.
She had decided to save questions until they were both settled and now she found herself watching the Doctor in the distance pottering around the finds table, occasionally picking something up to study closer then returning it to its previous position. She frowned. She could have sworn he had just put something in his pocket. She sighed. She was probably wrong, her mind was elsewhere.
As soon as Ian took the bottle from his lips and had swallowed his last mouthful, the inquisition started.
“So, a scribe called Sham?”
Ian wasn’t sure what he was being asked, so he remained silent. It didn’t go down well.
“Ian, are you going to tell me how you knew?”
The school teacher couldn’t come up with a good story, and any way, he reasoned, talking about it might help. The pause had been just a bit too long for Barbara though.
“Ian? Have you suddenly become some kind of psychic?”
“No,” he stated quietly.
“Then how did you know that was his tomb?”
“I didn’t know that was his tomb,” he explained, looking down at his hands, still wet from the condensation on the bottle. “I thought it belonged to a priestess called Sennu. That’s who it was built for.” He looked into her face, and saw only worry there, a need to understand. He sighed, how was he going to explain this without sounding mad. “I met them.”
Well, now he had started, he supposed he should just plough straight on. “Remember last night, when I started telling you about something happening to me while I was unconscious?” He was encouraged by her nod. “Don’t ask me how, but I woke up in that temple.” He indicated the ruined building opposite them. “It was complete and the tomb was being built.”
“Sennu and Sham?”
“They were the people I met in the temple.”
“A priestess and a scribe.” Not so long ago Barbara would have laughed at such a suggestion, put it down to hysteria. Three things convinced her otherwise - the name on the tomb, the fact that she had now seen and heard of stranger things and lastly and most important - it was Ian.
Neither of the teachers saw the Time Lord standing a little distance away listening to the rest of Ian’s story.
Geoff had been right, the police and coroner had arrived early. They didn’t look happy as he greeted them, and they refused to comment on the case until they could speak to everyone at once. He invited them into his tent, offering food and water while he gathered the troops.
“And that’s when I woke up back here,” Ian finished.
“That’s fantastic!” Barbara exclaimed.
“You believe me?” He tried to keep the anxiety out of his voice.
She laid a hand on his cheek. “Of course I do.”
He smiled with a sigh. “Good, now I just need someone to explain how.”
“Ah, Doctor there you are.” The voice from behind span them about. Hurrying away from them, stumbling in his haste was the Time Lord. He was intercepted by the robust archaeologist. “We need everyone in one place. The police are back, they want to talk to us all.” Geoff steered the elderly man over to the gathering students, then went in search of more lost sheep.
“Oh, my dear young people, you gave me quite a turn, I didn’t expect to see you there.” The Doctor called to Ian and Barbara, as if he was surprised to see them.
“Doctor, were you listening in just now?” Barbara demanded.
The white haired man pulled himself up to his full height. “Excuse me young woman, I have perfect manners.” He ignored Ian’s slightly choked laugh. “I do not listen to others conversations unless invited to do so.”
He acted being offended so well, that Barbara felt her anger disappearing.
“Of course not Doctor,” she replied with an indulgent smile.
It took another half an hour before the last person was retrieved from the outskirts of the site. Once everyone was seated and quiet, Geoff, ever the showman, introduced the local police inspector - Iffram, and the coroner - Doctor Hamil.
Iffram was the first to speak.
“We have returned,” he started in heavily accented English, “because we wish to tell you the results we have from the body found outside Miss Wright’s tent.” He nodded at the woman in question, noting the young man sitting next to her place a protective arm around her. “Then, we have a few more questions that need answering, possibly in town for one or two of you.”
This started a speculative murmur going about the gathered people. He allowed it to continue for a few minutes while he watched the faces about him. Watching, he was always watching.
“Now, I am going to leave the technicalities about the body to Doctor Hamil.”
He stepped aside to allow a small, balding, olive skinned man to occupy centre stage.
“Well the state of the body offered quite a few challenges, as I’m sure you can appreciate,” the coroner started, a very English twang to his accent; the result of a British education, no doubt, Ian found himself concluding.
“We were, however, able to ascertain a number of things; the body was that of a female, late twenties, early thirties. Traces of her last meal were still evident in her stomach.” He watched as several people screwed up noses and a muttered ‘yelch!’ went around the collection of students and teachers. It was perverse he knew, but he loved the reaction of ‘civilians’ when he started talking about stomach contents. “Seems to have been a crude meal of beef and rough bread.”
Barbara felt Ian tense beside her.
“Cause of death seems to be a snake bite; two small puncture wounds were just discernible on the left calf. Unfortunately identification of the victim is going to be virtually impossible.” He paused, glancing across to the inspector, who barely nodded, never taking his eyes from the crowd. “As I said, medical science can achieve wonders now, but even we are finding it hard to identify a woman who died five and a half thousand years ago.”
The previous silence was broken by uproar, the sound of many questions, all being asked at once. Interestingly enough, the inspector noted, only two people were still; Miss Wright and her young man. They sat staring at each other, their expressions stunned.
Back to index
Chapter 4: Four
Ian and Barbara were taken to the inspector so quietly that no one noticed they’d gone. No one but the Doctor.
“Perhaps you would like to tell me how a five thousand year old body could turn up outside Miss Wright’s tent in 1999?” The Time Lord listen outside the tent as the inspector talked.
“We don’t have any idea.” Barbara’s voice.
“Look, what are you implying?”
“He’s implying,” the Doctor said, walking in, “that you managed to set all this up some how.”
“Wasting police time is a criminal offence sir,” the inspector stated, “even in this country.”
“Now just a minute!”
“I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous!” The protests came from the teachers simultaneously.
“Would you like to explain to me...... er... to myself and my
young friends,” the Doctor started, waving his stick around, narrowly missing people, “exactly how they achieved this so called fraud.” He stopped ranting as soon as he was in front of the inspector, who remained silent. “I mean, it isn’t easy is it?” The Time Lord took up where he left off. “Finding a five thousand year old body? Not the kind of thing you get mail order, is it?”
Silence descended again.
“We are in the middle of an ancient site sir,” the inspector pointed out with untold patience, “with tombs and temples.”
“Oh I see, so you are suggesting that my friends are looters as well as fraudsters.” This time the police man was not given the opportunity to speak. “Well I can assure you young man, that no bodies have been uncovered on this site other than the one outside Miss Wright’s tent. Unless, of course, you are suggesting that the body came from the tomb we’ve just uncovered. In which case, I would like to know how you explain my two companions ability to dig through nine feet of sand in a matter of hours without being noticed. Not to mention that the tomb is obviously still sealed.”
Ian always admired the Doctor’s ‘diplomatic’ skill. He found it amusing but reassuring when his friend launched into his self appointed legal representative routine. He always won as well, a regular Perry Mason.
A soft mew distracted his attention from the battle of wits, and he allowed his eyes to focus on the patch of sand behind the two arguing men. There, walking slowly across his field of vision, right to left, was a cat. Not just any cat, but the temple cat, the temple cat from five thousand years ago. He glanced across to Barbara, whose full attention was still fixed on the debate.
He gripped her hand. When he had her attention he nodded his head in the cat’s direction. She just frowned and shook her head. ‘What am I supposed to be looking at?’ her expression asked.
Ian looked back, the cat had disappeared. He felt light headed, dizzy; the floor seemed to be rushing up to meet him. He grabbed wildly at his companion and was reassured to feel her arm slip about his waist, the other hand taking his arm and guiding him to a seat.
“Look inspector,” she stated angrily, “I’m sure you think you have cause for this particularly stupid little theory of yours, but Ian is still ill and I think you and the Doctor should argue it out somewhere else.”
There was stunned silence for a few moments then a mumbled apology from the Doctor. The inspector was less gracious but did at least leave the tent.
“Barbara did you see it?” Ian asked, once the others had left.
“There was a cat walking behind the inspector.”
“I think you should lie down, you’ve been doing too much.”
“I am not imaging things!” he snapped.
Barbara sighed. She had become so used to treating him like a pupil over the last couple of days, that she had forgotten how to treat him like an adult.
“I’m sorry.” The anger finally left his eyes. “No, I didn’t see anything.”
“It was there, it looked across at us.”
“What did?” The Doctor’s voice came from the tent flap.
Barbara climbed to her feet. “Where’s the inspector?”
“I managed to convince him that his little idea was not very practical.” The elderly man allowed the canvas to close behind him. “I think he’s in a snit.”
The teachers couldn’t help the smiles crossing their faces.
“So,” the Doctor crossed over to the chair, "how are you feeling my dear Chesterton?”
“Better, thanks.” He would have got to his feet if Barbara’s hand hadn’t been firmly planted on his shoulder, pushing him down.
“Good, now what did you see?”
Ian glanced up at Barbara who nodded her encouragement.
“Ah!” The Doctor caught hold of his lapels and nodded sagely. “I see.”
The school teachers exchanged puzzled looks, yet another cryptic reply.
“I thought it was just a stray.”
Ian jumped to his feet despite his friend’s best attempts. “You saw it?”
“Well, yes, of course.” The tone suggested it was the most obvious thing in the world to see in the middle of the Egyptian desert.
“It was the same animal that I saw when I was unconscious.”
Another nod. “I think you should listen to Barbara, you need some rest.”
Ian sighed deeply. “Doctor, I am not imagining this.”
The Time Lord placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. “My dear boy, I wasn’t suggesting anything of the sort, but it still doesn’t stop Barbara from being right.”
With a small laugh and a reluctant nod, Ian offered his elbow to the slightly smug woman. She took it and escorted him from the Doctor’s presence; the Time Lord’s gentle giggling ringing in their ears.
What they missed as they made their way across the sand was the sight of the Doctor skittering towards the temple, towards the TARDIS. As the Doctor disappeared inside the ruined building, a small, grey, furry figure appeared around the corner. It stood for a while, studying the darkness beyond the rays of the sunlight. It was watching the Time Lord’s ship. Satisfied with what it saw, it turned its attention to the two figures walking across the desert towards a canvas structure. With a large expressive yawn, it settled down to a detailed wash of its face, one paw reached up to brush behind its ear. A storm was coming.
Ian dreamt that night; a confused dream of tombs built and buried, of Sennu ageing rapidly in the sand, but above it all was the maniacal laugh of Sham. The whole plateau of events being watched over by a silent Time Lord, resting on a cane, free hand grasping lapel.
It was not until first light that the shadow Doctor turned his back on the dreams. The images faded and slowly Ian’s eyes slid open, to stare straight into the benevolent face of the real Doctor. Such was the shock that, with a grunt of surprise, the young man shot straight up, sitting upright so abruptly that his head collided loudly with that of the elder man. Both rubbed at sore spots on their foreheads and regarded each other levelly.
“I’m sorry Doctor,” Ian started ruefully.
“My dear boy, what did you want to do that for?” The Doctor creaked his way into an upright position. “Could have given me a heart attack jumping up like that. As it is, you very nearly cracked my skull open.”
“It was just a bit of a shock, seeing you that close when I woke up,” Ian explained, running a hand through his hair. He was sure he could already feel a bump developing. “What did you want anyway?”
A blank look spread over the Time Lord’s face. “Yes, now what did I want, hmmmm? Quite put it out of my mind, all this. Oh dear me, what was it?”
Ian sighed and got out of bed. He’d learned long ago that it was useless trying to interrupt the elder man’s little theatrics. Much better to let him witter on until he’d run out of hyperbole.
“Ah, yes,” the Doctor finally announced, shaking a finger in the air. “I did some checking in the ship last night and there is some thing very odd happening here.”
“Like what?” Ian’s voice was muffled by the towel he was using to dry off his face.
“There appears to be some kind of time phase.” As if that explained it all.
“Yes, well that makes it crystal clear of course.”
“People and events from five thousand years ago are starting to bleed into the present for some reason.”
The towel was lowered. “So the cat I saw last night was the one I met in the temple.”
“It could very well have been. By the same token that body could have been that of your acquaintance Sennu.”
Ian’s face saddened at the thought. “But how?”
“Somehow, something you did, or didn’t do back then has upset the balance. Time is trying to correct the interference. Things will just get worse until eventually the phase will eliminate itself along with everything in this immediate area.”
“Well come on, what’s stopping you?” The school teacher threw down the towel and headed for the way out. “Let’s get to the ship and get back there. We can sort out what I should or shouldn’t have done when we get there.”
“No, no my boy.” The Doctor signalled for the school teacher to stop, and then idly picked at his bottom lip. “Erm... we can’t use the ship.... no, not at all.”
“What? Why? What’s wrong with it?” Nothing permanent he hoped.
“Well, er...” The Time Lord turned his back on his companion. “We have no definite date to go back to, no way to programme the flight computer.” His expression said that he thought that was a wonderful idea. “Yes, yes that’s it.” He turned back.
“Well, how do I get back?”
“It’ll have to be the same way you went before.”
“Doctor,” Ian started, stepping towards the old man, raising a finger to emphasise his point, “if you think that I’m going to go out looking for a snake just so....”
The Time Lord waved the suggestion away. “Oh don’t be so ridiculous. We’ll have to try something else, hypnosis or something. Oh and one more thing, I want Barbara to go with you.”
“Because if the reason this is happening has something to do with mythology then who is more likely to know? You or Miss Wright?”
The young man thought about it, it made sense, but he didn’t have to like it. “Alright, but you explain it to her.”
“Of course,” the Doctor agreed waving Ian out of the tent.
“So we go back and change whatever Ian did or didn’t do?” Barbara recapped.
“That’s right,” the Doctor nodded.
“But we can’t use the TARDIS?”
Both Ian and the Doctor shook their heads.
“Okay.” The expression on her face told a story of trying to assimilate all the new information. “I have just a few questions, if I may.”
“Just a few?” Ian said, rather louder than he’d intended.
The Time Lord glanced up at him, eyebrows raised in a reproving stare.
The school teacher squirmed, uncomfortably. “Sorry.”
“Now my dear, if young Ian has quite finished, ask your questions?”
“Firstly how do we get back?”
“Hopefully, Doctor Patrick will be able to help us there.”
“So it’s going to have be drug induced?”
The white hair shifted along with the nod. “Partly, at least.”
“Just a minute,” Ian interrupted, “you told me this morning that hypnosis would work. I’m not sure I like the idea of us being pumped full of drugs.”
“Yes Doctor, would that really be necessary?” Barbara sounded concerned.
Ian was treated to another scathing look. The Time Lord knew he should have spoken to Barbara alone. Ian was a nice enough person, but the poor boy did worry so.
“I said, young man, hypnosis or something, when I spoke to you. Those were my exact words.” He paused a moment to ensure that the school master had been nicely quelled. “Now, it seems obvious to me that perhaps hypnosis alone is not going to be enough. You must remember that you were in a coma when you went back, perhaps that’s the state you’ll need to reach again if we are to succeed, and as good as my hypnotism is, I don’t think even I can get you that far without chemical intervention.”
Ian just managed to bite his tongue before mentioning that there had been times in the past, when just listening to the elderly man had put him into a near coma like state.
“So, if there are no further questions........”
“Actually, I have a few more.” Barbara stopped the Doctor who had turned to leave.
With his back to her she didn’t see his eyes roll upwards or see him take trouble to reinstate the friendly smile on his features. Earthlings!
“Of course,” he said, not a trace of frustration showing in his voice or face as he turned back towards her.
“How do we know when we will arrive?”
“From what Ian was saying the other night, once back in that period, time seems to run at the same speed as here, so hopefully just a few days will have elapsed. You should arrive before any real damage is done.”
“Hopefully.” A muttered remark floated in from the side.
The Doctor merely raised an eyebrow and made a show of concentrating, ready for Barbara’s next question.
“Yes I understand that, but I actually meant, how do we know we’ll go back to the same period that Ian went to before and not something much earlier or later?”
Damn! He’d hoped that they wouldn’t think of that one. Out came the big bluffing guns. “Obviously, Chesterton is tied into this period somehow. Everything that has happened has been linked to a time five thousand years ago. So providing you go together you should both end up in the right place at the right time.”
A moment, as the two thought about this, then Barbara nodded. “You are sure that Ian’s up to this aren’t you.” She chose to ignore the exasperated sigh coming from Chesterton.
“He’ll be alright. Anyway, you’re there to keep an eye on him.”
“True. Well alright, I’m willing to try.”
Ian nodded. “Okay, let’s go.”
“Very well,” the Doctor held the tent flap open, “let us go and see Doctor Patrick,” he watched as his companions started for the physician’s tent. “And with a bit of luck, all this will actually work!” he muttered before following them.
Doctor Patrick studied the people in front of him, before breaking into hearty laughter. The three travellers looked at each other, their expressions grim. They were used to being regarded as somewhat eccentric. They had discussed whether or not to tell the medic the truth, and it had been decided to try. They needed all the help they could get.
Patrick wiped at his eyes, coughing wildly as the strain of the laughter began to show.
“You know,” he gasped, swallowing deeply, “you should take this act on the road, it’s good.”
The Doctor huffed. “This is not an act.” Some movement out across the site caught his eye. “Doctor Patrick, come here a moment would you.” The old man waved his stick at the young man. “There’s something I think you should see.”
Still shaking his head and chuckling, the medic rose to his feet and came to stand next to the time traveller. His laughter stopped immediately and his Adam’s apple did a dance of shock.
Opposite the abode, the ruined temple was surrounded by a slight shimmer, like a heat haze rising from a tarmac road. Within the distortion the building itself appeared to be moving, blocks appearing and disappearing at random. Sometimes the entire structure would be reduced to so much rubble, shortly after it would be complete; clear cut as the day it was built.
“What’s happening?” The medic stuttered, taking an unsteady pace away from the vision.
“That’s time,” the Doctor explained. “Time is trying to work out what it was that Chesterton interfered with. That effect will grow steadily worse, spread further a field. If the problem isn’t rectified, it could level this whole site and everyone in it.”
“This is why you want the drug?”
The medical man turned wide eyes on the three companions. “I can’t help you,” he stated.
“Now just a minute....”
Patrick held up his hands. “It’s not that I don’t believe you, I’ve seen it with my own eyes,” he gestured back to the still shimmering temple, “but ethically I couldn’t, wouldn’t put two perfectly healthy patients into comas, it just isn’t done.” He sighed, placing his hands on his hips. “On a more basic level, I couldn’t even if I wanted to because I just don’t carry any drugs like that. The best I could offer would be a strong sedative.”
The Doctor leaned heavily on his cane. “Mmmm.” He thought for a moment. “Have you ever heard of a technique called directed dreaming?”
A light of realisation shone on the medic’s face. “Yes, I have. I don’t know that much about it though.”
The elderly man waved the problem away. “Oh, that’s alright I do.”
“We don’t,” Barbara pointed out, with Ian nodding his agreement.
“It’s a relatively new theory,” Patrick explained, “that says when a sleeping person enters the REM state, their dreams can be controlled either by themselves or by an outside body. There’s been some research done, but it’s a long way from being accepted by the establishment.”
“Do you think it’ll work Doctor?” Ian asked. It all sounded rather doubtful.
“Oh, there’s no doubt that the theory works. Whether or not it will take you back as we hope, is another matter.” He sighed, tugging on his lapel with one hand. “But since we have no other option, we will have to try.”
“Wing and a prey, ah Doctor?”
“Quite right my boy.”
Ian opened his eyes. Relief and a little anxiety washed through him as the sight of a perfect blue be starred ceiling greeted his eyes. Well, at least they were back in a period when the temple was whole. Only time would tell if they were back in the right period.
He reached out his hand, surprised and a little worried to not find Barbara’s hand in his own. It had been agreed that they should hold hands as they went under, to give them a better chance of reaching their destination together, at least that was the Doctor’s theory.
“Barbara!” he called, climbing to his feet. “Barbara, where are you?” It was then that he noticed a pair of legs, poking out horizontally from behind a pillar. He hurried over to his unconscious friend.
“Barbara,” he shook her shoulder gently, “Barbara!”
Slowly the woman’s eyes cracked open, and he breathed a sigh of relief.
“Are you alright?” He asked, helping her to a sitting position.
She brushed at her hair, taking in the perfect state of preservation the building was in. “Yes, I think so,” she answered, distractedly. “Did we make it?”
“Well, this is certainly a long time before we arrived on the scene,” he paused, “ in our time,” another pause, “in the future,” a sigh. “Oh you know what I mean.”
With an understanding smile, Barbara struggled to her feet, clinging onto Ian until the slight vertigo she felt had passed.
“Alright?” he asked, studying her face.
“Yes, just felt a bit giddy.”
“I know, I thought it was the snake bite last time.”
“Right, where do we start?”
“We need to find out if we’re in the right period or not.”
“On time you mean?” Barbara watched as his face crumbled into a grimace. “Sorry,” she shrugged.
With a double take in her direction, Ian shook his head. “If we get outside and take a look at the state of the tomb, we should be able to make a guess.”
With a nod she followed him across the dun coloured floor.
They didn’t get very far before the temple doors were flung open and a figure appeared, haloed by the sunlight.
“Why are you back?” The voice was that of Sham.
“The situation was unfinished,” Ian answered coldly.
“I thought it finished rather well.” The figure stepped further into the hall. “Who is that with you?”
Barbara moved from behind Ian’s protective shoulder.
“My name is Barbara.”
“Ah!” The door was closed and Barbara was astounded by the resemblance this stranger bore to the Doctor.
“The lady you spoke of in your dreams.” He moved forward to grip her chin in his hand. The school master was instantly at her side. “I see now why you were confused on waking. Indeed a woman worthy of dreams; Sennu reborn.”
“Reborn?” Ian snapped, as he removed the scribe’s hand from Barbara’s face.
“She still lives,” Sham stated, still staring at the woman, watching as she looked defiantly back. “She will be glad that you have returned.” He blinked as Ian interposed himself between the scribe and Barbara. “She will not be happy that you brought a companion.” The old man smiled, amusement lighting his eyes. “Particularly this one.” With a small giggle he moved away to study a nearby statue.
“So, you believe you know my cause sir?” the scribe asked, his back still turned to his audience.
“I know that you are emptying the tombs of their treasure and storing it for yourself, against Sennu’s orders. I know that you are looking for the book of Thoth.” Ian tried not to let the man’s casual indifference to his accusations annoy him, but it was difficult. “I also know that you plan to kill Sennu.”
At last a reaction. The scribe span about, fire in his eyes. He glared at the two teachers, before calming himself, his expression becoming less threatening.
“What makes you think that?”
“I overheard you talking to the boy by the tomb.”
“Ah!” The old man nodded, picking at his bottom lip. “I see, so you’ve taken little snippets of a conversation, put them all together and come up with a nice neat little theory.” He giggled again. “Pity you’ve got it all wrong really.”
“What!?” Ian bellowed. He had the feeling he was being toyed with and he didn’t like it.
“Typical! Absolutely typical!”
Any protests were cut short by the opening of the temple doors.
Ian heard a gasp from behind him. Barbara, like the rest of them, had just noticed Sennu. Understandably shocked she could only stand and stare.
The priestess, to her credit, only paused slightly in her forward movement, stopping before Ian.
“My lord, you have returned,” she stated, slight confusion evident in her tone. She turned her attention to her mirror image. “You are Barbara?” It was almost a statement.
A raised eyebrow and a tilted head was all the reaction forth coming before she turned to Sham.
“How do you account for not only his survival, but also his reappearance if he is, as you say, a servant of Apophis?”
“I may have to reconsider that opinion, my lady. Perhaps if I could have a few minutes alone with these people?”
“Indeed.” She gestured the three of them towards the temple doors.
Ian didn’t know quite how to take that. It was a relief that the fawning had stopped, but he felt rather put out, being dismissed like that. He mentally shook himself, told himself not to be so childish, but even so!
Sham indicated the two teachers should follow him out. Eyeing his outline in the open doorway, Ian eventually nodded, making sure he exited before Barbara.
The priestess pondered the closing door. She was not used to feeling so confused; her life was order, a strict regime organising her days, but since the strange young man had appeared a week ago nothing had gone as planned.
First she had thought him a servant of the divine lord, then that he was an agent of chaos; he had been destroyed but was soon back.
She had acted on his words about the tombs; she had gone to one of the sites that was due to be opened, challenged the people she had found clearing the treasures, demanded to know who had given them orders. They had made no reply and she had stormed away to fetch the medjay. On returning, all they had found was an empty tomb and five dead bodies. Whoever was in charge had a very tidy mind.
Returning to the temple she had given orders that all tomb searches be stopped, but she doubted the instructions would be followed anymore than the earlier ones had.
With a sigh, she lent down and picked up the cat that had appeared, rubbing itself around her legs, mewing and trilling gently. Scratching the furry chin distractedly, she shook her head and moved towards the alter.
Outside, diplomatic relations were being forged between the two teachers and Sham.
The two men had agreed to lay aside what had gone before, and Barbara was there to smooth the waters when those relations got a little choppy. Sham was presently trying to explain why what Ian had heard him say didn’t mean what Ian thought it did.
“But I heard the boy say the treasures had been put in your personal vaults,” Ian was saying.
“That’s where they are stored, but not for my use. I received orders some months ago to proceed in the way that I am.”
“Why do it if you’re not to receive a share?”
“To save Sennu’s life!” The answer was snapped out, the old man’s expression stating that it should have been obvious.
It had been a good reply, knocking Ian off balance, making him unsure what he now thought of the man. “What do you mean?”
“I received a message some months ago, as I have said,” Sham replied on a sigh. “It detailed what I would do, how I would do it and what would happen to the priestess if I didn’t.”
“Do you know who sent you this message?” Barbara asked, once again calming the situation.
“No. One of my hopes in this is to find the identity of my tormentor.”
“Why you?” Ian asked, still trying to decide weather or not to trust this man. “Why contact you?”
“Sennu’s plan to recover the sacred stone is not as much a secret as she would like to think. Many priests and lower dignitaries know of it. Some approve, many just find it amusing. Whoever this person is, obviously thought it would be the perfect way to hide their criminal activity.” The scribe moved forward, pushing his face close to Ian’s, his eyes blazing. “As long as Sennu was ignorant of the real situation she was safe, but now you have jeopardised all by planting the seed of doubt in her mind,” he finished viscously.
This shook Ian, more than he would like to admit. His mind replayed the sight of the mummified corpse outside Barbara’s tent. Could he really have been responsible for that?
“So what is your plan?” the woman asked.
“To do exactly as I have been told.” Sham glanced briefly over his shoulder, before returning his gaze to the school master.
“What?!” The school master was scandalised.
“When I find the book of Thoth, I intend to give it the person behind all this.”
“The book of Thoth can not be used by the unworthy.” Barbara nodded as she suddenly realised the simplicity of the scheme. “The book has been alleged to take care of itself, disposing of those who try to use its power for evil.”
“But if it’s just a book.....?” Ian was still confused.
“Perhaps it’s not a book as we understand it,” Sham started, excitement gleaming in his eyes. “Perhaps it possesses its own form of magic.”
“Magic doesn’t exist!” Ian replied shortly.
“It doesn’t have to; they just have to believe it does.”
“Exactly Barbara,” Sham agreed with a nod, finally stepping away from Ian. “Their own minds do the rest.”
“Mind over matter,” Barbara pointed out to a still sceptical Ian. “The same way curses work.”
“Okay,” Ian started. “So we don’t actually have to find the book, it doesn’t actually have to be the genuine article, is that what you’re saying?”
“It needs to be a book of antiquity,” Sham began. “It has to be found in a place and way that is believable and acceptable, preferable independent of me, or witnessed by others, so that news can be carried back to whoever is planning this.”
“We need to put some thought into this,” Barbara agreed. “It’s no good going back to the temple picking up a book and then saying ‘oh look we found it, it was under our noses all the time.’”
Sham nodded. “There would be no basis for belief, and that’s what we need if the plan is to work.”
“That’s why you’ve been searching the tombs, to make sure you send the right message.” Ian finally got it.
The woman and the scribe exchange relieved looks, both nodding.
“So how many tombs are left in the area you’re searching?”
“No more than twenty,” Sham informed, “but that could take many months.”
“Months!” Barbara exclaimed. “We won’t be able to stay for that long.”
“No, we won’t,” Ian agreed, rubbing his chin. “What we need is inspiration.” He looked up at the sky. “Divine inspiration, if that’s possible.”
“Perhaps in a way it is,” Barbara started, flopping into the shadow of the half built tomb. She was aware of two sets of eyes turned on her, gazes intense. “Well, let’s look back at the myth of the book.”
“It states it is to be found in a tomb.” Sham took up residence on a block of stone that was waiting to be added to the structure.
“In Memphis, as I recall.” Sham nodded his agreement. “We also have three main locations for Thoth’s worship,” the woman continued, searching her memory for almost forgotten facts. “The city of Hermopolis Magna - that is Khmun at the moment I believe.” Another nod from the scribe. “There’s a temple at the Dakhla oasis and at Tell Baqliga in the Nile Delta.”
Ian watched the interplay between the two people. He loved to listen to people who knew their subjects, but if he was honest he would have to admit to being rather jealous of the way the foreign names tripped easily from Barbara’s lips.
“It is also said,” Sham began, “that the book was first located in a locked chest at the bottom of the Nile.”
“We’re a fair hike from the river,” Ian muttered.
“As we are from most of these locations,” the elderly man pointed out.
“So we have a lot of options,” Ian said finally. “Where do we start?”
Silence descended over the group, becoming more oppressive as the sun reached noon and the temperature began to soar.
The old man wandered off muttering something about needing to consult his records, heading not for the temple as one would expect, but towards the oasis a few hundred yards away.
Ian, leaning casually up a chuck of limestone, frowned as he watched the old man disappear behind a palm tree. He hadn’t thought there were any structures in that direction.
“Barbara....” he muttered half heartedly.
The school teacher was looking intently at the temple doors, she too was frowning. “Do you think Sennu would have any ideas?”
“Probably not. Remember, she doesn’t know what Sham is up too.”
“Don’t you think she should?”
“Not if it puts her life in danger, no!” The heat was making him belligerent.
“Sham said she was already suspicious, it will probably be safer if she knew everything. At least that way she could be cautious. At the moment she’s just blundering around in the dark.” Barbara watched as Ian sunk to the ground, now protected by the shadows, he laid his head against the rock. “I think we should tell her.”
“Isn’t that up the Sham?”
“He wouldn’t say anything and you know that.” Barbara rose to her feet and started for the temple.
Ian watched as she turned to face him.
“If it was me, I would want to know.”
With a heartfelt sigh he gained his feet, rubbing the sand from his trousers. “Come on then!”
The Doctor looked up from his study of his two sleeping friends. He glanced across to Doctor Patrick who nodded and winked; they were fine. The Time Lord took one more look at the two school teachers, their hands still linked, their expressions still calm. Reassured, he walked over to the tent flap opening it and looking out.
The temple was in a fairly stable state at the moment; it was as if ‘time’ knew that they were trying to rectify the situation. The blocks no longer appeared and disappeared, although there was still a slight glow about the structure, and the humans carried on with their day, either deliberately ignoring it or just not noticing. Earthlings!
When his granddaughter had suggested a visit - her first, his first in a very long time, he had been reluctant. From what he remembered of the species it really hadn’t impressed him. Gradually though, he had come to tolerate them, then over the course of many more visits, including, of course, the one where the two travellers had become stranded in 1963 London (due to several major faults), he had grown to respect them. ‘Noble savages’, was the best description of them he had thought.
Then these two particular humans had stumbled into his ship. At first he was annoyed that his true nature was in danger of being revealed at such a time of paranoia, and as he saw it, he had no option but to leave, taking them with him. Now over the course of many adventures, respect had been joined by a genuine liking. He now feared that humans were about to become his favourite of species. Despite their many faults, and there were many, they kept trying no matter what tried to stop them.
He knew that at the beginning of his recent journeys he would never have trusted anyone, let alone a human, to look after his granddaughter then just a few short months ago, he encouraged - forced, he admitted - Susan to stay on Earth with a human male. David would look after her he knew, he loved her. His brow furrowed as feelings of guilt, remorse and loneliness flooded through him. He cared about his companions deeply, not that he would ever admit it to them of course, but still it wasn’t the same as sharing discoveries with a person of the same background, same home. It wasn’t the same as family, possibly the only family he had left.
With a tut and annoyed sigh he turned away from his sightless gaze across the desert, back towards the interior, back towards the present crisis.
Sennu stood aghast, shock covering her face. “You mean this whole search has been a fraud?”
“No, the search has been real, the motive behind it has been hijacked,” Ian explained. He still wasn’t sure this was a good idea.
“Taken over, removed from your control,” Barbara explained.
“I have stopped the search.”
“No, you mustn’t! Whoever is doing this must think you still know nothing about his plans,” Ian stated.
“I have already stopped the digging,” Sennu repeated.
“You need to give orders to get it started again, as soon as possible,” Barbara put in urgently. “If we’re lucky who ever is controlling this won’t have heard anything yet.”
“Sham can give the order,” Sennu stated, pouting slightly. “I will not have my ideals..... hijacked.” She repeated the word carefully.
“Not even to save your own life?” Ian asked.
“My life is pledged to the gods. If I were to meet Osiris now, then that would be my fate.”
“Sennu,” Ian began in frustration.
Seeing the expression on the priestess’s face he knew that any protests would be useless.
“I will be aware of danger, and will not walk into it purposefully, but I can not let this interfere with my work.” With a last firm nod she strode over to the alter.
Ian and Barbara watched her back as she performed her duties.
“We can’t force her into hiding, Ian.”
“No, I know. We’ll just have make sure we look after her.”
Both turned at the sound of the temple door opening. Sham approached them, barely contained excitement in each step, a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
“Well, I suppose we’d better let Sham know we told Sennu about his plan.” Ian’s tone suggested that he hoped Barbara would tell him not to bother.
“Yes, we had.”
Ian’s face dropped. “Ah!”
Before either could get a word out, the scribe walked past them.
“Sham...we need to tell...” Ian started.
“Yes, yes later.”
Ian tried to hide his relief. “Oh well, we’d better try later I suppose.”
Sennu turned on her colleague, her face displaying anger. “So you think my plan foolish, scribe.”
“My lady?” The man was obviously puzzled.
“You say you are loyal to me, yet you seek to deceive me.”
“Sennu, I...” The scribe gestured wildly, trying to understand the woman’s sudden anger.
“Don’t try to make a fool of me! These others,” she waved at Ian and Barbara, “are strangers to me but they at least have told me the truth.”
The look that the scribe shot in their direction made the school teachers squirm and step back nervously.
“My lady,” the old man tried to reason, “what I did, I did to protect you, not out of any disloyalty or lack of respect. I care deeply about your cause, I think it just, but it can not be pursued at the cost of your life.”
“My life is not important!” the woman snapped again. “The path to the Duat is not through deceit. It matters not when you go to Osiris, only how you get there.” She sighed deeply, reaching out a hand and placing it on the scribe’s shoulder. “The path must be clear, only through knowledge and enlightenment can the goal be seen. Lies and deceit lead to death, a dark and lonely place, Sham.”
“I think you should leave. You have orders to give, a tomb robber to catch. I have work to do.” With that she turned her back on him.
With a last killing glare at Ian, Sham stormed from the temple.
Ian moved forward, ready to start the debate anew, a hand on his arm stopping him. Glancing back he took in Barbara slowly shaking her head: ‘not now, later,’ her eyes told him.
With a nod he followed her from the building.
A small feline shape emerged from behind the stone altar. It looked towards the doors, watching as they were closed soundlessly, causing the torches to gutter slightly in the disturbed air. It mewed quietly, turning its attention to Sennu.
“Not now,” she muttered, not turning to acknowledge the creature. “I have much to think about.”
The cat leapt up onto the altar, settling down to lick its paws, its ear pricking noticeably as the candles flickered again. A human shadow fell over the feline form causing the creature to arch its back, ears flattened against its head, hissing loudly it looked ready to attack. A hand flicked out, knocking the animal casually from its perch. It scampered away into the darkness of a recess.
Sennu swung about, her features paling as she looked up into the face of the intruder.
“Who... who are you?” she stammered, instinctively stepping backwards.
“Oh, you would not know me, my lady.” He moved closer, until she was backed against a statue. “I am just someone who has watched you from a far. An admirer, I think you could call me. Yes, I admire your plan to bring the people back to their gods.” He smiled, a cold smile that did not reach his eyes. “It has proved very useful to me.”
“You are robbing the tombs!” The sudden realisation brought back some of her diminished courage.
“Robbing.” He seemed to mull the term over then shivered theatrically, his long braids brushing across his shoulders. “Oh no, I don’t like that term at all. I prefer to think that I’m redistributing the wealth to the living; me.” He laughed, an evil echo sounding around the hall. “The dead have no use for it.”
She placed her hands over her ears trying to blot out his voice. “I will not hear this sacrilege!”
The man grabbed at her hands pulling them away from her head, forcing them behind her back. “You will hear what I choose!” he shouted in her face.
The air outside was finally cooling as the sun continued its journey towards evening and the dangers of the underworld. Sham stood some distance from the two friends, glowering silently.
Ian and Barbara stood gazing out across the near still waters of the oasis, watching bright highlights appear and die as the sun light caught the slight breeze driven ripples on the water’s surface, then something odd caught Barbara’s eye; a solid lump of black at the edge of the water.
“Ian, what’s that?” she asked, pointing, a useless gesture she realised as he tried to follow her finger to its destination.
“At the edge of the water,” she explained moving forward, catching his hand and pulling him behind her. “It looks like a box or something.”
“Probably just a rock,” Ian exclaimed, unwilling to be galvanised into action.
“No, I swear it wasn’t there earlier.”
“It’s bit early in the scheme of things for fly tippers don’t you think?”
“Oh Ian!” Barbara snapped.
As they drew closer, Chesterton realised that she was right. It was a large box, the water melodiously lapping at its carved surface.
He bent down to pull it out; almost toppling over as it came away easier than expected, having almost no weight at all. “Any good at reading hieroglyphs?” he asked, only half joking.
“No not really,” Barbara muttered, bending to look over his shoulder, “but I do know that that,” she indicated the small figure of a crouched baboon holding a quill, “is a representation of Thoth.”
Ian looked over his shoulder, sharing an unbelieving expression with his friend.
“Couldn’t be,” he stated.
“Too much of a coincidence,” Barbara agreed.
They both looked at the casket. “No!” they said together, the shaking of their heads completely synchronised.
“Take it with us anyway,” Barbara whispered, straightening up.
Ian climbed to his feet, hoisting the box up to chest height, and then they made their way back across the sands. The scribe watched, one hand under his chin, a secret smile lightening his eyes.
The temple was cold and quiet. At first they thought it was empty, but then a movement by the altar caught their eyes. The cat was pacing about on top of the stone slab, meowing loudly. Using a bit of imagination, he could almost have been calling for help.
“Something’s wrong!” Ian called as he rushed forward, lowering the box to the floor.
Moving around the altar he saw the still form of the priestess. Pain and fear etched across her frozen face, black finger marks stood out on her neck. He jumped slightly as Barbara pushed past him, kneeling to feel for the woman’s pulse.
“She’s dead,” she stated lowly, watching the guilt cross her friend’s face. “Looks like she was strangled.”
Ian swallowed deeply.
Ian was forced aside as Sham pushed towards the altar, the scribe’s eyes widening as he took in the sight before him.
“You stupid idiot!” He rounded viscously on the school master. “I told you this would happen.
Barbara stood up moving to Ian’s side, lending moral support, hoping her closeness would help in some way.
“All my efforts wasted, because you couldn’t keep quiet! You fool!” His ire temporarily spent, the elderly man vent his frustration by pacing about the body.
“I’m sorry she’s dead,” Barbara started gently, ever the diplomat, “we both are, but there’s nothing we can do about it now.” She stared levelly as the scribe turned on her. “We need to concentrate on catching the person responsible.”
Sham nodded, reluctantly accepting the truth of her words. “Yes, you’re right.” He took one last look at the woman on the floor. “He’ll still want the book.”
“We found something.” Barbara’s voice broke the heavy silence once more. “It was at the edge of the oasis.” She dragged the box over to Sham. “We were bringing it in to show Sennu.”
The scribe knelt by the casket.
“What do you think?” she asked after a few moments.
“This does show Thoth.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“Have you opened it?” The scribe regained his feet.
“No, but I think it’s empty, it’s very light.”
“What about her?” Ian interrupted, nodding towards the priestess.
Sham returned his attention to the body, his face filled with sadness. “It would be better if, for the moment, no one knew she was dead.”
“We’ll keep the body hidden in here then, it doesn’t seem to see much traffic,” Ian stated, his voice devoid of emotion.
“It would be better, for the plan to work, if our enemy thought his attempt has been unsuccessful,” the scribe stated, looking up at Barbara.
Ian too glanced up at her, before realising what was being implied. “Now just a minute. If he thinks Sennu is still alive he could try again.”
“He probably will.”
Barbara placed a hand on his arm. “Ian it will be alright, I don’t have to go any where, I can just stay here.”
“But she died here!”
“Then you will have to look after her,” the scribe pulled himself up to his full height, staring into Ian’s face, “this time.”
“Ian!” Barbara started pulling him away from another confrontation. “Let’s wait outside, I think Sham would like sometime alone with his friend.”
With a last challenging glare, the school master allowed himself to be led from the temple.
The evening had drawn in and the air was cool, just on the comfortable side of cold.
Ian shoved his hands into his pockets, tilting his head back until he was looking directly upwards, gazing at the pole star, searching out the constellations surrounding it. He felt a hand on his arm, heard a soft voice in his ear.
“Are you alright?”
He exhaled deeply, lifting his head slowly. Ignoring the slight giddiness he felt. “Well, I’m doing well so far aren’t I?”
“Ian, it wasn’t your fault. I wanted her to know, I thought we should tell her.”
“I was the one who put the doubts in her mind to start with. That was the reason she stopped searching.”
“You weren’t to know what was going on.”
He laughed sadly. “I never seem to know what’s going on now days.”
“I know what you mean, but we get by.”
He looked at her, smiling. “I think I’d probably go mad if you weren’t with me.” He took her hand, squeezing it slightly.
“Some of us wouldn’t know the difference.”
Another laugh, happier this time. “Thank you!”
“There is some good news in all this,” Barbara started.
“What?” Ian asked, doubtfully.
“We’ve changed something. Sennu didn’t die from a snake bite.”
“Well, perhaps we should go now while we’re ahead,” Ian scoffed viciously. “Do you really think that matters?”
“Ian, at this stage we don’t know what will make a difference.”
“Sennu is still dead!”
“Yes, but her body is here, not in the future.”
Ian’s tantrum was immediately quashed by that statement. Barbara was right of course; even a small change was still a change. Acting like a spoilt child wasn’t going to help anything. Another, somewhat disturbing, thought struck him. If Sennu’s body was now here, whose body had he found in the future, a week ago? He shook his head; this was just giving him a headache.
Back to index
Chapter 5: five Doctor Patrick studied his ‘patients’. Everything seemed fine, but he couldn’t help the worry that was beginning to spread through him. The un-naturally heavy sleep the two people shared was starting to unnerve him. If he did believe what the Doctor had told him and their conscious minds were wandering around in quasi-corporeal bodies back some five thousand years, what the hell was he supposed to do to help them if something went wrong? What if, for some reason or other, he had to wake them up in a hurry and their ‘minds’ didn’t make it back? He sighed, rubbing the ball of his hand across his forehead. He should have listened to his father and become a brick layer. He blew his cheeks out and rose sharply to his feet. This was crazy, he could drive himself mad thinking about what ifs. He’d just have to react to any problems as and when he found them.
The tent opened and the Doctor came in.
“It’s been over a day,” Patrick started, “how much longer do you think?”
The old man shook his head. “Not long, maybe another day.” He came further in, studied his friends and then left, pausing only once to glance back at the bodies on the beds, muttering something under his breath.
Patrick frowned. What he thought he’d heard made no sense, it sounded like: ‘I’m beginning to remember.’
The young boy, the image of Khufu, came running out of the temple. He stopped as a male figure stepped in front of him.
“Why the haste, young one?”
“I had some news for Sham the scribe. News he had long awaited.”
“A discovery of great worth. Better than any treasure. The road to immortality.”
“Ah!” The sigh was like the first drop of rain on a long parched desert. “Was he pleased?”
The figure laughed. “Does he have this discovery with him?”
“This evening master. It journeys a long distance.”
“I see. I will keep you no longer from your duties.”
With a swift bow the young man scurried away. The figure studied the temple doors a moment before walking across the sands and disappearing behind a dune.
Ian stepped out from behind the half built tomb, now acting as a real burial place, Sennu’s body concealed below layers of slabs. Satisfied that no one was watching, he headed for the temple. The first stage of the plan was working, time to ready stage two.
Inspector Iffram watched as the white haired man left the tent and made his way across the desert towards the temple, a journey the policeman had watched him make on several occasions.
His detective’s instincts told him that something was going on; his two prime suspects in the mummified body fiasco had disappeared inside the tent, he’d not seen them now for over a day. He didn’t yet know what was going on, but whatever it was, he decided, he wouldn’t like it.
Ian paced up and down. Since this whole thing had started he must have paced for miles, he reasoned. He turned at a movement behind him. He could only stare as Barbara came out of the shadows. She now wore the gowns of the priestess. She was putting on a brave face, but the whole idea was clearly making her uncomfortable. She shrugged; this was just something that needed to be done.
“I still don’t like this,” Ian said, finding his voice again.
She removed the headdress and placed it carefully on the alter stone. “We don’t have a lot of choice.”
“I still think there should be another way.”
“Look, I don’t like dressing up in the clothes of a dead woman, but if it’s the only way to get back then it has to be done.”
Ian immediately felt very guilty, as he noticed how upset Barbara was getting.
“Barbara,” he moved forward and drew her into an embrace, “I’m sorry.”
She returned the hug. “Oh, it’s alright,” she pulled away. “I don’t mind really, as long as we get to go home.”
The moment was broken by the arrival of the scribe.
“I have sent a message; our enemy should be with us soon. Are we ready?”
The two teachers nodded, Barbara returning to mingle with the shadows. Ian leaving the temple to act as look out. Sham stood behind the alter, the box in front of him.
The detective listened outside Patrick’s quarters. The elderly man had returned a few minutes ago. All he could hear was an indistinct muttering. He needed to be inside but he knew he had no grounds to enter. He’d bide his time, something would happen soon and he’d be ready.
Barbara tensed in her hiding place as she heard the doors open. From where she stood she had a very limited view, able to see just Sham and the box, everything else was blocked. She watched as the scribe tensed, relaxing as he recognised who was coming in.
“What are you doing here?” he demanded. “I thought I asked you to wait outside.”
“I’ve come for the book, old one. I do not wait to be invited in.”
Barbara gasped involuntarily as the new arrival stepped into sight. It was Ian, his double. He was dressed in the robes of a priest, his long braided hair, hanging down his back. She watched Sham tense again as he realised his mistake, watched as the old man’s eyes darted to the entrance, some movement having caught his attention. She let her breath out slowly, obviously Ian, the real Ian, had followed the stranger in.
“Is that the casket?”
“I believe so.”
“You have not opened it?”
“You instructed me not to.”
“Yes, I did.”
The priest strode arrogantly up to the altar. He swung the box round to face himself and studied the hieroglyphs. He let out a dangerous laugh.
“All this trouble to find what I wanted, all this effort to save your priestess and I killed her anyway. Still the power is mine.”
“We each receive what we deserve,” Sham muttered.
“You say your priestess deserved death?” The stranger caressed the box lovingly, his eyes ablaze with fanaticism.
“We each receive that which we work for.”
“Your answers are meaningless,” he snapped, as he pulled at the catches to open the casket.
Sham’s hand slammed down on the lid, causing Barbara to jump as the noise thundered about the stone temple. The priest snapped his head up to glare at the scribe, his eyes ablaze with hatred.
“If you open the box, you must be wary of the consequences.”
“The consequences will be supreme power and eternal life. Remove your hand old man, or I remove you from this earth as easily as I removed that pious priestess of yours.”
The scribe studied his enemy before shrugging a little. “I have tried to warn you, I can not make you hear.”
He removed his hand from the lid. Barbara was surprised to see a look of genuine regret spread across his face, sadness dulling his eyes.
The priest snorted derisively, still glaring at the scribe as he lifted the lid. Finally his attention switched to the interior of the box. A triumphant smile curled his lips; his eyes alight with pure madness. He reached into the casket, withdrawing a large leather bound volume.
“The book of Thoth,” the stranger muttered.
The smile spread wider, before a slight frown coloured the expression, the smile slipping turning into a growl of anger, a howl of pain.
Barbara stood, mouth agape as she watched the acrid smoke billowing away from the man’s hands.
“What faint trickery is this?” he bellowed, struggling to free his burning skin from the cover of the tome.
“We each receive what we deserve.”
Finally the book was flung across the room, as his hands ripped free. It landed on the floor, propped open against the altar.
“We each receive that which we work for,” Sham’s spoke softly.
The priest looked up, tilting his head like a curious puppy. He listened, his ears detecting a low noise, just within his hearing; like a distance sand storm and the noise of people fleeing in terror. When the wind came it knocked the man from his feet, causing him to cry out in agony as he was forced to break his fall with his ravaged hands. The scribe looked across to Barbara, the signal that she was due to appear. Preparing to brace herself against the wind, she stepped from the shadows.
Iffram’s ears pricked up as he heard excited voices coming from inside the tent.
“What’s happening?” Patrick’s voice called, just keeping panic from his tone.
“It’s near the end.”
That was all the police officer needed. Without a seconds pause he pushed into the tent. The sight before him was strange to say the least. The camp doctor and the white haired old man stood over his two prime suspects, lying on separate cots, to all intents and purposes, asleep.
They must have been the grip of some terrible nightmare; they were both panting, sweat forming on their faces, bodies tense. Both seemed to be mumbling to themselves.
“What is happening here?” he demanded.
No one reacted.
The priest was trying to avoid the faces and voices of the many ghostly figures that surrounded him. He recognised each and every one of them, all people he had destroyed, all had come for him, each calling his name, each accusing him. His attention was suddenly drawn by a very solid, sandal shod foot that stepped in front of him.
His expression became more alarmed the further up the body his eyes travelled, until they reached the face.
“No!” The scream of denial almost succeeded in blanking out the noise of the wind.
The man struggled to his knees, cradling his damaged hands. Tears, wind drawn from an otherwise arid soul, streamed down his face. The air stilled, the many voices joined into one, one coming from the mouth of the vision before him.
“I exist beside Osiris. Shining in the Duat, my life force goes on.”
The man shook his head vigorously. “No! No, I killed you.” He laughed; he was starting to lose his very loose grip on reality. “I squeezed the life out of you.”
“I saved her.”
He span at the new voice behind him and saw........ himself.
Iffram stepped further into the tent. “What is happening?” He demanded.
Patrick looked up at the Doctor. He wasn’t even trying to hide his panic now.
“Look, I really think we should do something. They can’t take much more of this. Ian’s body certainly can’t, it’s still recovering.”
“No, we mustn’t interfere.”
The inspector had had enough; he stepped between the two unconscious people.
The priest’s eyes followed his mirror image as it crossed to stand with the vision of a dead woman. The tears on his face were genuine, as he felt the last of his reason slipping away.
“I hate her!” He screamed. “I loath everything she stands for.”
His twin shook its head. Locking hands with her it brought them up placing them on its chest, laying his other hand over them.
“I care about her.”
The enemy was shaking his head too, in denial. “She has stopped everything I tried to do!” He yelled at the vision.
The vision of himself turned to look at the woman, leaning forward it kissed her gently on the lips. A sudden rush of anger flowed through the stranger.
With sudden strength, he launched himself forward, a knife appearing in his hand from somewhere inside his boot.
“You will die this time!” He laughed again as he felt the blade sink into the woman’s flesh, disappearing up to the hilt.
Ian looked on in horror as Barbara fell from his arms, blood flowing from an open wound in her stomach.
“Look,” Iffram shouted again. He stepped back, so far back that he knocked into the two people on the cots. Their linked hands fell away from each other.
“What have you done?” the old man snapped. He stared at the inspector, dread etched into his features. “What have you done?”
Ian felt the familiar tingling sensation; saw his surroundings beginning to fade. He watched as his twin plunged the dagger into his own heart, collapsing at the feet of the scribe who was racing to Barbara’s side. The school teacher reached forward with his fast disappearing hand.
Her terrified eyes found his face. She reached out, trying to grasp at the transparent flesh.
All three men were stunned into silence by the sudden shout. All three stepped back as the school teacher’s eyes snapped open and he all but fell from his cot in his desperation to get to his friend’s side.
“You’ve got to wake her up.” The words were almost incomprehensible.
“What?” Patrick asked, still stunned by the reanimation of his all but comatose patient.
“Wake her up!” The Doctor prodded him into action. “Quickly, she’s dying.”
Barbara could feel the warmth draining from her body, her eyes were glued to spot where Ian had stood. She tried to call his name but no sound came out. She was vaguely aware of Sham picking up her head, speaking softly to her, trying in vain to stem the flow of blood. Her gaze fell on the body of the man who had done this to her. His eyes were still open, he still stared at her. She watched as life fled from those eyes, slowly, silently his body faded from sight.
“Barbara,” Ian called, shaking her shoulders roughly. “Barbara, wake up.”
He was vaguely aware of a mad scrambling coming from somewhere behind him, and then the young medic was beside him, pushing up her sleeve, injecting something into her vein.
“What was that?” the Doctor wanted to know.
“Stimulant,” the young man put in sharply.
“Come on Barbara.”
Ian picked up her hand, stroking it gently. Nothing happened for what seemed like an age, then the woman’s eyes flickered slightly.
She heard her name called faintly. “Ian?” she managed to gasp out.
She felt a slight tingling in her limbs, a tight knot in her stomach. The old man was still talking to her. He slipped something into her hand, it felt like a pebble, before lowering her head to the floor and stepping away.
“You’ll be alright, child. You’re going home,” she heard him say.
Just as the temple started to fade, she heard something else, a voice so faint she wasn’t sure she had heard it. A familiar, friendly, much missed voice.
“Grandfather, is everything alright now?”
Her eyes opened, a slight, weak smile lit her face. “Ian.” She swallowed, her throat felt parched. “I thought I was dead.”
With a relieved laugh, Ian kissed her on the forehead. “Welcome back.”
Iffram stood in the corner where he’d been forced to retreat. “Will someone please tell me what is happening?” he asked, his voice barely carrying over the laughter and excited voices.
Barbara leant up the warm bark of the palm tree. The temperature was very pleasant here in the shade and she allowed her eyelids to slide closed, the quiet lapping of the water from the oasis willing her into a light sleep.
Her mind came back from her peaceful daydream when she heard someone approaching. She didn’t need to open her eyes to know who it was.
“Yes Ian, I’m fine.”
The man drew to a halt. “I didn’t say anything,” he said defensively.
Her eyes opened, a smile touching her lips. “You didn’t need to.”
He laughed lightly, lowering himself down into the sand beside her. “Have I been that bad?”
He had the good grace to look ashamed. “I worry.”
“Mmm!” She closed her eyes again, the smile still evident.
Ian watched her for a few moments, and then he too rested his head against the tree, his mind drifting away from the traumas of the past few days.
This was exactly how the Doctor found the pair when he came looking for them a few hours later.
“I don’t know how you find the time,” he stated in mock anger.
The pair awoke with a start.
“Doctor!” Ian said, accompanying the word with a exaggerated stretch. “What time is it?” He looked bleary eyed at his watch, not quite able to bring the face into focus.
“Time we were leaving, I think.”
“Oh, why?” Barbara climbed to her feet. “Just as things are settling down again.”
“The best time to leave anywhere, my dear; before anything else can happen.”
“We’re not even staying for the opening of the tomb?” Ian wanted to know.
“Oh, you slept through that.”
“What?” Ian was on his feet now.
”Doctor, that was the whole reason we were here,” Barbara admonished. “You could have woken us.”
“I thought it best not to, just in case.”
“In case what?” The school master was obviously puzzled.
“In case things were not as you expected.”
“What does that mean?”
“Who was in the tomb?” the old man asked.
“What do you mean?” Ian often wished their companion would just tell them what they needed to know.
“The inscription said it was Sham.” Barbara answered the question.
The old man shook his head. “They found inscriptions explaining that the occupant was a priestess called Sennu. They found her body this afternoon. The coroner’s agreed to have a look at it.”
“How can that be,” Ian asked, “we were there when they found the funerary cone.”
“That was after you tampered with history, before you corrected it.”
“Oh!” Ian frowned. “So whose body did I find outside Barbara’s tent?”
The Doctor shrugged. “It was a male; apparently he’d been stabbed through the heart.”
Ian remembered the final moments in the temple, the things he saw just before his world faded out. Okay, so now he was really confused. “You mean I fell over my own body?!”
The Doctor sighed, shaking his head. “Oh don’t be ridiculous young man. If it had been your body you could hardly be here now, could you.”
“Well, no,” Ian blustered. “I suppose not.”
“How did you explain the sudden change in gender?” Barbara asked, trying to keep a straight face despite Ian’s very puzzled expression.
“What change in gender?” the old man asked, gripping his lapels. “As far as the people here are concerned the body has always been a male.” The Doctor waved away his companions questions. “Time has a way of clearing things up. You, young man, had already found a body. So a body had to be supplied - a void would have caused all kinds of problems.”
“Why are we the only people who know both versions?” Barbara wanted to know.
“You two were at the very centre of the changes and so the ripple effect didn’t reach you.”
“The ripple effect?” Barbara asked, although she had a feeling that she wouldn’t understand the answer.
“Any change in time is like throwing a pebble into a pond. The ripples continue to grow, sweeping all before it, getting larger until they eventually fade to leave smooth water behind.”
“How do you remember?” Ian started. “You were here with everyone else.”
The Doctor took a deep breath and raised himself to his full height. “I, my boy, have a special relationship with time.”
“Yes, of course.” The school master coughed. He’d put his foot in it again.
“Doctor,” Barbara interrupted, “I have a question.”
“Yes, my dear.”
“Just before I woke up, when I was still back there, I heard a voice call out to Sham.”
Ian noticed that the Time Lord suddenly looked very uncomfortable. “Really,” he coughed nervously, “are you sure you didn’t imagine it. You were under a great deal of stress.”
“I didn’t imagine it.”
“What did this voice say?” Ian asked.
“‘Grandfather, is everything alright now?’ ” Barbara turned her attention back to the squirming Time Lord. “It was Susan.”
“What!?” Ian too, stared at the now very uncomfortable old man.
“Is this true?” the school master demanded.
“Yes,” the Doctor admitted reluctantly. “It happened a short while before you and I met.”
“Then why couldn’t you just tell us what was going to happen?”
“Because I didn’t know.”
“You mean you didn’t remember?” Barbara asked.
“No, I mean I didn’t know. As far as I was concerned it hadn’t happened yet.”
“Wait a minute.” Ian rubbed his hand across his forehead. “You just told us that it happened before you met us, but now you’re saying that it didn’t happen to you until a few days ago.”
“Had you ever been to ancient Egypt before you met me?”
“Of course not!”
“Well then!” The Time Lord seemed to think this explained everything. He studied his companions. Obviously they weren’t satisfied. “How could I have met you before you went back in time?”
Ian opened his mouth to say something, but could think of nothing to say, so he closed it again.
“Susan and I were in that period of Egyptian history, I did meet Sennu and Sham.”
“There was a real Sham?” Barbara was surprised.
“Yes, he was killed shortly after I arrived for refusing to help find the book. I pretended to be Sham, to see if I could rescue the situation, but was forced to leave when Sennu died too.”
“How did I change history then?” Ian asked, still trying to put the pieces together.
“The body you found was Sennu’s. Originally she did die from a snake bite, but I’m not sure if it was an accident. So when her body was found in 1999 I had a fair idea something was badly wrong. Then when they found the tomb with Sham’s body I knew something had to be done.”
“Why?” Barbara was trying to keep track of the story.
“The real Sham’s body was cremated. Another ‘accident’.”
“So the body they found....” the school master started.
“Was mine,” the Doctor nodded. “A temporal tautology. I could not possibly have died before I met you or I would not have been here when they dug up my body.”
“I see,” Ian stated.
“Do you?” Barbara asked a little surprised.
A pause. “No,” the man admitted. “How did you not know what was going to happen?”
“Because everything that happened when you went back, was happening to me for the first time.”
“You really don’t understand the inter relationship of time do you?”
Ian held up his hands, finally admitting defeat.
“How did the bodies come into the future Doctor?” Barbara decided to change tack.
“Hmmm, that’s a little harder to explain. I think in Chesterton’s case, the snake venom certainly had something to do with it. Egyptians certainly believed that the snake was an agent of chaos; they also believed that the sun god - Ra had a cobra form. It was stated in their mythology that to meet this form of the god the traveller had to ‘move outside time itself’ - in a way your mind did this through the coma.”
“But why back to that period, at that time?” Ian wanted to know.
The Doctor sighed. “After travelling with me for so long, it could simple be that when your mind sort something familiar it found the TARDIS. I now believe that there must have been some kind of leakage from the temporal circuits. Your subconscious homed in on that. It might also explain why the bodies came here; they too were sensitive to this leakage. There was certainly a major fault in the ship by the time Susan and I came to your period, which was why we were forced to stay so long. Perhaps, in its time of trouble it sort some thing familiar, homing in on the traces of temporal leakage lingering in your brain waves.”
The earth people exchanged puzzled expressions, then Ian turned to the Doctor shaking his head.
“Okay, we’ll leave that particular discussion for another time.”
The Time Lord raised his eyebrows, a small smile creasing his lips. “Are you sure?”
Ian’s brows drew downward. “Now, Doctor, why were you so desperate to get rid of me when I first arrived?” “Remember, I had no idea who you were, for all I knew you could have been the person making Sham do all those things. Even if you were innocent of that, I couldn’t afford the risk that you would tell Sennu anything it wasn’t safe for her to hear.”
“Yes.” The regret hung heavy in his tone.
“Come, come my boy, it’s all very much in the past now.” With a nod and a sad smile Ian carried on. “I know the stakes were high but don’t you think the performance with the snake statue was a bit over the top?”
“Mind over matter, dear boy.”
“It was a lucky coincidence that at that moment Doctor Patrick gave you the antidote. It gave me quite a shock, I can tell you, when you faded out like that. That’s when I started to realise that something odd was happening, and when I accidentally over heard your conversation with Barbara then I knew I was in trouble.”
Ian nodded. “But was it really necessary to stab yourself like you did?”
“Stab himself?” Barbara asked, shocked.
“Yes,” Ian clutched his upper arm, “just here.”
The Doctor withdrew a knife from some interior pocket. “Like this.” He drew the blade across his palm, leaving a trail of deep red.
“Doctor!” Ian and Barbara called together.
Barbara snatched at the man’s injured hand. Ian grabbed the knife.
“A simple trick.” Barbara wiped at the blood, there was no wound. “Just something I picked up while I was in America, I visited a place called Hollywood - have you ever heard of it?”
“Yes,” Ian stated on a relieved laugh, “we’ve heard of it.”
Barbara had a question. She wasn’t really expecting an answer to it, but she might as well try. “Why did everyone here seem to have twins back then?”
“We don’t know they did, my dear. It could just have been the way the mind perceived these people.”
“But Doctor, the killer thought I looked like Sennu, as did you and Ian. We both thought the assassin was Ian coming in and you obviously looked enough like Sham to take his place without raising too many questions.”
The Time Lord didn’t like to admit defeat, so he gave the question a lot of thought. “Genetics is a wonderful thing Barbara, but there must be a limited amount of patterns for it to follow.”
Ian snorted doubtfully. “That’s a very convenient answer Doctor.”
The Doctor was beginning to get really tired of this particular human. He turned his most penetrating gaze on the school master. “Perhaps so young man, but can you think of any other answer?”
There was silence, but Ian finally had to admit he couldn’t. He shrugged, noticing the satisfied expression that fled briefly across the Time Lord’s features.
“There’s just one more thing,” Barbara started, reaching into the pocket of her jeans. “I think you should keep this.” Lying in her hands was a small Jet amulet, a miniature carved Anubis.
“Thank you.” A sad expression crossed the old man’s face. “It belonged to Sennu.”
“Is that what you picked up from the finds table?” she asked.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow, surprised that anyone had noticed this little act. He nodded. “Sentiment - not something I like to admit I feel.”
“Where did you get it?” Ian asked of Barbara.
“Sham,” Barbara smiled, “Sham gave it to me just before I came back.”
There was a moments silence as each person was lost in thought. The moment was broken as the Doctor sighed loudly.
“Well, I think if we’re all finished here we should be leaving.”
“We’re not even going to say goodbye?” Barbara inquired.
“We’d probably have to answer a lot of questions we’d rather not,” Ian answered a little sadly.
“Quite true.” The Doctor walked away heading for the temple and the only home he’d known for a long time.
Barbara let out a sigh. “Despite everything that’s happened, I shall miss this place, the people.”
Ian placed an arm about her shoulders. “Yes, I know what you mean. There have been times when it’s been almost relaxing here.” He took one more look about the oasis, breathing in the warm desert air. “Well come on, we’d better go or he’ll leave without us.”
With a nod Barbara allowed herself to be led away.
The sun beat down on the yellow desert sands. A few hours ago the heat would have been almost unbearable, forcing all but the most hardy inside. Now, in the early evening, the temperature had dropped taking the ferocity out of the stars rays.
Winding their way through the landscape was a small procession: six men, each carrying a small portion of a simple wooden coffin. Following at a short distance, was an elderly man, the unusual natural white of his hair glinting in the daylight.
The procession came to a halt outside a tomb, the newly completed structure nestled in a small hollow in the surrounding ground, the top slabs still baring the yellow tinge of freshly quarried stones, the sun having not yet had the chance to bleach them.
The old man stepped forward, pulling something loose from around his neck. He placed the object on the coffin lid, laying his hand over it bowing his head briefly before stepping back.
As the wooden box was taken through the doorway and down the steps into the dark interior, the object slid from the coffin lid. No one noticed as a sandal shod foot trod on the tiny impact crater, removing all trace of the amulet, except for a small piece of the leather thong.
Nearby stood a complex of buildings, one was a large temple, the door of which stood ajar. Two people stood in the gap, both looking towards the ceremony at the tomb.
Barbara touched Ian lightly on the shoulder. “Come on Ian, we’d better get back to the ship. The Doctor did ask us to wait there for him.”
“I just wanted to say goodbye,” he said, facing her.
“I know. She was a good woman.”
With a nod, he reached for his friend’s hand and they walked back into the temple.
Behind them a small grey feline shape came out from behind a tree. It sat and watched them leave, mewing quietly to itself. It watched as the ceremony finished, it watched as the old man disappeared inside the temple structure and after a few minutes a slight wheezing noise broke the silence of the sands.
The cat looked up at the golden solar orb, closing its eyes against the brightness and turning its head, almost sun bathing. A slight breeze lifted tiny grains of the desert, shifting them towards the tomb. The breeze turned into a wind. The feline did not seem to notice as the palm trees about it received a battering from the rapidly strengthening winds. It rocked slowly to and fro with the power of its purring. It was happy.
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