Soul's Shadow by TardisGhost
The TARDIS led me to the library, where I found the Master. He sat in a comfy armchair, wearing earbuds and having a thick old tome in hands.
It made me wonder what type of music he might listen to. Probably something to overtone the constant drumming noise in his head.
The Master heard, or sensed, me coming. His hand halted in turning a page, his head lifted slightly, eyes wandering to the small tinfoil package in my hands. Since he didn't remove the earplugs I wordlessly handed him the waffles and strode away again, to get a good night's rest.
"You visited Florsch?"
I turned around, seeing him opening the package to take out a waffle and bite into it. "Haven't been there in ages." There was a small smile on his face.
"Yeah. It was really cool there. Didn't think you would know the place."
The Master gave me a funny look. "Of course I do. Why wouldn't I?"
I huffed. "For one, it's still standing."
The rest of the waffle vanished and he chuckled, licking his fingers. "I'm not so dumb to destroy every place I visit. Only the boring ones. Or those which annoy me."
"So, a human made zoo is neither?" I eyed him suspiciously.
"Great study materials. Don't have to run all over the galaxy to get samples."
The second waffle vanished in record time, giving me the suspicion that samples - however he might get those - weren't his only reason. I decided to leave him with them, not actually awaiting a thanks.
"I checked your blood."
Once more I turned back, slightly annoyed that he waited with talking until I wanted to go. A slightly mischievous glint in his eyes told me this was definitely not a coincidence.
"And you found…?"
The Master shrugged and bit into the last waffle. "Nothing. You're good."
I blinked. "That's all?"
"Thought you might want to know."
There was a pause. The Master never left me with his eyes until the last bite was gone. Afterwards he licked his fingers clean, crumbled the tinfoil to a ball and threw it at me.
With a harmless 'plopp' it bounced against my arm and rolled away a few centimetres. The Master answered my annoyed look with a smug, childish grin, leaned back in his arm chair, where he propped both elbows on the armrests and folded his hands.
"I made some tests," he finally announced. "Wanted to see if the egg would react to it."
"And it doesn't."
One of his eyebrows shot up. "How would you know?"
I shrugged. "A wild guess."
"Then guess how it reacts to your DNA."
"Not at all? Why's that important? You wouldn't make such a scene-" I waved over his posture- "because of nothing."
He grinned. "Smart." And he ignored my eye roll. "I'm not sure what it means. Aside from the fact that it's not something biological it reacts to… It's you."
Although the implication had been there the whole time, having it spoken out, now, made it only stranger. What did (could) I have to do with a dragon's egg? Their mother had shown me some vision, true, but she could have picked everyone else. Or was that the connection?
"Is it because the dragon connected to my mind, somehow?"
The Master slowly nodded. "Might be. Although it raises the question, why it did that. I'm not sure you noticed, but the dragon never directly attacked you. And it had plenty of opportunity to rip you into tiny, bloody pieces." There was a nasty, teasing smile on his lips.
Silence spread between us, neither having a real clue where to go from here. In the end I just sighed and turned halfway to leave.
"I need some sleep. Let's figure this out tomorrow."
There came no answer, so I strode away and simply took his silence as a confirmation.
The night was uneventful. Some hope blossomed within me that the nightmares had found an end, even though I kept getting glimpses, afterimages of how they had felt… Like a bad taste you can't get rid of.
I took care of the wound, was careful to wrap the bandages how the Master had done it and took the last pill afterwards. The fever seemed to be gone and the scratch was healing astonishingly well. Probably due to the salve.
Afterwards I went to the kitchen, greeting the TARDIS on my way. She hummed happily and I complimented her on the good coffee. This time I also had a small breakfast before I went to see the Master.
He was in the same room as yesterday, again wearing earplugs when I entered. His hand drummed on the table.
Tap - tap - tap - tap.
I wasn't sure whether he knew I was there and approached slowly. The egg sat in its contraption, not glowing or doing anything else. There were papers with handwriting strewn over the table and some with complex looking circular symbols on them. I remembered having seen those before.
The Master still didn't move. Only tapped his rhythm with closed eyes. But then his lids crept open, revealing almost black pupils swallowing the hazel. There was a void in his gaze, an absence of awareness, of sanity.
He didn't see me.
Tap - tap - tap - tap
I swallowed a lump in my throat, unsure what to do. It felt as if he was in pain, as if the drumming would tear through him like a glowing knife.
Tap - tap - tap - tap
Carefully I leaned closer and placed my hand over his. The tapping stopped and for a good minute nothing else happened.
"Lumin?" he mumbled eventually, eyes creeping open.
I retreated my hand and stepped back, waiting. The Master groaned and removed the ear plugs, running a hand over his face. It took him some moments to look at me and there was a tiredness on his face that made me swallow.
"Long night?" I asked, knowing it wasn't the case, knowing he didn't need as much sleep, knowing that what tormented him was not something so simple.
He huffed. "Yeah. Centuries long."
I halfway sat on the table next to him, lightly folding my arms. "What are they?"
The Master bent his head back, taking some deep breaths. When he glanced back at me, he seemed a little clearer.
"There is a gap in the fabric of reality. If you look inside you can see all of time and space. All at once, no filters, nothing to prevent everything from rushing into your soul." His voice was unfamiliarly soft. I stayed silent, only listened. "When we're eight years old, we are brought to this untempered Schism. They force us to look inside." He swallowed, looked at me, through me. "It hurts, little one. Oh it hurts."
"Wh… why do they do that to you?" I almost whispered.
He shrugged. "A rite of passage. A method to select. For some it reveals great secrets and are then able to advance the entire race, some others are simply overtaken by fear and some…"
The Master closed his eyes, his mouth twitched as if from a sudden pain. The memory itself was only unpleasant, but its result was burned into him like a mark.
"The drums," I muttered into the growing silence.
"Some go completely insane," he told in a low voice. "Kids we grew up with never returned. The stories we heard, whispered in dark bedrooms in the academy… some screaming until their lungs burst, others trying to claw out their own eyes. And worse… Oh, so much worse."
For a while he seemed lost in that memory.
There was no way for me to comprehend why anyone would do this. It seemed unnecessarily cruel. Just to get a few that might look beyond. Was that really worth it?
"But why do I have an effect on them?"
The Master glared at me. Was it contempt? Hatred? Was it even directed at me, personally? The look softened and he sighed.
"I do have a theory, but…" He paused, absently glaring past me.
"The life force?"
He blinked at me and a second later suddenly laughed out. "I keep forgetting how smart you are." He chuckled some more and rose from his seat.
Smart? A blush crept up my neck and I could barely keep myself from grinning. "Just seemed logical. There's nothing else that connects us."
"No?" Why was there such an amused twinkle in his eyes as he approached? "That's probably good then, isn't it?" his lips twitched mischievously, but at the same time there was a shadow fading over his features. "It means I can break and bend you all I want." He leaned down, stroked a finger over my cheek. "I can make you my puppet, a mere toy on strings. I can command you to follow each and every order of mine, without ever saying a word."
I flinched away from his touch… and from the newly blossoming madness in his gaze. Even though he'd seemed so calm, just now, the drums were still raging in his head, clouding his sanity.
"Don't. Move," he whispered, glaring into my eyes.
And my body froze, obeying his order. Fear rose within me. What would he do to me? Why did he hypnotize me like that?
The Master circled around me with slow steps, hands clasped behind his back. Eventually he took the egg from its contraption.
"Open your hands."
I did, held them together, palms facing upwards. The scaly egg landed within them and we both watched how the purple veins faintly started to glow again.
"Now-" the Master glared at me- "Hold it. Don't let go. Don't move away. Don't eat or drink or sleep." With every word his look got darker, almost angry. He opened a door to another, smaller room and pushed me inside, then roughly grabbed my arm to twirl me around, so I had to face him. "When something happens, call out. Otherwise don't dare to bother me. Understood, ape?"
I had no choice but to nod and, even after the door fell shut in front of my nose, it took a perceived effort to even turn my head. All thoughts were clouded and foggy, as if I had lost my capacity to think. I should be furious, mad and angry… But I found nothing the like within me.
If the hypnotism wore off over time or if my mind simply found ways to work around it is beyond my knowledge. But after some minutes I could move again, was able to walk away from the door and inspect the room.
It was a storage of some kind and also a place to rest and be left alone. Shelves upon shelves lined the walls, filled with books and loose papers, objects of all sorts, instruments to measure whatever. There also was a dark green sofa that was also filled with books, but otherwise looked clean.
I flopped down on it, moved some books away with one hand and grabbed a random one to peek inside. My other hand kept holding the egg. I wasn't able to set it down, even when I tried. I also couldn't bring myself to leave the room.
The books were at least interesting, although it was hard to concentrate on anything. My awareness kept sliding back to the egg to observe it. The purple veins glowed quietly, in time with my breath. I held it closer to my face, removed my specs and examined the delicate pattern on the shell. It seemed sturdy, covered in tiny versions of the dragon's black scales.
After a few useless attempts to read I finally gave up, curled myself together on the sofa and just glared at the egg in my hands.
At some point I must have fallen asleep. I can't tell what woke me up, maybe it were the images of black smoke, wings and the screams of crows, maybe it was the hypnotism that forced me to keep an eye on the egg. Maybe it was the sound of the door opening. Maybe it was the faint heartbeat I felt in my fingers, intermingled with the sensation of warmth.
I knew the Master had come in, but my eyes still kept glued to the egg. I didn't imagine it. There really was a heartbeat, and the shell was much warmer than it could have gotten from my body heat alone.
The Master stepped in front of the sofa, his shadow falling over me. I turned away and around to face the backrest, cradling the egg between my hands. I knew the drums drove him to do mean and stupid things, but I was still mad at him. I didn't want to talk, didn't want to see him. I wanted to be alone with my egg, wanted to feel the faint heartbeat of the tiny creature inside.
"Turn around, lil' lumin. I can take away the hypnotism."
The words were softly, spoken, maybe even meant as an apology.
I didn't budge.
"You're mad at me."
It was a fact, not a question, maybe a little amused. I felt a weight settling down behind me, closed my fingers around the warm shell. After some moments the Master leaned closer, tried to catch a glance at the egg, but I hid it with my hands and curled together some more.
He sighed, sat back and did nothing else for a bit. Eventually, though, he shifted, changed position. His arm went on the backrest. I felt him against my back, sensed hesitation I couldn't explain.
"It's only been two or three hours," he mumbled. "Must have felt much longer to you." His fingers lightly drummed his rhythm against the backrest. "I know I commanded you not to speak… But if you wanna yell at me I need to lift the hypnotism."
I smiled at that and quietly chuckled to myself. But I had no desire to yell and also none to turn. All I wanted was to drift away again and hold the tiny spark of life. My eyes closed on their own, already.
And for some moments it seemed I really had fallen asleep once more. Vaguely I got aware of movement, of touch. There was a hand on my head, gently stroking through my short hair. But no, I didn't dream.
"Stubborn little light." The Master chuckled.
The fingers remained, played with my hair, twirled some strands, combed through others. There was such a softness in his movements, it made me sigh and lean into the touch a little.
"You guard that egg well. That's good." It sounded as if he smiled fondly. "It's a precious thing. Maybe even unique."
I uncurled a little to glance at the small object. The Master leaned over me again and did the same, watched the pulsating glow. He sighed and stopped playing with me.
"Look, I know you're mad…"
"'m not," I mumbled.
A surprised silence filled the small room, then a short laugh. "You already broke through the hypnotism yourself? That's quite remarkable."
Finally I turned a little and peeked up at the Master. "Is it?"
"Mh-mhh." He smiled and the tips of his finger glided over my head a little. "Speaks of a strong mind. Oh, so much stronger than you're willing to admit." he grimaced and retreated his hand. "What a petty. I wish you weren't so important." He leaned closer down to me, something ancient and indeed evil shining through his eyes. "Then I could just crush you."
I flinched at his words and scrambled into a sitting position, trying to get farther away in the process. One hand kept clutching the egg, pressed it protectively against my chest. His eyes hungrily fixated on it.
"Give it to me," the Master commanded and held a hand out.
I shook my head, even though I could feel his hypnotism scratch my mind.
"You can't do anything with it," I muttered and licked my dry lips. "It doesn't want you."
The warm pulsating in my hand, the faint heartbeat. He wouldn't feel it, would only drown the developing creature in his own darkness.
The Master let his hand sink, his brows knitted together angrily. I took a step back, bumped against a shelf and grabbed a small black sphere, roughly the same size as the egg, I knew sat there.
He put on a smile. "Come on, don't be mad anymore. Nothing happened to you."
I huffed. "Yet. And that you want to crush me doesn't make anything better."
"Can't help it." He laughed out. "Humans are just a bother."
"Yeah… We are. We, too, love to break things."
With that I threw the small sphere into a corner of the room, watched the Master following with his eyes, then jumping up to follow.
And I ran, bolted out of the door and out of the other room, rushed into the TARDIS' corridors. A golden light appeared on the floor, leading me away and around two or three curves, before halting in front of the console room.
"Perfect, thank you." I grinned and let the egg vanish into a pocket of my hoodie.
The Master wouldn't risk the Doctor finding out about it.
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