‘That’s him, Sophia!’ hissed Rose, quietly, all the while keeping her eyes pinned to the Dark One’s hovering form, as if afraid that he might suddenly awaken from whatever unholy trance he was immersed in. ‘That’s the warlord I saw in my dream.’
Sophia was confused. ‘Er… which dream? Which warlord?’
Rose instantly realised that she had not even told Sophia about the dream, and, with an air of frustration, turned to her and began to summarise the vision. ‘Well, I was in a cave, and, basically, this big dark figure came up, and called himself the Dark One. He asked me if I could see something about light and a tunnel…’
Sophia’s eyes lit up, imbuing Rose with a feeling of dread and terrible expectation. ‘The light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve seen it too.’
Rose and Sophia were so busy staring at each other in shock at this revelation that neither of them saw the twitch of the Dark One’s head, the wave of life that suddenly rippled across his armoured body with awful speed, dragging him from paralysis, the ignition of his burning white eyes…
In a few seconds, Sophia sensed movement and whipped round with her slanted eyes wide… but too late. Already the Dark One was swooping down towards them, his cloak flapping about his shoulders like the wings of a bat, scarlet beams building around his gauntleted hands.
Rose heard Sophia scream ‘DUCK!’ just as a blazing flash obscured the world. The next moment, Rose and Sophia were both running blindly, smoke pouring from the edge of the forest, a shattered tree trunk the sickening evidence of the Dark One’s terrible firepower.
A cold and bitter laugh rang from behind them, and Rose felt the Dark One turn round for another shot. She could visualise with unnerving accuracy that seemingly rigid mouth-hole twisting into a grin, those fingers playing across the hilt of the longsword that was strapped to his side…
That very same sword slashed into her vision, and blood fountained from somewhere near her. Rose had no idea whether the blow had wounded Sophia or herself — and then the Dark One was swooping up, back towards the museum that lay ahead of her. Rose faintly hoped that he would remain there, that the violence would be over — then pain embedded itself deeply into her shoulder, she realised that the Dark One had hit her and not her companion. Sophia was screaming loud, meaningless words into her ear, and through a misty scarlet film of panic and pain she saw the Dark One wheeling round, his white eyes shining with the excitement of the chase, soaring back down towards her.
Sophia let go of Rose and watched in frenzied horror and panic as she collapsed upon the dewy grass, her shoulder spurting blood. Rose’s pale, clammy fingers trailed up her own body, pressing against the gash, trying to stop the flow, but desperately failing… thinking of wounds, Sophia’s leg was still hurting, draining her strength — she hadn’t noticed before because of the intrigue of exploring the forest, but now, in the face of danger, it just had to go and hurt again… The Dark One was mere metres from her now, his sword ready, flames seething along its smooth, scarlet surface. With a victorious laugh he raised the sword…
Something surfaced inside Sophia. In the few moments before her inevitable death, eight tiny, seemingly insignificant words were pulled from her throat as if some part of an automatic process, the words which had haunted and dogged her for so long, the dreaded yet somehow magical sentence that spoke of time and death and all she feared.
‘Black Wolf, Black Wolf, why do you cry?’
And, somewhere deep inside Sophia’s soul, a growling voice answered to the same rhythm.
I cry for the time and space as it dies.
The Dark One’s sword smashed down. Yet as it did so, a curtain of thick, stinging black smoke billowed up. Smoke and sword met with a resounding crash that hurled both Sophia and the Dark One back. The warlord’s eyes crackled with disbelief as he thumped to the ground, his sword spinning from his grasp. Sophia gasped in amazement and relief.
Oh, why does the time and space die? the internal voice called back. With a strange, dizzy smile, Sophia recognised the tone that the thing inside her had used. Smugness.
At first, the Dark One had been shocked at the mysterious appearance of the wall of smoke. But now, with a simple flick of his hand, the flaming sword flew back to him like a boomerang. The warlord shot up into the air, all the while watching Sophia and Rose behind the dark, translucent smokescreen.
‘You cannot keep this up forever, wolf who hides in the shadows. Your little veil will die within seconds. The soul you inhabit shall be killed, along with her companion who is already near to oblivion.’
As if to confirm the Dark One’s words, the smokescreen folded neatly into the ground. Sophia’s eyes widened in the moment of silence after the dissolving of the screen but before the Dark One’s assault. She grabbed Rose’s arm and hauled her upright. ‘Fight, Rose, fight for the Doctor!’ she whispered, and then the Dark One’s sword came slashing down in a hissing arc of scarlet.
Sophia ran forward with a fierce howl, her claws pointing from her outstretched fingertips. The Dark One gave a roar of rage as his sword-stroke missed and Sophia smashed into him. To Sophia’s horror, her attack did not bowl the Dark One over like it did most life forms. The cold presence of the warlord began to overwhelm her like a strangling blanket of frigidity — and then the blood red sword was swinging round again…
She made the transformation instantly, falling and folding inwards into her wolf-like shape. The sudden decrease in stature ensured that the Dark One’s head-height blow also missed. As the Dark One’s sword arm continued the sweeping arc away from her, Sophia leapt, her mouth curled into a feral, slavering snarl. Her claws gripped the Dark One’s head like a squirrel would an acorn, her piercing blue eyes staring into his white ones, she felt a shiver of sudden despair ripple across her thick coat of fur, she sensed Rose, wounded but determined, lunge at the Dark One, hitting and tearing, and the warlord’s deadly grasp was steadily weakening...
The word was like a terrible physical blow which sent Sophia and Rose reeling back in confusion and instant, quaking fear. The Dark One’s laugh sizzled into their brains, and, instinctively, they knew it would be the last sound they would ever hear.
They both shot back into the Dark One’s arms, who was now ready for them and completely in control. He lifted them up, one in either arm, and they screamed their pain and terror out, but it was no use. For the Dark One had them, and now Sophia could feel it, that terrible energy rising in the Dark One’s hands, the energy that would incinerate both her and her human friend.
Sophia, with great sadness, realised that this was the time. The time that she had known would come — the time when the TARDIS crew finally faced up to an enemy which was simply too strong to defeat.
They had lost.
But then something came barrelling into the Dark One’s back — something tall and strong and powerful. The Dark One lurched forward, taken by surprise, his grip loosening around Sophia and Rose. They fell forward heavily onto the dew-stained grass, Rose gasping with the pain of her throbbing injury — and then a hand pressed itself into Rose’s — a brilliantly familiar one. Rose gazed up into warm chocolate brown eyes.
The Doctor grinned from ear to ear. ‘Run!’ he said.
Rose laughed with disbelief as the Doctor pulled her to her feet. Sophia, still in her wolf-form, sheltered the Doctor and Rose with her muscular shape as they pounded towards the cover of the forest.
The Dark One had recovered from the Doctor’s impact with his back, and stared at Sophia hatefully. He pointed a three-fingered claw at her, and growled, ‘They shall not escape, Sophia of Wolven. Your efforts have been in vain. Death should come as a blessing!’ His white eyes flared, suddenly contemptuous. ‘Give in to the darkness. Give in to me.’
Sophia held her ground, glaring at the warlord who loomed ahead of her, his impossibly tall figure blotting out both the museum and the sun, until he filled her vision, a gigantic shadow of despair, laughing at the light and the world and everything she loved.
A river of crackling energy shot from the Dark One’s claw. Sophia dodged, and dived at the warlord’s long, spiked legs. He merely smiled and, with a flick of his wrist, sent her spinning backwards into a tree with a dull, pulsating thump.
She panted for a moment at the base of the tree trunk, regaining her breath and, unfortunately, giving the Dark One time to attack. He glided forward as if on oiled wheels, and, when he was no more than a metre away from her, threw forth a beam of red light.
Sophia held up a paw in an attempt to defend herself, however she realised, too late, that the beam had not been meant for her — it had been meant for the tree. The ray flew way over her head, slicing the tree in half in an eruption of sap and smoke. Then the top half of the tree crashed down upon Sophia, spinning and rolling through the air like a colossal javelin.
The thick trunk crushed her back in a sickening crunch. The Dark One watched, satisfied, and listened as a muffled howl of agony came from beneath the broken tree.
The Dark One remembered the fleeing Doctor and Rose, and snarled in fury. He rose back into the sky, and flew like smoke on the wind over the dazzling green canopy, his immense shadow sliding smoothly along the expanse of leaves so far below.
Rose hissed to the Doctor as they sprinted, ‘We’ve got to go back! Sophia’s in danger now!’
The Doctor shook his head, looking upwards all the while. ‘We can’t.’ He cast a grim and resigned glance at Rose. ‘I’m sorry.’
Rose gave him a fierce look. ‘But we’ve got to…’ she was cut off by a mind-blowing eruption of noise and colour and light. Sparks rained down on her and the Doctor. ‘What the hell?’ she cried.
And then she saw him. The Dark One was soaring between the treetops with frightening, effortless grace, his arms spread in an emphatic, triumphant gesture, his mouth curved in a cruel smile. Beams blasted from his claws, annihilating the tranquility of the wood with a series of explosions and shattering bangs.
‘He’s destroying them,’ the Doctor murmured, shocked to death. ‘He’s destroying the trees. It’s history, this wood. He can’t just go and…’ his voice was almost dream-like.
Rose yelled at him in panic and frustration. ‘Don’t worry about that now, just RUN!’ When the Doctor didn’t move, and the Dark One’s path of destruction continued to slither dangerously towards them, Rose snapped. Her shoulder was burning and her whole body was screaming at her to get out of this place. ‘RUN, DOCTOR! FOR GOD’S SAKE, JUST RUN!!!’
He obeyed, almost mindlessly, as fire blossomed in the canopy above. At last, the pair reached the clearing in which the TARDIS stood. The Doctor shoved a hand into his chest pocket, desperately hunting for the key. Rose did the same, swinging her gaze from the Doctor to the exploding treetops to the TARDIS and back again, her legs stretched and tense, ready to run at a moment’s notice. ‘HURRY UP, DOCTOR!’ she shrieked.
‘I’M TRYING, ROSE, I JUST CAN’T FIND MY…’
He trailed off, his eyes alighting on something behind Rose, and freezing in terror. Rose turned round, both knowing and dreading what she would see.
The Dark One stood firmly upon the ground, backlit by the flickering of the fires he had created. From one long steel claw dangled two silver TARDIS keys, glinting slightly in the eerie radiance.
‘Dropped something?’ he asked.
TO BE CONTINUED…