The Doctor paced back and forth across the black and white checked tile, trying to figure out what his fate would be. He had been locked in the large room for the longest time and even though his host, whomever it was, seemed to very gracious he could not help wondering what was in store for him in the near future. It was bad enough that he had been dragged away from the TARDIS and his companions against his will. Now he had been tossed into a large room and forced simply to wait.
It was, by all accounts, a most unusual room too. On each of the far ends of the room was a set of double doors, identical to each other in every respect. They were made completely of wood and were decorated from top to bottom in ornate engravings resembling something that Michelangelo himself would have come up with had he thought about it.
In the very front of the chamber was platform with several steps leading upward underneath a lavish silky red carpet to a large ornate. It was not hard to figure out by all this décor that the owner was indeed very powerful, a fact that, while important to the Doctor, did not impress him in the least.
After what seemed like ages a great commotion began to rise up out in the hallway. It steadily grew louder and more obnoxious by the second until it was, at last, directly outside the room. Then, the wooden doors off to the right of the throne burst open and a flood of people nearly fell in after it. They were all surrounding a central figure asking him a jumble of questions all at once as if they were a pack of reporters, all trying to scoop each other at once. With a mere wave of his hand, however, the central figure sent the entire group swiftly fleeing in the opposite directions leaving him alone with the Doctor. At the same time another man, who appeared to be somewhat of a cross between a guard and a butler stepped forward and pulled the doors shut in front of him
He was, the Time Lord thought, a strange looking man, nothing like he would have expected. He was an old man, far older than what the Doctor looked, with a long white beard that hung far down his front.
Behind that, the man wore a long gleaming white rope that fell nearly to the floor. As he stepped into the room it swayed gently this way and that as if it had been caught in a breeze. Even stranger was the fact that there was not a wrinkle or even a smudge anywhere on it and with the technology that the Doctor had seen thus far, albeit a small amount, he was sure that it could not be so clean.
"Well, it's about time." Chided the Time Lord when the doors had finally clanged shut. "I assume that you are responsible for my being here?"
The old man nodded. "I apologize." He said calmly. "But you were in great danger in the woods."
Smugly, the Doctor strolled up the nearby stairs and examined the throne with a fine eye. There was nothing of any particular interest about it but he wanted to check the calmness of the other man and hoped that his snooping might reveal something more than his eye had caught. "Apparently so." He finally retorted. "A person could be set upon by several large men and drug off to who knows where.
"It is, I am afraid, more pleasant than the alternative." Explained the long bearded man. "If the others had discovered you things would have been far worse."
All of a sudden, the Doctor's mind focused in on his companions that had been left in the forest. What had happened to them? He wanted to ask but he was not yet sure that he could trust this man. Still, there was an air about him, something mysterious and yet calming at the same time. "I beg your pardon," he said, abruptly changing the subject. "But who are you?"
The old man shook his head in disappointment. "I apologize again." He said. "I am Odg, Ruler of this land. And you?"
"I am called the Doctor." Responded the Time Lord, arrogantly grasping at the lapels of his overcoat. All the while, his mind was trying to fit everything together into something tangible. He was not finding very much.
"Tell me," the Doctor continued, "Who are these others that you mentioned?"
The ruler lowered his head in shame. "The others," he explained in a sad tone, "are a group of rebels. Long ago they attempted to take my kingdom from me but they were thwarted. Now, they are bent on revenge. They lie and cheat my people into trusting them and then, they turn them from me"
The Doctor sighed deeply. "Why don't you just destroy them and be done with it?" He asked slyly.
"I cannot." Replied the old man, shaking his head. "Most of them are my people who have merely been brainwashed. It would be like attacking my own children." At that the man's eyes began to water ever so slightly with tears and His face hardened with anger and frustration at the thought. "You see," "I love them."
The Doctor squinted curiously. Obviously, any king would want to protect his people; after all, without them he'd have nothing to rule over. It was also not at all unheard of that he would liken them to his children. But, in all his travels, the Doctor could not remember a time when a ruler had actually declared such great love his subjects. It was odd and yet at the same time reassuring. So much so that he almost felt that he could trust this man implicitly. In any case, no real harm had yet come to him and there had been ample opportunity for it.
It was enough for him to take a chance on Dave and Maria "Tell me. Have your people come across anyone else like me only a bit younger?"
Odg thought for a moment and then shook his head. "No." He answered. "I am afraid not."
It was the time for choice. The Doctor had to decide then and there if he should fully mention his newly found companions. If he trusted this king and was wrong he would be submitting them all to terrible danger. On the other hand, if Odg was not lying then there was already a great danger. "Yes." He finally admitted after thinking a moment. "There are two youngsters that were traveling with me, a girl and a boy. If your men would have let me speak or even spoke to me I would have called to them so that they could be here too."
"I do apologize for that." Said the king. "But you are a stranger and we could not have any noise at all or you may have been detected by the others. But now that we know about them, we will search."
With that, he made his way slowly back to the door, cracked it slightly and whispered something to someone on the opposite side. It was too low for the Doctor to hear. A moment later he turned back into the room. "There, that should take care of it," the old man reassured.
The Doctor let out a half smile. He was still not sure if he had done the right thing but he felt like he did not have any choice in the matter. "Thank you." He said graciously. "When you find them bring them back here. Then you can escort us to our ship and we will be on our way."
"Until then." King Odg smiled. "My home is your home. You may go anywhere in the castle you like except for rooms below, that is my private sanctum."
The Time Lord nodded in agreement. There was nothing he could do now but wait. Besides, it was an excellent opportunity to explore, a pastime that he could never resist. That is except for one thing, he was tired. Being kidnapped had worn him out. "Thank you." He said again. "Is there somewhere that I might gather some rest first?"
Odg nodded affirmatively and opened the large wooden door. "You will show this man to a room." He ordered. "He is our guest."
Without a word the guard spun on his heel, moved into the room and across to the set of doors on the other side. There, he made a motion with his hand for the Doctor to follow him. The Time Lord responded promptly and in a matter of moments they were moving swiftly down a long corridor.
"Lovely castle, this." Remarked the Doctor, trying to break the silence. The guard remained quiet.
"Would you care for a jelly baby?" He asked, this time reaching into his pocket for the bag of candy. Still, there was no answer. The sentry simply continued to walk with his eyes stretched out in front of him. Eerily, it reminded him of the ghost of Christmas Future.
Just then the guard stopped next to a plain wooden door. , He pushed it open revealing a small yet cozy room. In the very back was a window that looked out over a beautiful flowing forest, hills and plains. It was also, the Doctor surmised, facing in just the right direction as to allow a great deal of sunlight though out the day.
Just below that was the bed. It was sort and not made of any spectacular wood but it appeared to be sturdy enough to serve its purpose. Also, as there was no fireplace in the room, a very think and colorful quilt was draped over the top to keep out the cold.
Other than that the room was almost completely empty. There was a small table to one side that housed a short candle in case one had to move in the night but judging by the numerous scrapes on the leg it was truly a matter of conjecture as to weather or not it actually belonged in the room. Every thing else inside was solid gray stone.
"Excellent!" Remark the Doctor, rubbing his hands together and moving toward the bed. "I shall rest here for a bit and then I shall have a look around this place. You will tell me the moment my friends are found won't you."
The guard nodded his head, turned to leave, and closed the door behind him. It was more an answer than he expected and also a far less assuring one. The situation was truly confusing. For some odd reason he trusted King Odg extraordinarily more than anyone else he had ever met. This coupled with the fact that it had only taken him a few minutes to form this opinion gave him a bad feeling.
It was enough to make him all the more curious about what was going on. So curious, in fact, that he was about to forgo his planned nap in favor of exploring the castle in depth when he was distracted by loud scratching noise.
Intrigued, the Time Lord looked around the room for the source. He saw nothing unusual. Then, he heard it again, this time slightly louder. It seemed to be coming from near the bed. Using all his strength he took hold of one the wooden posts and pushed it toward the center of the room. There was yet another scratching noise.
To his surprise, there was a small square hole in floor where a stone should have been laid. Not only that but it seemed to stretch down rather deeply. Almost frantically, the Doctor searched himself for a flashlight but all he could come up with was a small match.
It would have to do. Gingerly he kneeled down and struck the match on the hard stone floor. Unfortunately, it did not help much. The bottom was still too far away. One thing that was certain, though, was that it was not a regular hole. All the way, as far as the Doctor could reach, there were four visible sidewalls. It had obviously been created for some purpose and not by accident.
As he pondered this, the flame on the match had begun to eat away at the wood, making the Time Lord's fingers more uncomfortable by the second. He was about to drop the whole thing completely into the hole to see if he could see the bottom when finally something appeared.
Once again, a scratching noise appeared from within the small abyss but this time, in the light of the match, a hand appeared out of the darkness and clutched onto a tiny notch in the sidewall. It was a young and slender hand and all but the fingers on it were covered by black glove.
"He - hello?" Stuttered the Time Lord. He was not sure if he was actually seeing someone's hand or if his mind was playing tricks on him for some reason. Suddenly, there was another bout of scratching even louder than before but this time it was preceded by a loud grunt. Now a forearm and a shoulder were visible. "Hello." A female voice answered back.
The Doctor was stunned. It was a person and not his mind. But, what were they doing climbing up such a small hole? "I beg your pardon," he asked, "but might I inquire who you are and what you are doing?"
Once again there was more scratching and groaning as the young lady's face appeared out of the darkness. "No you may not." The other responded. "I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you."
". "Well, I have to confess," Snapped the other," you must be an ace of an escape artist."
"I can hold my own if that's what you mean." Retorted the climber, moving ever closer to the top. She could now see the man's face clearly staring back at her. She was not impressed.
"Perhaps you would like some assistance anyhow." The Doctor offered.
The Lady only shook her head. "Thank you," she said, "but I'm not sure that you're up to it."
The time traveler's eyes opened as wide. "What are you saying?" He asked leering deeply at the girl. "Madam, I may be old but I am not feeble."
"We'll have to debate that another time I'm afraid." Rebutted the lady placing her hand on the very top of the hole, "I'm out now." And with that she squeezed herself fully into the room. It was quite an event to witness and one that could only be compared to a chick escaping the confines of its shell.
Yet, even that could not truly describe the event for when the young woman began to pull herself out of hole she was caught around the waist by a set of holstered pistols that were strapped to her side. She quickly twisted and contorted herself in several directions to attempt to solve the problem but none of them prevailed. In the end, she was forced to set all her wait out in front of her on her hands. Then, in a move that very few yoga masters could perform, she lifted her self out of the hole vertically, swinging her legs over the top of her head until she was comfortably upside down and standing on her hands.
"Are you alright?" Asked the Doctor in a mixed state of shock and hilarity.
Skillfully, the young lady turned herself around so that she was, more or less, facing the Time Lord. In doing so, she made an extraordinary discovery. The man's clothes were nothing like anyone else's that she had seen. "You're not from around here are you?" She asked, ignoring the query.
"No, I'm not." He answered, "I am known as the Doctor and I am a visitor here. As are you if my eyes are seeing straight."
The escape artist smiled and rolled herself forward so that she was once again back on her feet. Suddenly, she did not see this man as much of a threat as she had thought. Still, she had been warned about the tricks of the others so she kept up her guard, at least most of it. "Hello." She said, scanning the room. "I am Miss Lara Croft."
"My pleasure Miss." Responded the time traveler, extending a hand. "I take it you are from Earth? If so, how did you get here?"
"Yes, I am." Croft nodded, "And I was just about to ask you how you got here."
The Doctor scratched his head for a moment, then moved over to the bed and sat down. "That is rather difficult to explain." he said, "Suffice it to say that I landed my ship here."
"Ship?" Responded the explorer. "Sailing or otherwise?"
"Otherwise." Answered the Time Lord, "Very much otherwise."
Thoughtfully, Lara bit down on her lower lip. The Doctor had obviously come of his own free will and what was more Atans obviously did not know he was there. Could he be a trick of some sort? Being a stranger herself she had no way to know. "She did, however, find it strange that he would list his "ship" as something other than the sailing variety. Her mission, she thought, would have to wait for a moment. Something unusual was definitely going on.
The Doctor had to admit the same thing. After all, in his experience Earth women did not usually show up on strange planets and not know how they had got there. There was, it seemed, only one thing to do. It was one of the most dangerous plans he had ever come up with but it was the only one that seemed as though it might help both of them understand what was going on. They would have to tell each other the exact truth about who they were and what they were doing. The trick was to convince Miss Croft. "I must say," he began, " finding someone from Earth here is most interesting."
The young lady moved across the floor and sat down on the bed next to the Doctor so that she could get a better look at him. "Well, I'd agree to that." She said, folding her arms in front of her "So is finding an oddly dressed man who claims to have a space ship."
"Yes." The Doctor chuckled to himself. "I suppose I should explain that a bit further, shouldn't I?"
Lara nodded affirmatively. "I think I'd like to hear that." She said, "This place just keeps getting more and more confusing all the time."