The Queen Must Die

by Philosophercat [Reviews - 0]

  • Teen
  • None
  • Action/Adventure, Humor, Mystery

Author's Notes:
Written for 2009 Summer of Six Sixathon. This is a pinch hit, written rather quickly so I expect that there will be substantial revisions once the following chapters are complete. I also borrowed part of prompt #3 which was: understanding that values are not the same across all cultures. The truly crack elements will appear in the following chapters.

‘That’s the end of it,’ declared the Doctor. He wasn’t completely confident in his delivery. It was a new tactic, and he had hopes bringing down the hammer of his will would crush this opposition swiftly and put an end to further insurrection. The Australian looked at him.

‘You can’t do that you can’t win an argument by saying it’s over.’

‘Yes, I can!’ he sang back at her.

‘Why are you being so ignorant?’ fumed Tegan. ‘All I was asking for as-‘

‘Are you still speaking? I thought this discussion was over,’ he feigned a sudden hearing deficit, ‘because I won it!’ Barely had he begun to preen himself that his hearing returned just in time to catch Tegan saying something under her breath. He glared down at her in shock.

‘Childish? Me? Childish?! At least I’m not an hysterical woman!’

‘I beg your pardon?’ asked Tegan in a level tone. The Doctor was silent, busing himself with the console instead of replying to his companion. ‘Could you say that again please? I didn’t quite catch that?’ The Doctor had the worrying impression of standing on the crumbling crater of a volcano. They both knew he was on dangerous ground. He opened his mouth to speak after an awkward pause but was interrupted by a sharp, sudden jerking of the entire room. It tossed him into the air while Tegan crouched below the console, riding out the turbulence like an old hand. It was soon calm again and both had turned their attention to the time rotor.

‘Did you dematerilize?’ asked Tegan.

‘No, no I didn’t!’ said the Doctor. ‘The TARDIS must be receiving external instructions-‘

‘You don’t sound very convincing.’

‘Well, there is one other possibility — a rather worrying one.’ The Doctor appeared to be examining the time charts with something like a mild anxiety. This gave Tegan some relief; whatever was happening, it was a known quantity.

‘The TARDIS might be choosing her own course,’ he explained.

‘I didn’t know she could do that.’

The Doctor smiled at her. ‘Heathrow?’ he chuckled as he gave a soft pat to one of the roundels. ‘The old girl can be stubborn when she gets it into her circuitry that she knows best.’

‘You’ve lost me again. So, where’s she taking us?’

‘Don’t know. It’s unlikely we’ll come to any harm- Do try not to look so very sceptical, Tegan! I’m far more competent than my last regeneration.’ Tegan tried to look confident in the Doctor’s abilities.

The Doctor stepped out into a breezy autumn afternoon. The TARDIS had landed in a pacious town square, empty, paved with wide large trim paving stones laid square from one end to the other. Tall, medieval buildings framed the scene with brown stone solidity blended with surprisingly delicate toppers of unfamiliar sculpture. The air tinged on their skin.

‘Look familiar?’ asked Tegan.

‘Not particularly,’ the Doctor had another look around.

‘I suppose we can’t ask directions.’

‘No, the locals seldom respond well to “excuse me, could you tell me what planet this is?” They usually think you’re being cheeky. Ridiculous provincialism! Very Earth.’

Tegan sniffed and wandered off towards an inviting looking edifice. Her coat tickled her ears as he craned her head to look up at the gamboling figures traced in and upon the stonework. She blinked up at it with mixed feelings and returned to the TARDIS. The Doctor was still standing near. He exchanged glances with her.

‘It’s beautiful,’ she said to him. ‘I just don’t know why it is that wherever we go, cultures have the same…’ The Doctor nodded after a pause.

‘Oh, the same iconography, you mean? Yes, those pediments would not be out of place on most planets: Earth or-‘he scratched the back of his neck thoughtfully, ‘-a few other places.’

‘Manussa,’ said Tegan, not without emphasis.

‘Or Chixus Minor!’ added the Doctor obliviously. ‘Yes, there is what one might call a “universal unconscious” binding races together with mutual dreams and nightmares. Then again, others say Rassilon had something to do with it all — but that’s perfectly ridiculous.’

Tegan was looking at him strangely, closely, as if considering him in light of new information. It made him frown at her suspiciously. ‘Rassilon,’ she said. ‘I’ve read about him in the TARDIS index file.’

‘How did you do that?’

‘I looked him up under R for Rassilon but Raving Lunatic would have worked equally well.’

‘I mean — when did you figure out the directory matrix?’

‘The index file?’ Tegan laughed. ‘Wow, you really are dim, aren’t you? I worked that out just after your regeneration — ages ago!’ He stared disbelievingly. ‘It wasn’t even that impressive, Doc. I gave Rassilon a look when we left Gallifrey.’

At that moment a door opened in one of the grandest portals surrounding the square, pouring a cheerful light into the darkening yard. A smallish man exited, and made his way directly to the travelers. His movements were quick and light as he skimmed over, his legs careful not to disarrange the high skirt of his tunic, which was girdled low on his hips.

‘It seems we have been observed!’ remarked the Doctor. ‘Hello!’ he cried. ‘I’m the Doctor. You may take us to your leader — ‘ His voice trailed off as the little man, who was a head shorter than Tegan, simply ignored him.

‘My lady, you are welcome to our victuals and our fire,’ said the little man, one hand clasped to his chest, the other held out extravagantly towards the portal. ‘My lady says that I am to you as a slave.’

‘A slave?’ said Tegan, alarmed. The Doctor reassured her with a gesture.

‘We are strangers,’ said the Doctor.

The little man finally looked at him, then back to Tegan. ‘He speaks for you?’

‘He’s right, we’re strangers,’ said Tegan. The little man seemed satisfied.

‘I have heard that some ladies prefer that their slaves speak for them with the lowly. I intended no disrespect.’

The Doctor and Tegan exchanged a quick glance. ‘Oh, that’s alright,’ said Tegan. ‘He isn’t my slave.’

‘I see,’ said the little man.

‘Thank you,’ said the Doctor with some relief. The little man led them towards the portal as night was now coming on. He paused at the threshold as Tegan passed but pushed the Doctor back rudely without comment. Tegan went no further. The little man seemed to be confused by Tegan’s actions. ‘My lady?’

‘He comes with me,’ said Tegan boldly.

Exasperated, the Doctor put in: ‘in fact, she’s my —‘ but the little man paid no attention to him.

‘My lady sees fit to amuse herself,’ said the little man. But he soon realised she was serious. His voice became hushed. ‘My lady, I cannot grant your wish. I understand you are strangers, but such as you ask… it is forbidden.’

Tegan immediately walked out past him. ‘In that case, I’m not going in either-‘

‘My lady!’ he cried. ‘She will be angry with me if I fail in hospitality!’

‘Better go,’ said the Doctor, smiling. ‘Wouldn’t want to get the chap in trouble with his lady.’ The Doctor waggled his fingers at Tegan as he turned expectantly to his escort. “And it’s the servants’ entrance for us, eh?’ Tegan reluctantly stepped through the portal and into a warm chamber bathed in jewel-toned light shining down from a large brazier of stained glass. All was inviting and put her somewhat at ease, but her instincts told her to not entirely trust appearances. The room was large, with one entremely long, narrow dinning table in the centre. Servants stood silently along the wall here and there, amost like suits of armour. They were all men.

The Doctor waved a branch of desiccated spices out of his hair as he ducked into what appeared to be the kitchens of the place. His guide was still ignoring him, nevertheless, the Doctor took the coldness in stride — and stride he did as he skirted the plain, nearly vulgar surroundings as through he were on a VIP tour of the Louvre. Fingering a sausage with supreme delicacy, the Doctor sniffed at it and inquired where his lady had been admitted.

‘It’s getting dark out,’ was the reply.

‘So it is, so it is,’ the Doctor agreed, rearranging some fruit. ‘Very interesting, but I rather wanted to know if my lady needed my services.’ The man looked at him closely at this but said nothing. The Doctor sighed and drummed his fingers along a cutting board while the man placed some food on a wicker tray sullenly.

‘So, we’re to stay the night, then?’ asked the Doctor, hoping for information of any kind.

‘It’s dark out,’ repeated the man impatiently.

‘So, yes. And where do I -?’ The man pointed at a clear patch of floor between the stove and the pantry.

‘Lady Tegan?’ An impossibly imposing woman nodded towards the newcomer as they sat down to a light meal. ‘Of…?’

‘Brisbane,’ said Tegan uneasily. ‘You wouldn’t have heard of it — long way from here, y’know.’

‘Yes,’ uttered the monumental dowager. Tegan sensed her chance to better situate herself.

‘Your country here is charming but, since I’m still very new here, it all seems so strange to me. Do you live here alone?’

‘Indeed not,’ she replied slowly. ‘I and my five nieces live here.’

‘Oh, spinsters?’ the lady frowned. ‘I mean, they’re not married ladies.’

‘Yes, of course they’re married,’ said the woman impatiently. “I said they lived with me, did I not?’

‘Oh, right,’ laughed Tegan. ‘I had heard things were different here. Where I come from, wives usually live with their husbands, rather than their aunts.’

‘My dear, you are babbling. In truth you must be ill. Husbands? What is a husband, I should like to know.’

‘There are not men here with them?’ Tegan ventured carefully, as apprehension settled around her. Her host laughed heartily.

‘You poor sweet child!’ she gasped, ‘Men in the house with my nieces? Charming! You are charming, my dear! Such innocence — you must have lived some time in solitude not to know the ways of the world!’

‘Yes…’ said Tegan thoughtfully. ‘I didn’t mean to make such a fool of myself. As I said, it’s all so confusing.’

‘I do like you, child!’ said the woman, still laughing. ‘You shall be my pet!’

‘How nice!’ exclaimed Tegan, hoping she meant it in a soft-headed granny way, rather than something more literal. The thought brought her back around to the point. ‘I did have a friend with me when I arrived…’

‘Alright you,’ growled the Doctor. ‘I am a guest here!’ he said throwing out an imperious finger in the direction of the nook assigned to him. ‘Not a puppy!’

‘Suit yourself. It’s there or the yard,’ said the man, unconcerned. The Doctor watched him disappear around the corner. He sighed, determined not to be confined there. He peered into the hall and checked around the corner where he saw a series of doors.

‘Well, Doctor,’ he said. ‘Every downstairs has an upstairs.’ Opening one of the doors, he stepped through and immediately discovered himself in contact with something warm and unyielding. ‘My word!’ he exclaimed, extricating himself. ‘You must be the chap in charge.’

‘My name is Ya,’ said the barrel-chested bass.

‘Hello, Mr.Ya,’ said the Doctor cheerily. ‘I’m the Doctor. There’s been a bit of a misunderstanding here. You see, my friend-‘ The Doctor yelped as the taller man plucked him up by the arm and deposited him back in the kitchens.

‘Alright…’ the Doctor muttered, arranging himself between the stove and the pantry. ‘Warmer here than in a cell, anyway…’ The Doctor sulkily leaned against the stones of the wall, which were hardly comfortable. Before long, though, his nose began to twitch. It was a sharp, acrid smell- very out of place in a kitchen.

He frowned. ‘Can’t be… What would such a deadly substance be doing in a kitchen?’ he cried as he spotted the confirmation he needed — a blue glass bottle open on the table. He jerked his hand back, grasping too eagerly for the evidence. He leaned forward instead and sniffed carefully. ‘Tegan!’

He turned back to the hallway. It was empty. He skipped lightly past the first door and paused apprehensively outside the others. He reached into his pocket as a figure emerged from one. ‘Ah, hello Mr.Ya!’ the Doctor sprung the coin he had fetched, following its flight with rapt attention — for a moment. Ya too stared, just long enough for the Doctor to whirl around and hop through the intervening doorway.

This door led directly to a narrow step ladder. The Doctor scurried up into the crawlspace but soon felt a grip tightening on his leg. He clawed furiously at the rail, managing only to slow his decent. It was a losing battle. Desperate, the Doctor let go and tumbled down onto the other man, knocking them both breathless. The Doctor had his feet back on the rails when he heard a sudden scream coming from the floors above.