“Well, everyone certainly seems festive here,” Peri commented as yet another brightly clad couple twirled by in the middle of a love song, with what were presumably their friends and family trailing after and chiming in for a verse here and there.
“I like it." Erimem smiled as she turned to watch them for a bit. The young woman's father didn't seem to approve of their love but the young man's ardent song looked to be swaying him; there also might have been a magic curse involved. "There is music in the air, bright colours and for once there is no death or fighting. Everyone seems happy to just sing their songs.”
“Yes, I thought you girls might enjoy it here. Just the thing to pick up our spirits. Not generally my favourite sort of entertainment, but it's always good to broaden our horizons." The Doctor looked around with a strained smile, silently wishing he had managed to get the TARDIS to the test match he was actually aiming for.
"Well at least it's not more cricket." Peri laughed and pulled her friend ahead to a good spot for watching a strange gymnastic display that was to decide which of two men would marry the woman they both loved.
"Quite," the Doctor grumbled to himself as he watched them go. At least they were happy. He smiled and stuffed his hands in his pockets. Leaving them to their fun, he wandered into a marketplace in search of some of his own. He strolled amongst the colourful stalls, looking at the myriad displays of food, fabrics and instruments (there seemed to be a great many instruments). As he began to more closely investigate a recorder that brought back a fond memory or two, he caught the sound of a woman softly crying under the din of song that pervaded the area. He followed the sound and found her sitting on a low wall with her face in her hands.
"Excuse me, miss..." He approached her, but she didn't answer. "I would certainly understand if you would like to be alone, but I was wondering if there was anything I could do to help?" She continued to show no sign that she had heard him at all. He wondered if she was simply too distraught to acknowledge him, but then she sighed and turned to watch a couple singing to each other on a bench near by.
"Ah, you don't seem to register any sort of speech that isn't sung, do you?" He thought a moment, biting his lip.
"Will - you - please - tell me - what's - wrong?" he tried in the tune of Marry Had A Little Lamb. That seemed to suffice as the women turned her tear stained face up to him and began a heartbreaking ballad explaining that her lover had been taken to the palace to join the new emperor's personal guard and that she feared she would never lay eyes upon him again.
"Hmm." He gave it a bit more of a musical lilt that normal just to be on the safe side an nodded to her as he stood to make his way to the large place in the distance.
A clever distraction, by way of a little mechanical wind-up nightingale he had in his pocket, let him sneak into the laughably lightly guarded servants’ entrance. He made his way cautiously through the halls, but the bulk of the security seemed to be focused on the main entrance, or were too busy looking out windows, singing to themselves about their abandoned loves below in the town and how it pained them to be apart.
He wandered through the corridors undisturbed. Every length of hall was more lavishly decorated than the last. He felt this was a good sign he was making his way to the heart of the place, where he might find someone in charge. Finally, he came to a hall of gold veined white marble with bright gauzy curtains hung at intervals across the way.
The Doctor struggled though the draping fabrics to finally emerge in the heart of the room, leaving a musical tinkling of the metal beads that decorated them hanging in the air behind him. He halted immediately, standing still in shock as he saw an imposing man seated on an elevated golden throne at the head of a garishly shining chamber. He was draped over his seat, black silken shirt open halfway down his chest and wine glass grasped carelessly his hand. The Doctor swallowed hard; The Master was certainly looking well for a dead man.
Suddenly the Master burst out with a cruel laugh and leaped dramatically from the dais. He snapped his fingers and the lazy decadent music that had filled the room before took a harder, more erotic beat. He took a step, and then another, and soon began an sensual dance, swinging and thrusting his hips while the Doctor looked on, captivated if slightly amused. The guards who flanked the room pulled in to stand behind the Master, forming a V with their leader at the apex, and danced in perfect sync behind him.
Inevitably and to the Doctor‘s mild horror, the Master began to sing.
"At last you come to me, my dearest foe,
Your hearts have led you true, and now you know.
You thought the fires had seen me annihilated,
But rumours of my demise were much exaggerated."
He threw his arms wide as if to evince just how alive he was.
The Doctor raised a single pale eyebrow and wondered, slightly impressed, if he had composed this beforehand or come up with it on the spot. Before he had a chance to respond, the Master gave a nod to his guards, and from ether side of the room a companion of the Doctor's was led in at the end of a long spear. Peri and Erimem ran to the Doctor's side; the guards remained near, weapons poised should any of them attempt to flee.
"I am sorry, Doctor. We could not get away from them."
“Yeah, they just wouldn't listen to us."
"Don't worry, girls. It wasn't you fault. I believe these people can only communicate through song. They couldn’t have understood anything that you were saying. You were probably safer in here than out on the street.”
“Doctor,” Peri scrunched in close, edging behind the Doctor slightly as she looked at the black clad emperor, “is that really him this time?”
“I’m afraid so, Peri.”
"So he is alive?”
"That would certainly seem to be to case." He sounded distant and didn’t met her eyes when he answered, still staring at the Master across the long room. “What are you doing here?” he shouted across at him., “You have no right to upset the lives of these people!” The guards behind their current Emperor looked angered by his unmusical speech. The Master laughed at his folly and began again.
"Here you'll find me worshipped and revered!
My mastery of song you'll find too clear.
You have no way to fight or turn the tide;
Submit to me, my dear, and be my bride."
"His what?" Peri squawked in disbelief.
"Shh, not now, Peri. I'm trying to think." He gave a resigned heave of the shoulders and turned to the girls. "I'm afraid this is the only way. I must challenge him on his terms, or it will not be recognised by the people of this planet and he will continue to control them."
“But really Doctor, bride?”
“I’m certain it was just keeping with the rhyme scheme, now please…”
"I do not understand why you must depose him, Doctor," Erimem interrupted.
"Well, he is evil. I told you all of the horrible things he did," Peri reminded her.
"Everyone here seems happy, if not a little melodramatic. Why not just leave him to rule his people in peace?"
"Well, happy or not, I don't think that the Doctor here wants to be anyone’s bride. Do you?"
"No, not especially," the Doctor mumbled distractedly.
"So, we are defending his virtue?"
"Er, I suppose." Peri made a face. “Though really--”
"Could you two please stop discussing my virtue! It‘s rather more difficult than it looks to compose lyrics on the spot, and I am trying to concentrate."
The Master parted company from his guards and stalked towards the middle of the room. The Doctor begin to step in rhythm to meet him. They circled pushing and pulling each other together and away, finally twisting again to bring them a breath apart, when the Doctor burst away with a flourish. He looked back to his companions gesturing that they should join with a nod of his head.
“Peri, you know it’s best not to question him in regards to an alien culture. You would not want to let the Doctor down, would you?”
“Yeah but this is like, really way weirder than most of the other stuff... Hey, wait up!” she shouted as she rushed to take her place behind the Doctor and joined in step with her fellow companion.
The Doctor's movements were stiff at first, but as he committed to the idea of going through with the dance he showed a technical precision that compensated for a lack of fluidity. He took aggressive strides towards the Master while Peri and Erimem twirled and shimmied behind him.
I’m hardly surprised, though you may laugh at me--
You’ve always had a vermin’s resiliency.
Abandon your rule, leave these people alone!
You’ll never make me accomplice to your throne.
He looked pleased with his mostly in tune performance, though he couldn't help his cheeks reddening at the spectacle of it all.
The Master pressed in undaunted. He spun at him, threw his arms out sideways. The Doctor faltered and fell backward, only the toe of one trainer still rooted to the ground. The girls came in swiftly behind him with arms outstretched to catch him and right him to standing in one fluid motion. They flung him back into the fray and he circled with the Master again, close and slow.
The Master moved suddenly to strike his dance partner, but the Doctor caught the attacking hand at the wrist, a breath away from his cheek. The Doctor spun out from the Master to the full extension of both their arms. The Master snapped him back, wrapping The Doctor up against him. The Doctor turned his face away from the Master as he held him swaying to the beat imparting his fluidity to the Doctor's body.
"Why are you doing this?" the Doctor whispered angrily. "We look ridiculous."
"Why are you, my dear?" the Master hissed back at him through his teeth. "You must admit in one way or another we are always dancing, you and I; the only difference is the music."
"Perhaps I have harboured fondness for you,
I’m glad you’re not deceased, I’ll admit that it’s true.
but your place is not to rule this peaceful land.
just release us, please, and end this foolish plan".
The Doctor burst away and ran from the Master in a wide circle, bringing him back to face the men who made up the Master’s guard.
"This man is very far from all that he claims!
Destruction and chaos are his only aims.
You all have lives to live, so now I implore:
Go back home, and be with the ones you adore."
The guards burst in to a joyful chorus and promptly abandoned their posts. The last guard had vacated the room before the weapons dropped in their haste had ceased to clatter. The Master stood behind the Doctor, furious; he spun around and shot an accusing finger out at him. The music swelled, but the Doctor interrupted before the Master could begin.
"You know we don't really need to sing any more. I think it would be far less complicated if we just spoke now." The music wilted, as did the Master’s expression of rage.
"Very well, my dear. You may have won this time, but..."
"Hold that thought, Master. Girls, you can head back to the TARDIS. Everyone should be too involved in their own business to pay you much mind. I should be more than able to handle this one on my own.”
“Whatever you say, Doctor.”
“Yeah, won’t catch me hanging around for an encore.“ Both girls looked at each other with a small smile and then made there way out through the hall of curtains.
"Would you kindly let me finish, Doctor?"
"You know, I don’t think that I will. I have no intention of playing along with you this time. Just for a change."
The Master developed a rare case of speechlessness, which was all the better as the Doctor took him by the hand and lead him wordlessly out to a courtyard.
Night had fallen on the town as they had fought their strange battle. The moon hung, full and unbelievably large in an inky indigo sky. The Doctor led them down a rocky path that weaved through the lush garden, leading to a bridge arching over a small shallow stream. There, he brought them to a stop and looked out over the water and the sky reflected down in it.
"That was hardly fair, the position you put me in."
"I would have thought you'd seen enough of the Universe by now to know that things are rarely fair for anyone."
"True enough." Little more needed to be said. Maybe the Doctor had been too long in this body, but the moonlight and the closeness of his onetime friend left him rather sentimental.
"You have no business being here, and you are really very lucky you did little more than cause the people here some undue heartache, but I meant what I sang-- er, said. I'm glad to see you." The Doctor brought his hand over to brush his finger against the Master's hand resting on the bridge railing. The Master in turn took the Doctor’s hand in his own.
The Doctor spared him a smile and let himself be pulled down into a kiss.
Elsewhere in the garden there was a rustling of bushes, behind which huddled two overly curious young women.
"Ugh, and I thought I had bad taste in guys," Peri whispered, and scrunched up her face.
"I do not understand why we had to go through all the trouble of defending his virtue if he was just going to turn around and give himself to this Master anyway."
"Look Erimem, I-- I'll explain it to you latter. We should probably go; they look like they’re getting a little more personal than I’d like to see."
"Yes. Oh, the Doctor is a good deal more flexible than he looks!"