Susan pouted as she stared at herself in the long grand mirror in the palace chambers. She sighed as she looked at her outfit and then at her hair bundled under a large feathered hat.
The Doctor knocked lightly on the door and entered the room, peering behind him as he did, to make sure no one was watching. “Ready for the banquet, my dear?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be dressed like this, Grandfather. Must I dress as a boy?”
The Doctor stood behind her at the mirror and held onto her shoulders. “I think it’s safer. This King Henry the VIII, well I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.”
“But the dresses are so much prettier and I feel silly like this!” She looked at her tights, big puffy trousers, red tunic, and sighed again- one day she’d get to dress as someone far more glamorous.
“I know this trip wasn’t quite what we expected hmm?” he said cuddling her.
“You wanted to do some intense study on Tudor England and then leave before anyone noticed!”
There was a brief hint of mischief in the Doctor’s eyes before they became serious again. “It was the ship’s fault. What happened I cannot ascertain until I’m able to examine the instruments.”
“But its never played up before. It was a Sedan chair and an ionic column. Do you think the circuit might be broken?”
“No, I shouldn’t think so, my dear. It still managed to blend in to some degree, though I wasn’t entirely pleased with the scripture of our home-world ending up on the side of the trunk.”
“You don’t think they’ll try to look inside?” Susan asked.
The Doctor bristled. “Yes, quite so, quite so. Now the trunk… or the ship’s...been taken to the tower like some sort of common prisoner, we must find a way to get in there and release it.”
“But the king thinks it’s some sort of foreign artefact, a dangerous one too if he’s got it under lock and key.”
The Doctor scratched his chin. “I’m well aware of all the information, child. The king is afraid of what that box represents, it’ll drive him insane if he doesn’t see what’s inside. But don’t fret, Susan, I have a plan…of sorts.”
Susan sighed. She wasn’t entirely convinced that her grandfather was the best at coming up with plans. He was an observer for the most part, and so far he had not had the experience of meddling or negotiating in historical periods. Before they landed on any far away place, he would take out a book or map and have them study the contents. He would then have them record their findings from a distance, speaking to people only when necessary. Like a wildlife photographer he wouldn’t intervene even when the antelope was inside the lion’s gaping jaws. She doubted her grandfather had the skill to beat Henry the VIII, the most famous king in English history. But she would trust him and follow his lead.
When they arrived at the banquet, the Doctor marched to the top of the king’s table like he owned the palace and he seated himself at the end of the row, motioning for Susan to join him. It was impressive to her how he’d managed to convince the party that he was a senior member of a noble family but although he had all the paperwork to accompany his ego, she was anxious that his social skills would not match his fake credentials. Her grandfather was an impatient man and he wanted to leave as soon as possible- he would not take many weeks negotiating to have his TARDIS released.
“Your majesty,” the Doctor began, “one would very much like to enquire after that strange trunk that was taken to the tower.”
Susan buried her head in her hands. One minute at the table and he’d already mentioned the tower. She tried to jump in to help, remembering to adopt the boyish voice of the character she’d assumed. “It’s wonderfully crafted, your majesty. Perhaps it is a gift and should be showcased rather than hidden away.”
King Henry’s eyes narrowed in her direction and she shuddered at the intensity of his gaze.
“Who let this boy speak with such candour?” he said, scratching his red beard.
The Doctor waved his hand about and chuckled. “Oh, my grandson meant no offence, he is merely curious as he is very fond of furnishings.”
“Why have you both such an interest in that box? It may seem that you know more about it than you are letting on, after all it arrived at the same time you did.” King Henry’s eyes remained focused on the strangers.
“Certainly not, your majesty,” the Doctor said, “we arrived without any possessions. But we are indeed fascinated by beautiful things, such as your palaces, your clothes, and now that secret artefact that has fallen into your hands. I wonder if we could take a look at it?”
Susan watched as King Henry sipped his drink. He didn’t reply and instead his teeth tore into a piece of meat placed in front of him on a big silver platter. She grimaced as she saw pieces of meat fly from his lips onto the table.
The Doctor, also observing the scene, rose up from his seat impatiently, his hands tight and his face firm. “I must insist…”
“Be quiet,” King Henry boomed. “You will sit down or I will sit you down myself!”
“Grandfather!” Susan cried as she lowered him back into his seat. She whispered into his ear. “Another way, not like this, please!”
The Doctor scoffed and rose to his feet again, ignoring the hisses of contempt from the other diners who were bemused to the spectacle unfolding. “I will not be subdued. I demand to see that trunk at once!”
King Henry laughed, almost choking when a piece of meat became lodged in his throat. When he composed himself, he was looking directly at the Doctor with murderous intent. Susan could suddenly picture her grandfather being led to the block.
“Furthermore,” the Doctor continued, “I would like you to escort me there immediately.”
King Henry’s eyes twitched in irritation, his dinner unable to digest properly with the constant interruptions from the old man. He finally rose from his seat and slammed his fist onto the table. “Silent!”
“I will not!” the Doctor retaliated.
King Henry reached forward toward the tray of meat scraps that a servant was carrying past the table. He picked a piece up and threw it across into the Doctor’s direction, hitting him square on the jaw like a blow from a fist. Susan screeched as the meat juices splattered onto her tunic.
The Doctor’s face remained taut for a moment before there was a sudden unexpected chuckle.
“Grandfather, what are you doing?”
The Doctor scooped up the mess of meaty bits and hurled them back in the direction of the king. The parson’s nose hit Henry directly on his own nose and dripped down into his mouth. Henry clenched his fists as the whole room fell into a terrified silence.
“Take them to the tower!” King Henry boomed.
The Doctor chuckled as he leaned over to Susan. “We’ll be back with the TARDIS in no time, my dear.”
“But grandfather, what if we’re put on the other side of the tower, in a completely different cell, locked up ready for execution?”
The Doctor’s face fell in realisation as he was grabbed by two guards carrying swords.
“Unhand me at once!” the Doctor cried. “Don’t worry, my dear, I’ll think of something.”
Susan sighed as she was dragged from her seat and escorted from the palace. Why did she not have much faith in him to get them free?