The Name of a King

by vegetables [Reviews - 0]

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  • All Ages
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  • Action/Adventure, Alternate Universe, Drama, General, Humor, Mixed, Series

Holding her salt shaker in front of her like a weapon, the Doctor made her way through a half-plowed field. She’d been pretending to be oblivious to the two people stalking her — just so she’d get some time alone — but the obvious sound of their stomping feet had finally become too much for her.

“I know you’re behind me,” she said without turning round, “and that you’re not human.”

“I am too!” said Thresu, giving himself away without thinking.

“Not you! Mr Marbles there, who you’re travelling with. In his not very convincing disguise.”

“It’s not really a disguise,” said Thresu desperately. “All sorts of people wear strange things, these days.” He looked meaningfully at the Doctor, who failed to get the hint. “And he was human, anyway,” he added as an afterthought, “before he was turned to stone.”

“Oh, everything’s been human once,” said the Doctor, looking at the soil. “This dirt’d’ve been corpses, and the corpses would’ve been people, and it doesn’t mean the crops can hold much of a conversation. What matters to me is that he’s something quite different now, and I’m guessing that he’s come here to kill.”

“I don’t see why I should tell you about him,” said Thresu, “when I know nothing at all about you.” The salt in his mind screamed at him for the lie, but he blanked out all the words as well as he could. He’d had a lot of practice in not listening to the furious, in his lifetime as a slave.

“I’m the Doctor,” she said. “A traveller of time and space. And I come from the mysterious, far-off land… of Britain.

“I’ve heard of Britain,” said Thresu. “It’s an awful place, covered in rain and fog!”

“All true!” grinned the Doctor. “It’s quite nice.”

“I hear they let women make their own rules,” said Thresu.

“Yup,” said the Doctor. “We’ve mad ideas over in Blighty.”

“And that they’ll all be crushed by the might of the legions of Rome, in good time.”

The Doctor winced, and decided to change the subject.

“At any rate,” she said. “I imagine your friend’s very good at fighting. It’s just that I’d guess he likes to do it, well.” She made a face. “To the death?”

“There are other ways?” said Thresu, confused.

“There are if you’re me. This person who’s turning you all to gold, she’s abhorrent. But she’s still a person, and I still don’t want her dead.”

Thresu looked even more confused. “It sounds like you do things very differently on that island of yours,” he said.

“Well, if that’s too mind-blowing for you, this next bit’s going to be tricky. Because the awful person who we can’t forget is a person is also a giant grape.” She nodded into the distance. ”And she’s right over there.”

Thresu looked round, wearily wishing he was surprised by the madness of the world. He might have mistaken the thing that was waddling towards them for a very fat woman with an especially terrible disease. She was huge and round and clomping on spherical legs, her red-purple body encased in a toga that couldn’t take the strain. She wasn’t the sort of creature he’d imagined he might encounter, when he’d ended up studying mysteries.

“Is that an alien vintage I smell with my delicate nose?” the grape woman cried. “How nice to have an aperitif! It bodes so well to start a drinking session with something that’s very fine indeed.”

Thresu’s mind went back to the worst day he’d had as a slave, when he’d had to clean vomit from every room in his master’s villa. It had got into the murals and the fine rugs scrunched over the floor, and he’d had to scrub until the smell of it wedged right into his nose and throat. He’d wept at the end of the third day without sleep, and all that had only been the start of it. And as the grape-like aristocrat wobbled her way towards him, he realised he’d give anything to be back in that day once more.