It had been quick, at least; she’d seen to that. She’d looked it in the eyes, and not said she was sorry. If she had, then the whale might have forgiven her, and at that moment it would have been too much for her to bear.
There had been a scent of alcohol on its dying breath. Lady Destange must have gone inside to recover, to the remains of her ship that would be deep within the whale. The Doctor tracked the whiff of it and picked her way through the carcass with her torch, before at last she saw the Kilderkin squeezed tight within her wreck..
“Ah, Doctor!” said Lady Destange. “No friend, I see. Only the nobility, eh, for this little showdown of ours?”
“I don’t want a showdown. Just for you to go away.”
“But I do want that, you see; I want that very much. It’s a thirsty business, you know, getting catapulted into a whale. Makes one want revenge, and an awful lot of blood. Be it Time Lord, human, all of it.” She giggled. “You’ve made me want to get properly totty.”
“I looked for the bit that didn’t fit, you see,” said the Doctor, ignoring her, “and thought about why it’d be. You’re here for blood, but you turn people to gold, and that doesn’t make any sense! Less blood to drink; heavier to lift. You wouldn’t waste your time with that. Unless you were poor,” she said triumphantly, “and the whole Lady business was a ruse. You go somewhere no one can find you to do something nobody knows you can do, and go back to your planet with gold and the finest blood! You can buy your way to really being a lady, after that. And to an outsider it might look like you weren’t so different to a person hacking away at–“ she frowned. “Why are you laughing at me?”
Lady Destange was doubled over, laughing heavily while wheezing from her wounds. “You sound so clever!” she said, “as you get it completely wrong. Gold is worthless where I’m from; that’s what makes it so funny! These people and that metal, they’re both so valueless, but to turn one worthless thing to another and see everyone act as if it matters! Ha!” She steadied herself. “I know you want a sob story, dear,” she said. “But the truth’s the truth. I’m exactly the person I say I am. The drinking, the killing, all of it. I just did it all because I found it fun.”
“Oh, come on,” said the Doctor. “I was going to make a clever point, don’t you see? I had a big speech; it was going to be really good. But you’re just utterly evil, aren’t you? It doesn’t work if you’re just evil!”
She took a tiny sachet from a pocket and shook it, setting some impossible chemistry in motion.
“I didn’t want to have to do this,” said the Doctor.
The sachet burst apart as the thing inside it expanded, and in a second a tall glass bottle had formed within her hands.
Lady Destange’s eyes widened. “You can’t!” she said softly. Then: “YOU CAN’T!” loudly and desperately.
“It won’t kill you,” said the Doctor. “It’ll just be incredibly unpleasant.”
The Kilderkin continued to plead as the glass of the bottle began to gently ring.
“Know what they told me on my medical degree?” said the Doctor. “That if something’s going to hurt badly, you always say it’ll hurt a little less than it will. ‘Cause it means your patient knows that things’ll be bad; they’ll be prepared for it. But you don’t panic them, not more than you have to do.”
She raised the bottle above her head.
“So this,” she said, “will hurt more than you can possibly imagine.”
The cork came off the bottle with a pop, and the Doctor closed her eyes as Lady Destange began to scream.
A sound filled the air like a glass being poured in reverse, and the smell of alcohol filled up the Doctor’s nostrils. After a while she opened her eyes, to find herself alone and with a bottle full of the most wonderful wine she’d ever smelled. She turned it over sadly in her hands, her face like she was looking at a patient who’d fallen into a coma.
“Blood and wine,” she said to herself sadly.
She walked back out of the broken and rocky corpse.