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

The Doctor sat at the table with her friends, poking her sonic screwdriver at the giant crystal.

“It’s an alien,” said Chris, as a flat statement rather than a question.

“A bit of one,” said the Doctor. “It’s from a Salineoptera. A salt whale. And from the way this rock is screaming it can’t be far from here.”

“Gosh,” said Lorna. “I didn’t know they had whales in Italy, back in the past.”

“Well, They didn’t have salt whales,” said the Doctor. “They’re from”– she worked out the number of light years, and decided it wasn’t worth the bother –“space,” she said, intoning it mystically so it sounded like what she’d always meant to say.

“Everything’s from space,” said Chris, “and nobody ever notices.”

Herminius came in through the door, smiling broadly at his guests. “Do you like it?” he asked. “The source of all my riches, before you came along!!”

“It’s a piece of a creature that’s in horrendous pain,” said the Doctor, “but this bit of it doesn’t feel much of anything. If you want to chisel bits off to live it large then that’s horrible–“ she made a yucky face “–but I’m not going to stop you. And at least,” she added, breaking off a bit of salt herself, “no one else is actually in danger. Worth a lot in this period, is salt,” she said to her friends, who already knew.

She popped the salt in her mouth and chewed it thoughtfully, then made a face that was even worse than someone with a mouth full of salt should make.

“Well,” she said, “turns out everyone else is actually in danger. Don’t lick the salt; Chris.”

Chris looked frightened. “Is it dangerous?”

“Worse. It’s alcoholic.”

“The salt whale is an alcoholic?” said Lorna.

“Not quite,” said the Doctor. “It’s nothing as sensible as that.”

“Is it something to do,” said Herminius, “with people turning to gold?”

“That,” said the Doctor, “is an ominously specific question.”

“It’s just my old neighbour, she turned to gold the other day–“

“Right. Okay. Turning to gold, and dying in other ways. I’ll have to take action, however they’re going to kill.”

“Couldn’t the ruler of the city help?” said Lorna. “Send in the legions, or something.”

What?” said Herminius, outraged. “But this is Rome! We’re a Republic; a democracy! There’s no one man at the top ruling over it all! Surely it’s still said — even in the future — that there are no kings in Rome!”

“But Rome doesn’t have a king,” said Chris. “It has an Emp–“

“An employment crisis!” said the Doctor over her friend. “For all the kings. They come here with all their experience kinging, then go ‘Oops, no, there’s no positions here!’”

“I don’t like it when you talk over me,” said Chris.

“It’s rude! But what’d be morebrude, would be trying to make yourself king of a city like this. And what’d be rudest of all, would be not calling yourself a king, even though you basically were! Wouldn’t that be a horrifying thing,” she said, staring very hard at her friends, “for a citizen of Rome to even have to consider?

“I just thought they’d be able to help,” said Lorna.

There was a very uncomfortable silence for a while.

“So!” said Lorna brightly, “how about this monster, who’s coming to kill us all?”

“It’s not a monster. It’s a person, as far as I could tell from the taste. They must’ve been swallowed by the whale. They’re one of the Kilderkin, from one of the finer vintages. They’re a people that evolved from–“ she blushed, “from grapes.”

What?” said Lorna.

“I’m glad I’m not a grape,” said Chris.

“Well, you’ll wish you weren’t a human, if this person stays here much longer. They’ll drink the blood out of everyone here, or turn them to gold. Like a very confusing metaphor for capitalism.”

She got out her phone, and flicked it on.

“We’d better hurry,” she said, swiping and tapping her screen, “I’ve got this app that’s a bit like Uber, but for the time before cars were invented–“

“We’re not coming,” said Chris.

The Doctor boggled at her. “But we’re going on an adventure!”

“I don’t want to go on an adventure,” said Chris. “I want to be on holiday.”

“Ah. Well. I’ll just save all the people in this city on my own, then,” said the Doctor.

“Enjoy it!” said Lorna with a smile.

“It’s just, well. It’s going to be quite a lot of work.”

“You said we were going on holiday,” said Lorna. “You didn’t say anything about saving ancient cities. It’d be more effort for us, you know. Losing this.”

The Doctor frowned. “I don’t understand.”

“I know you don’t,” said Lorna. “It’s what I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”

She turned round to her daughter.

“Chrissy,” she said. “D’you mind? I want to speak to your magic friend alone.”

Chris looked like she did mind, but started to head off anyway.

“Beat the wine person, Doctor,” she said as she went to their room.

Lorna waited until she was sure her daughter was gone.

“Back there,” she said to the Doctor, “you said what your people were called.”

The Doctor smiled. “Time Lords.”

“Right. And that wasn’t, you know, a joke, or a lie you tell a child?”


“It just sounds… very pompous, I suppose. Like you wouldn’t want to meet a person who would call themselves that.”

“I didn’t come up with it. Although women where I’m from are often called Time Ladies, but I thought–“

“I don’t care about that. I was just thinking, it’s you, you know? Down to a tee.” She laughed. “However much you don’t want it to be.”

“I ran away from that planet,” said the Doctor. “People aren’t defined by where they’re from.”

“And that’s exactly what a person like you would say. Get a new accent, slum it with us normal folk; like in the end you’re not still a bloody Lord.

The Doctor looked punctured, like a wounded balloon.

“I’m not blaming you! I know you’re trying. And I know you’re good, I do. But it’s just… it’s not enough, at the end of the day. To put on some jeans and sound a bit Northern. You’ll go back to your wood and your giant house, and the rest of us’ll be going on living our lives.”

“Not here,” said the Doctor softly. “Everyone’ll die, here, if I don’t go and put a stop to it.”

Lorna’s expression grew less hard. “I don’t mean I don’t think you’re a good woman, Doctor. And what you do is–“ she laughed “–it’s amazing… but you need to understand, sometimes we won’t want to join you. Because sometimes it’s just too much, you know? Sometimes we need not to see it. To stay and relax, for a while.”

The Doctor avoided Lorna’s gaze.

“You know,” she said to a wall, “that I think you’re a good woman, too.”

“No,” said Lorna. “No, I had no idea.”

She smiled at the Doctor.

“Stay safe, Time Lord.”

The Doctor smiled. “Enjoy your holiday, Lorna.”

They looked blankly at each other like something more should have happened, then the Doctor shuffled awkwardly away. Leaving the world of a holiday where nothing much happened, she set off to fight an evil grape woman from space.