The Master grinned at me, almost proudly, and my heart did some weird little jump.
The nasty words from the beast meant nothing. Maybe I was clinging to whomever paid me attention, but was that really wrong?
"Well..." The Master thumbed behind him at the devil, as if it was only some random bystander. "If the old thing there bothers us too much, we can at least get rid of it."
The beast roared in his chains. No, it was more like a desperate howl. "You can't! The planet would lose its orbit and fall into the hole!"
"Yeah... that's indeed a pity," the Master drawled uninterested. "Everyone out there would soooo miss this ugly rock." He gave me a cheeky wink. "Let's wait for a bit. As I know our annoying Doctor he'll come up with something to get us back to the surface. And it will be so stupid it actually works."
Surprisingly the devil stayed silent after that. All truths or lies didn't help him now. No matter what he did, we always had the option to simply leave. One way or the other.
The Master continued to study the images and the untranslatable letters on the stone walls. There wasn't much to see, actually, but the images were clear enough, even without understanding the text. Deciphering the message hadn't been hard... if it weren't for the constant distraction the beast had used.
What a clever tactic. For most people it would have worked.
At some point I undressed the space suit, feeling way too hot inside the thing. And since we could breath here anyway, it wasn't worth the risk of having my circulation collapse on me. Heat had never been my favourite temperature.
I wondered how long we would have to wait. And for what exactly. The Master's trust in the Doctor was weird, but then again it seemed as if they had fought each other often enough to know the other Time Lord somehow always emerged with something to gain the upper hand. Like it was an ancient game. One building traps, the other one developing unforeseeable ways to get around them.
The beast paced up and down inside the lava, slowly drawing circles within his tiny realm. Trapped here for centuries he surely must already have gone mad from boredom. For a while I watched, wondering what exactly he might be.
"Are you?" I muttered eventually, sitting down on a rock near the lava.
The beast stopped and his dark eyes wandered over me.
"The devil, I mean," I elaborated. "The true one."
"I am," he simply stated. "Whatever your planet holds true as evil, I am."
Puzzled I blinked, tilting my head. "I don't think I get it," was all I admitted. "How can you be, when they have trapped you here 'before time'?"
The beast only chuckled in his low voice, continuing to pace. He truly seemed afraid we could destroy the seal. So, fear was something he was able to feel. Or maybe just an abstract version of it. It made me wonder if he also had spoken the truth when he had claimed not to ever feel lonely.
He stopped just as the thought had crossed my mind, eyes resting upon me. I swallowed and glared back, feeling less and less uncomfortable doing so. The longer I looked at the horrifying face, the more it lost its horror.
"You can't leave," I concluded. "Destroying the urns would release your body, but would destroy the force field. The moment your body gets freed, you'll be sucked into the black hole." A dark stare was my only answer. "So... you try and escape your mind instead. Implant it into another person, who will then take it away from here. That's the only way to escape, right?"
"Now, that took you long," the Master mocked and stepped next to me. He shook his head with an amused look. "Seriously, why do you pity that thing? You've got nothing to do or what?" He laughed. "Okay, okay, you don't... but still. A monster like that doesn't deserve any compassion."
"A monster like yourself?" the devil growled. "Do you fear being cared for so much?"
The Master snorted, but whatever he had planned to say got interrupted as the whole planet shook. It almost started to feel normal that it did that from time to time. I only wondered what galaxies might be vanishing right now. But the tremors got stronger, much stronger than I had experienced them so far.
Thick, heavy rocks rained from the ceiling, making me jump up and away, searching for a spot to hide, while also trying to keep my balance. Clumsy as I was, this wasn't easy. Somehow I managed to find a corner where I felt safe enough to drop to the ground, making myself as small as possible. Hopefully the Master had found a hiding spot as well, and...
A loud crashing sound tore through the rumbling and collapsing. I heard an outcry and then nothing more.
Eventually the quakes stopped. I dared to lift my head again, finding the cave littered with stones and new rocks. The urns were still intact, as if the seal shielded them from being broken by accident. The Master was nowhere to be found, had probably ran deeper into the tunnels to get safe. I mulled over those urns and why they didn't break. Whoever had caught the beast, I was sure, could have simply killed it. So this was... punishment. Trapping it here, making it endure eternity in loneliness, with no way to ever escape.
Even when everything around was torn to pieces.
I found a breach that hadn't been there before, a hole torn into the walls by the tremors. Only darkness lay behind it and I didn't dare to move inside, afraid the quakes might start again at any moment. Instead my eyes searched for the Master, but could find him nowhere.
"He is alive," the beast said.
I turned towards him, raising an eyebrow. "Why do you reassure me? That's not very evil."
He chuckled slightly and bent down to me. "We might still come to an arrangement. You and I. He doesn't have to know. I won't make myself known until we reached earth or any other populated place."
I swallowed, looking at my shoes. This wasn't a good idea. Although it seemed he couldn't do much besides manipulating people with simple fears and truths. This alone could still topple empires, destroy worlds and burn the entire universe... probably. So simple, yet so effective.
"Let me go, child," the monster spoke almost softly. "I've suffered here for long enough. None of my kind are left, none of those who sealed me away."
The words tugged at my heart. It was indeed cruel what they had forced upon him, but I had no clue what exactly he had done to deserve it. Maybe he truly was the devil. But didn't the stories tell that the devil been an angel, once? And might this also be true for the abomination in front of me?
"Och, don't tell me you're even listening?" the Master mocked. I hurled around, finding him climbing over rocks from the newly created cave. "Your compassion will kill you one day, lil' lumin."
"Shut it," I grumbled. "We don't know every angle to this story. And not everyone who seems evil, is it." I gave him a pointed glare, which only yielded a pitying grin.
"You still think there is something good in me." It was a statement, not a question. The Master shook his head and waved me over. "Let me prove that I'm not. Come, we leave."
"Wh... where to?"
"Wherever we want?" He shrugged and smiled even wider. "Seems like I just found the TARDIS."
My heart did an excited jump and I rushed to his side. "Really? How can that be?"
"Dunno. Might have tried on her own to get back and gotten stuck here. It's right in the cave the quake opened."
I tossed a last glance at the beast, still unsure what to do with it. Could we simply leave it behind? Would it be wiser – or even kinder – to destroy it? Simply leaving felt so utterly... wrong.
And in that moment it no longer was my own choice. Suddenly a pressure grew within my head, spreading painfully through my consciousness. I let out a groan and stumbled.
"You are not leaving me here!" the beast screamed, his voice still coming from the body. "Take me away! I won't leave the human!"
The Master blinked at me, then at the creature, his expression dumbfounded for a second before it morphed into a truly devilish grin. All he did was to push one hand to the side.
And one of the urns smashed to the ground, splintering into countless shards.
"No!" the beast roared, it's scream drowning in the tremors that instantly shook the planet.
Casually the Master trod to the next and smashed that one as well. The same with the rest. Why the devil didn't prevent it, I did not know. Maybe, after all this time, it was simply to surreal to actually comprehend. And I wasn't so sure what use that action would be. Had the Master even thought about this? Now the monster was practically forced to either come along or die.
But, as it turned out, he knew extremely well what he had done.
"Well... good bye then." The Master wriggled his fingers and simply strode away without looking back even once.
It was then that it dawned on me - the simple, painful truth, the solution to every presented problem, to the question what would happen to the beast and how it could be prevented from escaping.
The Master was leaving me behind.
It was as simple as that. I would stay and die with the devil, vanish into the black maw above our heads; a vessel to keep the creature from being set free. A simple sacrifice.
My body was completely frozen. My thoughts went numb. Not even the beast seemed to have something to say to that. Evil... indeed, the Master was. Not bothering about anyone but himself, tossing me away like an old broken toy.
Again. It was happening again. Me being so unimportant that he didn't even consider helping me for a mere second. Tears prickled in the corners of my eyes as his back vanished into the darkness of the cave.
At some point I realised I could move again and simply sat on one of the stones, listening to the rumbles and creaking of the dying planet.
It shouldn't hurt. We barely knew one another. There was nothing connecting us, not even companionship. How could it? How could one, counting almost a millennia in age, feel any kinship to a feeble, ephemeral thing like myself?
"You know what?" I mumbled towards the beast. "At least I'm doing something good. Thanks to me you won't be let loose on the universe."
The devil stayed silent.
I huffed. "Nothing to say anymore, he? Yeah, I don't know why I'm talking, either. Got a bad habit these past days." The enormous creature glared at me, this time not even with hate or contempt. His look was as empty as I felt. "Dammit," I mumbled, ruffling my hair. "I don't care about dying. Still not. But it's freakin' frustrating to be treated like that!"
Once, only once in my useless existence did I want to feel important. To anyone. For anything. Why was fate so cruel? Why were people even born, who belonged nowhere and to no one? It made me desperate, angry even. All the frustration bubbled to the surface of my being, made its way inside my mind and spread there like a virus.
I would not accept this fate!
I shot to my feet, treading to the edge of the lava lake. "You know what? Screw you! I don't care what and who you are. I'm not going to be swallowed because of you! I'm not going to vanish! And I don't fucking want you inside my head!" The last words were as much a scream as an outcry.
The planet shook. Surprised I stumbled, one foot hanging over the bubbling hot fire below. With swinging arms I tried to get back my balance, but already sensed the lost battle. Time stood still for a moment, my eyes closed. In the end my wished did not matter... again. The heat of the lava licked at my shoes, not yet reaching them. Not yet...
Something thudded against my chest, forcefully throwing me backwards and onto the ground. Confused and a little dizzy from the blow I heaved myself to the elbows, then to my feet, stumbling away from the pit. My mind felt so light. Something was missing, had... left.
I lifted my head to the devil, still finding no expression on his monstrous face. But his presence was gone. I couldn't feel him in my mind any longer, not even lingering.
Hesitantly I turned around, cast one last glance back and then ran to the TARDIS as fast as my feet would carry me.