The whole scenario couldn't get more cliche, could it? First we stumbled right into a saloon, then there were ghosts of some sort and now we were about to visit an ancient burial ground?
"Gee, you have to make this all up," I mumbled dumbfounded.
The Master chuckled. "Nope. It's all unbelievably real, I'm afraid." Casually he stirred the horse a little to the right and continued, "The Doctor took scans of every place we heard of where those apparitions appear. And he did find a bunch of readings at each. Combined and when ran through some… you wouldn't understand… Let's just say they point with brightly glowing arrows at a certain location."
"That… doesn't make it less cliche, though."
"Guess not. Doesn't matter. He's probably there already. This is kind of a thing for him… Whatever."
So we rode for another while, this time in silence. My eyes wandered over the dry environment, brown in every shade imaginable, sand and rock. Here and there stood a dry tree, some shrubs and cactuses. Once I had played a video-game in this setting, I remembered. But there it had all looked a lot livelier. Well… and a lot more filled with radioactive monsters.
I smiled and closed my eyes. There was a lot going on inside my head, but most of it was too interwoven with too many other things to pick a single strand to follow. I knew the relationship between the two Time Lords was complicated, so much so that it seemed impossible for them to… to what? What were they to one another? It made me curious and at the same time gave me a bad conscience. This wasn't my business. And what was with the ghostly apparitions in this place? Why was all of this connected to a portal inside an enormous and empty ship?
I felt a soothing warmth pooling into my mind, like smoke swirling through me. It made me remember the hand on my hip, wrapped around my front, made me remember the man sitting right behind me. Even in the heat of the day it didn't bother me. There was something cool about him, something that had nothing to do with the temperature of his skin.
I still was scared of this closeness and in some moments downright terrified of getting too close to… anyone, I suddenly realized, glaring at the moving horse neck.
"Stop ruminating," the Master said and chuckled. "Your distress is rather… loud."
"Don't read my mind, prick," I grumbled.
He laughed. "I don't. Your emotions just seep through."
"Tsk, you're the one using me, right now. If my emotions don't taste well, don't touch me."
That too made him snicker and he obviously restrained himself to not scare the horse again. His hand stayed where it was and for the next few minutes we were silent again. I did stop ruminating, though and decided to disturb him a little, by making an effort to shift my awareness. Because I did enjoy this ride, the closeness, the… I blinked perplexed and smiled to myself.
The sensation of being weirdly safe.
I felt him stiffen for a few moments and actually felt his confusion now. Good. Have your own medicine.
And then we reached our destination and all of my pondering was instantly blown away, because what lay there before us was not what I had expected.
I had thought we would find a bunch of burial mounds, piles of stone and dirt, adorned with some sort of decoration. Instead we entered a vast space through a gap between the red rocks around us. In it were rows and rows of black slates rising from the ground. Some were shaped like boulders, others were erected in a straight line, looking like ancient pillars. The shapes ranged from rough and natural to others that were clearly shaped by the hands of sentient beings, too smooth and too regular to be not.
My mouth dropped open and it took me a moment to realize the Master had left my back. I heard something that probably was some sarcastic remark that brought me back to reality and I awkwardly climbed from the horse's back. We then wandered through the arrangement of stones, no one speaking a word. Maybe it was because of the eerie silence this place held, hidden in a valley between red rocks, hidden from the light of day, except for what was bouncing off the walls and managed to tumble in here. It was not the silence one would keep in a cemetery, had nothing to do with not wanting to disturb the dead. It was as if some unspoken law forbade us from disturbing the sleep of whatever lay beneath our feet.
The stones were arranged in a kind of wide circle, some of them small and actually resembling grave stones, others were at least twice as big as myself, each and every one made from the same pitch black…
"Metal," mumbled the Master. I turned to him and saw he had placed a hand on the surface of a pillar nearby, his other hand held a small device that showed a bunch of numbers, symbols and images. "The same metal."
"The same?" I repeated confused, shocked about how our surroundings seemed to swallow the sound of my voice as soon as it had left my lips.
"As in the ship," the Master explained. "The ship behind the portal, it's of the same material."
My eyes widened. How could that be? Had they built a ship from the material that they found here, or had the former inhabitants of the ship brought the metal to this place?
"He wanted to be here," the Master grumbled. Due to the weird acoustics I had to strain my ears to understand him.
"Who? The Doctor?"
"Who else? He was so damn curious about all of this. Why is he not here already?"
The bigger question was, why was the Master so bummed about this? Usually he hated having the other man around for too much.
"Well, anyway..." The Master rubbed his hands and started to grin. "It's not as if he can miss this!"
The grin grew even wider and he stretched his hands out towards the nearest of the black stones. "Oh, you just watch me, little one." He chuckled and pressed his fingers against the surface, eyes closing. "I'm almost completely sure this is… mhm… yes! Yes, that's it!"
Confused, I watched as he spun around to run from stone to stone, some of which he touched in a manner that made it look almost as if he was pressing buttons. It didn't take long, however, for me to notice a change, a light vibration that seemed to fill the very air around us. I shook my head, trying to get rid of the sensation, but instead it became more intense until I could actually make out a hum.
The Master had stopped, stood with closed eyes in front of a particularly large stone and had both hands flatly pressed against it. I winced in surprise when a small blue ring of light shot out from under his hands, spiraling around the pillar like a living lightning strike. The smell of ozone filled the air, but no sound beside the hum was carried to my ears. There was only the blue light, racing upwards to the peak, just to bounce off from there and to shoot towards the next stone - and the next - and the one nearby - and from there it split into several strings of lightning that all chased after the nearest black slab to cling to it, to illuminate them all, one after the other, all while the humming grew so loud that I could feel it vibrate under my boots.
None of the lightning strings hit me, but I could feel the static electricity from the pillars nearby. They made the hair on my arms stand up, made it hard to breathe. And from one moment to the next the whole burial ground exploded in a wave of blue light. I got swept off my feet, landed on my back with a gasp and watched how the wave spread until it reached stone and burst into a cloud of glittering dust.
And reality blinked.
The light was gone. Just like that. As if it had never been there in the first place. All that was left was darkness and silence and the eerie feeling of having lost the ability to see. I did not dare speak a word, did not dare to call out to the Master in fear there wouldn't be a response.
A tiny ember of blue fire danced in front of my eyes, then exploded into light.
When I opened my eyes again, it was over. Everything was back to normal. No hum, no lightning, no darkness either, although somehow it had become night and somehow…
My mouth dropped open in confusion.
We weren't in the burial ground anymore.
"Oh bloody vortex bugs," the Master grumbled, making me look behind. He was on all fours, rubbing his head with one hand before he managed to drop into a sitting position. "That was not… ugh… not what I had planned."
I rushed over to him and dropped to my knees. "Are you alright? What the heck was that? What did you do? And where are we?"
He chuckled and glared up into the sky. "You'll see. This will be spectacular."
"Yeah..." I snorted. "In case you also know how to get away from here."
With that I waved at our surroundings. However it had happened, we were now sitting on top of one of the mountains, right next to a wide canyon. The view was breathtaking, no doubt about that, but I also couldn't make out a way to get down from here again.
"That… might be a problem, yeah," the Master admitted. "And no, I did not know this would happen."
"Did you know anything to begin with?" I grumbled, "Or did you just poke this thing with a stick to see what would happen?"
Gods, I wanted to smack him for the stupid grin he wore. It was so mischievous and childish and so full of joy that I could barely keep myself from grinning too. No one should be allowed to be capable of such an expression!
"It was mostly a wild guess," The Master confessed. "The evidence was rather dense, though. Which means we might or should… will have a way back by morning."
"And you know that why?" I raised an eyebrow.
He shrugged, nodding behind me. "Happens…" With a light sing-sang he added, "once in a blue moon."
I looked back right in time to see what he meant. There hung a moon, bright and huge and full, shining its light over the lands and illuminating everything. Except that it wasn't a normal luminary - and if it had ever been one it now transformed into… something else. Streaks of radiant blue slowly trickled down the giant orb, gradually colouring the whole moon in the brightest shade of blue I had ever seen.
"What the..." I mumbled, fascinated and also a little spooked. "How is that even possible?"
There was no answer and so I watched the streaks of colour until they had engulfed the entire celestial body above our heads. Nothing else happened afterwards and since the Master wasn't willing to tell anything, I guessed I had to wait for morning to come to get answers.