Part 3: Skypigs

by Soldeed [Reviews - 17]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Action/Adventure

With a jingle of chainmail and tramping of hobnailed boots against the flagstones, two guards used the hafts of their spears to goad Anna forward. She was in her early twenties, dressed mannishly in sturdy walking boots and khaki trousers and shirt, and her dynamically drawn features, sharp eyes and curtly cropped blonde hair made her striking rather than beautiful. She stumbled and snarled at each shove, and seemed constantly on the point of rounding on them like a leopard, but with surly obedience allowed herself to be driven along. In the murk of the cramped stone passageway, barely alleviated by guttering torches set into iron sconces in the wall, they marched up to a third guard at his post in front of a heavy wooden door.

"One to be held overnight," rapped out one of her escorts. "For interrogation in the morning."

"Right." The guard on the door winced at the return of circulation as he shifted from his comfortable position leaning in the corner. "Just a minute."

"How's the other prisoner?" asked the third man. "He looked even stranger than this one."

Anna perked up instantly, listening. The other prisoner?

"He's fine now. He's writing on the wall."

"Writing?"

"Yeah, it was unbelievable. He wouldn't settle till I gave him a bit of chalk."

The two soldiers sniggered at this.

"You gave him a bit of chalk? What, are you the prisoners' serving boy now? Are you bringing him a cup of hot milk before he goes to bed?"

The guard scowled and shook his head.

"You weren't here, you don't know what it was like. He was going berserk in there, yelling and screaming, banging his food dish against the bars. 'Chalk! Chalk! Chalk!' he kept shouting. I threatened to go in there and sort him out, but he just kept saying all he wanted was a bit of chalk and then he'd shut up. It was worth it in the end just for a bit of peace. He's been quiet as a lamb since he got what he wanted."

Anna frowned, puzzled. Bits of this sounded like the man she was looking for. Bits of it certainly didn't. She tried standing on tiptoe to peek through the tiny viewslit in the door but could see nothing.

"Ah, in a hurry are you?" smirked the guard. He drew back the heavy bolts and pushed open the door. "Well, in you go, and get plenty of rest. You've got a long, hard day ahead of you when the magistrate gets back tomorrow. He just loves a good interrogation."

Anna's look of scorn was withering.

"You... you're just not worth the effort of a witty retort."

The guard gave a strangled cry as she grasped his nose between her first and second fingers, twisted ninety degrees, then released him with a sharp upward jerk. He stumbled back into the corner and Anna was shoved violently forward into the cell by the butt of a spear between her shoulders. The door slammed shut at her back.

The dungeon was a cavernous chamber, that looked as if its architect had overestimated local criminal activity. Chains hung forlornly unused from the walls, and the stone bench which took up one entire wall, with leg irons laid out in front for thirty occupants, was empty. The sole illumination was a narrow shaft of sunlight from the little square barred window high up in one wall, and it lit up the sole occupant, standing scratching away at the stones with his fist-sized hunk of chalk.

Anna knew disappointment. It wasn't the Doctor, but a much younger man, dressed in fancy clothes. He cocked his head at her approach but didn't stop writing.

"Ah. Company. Come in, sit down, stay quiet. Watch out for the oubliette."

She took his advice and sidled carefully away from the sinister looking black pit in the corner. What was he writing? He'd already filled up several square metres with a dense pattern of what could have been a mathematical formula, but most of the symbols she'd never seen before.

"Um..." she spoke up cautiously. "Have you seen a very old man? He..."

"Shush."

With a sigh, she gave up. The heap of straw in the corner looked comfortable enough, and it had been a trying day. After you got used to it, the steady click and scratch of the chalk became almost soothing, and she soon drifted off to sleep.

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In fact, she became so used to it that when the noise suddenly ceased she started awake, blinked, rubbed her eyes and looked round. It was early evening now, judging by the hazy grey light filtering in through the window, and she dumbfoundedly took in the fact that the entire wallspace of the dungeon was now covered in mathematical formulae from floor to ceiling. The strange man was standing in the centre of the floor, scanning his work, slowly gnawing a thumbnail.

"Finished have you?" This time, she thought as she stretched and got to her feet, she wouldn't take his rudeness. "Then maybe you can spare me a few seconds of your precious time. It's not as if you're going anywhere."

He turned unhurriedly as she came up behind him, and looked her directly in the face for the first time. For all the possible reactions she had anticipated, she had never dreamt of what happened next.

He stared at her for a second, eyes wide with astonishment, then a coruscating, disbelieving joy suffused his features and he cried out:

"Anna!"

Before she could move, he had lunged forward and was grasping her about the waist and whirling her up into the air, laughing like a maniac. She wriggled furiously, broke free, and struck him on the chin, watched him topple like a tree and lie on his back, still laughing helplessly.

"I see the old left hook's still in good shape!"

"Who the hell are you?" she demanded, standing over him.

He lifted his feet up into the air, then swung them down, using their momentum to roll forward onto his feet.

"I..." he announced, spreading his arms wide, "... am the Doctor!"

"You are not."

"Oh yes I am, and you're my assistant. So shut up and do as I say."