16 February 2007

New Companion, Old Earth - Chapter One - Part 2

They walked up the street, checking the house numbers, the Doctor looking on the left side and Saskia on the right.
"There's a medical herbalist here," the Doctor observed.
"Are we likely to need his services?" Saskia asked, half smiling to show her question wasn't entirely serious.
"I hope not," the Doctor replied fervently. "I hope neither of us will need any medical attention during this trip. If we do, though, the TARDIS has a fully equipped medical bay."
"And do you have any medical qualifications, Doctor?" Saskia asked, emphasising his name.
"I know enough," he assured her. "Oh, here we are." He pointed to a spot where excavations had obviously been carried out. "I wonder where the workmen are?"
Saskia looked up and down the street, then up at the sky. "Perhaps they've gone for their midday meal?" she suggested.
"Well that will save us some awkward questions," the Doctor said cheerfully as he hunkered down and looked into the hole. He pulled out his Sonic Screwdriver and used it to scan the earth in the hole.
"Hmm. I'm picking up some trace readings, similar to those that came from that artefact."
"Traces of what, though?" asked Saskia.
"Seems to be some sort of energy reading, but I'm not sure what," the Doctor answered thoughtfully. "Come on. Let's go back to the TARDIS for some lunch and see if she can make any sense of the readings. Or find any further traces of the energy signature anywhere else around here."
"OK." Saskia offered him her hand and pulled him up.

Once back at the TARDIS, the Doctor downloaded the data from his Sonic Screwdriver into the TARDIS and left her to analyse it.
"Have you come across anything like this before?" Saskia asked over lunch.
"No," answered the Doctor, "which is interesting in itself. Whatever is responsible for that signal and that artefact is either very, very old, or very, very new. Still, it should be interesting." He grinned hugely and Saskia couldn't help grinning back, his enthusiasm was so infectious. At least with this mystery to solve he wasn't moping over Rose.

After lunch they went back to the Console Room and the Doctor pulled out his glasses and put them on, before peering at one of the screens. Saskia looked over his shoulder.
"Ah!" he said in satisfaction. "See that? There's a concentration of the energy signal there."
Saskia looked where he was pointing. "Any idea where there is?" she asked.
"Hmm, let's see." The Doctor pressed a couple of buttons on the console and a map was superimposed over the screen. "Apparently that's Worminghall. Interesting name."
The Doctor looked up at Saskia's suddenly thoughtful expression. "What is it?"
"I know that name from somewhere," she answered. "Hold on."
The Doctor went back to peering at the map, calculating the distance from Oxford to Worminghall, and wondering whether to take the TARDIS directly there, or to use local transport.
"I've got it," Saskia said. "The Old English word for 'dragon' is 'wyrm' – W-Y-R-M. It was suggested at one point that Worminghall was a corruption of the name, and that Worminghall actually means 'The Dragon's Hall'."
"Well I don't think we'll find a dragon there," the Doctor said. "But I could be wrong." He grinned at the thought of seeing a dragon on 20th century Earth. "Now then, we need to go and have a look at this spot. Can you ride?"
"A horse?" asked Saskia startled.
The Doctor nodded.
"I suppose so."
He raised an eyebrow. "That's a little indefinite for you," he said.
"Well I've never ridden a horse, but since I'm telepathic, I should be able to bond with the horse and get it to do what I want."
"Let's test that theory, then," the Doctor said, pulling on his overcoat again.
"You haven't got a horse on board, have you?" Saskia asked, remembering a certain 51st century spaceship that Rose had mentioned.
"Sadly no. I thought we'd hire some."
"OK." Saskia pulled on her own coat and followed the Doctor outside. He was heading back down the alley to the pub they had visited when they had first arrived. Saskia waited outside, in the sunshine, watching the street whilst the Doctor went to confer with the landlord.

He returned a few minutes later, smiling broadly. "Right then. Let's go and see a man about a horse." He strode off down the street they had followed into town that morning.
"Is there a stable nearby?" asked Saskia, once she had caught up with him.
"No, but there is a blacksmith, one J L Hayter, in Park End Street. We're going to see him." The Doctor turned into Beaumont Street and they passed the Ashmolean Museum on the right and the Randolph again on the left. They turned into Worcester Street, passing Worcester College on the right, then a disused wharf which was opposite another pub, before crossing into Park End Street. Saskia was beginning to feel grateful that she had always stayed fit, since the Doctor walked at such a brisk pace.

They arrived at the forge and the Doctor strode inside, Saskia following more slowly as her eyes adjusted to the gloom.
"Mr Hayter?" the Doctor asked, addressing the smith who had looked up at their arrival, then gone back to removing a shoe from the foot of a handsome roan. He lowered the horse's foot to the ground, then straightened up.
"That's me."
"Charles at the Eagle and Child reckoned you might have a couple of horses available to hire for myself and my friend."
"Did he now?" The smith looked them up and down, slowly. "How long are you wanting them for?" he asked.
"Just a few hours," the Doctor answered.
"Reckon I can let you have a couple, then," he answered and after a quiet word with his apprentice, he led them out of the forge and round the back to a large neat paddock. Saskia felt slightly awed when she saw the horses: a grey stallion and a sturdy brown mare. Both the horses trotted across to the fence when they saw the smith, and whuffled at his hand. He gave them both a sugar lump.

Whilst the Doctor was arranging to borrow saddles and the other accoutrements they'd need, Saskia approached the horses quietly and calmly. The mare showed no interest in her, but the stallion submitted to having his nose rubbed.
The smith saddled them both and then led them out of the paddock. The Doctor leapt lightly into the saddle of the mare, having noticed the stallion's preference for Saskia. She wondered briefly when he had found the time to learn to ride, then turned her attention back to the stallion. She spoke quietly to him, rubbing his neck, making a telepathic bond with him.
"Hello Charlie," she said as he stood stock still, waiting. "I'm coming up." She sprang up into the saddle as lightly as the Doctor had done, and saw the Doctor beaming at her. The smith looked approving.
After a few more words with Hayter, the Doctor lead the way out onto the grass verge running alongside the road. Initially he allowed Meg to dictate their pace. Saskia followed, keeping up a steady stream of encouragement to Charlie. He seemed to take her telepathic contact with him in his stride, for which she was very grateful.
The Doctor looked back at her. "OK?" he asked cheerily.
"Yes." Saskia urged Charlie forward and he easily caught up with Meg and the Doctor.
"It's a good day for a ride," he observed, and Saskia had no difficulty agreeing.
"We'll go around the city to the south, then head eastwards to Worminghall."
"How long will it take us to get there?" Saskia asked.
"Oh not too long – about three hours," the Doctor answered. "It depends how fast we ride. Do you feel up to cantering?"
Saskia grinned hugely at him, her whole face lighting up suddenly, and the Doctor found himself thinking that she should smile more often. She didn't answer his question, however, just patted Charlie's neck, and the next instant he sprang away from Meg and the Doctor, who laughed aloud, then encouraged Meg to follow him. She clearly didn't appreciate being left behind and the Doctor had to hold her back from a full-out gallop. They finally caught up with Charlie and Saskia when the two slowed down to cross the river, south of the city.

Saskia looked back at the Doctor, green eyes sparkling and cheeks glowing.
"Minx!" he exclaimed, laughing. "Are you sure you've never ridden a horse before?"
"Positive," she answered, laughing back at him. "That was fun."
They both dismounted and allowed the horses to drink their fill.
"We'd better not do too much of that," the Doctor said, sounding slightly wistful. "We don’t want to wear the horses out too soon."
Saskia nodded her understanding. "How soon do we need to head east?" she asked.
"We can turn eastwards now, just as soon as we cross the river," he answered.

They mounted up again, after wading across the river, then turned eastwards. As they rode, the Doctor asked Saskia detailed questions about her home world's development. She talked animatedly about Einfuhlung's history and he couldn't help thinking of how oblivious Rose had often been of Earth history. Then he mentally kicked himself. Saskia was a historian and a scholar, so of course she knew this stuff. He found himself wishing that he and Rose had found the time to go riding in the countryside somewhere.
Saskia's voice broke in on his thoughts. "You still miss her, don't you?"
He looked up, eyes dark with pain. "Every second of every day," he answered simply.
"I wish I'd met her," Saskia said. "She sounds like she had a ball travelling the universe with you." She pulled a face. "I expect she'd have found me dull as ditchwater, though."
"Not once she got to know you," the Doctor assured her.
"Mmm." Saskia made a non-committal noise and the Doctor wondered if he should have protested more at her comment.
"Do you want to race?" he asked suddenly.
She looked up, surprised, but pleased. "Yes."
"See that barn over there?" he asked, pointing out a distant building.
Saskia looked where he was pointing. "Oh yes."
"That's on the edge of the village of Worminghall. Last one there's on washing up duty for a week." The words were scarcely out of his mouth before Meg shot away, but Saskia was ready for him, and Charlie raced after her instantly. The Doctor heard her shout of triumph as Charlie caught up with Meg, then leapt in front of them.

The next instant both horse and rider screamed, and the Doctor was horrified to see Charlie bolting away, and even more horrified when Saskia was flung like a rag doll from his back to crash against a dry stone wall that edged the field they'd been crossing.
"NO!! Saskia!" he yelled, then practically threw himself from Meg's back and across to where she lay senseless on the grass.
Cursing fluently in Gallifreyan, he pulled off his hindering overcoat and knelt down beside her, feeling for a pulse. He breathed a sigh of relief when he found it, beating erratically under his fingers. Pulling out his Sonic Screwdriver, he activated a program he had created a few months earlier and called the TARDIS to him. By the time she had dematerialised nearby he had discovered that both of Saskia's legs were broken. He carefully wrapped her in his coat, then lifted her bodily from the grass and carried her inside the TARDIS, hurrying straight to the medical bay. He pulled his coat aside, then laid her on the examination bed. He carefully removed her clothes, then scanned her body with one of the TARDIS' scanners. He discovered that her collarbone was fractured in addition to her legs being broken, and set to work, with the help of the TARDIS, to heal her bones.

He gave her a painkilling injection, then sat down on a chair beside the bed and leant forward. Placing his hands either side of Saskia's head, fingertips on her temples, he closed his eyes and concentrated. Almost immediately an angry, raging voice started screaming at him. Startled, he opened his eyes again and looked down into the face of the unconscious woman before him. Whoever or whatever that voice belonged to, it wasn't Saskia, of that he was sure. Closing his eyes again, he concentrated. This time, whomever the voice belonged to was waiting for him and it lashed out with the telepathic equivalent of a right hook. The Doctor felt his own mind reeling.
"Oh no you don't," he breathed softly. Concentrating even more, he lashed out in return, catching the beastie by surprise. It howled its rage at him and he found himself beset. Carefully he reached out to the TARDIS telepathically and she responded, lending him her strength. He gradually increased the force of his telepathic blows and finally, with a mental whimper, it withdrew. The Doctor felt exhausted, but he knew that before he could rest, he had to bring Saskia back to consciousness and make sure that the beastie hadn't harmed her.
"Saskia. Saskia. Come on Saskia. Time to wake up."

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