Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

The TARDIS materialised on the edge of a steep cliff. Below was a raging sea and jagged rocks. Amy looked down once then stepped back very quickly. She looked around, instead, at the great, grey citadel that rose up over the cliff. She shivered involuntarily.

“Sooo...” she said to The Doctor. “Rory gets to spend a weekend on a luxury space hotel hosting the Intergalactic nurses federation conference of 5356, and you think I’d like to visit here because it would be more fun?”

“I think you’ll love it.”

“Will I? I mean, I may be Scottish, and used to granite and rain. But this looks so…”

“Yes, it does,” The Doctor admitted. “It’s a bit brighter inside. And we’re sure of a warm welcome. My name has been known here for generations as a friend of the Peladonian Royal Family.”

“Royalty?” Amy was impressed. “But… generations… I mean…” She looked at The Doctor. It was still hard to believe that he was REALLY hundreds of years old. “Well… will they recognise you after all this time?”

“Probably not,” he admitted. “Since it’s about a hundred of their years since my last visit, and five hundred of mine. Even so, they should know my name.”

“I hope so. I don’t fancy having to wait outside while they check your credentials.” She jumped as a fork of lightning grounded itself not far from where they had left the TARDIS and a crash of thunder immediately followed. She pulled her coat tightly around herself. The Doctor just thrust his hands in his pockets and strode ahead. She half ran to keep up with him, picking her way with care on the rough, rocky ground while he seemed perfectly sure-footed.

Of course, Peladon had never been a garden spot. It was incredible that it was an inhabited place at all. Storms battered the land every day, and there was no concept of warm or cold seasons. It was a cold, dark place all year round. Nothing grew on the rocky land except a few straggly trees and hardy bushes that bent away from the prevailing wind.

And yet, despite all that, people did live here. They lived underground. The planet was a honeycomb of natural caves and passages, extended by millennia of mining and excavating.

Mining, indeed, was the lifeblood of the planet. Without it, and without trade with planets that had an abundance of commodities like food, the Peladonians would have died out long ago. But the dismal, barren planet was a rich source of Trisciliate– one of the most sought after minerals in the Galaxy. A few tonnes of Trisciliate was valuable enough to feed the whole population well for a year, and under the benign rule of a succession of good rulers, the people, from the humblest miners to the High Priests, had shared in the profits from the sale of what was utterly useless to them but so very precious to everyone else in the Galactic Federation.

“Even so,” Amy said as The Doctor explained that to her. “I don’t think I’d fancy it. I mean…. Imagine never seeing sunlight, warmth…”

“I agree,” The Doctor told her. “But they ARE good people. And I’m quite looking forward to finding out how things are these days. I wonder who the king or queen is now.”

He hurried on towards the great wooden doors, studded with huge nails and blackened with age that was set into the high granite edifice of the Peladonian Royal Citadel. There was a huge pair of pewter knockers in the shape of a fierce creature with a ring through its nostrils. The Doctor told Amy it was Aggador, the supposedly mythological beast that Peladonians worshipped. Amy was about to ask why it was ‘supposedly mythological’ but the words died on her lips as The Doctor raised both knockers at once and the crashing sound echoed loudly.

Even before the noise had died away a postern door was opened. A guard in a uniform that involved a lot of leather and buckles even in places that didn’t need a buckle looked out.

“We are friends of Peladon,” The Doctor said very formally. “We come in peace and friendship in the name of Aggador with greetings for the lawful ruler.”

Those were clearly the right words to say. The guard bowed his head to The Doctor respectfully.

“You are well come, friend of Peladon,” he answered. The postern was closed and there was a scraping of bolts before the huge door was opened wide.

“We are honoured!” Amy commented.

“We are, indeed,” The Doctor replied. “Just as well. I am not accustomed to using postern doors when I am on diplomatic duties. He was thinking about it, mind you. But I used a bit of POS on him.”


“Power of Suggestion. Like hypnotism but not as rude.”

Two more guards in leather and excessive buckling bowed respectfully as they stepped through the doorway. All three of these examples of Peladonian manhood were short but sturdily built. They had pale faces from never seeing the sun and two tone hair with a streak of white through ginger.

Amy tried not to think of badgers.

The guards led the way through a series of long, low, stone flagged corridors with bleak grey walls only occasionally lightened by embroidered hangings and curtains. Amy noted that the corridors were lit by flaming torches.

“They don’t have electricity?” she asked The Doctor.

“Yes, but they don’t use it for lighting,” he answered. “I like it like this, don’t you? It’s very atmospheric.”

Amy thought it was as atmospheric as Dracula’s crypt but kept that thought to herself.

The guards halted in front of a big double door guarded by two more burly men in leather and buckles. These also had rather impressive breastplates and circlets of metal on their heads, denoting them as Royal Guards. The Doctor repeated his message of peace and friendship and the door was opened to him. He and Amy stepped into the Throne Room of the kings and queens of Peladon.

Amy had no particular expectations about the Throne Room. She appreciated that it was much more brightly lit than the corridors with lots of torches on top of long, carved wooden poles. The walls were hung with richly embroidered tapestries and there were urns and statues of gold and silver on pedestals all around the central dais where the thrones were.

The central throne was an ornately carved chair with a high back and curving arms. It was dark wood to begin with but it had darkened further with age. It had a silk cushion on it for comfort. But nobody was making use of that comfort. Two smaller but no less elaborate seats were placed each side on a lower step of the dais. On the left, a young woman sat, dressed in a rich silk dress and with a small gold circlet on her head. On the right was a girl of no more than eight or nine years of age. She, too, was richly dressed and had a gold circlet on her head. She held a doll in her hands, but she looked up at The Doctor and Amy as if they represented a welcome distraction for her. Both the girl and the woman had two tone hair but the red was darker than that of the guards.

Beside the girl, a man stood. He was dressed in the robes of a High Priest.

The Doctor read the situation straight away. There was no king of Peladon. He must have died. The young woman was obviously his queen, but she was not allowed to take the throne in her own right due to the complicated rules of succession. The little girl was far too young to claim the crown for herself.

He just knew the man was going to be called ‘Regent’ or some such thing. He was the power behind the throne until the princess was of age.

Regent, grand vizier, wicked uncle… The plots of various works of fiction from Hamlet through Aladdin to Prince Caspian flitted through The Doctor’s mind. Was there ever a time or a place where a minor, having inherited a crown, was safe from some nefarious plot hatched by an adult who wanted the power for themselves?

“Majesties,” The Doctor said, bowing low and speaking formally. “We are friends of Peladon. We come in peace and friendship in the name of Aggador with greetings for the lawful ruler.”

Amy hesitated a moment and then made a deep, formal curtsey, staying down until The Doctor’s hand on her arm told her she might rise.

“Thank you for your offer of friendship,” said the woman graciously. “May I know your name, sir? And from where do you hail with your greetings.”

“I am The Doctor,” he replied. “Of Gallifrey in the Kasterborus system. This is my friend and companion, Amelia Pond of Earth in the Sol system.”

It was subtle, almost unnoticeable, but the ‘Regent/Grand Vizier’ flinched ever so slightly when The Doctor introduced himself. It was only momentary. Then he recovered his poise and formally introduced himself as Lord Halddis, the Regent. He then presented Magretta, the Queen Mother, and the child Queen Thaylira II.

The Doctor allowed himself a brief moment of smugness for getting everything exactly right.

“Doctor?” The Queen Mother’s eyes widened with surprise. “But… surely you are not the one our legends speak of… the one who saved our planet from ruin in the reign of Queen Thaylira… my late husband’s great grandmother? Or indeed, in the time of her father, King Peladon IV?”

“The very same, Majesty,” he replied. “I am a Time Lord. I am able to transcend not only space and time, but the appearance of age. I remember well those events.”

“I should be glad to hear of them from your own lips, Doctor,” said the Queen Mother. “Please, sit and be comfortable. Wine and cheese for our guests…” She waved and two big, comfortable chairs with silk cushions were placed so that The Doctor and Amy could sit before the Dais, facing their Majesties. The food and drink was brought and placed by them. Amy helped herself to some of the cheese and bread but didn’t take any of the wine. The Doctor picked up a golden goblet and sipped slowly as he related a story of treachery and double-crossing and a fierce creature that lived in a pit beneath the palace. He made the story a colourful and exciting one, but perhaps a little less blood-thirsty than it might really be, because the little girl, the child Queen, was listening, too. Her eyes were wide with amazement and she shivered with the thrill of it all as The Doctor spoke of murder on the back stairs and intrigue in the throne room and then laughed with glee as he described hypnotising the fearsome and fabled Aggador creature by singing lullabies to it.

“A charming tale,” Haldiss the Regent said when he was done. “But a fancy, a dressed up legend. Even if this Doctor really existed, I do not believe this is the same man.”

“I believe him,” Queen Thaylira said. “I like him.”

“Your Majesty is too young to understand the subtle deceits of mankind,” the Regent said. “I do not think it is right that your mind is filled with these fairy tales. A queen of Peladon must be mindful of practicalities. The hardships of her people, struggling under the weight of economic recession and the falling price of trisciliate on the galactic market… These are the concerns of state. And it is exactly why I, as Regent, must take hard decisions every day on behalf of your Majesty.”

The young queen looked chastised. She also looked bewildered. Amy wondered how many eight year olds, even royal ones, really had to worry about the price of Trisciliate and economic recession. It seemed a bit harsh. Even if The Doctor’s stories were just fairy tales, why shouldn’t she hear them?

Besides, they weren’t. They were true. And they told of the young queen’s ancestors standing up to threats to their throne. Maybe that was what worried the Regent. The queen and her mother might start to wonder who was really on their side.

“I want to hear more of The Doctor’s stories,” the child Queen insisted despite the Regent’s displeasure.

“It is our wish that The Doctor and Lady Amelia should stay,” the Queen Mother added. “They shall be conducted to the best chambers we have, and shall join us for dinner, later.”

“We are not inhospitable, Doctor,” the Regent continued. “If it is their majesty’s pleasure that you should extend your visit, you and your companion will be accommodated in comfortable chambers. But please take care not to introduce unsuitable ideas in the Court.”

“Nothing unsuitable shall be introduced,” The Doctor answered. “Only a little history of Peladon. Surely that is acceptable subject for dinner conversation.” Then he stood and bowed low. Amy quickly followed suit with her curtsey before they were escorted out of the throne room by the guard captain in even more buckles and rather less leather than the others. He led them down a long, dimly lit corridor and then up a flight of steps concealed behind a tapestry and up another corridor before going down another flight of steps, this one much longer than the first. Then two more corridors and up another flight of steps and down one before they were shown into a luxurious sitting room with silk-covered couches and walls hung with tapestries. There were two bed chambers leading off from that room and when two female servants brought wine and fruit and water for washing it was assumed that all their comforts had been accommodated.

“Do you think I could get a glass of cold drinking water?” Amy asked after examining the wine.

“This one is non-alcoholic,” The Doctor told her, pouring a goblet of orange-red juice for her from one of the earthenware jugs. “The ordinary water would taste unpleasant to you. It is drawn from a well deep beneath the citadel and has traces of unusual minerals in it. Harmless, but not what you’re used to.”

Amy tried the juice and quenched her thirst. Then she examined the bed chambers and was less than enchanted. The beds were wide but the mattresses were hard and the embroidered covers looked rough and scratchy rather than comfortable. The tall tallow candles that served for light in the bedchamber rather than torches gave off an odd smell. None of the rooms had windows. She looked behind all of the tapestries and found nothing but bleak grey walls. The Doctor said they were probably deep in that part of the citadel that was hollowed out of the rock itself.

And she was appalled by the Peladonian notion of a toilet facility.

“It’s called a garde-robe,” The Doctor explained. “Surprisingly fragrant one, actually. Looks like the ‘waste’ drops straight down into an underground stream. Must be a very long way down and fast flowing. That’s why there’s very little smell.”


“Seriously,” The Doctor assured her. “I’ve seen worse.”

“So have I,” Amy pointed out. “But it was in the one remaining tower of Flint Castle in North Wales, and that hadn’t been lived in for about five hundred years.”

“Four hundred,” The Doctor corrected her.

“Whatever. I mean… you can’t possibly like this sort of thing. You come from a super-future world. I bet your ‘waste’ got zapped into the heart of a supernova when you flushed.”

“Nothing so dramatic,” The Doctor answered. “Though the disposal system on the TARDIS is quite creative. Everything is broken down into constituent molecules and expelled harmlessly in space. But did you want to talk about organic waste disposal all day or shall we have another goblet of juice and a bit of fruit and then go have a snoop around.”

“A snoop?”

“A snoop… to find out how things really are in the citadel of Peladon?”

“Ok. A snoop. Snooping sounds good to me,” Amy answered. “But how?”

She went to the main door and stuck her head out. There weren’t actually guards on the door itself. But there were two each end of the corridor.

She turned and looked at The Doctor. He was strolling around the chamber pulling back tapestries and tapping the walls. She watched him curiously until he stopped and pressed all around one section of wall and it swung around as if on a fulcrum.

“No!” Amy exclaimed. “Oh, please! Not secret passages! That’s so corny. Besides, how did you know?”

“What’s the use of a big gloomy castle without secret passages?” The Doctor grinned widely and actually sat back down to eat fruit and drink juice, inviting Amy to join him. When they had finished their refreshments he went to the outer door and turned the catch, locking it from inside before he went to the secret passage. Amy ran to join him. She noted that it was dark inside the passage and glanced up at a large candle in a bracket, but The Doctor shook his head and drew her inside. He pulled his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and used it as a powerful penlight torch that illuminated the grey stone walls, ceiling and floor of the narrow passage.

“Is that a good idea?” Amy asked when he pushed the secret entrance. There was an audible ‘thunk’ as it closed. “What if we can’t get back?”

“We’ll get back. These kind of secret doors are far easier from the inside than the outside. Come on. Mind how you go. The floor is a bit uneven. Don’t go spraining anything.”

“When have I ever sprained anything?” Amy protested. The Doctor looked back at her and laughed softly.

“Sorry, I was thinking of somebody else. But be careful, anyway.”

The passage was very narrow and the roof low. The stocky Peladonians would have had plenty of head room but not much elbow room, Amy thought as she followed The Doctor. But spies and assassins probably didn’t care about personal comfort.

“There ARE legitimate uses for passages like this,” The Doctor pointed out. “Servants and guards can move around the citadel without being seen by the aristocrats. Which suited the servants just as much as it suited the aristocrats, by the way. But, yes, you can be sure plenty of spying has gone on, and maybe the odd assassination. Perhaps some secret love affairs, too.”

“But we’re just snooping? Not spying?”

“Definitely snooping.”

“The difference being…”

“We’re the good guys. Mind yourself here. We’re going down some steps. They’re very steep and narrow.”

That was almost an understatement. The steps were only a few degrees of incline short of being a ladder. Amy put out her hands either side and steadied herself against the walls as they descended. It seemed a long time before they reached flat ground again, and it felt decidedly colder by the time they did so.

“Do you have any idea where we are?” she asked The Doctor.

“Yes,” he answered. “We’re behind the altar of Aggador.”

There was a metal panel set into the stone wall. The Doctor put out the sonic screwdriver penlight and then pulled back the panel. Dim orange torchlight lit two holes in the wall from the room on the other side. Amy peered through one hole. The Doctor looked through the other. It was a moment or two before Amy realised they were looking through the ‘eyes’ of a huge statue or idol that stood high above what had to be a ‘temple’. It was decorated with the sort of statuary and carvings that had to be part of some kind of worship.

Two men came into the temple. One of them was Regent Haldiss. The other was dressed in blue and black robes. The man bowed to the statue. The Regent did, too, but his bow was a very perfunctory one. Amy understood the body language. The other man believed in whatever religion this was. The Regent didn’t.

“These strangers are trouble, Haffick,” the Regent said. “They have already put ideas into the child queen’s mind. We must dispose of them as soon as possible.”

“I do not think that wise,” Haffick answered him. “You are too busy in your counting house, Haldiss. You do not pay enough attention to the traditions of Peladon. You do not know about our history. This Doctor… go carefully. If he is the same man that visited us twice before, it would be unwise to cross him. As for ‘disposing’ of him… again, unwise. He is too clever to be taken quietly. Far better to wait. If he sees nothing of interest here he will leave soon enough. We only have to bide our time.”

“We do not have time to bide,” Haldiss answered. “We have taxed the people too much. They are on the verge of rebellion. I must have the crown in my own right in order to pass the coercion acts that will control them. But merely killing the queen and queen mother will not do. They are both loved by the people. That would precipitate the very rebellion we seek to suppress.”

“Let them rebel. The leaders will show their hand and we can turn the guard on them and be well rid of the troublemakers.”

“No,” Haldiss replied angrily, his voice echoing around the temple. “No, I will not become king of Peladon amidst an uprising. I will have the people quiet and under my absolute rule. This Doctor and the female must be disposed of quickly. And then the Princess and the Queen Mother… we will go on with the original plan. They will take a trip offworld… an educational programme for the young queen. And their ship will tragically explode due to a malfunction…”

Amy pressed her hand against her mouth to suppress a gasp of horror at such a plan. The Doctor touched her on the arm sympathetically, but made no sound himself.

“No,” Haffick said. “I have a better idea. One that will… as the alien expression goes… kill two featherwings with one stone. Indeed, it will provide the solution to three problems.”

Haffick stepped closer to the statue. Amy froze, hardly daring to breathe. She was almost certain The Doctor wasn’t even doing that.

“We will kill the Queen and Queen Mother in such a way that this Doctor is implicated. There will be outrage among the people that a foreigner has murdered our beloved child queen. You will have the Doctor executed… avenging their deaths in the name of the people. You shall be loved by all, and when you announce cuts in food imports because of the falling price of Trisciliate, they will accept their reduced rations humbly.”

“Haffick, you are a fiendish man, to have thought up such a terrible plan,” Haldiss said. “And yet, it has elegance. We will do nothing, yet. Let The Doctor and his companion dine with their Majesty’s. Make it seem as if all is well. We will strike in the night.”

Haldiss turned and walked out of the temple. Haffick bowed to the statue before following him. As soon as they were out of earshot, The Doctor turned and told Amy to run.

“Why?” she asked. “Where are we going?”

“Back to the chamber,” he answered. “We have to go to dinner with their Majesty’s.”

“But… Doctor… didn’t you hear… they’re going to…”

“I heard. Move, quickly. Here… take the sonic screwdriver. Light the way.”

The passage was too narrow for him to squeeze past her and take the lead. The best he could do was tell her where to go. They moved as fast as they dared, but it seemed to take an age before they reached the place where the secret door opened into the chamber.

“Oh no!” Amy murmured as she stepped out into the sitting room and saw the Guard captain there with another two men in leather and buckles. The Doctor calmly closed the secret entrance and then went to the main door. He unlocked it and looked out and then turned back to look at the guard captain

“You know of the hidden passages, of course? But if you merely wanted to enter this chamber you could have forced open the door. You came in here without the guards in the corridor knowing. Am I right in thinking you are loyal to the Royal line of Peladon and not to Lord Haldiss?”

“You are right, Doctor,” the guard captain said. “I am Threllis, great grandson of the champion of Queen Thaylira the First. My family have served the true kings and queens of Peladon without fail. And I will not stand by and let that usurper Haldiss hurt the young queen or her mother. I came to ask you, Doctor, to help me to protect them.”

“Doctor… he could be lying,” Amy pointed out. “This could be a trap…”

“Yes, it could be,” The Doctor acknowledged. “But I don’t believe it is. Threllis, while you and your men came one way through the passages, we went the other way and learnt something that will horrify you.”

He carefully related the discussion between Haldiss and Haffick. Threllis was duly horrified.

“They would use the sacred temple to hatch such an evil plan! A plan to murder Magretta and her child.”

Amy wondered for a moment who Magretta was, then she remembered that was the Queen Mother’s first name. She wondered why the Guard Captain had called her that.

The Doctor didn’t wonder. He had guessed.

“You know a secret passage into the Queen Mother’s room?” he asked. “Will she and the queen be there, now? Preparing for dinner?”

“They will. Do you mean us to act immediately?”

“I don’t think we dare delay any longer,” The Doctor answered. “Have you a place of safety you can take them to?”

“We have,” Threllis said.

“Then… do it now. Bring their Majesty’s into your own protection. Amy, go with them. You can help look after them. Take this.” He thrust the sonic screwdriver into her hand. She wondered why. But he wasn’t giving her any explanations. He let Threllis open the secret entrance again. Amy went with the guard captain and his men in one direction. The Doctor went in the other. He moved quickly, even though he was in near darkness. It was a very long time since he had been on Peladon, but he thought he knew where he was going. He moved instinctively along the maze of corridors and up and down steps.

He emerged at last into a place where the corridors could more correctly be called tunnels, carved directly out of the rock. This was the start of the labyrinth of mines beneath the part of the citadel where anyone actually lived. He had been here before. He took a torch from a bracket and moved deeper into the caves until he found a place where the torch flared with unusually fresh air. He left the torch in another bracket and moved towards the jagged hole in the side of the cliff.

There was a storm raging, of course. The wind battered the icy rain against the cliff. But The Doctor kept his head down as he walked along the narrow ledge. He looked down once, taking the advice of one of the hermits of the mountain near his home. They told him it was best to look while his feet were planted on solid rock. Then when he caught an accidental glance of the precipice while clinging to an uncertain handhold it would not unnerve him and cause him to fall.

As he reached for the first handhold in the sheer face, he recalled that Bram Stoker had given the same advice to his character, Jonathon Harker, in his great novel, Dracula. He doubted if the Irishman had ever met those hermits of Galifrey. But he was a clever man, all the same. And both the novelist and the hermits were right. Those people who told themselves not to look were already nervous and made themselves more nervous as they went on.

Not that he could claim to like heights. He most certainly didn’t. He kept the details of Bram Stoker’s gothic novel in the forefront of his mind and refused to let the memory of falling to his death from the Pharos transmitter array all those centuries and so many lives ago take hold. He was trying not to think of any of the more recent falls, either, including the most insane one when he leapt from the Vinvocci ship straight through the glass roof of Naismith’s library. He had fully expected to die that time. It was only because reality was already being interfered with that he didn’t.

If he fell this time he would be dead. Below were vicious rocks and a raging sea. Even if he regenerated, his new body would be dashed to pieces. He couldn’t fall. He couldn’t die. Too many other people depended on him staying alive and climbing up this rockface.

So he thought about passages from Dracula and reached for handholds in the rock. He pulled himself up little by little, disregarding the cold and the wet. His hands were almost numb with the cold, but he had enough feeling in them to cling on and keep climbing.

Finding the Queen Mother and the young Queen Thaylira was not difficult, and Threllis’s word was enough to persuade Magretta that they had to go with him into the dark, secret passage.

“Does Haldiss know these passages?” Amy asked as they moved in single file down long stairways and along narrow tunnels that got progressively colder. “Or Haffick? Can they follow us?”

“They might,” Magretta admitted. “They both lived their whole lives in the palace. But Threllis knows the passages better than any man on Peladon. His father was a miner. He spent his childhood in these spaces between the torchlit parts of the citadel.”

“I know ways neither of those traitors could possibly find,” Threllis promised. And in proof of that he stopped at what looked like a dead end and pressed his hand against an ordinary part of the wall. It opened with only a slight grinding of stone on stone. They passed through into a short passage then a very steep, long climb down the narrowest and steepest steps of all.

The Doctor kept climbing. He felt weary and cold, but he kept going because there was no alternative. If he gave up, more than his own life was at stake. If he didn’t get Magretta and Thaylira away from Haldiss, a terrible deed would be done that would darken the very soul of Peladon itself. He couldn’t let that happen.

“I won’t let your children down,” he whispered, thinking of King Peladon, the well-meaning young king who had wanted to teach his people not to fear progress and cast aside superstition and his daughter, the first Queen Thaylira who faced the same pressures and was able to stand up not only to traitors and would be conquerors, but the idea that she as a woman, was less than her father had been. The little girl who now had both the name and the crown had her spirit in her. If she was given the chance, she would rule the people well as her forebears had done.

But the chance hung in the balance. And it depended on him not succumbing to the elements and falling off this cliffside.

He kept climbing.

They had reached a place of safety. It was deep within the mines below the citadel, but it was home to Threllis’s family. He introduced Amy to his mother, Gerta. Magretta and Thaylira already knew her. The child queen went to her open arms and let her hug her fondly.

“My mother was her nurse for as long as she can remember,” Threllis explained. “Then Lord Haldiss ordered that the queen needed governesses and tutors not a nursemaid to pamper her and sent her away.”

“Whatever else happens,” said Gerta with a smile on her face. “It was worth it for this moment. Poor child. What use is it to be queen when she hasn’t the love and protection of her father? It was a dark day when the king died, Aggador bless his soul.”

Amy sat on a wooden stool and took it all in quietly. She couldn’t help notice that Magretta and Threllis, now they were in a safe place, were acting rather differently. No longer were they Queen Mother and Guard Captain. They were more like lovers.

“Please, don’t think the worst of us,” Magretta said when she noticed Amy watching them. “It is true that I began to have feelings for Threliss when I was still a wife and queen to his Majesty. But I denied those feelings. I was never untrue to my lord and king. I loved him, deeply, and his death cut me deeply. I would have been glad to join him in the tomb but for my little girl and… and the support I had from my Captain. I have dared to hope, sometimes, that we might… But the good of Peladon comes before any personal ambitions.”

“I hope it works out for you,” Amy told her. “But… what I was thinking… I mean… please don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean that either of you had anything to do with it. We ALL know who the murderer is around here. The king… what did he die of?”

“They said it was blood poisoning,” Magretta answered. “He went on a visit to the deep mines. He often did. He wanted to ensure that the conditions his people worked in were tolerable. He cut himself on a sharp piece of trisciliate ore and the wound would not heal. He became feverish and then slipped into a coma and died. His last words were to Threllis. I have often wondered if he knew. My beloved Peladon… did he know of my feelings for my Guard Captain? Because he told him… to protect us both.”

“He’s the guard captain,” Amy pointed out. “It might just have meant he was to do his job. But it might have been the other. Anyway, he seems to have done a good job so far.”

“But we cannot hide down here forever,” Threllis admitted. “When he finds out that we are gone, Haldiss will send men through the Citadel and down into the mines. He will not rest until we are found.”

“Are more of the men loyal to him?” Amy asked. “Some of them are on your side…”

“Most follow orders,” Threllis said. “If Haldiss says that the queen has been kidnapped, they will have no choice but to believe him. If I had chance to speak to some of them… but I would be asking them to mutiny… it would be hard for them to make that choice. If we can avoid it… if your Doctor does his part…”

“If we knew what he planned to do, I would feel more sure of our safety,” Magretta pointed out.

“I don’t know what The Doctor plans to do, either,” Amy admitted. “But whatever he does… it will be brilliant. He’s absolutely brilliant.”

The Doctor reached the top of the cliff. He crawled over the edge and flattened himself against the wet ground. The TARDIS was there, as he hoped, but there were guards around it. He watched as they first attempted to open it, and then to move it. The TARDIS was proving stubbornly immobile. Of course, if it had to be moved by physical force it could be. A couple of sturdy men could haul it around. U.N.I.T used to do it all the time in the old days. But if the TARDIS didn’t want to be moved, if its semi-organic, semi-sentient mind detected hostility, then it could alter its gravitational pull and clamp itself very firmly to whatever ground it was standing on.

After a while the guards admitted defeat and turned back towards the citadel. The Doctor ran for the door. He heard a shout as one of the guards spotted him, but he slammed the door shut behind him. He once claimed that the massed hordes of Ghengis Khan couldn’t get through that door. A few Peladonians with crossbows and swords had no chance. He heard them hammering on the door in frustration as he programmed the TARDIS to home in on the sonic screwdriver. That was why he gave it to Amy. It would find her. And if everything had gone to plan, where she was, the queens of Peladon and their trusted friends would be.

Threllis stood warily as they heard shouts in the tunnel beyond their hiding place. He opened the stout wooden door and looked out cautiously.

“There are guards everywhere,” he said. “They are coming. I fear your Doctor has failed. We are finished.”

“We will not go down without a fight,” said one of the men loyal to him. “We shall defend their Majesties to the last.”

“Brave words, Oluc,” Threllis replied. “But these men are our friends, comrades, our fellow Peladonians. We cannot…”

Threllis put down his own weapons and ordered his men to lower theirs. Then he opened the door and stood in the gap. His men stood behind him as a shield for the women. Gerta, though she was an old woman, stepped in front of the young Queen. Magretta clung to Thaylira. Amy sat beside her, fearful of what was going to happen next.

“You know who I am,” Threllis said as the guards aimed their crossbows at him. “I am your captain. I am loyal to Queen Thaylira the Second. I will defend her life to my last dying breath. Haldiss is a traitor and if you do his bidding you are a traitor, too. If you would remain true to Peladon and its queen, lower your weapon and stand with me, now against those who would bring us all to ruin.”

“I thought he didn’t want to make them choose,” Amy said. But the tactic seemed to be working. The men who faced him lowered their weapons and bowed their heads in fealty and then turned and repeated what he had told them to the men who were coming up behind them.

Then Amy gasped in delight as she heard a welcome sound. She stood, grasping the hands of the two queens as the TARDIS materialised around them and around Gerta. The Doctor nodded to them and then bounded to the door. He opened it and looked out. He noted how many guards there were at the door and their mood.

“Threllis, the queen mother needs you.”

“Oluc,” Threllis said after a moment’s hesitation. “You find all those who are loyal to Peladon and gather them around you. Those who are not… I leave to your judgement. May Aggador protect you...” Then he turned and ran into the TARDIS. Oluc watched in astonishment as the strange blue box disappeared as suddenly as it arrived and then turned and gave Threllis’s order to the men.

“Where are we going?” Amy asked The Doctor as she saw the vortex image on the navigation monitor. “Where are you taking them?”

“Somewhere safe,” he answered. “Somewhere the Queen can grow up in peace and claim her rightful throne without threat from usurpers.”

“Grow up? You mean…” Threllis and Magretta both looked at him in astonishment. “But Doctor… if Peladon has no queen… what will become of it? Haldiss and his sort will break the people and destroy all that Peladon stands for. There will be nothing for her to come back to when she is old enough.”

“Trust me,” The Doctor said and he outlined his plan. All within hearing were open mouthed in amazement. Especially Amy when she discovered what she had to do.

“Doctor… I can’t,” she said. “Not on my own.”

“Yes, you can,” he assured her. I’ve preset the journey. It will take ten minutes, tops. You can do it. I promise.”

“But what if…”

“Nothing will go wrong. Trust me. I’m The Doctor.”

“One day, that will come back to haunt you,” Amy told him.

“But you’ll do it?”


The TARDIS materialised on a green lawn under a bright blue sky from which a warm sun shone down. When they stepped outside, the Peladonians blinked and exclaimed. Thaylira clung to her mother and nurse, startled to see so much sky, so much world around her after spending her young lifetime in the Citadel. The Doctor turned and spoke to Amy. He hugged her once as she stepped back into the TARDIS. He watched as it dematerialised.

“Good journey, my friend,” he whispered. Then he turned and looked at the royal palace whose garden he had landed the TARDIS in. Guards in smart uniforms were running to find out who they were. He got ready to present himself and explain his mission.

Amy stood by the console and looked at the red swirling vortex in the monitor and the time co-ordinates scrolling up on the LCD screen below it. She bit her lip and hoped that The Doctor had got this right. There were so many variables. So many things that could go wrong, no matter how confident he was that his plan would work.

Then she heard the dematerialisation sound. The vortex dissolved into a view of a well cut lawn with flower beds. There were people standing there. A lot of people. Some at least she recognised.

She ran to the door.

“Doctor!” she cried as he stepped towards her and hugged her. “It worked?”

“This part did.” He bounded up to the console and checked it carefully as the passengers stepped aboard and made themselves as comfortable as it was possible to be in the TARDIS. He closed the door and glanced at the monitor. “Plenty of people to see you all off,” he commented. “They’ll be talking about this for weeks.”

In the Peladonian throne room, Lord Haldiss had taken the news that the Queen and Queen Mother were missing philosophically. He sat on the central throne with Haffick standing at his side and gave instructions to the Ministers of the Court.

“Food rations will be reduced. Work shifts will double. The price of trisciliate has fallen again and it is necessary to produce more in order to pay for the bare essentials of life. Guards will ensure that there is no slacking. Mining will continue day and night. There will be no rest days.”

“But sire…” protested the Minister for Works. “The people cannot work so hard with less and less food. We must…”

“It is outrageous,” said the Chancellor. “Where is the queen? By what right do you assume the throne? By whose authority do you make these impossible demands of the people of Peladon?”

“The queen is dead. She was killed by the stranger called The Doctor, who fled when his foul deed was done.”

“I do not believe it,” the Chancellor replied. He was not the only one. There were murmuring among the ministers. Haldiss nodded to the guards who flanked him. There were clicks as crossbows were engaged.

“I do not believe it, either,” called out Oluc, the second in command of the Guard Captain as he strode into the Throne room flanked by loyal men. Haldiss’s guards turned their crossbows on him, but then realised they were outnumbered.

“Guards,” Haldiss commanded. “These are traitors. Arrest them.”

The guards wavered uncertainly. Oluc’s men spread around the room. Haldiss’s guards lowered their weapons.

“Nobody is dead. Queen Thaylira the Second of Peladon lives. Long live Queen Thaylira.”

His men repeated the last sentence. The Ministers of the Court did the same a few seconds later and with less precision to their response. As they did, the doors to the throne room opened again. The guards and ministers all cleared a path for The Doctor and Amy followed by Threllis and Magretta holding hands proudly, and the regal young woman with a man at her side who wore a gold circlet denoting royalty. They were flanked by Royal Guards of both Peladon and another monarchy entirely.

“Who is this?” Haldiss demanded as the young woman stepped forward.

“I am Queen Thaylira the Second of Peladon,” she said. “And you shall remove yourself from my throne this instance.”

“You… what is this outrage?” Haldiss blustered. Haffick began to step forward but one of Oluc’s men and one of Haldiss’s own guard halted him.

“I am Queen Thaylira. This is my husband, Prince Alenn, Duke of Ventura III. He will rule at my side as my Consort. My mother and her husband, Threllis, henceforth known as Duke of Peladon, will be my advisors. I have no need for a Regent even if he was a loyal man and not a traitor who sought to have me murdered and a good man accused of the crime. Guards, take him away. And his accomplice.”

Those guards who had initially taken Haldiss’s orders saw which way the wind was blowing. They closed around Haldiss and Haffick and both were dragged out of the Throne Room. Queen Thaylira stepped up to the central throne and sat upon it. Her husband sat on her left flank. Her mother sat on the right. Threllis stood by her side. A seat with a silk cushion was hastily brought forward for his mother, Gerta, who smiled benignly at the Queen and her husband.

“The trisciliate market is far from depressed,” the Queen said. “That was a lie put forward by Haldiss in order to squeeze the last drop of profit from the mines. In truth, the price has never been better. The treasury is bursting with gold. There is food enough for everyone. It shall be distributed forthwith. There will be a three day feast to celebrate my marriage to Prince Alenn and the beginning of a new age of happiness and prosperity for all of Peladon.”

All within hearing cheered. There was much that they didn’t understand. But the fact that Peladon had a queen was firmly grasped. The rest could wait.

“I have been a friend to the royal family of Ventura for centuries,” The Doctor explained at the grand banquet held to honour Prince Alenn. “I knew they would gladly care for the young queen and ensure she received the right education to allow her to take her place as ruler of Peladon. But, of course, Peladon couldn’t really wait fifteen years for her to do all of that. That’s why you travelled on in the TARDIS, Amy, and caught up with us when the Queen was ready to return to her people. All we had to do, then, is come back the morning after we left and let Thaylira claim her throne and oust the Regent. The Prince is a bonus. Even I couldn’t have planned for her to fall in love and marry a man perfectly capable of helping her rule Peladon.”

“Magretta is happy, too,” Amy noted. “I’m glad she and Threllis had the chance to be together. But isn’t it all... sort of… cheating. I mean… taking away a child princess and bringing a grown up one back the next day. It’s…”

She thought about it a bit more. But actually, on second thoughts, she couldn’t think of a single reason why it couldn’t be done. Not if The Doctor did it.