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

“Wow, the smog is bad here,” Jean commented as she stepped out of the TARDIS behind The Doctor. He bounded out enthusiastically and didn’t seem at all bothered by the air being nearly so thick he left an impression of himself in it. He looked back over his shoulder as he strode off down the cobbled alleyway towards the faint glow of street lamps and told Jean not to dawdle.

“It’s London in the late Victorian age,” he replied in explanation to her first comment. “Every house, big or small is belching out coal smoke, every factory chimney, every office or church hall…. Your ancestors are polluting the atmosphere and calling it progress.”

“Not my ancestors. Mine are all Scottish Islanders. They destroyed peat bogs for fuel. That was their contribution to the destruction of the ozone layer.”

She spoke lightly of what was a very seriously matter mainly because she knew perfectly well that the problem was going to be redressed in the future, roughly fifty years after her own lifetime, when common sense and technology combined to ban fossil fuels and repair the damage.

Right now, it made for a strange, almost alien world that frightened her a little even with The Doctor at her side. Knowing this was London didn’t help when she didn’t have any idea what part of London it was.

At least not until they came out of the alleyway and she saw St. Paul’s Cathedral looming in the smog. Gas lamps made the street level orange rather than black, but by the time her eyes had turned as far as the great dome she was looking into darkness again.

“In your day it is uplit at night by strategically placed lamps, of course,” The Doctor told her. “Come along. Paternoster Row is this way.”

“And what’s at Paternoster Row?” Jean asked.

“Some friends of mine who want to talk to me. I had a message from them.”

Paternoster Row was a narrow but substantial street in the shadow of the great cathedral. One side was mostly bookshops with two or three storeys of rented apartment space above. On the other side was a terrace of very fine town houses, the sort with three main floors and windows in the attic, too, iron railings around steps going down to a basement, and steps up to a wide door with a fan-shaped window above it.

Jean wondered what sort of friends of The Doctor lived there. She thought of several important people of this era – Darwin, Dickens, Disraeli came immediately to mind. The fact that their names all started with a ‘D’ was completely coincidental. She tried to think of other famous Victorian Londoners with different initials. Arthur Conan Doyle, who might have been a ‘C’ if Conan was a double-barrelled surname rather than a middle Christian name, also sprang to mind. It occurred to her at the same time that 13 Paternoster Row was quite a lot like 221b Baker Street in just about every TV or film adaptation she had ever seen.

Despite the very late hour – a clock somewhere struck One as they waited – there was a light inside the house and very soon the door was opened by a maid in a neat black dress who didn’t look as if she had just tumbled out of bed.

“Good morning, Jenny,” The Doctor said. “I apologise for the lateness of the hour, but you know what the TARDIS is like. She can land on a ha’penny, and locate any point in time and space, but she has trouble with distinguishing AM and PM. I meant to arrive just after lunch.”

“Of course, Doctor,” Jenny answered. “Her Ladyship is waiting for you in the drawing room.”

She invited them both in and led them to the comfortable drawing room where a lady in a purple dress sat drinking a cup of tea. Jean tried not to stare, because the lady was very distinctly not Human. Her face was green and scaled like a crocodile. Her eyes were dark and her lips thin. When she spoke, a forked tongue was visible inside her mouth.

“Jenny, bring refreshments for our guests, please,” she said. Jenny at once scurried off to do her bidding.

“You… drink tea?” Jean asked. “Is that… usual… for… aliens?”

The reptilian lady growled in the back of the throat and glared at Jean.

“Madam Vastra, please forgive my friend,” The Doctor said hurriedly. “She has never been introduced to one of your kind before. Jean, this is Madam Vastra, of the Silurian race who were masters of Earth long before your species evolved. She tolerates humans as long as they remember that she is not, in fact, an alien, but a native of this world and superior in breeding and intelligence to your upstart ape race.”

“I am very sorry,” Jean apologised. There was nothing else to say.

“I never understood The Doctor’s obsession with your species until I met Jenny,” Madam said with a smile that might have been false or real. “She is one of the more tolerable of your kind, a very able housekeeper and a thoroughly good wife.”

“Wife?” Jean glanced at The Doctor and wondered what she ought to say next.

“It really is unfair of you to expect Jenny to run around after you,” The Doctor said to Madam Vastra, ignoring Jean’s silent search for the politically correct words. “And having people think of her as no more than a servant is unkind. A marriage should be about equals.”

“Nowhere on this ape-infested planet is marriage about equality,” Madam Vastra replied with absolute truth. “And inter-species marriage is utterly unacceptable socially. This outward appearance of things suits us.”

Jean wondered if the inter-species aspect of the marriage was the only sticking point in Victorian London, but she thought she had already put her foot in it enough tonight.

When Jenny returned she sat with her wife/mistress and took tea along with their guests.

“Strax is on his way,” she said.

“Good,” The Doctor responded. “We can discuss the matter of concern when he gets here.”

“Though given Strax’s lack of comprehension of subtleties, I don’t know why we bother,” Madam Vastra added. “His solution to any problem involves large amounts of armaments and a full frontal assault, even though we don’t have the armaments and no target to launch an assault against, frontal or otherwise.”

“He is learning, though,” The Doctor conceded.

“He has stopped strangling people with his bare hands and mastered most of the Queensbury Rules,” Madam conceded.

“He’s amateur heavyweight champion of the St. Pauls district,” Jenny added with a soft laugh. “Unopposed, too. His last opponent leapt out of the ring halfway through the first round, ran out of the hall and hasn’t been seen since.”

Jean was wondering what sort of man this Strax was when there was a resounding knock at the door – indeed, a hammering that might easily have taken the door right off its hinges.

“He hasn’t yet mastered the bell,” Madam Vastra sighed. She poured tea in a large pewter mug ready to give to the new arrival while Jenny showed him in. Jean did her best not to stare at the inhuman face of the squat figure with no obvious neck that looked as if he had been squeezed into the wide-fitting suit he was wearing.

The Doctor introduced Jean to him. He seemed friendly enough, but he called her ‘lad’. Jenny gave her a ‘don’t ask’ shrug as Strax sat in the widest chair and drank his tea.

“I asked The Doctor here to assist with a case that is quite beyond the powers of Scotland Yard to investigate,” Madam Vastra announced, passing from small talk to important matters immediately. “Nor do we wish that new Torchwood organisation to be involved. They would be too much of a nuisance.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” The Doctor responded.

“Four women and a man have been declared missing in recent weeks. That is the official position, because the police do not want the Press to speculate about what has really happened to them.”

“What HAS happened?” Jean asked. “Oh dear, it isn’t Jack the Ripper, is it?”

“No,” Madam Vastra assured her. “I ate him three years ago.”

Jean was the only one who found that statement surprising. She did her best to look as if she took it as lightly as the others.

“The bodies are being kept in the mortuary at St. Bartholemew’s hospital, in a basement room to which only Jenny and I, a pathologist from the hospital and one senior officer of Scotland Yard have access. It is imperative that the state of the bodies does not become common knowledge.”

“What state?” The Doctor asked.

Jenny went to the mahogany dresser next to the window and took out a file from the drawer. She brought it to The Doctor. Jean leaned closer to look at the photographs contained within the paper cover. Photography had been around for some years by the mid-1880s, and it was possible to produce very well defined images by now.

These were very well-defined pictures of some very strange corpses.

The Doctor asked who had taken them since this was such a closely guarded secret.

“I took the pictures,” Madam Vastra said. “If you had refused to come, I would have found a way to send them to you in order to convey the urgency of the matter.”

“I’m here,” The Doctor reminded her. “And I understand the urgency. Five altogether… that’s bad, very bad.”

Jean had nothing to say for the moment. She could guess what The Doctor was going to suggest next, though.

“We need to go to St. Barts. I have to examine these bodies myself – to formally identify them.”

“I thought you would,” Madam Vastra said with a knowing nod. “We shall wait until first light. Strax, I shall be needing my carriage at six, sharp.”

“Yes, Madam,” he answered. “How many will be travelling with you?”

“Just The Doctor,” Madam told him. Jean looked mutinous about that. “It will be difficult enough persuading the staff to allow him into the locked basement. If there is a crowd, it will be impossible.”

“I’m hardly a crowd,” Jean protested, but Madam Vastra was determined and The Doctor did nothing to persuade her that Jean should come along.

“I’m left out of it, too,” Jenny pointed out. “Strax, also, except as carriage driver. I’ll make up the guest bedroom and you can get some sleep. They’ll have plenty for us to do later, I am sure.”

Jenny smiled reassuringly, and Jean accepted the offer of a place to sleep. After all, it was two o’clock in the morning. If The Doctor and Madam Vastra were going to sit up drinking tea and reminiscing about past adventures until dawn it would be a long night.

Reminiscing about past adventures was exactly what they did. As dawn broke through the smog and a grey morning light spread through the streets of London, Madam got ready to go out. That meant putting on a thick veil that disguised her face and lace gloves over her long, slender but reptilian fingers. The Doctor had no such preparations to make. His clothes fitted, more or less, in almost any era from the mid-eighteenth century onwards. He climbed into the carriage beside Madam and they set off through the still quiet streets of London.

St. Bartholomew’s, fondly known as St. Barts, was a hospital, so it was occupied by day and by night. The Doctor and Madam were admitted through a side entrance by a night watchman who might have been part Vampire. The Doctor let that pass. There were one or two of them around, taking jobs where blood was easy to come by.

Besides, Vampires didn’t do the damage he was here to see. He walked quietly beside Madam to the locked room in the mortuary where the five unusual bodies were being kept. He looked at them with careful detachment before examining each corpse with the sonic screwdriver in ‘autopsy’ mode.

“Each body reduced to a dry husk,” he commented. “Even the bone marrow has been sucked out of them. The dry remains shrunk to a quarter of the normal size, non-Human features such as the double nostrils and third eye revealed in death beneath the facial tissue.”

“Yes,” Madam commented.

“Five of the Twelve Exiles murdered in this way. Have the remaining seven been warned of the danger?”

“They have,” Madam Vastra answered. “The Crown Prince himself is at Balmoral as a guest of the British Royal Family. Their security, and the fact that it is so far away ought to be enough to ensure his safety. But the others are vulnerable. If this is a Satyr attack….”

“It can’t be anything else,” The Doctor confirmed. “The nature of the death. Only a Satyr Dehydration Pistol can do this. Even a vampire or a haemovore only takes blood, not every other fluid in the body. Irisians take the water from the body, but not blood cells or bone marrow. Dirisi only want the iron and salt from the body. They don’t dehydrate.”

Even Madam Vastra was surprised at how well The Doctor understood the methods by which various races preyed upon others. He was uncommonly serious about it, too. It disturbed her not to have him making quips about the situation.

“They have been safe on Earth for nearly fifty years,” he added. “Now this. Were the Satyr lucky or have the Twelve been betrayed?”

Madam Vastra shook her head. She didn’t know.

“It was a rhetorical question,” The Doctor assured her. “But one we WILL need to find an answer to if we are to prevent the annihilation of the whole family.”

“Indeed,” Madam agreed. “But where to begin?”

“With a working breakfast back at your place,” The Doctor answered. “We’ll bring Jenny and Jean in on what we know so far and then talk to the Six remaining in London.”

“Agreed. What of these bodies? Shall I tell Scotland Yard they can be released to their families for burial?”

“Yes,” The Doctor answered. “There is no further need for them to remain here. An autopsy would reveal nothing of use to Human medical science and even less to us. We already know the three things any investigator needs to know about a murder – who, how and why.”

A Satyr with a dehydration pistol because they were sworn to annihilate the Twelve Exiles.

“Who EXACTLY are the Twelve Exiles?” Jean asked as The Doctor outlined the situation over a breakfast of porridge, bacon and eggs and toast with as much coffee as anyone could eat. Madam Vastra ate the porridge only reluctantly, but she had three helpings of bacon from her own serving dish – the rashers only partially cooked for the sake of appearances in front of Human friends.

“They were the ruling family of Satyri,” The Doctor explained. “There was a revolution. The family managed to escape before the palace was stormed. They have been living on Earth in secret ever since. We thought the Satyr wouldn’t find them. They have a limited shape-shifting ability. They disguised themselves as Human and slipped into Earth society – specifically the aristocratic class of London. The Crown Prince is believed to be an exile from one of the smaller German states subsumed by Prussia, a minor royal, vaguely related to the late Prince Albert – and therefore accepted at Court. The others call themselves Duchess this and Viscount that. The men belong to the right clubs, the women have tea with the right sort of people and fit right in despite losing their royal status.”

“But five of them are now dead.”


“That’s not good, is it?”

“Not good at all.”

“So what do we do, then?” Jean asked.

“We’re going to protect the six of the Twelve who are in London,” The Doctor explained. “Strax will be bodyguard to the Crown Prince’s brother, Balric, known to his fellows at the Reform Club as Viscount Ballina. Madam Vastra and I are going to visit the prince’s four sisters, Eri, Glan, Neila and Bess, in their charming house in Kensington. Jean, you go with Jenny to see the youngest surviving member of the family, Kel, known locally as The Reverend Kenneth Layton, Succentor of Saint Pauls.”

“There’s an alien posing as a reverend in St Paul’s Cathedral?” Jean asked in surprise. “I mean… it is OK to call THESE people aliens, isn’t it?”

“It would be better not to call anyone such a thing,” Madam Vastra said. “Even Strax has lived in London long enough to understand Cockney Rhyming slang – although don’t encourage him. It really doesn’t sound right coming from his lips. As for the Twelve, they fully integrated themselves into Human society fifty years ago. They are merely migrants who have become a part of the fabric of London life.”

She had put her foot in it again. Jean was glad her assignment was away from the acerbic Madam Vastra. Jenny was all right. She had chatted to her while she prepared breakfast for everyone. Apart from being married to a female reptile she was reassuringly normal and that on its own was a good reason to like her.

“All right, the Reverend it is,” Jean decided. “Only, somebody explain what a Succentor is before we go.”

A Succentor is a clergyman responsible for the music within a Cathedral. Jean and Jenny walked across to St. Paul’s Cathedral with that information in mind, and the fact that the Succentor in this case was a man from another world who’s life might be in imminent danger from an assassin. They waited quietly at the back of the knave until the first service of the morning was done then politely asked about Reverend Layton.

He turned out to be a round faced, round armed, generally round man of fifty years by Human standards – if such could be applied to their race. He brought them to a small drawing room-cum-office where he had tea and toast brought for his guests. They had already breakfasted well, but they ate a little toast and drank the tea as they told the Reverend what had happened to his kinsfolk.

“It’s bad,” he admitted. “We thought ourselves safe here on this planet with its teeming millions. If the assassin succeeds in getting to the Crown Prince, we are all doomed.”

Jean explained Madam Vastra’s belief that the Crown Prince was safe in Scotland with the cream of the British Army protecting Balmoral and its occupants. The Reverend was surprised to learn that the elder of his Exiled family had left the City, but agreed that he was almost certainly out of reach of the murderer, there.

“You think it is just the one murderer?” Jenny asked, picking up on his words. “It’s not a group of assassins?”

“I think the fact that my siblings were killed individually, at separate times and places, confirms that,” he said. “It is one man. I shall be vigilant, of course. Though my work here makes it difficult. People visit St Pauls at all times of the day from Matins to Evensong. To keep a close eye on every one of them would be near impossible.”

“Yes, I see your problem,” Jean told him, feeling utterly frustrated by her inability to help in any way.

“Forewarned is forearmed, of course,” the Reverend added. “I shall be on the lookout for those who do not have holy pilgrimage on their minds.”

And that was as much as they could do. They drank another cup of tea out of politeness and then left quietly. The Reverend Succentor returned to practicing the sung responses for the main service of the day.

“He didn’t seem VERY upset that three of his sisters and an uncle had been murdered,” Jean said as they walked back through the narrow streets of St Pauls district.

“Victorian men don’t show emotions,” Jenny answered. “They are stoic.”

“Even so… I don’t know. Something wasn’t quite right. I can’t put my finger on it. I feel very sorry for him. It must be dreadful knowing that somebody wants to murder him and it might happen at any moment, right there in the Cathedral. But I can’t say I warmed to him as a person.”

Jenny laughed softly. Jean wondered why.

“I am married to a cold-blooded species. Warming to people… easy when I’ve warmed to a Silurian and she has warmed to me.”

Jean smiled politely. She still wasn’t quite sure what to make of Jenny and Madam’s relationship. She had always thought of herself as open-minded and having a live-and-let-live attitude to other people’s life choices. But this was her first inter-species marriage and she was still getting used to the idea.

“Vastra is a kind and attentive woman,” Jenny told Jean, as if she knew what was on her mind. “And a very sensitive lover.”

Jean decided she wasn’t going to think about THAT any more than she had to and changed the subject. The complex story of how The Doctor and the Paternoster Row Three came to know each other saw them home and through yet another pot of tea while they waited to hear from the others.

The Doctor and Madam Vastra were received graciously in the richly appointed home of the four exiled princesses. They were known to their society friends in the wealthy Kensington and Hyde Park area as Duchess Erica of Stockholm, Countess Gertrude of Glamis, the Dowager Duchess Theresa O’Neill and The Honourable Elizabeth Bessant. The three eldest claimed to be widows and the youngest a spinster, living on their inheritances in the style to which they were accustomed.

Tea was served in a fine bone china service and the spoons were silver. The cakes that accompanied them were hand-made violet macaroons. The Doctor ate one slowly, and resisted the urge to sneak a couple into his pocket for later.

The princesses were devastated by the loss of five members of their family. They didn’t cry, because their species didn’t have tear ducts, but they keened softly. The low sound of grief tore at the double hearts of the Time Lord and even touched the cold blood of Madam Vastra, who reached out a comforting hand to Lady Elizabeth.

“I, too, have lost family,” she said, remembering the deaths of hibernating members of her tribe when the London Underground system broke through the habitat. “The loss is inconsolable, but the comfort of friends is a blessing.”

The Doctor drew in breath and thought he couldn’t have put it better himself. He went through all the stages of grief enhanced a million times after the death of his planet. He raged against the injustice, cried in grief, sank into a funk of self-pity, and eventually found that being with people, especially the maddening yet impossible Human race, softened the blow.

“The worst of it is, the three sisters were our best hope of continuing our line,” Erica, the eldest, said. “We know inter-marriage with humans is possible, and they were young enough to breed. As it is, now Elizabeth is the only one of us of child-bearing age. Of course, either of our brothers might marry. But the chances of OUR bloodline being carried in the offspring are stronger if it comes through the female.”

Just like all aristocrats, anywhere, The Doctor noted. The continuation of the line was important. But to the Exiles, it was all the more vital. Their greatest hope was that one day a king or queen would be restored to the Satyri throne when this republican nonsense was past. In the event that it took a generation or so, they needed heirs.

“We don’t know who the killer is,” The Doctor reminded them. “Or what he looks like in a Human form. So you must be vigilant. Might I suggest that you review your social engagements and avoid those where you might be exposed.”

“My dear Doctor,” Countess Gertrude protested. “How might we introduce Elizabeth to an eligible man if we are not able to attend the right social functions?”

“It may not be for long,” The Doctor promised. “Madam and I are investigating the matter. You can be assured we will do all we can to bring the assassin to justice.”

“Thank you,” the Duchess said on behalf of her sisters. The sentiment was genuine. But whether she felt reassured by The Doctor’s words was another matter.

“I’ve never seen you so earnest,” Madam Vastra said as they travelled back to the City afterwards. “Not a single quip or foolish remark from you, Doctor.”

“The fate of the Twelve is no laughing matter,” he sighed. “You and I both know that. We both know what it is to live among this Human race without hope of the company of our own kind again. We share their grief, their loss. We have to help them.”

“We will, Doctor. We will.”

Strax was finding his role as a bodyguard to the Viscount Ballina surprisingly simple. He merely had to stand with the other butlers, valets, batmen and personal secretaries in a straight line against the wall of the Reform Club members drawing room where their masters were all relaxing after a strenuous lunch in the members dining hall. Standing in a line dressed in an identical uniform to everyone else was what he had been doing since he left the hatcheries and trained as a Sontaran trooper. It came naturally to him.

His fellow servants didn’t consider him to be especially out of the ordinary, even though he stood a foot shorter than the man beside him and was wider than two of them put together. Servants were servants.

Nor did the members think him unusual.

Servants were servants.

Yes, being one of a crowd, all dressed alike, standing in line, waiting endlessly, was all familiar to a Sontaran. He felt oddly at home in the Reform Club – a fact that would almost certainly have surprised and disturbed that institution’s founders.

Then the assembled servants, stewards and members alike were startled. Strax broke ranks and hurled his bulk across the room, tackling a man to the ground. In the midst of the uproar two of his fellow servants managed to persuade him not to twist the man’s head off and eventually he was persuaded to let him up from the ground.

“He has a Satyr Dehydration Pistol,” Strax insisted. “He must be detained at once under the sanctions of the Shaddow Proclamation.”

“This… is a… a… telescope,” stammered the young Lord Highbury, demonstrating the bronze instrument in his hands. “It… belonged to… to… my grandfather who… who….” His lordship steadied himself before continuing. “My grandfather was aboard HMS Victory at Trafalgar, alongside Nelson. This was a gift from the Admiral himself. I brought it to show to Lord Salford who has an interest in such things.”

“My apologies,” Strax murmured. “It is an easy mistake. The Dehydration Pistol is very similar in size and length.”

He bowed his head in deference to his accidental victim and withdrew from the drawing room. Viscount Ballina followed and there was a very strongly worded altercation in the privacy of the Reform Club’s cloakroom before Strax was dismissed from the Viscount’s presence and ejected from the Club.

He walked home to Paternoster Row dejectedly, wondering why these humans made such a fuss about being knocked about in such a way. In the Sontaran barracks no trooper would feel aggrieved about hand to hand combat. One who went down so easily would have to issue a challenge and prove himself worthy, but nobody would think of apologising. Indeed, there wasn’t even a concept of ‘apology’ in Sontaran culture, let alone a word in their language.

Worst of all, though, his mission had failed. He had exposed himself as a covert bodyguard and could no longer protect the Viscount. If he was assassinated now it would be all Strax’s fault.

He would have to do an even greater penance than the one that found him performing service as a nurse to humans in the first place.

“Wet nurse to the children of the Venussanian Brood Queen,” he thought grimly. Nothing could be more humiliating than having to provide lactations daily for fifty yellow-skinned infant invertebrates.

Jean and Jenny were home first. They talked over their experience in the drawing room while they waited for the others. Strax was the last to arrive, and his explanation of the disaster at the Reform Club was met with a mixture of responses from the rest of the group.

“Don’t worry, Strax,” The Doctor assured him. “They will forget about it soon enough. Anything that isn’t in the rule book of Club Discipline always is.”

“Even so, I have let you down,” Strax opined. “I should be flayed to within an inch of my life.”

Jean wondered just how much flaying it would need to cause damage to Strax’s hide-like skin, but since The Doctor deferred the punishment she would likely never find out.

“There’s still something nagging at me about Reverend Layton,” Jean said. “Something odd….”

“They don’t blink as often as humans,” Madam Vastra pointed out. “But neither does The Doctor, so that should not strike you as out of the ordinary by now.”

“No, it’s not that. It’s something he said.”

“Oh!” Jenny exclaimed. “Oh… Jean… we have been stupid, both of us. We should have thought of it much sooner.”

“Perhaps you lads should also be flayed for your error,” Strax suggested.

“Nobody is being flayed,” The Doctor answered. “Go on, you two, think it through.”

“We told him about the five deaths,” Jenny continued. “But….”

“We never told him where or when they were killed.”

“Because we didn’t know. You never told us.”

“But HE said it had to be one assassin because they were all killed separately at different times.”

Jean and Jenny looked at each other as the penny dropped for them both. They didn’t dare look at The Doctor or Madam Vastra, and certainly not Strax who was still working it out on his own.

“Kind Hearts and Coronets,” The Doctor said.

“What?” Everyone looked at him curiously. Jean was the only one that the cultural reference meant anything to, and she took a few seconds to understand completely.

“Can it really be so simple?” Madam Vastra asked.

“Let’s go to see Reverend Layton.”

Choir practice was in full voice when they entered St. Paul’s. The five, one Silurian, two humans, one Time Lord and a Sontaran, were hardly regular churchgoers, but they respected the sanctity of the building and even when they closed in on the Succentor they did so quietly.

When he saw the five coming for him, though, the Succentor gave a scream of rage that echoed through the whispering gallery around the famous dome. He ran, dodging Strax’s rugby tackle and The Doctor’s simultaneous lunge, leaving them in a tangled heap together. The three women continued the chase up the long central aisle of the nave, expecting him to burst out through the main door. Instead he headed towards the small wooden door into the South-West tower. Madam Vastra was significantly faster than her Human companions and was running up the spiral staircase within the tower, gaining on the portly and distinctly unfit Reverend now that he had lost the element of surprise that put them at the first disadvantage.

“Wow!” Jean exclaimed as she looked up from the second turn of the spiral to see Madam Vastra lean out over the dizzy drop and turn her face upwards. A long forked tongue struck out and Reverend Leyton gave a sharp cry of pain.

“Now you see what I mean about her,” Jenny said with a wicked smile. Jean remembered she was in a Cathedral and kept several possible replies to herself.

“You’re not dying,” Madam Vastra told the Reverend as the two Human women caught up with her. “But my venom will make you very lightheaded and nauseous. I suggest you stop running and give yourself up.”

“No,” he answered. “Never.”

He struggled up the rest of the steps onto the arched gallery called the South Triforium and tried to run, but his bulk and the venom coursing in his veins brought him down. He collapsed against the wrought iron railings overlooking the magnificent nave and gasped for breath.

“You did it,” Jean accused him. “You’re the one who killed your own sisters and uncle. You planned to kill them all, right up to the Crown Prince….”

“Not all. My aunt Elizabeth would be spared,” he answered, as if expecting that he might be praised for such kindness. “She is good breeding stock.”

“Quite apart from the disgusting thought of marrying your own aunt,” Jean said. “That was ok for the Ancient Egyptians, so never mind…. Apart from that, you wanted to murder them all to be Crown Prince… to be head of the family.”

“What family, if he had them all bumped off?” Jenny asked.

“He wanted to water the blood by intermarriage with humans,” the Succentor explained. “My father, the Crown Prince…. He was in negotiation with some inferior family of red-bloods from Bavaria who had a woman of marriageable age. My sisters were being introduced to ‘suitable’ men. I offered to mate with all three, but I was refused. My father said that our blood must mingle with the aristocracy of this adopted world so that we may secure our place here. He said that we would never return to our homeworld, never rule there again. But our descendents might yet rule the nations of this world.”

“That makes perfect sense,” Jean conceded.

“It is abominable. We must preserve the blood. We must remain separate. But none of them agreed. That is why I had to kill them.”

“You’re mad,” Jenny told him. “Absolutely mad.”

“Stark raving bonkers,” Jean agreed.

“Your quest for blood purity is a noble one,” Madam Vastra said. “My own species is quite incompatible with the ape-descendents, and the thought of reproducing with them repugnant. But fratricide… the very idea is appalling. My people would cast out one such as you.”

The Succentor struggled to stand up and move away from Madam Vastra, whose tongue flickered between her half-opened lips. He leaned against the railings as he backed away from her venomous ‘kiss’. There was an ominous creaking noise and Jean called out a warning, but even as the echo of her voice died away it was counter-pointed by a sound of metal giving under the weight of the succentor’s well-fed body and his scream as he fell to the nave below.

Madam Vastra, Jean and Jenny all looked down and saw The Doctor and Strax examining the body. The Doctor looked up and made a gesture confirming that he was dead.

“Kind Hearts and Coronets,” Jean said as they sat in Madam Vastra’s drawing room and considered the consequences of what they had learnt. “It’s an old film… I mean… in my time it will be. Film isn’t even NEW at this time… about a poor man who wants to become rich by killing off all his relatives in line to a Dukedom. Reverend Leyton, the youngest of the Twelve… his idea was even madder than that. It’s going to be a terrible shock to the rest of his family.”

“I’ll break it to them gently,” Madam Vastra promised.

“The Crown Prince is right,” The Doctor said. “There is no hope of a return to Satyri. Their future lies within the British aristocracy, mingling their blood with Human. Do you know, they ARE actually BLUE blooded. In their line the term will actually be true.”

“I’m glad you waited until now to tell me that,” Jean replied. “I really don’t think I could have carried on if I had known.”

“Sontaran blood is green, the true colour,” Strax pointed out. “All other species are weaklings. The mixing of their bloods will make them no more or less inferior to the Sontaran might.”

“Yes, Strax,” The Doctor told him. “You keep on believing that.”