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Doctor Who_ Castrovalva Part 8

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'No! Don't turn round.' The boy's voice was husky and urgent. 'I've been waiting for you. Listen, quickly. The Master mustn't find me here.'

Nyssa gasped. 'He's in Castrovalva?'

'He can find me anywhere,' was Adric's grim answer.

'I'm still in his power. But you mustn't let the Doctor know.'

It was hard not to turn round. Nyssa shook her head.

'We have to tell him.'

Adric was adamant. 'Rescuing me can wait. Please- that's not the most important thing. The Doctor must stay in Castrovalva until his regeneration is complete.'

'Wait here!' said Nyssa. 'I must get Tegan.'

'No! Don't tell anybody you saw me. n.o.body, you understand.'

The compulsion to turn round was too strong for her. In the flesh the boy looked even paler than his reflection, and there was an odd light in his eyes. She ran to him, but as she drew close he reeled back. A scattering of brilliant yellow sparks blinded her as she touched him, and when she opened her eyes again he was gone.

In the bed the Doctor stirred. Nyssa went to him, not knowing whether to tell him or keep her promise to Adric-if it was Adric she had seen. The Doctor stretched luxuriously and opened his eyes.

'Nyssa!' he said, recognising her immediately. 'Lovely morning.'

It was true; the white room was full of sunlight now.

'Are you all right, Doctor?' Nyssa asked in a small voice.

'Better than just all right,' he replied with a grin as he sat up in bed. 'I'm practically my old self again. Or rather-my new self!'

Nyssa said she was very happy to hear it, and the Doctor didn't doubt she was. But underneath he sensed her unease; something was troubling her. But she was always a very independent person, and no doubt she would tell him about it in her own good time.

The cruel steel wires of the web trembled under the motion of the struggling boy they held transfixed, but their grip was unyielding. With a whirring sound the elevating device brought the Master's piercing black eyes into level confrontation with Adric's.

'No, I won't do it. I won't...' the boy cried, shaking his head like someone caught up in a nightmare.

'But you have done it,' came the drip of that honey-and-vinegar voice. 'A perfect impersonation of yourself. Now we will remain untroubled by the Doctor's meddling while our plans mature.'

9.

The Occlusion Closes In The Portreeve's chamber was a tall, stately room, with half-timbered walls plastered in white. The Doctor pushed back his chair after the most satisfying breakfast he could remember for a long time, and let his eye run along the intriguing oak beams supporting the roof. High up in one wall a gallery overlooked the room-rather curiously placed, the Doctor thought, for it was set directly above a huge fireplace with oversized fire-irons to match. The opposite wall was dominated by an enormous tapestry that portrayed a hunting scene in subtle greens and blues. Like many of the other objects he had noticed about him elsewhere in Castrovalva, the furnishings and fittings of the Portreeve's chamber were meticulously crafted. He congratulated the Portreeve on the care and attention that had gone into their making.

'Time is at the root of it all,' the old man observed, gracefully brushing away the compliment. 'We do so little on Castrovalva, sir, and therefore what we do, we have time to do well.'

Women appeared, and began to clear away the remnants of the meal.

'I like your Castrovalva, Portreeve,' the Doctor said. He indicated Tegan and Nyssa, who, hungry after their long climb, were still busy demolishing the breakfast. 'Clever of them to have brought me here.'

The Portreeve smiled. 'I fear we must be a little dull after the habitual excitements you describe.'

During the meal the Doctor had told him something of his adventures with the Daleks, the Ogrons and his other many adversaries. The conversation had heartened Nyssa and Tegan, for it was clear that the Doctor's memory had returned almost completely, although he stillseemed very hazy about the journey to Castrovalva. Adric had not been mentioned once, and the girls had agreed they would leave that ugly question until they were sure the Doctor was completely recovered.

Nyssa saw a pale, introverted face peering in at the window, and recognised the man she had heard addressed as Shardovan. A moment later the door onto the terrace opened with a creak, and the tall figure was silhouetted against the sunlight.

'The volumes you asked for, Portreeve,' the newcomer said drily. He stepped into the room, making way for a woman carrying a pile of books.

The Portreeve rose to greet him. 'Thank you, Shardovan. I have finished with those.' He waved a hand towards a table strewn with open volumes. The Castrovalvan women put down the books and began to collect up the others.

Tegan could no longer restrain a question that had been troubling her. 'The only thing I can't make out-if this place is so ideal how come the women do all the work around here?'

She had directed the question towards Shardovan, as if in some way she thought he was personally to blame. He raised an eyebrow. 'There is an alternative arrangement?'

'On Tegan's planet they're trying out an idea called equality.' This remark of the Doctor's was perfectly even-handed, but Tegan took it as a declaration of the Doctor's support, and continued aggressively: 'Isn't it fairer if everybody's treated the same?'

'I confess,' Shardovan declared loftily, 'that I have never thought upon the subject.'

'Then perhaps you ought to?' Tegan snapped, and received an admonishing look from the Doctor that suggested she was pushing the rules of hospitality too far.

It was the Portreeve's diplomatic intervention that cooled things down. 'In Castrovalva we pursue our lives as best we may, not as best we could.' As ever he spoke lightly, but in a voice that made you listen for wisdom in his meaning. 'We lack reformers. Stay with us and improve our minds. Perhaps I should introduce you officially...

Tegan and Nyssa... Shardovan, our Librarian.'

'A library!' Nyssa exchanged a glance with Tegan, and the thought pa.s.sed between them that they might be able to research into telebiogenesis. Shardovan bowed and said he would be glad if they cared to visit it.

The Portreeve had promised to show the Doctor the 'device' from which he drew his reputation for wisdom, so the two men were happy to let Nyssa and Tegan go off with Shardovan for an hour or so. The Portreeve saw them out and closed the door. He returned to find the Doctor admiring the great hanging tapestry.

'Whoever made this certainly had a way with needle and thread, Portreeve.' The other nodded his agreement and stood for a moment musing in front of it. The Doctor was not particularly impatient to move on, but he thought it polite to remind the Portreeve of the 'device'.

The Portreeve was amused. 'It stands before you, Doctor!' He gestured with his stick across the expanse of woven green and blue thread. 'I have returned the picture to its state of yesterday, by way of demonstration. Look, Doctor-we can relive your journey.'

And with these words the Portreeve drew him close to the tapestry and pointed to part of it the Doctor had not noticed before, where the coloured threads depicted Nyssa and Tegan carrying the Zero Cabinet across the stream.

And the picture moved.

For a long time the Doctor paced about the room, regarding the astonishing tapestry from various angles, sometimes stepping up close to inspect the texture, and at other times walking back to the opposite wall to take in the whole panorama. As he watched, the tapestry unfolded the story of his arrival at Castrovalva, not with constant motion like the moving image on the TARDIS viewer screen, but in a series of delicately detailed tableaux, each dissolving almost imperceptibly into the next.

'I've seen many extraordinary things, Portreeve, in the course of a long life. But this-it's extra-extraordinary.

How often do these pictures renew themselves?'

'Oh, by no means all the time,' said the Portreeve, his pride in the device giving way to a modest desire to apologise for its too flamboyant virtuosity. 'Life here in the main is slow and unremarkable. Only an occasion like your visit disturbs the cycles enough to register on the tapestry.'

The Doctor had discovered a magnifying gla.s.s lying on the table and used it to peer closely at the threads. 'Some form of fast-particle projection, I suppose?'

The Portreeve seemed faintly embarra.s.sed by the question. He brushed some speck from the tapestry, producing a small cloud of dust. 'Our forebears had many skills, now forgotten.'

'But if-as I understand from your Librarian and his friends -they were savages...?'

He moved to take a look behind the tapestry, but stopped at a glance from the Portreeve, who said: 'There is no doubt some complexity behind it. From what you tell me, you had better avoid such things until you are restored.'

The Doctor had to agree that the Portreeve was probably right, but in spite of the suggestion of giddiness he felt when close to the tapestry he returned a moment later for another close look at the finely wrought detail.

Now Nyssa and Tegan were carrying the Zero Cabinet through the thick of the wood. 'You know,' said the Doctor, 'I had no idea I was putting them to so much trouble. It's a very long way for three young people to carry me.'

'Three, Doctor?'

'Yes... Tegan, Nyssa and... and... Tegan...' The Doctor paused in confusion, and began again, counting on his fingers. 'Tegan, Nyssa and Tegan. No, no, silly of me.

Nyssa, Tegan and Nyssa.' He turned back to the tapestry for adjudication. 'Nyssa... Tegan...'

He looked at the three fingers he was holding up, which seemed right, and then at the picture on the tapestry- which also seemed right. But if you took away one finger for each of the characters portrayed in the tapestry you were left with one finger too many, no matter how many times you did it. At last his reeling mind stumbled on a conclusion from all this complex calculation. 'D'you know, Portreeve, I'm sure there's someone missing.'

The Portreeve apologised for the tapestry; it was interfering with his recuperation. A walk in the sunshine would soon restore his wits. With a gesture towards the piles of books Shardovan had brought him, the Portreeve excused himself from accompanying him further than the door, so the Doctor was soon wandering alone in the village square.

A crowd of women were gathered around a trough that had replaced the banqueting table beside the fountain, and there was much carrying to and fro of wet washing. As the Doctor walked past them they turned and giggled behind their hands, amused at the serious way he was nodding to himself and counting over and over again on his fingers.

He waved back to them absent-mindedly, and resumed his intense calculations.

'One... two...' He lowered himself onto the bench by the fountain and tried again. 'One... two... No, no, no... One...

two...'

A small child interrupted its playing with a pile of stones and came to stand beside the Doctor, staring in fascination at the grown-up's inability to put two and two together.

'One!' said the Doctor firmly to himself, intending to put up with no more of this nonsense from a mere string of cardinal numbers. 'Two! Er...'

'Three, sir,' said the small child.

The Doctor bent forward to look into the little round face. 'What?'

'Three, sir, is what comes after two,' said the child seriously.

'That's exactly what I thought,' said the Doctor.

'And then four and then five and then six and then seven...'

The Doctor put his hands to his ears. 'Stop! You've making me dizzy.' And then, afraid that he might have offended the child, added: 'Well done. We must give you a badge for mathematical excellence.'

The phrase had hardly pa.s.sed his lips when he struck his forehead and jumped up so suddenly that the frightened child scurried away to the rea.s.suring skirt of its mother by the washing trough.

'Adric!' the Doctor exclaimed, and set off across the square at a very un-Castrovalvan pace.

The visit to the library had not after all produced any information about telebiogenesis, in fact the Technical Section was farcically small. It was a gloomy building with tall narrow windows, as if the shelves upon shelves of books that lined the walls were squeezing out the light. No wonder Shardovan was so pale if he spent all day in the dark alleys between the bookcases.

The main strength of the library, as Shardovan loftily pointed out, lay with the Humanities: Arts and Crafts, Languages, and a great deal of History. They came across a whole row of ancient dusty tomes ent.i.tled A Condensed A Condensed Chronicle of Castrovalva Chronicle of Castrovalva; these certainly weren't going to help them much with Adric. But Shardovan, whom they kept glimpsing through the bookcases as they moved from section to section, suddenly reappeared beside them with unctuous recommendations of other books on other shelves, and this obvious diversion aroused their curiosity.

Tegan was determined to a.s.sert herself. 'No, these will do nicely, thank you very much. I know the Doctor will be interested.' After an icy exchange of views in which Nyssa had to intervene, they took away as many volumes of the Chronicle as they could carry, and emerged blinking into the sunlight.

'Well, as long as we're here we might as well learn something about Castrovalvan history,' said Tegan, rea.s.suring herself with the sound of her own voice-for some reason they had been whispering in the library. She was conscious of Shardovan watching them from the doorway, a long white face in the shadows.

They hauled the books back to the Doctor's room and leafed through them while they waited for him to come back from the Portreeve. But when he threw open the door he was clearly not in the mood for reading.

'Where is he? Where's Adric?'

The two girls looked at each other. 'You told him!' said Tegan accusingly.

'Of course not,' said Nyssa, uncharacteristically fl.u.s.tered. 'Adric told me not to.'

'Adric told you?' snapped the Doctor. This threw Nyssa into even more confusion, and she began to apologise for her stupidity. 'Never mind the excuses. I think it's time I heard all about this.'

So they told him everything, and much to Tegan's astonishment Nyssa added her own confession about the visitation from Adric. The Doctor listened with an intense concentration that his constant pacing of the room and occasional glances out of the window couldn't disguise.

And then he made the decision they had predicted.

'Come on, the TARDIS.'

Before they had time to argue he had thrown open the door and was hurrying along the terrace. The two girls ran after him, but as they descended the steps Nyssa realised they had forgotten something very important, and called out: 'Doctor! The Zero Cabinet.'

The Doctor brushed aside the suggestion. 'We can't go through all that again.'

'But once we get outside the walls...' said Tegan. He seemed to have forgotten that Castrovalva was giving him protection.

'We'll have to hope, won't we?' was the Doctor's not very constructive reply. By this time they had arrived at the square. The Doctor ran up to the group of women washing clothes in the trough. 'What's the quickest way out of here?'

The women looked the Doctor up and down. Then in answer to his question they all pointed in different directions.

'I see,' said the Doctor. 'Well, that's democracy for you.'

He picked the most likely exit route, called over his shoulder to Tegan and Nyssa to follow, and together they headed for a flight of steps that descended from the square.

The steps led through an archway in a wall flecked with crimson ivy, and then down to more steps. 'I don't think we came in this way,' said Nyssa. The Doctor brushed away her doubts at first, but when the steps levelled out onto a covered walk and they looked over the parapet down upon the roofs of yet more houses-a sort of second Castrovalva set at the foot of the one they knew-he paused for a moment to mop his brow.

'I always did have a terrible sense of direction. Still, as long as we keep going down...' There were more steps at the end of the walk, and they began to descend again.

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Doctor Who_ Castrovalva Part 8 summary

You're reading Doctor Who_ Castrovalva. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Christopher H. Bidmead. Already has 277 views.

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