Susan stepped out of the TARDIS in a long dress of deep purple crushed velvet and a wide, white, laced collar. The Doctor had told her it was appropriate to the Restoration period they were in. Puritan strictness was over and people were wearing colours again. She looked at him and smiled. A highly embroidered doublet, breeches, and the sort of footwear she always associated with Puss in Boots were his outfit for the day. He was wearing a wide belt at his waist with a leather scabbard and a sword in it.

“1661,” he said. “The monarchy was restored a year ago. The country is at peace. The last time I was here the civil war was on and it wasn’t very happy.”

He set off along the path beside a fast flowing river. She had to hurry to keep up with his long-legged stride.

“Slow down will you, I’ve got to walk in a bloody farthingale.” He stopped and looked around at her. He grinned and held out his hand and walked a little slower.

“That’s Charles II,” Susan said as she went over the history again. “Just so I don’t get it wrong.”

“Yep. But he’s down in London. We’re in Lancashire. Pendle in East Lancashire.”

“Oh, I know that place,” Susan told him enthusiastically. “Witch Country.”

“Yes. But all of that was in 1612. It’s about as relevant to people here and now as a hanging in 1956 was to you in 2007.”

“So they don’t burn witches around here now?” she asked.

“They didn’t burn them here in 1612,” The Doctor told her. “The Pendle lot were all hanged. Burning was for traitors and being hung, drawn and quartered for priests.”

“Nice!” Susan remarked dryly. “And we’re here because…?”

“I met a nice girl in 1643. And I want to see how she’s doing. She won’t be a girl now, of course. According to parish registers I hacked into with the TARDIS computer, she is shown to have married a man called John Holt in 1650 and they run the Spread Eagle Inn at Sawley.”

“Ok,” she said. “I can live with that. We’re going to stay at the inn?”

“Yes,” he answered. “To anyone who inquires, you are Mistress Rawlings of Preston, my ward, and travelling companion as I visit this shire. I, of course, am The Doctor. Nobody ever questions that.”

“Who would dare? Susan asked with a wry smile. “Doctor you’re amazing. I think you must have friends in every decade of every century of Earth history.”

“Yeah, probably,” he admitted. “I’m a nice man. I make friends easily.”

“So this is just a meet up with an old friend, for old times sake?” she asked. “No nasty alien threat to deal with?”

She noted that The Doctor didn’t in fact answer that question but began regaling her with information about the customs and habits of the early Restoration period. She wasn’t sure if that was meaningful or not.

An authentic seventeenth century inn, Susan thought as they stepped into the Spread Eagle and took in the features. Strangely, it didn’t seem that unfamiliar. Well preserved Seventeenth century pubs were not uncommon in rural Lancashire, and her dad had always been a great one for getting them all in the car on Sunday and driving out for a pub lunch in the country. She wasn’t sure this might not have been one of the places they stopped.

In the genuine seventeenth century it had a low-ceiling with big oak beams in it, hung with clumps of herbs that exuded a pleasant smell. Pine logs were stacked in a huge fireplace but it was not lit yet on a warm early summer day. There was no bar as she would recognise one, but a long, high table with casks of ale stacked on it, while there were smaller wooden tables with big wooden chairs around them for customers. There were only three of them at this moment, old men playing some kind of card game and drinking ale.

The Doctor requested two mugs of ale and asked the girl who was serving in that quiet part of the afternoon to fetch Mistress Holt. They were, he said, old friends come visiting.

“I’m supposed to drink that?” Susan looked suspiciously at the pewter ale mug filled with a foaming alcohol. The Doctor had already raised his mug and taken a deep draught. She laughed when he put it down and had a moustache of ale foam.

“Should have a full beard really,” he said, wiping his mouth. “Beards were the thing for men in these times. As for the ale… it’s safer than the ordinary water, generally. The brewing kills off any bacteria.”

“Er… ok,” she said and took a sip. It wasn’t too bad, really - a bit like her dad’s home brew beer. She wasn’t sure she wanted a whole mug of it though.

“Doesn’t it affect you?” she asked as she watched The Doctor drain his glass.

“I’m not Human. My metabolism doesn’t process alcohol the same way, unless I want it to.”

“Unless you want it to?” Susan laughed. “Do you often want it to”

“No,” he replied. “I prefer to be in control -. of myself and of what is happening around me. Alcohol takes that control away. I can do a REALLY good impression of a drunk though. Comes in handy when I’m in the kind of company that expects a real man to be a roisterer.”

Susan laughed and said he ought to teach the trick to her dad some time.

“He has a problem holding his drink?”

“He has a problem telling his mates he’s had enough,” Susan explained. “And then mum has a go at him about it. That’s the main reason I left home as soon as I could. Nancy offered me a room in her house. It was nice. No rows and we would drink cocoa and watch TV and chat about the day together every night before bed. Cosy.”

“So when you’re done travelling with me you’ll go back to live with Nancy.”

“Yes,” she said. “Get my job back with the paper, and learn to be a lady journalist.”

“Good enough plan,” he said. “But don’t lose touch with your parents, will you. Family is important. And you never know….”

“Doctor?” Susan looked at her in alarm. “You don’t mean…. Do you know something? Is something horrible going to happen to my mum and dad?”

“No,” he assured her quickly. “I was thinking of myself - of people I knew on my own world, family that I stayed away from for years, always thinking that I could go back one day and they’d still be there. People I should have said ‘I love you’ to and didn’t. I’ve got a few regrets in my life. And most of them are about people I should have visited before it was too late.”

Susan considered that point, and was about to make a reply when a woman entered the room. The Doctor stood and went to her, taking her two hands in his.

“Jennet, my dear,” he exclaimed. “You look well.”

“You look…. EXACTLY as I remember,” she answered him. “Not even a hair of your head has changed.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. It’s just my way. But what of you?”

“I am very well. Since we met last I have had good fortune. I married a good man. I have had a good life. John is in the meadow slaughtering a sheep for meat tonight. I should be honoured to introduce you later. My dear friend, The Doctor, who saved me from a dread and unholy fate.”

“Meanwhile,” The Doctor said with a smile. “Let me introduce you to my young friend, Susan. She is travelling with me for a time.”

“Good day to you, Mistress Susan,” Mistress Holt said with a warm smile and a bob of a curtsey that was the way one of her class would greet somebody of a higher rank, as she took Susan to be. “Will you be staying the night here?” she added. “You know, of course, it is the 29th of May tomorrow.”

“Ah,” The Doctor said gleefully. “Then we would be delighted to stay and celebrate that day with you.”

“What is the significance of May 29th?” Susan asked as Mistress Holt brought fresh mugs of ale and had the serving girl bring pewter plates of cooked meat and square cut pieces of barley bread for their lunch. She sat with them as they ate and drank, happy that her old friend was visiting and anxious to impress.

“Ah,” she said. “I see you are one of The Doctor’s friends from another time and place.” Mistress Holt turned an intense look upon her and she nodded after a while. “You come from one of those strange cities with the metal carts without horses and such strange and colourful apparel. Oh, I should not care to wear such things. Nor listen to such sounds. Is that music?”

“You still have the gift?” The Doctor asked.

“I do,” she answered. “Oh, my goodness!” She laughed nervously. “To think that I imagined that strange place was far away. But it is only twenty miles downstream on that very river that flows past this inn.”

“It will be in three hundred years, Jennet,” The Doctor assured her. “Just now it is no more than a small market town.”

“But about May 29th,” Susan reminded them both.

“It is the birth day of our Lord and king,” Mistress Holt explained. “By statute, we give thanks for his birth and for his triumphant return to London as our anointed king on that day a year ago.”

“It’s the LAW to commemorate the King’s birthday?” Susan was astounded and not a little disgusted at such a law.

“It is the origin of the bank holiday you have at the end of May,” The Doctor told her.

“Even so…” Susan laughed as she tried to get her head around the idea that she was no longer in her own time and things were different now.

When she was shown her room for the night she was impressed by the big four poster bed with curtains around it, but not so much by the sanitary provisions.

“Just a jug of cold water for washing in?” she asked. “And what if I need the loo in the night?”

The Doctor smiled impishly and kicked something metallic under the bed. It was a second or two before she realised what it was.

“Oh,” she said. “Er… seriously? I have to use a.…”

“After nightfall I’m going to go up and get the TARDIS, The Doctor promised her. “I don’t like it being out in the open when we’re in pre-industrial periods like this. It can sit in the corner of the room here. You can use its bathroom facilities.”

“Better,” Susan told him. “Four-poster bed, though. Wow. I can live with that as long as you provide the modern en-suite.”

Susan stayed in the kitchen with Mistress Holt when The Doctor slipped out to run that errand. He said that seventeenth century public bars were not suitable places for young girls after the sun went down. As she heard the noises coming from there she was inclined to agree. She helped the hostess to carve meat and slice up veal pies to serve to the customers and chatted with her, hearing all about Jennet’s first adventure with The Doctor.

“I owe him my life,” she said. “I would have died at the hands of that fiend he called The Master. I am more grateful than words can say for that. Yet, my dear Doctor. I felt then, that this ‘Master’ was an old adversary of his. I often feared that they should have to fight again. In my prayers every night, and in church on a Sunday, I pray that God should smile on My Doctor and that he should be victorious in that fight.”

Susan smiled and wondered how The Doctor felt about being prayed for. She wondered, too, about this terrible enemy of his that Mistress Holt spoke of. She didn’t know WHY the thought made her shiver.

“Because you have a little of the same gift I have in you,” Mistress Holt said. “Not as strong as mine. I can read minds easily. And I have ‘feelings’ about the future.”

“I can’t read minds,” Susan said. “But sometimes I do feel things… and I feel like The Doctor might be in danger.”

“I think danger is something he is used to,” Mistress Holt answered. “He has lived so many years with the greatest troubles. He is weary of it at times. That is why he likes to have friends with him. Company to ease the lonely burden.”

“Yeah, something like that,” Susan said with a smile. “He’s a good man. I hope he doesn’t come to any harm. Especially not here. I’ve done this century in history. It’s not a lot of fun.”

“If anything happened to The Doctor I fear for us all,” Mistress Holt said. “Especially if that terrible man, The Master ,lives on.”

“The Doctor will be all right,” Susan said, hoping that saying so would make it true.

The Doctor was all right, as far as it went. But as he walked along the river bank to the place where he had left the TARDIS, concealed in a small coppice, he felt strangely uneasy. He was sure somebody was watching him. Several times he stopped and looked behind him, and almost thought he had seen a shadow dart away into hiding.

He wasn’t usually given to paranoia, and he was even less likely to see things that weren’t there, so he assumed that somebody WAS following him.

He sighed wearily. The last thing he needed was another accusation of witchcraft. And when somebody contemporaneous saw the TARDIS that was just what would happen.

He took a deep breath and time folded, and he knew he would have vanished into the shadows himself, becoming a blur that no naked eye could follow. He came out of the time fold moments before he reached the TARDIS and opened the door quickly. If anyone had been tracking him he should have evaded them.

Unless it wasn’t somebody contemporaneous, of course. He looked at the environmental console and saw that he wasn’t paranoid, he wasn’t imagining things.

Somebody WAS out there in the woods.

And they weren’t from this place at all.

As he set the co-ordinate for Susan’s bed chamber at the Spread Eagle he felt the phrase ‘it’s not fair’ rising into his thoughts. But then he remembered how his father had always admonished him for using those words. It was a pointless and inaccurate complaint, he had been told. Fair didn’t come into the equation. The universe had no sense of fair play.

Only a school of hard knocks that he felt he ought to be a post-graduate of by now.

He sighed and checked that his sword was firmly fixed at his side before he stepped out of the TARDIS into the room. Perfect landing, at least, he thought, and chuckled as he considered that he had landed so perfectly in a young woman’s bedchamber.

If he was not a Time Lord of honour that might be considered inappropriate!

Then he remembered again the possible danger that Susan and Jennet and anyone else in the village of Sawley was in if it really was HIM in the woods, following him.

Susan was still in the kitchen talking to Jennet when he went down the stairs. The landlord of the Spread-Eagle was happy to indulge his wife as she spent a few hours with a visiting friend. He greeted The Doctor cheerfully as he passed him by the kitchen door.

“The women will gossip,” he said. “Let them have their pleasure. What about you, sir? If you find the public bar a little too raucous for one of breeding such as yourself, there is a game of Put going on in the side-room. Perhaps you would like to join the party in there? I will bring you ale and meat.”

The Doctor said he would be delighted to join the game of Put. He delved into his memory for the rules of the card game that had been popular from the 15th to late nineteenth century before being forgotten. It was, he recalled, in addition to the basic rules, a game notorious for card marking and general cheating. He checked how much silver he had in his money purse and decided that losing a bit of it on cards might be an excellent way of getting acquainted with the locals.

And so it proved. He appeared to drink a great deal of ale. He tipped the young lad who brought it to his elbow generously, and he laughed philosophically each time a hand of cards didn’t go his way.

And when he casually asked if any strangers had been seen in these parts lately, they were forthcoming.

“I came across a strangely-visaged rogue yester-e’en,” said a man called Swarbreck who was master of the cornmill and a warden of the church. “He were dressed like a gentleman and had the bearing of one, an’ he rode a good horse, but there was something about him that put me fair ill at ease. He spoke with his face turned from me, an’ when I caught a full glance the one half of his whole face was burnt and scarred - and yet the eye – the eye was alive even so an’ it bored into my soul, I would swear. I’m not a pious man….” There was a knowing laughter all around the card players at such a comment from the church warden. “But I were a sayin’ my prayers all th’ way home after meeting ‘im.”

“What did he speak to you about? The Doctor asked.

“He asked about inns in these parts. I directed him to th’ White Bull in Gisburn. I like to enjoy my ale here at the Spread-Eagle. I didn’t want ‘im addling it with that black look.”

They all laughed, The Doctor included, and he lost a last game, declaring himself tired out from travelling before bidding a goodnight to his new found friends.

In the hall between the public bar and the kitchen he again ran into Master Holt, the landlord.

“Lock and bar your doors most thoroughly tonight,” he told the man. “I’ve heard there are odd sorts about.”

“I shall do so, sir,” Holt answered him. Then he went to the kitchen and passed a few pleasant words with Jennet before he and Susan went to their rooms.

Susan much appreciated being able to shower and change for bed within the TARDIS, but wild horses could not have kept her from that four-poster bed. When she was tucked up beneath the blankets and had turned out the lamps, though, she was surprised how VERY dark it was. She was a town girl, of course, used to street lamps and never really knowing real darkness. She pulled back one of the curtains of the bed and looked out at the window where the night sky with a sprinkling of stars was actually the lightest thing to be seen.

There was an outline against the window.

“Doctor?” she whispered. “Why are you sitting there?”

“Nothing for you to worry about,” he assured her. “I just feel I want to keep a lookout in case.…”

“Is it The Master?” she asked. “Is he what worries you?”

“Jennet told you about him?”

“Yes. She said he nearly killed her and you when she was a bit younger than I am, and that you rescued her, but that she has always dreaded him returning. You being here made her think that he might be around now. She said she thought you were lying when you said this was just a chance visit.”

“She is a clever woman,” The Doctor said. “She can’t read my mind if I close it to her, of course. I can put up defences. But she read my feelings.”

“So we’re here to look after her?” Susan asked.

“I’m looking after both of you,” The Doctor told her. “The Master would hurt either of you in an eyeblink. He is a cruel man. Beyond cruel. He is….”

Words that quite described the evil his greatest adversary would go to failed even his quick wit.

“I am ashamed that he is of my own kind,” he said with a sigh. “If he were any other race in the universe, it would be easier to accept his evil. But that he IS a Time Lord… one of my own…. I am ashamed for my race for inflicting him on the universe.”

“It’s not your fault, Doctor.”

“It’s my fault he lives still,” he said. “I have had many opportunities to kill him. And I have always failed, because my own principles stuck in my throat. I can’t kill a man in cold blood. I can’t just dispose of him.”

“Good principles,” Susan told him. “Generally I’d approve. But what if the man you’re fighting doesn’t believe in them?”

“That’s the loophole. And he more than any other enemy I have fought has used it against me. But one day he will push me too far. What worries me is that this could be it, tonight, here in this place.”

“Doctor,” Susan whispered. “Whatever happens, or doesn’t happen, you’ll do the right thing.”

“Thank you,” he said. “You go to sleep now. And don’t let it worry you.”

She lay down and settled to sleep. She didn’t pull the curtain back across though. Watching The Doctor sitting there by the window actually made her feel safer than anything ever could. She was happy to fall asleep that way.

The Doctor listened to her as she fell asleep. The sound was soothing. It reminded him of why he was sitting there with his hand on a sharp sword at his side - to protect the innocent who would suffer for simply being associated with him if The Master WAS about.

And he was sure enough that he WAS. The TARDIS had spotted the DNA signature of a Time Lord. He was here. He was looking for Jennet. That was why he was here. He had detected the anomaly caused by the makeshift time machine The Master was using and traced it to this date. He knew what it was about, too. The Master still needed Jennet to pilot his craft properly.

He wondered if the erratic nature of his craft also accounted for the injury he seemed to have picked up.

Well, when he caught up with him, he’d ask him about it!

But The Master didn’t make any attempt to break into the Spread Eagle. The Doctor spent a peaceful night watching the river that flowed past the inn, watching birds and small animals and nothing more disturb the quiet of the village. On the one hand it was reassuring. On the other it was frustrating knowing that the axe could fall any moment.

But dawn came eventually and the village stirred. Susan took advantage of the TARDIS bathroom facilities and emerged in a clean, pressed dress to share a simple breakfast of barley bread and buttermilk with Mr and Mistress Holt before the four of them set off to the church for the compulsory service to celebrate the king’s birthday.

“Compulsory church is a strange idea,” Susan noted as she walked at The Doctor’s side.

“Not here, I’m afraid. People who don’t go and have no valid reason for their absence are called recusants and fined by the magistrate. For myself I have always found it wise to go with local customs.”

The church at Sawley was, Susan discovered, the only part of an abandoned and ruined abbey that was still in use. She remembered her history. Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monasteries, and of course the break with Catholicism and the rise of puritanism. She didn’t need to ask as many questions of The Doctor as she thought.

Curiously, the minister at this church didn’t seem to WANT to celebrate the king’s birthday. His sermon was something of a censure of the king, with fervent hopes that he would embrace a more sober and pious life and leave aside the decadence and debauchery.

Some hope, The Doctor thought to himself. Mind you, he added, Charles II wasn’t the worst of them. As monarchs went, the worst of the English ones for ‘decadence and debauchery would be a photo finish between George IV and Edward VII. And they were both amateurs compared to the emperor of Minos VI.

He thanked providence that he came from a meritocracy. Decadence and debauchery! He wasn’t sure they were even in the Gallifreyan dictionary.

After the church service was over, things did seem to lighten up a little. Even the puritan minister did not seem to mind the open air picnic that took place among the ruins of the Abbey. Each of the villagers had brought a contribution in the way of pies and jugs of ale and something approximating a party atmosphere ensued.

Susan was enjoying herself. She and Jennet Holt were becoming firm friends. The Doctor was mingling, carefully listening to the conversations to find out any more about the ‘strange-visaged rogue’ he dreaded meeting and yet knew he HAD to meet in order to settle this matter and ensure that Jennet no longer had to fear him troubling her life again.

The Doctor made a show of having a good time. He found his friends of the night before and played a game involving the tossing of small stones towards one of the ruined walls of the abbey, the winner being the one who got their stone closest to the wall. While the minister and the magistrate were in earshot this was a game played just for honour, but when they moved away the bets were on again. He carefully lost his share of games by ensuring his stone was never close to winning.

“The Doctor should stop playing games with us before he becomes a poor man,” Swarbreck commented to the amusement of them all. Then the man gave a soft cry and gripped The Doctor’s arm. “That’s him,” he said. “The man I saw, the one with only half a face. I just saw him slip down to the old wine cellar.”

“You’re sure?” The Doctor asked.

“I’m sure,” Swarbreck answered. “I’d not forget a face like that in many a year.”

The Doctor looked at Swarbreck, a man accustomed to heavy work. Beside him was the village blacksmith and a wiry young man who was bailiff to the magistrate, which in these times meant that he made sure rough characters were kept in line when they were brought to the Petty Sessions. All capable men. If he needed the advantage of strength he could probably count on them.

But The Master didn’t fight fairly. He could pick them all off with a Tissue Compression Eliminator or some other illegal piece of futuristic weaponry and leave their deaths on HIS conscience.

No, he thought. He would go it alone this time.

As every time.

He glanced around and saw Jennet and Susan among the womenfolk of the village. He wouldn’t worry either of them.

“Bide your time, men,” he said. “If I should call on your assistance….” His hand was on his sword as he turned and walked purposefully towards the wine cellar.

Of course there was no wine left. The treasures of the Abbey, gold, silver, and liquid, were taken long ago. It remained an echoing, empty chamber beneath the ruins.

Not as empty as it ought to have been, The Doctor noted. In the middle of it was The Master’s home-made time machine.

“It’s a time machine, but not a space machine,” The Doctor said out loud. “You can travel in time, but you are trapped on this planet.”

“Ironic, isn’t it, my dear doctor,” The Master answered as he stepped out of the shadows. “Once it was YOU who was banished to this infernal rock. Now I find myself pinned to it, being bounced around the centuries randomly. I finally got back to the lifespan of that pretty little telepath you were so anxious to protect. And I find you here to stand between me and my quarry. You dog my life as I once dogged yours.”

“Leave this place,” The Doctor commanded. “These people do not deserve your evil among them.”

“Not without the telepath to give me the navigational control I need. I am tired of random materialisation. The last time I arrived in the middle of the Great Fire of London.”

“That’s what happened to your face then?”

“A barrel of phosphor exploded beside me.”

“Oooh, painful.” The Doctor winced. “Even for one of us. Why hasn’t it mended? Are your regenerative cells not functioning?” He laughed softly. “No, they wouldn’t be, would they? You are already living on borrowed time. Never mind your thirteenth life. You must be on your fifteenth, sixteenth. It’s a wonder you even register as Gallifreyan DNA on my lifesigns monitor any more. There’s almost nothing of you left. Only your insane mind.”

“Is it insane to want to hold back death?” he asked.

“For us, yes,” The Doctor replied. “Our species has more than our fair share of life. We have a duty to use that life to our very best ability, but when the life is over, we should be content with the peace of the grave.”

“Would you be?” The Master asked him. “When your end comes?”

“Yes,” he answered. “I would be.”

“Then do not let me delay your peace!” The Master moved faster than he should have been able to move. The Doctor had to duck to avoid a sword that would have taken his head clean off if he wasn’t paying attention. He came back up with his own sword ready.

Was this it, he wondered as he fought a hard, determined fight with The Master. Was this the fight to the death he had known would come one day? Was this the day he had to kill The Master once and for all, with his own hands.

He didn’t want to do it. He didn’t want to have to consciously and deliberately take any life. The times when he had been forced to do such a thing stuck in his soul as dark places he rarely visited. And it did make it worse that The Master was one of his own kind. It felt so much more like murder than it did when he fought any other species.

“You are too much of a coward to kill me,” The Master said. “That was always your weakness. A weak coward who cares too much for puny lifeforms.”

“It’s just you and me this time,” he answered. “The Humans are out of your reach. You can’t harm any of them.”

“I don’t have to. This superstitious era. There are still statutes against witchcraft. Like last time, when your little friends were burned at the stake. Did you enjoy that, Doctor? A horrible death, but after all, time travel is a bit demonic to the uninformed.”

“What are you talking about?” The Doctor demanded as he thrust at The Master and dodged as he parried and lunged towards him. Their duel was hard fought. There was nothing gentlemanly about it. It WAS a fight to the death. And he was not entirely sure WHOSE death it would end in.

“Déjà vu, Doctor. Another of your companions taken for a witch and subjected to the barbaric customs of these times. I’ve not been hiding in the shadows the whole time, Doctor. And you know I have the Power of Suggestion down to a fine art. All it takes is for that pretty little girl of yours to do something or say something that gives her away as not of this time, and the mood of the party above will change in a heartsbeat.”

The Doctor’s hearts froze. He knew The Master could do that. He had done it before. He had already left before he rescued Alec and Jasmin from the last lynch mob. He didn’t know they were safe after all. But that wasn’t the point. The point was that he COULD do such things very easily.

Susan could be in danger even as he fought here, in the shadowy place below the sunlit abbey grounds.

“You can’t defeat me AND save her,” The Master sneered.

“I always heard there’s no such word as ‘can’t,” The Doctor replied, gritting his teeth as he charged at The Master and succeeded in dealing him a glancing blow that cut his leather jerkin and drew blood from his shoulder. It was his sword arm, too. His next thrust had very little power and The Doctor was able to parry it and come back hard and fast, dealing him another wound, straight through the other shoulder.

“I could kill you,” he said. “Once and for all I could take your head off and finish you.”

“Do it then,” The Master sneered. “If you have the courage. Do it.” He knelt in front of him and bowed his head. The Doctor raised his sword in both hands and looked down at him. This was the moment of truth. COULD he execute the most evil man in the universe in cold blood like this?

“Yes, I CAN!” he cried out and brought the sword down hard.

But it never connected with the flesh of The Master’s neck. Even as he moved, there was a sound like the TARDIS dematerialising, except higher and shriller and The Master and his infernal machine had vanished.

It had been a trick, of course. The Master knew he could not win a fight. Without his regenerative cells working he could be wounded too easily. He was weak.

What a gamble he had taken though. If he had not hesitated for a few seconds before bringing the sword down he actually WOULD have killed him.

Or was it a gamble? Did The Master know him after all?

He remembered his other taunt. Déjà vu. He turned and ran from the cellar. He was relieved when he got back to the picnic to see all was as it should be. Jennet and Susan were both talking to the minister and a man in a velvet cloak and satin doublet who was the local magistrate. All looked well.

But then it changed in a heartsbeat, as The Master had said it would. The Doctor saw it all happen so quickly. The minister had taken a bite out of a piece of pie and began to choke on a morsel. Susan didn’t hesitate before taking hold of him and performing a perfectly executed Heimlich manoeuvre. The offending piece of mutton gristle flew from his mouth and he breathed sharply but without obstruction.

But the minister and the magistrate both looked at her with accusing eyes and the bailiff was called to take her in hand. She had bewitched the minister, the cry went up. She had made him choke, and then manhandled him shamefully. Susan protested her innocence, but even those The Master had not put an influence on seemed to have misinterpreted what they saw.

Déjà vu indeed, The Doctor thought as Susan was dragged away by the bailiff and a couple of hefty journeymen, the crowd running after them to see what would come of it. Jennet ran towards him.

“They’re going to swim her in the river,” she said. “In the deep part beyond the weir.”

“Ok,” The Doctor sighed. “Well, you know I can’t allow that. Jennet… The Master is gone. I don’t think he’ll be back. His machine is SO erratic he has little chance of ever pinpointing you again. Have a good life, my dear, and keep on remembering me in your prayers. You never know, it might just be what keeps me from certain death every time.” He kissed her cheek gently and then ran towards the Spread Eagle Inn. Jennet knew he was going to do something to save Susan. But she knew when he had done it they would both flee this place. She would never see them again. The thought saddened her, but she knew he didn’t belong there in her century.

“Swimming!” The Doctor almost growled as he thought of the barbaric practice that was supposed to determine if somebody was or was not a witch. They were tied by the arms to one end of a rope and by the legs to the other and dragged through a river or pond or other handy piece of deep water, and the thinking was that if they survived the ordeal they were guilty, because the devil would not let them die and they were hauled away to be tried and hanged instead.

And if they drowned, God had claimed the innocent!

As loopy ideas of determining innocence went it was second only to the method employed in the court of the emperor of Si’tech on the planet Mol’lit IV. There, after disembowelment, the entrails were examined and the colour and texture of them would determine whether an innocent or a guilty man had been executed.

He looked at the lifesigns monitor. Crowds lined either side of the riverbank. He could tell Susan’s from the rest because she had that faint glow of one who had travelled in the vortex. Hers was the one that was slowly being dragged out into the river.

“Pinpoint accuracy this time,” he whispered to the TARDIS console as he set the drive in motion. “We need to fish Susan out of the water but we don’t need any uninvited guests.”

He pressed the materialisation switch and laughed triumphantly as the river water swamped his shoes. He heard Susan’s spluttering cry as he dematerialised the TARDIS and put them into temporal orbit. He ran to unfasten the ropes that bound her arms and legs.

“Jennet?” he whispered mentally as he lifted Susan to her feet and patted her back as she coughed up river water. “Are you all right? What’s happening there?”

“They’re all very puzzled. I think somebody did something to most of the villagers. They’re all wondering WHY they were trying to ‘swim’ somebody in the first place, let alone how the ropes got severed clean and the victim disappeared. Swarbreck remembered about seeing The Master. And now they think they were bewitched by a man with half his face burnt. They’ve forgotten all about you two!”

“Good. Let them search for The Master. They won’t find him anyway. We’ll be off now.” He said another farewell to Jennet, relieved to know that his actions were not going to come back on her, then he turned his full attention to Susan.

“Sorry I couldn’t get there faster,” he apologised. There was a faint smell of river water drying out in the heat of the power cells beneath the mesh floor of the console room. Most of the water was rapidly evaporating in the crawl space beneath the floor. There were a couple of dead fish it was too late to do anything about, but they were not his problem.

“Take a hot shower and change your clothes,” he told her. “And then come to the medical room. I’ll give you a tetanus booster. Seventeenth century rivers are not the most hygienic places to take a swim.”

“What I don’t GET,” a drier, cleaner, but still not too happy Susan complained as she watched The Doctor insert a needle into her arm. “All I did was HELP somebody. I mean, did he WANT to choke on a lump of veal pie?”

“The Heimlich Manoeuvre wasn’t developed until the mid 20th century. They thought you were casting a spell on him.”

“Silly, superstitious lot.”

“I’m afraid so. I really AM sorry you were in so much danger.”

“That’s ok, Doctor,” she assured him. “I knew you wouldn’t let me down. For a moment there, under the water, I wasn’t sure… I thought maybe… I thought you weren’t going to get there in time. I WAS pretty scared.…” She looked at him and bit back tears as she remembered JUST how scared she was as the dark water closed over her and she felt her lungs burning and the cold water in her mouth. She had been sure they meant to let her drown before she felt the strange sensation of being at one and the same time in the water still and in the TARDIS.

“If you’d rather go home now, after all that.…” Susan looked at him. He looked more unhappy than she did. “I wouldn’t blame you. That wasn’t what you expected.”

“I didn’t expect anything,” she replied. “I didn’t know WHAT would happen travelling in a time and space ship. And for what it’s worth, apart from the clothes and being accused of witchcraft seventeenth century England was dead cool. So… so where are we going next?”

“We’ve got an invitation to take tea with Harriet Jones,” The Doctor told her. “Would that suit you?”

“At Downing Street?” Susan smiled. “Yeah, that would be great. My dad will be really proud when I tell him. Me going to tea with the Prime Minister.”

“Downing Street it is then.” The Doctor smiled at her. “Thank you,” he added.

“For what?”

“For not letting what happened back there put you off. I thought it would have scared you so much…”

“It WAS horrible. But it’s over now. And I’m not going anywhere yet. You’re stuck with me.”

He smiled and took her hand as they returned to the console room. He knew all his companions would move on sooner or later, but he hoped they did so for the best reasons, not the worst. He was glad she had given him another chance to get it right.