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

Sukie Campbell looked out of the mullioned window at the clear blue sky and the rolling hills of Lancashire. Four days ago when she came to this place and time with Earl she had thought it a charming view. Now it made her feel slightly sick. She wondered what her chances were of getting back to where they left the time car, hidden behind its perception filter. It was about three miles to the town where they had hired horses to make it look as if they were legitimate travellers in early Stuart England. If she took a horse, she might make it. She could walk, even. It was only three miles. And she thought she could probably handle the car.

But she couldn’t just leave Earl. Even if he wasn’t meant to be her future husband, she couldn’t abandon him here.

She brushed away the tears that came despite her efforts to be brave and tried again to communicate with him telepathically. He couldn’t be very far away. Even if they’d all been captured, if he was in some dungeon, somewhere, even that dreaded Lancaster Castle that she had heard talked about, she ought to be able to reach him. It worried her that she couldn’t feel his presence at all. It was as if he was no longer on the planet in this time.

“Sukie!” She felt a voice in her head. It wasn’t Earl, but it was somebody she was just as glad to hear from. “What’s the matter?”

She told him. Her brother, Chris, told her to stay calm and promised he would be there as soon as possible.

She breathed a deep sigh of relief. Things were still bad, but at least she wouldn’t have to face them alone.

Chris materialised the Gothic TARDIS around the time car belonging to his sister’s boyfriend. The perception filter failed once it was within the console room, revealing the 2010 Toyota Prius. He used his sonic screwdriver to unlock the door, making a note to show Earl how to deadlock seal his car in future. He noted the twenty-third and twenty-sixth century clothes left in neat piles on the back seat and decided he really ought to have a word with them about the arrangements for changing into contemporary clothes when they went on these time trips. He thought that the strict rules he and his brother had laid down about their conduct when they were away together were being stretched.

He noticed Sukie’s own sonic screwdriver on the dashboard. Of course, it was dangerously anachronistic in the early seventeenth century, a time when witchcraft was still a hanging offence and the most technologically advanced machine around was a spinning wheel. Even so, he wished she had kept it on her for the distress signal she could activate in an emergency.

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay in the TARDIS?” he asked his wife. “You would be perfectly safe.”

“But you don’t know how long this might take,” Carya answered. “It could be a day or more. I don’t want to sit here waiting, not knowing if you are in trouble.”

“All right,” he said. “But don’t forget that in Lancashire in this time they won’t be used to seeing dark skinned people. If they stare at you, don’t be frightened.”

“I won’t,” she answered. She picked up baby Tilo and wrapped a blanket around him. He, like the two of them, was dressed suitably for the time, which meant he was dressed in a simple woollen smock with clean rags of cloth tied around him as a nappy. The biodegradable super absorbent paper nappies of the twenty-third century would not do. Carya knew how to fasten the rags perfectly well. It was how it was done on her own pre-industrial world. But Chris wondered just how long they would last before a change was necessary and hoped the house they were heading for had a supply of rags.

They stepped out of the TARDIS and noted that it had disguised itself as a blank wall with just a very faint outline of a door. The wall was part of a stable in a wide cobbled yard at the back of an inn. Chris approached the stableman and after a short conversation and the exchange of gold a horse was provided. Chris lifted Carya up first, side saddle, and then climbed up himself, holding the baby in the crook of his arm as he handled the placid and easily manageable horse one-handed. Carya put her arms around his waist and held on tightly. Beside him the son of the stable man rode on a pack horse with a leather satchel containing spare clothes suitable to the time and place.

They rode due east from the main street of the market town of Preston along a well worn cart track. The track was more or less on a level gradient and the horse was sure footed. He felt safe riding with his wife and child in that way, even when he urged the horse on from a walk to a canter. He felt the need to reach his sister as quickly as possible. She had not told him much more than the fact that Earl was missing and where she could be found. She was too upset to concentrate fully on the telepathic connection and Chris had promised to be there as soon as possible, anyway.

He was worried. For all that he and Davie teased Earl and scared him half to death with their very presence whenever they met him, they knew he was an honourable young man, a credit to his Time Lord family. He was a dedicated historian who fully understood the implications of time travel and would never do anything reckless or likely to reveal his true identity.

And he would never do anything that would put his relationship with Sukie at risk.

So Chris was willing to believe that whatever had happened wasn’t Earl’s fault.

“It is a pretty place,” Carya said. She looked up at the sky. She liked places where there was plenty of sky to be seen. And this place, which the pack horse lad said was called Ribbleton Moor, had plenty of sky above. It was a wide plateau that fell away into a valley were a river – the Ribble – curved around the higher ground. Chris remembered visiting the town of Preston in the twenty-sixth century when Earl lived there. He knew that the whole area was covered in houses by then, and had been for many centuries, so he was prepared to appreciate it in its more natural state. But scenery wasn’t his reason for being there and it didn’t distract him from his concern for his sister.

They came presently to a demesne with cultivated fields. There was a windmill and small cottages for the estate workers before they reached the main house. Its foundations and first floor were of grey stone and the upper floor the black and white wooden construction typical of the Tudor era of English architecture. It was large enough to be called a manor house and obviously afforded the owner of the demesne a comfortable lifestyle.

He climbed down from the horse outside the stout entrance door and helped Carya down before she took charge of their son again. He knocked loudly and waited until a man in a servant’s livery opened the door.

“Peace be upon this house,” he said. “I am Sir Christopher Campbell of Dumfries, a visitor to these parts. I have matters of urgency to discuss with the master of this house.”

“The master of this house is away,” the servant replied. “And the mistress cannot be disturbed at this time.”

“The matters of urgency concern my sister, who I believe is a guest in this house,” Chris added. “Please speak to your mistress at once. But invite us into the hallway, first. Is it common manners in this shire of Lancaster to leave a gentleman and his lady standing on the threshold?”

The servant looked about to refuse forcefully to admit them to the house when he met Chris’s deep brown eyes and saw in them, despite his youthful appearance, the mark of strength and authority. They were admitted at once to the hallway where the arms of the family who lived at Ribbleton Hall were displayed on a finely embroidered frieze. Chris noted that it depicted a gauntleted hand holding aloft what appeared to be a shuttle of thread from a hand weaving loom. The family appeared to be descended from knights and artisans. An odd combination, but not impossible.

Presently a woman entered the hallway. She was clearly the lady of the house, in her early forties. Her dress was of good cloth and dyed a deep red colour. Her hair was carefully lifted into a comb and she wore good shoes on her feet. Her expression was strained and worried. She looked curiously at Chris and at Carya who stood by his side with the baby pressed close to her.

“I am Sir Christopher Campbell of Dumfries,” he repeated. “This is my wife, Lady Carya. My sister is a guest of yours, I believe?”

“She is,” the lady replied. “I am Anne Shuttleworth, and I bid you welcome to my home. I wish that it were in better times.”

“There is trouble here?” Chris knew that for a fact, of course. But he let the woman speak.

“My husband and your brother in law are among several men inexplicably missing these past days,” she answered. “But... let me take you and your...” Carya had been standing slightly in shadow, but now she stepped forward and Anne saw her for the first time. Her dusky complexion redolent of the Mediterranean was clearly startling to a woman of northern England, but she remembered her manners quickly. “Your sister is in the bedchamber given over to her. She is somewhat distressed by these events. I am sure you will be a comfort and relief to her.”

With that Lady Anne led them up a flight of stairs lined with portraits of Shuttleworths long dead. One of them was a man in doublet and hose of deep azure and gold with a sword scabbard at his waist. Another portrait, beside it, was of a woman sitting at a loom with a shuttle in her hand.

“My husband’s parents who first made their home here some sixty years ago,” Lady Anne said of the two portraits. “Robert and Jane. He was a magistrate. She was known as a woman of great accomplishment.”

Chris nodded in acknowledgement of that fact, though it really was of little importance to him just now. He needed to talk to Sukie face to face.

She was sitting by the window in the bed chamber. Chris could see even from the doorway that she was crying. He ran to her side, hugging her tenderly.

“It’s all right,” he assured her. “Whatever’s wrong here, I’ll make it right. I promise I will.”

“Promise?” she half smiled at him. “On your honour as a Time Lord of Gallifrey?”

“On my honour as a big brother. Tell me everything.”

Sukie looked around. Lady Anne had left them. Carya was sitting on the wide four poster bed with Tilo on her knee.

“This isn’t a good place for them,” she said. “Something terrible is happening and I don’t know if any of us are safe.”

“We were on our way back from SangC’lune when I heard you calling. We came straight here. Carya will keep you company. You won’t have to cry so much now you’re not on your own.”

“I wasn’t crying,” she argued. But her red rimmed eyes were a give away. “It’s been two days since Earl went with Sir Robert to investigate the strange lights in the woods.”

“What woods?” Chris asked. Sukie pointed. From the window of her bedchamber a wooded valley was visible. It was no more than three or four miles wide and less than a mile from the house. They should have been gone no more than an afternoon.

“Other men are missing, too, including the Watch who went to search for them. There’s something terrible in those woods. Something that takes men. And... and Earl is one of them.”

Chris held her tightly. He and his brother had often teased their sister about her relationship with Earl, but he knew she really did love him and that they were meant to be together. Their future was written. It couldn’t end here, in the past.

Except it could, of course. If Earl was killed in 1608, long before he and Sukie were married, then a huge branch of the family tree would be truncated. If they didn’t have a son called Brian, then he wouldn’t be Vicki’s second husband after her Human boyfriend, Jimmy, and they wouldn’t, in turn, have a son called Tristie de Lœngbærrow Gregory who had crossed his own time line and interacted with his predecessors so often that temporal physics was about ready to surrender unconditionally.

Earl HAD to survive. Because if he didn’t, the consequences were too terrible to contemplate.

“What strange lights?” Chris asked. But before Sukie had a chance to answer the chamber door opened. A woman in a servant’s plain dress entered. She curtseyed politely and said she was a wet nurse. Sukie looked puzzled for a moment, then understanding dawned.

“Lady Anne said there was a baby to attend to,” the woman said. Carya was reluctant to give Tilo to a stranger, but it was the easiest solution to his immediate needs. She let the woman take him, but sat close by as if to seize him back as soon as he was fed.

“We should find Lady Anne and talk to her,” Chris said, deciding that watching a wet nurse feeding his child wasn’t something he wanted to do. Sukie came with him. She showed him Lady Anne’s own drawing room downstairs. There were low voices within, but he didn’t think anything of it until he opened the door. He watched the scene within for several seconds then quietly closed the door again. He brought Sukie to a small ante-room off the hallway to wait for the Lady of the house to be done.

“Lady Anne is a papist?” he asked, drawing the obvious conclusion about what he had seen in the drawing room.

“Yes,” Sukie replied. “That man... the priest hearing her confession... his name is Father Matthew Southworth. He came to the house four nights ago. He’s been hiding here. It’s illegal, of course, for him to be in England. If he’s caught... they have a really horrible execution for what they call seminarians.”

“Yes, I know.” Chris’s hand went automatically to his throat, but on this occasion he had left off the sixteenth century silver chain and pendant he usually wore. The crucifix that used to hang on it was suspect enough in these times. The symbol of his Sanctuary would be considered a pagan symbol.

But he never forgot the priest who he had met briefly when he was ten years old. It had been that man’s simple and unswerving devotion to his faith, even in the face of certain death, that had inspired his own ambitions and led to the founding of his Sanctuary.

“That is Lady Anne’s business. And his. We won’t interfere in it. I’m here to find Earl and the other missing men.” He smiled at his sister and thought of something else, meantime. “Lady Anne called him my brother-in-law. When did the two of you get married?”

“We’re not,” Sukie answered. “It was Earl’s idea to make sure nobody tried anything improper with me. He said that people would believe it. And he was right. Lady Anne got married to Sir Robert when she was my age. They have a son the same age as Earl. He’s away at her father’s estate at some place called Gawthorpe.”

“So where has Earl been sleeping while you were here?”

“On the chaise by the window. And I had the bed with the curtains closed around it. Nothing happened that shouldn’t. So don’t be suspicious. Earl looks after me. I felt safe with him in the room with me at night. I haven’t felt safe at all since he’s been gone. And neither does Lady Anne. If it wasn’t for the priest being here, I don’t know what either of us would have done. He’s been really kind. I think he would have gone from here, by now. He usually keeps on moving, to different families where he can be hidden. But he stayed here to look after us.”

“Then he has my thanks,” Chris replied. He looked around as the door to the drawing room opened and Lady Anne stepped out. She looked concerned, but the Seminarian was calm when he followed her into the hallway.

“Your secret is safe with me,” Chris assured them both. “I am here simply to find out what has happened to my brother in law and your husband.”

“That is a matter which concerns us all,” Father Matthew Southworth said to him. “The most pressing matter of all, since it would seem that something ungodly is happening in the woods.”

He stepped forward and took Chris’s hand in a gesture of friendship. As he did, the young Time Lord gasped in surprise.

“Sir,” he said. “We have met before.”

“We have?” Southworth was surprised, too. He studied Chris’s face carefully. “I don’t recall...”

“This is 1608? It was ten years ago, then, some miles to the east of here, in the Forest of Pendle. You were fleeing from the local militia. You gave me a crucifix and thanked me for a kindness...”

“Ten years ago? Yes. There was a boy... a child who had the grace of God within him.” Southworth smiled and grasped his hand tightly. “I think you still do.”

“I hope so. But... sir...”

He couldn’t help himself. He felt the seminarian’s timeline and had to swallow a lump in his throat. Ten years ago, when he was only a boy, he had sensed that this man’s years were numbered. Now, he had only months before his luck ran out and he was captured and tried for the crime of spreading his Catholic religion in Protestant England. Chris felt his death by hanging and drawing as a long agony at the end of the timeline.

But he couldn’t tell him that. And there was nothing he could do about it. To try to alter his fate would be to invite catastrophe. He had been told that so often when he was training to be a Time Lord. He couldn’t alter history. He couldn’t save those who were destined to die.

“My servant will bring refreshments to the drawing room,” Lady Anne said. “We must talk of the trouble. But we can be comfortable doing so. Mistress Sukie, won’t you ask your sister-in-law to join us. She and the little one will be a pleasurable sight in this time of darkness.”

Sukie did as she asked and they were soon comfortably seated in the well-appointed drawing room. Sukie and Carya sat together with Lady Anne, who smiled warmly at Tilo as he slept. Father Matthew blessed the mother and child before he told Chris the sum of what he knew of recent events.

“It was on the evening two nights ago,” he said. “As you can see, this room faces across the valley at the place called Brockholes Wood. Sir Robert and your brother in law were conversing by the window while I was reading the psalms to Lady Anne. Mistress Sukie was attending to a book of herbal remedies from Sir Robert’s library. We all became aware of a strange sight. First there was a light in the sky that could not have been a star, it being still only five of the clock and bright day. Then a little after that we saw smoke rising from the woods – not the smoke we would expect to see when the charcoal makers are at work, but a terrible smoke that had in it unnatural hues of green and purple. The sky itself was tinted with the same unnatural hue. Sir Robert said it was witchcraft and determined to find the conjurors. Sir Gregory agreed to accompany him. I would have gone, too, but he intended to call upon the Constable and raise the Watch to ride into the woods with him. He bade me stay and console the ladies, who were, of course, discomfited by these sinister events. We expected the men to return by nightfall, but they did not. Midnight came and all was dark beyond the window and still the men did not return. The next morning, a lad was sent to inquire of the Constable and we found that he and the five men of the Watch were all missing, too. A party of stout men with strong swords went into the woods in full daylight to try to find them, and only one emerged. He said there was no sign of Sir Robert or the Watch and was at a loss to say what had happened to his colleagues.”

“After that, word got around and nobody else has dared enter the woods,” Lady Anne said. “Even the coppice men and the charcoal makers have refused to go in. I don’t know what else to do. I am just thankful that my son is away from here. But what will come of us all...”

“I have suggested dispatching a messenger to Lancaster,” Father Matthew said. “The Lord Lieutenant of the shire will summon a militia. That will take some few days to organise, but with a hundred men or more combing the woods the truth will surely be discovered. Needless to say, I shall have to be gone from this place by that time. In that case, it would be safer for Lady Anne if she could go to her father’s estate at Gawthorpe to be with her son. As a last resort, if I could prevail upon you, Sir Christopher, to safely deliver her...”

“If we really had no other recourse, then yes,” Chris answered. “But I didn’t come here to summon a militia from Lancaster. If something unnatural is happening in Brockholes Wood, then I am the one person best qualified to tackle it. At least I am when my brother isn’t around. He is the real expert. But I’m as good as you’re going to get right here and now. And... I promised my sister I would make everything right. On my honour as an older brother.”

“On my soul as a man of God, I cannot let you go into that place alone,” Father Matthew said. “It is unthinkable.”

“I cannot let you...” Chris began. “There are things I cannot disclose... secrets...”

“Chris,” Sukie said quietly. “Trust him.”

Chris looked out of the window. It was dusk on a September evening. In another half hour it would be completely dark, and this was a long time before the invention of street lighting.

“If you come with me, then you must be prepared to see things that you don’t understand, that are beyond all your comprehension.”

He could see that Father Matthew didn’t understand. And he wasn’t sure how he was going to explain what his plan was.

“Look!” Carya called out in agitation. She was standing by the window, looking out at the darkening sky. “Those lights.”

Chris was at her side in an instant. They were the only two who hadn’t seen the smoke and the lights rising up from the woods. Sukie turned her face away. So did Lady Anne. They both connected the strange pyrotechnics with the disappearance of their men. They didn’t need to be reminded.

Father Matthew drew closer. He had seen it before, but he looked again.

“Ungodly work,” he said. “Witchcraft.”

“Maybe,” Chris commented. “Or something you have no experience of. I think I do. We’ll go in half an hour. It will be dark enough, then.”

“Chris, be careful,” Sukie said to him. “You’re... you’re not...”

Chris knew what she was trying to say. He wasn’t Davie. He wasn’t a warrior. He turned to his sister and hugged her gently.

“I have my own talents. They’re different to Davie’s. But they’re just as good.”

“You’re not second best, Chris,” she told him. “Don’t ever think that. I know you can do it.”

Carya needed his reassurance, too. He embraced her fondly before he was ready to go. He kissed her and their baby, too. Then there was no point in delaying further. He donned a warm black cloak with a hood. Father Matthew did the same. Outside a stable boy was leading two horses in a circle to warm them up before the journey. They mounted and rode away. Chris looked back once at the warm lamplit windows and half wished he was still there with his wife at his side. But there was a duty to be done. It was the sort of thing his brother wouldn’t hesitate to do. Davie lived for danger, for challenges like this. He always had a plan. And he was never afraid to face the unknown.

Chris didn’t have a plan. And he was very worried about the unknown danger ahead. He knew that it was something alien. He had felt it deep in his mostly Gallifreyan soul when he saw the lights rising from the woods. There was an energy being created that didn’t belong on planet Earth. But he didn’t know what kind of beings were creating that energy, or why. And he didn’t know how he was going to stop them.

Except he knew he had to. For Sukie, for Lady Anne, for all the innocents caught up in this mystery, he was the only person who could do anything to help.

“Well, not really,” he told himself. “You COULD call Davie, or granddad, even. They’re both way more experienced than you. And they’re not afraid to fight.”

“I’m not afraid to fight, if I have to,” Chris told himself.

“My friend,” Father Matthew said to him. “We are going the wrong way. The woods are behind us. This road takes us to the town.”

“This is the right way. There is something I need in the town. A... machine... tools... that I need to fight the evil in the woods. I...”

He slowed his horse to a stop. Father Matthew stopped, too. He was surprised when Chris’s face was illuminated in the dark by a blue-white light that could not possibly be natural.

“Father, ten years ago your life was in my hands. You trusted me, then. Will you trust me now, even if you see things that you don’t understand, things that are not natural to your world, and which you may well consider to be ungodly?”

The priest looked steadily into Chris’s eyes, as he hoped he would. He didn’t exactly hypnotise him. He just calmed his mind and let him feel that he could take him at his word.

“I will trust you, my young friend,” Father Matthew told him. “My life was in your hands twice when you were no more than a boy. I will trust you now that you are a man.”

“Thank you, father,” Chris said. He turned off the penlight mode of his sonic screwdriver and urged on his horse at a walk. There was a need for speed, but there was also a need to explain things to Father Matthew.

“I am a traveller in time,” he said. “I come from a far future beyond your imagining, where machines exist that do the work of horses and much more. In the ordinary course of things, I would not expose anyone of your time to that technology, but we need the advantage it gives us in order to defeat something that is equally not of this time and place.”

Father Matthew said nothing for a long minute.

“I understand most of your words,” he said. “And they are disturbing. You speak of what is not natural or... or even possible.”

“It’s not possible in your time. But in mine, it is. You said you trusted me. Please, keep trusting me, and believe that it is possible. Father... do you... understand the principles of...” Chris paused to sort out in his head the history of scientific understanding in Human development. “Copernicus... the idea that the Earth is just one planet among many, and not the centre of the universe...”

“I understand the theory,” Father Matthew replied. “Though it goes against my own teaching as a man of God...”

“The existence of other worlds doesn’t go against your faith. It just means that the work of Creation is bigger than you thought it was. Earth is not the only world and humans are not the only sentient beings in the universe. In my time, this is known and accepted, even at Douai.”

“Sir Christopher,” Father Matthew said. “Are you saying that the evil in the woods comes from the stars?”

“You were a witness to it. There was a light in the sky. I believe that was some kind of craft which landed – possibly crash landed – in the woods. The smoke and lights afterwards... I’m not sure what they signify, but since so many people are missing, I do not believe these visitors come in peace and they must be stopped. That is why I must do this... and why I ask you to believe what is outside your understanding and to trust me as you have never trusted any mortal man before.”

“That is where you are wrong, Sir Christopher,” Father Matthew told him. “Every time I come to a house where people of the old Faith are living, I put my trust in them and the servants of their household not to betray me. My life is often in the hands of strangers I have no cause to trust but their own word. My life is evidence of your honest intention, my friend. So... even though your words confound me... yes, I will trust you.”

“Good,” Chris said. “Now let’s get a move on.”

He pushed his horse to a full gallop, and Father Matthew did the same. When they came close to the town of Preston they slowed again because galloping horses in the night would attract attention. They came quietly into the yard behind the inn and put the horses into the stable before Chris led the priest to the blank wall that resolved into a door and urged him to step quickly into the console room. On the viewscreen he saw the stable man coming to see what was happening. He was obviously puzzled by the noise of the dematerialisation but he was unlikely to guess what had happened.

Father Matthew stared around at the Gothic TARDIS in wonder. It was far beyond his understanding. So he didn’t bother trying to understand. Chris had used no hypnotism on him as such, no Power of Suggestion. He didn’t want to manipulate him in any way. All he had done was calm his mind so that these new ideas would not distress him.

“I was right,” Chris said as he studied the environmental controls. “There is an extra-terrestrial presence in the woods. Something is creating huge amounts of ionised energy. That accounts for the lights and the smoke. The question is why. And the only way we find that out is by going there. But we’re not going to ride into a trap on horseback the way everyone else has. We have the advantage.”

He locked off the TARDIS in hover mode above Brockholes Wood and opened the door. He nodded to the priest and stepped close to the threshold.

“We’re flying! How is that possible except by ungodly means?”

“In my century the Vatican in Rome has its own fleet of flying machines so that they can easily visit Catholics in other countries. Really, don’t worry about that. What really matters...”

Chris yelped in surprise because, even though the scanners on his console told him it was happening, being in the middle of the ionised energy stream was startling. The multicoloured light and smoke was even more remarkable close up.

“God help them!” Father Matthew cried. “There are faces in the smoke. Men’s faces... twisted in horror. What is happening?”

Chris was at the console again, turning dials frantically. Then he called out to Father Matthew to stand aside. The energy that was rising up into the sky began to stream into the TARDIS instead, pulled by an invisible force of its own into the time rotor which glowed red and purple and fiery orange as well as its usual actinic green.

“The faces...” Father Matthew cried out. “They’re separating from the clouds. They’re falling back down...”

“Going back to the men they were stolen from,” Chris said. “That’s what the aliens were doing. They were stealing their souls.”

“What is a man without a soul?” Father Matthew asked. “It is the gift of God that raises him above the beasts of the field.”

“That’s why they can’t be allowed to take them,” Chris replied. “Look...”

The stream was no longer coming up from the woods. Now it was being pulled down from the sky. The energy that had already been stolen from the humans was being drawn into the TARDIS and the souls were being released.

“What kind of demon can do that?” Father Matthew asked.

“The species is called Unemie,” Chris answered. “My TARDIS... this machine... identified them from the energy pattern. They’re known to my people. They’re dangerous, ruthless creatures and my orders are to destroy them.”


“That bothers you, too, doesn’t it,” Chris added. “Your mission is to spread the message of Jesus Christ... the message summed up in the three words... ‘Love one another’. I’m not a seminarian. But I have dedicated my life to the same idea. Destroying a life form is hard for me. The TARDIS is making it easy. It’s drawing off the energy. What will remain when it is done will be vulnerable. But that’s even worse. If I had to kill to preserve my own life, and to protect those I love, I can. But not in cold blood.”

“God will show you the way,” Father Matthew told him. “The... energy... is coming to an end.”

He was right. The stream was thinner now and less vibrantly coloured, and in seconds it ran out altogether. The time rotor glowed green.

“Their ship is drained of its power. It’s dead in space. My TARDIS is going to give it a bit of a ‘shove’ – enough to send it hurtling towards the sun. It will burn up. End of problem. As for the creatures themselves...”

Chris closed the door and initialised a materialisation in the woods. It was dark. He didn’t dare use his sonic screwdriver. But there was a flickering light of a torch somewhere ahead and men shouting. They moved towards the light and sound.

More torches had been lit by the time they reached the clearing. The missing men were there. Some of them were standing up, looking confused but otherwise unharmed. Some were slowly getting up from the ground. Others were still unconscious.

“Earl!” Chris spotted him lying in a crumpled and horribly still heap among the leaf litter. He ran to his side. He reached for his sonic screwdriver then changed his mind. He touched Earl’s forehead and reached into his mind. He was alive, but in a deep state of unconsciousness. The Unemie had attacked him over and over again, trying to take the potential lives of a Time Lord. He had resisted as long as he could, but he was still quite young and inexperienced. It had hurt him.

“Hold those women,” said a commanding voice. Chris looked around and saw a man who had to be Sir Robert Shuttleworth. His eyes seemed a little dazed but he had his wits about him. The men stopped milling around aimlessly and obeyed his command, taking hold of three women dressed in grey rags. They had beautiful faces, but twisted in hatred.

“The Unemie,” he whispered. But the men were talking about witchcraft. They drew close to the women with the torches. Somebody spoke of burning.

“No!” Father Matthew stepped forward, putting himself between the women and the mob. “No, there will be no burning. These women have committed a terrible crime. And they must be punished. But not by a mob, not in anger. Let them be taken to Lancaster and tried by the King’s justices. If they are found guilty, then let God’s will be done. But not here, not now. Bind them and take them away from here.”

The men hesitated until Sir Robert Shuttleworth ordered them to do as the priest had told them. They obeyed him. The women were bound and held between six of the Watch ready to be marched away.

Then the constable looked at Father Matthew closely.

“You’re Southworth!” he exclaimed, drawing his sword against him. “The seminarian. A renegade with a price on your head. Seize him!”

Father Matthew didn’t try to escape. He looked as if he would surrender. Chris looked from him to Robert Shuttleworth, but he didn’t dare acknowledge that he knew the priest. He had to let him be taken.

“Remove them all to my house,” Sir Robert said. “These witches and the Seminarian. They will be locked in the cellar under guard until a militia can be sent from Lancaster.”

Father Matthew was bound and held firmly between two more of the men. Chris watched as they were taken away. Nobody had noticed that he and Earl weren’t among the party. He waited until the torchlight dimmed then he lifted Earl and carried him to the TARDIS. He set the co-ordinates for Ribbleton Hall.

Sukie heard the TARDIS materialising first. Her hearing was keenest and she was far more familiar with the sound than anyone else. Carya looked up as her young sister-in-law ran to the hallway. She held Tilo in her arms and watched as Sukie returned, followed by Chris, carrying Earl. He laid him on a cushioned chaise. Sukie knelt beside him. Anne Shuttleworth tried to help her, but Chris told her to stay back.

“He needs the Healer, now,” he said. “Let her do her work.”

Sukie put her hands on his forehead. Chris felt the force of her mind as a pressure on his own as she gently reached into the depths of Earl’s subconscious. For a very long time, nothing happened. Then slowly, Earl began to stir. He opened his eyes and looked up at Sukie, then reached his arm around her shoulder and kissed her quickly. Chris turned away from the intimacy and smiled at his wife. Then he noticed Anne Shuttleworth’s face.

“Witchcraft,” she said fearfully. “Witchcraft. She brought him back from the dead with demonic power.”

“Of course not,” Chris told her. “This is Sukie, who has stayed in your household for days. She’s not a witch.”

“She is... you’re all...” Lady Anne stared at Carya. “I should have known. Your wife... an unnatural woman... and...”

“Sukie,” Chris said. “Help Earl to reach the TARDIS. Carya, take Tilo. Stay there until I come to you.”

“You’re not coming with us?” Sukie asked. “Why?”

“My work isn’t done,” he answered. “Go, both of you.”

“No!” Lady Anne cried. “No, you will not walk away. My husband was taken by unholy things in the woods. And now witchcraft under our own roof. I will not have it. I will see you all hang for your evil!”

“Your husband is safe,” Chris told her. “He is on his way home, now. He will be here within the hour. All the men are safe. Will you believe me when he returns safely?”

“I believe nothing of an unnatural man,” Lady Anne said.

“Stop it,” Chris said. “You’re frightened of what you don’t understand. That’s understandable. But believe me, Anne, there is nothing to be afraid of. Remember what Father Matthew said. He knows me. He trusts me. And you trust him.”

He saw the change of expression in her eyes. His words made sense. She sank down onto the chaise where Carya and Sukie had been. Her hands were clasped in her lap and she looked away from his eyes.

“Father Matthew.... Yes. He’s a good man. He said you had saved his life. You must be... and yet...”

“It’s for him that I am still here,” Chris said. “Your husband is coming back to the house with three women in custody – witches, they’re calling them. But also Father Matthew. He is a prisoner, too.”

Lady Anne looked up at him, her mouth an ‘o’ of terror.

“Yes,” he said. “Your husband has had to go along with it, in order to protect your secret. He has to make Father Matthew his captive. But I have a plan. This time, I do. I was winging it all along. But now I actually do have a plan, just like my brother always does. Anne, trust me.”

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, I will trust you.”

“Good. Now show me where your husband keeps his swords.”

It was nearly two hours before the main party reached Ribbleton Hall. They were weary from the walk through the woods and uphill from the valley. And the last thing that Sir Robert was expecting was a man holding his wife around the neck and brandishing a sword.

“Unfasten Father Matthew’s bonds and let him go,” Chris said. “Or I cut this woman in two.”

Sir Robert hesitated only for a moment before giving the order. He had to repeat it. The constable protested about letting such a high profile prisoner go, but he couldn’t disobey, not when the sharp edge of a sword was pressed against Lady Anne’s stomach.

“Go through that door behind me, Father Matthew,” Chris said. “Don’t hesitate. Don’t ask questions. Just go with God.”

Father Matthew was puzzled, but he did as Chris told him. When he was safe, Chris dropped the sword and ran after him. Two men tried to catch him, but he got through the door and slammed it closed. They hammered at the door futilely for a few seconds, then backed away from the strange noise and a rush of wind. When it died away they moved forward again and crashed through the door into a tiny cloakroom that was empty of any fugitives.

Sir Robert held his wife in his arms and thanked providence that she was unharmed and that Father Matthew had, somehow, escaped.

“Father Matthew,” Chris said as he locked off the TARDIS in geo-stationary orbit over Ribbleton Moor. “I’m going to take you to France in a few minutes. You’ve been ministering to the Catholics of England for more than ten years. It’s time you went back to Douai for a long rest.”

Father Matthew looked as if he might protest, but perhaps thoughts of the peaceful cloisters and the Abbey where he had trained appealed to him. He nodded in agreement.

“First, I need your advice... about the Unemie. When the stolen energy was drained from them, they were trapped in Human form. If they go to Lancaster to be tried as witches, they will die on a gibbet as humans. And that is justice, when all is said and done. They are evil beings. They meant to do terrible harm to those men, and when they had done, when they were strong enough to be almost invincible, they would have preyed upon the whole Human race.”

“Yes.” Father Matthew agreed. “Yes, they are evil.”

“Yet, do I have the right to leave them to that Human justice? I could take them to an organisation called the Shaddow Proclamation. They would punish them harshly. The penalty for interfering with a planet like Earth is three thousand years in a temporal prison. For a penitent prisoner, it is a fate worse than death. But for those as devoid of conscience as the Unemie, it is a more fitting punishment than hanging because they are forced to rue their capture every moment of what feels like eternity.”

Father Matthew understood the question. So did Chris’s other companions. Sukie and Earl clutched hands and looked at each other. They nodded.

“Take them to the Shaddow Proclamation,” Earl said for them both.

“Even though they are evil, we cannot leave them to hang,” Carya said.

“They are not Human. They are not of my world,” Father Matthew decided. “Take them to those who will mete them with fitting punishment.”

“That’s what I hoped you’d say,” Chris said. “All right. One quick pit-stop in Robert Shuttleworth’s cellar.”

The three creatures had little time to be relieved at their rescue. Chris put them in stasis and locked them in the zero room of his TARDIS. Then he set his course for Douai in Northern France, a pretty medieval town with a beautiful Abbey dominating it. Father Matthew sighed with joy as he walked with Chris to the door of the Seminary that was the closest place a man of his vocation could call home.

“I never thought to see it again,” he admitted. “I expected to end my life at the end of a rope somewhere in England.”

Chris said nothing. But he held the priest’s hand tightly. Now he had travelled in the TARDIS, his timeline was hard to read. But he could see enough to know he still HAD a timeline, a much longer one than he was meant to have. His destiny had been changed.

“Good luck to you, Father Matthew Southworth,” Chris said.

“God bless you, Christopher Campbell. May God, Mary and Jesus and your sainted namesake keep you on your strange journey.”

Chris nodded and walked away back to the TARDIS. His next stop was the Shaddow Proclamation. But on the way he needed to make a call.

“It preyed on your mind since that day in the woods at Pendle, didn’t it?” The Doctor said to him when he called him on the videophone and told him what he had done. “You knew he was a good man and you didn’t want him to die.”

“And now he won’t. At least not the way he was going to die. I couldn’t... I was responsible for him being in those woods. I couldn’t let him be taken because of that. Did I damage the fabric of time by letting him live?”

“He’s a celibate priest. He won’t have any children that shouldn’t have been born. The fabric of time can probably accommodate him for a little longer. Meanwhile, those women... I think I might have let them hang. It would be a fair punishment.”

“It was a unanimous decision. We all thought this was a better way. Sukie and Earl, and Carya, and Father Matthew.”

“Then who am I to disagree? When you get home, come on up to the house. Rose and Jackie can make a fuss over little Tilo while you and I have a long talk, Time Lord to Time Lord, like we used to do.”

“I will, thanks granddad,” he said. He closed the call and looked around. Sukie was hovering. She reached out and hugged her brother fondly.

“You did great,” she told him. “And by the way, Davie never has a plan, either. He just wings it so well it looks like a plan. And you winged it just as good as him.”