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

Four young people walked through the British Museum, looking at the treasures it held with awe and respect. As time travellers they understood better than any other visitors just what many of the artefacts represented. They had been to Greece when the Elgin marbles actually adorned the temple they were taken from. They had seen Pompeii before the disaster that destroyed it. They had visited Stonehenge when it was brand new and witnessed the solstice rites as they were practiced by real Druids when paganism was the national religion.

The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were very familiar, especially to Earl Gregory, the eldest of the group, the one who was actually a transcended Time Lord and trusted with the welfare of the two girls, if not the other male of the group, Jimmy Forrester, who hadn’t considered himself in need of looking after for a long time.

Earl liked to visit that period of history, on his own, or with his girlfriend, Sukie, and when they were available, with Vicki and Jimmy, too. He liked the sumptuous clothes of the Tudors and Stuarts and the courtly manners of the great houses. He even liked the dancing.

He was starting to have a circle of friends in that time, and it was because of those friends that he had brought his companions to the British Museum to look at one of the exhibits.

“John Dee’s Magic Implements,” he said with a flourish of his hand towards the glass case where the said artefacts were displayed.

Sukie touched the interactive panel and holographic enlargements of the artefacts appeared before her, along with a commentary about them. She switched it off after a few minutes and looked to her boyfriend for his own explanation.

“John Dee was Elizabeth I’s chief astrologer among other things,” he said. “He was also a great mathematician, alchemist, physicist, conjurer, master of divination, astronomer….”

“A scientist and a practitioner of magic?” Vicki queried. “That seems odd.”

“In his time, the two were difficult to separate,” Earl explained. “Alchemy, turning base metals into gold, was considered a science. As for astrology and conjuring….”

“Any sufficiently advanced science might be mistaken for magic by primitive people,” Sukie quoted.

“Or in the reverse, any sufficiently advanced magic might be mistaken for science,” Vicki added. “Daddy taught us both that.”

“Elizabethans were both backwards in believing in magic and forward thinking in scientific studies,” Jimmy concluded, feeling relieved that he wasn’t being left behind by this conversation. “They knew the Earth wasn’t flat on account of Francis Drake and his travels, but they still hadn’t figured out about the planets and stars.”

“And John Dee was the expert either way,” Earl explained. “I met him at Samlesbury when I visited the Southworth family of that time – the grandchildren of Christopher and Isobel who we spent Christmas with. He wasn’t very well received, actually – Dee, I mean. His theories about the nature of the universe didn’t sit well among country gentry with more straight-forward religious beliefs, but I thought he was very interesting.”

“You don’t mean you BELIEVE all that stuff, do you?” Jimmy asked, looking closely at the obsidian ‘scrying mirror’ at the centre of the display. This object was used to see into the future and cast horoscopes. Other artefacts were used in spells and incantations summoning ‘angels’. It all sounded very peculiar to him and not quite in keeping with the scientific values of his friends.

“Of course I don’t believe it. But apparently Dee actually DID summon some kind of ethereal being. I doubt if it really was an angel, but it might have been an alien of some sort. I’d really like to find out more, wouldn’t you?”

“You’re angling for a trip to Elizabethan England in my TARDIS, aren’t you?” Vicki said.

“Well, now you mention it….” Earl tried to put on an innocent air but it didn’t work with a girl who could read minds.

“I’m not sure my father would approve of us visiting a man like Dee,” she added. “There’s something very DARK about him.”

“My dad definitely WOULDN’T approve,” Sukie was sure. “And mum would be completely against it.”

Jimmy’s adopted family never questioned what he did at the weekend with his friends who lived in a mansion, but he had to agree with the girls about this Dee character. Dark wasn’t the half of it.

“So we say we’re just going to visit Elizabethan London to get a feel of the atmosphere,” Earl said. “Dee’s house was at Mortlake, just down the river from Richmond, where you lot live.”

“Our house wasn’t there, then. It’s Georgian,” Vicki pointed out.

“Even so, we could take a barge from Richmond and arrive in style. Just fancy that – you girls in pearl covered kirtles lounging under a silk canopy as the bargeman rows us downriver. Me and Jimmy in the finest doublets of azure satin….”

“Oh,” Jimmy groaned. “Hose!”

Jimmy’s feelings about what Elizabethan men wore for trousers didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for adventure, especially a slightly illicit adventure that didn’t have the approval of Vicki’s father, The Doctor.

And the girls DID look fantastic in their Elizabethan kirtles and overgowns of finest damask and satin, embroidered with gold thread and decorated with pearls. They fitted the picture of young aristocrats perfectly as they sat in the barge that carried them down the Thames in the early evening of a late summer’s day.

Long before their own century the house at Mortlake associated with John Dee had been demolished and the estate obliterated by urban sprawl, so they didn’t know what to expect. The girls were picturing a typical half-timbered Tudor house, with big windows made up of lots of tiny diamond-shaped panes something like Samlesbury Hall where they had spent Christmas.

In fact it was a much plainer building of the early Tudor era, built of grey stone with very small windows. It wasn’t anything special in architectural terms.

They were received by a servant, of course, and shown into a drawing room where the master of the house would join them, soon.

“It doesn’t look too bad,” Vicki admitted, glancing around at fairly ordinary drawing room accoutrements. There was a large astrolabe on a table beside the chair she was sitting in and the pictures on the walls were of rather terrifying angels with lights shining from their eyes, but otherwise it didn’t look too much like the home of a magician.

“Did you expect a crystal ball and a pentangle on the floor?” Earl asked her.

“I don’t really know. I’ve never thought about it. I don’t believe in magic. I believe in science. That’s what my father taught me to believe in. He always says there is a scientific explanation for everything, except, possibly, love.”

“Your father is a clever man,” Earl admitted. “And he’s absolutely right. Magic doesn’t exist. You can’t turn base metal to gold by any means whatsoever and a crystal ball can’t summon angels. That’s why I want to know what Dee IS doing, because a reputation like his doesn’t survive for nearly a thousand years without some basis.”

The door opened and the same servant brought ale and cheesecakes, the usual refreshments for visitors in this time. Sukie and Vicki disliked ale, but they sipped a little of it. Jimmy drank carefully. Alcohol was responsible for the misery he suffered for most of his childhood. He had no intention of developing a taste for it. Earl, the only one of them legally old enough to drink in their own future times, swallowed a whole tankard and the servant refilled it to the brim. Sukie frowned at him and he felt her telepathic censure.

“Sorry, but I’ve got quite used to this stuff in my travels,” he apologised. “And I’m a little thirsty.”

“There’s fizzy spring water in the fridge aboard the TARDIS,” Vicki pointed out, again telepathically

“Yes, but we left that on the river bank in Richmond, disguised as a fisherman’s hut.” Then they stopped their telepathic conversation as the door opened once more and the master of the house entered. Earl stood and bowed respectfully. Jimmy followed suit. The girls remained seated.

“My friend from the North,” said Doctor John Dee with a smile beneath his full beard and a twinkle in his dark eyes. “How wonderful to receive you in my humble home, Lord Gregory.”

“It is a fine home, sir,” Earl replied. “May I introduce my cousin, Viscount Forrester and our own dear wives, Lady Susan and Lady Vicki.”

“Two Earthbound angels, indeed,” Dee said, glancing over the two girls. “Alas, my wife, Jane, is away at present. I feel sure you would have found her convivial company.”

“It is about angels I wanted to speak with you,” Earl said, quite boldly, cutting out the small talk entirely. “I have heard of your experiments with the summoning of such creatures.”

“Indeed,” Dee answered. “The archangel Uriel has frequently come to me during the chanting of the incantations. He has vouchsafed much great and hitherto veiled knowledge to me.”

“That is exactly what intrigued me, sir,” Earl continued. “I have made some small study of magical runes and a few attempts at scrying, but without success. I should like to learn from a great magician such as yourself.”

“No!” He felt Sukie’s voice in his head Outwardly she looked calm, nibbling at a cheesecake and sipping ale. “No, you mustn’t do that. We are NOT going to conjure angels with this man.”

“You don’t believe in magic,” Earl reminded her.

“I don’t believe in a lot of things,” Sukie responded. “Father Christmas and leprechauns, for two. But there are other things… things that there may not be words for in English, or any other language spoken on this planet, that are real and dangerous, and I think this man has touched some of those things. He’s trouble.”

“I’m not so sure,” Earl answered her. “I think he’s dabbled in some dangerous things, but he doesn’t fully understand them. How could he? He’s Human.”

“It’s a good job Jimmy can’t hear you,” Vicki chided Earl. “I agree with Sukie about the conjuring. I don’t want to do it.”

Jimmy was covering the telepathic conversation by asking Dee questions about his method of conjuring angels.

“It’s a sort of séance, is it?” he asked after Dee had explained about the scrying stone and the incantations.

“Séance?” Dee was puzzled by the word. The French term meaning ‘session’ or ‘sitting’ had not yet been coined in English to mean communing with spirits and trying to speak to the dead. Earl quickly covered by saying that Jimmy had spent time on the continent and had heard that word for divination from a group of occultists in Paris.

“The exploration of supernatural forces is a new science,” Dee conceded. “The words for what we do are new, also.”

“Indeed,” Earl agreed. He still felt a measure of scorn from the two girls at the idea that anything Dee was mixed up in was a ‘science’, but he passed over it. “I was hoping that we COULD try to contact your angel. I am very interested in learning how it is done.”

“At midnight,” Dee promised. “I should be delighted to have your assistance in a divination. Of course, it is not work for ladies. I will have my servant prepare a comfortable bedchamber for them.”

“You are kind, sir,” Sukie said to him, though she didn’t think kindness came into it. This was a misogynistic society even among the most pleasant of company. Women were always excluded from anything deemed to be the business of men.

On this occasion she wasn’t upset by the exclusion. She really wasn’t sure she liked John Dee and she knew she disliked his dabblings in the occult. If she couldn’t stop Earl and Jimmy getting involved, at least she didn’t have to watch.

“I think I should like to take a lie down,” Viki said. “Might the room be made ready now?”

“Of course,” Dee answered. He rang for his servant and very soon the girls had been conducted to a chamber above stairs while more ale was poured for the men and the conversation settled down into a detailed discussion of what might be summoned by the incantations Dee would perform at midnight.

“I don’t like this one little bit,” Sukie confessed out loud once they were alone in the room, already lit by candles though it wasn’t quite dark outside. The small windows faced north. They didn’t let in a lot of sunlight even at the best part of the day. The room itself was comfortable enough, with the heavy furniture covered with silk tapestries and cushions. The four-poster bed would have accommodated all four of the time travellers if they chose. Vicki looked at herself in a large mirror made of polished metal and adjusted her hair as Sukie railed against the evil work of Doctor John Dee.

“Evil? Do you think so?” Vicki asked. “Certainly foolish, but do you think his intentions are malevolent?”

“Well, maybe not,” Sukie conceded. “I don’t get that sort of vibe from him. But he’s concealing something. What he said to Earl about the séance isn’t quite the whole truth, and when he talked about his wife, I don’t think he was being completely honest, either.”

“He just said she was away. She probably has family to visit. He has some grown up children from his first wife she might be friendly with. I read his Wikipedia entry. Jane Dee is only a bit older than us. She will outlive him by about twenty years, eventually dying of plague in 1604 when London is afflicted badly.”

“So he hasn’t sacrificed her in some devil worshipping ritual,” Sukie admitted. “But I don’t think she’s just visiting relatives. Something is wrong with his wife.”

“If I were her, I’d be glad to get away from his so-called science for a bit,” Vicki considered. “I wonder if she left him after having words about it. That could be why he’s cagey about it – because she’s in a huff with him.”

“She must have known what he was like when she married him,” Sukie pointed out. “I wouldn’t fancy him. An old man with a white beard who likes summoning ‘angels’ in his spare time. Yukkk.”

Vicki laughed. Dee didn’t sound like a young woman’s ‘catch’ to her, either. She reached out to adjust the mirror so that she could see if her ruff was straight and paused thoughtfully.

“This is REALLY heavy. What is it made of?”

Sukie came to look. The mirror was on a hinged frame so that it could swing, but it didn’t do so easily.

“Not metal,” she concluded. “More like stone. I think this is a piece of obsidian, like the scrying mirror. Wow. I’ve never seen a piece this big. Not REAL obsidian. There’s a lot of stuff that looks like it in Davie’s TARDIS, but that’s created by Artron energy.”

“It must be expensive. Doesn’t it come from South America?”

“Yes. The Aztecs used it in decorative arts. In the Museum they said that Dee’s scrying mirror was Aztec. But where did he get a piece THIS big?”

Sukie swung the mirror all the way around. She wasn’t exactly expecting a sticker reading ‘Made in Mexico’, but perhaps there might be some clue to its origins.

Instead there was another polished surface, but this one didn’t reflect the room they were in. Vicki and Sukie both stared suspiciously at the dark, shadowy place they saw instead.

Then both girls drew back, yelping in shock as another woman looked out of the mirror, her mouth open in a silent scream, her hand reaching out to plead for help.

“It’s Jane Dee!” Vicki exclaimed. “His wife. She’s trapped in the mirror.”

“How do you know?” Sukie asked. The woman was wearing a shapeless kind of white shift that could have been from any era from about 1066 to the Boer War. Her long hair hung loose around her face as if she had taken it down for bed. There was no fashion clue to identify her, and they had not seen any pictures of Jane in the house.

“I just know,” Vicki answered. “Besides, who else would it be?”

Vicki took a step closer and reached out. As she did so the woman in the mirror reached out. The obsidian surface rippled like water and her hand came out. Vicki grasped it with the intention of pulling the woman back into the real world, but instead she felt herself being pulled into the mirror. She screamed in horror. Sukie grabbed her other hand and pulled her back, but the woman wouldn’t let go.

“She’s drawing me in, soul first,” Vicki cried out. “Sukie, help me!”

“I’m trying,” Sukie answered. “Vicki, don’t give in.”

As they struggled the door crashed open. Jimmy and Earl rushed in, followed by John Dee. Jimmy grabbed Vicki by the shoulders and tried to pull, but she screamed all the more.

“You’re breaking me apart!” she cried. “Stop, please. Let me go with her. It will be easier.”

“No way,” Earl responded. He pulled a sonic screwdriver from his pocket and aimed it at the mirror. Vicki screamed again as the mirror clouded and the woman’s hand finally let go. She fell backwards into Jimmy’s arms.

“What the hell is going on?” Earl demanded as Jimmy tried to revive his girlfriend. “What was THAT in the mirror?”

“It was his wife,” Sukie told him. “At least, we thought it was. Vicki….”

She looked down at Vicki and gasped in horror. Jimmy was desperately trying to wake her, but her body was limp and unresponsive. Her face was pale and her eyelids closed over staring pupils.

“She can’t be dead!” Jimmy groaned. “She can’t be. Her dad will kill us….”

“She’s not dead,” Earl assured him. “She’s got a pulse. She’s breathing.” He touched her forehead gently. “I’m only getting minimal brain activity, though.”

“She’s empty.” Sukie cried large tears as she looked at her cousin and friend. “Her soul was taken into the mirror.”

She looked at the mirror and screamed despite herself. Now there were two women looking back at them – the pale woman in the white shift and Vicki, looking just as pale but in silk damask and pearls.

“What have you done to her?” Jimmy yelled, flying at Dee and pressing him against the wall angrily. He was always a strongly built boy, the biggest in his class at every level of school, and as a youth of sixteen with some healthy sporting participation to build his muscles he was more than capable of beating an able bodied man to the ground, let alone an elderly one like Dee. Earl pulled him away desperately.

“If you kill him we can’t do anything to help them,” he reasoned. “Calm down and let’s hear what he has to say.”

He might have used a little Power of Suggestion, too, because Jimmy calmed down much faster than anyone might have expected. Sukie was still crying, but she had lifted Vicki onto the bed and put a blanket around her. Not that it made any difference. She was still unresponsive.

“Is your wife like this, too?” Earl asked Dee in a hard tone that brooked no attempt at a lie. “Where is she?”

“In the master chamber,” Dee answered. “Yes, she is the same. The angel took her soul in return for the secret knowledge I asked for.”

“Show me,” Earl said. Dee turned and led the two men to the master chamber where a lady in a white shift lay on top of the blankets, her face pale, her pulse slow when Earl tested it, her breathing likewise and her brain activity the minimum needed to make those automatic processes happen. He asked how long she had been like this and Dee admitted that it had been a week.

Earl looked at the dresser by the bed and saw a bowl and spoon. He had been nourishing her body with broth or gruel of some sort. But the longer she was like this, the weaker she would surely become.

“I am sorry,” Dee admitted with real feeling. “I have been able to do nothing for my own poor wife, and I fear that your lady is lost, too.”

“No, she is NOT,” Jimmy yelled, losing a little of the composure Earl had persuaded him to have. “Get her back, or you will know what Hell is like first hand.”

“You certainly will if her father finds out what you’ve done,” Earl added in a calm but cold tone that was even more frightening than Jimmy’s rage. “He is the closest you’ll ever know to an Avenging Angel. He’ll take his anger out on your hide, and no incantations will save you. So start talking right now.”

Dee sank down into a kneeling position, wringing his hands. Earl, with millennia of Time Lord ancestry fortifying his blood stood above him. So did Jimmy with the ire of an ordinary Human pushed to his limits. It was no surprise that Dee, who thought of himself as a powerful man, crumbled before them.

“I was deceived,” he admitted. “The Angel promised me great store of knowledge. It is the treasure I have always sought – my books, my learning mean so much to me. But what he gave me was a disappointment – I could read the manuscript that had defied all men, but the words… it was no book of spells, just….”

“What are you on about?” Jimmy demanded. “Who cares about books when your wife and my Vicki are trapped in some demonic place….”

“He’s talking about the Voynich Manuscript,” Earl said. “It wasn’t called that in this time, of course, but….”

Earl stopped. Jimmy was right. Books were unimportant when Jane and Vicki were just clinging onto life.

“We’re going to get them back,” he said. “Both of them. Never mind midnight, we’re going to start the séance right now. Jimmy, go and get Vicki. Tell Sukie to put a cloth over that mirror and bring it.”

“Sukie didn’t want to be involved.”

“I know. But tell her we need her – Vicki needs her - no matter what she feels about magic.”

He bent to lift Jane Dee from the bed, noting how light she was, a whisper of a woman.

“Take us to wherever you conduct your witchcraft,” he ordered Dee, who didn’t murmur a word of protest. He had shrunk beneath the anger of the two time travellers and had no argument to make.

He led them downstairs to the hall, and from there down a darker, narrower set of stairs to a dark basement room. Earl illuminated it with his sonic in penlight mode before Dee lit a series of candles set around the room. There was no window and the smell of the tallow was sickly, but the light filled what would have been sinister shadows.

This was the workshop of a magician. Here were tools that could have got him burned at the stake if he did not have the favour of the Queen. Even Earl, who was the most learned of the four time travellers, only had a vague idea what some of the strange brass instruments were for. He knew that the astrological charts were utter nonsense as far as predicting the future was concerned, but the positions of the constellations in the night sky were drawn with pinpoint accuracy of a brilliant mathematician and the rotating machine that showed the movements of the known planets around the sun was cutting edge for the century.

If Dee had stuck to maths and astronomy he would have been fine. But his dabbling in the supernatural, in search of some elusive ‘truth’ about the universe was what had led to this trouble.

“First of all,” Earl said. “Let’s stop talking about ANGELS. Whatever is responsible for this, it is no angel in the sense anyone here understands the word.”

Sukie nodded in agreement and bit her lip. She still felt like crying, but she had to be strong for Vicki. She watched as Earl placed Jane Dee in the middle of the black stone floor covered in a pentangle surrounded by magical sigils. Jimmy put Vicki beside her.

“The mirror,” Earl said quietly. Sukie pulled the heavy obsidian oval out of the pillow cover she had wrapped it in. Earl placed it in the centre of the pentangle.

“Now do your stuff,” he ordered Dee. “And no tricks. I’m watching you.”

Dee might have been puzzled by the injunction to ‘do your stuff’ but Earl’s tone left him in no doubt about what he had to do. He stood between the two unconscious women and began to chant in a mixture of Latin and Greek. Earl and Sukie could both understand the words and knew they were an invocation of a sort. To Jimmy they would have sounded impressive if he had the slightest belief in Dee’s ‘magic’.

“It’s just words,” he complained. “Nothing but words.”

“Words have power,” Sukie assured him. “The right words, in the right way, at the right time, can topple governments or raise armies.”

She was speaking of the power of oratory, or of propaganda, but she knew words could do other things, too. Even the Time Lords with all their technology had rituals that involved words used much as Dee was using them here. There was a scientific explanation for it, but Jimmy wasn’t ready to hear it just now. His concern for Vicki and his contempt for Dee were blinding him to all else.

“It just sounds like mumbo-jumbo to me,” he said.

“Be patient, Jimmy,” Earl told him. “And trust in science to take over when this piece of elementary magic is done.”

The words WERE mumbo-jumbo, and Dee didn’t fully understand them, but amongst the nonsense was a verbal key that opened portals between dimensions. Exactly which word or sequences of words was uncertain, but they all felt the change in the atmosphere in the stuffy room before the glowing figure began to coalesce in the air above the pentangle.

“An angel?” Sukie questioned the word as she looked at something like a pre-Raphelite vision of an Archangel, a tall, majestic figure with long flowing hair and robes of white. His wings spread behind him as he reached out his arms towards Dee.

“No!” Earl was perfectly certain of himself as he stepped forward, his sonic screwdriver raised like a magic wand. He pointed it directly at the ‘angel’ who turned and stared at him with an unangelic expression of surprise.

Sukie and Jimmy, and even Dee were surprised when the sonic screwdriver began to pull the angel towards it in a stream of light and energy. The ethereal being was being diminished by inches.

“That’s definitely NOT an angel!” Sukie exclaimed as the glamour of psychic energy was finally stripped away to reveal a creature only two foot in height with reddish-brown, leathery skin, a tail and long, pointed ears. It looked around nervously with wide black eyes and might have run away if Jimmy hadn’t grabbed it by the scruff of its neck and held it up. Its spindly legs kicked ineffectively in the air.

“I don’t know what it is,” Earl commented. “But it’s not from this world. I’m picking up ion resonances that are off the scale. He’s come quite a few million light years.”

“I am a Haakian,” the creature answered, though it had not been asked. “A great and majestic race….”

Jimmy pinched the creature’s ears with his free hand. It squealed.

“Haakia is in the Gemini quadrant,” Earl said. “And from what I’ve read, ‘great’ and ‘majestic’ have never been adjectives applied to its population. Devious, lying little ratbags is more like it.”

“That’s a powerful incantation even so,” Sukie admitted. “To open up a spatial portal to the Gemini quadrant.”

“Very powerful, and very dangerous in the wrong time and place. But more to the point….”

Earl turned his sonic on the strange creature. He didn’t use anything nasty like the laser mode that would have seared its flesh, only a mildly hot beam of light, but it was enough to convince the creature that he meant business.

“Be merciful,” it cried out in a voice that still sounded like an Archangel rather than the shrivelled thing that it was. “I meant no harm. I just wanted to play with this foolish Human and make it give me shiny things. I meant no harm.”

“No harm!” Jimmy shook the creature until it begged for mercy again. “Look at those two women. What did you do to them?”

“That was none of my doing. I made the Human give me gifts of gold and silver, precious stones, that is all. I did nothing to harm anyone.”

“Liar!” Dee remonstrated. “You took my wife from me, false deceiver. You took her soul and left her empty.”

“And Vicki!” Jimmy added.

“It was not me,” the creature insisted. “I have no such power. Masters, believe me. All I can do is take on the form the Human expected to see, and even that glamour has been stripped bare by your superior force, masters.”

“If it wasn’t him, then WHAT did this?” Sukie asked. “How did they get this way?”

“I… don’t know….” The creature answered. “It was not me. I swear by the moons of Haakia it was not me. I was just… just playing games.”

“Then something else used the portal,” Earl concluded. “Something far more dangerous.”

“No!” Dee protested. “It was this creature… this deceiver. He made the bargain. He promised the secret if I gave him my wife.”

“No!” The creature protested. “I asked only for jewels and gold.”

“To hell with this!” Jimmy suddenly cried out. He swung the alien creature and threw it across the room. It groaned as it hit the wall and slithered to the ground. With his hands free he grasped the nearest heavy object he could find – one of the tall pewter candlesticks and struck the obsidian mirror with every ounce of strength in his body.

“No!” Earl and Sukie both cried out in horror. So did John Dee. But it seemed as if Jimmy’s direct action achieved what incantations didn’t do. The obsidian cracked in half and a silver stream of energy emerged from it, dividing into two as it coalesced in the air and finding the bodies of the women laying either side. Jimmy dropped the candlestick and ran to Vicki. Dee did the same as Jane stirred and cried out in fright.

“Are you ok, Vick Stick?” Jimmy asked, embracing his girlfriend in his arms.

“I… think so,” she answered. “That was… very weird.”

She looked around at Jane Dee, who was being comforted by her husband. He seemed truly sorry for the distress she had been caused.

“He said he let the ‘Angel’ have her in return for secret knowledge,” Sukie remarked as she watched Dee kiss his wife on the lips. “I wonder if she would appreciate him so much if she knew that.”

“Not our place to tell her,” Earl answered. He turned and looked at the Haakian creature. It was standing up groggily. He crossed the floor and grabbed it again. He looked around and noted that Dee had an old birdcage among the various accoutrements of magic. Perhaps he had kept a raven or some such thing. Anyway, Earl thrust the Haakian into the cage and used the sonic screwdriver to put a deadlock seal on it.

“We can drop it off on Haakia some time,” he said. Then he turned to John Dee. “Your ‘Archangel’ isn’t the only thing around here that turned out to be less than it appeared. You are not as great a magician, even as great a man as you think you are. I don’t know if that creature was lying or if you woke a darker force with your dabbling, but either way you are lucky. No great harm has come to either of these women. Let this be a lesson to you. Stay away from things that Human minds are not meant to understand. Stick to map-making and navigation, mathematics and astronomy in future – real science that is within your grasp, not this pseudo-science. Be remembered for something worth being remembered for, not as a crank.”

“My brothers couldn’t have said it better,” Sukie told him telepathically. “Well done.”

Earl replied with the telepathic equivalent of a grin without his stern outward expression altering by so much as a single muscle. Dee looked back at him as a student who had been given a lecture by a Master and bowed his head dutifully.

“I will take your words to heart, my Lord,” he said. “Please… forgive my foolishness.”

“You’re forgiven,” Sukie told him with the same stern tone her boyfriend had used. “But watch your step in future.”

Sukie remembered a little too late that women were not meant to talk back to men in this time, but Dee raised his eyes to her once and dropped them again. Clearly he recognised in her the same steel beneath lace and pearls that he found in the Queen when he was in her presence.

“Please,” Jane said as her husband remained silent. “My good lords and ladies… stay and take meat with us. Perhaps good manners and convivial circumstances may drive away the darkness.”

“Dear lady, that is a good proposal,” Earl said on behalf of his friends.

Whether it was Jane’s efforts or Dee himself, the meal WAS convivial. They referred only once to the trouble that had afflicted them when Vicki explained what it had been like in the strange dimension.

“It was a nowhere place… no floor or roof, no walls… nothing. Jane was there, too, but I couldn’t touch her. I tried to walk towards her but I never got any closer.”

“Yes,” Jane confirmed. “It was like that for me, too. I thought it was heaven at first, but I didn’t remember dying. The longer I was there alone, I thought instead it was hell… but I don’t know how I got there.”

She drank a little wine, then turned from the table and pushed a little meat from her plate through the bars of the cage where the Haakian sat glumly watching the diners. It seized upon the morsel and ate hungrily.

“It reminds me of the little monkey I used to keep in there,” Dee said. “My children adored it.”

“I think I could grow fond of this fellow,” Jane answered her husband. “Do you suppose we might keep it as a pet?”

Inside the cage, the Haakian looked extremely worried. Earl stood up from the table and went to look at it carefully.

“I think that sounds like the perfect punishment for you,” he told it. “You will be this lady’s pet, sitting quietly in your cage. She can tell her friends you are a hairless monkey from Arabia, an exotic gift from her husband. Needless to say, you won’t speak. If you do, Doctor Dee can perform a simple binding spell to prevent you doing so ever again.”

The Haakian was dejected. It reached out its hands pleadingly.

“No, I will not be swayed. That is your punishment. I have decided.”

He went back to his seat and picked up his wine glass. He smiled in satisfaction. Sukie met his smile with a grin.

“My brothers would approve of THAT, too,” she said.

They allowed John and Jane Dee to be their overnight hosts and departed the next morning after a breakfast of boiled bacon and ale. They travelled upriver again by barge and found the TARDIS exactly where they had left it. Earl asked Vicki and Sukie to bring them to the British Museum again. There was something he wanted to check on.

“There,” he said with a broad smile. He pointed to an exhibit that hadn’t been there before. The information panel said it was the fifteenth century Voynich Manuscript, on loan from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the Yale campus in New Haven, Connecticut. The manuscript was written in an unknown language that had puzzled learned men for a century before Doctor John Dee translated it. It was thus revealed as a book of recipes for homeopathic medicines. The manuscript remained a mystery in some ways, though. Many of the illustrations were of plants that were unknown to botanists and the Latin names Dee gave to them were just as impossible to understand as the original language.

“No wonder,” Vicki said. “This book is written in the language of the Didonians. Daddy took me to Dido once. It is where he met the girl called Vicki who I am named after. They’re amazing people who know about all sorts of things, including how to make medicines from the plants that grow on their world.”

“How did it get on Earth and how did the Haakian give Dee the knowledge of the language?” Sukie asked.

“Those are mysteries that still have to be solved,” Earl said. “Maybe we’ll figure them out some time.”

“Or maybe we’ll leave well alone,” Jimmy suggested. “As Dee seems to have done. It says here he stopped practicing magic after 1581 and devoted his time to this work of translation and to the measurements of the distances between stars.”

“He learnt his lesson, then,” Sukie noted. “Good. And next time we visit the Elizabethan era, let’s just go to see a bit of Shakespeare at the Globe and leave magicians alone.”