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

Chris Campbell materialised the Gothic TARDIS in the car park of Alnwick Castle. It immediately disguised itself as a smart two seater sports car. Chris deliberately didn’t look what sort of sports car. His brother was the one who cared about that sort of thing.

He was interested in history, and the beautifully preserved Norman castle was just the sort of place he liked to explore. He knew it had served as a tourist attraction and the home of the Dukes of Northumberland until the Dalek war wiped out the family line. Now it was just a tourist attraction and wedding venue.

He wasn’t sure if he was going to see the castle on this occasion. His invitation had been to the café, a modern addition built in materials and style that blended in, more or less, with the ancient edifice.

He crossed the car park following directions to that modern annex where he recognised the two figures waving at him from behind the plate glass window. He smiled warmly as he hurried to meet Spenser Draxic and Stuart Harrison. There were platonic hugs all around and they sat down to order coffee. Chris didn’t ask why they did so in a secluded part of the café well away from those wide windows and the diffused light of a late January afternoon.

“How is everyone in London?” Spenser asked with the casualness of somebody preparing to talk about something more important. Chris granted him that much leeway. He would get to the point soon enough.

“Davie is spending some time on Santuario, keeping up his duties as governor-general. Brenda and Carya and the boys are avoiding the winter sniffles on some warm, tropical planet with The Doctor and Rose and their kids. Christopher and Jackie are having dinner at The Hague with the Prime Minister of Belgium and the Dutch Foreign Minister. That’s why you got me. I’m the only one of the family available.”

“You’re not any kind of consolation prize,” Spenser assured him. “We’ve got a mystery around here, and we could use your thoughts about it.”

“Ok. I’m always up for a mystery.”

“Start by having a quick read of this.” Stuart passed him a pocket computer with an article open for him to read. It was titled ‘The Vampire of Alnwick Castle.’ It was, unsurprisingly, about various rumours over the centuries of a vampire that killed Alnwick villagers. A late twelfth century chronicler called William de Newburgh seemed to be the primary source of the ‘evidence’ of an undead creature attacking locals since the ninth century. The vampire was supposed to be a Lord of the Estate who rose from his tomb to bring death and terror to the unwary. In the mid fourteenth century, a priest had exhumed the body of the supposed vampire and, finding the corpse corpulent and full of blood staked it through the heart then burnt it.

“There are all sorts of things wrong with this story,” Chris pointed out. “’Corpse corpulent’ is a crime against prose for a start. William de Newburgh’s concept of primary source evidence is another. But what’s the mystery? Do you want to go vampire hunting?”

“No. We’ve found him. He’ll be here in a minute. We’ll introduce you.”


Spenser grinned and waved to the waitress. He placed an order for three more cappuccinos and one large black coffee. Shortly after the drinks were delivered to the table a man came into the café from the castle entrance. He was tall and thin, wearing an overcoat buttoned up to the neck and a hat pulled low over his eyes. Spenser waved him to the empty space at the table and the black coffee. Chris noted when he took off the hat that he had silver white hair, a very pale, waxen complexion and a reddish tint to the whites of his eyes. Even in the shaded part of the café he squinted as if he was sensitive to light.

“Chris, this is Zachary de Vescy, the Vampire of Alnwick Castle,” Spenser announced. “Zach, this is our good friend from London, Chris Campbell.”

The fact that his friends called the vampire ‘Zach’ was not lost on Chris. He managed to say hello politely. What else could he say?

“I visited London, once,” Zachary said. “When I was human.”

“When was that?” Chris asked, feeling compelled to do so, almost against his will.

“The Year of Our Lord Nine Hundred and Fifty Seven,” Zachary answered.

“It’s… changed a lot since then.” Chris recalled a trip he and his brother made to tenth century London with The Doctor. It was a small group of wooden dwellings roughly around the Billingsgate district.

“Most things have,” Zachary agreed. “Even I have, despite all expectations.”

“I’ll take your word for that,” Chris said. “But why am I here? What’s this all about?”

“There is a monster at large, causing harm to the people of this parish,” Zachary answered. “It is an unnatural fiend that has arisen before and I fear it may kill with impunity and grow ever stronger if it is not stopped.”

“A fiend….” Chris was puzzled. “I thought YOU were the vampire.”

“I am a vampire. I’m not a murderer. I’ve merely done what I have to do to survive. Mostly I drink the blood of vermin. A castle is a good place for those. But I am speaking of a creature far worse than a cursed man like me.”

“So you’re the ‘good’ vampire of Alnwick Castle. And you’re trying to fight the ‘bad’ one.” Chris was not wholly impressed. “Sounds like a late twentieth century film franchise.”

“Don’t say that,” Spenser admonished him. “Zach was around in the late twentieth century. He knows about the films. So do I. It isn’t like that. He’s serious about this.”

“How on Earth do you know him?” Chris asked. “Tell me he doesn’t do guided tours of the dungeons?”

“I smelt him,” Stuart admitted. “You know me and my thing for smelling different species. We were here for a friend’s wedding, and it was driving me mad all afternoon. Something that ought to be Human but wasn’t. We slipped away from the champagne and cake and tracked him down.”

“He told us his story, about being ‘turned’ by a Viking raider,” Spenser continued. “Vampire infections were common in Northern Europe in the ninth and tenth centuries. Its where it started long before Eastern European vampirism was fashionable. He managed to kill the one who infected him before he could cause much more trouble, but he was stuck, unable to eat real food, forced to avoid sunlight, avoid Christian company, afraid of being murdered by his former friends.”

“I was not the one that de Newburgh wrote about. I was not the one dug from the grave and burnt. I did not have a grave. My family never knew what became of me. Believe me, I have killed no-one. I tried to protect the people of my demesne from the real evil that exists, but the priests poisoned their minds against such as me. Then there were books… like the one written by that ridiculous Irishman. And then the films filling the heads of the untutored with foolish ideas.”

“All right, I get it. Vampires have a bad press. So what’s this other creature that’s so much worse?”

“The Qulyabani,” Zach said. “That’s what it calls itself. It feasts only once in a few hundred years, but when it does, the consequences are terrible. It was the Qulyabani who ravaged Alnwick on seven occasions since de Newburgh’s so-called history. Officially the deaths were blamed on outbreaks of the black plague or diseases such as smallpox or influenza.”

“All of those things DO kill people,” Chris pointed out. “People nowadays think flu is just a winter nuisance, but history records that a virulent strain of influenza in the winter of 1945-46 killed as many people in these islands as the German bombings, and it was a deliberately engineered version of the same virus that ravaged the human population immediately prior to the Dalek invasion of 2163. It was part of their plan to wear us down.”

Spenser nodded. He knew all those things as events he had lived through not just historical facts.

“I don’t suppose you see news from up this way in London,” Stuart told Chris, sliding the flat screen pocket computer over the table again. This time it displayed several local news articles about a flu epidemic that threatened to overwhelm hospitals and GP surgeries.

“As I said, these things DO happen. It has been a very cold, drizzly month, and there have been questions raised about the acquired immunity of the post Dalek War generations. Medical experts have predicted a pandemic for some time….”

“But it’s not a pandemic. It’s just this one town,” Zachary pointed out. “I rarely leave the Castle walls, but modern technology allows me to watch the outside world. There are winter illnesses up and down the country. There’s a lot of whooping cough in Sligo and chicken pox in southern France, but none of those have ‘overwhelmed’ hospitals. Please, believe me. It is the Qulyabani. It has risen again.”

“All right,” Chris conceded. “You have a point. This DOES look suspicious. Do you have any idea where we would start looking for this Qulyabani? Presumably it doesn’t have a handy crypt in the local cemetery?”

“I don’t think so. The cemeteries were purged regularly in those less enlightened days when the priests led the villagers with torches and sharpened stakes. Humans stopped believing in monsters of that sort long before other monsters came from the skies, but I don’t believe the Qulyabani lair is in any cemetery. Nor does it hide anywhere in this Castle. I should have found it myself. There isn’t a corner of the dungeons I don’t know. The connection is a fallacy brought about by those silly legends.”

As he spoke, Zachary scribbled with a pencil on a napkin, producing a vivid cartoon of the Qulyabani. The figure he drew was far bigger and wider than the limp human it raised above its fearsome head. There might have been a vague resemblance to something like a yeti or sasquatch, but both of those legendary creatures were far sweeter-tempered than this creature appeared to be. Chris viewed the drawing carefully then glanced across at the window. The sun wasn’t far off setting. The car park where he left the TARDIS was in shadow. “Another coffee and then we can ALL go and look for this creature. Zachary, you CAN leave the Castle for an evening. What’s with the black coffee, incidentally?”

“I can tolerate water flavoured with something that has no protein or sugar in it,” Zachary explained. “A revelation of the modern age. It is of no value to my body. Only raw blood sustains me. But I have found drinking the beverage useful when I am in company with humans. It makes me appear ‘normal’.”

“Fair enough. I’ve always liked milky coffee. Does that mean you don’t drink human blood at all?”

“Only at Goth parties,” Zachary responded. “The sort of people who imagine being undead is ‘romantic’ queue for a bite from me. I never take very much, but it is something of a gourmet buffet after the rats.”

“I was starting to like you,” Chris responded. “Don’t tell me anything else like that until I’m used to the idea.”

Goth parties! Sometimes he was glad he was only half human. It allowed him to step back from such a perplexing race. Still, his first instinct was to protect humanity, and it seemed as if that was true of Zachary de Vescy, too. He had been robbed of his human life, but not his compassion for the living. That was why Chris had decided to allow him to join him in the TARDIS and play a full role in what might unfold.

It was Spenser who took the greatest delight in showing Zachary around the Gothic TARDIS’s interior. It had, after all, been his father’s TARDIS long ago. Chris looked up from the information database to see his guests gathered around a fixture that probably hadn’t been used since the elder Draxic had been in charge.

“You’re showing him the food synthesizer?” he queried.

“It creates any food you ask for from base elements,” Spenser answered. “It’s pretty amazing.”

“Flabby white food bars that only TASTE of what you want.” Chris laughed softly at the redundant Time Lord technology. “As long as real food exists I know what I prefer.”

But Zachary was happy with the black coffee it provided for him, and the lattés Spenser obtained from the machine were marginally better than most instant hot drinks. But Chris had more important things to demonstrate - as long as everyone kept their coffee away from the console.

“I linked the TARDIS computer with local hospital services,” he said. “I’ve got the home addresses of all the patients presenting the symptoms put down as influenza. By the way, it’s nothing of the sort. These people have been struck down with debilitating blood anaemia only hours after being fit and well. Influenza doesn’t do that. No normal human illness does that. I think the press and public have been given a cover story to stop people panicking about a new disease that their doctors don’t recognise.”

“Do you think they did that before, in the past?” Stuart asked. “Were smallpox, the black plague and the rest cover ups for attacks by an unnatural creature?”

“Not globally,” Chris answered. “Zachary said the attacks were localised, and the evidence I’m seeing here bear that up. As I said, I’ve got the addresses of victims. Look at this map. Not only is this ‘epidemic’ confined to Alnwick, but there is a distinct pattern of distribution. The densest area, and the place where the earliest victims lived is here to the far west of the town centre. An estate called ‘New Moor’. Then it trails off gradually until on the east side towards the coast there are only a few victims.”

“New Moor estate was built in the last twenty years when the population began to reach pre-war levels,” Stuart said. “Before then it was open countryside, part of Alnwick Moor.”

“Is there anything else significant about that area?” Chris asked. “Has it always been open moorland?”

Stuart thought so, but both Spenser and Zachary who had longer memories of living in Northumberland knew something else.

“In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries there were deep shaft coal mines around there,” Spenser explained. “Well, there were coal mines everywhere in these parts, then.”

“It was the lifeblood of the North East until the nineteen eighties,” Zachary added. “No pun intended.”

“’The Thatcherite Pogroms’,” Stuart recalled. “Yes, of course. The collieries were all closed within a decade. Unemployment blighted the region for as much as a half a century afterwards.”

Stuart was merely recalling history lessons from school, of course. His longer lived companions had personal recollections of the dark times.

“The point is….” Chris interrupted the historical debate between them. “We’re looking for a creature that has some kind of underground lair and the majority of the victims here live over an abandoned coal mine. I suppose the pit heads were sealed but the actual mines, the tunnels and galleries, are all still down there.”

The three locals looked at each other as if light had just dawned, even the vampire for whom that could only be a metaphor.

“That’s why we needed you,” Spenser told him. “We could have looked at this problem for months and not seen the pattern, let alone remembered the old Alnwick Moor colliery.”

“It’s only half the job,” Chris admitted. “You realise the four of us are basically talking about going to war against the Qulyabani.” He held up Zachary’s rough impression of the monster. “I’m supposed to be a pacifist, you know. Zachary has spent a millennium keeping a low profile, and you two run a pub. We’re not exactly shock troops.”

“I was at the sharp end of the Dominator War along with Davie,” Spenser reminded him.

“I was Lord of these Estates in my day,” Zachary pointed out. “That was not a comfortable life in the state rooms of the Castle such as the Norman Dukes and their descendants enjoyed. I had to fight with sword and axe against the Viking invaders many times.”

“If the Qulyabani is in the old mines, I can smell it out,” Stuart said. “I’ll do my bit.”

“We all will. My pacifism doesn’t count when unnatural creatures are hurting human beings. I just wanted you all to realise that it might get bloody. No pun there, either, Zachary. This could be dangerous and....”

Chris broke off uncertainly. Encouraging his students to achieve spiritual fulfilment was easy. Exhorting this spectacularly mismatched group to risk their lives for the sake of humanity was more problematic.

“Chris, we certainly qualify as ‘we few, we happy few’, but we don’t need your take on the Crispin's Day oration,” Spenser assured him. “We're ready.”

“All right. There are swords in my dojo. Spenser, you get those. Stuart, three doors down the corridor there’s a room full of odds and ends. There are hard hats with head lamps. Don’t ask me why, just get four and check the batteries. While you’re at it I’ll find a likely spot within the mine to bring the TARDIS.”

Knowing what he was looking for it was easy enough to scan the moor for underground passages. It was surprising how many were still intact, despite having a housing estate and a small retail park built over it. He would have expected some of it to be blocked after nearly two hundred years of disuse.

The mine extended to an area at least five miles square and there had to be several hundred miles of zig zagging and descending levels of worked tunnels or passages. He wasn’t completely sure what the terminology was, in fact. Nobody mined for coal, now. Most of the world drew its renewable energy either from wind or solar plants - increasingly his brother’s patented efficient and cost effective micro cell solar energy that was making him very wealthy. Coal mining belonged in the past and former mining communities such as there had once been in this part of Britain had come to terms with that.

He selected a spot to materialise within and set the short hop engines. As he did so he looked up and saw Zachary waiting. He hadn’t been given a job to do, so he had waited.

“You didn’t hesitate to help,” Zachary said. “You didn’t have to do anything, but you didn’t hesitate.”

“Saving the human race on a local or a global scale is kind of my family business. Seems like it’s been yours, too? Did you get close to the Qulyabani before?”

“Three hundred years ago, just after the war they called ‘Great’ until they realised how wrong they were. Three people died, but they were all former soldiers whose health was damaged by mustard gas. I was the only one who saw the familiar pattern. I wandered the night streets until I found the creature. There was a fight. It almost killed me.”

“Killed YOU?”

“I can be killed. If the rats blood I consume is lost, I am as vulnerable as any living man. I had many wounds. I literally crawled back to the castle where I took weeks to recover. When I was able to venture out again I discovered that nine people had died and fifty more were suffering from ‘scarlet fever’. But the Qulyabani had sated itself and had gone to ground again. The trail was cold.”

“This time you have help. We’ll settle this once and for all.”

Stuart returned to the console room with four miners helmets that he distributed. Spenser bought the swords in scabbard belts. They made themselves ready either to dig coal or join the cavalry. It was hard to tell which. Chris reached to open the door to a dark place where no light had shone for centuries. The party stepped out one by one, turning on their lights. Everyone looked expectantly at Stuart.

“We’re not close,” he admitted. “But I DO smell something down here, and it is not even remotely human.”

Stuart led the way. The others walked as quietly as possible, aware of ominous creaking from the black ceiling just above their heads. They all reminded themselves that the tunnels had been intact for nearly three hundred years, then remembered that they were causing a disturbance by merely being there, walking through the long silent place.

“The smell is stronger,” Stuart reported after twenty minutes of cautious walking. “Its… ghastly, by the way. Like… rotten meat but… worse than that.”

“Whatever it smells like, the TARDIS didn’t recognise it as a lifeform,” Chris noted. “Or I could have got us closer.”

“What does that mean?” Zachary asked. “Does your machine recognise ME as a lifeform?”

“Yes, it does,” Chris confirmed. “One without respiration or cardio vascular activity, but still a lifeform. I got nothing from the Qulyabani. Whatever it is, it feeds on some element of human blood, probably the haemoglobin, but it isn’t, itself, recognisable as a lifeform as far as the TARDIS is concerned. That’s odd. The TARDIS can recognise all sorts of life. It would spot calcium based life like the Raxacoricofallapatorians or tellurium based like the Krotons. Daleks or Cybermen, even though they’re mostly metal. It is strange that it doesn’t recognise the Qulyabani.”

“I suppose that COULD be because it’s not here,” Spenser suggested.

“It is here,” Stuart assured him. “The smell… is nauseating.”

Stuart pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and held it around his mouth and nose. It didn’t stop him detecting where the Qulyabani was, but it made the job of ‘scenthound’ a little easier to bear.

“We’re close,” he murmured after a short while. “Around the next corner.”

He stopped walking. He was very nearly overcome. Chris moved forward cautiously, followed by Spenser and Zachary. Stuart came slowly behind them, trying to see through watering eyes. Having led the way he was the last to see the Qulyabani in the ‘flesh’. His vision was blurred, but he got the impression of something with coal black, leathery skin that rose eight feet tall, its bulbous head touching the ceiling of the widened gallery. It was almost as wide with arms as thick as tree trunks. In the light of their helmet lamps the creature seemed to have glowing green eyes. It certainly had a voice. The roar filled the air within the confined space.

All three of his friends were already attacking the creature. Its skin was proving difficult to penetrate, and those huge limbs ended in claws that were fully equal to the sharpness of a Chinese fighting sword.

Stuart dropped his handkerchief and grasped his sword. He had the least experience with such weapons but he had to help his friends. He thrust the sharp blade towards the creature’s chest. He was a little surprised to feel the tough flesh yielding. It was pure luck. There was no skill involved at all, and it probably had a lot to do with the creature already fighting three men at once and not expecting a fourth.

But Stuart’s sword penetrated deeply. The angry roar turned to a pained one. He had, quite by chance, hit what passed for a heart.

The creature faltered. Its three-way counter attack weakened. Chris took a step back and raised his sword high in a way he had not been able to do until now. He swung in a circular move and sliced into the thick neck. The flesh was tough, but the sword was very sharp and it cut almost three quarters of the way through. Chris pulled away, a vile spray of dark blood drenching him. Spenser took his cue and swung from the other side. His sword completed the decapitation.

Chris and Spenser grasped each other as they stepped away from the dying monster. Stuart grasped Zachary by the shoulder. He seemed frozen to the spot and in danger of falling under the huge, ichor spurting body as it fell.

“That... was easier than I expected....” Spenser commented. “I thought we would have had a tougher time of it. “

“We have,” Stuart answered. Chris and Spenser both turned to see him supporting Zachary’s limp body. There was a huge gash across the vampire’s right shoulder and neck.

“I didn’t even see him get hit,” Spenser admitted as he examined the grievous wound.

“I think a claw cut across him as it fell,” Stuart explained. “He’s losing too much blood.”

“We can help him,” Chris said. “He can feed from all of us… our own Goth party.”

“No, he can’t,” Spenser told him. “Our blood is no use. You and I both have Gallifreyan blood with no haemoglobin. Stuart’s blood is different again. We have nothing to offer.”

“I know what might help,” Stuart said. “But you have to get us back to the TARDIS.”

“I need to get the TARDIS to us,” Chris countered. He closed his eyes and focussed his mind. This was a difficult exercise in remote telekinesis. He did it only rarely because it took too much out of him both physically and mentally, but this was one time when it was necessary.

Being in a coal mine was causing difficulties. He felt the strain on the semi-sentient engine directly in his brain. He began to wonder if it was going to work at all.

Then he felt the change of air. He opened his eyes and saw the console room materialising around himself and his friends. It was still not recognising the Qulyabani as a lifeform, dead or alive, so that remained outside as the walls solidified.

Chris swayed dizzily and grabbed onto the nearest solid part of the console room. While he was still gathering his senses Stuart went to the food synthesizer. He came back presently with a large cup of thick, sticky liquid that he helped Zachary to drink.

“What is that?”

“Blood,” Stuart answered.


“Of course!” Spenser exclaimed as he realised what was happening. “The synthesiser creates any food substance. Blood is just a collection of proteins and minerals. It can put them together.”


Chris shook his aching head. Spenser was right. Nobody had ever tried to get the synthesizer to produce blood, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t.

And it worked. It took three cups of the stuff, but slowly the grievous wound healed and Zachary began to look as if he would make it. He wasn’t exactly restored to ruddy health, but he was back to the state of undead existence he had maintained for so long.

“That was… incredible,” Chris admitted as he watched his latest friend stand up. “I would never have believed....”

“We did it,” Zachary said. “We killed the Qulyabani. At last, it is gone. It can’t harm another human being.”

“We did it. It’s over except for some long hot showers. We all look wretched.”

Chris pulled off his helmet and let some of the sticky dark blood of the Qulyabani fall onto a sensor pad on the console. In a very short time he had a full DNA report.

“The reason the TARDIS didn’t recognise the Qulyabani’s lifesigns. Its body is carbon based like all of us. But it was a form of carbon far closer to the mineral all around it… coal. I suppose the existence of coal was what attracted the creature to this area in the first place. It must have come from another planet at some point. It didn’t belong here. I might be able to find out more about that. But… it had to be destroyed. It was inimical to human life. We had to do what we did.”

“Sone people think I don’t belong here,” Zachary pointed out. “I’m grateful that you gave me the benefit of the doubt.”

“I think I can give you more than that,” Chris answered. “After those hot showers and a stop off somewhere for takeaway pizzas for those of us who eat normal food, I’ll take you back to the Castle. We can install the food synthesizer in your dungeon. Your need for it is certainly greater than mine, and synthesised blood has to be better than rats.”

Zachary looked as if he might cry with gratitude for such a gift. Chris wondered if vampires could cry. Spenser and Stuart looked pleased that he had made such a gesture.

He just really wanted that shower very, very soon.