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

The TARDIS materialised in the car park of the country pub. Jackie Tyler stepped outside first, pushing the pushchair where Garrick was sitting up, eagerly taking in his new surroundings. Jackie knew that he was probably talking at a hundred miles an hour in his own head about everything he could see, but he couldn’t tell it to her, his mother. She didn’t share his telepathy.

“Chairs,” he said in a one year old’s spoken vocabulary. “Tables, ‘brellas’.”

He summed up the smokers beer garden accurately enough in those three words. The wooden tables and chairs were all protected from the elements by wide umbrella shaped covers, though they were made of textured polymer and had heaters and lights built in underneath for the comfort of the outdoor drinkers in all weathers.

“What year is this?” she asked Rose as she stepped out of the TARDIS with the wide pushchair that easily seated all three of her youngest children.

“2018,” Rose replied. “And we’re in Cornwall.”

“Nice. I’ve never been in Cornwall before.”

“Me, neither,” Rose admitted. “Though I can’t really complain. I’ve been to the End of the World with The Doctor. Land’s End is a bit of an anti-climax in comparison. Anyway, The Doctor reckoned this was a good place for us to spend a few days. A couple of his friends run the pub.”

Christopher exited the TARDIS last and turned to lock it carefully. He picked up the pair of large suitcases that the women had packed for the weekend. He carried them easily even though Rose and Jackie had stuffed them as tightly as possible with clothes and other necessities for themselves and for the children. Gallifreyan stamina was legendary.

“Ancelyn’s Rest – formerly the Gore Crow?” he noted the name of the big, stone built, seventeenth century hostelry. “Who is Ancelyn?”

“A medieval warrior from an alternative universe who helped The Doctor defeat an evil force that wanted to destroy this universe. He took a fancy to a woman and decided to stay here in the twenty-first century instead of going back to his own world.” Rose smiled as her mum and Christopher both looked at her in amusement. “He told me all about it the other night when we were both up with Sarah Jane’s teething troubles. That’s when he suggested we might like to come and stay and catch up on old times with Winifred and Ancelyn.”

“I wish I knew more of those stories,” Christopher said. “All the things he did when I was missing and Susan had left him, and he was alone in the universe.”

“Just ask him,” Rose told her stepson or stepfather, depending on her point of view. “You’re his son, his first born. He wouldn’t deny you anything.”

“Except time. He’s always busy lately. He’s supposed to be retired. But even this weekend, he’s not with us because he’s gone off with Davie to explore this new Time Lord city on Ceres. Vicki and Peter are palmed off on Susan. He’s too busy for any of us.”

There was censure in Christopher’s tone. Criticism of his father. Rose was surprised. Gallifreyan family values were absolute. Sons didn’t question their fathers.

“It’s not true, Christopher,” Rose told him in a quiet voice. “We’re all excited about Santuario. He was bound to want to see it with his own eyes the first chance he got. And Vicki and Peter wanted to visit Susan and David. Vicki loves being with Sukie and Peter gets spoiled shamelessly by Susan.”

“Even so…”

“Christopher,” Jackie said to him in a soothing tone. “Come on. We’re supposed to be having a nice weekend. Never mind your dad and his mad ideas.”

Christopher turned to his wife and smiled.

“You’re right. Come on. Let’s get inside before the weather breaks. It looks like rain. No wonder nobody’s sat outside.”

He stepped up to the big oak door and then wondered how he was supposed to open it with both hands full. He didn’t have to. It opened for him. A woman wearing a military style muddy green jumper and a darker skirt greeted him warmly, if a little unorthodoxly.

“You’re his lot, aren’t you?” she said. “The Doctor’s family? I saw you all come out of the blue box. Come on in, anyway. You must be ready for some lunch. Mind the top step there. It’s a bit steep. I’m Winifred Bambera. Welcome to Ancelyn’s Rest.”

Christopher stepped into the large, warm lounge bar of the hotel and deposited the suitcases before coming back out to help his wife and his stepmother or stepdaughter – depending on his viewpoint – to lift the pushchairs up the steps.

“Sit yourselves down by the fire,” said Winifred accommodatingly. “I’ll have your luggage taken up to your rooms in a minute.”

The fireplace was very inviting, even for people who had only walked across the beer garden on this blustery day. There was a huge fireplace with the date that the hotel was built – 1680 – inscribed on it. Above it was a sword and scabbard that looked like they told an older story than that. A log fire was burning in the hearth. Jackie unfastened Garrick from his pushchair and sat with him in a big, squashy armchair. Rose let the three little ones carry on sleeping but brought them closer to the warmth. Christopher went to order drinks for them all and to look at the lunch menu.

“Children!” A voice exclaimed almost in surprise and a young woman came and sat next to Rose on the comfy sofa. She looked at the three babies with an almost longing expression. “Triplets? Oh, how wonderful. You must be so proud.”

“Yes, I am,” Rose answered. “This is Jack, Julia and Sarah Jane. If we’re lucky they won’t all wake up at once. I don’t have enough arms for them.”

“I’m Shou Yuing,” the young woman said. “Local tour guide and archaeologist. But it’s too cold for either, so I’m just hanging out here.”

“As usual,” Winifred commented as she brought the drinks on a tray. “It is nice to have the little ones here, though,” she added. “We don’t see children around here very often.”

“Why not?” Rose asked. “Isn’t this a family friendly pub?”

Winifred started to answer but was distracted when the door opened again and a man came in carrying a large oak barrel. When he noticed the guests he put it down on the bar and came to greet them. He shook Christopher’s hand profusely.

“I would know you anywhere and any time. You are his son, are you not? Merlin’s first born!”

“Er…” Christopher was slightly non-plussed. “Merlin?”

“Ancelyn,” Winifred said. “You shouldn’t call The Doctor that. You know it causes confusion.”

“Ah, but this IS the son of the man time itself calls master!” Ancelyn continued. “I feel the power even in his progeny.”

Winifred sighed and looked around. There were only a few other customers, the old codgers who sat in the corner with a chess board and a pint of Ancelyn’s Ale – brewed in the micro-brewery behind the beer garden and old Mr Walmsley with his tray of medieval pottery from his latest dig, coming perilously close to drinking the cleaning fluid instead of his beer every time he reached for his glass. Besides, everyone was used to the fact that Ancelyn wasn’t from round these parts. Neither was she, for that matter. Ten years since she retired from U.N.I.T. and the two of them took over the pub together, and they were still regarded as ‘foreign’ by the locals.

“Is The Doctor well?” she asked Christopher, gently pulling Ancelyn’s hand away from his and letting him sit down again.

“My father is very well,” Christopher answered. “He’s supposed to be retired, too. But I don’t think anyone could persuade him to quietly run a country pub.”

“I never quite imagined doing that myself,” Winifred admitted. “But after the battle with Morgaine’s people, so many good soldiers dead… my heart wasn’t in it. Besides, U.N.I.T. was never quite the same after Headquarters relocated to New York and it was no longer under the United Nations aegis. I was ready for peace and quiet. And that’s one thing you get at Carbury. Peace and quiet.”

“I don’t think The Doctor wants peace and quiet,” Rose said. “But I could use some. Can you warm some jars of baby food for me, by the way. While our dinner is being made?”

Winifred took charge of the jars of pureed food with the same care and attention she once handled grenades and went to give the chef their lunch order. Ancelyn showed no sign of moving from beside Christopher, at least not until Winifred came back and barked out an order to get the barrel changed behind the bar.

“At once, my lady,” he replied.

“And less of that,” she cautioned him.

“Funny couple,” Jackie commented.

“They’re ok, really,” Shou Yuing. “They love each other to bits. But Winifred can’t get out of the military mind frame. She was the only female Officer Commanding of U.N.I.T. ever. Besides, I think he likes getting orders from her. It’s her way of showing affection.”

“Very funny couple,” Jackie added. “Do they have kids?”

“Nobody has kids in Carbury,” Shou Yuing answered.

“What?” Rose picked up Sarah Jane and Julia on her knee. Christopher reached and held baby Jack, so he wouldn’t be left out. All of them were puzzled by Shou Yuing’s reply.

“What do you mean, nobody has kids here?” Jackie asked. “Surely they must… I mean…” She blushed deeply as she tried to find a discreet way of asking about the conjugal relations of Carbury residents. She was saved by the waitress in a neatly pressed black dress and white apron, coming to set the table for their meal. Ancelyn, meanwhile was setting up four baby chairs at the same table and having a lot of trouble. He seemed not to know how they worked. Christopher stood and went to help him.

“Well, was she born here?” Rose asked about the waitress, who was only about eighteen. “And you’re not that old, either,” she added. “What are you? Mid twenties?”

“I’m Twenty eight,” Shou Yuing replied. “Karen was eight years old when her younger brother was born. He was the last child born in Carbury. Since then, no children at all. There are only three of them left under eleven, now. The primary school closed. The vicar’s wife teaches them in the presbytery.”

“Ten years?” Christopher echoed as he returned to the fireside. “That would make it…”

“Ever since the big battle with Morgaine’s army.” Shou Yuing looked up at the chimney breast with the sword and scabbard and sighed.

“No children have been born here since my father was here… since he put a stop to this Morgaine woman…” Christopher wasn’t being slow on the uptake. He was just being thorough, like he would when he was in Committee, making sure he had all the important points noted. “But what could possibly connect…”

“The official government explanation is that people were affected by radiation. There WAS a nuclear missile being moved past the lake at the time. Everyone was paid compensation. But we all knew there was no radiation. There are no illnesses that come from radiation – like leukaemia or the sort of things that happened to people near Chernobyl years ago. And it doesn’t explain why people who move into the area can’t have kids either, or why when people move away they CAN.”

“There have been tests?” Christopher asked. “The water supply, soil… air… I’m trying to think what else it could be. Localised magnetic fields…”

He was clutching at straws. He wasn’t a scientist. That was his father’s domain. But he was trying to approach the problem the way his father would.

“They did all of that,” said Winifred as she brought the warmed baby food through and put the jars on the dining table. “The civilian authorities did everything. And so did the military. I used what influence I had to get them to do everything they could. But there’s nothing. Nothing chemical, no radiation, nothing magnetic. Nothing that could be measured accounts for it. The only explanation at all is the one thing I would not believe if I didn’t live here, if I hadn’t been here when Morgaine was here.”

“What explanation?” Jackie asked, holding onto Garrick as if he were precious to her – all the more so in this place.

Winifred looked around. The codgers were still at their chess game. Mr Warmsley was still at his pottery. Ancelyn was polishing glasses behind the bar. She beckoned to him.

“Explain to our guests what you believe is wrong with Carbury,” she said to him.

“It was Morgaine. Before she and her son escaped the punishment due to them and returned to their own dimension, she cursed us. She cursed the ground where her son was so humiliated and dishonoured. She decreed that no woman in Carbury should bear fruit - the town should die barren and without heirs.”

“A curse?” Rose and Jackie looked at each other. It seemed incredible to them. Christopher, surprisingly, was less sceptical.

“In one of the ancient legends of Gallifrey, Rassilon is said to have cursed two great Time Lords who opposed him. He made their lands dry up and their women barren. It was said to be how the Red Desert came into existence.”

“That’s a fairy story,” Rose answered. “Deserts are caused by climate change. That’s all. but… Morgaine… Merlin…. Well… we’re talking about a sort of witch, aren’t we? I mean, I’ve seen a couple of films about King Arthur… and there was this bloody long poem we did at school… I didn’t pay a lot of attention. If I’d known Merlin was going to be my future husband, maybe I would have… but anyway, she’s a witch of some sort… black magic.”

“Black magic is just science used in a different way,” Christopher said. “At least that’s what my father says. This woman has done something that the usual kinds of scientific tests don’t show, but it must have a scientific explanation. Something that my father would know how to fight.”

“It’s certain that Merlin is the one being who has power over her,” Ancelyn said.

“You mean The Doctor,” Rose said. “My husband. The father of my children.”

“Exactly so,” Ancelyn said. “Merlin.”

“Yeah,” Rose laughed softly. “I asked him all about that when he told me about the stuff that went on here. He says he isn’t Merlin, but he might be one day in the future. I told him over my dead body. I’m not having him playing at wizards in the – whatever century all that went on in.”

“Quite right,” Winifred agreed. “You tell him. But…this curse…. I don’t believe it. I don’t want to believe it. I want there to be a scientific explanation - like he said. Because the other explanation goes against everything I ever understood about the world. I just don’t… want to believe it.”

“Neither do I,” Shou Yuing said. “Because I’m getting married next month, to Mr Warmsley’s grandson. And we don’t want to have to leave here to have a family. It’s got to be coincidence or… or something.”

“We need your dad,” Jackie told Christopher. “He’d know what to do.”

“I’ll phone him later,” Christopher promised.

“You can summon Merlin?” Ancelyn said.

“I can phone my father,” Christopher corrected him. “If that’s the same thing… I don’t know. But he is the man for this.”

“I agree,” Winifred said. “If anyone can help us, he can. But we have burdened you enough with our problems. Come and sit at the table and enjoy your meal. And… for old time’s sake… it is on the house.”

“That’s very generous of you,” Christopher said. “Thank you.”

“The weather is clearing,” Shou Yuing told them as they moved to the table and settled the children in their places. “After you’ve eaten, would you like the official tour of the lake and the nature reserve? I have the jeep outside.”

“Not me,” Rose answered. “A jeep is no place for three babies. I’ll settle them down for their afternoon sleep and get a bit of kip myself.”

A jeep wasn’t the place for Garrick, either. Rose was happy enough to settle him down for his nap, too. He had a cot to himself. The three small babies all shared one cot, snuggled together for warmth and comfort. With all four of them sleeping, she laid herself down on the comfortable bed and closed her eyes. She was wondering if this weekend was a good idea, after all. It wasn’t as if there was much she could do with the little ones to manage. Her mum and Christopher would have been better coming on their own.

She thought about what she had learnt about Carbury. It did seem sad. Maybe The Doctor could help. If he had known, she was sure he would have come before now. Funny he had never visited them before this. But that was him. He so rarely went back to anywhere.

Thinking of him reminded her of Ancelyn’s insistence that he was Merlin. He had many names throughout the universe. Even the Daleks had a name for him. But it did seem odd that he was somehow connected with something so mythological.

“I’ll give you Merlin,” she murmured as she curled herself up and went to sleep.

Shou Yuing was an accomplished tour guide who knew everything there was to know about the Arthurian legends and how they applied to Lake Vortigen – old Anglo-Saxon for Lake of The High King, and reputedly the place where the Lady of the Lake held aloft the sword Excaliber. But when one of her passengers was allegedly the son of Merlin, she wasn’t entirely sure of herself.

“Oh, don’t worry about all that,” Jackie said to her. “It’s really beautiful around here without a lot of old legends.”

“I agree,” Christopher added. “Though I’d quite like to hear a bit more about what went on here when my father was here last. You witnessed it?”

“I was in the thick of it,” she said. “Captured by Morgaine, threatened by this ugly monster from hell calling itself The Destroyer. The Doctor saved me. I’ll never forget that.”

“Another satisfied customer,” Jackie said. “Seems like wherever he has been he’s helped somebody out. And yet… when I first met him… I thought he was a monster, bringing terror and taking my daughter away from me. How wrong I was.”

“I’m getting used to finding out what my father has done over the years,” Christopher said. “The Merlin notion I can’t quite encompass. But even among our own people he was regarded as a singular man.”

“Bet his ears are burning, with us talking about him,” Jackie commented.

“I hope so,” Christopher replied in a less joking manner. “Then he might realise I need to contact him. I can’t get through on the mobile, and my telepathy is nowhere near good enough to reach him in the asteroid belt.”

If that conversation in any way puzzled Shou Yuing she didn’t show it. But she did stop the car in order to look at her own mobile phone.

“I can’t get a signal, either. That’s very odd. There’s the antennae, across the lake, just above the trees – huge fuss when it was put up, about spoiling the view. But we ought to be able to get a signal out of two tin cans and a piece of string.”

“Perhaps it’s…” Jackie began. Then Christopher gripped her arm. She looked at him. He was pale faced and staring in fright.

“Shou Yuing, take us back to the hotel, quickly,” he said. “Something is wrong. I felt Garrick screaming. He’s hurt. My son…”

Jackie gave a gasp of fright and clung to him. Shou Yuing swung the jeep around and put her foot down on the accelerator.


Christopher jumped from the jeep as soon as it stopped outside the hotel. He raced in and up the stairs. He couldn’t feel his son’s distressed telepathic cries any more but he could hear a baby crying. His two hearts pounded in his breast as he reached the door.

Rose was on the floor, clutching one of her own babies, shielding it from harm, a mother’s instinct. She was crying in terror and grief.

Christopher looked from her to the two empty cots and then to the strange, shimmering, swirling vortex in front of the window. He could see a woman in the midst of it, half corporeal. She was holding Garrick in her arms. He saw her face, her eyes glowing with hatred as she made eye contact with him.

“Merlin’s children are mine now,” she said before the vortex collapsed and she was gone.

“Rose!” Christopher turned and went to help her. At first she didn’t recognise him, then she let him help her to sit up on the bed, still holding the baby. Christopher noted that it was her youngest, the Human child, Sarah Jane. Her twins, and his son were gone.

“Christopher!” she sobbed. She looked past him as Jackie rushed into the room and yelped in horror as she, too, saw the empty cots and Rose’s distress. “Mum! Oh, mum. I’m sort. I… I could only save one of them. She was nearest. I’m sorry. I lost your baby. I’m sorry.”

Jackie went to her side at once. She hugged her daughter and granddaughter together.

“We don’t blame you, sweetheart,” she told Rose. “You did right. Of course you did. You… you look after this little one.” She looked at her husband. He was clinging to Garrick’s cot as if it was the only thing holding him upright.

“Christopher… call your father, now,” Jackie told him. “Please, get him here.”

Christopher reached for his mobile phone. He tried several times but kept getting a ‘number unobtainable’ signal. Meanwhile Winifred and Shou Yuing rushed into the room, reporting that they couldn’t get a 999 call to connect on the landline, either. Ancelyn followed them.

“What’s going on?” Jackie asked. “The children are gone and… we can’t even call the police?”

“I can’t reach my father,” Christopher said. “I’m sorry, Jackie.”

“I don’t want him to know, anyway,” Rose sobbed. “I don’t want him to know I’ve lost his babies.”

“You didn’t lose them. They were taken. By… By…” Jackie wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. She turned to look at Christopher. He told them all what he had seen of the woman in the vortex with Garrick. Rose managed to compose herself enough to tell her side of things. She had woken suddenly from her sleep to see the vortex forming in front of the window. She saw a man in old-fashioned chain mail step out of it and reach into the cot for one of the babies. She screamed and ran at him but he pushed her out of the way. She tried again and managed to grab Sarah Jane and hold onto her, but a woman stepped from the vortex, too. She said that the Human child wasn’t important. They wanted the children of Merlin. She took Garrick and the man grabbed both of the twins.

“Morgaine!” Ancelyn said. “And her accursed son, Mordred. It must have been her. She has returned here from the netherworld.”

Christopher turned towards the window. He reached into his pocket for the sonic screwdriver Davie had made for him – no Time Lord could do without a sonic screwdriver, even one who preferred politics to exploring the universe. He was glad of it now. He held it up, testing the air.

“I think I can restore the interstitial vortex,” he said. “I can… I can reach them.”

“What?” Rose and Jackie both shouted at once.

“Christopher, no. I can’t lose you, too. It’s too dangerous. What if…”

“That woman has my son,” Christopher answered. “I’ve got to get him back. My father wouldn’t hesitate if he were here. He would do it. But he’s not. We can’t reach him. I’m the next best thing. I’m… I’m Chrístõ Miraglo of the House of Lœngbærrow. I’m… I’m the son of… of Merlin… and I'm going to make this right.”

As he spoke, the vortex formed around him. His body was becoming less solid as he began to pass into the other dimension.

“I love you, Jackie,” he cried out. “I’ll get our son back.”

Jackie gave an anguished sob as he vanished. Then she and Rose cried out in surprise as Ancelyn ran towards the vortex. Winifred called to him, but he shook his head.

“I love you, my lady. But I must do my duty. Merlin’s son goes to do battle with Morgaine. I shall be at his side.”

He vanished, too.

“Impetuous fool,” Winifred said. “He didn’t even think to pick up a weapon.” She turned and ran from the room. Shou Yuing watched her go and then turned to Rose and Jackie. She couldn’t be much comfort to either, but she tried. All three women stared when Winifred returned wearing her old U.N.I.T. beret and a flack jacket with a belt around it where she had clipped the scabbard and sword from the fireplace downstairs.

“You’re going in there, too?” Shou Yuing asked. “With Excalibur.”

“That’s…” Jackie stared at the sword. “You mean that’s THE Excalibur?”

“It’s a sword,” Winifred said. “And Ancelyn needs one.” Then she stepped into the vortex, too. Rose, Jackie and Shou Yuing looked at each other. Rose hugged her remaining baby and tried not to cry any more. Jackie held her and tried to have faith in Christopher. He was a Time Lord like his father. He was brave. He wasn’t The Doctor. He wasn’t Merlin.

But maybe there was enough of both of them in him to succeed.

Christopher looked around as his vision cleared. He was in some sort of cave – it might even be called a cavern. It felt deep. His Time Lord senses told him there was a lot of ground above his head. His Time Lord eyesight made out that the cavern was roughly circular, possibly not completely natural. It had a thick pillar of accreted limestone in the centre, apparently holding up the roof, though he doubted that it was load-bearing.

The cavern seemed to be used as an armoury. There were suits of armour on pedestals and racks of swords. Christopher selected one. He had learnt to fence as a boy. It was a nobleman’s sport on Gallifrey. His father had taught him his first lessons. Later he had a tutor. Later still he was on the Prydonian Academy’s senior team.

It was a skill that he had rarely practiced since leaving school, but he remembered enough now as he felt the weight of the sword and swung it easily. He had never used a sword in real combat, of course. Only in competition. Could he kill with it? That was a question he was going to have to find out very soon.

“My Lord,” said a voice. Christopher turned, the sword held defensively. He was relieved to see Ancelyn. “Son of Merlin, I am here to aid thee in your battle ‘gainst the dark forces of Morgaine the Sorceress.”

“Thank you,” he answered. “You’d… better… take a sword.”

“Aye.” Ancelyn stepped forward and selected carefully. He was testing his chosen weapon when Winifred stepped out of the vortex.

“My Lady,” he said. “I wouldst that you were not here in this fearsome place.”

“Knock it off, Ancelyn. I’m as much a warrior as you are. Now let’s…” She stopped speaking. Ancelyn wasn’t even looking at her. He was staring at that central pillar. He pressed his hand against it and gave a low cry of grief.”

“Merlin! What hast the witch done to thee?” he asked.

“Merlin?” Christopher stepped closer and looked. His hearts thudded. The pillar was not made wholly of accreted limestone. There was a hollow in it, tall enough, wide enough for a man to stand within it. Something like ice covered the figure within.

It was his father. Christopher knew him at once. He was much older than he was in their personal timeline. His hair was iron grey and his face lined. But his slate grey eyes were just as he knew them – except frozen open in an expression of horror. His lips were pressed together as if he was trying not to scream. He was clothed in a black robe that might be thought to have magic symbols on it to anyone who didn’t know the Gallifreyan alphabet. A cloak over the robe was fastened at his throat with a silver Seal of Rassilon.

“What happened to him?” Winifred asked.

“It is true,” Ancelyn moaned. “Before the Battle of Camlann, when Arthur fought Mordred and defeated his army at cost of his own life, it was said Merlin was seduced away from the camp. Morgaine trapped him with a spell of binding… and here he is, still… waiting to be restored to life to match her one last time.”

“But that’s not…” Christopher’s head reeled. “Merlin… binding spells… This is my father. He is out of his own time. This is him many years in our future. But it’s him. and he’s….” Christopher put his hands on the ice, over his father’s hearts. He took a deep breath and concentrated hard and he felt a single heartbeat, a systolic jolt of life within the frozen tomb. “Father… can you hear me? Can you reach out to me?”

Ancelyn and Winifred clutched hands and stared as Christopher plunged his hands through the ice as if it was no more than water. He touched his father’s chest and his hearts beat faster and louder, echoing around the cavern. The Doctor blinked his eyes and raised his arms to clutch his son’s shoulders. He stepped forward as Christopher stepped backwards, drawing him out of the tomb. As soon as he was clear The Doctor embraced him lovingly.

“Christopher, my boy, well done. I knew you would do it.”

“Merlin, ‘tis thee?” Ancelyn asked.

“‘Tis I, faithful Ancelyn. You cane to this place as squire to my son. That is honourable. And you… Lady Winifred… warrior with a man’s heart. You brought Excalibur.”

“I did,” she answered. “I thought Ancelyn would need it. But…” She took the belt, scabbard, sword and all, and passed it to The Doctor. “I think it belongs to you.”

“Excalibur belongs to no man,” The Doctor answered as he buckled it in place while Winifred selected a less historical sword from the rack. “But I will use it today.” He looked at his son. “Morgaine took the children?”

“Yes. But how did you know?”

“The curse… she did that because she thought, sooner or later, I would investigate something so sinister and she could have her final battle with me. But I didn’t come. Instead I sent my family for a weekend break. She changed her plan, and took the children instead. Her way of getting her final revenge on me… I defeated her son. She took mine.”

“Yes… but…”

“Come on. She’ll be in her main chamber.” He turned and led them towards what seemed to be an ordinary blank wall. He reached out his hand to test it and then stepped through what was a clever optical illusion. The others followed. They found themselves in a narrow passage lit by rush lights. The Doctor hesitated for a moment to get his bearings, then turned left.

“It’s why I let her bind me,” The Doctor said as he moved swiftly and even Christopher strove to keep up with him. “I’d been Arthur’s guide for forty years, teaching him to be the king he was born to be. But Camlann was always going to be his bane. All I could do was teach him to face death with dignity and courage. Then I left the camp and walked into Morgaine’s trap, knowing that one thousand three hundred and eighty-one years later you would need me to help rescue the children from her clutches.”

“I understand,” Christopher said.

“You do?” Winifred questioned him.

“I'm a Time Lord. I know about these things. My father WILL become Merlin in his later years. He knew this day would come and he made sure he would be here.”

“Merlin can do great things,” Ancelyn noted.

“So can the Time Lord known as The Doctor,” Christopher answered him. “We’re lucky. We have both. But…”

His father shushed him. Ahead was a brighter light and a feel of a wider space opening out.

“Come with me, Christopher,” The Doctor said. “You two, wait. And… for once, break a trend, and do as I say. There’s no sense in us all blundering in.”

The two Time Lords crept forward silently and came out on a ledge above a cavern nearly twice as wide as the other one. This one definitely was partially manmade. It was perfectly circular. In the centre was a raised dais with a pillar on it. A glowing white globe sat upon it. It resonated power. Morgaine’s power. The Doctor and Christopher looked from it to the walls of the chamber. There were alcoves in which suits of armour stood.

“Not just armour. They’re….” Christopher stared at his sonic screwdriver in disbelief. His father held his arm and looked at the readings.

“A guard of re-animated dead. At least eighteen of them, I reckon. Not sure I like those odds.”

“Father…” Christopher pointed to the far end of the chamber. There, in another alcove was a cage. He and his father both caught their breath as they saw their own children within it. They were quiet, sleeping. Even though it was probably a magically induced sleep they both took comfort from that. The children weren’t scared by what was happening to them.

“It’s her,” Christopher added as two figures materialised on the centre dais. “And her son?”

“Yes.” The Doctor hushed him again as they listened to what Morgaine was saying to her son.

“These are Merlin’s children,” she gloated. “Oh, how sweet my revenge shall be. I thought first to kill them as they slept, and the mother with them. But then… such a grief would be over in time. Whereas this will haunt him for eternity. The eldest boy… he will be your heir, Mordred. Since you have not the will to produce a child of your own. The other boy will do for a servant. The girl… I shall call her daughter. She shall be a sorceress. Perhaps when she is old enough, the two of us together will destroy her father. I had not the power to do more than bind him. But two of us… oh, how he will grieve before he dies at her hand…”

“Over my dead body,” The Doctor murmured, though he knew those were terms likely to be acceptable to Morgaine.

“So what do we do?”

“I will fight Morgaine, you will fight his son. Ancelyn and Winifred will have to take their chances with the guards.”

“I… fight Mordred?”

“Son against son… Father against mother. Morgaine will not let the guards interfere with such a fight. She will consider it appropriate, honourable.”

“Very well. You explain to Ancelyn and Winifred what they have to do.”

He did. They didn’t like the odds, but they didn’t have any qualms, either.

“You will have to behead them,” The Doctor told them. “It’s the only way to stop the undead warriors. Strike true every time. I will try to finish Morgaine quickly. Once her power is gone, they will turn to dust. It will be over. But she is a powerful sorceress and it will be a hard fight.”

“Sire, command us,” Ancelyn said.

“Awaiting your orders, sir.” Winifred added. “What do you want us to do?”

“I want you to reach out and touch my sword arm,” The Doctor answered as he raised Excalibur in front of them. They reached out. He concentrated and slowed time. That was their advantage. They could reach the chamber – Ancelyn and Winifred would have time to behead three or four of the guards while he and Christopher got into position to fight Mordred and Morgaine. He knew he wouldn’t catch them off guard. Morgaine could see through a time fold. They would be up against it from the start.

They needed the element of surprise. There was only one way down from the ledge and they had to go down single file. The Doctor was first. As soon as he reached the floor he raced to the centre of the dais. He brought Excalibur down on the glowing globe. He knew what it was. No mere crystal ball. It was a repository for Morgaine’s power. It amplified her powers within this chamber and allowed her to perform deep magic. But without it, she was merely a very good sorceress.

As soon as the globe smashed, of course, the element of surprise was gone. Mordred and Morgaine turned and both screamed with anger as they charged. The Doctor was right. Mordred charged at Christopher. Morgaine met The Doctor head on.

As the time fold collapsed, Ancelyn and Winifred had reduced the eighteen undead creatures to twelve. They stood back to back and fought them as the double duel began. Christopher parried Mordred’s attack. As their swords clashed he felt the power of a well trained swordsman in the muscles of his arm. But he was a Time Lord. His muscles, his sinews were naturally strong. He had two hearts and a superior respiratory system. He had stamina. Even if he was a less skilled, less accomplished swordsman, he could match Mordred blow for blow for as long as it took.

The Doctor raised Excalibur and blocked Morgaine’s murderous attack on his body. But at the same time he raised mental walls and blocked the far more painful attack on his mind. It hurt. He saw red before his eyes momentarily before he fought back and delivered a crushing blow to her mind. She staggered but recovered and he had to raise both sword and mental defences as she came back at him.

“Are you all right, father?” Christopher asked telepathically as he staggered and recovered himself, ducking to avoid Morgaine’s sword and managing to cut her on the shoulder with his own thrust.

“Don’t worry about me. Concentrate on Mordred,” The Doctor ordered. “You can’t let your concentration falter.”

“I know. I can hold him. But I can’t beat him, you know. He’s too good. I’m not a fighter. And… even if I was… I don’t think I can kill him.”

“Keep fighting. If I can beat Morgaine, it’s over. But you have to hold out.”

Morgaine came at him again. This time his defence was stronger – or she was weaker. Neither the mental nor the physical attack was as troublesome. And his own counter-attack was searing. She screamed out loud.

“Merlin, you will not defeat me,” she cried, despite all evidence to the contrary. “You are a man. Just a man. You cannot….”

“I am more than a match for you, Sorceress,” he replied. “You are merely a woman, a Human woman, who stole the secret of the sidhe and wrapped yourself in their glamour. You are nothing. You are less than nothing.”

He attacked her mentally again. He gave it almost all he had. It weakened him, but it had a greater effect on her. She fell to her knees. So did he. She dropped her sword. He held onto his, but for the moment he didn’t have the strength to lift it.

Christopher and Mordred were behind him. He couldn’t see them. So when he felt arterial blood warm on the back of his neck he didn’t know which had dealt a fatal blow to the other. Only Morgaine’s horrified expression told him that his own son was the one who still stood. She screamed and struggled to her feet. He raised his sword arm to fight her. He was the one who screamed when, instead of fighting, she threw herself onto Excalibur’s glistening blade. He pulled back, but her heart was pierced. Her eyes glittered for a few moments before she collapsed, dead.

It wasn’t how he expected the fight to end. He wasn’t sure whether to be glad or sorry. He hadn’t killed her. She had killed herself. He turned and looked at his son. He was standing there, his sword held loosely in his hand, looking down at the body of Mordred. Behind him, Ancelyn and Winifred clutched hands. The undead guards were collapsing around them like skittles. There was nothing more to do.

Just one thing. The Doctor raised Excalibur and decapitated Mordred’s body. He did the same for his mother. It was the only way to be absolutely certain they would not rise again.

He cleaned his sword and sheathed it. He told Christopher to do the same. Only then, when their weapons were put away, did they turn and look at the cage where their children were held in captivity. Garrick was awake and calling out for his father. The twins were crying. Their fathers ran to them. the cage broke open easily and they lifted their children into their arms.

“We need to get out of here,” The Doctor said. “This chamber was maintained by magic. That magic is gone now. Back to the armoury.”

Nobody needed to be told twice. They ran, aware of ominous noises behind them as if the chamber was tearing itself apart.

They reached the armoury. Christopher stared in surprise at a familiar shape that wasn’t there before. A police box. The TARDIS.

“It WAS there before,” The Doctor said. “But she had hidden it behind one of her glamours. Here, Ancelyn, Winifred, you need to take the babies. And Excalibur.”

“Why?” Winifred asked as she did as The Doctor said, accepting his baby daughter in one arm and the sword belt on the other. Ancelyn looked awkward as he took the baby boy in his arms, but he seemed proud to have the honour of holding Merlin’s child.

“Your way home is through the interstitial vortex. You need to go quickly. It’s losing power. I go by TARDIS. I took it out for a spin on a Saturday afternoon in 2667. Rose is expecting me back for supper.”

“You were in the 6th century for forty years, pretending to be a wizard and another millennium and a half in suspended animation. And you expect Rose to think you were just away for a few hours?”

“You think I won’t get away with it?”

“Not a hope.”

“Well, she can only yell at me for so long. And it was worth it. For our children. And for the future children of Carbury. The curse is broken, of course. It died with Morgaine. So… go on… get going. I’ll talk to you about this after supper. I’m afraid you’ve got a bit longer to wait, but…”

“Good journey, father,” Christopher said.

“Good journey, son,” The Doctor replied and stepped into his TARDIS. As Christopher turned towards the vortex he felt the displaced air that came with a dematerialisation. He watched as Ancelyn and Winifred went first with the twins, and then he and his own first born son stepped through the portal back to their own reality.


Rose, Jackie and Shou Yuing looked up as the three of them stepped out of the vortex one by one. Jackie practically grabbed Garrick from Christopher’s arms. Rose took her babies and laid them on the bed with their sister and cried for joy. Christopher paused only long enough to check that the vortex had completely dissipated, closing off that strange dimension once and for all. He turned back and hugged his wife.

“It’s all over?” Jackie asked.

“All over. Completely. No more curse. No portals to other dimensions. Nothing to fear.”

“Good,” she said. “Maybe… we can actually enjoy a nice normal weekend holiday?”

“Yes, you can,” Winifred said. “Anything you want… on the house. The least we can do for you all.”

“I could murder a cup of tea,” Jackie said. Rose looked up from the bed and agreed. Tea. That’s what she wanted.

“Ancelyn, tea,” Winifred ordered. “At the double.”

“Yes, my beloved lady,” he replied. Because some habits died hard.