Susan sighed contentedly and smoothed down the skirt of the period dress she had chosen from the TARDIS wardrobe as elegant yet practical. This latest idea for spending time with her grandfather had much to commend it. She had spent a lot of her youth travelling with him in the TARDIS, then most of her adult life not travelling anywhere very much. She put down her roots in London and stayed there. But now she was spending time with her grandfather again and she was travelling in a very different way.

“The Orient Express in 1909!” She smiled happily as she looked at the Austrian countryside that the train was passing through. They were going to reach Vienna by early evening. They would see the sun set on the Danube. That might seem a small thing when she used to have the whole of time and space to explore, but actually, to Susan, it was a huge thrill. And she said so.

“I DID love being with you,” she told him. “Going to all those amazing planets. But Earth became my home and I have seen so little of it. This trip is amazing. I’m glad you thought of it.”

“I knew you’d like it,” The Doctor replied, slipping his arm around her shoulders and sighing happily when she leaned her head against him. “And I knew Louise would be content, too. A three day journey with plenty to look at and nothing to worry about. Shame she’s missing so much of this part of the trip, though.”

Louise was lying on the bed opposite the banquette on which The Doctor and Susan were sitting in their deluxe first class compartment. She was sound asleep.

“An afternoon nap will do her good,” Susan told her. “She’s strong, of course. She’s no delicate bloom. But after all, she’s Human. And you know how it is…”

“Er… how what is?” The Doctor asked. Susan’s comments had seemed innocuous in themselves, but something about her tone alerted him. “What… do you mean?”

“Grandfather!” Susan’s tone now was admonishing. “Don’t you know? She’s YOUR wife, after all. Didn’t you notice that she is pregnant?”

“What? No. She can’t be.” The Doctor’s face paled and his eyes widened to their roundest and most boggling. “No… I mean… we want to… we’ve talked about it… later… when we’re ready. But she can’t be… yet…”

“And you call yourself THE Doctor! It’s obvious. Look at her closely. She is pregnant with a Time Lord baby.”

The Doctor moved from his seat and knelt beside his sleeping wife. She didn’t stir as he put his hands gently over her and concentrated his mind, reaching into her and seeing what Susan insisted he ought to be able to see.

“She’s pregnant,” he said in a stunned voice as he drew back. “Six weeks… that was when we were in Canada…”

“Yes, I suppose so,” Susan agreed. “Grandfather… you don’t seem to be… I don’t know… overjoyed…”

“I’m still in shock,” he answered. “Louise is pregnant. She’s having my baby. Right now. Right this minute.”

“Well, not exactly. It takes sixteen months, usually. You’ve got time to fix up a nursery in the TARDIS.”

The Doctor sat back down on the seat again. He didn’t say anything at first, but Susan could feel his thoughts. They were a jumble of emotions. Most of them good, but there were some regrets, too.

“I’ve wasted so much time,” he said to Susan. “Time that I should have had with you… I should have made you a part of my life much sooner. And… now it’s too late. Louise is having a baby… my baby… She’s going to be so happy. But it’s time… time for those roots… time for me to stop travelling again. You know that has to happen, don’t you, Susan? Louise and I… have to go home…”

“To that planet you told me about… Forêt… where she was born… where you have a family already.”

“You should have known them,” The Doctor said. “Dominique… my lovely Dominique… and our children… Dominic and Angeletta… and their children… my grandchildren… Phillipe, Jules and Rémy… You should have known them, Susan. You were my first grandchild… and they…”

“I made my choices, grandfather,” she told him. “I wanted to live on Earth, with David. I made a good life. Our children are all we ever hoped they would be. You made your life. And I’m glad it’s a happy one. You and Louise… you’re ready to do it all over again and be happy again. You have my blessing. Have no doubt about that. And as for me… I’ve enjoyed the time we’ve had together. It’s been fun. But I should go home, soon. I have my life to lead. I’m probably going to be a grandparent myself soon enough. My sons both have beautiful wives, now. I have that to look forward to.”

The Doctor nodded and sighed, but not unhappily. He and Susan had made their minds up about this a very long time ago. He put his arm around her again and they watched the sun set over the Danube as the Orient Express flew across the Austrian countryside on its inexorable journey to Constantinople in the year 1909, chosen for no other reason than that Edwardian men’s fashions were less troublesome than many other eras and bustles and whalebone corsets were out of vogue for the women.

Louise woke up in the half light after the sunset as The Doctor reached up and turned on the gas lamps that illuminated the carriage. She was a little muddle-headed from sleep, but she smiled at her husband as he reached out his hand to her.

“I slept such a lot,” she said. “I am sorry.”

“Nothing to be sorry about,” he assured her. “Nothing at all. In fact… everything is just wonderful. It couldn’t be more wonderful.”

Louise was puzzled by his effusiveness, but she smiled warmly at him and accepted his kiss on the cheek.

“It’s time to get ready for dinner,” he said. “We’ll be pulling out of Vienna when they start to serve so be as stunningly beautiful as you like to match the locality.”

“That means you will have to wait to use the bathroom,” Susan replied. “We’re going to need it if you want us looking stunning.”

“I’ll wander down to the freight car and use the TARDIS bathroom,” The Doctor answered. “Since I’m probably going to be finished long before you two, I’ll see you in the lounge car when you’re ready.”

He kissed Louise again and hugged Susan before he stepped out of the compartment. Dressing for dinner wasn’t something he did often. If he was on his own he wouldn’t bother. For that matter, if he was on his own he wouldn’t be on the Orient Express in the first place. There wouldn’t be any point. Something like this really did need to be shared with somebody else.

Since he WAS sharing it, he needed to dress for dinner.

He slipped quietly along the corridor to the end of the wagon-lit and into the smoking car where three men with Eastern European accents were enjoying cigars. He nodded courteously to them and continued on into a second wagon-lit and then into the freight car. He wasn’t, actually, supposed to go into there. He got ready to use his sonic screwdriver to unlock the door. He was surprised to find that it was already unlocked but didn’t worry too much about it. The TARDIS was fine, anyway, pushed up against the wall with a tarpaulin over it.

He noticed that it wasn’t the only large piece of freight in the car. There was a long box laid on its side. It had a label indicating that it was loaded at Linz, the last stop before Vienna, and was going to Bucharest.

It was none of his business. He left it alone and went into the TARDIS. He took his time showering and putting on a late Edwardian dinner suit that felt curiously right on him. His first, third and eighth incarnations had all leaned towards the early twentieth century in their choice of clothes. It wasn’t really his cup of tea these days, but it wasn’t bad, and it meant that he would nicely match up with the ladies, who he knew had brought an interesting selection of gowns from the wardrobe when they boarded the train at Gare de l’Est in Paris.

When he stepped out of the TARDIS he again glanced at the box. But it was still none of his business.

He walked back through the wagon-lit and the smoking lounge, noting that it was smokier now with three more eastern Europeans enjoying their pre-dinner cigars. He nodded courteously to the passengers as he passed through. He walked down to the lounge and ordered an iced lime and water from the barman. He sat and drank it quietly while he waited for Susan and Louise to join him. There was a couple sitting in the lounge, also drinking non-alcoholic aperitifs. The man was in a black evening suit, the woman in a fine coral pink satin dress with a lace collar shaped like a scallop shell. They were eastern European, but that was nothing unusual since they were in eastern Europe. They nodded courteously to him as he sat but seemed too pre-occupied with each other for conversation.

Louise and Susan came into the lounge. The Doctor noticed that heads turned towards them. Men gave them admiring glances. The woman in coral pink looked at them approvingly. Susan was not a young woman any more, but she looked graceful and elegant in her choice of evening dress in blue silk. Louise wore leaf green, his hamadryad in satin and lace. He stood and took both their arms as they headed towards the restaurant car.

The train was stationary at Vienna as they were seated. They watched the activity on the platform while they drank their pre-dinner drinks. Some passengers got off the train. New passengers came aboard. The Doctor noted that some bulky luggage was taken on board in the baggage car further down, but thought nothing more of it.

The eastern European couple sat near them at dinner. The man ate as if he was hungry, but not paying much attention to his food. He was more interested in his lady companion. She ate nothing and drank only iced water. The Doctor noted that, but filed it under ‘none of his business’. He relaxed and enjoyed his own dinner with his wife and granddaughter as the train pulled out of Vienna station and gathered speed. There was a gibbous moon that illuminated the Austrian countryside. He was content.

He was still content when they finished dinner and strolled back to the elegant lounge where they were served lime-sodas because none of them wanted alcohol and they enjoyed the buzz of after dinner conversation among the assorted European travellers on the train. They weren’t really listening to the subjects of the conversations, just the ambiance of the car where people were relaxing after a meal while travelling through the night at nearly a hundred miles per hour.

“Grandfather…” He was surprised to feel Susan speaking to him telepathically. She very rarely did that. Apart from anything else she preferred to speak openly around Louise. This was something she didn’t want his wife to hear. There was something in her tone that worried him, too. Tone was difficult to disguise telepathically. He knew something was bothering her. He gave her his immediate attention.

“I think some of the people on this train aren’t Human,” she said.

His relief was palpable. He thought it was something about Louise.

“Oh, I know that,” he told her. “Don’t worry.”

“Don’t worry? But…”

“Don’t worry. I’ll explain later when we can talk. Not in front of Louise. I don’t want her to think there’s anything to worry about.”

“You mean there IS something to worry about?”

“No. But things could be misconstrued.”


But The Doctor wouldn’t be drawn any further. He opened a conversation with Louise about the countryside they would be passing through during the night to arrive in Budapest in Hungary first thing in the morning. She was interested, even though none of the place names meant anything to her. Susan was very interested because they meant plenty to her. Louise soon began to look tired, though, and The Doctor walked with her back to the compartment and saw her to bed.

“Will you be long, chéri?” she asked as she snuggled down in the comfortable bed.

“Susan and I are just going to take a bit of a walk down the train and back,” he assured her. You sleep well, my sweetheart. Don’t let anything worry you.”

“Nothing is worrying me,” she answered. “Except… I’ve been so tired lately. I keep wanting to sleep.”

“Well, we’re on a long train journey so why not? It’s all right, Louise. Everything is absolutely all right.”

He kissed her fondly and left her in the room with the gas lamp turned down. He took Susan’s arm and they strolled along the train corridors enjoying a sensation of movement that was quite different to that they were used to in the TARDIS. They passed through the smoking car where two elderly French gentleman were enjoying a pipe before bed and then to the end of the second wagon-lit. They stopped beside an open window. The Austrian country air, perfumed by the smoke and steam from the locomotive, was pleasant, and with their Gallifreyan eyes they could see far more of the countryside in the moonlight than most passengers could.

“What is it that you didn’t want to talk about before?” Susan asked eventually. “It’s that woman, isn’t it? The one in pink. She didn’t eat anything. I noticed that. Is she an alien in a Human disguise? Does she eat something disgusting like live rats or…”

“Nothing like that,” The Doctor answered with a chuckle. “Nothing so complicated. She’s just a vampire.”

“What! But… that’s… that’s even worse. They’re… you left Louise alone with vampires on the train!”

“Susan, my dear, you really haven’t travelled much since you left me, have you? There is such a lot you don’t know.”

“Very likely,” she responded. “But a vampire? I knew it was something. I could feel it. There’s a sort of….”

“There’s a deadness,” The Doctor said. “In the psychic field. When we’re among humans we can feel their minds even if we’re not deliberately reading them. We’re aware of the electrical interchange between their synapses. But the Undead minds work differently. It’s like negatively charged electrons instead of positively charged ones. We can’t feel them because our minds are much closer to living Human minds than Undead ones.”

“Yes…” Susan was still puzzled, mostly by his response. “But… grandfather… She’s a VAMPIRE!”

“That’s what I mean… about things you don’t know. About Vampires… the Earth variety of them, anyway. There are some nasty things out there in the galaxy, and if I thought they were on this train I’d be sharpening stakes right now. But Earth vampires are a different matter entirely. They’ve had a very bad press, mostly thanks to a novel written thirty odd years ago by an Irishman who never even travelled this far into Eastern Europe.”

“You mean they don’t drink blood?” Susan was less certain of herself now. She looked at her grandfather and waited for him to explain.

“They drink blood. But from volunteers – willing Humans, friends, lovers, servants, perhaps. They don’t need much. A little nip every few days is enough. The Human volunteers easily replace it as long as they’re healthy and eat plenty of protein rich food. They don’t take blood by force. They live quietly and try not to draw attention to themselves. They daren’t do anything else. They would be hounded by humans with misinformation and unfounded prejudices.”

“So… you’re saying that vampires never kill?”

“I wouldn’t say never. You might as well say humans never kill or even our own kind. We all have our bad eggs. Yes, there have been vampires who preyed upon humans. That’s where the mythology comes from. A few unscrupulous, greedy individuals. Most just want to be left alone. That lady doesn’t seem to be a problem to anyone. As for us, we’re supposed to be having a quiet trip. I’m minding my own business.”

“I wonder how long THAT will last!” Susan remarked with a knowing smile. “Your curiosity has got us into more trouble than…

“Than you spraining your ankles,” he countered. Susan gave him a cross look, but she couldn’t stay mad at him for long.

“When do you plan to tell Louise what it is that’s making her so tired?” she asked, trying to change the subject.

“Just as soon as I get used to the idea,” he answered. “I…”

The Doctor’s words were cut off by an anguished cry. It came from the freight car. He pulled his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and held it like a weapon, even though it was in lock-pick mode, and ran towards the sound. Susan followed cautiously. When she stepped through the door it was to see The Doctor comforting a pale faced man who was talking quickly in Rumanian. Susan understood his language because she had been a TARDIS traveller. But he was almost too quick to be coherent. His grief was obvious, though. She stepped closer and then drew back as she saw what was in the long box by his side.

The box was an ordinary packing crate of rough yellow-white wood. But inside was an elaborate coffin of polished oak. The lid had been slid aside.

And a body lay within. A body of what seemed to be a very elderly woman with white hair and deeply wrinkled face.

She was only recently dead, and it wasn’t an accident. Susan drew closer again and saw the bloody line around her neck where it had been cut with a sharp knife.

“She’s been murdered?”

“Yes,” the grieving man cried. Susan turned and looked at him. He was dressed in good quality evening clothes, obviously a first class passenger. He was dark haired but pale of complexion with bloodless lips. He looked about twenty-five years old. “Madelina… my wife… my poor wife… He murdered her.”

“Your wife?” Susan glanced at the dead woman again. And then she understood. “Oh…”

She looked from the woman’s face to the dress she was wearing. It was fine coral pink satin with a lace collar shaped like a scallop shell. She remembered the young woman who had worn that dress to drink iced water at dinner. She recognised the young man who had been with her. He had looked content earlier. Now his face was contorted with grief.

“She was turned a long time ago,” the young man said. “Nearly eighty years. In death… her true age was revealed.”

“But…” Susan looked at the man carefully, not only with her eyes, but her instincts. “You’re not a vampire. I can tell… you’re Human.”

“I am Anton Dodrescu,” he said, drawing himself up proudly despite his anguish. “My family have held property and power in Bucharest for twenty generations. My wife… was of the family Vladimirescu. Our marriage was… unconventional… but it was the joining of two great families… Even so it was not just a union of expedience. It was…”

“Love at first bite,” The Doctor commented wryly. Susan’s disapproving expression matched that of the grieving man. “Sorry. Couldn’t help myself. You married her… knowing what she was. You were her…” He gently reached out and touched the man’s collar briefly. He flinched and pushed his hand away, but The Doctor saw the marks. Yes, this Human had been a vampiress’s husband and her chief source of food, too. That was quite a definition of love.

And his grief at finding her dead was real.

“There’s nothing you can do for her like this,” The Doctor said.

“I can kill the diavol who did this to her,” he replied. “I will cut off his head and…”

“Grandfather!” Susan’s voice raised an octave. “There is a killer on this train… and Louise is on her own…”

“Yes. Susan, take Anton into the TARDIS. You will both be safe there. I am going to fetch Louise. Then we will decide what to do.”

Susan was a little apprehensive. Her preconceptions about vampires still coloured her feelings. But Anton wasn’t a vampire. He was a Human and one in distress, at that. She took him in hand. The Doctor turned and ran back through the train to the deluxe compartment where his wife was sleeping. His hearts thudded when he saw the door ajar. He opened it carefully, shifting his hold on the sonic screwdriver and adjusting it to the one mode that could be used as a weapon as he saw a shadow bending over his wife’s bed.

“Leave her alone!” he cried out. The vampire turned towards him, eyes red and fangs drawn. The Doctor acted on instinct. As the creature lunged he moved his hand quickly. The sonic screwdriver’s laser mode could cut through steel. It cut through the vampire’s neck easily. The creature’s head fell back, rolling on the floor before the body fell.

The Doctor stepped over the body and reached for his wife as she lay in a half-swoon, too frightened even to scream.

“It’s all right, sweetheart,” he told her. “Come with me, now. Don’t look at that thing. That’s right. Put your slippers on. Wrap your dressing gown around you…”

She clung to him as he brought her out of the compartment. She was trembling with shock and fear.

“Louise,” he said. “I know you’re no coward. You’ve been brave many times. This is one of those times. But nothing is going to harm you. We’re going to the TARDIS. You’ll be safe there. No harm will come to any innocent soul within the TARDIS.”

They reached the freight car. Louise had been buoyed by his words, but the sight of Madelina’s body distressed her. She was even more upset when The Doctor let go of her arm and instead lifted the corpse into his arms to bring into the TARDIS.

“Medical room,” he said as he stepped into the console room. Susan looked surprised then moved quickly to open the doors ahead of him.

“Mon Docteur,” Louise said as she watched him place the dead vampiress on the examination table. “What is the use? She is dead…”

“She is Undead,” The Doctor pointed out. “And I know quite a bit more about the Undead than any of you think. Anton… you know that there is one thing that CAN be done, don’t you?”

“Yes,” he said. “But she forbade me. On our wedding night… when I pledged my heart and soul to her… she made me promise … no matter what happened… She said she would rather die than face eternity without me.”

“She loved you truly,” The Doctor told him. “But there is a way. If you will accept our help. We can bring her back. And I think it is important that we should. The ‘he’ who killed her… It was one of your own, wasn’t it? There are other vampires on this train and they are killers...”

“Lucian,” Anton explained. “Lucian Vladimirescu… Her younger brother. He is power hungry enough even to kill his own sister.”

“Tell us the whole story while I get things ready,” The Doctor encouraged him. “Don’t be afraid. You’re among friends.”

“Madelina is the eldest child of Costin Vladimirescu. He was the head vampire, and the most powerful man in the Judet of Dâmbovita. He was a good man. He did not exploit the people, either in the usual way, through the rents paid to him as boyar, or by feeding on their blood. Madelina inherited the demesne from him. He refused Lucian any portion because he was too cruel, too cold-hearted. He knew his son would bring only darkness to the people. Lucian has plotted. He has gathered vampires of his own dark mind, and now he has killed Madelina, who stood in his way…”

“Grandfather,” Susan said. “You told me that Vampires don’t kill…”

“I told you there are always bad apples. Just as humans kill other humans… just as our own kind, too, are capable of producing aberrations… Vampires who kill other vampires… kill anyone who stands in their way… of course it is possible. But we need not leave it there. As I said, there is a way. Madelina isn’t yet beyond help.”

“No,” Anton replied sadly. “No. I would give my last drop of blood for her. But she made me swear not to sacrifice my life for hers… no matter what.”

“And I won’t make you break that oath,” The Doctor assured him. “I intend for you both to live. Sit down now and roll up your sleeve. Susan… sit beside him. I need you to play your part. I wouldn’t ask so much of you, my dear, but more than one innocent life is at stake. Louise, you help them both.”

Susan bit her lip unhappily as she did her grandfather’s bidding. She watched as he set up a simple gravity transfusion from Anton’s veins into the body of his dead wife. At the same time, he set up a transfusion from Susan to Anton.

“It must be Human blood,” The Doctor explained. “She needs the haemoglobin in red Human blood. Our Gallifreyan blood would not be any good to Madelina. But she made Anton swear not to sacrifice his life for hers. He cannot drain himself completely into her So Time Lord blood will sustain him in his turn until his body can replenish itself.”

“Mon Docteur!” Louise was surprised by what he proposed. “But… my blood is red… why cannot I…”

“Anton loves her. He alone has the right to give himself so fully. Besides… you have a greater duty, my love. You are already sustaining one innocent life. It is enough.”

“I….” Louise’s face paled as the meaning of his words sank in. Then she blushed deeply in contrast. “Oh… chéri… if it is true…”

“It is true. So you take no physical part in this. You are nurse to Anton and to Susan until she is strong enough. And a friend to Madelina when she recovers. But your blood stays in your veins, nurturing our child.”

“She is having a baby?” Anton looked at Louise and smiled warmly. “I am glad for you. But the danger is even greater. Lucian would use her in such terrible ways.”

“Lucian won’t touch her,” The Doctor replied fiercely. “I’ve dealt already with one of his minions who was trying to get to her. I’ll deal with the rest in a minute. Just as soon as I’m sure everyone here is doing all right.”

“Is it working?” Susan asked. She spoke quietly. She had given at least two pints of her own blood to Anton and was feeling weaker now. The Doctor stopped the transfusion from her and told her to sit quietly for a while. He stopped the transfusion from Anton to Madelina, too.

“You’ve given her three quarters of your own red blood,” he said. “You’ve received enough of my granddaughter’s blood to keep you alive. Your promise to Madelina has not been broken. But she has what she needs, now.”

“Is it enough?” Anton asked. “Will she…”

They both looked at her carefully. Was her flesh less grey now? Was the bloody scar on her neck healing up? It was easy to think so because they wanted it to be that way.

“It will take a little time,” The Doctor said. “Sit with her. Hope. There is never enough hope in the universe. But it goes a long way.”

“Where are you going?” Susan asked. “Grandfather…”

“I’m going to kill the vampires,” he answered. “Lucian and his minions. I’ve taken out one already. But however more there are…”


“Chéri…” Louise protested.

“Sir…” Anton added his own voice to the two women. “Sir… it is not your fight. Vampires… and those of us who throw in our lot with them… we fight our own battles. We do not ask humans to fight for us…”

“I’m not Human,” The Doctor answered him. “But a great many people on this train are. And it is a long time until morning. Lucian thinks he has triumphed. What do you think he will do to celebrate that triumph… given his dark intent.”

“He will kill every Human he comes upon,” Anton conceded. “There must be two hundred people on this train… He will feast upon them.”

“Unless I stop him. You three stay here, where you’re safe. Louise… protect our baby. Susan… look after Anton and Madelina. I will be back. Be sure of it. I’m The Doctor. I defeated the last Great Vampire in E-Space. I have fought space vampires of all kinds since I was a Time Lord teenager. I will deal with Lucian. I understand your concern. But when I found one of your brother-in-law’s followers leaning over my wife’s bed the line had already been crossed.”

Another line had been crossed when he, The Doctor, a man who believed in pacifism, in solutions that didn’t involve bloodletting, had killed that minion without a heartsbeat of thought about it. He had stopped being a pacifist for a time, and become a warrior.

That was why he went to the Wardrobe and found something he knew would be in the TARDIS, but which he had not used for a very long time. It was called a double butterfly sword. It was called that because it could be split into two short swords, one for each hand. Long ago he had learnt the Chinese martial art which included such swordsmanship.

Once learnt, never forgotten.

He got to practice it as soon as he stepped out of the TARDIS. Two of Lucian’s men were leaning over the empty coffin. He wasn’t sure what they were doing. But he paused only long enough to feel with his mind and recognise the brain patterns of vampires. Then he used both swords at once to behead them both.

He stalked on down the corridors of the long train. Stalk was the word. It wasn’t something he often did. The burning expression in his eyes as he encountered a third vampire coming out of a compartment bearing the name of ‘Dodrescu’ on the door wasn’t common to him, either. But when something drove him as it drove him now, he was a different man to the one Susan knew, or even the one Louise fell in love with. He could be a vampire slayer who set aside his beliefs about respecting all forms of life.

Because they had set those beliefs aside for him. They had shown that they cared nothing for life. Lucian had killed his own sister, one of his own kind. One of his minions had been a fraction of a second away from killing Louise and the precious life within her.

He came to the lounge. It was empty now. Beyond that, the restaurant car was quiet but for the waiters setting the tables for breakfast. They looked up as The Doctor, a first class passenger, passed by, but said nothing. It wasn’t their job to say anything.

Beyond the restaurant car was the galley and food storerooms. The Doctor checked carefully, but it was free of vampires. Then he passed into a baggage car. He noted the large pieces of freight placed carefully. Rough wood packing cases large enough to contain coffins. All of them were labelled ‘Vienna to Bucharest’. He sheathed the swords and took his sonic screwdriver in his hand to open the boxes. Six of them didn’t, in fact, contain coffins. But they were resting places for the lesser vampires that served Lucian. Six vampires servants – of whom he had already killed four. Those odds satisfied him.

The last box was slightly bigger and he wasn’t at all surprised to find a good quality coffin in it. Of course, Lucian wouldn’t have a brass plate with his name engraved in gothic font. That only happened in films. But it was obvious it belonged to him.

Vampires could move around in daylight, as long as the sun wasn’t too strong. The idea that they couldn’t was part of the mythology that surrounded them. But they did need somewhere to rest when they were tired. That was why Madelina had gone to the freight car to lie down after dinner. Lucian obviously wasn’t tired yet, but his bed was ready for when he was.

The Doctor looked at the wide double doors that slid open at the station to load and unload the baggage car. They were locked, but the sonic screwdriver made short work of that. He pushed the doors wide and looked out. The train was going at near enough a hundred miles an hour as its advertising promised. It was too dark to see just how fast the Hungarian countryside was passing by, but he could feel it in the wind that blew in his face.

He pushed Lucian’s coffin to the edge and let momentum tip it over. He didn’t hear any satisfying splintering as it broke up falling down the embankment from the railway because the train was already a quarter of a mile away when that happened. He let his imagination fill in that effect as he turned and did the same with the other boxes.

He was just finishing when two men came into the baggage car. He knew at once that they weren’t vampires. But they had the marks on their necks and a look in their eyes of subservience. They were Lucian’s Human henchmen who had brought the boxes to the platform at Vienna and overseen them as they were taken aboard the train.

“I have no argument with you,” The Doctor said. “It is with your master, who has betrayed his own kind and yours by murdering his sister and preying upon humans. Step aside and I will rid the world of his presence and free you from servitude to a fiend.”

It didn’t work. The two men came at him at once. He pocketed the sonic screwdriver and pulled out the two swords in one smooth movement as he got ready to fight for his life. The two men were far from expert swordsmen. They had little finesse. But there were two of them and The Doctor had to fight for it. And he knew there could be only one outcome of the fight.

The first man died accidentally, it had to be said. He miss timed a lunge that The Doctor easily dodged and the momentum of his body combined with the speed of the train propelled him towards the door. The Doctor tried to reach him, but it was too late. His scream was heard only briefly. They had already travelled a long way before his body hit the ground. Besides, his partner didn’t let up even for a second and The Doctor had to fight him furiously for several minutes more before his sword hit home, piercing the henchman’s body above the heart. He fell back through the same open door his comrade had already gone through. But he was already dead and there was no scream.

The Doctor stood by the door, the wind cooling his face but not his burning hearts. Taking life was not something he did lightly. And this man had fought him only because he was under a baleful influence, not because he truly was evil. If there had been any other way…

But now he knew what more he had to face. Lucian had two more vampire minions to protect him. He moved on through the train, past another wagon-lit where ordinary humans were settling down to sleep now, unaware that a man with swords in his hands was stalking a vampire in the polished wood panelled corridors of the Orient Express.

Beyond the wagon-lit was another lounge car with soft, comfortable chairs and tiffany lamps that gave the impression of being in a well-appointed drawing room while travelling across a continent. The Doctor stepped inside and avoided tripping over the unconscious steward who should have been looking after the needs of the passengers using the lounge.

The passengers using the lounge now didn’t need drinks or late night snacks. They had both in the form of a young woman in a silk nightdress who lay in a swoon across one of the padded footstools. The Doctor could see that she was alive, still, but only because vampires liked their blood warm. She was a larder preserving the rest of herself for later.

That would have been Louise if he hadn’t stopped her being taken. That thought drove The Doctor’s actions as he crossed the floor with the butterfly swords in both hands. The vampire minions fought him as the two humans had done already, but with slightly more finesse and considerably more strength. Lucian sat and watched. He obviously expected his servants to dispatch him quickly so that he could go on with his feast.

The Doctor fought with every ounce of his superior alien strength and stamina, and it was the two vampires who were dispatched. Lucian’s expression flickered momentarily as he saw his two servants both fall at once. He realised The Doctor was a force to be reckoned with. But he stood in one smooth movement and drew his own sword.

“Another Human who thinks he can rid the world of vampires!” Lucian sneered as he faced The Doctor and found his lunge parried skilfully. “Another would-be Van Helsing? Don’t think I don’t know the fictions that colour Human imaginations. Don’t think you’re the first to inconvenience me in this way. That one turning to dust over there… He tried to kill me because I fed on his wife and child. I turned him and bound him to serve me. I’ll do the same for you… and then find out if you have a wife or children and enjoy them while you watch!”

“Not Van Helsing,” The Doctor replied, calmly ignoring the last cruel remarks since he knew his wife was out of reach of any threat. “And not a Human, either. I am The Doctor. And I protect the innocent - Human, Vampire alike - from evil. I’ve been doing that since before you became Undead. Your sister isn’t dead, by the way. Anton made the sacrifice after all. Did you think his promise to her wouldn’t be overruled by his love? He gave himself for her. Nobody will do the same for you when I kill you.”

After that, he didn’t waste any energy on words. Nor, in fact, did Lucian. He had learnt to fight with a sword at least a century before and had honed the skill since. The Doctor had learnt fencing, a gentleman’s sport, nearly eight hundred years before, at the Prydonian academy. He hadn’t honed his skills as regularly as he should. Having decided to be a pacifist he didn’t hold a sword often enough. But he hadn’t forgotten how. He fought hard. He fought well.

He fought for a long time. Lucian was harder to best than any two of his minions together. The Doctor actually began to wonder if he was going to fail. Lucian’s strength was equal to his own.

Then he heard footsteps behind him. He glanced around, expecting one of Lucian’s minions that he had missed. He was surprised, and relieved to find an ally coming to his side.

“Anton,” he said. “You’re not strong enough, yet. You shouldn’t…”

“I’m strong enough. And I told you before, Doctor… this isn’t your fight. I am grateful for what you have done thus far. But on my honour I could not leave you to face this diavol alone.”

“Dodrescu!” Lucian sneered. “So… your Doctor friend lied. You didn’t sacrifice yourself, after all. My pathetic sister is dead, after all.”

“No. I’m not, Lucian,” Madelina answered. The Doctor didn’t look around as she stepped into the lounge car. Neither did Anton. But Lucian was distracted for a brief moment. And it was a moment that his brother-in-law took advantage of. The Doctor stepped back as Anton pressed forward and his sword ran through Lucian’s throat. He drew the blade back and then swung it. Lucian’s head toppled back absurdly slowly at first, but it was completely severed. It was over.

“Clean your sword,” The Doctor said quietly. “Never leave a blade with blood on it.” He couldn’t think of anything else to say for a moment. They both cleaned their swords and sheathed them before they turned to see Madelina, alive and well and restored to youth. Susan and Louise stood either side of her. Madelina broke first and ran to her husband’s arms. His own wife and granddaughter crossed the floor a few seconds later and hugged him tightly.

“You’re all supposed to be safe inside the TARDIS,” he said. “When will you ever learn… when I say stay... When will you learn to do what I tell you?”

“When you learn to mind your own business and not dive headlong into trouble,” Susan answered.

“Fair enough,” The Doctor conceded. He looked around and saw Lucian’s body crumbling to dust. Complete decapitation of a vampire body would do that. With Lucian’s death, the bodies of his minions would disintegrate, too. The Orient Express would be a little untidy. The stewards would have a lot of work to do overnight. But there were no bodies to be investigated by the Hungarian police when the train reached Budapest. The young woman and the steward would be ill in the morning, and would take a few days to recover completely, but they WOULD recover.

“When we’ve finished this relaxing train journey,” Susan commented. “We’re going to need a relaxing holiday to recover from it.”

“Would a few days in a peaceful part of rural Rumania do?” Anton asked. “You would be welcome, all of you. Madelina and I owe you more than we can begin to repay.”

Susan considered the offer of a holiday in the home of a vampire, and decided there were worse ways to relax.