(Based on a story by Tom Baker and Ian Marter)
The Harpys talons tightened around Elena’s shoulders enough to draw blood as the Cyclops struggled to break free. Elena’s constant fighting very nearly caused the Harpy to lose her balance and go tumbling into the lake with the time traveller in tow.
“I’m here to help. Keep on with this and we’ll both end up in the lake.” The Harpy shrieked. Its voice was so high pitched, Elena almost couldn’t make out what it said.
Elena didn’t trust the Demon, but she realised it was pointless to keep fighting the beast. Wherever the Harpy was planning to take her, it couldn’t be worse than the pit, she hoped. The Harpy ascended to high above the lake before any of the souls could reach out of the water and try and pull the two relcutant companions in.
“We have to find her” The Doctor pleaded with Charon.
“Trust me, she’s better off with those Harpies than you both are. Either these souls will tip the boat, or worse you’ll end up where I’m supposed to take you.” Charon said.
More and more of the souls kept climbing over board whilst hundreds of the ghosts gathered round the bottom of the vehicle and started to try and pull it down.
“We’re sinking, quick shut the hatch.” Charon shouted as he tried to operate the controls.
The Doctor was able to seal the lock with his sonic screwdriver before any more of the damned souls could enter, though unfortunately 3 of the Ghosts had managed to crawl into the ship itself during the commotion. One of the Ghosts was able to jump Charon from behind, wrestling the gun from his hand and throwing it to the floor. When the Doctor tried to reach it, one of the creatures jumped in front of the weapon.
At the back of the room the Doctor could see the Ghost that had attacked Charon toss his body to the ground.
He wasn’t sure if the legendary Ferryman of the Dead was alive or not, and he didn’t particularly care.
Yarox tried to attack one of the Ghosts, but the Doctor held him back.
“They’ve been burning in a lake of fire for thousands of years. I don’t think we will be able to hurt them with our fists.” The Doctor said.
“Well what are we going to do.”
“Try and reason with them”
“You heard me.”
The Doctor stood seemingly unafraid of the three ghosts who shuffled around him. In reality he was absolutely terrified, but the Time Lord hoped he could gain the damned souls trust more if he came from a position of understanding, rather than necessity.
“I am the Doctor. Believe it or not, I am not your enemy. The creature who imprisoned you in this lake, he wants my vessel to escape this realm. If you kill me now, he’ll still have my vessel. He’ll still eventually find a way to use it to escape. If you help me, well maybe I can escape and leave him trapped here.”
“We know” one of the corpses said in a feminine voice. It had obviously been a woman in life, but the body was little more than a skeleton.
“That’s why we were trying to help you.”
“We are part of the last resistance of this universe against the terror that threatens yours. You don’t think we’d be on the side of the monster that dropped us in the lake of fire do you?”
“Well no I suppose not.” The Doctor replied.
“Charon however said that the lake turns you into monsters? Granted he’s not the most trustworthy source, but.”
“He’s right. The fire burns most people’s identities away until they’re nothing but animals. Some of us however endure through the fire, for whatever reason. Love, hope, or a desire for vengeance against Scratchman. One in every million souls condemned to that lake, still remembers who it is, though only one in every million of them is not driven completely insane, like those Scarecrow’s that attacked your dimension. Eventually those of us who kept our identities decided to get together to protect ourselves. That’s when the Harpies contacted us.”
“They didn’t seem to be too friendly.” Yarox said.
“Trust me they are the good guys. They are the last of what was once a mighty race in this universe. One every bit as advanced as yours Time Lord.”
“Ah so you know about me then.”
“The Harpies do. They’ve been fighting Scratchman for a millenia. They wanted to help you escape. It was our job to keep the Ferryman of the dead occupied long enough for the Harpies to get you to their command. Trust me, given the dangers that exist in this lake, even that was a tremendous task. Sadly we failed. If the Harpies were to return now they’d be swamped by the other souls in the lake. They’d never get you to safety in time. The Harpy’s may have got your vessel off of Scratchman’s minions though, but it makes no difference if you can’t pilot it.”
“Well if you’d just explained then I’d have been happy to go with you. Still we’re not entirely blameless. I should have learned by now after 10 lifetimes, not to judge people by their appearances. Is there any way we can contact the Harpies?”
“No I’m afraid not. It won’t be long before Scratchman’s most heinous minions will be here. We have to escape to Ammit’s cave.”
“Ammit are you insane?” One of the other Ghosts said.
“Not even Scratchman’s most dangerous Demons will dare follow us in there. Only Scratchman himself would, but he’s too lazy to attack right away. Ammit’s cave might give us the time to formulate a plan.”
“Assuming Ammit doesn’t eat us all right away?”
“That’s a chance we will have to take. We cannot allow Scratchman to get hold of the Time Lord. You heard what the Harpies said he will do to the other universe, or rather to my universe. I come from the planet earth too Time Lord. Even I struggle to remember who I was at times, but I do know that the person I was in life did not deserve this.”
“Well no one deserves this.” The Doctor said with regret.
“Still if this cave is the only way forward then we need to get there at once.” The Doctor continued as he started to examine the controls.
“I’m sorry this machine is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.” The Doctor said as he inspected the controls.
“Charon is the only one who can help us. I hope you haven’t killed him.”
“Not at all, he’s a victim just like us. Besides if we did he’d just come back again.”
“Ah of course, I can’t throw stones though. I’ve come back 9 times already.”
As soon as he awoke, Charon tried to overpower the three Ghosts who managed to restrain him.
“We need your help Charon.” The female Ghost said.
“Why on earth do you think I’d help you? Don’t get me wrong I feel bad for you, the little feeling I have left, but you know as well as I do, its a good idea not to cross Scratchman.”
“I also know that you hate your existence. You might try to act as though you don’t care, but deep down every second you wish it would just end. You were once a hero and now you’re a lap dog for an evil greater than you could have ever imagined. Worse you bring people to him every day. If you help him now, he’ll keep you alive in this state forever. What if I were to tell you that I could end it.”
“I’d say you were a liar, a desperate liar who still doesn’t realise that you can’t fight him.”
“We want to make our way into the Destroyers cave.”
“Then I’d say you were insane.”
“Its the best place to hide for us. Ammit though dangerous is just an animal. None of Scratchman’s Demons will follow us in there. It will give us time to contact the Harpies, and eternal rest for you. You know that when Ammit devours a person’s soul they die for good. Even Scratchman can’t bring them back.”
“I’m surprised he would have something like that? Is Ammit not too merciful a creature for old Harry Scratch?” The Doctor said.
“He uses it to keep the Demons who are loyal to him in check. Also its been quite an effective method of torture for us too. Every second in that lake is agony, and just up ahead is a creature we know will end our pain. All of us have tried to swim towards it, but we are pulled back, either by the current or.”
“Or what?” The Doctor asked.
“You don’t have to tell me about the Kraken.” Charon said with regret.
“I’ve tried to get into Ammit’s cave a billion times, only for that tentacled monster to eat me every time. There’s no way we can get past it.”
“Yes there is. The Harpies have prepared a ritual that will weaken the beast. They’ve been working on it for centuries. We just have to chant it when it emerges.”
“What if it doesn’t work? What if Scratchman.”
“If you will allow me to interrupt.” The Doctor said.
“From what I gather before this horrible mess you were once a good man. The fact that you want to be free of the life you are living now shows that some trace of him still exists. Tell me would the person you were before this not take any chance he could, no matter how remote to stop a monster like Scratchman?”
Charon was silent for a few minutes before he started to work the controls.
“I suppose it can’t get any worse for me.” The ferryman of the dead said.
“You’ll need to tell your friends out there to let us go.”
The Harpy had arrived at its destination. A gigantic purple mountain that looked as though it was phasing in and out. The mountain had the ability to change its location which was how it had eluded Scratchman for such a long while. Gathered at the foot of the mountain where hordes of hideous creatures, clearly the servants of Scratchman. It couldn’t remain here much longer.
There was no entrance, and the Harpy simply flew into the mountain. Elena screamed at it to stop, but before she knew it she was inside a gigantic dark cavern. Below she could see hundreds of strange creatures. Centaurs, Harpies, Satyrs, Cyclops, as well as what looked like living skeletons were all gathered together in front of a gigantic altar where a larger, blue Harpy sat.
Elena’s Harpy flew her towards the larger Harpy, who was clearly in charge.
“I am sorry we were unable to get hold of the Time Lord.” The Harpy said as she lowered Elena down in front of its master.
“What about the TARDIS?” The Blue Harpy asked of its other subordinate.
“I’m afraid the platoon were ambushed by Demons and… We failed. It is in Scratchman’s care now.”
“I have one of his companions. We might be able to use her.” The Harpy that had captured Elena said.
“She’s worthless” The blue Harpy said, much to Elena’s annoyance. Not that it cared.
“The Time Lord is the only one that matters. Only he can pilot his ship to escape from this reality. Scratchman will find him and force the Doctor to create a rip to their universe.”
“The Doctor would never give in to that monster” Elena protested.
“Trust me. No one can withstand Scratchman. The Time Lord will eventually break. All is lost.”
The crowd started to go insane. Their leader didn’t even attempt to calm them down. What could she say?
“There must be something we can do.” The lesser Harpy said.
“What do you propose? Launch a full attack on Scratchman’s castle?”
“Why not”? Elena asked.
“Don’t be fooled by our army. Its tiny compared to Scratchman. We’d be lucky to last a few hours, and we still don’t have anything we can harm that monster with.”
“Well maybe a few hours is all we need” The lesser Harpy said.
“Like you said. The most important thing is to make sure that Scratchman doesn’t get his grubby mits on the TARDIS. Our universe is done.”
“Don’t say that?” One of the lesser Harpy’s said.
“One day we will be free of Scratchman, one day our descendents will celebrate overcoming that monster.”
The Harpy Queen didn’t even bother to reply.
“If we can get the TARDIS back to the Doctor it might be a worthy cause” She said.
“Tell me what happened to the Doctor when you last saw him.”
“Several of the damned souls we were in contact with had managed to stop Charon’s boat, but they won’t last long before either Scratchman’s souls or Demons arrive.
“Still there is a chance they haven’t got to him yet. We need to send more Harpies to try and find him, whilst the rest of us take the front and try and rescue the TARDIS.”
“What about the Black Knight?”
“We can’t afford to risk him being exposed now. If this battle doesn’t work, he will be our final option, but we need to get the TARDIS. If we can do anything to stop him from doing this to another reality, won’t that be worth it? We need to take the war to Scratchman himself.”
To Be Continued