BBC Audiobook, narrated by Paul McGann, released on 7th Sept 1998
children on a beach, long, long ago. Both of them young enough to
believe in magic. One is the Bear Cub, round and heavy, rolling,
confident, his nose into every tumbled rock, his feet into the freezing
grey surf as it sucks over the pebbles, his blue-green eyes tracking
the misted red cliffs for paths that can be conquered. The other is the
Young Deer, long-limbed and fragile, uncertain, awkward, uncomfortable
on the rough edges of the rock, jumping back from the cold, aggressive
sea, terrified of falling from the high cliffs that his friend insists
on climbing. But they are friends, even so, because Bear Cub makes
Young Deer feel useful, and Young Deer makes Bear Cub feel brave. Today
they are building a miniature temple of stones. It doesn't look much.
Two lines of upright pebbles in the dry sand, just above the reach of
the waves. But the pebbles are special. Those on the left are smooth
and squat, those on the right, tall and angular, this marking the
difference between the principles of earth and sky. Young Deer spent
most of the morning looking for the right stones. He is the son of the
Clan Priest, and he must get this baby temple right. It's even aligned
according to the rule of stars, facing north east towards the
approximate position of the midsummer sunrise. But now it has been
spoilt. One of the stones has fallen, the victim of a scrawny seagull
searching for food. Although Young Deer is angry, he doesn't show it.
The stone can always be put back in place. But before he can act, Bear
Cub is running across the temple, knocking one of the other stones over
as he goes.
'I'm going to catch that bird and kill it,' he says, though the gull has already flown away and become indistinguishable from a hundred others riding the wind, half-obscured by the mild steamy drizzle blowing in from the sea. When he realises that the bird is out of reach, he runs back up the beach towards the winter settlement, a straggling collection of thatch-topped huts built inside a high stockade above the river.
'Stop!' calls Young Deer.
He doesn't want to be left alone on the beach. Without his powerful friend to protect him, he might be set upon and beaten by the gang of boys who call themselves the Bear Men. But he doesn't want to leave the beach, doesn't want to leave his temple half-built because of this one accident. He starts to run after Bear Cub. 'Stop!' Bear Cub half-turns, dancing on the spot as he shouts back to his friend.
'I'm going to get my bow. I'm going to shoot that bird.'
Bear Cub's father won't let him shoot gulls on the beach. The chance of losing an arrow is too great. But Bear Cub doesn't remember this in his anger and impatience. Young Deer does. He always remembers when Bear Cub forgets. This is another reason why they are friends.
'I've got a better idea,' he yells.
In fact he hasn't, yet, but he knows that if he thinks quickly he can probably come up with something more exciting and immediate than shooting a seagull. Bear Cub doesn't stop his dancing on the spot, but at least he doesn't run off.
'What? What is it?'
'My father,' begins Young Deer, still thinking. 'When he does the sacrifices. Yes, yes, this will work. He can substitute one animal for another. If the gods call for the sacrifice of a boar and the hunters can't catch one, he'll kill a goat instead. So we could kill something else instead of the seagull. You could get a fish from one of the pools.'
This is an inspiration. Bear Cub never tires of showing off his speed and skill catching the slippery finger-sized fish with a single swoop of his net. Young Deer is hopeless at it. They always get away from him, even when the pool is almost dry. It works. Bear Cub is already trotting back, his eyes alight, a huge grin on his face.
'I can go one better than that,' he says. He always can. 'I can take a baby seagull from one of the nests on the cliff.'
Young Deer feels a thrill of anticipation. This is reckless, brave, interesting. It's something he couldn't possibly do, but if his friend does it, then he will share in the glory.
'Right,' says Bear Cub, breathing the answer in his friends face. 'I know a path that will get us there.'
(Cries of gulls.)
The stone is upright again, stained with the young bird's blood. The flock are still screaming overhead, but they've given up diving at the two boys. Probably they know that the bundle of guts and bloodied brown feathers is no longer alive. But Young Deer was afraid of them, diving like that, even as he carried out the sacrifice. Bear Cub wasn't afraid, of course. In fact, he quite enjoyed the thrill of it, swatting at the screaming white bodies, collecting a couple of long, perfect wing feathers. He's already thinking that he'd like to catch an adult seagull alive, so that it can be sacrificed. He's not sure what would be achieved by this, but it should be fun trying, and he could mount the long feathers in a headdress afterwards. He picks up a stone and lobs it at the flock. Young Deer, for his part, is thinking about his temple. It won't last. If nothing else, the sea will demolish it with the next high tide.
'We should build a temple on the sheep pasture,' he tells Bear Cub.
'Because it'll last longer.' In fact, Young Deer is thinking again. 'A circle would be better, because circles have more power, like the Great Temple.l
'The Great Temple's made of wood,' observe Bear Cub.
'Yes, but we can make a little one of stone.'
Bear Cub's eyes light up as the idea hits his brain and germinates.
'Or we could make a big one. As big as the Great Temple, but made of stones.'
He begins looking around the beach, as if he hopes to find suitable stones now and drag them upright himself. But this time it's Young Deer who goes one better.
'Not just as big as the Great Temple, but the Great Temple itself, rebuilt in stone.'
He can see it now. The inner and outer circles, a totem carved wooden post replaced by stones. If the stones were big enough, and if the pits they stood in were deep enough, then nothing could knock them over. It would be the most powerful temple in the world. It would last for ever. He turns, looks not at the sea but the land. Hunched enormous hills framed by red cliffs, crowned by the brown winter skeletons of trees. He feels a wild excitement as the image of the stone temple in his mind superimposes itself on the land. If he can make this happen, he will have made something as huge and eternal as the land itself. He will be immortal.
'Come on,' says Bear Cub, impatiently. 'Let's go and find some really big stones. I'll get my brother to help us move them, if you like.'
But Young Deer stops his friend with a raised hand. 'No,' he says. 'If we're going to build a proper temple, there are things we need to do first.'
He's thinking of a sacrifice, of course, to obtain the blessing of the ancestors. But even he doesn't realise how many sacrifices will be needed. Not yet.
'Hmm?' The Doctor was propped up in his favourite armchair, feet on a stool, reading. A red mug of cocoa was on the arm of his chair, and Sam was cradling another one in her hands. In her lap was a book. A glossy, old fashioned, rather heavy hardback book.
'I want to see Stonehenge.'
Sam grinned. She liked the way that the Doctor was never, ever, taken aback, and usually managed to one one further.
'When it was built. It says in this book that no one will ever be sure how they moved the stones.'
The Doctor glanced up. 'Magic.'
Sam was surprised, but did her best not to show it.
'Did it work?' she asked, as casually as she could manage.
'No. They had to use ropes in the end.' The Doctor grinned at his little joke and went back to his book.
Sam was disappointed. More disappointed than she'd expected. She hadn't really believed there was any magic in an old stone circle, but 'There's no magic then?'
'No,' she glanced down at her book, 'meeting of ley lines, no temple of the people?'
The Doctor glanced up sharply. 'I didn't say that. But magic isn't usually very useful. Any magic sufficiently advanced becomes indistinguishable from technology, and no fun any more.'
'Shouldn't that be any technology sufficiently advanced?'
'Yes,' said the Doctor. 'That's another way of putting it. Did you know that Henry James believed in ghosts?'
'No,' said Sam, then, well aware that the Doctor, given half a chance would start on a digression about how he'd met the novelist at some function in 1872 or suggested the ending of one of his novels, she added quickly 'but I'd still like to see Stonehenge when it was new, when people used it as a temple.'
'Are you sure about that? said the Doctor. 'It was the late stone age, you know. There were a lot of very nasty ceremonies involved. I don't think you'll like it. Megalithomania, I believe one archaeologist called it.'
Sam sighed. 'Have we had this conversation before? You don't try to keep me from seeing things just because you think I won't like them, okay?'
The Doctor met her eyes. She didn't look away. He took a deep breath. 'Okay. Yes, if that's the way you want it. He got up, his mug of cocoa in his hands, and walked towards the console.
Like oxen, Dorlan felt the ropes bite into his chest as a group of them hauled on the stone in the near darkness. He put all the strength he had into the task, leaning into the ropes. His feet slipped on the muddy ground made slick by the endless rain.
They work you like oxen on that temple of theirs. Dorlan risked a glance over his shoulder. The stone hadn't moved, but in the light of the flames it seemed to dance against the black sky like an angry spirit. The spirit of evil, perhaps. Dorlan shivered. He was sure this was the biggest stone yet. Somehow in the rain and darkness they'd got it into the pit that had been dug for it. Now it stood upright but tilted. All that remained was to pull it to the vertical, always the hardest part of the job.
They will slaughter you when they've finished, like an ox that can't work any more. Fighting his exhaustion, Dorlan made himself pull again. The aching whip scars on his shoulders reminded him what would happen if the stone didn't move this time. From the corner of his eye he could the Bear men standing, waiting, staring at the stone. It will be better to die, my son. No it won't, thought Dorlan, fiercely. He remembered his father's face twisted in rage and pain and humiliation, and the spear wound that he had received in the battle bleeding each morning, and finally swelling until his father, black-faced, had died in agony, leaving Dorlan barely a man, chief of a conquered people. But it isn't better to die. It isn't. He yanked on the rope, almost slipping again.
'Come on!' he gasped. 'Pull! We'll get this thing built for them yet, and then we'll go home. Pull!'
There was a ragged cheer. Dorlan felt the weight on his shoulders increase. The weight of responsibility. His people still believed in him. If he told them to pull, they pulled harder. But the ropes bit, Dorlan's feet slipped in the mud, the stone didn't move. Dorlan looked across at the fires, the children whose job it was to keep them burning. He saw his sister, Saffan, run up with some dry wood, her eyes blinking furiously in the smoke, swaying a little as she stood and fed the flames. She looked at the limit of her strength, like Dorlan, like every single one of his people, man, woman and child. When had any of them last slept? The Great Bear, the king of these Bear Men, was insane.
'Why aren't you telling them to pull?'
Dorlan became aware of a shadow standing over him. He looked up, saw antlers shifting in the flame light, and the shadow of a man's body. Deer hide with the hooves still attached swaying like charms. The click of bones, deer bones from the necklace he wore. Shalin, the Deer Man, the magic maker. Dorlan shivered. Even though Dorlan had never seen him hurt anyone, the Deer Man was somehow more frightening than his master. His bright eyes, his constant talk of numbers, and rotations, and elevations, and plans, and circles. His southern mysteries, as he called them, made him seem both more and less than human. A god, but not a kind one.
'It isn't working,' he told Shalin, trying to keep his voice from shaking. 'We haven't the strength to do it. Perhaps if we rested?'
'There isn't time,' snapped the Deer Man. 'There are ten more stones waiting at the end of the Great Avenue, and they must all be laid before the solstice ceremony can be held. That's ten days away, so it's one stone a day, understand? And this is yesterday's stone, so it must be done tonight!'
Dorlan shut his eyes wearily. It didn't make any sense. None of it made any sense. Working in the winter, in the rain, was stupid enough. Working all night was pointless. Everyone would be too tired to work in the day, and why by the solstice? Even the Deer Man wasn't pretending that the temple would be completed by then.
'I'm going to try something,' said Shalin, suddenly. He was standing in front of them now, an antlered silhouette against the fire-lit stone. He was moving his fingers above his head. The long, dead legs of the deer hide swaying from his wrists. Dorlan recognised the gestures. Counting, he called it. Another of his southern mysteries. Finally Shalin seemed satisfied. He moved to one side of the team near to where Saffan still stood, weary, by the fire.
'I want everyone from here,' Shalin stamped on the ground with his foot, then danced across to the other side of the team, 'to here, to pull when I say Bear. Then I want everyone from here to' He danced again, the antlers swaying in the light and the necklace of deer bones clicking. 'Over here to pull when I say Deer. Understand?'
Dorlan was fairly sure that what Shalin was trying to do wasn't going to help. If all the men pulling together couldn't move the stone, how could half of them do it? But he knew better than to argue. He watched, still confused, as Shalin separated the two teams until each was at an angle to the stone. The ropes shifted, dripped water. At last Shalin walked forward, taking a place between the two teams. The rain was heavier now, threatening to dowse the fires. Dorlan could hear the water hissing as it hit the burning wood, like a snake.
'Yes, father,' thought Dorlan dumbly. 'It's probably an omen. But what can I do?'
'Deer!' shouted Shalin. Men pulled. 'Bear!' Dorlan pulled, felt the stone move slightly. Or had the rope just been a little slack? 'Deer!'
Another slight movement. This time Dorlan was sure it was the stone shifting. Perhaps the Deer Man's incomprehensible plan was going to work.
The rope went slack. For an instant Dorlan thought it had broken, then he heard Shalin yell something in his own language, his voice high and panicky. He heard earth breaking, a huge popping sound, a crack of wood and a grinding of stone. Dorlan struggled to turn around, clumsy in his harness. He saw the stone tilting, no, falling towards the fire and the children.
'Saffan!' he shouted, 'Run!'
But the hammerhead was already slamming into the fire, and burning fragments were flying in all directions. One of the children screamed, and went on screaming. Dorlan shrugged off his harness, ran through the tangle of slack ropes and confused, frightened people, towards the fallen stone. He almost fell twice in the slick mud. The screaming had stopped, but Dorlan could hear a gasping, gurgling sound which was much more frightening.
'Dorlan.' Saffan's voice. 'Quick, it's Marin.' Her best friend.
He reached the stone, scrambled around it, almost burning himself on the smouldering fragments of the fire. On the far side, Saffan was standing, her eyes wide, staring down at a shape in the shadow of the stone. Dorlan approached, saw that the shape was Marin. As his eyes adjusted to the dim red light he made out the child's head, her arm, part of her chest. The rest was buried under the fallen stone.
'She's dead,' Saffan informed him expressionlessly. 'I'll tell her mother.' Then she turned on her heel and walked away.
Dorlan knelt down, put a hand in front of the girl's mouth. But Saffan was right. There was no breath. He felt his heart pound, his muscles tense in helpless anger and frustration. Marin had been a happy, healthy child. In time she would have made a good wife, a good mother of many children, and he knew she had been learning the hide stitching craft that was her mother's. Now she would stitch no hides, marry no one, be mother to no one, and Dorlan's people would be the worse for it. He hit his fists against the grey stone. The shock and pain jolted him to his feet, his head buzzing with anger.
'Why did this happen?' he yelled. 'Who did this?'
At his words, light burst around the long side of the fallen stone. The strong light of lanterns burning with rendered oil. A huge man stood there, careless of the still smouldering ruins of the fire around his feet. He was dressed in the hide of a bear, with the long shaggy winter fur still attached. A square plate of gold burned on his chest, and below that a dark belt held the bronze dagger and axe of the man who called himself Great High Supreme Chieftain and King, Lord of All the Lands and All the Peoples. Coyn, the Great Bear. Two of his Bear men stood on either side, one with a flare, one with a raised axe. They always stood like that, ready to kill anyone who approached their master without permission.
'Who did this?' said Coyn suddenly, repeating Dorlan's words, his eyes on Dorlan's face. 'You know, I was about to ask that myself, but you said it first.' He took a step forward. 'That must be an omen, don't you think?
'That's it! ' said the Doctor, pointing straight in front of them. 'The temple of the great people of the Bear.' He flashed her a bright grin. 'Known to some later humans as Stonehenge.'
Sam looked, but she wasn't quite sure what he was pointing at. It was still only half light. Grey clouds raced in the wind and the air was full of a thin, cold drizzle. Worse, Salisbury Plain in the late Neolithic appeared to be a built up area. From the edge of the forest where she and the Doctor were standing, Sam could see two large clusters of rotund wooden huts with thatched roofs, each encircled by a high wooden stockade. There were other, more distant, stockades that she couldn't see inside and several individual wooden buildings, mostly circular, some quite large. She also counted at least a dozen mounds that were obviously artificial. The two biggest were the size of small hills, and capped with trees. There were quite a few standing stones, one of them surrounded with something that looked almost like modern scaffolding. None in anything that resembled the circular pattern. And everywhere there were artificial banks, lines of posts, brown strips on the earth that Sam first thought were roads, then decided might be fields of some sort. Everything overlapped everything else. Fences crossed fields, rows of posts ascended to hulking longbarrows. The half-light added to the sense of mystery and confusion. Sam realised that it was probably before sunrise. Despite all the buildings, she could see no people about. She admitted defeat at last.
'Which one is the temple?'
'The big one. Low, flat. See the stones rising above the stockade? Those are the trilithons. I think they've got three of them up already.'
Sam looked again, saw a shadow of grey. Yes, one of the stockades on top of a low earth bank. It was about a kilometre away, and seemed to enclose a roughly circular space. It was hard to see inside in the poor light. They weren't really far enough above the structure for that. But now she was sure what she was looking at, Sam realised she could just see the flat tops of grey stones inside. She felt her heart hammering with excitement, and set off across the muddy ground, dodging tussocky grass and loose stones, letting the Doctor tag along behind for a change.
A black bony dog ran out of a derelict looking hut, barked at Sam as she passed, then sniffed the air and howled.
She looked over her shoulder.
'Come back, you're going the wrong way.'
Sam looked around at the dark landscape, confused. She had been looking at the right place, hadn't she?
'You said it was straight ahead.'
'Yes, but we have to approach it properly.'
'Ah. This is respecting their culture, isn't it?' she said aloud. 'We're guests on their lands so we have to follow their routes.'
But the Doctor had already marched off along a line of carved posts almost directly away from their destination. Sam could see now that it ended in another stockade surrounding a longbarrow. Two grey stones were just visible at the entrance, standing like guards with a carved wooden lintel between them.
'This is one of the ceremonial routes,' the Doctor said without looking around. 'There were five others we could have taken, according to the season, but,' he looked around and flashed her another brilliant smile, 'I think you'll agree when you've seen it, that this is the pretty one.'
Sam was still grinning to herself when they heard a man scream.
'Who did this?' Coyn's question was an animal growl, the call of an angry bear. He twisted Dorlan's arm again, and again Dorlan screamed with pain. He was sure the arm was already broken. He could feel the wrongness in the way it moved, and the pain as if a knife were cutting the flesh away from inside. He looked up, his eyes misting, and saw his sister hiding her face in her hands, sobbing.
'The rain did it.' he said, wishing that his voice sounded more like a man's, less a boy's half-choked sob. 'The rain. It fell.'
'This didn't happen because of the rain. The pit was deliberately weakened.'
Coyn twisted the broken arm again. Dorlan gritted his teeth, but the scream escaped. His vision blurred and he felt tears trickling down his cheeks. The shame was almost worse than the pain.
Dorlan became aware that another face had appeared in front of him. A face painted with red and white clay in the curved lines of the Deer Man. The look in his brown, deer-like eyes was curiously sympathetic. His glance kept sliding sideways towards Coyn, who was pacing up and down beside the stone that had fallen. There was fear in that glance.
'You didn't do it, did you,' said the Deer Man quietly, 'but you know who did. Now, tell me, and I'll mend your arm, and you won't have to work again. And your sister won't have to work.'
'No one.' Dorlan's teeth were chattering.
'Give him a name, Dorlan,' said the Deer Man. 'Any name. It doesn't matter who. If you don't, he'll just kill you, then somebody else, then somebody else.'
Dorlan felt a wave of faintness. For a moment he was floating above the northern waters, the place where his people had lived before they were conquered, and his father was speaking to him again. But he couldn't understand the words. He heard shouting, and opened his eyes, the Deer Man's dark face still peering into his. And the voice of his father's brother, Teln.
'Stop this. The stone fell because of an accident. Any one can see that.'
The sound of a blow, a grunt of pain, a woman's scream. Dorlan tried to sit up, was surprised when the Deer Man helped him. He saw his people crowding forward in the half-light, the Bear Men standing with their axes and spears at the ready. Responsibility.
'Stop it,' he called weakly, his voice catching in his throat. The shouting went on. Dorlan fought the pain, made himself take a deep breath. If they tried to fight now, they would all be killed.
There was silence. The Great Bear, who had been standing with his men, turned slowly and looked down at him.
'I am the Chieftain. I'll take responsibility for this,' said Dorlan. 'Kill me. Do whatever you want, but leave the rest of my people alone.'
Coyn laughed. Laughed so hard that his necklace of bear's teeth rattled.
'Dorlan, it's good to see such bravery from the son of a man I killed. It shows that you have the true spirit of a warrior of your people. And you know what?' He took a pace forward, leaned down and put his face so close to Dorlan's that the young man could smell the rotting meat on the king's breath. 'I'm going to accept your courage, and respond to it in kind. You're going to die for this.'
For a moment Dorlan simply didn't believe him, but then the Great Bear stood up and shouted, 'Bring the drums. Bring the masks. We're going to have a sacrifice, here, now!'
The Bear Men started to move, heavy feet splashing in the pools of water that lay all over the muddy ground. Dorlan watched, his body shaking, and slowly realised that the insane king was serious. He was going to die.
'Come on, Doctor. We've got to do something to help those people.'
As soon as they'd worked out that the screaming was coming from the temple itself, Sam and the Doctor had hurried across the open ground between the posts and the earth bank that surrounded the temple, scrambling over a fence, through a muddy ditch and squeezing between a line of tall posts carved in animal totems. But now the Doctor had stopped dead, staring ahead into the growing light. There was only a narrow muddy ditch between them and the embankment. The wind gusted and Sam could hear chanting, the regular beat of a wooden drum.
'That can't be right,' muttered the Doctor. He pulled a watch out of his waistcoat pocket and consulted it, then looked up at Sam, an expression of consternation on his face. 'I think we've come at the wrong time. We should go back to the Tardis, now.'
Sam stared at him. He was deadly serious. 'No,' she said simply. The sound of her own voice surprised her. She met his eyes. 'You're going to tell me this is some sort of ceremony. But that scream wasn't ceremonial and you know it. That was someone being.' She searched for a word. 'Violated.'
'Sam,' said the Doctor, his voice low, 'I made a mistake. I thought this was a safe time for you to see the temple, but it obviously isn't. We have to go.'
'But it isn't a ceremony. It isn't part of anyone's culture. It's'
'Sam. Sam! How can you know what is and what isn't a ceremony four and a half thousand years before you were born?'
'I know. Believe me.' Sam took a breath, then turned away from him and jumped across the ditch.
She stumbled on the far side, half falling into the filthy water. Looking back, she saw the Doctor standing against the brown streaks of fields and the dark shadows of trees, his hair dancing in the wind.
'I'm going to find out what's happening,' she said. 'I won't interfere, not if it's a real ceremony.'
'Even if people are being killed?'
Well, she'd deal with that one when she got there. She scrambled up the far bank, her jeans soaked to the knee, her sweatshirt covered in mud, her nose full of the stomach-turning smell. In front of her was the stockade around Stonehenge. It wasn't very tall, and she'd have been able to climb over it quite easily if it hadn't been topped with savagely sharp spikes. The wood was also thickly embedded with sharp fragments of bone, of pottery and even of stone. Through the narrow gaps between the posts she caught tantalising glimpses of stones, fire, people's faces. The drum was beating again, single slow beats. Someone was shouting. No, chanting. The Doctor was right. This did sound like a ceremony. Could she have made a mistake? For all she knew, the screams could have been someone injured in an accident, and this was a healing ceremony. Well, she was going to take a look anyway. She began jogging as quietly as she could around the bank, taking care not to slip on the wet grass. Seeing a gap ahead, she stopped, crouched down, and shuffled forward for the last few metres. When she peered over the edge. she found herself looking into the eyes of a man. He was huge, his head almost level with Sam's feet, despite the two metre plus height of the bank. His hair was a thick black bush, braided at the sides. For an instant he just stared at her, his eyes wide with amazement. Then he hefted a copper-tipped spear and levelled it at Sam's head. She was trying to think of something to say when from the corner of her eye she saw the Doctor trotting towards the entrance, across a muddy wooden bridge, a smile on his face, a hand extended towards the guard.
'Good morning,' he said. 'I'm your local Betterware representative. I hope this is a convenient time to call on you.'
As soon as the Doctor started speaking, Sam saw the big man's gaze turn away from her, and she started moving the way he wouldn't expect her to move, down, forward, towards the spear, and then ducking aside, scrambling down the rough, slippery grass behind the giant and into the open space beyond even as he called out. She could see stones ahead. Stones, people, and two more enormous men in bear hides with copper-tipped spears already pointing in her direction. Behind them, a crowd of people in furs and brown leather, most of them staring at her wide-eyed and afraid.
Ancestors, she thought desperately. They believe in ancestors. 'I am the ghost of the Great Mother,' she proclaimed. 'Make way for me.'
Amazingly, it seemed to work. The spear men were frowning, confused, but they were letting her through, and the crowd behind simply scattered. She could see the stones ahead, newly cut, smooth sided, glossy with rain. She walked through the outer ring, saw that it was only half complete. Lying across the middle of what would be the circle was a fallen stone, one end surrounded by churned up earth. On top of it stood a deer-like alien. No, hang on. Remember what century you're in. It was a man wearing an antler headdress, a deer hide and a deer mask. He was holding a long bronze dagger. Below him, held down against the fallen stone by two of the huge spear men, was a young man. When he saw Sam he struggled and tried to say something, but she couldn't make out any words. Sam looked from him to the Deer Man and back again.
'I am the ghost of the Great Mother,' she said quietly. 'And I demand to know what's happening here.'
'Who are you really?' the Deer Man asked. His voice was shaking slightly, but Sam couldn't tell whether it was anger, fear or simply surprise.
'I am who I am.' she said simply. 'Give me the knife.'
For an instant she thought he was going to do it. The hand holding the knife started to move cautiously. But then the man froze. Behind Sam, another voice roared.
She turned to see a huge man in bear skins stepping through the gap between two stones. He carried a wooden staff and wore a breastplate that looked like solid gold. He stared at her without any fear at all. In fact, he seemed to be amused.
'I am who I am, too,' he said, then he strolled up to her and grabbed her arm in a painfully tight grip.
Sam felt a lurch of panic, but managed to restrain her instinct to struggle. She had to make it look as though she was in control, even if she wasn't. She looked up at the man with the knife and the antlers.
'This ceremony is wrong. You know it's wrong. You must stop it now.'
'Or else what, woman?' said the man holding her, twisting her arm painfully.
'The spirit of,' what had she called herself? 'Great Mother will'
There was a loud bang, and the sky went red. Even the big man was frightened this time. He released Sam's arm and drew a spear, then just looked up in awe.
'The sun,' bawled someone. 'The sun is angry with us.'
Sam grinned. She could see the bright red ball of the flare overhead, the trail of white smoke behind it. 'Good timing, Doctor.' she thought. For the first time she noticed that the young victim's arm was broken, the bone protruding from the skin. Blood leaked from the wound.
The flare died, leaving relative darkness. Quickly, before anyone could get over their surprise, she marched the few remaining metres to the centre of the temple and grabbed the victim.
'Come with me,' she said.
He didn't move, instead staring down at a point about half way along the side of the fallen stone. With a shock, Sam realised that he was younger than her, perhaps about fourteen or fifteen. His blond hair, a complex pattern of braids, had become tangled, drenched with sweat.
Sam heard the big man bellowing at someone and she pulled again at the young victim.
At last he seemed to get the point, and let her lead him away.
Coyn hadn't understood, as usual. Shalin had seen the man dressed in summer green even before the explosion and the light. He's seen the aura of confidence and the power around him, too. The woman wasn't important. She was just carrying out his orders. As soon as the light faded, Shalin left the fallen stone and Coyn's abortive sacrifice, and jogged towards the stranger. Everyone else was screaming, struggling to get out. Even the Bear Men seemed afraid and confused. Shalin wasn't afraid, exactly. Instead he felt a curious sense of anticipation. As he drew closer, the stranger saw him and their eyes met.
'Ah, just the man I wanted to see,' he said.
'Yes,' said Shalin. 'I think we should talk.'
He approached the man, lifted his antlered mask away from his face, then brought the sharp wooden chin of the mask down on the Doctor's head. Then he hit him again, and watched with satisfaction as the Doctor dropped to the ground.
Once they were through the wall of sarsens, Sam could see that everyone was crowded around the entrance, shouting, panicking, trying to get out. Some had climbed the bank and were struggling to climb the razor picket on top. She saw a woman with blood streaming down her face. They were terrified. She looked around for the Doctor, but couldn't see him.
'Listen, everyone,' she cried. Slowly the shouting and confusion subsided. 'If you let me go from here with this man, I'll make sure the.' What could she call it? 'False sun doesn't come back, okay?'
The young man was now leaning against her, stinking of sweat and panic. She could hear his breathing, ragged, slow. He must be in shock, about to collapse. She'd never get him to the Tardis.
'No!' That bear-like roar again. 'Keep her here.'
Sam heard heavy footsteps behind her, and hauled the boy off to the entrance at a run. People scattered in front of her. She ran through, crossing the muddy wooden planking that crossed the ditch. She heard the Great Bear roaring behind her, then another voice calling him. She heard the young victim's breathing now coming in big unstable whoops.
'He's going to faint. Doctor, where are you?'
She stared around the dawn landscape, the brown causeways, the dark barrows, the criss-crossing lines of posts, but the Doctor was nowhere to be seen.
Coyn stared down at the strange figure on the ground. There was a bruise spreading across his face where Shalin had hit him.
'You say this is their leader?' he said to Shalin.
'Yes, I'm sure of it. He has the real power. The woman was his tool. Perhaps she is his wife or his acolyte.'
Coyn was pushing at the bruise on the Doctor's forehead with the toe of his boot.
'He's just a man wearing strange clothes.'
Shalin watched the Doctor breathing, watched the strange shine on his cloak. Coyn must be aware of the special nature of this man, but he probably thought it would look weak to show his fear. Very well then, he would play to the other aspect of the Doctor's power.
'He made the sky red,' he observed. 'That's a trick we could use in war.'
'Yes.' Coyn's hand descended on Shalin's shoulder. 'Your thinking is as clear as it ever was, my friend. Find out how he did it, so that we can do it too. Kill him afterwards, unless you think we need him. I'm going to see if I can find the other one.'
Hefting his spear, he nodded at his escort of Bear Men. They set off to the old south entrance to the temple at a fast trot, scattering the crowd before them.
Shalin watched him go. Kill him afterwards? Did Coyn respect nothing? Shalin knelt down at the Doctor's side.
'Wake up,' he said quietly. 'We can have that talk now, I think.' He glanced up at Coyn's party, disappearing through the entrance. 'In private.'
Dorlan's strength was almost gone by the time they reached the edge of the eastern wood. He stared at the dripping fringe of the trees, aware that his body was swaying despite all his efforts to stand still. His legs trembled and his arm was a burning mass of pain and sickness. His rescuer looked back.
'Come on. It's not much further.'
Dorlan still couldn't understand where they were going. All the land here belonged to the Great Bear and his people. They knew all the trails.
'We'll need to get much further from the temple to be safe,' he said.
'Save your strength for running,' said the woman. 'I know where we're going. You'll be safe. There's food and water, and we might be able to fix your arm.'
Fix? Dorlan knew that broken limbs could be splinted. With luck he might be able to use his arm in the future, at least for light tasks. But he knew he would never use a bow again, if he survived at all. He looked back at the confused, mystic landscape, striped and distorted by the Bear people's endless causeways and monuments. Two of the Bear Men were still in pursuit, though they were some distance behind. But they knew the land, and had endurance. How much longer could he and this woman stay ahead? His rescuer grabbed hold of his uninjured arm. Even that contact made him wince.
'Come on! '
She kept saying that. He wished he understood where they were going. They jogged into the shelter of the woods, quickly straying off the obvious paths into an area dense with beech and oak, where the ground was thickly littered with wet leaves. The woman held onto Dorlan's arm, perhaps worried that he might fall. Then, ahead, he saw a totem post, higher than a man, square, with the girth of a tree. It was made of wood stained in a blue pigment. It was covered in carvings and mysterious grid lines, and huge straight-edged jewels. Dorlan had never seen anything like it before. He stopped, shivering.
'Who are you?' he asked the woman. She ignored his question. She was touching the surface of the post. For the first time, Dorlan had a change to really take in her strangeness. The clothing, the impossible bright red cloth on her legs, the sea-blue cloak, her shoes apple blossom white under their coating of mud.
'Your clothes are the colours of flowers,' he said. 'Are you a Spring spirit?' It hadn't occured to him before that she might not be human. He'd never met a spirit, but he had been about to die. Ahead of him a door opened in the totem post. Light streamed out into the dim winter forest. The woman stepped inside and vanished. He heard her voice from inside.
Dorlan hesitated. It was obvious that the door led to some other world. So his rescuer wasn't human, which meant she might do anything. Perhaps he was already dead and this was his first test in the spirit world. But he didn't remember dying. He didn't feel any different. And this was nothing like any of the stories he'd heard. And his arm hurt. Surely it wouldn't hurt so much if he was dead. He stood, shivering, uncertain, his legs unsteady beneath him. Then he became aware of sounds behind him. Steps in the forest. The tread of heavy men trying to be quiet. The Bear Men. Then the woman was in front of him again, a concerned expression on her face.
'All right,' she said, 'take my hand. I'll lead you through the door.'
Dorlan realised that he hadn't any choice but to go along with her.
Inside, the space and light made him blink, and the air was warm. Warm and dry like a summer's day. He looked around, saw a carved hearth with a few small lights burning, but there was no fire, no smoke. The immense space around it was filled with totems and things that might be tools. Many of them, like the woman's clothing, had the bright colours of flowers, of fruit. Others looked like metals. Dorlan gaped. He hadn't known that there was so much metal in the world. The woman, spirit, was calling out.
'Doctor! Doctor, where are you? I need your help with' She turned to him. 'What's your name?'
'Dorlan. Who are you looking for? Is he a man dressed in strange clothes like you?'
The woman laughed. Light, gentle, almost a girl's laughter. But she was at least as old as Dorlan.
'Yes, that's him,' she said. 'Everyone thinks his clothes are strange wherever we go.'
'There was a man dressed in the green of leaves at the temple.'
'You saw him?'
'He was lying at the feet of the Deer Man when we left.'
'Lying at his feet?'
Dorlan sensed her sudden fear and immediately felt afraid too. He looked nervously at the door behind them, but it was shut. Could the Bear Men force their way through? The woman had advanced on him.
'What happened to him? Why didn't you tell me?'
'I didn't know he was your friend. I didn't know anything.' said Dorlan, miserably. 'I still don't. I'm sorry.'
He felt his body begin to tremble. The shaking sent a bolt of pain through his arm. To his shame his eyes misted with tears.
'I'm sorry,' he repeated. 'Are we going to die?'
The woman sighed. Now she looked much older, as if a burden had descended on her shoulders, and Dorlan knew why. Responsibility. She had saved his life. Now she was responsible for him in this strange world.
'I don't want to be a burden to you,' he said. 'If there is anything I can do, tell me. I am a Chieftain of my people. I have been trained in many skills.'
She met his eyes then put a hand out and touched his shoulder softly. He knew then that she wasn't a spirit, however strange her world.
'Don't worry about it,' she said. 'The Doctor will be okay. He can look after himself. Come on, let's see what I can do to fix up your arm.'
Shalin looked hard at the Doctor. 'Are you a god?'
'Ah. I wondered when you'd get round to asking me that one. No, sorry, I'm not. I haven't even got his phone number any more.'
The stranger flashed Shalin a disconcerting smile. The Deer Man wondered what a phone number was. Some kind of totem?
'Good,' he said aloud. 'I knew that, of course, but I wanted to see if you would lie about it.' He met the Doctor's eyes, paused to let his remark sink in. 'Now, how did you make the fire in the sky?'
The Doctor propped himself up on one elbow and looked around the hut. His eyes rested for a moment on the place where one of Coyn's Bear Men stood, the southern bronze of his axe gleaming in the daylight seeping in through the hides hung over the entrance. Then his gaze moved on to the totems of the conquered tribes laid out on the wall, each one splashed with the brown faded blood of one of their warriors killed in battle. Finally he looked at Shalin again.
'What an interesting collection. You haven't got the mountain lake people yet, I see. I suppose they're on next year's conquest list, or the year after. You have got lists, I suppose? You look like the kind of man who'd make lists of the people he kills.'
'I don't kill them,' said Shalin. 'Warriors kill. I am the Deer Man.'
'Oh, so when you had the knife poised above that young man out there, you were just trying to frighten him, were you? Or was it a game? Follow the knife.'
The Doctor stood up, brought his face close to Shalin's.
'How about, guess where I'm going to stab you.'
Shalin jumped backwards, and at the same time the Bear Man leapt away from the door, axe raised. Shalin saw that the Doctor had no knife and signalled the Bear Man to stay where he was. The stranger didn't even seem to have noticed the threat. His eyes were still fixed on Shalin's, full of accusation and anger.
'Yes, I can see,' said the Doctor. 'You're a coward. Most people who kill from lists are cowards. I almost prefer the other sort.' Now he did glance at the Bear Man who was still hovering with his axe. 'At least you know where you are with them.' He relaxed, stepped back from Shalin. 'Come on, Shalin. I'm not giving you any fire in the sky, so you can forget it. Why not just let me go?'
Shalin started at the use of his given name. How had the stranger known that? It was obviously another indication of his power. And his power meant.
'I have my own reasons for talking to you,' he said.
The Doctor just looked at him. Shalin gestured to the Bear Man to wait outside. When he was gone, he said quietly to the Doctor, 'You are the only man I know who has more power than Coyn.'
'And?' said the Doctor.
Shalin shook his head. 'Coyn is insane. He wants the stone temple completed in his lifetime, in his honour. He wants to be a god in the afterlife.'
The Doctor nodded. 'The Pharaoh syndrome. I've met it before.'
Shalin didn't understand the Doctor's words, didn't care much. This was the first time he'd been able to unburden himself about Coyn to anyone for years.
'He wasn't always like this. To start with it was just a dream, to rebuild the great temple in stone. But first he killed his brother so that he could be chief, and then he conquered the sacred people who lived here, so that we could do what we liked with the temple. Then Coyn wanted stones from everywhere. It has to be the greatest temple in the world, he said. We want stones from all over the world. He wanted Sarsens from the old temple plain, so we had to conquer the people there, kill half of them, build trackways, drag the stones three days walk across the land. He wanted stones that were already holy, so we had to conquer the hill people across the water. Doctor, he just doesn't understand that there are any limits. He's going to destroy every hearth in the land, in all the lands, just to build this temple.' He lowered his voice. 'And he surrounds himself with those Bear Men. They're not even our people, don't even speak our language. He got them from the south somewhere.'
'Yes,' said the Doctor. 'That must be difficult. But it's quite common with those sorts of people, importing strangers as personal guardians. I remember the Emperor Caligula.'
He trailed off, staring at the entrance to the hut.
Shalin looked around nervously, but nothing moved. He turned back to the Doctor. 'I need your help,' he said.
The Doctor took hold of Shalin's shoulders, looked into his eyes, a clear blue disconcerting gaze. 'Have you seriously tried talking to this Coyn?' he asked.
Shalin shook his head. 'We've been friends since childhood,' he said, 'but he doesn't listen any more.' He almost added, he never did, then thought better of it. The Doctor would probably accuse him of a lack of foresight, and he would probably be right. Coyn's flaws of character were, after all, obvious.
'Well, I'll talk to him, then.' said the Doctor.
He let go, started to turn away, but Shalin grabbed hold of the Doctor's arm.
'It won't work.' he said. 'I've tried. There's only one way to stop Coyn.' He touched the bronze dagger at his belt. 'I want you to help me do that.'
He had to be indirect. He didn't want to risk using the work kill. The Bear Man was still outside, he might hear, he might understand.
'Certainly not,' said the Doctor. 'There's been enough killing around here already.'
He snatched himself away, but before he could reach the hides covering the doorway, they were flung back from outside and daylight flooded in.
'Stranger.' Coyn's voice. Shalin felt his body freeze with terror. How much had Coyn heard?
'You are clearly a powerful man, Doctor,' Coyn went on, striding towards them. 'I believe I can come to an arrangement with you, but there's something I must do first.'
'No!' cried the Doctor. 'You don't understand.'
Shalin started to turn, felt a powerful fist thud into his back, pitching him forward. He saw the Doctor staring, an expression of horror on his face. Then he saw the long shaft of the spear protruding from his own chest, the copper blade covered in blood. The pain bit into him and he tried to scream, but his breath was gone. He fell to his knees, then the ground seemed to roll upwards and hit him. He heard the Doctor's furious voice.
'He didn't really want to kill you, Coyn! He was just afraid of you! This could all have been sorted out.'
Then the Doctor was kneeling over him. His face seemed to glow from within. So he was a god after all Shalin wanted to ask where he would go after he died, whether he would be punished for what he had done, but his throat was clotted with blood. The Doctor's hand touched his face, and he died.
Sam wasn't sure whether she'd set Dorlan's arm properly. She'd done her best, following the instructions in the Tardis medical kit. It had provided her with x-rays and told her where to grip, how much pressure to apply, but it couldn't set the bone for her. It looked all right, but. Dorlan hadn't quite lost consciousness. Painkillers from the kit had helped. Sam suspected that sheer determination and not a little sense of wonder had kept him from fainting. Even when the fluid cast from the kit had been crawling over his bruised skin, he'd been staring, bug-eyed, around the console room. Mostly at the console itself, but also at the library shelves, the record collection, and the Volkswagen Beetle still parked in a corner, all of which he seemed to regard as equally marvellous. Now the cast had set and he was holding the Doctor's empty cocoa mug in his left hand, turning it over and over.
'I've never seen pottery so fine,' he said. 'It's so smooth, it's like a stone in a river. And the colour.' The mug was Post Office red.
'It's the Doctor's,' said Sam.
'The one who made the sky red?'
'Is red his sacred colour, then?'
Sam managed to suppress a giggle, then saw that Dorlan was smiling at her anyway.
'He hasn't got a sacred colour,' she said, grinning back. 'I think he just likes colours in general.'
She walked over to the console, switched on the viewscreen, looked outside. One of the Bear Men was still standing guard. The other had gone, presumably to fetch reinforcements.
'Well, let them try to get inside the Tardis.'
She noticed that Dorlan was staring anxiously at the screen.
'They're not inside, are they?' he asked.
'It's only an image,' said Sam. 'I control it.' She turned it off. Then she met his eyes and said quietly, 'Dorlan, why were you going to be killed?'
She listened as he told her, asking questions now and then, feeling her sense of outrage grow as the story of injustice, conquest and slavery built up. So this was how Stonehenge had been built. Stones dragged across the countryside at the cost of lives. Slaves digging pits at the point of spears. Suddenly the stones didn't seem magical any more, not when the secret of their building was human misery and death on this scale.
'We're going to do something about this,' she said at the end. 'Your people can't go on suffering like this.'
'What can we do?' asked Dorlan. 'Do you have spears here?'
'No. No weapons. This is the Tardis.' she said.
'If there are no weapons, how can you oppose Coyn?'
Sam thought for a moment. There had to be a way to convince Coyn that what he was doing was wrong. Or better, that the gods were against him. Suddenly she thought of something. It was so obvious that it was almost funny. She grinned at Dorlan.
'Wait here. I think I know a way.'
Coyn, Chieftain of the Bear people, and in addition the Great High Supreme Chieftain and King, Lord of all the lands and all the peoples, stood on the embankment around his stone temple, looked at the lowering grey clouds, at the lashing rain, and scowled. The day had been bad from the start. The fallen stone, the strange visitors, the aborted sacrifice, and now his friend was dead. And I killed him. He had known it was coming, this death. His old friend had been too powerful for too long. But he hadn't thought that it would come so soon, and he hadn't imagined it would feel as terrible as this. He saw some of Dorlan's people peering at him from outside the embankment. He waved his spear at them and shouted. Even though they were almost at the limit of a spear's throw, they still cowered. He waved the spear again. They turned and started to run away. Shalin had always said make them afraid of you and they'll do what you want.
'Perhaps you should have been more afraid of me, my friend,' he muttered.
'He was afraid,' said a voice behind him. 'That was the problem with him.'
Coyn turned, and glared at the Doctor, trying not to show his disquiet. The stranger had been able to creep up on him unheard. That should be impossible, especially in those strange, heavy shoes. Whatever he was, the Doctor had powers beyond anything Coyn understood, or wanted to understand. He wondered if it was the stranger's power that had caused the stone to fall in the first place. If everything that had happened today had been a demonstration of that power? Well, there was only one way to find out.
'I should kill you too,' he said, letting the spear fall so that its point was level with the Doctor's chest.
'But you're afraid,' said the Doctor, infuriatingly calm.
Coyn shook his head. 'Not afraid,' he said. To show weakness in front of this being would probably be his last mistake. 'But it's clear that you have power, or at least some useful tricks. Your people must have power, too. I'd rather bargain with you than invite their anger.'
'Yes, and it's a shame you didn't think of that before killing Shalin, isn't it?' said the Doctor. 'I mean, what do you think his spirit's thinking about you now? Not to mention his ancestors.'
Coyn shuddered. 'I keep feeling the spear going through my friend's body. I keep wishing it hadn't happened, but he said he was going to kill me, and he was going to use your power against me.
The Doctor shook his head. 'I wouldn't have let him do that. But have you wondered why he wanted to kill you?'
'I don't need to know why. No one threatens me.' Coyn pushed his face close to the other man's, tightening his expression into a mask of anger.
This usually terrified men, but it had no effect on the Doctor. All he said was, 'That's it, exactly. No one's allowed to threaten you, are they. To question you, to argue with your judgment. You want this temple finished in your lifetime. You keep coming up with grander and grander schemes, most of which are absolutely impossible, and you don't care how many people die to get things done.'
The Doctor's anger was clear. His eyes seemed to be ablaze with it. Coyn stood back, feeling his heart thud in his chest.
'Do you think the only way to stop me is to kill me?' he said at last. The question had to be asked. If he was going to die he wanted to know it was coming.
The Doctor waited a while before speaking, still looking into Coyn's eyes as if he were measuring something. 'Maybe,' he said eventually, 'but I'm not as precipitate as you.'
Coyn looked over the temple, along the great ceremonial way that led to it, two high banks of earth topped by lines of totem posts.
'Shalin was going to place stones along those banks,' he said. 'He said it would increase the power of the temple. You say I only cared about the temple, Doctor, but it was Shalin who told me what was needed.'
'You blame Shalin, he blamed you. Look, don't you think it's time this obsession with stones and power stopped? People are dying because of it.'
'People die anyway. It's the afterlife that matters.' He raised his voice. 'I will be a god.'
'Shalin said that too, did he?' asked the Doctor.
Coyn frowned. Did everything he believed in come from Shalin? He'd never thought of it that way. His ideas were his, but they had to come from somewhere.
'Look,' said the Doctor, interrupting his confused thoughts. 'Why don't you try something? Release the boy Dorlan, and all his people. Escort them home with whatever food you can spare. Don't use conquered people any more. There are plenty of your own people who would work on the temple willingly in the slack season.'
'Shalin says,' began Coyn, then he realised what he was saying.
Coyn turned away from the Doctor and walked along the bank, staring into the temple, into the rain, not sure whether he was thinking or acting, or just mourning his friend. A bird landed on one of the stones, brown and white. For a moment Coyn thought it was a baby seagull, but then he saw that it was a hawk. Sacrifices, he thought. Who told me that there had to be sacrifices? It was you, my old friend. Well, now you've joined them.
At last Coyn returned to where the Doctor stood waiting. 'I will free Dorlan's people,' he said. 'I will ask my own people to work on the temple and see what happens, until the winter solstice next year. After that time I will be free to make my own decisions once more.' He paused. 'In return, you and the woman you brought will leave my land and never return.'
The Doctor met his eyes. 'Accepted,' he said, then added quietly, 'Maybe no one has to kill you to stop you, Coyn. Maybe you just need good advice.'
Dorlan looked at the strange object that Sam had called an aerosol can. It was like a pot, a long drinking pot, but there was nowhere to drink from it. It was cold in his hand and it looked and felt as if it was wet, but in fact it was dry. It left no moisture on his hand. Its strangeness was frightening, but Dorlan wasn't going to show that fear, not in front of this woman who'd helped him. He told himself that the cast on his arm was just as strange, and it didn't hurt him. It did just the opposite.
'Turn the button on top so that the arrowhead points away from you,' instructed Sam. She was standing with a sheet of white material in her hands, spread out across the front of her body. The material looked like a sort of cloth. She called it paper. Dorlan looked down at the can he was holding, at the knob of finely ridged, bone-like material on the top, and saw the arrowhead. It was a tiny, intricate carving which must have taken many hours of work. There were many things like it in the hearth place that Sam called the Tardis. Sam had yet to explain where all the people were that laboured to make these things.
'The arrow's pointing away from me,' he told Sam.
'Right. Now press the button.'
Dorlan pushed. The hissing sound made him jump, even though he'd heard it when Sam had used the aerosol. Determinedly he held onto the thing, watching as the white sheet in front of Sam turned blue.
'Turn it a little as you spray.'
Dorlan turned the can, watched a blue stripe form on the paper, creeping towards the edge. He turned the can a bit more.
Sam danced out of the way as the blue colour spread to her hand and her shirt. She was grinning. But when he turned the can towards her deliberately and made as if to press the button again, the grin died. 'No, it's not that funny, Dorlan. You've really got to be careful not to spray it at anyone. Especially not in their faces. You could blind someone.'
Dorlan nodded. 'It's powerful?'
'Well, it's dangerous,' said Sam.
'And it will make Coyn let my people go?'
'It's a matter of showing them you have power,' said Sam.
She was loading the other cans into a backpack. The carved tops showed their colours, sea blue, sky blue, green, orange, yellow. There was even one that shone a little like gold.
With the aerosols packed, she turned to him. 'If Coyn wakes up tomorrow morning and the whole temple's covered in stuff like this.' She gestured at the white sheet covered in coloured paint. 'He's going to realise that you've got some powerful friends.'
'With any luck he'll think we're gods, especially after the Doctor's display yesterday. Then he'll think twice about doing anything to the Doctor and about keeping your people in slavery.'
Dorlan wasn't sure about this. Coyn was a determined man, insanely determined, but. He looked at the aerosol he was holding, remembering what Sam had said about it being dangerous to the eyes. She'd certainly got out of the way quickly enough. Yes, it might work. Sam was standing by the hearth now, fiddling with a small, brightly coloured tube. A flame lit near the end of it, and for the first time in the Tardis, Dorlan smelt smoke.
'A distraction,' she said. 'If it worked for the Doctor, it should work for me.'
Dorlan nodded, though he didn't understand. She touched something on the hearth and there was a sound like a stick breaking. Dorlan felt a breath of cold, damp air, turned to see that the Tardis doors had opened. He could see the back of the Bear Man standing guard outside. Sam ran past him, the sputtering torch in her hand.
Dorlan wondered why she was shouting, then he could see the Bear Man staring in through the door, surprised and confused. That wouldn't last long. Dorlan started to rush forward, lifting the aerosol, then lightning struck outside. A flash, an ear-splitting bang. Dorlan guessed it was Sam's device and ignored it. The Bear Man was more alarmed and looked over his shoulder, but quickly looked back again. He saw Dorlan and raised his spear.
'Dorlan!' yelled Sam, 'Get back. I'll close the door.'
Just for a moment the Bear Man's gaze flicked to her. In that moment, Dorlan jumped, dodging the spear, pressing the knob on the aerosol and aiming the tiny arrow at the Bear Man's eyes. They were looking at Dorlan when the paint hit them. The Bear Man grunted, brought his hands up to his eyes. The spear fell, brushing Dorlan's hip. He made a grab for it, missed. From the corner of his eye he saw the Bear Man trying to draw his bronze dagger one handed, the other hand still tearing at his eyes. He was starting to scream, a surprisingly high wail of pain.
'Dorlan, we'll have to wash that out of his eyes!'
Dorlan wondered what Sam could be talking about. They needed to kill the Bear Man, not wash his eyes. Perhaps she didn't like killing. Women usually didn't. He had the spear now, though he'd had to drop the aerosol. It was heavy, but his muscles were strong from all that hauling on stones and he managed to lift it with his good arm.
Dorlan knew that he couldn't afford to listen to Sam. He drove the spear clumsily into the Bear Man's side. The man screamed again, but Dorlan wasn't sure he'd done any real damage. He'd never killed a man before. The spear was heavy, the bear hide thick and tough. Dorlan tried to pull the spear back for another go, couldn't. The Bear Man grabbed the weapon and wrenched it out of Dorlan's grasp. He held onto it, feeling his way along the haft to the point embedded in his clothing. Dorlan could see some blood there, but he wasn't sure it was enough.
'Sam!' bawled Dorlan. 'You'll have to help me.'
But Sam was shouting something about having found some rope, something that didn't make any sense. She was trying to get close, which was dangerous. The haft of the spear was flying around as the Bear Man tried to pull it loose. Then Dorlan saw the bronze dagger. It was half out of the scabbard. He kicked out, catching the top. The big man felt the impact, but Dorlan was back out of range by the time he'd responded. It was clear that he couldn't see. His face was covered with the shiny blue pigment. Suddenly, the dagger clattered to the floor. Dorlan dived in, grabbed it, reached up and stabbed the man in the base of his throat where he wasn't protected by the thick leather of the hide. He was rewarded with a gout of blood as he withdrew the knife. He jumped back to avoid the flailing arms and legs of the dying man.
'Don't kill him!' shouted Sam.
'I already have,' said Dorlan, puzzled by her strange behaviour. She seemed so knowledgeable in other ways. Had she never seen anything killed before?
The Bear Man crashed to the floor, half in and half out of the Tardis. He was still breathing, but they were the broken gasps of a dying animal.
Dorlan pushed the bloodied dagger into his belt, lifted the spear with his good arm. Then he put it down and grabbed the pack of aerosols, awkwardly shuffling it onto his back. They weren't as good as knives or spears, but they were still weapons, and they were all he had. His people could use them.
'You'd better stay here,' he said, looking at the white-faced Sam as he picked up the spear again. She was obviously going to be no use in battle. 'Keep your hearth for your kinsman. I will tell him you are here when I find him.' Then he stepped over the Bear Man and ran into the forest.
The short winter day was almost over when Coyn's party reached the fringes of the wood. The light of the lanterns carried by the Bear Men through long shadows across the leaf litter and the pale trunks of the trees. Coyn thought he saw a glimpse of red deer hide in the weak, shifting light of the flames. He shivered. Shalin had often walked in this part of the wood, gathering his herbs and potions. What if his angry spirit walked there now? But the Doctor simply went in, unafraid, and Coyn had no choice but to follow. He waved the Bear Men after him. The Doctor led the way, though the Bear Men with them also followed the trail that had been left earlier, reading the marks on the forest floor by the light of their lanterns. At last they came to the Doctor's totem place. It frightened Coyn. A blue colour he'd never seen before, dark as an evening sea, carved and set with squares of ice. It seemed somehow alive in the light of the flames.
One of the Bear Men called out 'Here!' Coyn turned and followed the voice, and saw the man's body on the ground, stained with dark blood. The trail led to the Doctor's totem. Coyn whirled round to face the Doctor, in the same movement pulling his bow from his back, loading an arrow.
'No, Coyn. Sam wouldn't.'
Coyn took aim at the Doctor.
'It doesn't look as if your companion is interested in making agreements, Doctor.'
'She wouldn't deliberately kill anyone,' said the Doctor, quickly. 'I'm sure this man was killed by someone else.'
'He was my kinsman and now he's dead!' roared Coyn. 'And it's the doing of your woman!'
But as usual his anger had no effect on the Doctor. The stranger spoke calmly. 'Even if that was true, we're just going to have to stop her, Coyn, before she does any more damage. That's all.'
'You're going to have to stop her, Doctor,' said Coyn. 'If you don't, our agreement is over. I will kill both of you.'
Gasping for breath, Sam crouched on the wet grass. A few metres away across a ditch was the stockade surrounding the great temple. Once she'd realised that the Bear Man was dead, she'd run as fast as she could in the fading light, pushing her way through lines of posts, wading through a stinking ditch, almost falling into an unexpected hole in the ground hidden in clumps of long grass. And she was too late. Dorlan was standing by a gap in the fence. Behind him were some other people carrying crude weapons. Wooden stakes, sharp edged pieces of broken pottery, lump of stone. Some of them had aerosols. Two were carrying spears which probably meant two dead Bear Men. She could see some huts inside a stockade burning, people throwing brands at unseen attackers. One of Dorlan's people shouted, pointed, and Dorlan looked down.
'Sam!' he shouted.
'Don't kill anyone else,' she shouted back. 'Please!'
'Why not?' Dorlan's puzzlement was obviously genuine. 'If we don't they'll kill us.'
His people were already piling through the broken stockades towards the stones of the temple.
'If you kill any more of them, the aerosols won't work.' Sam yelled after him, but she wasn't sure he'd heard. She saw more Bear Men running across the plain from a nearby settlement, carrying lanterns and weapons. Some stopped, knelt. Arrows started to fly. Shakily she sat down on the grass. The Doctor was right, she thought. I didn't understand. Dorlan is no better than Coyn. I haven't helped anyone. I haven't even saved anyone. I've just started a war.
Dorlan watched as his father's brother, Teln, and the other hunters slammed the last piece of wood down into the crude barricade across the entrance to the temple. He heard the whoop of arrows in the air, saw them rain down around the stones. There was a clatter of arrowheads bouncing off the hard surfaces, then silence.
'This isn't going to work,' hissed Teln. 'We can't escape from here, and we can't fight. There aren't enough of us and we haven't enough weapons.'
He gestured round at the small band of hunters. Three had spears, the rest just had sticks and the aerosol cans from the Tardis.
Dorlan lifted one of the cans and sprayed a long plume into the air. 'This will destroy their strength. It's a sort of magic of Sam's people. We have to spray it on the stones, and they will believe that their gods have turned against them to favour us.' But now away from Sam and the strange magic of the Tardis, that didn't seem so convincing, even to Dorlan.
Teln was shaking his head. 'I still don't believe it. But now we're here, there's nothing else to try.' He glanced around the darkening enclosure as if afraid that the stones might come to life. Dorlan knew that he had to get the magic working quickly. He walked to the nearest stone and sprayed a trail of red paint across it. Slowly the others began to follow suit. Lines, squares, axes, the zig-zag water sign of the northern river people, all blossomed on the stones in the fading light. Then Dorlan heard a woman's voice shouting. Sam. He could see her for a moment, scrambling over the stockade on top of the embankment, silhouetted against the light. Light from the lanterns of the Bear Men who were climbing the embankment behind her.
'They're attacking!' shouted Sam again, unnecessarily. An arrow flickered past her, then she dropped, rolled down the bank, ran across the grass. 'I can't find the Doctor! I don't know what to do,' she said.
Dorlan could hear wood cracking as the Bear men forced their way through the barricades.
'The paint!' he shouted at Sam. 'Why isn't the paint stopping them?'
Sam gazed at him, bewildered. 'What?'
'You said the paint would stop them, that it would make them think their gods were against them.'
'It. You mean.' Her face twisted. 'Not until they see it. We've made our point. We've got to get out of here.'
Dorlan turned, saw that the Bear Men, many more than the hunters, had already shut off both entrances and were advancing, some carrying spears, others bows.
'There's nowhere to run,' whispered Dorlan.
An arrow landed between him and Sam, almost hitting her left foot. She jumped, looked round, seemed to realise what was happening.
'There must be something,' Dorlan began, but he saw the answer in the fear on her face. There was a yell from behind him. Turning, he saw a hunter on the ground with the massive shadow of a Bear Man above him. A spear came down and Dorlan heard the wet crunch of the man's ribs breaking. He realised that it was Teln. The Bear Man looked up, and for a moment Dorlan thought he was next. Then he realised the man was looking over his shoulder. A roaring sound filled the air, great waves of it, getting steadily louder. Sam's face lit up.
'It's the Tardis! It's the Doctor!'
Dorlan turned just in time to see the strange blue totem post materialise in the pit where the stone had fallen that morning. The door opened and light flooded out. A huge figure emerged from the totem post, his golden breast plate glinting in the strange glow. Coyn. And behind him, the antlered figure of the Deer Man, his eyes pools of shadow in the dark wooden mask.
'Your gods have deserted you,' muttered Dorlan.
'The king has returned,' said the Deer Man, 'and we must all abide by his judgment.'
Sam stared, openmouthed, as Coyn beckoned her forward. 'Woman who travels with the Doctor,' he said, 'did you start this rebellion?'
Sam thought for a moment. If she said no, then the king might blame Dorlan again and would probably kill him, if not now, then as soon as the Doctor left. If she said yes, he might want to kill her. But the Doctor wouldn't let that happen. And she could see the Doctor's trousers and patent leather shoes projecting from the bottom of the blood-stained Deer Man costume. Okay then, she was going to have to take the blame. It wouldn't be the first time. She stepped forward until she was only an arm's length from Coyn. She'd never been this close to him before, never realised how physically powerful he was. He could almost be a bear. Her head was barely level with the top of his breast plate, a necklace of teeth was in front of her eyes. She felt physically weak with fear.
'I, er, did it,' she made herself say. 'It was my fault. Dorlan's innocent.'
Coyn smiled. Sam felt herself growing angry. She wasn't going to let him get away with it just like that, just because he was bigger than she was. Quickly she said, 'Dorlan's people should be free. What you're doing is unjust.' The blow was totally unexpected. Sam didn't even see Coyn's arm move. Her head jolted sideways and she was falling, hitting the hard mud floor of the temple precinct. Coyn's face appeared in front of hers terrifyingly contorted.
'One of my people has died because of you.'
Sam opened her mouth, tasted blood. Coyn just carried on talking. 'I would kill you, but your friend is powerful and he doesn't like killing. For the same reason, I will spare Dorlan and his people. But you will suffer a punishment. You will help the other women dress the bodies of the dead for the rites of the ancestors. Then you will leave my land and never return.'
After a moment, Sam stood up slowly, shakily, half expecting another blow from Coyn. But he was walking across the mud, his shadow growing longer and fainter as he moved away from the Tardis. She saw him speaking to Dorlan. She turned to the Doctor.
'Why did you let him hit me?'
'I didn't know he was going to do it,' said the Doctor. 'Coyn is a very powerful man, Sam, and he's ruthless. He's already killed one person today. You'll have to go along with this.'
'We could just go,' she said. She looked longingly through the open door of the Tardis.
The Doctor stepped aside, but then said quietly, 'If we do, I'll be breaking my agreement with him. He'll kill Dorlan. He might kill all of them.'
Sam hesitated. She felt the first pulses of pain from the bruise that must be forming on her face.
'Come on, Sam. It's not so bad. You won't have to do anything much. You don't know how. Just watch. It might even be interesting.'
Sam shuddered. Then behind her she heard Dorlan whooping with joy, shouting 'We're free! My people are free!' And she really didn't have any choice at all.
'I know how Dorlan felt now.'
'Hmm? The Doctor looked up from his book. One of the console room clocks chimed behind him, a strident repeated trill like a bicycle bell. Sam waited until the noisy clock had finished before continuing.
'He said he felt responsible for his people. He said he felt responsible for Teln's death.'
'Yes, well, people who are chiefs and the like often have a very high sense of personal responsibility. Individual people, when they're any good, are often better than committees. I can remember a chat I had with the Emperor Hadrian once. He wasn't a bad chap. A very good administrator, in fact. He was going to build a wall along the Rhine as well, but'
Sam realised that the Doctor was changing the subject again. She didn't want him to.
'I feel responsible for Teln's death.'
The Doctor stopped his Roman ramblings mid-sentence and stared at her.
'Why?' His surprise looked almost genuine, but Sam knew it wasn't.
'I started it, didn't I?' she said. 'The revolution, the war. No one would have died if it hadn't been for that.'
She wanted to say more, but to her annoyance found her throat clogging up with tears.
'Oh, Sam.' and the Doctor was kneeling by her side, a buttercup yellow handkerchief in his hand. 'It wasn't your fault.' He put an arm round her, began dabbing rather ineffectually at her face. 'Let's get you a cup of cocoa, then you can go to bed, have a rest, and you'll feel all right in the morning.'
'No, I won't,' snapped Sam. 'I killed two people today.'
The Doctor took her hands, looked at her with a serious expression on his face.
'No, you haven't,' he said. 'Dorlan killed one, and the others were killed in a battle that Dorlan started. What you told him to do might even have worked. It's not your fault he didn't listen.'
Sam took the handkerchief, blew her nose.
'You told me not to interfere. I shouldn't have.'
'Yes, well,' he said. He looked down and fiddled with a button on his jacket as if testing to see whether it was loose or not. 'You did what you thought was right. There would have been a battle of some sort sooner or later. Coyn was mad, or nearly mad. Dorlan was strong-minded and determined. Dorlan and all his people would probably have died before the winter was out, or fought their way out.'
'If Coyn's nearly mad, how do you know he'll keep to the agreement you made?'
The Doctor looked up at the infinite ceiling of the console room. He didn't speak for a while. 'I don't,' he said finally, then he patted Sam's hand and smiled. 'We could stop off and look, if you like. Say, ten years down the line or twenty.'
Sam thought about it. 'I'm not sure,' she said finally.
The Doctor went back to his chair and picked up his book. ''Well, think about it. Some day, perhaps.'
'Some day,' echoed Sam. 'Perhaps.'
One old man is sitting on a stone. A flat, low stone in a cleared space among many other stones. He comes here every day that he can now. Every day that his strength is enough to leave his hut and be carried here. He sits facing the north east, facing the place where the sun will rise next midsummer day. He will not live to see midsummer day, and he knows it. His attendants are young men. They do not remember the time of Shalin, of the conquered peoples. They know only that this old man with his golden breast plate and worn, faded, bearhide cloak, once ruled the world. They think he is here to glory in his temple, the great work to which he dedicated his long and tempestuous life. The sound of antler picks chipping away soil drifts in over the walls of the temple precinct. Outside, the people are working on a barrow grave for Coyn, said to be the greatest such monument ever built. But Coyn doesn't care much for any of that. Not now.
The sun bakes the stones and the heat rises in waves. Flies buzz in the short grass that rings the stones. A bird sits on one of the totem posts at the entrance. But Coyn sees none of this. He looks north east, not at the place of the midsummer sunrise, but at a slight depression in the ground which is all that remains of the pit where he had been going to place the great stone on that terrible night so long ago. The stone that killed the girl on the day that he killed his oldest friend. He has never placed a stone there, and now he never will. The inner circle of the temple will remain incomplete for all time. Shalin's monument. But that isn't why Coyn looks at the remains of the pit. He isn't regretting his life any more than he's celebrating it. The time for all that has already gone, now that each breath is so hard. He's remembering the magic, not the power of it, which was all that he thought about at the time, but the magic itself. A totem post that appeared and disappeared, and contained the world inside it. And the man inside that world, a stranger with strange powers. The only man who ever gave him good advice.
So each day the old bear waits, drawing painful breaths in the baking sun. He's hoping to see the magic again, one more time before he dies.
(Sound of lapping waves and seagulls.)
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