~~~A VAMPIRE MORE ACCURSED~~~
Disclaimer: Doctor Who Belongs to the Beeb, all I have is my Microsoft Word...
Mary Shelley - The season was cold and rainy, and in the evenings we crowded around a blazing wood fire, and occasionally amused ourselves with some German stories of ghosts, which happened to fall into our hands. These tales excited in us a playful desire of imitation. Two other friends and myself agreed to write each a story founded on some supernatural occurrence…
The Doctor - Only two? Well that’s wrong, for one…
Romana hunched her shoulders against the rain as she stepped out of the TARDIS, and eyed the manor house in front of her. "Doctor," she said. "These are not my quarters."
"Well, no, so they’re not," the Doctor said, poking his head out. “How strange.”
"We agreed on one trip, remember?" Romana reminded him. "One trip and that was it, I don't have time for another one of your little jaunts. I’ve been gone too long as it is, what with that business with Professor Chronotis. I have obligations, these days, Doctor."
"You had obligations then, too, if memory serves me correctly," he said nonchalantly. “Never stopped you then.”
"It's not the same, and you know it, Doctor," Romana said, keeping a straight face. The Doctor was so transparent sometimes. “Life goes on. Responsibilities happen.”
"You see? That is what becoming President does to you. I'll bet that you never even have a moment to smell the roses, these days!" The Doctor took a deep breath, as if to prove his point. "I never liked being in office, myself. All that ordering about was very strenuous."
"Yes, Doctor, very droll," Romana said, as she looked around. "Let me see. Temperate climate, yellow sun - at least I presume so, under all that cloud." She looked at grass under her feet. "And surprise, surprise, buttercups. If your natural inclination hadn't already made me suspect where we were, those would. They never grew well off Earth."
"Yes, that is strange, isn't it,” the Doctor said.
"What, that buttercups weren't the hardy annuals everyone thought they were?"
"No… well, yes, that too. I always thought it was such a shame that they never found a way to cultivate them successfully off planet. They were such pretty little things, weren't they, and--"
“Doctor, try to stay on track," Romana interrupted. "You were saying something about this being rather strange?"
"Oh, it’s nothing much really, I was just thinking it’s rather strange we’re still on Earth," he said, putting out his hand to catch the rain.
"You mean, this isn't another one of your accidentally-on-purpose detours?" Romana asked suspiciously.
"Romana, as if I'd do something so underhand," the Doctor said. "But no, not today,"
"Oh dear, that's not good."
"Ah, but it is interesting, isn't it?" he said. "Hang on a tick."
The Doctor disappeared back into the TARDIS, and Romana briefly entertained the idea of following him back inside and insisting that he dematerialise the TARDIS this instant... but, yet, it was interesting, wasn't it? Her lips twitched, one little trip with the Doctor and she was already falling back into old habits. She could already hear Narvin's voice protesting her absence.
“Once a retrograde, always a retrograde,” she murmured, under her breath. Maybe Narvin had a point.
"Found it!" The Doctor proclaimed, as he stepped out of the TARDIS. "Seen better days, I'm afraid. I haven't used it since my last regeneration." With a swoosh, the Doctor opened the umbrella and held it over their heads. "So, where do you think we are?" He looked at her expectantly.
"Oh, I don’t know - Earth, Europe, early industrial revolution?" Romana hazarded.
"Ah, but... actually, that's pretty close," the Doctor said.
"No need to sound so surprised, Doctor," Romana said. "It's not as if I haven't visited this planet before. You were always inordinately fond of Earth--"
"Close, but not close enough," the Doctor blithely interrupted. “What year is this? Go on, guess!”
Romana resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Some things never changed. "I haven't the slightest idea, Doctor," she drawled. " So don't keep me in suspense. Where are we?"
"Eighteen seventeen, Switzerland!" said K9, from inside the TARDIS.
"Eighteen—" the Doctor said, a spit second later, before throwing a look of disappointment back at the open door. "I'm fully aware of the date, K9," he grumped, as K9 poked his head out.
"Apologies, Master," K9 said. "I thought you had asked."
"Yes, he did, K9," Romana said. "But only so he could answer himself!"
““Yes, thank you, K9,” the Doctor interrupted hastily, as he eyed the sky. “I think we should try and find shelter, don’t you, Romana?”
“I think perhaps I should find a change of clothes first. I doubt my present attire will blend in with early nineteenth century conventions,” Romana pointed out as she looked down at her culotte trousers and jacket.
“That has never stopped you before,” the Doctor pointed out, as he grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the house. “Besides, something tells me the occupants will not be the type to care. Lovely people, a bit overly dramatic but—”
“Doctor, don’t tell me you’ve already embroiled these people in one of your little adventures, have you?”
“Of course not,” the Doctor said. “Well, not yet at least.”
Crossing his own timeline, why wasn't she surprised? Romana sighed. “It still doesn’t change the fact that my mode of dress is inappropriate, Doctor,” she pointed out. " It’s all very well for you, your form of dress is at least roughly correct, if memory serves me correctly,” She glanced over her shoulder. "K9, stay with the TARDIS, I'd rather not have to explain you too!"
“Oh, Romana, please don't be that way," the Doctor cajoled. “This will be fun!”
"And why do you think that, Doctor?" Romana asked
"Oh come on, Romana! Switzerland? 1817? A dark and stormy night in a house beside a lake? Surely it rings a bell?”
“Doctor, surely you don’t mean…?” Romana sighed as she realised which night the Doctor was referring to. “Doctor, must I point out that there were many stormy nights in 1817 and even more lakeside houses by Lake Geneva? The chances that this particular house will turn out to be the abode of Byron and his cohorts is—” Romana paused. “It’s exactly one hundred percent, isn’t it?” she finished.
"I took the liberty of checking the coordinates and date while I was looking for the umbrella," he said excitedly. "Oh, Romana, isn't this wonderful? Lord Byron, and Mary and Percy Shelley, all under the one roof, swapping tales of horror and woe! Did I ever mention that once I spent a charming weekend here with old Chronotis? ”
“I think you may have mentioned it, a time or twelve,” Romana muttered. "I would have thought you've had your fill of horror and woe in everyday life.”
“Romana,” the Doctor said, reproachfully.
“Oh, don’t try those puppy eyes with me,” Romana snorted. “You know it’s true. Do you know how many temporal violations you’ve committed since I’ve become President?”
“Should I have been keeping count?”
“Let me assure you, the CIA have been keeping very exacting records,” Romana said. “I’ve seen them.”
“That doesn’t exactly fill me with comfort.”
“It wasn’t meant to,” Romana said, as she eyed a fork of lightning in the distance. A moment later, the rumble reached them. "That was too close," she said.
The Doctor grinned as they reached the steps leading to the front door. "Or a rather opportune," he said. "We stopped to stretch our legs and admire the lake view, when our horses were spooked by the sudden thunderstorm and ran off, wouldn't you say?"
"Well, I suppose it's a mite better than the usual tall tale you impart," Romana allowed, as the Doctor pulled the doorbell.
“Well, it has been a few regenerations,” the Doctor said. “Some things are bound to improve with age.”
“You’re a Time Lord, not a bottle of port,” Romana sniffed. “And we don’t have—" The door opened and the warm glow of lamplight poured over them.
“Good evening?” the house butler said, a touch unsurely, as his eyes looked them up and down.
“Good evening,” the Doctor said. “I am… Herr Schmitt, and this is my good friend, the Lady Romana. I’m afraid we’ve had a moment of misfortune down the road, and we were wondering if we might not take shelter here while—”
“Polidori, is that you?” a voice called out. “Where have you been, man? Percy is almost at death’s door!”
Romana caught the Doctor’s eye as he grinned. “I don’t suppose you’re in need of a doctor, are you?” he asked, as he slipped past the butler into the foyer, Romana took advantage of the butler’s bemusement and handed him the dripping umbrella.
“Could you take care of this for me? Thank you so much,” she said primly as she followed the Doctor inside, her heeled boots clicking across the hardwood floors.
“But Sir, Madam, I haven’t announced you!” the butler called after them.
“Oh, I shouldn’t worry about that,” the Doctor said breezily. “We’re perfectly capable of introducing ourselves. Aren’t we, Romana?”
“Oh perfectly capable, Doctor,” Romana said.
"Polidori?" A head popped out of a doorway, followed by its body. "I say, who are you?"
"This is the Lady Romana, and I am the Doctor," the Doctor said smoothly. "And you are Lord Byron, I presume?"
The man placed his hands on his hips and glared at the Doctor. With his loose, laced shirt and long curling hair, he struck a very...Byronic pose. "I say, how did you know that?" he asked.
Romana gulped down a snort of laughter. "Sorry, bit of a tickle in my throat," she said, as his glare transferred to her. "I think I may have taken a chill in the rain."
Lord Byron’s eyes swept over her, no doubt taking in her state of dress and hair. "You're locals?" he asked.
"Lord Rassilon, no," the Doctor said. "We're not even remotely local, are we, Romana?"
"Literally or figuratively?" Romana asked.
"Oh," the Doctor said. "Good point. Is it important?"
"These distinctions are always important, Doctor" she said, as she watched the bemused expression creep across Byron’s face. It was surprising, really, how quickly it all came back. Any moment now he would...
"Well, if you're not Swiss, what are you, exactly?" he asked.
"Why, we're Gallifreyan of course," the Doctor said breezily. "Aren’t we, Lady Romana."
"Via Cambridge!" Romana piped up. "Visiting my dear old Uncle Chronotis!"
"Professor Chronotis?" Byron asked, his face suddenly lighting up. "Well, why didn't you say so in the first place? Come in, come in! How is the old bugger? Still alive, you say? I thought he would have popped his clogs years ago!"
"Oh, he's still ticking," Romana said.
“And tocking,” the Doctor added, as they followed Byron into the drawing room. "I hear you're in need of a doctor?" He lowered his voice to a whisper. “How did you know Chronotis and Byron were friends?" he asked her.
“Well, you told me… sort of,” Romana answered. “I mean, you’re hardly the sort one invites for the weekend; no offence, Doctor.”
The Doctor frowned, puzzled. “I don’t know what you mean,” he protested.
The Bedroom was dimly lit and, even with her Gallifreyan eyesight, Romana found it difficult to pick out the form under the bedclothes.
"He can't stand the light," Lord Byron said lowly. "And he's really not himself. Mary has had to retire to another room, and old Polidori has gone out to find a local apothecary. He had hoped that it might be some local ailment that he was not familiar with."
"I would call this many things, but local would not be one of them," the Doctor said, as he pulled away the collar of Shelley's nightshirt. "Look familiar, Romana?"
Romana leaned forward and looked at the markings. "Not again," she muttered. "Who would have thought we’d keep finding traces of this condition after leaving E-Space."
"You know as well as I that it was never truly stamped out - not even here, " the Doctor said. "The one responsible for this is a shadow of the old great ones, of course, but it can still..." He frowned worriedly.
"You think this fellow is beyond help?" Romana asked, as she studied his face. The one disconcerting thing about this regeneration, she decided, was that she could see everything he felt on his face, but not his thoughts.
"He's still human," the Doctor said eventually. "Barely. But we need to find the root of the infection before this turns into an outbreak."
"An outbreak?" Lord Byron echoed. "An outbreak of what? Don't tell me it's the pox?"
"Nothing so prosaic, I'm afraid," Romana said. "What you're dealing with here is something a lot more dangerous."
"More dangerous than the pox?" Lord Byron asked. "Good grief, man, the next thing you know you will be telling me he has the plague!" Suddenly, Lord Byron took a step back from the bed. "He doesn't, does he?"
"Not of the Bubonic or pneumonic sort," the Doctor muttered, not noticing Byron’s change in demeanour. "What we have here something is something much more insidious, and much more dangerous. Something that, if we allow it to get out of hand, could deface the romantic poetry movement for all time and— "
"It's Vampirism, I'm afraid." Romana finished for him. He did tend to go on.
"Vampirism?" a feminine voice asked. "But I thought that they were only creatures of a dark imagination?" Romana turned to see a woman stand at the door. She was young, barely out of her teens, if she were any judge of human physiognomy.
"My dear Mary," Byron said. "Go back to bed. I’ll take care of this."
"I'll not be sent to bed like some errant schoolchild, Byron,” Mary said, as she stepped into the room. “Percy is my lover; I am well within my rights to be here. I overheard the servants mention you had found another doctor and I came at once. I, too, would like to know what ails him.”
Romana sighed, it seemed that they had stepped into the middle of a territorial dispute. As if she hadn’t enough of those at home. “Perhaps we could concentrate on the problem at hand, please,” she said. “We need to find the source of the infection. Have you had any new acquaintances of late?”
“My dear woman, I am Lord Byron,” Byron drawled. “Since we’ve arrived, I’ve lost count of the amount of callers we’ve had.”
“But we still have their calling cards,” Mary added. “Will those be of any help?”
Romana looked at the Doctor. “What do you think?” she asked.
“We don’t have enough time to follow up every lead,” the Doctor said. “We need to narrow down the trail.”
“I concur,” Romana said. “And I hardly think that this could occur over an afternoon tea of scones and crumpets.”
The Doctor nodded. “Tell me, my Lord Byron, have you had any unusual guests, of late,” he asked. “Someone rather pale and interesting, perhaps?”
“Someone who visits only in the evening?” Romana added.
“Someone with an aversion to Italian food?” the Doctor supplied.
Romana threw him a look. “Now you’re just being foolish,” she said.
“No, wait!” Mary said. “That description does ring a bell.”
"It does?" asked Romana and the Doctor, as one.
“Why yes, that description reminds me of Visconte di Calivari,” Mary said. “You remember, Byron; Doctor Polidori’s friend, the one who only calls after dinner?”
Byron raised an eyebrow. “Surely you don’t think that a little pallor denotes a vampiric nature, Mary,” he drawled. “If that were true, then half of London society would be guilty of the ailment.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me in the least,” Mary said under her breath. “In fact, I believe it would explain a lot.”
“This Visconte di Calivari,” Romana asked impatiently. “He is a new acquaintance of yours?”
“Of ours, yes,” Byron said. “But old Polidori has known him for years. An old friend of the family, he said.”
“Although one much changed from the man he remembered as a youth,” Mary said. “At least, that is what John said on the night the Viscount first called…although he hasn’t mentioned that fact since.”
“Yes, he was probably pulled into the creature's thrall that night,” the Doctor mused aloud. “Tell me, has he seemed distracted of late? Lost in his own thoughts? Reluctant to pass the salt?"
“Why yes!” Byron said. “He is much preoccupied of late, and not nearly as attentive of my company as he used to be.”
Romana noted the snort that escaped Mary’s lips, but ignored it. “You know what this means, don’t you?” she said. “One of Ruath’s creatures must have escaped and is still out there infecting others.”
“Yes, well, we’ve always suspected that, haven’t we?” the Doctor said softly. “This Visconte di Calivari, he calls often, yes, every night?”
“Why yes,” Mary said. “Every night for the last week.
“And Mr Shelley’s illness, when did it start?” Romana asked.
“He wasn’t bedridden until yesterday,” Lord Byron said.
“But he has been having problems sleeping since the night the Viscount first visited,” Mary said. “As if he was troubled by fevered dreams.”
“Hmmm,” the Doctor said. “Tell me, is this Visconte di Calivari due to visit again soon?”
“But of course, tonight in fact,” Mary said. “John mentioned it before he left for the village.”
“And Doctor Polidori?” Romana asked. “How long ago did he leave?”
“Well he had been gone for about an hour when you and your Doctor friend arrived, and that was about twenty minutes ago, so…” Lord Byron shrugged away the rest of the sentence. He managed to make it an eloquent gesture, Romana couldn't help but note.
“The sun sets soon,” the Doctor observed.
“And Doctor Polidori shall no doubt return soon,” Romana said grimly. “Along with his old family friend.”
“Time to sharpen the stakes, I suspect,” the Doctor asked.
“Well, look on the bright side,” Romana said. “At least we won’t need to use a rocket ship... this time.”
“A rocket ship?” Byron echoed. “What matter of fantasia is this? You speak of things that are of imagination and artifice, and have no anchor in reality, whatsoever. I am the last person on Earth to judge others for a vivid use of their imagination, but Percy’s life is at stake here, man.”
“Oh, believe me, we’re fully aware of that,” Romana said. “Just as we’re aware that his life is not the only one at stake here. Look at his neck, Lord Byron, do you think that those bite marks are the work of our imaginations?”
Lord Byron took a step closer to the bed, and looked at what Romana was pointing. He swallowed deeply. “I see what you mean,” he said hoarsely.
“We’ll need to prepare for their return,” the Doctor said. “How many others are in your party?”
“You mean other than us and Doctor Polidori? Well, there’s Claire, I suppose,” Mary said pensively.
“Claire?” Romana asked.
“Oh, of course, little Claire Clairmont,” the Doctor said. “She’s your step sister, I believe.”
“Such a tenacious creature,” Lord Byron said. “She will insist on trailing after me, despite her present state.”
Romana raised an eyebrow. “Present state?” she enquired.
“Claire is with child,” Mary said, looking at Lord Byron. It did not take much to surmise who the father was.
“Yes, well, it might be best if you tell your servants to retire early this evening and lock their doors,” the Doctor said. “And perhaps you should ask Miss Clairmont to join us in the drawing room.”
“Claire, I’m afraid, has already retired for the evening,” said Mary. “She said she hadn’t been sleeping well the last couple of nights and… oh dear.” Mary looked at them worriedly. “I had thought it was because of the pregnancy, but these new events cast a new light upon it.”
The Doctor threw Romana a significant look. “I think you may be right, Miss Godwin,” he said. “It may be that Percy is not the only one whose been infected by a Vampire’s bite. Lead the way!”
“I go by Percy’s name, Herr Doctor,” Mary said. “But please call me Mary. Such strictures are hardly apt in these present circumstances.”
“Indeed,” Lord Byron pronounced. “And while you two are tending poor Claire, I shall guide the Lady Romana to the drawing room!”
Romana caught the Doctor’s eye. Don’t you dare, she mouthed.
The Doctor smirked mischievously. “I’m afraid the Lady Romana shall be needed at my side,” he said. “We’re rarely seen apart, one without the other, whenever there’s a vampire about. It’s our curse, it seems.”
“I see,” said Lord Byron. “Then she’s your particular friend.”
“Oh, very particular,” the Doctor said, looking as if he was enjoying himself way too much. “Positively finicky! Come along, my very particular Romana.”
Romana eyed the pregnant girl, as she tossed in her sleep. “She seems awfully young to be with child,” she said.
“Claire is nineteen, less than a year my younger,” Mary said.
“Oh well, that changes everything,” Romana said dryly.
“Romana, try to remember where we are,” the Doctor said, as he leaned over the girl and brushed aside her hair. “And we have a matching pair, it seems.”
“Bite marks?” Romana asked
“I’m afraid so,” the Doctor said. The chamber bedroom’s window lit up with another spark of lightning, and its catch suddenly gave under a gust of wind. The window panes swung inwards with a crash as the lightning thundered.
“Of such things gothic clichés are made,” Romana said wryly, over the wind, as she felt her hearts jump.
“It is an ill-omened night,” Mary agreed, as she ran to the window and struggled to close it. Romana rolled her eyes but joined her, reaching out for the window’s shutters. Another crack of lightning lit up the lake, and Romana’s eyes narrowed as she saw movement on the road.
“Doctor, a carriage is heading this way,” she said urgently. “And the sun has just dipped below the horizon.”
“I shall go and urge the servants to retire at once,” Mary announced. “Perhaps I should also acquire a weapon for this confrontation. Tell me, is there any truth to those tales of a vampire’s aversion to the essence of garlic?
“I’m afraid I’ve never had occasion to test it,” the Doctor said grimly. “Although I've found fire, and a stake through the heart, works wonderfully well.”
“There are faggots kept by the kitchen fire,” Mary said, with a nod. “I’ve no doubt they shall prove useful for our task.”
Romana watched her leave. “Fire and a wooden stake?” she asked, once she was sure the girl was out of earshot. “A tad primitive, don’t you think?”
“They are the most effective tools at hand,” the Doctor pointed out, as he joined her at the window. “Tell me, did you ever give much credence to the old myths that said vampires could fly?”
“Well, we know, of course,that with the right psychic preparation such a thing is possible and the old great vampires…” Romana looked at his face. “Why do you ask?”
He pointed at a dark shadow passing over the lake, and Romana automatically looked for what was casting it. “My, my,” she said. “That puts a new spin on things.”
“Three of them,” the Doctor observed. “Just like old times. At least we can cross one myth off the list, however.”
“And which one is that?”
“The one which says vampires can’t cross water.”
“Nothing like a bit of empirical evidence to start off an evening of peril,” Romana said lightly. “Stakes, you were saying?”
“And fire,” the Doctor said, as he grabbed her hand. “Let’s find Mary, shall we?”
Travelling with the Doctor was always, of necessity, an occasion to think quickly on one’s feet. “We need a plan, Doctor,” Romana said, as they ran down the stairs.
“Yes, yes, yes,” he said. “I see, yes, a plan….I’m open to suggestions.”
Mary Shelley was at the bottom of the stairs, a basket of faggots on her hand. “Stakes!” she said. “And I have a hunting knife to sharpen them with.”
The Doctor smiled widely, and helped himself to a stick. “Oh look, Romana, a plan!”
“How…organized of you,” Romana said, eying the basket doubtfully.
“But it’s a plan,” the Doctor said lightly, as he suddenly started to rifle through his pockets. “And one should always have a plan. Dib, dib”
“Dib, dib?” Mary echoed.
“He’s talking nonsense, as usual. One gets used to it, eventually.” She watched as the Doctor produced a ball of twine and bag of jellybabies from his waistcoat pocket. “Well, not always,” she admitted. “We should find Lord Byron.”
“He’s in the drawing room; it's this way,” Mary said, walking ahead. “Do you really think Doctor Polidori is such a threat?”
“Doctor Polidori is the least of our problems,” Romana muttered under her breath, before turning to the Doctor. “Any ideas about who the third person might be, Doctor, or are you just going to spend the rest of the evening cleaning out your pockets?”
The Doctor offered her a jellybaby, and she took one, despite herself. “I’m looking for our contingency plan,” he explained, smiling wryly at her as she bit the head off the sweet.
“A contingency plan, in your pocket?” Mary asked.
He looked at her with round eyes and, for a moment, Romana was strongly reminded of a certain previous incarnation. “But of course,” he said. “Where else should I put it?”
Romana sighed. “Care to share the finer details of this contingency plan, Doctor?”
“And ruin the mystery?” the Doctor asked. He had now moved onto the inner pockets of his frockcoat. This produced a yo-yo, a packet of polo mints, a Venusian star crystal… and a dog whistle.
“K9,” Romana breathed.
“As good a contingency plan as any, I think,” he said. He blew into it.
“What is that?” Mary asked.
“The calvary,” the Doctor said lightly.
“You have a mounted force nearby?” Lord Byron asked archly, as they entered the drawing room. Romana eyed the pistols in his hands and sighed yet again.
“Narvin will have a field day,” she said aloud
“Romana, my dear, stop fretting,” the Doctor said. “I’m sure Narvin would be very upset about the vampire outbreak and will thank us profusely for clearing it up.”
Romana threw him a look. “And afterwards we shall have tea and crumpets, and Narvin will tell me what a splendid job I’ve been doing as Lady President,” she drawled.
“Hmmm,” he murmured. “I doesn’t sound quite so likely once you put it like that…maybe you can get Brax to break the news to him instead.”
“Brax? How did you know about—” She caught herself just in time. “Never mind. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound, as these humans say, and K9’s offensive capabilities shall indeed come in handy.”
A loud knock resounded through the doorway.
Mary stopped sharpening her stake. “Is it your cavalry?” she asked anxiously.
“I’m afraid K9 is not the type to knock,” Romana said, as another bang resounded though the door.
“Here, take this!” Mary handed Romana the stake and started sharpening another.
“Oh dear,” Romana said, looking at it. “I have a bad feeling about this.” A flash of lightning filled the window and the thunder reverberated through the paned glass.
“It can’t be helped sometimes,” the Doctor muttered. “Shall we answer it?”
Romana clutched the stake tightly and nodded. If Narvin saw her now, he’d definitely condemn her as a retrograde. “You open it, and I shall lie in wait behind it,” she told the Doctor.
“One moment please,” Lord Byron said. “This is my house; it should be me who answers the door.”
“Those pistols will not work against a vampire, Lord Byron,” the Doctor said.
“Perhaps not, but they will give it pause,” Lord Byron said, as he cocked one and stuck the other in his waistband. “Mary, a stake please?” Silently, Mary handed him a stake and started sharpening yet another. Romana sighed as Lord Byron strode across the hallway.
“You know this isn’t going to end well,” she said. “That knock on the door is obviously a diversion.”
“It has occurred to me,” the Doctor said. “But you know what they say. It isn’t a trap if it’s already sprung.”
“Yes, so I’ve heard,” Romana drawled. “I wonder who it was who came up with that old chestnut.”
“Oh, somebody famous and dead, I’ve no doubt,” the Doctor said. “Heads I go upstairs,” He produced a coin.
“Doctor!” she said sharply. “I’m not going to fall for that old coin with two heads trick again.” She snagged the coin out of his hands and headed for the stairs. “Come on.”
“Wait, why are you going upstairs?” Mary asked, as she joined them, stake in hand.
“Call it a hunch.” Romana said grimly.
“Then I shall go with you!”
“Oh,” Romana said. “Well, that’s very nice of you…”
“But Lord Byron might need an extra stake,” the Doctor supplied. The sound of glass breaking came from upstairs, and Romana and the Doctor looked at each other.
“It sounds like Shelley’s room,” Romana said.
“They’re probably looking for a quick top up before the main event,” the Doctor said, as he took the steps two at a time.
“You’re not going anywhere without me!” Mary declared.
“But what about the door?” Lord Byron called after them.
“Prop a chair against it,” the Doctor called back.
Romana very much doubted that a chair would keep even a half turned vampire out for long, but they were quickly running out of options, and Shelley and Claire were the ones most in danger. They ran up the steps, and found Shelley’s door closed. The Doctor twisted the handle. It was locked.
“Rassilon blast it!” the Doctor muttered as he took out his lock picks. “We don’t have time for this.”
Romana put her ear to the door and made a face as she heard a noise she’d rather not identify. “I don’t think Shelley has much time either, Doctor.”
“Oh no, Percy,” cried Mary.
“Stay behind us,” the Doctor said, as he tried the door once more. It opened.
The creature looked up as the light from the hall fell on it. Blood smeared its mouth and chin, its extreme pallor noticeable even in the dim light. Bat like wings extended out behind it.
“That is neither the Viscount nor Polidori,” Mary said, raising her stake.
“No, this would be the root of the problem,” the Doctor said quietly.
“I am Haemar, last of the true vampires!” it said, grinning coldly aa it got up from its crouch on the bed.
“True Vampire? Oh, Haemar, you don’t even come close,” the Doctor said softly.
“And what would you know of such things, human?” it spat.
“Well, I get around a lot, you see” the Doctor said. “See a lot of new sights and people.”
The creature laughed, its eyes becoming darker. “And now you have found your resting place!”
“Oh dear, is that the best you can do?” the Doctor asked. “So much for a witty repartee, are you —”
Romana pinched the Doctor’s arm, startling him into silence. “Tell me, Haemar, what do you hope to gain from this?” A sharp cry echoed from downstairs and Romana felt her heart sink. “Damn it!”
“That was Lord Bryon” Mary cried out.
“And now you have your answer. Why should I savour the lifeblood of a poet, when I can have a Lord instead!” With a lithe leap, it jumped out the window, and the Doctor dashed out the door.
“I’m a fool!” he declared, as he darted down the hall.
Romana felt indecisive as she looked at Shelley on the bed. Quickly, she felt for a pulse, and found one. “He’s still alive,” she said hurriedly. “Mary, stay with him. I need to catch up with the Doctor!”
The front door was a wreck of splintered wood by the time Romana reached the stairs. Lord Byron was unconscious and held between two men. Romana could only assume they were Doctor Polidori and the Viscount. The Doctor stood in their way, brandishing his yo-yo as if it was weapon. “I’m warning you,” he said. “One more step and I’ll be forced to use this!”
One of the abductors, the younger one, let out a surprised laugh. “A bandalore? You expect to defeat us with a child’s toy?”
“Ah, I forgot the yo-yo went through a period of popularity in the early nineteenth century. I really must make a note to remember these things…” He rooted around in his pocket. “Aha! How do like them apples, eh?” The Doctor held up his sonic screwdriver and Romana felt a wave of irritation as she crept down the stairs. Couldn’t he have mentioned he had his sonic screwdriver with him earlier!
“What, that puny piece of metal?” It was the younger one who spoke again. The older one, - the Viscount, Romana assumed – had seemed to have lost the ability to speak. He’d become a ghoul, not a half turned vampire, Romana suspected; a mindless slave.
“Ah but this isn’t just any piece of metal, this is a sonic device – and do you know what a sonic device does?” The Doctor caught Romana’s eye for the briefest of moments and then rolled his eyes towards the floor. Romana frowned, and then spotted the two pistols lying there. She looked at the Doctor and nodded her understanding.
“Oh please, do tell,” Polidori said snidely. Lord Byron groaned softly, and Polidori tensed. “This is my last warning, get out of my way or—”
“You’ll do what?” the Doctor said softly. “Your hands are already full. It’s me or Lord Byron, take your pick.”
“I pick you, Doctor.”
What happened next, happened in a blur. Haemar appeared at the broken door and threw himself at the Doctor. Romana dove for the pistols. The sonic screwdriver went off, making Polidori and the Viscount drop Byron on the ground and clap their hands over their ears. Haemar wrestled the Doctor to the floor, and Romana quickly cocked one of the pistols. “Stop!” she roared, using the voice she’d perfected over the last few months in council. The vampire looked up at her and laughed.
“A pistol? You think a pistol will work on me?” His grasp on the Doctor’s neck tightened, and Romana felt her own throat constrict as the Doctor went blue, his eyes fluttering closed.
“Maybe not, but it’ll work on your lackeys!” she said. She swung the pistol, aiming it at Polidori, who was curled up on the floor, whimpering.
The vampire laughed. “Do you think I actually care about them?” it asked. "When I have a member of the British aristocracy here to replace them? I shall have Lord Byron, heart and soul, he shall open the all the doors to the British peerage. I shall drink deeply, and slowly, and they shall welcome me with open arms!"
Lord Byron groaned and opened his eyes. “No,” he said feebly. “That must not be allowed to happen. "You must….kill me….”
"Quiet, human," Haemar hissed.
Romana watched as Lord Byron shut his mouth with an almost audible snap, his head falling to the floor once more.
"See?" the vampire crowed. "Already, I am capable of controlling his mind. Think what it’ll be like once we’ve commingled our blood!”
“I’d rather not, thanks all the same,” Romana said grimly, as she pointed the gun at Byron’s head. “Now let the Doctor go!”
“You’d never do it, you’d never kill an innocent man,” Haemar said smugly.
“It isn’t murder if the victim begs for it,” Romana said flatly.
“You don’t mean that,” it said.
“Oh, don’t I?” Romana asked. “Look at my face, vampire, am I lying to you?”
The creature’s eyes narrowed “You have no idea of the forces you’re tangling with, girl!” it hissed.
“On the contrary, I know exactly what I’m dealing with,” Romana said. “You, on the other hand, haven’t a clue.”
The vampire leaped, a blur of grey flesh and teeth in the air, and Romana threw herself to the ground as a red beam of light shot through the room accompanied by the smell of ozone.
“Mistress? Are you harmed?”
“I’m fine, K-9,” Romana said hoarsely, as she looked up at the blackened husk lying on top of her.
“I had difficulties with the terrain,” K-9 said. “My apologies for not getting here sooner.”
“Not need to apologise, K-9,” Romana said, as she pushed the corpse off her. “I’m grateful for your assistance.
“My pleasure, Mistress,” K-9 said.
The Doctor was already up and checking Lord Byron’s pulse. “Steady,” he said hoarsely. “But he’ll be out for a while.” He moved onto the Viscount. “Ah, dead, I’m afraid.” He felt for Polidori's pulse. "Thready, and getting weaker," he muttered. "That is not good. I've a feeling that if he dies, he'll rise again."
"You think the vampire infected him?" Romana asked.
The Doctor caught her eye. "I'd rather not have to kill him," he said. "it wasn't his fault the vampire infected his mind."
"Maybe we won't have to," Romana saId. "Remember that the Vampiric infection is fundamentally a psychic connection, made through the body's circulatory system. If we can shock the heart at the exact moment and restart the heart before the infection takes over--"
"Then we might be able to save his life!" the Doctor said excitedly. "Romana, that's brilliant - K-9?"
"We need to use your battery source!"
"Apologies, Master, the power output needed to destroy the Master Vampire depleted my batteries below optimum energy requirements to facilitate you plan."
"You know, you really should look into getting him a fission battery." the Doctor murmured anxiously. "He has an awful habit of running out of power at the most inopportune moments and we need a—” He stopped suddenly. “We need a key and kite!"
"Doctor, you're failing to make sense again," Romana said irritably, as she got to her feet.
"Am I?" he asked "I am" he repeated, as he pulled his TARDIS key and the yo-yo out of his pocket and handed them to Romana. "I knew this would come in handy again. Quick, we need to get to the roof."
Between them, they pulled Polidori towards the stairs, but halted as a gasp of surprise came from the landing above. Romana looked up to see Mary Shelley at the top of the stairs, her hand covering her mouth. "Doctor Polidori, is he dead? And what is that burnt thing on the ground - and the metal contraption, what -Byron!"
"He'll live," Romana said wryly, but Mary was already brushing past them to get to his side.
"I say," the Doctor said, his voice suddenly bright again. "I don't suppose you have a kite on you, by any chance?"
Mary looked up and glared up at him as if he had two heads. Romana couldn't blame her. "A kite, are you in jest?" she snapped. "This is not the time for childish games, Doctor!"
"Childish, me?" the Doctor asked, surprised.
Romana groaned. The human was becoming heavy and she was loosing the last of her patience. "Byron will live to write another verse, Mary. Doctor Polidori, however, may not, unless we prevent it," she said pointedly. So I'd greatly appreciate it if you'd just give us a direct answer."
Mary blinked. "No, we don't have one," she said softly.
"Oh bugger," the Doctor said. "We need to... my umbrella! It's definitely windy enough to work!"
"Your umbrella?" Mary asked.
"A parasol designed to keep off the rain," Romana said. "I gave it to your butler when we arrived."
"I'll find it." Mary said, standing.
"We'll be on the roof, waiting; I suggest that you hurry," Romana said, perhaps a bit more sharply than she'd meant to. She watched Mary run down a corridor, and hoped the girl didn't hold it against her. Leela always said she needed to be a tad less... acerbic, when dealing with people.
"Romana, time to move," the Doctor said softly.
"What?" Romana said distractedly. "Oh, yes, of course."
They dragged Polidori up a seemingly endless flight of steps and, at last, they found an access hatch to the roof. The rain fell mercilessly, and Romana hunched her shoulders against it, resigned to getting wet.
"He hasn’t much time,” the Doctor yelled, over the howling wind and rain.
“This might not work, Doctor,” Romana said, as she tied the key to the yo-yo string. “We’re relying rather heavily on blind luck.”
“Do we have a choice?” the Doctor said, as he laid Polidori on the roof and ripped open his shirt. He held out his hand for the key and yo-yo, and Romana gave it to him. He attached his sonic screwdriver to the end. “Hopefully, this will regulate the electrical shock enough to prevent serious damage,” he said, as Mary appeared through the hatch, the umbrella in her hand. A shard of lightning crossed the sky, and the Doctor looked up and laughed into the rain as the thunder rumbled. “Oh, this is wonderful,” he said. “Isn’t this wonderful, Romana?”
Romana smiled ruefully as her clothes began to cling to her skin. “Positively astonishing, Doctor,” she said, watching as he opened the umbrella, attached the yo-yo string to its red handle, and held it up. The high winds caught it and pulled it into the air as the Doctor adjusted the settings on the sonic screwdriver and held it to Polidori’s chest.
“Any second, Romana,” he said.
“Any second what?” Mary asked.
“You’d better stand back,” Romana said, taking her own advice.
“But I don’t understand!”
Romana gave her a brief, wide smile. “Tell me, Mary, have you ever met an American gentleman by the name of Benjamin Franklin?”
The sky blazed with another fork of lightning and hit the umbrella. Romana started to laugh as the energy coursed down the string and flared through the sonic screwdriver. Doctor Poldori screamed, his eyes shooting open as his back arched. The energy flowed through him, covering him in a brief nimbus of light.
And then it stopped. The burned remains of the umbrella fell to to the roof like an injured bird, and Doctor Polidori was suddenly crying and retching, babbling wordlessly.
Mary’s eyes widened. “What did you do? Did you just bring him back to life?”
Something in Romana’s mind clicked. “Oh no!” she said. “Of all the-- Doctor!”
"How was I to know?" the Doctor said, guilelessly, when they at last reached the relative safety of the TARDIS. "Mary always had such a fertile imagination; I was never in any doubt that the story was all of her own devising!"
"That's always the problem with you, Doctor," Romana said. "You never know, but you interfere nonetheless. You’re a Time Lord, you should know better!"
"Oh Romana, Romana, don't be cross with me," he cajoled. "I'll tell you what; we'll go to to Argolis for a relaxing cup of tea. You've always liked the pastries at Tiffany's and—"
"Doctor!" Romana said sternly. “Listen to me.”
The Doctor gave her an overly innocent look, as he looked up from the temporal meter. "Yes, Romana?"
"No more side trips."
"Of course, Romana," he said meekly.
Romana watched him as he checked the time display and looked at the chronometer. He seemed to understand her wishes, and she really needed to get home. There were several important meetings she needed to attend.
Well," he said eventually. "All seems to be in order... ready?"
“Ready,” she said.
He grinned at her. “Back to Gallifrey, then!”
She didn't believe him for a second.
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