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time of the witch page 2

'This way, monsieur.' said the manservant politely as he gestured towards the stairs. After a brief hesitation for the Doctor to follow, Henri started up the marble sweeping staircase and onto the gallery.

The Doctor glanced at the many paintings on the walls next to the staircase as he followed Henri up the stairs. Most were portraits of regal men and women; others depicted scenes of riders hunting through woodlands astride magnificent horses and followed by faithful hounds. As he climbed the stairs, the Doctor also admired the superb crystal chandelier that hung from the ornately decorated ceiling.

More doors and corridors led off from the gallery. Henri walked along one of the long corridors before stopping at one of the ornate wooden doors. He opened it and then stood to one side to let the Doctor enter. 'Your room monsieur?' he said respectfully.

The Doctor smiled delightedly. 'Merci, Henri.' The servant bowed again solemnly and then walked away along the corridor and then down the stairs, leaving the Doctor alone.

The Doctor paused at the doorway to his room and looked up and down the corridor. It was empty. His curiosity was burning. Perhaps he should look around and explore a little? He glanced into his room and saw a large four poster bed and then he grinned. His curiosity could wait a while. Next to the bed was a table set for an elegant supper with silver dishes and bowls. A carafe of red wine stood next to a crystal goblet on the table.

The Doctor walked into the bedroom and across to the dinner that was laid out on the table. He lifted one of the silver serving dishes to reveal a whole roast duckling in a rich, dark and sticky sauce. Another tureen held freshly cooked and steaming vegetables. Taking off his brown coat and throwing it on the bed, the Doctor poured himself a large goblet of red wine, pulled up a red velvet chair, and sprawled back into it.

'You know, Doctor,' he said to himself as he relaxed in the chair and took a sip of the delicious wine from the goblet, 'on this trip the monsters can wait a while. I’m taking a little holiday!' He raised the crystal goblet to his absent, though gracious, host. 'Bon appétit, môn ami!'

~~~

A figure had watched from the shadows as the Doctor had gone into his room and closed the door behind him. The figure chuckled, revealing perfect teeth. He knew it only had to be a matter of time before the Doctor would arrive, even if he had regenerated since they last had met, so he was pleased with his preparations. After a moment, he crept away down the corridor of the chateau and into the darkness.

~~

The crow soared through the night air, wings fully stretched as it glided silently searching for prey in the fields and woods below. It passed over the group of large stone buildings and the square areas that had been cut and tailored to make gardens and suddenly saw something unusual below it.

The crow turned abruptly with a caw and swooped down to land on the square wooden roof of a blue box that sat in the gardens. It scuttled around the lamp on the centre of the roof and cawed again.

Then suddenly its eyes glowed with an eerie, purple hue.

~~

The next morning, the Doctor woke just as the grey dawn crawled across the sky. He had never needed much sleep, but the occasional night or two made a galaxy of difference. He stretched lazily and then bounded out of bed. He dressed quickly and then went downstairs into the hallway where there were a few servants busying themselves with their chores.

To the Doctor’s delight, he recognised Henri amongst them and walked over to him. 'Bonjour Henri. Where is my good friend this fine morning?' the Doctor bluffed.

'The Vicomte is out riding as usual Monsieur,' Henri replied with a short, respectful bow. 'You may borrow a horse from the stables if you wish?'

The Doctor grinned; he hadn’t ridden a horse for ages! This was getting better and better.

~~

It was a beautiful sunny morning and the fresh air was twice as exhilarating from horseback. The Doctor breathed in deeply as he cantered along a rough muddy track astride a magnificent white stallion. He had been told that his illustrious host, the Vicomte de Gallois, had ridden in this direction. Perhaps it was now time to find some answers?

~~~

The Doctor rode quickly to the top of a small hill and looked around him. The Vicomte’s estate and palace looked idyllic in the early morning sunshine. In the distance, and lower down in a valley about half a mile or so away, the Doctor saw not one, but two figures on horseback standing next to each other. One, astride a chestnut stallion, was clearly the Vicomte in a plum riding jacket and black boots. The Doctor frowned and sighed as he recognised the other figure. It was a handsome man, also dressed in a riding jacket, but in emerald green and riding upon a grey horse. The Doctor dug his heels into the flanks of his horse and rode down the hill towards the other two men.

Captain Jack Harkness grinned broadly as the Doctor rode up to them. 'Morning, Doctor!' he called cheerfully. 'We’ve been expecting you!'

Jack glanced up and down at the Doctor, assessing the appearance of his regenerated body. 'Nice make-over by the way!' he said with a grin.

The Doctor reined his steed to a halt and nodded a greeting to the Vicomte before looking hard at his former companion. 'What are you doing here Jack?' he asked accusingly. It had been a while since he had seen Jack Harkness, not since that terrible battle with the Daleks that had cost him his ninth regeneration. Until very recently, the Doctor had thought that Jack had perished on the space station, but that was before he had accessed the computer files in the Torchwood tower whilst battling against the Cybermen. Rose must have saved Jack as she had saved all of them.

Now as he looked at Jack, the Doctor realised that there was something different about him. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but he knew that it was definitely wrong.

Jack raised his hands and shrugged mockingly. 'Aw, come on Doctor!' He pulled a rather important document from his jacket pocket. 'I’m just showing our gracious host here your papers.'

The Doctor sighed. He had seen such documents before, an offshoot of his own psychic paper. 'Alright, so why are we,' he emphasised the last word, 'here?'

Jack grinned again and stowed away his psychic document. 'I’ll tell you later,' he replied mischievously, 'but there have been strange lights seen in the sky!'

~~~

The chamber was so dark and musty that it was impossible to see the size of it. Acrid fumes from the cauldron filled the air as a fire crackled beneath. The flickering light from the fire cast long and dancing shadows on a handsome young man dressed in the fine clothes of the aristocracy that sat immobile on an elegant wooden chair, his face blank of any expression. It was Remy de Gallois, although any trace of his usual ebullience and good humour that his wife would have recognised had long been consumed.

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