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cursed! page 2

There, lying drunkenly and sprawled in an awkward position was a crumpled male body in tattered shreds of trousers and bare-chested; skin smeared with dried blood. Feeble groans were issuing from the man’s side, while Peri supported his head with her hands. The Time Lord fumbled in his pockets and withdrew a tiny opaque bottle. Unscrewing the cap he wafted the neck under the man’s nostrils.

Coughing, the man began to revive, a rattling sound issued from the back of his dry throat. ‘Wolf...damned wolf....’ he murmured, sounding very confused.

‘Don’t worry, you’re alright now. The wolf’s gone, it’s gone.’ comforted Peri, stroking the man’s fevered forehead.

Shaking his head the Doctor was still frowning, ‘I don’t understand...still perhaps when you’re over 750, one’s eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be.’ He gazed into the man’s moaning face. ‘Come on then old chap, we’ll get you back to your village. Heave ho, Peri,’ The two, shouldering the clumsy burden, began their unsteady trek in the direction the Doctor had seen Marlok head towards.
 
~~~

Lively was the only adjectively for the village mid-morning. Low slung sandstone cottages and narrow dirt tracks, interconnecting the various wider streets, all leading to the central dominating, imposing bulk of the timber-frame Courthouse. This was where Marlok and his companions worked each day.

Adjoining the Courthouse was a sprawling many roomed Inn; serving ale and meals around the clock ( if anybody except the wealthier members of the village owned one ). People hurriedly bustled about carrying milk churns and herb filled baskets, passing idle gossip while children ran around screaming their protests because they were bored or ill.

Marlok met Quinn in the village Inn. The two sat in huddled silence in a gloomy corner at the woodworm riddled table, draining tankards of ale with great ferocity. Then the conversation began.

‘You disposed of Quebus’ body?’ Marlok’s voice was but a whisper, thou it would not have mattered if the villagers heard. They were sadly oblivious to the work that went on in the Courthouse.

Wiping his bearded face of froth, Quinn replied triumphantly, ‘Aye, he’s gone.’

‘I lost it. I could have been killed if it weren’t for the stranger!’ Marlok was trembling with fear or rage, he didn’t know which.

Suddenly, Quinn was alert. He leant forward. ‘A stranger? We don’t want strangers coming here, you know that as well as I do. Why didn’t you bring him here...we have orders to detain any new comer that aren’t listed.’

Marlok scowled, ‘Don’t dictate our orders at me. I know ‘em well enough.’ He sat back, relaxing for a moment. ‘Anyway, the chances of him finding the village from where I left him…’ Nearly chocking on his own words, Marlok rose shakily to his feet as he saw the Inn door slam open.

There, holding an unconscious body in his arms, was the stranger he had left a few hours ago. Marlok noted the eccentric looking fellow looked particularly mean at this moment.

Surveying the room with a scrutinising eye, the Doctor’s gaze fell upon Marlok and Quinn huddled up in the corner. He gave them the coldest stare he could muster, before he was distracted by the appearance of whom he was holding upon one of the unsteady Inn tables.

‘Where’d you find him?’ asked the twitching uncouth Inn Keeper.

Obviously the Inn Keeper knew this person both Peri and the Doctor surmised immediately. Remaining dignified, the Doctor managed to sound indignant. ‘If you know who he is and knew he was lost, then why did you leave him to die on the moors?’ He thrust the body towards the startled Inn Keeper. ‘Perhaps you’ll take better care of your own next time.’ The Time Lord advanced upon Marlok and Quinn who were a little surprised at the stranger’s authority. ‘And what are you two sitting around here for? From your manner of dress I’d say you’re Justices of the Peace. Am I right?’

A nodded affirmative was all the dumb struck pair could manage.

‘Well, what are you doing here? There’s a crazed wolf out there or so you’ve said. My companion and I saw you chasing it with as much determination as a faster after a steak, then you gave up the chase all of a sudden. That puzzles me…’ He frowned, staring deep into Marlok’s eyes as if he were trying to draw the man’s thoughts away from him.

‘Ain’t no concern of yours,’ Quinn suddenly entered the fray, ‘we don’t discuss our affairs with strangers. This is a happy village, we don’t want no interference. And I warn you, whoever you are, that as Justices we have to keep the people happy and if you make ‘em unhappy, we’ve got the power to punish! Come Marlok!’

Left fuming ( and counting slowly to ten ) the Doctor watched as Marlok and Quinn strode past him, Marlok visibly unnerved by his new authority that had suddenly arrived in their village.

Peri joined the Time Lord and took him to one side, whispering urgently into his ear: ‘Doctor, I think we should get out of here. You’ve played the good Samaritan for today.’

The Doctor looked down his nose at her. ‘Come child, don’t you see they want us to go and when someone wants you to go, there’s invariably something going on they don’t want us to find out about. It’s all perfectly logical.’

‘And it’s all perfectly logical to split before we get our hands cracked open. You heard that man, they’re gonna come down on us the first chance they get.’

‘What we need, Peri, is to change our tactics and anyway, we can’t get away until I repair the TARDIS.’

‘God, you’re so stubborn!’ she stamped her foot with such a loud crack, that everyone in the room looked around.

‘I’m not stubborn, I’ve just got an insatiable curiosity,’ the Doctor beamed and began to attend to the injured man they had found, who was now laid out on one of the Inn tables.

Arms folded, Peri stalked around mumbling to herself about curiosity killing the cat and regretting it in view of the Doctor’s badge. She had to come to the conclusion she had once again been defeated by the Doctor’s irritating charm.

The man was now sitting up and talking. He sounded particularly drowsy. As if he had been up all night thought Peri to herself.

‘Could...could I have some...something to drink?’ he gasped croakily.

The Inn Keeper was handing over a tankard brimming with ale within seconds.The Doctor noticed his speed. ‘You suddenly seem concerned?’

‘Aye, that’s true. The sooner he’s out of here, the better.’ He took the Doctor aside, arm around his shoulders. ‘Listen, stranger, I ain’t got nothing against you, but you’d do well to take Quinn’s advice. If you stick around him over there for long...well go now, while you’ve got the chance...or you’ll be as cursed as he is.’

Leaving the Doctor with his cryptic phrase, the Inn Keeper shambled away and disappeared into the back of the Inn, making sure the Doctor heard the bolts sliding behind him. He did not want to be followed.

‘Get me to the cottage at the end of the village, will you?’ The injured man supported by Peri had shambled off the high table and was limping across towards the grumpy Gallifreyan.

‘Gladly! Hopefully you’ll be able to shed some light on a few things.’ The Doctor did not bother to offer his assistance, he wanted someone else to do the work for a change.

~~~

Sitting in a wicker chair, before a roughly covered wooden desk lined on the top with a few volumes, the newly revived man was giving the Doctor a few more details about himself. ‘My name’s Leon…’

Thumbing through a particularly hefty leather bound book, the Doctor took half an interest. ‘Yes, that’s all very nice but…’

‘Doctor! Give the man a chance. If you’d just listen we might just get away from here a bit quicker.’ Peri was quick to rebuke the Doctor.

Leon was humbled for a while even though he had no reason to feel small. ‘I’m sorry, I...I didn’t mean to detain you…’

Peri sat beside him and patted his head. ‘No, no, it’s me who’s too impatient and by the looks of it you need some company.’

‘No one in the village seems to understand...I tried to tell them but it hardened them even further against me. I’m as much an outcast as you are…’

‘And we outcasts should stick together, hmmm?’ ended the Doctor, before dropping back into deep thought as he carefully examined the contents of the book he was holding.

Peri was getting more and more puzzled in the space of a few words from Leon. ‘What don’t they understand?’ she asked apprehensively.

‘Im suffering from...from Ly…’ He suddenly corrected himself and the Doctor noticed the change of tone in his voice; the careful deliberation over the next words he was about to speak. ‘From some form of mental illness.’

Turning the next page over in the heavy volume the Doctor spun on his heel and slammed the book shut with such a bang to make Peri start.

‘Lycanthropy?’ The word sounded like a bad taste in the Time Lord’s mouth. ‘That’s what you were going to say, wasn’t it, Leon?’

Peri shook her head bemused: ‘Lycanthropy, what’s that?’ Her hand had for some reason detached itself from Leon’s.

The Doctor made the answer sound like an accusation. ‘He thinks he’s a werewolf, isn’t that right, Leon?’

Leon put his head in his hands and began to sob, bitterly. ‘Yes...yes...but I don’t only think I am, I know I am!’ He turned a tear streaked-face towards the Doctor, with Peri now securely at his side, holding onto him tightly. ‘Last night, I bit out the throat of one of Quinn’s men. Marlok pursed me...and you found me.’

Nodding, the Doctor began to piece together the situation. ‘That’s why Marlok gave up the pursuit, dawn had broken, you had changed back and with me around he couldn’t dispose of a human being.’

‘I wish...I wish he had. It’s a terrible curse. I want to die!’

‘That’s wild talk!’ intoned Peri, ‘I can’t believe any of this, it’s like some kinda weird horror movie...werewolves just can’t exist..they can’t..’ Taking all this in was very difficult.

‘Never close your mind to the impossible, Peri.’ growled the Doctor. He waved the volume he was holding under Peri’s nose. ‘It’s all in here anyway. You make out a good case, Leon and in such detail for a diary. Either you are a werewolf or a good fictionalist,’ the Doctor sucked in his teeth, ‘and I don’t think it’s the latter...there’s just too many coincidences for that.’

‘Think what you like, Doctor, only I know it’s true.’

Peri had warmed to Leon anew; he was utterly convincing and he seemed to have a conviction, a resolve that no one was going to deter him from. Her horror had melted away because she could see the terrible burden Leon carried with him. ‘I believe you, Leon.’ She advanced upon him and once again sat at his side.

‘Thank you. I wanted to hear those words for a long time…’

The Doctor surveyed the scene with his usual methodical way. ‘We’ve established the proof of your words but now we’ve got to find away of solving your problem, some hope, some cure.’

The Time Lord sounded defeated, in his heart of hearts he knew that there was only one way to cure the werewolf’s curse. He anticipated Leon’s answer.

‘There is only one answer, Doctor - death!’

The word left Peri and the Doctor more uncomfortable than comfortable.

~~~

The one person those words left more comfortable was Marlok. He sat in the middle of an anachronism at the centre of the technology that was very much out of place in the early nineteenth century. Its presence posed more questions than gave answers.

The small man sat hunched over a small brilliantly white console, covered in innumerable dials and knobs all flickering and clicking in perfect unison; surrounding a tiny mesh loud speaker from which was issuing forth the words Marlok wanted to hear. At last he now had the evidence he needed to dispose of Leon and rid the village of the curse…

END OF PART ONE

written by
DARREN FIELD
copyright 2009 
 
artwork by
COLIN JOHN
copyright 2020

 
 
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