TO CELEBRATE 750 @TinDogPODCAST S HERE IS A SHORT STORY
by Michael Gilroy-Sinclair
The fake monk was not happy. The school party was late and he had been reduced to simply staring out of the window. In the brightly lit education suite, he had neatly laid out a collection of fake parchment and quills in order to give the primary school children a taste of life as an eighth-century monk. It felt to him that he had been doing this, day in day out, for months and he was frankly bored.
He knew from the minimal research he had been required to do, that the real monks had used goatskin and octopus ink, but such extravagances were beyond most education department budgets.
Idly, he straightened a pile of A4 paper, which didn’t need straightening, only to return to the window and glance across the car park for the fiftieth time that morning. The sky was the clearest blue with only wisps of white dancing in the heavens.
Surely, that blue portaloo hadn’t been there this morning. How could he not have noticed it until now? Maybe the council were finally going to fix those potholes?
Only… Now that he could see it properly, there seemed to be a flashing light on the top and it clearly wasn’t a portaloo at all.
Rose was not impressed with the Doctor. He had landed the TARDIS without any of the usual build-up about their destination and headed for the door. There had been no talk of strange creatures or stranger lands.
The Doctor’s behaviour may have been out of the ordinary, but Rose reasoned that it must have had something to do with the sound.
Moments earlier, the extraordinary time and space ship had made an extraordinary racket that sounded almost exactly like it had a stone in its shoe. Rose knew fine and well that the TARDIS didn’t have shoes to get stones into, so this was a worry.
She had come out of the kitchen and headed straight to the control room, where she saw the Doctor heading past the pale coral roof supports and out of the old wooden door and into the daylight beyond.
“Oi, hold on!”
“Hmm,” replied the Doctor; he was distracted by his sonic screwdriver as it bleeped and flashed in a way she had never seen it do before.
“Do you have any idea what we are looking for?” asked Rose in her most patient voice.
“Err… no…. but I will know it when I see it.” He seemed very positive about this.
“And the bleeping helps?”
“The bleeping will tell me when we are close to the source.”
Rose’s patience was wearing thin, “The source of what?”
The Doctor stopped walking and looked directly at Rose as if she were a child. “The source of the temporal disturbance. Honestly, it’s like I don’t explain anything to you…”
“You don’t. All I know is that the TARDIS started making a weird noise and then we stopped and you stormed off with that thing in your hand.”
As if it were joining in the conversation, the bleep of the sonic screwdriver suddenly became slightly more frenetic, taking away the Doctor’s concentration and causing him to walk off in a new direction.
“Where are we anyway?” demanded Rose as she raced to catch up with the Doctor.
“You tell me, Rose Tyler.”
Rose looked around. “It’s cold. And it’s Earth… England.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because… unless we are in some pretty weird parallel universe, that’s a Ford Escort and that’s a Volvo.”
Rose was on a roll. She took a deep breath and smelled the air. “We’re near a river or close to the sea.”
“Correct on both counts,” the Doctor said, beaming. “Anything more specific?”
She looked over the Doctor’s shoulder and said, “We’re in Jarrow at a place called Bede’s World, near the river Tyne. Quite close to the tunnel, apparently.”
“Amazing! And how do you know that?”
“There’s a whopping great sign on the other side of the road,” said Rose smugly.
The Doctor beamed with delight. “Fantastic! Anything else?”
“It’s a World Heritage Site and it looks like the tea shop is open. Fancy a Hobnob?”
The Doctor flicked at the screwdriver until it stopped making a noise. “I don’t mind if I do. Grab your coat, you’re paying.”
Calder, son of Eric, had not always been the Viking warrior he was today.
He had been nothing more than a farmer with a sideline in jewellery making, when the Northern Lights had come down to the land to visit him and him alone.
It had been an ordinary afternoon in the fields when the storm had risen. It was a tempest unlike any he had seen before.
In a single heartbeat, the sky had ripped apart causing his flock to scatter and Calder to shelter under the nearest tree. From his refuge he could see the incredible colours swirl and pulse as the afternoon sun twisted and bent in the storm. Suddenly, a gash of darkest night filled the air above him.
Beyond the hole in the sky, the stars swooped and curved, with a single shooting star at its centre, resembling a pendant of the gods.
And then it was gone.
Like a vivid dream, it passed and seemed to leave nothing but a memory.
Calder shook his head as if to shake something loose, only finally to look up and see a small trail of smoke on the other side of the hill.
He ran, stumbling over loose rocks to see what was beyond the crest of the hill.
He arrived to find a short furrow in the ground, smoother than any plough could have made, with a small mound at one end. Calder could see something small and black embedded in the earth. He reached out and grabbed it. From that moment onwards, he was a changed man.
Now, all of these year later, he stood on the prow of the longboat and looked deeply at his left hand, examining the stone that had changed him so much. It was the shape of half an apple and blacker than a winter’s night. Across its surface a billion points of light.
The stone had taken him and his brethren on so many journeys. It had guided them from their homes in the West, across the seas to the fertile land again and again, only to have him return with a hold full of treasures and slaves and always an all-consuming feeling of loss.
Calder was their guide; he used the stone from the heavens, the obsidian map of the sky to point the way, always listening to its silent whisper.
Until today – today there was no wind; there were no birds in the sky and only tiny ripples on the surface of the water beneath the hulking mass of the longboat.
Tentatively, Calder’s friend Tarben had suggested releasing the ravens in order to find the direction of the nearest land. Magic stones were one thing but the crew were realists.
Calder had told them to be patient; the stone would show the way. After all, it had never let them down before.
The tea shop was a small affair with a view over the river and beyond. Through the bay window, Rose could see the port with thousands of identical cars neatly lined up, ready for distribution around the world.
They had come in through the main entrance which also acted as a small gift shop, complete with pointless stationary and guidebooks. The woman behind the counter had a smile as wide as the Doctor’s and had welcomed them in like a seasoned pro.
“Welcome to Bede’s World, home of the Venerable Bede. As well as the Monastery and Visitors’ Centre, we have a special exhibition on at the moment with some of the finest examples of…”
“Is the coffee shop open?” interrupted Rose.
“Yes, it is. And we do a storming hot chocolate, pet.”
“Pet?” said the Doctor, worried that the TARDIS translation circuits might be on the blink.
“Aye, pet. The tea is nice too… I can bring it over if you like? Have you come far?”
Rose smiled to herself.
“Oh, about six parsecs as the crow flies,” said the Doctor absent-mindedly.
“Yeah you sound like you’ve come a long way. That accent… Somewhere in the South…? Manchester…?”
“South?!” sniggered Rose.
“Oh yes, pet lamb. Anything beyond Sunderland is the South as far as we’re concerned,” half joked the woman behind the counter.
The Doctor was clearly affronted and headed for the comfiest looking chair for solace.
“Your friend a bit touchy about his accent? Never mind. Now, what shall I get you?”
Rose ordered then joined the Doctor. “Did that woman really call me ‘pet lamb’?”
With a snort of derision, the Doctor busied himself with his screwdriver once again.
“I’ve ordered you a tea, if that’s all right…”
The Doctor didn’t answer.
“What’s up? Gone off in a huff because you aren’t quite northern enough?” She tittered.
“I’ll have you know I used to be Scottish. Is that northern enough?” he said, then stared out of the window. Whispering to himself, “And, for all I know, I might be again one day.”
Clearly she had touched a nerve. “You don’t half talk some rubbish… So… What’s all this about then?”
“I have my suspicions about what made the TARDIS…” The Doctor started to wave his hands about as if to explain something complex.
“…Make an appalling noise and put you in a bad mood?”
“Yeah! Only… it shouldn’t be possible. Not here, not now.”
The drinks arrived and broke the conversation. “One tea and one hot chocolate, both with complimentary biscuits. Enjoy your visit. Make sure you see the special exhibition and be careful of that dig site. God only knows when they will be back.”
At the mention of a dig site the Doctor sprang to his feet, almost knocking over his tea. Looming over them was a fake monk.
Calder smiled. A smile that the crew knew of old. That magic stone of his was telling him something. The wind began to rise and they were on the move again.
The monk stood directly in front of the Doctor and Rose. His face was full of nervous energy, which Rose found more than a little appealing.
Suddenly the Doctor became tense. As Rose glanced in his direction, she could see that all of the usual warmth had evaporated from his face. He regarded the figure in front of them with the sort of suspicion he usually reserved for the galaxy’s most wanted criminals, rather than a man in a brown habit.
The two men faced each other in silence.
“Welcome to Bede’s World,” said the monk. “I am the Venerable Bede, born in 672 and died on the twenty-sixth of May, 735.” He paused for effect. “And I will be your guide today around my world. A world of knowledge and darkness and light and…” He paused.
“And inspiration!” shouted the woman from the counter. “Gary, the line is ‘and inspiration.’”
“You really know how to spoil the moment, Doreen… Anyway I thought the line was ‘and faith.’”
“They changed it at the last meeting, which you would know if you had been on time. You know, we never get this problem with Pete. Now there is someone who really inhabits the role.”
The truth dawned on the travellers. “Inhabits the habit,” joked the Doctor, his smile quickly returning.
Gary, the fake monk, was not happy with Doreen. “Look, it’s Pete’s day off and I am Bede today.”
Rose felt sorry for the man in brown. “Don’t worry… Gary, is it? I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it… Why don’t you tell us more about this place? Think of it as a practice run.”
Doreen was still unimpressed. “Shouldn’t you be with that school group?”
“They called and said they were running late. Engine trouble outside Middlesbrough, or something.”
“There you go,” said the Doctor. “Gary can tell us all about the place before the school gets here.”
“For a start, you can tell me who this Bede bloke actually was,” said Rose.
It felt like it had been raining for months. The land squelched underfoot. The sky, the river and the sea beyond were all the same dark murky grey.
Beyond the pond, where the trout waited until Fridays, lay the wooden fence which held the young goats, next to the tanning shed, where the living raw materials were turned into parchment and would form part of their greater purpose.
Beyond the rudimentary farm was the small, wooden jetty, the edge of which disappeared into the light fog over the river Tyne.
The mist spread its tendrils out across the land, and yet the sun was fighting through increasingly larger gaps in the gloom, allowing shafts of light to warm the land.
A small bell rang calling the monks to prayer, dragging them away from one form of devotion to another, their rough garments soaked from the constant drizzle.
The heavy air made everything sound so much closer than normal. The echoing ring of the bell was both muffled and yet piercing, and the constant bleating of the goats seemed more immediate than usual.
Most of the monks now stood in the chancel in silent contemplation while one, standing at a wooden lectern, was reading from the Scriptures.
As always, one of their number was not at prayer. Novice Randal had a considerably more earthly task to fulfil.
At the edge of the jetty, he sat listening to the sound of his brothers’ devotions travelling gently on the breeze, while his eyes were firmly fixed on the horizon.
This was an important job reserved for the novices of the order, as the younger monks had better eyes and could see further.
It was Randal’s job to keep a watch out for ships. Some would carry emissaries or pilgrims, while others brought those with darker motives.
It had been some time since the last Viking attack, but you never knew when an innocent looking trading ship would conceal different intentions. He did not know which would be worse: to die or to be sold into slavery. He had read the accounts of attacks on monasteries further up the coast. Such earthly horrors kept Randal awake at night.
For a fleeting moment, the sun fought the mist and won. At first Randal couldn’t be sure. He blinked and strained his eyes. Yes, there it was, he was certain now. He could make out a black dot on the horizon and it seemed intent on heading their way.
As the Doctor, Rose and Gary (the fake Bede) walked away from the Visitors’ Centre and down the small incline, the sounds of modern life went on around them. On the river, a gigantic tanker floated its way out to sea, while in the distance massive cranes were being dismantled. All around, the constant murmur of traffic impinged on this island of tranquility.
Gary explained as they walked, “In all honesty, I’m just an actor in between gigs… And a bit of ‘theatre in education’ always looks good on your CV.”
“You were going to tell us about Bede,” reminded Rose.
The Doctor interrupted, “Bede was a monk and a historian who wrote one of the first history books.”
“I think she was asking me,” said Gary, “but like he says, Bede was this priest who wrote… Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum…” He pronounced the Latin words with exaggerated care. “I knew I’d get that right.”
“And what’s that when it’s at home?”
The Doctor couldn’t help himself: “The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. It’s the first history book to use the AD system of dating. Without that book, you lot would know even less than you do.”
Rose gave the Doctor a gentle punch in the arm. “Is it me or is it getting nippy?”
“Time displacement does that… Or it could just be the wind off the sea.”
“I’m just glad I get to keep my thermals on underneath this habit.”
“That’s hardly historically accurate,” joked Rose.
“And neither are his sandals.”
“I’ll have you know, if eighth-century monks had had access to Crocs as comfortable as these, they would have worn them.”
They were now getting closer to the actual monastery and could see it in more detail: a squat church made from heavy stone.
Gary continued with pride, “We’ve always got archaeologists of one type or another poking around. It’s not like when Time Team came…”
“Time Team?” asked the Doctor with interest.
“It’s a TV show. Now shush and let Gary tell us about the place,” said Rose.
Gary smiled. “Well, it was long before my time; they made a hell of a mess and they didn’t find anything much of interest, just a few pots and a lot of dead goats.”
“Yeah, goat skin is what the monks made their special paper from,” explained Gary. “This lot are from the university; they only come a couple of times a week… The trench is just round this corner.”
The Doctors sonic screwdriver began to buzz once more.
Novice Randal ran for all he was worth. The mist had cleared enough for him to be sure that the oncoming ship was the Norsemen returning. They had reached the river mouth itself.
He had to raise the alarm. His feet pounded the soft earth, almost kicking a chicken as he ran haphazardly towards the church and his unsuspecting brothers.
The large wooden door felt as light as a feather as he pulled it open with all of his strength, the fear coursing through his body. Eyes turned to him and he shouted a single word: “Vikings.”
Every moment counted before an attack. Some of the older monks had sharp memories of times when the Norsemen had come and taken their friends and precious artefacts. Panic gripped them all.
Rose was not impressed; after all, if you have seen one hole, you have seen them all. “There’s not much to look at it, is there,” she said, stating the obvious.
The Doctor thought for a moment. “I don’t know, you can tell a lot from a hole.”
“You can?” asked Gary. “Like what?”
“Well, for a start, you can tell that there aren’t any archaeologists about.”
“I did say they only come a few days a week. In fact, I’m pretty sure they’re due tomorrow,” Gary explained.
Rose joined in: “Go on then Mr. Smarty-Pants, what else can you tell from this hole?”
“Well, the ground has been recently disturbed.”
“Yes, it’s a hole, someone dug a hole. They disturbed the ground. That’s how you make holes.”
The Doctor gave Rose the same sort of hard stare that Paddington Bear was famous for. “The earth at the bottom of the hole has been disturbed. There…” He pointed. “That line down the middle. The darker, dryer earth, it looks burnt.”
Now that the Doctor had mentioned it, it was obvious.
“I’m guessing it rained last night,” inquired the Doctor.
“Bucketed down,” said Gary. “Why do you ask?”
“Because whatever made that mark in the dirt happened after the rain and left a dry scorched line…” He peered into the ditch. “And as there are no muddy footprints, we know your students haven’t been anywhere near. I’m guessing whatever did it is still down there.”
“Ohhhh! Get you! The new Mr. Holmes,” Rose quipped.
“It’s a shame really,” said Gary.
“What is?” asked the Doctor.
“That we aren’t allowed down there to see what it is.”
“Tell that to Rose,” replied the Doctor as Rose jumped into the hole.
The monks had only moments to act but they had prepared. With a few swift swings of an axe, the jetty had collapsed into the river and now lay beneath the surface.
This would only delay the landing, but there was no point in making it easy for the invaders. The novice monks had very precise instructions: they were to go to the library and rescue as many of the books as they could carry.
Each one had been given a specific tome to protect. They were to run and hide in the woods, and only come back once it was safe to do so.
The older monks would defend the buildings for as long as they could.
Once Randal had reached the library, a small room off the cloister, he was pleased to see that most of the other books had already been rescued. Only one remained and it was in the hands of the old monk, Brother Bede.
The scholar was muttering to himself about the Norsemen and about how they would never take his life’s work.
In his hands he held his history book. Randal had yearned to read it for himself and hoped one day to do so. It had taken years to complete, and the old man was not going to let it go.
Quickly, the novice decided to do the only thing that was available to him: he would rescue the book and its author.
Together they would protect the book. The knowledge would not go up in flames like so much had done in the past. He was convinced that the Norsemen might burn the church, but they would not take these words.
By the time they left the small room, it was already too late – the Vikings had arrived, splashing and slashing their way on to the land.
Some of the warriors had split from the main force and were busy gathering up the animals, while the others burned the tannery. From the mists of the river they came, organized and strong. At their head was a single figure holding a sword in one hand and a small black rounded object in his other. The sword was already dripping with blood.
“We must go!” the young novice urged the older monk. Seconds later, the warrior was on them.
The jump into the hole was further than Rose had been expecting, but she had managed to avoid twisting her ankle. And, after all, any landing you can walk away from is a good one.
“Hold your horses, Rose, I’m coming down,” said the Doctor, as he jumped the short distance, much to the protestations of Gary.
“I only brought you here so that you could have a look.”
From his position in the hole, the Doctor looked up and smiled his goofiest of grins. “And that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’re going to have a look… and maybe a poke around. But mainly a look.”
Gary gave in. “Hold on then, I’ll come too… I suppose someone from the museum should be present.”
“That’s the spirit, come on down.”
Gary slowly slid himself down the side of the hole, revealing the manufacturer of his underwear at least twice before arriving at the bottom.
“They’re rather anachronistic, aren’t they?” said the Doctor judgmentally.
“Do you mind!?” said Gary, as he straightened his robes.
“I’m only joking,” said the Doctor.
“No, not you, her! I said, do you mind not poking about! Do you want to damage any priceless artefacts?”
“Since when is mud priceless? I just want to have a look.”
Gary still seemed unimpressed: “You look with your eyes, not your hands.”
Rose bent down. “I think there’s something in there.”
“Whatever it is, don’t touch it. I want to take a reading,” said the Doctor, pulling out his sonic screwdriver.
Gary moved forward, making a grab for Rose’s shoulder. “I told you not to touch anything.”
As he touched her, she must have made contact with the thing that had made the gash in the dirt. It was small and black, and looked as if it contained a million tiny dancing points of light in the night.
“I just want to have a…”
And then Rose and Gary were gone… leaving the Doctor alone in the trench.
Randal was terrified; his master held tightly onto his greatest possession, clutching it safely to his chest. They both knew they were about to die.
Randal knew that the Norsemen had no interest in the sacred words. Grimly, he realized that his last thoughts would be about the loss of the text, rather than concern for his own passing.
The old man suddenly seemed to be at peace, as if he knew his destiny and was willing to accept it without question. He pushed the novice to one side and urged the boy to run, forgetting the manuscript clutched in his hands.
The Viking was huge, at least two spans taller than the monk, and he had clearly seen battle. With a distant look in his eye, he raised his sword, ready to dispatch the old man. The monk simply held out a hand in friendship, his faith guiding his actions.
This caught the Viking off guard, and he froze with his sword ready to strike.
The monk touched the Viking’s sword-less hand, breaking the moment. The sword came down and hit the book with so much force that it embedded itself into it. In the same movement, the old monk touched something smooth in the warrior’s hand.
There was a flash like lightning… and both monk and Viking were gone.
Novice Randal stood in disbelief; had God taken his master and his attacker to heaven? Was this the Rapture?
Standing before him, where his master had once stood, there was now an angel with purest yellow hair and standing next to her, her herald, a monk in the cleanest habit he had ever seen.
If the Doctor had been surprised by the disappearance of Rose and Gary, he was even more surprised by the sudden appearance of the huge Viking and a more authentic-looking monk holding the tattered and smouldering remains of a book.
The angel remained still, in a crouching position, her hands held as if unexpectedly and suddenly empty of something that they had previously been holding. The look on her face told of her confusion, but then which of God’s creatures would not be confused, after a fall from heaven?
The blinding flash had attracted the attention of all the Vikings. Randal watched their confusion as they struggled to understand the disappearance of their leader. For a moment, there was silence, then an uncertain muttering.
Randal knew enough of their strange tongue to pick out some of the words: “It’s magic! Thor has taken Calder! What have we done to anger him? It’s Freya! She’s not taking me to Helheim.”
As the young monk watched, panic set in and the Vikings ran, back towards their ship, abandoning their captured treasures and animals.
Randal felt a surge of pity for the Vikings, who seemed to have taken this angel for one of their own heathen gods, when clearly she had been sent from On High to save the monks from these savage invaders.
Rose gathered her thoughts. She was in almost exactly the same spot, only the ferry terminal, Visitors’ Centre and car park were all gone.
The ancient church looked newer and there were more wooden buildings dotted around.
With astonishment, she noticed the group of people running towards the river – who seemed to be a group of Vikings. Admittedly they were Vikings without horns on their helmets, but nevertheless they were clearly the warriors of legend.
It also occurred to her that her sudden appearance may have grabbed their attention.
Not one to let an opportunity slip – the Doctor had taught her that – she stood up and looked directly at the young novice. “Hello, I’m Rose.”
It was then she noticed Gary, the fake monk, lying at her feet, with an expression of utter disbelief on his face.
At the Viking’s feet lay something the Doctor recognized. The Doctor smiled to himself in realization of what had happened.
Oblivious to his change in circumstances, the Viking raised his sword once more, taking the heavy book in which it was still lodged with it. He lifted the weapon high above his head and again prepared to dispatch the cowering monk.
“Oi, we’ll have none of that!” shouted the Doctor as he brought his sonic screwdriver level with the new arrivals. The blue light on the end pulsed and the book on the sword blade burst into flames, showering the Viking’s head in debris and breaking his concentration once and for all.
The Viking stood in silence, finally aware of his new surroundings. “What magic is this?” he spat.
“Now… I think one of you has something that doesn’t belong to you,” said the Doctor.
“Is this Valhalla? Or Helheim…?” continued the confused Viking.
“No, this is Jarrow. Just off the A19… Now, like I said… one of you has something that doesn’t belong to them… Small black stone?”
Automatically the warrior raised his left hand. It was clear that he had no control over his actions: the stone was guiding him. With the Viking’s palm open the Doctor could see the hemisphere reacting to his words, a million points of swirling light danced.
The Doctor spoke to the stone directly, “You are beautiful… and I think you’re looking for your friend, aren’t you?”
As if in answer, the pattern of stars shone in unison, and the stone slipped from the warrior’s hand and into the Doctor’s. The Viking’s expression changed almost instantly, as if he had been released from a long captivity.
“Well, I think your friend is over here in the mud.” Carefully the Doctor took the Viking’s stone over to the other, which remained embedded in the mud. Gently, he laid them together.
A white light glowed and then began to shine like a small sun as the two halves became a single ball of energy.
“I think we can leave those two to get reacquainted for a bit, don’t you?” The Doctor turned his attention to the two confused humans.
“Now, did either of you see a girl in a white puffer jacket? She was probably with a very surprised-looking monk.”
The old monk ignored the Doctor’s question; he was weeping at the smouldering remains of his life’s work, now reduced to little more than a pile of ashes. He had used it to defend himself from the blow from the sword, but the stranger’s wand had utterly destroyed it.
“Erm… Sorry about the book… Here, let me help you up.”
Once the Vikings had gone, things began to return to normal at the monastery. Even the novelty of having an angel among them had worn off after a few days.
Rose and Gary had settled in quite well. They had started by lending a hand where they could, and Gary had even suggested more than a few changes to the overall layout, using all he could remember from the scale model in the foyer of the Visitors’ Centre.
He was experiencing life in the eighth century first-hand and was surprisingly adept at the general day-to-day tasks such as milking the goats. He had even taken to attending early morning prayers.
Rose was sure that Gary wouldn’t have thrown himself into his new life quite so quickly, if she hadn’t been able to calm him down and had assured him that that the Doctor would be along to rescue them sooner or later; so they may as well make the best of things while they waited.
This news had cushioned the shock to his system, and being treated like a visiting angel wasn’t something Rose was going to turn down.
She knew in her heart that the Doctor would arrive… sooner or later.
It was however the best part of a month before she heard the familiar tones of the materializing time machine in the cornfield that would one day be the visitors’ car park.
With a familiar squeak, the wooden door opened and revealed the Doctor and a smiling elderly monk looming over the Doctor’s shoulder.
“We just had to drop off a couple of friends before I picked you up. I hope you don’t mind.”
Hiding her joy from her travelling companion, Rose said, “We’ve been here almost a month, Doctor. Honestly, for someone with a time machine, you really have no idea about time.”
“You haven’t been changing history behind my back, have you?” joked the Doctor. “I had this confused Viking to take home, but he seemed pleased enough to be back amongst his own people. And he did promise to give up on the pillaging and concentrate more on trade… so that’s okay then.”
“So who was this other person you had to drop off?” Rose asked.
Smugly, the Doctor explained, “Oh, that was just your standard sentient time- and space-travelling sphere.”
The Doctor loved these moments: “That rock you touched… It was part of a couple who escaped the Time War.”
“A couple? It was a rock. Was it a ‘silicon life form’?” Rose grasped at a sci-fi reference in order to make sense of the Doctor’s words.
“No, don’t be silly, silicon life is incredibly rare. This was graphene life.”
Rose was catching up: “So it was a couple? There were two rocks?”
“Yes, a couple… You know… a mummy and daddy, pair bond, lovers… that sort of thing. And they were attacked… out there.” The Doctor pointed up, beyond the sky and towards the infinity of space. “They were split and they fell through time onto the Earth. One of them could influence time and the other, space. Together they’re quite formidable.”
The Doctor looked off into the distance. “You know, strictly speaking, they shouldn’t have been able come to Earth at all… Well, not after some bright spark time-locked this whole planet at the beginning of the War.”
Rose knew when he was remembering the dark times in his life, and touched his shoulder gently. “Doctor, sometimes I have no idea what you’re talking about. So are Mister and Missus Rock okay now?”
“Let’s just say a shiny rock found its friend and they have gone back home, amongst the stars… to start again.”
Novice Randal had heard the strange sound and came running from the other side of the buildings. He threw his arms around the old monk, before remembering his place and stood back, still contemplating the miracle of his master’s return.
“Thank you. You truly are an angel,” he whispered to Rose.
“Look Randal, we’ve talked about this… I’m no angel.”
“That’s true,” said the Doctor.
“It is good to see you again, Brother” said Randal to the old monk. “We thought we had lost you forever.”
The old monk smiled. “Don’t worry, my son, it takes more than an angry Viking and a few magic journeys to take me away from my work.”
“Do you still have the book, Brother?”
“Sadly, the book was destroyed… But we can still make another.”
The old monk simply held up his hands as if in prayer. “The Lord will provide.” In the monk’s hands, Rose noticed a Penguin edition of Bede’s own famous history book.
“So how come me and Gary ended up here?” asked Rose.
“Well, the hemisphere in this time wanted to be with its partner in your time. It used your spare artron energy to shift itself through time… dragging you and Monkey Boy along in its wake.”
Gary had finally arrived, wheezing into view. “Rose tells me you can take me home in your magic box.”
“Magic box?!” The Doctor appeared to be affronted. “There is nothing magical about it. It’s simply a box that’s bigger on the inside that can go anywhere and anywhen… What is in any way magical about that?”
“So you can take me home again?”
“If that’s what you want, yes.”
“Hell yes! I’ve got a classroom full of kids, and I’ve got so much to tell them. Now that I’ve experienced life as a real eighth-century monk first-hand… I’m the ultimate in living history.”
“Well, let’s get you home then. Into the TARDIS with you both.”
Before the Doctor closed the door, he popped his head out for one last word: “Oh and Bede… One more thing… Try and check some of your facts will you?”
After saying his goodbyes, Gary headed out of the thing he had mistaken for a portaloo and headed across the car park, up towards the Visitors’ Centre. The genuine monk sandals made an odd scraping noise as he walked. Gary hoped that brother Randal would be happy with his Crocs and that the archaeologists wouldn’t get too upset if they found them in their ditch.
His head was full of new ideas about the things he wanted to teach the children – and according to the Doctor, the coach would be here in a few moments.
“You look awful,” said Doreen as Gary walked through the doors.
“This is one-hundred-per-cent authentic Dark Ages monk,” replied Gary as he headed to the teaching room, full of new-found confidence.
Outside the classroom, Gary paused to look at the new exhibition – Marginalia, the marks made by monks on manuscripts, beside the columns of text. He stopped to read an information panel, which explained how these doodles had revealed new and exciting facts about life long ago. The most mysterious of them all was from Bede’s history of the British people: a drawing of an angel with a Saxon inscription, “Réðnes Heoruwearg.” Underneath was the translation: “Bad Wolf.”
Before setting forth on that inevitable journey, none is wiser than the man who considers – before his soul departs hence – what good or evil he has done, and what judgement his soul will receive after its passing.
—Bede’s Death Song