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An Impossible Vacation

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“It’s all complete and utter nonsense,” Romana complained from her seat on the luxurious couch in the console room. “I do not need a vacation! I assure you that I am perfectly fit to continue my duties as President.”

“As true as that may be, Madame President, you are still obligated to take a vacation once every quarter at least,” a Time Lord at the console noted. “I’m just here to make certain that you actually take it.” With that the Time Lord shot Romana a small, but nevertheless cocky grin. “The council was very insistent, and I wouldn’t want to fail them, now would I?”

“Thank you Keedal.” Romana sighed, leaning deeper into the couch. “Your service is greatly appreciated. But I keep telling the council that I am fine.”

“It is good for a warrior to remain alert at all times,” Leela stated from the other side of the couch the two of them were presently sharing. “But a warrior that does not rest nor let others in their tribe take watch becomes slow and inattentive. And that is the moment the enemy waits for. It is that moment when they strike! You have not been getting the rest that you need for many moons now. Is it customary for Time Lords to leave themselves vulnerable?”

Romana blinked. “No! It isn’t Time Lord custom...” she started but Leela interrupted.

“Then why are you letting it happen?” Leela tilted her head with a smile.

Romana could only let out a sigh. “I suppose that you’re right…” she muttered before turning her head up to address another Time Lords at the console. “Tauxi, how much longer until we reach the location?”

“It should be soon now, mum. Just a few more microspans,” the Time Lady responded only glancing up from the console for a second to address her Lady President.

It was at that moment that the whole ship shook, shuddered, and shifted, pitching the crew around the interior.

Romana fell to the floor, while Leela only barely managed to stay seated on the couch. Of the three Time Lords at the console, two had barely managed to remain standing while the remaining one, Tauxi, had skidded halfway across the room before the ship stabilized again.

Scrambling up from her place on the floor, Romana marched over to the console and braced herself against it. “Aurea, what was that?”

“The ship! It’s taken damage!” The third Time Lord, Aurea, shouted as sirens began to blare throughout the ship.

“What!? Damage? Damage from what?” Romana demanded as the ship was struck again, this time harder. Romana was ready for impact this time and had managed to remain standing while the other three Time Lords at the console fell onto their backs. All those years with the Doctor did her some good when it came to being tossed around a TARDIS at least.

“We’re being attacked!” Leela insisted, leaping to the console and pressing the button to turn on the scanner.

“Get away from the console, savage!” Tauxi spat, struggling to stand up again.

“We aren’t necessarily being attacked...” Aurea countered, getting to her feet and back onto the console. “It could be some kind of… Time space interference! We could have hit something that wasn’t supposed to be there!”

“In the Time Vortex?” Romana more shouted than asked.

“It-it’s been known to happen! … Right?” Keedal feebly rebutted.

Aurea had only gotten back to the console for a second before muttering under her breath, “Oh no.”

“What was that? ‘Oh no?’ What do you mean, ‘Oh no?!’” Romana was full shouting now.

“We are… We’re crashing.” Aurea sounded almost ashamed at having to say those words.

“Crashing?” Having been pushed away from the console by Tauxi, Leela had absolutely nothing to hang onto as the ship tried to knock her off of her feet.

“Brace yourself!” It was all Romana could say as the ground was too quickly approaching them on the scanner.

The next thing that Leela knew, she was waking up in wreckage of the ship. A pounding in her head and the still breathing body of Romana beside her made it clear. They had been knocked out in the crash. Nevertheless, it took a few moments of Leela sitting there in the darkness to remember precisely what had happened.

Leela felt uneasy as she tried to force herself into sitting up. Was it the impact still affecting her? Or was it something else? She didn’t know.

The TARDIS door was open, practically falling off of its hinges as a frosty wind blew snow into the console room. If the quickly growing pile of snow in the room was any indication, the door had been open for a while.

Carefully Leela crawled over to Romana and shook her. She got an exhausted groan in return. With a little more coaxing, she began to stir.

“Oh my head…” Romana moaned sitting up to rub her temples. “Leela? Is that you? What happened?”

“Shh!” Leela hushed the Time Lady.

As Romana began to remember the crash, she opened her eyes in earnest only to see a determined-looking Leela crouching protectively over her. “What? What is it?” Romana asked in a hushed tone.

“There is something dark in the air here. I can sense it… But I do not know what it is.” Leela answered.

The Lady President could only roll her eyes at that. “Oh, that’s complete nonsense,” she said, trying to stand with a stumble.

“Be careful. We hit our heads hard.” Leela rose to help Romana to her feet.

“Me be careful? You’re the one who’s probably concussed.” Romana groaned as she lifted herself up, fully this time. Her head pounded the entire way.

Leela hushed Romana agan. “I am telling you. There is something dark about where we have landed,” she insisted, looking Romana dead in the eyes.

“Alright. Fine.” Romana lowered her voice to humor the human. “I’ll play along. But just so you know… Where… Where is everyone?” Romana interrupted herself when she realized that the two were alone in the console room.

“They have gone out.” Leela pointed to the door where footprints had clearly been left in the snow, slowly being filled in.

“That wasn’t very smart of them…” Romana muttered as she approached the console.

Leela crept towards the doors as Romana tried to operate the console. After a few minutes of fiddling, she slammed her fist on it. The console was completely dead. “Damn… It looks like the power’s offline. Don’t know how that could have happened...” Romana muttered, mostly to herself, knowing that Leela was unlikely to be much help in knowing what was wrong with the ship. “The doors can’t even close.”

Meanwhile Leela was at the door, looking outside to the land beyond. She watched the ocean crash against the shore before freezing in place, only to be drowned and buried by the next incoming wave. She had no idea where the group had landed.

Turning her attention back to what she could tell for certain, he began to observe aloud. “There are only two sets of footprints... We had three crew mates. Someone is still here… Keedal. The tracks are too small to be his,” Leela noted leaning down to examine the prints closer. “Strange… Were they running? What from?” It was at this point that Romana interrupted her.

“Come on.” Romana sighed, beckoning Leela over. “We need to get to the engine room. We need to see what’s wrong with the ship. With any luck, that’s where Keedal is.”

Snapping back to the present Leela smiled. “Good! But can we stop by the wardrobe first?”

“I suppose it’s on the way. Why?” Romana asked as she took the lead.

“It’s freezing! And if there is no power, that means no heat, correct? And it would be terrible if we have to go out into the snow with nothing except the clothes we are currently wearing.”

“Ah. Yes. You seem to be right,” Romana nodded, having not felt the cold for herself yet.

After a quick detour to the wardrobe where they both grabbed thick, fur coats, and Romana grabbed a nice, bright red scarf, they began to make their way to the engine room. After they had been walking for a few minutes, seemingly out of nowhere, Leela, who Romana unconsciously let take the lead, held an arm out and stopped in place.

Romana, having been taken by surprise, accidentally ran into her friend’s outstretched arm before being held back. “Leela? Oh, what is it?” Romana demanded before Leela hushed her again.

“Do you not smell it?” Leela asked, slowly turning her head to face Romana.

Romana hesitated before taking a deep breath through her nose for herself. There was definitely something there. Now that she knew it was there, she had to cover her nose and mouth to keep herself from instinctually gagging. “What is that?”

“Blood. That scent is the smell of Time Lord blood in the air,” Leela stated, pulling her knife from its sheath on her leg.

“What!?” Romana whispered, suddenly being besieged by the desire to stay quiet. She was almost impressed by how well Leela was tolerating the smell.

Slowly but surely, Leela crept forwards to a utility closet. “The smell is strongest here,” Leela said indicating the door.

The clear smell of death grew stronger the closer Romana came to the door. By the time she got to Leela’s side, Romana could barely stand the smell and could only nod in response.

As Leela put her hand on the handle to open the closet door, Romana gave her a panicked look. “What do you think you’re doing!?” she whispered.

“We have to know what happened. We need to know if this is Keedal. We need to know if he is dead or wounded. I will go first.” Leela was resolute.

Romana didn’t want to see what was behind the door, but found that she could only nod in complacency. Leela was right. They needed to know what happened.

Gripping the handle, Leela threw the door open, ready for whatever might happen.

A body fell, slumping against the floor.

Keedal’s head rolled across the hallway before tumbling to a stop. Dead eyes stared back at the two women, forever frozen into an expression of shock.

“Keedal!” Romana gasped. She put a hand to her mouth to hide her emotions at least a little. “Who could have done this to you?” She demanded, choking back her disgust and fear. Bending over the Time Lord’s head, she fell to her knees, getting ever closer. Her hand drifted towards the severed head, but just before she could touch it, Leela pulled her hand away.

At first Romana was upset at Leela for stopping her, but quietly she came to realize what she was just about to do. She stared at her hand for a long moment before clenching it into a fist. “Oh, Keedal... We’ll find out who did this to you and bring them to justice! I swear, or my name isn’t Romanadvor… Oh what is it now, Leela?” Romana was just about to launch into a speech over how she was going to avenge the fallen Time Lord as Leela pulled on her sleeve, diverting her attention away.

“I do not mean to disturb your moment. But I saw two sets of footprints leaving the TARDIS. They were leaving ,” Leela reminded her in a voice that suggested that this matter was of the utmost importance.

Romana was slightly confused at the weight her companion was saying this observation with. “Yes… The other two… Hopefully they’re safe wherever they are out-” Romana started, but Leela interrupted again.

Two sets of footprints. Leaving .” She lowered her voice into a little more than a murmur. “ Whoever killed Keedal might still be in here .” Romana’s eyes fell to Leela’s hand, still gripping her knife tightly.

A sense of dread washed over Romana as she realized the truth of Leela’s statement before it settled in the pit of her stomach. Suddenly, she felt as if the walls had eyes and that they were all watching her. In that moment she swore that she could hear something shifting behind her, but when she spun around to see, nothing was there.

Leela grabbed Romana by the hand but before Romana could protest, the two were running.

Romana could hear something behind her. A creak? Or a mischievous and muffled giggle? What was that sound? Was in her own head? She did not know. Whatever that sound was, it was left behind as they ran through the halls, past the wardrobe, through the control room and out into the snow. It was only once they were outside in the fading light of dusk did Romana finally tear away from Leela.

Everything inside of Romana’s head was telling her to protest. To say that Leela was just being superstitious and that these feelings of dread were all just nonsense. But no such words came. In fact, after taking a moment to catch her breath, she felt grateful to Leela for taking action. She knew that she would have pushed through her paranoia and fear to keep trying to get the TARDIS repaired. Even if everything else inside of her was telling her that there was something wrong. That there was someone in there that wanted to hurt them. Superstition or no, she felt better now that they were both out here in the snow.

“Where are we?” Romana asked aloud as the two examined their surroundings. The snow was softly falling, but it was just clear enough to make things out.

They were on a cliff by an ocean. The cliff curved off in the distance, the horizon obscured by trees. In the other direction there appeared to be a forest, and beyond it, they could just barely make out the silhouette of a wall and the castle beyond it.

“Are we on an island?” Romana mostly asked herself as she examined the rocks poking out of the sea below them.

“A town…” Leela muttered, looking the other direction.

“A castle at least…” Romana responded, turning around to stand at the side of her companion.

“I wonder if anyone is living there…?” Leela asked in a distant tone as Romana started to trudge her way through the snow.

“We should start heading over there before it gets too dark, at the very least. It certainly will be better to be in there than out here in the cold. With any luck, people are living there and we can ask them for some help.” Romana sighed, beginning to walk towards the treeline.

Leela turned to stare into the darkness of the ship’s interior for a long moment before hesitantly beginning to follow Romana out into the cold wilderness.

The two had barely made it to the treeline when Leela broke the comfortable silence they had fallen into. “Is there a sword that can stop regeneration?” Leela asked, seemingly out of nowhere, when in reality she had been dwelling on that question for a while.

Romana paused for a second to give Leela a quizzical look before turning back around to keep walking. “I wouldn’t think so. Energy weapons, or stasers, perhaps. But a sword? Not very likely. Why do you ask?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Leela asked. But when no answer came, she elaborated, “Keedal. He did not regenerate.”

Romana suddenly felt rather foolish. She must have been so panicked in the moment that she did not see the obvious. “Perhaps he had simply run out of regenerations,” she proposed. However even she didn’t think that was the case.

“Perhaps. But it is unlikely.” Leela wasn’t convinced either. “He was covered in wounds from a dagger. He was killed. A great coincidence if he was out of regenerations.” Leela stated, taking the lead as they walked into the forest.

Romana tried to keep her worry from showing. “Then maybe the damage he sustained was just too much for him to regenerate from. Decapitation doesn’t guarantee a Time Lord’s death, but it’s certainly not easy to recover from.” However even as she said it, she didn’t believe it. Could there be a dagger that could kill a Time Lord outright? She had not heard of such a device, but perhaps…

Romana had been so lost in thought that she ran into one of the trees. “Ow!” She cried out, putting a hand to the arm that had taken the brunt of the hit. If it hadn’t been for the fur coat she was wearing, she would likely have gotten cut against the jagged material of the tree.

“Be careful. The trees are metal. They can cut you if you are not careful,” Leela advised, just a little too late.

“What? The trees? Metal? That’s ridiculous!” Romana protested before looking at the tree she had run into more closely. Upon further inspection, Romana found that Leela was right. The trees were indeed made out of metal. A kind of copper alloy if she was to guess.

“As ridiculous as it may be, it’s true. I thought that you would have noticed already.” Leela shrugged as if seeing metal trees was the most ordinary thing in the world.

“You could have told me sooner! I… I was distracted and didn’t notice. This is highly unusual. If you had just told me I…” Romana was flubbing over her words in a huff.

“I did not think it would be that unusual. I have seen people make impossible buildings. Oceans of water that burn at the touch. Worlds where the sky burns red in the day. What makes metal trees so different?” Leela asked.

Romana let out an exhausted breath. “Because metal is an inorganic substance. It can’t grow like… Nevermind.” Romana let out a frustrated sigh. “Funny… This all reminds me of…” 

But before she could finish, the couple heard a voice screaming out in the distance. Without any hesitation, the two both started darting towards the scream.

“That was Tauxi!” Romana shouted to Leela over the sounds of their running in the snow.

“Hurry! She might already be…” Leela started, but that was when they saw it.

Tauxi’s desecrated body in the snow.

At least her body was in one piece this time.

Romana bent over to examine her fellow Time Lord’s vitals. Sure enough, her body was peppered with fresh stab wounds.

Meanwhile Leela was looking out at the forest for any signs of who could have done this.

“Her hearts have stopped…” Romana shook her head. They couldn’t save her. The two stared at the body for a long moment in silence as the snow softly started to bury her.

“She should be regenerating by now,” Romana noted, taking a deep breath. “Maybe… Maybe you’re right. Maybe they do have a weapon than can stop…” Leela held her hand out, signaling for her to stop. It was only after another long moment of silence that Romana whispered to her friend, “What… What is it?”

Leela carefully examined the horizon again before pointing at Tauxi’s footprints, still fresh in the snow. “We heard her scream. You can see where she came from. There isn’t a second pair.” With that, Leela looked up, directly at the sky. “Our enemy can fly.”

When Romana looked up, her blood ran cold. She could just barely make out a figure among the treetops. The darkness of night obscured them, but she could just barely make out the green of their clothes camouflaging with the corroded green tops of the copper trees.

The two could hear a snicker in the air as the figure above them spoke. “Like my handiwork?” A boy’s voice asked.

The two didn’t answer. They weren’t about to wait for the boy to swoop down and kill them. Instead they ran. They weren’t too far. They could see the outer wall of the town. Surely they could get help in there, right?

A sense of hope washed over the two as they saw the gate.

Leela looked back, but she didn’t see anything but the falling snow behind them. They weren’t being followed. Had they lost him? Or…?

The pair dashed through the gate, and took a moment to catch their breaths, leaning against the wall opposite of the gate.

In their relief, neither took notice as the door closed behind them.

“We weren’t followed,” Romana panted. “Now that we’re here we can get… Get help…?” Romana looked to the left and then to the right. She thought that this would be a city. A town at least. As Romana looked up, she could see lights in the castle windows and smoke billowing into the sky from the castle’s base. Clear signs of a town. By all rights, they should be in a town. But no. They were in between two stretches of wall that seemed to go on for miles.

“No…” Romana whispered to herself, falling to her knees. Leela reached for Romana’s hand, but she tore it away. “No!”

Leela just looked back at her sympathetically. “We have to move. If our enemy can fly, then we are sitting ducks here. We need to find a place to hide and plan our counterattack.” Leela held her hand out for Romana to take, but she didn’t move to grab it.

“Hide? Hide where!? There is nothing we can hide behind! Who knows how far this corridor might go!” Romana couldn’t keep the frustrated exhaustion from her voice any longer. “This is why we weren’t followed! It was a trap! He trapped us here just so that he didn’t have to chase us. We can either keep walking and eventually die from exhaustion, or we can stay here and let him kill us. Either way, we die.”

“Yes. We will die. He will kill us,” Leela admitted coming closer to the Time Lady. However, Leela wasn’t about to let Romana give up. Grabbing her by the arm, Leela hoisted Romana to her feet. Romana wasn’t happy to do so, but she didn’t resist as Leela continued. “ If we let it happen. Come on, Romana. It must be an illusion. A trick. It is like one of those stories.” Leela put one hand against the wall and held Romana’s hand in the other and began walking forwards, feeling the wall as she went. “It looks impossible. Like there is no exit. But in those stories there is always a button or a…” Leela’s hand suddenly no longer felt any wall. She smiled back at Romana, pulling her towards the newly discovered path. “Or a hidden corridor.”

As Leela pushed forwards through the secret passage, the two found that they were no longer in an endless hall. Rather they could see a variety of twists and turns before them going in a dozen different directions.

“Oh no…” While their morale had been somewhat restored, Romana couldn’t help but to let out an annoyed huff. “We’re in a labyrinth!”

“It would seem that way.” Leela agreed, looking at the paths, trying to determine the best one to take.

“Now let’s see… There does seem to be a town at the heart of this maze...” Romana muttered. Her previous analysis seemed to be right and she could just barely make out the rooftops, all huddled around the castle in the distance. The town was smaller than she had initially hoped, but it was still there. “So let’s go… This way.”

As Romana started to head down a path, Leela was hesitant to follow. “Are you certain this is the right way?” Leela asked, a hand on her blade.

“To be entirely honest, I don’t know which way is the right one. I’m just guessing. This looks like the most direct path, but I don’t know whether it’ll actually lead us to the castle or not,” Romana admitted.

“This is a bad path…” Leela uttered darkly as she crept behind the Time Lady, ready to strike at any moment..

“Oh nonsense. This path is just as good as any other. Besides. What choice do we have?” Romana shrugged.

However Romana quickly regretted the statement as a now familiar voice spoke up from behind the pair. “What choice? Oh, you could just stop now and surrender. Or you could try fighting me! But you wouldn’t win. Or you can keep running around lost until I pick you off! Personally I like the option where you surrender and let me kill you now the most. You know, save all of us some trouble,” the boy mocked.

Romana and Leela spun around to see a boy, clad in green with a large animal’s skull obscuring his face holding the last unaccounted Time Lord captive at daggerpoint. He hovered just inches off of the ground.

Aurea was trembling, the knife pressed against her neck. “Madame President… Please… Get out of here. Run,” she uttered carefully, trying to pull away from the knife as much as she could.

“‘Madame President?’ Now that’s a title.” He let out an impressed whistle. “You must be a real important spy if they’re calling you, ‘Madame President,’” the boy mocked in a playful tone.

“Spies? You think that we are spies?” Leela was rather taken aback by the suggestion.

“Duh! Of course you’re spies! How else could you have gotten in here? We’re in a secure time loop. Father Jareth says that there’s no way anyone could’ve gotten in here without his permission.” The boy explained rolling his eyes.

“Well, you are mistaken!” Romana asserted. “We aren’t spies! We crash landed here. We didn’t mean to come to this time loop. We ended up in here on accident!”

“Likely story. But I know better than to trust a couple of Time Lords from the homeworld!” The pair didn’t need to see the boy’s face to know that he was sneering.

“May we speak to the Father? Perhaps we can…” Leela started to suggest but the boy interrupted her.

“Of course! ... NOT! You see, I’m a good Little Brother and I’m going to take care of all of you before Father Jareth even knows you’re here!”

“But if your Father is a holy man then…” It was Romana’s time to interrupt Leela’s attempt at negotiation.

“Not that kind of Father, Leela. I think that I know who these people are…” Romana muttered quietly into Leela’s ear.

“Hey! I wanna hear!” The boy began to protest.

Before he could continue, Romana turned to him. “You’re Faction Paradox, aren’t you?”

The boy was taken aback for a second. “Yeah... But as spies, you would already know that!”

“We aren’t…!” Romana started but took a breath to compose herself. “Look. I know that you don’t take kindly to… Trespassers. But we surrender. It is our right to speak to whomever is in charge here before… Before we get executed.”

“Executed!?” Leela hissed in concern.

The boy tilted his head to the side in curiosity. “You surrender? You’re really surrendering? You’re letting me kill you?”

“Yes, we surrender. But you cannot kill us yet! We demand to see who is in charge. It is our dying wish. Our last rite as your prisoners. You wouldn’t deny us our last rites would you?” Romana asked, finally feeling some sense of control over their situation.

The boy thought for a long moment. “I guess you’re right... Dying wishes… Last rites… Those are important parts of the Faction’s rituals...”

He pulled the knife away from Aurea’s neck who let out a breath in relief.

“Lady President. I am eternally grateful to you.” Aurea said, taking a step towards the pair. She had so much to say, but just as quickly as he pulled away, the boy reached his arm forwards and with one swift motion, slit Aurea’s throat open.

Aurea collapsed to the ground, confusion clear on her face as she looked pleadingly up at Romana and Leela.

“Run!” she vainly tried to tell them, but the word only came out in a bubbling gurgle as blood filled her airways and made her unable to speak. Another swing of the boy’s dagger, and Aurea’s head was cut clean off.

The boy stepped towards the two. Blood stained the freshly fallen snow began to seep into his shoes.

“You killed her!” Romana shouted. She was ready to attack the boy, but Leela held her back. “Why!? There was no need for such violence!” Rage coursed through the Time Lord’s body, making it difficult for Leela to hold her.

“Of course I had to kill her!” The boy sneered, playing with the dagger in his hand, its black blade glistening in the dull moonlight. “We’re Faction Paradox. Enemies to the Time Lords of Gallifrey. We kill first ‘cause if we don’t, then you’ll kill us. You’re just waiting for me to let my guard down. Well, I’m not gonna let that happen! This is another kind of ritual. A game! Father Jareth won’t mind if I kill you if we make a ritual out of it. You’re going to be executed anyway. So why not skip all the boring stuff and get to the good part!”

“What!? When the Time Lords hear… When this Father Jareth of yours hears about this, he won’t be happy with you!” Romana protested.

“Ah! Don’t worry. He won’t.” The boy dismissed the idea outright. “Think of this like a hunt! You get a head start and try to escape me in this labyrinth. I’ll count to 100 and...”

“This is insane! Do you really expect us to…” Romana interrupted, but the boy interrupted in turn.

“1. 2. 3. 4… Time’s running out. You better start running!” The boy advised. If there wasn’t a mask over his face, there was no doubt that he would be giving them the biggest shit-eating grin right now.

With that, Leela grabbed Romana by the wrist and the two started running again.

The two had lost track of how long they had been running for when Romana finally broke from Leela’s grasp to catch her breath.

“Come on! We have to keep moving!” Leela desperately urged her friend.

“Oh, where are we even going? Do you even know how to get out of this maze?” Romana asked, resignation edging into her voice. They had been running around hopelessly all day. The two had been powerless in their fight against the violence that has surrounded them since the moment they crashed. And just when Romana thought that she could have a handle on it, that she could fix things and save the day, her agency was once again torn away from her at the whims of a child. She was angry. And she was tired of running.

Leela didn’t respond. Instead the two heard a voice from above which led Leela to pushing Romana under an archway before they could be discovered.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are!” The boy’s voice teased.

Leela only hid under the archway herself when she was certain that Romana was tucked away, out of sight first.

“Now where did those two girls run off to?” The boy asked himself as he hovered by, scratching his head.

When Leela was sure that the boy was gone, she turned to Romana. “I need your scarf.” In the time that it had taken the boy to wander off, Leela had started to formulate a plan. She heard the exhaustion and resignation in Romana’s voice and knew that they couldn’t run any longer. It was time for them to fight back.

Romana didn’t protest in handing the cloth over. “What for?”

Without a word, Leela carefully crept backwards. With each step she made, she placed her feet in the footprints they had already made. Now that she was in the open, she hooked the scarf on a tall, splintered branch as if it had been accidentally snagged off of her as they ran past. “Now run and hide somewhere else,” Leela told her before she went to hiding place of her own.

“A trap! Brilliant, Leela! Brilliant!” Romana whispered to herself as she ran, tracing her steps backwards before running again just to make it look like they were both still running and hiding together.

After a few more minutes, they could hear the boy approaching again. “What’s that?” he asked himself, hovering his way down before landing on the ground. “A scarf? They must have dropped it…” At seeing the trail of footprints, the boy let out a chuckle. “And they left me a trail! Why, this’ll be easy as cake!

As he spoke, Leela was creeping up behind the boy, knife in hand.

Romana had circled around to a different side to watch the trap spring. If something went wrong, she wasn’t about to let her friend die alone. Everything was going as planned.

Just as Leela had come into striking distance, Romana saw movement at the boy’s feet. “Watch out! His shadow!” She yelled just in time.

Leela saw the boy’s shadow unnaturally shift. Instinctually, she leapt backwards. She felt a rush of air blow past her and she knew. Something had just sliced at the place she was standing. It had only barely missed her.

“You’re quick! I’ll give you that!” the boy complimented, spinning around to face his adversary. “But not quick enough!”

“Don’t fight back!” Romana ordered. “He has a weapon in his shadow!"

When Leela looked down, sure enough she could see his shadow pointing a dagger at her while his real dagger was still sheathed on his waist

"You can fly and you have a weapon that I cannot protect myself from?" Leela asked. There was a bitter edge in her voice. "All very impressive tricks. But you would not have beaten me in a fair fight."

"Fair? FAIR!? As if you Time Lords from the homeworld know anything about being fair," the boy spat back.

"What do you expect? You use your time traveling capabilities to tie the web of time in knots. It's no wonder that…" Leela's look made Romana go quiet.

"I am not a Time Lord! I am a human. I am Leela of the Sevateem!" Leela declared taking a step towards the boy. “But I do not need to be a Time Lord to beat you.”

"A human!?" The boy laughed. "It's not every day that you hear about humans being friends with a crew of Time Lords! Alright, Leela of the Sevateem. We can have a fair fight. No flying. No shadow weapon. Just you and me dagger versus dagger."

"Really? No more fancy tricks?" Leela asked, surprised that the boy was taking her challenge.

"Really, really!" The boy landed. "I'm Peter, by the way. Little Brother Peter of Faction Paradox. And I swear to you by the blood of Grandfather Paradox that I will fight you fairly. One on one.” The boy spat in his hand and held it out for Leela to shake.

Leela smiled, spitting in her hand and taking his. “A fair fight. It is an honor to face you like this, Peter. May the best warrior win.”

Moving his shadow away from Leela, Peter unsheathed his dagger and stood at the ready.

Leela, loosened her shoulders and stood in a defensive pose. "I am ready whenever you are!" She said, taking her position.

And with that, it was on.

Peter was the first one to move in to strike. But Leela was ready and handily stepped out of the way of his slash as well as the one following it. Leela wasn't going to strike yet. She was still sizing her opponent up. With the next lunge on Peter's part, Leela parried the blow before stepping in to slash at her opponent. Leela managed to cut the front of his jacket.

Peter let out an amused laugh. “It’s not over yet!” However one more stab on Peter's part, proved him wrong. Moving out of the way, Leela grabbed the boy by the arm and with one fluid movement, flipped the boy onto his back. After that, she was easily able to knock the dagger from his hand and point hers and his neck.

Peter looked up at Leela with an impressed but huffy expression. "Looks like you beat me. Now you get to kill me. At least be quick about it, won’t you?"

"Kill you?" Leela asked, pulling her weapon away. “You fought well. It would be a shame to kill you. We don’t need to kill you. We need you alive. We just want to be taken to your leader. And you can help us out of this labyrinth.” She turned away from him, holstering her dagger.

Peter sat on the ground in a huff. “What’s the point of being good at fighting if you’re not gonna kill anyone!?” he more shouted than asked. Picking up his knife again, he moved to attack Leela while her back was turned.

“Peter, stop,” a voice that neither Leela nor Romana recognized ordered.

Spinning, the three turned to see a man in elegant jeweled robes and a horned mask watching the whole affair.

Peter yielded, sliding his mask onto his forehead, revealing his young face and red hair. “Father Jareth! I thought you were busy.”

“Little Brother Peter. Oh Peter. Did you really think that you could kill our new guests without my knowing?” the Father tutted.

“Cousin Eliza told on me didn’t she?” Peter asked, looking at the ground, feeling awful that he had gotten caught.

“Of course she did, you simple child. But don’t worry. I will be merciful in my punishment... But first!” The stranger turned to Romana and removed his mask revealing an older face with elegant makeup over his eyes. “Romanadvoratrelundar of House Devora. Madame President of Gallifrey. It is an honor to make your acquaintance. I am Father Jareth of House Paradox.” With a sweeping motion, he spread his black robes open and gave her a kind of curtsy. “I am sorry for the pain and inconvenience that our Little Brother has inflicted upon you. In recompense I do hope that you will join us in my castle for a Christmas feast.”

“It’s Christmas?” Leela asked excitedly. But her excitement was short lived as Romana began to speak.

“Inconvenience!?” Romana shot back. “Three of my crewmen are dead because of your ‘Little Brother’ here! If I wasn’t at your mercy, this would be an act of war! You must have been the ones who shot our ship down... I don’t know what you plan to do with us, but just know that when the Time Lords find out what you have done that they will not take this lightly!”

Jareth turned to Peter. “Is this true, Peter? Have you killed their crew?”

Peter nodded, holding out his dagger.

“Ah. I see. Well, you are indeed lucky that it is Christmas Eve.” Jareth nodded.

“Christmas E… What does that have to do with anything!?” Romana demanded.

“Oh! I know this one!” Leela’s excitement was back en force. “It means that we are going to get presents!”

“Correct you are, Leela of the Sevateem!” Jareth gave her an amused smile.

“Are you going to bring our friends back to life?” Leela asked. Her eyes were practically sparkling with anticipation.

“Yes! Now come with me. As one more act of Christmas charity, I will show you the way through this labyrinth of mine. Little Brother Peter, would you mind fetching Cousin Justine and Cousin Eliza? They can help you gather the bodies.” Jareth didn’t even turn to dismiss the boy.

“Aww man… Why do I have to do it?” Peter whined.

“Because you made this mess!” The Father snapped. “So now you have to clean it up! Now do as I say or your punishment will be most severe!”

With a salute, Peter flew off towards the castle.

“Unfortunately we can’t fly, so we’ll have to make it to the castle on foot,” Jareth sighed.

“Wait a second. You can bring Aurea, Tauxi, and Keedal back?” Romana asked.

“To be fair, they aren’t quite gone yet anyway. The dagger Peter stole suspends regeneration, making it able to effectively kill Time Lords. However, the process is quite reversible,” Jareth explained. “Decapitation is not an injury that is easy to recover from. Even for a Time Lord. But so long as Little Brother Peter doesn’t misplace anything, they should be able to make a full recovery.”

“Is this what they call a Christmas miracle?” Leela asked.

“I suppose that you could say that,” Father Jareth shrugged a grin on his face.

“Wait a microspan. You still shot us down. Why are you being so nice to us?” Romana asked, suspicion clear in her manner.

“Actually we did not. I can show you the record when we get to the castle. But you were actually shot down by Daleks. Annoying pests, aren’t they, Daleks? Your trespassing here was not your fault. Your time vehicle must have panicked. And after detecting our little time anomaly here, decided that this lost island of ours was the best place to crash.” Jareth elaborated, “They lost track of you, fortunately. But we would have shot them out of the sky if they tried to come here anyway... I do apologize for our Little Brother’s actions, however. I would have come sooner if I wasn’t busy with preparations. As for why we’re being so nice… Let’s just say that I’m in the holiday spirit and leave it at that. It is Christmas after all. In fact, it’s always Christmas here, but that is besides the point. But I do still insist that you join us for dinner.”

“Can we?” Leela’s eyes were begging Romana to let them go.

Romana let out a sigh. “I suppose if you’re insisting. And we do have to wait a few days for our crew to recover at least before we can head home… If that isn’t too much to ask of you, of course,” she said, turning to the Father.

“Stay as long as you need. Despite what Peter may think, you are not our enemies. You are welcome in my home until you have everything you need to go home,” Jareth assured them.

“Then... I suppose that we don’t have much of a choice do we? To relax. Have some food. And celebrate this Earth holiday.” Romana almost sounded disappointed at the prospect of being forced to relax and stay a while.

“And you will get to have that rest you have been needing!” Leela observed.

“Yes. I suppose that I will.” Romana let a tired smile cross her face. The irony was not lost on her. It looked like she would be taking that vacation after all.