kat_nic: (Madam Vastra)
[personal profile] kat_nic posting in [community profile] last_herald_mage
So I got seasons 7, 8 and 9 of Doctor Who for Christmas. This is the result of me rewatching all of the Vastra episodes. I actually started writing this last Christmas, hit a wall, then forgot about it, because who the fuck else would care? Truthfully an LHM/DW crossover has been the stuff of my cracky dreams for a while now. Then I finally actually wrote one and it’s…not crack. idk. (I hesitated to even post this here because honestly, it’s more Doctor Who than LHM, then I realized, it’s my comm. Muahahaha.)


Some days her life was almost bearable. Some days it felt as if there was a black hole inside of her, slowly consuming every last atom of her.

Ordinarily she would scorn such hyperbole and melodrama. Vastra had never had much use for introspection and pretty words. She did not consider herself to be prone to sentiment, and privately felt scorn for those of her sisters who formed foolish attachments to mates, who sought to form bonds outside those of shared genes. It only led to trouble, and in these times, there was trouble to spare without seeking out more.

In those times, she corrected herself bitterly. Sixty five million years ago. When she was still able to believe she didn’t need the comfort of emotional attachments, because she wasn’t the last of her bloody species.

When the silurians entered hibernation eons ago, they had done so with the assurance that they would sleep peacefully through the devastation of their world by a giant asteroid, and wake to a planet already recovered from near total destruction, ready to accept them once again as the dominant species. She knew the world would be vastly different. She just didn’t expect to be alone.

“Ah! I’ve got it! The perfect place! A place I’ve never been, doesn’t get more perfect than that after all the centuries I’ve been kicking around.” Her reverie was broken by the bizarre creature who so resembled the mammals that had overtaken her planet, yet claimed not to be one of them. He was always in such a rush, always so full of energy and excitement. She could hardly believe him when he claimed to be over six earth centuries old, save for the rare moments between adventures, when he would sit quietly, lost in some memory or other. But he was always off again, pushing buttons and throwing levers on the console of his equally bizarre ship, off looking for the next adventure.

She honestly did not know why he was bothering. No matter where he took her, what wonders he showed her, nothing could fill the space that had been carved out of her. Now that she had exhausted her rage, there was nothing left but sorrow and loneliness.

Oh, he’d told her his story. How he’d carried on in the face of the unimaginable loss of his own family and people. But she was too different from him. She was bred and trained to be a soldier. Soldiers were not supposed to have a sense of wonder, or of curiosity. Without purpose, she wished for nothing more than an honorable death fighting the creatures responsible for killing her sisters and fellow soldiers, however unintentional it was. But The Doctor had already made it clear that he would not stand idle while she did so. He had appointed himself the protector of these…people. Understandable, in the absence of his own kind, and they certainly did bear a resemblance. But for some unfathomable reason, he seemed intent on preserving her life as well, even though she had declared herself their enemy.

“Well, come along, then, don’t you want to see?”

Taking a deep breath, she said tiredly, “See what?” It was better to play his game, to get it over with, she had learned that the hard way.

With a flourish, he opened the TARDIS doors. “A sentient forest!”

That gave her pause. “A sentient forest?” she asked, following him outside. Well, that was a new one.

“Yep. And it’s old. Very old. Not quite as old as me, though.” he said, spinning around on one foot. “Well, how about it then?” he shouted. “Wakey wakey!” He tapped on a tree trunk.

Nothing happened.

“Perhaps it’s feeling shy,” Vastra offered.

“Oh, psh,” The Doctor said, making a dismissive gesture. The he looked thoughtful. “Is that it, then?” he called to the treetops. “Are you shy?”

Vastra took another deep breath and followed him into the forest, taking careful note of landmarks, because assuredly, The Doctor was not.

“The people who live on this planet call this place The Forrest of Sorrows,” The Doctor said to her. “There’s a legend, that many years ago, a great hero sacrificed himself to save his people, and that after that, strange things started happening in here. Some say the forest is haunted, some say it’s cursed. But some say,” he took out his sonic screwdriver and pointed it at a leaf, and frowned at whatever he saw, “that the forest itself came to life. Whatever it is, anyone with evil intentions who crosses its borders, never comes back out.”

They continued to explore, and Vastra grew ever more impatient. For all that they were on an alien world, this forest didn’t look all that different to the forests that currently covered earth. Even the birds looked quite similar.

“Doctor, I have not seen the faintest sign that there is any kind of intelligence here,” Vastra said, exasperated.

“Well, what difference does it make to you, I thought you didn’t care anyway.” Oh, he looked far too smug.

“I don’t care. I would just…prefer not to care somewhere that is more interesting.”

The Doctor just smiled.

***

“Helloooooooo!” This was truly beginning to be annoying.

“Doctor. Will you please just admit that this is a perfectly ordinary forest.”

“No, it really isn’t,” he said, frowning. “Just when I start to think that maybe I did get something wrong, wrong era, wrong forest, wrong planet, for just a second I get the feeling….”

“You get the feeling…?” Vastra prompted.

“I get the feeling, that I’m not the only one doing the scanning,” he said, pointing the screwdriver at a particularly gnarled tree root.

“Is he always like this?” Vastra turned, quickly, surprised to see what appeared to be a human child standing behind her. The Doctor walked back to stand beside her.

“Ooooo, Hello, I’m The Doctor. This is Vastra. And what’s your name?”

The child cocked his head to one side, and said nothing.

The Doctor, somewhat taken aback, nevertheless pressed on. “Do you live here?”

“I certainly belong here more than you do,” the child said.

“Er, right. Of course you do. Listen, we’ve come from a long, very long way away to see this forest. Is it always this…quiet?” The Doctor asked.

“Are you always this noisy?” the child countered.

“Usually,” Vastra answered, unable to repress a smirk.

“Oi! I was going to take you to Disney World Mars next.”

“Doctor, we’ve been there. Twice. I doubt a third exposure will improve my opinion of it.”

“What do you want with the forest?” the child asked.

“To meet it, obviously,” The Doctor said. Then he stiffened. “Hang on.” He pulled out his screwdriver and pointed it at the child. “Oh. Ohhhh,” he said, as a manic grin appeared on his face.

“Vastra,” he said, rubbing his hands together with glee. “Meet The Forrest of Sorrows.”

“My name is Stefen, actually.”

Vastra merely closed her eyes and counted to ten in an attempt to keep what remained of her patience.

“So what are you, some sort of interface?”

“Interface?”

“Well, I imagine most people find it a bit awkward to just talk to the trees.”

The child looked amused at that. “Oh, you mean am I an illusion. Yes. And for almost that exact reason, although I would say disconcerting rather than awkward.”

“Oh, this is ridiculous,” Vastra said, unable to control her irritation. “We’ve been roaming around this forest for hours, you’ve been shouting at the trees the entire time, and this child has obviously been following us and is attempting to play a trick. Doctor, I have had quite enough of this.”

“Taste him,” The Doctor said.

What?”

“You’re a lizard, go on, do that tongue thing.”

Vastra heaved a sigh, but did as she was told. Nothing at all unusual. There was the scent and taste of the forest, The Doctor, and—nothing else. Certainly not another living creature, though one clearly stood less than two meters away from her. She took a few steps closer to the child, and tested the air again. The child continued to look amused as he held out a hand. Vastra tentatively extended her own to meet his, only to pass right through it.

“You mean…this really is—“ she gestured around her.

“Yes!” The Doctor said, beaming.

“I beg your pardon for ignoring you for so long,” the forest-child said. “You see, we weren’t quite sure what to make of you, or your device. Vanyel is still quite puzzled by it.”

“Vanyel?”

“That would be me.” Vastra turned around to see an adult human standing behind them.

The Doctor turned from Stefen to Vanyel, and back again, pointing at both. “Hang on. There’s two of you?”

“Three, actually, though it was only me and Yfandes, in the beginning,” Vanyel said.

“A sentient forest with multiple personalities, oh this is just brilliant,” The Doctor said. “And, where is Yfandes, if I may ask?”

“Well, one of us has to remain on guard,” Stefen said, and when Vastra turned to face him, he had transformed into an adult.

“That’s right, the legend says you’re protectors. Great, wonderful, love a protector.”

“Yes, we are. As your companion surmised, we have been observing you, and we don’t believe you pose a threat, but I must ask, just who are you and what is that thing you arrived in? I’ve never seen or heard of anything like it.”

“Well you see, I’m a Timelord from the planet Gallifrey; the thing I arrived in is called a TARDIS, that’s an acronym that stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space; I stole it and ran away for a lot of reasons, but mainly because I was afraid and bored and I’ve been puttering around the universe ever since, but I always meant to bring it back; It’s bigger on the inside and it can travel through both space and time in an instant; I know it probably looks like magic to you because this is a preindustrial world and you haven’t discovered the laws of physics yet and just how are you doing that?” he paused, gasping for breath.

Vanyel lifted an eyebrow. “Laws of physics, hmmm? You’re right, I’ve never heard of them. But I know a thing or two about magic. That was a truth spell.”

The Doctor, for once, was at a loss for words.

***

Vastra warily perched on a seat that only a few moments ago had not existed. The Doctor seemed perfectly at ease, but Vastra could not help but feel unsettled at the sight of saplings rising out of the ground and shaping themselves into chairs, seemingly of their own volition. Her people of course had technology capable of things equally as bizarre, but there was none in evidence.

“Would you care for some refreshments?” Stefen asked, and a bush grew right out of the ground, bearing some sort of fruit. Vastra politely declined, being an obligate carnivore, and having already eaten a day ago. The Doctor delightfully plucked a handful and began popping them in his mouth.

“I know of a spell that can transport people through great distances, but you say you can even travel through time itself?” Vanyel asked.

“Well, there are limitations. You can’t go back in your own personal timeline. No do-overs, even for a time traveler.”

Vanyel smiled ruefully. “Just as well, I suppose. And you aren’t limited to only being able to travel to places you’ve actually seen?”

“No, as long as I know the coordinates, I can go just about anywhere. So, tell me, how exactly did you,” The Doctor gestured vaguely towards the avatars, “come about?”

“Well, the how I’m still not certain of. The images you see before you are reproductions of how we looked when we were still alive, but we’re not actually spirits as you understand the term. The forest itself is our living, breathing body. I’m not sure how much of our history and theology you are familiar with?”

“There was a great battle, and you died defeating your enemy, is that correct?” The Doctor said, gently.

The avatar nodded. “One moment, I was in the midst of battle, and realizing that the only spell powerful enough to destroy my enemy would also destroy me as well. I—cast it, expecting to find myself in the Havens, but instead—” he gestured to the forest. “The Shadow Lover gave me and my Companion Yfandes the choice to come here instead. There were still many enemies who escaped the battle, and there have been more through the years who sought to pillage and conquer. After my death there was no one left who could stop them, so I agreed, but only on the condition that Stefen could join us when it was time. That was, gods, four or five centuries ago.”

“Four or five centuries?” Vastra said, astounded. Nearly double the lifetime of a silurian. And with no end in sight? “How do you bear it?”

He looked at her, amused. “Oh, it’s no terrible hardship. Well, when we were waiting to be reunited, yes,” Vanyel said, looking at Stefen, who, if Vastra was correct, was his mate. Or had been. How did trees have mates? “But we can still communicate with people outside of this forest. Granted, we can only speak to them when they’re asleep, and they always believe our interactions to be nothing more than dreams, but it’s better than being cooped up here all the time. We get precious few visitors, I’m afraid. Every once in while some idiot blood mage gets the notion he can conquer the forest, but otherwise I’m afraid it does get a bit dull around here sometimes.”

Hope. It was a completely foreign emotion to her now, but she recognized the feeling. Stupid, foolish hope. Just because this—spirit, human, forest, whatever he was, could do this thing did not mean it was a skill she could learn. But if she could…her life may yet prove endurable.

“And how precisely are you capable of this…communication?” she asked, trying to act as if she was only casually interested.

“It’s a bit complicated, but the gist of it—I utilize a, well, place for lack of a better word. It’s not in the physical plane of existence. It’s called Dreamtime, and it’s, well. A bit difficult to explain if you’re not a mage, or at the very least passing familiar with metaphysical architecture.”

A soldier she may have been, and no intellectual, but she was no mindless berserker, either. “I am listening.”

But Vanyel seemed to hesitate. “May I ask, why are you so interested? Surely if you possess the means to travel through space and time in an instant, you are also able to communicate over great distances, as well?” Vastra could not be entirely sure, as she still had some difficulty reading human facial expressions, if he could even be called human, but she thought that the spirit might be harboring some suspicion of her intentions.

“No particular reason,” she dissembled. “Only curiosity.” She smiled to cover her disappointment.

The other spirit seemed to gain an interest in her, however. “You’ve been awfully quiet until now, Vastra, while we’ve been chatting away.”

“My business is my own,” she said sharply.

An awkward silence fell. “Vastra’s been having a bit of a difficult time lately,” The Doctor said apologetically. “I was hoping this trip would provide a…distraction.”

“A distraction.” She clenched her teeth as the grief and anger that she had actually forgotten about rose up within her. Damn him. For being right, for caring. She didn’t want him to care about her. She didn’t want to care about anything else.

“Who?” Vanyel asked her. He knew. She could see, didn’t want to see the pain and sympathy reflected in his eyes.

“My sisters,” she hissed. “My entire species. Dead, or as good as. And I alone and without purpose.”

Both spirits looked at each other, and she thought they both looked grieved. Not for her, surely? “I think being alone must be the worst kind of torment,” Stefen said. “I can’t say I know exactly what you must feel, but I have enough of an idea. I am sorry.”

“As am I,” Vanyel said. “I too have lost many that I love.”

It was on the tip of her tongue to snarl I have no desire for your pity, but she did not. As quickly as it had flared, the anger dissipated, leaving her feeling hollow once more.

“Many of my people remain in hibernation, deep beneath the earth’s crust. I was awoken by accident, an accident which killed everyone else in my battalion, including nearly all my close kin. I wanted to take vengeance. I wanted to waken the rest of my people, but The Doctor convinced me to stay my hand, that doing so at this time would only bring war and death, to silurians and humans alike. A war that would likely poison the planet for all of us. The Doctor has assured me that there will be a time when my people can safely return to the earth’s surface and coexist with humankind, but it will be long past the end of my lifetime.

“That’s why you wanted to know about Dreamtime,” Vanyel said, understanding dawning on his face.

Vastra hung her head. “Yes,” she admitted.

“You need only have said so,” Vanyel said. “I don’t know if you’re capable of finding Dreamtime on your own, but I give my word I will help you. You bear a burden which none should have to.”

She raised her head, and breathed deep. “Thank you.” Looking at the The Doctor, with so many emotions swirling within her she could not begin to sort them, she said again, softly, “For everything.”
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