FANFIC: The Masque of the Baron, Episode One

First, a brief introduction.  I wrote this in probably 1996 or 1997, for the Paul McGann Estrogen Brigade mailing list that had formed in the wake of the 1996 “Doctor Who” TV movie.  (This is also where I met my dear friend, who publishes the Unknown Companion series — she’s got another installment in her Tender Tales of Twelve series that you should also check out, featuring Courtney “Trouble” Woods, called Care.  Definitely give it a read!)  That was the community that first persuaded m e to try out writing fanfiction.  Although we’d just met the Eighth Doctor, at the time I was reading the “Doctor Who New Adventures” series from Virgin Publishing, featuring the Seventh, so my first attempt ended up featuring him.  I’m a sucker for crossovers, so it’s also a crossover.  At the time, I could find no crossovers with “Highlander: the Series”, which at the time was still in production, so that’s what I decided to dip my toes into.  So, here we go: my first fanfiction!  It’s a bit rough around the edges, but I like to think it’s still entertaining.  And if it’s not . . . well, once I’ve posted the whole thing, I’ll post the second version — when I recycled it for an MST3K fanfic.  😀

So, let’s dive into my first full-length fanfic!  This is The Masque of the Baron, featuring the Seventh Doctor as portrayed by Sylvester McCoy, set immediately before the TV movie and mostly ignoring the New Adventures.  In the Highlander continuity, it falls somewhere before the episode “Methos”.  (Yep, the really old guy is in this.)  So this is set in Paris somewhere in the early to mid 90s.  Apologies for the pretentious episode titles; they probably made sense at the time.  😉

Forward to Episode Two >

The Masque of the Baron

Episode One: in which the main characters are introduced.

Alone again. They all left him, in the end, when they’d grown up or grown tired – or when they died. The TARDIS seemed emptier without Ace’s knapsack stuffed in a corner of the console room. It certainly seemed quieter.

He’d reconfigured the interior space six times already, and fancied that it was as close to perfect as it was ever going to get. “Come on, Doctor,” he muttered to himself. “It’s time to move on”

His hands flickered over the worn brass controls with the skill of centuries of practice, setting the TARDIS’ new destination. He paused on the final setting, sighed and ran his hands through his brown hair. So many years, so many deaths, so much vast Time that now those hands were beginning to age. This body wasn’t going to last much longer. “Brave heart, Doctor.”

He remembered. Tegan, now, as he’d first seen her, bursting into the old console room, furious at having become lost in the infinite corridors of the TARDIS. Tegan, demanding to be returned to Heathrow Airport. Tegan rescuing Gallifrey with vital information. Tegan staring wild-eyed and terrified at him before fleeing into the streets of London.

He sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose, and remembered another friend, Romana. “Paris,” he had told her, “is the only place in the universe where one can relax entirely.” Opening his eyes, only barely aware of what he was doing, he set the coordinates for late 20th Century Paris.

 


Although the musty smell of dust had somewhat settled back into the book, Terri sneezed. The sound echoed through the high-ceilinged library, causing her collegue — a twentysomething researcher named Adam Pierson — to look up, startled.

“Bless you,” he said.

Terri rubbed her nose superfluously, grinning sheepishly at him. “Sorry about that. Allergies, you know.”

Adam smiled sympathetically and then returned to the text he was reading. Terri watched him for a few minutes, under the pretense of digging a kleenex and antihistamine out of her satchel. He would read the same passage over and over, then furiously scribble notes on a notepad. Occasionally, he would refer to a spiral-bound notebook for a few seconds, ponder the text, and then scribble more notes. Terri quickly realized that he was translating one of the older Chronicles into a modern language, probably French or English.

The heavy oaken doors of the library creaked reluctantly, and Terri turned sheepishly back to her own work. Footsteps rang loudly in the accoustically awful room, announcing another researcher. Terri kept her eyes studiously on her own work.

This was to be her main contribution to the Watchers. Of all the Immortals, she found herself most drawn to those who represented unsolved mysteries. Immortals dead or disappeared for centuries, Immortals who left only vague rumors, legends, unsubstantiated anecdotes, and a few incomplete Chronicles.

The most impressive of what Terri liked to call “apocryphal Immortals” was Methos. Unfortunately, Adam, having been a Watcher somewhat longer than Terri, had already taken that choice assignment. And anyway, Methos wasn’t quite apocryphal enough for Terri. There were documented sightings dating up to the French Revolution, and reams of undocumented evidence since then.

Terri had searched long and hard for suitably apocryphal Immortals. The notebooks in her satchel were filled with names, rumors, references, and possibilities. She had already discounted the Calleach as too well documented, despite that long-lived woman’s mysterious disappearance, as well as the numerous Watchers found with their throats ritually cut by the Calleach’s druidic devotees. She had also discounted the holy man K’Anpo as not an Immortal at all — K’Anpo, a Tibetan monk, was described in five radically different ways by five independant Watchers.

But there were a few that kept coming back to her. One in particular, called by many titles but never by his given name, even had his own Chronicle, as well as erroneous references in half a dozen others, including the Calleach’s. Apparently, another Watcher had tried to piece this man’s story together roughly 250 years ago. The dusty tome in front of her was the result of those efforts.

There was no name on the Chronicle, which was a large part of why it had been ignored for so long. — No longer, thought Terri. She slid her notes on the Doctor (as he was so often called) out of her satchel and laid them out alongside the tome.

First she flipped to the list of aliases, neatly penned in the front leaf of the book. Doctor was first, followed by Healer, Traveller, Stranger, Wise One, Teacher, and other, similar titles. At one point, he was even coincidentally referred to as Watcher. There were also names apparently drawn from mythology — Shamash in ancient Babylon, Merlin in post-Roman-Empire Britanny, Coyote in the old Navajo nation, and so on for quite some distance down the page. Cross-checking with her notes, she found only a few discrepancies. Her list was somewhat longer, including names that had no known roots, such as Ka Faraq Gatri, yet did not include some of the more chilling names that the book included. Hunter, Time’s Champion, Doom-Bringer, the Evil One, and even Death.

Terri had the feeling that even with the information in the Chronicle, her list was far from complete. This made the Doctor her perfect subject: a truly apocryphal Immortal.

“Still at your apocrypha, Terri?” She looked up, startled, to see Adam looking across at her. He had to repeat himself before she answered.

“I’m sorry, I . . . uh, I’m afraid I got a bit caught up in my work.” She smiled apologetically. “I know it’s not terribly conventional or anything, but . . .”

He smiled winningly at her. “I understand completely. Many of my own colleagues look down on book work.”

She nodded ruefully. “But you understand what it’s like. I mean, you’ve got the best apocryphal Immortal of them all. Methos.”

“Yes, it is quite a project,” he said.

“No one knows where he is or even what he looks like. Heck,” she said, “any of us could have met him without ever knowing.”

“That’s true.”

“So you see where I’m coming from when I chose to research the same sort of thing.”

She paused, waiting for a response. When Adam simply sat there, looking confused, she continued, “You do see where I’m coming from, don’t you?”

He shook his head. “No, I’m afraid I don’t quite see what you’re getting at.”

“Curiosity! It’s no fun just staring at an Immortal while he makes breakfast every day. It’s no challenge working out what kind of a credit rating he’s got. There’s no mystery in it. And if were not in this for mystery, what are we here for?”

Adam finally nodded. “I’m with you on that, Terri.” Suddenly, he stood up, walked across to Terri, and peered across at her notes. “And have you found one yet? An ‘apocryphal Immortal’ worthy of your curiosity?”

She frowned at him. “Well, I didn’t think it sounded quite that pretentious.” Adam apologized. “But, anyway, yes I have. This one.”

Adam squinted at the Chronicle. “This can’t have been touched for centuries. How can that be? They’ve all been moved so many times.”

“It was kept, untouched, in a family library for nearly two centuries. It’s sad, really.” He nodded in response, reached out and turned the page. Terri watched him run his finger down the page, halting at a peculiar patch of script. “Ah, yes. According to a fragmentary account in an archeological survey of a Roman ruin, the insciption — transcribed here — was made by a mysterious friend of Nero’s. Nobody could ever translate it. However, the same inscription shows up in several other places. Here, let me show you.” Reaching across in front of Adam, Terri began flipping rapidly through the Chronicle, coming to a transcript taken from the Calleach Chronicle. “Here’s an identical inscription, this time stamped onto a letter, written to a Professor Amelia Rumphart.”

Adam peered over Terri’s shoulder at the letter. The inscription was indeed stamped, next to “Cordially, the Doctor.” The entire letter was a bit peculiar, written in a loose, flowery hand which wandered over the page with no particular direction in mind. The drift of the letter seemed to be that this Doctor had very much enjoyed meeting Professor Rumphart, although it was a pity about Miss Fay. “Who is Miss Fay?” he asked Terri.

“The Calleach,” she replied. “She disappeared immediately before this letter was written.”

Adam nodded in response. They both knew very well what it meant when two Immortals went off together and only one returned. “But, ” he said, a curious tinge to his voice that Terri was unable to pin down, “by all accounts, the Calleach was too cunning to have just walked into something like that. You really think she’s dead?”

Terri looked up, surprised. “Of course,” she said, automatically, then trailing off as she met Adam’s eye. There was something there which disturbed her. “What?” she asked.

He did not answer for several seconds. “I seem to remember . . . . No, never mind.” He shook his head as if to clear it. “Have you had lunch yet? I’m afraid I’ve been focusing rather more on Methos than myself.” He grinned peculiarily.

Terri raised an eyebrow at him, but agreed to lunch anyway.

 


In the middle of the brilliant day, a spot of darkness found its way to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Tourists elbowed around the spot of somber blackness, unaware of its presence, seeking only a good view. At the center of the darkness was a dark man. He reacted to the tourists with nothing more than a faint grin at the corners of his mouth.

The dark man was pleased. The people of Paris had become if anything more cosmopolitan than the last time. Everywhere he looked, he saw printed journals with beautiful colors. Everyone could read, which was perhaps the greatest departure from his last experience of Paris.

No, he corrected himself. It was the wonderful computers which were so different. Information! The dark man’s grin broadened with pleasure. He’d found it most enjoyable to manipulate the curious machines, causing them to give back the information he wanted. He chuckled out loud, causing a young American tourist to stare peculiarily at him.

“Don’t worry, little one,” he said in Old French, knowing the young man would not understand. “You at least may escape in time.”

 


NOTES:

For those unfamiliar with “Highlander: the Series”, the Watchers are an organization dedicated to observing and recording the lives of Immortals, but never interfering in their activities.  The researcher Adam Pierson is in fact actually the legendary Methos, who decided to join the Watchers and essentially hide in plain sight.  Immortals live in constant danger from others of their kind, and the older they are the bigger of a target they become.  By reading Watcher reports, Methos is able to deftly stay out of the way of other Immortals, while also making sure the Watchers never find him either.  Later on in “Highlander: the Series” he did quit the Watchers, and while a few Watchers discovered his identity, it’s never clear whether the organization as a whole ever did.  There are some very interesting fanfics exploring that possibility, but I’m not going to touch on it in mine.

On the Doctor Who side of things, I also reference the Calleach, Miss Fay, and Professor Rumpert.  It’s a bit of fanservice for classic Whovians.  If you don’t recognize these names, check out the truly excellent Fourth Doctor serial “The Stones of Blood”.  I will tell you no more, because it’s one of the best Who stories of all time, and I wouldn’t want to spoil it.  😉  As far as K’Anpo goes, he’s from the Third Doctor serial “The Planet of the Spiders”, Jon Pertwee’s swansong.  He’s another Time Lord, hence the varying descriptions.  All the other names given for the Doctor are actually ones that have popped up in either in Doctor Who canon or in Doctor Who extended universe materials.  Lord only knows why the Watchers would’ve heard of “Ka Faraq Gatri” — that’s supposedly Dalek for “Destroyer of Worlds”.

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14 responses to “FANFIC: The Masque of the Baron, Episode One

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