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The King's Dragon

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New Series Adventures 42
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The King's Dragon

Apollo 23 by Justin Richards
Night of the Humans by David Llewellyn The Forgotten
Army by Brian Minchin Nuclear Time by Oli Smith
The King's Dragon by Una McCormack The Glamour
Chase by Gary Russell

The King's Dragon

UNA McCORMACN

B O O KS

13579108642
Published in 2010 by BBC Books, an imprint of Ebury Publishing.
A Random House Group Company
Copyright © Una McCormack 2010
Oh Smith has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this Work in
accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
Doctor Who is a BBC Wales production for BBC One.
Executive producers: Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger and Beth Willis
BBC, DOCTOR WHO and TARDIS (word marks, logos and devices) are
trademarks of the British Broadcasting Corporation and are used under
licence.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored
in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior
permission of the copyright owner.
The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009
Addresses for companies within the Random House Group can be found at
www.randomhouse.co.uk
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
ISBN 978 1 846 07990 0

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Commissioning editor: Albert DePetrillo
Series consultant: Justin Richards
Project editor: Steve Tribe
Cover design: Lee Binding © Woodlands Books Ltd, 2010
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For Matthew,
of course

'Woe for that man
who in harm and hatred hales his soul
to fiery embraces; nor favor nor change
awaits he ever.'
From Beowulf translated by Francis B. Gummere

They came only at night. They crept around the dark
places, the hidden places, the poor and lonely
places.
It was said in the city that you could tell when
they approached. First your skin began to prickle
and then a sickening cold fear lodged itself in your
belly which rose and rose, up and up - until you
could not speak and you could not breathe, and
the lamp that you were carrying couldn't bear it
any longer and went out - phoomph! And then the
shadows grew thick and dark, and you could no
longer see round the bend in the alley or the curve in
the road. You could not see the peril that was
lurking ahead, but it was there. And it lingered.
9

DOCTOR WHO

That's what was said. But when you asked the
tale-bearer if he or she had seen these things
themselves, 'Not I!' was the answer. But a cousin, or a
cousin's friend, had heard the tale from someone
else: 'A reputable source, mind you! My cousin is not
one for telling tales!' And you would shake your head
politely and reply, 'No, no! Of course!' But privately you
would dismiss the story (again) and return to your
business. For business was booming these days in
Geath. All was well now that the city had its new
young king.
Still, you might think, as you locked the doors, front
and back, and you sealed up the windows, it was
strange how empty the streets became after dusk. It was
strange, too, how we all bolted our doors and our
windows these days.
And each night, someone scurrying down a
narrow alley or across a deserted plaza, on some
business that sadly could not wait till the morning, would
fancy that they could see shadows moving ahead,
moving without any wind behind them, this summer
being a hot one.
And some people - the most fanciful, surely, and the
least trustworthy - would add a little colour to their tale.
(For the best of us cannot resist a little colour.) There
was a strange noise, they said, like the growl of a wild
beast - and some would swear that on the wall of the
passage curving ahead, they
10

THE KING’S DRAGON

had seen the long shadow of a hand, or a claw,
stretching out.
And the funny thing was, they would say, that
this hand had too many fingers...

11

Chapter

1

I don't know why I assumed an alien planet
would be in the future,' Amy said, 'but I did. Flying
cars. Rockets.'
'Food in pills,' Rory said.
'Food in pills, yes. But it's not like that at all. It's
more...'
'Olde worlde?' Rory offered.
'Olde worlde,' Amy agreed. 'But not retro.'
They were standing by the side of the road - an
olde-worlde road, without flagstones and with mud.
A few metres ahead of them, the Doctor stood with one
thumb stuck out, his face screwed up in
concentration. He was staring at a horse and cart
that, for the past five minutes, had been making
13

DOCTOR WHO

steady progress down the track towards them. The
driver's attention, however, was focused no further
forwards than the ears of his horse.
'If I'm being honest,' Rory said, 'I didn't expect
horses. Is there any particular reason to expect
horses? On an alien planet, I mean? Or have I
missed something?'
Amy gave it a couple of moments' thought. 'I don't
think you've missed anything.'
The front of the cart was now almost level with the
Doctor. He stuck his thumb out further; the universe's
most intense hitchhiker. Slowly, ever so slowly, the cart
rolled past. The golden bells on the harness jingled
merrily.
Amy gave the driver a cheerful salute as he went
on his way. 'Why, Doctor!' she cried. 'Is there anything
you can't do?'
For the merest fraction of a second, the Doctor
remained stretched out in his hitchhiking pose. He
looked like a slightly forlorn scarecrow, or a
particularly scruffy stork.
Abruptly, he turned on his heel and rejoined his
friends. His trousers and shirt were splattered in mud.
Brightly, he said, 'Beautiful day! Let's walk!'
The day was very hot for walking so they set a
gentle pace. The afternoon ambled amiably towards
evening and the sun slipped away, although it did
14

THE KING’S DRAGON

not take the heat with it. As the travellers neared
the top of the next hill, a yellow moon put in an
appearance.
'Are we there yet?' Amy called forward.
The Doctor, two steps ahead as ever, said, 'Not
long now.'
'I hope this place is something special, Doctor,'
Amy said. She glanced at Rory, trudging behind
her, his expression murderous. 'For your sake.'
'Top of the hill! Then you'll see why I've
brought you here.' The Doctor — all frantic energy
and hectic delight — reached the top of the hill and
balanced precariously on a gravelly escarpment,
throwing his arms out like a showman.
'The city of Geath!' he cried. 'Revered
throughout the universe for the beauty of its
buildings, the wisdom of its people, the excellence of
its sauces — and, most of all, for the unlikely fact
that, for twelve and a half thousand years, it has
been at peace with its neighbouring cities. Its name is
a byword for hospitality, craftsmanship and
civilised conversation. Forget rockets and flying
cars and food in pills — Geath is something truly
remarkable. A bunch of people who not only don't see
the point of getting into fights with each other, but
have managed not to get into fights for about as a
long as it took your species to get all the way from
hitting each other on the head with
15

DOCTOR WHO

clubs to nuclear bombs... Have I mentioned how
good their sauces are?' He kissed the tips of his
fingers. 'Nothing on your world comes close.'
Rory, struggling to keep his foothold on the
stony slope, said, 'My nan makes good gravy.'
Amy's eyes went hazy with happy memory.
'Oh yes...'
'If you can bring yourselves back for a moment to
the alien planet you're standing on,' the Doctor said,
'and if you ever make it to the top of this hill, I
promise you will see a sight capable of putting
thought even of Sunday lunch out of your head.'
He reached out a hand, Amy took it, and reached
back to Rory in turn. Together they took the last
step up. The clouds in the sky parted and the light
from the setting sun made the valley below them
glow.
Amy gasped.
Rory said, 'Wow.'
The Doctor smiled. 'Exactly.'
In the valley below, a long river wound lazily in
a great curve and, in this bend, lay the city of
Geath. It dazzled. Amy blinked, to little effect, and
was obliged to shield her eyes with her hand to be
able to make out the shape of the city.
It spread up from the river onto hills that lay to
the north in a grand display. It was as if the people of
the city had no fear of showing their beautiful
16

THE KING’S DRAGON

home to the wider world. In fact, they wanted
everyone to see. And why not? It glowed in the
sunset; the late light caught upon the red tiles of
the roofs, the yellow buildings, the gold...
As Amy looked more closely, she was able to
pick out detail. The city was laid out in circles:
concentric avenues running in rings that drew her
eye to a central plaza. There, in the heart of the city,
stood a huge round building with a great domed
roof.
The dome was golden. Amy reached out her
hand as if to touch it. It was a marvel, smooth and
round and precious, like the egg of a magical
creature. Amy wanted to run her hand across its
surface and feel the sun-tinged metal in her hand.
'Like it?' said the Doctor.
'It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen,'
Amy replied.
Rory, in a quiet awed voice, said, 'What is that
place?'
'The council chamber,' the Doctor said. 'The
heart of Geath, where its citizens meet to debate,
discuss, deliberate — and eat.' He checked his
watch, tapped its face, then checked it again. 'We
should get a move on.'
Rory was already halfway down the hill. Amy
half-ran and half-slid after him, eager for a proper
look at the astonishing golden hall. Could it be as
17

DOCTOR WHO

glorious up close? Could anything? Turning to
look back, she saw the Doctor standing still on the
hilltop, hands stuck in his pockets. Behind him, it
was starting to get dark.
'Come on!' she called.
The Doctor nodded, as if coming to a decision,
and followed her and Rory down the hill. They
still had some way to go.
As she walked, it occurred to Amy that the driver of
that cart had not shown much of the reputed
hospitality. But it was hardly worth mentioning. No
doubt they looked like a fairly odd bunch of
hitchhikers. She couldn't really blame him for
passing them by.
The track down the hill and their new enthusiasm
soon brought them to the broad paved road that
led into Geath. They crossed the river by means of
a great stone bridge. It was obviously ancient, but
immaculately constructed; the massive blocks smooth
and interlocking. The sun set, but the evening
remained hot, making the promise of the grand
hall and a friendly welcome even more appealing. It
was very quiet. Nobody passed them, walking or
riding, in either direction.
Ten more minutes brought the travellers to an
arched gate in the city walls. The walls were very
high and the gate very locked. Behind them,
18

THE KING’S DRAGON

everything was quiet. A single torch glowed dimly
and they huddled under it.
'Have we got here after closing time?' Amy
asked.
'Closing time? In Geath? No such thing.'
'A locked gate isn't very hospitable,' Rory said.
'No.' The Doctor looked thoughtfully at it.
'Odd, isn't it?'
'Maybe if we let them know we're here they'll be
all smiles,' Amy said.
She reached for the hammer on the door. It
was a fascinating design: it looked like a dragon,
clambering up the gate, its head turned sideways so
that a single ruby red eye could keep watch on the
road leading up to the city. The dragon's long gold
tail curled down to form the door-knocker. Amy
picked up the tail — then dropped it, quickly.
'Doctor, it's warm!'
The Doctor unfurled a long finger and,
tentatively, brushed the tip along the dragon's tail. 'So
it is.'
Amy reached to take hold of it again but the
Doctor was there first. She tutted in annoyance.
Why couldn't she be the one to experiment for
once? Out came the sonic screwdriver. Hadn't she
seen it first? Amy watched unhappily as the Doctor
ran his thumb down the scales on the dragon,
almost caressing them.
19

DOCTOR WHO

'Definitely odd,' he said. Then he picked up the
long tail and banged it hard against the gate.
There was a pause, a thump, and then
somebody cursed inventively. The spy-hole in the
gate opened.
The Doctor stuck his face up close and grinned
through. 'Hello! How are you? Can we come in?'
'Who's there? What do you want?'
The Doctor fumbled in his pocket and pulled out
his psychic paper. He held it up closer to the hole in
the gate.
The keeper muttered a reply.
'Sorry,' the Doctor said. 'Having a bit of trouble
hearing you! Big wooden gate in the way!'
'I said I can't read!'
'Ah.' The Doctor stared down at the paper. 'Of
course. Oral culture. That's a design flaw, isn't it?'
There was another series of thumps from behind
the gate, which then opened a crack.
'But the wife can,' said the gatekeeper. 'So you'd
better come in.' He peered behind the Doctor and
shook his head at Amy and Rory. 'Not them. Only
you.'
The Doctor went through the gate,
unapologetically looking back over his shoulder at
his friends.
They stood there for almost two whole minutes
before Amy muttered, 'Bored now!' She waved at
20

THE KING’S DRAGON

Rory. 'Come on, then. Leg up.'
'What?'
'If they won't let me in through the gate, I'm
going over the wall.'
'Amy, can't you wait for once?'
'Not a chance!'
'But what if they don't let the Doctor through?
Then you'll be stuck in there—'
Patiently, Amy explained. 'No - I'll be on the
inside and can come and open the gate once the
keeper has gone back into his house. Hands,
please.'
About three and a half seconds later, Rory was
crouching with his hands clasped together in front of
him. Amy was standing on them and scrabbling up
the wall.
'Sometimes,' Rory said to Amy's left shin, 'I feel
like I've spent my entire life doing things like this.
And then I start to worry that I'm going to spend
the rest of my life doing things like this... Amy!
That's my face you're standing on!'
'Nothing vital, then.'
'Thanks a lot!' He pushed her up, she pushed
too - and then she was sitting on top of the wall. A
sudden thought struck him. 'Amy - what do we do if
the Doctor does persuade them to open the gate?'
'What?'
21

DOCTOR WHO

'There'll only be one of us. One of me! Here! By
myself!'
Amy grinned down at him. 'You'll think of
something. You usually do.' Then she swung over
the wall and was gone.
Inevitably, the gate opened a split-second
later. The Doctor breezed out with the gatekeeper
scurrying behind him.
'No need to apologise! Easy mistake to make!'
the Doctor said cheerily. Then he saw Rory,
standing by himself, and frowned.
The gatekeeper tapped the Doctor's arm.
'Excuse me for asking, but I thought you said two
companions?'
'So I did,' the Doctor replied.
'She... got tired and went home,' Rory offered.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. 'You mentioned a
carriage?' he said to the gatekeeper, as Rory came
sheepishly through the gate.
'On its way,' the gatekeeper said. 'Don't want you
wandering around the city at night, do we?' 'Don't
we?' said the Doctor.
'Well, dark night, empty streets, you never
know who's hanging around.'
The Doctor scratched his nose. 'Don't you?'
'Still, better than it used to be. Time was anyone
could walk into Geath, any time, day or night! Can
you believe it?'
22

THE KING’S DRAGON

He swung the gate closed. It gave a loud
thump, as the Doctor said, softly, 'Why is that a
bad thing?'
Amy slipped round to the back of the gatehouse.
She could hear the Doctor speaking - quickly, so
that the gatekeeper (and, presumably, his wife)
didn't get much of a chance - but she couldn't
make out any words. Never mind. As long as the
Doctor was talking, he'd be keeping them busy
and away from her. She inched around the side of the
house, coming to a halt near a window. Slowly, she
leaned forwards to peer inside.
The room was crammed full of gold. The
candlesticks were made of gold. The poker and fireirons were made of gold. The door handle - yes, that
looked a lot like gold. There was gold stitching on the
curtains and on the cloth that covered the small table
below the window upon which cutlery (gold) and
plate (gold) were laid out. All of it gleamed in the
candlelight. Two comfortable chairs stood facing
each other companionably. Gold cushions rested
plumply upon them. It was a tiny, very cosy treasure
vault.
'What,' Amy muttered to the absent gatekeeper, 'is
your scam, exactly?'
She tried the window. It opened. Carefully, still
listening out for the conversation going on round
23

DOCTOR WHO

the front of the building, Amy leaned inside,
exactly far enough to be able to touch one of the
spoons on the table. It too was warm. More than
that, it was...
Wriggling.
'Whoa!' Amy jerked back her hand. 'Now that is
the most freakish thing in a whole world of
freakishness!'
She was about to test it again, but the
conversation at the front of the house was finishing.
Quickly, she pulled the window down again and
slipped back into the shadow of the wall.
The gate was open. Rory slunk in, tail between his
legs.
'Poor Rory,' Amy whispered to him. 'I'm
guessing you didn't think of something.'
She edged round to the road, keeping to the
shadows. The Doctor was gabbling away, at the
gatekeeper and his wife. Then a carriage pulled
up. A golden carriage.
'How lucky you are,' gushed the gatekeeper's
wife, as Rory and the Doctor clambered into their
carriage. 'You're going to meet the King! The
King!'
'King?' Rory whispered to the Doctor, as they
took their seats. 'I thought this was a republic or
something.'
24

THE KING’S DRAGON

'It is. It was.' The Doctor leaned over to open the
door on the other side of the carriage. Amy hopped
in. 'Hurry up!' said the Doctor. 'We're going to
meet the King!'
'King?' Amy nodded back towards the
gatehouse. 'You should see how the other half
lives.'
The carriage clattered along. The Doctor frowned
out of the window, beyond which the city of Geath
gleamed silently. Rory and Amy waited patiently.
Eventually, the Doctor held up some fingers.
'There are three things wrong here. Firstly, as Rory
pointed out, the people of Geath don't have a king.
They have a council. They have elections. They
have made an art form out of elections. That's the
first thing wrong.'
One of the Doctor's fingers went down. He
stopped talking and resumed frowning. Amy and
Rory exchanged a look.
The carriage continued through the deserted
city. They went down long curved avenues,
through little plazas with statues and fountains at
the centre, caught glimpses of covered steps
leading up the hill and alleyways leading down to
the river - but they saw nobody. The carriage rattled
into a plaza bigger than any they had passed through
yet and far more elaborately gilded. The
25

DOCTOR WHO

torchlight glittered on the thick metal that coated
the fronts of the buildings. A deep-noted bell
gouged; once, twice.
Amy jumped. 'This place is giving me the
creeps.'
Crossing the plaza, the carriage came to a halt.
The travellers climbed out and found themselves in
front of a huge round building. This had to be
the hall they had seen from the hilltop, Amy
thought; the one with the magical dome. That was
too high for her to see it clearly; looking up she
saw instead a haze of soft light rising above the
hall. The walls of the building were enamelled;
the decoration more intricate than anything she
had seen so far, with swirling spiral patterns that
bewildered her eye when she looked for more than a
few seconds. Two men stood on guard in front of
the hall's big arched doors. There was nobody else in
sight. Silence enveloped the city, a watchful, anxious
silence. The night heat was cloying. Amy looked at
the golden hall and gave a shudder of trepidation.
'The second thing that's wrong,' the Doctor said, 'is
that the streets are empty. Geathians live their lives
out in the streets and the plazas. Daytime: they sit
outside and work and talk. Night-time: they sit
outside and eat and talk. So where is everyone?
Why are they hiding away and locking
26

THE KING’S DRAGON

their doors?' He put one more finger down.
The two guards came towards them, bowed
low, and gestured at them to come inside. They
walked into a wide white corridor with an arched
roof; there were alcoves at intervals along each
wall, and in each of these some golden artefact was on
display: vases, statues, figures clasping gilded lamps.
The further in they went, the more lavish these
objects became, as if they were drawing nearer
and nearer to the source of it all.
'The third thing that's wrong,' said the Doctor,
'and, speaking for myself, I think this probably
comes under the heading "most wrong" — is that
gold doesn't occur naturally on this world. Not an
ingot, not a leaf, not a flake. There shouldn't be
any gold.' He glanced back down the corridor. 'But
there is. There's quite a lot of gold.'
They came to a pair of double doors. One of the
guards pushed these open, and the companions
walked through into a huge chamber, full of
light and music and people. The Doctor still had
one finger raised. It stayed raised and, as Amy
watched, those closest to them began to notice.
They fell silent; they nudged the next group along,
who looked round and, seeing the Doctor, also fell
silent. The clamour of conversation lessened
steadily and the music faltered. Soon the hall
was in complete silence and everybody in it was
27

DOCTOR WHO

looking their way.
The Doctor waggled his finger in greeting.
'Hello! I'm the Doctor. No, don't get up.'

28

Chapter

2

A chamber full of courtiers glared at them. The
Doctor beamed back, his smile like a ray of pure
white light through the hostile, shimmering
room. Hundreds of people were gathered there,
glorious in their finery, as if the jewel-drenched and
fantastic figures of a mosaic had stepped down and
taken shape in the real world.
Amy looked around in amazement. If the
gatehouse had been stuffed with gold, this place
was smothered in it.
'Blimey,' Rory whispered. 'Bling Central.'
Suddenly, as if someone had breathed life into
them, or turned their key, the courtiers began to
move apart, as methodically as dancers, half
29

DOCTOR WHO

of them shifting to one side of the great round
chamber, half to the other. As they moved, the
heart of the hall was slowly revealed: the source of
the glamour, the place from which it all sprang.
Raised up on a dais, apart from the rest of the
gathering, a young man sat on a golden throne. He
was tall and strong and handsome, and he wore a
narrow circlet of gold around his head. Standing at
his right shoulder, tactfully behind him, was
another man. He was only slightly older, although
his dark clothes were very severe, and he looked
almost nondescript compared to everyone else in
the hall. The only decoration he wore was on his
left hand, which was covered in fabulous rings.
These two men, however, were not quite the star
attraction. Curled up in front of the throne, one
red eye fixed upon the entrance of the chamber
and thus upon the travellers, was a huge, sinuous,
golden dragon.
'So... which one's the King?' whispered Amy.
Rory turned his laugh into a cough. The Doctor
raised a remonstrative eyebrow.
The silence stretched on, charged and distinctly
unwelcoming. Then the older of the two men
leaned forwards and whispered something in the
King's ear. The young man burst out laughing. So
did the Doctor. Within seconds the whole room
was in uproar, from the gaudiest toady to the
30

THE KING’S DRAGON

lowliest hanger-on.
The King clapped his hands together. The
room fell instantly silent. He rose up from his
throne, taller than everyone around him, stronger,
confident of his beauty and his power. He was like a
lazy, well-fed lion, muscular and commanding.
'Nice,' Amy said, appreciatively.
The King smiled down at the new arrivals. 'To
our friends and neighbours,' he said, 'I, Beol, King of
Geath, offer a most hearty welcome. Come, my
friends! Come and join me! Come and speak with
me!'
'Hooray!' cried the Doctor. 'All friends!
Marvellous! Amy, let's go and pay our respects to
our host. Rory,' he put his hand against Rory's
shoulder and gave him a gentle shove, 'mingle.'
His voice dropped. 'And listen. Both of you.'
'Neighbours, Doctor?' Amy muttered, as they
made their way through the curious whispering
crowd.
'Oh, the psychic paper, you know,' he said
offhandedly. Reaching the foot of the dais, he
swept out an outrageous bow. 'Friend! Lord! King of
Geath! Love what you've done with the place — and
what,' he spun round to look at the dragon, 'do we
have here?'
The man behind the throne jumped forwards.
'Don't touch it!'

31

DOCTOR WHO

The Doctor's long hands, bare millimetres away
from a great golden haunch of dragon, swung up
again, palms out. 'All right, won't touch. Hey, nice
rings! Who are you?'
'He's my Teller,' Beol said. He seemed to be
entertained by the scene unfolding in front of
him.
'Teller, Doctor?' Amy murmured.
'Oh, you know,' the Doctor said. 'Oral cultures —
always someone whose job it is to do the
memorising and the storytelling. Not to mention
the spin-doctoring.'
'So nothing to do with counting the cash?'
'Not usually. But then there's a lot of "not
usually" going on around here. A whole heap. A
hoard. This is Amy, by the way,' he said to Beol.
'Amy, say hello to the King.'
Amy lifted her hand to hip-height and gave a
little wave. 'Urn... hello.'
Beol, in return, delivered up a heart-stopping
smile.
'Wow,' Amy said. 'And we get Prince Charles.'
'That's aristocracies for you,' said the Doctor.
'You never know what's going to come out. Bit like a
tombola. Where did you say you'd found this
dragon?'
'We didn't,' said the Teller. 'Where did you say
you'd come from?'
32

THE KING’S DRAGON

'Dant, wasn't it?' said the King. Something was
definitely amusing him.
The Doctor produced another ludicrous bow.
'From the people of Dant, greetings and all the
best and, urn, cheers. So - the dragon? Can't be
many of these lying around. Where did you dig
this one up?'
Beol turned to his Teller and gave him an odd
smile. 'Why don't you tell them?'
There seemed to be some private joke going on
between them, although the Teller wasn't laughing.
He looked put out.
'Be seated, my friends,' Beol said to the Doctor
and Amy. 'He tells this tale so very well.'
He clapped his hands again. Servants carried up
two ornate chairs onto the dais. Beol gestured to
them to sit down.
'Last question for the moment, Doctor,' Amy
said, as they took their seats. 'Dant?'
'Don't know... Hang on, yes I do, next city
along. Up the river and left a bit.'
'And that's where we're from?'
'Apparently.' He gave her his lopsided grin.
'Citizens of Dant, though! Well done us!'
'I know!'
'Noticed anything yet?'
'Yes. That dragon. Is it me, or is it, sort of,
oozing? Or something?'
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DOCTOR WHO

The Doctor's smile switched off. 'It's not you.'
Rory drifted obediently through the room and
listened to the conversation. He soon realised that
everyone was talking about the same thing. Beol.
Who had seen Beol, who had spoken to Beol, what
Beol said, how he said it, and what he was wearing at
the time. Not all of what Rory heard had the ring of
truth and, in fact, the further away he got from the
centre of the hall, the more fanciful the stories
became and the more they carried with them the
distinct whiff of desperation. 'Help,' Rory
muttered. 'I'm a prisoner in Heat magazine.' He
inched his way to the edge of the crowd and looked
for a quiet spot where he could observe people in
peace.
A covered arcade ran around the perimeter of
the room, providing a haven for those who found
the bustle close to the dais too much. Chairs and
tables had been placed between its columns. These
were mostly deserted, apart from one, at which an old
woman sat, alone. Her chin was propped up on her
hands and she stared out across the hall with a bored
expression. Seeing that Rory was looking at her, she
gestured to him to join her. When he got close, she
rose up from her seat and, with some ceremony,
pulled out a chair for him.
'Hello,' Rory said, as he sat down. 'I'm Rory.'
34

THE KING’S DRAGON

Why did it sound better when the Doctor said it?
The old woman gave a brisk nod of the head.
'And I'm Hilthe. Welcome to Geath.'
'Thank you.'
'I haven't seen you here before,' she said.
'I haven't been here before. First time in
Geath.'
'Yes? Then tell me, Rory, what do you think of
my city?'
Rory gazed out across the chamber at the
glamorous gathering and then up at the
shimmering light-filled dome. He could not see
Beol, or the dragon, but he knew they were there,
and he could easily picture how magnificent they
both looked. 'I think it's amazing.'
Hilthe reached for a bottle and another glass. 'I
think it's tasteless.'
The glass chinked against the bottle. Rory
blinked. Suddenly everything around him seemed
garish and flashy. The gold was a slick coating over
the hall's true beauties. When Rory peered past it,
he was able to see how the hall had once appeared.
Pale stone and subtle frescoes; measured and
delicate. 'That's the trouble with bling.'
'Bling?'
Rory gestured around them. 'All this stuff.
Showy. You know.'
'Bling.' Hilthe rolled the word around, trying
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DOCTOR WHO

it out. 'I like that. I'll remember it.' She pushed a
glass towards him. 'Drink up. It makes the evening
pass more quickly.'
From the centre of the hall, applause broke
out. It rippled outwards, until soon the people
standing at the edge near their table were clapping
and pressing forwards. Hilthe sighed. 'Here comes
our bedtime story. Same story, every night. And
every night, they hang on the Teller's every word.
They've all gone quite mad.' Her voice took on a
note of cheerful desperation. 'Or I'm getting old. Or
both.'
'The same story? What's it about?'
'How brave Beol won the dragon and brought it
to Geath.' She spoke violently, almost viciously. That
was when Rory noticed she wasn't wearing any
gold. 'What else could we possibly want to hear
about?'
Rory got up from his seat to look over the crowd,
trying to see what was happening in the centre of
the hall. The older man, the one who had been
standing behind the King — the Teller, presumably —
walked to the front of the dais. He made a brief show
of reluctance but the crowd cheered him on. From
deep within the hall, a chant arose, taken up by
everyone until it boomed around the dome. It was
the King's name: Beol! Beol! Beol!
'See what I mean?' Hilthe said. 'They've all
36

THE KING’S DRAGON

gone mad.'
The man lifted up his left hand. The rings on it
glittered sharply in the lamplight. The crowd fell
silent. 'So,' he said, and then paused for effect.
Hilthe groaned and reached for her bottle. 'Here
we go again...'
The Tale of the King and the Dragon
'Hear now,' said the Teller, 'great men and women
gathered here in the heart-hall of Geath, how
Beol—'
Hearing the name, the crowd said, 'Ah!'
'How Beol, of all men bravest and boldest,
haled to this high hall a gift of great worth—' The
Teller flung out his arm.
'Ooh!' said the crowd.
' — hear now how Sheal was shorn of the golden
worm —'
'Is he alliterating?' whispered Amy to the
Doctor.
'It's the form. It's how it's done. Shush! Want to
listen.'
Amy settled back in her chair and got
comfortable. The hall was very full and very warm.
The light from the lamps and the torches filled the
place with a soft gold haze that imbued it with a
dreamy feeling. Amy closed her eyes.
When you listened carefully, she thought, the
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DOCTOR WHO

Teller's voice had a lot going for it. He used it like a
musical instrument - one moment dropping down to
a whisper that made Amy lean in to catch his
words, the next moment bellowing out a war cry
and making her jump back. There was something
else too - his voice conjured up vivid images in her
mind. She could picture in detail everything he
described - not like television, little images
flickering away in the corner of the room - this
was more immediate, more immersive, like a lucid
dream. It swept you up and carried you along.
Amy followed the Teller as he led her through
Beol's deeds: she gasped at the King's audacity,
tricking his way into the city of Sheal; she laughed
herself nearly into hiccups to hear the way he
made such fools out of the townsfolk; she chewed
her nails at the suspense of him creeping through
the city; and she thrilled at the knockdown fight
with the guards. And then he laid hands upon the
dragon...
Amy opened her eyes. There it was, lying at the
heart of the city, the red slit of its eye watching, its
mouth curved in a hungry smile. The Teller's tale
went on without her. Amy leaned forwards in her
chair, mesmerised by the hugeness of the dragon
and the beauty of it. She marvelled at the craft that
must have gone into each scale upon its back, the
long flat ears, the elegant snout, the humming...
38

THE KING’S DRAGON

Humming? Amy shook her head. Yes, she could
hear humming: a faint and distant chord that was
pitched perfectly with the Teller's rich tones. Was it
the musicians, accompanying him? Amy listened more
closely. No, it was too precise for that. This sound
was mechanical... Amy strained to listen. And then
she heard something else — behind the Teller's voice,
behind the dragon's music. A whisper in her mind,
inchoate and almost suppressed, but she could just
make out the sense of it. The whisper said: Will it come
back tonight? Will the monster come back tonight?
Monster? Fear clawed at Amy and she began to
tremble. She looked round the room, but she could
only see strangers, alien strangers on an alien
world. She was quite alone.
Suddenly, the Teller's voice swooped up in
anger. Amy jumped. He was describing the pursuit of
Beol made by the people of Sheal in their anger at
the theft of the dragon. They chased him like a
vagabond up hill and down dale, set their dogs after
him ('Boo!' hissed the crowd), but at last he came to
Geath, and he brought the dragon with him. But
Sheal was angry. The crowd shivered in fear at
this threat — but then the Teller soothed them,
reminded them how Beol had won once and would
win again. Beol was their King, he said. Beol
would protect them.

39

DOCTOR WHO

'Amy. Amy.' Someone spoke softly in her ear,
breaking the spell. It was the Doctor. 'What is it?
Can you hear something?'
The tale ended. The crowd broke into rapturous
applause. Beol! they cried. Beol! Beol! The name
dispelled all fear. Amy shook her head. 'I heard
nothing.' And what had she heard, really - a
whisper, a hum, a story? She nodded at the Teller.
'He's good, isn't he?'
Hilthe sat up with sudden interest. 'Now this is
new! Whenever he's told this story before, he's
always said that Beol won the dragon from the
people of Dant. But this time it's from the people of
Sheal. I wonder what that could mean...' Hilthe
glanced round the hall and shook her head. 'Not
that it makes any difference to this lot. I doubt
anyone else has even noticed. He could tell them
they brought it back from the moon and they'd
believe him.'
'Is any of the story true?' Rory asked.
'Some of it. They did ride into town with that
dragon on a cart behind them. Quite an old cart one of the wheels was about to fall off. From the
way he tells it now you'd think it was a chariot,
with half a hundred acrobats behind.'
'What happened next?'
'We assumed at first that they were showmen.
40

THE KING’S DRAGON

And then Beol challenged me to debate with him.
Which I did and, after that, we did what we do
best. We held an election. Which Beol won - and I
lost.'
There was a whole world of disappointment
compressed into those few words. 'I'm sorry,' Rory
said gently.
Hilthe patted his hand. 'Thank you. Very kind of
you. Once I would have said that such is the nature
of things, that fortune's wheel can turn in an
instant - but immediately the city began to
change. Not only in appearance - although that is
certainly startling enough - but in the way it talked.
Beol stopped being Councillor and instead was called
King. And then we began to hear that the people of
Dant and Sheal and Jutt were jealous of us and our
new wealth, and that we must be watchful, and
trust Beol to protect us...'
On the dais, the Teller brought his story to a
close. The crowd burst into rapturous applause.
The King rose and bowed and left the hall, the
Teller close behind.
Hilthe watched them go. 'And so Beol will
protect us, the Teller says. Protect us from whom?
We have never needed protecting in the past.'
Now that the King had gone, the courtiers left,
flowing quickly past the table at which Hilthe and
Rory sat. Beol's name was on everyone's lips; Beol's

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daring, Beol's courage. Hilthe sighed. 'It is very
strange to watch people you have known and loved all
the long years of your life change so swiftly into
strangers. Perhaps I missed something? Perhaps
they can see something that I cannot see?'
The room was almost empty. It felt tawdry and
cold. Hilthe looked lost and sad. Rory pressed her
hand. 'I don't think you missed anything. I think
you're the only one seeing straight.'
A smile returned to the corners of the old
woman's mouth and some sparkle to her eyes.
'Young man, I entirely agree with you!' As she got
up to leave, Hilthe reached into her purse and
brought out a small circular piece of tile. 'Thank
you,' she said. 'If you don't mind listening to an
old woman talk about the good old days - come
and find me. I can talk about the good old days for
ever.' She handed him the tile, bowed her head in
farewell, and then ducked into the shadows of the
arcade, leaving by another route to avoid the crowd.
A complex of rooms surrounded the council
chamber, and the three travellers were assigned a
suite a short walk away from the hall.
The Doctor checked the corridor outside, and
then turned to his companions. 'Right. Pockets.'
Amy and Rory stared at him blankly. 'I'll go first,
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THE KING’S DRAGON

shall I?' The Doctor removed his jacket. He brushed
fruitlessly at some of the mud spatters, turned the
jacket upside down and gave it a shake.
Gold poured onto the bed. Coins. Chains. A
couple of forks. Another shake. Another fork. The
Doctor picked it up and wondered at it. 'Forks...
forks... what is it about forks all of a sudden?' He
nodded at Rory. 'Your turn.'
Slowly, Rory emptied his pockets. Coins. More
coins. A couple of rings. A few bracelets. 'Nice,'
said the Doctor. 'Not really your style. Amy? What do
you have for us?'
Amy stared at the treasure in disbelief. 'I don't
know what you two have been up to, but I've not
spent the whole evening pilfering!'
The Doctor shrugged. 'Check your pockets. You
never know what might have fallen into them.'
'Nothing has "fallen into" my pockets!'
'Give it a go anyway.'
With much reluctance, Amy shoved her hand
into a pocket - and pulled out a spoon. It was the
one from the gatehouse. Amy stared down at it,
warm in her hand. She had no recollection of
picking it up. Under oath, she would have sworn
she had only touched it.
'Try your other pocket.' The Doctor was
watching her closely, his deep-set eyes dark and
intense. Amy pulled out a necklace. She pooled
43

DOCTOR WHO

it into her palm. 'I don't even remember seeing
this!'
'I'm sure you don't,' the Doctor replied. 'I don't
remember much after the first fork and I was
concentrating.' He took the necklace from her
hand and added it to the pile. He hopped onto the
bed and sat cross-legged, hunched over the loot,
stirring it around with one finger. 'What about the
rest?' he said. 'What are we not telling each other?'
'What do you mean?' said Rory.
'We were there for about two hours—' 'Really?'
Amy was startled. She hadn't noticed the time
pass.
'Mm. So think. What did you see? What did
you hear?'
'There was a king and a dragon...' Amy said
slowly. She laughed. 'You were there - you could
hardly miss the pair of them!'
The Doctor took out his sonic screwdriver and
switched it on, directing it at the gold. 'A king and a
dragon. Anything else?'
'I got talking to an old woman...' Mid-sentence,
Rory seemed to change his mind about what he
was going to say. 'Doesn't matter, it wasn't that
interesting.'
Under the sonic screwdriver's pale beam, the
metal began to shift and change and liquefy. A
44

THE KING’S DRAGON

haze gathered over it, like mist over the moon. 'The
Teller told us how Beol won the dragon — hey, he
was good, wasn't he?' Amy said, but as she spoke
she remembered something else, something on the
very edge of her memory, something that filled her
with dread... She shook her head. No. That was
rubbish. That was because the Teller was good at
what he did. Like a scary movie. 'Oh, Doctor, you
were sitting right next to me, you heard everything I
did!'
'Yes. Yes, I did.' The Doctor switched off the
sonic. The glow around the treasure disappeared.
'It's not gold, of course,' he said. 'There isn't any
gold on Geath. I won't bore you with the full
technical name because it would take the best part of
two minutes to say it. Besides, it's more famous under
its trade name. Enamour.'
The Doctor unfolded himself from his sitting
position and picked up his jacket. He gave his
jacket another shake which didn't result in any
more treasure and didn't remove any more
mud. 'And when I say "famous", what I mean is
"infamous". Enamour is banned throughout all
self-respecting galactic civilisations and in most of
the disreputable ones too. It's advanced and highly
dangerous technology, and what it's doing on a
pre-industrial world like this I don't know.' He laid
his jacket out carefully on the bed in front
45

DOCTOR WHO

of him and stared down as if it was a particularly
difficult puzzle. Then he shoved his arms into the
sleeves and flung it back over the top of his head.
Somehow, he ended up wearing it. 'But I want to
take a closer look at that dragon. Find out where it
came from.' He turned to his friends. 'Are you
coming or are you staying?'
'Urn...' said Rory. 'When you say
"dangerous" ...?'
'I mean dangerous - and not in a safe way. Are
you coming?'
Amy laughed. 'What do you think?' She was first to
the door - which meant she was first through it when
the howling started in the corridor beyond.

46

Chapter

3

Outside, the corridor was dark, apart from a single
lamp on the wall where the passage bent away
towards the right. That was still burning, but as
Amy watched, its flame withered and died. The
howl grew louder. The low growl rose quickly in
pitch until it was an eldritch shriek that made
Amy's teeth tingle. Whatever was making all this
racket was round the bend in the corridor.
Amy ran after it. As she swung round the
corner, she saw the lamps gutter and die, one by
one, plunging the way ahead into shadow. The
screech stopped. Behind her, Rory shouted, 'Amy!
Where are you? Wait!' But the lamps were going
out more quickly, so she gathered pace and ran to
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DOCTOR WHO

catch up with the darkness. She heard the growl
again, coming from ahead, rising up and drowning
out Rory's voice.
Then the walls fell away from her. The howling
stopped. 'Hello?' Amy called out, her voice echoing
slightly. 'Who's there?' She peered ahead and, as
her eyes adjusted, she saw that she was standing in
a chamber about a quarter of the size of the
council hall, as far as she could tell. A meeting
place, perhaps, or a reception room. Nearby, a
single lamp burned bravely. Through its slender
light Amy glimpsed pale frescoes, ghostly figures
dancing on the walls and, deep in the gloom, the
glitter of gold, or Enamour, or whatever it was the
Doctor called it. Beyond that, the room was
completely dark, although, at the edge of her
perception, she was sure something was moving,
scratching, growling...
Amy took a deep breath. 'Right. Time for a
closer look.' She lifted the lamp from its holding
and, heart pounding, took a slow step forward. She
held the light up and out in front of her, trying to
get some real sense of what lay ahead. Two steps,
three... and then the torch she was carrying began to
flicker. 'Don't even think about it!' she told it.
But the lamp had its own plans — or, rather,
something had plans for the lamp. Because it
didn't simply go out — it was pulled out. To Amy's
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THE KING’S DRAGON

astonishment, the flame spun into a long thin
golden thread, which was dragged across the
room, where it was ravelled up and soon gone.
'Now that is just not fair!'
Deep in the darkness, whatever-it-was moved: two
quick steps across the tiled floor. Amy jumped away,
crashing to a halt when her back hit the wall of the
chamber. The howl was low and rumbling and
definitely a threat; a threat that was gaining ground,
like an air-raid siren warning you of the approach of
something terrible. It was a sound to keep you
awake at night. More steps towards where Amy
stood. Then she saw it, half-visible, barely a
condensation of the darkness itself.
It was humanoid but elongated. Its limbs were
thin and stretched, like the long black branches of a
tree in winter, and they were growing longer. The
creature's reach extended rapidly, spreading out
from its side of the chamber towards Amy. She
held her dead lamp up in front of her, a poor useless
shield. To the shadow, she said, 'So there really is a
monster. You'd think I'd know better by now. Hello,
monster!'
Its jaws hinged open and it screamed back.
'Not much of a talker, eh? That's fine. I don't
mind doing the talking.'
Its huge metalled arm stretched out towards
her, scaled like the hide of a dragon. Amy held the
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DOCTOR WHO

lamp aloft. 'I come in peace!'
The creature unfurled its long fingers, too many
fingers. Amy flinched back against the wall. 'Urn... help?'
None came. But, as the first flood of emergency
adrenalin subsided a little, Amy realised that lack of
help might be less of a problem than she feared. The
beast loomed darkly over her. Yes, it was big; yes, it was
scary; yes, it was making enough of a noise that any
second the dead were going to wake up and knock on
the wall and complain about the racket and ask why a
hard-working corpse couldn't get any sleep around here
— but it wasn't actually coming any closer... If anything,
it was keeping a slight distance; studying her,
examining her...
Slowly, tentatively, Amy reached out to touch the
creature in front of her. Her hand went right through
it. The insubstantial giant shuddered, flickered halfin and half-out of sight, and then vanished.
All the lamps came back on, fiercely. Amy nearly
dropped the one she was holding. Carefully, hands
shaking, she put it back in its place on the wall,
scolding it as she did so. 'Where were you when I
needed you most?' With the lamp back in place, and
breathing deeply to steady herself, she turned to take a
look round. The room was empty, apart from the big
stash of gold heaped up in the
50

THE KING’S DRAGON

middle, gleaming prettily under the lamps.
Amy shook her head. 'Huh.' She went over to the
gold. Cups and goblets; rings and brooches.
Beautiful. She picked up one of the brooches. It
had a lovely sheen about it, almost an aura,
something that seemed separate from and yet at
the same time intrinsic to the metal. She turned it
over in her hands. It felt soft, like silk rippling
between her fingers. And it was so very lovely...
She was fixing the brooch to her jacket when Rory
burst into the room.
'Amy!' He ran over to her. 'All you all right?
What happened?'
Amy admired the brooch and then picked up a
necklace from the top of the pile. 'Hmm?'
'What happened?'
She gave him a puzzled look. 'Nothing
happened. The lights went out. I came in here and
found some gold. Enamour. Whatever. Do you like
my brooch?'
'What? Yes, it's very nice. Amy, what about the
noise?'
'What noise?'
'You know!' Rory shrieked. 'That noise.'
'Oh, that.' Amy shrugged. 'I don't know. The
wind, maybe. Trapped in the corridor. These old
buildings, no proper insulation. Do you think this
necklace is too much with the brooch?'
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DOCTOR WHO

'The wind?' Rory was unconvinced. 'Do you
think so?'
'Rory,' she said impatiently, 'if there was
anything else, then I'd tell you, wouldn't I. OK?'
She decided the necklace worked, put it on, and
turned to go. Then she saw the Doctor.
He was standing by the door, leaning back
against the wall, tapping the sonic screwdriver
against his cheek. He was frowning. Tall and thin
and alien, much scarier than any creeping shadow or
sleeping dragon. Amy looked away, suddenly
feeling 7 years old again and knowing that the
stranger in the garden with the box of delights
was disappointed in her. And then she felt cross
with him, not only for leaving that 7-year-old
behind after promising to be back, but because he
didn't believe her now. She lifted her chin and looked
him straight in the eye. 'There was nothing actually
there,' she said firmly. 'It was all a trick of the light.'
The Doctor pushed himself up from the wall.
'All right,' he said pleasantly. He slipped the sonic
screwdriver into his pocket. 'Well, as I was saying
before we were so rudely interrupted, I'd like a
closer look at that dragon.'
'Won't there be a guard on it?' Rory said.
'They're not going to let us wander in and take a
poke at their precious dragon, are they?'
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THE KING’S DRAGON

'When did that ever stop us?' Amy said, lightly.
She walked past the Doctor and out of the chamber
without meeting his eye again. 'Coming, boys?'
They came. The three of them crept back through
the complex to the council chamber. Amy walked
slightly behind and tried to clear her thoughts.
'No,' she said eventually, more to herself than
anyone else, her fingers tangled in her new
necklace. 'It was definitely a trick of the light. Too
much imagination in the dark.'
'That's what you said before,' Rory replied.
'Because if the wind was howling around the
corridors, it could have blown the lamps out, too,
couldn't it? Couldn't it have been the wind?'
'Yes, the wind could have blown the lights
out.'
So whatever she had seen — if in fact she had
seen anything at all — it must have been her
imagination. Yes, her imagination. This was
what happened when you hung around with the
Doctor. You started to believe there were monsters in
every corridor, when it was only some wind
rattling at the windows. But how did that explain
the lingering feeling of dread? The sense that
someone was coming, that something terrible was
about to happen? That someone was watching her?
'Stupid creepy place,' she muttered. 'Imagination.
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DOCTOR WHO

Definitely. Trick of the light.'
'Amy,' Rory said. 'Nobody's disagreeing with
you.'
'Well, good,' she said. 'Quite right, too.'
'Although,' Rory added, 'I don't quite see how the
wind blew the lamps alight again.'
The Doctor stopped dead in his tracks. 'I
wonder,' he said in exasperation, 'if we could talk
a little less. This being an attempt at stealth,
remember? And trying not to attract any attention
and all the rest of it? Just a suggestion.'
Rory and Amy nodded. The Doctor walked on,
and they trailed guiltily behind him. Then he
stopped again. 'Ah.'
Amy peered over his shoulder. The doors to the
council chamber were round the next bend in the
corridor, but two of Beol's knights were standing in
front of them. 'Are there guards?' asked Rory in a
stage whisper. 'I said there'd be guards.'
Amy put her hand on the Doctor's shoulder.
'Right, what's the plan?'
'Plan?'
'I bet it's brilliant.'
'Brilliant.'
'I bet it's so brilliant I could see my own face in
it.'
Behind them, Rory said, 'We could always try
the side entrance.'
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THE KING’S DRAGON

The Doctor and Amy, turning to look at him,
said in unison, 'What side entrance?'
Rory shoved his hands in his pockets and stared
down at his feet. 'There's usually one, isn't there? I
think I saw some people leave that way earlier... I
was sitting over on the side, yes? Not everyone went
out of the main doors... Look, it was "just a
suggestion"!'
Roughly five and a half minutes later, the three of
them came to a halt before an unprepossessing and
unguarded door. The Doctor tried the handle. It
opened without creaking. 'And we're in!' he said softly
and gleefully. He slipped inside, Amy and Rory
following close behind, and the travellers found
themselves in the arcade that ran around the
perimeter of the council chamber.
The hall itself was dark and deserted.
Everything was in shadow which only an hour or
two earlier had been so full and busy. Up on the
dais, two lamps burned behind the throne. The
dragon glowed palely. The Doctor made straight for
it. He knelt down in front of it and patted it on the
snout.
'Don't worry,' he said to it, aiming the sonic
screwdriver into its half-open eye. 'This won't
hurt.'
The beast shuddered. 'Whoa! Down boy!' The
Doctor switched off the sonic, moved round to the
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DOCTOR WHO

side of the dragon and then - gently, ever so gently used it again to remove a tiny piece of metal from the
dragon's side. 'Come here, both of you,' he said to
Amy and Rory. 'Come and take a closer look at raw
Enamour.'
It was only a scrap - a tiny scale - nestling in the
palm of the Doctor's hand. But it was so smooth,
and its colour so pure and unusual... Even a piece
as small as this, Amy thought, you'd love to have it.
You'd love to take it out to look at it and hold it and
know that you owned it. You'd love to be able to call
it yours...
'You're thinking that it's beautiful, aren't you?'
said the Doctor. 'That it's the most gorgeous thing
you've ever seen. Rory doesn't match up. Amy
doesn't compare. You're wondering what it would
be like to have it, you're wondering how you
ever lived without it, and you can't understand
why anyone would say that it's dangerous. How
can anything so gorgeous be so dangerous? But it's
all these things - beautiful and necessary and
dangerous. The people who made it understood
how powerful it was. That's why they called it
Enamour. Because it bewitches people. It can turn
minds, sell merchandise, sway elections. And it
does its job far too well.' The Doctor closed his
hand.
Amy drew in a shivery breath. She glanced at
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THE KING’S DRAGON

Rory. He looked shaken too. He reached over to
take her hand and she held his back, tight.
The Doctor threw the piece up into the air and
caught it; once again it shone in his palm. He closed
his hand once more - when he opened it, the tiny
powerful scrap had disappeared. 'Yes. So that's
Enamour,' he said. 'And the thing is, that it was all
right wanting it, and getting it, and even wanting
more of it - but it didn't stop there. Oh no. There
were other effects too, side effects, that nobody
predicted. You've felt it already, both of you,
haven't you - a necklace here, a spoon there—'
'Or a fork?' Amy suggested.
'Yes, what is it about forks? And the next thing
you know, you've gone and put it in your pocket.
But then you start thinking - well, is that what
people are doing to my stuff? Is that what they're
doing with my spoons?'
'Or forks,' Amy said, pointedly.
'Or, as you rightly say, forks. Do you have
designs on my forks?' He shot her a fierce look.
Amy almost took a step back but then he grinned at
her. 'So first you get protective, and then you get
suspicious, and the next thing you know you're
keeping secrets, and you're getting afraid, and
you're wondering if maybe those people you used to
call your neighbours aren't quite as friendly as
you thought they were. Because look at your
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DOCTOR WHO

amazing stuff! It's so beautiful and necessary - they
must want it as much as you do. They must have
their eye on it...' He looked around the chamber,
into the shadows. Again, Amy had that sense of
dread, that something was close, something was
watching...
'I think that's been happening here,' Rory said
slowly.
'Me too,' said the Doctor. His gaze came to rest on
Amy. She let go of Rory's hand and folded her arms.
There hadn't been anything. Just a trick of the light.
'I got talking to this old woman earlier,' Rory
said suddenly. 'Her name's Hilthe. She used to be
on their council here, or whatever it was called,
and then Beol rolled up with the Teller and the
dragon, and they challenged her in an election, and
she lost. It was nothing like the Teller's version of
events.' He took out the tile that Hilthe had given
him and handed it to the Doctor. His words came
more and more rapidly, as if now he'd started to
talk he wanted to get it all out. 'She gave me this - I
don't know what it is - said that if I wanted to come
and hear more about the good old days I should
come and visit her. I don't think this Enamour stuff
affects her, Doctor. She wasn't wearing any gold,
and she couldn't understand why everyone was
so... Well, enchanted by Beol.'
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THE KING’S DRAGON

The Doctor examined the tile closely, studying
the marks engraved upon. He flipped it over to
look at the back and traced his fingertip along the
delicate filigree he found there. 'It's a map of part of
the city. I think the black dot on it here is probably
your friend's house. This is her calling card.' He
threw it back over to Rory. 'Hilthe. She sounds like
somebody we should get to know better. Think you
could persuade her to come and talk to me?'
'I'll give it a go.' Rory turned to Amy.
'Coming?'
She shook her head. 'No, I'll stay here. I want to
find out more about this metal stuff. Where it came
from. How it got here. Why there's so much of it. I'll
see you in the rooms later.'
'Where it came from,' the Doctor repeated, as
Rory went on his way. 'How it got here. Why there's
so much of it. Anything else you'd like, while I'm at
it?'
'Cup of tea would be nice, thanks, but dragon
facts will do for now.'
'Right.' The Doctor flipped out the sonic
screwdriver again. 'Well, the reason there's so
much, is that working with the metal makes more of
it. The more you do to it, the more there is of it. Like
instant coffee.'
I’d rather that cup of tea,' Amy said. 'But that's
why it oozes and wriggles and gets everywhere?'
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DOCTOR WHO

'That's why.'
'So how about where it came from and how it got
here?'
'Let's see what we can find out...' Sonic
screwdriver in hand, the Doctor wandered around
the dragon. It didn't move but, watching it lie
there, its eye half-open, Amy couldn't quite shake
the feeling that it was only biding its time, waiting to
stir and rise up from the dais...
'It won't move, you know,' the Doctor said. He
was on the left side of the dragon, and was
apparently trying to prise it open. 'Not unless I tell
it to move.' He thought about what he had just said.
'Or the people who made it turn up again and tell
it to move.'
'Is that likely to happen?'
'I don't think so—'
'You don't think so?'
'That's the best I can manage until I find out
something about the provenance of this beastie...
Oh, here we are!'
He had managed to loosen a section of the
dragon; a piece of metal much larger than the
single scale he had detached before. This was the
size of a dinner plate, thinner and slightly curved.
The Doctor turned it over several times to study it
and then he handed it over to Amy. 'As I said. Not
likely to happen.'
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THE KING’S DRAGON

When Amy examined it, she saw marks
engraved on it. Letters, presumably. 'Doctor, not all
of us are fluent in technobabble.'
'No? What do they teach you in those schools?' He
took the panel back. 'Manufacturer's details. Like a
hallmark. And what that tells me, Amy, is that our
big old friendly worm here was made a very long
time ago, by a civilisation that was out travelling
between the stars before life even put in an
appearance on this world.' He stared intently down
at the metal, as if he might somehow catch sight of
that distant, ancient species and learn something
about them. 'Think about it. This was an empty
world back then. No people. Leaving the dragon here
was like burying your treasure under a tree in the
corner of a quiet field. But that was aeons ago. I
doubt its owners will be back for it. In the
meantime, it's not doing anybody here any good. We
need to get rid of it.'
He put the panel back into place and used the
sonic screwdriver to reattach it. Amy walked slowly
round the dragon, admiring the curves of its
wings, the long sweep of its tail. Knowing that it
was so old, so alien, made it even more
fascinating. 'I wonder what made them leave it
here. Why would you do that? It's so...'
'Go on,' said the Doctor. 'It's so...?'
'So beautiful,' Amy said honestly. 'I think it's
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DOCTOR WHO

the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.'
'It isn't, though. It's only making you think that it
is.' He pulled a face. 'Although, having seen
Leadworth, this could well be the most beautiful
thing you've ever seen. But mostly what you're
feeling is the effect of Enamour. When it wears off,
this will be—'
'A completely ordinary big gold dragon of
uncertain alien provenance.'
The Doctor grinned at her. 'Precisely that.'
'So why abandon it? If it's so special to them?
Why give it up?'
'Why does anyone bury their treasure? Perhaps
they were in trouble and they couldn't carry it
with them. Trying to escape trouble. Big universe,
plenty of trouble.'
'A war? An invasion?'
'That's the kind of thing. Or maybe they stole it
and hid it so that they weren't caught with it when
the bill turned up.'
Amy began to laugh. 'A heist gone wrong!'
'Maybe! Why not? Jewel theft, Amy,' he said
grandly, 'is a universal constant. But chances are
we'll never find out the full story.' He leaned his
elbow on the beast casually, almost too casually.
Amy gave him a questioning frown. He raised an
eyebrow and jerked his head slightly, gesturing
behind him. Someone there, Amy guessed,
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THE KING’S DRAGON

listening to them talk. How much had they heard?
'But there are a few things we could learn,' the
Doctor went on. 'Very easily.'
'Oh yes?' Amy kept her tone light.
'Yes.' He draped one arm proprietarily over the
dragon. 'Such as - where did Beol and the Teller
find the dragon? Who were they before they turned up
here in Geath? How did they find out how to make
it work for them? And are they anything more than
a couple of conmen?' Without turning his head, the
Doctor called back over his shoulder. 'So why don't
you stop lurking in the shadows like a bad stage
villain, come out here, and start telling the truth
rather than spinning a pack of lies?'

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4

'A chord,' Rory said with confidence, as he walked
along the empty criss-cross streets of Geath, 'is the
line between two points on a curve.' Truly, as the
Doctor had promised, the universe was full of
marvels. Here, on an alien world in a strange city
under the spell of a mysterious substance not entirely
within his comprehension, Rory had finally found a
use for GCSE maths. Without it (and Hilthe's
map, to be fair) he would be literally walking round
in circles.
'You'll find a use for it one day, Williams,' Rory
muttered, in a passable imitation of Mr Swallow,
Head of Maths, which would have made Amy
laugh, if Amy hadn't been half a mile away and
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behaving weirdly. More weirdly. Even more
weirdly than running away with a charismatically
chaotic time traveller the night before her wedding.
Their wedding. That was already weird enough
for Rory. And yet still he found himself picking
his way round said strange city in the middle of
the night in search of a little old lady. And why?
Because the Doctor had asked him to. Talk about
Enamour. 'So if I go up these steps... and along
this alley... then I should come out—'
Into another plaza, this one as deserted as the rest
of the city, the tinkling water in its fountain the only
sound to be heard. The buildings glistered eerily
under the moon. 'Weird weird weird. It is all too
weird. I don't like it.' Rory examined the tile that
Hilthe had given him and turned ninety degrees
anticlockwise. He headed down a broad avenue
lined with trees tottering under the weight of the
decorations loaded onto them.
Hilthe's house, when he found it, stood out a
mile — it was the only one not slathered in Enamour.
Rory ran up the steps and pulled on the bell. As he
waited, he studied the stained glass on the nearest
window. Even in the dim light, its vibrant colours
and intricate design gave a clue to how Geath must
have looked before the metal had oozed out of the
council chamber and coated everything, turning
the city uniform.
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THE KING’S DRAGON

A servant answered the door. Rory showed him the
tile and was led into a sitting room that was warm,
comfortable, and conspicuously gold-free. As he
waited, Rory looked at some of the pictures: paintings
and sketches of Geath throughout its long history.
On the shelves and in the cabinets were other
treasures: badges of office, old books and documents,
portraits of the long-dead great and good. So many
people, so many of the symbols and artefacts that must
have meant so much to them over the years. Hilthe, Rory
understood properly now, was an important part of that
history, and this room was a shrine to it. What had the
Doctor said? Twelve and a half thousand years.
What would it be like, to have that much weight of
the past behind you? How would it feel, knowing that
you had failed to persuade your fellow citizens that all
those years of tradition were worth keeping? That the
long chain of history was ending with you?
Hilthe arrived, wearing a crimson quilted
dressing gown and showing no outward sign of
minding that she had been woken up in the middle of
the night by a near stranger. The famous Geathian
hospitality at last. She sat them down by the hearth,
and her servant poured glasses of a hot, sweet tea,
while Rory explained in the simplest terms possible
what it was that they had discovered so far.
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'The friend I'm travelling with, the Doctor — he's
taken a closer look at the metal that the dragon's
made from, and it's worried him.' He took a sip.
'Anyway, the Doctor thinks it might be having
some sort of effect on the people of the city.' He
sipped again, marshalling his thoughts. 'And that
might be why the Teller and Beol have been able to
control them. The metal kind of makes people
believe what the Teller says.'
'A metal that can change minds?' Hilthe
frowned. 'That doesn't sound very likely.'
'I know it sounds... well, weird, but it's the truth.
I've seen it happen. We only arrived in the city this
evening, and Amy's already been affected.'
'Amy?'
'My other friend. My girlfriend. We heard noises in
the council complex and went to investigate. Awful
noises — screeching, shrieking. Amy ran off
ahead, but when we caught up with her, she hardly
seemed to know what we were talking about. I
think the metal — Enamour, it's called — makes
people forget things, or suppress them, or keep them
secret.'
Hilthe sat back in her chair. She studied Rory
carefully. 'Strange metals, strange noises — all told,
this is a very strange tale.'
'But true. Honestly. If you come and meet the
Doctor, he'll explain, better than I can. He's good
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THE KING’S DRAGON

at making the outright bizarre sound completely
reasonable.'
'Not necessarily a quality. But can he help? Can
he help Geath?'
'Help is what the Doctor does. Help is what the
Doctor is.'
Hilthe sat in silent contemplation for a while,
studying the different treasures that lined the
walls of her home. Then, apropos of nothing, she
said, 'When do you and Amy marry?'
'In the morning... How did you know we were
getting married?'
Hilthe nodded at his hands. 'When you started
talking about her, you began playing with that
wedding band.'
'What?' Rory looked down. Sure enough, he
was fiddling with a gold ring. Where had that come
from? He didn't remember picking it up. It sat in
the centre of his palm. 'Hilthe, this isn't mine.' As he
spoke, the ring suddenly twisted round of its own
accord. He tried to drop it, but it seemed to him
that it writhed in his hand, refusing to be let go. 'I
can't stop it!'
Hilthe got out of her seat and leaned over to
still his hands. Gently but firmly, she took the ring
from him. She held it up in front of her to examine it
more closely, and Rory caught a glimpse of her
sharp, clever eye through it. Then Hilthe blinked.
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She shuddered and doubled over, giving a small
cry of pain.
Rory jumped out of his seat and ran to help her
but, before he could get close enough, he bounced
back. He stretched out his hands. They came up
against something solid. Rory pushed hard against it,
desperate to get to the old woman, who was now
shaking violently.
'Hilthe!' he cried, thumping against the barrier
between them.
But there was no way through, no matter how
hard he hit or pushed. Rory pressed his hands
against the invisible barrier and watched helplessly
as pulsing golden light began to emanate from
the ring. Small circles at first, expanding rapidly
until Hilthe was entirely enveloped by the light.
Her skin became translucent, as if she was made of
clear crystal that was lit from within. The ring,
cupped in her hands, began to glow. Her head was
bowed and Rory could not see her face.
'Hilthe,' Rory whispered in awe. 'Are you still in
there? Can you speak to me?'
Hilthe raised her head and opened her eyes.
White fire. She looked like an angel... Rory
dismissed the idea at once as ridiculous. No such
thing. Aliens, however...
'Who are you? What do you want?'
The voice that answered was like Hilthe's, but

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richer and sweetened with a hundred thousand
harmonies. Rory was reminded of the Teller
earlier — but his voice sounded shrill and harsh in
comparison.
'I am the Herald. I speak for my masters, the
Bright Nobles of the Feond. I have come to claim
what is rightfully theirs.' Her glance darted to
and fro, searching, or hunting. She repeated her
greeting. 'I am the Herald. I speak for my masters,
the Bright Nobles of the Feond. I have come to
claim what is rightfully theirs.' Her eyes caught
him. 'We can reward you well.'
It wasn't exactly hard to guess what she was
talking about. Rory knew that the Doctor thought
Geath should be rid of it, that Hilthe wanted Geath to
be rid of it... and yet, and yet the city was so
beautiful now... Without the gold, it would look so
bare, so dull, hardly anything at all...
'There's nothing here,' Rory said. 'Look around
you. Sorry. Try the next planet along.'
The Herald took in her surroundings — and
saw only Hilthe's ungilded sitting room. Then she
sighed, a full chord that resonated with grief and
loss. A wave of guilt washed over Rory, but the
truth stuck to his tongue. The light went out. Hilthe
staggered backwards. Rory grabbed her arm to
stop her falling and guided her back to her chair.
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She sat for a few moments with her head bowed.
'How strange. How strange.' Then she sat up, as if
she had come to a decision. 'I want to meet your
Doctor friend.' She paused. 'I'm not sure why you
just lied. No, don't deny it. But he will certainly
need to know what you've seen in my house. My
view of it was... difficult to describe, so you're
going to have to tell the Doctor everything. If he's
going to help me.' She gave Rory a very sharp look.
'And I mean everything.'
The Teller emerged from the shadow of the arcade.
Two knights followed close behind him, their
hands resting lightly on the hilts of their sheathed
short swords. 'Well,' said the Teller affably, 'here is a
curious thing. The last I saw of our guests from Dant,
they were being shown to their very fine quarters.
And yet barely a bell has rung and here they are in
the council chamber. Whatever could have brought
them here?'
'We're not from Dant,' the Doctor said. 'But you
know that already.'
The Teller walked over to the dragon, placing
one hand upon its head and the other upon the
highest point of one folded wing. It was about as
deliberate a display of possession as it was possible
to make.
The Doctor ran one finger along the dragon's
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THE KING’S DRAGON

tail. `Go on,' he said. 'Tell me where you found it. I
bet it makes a brilliant story.'
The Teller lifted a hand - one only. 'But my
friend! You have already heard a great story this
evening!'
'Not a true one, though.'
'Does a story have to be true to be great?' 'It
helps.'
'But what more does my tale require?' The Teller
stroked the dragon's head. Beneath his touch, the
metal began to glisten.
And then, Amy would swear, it began to sing. A
low sweet sound just on the edge of her hearing that
picked up and harmonised with the Teller's voice.
She shivered. Where had she heard that before?
The Teller talked on. 'My tale has excitement
and adventure and - most of all - it has an enemy.
That was what the people of Geath wanted to
hear. This city!' He sneered. 'Year upon year of
comfortable talk, always the same, always too safe in their hearts they longed for something new.
Something dangerous. So that is what I give them.
And when they become too afraid, I can remind
them that even if there are powers in this world
that threaten them, Beol is here. Beol will protect
them.' He gave a crooked smile. 'And that is no
more than the truth. Beol is a good king.'
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DOCTOR WHO

'There shouldn't be a king. Not here.'
The Teller's smile turned radiant. 'But now
there is. And how they love him!'
'Were you a storyteller before?' The Doctor's
voice, which until now had sounded faint in
comparison, became steadily more authoritative,
more natural - more real. 'Were they good stories?'
He walked slowly around the dragon. The Teller
didn't budge an inch, but monitored his adversary's
progress closely. 'Did they tell people how to live
their lives just that bit better? Did they inspire
them? Inform them? Entertain them? Or were they
rubbish? Were they hack work? Was there always a
good guy and a bad guy and a tidy resolution at the
end? Have you simply found a way to amplify your
voice so that people can't help listening?'
The Teller's hitherto genial air was gone. He
gripped the dragon's head. Beneath his hands, the
golden hide began to ripple.
'Doctor,' Amy murmured. 'I think you're
making him angry.' She glanced uneasily at the
shifting metal. 'I think you're making it angry'
'You have no right to be here,' the Teller said
harshly. 'I should have you put in the stocks.
You're a fool!'
'And you're a liar. Can't bear to hear the truth?
Can't bear to hear it said?' Subtly, the Doctor's
voice began to change again. Now it was in tune
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THE KING’S DRAGON

with the dragon.
The hum was louder than ever before. Amy
pressed her fingers against her ears. The dragonsong was swelling. 'Doctor, I don't think this is a
good idea—'
'But you know it in your heart, don't you?' the
Doctor said, ignoring her. 'It's the dragon that
makes them listen. It's Beol that they love.'
'Stop this! Stop this at once!'
Amy looked across the hall. An old woman was
striding towards them, her eyes flashing in anger.
Rory came hurrying behind her. This must be his
friend Hilthe.
'This is the council chamber of Geath, the
Heart of the City!' Hilthe said. 'Generation after
generation of our people have gathered here in
comradeship and concord. Show some respect to
their efforts, to their memory!' She turned to Rory.
'Is this your friend?'
Rory nodded. 'This is the Doctor.'
The Doctor stepped back from the dragon. He
bowed his head. 'Forgive me, Mother, I meant no
disrespect.'
She gave him an unfavourable look and turned to
address the Teller. 'I know you hold this city in
contempt—'
'Not true, Mother!' the Teller said quickly; too
quickly, Amy thought.
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DOCTOR WHO

The Doctor murmured, 'The Teller doth
protest too much... Now why would that be, I
wonder...?'
Hilthe held up her hand to stop the Teller
speaking further. 'But you might at least make a
show of respect. Given that making a show is all
you're good for. Now,' she turned back to address
the Doctor. 'Your friend has come to me with a
most remarkable tale, one which any sensible
person would hardly find credible. What truth is
there in it? What does it mean for my city and its
people?'
The Doctor held up his hands. 'I'd like to tell
you, Mother, but you arrived just as our friend
here was having me thrown into the stocks.' He
gave the Teller his madman's grin. 'Which is it to
be? Throw me out or hear me out? Because I can
tell you a story that will turn your world upside
down. You know I can. And this story will be
wonderful and terrible and brilliant - and it won't
need a villain.'
Amy could see that the Teller was torn between his
need to rid himself of the Doctor and his desire to
find out more from him. He vacillated for a
moment or two, and then turned to the two guards
and dismissed them. 'Go on,' he said to the Doctor.
'Impress me.'
'Good man! Good choice!'
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THE KING’S DRAGON

Rory came to stand next to Amy. 'Did we nearly
find ourselves in the stocks?'
'Nearly. But not actually. And, you know, in
a case like that it really isn't the thought that
counts.'
'Hm.' Rory was not mollified.
The Doctor rubbed his hands together, cracked
some knuckles, and then turned the sonic
screwdriver onto the dragon.
The Teller made an anxious movement towards
him. 'Don't damage it!'
'I won't damage it! Well, not so as you'd notice...
Ah, here we go! Come and take a look at this, both of
you.'
It was another dragon-scale. Hilthe raised her
eyebrows at Rory, who nodded encouragingly,
and she stepped towards the Doctor. The Teller
came to look, too, and, as he stared down at the
scrap of Enamour lying in the Doctor's palm, his
face changed. Everything distinctive about him his wit, his intelligence - leached away. He became
absent. Amy shivered. Was that how she and Rory
had looked? From the moment she had picked up
the dragon-hammer on the gate and resented the
Doctor touching it, the metal had been working on
them.
The Doctor, watching the Teller, nodded. 'I
thought that you hadn't been on the receiving end
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DOCTOR WHO

before. Feels different, this way round, doesn't it?' 'I
feel nothing,' Hilthe said. 'What is this? Some kind
of conjuring trick?'
The Doctor closed his hand.
The Teller shuddered and pulled back. 'No,
something definitely happened then.' He looked at
the Doctor with new respect — and then at the
dragon, with new apprehension.
'I don't know where you found it,' the Doctor
said. 'I wonder if you could tell me even if you
wanted to. Enamour — that's its name — it makes
people possessive, jealous. Makes them keep
secrets.' He glanced at Amy and gave her a rueful
look. 'Even from people they can trust. Right,
Amy?'
'Oh,' Amy said. 'I know. I guess there was...
something... sort of. Maybe.' She tried to speak,
but the words wouldn't form. 'Why can't I say
what it was?'
'Amy...' The Doctor pressed two long fingers
gently against her cheek. 'It's not your fault — it's
what Enamour does. There's no harm done. But try to
concentrate now. Try to tell me what it was you saw
in the dark. Was it big? Was it scary? Animal?
Vegetable? Mineral? Accidental?'
Amy struggled to get past the mist descending
around her and to ignore the gentle lulling hum
rising steadily inside her head. 'It was big... No,
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THE KING’S DRAGON

not at first. It grew. It got bigger and bigger. All the
lamps went out - it made them go out. There was a
howling sound. Well, you heard that. It sort of came
towards me. I thought it was going to attack me!'
Rory took hold of her hand. 'Then it stopped. It
loomed for a while. It made me feel afraid, and
alone. Then it went away. I put my hand through it,
and it just went away. Like it wasn't really there.'
Through the haze, the Doctor was smiling at her;
approvingly, encouragingly. Another memory
came back, in a flash. 'Doctor, I think people
were whispering about it earlier, in the chamber.
They've seen it here before!' It was, as Rory was no
doubt thinking, weird. As if, knowing that it was
real for others, she was suddenly able to admit its
existence to herself. The humming was quieter,
and the Doctor was frowning, thoughtfully. 'Go on,
tell us,' Amy said. 'What is it?'
'A scout, probably. Trying to find the metal.
Question now - is it an automatic manifestation, or
is there someone behind it? Has somebody sent it?
Because if they have, our sleeping dragon over there
might not be quite as quiescent as we'd like.'
The Teller looked anxiously at the dragon. 'Is it
dangerous?'
'Dangerous?' Hilthe turned to the Doctor. 'Is it?
What does this mean for the city?'
'The dragon alone is danger enough,' the Doctor
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DOCTOR WHO

said, looking pointedly at the Teller, who looked
away guiltily. 'But... if it's automatic, no. And if
there's someone behind it...' The Doctor thought
for a moment. 'They'll follow the old protocols.
They'll send a Herald to ask for the return of the
metal before they try to take it by force.'
'Ah,' said Rory, quietly. 'I think we may already
have seen that.'
The Doctor gave him a 'you-took-your-time'
look. 'Did it ask for its Enamour back?'
'Yes, but – Doctor, I said there wasn't any here! I
couldn't stop myself!'
'Oh dear.'
'I couldn't!'
Hilthe interrupted. 'It's all right, Rory.' She
looked at the Doctor. 'I should imagine the Doctor
will tell us that it is the work of this metal again.'
'But... if they take it by force—'
Hilthe laid her hand upon Rory's shoulder. 'I'm
sure that we will be given another chance before
any assault is made upon us.' She reached into
her pocket and held out the ring for the Doctor to
see. 'This is the means by which their messenger
spoke to me, Doctor. Do not ask me how. I believe,
however, that I could understand a little of her
mind.'
The Doctor peered at the ring. 'May I?'
'Of course.'
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The Doctor picked up the ring. He held it up to the
light - his eye, dark and intelligent, was briefly visible
through it - and then he tested it with the sonic
screwdriver. 'Definitely the same material. You say
it spoke to you?'
'Through me would be nearer the mark.' 'So
it could still be an automatic system...'
'Automatic,' the Teller said. 'You keep saying
that. But what does it mean?'
'Ooh, good one. Not easy to explain. Let's see
what you make of this. Imagine, if you can,
machines that don't need people to operate them.
Machines that can be told in advance what to do,
and then left to get on with it.' He grinned at the
Teller, whose eyes widened as the idea sank in.
'You are imagining it, aren't you? Good for you!'
'Doctor,' Hilthe said, 'I have a question. Why
does this material... What did you call it?'
'Enamour.'
'Enamour.' She experimented with the word.
'Why does it not affect me, when the rest of the
city is enthralled?'
The Doctor shrugged. 'Wisdom? You've seen it all
before?'
Hilthe laughed. 'You mean I'm old!'
'Why are you not affected?' the Teller asked the
Doctor.
The Doctor winked at him. 'Same reason.'
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The Teller stared at him, fascinated and
bewildered, like he was watching a magician
whose tricks he could not understand.
'Now,' said Hilthe briskly, returning to the
business at hand, 'tell me if I have misunderstood,
but as I see it, what we ought to do now is
determine whether the makers of this dragon are
indeed trying to speak to us, or whether an echo of
their voice has in some way travelled down the long
years to us.'
'I'm impressed!' said the Doctor. 'You're
impressive!'
'Thank you, Doctor, I know that already. Now,
given that I am in some way impervious to this
metal's deleterious effects, surely what I ought to
do next is try this ring once again in order to
summon its makers?'
'Too dangerous, Doctor,' Rory said, quickly.
'Anything might happen.'
The Doctor frowned. 'He's right, Mother—'
'Nevertheless, the decision is mine and mine
alone,' Hilthe took the ring back from him. 'Besides,
for the city of Geath, I would do anything.'

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Chapter

5

Hilthe cupped the ring in her hands and was bathed
once again in the rings of golden light. Amy was
amazed. 'It's beautiful! Is that what happened
before?'
'Just wait till she starts speaking.' Rory felt his
stomach knotting with anticipation. Somehow, the
fear he had felt for Hilthe dissipated, and he was
eager for Amy to see what he had seen, and anxious
to see it again himself.
When the Herald returned, the show was even
more impressive than he remembered. The light
was more intense, the experience more involving,
more complete. The Herald's voice rang around the
high chamber like a peal of bells. 'I am the Herald. I
speak for my masters, the Bright Nobles of the
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Feond. I have come to claim what is rightfully
theirs.'
The Doctor walked slowly all the way round the
apparition, fascinated, his head tilted to one side as
he studied her. 'You're amazing. And you're here,
aren't you? Well, not here here, because this is a
transmission. But it isn't a recording. You're not a
voice from the past. You're speaking to us now,
aren't you?'
The Herald turned her head to follow the
Doctor as he moved, watching him with her fire-lit
eyes. 'I am speaking to you now,' she confirmed. 'I
am speaking to you for my masters, the Bright
Nobles of the Feond. I have come to claim what is
rightfully theirs. Who is the Noble here? Who has
authority to speak?'
The Teller took a step forwards, but the Doctor
got in first. 'You can speak to me. Where have you
come from?'
'I am the Herald. I speak for my masters, the
Bright Nobles of the Feond. I have come to claim
what is rightfully theirs.'
'Yes, I've got that already. You want your
treasure and I have to say I'll be glad to see the
back of it. So will the people of Geath. Not at first,
probably.' The Doctor glanced quickly at the Teller.
'When I say "probably", I mean "definitely". Let's
not worry about that right now. Why should I
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hand it over?'
'It belongs to my masters, the Bright Nobles of
the Feond. It is rightfully theirs.'
'Yes, yes, so you say. But my problem with that is
anyone can turn up and claim that old Smaug over
there belongs to them.' The Doctor looked at the
Teller again, pointedly this time. 'I'll admit that the
light show is impressive — very whizz bang — but
it's not proof of purchase, is it? So why should I
hand it over to you?'
The Herald closed her eyes briefly, as if
calculating, or perhaps receiving instructions. 'We
can reward you well.'
'Oops,' said Amy. 'Bad move.'
The Doctor bared his teeth in a mirthless smile.
He strolled around the Herald one more time,
coming to a halt slightly behind her left side. He
put his hand flat against the sphere of light. It
rippled almost imperceptibly but otherwise did
not change. 'Problem is,' he said, drawing back
his hand and examining his palm, 'Enamour is a
banned substance. Banned by everyone. You name
them, they've banned it. Outlawed within the
Ancient Bounds of the League of Perpetual Accord.
Forbidden on every count across the Uncounted
Constellations. The Hieromonks of the Hexagon
preach against it from every pulpit in the Church of
All the Levels, and the Bloodied Mercenaries of
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Metis IV ("may-their-name-be-accursed-throughtheuniverse") wouldn't touch it, even if you paid them.
Which you have to. So why should you get it?'
'It belongs to my masters. When it is restored to
them, they will treat it with care. They treat all that
they own with care.'
'Oh, yes, you say that now! But dumping it here
on Geath was hardly careful, was it? Talk about
toxic waste! It's been making a right old mess of
things around here! Fine republican tradition,
twelve thousand years plus or minus, throw some
Enamour at them and the next thing you know
they're going all moon-faced over a king. A king of
all things! And, to be fair, he's a nice chap, good
shoulders, I'm sure he makes a very good king —
but,' the Doctor paused for breath and raised a
reproving finger, 'where would we be without
tradition?'
The light around the Herald began to grow in
intensity. Urgently, she said, 'It belongs to my
masters—'
'You do go on about your masters, did you
know that? Anyone might suspect them of using a
mind-controlling metal to make you go all wobbly.
Anyway, they're not my masters. I can take care of
the stuff. I shall take care of the stuff. Won't hand it
over. Shan't.'
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'They are coming!' cried the Herald.
The light was now dazzling. Amy had to shield
her eyes. Rory and the Teller did the same. Amy
heard the Teller whispering to himself, 'What is
this? What is this?' She put her hand on his
shoulder. 'Don't worry. The Doctor will sort it all
out. Definitely. Probably.'
'Our enemies are close!' cried the Herald. 'They
must not take it!'
'Enemies?' The Doctor came round to face her.
'Oh, now we're onto something. What enemies?'
'There was a war,' said the Herald.
'Oh, there usually is.'
'We lost. We lost our beloved worlds! A
hundred thousand worlds, lost to us! We hid all
that we could rather than let it fall into the hands of
the enemies. They would not use it for peace; for
beauty.'
'Said it was a war,' said Amy.
'I said it was a war,' replied the Doctor. 'You said it
was a heist.'
'We became exiles.' The Herald's beautiful voice
had turned piteous.
'I said it might be a heist,' Amy muttered.
'Nothing wrong with a spot of exile,' the Doctor
said to the Herald. 'Not a bad way of life. See the
sights, move on, see a few more sights—'
'Save the odd Star Whale,' said Amy.
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'Fight the odd vampire,' said Rory.
The Doctor turned on them. 'Technically
speaking, they weren't vampires... Do I look like
Buffy?' He nodded towards the Herald. 'Can I get on
with talking to the bright shiny potential alien
menace, please? Herald, what happened?'
'Our home was lost to us. We wandered for so
long that we could barely remember what we had
once owned. We wandered through the dark and
the cold. We could barely remember our worlds,
our homes. We began to forget the light and the
music and the bliss.'
Amy bit her lip and looked at the Doctor. No
more banter from him, no more questions. He
looked old, very old, unspeakably sad, and alone.
What was it the Teller had said earlier? That he
only told the people of Geath what they wanted to
hear... 'Doctor,' she said, 'you reckoned that the
dragon must have been here for millennia. So why
now? What's brought them here now?'
'We heard an echo from the past,' the Herald
said. 'It called to us. We came.'
The Doctor brought himself back to the present. 'It
was probably when the Geathians started
working the metal.' His voice was more subdued
than before. 'That must have triggered something - a
beacon, perhaps. Enough for the Herald's people to
work out where the dragon was - and for their
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enemies to work it out, too. Whoever they are.'
The Herald quivered at the mention of them.
'They are very close! They are coming! Do not let
them take it from us!'
'Doctor,' Rory said. 'Wouldn't it be best just to
let them take it? Away from here. Before those things
Amy saw come for us.'
'No!' Amy said quickly. 'How do we know that
they're telling us the truth? They could be spinning
us a story.' She glanced at the Teller. 'Like everyone
else round here.'
'We have to get rid of the stuff somehow,' Rory
said. 'It can't stay here in Geath. So why not save
ourselves a job and send it back where it came
from?'
'Rory, you never listen!'
'Me never listen? That's rich coming from you,
Amy Pond!'
'Oh, now we're getting to the truth of things!'
'Amy, this isn't actually about you. Don't you get
it? Look at Hilthe. I'm worried about her! How long
are we going to leave her like this? She's an old
woman—'
The Doctor spoke over them, addressing the
Herald in a gentler voice. 'Tell me about your
enemies.'
The light around the Herald dimmed, as if it
was being pulled away from her. 'They brought
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chaos. They brought ruin. My masters were artists
and poets and philosophers. Our cities shone like
beacons. Our worlds were paradises. But they
were destroyed.'
'Why?' pressed the Doctor. 'Why you? Why
would anyone do that to you?'
'Envy.' Her voice hit a low note that tolled
around the hall. 'Jealousy. What other force could
tear down towers, shred the learning of ages,
consign the Bright Nobles to darkness?' She held
her hand out to him, like a beggar pleading for aid.
'We have so little left! Do not let them take it!' The
light within her dimmed perilously low. 'They are
coming! They have found us! They are here!'
Amy heard once again the low wail that she
had chased through the complex earlier. As the
sound grew louder, her sense of dread got steadily
worse, until she felt sick. What was doing this,
Amy thought desperately, as she shoved her
fingers into her ears. Travelling with the Doctor,
she was often scared, but something about this
noise got inside her and made her want to curl up
and disappear, like the lamp she had been carrying
earlier. 'Doctor!' she yelled. 'Bad guy! Incoming!'
At the far end of the chamber, behind the throne,
darkness began to take shape and form, coalescing
into a figure. The light around the Herald flickered
madly and her body went into spasm.

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'Hilthe!' Rory shouted. He tried to reach the old
woman, but could not get close. When Amy went to
pull him back he shook her off.
The Teller stood with his mouth hanging open,
his expression partly of terror, partly of wonder.
'Get back!' Amy yelled at him. 'Let the Doctor
handle it!'
Coming to his senses, the Teller rushed to take
cover behind one of the columns of the arcade.
Amy and Rory joined him. The Doctor remained by
the Herald. He stood staring in delight at the figure
emerging at the far side of the hall.
It was growing rapidly in size. Now it was
Amy's height, now taller, now more than twice the
size of an average human, its limbs lengthening,
unfurling like wings. Soon it was almost touching
the dome of the council chamber and it didn't
stop growing. No longer able to fit, it stooped
forwards, a huge shadow looming over them all.
The noise it was making, amplified by the dome of
the chamber, was almost unbearable. And then,
through the din, Amy heard a steady hum, very
low at first, but getting louder. Harmonies were
added to it until it was as if a thousand voices, in
perfect unison, were countering the cry of the dark
figure across the chamber. Then the Herald, too,
began to grow.
Rory grabbed Amy's arm. 'She's fighting back!
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Hilthe's fighting back!'
'It's not Hilthe!' Amy shouted, but either he
hadn't heard or else it made no difference. Rory
whooped and cheered her on.
The Herald seemed to gain strength and stature
from his support. Her rate of growth sped up,
and soon her bright figure filled her half of the
hall. The two unearthly presences hovered for a
moment - facing off, considering the nature of the
opposition, gearing up to do battle - and then the
Herald attacked. Waves of golden light emanated
from her in the direction of her enemy. When they
hit, the huge dark figure recoiled, and gave a great
howl, like a hundred cats screeching in pain and
hatred.
'Got it!' yelled Rory. 'Go Hilthe!'
But Amy gasped in dismay - and then puzzled
over her reaction. The creature frightened her and
its coming and its presence filled her with terror.
So why did she not want it hurt? Was it because it
hadn't touched her? All it had done so far was look
big and loom and wail - but there wasn't a law
against that.
The Herald tried to capitalise on her advantage.
She raised one light-filled hand and sent more
shock waves out towards her enemy. It buckled
under the force of the blow, like a tree blasted by a
storm, and shrank somewhat in size. But then it
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started to gather its resources for a counter-attack.
The wailing, which had faltered under the Herald's
assault, rose up again with renewed vigour and
purpose. It stretched out its vast hands, so that the
whole council chamber seemed to lie within its
grasp. The two lamps behind the throne went out.
The only light now came from the Herald, and its
pale reflection in the dragon. Amy saw the Doctor
taking cover behind it.
'Amy! Rory! Are you all right?' he yelled.
'Fine!' she shouted back. She glanced at the
man next to her who was wide-eyed and clutching at
the column as if it was the only solid thing in a world
turned to chaos. 'Though I think the Teller might
need therapy!'
'What about Hilthe?' Rory shouted. 'Doctor, is
this hurting her?'
The Doctor didn't get a chance to answer. The
Herald's enemy made a grab for her. It was as if it
was trying to extinguish her, to snuff her out like
she was a candle. The Herald's light diminished
again. She gave an agonised shriek — and then her
light dissipated entirely. The whole apparition
withered, shrank, and then was gone. Only Hilthe
remained — a tiny, silver-haired old woman,
clutching an innocuous-looking gold ring. She
stood still and erect for a moment, as if the shock
was enough to keep her upright, and then she
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slumped to the ground. The ring fell out of her
hands. It clattered coldly against the tiled floor,
then rolled across the chamber and came to a halt in
front of the dragon. The Doctor picked it up and put
it in his pocket.
'Hilthe!' Rory cried in dismay. He ran out from
the cover of the arcade and helped the Doctor
carry her back to one of the seats there. She sat
with her head down. Rory put his arm around her.
'Hilthe,' he said gently. 'Can you hear me? Are you all
right?'
The Teller, creeping across to stand beside the
Doctor, stared in horror at the monster hovering at
the far side of the chamber. The noise had lessened
considerably and was now nothing more than a
background growl, but the figure was still huge.
'What is that thing?'
'Like I said before, it's a scout,' the Doctor said.
'It's been sent to track down the Enamour. Bet
you're sorry you found that dragon now.'
The Teller was aghast. 'Sent by whom?'
'Good question. Don't know. Yet.'
Hilthe, leaning back in the circle of Rory's arms,
opened her eyes. 'Ah!' she cried softly.
The Doctor knelt down beside her and took her
hand. 'I'm sorry I let you speak for us, Mother.'
She extricated her hand from his. 'You didn't
let me. I insisted.' She shivered. 'I saw many
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wonderful things through its eyes. Many marvels.
Such beautiful cities! Such grandeur!' She shook
her head, as if to clear it of whatever strange visions
the Herald had placed there. 'However, I see that its
enemy is still amongst us. We must determine
whether it means my city any harm.'
'So we should.' The Doctor looked back over his
shoulder. 'It doesn't seem in a hurry to finish us
off, does it? I wonder what it has to say for itself.'
Leaving Hilthe in Rory's expert and devoted care, he
jumped to his feet and ran out from the cover of the
arcade. The alien towered over him. 'Hello!' he said.
'Nice to meet you! Now, call me a romantic if you
like — and I am awfully romantic about meeting new
life forms, brings a lump to the throat — but I don't
think you're going to hurt us, are you? Not
immediately, anyway. Am I right?' As he was
speaking, the alien twisted round slowly, and bent
forwards to examine the Doctor. Its jaw hinged open,
offering a glimpse down a cavernous mouth. 'Or am I
wrong?' Now standing nose-to-snout with it, the
Doctor gave a little wave. 'Hello again!'
The creature spoke, its voice low and monotone. 'I
represent the Regulatory Board. Under Clause 9.4b
(subsection 12.2) of the Regulation of PsychoManipulatory Metals Act (30673.26), all parties
here assembled must hand over any substances

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covered by said Act within ten standard time
units.'
'That was a mouthful. Can you do it again?' It
did.
'So you can. Good for you! Not easy learning
lines like that. If you ever decide to get out of the
regulatory business, I suggest you think about the
stage. So you want the stuff, too.' The Doctor rocked
back and forth on his heels. 'Enamour, Enamour,
they all want Enamour... So what's your claim? Who's
your boss? Not these Bright Nobles, I bet.'
It growled at that name. 'My authority comes
from the Reconstruction Oversight Committee—'
'The what?' The Doctor clutched his head in
pain. 'That's a rubbish name! Who sold you that
one? You should get your money back... Did
nobody talk to you about brand management? And as
for "standard time units"...' He groaned. 'That's
rubbish too! What were you thinking? You know, if
you're serious about reconstructing whatever it is
you're busy reconstructing, you should probably get
rid of that committee.'
With a sudden quick movement, the Doctor
stuck his arm right through the Regulator. It all but
disappeared. 'Huh,' he said, half to the Regulator,
half to himself. 'Definitely a projection. Doesn't
stop you being alarming. The trick with the lights
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is a good one, too, I'll give you that. And somehow
you're stimulating fear and apprehension... Don't
know how you're doing it - not yet, will eventually
- but put it all together and it's an effective badguy routine, isn't it? Said you should think about
the stage.' He pulled back his hand, and the
Regulator coalesced back into its whole shape.
Ooh. That's interesting. I stick my hand through you
and you still don't make a move towards me. Ten
standard time units. And then what? What do you do
then?'
'Under powers granted to the Regulatory Board by
the Regulation of Psycho-Manipulatory Metals Act
(30673.26), reasonable force can be used to secure
all substances covered by said Act.'
'Reasonable force?' The Doctor frowned. 'I don't
like the sound of that. Reasonable force is never
actually reasonable, is it?'
The Regulator twitched the many fingers of one
hand. The lamps behind the throne burst back into
flame. Then it pointed up towards the dome. All
of them gathered there - the Doctor, Amy, Rory,
Hilthe, the Teller - looked up.
'Save us!' the Teller whispered, when he saw
what was passing overhead.
Beyond the golden dome of the chamber,
silhouetted like a shadow play, two gigantic
shapes were moving slowly across the sky above
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Geath. Both were winged and had a long thin tail
that stretched out behind each of them. Amy even
thought she could see a puff of smoke. 'Oh, you're
kidding me,' she said. 'They can't possibly be...'
'But look at them!' said Rory. 'They totally are!
They're —'
'Don't say it, Rory Williams!'
' — dra