Chapter Thirteen

"The murderer?" Rose said.

"Yes. Like I said, there was a lot of land so he hid out in a clump of trees on the property and waited for dark."

"So, this person knew the family?" Jackie said.

"No wait; it's Koschei, isn't it? This was his revenge," Rose said.

"See, this is why I travel with Rose. She's highly intelligent and can figure out things quickly," the Doctor said to Jackie.

"Well, that's my girl, bright spark, she is," Jackie said proudly while Rose beamed.

"Yes, she is and yes, it was Koschei and yes, this was his revenge or part of it. Arella was close to her father so killing him was step one of the revenge plot."

"How did he find out about her family?" Rose said.

"He hacked into the Academy database and got the information on Arella's home and family. He's a technological genius. He chose her dad at random I think since the database wouldn't say Arella was close to her father but she was so the death hit her exceptionally hard."

"Bastard," Jackie said, shaking her head. "I've met some nutters in my time but this Koschei is barking mad. I'm glad he's dead now."

"So am I," Rose said. "But did Koschei know you were coming to the funeral?"

"Not sure. He might have guessed that since he knew Arella and I were lovers and probably hoped I was going to show up but I think he also wanted to observe the funeral from afar and watch the aftermath of his handiwork. When Arella and I took a walk it was too good a temptation to pass up…"


Merzet and Arella walked hand in hand through the burnt orange grass. The moon was out and the stars overhead twinkled brightly. Merzet glanced up at them and admired their beauty. He gasped when his foot hit a small hole and he stumbled slightly. Merzet blushed when Arella chuckled at that and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"Watch your step, Merzy," she said fondly.

"No, the burrowing creatures need to make their homes elsewhere and stay out of my way," he quipped as he put his arm around his lover.

They stood for a moment staring up at the stars while they listened to a night bird chirping in the trees several feet off to their left. They remained silent for several minutes and then Arella spoke.

"You know, it was said during the time of the Pythia that they believed that the souls of the dead became the stars and lit up the universe for all eternity."

Merzet let out a small snort and Arella looked at him.

"Don't believe that?"

"No. Stars are balls of flaming gas not the souls of the deceased. That's why the Pythia's reign came to an end. A world ruled by superstition and fear instead of logic could never last."

Arella was quiet for a moment.

"Superstition often has a more poetic reason for things than logic does," she said.

Merzet considered that for a moment and nodded.

"I meant no offense," Merzet said. "I s'pose it's my Time Lord mind being its usual logical self. You're right, the poetic explanation sounds better than just balls of gas."

"I'd like to think we will end up somewhere other than just the Matrix," Arella said. "I want to believe there is an afterlife of some sort."

"I have no answer for that," Merzet said, shaking his head.

"I know. Time Lord logic and all but in my hearts I think my father is somewhere pleasant. I want to believe that he still lives and isn't just the sum of his memories now."

Merzet said nothing as he gave his lover's hand a squeeze. He wasn't sure what happened to the soul and he didn't want to say anything more since the memory of her father's soul in the afterlife was giving Arella some comfort at the moment. He stood with her and stared up at the stars, admiring the night sky and it's beauty. While they were staring up at the sky, Merzet heard a soft rustling in the grass nearby and he turned his head just in time to see something scurrying behind the trees. The glo orb wasn't strong enough to shine light on the trees but he'd seen the movement just the same. His eyes narrowed and he handed the orb to Arella and told her to wait a moment.

"Merzet? What's wrong?"

"I'm checking something out, just wait for me," Merzet said.

Arella was confused but she stayed where she was while Merzet moved towards the trees. As he neared them, he heard a familiar chuckle and his fist clenched when he realized who it was.

"My condolences to the family," Koschei said in a hushed voice.

"You bastard," Merzet said as he stepped behind the tree and saw the dark silhouette of his former friend while he leaned against one of the trees. "How dare you come here?"

"I wanted to pay my respects to your girlfriend's family," Koschei said with a shrug while he stayed against the tree. "So sad. Bless her little cotton socks."

"You're not wanted here. Leave!" Merzet growled at him.

"Ooo, in charge now, are we? Master of the house already? My, my, they've made you one of their own, haven't they? I thought only the head of the household could order me off the property. Oh wait, the head of the household is dead now. So I guess the family's screwed now since no one can order me to go."

"Go now before I make you leave!"

Koschei snorted out laughter and leaned up.

"You know, you're really pathetic when you try to order people about," he said. "I'll leave when I'm good and ready, Wormhole, and not before. So why don't you and your little slut go back to your little twee chat about stars being souls so I can listen and have a laugh?"

"Leave now!" Merzet snarled.

He stiffened when Koschei whipped a dagger out and the blade gleamed coldly in the moonlight.

"Why not make it two funerals, Wormhole? The slut's father and your own?"

Merzet jerked his body out of the way when Koschei lunged for him. He only had the light of the moon and the trees were thick enough that the light was very dim. Both he and Koschei were using the shadows, trying to gain an advantage over the other while Merzet tried to get the dagger out of his former friend's hand.

"Too bad my father knows people on the High Council," Koschei said to Merzet as he stayed in the shadows. "You might have been rid of me, once and for all, but here I am, thorn in your side. And speaking of being in your side…"

Koschei lunged again and Merzet tried to sidestep but he gasped when the dagger sliced open the skin just below his ribcage.


"Oh my God, he wounded you?" Rose said.

"Luckily, it was a flesh wound, but yeah, he managed to get my side."

"Do you still have the scar?" Jackie said.

"Um, no. I've had nine bodies since that one, the scar it made is long gone."

"Where was I? What was I doing in all this?" Rose said.

"You went back to get help. Unfortunately, you took the glo orb with you so all I had to see by was the moonlight. But after Koschei injured me, I tried to lure him out of the trees so I could see him better. But he heard Arella's relatives coming and he ran for it. I tried to chase him but I was in pain and couldn't run as fast as he could. He ran across the field and into another clump of trees and managed to get away. They had to delay the feast in order to bandage me up and everyone was on edge the rest of the night once they heard what happened. Koschei managed to ruin the feast and put everyone on edge but then again he has a talent for doing that. For centuries, he's managed to ruin things whenever he shows up. Arella's family had to hire guards to keep watch while they carried out the cremation so not only did he ruin the mood of the evening but the family had to pay money out of their own pocket just to keep him from ruining things further. I tried not to hate him, I tried to empathize because I know he was mentally unbalanced but there are times I loathed Koschei and this was one of those times."

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