Chapter Nine

The Dining Hall was the biggest room yet. It was about one hundred feet long and fifty feet wide. More tapestries hung on the walls but these depicted individual members of the Sisterhood. In the middle of a room was a long wooden banquet table with seating for fifty. To the Doctor's surprise, the cutlery and dishes all appeared to be made of solid gold and the goblets were made of crystal. The wooden chairs were wood and high backed with red velvet lining except for the chair at the head of the table which was high back, solid gold and lined with red velvet. At the back of the room was a stage with a long dias and two doors on either side that led offstage somewhere. Everyone waited until Rose was standing in front of her chair before they walked to their own. Rose motioned for the Doctor to sit directly to her left but when Clara tried to stand at the chair beside his, Ortha came up to her with a look of fury on her face.

"What do you want?" Clara said while the Doctor eyed Ortha.

"Novices sit at the end of the table," Ortha said, pointing to the end of the long table. "We sit according to rank so you must sit at the end and be served last."

"Yeah but I'm in training," Clara said, gesturing to Rose.

"That does not mean you sit near the High Priestess. You may train with her but you must earn your place. Now go and sit at the end of the table."

"Do it, Clara," the Doctor said.

Clara gave him and Ortha a sour look before walking to the other end of the table. Ortha walked around the front of the table and stood beside her chair directly to Rose's right.

"THE LAST SEAT ON THE LEFT IS YOURS," Ortha yelled at Clara.

"Yeah, blow it out your bum, you old biddy," Clara muttered to herself as she walked away.

She stopped and looked at the seat. Unlike the other seats, the velvet lining was nearly gone and the chair looked old and banged up. Sighing, Clara stepped in front of it, making a mental note to go to a nice restaurant with Danny to make up for this after they got back to London. Then to her frustration, the women began to do their chanting and swaying and pawing the air again. She leaned up to the look at the Doctor but the Doctor was watching Rose with a bemused expression on her face since she was leading it.

Rose, on the other hand, was trying not to laugh since she could see the Doctor was eyeing her intently while she chanted and performed the blessing ritual before eating. Now that she was no longer hypnotized, it was harder to remember the words and motions but she was still able to give a convincing performance. Until…

"Work it, Rose, come on, more energy," the Doctor said to her. "Flare those fingertips, raise that chin. Be dramatic and…"

Rose had to catch herself and keep from laughing when Ortha elbowed the Doctor hard in the gut and glared at him as he rubbed the spot and glowered at her in return.

"Oh like she was listening to me," the Doctor said to Ortha which made Rose fight to keep going and not burst out laughing.

He rolled his eyes when Ortha resumed her chanting and swaying and mimed shooting himself in the head while Rose tried to keep her composure. Finally, the ritual was over. Everyone waited until Rose sat down before they sat at their seats.

Then to the Doctor's surprise, men started walking into the room carrying large golden bowls filled with food and golden pitchers filled with wine. All of the men were dressed in long black robes, all had been shaved bald and all of them had a dull look in their eyes. The Doctor heard the sound of a door opening and he turned his head and watched four men walking onto the stage carrying musical instruments and chairs.

"What is this?" the Doctor said to Rose as the men walked to the front of the table and served Rose.

"These are the servants," Ortha said to him, giving him a pointed look that the Doctor took to mean that he should shut up or he'd become one too.

"So this is what happens to the men who come here?" the Doctor said to her as the men ladled a brown bean stew onto Rose's plate and filled her goblet with wine.

"Men cannot be part of the Sisterhood so those men who end up here are put to work. All must serve the High Priestess in some way."

The Doctor was livid but he kept his tongue, knowing that it was only through Rose's intervention that he was allowed to be here at all. The servants continued to serve the women and the Doctor, ladling the bean stew onto their plates and pouring wine into the goblets. The men gave everyone a generous portion but when they got to Clara, there was only a little bit left and Clara watched, aghast, as they ladled about four mouthfuls of stew onto the plate and a tiny bit of wine into her goblet.

"Oi, is there more coming?"Clara said as the servers filed out of the room with the empty bowls and pitchers.

"No, you must earn the right to have more food as you advance upwards," Ortha said smugly.

"But the Doctor is new here," Clara said.

"He is a guest," Ortha said, pointing to him.

"So am I."

"No. you are a novice. You are one of us now so you will follow the rules and that means the end of the table."

"Oh, go choke on your beans, you old biddy," Clara muttered as she looked at her plate.

Everyone began to eat quietly, except for the Doctor who sat and stared down at his plate with disgust. The stew seemed to consist of pinto beans, some green stuff that looked like parsley and onion bits in brown gravy. He looked at Rose who was calmly eating her meal but when he looked at her closely, he did notice she was grimacing from time to time. He looked at Ortha and waved his hand to get her attention.

"Is this all?" he said to Ortha.

Ortha was sipping her wine. She lowered the goblet and glared at him as she swallowed what was in her mouth.

"It is sufficient for our nutritional needs," she said. "Are you finding fault with it?"

"Yeah, where's the bloody meat in it?"

"We do not eat meat, we are vegetarians. We believe in the sanctity of all life," Ortha said pompously.

"Seriously?" the Doctor said. "You lot nearly burned me at the stake once and you can say that with a straight face. Not to mention all the times you shot down spaceships…"


The Doctor rolled his eyes and looked at Clara. Clara wasn't eating her beans but she was taking a sip of her wine. The moment she did though, she nearly gagged and spit it back out."

"Oh God, this is horrible," he heard her saying softly as she sat the goblet back down.

The Doctor took an experimental sip of his wine and made a face as he spat it back out in the glass. Ortha stopped eating and glared at him again while Rose took a sip of wine to hide her bemused expression.

"And is the beverage not to your liking?" Ortha said, sarcasm dripping from her lips.

"High Priestess, you humble servant requests a burger, some chips and some tea. Can I have that?" the Doctor said to Rose.

Ortha was about to tell him to shut up when Rose, finally unable to hold it back, laughed at that. The Doctor smirked at Ortha, knowing she was in a quandary since all this time she kept telling them that Rose was a member of the Sisterhood of her own free will and they had done nothing to her. However, he could tell that her laughter was a signal that she wasn't under their influence or at least it was slipping. The Doctor decided that they couldn't keep this ruse up forever. The Sisterhood weren't fools, at least Ortha wasn't so he met her accusing gaze calmly.

"What's the matter, Puppet Master. The Puppet turned into a real girl again?" he said to her.

"I knew it!" Ortha screeched, slamming her hand down on the table and making the other women gasp. "You did something to her when you pushed me aside!"

"Yes, I freed my friend from your evil hypnotic thrall," the Doctor said. "And now that you know the truth, she will be allowed to leave here!"

"No, she's one of us now!" Mira said as she rose from her seat two down from Ortha.

"No, I'm really not," Rose said.

"Then you are a fraud!" Mira said, pointing to her. "You and these interlopers must be put to death."

"Silence!" Ortha said to her. "Sit down!"

The Doctor grinned when Mira sat down and glared at him.

"Higher rank," the Doctor said, pointing to Ortha. "But…this is the highest rank of all," he added, pointing to Rose. "She has the final say around here."

"She is not in her right mind any longer," Ortha said.

"No," the Doctor said, rising and leaning over the table at her. "She wasn't in her right mind when you lot hypnotized and brainwashed her. This woman came to you for help. She was looking for me but no, you had to force her to join your order or else. This is why I'm glad the Pythia was overthrown on Gallifrey. This is the sort of rubbish that Rassilon got rid of."

"Rassilon was a fool," Ortha said. "A fool who lacked faith and lacked vision. He was like many men, irrational and misogynistic."

"He brought stability and order to Gallifrey," the Doctor said. "He didn't go around burning people at the stake if they didn't believe in his silly little religion."

"No. He and his fellow Time Lords committed genocide and obliterated every species they saw as a threat to their existence."

"And of course, you lot are completely peace loving, that's why you shoot down spaceships and enslave and burn the people who survive the crash. This woman has a destiny that doesn't involve her getting tarted up and performing nonsensical, ritualistic garbage. You are interfering with this woman's timeline and that interference ends today!"

The room was now completely silent and all eyes were on the Doctor. Even the musicians who had been sitting on the dais playing their instruments feel silent and stared at him with awe, amazed that a man was standing up to the Sisterhood without fear for his life. The Doctor glanced at them.

"Rose, Clara and all the men here are free to go," the Doctor said to her. "Come to think of it, any woman who was forced to join this order is free to go."

"You have no authority here," Ortha said, rising from her chair.

"I rescued your sacred flame and stopped it from going out! I have more authority here than you have!" the Doctor roared at her. "If it wasn't for me, the flame would be extinguished and Morbius would still be alive. I am superior to you whether you like it or not!"

Ortha jerked her head over towards the women when she heard some of them murmuring their agreement with that. Mira shook her head and mumbled "Traitors" at the women which got the Doctor's attention.

"You and you," the Doctor said, pointing to Ortha and Mira, "I want to have a little chat with you."

"Seize them!" Rose said to the other women, pointing to Ortha and Mira.

To the Doctor's relief, the other women ran towards Ortha and Mira and took hold of them while the two women yelled at them to let go. The Doctor looked at the men on the stage and beckoned to them.

"It's okay, you can come off there now," he said to them.

The men abandoned their musical instruments and walked off the stage towards the Doctor.

"Tell the other men what's happening but no riots or killing anyone," he said to the men. "I know they want revenge but there are ways to get it without slaughtering everyone. Alright?"

The men nodded. They started to walk away but one young man leaned over and spat in Ortha's face before he joined the others. The Doctor smiled approvingly at that and then turned his attention back to Ortha.

"So…let's go and have a chat, shall we?" he said to them.

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