Tibetan Sojourn

By Jon Preddle

The corridors seemed to go on forever. Ben and Polly had been walking for what seemed like hours and still they hadn't found the swimming pool.

‘This is silly,’ said Ben. ‘The Doctor's given us the wrong directions again.’

Polly laughed. ‘Oh stop complaining, Ben. At least we're doing something to occupy ourselves. Let's have a look in here shall we?’

They had entered a corridor lined with doors stretching into apparent infinity. Polly opened the first door, cautiously marked NO ENTRY in faded lettering. Inside they could see a room rather like a small museum. Row upon row of mannequins stood like soldiers at attention. Each was dressed in a military uniform from hundreds of Earth time periods as well as from different planets and cultures.

Being a sailor, Ben was well aware of uniforms. ‘Wow. Take a look at all this,’ he said mouth hanging open.

Polly giggled. She never expected the Doctor to have had all this stuff. Ben had wandered to the back of the room. He saw uniforms from the US, England and Japan wars of 1939. He passed oriental armour worn by samurais and metal armour of the Crusades and medieval times.

Polly took interest in a series of paintings lining the walls. ‘Ben, over here!’ she cried. Ben came to her side and gazed at the painting she was staring at. It was a portrait of Napoleon, the Corsican general who became Emperor of France in 1804. But it wasn't the general that Polly was staring at - it was the image of a familiar old man dressed in the clothes of a French peasant kneeling at the Emperor's feet - the Doctor! But not the Doctor they knew now - the little pixie like man - but the white-haired old man they first met in London some months before.

‘But how?’ asked Polly. Ben didn't answer. He was looking at another painting. This too had the portrait of a famous soldier. Ben couldn't place the man's identity, but sure enough, behind the man was the face of the Doctor.

Several more paintings showed the same thing - a famous soldier, and the Doctor.

Ben looked at Polly, and Polly looked at Ben - and both cracked up into fits of laughter...

The Doctor stood over the console of his beloved TARDIS. He was feeling stronger and alert. The process of regeneration takes a long time to recover from - especially the first time. And the recent adventure on Vulcan and the colonist's struggle against the Daleks had worn him out. But after a few hours rest in the Zero Room, he was fully relaxed and like his old self. He had sent Ben and Polly to the TARDIS swimming pool in order to get them out of his hair for a while, but now that the ship had landed, he wished that they would hurry back.

‘Speak of the devil,’ he muttered to himself as Ben and Polly entered the control room. ‘Did you have a nice swim?’

Before Ben could say No, Polly chipped in. ‘Yes, thank you.’

‘We've landed,’ the Doctor said.

‘Where?’ asked Polly.

The Doctor activated the scanner control but all they could see was a white haze.

‘It's broken,’ sneered Ben.

‘Oh no, no. That's what's outside,’ replied the Doctor. Suddenly he smiled and clapped his hands in delight like a little child receiving a gift. ‘It's snow!’

Without another word, he activated the door and darted outside. The cold wind blew into the ship, making Ben and Polly shiver.

The Doctor suddenly dashed back into the TARDIS and began to rummage inside the large trunk that lay next to a wall. He pulled out a large fur coat, threw it on and ran outside again.

‘Come on then, Duchess,’ said Ben with a grin. Taking from the coat rack beside the door the Polar Jackets that they had acquired from the Snow Cap Base during the Cybermen adventure, Ben helped Polly into hers then together they left the safety of the ship and plunged into the unknown beyond the doors ...

Visibility was poor, and the blowing snow stung their faces. Of the Doctor there was no sign.

Ben called out but his words were swallowed by the howling wind. Polly touched Ben's shoulder and pointed. They could see a figure up ahead of them. ‘Come on,’ urged Ben, and they headed towards the figure.

The wind was settling and visibility was getting better. They could make out the Doctor standing at the edge of a cliff studying the environs through an old fashioned brass telescope.

‘There you are. What took you two so long?’ he asked.

‘Doctor, where are we?’ asked Polly.

‘Hm. No doubt about it - this is the planet Solfax. I've been here before, you know.’ He pointed down the cliff face to the valley below. Ben and Polly could just make out the shape of a building nestled between the rocks below.

‘There's a path leading down to it. Let's go.’ And with that, he trotted off down the cliff, with his companions cautiously following.

When they reached the base of the cliff, the Doctor had vanished. His coat was lying abandoned on some rocks, and the Doctor was not in it.

They both called out, but there was no reply. ‘Maybe he took it off because it was getting hotter?’ suggested Polly, but she knew too well that it wasn't true.

‘Don't worry Duchess. We'll find him,’ comforted Ben. He had noticed footprints in the snow and they were heading in the direction of the building. The problem was that there were at least five sets of prints. The Doctor had been taken by someone - or something - to the building.

Polly cried out, and Ben turned to see three fierce looking figures holding her. Two more appeared and advanced upon Ben, and then everything went black...

Ben awoke and his eyes focused, taking in the new surroundings. Polly was asleep in the bed next to his. There was no doubt about it but they were inside the building.

A fire blazed in one wall providing the only light. There were no windows.

Ben struggled to his feet and shook Polly awake. As she came to, the door opened and a man wearing robes entered.

‘Greetings,’ announced the stranger.

‘Who are you - and where are we?’ demanded Ben.

‘My name is Tampar and this is the Temple of Our Fathers.’

Polly frowned. ‘But you speak English.’

‘English? No, I speak Tibetan.’

Tibetan? But the Doctor said this was the planet Solfax. If this was Tibet, then they were on Earth!

‘Earth!’ cried Ben. ‘Duchess - we could be home!’

‘I'd hardly call the middle of Tibet home,’ said Polly. ‘Anyway - this could be any year.’

Tampar answered her question. ‘It is the year sixteen hundred and thirty two.’

‘1632! Oh, Ben we aren't home. Not only are we thousands of miles away from London - but also 300 years! The Doctor has got it wrong again.’

Tampar smiled. ‘The Lord Master is with the Abbot.’

‘Can you take us to him?’ asked Ben.

‘No need,’ said a voice at the door. ‘I am here.’

The Doctor strode into the room - wearing a robe over his usual clothes. Ben suppressed a laugh at the tall hat the Doctor had on his head.

The Doctor saw his expression and coughed. ‘Now you two - did you have a nice rest?’

Ben nodded and Polly gave the Doctor a big hug, which obviously embarrassed him.

‘Doctor - this is Earth. Tibet...’

‘Ah yes, well, humpf ... I think I may have set the Dimensional Transvector circuit instead of the diomorphic rebound board. Not to worry you probably wouldn't have liked Solfax anyway. Too much snow...’

‘Where have you been?’

‘I've been speaking to the Abbot of this monastery. They are under threat. The nearby villages have been attacked by Chinese bandits. The monks thought that we were bandits come to rob them.’

‘Do we look Chinese?’ growled Ben, remembering the rough treatment that he and Polly had received on the hill.

‘A small misunderstanding. Please accept our humble apologies,’ spoke Tampar. ‘We did not know that you were friends.’

Ben smiled at the little man in acceptance. The monk bowed and left the room.

‘Now,’ coughed the Doctor. ‘While you have been asleep, I have heard the whole story regarding the bandits and I have offered my help...’

Ben groaned. Always danger where ever they went...

‘...but I don't want you involved.’

Ben started to protest. He didn't want to be left out. Not after all the adventures they had had - the War Machines, the Cybermen and the Daleks. No, he wasn't going to fob us off like this. ‘But Doctor...’

The Doctor held up his hand. ‘I'm sorry Ben, but what I have planned will be dangerous, and besides, it is already under way. The bandits have been sighted coming this way. They will be here in a few minutes...’

As if on cue, Tampar entered the room again. ‘Lord Master - the bandits have amassed outside the doors.’

‘Is my equipment ready?’ asked the Doctor.

‘Yes, Master.’

The Doctor turned back to his companions, and without a word, he exited the room followed by Tampar.

Ben dashed to the door but to his surprise it was locked! He banged his fists against it in anger...

Minutes passed, but seemed like hours. Ben paced the room while Polly sat, trying to console him.

The door opened and Tampar entered. ‘The Abbot wishes to speak with you.’

He led them deeper into the monastery. Ben strained to hear sounds of battle but the solidity of the building drowned out all sound from outside. He had the horrible thought that the Abbot was going to tell them of the Doctor's death. They were stranded in Tibet, in 1632...

They had arrived at a large set of double doors. ‘This is the inner Sanctum - where our Master Abbot is. I must leave you.’ And with that the little monk was gone.

The doors swung open, seemingly on their own accord, and the two entered the dark chamber.

Inside they could make out the shape of a raised dais in the middle of the room. Upon this was a throne, and upon that was a man so old that Ben was certain that any slight movement would cause him to crumble to dust.

‘Enter - and be seated,’ croaked a voice older than time itself.

Ben and Polly sat on the seats before the dais.

‘I am the Abbot Padmasambhva. And you are Ben and Polly. Your friend the Doctor has spoken highly of you. You are welcome to the Monastery Det-Sen, the Temple of Our Fathers...’

For the next half-hour, Ben and Polly spoke to the ancient Abbot about their adventures and life in 1960s London. The old man took all this in without question and without disbelief.

‘...and this was supposed to be Solfax,’ finished Ben as the story came to its end.

The Abbot smiled, his lips like dried leaves. Suddenly his eyes closed and he went into a trance-like state.

He opened his eyes again. ‘It is over,’ he said.

Ben looked at Polly in wonderment. ‘The Doctor...?’

The Abbot was silent.

Ben thought the worst. The Doctor had been killed and they were stuck here forever.

The doors to the Chamber swung open, and the figure from a nightmare entered. Its skull-like face was adorned with blazing torches bellowing fire and smoke everywhere. The body was covered in a shell like covering, and the arms and legs were also on fire.

Polly screamed, and Ben leapt to his feet. The Abbot sat still.

The creature advanced towards them. Ben had seen some horrors before in his travels with the Doctor but this one was the most frightening of the lot. He stepped back, looking around for some kind of weapon but there was nothing available.

He then spied a flaming torch in a long pole-holder. Grabbing it with both hands and lunged at the figure, thrusting the flame into its hideous face.

Surprisingly, the creature cried out and flung up its hands for protection. Ben lunged again, and the creature stepped back - but tripped up on the edge of the door and promptly fell over. It waved its arms and legs about, like a turtle on its back.

Ben moved in for the kill, the lance raised and poised over the heart - if indeed that was where the creature's heart was - but just as he was to deliver the deadly blow, a shock of recognition came over his face and he lowered the pole.

Polly screamed: ‘Ben - kill it!’

‘No Polly - it's the Doctor!’

Polly frowned, and rose to her feet. Behind her, the Abbot sat still. She gazed down at the defenceless creature wiggling on its back, and she too recognised the Samurai armour that they had seen in the TARDIS museum.

Together they hauled the struggling figure to its feet and helped remove the helmet. The Doctor's familiar - and somewhat relieved - face grinned at them...

The three time travellers sat before the Abbot. The Doctor was cleaned and back in his usual clothes.

The Abbot was thanking him for his help in scaring off the bandits. ‘...and they thought I was a Fire Demon from Hell,’ said the Doctor as he recounted the battle fought against the bandits. ‘When they saw me they simply ran off in fright.’

Ben and Polly laughed as the Doctor finished his story. Ben had apologised to the Doctor for nearly killing him, but the little man had forgiven him, and they laughed at the incident.

The Doctor rose to his feet. ‘I think it was time that we were off.’

The Abbot leaned forward and handed the Doctor a small package. ‘Take this Doctor as a token of our gratitude.’

‘Oh no I couldn't possibly.’

‘Please Doctor. The bandits had come to rob us but we have very little of value. What we do have is of Religious significance. Take this and the monks of Det-Sen can live in peace with the knowledge that out most sacred image is safe.’

The Doctor accepted the gift and bowed. Ben and Polly took his cue and bowed too...

The TARDIS travelled on its way through Time and Space - destination unknown.

The Doctor stood at the control panel. He had opened the parcel given to him by the Abbot. Inside was a small bell. It was not made of any precious metal, nor was it covered in jewels. It was simply made of brass.

‘The Holy Ghanta,’ said the Doctor. ‘This is one of the Det-Sen's most valued symbols. The bandits had come to rob them of it believing it to be made of gold and gems.’

‘But it's only brass,’ said Ben.

‘There is value in everything, whether it be wood, stone or brass. It is not what it is made of that makes something valuable - it is what one believes in and believes to be.’

‘Will you ever return the bell, Doctor?’ asked Polly.

‘Padmasambhva gave it to me for safe-keeping. I assured him that one- day I would, but maybe in hundreds of years from now. Who knows...’ he drifted off into deep thought and went back to his work on the console.

Ben turned to Polly. ‘Well, Pol. How about a swim?’

Polly delivered him a thump on his arm and laughed....

The TARDIS flew on its way to new adventures.

This item appeared in Timestreams 1 (August 1990).

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