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The Holy War

By William Edwards

Lightning spread across the sky like an uncontrollable fire, illuminating the landscape; a barren terrain dotted with patches of scrub. Dwarfed by enormous cliffs, a solitary, motionless object stood out as alien to this world.

A handle turned, a door opened, and a strange figure emerged, all but hidden beneath a huge coat save for his hair, a mass of curls. He muttered something, and glared up at the foreboding sky. A light rain had set in as a second figure emerged from the blue box. Less obscured by clothing, she stood shivering. ‘Doctor, this isn't Cornwall. We're lost again.’

‘Well, my dear Sarah,’ he replied, ‘I can't help it if the TARDIS is a bit temperamental from time to time.’ The Time Lord smiled at his little joke, and looked around with keen interest.

‘Temperamental isn't the word for it,’ Sarah grumbled.

‘Do you want to find out where we are or not?’ asked the Doctor, a little hurt.

‘Course I do,’ Sarah replied quickly, and pulled the TARDIS door shut.

‘Come on then.’ The Doctor set off at a determined pace, his scarf, and Sarah, trailing behind him.

They walked for what seemed like ages, making for the cliffs across the open plain. Eventually they found a wide valley cutting into the cliff. Sarah was stumbling and cursing herself for agreeing to accompany the Doctor. ‘ Oh! Why I ever follow you from planet to the next is quite beyond -’

‘Quiet,’ snapped the Doctor sharply. He listened intently. ‘Over there, behind those rocks... I heard something move.’

Even as he spoke, five humanoids emerged, armed with clubs and other assorted weapons. The Doctor felt in his pockets, and produced his ever-present bag of jelly babies. He put on a wide toothy smile as the men approached cautiously in their ragged clothes. When they were but a few feet away, the Doctor stepped forward, and said, ‘Hello, I'm the Doctor...’ He never got to offer them a sweet, because at that moment, one of them swung his club suddenly, hitting the Doctor hard on the side of the head. He collapsed in a heap.

Enraged, Sarah grabbed a large stone and threw it at the Doctor's attacker, instantly regretting her action. There was silence for a moment while the attacker lay stunned on the ground. Then his fellows helped him to his feet, and ran off, much to Sarah's relief. She rushed over to the Doctor's side, and was relieved to see he was still breathing. She did not see the tall, fair-haired man approach, so concerned with the Doctor was she, and only noticed him when he spoke.

‘Come quickly, before the Protastines come back,’ he said gently, but urgently.

The Doctor woke with a sore but otherwise undamaged head to find himself lying in a dim, candle-lit chamber. ‘Are you all right, Doctor? That's nasty bash you had,’ asked Sarah, leaning over him.

‘Ah, Sarah. Where are we?’ he inquired.

The fair-haired, white-robed stranger approached. ‘I am Cassious, leader of the Cathlithians, and you, Doctor, shall be our Saviour.’

The Time Lord looked startled, but Cassious went on regardless.

‘It is said that one day a star man would come and save us from our plight. We have been at war with the Protastines for many generations. Each side lives in fear of the other. Only an outsider can make peace between us.’

The Doctor sat bolt upright. ‘Now let me get this straight; there ore two races - the Cathlithians and the Protastines - at war with each other?’

Cassious nodded.

Sarah, who had been listening attentively to this, leaned over and whispered to the Doctor, ‘This may sound crazy, but Cathlithians and Protastines sound very much like...’

‘I was thinking the same thought,’ replied the Doctor. ‘Like Protestants and Catholics. It seems these people have somehow got themselves caught up in a war from another time on another planet.’

‘How could that happen? It's not possible,’ argued Sarah.

‘Oh, I think it is, don't you Cassious?’ inquired the Time Lord. ‘I rather think you people are colonists from Earth who have somehow regressed to a more primitive existence. I've seen it all over the galaxy.’

‘It is true that our ancestors came from the sky in a fireball.’

‘A fireball? Oh, I see; you crash-landed on this world. It's a wonder you survived, considering that the ship probably destroyed itself soon after impact.’

‘What you say is true, Doctor. Many of our ancestors perished.’ Cassious bowed his head. ‘Little was saved from the fire.’

‘I rather think I know what did survive, though, don't you, Sarah?’ asked the Doctor.

Sarah looked at the Time Lord. ‘A Bible, you mean?’

‘Precisely, the Doctor said triumphantly. ‘Somehow the survivors managed to pick up the Catholic and Protestant religions.’ He turned to Cassious, more serious now. ‘Do you realise what's happening? You're wiping each other out over some ancient belief. If you don't stop fighting, there'll be no one left to carry on your religious beliefs anyway! Trust is the answer. You must be prepared to trust each other. The time must be now or never, Cassious.’

‘It is true, Doctor. Our last battle was worse than any other. Maybe it is time to throw away our weapons and join in friendship, to fight the harsh elements of this world.’

‘That's the spirit!’ grinned the Time Lord. ‘I knew you had the makings of a peacemaker in you.’

All the same, thought Sarah the next day as she watched the two tribes meet on a hillside, the Doctor had still gone along to mediate. Her eyes searched the ranks. They were a motley bunch of men, women and children; half-starved with tired eyes. Her gaze moved to the Doctor, and the two leaders standing either side of him. One of them was Cassious, in his white robe, and the other she had been told, was Proctus, leader of the Protastines. The Doctor was making wild gestures with his arms, his scarf trailing in the breeze. Sarah concentrated on what he was saying.

‘... I have come to bring you together as one race,’ he promised. He turned to Proctus. ‘I have talked with Cassious, and his people want to end this holy war, but through peace, not killing. The Doctor saw with relief that his words were having some effect. Both sides were visibly relaxing their grip on their clubs and other assorted weapons. Look at yourselves,’ he went on. ‘You're no better than primitive men, nothing like the brave colonists you call your ancestors.’

‘I, too, am from the stars,’ said a courageous voice beside the Doctor. He smiled; Sarah could relate better to them - she was from Earth herself, after all. ‘Surely you'd rather bring up families than kill each other,’ she reasoned. ‘The choice is a simple one, and the key to survival is staring you in the face.’

A short time later, the Doctor and Sarah stood apart from the group, watching the now-united tribes making plans. Each leader was anxious, but optimistic for the future.

‘Time to slip away, Sarah,’ said the Doctor.

‘What? Don't you want to stay on as their messiah?’ she asked.

The Doctor thought she was being serious for a moment, and then he caught her eye, and laughed. ‘I think they've had enough of religion, don't you?’ They started trekking back towards the TARDIS. ‘Come on, Sarah. Next stop, the caves in Cornwall.’

Sarah groaned, and ran after him. Wherever they were going next, it was a fairly sure bet it wasn't going to he anywhere remotely near Cornwall.

This item appeared in TSV 2 (September 1987).

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