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time of the witch

PROLOGUE

Katherine de Gallois poured the vintage claret from a bottle and into two crystal goblets. She put down the bottle, picked up the goblets and walked towards the balcony where her husband stood, enjoying the night sky. 'Here you are môn amour.' She passed Remy one of the crystal goblets and they raised a silent toast, clinking the goblets together, before kissing passionately on the lips.
Her husband, Remy de Gallois was a handsome man with bright blue eyes that were full of life. He broke the kiss after a long moment and stroked Katherine’s curly dark hair with his hand. He looked deeply into her large brown eyes. 'You look beautiful tonight Katherine.' Katherine smiled and gave a low curtsey, her long and elegant purple Renaissance robe resting on the floor as she did. 'Why thank you monsieur!' she replied demurely.

Remy took a sip from the goblet and put his arm around his wife’s shoulders as they gazed up at the stars above them. 'This is an excellent wine. My uncle’s vineyard?' he asked and Katherine nodded. Remy squeezed his wife around the waist, pulling her towards him. 'You always were his favourite,' he teased, 'no wonder I just had to marry you!'

Katherine nudged Remy playfully. 'He has a Visconti’s natural good taste!'

Remy breathed in deeply, a smile playing over his handsome face. 'It’s a wonderful spring night!'

Katherine nodded contentedly and took another sip of her wine. 'I’m tired,' she yawned, resting her head on his shoulder. 'I’m going to bed.'

'I’ll be along in a moment,' Remy replied, sipping from his wine again.

'Don’t be too long!' Katherine smiled wickedly up at Remy and then left the balcony and her husband to enter their chateau and the bedroom. Remy half turned to see her blow out the candles nearest their bed and then take off her robe and climb in. He drunk the last remaining drops of his wine and gazed up at the stars and moon again – what a lucky man he was! 

A shadow flitted briefly across the moon. Remy looked up but could see nothing. Then he heard a sudden noise coming from underneath the balcony that sounded like a malevolent chuckle. He bent over the balcony to get a better look and saw a shape scuttle amongst the shadows beneath. Frowning, he leant even further and then his face froze in terror as a black shape rose swiftly to engulf him.

PART ONE

The TARDIS tumbled through the multicoloured miasma that was the Time Vortex.

Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor stood in front of the central console as the pillar of brilliant light rose and fell to show that the TARDIS was in flight. He looked around the massive, oval chamber that was bathed in golden, orange light and breathed out slowly. Was she right? Did he need some one to stop him going too far? Should he have tried a little harder in persuading Donna to come with him?

His thoughts turned to his last adventure and he smiled at the madness of it all – who would’ve thought that he would pursue a runaway bride up a busy motorway in the TARDIS? The Doctor broke into a grin and silently wished Donna well for the future – whatever that might be!

The strange grinding sound of the TARDIS materialising shook the Doctor out of his thoughts as the Time Rotor slowed to a halt. He checked the controls of the TARDIS to see where he was and found that he had landed on Earth; France to be exact, and in the middle of the eighteenth century. The scanner revealed a huge palace set in beautifully tended gardens filled with ornate marble statues. Judging by the purple and orange sky and the lit torches inside the palace, dusk was just slipping away.

The Doctor grinned as he put on his long brown coat over his suit jacket. Renaissance France was definitely civilisation! But then he paused as he operated the TARDIS doors and remembered Reinette and his last visit to this time period. He frowned; he had been hurt by becoming too involved; but not again.

Taking a deep breath, he stepped from the TARDIS and closed the door behind him, locking it with his key. There was a nip in the air and he could just see the swirling gas of his breath in the dim light. The Doctor looked around and then down at the beautiful palace 'A chance to mix with the aristocracy I think? Experience some of their bonhomie perhaps!' he mused. Whistling ‘La Marseillaise’, he set out to explore.


~~~

The Doctor strolled through the fabulous gardens as they grew darker and marvelled at the wonderful topiaries, delicate arches entwined with leaves, sumptuous rosebushes of every imaginable colour and scent, and the extensive, manicured lawns. Whoever owned the magnificent palace before him certainly knew their way around a trowel!

The Doctor reached a set of large and ornate wooden doors and knocked on them confidently, glancing around at the elegant stonework of the palace. To his surprise and delight, the doors opened after only a few seconds to reveal a young male servant wearing a smart embroidered jacket, blue pantaloons and stockings, and with a light grey powdered wig.

But instead of inquiring his business at the chateau as the Doctor had expected, the man bowed low and stepped back to allow him to enter.

The Doctor grinned with amusement at the servant and stowed away his unused psychic paper in his jacket. Then he put his hands into his pockets and walked confidently into the huge, magnificent marble hallway. Several doors led off from the hall and a huge staircase in the centre of the room led up to a surrounding gallery. Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling. 

As the Doctor looked around, another man opened one of the doors and entered the hall, walking towards the Doctor with a welcoming smile on his face. The man was handsome with a square jaw, close-cut dark hair that was just starting to turn grey, and dressed very elegantly, complete with a royal-blue silken coat. He gave a short bow in front of the Doctor. 'Ah, welcome my friend, you are late!'

'Am I?' replied the Doctor, still a little puzzled at the warm reception.

'Indeed, but it is no matter. You will find a room prepared upstairs.' The man clapped his hands together and the servant that opened the door for the Doctor appeared next to them and gave a short bow. 'Henri will show you the way,' the aristocrat smiled, 'until tomorrow then?'

Amused and slightly bewildered by the French aristocrat’s instant acceptance of him, the Doctor was for once a little lost for words, so he just smiled and gave a short bow instead. 'Thank you, I’m most grateful.'

His host just nodded in return. 'Not at all, sleep well.' He then turned and walked across the hallway and through another door leaving the Doctor alone with Henri.