The Wonderfulle Yeare
I continued my path back to the Doctor who was waiting for me just over the ridge. As we met, he slipped his slender fingers in mine and we trudged towards the TARDIS that sat on the edge of the sea. A melancholy had settled over the two of us and for once neither of us felt like talking. I wasn’t sure if it was the Doctor sensing my mood or if something else was bothering him, but I was thankful. I didn’t want to try and make small talk. It didn’t matter that I would see Eric again, it was the simple fact that with every step I took, I was leaving him behind to face certain death. I knew that he would survive, but there was a thousand years of loneliness ahead of him. That’s not to say that I thought he wouldn’t have moments of happiness, but I’d never gotten the feeling he had ever been in love before we met. Eric loved being a vampire, there was no doubt of that, but, in my mind, a thousand years is a long time to spend without love. I leaned my head against the Doctor’s shoulder and took comfort from his presence.
We stepped into the TARDIS and he tossed his, what had turned out to be unnecessary, coat over the railing that led up the incline to the main control area. It jostled against a jean jacket that slid down onto the floor and I heard his sharp intake of breath. Quickly stooping to pick it up, I laid the jacket carefully back in the same spot, knowing somehow that the placement of it was important to him.
Need to let her go, she’s gone, I picked up from his brain, and quickly backed out of his thoughts. I knew he was thinking about Rose, but still didn’t know what had happened between them, and I wouldn’t ask. When and if he was ready to talk about her, he would. Walking up to join him as he stared at a monitor that displayed a language I couldn’t understand, I wondered where we were going next.
Before I could ask the Doctor he started talking mid-thought, “never been wrong before, she usually knows what she’s doing. Maybe it’s too much…never should have brought…thought she would…but then I promised, but is a promise enough?” He seemed to make a decision then. “Rose, I’m taking you home.”
I was confused, but only for a second. “Um, Doctor. I’m Sookie.”
“Oh right, right. So sorry. Same difference though. I’m taking you home where you belong.”
“Why?” I asked wondering what had brought about this change of heart.
He looked at me with anciently sad eyes. “It’s too much, I thought this would be good for you, but I can tell you’re upset and I think it would be better if I just took you back to Bon Temps.” His gaze skittered away, his fingers fumbling with the controls.
“No.” I said quiet, but sure, and laying my hand over his to still it. “I’m not ready to go. Yes, it’s difficult, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. I’m sad now, but it had nothing to do with the fact that I saw Eric. It’s because,” I got a bit choked up, I couldn’t help it. “It’s because I know what’s waiting for Eric and I wanted to do something about.” I held up a hand when he looked to interrupt. “I know, I know. Butterflies in Asia and all that jazz, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t want to do something. You don’t have to worry that I’m going to affect the future.”
His eyebrows furrowed as he searched my expression. “Are you sure Sookie? I mean there are bound to be other things you’re going to want to change. The last time someone tried to thwart the future there were these pterodactyl type birds that were trying to rip apart time, people starting disappearing. It wasn’t pretty. In general things go wonky when people travel with me. Chances are good that you’ll get into some kind of trouble and I’ll have to rescue you.”
“Eh. Must be Tuesday.” He gave me a confused look. “Sorry, sorry, Buffy reference. Listen I’m getting pretty good at saving myself and truthfully, I seem to find myself in danger on a daily basis back home, so, you know, not really a reason to send me home.”
“Well if you’re sure.” I nodded emphatically.
“This is a once in a lifetime chance, I wouldn’t pass it up for all the tea in China.” I beamed at him.
“Why in the world would you want all the tea in China Sookie? I swear sometimes you make no sense whatsoever.”
“Pot meet kettle.” He glanced around as if looking for the tea. I laughed. “Oh never mind, it’s not important. So where to next Doctor?”
He started playing the console like a psychotic concert pianist. “Where would you like to go?”
“I’m leaving that up to you. I chose last time, you choose this time. You’ve got his timeline in front of you, what looks interesting to you?” I would’ve peeked over his shoulder, but I wouldn’t have understood anything I saw anyway. Ditto with trying to read his brain. I’d noticed only his really emotional thoughts came through clearly enough for me to understand them. Otherwise it was like trying to read Stephen Hawking. I chuckled to myself when I remembered the time I had decided to try to read A Brief History of Time, which was supposed to be his most easily understood book. I’d fallen asleep five pages in. Maybe I’d try again after this adventure. Hopefully traveling through time would make it easier to understand.
The Doctor was too busy fiddling with the dials to pay any attention to my mental digression. “Nothing much happened in those centuries, lots of killing, castle building. Ack! No let’s avoid those centuries. No reason to spread the plague all over time. Hmmmm. Ahhhhh! That’ll do very nicely. Yes. But she’ll need to change again. I’ll have to help her. Lots of clothes then. It’s just too bad he wasn’t in London. Imagine it! I would so enjoy meeting Shakespeare, but alas, nothing to be done about that. Can’t force the vampire to be where he’s not.” He kicked a handle with his foot and the whirring whooshing sound surrounded me as I gripped the nearest solid object so I could avoid being thrown around and breaking an ankle or my neck.
“So…where are we headed?” I asked when the TARDIS settled down again.
“It’s a surprise! Now, we need to head up and have you change clothes again. Come on!”
He grabbed my hand and practically dragged me through the winding halls and into the warehouse sized space that a Broadway costume designer would kill for. He ducked his head in and out of piles and closets and dressers and steamer trunks: looking for God knows what. Clothing started flying at my head.
“Chemise.” Toss. Catch. “Corset.” Toss. Catch. “Gown.” Toss. Catch. “Hickamajoober. Thingamabob.” Toss toss. Catch catch. By the time he finished my arms were piled high with clothing I only barely understood. “Chemise first. Then the oval rolly thing. Then the gown. Then give me a call and I’ll help you tighten your corset.”
Okay then. I did as asked and it was a beautiful, if annoyingly layered. Yellows, greens, and silver swirled over an antique white in intricate patterns giving me the look of a court royal. As a country girl the fanciest dress I’d ever worn was to my senior prom. Well there was the dress I wore to Hair of the Dog down in Jackson, but that wasn’t really fancy. Chic, but not fancy, and it had ended the night bloodstained and with a gaping hole from where I’d been staked. Hopefully that wouldn’t happen tonight. The Doctor came around and tightened my corset.
“Good Lord. How did women breathe in these?” I asked trying to take very tiny breaths.
“They didn’t.” He came up and wrapped a rainbow-shaped stiff lace thing around my neck, attached it to the swooping oval neckline of the gown. He twirled his index finger indicating that he wanted me to spin so that he could admire his handiwork. “Looks good. Now, here’s a picture, do something similar with your hair, pick out some shoes, and we’ll be on our way.”
“Aye aye Captain!” I chuckled and saluted him, which he just shook his head at. I was thinking how ridiculous it was that the Doctor wanted me to work from a small black and white photocopy of an ancient painting, but I still headed off to find a mirror, there had to be one in this place, and I found a dressing table with combs and headbands and all sorts of accoutrements. I braided my hair as fancily as I knew how, adding some iridescent combs made out of shell to dress it up a bit. I found a pair of beautifully embroidered silver pumps hiding behind a pair of seventies era disco platform boots. I checked myself in the mirror and I looked like a princess. So excited to see where I was headed this time, I practically ran back down to the control room where the Doctor stood, once again, in the same brown pinstripe suit and white Chucks.
“So Doctor, what do you think? Do I pass inspection for wherever and whenever we’re about to be?”
He looked me up and down. “Absolutely stunning Sookie! You clean up nicely I must say.” He cocked his elbow for me to slip my hand into and the long sleeve of my gown draped over his arm. “Ready?”
“You have no idea,” I responded, the excitement evident in my voice.
“Good. Outside those doors is Edinburgh, Scotland in 1603 and I’m taking you to meet a King.” He grinned crookedly apparently as eager as I was to be heading out into the unknown. From the look on his face I doubted it ever got old, all the traveling. I’d barely been anywhere, only to Texas really, and here I was about to step into medieval Scotland. So flipping cool. “Now, try not to draw attention to yourself and whatever you do, don’t wander off,” he added as an afterthought.
He pushed open the doors and we stepped out onto a slightly damp cobblestone street. I was assaulted by smells that were none too pleasant, but after a bit, they settled into the background and I could simply enjoy my surroundings. The night was falling softly around us and I couldn’t help my head from swiveling like a tourist. The houses seemed miniature sized to me and the light refracted off the soot that coated the outside layer of the windows. The Doctor closed the doors of the TARDIS behind us and for some reason it looked to belong there. Not out of place at all like you might imagine a 20th century phone box to be, no one looked twice at her. At me, however, it was totally different. I was walking down the street all lively colors and bustling life, whereas everyone that I encountered lived a life of browns and greys, dirt smudged and melancholy. Eyes shot in my direction as if they knew I was heading to meet a king. There was jealousy and sadness in the same breath. Those that I passed were smiling, but their clothes told a different story, a harder story, a story of work and disappointment and death.
The Doctor pointed out the shops to me: an apothecary, a bookseller, a fabric store. They were small and barely lit, but thankfully night had not yet fallen so I got a chance to see the people as they closed up for the night, going about the business of the end of their day. Again, it was familiar and yet ever so strange to me. We passed a bustling pub where boisterous voices echoed bouncing off the streets. If I hadn’t been so anxious to see Eric I would have asked the Doctor if we could stop for a drink, but I didn’t want to get sidetracked. I did peek in the door where I saw a drunk grab the waitress’ butt and proposition her and thought that some things really just don’t change.
When we approached the Castle, holy crap I was going to a real freaking castle, it was nothing like I’d imagined. No grey stone spires or gargoyles. No tattered bloody flags or bodies on pikes. Thick craggy green outcroppings surrounded the castle that sat atop what seemed like a mountain to me. Layers and layers of wall seemed to hold up a series of manor houses that looked small in comparison. I’d expected, well I don’t know, a fairytale castle that glittered in the sunset? Magic and sparkles and a fairy godmother waiting to turn my rags to silk? But I wasn’t wearing rags. I was wearing the most beautiful gown I could ever imagine. I had no idea why the Doctor had a 17th century dress stashed way in his wardrobe, but I felt like a princess, which was probably good if I was going to meet a King.
Speaking of, “Hey Doctor?” I asked and he looked at me waiting for me to expound on my question. “How are we going to get into the castle? I mean, I imagine, it is invitation only. It’s not like we can pay our admission price, take pictures, and buy postcards to send home to the family.”
“Don’t worry about that Sookie, I have it covered. I always have it covered. But we do need a cover story. I don’t think you should be Sookie this time around. It might start to affect the timeline now that we’re into Eric’s vampire years. He’ll remember things much more easily now. Who would you like to be? And please don’t pick a historical figure. It would be difficult to expunge that from the books. I mean imagine if you decided to show up as Queen Elizabeth? She just died. Next thing you know, Elizabeth will be like Elvis, showing up at the latest Shakespeare play, there’ll be sightings everywhere.
I thought about it. I needed a name that sounded medieval without bringing attention to myself. I thought of my grandmother. “Can I be Princess Adeline?”
“Hmmmm, that should work. I’ve never known an Adeline before. Now where should you be from?” We continued to step closer and closer to the castle. “Can’t be from America, there are no princesses there. Can’t be from too close by since people would expect to see you again. Morocco? You’re tan enough, but you’re blonde. Ahhhh I have it. Bordeaux.” He considered. “Yes. I think that will work. You will be Princess Adeline of Bordeaux. But Sookie, please don’t accept any marriage proposals tonight. You’ve already gotten married once on this trip and I think that is definitely enough.
“I’ve met the man of my dreams, Doctor, and I have no need to marry anyone else. So Princess Adeline of Bordeaux. What happens when I can’t speak French?”
“Won’t be a problem. Your accent is exotic enough that people will assume that it’s French.” He noticed the look of panic on my face. “Don’t worry Sookie, the TARDIS will take care of it. Whomever you are speaking to will simply hear the language they are expecting to hear. Don’t fret. It’ll be fine.”
“Well, if you say so…”
“I do. And trust me, I’m never wrong.”
“So you say.”
“So say we all.”
“Huh?” I asked.
“Not a Battlestar Galactica fan eh Sookie? So I have a pop culture reference up on you,” the Doctor gloated. “Never mind. It’s just one of the few television programs I actually cared to watch.”
“You are just full of surprises aren’t you?” I asked the sarcasm thick on my tongue.
“Why yes. Yes I am.”
Just then I noticed that we had entered the plateau before the arched entrance to the castle. Commoners, as I imagined they were, gathered around and it was kind of a like a red carpet in Hollywood. The only thing missing were paparazzi with cameras and microphones stuck in our faces, but the grapevine was probably out of control in this time period. By morning everyone in Edinburgh would know everyone who stepped foot in the castle tonight and what they wore. So not so different after all.
“Are you ready Princess Adeline?” The Doctor asked barely able to keep from fidgeting.
I tugged him towards the high stone archway that would lead to walkway to the interior of the castle. I could see torches lit, winding up to the castle proper that warmly lit up the night. I could hear music filtering down from the heights and I got a little more excited, even if I didn’t think it was possible for that to happen.
We approached the archway and when the guards asked for the invitation the Doctor flipped open a leather type case kind of thing like he was a police officer flashing his badge. I glanced at the blank piece of paper and was curious, though I waited until we passed the guards to ask any questions.
“Doctor. There was nothing written on that paper that you just held up. What’s up with that?”
The Doctor looked shocked for a moment and then realization dawned on his face. “Ahhhh, yes, telepathic. I should’ve realized it wouldn’t work on you. It’s what we Time Lords call psychic paper. In other words whoever reads it sees whatever they want to see, or whatever I want them to see. Those guards saw an invitation from King James himself to the Prince and Princess of Bordeaux to attend his informal coronation party tonight.”
“What? King James? Like THE King James? The hey ‘I wrote my own version of the Bible’ King James?” I asked astounded.
“He didn’t write it himself Sookie, he paid others to write it for him, but to answer your question, yes, that King James. It is March 31st, 1603. Queen Elizabeth has just died, God Save the Queen, and James was declared King in London last week. He won’t have his official coronation ceremony for a couple of months, but this is his first celebration after all the hubbub.”
I was thinking about what I knew of history as we ascended a curved staircase that led to an outdoor area right before entering the party proper. I’d done some reading so I knew that there was some controversy regarding James’ mother Mary, Queen of Scots, who was beheaded, although I remembered that it had taken three strikes for the executioner to get it right. Or so said the history books anyway. I shivered and thought what an intense time period the Doctor had brought me to, but I had no time left to worry as we were about to enter the court proper. Taking a deep breath I was about to be presented to Scotland as Princess Adeline of Bordeaux, France. Holy heck. If only my grandmother could see me now.
I stepped into a room lit by what must be a hundred thousand candles and torches and a humongous fireplace that dwarfed me. The floor was black, white, and grey mosaic and the people that I saw were dress in all sorts of finery, in every color, their minds assaulted mine and I shut down my mental blocks as quickly as I thought of it. I wanted to enjoy this evening and not have a migraine five minutes after entering.
“The Prince and Princess of Bordeaux France,” a servant in deep forest green livery proclaimed to the assembled masses. I followed the Doctor’s lead, holding my head high and acting as if I were an actual princess, not just playing one on this magical mystery tour. We circled around the room and the Doctor grabbed me a glass of red wine, which I clutched in my hand, trying to sip not gulp it down. We nodded and curtsied and made the appropriate introductions and were received well. I thanked the Lord for my southern manners because otherwise I would have been shaking in my very stylish, I checked what the rest of the women were wearing of course, outfit.
My eyes scanned the room feverishly for the man that I had come to see. The Doctor tugged at my arm several times to bring me back to the conversation at hand. It wouldn’t do for me to be rude. The Doctor caught sight of the King and wrangled us towards him to be introduced. It seemed that the Doctor had absolutely no compunctions against introducing us. He swept us around the room talking to any and everyone who made eye contact. Well, he was a Time Lord so I guess it probably came with the territory, but as we approached the King I had to admit that I dragged my feet a bit. I was sure that what the Doctor was about to do was not proper in the least, but he didn’t seem to care. Not one bit.
Before I could even blink we were standing before the King. A ginger haired man, none too pretty, draped in a red velvet cloak and breeches. At least I that’s what I was calling them. I had no idea what the exact terminology for the clothing was and that was the least of my worries just then.
“Enchanté Mademoiselle.” I guess the TARDIS didn’t think I needed that translated, which, of course, I didn’t.
I withheld the urge to giggle and curtsied again. “Thank you your Majesty. It is an honor to meet you.”
Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. That’s really all I had the presence of mind to think. I should’ve read his mind. I mean, really, who else would’ve had a chance to read King James’ mind, but I didn’t, because, you know, I was in the middle of being introduced to a flipping King. So I guess I could be forgiven. The Doctor and I were just turning away when I caught sight of Eric and I was really lucky not to faint immediately. It was exactly like how romance novels describe love at first sight. Everyone else in the room faded into nothingness, the music was silenced, the lights dimmed, and it was simply the two of us standing in space. His eyes were as blue as I already knew they were, but I couldn’t stop staring. How could I? Eric was in a kilt. An honest to God Scottish kilt and damn if he didn’t look good. I tried to breathe, I really did, but it was a hopeless cause.
My feet were taking steps towards him, but I had no memory of telling them to move. As I got closer I could see the red and green plaid of the swath of cloth that swept over a loose fitting white shirt from his shoulders down and wrapped around his waist. It was too much. I felt certain I was going to lose it. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this was a fantasy of mine. I’m a red-blooded American woman and kilts were just sexy, it was the truth. His bare legs beckoned my touch and I was certain that Eric was going commando under there. I had no idea why he was in a kilt and I didn’t care. He was moving towards me in the same kind of haze and if the Doctor hadn’t had a firm grip on my arm I’m sure I would have run and flung myself into Eric’s arms. I had to remind myself that he didn’t know me.
I shook myself of my reverie as we approached each other and luckily the Doctor remembered his voice, because mine resided somewhere between my thighs. His long blonde hair was in several braids and when he bowed in greeting they swung around his face, drawing attention to his chiseled cheekbones. His eyes sparkled as the Doctor introduced us and I made a quick curtsey, remembering my manners finally.
He introduced the man standing next to him who I had not noticed at all. He was also a big man, scraggly faced with long, also braided, dark brown hair. He had a thick brogue, which the TARDIS was kind enough to translate for me, was all muscle, but with a kind face. I felt like we could be friends. “Princess Adeline, Doctor, this is Laird Alasdair MacGregor.” I checked his mind and registered a void, meaning he was also a vampire. The night just got more and more interesting.
I curtsied again. “It is a pleasure to meet you Laird.” I wondered if that was how I was supposed to address him. The romance novels always did, but those were, you know, fiction, and written in the 20th century.
His deep baritone voice broke into a hearty laugh. “Call me Mac. Everyone that I like does, besides we’re in court and those of us wildlings who were privileged enough to be invited are supposed to act like good English gentlemen when we’re here. He wouldn’t have invited us if he hadn’t been holding this event in Scotland. We’re barbarians apparently. Not to mention, I’m fair certain that our clan is about to be outlawed. I’m here with Eric simply to rub it in the new King’s face. If he’s going to insult my clan, I’ll do him no favors in the meantime. Isn’t that so Eric?”
“Oh yes Mac. The Scots are a proud people. The King thinks to take them down easily, but we know better, don’t we?”
That sounded like the Eric I knew, never one to go down without a fight. We made small talk for a while until people started dancing. I loved to dance, but this was an entirely different basket of cats, so when Eric held his hand out to me, I hesitated.
“These dances are very different from those I know Eric, I’m very sorry but I must decline.” I desperately wanted to dance with him, but I didn’t want to look like a fool.
“Nonsense. Follow me, I’m very good.”
Well wasn’t that just the understatement of the year, but instead of arguing I let him lead me out onto the dance floor. We bowed to one another and then I followed the best I could. Luckily I had natural talent when it came to dancing so I didn’t step on his feet or anything completely embarrassing. Honestly, it was kinda like line dancing, but hoity toity. I didn’t do so bad and actually had a lot of fun. Mostly I enjoyed being in Eric’s arms. He swept me around the dance floor as if I was the princess he believed me to be and it was absolutely glorious.