"When Sarah and I handled the Solon and Morbius problem, I suspected something then," he whispered. The narrow cave tunnel ceiling began to get shorter. "I didn't think much about it at the time. But why all the melodrama? The dancing and chanting didn't make any sense. You have seen how the Carrionites do magic, right?"
"Mostly words and gestures," I said. "Very Dr. Strange-esque."
"Yes, I am strange, thank you."
"No, not you. Gah! You know, nevermind. Words, chanting, hand gestures."
"Yes," he said. "Could it be that the high priestess at the time, was keeping secrets from her own sisters?'
"Doctor, if Earth history is to be an example then yes. Secretive groups like the Masons or Templars often kept secrets from their members. As the member rose in ranks, the member was slowly given one secret at a time. Members had to earn knowledge, making it more valuable than currency. It would not surprise me if the priestess didn't pass on any, for lack of better words, super secrets of her order or important history."
"That is what brought to mind Sarah and Morbius. The High Priestess didn't plan on dying, She had planned on drinking what little Elixir was left. But she sacrificed her portion of the Elixir to save me, instead of herself."
"The Sisters are like Dumbledore?"
"How do you mean?"
"The Elixir, once imbibed, must be imbibed on a regular basis. That is the only way for the immortality to work. If you stop drinking the Elixir, you will age quickly and die."
"Ah, then yes," said the Shadow man. "Funny how things work."
"The planet makes sense now," I said.
"Well, Death is the price we pay for progress, right? No death means stagnation, nothing changes."
The Doctor stopped and turned to face me. "I said that very thing, a long time ago. But I don't think they listened."
"Wait, Doctor. Are you saying that those women are..."
"Yes. Now, Witanira is High Priestess because her predecessor, Ohila, meet an unexpected and unfortunate end. But, for the most part, those women are older than I am."
"And you said they only have one hobby."
"And you say they never change?"
"And you say Gallifrey is gone."
"How many Sisters are there?"
"Under a dozen now."
"Okay, so who drinks the rest of the Elixir?"
"Doctor, these women have been brewing for tens of thousands of years with no one else to imbibe it. Where are they keeping their overstock and why?" The Doctor went very quiet. "And if they are so powerful, how is it that they don't know we are casually trodding through their caves looking for a person whom we are not supposed to talk too?" I sighed. "Did it occur to you that we, also, are being played, right now?"
The Doctor turned quickly and walked ahead faster. "We are being led on, but not by the Sisters. Now, carry on! I have to see a man about a potion!"
We went on for about another minute when a sweet smelling draft of air swept by me. The air tasted terrific, like warm, crunchy, fresh bread drizzled with honey. Suddenly, I was fricken hungry. I speed up my walk, nearly ramming the Doctor in the attempt to rush passed him.
"Whoa," whispered the Doctor. "Slow down. What's the hurry?"
"I smell something good that way, and I am hungry," I said.
"I don't smell anything," he said.
"Hurry up, Beggar man," I wiggled passed him in the narrow corridor, nearly knocking him over. I didn't care to stop and check on him; my belly was rumbling like Thor on a hot summer day.
I exited the tunnel into a warm chamber made of porous stone. The ceiling of the room had four stone arches, made of the same porous stone. It reminded me of a grand, renascence cathedral. In between the columns that formed the arches burned four geysers of natural gas. In the center of the ceiling where the arches met, hung a long stalactite. A pedestal of the same type of stone sat under the stalactite. On top of the pedestal sat a large, wide-mouthed metal cup. The stalactite was long enough that it almost touched the surface of the liquid. Inside the stone pedestal, another smaller flame heated the bottom of the cup, whose liquid bubbled and foamed. The air tasted thick and sweet as if I could dine on it as real food.
I breathed in deep. "Doctor, this is wonderful. This, this has to be the real place."
The shadow man entered the room. "Yes, this is it. This is the place. This is a giant, naturally occurring alchemist lab. The geysers warm the stone and condense the water that filters down from the natural spring above us. It drips down the arches and stalactite and into the cup. Where it continues to boil down into a concentrate." The Doctor walked around the room until he came to the pedestal. He bent down to look at the cup. "Yup, there it is. Jessica, look. The inside is coated in gold."
I walked over and peered into the vessel. It was mesmerizing. I felt light-headed. The bubbling, foamy, swirly, emerald green liquid lulled me into a hypnotic state; sending me into a calm demeanor. Without thinking, I reached up to the stalactite, broke off the tip and ate it.
The Doctor smacked my hand. "What did you do that for?"
I shrugged. "I'm hungry I told you. It's fine." I reached up for another piece.
He smacked my hand away. "No, seriously. What are you doing?"
"Same as you, looking for the Hermit and the Hanging-man." I pointed to a dark passage hidden by the light of one of the geysers. "It should be through there."
The Doctor turned to look. "Where?"
"Just there, silly." I picked off another piece of stalactite and shoved it in my mouth. "You should go. I'll stay here and keep an eye out."
"You will not," he said and grabbed at my arm.
I pulled my arm back. "Yes!" I pulled too hard. My arm went further back than it should. My elbow slammed right into the stalactite. A large chunk broke off and fell into the cup. The hot liquid splashed up my arm and hand. "Ow!" My hand went into my mouth, and so did some of the liquid.
"Jessica! No!" he yelled.
I looked down at my hand in my mouth and remembered Fionn mac Cumhaill and the Salmon. "Oh bother," I said.
The shadow man grabbed me and jerked me away. "I think the gases have got to you."
"I'm fine," I giggled. "I little light-headed, but fine."
The Doctor took a deep breath and exhaled. "No, you're not. Sybiline. You have been influenced by mineral dust and gasses. I need to get you out of here before you become a soothsaying rock lady."
I laughed super hard. "Doctor, you come up with the weirdest stuff!" It was then that the euphoria became real to me. "All right, Doctor. Maybe I am a little...stoned." I lost my cool and started laughing until it hurt. "Get me outta here, Beggar man!"
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