"Doctor, you get more arrogant with every new regeneration. How dare you!" said the Sister. "Ohila might have tolerated such heresy. But your request may as well be imprecation! Vituperation! Profanity!"
"Let's not get carried away, Witanira," soothed the Doctor. "You do want them to leave, don't you?"
"The Doctor doesn't want to you give them the real cup," I said. "Put another in its place. It has to be believable though. It can't be made of gold or have jewels on it. It has to be old, worn, and peasanty. A simple cup made of wood would be perfect."
The Doctor shook his head at me. The Sisters actually giggled. Witanira glared at them. "Does it look like we have wooden cups laying around on this planet?" She said. "Besides, that won't work anyway."
"I don't understand. Why not?" I asked.
"Jessica, shh!" The Shadow man put his finger on my mouth. "Witanira, I can give you a cup. I need your cooperation in the supposed "Waypath Trails." That's not too much to ask. You give them a show; they get a cup. They go home."
I pushed the Doctor's hand away from my face. "Aside from that, they already think the Holy Grail is here. They will keep coming until they get one. You will never have peace."
"Doctor, what should the trails be?" asked a Sister. "Do you have a plan?"
"Me? No," said the Doctor. "But I know someone." The Shadow man pushed me forward towards the Sisters. "I have a Fortune Teller for that."
"What? Me?" I objected.
"Yes, you. You keep saying you are a gamer. So," he gestured at the landscape. "Game! What would you do as a..what did you call it...Dungeon Master."
"She is a Dungeon Master and a Fortune Teller?" asked a Sister.
"And a muggle-wuzzle," he said.
"Doctor, I can't do...well I can..but this is real!" I objected again. "A being might actually die."
"We must do what we must do," shrugged the Doctor.
"They aren't villains. Not really," I said.
"Then, be creative!" He waved his hands dismissively. The shadow man turned and walked away.
"And where are you going?" asked Witanira.
"Back to the TARDIS. We need a cup," he said.
The Sisters looked at me. "Well, Keeper of the Waypath, what do we do?"
"The Trial of Faith, The Trial of Compassion, and the Trial of Humility," I smiled. "Do you happen to have a perception filter module?"
Witanira smiled at me. "Yes, we do. I like it."
"Let's get started," I said.
I gave the instructions to the Sisters. It was a simple premise. The first trial aimed at getting the little blue leprechauns out of the armor. The second trial was to give something valuable away. The third trial was geared to have them surrender rather than fight. I imagine that, as Crusaders, they expected something along the lines of bravery, courage, and strength. But as I explained to the Sisters, all knights have those attributes. To make the trials look authentic, they need to test other virtues, patience, charity, generosity, compassion, temperance, and humility. Not exactly the classic seven, but important nonetheless.
The perception filter made it easier to come up with scenarios. And yes, it was like setting up a live action role play encounter. I was busy being pleased with myself when the Doctor snuck up behind me and pulled me into the shadows. "Be quiet and follow me,” he whispered. ”Don't worry about the Sisters. They are about to be preoccupied with the knight."
I wiggled out of his grip. "Won't they notice I'm gone?" I asked. "I'm supposed to be the Keeper right?"
"Nah, your job is done. Let them have all the glory," he whispered.
"Where are we going?" I asked as I followed.
“What we came here to do,” he replied. “See the Hanging-man and the Hermit.”
“All right, so why are we sneaking?” I asked.
“Because the Sisters would not want me to see him,” said the Doctor.
“This grail thing is a distraction?” I snickered. “I don’t understand all the cloak and dagger.”
“I’m not supposed to know that Hanging-man and Hermit is here on Karn,” he said, turning a sharp corner.
We entered a room with a large basin in the center. A chair sat on a dais, at the head of the room. The half metal, half stone walls were covered in tapestries. To the left of the dais, was a colorful panel, locked by a thick metal bar. “Where are we?” I asked.
The shadow man laughed. “The stage, believe it or not. This is not our destination but the way there is through this room.” The Doctor paced around the room. “Now, where was it.”
“I don’t understand, Doctor. Stage? For what?”
He chuckled and pointed at me. "You have been saying it. I've been saying it; it didn't occur to me until now. Myth! Legends! More believable if you follow the formula." He waved his hands in the air. "This isn't real! It is a Stage. And we, merely the players!” Then, pointed to the panel with the thick metal bar. “Shakespeare knew. What a guy!”
“Ah! Yes!” He went over to the panel, took out his screwdriver, and pointed it at the panel. The lock clicked. “Don’t tell the Sisters,” he said to me and opened the panel.
Behind the panel, there was a rock wall with a hole in it. In the center of the hole, was a burning geyser of flames. The rock surrounding it was hot and dripping liquid. The liquid ran down off the walls and into a small trough, which drained into a metal cup. "Is that it? The Cup?"
The Doctor motioned for me to have a look. “No, but it is made to look that way. Come see. Can you figure out how I know?”
I walked over to the hole in the wall and took a good look. The geyser looked normal. He dripping liquid seemed arcane. The cup, well, there was something nagging about that cup. It appeared to be a normal metal goblet. Pretty standard for a metal cup. It wasn't fancy, made of gold, or set with jewels. That's when my brain exploded. "Doctor! If this were the real cup, the inside of the cup would be lined with gold! The Elixir doesn't just give immortality. It also transmutes metals. This is not the Elixir!"
“Not a mile!” he chuckled. “A very clever charade by the Sisters. One that I believed. But You were right. The lore on Gallifrey is very clear and something I believe that we have forgotten. The Elixir of Life transmutes metal.”
“So, where is the real cup?”
The Beggar man got excited. "That's not the real question! Ask it, Jessica! Make me proud! All that lore and myth floating around in your helmet head; Think! What is the real question?" I could feel his sly fox grin seeping from his face.
It took a minute, but it got there. I let all that myth collide and explode inside my head, and it all ended in one conclusion. I smiled. "Where is the real stone! The cup, the water, the hole in the wall! That isn't the Elixir! It comes from the stone! The Sorcerer's stone or the Philosopher's stone!"
The Shadow man’s face did the montage again. This time landing on a face I had never seen before. This Doctor was debonair, with a Double-0 Seven meets Indiana Jones vibe. My mouth acted before I could engage my filter. “I hate it when you look sexy like that!” I hissed angrily.
“I always look sexy,” he replied, offhanded.
"Oh, I hate you. Go back to normal!"
“Who do you see?” he asked.
“An English Indiana Jones.”
“You think Indiana Jones is sexy?”
“No, but Han Solo is.”
“Laugh a minute with you, is it?” He reached into the hole in the wall, past the flames, and grabbed something.
“Doctor, your hand,” I said. I heard something click from behind us.
He shook his head. “It’s a trick. It’s not real.” He closed the panel door and locked it again. “Come on, this way.” He went to the other side of the room and pulled a tapestry back to reveal a secret passage. “See? Sexy Indiana Jones.” He snickered.
"By the Nine, Doctor, stop showing off," I said and entered.
“What kind of Doctor Who fairytale doesn’t include an enormous amount of showing off?” He asked.
“Shutting up now.”
He laughed and entered the passage with me.
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