Clara watched as her one source of comfort in this strange land was led away by the General. Soon, they had gone, and a suffocating silence bled into the room. The General's aides had left, as if following some unheard command. All but a few Samurai filed out as well. The sky had darkened since their arrival, and Clara was grateful for the warm glow of the lamps around the room. At last, the tension became unbearable.
"So...," she started, turning towards the nearest Samurai, a young man who could not have been much older than 20, with a clean shaven face and eyes tinted with fear."What exactly is it that you fear? It must be something important to get you lot riled up."
He did not answer, but Clara noticed a flicker in his expression, a momentary glimpse of raw emotion, before the steel mask was back in place.
"You're not very talkative, are you? Where's General Yuu taken my friend?"
"With respect, madam, you ask too many questions. A girl like you should be careful. Curiosity is not a good trait to portray in these times." It was another of the men that had spoken. Clara whirled around to confront him. This one was older. His face was weather-beaten, and his eyes did not show the fear of the others. They showed the horrors he had witnessed. He had a multitude of battle scars, each one with its own tale of blood, betrayal and death.
"What do you mean?" Clara was at once interested.
The warrior looked at her, the first time any of these Samurai had actually properly looked at her. It was unnerving, the sense of being judged, your deepest, darkest secrets and desires laid bare for anyone to see.
"It is not my place to say. Nobody can fully explain the terrible curse which has befallen our land. There is no explanation; no cause; no remedy; nothing we can do but fight until we fall. For that is the Samurai way." He paused, and seemed to be thinking something through, as if he wasn't sure about what he was about to say.
"However, now you and your doctor friend have arrived, we have the beginnings of an explanation. You are the prime suspects in our quest for answers now. I shouldn't even be talking to you. We're supposed to be guarding you." Here, he stopped again, aware of the disapproving looks the men around him were shooting in his direction.
"I want to warn you: don't get involved in this mess. Get back on your ship, and sail back to wherever you came from as soon as possible. That is the only advice I'm giving you."
And with that remark, he once again went into soldier stance, hands behind his back, feet shoulder width apart, face set with grim determination. Clara tried to get more out of him, but he steadfastly ignored her. She sighed, resigned to the fact that she was not getting any more information. Instead, she sat quietly, mulling over what data she had obtained. This was starting to get very intriguing indeed.
Elsewhere, the Doctor was also trying to obtain information - out of the General. The military man had not spoken so much as a single word since his command. He obviously expected the Doctor to follow him as he did not turn around to check. Of course the Doctor followed. He was inexplicably entwined in this mystery now, and there was only one way to go: Forward.
They had left the beautiful building, and were wending their way through what looked like a small village. The Doctor suspected it was abandoned, now used for the purposes of the military, coming from the regimented quietness that oozed from the oriental buildings. Their destination became clear as the General led the way down a narrow path, towards another building, about the same in size to the glorious house they had left, but irrevocably different. Instead of the vibrant reds and oranges that made the rest of the village so alive, this pagoda was grey and lifeless. The TARDIS translation matrix meant that the Doctor could read the sign hanging above the entrance, though he hardly needed to. Behind it, surrounded by an elegant grey stone wall, there lay a graveyard, a mass of ashen headstones protruding from the cold, unforgiving earth.
"The cemetery. Why did you bring me here?"
At last, the other man stopped, turned and spoke.
"I have brought you here so you may learn more of this terrible disaster we speak of. Although, you should already know."
The Doctor looked puzzled. "That is the third time I have been told that since we arrived. What do you mean?"
General Yuu ignored his question, and carried on talking as if he had not spoken. "I am ordering you to find the cause of this, Doctor, and, if possible, a cure."
He turned and walked inside the sombre building. The Doctor shrugged, and followed.
The inside of the building was very much the same as the exterior. Dusky hangings adorned the partitions, and the very atmosphere was clouded. A stark contrast to the warmth and light they had left behind. The Doctor obediently trotted after the General as he located a well concealed door on the far right of the building. Gingerly, he stepped into the room beyond.
The sight that met his eyes was unexpected, but he found he was not particularly surprised. It was obviously a morgue of some kind. The air itself smelt medicinal. Two autopsy tables lay before him, with two very obviously human bulges under two white sheets.The General strode confidently towards them, and, with an extravagant flourish, drew back the sheets.
The bodies were those of two men, one slightly older, with that slight tinge that comes with middle age, one in his mid-twenties. Both had been dead a day at the most.
The Doctor opened his mouth, looking for all the world as if he had just stepped into a murder mystery novel, but before he could make a sound, the General cut in.
"There was an attack on my men yesterday at twilight. These brave soldiers were found in the morning, dead, but with no obvious cause. What do you make of it, Doctor?"
The Doctor slowly circled the bodies, stopping every now and then to check something, all the while muttering to himself under his breath. As the General had said, there was no obvious cause of death. No ruptures to the skin to suggest an attack, no discolouration of the skin or reddening of the gums that would indicate poison, or any marks upon the bodies at all. Very odd.
When his external examination of the bodies provided him with no further data, the Doctor whipped his trusty sonic screwdriver from an inside pocket of his jacket. The General looked slightly taken aback by the appearance of this unidentified object, and reacted as if it was a weapon. He drew his own weapon, a gleaming katana, whose sharp edges were deadly if the right hands wielded it. The Doctor raised his hands, placating, reassuring.
"Woah there. No need for weapons. This," he twirled the sonic, "is my tool of the trade. It is cutting edge technology for finding the cause of death."
He smiled to himself, pleased at having come up with a believable excuse this time. He cringed, remembering what had happened with Cleopatra. Yeah...best not delve too deeply into that one!
The General sheathed his sword, but kept his defensive stance. He was still wary, but then again, he was a general, he had been trained as a Samurai, and they were cautious by nature.
"Go ahead then, if you're sure." His voice had an edge of discomfort in it, but it did not waver.
The Doctor leapt at the chance to discover more about this mystery. He had forgotten about the danger him and Clara were in, and was focusing solely on these bodies. The sonic whizzed and buzzed as he scanned the corpse.
It was almost comical, the way the grin slowly disappeared from his face, leaving a grim worry that deepened the lines and darkened his eyes.
"This is not good. Not good at all." He looked at the General across the table. "These men have had their very mental energy sucked out of them. Their life force, that spark in the eye, just...gone. I have never seen anything like it! These corpses are just broken remnants of life, a jagged mosaic of flesh and bones. Nothing remains of the two men who inhabited the bodies."
The General nodded. It was not news to him. "We call it 'theft of the soul'. It has happened to all who have fallen astray of the monster who haunts our valley."
"Theft of the soul," the Doctor mused, "Very appropriate."
And with that, the weary Timelord wheeled around and walked straight back out the way they had come in. It was the General's turn to stand there, astounded, before pursuing the stranger out the door.