And that is how Lilith found herself sitting in the living room around a table with an old man, a woman who looked like her friend, her uncle, her best friend, and Charles freaking Dickens.
“This is how Madam Mortlock summons those from the Land of Mists, down in big town.” Gwyneth said. “Come, we must all join hands.”
Dickens stood. “I can't take part in this.”
“Humbug, much? Come on, Charlie, open mind.” Lilith tilted her head towards Dickens’s chair.
“This is precisely the sort of cheap mummery I strive to unmask. Séances? Nothing but luminous tambourines and a squeezebox concealed between the knees. This girl knows nothing.”
“Now, don't antagonize her,” the Doctor chided. “I love a happy medium.”
“Oh, Rassilon.” Lilith groaned.
Rose chuckled. “I can't believe you just said that.”
“Come on, we might need you,” the Doctor said. Dickens sits down between Rose and Lilith. “Good man. Now, Gwyneth, reach out.”
Gwyneth took a breath to steady herself. “Speak to us. Are you there? Spirits, come. Speak to us that we may relieve your burden.”
That’s when the whispering started.
“Can you hear that?” Rose questioned the author.
“Nothing can happen. This is sheer folly.” Dickens insisted.
“But look at her.”
“I see them,” Gwyneth said, looking up, “I feel them.” Gas tendrils drifted above their heads.
“What's it saying?” Rose asked.
“They can't get through the rift,” the Doctor said. “Gwyneth, it's not controlling you, you're controlling it. Now, look deep. Allow them through.”
“I can't!” the girl cried.
“Yes, you can. Just believe it. I have faith in you, Gwyneth. Make the link.”
Then, after a moment, “Yes.” Gwyneth whispered. Blue outlines of people appeared behind Gwyneth.
Dickens looked at the figures in shock, but Lilith looked at them with trepidation. “This can’t be good.”
“Great God! Spirits from the other side!” Sneed exclaimed.
“The other side of the universe,” the Doctor said.
The figures spoke with the voices of children and Gwyneth spoke with them. “Pity us. Pity the Gelth. There is so little time. Help us.”
“What do you want us to do?” the Doctor asked.
“The rift. Take the girl to the rift. Make the bridge,” the Gelth responded.
“We are so very few. The last of our kind. We face extinction.”
“But why?” Lilith questioned, not completely trusting the gaseous creatures. "What happened?”
“Once we had a physical form like you, but then the war came,” said the Gelth.
“War? What war?” Dickens asked.
“The Time War. The whole universe convulsed. The Time War raged. Invisible to smaller species but devastating to higher forms. Our bodies wasted away. We're trapped in this gaseous state.”
Lilith looked at the Doctor. She saw the way he tensed when the Gelth mentioned the Time War. She knew how he saw the aftermath; he believed the responsibility of fixing it all rested on his shoulders. Lilith knew that her uncle would agree to anything to help the Gelth, but she wasn’t too sure. “So that's why you need the corpses.”
“We want to stand tall, to feel the sunlight, to live again,” the Gelth claimed. “We need a physical form, and your dead are abandoned. They're going to waste. Give them to us.”
“But we can't.”
The Doctor looked at Rose, confused. “Why not?”
“It's not… I mean, it's not—”
“Not decent? Not polite?” he interrupted. “It could save their lives.”
“She’s right, Uncle,” Lilith said. “If all they wanted was a physical form, why did they make the old lady kill her son? Why did they make her son try to kill Rose?”
“Open the rift. Let the Gelth through!” the Gelth pleaded. “We're dying. Help us. Pity the Gelth.” The Gelth went back into the gas lamps and Gwyneth collapsed across the table.
“Oh my god, Gwyneth?” Rose jumped up and ran over to the girl’s side. “Gwyneth, are you okay?
“All true.” Dickens breathed. “It's all true.”
‘What was that about?’ the Doctor asked, telepathically. ‘They need help.’
‘They possessed a body and Rose nearly died at their hands, forgive me if I don’t want to offer them permanent residence.’
‘They’re the last, Lilith, like us. Because of the War, their kind is gone.’
‘Being alone is not an excuse.’ Lilith gave the Doctor one last disappointed look, and then joined Rose in fussing over the unconscious Gwyneth.
A little while later, Gwyneth was been laying on the chaise longue. Rose sat beside her while Lilith paced around the room. Sneed and Dickens were sitting down and the Doctor was leaning with his back against the wall
“It's all right.” Rose told the servant girl. “You just sleep.”
“But my angels, miss, they came, didn't they? They need me?”
“They do need you, Gwyneth. You're they're only chance of survival,” the Doctor said.
“I've told you, leave her alone. She's exhausted and she's not fighting your battles.” Rose snapped at him. He leaned his head back, exasperated.
“Well, what did you say, Doctor? Explain it again.” Sneed said. “What are they?”
“Like foreigners, you mean?”
The Doctor shrugged. “Pretty foreign, yeah. From up there.” He pointed up
“Brecon?” Sneed asked, confused. Lilith snorted.
“Close. And they've been trying to get through from Brecon to Cardiff but the road's blocked. Only a few can get through and even then they're weak. They can only test drive the bodies for so long, then they have to revert to gas and hide in the pipes."
“Which is why they need the girl.” Dickens added.
Rose spun to face everyone else. “They're not having her.”
“But she can help,” the Doctor insisted. “Living on the rift, she's become part of it. She can open it up, make a bridge and let them through.”
“Incredible. Ghosts that are not ghosts but beings from another world, who can only exist in our world by inhabiting cadavers.” Dickens slurred.
“Good system.” Lilith admitted, bitterly. “It could work.”
“You can't let them run around inside of dead people!” Rose protested
“Why not? It's like recycling.”
“Seriously though, you can't.”
“Seriously though, I can.”
A wave of frustration almost overwhelmed Lilith, frustration that wasn’t hers. She looked at the Doctor questioningly, but he was to busy frowning at Rose.
“It's just…” Rose struggled for a word. “Wrong. Those bodies were living people. We should respect them even in death.”
Lilith hesitated before speaking. “Rose is right, Uncle. The Gelth need to find hosts other than human corpses."
“You heard what they said, time's short. I can't worry about a few corpses when the last of the Gelth could be dying,” the Doctor said. “They lost everything in that war, or have you forgotten what it was like?”
“Of course I haven’t!” Lilith snapped. “But damage control is not our problem.”
“I don't care. They're not using her.” Rose insisted.
“Don't I get a say, miss?” Gwyneth asked.
“Look, you don't understand what's going on,” the blond said gently.
Gwyneth looked at her. “You would say that, miss, because that's very clear inside your head, that you think I'm stupid.”
Lilith sat next to her. “You’re not stupid, Gwyneth. In fact, my Dad would call you pretty clever. It’s just that you don’t seem to grasp the fact that this could be dangerous. You call these creatures angels, but the thing is the difference between angels and demons is how much they have to lose. And the Gelth have nothing.”
“It's true, that’s why they need to be helped.” Gwyneth said. “Things might be very different where you're from, but here and now, I know my own mind, and the angels need me. Doctor, what do I have to do?”
“You don't have to do anything,” he told the servant girl.
“They've been singing to me since I was a child, sent by my mam on a holy mission. So tell me.”
The Doctor seemed to make up his mind. “We need to find the rift. This house is on a weak spot, so there must be a spot that's weaker than any other.” He walked into the other room. “Mister Sneed, what's the weakest part of this house? The place where most of the ghosts have been seen?”
“That would be the morgue.” Sneed answered.
“No chance you were going to say gazebo, is there?” Rose grumbled. Lilith raised her eyebrows at her.
Down in the morgue, the recently departed lay under white sheets.
“Urgh. Talk about Bleak House,” the Doctor commented.
“The thing is, Doctor, the Gelth don't succeed.” Rose said. “'Cuz I know they don't. I know for a fact there weren't corpses walking around in 1869.”
“Time's in flux, Tyler, changing every second.” Lilith said. “Your cozy little world can be rewritten like that.” She snapped. “Nothing is safe, remember that. Nothing.”
“Doctor,” Dickens spoke up, “I think the room is getting colder.”
“Here they come.” Rose muttered.
A Gelth came out of a gas lamp by the door and stood under a stone archway. “You've come to help. Praise the Doctor, praise him,” it said in it’s multiple, child-like voices.
“Promise you won't hurt her.” Rose demanded.
“Hurry! Please, so little time.” The Gelth pleaded. “Pity the Gelth.”
“Don’t pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living.” Lilith quoted under her breath.
The Doctor shot her a look ‘Really?’ “I'll take you somewhere else after the transfer,” he said aloud. “Somewhere you can build proper bodies. This isn't a permanent solution, all right?”
“My angels. I can help them live.” Gwyneth breathed.
“Okay, where's the weak point?” the Doctor asked.
“Here,” the Gelth answered. “Beneath the arch.”
“Beneath the arch.” Gwyneth repeated. She stood under the arch, inside the Gelth.
Rose rushed forward and took Gwyneth’s hands. “You don't have to do this.”
Gwyneth just shook her head and Lilith gently pulled Rose away from her.
“Establish the bridge. Reach out to the void. Let us through!” the Gelth cried.
“Yes, I can see you. I can see you. Come!”
“Bridgehead establishing,” said the translucent alien.
“Come to me. Come to this world, poor lost souls!”
“It is begun. The bridge is made.” Gwyneth opened her mouth and multiple blue gas creatures flew out. Lilith was overcome with a sense of dread. She shared a terrified look with Rose. “She has given herself to the Gelth. The bridge is open. We descend.”
The blue apparition turned a flaming red. It's voice deepened and hardened. “The Gelth will come through in force.”
“You said that you were few in number!” Dickens cried.
“A few billion. And all of us in need of corpses.” The dead bodies began to get up.
“Oh Gwyneth, stop this. Listen to your master. This has gone far enough.” Sneed begged. “Stop dabbling, child, and leave these things alone, I beg of you!”
“Mister Sneed, get back!” Rose yelled.
A corpse grabbed Sneed and snapped his neck. Rose looked away quickly as the Doctor pulled her behind him. A Gelth zoomed into Sneed’s open mouth.
“I think it's gone a little bit wrong,” the Doctor said.
Lilith sneered at him. “Is this a bad time to say ‘I told you so’? Because I freaking told you so!”
“I have joined the legions of the Gelth. Come, march with us.” Sneed’s body growled. “We need bodies. All of you. Dead. The human race. Dead. “
“Gwyneth, stop them! Send them back now!” the Doctor called.
“Four more bodies. Convert them. Make them vessels for the Gelth!” said the red Gelth. Dead Sneed backed Rose, Lilith, and the Doctor up against a metal gate.
Dickens backed against the door. “Doctor, I can't. I'm sorry. This new world of yours is too much for me. I'm so—” A corpse lumbered past him and he fled.
The remaining trio hid behind the metal gate, where the corpses couldn’t reach them. “Give yourself to glory!” the demonic creature demanded. “Sacrifice your lives for the Gelth.”
“I trusted you,” the Doctor yelled. “I pitied you!”
“We don't want your pity. We want this world and all it's flesh.”
“Not while I'm alive,” he growled.
“Then live no more.”
The corpses advanced, reaching their hands through the gaps between the metal bars of the gates.
“But I can't die. Tell me I can't.” Rose pleaded. “I haven't even been born yet. It's impossible for me to die. Isn't it?”
“I'm sorry,” the Doctor said.
“But it's 1869. How can I die now?”
“Time isn't a straight line. It can twist into any shape. You can be born in the twentieth century and die in the nineteenth and it's all my fault. I brought you here.”
Lilith focused on the time lines, watching them shift. They couldn’t die, not there. Not before all the adventures she’d dreamed of having. She had to live, to get back to her Doctor. Her father. Her mother.
“We'll go down fighting, yeah?” Rose said.
“Always.” Lilith said, biting her lip.
Rose turned to the Doctor. “Together?”
She took his hand.
“I'm so glad I met you,” the Doctor said.
Lilith wiped away a tear. At least they had made it this far. At that moment, Dickens ran in.
“Doctor! Doctor! Turn off the flame; turn up the gas! Now, fill the room, all of it, now!”
“He’s gone insane.”
“Turn it all on. Flood the place!”
Understanding dawned on the Doctor’s face. “Brilliant! Gas!”
“What, so we choke to death instead?”
Lilith lit up. “No, he’s right. The Gelth are gaseous.”
“Fill the room with gas, it'll draw them out of the host.” The Doctor explained. “Suck them into the air like poison from a wound!”
The corpses turned away from the Doctor and Rose, and started shambling towards Dickens. “I hope, oh Lord, I hope that this theory will be validated soon, if not immediately.”
“Plenty more!” the Doctor crowed, ripping a gas pipe from the wall. Screeches, along with the gas, filled the room as the Gelth left the corpses.
“It's working.” Dickens said.
The Doctor rushed out of the alcove, Lilith and Rose behind him. “Gwyneth, send them back. They lied. They're not angels.”
Gwyneth lowered her arms. “Liars?”
“Look at me. If your mother and father could look down and see this, they'd tell you the same. They'd give you the strength. Now send them back!”
“I can't breathe.” Rose choked.
“Lilith, get her out.”
“I'm not leaving her.” Rose protested.
“And there’s no way in hell I’m leaving you.” Lilith added.
Gwyneth looked at the Doctor with sorrow. “They're too strong.”
“Remember that world you saw? Rose's world? All those people? None of it will exist unless you send them back through the rift.”
“I can't send them back,” Gwyneth said, “but I can hold them. Hold them in this place. Hold them here. Get out.” She took a box of matches from her apron pocket.
“You can't!” Rose yelled. She rushed forward, but Lilith and the Doctor held her back.
“Leave this place!”
The Doctor gripped Rose’s arms. “Rose, get out. Go now. I won't leave her while she's still in danger. Now go!”
Lilith dragged Rose towards the stairs. With one last look at look at Gwyneth, she stopped resisting and Dickens followed the two out of the morgue. The two girls and the author raced down the hallways.
“This way!” Dickens coughed into the handkerchief he was holding over his mouth. Lilith spared a glance at Rose, who had nothing to lessen the gas she was inhaling. They made it out of the house and had barely gotten into the street when the building exploded behind them.
Lilith ran to the Doctor’s side and fussed to double check that he was okay. Rose approached them slowly. “She didn't make it?” she guessed.
“I'm sorry,” he said. “She closed the rift.”
Dickens sighed. “At such a cost. The poor child.”
“I did try, Rose,” the Doctor promised. “But Gwyneth was already dead. She had been for at least five minutes.”
“How do you mean?”
Lilith looked away. “I think she was dead from the minute she stood in that arch.”
“But she can't have.” Rose protested. “She spoke to us. She helped us. She saved us. How could she have done that?”
“There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Dickens said.
“She saved the world, a servant girl, no one will ever know.”
“We’ll know.” Lilith said, putting her arm around her friend’s shoulders.
“Right then, Charlie boy,” the Doctor said as the group reached the TARDIS. “I've just got to go into my, er, shed. Won't be long.”
“What are you going to do now?” Rose asked the author.
“I shall take the mail coach back to London, quite literally post-haste. This is no time for me to be on my own.” He decided. “I shall spend Christmas with my family and make amends to them. After all I've learned tonight, there can be nothing more vital.”
“You've cheered up,” the Doctor noted.
“Exceedingly! This morning, I thought I knew everything in the world. Now I know I've just started. All these huge and wonderful notions, Doctor. I'm inspired. I must write about them.”
Rose glanced at Lilith before addressing Dickens again. “Do you think that's wise?”
“I shall be subtle at first. The Mystery of Edwin Drood still lacks an ending. Perhaps the killer was not the boy's uncle. Perhaps he was not of this Earth. The Mystery of Edwin Drood and the Blue Elementals. I can spread the word, tell the truth.”
“Good luck with it. Nice to meet you. Fantastic!” the Doctor said.
“Bye, then, and thanks.” Rose shook Dickens's hand then kissed his cheek.
Dickens smiled. “Thank you, but I don't understand. In what way is this goodbye? Where are you going?”
Lilith grinned, “You'll see. In the shed.”
“Upon my soul, young lady, it's one riddle after another with you. But after all these revelations, there's one mystery you still haven't explained. Answer me this. Who are you?”
“Just a friend passing through.”
“But you have such knowledge of future times. I don't wish to impose on you, but I must ask you. My books, do they last?”
“Oh, yes!” Lilith said with enthusiasm.
“For how long?” Dickens asked.
“Forever,” the Doctor said. “Right. Shed. Come on, Rose, Lilith”
Dickens frowned. “In the box? All three of you?”
“Down boy,” the Doctor growled. “See you.”
“Doesn't that change history?” Rose asked as the walked over to the console. “If he writes about blue ghosts?”
“In one week it's 1870, and that's the year he dies.” Lilith said, somberly. “Sorry. He'll never get to tell his story.”
Rose looked at Dickens on the monitor. “Oh, no. He was so nice.”
“But in your time, he was already dead,” the Doctor shrugged. “We've brought him back to life, and he's more alive now than he's ever been, old Charlie boy. Let's give him one last surprise. Lilith?”
“To the vortex we go.” Lilith said, pulling a lever with a grin and the TARDIS dematerialized. It smoothly slipped into the time vortex.
With that, Lilith remembered everything her mother had told her about the Doctor and Rose’s trip to nineteenth century Cardiff. Any doubts she had about what she saw in the morgue were erased.
It seemed that the real adventure here was just beginning.