Mrs Gregory had tucked the children up in bed and was sitting in the corner, watching over them. A lamp beside her cast a soft glow across the room.
There was a knock at the door and Mina stepped into the room.
'Are they asleep?' she whispered.
'Dear lord, no, ma'am,' Mrs Gregory said. 'I think only the dead would be able to sleep through this cold.'
'It is bitter, isn't it,' Mina said as she closed the door behind her.
'That it is, ma'am, that it is,' Mrs Gregory agreed. 'I would almost swear that it was getting still colder, but there must surely be limits to such a thing.'
'One can only hope, Mrs Gregory, one can only hope.'
There was a second chair by the dresser and Mina sat on it.
'The Doctor has instructed me to ask the children some questions,' Mina explained. 'If you've no objections?'
'It's not my place to object, ma'am.'
'Surely, you must consider the children's well-being,' Mina said.
'Mr McMenemy has instructed me to obey the Doctor in every particular, so that is what I shall do,' Mrs Gregory told her.
'That's very civil of you, Mrs Gregory,' Mina said at length. 'Children, are you awake.'
'Yes, ma'am,' Richard said, sitting up.
Lisabeth rolled over to face in Mina's direction. She used both her tiny hands to rub the sleep from her eyes.
'You look tired, Lisabeth,' Mina said, inching her chair closer.
'Am,' Lisabeth agreed. 'But ish s'cold.'
'Your mother said that you were crying earlier,' Mina said. 'Are you scared.'
Lisabeth shook her head three times very deliberately.
'No now,' she insisted. 'Ric'ard make mons'ers fo' me.'
'Monsters?' Mina asked, eyes wide.
She glanced at Mrs Gregory.
'The children are fascinated by monsters and ghosts and the like,' she explained. 'Mr McMenemy tries to discourage that sort of thing, but you know what children are like.'
Mina turned back to the children.
'Could Richard make monsters for me?' she asked.
Richard sat up straighter and raised his hands so that they cast a shadow against the wall. He twisted them until the shadow formed a convincingly ghoulish face.
'Very scary,' Mina commented, 'isn't that right, Lisabeth?'
'It's not a real monster,' Richard explained.
'Oh?' Mina feigned surprise. 'Have you seen a real monster, then?'
'Well, no,' Richard admitted. 'But I've seen pictures. In the library. Daddy says I shouldn't read books like that, but Mummy gets them off the top shelf for me.'
'You'll have to show me,' Mina said. 'Your mother sounds like she's fun to be around. Does she spend a lot of time with you.'
'Oh yes,' Richard pronounced. 'When it's dry, she takes us for walks along the sea front. Well, she did before she got sick. She likes it out there. It's were she and Daddy first met.'
'On the beach? Do you know what she was doing there?' Mina asked.
Richard shook his head. 'No,' he admitted, 'but she likes to stand there and stare out to sea. She watches the waves hit the rocks. We saw a seal out there once. Mummy cried because it was so pretty.'
'I'm sure it must have been very beautiful, Richard,' Mina agreed. 'What about your father? Does he take you for walks?'
'Daddy likes to stay inside,' Richard explained. 'I heard him tell Mummy that it wasn't safe out there and that she wasn't to go out any more. She didn't take us for any walks after that.'
'Daddy no fun,' Lisabeth affirmed.
'He worries about us, that's all,' Richard said. 'Like the way he takes all the dangerous things and locks them away where they can't hurt us.'
'So your father looks after you,' Mina said.
Richard nodded. Lisabeth simply shrugged and pouted.
'See mo' mons'ers,' she demanded.
Richard willingly obliged.
Mina stayed with the children and made conversation for a few minutes before making her excuses and leaving. She considered the contents of the Doctor's note. He had asked her to pay special attention to their hands and she had. Both children had webbed fingers.
* * *
'Mr McMenemy,' the Doctor said, surprised, 'I've been looking all over for you, but, I confess, I didn't expect to find you in the kitchen.'
'I am making myself a little something to eat,' Stewart explained. 'I always get hungry when I'm nervous. Cook doesn't live on the premises and Sarah's a sweet girl, but I wouldn't really want her handling the knives, if you know what I mean.'
'Isn't that a little harsh?' the Doctor asked.
'She's only a servant, Doctor,' Stewart replied. 'She has her duties and she performs them admirably enough, but one really shouldn't expect any more from her.'
'You make it sound so reasonable,' the Doctor responded.
'Thank you,' Stewart said, oblivious to the Doctor's irony. 'How is Miranda?'
'No better or worse than she was before,' the Doctor admitted.
'Then you've had no success in diagnosing her condition?'
'I didn't say that,' the Doctor replied. 'I have a number of theories that my associate and I are currently attempting to corroborate.'
'And that's why you wanted to see me, I suppose,' Stewart deduced. 'Well, ask away, Doctor.'
'Where does your wife come from?' the Doctor asked. 'Originally, I mean?'
'What does that have to do with anything?' Stewart spluttered.
'Just answer the question,' the Doctor insisted.
'Oh, very well.' Stewart paused. 'You know, I don't rightly recall. It's one of those islands off the coast, but the name of it escapes me.'
The Doctor nodded. 'And where did the two of you meet?'
'I was walking along the coastal path and I spotted her sitting on the beach staring out to sea. I wandered over to say good morning and the rest is history.'
'Love at first sight was it?'
'Yes, as a matter of fact it was,' Stewart snapped. 'Doctor, I know you mean well, but these questions of yours are getting rather tiresome.'
'Just one more, I promise,' the Doctor said. 'Is it usual for a married couple, especially one as much in love as you claim to be, to have separate bedrooms?'
'That's none of your damn business!' Stewart shouted.
'Mr McMenemy,' the Doctor responded, 'I was brought here as your wife's physician. If I deem personal information to be relevant to your wife's condition then that makes it my business. So please answer the question and I'll leave you in peace.'
'My wife can't sleep in our room,' Stewart explained. 'The headaches are worse there. Her current room is the only one where she seems able to rest.'
'Your room faces inland, doesn't it, Mr McMenemy?' the Doctor deduced.
'Yes it does,' Stewart admitted. 'How in God's name did you know that?'
The Doctor tapped the side of his nose, spun on his heel and left the other man to his snack.
* * *
'Mrs Harker, isn't it?' Christopher said. 'Or should I call you Mina?'
Mina turned to face him.
'I didn't know we were on first name terms, Mr McMenemy,' she said.
'Oh, don't be like that,' Christopher said edging closer. 'A pretty girl like you shouldn't be alone on a night like this.'
Mina took a step backwards.
'I'm not alone,' she insisted. 'I'm just on my way to see the Doctor.'
'The Doctor,' Christopher drawled. 'Now there's a lucky man, having a girl like you at his beck and call. Is it the eyes, is that his secret? Or is it something about that girly hair of his that does it for you?'
'The relationship between the Doctor and myself is purely professional,' Mina told him. 'Not that it's any of your business.'
'Oh, it is my business, Mina,' Christopher replied, 'because I hate to encroach on another man's territory.'
He reached out a hand to stroke her cheek and Mina recoiled.
'What do you think you're doing?' she demanded.
'Come now, Mina,' Christopher said, 'it's oh-so-cold tonight and I know a way you and I can both keep warm.'
'Out of respect to your family, I am going to pretend that I didn't hear that,' Mina said.
She turned her back and resumed walking down the corridor.
Christopher grabbed her shoulder and spun her back round.
'Playing hard to get?' he asked. 'I like it.'
'Let go of me!' Mina said.
'I don't think so,' Christopher remarked. 'You see, I know you really want it. If Mr Harker was anything special you wouldn't be out here with that 'doctor' of yours.'
With her free hand, Mina slapped him across the face.
'How dare you,' she snapped.
'You've got some fire, Mina,' Christopher said. 'I like girls with spark. They taste so much sweeter.'
He leaned in closer to her.
'Let. Go. Of. ME!' Mina shouted.
With her free hand, she grabbed the collar of his night-shirt and hurled him across the corridor. He spun in mid-flight, striking the wall with his face.
Mina stared at her hand in horror, then glanced at the body.
Christopher was staring at her, eyes filled with rage, lips curled back from his teeth in a snarl. Blood was streaming from his nose.
'Bitch!' he cried. 'You're one of them, aren't you? You're going to kill us all!'
Mina turned and fled.
* * *
She cannoned into the Doctor. He was walking in the opposite direction, his head bowed in thought.
'Careful,' he said.
He took hold of her shoulders and looked into her eyes.
'What's wrong?' he asked.
'It's nothing,' Mina said.
The Doctor held her gaze for several seconds and Mina willed him to drop the subject. Suddenly he grinned and ushered her into an alcove off of the corridor.
'Let's get a little privacy, shall we?' he suggested.
There was a narrow window in the alcove, like the arrow-slit in a castle wall. The hail continued to hammer on the glass like the hoof beats of a thousand charging horses.
'So,' the Doctor began, 'how are the children?'
'Holding up surprisingly well,' Mina replied, 'considering.'
'Yes,' the Doctor murmured. 'And their hands?'
'I think you already know,' Mina said.
'They're like tiny flippers,' Mina agreed. 'What does it mean, Doctor?'
'That all depends on what side of the family the inherited it from,' the Doctor responded.
'Miranda doesn't have webbed fingers,' Mina commented.
'No, nor does her husband,' the Doctor said.
'Maybe he isn't the father,' Mina suggested.
'It's a thought,' the Doctor agreed. 'Or maybe it just skips a generation. Have you noticed how those family portraits are just head and shoulder images? What I wouldn't give for a glimpse of a hand.'
'You know what's going on, don't you, Doctor,' Mina said.
'I've got a theory,' the Doctor admitted, 'but there aren't any facts. Miranda's the key to this, I'm sure of it, but why?'
Mina hugged herself.
'It would help if it wasn't so cold,' she said. 'I can't even think straight.'
'Yes, how does that fit into all of this?'
The Doctor placed his palm on the glass the snatched it back crying out in pain.
'Doctor, are you all right?' Mina asked.
'Yes, I'll be fine,' the Doctor gasped, nursing his hand. 'It just took my skin off, that's all.'
He peered closer to the window.
'Look!' he instructed.
Even as they watched, ice was forming on the glass, a thick blue sheet that obscured what little view of the outside world they had had.
'If only McMenemy had let me evacuate the house when we had the chance,' the Doctor complained. 'I should have been stronger, should have forced his hand.'
'Doctor, it's not your fault.'
The Doctor whirled.
'Mina, people are going to die if I don't do something and I'm no closer to solving this than I was when I arrived.'
There was a loud crack as the window-pane shattered.
'Quickly, we need to get everyone together,' the Doctor ordered. 'The library should do; it faces the sea. You find the children, I'll fetch Miranda. Hurry! We're running out of time.'
* * *
Sarah looked up as the Doctor bounded into the room. Ice had formed on the window and frost had forced its way in through the broken glass, creeping outwards in a web-like pattern and eating away at the wallpaper.
'We have to get out of here,' the Doctor told her. 'Do we have any spare blankets?'
'Under the bed,' Sarah told him.
The Doctor got down on his hands and knees and began to haul them out.
'What's going on, Doctor?' Miranda asked.
'We're all going to move to the library. We'll be safer in a group.' He scooped up the blankets and dropped the pile into Sarah's arms. 'Here, you take these.'
'But, I can't leave the room, Doctor,' Miranda insisted. 'I'm trapped here.'
'You'll be fine once we reach the library,' the Doctor insisted.
'But how am I going to get there?' Miranda asked. 'I'll collapse as soon as I leave the room.'
'I'll carry you,' the Doctor said. 'You won't feel a thing.'
He reached over and put a hand on her neck, pinching a nerve. She collapsed unconscious into his arms.
'Come along, Sarah,' the Doctor said as he lifted Miranda off of the bed. 'The others will be waiting for us.'
* * *
Mina met the Doctor on the stairs. She had Lisabeth in her arms. Mrs Gregory was following, leading Richard by the hand.
Mina noticed Miranda.
'Is she all right?' she asked.
'I put her to sleep,' the Doctor explained. 'She'll wake up soon, but I thought this would be less painful for her.'
She wrinkled her nose.
'Doctor, do you smell smoke?' she asked.
'Oh no,' the Doctor breathed. 'It's coming from the library. Come on!'
They met Stewart McMenemy and his father at the entrance to the library.
'What's going on?' Stewart demanded.
'Nothing good,' the Doctor told him. 'Look after her.'
He forced Miranda into her husband's arms then bounded into the room.
The smoke made his eyes water and he pulled a silk handkerchief from his waistcoat pocket to shield his mouth and nose. He squinted to see through the blazing light.
Christopher threw another book into the makeshift bonfire.
'What in God's name do you think you are doing?' McMenemy roared to his son.
Christopher laughed, his voice cracking as he did so.
'What you should have done all along, father,' he said. 'I'm keeping us warm. Saving all our lives.'
'You're mad, Christopher,' McMenemy said. 'You'll kill us all.'
Flames from the fire were already lapping at one of the bookcases.
'That may not be the best way to handle this,' the Doctor said. 'Why don't you let me talk to him, hm?'
He stepped forward.
'Stay back!' Christopher ordered, brandishing his knife. 'You and your whore, you're the cause of this.'
'You don't like women much, do you, Mr McMenemy?' Mina asked.
She had left Lisabeth in the doorway with Mrs Gregory.
'Mina,' the Doctor said, not taking his eyes from Christopher, 'leave this to me.'
'I'm not going to let you face him alone,' Mina responded. 'We're in this together, remember?'
The Doctor shook his head and allowed himself a small smile.
'Whatever happened to the simpering girls I used to associate with?' he bemoaned. 'Very well, you circle left and I'll go right. He can't follow both of us.' He raised his voice. 'So, Christopher, is Mina right? Do you have a problem with women?'
'Oh, I've got no problem, Doctor,' Christopher laughed, 'not with a real woman who knows her place. But these witches, they turn a man's mind inside out. They take him, suck him dry and then discard the empty shell. Well, I won't let them.'
'Of course not,' the Doctor agreed, keeping his voice soft. 'And how do you plan to stop them? You can tell me, can't you? We men have to stick together after all.'
Christopher had his back to Mina as she crept closer.
'How very true, Doctor,' Christopher agreed. 'But even the best of men can be bewitched, just as you have been. But have no fear, I shall save you.'
'And how do you intend to do that?' the Doctor asked.
'By killing the bitch that's got her claws into you!'
Christopher spun round, grabbed hold of Mina and raised the knife to her throat.
'Wait. Wait!' the Doctor shouted. 'You don't have to do this!'
'I'm trying to save your soul,' Christopher pleaded. His voice sounded high and whining, like a child's.
'It doesn't need saving,' the Doctor insisted. 'Mina hasn't bewitched me. You don't have to hurt her. Now why don't you let her go and we can talk about this. Rationally.'
'Prove it to me,' Christopher said.
'Prove to me that she hasn't got to you.'
'Very well,' the Doctor agreed hastily. 'And, ah, how exactly do I do that?'
'Take my knife and slit her throat yourself.'
The Doctor swallowed.
'All right then,' he breathed, edging closer. 'But first you have to give me the knife.'
He held out his hand.
'Doctor, watch out!' Mina cried.
Christopher lunged for him.
The Doctor turned to one side, but he felt the cold blade against his flesh.
Christopher bowled into him and they careered over the reading table and onto the floor.
They rolled apart.
Mina raced over to the Doctor. His shirt and waistcoat were soaked with blood.
'Don't worry about me,' the Doctor insisted, sitting up. 'It's Christopher's blood.' He touched his side and winced. 'Well, mostly anyway.'
'McMenemy,' he shouted, 'we need to get this fire out!'
The flames had crawled up the bookcase and were now licking at the beams criss-crossing the ceiling.
'But my son?' McMenemy said.
'I'll look after him,' the Doctor insisted, 'but I need you to look after everyone else.'
'Come along, Stewart, there's work to be done.'
'The books,' Stewart breathed, horrified.
'Come on!' McMenemy had to drag his son from the room.
The Doctor crawled to Christopher's prone body.
'The knife must have hit an artery,' he said, his words spilling out in a rush. 'He's losing a lot of blood. Mina, I need some help here.'
Mina just stood and stared. The red-black blood was pooling into the carpet next to Christopher. The dark sticky stain was spreading as she watched, reaching out to grasp hold of her. She could smell it, taste the iron on the back of her throat.
'I...I can't,' she stammered.
'Mina,' the Doctor snapped. He turned. 'I'm sorry. Go and look after the children. I'll manage.'
Mina breathed a sigh of relief and hurried away.
The Doctor removed his waistcoat and began to tear it into strips in order to bind the wound.
'Remind me to pay my tailor a visit when we're done here,' he muttered. 'At least the cold should slow any infection.'
He opened Christopher's night-shirt and began to tie the strips around the man's abdomen, pulling them as tight as he dared. The paisley pattern was already obscured by the dark stain.
'Just hang in there,' he whispered to Christopher. 'It'll all be over soon, one way or another.'
He turned his head.
'Sarah!' he shouted. 'I need those blankets.'
Sarah hurried over. She averted her eyes from the body.
'I'm sorry,' the Doctor said. 'I should have warned you about the blood.'
'I-it's not that, sir,' Sarah said. 'It's just '
'Ah,' the Doctor said, hastily adjusting Christopher's night-clothes so that he was more decently covered. 'Better?'
'Thank you, sir.'
The Doctor covered Christopher with one of the blankets and used another to prop up his head.
'Share out the rest of these blankets among everyone else, Sarah,' the Doctor instructed. 'We'll need them to keep warm.'
Stewart and his father were hurling buckets of water over the flames and already seemed to have the fire under control. Mina and Mrs Gregory were sitting on the floor talking softly with the children. Mina was trying to distract their attention away from their uncle.
'Richard,' she began, 'you said there was a book of monsters in here somewhere. Could you show me where?'
'There it is, up on the top shelf.'
The little boy pointed and Mina got to her feet.
'This one?' she asked.
She took the book and sat back down.
'So,' she said, 'which of these is your favourite?'
Richard opened the book to a well-thumbed page and Mina leaned in for a closer look. As she read, her eyes went wide.
Miranda was sitting in an armchair by the door. She was beginning to wake.
'Oh, my head,' she wailed. 'Get me out of here, I must get out.'
The Doctor rushed to the window and threw open the curtains.
'Look out there,' he shouted. 'Feel the wind on your cheeks, taste the salt spray on your tongue. It's the sea, isn't it? That's what calls to you.'
Miranda's fit began to subside.
'Yes, it's all starting to make sense,' the Doctor murmured to himself. He stared through the glass. 'Oh no. Not now, it's too soon.'
A blue light was approaching the house.
The Doctor reached Stewart in three strides.
'You know what's going on, don't you?' he demanded. 'Look! Look out there. See what you've brought here! You can stop all this.'
'I won't let it take her,' Stewart said.
'It's not as if you have a choice,' the Doctor snapped.
'I will not give her up,' Stewart shot back.
'What is she, some kind of property?' the Doctor asked. 'A toy?'
'She's my wife!' Stewart shouted. 'Mine!'
'I pray your stubbornness doesn't get you all killed,' the Doctor said and turned away.
'I'm going outside,' the Doctor announced to them all. 'I'm going to talk to that thing. Maybe it will listen to reason.' He fixed his eyes on Stewart. 'I very much doubt it.'
Mina got to her feet.
'Doctor, I '
The Doctor put a finger to her lips.
'Hush, now. This is something I have to do.'
'But, Doctor,' Mina persisted. 'I know what's going on.'
The Doctor smiled sadly.
'It's too late now,' he said. 'We're out of time. You're near enough to your own time that you shouldn't have too much trouble adapting. The TARDIS key is in my coat pocket. Your welcome to anything in there.' He took Mina's chin in his hand and kissed her lightly on the cheek.
'I wish I'd had more time to get to know you,' he said. 'Stay safe.'
He walked from the room, closing the door behind him.
* * *
He stepped out on to the drive.
He held his hand in front of his face and watched it turn first red and then blue as the cold bit into him. His breath came out in harsh, ragged gasps as the water vapour froze before it left his mouth.
'Come out where I can see you,' he wheezed. He rubbed his hands together, but was unable to generate any warmth.
The blue light in front of him began to coalesce into a figure. She was an old woman, a head shorter than the Doctor. Her skin was blue and deeply lined and her white hair clung to her head in short curls. She was dressed in plaid and carried a twisted wooden staff.
'The Cailleach Bheur,' the Doctor rasped. He choked as the words tore at his throat. 'The spirit of w-winter. Forgive me, but I thought you were a myth.'
'Some people say the same about you,' the Cailleach Bheur responded in a voice like crushed ice.
'We should b-both know better than to believe what other p-people say,' the Doctor commented. He had stuffed his bare hands beneath his armpits and was jogging on the spot. 'Why are you here?'
The Cailleach sat down on the steps leading up to the house. She rapped on the door with the end of her staff.
'One of my kind is being held in there against her will,' she explained. 'I have come for justice.'
'By unleashing the full f-force of winter against this family?' the Doctor asked. 'You'll k-kill them.'
'They would kill the fey they found,' the Cailleach replied. 'How is this any different?'
'These people are under my p-p-protection,' the Doctor informed her.
'How unfortunate for you,' the Cailleach said.
'I offer my own life in exchange f-for theirs,' the Doctor continued.
'Their crimes are not your crimes,' the Cailleach answered.
'N-nonetheless, I am p-prepared to suffer for them, if you will let the others g-go.'
The Cailleach Bheur considered.
'I have never killed an elemental before,' she said. 'I am not sure if such a thing is even possible.'
'Let's f-find out,' the Doctor snarled.
* * *
'You could save him,' Mina said.
Stewart had his back to her and, while he showed no reaction to her words, she knew that he could hear her.
'You know what your wife is,' Mina continued. 'She doesn't belong here, but she's trapped unless you release her.'
Stewart said nothing.
'The Doctor has gone out there to die for you,' Mina snapped. 'Doesn't that mean anything to you?'
Stewart sat down and buried his face in his hands.
'I can't let her go,' he sobbed. 'I love her. If I let her go I'll never see her again. Don't you understand?'
'I understand that you're not going to do anything to help the man risking his life for you,' Mina replied angrily.
She stalked back over to the children.
'Richard,' she said, 'do you remember telling me that Daddy locks all of the dangerous things where you can't get at them.'
'Yes, he keeps them in a box in his room,' Richard replied.
'I need you to show me,' Mina said, taking the boy's hand in hers. 'Will you do that for me? It's very important.'
Richard looked to his father for advice, but he was too wrapped up in his own grief to notice.
Lisabeth tugged on Mina's skirt.
'Help Mummy?' she asked.
'Yes, Lisabeth, it will help your Mummy,' Mina promised.
'Follow me,' Richard said.
* * *
The skin was peeling off of the Doctor's hands and face. The blood on his shirt had frozen solid and was cracking and falling to the ground in lumps. He had screwed his eyes shut, but he could still feel the stabbing pain as the moisture in his eyes became crystals of ice. He fell to his knees, hoping that if he curled up into a foetal ball he might be able to conserve some body heat, but there was none left to conserve. One by one, his systems were shutting down.
He bit down on his lip to prevent himself from crying out and the droplet of blood froze as soon as it escaped the wound.
Please, let it be over soon, he silently begged.
* * *
Richard led Mina to a wooden chest at the foot of his father's bed. It was sealed by a heavy padlock.
'Where does Daddy keep the key?' Mina asked.
Mina began to search the room, opening wardrobes and drawers and scattering their contents wildly as she searched for the key. Finally, she was forced to accept that it was not here.
She collapsed to her knees, resting her head on the chest. Tears formed behind her closed eyes. She was so close. She could almost touch it, but she was just too far away to save the Doctor.
She reached into the pockets of the Doctor's coat and withdrew a heavy metal cylinder. She tried to remember how the Doctor had used this.
'Stand back,' she instructed Richard. There was no telling what she, in her ignorance, might make it do.
She held in at arm's length, pointing at the lock. Closing her eyes, she gave it a twist.
There was a high-pitched screeching sound, followed by a click and a thunk as something heavy hit the floor.
Mina risked opening one eye.
The padlock had opened and fallen off.
She let out the breath she had been holding and threw open the chest.
There, resting on top of everything else was the item she had been looking for. It was a silver-grey shawl, smooth, like skin, and warm to the touch.
Mina took it and left the room at a run.
* * *
The Doctor lay on his side in the gravel drive, frost sealing his eyes closed and decorating his blue-rimmed mouth.
He could no longer be bothered to fight for breath. The synapses in his brain had frozen and coherent thought had fled.
He was ready to let go.
'I'm coming,' he whispered as he released his last breath.
The Doctor recognised the voice.
'M-mina,' he stammered. 'Go back. N-not safe.'
'I've brought someone to see you,' Mina continued.
The cold suddenly lifted from the Doctor and he weakly brushed the frost from his eyes, gently easing them open.
Miranda was standing on the steps next to Mina, the shawl about her shoulders.
'She is free to go,' Mina continued, 'so you can leave this place in peace.'
'These people still deserve to pay for their crimes,' the Cailleach Bheur insisted.
'I think you've already done enough damage,' Mina retorted, indicating the broken body of the Doctor.
'Perhaps,' the Cailleach agreed.
The storm suddenly ceased and the wind whipped away both the clouds and the fog before driving away itself.
In the moonlight, the Doctor could make out a narrow path leading down to the sea. As if in a trance, Miranda set off down it. The Cailleach followed her, shuffling along supported by her staff.
Mina helped the Doctor to his feet.
'Lean on me,' she whispered as she helped him follow the procession down to the stony beach.
Miranda was already waist-deep in the water by the time they arrived.
She turned back, looking to Mina for support.
'Go on,' Mina mouthed to her.
Miranda wrapped the shawl around her and it seemed to expand, coating her like a second skin. Her body appeared to collapse in on itself and her limbs shrunk as the shawl engulfed them.
The seal dived beneath the water, bobbing to the surface some feet away, its child-like eyes fixed on Mina. Then it turned and disappeared into the surf.
'A Selkie,' the Doctor whispered. 'I've always wanted to see one of those.'
'The children have a book about fairies back at the house,' Mina explained. 'That's how I worked it out.'
'Thank goodness for people who like their children to read,' the Doctor said.
'My sister is free at last,' the Cailleach pronounced. 'Out of respect to the Doctor, I shall take no further vengeance against those people that imprisoned her.'
'How very generous of you,' Mina snapped. 'And what about those two children who have just lost their mother?'
'I shall watch over them,' the Cailleach promised.
'I don't think much of the 'care' you've shown so far,' Mina commented.
'Mina ' the Doctor warned.
'You would rather leave her in the care of men?' the Cailleach asked.
'I think you'll find we're worth more than you credit,' Mina shot back.
'We?' The Cailleach laughed. 'I like you, child. You are a creature with many facets. If you were to stop denying your true nature, who knows what you might achieve. Farewell, child. Doctor.'
The Cailleach lost substance, returning to its state of blue light which rose up into the sky and disappeared.
'Do you feel up to returning to the house?' Mina asked the Doctor.
'Do you mind if I just rest hear for a moment?' he said , sitting on the rocks. He stared out across the see and then back across the hills towards the approaching dawn.
'You know,' he began, 'I think it's going to be a beautiful day.'
* * *
They sat in silence for several hours while the dawn light spread to fill the sky. Finally, the Doctor indicated that he was ready to climb back up the hill and he and Mina got to their feet.
'Look over there,' Mina suggested.
Stewart McMenemy was standing at the top of the hill, looking out to sea. His children sat at his feet.
The Doctor stopped to watch.
'Dont tell me you feel sorry for him?' Mina remarked.
The Doctor shrugged.
'Maybe a little,' he admitted. 'He really loved her, you know. Maybe he loved her too much.'
'He kept her prisoner,' Mina said.
'He was frightened of losing her,' the Doctor replied. 'It may not be right, but it is understandable. I understand him.'
Their discussion was curtailed by footsteps approaching them from behind.
Miranda, in human form, was standing behind them. She was dripping wet and, other than the shawl across her shoulders, she was quite naked.
'Here, you'll catch your death of cold,' Mina said, removing the Doctor's coat and helping Miranda to put it on. She turned to the Doctor. 'You, er, don't mind, do you?'
The Doctor smiled.
'No,' he said, indicating his tattered shirt. 'I'm going to need a new outfit anyway.'
'I just wanted to thank you,' Miranda said. 'Both of you.'
'You're welcome,' the Doctor said.
'Take care,' Mina said, embracing the other woman.
'You too, Mina, you too.'
'And now there's someone I need to talk to,' Miranda said when the women had released one another. 'Goodbye, Mina. Doctor. Good luck.'
'You too,' Mina whispered as Miranda started up the hill towards her husband.
Stewart opened his arms to embrace her, but Miranda ignored him, lavishing her attentions upon her children instead.
The Doctor was smiling again.
'You knew she would come back, didn't you,' Mina said.
'She wouldn't leave her children,' the Doctor replied. 'And I think, in spite of everything, part of her still loves him, but it will take them both some time to heal. And he's got to learn that he can let her go without losing her.'
'What's the matter?' the Doctor asked. 'Don't you believe in happy endings.'
He put an arm around her shoulders.
'Come on, the TARDIS is this way,' he said. 'Let's see if we can't find somewhere safer for our next stop.'
'I'd settle for somewhere warmer,' Mina replied and, leaning on each other, the Doctor and Mina left the house far behind.