It was as if the world stood still. A tense and angry silence filled the kitchen punctuated by the quiet sobbing of Saoirse.
Suddenly the taut tableau was shattered by the arrival of Killian.
“Rory!” he cried, “There’s something terrible out there. It’s killed some of the cows, it killed Brutus!” Deirdre gasped, she had known Brutus the huge and somewhat stupid hound, from a puppy. Something had slain him quickly, quietly and completely unnoticed. The skeletal farm hand sneered at her. “It’s real too, not no fairy nor no pixie neither.”
Deirdre, emboldened from recent face-offs with the two, ignored the jibe and she joined her tormentors hurrying across the farmyard. Rory had grabbed the oil lamp, while his partner in crime carried the shotgun, which shook dangerously in his hands. The unlikely trio slid dangerously on the cobbles, coated as they were with blood and worse. If either of the two men noticed Deirdre take it all in her stride, they didn’t let on.
“I locked it in there. Did I tell you it was big? I think it maybe a wolf…” Killian was obviously terrified, his twisted finger pointing towards the barn where the winter stock of logs lay in tumbling heaps. Having rolled the cart across the door he had wedged wood into the spokes to hold it in place. Rory was curt with his friend, “Killian! It’s not a wolf. Large dog maybe, but not a wolf. Whatever it is one blast from my shotgun and its dead, understand?”
Deirdre wasn’t so sure. A large dog could well have caused all the carnage across the farmyard, but not so quickly nor so quietly. Besides the wood store was silent, no snarling or barking. The doors weren’t even shaking. She watched nervously as her father took the shotgun from Killian’s trembling hands and stood back taking aim at the motionless doors. Gingerly the younger man slid the planks from the wheels. Quietly he then stood as far from the doors as possible, whilst still remaining able to reach the cart, and gave an almighty heave.
Immediately the doors sprang open, a slashing mountain of fury leaping out. Moving with terrifying speed its hooked claws decapitated the hapless Killian, whilst enormous jaws ripped flesh from bone.
Deirdre was right this was no large dog. Its muscular, barrel shaped body was coated in oily black scales that glinted with a dark beauty in the lamplight. Six limbs, each ending in four vicious claws, were constantly slashing around in the corpse of the luckless Killian. A serpent-like tail swished menacingly. The creature opened it’s huge, lizard like jaw revealing dagger sharp teeth, beyond them a second mouth with further grinding molars within. Most terrifying of all, however, was that the creature was completely silent. It didn’t growl nor snarl nor howl, nor even pant for breath. It seemed to even absorb noise from around itself. Deirdre had seen such creatures before. It was a Hizzori Hunting Beast and it was lethal.
“Pa, don’t move, don’t make a sound,” Deirdre hissed, years of fear and pain dropping away with concern for her father, “it’s a Hizzori…”
“Deirdre!” Rory cut her off sharply, “This is not one of your fairy stories! This is real. This is a real creature and real creatures die!” With that he took aim at the creature that writhed in the remains of his late friend. “Father! No!” the girl hissed desperately, slowly backing away. Noticing the farmer for the first time the Hunting Beast peered across the cobbles with tiny gimlet eyes. As it pounced Deirdre let out an almighty yell. The sound disoriented its attack, causing it to land short of its prey. Immediately Rory opened fire right into the beast’s face. Perplexed, it tilted its head to one side, and shook itself as if a puppy coming in from the rain. Then, in an oily blur, it tore Rory Curragh apart.
Her foe distracted, Deirdre turned and ran for home dredging memories from her time with the Doctor. She had to remember if she and her mother were to survive. She had recalled that the creatures reacted to sound, that their eyesight was poor and that they were extremely dangerous. But how to defeat it?
She could see the Doctor in her mind’s eye, larger than life and full of confidence. He was mixing chemicals; making something, describing it, condescendingly as something Deirdre would know all about. Soap! That was it! She could hear his booming voice telling her that what he had made was essentially soap. And then she could hear the faint rattling of claws on the cobbles. Immediately she veered to the left, ducking towards the rickety chicken run. Scimitar claws flashed past her, ripping her pinafore and tearing the skin. Frantically she threw open the door on the hens and cast them clucking to their doom.
With the beast temporarily distracted by a frenzy of feathers, the girl, gasping for breath, threw herself through the kitchen door and slammed it solidly behind her. Her mother, eyes wide in terror, was shaking in the middle of the kitchen. “There was a shot?” she stammered, “Killian? Your Father? What happened?”
“Soap,” ordered her daughter, “Where’s the laundry soap?” Stunned Saoirse pointed vaguely towards an enamel basin in the corner. “Thank you. Now go. Go hide in the larder. Don’t make a noise. Please mother. Please.” The words tumbled from Deirdre’s mouth as she hurriedly formulated a plan. Without checking to see if her mother had obeyed, the brave young woman snatched down a hare hanging from the ceiling. With a swift, deft motion she grabbed a knife, slicing open the creature and forcing the bar of soap inside. Jutting her jaw she turned to face the front door and the nightmare outside.
Heralded only by absolute silence a window burst open in a shower of shattered glass, splintered wood and writhing muscle. Had it not been for many months of cheating death while travelling in the Tardis, Deirdre would surely have died. Instead the hooked claws barely scraped her back as she rolled across the flags, rising to face her foe. It reared, sniffing the air and swaying. Deirdre tossed the hare in front of its slathering jaws and instinctively the creature snatched it from the air. An expression of confusion filled its tiny eyes and from deep within came a sound, like boots sucking free from a bog, and the beast exploded. The Curragh kitchen filled with an oily, foul smelling fog that hung in the air for an age.
As the vile mist cleared Deirdre’s mother came into view, eyes redder from more tears. Stood halfway out of the pantry her knuckles were boney white, grasping the handle in terror. “You’re father’s dead,” she stated simply, “Killian too. That thing killed them?”
“Yes,” panted Deirdre, realising that she had been holding her breath and was gasping for air. “But it’s dead now,” she continued, “and we’re safe…”
Both mother and daughters attention was drawn to a red flashing glow. Peering down into the obscene detritus of the beast they could make out a small perfect sphere flashing angrily. “What,” hissed her mother, “is that?”
“That,” boomed a familiar voice from the door, “is a homing beacon. And unless I miss my guess, which I very rarely do, if we don’t destroy it soon we shall have dozens of Hizzori speeding towards the Earth before you can say ‘Hunting Season’.”
Deirdre hardly dared to believe her ears and turned to take in the figure pacing across the kitchen. But there he was, brash colourful coat, shock of curly hair and oozing pomposity. The Doctor stooped down beside his former companion to examine the homing beacon with a smile.
“I really think this should be destroyed as soon as possible,” the Timelord announced. Deirdre stooped down beside him, squinting at the Hizzori technology. “How do we go about that, then?” she asked wracking her brains. The Doctor pondered for a moment before replying.
“This should do it.”
With that he gathered in one of Rory’s disguarded boots and bought it down with a sharp thump on the sphere. It was crushed instantly and the Doctor beamed broadly.
Standing up sharply he turned to face Deirdre’s mother, “Now, you must be Mrs. Curragh. Very pleased to meet you. I’m The Doctor. I’m sure Deirdre had told you all about me.”
Bewildered Saoirse spoke slowly and politely, “So Doctor Hizzori, did this, er, thing, escape from your circus?”
“Circus?” queried the Doctor, ignoring Deirdre’s grin and allusions to his outfit, “Doctor whom? My good woman I can see you need to be told the whole tale. Perhaps over a bowl of that excellent stew simmering on the range?”
Later, sat under the stars, the trio, now with empty bowls and full stomachs, were recounting the evening’s terrors. Deirdre was just finishing her tale, “… which was about when you walked in. So you’ll know the rest. But what I don’t understand is what bought you back in the first place, having dropped me home and all?”
“I’m very glad you asked me that,” began the Doctor with a wink, “Funnily enough back before you met me I had already picked up on the homing beacon and found the Hizzori craft sinking in the peat bog, south of here. The craft and hunter accounted for all I needed was to find the Hunting Beast. However you met up with me and we got entangled in that business with the Fairies, which quite put it out of my mind until I was heading off through the solar system and picked up that signal again.
“So you came back to save us?” enquired Deirdre.
“Good lord no!” exclaimed the Doctor, “I came back to see if you needed a hand saving yourselves. Now Mrs. Curragh, have you any more of that delicious stew?”