The universe was held in the grip of fear. The Daleks and the Time Lords were ripping reality apart in their 'justified' war of hatred, and every other planet and race quaked in fear. Millions of billions refugees fled from the planets near to the conflict, but nowhere was safe from the atrocities that occurred. Species that used to rarely mix were suddenly thrown together as the ripples of conflict spread ever outwards. The once proud Time-Lords had become a cursed race, their name whispered as an insult amongst those who quaked in the shadows cast by the devastation.
No one ever justified their actions as being 'in defence' anymore. At the start many hoped that they would have been able to repel the Daleks and stop their relentless attempts at conquering the universe. But no more, not one voice spoke out in defence of the formerly respected race. All hoped that they would burn for the remainder of eternity in any hell far from the rest of existence.
Ruska was a planet considered far enough away from the conflict to have become a meeting place for numerous wanderers. Although there were few established large settlements, there were enough inhabitants and facilities to attract visitors for refuelling, purchasing supplies or simply as a place to stop whilst fleeing. Deep amongst the wooden hills, far from any civilised settlement, a tavern had been set up for the unsavoury individuals of many species and cultures to gather. The building was far from lavish; but it was warm, dry and safe far from prying eyes, which was all that mattered.
There were many people huddled together in closed groups within the tavern, all avoiding contact with the others but sharing in the solidarity of peace. Many languages were being spoken in a muddle of confusing clicks and syllables, making it almost impossible for one to eavesdrop on another's conversation. But amongst the groups of vocal people, still more sat alone or in silent huddles, drinking their misery.
"I always knew that they were too high and mighty for their own good," a hulking man in worn black clothes muttered to his drink mates as they sat near the furthest corner.
"That is carak, until this war hardly anyone knew if Time Lords were real or not," a shorter but equally worn man replied.
"Ah shut it, you two. Arguing over the past is pointless," the third speaker waved his two-fingered, silver skinned hand at his companions and closed his white eyes in frustration.
"Well we don't exactly have much else to talk about, do we? All you ever hear about is another planet and millions of souls lost as one of the two sides tallies up another 'win'," the first speaker spat.
"You are true there, Stuz, but it would be nice to hear some good news for once. Or at least a more light-hearted topic," the silver man said.
"Didn't you once hear a myth about a Time Lord who was different, Pliriock?" Stuz asked as he stretched his broad shoulders and sat up straight.
"It is only a myth, there was supposed to be one called 'The Doctor'," Pliriock curled his long fingers around his glass, the silver of his skin toning well with the gold of his drink.
If his two friends had not been concentrating so much on the story the three of them may have noticed that a stranger sitting in the dark corner alone suddenly raised his head slightly.
"That doesn't sound like a real name," Stuz scoffed.
"Course it wasn't, but I doubt many of that race have pronounceable names. Besides, according to the myth he wasn't exactly happy with the Time Lords," Pliriock continued before being interrupted again.
"But what kind of a name is 'The Doctor'?" the short man asked.
"I was getting to that, now shut it Besad!" Pliriock snapped. He took another sip of his drink and, with a cautionary glare at his two friends, the man continued.
"The Doctor was said to have been an outcast of his own race, a rebel who refused to sit and watch the evil in the universe continue to march on unchallenged. Hundreds, if not thousands of planets whispered his name and thanked their gods for sending him to their aid. He travelled in a TARDIS in the shape of a blue box and once he landed he never left until the evil of the land had been conquered.
"It is said that Time Lords can live for thousands of years, just sitting and impartially watching the universe turn. But this Time Lord spent most of his lives protecting the innocent and upholding the weak," Pliriock smiled gently at the image he had spun.
As he paused he realised that the majority of the tavern was listening, and that the stranger in the corner had raised his head for the first time in many hours. Feeling self conscious, Pliriock lowered his head and played with his glass.
"Don't stop," a dangerous looking, lightly furred female called across the room, accompanied by a swell of growls in agreement.
"Well, there isn't much more to tell. The story goes that he refused to conform to the expectations of his race, refused to be a serious and respected man. He would pretend to be harmless and mad to lull his enemies into a false sense of security, before unleashing his own brand of revenge upon the hapless people who dared to enslave others. Every time he regenerated he changed a lot to confuse those who tried to follow him, and each face had a new way of outwitting evil ones," Pliriock announced with certainty.
"What happened to him?" someone asked hopefully.
"Why haven't we heard of him in this war?" another voiced.
"I don't know. Perhaps he was part of the war at the start, trying to stop the Daleks and save everyone before things got out of hand. Maybe he was permanently killed, one of the first victims of the war," Pliriock shrugged.
The room was silent for a moment before different people voiced their theories, that gradually became a contest to see who could invent the most glorious and gory death possible at the hands of the Daleks.
"Or maybe he just gave up? What could one man do against so many billion Daleks," the old man finally spoke up.
Everyone was silent for a few moments in surprise. Many present were regulars and knew that the man in question was always at that table, with the same drink of choice in hand. For the past week no one had seen him speak or move, and suddenly he had joined in the debate.
"But no whisper of his actions, throughout the entire War? For a man who always stood up to injustice I doubt he wouldn't try to stop it," Pliriock sounded unconvinced.
"But the Daleks are almost invincible, individually they could be defeated. But a fleet that size? I wouldn't fancy the odds," the man let out a bark of laughter.
"He wouldn't have been alone, he had all the other Time Lords ready to fight and stop the war," Besad said indignant that this heroes honour was being tarnished by a skeptic.
"War is waged by madmen and fools, who is to say that his own people still refused to accept him and his ways? What if he was still rejected and had to fight on his own? Death or defeat would be certain then," although the raspy voice was quiet, everyone in the tavern heard it.
"I would not believe that such a hero would run away from his duty," Stuz spat towards the cynical man who had shattered their dream.
"The Doctor is a legend in hundreds of languages, he is a beacon of hope to the oppressed across the galaxy. I refuse to believe he is dead or defeated. I reckon he is planning something amazing to stop this war," Pliriock said and adjusted his focus from the sad man in the corner.
The conversations turned away from the mythical 'Doctor' and back to more realistic topics. But there were a few who lapsed into silence and were caught with hopeful looks on their faces.
After a few hours Stuz wandered off to the bar to get another round and Besad disappeared outside for a while, leaving Pliriock on his own. He was one of the many who was thinking about the Champion of Time when a voice dragged him back into reality.
"What would you have done, if you were the Doctor?" the stranger in the corner asked.
"How do you mean?" Pliriock studied the man thoroughly now that he had the chance.
"If you were caught between two insane armies, determined to wipe the other out at any cost. What would you do?" the old man asked sincerely.
Pliriock thought for a while as he continued to analyse the man. He was old, but an exact age would be impossible to guess as his face was deceptive. The outfit he wore was hard to place in terms of planet of origin, and almost seemed to be an amalgamation of fashions, cobbled together to be practical not stylish. The boots were worn but still strong, his shirt and jacket hinted at Earth in style but they were too far from there for that to be real. The ammunition belt was empty apart from an odd silver tube that was holstered for easy access. And something about that odd item tugged at a fact in Pliriock's mind.
"Well?" the man rasped.
"Um, I'm not sure," Pliriock stammered. "If neither side would listen to reason then surely it would be my duty to stop the war and save the billions that were innocent and caught in the middle."
"Even if it cost your own life? Or worse still, you are left completely and utterly alone until your life is finally over. Perhaps a thousand years of solitude?" the man's eyes told of an inner turmoil and fear.
"I'm sure you would never be alone, think of all those you saved. Surely on one of those planets there must be some people who would vaguely pass for friends. Isn't it worth it to save their lives? Wouldn't they help you come to terms with whatever you must do?" Pliriock said in a moment of revalation.
"Hmph," the man sat back and became lost in thought.
"I still believe you will do the right thing, Doctor," Pliriock said quietly.
"I'm not the Doctor, not anymore. The Doctor vowed to save and protect. To not be a coward," the man muttered.
"You are being a coward if you run from this choice anymore. You must face your duty, and stop this madness," Pliriock nodded his head to reinforce his words.
Stuz and Besad decided to return at that moment, and Pliriock could have shouted at them to go away. He wanted to talk to the man behind the myth more, to understand what had stayed his hand for so long, to learn why he sat here hiding. But he could not do that without alerting the entire tavern, and the entire planet to the fact that a hated Time Lord was sitting amongst them.
"No more," the gravelly voice cut through their conversation and caused Pliriock to smile as his companions jumped in surprise.
"You've decided?" Pliriock asked, to the confusion of everyone else who had heard the old man speak.
"I have, thank you my friend," the Doctor clapped him on the shoulder and stepped out onto the path outside.
Once clear of the building, and with the eyes of every occupant on him, the Doctor raised his sonic screwdriver and called the TARDIS to him. As it materialised the tavern was filled with confusion and fear, and anger as the quicker witted occupants realised what the man was.
"No more," the Doctor muttered as he stepped inside his TARDIS and shut the door on the crowd behind him.
For possibly the last time in his life, he strode around the console and programmed in the co-ordinates for Gallifrey.
'One warning, then the war ends. I will have no more blood on my hands,' the Doctor thought as the TARDIS slipped out of reality and sped to its new destination.