Meanwhile, the Fourth and Eighth Doctors begin their sword-fighting act...

The fourth Doctor walked out, the lights reflecting off the beaming grin on his face. He looked rather ungainly, with his big coat, scarf and floppy hat, but looks can be deceiving. He held up his epee, there was a small cocktail sausage on the end, which he quickly removed and threw into his mouth.

The eighth Doctor entered, the light shining of his velvet coat, which was blue tonight. He quickly picked a marshmallow from the end of his epee, hoping nobody had noticed...

They both looked up and cheekily saluted the Gods Of Ragnarok, before taking their places under the spotlights. The fourth Doctor continued smiling at the audience.

"Ahem, when you're quite ready?" the eighth Doctor said quietly.

The fourth Doctor spun around, his scarf sweeping along the floor, sending a cloud of sawdust scattering across the ring.

"En garde!"

The fourth Doctor thrust forward, the eighth deflected the attack with a quick flick of his wrist.

The fourth stood back and gave the first of the traditional insults...

"Soon youŽll be wearing my sword like a shish kebab!"

The eighth raised an eyebrow. "First you better stop waving it like a feather-duster."

He quickly feinted, before making an attack, but the fourth Doctor managed to sidestep it.

The fourth Doctor parried. "I once owned a dog that was smarter then you."

"He must have taught you everything you know."

The fourth Doctor looked slightly hurt by this, the look on his face distracted the eighth long enough for the fourth to surreptitiously loop his scarf around one of the eighth's feet.

As he retreated, the eighth Doctor moved forward and tripped over the scarf, falling flat on his face and sending a large cloud of dust up into the air.

Fourth chuckled. "YouŽre no match for my brains, you poor fool."

A muffled voice replied from the cloud of dust. "IŽd be in real trouble if you ever used them."

Eight picked himself up from the floor, trying to brush the sawdust off of his coat with his hands and failing. "You have the manners of a beggar." he muttered.

Fourth stood back, shrugging. "I wanted to make sure youŽd feel comfortable with me."

"En garde!" cried the more recent incarnation.

"Well, alright then..."

Both Doctors made their way around the ring, exchanging flurries, attacks, parries and ripostes. They seemed so evenly matched, could there actually be a winner?

The audience "ooooh"ed, the audience "aaaaaah"ed.

The fourth Doctor suddenly smiled. "You are wonderful!"

The eighth Doctor looked slightly taken aback at this. "Thank you. I've worked hard to become so."

"I admit it, you are better than I am."

The eighth Doctor looked puzzled. "Then why are you smiling?" he asked.

The fourth Doctor's grin actually managed to get even wider. "Because I know something you don't know."

"And what is that?"

The fourth Doctor threw his epee into the air and caught it with his other hand. "I am not left-handed!"

He lunged forward with a rapid series of lunges and flicks, almost but not quite managing to place the point of his blade on his future-self's body.

The eighth Doctor stood back for a second, overwhelmed. "You're amazing!" he exclaimed.

"I ought to be after seven hundred and fifty years." the fourth Doctor grinned.

The eighth Doctor caught his breath. "There's something I ought to tell you."


The eighth doctor smiled disarmingly. "I'm not left-handed either."

He suddenly switched hands and deflected his past-self's attacks with a fluid set of parries before managing a couple of ripostes.

The audience cheered.

The fourth Doctor retreated, until he got to one of the large poles leading to the trapezes / tightropes. He started climbing up the ladder. The eighth Doctor followed, being careful not to poke his epee anywhere sensitive.

As he got to the top, the fourth Doctor started making his way along the tightrope, holding his arms out for balance. As he teetered along, he aimed a big cheeky grin towards the Gods of Ragnarok. "Having fun?" he asked cheerily.

They edged along the tightrope, maintaining perfect balance all the way.

Fourth suddenly looped his scarf around one of the cables leading from the pole to the floor and slid down to the floor, holding his epee between his teeth.

The eighth Doctor looked around, lacking a scarf he needed some other way to get back to the ground. Suddenly he saw it, he jumped, grabbing hold of the chandelier and using it to swing across the ring, landing on the stairs in amongst the audience.

The audience as one stood up and applauded.

"Where did that chandelier come from?" Barry asked Igor.

"Shut up and eat your candy floss."

"How did the bit holding it up change length so he could get to the ground?"

Igor stuck a toffee apple into Barry's mouth. "Shut it."

The eighth Doctor ran down the stairs, leaping over the ring edge to land right in front of the fourth. "Give up yet?"

"Of course not, I'm having far too much fun!" the fourth beamed.

"Glad to hear it." said the eighth breathlessly.

"Fancy a pint?" asked the fourth.


As the eighth Doctor was distracted by the question, the fourth moved in quickly and managed to touch the eighth's waistcoat with the tip of his epee.

The eighth Doctor looked down. "Curses. Foiled again..." he smiled.

There was a small chorus of laughter from the audience, but they sounded slightly disappointed. This wasn't the exciting end to the act they had been expecting.

A voice came down from the trapezes and tightropes. "My dear Doctors, why don't you let a true master of the blade show them how it's done?"

A figure swooped down on a rope, cape flowing behind him. He somersaulted from the rope and landed in between the two Doctors. He turned to the audience and bowed.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Count Grendel at your service!"

Backstage, Gordon looked at the bit of paper that had arrived in the shape of a paper aeroplane, with the message promising help. He smiled to himself.

The Count turned to the Doctors, "And this time, I shall not be as lenient!" he smiled as he brought up an epee in each hand.

The Doctors both raised their own blades, ready for battle.

The fourth doctor attacked first, but Grendel nonchalantly parried. The eighth then tried, but he too was held off by the Count's efficient movements.

For a couple of minutes, they took it in turns to lunge, feint and thrust, but every attack was parried or deflected. The Count smiled, he was clearly enjoying himself.

The Doctors stood back for a second, looked at each other and both attacked at once. But still they could not get through the Count's masterful defence. He dodged and feinted and parried every one of the Doctors' attacks. Holding his own against both Time Lords.

Someone in the audience cheered. Then another. Another. All cheering for the Count. Willing him to win.

Then he gave his riposte. Both Doctors were surprised, they had to fight to defend themselves. His fluid, rapid attacks caught them almost unawares. Both men retreated, allowing the Count to advance, to switch from defence to offence.

Both Doctors started smiling, they may have looked like they were on the verge of losing, but they were enjoying themselves too much to be worried by it anymore.

The audience cheered the mastery of the blades shown by all three men as they circled the ring, Count Grendel pushing his advantage, waiting for that moment when one or both Time Lords would make the slightest error, allowing him the chance of victory.

The Doctors once again moved either side of the Count, but it was still no good, Grendel still held them both at bay, if you were close enough, you could see the twinkle in his eye.

The count spun round and caught both Doctors' swords with his own blades. He twisted and flung his arms up, disarming both Doctors at once. He simultaneously touched them both, just over their left-hand hearts with the tips of his blades. "I think you both get the point, yes?" he laughed.

The audience stood up as one and applauded the Count, cheering at the magnificent display he had given.

The Count put his epees back on his belt and walked forward to acknowledge the applause.

"Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen, for your appreciation, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the show."

He smiled at the Doctors, "And please give your appreciation for my valiant opponent, twice over, the Doctor!"

The audience once again applauded.

Count Grendel turned to his opponents, "Doctor, and Doctor, shall we retire to the beer tent for a....pint?" he grinned. The Doctors laughed and they walked backstage together, the audience's appreciation still ringing in their ears.

Our ringmaster applauded and cheered with the rest of them. But something was nagging at the back of her mind. Why hadn't the Gods reacted? Since the circus had begun, they'd been a seething force of hatred and anger, attacking the pro-fun side at every turn. But ever since the fortuneteller act, it was as if they were all ... asleep, as still as stones -- icons that had been long forgotten. Why? Was it simply that they had turned smug, since the Powers That Be ruled in their favor? Did they believe that they had already won (and if so, why)? Or was there something else?

And in what twisted way would they answer the Doctors' glorious performance?

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Story by members of rec.arts.drwho / HTML layout by Igenlode Wordsmith, modified by Imran Inayat
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