The Witch from the Well (audio story)

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The Witch from the Well was the one hundred and fifty-fourth story in Big Finish's monthly range. It was written by Rick Briggs and featured Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and Julie Cox as Mary Shelley.

Publishers summary[[edit]]

A shrieking, killing nightmare erupts from an overgrown well, hidden in the grounds of an old house, Tranchard's Folly — and Mary Shelley, the Doctor's latest travelling companion, rescues teenage twins Finicia and Lucern from the clutches of the monster.

But a TARDIS trip in search of the origin of the horror goes terribly wrong when the Doctor, Mary and their two new friends find themselves stuck in the middle of a seventeenth century witch scare.

While the Doctor investigates the strange lights at Vetter's Tor, and the twins go in search of an artefact from the Hecatrix Dimension, Mary confronts the secrets of her past...and her future. The truth will out: Master Kincaid, the terrible Witch-Pricker himself, commands it!


Part 1[[edit]]

Labourers find an overgrown well near Tranchard's Folly, the house of Aleister Portillon, the 13th Earl of Whetstone. When they remove the heavy stone covering the well, a witch emerges from it and attacks them. The Earl himself has to pretend to be dead to escape the witch's clutches.

Two teenagers, Lucern and Finicia, observe this from a hidden place. They have been waiting for something but still were not ready for what has happened. Thinking the Earl dead, they check his pockets searching for something when the witch attacks again.

They are saved from the witch by the intervention of Mary Shelley who leads them to the TARDIS and introduces them to the Doctor, who is puzzling over the reason for the TARDIS to bring them here. Despite her impressive claw-like nails, the witch cannot enter the TARDIS.

The twins, who introduce themselves as the children of the Earl, seem unimpressed by being in a time machine that is bigger on the inside. Indeed, Finicia is surprised the Doctor did not recognise them but quickly drops the matter.

The Doctor decides to investigate the origins of the witch and finds a historical account in the TARDIS's library of a witch scare in the 17th century in the village Tranchard's Folly, after which the current house is named. Moreover, it turns out that 6 months before the nasty business with the witch, a Varaxil ship was lost in the Solar system. It seems plausible that the villagers mistook the Varaxil from this ship for a witch. The Doctor decides to go help the Varaxil, taking the twins with him. As the TARDIS dematerialises, the witch calls the Doctor by the name.

When the TARDIS materialises in the 17th century, Finicia starts showing interest in its operations and whether it can be operated without the Doctor. He explains that it can, for instance the fast return switch should bring the TARDIS to its previous position via sequential regression. However, this has just malfunctioned by bringing them to Tranchard's Folly.

The TARDIS has materialised some way away from the village. On the way there, they find an abandoned barn that is locked, seemingly for no good reason. The twins do not seem comfortable in the 17th century, so the Doctor sends them with Mary to the village church instructing them to wait for him. He intends to ask the locals about the crashed ship.

What he finds in the middle of the village is a mob throwing fruit at a tied woman. The woman is the village healer and midwife, called Agnes Bates. She's held most of the village in her arms as babes and saved many of them from deceases such as pox. But the folk accuses her of consorting with the devil on the account of her visions. It soon turns out that she does have a gift when she call the Doctor "the Lord of Time" and talks about "silver ships". The Doctor is upset even more when he learns that the village squire has called a Parliament's Witch-Pricker, Master John Kincaid from Lincoln, to investigate the accusations. Unlike the Doctor, his source of information, Beatrix Butcher is quite happy about it all and is looking forward to the trial and execution. She also inquires about the twins who remind her of the squire's younglings.

In the church, instead of Mary and the twins, the Doctor finds the squire, Claude Portillon, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the 21st century earl, clearly his descendant. The squire is praying, unsure whether it was the right decision to invite the Witch-Pricker, who is at that very moment arriving at the village.

The squire is quite different from the superstitious village folk. He takes the Doctor to the locked barn and shows five bodies inside, human bodies that are unnaturally turned into grey unrecognisable husks. Two of them belong to the barn's owner and his wife, one to the parish priest, and the other two are probably itinerants.

The Doctor suspects a connection to the Varaxils and learns that last spring there were fires above Vetter's Tor, not very far from the village. As the squire tries to point the Doctor in the direction of the tor, he is clubbed unconscious by Lucern. It turns out that the twins forced Mary to flee the church at the first appearance of the squire. They tried to reach the TARDIS, but were stopped by the Witch-Pricker's men establishing a cordon around the village. In fact, the soldiers tracked them to the barn. The Doctor distracts the soldiers by running through the barley fields, giving Mary, Lucern and Finicia a chance to reach the TARDIS, promising to meet them there after nightfall.

Indeed, late after sunset he also reaches the TARDIS and let the worried Mary know about his presence. As she walks inside to get secateurs and free him from the brambles, Lucern sends the TARDIS back to the 21st century, unconvincingly pretending this to be an accident.

Part 2[[edit]]

Back in the 21st century, the twins ignore Mary's protests and leave the TARDIS. They search for the WitchStar, trying not to get in the way of the witch. Finally, they find the WitchStar in a locked drawer in Aleister Portillon's study.

Mary, unable to operate the TARDIS, manages to at least open the doors and bumps into Aleister. They manage to get into the house, but not without difficulty. There are strange invisible force fields blocking their way, which already cost Janek, the head of the labourers, his life. Aleister finds that neither the Internet nor phones are working. He asks Mary whether she has a mobile, to which she answers in the negative, without skipping a bit. They also discover the theft of the family heirloom, which Aleister calls the Witch's Star. Mary is also surprised to learn that the earl has no children and is not even married. On top of everything, Aleister turns out to be a fan of Byron and has an extensive library about him and his contemporaries, including Mary herself.

When Mary and Aleister see the witch caught in one of those force fields, Mary guesses that these were intended as a trap for the witch, set exactly where Aleister kept his Witch's Star.

Meanwhile, in the 17th century, the Doctor returns to the village and engages the services of Beatrix Butcher to show him the way to Vetter's Tor. He promises her galdrium in return, an alien mineral from Tridentio III, which shines in the dark. On Vetter's Tor, they find an entrance to the Varaxil ship, but something does not add up. The Doctor knows that Varaxil science was based on Odic energy, energy whose existence contradicts all laws of the Universe, for which Varaxils were branded as heretics all across the galaxy. However, this particular Varaxil ship is full of Lokic devices, which are incompatible with Odic energy and can cause significant damage when brought into contact with it. He also finds an imprisoned flux imp with horns and hooves, which sends Beatrix into a superstitious hysterics. When the Doctor asks her to help him save the imp, she takes off and runs directly to the village intending to report the Doctor to the Witch-Pricker.

At first, the Witch-Pricker's men do not believe her, but Finicia persuades them. The Doctor returns to warn the squire about the alien menace hanging over the village. He found a transmutation matrix in the ship, meaning that the Varaxil pilot can look like human and be anyone in the village. The only silver lining is that the matrix was damaged and cannot be used to change appearance again. Just as Claude Portillon is convinced by the Doctor that he and not the Witch-Pricker can save the village, Finicia brings in Beatrix, who accuses the Doctor of serving the Devil himself, as she saw with her own eyes on Vetter's Tor. The Doctor is immediately sent where Agnes Bates was held all this time. Quite to Beatrix's surprise, she is sent there too, as she has also been tainted by the Devil.

In the prison, Agnes tells the Doctor how she birthed the squire's children, Lucern and Finicia, and how their mother died in childbirth. The village cast Agnes out, angry that she couldn't save the squire's wife, but the squire himself never blamed her. She admits to the Doctor that she has a gift, that she sees things, like his second heart. The Doctor understands that she has high Odic potential. Each species has such gifted individuals.

By now the Doctor has realised that the twins are the Varaxil changelings. As they scan Beatrix with the WitchStar, he advises Agnes to conceal her gift from them by thinking about something mundane, like turnips. The Doctor, on the other hand, shows his hand and offers the Varaxil siblings help if their mission is an agreeable one. However, Finicia abruptly declines his help and promises to ensure that he hangs tomorrow. The Varaxils are afraid that he would uncover their deception.

Part 3[[edit]]

In the 21st century, Mary judges that they need to learn more about Varaxils and their science and takes Aleister to the TARDIS. They find a book about Varaxils, and Aleister recognises his Witch's Star in one of the pictures. They learn that it originates from the Hecatrix Dimension and is used to detect and collect Odic energy. It is unstable in the vicinity of Lokic force fields. When Mary and Aleister return to the house, they find Lucern and Finicia who admit that their mission is to kill the witch using the WitchStar.

In the 17th century, while at the gallows, the Doctor is trying to talk his way out of it by implicating the squire's children, by explaining that they are alien changelings who killed the squire's real children. They counteract and persuade Kincaid to replace gallows with a fiery death. Meanwhile, the Doctor finally guesses that the Varaxils are searching for persons with Odic potential and instructs Agnes to show her gift. The WitchStar picks up on that, and the Varaxils immediately stop the execution by telling the squire that demons made them falsely accuse Agnes and the others (Kincaid has by now left the site of execution). They are, however, too late to save Beatrix.

The Doctor figures out that it was Agnes and not the squire's wife who was the mother of the real twins. But he is still wrong about the Varaxils' mission on Earth. He thinks they came to save people like her with Odic potential, whereas in truth, their sacred mission, the mission of all Varaxils is to find such people to imprison them on Varax Beta, their planet. After being universally scorned by all other races for their heretical science, Varaxils denounced it and vowed to exterminate all Odic energy from the universe. That is why there are so many Lokic containment webs in their ship. They are to serve as temporary prison cells until the Odically-gifted are put in six-mile deep tombs of reinforced tyrillium on Varax Beta.

Now that their ship is damaged, their vows demand them to kill Agnes using the WitchStar. Only the interference of the Witch-Pricker who came to interrogate the twins saves her but causes a malfunction. All the Odic energy from the WitchStar is released along with essences of all its previous victims. Agnes, unable to absorb such a massive energy burst, is engulfed in flames and loses control. She turns into a vicious and deadly creature attacking villagers and Kincaid's soldiers alike and impervious to the latter's muskets and pikes.

Part 4[[edit]]

In the 21st century, the twins are torturing the trapped witch. They are worried that she is disappearing and may again evade them. Remembering the book about the Varaxil technology, Mary and Aleister touch the Lokic containment web with the WitchStar, causing an explosion that kills both Varaxils. The witch fades away in Mary's arms, seemingly at peace.

Seeing an illustration to Mary Godwin's biography from the TARDIS library, Aleister guesses who his chance acquaintance was and promises to switch his focus from Byron to his contemporaries. Mary returns to the TARDIS and presses the fast return switch to join the Doctor in the 17th century.

In the 17th century, the Doctor sees only one way to save the village. He mounts a military expedition to Vetter's Tor to gather Lokic containment webs and catch Agnes Bates-turned-witch in them. John Kincaid volunteers to lead his men. The witch follows them to Vetter's Tor and kills Kincaid during an open confrontation. After that, the Doctor manages to persuade Agnes to voluntarily step into a Lokic containment web. Claude Portillon decides to put her into a well, and the Varaxil siblings persuade the Doctor to carve special runes on the covering stone to keep the witch inside.

Claude Portillon promises not to give the WitchStar to his "children" but refuses to give it to the Doctor either, saying it will be passed down the generations. Varaxils, on the other hand, promise to wait as long as needed until the witch gets out of the well. Varaxils live a long life.

Finally reunited in the 17th century, Mary and the Doctor relate what happened to them. The Doctor, however, has some good news for Mary. The witch buried in the well for 350 years and released by the labourers was not Agnes Bates. The Lokic containment web was reconfigured by the Doctor to separate the Odic energies from Agnes Bates. It was an Odic wave form, an imprint of Agnes Bates and many others, that was imprisoned down the well. Agnes Bates herself continued living in the 17th century, although naturally not in Tranchard's Fell and not having any traces of her gift left. The Doctor only regrets that this gift would not be used by the human race now since she has lost it and her children were murdered.







External links[[edit]]