In the icy wastes of the Murgin Pass, the Doctor and Mike take refuge in a remote lodge alongside Albert Tiermann, storyteller to the king. But the owner's hospitality is repaid with a grisly attack, and suddenly death is amongst the small party.
What is the significance of a book of fairy tales, one of which prophesies the Doctor's encounter with an Ice Queen monster? What long-held secret is Albert Tiermann holding back? And what dark figure stalks the snowy mountainside?
The answers to these questions add up to a terrifying encounter with a strangely familiar foe.
This story is narrated by an incidental character, Albert Tiermann, who is the author and editor of the book of fairy tales which the Doctor received in the church sale bag two episodes ago. He also is the official storyteller for the local king. We open with his narration regarding his starting circumstances, in which he is snowed in at Germany's Murgin Pass in the year 1847; and he is afraid for his life. He has been interrupted in his rushed journey to the palace, where he fears retribution from the king that he has failed; he had been ordered by the king, who is too blind to read, to bring a new story. He is interrupted by the arrival of the TARDIS, bearing the Doctor and Mike Yates. The Doctor shows him the book, which he is unwilling to believe, and offers to help him by telling him new stories for the king. They turn back and find lodging for the night.
They take up temporary residence at a mountain lodge owned and operated by one Frau Herz, and Tiermann goes to bed early. The Doctor and Mike reminisce and bring each other up to speed on the current situation, until the Doctor sees a strange batlike creature out the window; unknown to them, Tiermann eavesdrops on them, and believes the Doctor insane. Plagued with nightmares, he prays for a visit from a woman who visited him in his youth, whom he calls an angel and credits with the seeds of all his stories — and he gets what he asks, when the mysterious Ice Queen visits him. She is aware of the Doctor, but not the book of fairy tales. She claims a debt on Albert, and claims to have worked hard to bring the book into his life... she orders him to keep the Doctor from leaving and pursuing his search. She then vanishes.
At breakfast the next morning, the travellers are still snowed in. Tiermann's footman bursts in and finds that the coachman has been attacked, and is lying in the snow, nearly frozen to death. As they try to save him, the footman says that the coachman had run out of the stable during the night, claiming to see a woman in the snow. Mike suggests it may be the same thing the Doctor saw, but the Doctor is sceptical. Yates and the Doctor believe Tiermann knows more than he is letting on. Tiermann goes to the Doctor's room and searches his coat pockets for the book; he finds a note that says, "Look behind you," and turns around.
The Doctor and Mike confront Albert, having anticipated this move. Albert becomes frantic, and insists he needs the book; the Doctor sends Mike to check on Frau Herz. The Doctor challenges Albert regarding his actions and thoughts; Albert admits that he considers the book, and the legacy it represents, more important than the lives in danger around him. The Doctor hypnotises Albert, and pushes for answers. They argue over the book, and the Doctor insists he will not give it up.
Mike returns, and says that Frau Herz is missing. The kitchen door is wrenched off its hinges; but Herz, outside, is okay. She says that a creature tried to take her, but instead got the footman, Hans, and took him to the mountain. The Doctor orders Mike to fortify the house and takes Albert with him to follow the creature. A trail of blood leads the way; the Doctor comments that Hans is probably dead, and grows angry at Albert's lack of care. The Doctor chides him for consorting with monsters, commenting that sometimes they appear as angels. They hear something go past, possibly the creature. They come upon a cave with a strange green glow inside; the Doctor compares the whole ordeal to a fairy tale.
Inside the cave, they find the Ice Queen, unconscious on a throne. She awakens and is shocked to see them there; but she admits a connection with Albert. He explains his past with her; the Doctor calls her a goblin, and asks what she demanded of Albert in exchange. He explains that she placed a shard of ice in him, preventing him from feeling any love or sympathy for anyone — he only loves his stories. The Doctor calls him her slave, and derides her magic as cheap tricks; he tells Albert that she is the Demon, the monster that killed the others. She accuses Albert of failing in his final task. The Doctor shows him the book, with an illustration of the Ice Queen becoming the Demon, and says that she has manipulated him all his life so as to produce the book, which lured the Doctor here. The Ice Queen confirms it. The Doctor explains that she has had to recharge her energies to maintain her human form; the form he saw outside last night was her true form. She flees the cavern and flies toward the lodge; the Doctor and Albert follow, finding a cache of desiccated bodies along the way. The Doctor tells Albert that the book is a fake — the Demon wrote it, not Albert — and he gives him the book.
They find the lodge in shambles. The Queen dominates the kitchen, transforming into its true form; she has a battered Mike Yates in her arms. Frau Herz is out of commission with the coachman, possibly dead. Albert feels the ice inside him break as the Queen releases him from her control; he is outraged at her actions. The Doctor concludes she wants to take him somewhere; and the room transforms into the dematerialisation chamber with the mosaic floor. Having acquired the Doctor, she releases Mike; the Doctor sends him out. Albert flees the building, taking Frau Herz with him, then looks back and finds it to be a plain box with one door; he slips back and watches as the chamber builds up to dematerialisation. The creature claims that she originates from a place called Sepulchre, which the Doctor denies knowing anything about; she wants him to go there with her. The Doctor darts out the door just as the box dematerialises, leaving the creature howling in fury.
The Doctor and Mike drop off Albert and Frau Herz near the palace. Yates reveals that he picked up a strange item in the lodge, which the Doctor is happy to note is another piece of the spatial geometer. They then receive a message from Mrs Wibbsey, who calls them home, and tells them that the final item in the bag, a 1970s-era comic book, features all three of them — and the message cuts off mid-word. It seems they will be making a side trip to New York.
Albert's narration winds up as he explains that the Doctor asked him never to write down their story — but he had no problem speaking it aloud to the king.
- The Doctor - Tom Baker
- Mike Yates - Richard Franklin
- Albert Tiermann - Samuel West
- Frau Herz - Carole Boyd
- Ice Queen - Jan Francis
- Hans - Tom Lawrence
- Mrs Wibbsey - Susan Jameson
to be added
- The booklet included with this story's CD included a complete version of the painting that's central to the plot and partially shown on the cover.
- Albert Tiermann mentions having a father named Ernest Tiermann. This is a reference to the character Professor Ernest Tiermann from the Tenth Doctor novel Sick Building, also by Paul Magrs.
- This story was recorded at Fitzrovia Post.
- This story was later included in The Nest Cottage Chronicles.
- The Doctor refers to yeti, and narrates a number of stories to Tiermann including:
- Mike told Liz Shaw, Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart and Jo Grant about the adventure with the Hornets. (AUDIO: The Stuff of Nightmares, et al)