- You may be looking for the being.
Publisher's summary Edit
Vicki has a tale to tell.
But where does it start and when does it end?
Lady Cressida has a secret. She keeps it deep in the cisterns below the Temple of Astarte with only one flame for warmth. And it must never get out.
But which comes first?
The Future or the Past?
The Phoenix or the Egg?
The Fire or the Frost?
Or will Time freeze over forever?
Part one Edit
In ancient Carthage, Vicki opens the door of a cellar under the Main Temple and goes down into it, addressing someone living there. She carries a scroll, with the first draft of a story she had a scribe written down for her, and she wants to share it with the dweller of the cellar. It is a story of an adventure she had with the Doctor and Steven, where they landed in London, 1814, during the last Frost Fair.
Vicki had just finished describing London when a voice interrupts her, complaining about the cold. It says that it was cold in London too, and asks for more heat. Vicki ignores it.
In the past, the Doctor, Steven and Vicki go around the Fair. The Doctor is attracted to a poster advertising the presence of a dragon, and is very disappointed when it turns out to be just a circus fire-eater. At that moment, the three strangers are addressed by an Italian charlatan, Ippolito Valzacchi, offering himself as a guide. The three of them turned him down, but he insists, to the point of taking out a sword and threatening Steven. The fight that it could ensue is avoided thanks to the intervention of Sir Joseph Mallard, a gentleman, and his wife Georgiana, who send Valzacchi away and then offer to guide them in his stead. The Doctor accepts. It comes out that Sir Joseph is Deputy Warden of the Royal Mint.
The group comes at the end of the Fair, where a tend stands, property of a sea captain, showing the wonders he allegedly collected on his travels. They go in to see. Most of the stuff is just fake, or rubbish. The captain then goes on to show his greatest treasure, something he acquired in Medina, in Tunis.
In the present, when hearing the name of the place, the mysterious dweller of the cellar laughs. Vicki comments she was sure that would get his attention.
In the past, the captain unveils his treasure: a giant egg, which he calls "the Phoenix's egg", big as a head, with something luminous and cold inside it. As it unveils, the tent gets colder, as if all the heat had been sucked off. As Vicki watches, unable to turn away, the shell of the egg breaks, and an eye lurks from the inside, looking at her and Georgiana. Vicki feels sick and faints, to recover some minutes later, thanks to the intervention of another lady in the crowd: Jane Austen. The egg now is whole again. Vicki tells the Doctor and Steven what happened, and while the latter one dismisses it, the Doctor seems worried. While the Doctor congratulates Jane Austen for the success of her novels, Vicki sees Lady Georgiana insist with her husband to get the captain's egg. Sir Joseph leads her away, followed closely by Valzacchi. Suddenly, the circus fire-eater comes out of the crowd, running, the fire in his mouth now cold, green and violent. Miss Austen knocks him out, but in the confusion, the sea captain is killed and the egg is stolen.
The mysterious interlocutor of Vicki laughs again, irritating her.
The travellers and Jane Austen leave in the latter's hackney carriage; Miss Austen also offers them lodgings at her brother's house, where she is staying during a visit to her publisher. All of them have also been invited, that evening, to Sir Joseph's house for dinner. Vicki is still troubled by what she saw, by the image of the eye in the egg, as if it was...
"Still looking for you," the interlocutor said. Vicki now is angered at the other one's intervention, and rejects its pleas to be taken outside in the heat.
In the past, while the Doctor and Steven look for suitable clothes, Jane Austen asks Vicki whether she has come to London to find a husband. Initially startled by her negative response, she then guesses Vicki is interested in Steven. Although it's not the case, Vicki starts, for fun, to enumerate all the qualities of the man, impressing Miss Austen. Then all of them drive in the carriage to Sir Joseph's house, in the bitter cold of the evening. When they arrive, they see a man, in filthy clothes, arguing with Sir Joseph: he wants his boy back, a chimney sweep who has disappeared while cleaning Sir Joseph's chimney. Seeing them arrive, Sir Joseph has a servant pay him and send him away. Once again, Vicki spots for a moment Valzacchi, looking at the house.
At the party, the travellers are the attention of the other guests (Steven particularly for the ladies). Sir Joseph suggests Vicki talk to Lady Georgiana: she is not herself, he says, since the fair. Vicki finds her sitting by the fire, shivering, but refusing to go away from the party. Georgiana shares with Vicki her vision of the eye and insists she has to find the egg. Vicki leaves to find the Doctor, but he is dancing a gavotte with Miss Austen; she then sees Georgiana leaving the room, with a seemingly happy expression.
The interlocutor interrupts again, saying that Georgiana was also scared, just as Vicki. He insists she moves closer to the fire to warm herself, but Vicki refuses.
Vicki follows Georgiana in another room and sees her talking with Valzacchi. He has the egg, he says, and promises to take her to it. Vicki turns back and bumps into Steven, who also heard the conversation; while he moves to catch Valzacchi, Vicki warns the Doctor and Sir Joseph. Valzacchi is thrown out of the house, while Georgiana, in a frenzy, starts to feed the fire in the chimney with everything she can put her hands on. A huge tongue of green fire rises from the chimney, and the missing boy, Jim, falls down from the chimney into the room, muttering about the "frostfire", a creature on the rooftop. In the colder and colder room, the tongues of the fire seem to have a life of their own, to search for heat; and while the Doctor ushers everyone out, Georgiana advances towards it, and gets swept away by the cold flames.
Part two Edit
In the present, a trembling Vicki confesses she was scared the flames were coming for her, and that she was glad when they took Georgiana. Her interlocutor complains she is always weeping, and then he asks her which comes first between the Phoenix or the egg. It's a cycle, it says, an endless cycle. Vicki reproaches him: he is jumping ahead, she says, and she was only glad she was safe. For the moment, the other reminds her.
In the past, the Doctor understands that the "frostfire", as he calls it, sucks heat out of people and things to sustain itself. Vicki tells the others that Georgiana was talking with Valzacchi and he promised to take her somewhere, as if he had some sort of power over her - or something has it over him, the Doctor adds, alluding to the stolen egg Georgiana was so obsessed with. They need to find Valzacchi, and Sir Joseph suggests he could be at the Cocoa Tree Club, of which both him and Valzacchi are members. The Doctor decides that he and Steven should go and find him with Sir Joseph, while Vicki (to her dislike) will stay with Jane Austen until their return.
After they leave, Miss Austen suggests Vicki they retire to her brother's house, saying that it is becoming late, but Vicki notices the house's clock is frozen, and is now stuck on 21.20. Vicki remembers Valzacchi say he wanted to bring Lady Georgiana to a church, whose name began with a 'C', and Jim, the sweep boy, identifies it with St. Cuthbert, the nearest one to Sir Joseph's house. Intrigued, the two women decide to go and look.
With Jim as a guide, the two women walk towards the church in the freezing, silent night, passing through the streets. The cold is so intense that, when they stumble upon a bonfire poor people lit up to warm themselves, they have to stop for a moment; but as soon as they do so, the flames of the bonfire start flickering with cold green. Vicki, Miss Austen and Jim retire down an alley, as an hooded figure raises from the fire, bathing in the cold fire, her face glimmering and sheathing with ice. Miss Austen recognises as Lady Georgiana, now possessed by the creature in the frostfire. Lady Georgiana moves her arm, and all life and heat start getting sucked out by the people, until Jim throws the torch he was carrying in the fire. This distracts Lady Georgiana, and gives Vicki and Miss Austen time to escape.
"There is no escape", the interlocutor of the present Vicki comments, before asking what happens next. He should remember, says Vicki, but he replies that he lives the all thing again every time she tells it, each time hoping in a different ending. Annoyed, Vicki decides to leave him without ever coming back, but he insists she goes on with her story, and she complies.
In the past, Vicki, Miss Austen and Jim run away from Lady Georgiana, and finally reach St. Cuthbert. Vicki apologises to her companion for what's happening, but Miss Austen says she is enjoying it after years of quiet life in Hampshire. Jim tries to open the door with a crowbar; when it's done, Vicki sends him to fetch the Doctor. The two women enter the frozen church, with numerous people dead, frozen on the spot. Valzacchi shows up, ice sheating on his face, moving and talks more like a puppet than a man, while he urges with his sword the two women to a staircase leading to the church's tower. On the room at the top, the egg lays, with a shadow moving inside it. Valzacchi says it doesn't want to kill them, just wants to know about the world he is to be born. Vicki feels a urge of disgust and hatred for that thing, and wishes it dead.
In the present, her interlocutor begs for the life of the egg and its unborn, blameless occupant, but Vicki insists she couldn't do it: too many people had already died.
In the past, Vicki picks up a candlestick and tries to hit the egg, but she is forbidden to do so by a wave of cold heat. Just at that moment, the Doctor arrives with Steven and Sir Joseph; Valzacchi tries to stop them, but as Steven moves to stop him, the creature leaves him and his body shatters like glass. The Doctor examines the egg, and seems to talk with it, although Vicki and the others can't hear any words.
Vicki's present interlocutor says the Doctor was cold, "no fire in his hearts". Vicki retorts it is not so, and when he says that because of him they are both homeless, she states that for her part it was her own choice. However, she also admits her feeling of loneliness and her difficulty to adapt to their new home, where nobody had her same cultural attitudes. The Trojans, she said, were scared of her, and wanted to cast her away on a rock; however, Troilus stood by her, and they eventually settled down in Carthage, while Aeneas went on his voyage. Still, she feels alone, and her interlocutor is the only one to remember the Doctor aside for her. It then retorts that the Doctor had no right to deny the unborn Phoenix the right to come to the world, to which Vicki replies that, if it had happened, the bird would have devoured all heating on Earth.
In the past, the Doctor invites the chicken to come out of the egg, and when it fails to do so, says that it can't: there is no heat enough for it to come out. Sir Joseph insists they destroy it, but the Doctor refuses to kill such an amazing creature, and also rejects Steven's proposal to take it somewhere else. Suddenly, Lady Georgiana, possessed by the Phoenix, comes in and takes the egg; when Sir Joseph tries to hold her, to make her remember, she grabs him and vanishes, taking him with her. Vicki remembers that he works at the Royal Mint, and the Doctor understands that the Phoenix aims at the furnace where the English coins are forged: a perfect hatchery for the egg to open. As his Deputy Warden, Sir Joseph must have the key.
As the dawn breaks, the three travellers, Miss Austen and Jim reach the Mint, where the Mallard pair, possessed by the Phoenix, has already opened the furnace. The Doctor orders Georgiana to give him the egg, and offers the Phoenix the chance to find it another place to live, as the last one of its species; otherwise, he will stop it. Georgiana refuses, and throws the egg into the furnace, before fainting in her husband's arms. The Phoenix chick comes out of the egg, and the Doctor and Steven fail to stop the bellows from blowing on the fire; however, Miss Austen takes the crowbar from Jim and jams it in the wheel of the bellows. Vicki and Jim slam the door of the furnace as the fire dies, and the Phoenix with it. However, a tiny spark of cinder gets into Vicki's eyes, seemingly causing no damage.
And that spark of cinder is Vicki's interlocutor, all that remains of the Phoenix, enough to start again the cycle of rebirth of the bird. One day that Vicki was crying about her loneliness, the Phoenix came back to life; she then decided to keep it in an oil lamp, giving it just enough fire to keep it alive so that it could keep her company, and remember with her the time she spent with the Doctor. Enraged and hungry, the Phoenix burns the scroll on which the story is written to feed itself and begin again the circle, but the fire lasts too little.
In the past, the Phoenix's death signals the end of the frost. Sir Joseph takes his wife home, Miss Austen invites the Doctor and the others to her house, and the three travellers had to employ the help of three bargers to retrieve the TARDIS, as it was floating along the river.
That's the end, Vicki says, as she expresses her joy that the Cinder is here, another lonely being, far away from home, to keep her company. Vicki then says that, in the future, when Carthage will become Tunis, the Cinder will have his chance to grow again into the egg, and then he will be bought by the sea captain taking it to London, 1814 - thus living the story again.
- The Cinder mentions the Doctor's hearts.
- Jane Austen says that, at this date, she has written only two novels (Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice) and not with her name on them.
- Vicki notes that St Paul's Cathedral is still standing in the 25th century, after the Dalek invasion in the 22nd century and four World Wars.
- At Sir Joseph's party, the guests talk about the war with France.
- The Doctor dances a gavotte with Jane Austen.
- This story was the debut release of The Companion Chronicles range.
- It was recorded at The Moat Studios.
- The Cinder's timeline is a time loop, with its defeat bringing it into existence. The Cinder's existence is therefore a temporal paradox.
- Discounting his cameo appearance as a child in AUDIO: Master, this was the first Big Finish audio drama to feature the First Doctor.
- Vicki is telling this story as an ageing woman in 1164 B.C., many years after she left the TARDIS in ancient Troy to marry Troilus. (TV: The Myth Makers)
- Vicki recalls rescuing Steven Taylor from the Mechonoids (TV: The Chase) and the "trouble with the Monk". (TV: The Time Meddler)
- The Doctor provides Vicki and Steven with invernal clothes of Russian origin. He and Steven will later visit Russia in 1812 together with Dodo Chaplet. (AUDIO: Mother Russia)
- The Doctor says he once saw "a dragon the size of London bridge". (PROSE: The Sorcerer's Apprentice)
- The Second Doctor, Ben Jackson, Polly Wright and Jamie McCrimmon would later visit another frost fair in December 1648. (PROSE: The Roundheads)
- River Song and the Eleventh Doctor would later ice skate on the frozen River Thames at around the same time during "the last of the great frost fairs". (TV: A Good Man Goes to War)
- The Doctor also visited the 1814 frost fair during both his tenth and twelfth incarnations. (PROSE: The Frozen; TV: Thin Ice)
- Clara Oswald would later strike up a relationship with Jane Austen, and stated that she was a good kisser. (TV: The Magician's Apprentice, Face the Raven)