‘What colour would you like to be, Ian?” Susan asked, proffering a handful of the wooden counters.
Ian considered. “I suppose I’ll be silvery-grey. But you’ll have to explain to me how all this works.”
“Oh, but it’s easy,” the girl said at once. She launched into a tortuous explanation, as Ian gazed in bafflement at the landscaped board. Barbara smiled to herself Ian was both too kind and too stubborn to admit to their young friend that this game of hers was beyond him.
'Won’t we be arriving quite soon, Susan?” she asked.
“I don’t know.” Susan looked over at the Doctor, fussing away at his controls as usual. “Once the ship’s in flight, I don’t think even Grandfather can tell. But it’s very simple really, Ian. This house is yours — it’s the same colour as your counters, you see — and you’re trying to get home.”
Now Ian glanced over at the Doctor. “Isn’t that the truth,” he said ruefully. Susan gasped, dismayed at her own tactlessness.
“Have you had the game long?” Barbara asked quickly, wondering which planet — and which century — had produced the ornate box-board, with its wooden dice and counters.
“Oh, yes,” Susan replied. “This set’s been in Grandfather’s family for thousands of years.”
“Thousands?” Ian stared at her. “Surely you mean “hundreds”?”
Susan gave him a mischievous smile. “Well,” she admitted, “it’s hundreds of thousands really. But I didn’t want to shock you.”
“That’s right, Vedirioi,” said Susan cheerfully. “You’ve thrown a 13, so now your counters move 13 spaces up the mountain. Now it’s my turn.”
Susan had insisted on 'just one game’ with her friend before they returned to the ship, but Vedirioi was proving a slow learner.
“Susan doesn’t seem very bothered that “he” isn’t a he,” Barbara whispered to Ian.
He immediately changed the subject. “I don’t see why the Doctor won’t let us talk about the TARDIS. What harm can it do? The Torcaldians must realise we came here in some kind of spaceship.”
“Well, I suppose they’ve never met space travellers before,” she whispered doubtfully. She too had difficulty understanding the reason for the old man’s prohibition, but he had been quite insistent.
They both started as a cracking noise resounded through the square, echoing from the park’s dead outer reaches. “Er… Susan?” said Vedirioi. “The board’s just split in half.”
“Oh, yes, it’s supposed to do that. Grandfather?”
The Doctor was dozing in a nearby chair. “Hmm ? What is it? Are you still dallying about with that foolish game?”
“What is it we shout when the board splits open?”
“Oh, I don’t remember, child. You know I can’t be bothered with that sort of thing.”
Susan pouted. “You used to play this all the time at home.”
“Yes, well. It’s really time that we were going.”
- “The Ruins of Time,” by Philip Purser-Hallard, in which Susan plays sepulcasm, the psychic board-game of the Great Houses, introduced in Marc Platt’s Lungbarrow.