This is an amateur, non-commercial story, which is not produced, approved of, or in any way sponsored by the holders of the trademarks/copyrights from which this work is derived, nor is it intended to infringe on the rights of these holders. And so it goes.
Nyssa’s anguished cry roused the Time Lord from his intent study of the TARDIS console coordinate system. Blinking rapidly, he lifted his head to gaze blankly at his tearful companion. “Nyssa? Whatever can be the matter?”
“We left Tegan back at Heathrow!” From the look of it, the girl couldn’t decide whether disbelief or fury was in order, though fury clearly was winning out. “Aren’t we going back to get her?”
“Ah, well, Nyssa, you see, it’s not that simple.” The Doctor stumbled for the right words to soothe his companion’s ruffled feathers. “Firstly, going back there would no doubt entitle us to a rather long stay, answering a number of questions I’d really prefer not to dwell upon.” He rose to his full height and shoved his hands deeply into the pockets of his morning coat. “Secondly, most importantly, Heathrow was always Tegan’s ultimate goal, as you cannot help but recall.” The feisty Australian had never let them forget that for very long. “She made her decision to leave. The best thing we can do now is respect her choice and go on.”
Nyssa’s eyes were wide and teary. “You... you aren’t going back.” she whispered.
Unable to meet her accusing gaze, the Doctor turned away. “No,” he replied quietly.
The orphan of the stars trembled with anger and despair, then hurried out of the console room, slamming the door behind her. The Doctor leaned heavily against his beloved console, doubt and loathing filling his mind and soul. “Well, Doctor,” he chided himself softly, “you certainly handled that with tact and consideration.”
Sobbing loudly, racked by deep, aching gasps, Nyssa fled down the main corridor to the room she and Tegan shared... had shared, she reminded herself bitterly. Flinging the door open, then shoving it closed again, Nyssa activated the privacy lock and tossed herself onto her bed to let grief and loneliness carry her away on a flood of tears.
Tegan’s desertion and the Doctor’s willingness to accept it were just the latest in a long fine of betrayals in the young girl’s life. Since she’d been introduced to the Time Lord she’d witnessed first the death of her father and then that of her entire planet. Orphaned from both her family and her past, with nowhere to go, she’d accepted the newly regenerated Doctor’s offer to travel with him. What other choice had there been?
Things had seemed to get better aboard the TARDIS. Tegan, while moody and a bit high‑strung, had nonetheless been loyal and trustworthy. And Adric, while occasionally immature and brash, had always stood by her and defended her, whether she truly needed it or not. And despite his attempts to maintain an air of detachment, the Doctor often showed a proud paternal streak with her, almost to the point of becoming a second father to her.
Then, as she’d feared, everything fell apart. Tempers began to fray; Adric demanded to be taken back to his home planet, which lay in another dimension. But before the Doctor could comply, the young Alzarian perished in a futile attempt to save a starship from crashing. And now Tegan had returned to her place and time, lost to Nyssa forever.
“It’s not fair,” she sobbed angrily. She had nowhere to go‑she was a prisoner aboard the TARDIS, for all intents and purposes. She could never fit in anywhere, anyplace. And even if she could, sooner or later tragedy would follow her, as it always had...
As it always would, she concluded just as she fell into an exhausted sleep.
The Doctor paused at the door to Nyssa’s room, uncertain of why he was here or what he could say to ease her pain. He’d never had much experience dealing with younger companions; he’d had constant headaches with Susan and Dodo. His earlier incarnations, with their paternal manners, could have handled this far better than he had. There were times the Doctor distinctly felt like a “big brother.”
The privacy lock was flashing, he noted glumly. While it would be child’s play to deactivate the device‑after all, he had invented it for his companions’ peace of mind‑he knew that Nyssa’s wishes had to be respected The poor child was no doubt devastated by Tegan’s abrupt departure, especially so soon after Adric’s death.
The Doctor winced as that little incident flooded his memories. The pain would fade in time, he knew too well; it was both the blessing and the curse of near immortality to be able to keep such things in perspective. Yet he welcomed the pain and grief, for they kept him from the isolated detachment of his brethren. Not that it made things any easier to live with.
The Doctor sighed sadly and shrugged, then turned around and walked away from Nyssa’s room. Reaching into his pocket as he returned to the console room, the Time Lord removed the broken remains of a gold star and set it gently upon a panel of his control center. Once it had been an award for mathematical excellence; now it served as a memorial... and a mocking reminder of the limits to a Time Lord’s power.
Dinner was deathly quiet.
The Doctor and Nyssa sat opposite one another, but no words were spoken, not even the polite requests for passing condiments. He watched her nibble and push her food about the plate, looking away when her eyes rose from the table. He could not bear to witness the accusations that he knew awaited him.
Never had so much needed to be said and yet could not, he mused tiredly as Nyssa rose stiffly to leave, taking her plate and glass with her. She’d barely touched her food‑neither had he, he noted with surprise upon inspecting his own meal. He methodically attacked a piece of apple pie for dessert, then set it aside as the bitterness in his mouth killed his appetite.
The Doctor hurried out the galley, spotting Nyssa walking forlornly just ahead. He picked up his pace, wildly plotting up some way to talk to her, make her see sense about this entire nonsense. He closed in on her‑odd, she must have heard him approaching, yet her pace remained steady and slow...
The TARDIS lurched violently once, twice, three times.
The Doctor cried out as his shoulders smashed into the walls, but he made quite sure that he was able to grab Nyssa and press her against him during the subsequent rocking. “Quickly,” he gasped. “The console room. Something’s gone haywire with the TARDIS.”
Her eyes wide with terror, Nyssa hurried along beside him. They plunged into the console room just as another violent lurch sent the world topsy‑turvy. She cried out as her body struck the console; the Doctor spared no time in assessing her injuries but instead grabbed onto the console for dear life and struggled to regain control of his craft.
His fingers moved madly about, furiously forcing the balky machine to dance to his tune alone. Several times he overcompensated, sending the room careening about, but the Doctor’s will would not be denied for long. Slowly the turbulence subsided to an occasional bounce.
“I’m going to have to materialize,” the Doctor informed Nyssa, who was lying on the floor, hanging on to the base of the console. He moved quickly, bypassing several steps in his haste. The time rotor growled in protest but it grudgingly assented at long last.
After shutting down the console, the Doctor crouched down to Nyssa. ‘Where does it hurt?”
“It would take far less time,” she gasped, “to tell you where it doesn’t.”
“I see.” He performed a brief but thorough examination and was relieved to find that bruises and aches would be the extent of her damage. But the TARDIS... that was a different matter. He moved purposefully to one particular section of the console and popped the casing open. “Ah.’
Nyssa groaned as she pulled herself into a seated position. ‘What is it?”
The Doctor pulled out a blackened component and sighed despondently. “This is... or I should say, was... a dimensional stabilizer. I fear we’re in for a bit of a stay, Nyssa. Wherever we are.”
The autumn night was starless, the black emptiness adding to the slight chill of the breeze dancing about the trees. Amid the barren grove sat two men, warming themselves as best they could before an inadequate fire. One of them, a small, compact fellow with thinning sandy hair, reached behind his makeshift seat and took up a bizarre musical instrument. The device appeared to be a guitar with two necks, but the reed extending from the main body hinted at the uniqueness of both the instrument and the musician it belonged to. He toyed with the strings, seeming to strike random chords as his fingers willed, yet the melody that resonated through the night was quite lovely and stirring.
“A pity we’re both between jobs at the moment,” the minstrel remarked as he played. “I could use a warm bed and a hot meal, to say nothing of cool, sweet wine, right now.”
The other figure, a man bathed in fine black cloth and silken ebony hair, stirred slightly from his trancelike gaze into the fire. “Indeed,” he nodded. “But since there appears to be no chance of any opportunities for us, perhaps you would simply refrain from reminding us of our situation.”
“Just making conversation,” the musician protested, taking a sip from a wineskin and wiping his mouth with a multicoloured sleeve. “Helps to keep my mind off the night. Too silent for my tastes.”
The dark figure lifted an eyebrow. “I somehow find that difficult to believe.”
“What? That I don’t like it being so quiet?”
“No, that you have any taste.” He cast a sardonic glance at the patchwork maze of his companion’s tunic.
The fellow snorted. “Well, Parl Dro, you can say what you want about my choice in clothing, but at least people don’t look at me like some sort of ominous evil when I walk into town. You’d do much better with a bit of change in your wardrobe.”
Dro smiled slightly. “Ah, but note that when I enter a town, there is no questioning who I am, while none would believe that the buffoon beside me is the master musician Myal Lemyal.”
Myal’s ears perked up. “Do they really say I’m a master?”
“A master of many things, I assure you,” the dark man answered, his eyes glittering with amusement. “A master lecher, a master drunk, a master pickpocket...”
“Well, everyone’s got to be good at something,” Myal shrugged. ‘I’ve those talents, you’re a ghostkiller.” He drank again from the skin. “Just hope that the next town we hit needs our services.”
“It appears we’re on Earth,” the Doctor announced the next morning to his sleepy‑eyed companion as she stepped through the door. He smiled warmly at her, but her utter lack of expression chilled his smile away. “I can’t quite pinpoint the era, but from the look of things it’s autumn.” He gestured at the console screen to confirm his report. “I’d estimate that it’s going to take a day or so to fully implement the repairs to the console, to say nothing of replacing the dimensional stabilizer. Feel free to go out, have a stroll, what have you. If you’d like,” he added after a moment of sheer silence, “I could gladly use your help an the console.”
Nyssa shook her head slightly, fingering the remains of Adric’s star, still resting upon the console.
“Yes, well then,” the Doctor continued breathlessly, hoping that an increased pace in the conversation might end it more quickly, “I must begin on the repairs‑it’s the job that’s never started that takes longest to accomplish. Do stay close by, though.”
“Or you’ll leave me behind as well?”
The statement was harsh and bitter and utterly unexpected. The Time Lord froze in mid-crouch, his face looking as if it had been slapped.
“Nyssa,” he said gently, “I would never willingly leave you stranded anywhere. You know that.”
“So did Adric and Tegan.” The softness of her reply made the blow all the more painful. Scooping up the star and tucking it into her trouser pocket, she slammed the door switch back and strode out of the TARDIS. The doors hummed smoothly shut behind her.
It was a long time before the Doctor moved.
As a general rule, Nyssa despised Earth. It was noisy, crowded, smelly and out of harmony with itself. Traken had prided itself on living with the land, nurturing and honoring its natural gifts. It was unfortunate that the Doctor’s ship seemed to have an odd fondness for this benighted planet.
This particular time and place was different, though. Obviously a time well before Tegan’s; the air smelled fresh and untainted, and Nyssa could sense that the land was unspoiled by rampant technology. True, it was far from the most ideal time of the year to land, but it wasn’t too cold for a walk. And at the moment, Nyssa wanted to be as far from the TARDIS as possible.
She shouldn’t have spoken like that to the Doctor. The bitterness had shocked her as well as him, welling up unexpectedly like a geyser. But the words had been true, albeit brutal, and she had no great wish to apologize for them at this time. Perhaps later, when she’d had time to resolve her conflicting feelings. Her feet resumed a brisk pace away from the anachronistic police call box.
Autumn. The time of dying, she remembered reading in some book buried deep within the Doctor’s library. There was a stark, simple beauty in the barren trees, long since shorn of their multicolored glory. Even the leaves beneath her feet were dark and drab, matching both the gray skies and her own mood perfectly. Everything was dying here, awaiting the sleep of winter and the eventual awakening of spring. But there would be no spring for her soul. There had been too much pain, too much loss, for hope to ever rise anew within her.
The tears suddenly welled up and would not be suppressed, no matter how she chided herself to cease this childish display immediately. She was Nyssa of Traken, daughter of consuls, Keeper of the Melkur... and that simply set her off even further. The ache within her grew wider, an abyss that threatened to swallow her completely and leave nothing behind. Collapsing beneath an ancient tree and curling up into a tight ball, she cried for her father, for her world, for Tegan, who might walk through this very area on a future day, and for Adric, who might have died on this very spot as the freighter exploded upon impact.
“Actually, it wasn’t here,” came a familiar voice. “Other side of the planet, if you really must know.”
Nyssa lifted her head swiftly from her arms, blinking away the deluge of tears. He sat there beside her, a bit transparent but looking as puckish and mischievous as ever. “Adric?” she asked uncertainly. “Is that you?”
“Could it be anyone else?” Instant by instant, he seemed to grow more solid, more substantial. “It’s me, Nyssa, I assure you.”
“I thought... you...” The words seemed to stick like molasses in her mouth. Water resumed its trickle down her face.
“Don’t worry about that,” he said, and somehow she was comforted, swallowing the words back down into some hidden recess of her mind “I’m here now, for as long as you need me.”
“I’m so glad to see you again!” She reached up to embrace him, but the boy held up a cautioning hand.
“Not right now,” he ordered with a gentle smile. “Come on. Let’s walk a while. There’s lots to talk about—what you’ve been up to, the Doctor…why he left Tegan behind...” She smiled brightly as she rose to her feet, spirits lifting as they walked further on. The sun peered momentarily from behind the bleak gray clouds only to be engulfed once more seconds later.
It was slow going, what with one heavily laden horse and a ghostkiller with a bad limp. “I still don’t understand why you keep that part of the charade up,” Myal complained. “You’re a ghost, Parl. You don’t really feel pain if you don’t want to. Why not simply give that part of the act up?”
“Indulge me,” the dark man replied, teeth gritted. The pain enabled him to remember his need to pass for human; besides, the limp had more or less become his calling card. He paused abruptly, gazing out sightlessly across the emptiness. “Let’s rest here.”
“Here?” Myal echoed incredulously. “There’s nothing here but dead farmland and carrion‑eating birds! There’s a city about two more hours away, Parl. Let’s keep going‑get on the horse if you have to, but don’t stop here!”
“Silence,” Parl Dro ordered softly, and Myal shut up. The ghostkiller’s cap flapped about in the cold breeze, but his features paid no acknowledgment to the chill. “There’s a deadalive somewhere dose,” he noted quietly.
“Really?” Myal’s mind quickly started adding up the price they’d charge for such a lucky coincidence. “How far? What kind?”
“I’m not sure. It’s a fairly old spirit, but only recently animated.” Parl’s own spirit had been dormant for almost three decades before Myal, his link to the living world, had come blundering about and awakened it. “It bears investigation, I fear.”
“Well, of course it does!” Myal agreed. “We need the money!”
“It’s for more than that,” Dro corrected coldly, his eyes burning obsidian as he faced his partner. “This is a creature that has been alone for ages. Now someone has managed to stir it from the dreamless sleep of half death. It will be grateful for the chance to ease its loneliness, and to feed greedily on the life-force of its ‘benefactor.’”
“And?” Myal asked uneasily.
“And,” Parl finished, “if anyone attempts to stop it in any way, it will respond with all the power and fury at its command.”
“Uh, perhaps we should just leave well enough alone, Part. Myal gulped. “City’s just a few hours that way...”
“The spirit is in this direction.” The dark figure pointed at a right angle to their current path. “You said last night that it was a pity no one had need of our particular talents. That has changed, and we are going to put our abilities to use.”
“I just knew you were going to say that,” Myal groaned, but he turned the horse in their new direction. “Why me?”
Nyssa sighed happily as she leaned back against an ancient, gnarled oak tree. Adric sat dose by, watching the sky as a light rain began to fail. She seemed oblivious to the slight splashing of drops that danced upon her.
“It’s so good to see you again.” She smiled at her long‑lost friend, then frowned slightly. “But something’s wrong... I thought... there was something, but I can’t seem to recall...”
“It’s nothing.” Adric waved a hand carelessly about, dispelling her doubts upon the cool breeze. “You look tired. Why don’t you rest a bit, then we’ll resume our walk and talk.”
“That’s a good idea,” she murmured sleepily. “I’m so tired...” Her chin slowly descended to her chest as her eyelids succumbed to the irresistible siren call of Morpheus. Adric sat beside her as she drowsed, oblivious to the steadily falling showers.
The Doctor stood at the TARDIS doorway, holding out a hand to confirm what he already knew. He gazed thoughtfully at the grey skies, then quickly turned on his heel back into his beloved ship. He emerged a minute later, opening a large multicolored umbrella to block the drizzle. Fishing a small device replete with a directional meter out of a coat pocket, he consulted the readings, then took off determinedly.
The tracer had been one of his more ingenious inventions. The original problem his companions always seemed to have was that they would go gallivanting off every time the TARDIS materialized, only to find themselves completely lost a few hours later. After several long and exasperating searches, the Doctor had come up with a small homing beacon that would lock on the unique energy patterns of the ship and guide the lost souls home.
As the Time Lord carefully navigated his way past large puddles and muddy patches, he smiled as the other problem his travels had uncovered came to mind: occasionally, just occasionally, one of his companions would run into a spot of trouble and be unwillingly detained. It would take a great deal of time and trouble for the Doctor to locate his charges and free them, and after the first five times he’d decided something had to be done. Hence, he’d added a tracing frequency to the homing beacons, which enabled him to head straight to the problem. It had come in handy several times...
The Doctor paused as he finally spotted his missing companion; she lay wet and quite unconscious beneath an old oak. The fact that the rain seemed to bother her not at all raised his concern several notches, and her drained complexion sent it straight to crisis mode. He stepped forward to her side.
The voice came from nearby, yet the Doctor could see no one in any direction. He moved forward once again.
“I said stop.” Pausing again, the Time Lord whitened as Adric came into view. “Hullo, Doctor.” The pale youth greeted him without a trace of emotion.
“Adric.” His voice was overwhelmed by shock, confusion... and possibly guilt.
“She’s mine, Doctor. She wants no part of you or the life you offer.” Adric stepped casually around the sleeping figure until he stood squarely in the Doctor’s path. “She hates you, Doctor. Hates what you’ve done to her and her life.”
“That’s not true, Adric,” he replied quickly, but the words were devoid of conviction.
The boy smirked. “Had you chosen to ignore the Keeper’s summons, both Traken and her father would still live. Surely you realize that.”
“Yes, perhaps they would. But under the Master’s power‑surely not much better a situation, you’d agree.” The Doctor’s mind raced wildly, trying to deduce a logical explanation for this visitation. Several devious options were quite possible, but he would have to play along to be sure.
“Oh?” The boy cocked his head in mock curiosity. “Is death so much better than any sort of life, Doctor? ‘While there’s life, there’s hope,’ or so you were so often pleased to state.” He smiled, a twisted, angry leer that chilled the Doctor’s hearts. “And then there’s my own example. You couldn’t simply agree to take me back to E‑Space. No, you had to involve yourself in someone else’s problems, then abandon me on that space freighter and watch me die.”
“That is not true!” the Doctor exploded, his tone torn between anger and pleading. “The console was damaged... there were Cybermen in the TARDIS... I tried, Adric...”
Adric nodded. “And yet, once your precious TARDIS was once more operational, you could not be bothered to materialize just before the explosion and perform one of those last‑second rescues you specialize in.”
The Time Lord’s mouth opened, then shut as he turned away. “I could not do that,” he answered quietly. “There are rules...”
“Rules of the Time Lords?” Adric asked pointedly. “Since when have you obeyed their rules without question?” He smiled at the Doctor’s anguish. “And Nyssa told me how you callously deposited Tegan at Heathrow without any warning. You’ve deprived her of everything and everyone she’s ever held dear, Doctor, and you wonder why she hates you as much as she does?”
The Doctor was silent for a long moment, then turned to face his accuser once again. “What are you doing here?” he asked quietly.
Adric shrugged. “I’ve waited a long time, Doctor. Waited to be ‘summoned’ by someone who cared, who wanted me. I’ve been patient-‑had all the time in the world, you might say.” His laughter was brittle as ice, chilling the Time Lord’s soul further.
“You don’t exist,” the Doctor declared, stepping forward. Adric smiled but retreated. “You’re either a figment of my imagination, a construct devised by one of my enemies—“
“Or a ghost?” Adric smiled cruelly, slipping into insubstantiality as he spoke. “Very well, Doctor. Take her back to your ship for now. She’s mine and I am hers. Soon she’ll be beyond your reach forever.”
He laughed again as his body drifted away, only the smile remaining to mock the Doctor as he scooped up the soaked Nyssa and hurried back to the TARDIS.
“Are you sure this is necessary?” Myal glared first at the ebony figure, who was comfortably dry beneath that damned cloak, then at the sky that was ruining both the day and his clothing. “I’m going to catch my death of cold! You’d like that, wouldn’t you? With my death, you’d be free...”
Parl Dro turned to face him, eyes burning deep crimson. “Do not ever say that again, do you hear me?” The words were icily even and measured. “Had I known that my foolish indiscretion would produce my damnation...”
Myal raised his hands in surrender. “Sorry. I didn’t exactly ask for you to be my father, you know.” A slight smile played upon the lips of the ghostkiller, and the minstrel took this as a sign of forgiveness. “What did you find?”
Dro stared into the distance. “There was a manifestation here, I’ve no doubt of that. But something disrupted it, and it dispersed for the time being. But I’ve a feeling that it still lurks within the area, waiting to be summoned once more.”
“Which means we stay here as well. Lovely,” Myal groaned as he turned to the horse. “Well, I suppose I can set up a shelter of sorts, despite the fact that everything’s soaked thoroughly...”
Parl Dro let his companion drone on, ignoring the din as he gazed thoughtfully into the forest.
* * * * *
“I’m not hungry.”
“You’ve made that quite clear,” the Doctor replied sternly as he pushed the bowl of broth closer to Nyssa’s chest. She lay in bed, swallowed up by the blankets and comforter that he’d piled upon it. Her face was pale and drawn; her hair still lay limp and lifeless against the pillow. “You are running a fever, young lady,” he continued. “Why you were lying there sound asleep in the midst of a shower I’ll never know, but you’re paying the price at the moment, and if you don’t eat this, you’re going to feel much worse, believe me.”
“Just leave me alone,” she retorted, eyes sullen and defiant yet echoing the exhaustion that haunted her even now. She’d been sleeping on and off from the time the Doctor had brought her back, yet nothing seemed to revive her.
“Fine, I will—as soon as you eat this.” He lifted the spoon up, his eyes revealing no hint of retreat. “I’m not leaving until you do.”
She glared at him momentarily, then sighed in resignation. “All right.” In minutes both broth and the accompanying cup of Earl Grey tea had been devoured. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to sleep.”
He gazed critically at her, then nodded. “As you wish.” He rose from the bedside chair and stepped quickly to the door. “If you need anything...”
He nodded, looking away. “Very well.” His fingers caressed the fight switch, plunging the room into darkness as he closed the door behind him. Nyssa sighed and rolled over onto her stomach, sliding slowly into a deep, delicious sleep.
All around her was darkness, clawing at her, trying to suck her into oblivion. Nyssa looked around wildly for something, anything to allow her to escape the nameless terror that clung to her heart. “Doctor?” she called fearfully. “Father?”
“Nyssa?” The voice was seemingly far away, but it was joyfully familiar to her. “Nyssa, it’s Adric. Follow my voice; I’ll get you out of there. Trust me, nothing is going to hurt you if you just listen to me and not let anything stop you...”
“All right,” she called. She struggled to step forward, but her body was tangled in darkness. Writhing wildly and thrashing about, Nyssa finally escaped from the insidious trap. “Adric? Where are you?”
“This way,” he called, his voice sweetly assuring and calm. “Just follow me, Nyssa, and you’ll be free in no time.”
* * * * *
Parl Dro stiffened “Myal,” he said quietly as he shook his companion awake. “Myal, we must hurry.”
* * * * *
The Doctor had been busily engaged in a tricky spot of rewiring when Nyssa came stumbling into the console room. Her eyes were open wide but vacant; her face alternately paled and burned with fever as she moved about the room, arms outstretched as if she were blind. She was still dressed in her white nightgown, and her bare feet slapped clumsily about on the cold floor.
He rose cautiously, unsure of what was going on. “Nyssa?” he asked quietly as he moved to halt her progress. “Nyssa? Can you hear me?”
She paused in her trek for a moment. “Adric?” she called to some unseen horizon. “Adric, where are you? I can’t move, I’m blocked. Help me, please!” Without warning, she shot forward again, slamming into the Doctor and knocking him backward. He stood frozen for an instant, taken aback by the power of her shove, but quickly recovered, wrapping his arms around her and holding her fast.
If her initial blow had surprised the Doctor, he was in for an even ruder surprise: Nyssa thrashed around wildly in his grip, kicking, clawing and slapping him in a desperate attempt to free herself. “Adric!” she screamed as she struggled. “Help me! I’m trapped!” She weakened for a moment, her fever‑wracked body unable to maintain its strength, but abruptly unforeseen levels of desperation surged her muscles into a hysterical effort that knocked her free of the Doctor’s grasp. Blindly, she readied over to the console and slapped the door switch, then stumbled through the doorway. The Doctor followed close behind.
The night air was damp and chill from the rain; the Doctor’s breath exploded in soft bursts into the wind. Nyssa lay senseless nearby, and standing beside her was a rapidly solidifying Adric. “I warned you,” he quietly reminded the Doctor. “She’s mine.”
“She’ll die if she doesn’t return to the TARDIS,” the Doctor pleaded. “Whatever, whoever you are, she’s done nothing to harm you. Leave her be. It’s me you want.”
“You?” Adric echoed, bursting into that icy laugh again. “Doctor, you flatter yourself! No, it’s Nyssa that I want, to be with me,” he continued in a gentler tone, gazing down tenderly at her motionless body. “To easy my loneliness forever, to sleep for all eternity by my side...”
“No.” The Doctor took a step forward. The now‑solid Adric smiled and lifted a ghostly hand, and an icy wind slammed into the Time Lord, driving him backward. He cried out as an ancient branch snapped from the tree and crashed into him.
Adric lowered his hand; the raging gust of wind ceased. The two adversaries stared silently at each other for minutes, then Adric smiled and gazed tenderly at his captive.
“It won’t be long,” the boy noted. “Had you not stumbled onto her earlier, she might already be with me. But I can be patient, Doctor. I’ve waited several lifetimes for this—I can wait a few minutes more.”
“A pity, then, that time has run out for you.” Both Adric and the Doctor turned at the sound of that soft, regal voice; Parl Dro stood there with deceptive calm, his black cloak embracing his body like a lover. Myal stood behind him, a makeshift torch lifted high.
Adric gazed at the strangers in confusion for a moment, then chuckled softly. “Ah yes. Parl Dro, the deadalive ghostkiller. I’ve dreamed of you.” His eyes narrowed as if evaluating this new threat. ‘I’d very much like to see if you can stop me from killing her.”
“That would be a mistake, don’t you think?” Dro drawled casually. ‘The young lady isn’t likely to look upon her killer with favor.”
“Perhaps,” Adric agreed. ‘But she trusts me. She’d believe me, were I to tell her that you were trying to keep me away from her.”
“That remains to be seen.” Dro smiled grimly. He turned to the Doctor. “I assume you are acquainted with this deadalive?”
“He... traveled with me, for a time,” the Doctor answered carefully.
“Until I died,” Adric added helpfully. “Because of his stupidity... and negligence.” Nyssa moaned softly in her fever‑dream; the ghost‑child smiled. “It won’t be long, Doctor. I’ll have a companion for my sleep, and you’ll have another death for your conscience.”
“Doctor.” Parl Dro smiled slightly in greeting to the Time Lord as he took Myal’s torch. The minstrel fled to the shadows, cowering in fear. “You are a healer, I take it.”
“More an honorary title.” Why was the man playing for time, when every second meant Nyssa’s life?
“I see.” Dro’s cloak drifted open as a breeze flitted past. “Tell me, Doctor, did this deadalive have any keepsakes that meant a great deal to him? Anything that you might still have with you?”
The Doctor’s face shifted in remembrance. ‑Yes. His gold star for mathematical excellence.” A quick glance confirmed that Adric had no badge on his tunic pocket He fumbled within his coat pockets. “It’s right...”
“Missing something?” Adric asked mockingly.
“I...” Hearts sinking, the Doctor realized that he’d left the star’s remains on the console. But he couldn’t recall seeing it recently. It was then that he noticed that Nyssa’s left fist was clenched around something that glittered in the torchlight.
“Guess.” Adric smiled.
“You’re a clever one by half,” Dro acknowledged with a curt nod. “I’ve done this for a long time, and this is one of the more elaborate schemes I’ve encountered. My compliments.”
“Praise from Parl Dro?” Adric bowed with an exaggerated swagger. “I am truly honored.”
“A pity you’re not nearly as clever as you think,” Dro responded with a slight smile. Adric whirled around in time to see Myal dragging Nyssa’s body away from him. The ghost screamed in outrage and lunged forward after his prize.
“Ah‑ah‑ah!” Myal held up the fragments of the gold star; Adric froze in mid-step. “Wouldn’t want anything to happen to this, eh? Parl, why don’t you come over here and take care of business? And Doctor, I believe that this lovely lady is yours.”
The two men moved cautiously to Myal’s side. “A diversion.” The Time Lord sighed in relief and. realization. “My compliments.”
“Myal includes thieving amongst his many talents.” Dro smiled as he took the gold star in his free hand. “Skulking about silently in the dark has saved his life many times.” He turned his attention to Adric, who still stood them helplessly, face dark with impotent rage. “I believe it’s time to make an ending to this.”
Nyssa awoke dazedly in the Doctor’s arms. “Doctor? What’s...Adric!” She tumbled out of his grip and started toward the ghost, who stood there with arms outstretched. The Time Lord lunged forward and grasped her tightly. “Let me go!” she screamed. “Doctor‑you’re hurting me!”
“Nyssa,” Adric pleaded, his voice heartrending, “Help me‑they’re going to kill me again! Please!”
“That isn’t Adric,” the Doctor informed her in a calm voice, his gaze cold and unyielding. “It’s a ghost that has literally been trying to convert you to its cause.”
“And every ghost has a link to the living.” Parl Dro spoke in firm, assured tones. He lowered the torch, letting the light play upon the glittering fragments. “To destroy the ghost, one must destroy the link.”
“No!” Adric screamed.
“Doctor!” Nyssa cried, wriggling desperately.
Parl Dro gritted his teeth and plunged the torch into his outstretched hand. The flames licked eagerly at the golden shards, darkening the surface even as the metal softened and twisted.
The thing that was Adric screamed, an unearthly howl that threatened to shatter souls.
The fist clenched shut, squeezing liquid gold through the fingers.
The thing screamed a final time and vanished forever.
* * * * *
For a long time there was no sound save for the hushed, halting sobs of a grieving young woman. At long last a soft silken voice slipped across the night air.
* * * * *
The thank yous and farewells were curt; the Doctor said what needed to be said, then hurried back into the blue box, his companion in tow. Seconds later there erupted an awful wailing and caterwauling that threatened to deafen both ghostkiller and minstrel. And seconds after that, there was nothing but silence.
Myal gazed at the small, yellowish square where the box had stood, then turned to Parl. “Neat trick you pulled there,” he commented. ‘But that torch shouldn’t have been enough to melt the link.”
“I gave it a bit of assistance.” Dro lifted his now-healed hand and let the blackened chunks of metal fall to the ground. ‘I was able to intensify the flames with the life-force that sustains me.”
“Hmm.” Myal picked up a few chunks and examined them critically. “Well, it is still gold, might get something for it from some smith. Lets consider it payment and get back on the road, eh?”
“For once you make perfect sense,” Dro replied.
* * * * *
Nyssa watched from the sanctuary of a chair as the Doctor activated the dematerialization sequence. His face was tight and weary, his body bent as if bearing a massive burden upon his back. “Doctor?” she called weakly. “Are you all right?”
“Fine, fine,” he murmured absently, his attention focused on the console. When he was quite sure that the TARDIS was far, far away from the space‑time coordinates they’d left, he sighed despondently and sagged forward, eyes closed.
Nyssa moved slowly to his side and gently touched his arm; he stiffened for an instant, then turned slightly to stare into her concerned gaze. “Are you all right?” she repeated.
The Doctor quickly straightened up and gave her a fired smile. “I believe that you are in dire need of bed rest, young lady,” he informed her archly. ‘And I won’t take any back talk this time, either.”
Nyssa nodded. “Very well, Doctor.” He permitted her to lean against him as they walked slowly toward her room-‑all for her benefit, of course. “What shall we do when I’m feeling better?”
“Oh, I don’t know‑we might try our hand at repairing some of the disabled systems for a start, perhaps visit a few places for a rest. Have I ever told you about the Eye of Orion? Splendid little hideaway, excellent place to recuperate. But there’s plenty of time for that, Nyssa.”
Her bed felt deliciously warm and comfortable, Nyssa thought fuzzily as she slipped beneath the covers. “Doctor,” she heard herself saying from far away, “I’m sorry about everything...”
“Quite all right,” he replied, in that seemingly bland, even voice. “Rest, Nyssa.”
“All right,” she murmured, settling easily into a deep sleep. The Doctor smiled down at his charge, then carefully turned off the lights and shut the door behind him.