It had begun like any other day. The Fosters, under the leadership of their new Proctor, a middle-aged man of medium height named Keros, were going about their duties as spiritual guardians, ever vigilant for the appearance of another Melkur. If one appeared, they were under orders to report it to the Consuls immediately so that arrangements could be made for its destruction. Previously, a Melkur would have simply been confined to the Grove, with one of the young maidens of Traken appointed to look after it, until it was redeemed or until it calcified and passed into the soil. But, after what had happened with the previous Melkur, no-one was prepared to take chances.
Consul Katura paused by the spot where the Melkur statue had stood for so many years. For over two decades, it had stood there, silently collecting moss - and no-one had ever suspected what it was capable of. Not until it was too late . . . True, it did seem to have a strange hold over Kassia, but not one person had guessed what that would lead to. Now, five people, including Kassia, were dead because of the Melkur, sacrificed like pawns in a game of chess so that it could seize control of the Source and become Keeper, something no non-Traken could do otherwise.
And, Katura reflected as she gazed at a nearby bush, the Melkur would almost certainly still be Keeper had it not been for the intervention of two strangers. Shortly before the death of the old Keeper, the Fosters had found them (a tall, curly-haired man calling himself the Doctor and a boy named Adric, who, Katura guessed, was a little younger than Tremas's daughter, Nyssa) in the Grove and brought them into the Sanctum. There, they had been accused of being in league with the Melkur and it was only thanks to Tremas that they had not been put to death there and then.
Tremas . . . Katura paused, remembering the man who was supposed to have been the next Keeper. Until, that is, the Melkur conspired with Kassia to have him deposed in favour of the woman who had watched over the statue since she was in her teens. But the Melkur was merely using Kassia to gain access to the Source and, as soon as it achieved its objective, it killed her, destroying her utterly and leaving no body to bury. Katura still shuddered when she recalled the younger woman's anguished cries, the more so when she recalled that she, Katura, had been the one who completed the transition and allowed the Melkur to seize control of the Source. If she had only heeded the Doctor when he warned her not to complete the transition . . .
But, she told herself, she had merely been doing her duty. Kassia had been named as Keeper Nominate after Tremas (whom she had recently married) was disgraced and stripped of his Consular privileges; there had been no way of knowing that the Melkur was manipulating her. Nothing like this had happened on Traken in living memory, crime being rare in the Utopian society and treachery almost unheard of. But the events surrounding the previous Keeper's death had changed all that, had shattered the Trakens' insular view of the Universe, reminding them that, no matter how much they prided themselves on their peaceful Union, evil could still take root in the most harmonious society.
In the end, it had been the Doctor who had deposed the Melkur; he and Adric had then left Traken to continue on their travels and Katura privately wondered if she would ever see either of them again. Perhaps, but, in the meantime, the main priority had been to restore things to normal. It had been Luvic, a modest and unambitious young man, who had hurriedly stepped in to become Keeper and saved a centuries-old tradition from destruction; one of his first tasks had been to appoint new Consuls to fill the gaps left by his promotion to the Keepership and the deaths of Kassia and Seron.
Needless to say, now that Tremas was known to be innocent, he had had his Consular privileges restored. At the same time, three new Consuls had been chosen from among the Traken nobility, bringing the total back up to the traditional five. Katura's thoughts turned to her new fellows, mentally going over their names and the qualities which had earned them their promotion.
First, there was Consul Jaspin, a tall raven-haired man who had been considered as a Consul once before, but had been passed over in favour of Luvic. However, he had conceded graciously and had never borne any resentment towards Luvic. Clearly, Katura thought to herself, Luvic . . . No, she corrected herself, the Keeper had never forgotten this as, when the time came to choose the new Consuls, he had personally recommended Jaspin. The unfortunate episode of Kassia and the Melkur had taught everyone the importance of appointing Consuls who would not use their position for purely selfish reasons.
Next came Consul Evarina. She was a young woman, only a few years older than Kassia had been when she was first appointed to look after the Melkur, but hard-working and with a strong sense of duty. She would make a worthy Consul once she had had time to grow into the position; indeed, she reminded Katura of herself as a young woman. And Evarina's three-year-old daughter, Larsha, was a charming child, at the stage where she was beginning to imitate the adults around her. Katura smiled to herself; having Larsha around made her feel young again and reminded her of when Nyssa was still a little girl.
Finally, there was Consul Merloc, a middle-aged man whose brown hair was flecked with grey. He was an honest and trustworthy man, widely respected in the community, and understood well the responsibilities that came with being named as a Consul. In fact, if Katura had had to pick a new Keeper Nominate out of the three new Consuls, she would have chosen Merloc. Not that the need was likely to arise any time soon; one of the powers possessed by the Source was the ability to greatly increase the lifespan of any Traken who became Keeper, though this had, of course, not been the case with Kassia. The previous Keeper had lasted 1000 years and there was every reason to believe that Luvic could last just as long.
With Luvic inaugurated as Keeper, the charges against Tremas dropped and the new Consuls appointed, it had looked as though things were finally getting back to normal. Or so it had appeared - until Tremas vanished. The Fosters had conducted a thorough, but futile, search; no trace of Tremas had been found anywhere. In the end, there was only one possible conclusion: Tremas must have been kidnapped and taken away from Traken.
Katura had done much to comfort Nyssa, knowing how close she and Tremas had been. The daughter of Tremas's first wife, Serlana, she had been greatly loved by both her parents, especially since they had been trying for a child for years before Nyssa came along. And Katura, who had never had any children of her own, had grown to love Nyssa, who, though famed for her gentle nature, could be very strong-minded when she had to be, as though she was her own granddaughter.
Serlana had not lived to see her daughter grow up; she had died when a terrible sickness struck Traken. Nyssa, not yet ten years old at the time, had grown closer to Tremas in the years that followed, but, Katura recalled, she had greeted the news of her father's impending marriage to Kassia with mixed feelings. On the one hand, she had seemed pleased that he had found love again, on the other, she had seemed unsure about accepting Kassia as her stepmother. No, Katura thought to herself, there had never been any question of Kassia being a mother to Nyssa the way Serlana had been. And, though Kassia had still been young enough to have children of her own, she had never shown any kind of maternal instinct, unless you counted the way she had lovingly tended the Melkur statue for so many years. Not that it mattered now . . .
In the end, with nowhere else to turn, Nyssa had contacted the Doctor and asked him to help her find her father; shortly after this, a mysterious stranger claiming to be "a friend of the Doctor's" had come to Traken and taken Nyssa away with him. They had left Traken to go in search of the Master, a rogue member of the Doctor's race, the Time Lords. For it had been the Master who had been responsible for all the disasters on Traken; the Melkur statue had, in fact, been his TARDIS, in which he had bided his time until he could seize control of the Source. The Doctor and, to a lesser extent, Adric had thwarted that particular ambition, but it appeared that the Master had had a great deal to do with Tremas's disappearance. So Nyssa had left Traken to try and find the Master and find out her father's fate, leaving instructions that Tremas's position among the Consuls be left vacant for the time being. Only if it became clear that Tremas was never coming back was a new Consul to be appointed.
Katura paused as she realised what that meant. With Luvic promoted to Keeper, Seron and Kassia dead and Tremas missing and possibly dead, she was the only one of the current Consuls who had served under the previous Keeper. She was . . .
A sudden gust of wind knocked Katura off her feet, distracting her from her thoughts. She tried to pick herself up, only to be knocked down again. What was going on here? She knew of only one thing that could cause such a wind on Traken; the Source must be out of control for some reason. But not so soon. Surely not so soon. Luvic had barely been inaugurated as Keeper; his Time of Dissolution couldn't be here already.
Then, Katura glanced up at the sky and caught her breath. Something was encroaching on Traken, something very big and very black, something capable of swallowing up an entire world. And, whatever this phenomenon was, it would be here at any moment. There was no time to rally the people, no time to evacuate the planet; everyone - Proctor Keros and his Fosters, the Keeper and his Consuls, even little Larsha - everyone was going to die. Just when it seemed that Traken was recovering from the blight of the Melkur, the entire population (save for one teenaged female) was about to be wiped out.
Tears began to trace their way down Katura's cheeks and she reached out to pluck a flower from a nearby bush. Clutching it in her hand, she gazed mutely at the thing that was about to engulf her world and everything on it. And not even the Keeper could do anything to stop it; the Source would be destroyed along with everything else.
Katura's last thought before she perished along with her home world was of Nyssa, the granddaughter she had never had, praying that, wherever she was, she was safe.