Chapter 8 summary: While being on Ra's world, Jolinar goes for a walk in his famous gardens and meets someone important.
[ Chapter 1: Getting the first host | Chapter 2: Getting Acquainted | Chapter 3: Realizations | Chapter 4: Life and Discoveries | Chapter 5: Choices | Chapter 6: Daily Life? | Chapter 7: Ra's World | Chapter 8: A meeting | Chapter 9: Decisions | Chapter 10: Treason | Chapter 11: War | Chapter 12: On the Run | Chapter 13: A New Life | Chapter 14: Development | Chapter 15: Return | Chapter 16: Home ]
Later that day. Jolinar and Arnora had eaten a little of the fruit and then spent some hours sleeping. Kepi was snuggling at their feet. Afterwards, they had sent for a light meal and changed into something comfortable. It was actually quite pleasant to do nothing, though they were both looking forward to going home to their own, smaller palace.
Jolinar and Arnora decided to take a relaxing walk in Ra's famous garden. To enjoy its beauty and see the place they had heard about for themselves. Kepi also needed to be walked, so they brought her.
It was indeed beautiful. Soft grass and exotic trees shadowing small creeks and ponds. The gardens were criss-crossed by many small gravel-paths, which led to both scenic views and more quiet secluded spots. They had walked for a while and were now far enough into the garden that none of the sounds from the outside were heard. The occasional bird, as well as some insects was heard from time to time. The water in a small stream nearby purled as it ran over the pebbles. Now and then a rabbit or a few deers showed themselves. Jolinar and Arnora felt very peaceful - neither had ever been in a place like this and they were enjoying it immensely. They walked slowly along the winding path.
*It is stunning!* Arnora remarked. *Truly...I have never seen such a place. Flowers in all colours, many of them smelling sweetly.*
*Yes, the stories about this garden are clearly true. Ra has indeed created a wonderful place.*
*Oh...and look at all the fruit trees! I am suddenly feeling hungry...*
*I doubt Ra would appreciate us stealing his fruit.*
*He'd never notice. Those apples over there look delicious. Couldn't we just try one? Please?*
Jolinar hesitated, feeling unsure. She then took a quick look around, No one seemed to be around. *Fine...but you get the blame if Ra finds out...*
*Yes, because the other Goa'uld would really be impressed by the excuse 'my host made me do it'...*
Jolinar was reaching for a nice looking apple when someone spoke from behind.
"I would not do that - Ra does not like to share."
Just then sensing a symbiote, they quickly whirled around. They saw an elegantly dressed, beautiful woman coming towards them. Kepi whimpered pitifully and hid behind her master.
"W...I was merely studying the tree and the exquisitely looking fruit. I would never dream of stealing anything from Ra." Jolinar blushed furiously and cursed her own foolishness.
The woman smiled kindly. "Fear not - I saw nothing else. I merely felt it prudent to warn you. I know not what he would do to a Goa'uld being caught consuming Ra's favourite fruits, but the starving human slaves - who from time to time grow desperate enough to venture here for food - are banished for life to an unpleasant mining planet." Having come closer, the woman was now joined by a powerfully looking black panther. It said nothing, merely walked noiselessly to its master's feet and sat down there when she stopped in front of Jolinar. It eyed Kepi shortly, then ignored the small dog, safe in its knowledge of superiority.
*So that was the reason Kepi whimpered and hid behind us earlier! A panther!*
"Forgive me," the woman said, "where are my manners? My name is Egeria, youngest wife of Ra." She sounded a bit scornful of that title.
"My queen Egeria, I am Jolinar of Malkshur." Jolinar bowed deeply. "Forgive my behaviour - I did not recognize you."
"How could you? We have never met." She smiled. "Please, let us be informal, Jolinar. I do not feel a need for anyone humbling themselves in front of me. We are the only ones present."
Jolinar straightened. "Your Lord Ra has indeed create a park of rare beauty - I have never seen anything like it."
"It is one of my dearest pastimes to walk here. So quiet and undisturbed, far from...anyway, do you know that Ra himself only rarely comes here? He prefer to enjoy it from a distance, he says."
Jolinar nodded. "He must be very busy. Tomorrow is a rare treat then. Celebrating his first clutch with his newest queen...with you. Congratulations, by the way. I hope they are well?"
"Very well. Soon they will be implanted in their Jaffa." Egeria smiled, thinking of her young. "It is for the best of everyone, but I sometimes find myself wishing they could grow up in a lake, like our ancestors did ages ago. Then I would be able to see them on occasion."
Jolinar shuddered involuntarily, thinking of the loneliness in the pouch. How she had missed someone to talk to, especially when the memories - and the nightmares - came. She had actually been lucky, she reflected. The worst of the genetic memories begun surfacing shortly after the symbiote was 7 years old - and she had had to take a host not so long after - when she was 8. She had the nightmares still, but they were fading much faster than they otherwise would have. Her many other experiences gave her memories of her own. Having a host to talk to also helped - but it meant they both suffered to some degree. How much worse it would have been to be alone in a pouch for another 4 years! She felt she would have been barely sane. Probably believing everything she had seen and re-seen, again and again, in her memories. She did not understand how others survived without being damaged for life. Perhaps they did not, she thought idly - such memories might well have caused her do evil things. She again shuddered, then turned her focus outward and towards Egeria again.
"It is hard on the little ones, but it serves a higher purpose. Where would we be if the Jaffa were not to be trusted?"
"Where indeed..." Egeria for a short moment had a strange look on her face, then quickly hid it. "The evening is still young and dinner will not be served for another couple of hours. The weather is warm and pleasant - walk with me?"
"With pleasure." Jolinar smiled and picked up Kepi.
"You need not worry about your puppy. My pet here - Achilles - will not harm her unless he considers her a threat - and that is hardly the case. He is very well-behaved."
"He is very elegant."
"Thank you. He was actually captured on the Tau'ri and given to me when he was but a small kitten...he is not quite fully grown yet."
"On the Tau'ri! A rare prize indeed!" Jolinar studied the panther. Not fully grown yet? The thing was already huge! Jolinar put Kepi down again, eyeing the panther.
Achilles walked over to Jolinar and looked intently at Kepi. The dog looked terrified, but valiantly stayed - or perhaps she was merely frozen in fear. Achilles then licked Kepi across the face and made a low rumble. He then turned around and walked back to Egeria. Kepi looked like she was about to faint.
Jolinar and Egeria wandered around for almost two hours and talked, before they returned to the palace. Egeria went to eat with Ra's household, while Jolinar ate alone in her room.
Next day. Shortly after breakfast, a slave arrived to inform Jolinar that Ra would not be available to meet her that day either - because he was busy due to the celebration in the evening. Jolinar knew well that it was just an excuse, of course.
They spent the day relaxing and walking in the gardens - again meeting Egeria, who seemed to be spending much time there. Arnora suggested it was to be as far away from Ra as possible, and Jolinar was inclined to agree with her.
Then came the evening, and the large party. It began with a lavish dinner. Many Goa'uld had been invited and the place was full of people grovelling for Ra. Most behaved only minimally friendly and very arrogantly towards each other. Almost all treated Jolinar less than courteously, as she was a young Goa'uld with a small territory and she had not yet made a name for herself. However, it did turn out that some of them had heard about her winning a 'minor skirmish' against some of Zipacna's forces. This spoke in her favour, as Zipacna was getting very friendly with Apophis. He was one of the few acknowledged enemies of Ra, despite them currently having an uneasy peace.
Jolinar walked around a little. She talked to a few of the others, but mostly she kept to herself. She did not really know anyone there except Egeria, and as she was officially the guest of honour, she had no opportunity to talk to Jolinar.
Quite late in the evening, Ra's first queen, Hathor arrived. Jolinar knew she did that on purpose, to insult Egeria whom she clearly hated. She was known to be jealous of all Ra's other queens, but Egeria was the newest arrival and had the fewest supporters yet. Besides, Ra seemed to be somewhat infatuated by his new queen - something that likely infuriated Hathor even more.
The week passed. Every day, Ra found a new variation on his excuse for not being able to meet with Jolinar. She was starting to become seriously annoyed, but knew well it was common. This was especially done for a first meeting, in order to humble the guest.
Over the week they spent a lot of time with Egeria and quickly became good friends with her. Jolinar learned that she too had had to take a host too early. Like Jolinar, but for slightly different reasons. Egeria's father had fought with Ra over a planet and needed a huge gift as a peace offering. He sent his daughter - a queen. She was only 10 1/2 years old, but he put her in a host anyway and sent her to Ra, who happily accepted the offer. That was over a year ago, and now, almost mature, she had given birth to her first clutch.
It was now the evening of their sixth day at Ra's court. The day had passed much as the other five, and Arnora and Jolinar were now getting ready to go to bed.
*Jolinar?* Arnora wondered. Her symbiote had been brooding over something for a while.
*I am thinking...about Egeria...wondering if she, too talks to her host. Though she was closer to maturity than I when she took her host, her experiences nonetheless must resemble mine. She would have had an easier time controlling her host - especially being a queen. Still, over time, she may have ended up accepting that her host was a real person and begun communicating with her. She might have gone through the same philosophical doubts I have - or perhaps she is going through them now.*
*Perhaps, but not every Goa'uld who takes a host a bit early will end up like you and me.*
*Of course not, but there is also the fact that she behaves somewhat unusual for a Goa'uld. She is kinder. Remember, she chose to warn us instead of telling Ra that we had coveted some of his apples. This side of her personality only comes out when we talk in person. When others are around she hides it and act as arrogantly as other Goa'uld - but so do I. We have to. And I do suspect it is an act from her side as well - perhaps even more so than it is for me. I cannot deny that I still feel much of the arrogance and superiority and I have to fight it often. She seems to have gotten past that, as if she truly is a kind person. I don't know - others probably will not have noticed anything.*
*I think you are correct. Another thing...she does not seem to like Ra - at all. She spends as much time away from him as possible.*
They continued discussing their theories for a little while, but agreed that they could not approach Egeria about any of this. At least not until they knew her much better.
Next day, Ra was finally able to meet with Jolinar. He had claimed to be unable to do so because of this or that, for almost a whole week. She was now informed that he had graciously found the time to meet with her. Again Jolinar assured herself and Arnora that this was normal - another way of making sure people were put in their places. Jolinar still had to control her temper at having been treated like this, though.
"My Lord Jolinar. Our much beloved and respected, Supreme System Lord Ra, can now spare a few minutes to receive your humble gifts."
Jolinar felt her blood begin to boil at this insult, but squashed the urge to say something. She rose and followed the lo'tar to Ra's throne room, on the way there meeting up with those of her slaves that carried her gifts. They had not been allowed to wait inside together with her.
The audience went well, and Ra graciously accepted her gifts, her groveling, and her wows of obedience and loyalty. Bowing deeply one more time, she was allowed to leave the room.
*And now we can go home?* Arnora asked, relieved and hopeful.
*Yes, now - finally - we can go home.*
They made their goodbyes to Egeria and invited her to visit, should she ever come to Jolinar's part of the galaxy.