Since neither Apophis nor Zipacna wanted to risk a war with Cronus at the time - and since Cronus clearly felt the same - the confrontation would not be allowed to escalate above minor System Lord level.
It also meant Jolinar could not expect assistance from anyone, not even the other minor System Lords, allied with the same master as her. It would be too risky. Had it been someone much stronger than Jolinar that attacked her, Zipacna and her other allies would have had to help her. As it was, she was alone.
Besides, it was well known they would rather see her fail, in the hopes of picking up some parts of her domain.
Jolinar sent Jalen with her Jaffa to defend Nirra, while she, herself rallied her fleet. By now, she had three Alkesh and more than a hundred death gliders. The problem with the latter was that only about 50 were stationed at Kiwh, and with no Ha'tak to move them, she could get no more in place. The death-gliders did not have hyper-drive.
Her three Alkesh and 50 death-gliders would have to do. The enemy had an Ha'tak - likely with a full contingent of death-gliders - and one Alkesh. It was not an even match, but she was a skilled tactician and had lead inferior forces to victory before. She would do so again.
"Be ready to leave the hiding place and fire at these coordinates as soon as the Ha'tak gets within range." Jolinar ordered, sending the coordinates along with the command. "Then follow the plan exactly as I said."
"Yes, my Lord."
Her First Prime went to enter in the coordinates as Jolinar sat down in the command chair. This ship, along with her two other Alkesh, were hiding behind the largest of the two moons orbiting Kiwh.
As per her command, the three Alkesh, followed by the death-gliders, flew out from the shadow of the moon and fired at the Ha'tak. They got off several shots each before they had to flee.
Jolinar checked the read-outs, noticing the shield had only weakened imperceptibly on the Ha'tak. It would soon be back at full strength. Tewa would feel overconfident and not suspect anything. It would be easy to get her to chase Jolinar's ships.
It happened just as Jolinar had expected. Tewa followed the enemy ships with both her Ha'tak and Alkesh, and Jolinar smirked, as her ships flew towards the planned position. One of her Alkesh's took a direct hit, eliminating its shields completely.
Jolinar considered ordering it away, both to save the lives of those aboard, and to be able to repair it later. However, she could not risk any of Tewa's ships breaking off and following it instead, so she ordered it to continue fighting.
Jolinar's ships drew their unsuspecting prey exactly where she wanted them. Suddenly, she stopped and ordered her ships to fly straight up and away. Tewa's Ha'tak was not quite as maneuverable, and the Goa'uld soon found herself in the middle of a mine-field placed there by Jolinar. Everywhere big explosions lit up the sky, and Tewa's Alkesh was caught in it as well. The smaller ship did not have nearly as strong shields as the Ha'tak, and it only took a few explosions before it was defenseless and burning.
The shields of the Ha'tak grew clearly weaker, then disappeared, and Jolinar ordered her ships in for the kill before Tewa had time to turn her weapons towards the attacking enemy. Jolinar had programmed the mines to recognize her own ships, so she could fly among them with little risk.
"Fire!" She ordered, and her ships all opened fire on the Ha'tak.
Without shields it could not handle the steady barrage of hits for long, and soon small explosions and fires could be seen on the ship. Jolinar kept pounding at it, and it soon turned to run. It did not make it to hyperspace, though. Hitting another mine on the way, the ship began breaking up, and lost the ability to maneuver completely. It flew with high speed towards the planet Kiwh, partly burning up in the atmosphere before the rest of it crashed with a large explosion.
Jolinar hoped it had not hit the few major populated areas, but from its trajectory she was almost certain it had not.
The remaining enemy death-gliders could be handled easily, and soon less than ten were left. The Jaffa in those signaled their surrender, and Jolinar accepted, knowing Zipacna would probably expect to receive a 'gift'. While she very much suspected the Jaffa would have preferred the relatively easy death in space to the fate that awaited them at Zipacna's hands, she had little choice if she did not wish to draw his wrath to her, or even make him suspect her of being a Tok'ra.
Meanwhile, Jalen had successfully defended Nirra with very few casualties, and this double victory resulted in Jolinar gaining a planet. She easily took the nearest of Tewa's, after she had been killed in the battle. Tewa's former ally had taken over the rest of her planets, and no one felt like contesting that.
Jolinar celebrated her victory with a small party for her allies. Zipacna did not feel it important enough to show up, of course, but he sent her one hundred Jaffa to replenish her forces. More over, he allowed her to graciously buy an Alkesh from him at half price.
So, over all Jolinar had gained both power and influence, but more importantly, her neighbors did not feel like attacking her again, having now decided she was a strong player.
Most of the battles she had to fight over the years were actually initiated by Zipacna. She - and all other minor Goa'uld - had to follow the plans of their liege lord, even at their own expense. This was because they could not attack their fellow vassals with impunity.
At least they had protection from the more powerful Goa'uld, whom almost certainly would have conquered them otherwise. This was the main reason minor Goa'uld allowed themselves to be controlled like this.
The Tok'ra were pleased with Jolinar's work. She - and the other Tok'ra she had helped introduce to Zipacna and his allies - continued to gather intelligence. This enabled the Tok'ra to better keep these Goa'uld from gaining power.
Zipacna was also satisfied with Jolinar - or 'Lord Siwa' - and the intelligence she provided him with, not knowing the Tok'ra partially controlled his and Apophis's actions.
Because Zipacna found Jolinar to be one of his most useful and promising underlings, he brought her to a summit for Ra's 'adversaries'. Though they had long since ceased to be active enemies of the Supreme System Lord and actually had treaties and agreements with him. Effectively assuring they would never take any steps to threaten his supremacy.
This was a perfect opportunity for Jolinar to spy on several Goa'uld she would otherwise never meet. Especially since they celebrated themselves with a sumptuous banquet after the official part of the summit, allowing Jolinar to listen in on many a drunken conversation.
Like most people, the Goa'uld tended to boast of their riches, power, and conquests, and while they certainly made many ridiculous claims which were pure bragging, Jolinar also heard many truths the Goa'uld would probably have considered too secret, had they been sober.
The banquet was held on one of Apophis's planets, at a pleasure palace of his. As Ra's most determined rival, he was the host of the whole summit. Jolinar had never been to this world before, and she had seen only few palace's that surpassed this when it came to expensive - and over the top - decorations.
Everything was constructed of marble, semi-precious stone, or gold. As she walked the hallways, she looked at the opulent paintings on all the walls, the expensive, overly decorated furniture, made from exotic wood, covered in carvings. It reminded her of Ra's palace on his main home world - the one he used for showing off.
Jolinar was amused Ra's rival had chosen to model his pleasure palace after Ra's famous one, and she wondered idly if he had constructed a garden like the one Ra had, as well.
*We should return to the main room. The banquet is about to start, if I am not mistaken.* Lisha pointed out.
*You are correct. Thank you for reminding me!*
Jolinar hurried back to the room with the long tables, now filled with delicious food and drink. She walked up to Apophis with a dignified air and bowed deeply to him. As the host of the evenings celebration, she had to greet him first. She then bowed to Zipacna, and a couple of other higher ranking Goa'uld, before she walked to her seat.
She would be sitting at Zipacna's table, which was an honour, even if she had to sit at the far end. It suited her well - she had no great desire to spend the evening listening to either him or Apophis. Besides, there were little new confidential information to gain there and she would prefer a chance at overhearing some new secrets.
She politely greeted the Goa'uld sitting near her, recognizing one of them as a vassal of Zipacna's brother Cabrakan. He introduced himself as Nacon. The other nearby Goa'uld also turned out to be vassals of Cabrakan, with the exception of one of them - Meret - who served Tauret.
They did as they often did in such situations; Jolinar kept her attention on the food and drink -and on the conversations, making sure to make comments in the right places, both steering the discussions in directions she wanted them to, and making sure to appear harmless.
Meanwhile, Lisha concentrated on other, nearby conversations, trying to pick up useful information from Goa'uld who thought no one was listening. This tactic usually paid off, and today was no exception.
Jolinar and Lisha had barely arrived on Terweh, before she received word Sestor was under attack by a large force. It was Sehaw - the Goa'uld who had been allied with Tewa, and who together with her had attacked Nirra and Kiwh several years ago.
Unfortunately, Jalen was away on one of her infrequent trips to a Tok'ra base. She was currently the Tok'ra in Zipacna's domain who was responsible for reporting in detail and answering any questions the local Tok'ra Council had about everything that happened in this area. She also was the one to receive any new orders for all of them. It was safer having one Tok'ra - working as a lowly underling - return to the tunnels now and then, than it was for all to go, especially if those Tok'ra had higher positions.
As quickly as possible, Jolinar marshaled her forces and marched on Sestor. She sent a large contingent off in her Alkesh's, and when they were in orbit, she sent the rest of her Jaffa through the Stargate to Sestor. All was poised for a two-pronged attack.
It was high time they arrived. Sehaw had killed the defenders and taken Sestor. Knowing well he would not be allowed to keep it, he had started plundering everything he could and destroying what he would not be able to bring with him.
He had even given an order to the Jaffa that they could do what they wanted to the population - as long as no one was alive when they left - which meant they raped, pillaged, and murdered. Already a quarter of the population was dead, the rest in complete panic, scattered over a large area in their attempt to hide from the enemy Jaffa.
Jolinar had arrived sooner than Sehaw had expected, and he had also not counted on a two-sided attack, both from above and through the Stargate. His forces were quickly conquered, and the Goa'uld himself only just managed to escape with his life. All his Jaffa were slaughtered.
It would be some time before he could attack anyone again, but at what cost had this victory been won? Jolinar stayed at the local fortress while she had her First Prime do a census of the population and the planet itself. How many had been killed? How did the cities and villages look? What about resources - had the naquadah and other mines been attacked?