Chapter 28 summary: Rosha and Jolinar are stranded on Teplik for several days while waiting for a chance to flee. 

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[ Chapter 1: Goodbyes | Chapter 2: An Audience | Chapter 3: A Conspiracy | Chapter 4: Promotion | Chapter 5: Minor System Lord | Chapter 6: An Old Acquaintance | Chapter 7: Diversions | Chapter 8: Plans | Chapter 9: Happy Moments | Chapter 10: Culmination | Chapter 11: Complications | Chapter 12: Daily Life | Chapter 13: Exposed | Chapter 14: A New Host - and a New Master | Chapter 15: New Challenges | Chapter 16: A Necessary Sacrifice | Chapter 17: Information Gathering | Chapter 18: A Surprise Visit | Chapter 19: Bad News | Chapter 20: War and Power | Chapter 21: Emergencies | Chapter 22: Found Out | Chapter 23: In the Tunnels | Chapter 24: Undercover at Bastet's Court | Chapter 25: Discovered! | Chapter 26: Rosha | Chapter 27: Host | Chapter 28: Getting Along | Chapter 29: Safe | Chapter 30: Lantash | Chapter 31: Shared Missions | Chapter 32: Taking A Chance | Chapter 33: Danger and Betrayal | Chapter 34: Some Realizations | Chapter 35: Hiding | Chapter 36: Time for the Truth | Chapter 37: Home | Chapter 38: Together | Chapter 39: Martouf ]


They walked at a steady pace until dawn was breaking. By then, both were exhausted, and they looked for a place to sleep for a few hours. They were deep inside the forest, and the probability of being discovered was low, but they could not risk making a fire.

Jolinar spotted a fallen tree, and they hid under the roots, shivering in the cold and dew of the early morning. Slowly, as the sun rose in the sky, it grew warmer, and Jolinar and Rosha nodded off. They slept for several hours, before they awoke with a jump.

Rosha let out a scream and pulled her arm to her quickly. Something had been crawling over it! As she felt Jolinar slowly begin to wake, she saw a small mouse scamper away, more terrified of Rosha than she had been of it. She relaxed.

*What is going on?* Jolinar wondered, sleepily.

*Nothing much. A...mouse was crawling over my arm, and I thought - I do not know what I thought. Perhaps that the Jaffa had found us.*

*If they were but mice, our troubles would be greatly diminished.* Jolinar commented, mirthfully, but with no malice. *I understand - it might have scared me too, but you must not scream so loudly. Probably no one is near to hear, but we are not safe from the Jaffa yet.*

*Then why did you give me control?* Rosha sounded offended.

*I did not give you control. As a Tok'ra, I am not in the habit of keeping control while I sleep. It can be done, of course - the Goa'uld do, if they are not using a sarcophagus, but it grows tiresome unless you want to suppress the host harshly. As it is, control slipped and whomever awoke first simply took it.*

*I see...I think...*

*We should get up and continue. The sun has turned in the sky.*

Rosha got up, stretching and brushing off some of the dirt. *Do you not want the control back?*

*Not particularly. You go on.*

Rosha nodded. *What if something happens? If someone attack us?*

*I doubt that will happen, but I can always grab back control.*

*Hmm. All right.* She sounded like she was not sure if she was more relieved or more concerned over this.

*We should find something to drink - and food would be nice as well, do you not agree?*

*Yes, water should not be a problem...but there is little food in the forests at this time of year. There may be some wild apples, but they will not be ripe yet.*

*What about animals? Anything we could hunt? Fish we can catch?*

*Our world has always been poor in animals. Except for mice and other rodents, and some insects, there is little. There is a kind of small, dog-like creature which eats the rodents, but we do not eat either. There are small fish in the streams and lakes, but they really are quite tiny, and full of small bones.*

*Birds? Do you hunt, or do you raise animals for protein - or are you vegetarians?* Jolinar wondered, interested.

*We raise some oxen, and chicken, but our lands cannot support enough to sustain us. There are small wild birds - and once a year there is the big hunt. For a whole day, the passage birds will fly across our sky, blacking out almost all light. Everyone who can use a bow, works from early until late, shooting them. We get thousands and thousand - but even with this many shot, it does not seem to diminish their numbers. We cure them in salt, and they provide us with meat for the entire year. This year I shot 507 of the birds! More than any of the other girls who had reached their time this year.* Rosha sounded proud.

*That is impressive. You must be very good at using a bow.* Jolinar commented, meaning it. *I hear water.*

*So do I.* Rosha walked to the small stream nearby, kneeling beside it. *The water comes from the mountains, and should be reasonably clean here. In other places it contains something invisible that make you sick.* She explained.

*Micro-organisms, various parasites...* Jolinar observed, realising immediately it meant little to Rosha. *In either case, it matters not. I can protect you from any disease. Drink, and worry not.*

*Then I will not get the spring-chill anymore?* Rosha sounded hopeful.

Jolinar saw in Rosha's mind that it was a kind of nasty cold, which her people suffered from in the spring. *No, that I can assure you - if you remain my host, that is, but even if I leave you, I will have made changes which will protect you somewhat.*

Rosha nodded again, then scooped up several handfuls of water and drank deeply. Refreshed, she arose and continued to walk in the direction of the mountains. 
 
*What did you mean by 'the girls who had reached their time'?* Jolinar wondered, suddenly remembering Rosha using the term.

*Those who have 20 turns of the sun - and who are to marry. We would have done so, at the harvest celebration - several months away still, I know.*

*Ah.* Jolinar idly noted to herself that the planet was one which rotated slower than most, and that it was comparative to about 25 standard years.

Perhaps that would be considered late to marry in some cultures, but Jolinar knew that on many of the poorer worlds, the young people first needed to collect some wealth and means to survive - not to mention learn various crafts and abilities - before they were allowed to take a mate.

The communities - while often communal - did not have enough resources to support more than a few non-working individuals, and would have to save those resources for those in unfortunate circumstances - suffering from accidents or natural disasters. For the same reason, there was no surplus to sustain a group of people working on research or development - or even art - all of which could have helped the society grow stronger. It was most unfortunate - but it was done on purpose by the Goa'uld, in order to keep everyone ignorant, and easily fooled into thinking the Goa'uld were gods.

*I am sad I did not get the chance to marry.* Rosha told Jolinar.

*Did you have a special one? One whom you were going to take as your mate?*

*No, I had not taken a fancy to anyone. There were two other girls, and four boys in the same situation this year. My success in the hunt meant I had an advantage before the marriage ceremonies.*

*Tell me about it?*

*I had just returned from my solitary journey to pick the flowers needed to dye my wedding dress. It is a test which must be completed alone, and I had found a large bag of the blue-dye flowers.* Rosha remarked proudly. *At the ceremony, the females will compete for the males, showing their skills. The winning girl gets first pick. I would have had a good chance of being the one to choose first! Since all the males and females who have come of age, will have to be matched, and there was an extra male, one female would get two husbands.*

*And you would have liked that?* Jolinar hid a grin.

*Yes, I think so. My cousin Tinka has...had two men. She told me she quite liked that.*

*Well, you may still get two mates. If you remain my host, and we one day take a Tok'ra as our beloved, we will get two mates - host and symbiote.*

*That is not the same! They cannot both touch you - among other things!*

Now Jolinar laughed. *True...but they will have greatly enhanced...ah...staying power, and regenerative abilities. They could fulfill your desires more so than two human males, of that I am certain.*

Rosha blushed a little, though clearly her people were not one of the shyest when it came to sex. *That sounds...intriguing. I had very much looked forward to experience a mating. Physical joining is forbidden until marriage.*

*Tell me of your contests? What does the women have to do to prove their skills?*

*Oh, women have already proven their skills. Only girls must prove their skills.*

*You are not considered women until you have mated?*

*No, of course not!*

*That is ridiculous!* Jolinar exclaimed, then realised it was not her place to judge. *Sorry, it is your culture. It is just very different from how the Tok'ra look at things. What does the girls have to do to prove themselves?*

*First there is a running competition. The one who can quickest traverse a distance of 2000 feet through a terrain with various obstacles, and reach the bushes, win. Then there is a swimming competition, where we would have to swim 1000 feet as quickly as possible. Finally, it is time to perform the ritual dance, in honour of Tipana. The one who does best overall, will be given the right to choose first, and so on.*

Jolinar could not help but notice that all the contests - including the extra prize for good shooting in the hunt - where aimed at showing off skills that would help the women survive, and flee from Jaffa, even. All but the last competition, which made sense in a culture that worshipped a Goa'uld.

*And you believe you had a chance?*

*Absolutely! I was the best shot, and I know I can run faster than Setta and Joaka. We have swam together a lot, so I know we do more or less equally well there. No, only the dance I was uncertain of, and I believe I am as good as Joaka, at least. Setta is a master dancer...was a master dancer...* Rosha fell quiet, as she again was reminded all her friends were dead.

Jolinar 'hugged' her warmly. *I would have liked to see you in a blue dress - I am sure you would look beautiful. It would suit your blue eyes.*

*Thank you.* Rosha suddenly spotted a tree with fruit, and her stomach growled loudly. *I see an apple tree. I would like to try how sour they are. Perhaps they are edible.*

*Do it, then. I will mitigate any stomach ache we would otherwise have gotten - and try to numb our ability to taste, if it is bad.*

-----
The apples had been tart - to put it mildly - and they had only managed to force a few of the small, hard green fruits down. It had quieted their stomach some, though, and they had continued their journey towards the mountains, reaching the foothills late evening.

They were in luck, and found a small and dry cave to hide in. A light drizzle had started falling, and they had not enjoyed the prospect of being soaked to the skin. Some dry leaves and grass had blown into the cave, and they snuggled up in it, falling asleep.

-----
Next morning, Jolinar awoke first. She was feeling very hungry, and thirsty as well. When she looked out, she saw no signs of any enemies, so she walked to a small stream that purled nearby. Drinking deeply, she then looked around for anything edible.

This planet surely must be among the poorest ones when it came to animal and plant life - at least in this area. Everywhere the same plants - and very few animals. She wondered if the Goa'uld had made the planet this way on purpose...or if the earlier civilization had - the one that had made the Stargates, and were referred to as the 'Ancients'...or if some cataclysmic event had hit the planet sometime in the past. Most worlds - except for the desert planets favoured by the Tok'ra - were more fruitful than this.

She found a few bitter, red berries which she ate. They were not poisonous, but she would not exactly call them edible either. Resigning herself to the situation, she peeled off some bark she knew would be edible, and she was gnawing on that when Rosha woke up.

*Bark!? Now I definitively believe you are not a god!* Rosha scoffed.

*Good.*

*That is disgusting! Could you not find something better?*

*I ate some very bitter red berries before, but I cannot find any more of them. Truth be told, the bark tastes better...*

*Bitter-berries. They are not for eating! Only for making dye, together with the blue-dye flowers!*

*They are edible, but marginally so.* Jolinar shrugged. *You find something better, then.*

*I certainly intend to try!*

Jolinar gave Rosha control, and the young woman set out on her mission to find something more palatable to eat.

-----
The five days passed slowly, and it was a both hungry and somewhat miserable Rosha/Jolinar that approached the Stargate. It had started raining again in the afternoon of the second day - a cold, hard rain, together with a piercing wind - and it had not stopped raining for the entire time they had been hiding.

*Fortunately, it seems there are no guards anymore.* Jolinar observed. *Bastet must not have found my computer virus in time to deactivate it.*

*Or this is a trap...* Rosha suggested.

Their time together had helped to completely convince Rosha that Jolinar was not a god - and she had started to like the Tok'ra symbiote. With the budding friendship and lack of fear, came a return to Rosha's normally quite assertive personality, and she happily told Jolinar her opinion on everything.

Jolinar was happy and at times exasperated at her new host, but she far preferred this to the timidness of their first day together.

Yesterday, Rosha had made her decision and told Jolinar she wanted to remain her host, and they had blended fully. Despite the weariness they felt after their ordeal, the blending gave them both a sense of peace, and everything seemed to go easier.

*A trap is always a possibility...* Jolinar agreed, *...but I think not in this case. Do I have your permission to sneak closer?*

*Sneak away. We cannot stay here any longer and I am beginning to suspect imprisonment is preferable!*

*Only your lack of experience makes you say that - I have plenty of memories of Goa'uld prisons, and the torture which invariably follows. You are more than welcome to look at them.*

*Nah, I will take your word for it.*

*Good.* Jolinar snuck closer to the Stargate, but no one jumped them. When they had finally reached the guards post they had spotted before, they could tell it had not been used for several hours - the footprints outside were washed away by the rain. Bastet must have left shortly after Jolinar's computer virus activated.

Jolinar allowed herself a moment of glee.

She went to the DHD and dialed an address - not one of the Tok'ra bases, but a stop-over world, if there should be someone spying on them, or if Bastet had left surveillance equipment. Not completely unlikely.

*Ready?* Jolinar asked, as she stood in front of the event horizon. *Are you sure you do not want control for this?*

Rosha had never gone through the Stargate before, and she felt both scared and excited at the same time. She reconsidered.

*I think I would like control...*

Jolinar gave it to her immediately, then enjoyed the happiness her host felt as she took the step through on her own.



Chapter 29: Safe