[ 1: Discoveries (PG-13) | 2: Fighting (PG-13) | 3. Through the Looking Glass (PG-13) | 4: A Goa'uld (PG-13) | 5: A New Reality (PG-13) | 6: Earth (PG-13) | 7: A Minor Goa'uld (PG-13) | 8: The Human Slave (PG-13) | 9: Egypt (PG-13) | 10: Ra (PG-13) | 11: Goa'uld Entertainment (R) | 12: Back in Space (PG) | 13: Comfort (NC-17) | 14: Next Morning (PG-13) | 15: Solving A Puzzle (PG-13) | 16: Queens (PG-13) | 17: Hathor (PG-13) | 18: Going Home (PG) ]
Chapter 16: Queens.
Summary: SG-1 and Martouf/Lantash are finally able to return to the task of finding a queen for Segomo, thus enabling them to go home. It is, however, not an easy task.
"So we are free to continue our own mission finally?" O'Neill said.
"Yes. I need not stay here just because it's now my planet." Lantash pointed out.
"Oh, yeah. Congratulations on that." O'Neill grinned crookedly. "First step on the way to becoming a System Lord!"
Lantash sighed. "I have no wish for that, as you well know! However, this planet is so far away from everything - especially since it has no chaapa'ai - and is so insignificant, that Heru'ur would not even keep it, if it did not have naquadah."
"Where do we go first?" Sam asked, wanting to change the direction of the discussion.
Daniel pulled out a note he had written. "First queen on the list...Hestia. Greek goddess of the hearth - and fire in general."
"That could be good or bad..." O'Neill commented.
"In this case I would say bad - she is not the worst, but she is known for demanding young untouched women to be rounded up now and then. She might pick one or two - for a new host, perhaps, or for general slaves - and then she will have the rest sacrificed in rather unpleasant ways..." Lantash looked disgusted.
"I don't think we need to know." O'Neill said quickly, having learned not to ask further when Lantash got that expression.
"She is the consort of Poseidon in our reality. He is one of Cronus's sons and also a minor Lord of his." Lantash informed. "I know which planet she would likely be on - if it's the same here."
"It's worth trying." O'Neill said.
"Um..." Daniel said. "Hestia is also one of Cronus's children - according to mythology, at least."
"That is the case here as well. She is his daughter." Lantash said. "The Goa'uld - and truth be told, the Tok'ra as well - does not have the same objections to taking relatives as mates, as humans of many cultures have."
"Well, I guess you don't have many other options..." Daniel commented. "Seeing as almost all Tok'ra were born by Egeria, I mean."
This time they only used the Teltac to travel to the nearest planet with a Stargate and gated from there to a marketplace near the world they would be going to. The one advantage of Lantash acquiring his own small domain, was that they could afford buying many things they would not have been able to otherwise - like a new Teltac.
Having bought a Teltac again - though an Alkesh might perhaps have been better and more impressive when they needed to convince a queen - they travelled to the domain of Poseidon.
It would not be too much of a problem for Lantash to invite himself. Poseidon was an ally of Cronus, who was loyal to Ra. Heru'ur was also loyal to Ra, so they were - almost - allies.
That did not mean they were not also rivals, but the fact that Lantash pretended to be a young and very minor Goa'uld, meant he would be expected to always be on the look-out for opportunities that would bring him power and influence. Adding to that the fact that every Goa'uld had a somewhat inflated opinion about their own worth, meant it was not difficult to convince Poseidon that 'Lord Ranesh' wanted an audience, hoping to ingratiate himself with a more powerful Goa'uld.
It was not unusual for young Goa'uld to travel around in the Galaxy to see which positions were available - even if he was already allied with Heru'ur. After all, the domain he had was close enough to worthless that everyone could understand his wish for something better.
Poseidon agreed to an audience, and Lantash went there, attended by his lo'tar and his First Prime. The meeting went well enough, though it was clear Poseidon could not offer a better position than Heru'ur - rather the opposite.
They did not even meet his queen, so they had no chance of finding out whether she could be convinced to leave for Segomo. However, Poseidon seemed interested in gaining allies, and showing himself as an important Lord, so he invited Lantash to attend a celebration he was giving that evening for some of his friends and allies.
This sounded like a possibly ideal opportunity - if only Lantash could get to talk to Hestia without Poseidon noticing. He thanked the Goa'uld for the invitation and said he would be happy to attend.
Lantash was bored. Poseidon had invited all his closest allies - all three of them. They were very minor Goa'uld, one of whom did not even have a planet. It was no surprise this group wanted Lantash to join - he was far from the weakest player here.
At first this revelation had surprised him - or more correctly, it had surprised him a queen would stay with such a low-ranking Goa'uld. Queens could usually easily ally themselves with even the most powerful of System Lords.
However, he soon realised the explanation. Poseidon worshipped the ground she walked on, and she was the actual ruler of his small domain. She might easily find a Goa'uld who would be more prestigious - but she would have less influence, and she obviously liked what power she had. Besides, she seemed genuinly taken with Poseidon as well, and ready to fight for power together with him, so it would probably be quite impossible to lure her away.
Yet another mediocre entertainer entered the stage, and started showing his tricks. Poseidon seemed pleased with the inane jokes, but Lantash suffered in silence. He turned to look at Sam, who stood just behind him and a little to the right, ready for his orders. Careful, so no one saw it, he sent her a smile.
She quickly checked if anyone noticed her, but of course, no one was watching a human. She smiled back at Lantash, then blew a kiss in his direction. He happily settled back in his chair, thinking about what they had done the night before, and what they would do tonight.
Martouf reminded him they should at least pretend to pay attention to the show and the other Goa'uld, but soon joined Lantash in the more pleasant thoughts about their Samantha.
Next day. Lantash had managed to get away from Poseidon with only a noncommittent promise to become his ally - not that it mattered one way or the other. They expected to be back in their own reality long before they could get involved in any wars.
They went on to the next queen on the list, a Goa'uld named Cerridwen. In their own reality, she was loosely allied with several Minor System Lords, who received the prim'ta they needed for their Jaffa from her in return for military protection, slaves, and sometimes naquadah.
Here, they learned she belonged solely to one of those, namely Lord Tegid. In their reality he was a minor Goa'uld, but here he was a relatively powerful System Lord with a large domain.
He still agreed to receive Lantash, though he made it very clear he considered himself far above this upstart. The audience started less than promising, since they were made to wait for almost 2 hours while Tegid finished eating and then allowed himself to be entertained by several of his dancers.
"How long can he let us wait?" Sam sat down, frustrated. She had been pacing the floor of the waiting room.
"As long as it pleases him. I am essentially a nobody, and this is not an unusual way for Goa'uld to put their potential future rivals in their place." Lantash said.
Teal'c nodded. "I have seen Apophis letting insignificant Goa'uld wait for almost a day before he allowed them an audience, especially if something else held his interest."
Finally, a very humble servant arrived, bowing deeply several times and apologizing profusely. It was obvious he was afraid what this probably wrathful god would do, since he had been forced to wait.
He knew what had happened to some of his predecessors, when other Goa'uld had been treated this way. In fact, he had been forced to help carry the body of his immediate predecessor, after Lord Khnum had killed him. He would never forget the frozen look of horror on the face of that body.
Lantash really just wanted to get the meeting over with and did not have any wish to listen to this man's apologies - especially since it was obvious he was completely innocent. However, that would not be how a Goa'uld was expected to behave.
"Quiet, slave! Take me to Lord Tegid immediately, or..." Lantash allowed his hand device to glow.
"Of course, my Lord!" Greatly relieved, the man lead them to the throne room and announced 'Lord Ranesh'.
After a short exchange of meaningless pleasantries - covering lightly veiled insults - Lantash was offered to share a light meal with Tegid while he handled some minor matters, that could apparently not wait.
Frustrated, but unable to say no if he wanted a chance to meet queen Cerridwen, Lantash politely accepted and sat down. He noticed he had been given a smaller and less richly decorated chair than what Tegid sat in, of course. Sam took her now accustomed place behind him to the right, and Teal'c stood at the ready as well, prepared to defend him, should it be necessary.
Lantash was served a glass of sweet wine and a plate of small cookies. He nibbled carefully on one of them and then took a small sip of the wine. Neither contained poison.
After a few moments, a female Goa'uld entered, followed by several Jaffa. She was dressed in a long white dress, made of a translucent material. She wore a long pale green cloak, richly embroidered with gold thread. On her feet were shoes that seemed to be wowen of gold thread as well. Around her arms and neck, and on her fingers, she wore plenty of gaudy rings and jewelry.
She was very beautiful, with long silken dark hair and sparkling green eyes, but she also looked cold and evil - and very arrogant. It was obvious she knew her value. She was a Goa'uld queen and not just a royal queen, but a breeding queen. A very rare prize for anyone to possess.
She floated into the room and went to the chair beside Tegid. She barely acknowledged him with a nod of her head, then sat down.
Tegid smiled arrogantly and turned to Lantash. "May I present my queen, Cerridwen. She just spawned a very large batch of larvae this morning, so I am impressed she has the energy to join this evening."
Lantash bowed respectfully, as was expected of him, then sat down again. "My Lady." Prompted by Martouf he added. "Your beauty is truly exceptional."
No harm in trying to get her in a good mood and look at you with favour, if they were to have any chance, Lantash agreed.
She clearly appreciated the compliment, smiling vainly for a few moments.
Lantash suddenly felt disgusted and wished he could slap the expression off her face.
"Since my queen is here, we are ready." Tegid clapped his hands and his First Prime bowed deeply, then left the room.
He returned momentarily with a small group of Jaffa, and three human slaves.
"Ah, yes. Three of the animals misbehaved..." Both Tegid and Cerridwen looked excited. "Bring forth the slave that delivered the answer from Lord Apollo this morning as well - he should be punished for his master's insolence."
Lantash felt his heart sink as he saw the thin, frightened slaves. He had really hoped avoiding to witness any more torture on this mission. So much for getting a good nights sleep without nightmares.
He sighed inaudibly, then inquired if Martouf wanted him to block it all out from him. He felt sorry for not being able to help Sam and Teal'c, though the latter had probably seen worse - and Sam likely had seen enough of Jolinar's memories to know what to expect as well...
Several hours later they were back on the Teltac. Lantash had realised they would not be able to approach Cerridwen, since Tegid watched over her like a hawk.
Besides, it was unlikely she would change allegiance - Segomo were less powerful than this Goa'uld, though only by a little.
They continued on to the next on their list. Her name was Rangda, and she one of those queens that shared her talents with several minor Goa'uld System Lords, in return for protection, naquadah, and various goods.
Hopefully, she would be more receptive than the other two.
Several weeks - and queens - later, they were feeling less than enthused. The majority had been unapproachable, and those Lantash actually had gotten as far as being able to talk to, had more or less laughed in his face when he made the offer.
There had been no good opportunities to abduct a queen either, and the idea was starting to look harder and harder to carry out at any rate, if the queen was as set against the idea of allying with Segomo as these had been.
However, if nothing else, this Galactic round-trip confirmed what they had suspected - that it was worse than they had started to fear. The Goa'uld were more evil and megalomaniacal than ever. They ruled everywhere. No where were there any other civilizations. All the more advanced people were either killed off or subjugated. The Tollan - the few that were left - were slaves. The Asgard were gone. The protected planets - gone or enslaved. All previously free or freed worlds - re-enslaved or completely obliterated.
It was depressing.
"I never thought I would say this, but I have to admit it would seem we should be grateful to the Tok'ra." O'Neill said, shaking his head slightly at the strangeness of him admitting it.
"Yeah, it'd obviously been much worse without them." Daniel added.
"Much worse? That doesn't even begin to describe it!" Sam exclaimed. "You haven't had the 'honour' of visiting many of these Goa'uld in their homes, as Lantash/Martouf, Teal'c, and I have. This place is unlivable!"
"The worst is, there seem to be no hope of it ever getting better." Daniel mused. "There are no other civilizations, besides the Goa'uld. No one to inspire others, no one to support a rebellion - no one even to take away the attention of the Goa'uld."
"The Goa'uld here are deeply depraved and only occupied with themselves. Sooner or later an enemy will appear that will slay them." Teal'c said, confidently.
Martouf nodded slowly. "Lantash and I agree. They are overconfident and degenerated. They will be their own downfall. We can only hope it will happen sooner rather than later, and that the rest of the Galaxy will rise quickly afterwards."
"It is scary how evil these Goa'uld are." Daniel said. "I am surprised they have become this much more egotistical and denigrating of humans and Jaffa, even without the Tok'ra here."
"Since these Goa'uld have never been reminded their hosts still exist - for instance by meeting a Tok'ra and hearing the host speak - they think of humans as something to be used and nothing more. They have an even lower regard for them than in our reality. Of course, if a Goa'uld takes a host while very young, they may have experienced their host speaking to them. May have had to fight for control. However, they will have been terrified of letting anyone know, and have punished the host severely. No one has shown these Goa'uld another option even exists - that their hosts still exists."
"I suppose that might actually make a difference..." Daniel admitted. "In any case, this only confirms our need to get back - we certainly can't stay here!"
"Oh, I agree! It's just not looking like it's gonna happen anytime soon, is it? Or is there something I've overlooked, perhaps? Maybe a friendly Goa'uld queen who doesn't care Lantash is a nobody?"
Suddenly, Sam sat up straight. "Why didn't we think of that before!" She slapped herself over the forehead. "There is a queen that just might be interested..."
"And who might that be?" O'Neill wondered.
Daniel frowned. "Do you really think she's still in her sarcophagus here? Wouldn't Ra or someone else have awakened her when they returned to Earth?"
"Not necessarily." Martouf looked thoughtful. "Actually, she is probably still there. It is unlikely Ra will have forgiven her. Once put into stasis - one way or another - a Goa'uld are usually left there forever. Unless some unlucky person stumbles over them, of course."
"So she might be where those archaeologists found her in our reality." O'Neill nodded. "OK, I guess it's worth a shot, though I doubt the bitch is interested in cooperating."
"I'm not so sure about that. She seemed to generally not like Ra - and most Goa'uld would be allied or cooperating with him in one way or another. Besides, she won't be any more evil than she was in our reality."
Martouf nodded. "True, she will have been in stasis since before the likeliest time our two realities diverged. It will also be in her own best interest to cooperate. Someone desperate - like Segomo - might be her only chance at getting any real power. I also doubt she would enjoy going back to being just one of many queens at Ra's court. If he would even take her back, which is unlikely."
"This is beginning to sound better and better..." O'Neill smiled, for the first time in weeks, if not months.
>> Chapter 17: Hathor (PG-13). It is time to meet Hathor again. Will she agree to ally with Segomo? Warning: Some references to sex.