Stargate Horizons


Egeria's First Prime came into the throne room.

"My deepest apologies, My Queen," he said.  "There is a group of citizens asking to see you regarding the fate of this slave."

Latching onto the excuse to delay Daniel's sentencing, Egeria told the Jaffa to let them in.  A group of sixteen people entered.  Among them were Aulus, Decimus, and two freemen who worked in the palace.  Daniel also saw a few other familiar faces, including the mother of the child he saved from drowning.  He guessed that the man who stood close beside her was her husband.  And then he saw yet another person he recognized: the woman who was almost killed by the man he now knew was named Herminius Gallus.

The group came to a stop before the throne and went to their knees.

"My Queen, we have come to petition for Daniel's life," Aulus announced.  "All of us here are free men and women.  The law states that if the people wish to petition for a change in a law or the punishment of a crime or if they wish to bring about some other change, they must gather in a peaceful group and come before you with their arguments.  This group is small, but, if given time, we could gather more."

Aulus lifted his gaze to Egeria.  "I have spoken to you of the circumstances surrounding the death of the murderer, Herminius Gallus.  You know that Daniel killed him to save the life of another, that there was no other course of action he could have taken, except to let the woman die.  These others before you now wish to speak words in his defense."

The woman Daniel saved from being killed stood and came forward, along with a man and woman who were probably her parents and another man who appeared to be just a few years older than her.

"My Queen," said the young woman.  "What you have been told is true.  Herminius was a suitor who sought my hand in marriage, but I did not love him, so I rejected him.  He refused to accept my rejection.  He began to follow me wherever I went, watching my parents' home when I was there.  He frightened me.  My father drove him away more than once, but he kept returning.  Today, he followed me to a place where I met a man for whom I had feelings.  When he saw me with Cnaeus, he went mad, saying that I was his and no other man could have me."  Tears filled the woman's eyes.  "He pulled a knife from his robes and plunged it into Cnaeus' heart.  That is when this man," she pointed at Aulus, "and the slave, Daniel, arrived.  Herminius put the knife to my throat, and I believed that he was going to kill me.  Daniel spoke to him in soothing tones, tried to calm him, but the madness within Herminius was too great.  It was then that Daniel revealed the strange weapon.  He told Herminius that he did not want to hurt him and pleaded that Herminius release me and surrender.  But, instead, Herminius tried to kill me.  If Daniel had not killed him I would be dead."

The woman's father stepped up beside her.  "My daughter speaks the truth.  Three times I drove Herminius away from our home, yet he kept returning.  She feared him, spoke of how he followed her when she walked in the city.  I intended to approach the magistrate to report Herminius' actions, but I did not act quickly enough.  If it was not for the actions of this one named Daniel, my daughter would be dead.  I, my wife and my son plead that you spare his life."

The next ones to come forward were the parents of the girl Daniel pulled from the river.

"Our daughter, too, owes her life to this slave," the man said.  "He did jump into the waters of the river to save her.  Then, with an ability that I do not understand, he brought life back to her.  We also plead that you spare his life, for he is a good man who does not deserve to die."

One by one, each of the others came forward, most of whom were merchants Daniel had befriended.  Decimus came last, his plea among the most heartfelt.

After all the others had their say, Aulus again spoke.

"You have heard the pleas of these people, and, now, I will speak for all.  We put forth a petition that the law concerning the death of a free citizen at the hands of a slave be changed so that, if the killing is done to save the life of another free citizen, no punishment is to be given.  We further petition that a new rule be passed that if a law is changed, all those who committed a crime under the old version of a law must be sentenced anew under the revised one."

Daniel was stunned by what was happening.  Aulus and all these others were petitioning for major changes in the law just to save him.  But would it do any good?  Could Egeria really change the law at the request of just sixteen people?

Just then, Egeria's First Prime and three other Jaffa came forward and went to one knee before the queen.

"We ask, too, that you consider this petition," the First Prime said.  "Though the law does not give us a legal voice to request such changes, we wish you to know our feelings and those of many other Jaffa in your service.  The slave named Daniel is a man of honor and integrity.  Jaffa do not expect to be treated with true respect by any human, much less kindness, yet Daniel gives us both.  To put him to death would be a great wrong."

If Daniel was stunned before, he was now shocked beyond speech.  For Egeria's Jaffa to step forward and do this was unbelievable.  Many Goa'uld would consider it an act of defiance and have them all killed.

Daniel's gaze went to Egeria.  There was a look in her eyes that he recognized as immense relief.

"In accordance with the law, I have listened to your petition," she said.  "Though your group is small, the law does not state how large the petitioning group must be.  Therefore, I can choose to accept or reject your request.  Your words are true and wise.  To put Daniel to death for his actions would be an unjust act.  I accept your request.  From henceforth, any slave who kills a free citizen in order to save the life of another free citizen will receive no punishment.  Furthermore, this change in the law and all other law changes from this day forward will be applied to individuals who have already committed a crime and are awaiting sentencing or have already been sentenced."

Daniel relaxed, almost weak with relief.  He looked at the people whose actions had saved him.  Aulus and Decimus were both grinning broadly, and there were smiles on a few other faces as well.

"Thank you, My Queen," Aulus said.  "We are eternally grateful for your fairness and wisdom."

The group left the throne room.  Daniel turned back to Egeria.

"Thank you," he said.

The Goa'uld queen nodded.  "It pleases me that the people stepped forward and spoke in your behalf.  Their petition gave me the legal means to do what I had wished to do.  None can question my decision for it is in the law that I am free to accept any petition by a group of free citizens."

Daniel smiled.  "It's a good thing you put that in the law, then."

Egeria smiled as well.  "Indeed it is."

When Daniel got to the library, he found himself being hugged by Decimus.

"Thank you for what you did, Decimus," the archeologist said.  "If you and the others hadn't stepped forward. . . ."

"Our queen did not wish to put you to death, Daniel," the old man declared.  "I saw this in her eyes when I came before her to plead for your life."

"But she had to do what was necessary to maintain peace and stability here."

Decimus nodded.  "I am well versed in the law and knew that if a formal petition was presented to her, it would give her a way to legally reverse your death sentence."

"So you went to Aulus, and the two of you got busy gathering people who would be willing to petition for a change in the law to save me."

"Yes.  If there had been more time, I know that we could have found still more people to speak in your behalf.  Though there are freemen who do not like that you fail to treat them with the deference they believe you should, there are others who recognize that you are a good man."  The elderly man grinned.  "And I do believe that there are many women who would rise to your defense if only for the reason that you brought to this world the thing called chocolate."

Daniel let out a laugh.  Just then, his stomach growled.

"You are hungry," Decimus said, his smile lingering.

"I haven't eaten since midday.  I don't know what time it is, but I'm guessing it must be quite late."

"Yes, well past the normal time for the evening meal.  Come.  I will dine with you, for I have not eaten either."

There were a few slaves also eating a late meal, and some of them expressed their happiness that Daniel's life had been spared.  He did notice one man, however, who didn't look all that pleased.  The man's name was Spurius.  He was one of the higher-ranking slaves who sometimes attended to Egeria's personal needs.  The archeologist had once noticed the man frowning at him and wondered why.

When Daniel retired to his room after the meal, he was shocked to see his gun lying atop the table.  He really hadn't expected to get it back.  He realized that this was Egeria's way of telling him that she still trusted him.

Deciding that perhaps it would be best if, from now on, he left the Beretta in his room, Daniel placed the gun in the chest and closed the lid.

Egeria gazed upon the corpse of the man named Herminius Gallus, examining the ruin that Daniel's weapon had made of the man's head.  She had studied the things Daniel called bullets, and it surprised her that something so small could do so much damage.  Such a weapon could kill a Goa'uld, yet she had chosen to return it to its owner.  Her fellow Goa'uld would tell her that she was insane, but she had absolute trust in Daniel.  He would never harm her.

Egeria wondered about the madness that had inflicted Herminius.  His unreasoning obsession with the young woman he nearly killed would very likely have eventually led to her death even if today's events had not occurred.  Better that he was dead so that no more innocent citizens would die at his hands.

"Did Herminius have any family?" Egeria asked her First Prime.

"No, My Queen.  His parents are dead, and he was an only child.  There are only distant cousins."

"Good.  Then I do not have to be concerned that a relative will seek retribution against Daniel.  Even so, I want you and the other Jaffa to listen closely to talk in the city.  Though Herminius did not have any family, he may have had close friends who will be angered that Daniel was not executed.  If you learn of anyone who may seek to harm him, inform me immediately."

The Jaffa inclined his head.  "What do you wish me to do with the body?"

"He was a murderer.  Burn the body and dispose of the ashes.  He does not deserve to have his remains interred or any plaque made in remembrance.  The memory of him will eventually be lost, as is fitting."

"Yes, My Queen."

Egeria turned on her heel and left the room, determined that this incident would be put to rest and never rise again.

Early the next morning, Daniel went to see Aulus to thank him.  On the way, he noticed the looks he got from others in the city, but chose to ignore them.  He didn't know what the general viewpoint was about everything that happened.  It wouldn't surprise him if some of the freemen believed that he should have been executed regardless of the petition, but they were bound by the law and could not take action against him.  Though they could counter petition and request that the law be changed back to the way it was before, Daniel knew that it would be useless.  Egeria would not change it back.

Daniel had found out from a slave that the body of the man he killed had been cremated and his ashes scattered.  There would be no plaque made for him, no interment of his remains.  The archeologist recognized the significance of this.  To the Romans, the worst possible fate was anonymity in death, for they believed that it was the remembrance of the deceased that assured immortality.  For Herminius' remains to be disposed of in that way, with no tomb, no plaque or marker of any kind being made meant that nothing would be left behind to act as a remembrance for him.  In time, all evidence and knowledge of his existence would completely vanish.

Daniel wasn't sure if he agreed with what Egeria had done.  Yes, Herminius had committed murder, but he'd also clearly been insane when he did so.  Daniel didn't know what drove Herminius mad, what had caused him to develop his obsession with that woman, but it was likely that he hadn't always been that way.  As someone who'd personally experienced what it was like when something went wrong with the chemicals inside the brain, Daniel knew very well that many forms of insanity were caused by medical issues.  Herminius might have been a good man before he went crazy.

When the archeologist arrived at the construction site, he received another hug and a big smile from Aulus.

"Ah, Daniel.  It is good to see you a free man."

"Well, not exactly free, but, thanks to you and the others, I'm not in a prison cell or dead."

Aulus sobered.  "Decimus and I were determined to do all we could to save you."  The smile returned.  "I never had much time for that old man, but I believe I underestimated him.  He has spirit, and he knows the law.  It was he who realized that having the law you broke changed was not enough, that a new rule needed to be added so that you would be covered by the changes."

Daniel nodded.  "That was smart.  Where I come from, some changes in the law can affect people who have already been charged with a crime."

Aulus searched Daniel's face.  "I must know.  When you killed that man, did you know what the laws were concerning a slave killing a freeman?"

"Yes, I knew."

"Yet, still, you killed him, even knowing that the price would be your own life.  You are a courageous man, Daniel.  Not many would have done the same in your place."  He smiled.  "Now, tell me about this weapon that you used.  Never have I seen anything like it!  It has great power for something so small."

"Um, yeah.  I can't tell you where I got it.  I'll just say that it is very common there . . . too common, actually.  Unfortunately, this isn't the first time I've had to use it."

Aulus met his eyes.  "Or killed with it."

Daniel looked away.  "No."

"How is it that it was not taken from you when you were made a slave?"

"Actually, it was, but Egeria gave it back to me a while ago, after I was attacked by that thief.  She wanted to give me the means to protect myself."

Aulus said nothing about the astonishing fact that Egeria had given a slave a deadly weapon that he could use against her.  Could it kill her?  If the old tales were to be believed, the gods of Rome could be killed, though not at the hands of a mortal human.  Regardless, giving the weapon back to Daniel showed that Egeria had a great deal of trust in him.  To Aulus' mind, this was more proof that she felt a lot more for him than simple affection.

The master builder had told no one about his suspicions, and he intended to keep it that way.  Spreading gossip about his queen was a line he would not cross.  In truth, he could not fault her tastes.  If there was any man worthy of her love, it was certainly Daniel, slave or not.  But what were Daniel's feelings for her?  He had said that he was coming to like Egeria.  Knowing what Aulus did about Daniel's history with the Goa'uld, he suspected that his former assistant's feelings for Egeria might never be more than that.

Daniel looked at the position of the sun.  "I should go.  I want to talk with a few other people before I go back to the palace."

Daniel's next order of business was to visit the merchants who were in the group that came to his defense, wanting to thank them as well.  Each of them told him that they were pleased that they could help and were delighted with the outcome.

Once he was back in the palace, Daniel threw himself into his work.  He had not slept well last night, the vision of what the bullet he fired did to Herminius' head haunting him.  He knew that he needed to get past this, accept that what he did was necessary and move on, but it was proving not to be easy.

More than once, Daniel wished that he hadn't had that gun with him.  Each time, though, he thought about what probably would have happened if he hadn't been armed.  He'd have been powerless to stop Herminius from killing that woman.  Given the choice of having to live with what he did or having to live with the pain of being unable to stop a murder, Daniel realized that the former was far better.  That realization, however, didn't make him feel any less troubled.

Daniel ate his lunch out in one of the gardens.  Actually, picked at his lunch was a more accurate description.  He spent more time just staring at nothing.  He was startled by a voice to his left.

"You appear troubled."

Daniel looked up at Egeria, who came toward him.

"Um . . . I just have a lot on my mind."

Egeria sat beside him on the bench.  "About yesterday's events?"

The archeologist let out a sigh.  "Yes."

"What troubles you?  Have you had difficulties with someone?"

"No.  No one has bothered me.  It's just. . . ."  Daniel's gaze dropped to the basket that held his lunch.  "I've killed before, more than once, when I had no other choice, when I was protecting my own life or someone else's, but I've never. . . .  He was the first human I've killed with a weapon in my own hands, the first one I saw die as I took his life.  I know I had to do it, but that doesn't make it any easier."

Egeria rested a hand on his forearm.  "I understand how you could feel that way, Daniel.  A man with a kind and gentle spirit such as yours would not find killing easy.  You must console yourself with the thought that a young woman is alive because of you.  The one you killed was insane, and, even if yesterday's events had not taken place, he would have eventually been imprisoned or killed."

Daniel nodded slightly, knowing she was right.

"Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?"  Egeria smiled teasingly.  "Would you like some chocolate?"

Daniel gave a half-laugh.  "Thank you, but, no.  I'm not really in the mood for chocolate."

"Then tell me what I can do."

Daniel lifted his head and stared at her.  The question that had come frequently to his mind arose again.  This time, he chose to speak it.

"Why do you do this, Egeria?  Why are you so . . . so nice to me?  I'm a slave.  You made me one.  I may be new to being one, but I do know some things about slavery.  Slaves are not given bags of money to buy whatever they want.  They are not invited to share meals and pleasant conversation with their master.  A master does not go out of their way to see to the physical or emotional comfort of a slave.  I have heard the other servants talking about this, and I have seen with my own eyes how you interact with them, so I know that you don't treat any of them like you treat me, not even your Lo'taur.  I am very grateful for all the kindness you've given me, Egeria, but I have to know why."

Egeria did not answer for several seconds.  If he had asked this question two months ago, she would have told him that she had her reasons and left it at that, for she would not have wanted him to know that she was seeking to engender feelings for her within him, get him to fall in love with her so that she could quench her desire for him.  But things were different now.  The more time she spent with him, the more she wanted that time.  When she looked at him, there was a warm glow in her heart.  Each time she saw demonstrations of his quick mind, his knowledge, his kindness and goodness, it made her respect and admiration for him grow.  When she had believed that she would have no choice but to order his death, it hurt more than any other emotional pain she had ever suffered.

Egeria could count on the fingers of one hand the number of humans for whom she had come to feel deep emotions.  Daniel surpassed them all.

"In these months that I have known you, I have seen the measure of you," the Goa'uld queen began.  "You are a man with a heart that is great and good.  Though my fellow Goa'uld would be greatly insulted to hear me say this, your intelligence rivals that of many of them, even surpassing some.  I forced you into slavery, took away your freedom, yet there is no bitterness in you.  I am a Goa'uld, a member of the race that took the one you loved more than any other, yet there is no hatred in you for me.  You extend to me the same generosity of spirit that you do to everyone else.  I have grown to respect you in this time, Daniel, and to admire the man that you are.  And . . . and I have come to care about you a great deal.  In my long life, there has been only one human I have looked upon as a true friend."  Egeria's eyes looked into him.  "You are now the second."

Daniel drew in a sharp breath, his mind reeling.  During these months, he had come to see that Egeria really was quite different from every other Goa'uld he'd ever met, but to hear her say those things had left him speechless.

"I . . . I don't know what to say," he finally managed to murmur.  "As you probably already suspect, I have met a lot of Goa'uld, and they do not give their friendship to humans.  Actually, I don't think they give their friendship to anyone.  I am . . . I am deeply honored that you would give it to me."

Egeria smiled at him warmly.  "You are worthy of it, my Daniel.  If you were not, it would not have been given, for you are right that the Goa'uld do not call anyone a friend, not even among our own kind.  Oh, there are Goa'uld who have become lovers, have felt some measure of love for each other.  But friendship?  That cannot exist without trust, and even a Goa'uld who loves another will never fully trust them."

Daniel couldn't help but think about Apophis and Amaunet.  Apophis had said that he loved Amaunet, but Daniel didn't doubt that his trust in her had only gone so far.

Egeria smiled again.  "Do you recall me saying that I have felt true friendship for only one other human?  You remind me greatly of him."

"Who was he?"

"Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome."

Daniel felt the same thrill of excitement that he did when she mentioned Lucius Tarquinius.  According to Roman legend, after the death of his first wife, Numa Pompilius had a relationship with Egeria, who not only gave him advice and taught him how to be a wise ruler but was also his lover.  He knew that some of it was true, but how much?

"Like you, Numa was a gentle man of peace," Egeria said.  "There he waged no wars against Rome's neighbors or foes in all the years that he ruled, and he took a land full of barbarians and criminals and created the beginnings of a civilization.  He was wise, and just, and quite intelligent, though not half as intelligent as you.  He was also a diplomat, like you."

"Were you and he, um. . . ."

"Lovers?  Yes.  He would come to meet me in a sacred grove, where we made love.  I gave him advice and guidance for all the years that he ruled."  Her expression became tinged with sadness.  "He was a good man.  I was greatly saddened when he died."

Daniel was amazed that so much of the mythology of Numa and Egeria was true.  Of course, the next part of the story obviously was not true.  According to mythology, after Numa's death, Egeria was so lost in grief that the goddess Diana took pity on her and turned her into a well.

"What did you do after he died?" the archeologist asked, wondering what really happened.

"I slipped into the background and watched.  I was curious to see if the kingdom of Rome would survive for long."  She frowned.  "The man who became king after Numa did not please me at all."

"Tullus Hostilius."

"Yes, a foolish, vainglorious warmonger who undid all the good that Numa had created.  I was tempted to strike him dead for laying waste to what my Numa had achieved.  In the end, it was not I who killed him.  He insulted Jupiter with his insincere acts of devotion and was struck down."

Daniel's eyes widened.  "Legend said that he was struck by lightning.  Was it a Goa'uld weapon?"

Egeria nodded.  "He was left a smoking corpse on the ground.  I rejoiced in his death."

"What about Ancus Marcius, the next king?  According to legend, he was more like Numa, a man of peace."

Egeria smiled again.  "Numa's grandson.  Yes, he was much like his grandfather, though he was also a skilled warrior.  He was a far better king than Tullus."

"You said before that you left during the reign of the next king."

"I had grown bored and weary of watching Rome.  I wished to have my own domain, a city that would be mine.  I took with me many Romans, including men and women of strength, intelligence and knowledge, most importantly, men who had knowledge and skill in architecture and construction."  She looked up at the palace.  "I am pleased at what my domain has become."

As Daniel headed back to the library a few minutes later, he thought about what Egeria had revealed to him and all the other ways that she had shown herself to be very different from other Goa'uld.  He knew that all of this was just a taste of what was to come, when she would become the first Tok'ra and give birth to the children who would carry on the legacy started with her.

Wouldn't it be incredible to actually see it happen, to witness the birth of the Tok'ra?  He knew that, sometime after making her decision, Egeria went to Earth to try and stop the Goa'uld from taking more humans through the gate.  Unfortunately, her efforts failed, and, because of that act, Ra went gunning for her, ultimately finding and killing her.  According to the Tok'ra records, she had already spawned a great many of them before then, the remainder being spawned in the years that followed while she was in hiding.

But it was more than just his curiosity as an archeologist and historian that made him wish he could be a witness to Egeria's transformation.  It was also a personal desire, for, once Egeria fully rejected the ways of the Goa'uld, she would let Daniel go free.

So what made her see that the host had as much right to control of the body as the symbiote?  What made her take the first steps to the truly symbiotic relationship that the Tok'ra had with their hosts?  Was it some big event or a gradual awakening, a slow change in her way of thinking?  If he knew what it was, maybe. . . .

It was in that moment that a crazy idea struck Daniel.  No, it was insane!  If he pushed it too far, it might even get him killed.  Jack would tell him he'd gone round the bend for even thinking about doing it.  But if he actually succeeded . . . if he succeeded, he could go home.

Daniel thought about the pros and cons, the dangers and possible rewards.  As he reached the library, he made his decision.  Starting tomorrow, he would begin attempting to plant the seed that would grow into the most momentous decision that any Goa'uld in the history of the universe had ever made – the decision to become Tok'ra.

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