Stargate Horizons


It had been three days since Daniel's nighttime conversation with Egeria, and he hadn't seen her in all that time.  It was the longest period of time in quite a few weeks that they had gone without talking.  He was a little concerned that perhaps she had decided that he was becoming too forward, asking questions that were too bold.  Had he messed everything up by attempting to satisfy his curiosity about her?

Daniel was frowning down at a difficult translation job when a servant came in and told him and Decimus that Egeria was leaving the planet in the morning and was expecting to be gone for two or three days.  The man didn't know anything about where she was going or the reason for the trip.

Daniel was frowning even more after the servant left.  Perhaps it was totally inappropriate for him to feel that way, but he couldn't help but be surprised that Egeria hadn't told him personally that she was going away.

Daniel didn't really feel hurt by Egeria's decision not to speak to him about her trip.  What he felt was worry.  He was even more concerned that something had made her decide to end contact with him.  He wasn't sure what to do.

Decimus looked at the younger man, seeing the deep frown on Daniel's face.  He guessed that it had something to do with Egeria's unexplained departure.  Perhaps something could be done about that.

"Daniel, my boy," he said, "would you be willing to do this decrepit old man a favor?"

Startled, Daniel looked at him.  "Um, sure.  What favor?"

"Sometimes, I feel the need to add a bit of color to this dull, dusty old room.  If you would be so kind as to get some flowers from the gardens and place them in a vase, I would be most grateful."

Daniel blinked in surprise at the request.  "Uhhhh . . . okay.  Any flowers in particular?"

"Oh, a few from each of the gardens would be perfect.  I'll let you decide which ones."

Daniel stared at the man for a moment.  In all the time that he'd been here, not one flower had ever adorned the library.  "All right," he said at last.  He got to his feet.  "I'll, um, be back in a while."

Decimus watched him leave, then smiled.  If luck was on their side, Egeria would be in one of the gardens, giving Daniel the opportunity to talk with her.

Still surprised by Decimus' request, Daniel made his way to the east garden first.  He looked around, trying to decide what flowers the elderly man might like.  Really having no clue, he chose a few that seemed to go well together and would probably fit okay in a vase.  He then went to the north garden, where he did the same thing, feeling rather self-conscious about carrying around the bouquet of blossoms.  He really hoped that one of the Jaffa didn't have the bad timing of showing up.  He could only imagine the look that would be on the man's face.

Next came the west garden.  It was the first time he'd been in that one and immediately detected a pleasant, sweet-spicy scent in the air.  Five seconds after that, he was hit with a big sneeze.  Oh, great.  He'd been doing okay with the allergies so far.  As always, he'd had a large supply of allergy pills with him on the mission and had been using them sparingly to try to make them last for as long as possible.  He was virtually out now, but since he hadn't had any issues with the other gardens except for the occasional itchy eyes and runny nose, he had hoped that he'd make it through the remainder of his enforced stay here without any big problems.  As he was rocked by another sneeze, this one even harder than the last, that hope died.

A third and a fourth sneeze told Daniel that getting any flowers from this garden wouldn't be such a good idea.  He turned to escape . . . and nearly dropped the bouquet.  Egeria was standing a few yards away, staring at him.  Her eyes went to the flowers in his hands.

"Daniel?  What are you doing?"

The archeologist's attempt at a reply was prevented by yet another sneeze.  His eyes were beginning to burn and water, and his head was hurting.

Concerned, Egeria stepped toward him.  "Daniel, are you ill?"

"No, it's . . . it's aller—"  The worst sneeze yet interrupted him, followed by two more in quick succession.  He was starting to feel ill.  "I-I need to get out of here," he managed to gasp.

With Egeria's help, he made it into the palace.  By the time he was seated on a chair, he'd begun to wheeze slightly and could barely keep his eyes open because of the severe burning and watering.  Never before in his life had an allergic reaction hit him this hard.

Resting his aching head in his hands, Daniel tried to breathe normally.  He heard Egeria say something to someone, but he was too miserable to pay any attention.  The violence of the attack had exhausted him, and he felt like lying down.

He was just starting to feel slightly better when, suddenly, all of his symptoms very rapidly faded away.  Surprised, he looked up to see Egeria lowering the healing device, traces of concern still in her eyes.

"How are you feeling now?" she asked.

"Good.  I feel fine now.  Thank you.  That was not fun."

The Goa'uld queen frowned.  "Have you been ill for long?  You should have told someone."

"I wasn't ill, Egeria, not like you think.  I have allergies, a, um . . . an adverse reaction to the pollen of certain flowers and plants.  I used to have travel allergies, ones that hit me every time I went someplace new, but that eventually went away.  Now, it's just the pollen that gets to me."

"Do these allergies always incapacitate you so severely?  Your breathing sounded labored."

"No, it's never been that bad before.  It's usually only sneezing and itchy, watery eyes.  Apparently, I'm extremely allergic to something in that garden.  As long as I stay out of it, I should be okay.  I did have medication to help me with the allergies, but I'm virtually out of it now."  He thought of something and looked about.  "Where's the bouquet of flowers?"

"You dropped it in the garden."

"Oh.  Decimus wanted some flowers to brighten up the library, so I was picking some for it."

Egeria smiled very slightly.  "You should have sent one of the female servants to do that."

Daniel shrugged.  "I didn't mind, not really, that is until I started sneezing my brains out in the west garden.  You must have something planted there that you don't have elsewhere.  I've been okay in the east and north gardens."

"Whatever it is, I will be sure to have it removed immediately."

"That's not necessary.  I'll just have to steer clear of that garden in the future."  He got to his feet, still feeling just the tiniest bit shaky.  "Well, I guess I'd better get back to the library and tell Decimus that he'll have to do without his flowers.  I think it might be a good idea for me to avoid exposure to any more pollen today."

Egeria studied his face.  "I will walk with you . . . just to make sure you do not have another occurrence."

Daniel nodded.  Maybe on the way he could find out where she was going on her trip.

They'd covered around a quarter of the distance to the library when Daniel ventured to say, "I heard that you're leaving for a few days."

Egeria glanced at him.  "Yes, on a matter that I need to attend to personally.  Do not be concerned.  I believe that all will go well."

"That's good."  Daniel chose not to probe for more information.  It probably had something to do with the Goa'uld that Egeria was not at liberty to discuss.

Egeria's eyes returned to Daniel.  For three days now, she had been deliberately keeping her distance from him, hoping that, if she did not see him, these feelings residing in her heart would begin to fade.  She had even considered setting him free and letting him leave her world.  But now that she was here with him again, and the ache to see him that had been inside her all these days was gone, she knew that being apart from him was going to accomplish nothing except make her long to see him.

What was she to do?  Even if Daniel eventually returned her love, they could be together for only a short time, a few decades before death claimed him as it had claimed Numa.  She truly believed that it would kill something inside her to watch him die.  No.  She could not witness that.  She could not see this beautiful, vital young man grow old before her eyes as she remained forever young.  When the year of his slavery was up, she would let him go.  It would be far better never to see him again than to witness his slow decay into death.

But, until that day she said goodbye, she would spend all the time with him that she could.  Up until now, she had been welcoming this trip since it would make it easier for her to be away from Daniel, but, now, she was cursing it.  She would take him with her, if it was possible, but that was out of the question.

When they arrived at the library, Decimus was a little surprised to see Egeria with Daniel, although the Goa'uld queen thought that she also saw a tiny smile of satisfaction on the old man's face.

After leaving Daniel to explain what happened, she retraced her steps.  As she approached the west garden, she called to a servant and ordered him to accompany her.  With a frown on her face, she looked about at the flowers and plants.  Somewhere among them was the one that had made Daniel so ill.

"I want you to immediately gather as many workers as you need and bring them here," she commanded.  "They are to rip up every plant, every shrub and tree, then take them out of the city and burn them."

Horrified, the man stared at her.  "Every one, My Queen."

"Yes, every one."  She would not take the chance that the plant that affected Daniel would be missed.  "Once that is done, you are to scrape off all the top soil and dispose of it in the river so that there is no chance that some seed from one of the plants will germinate.  Then you must bring in new top soil."

"Do . . . do you want us to plant new flowers and trees?"

"Not now.  We will attend to that when I return."  Egeria looked at him.  "I want this place barren of all growth by nightfall.  Do you understand?"

"Yes, My Queen.  It will be done."

Egeria nodded sharply and left, confident that the task would be completed as she had commanded.  Never again would her beloved Daniel become ill because of a plant or flower in her domain.

Daniel was passing by a window when he abruptly halted in his tracks, staring at what he'd spotted out the window.  A horse-drawn cart was heading out of the courtyard, piled high with the broken remains of flowers and plants, the spidery roots of a small tree sticking up out of the middle.  And then a second wagon with similar contents lumbered by.  What the hell was going on?

The archeologist saw a servant a few yards away and called to him.

"Do you know what's happening outside?  I just saw two wagons leave filled with flowers, plants and trees that looked like they'd been torn from the ground."

"The west garden is being destroyed."

Daniel's eyebrows climbed up his forehead.  "Destroyed?"

"Egeria has commanded it.  All things that grow there are to be taken away and burned.  Nothing is to be left."

Daniel's mouth fell open, realizing that this was being done because of his allergy attack.

"I, ummm. . . .  O-okay, thanks," he stammered.

He continued toward his destination.  Though he appreciated Egeria's motives for doing this, it was more than a little overkill.  To destroy the whole garden over the trouble caused by what was likely just one type of plant was totally unnecessary.

Daniel decided that it would be best not to talk to Egeria about this.  She was obviously doing it out of concern for him, and he didn't want to appear ungrateful.

The archeologist's journey ended at the sitting room.  He knocked and heard Egeria's voice bid him to enter.

"Hi," he said as he came in.  "Decimus said that you wanted the translation of that scroll from Arasere as soon as I had it done."

"Yes.  Thank you."

Daniel handed her the small, PDA-like device that contained the translation.  She brought it up on the screen and glanced over it.

"Good.  I will read it on the journey tomorrow."

"You're not going through the Stargate?"

"No, I will travel by ship.  There is no Stargate where I am going."

"Ah."  Daniel was dying to ask where that was, but held his tongue.

Egeria looked up at him and noticed the curiosity burning in his eyes.  She couldn't help but smile.

"I am acting as a mediator in a dispute between two Goa'uld," she told him.

Her announcement really surprised him.  A mediator?  Between Goa'uld?  Since when did Goa'uld use mediators in any dispute between them?  The usual way they settled disputes was to blast each other to smithereens.

"I, um . . . have to admit that I'm surprised," he said.  "When most Goa'uld have a dispute, they tend not to be mature enough to discuss it civilly.  Trying to kill each other is more their style."

Egeria chuckled softly.  "This is true.  However, in this case, it was decided that violence would cause more problems than the System Lords were willing to deal with at this time.  The two in question are both minor Goa'uld who are aligned with System Lords.  If they went to war, each of them would ask for aid from the one with whom they are allied.  If one or both of the System Lords agreed to help, then the situation would become a great deal more serious and complicated.  If they refused, then it would be considered a betrayal, and the System Lords would each gain new enemies.  It was decided that a negotiation between the two Goa'uld would be the best course of action.  Three Goa'uld who are not System Lords and have no connection to any of the parties will act as mediators.  I was asked to be one of them."

Still surprised that the Goa'uld were being civilized about the whole thing, Daniel felt a touch of concern.

"Are you sure it's safe?" he asked.  "What's going to happen if the negotiations fall apart, and everyone starts blasting each other?"

"Do not worry, Daniel.  There is a reason why a world without a Stargate was chosen.  The two Goa'uld with the dispute are being brought there on the ships of two of the mediators.  They will have no Jaffa or ships of their own there and no way to call for help.  If things become . . . difficult, they understand that they will be abandoned there to fight it out alone, and someone will come collect the survivor in a few weeks."

Daniel laughed.  "That's smart.  Whose idea was that?"

Egeria smiled.  "It was mine."

The archeologist nodded.  "I should have known."

Pleased by the comment, Egeria smiled more broadly.

"If it wasn't for the fact that all those other Goa'uld are going to be there, I'd be tempted to ask if I could come along," Daniel told her.  "It would be quite something to actually see two Goa'uld trying to negotiate with each other without resorting to attempts at murder."

"I would welcome your presence, but it would not be allowed."

"You'll be missed around here."

His words warmed the Goa'uld queen's heart.  "Thank you, Daniel."

Early the next morning, Egeria invited Daniel to see her off.  They went to a room where a ring platform stood.  With the queen were her First Prime and three other Jaffa from her personal guard.

"Farewell, Daniel," Egeria said.  "I will see you again in two or three days."

"I'll hold down the fort while you're gone."

The woman frowned at the unfamiliar expression.  "Hold down the. . . ."

"Oh.  It means to watch over someplace while someone else is gone.  Actually, I know it's not really me who will do the watching over, but, well. . . ."  He shrugged.

Egeria nodded with a smile.  "I am sure, my Daniel, that, in your hands, my domain would be quite safe from harm."

The compliment made Daniel dropped his eyes to the floor for a moment, smiling slightly.  He then watched as Egeria and her Jaffa were ringed away.

Wanting to get back to a translation he'd started yesterday, Daniel just grabbed something quick to eat from the kitchen and headed to the library with it.  The rest of the morning and the afternoon passed quietly, spent mostly in translations.  Daniel would probably have missed lunch entirely if Decimus hadn't requested that someone bring something for them.

Since getting Decimus' copy of the writing in the Furling ruins, the archeologist had spent about half his evenings studying it in his room instead of socializing with the other slaves over dinner.  In that time, he had managed to significantly increase the amount of the language that he could read, that is if all his guesswork was correct.

That evening, deciding that he'd had enough of doing translations for one day, Daniel chose to have dinner with the other slaves instead of spending another night trying to learn the Furling language.  The second he entered the large dining room for the slaves, however, he smelled a familiar scent that had him coming to a dead stop, a sweet-spicy aroma that he had smelled only one other place.  He looked to the left, and, right there, on a table less than two feet away, was a gigantic vase full of a variety of flowers.

Within seconds, the first sneeze struck.  Daniel turned and fled, getting as far away from the room as he could.  Even so, the sneezes kept coming, eyes burning like they were on fire.

Somehow, Daniel managed to make it to his quarters, where he fumbled for the last two allergy pills, swallowing them dry.  He grabbed a rag and blew his nose vigorously, trying to get out any pollen that might be in his nasal passages.  He then sat on the bed, repeated sneezes wracking his body, his head feeling like it was going to crack open with each one.  His lungs felt like he was having an asthma attack.  He could not believe how fast and hard he'd been hit.  Nothing had ever affected him like this.  He didn't want to think about what might happen if he was exposed for a much longer period of time or if he actually touched one of the flowers that did this to him.  He'd probably go into anaphylactic shock.

It seemed to take forever for him to start feeling better.  Once the sneezing had stopped, he lay down, utterly wiped out.

At last, the pills started taking effect, and his symptoms eased further.  It was well over an hour, though, before Daniel felt well enough to get up.  He poured a glass of water and gulped it down.  He then went to the door of his quarters and looked about.  He saw a female servant coming down the hall.

"Junia, could you get Decimus for me?" he asked.  "It's very important."

"Of course, Daniel."  The woman studied his face.  "Are you unwell?  You look very pale, and your eyes are bloodshot."

"I'm all right."

The servant went off to fetch Decimus, and Daniel returned to the bed.  There was a knock on his door around ten minutes later.

"Come in," Daniel called, sitting up.

Decimus came in.  "Junia told me that you needed to see me.  She said that you looked. . . ."  The man's voice trailed off upon getting a good look at Daniel.  "Daniel, what happened?!  You look terrible!"

"Yes, I should imagine that I do.  You know that allergy attack I had in the west garden?  Well, it just happened again.  Someone put a huge bouquet of flowers from the garden in the dining room for the slaves."

"What?!  But who?"

"I don't know, but, whoever it was, they wanted to make sure that I got a big whiff of that pollen."

Decimus' expression darkened.  "Daniel, are you saying that this was a deliberate act against you?"

"I can't be sure, but I suspect it was.  I know that the west garden was stripped of everything in it yesterday.  I saw the carts full of the things that were growing there.  The only way those flowers could have been spared destruction was if someone hurried up and picked them before everything was removed or salvaged them from the wagons.  Now, unless someone was stupid enough to think that it would be okay to keep a few temporary mementos from a garden that Egeria commanded be destroyed, that bouquet was put in there specifically for one reason."

"To make you ill."


Decimus sat on a chair, deeply concerned by the possibility that someone right there in the palace had sought to harm Daniel.  Yes, there were slaves who resented him over his quick rise in the ranks of the palace servants, but to do something like this. . . .

Decimus gazed at the young man he had come to care about deeply and made a silent promise.  Whoever it was that did this, they would not get away with it.

"Are you going to be all right?" he asked.

Daniel nodded.  "I took some medicine that helped.  I'll be fine.  I'm just going to go to bed early and get plenty of rest."

The old man got to his feet.  "I'll see to it that the flowers are destroyed and that the floor is scrubbed to remove any traces of pollen that may have fallen upon it."

"Thank you."

Decimus left Daniel's quarters.  Striding with greater speed than one would have thought his bent and ancient frame could achieve, he went to the dining area.  He stared with a furious gaze at the offending flowers.

"You!" he barked at a nearby slave.  "Remove those flowers and burn them in the furnace, and have the vase washed inside and out to remove all traces of the flowers from it."

Surprised at the harshness in the voice of a man who was generally known for his even temper, the slave jumped up and instantly obeyed.

Decimus looked around at the other occupants in the room, seeking anyone whose expression would betray them as having a part in what was done.  All he saw were looks of puzzlement and curiosity.

He told another servant that, as soon as possible, the table upon which the flowers had sat and the entire floor around it were to be thoroughly scrubbed.

"Master Decimus, what is wrong?" asked a young voice.

The man turned to the one who had spoken and saw that it was Titus, a thirteen-year-old boy who often ran errands for him and Daniel and whom Decimus had more or less taken under his wing.  The youth loved to read, was very intelligent, and seemed to have some talent for learning languages.  He also appeared to have quite a case of hero worship for Daniel.  The old man wondered if the boy might be able to help find the guilty party.

"Come, boy," he said, gesturing to the youth.  He took the lad out of the room.  "What I will now tell you is something you must keep secret.  Can you do that?"

The boy's chin rose proudly.  "I will tell no one.  I swear."

Decimus patted his shoulder.  "Good lad."  He leaned closer and lowered his voice.  "Someone has tried to bring harm to Daniel."

Titus' eyes widened in horror.  "How?  What did they do?  Is he all right?"

"He is all right now, but he was ill earlier.  Those flowers that were on that table are ones that make him sick.  Someone deliberately placed them there to cause him to become ill."

"But why would someone do that?  Daniel is a great man, so smart, courageous and kind."

"Yes, he is all those things, but there are some here who are jealous of him.  I believe it is one of them who did this thing."

Anger now flickered in the blue-grey depths of Titus' eyes.  "They must be punished.  Egeria will have them flogged.  Perhaps she will even have them put to death."

"Egeria will be gone for several days, so it is up to us to find the one who did this before they seek to harm Daniel again.  I need your help for that."

"How can I help?"

"You are young and can go many places in the palace where you will not be noticed.  I want you to watch and listen, look for those who are acting suspiciously, listen for talk about Daniel or those flowers.  If you here or see anything, report it to me.  Daniel does not know I am doing this, so do not say anything in his presence."

"What are you going to do?"

"I am going to start asking if anyone saw who placed the flowers there or saw the flowers being gathered.  But I must be careful, too, for, if the one who did this thinks that we are on his trail, he might do something."

Titus nodded.  "I will watch and listen well.  We will find the one who did this shameful thing."

Decimus smiled and gave the youth's shoulder another pat.  "Yes, we will."

Titus pretended to polish a bronze statue as he listened intently to the conversation between two servants.

"We stripped that garden bare," one man said, "every leaf, every petal.  And then we dug up all the top soil and tossed it into the river, only to cart in more top soil to replace it.  And for what?"

"I heard that something growing there made Daniel violently ill," the other man responded.

The first man, a slave with a balding head, nodded.  "That is what I heard as well.  Would Egeria do such a thing for anyone else here?  Would she have done it for one of us?"

The other slave, one whose mop of blond hair would have been enough to cover the heads of both men, shrugged.  "Perhaps she would have for some others besides him, certainly for her Lo'taur and most likely for Decimus and a couple of others as well."

"Perhaps."  The sour tone of the bald man's voice heightened.  "Yet it was not for one of them that she did it; it was for him, the chosen one."

The blond man frowned.  "The chosen one?"

"Do not be naive, Laurentius.  She is bedding him.  There can be no doubt of it."

The younger slave shook his head.  "That is not what I heard.  I have heard talk that Daniel is a widower and that his heart still cleaves to his dead wife."

"Believe what you will.  The fact remains that she favors him above all others.  That cannot be denied."

Laurentius now nodded.  "You are right there.  Yet, from what I have heard and seen, he is a man who is worthy of great respect.  People talk of the things he has done in just the short time that he has been here.  And I have never seen our queen as happy as she has been since he came to the palace.  If they truly are lovers, then I see nothing wrong with it if he brings her joy."

The other slave snorted.  "Oh, I am sure that he must be satisfying her.  He is certainly comely enough.  If I had an interest in men, I would lust after him myself.  I know of a few others who do, of both sexes."

"So, what is your problem, Publius?" the blond man asked.  "Daniel has done nothing to cause you trouble or harm."

"No, not I, but he was given a room in the quarters for the slaves of high station that should rightfully have gone to my cousin."

Hearing that, Titus stopped polishing, all his attention now on the conversation.

Laurentius barked out a short laugh.  "Quintus?  And what has he done to have earned a place there?"

Publius' face darkened with anger.  "He has served in the palace faithfully for ten years."

"So?  So have many others, and there are others who have served longer than that.  If Queen Egeria moved all servants who have served here for ten years or more to that area of the palace, it would be overflowing with people.  Mere length of service has nothing to do with being given that honor.  It goes to the ones who have served with special skill and distinction."

Publius sneered.  "And to the ones who have serviced our queen with special skill and distinction."

Laurentius' gaze narrowed.  "Watch your tongue, Publius.  I do not believe that Egeria would be pleased with that kind of talk.  You show her disrespect by saying such things."  He took a step back.  "I have heard enough.  I respect Daniel.  He is a good man who does not deserve to have slurs spoken against him.  Go talk to someone who agrees with your opinion."

Laurentius walked away, Publius glaring at his back.  The bald man then turned in Titus' direction, and the boy quickly renewed his polishing, not turning hs face from the statue as the man walked by him.  It was Publius' back that was then subjected to a hot glare.

How dare that man say such things about Daniel?!  And about the queen as well!  His tongue should be cut from his mouth and fed to the palace dogs!  He should have his eyes burned out with hot pokers!  He should be hung upside down from his testicles and beaten with a cane!

Titus fumed for a couple of minutes, thinking of all manner of torture that Publius deserved.  Then he went to the library to report what he'd heard to Decimus.  When he got there, however, Daniel was there as well.

"Hello, Titus," Daniel greeted with a friendly smile.  "How is your mother today?"

Titus beamed, pleased that Daniel had actually remembered that his mother had been ill.  "She is doing well, Master Daniel, much better."

"Titus, I told you not to call me master," the archeologist chastised gently.  "I am a slave, just like you.  My name is Daniel, just Daniel."

"I am sorry Mas—  Daniel.  I keep forgetting."

"Okay.  Just try to remember next time."  Daniel dug some sheets of paper out from the piles on his desk. "I have something for you.  I translated a scroll a few days ago that turned out to be a story about a young man just a little older than you who killed a monster to save a king's daughter.  I thought you would enjoy reading it."  He handed the handwritten pages to the youth, who took them, his face now nearly incandescent.

"Thank you, Daniel!  You copied the translation just for me?"

Daniel almost laughed.  The kid acted like he'd been given a jewel from the treasure room.  "It was no big deal, Titus.  It only took me a couple of hours to copy.  It's just a thank you for the help you've been around here."

"Thank you so much."

"You're welcome."

Titus turned to the other person in the room.  "I was going to the kitchen, Master Decimus, and I wanted to know if you would like a pastry."

Decimus hid his reaction to the boy's words.  It was the code they'd worked out between them for when Titus had something to report.

"Ah, yes, that would be nice," he answered.  "How about if I join you?  I need to stretch my legs a bit."  He looked at Daniel.  "Would you like something?"

"No, I'm fine.  Thanks."

The old man and the boy left the library.  They waited until they were around the corner before stopping.

"What have you heard?" Decimus asked.

Titus recounted the conversation between the two slaves, which succeeded in putting a frown on Decimus' face.

"I never did like that Publius.  A foul-minded man if there ever was one.  I do not think, however, that he would have the courage to do anything more than complain."

"What of his cousin, Quintus?"

"I do not know Quintus, so I cannot say."  Decimus gave the boy a smile.  "You did well."

"Have you learned anything?"

"Yes.  I learned that the flowers mysteriously appeared in the dining area sometime during the night.  They were there in the morning when the kitchen staff began the breakfast preparations.  Whoever did this made an effort not to be seen.  Unfortunately, everyone was so busy tearing apart the west garden day before yesterday that no one noticed anybody taking flowers."

Titus frowned.  "We cannot give up."

"No one is giving up, lad.  We may need to recruit more people to help us, though."

"Some of my friends would help!  They think that Daniel is like one of the heroes from the stories about the gods."

Decimus burst into laughter.  Oh, to see the look that would be on Daniel's face if he heard that!

"Well, if you think that your friends can keep a secret as well as you, then by all means ask them to help.  The more ears we have listening around here, the better."

"I will go talk to them right now!"

The youth went running off down the hall.  Decimus chuckled and shook his head.  Then his expression became serious.   All day today, he'd come up with one thing after another to keep Daniel in the library, where the man would be safe.  Decimus didn't know if he had good reason to fear for his friend's safety.  The incident with the flowers might have been the only attack that would come, just a single act committed in anger or jealousy.

It could be another two days before Egeria returned.  Until then, it would be up to him and others to protect Daniel from being harmed again.

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All fan fiction, original artwork and photographs on this Web site are protected under copyright law and are the property of their creators, who retain all rights. All rules governing the unauthorized usage of copyrighted materials apply. The fan fiction, original artwork and photographs on this Web site may not be copied in any way except as expressly allowed by the owner. They may not be copied, in whole or in part, for the purpose of publication in any manner or form without the written permission of the owner. This includes, but is not limited to, placement of the text or images on another Web site. The stories included on this site are not intended for commercial profit.