Stargate Horizons


Daniel typed in the last line of the translation, then got up to stretch his legs.  He'd spent nearly every moment of today in the library, leaving only once to go empty his bladder, and he was starting to feel a bit restless.  Working in the SGC, there had been times when he worked in his office for days with the only breaks he took being an occasional meal and when he went home for the night or, more often, off to his quarters on base.  But, during these months in the palace, he'd gotten used to taking breaks outside and doing his work in the garden, so, now, after a while of being cooped up in the library without even a window to look out of, he'd start to feel the need for some fresh air.

Deciding to take a break, Daniel headed for the door.

"I'm going to go take a little walk, Decimus.  I'll be back in a while."

"Wait.  I want you to see something, a translation I think you might find interesting.  It is giving me some trouble, so I could use your help on it."

Daniel walked over to the man's desk and looked at the book.  It was written in a derivation of a language with which he had believed Decimus was quite familiar.  Perhaps it was just this particular derivation that was causing the man some trouble.

"Okay, I'll see if I can help after I get back."

"Just a bit of help now would go a long way to getting me through it," the man responded cajolingly.

Daniel frowned.  Why was Decimus being so impatient?  What difference would a half-hour or so make?

The archeologist began to get suspicious.  Every time he'd made a move to leave the library today, Decimus had said something or done something that resulted in him not going anywhere, and when Daniel went off to use one of the palace's restroom-like lavatories, the old librarian suddenly said that he needed to use the facilities, too, and accompanied him.

"Decimus, what's going on?" he asked.

"I do not understand," the old man claimed, not meeting his eyes.

"All day long, one way or another, you've kept me from leaving here, and, now, you're doing it again.  Why?  What reason do you have for not wanting me to leave?  And don't tell me that you don't know what I'm talking about."

Decimus let out a sigh.  "I was trying to keep you safe," he admitted.

Daniel's brow furrowed.  "Safe?  From what?"  Then he knew.  "You're talking about what happened with the flowers yesterday, aren't you."

"I fear that there will be another incident."

The archeologist was deeply touched by the man's concern and his attempt to keep Daniel safe from harm.

"I really don't think I'm in any great danger, Decimus.  I think that thing with the flowers was just an isolated incident.  Someone found out about my allergic reaction and decided to take advantage of it to act on their jealousy.  I don't think that someone is out to get me.  They'd know what Egeria would do to them."

"Yet the thought of punishment did not stop them from putting those flowers in the dining room."

"Well, maybe they thought that everyone would believe it was an honest mistake.  After all, we don't have rock solid proof that it was a deliberate act against me."

Decimus' eyes met his, deep with worry.  "And what if you are wrong?  What if there is someone in this palace who is willing to do you grave injury?  They may think that now, while Egeria is gone, is the only time they can strike.  Please, Daniel.  I fear for you.  Do not leave the library, not alone."

Daniel sighed.  "All right, Decimus.  I won't go.  But there is no way that I am going to sleep in here.  I intend to sleep in my bed tonight."

"I will find a way to keep you safe tonight."

Daniel returned to his desk.  "I suppose that you don't really need help with that translation."

Decimus snorted dismissively.  "I could do that one in my sleep."

The archeologist wasn't the least bit surprised.  "Yeah, that's what I figured."  He started to sit back down, but paused.  "How about if you go with me?"

"With you?  Where?"

"Outside.  I was intending to walk a bit in one of the gardens."

"I am not a great lover of flowers."

Daniel stared at him.  "Oh, really.  And who was it that wanted me to go collect a bouquet of flowers to brighten up this room just day before yesterday?"

Decimus bit his lower lip, consternation written all over his face.  Daniel laughed internally, silently saying, 'Busted.'

"I-I merely thought. . . ." the elderly man stammered.

"That I just might bump into Egeria while I was in the gardens and be able to find out where she was going," Daniel finished.

The librarian's shoulders slumped in defeat.  "Yes."

Daniel let out a little laugh and shook his head.  "You are really something else, Decimus.  As it so happens, I did find out, but not until later.  I can't tell you, though, without Egeria's permission."

Decimus smiled sagely.  "I was not the one who needed to know."

A small smile curved Daniel's lips as he sat down.  He'd really come to be very fond of this old man.  He couldn't help but wish that Nick was like him.  How he'd have loved to have a relationship with his grandfather like the one he'd developed with Decimus in this short time.

After working for another half-hour, Daniel managed to talk Decimus into going with him outside.  After a quick stop at the kitchen to get some bread, they went to the east garden, which was mostly in shade at this time of day.  Daniel got a kick out of watching his companion feed the bread to the pond fish with a childlike smile on his wrinkled face.

The archeologist began walking around, drawing in a deep breath of the fresh air.  He felt a slight tickle in his nose, courtesy of the pollen, but he ignored it.  It was no worse than it had ever been here.  Daniel recalled all the sneezing he did in the big garden on the Keeper's world, P7J-989.  Thankfully, not all flowering plants had that effect on him.

He thought about the sneezing, sniffling geek he was on that first mission to Abydos.  God, that seemed like such a long time ago.  So much had changed since then.  That thought naturally led to ones of Sha're.  How she would have loved these gardens.  Flowers were not something that grew on Abydos, at least not on that one small part that Daniel saw.  He'd tried to explain to her once what a flower was, but it was impossible for her to imagine.  And so he made one for her, from pages torn out of his journal.  It had taken days to get it right, to make it look anything like a real flower.  After dying it bright red, he presented it to her.  The look in her eyes when she saw it made every single minute of the time he slaved over it worthwhile.

He would give anything in the universe for her to be here at his side, seeing the real thing.

"You look sad."

Daniel looked up to see Decimus watching him.

"Oh.  I, um . . . was thinking about my wife."

The old man came up to him.  "You still love her greatly."

"Yes.  I think I always will.  She was the most wonderful thing that ever came into my life."

Decimus sat on a bench.  "I almost married once."

Daniel settled beside him.  "You did?"

"Yes, when I was a mere youth of twenty-two.  I fell headlong for a slave girl who worked here in the palace.  At the time, I was an apprentice to the man who had the job I now hold, and I was being trained to take his place."  Decimus let out a sigh.  "I had believed that Lucretia loved me as I loved her.  I proposed, and she accepted.  I was on my way to ask Egeria for permission for us to marry when I happened to overhear Lucretia talking with one of her friends.  I learned that she had agreed to marry me only because she knew that, as the one in the important position of translator and library keeper, I would have a high standing among the slaves and would likely eventually be given my freedom, just as the present man was.  As my wife, she would also have a high standing and be given her freedom when I was since it was forbidden for a slave and free citizen to be married."

"I'm sorry, Decimus," Daniel said, feeling bad for the man.

"My heart, of course, was broken, and I did a stupid thing, something I still regret to this day.  I confronted her in public and exposed her for the deceitful woman she was.  Egeria found out.  Displeased by Lucretia's actions, she had her removed as a palace slave and sent to work in a place that dyed and bleached fabric for clothing and bedding.  It was hard work, far harder than what Lucretia was accustomed to working here in the palace."  Decimus paused for several seconds.  "She died not three years later."

Daniel laid a hand on the old man's shoulder.  "God, Decimus.  I am so sorry."

"I learned a valuable lesson that day."  The man looked at Daniel.  "Always protect and cherish the ones you love, even if they hurt you."

Looking into those old eyes, Daniel realized that Decimus was telling him that he was among the ones the man loved.  Moved beyond words, Daniel gave him a gentle smile, letting him know that he understood.

A short while later, the two men returned to the library.  When the time came for the evening meal, Decimus went with Daniel to the dining room.  The elderly man watched him like a hawk as they entered the room, searching for any signs that he was going to have another allergy attack.  Daniel felt fine, and the two had a pleasant meal.

Afterwards, Daniel's persistent companion accompanied him to his sleeping chamber, light brown eyes darting about the room as if expecting someone to come rushing out of hiding.  When no weapon-wielding attacker appeared, Daniel managed to get Decimus to go off to his own quarters.

Having drunk more liquid at dinner than he should have, it was no surprise that Daniel was awakened by his bladder in the middle of the night.  Really wishing that he had a private bathroom, he exited the room – and nearly fell flat on his face when he tripped over a man lying in front of the door.

"What the. . . !"  Blinking the last traces of sleep out of his eyes, Daniel looked at the man who was scrambling to his feet.  "Servius?"

The big man flushed brightly.  "You were not supposed to know I was here."

"So, why are you here?"

"To protect you."

"To protect. . . ."  Daniel recalled Decimus saying that he'd figure out a way to keep Daniel safe during the night.  Obviously, planting a guard outside his room was what the old man came up with.  But was the guard supposed to be sleeping on duty?

Servius' head was now bowed in shame.  "I fell asleep.  I am so sorry.  Please forgive me, Daniel."

"Oh, for crying out loud," Daniel muttered, knowing that he probably sounded just like Jack.  "There's nothing to forgive, Servius.  It wasn't even my idea for you to be here.  Just go back to your room and get some sleep, on your bed where you're supposed to be."

"But I cannot do that!  Decimus gave me the duty of protecting you through the night."

"I don't need protecting.  No one is going to come and try to hurt me.  I'll be fine."

Servius shook his head adamantly.  "I will not leave.  I would be breaking my oath if I did."

Daniel gave a loud sigh.  "All right.  But you're not staying out here in the hall.  You can come inside.  I'll make up a bed for you on the floor."

"But if I sleep, I will not be guarding you."

Daniel's gaze traveled across the full six-foot-six-inch, two hundred and seventy plus pounds of the man's well-muscled form.  "Servius, nobody is going to be able to push that door open with you planted in front of it, unless it's a Jaffa.  Besides, I'll be even safer with you inside since it will mean that you'll be right there if someone comes in through the window."

"Oh, Tertius is stationed outside the window to prevent that from happening."

Daniel blinked, his eyebrows elevating a notch.  He went over to the window, and, sure enough, standing outside it was Servius' equally muscled brother.  Startled, the man looked at him through the glass.  A big, fake smile on his face, Daniel gave Tertius a wave.

The archeologist almost felt like laughing.  It was pretty funny, if you thought about it, all these people stubbornly guarding him like he was royalty, all the while trying to keep it a secret from him.  He had to wonder how many more people were in on it.

Daniel went off to the lavatory with Servius as his shadow, despite his insistence that it wasn't necessary for the man to go with him.  Once his bladder was empty, and he and his bodyguard were back in Daniel's room, the archeologist made up a bed with a spare blanket and throw pillow right in front of the door.  He then opened the window and fetched a surprised Tertius from outside, putting together another bed on the floor beneath the window.

Eager to get back to sleep, Daniel returned to his bed.  He snuggled into the softness with a sigh and closed his eyes.  Five minutes later, those eyes popped back open.  He sat up and stared at Servius, listening to the freight-train-like snore that was issuing from the man's open mouth.  He then cast his gaze upon Tertius, whose snore sounded more like the train's whistle.

"Oh, God," Daniel moaned pathetically.  He flopped onto his back and covered his head with a pillow, unable to blot out the cacophonic duet.  "Decimus, you are so going to hear about this in the morning."

Daniel's 'roommates' slept like babies the rest of the night.  Daniel, on the other hand, most definitely did not.  After guzzling down three cups of his alien version of coffee the next morning, he dragged himself to the library.

"Good morning, Daniel!" Decimus greeted cheerfully.

"Don't you 'good morning' me," the archeologist grumbled testily.  "For your information, Servius and Tertius snore, very, very loudly."

Decimus gaped at him.

"Yes, I found out about them . . . when I almost broke my neck tripping over Servius on my way to the lavatory during the night.  There was no way I was going to leave the two of them where they were, so I brought them inside my room to sleep . . . much to my regret."

Decimus was trying very hard not to smile.  "I am sorry, Daniel."

The archeologist glared at him.  "Do me a favor, Decimus.  If you insist on putting guards outside my door and window again tonight, make it the four-legged variety.  I am sure that the man who trains and cares for the palace guard dogs will be happy to loan you a couple."

Decimus quickly squashed the grin that started to escape his control.  "I will do that."

"I do have one question for you.  Did you also have guards at my door and window the previous night?"

"No.  I asked some of the servants I trust who have night duties to look in on you often to make sure that you were all right.  I told them that I was concerned that you would become ill again."

"So you're saying that, all night long, there were people coming in my room and making sure I was still breathing?" Daniel asked, quite disturbed by that thought.

"Oh, no.  They would not have entered your room all the way."

The archeologist wasn't sure that was all that much better.

Daniel managed to make it to a little after midday before conking off at his desk.  Decimus watched him sleep with a fond smile on his lips.  His friend may have had a rough night, but he was safe.  Hopefully, Egeria would return today.  If she did not, they only had to get through one more night.  Once she was back, she would make sure that no one harmed Daniel.

The elderly man did not know if any of this was actually necessary.  Daniel could be right that there would not have been another attempt to hurt him.  But Decimus was not willing to take that chance.  Daniel was more than a friend in his eyes; he was the grandson that the man wished he'd had the opportunity to have, a grandson in which to feel great pride.  His fondest wish was that Daniel would choose to stay on Estrania and take over for him here when the old library keeper's life journey was finally at an end.  He would feel confident that his beloved scrolls and books were in the best hands they could possibly be in.

But that was a wish that would not be fulfilled.  Decimus knew that, when Daniel's year of servitude was up, he would leave, return to wherever in the galaxy his home planet resided.  Decimus did not doubt that Egeria would release him after the year.  She would never hurt him by forcing him to stay – even though she was in love with him.

Decimus had not the slightest doubt that he was right about their queen's feelings for the extraordinary young man who came into their lives such a short time ago.  In all these many decades of service to her, the old man had never seen her as she was now that Daniel was here.  Friendship alone could not account for that.

He felt sorrow for Egeria.  What must it be like to love a man you knew would grow old and die as you aged not a day?  It was something that Decimus would not want.  To live forever as everyone around you died would be the loneliest of existences, at least for one who had a heart, as Egeria did, unlike her Goa'uld brethren.

Just then, Titus came in.  When he saw that Daniel was asleep, he walked more softly.  Decimus studied the boy.  Though his mind could not quite compare to Daniel's amazing intellect, he could make a good library keeper someday.  The trouble was that he had come along so late in Decimus' life.  Would there be time to teach him all he needed to know?

Decimus knew that he should have begun training someone many years ago, but there never seemed to be anyone that the man thought was good enough to take over for him.  And so the years passed, each one ending with him saying to himself that he needed to find someone.

Titus was eight years old when Decimus first met him.  The boy's nose was quite firmly buried in a book as all the other kids outside were playing.  Intrigued, Decimus sat beside him and asked what he was reading.  Though it was not forbidden for slaves to read, only a few had the opportunity to learn.  Decimus discovered that Titus was being taught by his mother.  Now, five years later and with Decimus' tutelage, the boy had learned to read and write some of the primary language of the Romans and of the Greeks.  If Decimus devoted more time to him, he'd probably do far better.  Perhaps it was time to do that.  Unlike Egeria, Decimus would not live forever.  If there was to be anyone to take his place here in the library, he needed to do something about it very soon.  But that was something that could wait until after the possible danger to Daniel was past.

Titus came up to the desk, glancing again at Daniel.  "Did he not sleep well last night?"

"Well, that is a bit of a story.  I will tell you about it later."

The boy's expression became very serious.  "I learned something, Master Decimus."

The elderly man leaned forward.  "What did you learn?"

The boy told him what he'd found out, which alarmed the man greatly.

"I am worried, Master Decimus," the boy said.  "If this is true, Daniel could be in great danger."

"Yes.  This is not good."

"Should we tell him?"

"Not yet.  Queen Egeria will be returning today or tomorrow.  Once she is back, she can do something about it."

"I think we should tell the Jaffa.  They will do something.  They like Daniel, too."

Decimus frowned, wondering if that might be a wise precaution.  He cursed silently.  This situation had suddenly become a great deal more complicated than he had believed it to be.

When Daniel awoke after a nap of two hours, his stomach was growling.  He looked around and realized that he was alone.  Figuring that Decimus was probably in the lavatory, he decided to go get something to eat.  He paused as he reached the door.  If he left before the man returned, Decimus would be frantic.  He'd better wait.

When ten minutes had passed and Decimus had still not returned, Daniel began to wonder where he was.  Considering what went on yesterday and last night, he found it hard to believe that Decimus would deliberately leave him alone for more than a couple of minutes.  Daniel had a thought.  Maybe he wasn't alone.  Perhaps there was someone standing guard outside the door.

The archeologist checked outside and saw that there was no one there.  Now feeling a little worried, he went to the closest lavatory and did not find Decimus there.  He was heading back to the library when a voice calling his name startled him.  He turned to see Titus.

"What are you doing out by yourself?" the boy asked.  "It is not safe."

"Oh, so you're a part of this thing, too, huh?"  Deciding to leave that discussion for later, Daniel asked, "Do you know where Decimus is?"

"He is not in the library?"

"No.  I woke up, and he was gone."

Titus was instantly alarmed.  "But . . . but he would not do that!"

"I know.  I'm worried, too.  Come on.  We need to find him."

They'd traveled just a few yards when Daniel heard a sound he knew very well.  He spun around to see a man standing at the end of the hall with a zat gun pointing at him.

Grabbing Titus, Daniel dove to the left just as the zat was fired.  Slamming into the wall, he saw the energy crackle past, coming close enough that he could feel his skin tingle.

Knowing that they were sitting ducks there, Daniel lifted Titus up into his arms and ran.  He slid around the corner just as another blast was fired.  This one caught the edge of his foot, and his lower leg instantly went numb.  He stumbled and fell, hearing Titus cry out in pain when he hit the floor.

"Titus, run!" Daniel yelled.  "Get out of here and get help!"

"But I cannot leave you!" the boy said.  "He will kill you!"

"He'll kill both of us if you don't go.  You need to get a Jaffa.  Go, Titus!  Please!"

Titus was crying as he got up and ran away, feeling like he was abandoning Daniel to die.

Daniel could hear the approach of the man who was trying to kill him.  Struggling to his feet, he limped to a door and opened it.  He slipped inside and silently shut the door, wishing there was a way to lock it.

The archeologist looked around.  He was in some kind of storage room, crates and baskets of things everywhere.

'Where's MacGyver when you need him?' he thought to himself.  Actually, what he really, really wanted right now was the Beretta that was sitting in the chest in his room.  A grenade might be nice, too.

Having neither gun nor grenade, Daniel pressed his back against the door and nearly held his breath as the footsteps approached.  He heard a door open and close, then another.  Crap.  The man was looking in all the rooms.  Sooner or later, he'd get to this one.

Daniel looked about for something he could use to wedge the door shut, but he couldn't see anything.

And then he heard the footsteps stop at the room he was in.

Titus ran, tears streaking down his face.  Slaves he passed stared at him, but he paid no attention to them.  He had to find a Jaffa.  Only one of them could save Daniel.

And then he saw one.  Actually, he nearly barreled into the man.

"Please, you have to help!" he cried, clutching at the Jaffa's arm.

"What is the trouble?" the dark-skinned man asked with a frown.

"Daniel is in danger!  Someone is trying to kill him, a man with a magical weapon that shoots lightning!"

The Jaffa's frown turned severe.  "Someone is attacking him with a Zat'nik'tel?"

"I-I do not know what that is.  Please, we have to hurry!"

The Jaffa followed the boy, who ran back the way he came.

'Please be all right, Daniel,' Titus begged silently.  'Please do not be dead.'

Daniel started at the sound of the zat being fired.  He then heard a thud that sounded like a body hitting the floor.  Guessing that some unlucky servant had showed up and gotten shot, Daniel prayed that the man with the zat would not pull the trigger again.  He was relieved when there was no sound of a second shot.

Three seconds later, Daniel ran out of time.  The doorknob of his hiding place turned, and the man seeking to kill him began pushing against the door.  Daniel pushed back with all his strength, trying to brace his legs as well as he could.  The man started slamming his body against the door repeatedly, each blow nearly making Daniel's teeth rattle.  He wondered how long it would be before the guy thought about firing the zat at the door three times.  Maybe the man didn't know about that ability of the Zat'nik'tel.

Even as he had that thought, he heard the zat being readied for firing.  Daniel leapt away from the door as the first blast was fired, tendrils of the energy curling around the door like thin, glowing snakes.  The second shot followed soon after.

Knowing that there was only one thing he could do, Daniel prepared himself.  As the third blast struck and the door suddenly ceased to be, the archeologist lunged forward.  He had a second to register a look of complete surprise on the zat-wielders face before he slammed into the man like a football player tackling a member of the enemy team.

The two men went down in a tangle of arms and legs.  The zat gun went flying.  Managing to recover first, Daniel swung a fist at his attacker's jaw and scored a hit.  It was a brief victory, however.  He was struck sharply in the temple by the man's fist.  Pain exploded through his skull as he was stunned by the blow.  Then, all of a sudden, there was a knife coming at him.  Fighting through the grey curtain over his vision, Daniel grabbed the man's knife arm with both hands, struggling to keep the blade from his throat.  And then something else was at his throat, a hand squeezing into his windpipe.

Choking, fighting for air, Daniel released the arm holding the knife with one hand and tried to pry the fingers from around his neck.  Now having only one arm keeping it at bay, the knife dipped lower.

Daniel fought desperately for his life as his lungs fought equally as desperately for air, the cells in his brain screaming in panic that they needed air now!  As the grey began darkening to black, Daniel remembered a move that Jack had taught him in the base gym.  With no other hope left to him, he lifted his leg and wedged his foot into the man's stomach.  With every ounce of his fading strength, Daniel pushed with his leg.

The shove broke the man's grip on his throat, sending the killer toppling to the side.  Daniel rolled away weakly, coughing and gasping for air.  He looked up just in time to see the man spring at him with the knife.

The blade never reached its intended target.

A fiery blast of energy streaked through the air and hit the man in the side.  With a piercing scream of agony, he went down.

"Daniel!" a young voice cried.  In the next moment, Titus was at the archeologist's side, clutching at him.

"You are alive!  You are alive!" the boy said, close to tears again.

The Jaffa who'd shot Daniel's would-be murderer strode up to them.

"Are you injured?" he asked.

Daniel coughed a couple more times.  "No, I'm . . . I'm all right," he managed to say.

He turned and, for the first time, got a good look at the face of the man who'd tried to kill him.  He was struck by recognition.  It was Secundus Marcellus, one of the freemen who worked in the palace.  Shocked, Daniel stared at him.  What reason would Secundus have to kill him?

Still alive, the man glared at him defiantly, his respiration coming in ragged gasps, blood trickling from his mouth.  Daniel thought about asking him why.  Instead, he asked a far more important question.

"Where's Decimus?"  The man didn't answer.  Terrified that his friend was dead, Daniel grabbed the front of the man's toga.  "Where is he?  What did you do to him?"

Receiving no reply, he watched as Secundus took a final, rattling breath, then grew still, dead eyes locked upon his.

The archeologist shakily got to his feet with the help of Titus.  He spotted the slave that Secundus had shot lying on the floor down the hall a ways.  The man was showing signs of awakening and appeared to be all right.

Daniel turned to the Jaffa.  "Decimus Marius is missing.  We need to find him."

"If he was killed by this man with the Zat'nik'tel, his body may have been disintegrated to hide the crime."

Daniel suddenly felt sick.  "We don't know that for sure.  We have to start a search for him."

"No searching will be necessary," said a familiar voice.  They all turned to see Decimus coming down the hall.  He was walking unsteadily, and there was blood on the right side of his head and face . . . but he was alive.

A wave of intense relief struck Daniel, and he hurried forward to the old man, Titus beating him there by half a step.

"Master Decimus!  You are sorely hurt!" the boy cried in distress.

"I am all right, lad.  It would take more than a tap on the head to kill this stubborn old man, although I did not think that a blow to the head would make my whole body ache."

"He probably zatted you, too," Daniel said.

"Zatted?" Decimus inquired, speaking the unfamiliar word slowly.

"Shot you with the Zat'nik'tel.  It's a weapon that I have had the misfortune of being on the wrong end of more than once."  Daniel looked at the Jaffa.  "He needs medical treatment.  Is there someone in the palace who has some training?  There was a slave who attended to me when I was injured a while back."

The Jaffa nodded.  "There are individuals with some medical skills.  I will find one."

"Before you go, we could use some help getting him someplace where he can lie down."

They took Decimus to a room that was used as a sort of lounge by the freemen who worked in the palace.  The Jaffa left to go get someone to treat Decimus.

Daniel settled on a chair before the settee that the old man was lying upon, Titus sitting on the floor.  The archeologist looked at the wound in his friend's scalp.  It was nasty-looking and had probably given Decimus a concussion, but it didn't look deep.

"How are you doing?" he asked gently.

"Oh, I have surely been better," the old man replied.  "But I have also been worse.  My pride has received a dent, though.  I had gone to relieve myself and was struck as I stood at the toilet.  I woke up in a storeroom."

"I'm sorry that you got hurt."

"It was not your fault."

"No, but it was me he wanted dead.  He almost killed both you and Titus in his efforts to get me.  I just wish I knew why.  What did I do to him?  Was it simply because he didn't like that a slave had been given so much honor by Egeria?"

"No, it was far more than that, Daniel."

The archeologist frowned.  "You know the reason?"

Decimus nodded slightly.  "Titus discovered the truth.  Secundus was a friend of Herminius Gallus."

Stunned, Daniel said nothing.  Secundus had tried to murder him out of revenge for the killing of his friend.

"He must have been biding his time," Decimus guessed, "waiting for a good time to strike against you.  Egeria leaving on that trip was his opportunity."

"But what about the flowers?  Did he hope that I would get so sick that I'd die?"

"Perhaps, or perhaps that was meant to make everyone believe exactly what we did: that some jealous slave was responsible."

"But a slave wouldn't be able to get hold of a zat.  I don't even understand how Secundus managed to get one.  They must be locked up tight in some kind of armory.  I didn't even know there were any here."

"It could be that a . . . zat was not the original way he intended to kill you.  I have never before seen one here either."

The Jaffa returned with the servant who had treated the cut in Daniel's neck before Egeria healed it.  The man explained that someone had been sent to fetch one of the physicians that worked in the city.

As Daniel watched the servant work, he silently thanked Egeria for bringing to this planet more advanced medical knowledge than what Earth would have had at this time in history, including an understanding about things like germs and bacteria.  If this had happened to Decimus in ancient Rome, he would have been in serious danger of getting an infection due to a lack of proper wound-cleaning and care.

After the wound was cleaned, a temporary bandage was put on it.  The Jaffa then carried Decimus to his chambers, much to the old man's chagrin.

"I tell you I can get there on my own two feet," he grumbled crossly.  "I am not some infant to be carried about!"

"Decimus, you probably have a concussion," Daniel told him.  "It won't do you any good to be walking that distance."

Muttering something under his breath, the elderly man crossed his arms and suffered the rest of the way in silence.  Once in his chambers, he was put in his bed to await the arrival of the doctor.  Daniel and Titus stayed with him.  Decimus asked the archeologist to tell him what happened.  Daniel recounted Secundus' attack, making it sound a lot less harrowing than it had been.  The old man was not fooled, however.  His eyes went to the bruises that were forming on Daniel's neck.  His friend came very close to dying this day.  If Titus had not gotten help, these events would likely have ended far more tragically.

Daniel was thinking the same thing.  He turned to the boy.  "Thank you for getting help, Titus.  You probably saved my life."

The youth stared at the floor.  "I feel bad that I left you."

"You were getting help, just like I told you to.  If you'd stayed, Secundus might have killed us both.  You did the right thing."

The boy met his eyes.  "I was so afraid you would be killed before I could bring help."

"Well, I wasn't killed.  Except for a sore neck, I'm fine."

When the doctor arrived, he gave Decimus a more thorough examination and stitched up the wound.  He then gave the librarian a painkiller, which ended up putting the man to sleep.

"Someone should remain with him to make sure that there are no problems," the doctor said.  "Head injuries are a tricky thing."

"I will stay," Titus volunteered.

The doctor told the boy what things to watch out for, leaving another dose of the pain medication in case Decimus needed it.  He then turned to Daniel, eyes on the archeologist's neck.

"And what about you?" he asked.

"I'm all right."

"Let me decide that."  The doctor palpated the bruise, clucking his tongue each time Daniel winced.  "Does your throat hurt?"

"A little," Daniel admitted.

"There is no swelling, which is good."  He dropped his hands.  "I think you will live."

Daniel looked over at Titus and the sleeping Decimus.  He thought about Servius, and Tertius, and all the other people who were involved in the efforts to keep him safe.  If not for them, Secundus would very likely have succeeded in killing him.

"Thanks to my friends," he said, "yes, I will."

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