It had been one Estranian week since the historic day that Egeria allowed her host to temporarily take control. In those eight days, Daniel had not seen much of the Goa'uld queen. She had been quite busy with official matters and was able to spend no more than a few minutes with him each time she saw him. The archeologist was eagerly awaiting the day when circumstances would let her have enough free time that she might allow Arria to have control again. He was trying very hard not to be impatient, but now that this enormous step had been taken, he couldn't help but feel like the day she'd set him free was almost within sight.
The truth was that it was astounding that this had happened so quickly. When he set out to help guide Egeria toward becoming a Tok'ra, he would never have dared to hope that things would reach this stage so quickly. The fact that it had taken such a short time proved how close Egeria had already been to heading down this path. If he had never come here, chances were that Egeria would have done this on her own within a year or so.
Daniel's eagerness for the process to keep moving forward had translated into restlessness. He'd spent quite a bit of time watching the men working on the garden entrance he'd designed. The stone arch itself was completed, and the men were now working on the reliefs that would decorate it. Most of them were of animals, flowers and nature scenes. The exceptions were the ones of Egeria that would be on the left and right sides, at the top. Crowning the entryway would be a statue of her with a flower close to her face, as if she was smelling it, her other hand resting upon a doe standing at her side.
Today, instead of watching the work being done on the entrance, Daniel had decided to visit Aulus, which made the master builder happy.
"It's looking great," the archeologist commented as he looked at the gallery, taking note of everything that had been done since he was last there.
"Yes. If all goes well, it will be done before winter arrives. Then we shall have a grand ceremony celebrating its completion. And you, my friend, will be one of the guests of honor." Aulus held up his hand. "Now, I do not want to hear you say that is not necessary or that you really do not want such an honor. I have made up my mind, and nothing you say will change it."
Daniel remained silent, but it was not because he was bowing to Aulus' will; it was because he was hoping that he would be gone before then.
The archeologist visited with Aulus for two hours. On the way back, he decided to make a detour and do a bit of shopping. He'd been careful about spending his money, trying to make it last since he couldn't count on getting any more, but he'd taken a liking to the fruit that was Camilla's favorite – having tasted it for the first time on the trip off-world – and wanted to get some.
Daniel's route took him past the Stargate. During the first couple of months of his slavery, every time he passed the gate, it had made his longing to go home more potent. Now, he generally passed it with barely a glance.
He was drawing abreast of the gate when the ring began to turn, the chevrons lighting up. Curious to see which merchant or trader was coming through this time, he paused as the wormhole was established.
It was with a feeling of shock that he watched not a trader or merchant come through, but half a dozen Jaffa who did not bear the mark of Egeria on their foreheads. That shock turned to dread as a seventh man appeared, one who could not be anything but a Goa'uld.
"Oh, crap," Daniel cursed under his breath.
The Goa'uld looked about, his eyes taking in the buildings and people. They fell upon Daniel – and stayed there. The archeologist's heart rate increased as the man's expression changed to one of great interest.
"You!" he called, pointing at Daniel. "Come here."
Feeling a little like a trapped animal, Daniel hesitantly came forward, painfully aware of the eyes that were raking over his body. He came to a stop a few feet away from the Goa'uld, trying very hard not to show how much he did not want to be there.
The man's coal-black eyes studied Daniel's face appraisingly.
"You are quite attractive," the Goa'uld stated. "A very interesting face, appealing. And I do not believe I have ever seen eyes quite so blue." His eyes traveled down Daniel's arm, stopping at the bracelet encircling the archeologist's right wrist. "I see that you are a slave." His lips curled into a smile that made Daniel's skin crawl. "Good. That will make things easier." He turned to his Jaffa. "Jaffa! Bring him with us."
As two of the Jaffa stepped toward Daniel, two of Egeria's Jaffa that guarded the gate also stepped forward.
"We must ask your purpose in being here," one of them said. "We received no notice that you were coming."
The Goa'uld glared at them. "How dare you question me, Jaffa. My reason for being here is something I will discuss only with your mistress. Now, step aside." His gaze narrowed. "Or do you wish to suffer at the hands of Egeria when she learns that you defied the will of one of your gods?"
The Jaffa hesitated. They had been taught from birth to obey the Goa'uld, but they were also faithful servants of Egeria and were concerned about the motives of this Goa'uld who had come unannounced into her domain.
Choosing what they believed to be the only option, instead of stepping aside, they told the man that they would escort him and his Jaffa to the palace. One of them caught Daniel's eyes as they passed him, and the archeologist saw a hint of worry there. Daniel shared the emotion.
As they made their way to the palace, the archeologist wondered who this Goa'uld was. Was he a System Lord? Daniel had no idea who all the major players were at this time in history.
Whoever he was, Daniel was certain that him being here was not a good thing.
Egeria studied the document, occasionally making notations about changing a line or phrase. She wearied of these tedious yet necessary tasks of being this world's ruler. She would far rather be spending her time with Daniel. Perhaps they could have dinner together this evening.
Just then, a Jaffa came hurrying into the throne room. By the look on his face, Egeria knew that something serious had happened.
"My Queen, a Goa'uld has arrived. He approaches even now."
"What?! I received no communication from him asking for a meeting."
Before she could ask who it was, the Goa'uld entered, along with five Jaffa belonging to him and one of Egeria's.
Egeria glared at him, rising from the throne. "Enlil. What is the meaning of this? Why do you come into my domain without first announcing your intention to do so?"
"I cannot be bothered with such things," the man replied arrogantly. "I have recently come from a battle against Min in which I was victorious. He and the bulk of his army were destroyed."
"And what does that have to do with me?" Egeria asked, not caring one iota that Min was dead.
"I have learned that all of the larvae within his Jaffa came from a queen he seeded. Considering his reputation, this does not surprise me, but as the new master of his territories and armies, I will not abide having Jaffa in my army that are carrying larvae tainted with his seed. They must all be removed. Therefore, I need new larvae to replace them. I will need many, more than I can obtain from those already available to me."
Egeria's anger deepened. "You come uninvited and unannounced into my domain, and then expect me to spawn for you? What arrogance! I would sooner spawn for that vile creature, Sokar!"
Enlil's face darkened, his eyes glittering. "Be wary of what you say, Egeria. It would not take much for my ships to level this city of yours."
Egeria fought to tone down her anger. "If you had approached me properly about this, I would have considered your request, but in doing this, you have insulted me. Do you honestly expect me to happily give you what you want? I can, however, tell you the names of other queens who may be amenable to your request in return for certain favors. I would advise you, though, to show them more respect than you have shown me."
Enlil appeared to consider her words. "Very well," he finally said.
Egeria gave him the names and locations of two queens that she believed would be interested in spawning for him.
"Now, there is another matter," Enlil said. "I have been in this host for a thousand years, and I grow tired of his face. I wish to take a new host. Upon arriving here, I found a slave whose appearance pleases me greatly, and I have decided that he is the one I will choose." He looked over his shoulder and called, "Jaffa! Bring him in."
Egeria looked up to see a Jaffa bring a man in. Her heart froze in horror upon seeing who that man was.
His arm in a tight grip, Daniel was brought into the throne room. He had heard most of what had gone on in here. The Goa'uld was Enlil, who, in mythology, was the Sumero-Babylonian god of air, wind and storms. Though sometimes a friend of humans, he also had a bad reputation for being pretty nasty, raining all kinds of disasters on humanity, including the Babylonian version of the biblical flood that all but wiped out the human race. Min, the Goa'uld he killed, was an ancient Egyptian deity who was primarily a god of male sexuality. Judging by what Enlil said, Min apparently took on that role with enthusiasm.
Daniel had failed to hear the last part of the conversation, so he didn't know why he was here. When he looked into Egeria's eyes, he knew it was bad.
Enlil walked up to the archeologist, his eyes once again going over Daniel's face and body, totally creeping the archeologist out.
"Yes," the Goa'uld said with a smile. "A fine specimen. He will be an excellent new host for me."
'Oh, God,' Daniel's mind whispered in utter horror. His heart began racing in his chest, his throat going dry. 'This is not happening. This is not happening.'
All eyes turned to the person who had spoken the single word. Egeria stood ramrod-straight, her eyes burning with anger and determination.
"You will not take him for a host," she declared.
Enlil focused a glare upon her. "Again you refuse me and, this time, over a human slave. My patience grows thin."
"I care not about your patience, Enlil. First, you come without permission into my domain and expect me to spawn for you. And then you pull one of my subjects off the street and announce that you are taking him as your new host. How dare you presume that you can take one of my servants without even asking if it is acceptable to me?! You shall not have him nor any other human in my domain. Go find your new host elsewhere."
Enlil's temper boiled over. "I accepted your first refusal, but you push me too far, Egeria. Are you prepared to go to war over this slave?" He waved his hand at Daniel in a gesture of contempt. "Give him to me, and I will leave in peace. Continue to refuse, and suffer the consequences."
Daniel's fear was quickly escalating. He could not let Egeria go to war over him, but he also could not let himself be taken as a host. If he was made a host, Enlil would find out about the time travel device and all about Earth's future, including the Stargate Program.
Daniel frantically tried to think of something that he could do. His eyes fell upon a staff weapon. If he could get hold of it, he probably wouldn't be able to kill Enlil, but he might be able to turn it upon himself. If he blew his own head off, not even a sarcophagus could bring him back to life.
Preparing to make a dive for the weapon, Daniel was halted by Egeria's voice.
"Listen, Enlil, and listen well," she said in a dangerous tone. "Only a short while ago, Lord Yu approached me to forge an alliance. All it will take is a word from me, and that alliance will be made. And then it will not be me whom you shall be battling, but one of the most powerful System Lords in the galaxy." Her eyes speared into his. "Do you think your armies can defeat him like you defeated Min? Is this slave worth your utter destruction?" She turned her back on him and returned to her throne, sitting upon it with haughty grace. "If so, then declare your war. I will delight in seeing Lord Yu wipe you out of existence."
To Daniel, it felt like the entire room was holding its breath, waiting to see what would happen. It went on for several seconds that felt like eons. Then, without a word, Enlil spun on his heels, shouted, "Jaffa, kree!" and stormed out of the throne room, his Jaffa following in his wake.
The tension in Daniel's body released with almost painful suddenness. Bowing his head, he closed his eyes and took in a slow, deep breath.
After a few seconds, he felt a hand upon his shoulder. He looked up into Egeria's eyes.
"You are safe, Daniel," she told him gently, her voice now once again that of a human. "I would not have let him take you as a host."
"You nearly went to war, Egeria. I couldn't have let that happen."
She stared at him. "You would have let yourself become a host to prevent it?"
"Well, uh, actually, I was getting ready to grab a staff weapon and blow my head off. I figured that would put an end to the matter."
Egeria was horrified by Daniel's confession. It did not surprise her, however, that he would rather kill himself than become a host.
"Come. Let us go to the sitting room for privacy."
Egeria ordered several Jaffa in the throne room to "escort" Enlil all the way to the Stargate. If he attempted to take any other subject of Egeria's, they had her permission to do what was necessary to stop him. A dozen Jaffa immediately hurried out of the room, double the force Enlil came with, ensuring that the Goa'uld would think twice about pulling anything.
Once in the sitting room, Egeria called for some wine. Though he'd never developed much of a taste for the stuff, what Daniel really wanted right now was a beer . . . or perhaps a shot of Skaara's strong-enough-to-peel-paint-off-walls moonshine.
"Your courage facing Enlil was impressive," Egeria remarked. "You showed no fear."
"Oh, trust me. I was scared out of my mind. I think that being turned into a Goa'uld host is one of the things I fear most."
"I cannot tell you how sorry I am that you were forced to go through that."
"It wasn't your fault, Egeria. It was just another case of my really bad timing. If I'd left Aulus five minutes sooner or later, I wouldn't have been near the gate when Enlil came, and he wouldn't have seen me. I suppose I should feel flattered that he thought I was good material for a new host." Daniel's expression made it clear that he most definitely was not flattered. He met the Goa'uld queen's eyes. "You've made an enemy of him, Egeria. What if, someday, he decides to send a fleet of ships and blast the planet from orbit?"
"The System Lords would not be pleased if he took such a step. There are not many queens. To kill one without good cause would be severely frowned upon."
Daniel's gaze sharpened. "And they wouldn't consider this good cause? Refusing to spawn for him after he marched in here without an invitation is one thing, but refusing to let him take a human he chose to be his host is something else entirely. The Goa'uld aren't known for putting much value on the life of a human."
"As much as it pains me to say this, Daniel, it is a matter of possession. All humans that a Goa'uld rules over are considered to be their possessions, and a Goa'uld has the right to refuse to allow another Goa'uld to take one."
"But what about the raids?" Daniel asked. "I know that Goa'uld raid other planets, looking for hosts. That's how Sha're was taken."
"Usually, the planets that are raided belong to that Goa'uld or to none. Occasionally, a more powerful Goa'uld will raid a world within a minor Goa'uld's domain. He can then choose to make restitution by giving something to the other Goa'uld in return or he can just ignore any complaints, knowing that the Goa'uld does not have the power to challenge him."
"Well, I'm still worried. Enlil could decide to destroy the city out of spite, but let you escape. Then he wouldn't have to worry about repercussions from the System Lords. I suppose you couldn't petition the System Lords and ask them to tell him to leave you alone."
Egeria shook her head. "They would likely tell me that the matter is between me and Enlil." Her expression turned thoughtful. "There may, however, be something I can do." She rose to her feet. "Excuse me, Daniel. I do not wish to cut short this time with you, but I must contact someone."
Daniel got up. "Of course. Maybe we can talk tomorrow."
As he left the sitting room, Daniel wondered who she was going to call and if it would succeed in keeping Estrania safe.
It was done. As Egeria walked to her chambers, she thought about the deal she had just struck with Lord Yu. All System Lords had a queen who spawned larvae only for them and all those within that System Lord's "clan" and the minor Goa'uld who were closely allied with them. Yu's own queen had been killed sometime back. Since then, he had not found one to take her place and had been obtaining larvae from wherever he could, mostly from the queens who remained independent, allying with no particular Goa'uld. He had approached Egeria to ask that she become his new queen.
Guessing that a large number of larvae would be something that Yu would be quite eager to get, Egeria had just offered to spawn for him in exchange for his help in making sure that Enlil did not bother her. How Yu would accomplish his part of the bargain was entirely up to him.
Of course, Egeria was now faced with the distasteful task of spawning again. Spawning did not used to be something she found distasteful. As a queen, her primary purpose of existence was to produce offspring. She had always done so willingly.
In truth, it was not the thought of spawning that she dreaded, it was what she must do beforehand. She had no desire to bed some stranger that her First Prime brought to her. She had no desire to bed anyone except Daniel. Her last experience obtaining the code of life had left her feeling frustrated and dissatisfied. She had no doubt that this time would as well.
But there really was no other choice. Even if Daniel was amenable to making love with her, he would never consent to helping create more of the race that he hated so deeply, symbiotes that would one day subjugate human hosts. She would not even consider asking him to do so.
Once she had reached her chambers, Egeria told Camilla to fetch her First Prime. He arrived a short while later.
"It is necessary for me to spawn again," she told him. "As always, I wish for you to go into the outlying areas and select a suitable male for me."
Mek'ren inclined his head. "I will do my best to select one who will please you, My Queen."
He began to turn away, but Egeria stopped him.
"Choose one who is similar in coloring to the last man: brown skin, dark hair and eyes," she commanded.
The Jaffa bowed his head again. "Yes, My Queen."
As her First Prime left, Egeria went to the window and stared outside. This was the first time she had been specific on what she wanted the man's coloring to be. The reason for it was that she wanted him to be as different from Daniel as possible, no resemblance at all. This time, she had no intention of allowing herself to fantasize that it was Daniel with whom she was mating, and having a man in her bed who looked nothing like him would help.
Knowing that it would likely be a few hours before her First Prime returned, Egeria went to the west garden to see how things were coming along with the entryway. She was pleased to see that the work was going well.
Her eyes went to the top of the structure, where she knew that a statue of her would be placed. As she stared at the expanse of stone, an idea came to her, and a smile curved her lips. Yes, she would have to see about that. It would no doubt cause some talk in the palace, but it would also bring her pleasure. The trick would be in getting what would be needed for the job. That might prove to be challenging. She would have to put some thought into it. At least it would give her something to distract her mind while she waited for her First Prime to return.
As she did nearly four months ago, Egeria stared at the larvae to which she had just given birth. They were only the first brood. She would spawn more after giving herself some time to rest.
This time, when the man chosen by her Jaffa took her into his arms, his face remained firmly in her mind. When his body joined with hers, she kept away all visions of Daniel. She tried to find some passion for him, to gain pleasure out of the union, but it was impossible, though it was through no fault of his. Under other circumstances, she would have found him a very good lover. The man tried his best to please her and seemed genuinely troubled that he was failing, and so she pretended the ecstasy that she did not feel. It was the first time she had ever done such a thing.
Afterwards, as always, she used the Nish'ta'el, the drug that all Goa'uld queens possessed, and implanted the thought in his mind that he must not tell anyone that he had laid with her, that, if he did, he would become impotent and remain so for the rest of his life. Even after the effects of the drug had worn off, the mental suggestion would remain in effect. This was something that Egeria believed was necessary. She could not have men bragging to their friends that they had relations with the queen.
Just like last time, after the code of life had been procured and the man was taken home, Egeria found herself filled with discontentment, as she had suspected she would. This time, though, her emotions were also tinged with sadness. How deeply she longed to be in Daniel's arms, to make love with him throughout the night. Was it something that would ever happen? Was it something that should happen? It would be painful enough as it was to let him go at the end of his year of servitude. If they became lovers, she did not think that she would have the strength to let him go.
The voice of her host pulled the Goa'uld queen from her thoughts. 'Yes?'
'The children to whom you give birth have the memories of the Goa'uld, do they not?'
'Do they have your personal memories?'
Egeria frowned. 'Why do you ask?'
'I fear that the other Goa'uld will not like that you talk to me and that you allowed me to have control for a short while. If these children have your memories of those things, they may tell others.'
'Do not fear, Arria. That will not happen. A queen has a certain measure of control over what memories will be inherited by her offspring. Though she cannot pick and choose which of the ancestral memories she passes on – those memories with which she herself was born – she can control how much of her own personal memories are passed on. These larvae will know nothing about what has happened between us. Nor will they have any knowledge of Daniel. That I did to protect him.'
'My mind is at ease, then.' There was a moment of silence. 'Egeria, what would happen if the larvae did not get any memories at all?'
'They would be helpless, unable to function.'
'Could they not be taught how to do things? Human babies do not inherit the memories of their parents. They learn as they grow.'
Egeria thought about that. 'I suppose it might be possible, although, once they were within Jaffa, I am unsure how they could be trained. The implantation would have to be delayed, which would pose some risks. You see, before the Jaffa were created, back when larvae matured inside pools and tanks until placed inside hosts, many did not survive the blending with the host. Both they and the hosts died. That is why the Jaffa were made to carry our young. Being carried inside a human-like body as they mature – learning the structures of the body, how to heal it – gives a Goa'uld what it needs to be able to quickly adapt to being inside a host's body.'
Arria paused for another few seconds. 'It is a shame they must be given all the memories.'
'Why do you say that? Those memories ensure their survival and make it possible for them to live in Goa'uld society. Without them, they would be at a severe disadvantage. It is doubtful that they would live for long.'
'It is just that I have been thinking about what Daniel said when he told us about that race of symbiotes. He said that, though he would not be eager to be a host to one of them, if it was necessary, he might do it. If a Goa'uld had none of the memories of all the terrible things its ancestors have done, if, instead, it was taught and trained like a human child, could it not be taught to be good and kind, to respect its host, perhaps even to let its host share control like those other symbiotes do? If such a Goa'uld existed, Daniel might agree to become its host, and then he could be with us for always.'
Her host's statement hit Egeria forcefully. Arria was right. If a Goa'uld was spawned without the genetic knowledge and all the evil and lust for power that came with it, they would be like human infants that could be taught right from wrong, good from bad. Their teacher could instill within them a code of ethics, teach them that taking an unwilling host was wrong and cruel. Untainted by the Goa'uld genetic memories, they could be taught so many things. They would be like blank paper upon which could be written anything the teacher chose.
Her mind filled with thoughts, Egeria left the spawning room, passed through the room with her private bath, and entered her bed chamber. There, she laid upon the bed and really thought about this thing that Arria had placed in her mind.
This was something she had never considered, to give birth to a symbiote free of the corrupting power of the genetic knowledge, one who could be taught to do good deeds rather than being yet another evil member of a race she was coming to despise more every day. Nothing like it had ever entered her mind. But, now that the idea was there, it was filling every corner of her consciousness. Such a symbiote could give her what she most dearly wanted: a way to keep Daniel with her for as long as she lived. Of course, he might refuse, but it was possible that she could convince him that it would be the right thing to do. Just in the short time that he'd been on Estrania, he had changed lives, mostly for the better. How much good could he accomplish if he had millennia in which to do it? The whole galaxy could benefit from it. Yes, there would be certain obstacles to overcome, but she had succeeded in overcoming them, and so could Daniel.
The more Egeria thought about it, the more excited she became. But then a thought intruded upon her excitement. How could it be done?
The knowledge passed on from mother to offspring was not encoded within the genes in the same way that, in humans, things like eye color, facial features and other such things were. Instead, as the larvae were being formed inside her body, the queen would pass on the memories via a mental connection with her mind. This connection was instinctual, almost subconscious. But could it be broken?
This would require more thought. Now was not the time for it, though. She had more larvae to spawn for Yu, larvae that would have all the Goa'uld memories intact. But once her duty to him had been completed, then she would think about how she could create a symbiote worthy of having her beloved Daniel as a host.