Enlil was dead, a victim of his own arrogance and foolishness. As Egeria listened to the account of his death, she could not help but smile. Daniel must be told this. Ordering a servant to tell the archeologist to join her in the sitting room, Egeria went there to await him. He arrived just a few minutes later.
"I have some excellent news," she said as she took a seat. "Enlil is dead."
Daniel, who had also been in the act of sitting down, paused in surprise, startled gaze landing upon her. He then lowered himself the rest of the way into the chair.
"What happened?" he asked.
"As you know, I contacted someone regarding the issue with him. That someone was Lord Yu. Though I still do not desire a permanent alliance with him, I believed that he might be willing to lend his aid in the matter of Enlil in exchange for a specific number of larvae. We talked, and he agreed to the bargain."
"So, you're going to have to, uh, spawn for him?"
"It has already been done."
"Oh." Daniel shifted slightly, choosing not to think about the obtaining of DNA that Egeria would have had to do beforehand.
"I produced the number of larvae Yu and I agreed upon. They merely await transport to the location he chooses."
"So, in exchange for getting those larvae, Yu killed Enlil? Excuse me for saying this, but that sort of seems like an uneven trade. Not that those larvae aren't of value to him, but. . . ."
"I understand your meaning, Daniel. Yu's intention was not to kill Enlil. He sent an emissary, informing Enlil that I was under Yu's protection and that Enlil was not to bring any harm to me or to anyone or thing in my domain. I do not know the details of what happened next, but Enlil apparently took exception to being told what he could not do. He grew enraged and killed the emissary. This, in turn, greatly angered Lord Yu. He immediately sent ships in retaliation. The battle was over quite quickly, Yu suffering only minor losses."
Daniel shook his head. "I guess that, in addition to being hot-tempered and impetuous, Enlil also wasn't very smart."
Egeria smiled. "I would say so as well."
"So, I suppose that Enlil is no longer going to be needing a bunch of larvae." With a straight face, he added, "I guess this also means that all of Min's . . . hard work won't be going to waste after all."
Egeria burst into laughter, delighted by the remark. "Yes, the larvae that Min's seed helped to create will live on. He did always relish his role as an Egyptian god of sexuality. From my understanding, he bedded over half the female servants in his palace."
Daniel hesitated before speaking the thought that came into his mind. "But it wasn't actually Min's, uh . . . seed that helped make the larvae, was it? I mean, from what I understand, with the exception of queens, Goa'uld have no gender."
"This is true. It was, in fact, his host's seed that was used, but, in the mind of most Goa'uld, the human body in which they reside is their body, an extension of the symbiote's physical form."
"So, when the Goa'uld gives his host's DNA for a queen to use, in his mind, it's like it is his DNA."
"DNA?" Egeria questioned.
"That's, um, what my people call the part of a living thing that contains the genetic instructions used to create it."
Egeria nodded. "Ah, yes. We call it the code of life."
Daniel's gaze fell to his lap. "Yes, I . . . I know," he said, the memory of Hathor calling it that coming unbidden to his mind.
Wanting to get his mind off that other Goa'uld queen, Daniel said, "Okay, so maybe you would be willing to answer a question for me. I've sometimes heard a Goa'uld referred to as another's father or son, but that isn't really true. Queens reproduce asexually, don't they? I mean, they must if there's no such thing as a male Goa'uld symbiote. They certainly couldn't use a human host's sperm to fertilize their eggs."
Wondering how it was that Daniel could know so much about Goa'uld reproduction, Egeria replied. "You are correct. A Goa'uld queen needs no male to fertilize her eggs. What you are talking about is merely another example of the ego of a Goa'uld. Goa'uld in the bodies of male hosts enjoy believing that they can father Goa'uld offspring even though they are aware that they cannot. Therefore, a Goa'uld will sometimes choose to give his host's seed to a queen so that she can use it to produce one or more offspring, which he will then call his sons and daughters. Another reason for doing this is the standing it gives him in the eyes of his human servants and Jaffa."
Daniel nodded. "I get what you mean. In the history of my world, a monarch that produced no heirs, especially male heirs, was often derided."
"Yes. Often, a Goa'uld who calls another 'son' or 'daughter' will give to that one some power in his territories and over his armies. And if a Goa'uld is killed by someone, his son or daughter is expected to avenge his death."
"Unless the son or daughter is the one who killed him."
Egeria smiled slightly. "Yes, that is sometimes the case. The child covets the power belonging to the parent and decides to take it for themselves."
"A hazard that human rulers face as well."
Silence fell between them. It was broken after several seconds by Egeria.
"You have revealed to me your awareness that a Goa'uld queen passes on the knowledge of the Goa'uld race to her children."
Daniel felt his heart rate increase a little. Could this be leading to the conversation that he'd been trying to figure out how he was going to start?
"I wish you to know that, when I spawned the larvae for Lord Yu, I did not give to them any memories of you or of the things that have occurred between me and Arria. This I did to protect you and to prevent any problems that might occur if my fellow Goa'uld learned of what has transpired between me and my host."
"That was a good idea. To be honest, I didn't even think about that, though I probably would have eventually. I didn't realize that queens could pick and choose which memories to pass on."
"We have that power only with our personal memories, not those that we received from our own mothers."
"Too bad," Daniel murmured. If a queen could weed out the worst of the genetic memories, it would be easy to produce symbiotes that weren't corrupted by all that evil and desire for power but still had the knowledge that was useful. It would have been a big benefit to the Tok'ra to have been born with some of the vast storehouse of knowledge possessed by the Goa'uld.
"Too bad?" Egeria repeated, a question in her voice.
"Oh, I, um . . . was just thinking that if you could completely control which memories were passed on, it would be a great thing," he explained, not daring to look at her for fear that he'd give his nervousness away. "I know what comes with that genetic knowledge, that it's why the Goa'uld are born evil. If you could take out the bad stuff and leave only the knowledge of things like technology, astronomy, and other things like that, it would be fantastic." He glanced at Egeria. "You could create symbiotes that weren't evil."
Daniel was hoping that Egeria would pick up that thought and run with it, take it to where he wanted her to go. He could not know that, at that moment, both she and Arria were pretty excited that his thoughts appeared to be going along the same path that theirs were.
"Such a thing would not be possible, I fear," Egeria said. "There may, however, be a way to spawn symbiotes that lack the Goa'uld memories completely, which would also result in ones untainted with the evil of my race."
Daniel's heart rate went up a little more as he looked at her. "Really?" he said, feigning ignorance.
"Yes. It was Arria who put the thought into my mind. Her reasoning was similar to yours, that symbiotes spawned without the memories of the Goa'uld would not be born with evil in their heart. Also, they could be taught to share control of the body with their hosts, like those symbiotes of which you spoke."
Daniel had to smile. So, Egeria's host had beaten him to the punch and managed to get her to think about spawning larvae without the genetic memories. Good for Arria.
"Such a thing has never been done before," Egeria continued, "so I am still unsure how I could go about accomplishing it. It would not be an easy task."
"Would you be willing to tell me how the knowledge is passed on? Maybe between the two of us, we could figure it out."
Egeria explained the process to him. It was something he already knew, but he pretended that it was all news to him. He also knew how it was that Egeria accomplished it, though he didn't know all the details.
"Well, if I'm understanding this correctly, something that might work is a process similar to what my people call biofeedback," he told her. "One of the things people who are trained in biofeedback can do is control the pattern of their brainwaves, the, um, wave frequency that the brain operates on. They can increase or decrease the wave pattern at will. I'm not sure how it is for a Goa'uld, but at the extremely low wave patterns, the human mind is normally in a very deep state of unconsciousness. Brainwave activity is at a minimum. I have to wonder if you could do the same, lower your brainwave activity to the bare minimum, if it would prevent the genetic knowledge from being given to the larvae."
Egeria thought about it and came to the conclusion that it might work. If her brain was in such a state, the mental conduit to her offspring would be cut off.
"Yes," she said. "That may be the way it could be accomplished."
Daniel finally let his excitement show. "Egeria, do you have any idea what this could mean? You could create an entire race of Goa'uld symbiotes that weren't bent on conquest and the pursuit of power. It could change the galaxy."
Egeria frowned slightly. Her goal was not to create a new race, to change the galaxy. Her goal was far more modest: to give the man she loved a life that spanned millennia rather than a few tragically short decades.
"Daniel, to do such a thing would be a monumental undertaking. It would also be very dangerous. Eventually, the other Goa'uld would discover what I was doing and take action to stop it. If, on the other hand, just a few such symbiotes were spawned and then placed within willing hosts, they could do a great deal of good, yet manage to remain undetected."
"How many are you talking about?" Daniel asked cautiously, knowing that he needed to tread carefully. He couldn't push her too hard, too quickly.
"Perhaps five or six in the beginning, a few more at a later time."
Daniel stared down at the floor between his feet. He knew that's not how things happened in the history of the Tok'ra. The majority of their numbers were born within a short period of time, a matter of a few decades. The ones that were born later were spawned during the time that Egeria was on the run from Ra. Somehow, he had to convince her that spawning greater numbers would be the way to go.
That thought went right out of Daniel's head when Egeria spoke her next words.
"When you talked about that race of symbiotes, you said that, if there was a need, you might consider being a host to one such as them." She leaned forward. "With a Goa'uld symbiote inside you who shares your goodness and compassion, you could do great things, Daniel, for you would have many thousands of years to help others, to change the galaxy the way that you have changed things here."
Uh oh. This was something he hadn't anticipated. So, how was he going to handle this? Even if he wanted to, he couldn't take her up on her offer and ignore the impact such a thing could have on the way that history originally played out. So how was he going to turn her down in a way that she would understand and accept? It was pretty clear that she really wanted him to say yes.
Daniel got to his feet and moved away a few paces. He was just about to speak when it occurred to him that there were two important questions that needed to be answered first.
Daniel turned back to the Goa'uld queen and asked the first question, one to which he had already figured out the answer. "Um . . . Egeria, do you use a sarcophagus?"
It did not surprise Egeria that he knew about the sarcophagus since his knowledge of the Goa'uld appeared to be so extensive.
"Yes, when it is necessary."
Daniel met her eyes. "To keep your host from aging and to extend your own life."
This time, Egeria was surprised. How could he know that? It was one of the Goa'uld's most closely guarded secrets. Not even the Jaffa knew what role the sarcophagus played in the longevity of the Goa'uld.
Daniel saw the surprise in her eyes. "Yes, I know what the sarcophagus does for the Goa'uld. I also know what the price is for using one when you're not sick or injured, especially in humans who are not hosts."
Egeria stared at him with piercing intensity. Who was this man that knew things about the Goa'uld that no human should know, who possessed the knowledge of secrets about her race and their technology that would mean instant death for him if another Goa'uld found out? Were there more like him, humans with all this dangerous knowledge wandering the galaxy as the Goa'uld remained ignorant of it?
"Who are you?" Egeria asked.
Caught by surprise, Daniel stammered, "W-w-what? I don't under. . . ." And then he did understand, and he suddenly got very nervous. Crap. He'd finally gone and done it, revealed too much about what he knew. He turned away quickly, unable to do anything except pray that Egeria did not turn "Goa'uld" on him and demand he tell her things that he could not.
Egeria got to her feet. "From the beginning, you have shown that you know more about the Goa'uld than any human about which I have ever heard. I chose not to question how or where you gained this knowledge, though any other member of my race would stop at nothing to discover the answer. But these things you know, many of them are secrets that only the Goa'uld should know. How could you have learned them?"
Daniel closed his eyes, head bowed. "Please don't ask me that, Egeria," he pleaded. "It's something I can't tell you." He finally turned and met her eyes. "Please."
Egeria looked into the blue depths, seeing the desperation of his plea, the fear of what would happen if she demanded an answer. She thought about his intention to kill himself rather than become a host. Would he do the same to keep this secret, to keep it even from her?
"You do not trust me," she said, feeling hurt and a little angry.
"No, Egeria. Please believe that isn't the reason. I do trust you. I know that if I told you, you wouldn't intentionally misuse the knowledge. But my life is not the only one at stake. More is riding on me keeping this secret than you could imagine. I couldn't gamble the fate of so much and so many by telling you and taking the chance that, somehow, some other Goa'uld would find out or that, in telling you, I'd end up causing changes that would lead to a disaster. You have no idea the fine line I am walking, the line I have been walking ever since I began revealing that I know more about the Goa'uld than I should know."
Daniel took a single step toward her. "Egeria, you've done things that show that you trust me. I've been honored that you've given that trust to me. I'm asking you now to keep trusting me, to accept that this is something I can't tell you."
Gazing into Daniel's pleading eyes, Egeria recognized that she had a choice to make: to show her trust in Daniel, the man she loved, or sacrifice all that they had come to be to each other in exchange for knowledge. If she chose the former, he would continue to be her friend and the man she hoped would someday be her mate for life. If she selected the latter, she would lose him forever.
The realization suddenly came to Egeria that this was far more than just something between her and Daniel. At the very heart of it, this was actually a choice between being a Goa'uld or being someone who felt friendship, and compassion, and trust, and all the other things that the Goa'uld were incapable of feeling.
So, was she still a Goa'uld in her heart or did she have the courage to completely reject their ways and rise above them? She looked at the man standing before her, the man who had taught her so much, and knew the answer.
"For all of my life I have known that I was different from other Goa'uld," she said. "Because of this, I have made decisions they would not, done things that departed from what the Goa'uld have done from the day our race took their first hosts and struck out into the galaxy. Some of those things were small, others not quite so small. Estrania was founded upon a way of thinking that would be foreign to other Goa'uld. Yet, though I already recognized these things, I did not truly see myself until you came."
Egeria's statement surprised Daniel. Not knowing where this was leading, he remained silent.
"You have shown me things about myself, Daniel, that I had only touched the surface of before because I lacked the desire or courage to go deeper. I was content to stay safely within the . . . fringes of what a Goa'uld is, never fully breaking from my heritage." She stepped toward him. "You have changed me, my Daniel. You have taught me to feel more, to be more than I had believed myself to be. Though my genes mark me as a Goa'uld, in my heart, I am not a Goa'uld. They would throw you into a cell and torture you until you revealed your secrets or would make you a host and learn the secrets that way. But I will do neither." She lifted her head proudly. "The time has come for me to leave the fringes. As of today, I reject the ways of my race once and for all."
Daniel stood utterly still, stunned beyond speech. This was more than he could ever have dreamed of seeing happen. He had known that when Egeria broke completely from the Goa'uld, she had rejected everything that came with being one of her race, but he could never have guessed that it would happen now, so swiftly and in this way.
"Egeria, I . . . I honestly don't know what to say," he finally managed to utter. "What you are doing is. . . ." He shook his head. "I don't think you have any idea of how important it is." He gave a short laugh. "You may be able to tell that I'm feeling a little overwhelmed right now. It isn't often that I struggle for words." He took a deep breath. "But I do want to say thank you for choosing to trust me and accept that I couldn't tell you what you wanted to know. If it was only my own welfare that was at risk, I would tell you. I want you to understand that."
Egeria smiled gently. "I know, and I do understand. I could not expect any less from you than to do everything in your power to protect the lives of others, even if it meant sacrificing your own life to do it."
Guessing that Daniel might be feeling the need to have some time alone, she then said, "Perhaps you would like to go for a walk. We can talk again later."
"Actually, that does sound good," Daniel responded. Not only would it give him a chance to process what just happened, it would also delay the conversation about him becoming a host.
"I will see you later, then."
Daniel was heading for the door when he got a sudden idea. He turned back to Egeria.
"How about if you come with me? Have you ever gone for a walk in the city before?"
"No, I have not. I have always been on my litter or in my carriage."
"Well, then I think it's about time that you do."
Thinking about it, Egeria decided that she very much liked that idea. "I would be delighted."
Though she would have preferred that it be just the two of them on the walk, she knew that would probably not be wise. It was not that she was concerned for her safety. She had faith that she would be in no personal danger. None of her people would ever seek to harm her. However, it was going to be a big enough shock for them to see her walking around the city. If she was to do so with no personal guard, with no one but a lone slave along, she could only imagine the talk that would circulate. Besides, the Jaffa might discourage some freeman from approaching and disturbing her and Daniel. On that thought, perhaps she should take care to choose Jaffa whose appearance were especially fearsome.
And so it was that she and Daniel struck out into the city with two very imposing Jaffa following far enough behind them that they could talk in private, but close enough to quickly come to their aid if they needed it.
Not surprisingly, they got a whole lot of stares. The people of Estrania were not accustomed to seeing their queen walking among them like just another person. She and Daniel mostly ignored the stares . . . or, in Daniel's case, at least tried to ignore them.
Daniel first took Egeria to the big marketplace, and they shopped at the stalls. The merchants were extremely nervous and bending over backwards to please Egeria, most offering to give away everything in which she showed an interest. She would have none of that and told every merchant from which she purchased something that they would receive fair payment. She and Daniel left the marketplace after two hours with pastries, little trinkets, and a beautiful pendant hanging from Egeria's neck. Also purchased were items crafted by some of the artisans, which the Goa'uld queen arranged to be delivered to the palace. Yet another thing they left with was a smile on Egeria's face.
"Though I have been to the marketplace before, it was only for a short while, and I usually remained in my litter," she said. "I did not realize how enjoyable it would be to do what we just did."
Daniel's mouth twitched upward in a smile. "On my world, most women love to go shopping. I sometimes think it's encoded in their genes or something. And what their fascination with shoes is all about is something I will never understand."
Egeria laughed. "Shoes?"
She looked down at the delicate yet functional sandals upon her own feet. "I have never found myself thinking a great deal about my footwear."
The thought came to Daniel that the shoe obsession probably didn't develop in the female gender on Earth until much later in history.
He and Egeria mostly wandered aimlessly, stopping to look at this and that. It occurred to Egeria that, though this was her city, the city that was created by her command, she had not truly looked upon it and its inhabitants until now. As they walked, she studied her subjects, watched them working, going from here to there, carrying on with their daily lives. If she was to vanish from existence at this moment, all of this would keep right on going as it was – until some other Goa'uld came and took control.
If she was to leave and no other Goa'uld came to take her place, what would happen here? Sooner or later, some sort of ruler or ruling body would have to be appointed from among the citizens. If the new rulers were wise and just, this civilization would carry on without her, growing and thriving. Most Goa'uld would find that thought intolerable. They would want to believe that, without them, the worlds in their territories would either stagnate or fall into ruin. Egeria, however, found it to be a pleasant thought that, without the heavy hand of another Goa'uld taking over, her domain might be able to survive and continue to grow.
Daniel glanced at the woman beside him. Other than brief moments of conversation, she had been mostly silent. He could tell that she was enjoying herself. She seemed to find particular pleasure in watching children play. He had to wonder if she'd ever taken the time to do that before today.
When he'd decided to invite her along, one of the main reasons was that he thought it would be good for her. According to things she'd said, she had traveled to many other worlds, yet, when she was on Estrania, she spent most of her time on the palace grounds. He wanted to see that change.
Since beginning their tour through the city, Daniel's mind had returned often to her declaration. If she truly meant what she'd said, then the conclusion of his efforts wouldn't be far off. If he was careful and did things right, it might not take much to convince her that to create large numbers of symbiotes without the Goa'uld memories would be an important step toward bringing down the Goa'uld and freeing the galaxy from their grasp. On the other hand, Egeria had only said that she was rejecting the ways of the Goa'uld. That was not the same thing as opposing them and their rule. Creating the Tok'ra was the act of someone who was making themselves an enemy of the Goa'uld. Egeria might not be at that point yet.
Their wanderings eventually led them past Egeria's temple. She stopped and looked at it.
"What foolishness," she murmured, shaking her head.
Daniel said nothing, allowing her to continue.
"When this city was being constructed, there was no question that there would be a temple for me. Every Goa'uld has a temple on the planet upon which they reside. Many have temples on every inhabited world in their territory. Back when this was built, I was a god to the people of this world, not a queen. They bowed before me in worship and, often, in fear."
"Did you enjoy that?" Daniel asked tentatively.
"Yes, though I am ashamed to admit that now. It was not the fear I enjoyed. I never took pleasure in my subjects fearing me. But the thought that they worshiped me . . . yes, it was pleasurable. I was still very much a child of the Goa'uld back then. But, as the decades passed, I became more a queen and less a god. It was a gradual change, brought about because I ruled in a manner more like a human monarch than a god. I am still considered to be a deity here; people still come to this temple with offerings and to pray for things they need or want, but their attitude is different now."
Egeria's gaze took in the soaring columns, the many reliefs depicting images of her and other things that she had commanded to be put there. "I look at this now, and it makes me feel foolish. It was nothing but vanity, arrogance and pride that built this temple. The Goa'uld are not gods. You are correct about that, Daniel. We have no right to have temples, to demand others to worship us. I am tempted to have this thing torn down and something of greater use put in its place. But that, I fear, would not be wise. If the others learned of it, they would question why it was done, which could cause trouble."
She looked at him and smiled. "There is one thing, however, that makes me very glad that it is here. If it was not, you and I might never have met. You may have come to this world and then left without me ever knowing you exist." She took a step forward. "Come. I want to see more of the city before it grows too late."
They continued down that street, which took them in a westerly direction. Daniel couldn't help but think about the first time he walked this street, when it was cracked and broken, surrounded by the shattered remains of the buildings that now stood whole. And then he thought about the second time, when his mind was filled with wonder and the doubt that what he was seeing was real. How much had changed since that day.
The sun was getting quite low in the sky when they reached the west end of the city. Egeria looked out upon the fields that grew the crops to feed the citizens, the herds of animals that provided meat, milk, raw material for clothing, and other necessities. Those things, however, were not what she was thinking about most at that moment.
"Will you answer a question, Daniel? I swear to you that I will question you no further about it."
Daniel looked at her. Considering where they were, he could guess what her question might be. Whether or not he could answer truthfully would depend on exactly how she phrased it.
"If I can," he said, knowing that he might have to lie.
"You did not come through the Stargate that day you arrived. How you came here is out there somewhere."
Noting that it had not really been spoken as a question, Daniel truthfully replied, "Yes."
Egeria smiled and nodded slightly, happy that he had trusted her with that secret.
She gave a regretful sigh. "It grows late. We will have to hurry if we are to make it back before dark."
"So, let's not even try," Daniel responded. "Have you ever been out in the city at night?"
"No, I have not. I have always been in the palace by the time the sun went down."
"It's pretty at night, quieter. There is a restaurant that remains open late. It uses only candlelight for the outdoor tables. It is by the river, and, when the moon is out and in the right position, it shines on the water."
"It sounds beautiful."
"Yeah, it is."
"Then we shall go there."
They did not hurry back through the city. As the other citizens went off to their homes, Daniel and Egeria walked leisurely down the emptying streets. The street lamps came on, illuminating their way.
By the time they reached the restaurant on the bank of the river, it was almost completely dark. Quite hungry, Egeria decided that they must eat there. When the restaurant owner recognized her, his eyes grew as large as humanly possible. He was stammering as he showed them to a table by the water. As they settled upon the cushions on the floor, the restauranteur began calling frantically to his staff to bring wine and things that would be called appetizers on Earth in the future. Not for the first time Daniel wondered from what planet the idea for this restaurant came. It was centuries ahead of its time here, yet was extremely popular, as evidenced by the other patrons – every one of which was gaping at them like landed fish. Oh, yes. This would be the talk of the town for days to come. With a smile, he said that to Egeria.
She laughed lightly. "Ah, if only I were truly a god, all-knowing and all-seeing. How amusing it would be to hear everyone chatter about this." Her smile grew mischievous. "But let us give them even more about which they will talk." She called to her Jaffa, who were standing guard a few yards away, and told them to come join her and Daniel. For several seconds, the men were too stunned to move, then they hesitantly came over and sat on the cushions.
Dinner that night was probably among the most unusual and interesting ones Daniel had ever had, which was really saying something considering how many places on Earth and in the galaxy he'd dined. But then, never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined sitting at a candlelit table with two very bemused Jaffa and a Goa'uld queen who had renounced all the ways of her race. Oh, if only Jack could see this.
After dinner, Egeria decided that she wanted to walk down to the river. The moon was just coming out and was casting a glowing trail upon the water. As she gazed at the sight, Egeria felt utterly content and at peace for the first time in her life.
"Thank you, Daniel," she said to her companion.
"For this day, for enabling me to feel not like a Goa'uld or a queen, but like an ordinary human, someone who can walk through a city without a care, eat dinner at a restaurant surrounded by dozens of other patrons, and stand here looking at a river by moonlight. It . . . can be very lonely being what I am, who I am, having to hold myself above everyone else at all times, keeping an appropriate distance between me and my subjects. Today, for these few hours, I could pretend that I was not Queen Egeria. It was a good feeling."
Daniel looked at her. "It doesn't have to be the only time, Egeria. You could do this again. None of your laws say that you must keep yourself isolated from your citizens. And, unlike many human rulers, you don't have to worry about being assassinated. It is not unprecedented for a ruler to go for a stroll among his or her people."
Egeria's gaze turned to him. "And what of a ruler who is also considered by her people to be a god?"
"Well, okay, so there aren't so many examples of that, but I could probably name a few. Egypt's history has more than one. The point I'm making, Egeria, is that I do not believe your people will think less of you if you leave your palace on occasion and walk among them. And what if it does alter their perception of you? You talked about tearing down that temple because you are not a god. So, then banish that image of you as a god a little more by involving yourself more with your citizens, by doing things that ordinary people do. It's harder to think of someone as a god if they're sitting at your table, eating with you and talking about the weather."
A small smile came to Egeria's lips. "You are so wise, my Daniel."
"Not hardly. I'm just stating a fact."
"All the same, your counsel is sound and wise. I will not let this be the only time I do such a thing."
"Good. I'm glad."
"But, now, I fear, it is time for us to retire to our beds. Morning will not delay its arrival just for us."
Turning away from the river, the archeologist and the queen began the trek back to the palace, a smile on both of their lips.