Stargate Horizons


Daniel was more than a little surprised when Camilla knocked on his door and told him that Egeria was requesting his presence in her private chambers.  Her private chambers?  This was the first time that she had asked him to meet her there.  Did she have something to tell him that needed the utmost privacy, something that could not be interrupted?

Wondering what this could be about, Daniel followed the Lo'taur to an area of the palace into which he had never ventured.  He asked her what was there, and she explained that all the rooms were part of Egeria's personal quarters, serving various purposes.  The only exception was the room that belonged to Camilla, which was close enough for her to respond quickly to a call from Egeria, but far enough away not to intrude upon the queen's privacy.

They stopped at one of the doors, and Camilla knocked.  A barely audible voice bid them to enter.  The room, which was empty, turned out to be a small, intimate lounge, decorated with carpets and richly upholstered furniture.  It was, however, the items of art that caught Daniel's attention.

Left alone in the room, the archeologist went to a display of vases and statuary that he recognized as belonging to various cultures of ancient Earth: Egypt, Rome, Greece, the Minoan civilization, and many others, every one in perfect condition.  It was a priceless collection, one for which many museums would just about sell their collective souls.

"Do you like my personal treasures?"

Daniel turned and saw that Egeria had just entered through a door on the left wall.  Glancing through the open door, the archeologist spied a very large bed in the room beyond.

Just then, he took more note of Egeria's appearance.  She was wearing a loose-fitting gown that flowed around her body like a cloud.  Her long black hair was down, falling to her waist.

"Um . . . yes," he replied, suddenly feeling just a little bit nervous.  "You have some exquisite pieces here."

Egeria walked over to a settee and sat gracefully upon it.  She rested her hand on the cushion beside her.  "Come sit, Daniel.  There is something about which I must speak to you."

Though it was not the first time that Daniel had shared the same piece of furniture with her, this time, as he took a seat, he was wishing that he could keep some distance between them.  There was something different about her body language, something more . . . intimate.

"My thoughts this day have been greatly upon the birth of the many symbiotes who will have none of the Goa'uld knowledge.  There were a great many things to plan."

Daniel smiled.  "Then you are going to do it?  I wasn't completely sure you were."

"Yes, my Daniel.  When you told me of the courage and sacrifices of your people, then explained how my children could also help to bring down the Goa'uld, how could I say no?"

"That's fantastic!  I am so glad that you decided to do it."

"Of course, there will be problems to overcome.  One of those is how I will teach them what they need to know.  Without the Goa'uld knowledge, they will be much like newborn human infants, needing to learn everything except for the instincts that will be born within them.  Most of a larva's life is normally spent within the pouch of a Jaffa.  But there would be no way to teach them if these larvae were within Jaffa.  Therefore, for all but one of those years, they will spend some of their life outside of the pouch, in a pool where I can communicate with them, teach them all I can.  When I am not teaching them, they will be within Jaffa.  During the first year, they will be in the pool all the time as I do the most basic and important of teaching."

"How will that work exactly?  A Jaffa can't survive for more than a couple of hours without a larva."

"When a child of mine is not within a Jaffa, another larva will be, the one the Jaffa had before he was chosen to be the caretaker of one of my offspring.  When it is my child that is in him, then the other larva will be inside a tank that will keep it alive.  There is some risk in this.  Some of the symbiotes may die."

"And what about when the regular symbiotes mature?"

Egeria's expression hardened.  "They will be killed.  I will not allow them to enslave human hosts.  Not only would it be wrong of me to do so, it would also be too dangerous.  They would know about what was transpiring here."

"It sounds like a good plan.  I know that you'll succeed, Egeria.  But what's going to happen if you're asked to spawn larvae for the Goa'uld?"

"That is something I will have to decide upon.  My conscience would trouble me greatly if I were to create more larvae corrupted with the Goa'uld knowledge, but if I refused to spawn, the Goa'uld would immediately know that something was wrong."

"And you sure couldn't spawn ones without the knowledge and give them to the Goa'uld.  Sooner or later, they'd discover that something was wrong with them."

"Correct.  Fortunately, it will likely be quite some time before I am called upon again."  Her expression softened.  "There is something else about which I have given much thought.  You know about the code of life from a human male that is used to help create larvae.  I am assuming you understand its purpose."

Daniel nodded.  "It's used to prevent the natural defenses of a host's body from rejecting the symbiote, attacking it as if it's an invader."

"Yes.  This is an important thing, vital in assuring the survival of the symbiote.  For all larvae I have spawned in the past, a man was select by my First Prime from some outlying village on Estrania.  No man was ever chosen twice.  I knew none of these men.  They were all strangers to me.  That is how I wished it to be.  But I do not want it to be that way this time.  These children to which I will give birth will be special, ones who will embark upon a campaign to defeat the Goa'uld.  For them, I do not want some stranger's code of life."  Her eyes gazed deeply into Daniel's.  "There is, in truth, only one man I believe would be worthy of it this time, and that is you, my Daniel."  She caressed his face with her fingertips.  "I would ask that you lay with me this night and give to me your seed.  I promise that it will be very pleasurable."

Without warning, a violent flashback blazed into Daniel's mind of another Goa'uld queen as she removed his glasses and ran her hands through his hair, uttering in a sensual tone, "We do so enjoy the method of procuring the code in your species.  It is much more pleasurable than most."

With a choked gasp, Daniel sprang off the settee and fled to the opposite side of the room.  Chest heaving, he cried, "No!  I-I-I can't!  Please don't ask me to do that."

Shocked by his violent reaction, Egeria stared at him, seeing the tension in his body, the way he had his arms wrapped around himself, as if in protection.  She didn't understand.  Why was he acting this way, like the mere thought horrified him?  Was it that he could not bear to be intimate with her?

A spark of anger lit within Egeria, fueled by hurt feelings.  "Do you, then, find the mere idea of laying with me repulsive?" she asked.  She stood up.  "Is it my body that repulses you or the knowledge of what I am?"

"No, you don't . . . you don't understand."  Daniel turned away and closed his eyes, fighting a losing battle to keep the memories of Hathor at bay.

Egeria had seen the expression on his face, the haunted, tormented look in his eyes.  Her anger quickly vanished, replaced by concern and the need to know why Daniel was reacting this way.  She slowly walked up to him and laid a hand on his arm.  He flinched at the touch.

"Please don't," he pleaded in a whisper.

Egeria was dismayed to realize that he was afraid, afraid of her.  "I will not harm you, my Daniel.  I would die first.  Please tell me why you are afraid."

For several long seconds, Daniel did not respond.  He took a deep breath.  "You're . . . you're not the first Goa'uld queen I've met," he said in a low voice.  "Three years ago, I met another one: Hathor."

Egeria's expression darkened.  She despised Hathor and would be quite happy to see her dead.

"She, um . . . she wanted to create more Goa'uld, and she picked me to . . . help."  Daniel closed his eyes tightly against the memories.  "I didn't want to, but she used that . . . that pheromone drug of hers, and I-I couldn't stop her.  I had no power to resist.  Afterwards, I felt so . . . so dirty and violated.  I was still married at the time, and I felt like I'd betrayed my wife."  His voice dropped back to a whisper.  "I know you're not like Hathor, but when I think about. . . ."  He stopped, unable to continue.

Egeria was shocked and horrified by what she had just learned.  For Hathor to have done what she did, take an unwilling man and force him to mate with her through the use of her power, sickened Egeria.  It filled her with pure, murderous rage that Hathor had harmed Daniel in such a way.  If the woman was standing before her at this moment, she would choke the life out of her.  Egeria could feel the ache in her hands to be wrapped around the Goa'uld queen's throat.

Reining in her anger, Egeria turned all her attention upon Daniel.  "Oh, my Daniel," she murmured in a distressed voice.  "It grieves me so deeply that she did that to you.  I would kill her for it, if I could.  Please believe me that I would never do such a thing.  I would never force any man to give me the code."

Daniel at last looked at her.  She cupped his cheek and smiled at him gently.

"Go now.  You need rest," she said.  "I will not ask you again to do this for me.  I will choose another."

Daniel released the tension in his body.  "Thank you."  He left and walked as fast as he was able to his room.  Once inside, he shut the door and all but collapsed against it, eyes tightly closed.  He was appalled and ashamed of how he reacted to Egeria's request.  He had thought that, after all these years, he'd fully recovered from what Hathor did to him, but, apparently, he'd been wrong.  When Egeria spoke that word, the word Hathor used as she prepared to undress him, he'd suddenly found himself flung headlong back into that VIP room, Hathor's face close to his, her warm, pheromone-laced breath upon his lips, taking away his will to fight.  It all came pouring back into his mind, her laying him on the bed, the brief struggle he put up as his mind tried desperately to overcome the drug only to be hopelessly overwhelmed by yet another dose, her body coming down upon him as a voice deep inside him cried out in horror and shame.

"God," Daniel choked out.  He pushed away from the door and began to pace, trying in desperation to fill his mind with other things, images to drown out those from one of the most emotionally traumatic events of his life.

After what seemed like an eternity, the storm of memories quieted.  Daniel sank upon the bed.  He needed to apologize to Egeria, to make it clear that he knew she was nothing like Hathor.  Now that he was thinking calmly and rationally, he recognized that her wanting only him to be the one to provide the DNA was an expression of respect and honor.  She'd said that she deemed no other man worthy enough to help create the children that would have such an important future.  Any man without Daniel's history regarding Goa'uld queens would be filled with pride over this.  But even recognizing that, Daniel knew that he still couldn't do it.  He wouldn't be able to divorce himself from the emotions that having sex with a Goa'uld queen in order to produce larvae would create.  And that made him ashamed, because Egeria didn't deserve to be lumped into the same basket as Hathor.

Of course, then there was the matter of Sha're.  His wife was dead.  Having sex with another woman would not be betraying her now.  In fact, he knew that she would want him to move on, to find love again.  But his heart wasn't ready for that.  It still ached too deeply for her.  Though Egeria was not asking for his love, only his sperm, it didn't change the fact that making love to another woman was something he wasn't sure he could do.

What mattered most was that whether it was him who provided the DNA or some other man, the symbiotes would turn out the same.  There was nothing special about his DNA that would make them better than they would be with some other guy's "code of life."  Despite Egeria's comment that she believed him to be the only one worthy of doing this, the truth was that any healthy man's DNA would work perfectly fine.  Therefore, there really was no reason why he had to be the one to do it, and if there was no reason for it, then he didn't see a need to even consider it.

Daniel tiredly closed his eyes.  He had not slept well last night, nightmares of Hathor haunting his sleep.  He hadn't had a nightmare about her in years, but, obviously, this thing with Egeria had dug out all that stuff in his subconscious so that it could make a spectacular comeback.  Oh, what joy.

The archeologist felt Decimus' eyes upon him.  He knew that the elderly man sensed something was wrong, but, so far, his friend had remained silent.  Titus was not there yet, it still being quite early.  Daniel needed to shake this before the boy arrived.

He got to his feet.  "I'm going to go get some air, clear my head.  I didn't get a lot of sleep last night."

As he headed for the door, Decimus' voice stopped him.

"I am here to listen if you need to talk, Daniel."

Daniel looked at him, seeing the love of a friend in the man's eyes.

"I know you are, Decimus."

Daniel's steps took him to the west garden.  It was now complete.  He looked around at the area in which he now stood, the section one might call the entry garden.  About forty feet wide and eighteen feet deep at its largest point, it was quite small compared to what lay on the other side of the arch and wall, but it was very beautiful and restful.  Egeria had chosen a color scheme of blues, purples and lavenders, most likely to complement the vines that were small, rather spindly things now but would one day be lush and grand, if they took to Estrania's soil and weather.

A tree with a white, birch-like trunk and silvery leaves had been planted on the right side.  The leaves hung down in delicate cascades, somewhat like a willow.  Daniel could picture what it would look like once it was fully grown.  On either side of the arch sat two beautifully crafted marble benches, looking as if they were just waiting for young lovers to come sit on them.

Deciding to stay there instead of going out into the larger garden beyond, Daniel sat on one of the benches.  The scent of the vines' flowers filled his nostrils, and he drew in a deep breath, happy that there was not the slightest tickle in his nose to indicate an aversion to the blossoms.

Daniel's gaze wandered about some more.  Looking in the left corner, which was in deep shadow, he saw something white.  Curious, he went over to investigate.  Nestled against a bush with little purple flowers that faded to lavender in their centers was a three-foot-high statue of a man.  He was clearly a scholar, holding a book in one hand and a pen in the other.  There was a look of gentle wisdom on his kind face.

Seeing that something was inscribed in the base of the statue, Daniel bent over to read it.  He was surprised to see that it was written not in Goa'uld but in an ancient form of the Etruscan language, the language Arria would have learned as a child.

Carefully, Daniel translated the inscription.  "To my dearest, most trusted friend."

Daniel stared at the words and the statue.  There could be no doubt to whom the inscription was referring.  Egeria had dedicated this garden to him.  She really had meant it when she called it his garden.

Going back inside the palace, Daniel asked around and learned that Egeria was in the sitting room.  He went there and knocked on the door.  Upon hearing the queen say, "Enter," he went inside.  He could see the surprise on her face when she saw him.

"Daniel."  She got to her feet.  "I did not believe I would see you today."

"Um . . . yeah.  I want to apologize to you for what happened last night.  I'm sorry.  You didn't deserve that reaction."

"Oh, Daniel.  Please do not apologize.  It is I who am sorry.  I caused you pain and distress, something I would never want to do."

"You couldn't have known about what happened between me and Hathor."

Egeria resumed her seat.  "Come sit down.  Please."

This time, Daniel didn't feel any nervousness as he settled beside Egeria.  She laid a hand on his cheek, sad eyes gazing into his.

"She wounded you so deeply," she murmured.

Daniel's gaze fell away from hers.  "Yes, it hurt.  Being forced to . . . to do that, it took a long time for me to get completely past it.  My friends helped a lot.  They were really there for me once they realized what Hathor had done to me.  I eventually came to terms with it and put the whole ugly thing behind me."  He expression turned rueful.  "Or at least I thought I had until last night."  He looked at her.  "Egeria, please believe me when I say that how I reacted doesn't mean that I look upon your request as being anything like what Hathor did.  That is so not true.  I know that when you asked me to be the one to help you create those symbiotes, it was an expression of respect and honor.  I recognize that, and I am flattered that you'd think I am the only one worthy of it.  I want to make clear that my refusal has nothing to do with you personally.  I most definitely do not find you repulsive.  Just the opposite.  You are a beautiful person, both inside and out.  Any man would be lucky to have one such as you for a love."

Daniel's last sentence caused tears to prickle Egeria's eyes.  "Oh, my beloved Daniel," she whispered.

Surprised by what she'd said, Daniel stared into her eyes and saw something he never had before.  Or perhaps it was something he'd simply never allowed himself to see.

'Oh my God.'

Seeing the realization in his eyes, Egeria nodded.  "Yes, my Daniel.  It is true.  What I feel for you is more than the love of a friend.  From the moment I first laid eyes upon you, I could not drive you from my thoughts.  I must confess something to you.  When I made you a palace slave, it was for selfish reasons.  I desired you, and I hoped that, in time, if you came to know me, you would feel the same.  But then you won my heart with your kindness, and goodness, and gentle spirit.  I came to love you as a friend.  You became something dear and precious to me.  Yet the desire remains.  If you had agreed to lay with me last night, it would have been so much more to me than simply a way to get the code of life.  It would have been the fulfillment of something I have dreamed about so many nights."

Stunned, Daniel just stared at her.  Egeria, the future mother of the Tok'ra, was in love with him.  This was so not something he'd planned for.

"Egeria, I . . . I had no idea you felt this way."

"I know.  That is as I intended.  I did not wish for you to know since you do not return my love."

Her comment made him feel terrible.  "Egeria, I am so sorry.  You are such an incredible woman.  If I had met you at some later time in my life, I think that I could have fallen in love with you."

Daniel's words lightened her spirit yet also saddened her.  "But your heart still belongs to your wife.  This I know."  She leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on his cheek, wishing it could be more.  "Go now.  It is time for me to return to my duties and for you to return to yours."

Wishing there was something more he could say, Daniel left the room, quietly shutting the door behind him.

The days passed.  Daniel saw very little of Egeria, only for a few minutes here and there.  Sometimes, he wondered if she'd gotten the needed DNA from some other man and had bred the Tok'ra larvae, but he was pretty sure she'd have told him if she had.

He'd been thinking a lot about what he'd learned.  When he decided to guide Egeria toward becoming a Tok'ra, never in a million years would he have considered that she might fall in love with him.  Now that he knew, however, it cast a new light on quite a few things.  He recalled that day when Egeria first asked him to come speak with her.  At the time, because of the questions she'd asked, he had wondered if she was going to request that he provide DNA for a spawning cycle.  He now wondered if that's exactly what she'd been planning to do and had changed her mind after learning that he had no desire to have sex with a woman besides his wife.  He also thought of some of the other things she had said and done throughout these months.  He probably should have seen the truth a long time ago, but he really had been totally oblivious to it.

Another thing he'd been thinking about was what would happen after the Tok'ra were born.  A lot around here would change.  The big changes would happen once they were blended with hosts.  Would Egeria ask for volunteers from Estrania's inhabitants or go searching for men and women off-world whom she believed would be worthy of being hosts to her children?  And what about afterwards, when there would suddenly be people here who aged much more slowly than normal, whose numbers grew by leaps and bounds as each successive batch of Tok'ra reached maturity?  It wouldn't be easy procuring so many volunteers in so short a time, plus deal with all the curiosity and questions that Estrania's citizens would have, especially since the humans here had no idea what a Goa'uld really was.

The third thing that had been on Daniel's mind a lot was going home.  Now that Egeria was going to spawn larvae without the genetic knowledge, the task he'd given to himself was complete.  He'd done what he set out to do.  Egeria was truly a Tok'ra now, only lacking the name to go with the identity.  So how much longer would it be before she realized that keeping him a slave was contrary to what she had become?  Could it be that she already knew that and was resisting freeing him because of her feelings for him?  As much as she had changed, as much as she had rejected the ways of her species, could she be selfless enough to put aside what he knew she wanted and let him go?  She must know that, when she set him free, he'd leave Estrania, and she might never see him again.  A whole lot of people wouldn't be able to do something like that.  Daniel wasn't sure what he was going to do if Egeria resisted letting him go.  About the only thing he could do was appeal to her sense of justice and what was morally right.

During these past few days, Daniel had been spending a lot of time working on the Furling language, knowing that it was especially important now that he learn as much as he could.  His understanding of the language had expanded dramatically, though a lot of it was still based upon educated guesses and assumptions.  There were still characters the meaning of which he did not know and sentences he couldn't fully translate because of it.  He'd made complete copies of Decimus' work and returned the originals to the library.  Those copies were now covered with notes and comments in English, scrawled across the pages as Daniel worked on deciphering each character.

If he had been able devote more hours to the task, Daniel figured that he'd have gotten a lot further along by now, but, by the time he finished his work in the library each day, he usually had no more than three hours to spend on it, and he couldn't do it every evening.  Now, however, he was feeling the pressure to get as much learned as he could.  Because of that, he'd been working on it late into the night, which resulted in the need for more pseudo-coffee the next day.

Six days after the talk in the sitting room during which Daniel learned of Egeria's feelings for him, the archeologist was struggling to stay awake.  He'd stayed up way too late working on the Furling language the night before and was now paying the price.  He really needed to go to bed at a decent time tonight.

As luck would have it, it turned out to be a long day at work for both him and Decimus because of an urgent translation that needed to be done.  According to Daniel's watch, it was 9:45 p.m. when Decimus at last rose from his chair, his old bones creaking and popping.

"This old body of mine is telling me it is time for bed," he said.

Daniel got up as well, stifling a yawn.  "Yeah, I should call it a night, too."

They both exited the room and walked side by side down the hall.  At its end, they paused.

"Good night, then," Decimus said.  "Sleep well."

"Thanks.  You too."

The two men parted, going in opposite directions, the older of the two heading toward the sleeping quarters for the freemen.  He was nearly there when he was surprised to see Egeria.  She appeared to be wandering aimlessly, her expression far away.  He was intending to leave her to her thoughts, but then she saw him.

"Good evening, Decimus.  How are you this night?"

"Oh, well enough for one as antiquated as me."

The queen smiled fondly.  "You are not antiquated, Decimus, merely well-aged, like fine wine."

The old man chuckled.  "Kind words indeed, My Queen."

"Are you retiring for the night?"

"I am."

Egeria paused briefly.  "Has Daniel done so as well?"

"Yes, we left the library at the same time."

"Good.  He works late into the night far too often."  She gave him a stern look.  "But then, the same thing can also be said about a certain library keeper."

Decimus bowed his head in acceptance of her gentle rebuke.  "Guilty, My Queen."

"Well, good night, then."

"Good night."

Egeria watched the old man leave.  Her eyes then went off in the direction of the quarters for the slaves of high station.  For six days now she had been delaying sending her First Prime out to find someone to provide the thing Daniel called DNA, six days during which she kept telling herself it needed to be done.  But her heart was not in it.  Just the mere thought of mating with a man who had no personal meaning to her repulsed her.  It used to be that she could do so easily because she had looked upon it merely as a way to get the code of life, but she could look at it in that way no longer, not when her heart ached for only Daniel to be the one with whom she shared that intimacy.

Egeria had heard some talk of a way to inject the seed of a man into a woman artificially.  If such a thing could be done, then there would be no need for her to have sexual relations with a man to obtain the code of life.  This was something she would have to look into further.

But the spawning of these new children to whom she intended to give birth could not wait the months it might take to find out what she needed to know and make the preparations for it.  She had made a commitment to do this, and she could not delay it for so long.  She needed to get past her aversion to mating with another man and simply get it over and done with.  But not tomorrow.  She had other things to attend to tomorrow.  It would wait until the next day.

Decision made, Egeria turned and headed off for her own chambers.

He really had been intending to go to bed.  The problem was that he'd made the mistake of looking at the papers and had made a discovery that resulted in the deciphering of another two Furling symbols.  This led to him looking back over previous work to see if his new knowledge would help him translate sentences that had defied his efforts before.  His watch now said it was going on three a.m., and he was still at it.  He really needed to go to bed.  Just a few more minutes and he would.

Daniel focused his attention on the section of the writing in the ruins that puzzled him the most.  It appeared to be made up of aphorisms, maxims, and other 'words of wisdom', and he couldn't figure out why they were put in a room that contained a device that would send people through time.  Perhaps they were meant to act as a moral guide for the time travelers.

The sound of the floor boards outside his room creaking drew Daniel's eyes away from the paper.  He listened for a moment and heard another creak.  Frowning, he went to the door.  He was quite surprised to find none other than Spurius on the other side.  It appeared as if the man had been pacing.

"Spurius?  What are you doing here?"

"I-I-I wished to speak with you," the man stammered, eyes darting away nervously.

"Um . . . isn't it kind of late in the night for that?"

"I saw the light under your door."  Not meeting Daniel's eyes, the man then said, "My heart has been troubling me about my unkind thoughts about you."

"Oh.  Don't worry about it, Spurius.  I understand why you might be resentful of me.  Don't give it another thought."

The man's hands twitched, clutching briefly at his tunic.  "May we talk a moment?  I know that it would ease my spirit."

"Uh, okay."

Daniel stepped aside and let the man in.  After shutting the door, he paused, not sure what to do.  He was a little uncomfortable about hearing the guy unburden his soul.

Spurius glanced about the room.  His eyes came to rest on the pitcher of water.

"May I have a drink of water to wet my throat?" he asked.


Daniel turned away and headed for the water.  He was halfway there when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a flash of metal.  In the next instant, agony ripped through him as a knife was plunged deep into his back.  He fell to the floor, the blade striking again and again.  And then there was nothing but blackness, and the pain went away.

It was almost noon when Egeria headed out into the east garden, having spent the entire morning on matters that required her attention.  The weather was much cooler today, the sky half-filled with clouds.  She thought about the coming days when there would be no sun, and it would rain for hours.  Her need for the sun's light would then drive her to her solarium.  There, she could sit in the light that kept her alive without getting wet.

Egeria had considered having a palace built on the other side of the planet's equator, one to which she could go when it was winter here so that she would always have bright sun.  But that would require that she leave her city under the care of another.

The queen's thoughts went to Daniel.  She had seen him infrequently these past days, both matters of state and her troubled thoughts about obtaining the code of life keeping her from inviting him to spend time with her.  The matters of state were nearly completed now, and she had finally resolved to do what needed to be done regarding obtaining the code, so perhaps she could invite him to join her here in the garden for lunch.  As long as no one else came out here, she could allow Arria to speak with him as well.

Deciding that would be a good idea, Egeria called for a servant.

"I would like Daniel to join me here for the noon meal.  Please go tell him."

"Yes, My Queen," the woman said.

Egeria went to one of the benches to await his arrival.  After more minutes had passed than she'd have thought it would take to fetch him from the library, she began to wonder what the delay was.  Then she heard the approach of running feet.  The door burst open, and the servant rushed out into the garden.  Her face was covered in tears.

"Oh, My Queen, it is terrible!"

"Of what do you speak?"

"It is Daniel, My Queen.  He has been attacked!  I think he is dead."

"No!" Egeria cried.  "Take me to him.  Quickly!"

They ran all the way to Daniel's quarters.  Egeria gasped upon entering the room.  Daniel lay still and pale on the floor, his body covered in blood from multiple stab wounds, more blood spattered around the room, pools of it congealing beneath him.  The feeling of death hung in the air.

Grief, sharp and terrible, speared through Egeria.  She went to her knees beside Daniel and wrapped her arms around him, head and body bowed low as tears of anguish flowed down her face to fall upon his.  The voice of her host was crying inside her mind.

"Oh, my Daniel, my Daniel," Egeria sobbed.  "Who did this?  Who came and took you from me?"

Her heart shattered to dust, Egeria laid her cheek against Daniel's cold brow.  Too late.  She was too late to save him.  His murderer had struck last night, before Daniel had even retired to bed.  No sarcophagus could revive him now.

Holding the lifeless body of the man she loved in her arms, Egeria lifted her head as a silent scream of utter torment tore through her soul.  The wish for death rose inside her.  Only death could take this pain away.

Just then, the queen's gaze fell upon the table across the room.  Papers lay scattered upon it and the floor beside it, writing implements waiting there for the hand that had been using them.  There was a small, portable light sitting on the table, casting a warm glow of illumination over the table's contents.

Egeria's breath halted in her lungs.  Had Daniel been working late last night?  If he had, that could mean. . . .

"Jaffa!" Egeria called frantically, scrambling to her feet.  Two were instantly at her side.  "Bring him."

One of the Jaffa picked up Daniel's body and followed Egeria through the corridors to a room all but a few were forbidden to enter.  At its center stood a sarcophagus.

Egeria instructed the Jaffa to place Daniel inside.  She watched as the lid closed.  She then turned to the Jaffa, her expression now cold and deadly.

"I want to know who did this.  When you find them, bring them to me."

"Yes, My Queen."  The Jaffa turned and marched out of the room.

Egeria's gaze returned to the sarcophagus.  If Daniel's death had occurred in the small hours of the morning, it might be able to save him.  If it was earlier, there was no hope.

Sinking to the floor beside the sarcophagus, she rested her forehead on its cold surface.

"Please," she begged in a whisper.  "Please bring him back to me."

It seemed like a very long time before the sarcophagus turned off.  As the lid began to open, Egeria got to her feet.  She watched as Daniel was slowly revealed, her stomach tight with fear.  And then she saw his chest rise with breath.  Tears of relief flooded her eyes.  She smiled as his eyelids fluttered open.

"Oh, my Daniel," she murmured, too overcome with emotion to say more.

Confused, Daniel cast his eyes about.  That's when he realized what he was inside.

"I-I'm in a sarcophagus?"


"Can I get out now?"

"Yes, the healing is complete."

Daniel was out of the sarcophagus so fast that it made Egeria blink in surprise.  She studied his expression.

"Why are you fearful?"

Daniel forced himself to relax.  "I'm sorry.  It's sort of a knee-jerk reaction.  It's because of what happened to me that last time I used one of those things.  I know that using one a single time when you need healing won't cause addiction, but I swore that I'd never use one of those things again, if I had any choice in the matter."  He glanced at Egeria.  "But I guess I wasn't really in any condition to object when you put me in it."

"You were dead, Daniel.  If you had not been found when you were, the sarcophagus could not have saved you.  When I first saw you, I believed . . . I believed that it was already too late."

Hearing the deep pain in her voice, Daniel looked at her closely.  There was evidence of tears on her face, her dark eyes even darker with the anguish she had suffered.  And then he saw the blood on her dress – his blood.  He looked down at himself and saw that he was covered in it.  He gave a little shudder at the memory of how that blood got there.

"Tell me who did this to you," Egeria commanded, her voice now hard and filled with hatred.

Daniel met her eyes.  He knew what would likely happen if he revealed the identity of his murderer.

"Do not hide them from me, Daniel.  I will learn who it is."

The archeologist sighed.  "It was Spurius."

Egeria was shocked.  Spurius had been a faithful servant in the palace for seventeen years.  "For what reason did he attack you?"

"I think he was jealous of me.  He's been hostile to me in the past."

Egeria frowned.  "Because I favored you above him."

Daniel shrugged.  "I haven't been here for all that long, and he's been here for seventeen years.  I can understand why he'd feel that way.  Don't kill him, Egeria.  I don't think he was in his right mind."

Egeria's expression hardened.  "He killed you, Daniel.  He committed murder within my domain.  For that there can be only one sentence."

Saying nothing further, she turned and strode away.

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