-
Jolinar stayed on the planet for about a day. She had to participate in a dinner in her honour and oversee that everything regarding the reconstruction was proceeding as it should - that the most important repairs was begun first. Her new governor was formally sworn in and then began his work, taking charge of the repairs. As Jolinar travelled back on her ship, she wondered if Cordesh, too, would be too young to properly control his host. Would he perhaps end up talking to him as well? Would he then start doubting the ways of the Goa'uld? She did not know, but she decided to keep an eye on him from time to time.

Home in the palace she was still in a morose mood. A party was being prepared to celebrate her great victory, but she felt no desire to participate. She had to, of course. A normal Goa'uld would be elated and spend the celebration gloating about his or her might and cleverness, and the glorious victory.

*I am disgusted at the thought of having a merry party with Goa'uld who understand nothing! Who are so sure of their own superiority! I still feel ashamed for my own feelings of superiority and glee over the victory I had won over Zipacna's forces - when so many innocent people had died just for my sake!*

*Jolinar - I understand you quite well. Please also remember that the very fact that you feel thus is proof you are no longer quite like your brethren. Yes, we must continue this charade, in the hopes of one day being able to do something...something about how - most - Goa'uld behave towards their hosts and their subjects. If we could somehow make them see that they are not so superior, then much would be won.*

*I swear that I will try to protect those I am in charge of, as much as I can without unduly interest from the other Goa'uld. And then, perhaps, slowly, we can find a way to make others see things more like I have come to. I do have some hope for Cordesh, if not for anyone else.*

*As do I, but I do not feel he can be trusted - yet, at least. You should not risk talking to anyone about these opinions.*

Jolinar sighed. *I am well aware...*

They picked up their dog, Kepi, and went to meet their guests. *At least Travik will be there. Perhaps he can entertain me...* Jolinar commented.

-
The party went well enough. Though Jolinar was still in a subdued mood, she succeeded in playing her part as the victorious, overconfident Goa'uld well. When she did not entertain her guests, she ate copious amounts of chocolate, which seemed to soothe her and improve her mood.

*Jolinar, I know you can raise our metabolism so we don't get fat - or plain sick from all this chocolate, but maybe you should stop feeding it to Kepi.*

*She seems to like it.*

*Yes, but she is starting to look a little ill, I think.*

Jolinar looked at the dog. She did indeed look less than well. *What have I done! I have harmed a poor defenseless creature - my sweet pet. Arnora, what can we do?*

*I believe she will recover on her own, but it may well take a day or more before she is fully well.*

*Poor Kepi! Let us take her outside, on the terrace, and get some fresh air ourselves as well. I grow weary of this party.*

*Agreed.*

Holding Kepi gently, Jolinar walked out on the terrace. It was a half-circle carved out of the mountain which her palace were situated on. A door from her throne room led out unto it. It was not a very large plateau, but a path was laid out to follow the edge, so as to make the most of the available space. A waist-high railing and a low hedge ran along the edge. In the middle of the terrace there was a beautiful marble fountain, ringed by flowering bushes.

Jolinar took a deep breath of the cool evening air. It smelled faintly sweet from the flowers and she immediately felt better. She walked down the short marble stairs and out onto the path, then began following it until she reached the point furthest from building. This was a nice, secluded spot, hidden from either entrance by the fountain. She liked to stand here and think.

Carefully, she put Kepi down on some soft grass behind one of the bushes, hoping the fresh air would do her good. She gently patted the puppy before she straightened and turned towards the rail. She walked up to the edge and looked out over the view. It was pretty, but also melancholic in some odd way. The planet's largest moon was almost full, and it provided enough light to see the valley stretch out below her. The moon light gave it a ghostly, silvery look. Jolinar could see the houses in the village surrounding the castle just below them. Most of the human slaves working at the palace lived there. A little further out were the nearest of the villages for 'general' human slaves, and behind that, in the distance, she saw several others, both human and Jaffa. There were almost no lights from the houses - everyone was asleep. They needed to get up early and work hard for their god...for her.

She sighed. *Arnora, so many people are dependent on me - their very lives are at risk whenever I and some other Goa'uld decide to fight each other for even more luxuries. This incessant, petty squabbling...among most if not all the Goa'uld - and in the long run it leads to very few changes to the status quo. Say, today one Goa'uld has 10 planets, and another has 9...and then after centuries of war - and tens of thousands of humans and Jaffa have died - then maybe the first now has 9 systems and the other 10. What difference does it truly make?*

*It does seem somewhat pointless if nothing else really happens - but have the other Goa'uld not realised this?*

*Some of them must have...but even if they have realised such infighting leads to nothing, they still need to fight if they want to keep what they have. Because there are always other who are ready for war, and then even the more peaceful must fight. This yearning for power lies deep within all Goa'uld - I feel it too, if not as strong, now I have started thinking about it. I doubt very much it can be changed. Certainly not while we have Ra - 'Supreme System Lord' as he calls himself - and everyone strives to become important enough to matter in his circle. He, more than anyone else, is the epitome of the evil of the Goa'uld. As long as he is there, nothing will change. His forces and those of his allies will ensure it.*

*Why? What does he gain from others striving to be like him?*

*If we spend all our strength and use all our cunning warring amongst ourselves, then we will spend very little on development. We will not strive for another type of society. And we will experience very little technological development. It is already slow, because we are few, and only some of us are scientists. As we keep everyone else from learning, only Goa'uld scientists will exist. Anyway, we use all our strengths at fighting - none dare suggest another way, lest Ra and his allies proclaim them traitors and 'free game' for everyone. None have challenged him yet, and I doubt anyone ever will. I fear this will keep our race - and as a consequence, that of the human and the Jaffa - close to stagnant forever. It is not to our advantage, but no one will admit it - at least not openly.*

Arnora and Jolinar were deep in discussion. They did not notice anything around them, including the footsteps on the path and the energy-signature of the Goa'uld approaching them.

"You talk to her, don't you? The others will kill you if they ever find out."

Jolinar jumped and turned quickly towards the man talking, bringing up her hand-device at the same time. It glowed, pulsated - activated and ready to use.

"Relax, Jolinar. If I were an ashrak or an enemy of any kind you would already be dead...you should really pay more attention - and be more careful as well."

Jolinar closed her eyes for a moment, sighing deeply and trying to relax. "Travik."

"At your service, my Lord." He smiled, then looked around quickly before he stepped up beside her.

"No one can hear us - we can talk freely."

"What would you like to discuss?"

Travik sighed. "You are young, but that will not protect you - talking to one's host is sacrilege...and you know it."

Jolinar hesitated, considered denying it. "Was it really that obvious?"

"Yes...to me at least. Either get better at hiding it or only talk together in private."

"How...how common is it? You have seen it before, I take it?"

"No, I have never before met another who did so, but I cannot say no one does. I do believe it is extremely rare."

"How then...you talk to your host!" Jolinar realised, shocked.

Travik hesitated. "Yes..."

"How...why...?"

"How did I start talking to him?" Travik pondered this for a moment. "I had - from time to time - thought I noticed someone murmuring, but when I turned around to look there was never anyone there. My host has a trained and disciplined - and thus very strong - mind. He was able to affect me and my decisions from time to time, but I did not admit it to myself...never truly noticed it, until afterwards when I realised it had been so. Years passed, then one day I was fleeing in my Teltac, running from a dissatisfied customer - he claimed I had cheated him, the swindler! Anyway, he shot at me and my Teltac crashed on a backwards planet, leaving me badly wounded far away from Goa'uld healing devices or sarcophagi. For long I worked hard to heal and I grew very weak. I thought I was hallucinating, when in my half-awake state someone approached me and spoke to me - in my mind. It took several attempts from my host before I admitted it could only be him. Then I refused to acknowledge him, but in my weakened state I could not fully suppress him, nor ignore him. Also, I...needed the company, you know?" he flushed slightly. "However it may be, we ended up talking and over the years have continued to do so. We are actually good friends by now."

Jolinar nodded. "So, I am not the only one after all."

"No...but this happened over more than 20 years - very slowly. You have only had your host for less than two months, yet you have already started speaking to her."

"I...had no choice..." Jolinar blushed, "...but we are starting to become...good friends, I guess."

"You were far too young when you took a host and could not keep control. I understand." Travik nodded. "Consider yourself lucky. It is a rewarding friendship - someone you can actually trust, as rare as that is for a Goa'uld. Someone you know likes you. I treasure it."

"Yet no one can ever know, despite how much better it would be if we all did likewise. If we all treated our hosts better. Like...like equals, I guess. If we were friends with them."

"It is heresy - and it would undermine the Goa'uld way of life. You cannot be a god, when your host - a human slave - is your equal. Worse, you cannot ignore that what you do is wrong."

"No. The majority would be unable to truly convince themselves that they have the right to do what they do if they also admit that humans and Jaffa are sentient beings with feelings like us. If they cannot use superiority as an excuse. As you say, it would be the end our way of life. How could we even justify taking a host against his or her will? Especially when we know that the personality of the host survives! We would have to rely on humans wanting to be hosts - an absurd idea, that anyone should want that. No, I realise this cannot be talked about."

*You know, there might be those who would volunteer to be your hosts, if you truly wanted to share the body and live as friends. I believe the day will soon come when I will no longer wish I was not a host - perhaps it is already here.* Arnora commented.

Jolinar hugged her host warmly then concentrated on Travik again.

"Good. I am glad you agree. We will not speak of it again." Travik said.

Jolinar nodded.

Suddenly, Jolinar feared someone else might hear them, and hurriedly turned to look.

"You need not worry about your other guests. As you know, I delivered both the alcohol and the opium for tonight's party. There are plenty of both, and of good quality - very strong. They are having a good time and are quite happy to stay where they are - actually, you will probably need to have their lo'tar's help them get back to their rooms, ships, or the chaapa'ai." He grinned a little. "I am quite certain I am the only one at this party able to service you, if you should have any such needs..."

Jolinar rolled her eyes. Before she could find anything sarcastic to answer, they heard a pitiful moan.

"Kepi!" Jolinar hurried to her dog, whom she had momentarily forgot. It looked up at her with sad eyes - it was clearly still not feeling well.

Travik observed it for a moment. "What did you feed it?"

"I...gave her some of my chocolate...um...a good deal of it, actually..."

"That was a bad idea. Some dogs do not tolerate chocolate well - especially in large quantities." He rummaged around in a small bag he had in his belt, then withdrew a miniature bottle containing some potion. It seemed to be only partially full. He went over to the dog, hesitating for a moment before he touched it. This time it made no move to attack him, but merely watched him. With one hand he opened its mouth and with the other he quickly emptied the flask's content in the puppy's mouth. He then hurried away.

"Next time, eat the chocolate yourself." Travik said, looking at Jolinar.

"What did you give her?"

"A mixture used to alleviate the effects of eating too much. It is quite effective. Fast too."

"Why do you even carry such a thing? Who would need it? Any Goa'uld can fix that easily and it is a rare human who would need it, poor and starving as most of them are...and I doubt you trade with them anyway..."

Travik seemed to hesitate. "I am a trader and I actually have a market for it, or I would not have it on me. I always bring some for big parties. While a Goa'uld would normally cure something like that in seconds, everyone has a limit. Especially when they are so drunk - and probably confused from the drugs as well - that they can barely walk! And at the same time they will usually have eaten far too much...yes, there is indeed a market for this potion...a very secret market."

"I can well imagine! How embarrassing that would be! To need help curing something as simple as a stomach problem." Jolinar looked shocked for a moment, then she started laughing. "And they must pay you well - so you will never tell anyone!"

Meanwhile, the dog had begun moving around a little. Travik went back to check on it, carefully putting a hand out to feel it's nose. Kepi immediately sank her fangs into his hand and shook it slightly, growling.

Travik gave a yelp of pain and snatched his hand back. Grimacing, he looked at the hand, blood seeping from small puncture marks. The wounds closed quickly. "The wretched creature seems to be much improved." He observed.

Jolinar smiled, then looked to Kepi. "Bad dog! He merely wanted to help you!" She turned to Travik, clearly relieved her pet was better. "Thank you so much!"

"Glad I could help...guess it was too much to hope for gratitude from that beast!"

"She has a good memory - you insulted her the first time you saw her!" Jolinar smiled broadly. "But we are very grateful..." She went over to Travik and gave him a hug, then a quick kiss before she stepped back again, a slight blush visible on her cheeks before she got that under control.

Travik smiled, then gave a short bow. "It pleases me that I could assist you, my Lord." He grinned.

Jolinar swatted lightly at him with her scarf. She really liked him. "Perhaps we should rejoin the others - it is a bit chilly out here."

-
Inside, the party was almost over, and people soon began to leave. Jolinar reflected that even if she had not really wanted to have this party, some good had come of it. She had learned she was not the only one talking to her host and she was becoming good friends with Travik. Yes, this had been a good day after all.