STAR TREK

The Next Generation

~Web of Tales~

Captain's Log Stardate: 49971.5

Number One is currently organizing and away team to be beamed down to our current location. We are stationed in orbit around Zethoran IV because we were chosen to secure the capital of the planet where an important peace conference will be held. The Zethorians, who have been waging war with their counterpart, the inhabitants of Cinthri II, are planning on devising a peace treaty between the two races to fairly stop the century long battle.

Commander Riker is first going to take a team to scout out the perimeter and to meet with the head of the Zethorian senate. In the meantime, our new teacher has arrived aboard the Enterprise and Counselor Troi has conned me in to meeting with her.

"Ah Captain! There you are!" Deanna was waiting for Picard when he arrived. She was standing in front of the one-way mirror that was used to view the school children. They were currently sitting quietly in neat little rows at the feet of a woman holding a book.

"Did I come at a bad time?" Picard asked seeing that the woman was reading. She was a nice looking teacher. Her hair was a nice dark color, as were her eyes, and she bore a sweet look on her face. Her eyes were full of patience and she was of a medium height so she almost blended in with the children she read to.

"I didn't know that it was story day for the children. Tan seems to have them utterly enthralled!" Deanna said. "It shouldn't be too long if you want to come back later."

"Tan?" The Captain wondered aloud.

"Oh I forgot, you didn't have time to read the report did you? Tan is the new teacher's name."

The Captain nodded "Tell me, what is it that Tan is reading to the children? The pages on that book are blank." He asked pointing to the book that the teacher was holding. The pages were indeed blank.

Deanna smiled. "Well to tell you the truth I think she is just making it up from her head."

"Oh?"

Deanna nodded. "Yes, apparently the story is about a Captain and his crew aboard a starship. Listen" The two grew quiet and could hear Tan reading to the children.

"It was time for the away team to beam down to the planet. But when they materialized on the planet, something was wrong!" The children gasped as they stared wide-eyed and fascinated. "The crew wasn't on the right planet, they were somewhere else! Instead of seeing a city like they should have they were…"

The two stopped listening as the teacher told the children it was time for a break. She ever-so-carefully placed a tin metal bookmark in between the pages to mark where she left off, and gently set the book on the seat of her chair. She turned then to the mirror as if she knew that someone was there watching, them turned to get the children ready for math time.

"Well I had better be going; the away team should be ready to beam down to Zethoran VI by now." The counselor nodded and the Captain headed back to the bridge.

When Picard entered the bridge he was met by the voice of Wesley Crusher. "Sir, the away team is ready as soon as you are." He said from his seat at the helm.

"Alright Number One?" The Captain asked after clicking his communicator badge.

"Aye sir." Came Will's reply from transporter room 3.

"Alright Mister O'Brien… engage."

"Aye sir, energize…" The chief did the usual button pushing from his control panel and the away team disappeared. The crew waited a moment them Picard's com badge beeped.

"Riker to Enterprise..." Came Will's voice through it.

"What is it Number one?"

Riker seemed to hesitate a moment. "Sir, I think something went wrong."

Will, Data, Geordi, and Worf stood stunned as they surveyed the surrounding terrain.

"Data… where are we?" Geordi asked. They seemed to be in a large field. In front of them quite a ways away was the entrance to a forest. On the other side right behind them they were amazed to see rows upon rows of little tan tents. They were supposed to be in a city surrounded by buildings. Instead they could see the sun beginning to rise just beyond some hills.

"I do not know." The android said. "We do not appear to be on any known area of Zethoran VI. In fact…" he seemed to scan his archives. "This does not resemble any known planet in my databases. Though there are similarities to other planets, none are a perfect match.

The others almost fell over. Data? Baffled? It just couldn't be! Such a thing was extremely rare. And then there was the fact that they had no idea where they were. It did not take long however for them to realize that, oddly enough, they were not wearing their uniforms…

Whoa! Hold it psycho-mind! No one ever said anything about them being naked! Phew…

No, instead the four were in a different sort of uniform. They all had black pants and a dark green shirt that had one side going over the other, a black belt at their waists to keep it in place. To top it all off they each had a rather strange head band that was black and was tied in the back.

"Why are we in these?" Worf asked in a half growl. He and Geordi both had long sleeves where as the other two had shirts that were more like vests. In other words, they were sleeveless. Unhappy with his sleeves, Worf not so kindly ripped them off leaving a sleeveless, but ragged looking shirt thing.

Suddenly a man emerged from within the front and largest of the tents. He took out a horn and blew it and only a few minutes later, what looked like troops came marching to the edge of the field. One came up and whispered into the man's ear and pointed across the field… right to where the crew of the Enterprise was standing. He strode over to them, his sword drawn and stopped a few feet away.

"Who are you?" He asked accusingly. The others noticed that a section of the troops, who were apparently archers, had their arrows pointed at the crew.

While the others stumbled to find a convincing answer, Data quickly decided upon an answer.

"We have come seeking positions among your ranks of warriors. You are preparing them for an army is that correct?" He asked calm as always.

The man seemed to ease up a bit and so nodded. "That is correct. I am General Nahsek, and these are my troops. But…" he eyed them suspiciously, still not putting away the sword he held. "If you all want to join my battalion, we'll first have to see what you are capable of." He put his sword away now and motioned for them to fallow.

The four crew members stood in a straight line as had been instructed. The general paced back and forth, deciding on exactly what to do.

"You all look rather strange, but! Appearances don't mean anything to me." He said starting a long speech on discipline, the days of war, what it was like when he was their age etc…

While he was rambling, Riker leaned over to the others. "I guess we should play along." He whispered. "For now." They all nodded and returned their attention to General Nahsek.

"So, I will allow you to prove your worth. You will be tested, and depending on which tests you succeed in will tell me where to place you among my ranks. Should you fail all the tests or should I find you incapable or unfit, you will not be allowed to join my squadron. Is that clear?" They all nodded. "I said, is that clear?"

"Yes sir!" they all said.

The general grinned, and it wasn't too pretty. "Good." He said. "You will begin shortly."

"What do you mean you can't find them?" Picard asked.

"Sorry Captain, but I can't pick up their signal anywhere." The chief said as he punched in various commands into his terminal. "Yet, their communicators seem to be working just fine. It just doesn't make any sense."

"Calm down. Sir, I can still sense all of them." Deanna said trying to calm down the two officers.

"Where on the planet are they?" The Captain asked beginning to pace.

Now Deanna did not look so confident. "That's the problem. They aren't on the planet sir. In fact, I-I don't sense them anywhere. It is as if they are here, but I cannot tell where, as if they are still somewhere else. I just don't understand it."

Picard sighed. "I should beam down, then perhaps we can get a lock on where they are or at least determine where they aren't,"

"Sorry but I can't let you do that sir." O'Brien said. "Not only is it very likely that you'll end up like the others and not be able to get back, but it looks like something is wrong with the transporter. It just suddenly froze, I'm not sure where the malfunction came from but I couldn't beam you to the next transporter room, hell never mind Zethoran VI."

After a moment Picard pressed his com badge. "Number one?"

"Sir, this is a bad time…" Will aid sounding strained.

"What? Why?"

"I can explain it all later, but right now we're in the middle of an obstacle course and it isn't all that easy either." He said. "We're playing along for now with whatever is going on so I'm sort of preoccupied with training to join an army, courtesy of Data."

"An army? Well never mind then. Picard out." The Captain sighed, he had a feeling he would be sighing a lot in the next few hours… or days. This meant that he would have to wait to get the team back, and if there was anything Jean-Luc Picard did not enjoy it was sitting and waiting in the dark. Things would have to play out on their own.

Deanna of course could feel his tension as the two made their way to the bridge. "Captain are you alright?" She asked.

Picard was about to answer but when they entered the main bridge he was suddenly flooded by the words of a distressed lieutenant.

"Captain! Something is wrong." He said. "Nothing is working with the ship. Life support is fine, and all our power is fine, but when I tried to check on the tractor beam status, it wouldn't run. I checked some other things and the transporters are malfunctioning, the weapons won't work, and look what happens when you bring up the archives."

The Captain, with the help of counselor Troi, calmed the lieutenant down and then he fallowed him over to where Wesley was sitting. He brought up the main archives and began to scan through as the lieutenant stepped aside.

"I was searching for information on the compatibility of hydrogen and ceridium when I found this." He showed Picard a variety of pages. Every one of them said the same thing, five words scrolling endlessly across the screen.

"Once upon a time."

"Exactly. It doesn't make any sense." Wesley said.

"A lot of things aren't making sense." Picard muttered to himself. "See if you can fix the problem mister Crusher. I'll be in my ready room." The Captain headed in said direction massaging his temples as he did so.

The Captain stepped inside and sat down in his chair. As he sighed and turned his chair to face his desk, he was startled to see a book lying perfectly straight in front of him. Curious, he picked it up and examined it.

The book was brown and looked rather old with a golden brace on the spine and intricate vine patterns along its sides. Picard picked a random spot in about the middle of the book, and opened it.

He did so rather slowly, not knowing why, but feeling his heart racing in hi chest. Something just felt… mysterious about this book.

The pages revealed themselves and the Captain say…

Nothing.

The pages were blank. Picard flipped through to the back of the book but found all of the pages devoid of writing. Disappointed, he set the book down and closed it. That was when he noticed what it said on the front cover.

He had not seen it before, in fact he could have sworn it wasn't there before, but now on the front cover in curved golden letters read the words:

Once Upon A Time

Picard read the five words aloud and decided that something might still be special about the book. So, he took the front cover and opened the book to the first page…

And there they were! Words!

Now he was really curious. Picard made sure that the door to his room was locked, though he wasn't really sure why, and then sat down, beginning to read.

The first part was simple, it told of a Captain and his crew on a starship. An away team had been beamed down to an unnamed planet but when they got there it was somewhere else. They were in a field, and there were tents, and to blend in they…

Picard re-read to where he had stopped. "Could it be?" He thought. "This… this is what happened to commander Riker and the others!" He turned to the next page, but they were blank from then on. He scolded himself for thinking such a thing. It was only a coincident that the stories were the same… right?

The Captain closed the book once again. Something wasn't right…

Commander Riker and the rest of the crew were currently sitting in the shade provided by a few scattered trees that had strayed from the forest line.

They had all finished the rather long obstacle course that Will had explained to the Captain about after he had contacted them in the middle of it.

As was to be expected, Data had breezed through the course it as if it were a walk in the park. Worf was almost as fast, being an ever-ready-for-battle Klingon. Poor Geordi and Riker, though they were in excellent physical condition, that doesn't mean it wasn't hard for a couple of humans. However they all made it through and the general had congratulated them on completing their first task. Apparently it was a preliminary round… go figure.

For the moment though they had time to discuss things in private. They were about to in fact when Picard's voice came through Will's Com badge.

"Will, I have some news." He said.

Will rolled his eyes but answered. "Aye sir, what's going on?"

"For starters, we can't bring you all back right now. Now only can we not find your signals, but none of our transporters are working. The entire ship is malfunctioning in all but the crucial areas. We can't even get her running to break orbit." Picard said. "But that is not the strange part. First I need to know a little about your surroundings, what does it look like? Where did you first land when you ere transported?"

Will and the others exchanged glances. "Uh sir, well we landed in a large field. On one side of us was a forest, on the other there were these rows of tents where…" But the Captain cut him off.

"So I was right." He said.

"Sir?"

As Picard sat at his desk with the book in front of him, the Captain paused. "Only a few minutes ago, I discovered a book in my ready room. Most of the pages are blank but there are some at the beginning that tell part of a story and it sounds remarkably like what happened to you."

Now they all really looked skeptical. "Are you saying that we are inside of a story? That is absurd." Worf said.

"I wouldn't rule it out mister Worf, stranger things have happened. Luckily though, the story said that you all get positions in the army though not which ones, so work hard. I think the only thing you can do for now is go along." Picard thought a moment then added. "We will see what we can do to get you out of there… wherever that may be."

They all agreed on it. "Got it." Will said. "Riker out."

The link was severed and after a moment Will turned to the little group. "We should go." He said.

"Aye sir."

"Alright, since you are all clearly in perfect physical condition, you will now be given your real tests." The general said as he paced back and forth. The troops were there as well, sitting in five perfect rows cross-legged on the grass… apparently they were going to get to watch the show.

"There are ten tests, whichever you are best at will determine you position among my men. You will e tested on your skills in hand-to-hand combat, your leadership skills, armor making, weapon forging, horse riding, and strategy. As for the others, they will test your abilities with a sword, bow and arrows, spears, and axes." General Nahsek grinned. "However I will not be giving the tests. No, that honor goes to my second officer."

He motioned and from somewhere in the crowd of soldiers, a warrior emerged. "This is my best warrior." Nahsek said. "I would like you to meet Anya'an." A tall, broad shouldered woman had emerged. She had shortish dark brown hair that had a slight wave to it, and her eyes were as dark as her hair. He uniform was that of the other men, instead of the slightly different version the woman wore.

Being who he was, Riker automatically had to keep from staring and having a huge grin spread across his face.

"Alright, are you ready for the tests?" Anya'an said, a mischievous grin spreading across her face as well as a certain twinkle in her eye.

"Aye sir." The four crewmen said.

"Good." The instructor said clapping and rubbing her hands together. "This is going to be fun." After a moment of preparation, the area was ready for the first test.

"First, you all must show your worth with hand-to-hand combat skills." Anya'an instructed as they all stood before her. She turned to face them. "You will each battle me one-on-one in hopes of defeating me. There will be no weapons allowed." She whipped around and pointed to Riker.

"You first."

"Good luck." Geordi said as Will stepped into the center circle which had been designated as the wrestling ring.

"We will start on the count of three." Anya'an said, taking her stance.

"One…two…three!"

"I am very sorry if I have caused you physical harm Are you alright?" Data asked helping the instructor up. He had been last to fight against the warrior woman, and basically he had politely wiped the floor with her.

She brushed herself off, breathing heavily, and faced her new students. "Well done, now for the next test."

Of the four that had fought, Data of course had once again been the most skilled and hardest to fend off for Anya'an. Worf was a very close second, only because Data had his android skills. Otherwise the warrior would have been the top fighter. He had fought as all Klingon fight, and it did not take long for him to win. Riker was next in his abilities, always been the kind of guy who'd beat ten drunken fist fighters twice his size, while Geordi hadn't done quite as well. Though he did defeat Anya'an, it was a close call. The lieutenant just wasn't one for one-on-one fights.

Well the first test was over, so now came the second task. This one was on leadership skills.

The four were given a small group of warriors at their disposal who they were supposed to lead against an attack by an enemy group which was assigned.

In this Riker was victorious. He was first officer on the Enterprise and was born to leader. Worf, eh… not so much. How had Anya'an put it? Ah I believe it was that he 'would rather win the war and have all his men die honorably than to try and win another way or retreat when it was hopeless'. Geordi on the other hand did very well! By the time they were finished, complete strangers would risk their lives to try and fallow his orders, trusting that his judgment was honest and usually right.

As for Data? Well actually you would think that he had done really well. His team had no fatalities and their win was flawless, but Anya'an could see why. They had not won by hard work or determination; no they had won because the android knew exactly how to use everyone's weaknesses to his advantage. His warriors did what he said, but there was no determination, no loyalty, they just… listened.

Anya'an shook her head. Nope, those tests weren't enough to tell where to put everyone, possible some… but not everyone. The next test that came and went was armor making. But to put it bluntly, it took an artistic hand to monotonously link tiny loops of metal together and though Data was the only one who had the patience, none of them and the craftsmanship it needed.

Now there instructor felt it was time for the more interesting part. She turned to them. "I believe it's time to break out the weapons."

The four stood, each in front of an opponent, an ax in each hand. Worf stood with fire in his eyes, ready to take on his prey. Data stood as he always did, emotionless, and Will and Geordi were lucky they could hold the massive axes.

Well simply put, the later two got pretty much creamed and went to the far end of the field, with many a bruises, to watch the others spar. Data, well you get the idea, but the important thing is what happened in the battle with Worf.

The battle was amazing! Metal clanking, sparks erupting, the ringing echoing throughout the field. The onlookers could all see the look of distress on the warrior's face who was fighting Worf as the ax whizzed inches from flesh. More than once, Anya'an thought she would have to end the fight before someone was killed. But it did not take long for Worf to win. IT seemed like only an instant before he stood, his ax inches from his now unarmed opponent's nose as he lay on the ground motionless.

"You fought most honorably." The Klingon said, and helped the warrior onto his feet. The others all gave Worf a pat on the back as he now stood with the others.

"Nice performance." The commander said. "That was amazing!"

Worf nodded to Riker. "Thank you."

As the onlookers continued to clap, Anya'an went over to the great warrior. "I no longer need to test you further. You are a warrior like no other. From this day on, you will wield those axes as you weapon among the others in my fleet." She said.

The Klingon bowed. "Thank you, I will bear them well." He said gruffly.

"Now, onto the next test." Their instructor said suddenly serious again. "Now, we duel with swords."

It was nearing sunset now, and the crew only had a few tasks left to face. Now only Geordi and Data remained… shall we say jobless?

To explain, Will found that he was suddenly very adept at swordplay. So, he was not only given a sword to bear, which now lay around his waist, but because of his great show in leadership, he was given command of a specific squadron of Nahsek's forces to lead. Not to mention he was given the rank of Temporary General since the last general had died a few months ago when the army did battle.

The four had all completed the horse riding test, though I guess Klingons aren't very adept at riding earth horses. They had all been tested on the art of spear throwing to no avail the exception being Data, as well as in strategy where the android was amazing.

Now, it was time for archery class. Worf and Riker were allowed to stand out, so they both watched as Data and Lieutenant LaForge stood with a bow and set of arrows each, targets in front of them about ten yards away.

"Prepare you arrows." Anya'an said. The two did as was told, Geordi fumbling a bit, and then aimed.

The two released their arrows, Data holding back as a precaution, and the audience cheered. Though Geordi's nit the third ring from the middle, Data's arrow made it dead center.

"Very good." Anya'an said. She motioned to a soldier who immediately went over to Data's target board. The soldier moved the board another ten yards away and then stopped. "Now, try it again." Their instructor said.

"Very well." Data answered and once again prepared his bow. With a twang the arrow whizzed through the air and hit the center bull's-eye, going through the first arrow.

"It's like in those old earth movies!" Will said as the warriors cheered on the android. Data turned to his instructor then.

"I hope you understand why I had to hold back. I did not wish for any damage to come to the target board or out audience accidentally." He stated flatly.

Everyone silenced and stared in awe. "What?" Anya'an asked looking quizzically at the emotionless android. Then, suddenly, she smiled. "Alright, don't hold back this time." She said.

He nodded. "Very well." Data once again prepared his bow then waited as the warrior moved the target board another ten feet away. Data paused a moment, then strangely began to carve the arrow. The ones they had been using were made of a very hard wood, and so it was easy to shape it to his liking. When he was finished the wood was still sharp, but it was made into a spiraled shape. Content with his work, so to speak, Data took the arrow, and launched it.

To the audience's amaze, the projectile actually spun, though you could only tell for a moment, and when it hit the center of the target board, it went through! The arrow kept going until it hit a small scraggly tree that lay about thirty feet from the forest's edge.

Everyone stood, utterly stunned by the performance. After the initial shock wore off, which took at least a minute, they began to cheer!

"That was amazing!" Anya'an said in a gasp.

"Thank you." Data said. "I simply changed the arrow's shape to assure that it would go through the target instead of the impact forcing the board to split into two pieces." He said simply handing the bow and arrows back to Anya'an.

She grinned. "You have succeeded in almost all of the other tasks, but in this one you showed real spark. You will as of now be stationed in the cavalry among the other archers. However, you will also be our head strategist for after the test in leadership, I saw that knowledge comes easily to you."

Data nodded. "And what of our comrade?" He asked, pointing over to Geordi who was talking with Will. (They had not given their names yet for safety reasons, after all who knows where they really were?)

Anya'an looked at the lieutenant. "There is still one test left. He may find it to be the right one." They fallowed her to a small section of the camp.

"Lastly, you will be tested in your metallurgic knowledge." Anya'an said. "I will give you three days to complete three different weapons of your choosing each. This is your final test, so try your best." They all nodded. "Very well… begin"

All this time Picard had been reading about everything you just heard. However at this point, the pages that bore words suddenly stopped.

He sighed and sadly put the book down… it wasn't easy. He hadn't realized how absorbed he had become until he was torn away. After all, it was the only key to the wellbeing of an assortment of his crew members.

As he left his ready room he was greeted by Deanna.

"Where were you?" She asked looking at him quizzically and worriedly. "I felt that you were distracted and very… concerned by something and I haven't seen you for at least an hour and a half. Luckily nothing else has happened."

The Captain hadn't realized that he had been away for such a long time! He nodded at the counselor. "I was in my ready room uh…" He wondered… should he? "I think I have a clue as to the whereabouts of Will and the others." He said.

Deanna's eyes sparkled for a moment then, seeing the seriousness of the Captain's tone, nodded quietly. "Show me."

Picard and counselor Troi entered the Captain's ready room and locked the door. Picard explained about the book and what had happened in the story so far.

"Do you really think that they could be in the story?" Deanna asked.

"Honestly I don't know. Can you feel the others more strongly now?" The Captain asked.

Deanna waited a moment. "No… but there is some sort of presence coming from the book, but it isn't the book itself. It's… it's as if I can tell that it belongs to someone. I just don't know who." She solemnly shook her head. "It's just an aura."

Picard at down and flipped back to where he had left of in the story, contemplating what Troi had said. "Sadly, the rest of the pages here are blank." He said and turned the page… but the writing continued!

"I thought you said it had stopped?" Deanna asked looking over the page.

"Apparently not." He decided that maybe he should read the book aloud for Deanna to hear, and so he did.

"The three given days were coming to a close and now the four were finished. They were just waiting for their instructor to arrive…."

Will, Worf, Geordi and Data were putting the finishing touches on the masterpieces that were their weapons.

Worf had completed all three of his weapons and was polishing them. Though as was to be expected, they had a rather… well Klingonish look to them. He had made two axes, to be used with both hands, a spear, and a short sword. The axes looked like they were sharp and jagged pieces of metal on sticks, the metal being unrefined and the tip of the axes being deliberately jagged. The spear wasn't very pretty either, it's top made of rock and jagged as well so as to make it harder for an enemy to remove if he or she survived. As for the sword, it looked very much like a rather long d'ktahg.

Data had of course done well. He had a perfectly balanced sword with runes engraved into the metal on its hilt that everyone was sure only Data could read. He had made a rather effective five-arrow crossbow out of a sturdy wood, but what was really stunning was his set of a bow and set of arrows. He had curved to perfection a bow of beautiful white wood that looked like a swan with outstretched wings. The arrows were made of similar wood and matched to each look like a long slender wing, a gold feather on the end and a white stone for the point.

" Wow Data!" Geordi said as he saw the finished work.

"Thank you." Data, always polite.

Geordi was last to finish his off. Just as he did Anya'an entered for inspection. No one had seen Riker's yet.

Well apparently Anya'an liked Data's, not so much Worf's and then she came to Riker. They were all waiting for the great reveal, but it was a disappointment. Apparently he wasn't exactly an accomplished metal worker. To say the least, he gave meaning to the term 'I don't make them, I just use them'. So lastly, she came to Geordi.

He had made a sword, a dagger, and, unexpectedly, a shield. They all matched in design and carvings, making a beautiful set, shining like no other.

"Very good!" Anya'an said as she took the sword in her hand. Then suddenly, she struck it against the anvil Geordi had made it on. The sound that commenced was not a clank or a bang, instead it was replaced with a lovely ringing chime.

You see, you would never guess it but Geordi had taken a metallurgy class at the academy as a historic elective. (You wouldn't believe what they teach you at Starfleet academy these days.) But the most important reason as to why he could make such a fine weapon should be obvious.

The lieutenant's VISOR allowed him to find the metal that was the purest and then heat and re-heat it afterwards until almost all impurities were gone. That is why, after a closer inspection, Anya'an found that the weapons were all so light, but very durable. Geordi then could tell exactly where the blade or shield edge was not symmetrical or sharp, and easily correct it.

Anya'an smiled. "You have found you position at last. This is the finest set of weapons I have ever seen! You could be making weapons for the kings and emperors of this land!" She whacked him heartily on the back. "Well done all of you. We have given you jobs, now I expect you to carry them out when needed. Tomorrow we are heading out." She departed after a nod from everyone and the four were left alone.

"Nice job!" Will said as they all crowded around the Lieutenant.

"Thanks." Geordi said. "It took a long time for me to make, but I am pretty happy with the output." He looked over the sword and shield. Then after a moment he smiled. "Here, I think you should have this." He handed the blade to Riker.

"What?" The commander looked astonished. "But Geordi you made this." He argued, handing it back.

"Hey, it's a gift, besides you saw how I was with a sword." He locked the small dagger in it's sheath onto his belt. "This should do just fine, and that's only if we really need it." Riker thanked him and took the sword, sheathing it at his waist. Data kept the bow and set of arrows he had crafted and Worf crudely strapped the two axes onto his back.

"Looks like we're ready for anything." Geordi said. They all laughed, or in some people's cases, tried to laugh, and they all talked for a while. They finished and went to go train a bit and such but soon it was night time and the camp became enshrouded in the darkness that fell. By the end of the day they were all content and went to sleep in their designated tent.

Data shut down his sensors and went into a sort of standby mode that night as he had for four days so as not to arouse suspicion. Every night, they would go to sleep and wake up fine, but tonight… was a little different.

It was that time of night on that sort of day when the moon is full as a balloon, but no light seems to come from it…. When the darkest part of the sleeping hour sets in. All were asleep silently, or not so silently in the case of a certain snoring Klingon, and all the lights were out.

That was when it struck…

That was when everything went wrong…

And that is where the real story starts…

As the troops all slept soundly in their beds, out of nowhere and fire, pale as a crystal of ice, spread through the camp, taken on the wings of the breeze. Not a soul stirred as tents lit on fire, grass was sent ablaze. It silently swept through the campsite, leaving ruin in it's wake, no one arousing to warn the warriors…

By morning, the entire campsite was gone, burned to the ground by the mysterious white flames that had blown out as quickly as they had spread, and leaving no trace. And when the sun rose that morning, it arose on a filed of ashes for now…

Everyone was dead.

Deanna and Picard instantly looked up at one another as they saw that the curved writing on the pages ended there.

"No… it can't be…" The counselor stuttered. "It can't be, I can still feel them. They have to be there!"

"But how can that be?" The captain's eye caught something… it was from the book! He gawked as the two watched words, writing themselves, scribble across the page.

"Well what does it say?" Deanna blurted out, breaking the few moments silence. (Because you know, she can't read very well upside down.)

"Alright let me see…" Picard cleared his throat.

"The sun rose golden upon the black ashes that were now the camp… all but for one perfect circle of untouched green grass…"

The four emerged from their tent to the horror that was once their campsite, terrified at the though of what had befallen the others.

They found the entire camp was gone, even the green field that they had arrived in was nothing more than smoldering ashes and dust. Not a trace was left of the fire that had come, and so they had no idea who could have set the camp ablaze.

None knew why their tent had been spared the flames, but as they stood there, a hand landed on commander Riker's shoulder.

He whipped around, his heart almost giving out when he saw who the hand belonged to. It was Anya'an. "What happened here? How did you escape? Heck, how did we escape?" He automatically started bombarding her with questions and accusations.

"I was gone last night, it was a full moon and general Nahsek told me to report to the high general in the nearby village. He was to meet me there. As to why you were saved, that I can answer, but you must fallow me." She said and then just turned and started towards the forest border. "Bring your weapons!" She yelled over her shoulder. Apparently she believed that they would fallow.

Well she was right. The others fallowed commander Riker who had decided to fallow simply to get some answers. The five entered the forest and stopped a few hundred feet in.

"You four seemed special from the beginning." Anya'an said as she circled the crew. "And now I know why." She stopped her circling. "You four were sent here to find the pieces to the puzzle. Only then will you be able to leave this domain."

"What puzzle?" Will asked, his eyes narrowing. "And how do you know that we were sent here? We could be here from another village for all you know."

Anya'an smiled. "Oh believe me… I know. As for the puzzle, if you want more information, you must go to the center of the forest and find Ariak. She can help you. Now.." She looked from side to side. "I must go." She began to leave.

"Wait!" Riker called. "How do we find the forest's center?"

They could no longer see the woman, but they could hear her voice coming from somewhere in the trees. "Fallow the river." And the four were left alone.

It was late, very late on the Enterprise and the two had been reading for hours. Picard put the book down and contacted commander Riker… or tried to.

"What's wrong?" Deanna asked.

"It's not responding. Is it possible that commander Riker and the others removed their communicators?" Picard asked. "Or is their signal being blocked?"

Deanna stood up. "You can worry about that later. You need to get some sleep. All this has worn you out, and don't even try to say otherwise, I can tell." She said.

Picard was about to protest but the counselor didn't give him a chance. "If you don't get enough sleep then you won't be awake enough to find a way to fix this. Now, get some rest." Deanna smiled sweetly. "The others will be fine."

"Alright." Picard finally said. He took the book and the two left the ready room, entering the turbolift. The captain reached his quarters and so did Deanna. Soon the two were asleep soundly in their beds like everyone else… well almost everyone…

As Wesley slept soundly in his bed, he failed to notice the figure that stood over him, cloaked in shadows as well and a robe of some sort.

"Sleep well…" The figure whispered as it waved a hand over the ensigns closed eyes. "…My little prince." The figure's eyes flashed a crystalline blue and then the silhouette vanished…

Will just stood there gawking. What could they do? There was little reason to believe that they could find Anya'an again, and even if they did she probably would just repeat what she had told them, telling them nothing more than she already had.

"Commander," Data said as he slung his quiver of arrows over his shoulder. "I believe our only course of action is to do as the general has said." And he began to fallow the river that flowed not far beside them.

"Data…" Riker began but the android just kept walking. "Data! Wait for the rest of us!" He called as the rest soon fallowed behind and caught up with him.

As they grew farther away from the forest's edge, it grew darker and colder all around them. The threes grew thicker and many lost their leaves as they fallowed the river's path.

Worf suddenly stopped, and held out his hand. "What is it?" Geordi asked looking at the quizzical look plastered over the Klingon's face.

He paused for a moment and then replied. "I believe, it is snowing." And so it was! As they trekked on they soon were up to their ankles in snow. Though Data moved without hesitation, the others began to slow as it grew colder, and the snow grew deeper.

After a while, the android could not longer be seen and the others who were almost up to their knees in snow stopped when they heard his voice.

"I believe we have found the center of the forest." He said from not far up ahead. The others soon reached Data and gasped at what they saw.

The river, which had frozen at least a couple hours back, was now running in a very odd design ahead of them. There was a clearing among the trees, snow was on the ground where the water did not run, but above the snow did not fall, as if a glass dome were protecting the clearing. In the center there was a large hole, or that is what it looked like from their distance, and around it the river came flowing from various angles only to disappear as if it were being drained away. The pattern was hard to see for when the river entered the dome like space, it went into sort of canals, deliberately built with short engraved walls to keep the water in. They also noticed that there were a series of small foot bridges used to get to the center.

Suddenly the snow at the feet of the crew began to get lower, it was melting extremely fast! In a few moments only the snow on the ground of the clearing and that which was falling from the sky remained. It was a rather odd site; snow on the ground where it was not snowing, and no snow where it was.

"I think we should go." Worf said, getting a bad feeling was coming with his warrior instincts kicking in.

Just then an arrow from somewhere to the left, whizzed past, narrowly missing the side of Geordi's head… barely.

"Get down! We're under attack!" Will shouted and they all dived just in time. Hundreds of arrows flew over their heads but then some began to land too close for comfort.

"We need to go." Will said.

"Understood." Data stood up and took three arrows from his quiver and prepared them all at once. "Up ahead of us is a barrier that is why the snow cannot reach the ground. However I believe that we will be able to pass through. I will do what I can to fend of our attackers." He said. The arrows ceased for a moment and Data waited…

SNAP!

They shot at the android but that was what Data was looking for. He was far too fast for them and not only did he shoot down the oncoming arrows, but in a few quick movements, he had already begun to shoot down or paralyze the archers.

"Go!" He said and Geordi took out his shield.

"Here, get behind me. There are too many of them for us to try and fight right now." Geordi said, seeing Worf's look of protest he added, "They have the advantage! We can't see them; they outnumber us, and only data has the weapons for long range fighting now let's go!" They agreed and made a run for it, the dome seeming farther away now. Geordi was in front deflecting some of the arrows that were angled to come from that direction with his shield, Worf next, and Riker was in back while Data still stop at the attackers from a safe place behind a tree.

They were only a few yards away, Data taking up the rear for he was unable to see the few attackers that were left, when a soldier suddenly sprang from the trees! He wasn't an archer, instead carrying a sword and he crashed into commander Riker!

"Argh, go!" Will ordered as he tried to wrestle the attacker off of him. His attacker got off and the two took out their swords. They began to clash, blade to blade in a fury of sparks, Will's opponent clearly the faster and more experienced of the two. Normally the others would have refused the order but Will seemed to be getting the upper hand and more archers had arrived, a flurry of arrows surging towards them. Data apologized and pushed the Klingon through the barrier and did the same with Geordi, going through. He was about to turn to help his comrade but a man jumped him from behind and strangely, he pushed him through the barrier!

Data tried to go back through but he could not get out. Finally he decided that maybe there was a sort of switch to turn off the force field surrounding them and went off in search of it.

In the meantime Riker was still fighting. As Geordi watched Worf and Data disappear into the opening at the center of the clearing, he heard a shout from behind. He turned to see Riker on the ground. He was unarmed and was hopelessly searching for his weapon while trying to dodge the arrows.

Geordi ran to the barrier and without thinking went through! He rammed himself hard into Will's opponent, knocking them both to the ground. Geordi quickly got up and helped Riker to his feet. "Go!" he said and the two made a run for it.

It wasn't that easy. The soldier had regained his footing and now he was furious. He raised his hand, a dagger appearing from within his cloak and threw it…

Geordi had seen the movement from the corner of his eye and pushed Riker aside, the dagger clipping him on the side instead. The two fell to the ground, their attacker now running for them, ready to strike them down once and for all. Luckily Riker found his sword, incidentally the one the lieutenant had made, and drove it into the soldier. He dropped his sword and fell limply to the ground.

Will helped Geordi up. "Are you alright?" he asked.

He nodded, and then noticed something. "Hey, the arrows stopped." The two looked around to see soldiers surrounding them on all but one side, their bows at the ready.

The oddest thing happened then. The two realized where they were and smiled. "Bye bye!" Will said and they both took three steps backwards as the archers took their shots.

The arrows hit the barrier and were deflected, falling to the ground. Will helped the lieutenant as the two made their way into the center of the clearing. In the center there was indeed a hole in the ground, or more an opening, and it led to a set of stairs.

"After you." Will said jokingly as he supported Geordi. The lieutenant smiled and the two entered into the darkness of the cavern that lay before their feet and the entrance shut behind them…

Picard suddenly sat upright… something felt wrong.

He hadn't even bothered to change into his pajamas earlier when he had gone to bed and so he instantly got out of bed and stepped out into the hallway.

"Computer," he said. "Status?"

"All systems are functioning within specified parameters. System malfunction has been quarantined to archives section." The computer stated.

The captain sighed. "Good." He muttered. And went back inside his room. Picard picked up the book that sat on a table and took a seat in the chair beside said piece of furniture. He was content to just sit and stare, examining the cover, but then he had a curious idea.

"Computer, locate Commander William Riker." He said.

"Commander Riker is not aboard the Enterprise."

"Hmmm…" Just to make absolutely sure that the computer was working properly, the captain added, "Alright locate uh, Ensign Wesley Crusher." Wesley's being the first name that happened to come to mind.

"Wesley Crusher is not on board the Enterprise."

The captain had not expected this. "What? Locate Counselor Deanna Troi." He asked.

"Deanna Troi is in her quarters." This made more sense, but it just couldn't be right. Picard paused a moment, curious as to why the computer had malfunctioned, then had another idea.

"Locate Ensign Crusher's last known location."

"Wesley Crusher was last located in the quarters of Doctor Beverly Crusher." That did it. The captain left his own quarters and started towards the turbolift, aiming for Beverly's room. It did not take long and he soon stood outside her door. He pressed the buzzer…

No answer.

He tried it again…

Nothing,.

By the third try the captain was getting worried. Since there was no answer, he decided to go inside.

The room was dark as it should be were the Crusher duo asleep. However to the horror of the captain, neither were asleep in their beds which looked as if someone had slept in them, and then just disappeared. The captain asked the computer to locate Beverly but she too was supposedly not aboard the captain's dear ship.

Picard could only stare at the beds with a single though popping into his head… There was only one place they could be if they seemed to have disappeared…

"The story." He breathed and rushed from the room…

Will and Geordi finally came to a door at the end of the ever-circling staircase of stone. When they opened it they found none other than Worf and Data inside, looking both curious and frozen in place.

They soon found out what was captivating the two. They were in a cave, the ceiling high above them, the entire area bathed in a glowing blue light. In the center of the cave was a stone pillar, about four and a half feet high and covered in runes, a bowl of glowing blue water resting on it's surface. The pillar was surrounded at it's base by a small pool of the same blue water and it was deep enough that if you stepped in the water would go up to you knees, give or take a couple inches depending on height. But the really strange part was that at the back of the cave… there was a woman.

"Who are you?" Will asked, breaking the silence.

The woman had been sitting sideways on a chair at the back of the cave, but now she smiled and stood up. They could see her better now. Her hair was long down her back and was a lovely dark color. She wore simple robe like clothing of what looked like a fine material but what was interesting about her was that she had a piece of cloth tied around her face to cover her eyes. Yet she walked towards them confidently, as if she could see just fine.

"I am Ariak. Someone told me that you would seek me out." She said as she walked across a short path of stepping-stones that led partway up to the stone pillar. There were only a few and there was still at least five or six steps to go before she could reach the pillar, but she didn't seem to notice that the steps ended.

"You four are the ones we have been waiting for, and you have brought the puzzle's first piece." The woman, Ariak, took her bare feet from the stepping-stone on which she stood and placed it on the surface of the pool of water down below. When she removed the other foot from the stone as well she did not sink into the cold water, but instead she walked towards the crew on the waters surface.

"I have already touched the water sir, it is not solid as she makes it appears to be." Data whispered to lieutenant LaForge and commander Riker.

"What do you mean the first piece?" Worf asked interrupting the others. He was gripping the axes that he had brought rather tightly; obviously the Klingon didn't like this woman.

"It is as the poem says. 'The shield of a friend'." She stated and now stood in front of Geordi and Riker. "Your shield please Geordi LaForge."

Geordi was f course stunned but he slowly took his shield and handed it to Ariak, all the while weary of the cut on his side.

Ariak took the shield with a smile and then waved her hand. It was as simple as that and she just walked away, going towards the stone pillar.

"What was that bout?" Will asked.

"I don't-" But Geordi stopped… he realized that his wound was suddenly gone. "She healed me!" He said as he took his arm from around Will's shoulder.

They all watched as Ariak stepped up to the bowl of water on the pedestal. She held up the shield a few inches above it and when she let go, it stayed where it was… hovering of it's own accord.

"The shield of a friend." She said and there was a flash of blue from the water as it glowed very brightly for a brief moment.

"Now, you must have questions you wish to be answered." She said. "Do you not?" The woman was suddenly behind them in an eye blink.

Geordi and Riker spun around, Data just turned casually and Worf didn't even flinch. Ariak chuckled as she returned to her position in front of them.

"Yes, we do have questions that need to be answered." Data said. "First we wish to know where we are and how we came here."

"Tisk tisk…" Ariak said shaking her head. "You had to ask that question didn't you? You will have to find those things out fro yourself for I do not know how you got here, only how to get you back."

"Well how do we get back?" Will asked.

Ariak began to slowly circle them. "There are eight pieces to the puzzle, and now only seven are left. If you wish to leave, all the pieces must be found and brought here to me." She said.

The crew members exchange a few brief glances then they all nodded. "Alright, what do we need to do first?" Commander Riker asked.

Ariak waved her hand over the shield and across it's surface it shimmered for a moment. "Moments ago, the prince of a this Kingdom was kidnapped by thieves. The next piece of the puzzle that you need is his father's crown, which the prince has in his possession. If you rescue the prince from the thieves then his father will knight you an honorary King and you will have possession of the crown." She went over to them once again. "Fallow the river that leads east and you will find the path the thieves have taken. They are taking him Vinreth Pass."

They nodded and headed towards the entrance when Ariak added, " Do not worry, no one will harm you in the eastern part of the forest for that is where the healer lives. Find her and she will help you to find the prince." But when the crew looked back, Ariak was gone…

The four stood on the edge of the clearing, waiting for something that they did not know of. All they really needed was for Commander Riker to give the order to head in the direction the enchantress had told them.

"I believe we should notify the captain of our current situation before proceeding." Data suggested. The commander nodded but when he tried, the captain did not answer, their communicators didn't even seem to work except with one another. So they started off through the forest and fallowing the river without Picard's consent.

The trekked through the forest for hours without even the slightest indication of life, even animals were rare. It was just tree… or tree. No creature stirred, no wind even blew through the soft leaves of the forest. Only light was there, silently peeking through the treetop branches.

It seemed that they were getting nowhere when they finally seemed to have a stroke of luck. Geordi had stopped ahead of them and seemed to be… well smelling for something.

"Do you smell smoke?" He asked and Worf sniffed the air.

"Yes, I definitely smell smoke."

They fallowed the scent through the forest, being the only scent other than Eu de tree, and soon came upon a small cottage, utterly surrounded by overgrown plants, vines and even what looked like some weeds. There was a small sign on the door that read 'Healer'.

"This must be it." Riker said.

"Well sir it has to be considering it is the only known residence and the sign…"

"Data…"

"Sorry sir." Will nodded to him and knocked on the door.

"Uh, hold on a minute! I'll be right there!' A voice said from inside and the others could hear a lot of scuffling, clanking and banging.

"Strange…" Geordi said. "For a second that sounded like…"

"Will! Geordi, data and Worf!" Dr. Crusher stood in the now open doorway looking happily surprised, but surprised nonetheless. She wore a patterned skirt, her hair was up with some strange dangley things and she wore other things that could only be presumed as healer's cloths.

She motioned for them to come inside, and then shut the door behind them. They were soon sitting in a comfy looking living room surrounded by plants and open books.

"What is going on?" Beverly asked once they were all seated. "Where are we?"

The four did the best they could to describe what had happened to them so far, what they had to do to leave, what they knew of Captain Picard's theory and the fact that they couldn't contact said captain. They also had to explain who Ariak was and what she had told them to do as well as what role the doctor was now playing.

Once that was over, Beverly told what had happened to her so far.

"I was lying in bed, falling asleep when suddenly I'm here! I found myself in this little cottage and a woman with, oh I think it was dark wavy hair and silver armor came by. She said that I am a medicine woman and that four visitors will be coming." Beverly explained. "Then she just left."

'Wait, was this woman tallish, around her twenties, dark eyes, well built in muscles, carrying a sword, black bandanna around her head, confident look to her… uh and wearing cloths similar to ours underneath the armor?" Will asked.

Beverly nodded. "You seem to remember quite a bit about her." She said mischievously eying the commander. "Is she… say of particular interest to you Will?"

The commander cleared his throat. "No, but we may know her." He said.

"Sir, she does seem to be describing Anya'an." Data said. "The description fits almost exactly and I believe it is a possibility to not be ruled out."

Of course now they had to explain to Beverly who Anya'an was and give a few more details about their tests and what had happened to the camp. But finally, they all seemed to understand their situation.

"Beverly, Ariak said that you could show us the way to Vinreth Pass. We need to get there , find a bunch of kidnappers, defeat them and save some prince." Worf said. "This of course, will allow us to gain possession of a crown which will help us to escape this… place."

"Well there are exactly five horses around back, they were there when I came here, and…" Beverly thought a moment. "Just before you got here I was looking at a map that I had found. I think Vinreth Pass was marked on it somewhere… Let me see if I can find it." She disappeared into some back room and after some shuffling of papers and clunking of books, Beverly returned with a rolled up piece of parchment in her hands.

"Here it is, Vinreth Pass. It isn't far from the edge of the forest, which I think is only a short distance from where we are now." She said pointing to their destination.

"Well then, lets go! The sooner we leave the better." Geordi said.

"I agree." Worf muttered and the group, now consisting of five, departed on horseback…

"Now Beverly is gone too?" Deanna said."But I can sense her just like the others. That means this wasn't just caused by the transporter." She shook her head. "Now what do we do?"

Picard nodded. "I fear that someone is purposely doing this."

Deanna sat down in a chair for the two were in her quarters. The captain had waited until morning to alert the counselor about what had happened. "But who would do this?" She wondered then she suddenly stopped.

"What is it?" The captain asked looking at her curiously.

" That's odd...i just remembered something. I checked in on Tan earlier this morning and she was reading to the children... it isn't story day so I listened for a moment and recognized what she was telling from somewhere." She said. "I didn't know where before, but now I think I do!"

"I don't understand what does this have to do with the others going missing?" Picard asked.

"I recognized it from what you have been reading to me. The books sound like they are the same, but why would that be?" Deanna got up. "I just don't understand why she would have a copy of the book."

"So you're saying that Tan.." The captain stopped what he was saying. "Wait a minute, Tan... Ashatan! It all makes sense now..." He bolted out of his chair and out of Deanna's quarters.

"What on earth? Captain what's wrong, where are you going?" Deann called as she fallowed after him. "What's Ashatan?" She asked as she caught up with him in the turbolift.

"Not what...who." Picard entered the school room and before Tan could say a word, he grabbed her by the arm and dragged her out.

"Captain!" Tan said."What is the meaning of this?"

"I should be asking you that." Picard said. "I would have never guessed that it could be you if Deanna hadn't said something. You are supposed to be a legend... Ashatan."

Tan, or was it Ashatan, pulled her arm free of the captain's grip, her face downcast. Then all of a sudden.. she started laughing!

Yes laughing. "I wondered when the famous Jean-Luc Picard would finally figure it out!" She said turning away. "Ah yes, I put that book in your ready room, and I was the one who sent your crew members away." She caressed the book that ha still been in her hands. "But... do you know why?"

Deanna was utterly lost in all of this. "Who are you? What are you two talking about and who is Ashatan?" She asked.

"I am." Ashatan turned around and stared at the two with great intensity. Her eyes were no longer dark as they had been before, now they were a glass-like crystal blue. They almost shined of their own accord in the color that was not quite white, but definitely not just light blue.

"Ashatan was one of the gods of Zethoran VI, supposedly a mythical being. I read about it before we came here, supposedly Ashatan was one of three gods that were known as story weavers, they could... take people and place them into their stories." Picard looked at the woman "The entire world of Zethoran VI was supposed to be a story, everything that happened there was because of the gods."

"I see you have been reading up on our history, I am truly honored." Ashatan said.

"It would be like going into the holodeck and creating any world you wish, but it would actually affect real people." Picard said. "But then where..." He began.

"They are in here, as are your crew mates." The supposed goddess interrupted him, motioning to the book in her arms. "Although why those to are there, is for a different reason."

"Who..." Deanna began but suddenly Picard lashed out, grabbing for the open book that Ashatan clung to. The captain pulled it from her grip but it slipped. The bookmark fell out and the book itself hit the floor flat, closing itself in the impact.

Deanna gasped and stuttered a few steps backwards.

"What is it? What happened?" Picard asked.

"G-gone.." The counselor gasped as she leaned on the wall for support. "They're all gone, Will and the others.. I- I can't feel them anymore!"

Picard spun to face Ashatan once again as the woman retrieved the book. "What have you done?" He demanded. Ashatan's slender fingers stroked the book.

"I? I have done nothing of any sort." She said. "No, it was you my dear captain who has committed the crime you suggest." Picard stared at her in disbelief. "Allow me to explain, if a marker is not kept in the book of a Story weaver, for we all have a single book, then the story will have to restart all... over... again. However, since you have a mirror copy of the book the page has been kept, and your crew members have been spared. As long as one book is marked..." Ashatan opened the book and the pages flipped by themselves to come resting on a specific page. "Then the story goes on. That is how it works in our worlds."

Deanna sighed, putting a hand to her heart. "They're back... I can feel them again." She said. "But you're saying that the only way to get our friends back is to let the story play out?"

"That's right."

Picard was now faced with choice. "You, come with me." He said pointing to Ashatan. "Deanna tell the children that their teacher is not feeling well but will be fine." Deanna nodded and as the captain left, Ashatan fallowed.

He took her to his quarters and secured the door. "Tell me Ashatan, why are you doing this? The legends say that the gods of Zethoran VI are supposed to be kind and peaceful, not full of trickery and forcefulness." He took a seat.

Ashatan sat parallel to him and stared at the book in her hands. "If you are to understand, first a story must be told." She said.

"I'm listening."

"Well, long ago there used to be many of my people. They had a planet that was uninhabited where they could create their stories without harming anyone around them. Well one day race of creatures discovered the planet and without realizing what it was used for, came to inhabit it. Everything was fine for them and nothing every went wrong. They worshiped us as gods for they had once seen a member of my people working what they called magic, and in turn we would keep the balance."

"Well one day our people did not wish to fallow the orders of the elders. They began to all shift the world at once causing chaos. A fight broke out and many of us were killed. Well eventually the war ended with many of us dead, but the havoc it had caused was immeasurable. Now the people of the planet, which you may have guessed was Zethoran VI, did not trust us. They demanded sanctuary and happiness ans when we gave it to them they started to demand things constantly. Well my people found out why the original outbreak among my people had happened, it was because one member of our race had wanted excitement. He was reckless and so it led to deaths." Now Ashatan seemed to slow, as if it was not easy telling this part of the story.

"The elders decided that only three gods or goddesses at a time could rule over Zethoran VI and the others would find a new Haven. Well it was so that every few hundred years three were chosen and fifty years ago I was chosen. However when the other two were chosen, the person who had caused the original trouble so long ago became jealous for he wished to sit on the thrown of power over these people. In anger he created a story. My siblings were trapped inside of a story and only when the story was completed could they return to our world."

"So, you're saying that you took my crew members in order to save your brothers or sisters?" Picard asked feeling less angry now.

"The culprit was taken away and punished for his crimes but my siblings were still trapped in the story. The story told that eight pieces to a puzzle must be found by someone of the outside world and only then will they be set free." Ashatan said angrily. " That is why I took your crew, to set them free from these ink stained pages!" She gripped the book until her knuckles were white.

Now Picard understood. Though e was upset that his crew was still trapped in the book, he at least knew that their captor was not just some insane person wishing to kill them. "Ashatan.." he said seeing the anger and sorrow in her eyes. "Will you read the story out loud? That way we may both hear it."

Ashatan smiled a bit and nodded, opening the book once more...

"There it is!" Beverly pointed up ahead of them to where two large mountains stood, a small gap between them. "That is Vinreth Pass."

The pass was more of a path really. It went between the mountains that were covered with chalky white stones as well as snow on their high summits. The path was narrow and there were a few scattered trees around it.

The five saw smoke from a little ways and guessed that it was from the thieves' campfire. It was near sunset so they decided that they would wait until it was dark before going in and ambushing the kidnappers.

When darkness fell over the mountains edge, they all got ready. The five crept through the path and into the camp, each of them quietly standing behind one of the tents that sat in a circle around the now lifeless campfire.

Riker took a rock from the ground nearby and carefully threw it at the stone circle around the campfire ashes. It hit with a clacking sound and the sleeping thieves were suddenly awake!

They dashed out of their tents only to instantly whacked over the head by the Enterprise crew. It was easier than they had expected and was over in few moments.

"Alright, where is the prince that you kidnapped?" Will asked. His sword was drawn, inches away from the throat of a man who they had left conscious for questioning.

"He's...he's with our leader. Up the hill there is a small cave, he didn't want to leave the prince here." The man said.

"I can see why." Will said and backed away. "Well, thank you for your help,but we really can't have you getting reinforcements or anything like that." He said and proceeded to hit the man over the head with the handle of his sword, knocking him unconscious. "Now he can't fallow us."

The five nodded and headed up the hill. It was not long before they spotted a small cave on the cliff side.

"Let's go." Worf said taking the lead, axes in hand. Obviously someone was a little too ready for a good battle.

When they reached the entrance to the cave, they found that there seemed to be no one inside.

There was a small fire and signs that someone had been there, but it seemed that they had just left. Who knew whether or not they would be back anytime soon. So they went inside to take a better look around.

"Man,we're too late! It looks like they already left." Geordi said.

"Not necessarily." Data pointed out. "The fire had not been put out which would be the expected thing to do. Therefore someone may return, I suggest we leave before they do and attack them when they do not expect it." They were all going to leave when they heard a groan from the back of the cave.

"Someone's here!" Beverly said."And they sound hurt."

They went to the very back of the cave where all was cloaked in shadow and sure enough, they found what looked like the back of an unconscious someone. That someone appeared to be a young boy.

"Is he alright?" The doctor asked.

Data placed a hand on the boy's exposed shoulder and turned him over.

They all gasped...

"Wesley!"

Beverly went to her son instantly. Wesley was bound and clearly unconscious, and yet his cloths were definitely not those of your run-of-the-mill peasant. His tunic was light blue and he wore black pants. Both pieces of clothing adorned with some gold designs.

"He's the prince?" Will wondered aloud as Data unbound the young ensign. Just as he was finishing, Wesley began to stir.

"Wes?" Beverly asked nudging him gently. "Wesley are you alright?"

"huh?" Wesley opened his eyes and bolted upright. "Mom?"

Beverly hugged her son tightly. "What happened to you? How on earth did you get here?" She asked.

"I- I don't know. I was asleep in my bed and when I woke up, I was in bed but it wasn't mine. It was soft and there were weird pillows and curtains over the bed. It was dark but I looked out a window after getting up and I saw a courtyard at least a few yards down. I turned around and someone hit me over the head, next thing I know I'm here, tied up in a cave. I was only awake for a minute and then here you guys are." Wesley said. As the others helped him up. They explained where he was, so far as they knew, and what had basically been going on so far.

"You said that the lady needed something right?" Wesley asked after their story was completed.

Riker nodded. "She said we needed the crown of the man who is supposed to be your father in this...reality."

Wesley seemed to think a moment. "You mean this?" Wesley took from a bag on the floor a dazzlingly jeweled crown. "I saw the thieves examining it when I woke up for a bit. I think it's what this Ariak is looking for."

Geordi took the crown and the bag it had been inside of. "Well we had better get out of here." He placed the crown in the sack and slung it over his shoulder.

They were about to leave when from behind, they heard a laugh. The six whipped around to see a man standing in the cave's entrance, his sword out and raised.

"Who're you?" Beverly asked, nervously eying the man's blade.

"Ha! I knew that if I left the prince here and waited someone would eventually come, and here you are! From the imperial army are we?" He said motioning to Will, Data, Worf, and Geordi's uniforms. " Ah, and I see you brought the forest healer with you, how quaint. It is just so lovely seeing a band of saviors like this." He laughed heartily.

Worf stepped in front of the others, ready to fight, and protect, as was his duty."Stay back." He told the others as he brought out his axes.

The man proceeded to laugh harder which was both expected and unexpected at this point. "You may outnumber me, but that doesn't give you an advantage." He said, an almost savage gleam in his eyes. This angered the Klingon and Worf attacked, forcing the man out of the cave.

"Let's go." Will said. The others left the cave and headed for higher ground on the mountain range.

In the meantime Worf soon found that his opponent was extremely skilled. He drove Worf up the mountainside as they clashed swords, clearly trying to go after the others.

The mountain slopes were rocky and very slippery due to falling pebbles and stones. As the others climbed the steep ascent, it sent the small stones cascading downward.

Of course Worf was trying to climb up said slopes, as he and trying to force while fighting off a man just as skilled as he all the while trying, unsuccessfully I might add, to force the man backwards. The two made blow after blow, and soon was was beginning to gain the upper hand. The man was tiring faster than he but Worf faltered for only a moment when his left leg slipped on the shifting gravel.

The unnamed attacker saw his chance...he swiped at Worf''s legs and the lieutenant foolishly tried to jump to avoid the attack and did so but when he landed the rocks beneath him slipped and he was sent sprawling down the mountainside.

Unfortunately Worf's head landed on a rather sharp rock and he was rendered unconscious.

"Well now, that wasn't so hard. Now for the others." The man, whom I suppose should mention was named Zeivel, scurried up the mountainside , hurrying after his prize.

"Come on, we need to find way back to the forest." Geordi said as he helped Wesley after the ensign had started to slip."I sure hope Worf is alright, he hasn't caught up with us yet."

They were now climbing even higher, finding no other way down of around the mountain other than up. "I believe that there is only one way from our current position to the forest. We would have to scale the mountain and then go down and around the other side or return the way we came,which does not appear to be an option at this time sir." Data said and they all paused to ponder this fact.

"Some of us are unarmed." Will said gesturing to the two Crushers. "We can't endanger them, and Worf hasn't come back yet."

"That doesn't necessarily mean something went wrong." Beverly said.

"No, it doesn't... but it might." They all turned around to see Zeivel holding his sword to Wesley's throat. "Don't move or I'll kill the prince." he said.

No one moved. " Now.. drop your weapons!" They all exchanged with each other concerned glances and then did as the kidnapper said.

"Good..."

Apparently Zeivel had some.. well armed acquaintances. He took the crew only a little ways up the mountain and was joined by a crew of four others. And of course a fifth one was sent to, ahem... 'escort' mister Worf who unwillingly obliged.

Now the crew, all six, were chained to the back of the cave wall which conveniently had six places for people to be chained to.

Now normally they would all be up and ready to go with some great plan of action but... after all that had happened, they were tired. The cave was sealed off by a very very large boulder which the thieves placed in front of it as the attackers slept soundly outside.

So soon the Enterprise crew was asleep... well most of them.

Now of course data had no need for sleep, now did he have any worry about being chained. Normally the android would have just broken the chains around his and the other's arms, but he did not wish to wake the guards for any unnecessary reasons. Luckily his arms were behind his back and above where he was sitting. He stood up with ease and opened a compartment in one of his arms with his other hand. Data took out a small coil like piece that could easily be replaced and proceeded to pick the lock that held him in place.

After moment Data quietly slid the chains that had held him to the floor of the cave and began working on the bonds of the others.

It wasn't long before they all were free and silently as possible, Data and Worf managed to move the large boulder that blocked the entrance to the cave.

The bandits were fast asleep, peacefully dreaming... some even snoring rather atrociously. The crew could have brought in a herd of Enesian spiked cow leopards and they wouldn't have been able to hear anything over the snoring. A few were leaning against some mangled looking trees while the others slept on cold hard dirt. So the six crew members crept into their midsts, searching for their weapons which had been confiscated.

After a few minutes of silent searching, Geordi motioned to the others and they all went over to where he was standing.

"Here." He said and handed out their weapons. The lieutenant also found a staff which he gave to doctor Crusher, and the dagger he had made he presented to Wesley. They also found the bag with the crown in it and retrieved it as well. "Lets go."

The small group tiptoed around the sleeping thieves, and now with their backs to the attackers, they headed for higher ground.

Zeivel's eyes flashed open silently. They would not get away this time. He silently arose and unsheathed a small dagger that he had concealed in the folds of his cloak. This time he knew just who to aim for...

"What have you done?" Picard said stunned as he rose from his chair. How could she have gone this far?

"It is not my will captain, the story must play out." Ashatan said looking... uneasy.

But the captain would not have it. An apology was not going to suffice here. "You can change it but you won't will you?" He said, anger fueling his words. "I don't care if your siblings are trapped, it is not your place to interfere in the society of others!"

Ashatan was suddenly inches from Picard's face as she lashed out at him. "I tried to play fair with you Jean-Luc, I tried to play nice and a few times I even helped your crew members!" She spat, her eyes suddenly growing cold. She no longer had her hair in the ponytail which had originally held it and now it swirled around her for a moment as if it were alive. The lights in the room seemed to dim slightly.

"I can see that there is no telling what you'll try and do." She waved a hand and suddenly the lights shattered, the room going dark. All but for Ashatan's silhouette and her glowing white-blue eyes were clumped together in an undefinable mass of shadows.

"You give me no choice." Picard found that he was suddenly in his chair, chained to it by bonds that did not budge even and inch when he tried to struggle.

"The story will play out, and now you will be forced t her it as it does whether you choose to or not." Picard watched as the storyteller opened the book once again.

"Now, where was I? Oh yes..."

The knife whistled through the air... hitting it's mark.

"Ah!" Will screamed as, luckily thought it may not have seemed so, the knife missed and implanted into hi shoulder. His cries alerted the crew but it also woke the rest of the sleeping bandits.

"Are you alright?" Beverly asked reaching down.

"I'm fine, just go..." Will said but the others had already gotten ahead of him and started to fight.

"It's alright." The doctor said examining the wound. "It isn't fatal."

"Not on the Enterprise but you don't happen to have a hypo spray here, do you?" Will said sarcastically.

Beverly gently placed her hand gently on the cut, Will already having removed the blade. "I know, I just wish I could heal it." Suddenly the engraved ring that Beverly had been wearing on her finger began to glow.

She watched amazed as Riker's injury healed before her very eyes. Will looked at the doctor baffled.

"How did you.." He began.

"I- I don't know!" Beverly answered in awe. "This ring must have some sort of healing abilities or something.

"Well all the better for us." Riker said as he got up. He took out his sword from it's sheath and rushed into the fight to help the others.

Already out of the six warriors, two were down due to lethal blows by a certain angry Klingon with a score to settle another one was unable to move or fight thanks to a few disabling blows by Data's arrows. As for the others, Geordi was trying to fight against a rather strong one with the help of Worf and Data had entered a tree covered section are of the mountain in order to go after another. But to Will's amazement Wesley was fighting the last one, who had already been injured on one shoulder, all on his own.

Riker of course quickly cut in on the young man's fight and it did not take long this time for the fight to be over. Eventually the attackers all lay dead on the ground or they had fled. However Data came back from his search looking puzzled.

"I was unable to find the other attacker who fled. He may be nearby so I suggest we we leave very soon sir."He said.

Riker nodded and patted Ensign Crusher on the back. "Well done, it isn't easy wielding phaser never mind a sword or dagger."

"Thank you sir, it definitely wasn't easy." Wesley said tiredly.

They all began their ascent for, what was it the third time that day? It seemed like days were going by as they climbed the cliffs. It wasn't easy either, they were soon trudging through a couple feet of snow. They slept very little wile Data kept watch for anyone that might decide to attack them and they ate very rarely when Beverly found some edible herbs or berries. After a few days had gone by and they were very high, when suddenly Worf pointed ahead of them.

"Look sir, we are nearing the cliff's edged where it can be scaled downward towards the forest." He said.

"He is correct sir, now we need to scale down the cliff side and we should reach the forest in a matter of two days seven hours and approximately twelve minutes." Data added specifying as usual.

"Good." Will muttered.

"Yeah, I'm tired of seeing nothing but cliffs and snow everywhere.' Geordi said with a sigh of relief.

"Well then, we had better hurry."

Hours passed but after a time the crew was on flatter ground, snow still cascading down from above to land on their exposed heads. They stopped temporarily for they had to choose which direction to go after coming across a large gorge.

"I believe the forest is to the south from our current location." Data said then after receiving odd glances from the others added, "I believe that would be to the right."

Wesley leaned over the edge of the darkness filled gorge. "It just keeps going..." He said to himself as he watched the endless nothingness.

The others were just finishing when there was the snap of a twig. They all whipped around and pointed their weapons at the man who had jut emerged from behind a grove of trees.

"I believe that that is the man who I lost in the forest." Data said.

"Please," The man said putting his hands up. "I just need to get home, I don't know the way from here, please... which way is east?"He asked.

Will looked at the man with pity and so they lowered their weapons. "East is that way." He said pointing. "Back the way you came and to the right I believe."

"Thank you." The man said bowing and he turned to leave.

The others shrugged."We had better get going." Beverly turned to get her son only to hear the snap of a bowstring. The arrow had come from the single survivor whom they had just stupidly let leave without question. The arrow flew through the air and implanted into the back of Wesley's shoulder.

"No!" Beverly screamed as the impact threw the ensign off balance. He had been standing on the edge leaning over but had started to turn towards the others and the force of the blow made him slip, sending him sprawling over the edge of the cliff.

"Mom!" He yelled as fear splashed across his face. Wesley fell, catching the gorge's edge but as doctor Crusher ran towards him, his hand slipped and he cried out as he fell plummeting into oblivion.

Beverly's hand barely brushed her son's fingers before he was lost. She sat there kneeling beside the gorge's gaping mouth, unable to believe what had just happened.

Data had instantly shot down the attacker the moment his shot had been fired. The man now lay on the ground... coughing as he laughed.

"The prince is dead!" he said cruelly. "What ever will the king say?" Furious Riker unsheathed his blade and silenced the man in one slash.

Doctor Crusher was still kneeling in the snow, unaware of the cold or of anything else. Tears rolled uncontrollably down her face. Her hand was still outstretched where Wesley's hand had been and it was shaking. "Wesley.." She whispered.

Geordi went over to her to try and comfort her."He may still be alive." He said. "It's too dark to tell how far down this gorge goes, maybe he is just unconscious, there could be a ledge somewhere."

Beverly wiped away her tears and nodded. "But how do we know? I don't think even Data could see well enough to go down there." She asked and the lieutenant helped her up.

"Wait a minute, what about Ariak? I think she can see things with the bowl of water she had on the pedestal we told you about. Maybe she call tell us how to rescue him." Riker suggested. They all nodded and after giving Beverly a few moments, they continued on their way...

The water rippled silently as Ariak watched the group on their travels. It seemed to be taking longer than she had expected, but of course no one can predict everything that is going to happen.

She smiled... it had gone well, just as was expected, though she did have to intervene when it appeared that the Crusher woman wouldn't have continued.

With a wave of her hand the water shimmered. "The loss of a Prince." She said watching the water turn black.

"Only six to go..."

The crew was somber as they finally entered the clearing in the forest and traveled down the stairs and corridor to Ariak's lair.

"You have returned.."She said, standing over the bowl of water as if they had never left. "And you have brought the healer with you, I am very pleased."

Riker angrily threw the king's crown at the horrid witch. The woman caught it with one hand and placed it above the water where it hovered without sinking just as Geordi's shield had done.

"And I see you have brought tome another piece of the puzzle as well." Ariak said. She motioned with her hand and Beverly uncontrollably raised her arm. Her ring began to glow and suddenly, it shot from her finger only to be caught in a mere second by Ariak's hand.

"Wait, what are you doing? I need that, it is the only way I can help my friends if they are hurt!"Beverly said as she recoiled her hand.

"If you ever wish to leave this place then I must take it." Ariak said. "It is part of the spell that will free you. 'The healer's ring', that is what part of the poem says." She held the ring above the crown and shield. When she let go it stayed hovered at least four or five inches over the top of the crown. "Just as it says the crowning of a king."

"Wait, what do you mean the crowning of a king?" Riker asked.

"It is as I have told." Ariak said. "When the crown was taken by the kidnappers, their leader became the unofficial new king. But because you stole it back Will Riker, and therefore you have now been crowned King."

"What?"

The enchantress smiled again. "That is why you now have another task. For the next piece of the puzzle you must go to the Kings castle of a nearby Kingdom. In the high tower the daughter of the ruler to the neighboring kingdom is asleep. She was given a potion by the King and is now near death. If you wish to free her which you must, then you must find the antidote before it is too late."

"How do we know what to give to her?" Worf asked.

"Go to the wise woman at the edge of the Kingdom's main village. She will know hot to cure the princess. Oh, and one more thing..." Ariak went over to Worf and with a move of her hand his axes were suddenly in the grip of her enclosed palm.

"What did you do that for?" The Klingon accused.

"These are dull, I will sharpen them properly for you while you are away so that they are ready for battle." She said. "Besides this one is about to break."

"It looks fine to me." Worf muttered.

"Oh?" Ariak moved gracefully to the stone wall of the cave. Then without warning, in one fluid motion, she struck one of the axes against the wall and it shattered, the fragments sparkling in the blue light. "Do not worry, when you return it will be fixed." She casually put the ax an the other pieces aside.

"Fine." Worf barked. As he gritted his teeth, he unstrapped the spear he had been carrying on his back. "I will use this."

"Good." the sorceress motioned for them to leave and so the crew all headed out into the corridor.

Just before Doctor Crusher's figure was lost in the corridor shadows, Ariak waved her hand. "That should ease her pain..." She said. "And keep the plan from unraveling."

"Do you think that they will complete the tasks?" A woman's voice said from behind Ariak. A shadow could be seen leaning up against the wall of the cave.

'Perhaps you should help them? Either way I do believe they can, after all..." Ariak gazed into the water. "She does..."

Two days had passed since the Enterprise crew had solemnly left the forest, and soon the kingdom was in sight, it's palace tall in the sunlight.

They met some travelers on the way since they were traveling on a main road. Once they were on the outskirts of the city, they decided to ask the directions to the wise woman's house.

"Excuse me ma'am, would you be so kind as to inform us as to where the wise woman of this kingdom's residence is?" They had all voted for Data to ask for directions because he was always so polite to everyone.

The woman he had asked gawked at him for a moment. "Why would you want to meet that insane woman?" She asked.

"I do not understand?" Data said.

"The so called 'wise woman' is a nut case and a crackpot. Most people usually just try and stay away from her. I think that they know what they're doing." the woman said clarifying.

"Well, thank you anyways." Data said, the woman nodded and continued with her cart on her way. Data reported to the others what the woman had told him.

"Well," Will said. "What do you think?" He turned to the others.

"I think we should go." Beverly said. "Just because someone says she is insane doesn't necessarily mean that she is. Besides how else will we get out of here?"

Geordi nodded. "I have to agree commander, besides...we do need to find a way to leave."

Will nodded in agreement.

'Then it's decided."

It didn't take long at all to reach the wise woman's home...it was easy to find being the only little hut like house on the outskirts of the village. They found it was a rather good sized cottage, a variety of odd colored plants growing in flower boxes outside of the windows, and the quaintest little stepping stone path. All it needed was a white picket fence.

Beverly was upfront in the line of visitors and so she took the small bronze door knocker and rapped twice on the wooden door.

"Hold on, hold on!" They heard someone vaguely familiar call. "Now whose here? By gods why did they have to go and send me here? I should have known..." They heard her muttering.

"What is it now?" They all dropped their jaws or gawked amazed as they beheld the figure in the doorway.

"Guinan?"

"What on earth?" The bartender stood in the doorway to the little cottage clothed in a rather odd assortment of things. She had a purple blouse with black pants and a light blue sash around her waist. Dangley earrings were in her ears and a bandanna was on her head as well as a gold design adorned shawl around her shoulders.

"I thought only commander Riker, Geordi, Worf and Data had been sent here, I didn't know they trapped you here too doctor?" She shook her head. "Oh this is worse than I thought, these guys are always causing trouble! Well hurry up and come in..." She said. They all entered as Guinan kept on muttering things under her breath.

"How did you get here Guinan?" Geordi asked as the bartender prepared them all some tea.

"The same way you did of course." Guinan answered from in the kitchen. There seemed to be an awful lot of strange clanking going on in there.

... Silence.

"I forgot, it isn't exactly a well known thing..." She sighed. "Well for once you all will have to be the ones doing the listening." She sat down and began.

"To start, I need to tell you the story of the gods of Zethoran VI." They all looked at her quizzically

"Uh, gods?"Will asked.

Guinan smiled. "Well, gods and goddesses, that sort of thing. The people of Zethoran VI had a legend. It told that their gods were story tellers. But whatever they read or wrote came true. Everything that happened on Zethoran VI was supposedly just a story."

"Now, their gods were kind people. There were supposed to be three, one representing strength, one representing honor, and the last representing wisdom. They kept the peace and were the creators of the story and whenever the three would die they would be reborn as a\either three females, three males or a male as a father a female as a mother and harmony being a genderless child. These forms supposedly alternated depending on the century."

Now the crew was interested. "Well these gods and goddesses did actually exist and I even met one once before a very long time ago. Well supposedly the people of Zethoran VI found out that their gods were in fact real. Well they started to blame the three gods when something that was supposed to be a part of nature happened. Tornadoes, earthquakes, a year of famine... if anything like that happened they blamed the gods."

"That isn't fair." Beverly said.

"Exactly and soon the people of Zethoran VI started to demand things from the story tellers. If their crops were bad they wanted them fixed, soon the balance of things was thrown of and in return for all the great goodness, equal badness and evil had to come. One year a disease took many lives of the people on the planet, and the storytellers could do nothing about it. Afterwards the people of Zethoran VI now lamed the gods for this as well even though it was their fault. In their anger, the gods turned from Strength to power, from harmony to jealousy and from wisdom to hatred."

"So you're telling us that the reason why we are here is because the gods of Zethoran VI,or that is what the people thought they were, became evil and corrupted in their anger and deserted the planet. Now for whatever reason, the have placed us into one of their stories, correct?" Data asked.

Guinan nodded. "It would seem so. I knew that one of the creatures, we call them story weavers, was on board the Enterprise,but I didn't know where the other two were. Well I am pretty surer that they are inside this story somewhere, probably in a position of power." She said.

"Tell me Guinan, we are on a mission to save a princess in order to et out of here, Ariak told us that you would know how to sure her." Will said. They explained all about Ariak and their trials, their teacher, what had happened to Wesley and just about everything else.

"I see..."She said after they had finished. "I believe I know what she is talking about." Guinan got up and after a few moments of searching she came back with a small vile. "I was searching through all this stuff in here and found this. It is a special compound known on Kiendel II, it cures almost everything, except, maybe an earache, but that is about it." She said and handed the vial to Riker.

"Got it, do you know anything about this princess?" He asked.

"Not really, but I'll be listening. Oh by the way before you go, take this... something tells me it will come in handy." Guinan took off her shawl and Beverly took it.

"Thank you,are you sure that you can't come with us?" She asked.

"Sorry, but no." Guinan warned them about trusting anyone that they did not know from the Enterprise, for in this world anyone could trick them. They all talked for a bit and they finished their tea and after a farewell to the bartender, they headed for the palace and all it's gray marbled glory.

"I hope they know what they've gotten themselves into."Guinan said and went back inside.

Well it wasn't as easy as the crew had first thought. Apparently this king wasn't the happiest one in the land and guards were stationed at every post possible. They were thrown out without a blink of an eye.

They now were standing in the middle of the village market where they could see the people of the village. They were haggard and depressed looking at best, their cloths torn and even the merchants who should have been wealthy, those such as jewel sellers didn't look very well off either.

"What do we do now?"Geordi asked. "There is no way we will be able to force our way into that castle with all those guards." He shook his head.

"Ariak seemed to think that I could get in because I was the new king. Riker said, "But I don't even look like a king."

"Exactly!" Beverly said with a snap of her fingers. "We just need to make you look like a true king and perhaps the guards will let you pass!"

"Well how do we do that? We have no money here." Will said in annoyance.

"What about our communicators?" Geordi offered."They are made of gold and we can't use them here anyways. What if we sell them?"

They all pondered this for a minute but then ultimately decided that it just might work. They wandered the village asking for the nearest gold merchant and finally were able to find one. An old woman was seated at the stand.

"What can I do for you?" She asked.

"We offer you some business" Will said. "We have some gold here and would like to know how much it is worth."

They handed her their communicator pins, Data having already skillfully removed all of the technological components. "Ah, twenty-four Karrot gold plating, the rest made of about... oh fourteen Karrot gold mixed with other metallic allows." The woman said. Apparently she was really good at what she did. "Since there are five and gold had been scarce lately, they would fetch quite a fair sum indeed! It would get you the same amount of money as you would receive for five ounces of gold coins."

"Thank you very much." Data said and started to collect the small pins. But the woman stopped him.

"Tell you what, I'll take them of your hands for one hundred silver coins. Does that sound fair?" She asked.

The others stepped aside to decide and they sent Geordi away. After a while he returned. "At least three people said that one hundred silver coins is insanely for five ounces of gold coins. The other one started to laugh hysterically." He said, then turned to the woman. "What about two thousand silver coins?"

"Ha ha! You drive a hard bargain young man." The woman laughed. "Alright, how about I give you five hundred?"

"One thousand five hundred, no less." Geordi insisted.

"Alright, though it would be a great loss to me, I'll pay you eight hundred silver coins." She said, her face getting serious. "No more."

Geordi sighed. "Well, I guess we will have to bring our service elsewhere, someone else may want them for triple the price." They all knew what Geordi was doing and so they began to casually leave.

After a moment the woman called out. "Wait! Alright, one thousand but no more!" They all looked to each other an nodded. They completed the transaction and Data instantly counted the coins, finding no flaws.

"Thank you for your time." Will said and they started towards the other stalls. "Sheesh! That woman is practically as stubborn s a Ferengi, nice going Geordi." He said patting the lieutenant on the back.

They wandered through the small stalls until they found one where a young girl was helping her father measure and fit a man for his new clothing. "Excuse me, are you too busy?" Beverly asked the woman who was sorting through fabrics.

"No, not at all what can I do for you?" She asked.

"We, uh... we've come from the palace of a nearby kingdom. The king told us to come here for the cloths for his son. I'm not sure why but those were his orders." Beverly said. "So basically we need garb fit for a king, this man here is about the same size as the prince and so you can measure him. Is that alright?" She motioned to Will.

"That is fine, I know just what to do, will you step up here please?" Riker nodded and stood on a stool. The woman began to take measurements.

"Alright, If you would come back in a little while, I will have everything ready for you." She said getting started. They all thanked her and decided to get something to eat. They came across a stall selling some sort of meat on a stick and so bought some,sitting down in a small field of grass to eat.

After they had all finished, they toured the village a bit, admiring things such as cloths, jewelry, and daggers. Will even bought a lovely looking necklace to give to the princess once they had hopefully saved her. It was plated in some gold colored metal with a large blue sapphire in the middle as a pendant. When they were finished, they still had seven hundred silver coins left, apparently these people weren't very expensive.

They made their way back to the stall and found the woman putting the finishing touches of Will's new cloths. She had made him a fine red tunic with gold hemming and two gold buttons. A fine dark brown cloak and black pants came with it and she even had a golden broach to accompany it. When will tried it on, he certainly looked rather kingly and so they bought it, giving the woman the six hundred coins they owed her.

They left that section of town and after finding a place to hide, Will changed into his cloths, Geordi's find sword around his waist accenting everything perfectly.

"Alright, lets go." They made their way back to the palace and approached the guards. They instantly put their spears up to block their path.

"Who goes there?" One asked.

"I am King William of Seridan." He said remembering the name of his supposed kingdom being on Beverly's map. "These are my servants and bodyguards. I have come seeking your king I seek counsel with him."

They looked over the band and when they landed on Worf, they saw the fire in his eyes rather nerve-wrecking. "Of course, uh right this way your highness." The guards said as they amazingly let them pass.

"William eh?" Geordi asked with a smile.

"I thought it sounded more Kingly." Will whispered out of the corner of his mouth. "Now be quite, and sorry about the servant remark, it was the only thing I could think of."

"No offense taken."

The castle doors opened to let them in. Marble halls greeted them, pillars going to the ceiling and tapestries of green adorned the walls. They guards took them into the thrown room and then left, probably to alert the king of their presence.

"Alright guys, we can't stay here." Riker said. "Did any of you see which way the high tower is from here?"

"Yes sir, I believe it is to the left, through that door may lead us to a staircase." Data said pointing to the set of doors opposite the ones the guards had taken.

"Alright, I'll stay here so that the king doesn't become suspicious." Will said. "Data, you Geordi and Beverly try and find the princess. Worf, you stay herewith me. Something... doesn't feel right." They nodded and the other three quietly headed through the door.

On the other side was a hallway filled with portraits. They passed many closed doors as they hurried, but no staircases. At least once or twice they had to hide behind some pillars in order to avoid being seen by guards who had come down the hall,but finally they reached the staircases... both of them.

"Which way do we go?" Beverly wondered.

Data was of course calculating this when they suddenly heard more guards coming, only from back the way they had came. They hid under the staircases only to see who was being dragged down the hall.

"It's Will!" Beverly whispered as they watched the commander struggling against his guards to get away. They went up the staircase on the right and soon disappeared from sight.

The three emerged from their hiding places and turned to each other concerned. "Why wasn't Worf with him, and what happened?" Beverly wondered.

"I do not know, but I believe that they would take the commander to some form of holding place. It cannot be the dungeons for they are usually on the ground floor, therefore there must be another place. I suggest that we split up and search both sides of the castle for our missing crew members and the princess." Data said taking the lead position of the three.

"I agree." Geordi said. "I'll go with doctor crusher up the stairs to the left to find the princess. Think you can handle finding Riker and Worf?" he asked.

Data nodded. "Very well." He headed up the way Riker had been dragged and the others went the opposite way.

Will had been standing for what seemed like forever when finally, someone entered the room. The man was clothed in fine fabrics and jewels and a crown sat atop his head. His colors were shades of dark purple and black and he had black hair to match his dark eyes. He honestly did not look friendly.

"I welcome you King William to my kingdom, an I ask why you have come seeking my counsel?"He asked sitting atop his thrown.

Will had to think of something fast, otherwise the king might find out why they were really here. "I have come because...I seek your aid. I am preparing am army to defend against an attacking fleet who will reach my kingdom in three days. I ask for the help of your army." He said, hoping it was a convincing lie.

"Is that so? Tell me dear King, if you are from Seridan, then what is it's capital? I believe we should station ourselves there." The king looked at Riker, and he knew he was caught.

"It, uh... the capital is..."He began.

"I knew it! You are no king, you are a spy The king sent you to try and attack my fleet once you had gained my trust!" He clapped his hands and all the doors in the great hall burst open with guards. "Seize them!" The guards attacked and in moments Riker was pinned to the floor, his sword taken away from him.

Worf however put up a better fight. He took out his spear and started attacking the guards with all his might and taking down many. But he was vastly outnumbered and soon, he too was taken prisoner.

"My lord, shall we take them to the dungeons?" The head guard asked.

"Hmmm..." The king thought. "No, take the ugly one to the dungeon, but I want the false king taken upstairs, I wish to have a word with him." He said. The guards nodded and took the prisoners away.

Data climbed the spiral staircase silent as...well and android. He soon entered a very high, very deserted and very dark wing of the castle. The lights didn't work, the floor was dusty and cobwebs were everywhere. When Data found a window it's curtains were drawn together and the window itself was rather dirty. However, there was a small stream of light coming from a door that was open just a rack at the very end of the long hallway.

He went over to it and looked it. There were two men in the room standing by the fire. One was the king, in all his dark glory, and the other looked like a man f war, probably a general. Data listened as they continued their conversation.

"Did he tell you anything?" The general asked.

"Nothing... but I haven't started the real torture yet. I have more important things to attend to." The king turned from the fire to the other man. "General, has he been moved to the second tower cell?"

"Yes my lord."

"Good. Nahsek's fleet may have died but he escaped and they will be here by dawn. If they take the castle and find the princess my plan will be ruined. I want all your forces up and ready at the slightest hint of their arrival."

The general nodded and the two started to leave the room. Of course they were heading right for Data, so he quickly hid behind the door and th slipped into the room. Data looked around the cozy little room with little or no interest in thing such as the warmth from the fire or the fancy decor. He was in fact, searching for something.

Data found a desk in the room by the window and started searching through the hundreds of papers. Being and android it didn't take very long and he soon found what he was looking for.

He stretched out the map on the now neatly organized desk and searched through the castle blueprints. "I see..." He muttered analyzing it. "I am currently in the southern wing and therefore need to return downstairs and leave by the inner courtyard." He replaced the map and headed out the door. He was going to stop the King's army from attacking General Nahsek's troops.

.

Beverly and Wesley felt as if they had been climbing thousands of steps and getting nowhere. They weren't actually staying in one place, but they had climbed thousands of steps. It turned out that the high tower was in fact very, very high. Who would have guessed? The two had managed to slip past the single guard who had been asleep at his post and had made their way up towards the tower.

They finally reached the top of the steps to find a door. Behind that door, was another door, and that door? that door was locked.

"Ah!" Geordi said frustrated. "My head is just about ready to explode!"

"Calm down Geordi, it's alright. Maybe we can find a way to get the key from one of the guards." Beverly said.

Now Geordi stopped and turned to the doctor, a smile on his face. "I saw a trunk with some cloths in it in the last room... I think I have an idea."

Beverly knew that look. "Oh no..." She said "No, no no no... Geordi!"

"Hello there." The guard was suddenly alert as he saw that he had a visitor. Beverly stood in a fine blue dress, a fan in her hand, and a blue ribbon in her wavy blond hair. She batted her eyelashes and tried to look, well pretty as she approached the guard.

"Well hello there, and who might you be?I haven't seen you around here before." The guard asked.

"I am visiting his highness from a nearby kingdom. But I lost the key to his room, you don't happen to have a spare one do you?" Beverly asked swooning on the man.

The guard grinned and took out his keyring. "Of course miss, here you are." He said holding out a key.

"Thank you very much." Beverly kissed him on the cheek.

Awe it was nothing for fine-" But the guard stopped as Beverly punched him in the stomach and hit him over the head. She took the keys and headed back up the stairs to where Geordi was trying to keep from making noise as he was practically rolling on the floor laughing.

"Very funny." Doctor Crusher said as she hit the laughing lieutenant on the head with her fan. "Lets go." She marched up the stairs back into the room to get changed and then they unlocked the last door.

The room was dark, bed in the center with curtains over it. There was a single window which let in the moonlight, and there was a dresser and small table. The two hadn't realized that it was so late. They went over to the bed and could see a figure lying in it.

"This must be the princess." Geordi said. Beverly nodded. They each took a curtain, and drew them aside.

Deanna Troi lay sleeping inside...

Riker was miserable. He had been beaten and whipped in order to try and find information that he didn't have. Now he was chained in a cell on a cold floor, and no one knew anything about it. Basically he was screwed. So for the moment Will just lay where he was trying to ignore the pi from where the whip had touched.

"At least the others will be able to find the princess." He said to himself, trying to think a little positively. But as he shifted position, he felt something in his pants pocket.

"Idiot!" He wanted to hit himself on the head. The small vial that Guinan had given them was with him! And he was chained in a tower so how could they save the princess to get what they needed in order to bring it to Ariak so they could escape? Stupid stupid stupid!

Well the commander was in luck. While he had bee tortured, Worf had been taken to the dungeons. But you try and chain up an angry Klingon, go ahead, try! They had locked him in a cell but he had started making so much of a ruckus that the guards had unlocked him and were going to take him somewhere else. Big mistake... thank heavens.

Worf hit his holder in the stomach with his elbow, attacked the others and soon they were all unconscious, and he did it all in handcuffs. The Klingon found his spear and headed out the dungeon door.

Worf remembered what Riker had said and so headed down the hallway. But when he came to the staircases, he went the wrong way, taking the one that didn't lead to the princess. He took the same route that Data had but instead of stopping at the King's study, he kept going and soon came to a door.

Still angry that he had been captured he ignored the lock and proceeded to bash down the door with his shoulder. It worked.

Riker's head shot upward as he heard the wood splinter."Worf? How did you escape?" He asked as the Klingon entered.

"It is not very difficult to fight off a few human guards." he said finding a spare set of keys and unlocking the cell door."We must get out of here and find the princess, I can sense the fear of the people here, battle is coming."

"Battle?" Will asked as Worf helped him up. The Klingon nodded. The two left and headed down the corridor. They found the unconscious guard that Beverly had tricked and headed up the stairway...

Data had been skulking about the castle, trying to make his way to the armory. He had passed the stables and had found the entrance to the palace kitchen of all places, but finally he entered through the doorway of the armory.

No one was in the great facility. Weapons lay all about, scattered or hanging, in or out of the fire, armor and blades all ready to be fought with. Well that would never do.

Data started his work with the swords. Though he did not want to cause anyone harm, this was not a real world and therefore no one would be hurt on his account. It was perfectly logical in a strange sort of way. He took a variety or swords and began to dull them. It didn't take long before his work was done and he moved to his next task.

The warriors were gathered in the courtyard under the light of the moon and some torches.

He watched as they went about their training exercises.

"Strange, there are one thousand nine hundred and ninety nine. I do think that the King would have been efficient enough to add another warrior so as to evenly square off hi number of men." Data said to himself, but then stopped himself... he was rambling, and he remembered the great words of captain Picard.

"Data stop rambling." Yup that was it. So he turned his attention to the troops, and looked for something to sabotage. He spotted a row of cannons.

"Canons?"He wondered. "They are a very primitive form of projectile weaponry." He said aloud, accessing his internal databases. "However I believe that this place in which we reside can be considered less than technologically advanced." He really needed to stop talking to himself. Luckily the troops did not hear or notice the rambling android.

Data hid behind a variety of crates until he was behind the row of cannons. He took the crates of gunpowder and being on the second level of the palace, found where there was a drop off and tossed them over into the lake down below. The sun was already beginning to rise now, and if all went as the king had said, the army would soon arrive. If that was so,Data decided that he needed a better, higher perspective on things...

"Deanna! How did she get here? Is she aright?" Will asked as he and Worf found the other crew members.

"No don't you see? She's the princess Will, terribly ill and locked in the tower. Her pulse has been slowly getting slower and slower even as we speak. Unless we can do something she'll die." Beverly said. "There as to be something that I can do!" They explained how they had found Deanna.

"Wait, the potion, I still have it!" Riker took from his pocket the vial of blue liquid that Guinan had provided. Beverly took it and poured it down Deanna's throat...

They waited a few moments and then Beverly checked her pulse. She shook her head. "Nothing,we're too late." She said, gently putting down Deanna's hand.

"No!"Riker was at his Imzadi's side. "She can't just die!" He said.

"Will there is nothing we can do!" Beverly put her hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry Will... we never could have known that she was the princess."

Riker took his hand from Deanna's and nodded, his face downcast. There suddenly came screams and shouts from outside. Worf went over to the window.

"Sir, the castle is under attack!" He said. "I believe it is Nahsek's army!"

Will was suddenly alert."What?"

"They appear to be ready for war sir, an I believe that the king of this castle is fighting back. We have to go before someone finds us!"Geordi said.

Riker looked at Deanna, he didn't want to go,but if he didn't then they were all dead. "Alright, but I want to say goodbye first." He said. Beverly took from around her shoulders the shawl that Guinan had also given them. Will took it and gently placed it over Deanna's motionless body.

"Good bye,my Imzadi." He said, a tear rolling down his face. After a moment, he turned to the others and cleared his throat. "We had better go." They were about to leave when there was a flash of light. They turned to see the wise woman's shawl slowly disappearing.

"What is going on?" Geordi breathed. The shawl was bathed in light an as it disappeared, the light started forming into a ball until a glowing golden sphere hovered over Deanna.

Will looked at the object quizzically, then reached out his hand and touched it. It felt warm as he held it in his hand. Suddenly... he knew what to do.

Riker took the ball and pressed it to Deanna's stomach. There was a bright flash and they heard a gasp. Then...

"Will?" Deanna sat up, opening her eyes. They all crowded around her and Beverly gave the counselor a big hug. "Where am I?" Deanna had to ask. So they explained what had been going on

"Speaking of which, don't we need to get going?" Geordi asked as the sounds of war grew louder.

They all headed down the stairs and into the thrown room Luckily everyone was busy because of the attack. That is when it suddenly hit them.

"Hold on a second, where's Data?" They all looked at each other. Who knew what trouble the android could have gotten himself in by now?

"We'd better go find him." Geordi said. They headed for the door.

"Find who?" They turned to see the king, surrounded by guards, ll of which had their swords out. "If you mean your friend who sabotaged the cannons, I sent someone to take care of him."

They all looked at each other. They were right, Data was in trouble and he probably didn't know it, and now so were they. Riker turned to his little ensemble. "Alright, I'll stay here and fight. You guys find data and get back to the forest. Bring Guinan if you can."

"I cannot fallow that order." Worf said taking out his spear."I will fight them, and you must go."

"Enough, attack them!" the King ordered and the men charged. Worf pushed the others out of the way as he began to fight. Will tried to help as Geordi helped the ladies up, but Worf pushed him down.

"Go, if you do not then I will be forced to make you!" he said. Luckily neither of them had to make a choice. Geordi opened the doors of the castle just then and a swarm of soldiers burst through, swords a blazing. Riker, Geordi, Deanna, and Beverly were swept into their midst outside leaving Worf to fight.

Boy did he fight! You have never seen someone use a spear in such a way as he!.Worf stabbed with both ends, used the shaft to push enemies aside, he even hit people over the heads with the blunt end. But that was not all.

As the war raged on, his spear was caught by a mans sword, breaking it in half. No sooner was it in two, Worf took the bow of a fallen ally and shot the half with the arrow head as if it were a regular arrow. Then he proceeded to impale his opponents with the jagged broken end of the other half of the spear.

While all this was happening, the others were forced to fight or find shelter,no open area being safe from attack. While Beverly and Deanna searched for the armory to find weapons, Will and Geordi were fighting.

Now you are probably wondering about Data, remember data? There's a song about.. uh never mind. Well Data ha scouted the perimeter and decided to take up his post.. on the roof of the palace.

He scanned the scene down below. Nahsek's battalion wore green while the king's wore purple. Both colors were dark, but Data could make out which ones were which. He took out three arrows and his bow and aimed at three warriors who had two people cornered... wait a second!

Data looked more closely at the to who were cornered and found... that it was Doctor Crusher and Counselor Troi! He did not understand how Deanna had got there, but he instantly shot down the attackers.

Beverly and Deanna looked up, not understanding where the arrows had come from, and sure enough they could see Data, his golden android skin clearly visible in the sunlight, on top of the roof of the palace.

"What on earth is he doing up there?" Deanna asked.

"I have no idea, but lets go and get him." Beverly said and the two started towards the stables which led inside.

"So... it is almost time..." Ariak said as she draped Guinan's shawl over Geordi's shield. "It will soon be finished... only a few more moments to wait." She took from deep in the cave a small box. Upon opening,it turned out that there was golden power inside.

"Come my sisters... we must begin the chant." She threw a handful of dust. It swirled around in two spots for a moment and then, two transparent forms appeared.

"My sisters, the time is near." Ariak said. "There are only two pieces left."

The taller of the two figures spoke." It is time for me to go, I will... assist in acquiring the final piece." She said. "The last, will come together shortly."

The second figure nodded. "You will soon be free." She said.

"You will soon be free..."

Picard couldn't believe this. The woman had read him everything, from what had happened to Wesley to how Deanna had almost died. He just sat and watched... listening yet seeing everything as if it were playing before his eyes. Now Ashatan stopped reading.

"Wait, what is wrong, don't stop." He said, suddenly alert. Ashatan stood, a smile full of malice on her face,

"It is finally time..." She breathed. "They will finally be free... only two pieces left." Suddenly light poured out of the book like golden dust and began to slowly swirl around the story weaver.

"What are you doing?"Picard asked struggling against his bonds. He had a terrible feeling that something was wrong.

"I'm finishing the story." She said and then began to chant.

"The Loss of a Prince..."

The old man lifted Wesley into his arms. There was n way the boy could have survived being down there in the snow this long...

"The crowning of a King..."

Riker saw Data standing on the roof of the palace, shooting down the warriors of the opposite side. He was distracted and a man slashed at his side. Will doubled over as the pain rushed to him...

"The Warrior's spear..."

As Worf fought, the soldier's suddenly didn't attacked him. They fought in a circle around him instead and suddenly someone emerged. It was Anya'an... All went silent as she held out her hand and the two pieces of Worf's spear which had been long thrown aside flew to her. They came together and in a flash, she opened her hand and the pieces were back together, then they disappeared...

"The healer's ring.."

Beverly cried out as a man attacked her. She took up a fallen piece of wood and began to fight, hoping to defend herself...

"The shield of a friend..."

Geordi caught something at the corner of his eye. He turned to see a man, a large spear in hand, sneaking up on Data. The lieutenant cried out and tried to fight his way towards the castle...

"A heart awaken..."

Deanna ran up and hit the man who had attacked Beverly over the head with a large stone. The doctor was unconscious, a cut on her forehead. The counselor tried to wake her, but couldn't. Tears streamed down her face... how could she stand there and do nothing while her friends were dying?...

"The wise woman's shawl..."

Guinan could only watch out her window as the smoke began to rise from the palace. She knew it would come... she knew that there was nothing that could be done to stop it...

"And a life..."

The man lifted his spear, Data's back perfectly exposed...

"Be taken."

"Data!" The Enterprise crew watched as the attacker impaled Data through the back. Clouds had been gathering and when the electrical components of Data's circuitry overloaded, the lightning would be seen by all. The androids arms dropped to his side, his beautiful bow falling off of the roof and into the fire below that had spread. The attacker pulled the spear out and Data fell to the ground... lifeless.

Suddenly the sky flashed purple and three figures appeared in the sky. They stood in a triangle,a book in their outstretched hands.

"The loss of a prince,the crowning of a king. The warrior's spear and the healer's ring. The shield of a friend, a heart awaken, the wise woman's shawl and a life be taken!" Light shot everywhere and suddenly everything froze and went dark...

"Look at it captain, isn't it glorious?" The captain awoke to find himself standing in the middle of the battle in the story, everyone frozen in time. He looked in horror as he saw Data on the roof, Worf about to be smothered by ten warriors at once, Geordi desperately trying to help his friends, Riker injured on the ground, and Beverly and Deanna both unconscious. The voice had come from behind him where three women were standing.

"What have you done?" Was all Picard could say.

Ariak took off her bandages and let them fall to the ground, exposing her crystal blue eyes. Anya'an blinked and suddenly her matched the others as they stood by Ashatan, their elder sister.

"My sisters are finally free." She said. "I never wanted to hurt you crew. You have given me my family back and for that I thank you." The three were engulfed in light, and when it faded, they were wearing flowing white cloths, ribbons around them and they were not quite all there. "We are one again." She said.

Picard finally understood. "You were angry only because the other parts of you,strength and wisdom were trapped somewhere dark" he said."Now you ca go back to Zethoran VI. But what of my crew?" He asked.

Ariak smiled. "They did well, better than I imagined. For that we shall give them something in return."

"Goodbye Captain Jean-Luc Picard." Anya'an said. "We will leave you now in peace.

The captain nodded to them and in a flash of light, he watched the world fall to dust, unraveling until nothing but darkness was left...

Picard opened his eyes to see the light of sick bay. He groaned and sat up. He looked around the silent room and smiled. There, taking up eight of the hospital bed, were his crew members. Doctor's were standing to their wounds and so none noticed him yet.

He got up and examined the heart rate and brainwaves of Riker, Geordi, Worf, Beverly, Troi,and Guinan. The nurse that was tending to them asked the captain if he was feeling better and he assured her that he was.

The medical crew disappeared as he looked over his crew. The bartender was fine, as was Deanna and though Beverly had a small head wound and Riker had at least two broken ribs, they would be fine. Worf was the worst with three broken ribs, a broken arm, a broken leg, and a sprained ankle on the other leg. This of course was to be expected of the Klingon.

The captain went over to where Data was. The android was being repaired where the staff had impaled him, and he had a large hole in his chest, a variety of circuitry showing. However, the captain knew that he would be fine.

The captain heard a moan and looked to the last bed. Wesley was stirring a bit. He was amazed that he had survived, but thankful as well. The young man's heart rate was lower than usual, bu the had a feeling that Wesley would make it.

Captain Picard was given permission to leave sick bay and headed for... well anywhere. He was just glad to have his crew back and his ship in order as it always was. He was lost in thought about what had been happening when he realized he was on the wrong deck.

"Of course."He muttered and headed back. He didn't want to go to the bridge,so instead he entered his ready room and sat down with a heavy sigh of relief. He picked up the Shakespear book on his desk absentmindedly and began to read.

"That's odd..." Picard muttered. He didn't recognize the beginning of the book. He closed the book to look at the cover and make sure it was the same one.

He froze when he saw what the book said.

"Once upon a time..." he read aloud. Then he whipped around and out of his chair. Ashatan stood behind him.

She smiled. "Never underestimate the power of a story."

THE END

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