by Audrey Lynne
Note: The title is Goa'uld for "Friends well met," according to Arduinna's awesome translations, and it seemed appropriate for this piece.
Syed, son of Sa'kem, son of Ka'del, drew the curtain to his room in Egeria's palace, on the planet known as Tethys. While he was Jaffa, he knew he lived a privileged life, as compared to the majority of his people. Jaffa were Goa'uld slaves, treated as second-class citizens in most of the galaxy, but on Tethys, that was not so. Egeria was Goa'uld by birth, but she had a change of heart, and being a queen, had literally given birth to the Tok'ra-a small but fierce group of Goa'uld who followed her and were against Ra and his ways. In fact, they hated to be referred to as Goa'uld; they didn't want to be associated with the very ways they despised so much.
Egeria had long ago freed all her Jaffa, though she'd hoped they would stay and continue to serve her by choice. Many had, as they were dependent on larval symbiotes for their lives, and Egeria treated them well. A few Jaffa had refused to believe she was not a goddess, for that would have meant Cronos, Ra, and the other system lords were not gods, and that shook their belief systems too much. They had left, never learning of her plan to rise against the Goa'uld, and she had let them. The rest of the universe had known only that Egeria was a servant of Cronos, and that was what she wanted them to think until the time was right and her forces had grown strong enough. She suspected Ra might know of her "traitorous" work, but she had simply become more careful...until recently.
Not long ago, before the last moon was full, Egeria had been on the planet Pangar, and had been presented with an unexpected opportunity to strike Ra down. Sadly, he had been more powerful, and the Tok'ra queen had been defeated. Grief and uncertainty had ruled the Tok'ra and the Jaffa allied with them, and nowhere had that feeling been felt more strongly than on Tethys. Egeria had a palace there, and much of her work had been orchestrated from the planet Cronos had left her to rule. Many Tok'ra remained, living in harmony with the humans on the planet, and while bases had been established elsewhere, most of Egeria's Jaffa lived on Tethys as well. Those who served in the palace also lived there. Syed's grandfather, Ka'del, had been serving Egeria at the time she'd had her great revelation, and he had been among those who had chosen to stay when she set the Jaffa free. As he had told his children and grandchildren many times, he would rather have served a just cause than be a slave to an evil one elsewhere.
The Tok'ra had a leader on Tethys now, and though she was reluctant to take over in the wake of Egeria's loss, Selmak knew someone had to. She had been given Tethys by virtue of the fact that she was the oldest of Egeria's children currently living on the planet-there were others, but they had gone to bases elsewhere. Syed suspected Selmak hoped one of her peers might return and want to take over the position she occupied, but she knew the humans on Tethys who had loved Egeria, as well as the younger Tok'ra and the Jaffa, needed someone to turn to. She would be that person, for as long as she had to be. Syed trusted her. In fact, his grandfather had been the Jaffa who carried her in her infancy, long ago, and Selmak and Ka'del had always been friends. Syed had known her since childhood, and he had pledged his allegiance to her as well. He would defend her and her people, as well as the people of Tethys, with his life-or, if need be, his death.
Syed continued to set up candles in preparation for his nightly session of kel'no'reem. For his health, he only needed to perform the meditation every other night, but it relaxed him, and so he did it more often. Also, it allowed him more flexibility in case he encountered interruptions in his schedule.
It seemed one of those interruptions might occur that night, as there was a soft knocking sound from the doorway. "Syed?"
Syed recognized the voice immediately, and hurried to pull back the curtain and allow Selmak admittance to his room. "May I help you, my queen?"
She frowned. "Do you have to keep calling me that, 'my queen'? The trouble is, I'm not."
Syed didn't understand what she meant. "I serve you willingly, but that does not make you less of a queen."
"Yes, but genetically, I'm no queen, not like Egeria was." Selmak sighed softly. "The lack of population growth among my people concerns me, but I'm also concerned for yours."
"As there will be no new symbiotes to replace the ones we carry as they mature," Syed finished. "I understand. It is a problem that needs to be addressed, but it isn't an immediate concern. Queen Egeria left some young symbiotes hidden, where they could be away from the prying eyes of the system lords."
"Yes, and some of those clutches are hidden, but she left us clues to find them." Selmak's eyes were distant, as if she were lost in thought. "However, that only takes care of the issue for another ten or twenty years, and in the grand scheme, that isn't very long. I only wish there were a way to end the Jaffa's reliance on symbiotes."
"As do I." Syed chanced putting a hand on her lower arm, near the wrist. "I know your people have begun to search for one. I hope you find it, but you also must know that I would rather die than become a slave to a false god. If I die, I die free."
Selmak didn't smile, but she came close. "I can understand that sentiment, and I admire your dedication. I hope I can live up to the trust you've placed in me."
"You will," Syed assured her. "You already have."
This time, she smiled. "Thank you. You're a good friend." She extended her arm, clasping Syed's in a traditional Jaffa greeting reserved for those they respected, and Syed returned the gesture. "If there's anything you need-you or anyone else-never hesitate to ask. I can't promise I'll always be able to fulfill the request, but I will try." Selmak glanced down at the floor for a moment, then raised her eyes again, favoring Syed with a fond look. Her host, Priscilla, had beautiful eyes, nearly as blue as the water of Ceresia Falls. Priscilla was naturally shy, and rarely assumed control, but Syed would follow her just as readily as he would Selmak.
Speaking of following her, Selmak never had said why she'd come. "Would it be improper of me to ask the reason for your visit?"
For whatever reason, she appeared to find that amusing. "I suppose you could say I was in search of someone to talk to. Priscilla is a fine companion, but she lacks the outsider perspective on the situation I wanted."
"You are always welcome to come to me," Syed told her.
Selmak inclined her head in thanks. "I appreciate that-and you, of course, are free to come to me as well, any time you might need me."
"Thank you," Syed told her. "Is there anything else you wish you discuss as long as we're together?"
Selmak shook her head. "Truthfully, no. The same problems still await me when the dawn arrives, but I do feel somewhat better about them. Garshaw will arrive soon, from Belote where she has settled, and she will bring several young Tok'ra with her. She trained them herself."
"Will you ask her to assume your position as leader?" Syed asked.
"Tempting as it may be, I know her place is on Belote, training the young ones Egeria hid there. Many more have not reached maturity yet, and they will need someone to guide them after they blend with their first hosts." Selmak adjusted her gown slightly. "If Perseus comes, I may speak with him about the matter. I do love my people, and this planet, but I feel I can serve the Tok'ra better as an operative. It's what I've done most of my life."
"Whatever path you choose, you will have my support," Syed promised her.
"Thank you." Selmak's smile was a sad one, but it was not without hope. "Time will tell what the future of the Tok'ra will be. For now, I must serve as well as I can. It's all any of us can do."
Syed nodded. "Your words are wise."
"I hope so. I rely on Egeria's teachings to guide me, but even in her great wisdom, she failed to anticipate everything that might come up." Selmak's expression shifted abruptly, becoming more impish. It was a side of her Syed saw more often than other Jaffa, but only because he had known her so long. "But enough about that. When the sun rises, we'll have the same problems we have now, only they will be older and so will we. Therefore, I see very little reason not to enjoy the rest of the night." Her eyes flickered to the candles on the floor. "I will let you return to your kel'no'reem. My apologies for keeping you from it."
"None are necessary. Our friendship takes precedence."
"Thank you, again." Selmak turned toward the doorway, as if to leave, but then paused. "You appear to have something on your mind as well."
"I fear for your safety," Syed admitted. "If Ra executed Egeria as a traitor, it is only a matter of time before he sends his forces after your people, her children."
From Selmak's lack of reaction to his statement, Syed knew this wasn't the first time Selmak had considered the possibility of such danger. "We have discussed the idea that we may need to move underground someday, if the Tok'ra continue to be hunted throughout the galaxy, especially now that Ra knows of us and our goal. He will tell the other system lords, and we would be fools to believe they will do nothing about it. We have crystals, which can create tunnels, and if we must flee this planet and this world, on the next world, we will build those tunnels. You, of course, are welcome to join as, as well as the other Jaffa who remain loyal to our cause, but I warn you, the Jaffa of the system lords have been mislead by Goa'uld lies. They will not hesitate to call you sholva or murder Tok'ra 'traitors,' and we will fight back. I hope one day our two races will not become enemies, but I fear, in time, it may happen despite our best wishes."
Syed had thought about the same thing, but as Selmak had pointed out earlier, it did no good to worry about the things they could do little about for the time being. "Yes, it may happen, but Egeria's Jaffa are loyal to her children. We will defend you by any means necessary, even if it means taking the lives of our misguided brethren. Hopefully, one day, they will see the truth and join with us, but Goa'uld lies are difficult to fight."
"Yes," Selmak agreed, then frowned. "As much as I enjoy our talks, Syed, I must admit, this has been a rather depressing one. Inspiring at times, yes, but depressing."
He couldn't really argue with her. "I suppose it has."
"Tell me something more cheerful before I leave," Selmak requested. "Good news, a joke, anything."
"A joke?" Syed echoed, contemplating her choice of words. "I could tell you a joke I heard recently, from a friend who recently returned from his infiltration among Apophis' ranks."
Selmak brightened. "Please do."
Syed inclined his head toward her. "As you wish." He paused, then began to relate the joke. "A horus guard, a serpent guard, and a setesh guard meet in a neutral territory. It is a tense moment..."