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A Storm of Shadows
Jessie awoke slowly the next morning, her brain clouded from the heavy sleep. It wasn’t long, though, before recollection of the prior night’s events came rushing back to her. She also realized that Akari must have slipped something into the juice she had given her when they had gotten back to her room, as there was no way she would have drifted off to sleep as quickly as she had, especially considering what she had experienced. Shaking off the fog, she swung her legs over the side of the bed, steadying herself until the mild lightheadedness had passed. Making her way into the small adjoining bathroom, she brushed her teeth before taking a brief shower. She found those ablutions, maintaining that little bit of normalcy, kept her from going into a complete panic. The fact that she was already there didn’t register; she had one sole focus, and that was getting off the ship.
Eying the white caftan with disdain, she pulled the sparse towel tightly around her body as she went back into the main room. She had noticed a small door the day before, and upon opening it she found a couple of simple caftans, one cream and another a pale lavender. She grabbed the lavender one, pulling it on without a thought, just a means to cover herself. Jessie was racking her brain, trying to remember the layout of a ha’tak. Surely some escape pods were located not too far away. At this point the chance of suffocating in the vast darkness of space was preferable to what she was facing inside the ship. Determined to search the current level before venturing to the level above, she was just about to leave the room when the door opened with a whoosh, startling her. Her level of panic revved up a couple of notches when Kutkh strolled in.
Kutkh wasted no time in launching his next step. "Miele, I’m glad to see you’re awake," he said as he came into the room, careful to keep his surprise for her hidden behind him. "We will be reaching our destination soon, and I’m going to be busy for the next few days." Looking at her closely, he was pleased with his current decision. He could see she was close to the breaking point, but he was also certain what he had planned was going to avert that. "I’ve asked Akari to look after you while I’m gone and see you get settled in your new quarters."
Jessie watched the Goa’uld warily. He was too damned chipper for her liking, and her warning bells were going off in spades.
"I do have a favor to ask of you, though."
Nope, way too smug for her liking…something was definitely wrong.
"I would like for you to watch over something for me. As you will come to find out, I’m not like Lord Ba’al—I don’t obtain pleasure in torturing others. And as much as I hate to admit it, it bothers me when he does indulge his…appetites." By this time Kutkh had slowly made his way over to her, until he was standing directly in front of Jessie. "Occasionally, my protective instincts get the better of me, and I try to discretely intervene. Sometimes I’m successful…other times, not so much."
Jessie took a small step back. He was getting into her personal space, and the look of the cat that ate the canary wasn’t sitting well with her.
"If what I’m about to ask is too much, just tell me so. But, you’ll be saving her from a nightmare you can’t even begin to imagine…that is, if you’ll agree to what I ask."
‘What in the hell is this idiot babbling about,’ Jessie thought to herself, annoyed that her expedition for a means of escape was being delayed. Her annoyance was taking precedence, at least until she saw what Kutkh was hiding behind him.
"I keep my eye on the markets, since I rotate my supply of odalisques fairly frequently. Occasionally I purchase slaves who would be destined for Ba’al’s attention. This," he said as he stepped to the side, "is Candrima. If you wouldn’t mind watching over her, it would keep her off of Ba’al’s radar."
Jessie had to make a conscious effort at keeping her jaw from dropping open. When Kutkh stepped aside, she saw the small girl who had been standing behind him. She couldn’t have been more than 4 to 5 years old; pale, translucent skin, silver blonde hair and innocent, baby blue eyes. Every protective instinct that Jessie possessed flared to life in that moment, and when she looked at Kutkh, a smug look of satisfaction encompassed his features.
"If it’s too much to ask, tell me now and I’ll see that she’s sent to the antro dos deuses. Ba’al had specifically requested one fitting her description," he said as he reached out and ran his hand gently over the top of the little girl’s head, "but I just couldn’t bring myself to turn a blind eye and let her go to him. She’s nonverbal, which is probably why she ended up in the market to begin with." He smiled at the child, before directing his attention to Jessie. "She could be classified as a handmaiden for you. At least it would prevent her from…well…" his voice trailed off as he let the sentence hang between them.
‘You son-of-a-cock-sucking, mother-fucking bastard,’ she thought as she stared at him in shock. At that moment she realized he knew what she had planned, and he had effectively cock-blocked her with the one thing she couldn’t turn her back on. How he had known she wasn’t sure, but her fate was sealed as soon as she looked into the little girl’s eyes. There was no way while she was still drawing breath that she could turn her back and leave the child’s fate in Ba’al’s hands.
"So? What is your answer, Miele?" Kutkh watched as that trapped hysteria drained from her expression, and was replaced with a dejected resolution.
"I’ll watch over her," she said softly, realizing she was setting herself up as the sacrifice instead of the child. Candrima…it meant ‘light of the moon’. Ironic that the light of the moon would end up condemning her to the abysmal darkness she was desperately trying to escape from.
Kutkh tried not to gloat, but he wasn’t able to hide it completely. Reaching out, he cupped his hand against Jessie’s cheek, stroking his thumb against the soft skin. "I appreciate you doing this for me. And…if you please me…I’ll make certain Candrima remains safe."
Check, and mate. In one smooth move, he had won the battle. And they both knew it.
It wasn’t long after Kutkh left that Akari appeared, leading them to where they would ring down to a location…where, she had no idea. From the looks of things it was another outpost similar to Neowe, a place they obviously stayed at often, given the permanency of the surroundings. Jessie found herself and Candrima housed in a rather spacious room, compared to the sparse surroundings on the ship. A larger closet and adjoining bath were the main differences, as well as a more comfortable bed and a small recessed seating area. There were no windows, but the room was well lit. Akari made sure a small bed was provided for Candrima. If what Kutkh had told Jessie was true, she was glad the child would be close by. The less they saw of Ba’al, the better.
The next few days passed uneventfully. For the most part Jessie and Candrima stayed in their room, with Akari bringing their meals to them. Apparently what Kutkh had said was true; the young girl never spoke, though was a sweet-natured child. Akari, on the other hand, ended up being a fountain for information. As far as Kutkh, Akari informed her that he had the equivalent of a stable of women housed at their current location, his own ‘antro dos deuses’. Jessie was hoping with a variety of feminine wiles at his disposal, he would be distracted enough to leave her be, at least long enough for her to figure out where the hell they were at and how to escape. The odds of that had decreased significantly, however, especially since she wouldn’t leave Candrima behind. She pondered her options while watching the little girl playing with some toys in the sitting room.
After their evening meal, Candrima climbed up onto Jessie’s lap as she sat in the chair, dragging a small blanket behind her. She cradled the little girl in her arms, and Candrima snuggled down contentedly. Even though she didn’t speak, she did seem to understand Goa’uld. As the child relaxed against her, Jessie began humming a lullaby. Her mind continued to try to work out her dilemma as she sang softly in Goa’uld: "Kel ma kree, sha’shan, kel na t’ai. Or’intani, kel han’dai, iti sha’shan han’dai." As Candrima drifted off to sleep, her slight weight was nothing compared to the weight bearing down on Jessie’s heart—missing Cam, her friends, playing a twisted game of cat and mouse with a Goa’uld, and now responsible for an innocent child’s life. She wasn’t aware of the tears slipping down her cheeks, only of the warm little body cuddled against her.
She wasn’t sure what made her look up, as there had been no sound. Needless to say she was surprised to find Kutkh standing in the doorway, watching her, an unreadable expression upon his face. For a split second her panic flared, but just as quickly died down as he turned without a word and left the room. Deep down she knew…she was running out of time.
By the following day, Jessie was even more depressed than before, if that was possible. She had managed to do a bit of exploring, yet still had no idea where the hell she was. The fortress was heavily fortified, so getting past the guards to whatever lay outside the walls hadn’t been possible. What had upset her was when Akari had taken her on a tour of the odalisque quarters and introduced her to some of the other women. The chilly reception by the young women didn’t bother her—it was their names. Aside from Samar, she met Senka, Tzili, Audra, Hatiti, Thora, Hekili, Reeham, Varsha and Yagmur. Senka and Tzili’s names both translated into ‘shadow’, Audra into ‘storm’, Hatiti into ‘wind’, Thora and Hekili into ‘thunder’, and Reeham, Varsha and Yagmur into ‘rain’. It was like a huge cosmic joke at her expense, fate taunting her with her predicament. Part of her wanted to scream ‘I get it, I screwed up!’ If she had had any idea how Thoyetlini’s third prophecy was going to manifest, she wouldn’t have gotten out of bed that fateful day. All in all, though, it was too late. Jessie had no choice but to deal with the situation the best she could. She couldn’t afford to let Kutkh know she wasn’t who she pretended to be, couldn’t let it be known that she was a part of the SGC, especially with Ba’al so close by. She was walking on thin ice, and she knew it. Circumstances had managed to keep Kutkh at bay for almost a week, but she knew that wasn’t going to last much longer, and there wasn’t any excuse she could use, either. The injuries she had received were a moot point since he had personally healed her with the sarcophagus. Any physical complaint from her would just land her right back in there, and Daniel had thoroughly briefed her in the past about the detrimental effects of the device. Truth be told, physically she felt perfectly fine, except for an occasional twinge in the lower right side of her abdomen from the staff blast. Oddly enough the sensation was vaguely familiar, but she had too much on her mind to focus on that minor annoyance.
Late that afternoon she bathed, then took a short nap with Candrima. Upon awakening, however, she found herself alone. Laid across the chair was a turquoise silk halter-top and matching skirt, the sides slit thigh high. A tiny scrap of fabric served as an undergarment, silk ribbons tying on either side to hold it in place. She stood in front of the chair for the longest time, barely breathing, as a single tear slid down her cheek. Every fiber of her being screamed out against what was going to happen, wanting to be back on Earth, back in Cam’s arms. She had no idea how many light-years lay between them at the moment. However, when all was said and done, there was going to be a lot more that lay between them, and she wasn’t sure it was going to be something they’d ever be able to overcome.
At that moment Akari entered the room. If she realized the depths of Jessie’s distress, she gave no indication, other than assuring her that Candrima was safe. Without another word, she began to assist Jessie in getting ready.
Kutkh had given strict orders to the servants that evening. Once Miele joined him, they were not to be disturbed for any reason. A light meal was laid out, along with other surprises. He had his suspicions that Miele was not exactly what she appeared to be, but he kept those observations to himself. He had been dealing with Ba’al and his demands for arranging the upcoming meeting, so he hadn’t been able to devote his full attention to the attractive yet elusive young woman. He had decided, however, that tonight was the night he was going to embark on her training.
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