A Prophecy Fulfilled
Location: The Briar Patch: Ba'Ku
The path slowly started to widen out as Rosaleen made her way through the dark, the firelight from the village finally visible through the trees at the edge of the forest she had been traveling through for the last two hours. The sounds of music and laughter reached out to her...beckoning her in with their welcome calls. But she did not allow the serenity of the village atmosphere to in any way give here a false sense of ease. This was a dangerous path she walked...even more so than the one a few days before.
As she walked over a short bridge leading into the village center, people started to realize that a stranger was among them. The laughter and song slowly was replaced by whispers and warnings. Not since the Enterprise crew departed had a stranger walked amongst them. Yet here one came, walking into their fold as naturally as an old friend. As she made her way better into the light, those closest to her saw a young woman who's eyes betrayed her appearance...a young woman who looked weak and unimposing, but exuded great power just the same.
Ran'ja got to his feet as the stranger approached. He noticed that she seemed remarkably in control of herself. The outlander looked like one of the... what was the name... Federation species... humans. That was it. He remembered the stories from those days, and remembered that one of their people had had red hair and the same fair complexion. Red hair was not particularly common among the Ba'Ku.
However, he had to respect her poise and bearing. She didn't appear to be visibly armed, yet she seemed utterly in control of herself and at ease with the situation. There was a hint of something in her eyes that he couldn't quite read. Blaming it on a trick of the shifting firelight, he put it aside as he moved to greet her. "Greetings, traveler. It's rather late to be out and about. I would invite you to share our fire and our hospitality this evening."
Another cloaked figured standing around the campfire moved forward into the light. Alruv had gained respect as a voice of reason among the elders, but the sight of a stranger approaching their campfire in such a manner shaded his body language ever so slightly. Despite the obscuration of the cloak, a well-trained eye could spot that his posture was defensive in nature. Whatever the case, he did not speak, seemingly content to allow Ran'ja to do so.
"I thank you." Rosaleen replied, untying her cloak and placing it beside her as she sat on a small bench that was unoccupied, hoping that they took her action as a sign that she was hiding nothing and opening herself to them. She consciously kept every aspect of herself under strict control. "The light which guides provides warmth as well. I am Rosaleen." She decided to stick to her given name rather than her Ka'Bu one for the time being.
Ran'ja watched attentively. An outlander with a general knowledge of their ways... Interesting. He noticed no hidden weapons under or in the cloak, and as it would be impolite to loom over her he came to sit beside her on the bench. He noticed that the others gathered at the campfire were being noticeably quiet; with a smile and a subtle sweep of his hand he indicated that the evening could, in fact, continue.
The sound of the fire crackling was rejoined by the low murmurs of conversation. Perhaps those who had gathered did not sense a threat from their new visitor, or perhaps they were taking their cue from Ran'ja. Whatever the case, the rest of the Ba'Ku returned to their evening festivities, allowing the heretofore silent Alruv to angle himself into the conversation between Ranj'a and the visitor.
Rosaleen. The name was similar to those in their tongue. Some still recalled the visit from the ship called Enterprise.
As Ran'ja sat down, he looked over at his companion. He knew he could only get away with this because of Alruv's presence - and he didn't think Alruv was unwise. Caution had just never been one of the guiding stars for Ran'ja. "The light also throws shadows, though not always willingly; the brighter the light, the deeper the darkness. What light guides your path this evening?"
"The light of friendship, and of hope." Rosaleen replied, amazed at how things had progressed so far. There was something about the presence of these people. She felt...
"I do not wish to intrude, good sir. I came to make sure that nothing was amiss here, and nothing more. The ones that you met before....things have changed within their structure. I had fear that there might be another attempt to take what you hold so precious." She had already decided that honesty was the only way to proceed. So far she felt that she had managed to hold herself at a safe distance from the gathered...that she managed to conceal her trueness from them.
But she was making mistakes without even realizing it. Rosaleen was speaking with Ran'ja and Alruv as she did with those in the place that she had traveled to. And in her comfort, she was allowing herself to warm a bit.
"But I see that there is no danger here..." She continued. "...so just consider my words as thought. The path is clear at this time, and I will work to ensure that it remains so." She looked around at the people, most of whom had cautiously returned to their activities, especially the children. Her warning was now delivered, so there was no further need for her to stay any longer. She knew that she was pushing her luck, but...she was finding it difficult to gather the will to rise and depart.
Ran'ja's countenance darkened. "And would this attempt to take from us be supported from within their structure, as it was last time? Are you working from within their structure? Anij counseled us about her experience with this... Federation. She believed them fundamentally good, but with certain undesirable elements." He took a breath. "This is unsettling news, to say the least. But one does not hold the message against the messenger."
Something seemed very slightly off to Ran'ja. This person knew too well how to phrase things to set him at ease. Strange that an outlander should know us so well with no mention of their passage from other villages., he thought. He looked between the visitor, this Ros'aleen, and his fellow elder.
"Let us consider," Alruv broke his silence. "I find it to be a... helpful exercise to imagine yourself in the others place. It provides... perspective. So, Rosaleen, you are a traveler from the Federation that has come to warn us about danger emanating from the Federation itself. The Ba'Ku have seen this... dualistic nature of the Federation before. My colleague would be wise to recall the difference between the one called Picard and the one called Dougherty. So now, only one question remains. Are you Picard? Or are you Dougherty?"
"One could say that I hold the essence of Pikard, but the reflection returned is my own." She responded. It was as if she were back on the path she had first traveled, only much more comfortable...and yet difficult at the same time. "I hold a uniqueness that did not exist before. We no longer play the characters written in somebody else's story...we are now writing our own."
Time to go time to go time to go.......
"The path I walk today was to provide you with a warning, so as you could be better prepared for any divergence. That task is now complete, so I shan't be a bother to you further. I apologize for my intrusion, and promise you no further will come unless absolutely necessary." Rosaleen reached for her cloak in preparation to depart.
"Friend, we have no reason to distrust you," Alruv commented. "Think of it this way. No matter what your motives may be, what can the Ba'Ku do against the Federation? Your warning will not go unheeded. Now please, sit and stay by our fire. You must be weary after a long journey," he reached out to prevent Rosaleen from retrieving her cloak, slightly brushing against her arm as he did so. Alruv looked up, expression unchanged.
"Please stay. I insist."
The surge of panic Rosaleen felt when Alruv made contact with her was almost uncontrollable. Visually the signs were not significant enough to discern, but internally she was doing everything possible not to jump up and run as fast as she could. She sat unmoving, looking at the ground for a long moment as she brought herself under control, not daring to make eye contact until she did so. Finally...slowly, she looked up with eyes uncertain of what to expect. "I'm...I'm sorry. I just did not wish to intrude."
'Why do you not want me to leave!' Her inner voice screamed. She was fairly certain that she had followed proper protocol.
So given all of her options available, she choose the easy one...redirection. "The Federation as you know it no longer exists. They have no official or legal jurisdiction in this region anymore. If they come...we will fight them and defend your sovereignty. There will be no expectations attached to that. It is just what is right, and we will not allow it to be otherwise."
This revelation troubled Ran'ja. Another upheaval in the area was not a welcome prospect, especially since it would take a rather major event for the Federation as he had heard of it to be displaced. "In that context, I think we're back to the question of who you are in a broader sense. You clearly distinguish you and yours as not of the Federation as we know it. This begs the obvious question of who you now represent or serve, and how this is different from that which we already know."
He smiled. "I'm not doubting you or your good intentions. But recent external interference was almost disastrous to our people, so the news that there might be further external interference, from any quarter, is distressing. And I know some of our elders would pay more attention to it coming from you than from us."
Despite her best efforts Rosaleen cooled a bit. "Why would they pay more attention to me?" She really wanted to escape from there. "Surely they will listen to their own...kind over an offworlder." She switched her attention from Ran'ja and locked her gaze onto Alruv. Her eyes now resembled ice crystals, and the temperature dropped noticeably. In her rising panic, Rosaleen was loosing control...and not even aware of it. "You no longer require my presence here. I do not belong here. Please...." A lone tear made it's way down her cheek.
"Perhaps the legends are true," Alruv's voice faded into the night. His mind was working overtime, considering a host of factors that were beginning to tip the scale away from coincidence. There was the brief moment of contact and now, the temperature gradient was far greater than any normal atmospheric phenomenon could produce. Then there was the hair.
"You are, of course, free to go Rosaleen. I very much doubt we could keep you here even if we wanted. Forgive me if I overstep," Alruv continued, "but I do not think that you have been completely forthright with us this evening. Like my friend here, I do not question your motivation, but I do question the journey that brought you here."
At Alruv's mention of the legends, Ran'ja drew in a slow breath as he bit back an oath. The host of little details that seemed not quite right did seem to point towards legends of the distant past. But it couldn't be... Anyhow, as the outlander seemed to want to interact with Alruv at the moment, Ran'ja was quite content to observe and think this through a little bit more.
~'Please don't hurt me...'~
The sharp gust of wind awakened her to the fact that she had let her control slip, and in no small manner. Rosaleen closed her eyes...concentrating on her breathing first, the working her way through the rest of her systems. Pulse, temperature...slowly re-centering herself. Why was she in such a panic? Did she feel threatened in any way? No, there was nothing to indicate that anybody present meant to harm her in any way, or that there was even a hint of negative thoughts directed toward her.
What was it that she was truly afraid of?
Finally she opened her eyes, once again in control. "Please accept my apology. You have given me no reason to fear for my safety. You welcomed me without question. You have been nothing but hospitable and tolerant of this off-worlder, who has violated the sanctity of your existence. I...I should never have come here, but found another way to give you warning."
Ran'ja sighed quietly. "You did what you felt was your duty in warning us of an outside threat, and you're doing it in a fairly unobtrusive manner. It's not your fault that our last external conflict started because of a breach in secrecy. That may have led us to be a bit less willing to accept things on face than we were in the past."
He looked at Alruv. "If I'm terrifying you somehow, I apologize. We truly have no intent of holding you captive, and as Alruv says I sincerely doubt we could. We just want to understand, and we sense there's more afoot here." He looked at Rosaleen. "If you tell me with a steady gaze and a calm voice that you've told us everything we should know, I'd be inclined to believe you."
Rosaleen's eyes took on a different appearance, but her gaze did not waiver as she switched her attention to Ran'ja. "Everything that you need to know has been said. But there is an unasked question that holds itself between us. Even so, before that can be considered, you have to ask yourself this. Are you truly prepared for the answer?" She stood and move to stand before Ran'ja, then reached out to take his hand into hers. The effect was indescribable. Every sensory receptor in his body suddenly became more alive, and centered focus on Rosaleen. "Is your society prepared for the answer?"
She dropped his hand and turned to walk away, but only moved enough to place a few extra feet between them. "My fear is solely rooted in my inability to gauge your reaction to that which is unspoken." She turned her head to look over her shoulder at Ran'ja once again. Her eyes were alive with icy fire now, her defenses fully in place now. "What is it that you have invited to sit by your fireside tonight?" She turned her head once again to face out into the darkness.
Alruv caught a quick glance from Ran'ja, which caused the older man to pause and smile ever so slightly.
"It is time you made these decisions without any guidance. Go, I shall support you my friend."
Ran'ja nodded and moved to Rosaleen's side. "To answer your question, I think we've invited a friend."
She turned her head, looking up at him shyly. "How can you know this? You know nothing of me. Who I am...or what."
He chuckled. "I'm told I have good instincts. But they're only instincts, not oracular abilities. If there's something we need to know, I'm not going to be able to pluck it out of your head."
For some reason all fear was gone from Rosaleen. Instead she found that she was inexplicably drawn to these people. She had allowed herself to forget...to choose to think of them as an enemy poised to lash out with anger and malice. Instead, she was rapidly starting to think of them as something completely different. She was starting to think of them as...
Rosaleen moved to stand directly in front of Ran'ja. "If that is what you choose to think of me as...a friend...then for your purposes that will suffice. I have not come to cause any more disruption to your way of life than necessary to deliver my message." She then turned her attention to Alruv, slowly walking toward him as she continued. It had grown noticeably quieter around them as more and more of the assembled villagers focused more attention on the trio. "But I must say, I am a bit surprised. I was always taught that curiosity was a trait of the Ba'Ku, that you were, above all...explorers. Even once your travels from the path had ended, and you choose your meadow, it was thought that you still held on to that trait, the insatiable thirst to know all that is around you."
She stopped within inches of Alruv. He could feel the temperature warm at her approach, and the air around them seem...charged, for lack of a better word. Like a strong energy field had settled around them. Her eyes were of a crystal blue he had never seen before. "So I ask you one last time. Are you satisfied with the simple conclusion that I am a friend, and that is the only reason I came to warn you, or..." She reached out and placed a hand on his chest. The effect was beyond anything he had ever experienced in his life. "...do you hold within you the courage and desire to expand your ability to understand that which stands before you with burning temptation. Do you dare to take the apple, and if so do you dare to take a bite?"
Ran'ja felt the heat and the energy field even from where he was standing. It enlivened a certain boldness in him, although it may have just been the heat getting to his fraying temper. "Our native curiosity is still functioning just as strongly as ever, thank you very much. And since you seem to refuse to let the question drop, and seem to refuse to walk away until we ask you to tell us something else you clearly think we should know, allow me to restate your question. Who is it that we have invited to sit by our campfire tonight?" Ran'ja's eyes flashed in the firelight, the set of his face indicating that progress of the conversation - in one fashion or another - had become a priority.
And in a blink of an eye she stood before Ran'ja once again. She stared at him silently for a moment as her mind ran through the even. 'How in the hell did I just...' She knew what had occurred...she had slowed everything around her and moved through the moment. That was not unusual for her to accomplish. What was unusual was that she had not even thought about it. It just...well, happened. But there wasn't time for that now...
She suddenly giggled out loud. Apparently there was time for that, but...no wait. What was she...she was having trouble focusing. 'Control Étaín...control.' She looked up into his eyes with an intensity that rivaled his own. "Family." Was her simple answer.
Ran'ja felt all the old legends snap into place in his head with a thud he was sure was audible. However, while his brain was trying to process all of that, it was failing to do anything else that might be considered useful.
After a couple of minutes, Ran'ja pulled himself together. He looked back at the outlander...though the term probably didn't apply as well any more. "It would seem that our old legends do have a basis in reality..."
"Everybody comes from somewhere, my friend. History just doesn't disappear...it merely gets lost from time to time." Rosaleen was doing everything she could to remain relaxed. He was starting to understand. This was the crucial moment.
"The implication being that you either came from here, or more likely given the age of some of those legends, you came from our homeworld back in that particular era. Meaning you and yours, of course..." It had been such a nice quiet night by the campfire. The runes hadn't particularly predicted this. Of course, that was one reason he was skeptical of the things, but they did help with interpretations from time to time.
"I can promise you I did not come from here. I was born on Earth. My mother was born...elsewhere. A very long time ago." She walked over to the fire and knelt by it for a moment, staring into the flames. "Nobody else needs to know of this if you wish."
Ran'ja shook his head. "I think you've got that backwards, Ros'aleen. Nobody else needs to know of this if YOU wish. It's your history to tell, not mine to give." He chuckled. "Though it will upset some of the old-timers who swore up and down that all the legends were merely that. I don't imagine any danger if the secret becomes known, just more excitement."
She looked up at Ran'ja. "I feared for you to know. It was thought that you would resent us. It was thought that you would bring harm unto us if we ever revealed our existence to you."
Ran'ja nodded. "That insatiable thirst to know all that is around us still breeds true. No harm will come to you here." He looked over at Alruv, trying to get a measure of his thoughts.
"I always wondered what this homecoming might be like. There have always been stories, but today, they transition from legend to reality. At my age, the line between the two is greatly blurred," Alruv chuckled softly, before addressing a statement made by their newest friend. "You purposely use the word 'us.' May I ask who else?"
"My mother...she is one of the true ancients. My best friend and commanding officer is a newborn like myself. Her mother is an ancient. And a few others. There are probably more that carry the DNA of our kind, but have not met the circumstances to awaken that which lies within." She stood and walked over to the two men. "We differ from you...it is odd. As we all come from the same beginnings, one would think that we would have the same gifts. But from what I have studied, this does not seem to be true."
"Every creature is unique. At the very least, each and every story is unique," the Ba'Ku elder replied with the slightest nod. "I am glad that a new chapter may be beginning, but current events require our attention. The threat that you describe is. . . troubling to say the least."
Rosaleen's features dropped a bit. "Yes, it certainly is. This is something that you must take very seriously, and you need to be prepared to defend yourself if necessary. But there is a bit of good news with this development as well. Kathleen now has a free hand to use whatever she has at her disposal in any manner that she chooses." A sly grin spread across her face. "That includes a lot of very disgruntled Marines. Hopefully either the new council is too busy with internal politics to bother with this region, or they will realize what it could cost them. Either way, we are prepared to offer you any assistance that you request. No strings attached."
Ran'ja nodded. "I can hear some of the more entrenched elders now. Accepting any outside assistance brings us into closer contact with outside cultures that may or may not have our best interests in mind." He let out a derisive snort. "Fortunately for the purposes of this conversation, they are a vocal minority. I hope that it won't come to requiring your assistance, but I'd be willing to present your offer to the other elders in a positive view." A chuckle. "It wouldn't do for us to get overrun before we rediscover our heritage, after all."
"That would be wonderful. I think that this will have a better chance of a positive reception if I keep my distance for now. I am also authorized to extend an open invitation to you to visit our station. I know that you cannot leave here for long, but for short trips it should be fine."
Ran'ja nodded again. "I would look forward to that, once the opportunity presents itself. If you would prefer to keep your distance from the Council, I would have to say you are wise beyond your years. However, in your absence, I hope you have some other way for me to present your message - and more to the point, the information underpinning it - to the Council? Preferably one that doesn't appear that I got all this information from a fever dream?"
Rosaleen reached into a hidden pocket and retrieved a mini-PADD, then handed it to Ran'ja. This should provide all of the data that you need. Additionally, at our landing site we will leave a portable subspace transmitter. That PADD will lead you to it. That way if you need to get in touch with us you can."
Ran'ja looked at the PADD and made sure he was basically familiar with it. "I'll go and pick it up once you're well away. On the off chance someone else beats me to it..." He then gave Rosaleen a verbal code that would indicate that would identify he was communicating and not under duress to do so. He then gave Alruv a look. He was picking up on the hint that their visitor wanted to be on her way.
Rosaleen gave them a warm smile. "I will return, I promise. That is...if you wish me to. But for now there is much I need to attend to. We have to get things organized in the sector quickly. If you require anything at all, you need but to ask. Again...no strings attached."
"All I can ask for now is that you keep us informed of anything that would be a major impact on our society. The transmitter will be kept secured and monitored." Ran'ja half-bowed from the waist. "And I, for one, definitely wish your return as circumstances and duty permit."
Rosaleen nodded in return. "I shall take my leave then. May you always have walls for the winds, a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire, laughter to cheer you, those you love near you and all your heart might desire." With that, she turned and quickly vanished into the darkness.
Ran'ja watched her go, keeping his own counsel as that mane of red hair faded into the darkness. Oh, tomorrow is going to be interesting...
Written by Masters
Written by Matheson