Ael decided to take care of the dinner matters herself later in the morning.  She looked over the lists for the staples already within the larders.  Perhaps some fresh roasts and fish would do for the main courses.  She would have to go shopping for the rest of the items that she wished to have.  Aiodann would know better, she was trained for this.  But she realized that she did know what to have prepared.  Perhaps this Stardancer was a Head of House on her homeworld. 

	Tr'Relvor was pleased to see that she had gotten well started on the preparations for the meal.  He was inviting a base leader, Arrhin.  She would be influential in future contacts within the senate.  Several other people around the district would be invited also.  Tr'Relvor really couldn't stand parties or the routine double-dealing that was a fact of Senate and Triumervate life, but he was not above the occassional dinner party.  

	She found that she enjoyed being out in the local shopping districts.  Aiodann, Triel, and several other house servants went with her.  It was a beautiful day.  Eisn was warm, a breeze scented with flowers flowed through the town.  She couldn't help but laugh and stretch her arms out in delight.  The other servants smiled tentaively at her.  She soon bought enough flowers, linens, and foods to feed the fleet.  Delighting in the ability to stamp Tr'Relvor's seal on the bills, she found a place to sit and sent the servants to the flitter with the items and purchased wine for them all.  

	While they sat against a fountain and sipped the wine, Ael found delight in seeing the children play.  One little girl from the flower stall next to the seats ventured over to her with a torn doll.  She held it up to her entreatingly, thumb stuck in her mouth and a face grubby with crying.  

	"What happened, de'destra?"

	"My brother tore my Richan."  She turned to stick her tongue out at a older boy standing at the stall.  He had a vivid green mark on his face.  Probably punishment for causing problems.  She picked up the little girl and set her in her lap.  Triel and the others flinched, but Aiodann took the doll from her and brought out her portable sewing kit.

	"Thank you Aiodann.  What's your name, little one?"

	"Ael."  

	She smiled and cuddled the child to her.  "My name's Ael too.  Aiodann will fix up your Richan as good as new.  What's your brother's name?"

	"His name's Markov, my daddy's dead, and my mommy works there."  She pointed with a grubby finger at the flower stall.  A young dark-haired woman stood there helping some customers.  Markov stood glaring at his sister.  Ael motioned for him to come to her.  He came, scuffing his feet, a wave of hair falling into his eyes.  He flipped it back defiantly.

	"Why did you tear your sister's doll?"

	He mumbled something and scuffed the dust again.

	"Child, stand straight and look me in the eyes.  Rhiannsu take responsibility for their actions."  She commanded.

	Startled, he did, his eyes full of fear. 

	"Answer me."

	"Because I have to watch her.  She's gonna get sold anyway, so why do I have to watch her?"

	"Sold?"  The child in her arms began to cry, clutching at Ael's chemise.  Evidently, the child didn't know that she was to be sold.  

	"Sometimes, children are sold into servitute to pay for debts or to bring extra money to families who have too many children."  Aiodann answered quietly.

	"That's barbaric!  Bring your mother here."

	Pale faced, he did so.  The woman looked at Ael and blanched in fear.  But she did as she had been told to do.  The woman bowed nervously in front of her.

	"Why are you selling your own flesh and blood?"

	"If you please, great lady, my husband is dead and my family will not take me and both my children, just myself and one child.  I cannot afford to stay where I am now on what I earn here."  

	Ael thought for a minute.  "Have you done any other work?"

	"Yes, great lady.  I served in a senator's household as a freed servant." 

	"Serving as a trainee to the hru'hfe.  If I am not mistaken?"

	She looked surprised.  "Yes, great lady.  How did you know?"

	"I saw you suggesting flowers and decorations for parties and coming of age celebrations.  Also, you have no callouses on your hands, just scars from thorned flowers.  Aiodann, you have need of a trainee?"

	"I can train her.  Any household can use a good hru'hfe  The children I can train also.  We could use her in the nursery."

	"Good, when can you come to the House of Tr'Relvor?"

	"Tr'Relvor?  The Primus?"

	She smiled in amusement.  "Yes, Tr'Relvor."

	"In two days, great lady."

	"Done then.  By the way, I am no great lady.  I am just Ael, Consort to Primus Tr'Relvor."  She stood with little Ael in her arms, then handed the little girl to the mother, ruffling her hair as she did so.  "Report to Aiodann at House Tr'Relvor.  I'm sorry, I didn't get your name."

	"I'm Richan ieTel'Rathchon."  

	"Good.  I will see you in two days."  With that, she turned and led the servants back to the flitter.

	On the way back to the estate, she thought of the woman's plight.  So many people had died in the attempt to obliterate the Dominion.  Why would a person have to sell their own flesh and blood?  She thought of H'daen.  He would be returning home soon from his first sessions of testing after he had been accepted as Tr'Revlor's adopted son.  L'Cheth had been jealous about that.  He and N'helveth had planned to adopt the boy themselves.  But Ael and H'daen had been drawn together as if the boy had been her own birth-son.  Adopting him had assured Tr'Relvor a heir as well as keeping the boy with Ael.  Perhaps he and little Ael would get along.  The brother would be trained as a servant to H'daen as well as run little errands for Tr'Relvor.

	"Aiodann, did I do right?"  She asked her.

	Aiodann looked from the flitter's window to her.  "It isn't my place to say whether or not it's proper.  But...."

	"Yes?"

	"I think so.  A part of the estate's earnings and investments does go to the governmental charities but a lot of families will not use them."

	"Why not?"  Then she realized, she couldn't live without H'daen.

	She looked uncomfortable and shifted in her seat.  "It's said that the Tal Shiar does some of their conscripting from them.  Suicide missions mostly.  Also, those that wish for Unification are usually found out and they disappear."

	Ael leaned back in the seat and shivered.  "Have the Rhiannsu fallen to use children in our causes?"

	"Mistress!"  This came from both Aiodann and Triel.

	"I'm sorry.  I guess that it was more a philosophical question than anything else.  I guess in my long illness, I've forgotten to keep my lips closed about certain matters and feelings."  She smiled at them.

	Despite her effort to dispel the quiet, no more was said until the flitter came up to the house.  Aiodann bullied her into resting the rest of the afternoon.  She did until Tr'Relvor returned at Eisn's end.  She needed to talk to him before Aiodann.

	She was too late though.  She heard Aiodann's voice in the room with Tr'Relvor's.  She was reporting her day in the town and the conversation afterwards.  Ael became angry.  She felt something poke her lips and felt her hands tingle.  In horror, she saw that her hands looked like claws.  Looking around frantically, she ran to her bedroom.  Locking the door behind her, she staggered to the vanity and peered in the mirror.  Shaking, she opened her mouth.  She about fainted from what she saw. 

	Her canine teeth, both lower and upper, were longer.  Also her nails were longer.  She jumped up and ran to the 'fresher.  Slucing ice-cold water on her face helped her gain control of herself.  When she looked in the mirror again, she was herself.  But her head started to hurt again.  Her face was rosy with fever.  

	'No.  No.  Not again.  Have to get help.' She thought to herself.  Her head began to swim and she staggered to the bedroom to see the door controls overriden and Tr'Relvor come in.  He saw her, then she felt something brush in her mind.  He frowned and yelled for Aiodann, just as she fell into velvet darkness.

	She was in the grassy field again.  The air still smelled of springtime.  'What in all of the hells known is happening to me?'  She thought to herself as she spun in a circle, looking for anyone.  She began to walk forward.  

	"Hello?  Is anyone here?"

	"Yes.  And don't yell.  We can hear you just fine.  Follow the sound of the waterfall."

	"Why should I?"

	"Because if you want to live, you'd better listen to me and learn about what you really are."

	Cursing, she followed the sound she heard.  Soon, she came around the ridge and saw a beautiful crystal waterfall that seemed so familiar and closed her throat with homesickness.

	"It's beautiful, isn't it?"

	She whirled.  The same woman was there again, smiling at her as if she had done something funny.

	"Why am I here again and what is this place?"

	"You brought yourself here with your reaction to your anger.  This place is a place of our own memory."

	"What do you mean?"

	"We are not Romulan.  But you aren't ready to face what we really are.  You have to consciously remember.  I can't tell you what to do, but I will tell you that someone else close to you has done this to us.  You have to remember who did this and why."

	"If I wanted nonsense answers, I'll consult a cleric.  I want the truth."

	"You're not ready for your truth.  Go back."  Katresha waved at her.  Then she woke up.

	"Damn."

	Ael sat up and looked around.  Night had fallen, and Tr'Relvor was sitting out on the window seat, his shirt was undone and he held a cup in his hand.

	"Jha'Dur?"

	He looked at her.  "Are you all right?"

	"Yes.  I guess I did too much on my first day out.  But I felt so energetic."

	He chuckled, set the cup on a table and went to her.  Sitting down on the couch next to her, he squeezed her hand.  "I heard all about it."

	"Damn her.  I wanted to tell you."

	"I know, but I want to know what you meant in the flitter on the way home."

	"Oh, that part.  Is it true that the Tal Shiar use children to do their dirty work?"

	His face darkened angrily.  "Who said this?"

	Ael said nothing.

	"Who said this?"  His tone was menacing.

	"Aiodann."

	"It seems my housekeeper kept something from me.  Well, what the Tal Shiar does or does not do is none of your concern.  You need to be concerned with is getting better and serving me on my ship.  Where you belong.  Just watch what you say out loud in the future.  It could get you in a place where I can't help you.  You however, did something decent.  I could use a runner and H'daen could use a playmate or two.  I'll have a tutorial program started for the two of them. "  He smiled at her and scanned her with a tricorder.  

	"No fever, but the physician left this for you to get a good nights sleep in case you woke up tonight.  Rest and we'll take care of things in the morning."  He pressed the hypo to her shoulder.  She felt her eyes begin to close with a kiss on her brow.  She had no more dreams that night.  

	The next day, Richan showed up with both children in tow, carrying pitiful bundles of their things.  Little Ael ran up to her and demanded to be picked up.  Richan was horrified but she laughed, sweeping up the child and tossing her high in the air.  Then she handed the child to her mother and led them in the house.

	About an hour later, Aiodann reported that the trio had been cleansed, dressed in the house livery and issued rooms.  Richan would sleep in a wing that had been converted into a nursery.  Ael, Markov, H'daen, and two other children of the estate would live there.  Richan would be in charge of them.  Richan herself then reported to her.  Tears stood in her eyes.  

	"Lady, I cannot say enough to thank you for this chance."

	Ael laughed and handed three pendants to her.  They were the proof that they needed to wear to show that they were a part of House Tr'Relvor.  Once on, it took a laser cutter to get them off.  

	"Don't thank me yet.  You've yet to be by yourself with all five of them.  Aiodann and Triel have been looking for a person to take over the nursery.   I'll issue light duties to Ael when she is older, but Markov will be H'daen's playmate and bodyguard as he grows older.  H'daen can be a handful."

	"I will do my best, great Lady."

	"Richan, I've told you before, I'm no great lady.  Just Primus Tr'Relvor's consort.  I'll be displaced when he finds a wife."

	Richan touched her arm.  "To me, you are a great Lady, and he would be a fool for displacing you."

	"In some households, you could be beaten for your frankness."

	Richan snatched her hand away and backed away in fear.  Ael reached for her.  "But not around me.  I like frankness, but you should learn to curb your tongue.  Understand?"

	Richan understood.  "Yes, great Lady."

	"Then go, you've a lot to get in order in the nursery.  I'll send the other two children to you when the mothers have a chance to move them."

	She turned to go.  "He still would be a fool, Lady."

	"That's why the Elements made Woman."  She retorted, laughing.

3


	H'daen made his appearance later that day.  He ran into her room and climbed up into her bed.  He buried his face into her lap.  "Mama, mama.  I missed you.  I hated being gone from you."  

	She lifted him up and cuddled him on her lap.  He smelled like warm earth and young active boy.  He cuddled close to her and soon dozed off.  She gently lowered him to the bed and stretched out beside him to look at him.

	He had changed so little in the past month.  They had cut his blond hair short, but he had apparently grown out of his clothes.  Six years old...he would need a sword.  She stroked his hair and found herself falling asleep yet again.    

	When she awoke, she felt disgusted with herself.  It seemed to her that all she did was sleep.  But, this was a natural, undrugged sleep, and it felt better and more refreshing than all the times she had been drugged.  

	H'daen was still asleep.  She kissed his forehead, stretched, and got up.  It was late in the day.  She got dressed and left to find Richan.   She was in the nursery regulating the placements of the cots that the other children would sleep in.  H'daen's room was already prepared with a place for Markov to sleep.  Richan saw her and commanded the children to come and make their bows to her.  They did so prettily, but with the clumsiness of youth.  

	"How are things coming Richan?"

	"Very well, my Lady. I noticed that Lord H'daen was asleep with you and I didn't want to disturb him.  So, I came here to finish up the placement of the furniture.  "

	"Good.  The children will be eating here in this wing tomorrow night.  They will need to stay here until the guests leave."

	"I understand, Great Lady and I do obey."

	She smiled and went looking for Tr'Relvor.  He was in his office, looking over the prototype plans for BlackStar and for the gravity drives.  She knocked softly and he looked up, then began to immediately rub his eyes and curse.  

	"Ouch...I've been stooped over these plans too long.  I wanted to make sure I had everything in order for the final drawing.   Thanks for coming in.  How are things with H'daen."

	She came around his desk and began to rub his neck.   He groaned his appreciation and laid his head back.  "He's fine.  I've really missed him.  Richan has the nursery and his rooms set up.  Markov will be raised to be his servant until he reaches Phi'bresalsam.  He'll get the same training as H'daen.  The tutors and the athletic teachers will be here at the beginning of the standard week.  

	"It seems like yesterday that we re-did his D'Navassa and D'Sora.  Has it only been a year?"  Tr'Relvor sighed loudly.  

	Ael chuckled.  "Yes beloved.  Now are you sure you don't want my belly swelling with our first?"

	"Nope, I'm not eager to see that yet.  Let's see how H'daen turns out first."

	"I don't think he could be any more perfect.  I mean dear, we found him with Klingon blood on him and a bloody Klingon dagger in his hand.   I think he will have little trouble with his Phi'bresalsam. "

	He turned around and pulled her into his lap.  "I guess you're right.  But right now I can think of more pleasant things to occupy my time."

	She pulled out of his arms and straightened her chiton.  "Now now.  There's no time for this.  I have to get the house ready and you have some planning and plans to finish.  I'll see you later."  She blew a kiss over her shoulder at him.

	He began to laugh and she could still hear his laughter as she went down the hall.  


4


	The rest of the day and night passed rather pleasantly.  The next morning Tr'Relvor left to attend to a meeting of the Senate and Ael got busy with the preparations of the house.  

	She drove herself and the servants almost to the breaking point.  Everything that could be cleaned, washed, dusted, or polished was done.  She even tied her hair in a cloth and began to help.  Eisn was just two hours from setting when they completed their preparations.  Tiredly, Ael went to her room.  

	After a shower and a brisk massage, she dressed in a green and white chiton and sat down for Triel to do her hair.  Ael attended to her makeup.  After Triel finished, she bowed herself out.  Ael looked at herself in the mirror and staggered to her feet.  

	Triel had pulled her hair up into a topknot and had curled her hair where it fell in a cascade down one shoulder.  She looked like Katresha Stardancer.  Then it hit her like a bolt of disruptor fire.  She WAS Katresha Stardancer.  Everything came back to her.  She fell to the floor panting and almost overwhelmed with her memories.

	"Gods, what did he do to me?"  Katresha moaned.

	Triel knocked on the door.  "Lady, are you ready?  Lord Tr'Relvor is here."

	'No I'm not ready!  That THING stole what I am from me!' Katresha thought to herself.  But she took a deep breath.  'Jumping at the sword got me in this mess in the first place.  I need to go on as if everything is normal.'  

	"Yes, I'm ready, Triel."  Jha'Dur strode into the room and looked at her.  

	"You look great.  You'll do me proud tonight."

	"I'm glad you think so.  I'm going to see H'daen before I go downstairs."
	"All right, but I'm sure he's all right."  He looked closely at her again.  "Are you sure you are up to his?"

	"Of course Jha'Dur.  I will not disappoint you."

	He nodded and went into the fresher, dropping his clothes behind him.  

-------

	As Katresha strode down the hall to the children' wing, she extended her claws and fangs.  It felt good to do this and it felt good to be herself.  She knew that she would have to be more careful than ever.  Instead of retreating within herself like she did to save herself the last time, she would fight.  H'daen would be the only thing she would regret missing, but  a thought came to her.  'Why couldn't I take him with me?  Mother and Father would love him.'  Well, she knew that that would take time to consider and work out.  

	H'daen and the other children were eating at a makeshift banquet table.  Richan acted as the hru'hfe, standing at H'daen's right hand.  H'daen saw her and came to her, bowing over her hand and kissing it.

	"My mother is most welcome at our feast."

	She bowed back.  "My son is most welcome, but I must go.  I have another dinner I must attend, but save me some dessert."

	He laughed and threw himself into her arms.  "I love you, mother.


Part One

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