DISCLAIMER: Star Trek Voyager and all who sail in her belong to Paramount/Viacom and no infringement of copyright/trade marks is intended. The Dungeons and Dragons Roleplaying System is owned by Wizards of the Coast and no infringement of copyright/trademarks is intended. The only thing I would like to lay claim to is the original D&D character used in this story.
WARNING: This story deals to some extent with the subject of rape, and although by no means graphic reader discretion is advised.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
PAIRING: Seven/female

Arana's Tale
By Kudara

Chapter 7

"The time is 0500 hours," I awoke upon hearing the voice of the computer, and remembered the day before. Sitting up, I looked outside the window at the streaking stars and felt a sense of wonder--and more than a bit of doubt. This world was so different from mine; the change was even greater than when I left the Ilmater Order to become a Paladin. Yet it was what Torm required of me; and I knew that he would not ask more than I was capable of achieving.

I grinned ruefully, reminded of the training lectures I had given over the years; now it was time for me to be in training once again. "Oh well "I told myself, as I had stated to my students more than once, "don't expect Torm's idea of what you are capable of to be easy. Just know that it can be done if you give all of yourself to accomplishing it."

With that I rolled out of bed and onto the floor and began my morning stretches, mapping out my morning as I did so. I figured I had an hour to work out, an hour to pray, and then 30 minutes to bathe, 'recycle' my clothing, and get dressed. Something told me that Seven and the children would arrive precisely at 0650 hours.

An hour later I was feeling more awake after as strenuous a workout I could manage without weights or the assistance of another. I resolved to inquire of Seven whether the ship had some type of gymnasium.

Quieting my mind, I knelt on the floor and allowed my sense of the room to fade away. I concentrated on feeling the divine energy around me and began drawing it into myself. As I did so, I chanted in silently the dawn words of praise to Ilmater. It had been years since I had received a personal visit from the Crying god, so I was surprised when I heard his gentle voice responding in my mind.

"The children you freed are safe within my Temple at Waterdeep. You bore the lashes of my sister bravely, my priestess. Know that you are where we need to be at this time. Learn these people's customs and their technology, and learn what you can of this place. The Lord of Darkness is showing a keen interest in this realm. Torm has detected the presence of his follower's here, but we do not know his devices. You must be our eyes and ears on this plane. Hopefully you will learn something that will give us insight into what his plans may be."

I felt his power move through me, and realized that I had been given the knowledge of more priestly spells: the ability to call down divine fire upon an enemy, to restore someone who had their strength or powers drained by another, and the ability to heal another of poisoning through my clerical skills instead of using my Paladin ability – all this had been taught to me.

Now I needed to choose words for the somatic component of the spell. I shrugged; I had always used elven words for this so why not continue? I decided to use ur, the word for fire, for the divine fire spell. I choose the word entulesse for the spell to restore drained abilities, as it was the elven word to return something, and the negative of the word poison, avasangwa, for the spell to cure poisoning.

I continued my meditations once those essential tasks were completed, and quickly realized that my 'pool' of divine power had increased as well. After finishing the hymn of praise to, I immediately began the dawn hymn of praise to Torm. By the time I had finished both, an hour had passed; and I climbed to my feet and quickly went into the bathing room to strip off my clothes and shower.

I was used to bathing quickly, and I still had twenty minutes remaining when I recycled my underclothes and then stood in front of the replicator trying to decide what to wear that day. "Historical garments; renaissance; male." I told the computer, repeating the Captain's suggestion of the day before. When the pictures of the different garment styles showed up on the screen, I quickly choose the doublet style and then the Mantua style from among the possible doublets.

The Mantua differed from most doublets in that it laced along both sides under the arms instead of down the front and down the sides. This style of doublet had a single front panel, usually of brocade, then panels under the arm holes; two short square panels in the front and one rectangular panel in the rear at the bottom of the garment made up the waist. Rolled corded banding ran along every seam, and the arm holes were decorated with inch thick banding.

I had loved this very style of doublet on Faerun, where it was called the Waterdeep' but the difficulty in getting it correctly tailored, as well as the cost, had limited my wardrobe to only two of these. With this replicator, however, it was amazingly easy to create a garment that fit perfectly.

I choose silver and emerald for my colors, and then picked out an emerald green high necked shirt and emerald green trews. I dressed and examined myself in the full length mirror provided in the bathing room with a critical eye and sighed at my milk pale skin. Anyone looking at me immediately knew that one of my parents was a moon-elf. At least I could wear all the jewel tone colors; earth tone's, however, made me look jaundiced.

I had to chuckle when I realized I had been frowning unhappily at my modest bosom under the silver brocade. I reminded myself that, if I were as endowed as Seven, that I would ruin the clean lines of the doublet; and it wasn't as if anyone ever mistook me for a male, so I obviously had enough of a chest.

I admired the effect of the outfit, how it brought out the blue tones in my skin and emphasized my eyes. Once again I was thankful that I came from uncommonly tall parents; if I had been five foot four or so as most half-elven women, I would, quite frankly, look rather silly in this style of clothing. But at five foot nine, I had the height and leanness needed to look elegant in them.

I grinned to myself, remembering how I had a reputation for being one of the more vain Knights of the Order. It was true; and I was not ashamed to lay the blame squarely at my father's feet. Moon-elves were, after all, known for their perfectionist taste in clothing. 'I will just have to resign myself to developing that same reputation aboard Voyager,' I thought to myself with a smile. I quickly combed out and rebound my hair and asked, "Computer, time please."

"The time is 0646 hours," it replied.

I nodded to myself and went over to the window and stared out at the passing stars. "Talk about a view to make oneself feel humble" I thought. Curiously, I wondered how many of the myriad stars had planets with people of some type upon them. Certainly I had noticed many different types of races last night. Neelix was certainly different from any other person I had met, but I had noticed at least three other races besides the humans present.

"Seven to Arana," came the sound of Seven's voice over my combadge.

"Please come in, Lady Seven," I replied, guessing that she was waiting just outside the sensor range of the door.

I stood up in time to greet Seven and the four children who entered with her, "Good morn to you all. May Ilmater and Torm's blessings be upon you."

I looked curiously at the children. From Seven's descriptions, I guessed that the tall teenage boy was Icheb, a good looking young man with close clipped coal black hair and a prominent ridge running vertically from his nose to his hairline. A silvery implant along the ridge was all that remained visible of his Borg past.

The two younger twin boys were Azan and Rebi; Seven had called their race Wysati, and they differed from humans only in the ridged line of small bumps that extended from their nose up their forehead. The remnant of their Borg past was a small copper colored disk on their left temples. The girl had a prominent ridged nose, but the ridge ended just above her eyebrows. I knew this must be Metozi, and I could tell by the direct, curious look she gave me that she was probably a handful at times.

"Children, this is Champion Arana. Do not touch any of her belongings," the last was said as the children caught sight of my mithryl armor and weapons, and after an initial curious look, I was deemed much less interesting that it, at least for the present.

Obediently the three younger children held their hands behind their backs and continued examining the armor intently. Icheb stood by Seven, dividing his attention for the moment between the armor and myself. I smiled at Seven, who was wearing the black civilian uniform over the modified biosuit. "You look lovely this morning, Milady, the uniform well suits you." She raised a brow in response to my comment, but I did elicit a small smile from her, as well, in response.

"You must be Icheb," I said to him with a smile.

"And you are Champion Arana," he replied with a shy smile.

"Seven said your armor is made of mithryl," said Metozi, "but I couldn't find any alloy called that in Voyager's database."

I nodded, "Mithryl may exist only in Faerun; it is a magical metal, smelted and forged by the dwarves deep in their mountain halls. It is stronger than any other known metal, even admantium, and much lighter as well."

Metozi nodded. "You have pretty hair," she announced.

"Thank you, you do as well and those are nice braids," I replied.

Seven shifted, apparently impatient, "We must leave for the mess hall or we will be late."

I grinned at her, "Do they stop serving at 0730 hours?"

"No, but the children's day is arranged to allow for the greatest number of activities. Beginning our meal late will disrupt the planned schedule," Seven informed me seriously.

I blinked at this and glanced at the children who had muted mutinous expressions on their faces. I sighed to myself thinking that Seven had a lot to learn about children, but it wasn't particularly surprising that she had no idea what she was doing wrong. Still this was the wrong time and place for such a conversation, so I simply nodded. I also wanted to discuss with her the message I had received from Ilmater, but it too would have to wait.

As we set off to the mess hall, Metozi moved up to take my hand and walk beside me, "If you want I can braid your hair," she offered.

I smiled at her pleased, "I love braids but they look terrible if I try to do them myself. I would be happy to accept your assistance, Metozi."

She grinned back at me obviously pleased by my answer.

As we got on the turbolift for Deck 2 where the mess hall was located, Seven asked me, "Did you receive the Captain's message, Arana?"

I groaned, "I knew there would be something I forgot. If I received it on the console machine then, no, I have not read it."

"You do not have to use the one in your quarters; if you do not mind accompanying us to the science lab for the children's lessons you can use the one there," Seven responded.

I grinned at the children, "Perhaps I should join them, I know nothing about all this technology. Now if you want to know the best way to kill a red dragon, however, I could teach you quite a lot." We stepped out of the turbo lift and walked toward the mess hall.

As we walked into the mess hall, we seemed to attract quite our share of attention--most of which seemed to be focused on Seven and her new uniform, and the rest upon me. Metozi's next question firmly established me as the preferred focus of attention, "You killed a red dragon?" she asked with doubt obvious in her tone.

"Not alone; I was assisting my silver dragon friend to protect her hatchlings," I answered.

We had stepped in front of the serving window and I smiled at Neelix, "Good morn, Neelix, what wonderful culinary creation have you made for us this morning?"

"Ah, Champion Arana, lets see; we have some eggs we picked up a few planets ago, and my first attempt to make hash browns," Neelix said with a cheerful smile.

"Some of each please, Neelix," I replied.

After he had handed me a plate, I went to sit down with Seven and the children who were all having the liquid nutritional supplements she had consumed the night before. The mess hall was still unusually quiet, with frequent short glances being directed at our table. Most of those glances were openly curious, a very few bordered on hostile. Those people I quietly memorized the faces of and resolved to find out what exactly the Captain had written last night.

"How did you know the silver dragon," Metozi asked me.

I hurriedly swallowed my first taste of the eggs, finding them to have an odd flavor that I could not tell if I liked or disliked. "Ah, well," I said remembering that first meeting with Alessea fondly. Not surprising since she had ended up being my first lover since my childhood. "Silver dragons have the ability to transform themselves into the form of a human. Lady Alessea was very beautiful as a human, lithe as an elf, with silver hair that flowed down her back, and the deepest blue eyes."

I paused, remembering her and wondering with some sorrow how she was and whether or not the Order thought I had perished at the hands of the Lovitarians. "I did not know that she was a dragon for several months after I first met her. I was still a squire at the time and we had become… rather close companions before she told me. It came as rather a shock to know that she was a silver dragon and that she was 230 years older than I." I grinned ruefully at myself, remembering well the day she had informed me of her other identity.

I glanced at Seven and got a rather narrow eyed look in return; I could sense her annoyance. I blinked, confused by her reaction; then I realized that Seven, at least, had correctly deciphered my words and realized that Alessea and I had been lovers. Seven might have not reacted to my acknowledgement of my attraction to her yesterday, but she was obviously reacting with what looked suspiciously like jealousy now.

"That was over ten years ago though; our paths went different ways a little over a year later. When I met her again two years later, we were still friends but not as close as we were before." I said the last words while looking directly at Seven, letting her know that I meant that Alessea and I had decided not to be lovers after we met again.

"It was during that time that she got pregnant and laid her eggs. She invited me to come and see them after they were hatched and I accepted." I paused and smiled at Metozi, "That was when I got the opportunity to go dragon back riding."

I took a quick opportunity to finish my eggs, then began speaking again. "I rode most of the way up into the mountains where she was nesting, and left my mount at a reputable inn for my return. Alessea had sent a map of the mountains with her invitation, and I made my way on foot from the inn to where she wanted to meet me. It took me a few hours, and it was almost noon before I arrived."

I took a sip of what Neelix had called orange juice, a pleasing drink both sweet and tart at the same time. "Alessea was an adult dragon of course, so meeting her for the first time in her natural form was a bit intimidating."

Icheb asked curiously, "How large is an adult dragon?"

I pondered his question for a moment then hesitantly answered, "I would say thirty five feet tall, and maybe ninety foot long including the tail."

"What did she look like?" asked Rebi, the first I had heard a word out of either twin.

"Well, all the good natured dragons look exactly like the metal they are named for: Bronze, Brass, Copper, Gold and Silver. The scale patterns and crest along the top of their body differ greatly among them. Silver dragons are also called shield dragons for the large scale plates they have on their heads and along their throats and undersides. There are only four scales that cover their entire heads. One covers their entire muzzle up to just below their eyes, another covers the area around their eyes, and two smaller ones on either side protect their horns." I paused to sip some juice and hoped that my description was making sense.

I glanced at Seven and the children and had to smile at the intent looks on their faces. A quick look about the mess hall revealed several people openly listening to my tale. Some of them had similarly intent looks; some of them had openly skeptical expressions. One caramel skinned woman with rather prominent bony ridges running up her forehead was openly frowning at me as I met her gaze. I sensed a muted hostility radiating from her that puzzled me, for I did not know who she might be or why she would dislike me. The only thing I could tell was that she was wearing the same uniform as the two crewmen from last evening.

I shrugged and continued my description, "The silver and brass dragons have one crest that runs from their heads along their backbone to the tip of their tail. The crest is several feet tall except for a short area just in front of the wing joints. The wings themselves on a silver or brass dragon are just like the wings on bats." I paused for a moment then asked, "Do you have bats here?"

Five heads nodded almost in unison, and Seven said, "Yes they are native to Earth, small winged rodents that use sonar to navigate."

I nodded, "Sounds like the same animal; perhaps you can show me a picture of one."

"It is time for us to leave for the science lab; I will bring up a picture of one," said Seven. I glanced down at my mostly uneaten hash browns, as Neelix had called them, and sighed. "But we will wait and allow Arana to finish her meal uninterrupted by any more questions first," Seven finished. Thus, with five sets of eyes on me, I quickly finished my breakfast trying to eat as politely as possible under their scrutiny.

We left the mess hall after disposing of our dishes and headed for the science lab. From the looks I got as we left, I knew I left behind some disappointed listeners as well; but Seven seemed adamant about sticking to the children's schedule. Once we arrived at the lab, I looked around with curiosity at all the strange pictographs that covered the walls and at the round raised disk that was set off to the side in an alcove very like the area in sickbay I had first found myself in yesterday.

After first bringing up a picture of a bat and receiving my confirmation that the creature was the same as the bat I knew from Faerun, Seven started the children on their day's lessons. She indicated that I should follow her over to the alcove and showed me how to open the messages stored for me in the computer. This lead to the discovery that I could not read Federation Standard, nor after the combadges were instructed to stop translating, could I understand spoken Federation Standard.

Seven looked a bit dismayed at this, "You will need to learn written and spoken Federation Standard before we can start your other lessons."

I nodded and indicated the messages, "Is there anything in these I need to know, Milady?"

Seven glanced over the two messages waiting for me, "This one is the ship wide message Captain Janeway sent out at 2300 hours last night. It details Starfleet policy regarding harassment, and includes statements by the Captain, Commander Chakotay and Lt. Commander Tuvok that there has been ongoing harassment of one of the crewmembers and that this behavior will not be tolerated. Any further offenses will result in official reprimands and possible punishment in accordance with regulations. The second message is from Captain Janeway requesting your attendance at the senior staff meeting this morning at 0900 hours."

Seeing my look of concern Seven said, "We have 45 minutes before the meeting. I will prepare a course of study for you in the meantime to begin learning Federation Standard." With that she began tapping quickly on the console. and within a few minutes she indicated that I should take her place there.

Displayed on the console was what were obviously letters and numbers. Thus began my first lessons in Federation Standard. Thirty minutes later I felt I had a pretty good grasp of the first few lessons, at least I had moved beyond the basics into learning actual words and basic sentence structure. I had been ignoring the children's chatter and it took Seven touching me on the arm to draw me out of my intense focus on the information in front of me.

"It is time we left for the meeting, Arana," Seven said as she glanced over my shoulder to see where I was in the tutorial. I thought I saw an approving look ghost over her face as she saw where I was in the lesson.

I took the opportunity of our journey to the Briefing room to tell Seven about my communication with Ilmater. I did not have the time to answer her first question as to who the Lord of Darkness was before we arrived at our destination.

"Captain Janeway will want to know of this," Seven said as she paused outside the door. I nodded in reply and we stepped forward toward the doors which opened as they sensed us.

When we entered the conference room, Captain Janeway, Commander Chakotay, Lt. Tuvok, the Doctor, the dark haired hostile woman from the mess hall, and two males, one light haired with blue eyes and the other dark haired with dark eyes, were already present. When Seven and I walked into the conference room, the officers whose names I did not know looked surprised at my presence.

I paused at the door to nod respectfully to the Captain and greeted her, "Good morn, Captain, I trust this new day sees you well?"

"It does, Arana, thank you," she replied with a smile.

I turned to Commander Chakotay, Lt. Tuvok and the Doctor, "Gentlemen, good morn; I hope you had peaceful rests." The three of them either smiled or, in the case of Lt. Tuvok, nodded, in response and indicated that they had indeed rested well.

Greetings finished, I walked over to Captain Janeway and in a voice low enough to not be overheard said, "I was graced with guidance from Ilmater during my morning prayers. He informed me that some of Bane's followers have been detected operating within this realm. That is the reason I was sent here, to try and find out what they might be planning."

She had looked at me in surprise at first, and her expression changed over the course of my statements into a slight frown. "Somewhere? The Delta Quadrant is a rather large place to look for someone without more specific guidance. You're going to need more information than that to even start a search. And who or what is this Bane?"

I started to answer but she interrupted, "I'll want to discuss this in the meeting anyway, there's no reason for you to explain it twice."

The Captain sat down in her chair and immediately those who had been having low voiced conversations stopped and turned their attention to her. As there were no seats left, I simply stood by the Captain's left shoulder.

"I'm sure some of you already know about the newest addition to our crew, but I'd like to make formal introductions this morning. This is Arana, Champion of Torm and Priestess of Ilmater, from Faerun. We aren't quite sure where it is located, except that it's not in our galaxy and it might be located in some type of parallel universe. Arana, you already know Commander Chakotay and Lt. Tuvok from last night. My other officers are Lt. B'Elanna Torres, Chief Engineer; Lt. Tom Paris, Helmsman, and Ensign Harry Kim, Operations Officer."

I nodded to each of them as they were introduced, noting the name of the caramel skinned woman who now looked rather confused instead of hostile. I wasn't sure what had prompted the change, but it was a welcome one. Lt. Paris and Ensign Kim had expressions of confusion mixed with keen interest upon their faces.

"What is a Champion of Torm?" asked Lt. Paris examining me with curiosity.

Captain Janeway smiled at him, "Have you heard of a Paladin, Tom?"

Lt. Paris looked surprised, "Ah… a holy warrior?"

I nodded to him, "As good a definition as any. I was a Paladin of Torm for three years before I was chosen to become one of his Champions."

His eyes got wider, "So, some type of elite Paladin?"

I shrugged uncomfortably, "I do not think of myself as any better than any other Paladin, Lt. Paris. I have just been singled out by Torm for more… difficult duties." I noted Lt. Torres' expression out of the corner of my eye, and recognized it as familiar to me. I had seen that same wary, uncomfortable look before, usually from people who for some reason had an innate distrust of anyone or anything religious.

Lt. Paris just nodded in response to my explanation, and I could tell that his opinion had not been changed at all by my words. In truth many in the Order thought of us as a type of elite Paladin, though many of us had been clerics as well before being chosen.

"Lt. Tuvok and Seven will be in charge of Arana's education; her world made little use of technology so she's got a lot to adjust to on Voyager. Instead of technology, Faerun used what we would term magic. The Doctor's examination of Arana has shown how this is possible. Arana has the ability to store bio-electrical energy and use it for various purposes such as healing. Arana if you would demonstrate with the light orison you used yesterday please."

I nodded, said "cala" and gestured, invoking the small globe of light above my hand; the gasps around the table at its appearance I found amusing-- though in all honesty I could see how such a thing would be amazing to a people who relied on technology to do such things.

"The globe is safe to touch, it is formed of bio-electrical energy that matches that stored by several organs inside Arana's body," said Seven.

Everyone besides the Captain and Seven came up to examine the light globe. After they done so, the Captain had Seven report on her actions of the day before. I listened intently, highly interested in hearing Seven's own point of view on how she rescued me. To my surprise, I found the reactions of those around the table almost as interesting as Seven's briefing.

It was obvious that they were not used to hearing about such things. I expected revulsion, but the amount of shock Seven's recital evoked astonished me. The second thing that surprised me was the look in Seven's eye as she did so; I hadn't realized before how much yesterday had upset her. She was keeping it well hidden behind the emotionless shell she projected, but I could see it in her eyes as she glanced frequently my way during her account.

After Seven had finished, the Doctor gave a brief report on what he had discovered about the organs that I had that allowed me to store energy. It was interesting to hear a technical description of how I could cast spells, and I wondered if the Doctor would be able to see a difference in these organs today due to Ilmater's blessing this morning.

"I also have a theory that would explain the unusual results of Arana's brain wave pattern. After extensive comparison with all known Alpha and Delta quadrant races, I found some similarities in Arana's brain wave pattern to known empathic races like the Argelian's, Napians and Human/Betazoid hybrids," the Doctor paused and I looked at him puzzled, "I believe what gives our Paladin her ability to sense whether a person is 'good' or 'evil' is that she is empathic."

I was puzzled by the word he was using, my combadge was not translating it into my language either. "What is this Federation Standard word you are using, "empathic"? My communications badge is not translating it into Common."

I received looks of universal surprise from around the table; even the Captain swung around in her chair to look up at me. Before the Doctor could speak, the Captain said, "It's the ability to sense other people's emotions, as opposed to telepathy which is the ability to read thoughts. Were you able to sense good and evil in people, Arana, before you became a Paladin?"

"No, Captain. I received that ability when I became a Priestess of Ilmater. Thankfully I was not born with it," 'very thankfully' I added to myself and glanced at Seven as I made the last statement. I saw understanding in her eyes when I did so, though I saw curiosity in the others. "My mother was captured and made a slave while pregnant with me, thus I was born a slave as well, and remained so until my 16th year when I was freed by the Priests of Ilmater. At times my life was not pleasant; I can only imagine it would have been more so if I had been 'empathic'."

"I'm sorry, Arana, I didn't mean to bring up bad memories," said the Captain.

"It is my past, Captain; I would not be who I am today without it." I answered her.

I saw something flicker in her eyes before she replied, "I understand."

Obviously the Captain had her own ghosts and demons in the past, I thought, but now was certainly not the time or place to bring such matters up.

"Well," said the Doctor, "I would like to do further testing with Arana to determine how these abilities of her's work."

"Just don't take too much of her time away from her studies, Doctor," answered the Captain.

"Perhaps after lunch, Doctor?" I asked.

He nodded, looking eager, "That would be fine; I look forward to seeing you then Arana."

Seeing that the Doctor was finished, the Captain asked me to repeat what I had told her about how I had ended up in the Lovitarians hands.

"Why didn't you try and escape or use one of your spells to heal yourself?" asked Lt. Torres when I finished.

I looked at her and replied, "They required that I give them my word as a Paladin that I would not use my abilities or try and escape." I received several incredulous looks after I made this statement.

"You mean you just let them take you to be tortured without any fight at all?" Lt. Torres asked incredulously.

I noticed Seven frowning at her disapprovingly before Captain Janeway said in a rebuking tone, "Lt. Torres!"

"Let me guess; you can't lie or break your word?" Lt. Paris inserted his question deftly into the following silence.

"You are correct, Lt. Paris. A Paladin does not lie or break their word of honor," I nodded.

Lt. Torres shook her head and mumbled under her breath, "Sounds like a Klingon." I do not think she meant it to be over heard though, and I wondered what a Klingon was and why my being honorable reminded her of one.

"Trust me, Lt. Torres, I would rather face a thousand orcs in battle than face that particular situation again. It was a very difficult thing for me to do, but once I made the decision to acquiesce to their demands I could not go back on my oath," I replied. She was still frowning at me and shook her head at my comment, but did not say anything further.

The Captain broke the silence that fell after my comment, "Arana, if you will repeat the information you received this morning and please give us some background on who Bane is."

I repeated the guidance I received, and was not surprised when several people asked if I had more specific directions.

"The Delta Quadrant's just a bit bigger than a planet," remarked Lt. Torres shortly.

"Arana is undoubtedly aware of that fact, Lt. Torres," interjected Seven coolly.

I rushed to answer before the two women, who were now glaring at one another, could say anything else. "I am beginning to understand that this is true, Lt. Torres. However, I do not believe I am being asked to go anywhere for now. Ilmater was merely letting me know that the gate was to this realm for a specific reason. It could, after all, have just as easily been to Torm's temple in Waterdeep or Tantras. I have no doubt that when the appropriate time comes I will be given the information I need to find Bane's agents."

"So, this was just an advance warning. Any idea when you might get some specifics?" said Captain Janeway after a brief, but stern look in the direction of Lt. Torres and Seven direction.

I shrugged, "When the time is right I will be given enough directions to find where I am supposed to be. It has been thus since I first became a priestess, Captain Janeway."

She sighed, "I hate being in the dark about things that might affect my crew…. What can you tell us of Bane?"

"Bane was a moral once along with Bhaal and Myrkul. Even then he desired to be the most feared and powerful tyrant Faerun has ever known. The three of them managed to get Jergal, the former god of strife, death, and the dead, to give them his powers. Bane became the god of strife but, becoming a minor god was not enough for him, he wanted more power. So in 1358 he and Myrkul stole Lord Ao's Tablets of Fate, upon which are written the names and domains of all the gods of Faerun, hoping they would help him take some of the other gods' powers.

This precipitated what is known on Faerun as the Time of Troubles, when Lord Ao cast down the gods and made them walk Faerun as Avatars. In Tantras, Torm and Bane met in battle and they slew one another. Torm was resurrected through the power of Ao and Bane was reborn in 1372 in a place called Xvim; it is not known how he was resurrected. When he was a mortal Bane ruled his realm through fear and terror; now that he is a god he desires to rule all of Faerun and force all gods and mortals to submit to him. If he is seeking something here, then it would be a thing or maybe allies which he thinks would help him achieve this goal," I finished.

"So, what are these gods?" spoke Ensign Kim for the first time.

I looked at him, puzzled for a moment, then realized I had heard no mention of any god by anyone excepting myself in this place. "You have no gods?" I asked.

"Different cultures hold different spiritual beliefs," answered Lt. Cmdr Tuvok. "However their deities do not make physical appearances in their believers' lives."

I tried to imagine this, but it was too different for me to comprehend. The gods and goddesses of Faerun were so entwined in our lives, for both good and evil, that it was difficult to imagine what it might be like without them.

"I do not know how to answer your question Ensign Kim." I admitted. "The gods and goddesses of Faerun are powerful immortals. Some are good, such as Tyr, Ilmater and Torm. Some are neutral, such as the Red Knight the Goddess of Tactics and Tempus the God of War. Some such as Bane and Lovitar are exceedingly cruel and evil." I hesitated for a moment, "I cannot even imagine what it must be like to live where one does not have to fight against such evil."

"I believe that's enough questions for right now," Captain Janeway cut off whatever remaining questions there might be. "Arana, I believe you were in the research lab before you came to the meeting?" She waited for my nod, "Do you believe you can find your way back?"

I nodded with confidence, I was already getting a sense of the ship and Seven's explanations had been clear on how to navigate. "Yes Captain, I believe I can find my way back to the research lab," I answered.

She nodded to me, "Then that's all, Arana, the rest of the meeting will be departmental reports. I'll try and stop by sometime today or tonight and see how you are settling in."

"Seven has been most kind in that regard, Captain, she has made me feel very welcome here," I smiled at Seven who gave me a slight smile in return. From around the table I noticed several heads turning toward me with varied amounts of surprise apparent. "Until I see you next, may Torm watch over you," I directed this toward the entire table as I nodded and then turned smartly and left the room.

Outside I looked about for a moment, orienting myself, then began to carefully retrace my steps toward the research lab. As I walked I mused to myself about the open surprise several of the senior staff had shown at my comment. Did I see Seven so differently from everyone else? And if so why? was it just that I didn't see her as one of these Borg and no one else could see beyond her past?

Chapter 8

When I had managed to find my way back to the research lab I was greeted rather enthusiastically by the children who wanted to take a break from their studies so I could finish the story I had started at breakfast.

"And I shall finish telling you about Alessea and the red dragon but I think you will all agree that it would not be right to do so without Lady Seven being present as well," I chided them gently.

Four pairs of curious eyes looked back at me. Metozi said, "Why do you call Seven of Nine Lady Seven?"

"She is well born and holds a position of responsibility aboard the ship, does she not?" I asked them.

"She is Chief of Astrometrics," said Icheb helpfully.

"Then by the ways of my world her proper address would be Lady or Milady," I replied. "Except by the Captain's own request I would more properly be referring to her as My Liege or My Liege Lady."

The younger children looked puzzled by this but Icheb's eyes got wider, "From my studies that would mean that you swore fealty to the Captain?"

"Yes I did. Now enough questions, Seven will not be pleased with any of us if we do not complete our studies," I smiled understandingly as they almost in unison sighed resignedly and returned to their assigned task. Seven had left my language lesson open on the console and I returned my attention to it, desirous of learning how to read and speak the language of my new comrades as quickly as possible.

I looked up from my Federation language lesson almost an hour later to see Seven walk into the science lab and smiled in welcome, "Milady," I acknowledged her warmly.

"Arana," she replied as she walked over and looked to see where I was in the lesson. I was quite certain of her surprise at my progress this time and permitted myself a small moment of satisfaction at it. I had always been a quick study and when I felt safe, as I did on Voyager; my ability to completely focus on the subject material only improved my learning rate.

"If you continue this rate of progression you should be conversant in spoken and written Federation Standard in four more days and proficient in ten," Seven commented with a measuring look in her eyes.

I could tell she was wondering if I was actually absorbing my lessons or just skimming over them. I would be wondering the same thing if I were her. "Is there a way to have the computer only translate words that I have not yet learned, Milady?"

Seven raised a brow at my question and considered it silently for a moment, "Computer, link translation for crewmember Arana with file Arana Federation Standard Language Lesson Zero One."

"File linked," replied the computer's voice.

"Do not translate words contained in completed lessons," Seven instructed.

"Translation file limited," came the voice of the computer in Federation Standard as those were some of the words I knew.

"Thank you, Milady," I replied in Standard.

Seven nodded and briefly smiled at me, "It is time for lunch, Arana you will be accompanying us?"

"Of course, I have promised Icheb, Metozi, Azan and Rebi that I would continue telling them about Alessea and her children," I replied to her in both Common and Standard.

Seven raised her brow again at the children's enthusiastic response to my statement and I could tell she was amused. "I'm sure everyone will enjoy hearing you continue your account from this morning," she rather dryly remarked.

I could tell she was referring to the wider audience I had at breakfast and I grinned broadly at her in response, "I would hate to disappoint any of my earlier listeners."

She shook her head slightly at me, but I could tell she was amused by my response, "We should proceed to the mess hall."

As we entered the mess hall I recognized several people in the mess hall from this morning and nodded politely to Lt. Torres, Lt. Paris and Ensign Kim who were all seated at one table together. Lt. Paris stood and looked as if he would invite me over but then he saw that Rebi and Azan were each holding one of my hands and sat back down. I noticed him talking to his two companions who glanced over to give us a curious look. We all got our lunches and sat down at one of the empty tables.

I quickly ate most of my meal then looked quizzically at the impatient children, "Now where did I leave off telling you about my meeting with Alessea?" I knew of course exactly where I had stopped the story but I wanted to give them the chance to remind me. I had seen countless storytellers employ this technique and I was pleased to note it worked for me as well as it had for them.

A chorus of voices, including Icheb's quickly filled me in on the details of the story so far and then waited expectantly for me to continue. Seven gave me a look that let me know she doubted that I had forgotten anything but I blithely ignored it for the moment and gave her an innocent look that I knew was at odds with the amusement in my eyes.

The metal implant above her eye had been raised for an entire ten seconds now during my performance but I could see and sense the small smile she was hiding.

"Ah yes that is where I left off, Alessea had just landed in dragon form in front of me at the place she designated for us to meet," I nodded to them and took a preparatory drink of my water. "Now on a silver dragon there is only one place for a person to possibly sit, and that is just in front of the wing joints where their neck crest is very short and before their back crest begins. The particularly wonderful thing about that spot is the view it affords when you are airborne."

"To be certain, I thought my neck was going to snap when she leapt off the ground to get airborne, but once we had gained some height…" I paused remembering how everything had looked from the sky. "The North Mountains are tall, snow covered and rugged. They are treacherous to cross on foot and from the ground they appear rather intimidating, from the air, however, with the sun shining brightly upon their snow covered peaks they were magnificent."

"It only took us a few more minutes to cover the area from where I meet her to where she had located her lair." I smiled at the children and Seven for a moment before saying, "Dragons land much more gently than they take off so my neck was spared from further threat of injury when we landed at the edge of a scrub covered ravine. After winding our way through the short pines we came upon the cavern entrance to her lair. Alessea used a simple light spell for illumination and we made our way past several traps and illusions deeper into the mountain."

"Why did she need those?" Rebi spoke up curiously.

I frowned slightly as I pondered how to answer the question, "There are those who follow the paths of evil who would not hesitate to kill the young of a silver dragon, whether for profit or just for the pleasure of killing a good being." I could sense Seven's disquiet at my answer but the children and Icheb nodded soberly. "Eventually we reached Alessea's lair and I was greeted by five young dragon wyrmlings."

I paused for a moment and cast back in my memory to recall their names, "Let me see there were three males, Ariw, Rayet, and Seral; and two females Laess and Karysa. And they all enthusiastically greeted me when they saw their mother and I approaching." I winced internally as I remembered how enthusiastically I had been greeted, five wyrmlings, no matter how small individually, were a bit overwhelming when they were flying and or crawling over you.

"After playing with them for a few hours I found myself rather weary and hungry." I paused for a brief moment to think of how to tell the upcoming moments in my tale.

"How do wyrmlings play?" Metozi asked interrupting my thoughts.

"Well Alessea's young were only a few years old, so their play was still fairly basic. It mostly consisted of chasing one another interspersed with pouncing on the shiny paladin whose shoulder then got used as a handy launching post," I commented wryly remembering. The three children and Icheb all smiled at that and I detected more than a hint of amusement in Seven's eyes as well.

I was struck by how the children, Icheb and Seven all muted their visible emotions. I wasn't sure how much of it was intentional but they definitely all did it. Now that I was aware that my ability to sense good or evil intentions was actually sensing emotions, I was much more conscious of the fact that I was doing more than reading Seven's slight facial expressions. I was actually sensing her emotions and those of the children.

I looked again at Seven searching for the amusement I knew she was feeling and found it, but I could see how other's without my ability, would miss such a small sign. I had the feeling that I had identified one of the reasons I perceived Seven differently than many of the other members of the crew. Noting the curious faces of the children at my silence I brought my attention back to my story.

"After a few hours of play the wyrmlings were tired out and more than ready to settle down for a nap, during which Alessea and I prepared food for all of us. After we had eaten and the wyrmlings settled down for the evening Alessea changed into her human form and we walked up toward the cavern mouth to catch each other up on the past few years," I paused for a moment remembering.

"I was the one who sensed the presence of evil nearby before we exited the cavern. I quietly warned Alessea and we retreated a good distance back into the cavern to confer. Now, walking blind into a fight when all you know is that something evil is about is not my favorite situation," I admitted with some humor. "However, having a full grown silver dragon as your fighting companion evens the odds for most fights."

I paused and took a sip of my drink, this time by design to draw out the moment of revelation. "Unfortunately Alessea informed me that she suspected the creature I was sensing was an old red dragon she had caught a glimpse of a week before. Alessea hadn't seen any sign of it in the past seven years so the dragon must have recently moved into her territory. The problem was that it made a lot of difference whether or not the evil I sensed was a dragon or something else. If it wasn't a dragon the best plan was for Alessea in her true form to exit the cavern's mouth first, if it was the old red dragon the best plan was for me to exit the cavern's mouth first."

I saw mirrored looks of puzzlement on several faces and Seven raised the implant above her eye at me questioningly. I was becoming so familiar with that look of hers that I couldn't help but reflexively smile warmly at her in response to it. "All dragons love to hoard treasure, whether good or evil, but red dragons are the most avaricious of all. Each color dragon has a distinctive breath attack and red dragons breathe fire. However, if there is any chance of their target bearing treasure they will not risk melting it so they will land and attack using tooth and claw."

"That is why I would be the better choice to exit the cave first, if there were a red dragon waiting, I would be able to lure it to the ground where Alessea could attack. If Alessea were to exit first and the red dragon was waiting it would attack with its breath and follow up with a physical attack. Red dragons are physically larger than silver dragons of the same age and if an old red dragon caught Alessea on the ground she would likely be hurt very badly. In the air though, silver dragons are quicker than red dragons so it's more of an even match," I paused to take a breath before continuing and looked around at my audience for a moment.

The children and Icheb were staring at me intently, entirely caught up in the story; Seven met my eyes and tilted her head questioningly as if to ask why I had stopped. A quick look about the room verified that few people had left the mess hall, most were slowly eating their meals or finished and obviously waiting for me to complete my tale before leaving.

Lt. Torres, Lt. Paris and Ensign Kim were among this latter group and I met Lt. Torres's brown eyes for a moment before I returned my attention to Seven and the children. I found it interesting that the hostility and then confusion Lt. Torres had shown me earlier had been replaced by what seemed to be a measuring look. Idly I wondered what standards she was evaluating me by and how I would fare against them.

"Given what she had told me I choose to exit the cave mouth first, I felt that the slightest chance that the presence I felt was a red dragon was reason enough for the decision. Alessea tried to argue with me but I pointed out that she was a mother now and could not afford to take such a chance with five little ones depending on her. Our plan was simple; Alessea would change back into her true form and wait just inside the opening of the cavern while I walked outside. With any luck, we thought, I could get the red dragon to turn its back on the cavern allowing Alessea the opportunity of disabling its wing's."

"Following our plan, I walked outside the cavern mouth and looked around for whatever had alerted me. It was only after I had turned entirely around and was facing the cavern again that I looked into the eyes of the red dragon; the size of it was truly amazing. If Alessea was thirty foot tall it must have been around fifty foot tall and was perched directly above the cavern mouth." I paused for a moment remembering the dry mouthed sensation I had gotten upon turning around and seeing the terrible creature. "Paladin's are immune to dragon fear, but we are not fools, I felt a definite chill when I realized where the dragon was waiting. If Alessea were to come out before I got it to move from its perch she would be an easy target for it."

"I knew that Alessea would be watching me so I kept my gaze fixed upon the dragon hoping that she would be able to discern where I was looking and began to back away," I explained.

Deepening my voice I spoke, "'Where do you think to flee to warrior that I will not find you. Surely you do not think that your puny weapon can harm me?' said the dragon."

"He, for the voice was definitely male, was of course referring to my longsword which I had drawn when he spoke," I said in my normal voice. My eye was caught by a movement near Neelix's kitchen and I glanced over to note that the Captain and Commander Chakotay had entered the mess hall and were getting their lunches. Neelix was whispering to them in a low voice doubtless explaining why so many people were still in the mess hall.

"You do not think I would give up my armor and weapons to your hoard without a fight do you dragon, I replied to him hoping it would increase his greed for them."

"'Hmm, I smelt the scent of magic about you elf and wondered if you were a wizardling of some type. So what magical weapon have you stolen from some crypt, let me guess a dragonslayer sword!' he said to me in a mocking tone but he had taken the first step toward me. I kept backing away from him weaving my way through the scrub pines hoping he would keep talking for a while longer." I noted the Captain looking about the full room with a look that was equal parts amusement and annoyance as she sought a place to sit down with her lunch. Ensign Kim noticed as well and caught her attention and pointed to the empty chairs at their table invitingly.

"I wish it was a Dragonslayer sword, I admitted to the dragon as I kept backing away. But mine is just an ordinary magical longsword."

"He snorted and moved toward me again for red dragons enjoy playing with their prey. 'There is nothing ordinary about a magical longsword warrior as you well know', the dragon replied to me. By this time I had traversed the screening of pines that hid the opening of the cavern and was attempting to back down the side of the mountain without falling."

I deepened my voice, "'Where do you think you're going warrior, there is no place for you to hide on this mountainside, or do you think I will let you retreat until we reach the bottom?' The dragon inquired of me."

"I was having difficulty telling whether or not I had lured the dragon far enough from the cavern entrance, for it was dark and his bulk hid the entrance from my view. I could tell though, that he had moved enough so that all four of his feet were now in front of the cavern entrance. If I could only move him another fifty or so feet he would be in a good position for Alessea to attack him."

"True, I replied to the dragon. Ordinary longswords are made of ordinary metals such as iron and steel, as is ordinary armor. Mind you," I told the children, Icheb and Seven. "I was not lying; I just did not add that my armor was of ordinary metals that had been enchanted by the smith while he crafted the suit for me. The dragon of course assumed that I was implying that my armor and weapon were made of a magical material such as mithral or admantium, as I knew he would."

I got what I thought was a sardonic raise of Seven's eye implant at my acknowledgement that I was not above deliberately misleading an enemy. I ducked my head and shrugged at her, but was not particularly abashed of my behavior. I was required not to lie, which didn't include being stupidly truthful and jeopardizing the life of others to my way of thinking. "Thankfully it worked, if a little too well," I shook my head at the memory.

"He lunged at me and it was only by luck that he did not seize me in his fore claw. I had been stepping rearward when a rock beneath my heel rolled, causing me to fall backward down the mountainside just as he reached for me. Alessea told me later that she had seen me fall and decided to attack at that moment. All I knew was that suddenly the red dragon was screaming and Alessea was on the red dragon's back attacking his wings with her claws and biting his neck."

I was caught up in my own story now but I did notice that the Captain and First Officer were quietly eating at the table with their three other officers and listening to my story as well. "I scrambled to my feet and stared at the scene in front of me trying to see how I might help Alessea. For many minutes I stood helpless watching the two dragons fight, finally the red dragon lost it's footing on the loose soil of the mountainside and it fell briefly to his chest. Calling upon Torm's divine wrath I charged and attempted to slice through the red dragon's chest scales."

I took another sip of my water and a deep breath; I was lucky that I hadn't died that day. "Knowing what I do now about dragon scales it is amazing that I managed to actually cut through the scale, for they are as hard as steel and very thick. Unfortunately I didn't really do any damage to the red dragon, only enough damage for it to notice me. The red dragon mean to kill me with it's bite. What actually happened though was that Alessea noticed the red dragon's attention shifting and tried to knock its aim off enough to miss me."

"She didn't exactly succeed, though she did save my life, instead of snapping me in two the red dragon found itself with his muzzle buried in the dirt and me within its mouth standing underneath my shield which I had just managed to raise over my head." It hadn't been particularly amusing at the time but now looking at the amazed faces of the children I had to grin.

"One immediately notices when one is in the mouth of a fire breathing dragon, the stench of…" I thought the better of mentioning the pieces of decomposing meat in the dragon's mouth given the age of my listeners, "Well red dragons do not clean their mouths after they eat so they have very bad breath along with the sulfur and pumice stench of their fire. I took one breath and nearly passed out from the smell alone. I held my breath after that and started stabbing the dragon as deeply as I could from the inside of its mouth."

Matching 'ugg' disgusted expressions were apparent on the children's faces as well as some of the adults in the room. Even Seven's face was briefly touched by an expression of distaste. "Not surprisingly the red dragon was not particularly enthused by my attack and whipped his head out of the ground and tried to shake me out of its mouth. As I could tell that I was a fair height in the air at the time I braced myself as well as I could and held on with all my strength to my sword which was embedded in the dragon's mouth."

"At this point Alessea thought I had been swallowed and attacked the red dragon with her breath of cold, doing considerable damage to him. The red dragon roared, most likely in anger and pain, and I was deafened by the noise. I was stunned and forgot to hold my breath but as he had opened his mouth I was able to get some cleaner air. When I regained my senses, I found myself standing on the dragon's tongue with him standing still. I did not know what had caused this but I guessed that Alessea had successfully paralyzed him with her paralysis gas which is the other of her two breath attacks."

I paused to take a breath and continued, "I took advantage of his stillness to continue my attack as a glance out the dragon's mouth showed that I was likely over one hundred feet in the air. I kept attacking the same spot hoping to do some damage to him. I'm still not certain if I actually severely hurt him but I did keep him distracted enough that he died from the damage we had done. That took about ten more minutes though during which I alternately hung onto anything I could to keep from being thrown out of the dragon's mouth and continuing my attack. Finally he fell with a great thud which shook me from my feet."

"I began yelling for Alessea to open his mouth, which of course was shut trapping me inside. I almost wept with relief when I saw her claws prying open his jaws for I thought the stench would make me pass out before she freed me. I stumbled out covered with blood, gore and an odious slime. Alessea was overjoyed to see me alive, even when she caught a whiff of me."

I took a moment to glance around the room seeing several amused looks on various faces as I wound down the story. The children all had disgusted looks from my description which elicited a chuckle from me. From Seven I sensed amusement which was mirrored in the restrained smile she permitted herself. "Alessea insisted that I bathe in the small lake nearby and even gave me a lift there, though she refused to let me on her back and I had to make the trip dangling from her front claw." I was openly grinning now and several people in the mess hall chuckled at my description.

"And that is how I met my first red dragon, rather a bit too personal of an introduction for my liking. But at least I'm still here to tell you about it, and I got lectured for days by Alessea on the proper way to fight chromatic dragons without scaring her half to death," I finished my story and sat back in my chair.

Seven gave me an inquiring look, asking I guessed whether or not I was finished. "And that ends my story at least for the moment, perhaps later I will tell you what happened after the red dragon died."

Seven nodded, "We are late for our afternoon lessons, and Arana should go meet the Doctor," said Seven standing up and taking her tray.

I stood up and did likewise as did several other people in the room, including the table of senior officers. As we stood waiting for the line to the tray recycling machine to clear out I asked Seven, "Is there a training room available for physical exercise Milady?"

"Holodeck 1 is available as a gym between 1600 and 1900 hours and 0100 and 0400 hours. I can explain its function to you when it opens," Seven informed me. I sensed that she was uncertain of something and realized that she had actually asked me if she could show me the gym, though she had not clearly phrased it as a question.

"If you have the time Milady I would be most appreciative if you would escort me there," I replied. A short nod was all I received but I knew I had guessed correctly.

"Do you need any assistance in finding Sickbay?" asked Seven.

The Captain who was standing near us overheard this, "I'll go with Arana to Sickbay Seven, it will give me the opportunity to catch up." The Captain smiled at me as she said this and Seven nodded in acquiescence.

I noted the term 'catch up' getting the sense that she meant that she wanted to find out what I had been doing since I saw her last. "I have been learning how to read and speak Federation Standard Captain. This," I said pointing at the combadge, "did an excellent job of translating but I need to learn your language before I can study other things."

We separated from Seven, Icheb and the children at the turbolift, the Captain and I exiting from the lift before they. I directed a smile at them before leaving and got return smiles in one form or another from all, even Seven.

"I will contact you later to show you the gym, Arana," Seven informed me as the Captain and I were leaving the lift.

I bowed slightly, "Until then Milady, be well and your charges also."

The doors closed and I turned and waited patiently for the Captain to proceed. Captain Janeway was studying me intently and I could sense curiosity from her thought I did not know the reason for it.

"Seven is going to show you the gym this evening?" the Captain asked.

"Yes, Captain. I inquired of her earlier whether there was a training room and she informed me that the Holodeck was used as one at certain times," I answered.

The Captain shot me a look, "Do you know what a Holodeck is?"

She began walking down the hallway and I began walking with her, "No Captain I do not."

The Captain sighed and frowned slightly, "I'm not certain I can explain it in anyway that will make sense to you right now. Holodecks create solid matter from energy, but the items it creates can only exist in the Holodeck. Holo-environments and the holo-characters within them are not real in the sense that…" The Captain paused for a moment then continued, "In the same sense that Voyager is real. As for holo-characters most of them are not considered real and are not sentient. Our EMH, the Doctor is an exception. He became self aware a few years ago and is now considered a member of the crew." The Captain gave me a stern look as she told me this.

I nodded to her as we paused outside what I could determine where the door's of the Sickbay. "Of course, Captain I would never treat the Doctor with anything less than the respect he deserves as a healer and as a crewmember."

The Captain reached out and stopped me just before I stepped forward to enter Sickbay with a thoughtful look on her face, "You couldn't tell that he wasn't like the rest of us? You sensed emotions from him?"

"I could tell only that he did not smell nor give off heat, as for emotions, he feels similar to humans and he has a good soul," I finished not quite understanding what my liege wanted of me though it was fairly obvious she was searching for confirmation that the Doctor was more like the rest of the crew than unlike. I gathered that I had answered with the information she needed for she relaxed and motioned me forward.

Going over the interaction I tentatively decided that the Doctor's status as a crewmember was not quite as accepted as the Captain would like. If what she said earlier was true, that most holo-characters were unaware machines, I could see how it would be difficult for the crew to accept that this one was so different from the others. Especially as it called into question whether or not these holo-characters they created in their holo-environments had the same ability.

We stepped into Sickbay together, the Doctor was within talking to a crewmember while running a small cylinder over him and intently watching the display of what I recognized from yesterday as the instrument they called a tricorder.

"Next time stretch before you work out strenuously, while I applaud your efforts to improve your physical health you need to work up to it gradually, not all at once." Obviously he was lecturing the unfortunate crewman who had apparently injured himself while exercising. I wondered whether it had been a muscle injury, from my time as a trainer I was rather familiar with those injuries in young men and women who were either not as fit as they thought themselves to be, or wished themselves to be, one or the other.

The crewman turned and glanced at us and I could see the surprise on his face at seeing the Captain, "Yes, Doctor I'll be more careful," he promised looking suddenly as if he would rather be somewhere else now.

"Well your trapezoid muscle is mended now, take care not to tear it again," responded the Doctor.

"I will, am I free to go now Doctor?" said the crewmember.

"Yes of course," the Doctor replied and then had to step out of the way as the young man got up hurriedly and escaped Sickbay with a quick acknowledgement to the Captain as he passed.

"I'm not that scary am I?" the Captain asked me as she glanced after the retreating crewman.

I chuckled, "I gather he does not usually come into contact with the senior officers?"

"Honestly, I could probably count on both hands the number of times I've seen Crewman Murphy, if it weren't for the fact that the crew has been together for six year's I doubt I would even know his name." She looked slightly sad at this fact, why I did not know.

"Ah, Captain, Arana," the Doctor said greeting us and all but rubbing his hands together with anticipation. Now that I knew he was a holo-person I tried to see the difference between him and the Captain and myself but besides the differences I had already noticed I could detect none. He seemed the rather self absorbed scholar healer, a type I had met several times in my life. Perhaps not the type of person a patient preferred, but usually one of the more skilled healers available. In this case he was the only healer available I gathered.

"If you will sit here Arana, I will begin my scans," the Doctor said.

"Will it interrupt your scans if Arana and I talk?" asked the Captain of the Doctor.

"No, though I would prefer it if Arana attempted not to use her empathic abilities for the moment," the Doctor said to me.

I nodded to him, "I will try not to Doctor."

The Captain and I shared a small smile then she asked, "So how has your second day aboard Voyager been going Arana?"

"Well Captain," I paused for a moment thinking of how to phrase what I wanted to say next, "Even though I know I have had the ability to sense good and evil for years it seems that knowing that I am actually sensing emotions has made me more aware of them."

"Not surprising," broke in the Doctor, causing the Captain and I to turn and look at him inquiringly. "You interpreted the emotions you were receiving in the way you were taught to conceptualize them. And you probably assumed everything else was merely the proper insight that all clerics and paladins have to people's motivations and thoughts. From my reading, I would gather that most clerics and paladins are empathic to some degree. Whether you are born with the ability and naturally gravitate to such professions or whether or not you are granted it by your deities is something I haven't been able to determine yet. I'm hoping a detailed analysis of your genes will answer that question."

"Genes?" I asked puzzled.

"Hmm, think of them as individualized blueprints. Each person has a unique pattern, unless they have a twin of course, that determines exactly how they will grow from just a few cells to a fully developed adult," the Doctor explained.

I stared at him for a few moments trying to understand what he had just told me. "So these genes will tell you whether or not they instructed that these organelles I have be made?"

He smiled at me approvingly, "Exactly."

Apparently my guesses had been correct, or correct enough. As the Doctor continued about his tasks, which seemed to entail a lot of scans with the cylinder and tricorder the Captain said, "I should probably tell you a bit about Voyager. And the particular part of space we find ourselves in."

Part 9

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