Still by Nerys Ghemor

Two heroes have fallen.  But to Akellen Macet--they are family.

Written in response to Ad Astra writing prompt #62.

Categories: Alternate Universes Characters: None
Genre: None
Warnings: Character Death, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--Catacombs of Oralius
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 1152 Read: 1679 Published: 13 Apr 2012 Updated: 13 Apr 2012
Story Notes:

Here are a few choral pieces by John Tavener that helped set the mood as I wrote.

1. Still by Nerys Ghemor

Still by Nerys Ghemor

They lay clothed now--as they had not been when the Bajorans dumped the bodies next to each other on the Fireplains of Revakian, hundreds of miles away from the Desert of Kurab that they had called home.  His cousin had been dressed in the most ornate of his tribal robes--not Kurabda by blood, but by right, he had worn them for most of his terribly short life.  And his niece...she now wore her finest 'city' dress...many years out of date, for it had belonged to one of the women who fled the city the year the invasion began, but she had treasured what it represented: the hope of someday returning to the cities with the Bajorans gone.

The Bajorans were not gone.

And Skrain and Ziyal were dead.

The signs of torture were unmistakable...worse on Skrain than Ziyal, by far.  They'd pried off almost every one of the scales of his neck ridges, and even one of Aamin's clerical scarves around his neck couldn't shield the image from Akellen's mind.  And then the Bajorans, when they'd finished with whatever it was they'd meant to do...they'd disposed of the naked bodies like garbage in the middle of the Fireplains, just outside the city of Revakian where the residents of the city would be sure to find them.  Though he had not striven for such fame--Skrain's face was known.  And that had been exactly what the Bajorans had wanted.

Skrain hadn't been the sole leader of their group, nor even the sole tactician.  Nor would he have seemed, to anyone who knew them, to be the loudest, most forceful person in the room.  His unmoving form with closed eyes and slack features revealed nothing now of what it was about Skrain that had drawn people to him.  Not unlike their Guide, Skrain had known how to motivate people, to support them...even to find healing sometimes.  He had been the spiritual center of their group in addition to what he'd had to contribute to the actual fighting--someone you could always go to when the constant heartache of subjugated Cardassia became too much.

Ziyal had walked in her father's footsteps; she too had shown the same gift of the spirit.  But she had followed her father--at only eighteen years old--into the jaws of death.

She had been old enough, by the minimum standards of adulthood this suffering Cardassia held to.  Old enough to die.

Oralius, Oralius, it wasn't fair--where was her hand to tell the Fates where to turn...and who to pass over, leave untouched?  You would have said her hand was still there...but the Bajorans knocked it away.  Refused to submit.  Skrain had always been quite sure of that.  Yet the Fates had been so cruel--beyond cruel to his cousin: mental illness, alien invasion, rape, the slaughter of his family...and now evidently one more torture session right before he died knowing that his only surviving child was not to live wasn't fair!

Akellen released a thin, almost falsetto mourning wail and his wife set her hand upon his back.  This was the Cardassian way ever since the days of Oralius herself--no hidden mourning, no tough facade...the release of tears purged the body of the poison built up within it, which someday, someday allowed for the spirit to be unburdened.

He sobbed, knelt over the bodies Aamin had come to wrap in their funeral shrouds.  At least they would have the dignity of a proper burial, for the men who had risked their lives to bring the Dukats' bodies back to their proper resting place had somehow scrounged a stasis unit keep time and the elements from doing what they were going to do until the burial.

The grave was to be unmarked as the Kurabda tribes with whom Skrain shared an affinity had done for millennia to ensure that no brigand would desecrate the body if an enemy tribe should raid the area.  When the Oralian Way had come to their tribes long ago, the raids had stopped.  But now the custom served its old purpose once again: preventing the Bajoran invaders from exercising one last indignity over the ones they had tortured and killed.  Those who loved Skrain and Ziyal would memorize the location by the landmarks around it, by the stars and the wind and everything Oralius had fashioned in this place.  And someday if the time were ever right, they would someday build a memorial statue in Culat in Skrain's and Ziyal's honor.

But as a a Cardassian...the primal instincts in Akellen screamed for their bodies to remain forever undisturbed by even well-meaning passers-by.  No predator, prankster, or desecrator would touch them ever again.  Skrain had been a quiet man; they had never discussed it, but Akellen felt certain Skrain would have preferred it this way.  After one had ever known what the Bajorans did with the bodies of his wife and the three children who had preceded him in death.

Akellen's wife drew him close, her hand around his waist.  The Macets' children would be on the way shortly, after the bodies had been shrouded to hide the worst of the torture.  Then would come the death rites the Bajorans had hoped to deprive the Dukats of, and the burial.

For the life of Skrain Dukat and Ziyal Dukat, Marritza would say, and the lives of all those to whom they gave the gifts you bestowed upon them...we give thanks.  Forgive all that must be forgiven...reward all that you would reward: we plead that your merciful hand of justice may rest upon their heads.  We pray that they may know the warmth of that place where the light of Verkoun never ebbs, where the icy fingers of winter chill the flesh no more.  May they hear and respond to your voice, guiding the way to what was and what once more shall be, when your work is complete.

Skrain Dukat and Ziyal Dukat...we grieve at your passing and we know we have much healing and much rejoicing yet to do.  But let not our grief hinder you on your journey, though jealous for your companionship our imperfect souls may be.  Listen and heed my voice...Skrain Dukat and Ziyal Dukat...we release you into Oralius' eternal care.  Go now--trouble your peace not to look back until you have found your home.

May Fate be by Spirit thus guided.

Then Aamin would trace his fingers around the outsides of each one's eye ridges, and the final shroud would be drawn across their faces, and they would be lowered into the grave.

They would have peace.  Oralius would take care of them--had surely already guided them home.  There, Oralius would help them bear the waiting, and Skrain and Ziyal, and all of those in the eternal would join their prayers to those who yet lived--this their solace and their purpose until Oralius' work was finally complete and the dawn of a new Verkoun arose.

But until then...Akellen's peace was troubled.

It would be a long time until he could rejoice.

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