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Story Notes: Note: This takes place after the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and ties in with my fics For Freedom's Sake and Paternity. This story also slightly ignores the continuity created by the 2009 Star Trek film.

WARNING: This story involves graphic depictions of a terminal illness and death. I don't shy away from the ugly details. If you think any of this will be triggering, please turn back now.

DISCLAIMER: I don't own Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and I'm not making any money off this story.

Final Note: This story has its own playlist. The end of every chapter will have links music on box.com. They're perfectly safe and won't harm your computer. :)

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Prologue: The Storyteller

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Somewhere in the universe, six shadows converged inside a larger one cast by farming equipment.

He heard them.

He always heard them.

Children.

"I can't wait...when will he get here?"

"Ooh. It's my tenth time!"

"It's going to be my first."

"Mine, too! Has he arrived yet?"

"No, stupid! He only comes out when the sun touches the horizon."

"Hey! Don't call me that!"

Cool wind rippled the long orange grass. Large domed houses glimmered in the distance. A group of children chased each other between the automated wagons tilling the field for planting. By spring, there would be enough wheat and grains to feed the entire northern continent.

Shadows fell longer as twilight approached. Reds, yellows and purples layered the distant horizon. A tiny redheaded boy picked grass out of his head ridges.

"Kejoda!" his older sister called out, "It's almost time!"

"Relax, Morolan!" Kejoda called back. "I'll be right there!"

The descendants of the Bajoran race grew into a highly evolved humanoid species. They were touch telepaths bearing ridges from the bridge of their noses all the way to the backs of their heads. When Bajor's sun became a red giant, their distant ancestors evacuated Bajor and colonized the planet they now stood upon.

And once a year, something wonderful happened.

"Guys! The Storyteller is here! Let's head to the Memory Pond. Quick!"

Shuffling feet and quiet giggles filled the twilight air. Adults knew the Storyteller's tale word for word, yet they sent their children back year after year to hear it. Every girl and boy looked forward to this event-- the night they stayed up until dawn to hear the Storyteller's words.

They gathered in a circle around the Memory Pond, a kidney-shaped body of water that never went dry, not even in the harshest summers. The younger ones sat closer to the Storyteller than their older kin.

He always faced east. The sun remained at his back. His hooded brown robe concealed his face completely in shadow, and no wind or tiny hands pulling on it would make it move. And the younger ones did try. He never minded-- it became a rite of passage. Who was brave enough to tug the Storyteller's hood?

"Maybe he's a fish," said a little blonde girl.

A teenage boy retorted, "No, silly, fish die when exposed to air! He's just another Odoan like us."

Everyone gasped as the Storyteller spread his hands in a welcoming gesture. The children seated themselves in their proper age hierarchy around the pond. Their parents slipped quietly away, unnoticed.

Six fireflies flickered in the grass. They only came out the night the Storyteller appeared. All the other animals fell silent. Not a frog croaked and not a cricket chirped.

Everything became still. Even the wind.

The children on either side of the Storyteller grasped his outstretched hands. A ripple of hand holding moved through the gathering until everyone was connected.

Whispers raced along the pond. Its mirrored surface reflected images of the galactic center, a glistening white haze filling half the eastern sky. The Storyteller remembered when the Milky Way formed misty bands across the heavens...but not anymore. Not since the collision with a neighboring galaxy transformed it from a spiral into a sphere.

At last, the children's thoughts quieted themselves.

"Storyteller," Morolan spoke the rehearsed invocation, "we are ready to hear your wisdom."

The Storyteller gave a nod and entered their minds, showing them images as he spoke.

"Eons ago, a man set out on a journey. He never knew the events about to unfold would play an important part in..."

Chapter End Notes:
**Soundtrack for this chapter**

The Storyteller: https://app.box.com/s/m6auh9wykp8dpn7z6w93

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