by Ann Brill White
Disclaimer: Farscape belongs to Henson, O'Bannon, Kemper, etc. I just play in their universe.
Archiving: anywhere you like!
Summary: Zhaan meditates after Moya's escape from the Peacekeepers.
(Author's note: This takes place right after the Premiere, but has spoilers for other episodes.)
but he isn't always evil, and he is not always wrong.
- Billy Joel, The Stranger
Zotoh Zhaan, Delvian Pa'u of the Ninth Level, was free for the first time in uncountable cycles. Her liberation from the Peacekeepers was nothing short of a miracle. After their narrow escape from the Peacekeeper Captain, Crais, Zhaan retreated to the cell that she had made her home for the past several cycles. There was one major difference, however. The doors to her cell remained unlocked and open. She removed her clothing - a luxury that she had been denied by the Peacekeepers - and lit the sacred incense. She spread her cloak onto the deck of the Leviathan - Moya, she corrected herself - and sat cross-legged on it to assume a posture of meditation. To the others aboard Moya, the escape from the Peacekeeper convoy may have been attributable to their skill or plain dumb luck. However, Zhaan was a priest. She had been trained for more cycles than she could count to recognize the deeper meaning to random events. Foremost in her mind was the sudden appearance of the stranger, the one who called himself John Crichton.
Zhaan sat naked before the image of the Goddess, the face of Khalaan, the Mother of the Universe. As Zhaan breathed in the incense smoke, she employed a mind-focusing exercise that she had learned during her first cycle of training at the Temple. She visualized the Sacred Tree of Life, with its Sanctity Root reaching down deep to the heart of Delvia to bring forth the mysteries of the Goddess. She saw herself as she was trained to do, one branch among a multitude that were connected to the Sacred Tree. Zhaan was taught from birth that all animate beings, be they Delvian or outworlder, were sacred to the Goddess of Life and Death. As a young acolyte, Zhaan was taught to visualize the Goddess as a large tree with beautiful, spreading blue leaves. She saw herself nestled into a cleft in the trunk of the tree, huddled within the protective embrace of Khalaan.
As Zhaan's trance deepened, she found herself walking in the Spirit World. She was walking through an orchard, remarkably similar to the Sacred Garden at the heart of the main temple on Delvia. As she walked, she came across a woman carefully tending a tightly-gathered grove. The woman shone with a luminosity that told Zhaan that this was indeed her Goddess.
"Come closer, Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan", Khalaan gestured. Zhaan obeyed Her order, and entered the grove. She saw six trees of various age, size, and species. A vine was wrapped around the center tree in what seemed to be a symbiotic relationship. Four of the trees, including the one with the vine, appeared to have recently broken through some kind of fence that was holding them in and restricting their growth. The Goddess turned to her, and caressed one of the recently-freed trees, one with light bark and beautiful blue rounded leaves that shimmered in the starlight. As the Goddess touched this tree, Zhaan felt the Lady's touch on her own soul. "Welcome to my garden," Khalaan greeted her.
"My Lady," Zhaan bowed low. "I am honored."
The Goddess laughed, a sound like a brook running over stones. "Don't be. I have a task for you, Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan. You may not feel so honored when you find out what I ask."
"I live only to serve you, My Lady," Zhaan answered.
The Goddess released her tree, and strolled over to one of the others in the grove. It was an odd-looking tree - it had rough, brown bark, and broad leaves that came to several different points. The strangest thing about this tree was that its leaves were a deep, rich green. The soil beneath it was disturbed, as if the Goddess had just planted it. The root system was already reaching out to tentatively intermingle with the roots of the native trees. Zhaan looked up at her Goddess with an unspoken question. "I've done a bit of transplanting," Khalaan said, almost too casually. "This tree is called an oak. It is, or was, the most sacred tree on a small, relatively primitive planet far from this part of the Universe. This particular tree had reached its full growth on its home planet. I felt that it was necessary to transplant it here, where it could reach its full potential."
Zhaan had a sudden intuition. "My Lady, are we still discussing trees?"
The Goddess smiled inscrutably at Her priestess, but continued without answering the question. "I need someone to tend to this tree, and the others in this particular grouping. You see, this oak tree may be out of place amongst all of My other creations, but I can assure you that it has a specific purpose here. You, of all of My chosen children, are well-suited for this task."
Trust a Goddess to speak in riddles and metaphors, Zhaan thought. "You speak of the stranger that we brought aboard, the one that looks like a Peacekeeper. If he is a part of your plans, Lady, he is a flawed vessel. He knows nothing of our ways. He is as innocent as a babe."
The Goddess plucked a dead leaf off of the oak tree and blew it out of her palm. It fluttered toward the ground. "You are correct. He knows nothing of our ways, but you must teach him," she replied. Zhaan bowed to her Goddess. "You and your companions..."
"I might be able to understand the Hynerian," Zhaan interrupted, "but Lady, a Peacekeeper?" she hissed angrily, letting her hatred for the Peacekeeper female that had joined them be known. "Peacekeepers only understand power, violence, and death! They've kept me prisoner for cycles! She will betray us at the first opportunity!"
Khalaan released the branch of the oak tree that she was holding, and turned to face Zhaan straight on. As Zhaan watched, Khalaan the Mother of All changed her form to Rha'nalan the Dark, an old woman, bent over a walking stick and wearing brown - the color of death. Rha'nalan's piercing gaze met Zhaan's. "Am I not the Goddess as well? You, of all of the priesthood should understand power, violence and death!" the Dark Goddess snapped angrily, sounding like the Peacekeeper female. "What did you learn on your first day of training?"
Zhaan smiled sheepishly, chastened. "Without death, there is no life," she replied.
"I have my reasons for choosing who I will, Priest," Rha'nalan sniffed. "All beings are my children, even Peacekeepers. Keep this in your heart at all times." She extended her finger toward Zhaan, and touched her chest. As Zhaan watched, another one of the trees began to tremble slightly. She recognized it as a tapaani, a common tree throughout the known portion of the galaxy. It had beautiful large red flowers, but sharp thorns that kept all but the most foolhardy animal away from it. Since it was so prolific and hard to eradicate, most beings saw it as a nuisance, although many farmers used the tree to protect their crops and livestock. The tapaani tree began to grow, slowly at first, toward the new tree. "You see," the Goddess said, "each has their own unique role in the ecosystem."
"The new tree," Zhaan focused her attention back to the green-leaved oak tree. "will it survive in this ecosystem?"
"That is up to you," Rha'nalan replied, caressing a branch of the oak tree. "It will have some transplant shock, but with careful tending, it should thrive. Remember, Zhaan, that this tree is very important. I am entrusting it to your care. Tend it well." Rha'nalan the Dark bowed, then faded away.
Zhaan's inner vision turned dark, and she gradually became aware of her surroundings. The deck of the Leviathan throbbed as her mighty engines propelled them through the Uncharted Territories. Outside of her quarters, Zhaan heard the whirr of a DRD, the Hynerian's snoring, and a faint male voice. She rose gracefully and put her robe back on, fighting the urge to celebrate her freedom by roaming the halls naked. Zhaan followed the sound of the voice to the quarters that had been given to the stranger, Crichton. He was speaking into a primitive recording device. From what she could tell, he was addressing his father. Zhaan watched silently as he turned off the recorder and removed his clothing. He is a fine choice, Zhaan thought as she allowed herself the luxury of assessing his physical form. As Crichton gingerly sat on the cot, then curled himself into it, she cast a silent blessing on him. Sleep well, my new charge, she thought. Your destiny awaits you in the morning.
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* Ann Brill White *
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* (What Would Buffy Do?) *