Chakotay is invited to participate in the courtly games of the planet Anaidni. What will Kathryn do?

or: Just Another Shore Leave Story

Disclaimer: since we gave them to Caffey as a birthday gift, she is the only one who can sue us :-)

Dedicated to Caffey: happy birthday hon, and many happy returns of the day!

* ~ * ~ *

“Captain, you will be able to contact the ship for another 16 hours. We will rendezvous in four days. Tuvok out.”

She turned around and looked at her companion. “How will we manage? Four days without Tom’s wisecracks.”

“The Doctor’s slideshow.”

“B’Elanna’s temper.”

“Neelix' newest coffee substitute.”

“Harry’s plea for a promotion.”

“Tuvok’s plomek soup.”

“And Seven’s boobs.”

“Kathryn!” Chakotay looked at her disapprovingly. “I cannot believe you said that.”

She shrugged and walked away. “Someone has to tell her she doesn’t look natural,” she called over her shoulder, “and it might as well be me. I am the Captain after all.” She stopped when he didn’t answer. “Chakotay, aren’t you coming? His Royal Highness is expecting us.”

~ * ~ * ~

For four days they were the honored guests of His Royal Highness, the Almighty Ruler of Anaidni, King Subert the Fifth. During their stay they would lay the ground base for a profitable trade agreement for both parties. Their presence had accidentally been timed perfectly, because on the third day of their stay, the King would proceed to marry the woman whose heart he had won. The Most Honorable Countess of Navrod, Princess Thraewen was his bride-to-be. However if the King failed to prove his worthiness to her, the marriage would be called off. To judge his worthiness, the King and the men who had chosen to join him would have to pass several tests in various disciplines.

~ * ~ * ~

Kathryn fell onto the luxurious bed. They had been given two bedrooms that connected via a door. She looked around. The room was extraordinarily huge. Her gaze shifted from the bathroom door, where she knew a huge bathtub was waiting for her, to the beautiful vista. It was breathtaking. The palace grounds with beautiful flowers gave way to a small river and a forest. The scenery reminded her of New Earth, the last time she had had a real shore leave.

“I am never going to get up again. I still can’t believe it. Four days. I have four days without command decisions, four days without Voyager, four days of fresh air. And I will stay like this. Yes. That’s what I am going to do. I won’t move an inch.”

“You will, believe me.”

Her head spun around. Chakotay was leaning against the doorframe.

“Pardon me, Chakotay?”

“You are going to leave the bed. After all - you saw the gigantic bathtub didn’t you? And I have never seen Kathryn Janeway resist a bathtub.”

She raised one elegant eyebrow, “Damn Chakotay. You know me too well.” And without giving him a further glance, she got up and walked to the bathroom. He chuckled and went back into his own room.

~ * ~ * ~

As he walked over to his bed, he saw the large scroll of crème colored paper with an elegant red bow tied around it. He picked it up, carefully removed the bow, and unrolled the paper.

Honorable Chakotay, Commander of the Starship Voyager, Resident of DorvanrnHis Majesty, King Subert the Fifth requests your presence this afternoon. Due to an unforeseen accident, the King is in need of another Squire and he has chosen you to be the twelfth man. We will expect you when the sun is straight over the Heritage Tree on the main square.rnOf course the Lady Kathryn will accompany you.

Prill of Anaidni, Honorable Secretary to King Subert the Fifth

He walked back into Kathryn’s room and knocked on the open door of her bathroom. He knocked again, but got no answer. “Kathryn? Are you in there? Can you hear me?” Waiting patiently, he wondered why she didn’t reply." Kathryn, you’re worrying me. I’m coming in." He carefully opened the door keeping his face from the bathtub. There was no reaction from Kathryn whatsoever. He had thought she would throw him out, scream at him or ask him to join her (a man could dream, couldn’t he?). But that was unusual - even for Kathryn in a bathtub. He knew she was unreliable once she was in it. Her mind usually wandered far away. He had experienced it more than once on New Earth. But still no reaction. He decided to take his chance and turned around carefully, slowly… willing to spin his head in the opposite direction as soon as Kathryn said a word. But it never happened. He managed to take a glimpse of the empty bathtub. Empty?

He froze.

The bathtub wasn’t supposed to be empty, was it? It was supposed to be filled with hot steaming water and a beautiful sleeping Kathryn, wasn’t it? His eyes searched the tub again. It was huge. But not THAT huge. Surely she couldn’t get lost in a tub, could she?

Just then he heard a voice from his room. He ran back and entered the bathroom, where he figured the voice had originated from.

There was the tub with hot steaming water and a beautiful Kathryn.

“Chakotay, what has you running back and forth between our rooms? As far as I can tell nothing shocking occurred.”

“What are you doing in my bathroom?”

His expression scared her. This was not the quiet and centered Chakotay she was used to have around. This was a man under the influence of a demon of sorts. A man who had just lost the most important thing in his life.

“Are you alright? You like you just saw a ghost. Is that why you were running around?”

“I’m fine. Kathryn, why are you not in your own bathroom, in your own bathtub?”

She grinned at him and flicked water on his chest, which cause his scowl to deepen. “Chakotay, has anyone ever told you you’re way too territorial? When I tried the warm water faucet in my bathroom, it didn’t work. I came to your room to ask if I could use your tub, but you were apparently too preoccupied with something. If it really bothers you this much, I’ll leave.”

“Don’t leave. Never mind. I went to your room because of a letter I received.”

“A letter? Not from the Princess' terribly pretty Lady-in-waiting? You know, Lady what’s her name.”

“Anaj. No she didn’t send me a letter. This one is from the King’s Secretary, Prill. It seems one of the King’s Squires can’t join his Test of Love, and he needs a new twelfth man.”

“O my, he asked you to be the last one, didn’t he?”

“Well, asked is a big word. He has requested my presence this afternoon.”

~ * ~ * ~

They had received a wide collection of data and facts on the historical and social customs of the planet Anaidni. And when they heard of the upcoming wedding, they had read up on this Test of Love. One of the rules of the Test, if the one plus twelve men finished it correctly, was that all men would marry the Lady of their choosing the day after the last trial.

“I see. I guess the King has never had to ask for anything.”

“Kathryn, I can decline. I mean, if you’re uncomfortable with all this, which you must be, well, I could explain to them that the Test is just not for us.”

“Chakotay, come here.” She patted the side of the tub. “I won’t bite, I promise.”

He carefully sat down on the ledge, ready to move - ready to run - if necessary. She held out her hand to him and he took it in both of his. “I saw the look on your face when you came in here. And it wasn’t quite what I expected.”

“What did you expect?” His defensive reply came out harsher than he had planned, but he didn’t take it back.

“I certainly didn’t expect to see you looking as if you had just lost everything you ever wanted to live for. Why was that?”

“It was nothing. I guess I was just too shocked at the King’s request.”

“Don’t lie to me, Chakotay. I can see when you’re lying. Why won’t you tell me what had you all shaken up earlier? I mean, neither one of us was in any danger. We weren’t kidnapped or held hostage. Nobody opened phaser fire on us.”

“Weren’t you in danger?” His voice got louder as he stood up and paced around the bathtub. “And how was I supposed to know? Dammit Kathryn, how did you expect me to react when I came to your bathroom only to find it completely empty? Spirits, I thought something had happened to you! And if that means I looked as if I lost the most important thing in my life, well, so be it! Because that’s what I thought. You are the most important thing in my life! Hell, you are my life, Kathryn!”

He stormed out of the bathroom to get his feelings under control. She had been so infuriatingly calm, sitting in the bath, he didn’t know whether to kiss or throttle her.

A soft touch on his shoulder made him turn around. Kathryn had followed him out into the room, her hair still carelessly piled high on her head, wearing only his robe.

“Chakotay, I think we need to talk.”

“No we don’t. I have said all I had to say.” He tenderly stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers and kissed her forehead. “I’m going outside for a while. Don’t forget, the King requested your presence too. Midday on the main square.”

~ * ~ * ~

He had left her alone. He had refused to talk to her. She had so much to tell him, so much to admit to him. He had, in a way, declared his love to her, told her that she was his life. And then he had left - just like that. She didn’t know what to do. She had been ready to admit everything to him, to declare her love, to tell him that she would love to be his wife. But he had destroyed everything. Now she had time to think about it. Thinking was bad, and Kathryn knew it. The last time, it had happened on New Earth. He had told her the most beautiful “story” she had ever heard, a declaration of his love, and she had walked away before she could act emotionally. “We have to talk about this.” She had said back then.

She froze.

Had she really said, “I think we need to talk”? She had. No wonder he had walked out of the room as soon as possible. He must have thought a similar speech would follow, that she would define some more parameters. She mentally slapped herself and bumped her head against the nearest wall.

“You idiot, idiot, big big idiot. Argh. What have you done, again? Can’t you do anything right?”

She went back to the bathroom and emptied the tub. A bath was the last thing she needed now. She had to distract herself. She couldn’t allow her mind to wander, she couldn’t dare to think. A bath meant relaxing and all the things she tried to avoid right now.

She got dressed in a pair of trousers and roamed his suitcase for a comfortable sweater. She didn’t feel like wearing something even close to a uniform. She wanted to push Starfleet as far away as possible and decided to wear the dark brown one. She brought it to her nose savoring in his unique manly smell.

Now she only had to get out of the room. She grabbed a novel and to get some fresh air, she was half out of the room when she stopped, suddenly remembering she hadn’t left a note for Chakotay. She turned around.

Dear Chakotay. I don’t want you to worry again. I am out on the palace grounds near the lake to read a bit. Believe me, I didn’t want to turn away from you again. I just used a poor choice of words. I am sorry. Kathryn.

As she laid the Padd on his bed her eyes fell onto the alien chronometer next to it. It was already 10 minutes to 12. She had to be on the main square in 10 minutes and she still had to get dressed. She forgot all about her Padd and hurried to get ready.

A discreet knock on the door interrupted her thoughts.

“Lady Kathryn?”

The door was opened by a young girl carrying a large package. “Princess Thraewen sent me over to help you dress for the First Test. We have to hurry; we only have a few minutes. And you can’t be late, it would ruin the chances of your Squire succeeding.”

“Let’s hurry then. By the way, what is your name?”

“I am my Princess' favorite dresser, my name is Yrgna.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Yrgna. How are you with dressing hair?”

~ * ~ * ~

In little under seven minutes Kathryn was ready to run through the Palace and across the grounds. Right as the sun’s rays touched the topmost leaves of the Heritage Tree, she made her way through the parted crowds and reached Chakotay. The King’s Secretary cast an approving glance at the twelve couples before him.

Loud trumpets and the beating of drums heralded the arrival of the King and his Lady. They were seated in an elegant open carriage pulled by a four-in-hand of unicorns.

As the King and the Princes made their way to the raised platform, Chakotay felt Kathryn’s hand slip into his. He squeezed it gently and looked at her. A small smile graced her face, and he thought he’d never seen her look more beautiful.

She was wearing a long, slightly off-shoulder gown made of layers of a satiny light blue material. Her hair was braided into an intricate pattern and darker blue ribbons were woven into it. If anyone had asked him right at that moment how he though she looked, he would have stammered and made a fool of himself. He was simply speechless by her appearance.

~ * ~ * ~

Prill urged the crowd to halt their tumultuous applause. As the silence crept over the large gathering, he only spoke four words: “Let the Test begin!”

Immediately the twelve Squires and the King were taken away, but before Chakotay disappeared into an adjoining building, Kathryn called him back. She loosened one of the blue ribbons and tied it around his writs. With a quick peck on his cheek, she sent him on his way.

Princess Thraewen had witnessed her action, and she bade Kathryn to come over.

“Your Highness, how can I help you?”

“Lady Kathryn, or should I call you Captain Janeway? Which do you prefer?”

“I prefer Lady Kathryn to be honest. I’m only Captain Janeway when I’m aboard Voyager.”

“Lady Kathryn, I am puzzled by what you just did to Squire Chakotay. What did you give him?”

“Your Highness, I tied one of the ribbons from my hair around his wrist. It’s for good luck.”

“But what made you think of doing that?”

“A long time ago on my planet, the men would also test themselves against each other or total strangers. These tests were quite popular and it was customary for a lady to give an item of her choosing, usually something in the color of her house, to the man who held her heart and her trust.”

“How delightful! And you gave your Squire this as a token of your heart. I must remember this for the next test. In fact, we must tell the others about it. I’m sure they would be thrilled to give their Squires a token for good luck.”

“I’m pleased you like our customs, Your Highness.”

“Lady Kathryn, since we are equals during this Test and since you are of high rank to begin with, you are hereby allowed to call me by my given name, Thraewen.”

“You honor me, Thraewen.”

The young princess momentarily lost her role, “To be honest, I’m just dying to have a normal conversation with someone, but the only person on Anaidni to regard me as human is Subert, and well, he’s not available right now.”

“Thraewen, I know your problem. On my ship most people, if not all of my crewmembers, see me as the Captain 24 hours a day. Do you know Chakotay is the only one who calls me by my name?”

“You’re kidding? Even I have some close friends who call me Thraewen and by not any of these bothersome long titles. Are you sure there’s nobody else to call you Kathryn?”

She hesitated and thought about her life on Voyager. “You could say my closest friends are the Senior Officers, but even they call me Captain.”

“Don’t they know your first name?”

“Well, yes, they do, of course. I guess I never told them it’s alright to call me by my given name.”

“You must tell them when you get back.”

“I think I will, Thraewen.”

~ * ~ * ~

As Chakotay was lead into the building his mind was still clouded by Kathryn’s appearance. She could be so distracting. She was breathtaking even in her uniform. Seeing her dressed like this was… he had no word for what he felt. Even after he had turned his eyes away from her he still was close to a heart attack. And she had given her blue ribbon and she had kissed his cheek.

He was sure he remembered the significance of this gesture correctly. He was no expert on medieval customs but a ribbon was meant to bring luck, he swallowed, to bring luck to the beloved one.

He absently dressed into whatever they gave him. It felt heavy but he didn’t really care what it was. He was too preoccupied with his thoughts of Kathryn.

Suddenly he recognized that Prill had joined them and was talking. He forced himself to listen.

“Did you get everything? Is everything clear?” Prill asked a serious look pasted on his otherwise pleasant face.

Chakotay mentally slapped himself. He had missed the instructions.

“Could you, uh, repeat what you just said?”

Prill grinned.

“You were a bit preoccupied, weren’t you? You looked as if you were a thousand parmils away.”

“Actually my mind was just outside the house.”

The other squires grunted at this open acknowledgement of feelings.

Prill just smiled at him. He was not only the Secretary of King Subert he was also the official Court Jester. And Chakotay had to admit that it showed. The second time he did the instructions the serious look had left his face. He had a unique way of speaking.

But the instructions themselves stayed the same and made his heart clench.

Chakotay was nervous. He was nervous as hell. Ten squires had walked into the cave and none of them had returned. Not a single one. He had the feeling he wouldn’t be the first one. He would disappear as the others.

Prill nodded at him. It was his turn to go. He took a deep breath and walked into the cave.

He was blinded by a light that seemed to envelop him the moment he stepped into the cave. He was ready to face everything. Almost everything. He wasn’t sure he wanted to face what he saw in front of him.

“Do you love her Chakotay?” the person before him asked.

“More than my life.” Chakotay answered.

“Are you sure?”

“There is nothing to be sure about. It is a fact.” Chakotay’s voice remained calm.

His counterpart snapped his finger and a masked assistant hurried to his side.

“Yes, master?”

“Show him the prisoner.”

The image of Kathryn appeared in his mind.

“Are you willing to die for her? Give your life for her life?”

“Yes.” His heart ached at the mere thought of her being in danger. The ache did not subside — it continued to grow deeper and deeper. Chakotay trembled but he remained standing.

“Are you still willing to die for her?”

“I am.” He managed to say. Suddenly he couldn’t breathe any more. It was as if the air had been sucked out of the cave.

“Are you still willing to die for her?”

“I am.”

As he drew nearer to unconsciousness he wondered why they had made him face himself. Why did he have to die to make his point? He knew he was ready to die for Kathryn. He had been ready to give his life away even before New Earth and nothing had changed.

“Kathryn, I’m sorry.” He managed to croak before all thought left him.

Kathryn was terrified. They forced her to watch everything. From the moment he got into the cave she had been worried. She hadn’t seen what had happened to the other squires, but she had seen the shocked expressions on the pale faces of the other ladies.

And now Chakotay, her Chakotay was dying. She had to watch as he clutched his chest, as he tried to breathe but couldn’t. And all the time he made it perfectly clear he was dying for her.

As he fell to the ground unconscious she couldn’t stand it anymore.

“Stop. This is insane. Stop it.”

She screamed and lunged forward.

Two guards who had been standing behind her all the time caught her.

“Let me go.” She kicked in their direction doing the best to get out of their grip. She failed. “Can’t you see he is dying? Help him! Let him live. Take me instead. Do you hear me? Kill me! But let him live. I will die no matter what you do. If he dies I am with him. Do you hear me? Kill me or I will kill myself.”

The blinding light suddenly subsided.

“You have succeeded.” A thunderous voice said. “You have proved that you are both willing to die for each other. You are worthy to take part in the next test.”

~ * ~ * ~

Yrgna took her away from the guards. Kathryn was still in hysterics, but she had heard the message of the voice, and she was frantically trying to get her emotions under control.

“Yrgna, where are they taking Chakotay? I need to see him. Now!” If the young girl hadn’t known her Lady was Captain of a starship, the commanding voice would have scared her. Instead she escorted her back to their rooms.

Inside Yrgna sat Kathryn down on the large bed. “Can I get you anything, Lady Kathryn?”

Kathryn wiped the strands of hair that had managed to escape her braid away from her face. “I guess you’re not going to tell me where Chakotay is, right? Well, then I think I would like some coffee.”

“Caffey? I don’t think we have that. I could get you some Nirtak. It is Princess Traewen’s favorite beverage.”

“Nirtak — sounds innocent enough. As long as it doesn’t put me to sleep.” She smiled at the girl. “And while you’re at it, could you contact Secretary Prill for me. I would like to speak to him.”

“I’m afraid that is impossible. The Honorable Prill is not allowed contact with any of the couples during the Test.”

“Alright, I’ll settle for a nice tall cold glass of Nirtak. Unless it comes warm in small mugs.”

“Your Ladyship?”

“Never mind me, Yrgna, I’m just babbling.”

~ * ~ * ~

Just as Kathryn made her way to the bathroom, she noticed the pile of luggage in the corner. Strange, she didn’t remember bringing so much. Opening one of the larger ones, she noticed the missing sweater. Someone had brought Chakotay’s luggage into her room.

She looked around again. Wait a minute; this wasn’t her room at all. It was even more spacious than their previous rooms. They had put her in a new accommodation, but why? Kathryn was ready to run outside and question the first person she would see, but when she opened the door she almost bumped into Yrgna carrying a large tray.

“Lady Kathryn, where are you going? You are not allowed to leave the room.”

“Yrgna, they cannot keep me here. I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager of the Federation of Planets in the Alpha Quadrant. They cannot keep me locked in a room, when one of my crewmembers is harmed. Let me out, I have to find Chakotay!”

“Kathryn, relax, there’s no need to harm innocent bystanders.”

“Chakotay!” Ignoring all Starfleet Protocol she had ever learned during her career, she flew into his arms.

She was trembling - her whole body was shaking. He felt something dampening his shirt and looked down to see that Kathryn was crying.

“Shh, Kathryn, everything is alright, see, we’re alive, we’re both alive, that’s all that matters.” He gently cradled her in his arms and carried her to the bed. He sat down never stopping his soothing.

He held her in his arms rocking her back and forth until she calmed down falling into a restless sleep. He watched her all through the night, loosing himself in the innocent expression of her face and relishing the fact she didn’t look at all like the tough captain he was used to seeing lately.

~ * ~ * ~

The next morning the sound of the local birds woke them up. Kathryn stretched slowly and snuggled back into the warmth surrounding her. Now this was a way to wake up, every day for the rest of her life. Of course she knew they still had to have the talk, but for now the feeling of total trust that had been with her during the night was more important.

Chakotay stirred and pulled her closer, placing a kiss on her forehead. “Good morning, gorgeous.”

She turned her head up and kissed his chin, “Hello, Mr. Handsome. You wouldn’t happen to know why I slept this good, would you?”

He blushed, “I would hope it had something to do with me.”

“You know, after all we’ve been through yesterday, I think last night was only the logical next step.”

Confusion was written all over his face, “Kathryn, what do you mean?”

She sighed, “I was hoping we could sort of skip this part, but I guess I owe you this much.” She sat up in bed, grasping his hands. “Remember yesterday, when I was taking my bath? Well, the real reason I came to your bathroom was not because mine wasn’t working, but because I wanted to talk to you. But your reaction was not what I had expected. I had it all planned, you see. I would be sitting in your tub, looking gorgeous of course, and you would come in and be completely baffled by my presence. Then I would profess my love for you and if everything really went according to my plans, you would then join me.”

Chakotay rubbed his face with his hands, “That makes sense, you know. Spirits, if I had known that, I don’t think we would have made it in time for the First Test!”

The blush she tried to cover slowly crept up her face, “I know.” She leaned towards him and started unbuttoning his shirt. “Wanna skip the Second one?”

From out of nowhere the booming voice that had instructed them yesterday filled the room, “Squire Chakotay and Lady Kathryn, you have successfully passed the Second Test. Please get ready and join the other Honorable couples for breakfast in the main banquet hall.”

Chakotay laughed at Kathryn’s disappointed expression, “I guess we’d better do what he told us. I wonder what the dress code is.”

Only now did she see the wonderful outfit hanging on the wardrobe doors. “I don’t know what you’re supposed to wear, but I get to wear green today.”

~ * ~ * ~

In the end, Chakotay hadn’t been the fastest dresser. He nearly caused them to be late for breakfast, but as they hurried down the numerous corridors, Kathryn realized she really didn’t care. All she wanted was for the Test to be over and for the marriage ceremony to begin.

“Kathryn, what did you do that for?” Chakotay plowed into her when she came to a full stop in the middle of the courtyard.

“Chakotay, I have to ask you something.”

Her serious expression was enough to tighten his stomach. “Sure, anything.”

“When we get back to Voyager, well, do you think the crew will be against us?”

He took her hands and kissed them both, “Kathryn, where have you been these past years? Didn’t you notice the valiant attempts of our crew to get us together? You never wondered why so many of our joined turbo lift rides ended up with at least a one hour malfunction?”

“O.” She grinned, “those. Yeah, I think I did notice one or two of them. So, you say they’ll be alright with it?”

“I think Tom and Neelix will make sure a ship wide party is held in our honor. Personally, I’m more concerned about a shipwide power cut when someone wins all those rations they’ve been betting on us over the years.”

Yrgna came running up to them, “Please, Secretary Prill is expecting you. If you don’t go their now, you won’t finish the Test!”

As they arrived at the main square it was empty except for Prill. “You are late,” he stated with a wicked grin. “The other squires have already passed the test. It is your turn now. Lady Kathryn, you are to accompany Maiden Yrgna. Chakotay you are with me.”

They briefly kissed as they were pulled into different directions. They maintained eye contact for as long as possible.

“Where are you taking me?”

“I can’t tell you Lady Kathryn, they forbid it. I am so sorry. But let me tell you that you will have to watch the test once again.”

In the middle of a field Prill stopped, halting Chakotay with his hand.

“We have arrived.”

“What am I supposed to do?”

“You have to sacrifice the first animal you see to the gods of marriage. It is crucial for the blessing of your marriage to do so.”

“And what if I refuse to harm an animal?”

“You fail.”

Prill turned around and walked off.

Chakotay looked around. He desperately wanted to marry Kathryn. He had never wanted something as badly in his whole life. And he was willing to do everything to accomplish his task, wasn’t he?

Just at that moment a tiny lizard made its way towards Chakotay.

‘Go away, please, turn around and go away’, Chakotay thought.

But the lizard crept closer and closer curling around Chakotay’s leg. He bowed to take the lizard into his hands. It didn’t run away. It stayed still raising its eyes to meet Chakotay’s gaze.

That moment Chakotay knew he would never be willing to kill this innocent animal even if it meant not marrying Kathryn. The tiny lizard seemed to be intelligent. It sounded ridiculous but as he gazed into the lizard’s eyes he was sure he saw something special.

He raised his voice.

“I refuse to kill this animal. I refuse to take this test. You can’t do anything to convince me otherwise. I have made a decision. I will not commit murder in order to bless a marriage that already is blessed. It is blessed by the love of the two persons who chose to be married. Kathryn and I don’t need more blessings, and certainly not one from a dead animal. If this means the wedding is called off I will have to cope with it. I will marry her as soon as we are back on board.”

Out of nowhere Prill stepped up to him, “Are you sure you refuse? Even though you know what the consequences are?”

Straightening his back, Chakotay replied, “I know of the consequences. And this animal will not die because of them.”

Prill tapped into what looked to be a communicator of sorts, “Yes, Your Honor? But Sir, he refuses! If you say so.” Sporting a new hat with colorful bells, he turned back to Chakotay and the movement made the bells ring. “It seems your foolish refusal has impressed the Judging Panel. You have succeeded in this Test as well. Let it be known from this day forward that Squire Chakotay and Lady Kathryn have successfully passed the Test of Love. We will meet again tomorrow at dawn on the main square.”

When she saw the tiny animal look up at Chakotay, she also noticed somehow he understood the relevance. As soon as she realized her stance relaxed somewhat, which puzzled Yrgna.

“My Lady, the Test is not over, yet you are not afraid. Why is that?”

“My dear Yrgna, I know Chakotay would never harm an innocent living creature, no matter how large or small. The lizard is safe in his hands.”

“But he’s supposed to sacrifice it? If he doesn’t he will have failed the test and you will not be allowed to marry tomorrow.”

“But he will have failed my trust if he does kill the animal. I trust him to do what he knows is right.”

Suddenly, they saw Prill appear next to Chakotay, and Yrgna motioned Kathryn to follow her. Together they walked over to where the men were standing, and Kathryn managed to hear the Jester’s last words.

~ * ~ * ~

“Tuvok to Janeway.”

She rolled over, carefully cradling her pounding head. As she tried to sit up a hand appeared out of nowhere handing her a communicator. Groggily she answered it, “Go ahead, Tuvok.”

“Captain, the mining on Ekeinoel has been successful, and Lt Torres lets you know that the ship has never been better supplied. On another note, we received a communiqué from the King telling us to pick up you and Commander Chakotay a day early. Is everything alright, Captain?”

The same hand that handed her the communicator now came over with a large glass of Nirtak. Taking a big gulp, she was ready to answer Tuvok, when Chakotay took the communicator back and replied himself.

“Tuvok, Chakotay here. Please be ready to pick us up no earlier than 1600 hrs today. And tell Neelix and Tom to organize a party for tonight. They can use the replicator rations Tom will have won. Chakotay and Janeway out.”

The End