The prologue to a new fanfic I am writing, telling the story of Tora Naprem, Gul Dukat's mistress from Star Trek: Deep Space 9
We are leaving from Terok Nor, of course, so this will be my last glimpse of Bajor, a little blue ball moving further and further away through the windows of this ship. At least I get a glimpse of it – the prisoners in the hold, my compatriots, must make do with imagining it. Ziyal, muffled in the cloak that is supposed to hide her identity, and still weeping for the father she will never see again, does not care when I point it out to her. So I watch it recede and tell myself that I am leaving it forever. And it means nothing to me.
It was not always this way. I grew up like any other little Bajoran girl, convinced that my homeworld was the finest planet in the galaxy, and my people the wisest, the most cultivated, the most spiritual. We told stories about it – how Pah Meren, the Creator, greatest of the Prophets, had made it with especial care, giving it rivers and mountains, seas and valleys, a temperate climate, lush vegetation and every variety of animal and bird life. And finally she created the Bajoran people, and placed them there. At this, some of her fellow Prophets came to her and said, ‘Is this wise, Pah Meren? If you place these people in such a place, they will never be humble. They will think only of themselves and forget their duty to us.’ ‘Don’t worry,’ said Pah Meren, ‘They will be humble enough. Just wait till you see who I am giving them as neighbours!’
That one was perhaps more of a joke than a story – and a bitter joke too, after more than twenty years of occupation by those neighbours. We told stories about them too, rather more serious ones. ‘Did Pah Meren make the Cardassians?’ said my father when I asked him. ‘Well, she did and she didn’t. It was like this. One day Pah Meren was passing through her creation, and she decided to visit Cardassia. Why? I don’t know, perhaps she just hadn’t been there for a while. And it was a good thing she went, because there she discovered Kosst Amojan, whom she had thrown out of the Celestial Temple some time before. And he had gone to live on Cardassia. No, this was before the fall of the other Pah Wraiths, before they were all imprisoned in the Fire Caves. He could still go where he wanted – so he went to Cardassia, and that was where Pah Meren found him. And when she found him, he was making people out of clay – but as soon as he made them, he smashed them up, so all round him was littered with legs and arms and heads. And Pah Meren was shocked, and asked him what he was doing, and he turned to her and said, ‘What is wrong with me? I make these creatures, but I cannot get them to talk to me! Why won’t they talk?’ ‘They will not talk because you have no pagh to give them,’ said Pah Meren. ‘Only I can fill the beings I create with pagh.’ ‘Pah Meren,’ said Kosst Amojan, ‘will you please fill the creatures I make with pagh? Since you threw me out of the Celestial Temple I have been so lonely, and your creation disdains me, and I so much want some children of my own to care for.’ And Pah Meren saw that he was weeping. And she felt sorry for him, for she knew how lonely it must be for him away from the Celestial Temple. So she said, ‘Very well – but do not make your children of clay, like mine. For I do not know what you will create, and they will be too strong for you and me, if they are made of clay and I give them my pagh. Make them of river mud, and I will put my pagh into them.’ So Kosst Amojan went over to the river, and began to form creatures of river mud. He made two creatures, male and female, and he gave them bodies of river mud, and hair of river weed, and eyes of river pebbles, and he set them before Pah Meren. And she looked at them and said, ‘These are good, Kosst Amojan – they are neither too strong nor too weak.’ And she opened their mouths, and breathed her pagh into them, and they began to speak and move; and they were the first Cardassians. And they loved their father and he taught them all he knew. And Pah Meren watched over them from a distance, so that, if they threatened her creation, she could destroy them – for they were only made of river mud, and were not too strong for her to destroy. And she has often come close to destroying them, but because they have had her pagh in them she has always relented, and left a few alive.’ And although I knew that that was just a story, and the Cardassians had evolved out of more primitive animals, just as we had, it seemed to fit them so well – they looked like they were made of mud, and their eyes looked like pebbles and their hair like river weed, and they had a muddy smell too – more mineral than animal, cold and flat and unpleasant. And my father always ended his story by saying, ‘So that is why the Cardassians are the way they are, Naprem. They are not like us – we are the children of Pah Meren, who made us of good clay. Their father is Kosst Amojan – a lesser power, a cruel and twisted spirit – and they take after their father; and they are made only of mud. But they have Pah Meren’s pagh in them, just as we do, so they are not quite without hope.’ And that bit always stayed with me – about the pagh and the hope – and perhaps it has led me where I am today. For I can confirm from my own experience that they are indeed not like us – not like us at all – and yet they have their own pagh, given them by Pah Meren, and it is, at best, a strong and fine one. For I have been a Cardassian’s mistress for sixteen years, I have betrayed my people for him – or so they would say, anyway – and I have loved him shamelessly. And now I will never see him again.