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Old December 3 2010, 06:44 AM   #1
Nerys Ghemor
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Location: Cardăsa Terăm--Nerys Ghemor
November Contest Entry: SigCat--"Pearl"

Authors note: This story takes place in the pre-invasion times of the Sigils and Unions: Catacombs of Oralius AU in which Cardassia has retained much of the culture of its Hebitian forefathers, and a young Skrain Dukat grew up in a completely different world from that of his prime-universe counterpart.

If anyone has difficulty with the mention of self-harm and what it might be like for someone to struggle through those issues, please consider if this is something you will be comfortable reading. While I intend the utmost respect, I do not want to upset anybody.


Pearl

Cardassia Prime
Tirhem Farms, thirty kilometers outside Lakariyane
13 Mioun, Thirty-First Year of the 369th Ăstraya
Federation Year 2325

The spacious room in the center of the Pearl Domicile at Tirhem Farms offered thirteen-year-old Skrain Dukat very few reminders of the reason why he was there. Sunlight showered down through the skylight in the great, two-story-high vaulted ceiling, keeping just shy of the couch he sat on, old-fashioned, hide-bound copy of Yailelhs Commentaries in his lap. He could memorize it, yesbut even if he did that someday, the feel and scent of an actual book in hand would still resonate with his heart.

By all appearances, the great room of Pearl Domicile looked like the centerpiece of any ordinary, middle-income Lakariyanda home: furnished with, overstuffed couches with just the right balance between aesthetics and simple, approachable comfort, chairs with reading lamps behind them. Only the scale of the place gave it away, and what had seemed to Skrain at first like an infinity of real booksnot just electronic files, but actual, hardbound, paper-printed books. It was hardly anything compared to the few libraries left in Lakariyane, to be surebut the fact that it actually exceeded the case-study collection in his fathers study was quite enough to impress him.

Tirhem Farms had actually been the estate of a wealthy family half a millennium ago, before the Cataclysm seared the wealth from the land and the Tiirhem themselves had been forced to divest themselves of the sprawling compound or face even more complete destitution. For the seventy-five years without its owners, Tirhem Farms had alternated between a state of total abandonment and haunting by desperate squatters. Eventually, as Cardassia began to settle into a careful tension between the resource-impoverished homeworld and its colonies and trading partners, the property had fallen into the hands of an order of Oralian devotees with the idea of turning Tirhem Farms into a place for bringing new life to minds and hearts that might otherwise slip away for decidedly less pragmatic reasons than centuries-past abandonment by the Tiirhem.

There was a large vidscreen on the far side, but it wasnt on right now; it would be later that evening when those who were able gathered to watch the evening news for a dose of reality, and something more edifying afterwards for a dose of something real in the way that would truly last. A few other children and teens read on the couches nearest to the bookshelves, and on the far end of the room, another group had gathered to play kotraor more accurately, two to play, and a gaggle of others to kibitz in a way that would never be tolerated at any serious tournament. Skrain wasnt the type to feed off of that sort of excitement; he was fine with his book, the conversation of the Guides and acolytes, and a few acquaintances near his own age that hed made since coming here.

Besidesthe truth was that he didnt feel as though he really belonged in their company. Never mind that all of the other young people were here for their own reasons. And of course some suffered more severe disruptions to their thinking and feeling than he ever hadsome couldnt even participate in these activities if they wanted to. Like Nejran Yidal, whom no one, not the Guides, not the counselors, not even his fellow patients had been able to bring out of the catatonic state hed been in since he witnessed the deaths of his parents in a horrific midair collision near his school. As for the doctorsthere might be medicines they could try, but the consensus between the three constituencies of Tirhem Farms was that this was a problem of the spirit, and medicine would likely do more harm than good.

But for Skrainit didnt matter that the doctor had been so skillful with a dermal regenerator that there were no visible scars to remind him of what he had done. Or tried to do. His capacity for memory hadnt faded as he drained away, as fear suddenly resuscitated itself in his body when by all accounts it should have done no good except to remind him at the very last of the absolute waste of what he had done.

Father, kneeling over him

Father, shouting into a comm unit

Transporters nearby, and darkness

Skrain felt something thump against the bottom of the couch, breaking him out of leaden thoughts. He glanced down just as a brown-scaled tail, with the hard, fin-like end that reminded Skrain of the tail of a lake ray, hit the furniture againnot too hardjust hard enough to get his attention. Skrain slid into a seated position, and eyed the long-snouted camayrita house gharial, as hed read the creature was known on Terhăn Terăm, thanks to a wonderful example of convergent evolution. The camayrit stood a bit taller on his straight legs than the terhăn creature with its jutting kneesbut the biggest difference was the species temperament and social behavior. The animal started scrabbling at Skrains leg with his clawed front feet, great yellow eyes staring up at the Cardassian boy with that permanent, hopeful smile. Pick me up? those eyes begged.

Even with the design of his legs, the camayrit was still a fairly low-slung creature, and not much good for jumping. That didnt stop camayrit-ăs from wanting to be in high places when their owners were there. I give up, Vratsikyou win, Skrain finally conceded with a faint smile. He didnt worry about bringing his hand within the reach of the camayrits teeth, which stuck out prominently from the jaws, sharp as needles. They might have seemed threatening to an alien visitor who had never seen such a creature before, but these were thin, fish-snaring jaws, not the kind that could take a bite out of a mans hand or foot. The attempt would snap the small reptiloids jaw, and both of them knew it.

As Skrain lifted Vratsik, the camayrit thrummed happily away. Skrain couldnt hear the soundonly with a rare combination of the right person and the right camayrit were the sounds the creatures made ever audible to a Cardassian. Camayrit-ăs knew their owners deafness to the sounds they made, and while no one had ever quite proven it, Skrain had a feeling that was why some, like Vratsik, so liked to be picked up and petted: only by touch could they make themselves heard.

Vratsik tromped around a bit on Skrains lap like a little soldier scouting the territory for a perfect camping position, then walked his long body into a circle and plopped down. Skrain gave the camayrit a gentle scratch just above the krilătbre-yezulthe inverted teardrop-shaped protrusion on the forehead that all Cardassian creatures with a bioelectric sense shared. He was careful as always not to use his fingernailshe didnt care one bit for the feeling of one of his own macroscales being pulled the wrong way, and wouldnt blame Vratsik for scrambling off his lap if he erred.

I have quite a tendency for that, dont I? Skrain whispered ruefully to Vratsik. The camayrit intensified his thrumming, oblivious to the content of Skrains words, but seeming to recognize the tone. At least someone around here doesnt know That I tried to waste all of Oralius gifts, he silently finished. That I didnt even tell anybody. That I just pushed Mom and Dad away and told them everything was fine...and thenI

He couldnt understand why his fatherthe strong and dignified federal archon Procal Dukathad taken a partial leave of absence, splitting his docket with an older archon looking to ease his way to retirement, and traveled from Culat to Tirhem Farms to spend half of each week at the Ruby Domicile, where he lived during those times and came over to visit with his second son. Didnt Dad worry about what would happen if the media started asking questions? Didnt he worry about the hurtful speculations they might come up with to explain his absence? True, especially as an archon he could use the laws about public dissemination of information about minors to threaten any reporter who so much as thought about running a story about the embarrassment of a son who had managed to wind up in a mental health center, and for that reason. He shouldnt have to worry, he realized, but some reporters hierarchical instinctsand sense of common decencyseemed to be broken. Some of them might not stop at the thought of releasing such a story, and even with a retraction, the damage would be done. What would they think of Dad? Would they think hed been a monster to his son and that Mom had let him? There were those here at Tirhem Farms who had suffered all manner of abuse from their parents, after all.

And thank OraliusI am not one of those, Skrain thought. There were no horrors remembered, nor gaps in his memory. He had gotten along reasonably well in his large family, aside from the expected poking and prodding and teasing that went with being the second boy in the family. And that was what made it all the more galling to him, what he had done. How could Dad follow him here without reservations, after hed thrown the love of his family right back in their faces the way he had?

The tears started again. He was tired of tearsthey were good for the soul, his people saideven the Hebitian Records themselves saidbut he had shed so many of them and he was tired of not knowing whether they came from a broken mind or a broken soul. One tear slid down, missing his eye ridge thanks to the angle to which his head was tilted, and splashing on Vratsiks back. The camayrit cocked a gentle, curious eye at Skrain, but didnt interrupt his gentle thrummingwater was natural to the fish-eating animal, after all.

He didnt know whether he preferred the tears or the fire anymorethe kind that consumed the mind and drove it endlessly without rest. It could be an alluring state, yesbutin clarity, he knew it wasnt him either. To treat one was hard enoughto treat botheven in the reign of the 369th Ăstrayawhile at the same time respecting the integrity and dignity of the personalityit wasnt so easy. He knew he was making progresshe was in one of his low states now, but he could at least get out of bed, and his soul wasnt completely dead to the toothy smile of one of Oralius creatures.

Stillthey had not yet found the right thing to completely stop the cycling. And until then, he was here. Not that here was terriblenot like the horrors hed heard of from the days of the Cataclysm and even a century or so after that. People treated him far better than he deserved, he thought. Especially the acolytes and Guides, who knew full well how badly he had offended Oralius and still showed him kindness anyway. It was as though he were a long-anticipated house guest, not a patient. Even the family pets seemed to think so. But that still didnt ease his soul.

In stark contrast, Vratsiks eyes began to narrow with pleasure as Skrain stroked the entire length of the camayrits body, all the way from the krilătbre-yezul to the paddle-tip of his thick, sturdy tail. Im going to be stuck here for awhile, Skrain thought with a hint of laughter that barely even twitched his lipsbut at least it was something. No doubt: Vratsik was settling in for a nice, long nap.

Skrain was even more sure of this when Vratsik barely even opened an eye to register the approach of Derava, one of the robed Guides. Even with his eye ridge partly in the way, Skrain couldnt have mistaken her for anyone elsefor she could stand eye-to-eye with him, alone among the Guides at Tirhem Farms. Her long hair flowed halfway down her back, with the sides drawn back without embellishment, only a simple cord more comparable to what most malesSkrain includedused for their hair, than the elaborate ornamentation many women employed. That hair brushed against neck ridges wrapped in a clerical scarf high enough across her throat that only the last few macroscales just under the jaw ridges were left exposed. The more infrequent male Guides, in Skrains sect, did the same: for a Guide, and some very conservative Cardassians, the neck ridges were only for the eyes of ones husband or wife as the case might benever for the fantasies of another.

Derava gestured towards Skrain with a smile. Yailelhs Commentaries, I see? What do you think?

I think Vratsik had other plans, Skrain wryly answered. The truth was, he hadnt been able to maintain his concentration. The Guide nodded her understanding. Maybe she knew what he was trying to say, but felt no need to force him to state the obvious.

She, however, clearly felt no such compunctions about her own words. I think he likes you.

On cue, Vratsik rolled his elongated little body onto its side, back leaned on Skrain, stretched all four of his legs, stubby, clawed toes splayed, then settled down again, leaving his tan belly with its sensitive secondary bioelectric node exposed for petting. Skrain couldnt help but oblige.

Skrain found it much easier to talk to the religious devotees who served at Tirhem Farms than he did the counselors or doctors. It wasnt that there was anything wrong with the other staff membersin fact, a few even had diagnoses of their own. Skrain would never forget his surprise the first time he saw Dr. Rhulats hair part in the wind to reveal the silver glint of a medical implant behind her right earalmost the same kind that he might end up with if his condition continued to be so difficult to fully treat. He respected, even liked Dr. Rhulatbut still, to him a Guide was different.

That wasnt true of everyonesome of the other children avoided the Guides and acolytes as though they carried an illness that would make every single scale fall off of their bodies. For Skrainit made no sense, with the guilt he carried. Yet to him...they represented order. Sense. But the kind that warmed the heart rather than quenching its flame.

Vratsik likes anybody wholl give him a free stomach rub, Skrain demurred. Which probably was one of the criteria the staff used for selecting the resident pets.

But not everybody is willing, Derava countered. Not everybody is an animal person, of course. But its one of the ways we can express compassion. It says something about you, Skrain. Something good.

Thats very kind of you, Guide, Skrain murmured flatly. Even the name of this building mocks me, Skrain thought to himself as he remembered Deravas explanation of how the Pearl Domicile had come by its name. Because each of you is even more priceless and unique than a natural pearleach of you is handcrafted and precious, and to be respected and loved for who you are, shed said. Yet even in the face of that factjust what had he done? Still

Derava said nothing, simply waited until Skrain was ready to speak.

I realize now...that I have this imbalance, the teenaged Cardassian began. And that at least helps me understand why I feel the way I do sometimes. But I dont understand why Ihow it is that when Oralius tested me, something so horrible came out of me. I dont see how Im supposed to forgive myself for that.

The Guide paused, deep in thought. It seemed not to matter that she must have heard these sorts of things many times from who knew how many other children. The weight of the question had to be recognized. Thats not how Oralius sees it, Derava replied. She is not so indifferent to life as to want people to desire the eternal tundra. No illnessregardless of what kind it isis something that she wanted for any of us, nor are you your diagnosis, in her eyes. You werent in a state to make a rational choice thenyour medical record is most clear on that. And above all, she does not practice entrapment. Pleasedont entrap yourself.

Skrain noddedthough he feared the feel of his bioelectric field might somehow convey to Derava just how much he struggled with those words. Nothat didnt sound right. Feared wasnt the word, precisely; if this were anyone other than one of the Guides, and especially Derava, he likely wouldnt have spoken. Ill try my best, Guide.

Would you care to pray with me? Derava invited, her hand instinctively patting the recitation mask she had been carrying.

Skrain nodded againperhaps this might stop the arid wind from blowing through his soul.

Derava slid the mask onto her face, then rested a hand on his shoulder as she recited the Invocation. Then, in tandem, they closed their eyes. Compassionate Oralius, the Guide began, we come to you in search of a sign. I ask you to show Skrain Dukat who it is you have fashioned him to be, who it is he will be as you continue to help him regain equilibrium of body, mind, and spiritand above all, as he grows in his faith in you. Help him to recognize that signthat moment, in whatever form it is presented to himand to draw strength from it, and to feel his faith and his recognition of your love for him redoubled in his heart. May Fate be by Spirit so guided.
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Old December 3 2010, 06:45 AM   #2
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: November Contest Entry: SigCat--"Pearl"

22 Mioun, Thirty-First Year of the 369th Ăstraya

Skrain Dukat stood before the door to Nejran Yidal’s room, on the upper floor where the children in the most serious conditions resided. It had been a long-standing custom for centuries at Tirhem Farms that those whose condition permitted them to do so joined their own prayers to the prayers and skills of the medical staff and the Oralian clerics and acolytes. One group of patients, led by Dr. Rhulat, even sang in the upper halls. Skrain had considered joining them, but lacked the confidence in his voice to try. Still, he could offer his prayers.

Tonight, he couldn’t seem to settle his mind even though he knew he had only half an hour left before lights-out, and he was tired of trying to sort out the tangled knots of guilt and illness, tired of trying to tell which was which. So instead, he had come up here to pray for Yidal. This kind of prayer, he had discovered, also relieved his heart of its own troubles as he sought relief for another. If only Yidal could rouse himself—could begin the process of knitting his soul back together…even Skrain’s own halting progress would be a blessing of inestimable worth.

As Skrain concluded his prayer, something hummed quietly at his feet. It was a hekant, he realized. “Shouldn’t you be back downstairs for the night?” Skrain whispered to the timid creature…exactly the words that should have been addressed to him, he realized with a touch of irony. Animals weren’t supposed to roam freely after hours the way they did during the day, with a few exceptions; they were supposed to be back in their kennel areas at night when only a few nurses were about. Especially not on this floor, where they should have had the eyes of a staff member on them at all times. This hekant wasn’t going anywhere, though. The furred therapsid sat on…his?...her?...haunches and sniffed at the air, limpid green eyes gazing at the cracked door to Yidal’s room.

That wasn’t supposed to happen, either. If he wanted to open his door to the hall at night—not that he wanted to hear the little sounds of running water pipes, and the footfalls of the few who were still up and about, nor did he want the light gushing into his room—no one was likely to say much of anything. There were differing degrees and types of illness, and the staff was by and large sensitive to the individual situations of each boy…or girl, in the other wing of the domicile. But up here, where such things could potentially cause much greater distress, or someone might wake and wander without realizing exactly what they were doing, it wasn’t normal.

Skrain mouthed one more prayer for Yidal and lifted his hand to pull the door to. But the hekant leaned forward at the motion with a tiny, interrogative chirrup. Towards the door, rather than away. That was odd—he’ekant weren’t normally all that keen on sudden motions. They were prey animals, after all…they barely even knew how to nip when frightened, only to leap away.

Now Skrain’s heart skipped a beat. The hekant slunk forward—in a defensive posture, yes, but still…nudging the old-style wooden door. Not enough to slip through the gap…but still, the intent was clear.

Skrain’s entire body tingled, from toes to neck ridges to the tip of his nose—even to the end of the long, black hair, loosely tied back at the base of his skull, had there been nerves there. Was this a sign? Did it mean the doctors or Guides might find a way to get through to Yidal? One grey fingertip made contact with the door, and pushed it ever so slightly…just enough that the hekant could move freely in or out. “If you’re going to go,” he whispered voicelessly, “you’d better go now.”

He turned back towards the end of the hall. He still had a few minutes before he’d be expected to be in his own room asleep, but his stomach still twisted in a knot with as he opened the door to the stairwell and began his descent.



“…can’t take her out of there,” Skrain overheard Dr. Mezrin insisting in a low voice—far from furtive, but not meant to carry across the room the way the acoustics of the great central area of Pearl Domicile were allowing in this moment. “It’s working, and I’m not about to argue with success.” Mezrin paused. The moment of eye contact almost made the nerves in Skrain’s krilătbre-yezul buzz as though the man were standing right there next to him. Oh, Oralius—he knows. The doctor turned to the robed cleric at his side. “Guide…perhaps you could handle this?”

Inclining her head, Derava rose softly, purposefully from her seat…right towards Skrain. “May we talk?” she asked as she met his grey eyes. Her tone was gentle—but her stride spoke her purpose and full authority as a woman in the service of Oralius.

Skrain bowed…not just the polite message-received signal Derava had employed towards Dr. Mezrin a moment ago, but a true gesture of submission. Derava swept her hand at the same couch where they had sat the day before. “I have news for you,” she began once they sat. “It’s very early to say for sure—but Nejran Yidal showed the first signs of improvement today that we’ve seen since he got here.”

“That’s wonderful!” Skrain burst out. “It’s an answer to my prayers. To all our prayers,” he quickly amended. So that was a sign! he rejoiced, barely holding back a jubilant laugh. Finally, some treatment, some therapy had worked!

“Indeed,” Derava confirmed. “Oralius has provided! Early this morning, one of the he’ekant was found on Yidal’s bed. And…it’s not much yet, but he’s actually spoken a few words to her. It’s the first time any of us have heard him speak since he got here, Skrain. It’s the first time he’s shown any interest in any living creature. I thought you’d want to know that.”

Now she met Skrain’s eyes with a meaningful look. “I know you were up there last night. It’s not that we want to be intrusive, but we did have to understand how the hekant got in there. It’s important that you realize…while we very much appreciate all of you who visit with and pray for your peers upstairs, you need to be with a doctor or a Guide when you do that. That way if something is out of place, there’s someone there who can handle it appropriately—according to professional judgment. Do you understand, Dukat?”

Shame coursed through the teenaged boy and his face burned from jaw ridge to ear tip: the involuntary response of the hierarchical instinct to being chastised by a woman of such authority, however gently. Keeping his eyes down as instinct and custom both required in a moment like this, Skrain succinctly replied, “Yes, Guide.”

“You can look now,” Derava assured him in a tone bereft of the firmness that had seemed so alien to her voice. “I’m finished with what I had to say. My question now is of a very different nature.”

“What is that, Guide?”

Her eyes were gentle when he met them again, adding their own smiles to that of her mouth. “Did Oralius speak to you?” When Skrain didn’t answer right away, she added, “No one is going to take your answer the wrong way.”

Skrain’s eye ridges lowered as he pondered, his head canted slightly to the right. “I didn’t hear anything.”

“That’s very rare, to actually hear her speak with a voice like one of ours, unless she is speaking through somebody—and that happens quite often if you listen closely. For my own part…except for through others’ voices, I can’t say I’ve ever heard Oralius speak aloud with actual sounds.” Derava smiled. “Being a Guide doesn’t mean you get a direct commline to her, even though people think that of us sometimes; it means you’re still learning how to hear her just like any of us. It just means we’ve given our lives over to that learning in a different way than most. But even though I’ve never heard a voice, I can still say with certainty that I haveheard her sometimes…not even using words, sometimes, but feelings, certainties deep in the spirit.”

Skrain was already nodding before Derava finished her last sentence. “I did feel something—all over my body. I don’t know how else to explain.”

Derava nodded knowingly. “That sounds like it. I had a feeling something like that had happened…so many pieces came together, all at once…” She reached out with one hand, pausing with her fingertips just inches from Skrain’s chest, waiting for him to accept the ritual gesture. Skrain nodded, and she pressed her hand to his chest, in the center just below the collarbone, where the Cardassian heart resided. “This is who you are meant to be, Skrain. This is who you are.”



Afterword: I hope there really are places as warm as Tirhem Farms out there. And if there are not, I pray that there will be, someday very soon. I also hope readers will understand that Skrain’s charges against himself were without basis and that I do not think that way of people who struggle with mental illnesses.




The camayrit is based on the Earth gharial, a wonderful, but critically endangered species. Gharials are rather shy creatures that, like the camayrit, are incapable of taking down a human, though they can nip or slap you with their tail.

Adult gharial: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gharial

The camayrit most closely resembles a baby gharial; like most domesticated animals on Earth, the domestication process resulted in neoteny, or the retention of a species’ infantile features. Camayrit-ăs, however, do not possess the bulbous “ghara” on the nose, the way a male Earth gharial does. They do possess the krilătbre-yezul, the protrusion on the forehead that is responsible for the Cardassian bioelectric sense (which originally evolved for use in the water), but no eye ridges because while predators, they must watch out for larger creatures. Because of a quirk of Cardassian evolution, domestic camayrit-ăs may appear on the outside like Earth reptiles, but their affectionate temperament (and “thrumming,” which human ears, unlike Cardassian ones, would probably hear) would remind a human of a purring cat!

Baby gharial:
http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/image...05_rom_226.jpg
http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/cnhc/images/!potm-jul07.jpg
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Old December 3 2010, 02:23 PM   #3
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Re: November Contest Entry: SigCat--"Pearl"

Pick me up? those eyes begged.
I know those eyes. My cat does the same thing and I drop everything and go to pet him

That was a very touching story. Poor Skrain blamed himself for an action that he committed out of desperation and which he seemed to regret in the last moment when it appeared that he succeeded...

And then Vratsik comes and shows him affection. Nothing matters, just pet my belly. Which should tell a lot, because animals have that instinct of knowing who is good and who's better to be avoided. Even if this is a place where very friendly animals are chosen--they still know.

And hekant knew too. He was as much for Nejran Yidal as for Skrain Dukat. Skrain needed something to outweigh--in a way--his guilt and having a small share in healing process of someone as damaged as Yidal could also heal his own damage. It would prove he was not evil, he just had made a mistake. And while he can't turn back time and undo it, he can do other good things, giving his life meaning and positive influence on others.
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Old December 3 2010, 02:52 PM   #4
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Re: November Contest Entry: SigCat--"Pearl"

I also thought that was very moving, Nerys. As always, your AU Cardassia is a very engaging look at how the Cardassian culture could have taken a different path (or stayed true to its original path, I suppose is more accurate). There's always a real sense of thoughtful world-building behind your stories, even the more directly personal entries (rather than those wider in scope).

I share in your hope that Tirhem Farms could be "reality" as well as fiction. The reasoning behind the name of "Pearl" was particularly nice.

And I must say, I really appreciated your take on mental illness and the resultant spiritual uncertainties. As always, you're very sensitive to personal, psychological and spiritual issues and the whole story is just infused with a quiet compassion. On a personal note, I very nearly tried to kill myself when I was around Dukat's age, and I can tell you I appreciated your handling of this immensely.

It always amuses me slightly how considerate you are with your content warnings, when I've never seen you handle anthing, no matter how serious, in a way that might cause offense.

Just as a final note, this also worked very well as a piece in the wider mosaic of your AU Dukat's story. It sort of felt like it could slot in anywhere, like a quiet "flashback" scene in a film (though "flashback" is totally the wrong word for something as careful and soothing as this). Overall, it just felt...cosy, safe, quietly dignified. I suppose what I'm saying is, the "feel" of Tirhem Farms was really effectively communicated through the piece itself.
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Old December 3 2010, 03:19 PM   #5
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Re: November Contest Entry: SigCat--"Pearl"

I also thought of another reason to title it Pearl. I'm not sure Dukat received his implant here or a little bit later, but the implant itself became a pearl--more in physical appearance than the meaning of its beauty, but it gave him something special, it was, in a way, a treasure for him.
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Old December 3 2010, 03:33 PM   #6
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: November Contest Entry: SigCat--"Pearl"

Gul Re'jal wrote: View Post
Pick me up? those eyes begged.
I know those eyes. My cat does the same thing and I drop everything and go to pet him
Mine too. I always love when I've been away for a long time and I come back to my parents' house, and the cat still gets so excited.

That was a very touching story. Poor Skrain blamed himself for an action that he committed out of desperation and which he seemed to regret in the last moment when it appeared that he succeeded...
He was not sane, in the most literal sense, when he made the attempt...he wasn't thinking rationally in the slightest. And I think that when the fear broke somewhat through that fog, he did regret what he'd done and was terrified he was still going to die.

And then Vratsik comes and shows him affection. Nothing matters, just pet my belly. Which should tell a lot, because animals have that instinct of knowing who is good and who's better to be avoided. Even if this is a place where very friendly animals are chosen--they still know.

And hekant knew too. He was as much for Nejran Yidal as for Skrain Dukat. Skrain needed something to outweigh--in a way--his guilt and having a small share in healing process of someone as damaged as Yidal could also heal his own damage. It would prove he was not evil, he just had made a mistake. And while he can't turn back time and undo it, he can do other good things, giving his life meaning and positive influence on others.
I definitely think the animals knew. That's part of why the AU Cardassians give animals a part in the healing process. Animals may not understand a lot in the same way that we do, but they understand compassion.

And you're right. Skrain was afraid that those actions he took when he was his most severely ill were the reflection of who he was at the core. He thought he was nothing but this horrible person who had spat in the face of everything sacred. But he isn't. Even legally I don't think he could've been held fully responsible for his own actions (had he been an adult). But the actions he can be held responsible for...yes. He wants and needs to make it right, through those.

Deranged Nasat wrote: View Post
I also thought that was very moving, Nerys. As always, your AU Cardassia is a very engaging look at how the Cardassian culture could have taken a different path (or stayed true to its original path, I suppose is more accurate). There's always a real sense of thoughtful world-building behind your stories, even the more directly personal entries (rather than those wider in scope).
Thank you...I'm glad you like it.

I think this is probably closer to what the Hebitians were like. The AU Cardassians changed their name as part of the reforms, but they are still the cultural heirs of the Hebitians.

I share in your hope that Tirhem Farms could be "reality" as well as fiction. The reasoning behind the name of "Pearl" was particularly nice.

And I must say, I really appreciated your take on mental illness and the resultant spiritual uncertainties. As always, you're very sensitive to personal, psychological and spiritual issues and the whole story is just infused with a quiet compassion. On a personal note, I very nearly tried to kill myself when I was around Dukat's age, and I can tell you I appreciated your handling of this immensely.
That means so, so much to me, to know that. My own experiences don't go that far--only as far as wanting to die but still having enough rationality to know that wouldn't solve anything. So it means a lot to me to know that for at least one person who really had that experience, it felt right.

It always amuses me slightly how considerate you are with your content warnings, when I've never seen you handle anthing, no matter how serious, in a way that might cause offense.
Some people do find self-harm imagery very, very disturbing, even triggering of further harm--so I felt it was the right thing to do.

Just as a final note, this also worked very well as a piece in the wider mosaic of your AU Dukat's story. It sort of felt like it could slot in anywhere, like a quiet "flashback" scene in a film (though "flashback" is totally the wrong word for something as careful and soothing as this). Overall, it just felt...cosy, safe, quietly dignified. I suppose what I'm saying is, the "feel" of Tirhem Farms was really effectively communicated through the piece itself.
Thanks. This actually did start as a flashback in The Desolate Vigil. The only difference there was that AU Dukat wouldn't tell me at that time how he knew what had happened--all he told me was that Yidal had been helped, and that the two of them were close.

As for Tirhem Farms itself, I've heard stories from a friend of mine about what mental health treatment can still be like in some places, and how dehumanizing it can still be. I am not a doctor and have no idea how this would work, but I like the thought that the AU Cardassians were able to do it. Their entire perspective on medicine is fundamentally different from that of the West, here on this world.
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Old December 3 2010, 03:34 PM   #7
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Re: November Contest Entry: SigCat--"Pearl"

Gul Re'jal wrote: View Post
I also thought of another reason to title it Pearl. I'm not sure Dukat received his implant here or a little bit later, but the implant itself became a pearl--more in physical appearance than the meaning of its beauty, but it gave him something special, it was, in a way, a treasure for him.
Dukat received his implant later--though in the story he sees one of the doctors who has one for some (undisclosed) mental illness.

It took him time, once realized he was going to have surgery to install an implant, to really reconcile himself to that. But over time, you're right: he came to see it as a needed part of his own body, one that helped him.

I had not connected that with the title, but it's an interesting thought.
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Old December 3 2010, 10:35 PM   #8
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Re: November Contest Entry: SigCat--"Pearl"

A very nice, sweet, enearing tale, a great "aftermath" story, showing AU Dukat recovering from his immense depression (suicide, I recall?).

It's actually quite similar to my tale, in that regard--but of course, Ezri's scenario is not exactly traumatic in that sense, certainly not as much as AU Dukat's...still, they both are among friends, who are provided (as if by God, or Oralius) at the right time, in the right place.
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Old December 4 2010, 01:02 AM   #9
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: November Contest Entry: SigCat--"Pearl"

St. William of Levittown wrote: View Post
A very nice, sweet, enearing tale, a great "aftermath" story, showing AU Dukat recovering from his immense depression (suicide, I recall?).
Yes...AU Dukat did attempt suicide. He suffers from the Cardassian equivalent of bipolar disorder (the "fire" mentioned is how he tends to think of his manic phases), and at the time of this story, the doctors are still trying to figure out exactly the right course of treatment for him. He's taking something that is helping him some, at this time, but they haven't figured out exactly the right thing yet.

Even in the 24th century, treating mental illness is a delicate matter. Certain AU Cardassian beliefs also make them very particular about what an optimal outcome is, too: they wish to treat the person AND respect their personality. They don't want to simply drug a person into submission, but help them to live as they were meant to. Medication may be necessary for that (and they take medical implants very seriously)--but they are very exacting about it and don't settle for too many side effects, or for less-than-optimal outcomes. (I also think they refuse to do genetic manipulation, which has made them very skilled with pharmaceutical treatments.)

Thank you very much for reading.
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Old December 4 2010, 01:20 AM   #10
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Re: November Contest Entry: SigCat--"Pearl"

No problem!

I wonder how our Dukat handled this problem....
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Old December 4 2010, 01:26 AM   #11
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Re: November Contest Entry: SigCat--"Pearl"

By retreating into a self desultorily egomania perhaps? My guess is that he could not cope with it and he externalized it outwards into the world either seeking approval or submission.

In fact I had a daft theory that the system under which they lived could have driven many a Cardassian into a form of madness. (certainly NOT helped with chemicals as they found out on Empok Nor)
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Old December 4 2010, 01:34 AM   #12
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: November Contest Entry: SigCat--"Pearl"

I suspect that Gul Dukat was treated in such a way that he never had to really learn coping skills to deal with his illness. Possibly his Cardassians used genetic manipulation or other treatments the AU Cardassians would not permit. Another theory I saw, that I think might be right, is that Gul Dukat was only treated for depression, and his manic phases were never addressed. (And then, in "Sacrifice of Angels," it ALL hit him.) But even with the illness treated...I don't think Gul Dukat could withstand the strength of emotion AU Dukat has. So he sealed himself off so that people couldn't reach him.
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Old December 4 2010, 05:48 PM   #13
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Re: November Contest Entry: SigCat--"Pearl"

This truly is a very gentle and warm tale. Glad young Dukat got help at such a place and beginn to understand why you have him be the person you have him be in your universe.

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Old December 4 2010, 06:07 PM   #14
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: November Contest Entry: SigCat--"Pearl"

Thank you so much.

I think that Gul Dukat could have been this person if he'd made better choices. (He would probably have had to hide things about himself the way Tekeny Ghemor had to, but still, Tekeny proves that a Cardassian could be a good man even in that tyranny.) The environment certainly helps--but in the end, I think it was a matter of choice. AU Dukat felt that he was receiving a sign...but he had to choose to obey it.
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