Vedek Tannos was an aged woman by then, and when she spoke, all of Bajor strained to listen. Adami spent days outside her door waiting.
“Leave, child,” the vedek would say crossly in the mornings as Adami followed her from her quarters to the Assembly. “Can’t you see I have heavier things on my mind than your ambition? Go home to your family and serve as a good daughter can under such trying circumstances. Pray that our people will soon be free. I can do nothing for you.”
But Tannos didn’t understand. The loss of D’jarra had devastated the Winn name. While those lucky enough to have been in cloister when the Cardassians came retained their status, simply claiming religious sanctuary meant nothing to the brutish invaders, and Adami’s father, whose whole life had been lived in service to the Prophets, was now toiling in a strip mine. Her mother had died ashamed. Her sisters and brother, determined to secure for the family what financial stability could be had, were dispersing into crafts and commerce, never a thought to what had been demanded of their line since time immemorial, staking on the blood money they earned to do their father more good than the spiritual fulfillment of his ancestors’ legacy or the blessing of the Prophets for a family doing as they ought.
Only Adami cared. She spoke out, again, and hoped this time to be heard.
“I come to you, Vedek, to serve my family — we are of priestly D’jarra, ma’am — it is my birthright and my responsibility to train as you yourself once did.” She attempted a half curtsey as she ran, determined not to let Tannos lose her in the market.
For once, she did not; Tannos whipped around to face her. She was clearly furious. “Birthright? Birthright? Child, that you are alive at all is no longer a matter of rights but good fortune. There is nothing handed to any of us, not any more. The babes being born as we speak have no birthright but this violent occupation, and you think yourself entitled to the stature and power of the cloth? Incredible, your impertinence.”
“With all respect, ma’am,” shot back Adami, desperate, “I don’t care about power.”
The vedek raised a skeptical eyebrow. “You don’t.”
“No,” Adami replied firmly. “I wish only to do what I can. To do my part, for my family and for the people.”
“We do not serve the Bajoran people, young one; we represent them. We serve our gods; that is our everlasting honor.”
Adami bowed her head.
Paper-thin skin brushed her earlobe, tugged hard. Adami held her breath.
“You must decide who you love the most — the people, the Prophets, or Winn Adami,” Tannos said.
She knew her name, had been listening as Adami thought she begged in vain all this time; Adami could cry. She schooled herself, however, to only say with contrition, “I have much to learn, Vedek. I hope I can learn it from you.”
Tannos laughed. “I hope so too. Very well, I will sponsor your entry to the cloisters. Now shoo, and I will speak to those who may listen on your behalf.”
“The Prophets?” Adami asked breathlessly.
“No, you foolish thing, the ranjen abbots. May Pah-wraiths haunt my grave if you’re not the damnedest most presumptuous little scrapper I’ve ever met. You’ll wreak hell in the Assembly, if you ever make it that far.”
“Thank you, Vedek. I’m very sorry to be rude. Thank you.” Bobbing and bowing and clasping her hands until Tannos could see her no more, Adami scuffled around a corner and then leapt up in unbridled elation, earning a dirty look from a Cardassian soldier across the street. She straightened out and proceeded home normally, but her smile would not quit her face no matter how she tried. Instead it grew as her imagination ran wild — the unspeakable wisdom of the Prophets was soon to be whispered in her ear; their love would burn like a bonfire in her heart.