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Final Showdown

 

Chapter 5

The general entered the infirmary, his eyes on the five still figures who lay in the beds. Thirty-six hours and counting. He gave a small smile to the petite doctor who hurried toward him. He wondered if she had even left the base since the team had been brought back.

"Still no signs of wounds that could signify that they're in battle. Which might not mean anything...or it could mean that they're winning," Janet said softly. Habit. She preferred to disturb her patients as little as possible.

"Or that the battle has yet to begin," Hammond sighed.

"Casey seemed to think that it had to be fought soon, or they'd lose their opportunity to do so," the doctor replied.

"I recall, during a conversation with her regarding her time as Dartal's prisoner, that she had been on the astral plane no longer than three or four days, at least as far as her perception of time indicated. It had been weeks for us here in...in our world."

Janet nodded slowly. "It's possible then, that for them, they've only just arrived."

"Are they in any danger?" General Hammond sighed, shook his head, gave a small smile. "Are their bodies in any danger?"

She tugged her lower lip between her teeth. "I can keep the IV's going, and get as much nutrition to them as possible. I've had to catheterize them, they are taking in liquids via the IV's. If this drags out as long as it did for Casey, there will be muscle degradation. It will mean physical therapy for a few weeks to get them back to normal."

"Will their Immortality be of any use during this...mission, and their recovery from the effects?"

"I hope so," Janet sighed. "Casey seemed to recover remarkably fast once she actually woke up."

"Let me know if anything changes. Or...happens," the general instructed quietly.

"Yes, sir."

He turned to leave, then twisted his head to take one last look at the SGC's premier team. "I suppose we should be accustomed to things like this by now."

Janet gave an amused smile. "I suppose so. I don't know that we ever will be, however."

With a nod of agreement, the general headed for his office. Hoped that whatever needed to be done would soon be over. He hated having any of the personnel who worked for him in danger. And knowing SG-1, they were most certainly in danger.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The Library was a virtual hive of activity. Scribes and priests seemed to be everywhere, all scurrying from one place to another with determined steps, their faces solemn. Going about the Pharaoh's business, their bearing proclaimed. Important work! Questions for which we must find the answers...words uttered from his mouth that must be put into the papyrus scrolls at once, for all of posterity! Hurry, hurry!

There hadn't been this much activity before. Was this simply the result of having had a celebration the day before, with no one working within the cool, shadowed rooms of the huge structure? Or had he been so preoccupied with his own thoughts, his fears of going mad, that he'd simply not noticed what was happening around him? He watched for a moment, then tried to slip unobtrusively into the large room where he had been held...where he had copied scrolls for two days. That thought prodded him. Had it been longer than three days? Had it only been three days since his own memories, the knowledge of who he was, and where he was, had begun to override the mental blocks put into place by the daemons? Was it possible that the team had been prisoners for much longer?

"Suten Anu!"

His contemplation ended abruptly as he turned to see who had called out to him. Akhum was approaching quickly, a scowl on his face. The man looked like he was perpetually sucking on lemons. He chuckled mentally as he thought of the colorful phrases Casey could no doubt come up with to describe the man.

"You should have returned here to record what you witnessed as soon as the ceremony was completed!"

"I did return here immediately afterward," Daniel replied calmly. He hadn't actually written anything, but he'd been here. Trying to determine whether or not he was going insane. It seemed that he had the answer to that particular question. He wasn't. At least, not yet.

Akhum's eyes narrowed slightly. "Then where are the scrolls that should hold your observations?"

Remembering the earlier confrontation with this...man, Daniel gave him a cold stare. "If I had wanted you able to find them, so that you could destroy them and discredit me, you would have; if you had found them, I rather doubt that you'd be confronting me now."

The man's mouth opened to protest, his face betrayed his fears, and he closed his jaw quickly. Then his eyes narrowed. "You accuse me?" Akhum looked around, desperation telegraphed in every movement. "Do you hear?" He grabbed a nearby scribe by the arm, tugged the man closer. "Did you hear him? He accuses me!"

"Accuses you of what?"

Daniel turned to face the speaker. Watched as the priest who had promised that he was protected walked toward him. Nearly half a dozen other priests followed. It was possible that these men were his 'protection'. Not that he was at all comfortable with that thought. Because he had no idea who they were, or what their actual role in this illusion might be.

"I ask again, Akhum, of what does Suten Anu accuse you?"

Blue eyes moved back to lock with dark brown eyes. The fear was radiating from the man now. Which seemed...odd. The first time the two had met, or at least the first time from his perspective, Daniel had been concerned that Akhum was capable of killing him. Now..."I believe it's a misunderstanding," he said quietly.

"Misunderstanding?" the priest echoed.

"Yes...um...Master," Daniel replied, trying to remember the hierarchy of the temple, which of course would have controlled the libraries. "Akhum was asking whether or not I had returned here after the festival."

"Which you did."

"Yes, I did."

"Were you able to write anything?"

Daniel smiled. It seemed that the priest understood that a witness sometimes had to process what he had seen before putting pen to paper. Or quill to papyrus, as the case might be. Okay, story time, as Casey would say. Play along for now, so that whoever this guy is, he doesn't suspect that the mental block is gone. He shook his head. "My thoughts would not still long enough for me to capture them."

The priest smiled indulgently. "I too, found myself unable to put into words the glories that I had beheld."

Well, I wouldn't go that far, Daniel thought wryly. But at least the hastily conjured plan was working...so far.

Akhum was looking decidedly uncomfortable, but the panic that had filled his eyes had disappeared. "Then you should be recording now what you witnessed, before your mind has jumbled the events too much to be reliable."

"He is correct, Suten," the priest sighed.

"As I was going to do, before I was waylaid," Daniel replied.

"Go, Suten. Record for all time the first ceremony of Isis which Djedefre performed."

He wasn't certain, but he thought he heard a bit of cynicism in the priest's voice. Akhum didn't seem any more sure than he, although that man was staring hard at the priest. "Yes, Master." With a slight bow of his head, he hurried toward the room where he had worked the days prior.

Just as he hoped, the scrolls were still on the table. He grabbed the first one, sat down, and carefully unrolled it, using the triangular-shaped wooden block that held the scroll in place, the bulk of the scroll resting behind the block, allowing it to be rolled so that it was easily read.

He skimmed the list of contents. Nothing that was of any interest to him. Reaching for the second, Daniel wondered just how long he would be left undisturbed; how long before he would have to have something written down about the ceremony. Which, in his mind, had been interesting, but nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Just the routine prayers, the rituals that were followed every year during the ceremony...

The ceremony, known as the "Night of the Teardrop"...a remembrance of the extent of the Isis's lamentation of the death of Osiris, her tears so plentiful they caused the Nile to overflow...was celebrated every year just before the annual floods; in fact it was still celebrated in modern Egypt. Isis was one of the few Egyptian gods or goddesses who had actually interacted with the people. Unlike the gods of the other pantheons, who cavorted and schemed and caused trouble among the people they supposedly created and cared for, the Egyptian gods remained aloof, caring for the people, but rarely interacting with them.

Isis was also one of the few gods to have remained popular as well, from Ancient Egypt into the Greco-Roman worlds. She had even influenced aspects of Christianity. There were those who believed that early Egyptian drawings and statues of Isis nursing Horus, her son with Osiris, had influenced the drawings of Mary and Jesus. He'd read an interesting paper regarding the fact that until the adoption of the Isis myth, changing the names to suit the religion, Christ's origins had played little importance to his teachings. In fact, there were those who believed the entire Nativity was inspired by a combination of stories about Isis, and the Roman myths of Mithra, another example of 'new' religion taking and using elements of already well established stories. Certainly the fact that some early Christians even called themselves Pastophori, meaning the shepherds or servants of Isis...which might have been the origin for the word 'pastors'...was a clue to how far reaching the Isis myth was.

Perhaps it was that...familiarity...that was the reason the daemons had chosen her to be the goddess of this city. He especially would have found nothing unusual about the situation. And she was one 'god' which no one from the SGC had met in her 'Goa'uld' form. She'd been dead when Sarah had opened the canopic jars. And had been taken as host by Osiris. Daniel shook himself. He didn't need to theorize about Isis and her influence on modern religions, or the fact that she was a Goa'uld who had died in antiquity. He needed to find any clues to who SG-1 was dealing with, and...more importantly in his mind...anything that might lead to finding Casey.

The second scroll held no more of interest than the first. The third, however, spoke of life within the palace. It just might, he thought, have something they could use. He began to read, unaware of the passage of time. There...a description of the harem.

One section caught his attention fully. About 'forbidden rooms' within the harem apartment, where none but the Pharaoh, and the wife in charge of the harem, were allowed to enter. Okay, they'd already figured out that the Pharaoh was one of the daemons. Close enough to keep tabs on any occupant, but totally out of the way, with no chance of anyone finding an unconscious woman...it would be a simple matter to threaten the wife into silence, or simply forbid her from entering the room...

"You have written nothing!" a voice hissed from the doorway.

He didn't even look up. "Yeah, how about that."

"You are not the First Scribe yet!"

First Scribe? No, that should be 'Head' Scribe, shouldn't it? The random thought brought his attention fully to the man now standing beside the table. First Scribe? Sort of like First Prime? Were the Goa'uld involved in all of this? He groaned mentally. That's all they needed...to learn that another Goa'uld had taken lessons from Anubis and had managed to find a way to get to the astral plane! "First Scribe?"

Akhum paused. "Head Scribe," he corrected, frowning slightly. Akhum's eyes moved around the room. There was something not right about this place...he shivered slightly. He looked at Daniel again. "What is happening to me? You have put a curse on me, that my mind now deserts me!"

He jerked slightly. "You feel as if this place is...wrong, that you don't belong here? Flashes of...memory...faces that seem familiar, yet seem to be strangers? Those here," Daniel waved his hand around the room, "are more strangers than friends and family?"

"You have also experienced this...this...madness?"

"Yes."

"What does it mean? Are we going mad?"

"No, we're not going mad," Daniel replied gently. "We're on the-" He broke off. "We're in a place...somewhere that we're not actually supposed to be."

Eyes wide, Akhum contemplated this bit of information. There was no deception in those strange blue eyes. But there was understanding. He nodded slowly as the words continued to echo in his head. Suten Anu spoke the truth, his heart assured him of this. "Until two days ago, I was Akhum, Scribe of the Great Library. I was..." he paused, shook his head. "Now, I do not know who I am, nor why I am here. Nor do I understand the feelings of animosity that flood me when I see you."

Daniel frowned. "I have no idea why you're here, or where you should be. Something tells me, however, that you were once in the service of a Goa'uld."

"Guld? Goa'uld," he said, correcting himself. Akhum's thick eyebrows tightened even more. "I know this word."

"I suggest that you do nothing to draw attention to yourself. Do as you have been, for now. I'll see what I can find out," Daniel said quietly, his voice low.

Nodding slowly, Akhum began to back away. "I am not losing my wits?"

Daniel smiled. "I doubt it. I think the mental block placed in your mind is faltering-" And just why would that be, if what the team suspected about their Immortality was true? Or was the fact that the team was Immortal more of a draw on the power of the daemons than those beings had anticipated...and now they were at risk of losing control of the illusion? That could be a disaster, if he hadn't located Casey before then! "I need to go, but I don't want questions asked..."

Akhum gave a slight smile. Odd that he felt that he could trust a man he had known only as his adversary. For the moment, enemy or not, Suten Anu was the only man he could trust. "Go. I will pretend that you are busy here. And I will do my best to prevent anyone from entering this room."

With a nod of thanks, Daniel bolted from the room. Remembered just in time that if he were seen leaving, it could cause him problems...which he did not need at the moment. He remained in the shadows, waiting until the way was clear before hurrying down the corridor.

Dark eyes watched from deeper shadows. The illusion mustn't be allowed to fall, not yet. Not until the Guide had been returned to her rightful place...

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Teal'c made the rounds of the guards on duty. Hoping that his actions would be construed as the eagerness of a newly appointed Captain of the Guard. When Sheriti approached him, he tried to quell his impatience. The woman's uncanny resemblance to Daniel Jackson's Abydonian wife still poked at him. His heart would forever hold the guilt he felt for taking Sha're, for the years of pain and loss that Daniel Jackson had endured, because of him. That the daemons would attempt to trick him into 'taking' the archaeologist's first wife a second time angered him. While it might have been nothing more than symbolic, the meaning was clear enough to him. To have made love to this woman, this version of Sha're, would have been as much an assault on Daniel Jackson as taking the real Sha're had been.

"I have a message for you," Sheriti whispered.

He was forced to lean close to hear her words. Caught her hand when she attempted to scratch his face. "What is wrong?"

"You don't belong here!" Sheriti hissed. "You must leave, now!"

The fevered look in the dark eyes concerned him. As did the fact that it seemed that the harem slave knew who he really was. Or at least suspected that he was not of the Ascended plane. "I cannot."

"She for whom you seek is already dead!"

He started slightly. Holding tightly to the woman's wrists, he looked around carefully. Thought he saw movement behind one of the wide columns that graced the corridor. Near the door to the harem.

The sudden pull of dead weight yanked his attention back to the woman in front of him, as Sheriti collapsed, her body going limp, her eyes fluttering closed. He swept her into his arms, and with little thought, seized the opportunity that had presented itself. He was just inside the doors of the harem when he was stopped by a woman dressed as the queen. He knew immediately who she was. Tameri. Fifth wife of the Pharaoh.

"Not even you are allowed within these walls," Tameri said quietly. Firmly.

"This woman has fallen ill."

"You wish to return a gift of Pharaoh?" Her eyebrows went up slightly.

"I wish for her to be cared for. My duties do not offer me the luxury of doing so."

Tameri studied the large man for a moment. Then she smiled. "Of course, Mdjai. Lay her down here, and I will tend to her myself."

Teal'c lowered the woman to the silk covered couch. He knew that he'd met the 'true' Sheriti when she had first appeared at the door to his room. What had happened in the corridor was a result of the daemons. He reached out and caressed her cheek. An action as much a natural response to her, as it was a ploy to make certain no one suspected that he was not who they thought him to be.

Tameri smirked slightly. The Jaffa was so deep into the illusion that it seemed he had fallen in love with the harem slave. She would speak to Mibi about allowing the two to marry.

"I will return as soon as I can," Teal'c said, turning to Tameri.

"I know," the daemon said softly. "Sheriti will be here, and I'm certain she will be eager to be with you once again."

There was a knowing smile on the woman's face. It seemed that those around him believed that he had taken full...advantage...of the gift given to him by the Pharaoh. It would be to his benefit to continue to foster that belief. "While it will be most difficult for me, I shall...refrain...until Sheriti is fully recovered."

It was impossible not to chuckle out loud. "Very generous of you, Mdjai."

He shifted uncomfortably, but not for the reason the Pharaoh's wife believed.

"Go. She will be well soon, I promise this."

With a regal nod of his head, Teal'c turned to leave the room. Didn't have time to look around as Tameri led him to the doorway; thus he never noticed the door hidden to one side, behind a wooden divider covered with hieroglyphs, the symbols telling the story of a seer, and her imprisonment by a god of great power and strength. The story was told fully, and colorfully.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Sam had been able to convince Iteti that she needed to find the components with which to build her 'war machine'. She implored, pleaded, and begged; hoping that she was behaving in the way that a young woman with such ideas and dreams would. The fact that he was in such a good mood was to her advantage, and she had been allowed to accompany him into the city once again.

It took concerted effort not to look in the direction of the dilapidated old barn where she and her teammates would meet up at sundown. It wouldn't be, however, unusual for her to try to get a glimpse of the palace, even if it was just the back of the edifice. She stood on tiptoe to try to see over the heads of the workmen who mingled in the trading compound.

"Won't see what you're looking for from here," Iteti said, standing behind her.

Giving a guilty jump, she turned to face the man she suspected was really a daemon. "And just what is that?" she asked cautiously.

He smiled. "The Pharaoh."

She gave a silent sigh of relief. "You never know," she replied flippantly.

Iteti chuckled, then went to see about the wood that Sammy needed for her 'war machine'. She'd already indicated that she would just reuse the chariot wheels, but that she needed a length of board that could be carefully bent to fit between the two, which would serve as the base for holding the arrows that would be attached. His chuckle deepened when he recalled their earlier discussion, during their trek into the city, as he asked questions about her newest invention.

"I haven't got all of the details worked out just yet," Sam had admitted. She refused to admit to herself that she was looking forward to trying to make the 'war machine' actually work, if time allowed. "It's going to take a bit of trial and error to find the right placement for the arrows. And I have to figure out a way to be able to feed the arrows into a loader, which will insert the arrows as the opening moves past."

For not having worked out the details, he thought amusedly, she had been full of chatter about her ideas, and wondering just how far the best archers could launch an arrow, and if she should try to match that, or simply go for quantity. When Mibi finally decided to summon him for a report...which he had yet to do...Iteti would be able to announce that 'Sammy' was fully immersed in the illusion, and that her mental block was now permanent. He might even request that her 'war machine' and 'water wheel' be adopted. She'd be thrilled!

She let her eyes drift over one of the figures who lurked in nearby shadows. One she had recognized immediately. He was with a group of men, all of whom seemed to be on the fringes of the hectic activity around them. No doubt trying to learn all that he could.

When a workman bumped into her, nearly sending her sprawling, a large hand appeared from nowhere to help her maintain her balance. She looked up into the wide, friendly face of a man she'd never seen before. His hair and beard were brown, in contrast to the dark and black hair that surrounded them. The flickering question of just how far into Europe the Pharaohs had managed to travel crossed her mind...Daniel would know about that. The thought was quickly followed by the fear that perhaps this man was another daemon.

"This is a rough place for such a beautiful woman," the man said quietly. He glanced around. "Especially a woman of your talents."

Sam felt her throat tighten, and her stomach was doing flip flops. "Talents?"

The man gave a lazy smile. "Blown up any suns lately?"

In spite of her best efforts, her eyes went wide and her jaw dropped. "Excuse me?" Instantly berated herself. What 'nice girl' in Ancient Egypt said that? Pulling up every bit of training she'd ever received, Sam managed to keep the shaking to a minimum, and her voice calm and quiet, even as she battled the panic that was certainly strong enough to win. Without meaning to, her eyes had gone back to where the colonel had been. He was still there, watching her...

 

 

 

It hadn't taken long to find men who were willing to talk about anything, for a price. Some things never changed, he thought silently, watching as the four men, one of them just a kid, remained hidden in the shadows of a low building. They missed nothing that went on around them, even though it appeared that they never moved their heads.

He had no idea if there had been street gangs in good ol' ancient Cairo, or whatever the city had been called then, or if there were just the occasional bums and troublemakers. It would seem that for all of their technological advances, mankind certainly hadn't changed much. Oh, the rules of polite society might have undergone a makeover or two, and it seemed to him that acceptable behavior was swinging back away from the Victorian prudishness that had controlled the past few centuries, getting back to the reality of life.

But, for the most part, whether it was modern day Iraq, or Ancient Egypt, the game was still the same, the players stereotypical. He wasn't sure whether to be reassured or disappointed by such enlightenment. Of course, his brain pointed out, the fact that this was an illusion created by several really whacked out, and he suspected pissed off, Ascended Beings made the discovery all the more...surprising. Maybe it shouldn't have been, if the beings were trying to create a 'reality' that the team would recognize, be comfortable in.

He wasn't a psychic. That was Radar's department. He wasn't up on all of the do's and don'ts for a city in Ancient Egypt...or ancient anywhere else for that matter. That was Daniel's forte. He could, however, read people. Especially bad people. No way he was going to examine just what that fact might say about him.

So he found a comfortable place to sit. And made it his business to watch those four men. It would only be a matter of time before they approached him. He could only hope that there wouldn't be a confrontation that would bring out this place's version of the local police.

The day passed slowly, and he fervently wished for a cup of water. He'd been uncomfortable, and hot, and thirsty before. He'd probably find himself in similar circumstances again.

It was early afternoon when the youngest of the group approached him. He remained silent. The boy studied him, then sat down beside him. He didn't move, but he made no protests either, when the boy seemed to get as close as possible without actually sitting in his lap. A few minutes later, the kid shifted until there was a good two feet between them.

The others had approached, one by one. Nothing was said for nearly an hour. They simply sat together. Then...well, it was that typical SG-1 luck. Something went tits up. Which hopefully meant that the SG-1 good luck was on the way to save the day.

Jack had noticed Sam the instant she had appeared. Kind of hard not to...what with her blonde hair and blue eyes and long legs. Which that dress of hers really did nothing to hide. Hadn't anyone in Egypt never noticed that the damned things were see-through when the sun was behind them? It wasn't until she had that panicked, 'deer-in-the-headlights' look that he felt his heart lurch. Something was wrong. The fact that her eyes focused on him was enough for him to know that she'd seen him earlier.

He was ready to run to her aid, fuck the consequences, until Daniel's face flashed in his mind...begging him not to do anything that could get Casey hurt...permanently. He swallowed, hard. Gave a slight nod of his head, hoping that she'd get the message.

 

 

 

Sam saw that subtle nod. Jack was ready to spring into action, all she needed to do was signal him. She looked back at the man who stood watching her. "I don't know what you're talking about, and I don't think my uncle would pleased to know that you're speaking to me, and without a proper introduction."

As soon as the words left her mouth she wanted to take them back. She had no idea how the Ancient Egyptian society operated; it might have been far more open and democratic...well, as far as societal rules...than what she was accustomed to! The comment sounded like something straight from a Jane Austin novel!

The man studied her. "Not all among the sheep are your enemy. Nor are all of the goats your friends."

Now that had to be the most confusing thing she had ever heard in her life. "And the deer will meet by the river at sunup." Again she wanted to slap herself. Far too much time spent with Jack O'Neill and Daniel and Casey Jackson. Those three were having a horrible affect on her...she'd never been so smart-assed before meeting them. Well, not quite as much, she admitted silently.

The man smiled. "Do what you must do, but do so quickly. Mibi grows stronger by the hour, and soon he will be too strong to stop."

Now that she understood, far too well. "He's the one Daniel must fight?"

"I doubt very much that Mibi will allow that to happen. The most you can hope for is that destroying his followers will weaken Mibi enough for...The Others...to deal with him."

The Others. They'd heard mention of this group before...the first time when they, or she rather, had met Orlin. He had been an Ascended Ancient, punished by The Others for interfering with the mortals he observed. Daniel assumed they were just a part of the Ascended. Having a seer who traveled the astral plane had given them a more accurate idea of how the levels of existence were 'layered'. The Others were a level above the Ascended. She studied the man standing in front of her, not actually seeing how closely he was watching her. Okay, this guy knew about The Others. So did that mean there were actually Others in the city? Why would they risk becoming involved? "How long do we have?"

"A few hours at most. If the battle isn't fought by sundown tomorrow, you and your friends will never leave here."

Given that Daniel's experiences with Oma had resulted in word games and puzzles of logic and philosophy and morality, to have this man speak so...plainly...left her a bit worried. "Does Mibi know about the goats and the sheep?"

"The sheep, he captured for himself. The goats...no...he has no knowledge of the goats."

"Then they hide well."

"Well enough. Although there are goats who would alert him, if given the chance."

"Why?"

"For the opportunity to be a simple shepherd. Better to be the herder, than the herded, is it not?"

And here she'd been thinking that the conversation was straightforward. "What do I do?"

"Find the others. By now you should remember them."

"And how do I find them?" Interesting. This man didn't know that four of the members of SG-1 were already free of the mental blocks. They could assume that so far the daemons didn't know, either. That was a good thing.

"Think on what they were, are, and always will be."

If she didn't already know about their 'assigned positions', as Daniel had referred to them, that comment wouldn't have made much sense to her. At least, not right away. Before she could reply, the man turned and walked away Just behind him was a pile of warped wood. Two strips, her mind noted immediately, that would be perfect for her 'war machine'.

"Sammy?"

"I found them!"

Iteti felt his heart stop. "Found who?" he asked suspiciously.

"Not who, Uncle Iteti, what," she replied. She dared to glance in Jack's direction. Flexed her shoulders in what she hoped he would interpret as a shrug.

Iteti sighed silently in relief. "All right, what is it that you have found?"

She dashed forward, grabbed the two boards. "They're perfect!"

The triumphant smile on her face was enough to have Iteti laughing out loud. If he were to remain here, a simple blacksmith, having Sammy in his life would make it bearable. Perhaps he'd alter her memories to make him her mother's sister's husband. A relationship that was devoid of any blood ties. Which would leave him free to pursue her, if he so desired. He looked at her. Yes, he desired. He would change his own appearance, not all at once, not suddenly, but enough over time to make himself attractive to her. Mibi would no doubt be amused at his willingness to stay in the illusion, to see to it that the Protectors never left. The One and the Guide were, he sighed mentally, most certainly marked for death.

 

 

 

Jack practically held his breath as Sam talked to the guy who looked like he could bench press Teal'c. So far, so good, he thought. When the guy walked away, he let out a breath of relief. He saw the slight shrug she gave, just before she had the other guy, the daemon, he figured, laughing out loud. No clue what she had said, but whatever it was, no one seemed to be onto the fact that SG-1 was loose. Well, mostly. He took a deep breath. It was now or never. "What can you tell me about the palace?"

"It is large," one of the men said. His companions snickered loudly.

"That's helpful."

The man grinned.

"Where is the harem located?"

"You intend to visit the Pharaoh's harem?" The young boy's eyes went wide, while his companions elbowed one another.

"I might. If those women are good enough for the Pharaoh..." Jack let the comment trail off.

The older man studied the newcomer. "He has taken someone from you. Someone you love."

"I care for her, yes," Jack admitted. Like an annoying wart on his ass. Or a little sister. Hard to tell which was which sometimes. Radar was also the love of his best friend's life. That alone made her precious. "I'd like to take her home."

"Many men have had the same desire," the third man said quietly.

Jack suspected that the third man just might know about the situation from personal experience. He reevaluated the men beside him. Had they come to the city from somewhere else, with the intent to rescue a loved one, either from the harem, or the slave pens? It's just an illusion, his brain reminded him. Damned realistic, he shot back. Too realistic for him, truth be told. "I have to try."

"I suppose so," the third man said, sighing softly.

"So, any clue where the harem is located?"

"Near the Pharaoh's quarters. That is all I know," the man replied.

Jack nodded. Nothing they didn't already know, he thought. He pulled out the small bag that held the jewelry. "I don't need this," he said quietly. He handed the leather purse to the boy, who was the closest to him.

The boy opened the bag and examined the contents, his eyes going wide. His hands trembled visibly when he handed it to the oldest man.

"Do not wait too long. Time is running out for you there, as well for others here," the oldest of the four men said quietly. He stood to his feet, and silently led his friends way.

He stared after the man. What the hell had that been about? Probably just one of those comments that could be taken many ways. No doubt the guy had been speaking from his experience. He glanced at where Sam was talking animatedly. No doubt spouting off about some great idea, and all of the related details. He gave a soft snort. She'd bore her daemon to death, he thought, grinning at the idea. She was brilliant, his Sam. But she loved details as much as Daniel did.

When the man...must be the daemon pretending to be her uncle, he mused, led her toward the entrance, he knew that they would be returning to the house just outside of the city. Until nightfall, there wasn't much he could do to help her, not there, not without alerting the daemons to the fact that his team was on the move.

He needed a drink of water. He also needed to rest, for just a bit. Only one place to do that in relative safety. And then, he thought, he just might do a bit of fishing, just to pass the time until nightfall.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

She was in the palace. That was a given. If he could just get inside, and find her...better for just one of them to be wandering around in there, than all of them, who were bound to draw unwanted attention. And as long as his absence was being covered in the Library, he was, Daniel decided, the logical choice. He ignored the part of him that insisted that Teal'c was doing what he could as Captain of the Guard to locate Casey. He was closer physically to the complex than Jack, and had a hell of a lot more personally at stake in getting Casey away from the daemons than Teal'c. She was his Wife, and just once he was going to save her!

He advanced slowly, counting the minutes between the appearance of the guards on the top of the wide, tall wall that surrounded the royal compound. No doubt there were stationary guards at the gate as well. If he could cause a distraction, something that didn't involve him, near the gate, it might pull the attention of those particular guards away just long enough for him to slip inside.

There were several kiosks on the far side of the wide expanse of tiled road that ended at the palace gate. He stood near one, pretending to contemplate the clay jugs and bowls that were for sale, all the while surreptitiously studying the area. For a moment he thought the center design resembled a ring transporter. A thought that had his heart pounding against his ribs. Just an illusion, he assured himself. This is all an illusion...

Illusion...what would happen if he just walked through the gate? Would he be stopped? Arrested? Or would the guards just...guard. And not even notice?

No, that would be too simple. All of the other people in this illusion took their various tasks and duties seriously, so it seemed. As if they weren't aware that they were part of something that had no more substance than a dream. Perhaps, he thought, they weren't aware. Which again brought up the question of just where had all of the people come from? So damned many questions, and no answers, he grumped silently.

He knew that the harem would be near the Pharaoh's private chambers. And that the Pharaoh was a daemon, the one assigned to watch Teal'c. Now, if this illusion was realistic, the Pharaoh would be in the throne room, listening to reports from Viziers, requests from nobles, giving orders concerning the business of the land. To follow logic, it would be in the Pharaoh's best interest to make Teal'c believe the illusion was reality, so...he, the Pharaoh, would do what Pharaohs did. And since Teal'c had been First Prime, he would expect his Lord to...well, do Pharaoh-like things. Such as sitting in the throne room. Which meant that his chambers would be empty. Nice bit of round and round, repetitive thinking Danny, he mused silently.

The sprawling structure that was the palace was a single story. Odd that it wasn't actually any larger than it was. Perhaps too much detail was difficult to sustain. Whatever the reason, it lowered the number of rooms he'd have to search. That was definitely a good thing.

The sound of voices filled the air; merchants who owned the various kiosks calling out, trying to capture the attention of the passers-by, mostly women, who were in groups of three and four, chattering animatedly. Probably still talking about the festival, Daniel thought fleetingly. Children were laughing and screaming as they ran back and forth, playing a game with a large hoop and short sticks. To hear the argument over that dissonance was a sign of just how loudly the three men were shouting.

Arms flailing as they continued to argue, insults hurled back and forth becoming louder and more verbal attack than simple disagreement, the men stood nearly chest to chest. One man shoved the other. The third shoved the first man. Who shoved back, only to be shoved by the second man.

Daniel watched for a moment. Glanced around. The guards at the gate were busy watching the scene, although no doubt the police, as Ancient Egypt had certainly had police, would arrive soon. This was his chance. Another glance at the palace walls. It seemed that those guards there were just as entertained by the spectacle.

With a deep breath, he sprinted across the open plaza. Leaned against the wall, partially hidden from view by a large palm tree. He couldn't see the wall above him, but the guards at the gate had actually stepped forward, attempting to get a better view of the three men as they quarreled, appearing to be just seconds from actual fisticuffs.

There was no time to peek around the opening in the wall, to determine what was on the other side. He slid past the guards, and ducked down behind a row of small olive trees. He had expected to see at least some activity in the courtyard, but the expanse of tiled patios and carefully tended gardens seemed to be deserted. Again the thought that too much detail was difficult to maintain moved across his mind. Lucky for him that it was so.

He watched for several minutes, to determine that there wasn't a regular patrol that moved through the courtyard. It's now or never. Choosing a room that was off to one side of the rambling structure, with a low wall that separated it from the garden just in front of it, Daniel began to run, keeping low, behind the trees and plants as much as possible.

One quick glimpse told him the private lanai was deserted. He bounded over the wall, and into the room. Couldn't help but grin. If he wasn't mistaken, he was in the bathroom of the Pharaoh. Not bad for a first attempt. So far, so good, he thought.

Heart pounding, struggling to control his breathing...an attempt to remain as quiet as possible...Daniel darted through the main room of the chamber. An ornately decorated door on the far side of the room caught his attention. Could it be? Was that where the daemons were holding Casey? He had to check, to be certain.

He slipped inside. Being an interior room, there were no windows. It was pitch black. There had to be something nearby...he poked his head back into the main chamber. His eyes searched for, located an oil lamp. Thankfully a flint was laying beside it. He managed to get a flame to flicker and dance. Lamp in hand, he returned to the room. Held it up above his head.

"Oh, God," he muttered. Shuddered at the collection of...paraphernalia...that greeted him. Chains hung from the ceiling. The bed in the center of the room had posts, to which manacles were attached. Whips, both leather straps and what looked like birch saplings, were piled on one nearby table. Another table held a collection of phalluses - various sizes and shapes were available. Whoever the Pharaoh was, he was definitely into bondage and sadism.

Splatters of red decorated one of the benches, and trailed in a crisscross pattern over the floor. His blood began to boil in his veins. His fingertips began to burn. If he found out that one drop of that red belonged to Casey, he'd destroy this entire damned astral plane!

He'd worked his way around the room, searching for any hidden openings or doorways, and was standing near enough to the opening to the main room to hear the door to the outer chamber open. He didn't hear voices, but that didn't mean anything. He managed to douse the flame on the lamp he held, sat it on the floor near the corner. Peeked around the wooden frame.

A tall man with light brown hair moved into the room. Stood hesitantly beside the bed. His light green eyes moved slowly, as if he was looking for something. When his eyes stopped on the partially open door, he smiled. "Peek-a-boo."

Daniel cursed mentally, then tried to decide what to do. He was literally trapped in the room, and it sure as hell wasn't a place he wanted to be trapped in! If he remained silent, perhaps the man would go away.

"It's all right. I know you're there. You must hurry, though. The Pharaoh will be returning very soon. He doesn't like boys. Only girls. He likes to hurt them, though. I think that's wrong, don't you?"

He frowned. There was an innocence, a...simplicity...to the way the man spoke.

"I won't say anything to anyone about seeing you. Well, I haven't really seen you. But I know you're there. I have to go now. I'm not allowed to be here, either. If you want to talk to me later, I'll be working in the kitchen."

The man turned and left the room. Before Daniel could react, a youth of not more than fifteen crawled from beneath the bed. His knees nearly gave out as he watched. The boy glanced at the door behind which he hid. There was no way in hell that kid didn't know that the room was occupied. He might not have a clue who Daniel was, but that part didn't matter.

The boy crossed the room silently, glancing at the partially open door twice before disappearing into the barely visible hallway. Daniel sagged against the wall when he was once again alone...

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

A single lamp was burning in the room, hanging from a chain suspended from the middle of the ceiling. The light it offered was dim, and cast shadows against the wall. The only object in the room was a low bed. Which had been occupied for several days now. Until that moment, the occupant had rarely stirred; luckily the minute movements had remained unobserved by her captors. There had been no outward sign of life, other than the shallow rise and fall of her chest.

First her fingers twitched, then her hands seemed to spasm. One slender leg was pulled up, then slowly lowered again. Her head moved from one side to the other, tangling long blonde hair.

She opened her eyes, the emerald green orbs moving around slowly, taking in her surroundings. One hand went to her forehead, willing the pain to subside quickly. "Son-of-a-bitch!" she hissed.

The 'hum' that she normally heard was different. She'd heard it once before. Recognized it in an instant. Yep, astral plane. So, that meant that this place had to be an illusion, such as the one Dartal had created. Illusion or not, the village and house where she had been held had been real. Which meant, she sighed, this place was real. Well, as real as an illusion could be, she thought.

Slowly sitting up, Casey took a deep breath. Poked around in her mind, searching for any hint or trace that she had been blocked again. There was nothing, and that was a good thing. Another look around the small room. She'd been separated from her teammates. Not a good thing.

Sitting up made her head spin. She sat on the side of the cot, gripping it tightly, chin on her chest, willing the world to slow down and remain still. Well, wasn't that just a pain in the ass! She was dressed in little more than gauze. Wrapped low around her hips, and a bit around her breasts. What the hell had happened? What was the last thing she could remember? A quick search through her memories...stepping through the Stargate, and into that very depressing temple, and then...dancing. She had been in a room filled with people, and there had been music, and some big guy with a bad attitude had ordered her to dance, and if she was remembering correctly, she had danced a bit, and then...Anderz! Oh, she was so going to take that sorry bastard out! If he'd hurt Daniel, or Jack, or Sam, or Teal'c, she'd break his nose all over again, and add a few other broken bones for good measure!

Standing to her feet, hoping the annoying clothing would stay in place, which it did, she waited another moment or so to make certain her legs wouldn't give out on her. Which they didn't. Convinced that she was at least capable of walking, she moved toward the door. Pressed her ear against the intricately carved wood.

She couldn't hear anything, but that could simply be a matter of the door being too thick for sound to easily pass through. She took a deep breath. Hoped that the door wouldn't squeak as she eased it open. Pressed one eye to the crack that appeared as she held the door steady with both hands.

Well, crap! There were at least a dozen girls lounging around the room. All of them dark haired, with dark eyes. And bruises. Their bodies were covered with bruises, and marks from being whipped - which was easy enough to see, because they were all naked. She cringed at the knowledge of what those damned wounds meant. She could remember enough as Ba'al's prisoner to recall the pain of being beaten.

Harem. Had to be, she thought grumpily. And whoever used those girls wasn't gentle when he...or they...did so. The thought that she should try to free them crossed her mind, before the fact that all around her was an illusion poked at her. Right. Illusion. Damned realistic one, though.

Heaving a silent sigh, she eased the door closed once again. Now what? There was no other way out of the room. She had no idea if or when anyone would be checking on her...

That thought gave her pause. Had anyone bothered to make certain she was unconscious? Or had the daemons been so certain of their control that they'd just dumped her into the room...and given the facts of the matter, why hadn't they just killed her? What...or whom...had prevented that little disaster?

Another huffed sigh. It was so annoying to have no answers for the questions that whirled through her mind. She couldn't remain where she was. If she was periodically checked upon, it wouldn't do to have the daemons know she was awake.

She needed to get out of the harem, and away from wherever that harem happened to be. Then she could try to figure out just exactly what was going on, and where Daniel and the others were being held.

Okay. Step one. Get the hell out of the tiny room she was in, and somewhere relatively safe. If that was even possible. And find Daniel. Her heart clenched in her chest. Finding Daniel was the only thing that truly mattered to her. She could deal with being on the astral plane, prisoner of the daemons. They could come up with a plan to get rid of the maddening beings. As long as Daniel was all right, and they could be together.

Once again she opened the door. Nearly cried out with relief. All of the girls were gathered on one side of the room, an older woman who was dressed in what looked like gold silk speaking quietly to them. No time to listen in to the conversation...

Calling upon everything she had ever been taught about stealth by her teammates, Casey slipped around the door. Managed to hide behind a heavy curtain that covered one plaster wall. The opening - must be a corridor just beyond, from what little she could see - seemed to be a million miles away, the wide archway flanked by two large, round pillars.

Trying to be as inconspicuous as she could be, given that she was a moving lump behind the silk, she made her way across the room. Peeked out from the far edge, terrified that she would see all eyes on her, and be forced into an encounter she was in no way prepared for. To her relief, the woman was still talking, the young women listening intently. She slipped from behind the heavy silk, moved as quietly as a mouse toward the opening that offered freedom.

Around the first pillar, into the wide corridor. Okay, my girl, now where? She took a deep breath. Headed for the first cross passageway that she could see. Getting away from the harem was the first priority. She'd find the way out of this...palace?...as soon as she'd taken a minute to gather control of her shaking limbs.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Daniel eased himself into the corridor. For a moment he stood transfixed. This was exactly what the palaces of the ancient Pharaohs had looked like! It was as if he'd been transported back in time to Ancient Egypt, and the land that had been the most advanced, the most knowledgeable, had been the center of the known world.

Illusion, Danny. It's all an illusion. Created by daemons who are holding your Wife hostage.

The thought propelled him forward. He glanced left and right, keeping behind the pillars as much as possible. It wasn't the doorway itself that caught his attention, but the hieroglyphs on the pillars that defined the opening to the large room. No way to misinterpret them...scenes of sex and obvious sexual gratification, if the smiles on the male figures were anything to go by. He'd located the harem. Now he just had to figure out a way to get inside.

He moved a bit closer...his gaze focused on the dim interior of the room. Just seconds after a slight figure wearing white linen had slipped around the corner and into another hallway, long blonde hair billowing out behind her as she ran.


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