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Picking Up the Pieces
The house was small, just a hovel really. One room, with a curved stone hearth in one corner, a meager cot in the corner opposite. Beneath the window, which was a narrow opening beside the door, was a small table and a single chair. A large chest on the other side of the door took up most of that particular corner.
Sawyer surveyed the room, then sighed. "I’m afraid there won’t be much room."
Daniel smiled reassuringly. "We have tents we can set up to sleep in. If we can put them at the side of your house, maybe out of sight from the other houses?"
The old man nodded. "Probably a good idea."
"We’ll set them up now, before it gets dark," Daniel suggested. The situation was tense enough, he didn’t want to face pitching a tent before he…and Casey…had had a chance to look around, and ascertain that the area was ‘safe’. When it came to his Wife, he’d do anything to make her happy. Even if it meant risking the chance of offending their host.
"I’ll heat water for tea, if you’d care to share a cup."
"That would be lovely,"Casey said softly. What she really wanted was a cup of coffee or two. She’d be certain she had hot water for a cup tomorrow. They’d avoided that cage so far today. She wasn’t facing that thing sans coffee!
Sawyer started slightly, the smiled. "You speak the tongue of the gods?"
"Not was well as Daniel. Or Teal’c," she said, nodding at the Jaffa. "It’s his native tongue."
Moving with caution, Sawyer stepped closer to Teal’c, stared up at him for a moment. "Do you have the mark of the gods?"
"They are false gods," Teal’c replied immediately, his voice filled with the derision he felt towards the Goa’uld.
The old man grinned. "On that, my friend, we agree."
Teal’c lifted the front of the boonie, just enough to allow Sawyer to see the gold tattoo, the symbol of Apophis.
"First Prime. I’m impressed."
The old man spoke the language, so he had to be at least aware of the Goa’uld. Apparently he knew about the ranks of the Jaffa as well. That was an intriguing bit of information. Just how much did Sawyer know? "You know about the Goa’uld?" Daniel asked, hoping to draw the answers to his questions from their host.
"I know much about the Goa’uld. I was a servant of Lord Morrigan. A most disagreeable woman,"the old man said. "One day, while her back was turned, I slipped away. Her Jaffa caught me…nearly beat me to death. She was feeling uncharacteristically generous, and abandoned me...here. She tossed me to this planet, in plain sight of the villagers."
"How did you convince them not to kill you?"Daniel asked. It was obvious that the leader of the village was anything but tolerant. Especially of anyone who could threaten his control over the villagers.
"I suppose because I was barely alive, and no threat to them. Elva saved me,"he said, his voice growing soft, his eyes temporarily taking on a far-away look. "She never was afraid of Gaillard, even when he was a brash young man."
Casey cocked her head sideways, then smiled. "She spurned him for you."
The old man’s watery brown eyes went wide. "How did you know?"
"I...sometimes I can...sense things," she replied.
"Don’t let that group out there find that out,"Sawyer said, jerking a thumb over his shoulder, a hint of warning in his voice. "They’re scared to death of anything they don’t understand. And they only understand what Gaillard tells them."
Jack and Sam, who were able to follow bits and pieces of the conversation, exchanged looks. Jack cleared his throat. "Uh...Danny?"
Daniel apologized, he’d momentarily forgotten that two of his teammates weren’t yet fluent in Goa’uld. Although, he figured they both understood a lot more than they let on...especially Jack. He told them what had been said, then turned back to Sawyer. "We should get our tents set up."
"Yes, you should," the old man agreed.
It was obvious to the team that he needed time to deal with what he’d just learned about them, about Casey and Teal’c in particular.
"We’ll keep watch tonight," Jack told them when the last of the tent stakes had been driven into the ground. "Scarface strikes me as the type to do his dirty work in the dark."
"I concur, O’Neill. He is not to be trusted," Teal’c said promptly.
"Daniel, are you sure you can convince him to ‘trade’ his throne?" Sam asked, pushing her pack into the small pup tent she’d be sleeping in…at Jack’s insistence. He wasn’t willing to risk trouble if he could avoid it. Daniel and Casey were so obviously in love that it was impossible to deny. While she and Jack no longer attempted to hide the fact that they were a couple, they didn’t go out of their way to flaunt their relationship. There was no need to upset the natives by sharing a tent.
"I dunno. I hope so. If not, we’ll have to try it your way," Daniel replied.
"Might just be easier to do that," Jack said. "One of us can attach a receiver tonight."
Daniel sighed. "I really think it’s best to at least try to negotiate."
"So, we attach the receiver tonight, and if Scarface doesn’t cooperate, we take it. If he does, no harm, no foul," Casey shrugged.
"You’re annoying when you do that," Jack grumbled.
"Do what?" Casey asked, completely puzzled.
"He doesn’t like it when you hit on the perfect solution," Daniel grinned.
Her grin matched her Husband’s. "Well, it might not be perfect, but it does allow for both plans."
"Like I said, perfect," Daniel said.
"So, Radar, what was it that you saw about the old man and Scarface?" Jack asked, pointedly ignoring Daniel’s wide grin.
"Not a lot, just a few images. A woman bending over Sawyer, caring for him. Literally running away from Scarface...although in those images, his face isn’t scarred," Casey replied.
"Wonder what happened?" Sam asked. "It looks as if his entire scalp has been burned."
Casey frowned, sorted through the images that had been dumped...gently dumped...into her mind. Which, she thought for one distracted moment, was new. Usually the images, sounds, smells...whatever it was that she would need...were dropped into her mind with little regard to her mental or physical discomfort. Maybe whoever sent the messages knew that she didn’t dare reveal her ‘gift’ in this place. "There was a fight between Sawyer and Scarface. And, no surprise, Scarface won. That’s when...um...what did he say her name was?"
"Elva," Daniel supplied.
"Right. Elva. That’s when she ran. She packed a few things and literally ran away. She was gone for several weeks. Sawyer found her; she wasn’t in good shape. He nursed her back to health. Then, there was...something...an outbreak of some sort. Sawyer knew enough about herbs to make a potion that helped them. After that, people came to him whenever they were sick or hurt."
"Not hearing about how Scarface got his unique looks," Jack muttered.
"He sat fire to Sawyer’s house. He didn’t know Elva was inside. Sawyer wasn’t even there, he was out gathering plants. When Scarface heard her screams, he went running into the flames to save her. But he couldn’t," Casey said.
"How did this man earn the right to lead these people, if he had murdered an innocent woman?" Teal’c asked.
Casey shook her head. "I don’t know, Big Guy. It’s like...it’s like there’s this secret, except everyone knows about it."
"Or maybe they only have speculation," Daniel said, frowning slightly. "It’s possible that someone, or maybe even several people, knew that Sawyer had nothing to do with the fire, but couldn’t prove that Gaillard did."
Casey cocked her head sideways.
"Incoming," Jack said, automatically.
"He used that incident to take control. There had been a village elder...not sure who," Casey said, her eyes slightly unfocused. "But this elder was a very wise man. Scarface claimed that while he was unconscious from his wounds, he was really with God, who gave him the Laws of the Believers. At first, it wasn’t too bad. But..."
"Absolute power corrupts absolutely," Daniel said softly. And pushed back the memories that tried to stir. Memories of a bitter nightmare he’d endured to learn that lesson, bits and pieces of which still haunted him from time to time.
"It didn’t take long for the grumbling to start. Scarface-" she broke off, looked at Daniel and smiled. "Gaillard became brutal in order to maintain his control over the villagers."
"I’m betting that’s where that nasty bit of tangled wood comes into the picture," Jack said.
"Anyone who breaks one of the ‘rules’, or just pisses Gaillard off, winds up in that thing. Sometimes it’s just for a matter of hours...sometimes, for days. And if what I’m seeing is correct, no one is allowed to approach that cage if someone is in it.." Casey shuddered slightly. "I suggest we tuck our sunscreen into our thigh pockets tomorrow."
"Any way to avoid that?" Jack asked hopefully.
"Sorry, boss. I don’t think there is. I do know we won’t be harmed." She paused. That wasn’t exactly true. She could sense that something would happen. Unable to focus on it, she assumed it had to do with her. Without specifics, there was nothing that could be done to stop or prepare for whatever was about to occur.
"Case?" Daniel asked. "Is there something else?"
She shook herself mentally. Smiled at her Husband. "Nope. Just trying to figure out how all of us are going to fit into that thing."
"Yeah, it’s gonna be crowded," Jack said.
Daniel wasn’t completely convinced. Her green eyes had dropped to his lips when she’d answered. She might not have lied, but she hadn’t told them everything, either. Which meant one of two things; she didn’t have all of the information she needed to give any sort of warning, or she was trying to protect him. "Any idea where I’m gonna be?"
Casey sighed. "None. I wish I did...then we’d have more of an idea what to plan for."
"Well, we’ll figure it out," Jack said confidently.
"Indeed," Teal’c added.
"We haven’t been defeated yet," Sam tossed in.
Sawyer stood at the corner of his hut, hesitated as he listened to the young people talking. He didn’t understand their words, but he did recognize the bonds of friendship when he saw them. The five strangers were very close, if he wasn’t mistaken. Something that Gaillard was too arrogant to see. What he did to one, he did to all. If he angered any of these visitors, it wouldn’t bode well for the village.
Teal’c noted the old man’s presence. "Greetings, Elder. Is the water hot?"
The old man smiled at the term of respect. "Greetings, First Prime. Yes, it is. If you would care to join me?"
"Let’s take dinner with us, shall we?" Jack suggested.
Packs were searched, and MREs located. An extra pulled out, from Casey’s pack, for their host. Rising to their feet, SG-1 followed the white-haired man back into his small abode.
Sam glanced toward the church, it looked as if torches had been lit. She could see two flames dancing merrily. Whatever was going on there, it was still in progress.
A A A A A A
According to his watch, they had been listening to Sawyer tell of his time as Morrigan’s servant for two hours. Jack stretched...went to stand beside the door when the murmur of voices filled the air. He stuck his head out, watching as the villagers left the church, and hurried toward their own homes. Late dinner for them, he thought.
Gaillard stepped into the street. Felt the eyes of the stranger on him. He stared for a moment, but was too far away, the shadows too deep, to read the expression on the man’s face. That Sawyer had dared to interfere...that he had felt it so important to do so...the implications of the old man’s actions made the large man shiver slightly. Sawyer had fear of nothing. He might not fear the strangers, but he was certainly eager to keep them mollified. No doubt the weapons they carried (Gaillard understood that the unusual devices were weapons simply from the way the visitors held them; he just had no idea how they worked, or how deadly they might be) were enough to prevent him from trying to kill them in their sleep. He suspected that they wouldn’t sleep unguarded. As soon as the first light was in the sky, he would insist that they leave. Then he’d declare that Sawyer’s disbelief had nearly brought the village to ruin, and would order him stoned. For one brief moment the familiar regret of killing off the family that had led the villagers for centuries, their insight giving them the knowledge needed, flittered through his mind. As always, he shoved it away. He would figure out when to plant crops. And he would learn Sawyer’s secrets for tending the sick. All that he needed was inside the old man’s house. Satisfied with his plans, he bid his disciples a good night and hurried toward his own home.
"They’re finished," Jack said softly.
Daniel nodded, told Sawyer that what had been said.
Sawyer snorted. "The fools would have sat there all night if Gaillard had told them to do so."
"Why doesn’t someone stand against him?" Casey asked.
The old man smiled. "Those who tried were stoned to death. Not a very pleasant way to die."
Casey shivered slightly. "Somebody needs to knock that asshole off his high horse," she muttered.
"Won’t be us, Radar. We have to get that chair and get out of here," Jack said quietly.
"Remember what you said, Angel," Daniel said gently. "Our presence might be enough to give those who disagree with him the courage to speak out...to change things."
"I hope so," she sighed.
"Keep in mind, if these people are that easily frightened, and so easily oppressed, it’s because they don’t want to rock the boat. They’d rather go along with this guy than stand up to him...because that takes courage, and can cause a bit of discomfort," Jack pointed out.
"Indeed. If these people are willing to be led like sheep, then they do not deserve better," Teal’c said. "When their hearts yearn for freedom from Gaillard’s cruel ways, nothing he can do will stop them."
"That’s right," Sam nodded. "They have to want to be free of him before it will happen."
"I guess," Casey allowed. "Still, I’d love to smack that bastard a good one."
Her teammates chuckled. Daniel gave Sawyer a slightly edited version of the conversation, but told the old man word for word what Casey had said.
Sawyer chuckled. "That would be worth risking the Pit to see!"
"The ‘pit’?" Daniel asked.
"Deep, narrow pit. Anyone sentenced to be stoned is tossed into it. There’s nowhere for them to run, or hide, to get away from those stones,"Sawyer explained.
Daniel shuddered mentally. It seemed that the more primitive a society, the more brutal their customs. That, he’d learned, was a universal constant as well.
"It’s getting late campers, and we still have a job to do before we get any sleep," Jack said quietly.
Nodding his understanding, Daniel offered the team’s thanks for Sawyer’s company, The old man thanked them again for sharing their food with him, and they all bid one another goodnight.
"How are we going to do this?" Daniel asked quietly.
"Rocco, think you and I can manage this?" Jack asked.
"I believe it to be possible," Teal’c replied.
"Daniel, you keep watch here. Sam, Casey, get some sleep. You’ll take watch later," Jack ordered. Three blonde heads moved up and down in understanding. "Teal’c, watch my back. I’ll put the receiver on the chair."
"Better put it on the bottom of the seat," Sam suggested, putting the small Asgard device into Jack’s hand.
"Right. Don’t want them to find it before we’re out of here with that thing," Jack agreed. "Okay, let’s do this."
Sam and Casey said their goodnights, crawled into their respective tents. If they were needed, they’d be called. And sleep now was necessary if they were to be alert during their watches later. Even though both were sorely tempted to watch...to make certain Jack was successful.
Daniel watched as best he could from his position on the far side of Sawyer’s hut. Teal’c had disappeared into the shadows created by two of the houses. Jack was a barely visible form, keeping low to the ground, moving quickly toward the dais. It struck him in that moment that there wasn’t a single animal in the village, at least not that they’d seen, nor had there been any of the tell-tale sounds of animals nearby. He wondered briefly what the villagers did for protein, or if the lack of that nutrient, coupled with what food they did have, was the reason for their odd, green coloring.
Jack laid flat on the ground when he reached the square. There was absolutely no covering at all, though his green cammies would look just as dark, in the same way, as the grass. Carefully, keeping his eyes moving for any sign of a villager on a nocturnal stroll, he crawled toward the wooden platform.
Unbeknownst to him, Jack’s thoughts traveled the same path as Daniel’s, noting…with not a little relief…that there weren’t dogs, cats, goats, or any other kind of animal to give away his presence. Kinda weird, now that he thought about it. Most villages at least had sheep or goats, or something similar. Well, it wasn’t his concern what these people did or didn’t have. It was just good fortune for him that he'd be able to carry out his task with no interference.
In less than fifteen minutes, Jack and Teal’c made their way back toward the tents. The device was in place on the bottom of the seat of the chair. It was tempting to tell his kids to pack up, beam the chair up, and ring his team back to the ship. But Danny was certain he could convince Scarface to trade. And...on the slim chance that they might be back this way again, leaving the natives with a positive view of them was in their favor. Jack shook his head slightly. Grinned in acknowledgement that as much as Daniel had changed since joining SG-1, he’d changed as well. And that, he thought, wasn’t a bad thing.
A A A A A A
Casey had pulled the final watch. The sun was just peeking over the horizon when she saw Gaillard emerge from one of the buildings. His home, she presumed. She felt her blood run cold when he walked up the silent street, toward the hovel where Sawyer slept. Or she assumed the old man was still asleep. When the scarred man’s eyes met hers, she shivered slightly. Oh, he hates me, she thought silently. Don’t know why, but he hates me!
For his part, Gaillard was surprised to see the slip of a woman sitting in front of three tents, looking for all the world as if she were keeping guard. A woman, protecting men! She should be disciplined...taught her place. She and the other woman...the woman who was as tall as several of the men in the village. An abomination. And the man with the skin as dark as coal...an animal of some sort, surely, for men weren’t given to such skin color! Although, the light, pinkish tone of the others was unusual as well. He frowned. Sawyer had looked similar, when he had arrived. The large man shook his head, turned and walked back toward the church. He had plans to make. As soon as he was ready, he would send that troublesome group of strangers on their way. And rid himself of an enemy he’d despised for many years. It was, he decided, a cold smile on his grotesque face, going to be a good day.
"Uh, guys, rise and shine," Casey said, gently shaking the feet of her teammates. "Scarface is up and about. Time to play ‘Let’s Make A Deal’."
Soft groans of protest filled the air, along with the sounds of bodies climbing out of warm sleeping bags, pulling on BDUs. Daniel grumbled beneath his breath when he realized there’d be no chance to ‘greet’ his beauties this morning. He’d make up for that annoyance tonight, he promised himself.
"How long ago, Radar?" Jack asked softly.
"Ten, maybe fifteen minutes now," Casey replied. "He stared at me for a couple of minutes. Didn’t look too happy to see me. I’m pretty sure he hates me."
"Relax, Radar. He hates all of us," Jack said, tossing her a crooked smile. Rewarded for his efforts when her soft giggle filled the air.
Sawyer stepped around the corner. "There is water hot for tea," he said quietly.
Casey turned to the old man. "I really need coffee...would you like to try some?"
That smile would undo the best intentions of any man, Sawyer thought, smiling automatically in return. If she had asked him to join her in a walk off a cliff, he wasn’t so certain he’d have said no. He had already surmised that she and Daniel were lovers. Possibly betrothed. Jack and Samantha - there had been looks of love between them as well - though they had slept separately. Where the First Prime of Apophis fit into the group, or how, he wasn’t sure...only that the five together were interesting to watch. Such closeness between them! "I would be honored."
Within minutes the tents were down, rolled, and attached to backpacks. Experience had seen the job done with impressive efficiency. The team filed quietly into the small hut, touched to find that the old man had cooked up what smelled and looked like the local version of oatmeal.
Daniel looked at Jack, caught his eye, then glanced at Sawyer. Jack subtly shook his head. He understood the archaeologist’s desire to confide in the old man. But it would probably be much safer if Sawyer remained blissfully ignorant of the plans the team had made.
With a sigh, Daniel nodded his understanding.
"Find out how we can talk to Scarface again," Jack said softly.
Another brief nod. "Sawyer, we would like to speak with Gaillard before we leave. Do you believe that would be possible?"
The old man snorted. "Oh, I have no doubt he wants to speak to you. To very publicly send you on your way."
"Well, that’s okay. We’ll...um...thank him for his hospitality," Daniel replied, giving the man a conspiratorial wink and smile.
"His ego will approve of that,"Sawyer said.
A small boy rapped on the frame of the door, which was open to allow fresh air into the cramped and crowded room. Dark eyes surveyed the room with childish curiosity. "Vydran ehcecdc dryd dra cdnyhkanc lusa du dra Cxiyna nekrd yfyo," the boy said.
Daniel understood three words...’strangers’, ‘come’, and ‘insists’. The fact that he was able to pick out words he’d heard the day before only increased his frustration in not being able to completely recognize the language, in spite of its familiarity.
"Damm res dryd yc cuuh yc fa ryja aydah uin sunhehk saym, drao femm pa drana," Sawyer replied. He looked at Daniel. "You have been summoned to the Square. I told the boy to tell his father we’ll be there after we eat."
"We’ve been summoned," Daniel told Jack.
"Well, can’t say we didn’t see that coming," the older man drawled.
"Sure we can," Casey retorted. "It just wouldn’t be true."
Jack snickered. "Okay, eat up, campers. Daniel is about to do some ‘diplomatting’."
"That isn’t even a word," Daniel objected.
"It is now," Jack declared cheekily.
With a shake of his head, rolling his eyes heavenward, Daniel turned back to Sawyer. "What should we expect? Is there anything we should do to make Gaillard less distrustful of us?"
"Nothing you can do will earn his trust. He is arrogant, cruel...too certain of his power over this village," Sawyer replied. "The tighter he holds the villagers in his grip, the more will begin to turn against him."
"Well, we’ll do our best to keep from offending him again," Daniel promised.
Another snort of derision from the old man. "Good luck. He’ll find offense in whatever serves his purpose."
Daniel bit back his smile. So far, his impression of the rector of the village had been completely correct. No doubt the man’s arrogance would have Gaillard playing into his hands with less effort than he’d hoped. Having dealt with Goa’uld, who were the most arrogant beings he’d ever encountered, trying to convince a petty tyrant to trade his ‘throne’ for one more ‘appropriate’ to his station should be easy enough.
The team and their host began to eat the warm, savory oatmeal, sharing smiles...and coffee...as they did so. The peace in which they were enjoying the first meal of the day wasn’t to last, however.
"Umt syh! Pnehk dra cdnyhkanc vundr!" Gaillard’s voice boomed from nearby.
Jack shook his head, put down his bowl. "Okay, let’s get this over with. The sooner we’re out of here, the better."
"Casey, has anything from your vision changed?" Sam asked softly.
The seer closed her eyes. Shook her head slowly. "Nope."
"Crap," Jack muttered. He looked at Daniel. "Get us out of that thing as soon as you can."
"I will," Daniel promised.
It seemed that every villager who lived within the cluster of stone dwellings surrounded the square of grass. They parted warily as Sawyer led SG-1 toward the dais where Gaillard sat waiting, a frown on his face. His two disciples were standing in attendance on either side of him.
"Oui lysa du uin jemmyka ihehjedat. Oui yna hud Pameajanc. Oui sicd mayja," Gaillard said, as soon as the team was close enough for him to speak without raising his voice.
"He’s telling you to leave, because you weren’t invited, and you’re not ‘believers’,"Sawyer reported.
"Sawyer, it’s very important that you tell Gaillard what I say...exactly,"Daniel said quietly.
"I will do so, Daniel,"Sawyer promised. He had no idea what the young man was doing, but he suspected that this stranger had a plan of some sort.
Daniel glanced over his shoulder at Jack, telling him in that look that he was about to put their plan into action.
With a shrug that gave his permission, even if he didn’t think the plan had a chance of being successful, Jack stood back to watch Daniel do his thing. The archaeologist could charm just about anyone, but this guy was a piece of work. Rotten disposition. The fact that they hadn’t been tossed into that cage in the center of the village last night had been a miracle. Although, according to Radar, that was still going to happen. He bit back a sigh. Bad luck before the good luck, he thought.
Daniel approached the seated rector, then bowed low, his hands held out in front of him, showing that he held no weapons. "You are a great and holy leader," he said quietly.
Even though it was apparent that Sawyer believed Daniel was wasting his time, he spoke slowly and carefully.
Gaillard sat up, the flat features of his wide, scarred face filled with self-importance. "Oui yna feca du caa cilr y drehk cu xielgmo."
Sawyer turned to Daniel, translated word for word. "He says, ‘You are wise to see such a thing so quickly'."
They’d been subjected to the ‘hospitality’ of these people, or at least that of their leader, for nearly four hours the day prior. Not exactly an instant revelation, Daniel thought silently. "I must inquire, if I may, just why a man of your stature is made to sit on such an inadequate throne."
Sawyer jerked slightly. He glanced at the others, Casey and Teal’c were translating Daniel’s words, and his as well, he assumed, for Jack and Sam; Daniel had explained that they did not speak the language of the gods. Not one of them seemed surprised by the comment. He looked at Gaillard, again spoke slowly, so that there was no misunderstanding.
Bristling slightly, Gaillard sat just a bit taller. "E vuiht drec drnuha socamv! Ed fyc y kevd vnus Kut!"
"He said he found the throne himself, that it was a gift from God,"Sawyer said.
"Forgive me,"Daniel said immediately. "I meant no disrespect. It’s just that...well...in my land, men of power...men like you...sit on much larger, more beautiful thrones."
Dark eyes narrowed slightly when Sawyer had finished speaking.
It was all he could do to keep from smiling. Daniel could already see the calculating look in Gaillard’s eyes.
"Ec drec dnia?"
"He wants to know if it’s true,"Sawyer informed them.
The question had been directed to Jack. Who, understanding exactly what Daniel was up to...and mostly understanding what Sawyer had said, nodded enthusiastically. "Absolutely. Big, honkin’ thrones."
Daniel translated for Sawyer, his lips twitching to keep from smiling when the old man, wide-eyed, translated yet again. "If I might make a suggestion?"
Gaillard was leaning forward slightly, his eyes on Daniel, listening intently as the old man interpreted the words of the stranger.
"Perhaps I could procure a...bigger...throne for you. One made of gold?"
Gaillard’s narrowed even further, suspicion lurking in the dark depths. "Yht fryd fuimt oui aqbald eh nadinh?"
"He asks what you’d expect in return,"Sawyer translated, his own eyes narrowing slightly. He was certain now that Daniel and his friends were up to something.
"Oh, we wouldn’t expect anything in return."Daniel paused, as if in thought. "It would be an honor, however, to have the throne that such a powerful rector...the voice of God, had once used. It would be an...inspiration...to my people."
Once again Gaillard puffed with importance as Sawyer finished translating.
"He’s laying it on thick," Casey murmured.
"Big egos take extra thick piles of crap," Jack muttered in reply.
For several minutes Gaillard sat and studied Daniel. Glanced at the people who watched. Even those who had caused problems for him in the past seemed to take note that these strangers recognized his importance. This could be to his advantage. The control he’d been losing would be cemented in his hands forever, especially with something as tangible as a gold throne for him to sit on. The only gold that he knew about, that he’d told the villagers about, was in the temple to the false god in the city located in the far hills. Would that not make his gold throne as significant as that temple? Would it not prove he was the Voice of God? It would not do to seem too eager, he thought shrewdly. "E cibbuca E luimt knyhd oui cilr y vyjun. Ev dra drnuha oui pnehk ec fundro uv sa."
Sawyer gave a quiet snort. "He says he can grant you such a favor, if the throne you bring him is worthy of him."
"Oh, it will be, I promise," Daniel replied immediately.
"Why do you do this, Daniel? Don’t you see you’re only pandering to his ego? That this will only make the people more afraid of him?"Sawyer whispered fiercely.
Daniel lowered his head, closed his eyes for a moment. The Goa’uld had a very nasty habit of being able to use, or reverse engineer, any bit of technology they found. If just one piece of the Ancient weapon fell into the hands of a System Lord, it could be disastrous for every human, humanoid, or any other sentient species, in every part of the galaxy. The needs of the many had to outweigh the needs of the few. Knowledge that didn’t make what he was doing any easier. "I’m sorry, Sawyer, you don’t know how difficult this is for me...but...but...I have no choice."
Sawyer looked over his shoulder at Jack. Moved his gaze to Teal’c. "You were enslaved by a Goa’uld. How can you allow this? Gaillard is as cruel, as much a master of these people as if he were a Goa’uld."
"It must be done," Teal’c replied. His own heart cringed at the knowledge that what the team did now, what Daniel Jackson was saying, would tighten Gaillard’s hold over the innocent people of the village.
"I will bring you a throne worthy of you,"Daniel said, staring at Gaillard. Wanting to raise his P90 and empty the clip into the bastard.
Sawyer translated, his voice flat, almost emotionless.
Gaillard nodded with satisfaction. "Oui femm ku. Pnehk pylg drec drnuha."
"Go, bring back this throne,"Sawyer intoned, not looking at Daniel.
Daniel nodded when Sawyer finished translating. "We shouldn’t be gone more than three hours or so. Before the sun is overhead, we’ll return." He hoped it wouldn’t take long to find a chair and spray paint it.
When Gaillard’s large, bald head moved back and forth negatively, the entire team tensed. "Hu. Oui femm ku ymuha. Dra udranc femm nasyeh rana ihdem oui nadinh. Ev oui ryja hud nadinhat po dra desa dra suuh necac, drao femm pa cduhat yc dra huh-pameajanc drao yna."
"He says that you go alone. Your friends will remain here. He’ll stone them as non-believers if you’re not back by the time the moon rises."Sawyer couldn’t miss the look in Daniel’s eyes as he translated. This hadn’t been expected. Perhaps there was still a way to persuade these strangers to help him free the village of the tyrant named Gaillard.
Daniel nearly panicked. Knew in that instant that what Casey had seen was about to play out.
"Tu oui fecr du cbayg?" Gaillard smirked. The man had no choice but to leave, and bring back the gold throne. Not if he wanted his companions to live. He was already picturing a grand, gold throne in his mind. None would question his power!
Sawyer felt sorry for Daniel, understood that leaving his lover...wife...whatever the lovely Casey was to him, was not what he wanted to do. "He asks if you wish to speak," the old man said quietly.
The ugly bastard was baiting him. If he tried to get out of the deal now, it wouldn’t go well for the team. "No. I will return with a throne fitting for a king such as yourself," Daniel sighed.
Gaillard nodded. Waved a hand toward Daniel.
The two disciples stepped down from the dais, took the archaeologist by the arms, led him toward the path the team had been walking the day before, when they had arrived. Daniel wasn’t even given a chance to speak to his friends, his escorts hurrying him along. The best he could do was give them a look, mouth his love to his Wife, and try to keep from being poked by the pointed staffs the quasi-priests carried.
"Why is it that I’m getting a really bad feeling about this?" Jack asked.
"Because things are about to get bad?" Casey retorted.
She’d no sooner finished speaking than SG-1 found themselves surrounded by villagers carrying sharpened rakes and sickles. The teammates were pushed toward and then into the cage that sat at the edge of the village. It was going to be a very long, very hot day.
"Well, Radar, you were right again," Jack sighed.
"Sorry, boss," Casey grumbled. She was straining to see down the road, her eyes searching for Daniel. Her heart was pounding with fear.
"Hey, the heads up was a good thing...we knew what to expect," Jack said, tossing a smile at her, as he tried to get comfortable. The cage probably held one person with no problems. Even two people would have fit inside it. The four of them, especially given Teal’c’s girth, were cramped in the extreme. The best they could do was to sit practically on top of one another. He and Teal’c were sitting facing one another, backs against the wooden frame, their legs stretched out as much as possible. Casey was sitting with her butt on the ground, her legs over Teal’c’s. Sam was sitting on Jack’s thighs, her legs over Teal’c’s ankles. No doubt they were going to have to shift a time or two, just to keep their muscles from completely cramping up.
A A A A A A
As soon as he was out of sight of the village, Daniel broke into a run. He wasn’t going all the way back to that meadow. He didn’t have the time, and at the rate he was gasping for breath now, due to the thin atmosphere, he’d probably pass out before he made it there. The rutted dirt road curved. Glancing over his shoulder to make certain he wouldn’t be seen, Daniel grabbed his radio. "Colonel Mitchell?"
"Right here, Jackson. What’s going on?"
"Get me to the ship, now. I’ll explain when I get there. And have somebody find a crate of that gold spray paint."
"Uh...repeat that? Gold paint?"
Daniel sighed. "I’ll explain as soon as I’m on the Daedalus."
"This should be good," Mitchell replied.
The whisper of the rings filled the air. A flash of light, and he was staring into the confused face of the ring transport tech. Dropping his pack, tossing his P90 at the man, Daniel made a mad dash for the bridge. They didn’t have long to come up with a throne, get it painted, and wait for the paint to dry. It had to be done. His Wife’s life...the lives of his teammates…depended on it.
Daniel explained as carefully as he could. It had only taken minutes for him to point out that chairs from the mess hall or the conference room wouldn’t be large enough. Gaillard was almost as tall as Teal’c. His shoulders were as broad, perhaps a bit broader, he told the still stunned colonel. The rest of his bulk came from the weight of his very ample stomach.
They were standing on the bridge, contemplating their predicament when Daniel turned, and noticed the captain’s chair. He studied it carefully. It was perfect.
Mitchell saw blue eyes focus on his chair. And the calculating look that filled those cerulean depths. "Oh, no. Not my chair! It’s got controls and everything! I’m just getting the cushion to fit my butt!"
He turned to look at the colonel, then at the engineer who had been discussing the problem with them. "Is there a way to get those controls to light up?" Daniel asked.
"I could put in a battery or two. Don’t know how long they’d last," was the surprised response.
The smile that tugged at Daniel’s lips should have worried his companions. It didn’t. It did, however, make them curious.
"Jackson? Want to share?"
"I think I’ve found a way to give those people what they need, and get us that piece of the weapon, all at the same time," Daniel murmured. He shook himself slightly. "We have to paint the whole thing gold."
"Probably won’t take well on the leather," the engineer pointed out.
"Doesn’t matter. We’ll have the Ancient chair, and be long gone before Scarface figures out it’s not real gold. How long to get batteries to keep the controls lit?"
"Hour, maybe two. And, sir, it is real gold."
"Real or not, doesn’t matter to me at the moment," Daniel admitted. He scrubbed his hands over his face. "We’d better get busy. If I don’t have that thing back there before sundown, the rest of the team will be stoned."
"What about me? What am I supposed to sit on?" Mitchell demanded.
"I can bolt a chair from the conference room into place," the engineer replied. "If we contact Area 51 now, they can have a new chair ready for you by the time we get back."
Mitchell nodded, defeat in his very stance. Lives depended on this. Even if it was his chair! "Get started, gentlemen. Best time. Helm, send a message to the SGC. Explain to them that I need a new captain’s chair for the bridge."
A A A A A A
The air grew warmer as the sun continued to climb in the sky. Having taken Casey’s advice, bottles of sunscreen were in thigh pockets. Not that getting to those bottles was easy. Nor was it easy to apply the lotion in the confines of the cage.
"Sure wish I had my pack," Casey sighed. From what they had been able to see, Sawyer had managed to gather the packs that had been stripped from their shoulders, along with their weapons. They assumed the old man was hiding them in his hovel. Or they hoped he was, anyway. The thought of Gaillard having P90’s at his disposal wasn’t a pleasant one.
"Yeah, canteens," Jack said, licking dry lips.
"Deck of cards," she shot back.
Chuckles filled the air.
"I wish I understood why we have to be here," Casey murmured.
Jack, Teal’c and Sam exchanged glances. "Radar?" Jack asked gently.
"There’s no logical reason for us to be here. I mean, other than the fact that Scarface is a paranoid bastard with delusions of grandeur." She paused. "Sort of like a freaking snake."
"So, you think our being here is important?" Sam asked.
"In the village, yes. In this cage? No."
"Well, not much we can do about it," Jack sighed.
"Do about what?" Casey asked.
"Missed that, did ya?"
Green eyes rolled with obvious frustration. "This is getting ridiculous."
"It seems that it is important that we be in the village. However, being in this cage is not.," Teal’c said, his cheek twitching noticeably.
"Yeah, not too hard to figure that out," Casey huffed.
A A A A A A
Daniel put the mask over his face. Shook the can, and began spraying the chair. Wow, that’s really bright! It certainly should impress Scarface long enough for us to get the Ancient chair and everyone back here to the ship!
Lieutenant Toby Garret, the man Casey had insisted was better suited for engineering than security, was in the process of proving the young seer right. He was working on the control panels of the chair, having carefully removed each of them before Doctor Jackson had begun painting it. He’d heard the scuttlebutt about what was going on. He only hoped the deception would last long enough to get the rest of SG-1 back safe and sound, with that weapon component in hand.
He carefully connected the wires from the separate controls to a single switch. He’d attach a watch battery to each switch. It was a jury-rigged job at best, but they didn’t have the time to do more. As soon as he was finished, he would help dry the chair, by use of simple blow dryers. The controls would be put back into place, and the new ‘throne’ would be complete.
Looking over at the young engineer, Daniel paused in his painting, reaching for a new can of paint. He was going to cover this thing with at least three coats. The longer it stayed gold, the better for the team. "How long do you think those batteries will last?"
"Well, since there’s no way to turn them off, I’d guess a week or so at the most. They’re small batteries, not really big enough to power these controls, but they’re all I can get to fit."
"That’s perfect," Daniel murmured. He was already working out exactly how he wanted to phrase his dictum to Gaillard. He glanced at his watch. He’d already been at this for an hour and a half. He’d told the rector he’d be back by noon, on the planet. He had two hours left, by his calculations.
Spraying the paint onto the chair took little thought, and his mind began to wander a bit...filled with his worry about Casey. Hoped fervently that she was all right. That Gaillard hadn’t taken it into his power-hungry mind to claim her as a new prize, some reward from this god that he was so adamant about.
What he couldn’t figure out, he mused, was if Gaillard believed his rhetoric as much as he tried to convince his followers that he did. Was he aware than not all of his ‘congregation’ were ‘believers’? It had been obvious...at least to him, Daniel thought...that not all of the villagers had been persuaded by Gaillard’s claims. With the Goa’uld, given enough time, they began to believe their own propaganda. Since it seemed that Gaillard’s miracle ‘conversion’ had happened on the heels of his attempt to murder Sawyer, Daniel didn’t for one minute believe that it was a true event. He suspected that Gaillard had concocted the story, not knowing whether or not anyone would accuse him of killing Elva, and then had begun using it simply as a means to take total control of the village.
Still...Sawyer had to offer more than just the skills of a healer and the wisdom of a farmer’s almanac. There had to be a reason Gaillard hadn’t tried to get rid of the old man. Something was preventing him from another attempt on Sawyer’s life. Unless, he thought, doing so would have raised too much suspicion...giving those among the ‘not-quite’ believers the means to question his claims, perhaps even thwart his power over the village completely.
Well, this gold chair was going to offer him a way to help those people. With luck, in a week or so, the scarred tyrant would no longer rule that village through fear and intimidation. He wouldn’t wish ill on anyone. But he would certainly wish that Gaillard received his just rewards for all that he had done.
Mitchell scowled at the chair that the maintenance engineer had just finished bolting to the base where his chair had been...until four hours ago. It had taken time. The sergeant had been forced to construct a frame to fit on the base, and then remove the wheels of the conference room chair, and anchor it to the frame.
"There ya go, sir. Should hold just fine for now," the sergeant said, climbing to his feet, brushing his hands on his shirt.
"Thanks, Sarge." He looked at the young helmsman. Noted the barely concealed smile. "Did you get that message to the SGC?"
"Yes, sir. General Hammond acknowledged the report and the request." She wouldn’t tell her commanding officer that she had heard the laughter in the background as she explained the reason for the requisition.
"Good," Mitchell grumbled.
Daniel walked onto the bridge, his hair wet from his shower. He’d been forced to clean gold paint from his hands and arms; it wouldn’t do to have Gaillard see the paint and become suspicious. The cleaner had been strong smelling, and again, not wanting to give the uncooperative man a reason to change his mind, had showered to remove any trace of the paint remover. "Garret says the chair will be dry enough to handle in about twenty minutes."
He couldn’t help but smile at the sullen reply. "I...we...appreciate this, colonel. I couldn’t just take that chair from them...the villagers don’t need to suffer the wrath of that bastard if his ‘throne’ just suddenly disappeared."
Mitchell sighed. Sometimes being the good guys could be a pain-in-the-ass. It meant having to weigh the needs of others against one’s own wants and desires. Although, for the most part, the rewards were pretty sweet. "Glad we were able to help, Doctor."
"Me, too. If I’d have come back without something to give Gaillard, Casey would have kicked my ass."
He couldn’t help but snort in amusement. He’d heard stories of the slender blonde’s temper. "I can’t imagine that beautiful woman ever being as vindictive as Ferretti claims she can be."
Daniel chuckled. "Her...blowups...are never intentional, trust me. But when she gets pissed off, her temper takes over, common sense heads out the door, and she’s on the warpath."
"Funny, I’d never have believed a little slip of a woman like her could make experienced, brawny Marines quake in their boots."
The chuckles became a full throated laugh. "Yeah, well you’ve never seen Casey pissed off. Between her glare, and her very astute manner of telling you exactly what she thinks of the situation, and her usually very creative threats, most of which sound damned painful, she’s enough to scare a Goa’uld."
Mitchell looked over at the archaeologist. "Bet she doesn’t get pissed off very often."
"Not often, no," Daniel admitted. Casey sought to control her temper...only occasionally did it get the better of her.
"I’ll do my best to avoid that particular situation while SG-1 is on the Daedalus."
"Probably a good idea," Daniel laughed. "I have no idea how much damage she could do to a ship."
Mitchell began to chuckle as well. "I’ve heard it can be a considerable amount. Bet Zeus will never forget her!"
He tossed back his head and laughed at the memories that flooded his mind, if only momentarily. "Probably not."
The laughter faded. "Got a message from General Hammond," Mitchell said quietly. "We have a location for Ba’al. Trouble is, if we head in his direction from here, everyone is going to know that’s exactly where we’re going. The general seems to think the snake will get word that we’re on our way, and be ready for us, or just disappear again."
Daniel sighed. It was never easy, was it? "Did he have any suggestions?"
"He said bring home what you have. According to the Tok’ra, Ba’al doesn’t seem to ready to move into his new palace."
"If he does, that scepter will move with him," Daniel moaned.
"Will it be easier to get if it’s on the ship?"
"I have no idea," Daniel replied honestly. "Probably easier than trying to slip into his palace stronghold."
"Well, you get that chair, and we’ll be on our way. Hopefully we can get to Ba’al before the moving vans do."
Daniel nodded. "Sounds like a good idea to me."
A A A A A A
Casey had been watching a group of children play, their antics bringing a smile to lips that were beginning to show the signs of over-exposure to the sun in thin atmosphere, and the lack of water. One of the little girls looked in the direction of the cage.
She knew it was forbidden, but she just couldn’t help it. The lady with hair the color of the sun was so pretty, and her eyes were greener than the grass in the Square. She glanced around, then gave a wide smile to the pretty lady.
The little girl was adorable, and Casey smiled brightly in return. Just before she was bombarded with a series of images and sounds. Her hands automatically reached out for Daniel. Nearly panicked at his absence. Wide-eyed, she looked at Teal’c. "Download," she managed to grind out.
"Crap," Jack muttered.
Teal’c grasped her hands firmly. "Clear your mind, Casey Jackson. Do not attempt to interpret what you see. Let the images flow freely," he said calmly, trying to repeat what he’d heard Daniel Jackson say each time a ‘download’ occurred.
A flash of light. That was fast, she thought absently. Closed her eyes and began to sort through the images. A little girl...the little girl who had so bravely smiled at her...black hair wet with blood...a knot the size of a lemon on the side of her head...the inability of her mother or father to wake her...her father shouting in anger...oh, goddess, no!
Green eyes flew open. "That little girl...she’s Scarface’s daughter, and she’s about to take a nasty fall...she’ll hit her head and she’ll get a concussion and I can’t see whether she lives or not and Scarface will blame the kids with her and we have to do something!"
"Whoa, Radar, calm down," Jack said gently. "Which little girl?"
Casey pointed to the group of playing children. "That one...with the shawl around her shoulders."
"Okay, we need to get somebody’s attention," Jack said.
"Considering we might as well not even be here, for all the villagers have noticed us, that might not be easy," Sam said.
"We should call for Sawyer. He has no fear of village taboos. He will hear what we have to say, and will warn Scarface," Teal’c said.
"I think you’re right, T-man." Jack shifted as much as possible, trying to face the direction in which the old man’s house lay. It was clear across the village..."Sawyer! Hey! Sawyer!"
"Sawyer!" Sam called, cupping her hands around her mouth.
"Sawyer!...Sawyer!" Casey’s voice called.
"Old Man!" Teal’c’s voice boomed.
The door to the church flew open, and Gaillard stomped toward the cage, his face red with anger. "Cemahla! Oui yna hud ymmufat du cbayg du dra jemmykanc! Cemahla, E cyo!"
It was easy enough to guess that Scarface was telling them to shut up. The team ignored him, trying to stand in the low structure. "Sawyer!" Jack bellowed. "Sawyer!"
"Cemahla!" Gaillard roared.
Casey pushed in front of Teal’c, locked gazes with the furious rector. "Your little girl..." she pointed at the children, continued to point until Gaillard turned to look. When he whirled back around to face her, Casey nodded. "She’s going to fall...um..." she mimed falling to the ground. "She’ll hit her head." She pointed to her boonie-covered head.
"Sawyer! Sawyer!" Jack yelled again.
The old man was scurrying toward the cage, ignoring the presence of Gaillard and his men. "What is it? What is wrong?"
Tears of relief filled Casey’s green eyes. "Sawyer, you have to tell Sca-...um...Gaillard...tell him that his daughter is about to be hurt...seriously hurt! She’s going to fall, and hit her head, and it’s not going to be good," Casey said in a rush.
"And when he demands to know how you would have knowledge of this?"
"Tell him the truth, that I’m a seer,"Casey replied. She glanced over her shoulder. "I told him to tell Scarface the truth about me...that I’m a seer.
"Not a good idea, Radar," Jack objected immediately. Far too many superstitions connected to those who could ‘see’ the future, even if it was just bits and pieces. Superstitions that could get Casey...could get all of them...killed. They didn’t have three days to waste.
She turned to her friend. "Jack, a little girl’s life is at stake here. Whatever it takes to make that bastard believe me, I’ll do or say!"
He rubbed a hand over his face. Knew without a doubt that Casey would do exactly that. At a glance he noted that Sawyer was watching him carefully. Understood that the old man was waiting for his decision. He gave a weary nod.
Sawyer turned to Gaillard. "Ev oui yna feca, oui femm mecdah du dra funtc uv dra kumtah-ryenat uha. Cra ryc dra kevd uv cekrd, yht cra ryc vunacaah dryd Ecypammy ec ypuid du pa rind eh y vymm. Oui cruimt caht ouin tyikrdan rusa vun dra nasyehtan uv dra tyo, gaab ran cyva."
Gaillard’s eyes narrowed. "E tu hud pameaja oui, hun drec rynmud."
"Drah ouin tyikrdan’c vyda femm pa uh ouin rayt," Sawyer replied. Several of the villagers shifted nervously, a fact not missed by the old man, or the prisoners in the cage. What he didn’t know was whether or not these same people would allow their fear to overcome their hatred of Gaillard, when the seer’s prediction came true - for he had no doubt that the slender blonde was speaking the truth. When he’d finished speaking to the rector, Sawyer turned to look at Jack. "I told him that if he is wise, he’ll listen to Casey. That she has the gift of sight, and has forseen Isabella’s fate. Told him to send his daughter home for the day. Gaillard refuses to listen..." Sawyer paused for a moment, then opted to leave out the fact that the scarred man had referred to the slender blonde as a ‘harlot’. "I told him that his daughter’s fate is on his head."
Teal’c translated quietly.
Jack grabbed his boonie from his head, whacked it against his thigh in frustration.
Casey had sensed, not needing to understand what he said, that Gaillard wasn’t going to listen to her. A single tear of sheer frustration rolled down her cheek.
Jack put his hand on her shoulder. "You’ve done all you can, Radar. Hopefully one of the folks trying so hard to pretend not to hear any of this will keep an eye on the kid, and prevent the fall from happening."
"I hope so," Casey said softly.
The team settled back down again, all of them watching the children, and the little girl especially. Time continued to tick on, the sun climbed ever higher in the sky.
All of them felt a moment of panic when the little ones disappeared into the tall grass, heading toward a stand of trees at least a quarter mile from the village.
"No," Casey whispered. Seconds before terrified screams filled the air.
Every adult in the village reacted, all of them racing in the direction of the cries. Jack and Teal’c, having had enough of playing nice with the natives, managed to heave the cage onto its side. Sam ran toward Sawyer’s cottage and the team’s packs...more specifically, the med kits in the packs. Without checking to see which pack belonged to whom, she grabbed two, and raced back outside. Tossed one to Jack when she caught up with her teammates.
The villagers were more than surprised to see the strangers run up, two of them carrying the packs they had arrived with. They began to mutter between themselves, backing away.
Jack reached the downed child first, forced his way through the crowd of onlookers and dropped to his knees. "Oy," he muttered, noting the lump on the side of the little girl’s head. So much blood! Head wounds always produced so damned much blood!
Gaillard shoved Jack away. "Tu hud duilr ran!" Wheeling around, his face contorted with rage, he pointed a shaking finger at Casey. "Fedlr! Cra ryc lyicat drec du rybbah! Caa ruf cra namaycat dras vnus dra Vumt uv Bahyhla?"
"Cduha ran!" one of the disciples cried out.
"Cduha ran!" another voice called.
"Oh, crap," Jack muttered. The natives were restless, and he didn’t like the looks that they were hurling at Radar. He looked around for Sawyer, didn’t see the old man anywhere. "Where’s Rip Van Winkle?"
"No clue," Sam said from where she knelt beside Jack, gritting her teeth as villagers began to push at her.
Sawyer was, at that very moment, gathering the items he’d need to tend to the child. He’d believed every word of Casey’s warning, had been waiting for the event to occur, mixing several potions that might be required. When the child’s mother, grandmother, and aunt carried her into the house, they stopped in surprise to see Sawyer waiting for them. The mother gathered her daughter into her arms. Laid her on the bed where the old man sat. She didn’t care how he had known, or that the words of the woman Gaillard hated were true. She only cared that the healer perform his magic, so that her Isabella would be well again.
Held in check by angry villagers, Jack, Sam, and Teal’c watched in horror as those not pressed into service as guards began to hit Casey, using anything they had in their hands.
"Du dra Bed!" Gaillard roared.
Pushed and shoved, barely able to keep their feet under them, the other members of SG-1 were hit repeatedly as well.
Jack tried to keep Casey in sight. She was bloody, he could see streaks of red on her arms, her cheek, even in her hair. Daniel is not going to take this well, he thought worriedly. Wondered peripherally just where the archaeologist was, since it was well past noon...
No one needed to explain to the team that the ledge on which they were standing was the top of the ‘pit’ that Sawyer had told them about. Teal’c and Jack continued to struggle, but each of them were being held tightly by at least six men. Sam wasn’t having any better luck, her arms held in the vise-like grips of the disciples of Gaillard.
"Ed ec fneddah, dryd y fedlr femm hud pa civvanat ysuhk dra baubma. Drnuf ran eh!"
Whatever Scarface was saying, he was in fine form, Jack thought grimly.
Struggling against those who continued to hold her, Casey glared at the scar-faced man who smirked at her in return. Her thoughts were in a whirl, trying to understand how people who claimed to serve God could be so cruel...images from books she had read about the Salem witch trials flashed through her mind. The smug look of superiority on Gaillard’s face was the same as had been depicted in the drawings...oh hell! "They think I’m a witch," she cried out. "That I cursed the little girl!"
"Oh, crap," Jack muttered, increasing the intensity of his struggles.
"Drnuf ran eh!"
Nothing short of terrified, Casey screamed when she felt herself lifted into the air, and literally tossed in the direction of that very deep, gaping chasm.
"No!" Teal’c shouted, watching as Casey tumbled down the steep side of the gorge. She landed with a sickening thud at the bottom. Remained worrisomely still.
"Radar? Radar!" Jack called frantically. "Casey!"
"Casey! You’ve got to protect yourself!" Sam called out, tears on her cheeks.
Head spinning, body aching, certain that she’d just broken a rib, and possibly her wrist, Casey attempted to make it to her hands and knees.
Gaillard looked around. Found a rock nearly the size of one of the packs the team carried, and heaved it at the unsuspecting woman.
"Casey!" Jack shouted.
The rock landed on her back. She cried out from the pain, the wind knocked completely out of her. The best she could manage was to curl into a ball, and hope to survive.
A A A A A A
There was no way that Daniel could carry that chair alone. Not for nearly two miles. Nor was just ringing into the center of the village a good idea. And given the circumstances, and SG-1’s legendary luck, a team of Marines just might be needed. Mitchell called one of the three Marine teams assigned to the Daedalus into the conference room; introduced Daniel to the men.
"Doctor Jackson, this is Captain David Myers. His team, Gunnery Sergeant Michael Mayes, Lieutenant Leonard Price, and Sergeant Josh Burton."
Daniel nodded. He couldn’t help but give a secret smile over the fact that Mitchell had done his best to not appear to be reading the names from the paper in front of him. The crew on the Daedalus was still getting to know one another, and the commander had over a hundred names and faces, as well as ranks and positions, to learn.
"Gentlemen, you will accompany Doctor Jackson to the planet we’ve been staring at for the past couple of days. You’re going to be humping my chair...er...a new throne for the head honcho there," Mitchell explained. "The deal is to get the chair that belongs to the Ancient weapon in return. So, get it, grab the rest of SG-1, and we’ll head home."
"Yes, sir," Captain Myers said. "Expecting any trouble, sir?" he asked Daniel.
"We’re SG-1. Things have gone too smoothly so far, so there’s bound to be trouble," Daniel deadpanned.
Snickers moved around the table. "Yes, sir, we’ve read about SG-1," Gunny Sergeant Mayes chuckled.
"Hey, gotta have the bad luck before the good luck kicks in," Daniel grinned.
Mitchell was grinning as well. "Okay, let’s get this done. According to the Doc, here, we’re already an hour or so late. That could mean trouble for the rest of his team. I’m going to risk setting you down closer to that village."
"I won’t argue," Daniel said.
"Ring transport in five, gentlemen," Mitchell said.
As soon as they arrived in the village, carrying the chair, he knew something was wrong. There wasn’t a soul in sight, and the cage that his teammates had been put in was tipped over on its side. "Oh, hell," he muttered.
The distant sounds of people shouting drifted toward them. "Drop that thing and let’s go," Myers said, already moving in that direction. The ‘throne’ was unceremoniously dumped into the middle of the dusty street.
The men set out at a run. Whatever was going on, it wasn’t good.
Panting, sweat dripping from his face, Daniel paused when he saw the villagers. Watched in alarm as several of the men hurled rocks into what seemed to be a... "Pit," he groaned. He raced forward, looked down to see who was being stoned, fearing that Sawyer had angered Gaillard for the last time. What he beheld made his blood run cold. "Oh, god! No!"
Not taking the time to think about what he was doing, Daniel began to climb down, his boots sliding in the dirt, sending up a plume of dust behind him; his hands clawing at the rocks and dirt in an attempt to remain upright. "Stop it! Stop!" he shouted.
Casey was lying on her side, curled into a fetal position. He could see where the sharp edges of the stones had cut her tee shirt, and her skin. There were scrapes on her bare arms, blood oozing from the wounds.
"Casey? Talk to me, babe," he whispered, pulling her into his arms. Cringed at the bruises on her face, the blood on her lip an indication that she had been slapped. Repeatedly. There were two cuts on her face, one just inside the hairline. He wouldn’t be surprised, from the size of the bruise around it, if there wasn’t a fracture as well.
As soon as he had appeared, the villagers hurling the stones had stopped, looking toward their leader for instructions. Gaillard frowned. He gestured that the villagers should continue to throw stones, but none of them would comply. They watched the man holding the wounded woman in his arms. Never had anyone attempted to save a sinner from being stoned!
Daniel looked up, the faces peering down at him displaying a mixture of anger...hatred...surprise...fear. His gaze moved to his friends. The looks on their battered faces were enough to tell him that they had been forced to witness everything that Casey had endured. Jack looked mad enough to take on all of the villagers who surrounded the team single-handedly. Sam was crying, her tears leaving tracks of dirt on her cheeks, a result of the dust that had been stirred up as the locals sought and found rocks to hurl. Teal’c...that the men holding him hadn’t figure out how close to losing control the Jaffa teetered was a testimony to their lack of attention to their ‘prisoner’. "What happened?"
"She had a download...tried to make that asshole understand that his little girl was in danger," Jack replied. "They wouldn’t listen, no matter how hard she tried to get through to them. When the kid fell, she hit her head pretty hard. She’s in bad shape. Of course, this was all interpreted by these good folks as being a curse that Casey had somehow conjured up. The penalty for being a witch in these parts is being stoned to death."
"They’ve damned near succeeded," Daniel growled. He lifted his wife into his arms. Glad that Mitchell had seen to it that he wasn’t alone. Pushing his shoulder against the radio ear piece he wore, he glared at the chieftain. "Colonel, we need ropes. Just beam them to my position. Casey’s hurt, and she’s in a pit. We have to climb out of it."
"On their way, Jackson," was the immediate reply.
Not more than three minutes later, four coiled ropes were sent down using the Asgard device that had been a gift from Thor, just beside the spot where Daniel cradled Casey in his arms.
The Marines were already lining themselves at the edge of the cliff ready to help. Sergeant Burton slid down, grabbed the ropes and tossed them toward his teammates...no one had to say out loud that Daniel’s attention was focused on Casey. Nor were the Marines concerned about that fact. It was their job get the Jacksons out of that hole in the ground.
The villagers had shrieked with fear at the flash of light, and the sudden appearance of the ropes. Jack and Teal’c pulled free from the hands that had held them back, had prevented them from protecting Casey. Sam jerked her arms free, barely resisted the urge to hit the disciples who had left bruises on her arms, who had kept her from helping her best friend and teammate.
"Daniel, is she okay?" Sam asked, stepping as close to the edge of the cliff as she dared.
"I don’t know," he replied honestly.
"That big rock there next to you...Scarface threw it at her," Jack reported. "Landed in the middle of her back."
"Oh, god," Daniel muttered. His eyes sought Gaillard, glared at the man.
Gaillard stepped back involuntarily, the icy hatred in Daniel’s eyes visible even from the distance. He found it more frightening than the light that had appeared from the heavens and had left ropes beside him. Perhaps Sawyer had been right about these people...
As if the rector’s thoughts had summoned the old man, Sawyer appeared, puffing from exertion; three packs in hand, P90 straps over his bony shoulders, the weapons clattering against one another, producing an odd cadence as he ran. A young boy, the same who had been sent for the old man when the team had first arrived in the village, was dragging a pack with each hand, and followed the old healer closely. "I figured you’d need these. I’d have been here sooner, but I had to help Isabella, and my legs don’t move as fast as they used to."
"We are indebted to you," Teal’c replied warmly, taking his pack and weapon. He translated for Jack and Sam as they took their packs and guns as well.
"Thanks," Jack said sincerely. Nodded when Teal’c turned and translated for the old man. Grabbing the radio from the pocket of his pack, Jack signaled the Daedalus. "Mitchell, this is O’Neill. There’s a beacon on the chair we need. Beam it up."
The villagers were starting to grumble, moving closer to the edge of the pit, stones in hand, five of the men staring down into the deep hole with disapproving frowns on their faces.
I don’t freaking think so! Jack stepped in front of the group. Stared daggers at Gaillard, the grim expression on his face causing more fear in that man’s heart. Squeezed the trigger of his P90, aiming the muzzle of the weapon at the ground. The staccato burst of fire that left holes in the dirt at his feet echoed off the walls of the pit. Clouds of dust filled the air.
Screams of terror filled rang out, the villagers running back toward the village. Gaillard and his disciples looked longingly after the disappearing people, their escape cut off by the strangers, who stood between them and the way home.
"Daniel, tell him that we’re leaving now. With the chair," Jack said, noting that one of the Marines was tying a rope around a nearby boulder. It wouldn’t be more than a matter of minutes before the Jacksons were out of that damned hole in the ground.
The archaeologist gave a nod. The ‘throne’ that he and Garrett had managed to build was sitting in the village, or at least he hoped it was. Regardless of what had happened, he wanted these people to know that the Tau’ri were people who kept their word. And in spite of the fact that they couldn’t openly help to remove a cruel tyrant from control, SG-1’s visit would leave a lasting impression, and he’d still managed to create an opening for the villagers to retake their lives from the petty bully that Gaillard was. "Sawyer, tell Gaillard that we’re leaving now. Just as promised, a larger throne waits for him. We will take that which was promised us. And tell Gaillard when the light from within the throne dies, so will his power. When the throne is dark, his time as rector will have come to an end. If he doesn’t step down peacefully, he’ll be struck down."
Gaillard gave a barely perceptible nod as Sawyer spoke. Had no doubt that the words were true. Wondered if perhaps he should slip away in the night. He could always search for followers in the city that had been built in the far hills. He watched silently as two men lowered themselves into the pit, using the ropes to do so. The man named Daniel held tightly to the witch, and with the help of the others, slowly climbed up the steep, rocky sides.
Sawyer watched as well, a smile tugging on his lips. Something told him that the light in this mysterious new throne wasn’t going to shine for long. His first instincts had been right. These were very powerful people. They were also very good people, with kind hearts and a love of justice.
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