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The ‘gate opened with its customary splendor. Casey and Daniel exchanged smiles as Jack said goodbye to Sam, and Teal'c received a very passionate goodbye kiss from Carlotta Sanchez.
"SG-1, you have a go. Godspeed," Duncan said, taking his cue from what he had heard Jack say when sending teams off on missions.
The four Immortals stepped through the gate together. Casey looked around, then giggled. She looked up at Jack’s pained face.
"Trees. Freakin’ trees," he complained.
"Better than that damned tall grass," Casey replied.
Jack shook his head, then grinned down at her. "Okay, Teal'c, you have the point. I have our six. Jackson's, keep your hands off of each other."
Casey giggled again, then put both hands on Daniel’s chest. Daniel laughed, shook his head, and moved off after the Jaffa.
The team moved away from the gate, ever alert. The men glanced at Casey from time to time, watching for the frown, the way she pulled at her lower lip with her teeth when 'that feeling’ came upon her. Jack was the first one to see it. He hurried to her side.
"Hold up," he called softly. "Case?" he asked, turning his attention to the slender blonde beside him.
Daniel and Teal'c were beside them in a matter of seconds.
Casey shook her head. "There’s something…not right. It’s too…quiet. I can’t explain it, but something is really, really wrong here."
Jack nodded. "Okay, let’s be careful." He adjusted his P90. "We stay together. We stay quiet." He began to move carefully among the trees. There was no undergrowth, no bushes to fight, just the trees.
Daniel and Teal'c had taken up flanking positions near Casey. She was more than capable of taking care of herself. It was just in their nature to be protective of those they cared about. They did the same thing when Sam was with them.
She thought her heart would stop when they heard it. The scream of someone in absolute agony. Running in the direction the sound had come from, the team dropped to their knees when they saw five black-robed figures, their faces hidden by deep cowled hoods. The figures moved around a naked man, who had fallen to his knees. One of the figures approached the man, and held a short stick against his body, eliciting another horrible scream from his throat.
Pain stick, Daniel thought, shuddering slightly.
The team glanced at Jack, who nodded. No way would they allow the torture to continue. He stood up and walked toward the group. "Leave him alone!"
The hooded figures turned in unison to face the intruders.
Casey, Daniel, and Teal'c stood just behind and to the side of the general.
"Daniel?" Jack said, knowing that the archaeologist/linguistic expert would be able to communicate with the Halloween-movie extras.
Daniel stepped forward. "Leave that man alone," he said slowly.
"Who are you, and how dare you interrupt?" One of the figures asked.
Casey shuddered. Goa’uld. These…people…spoke Goa’uld.
"We are travelers, explorers, from another place. Another world. Why are you torturing this man?"
"That is no concern of yours." The figures turned back to the man who waited, on his knees, his head down, his body covered with sweat, and what appeared to be circular burns...typical wounds from a Goa'uld pain stick.
"Now ya see, that’s where you’re wrong," Jack said. "Step away from him." He raised his weapon.
The others of the team had followed suit.
"What has this man done to deserve such treatment?" Daniel asked. It was just possible that there was a good explanation. As much as he wanted to help…if the man was innocent…he wasn't eager to become a prisoner - again, for interfering with the dispensation of justice. Been there, done that! It might have been one of the first missions that SG-1 had undertaken, but the memories were still crystal clear.
"He refuses to acknowledge his god," was the answer.
"Who is this ‘god’?" Daniel asked.
The hooded figures turned once again to face them. "The god of all the universe. Mordred."
Casey looked at Daniel, a disbelieving frown on her face. "As in King Arthur’s bastard son, born of his sister Morganna?"
Daniel shrugged. "Could be. We know that Merlin was an Ancient. It is possible that the entire King Arthur myth is based on a Goa’uld."
"Except that King Arthur was a good and wise king," Casey argued.
"Could just be good propaganda. We’ve seen that often enough. And there have been the occasional Goa’uld that did treat their people well. It’s also possible that Arthur was an Immortal," Daniel pointed out.
She shrugged. They would probably never know the truth of that particular legend.
"We ask that you release this man to us. We will take him with us, away from here," Daniel said to the robed figures.
The group huddled together, speaking in whispers. The one who had been speaking to them approached. "Do you come in the name of Mordred to take this non-believer to his doom?"
Daniel glanced at Jack. The older man nodded. "Uh…sure… yeah. Yes we do."
"Then it is true that our god will soon return to be with us?"
Daniel hesitated, looked at Jack, who shrugged.
"We know not the ways of the god. Only Mordred knows the time of return," Casey said softly.
Daniel bit back a smile. She had given them an answer without saying a thing. Two of the robed figures approached them, looked at Casey carefully. He moved to stand between them and her.
They took in the long blonde hair, held back from her face in a ponytail, the green eyes, the delicate features of her face. "Morganna!" one of the men whispered. The hooded figures dropped to their knees. "Oh, Great Mother of our god Mordred, Goddess in her own right, we welcome you!"
"Oh, hell," Casey muttered. "I was just trying to get that guy so we could get out of here!"
"Well, goddess, let’s see what we can find out, shall we?" Jack said, a grin on his face.
She heaved a sigh and nodded. "Release that man to…uh…my…uh…guards. Then take me to your leader." She looked at Daniel and rolled her eyes. "I can’t believe I really said that! Talk about ‘B’ movie dialogue!"
The three men beside her snickered softly. The man who had been tortured was by now on his face, his body curled in pain. She stepped forward and put a hand gently on his shoulder. His gray eyes were wide as he looked into her green depths, saw the compassion, the kindness in them. He leaned forward and pressed his lips to her boot.
"There's no need to do that," she said softly. She looked at the hooded men who watched her. "One of you give this man your robe. He's naked, and he’s cold."
The robed figures turned to one another, then back to her. "We cannot, goddess, it is not allowed. We are priests of Mordred. We must remain covered at all times," one of them said nervously.
"Then find him something to wear. Now!"
Evidently the man had not been brought to the woods naked, for one of the robed men brought out a bundle of cloth. The man...who still cowered before her...took them hesitantly, moving slowly.
Casey had endured enough beatings to understand the pain, and she could see that there were welts and bruises from a beating. She gently examined the other wounds on the man’s body. They looked like burns. She took off her pack, set it down, and searched for the first aid kit. There was a salve that helped burns, and she had morphine and Tylenol to give him for the pain. She carefully applied the antiseptic balm to the half dozen burn marks on his chest. She tried to be as gentle as possible, wincing as the man cried out each time she touched the angry red blisters. She took a packet of Tylenol, and opened it. "Open your mouth," she said softly. She didn’t want to try and take time to explain the pills. The man obeyed, and she put the tablets on the back of his tongue. She took her canteen, and offered it to him. He hesitated, she smiled and nodded. He drank, choked a bit as the pills went down.
"Why do you do this for an unbeliever?" one of the priests asked.
"Torture isn’t the way to make someone believe something. It will only make them more determined to resist," she replied.
"Uh, Case, let’s not be giving the bad guys ideas," Jack said softly.
She nodded. Once the man was clothed, the priests began to lead them back to their village.
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