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"Children of the land
don't wear a frown upon your face
come on and join your hands
we're all a part of the human race
the music is here
to let you leave your fears behind
come on along don't do me wrong
let's see what you might find…"
"Children of the Land"
by James Young (Styx)
The MALP images didn't show much. Rocky terrain, at least, what wasn't covered by snow was rocky. That meant no ATVs. Which had Jack complaining. Temperatures seemed to range from below 0 to the mid 20s. Which had Casey complaining. No signs of ruins anywhere. Which had Daniel complaining. The only two people who weren't complaining about the upcoming mission were Sam and Teal'c, Sam because there were naquadah readings near the MALP, and…well, Teal'c never seemed to complain about anything.
Duncan closed the folder and rubbed his fingers over tired eyes. The go-ahead on this mission would be given simply because of the naquadah. Even a small vein would be worth setting up a temporary mining camp. As long as Casey didn't 'see' anything bad, dangerous, or otherwise bothersome. He glanced at his watch, then into the briefing room. Yep, there was Sam, cup of coffee in one hand, a folder stuffed full of reports, no doubt about the naquadah, in the other. Jack was ambling in, hands in his pockets, trying to stifle a yawn, not quite succeeding. Teal'c was next. He sat down in his customary chair, folded his hands on the table. Casey followed - she was carrying two mugs of coffee. Which meant…The Highlander bit back a chuckle as Daniel came in, both hands full of books, folders and miscellaneous papers. That could only mean that he had re-examined the photos from the UAV and had found something. Well, move Dr. Jackson from the complaining column to the 'I-think-we-should-go-because-(insert-reason-here)' list.
The dark haired Scot bit back a yawn of his own. Richie had been awake most of the night; he and Tessa had slept in shifts. Dr. Montigue had been called, and his prognosis was a simple case of the flu. For Tessa, when it came to her son, nothing was simple. She would worry herself sick until the child was better. He worried about her, but understood the reason behind her fears. It had taken nearly three years for her to finally get pregnant. They had all but given up hope of it ever happening for them. In fact, just days before she had found out she was indeed pregnant, Tessa had decided not to continue with the injections that allowed Immortal women to conceive. A yawn escaped, and he stood to his feet. Better get the team briefed and on their way. Then he could slip up to one of the VIP rooms and take a nap.
"You look tired, Mac," Casey said softly as he settled into the chair at the head of the table.
"Richie was ill last night," he replied.
"Is he all right?" the young blonde Immortal asked, worry flooding her green eyes.
Duncan smiled. "Simple case of the flu, according to the doctor. But until he's feeling better, Tess isn't going to rest unless I force her, and then only if I agree to sit up with him."
Casey smiled. "He's a healthy little boy. He should be over it by tomorrow," she said.
"That's what the doctor said." The Highlander eyed the material that Daniel was shuffling through. "So I take it you found something interesting after all?"
Daniel glanced up. "Yep. I'm not certain, but near a group of caves beside the river about two klicks from the 'gate were signs of occupation. I'd like to take a look, it could be the remnants of some prehistoric society."
Duncan nodded. "Sam, how long to get a good idea of how much naquadah and where it's located?"
"I should be able to get all the tests run in a single day," the blonde colonel replied.
The dark haired man looked over at the sandy-haired archaeologist. "Long enough?"
"If I find anything that warrants closer examination, I'll let you know."
"Agreed," Duncan said. "Casey, take a look, honey, tell us what you see."
Casey slipped her fingers against Daniel's, returned the slight pressure that he applied as his hand closed over hers. She took long enough to kiss him in that sunny meadow, then, secure in his embrace, began to search. The planet seemed…cold…no, frigid. Ice age. She didn't look far past the 'gate, there had been no signs of life near the MALP for nearly thirty-six hours, and the UAV had shown nothing. There didn't seem to be anything near the caves, although they didn't 'feel' empty. Perhaps hibernating animals of some sort? She, Jack, and Teal'c would need to be on guard duty while their scientists did what they did best. She kissed her Husband once again, watched as he slowly moved away from her, then opened her eyes. "Cold. It's going to be friggin' cold."
Jack rolled his eyes. "Great. Bored and cold."
"Wear your hunting socks," Casey suggested. Sam burst into giggles. "What?"
"He can't. Amber pulled the wires out. She thought they would hurt Daddy's feet," Sam managed to say.
Casey giggled as well. "Oh, that is so cute!"
"Cute my ass," Jack grumbled. He had been furious to find his only pair of hunting socks minus the wires that helped to heat the thick cotton foot coverings. Until Amber had so seriously scolded him for wearing something that could hurt his feet. Then all he could do was hug the two-year-old and thank her for her concern.
Daniel ducked his head, hid his grin. Having kids had certainly thrown an entirely new aspect into their lives. Most certainly things were a lot more…interesting. "So just wear two pair of wool socks, Jack," he said innocently.
The older man glared at his young friend. "Yeah, thanks so much for the advice."
"At least you've never had to take either of your girls to the emergency room to have a bean removed from their nose," Casey groused. Nicholas had finally succeeded in trying a green bean on for size. And had gotten it stuck. When Daniel had tried to remove it, the bean had broken, leaving a piece in his nostril too deep for them to safely dig out. So a trip to the ER had been required. The doctor on call had managed not to laugh. Right up until the tot had looked at the bean laying on the table, up at his parents and then promptly put it into the other nostril. Exasperated, Casey had asked him why. He had replied that he wanted to see if it fit the other side. The doctor had lost the ability to remain calm. They had had to wait until the man regained enough composure to dig it out again. At which time Casey grabbed the offending vegetable before her son could, and had thrown it away.
Everyone in the room had heard the story about the green bean. Jack snorted. Duncan chuckled. Teal'c snickered. They all began to laugh. "Life certainly isn't dull," Sam said, still giggling.
"And we wouldn't want it any other way," Casey replied.
"Look at the mission this way, Jack," Duncan said, his smile wide. "I'm giving you all a break from the antics of your toddlers."
More chuckles filled the air. "It's still gonna be cold," Casey groused. She disliked the cold. She always had. Perhaps because as a child she had often worn hand-me-down coats that were too small, and never heavy enough to protect her from the wet, winter weather of Tacoma.
Jack had hated the cold ever since the experience that he and Sam had barely lived through in the Antarctic. It had taken him weeks to warm up. "We should have supply start issuing hunting socks on any mission to cold planets."
"Hear, hear!" Casey agreed.
"I'll take that under consideration," Duncan said. And he would seriously consider such equipment for the teams spending time in less than hospitable climes. "Right now, you have a go. 'Gate room in fifteen."
The team pulled themselves to their feet, and filed out of the room toward the locker supply room for their packs. In the armory, Casey's sixth sense poked at her, until she insisted that they carry extra ammunition, and a large, high power rifle, although she admitted that she wasn't sure exactly why they would need the weapon. Experience had taught the team, two members in a very cruel way, to listen to any and all of her 'feelings'. Jack had grabbed one of the dozen sniper rifles that the armory held, and Teal'c had taken his staff weapon from the locker.
A A A A A A
SG-1 stood at the bottom of the ramp, waiting for the final chevron to engage. With the ever impressive 'whoosh', the 'gate opened.
"SG-1, you have a go. Godspeed," Duncan called down from the control room.
"Let's go, campers," Jack said. He pulled the zipper up on his parka, glanced at the faces of his team, then walked up the ramp and through the 'gate.
Cold. Damned cold, was Casey's first thought when she stepped down from the 'gate. She pulled her gloves on, wrapped the wool muffler tighter around her throat. She smiled when Daniel pulled her wool stocking cap further down over her ears.
"Warm enough?" he asked softly.
"For now," she replied.
"We'll look around, see if we can't find some wood for a fire," he told her.
She turned around and looked at their surroundings. Frowned when she saw the smoke that curled toward the sky. It seemed to be coming from the caves that the UAV had taken images of. "Or maybe we could just share that fire over there," she said, pointing with the barrel of her P90. Frowned when she realized she couldn't actually feel anyone there. "I have no idea why I can't 'feel' anyone. I'm not being 'blocked'," she admitted.
Daniel whirled to look in the direction she indicated. "Okay," he said slowly. "So this place isn't as deserted as we thought."
Jack looked over at the young man. "I suppose you think we should introduce ourselves," he said.
"That would be the polite thing to do, seeing as how we're after their naquadah," the young archaeologist replied.
"If they even know about it, or what it is," Jack countered.
"It doesn't matter if they don't know, this is still technically their land, their planet," Daniel pointed out patiently. He didn't mention the fact that if the naquadah was on ground considered to be 'sacred', permission to mine would be impossible to obtain.
The older man sighed. "Okay, let's go. Daniel, on point. Teal'c, with me on the six. Ladies, keep your eyes open."
The MALP and the UAV were sent back through the 'gate, and the team started down the steep trail that led to the dozen or so caves that dotted the hillside on a ridge above a raging river. The UAV had shown an incline toward the river to the south of the caves. They could see a well-worn path in that direction.
Daniel looked around approvingly. It was a perfect place to put a settlement. Easily defended, because the path to the caves was steep and narrow, which required anyone approaching to walk single file. The river provided ample water, and most probably fish as well, and the plateau behind the caves ended in a thick forest. Which would provide more food, as well as firewood.
They were just about to the end of the narrow pathway when three men stepped out of the first of the caves. The looks of surprise on their faces were mirrored by those of SG-1. The team was staring at men dressed in animal furs, their long hair and beards adding to their wild appearance.
"Holy Hannah," Sam whispered.
"Yeah," Casey replied.
"Please, don't be alarmed," Daniel said softly. He put both hands out to his sides, palms up.
The men stared at him, then whispered between themselves. One of the men, he appeared to be older than the other two, stepped forward hesitantly. "You be travelers from beyond the Great Ice?"
Daniel listened carefully, searched his mind. He was slowly learning how to access some of the information left in his head from his time as an Ascended being. Part of which seemed to be the knowledge of dozens of languages. He smiled and nodded to the man, waved with his hand to signal that the man should continue talking.
"How did you get here? Where have you come from?" the man asked, more curious than frightened now. Even though the strangers were carrying very odd clubs in their hands, and their clothing was like nothing he had ever seen before, their faces, and their eyes hinted at no danger. They looked as curious about him, as he was of them. The round objects on the speaking man's face intrigued him.
Although he wasn't exactly sure what the name of the language was, or the people who used it, Daniel was able to recall enough to finally understand what the man had been saying, or at least the gist of it. "We have come from far away. Through the Chappa'ai," he said slowly.
The man frowned. "Chap-a-eye?"
"Um…the Great Stone Circle…the Great Eye…" He pointed at the Stargate.
The man gasped. "From the Womb of the Great Spirit Mother?"
"Uh…sure," Daniel replied.
The man approached slowly. Daniel remained still when large fingers began to poke at him. "He is real!"
The men were clearly agitated. The young archaeologist glanced over his shoulder. "Case?"
"They're not frightened…exactly. Definitely excited about something. I can't sense any danger from them," she replied. She cocked her head sideways.
"Uh oh," Jack mumbled.
"There is something…different…about this place," she finally said. The feeling had hit her as soon as she stepped through the 'gate, although she hadn't recognized it right away. There was something…mystical…about this place. Which might explain why she hadn't sensed the presence of these people. It was possible that something, or someone, was protecting them from discovery.
One of the men pushed aside a huge animal fur that covered the entrance of the closest cave. A few minutes later an old woman - who was also dressed in animal furs, and sporting colorful blue clay paint on her face - followed the man back out. She slowly approached the waiting visitors. She looked them over, then nodded, and motioned that they should follow her.
The team followed the old woman into the cave. It took a few minutes for their eyes to adjust to the dimness. The interior of the cavern was large, and there were several animal skin 'walls', made of wooden frames over which the skins were stretched, that divided the area. One large fire provided both warmth and light, although Daniel was quick to notice the candle-like objects that were scattered about.
About thirty people…men, women and children…were gathered on one side of the fire. SG-1 stood on the other, the two groups staring at one another with open and equal interest. Each of the team members took note that all of the people in the cave had bronze skin, and black hair and eyes. Casey shivered slightly, glanced at her husband, and then at a very attractive young woman who stood near two older women. Would she remind him of Sha're? Would she stir the longing for his first wife that she was certain…and terrified…still lurked in his heart?
"Danny?" Jack asked softly.
"From the bone structure, I'd say these people are Homo Sapiens, basically the same as us. If they were brought here by Goa'uld, then something happened to destroy their civilization. The other possibility is that this planet is evolving parallel to the way Earth evolved, the difference being that they're a couple hundred thousand years behind us," the young archaeologist theorized.
"So are we going to be invited to dinner, or will we be dinner?" Jack asked nervously, examining a rack that held nearly two dozen long, thick spears with large diamond shaped stone heads, the sharp edges plainly visible to the naked eye.
"I don't believe these people are cannibals," Daniel replied, rolling his eyes. He turned to the old woman. "I am Daniel. This man is Jack O'Neill, our leader. My teammates Casey, Samantha, and Teal'c." Several bad experiences had convinced the young man that introducing the two women as the wives or mates of Jack and himself could often cause immediate trouble. Better to ease that particular fact into the conversation once he was certain that having his Wife with him wasn't taboo.
The old woman nodded. "I am Inagrid. I am the healer and shaman for the people. You are welcome here, Dan'yel. You will tell us of your journey, and how you happened to pass through the Womb of the Great Spirit Mother." The old woman settled her bony frame onto a small stool, waved toward the mats that had been spread nearby. The others in the cave settled onto the dirt in a circle around the old woman and their guests.
The fire in the pit in the center of the cavern was large, and putting out sufficient heat to warm the cave. The team took off coats and gloves before sitting down on the offered mats. Casey and Sam removed their stocking caps, running their fingers through their hair. Gasps went up around them, and the people who had been seated around them were now on their knees, faces as low as they could get them without actually putting them into the dirt.
The old woman had jumped to her feet, her eyes wide. "Daughters of the Great Mother!" She lowered herself to her knees. "We humbly apologize for not recognizing you before now. Please spare these Children of your Mother. The fault is mine alone," she said.
Sam and Casey exchanged a look.
"Uh…no, it's not like that," Daniel said, then shook his head. He was still wearing his woolly hat, his dark blonde hair completely covered. "They aren't Daughters of the Great Mother."
The old woman glared at him. "The prophecy has been handed down from generation to generation, from shaman to shaman."
"We'd like to hear this…prophecy," Daniel said softly, earning another sharp look from Inagrid. He moved closer to his Wife. "Case, I want you to repeat this exactly."
"The Great Mother," he whispered.
"The Great Mother," Casey said softly.
"Is pleased with her children," Daniel prompted.
"Is pleased with her children…"
"And rejoices in the telling of the prophecy."
"And rejoices in the…"
"Telling of the prophecy," he repeated.
"Telling of the prophecy." She looked over at him, saw the love, the pride in his eyes. She smiled at him, his smile in return warming her heart, her soul.
The old woman looked warily at the slender young woman, then at Daniel. She remained on her knees, but sat back, and lifted both gnarled hands into the air. "In the time of the beginning, the Great Mother wandered the void of darkness alone. Her heart ached with loneliness. So she created a lover, the Sun. And She lay with her lover, and the Moon was born. With Her lover and son at Her side, She continued to wander the void. The Moon was a good son, but yearned for younger brothers to play with. So the Great Mother lay again with her lover. She made a cradle for the life that grew within her belly. When her waters broke, they rushed over the cradle she had made, forming lakes and oceans and rivers. Her fertility filled the waters with life, and the trees and the grasses sprang into being, covering the cradle. And the Great Mother smiled, happy that the cradle for her unborn children was so beautiful. Then she uttered a great wail of pain, causing the land to tremble, and great mountains arose, and valleys were formed. Her time at hand, she lay down, and prepared to give birth. And from her womb sprang forth all manner of life. The last to be born were a man and a woman. The Great Mother loved them above all others, and breathed her soul into them. She touched the woman, and gave a piece of Her own spirit to her, telling the woman that as She gave birth, so would the woman."
"Tell her that she has told the story of the beginning well," Daniel whispered. "Say 'The Great Mother is pleased that you remember'."
Casey repeated his words.
"Now tell her 'that the Great Mother is pleased that the telling of the beginning is done so well'."
Once again Casey repeated the whispered words.
The old woman beamed happily at her.
"Now ask her about the prophecy," Daniel said. He pulled his hat off, ran his hand over his head as the heat from the fire continued to warm them. There were murmurs among the people, but nothing like the reaction to Sam and Casey's blonde hair.
He smiled, whispered once more in her ear.
"The Great Mother wishes to know that you remember the prophecy as well," Casey repeated.
The old woman frowned. She knew that the young man with the light colored hair was telling the Daughter what to say. Inagrid just didn't understand why the man would have the words, and not the Daughter of the Great Spirit Mother. Perhaps it was a test of her faithfulness, and that of the Children! "The Great Mother told the man and the woman that She would bear Daughters, who would have Her knowledge. And that She would send those daughters to them when the time of the change had arrived."
Daniel quickly translated. "I have no idea what that means," he admitted quietly.
"Find out why they think Sam and Casey are these 'Daughters'," Jack said.
With a nod, the young man turned back to Inagrid. "Why do you believe my teammates to be Daughters of the Great Spirit Mother?"
"They have hair that looks as the face of their Father," the old woman replied. "One has eyes the color of the grass in spring, the other has eyes the color of the river in spring. Spring is when the Great Spirit Mother renews all."
Fascinated, Daniel opened his pack, took out his journal, and began to take hasty notes. "Why does the Great Spirit Mother renew all in the spring?"
Worry, and a bit of frustration crossed Inagrid's face. "Because the Moon became jealous of all the attention that the Mother bestowed upon her new children, he tricked his Father, the Sun, into believing that the children were not his own. For many, many days the Father refused to look upon the new children. The Cradle grew cold, and ice formed. The Great Spirit Mother begged him to look upon their children, so that he would warm them. But the Sun believed the Moon. Finally, the Mother prevailed, but only in as much as he agreed to look at them. He claims them not. The Father looks only from afar, not close enough to warm the cradle, as it should be. And only for six months of the Moon cycle will he even turn his face to his children." The old woman looked at Daniel. "Why do the Daughters not speak the language of the Children?"
Daniel had once again quickly translated for his teammates. He frowned at the woman's question. Perhaps it would be better to just play along for now, rather than risk agitating the group into action against the team, he thought. "The Daughters of the Great Spirit Mother speak her language, and have not yet learned the language of their…brothers and sisters."
Inagrid nodded solemnly. Of course! The Great Spirit Mother spoke with the voice of the wind, of the thunder. It was not a language to be spoken by her Children, for if they did, there was a risk that they would try to rise and be as She was. If the Daughters had just left the Mother's side, they wouldn't know the tongue of the Children! When she had taken the place of the old man who had been the shaman of the Children before her, he had taught her a special, secret ritual. One that could only be performed when the Daughters appeared. She had never believed that she would be the one blessed by the Mother to perform the sacred ceremony. Her legs trembling, she rose slowly. She stood reverently in front of the two Gammian women. "I have been taught the ritual to welcome you. It shall be as the Great Spirit Mother has decreed. Come with me, and wait while we prepare to greet you properly."
Daniel translated, a slight frown in his face. "Case, do you feel anything…bad?"
Casey closed her eyes. He was moving toward her, the same worried frown on his face as he approached her in the meadow. She wrapped her hands around his face, kissed him gently as they stood together. Safe in his arms, she reached out, searched around them, and around the cave. Once again she perceived that mystical…presence. But nothing bad. "Nope. Nothing bad. But there is something very…mysterious…about this place."
He nodded. Looked at Jack. "I think Case and Sam should go with her," he said softly. "We need to find out more about what's going on, without ticking these people off."
"Do you think they'll be harmed?" Jack asked.
"Not as long as these people believe they're the Daughters of the Great Spirit Mother," Daniel replied.
With a wary nod, Jack consented. Sam and Casey stood to their feet.
Inagrid had no idea what had been said, or had happened when the Daughter with the long sun-colored hair had closed her eyes for those long minutes. But she smiled happily when the two women stood, towering over her slight, bent frame. She led the two women to her own living quarters. The three men watched. Instinct honed from years of experience had them all on edge.
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