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Standing in the Dark
Nergal's ship did not come within weapons range. As soon has he detected the Phoenix, the Hak'tyl, and the Persephone, as well as Ashnan's ship, he retreated. The Persephone gave chase, but his sudden jump into hyperspace left them guessing as to where he had gone. Duncan agreed with Daniel that it was time to get the planets he controlled to start rebelling.
To that end, he called SG-1, sans Sam, back to Gamma. The Persephone would remain near Laurel's home planet, for the time being. Every available team was being sent to planets known to be under Nergal's control. And that included SG-1.
Daniel suggested that SG-6 accompany them. Geb had declared that 'demons' had defeated the Goa'uld who had fallen before the SGC. He wasn't sure if the people under Nergal's rule had been told the same thing. If so, it would be difficult to make friends of them, more difficult to incite them to rebel against Nergal. It could also make approaching these people dangerous. Duncan agreed, and made a note to send the teams out in pairs, just as a precaution.
A A A A A A
The planet was tropical, they stepped out of the gate and onto a pristine beach. Casey immediately looked at Tony and Texas. The two men were grinning from ear to ear.
"Now this is what I’m talking about," Tony said, nodding with approval.
"I hear that!" Texas replied.
"UAV showed signs of a village that way," Jack said, pointing. "Teal'c, you and I have point. Major, you and the boys take our six. Jacksons, keep your hands off of each other."
"Bite me, general," Casey replied. The men around her laughed. She linked her fingers with her husband's, and followed her two friends.
They hadn't gone far before Casey was testing the water. "If we have to walk on this beach anyway, I'm going to enjoy it," she said. She took off her boots and socks, tied them to her pack, rolled her pant legs up, and walked in the surf along the edge of the beach. The water was blue-green and clear and warm and beautiful.
Palm trees lined the beach about fifty feet from where the water lapped lazily at the shore. Bushes with large colorful flowers - red, orange, pink, even a bright blue - grew in abundance. Their perfume filled the air. A slight breeze from the ocean kept them from becoming too warm as they made their way toward the village.
The villagers spotted them long before they came to the cluster of bamboo huts. Children, naked and healthy and brown, ran out to greet them, handing them flowers, laughing and giggling as the pale skinned strangers accepted the offered gifts.
The adults of the village were gathered, and smiling as well. "Welcome, travelers. You are welcome here," said an old man, evidently the leader of the group. He held his hands out in greeting. He was wearing a skirt, woven of palm fronds. A necklace made from the teeth of some animal, or perhaps fish, adorned his skinny, heavily tattooed chest. On his head was a band that held several brightly colored feathers. All of the others were wearing the same kind of skirt. Some of the other men had necklaces as well, all of them had tattoos. The women were topless, their breasts painted with lines of black and red. "I am Denigal."
Jack smiled and nodded. "Daniel?"
Daniel smiled, and held his hands out in return. "I'm not sure," he said, still smiling. He was searching his amazing mind to find the nuances, the dialect, that would let him communicate with these simple, and friendly, people.
The old man, still smiling, moved closer to where these strangely dressed, pale-skinned strangers stood. "Welcome," he said again. He pointed to his chest. "Denigal."
"Welcome," Daniel repeated softly, closing his eyes and thinking. He opened his eyes, his smile widening. "Thank you!" He pointed to his own chest. "Daniel. We're peaceful explorers. We seek knowledge, to learn about other people," he said.
The old man beamed. "Come, come, Daniel! Sit, drink, eat! You must be weary after your journey from the far away lands."
The incident with Seleconne was not far removed from the minds of the men. Jack had the water and what appeared to be fruit juice tested. The food was tested as well, as much as it could be.
Casey and Teal'c sat down, accepted wooden platters covered with food. She smiled at the young woman who had served her, received a shy smile in return. She took a bite of a piece fruit. "Oh, god this is good!" She raised the fruit toward Daniel. "Try it!"
Daniel sat down beside her, let her put the fruit in his mouth. "Wow, that is good. Jack, you should try this!"
Jack raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure it's safe?"
The archaeologist pointed to the villagers. "They're eating it."
"But they're used to eating it."
"Jack, it might be considered rude to refuse. Just eat a little bit if you're worried about it," Daniel replied.
The general and the men of SG-6 sat down, and were given platters heaped with food. Jack had to admit that it was all pretty good.
"So, Danny, any ideas of who these people are, any ties to Earth?" Jack asked.
"The language is similar to a dialect used in central Malaysia. It's possible that their ancestors were brought here from that area," the scientist replied. "There are several wooden statues over there, but I don't recognize any of them. Apparently they have different gods here. I'll try to get a closer look at them."
Jack nodded. "Okay, guys. Let's just stay here and let Daniel do his thing," he said softly.
Having eaten her fill, Casey stood up and wandered over to where a group of women were weaving what looked like grass into mats. She smiled at them, and sat down quietly at the feet of one of the older women. She watched, asked questions by pointing to what they were doing. One of the young girls who was learning to weave gave her a pile of grass. Watching the young girl for a minute, she tried to mimic the movements, only to have the webbing fall apart. The women laughed, but then carefully showed her again.
Daniel watched her for a few minutes, a smile on his face. If they brought their kids here, he would bet that Casey could be happy living here for the rest of her life. He slowly approached the statues. Several of the men watched him carefully, but said nothing. He found one, its depiction of a demon plain, and on it were the symbols of Nergal. He pointed to the statue. "Nergal."
The old man hurried over. "Do not speak his name out loud! The demon will appear if you do so!"
"He's not a demon-" Daniel broke off. How could he explain a Goa'uld to these people? He sat down on the sand, and carefully drew a snake. He glanced at the old man, who nodded. "Nergal is a snake. Like this. He finds a body," he pointed to the men, and himself, "then he crawls inside. That man can do nothing, Nergal takes control." Again the old man nodded his understanding. "We have fought and killed many of these snakes, these demons. We are battling Nergal now."
The men around him began to murmur among themselves. Daniel watched them, tried to hear what they were saying.
"If you can defeat this demon, then we will not have to make the sacrifice?"
Afraid he already knew the answer, Daniel asked the question anyway. "What sacrifice?"
"Five young women, virgins, must be given to the Demon God every year. They are taken to the top of the mountain that groans, and the Demon God devours them," the old man explained
"Can you show us where this 'mountain that groans' is?" Daniel asked excitedly.
"It is forbidden to journey there. Only once a year when the sacrifice is being made may we walk the path that leads to the house of the Demon God," Denigal replied.
"Denigal, my friends and I…we are demon slayers," he said. "Just show us where to go. Keep your people here where it is safe. We'll slay this Demon God. Then you will make no more sacrifices."
The old man looked at this stranger, hope springing up in his withered chest for the first time in his long life. He had lost three sisters and a dozen cousins, as well as dozen or so daughters and granddaughters and great granddaughters to the Demon God. To stop him from taking more would be the answer to generations of prayers. "We will show you the path. But we can go no farther."
"I understand," Daniel said. "We'll leave right away. When we return, you'll be free of the Demon God." He jumped up and ran to where Jack, Teal'c and SG-6 waited. He explained what he had learned, and the men gathered their gear. "Time to go babe," he said, smiling over at Casey.
"Yeah, that figures. Just when I was getting the hang of this!" she grumped good-naturedly. She smiled and nodded at the women, went back to the spot where they had eaten, put her boots back on, grabbed her pack and her P90. "Okay, great white hunter, lead on."
"Smartass," Daniel mumbled.
She smiled, and leaned up to whisper in his ear. "Maybe, but you really like my ass."
He chuckled. "I more than like it babe," he whispered in reply. Before she could react, he let his hand move over that sweet ass, then hurried to catch up with Denigal.
'You will so pay for that!'
'That's what I'm counting on.'
She grinned and shook her head.
The old man pointed to a path that seemed to go straight up the side of a mountain. It was surrounded, and covered, by jungle. Daniel nodded, and the men from the village started back.
"Any ideas on what we're going to find?" Jack asked as they started their trek.
"Not really. Probably a temple of some sort, and I'm betting a ring transport. If the sacrifice is to be made a specific time every year, it would be easy enough to have a ship waiting. I'm betting that he does the same thing on most of the planets under his control," Daniel replied. "From what Casey has told me, she thinks that servants and slaves and the women of his harem are killed in large numbers. Whenever he's in a bad mood, or angry."
"Which would explain his need for constant replacements. He is one twisted bastard," Jack exclaimed.
"I think that's been established. We just need to find a way to take him out."
"That we do, Danny."
Casey and the guys from 6 were singing 'Heard it Through the Grapevine' as they climbed the increasingly steep path. The jungle around them was full of life, the calls of birds and animals filled the air. When a large bat-like creature flew directly in front of her, the wings nearly brushing against her face, she screamed. Daniel was at her side almost instantly.
"Are you all right, Case?"
She nodded. "It was some sort of big…bat. It just startled me," she replied.
He reached out to caress her cheek, felt the tremors in her body. "Yeah, big bats will do that," he said, smiling at her. He put his arm around her shoulders. Smiled when hers went around his waist. He hoped that wherever they camped tonight, there would be water nearby.
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